Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Make: Homemade, no sugar/low sugar Jam


Every couple of years I make jam/preserves/jelly whatever you want to call them. I say every couple of years because I tend to make two to three dozen jars at a time. I know what you thinking, “What the heck does she do with it all!” Well, I’ll you. First, I have two kids who are PBJ-aholics. You ask my daughter what she wants for lunch and she will tell you, “PB-Jelly please!” How can I tell her no? Now I know you’re thinking about all the sugar that is in not only the jelly but the peanut butter as well, but since this post is how to make jelly and not peanut butter, we’ll only focus on the jelly for now. The sugar in my jelly, is all natural. It comes from the fruit it self and nothing else. Now that the sugar issue is explained, lets get down to the cost. When the particular fruit you want to use is in season and you can get it for cheap, then do so, BUT make sure the fruit is ripe and taste good. “Ripe” fruit you get in a store is usually far from being truly ripe and never had a chance to develop flavor. Here’s my secret. I use frozen fruit! Frozen fruit is always picked when it’s ripe. They are always sweet and I know you probably have a bag in your freezer right now for smoothies. Frozen fruits have always made the best jams for me and because they’re frozen, most brands haven’t added any additional sugar either. The next thing you need are canning jar. I use the half pint jars because it works better for my family then the real tiny jars. I don’t get the fancy ones either. Just the regular half pint jars with bands and lids.  The last thing you need is pectin and maybe some lemon juice. The pectin is what makes jam, jam. It binds the fruit and juice together to create the giggly consistency. You can find it in any super market, right where you’d find the canning jars. I don’t buy the boxes anymore either. I used too, but I found out that one packaged wasn’t enough for my jams to set properly. So now, I buy the container. Make sure you buy the one that says no sugar/low sugar formula. Otherwise, you’re looking at about 5 cups of sugar for a batch of jam.  Then all you do is follow the directions. This particular brand let me do anywhere from 2 to 10 jars at a time. For every two jars I needed a specific amount of fruit, water and pectin. I could add sugar or honey if I choose too and certain fruits, like blueberries, required some lemon juice as well. I will tell you that my batches of 10 jars, only made batches of 8 jars. Why? Not sure, but this has always been the case when it come to me and making jams.

So I crushed my fruit, stirred in the water and pectin and boiled away. Once it was cooked, I ladled it into my clean and sterilized jars, put the tops on and into my water bath canner it went. Don’t have a water bath canner? No problem! You just need a pot deep enough to cover your jars with 1 to 2 inches of boiling water. I could have done that in my pasta pot with no problem. Boil them for 10 minutes, carefully remove and let them cool for 24 hours. After that time, push down on the top. If it springs back, it didn’t seal and you need to store it in the fridge. If it did seal, store it in your pantry where it will last a few years. Oh and by the way. If you hear POP during the time the jars are in the canner or sitting on the counter, it’s alright. It’s just the sealing of the jar.

Once a jar of jam has been opened, store it in your fridge until it’s gone!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


There is a reason for the title being in caps. I mean, it IS bacon after all. It deserves to be capitalized and shouted from the roof tops. Bacon makes everything better. Having a bad day? Have some bacon! Boyfriend left you? Bacon will be there for you. It really is a cure all and there is nothing wrong with eating a couple pieces as long as you do so in moderation. The is only one thing that I don’t enjoy about bacon. Thankfully, cooking it in the oven means I don’t have to clean the stove top, my counters and the wall when I’m done with breakfast that morning. It also makes the perfect, crispy bacon, every time.
What You Need:
What To Do:
Lay you bacon out on a cold sheet pan, making sure it’s one with sides so you don’t cause a fire in your oven from the fat dripping every where. Place the pan full of bacon (or just a few pieces if it’s for you) into a COLD oven. When you start with a cold pan and a cold oven, the bacon warms up gradually and stays nice and long and flat. It won’t curl up and shrink. Turn the oven to 400 degree and cook for about 15 minutes or until it’s cooked to your desired crispness. Remove the bacon from the tray and let drain on paper towels. Enjoy the deliciousness!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Veggie Egg’s Benedict


Here is the third and final egg’s benedict recipe. If you missed the first two, you can find them here and here. Again, I’m not typing this recipe up in the usually format because there isn’t much of a recipe to it. You need the sauce from the classic recipe, a tsp or so of olive oil, and two slices each zucchini and tomato. I used a great big round zucchini so my slices were as big as a piece of Canadian bacon would be. If yours aren’t as big, you might want two or three slices. I sliced both the tomato and the zucchini to be about 1/4 inch thick.

