March 4, 2011

Strawberry Jam

Wow!  I really feel like I’ve accomplished something here!

My very first attempt at canning seems to be a great success.  We’ll have to wait to see when I open my first jar for the real test, though… tomorrow morning!

The recipe I used is straight out of the Ball Blue Book.  It took me, from start to finish about 2 hours.

My kitchen isn’t all that big, very, very little counter space and even though my stove is a normal size, the size of the canning pot is huge which made my cooking space a bit tight, too.  I was thinking since I do have a smaller pot just like the canning pot, if there are smaller canning racks?  If there is, a small batch like this (which only produced 4 jars) could be done in the pot I heated my jars and lids in.  Saving lots of space – on the stove, anyway.

All in all, it work out.

  • Two Quart packages of strawberries (paid 2 for $3).
  • One package of no sugar needed pectin
  • One cup of water (I used bottled)
  • Three packets of Stevia (A natural sugar substitute) (Optional)
    Note: By using the No Sugar Needed Pectin, you can use no sugar, sugar to your taste or a sugar substitute.  The choice is yours.
  • 4 – 6 Ball Pint Jars (This batch got 4)

Wash Strawberries, cut off leaves, wash again.

Slice.  The instructions said to smash them but, I don’t have a potato masher so I put them in my food processor.  My serving fork just wasn’t cutting it!

Put jars and lids into a pot to sterilize (not boiling).

Start another pot of water for your ‘filled’ jars for processing.

In a smaller pot put strawberries, water, pectin and sugar or sugar substitute if using.  Like I mentioned, I chose to use Stevia and ended up using 3 little packets.

Bring to a boil that will not stop by stirring.  Once boil is achieved, start your one (1) minute.  You will see it start thickening.  If thickening is achieved before the one minute, it is done.  (Mine went the full minute).

  • Use thongs to lift out one jar while dumping out water back into the pot.
  • Take your canning funnel and place on jar.
  • Use a ladle to scoop hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.
  • Wipe rims with a damp paper towel.
  • Use your lid lifter with magnet to lift a lid out of the hot water.
  • Place on jar.
  • Screw on second piece of lid.

As each jar is complete, place sealed jars into canning rack already in hot water.  Do not allow jars to cool.  Put right into pot of hot water as soon as each one is filled and sealed with two piece lids.

Repeat with all jars until strawberry jam is all used.

Once all jars are in canner, put lid on pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, start your ten (10) minutes.

Lift jars one at a time out of pot onto a kitchen towel.  Leave two inch space between jars.  Do not let them hit each other.

You’ll be tempted to wipe off water on top of jars.  Don’t!  Leave it alone until jars are cooled off – 12 to 24 hours.

Can’t wait to try my home canned strawberry jam!

December 30, 2010

Dehydrating Papaya

Many years ago, I learned that Papaya was good for digestion and an upset stomach.  I remember buying them like a bottle of  vitamins or Tums.

Since going through the change, I’ve dealt with stomach issues and since purchasing my dehydrator have been wanting to get my hands on some.

It’s kind-of embarrassing to admit but, I had no idea what a Papaya looked like!  So when shopping, I didn’t know what I was looking for!!  HA!

Today at Sams, they had Papaya’s for $3.95.  Couldn’t believe it – Snatched it up.

The texture of a Papaya is similar to Honeydew Mellon and the seeds inside do actually look like pepper.

Reading up on the time/prep for them, I learned that you can save the seeds, dehydrate them too and grind them down as a meat tenderizer.  Just like pepper.  Amazing!

(Did you notice I didn’t peel it?  Peel it first!)

Yes.  The seeds in there too.

One place says 12 – 15 hours and another says 12 – 24 hours.  So, I’m just going to leave them in all night and see what we have in the morning.  I’m sure they’ll be fine.

As far as I know there’s no such thing of over-dehydrating –  Only under-dehydrating.

Just checked them.  They’re doing great.

Update 12/30:

After 16 hours they are complete… seeds and all.

When they were cooling before going into the jar, Mike chewed one of the seeds and said they do taste a little like pepper.  Go figure.  Looking forward to marinating some meat with ground papaya pepper.

