Friday, July 31, 2015

Black Currant Jam

A few years ago Ken planted a black currant bush but it's never produced many currants. This year, however, the bush was covered. I've never made currant jam so I searched the internet for a recipe. This one caught my eye although I added the cinnamon at Ken's request. Turned out yummy!

Morning pix

Afternoon pix

5 cups black currants stemmed
4 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. cinnamon

Wash and remove currant stems. This can be a little tricky because they don't want to come off! :-)  I used a small pair of scissors to cut them off. 

Place fruit in heavy saucepan with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Stir to soften the fruit into a pulp. Use potato masher to break up fruit. Cook for 10 minutes or until soft.

Add sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice over low heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Raide heat and bring to full rolling boil. Stir often.

Boil hard, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5-10 minutes and skim off any foam with large spoon. Stir to prevent floating fruit.

Pour into hot sterilized jars. Process in water bath for 10 minutes to seal jars.

One recipe will produce about 7 - 8 oz. jars of jam. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Earth Worms (New and Improved)

I know what you are thinking. How on earth can you improve on the original blood worms? Just wait and see! Since we have done these quite a few times now, and we have discovered a few tricks of the trade we would like to share all of you!

What you will need:
100 flexible plastic straws-The straws with a bendable neck make the ridges for the most realistic worms.
Container- empty & clean to hold the straws. Tall and skinny is the best. We used a vase the first time and it was difficult to pull them out. The taller the container, the longer your worms.
Wax Paper- for lining the cookie sheets
Cookie sheets- for setting the worms

1 big package (6 ounces) raspberry flavored gelatin
3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
3 cups boiling water
3/4 cup whipping cream
12 to 15 drops green food coloring
Crushed Oreo cookies

1. Combine raspberry and unflavored gelatin in a bowl and add boiling water; stir until gelatin completely dissolves. Its important to note: add the water to gelatin... not the other way around... it is more difficult to dissolve.

2. Chill until mixture is lukewarm. About 20-30 minutes in the fridge.

3. Pull straws to extend to full length; place in tall container, bendy neck side down. You can wrap together with a loose rubber band to hold straws together if you so desire.

4. Blend cream and food coloring together and mix with the lukewarm gelatin mixture.

5. Carefully pour into container, filling straws. It doesn't really matter where you pour, they will all equal out in the end.

6. Chill in the fridge until gelatin is firm, at least 8 hours or overnight and up to 2 days.

7. Separate straws. We have found the cardboard cartons are the best. Its so much easier to cut away the box than to pull the straws out of the jello. As you can see, the space between the straws fills with jello too. All the straws equal out to about the same length, despite where I ended up pouring it.

8. Run hot tap water for about 2 seconds over 3 to 4 straws at a time. This partially melts the jello allowing the worm to slide out of the straw. Practice with one or two first. Too long and they melt too much and make a liquid mess, too short and they don't come out. Starting at the empty ends, push worms from straws.
It is difficult to hold onto the wet straws and succeed in squeezing hard enough for the worm to come out. It results in some tired and sore fingers when you think about the 100 worms... but, my husband is innovative and realized that holding the empty end with a set of pliers makes this part of the process a breeze! These are not even that time consuming anymore!

9. Lay worms on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Cover and chill until ready to use, at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.

10. When ready to serve, toss worms gently in a light coating of crushed Oreos and serve on a bed of Oreo "dirt" for the finishing touches. (tossing them really added the level of grossness that I can't get over...)

Worms will hold at room temperature for about 2 hours.

Then sit back and watch the reactions!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Halloween Dinner 2014

Here it is folks! This year's family Halloween feast. I don't know what is better. That this is a family tradition, that Mom's entire goal is to find something to gross out my husband (as bad as the bat wings a few years ago), that the baby ate everything we put in front of her tonight, or that the conversation at the table is terrifying if taken out of context.

"Will you pass me the brain please? This looks like a good one!"
"Are we allowed to eat the worms or are those more of a dessert?"
"Are worms vegetarian-approved?"
"More bones please!" (That came from the three year old who also asked for more brain...)

Why not have a little fun right? I post because I know you all are sad you didn't get to eat with us!

The feast
The main course this evening was a scary twist on a traditional meal. Spaghetti and meatballs with bone bread sticks on the side. Purple-black noodles gave an eerie snake-like feel to dinner tonight.

Brains and worms make excellent sides. The worms have been perfected this year with the addition of dirt.

We had to keep an eye on our goblets...

And dessert watched us from the other room.

We also treated our guest of honor to a repeat recipe of "Rotten Apple Worm Bars." I just got too excited about eating it and forgot to snap a picture first.

PS. My man ate it all. Mom is a little disappointed there were no gross outs this year...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Party Food: Delicious Cheese Cake Dip

I am a fan of cheesecake. When I saw this recipe I knew I had to try it out and I had just the event of family Guinea pigs to try it out on! It was a hit and I have had several requests to make it again since, and to pass on the recipe. As I made this I realized that it made a LOT of dip. I did not double the recipe and I was able to make two platters for the luncheon... I considered all the options that could be made too... and I wished I had thought of it sooner to give some variety...

