Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strawberry Balsamic Jam

Yes, this should have made an appearance back in June when local strawberries were abundant, but better late than never.  We have had some great luck with organic California strawberries within the last couple of weeks, so while there is nothing better than being able to pick your own, they may just be a stand in if you still want to put up some jam to enjoy through the cooler months ahead. 
I have always made good ol' freezer jam and will continue to do at least one batch a summer, but I was longing for something more out of the ordinary.  I love the combination of fresh strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar, so a quick search yielded a recipe from food writer Eugenia Bone.  Don't be afraid of the seemingly odd sounding flavor combination.  The two are really meant for one another and with the syrup you are sure to have left after you can the thickest portion of the mixture, pour a bit over a dish of vanilla ice cream, sit back and enjoy the fleeting days of summer.

Strawberry Balsamic Jam
from the book Well Preserved
8 cups washed and hulled strawberries (about 1 1/2 pounds, halved if large)
5 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon unsalted butter
5 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Pour the strawberries into a large, deep, heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Once the strawberries are boiling, add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved.  The sugar tends to burn on the bottom, so keep it moving until it is thoroughly dissolved.  Bring to a boil and then add the butter.  (The addition of butter keeps the foam volume down.)  Turn the heat down to medium low and boil the jam gently for 40 minutes, until thickened to a loose, soft jam.  Stir in the balsamic vinegar.
Bring 6 half-pint jars and their bands to a boil in a large pot of water fitted with a rack. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs (the tongs don’t need to be sterilized). Simmer new lids in a small pan of hot water, to soften the rubberized flange. When the jars are dry but still hot, use a slotted spoon to fill the jars with the strawberries, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, set on the lids, and screw on the bands fingertip tight. You will probably have leftover juice. You can water bath can the syrup the same way you do the jam, refrigerate it for around 3 days, or discard it.
Place the jars on a rack in a big pot and add enough water to cover the jars by 3 inches. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to medium and gently boil the jars for 10 minutes. Remove the cover and then, after about 5 minutes, remove the jars. Allow them to rest on a dish towel for 6 hours. Check the seals and store in a cool, dark place for up to a year. Refrigerate after opening.
Servings: 6 half-pints

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

While I could eat cheese with a side of cake for every meal, I am realistic in knowing that we do have to throw some healthy meals in the rotation for good measure.  We have had great success using the recipes found on Gina's Skinny Taste website, and this chicken dish was no exception.  I used Gina's recipe as an inspiration, but made some changes based on the ingredients I had on hand.  Round it out with a cold beer, some blue cheese, and carrot and celery sticks and you almost feel as if you are sitting at B-Dubs living vicariously through the inappropriate banter of college kids at the table next door. 

Stuffed Buffalo Chicken

5 thin boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 wedges Laughing Cow Blue Cheese
1/3 cup celery, minced
1/4 cup green onion, minced
1/4 cup carrot, minced
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1 packet dry ranch dressing
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot sauce
1 1/2 T. Butter
2 T. Honey
1 T. Vinegar
Cooking spray

In a gallon ziploc bag combine the chicken, yogurt, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit in refrigerator for 4 hours.  Combine the Laughing Cow, celery, green onion, and carrot and set aside.  Combine bread crumbs and ranch dressing mix in another ziploc bag and set aside.  Remove chicken from refrigerator and shake off any excess yogurt mixture.  Spread the Laughing Cow mixture on the middle of each chicken breast and roll up.  Gently place the rolled up chicken breast in the bag with the bread crumb mixture and coat chicken evenly.  Place chicken on a foil lined pan and  lightly spray each breast with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a small pan melt butter and add hot sauce, honey, and vinegar.  Cook over low until heated and season with salt and pepper if necessary.  Remove chicken from the oven and drizzle sauce over each breast.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes

It has been such a long time since my last post, but we sure haven't gone hungry.  These simple cupcakes are inspired by the blog Everyday Occasions.  I made a few simple changes to the cake mix, but otherwise followed her frosting recipe.  I will post the cake recipe below, but feel free to follow the link to Jenny's site for the decadent frosting.
1 box Duncan Hines Devil's Food
3 eggs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream

Combine first four ingredients with a hand mixer and beat on low to 30 seconds.  After the mix is slightly combined, turn the mixer to medium high and mix for two more minutes.  Add the sour cream and stir until just combined.  I use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  *My oven runs a little hot, so you may need to increase the time just a bit.