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Monday, August 8, 2011

Hot (& Sweet!) Pepper Jam

Using different colored peppers makes it pretty but you can use all green if that's what you have. **Remember to protect your hands with rubber gloves or baggies when handling jalepeno peppers to prevent burns.**

3/4 c. finely chopped jalepeno peppers (roughly 6 medium peppers)
2 c. finely chopped green, yellow or red bell peppers
1 1/2 c. cider vinegar
6 1/2 c. sugar
1 pouch Certo LIQUID pectin
1 TBS butter or margarine

First, prepare your jars. Visit the Ball Canning "Getting Started" page to learn more.

Carefully measure peppers, vinegar and sugar into pot. Stir. Add 1 tablespoon of margarine to cut down on the foam that forms in the cooking process. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil and add the pouch of Certo quickly, stirring continuously. Bring it back to a rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute still stirring continuously. Remove from heat and skim off any foam from the top of mixture. Ladle into jars. Process jars for 10 minutes in canner.

Divine over cream cheese and served with crackers.

- More great recipes on Ball Canning's website
- You can add a few jalapeno seeds for extra spice
- You don't have to use Certo pectin, but if you switch, be sure to check the exact measurements listed on the package directions. It's important to be exact in your measurements.

Special thanks to my mom's friend Eileen for sharing her preferred recipe!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles

Now is the perfect time for crisp, crunchy baby cukes and large, lovely dill plants.

It was a snap to put this together, providing a quick and easy alternative to canning the pickles.

1 c. water
1 c. distilled white vinegar
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. natural salt
1 lb pickling or baby cucumbers, trim ends and quarter lengthwise
8 cloves garlic, peeled
2 t. black pepercorns
2 seed heads fresh dill, with some of the stalk

Combine the water, vinegar and sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve. Let cool to room temperature.

Pack the cucumber spears in the jars. Divide the garlic and peppercorns between the jars. Stuff a large dill seed head into the center of each jar. Pour the cooled liquid over the mixture, making sure everything is completely covered with liquid. Seal the jars and refrigerate for 24 hours before using. Keep refrigerated; flavors will continue to develop overtime.

Makes 2 pint jars.

- For fun, I cut some cucumbers in rings and some in spears, making 1 jar of each kind.
- This depends on having fresh, crisp cucumbers for best results.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Best Ever Zucchini Bread

This amazing, tried and true recipe always gets compliments. I've tested many zucchini recipes in my day, but none are as moist and delicious as this. The cinnamon adds a very nice flavor to the bread. This recipe is excellent for freez and gifting!!

3 eggs
1 c. cooking oil
2 c. white sugar
2 c. peeled shredded zucchini
3 t. vanilla
3 c. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. soda
3 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. baking powder

Beat eggs till foamy. Add oil, sugar, zucchini and vanilla. Mix lightly but well. Add flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and baking powder. Mix together and divide batter into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.


- It also works well with yellow squash instead of zucchini.
- Drain your zucchini some before mixing in, but don't worry about it too much.
- I've subsituted with Splenda for Baking and applesauce instead of all or half the oil and been happy with the results.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Amish Potato Salad

Not the least of the reasons why I love the Amish is their amazing ability to cook delicious food. It's not quite potato season, but I couldn't resist sharing this simply divine recipe.

6 c. cooked potatoes (I've used russet and yukon gold)
6 hard boiled eggs
1/4 to 1/2 c. onion, finely chopped
1 c. celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 c. mayo
3 t. mustard
1 1/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. vinegar

Boil potatoes and cube. Set aside 1/4 of the potatoes, mash the remaining 3/4 of the potatoes. Gently mash eggs as well, careful to mash too small. Put all the potatoes, the eggs, celery and onion in a large bowl. Combine mayo, mustard, sugar and vinegar. Mix well. Pour over the potato mixture. Stir well. If you like, slice one or two eggs to place decoratively on top, sprinkle with paprika. Chill. Will keep 4-5 days.

PS: I halved this recipe from the original in my Amish cookbook. Seriously, I think it was for a potluck or a family much larger than mine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

DIY Basic Cookie Mix + 3 Yummy and Easy Cookie Variations

These recipes came from one of my many Gooseberry Patch Cookbooks. Their recipes are always tried and true country favorites and so delicious! As the name of the cookie mix implies, the mix makes a great gift.

THE MIX: Kate's Cheerful-Giver Basic Cookie Mix
8 1/2 c. flour
2 c. brown sugar
2 c. sugar
1 3/4 c. dry milk powder
3 T. baking powder
1 1/2 t. salt
3 1/2 c. shortening (one that doesn't need refrigeration)

Combine first six ingredients in large bowl. Using two knives or a pastry blender, cut in shortening until mixture is crumbly. Store in an airtight container 8-10 weeks in refrigerator. For slightly longer storage, store mix in freexer. Yields about 17 cups of mix.

