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     You have to try this cherry jam!  It's amazingly simple to pull together. 
If you prefer cherry fruit butter, cook down the mixture to a thicker (but, loose) consistency leaving out the pectin.  Fruit butter can be used in a variety of ways (think cake filling, ice cream additions, oatmeal toppings - you get the idea.)
     ​I like using a small amount of pectin so that I get a gel but, not a super hard gel, I get a firm but, spreadable jam consistency.  These cherries from Northwest Cherries are superb in flavor and really make this jam something you want to sit down and eat with a spoon straight from the jar!!    
     I want to thank Northwest Cherries and The Washington State Fruit Commission for sending me such fabulous fruits as part of my 2019 Canbassadorship! 
     Enjoy! Diane


Cherry Almond Jam 
*small batch jam 

Ingredients: 
1 quart chopped pitted sweet cherries
1/2 box  SureJell Low Sugar Pectin (pink box) 
2-4 Tablespoons almond liqueur *optional
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups sugar, divided

Directions: 
     Place all your chopped fruit in a large bowl, add 1/4 cup of sugar, toss to coat, cover and set in fridge overnight. This will macerate the fruit (this releases the juices and deepens the fruit flavor in finished product) 
Take Macerated fruit, and all the juices in bowl and scrape into a large jam pot. Cook down 15 minutes on medium (keep an eye on it and stir to prevent scorching) Add in
2 & 1/2 cups of the sugar.  Stir and cook down the entire mixture another 20-35 minutes (it should start to thicken as it cooks down)
    Add in 1/8 tsp butter, if needed. (helps lessen foaming), then use an immersion blender (or mash with a potato masher) and break up large chunks of fruit until you get the consistency of jam you prefer **do not liquefy the mixture. Take your pectin and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and stir together in a small bowl. Raise the heat on your jam mixture to High. Add in the sugar/pectin mix and stir/whisk constantly until you are at a boil that cannot be stirred away - boil hard for one minute. I look for a 'craggy skin' to start to form around the edges of the pot/mixture...indicating gel stage has been released. Remove pot from heat, do freezer plate test to ensure gel stage has been reached,  and prepare to jar jam for processing.
Waterbath or Steam Can at 1/4" head-space for 10 minutes, adjusting for your altitude. Remove to a draft free area and let sit undisturbed for 12-24 hours.  Wash & Label Jars. Store in Pantry up to One Year.  Once opened, this lower sugar jam can be refrigerated up to 3 weeks. 


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      This casserole is great tasting!  I love how the garlic mixes in with the rest of the ingredients to produce a deep, rich flavor.  I saw the original recipe over at KetoCookingChristian, and needed to give it a try.  While this is listed as low carb and keto friendly, I also created my own lower fat version of the original recipe, all listed below. Enjoy! Diane 

**MY LOWER FAT VERSION IS LISTED (UNDER DIRECTIONS SECTION) 

Spinach & Artichoke Chicken Casserole 
Ingredients:

3-4 cups cooked chicken, chopped
9 ounce package frozen spinach thawed and well drained
14 ounces artichoke hearts (plain) drained and chopped
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F.
     Add all the ingredients (excluding the mozzarella cheese) to a large mixing bowl. Mix until combined.  Spoon the mixture into a lightly greased/buttered 9" x 13" baking dish. Sprinkle top with the shredded mozzarella cheese and bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese is slightly golden and bubbly.   Allow to cool before serving. Store any leftovers in the fridge.  

**MY LOWER FAT VERSION IS AS FOLLOWS:**
  • USE:   light sour cream (do not use fat free)
  •            lower fat Neufchatel cream cheese (do not use fat free.) 
  • OMIT: heavy cream
  •            mayonnaise
  • ADD:   9 oz of roasted red peppers, chopped
  •             3 Tablespoons Skim Milk 
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     This is a superb loaf of bread - great for sandwiches!  Bakes and slices up nicely. You gotta give this one a try!  This is my "take" on King Arthur Flours recipe -Enjoy! Diane 

Classic Sandwich Bread

Ingredients: 
3 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, I prefer King Arthur Flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup hot water
​1/4 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons sugar plus, a pinch for yeast 
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 packet active dry yeast 

INSTRUCTIONS
Start by mixing your yeast with a pinch of sugar in 1/2 cup warm water (use the water temperature your yeast packet lists.)  Set aside to let yeast can bloom/activate.