All you do, is heat up a sauté pan with the olive oil. Season the zucchini with a bit of salt and pepper and once the pan is nice and hot add in the zucchini. After about a minute or two it should be nice and golden on the bottom so give it a flip and cooking for another minute so that the zucchini is softened but isn’t mush. I placed a tomato slice on top of each zucchini slice after I flipped them so that the tomato would be warmed through.

To assemble, place your zucchini and tomato stacks onto a plate, top each stack with a poached egg, and some of the classic hollandaise sauce. I add some fresh chopped parsley to the top and some fresh shredded parmesan cheese would go really well too.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Birds Eye Voila Frozen Meals and A Gift For You!

Chicken Alfredo
As part of’s Taste Makers program, I was selected to try out Birds Eye Voila Frozen Meals. I picked up a few different bags and tried them out. They were actually pretty yummy! They were super quick to make, taking about 15 minutes and it prepared a balanced meal. The family size bag is perfect for us and my kids loved the fact that they’re veggies had a “sauce” on them too. I do think they could use a bit more flavor as the Cheesy Chicken was a touch bland. We also tried the Alfredo chicken and that one was good. There are several more varieties on the market to choose from too. I checked out the ingredient list and it seemed okay. There were a few ingredients I could have lived without, like hydronated oils, but for busy nights, I could see myself pulling a bag out of the freezer.
Oh and guess what?!?! Birds eye has given me a special gift to share with all of you! To the first 5 readers to leave a comment on this post, I’m going to give 5 buy one get one free coupons for Birds Eye Voila!!! Yes I said 5 BOGO coupons! How cool is that? Just leave me a comment with your email and I’ll send you an email asking where I should send your coupons! Happy eating!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

South West Egg’s Benedict


Here is the second version I promised you and this one has a spicy kick! I’m not using my usual format here of an ingredients list and then directions. Why? Because there is only a few small changes you need to make to the original recipe found here.

So here’s what you do. After making the classic hollandaise sauce, add to the blender 1 chipotle in adobo and blend it again until it’s full combined. If you don’t want something super spicy, just add in a bit of the sauce until it’s to your liking.

Then warm a small corn tortilla and give it a smear of heated refried beans. I used about 1/4 cup. Top that off with your two poached eggs and two tablespoons of your spicy hollandaise sauce, some diced tomatoes, a bit of cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Classic Egg’s Benedict


I don’t do a lot of breakfast dishes on GOC and I’m not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I don’t cook breakfast that often? My kids love they’re cereal or scrambled eggs and I only make pancakes on the weekends so perhaps that has something to do with it. Lately however, I’ve been on this egg’s benedict kick. I’ve eaten them almost every morning for past week or so and I even purchased some Canadian bacon to do it the right way.  One of the main components of the dish, Hollandaise sauce, can be scary to make for some. You’ll see recipes out there telling you to use clarified butter or how you need to carefully and quickly whisk the sauce over a water bath. I’m here to tell you that this is not the case. You can do those things of course and make a perfect hollandaise the way that fancy chefs do it, or you can do the easy, only have a few minutes, mom way. With a blender. I have three different versions of Egg’s Benedict this week for you. This recipe is for the classic and will be the basic recipe that the other two are based off of.

What You Need:


2 egg yolks
1 tbs lemon juice
1 stick butter
salt and pepper

For Each Person:

1 English muffin, toasted
2 pieces of Canadian bacon, heated through
2 poached eggs (I cheat and use a store bought egg poaching pan)
2 tbs Hollandaise sauce
chopped parsley (optional)

What To Do:

To make the sauce, heat the butter over medium heat in a small sauce pan until it’s completely melted and bubbly. In a blender, add the egg yolks, lemon juice and some salt and pepper. With the lid on the blender, turn it to high to start blending the yolks. If you have a pour spout on your blenders lid, then use that. Otherwise remove the lid to the blender and in a very slow steady stream, add in the melted butter. The trick is to keep most of the white frothy stuff in your pan. Don’t worry if you get it some or all of it in your sauce. It really won’t have much affect on the taste. The important part is to make sure you’re adding the butter in slow and steady. Turn the blender off and marvel at your beautiful, thick, golden hollandaise sauce.  Here’s two quick tips: If you sauce thickens up while your making the rest of the breakfast, just blend in a tablespoon or two of very hot tap water. This will help to remelt the butter.  If you have leftover sauce, keep it in the fridge, in an airtight container. To reheat it, pop it in the microwave for 5 seconds. Give it a stir and pop it back in for another 5 seconds. Continue doing this until the butter has melted and becomes a sauce again. It’s important to only use 5 second intervals. If you put it in the microwave and just let it go, you’ll actually end up with scrambled eggs. You can also reheat the sauce by setting it over hot water and stirring it while it warms. The point is to do the re-warming gently.