OPTION #1: Grandma's Gran-Oatey Cookies
2 1/2 c. cookie mix
2 T. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. oatmeal
1/2 c. granola

Mix together cookie mix, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Beat in eggs, milk and vanilla. Add oatmeal and granola. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow oatmeal and granola to absorb moisture. Bake at 350 for 9 to 11 minutes on greased baking sheet. Cook on wire rack.

OPTION #2: Lunch-Pail Peanut-Butter Cookies
3 c. cookie mix
3/4 c peanut butter
1 egg
1 T. water
3 T. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 c. unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 t. cinnamon (optional)

Mix all ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased baking sheet. Make criss-cross pattern with tines of fork on each cookie. Bake 10-12 minutes at 375 or until light golden brown. Cook on wire racks.

OPTION #3: Two-Times Chocolate Chippers
3 c. cookie mix
1/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. nuts, chopped

Mix together cookie mix, milk, egg and vanilla. Stir in melted chocolate, chips and nuts. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 9 to 11 minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Make Your Own Laundry Soap

Making your own laundry soap is much easier thank you might think -- and it's super-cheap! You just need a few ingredients and a food processor and you're good to go.

- bar soap *see note below*
- Washing soda - not baking soda
- Borax

- large container to store your soap
- Measuring cup
- Large mixing bowl
- Food processor

Making Your Detergent:
Your mixing ratio is simple: 1 bar of soap (or 2 cups soap shreds) to 1 cup Borax and 1 cup Washing Soda.

1. Grate your soap using your food processor or a hand grater. The finer the shreds, the better.

2. In large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups soap shreds with 1 cup Borax and 1 cup Washing Soda. Mix well.

3. Scoop your the soap mix into the food processor and use the chopping blade to finely pulse the soap mix. You want the soap shreds to mix well with the Washing Soda and Borax, and create a fine crumb-like mixture. Once finely processed, transfer to your container for storage.

4. Continue through remaining soap shred mixture in bowl, until all have been finely processed and well mixed with the Borax and Washing Soda. Transfer to your storage container as each batch is finely pulsed.

Using the Detergent:
When washing, use about 1/8 cup for medium loads and 1/4 cup for large loads. This soap does not bubble, so don't be alarmed when you don't see suds! Also, note the type of bar soap you use will have different stain-removal properties. Use Fels Naptha if you rely solely on your detergent for stain-fighting.

Soap Suggestions:
Ivory is a good choice, but I've been known to use whatever blows my hairback when I'm shopping. For the all natural route, you can choose Dr. Bronners bar soap, but at $4+ a bar, it is too rich for my blood. Other options are Fels Naptha (great for stain removal) or Zote.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Project for Kids: Create a Worm Farm

This is a fun, educational and inexpensive project that demonstrates how earthworms move about in the soil. Earthworms are very helpful in gardens because they move about and all air and water to reach all parts of the soil, which is beneficial to plant roots.

Materials for the project:
* Large glass jar with a lid
* Hammer and nail
* Soil
* Sand
* Oatmeal
* 2 or 3 earthworms
* Black construction paper

1. Add some water to the dry soil and sand, just enough to make them moist.
2. Pour about 1 inch of soil into jar. Sprinkle on a teaspoon of oatmeal. Cover with about an inch of sand. Repeat layers until you are within about 2 inches of the top of the jar.
3. Poke a few holes in the lid of the jar.
4. Place worms in jar and secure lid.
5. Wrap construction paper around jar to provide a dark environment for worms. Place in dark place, out of direct sunlight.
6. In a week or so, remove the paper and check out what the worms have been up to! They should have made tunnels through the sand and soil, looking for the food (oatmeal)... just like worms do in our garden soil, mixing and airating.

* Every week, add a little water to the jar to keep it moist.
* Every six weeks, add a teaspoon of oatmeal for food.
* When the kids are done enjoying the farm, simply dump out in your garden and allow the worms to aerate your soil.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ham Macaroni Salad Recipe

Super-delicious way to use up your leftover hard boiled eggs and Easter ham.

4 cups cooked elbow macaroni (about 1.25 cups uncooked)
1 cup cooked cubed ham
7 oz cubed cheddar cheese
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped fine
1 cup chopped dill pickles
1/2 cup celery, chopped fine
1 T dijon mustard
3/4 cup mayonaise

Mix mustard and mayonaise. Then pour over remaining ingredients and stir to coat. Chill before serving.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Eggshells -- Great for gardening, seed-starting, and fun for kids!

This project is very timely considering Easter is less than a week away. Use your leftover decorated or undecorated shells for this project.

