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  1. Sunday, May 24, 2020

    Week 676 Weekly Menu

    I’m a little late with my meal planning today because I’ve been busy finishing up a fun art project…an international tour done with chalk on our sidewalk (it’s actually pretty cool)! Visit my main Instagram account for photos and my art Instagram account for a video tour. I’ve put the chalk away and am no ready to get planning!

    Week 676 Weekly Menu: Monday - Memorial Day Cookout; Tuesday - Chicken Piccata; Wednesday - Korean BBQ Beef Bowls; Thursday - Leftovers; Friday - Chicken Caesar Wraps; Saturday - Local Takeout; Sunday - Enchiladas

    MONDAY:

    TUESDAY:

    WEDNESDAY:

    THURSDAY:

    • Leftovers

    FRIDAY:

    SATURDAY:

    • Local Takeout

    SUNDAY:

    • Simple Enchiladas

    Thank you for all the amazing menus last week! Keep it coming! Share your menus in the comments below!


  2. Sunday, May 17, 2020

    Week 675 Weekly Menu

    Hi everyone! Let’s get down to business, shall we?

    Week 675 Weekly Dinner Menu: Monday - Rachel Sandwiches, Tuesday - Tacos; Wednesday - Stir Fry; Thursday - Lasagna Baked Ziti; Friday - Leftovers; Saturday - Local Takeout; Sunday - Grill Night

    MONDAY:

    TUESDAY:

    WEDNESDAY:

    • Stir Fry (using our fresh snow peas from the garden!)

    THURSDAY:

    FRIDAY:

    • Leftovers

    SATURDAY:

    • Takeout Local

    SUNDAY:

    • Grill Night + Salad

    Your turn! Share your weekly meal plan below! Stay safe and eat well!


  3. How to Make Crispy Taco Shells (You’re Welcome)

    Two years ago I finally got my hands on fresh masa and learned how to make fresh masa corn tortillas. I thought at that point I had outdone myself when it came to homemade tacos. Then COVID-19 lockdown happened and I wasn’t hitting the tortilleria every week for fresh masa. Because I only had access to already-cooked corn tortillas, I thought to myself, “Self, what could make these store-bought corn tortillas taste better?” And then myself was like, “Self, fry them.” And that is how I figured out how to make crispy taco shells and, honestly, I think it might even be better than fresh masa corn tortillas…and I do NOT say that lightly.  

    Picture of ground beef tacos inside homemade crispy taco shells

    (I must admit that Jack In the Box tacos also inspired me to make these crispy taco shells at home. I know, Jack the bobble head inspired me in the kitchen. I’m as surprised as you are.)

    Top view of ground beef tacos inside homemade crispy taco shells with hot sauce

    For real, please don’t ever buy crispy taco shells at the store ever again. Buy corn tortillas and fry them. They really truly are the most delicious crispy taco shells you will ever eat. And they are fast to make. And unlike most frying recipes, you don’t use that much oil so clean up is easy, too.

    Step-by-step photos for how to make crispy taco shells

    The photos above show the step-by-step process for how to make crispy taco shells, and the details are explained in the recipe below. Below is a photo of what they look like fresh out of the pan! Enjoy!

    Homemade crispy tacos shells on a plate, two empty two with meat

    How to Make Crispy Taco Shells
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Corn Tortillas
    • Oil for frying (something with a high smoke-point and neutral flavor: peanut and vegetable, for example; I used avocado oil and it worked great perfect)
    Instructions
    1. I find the tacos are at their most delicious when you add the taco meat to the taco shell immediately after frying. I like to set up my taco shell frying station like so: Stack of corn tortillas, tongs, pot with oil on the stove, large plate lined with paper towels, taco meat. (This recipe for Cora's Ground Beef Taco Meat is amazing, but you could put any kind of meat for tacos in here: steak, chicken, whatever!)
    2. Add oil to a medium-large pot. It doesn't need to be that deep - it should cover the bottom of the pan and then add a bit more, probably about ⅛" - ¼" deep.
    3. Heat oil over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes. A drop of water in the oil should sizzle.
    4. Using tongs, place one tortilla into the oil and let fry on the first side for 5-10 seconds.
    5. Flip the tortilla. Let it fry on the second side for just a couple seconds, then using your tongs sort of fold the tortilla in half. When I do this, I hold the folded half that is out of the oil up a little so you get kind of a flat bottom to the taco shell, if that makes sense. As it fries it will start to hold its shape on its own.
    6. Once the shell is holding its shape (this happens quickly), flip it over. I kind of push the side of the shell that's in the oil down into the oil so that the inside of the shell is frying, too. Just keep flipping and pressing until the shell starts to brown lightly.
    7. Once shell is done frying, remove form oil, let drip onto the paper towels, then set down on the paper towel-lined plate. Fill immediately with meat.
    8. For each shell, frying time total is only around 30 seconds or so. They fry up quickly!

