Mommermom Cooks!

A great deal of my retirement is spent cooking. We have to eat-right? Cooking healthy is a challenge for me. We come from down home good old comfort food families. These past few years I have tried to use healthier ingredients and change the way we eat.  I have more time now to incorporate fresh foods and we seldom eat processed or fast food anymore. My recent favorite thing to cook up for dinner is…

Stir Fry

The beauty of stir fry is you can merge all of your favorite veggies together, with or without meat. It is quick, easy, and healthy! I don’t have any fancy pans or techniques but it always turns out and everyone enjoys it. For a more substantial meal you can include white or brown rice or oriental style noodles. They come in buckwheat, rice, grains, and a variety of other textures and flavors. Look around and see what is available in your local grocery or specialty stores.

Vegetables

This list is simply suggestions. Use any combination that you desire.  I might select at least 4-6 (or more) to keep it interesting. I tend to like a larger variety and use this as an opportunity to clean out the fridge!

  • onions
  • shallots
  • celery
  • garlic
  • bok choy ( I love baby bok choy)
  • napa or other cabbage
  • carrots
  • bell peppers (all colors)
  • bean sprouts
  • asparagus
  • mushrooms
  • broccoli
  • snow peas
  • zucchini

You get the idea. You can use whatever you like! I sometimes use chicken, beef, pork, and I bet shrimp would be good too.  Be creative.  Don’t be afraid to change it up. It is really hard to mess this up! This is a one pan endeavor which makes it even better.

Basic Stir Fry Recipe

Using a small amount of olive oil (or your favorite oil), cook chopped meat in a large fry or sauté pan. Season how you like it. Tonight I marinated my chicken in some cranberry/orange dressing that I found  in my fridge.

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You can also use soy or teriyaki sauce  for flavor.

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Make sure meat is thoroughly cooked. You can also use a rotisserie chicken or left over roast from dinner last night.

Select, prepare, and chop your veggies into smallish bite sized pieces.

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I usually remove the meat while cooking the vegetables but this is just my preference. (Usually because I am scrambling to finish gathering my ingredients together and I don’t want it over cooked.) You can also sauté chopped onion and/or garlic while you cook your meat or after it is removed from the pan. We are building the flavors as we go along to make sure we have a tasty result.

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Next, you will want to cook (over medium high heat), your more dense veggies like broccoli, celery, or zucchini. Remember this is stir fry so stir often! Depending on how crunchy you like your vegetables, have small pieces cook for 5 or so minutes before adding your softer vegetables like bok choy or bean sprouts as they cook very quickly. You don’t want a soggy mess. If you have not added your chopped onion and garlic yet, now would be a good time.

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If you are serving rice or noodles with your dish, you will have wanted that almost completed now as this next step does not take long at all.

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Tonight I cheated a bit and purchased a prepackaged bag of chopped vegetables. It caught my eye because the work was done and included finely sliced brussels sprouts.

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After cooking (and stirring) a few minutes, I added baby bok choy and bean sprouts. Add all of your remaining veggies and seasonings. I usually toss in a little sesame oil about now (if I have it). Of course salt is always good but since soy sauce has so much sodium I would use sparingly. I actually like a little coriander which sounds like a strange choice, but has great flavor. If needed, add some soy sauce (which I like)  or water to help steam veggies and as you stir to heat all the way through.

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Now that the veggies have cooked down a bit (and they will cook down) you can add the meat back into the pan. Stir together.

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How long should you cook this you might wonder? Well, depending on the doneness of your veggies or the type you select, this entire cooking process is finished in about 6-10 minutes. You just want to be sure that the vegetables are thoroughly heated for maximum flavor. Add soy sauce as desired.

I served on a bed of rice and my healthy dinner was ready in less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

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Enjoy!

 

Pumpkin Spice Mini-Donuts

I got an exciting gift for Christmas…

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A mini donut maker! I know it is the new year and I am supposed to be working on eating healthier. Well, January 1st fell on a Thursday so there was really no sense in going crazy until Monday…right?

