Monday, August 31, 2015

Fresh Peach Jam

 Ok, so, lately I've been diving head first into the wonderful world of homemade jams and jellies. I love the whole process of taking fabulously delicious ripe fruit and turning it into the most delectable spreads anyone has ever tasted. Since I'm in The Garden State, I have TONS of fresh produce at every turn and I just LIVE for it all summer long, from strawberries and blueberries to apricots and plums. One of my absolute very most favorite fruits is definitely a juicy ripe PEACH! There's seriously nothing like taking a bite of a plump perfectly ripe peach and having the juice drip down your chin. It's one of life's simple pleasures!
 So of course, since I'm newly obsessed with jamming and such, I decided to make a batch (or three) of delicious peach jam. It's like capturing summer in a jar. SO amazingly good! It's possibly one of my favorite things I've EVER made. I'm not even kidding. One of these days (if I ever get around to it), I'll do a video of how to do the water-bath preserving etc. In the meantime, definitely make a batch of this jam and enjoy the last peaches of the season.
It just doesn't get any better than this!

2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 box powdered fruit pectin (6 tbs)
1 tsp butter
5 1/2 cup sugar

 Peel and pit peaches. Finely chop fruit. Measure exactly 4 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-quart sauce pot. Add lemon juice and fruit protector; stir until well blended. Stir in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming, if desired. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar all at once. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon. If you are not planning to preserve in jars, simply let it cool, then store it in the fridge and have it on hand, ready for you to enjoy.
If you'd like to do the canning, prep your jars before you make the jam:
Bring boiling-water canner, half-full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
Ladle hot jam immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with 2-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 minutes. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger. (If lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

It's really not difficult to make your own jam. The thing that seems a little daunting is preserving the jam in jars. If you're planning on eating the jam right away, there's no need to do the jars!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Coffee and Cream Cheese Pie

 If you know me, you know that I usually choose foods that are low in carbs. Yes, of course I love mac 'n' cheese and pasta and french fries and mashed potatoes, and yes I have a SERIOUSLY insatiable sweet tooth. But for the most part, I leave the carbs for special occasions and holidays. It just works better for me. So you may wonder, then, how can I manage to have friends over for dinner all the time, right? Well, to be honest, it depends. Sometimes, if we're doing a theme, I'll come up with a menu that fits the theme, and usually I can find something to make that works for me and still fits the theme. Most times, it's not the dinner that is the challenge, it's the dessert. The best scenario is when I can make a low carb dessert without anyone knowing that it's low in carbs. (hee hee sneaky, I know!) Once I had a dinner/production meeting and I served whipped Jello Fluff desserts in fancy martini glasses. No one had a clue they were low carb and they got RAVE reviews!
 I recently had a few friends over for dinner and a movie, and this was the dessert I served. BIG huge hit!! It's fluffy and sweet and delicious and rich, and no one had any idea that it was a low carb dessert. Yes, it's a pie, but somehow no one even noticed the fact that there isn't even a crust. I figure it's all in the presentation! I found this recipe on a website called Linda's Low Carb Menus and Recipes. If you're choosing to limit your carb intake you should really check it out. SO many awesome recipes there! So even if you aren't choosing to restrict carbs, I know you'll love this dessert. Make it for your next dinner party. Everybody wins!!

1 packet unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup coffee, cold or room temperature
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
2 cups heavy cream
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla
extra sweetened whipped cream (optional)
Unsweetened cocoa for dusting(optional)

In a medium bowl, whip the cream with 1/2 cup of the Splenda until stiff. Place the whipped cream in the refrigerator until needed. 
In a small pot, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold coffee and let soften 5 minutes. Heat and stir over low heat to dissolve the gelatin completely. Do not boil. You can also dissolve the gelatin in the microwave by heating it about 30 seconds or so on HIGH. Stir until completely dissolved. Stir in the instant coffee granules until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Add the remaining 1/2 cup Splenda and the vanilla to the cooled gelatin mixture.
Beat the cream cheese until creamy and smooth. Gradually beat the gelatin mixture into the cream cheese until well blended and slightly fluffy. Chill the batter until slightly thickened, about 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent lumps. Very gently fold in the whipped cream a little at a time. Spread in a greased 9-inch pie plate and chill until set, about 5-6 hours. Pipe with extra whipped cream and dust with a little cocoa, if desired.

If you are not counting carbs and would like to just use sugar instead of Splenda, I'm guessing it will still turn out fine, although I have not tested this theory. Let me know if you do, ok?
This pie has a very light coffee flavor. If you want to bump it up a bit, try using instant espresso granules instead of regular coffee granules.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Joey's Fruit Juice Sorbet

 Lately I've been turning to delicious ice cold fruit juices instead of carbonated soft drinks to quench a thirst. Whenever I go to the grocery store, my cart fills with several of my favorite kinds of juice, and of course I always try a new juice flavor if I happen to see it. I also like to combine different juices together. As I was drinking an ice cold glass of Pom Wonderful and orange juice, I thought "Wouldn't it be awesome if this was frozen?" Well, there's only one way to find out!! And let me just tell you....the answer to that question is a big fat YES!! So then I tried it with other juices. The apple was big hit with my friend Denny and I must admit that it's my personal favorite as well. It's so flavorful and frosty! It's just the thing for a warm day, or as a palate cleanser between courses during your next elegant full course dinner! Enjoy!