Melt butter in a cup in microwave and mix the melted butter into your milk (this will warm the milk - which is needed. You do not want to use hot/scalding butter and no ice cold milk - blending the two together and setting aside while you assemble the rest of the recipe ingredients should work great.
 
To make the dough: In the bowl of your stand-mixer, fitted with a dough hook, combine all of the ingredients and set the machine to knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough begins to become smooth and supple, you may have to add in 2-3 Tablespoons more if warm water to get your dough supple. 

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise until puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on the warmth of your kitchen. 

Gently deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly oiled work surface. Shape the
dough into an 8" log.

Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 60 minutes, until it's domed about 1" above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly. Towards the end of the rise, preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, until it's light golden brown. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or by measuring its interior temperature with a digital thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf).

Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Recipe Inspiration by: King Arthur Flour
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    If you want a more evenly cooked roasted chicken, this is the way to go!  Depending on the size of your chicken - cooking time is also reduced significantly.  While the downside is that you'll get a bit of chicken grease/splatter in your oven - the end result is a crispy skin.  This meal was rated an 8 out of 10 by my family as far as "best chicken ever eaten."  Removing the backbone isn't as daunting as you'd think and I prefer using a boning knife over kitchen shears... Hope you give this recipe/technique a try! Enjoy! Diane 

Lemon-Pepper Spatchcock Chicken 

Ingredients: 
1 whole chicken 4-5 pounds
4 Tablespoons salted butter
1 Lemon (you'll use the juice and zest) 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper 


Directions:
Preheat oven to 450F

Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack over that for chicken to rest on and air to circulate around chicken (alternative would be using a cast iron skillet without any foil or rack but, large enough to hold the chicken.)
 
Mix up some compound butter:
In a small cup or bowl add the butter, lemon zest, juice of half the lemon, and the pepper. Mash with a large spoon until well combined.

Spatchcock chicken:
Place the chicken breast-side down and the legs towards you. Use a pair of kitchen shears or boning knife; cut along each side of the backbone, cutting through the rib bones as you go. Open the chicken flat, and turn it over.   Flatten the breastbone with the heel of your hand, by pressing down so that the meat is all one thickness. 

Season chicken: Season the underside/inside of the chicken generously with salt and pepper, then flip it over so that the breast side is up. 

Apply compound butter: Run your fingers under the chicken skin (breast) and rub some of the compound butter under the skin. Spread the rest of the mixture over the top of the bird. Squeeze the remaining half of lemon over top side of prepared chicken. Shake a bit more salt and pepper over the top of the prepared bird. 

Bake: Place the prepared chicken on the rack over baking sheet and bake uncovered for 45 minutes or until it registers 165 F on an instant-read thermometer. The time can vary if using a different size chicken.

Let chicken rest: Let the chicken rest (lightly tented with foil) at room temperature for at least 5 minutes before carving it and serving.

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Season Mix Ingredients: 
1 1/4 Cups Canola Oil
1 packet Ranch Dressing Mix
2-3 Tablespoons Red Pepper Flakes

3 sleeves of plain square crackers; saltines or zestas

Directions:
Preheat oven to 250 
         Mix season ingredients in a large bowl. Adjust the amount of red pepper flakes for your desired "burn factor."  Place crackers into bowl and carefully toss to coat with seasoning mix. (Toss for 3 minutes and let sit 2 minutes, then come back and toss again to coat for final 3 minutes.) You want to coat all the crackers with seasoned oil mixture.
          Spread the crackers out on a cookie sheet and bake 20 mins (turning crackers over once halfway thru cook time.) Once baked, let cool and store in airtight container.
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   I'm always looking for a way to use bananas that are heading past their "due date" so to speak.  This is an excellent crumb cake that has the essence of a banana bread.  If serving as a desert, I serve with a scoop of fresh homemade vanilla bean or cinnamon ice cream on the side.  If serving as a breakfast, I keep warmed and offer a bit of praline syrup as a topping, in place of a powdered sugar glaze. 
​It's a versatile Cake - very rich and perfectly banana.  Enjoy! Diane 

Banana Bread Crumb Cake

Ingredients
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 ripe bananas 
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar 
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1 cup milk

Crumb Filling/Topping
Ingredients 
1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
1 cup brown sugar 
1 cup flour 

Directions
Preheat oven to 350F 
Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray
  
     Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.  In a separate bowl, mash down the bananas, then blend in the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well combined.  Add the milk and half the flour mixture into the banana mixture and blend well, finish by blending in the last half of the flour mixture.  Set mixture aside.  Prepare your crumb mixture and by using a pastry blender or fork to cut into course crumbs.  Pour half of your prepared banana batter into prepared baking pan, sprinkle 1/3 of the crumb filling over banana mixture.  Pour the remaining batter over filling and use the remaining crumb topping to top entire cake. 
Bake for 50-55 minutes or until you have a set center and a toothpick comes out clean. Can be served warm or at room temperature. 