Anyway, I decided to take it for a spin this afternoon. After looking at numerous recipes for mini donuts, I decided to try this pumpkin version from ‘garnish with lemon’  ( http://www.garnishwithlemon.com/pumpkin-spice-mini-donuts).

It will be quite a while until the next pumpkin season (after all) and I did have one lonely can of pumpkin left….

Anyway,

I got my ingredients together

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Donuts:
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup milk

(see my modifications below)

Coating:
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven 350 F.  Grease mini donut pan.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.

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In a large bowl  whisk together oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

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Don’t over mix. I didn’t have all the spices so used about a tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice along with the cinnamon. I also used butter instead of vegetable oil. (Just my thing, I guess)

Use a pastry bag or snip the end off a plastic zip style bag and fill pan-well-don’t over fill.

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I tried using a spoon and it was really messy. I also tried the plastic bag and that was pretty messy too. (sigh)

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Anyway…

Bake for about 7-9 minutes, until donuts spring back when gently pressed.

Turn donuts out onto a wire rack or plate (since I don’t have a wire rack) and allow to cool for a few minutes.

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While the donuts are cooling, melt butter in one bowl and combine the sugar and cinnamon in another.  When donuts are still nice and warm, quickly dip each donut in melted butter, then coat in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.  Serve immediately. Do not complete this step until just before serving if they will not be eaten right away.

I decided not to dip them in butter nor drop them in the cinnamon/sugar either. They were light, fluffy, and delicious just the way they were…

and remember…

I am trying to cut back!

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Cheesy Zucchini Rice

We love zucchini at our house and we love good ‘ol white rice. I know… they say white rice is not really that good for you… so I guess you could adapt this recipe to brown rice…but white rice is my absolute favorite! Growing up our large family was divided into two camps-the rice lovers and the potato lovers. Since Dad was a rice lover we ate it more often than potatoes.  I was in the rice camp. Old habits die hard, I guess.

While exploring the internet only an hour before dinner, I found a recipe using three basic ingredients-rice, zucchini, and cheese. We had everything on hand so no trip to the store required. Whew! I decided to make this delicious looking side combo to enhance our baked chicken dinner. Be sure to use sharp cheddar cheese for the extra wallop of flavor. I used a Mexican blend of cheese which was good but I am sure the cheddar would have been great! Next time…and there will be a next time. This was super easy and quick.

Cheesy Zucchini Rice-adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Café

…but taken from…

The Baker Upstairs (wow, this recipe gets around!) http://www.thebakerupstairs.com/2013/10/cheesy-zucchini-rice.html

Ingredients

1 cup white rice
2 cups chicken broth
1 medium or 2 small zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt + pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoons milk (if needed)

wpid-20141119_165131.jpg In a medium sauce pan, combine rice and broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.

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Remove from heat and stir in zucchini, cheese, garlic powder, and salt and pepper. Stir in milk if needed to thin out the sauce. I placed covered pan back on the stove for a few minutes because I like my food really hot! The shredded zucchini cooked in the hot rice and the cheese melted nicely. I did not need to add the  milk.

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Delicious!

Another keeper.

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HERSHEY’S Brownies

I love brownies-but who doesn’t? Whenever I need a quick and easy dessert I use this go to recipe from the HERSHERY website. I almost always have the ingredients on hand and they are always a hit.
This past weekend I offered to bring a dessert to the cousin’s house. Since they were nice enough to put us up and set up the craft fair, this was my little contribution.  I needed something that was easy to transport and something that everyone would enjoy.  I also took a pumpkin chocolate chip loaf and a banana loaf that I baked as a little thank you gift and for her to put away for another day.
All packed up, we headed out. Needless to say the brownies were a hit so I decided to share this easy recipe. It may not replace your favorite brownie recipe but it is nice to have on hand.
hershey-baking-cocoa_sm
 Ingredients

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  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips (optional)
  • CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING (recipe follows)

Directions

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch square baking pan. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl.

