Strawberry Jam

A couple weeks ago, I shared that I was looking forward to making some strawberry jam using this recipe, and I’m happy to report that I made strawberry jam! It's hard to beat homemade jam on a warm biscuit!

 
 

I’ve made strawberry freezer jam in the past, which turned out well. Using this recipe, it is fairly simple and doesn’t require pectin. When I made it, I used lemon juice for half the batch and lime juice for the other half. Both worked well, and I’d definitely recommend it if you’re looking for an easier jam recipe.

I decided to go with a more traditional canning method for this batch for a couple of reasons. First, my current freezer/refrigerator is smaller and doesn’t utilize the space as well as many newer ones, so I just don’t have much space in my freezer. I’ll also start making and freezing pesto soon, and I need plenty of space for that (plus, I have to have room for the essentials, read: ice cream). Also, it is nice to give the occasional jar of homemade jam to friends or neighbors, and it’s more of a hassle to give away a jar if it needs to stay cold.

I have my grandmother’s old canner, but it is at my parents’ house until we have more space in our kitchen to store it. I think it would have been much easier with the canner, but I used pots of boiling water, and it worked fine.

I used the Pioneer Woman’s Strawberry Jam recipe as a starting point, but made a couple of changes. For example, her recipe calls for 7 cups of sugar, and I only used 5, which still seems like a lot. The berries I used were naturally really sweet, but if they weren’t, I would have considered using a bit more sugar. Here’s the recipe I followed.

Strawberry Jam

  • 5.5 cups hulled and mashed strawberries

  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice

  • 7 T pectin

  • 5 cups sugar

Yield: 8 mason jars (8 oz.)

Place the mason jars in a large hot water bath canner (or pot). Cover with water and bring to a simmer. Simmer the center lids in separate saucepan full of water.

Place the mashed strawberries and lemon juice in a separate pot. Stir in the pectin until dissolved. Bring the strawberries to a strong boil.

Add the sugar (measure beforehand so you can add it all at once), and then return the mixture to a full boil that can't be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute 15 seconds. Skim foam off the top.

Remove one jar at a time from the simmering water. Pour water back into the pot. Using a wide-mouth funnel, fill each jar with jam, being careful to keep the liquid/fruit ratio consistent. Fill the jars so that they have 1/4-inch of space at the top. Run a knife down the side of the jar to get rid of air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar with a wet cloth to remove any residue or stickiness.
Remove the center lid from the simmering water and position it on top.

Put screw bands on jars, but do not over tighten! Repeat with all the jars, and then place the jars on a canning rack and lower into the water. Place the lid on the canner, and then bring the water to a full boil. Boil hard for 10 to 12 minutes.

Turn off the heat and allow the jars to remain in the hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water using a jar lifter, and allow them to sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, remove the screw bands and check the seal of the jars. The center lids should have no give whatsoever. If any seals are compromised, store those jars in the fridge. Otherwise, fill your pantry with your newly canned goodness.

I initially thought not using a canner would make this process really difficult, but it was only slightly more tedious and only added about 15 minutes onto my cooking and prep time. When the recipe calls for using a jar lifter, I used kitchen tongs, and they worked fine. I also used the Pioneer Woman's cooking notes to make sure I sterilized my jars correctly.

 
 

After this, I'm feeling inspired to make some more homemade jam this summer. I'd love to hear any and all recipe recommendations or canning tips!

 
 

Crockpot Oatmeal

Y'all, it's really hard to take a good picture of oatmeal.

Y'all, it's really hard to take a good picture of oatmeal.

The past few weeks have been busier than I prefer, and since Jay has been out of town and working around the clock when he is in town, I’ve haven’t been cooking too much.

Also, Two Side Notes:

  1. I briefly thought about going to law school, and I’m really glad I didn’t. I don’t know how lawyers survive things like three week trials, like Jay is in the middle of now. Also, I think I would be the worst lawyer in the world.
  2. I have to give myself a pat on the back for eating things like vegetables while Jay’s been out of town. When he’s gone, my typically well-balanced meals go out the window, and I’ll eat cereal or popcorn (or even frozen yogurt for pete’s sake) for dinner. A turkey vegetable skillet is one of my go-tos for making dinner for one because it is ready in minutes, has a decent amount of veggies and lean protein, and saves well for leftovers. I found this recipe, which is pretty similar to what I make. I just toss in whatever veggies I have on hand. Sometimes I’ll also put it over a bed of spinach.

Since I don’t have too much to share about new and exciting recipes, I thought I’d share my tried and true breakfast. I’m a morning person, but I’d rather spend weekday mornings walking the dog or going to the gym and getting a few chores done around the house instead of cooking breakfast. This recipe is perfect because it is really satisfying, healthy, and warm, which I like in the morning. I make a big batch at the beginning of the week and then heat up a little on the stove every morning with a splash of milk.

Laura's Crockpot Oatmeal

  • 2 cups of steel cut oats

  • 2 cups of milk (any kind you prefer)

  • 7 cups of water

Spray your crockpot with non-stick cooking spray or use a crockpot liner for even easier cleanup. Add oats, milk, and water. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours. Stir oatmeal in the morning before serving because the oats tend to settle a little overnight. Add toppings of choice. (My favorites are slivered almonds, cinnamon, and a pinch of brown sugar with bananas, berries, or raisins.)

