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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Homemade Jelly Candies

The hardest part of this delightful recipe is keeping the jelly from sticking to everything during the cutting stage.  Liberal amounts of sugar on all surfaces will help prevent sticking.

Note: this recipe takes some time, so be sure to plan ahead!


2 - 3 oz pkgs flavored jello (not sugar free)
2 packets unflavored gelatin
1 1/3 cup applesauce
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups sugar
More sugar for coating candy, about 1/2 to 1 cup

Making the jelly:

Spray a 11x7 pain with nonstick spray. Put in fridge to chill.

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.  Let sit 1 minute.  Then, bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often.  Boil 1 minute, stirring the whole time.

Pour immediately into prepared chilled pan.  Refrigerate for 4 hours. 

Cutting the jelly:

After 4 hours, remove from fridge, and sprinkle sugar on the surface of the jelly, gently spread to coat.  Run a knife along edges to loosen jelly (wet knife if needed).  Gently pull up from pan (I found a small metal spatula helps). 

Turn out onto a surface that has been coated in sugar.  I've found my large plastic cutting board works great.  Just make sure it's coated in sugar to prevent sticking.

Sprinkle plenty of sugar in the bottom of the 11x7 pan you just pulled the jelly from.

Now, either cut into cute shapes with little cookie cutters, or use kitchen shears (or a knife) to slice into little cubes.

Toss cubes in sugar to coat all sides.  Cut and coat all pieces of the jelly and place black in 11x7 pan.  You can also place spaced out on a cookie sheet if you want to.

One last step:

Leave jelly candies sitting in pan on your counter, uncovered, for 8 hours or overnight.  Then, store them sealed.

  • Using 2 packages of the same flavor of jello will provide a more intense flavor.  Mixing will muddle the flavors more.
  • Try using flavored applesauce.  I combined cherry jello and cinnamon applesauce.  The cinnamon wasn't too strong, but you could taste it.
  • There are tons of jello flavors!  Have fun and get creative.
  • This makes a fantastic gift -- people will be impressed because homemade jelly candies are not as common as cookies or fudge, for instance.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Out of This World Apple Preserves

The lemon keeps this sweet, chunky jam fresh-tasting.  It reminds me of apple pie or applesauce.  It's really just perfect, and seriously out of this world good!

I made mine with Honey Crisp Apples, but you can use any kind. 

6 c. chopped, peeled & cored apples
1 c. water
1 T. lemon juice
1 package pectin
4 c. sugar
1/2 c. thinly sliced lemon
2 t. nutmeg

Combine apples, water, and lemon juice in a large non-reactive pot.  Cover and simmer 10 minutes.  Add in 1 package of pectin.  Stir and bring to a boil.  Add sugar and lemon.  Stir until sugar is dissolved.  Bring to a boil.  Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg.

Ladle into prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process 10 minutes in hot water bath.  Makes 6-7 half pints.

New to canning?  You CAN do it!  Ball makes it really easy -- go here to learn more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Favorite Things: Mrs. Wages Seasoning Mixes

It's no secret around these parts that I have really jumped into canning these past couple of years. I love preserving produce from our garden and making tasty treats for my family: spiced peaches, salsas, pizza sauces, applesauce, pickles ... and, of course, jams! Jessica's Pantry at the store is filled with a wide variety of my jams. But it's my basement shelves that see the true bounty. 

My not-so-secret weapon for preserving a flavorful harvest: Mrs. Wages seasoning mixes.  The easy-to-follow directions and flavorful seasonings take a lot of time and guesswork out of making fantastic canned goods.  Directions for immediate eating or preservation by refrigeration-only, freezing or canning are all provided on the package.  For the beginner like me, Mrs. Wages seasonings make things easier as you grow accustomed to the canning and preserving process. 

So far, I we have tried Mrs Wages Pizza Sauce, Medium Salsa, Spiced Peaches, and Refrigerator Pickles and my family has loved each!  I am a huge fan of the pizza sauce and made sure to can two batches this year since we ran out last year and I was bummed.