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Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended.

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Stir in nuts, if desired. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. I don’t have a square pan at the moment so used a cake pan. It worked just fine.

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I decided to top with mini chocolate chips before baking and skip the frosting.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack.

Prepare CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING if desired; spread over brownies. Cut into squares. Makes 16 brownies.

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(They were gone before I could get a picture of the chewy goodness on the inside!)

CREAMY BROWNIE FROSTING

(optional)

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

3 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa

1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons milk

Beat butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small bowl until blended. Add powdered sugar and milk;Beat to spreading consistency. About 1 cup frosting.

Enjoy!

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http://www.hersheys.com/pure-recipes/details.aspx?id=5008&name=Best+Brownies

Baked Tortellini Casserole

Trying new recipes and exploring the web for ideas has become a passion for me. I was having a friend over for lunch and needed and menu. It had to be easy and I needed to make it ahead of time so I wouldn’t be bogged down in the kitchen with last minute preparations. Oh-and it could not be expensive.  Well of course I started browsing and came up with a wonderful idea from  no .2 pencil. She has some great recipes-you should check out her out!

http://www.number-2-pencil.com/2013/10/18/baked-tortellini-casserole/

I made a few variations to this recipe and it was a big hit! My friend (and Thommmee)  loved it and thought it tasted a lot like lasagna. This recipe, however, was much easier and quicker than lasagna! Of course I adapted it and I am showing the version I used. For the original recipe, please refer to her blog.

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 good-sized zucchini chopped using grater or food processor.

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About 1/2 cup chopped onion

some minced garlic

1  can/jar of prepared spaghetti sauce

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1 24 oz package of fresh or frozen cheese (or your favorite) tortellini

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2 cups of grated mozzarella cheese

Saute onions and garlic in olive oil, until soft.  Add finely chopped zucchini.

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Cook together for a few minutes until zucchini is softened.

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Add spaghetti sauce and cook for about 10 minutes allowing all the flavors to come together.

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Stir in uncooked tortellini and about  1 1/2 cups of mozzarella cheese.

 

wpid-20141106_103156.jpgTransfer to casserole dish

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Cover tightly with foil. This will cook the pasta so don’t skip this step.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Extra time may be needed for frozen tortellini.

Remove foil.

Add remainder of cheese cooking until melted.

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 Delicious!

I added a salad and bread for a perfect meal!

Another keeper for my recipe box.

Next time I will add mushrooms!

Thanks, no .2 pencil

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Pumpkin Oatmeal Muffins

Fall is finally coming to Southern California! The mornings are cool, the nights chilly, and I am in the mood to bake!

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This morning (after going outside to enjoy this marvelous sunrise) I  began looking through my meager pantry (I need to go grocery shopping!) I came across a can of pumpkin.  I immediately jumped online to find a healthy pumpkin muffin recipe. Thanks to Hungry Healthy Girl‘s fabulous blog, I came across the perfect recipe.  I am also including her link so you can check out this yummy recipe first hand. Find it at:

http://www.hungryhealthygirl.com/2013/10/24/baked-pumpkin-oatmeal-muffins/.  She has some great stuff so head over to her blog and check it out.

Ingredients

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2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I did not have any so left this out)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 egg or 2 egg whites

1/4 cup pure maple syrup (honey works too-this is what I used)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (any milk will work)

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, cranberries, or any dried fruit(or whatever you like (I did not add anything extra-nothing on hand-got to get shopping!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray muffin pan with non-stick spray. In a large bowl, stir together oats, baking powder, seasonings and salt.

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In a separate bowl, mix pumpkin, 1 egg (or 2 egg whites), maple syrup (or honey), vanilla extract, milk and optional add-ins.

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Add pumpkin mixture to the oats and stir..

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Allow the mixture to set and thicken for about 3-5 minutes before filling muffin pan.