Super easy and tasty! I’d love to know if you have other simple breakfast ideas.

 
 

Weekend Recap

If you reside in the Bluegrass or really anywhere in the Upper-South/Mid-Atlantic region, then you were probably snowed in for much of the weekend like we were. During January and February, I relish snow days and think they are good for the soul. They force people to slow down and take some time to rest from the normal bustle of life. However, by March, I definitely have spring fever and am ready to be outside without having to bundle up. Other than heading out for the UK vs. Vanderbilt basketball game on Saturday, we spent much of the weekend playing in the snow, curled up with hot beverages and books, and eating comfort food.

On Friday, I was so tempted to make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies, but I satisfied my baking bug by making this honey wheat bread. However, by Sunday, I couldn't hold out any longer and just made some cookies. I also made a big batch of The Pioneer Woman's potato soup that we're still enjoying. I substituted milk for half of the heavy cream in the recipe, and I think it still tastes decadent.

Here are some scenes I snapped of our weekend:

 
img_0117.jpg
 
 
img_0118.jpg
 
 
img_0121.jpg
 
 
img_0115.jpg
 

We also stopped by the Bluegrass Barkery this weekend to pick up some of these Pawz booties and a few treats. After a light snow last Wednesday and the snowstorm this weekend, the pads on the bottom of her paws were getting red and irritated from the ice and salt. These little booties were great to put on her before walks and playing in the snow. She normally doesn't like wearing anything, but she tolerated these better than I anticipated. The booties are reusable and disposable, so they come in packs of 12. Annabelle wore the same booties for several days, and they are still in good shape. The pack will definitely last all winter and possibly even into next winter. If you have a dog that you walk frequently, I definitely recommend these booties!

I hope you're well rested and ready to take on the week! Cheers!

Laura

What's Cooking: Spicy Chicken Stir-Fry

 
img_05501.jpg
 

Stir-fry is one of my favorite meals. It's a great way to get lots of servings of vegetables in one dish, and the flavors are easy to change depending on the spices and sauces used. I also love the fact that once I'm finished chopping, dinner can be on the table in less than 15 minutes. While I'm a big fan of the classic teriyaki chicken, I like this recipe because it has a pretty spicy kick to it. If you're not a huge fan of spicy foods, you can easily adjust the spiciness by reducing the amount of red pepper you use.

Ingredients

  • 1 lemon, juiced and grated
  • 3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cut into 1-inch strips
  • 1 small head napa cabbage, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • sriracha (optional)

Directions

In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and soy sauce; set aside.

In a large wok on medium heat, heat oil. Add chicken and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until cooked through and no longer pink inside. Add cabbage, broccoli, bell peppers, ginger, pepper flakes and chili powder; cook for 4–5 minutes more, until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add soy sauce mixture and toss. Stir in lemon zest and sprinkle with scallions and sriracha (if desired).

 
2015-12-14-19-50.jpg
 

Cheers!

Laura

Friday Favorites

Hello Weekend
Hello Weekend

Did anyone else FINALLY feel back in the swing of things this week? It's not a bad feeling, and coupled with a three-day weekend ahead, it's a really awesome feeling! Here are a few things that caught our eye this week!

  • Almond Crusted Chicken Nuggets - Since this week has been fairly quiet most evenings, I've been a bit more adventurous in the kitchen. I've enjoyed trying some new dishes and flavors, but I'm also craving some comfort food. I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs and am planning to make these next week.
  • Bikini Body - I'm really proud that this awesome lady is a fellow Kentuckian. As women, I think it is important to take care of our bodies and appreciate them for everything they allow us to do. Whenever I look in the mirror and think my butt is too big or my calves are too muscular, I try to turn my thoughts to gratitude for my ability to walk and run and do all of the other things I love doing.
  • These Booties - I've been eyeing these booties since September and tried to hold out until they went on sale - but that never happened! I broke down and ordered them earlier this week and have been wearing them nonstop since they arrived. I ordered them in the "putty" color, but if you like them in navy, I found them on sale on Abercrombie's website of all places. *Disclaimer: They'd probably smell like the cologne your high school boyfriend doused himself in everyday. Anyways, I'm officially on the booties bandwagon (3 years after everyone else...)!
  • Oh You Steppin' - The health and wellness program where I work offered super discounted Fitbits for employees who sign up for a step-counting challenge, so as someone on the fence about the Fitbit craze, this was enough to push me over the edge. I'm one of the worst users ever because I don't really like wearing the thing (honestly, it makes for a less cute arm party), so I usually take it off after I reach my 10,000 steps. While it's amusing to see people marching around and swinging their arms for the sake of a few steps and free swag, if it makes people more conscientious about staying healthy, then I'm a supporter!
 
arm-party.jpg
 

Whether you're staying in for the weekend or taking advantage of an extra day to squeeze in a quick trip, some of our posts earlier this week have you covered. Check out Sarah's favorite new releases and my favorite podcasts.

Cheers and Happy Friday!

Laura