Now to receive my new mill.  Tomorrow would be nice but I won’t be surprised if it isn’t until Monday (boo hoo)… you’ll be the first to know!

Update 1/3/2011:

Just read yesterday that you should steam Papaya and Pineapples before dehydrating!

I’ll have to purchase another, steam it before dehydrating and see / taste  the difference.

I’ll let you know!

December 30, 2010

Chicken Pasta Salad

My plan for dinner was Pepperoni Pizza.

By 4pm I hadn’t made the dough,  so had to come up with something else.

This is the type of dinner I live off in the summer.

Since I’ve started (very small start) stocking up on some can goods, I took out a can of Chicken, box of pasta and about a cup of frozen broccoli.  As the broccoli was steaming and the noodles cooking, I mixed the mayo and vinegar.

A couple of weeks ago I had bought a package of these really good garlic rolls.  They were huge and after a couple we kind of got tired of them.

I put them in the freezer but then decided to cut them up to make croutons.  BEST croutons ever!

After everything was mixed together, I put a couple of handfuls on the pasta salad.

I was so hungry, forgot to take a picture of our dressed up, last-minute dinner.

Came out really tasty and even Mike liked it.  Was expecting ‘the look’ because he’s a Meat & Potatoes man through-n-through.  But to my surprise, he saw it in the fridge and said it looked real good… and it really was.

December 29, 2010


When my kids were small, I remember maybe a handful of times I may have bought the packaged stuff.

Even though I don’t see myself as a ‘good cook’, I wasn’t ever that bad.. no one ever died!  Even so, I would always make whatever it was from scratch.

Recently though, I’m really getting into it.

One of my old favorites, Mac-n-Cheese was always made with Velveeta until I visited someone who made it with white Extra Sharp and I was hooked.  It’s been years since Velveeta.

Last week shopping at Sam’s, I came across a 3-pack they had.  I don’t remember if it was the price or convenience, but I bought it.  Two sharp yellow and one sharp white.  Have to be honest – wasn’t real thrilled with the 2 yellows.

Tuesday nights I usually go out so it’s a ‘quickie’ meal and thought Mac-n-Cheese doesn’t take that long and made it right off the box of noodles.

With it just being the two of us, I split the recipe in half.

  • 1/4 Cup Butter
  • 1/4 Cup Flour
  • 2 1/2 Cups Milk
  • 8oz Sharp Cheese (I used 10oz)
  • 1/2 Box Noodles

Growing up, everyone I know rinsed off the noodles in cold water to stop the cooking but also to rinse off the starch.

Not long ago Mike’s daughter was over.  I was rinsing the spaghetti and she said, “you do that too?’  I was surprised.

She said that when she does that (which she’s always done, too), people ask her why and they’ve never heard of anyone doing that.

So, I don’t know.  Was I (we) raised different?  Wait, don’t answer that!  Anyone that knows me knows I’ve always been different, but we’ll keep it to the noodles right now!

Anyway, whatever you’re used to – go for it.  I’ll keep rinsing.

  • Cut slices of cheese, then in half and then quarters.  The smaller the pieces the quicker the cheese will melt.

Boil your noodles per the box.  (I just ordered a pasta machine so in the next month or so, you’ll be able to see me learning how to make my own).  Can’t wait!

Melt the butter, stir in the flour and add the milk.

Add your cheese and keep stirring!  It doesn’t take long at all.  Stir all the way to the bottom of the pan so you know all the pieces are melted.

Once all the cheese is melted, pour into baking dish over noodles.  Mix well.

I like to sprinkle some bread crumbs on it.  I came across some whole wheat, seasoned bread crumbs and really like them.

Cook it at 350 degrees for 30 – 45 minutes.

It really came out good, but I did forget the salt & pepper.  Oh well.   Something you can add later – no biggie.


Don’t buy box Mac-n-Cheese anymore!!

This can’t be any more simple, cheaper and much healthier for you to make it yourself.

This is like 4 servings for the two of us which cost probably about $2.50 all together to make?  $.65 a meal (2 people – .325 cents each)… can’t beat it with a stick!