Tomato and Chili Jam

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My vegetable garden has been extremely fruitful and I’ve been buried in more yellow pear tomatoes than I know what to do with. I’ve eaten them like candy, I’ve cooked them into my omelets and pastas, I’ve given them away…and still, I always have a tupperware full of them.

Cue Yellow Tomato and Basil Jam recipe.

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It turns out other people have this wonderful problem too and this recipe came up multiple times in different blogs and forums. I kept dismissing it thinking, “Tomato JAM? So, it’s savory and sweet? What do you eat it with??” Additionally, the recipe was usually always discussed in the context of home canning, which I had never been really interested in doing myself because I never saw the need.

Now that I’m knee deep in fresh vegetables, the applicability of home canning has increased ten fold.

I found an incredibly helpful website called Food In Jars, with a superb tutorial for boiling water bath canning. The plethora of recipes is also a huge plus and I have definitely bookmarked it to peruse later.

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I was a little apprehensive at first, but I was totally shocked by how easy it was to do a boiling water bath for canning. AND, after remove the jars from the water, my lids made a very satisfying “pop!” to indicate successfully sealed jars. The delight level is on par with popping bubble wrap (which I heard that the company that produces it is going out of business…noooo!).

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I ended up adapting the recipe a bit by omitting the basil (out of forgetfulness) and adding some of my home grown Salsa Chili Peppers for some kick. Future renditions could probably use more chili as it ended up being pretty mild. However, the jam overall had a very lovely sweet, sticky flavor that wasn’t actually reminiscent of tomatoes. I have visions of eating it with feta or goat cheese on crusty bread…Yum.

As proof of it’s relative success, my husband, who isn’t particularly fond of tomatoes, commented “Well, it’s not terrible” which means I did well.

Final yield was two jars, which I made from about 4 cups of tomatoes.

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As an addendum, there are many warnings about home canning. Improper procedures for canning and storage can result in a particularly nasty bacteria called Clostridium botulinum to grow in poorly sealed jars. The CDC recommends pressure canning as the primary method, especially for food with low acidity. However, it seems like adding acid (which I added lemon juice to my jam) is acceptable for water canning methods. I’ll let you know how it fares when I crack open my two jars.

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Camping Recipes for Your Inner Foodie


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Growing older means seeing friends who live far away gets harder and harder. My college friends and I started a tradition to do an annual car camping trip, and we just got back from spending a weekend at the beautiful Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park.

Because I love to plan, love to cook, and love to see friends, I’ve been in charge of organizing our menu for the weekend. The first time I went car camping, we just had the typical fare: hot dogs, hamburgers, stews, etc. Nothing exciting. I started looking into what people made when they go camping and was amazed at the level of gourmet cooking people execute over a campfire. So today, I just wanted to share the dinner recipes from this past weekend for anyone interested in upping their campfire cooking game.

Beef Chili & Hoecakes

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It was so good, I made it again when we came back from camping.

This is probably one of the easiest meals to make over a fire. I’m big on prepping food before hand so a day or two before the trip, I’ll cook the chili in a slow cooker. Once it has cooled, I transfer the chili to a plastic zippered bag and freeze it so that it will stay cold in your cooler (and act as a cooling block of ice for your other foods…). It’s fine if it’s a little liquidy, it will boil down when reheated over the campfire.

I love having cornbread with chili but I was super nervous about trying to bake cornbread in my cast iron skillet over a fire. Keeping a consistent temperature that is not too hot and not too cool can be challenging on an open fire, so instead of a classic cornbread, I use a hoecake recipe, which is pretty much like a cornmeal based pancake. I premix all the dry ingredients in a bag beforehand and combine it with the wet ingredients onsite. It takes minutes to cook up and are just as satisfying as cornbread.

Chicken Kabobs & Foil Packet Paella

The method for chicken kabobs over a fire is no different from other methods of cooking, so a simple google search for “chicken kabob” will yield more results than you care to read. Personally, I dumb it down so it’s super easy. I cube chicken thighs into 1″-1.5″ pieces and make chicken only skewers. Finished skewers go in a bag and I dump in a pre-made marinade (usually of the lemon-pepper or garlic-herb variety) 30 minutes before cooking. I prefer to separate proteins and veggies onto different skewers because they cook at different rates.

The paella packets were a new addition this year and it worked beautifully. The only thing I did different was to cook the rice separately in a pot beforehand, then put in cooked rice and veggies into the packets to crisp up in the fire. I’m definitely going to experiment more with foil packet cooking because it worked so well.

Skirt Steak Fajitas & Mexican Rice

This was probably the favorite meal of the trip. I prepped the marinade beforehand and stored it in a mason jar until ready to be combined with the meats, which were in their own plastic bags (yes, I used a lot of plastic bags this trip. It’s too darn convenient). This marinade was spot on. I cooked the steaks about 4 minutes on each side and they were beautifully medium rare in the middle and medium on the ends.

For Mexican Rice, I don’t usually add any vegetables and instead of tomato sauce, I used diced tomatoes (sometimes pureed, sometimes not). I pre-toasted the rice beforehand (in retrospect, probably not necessary) so at the campsite, I combined the liquid, spices, and rice into a pot and let it cook over a medium fire. I recommend stirring the rice occasionally as the outsides will burn if left undisturbed.

Hope these sparked some ideas for your next camping trip!

Easy Knit Skirt

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Project: Easy Knit Skirt

  • Patterns used: McCall M6654
  • Fabric Used:
    • 1 yard of gray polyester blend knit fabric
  • Notions:
    • hem tape
    • ball point needle for sewing machine

This is going to be a quickie. It’s been a busy week: interviewing for a job, preparing for our annual weekend camping trip with college friends, and some re-structuring of my site. I haven’t had much time to do new crafting but this was my most recent project that I did about two weeks ago. The picture was a quick snap from my phone, nothing fancy, folks.

Having had success in several sewing projects making purses (which I will post when I can get around to uploading my pictures!), baby accessories, and kids clothes, I decided to take on making a skirt for myself.

I was under the impression that making a knit skirt would be super quick and easy. For the most part, it was as advertised, except the final execution of the skirt was not my best work. I’m going to chalk up the less than stellar performance to my super basic sewing machine not being able to deal well with stretchy fabric. …that or I’m a totally novice at working with stretchy fabrics (totally the latter).

I used a McCall pattern to cut the main panels of the skirt but I wasn’t thrilled with the elastic band it was proposing, so I did some internet-ing and opted for a yoga-style band instead (much better for hiding the gut). Here were some super helpful tutorials I came across:

The band part came out great. It was definitely tricky figuring out dimensions but I ended up measuring my waist and subtracting about 4 inches from the waist measurement. In the construction of it, I had trimmed off even more because the fabric was pretty stretchy and at only 4 inches short of my waistline, it was still too roomy. The hemline was the trickiest part for me. Granted the picture I posted is of the skirt unpressed, but you can see how super puckered the hemline is.  I had wanted to use a twin needle to finish the hem, but after snapping 2 (ok, 3) needles, I decided my machine wasn’t savvy enough to know how to use a twin needle.

I’m not sure if I’ll be adding this to my wardrobe without some tweaking, but it was definitely a good first try at making an “easy” knit skirt. I’d definitely try this again, perhaps when I have a better machine.