You can find the seasonings at your local grocer (for me, that's Meijers), right along with the plethora of canning products available this time of year.  Or, you can shop Mrs Wages online store.  Prices seem pretty comparable - especially when you consider shipping costs.  (Though if you go here and scroll to the bottom they do have some specials going on.)

Enjoy and happy harvesting (and preserving!).

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Two Impossibly Easy Dips

My family has come to know me as the dip queen.  No chip, no veggie stick, no vanilla wafer should go undipped.  And so, I have added a line of dip mixes to Jessica's Pantry at Country Harvest Greenhouse.  However, the dips I'm sharing don't start with a seasoning mix -- instead, look to the canned jam section of Jessica's Pantry.

Berry Delicious Dip
- 1 cup Triple Berry (or other fruit) jam
- 1 cup marshmellow creme

Mix well -- a mixer will be needed -- and voila!  Instant delicious fruit or cookie dip.  You can choose the jam flavor you want and you can alter the ratio of jam-to-creme based on your tastes.

Hot Pepper Dip
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup hot pepper relish

Mix well.  Creates a creamy, savory dip with a hint of sweet and a hint of heat.  Serve with crackers or veggie sticks.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

It's that delightful time of the year when rhubarb and strawberries are in abundance.  Here's a tasty way to make use of the bounty!  

Recipe yields 6 half pints

2 c. crushed strawberries
2 c. chopped rhubarb
6 Tbs pectin powder
1/4 c. lemon juice
5 1/2 c. sugar

Before you begin, prepare your hot water bath, jars, and lids.  Ball Canning provides an excellent step-by-step for this.

Next, prepare and measure out all ingredients.  (When it comes time to add the sugar, you will want to be able to dump it right in.)

Combine strawberries, rhubarb, pectin and lemon juice in a large saucepot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Once a full boil is reached, add the sugar, stirring until dissolved.  Return to a rolling boil.  Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. 

Skim foam if necessary.  Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Adjust 2-piece caps.  Process 10 minutes in boiling water canner.

  • Use a liquid measuring cup for strawberries and lemon juice to ensure accuracy in measuring.
  • Fresh lemon juice is best, but not vital.
  • You may want a potholder in your hand when you stir the boiling jam - it bubbles & spits.
  • A dab of butter added in during the boiling will reduce foam.

Recipe source: Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Image source: Kraft.com

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Favorite Things: Meet My Very Good Friend Phil (odendron)

I thought it would be fun to do a series on my favorite things - plants, recipes, and otherwise.  To launch this series, I present to you my best bud Phil.

Phil is a philodendron tropical plant, or as I like to call it - a "No-Kill 'Um" plant. 

Which means -- just as it sounds -- it is very, very difficult to actually kill one of these hardy plants.  Outside of jade plants, philodendrons are the most fantastic, forgiving plants it has been my great pleasure to know. 

Not only can they survive in low light and with sporadic watering, they are fantastic climbers and prolific viners and it's quite fun to wrap their vining branches in and around your decor. 

Another fun thing you can do: snip a few philodendron vines and keep them in water indefinitely. They make lovely windowsill gardens or bookshelf decorations.

Trust me, novice and forgetful plant-keepers will find philodendren to be a fun and easy way to green up your living space. I hope you stop by Country Harvest Greenhouse and pick up your very own "No Kill 'Um" and give it a try!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cactus Garden -- 2.0

My mid-winter blahs were staved off in January by creating a darling trio of cactus plantings:

But now, a few months later, I felt the inevitable desire for variety, plus a developing obsession with all kinds of succulent plants.  Thus, I took the plants from the trio of containers and combined them into this miniture garden with 5 kinds of succulents:

I find it to be too cute for words! 

You can make your own with a small container, rocks in the bottom for drainage, and a few small succulent plants.  Give it a try -- I think you'll like it!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Roasted Kohlrabi


4 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
2. Cut the kohlrabi into 1/4 inch thick slices, then cut each of the slices in half. Combine olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss kohlrabi slices in the olive oil mixture to coat. Spread kohlrabi in a single layer on a baking sheet.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until browned, 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally in order to brown evenly. Remove from oven and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Return to the oven to allow the Parmesan cheese to brown, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Kitchen Storage

The spice cabinet can be one of the most frightening and fantastic places in the kitchen.