Think about it! What is your favorite cheesecake topping? Turtle (chocolate and caramel swirled on the top), mix some Nutella in for a chocolate/hazelnut cheesecake, any variety of pie fillings could be used too. My personal favorite happens to be raspberry... so that is what I used.

1 (8oz) pkg cream cheese- softened
1 (7oz) jar marshmallow fluff
2 (8oz) tubs Cool Whip {I opted for the light stuff... just to make myself feel a little better...}
2 (21oz) cans pie filling of choice
1-2 packages of graham crackers

1. Mix softened cream cheese and marshmallow fluff by hand until smooth
2. Fold in Cool Whip one container at a time
3. Spread into dish, pan, or onto platter {as I stated before, I ended up spreading it onto two platters}
4. Cover with pie filling and refrigerate
5. Break crackers into sticks for dipping. {I looked all over for grahams made small because I'm lazy and I had other things to get ready that day... but I ended up using the trusty graham cracker "Scooby Snacks"}


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Drinks: Mulled Cider Spritzers

I saw these on a segment of Studio 5 and new I needed to try them for a party. It was a hit. The smell is also an added bonus! :) For the segment and all the variations of the recipes, you can check it out here. I did alter my drinks (slightly) and wanted to make a few suggestions on some of the ingredient locations) so I shall give you my details.

2 c. apple cider
2 c. Cran, Blue Blackberry juice (there were lots of options of cranberry juices at the store. I chose to go with the same one she used. But I would love to try the Cran-pomegranate... I think it will taste lovely)
2 Cinnamon Sticks, crushed (break it in half and smash it with the side of your knife... hard)
2 slices fresh orange peel slices, diced (small)
1 tsp. Whole Allspice
4-5 whole cloves
1/4 tsp. crystallized ginger pieces (I found some in the bulk section at the whole foods store. I got a couple of pieces for pennies and diced them up myself. It beats buying the expensive bottle.)
1/4 tsp. dried lemon peel (I bought a lemon, prepared to leave the peel out overnight, but found a bottle of it. I don't know if it makes much of a difference, but it was more difficult to track down.)
Ginger Ale (or Club Soda. I did use Ginger Ale)

Place spices, ginger, and lemon peel into a muslin tea bag (you can purchase reusable muslin tea bags at a whole foods store).

In a medium saucepan, heat apple cider, berry juice, and tea bag to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The juice comes in the perfect amount to double the recipe. It goes a rather long way though...)

To serve, place crushed ice into glasses. Add a splash of ginger ale. Pour cooled cider over the top. Lightly stir and garnish.

Makes 4 servings (though I would say, People like to sip cider so they can taste all the flavor, so I noticed that it makes more than that. Another tip is to use smaller glasses, it will last a little longer.)

Monday, October 22, 2012

No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes

I did some looking around Pinterest and found some absolutely delicious ideas for desserts for my Witches' Tea Party. Ultimately, I did not find exactly what I was looking for. So I pulled from an idea here and there and came up with a simple, yet rich and decadent dessert. Then I added some fun... accessories...

No Bake Nutella Cheesecakes
makes 6-8 personal servings

3/4 c. Oreos, crushed
1 1/2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
3-4 Tbsp Butter, melted

1 pkg cream cheese (softened)
2/3 c. Nutella
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2-1 c. Whipped cream


Mix together cookie crumbs, butter, and sugar. Divide evenly in small containers (small jars work, I used these adorable mini cups I found.) Press firmly. Set aside. (For a whole cheesecake, you can double the crust recipe and put in in a spring form or regular sized pan.)

Beat cream cheese and Nutella until smooth. Add vanilla. With a spatula, fold in 1/2 c. whipped cream. Add more until desired consistency is reached. (you could potentially make it more of a moose texture if you wanted) I wanted cheesecake, so I didn't add a lot more than 1/2 c.

Spoon Nutella mixture on top of the crust and refrigerate before serving. (1-2 hours before or overnight works great too. These were even good the day after too...)

To serve: add some whipped cream on top and serve cold. Does life get any better than Oreos and Nutella? I submit that it does not! Enjoy!

Bat Wings: Take 2

We had a successful witches' dinner this past weekend. The food was fun and delicious and yes, I served the dreaded bat wings to my guests. They all ate them just fine. They were even complimented on how tasty they were. And I am unsure whether the plate I sent home for one of the husbands will be shared... All that said, we did eat dinner in candlelight... The moral of the story, don't be deceived by appearances...

Mom made these two years ago for our annual Halloween dinner. My husband was unable to eat them then... but he had two last night. The trick seems to be not to look at it as you eat... You can find the original recipe with our past dinner here.

The side we ate them with was a garlic cauliflower-mashed potato recipe I found in a magazine. I altered it some (as I always seem to do) and they were quite tasty.