To assemble your eggs benedict place your English muffin halves on a plate. Top them with the Canadian bacon, then the poached eggs and finally top each egg with 1 tbs of the sauce. Sprinkle some parsley over the top. Not only does it make it look pretty, but I really like the flavor it gives to the entire dish. Eggs benedict can be heavy and the parsley gives it a freshness to cut through all that.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Curry Grilled Chicken


I’ve been trying to get into Thai style cooking more and more but honestly what I know of it, is that it’s spicy. That doesn’t sit well with my husband who ends up with reflux attacks. I’ve had a small jar of red curry paste in my pantry for awhile but I’ve been scared to use it as it’s supposed to be the hottest. Loving spicy food myself, I decided to just go for it one night. I would give it a taste and see what I could to make it enjoyable for my husband as well. I tasted the curry paste by itself and it really wasn’t all that hot to me. It was spicy, meaning there was a lot of flavorful spices to it, but it wasn’t hot spicy. I mixed in some honey and rice wine vinegar to help balance the flavors and then slathered over some chicken legs. The results were an explosion in my mouth. I absolutely loved it. So did my husband. I served it up with some coconut rice and a simple cucumber salad. I’ll post the recipe for my cucumbers on GOC’s facebook page today so you’ll have that. This isn’t just for chicken legs. You can use it on breasts or wings too.

What You Need:

2 tbs red curry paste
2 tbs honey
1 tbs rice wine vinegar
4 chicken legs
salt and pepper

What To Do:

Combine the curry paste, honey and vinegar until mixed well. Season both sides of the chicken legs with salt and pepper and cover completely with all of the paste. Let sit for 30 minutes before preheating your grill. Once the grill is hot, place the chicken legs on your grill, skin side down for about 5 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Flip the legs over and turn the heat to low. Continue cooking the chicken until it’s not longer pink in the middle.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicken Caprese


Caprese combines the best things of summer, tomatoes and basil with some fresh mozzarella threw in. Now imagine those ingredients rolled up in a juicy chicken cutlet. The cheese melts, the tomatoes get soft and juicy and the basil gets fragrant. It’s a wonderful bit of heaven in your mouth.

What You Need:

4 chicken cutlets, pounded to 1/4 inch thick
4 basil leaves
4 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
4 bite sized mozzarella balls, cut into quarters
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
olive oil
1/2 c chicken stock

What To Do:

Season the chicken cutlets with the garlic powder, salt and pepper. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Make sure to use a skillet with a tight fitting lid. While you’re waiting for your pan to heat up, place 1 basil leaf followed by 4 cherry tomato quarters and 4 mozzarella quarters onto each chicken breast. Roll up to enclose as best as you can and secure with kitchen twine or tooth picks. Place in your heated pan and cook for a minute or two, or until the bottoms are browned. Flip them over, pour in the chicken stock and cover the pot with your lid. Continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the chicken cooked all the way through and the filling is hot. The chicken stock will have reduced down some to make a nice sauce if you’d like.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Classic: Ice Box Cake


I remember by very first job was working as an office girl for a campground and canoe rental place that my uncle owned. I was all of 14 and so excited to be working and making money for things that my parents wouldn’t buy. Even then I loved to cook and I remember my uncle asking me if I knew how to make an ice box cake. Of course, I had never heard of this before so I asked my mom. Basically, it’s an old fashion favorite made with whipped cream and very thin, very crisp, chocolate cookies. Those cookies are pretty hard to find anymore. They’re usually on the top shelf, hidden in between other cookies that have lost their way.  You can find them, you just have to look really really well. They come in a rectangular yellow box, that is wrapped in plastic. Honestly, I’m not sure who even makes them. Guess I should have paid attention when I found them. You know you have the right box when you flip it over and there is a recipe on the back for “Old Fashion Ice Box Cake.”

