Easy Salted Caramel Sauce

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I bought some salted caramel sauce earlier this summer at the grocery store, and I could hardly tell that it was salted! So I made a note to try making a homemade salted caramel sauce sometime, and I finally had the chance. This … Continue reading

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Red Plum Freezer Jam

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I’ve never made freezer jam before (or any kind of jam for that matter). My friend Ann gave me some plum jam she had made with red plums from a tree in her backyard. She had so many plums, she had enough to give me a bunch to make my own plum jam, too!

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Ann found the recipe she used over at The Prepared Pantry. This plum jam is really yummy–sweet with a little tartness, and much, much better than store-bought! It’s opaque in color and has a thick, creamy consistency, so it’s a little different from your typical jam. It was easier to make than I thought, so I’ll definitely be making more homemade jam in the future! If you love plums, I think you’ll really like this jam. Even if you’ve never made jam before, you should give this a try. Since it’s freezer jam, you don’t need to bother with sterilizing jars or doing the other steps involved in traditional canning.

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You don’t even need to have special canning jars–for the batch I made, I used clean glass jars I had saved from other foods like peanut butter, ice cream topping, pasta sauce…any jar with a tight-fitting lid will do. If you don’t have jars, you can also use plastic containers.

The original recipe doesn’t say how long you can store the jam, but according to the National Center for Home Food Preservation

  • Freezer/refrigerator jams and jellies are a distinct category of products that have to be stored in the refrigerator (usually up to 3 weeks) or frozen for up to a year.
  • Freezer jams also have to be stored in the refrigerator after thawing and will only retain good quality for 3 to 4 weeks after opening. They are subject to more syneresis (“weeping” or separation of liquid from the gel) than cooked jams and jellies.

So it sounds like the jars of jam will keep in the freezer up to a year unopened, but once you open them, use them within 3 to 4 weeks. This particular jam can be used straight from the freezer, so I keep even my opened jars in the freezer–the consistency is still smooth and spreadable right from the freezer.

Here’s the recipe if you want to try making your own jam!

RED PLUM FREEZER JAM from The Prepared Pantry, with additional tips added

Makes enough to fill 5 pint-sized jam jars

  • 3 cups chopped and cooked plums, unpeeled (you’ll need about 8 cups of chopped, uncooked plums–this may give you a little more than 3 cups cooked, but it’s better to have too much than not enough; you can always save the extra cooked plums for something else–like adding to a smoothie or making a fruit topping!)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 package pectin (Ann and I used Sure-Jell)
  • 4 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup

Wash and dry the five pint-sized jam jars (or use bigger jars and fewer) or plastic containers. Make sure the lids fit tightly.

Remove the stones from the unpeeled plums and chop into fine pieces (you’ll need 7 to 8 cups of chopped plums). Cook the plums until bubbly and soft, stirring mixture constantly as it cooks. I cooked my plums on low to medium low, switching between the 2 and 3 setting on my electric range stove top for about 30 minutes, and then cooked another 5 minutes on the 4 setting. The consistency will be kind of like chunky tomato sauce–here’s what mine looked like

Measure the cooked plums to make sure you have 3 cups (if you have extra, save the rest for another use). Place the 3 cups of cooked plums in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the lemon juice.

Using the paddle attachment, stir in the pectin thoroughly. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and let the mixer run for 10 minutes (there will be some spattering of the mixture during this mixing time, so make sure your mixer is set on the lowest setting). Then let mixture sit for 20 minutes.

Add the corn syrup into the fruit mixture  (the corn syrup reduces the likelihood of sugar crystallization). Add the sugar and stir with the mixer until it is completely dissolved and no longer grainy, about 5 minutes.

Immediately pour jam into your prepared containers leaving 1/2-inch clearance at the top to allow for expansion of mixture while freezing. Let the jars stand on the counter for 24 hours to allow the pectin to set, then freeze.

This is great on toast and English muffins! You can even spread it on pancakes and waffles if you want!

Notes:
–Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer incorporates air into the jam. If you don’t have a paddle attachment, use the regular beaters.

–Once the pectin begins to set, thickening the jam, do not stir. Continuing to stir will break down the pectin and make the jam more syrupy (which is OK if you decide you want to use it as a syrup or topping for pancakes, waffles, or even ice cream!)

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What a nice way to start the day! Enjoy your plum jam!