     

     


  4. Monday, May 11, 2020

    Week 674 Weekly Menu

    Happy day after Mother’s Day. I made the conscious decision to relax and not post a menu yesterday and enjoy my day free of cooking, dishes and meal planning. But now it’s back to business! I have a lot of carry-over’s from last week’s menu because I just plain didn’t follow the menu. 

    Week 674 Weekly Dinner Menu

    MONDAY:

    TUESDAY:

    WEDNESDAY:

    THURSDAY:

    FRIDAY:

    • Takeout Night

    SATURDAY:

    • Leftovers

    SUNDAY:

    • Grill Night + Salad

    You know what to do…share your menu in the comments below! And remember we are looking for all types of menus – simple, fancy, everything! Have a good week!


  5. Sunday, May 3, 2020

    Week 673 Weekly Menu

    I everyone! I’m having some technical difficulties, so I can’t create the image of this week’s menu right now. But I still want to get the menu plan published and out the door so you can all share yours. So, how about a photo of one of the recipes I’ll be cooking instead!

    Backlit side view of gluten-free buffalo chicken drumsticks with celery sticks and blue cheese dressing

    MONDAY:

    • Local Takeout Night

    TUESDAY:

    WEDNESDAY:

    THURSDAY:

    FRIDAY:

    SATURDAY:

    • Leftovers

    SUNDAY:

    • Grill Night + Salad

    You know what to do…share your menu in the comments below! And remember we are looking for all types of menus – simple, fancy, everything! Have a good week!


  6. Wednesday, April 29, 2020

    Pressure Cooker Carnitas Recipe

    One of my most Slow Cooker Carnitas favorite recipes is the recipe I have here on the blog. It’s easy to make, doesn’t have any uncommon ingredients, and is SO DELICIOUS. I mean, honestly, every time I make that recipe I’m surprised at how good the carnitas taste! Since I love the recipe so much, I decided it would be worth figuring out a version for the Instant Pot. And so this pressure cooker carnitas recipe was born!

    Preparing pork shoulder for this pressure cooker carnitas recipe showing the ingredients in the Instant Pot before cooking

    It’s essentially the same recipe but I figured out the right amount of liquid and cooking time for the pressure cooker for you. Also, total cooking time is about 1 hour with the pressure cooker, as opposed to 8 hours in the slow cooker. So, you know, if you forget to prep the carnitas in the morning, throwing it together in the afternoon is totally possible!

    Pork carnitas cooked in a pressure cooker served on a corn tortilla with salsa and cilantro

    I’ve had people ask if the frying step is necessary. No, it’s not. But it makes the carnitas that much better. So, go ahead and choose your own adventure. I think it’s worth the extra step!

    Enjoy this pressure cooker carnitas recipe! I know I do!

    Pressure Cooker Carnitas Recipe
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 3 pounds boneless pork shoulder
    • Salt (kosher preferred)
    • Black pepper
    • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pushed through a garlic press
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 onion, cut into quarters
    • 1 jalapeno, seeded and ribs removed, roughly chopped
    • 1 cup of liquid that includes the juice from 1 orange + water to fill to 1 cup total, save orange peels after juicing
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    Instructions
    1. Rinse and dry the pork shoulder. Salt and pepper liberally. Place pork shoulder in a pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot).
    2. Mix together the oregano, cumin, garlic and olive oil. Spread half of the oil mixture on one side of the pork shoulder, flip over and then rub the rest of the oil mixture on the other side of the pork shoulder.
    3. Place the onion, jalapeno, and orange peels in the slow cooker with the meat. I put some of the produce on top and some around the edges.
    4. Pour the water-orange juice mixture over the meat.
    5. Select High Pressure on the pressure cooker and set for 45 minutes. When it has cooked for 45 minutes and it beeps, let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes, open the vent, then let it sit for 10 more minutes. Confirm the valve has dropped and then carefully remove the lid.
    6. Note: if the meat is not fall-apart tender at this point, put the pressure cooker on for another 20-25 minutes and you should be good to go!
    7. Carefully remove the meat from the pressure cooker and put in a bowl. Pull the meat apart with a fork.
    8. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Sprinkle pan liberally with more salt. Evenly layer the carnitas in the pan once the pan is hot and cook just one side until you get a nice crispy edge on the meat touching the pan.
    9. Remove from heat, stir together, do a little taste test and add a bit of salt if needed (probably not needed, but check anyway). Sometimes I pour over some of the juices from the cooker over the meat for extra flavor.
    10. Serve with fresh cilantro, salsa, hot sauce and tortillas. You could also add other items to your taco (rice, beans, tomatoes, lettuce, guac, etc), but Nate and I found that the carnitas were just so good it was better to have a simply-dressed taco.