Be sure to check out my tips at the bottom for a kids project and using your cardboard egg cartons.

Eggshell Seed Starters

•eggshells, gently washed and dried
•egg carton, top cut off
•ice pick or awl
•potting soil

Gently break your egg open close to the top, ensuring that you save most of the egg for planting in. Clear out the contents, and carefully gently wash and dry it. Pierce the bottom with an ice pick or awl to provide a drainage hole. Set the eggshell in an egg carton.

Fill each eggshell with soil, drop in 2 to 3 seeds and cover with more soil. Moisten the soil with a mist of water and place the egg carton in a warm, sunny location with good air flow. Keep the soil moist and turn the carton occasionally to ensure even growth.

When it's safe to plant the seedlings outside, you can plant them in the ground -- eggshell and all.

Kids will have a great time dyeing or decorating shells, planting seeds in them, and watching the seedlings grow. Grass or wheat seeds work great for this. Use the seeding directions above, but make sure your potting soil is completely wet, not just moist.

If you don't have eggshells, just use the cardboard carton itself as a seedling tray. Poke a hole in the bottom of each eggcup for drainage and follow the seeding directions above. When you're ready to plant them outside, just cut the eggcups into individual sections and plant them, cardboard and all. The cardboard will biodegrade as the plants grow.

Crushed eggshells add valuable nutrients to your garden. If you have lots of eggshells (left over from Easter, perhaps) check out this info on using them in your garden: .

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lead & Gardening: Important Facts to Keep in Mind

Unfortunately, the soil in many areas has lead in it. While only elevated levels of lead (over 400 parts per million) are considered hazardous by the US Environmental Protection Agency, no amount of lead is safe for children. Lead can cause serious health problems, including brain damage, especially in small children.

As you make your gardening plans for this summer, please consider the following tips provided by the Healthy Homes Coalition:

How to Protect Your Family
• Always wash vegetables before eating.
• Wash hands after gardening.
• Don’t wear gardening shoes inside the home.
• Add lime to your soil to maintain soil pH levels above 6.5 to limit lead
availability to plants.
• Add organic matter to your soil to bind the lead.
• Don’t let your kids eat dirt.

For more information, view this "Gardening & Lead" Fact Sheet from the Healthy Homes Coalition.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Make it Fresh and Special with Flavored Butter

Bring your butter beyond basic by adding a few simple ingredients. You can whip it up in no time!

3 steps to Compound Butter
(Or two if you skip the fancy roll at the end!)

1. Start with 2 sticks (or 1 cup) unsalted butter or margarine, softened to room temperature.
2. Combine butter and flavorings, mixing well.
3. You can either store your butter in a small dish (as I usually do) or you can go fancy and roll it in a sheet of parchment paper and and form a log. From that you can slice off nice circles as you need them.

Flavor Variations
The sky's the limit on this one! Try some of the ideas below, or experiment with your own favorite flavors:

One of our herb combos gives you three herbs to choose from!
• Lemon Herb Butter: 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1-2 teaspoons lemon zest and 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh herbs—try dill, parsley, tarragon, thyme, oregano or a blend.
• Chili Lime Butter: 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, 1-2 teaspoons fresh lime zest and 2 teaspoons red chili flakes.
• Blue Cheese Butter: 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese and 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives (optional).
• Cinnamon Butter: 1 tablespoon cinnamon and honey (or superfine sugar) to taste.
• Fig Butter: 1 jar fig preserves—chop up any large bits of fig—1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.
• Honey butter: mix in honey to taste. I don't have an amount for this one. :-)

Cooking with Compound Butters
Pair your gourmet butters with fresh-baked bread, or get creative with them:

• Toss pasta with lemon herb or blue cheese butter—or a little bit of both!
• Sauté cod filets in herb, chili lime or fig butter.
• Whip mashed potatoes with savory butters, or let slices melt atop baked potatoes.
• Melt chili lime butter, then drizzle over corn on the cob.
• Spread waffles, pancakes and scones with cinnamon, fig or butterscotch butter.
• Finish steaks with slices of herb or blue cheese butter.
• Add sweet butters—fig, cinnamon and beyond—to oatmeal, rice pudding and other porridges.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

DIY: All-Purpose Spray Cleaner

This versatile all-purpose spray is great for kitchen counters, tables, sinks, floors, and more.

16 oz spray bottle (check dollar stores)
1 teaspoon Borax (found near speciality cleaners on the laundry soap aisle)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable-oil based soap (like Dr. Bronners)
16 oz Hot Water
Few drops essential oil (optional)


Add Borax to 16 oz of hot water in spray bottle. Cap and shake until Borax is dissolved. Add vinegar and shake. Then add soap and oil and shake.