What You Need:

1 package very thin chocolate cookies
1 tub cool whip
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
Hot Fudge for garnish you like

What To Do:

Mix the vanilla into the cool whip if using. I don’t ever use it, but it helps give a bit more flavor to the cake. Then all you do is place a dollop of cool whip onto each cookie and sort of sandwich them all together. They stand up on their edge to form a “cake” shape. Then cover the entire thing with the remaining cool whip and place into the fridge for at least 4 hours. The cookies become soft to form a cake like texture. Cut into diagonal slices and serve!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Video: Breaking Down a Whole Chicken


Here it is! The second ever video on GOC. I am having a blast thinking of things I can show you guys on a video. It’s pretty fun to make them. This time I did it by myself and used a trusty tripod to hold the video camera but I think it still came out pretty well. So, breaking down a chicken is pretty easy. It doesn’t take a whole lot of time and is pretty economical to do. For less then $1 a pound you can easy eat a few meals out of a single chicken. Nothing goes to waste either because the parts you typically don’t eat, like the neck and spine, can still be saved for making your own chicken stock. Enjoy the video and please let me know if you like them.

Oh and just a quick warning, I am a mom of two and you WILL hear my two kids in the background. They are always interested in watching me cook. In fact my daughter has helped me make things on numerous occasions and she’s only 2 and half. At one point, my son feels it was necessary to let out a few high pitched screams, so I wouldn’t turn the volume up very loud!

Breaking down a whole chicken

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mediterranean Pasta

I’ve really been liking the Mediterranean flavors lately, not to mention that the fact that I found out I like artichokes. This is a pretty quick and easy dish that was inspired by something my husband once had at a restaurant. It was penne pasta that was tossed with olives and various other things with a basil cream sauce. I opted for a tomato base and large wide noodles, oh and I added in some chicken for protein too.  It’s great for summer time as it has zucchini and yellow summer squash in it which you can always find in abundance. The flavors mesh really well, nothing is to over powering which makes it a really successful dish.
What You Need:
1 tbs olive oil
1lb chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into bite size pieces
1 medium yellow summer squash, cut into bite size pieces
1 can artichoke quarters
1 1/2 c crush tomatoes
1/2 c pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 tbs dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 lb pasta, cooked till al dente and drained (use either a wide flat noodle or a hallow noodle like penne)
What To Do:
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and cook in the skillet with the olive oil until no more pink is showing. Add in the zucchini, yellow squash, artichoke quarters and garlic and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and the squash is tender but not not mush. Add in the crushed tomatoes, oregano and more salt and pepper if needed. Cook for a few minutes or until the sauce has started to bubble. Stir in the olives and toss it all together with the pasta before serving.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Beef Braciole

Looking for the giveaway? Click here!
There as many recipes for beef braciole as there are Italian families. Each family has they’re own way of doing it. I keep mine pretty simple with prosciutto, some provolone, and an herb filled bread crumb stuffing. Although simple, it’s full of flavor. I get my butcher to slice a round roast to about 1/4 inch thick, fill it with my stuffing and then brown in a heavy bottom skillet or Dutch oven. I then top it with tomato sauce and let it simmer so that the beef becomes so tender you can cut it with a fork. This dish makes the perfect lazy Sunday supper.

What You Need:

1 1/2 lb pounds round roast, cut thinly (4 or 5 slices)
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 bread crumbs
1/2 parmesan cheese
3 tbs milk
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 sprigs of oregano, chopped
a few basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
1/2 c red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
4-5 slices prosciutto
4-5 slices provolone
olive oil
Kitchen twine or tooth picks

What To Do:

In a dutch oven or heavy bottom skillet, sauté the onion and garlic in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent. Turn the heat off and stir in the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and then the milk. The bread crumbs should be soft and moist. If not, add in a touch more milk. Then stir in the herbs and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Take each slice of beef and season with salt and pepper, then top with 1 slice of prosciutto and 1 slice of provolone each. Top with some of the crumb mixture, leaving a 1 inch border. Roll the meal slice up from the short ends. Tie with kitchen twine or secure with tooth picks so that it doesn’t come undone while cooking. Continue with the rest of the beef slices, but make sure to save about 1/4 cup of the filling. Place your dutch oven or heavy bottom skillet over medium high heat. Once hot add a bit more olive oil and your beef rolls. Cook for a few minutes on both sides or until browned. Turn the heat to low and add in the red wine. Move the beef rolls around a bit to make sure they are not stuck to the bottom, then add in the crushed tomatoes and the reserved filling. Stir it gently to combine, cover and let it just barely simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. After the hour, remove the beef from the sauce and let sit for a few minutes before slicing into one inch slices. Serve with a bit of the sauce over the top.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

