Bring on the Broccoli

The thing I love the most about gardening is the whole growing process. I love to see how something comes from such a small plant or seed and what it can turn into. Unfortunately, when you plant everything at the same time you end up with an abundance of the same types of vegetable all at once. Obviously the scale at which I currently garden isn’t ever going to be conducive to producing all of my own food, but it is nice to be able to grow as much as I can.

This week my first vegetable other than lettuce was ready for harvesting. I planted four broccoli plants and they were all ready to harvest this week. I decided to use half now and safe the other two for later. As I have mentioned before I am going to try different types of food preservation this year. Broccoli isn’t something that is canned so this was another easy one that can be frozen.

Harvesting the broccoli is very simple, cut the head of florets with a few inches of stalk from the plant with a sharp knife. If your broccoli is a variety that produces off shoots and possibly additional heads of broccoli don’t cut away the part of the stalk that contains the new shoots.

To prepare broccoli for freezing you must first cut it into uniform or bite size pieces.

Put leaves and any unhealthy pieces of the plant in your compost bucket, and make sure you’ve removed any bugs or caterpillars. Wash the pieces of broccoli well and then put them into a pot of boiling water to blanch.

Blanching helps preserve the food longer by delaying the enzyme deterioration process within the vegetable.* Boil the broccoli pieces no longer than 3 minutes. Once you drain the boiling water put the broccoli immediately into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

Once they have cooled put the broccoli in freezer zip top bags and remove as much air as possible or use a food sealer if you have one. Don’t forget to label the bag with the contents and the date and your extra broccoli should be ready for the freezer.

*Blanching info from “How to Store Your Garden Produce” by Piers Warren

Berry Patch Fun | Strawberry Freezer Jam

How to Make No-Cook Strawberry Freezer Jam

Recently we enjoyed a family trip to the strawberry farm for a nice afternoon of berry picking. I was happy to go along for some time with my nephews who enjoyed eating as many as they picked. I came home with a gallon of berries and decided to learn how to make some freezer jam. This year I want to try and learn several methods of preserving foods that I grow, or buy fresh, and I thought freezer jam would be an easy one to start with, because no real cooking is involved.

I purchased several packs of Ball 8oz freezer jars, and lucky for me the recipe for strawberry no cook freezer jam was right on the back of the label. If you use glass canning jars they should be boiled to sterilize them before using, but I was apprehensive about boiling the plastic freezer jars, so I just washed them very well in very hot water.

This recipe is so easy, you only need three ingredients: strawberries, sugar, and Instant Pectin. Instant Pectin is designed specifically for no cook freezer jam, so be sure you purchase the correct one.

Specifics
4 cups crushed berries
1 ½ cups sugar (or no calorie sweetener)
5 Tbsp Ball Real Fruit Instant Pectin

Clean and Hull enough berries so that you have enough to end up with 4 Cups of Crushed Berries (for me that was roughly a half gallon of berries)

Use a potato smasher to crush the berries and then measure out four cups and put in another bowl.

In a smaller bowl mix 1 ½ cups sugar with the 5Tbsp Instant Pectin.

Pour the sugar and pectin mix into the bowl of crushed strawberries . Stir the mixture for at least 3 minutes.

Ladle the mixture into the jars up to the fill line, be mindful to leave a ½ inch of headspace at the top of the jar to allow for the expansion of the food during the freezing process. If your using glass jars and you don’t leave enough headspace the jars could break. Using a wide mouth canning funnel makes this process much easier.

Secure the lids on your jars, and label with the date and contents.

Let the jam stand on the counter for at least 30 minutes so that it will have time to firm up. This jam can be kept in the freezer for 1 year but should be eaten within 3 weeks if kept in the refrigerator. I’m sure it will be long gone before the year is up.

I made a second batch and ended up with 12 jars.  So far mine has been quite tasty, it didn’t jell up quite like a store bought jelly, but instead has a wonderful strawberry sauce consistency which has been great in strawberry shortcake!

Pizza with a Twist

I try to come up with different things to fix for dinner that my children will eat. I mean, you can only do so many things with hamburger or chicken that they will actually eat!  The other night I was making pigs in a blanket and only had a few hotdogs to use, so I thought I would mix it up some.  I used crescent rolls and cut them in half to make smaller rolls.  Then I used turkey and American cheese in a few, and pepperoni and cheese in the others.  My favorite would have to have been the pepperoni ones!  A co-worker of mine used to make them in rolled up biscuits.