Tzatziki (Greek Yogurt-Cucumber Dip)

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I recently made this Greek dip, Tzatziki, and was instantly hooked on it as soon as I tasted it! I adapted this from a recipe I found at About.com, which explains that this very healthy dip or sauce is often served “…on the side with warm pita bread triangles for dipping, and is also used as a condiment for souvlaki” (small pieces of meat and veggies grilled on a skewer). You can also use it as a dip for raw veggies and crackers, or as a sauce for grilled meats and cooked veggies. It’s very easy to make and a perfect cool, creamy recipe for summer!

TZATZIKI

  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • dash of salt and pepper to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (drain or strain any excess liquid from yogurt)
  • 1 cup light sour cream (or substitute another cup of Greek yogurt)
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried dill (start with the lower amount and then add more dill if you want a stronger dill flavor)
  • sprig of fresh dill for garnish (optional)

In a medium-size bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice, minced garlic,  and salt and pepper if desired. Mix until well combined. In another medium bowl, blend the yogurt with the sour cream, using a whisk (you can omit this step if you’re substituting another cup of plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream). Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt-sour cream mixture (or yogurt) and mix well. Add the diced cucumbers and dill, and blend everything well. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Just before serving, garnish with a sprig of fresh dill if desired. (NOTE: You can store this in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days; stir mixture before serving).

I like using Tzatziki as a sauce over sliced cucumbers. Have you made Tzatziki before? How do you like to use it?

Creamy Lemon-Basil Pasta

Basil has been growing so well in my garden this summer and I’ve been making lots of pesto. You can mix pesto in with pasta for a nice meal, but I’ve seen some different ideas for creamier basil sauces and decided to experiment. Sometimes I add extra lemon juice to my pesto for extra lemon flavor, so I thought a lemon-basil sauce would be good to try. It turned out nice and creamy, and it’s great served over whatever type of pasta you like to use. I used penne pasta, but angel hair pasta would be good, too. After putting some of this sauce over your pasta, just sprinkle on some parmesan cheese, add a few cherry tomato slices, a few basil leaves, and you’re all set to enjoy a great meal! This recipe makes about 4 servings.

CREAMY LEMON-BASIL PASTA

  • 1 (13.25 -ounce) package of your favorite pasta (I used whole grain penne)
  • 3 cups well-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3-1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3-1/2 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3-1/2 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • extra shredded parmesan cheese for garnish
  • 4 cherry tomatoes (or small regular tomatoes), sliced, for garnish
  • basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Prepare pasta according to package directions. In blender, add basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, nuts, parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese, and salt; puree ingredients until smooth. (NOTE: the sauce is not cooked, so it won’t be warm, but you can remove the sauce from your blender and put in a microwaveable container to heat it before spooning over pasta if you want. I just used it right from the blender without heating it.)

Divide pasta onto 4 serving plates and spoon the creamy lemon-basil sauce equally on the 4 portions. Sprinkle each serving with parmesan cheese and top with tomato slices. If desired, garnish with additional basil leaves. (Note: If you like a lot of sauce with your pasta, you may want to double the recipe, or make an extra half portion).

Another way you can serve this is to mix the sauce in with the pasta and toss, evenly coating the pasta. Then you can serve it either in one big pasta bowl or on individual plates, garnishing with parmesan cheese, tomato slices, and basil leaves.

This could also be used as a veggie dip, because it’s a thicker sauce. You could serve it in a small bowl with a platter of fresh veggies for a healthy and tasty appetizer!

Linked to Sunday Showcase, Sundae Scoop, Mouthwatering Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday.

Blueberry Topping

I have to confess that I have never made a fruit topping or sauce before…for some reason, I always thought it was a hard thing to make. But I couldn’t have been more wrong! This recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart, is SO easy and quick. And it’s made with fresh blueberries. If you’re looking for a good dessert topping for ice cream or pound cake, you’ll have to try this! I used 2 Tbsp. butter instead of the 2 tsp. the original recipe calls for, but I like the mild buttery taste the extra butter gives the topping…so you can try it either way.

BLUEBERRY TOPPING (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter (the original recipe calls for 2 tsp.)
  • 1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Fresh blueberries for garnish (optional)

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter; then add the blueberries and sugar. Cook, stirring until blueberries release juices, about 2-4 minutes (I cooked mine about 3 minutes). Cool slightly and spoon warm sauce over ice cream, pound cake, angel food cake, or any other dessert you want to try it on. You could even use it on breakfast items like pancakes and waffles. Garnish with additional fresh blueberries, if desired. Makes about 1 1/3 cups of topping. If you have leftovers, keep the rest of the topping in the fridge for later–it tastes good even when it’s not warmed up (trust me, I’ve tried it both ways!).

Linked to Favorite Things FridayFoodie Friday, Vegetarian Foodie Friday, and Tot Tuesday.