How To: Butcher a Quail

So this happens to be my first every video post! I’m excited and I plan to start doing this a little more often. Here’s a quick back story. Two years I raised chickens, but we didn’t have a fenced in area and most of them disappeared. This year, I decided to do it again. My brother in law Alec, re-did our chicken coop and created a nice big fenced in area for the birds. He also decided that he wanted to get and hatch some quail eggs. They were in the incubator for what seemed like forever but in reality it was one a few short weeks before they started hatching. Soon we had about 9 quail. Shortly after they were born, we lost two, and a few weeks after that we lost another one. By the time they were out in they’re special pen within the chicken coop, we were left with one female and 5 males. The males didn’t always get along and it was just a matter of time before we’d have to take care of a few of them. Which brings us to this video. Butchering quail is completely different then butchering chickens. It’s 100 times easier and faster.
Please be aware that video is very graphic. I am killing a very much alive quail, so if you’re of a sensitive nature, do not watch this video.
How To: Butcher Quail

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kodak Picture Books, Speical Offer and a Giveaway!

If you've visited the site lately, you've probably seen that I'm now apart of Food Buzz. It's this awesome website for food bloggers. They help out with promotions, ad space and they clue us in on some great new products. As part of their "Taste Maker" program, FoodBuzz teamed up with Kodak Gallery and offered us this awesome opportunity to check out they're photo books and all we had to do was blog about it!

Sample Cover
I decided that I would try and make a cook book style photo book and I couldn't believe how easy it was. When you start out, there are two options. The first is a quick style which after uploading your pictures, the site automatically places them into a book in chronological order. The second option is to do everything yourself. This is the option that I chose. It gave me such freedom! You choose everything from the color of your cover, or the color of your pages and the layouts. There are several page layout options from using just text all the way to up to having several pictures on the same page. I loved this! It meant that I could put pictures on page, and a recipes on the other! There is no software to download and the whole process takes just mintues. It really was super easy.

Now for the Speical Offer! Kodak is extending a great offer to my readers. They're giving you guys 40% off a medium or large picture book until the end of the month (8/31/2011). All you need to do to take apart of this offer is to click on the banner on the right hand side of my page. It's the perfect time to work on those pictures that have sitting in your computer forever! Save them to a beautiful photo book that you can pass down or hold onto forever.

And the giveaway? Well, since I'm quickly approaching my 2 year mark on GOC I had to do something right? So I created a recipe book and I want to give one away to you guys! It only has a handful of my favorite recipes, but I'm sure you'll treasure it. It's always a great start for what I'm planning to do in the future with creating a cook book for you guys. So, one lucky reader will be chosen at random to win this picture book. Plus, I'll even sign it because lets face it, signed copies of anything are pretty cool. How do you get a chance to win this? Well I'll tell you:

1. Follow GOC via google friend connect and leave me a comment telling me you do so.
2. "Like" GOC on Facebook and leave me a comment telling me you do so.
3. Follow my "tweets" via Twitter and leave me a comment telling me you do so.
4. Leave me a comment telling me why you'd like this small collection of recipes.
5. Leave me a comment telling me what your favorite on GOC is.

Make sure you leave separate comments for each entry. That means you have upto 5 chances to win!
Plus don't forget to take advantage of the 40% off offer by clicking the link on the top right hand side of the page.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Celery, Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad


This quick and easy salad has it all. It’s perfect for something different during the summer months when mac and potato salads reign. It’s tangy, crunchy, creamy and just delicious. Toasting the walnuts in a dry skillet before adding into the salad, gives them such a depth of flavor. It brings out the oils within the nut so that the walnut flavor explodes in your mouth. When they combine with the crisp crunch of the celery and the creamy, tanginess of the blue cheese it’s just wonderful. This salad should be made shortly before serving. The bit of vinegar in the dressing will start to wilt and break down the celery. I guess you could always make it ahead but don’t toss it with the dressing until just before serving. Makes enough for 4 side salads.

What You Need:

a small head of celery (about 8-10 stalks)
1 c walnut halves
1/2 c blue cheese, crumbled or cut into small chuncks
2 tbs red wine or apple cider vinegar
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

What To Do:

In a small skillet toast the walnuts by heating them gently over medium heat. Stir them often, making sure to watch them. They will go from perfect to burnt very quickly. Once they are hot, and you start to smell them, they’re done. Turn off the heat and remove them from the pan. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, remove the bottoms and leaves from the celery and wipe clean. Slice the stalks on a diagonal and place into a large bowl along with the crumbled blue cheese. In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar and olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper. Once the nuts are cool, add them into the bowl with the celery and blue cheese. Pour the dressing over the top, toss it all together well and serve.

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