Fast forward a few weeks, for my oldest daughter’s birthday. I usually do hotdogs because it is cheap and easy to fix. But like I said before, I’m trying different things. I decided on making the pepperoni rolls with biscuits… yea, um, not so smart!  I had to roll them out flat, cut them in half, stuff them, and roll them back up.  That’s just too much time and not enough hands!  My advice is, if you ever want to make them, just go the easy route and use crescent rolls.

Here is what you need for Pepperoni Rolls:

1 pkg small pepperoni

1 pkg shredded cheese

Crescent rolls – qty determined by how many you want to make

Divide out your crescent rolls on your baking sheet. Layer pepperoni then cheese and roll up as directed on package.  Bake in oven as directed on package.

Serve with dipping sauces like pizza sauce or ranch dressing.

Pepperoni Pizza Cresent Roll Ups
(Photo credit: bos-bowl.com)

How about a Pizza Ring:

This requires a round baking sheet/baking stone.

You will need the same ingredients as above but add in your favorite pizza toppings!

Pizza Sauce

Shredded Cheese

Ground beef

Sausage

Chopped Peppers

Etc.

Separate your crescent rolls and lay them out, overlapping corners around your baking sheet creating a circle.

Add your layers starting with a thin layer of pizza sauce, moving to meats, veggies, and finish with cheese.
*If using ground beef, only put about a spoon full of meat on each crescent roll.

Once all toppings are completed, fold the ends of the crescents over and tuck them so the filling is enclosed.

Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes making sure the crescent rolls are baked completely.

Enjoy!

Montreal Chicken Salad

I love chicken salad but have found very few brands that I actually like.  Some are very garlicky tasting and some are just weird tasting.  I thought since my chicken casserole recipe turned out pretty, I’d try my hand in some chicken salad.

I use McCormick Montreal Chicken for my chicken casserole and for baked chicken.  It’s a really good seasoning and kind of has a little kick to it. I have also grilled with it and it is wonderful.  The whole line of the Montreal Seasoning is really tasty.  Keep in mind, I’m the only one who eats chicken salad at my house, so this recipe is for a small amount of chicken salad. Add more to the ingredients if you want to make a larger amount.

Chicken Salad

1 chicken breast

McCormick Montreal Chicken Seasoning

1/2 celery stick – chopped

sweet pickle cubes

Mayo

Optional – 1 boiled egg, chopped onions, halved grapes, chopped pecans

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.   Tenderize chicken breast with fork by poking chicken thoroughly on both sides.  Sprinkle seasoning on both sides and bake for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear.  Let cool a bit after baking.

Chop cooled chicken to desired coarseness then mix with the remaining ingredients. Add mayo last to your desired amount.

Serve cooled & enjoy!

“Mommy… when’s it gonna snow?”

My 4 yr old loves the snow so much that she asked Santa for snow boots for Christmas!  And do you think she has gotten to use them?  Well, technically not for snow but they make an awesome fashion statement with the right tutu.

We don’t get snow around here like we used to.  I remember when I was little it would snow and you would be out of school for days!  Now we are out because of ice.  What fun is that?!  There was this great big hill behind my great grandparents house, in the cow pasture, that we’d ride our sleds down, all day long… until we couldn’t feel our toes anymore!  Then we’d snuggle in a blanket after going inside and watch Thundercats and eat snow cream.  It would also snow so much that many people didn’t get out to drive, so we could sled down the road in front of my aunt’s house.  My uncles would get out the tractors and pack the snow down on the road, then off we would go.  Those were the days!!!  Now, you’re lucky if you get enough to make a snowball.  So I’m hoping it snows this winter for her sake, just to use those snow boots that Santa brought.  With temperatures often hanging in the 60s, I’m not holding my breath but rather thanking God she loves to dress up in those boots!

Here is an adapted recipe for snow cream, without raw eggs included.

white_snow

Snow Cream

 1 cup of milk

½ cup of sugar

½ tsp vanilla

Mix together, then add snow to desired thickness.  Garnish with chocolate syrup, M&Ms, or crushed up cookies.