4 cups fruit juice, (apple, orange, pomegranate, mango, blueberry, cranberry, any kind!)
1 cup sugar
juice from one lemon
2 tbs light corn syrup

Pour all ingredients into a saucepan.
Gently heat until all the sugar is dissolved.
Chill the syrup in the fridge until it's very cold.
Pour the syrup into a pre-chilled electric ice-cream maker and churn for 30 minutes.
Scoop into a freezer-proof container and freeze for at least 2 hours until it's firm.

 Use any favorite juice you like! Do a blend of juices! Blueberry mango would be SO refreshing! Or how about cherry with lime, or cranberry with peach? Yum! But whatever combination you try, be sure to include the lemon juice. It wakes up the flavor of any juice you choose!
 If you do not have an ice cream maker, pour the sorbet mixture into a freezer proof container and freeze for an hour. Whisk with a fork. Return to the freezer, stirring the mixture with a fork every hour or so to break up any large ice crystals. You won't get the same product, but it'll still be delicious and refreshing.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Grand Marnier Slush

  The first time I ever tasted a Grand Marnier Slush was a couple years ago when I went to Epcot in Disneyworld for New Year's Eve (what a huge party!) I figured we should go to France for the champagne toast at midnight, but when we got there, I discovered this fabulous delicious frozen bit of wonderfulness. (I'm sure I had more than one that night).
  On my most recent trip, we planned to "drink our way around the world", and of course The Grand Marnier Slush was on our list for the France pavilion. (Btw, if you plan to do this, start in the UK and go counterclockwise instead of starting in Mexico and going clockwise. If you start with Tequila in Mexcio, you'll never make it all the way around the world!) For the record, I would much rather EAT my way around the world than DRINK my way around the world, but some of us were very determined to achieve this, so I went with it. And no, I did NOT get completely hammered like some!
  Anyway, when I decided to have a French themed dinner at home with lots of fabulous French food, I knew I wanted to make the slushes as a fun summer blender drink for the gang. I found the recipe on a website called Doctor Disney. I'm not sure if this is that exact recipe from Epcot, but all I know is that as soon as I tried it, I thought YES! That's EXACTLY how it's supposed to taste! So I'd say it's probably pretty close.
  So when you're in Epcot, you should absolutely try it, even if you don't plan on drinking your way around the world. And if you can't make it to Epcot, then definitely make it for your next get together. It's the perfect fun drink to have for a summer party! Love it.

1 part Grey Goose Vodka
1 part Grand Marnier
1 part simple syrup
2 parts sour mix
ice to fill blender
orange food coloring (optional)

 Mix all ingredients in a blender until completely smooth. You can be a little more lenient with some of the alcohol to get it to your liking.

If you're not a fan of Grey Goose Vodka, choose whichever kind you like!
I like it a little on the sweeter side, so I usually add a little less alcohol.
To make simple syrup, add equal parts water and sugar to a small pot and heat just until the sugar dissolves. Then pour into a pitcher and keep chilled in the fridge until you're ready to fire up the blender!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Joey's Sausage and Cauliflower Casserole

 When I first made this casserole, I used whatever ingredients I happened to have on hand. TBH, It's not always a big success whenever I do this, but this time, it had great potential, so I figured I should probably write it down. I made a list of everything that was in the dish, and added a few notes detailing what I liked about the dish and what I didn't. (Apparently I was very organized that day. Such is not always the case!) Anyway, it took two more tries, but I think I've finally settled on the final product! I didn't make any huge changes, just a couple minor tweaks, and here we are! My nephew, Daniel, told me he'd trade me some tomatoes from his garden for some of my casserole. DEAL! And of course, I asked him if I should change anything. NOPE! Not a thing! Alrighty then! Works for me! I like that it's not a heavy casserole, and it has fewer carbs than your basic noodle casserole. It's simple to throw together and you can swap out any ingredients to suit your tastes. Easy, huh? I think the key is that the spices from the sausage flavor the whole dish. It's makes everything SO flavorful! And as Daniel said "There's just the right amount of cheese." Perfect! Glad you like it, Daniel Boone. Thanx for being my taste tester and thanx for the tomatoes!!

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, bulk or removed from casings
1 red bell pepper, chopped
10 oz mushrooms, any kind you like, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 scallions, chopped
1 small head cauliflower, chopped
4 oz American cheese, cubed
4 oz Swiss cheese, cubed
S&P to taste
pinch or two crushed red pepper flakes
 8 oz shredded Cheddar cheese

Heat oven to 350ºF.
Break up sausage into small pieces and brown in a large skillet with a little oil. Remove from pan to a large mixing bowl. Add peppers, mushrooms, scallions and garlic. Saute until tender. Add to mixing bowl along with all remaining ingredients except for the Cheddar cheese. Toss everything together and then pour into a glass 9x13 baking dish. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Top with shredded cheese. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Use whatever veggies you like! Broccoli, spinach, carrots, onions, it will all work!
Use as much or as little crushed red pepper as you like. I only like it a little warm, not hot. So I only added a pinch. But if you like it hot and spicy, go for it! Or use hot sausage instead of the sweet!