Optional: dress up your crumb cake by either dusting with powdered sugar once cooled or adding a quick powdered sugar glaze.   
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   This is a guest post from JD Provence of Texas.  This takes baked potatoes one step farther into the smashed and crunchy zone!!  Enjoy! Diane 

Crunchy "Smashed" Potatoes

1 tennis ball size potato (approx. one per person) red, gold, or russets 
Cooking oil
Butter
Salt & Pepper
Garlic, optional
Herbs, if desired

     You can bake, boil, or nuke your potatoes. It doesn’t make much difference, all that matters is, they need to be done. I was baking, so I just wrapped these individually, in foil, and baked them.
     After potatoes are cooked, allow to cool 3-4 minutes, then place on saucer, and smash flat with another saucer. By doing this, it’s easy to get them all the same thickness, so they continue to cook evenly. After smashing, allow to cool and release steam 5-10 minutes. Allowing the steam to escape helps make the outsides crisper. Arrange potatoes on baking sheet, lightly spray or coat the top of each one with cooking oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place a teaspoon of butter on each potato.
     Bake in preheated, 375F oven 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Any garlic or herbs can be added during the last 10 minutes of cooking, to avoid scorching/burning, (you can also sprinkle them on after cooking.)
     
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     Sometimes when life hands you aging bananas - you need to make - Monkey Butter!   So many uses as a fruit topping, stirred into cake fillings, add over ice cream, stir into oatmeal or yoghurt!   The one problem is that this cannot be canned for shelf stability - there is ONE safe recipe given by Ball that has banana and orange juice but, I have heard mixed reviews on its taste.  I prefer making THIS with the intention of using quickly and keeping refrigerated.... Enjoy! Diane 

Monkey Butter 
*not for canning 

4 large bananas, well ripened, cut out any brown spots on banana. 
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
20 oz can of pineapple tidbits with juice 
2 cups sugar 
pinch of salt 
juice of half a lemon

    Peel your over-ripened bananas and cut out any brown spots, add to large pot along with all the other ingredients.  Cook down on low for about an hour.  This mixture can scorch so, keep the heat low and keep an eye, stirring often.  Once the mixture has cooked down and thickened to your preference, pour into a heat safe container and let cool on your counter, store in fridge once cooled and use within 2 weeks.  
Remember - THIS RECIPE IS NOT SAFE TO CAN - THIS IS NOT A SHELF STABLE PRODUCT. 

Recipe and Photos by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home
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Strawberry French Toast Bake 

Ingredients
3-4 slices of challah, sliced (regular or thick, depending on preference) 
2 cups freshly sliced strawberries; cleaned, stemmed, cut
4 eggs, beaten 
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 Tbs brown sugar  **
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or extract 
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon **
dash of nutmeg 
1-2 Tbs butter, cubed 
Maple Syrup *

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375F.

Grease a small baking dish with butter or baking spray (I like Pam with Flour Baking Spray), then fill with the slices of challah spread in one layer. Fill in all the spaces with torn pieces of bread if necessary. Tuck strawberry slices all around the bread in dish. 

Mix together the eggs, milk, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg -  pour over the challah & strawberries.
Let prepared dish sit on your counter for at least 10 mins for bread to absorb egg mixture. **add a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon over the top if preferred. Dot top with cubed butter pieces. 

Bake for 30 minutes until the eggs are set - * Spoon a bit of maple syrup over the hot french toast bake the last 5 mins. of cooking time if preferred. Serve warm with butter and maple syrup on the side.

Suggestions:
Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar before serving.

Recipe & Photos by: Diane Baker for Canning and Cooking at Home 
recipe can be doubled.

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   Super quick weeknight meal can be made in under 30 minutes, add in a side salad, some steamed vegetables and this is a complete meal.  I love the taste of the balsamic.  Enjoy! Diane 

Ingredients: 
2 pounds fresh chicken sausage
2 cups chicken stock, I use my home canned (recipe here) 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced

Put all ingredients in a large high sided sauté pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-high and cook until stock has evaporated and a glaze has formed over all. With tongs toss sausages with onions and serve over cooked egg noodles.  This recipe can be cut in half.  

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