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Fill muffin pan almost completely full with oatmeal mixture. Muffins will not rise. Bake for 30-35 minutes and until the center of each oatmeal muffin is set. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

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If you don’t allow these to cool before taking them out of the muffin pan, they will fall apart. I used a knife around the sides to make removal easier.  Store in a covered container in the fridge for about a week.

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Great texture and very moist. These were very tasty but  I would prefer them a bit sweeter.I think chocolate chips might have added just the perfect touch of sweetness! Definitely a keeper in my recipe box.  Thanks again Hungry Healthy Girl!

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Rachael Ray’s Banana Oatmeal Squares

The other evening I was looking for a reasonably healthy snack. Lets be honest-I had a sweet tooth! I was exploring the web for a recipe that was quick and that I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. This tasty dish caught my eye.

Rachael Ray’s Banana Oatmeal Squares

1 1/2 cups oatmeal (instant or rolled oats both work well)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white four)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 large ripe banana, mashed

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk (I used almond milk)

(I added about  2 tbs  honey for extra sweetness based on the reviews I read)

Optional: nuts, raisins, cranberries, etc. (I used cranberries)

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Since  had a smallish banana, I added about 1/4 cup applesauce too.

PREPARATION

Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF. Grease an 8-inch x 8-inch cake pan (I had a round pan)

Dump all of the ingredients into a large bowl and stir until well combined.

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Add optional cranberries

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Pour the mixture into a prepared cake pan.

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 Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting into squares. The squares can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes 6-8 squares.

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Enjoy.

The reviews on this recipe were overall good. I thought it was delicious when it was hot out of the oven.  I would not make this again unless we were gong to finish it within a day or so (preferably the same day). It was not what you would call light and fluffy but had a heavier texture. I thought it had great flavor and was perfect with a cup of hot tea in the evening or a healthy breakfast treat. Definitely worth a try and super easy to make.

Thanks Rachael Ray!

http://www.rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=4158

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Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

A few months ago I posted a wonderful recipe on a skinnier version of fettuccine alfredo. I tried it again last night with a twist on this yummy dish by making chicken fettuccine alfredo. This chicken alfredo sauce will take about 20 minutes or so (depending if you use cooked or uncooked chicken). It will serve about 4 people. In this recipe I used about 2/3 of a box of angel hair pasta (which was what I had on hand).  Add a salad and you will have a complete and delicious meal.

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Ingredients

  • 1 box of fettuccine or your favorite pasta
  • 1 cup of non fat milk.  You could use whatever milk you have
  • 1 tbs -3 tbs olive oil
  • approx. 1 cup of chicken broth (or a bullion cube will also work)
  • about 3 tbs of flour
  • garlic
  • shredded chicken (either cooked or uncooked). I used about 1 cup of cooked chicken.
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • Shredded jack or mozzarella cheese for the topping (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Put water on to cook pasta. You will want to time this so they will be ready about the same time. Saute garlic and chicken in olive oil until chicken is thoroughly cooked. You can also use cooked chicken and simply warm with garlic. (I think next time I will add mushrooms too!)

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Move chicken to side of pan and add flour to remaining oil in pan. Add a little more olive oil if you need to. Cook flour mixture for a few minutes. Since this is an alfredo sauce we are not looking to brown mixture.

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Slowly add chicken broth. Mix to remove lumps. Slowly add milk. Continue to cook over medium high heat, stirring until smooth. Add more milk if needed

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You can also begin to mix in chicken. Watch closely and stir often.

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Mixture may seem thin. You want it on the thinner side. The parmesan cheese will cause it to thicken .  It will also thicken upon standing.

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Add parmesan cheese. It only takes a moment to melt so make sure your pasta is about ready. I then mixed the alfredo with the pasta before serving. You could also pour the alfredo sauce over cooked pasta.

Sprinkle with (optional) jack or mozzarella cheese, season to taste and serve.

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Enjoy!

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Orange Cauliflower Rice

At our recent trip to the Farmer’s Market, we came across an orange cauliflower. I had never seen this variety so golden…so cheesy looking……..I grabbed one up with an idea of cauliflower rice forming in my mind.