It used to be that I'd open the door and haphazard stacks of containers of all shapes and sizes filled with a wide array of spices would all beg for my attention. The chaos was a tad overwhelming! I have 25 to 30 spices (and I'm not even that adventurous of a cook -- no cayenne and no curry, for example) and that is a lot to wrangle in one small space.

Finally frustrated with the mess of spice bottles of every shape and size, I recently invested in a storage system that I'd already been using elsewhere in my pantry: the ever-handy and versatile mason jar.

The jars offer a consistent size and a stable surface for stacking, plus their airtight lids preserve freshness and keep out pantry pests.

Here's what I did:

  • I used pint jars for the items I keep a large amount of (I like to buy in bulk), all the way down to the 4 oz half jelly jars for the spices I keep just a bit of.
  • Ball sells storage caps, which are perfect and easy to use. You can buy them online, but I find the prices are just as good or better at your local hardware store.
  • I labelled the jars using my Dynamo LetraTag labeller - one of my best investments! You can also use tape and a permanent marker or office labels. Make sure you note any special instructions or cooking ratios that the spice may have.

    Tip: You can find mason jars at garage sales and second-hand stores. But they are pretty scarce and it's probably easier to by a package of them from the store.
  • Sunday, February 19, 2012

    Savory Green & White Soup

    This two-tone soup is filled with the great healthy benefits of veggies (including super-star kale), plus the savory goodness of chicken. If my powers of deduction have not failed me, it is also very low carb.

    - 1 large skinless, boneless chicken breast (about 2 cups cooked chicken)
    - 1 medium onion, chopped
    - 2 celery ribs, or the inner ribs and leaves from the celery bunch, chopped
    - 2-3 large kale leaves (or about 1 cup) chopped
    - 16 oz bag frozen broccoli & cauliflower blend, roughly chopped
    - 32 oz light chicken broth
    - chicken bullion (optional)
    - water (about 2-3 cups)
    - olive oil

    Cook the onion and celery in a large stock pot over medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add in the kale and cook another 2 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the chopped chicken, bullion if you wish, and 2-3 cups of water. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through, then put in the broccoli and cauliflower. Simmer until hot, or longer, to deepen the flavors.

    Serve with a sprinkling of finely shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

    Note: I choose to par-boil the chicken breast separately, then add it to the soup to boil longer. I used the broth from the boiled chicken and put that into the soup (after attemping to skim some of the fat). You could just add all chicken broth, or broth and water. Whatever works for you!

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    A Cup O' Cactus

    Feeling the winter blahs? I know I am! When summer is a distant memory, and spring seems be running away from you, it's time for a little indoor greenery.

    Windowsill gardens are the perfect idea for a little mid-winter burst of cheerful green. You can make a variety of windowsill gardens, anything from spring bulbs, plant cuttings, herbs, cacti, small tropical plants, and more.

    This year, I had a fun little project in mind involving some adorable ceramic measuring cups my mom had given me. I just knew they would be perfect to create a little windowsill garden vignette.

    I think I was right. What do you think?

    This is how I made it:

    - a small, sturdy dish (teacups would be cute)
    - potting soil
    - small plants (I used succulents, see note)
    - plastic containers to line, if desired (I used Gladware and tiny plastic cups)
    - small stones

    1. If you choose, cut your plastic liner to fit your dish, so that the top of it is flush with the rim of your dish.

    2. If it is deep enough, place a few stones in the container to aid with drainage. If it's not deep enough, that's OK. Just be careful not to over-water).

    3. Fill the container part-way with soil, place your plant inside, and then gently pack soil around the plant.

    4. If you like, place small stones on top of the soil around the base of the plant. They can help cover the rim of your plastic liner if it is showing.

    Here are some other great examples: Desert in a Box, and Plants for the Sill.

    Note on plant choice: You can use a variety of house (tropical) plants or herbs for this project. The main consideration will be the size of your container. If the container is too small, you won't be able to find a plant small enough. I was able to make my plants fit in very small dishes because I choose to make a succulent (cactus) garden. Succulents have very shallow roots, which allows them to be placed in small, shallow pots.