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One of my favorite foods is white rice. We have given up this delicacy the past few months while we have focused on healthy eating and portion control. I know if I make up a batch of white rice I will over indulge with mounds of butter or gravy. For now, it is off my list of food choices so the idea of cauliflower rice sounded really good.

I began searching the internet for a recipe. While I did realize that the uniqueness of this orange color would not actually change the flavor of the cauliflower, I could not wait to make my rice. I took a combination of several recipes to create my masterpiece and this is what I came up with.

Orange Cauliflower Rice

Wash cauliflower and break into small flowerets.

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Using a food processor or grater, chop into fine rice-sized pieces. I used a small food chopper and chopped in small batches.

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Sautee onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil.

This is optional.

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Add drained cauliflower, stir into pan, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes until you reach your desired tenderness. Thommmee and I don’t like our veggies too mushy so about 8 minutes cooking time worked . There were different opinions about adding additional water or oil. I decided to add a small amount of oil as I began cooking to avoid sticking. If your cauliflower is wet, the additional moisture will help steam it. You don’t want it too wet, however.

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It worked perfectly! We both loved this ‘indulgence’ and liked it better than cauliflower mashed potatoes. The consistency was more satisfying and the nice orange color (while not changing the flavor) made the ‘rice’ more visually pleasing . We added a bit of butter, salt, and pepper.

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Dinner is served!

This is a keeper.

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Strawberry Jam

At the beginning of the strawberry season, I decided to make strawberry jam. Nothing quite like homemade jam! When my kids were growing up, we began making jam because of an apricot tree in our backyard. We could not seem to eat it or give it away fast enough…..and I really hate to waste anything! I became a sort of a self-taught jam maker knowing no one  (at that time) who made jam but plenty of people who liked to eat it! We would make the jam in smallish jars to give as gifts.  Before the internet, I had relied  on the inserts of the pectin packages or a trip to the library for directions. When I  began making jam after a long hiatus, I found that nothing much had changed. I recently made three batches-with some very special helpers!

The first batch was with  my daughter and her young baby. Keeping this little one entertained while we got to the business of making jam required the help of Thommmee-aka-Poppa.

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We gathered our supplies and off we went!

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We were moderately successful. The taste of the jam was fantastic but did not set up as well as expected.  I kept some of it and used it for syrup on pancakes and ice cream. It was delicious.

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I made the second batch with two granddaughters. It turned out perfectly! They were thrilled with their jam and so was I.

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We used the same recipe so I thought I was just a little rusty…right…..? Wrong……

After all of that I did not really have any jam of my own to keep or give away so decided to make another batch. Mine did not set well either. I found out, however,  you can “recook” your jam to get a good set (set meaning to make firm). You simply need to empty all of your jam into a pot, add more pectin and sugar, re-sterilize your jars and lids, and cook it some more. I had never heard of this before but it worked very well.

Here is the recipe from the Ball canning website that I used:

5 cups crushed strawberries (about 5 lbs)
1/4 cup lemon juice
6 Tbsp Ball® RealFruit® Classic Pectin
7 cups granulated sugar
8 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

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Directions:

1.) Prepare boiling water canner. I don’t have a canner so I used a big pot.Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
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2.) Combine strawberries and lemon juice in a 6 or 8-quart saucepan.  (If you did not read my post on lemon marmalade, I found out you need to have a stainless steel pot for best results-although I did not see this anywhere on the recipe).
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Gradually stir in pectin (I used powered pectin). Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.
3.) Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. (This is where I went wrong-how do you determine exactly when the rolling boil that cannot be stirred down starts?) Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary.
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4.) Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
I did buy more berries and froze them to try again at a later date. Our strawberry season is about over. I am sorry to say I did not take a picture before I gave away my beautiful jars of jam. I recreated a picture to show you how cute they turned out. We took them on our last road trip and gave them all away.
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 The reviews were good, I am pleased to say!
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