     


  7. Sunday, April 26, 2020

    Week 672 Weekly Menu

    You guys. I sat down to do my menu THREE HOURS AGO. I decided to write a quick post about my new favorite pectin and ended up going down a very deep freezer jam rabbit hole, writing the new post and updating old ones. My back kind of hurts and now I have to do my grocery shopping tonight instead of this morning, but it was worth it. Click here for my new freezer jam post, that turned out to be a true labor of love! And now finally on to my meal plan for the week!

    Week 672 Weekly Dinner Plan: Monday - Enchiladas; Tuesday - Homemade Pizza; Wednesday - Salmon; Thursday - Cheeseburgers; Friday - Local Takeout; Saturday - Grill Night; Sunday - Buffalo Wings

    Please note that my consistent weekly meal planning is not a sign of bliss…I am 100% sick of my kitchen, but am trying to maintain that sometimes elusive “attitude of gratitude” to get me through the meal-planning-and-cooking quarantine grind. It’s mostly working. 😉

    MONDAY:

    – Enchiladas

    TUESDAY:

    Homemade Pizza

    WEDNESDAY:

    Zesty Grilled Salmon
    – Wild Rice and Salad

    THURSDAY:

    – Homemade Cheeseburgers

    FRIDAY:

    – Local Takeout

    SATURDAY:

    – Grill Night + Salad

    SUNDAY:

    Buffalo Wings
    – Salad and Fries (gonna pick up in the freezer section!)

    You guys were amazing last week, so many menus to inspire me as I planned today. Thank you! Keep the menus coming! Share your weekly (daily? monthly? whateverly!) menu in the comments below!


  8. Pomona’s Pectin Freezer Jam, My New Favorite

    I have been writing about freezer jam for years. My mom always made it and I have continued the tradition as an adult. I love freezer jam – you don’t have to cook the jam, you can store it in any container you have handy and just pop it in the freezer, and it’s the best tasting jam around (in my humble opinion, at least!). I have a major update to share regarding my annual freezer jam process. I’ve always used Sure-Jell pectin because that’s what my mom always used and it’s what I could find in any standard grocery store. This year, however, I ended up trying Pomona’s Universal Pectin and I am in love!

    Boxes of Pomona's Universal Pectin in front of a jar of jam

    Since I have been limiting myself to just one grocery store per week (thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown), Pomona’s was my only option because that was what was available. I was a little nervous about switching it up, but I will for sure use Pomona’s Pectin over Sure-Jell going forward, pandemic lockdown or not!

    SURE-JELL PECTIN: CONS 

    While I love the freezer jam I have always made with Sure-Jell, there have been a few drawbacks over the years.

    1. Potential of jam not jelling: Sometimes the jam simply doesn’t jell. You’ll follow all the directions precisely and for whatever reason the jam just never jells. So, every batch was stressful. And when it didn’t jell, it was just such a waste of time and fruit. I know for a fact I’m not the only one this happens to, based on years of comments here on the blog.
    2. Recipe misprint: One year Sure-Jell misprinted the freezer jam recipe in the pectin boxes. It is amazing how many years those bad recipes keep turning up for people, ruining batch after batch of jam.
    3. Sugar Content. The classic Sure-Jell freezer jam recipe uses SO MUCH SUGAR. I know, I know, Sure-Jell has a low-sugar pectin option and I’ll admit I never tried it. I’m sure it’s great. But I love the original so much, but it is a heck of a lot of sugar.
    4. Different Recipes for Different Fruits: The recipes for different types of fruit are all different, so you have to be super careful when reading the recipe to prepare your jam or it won’t jell.
    5. Finicky Recipe: The directions are very finicky in general – you have to follow them precisely or else, well, see #1 and #4 for why this is frustrating!  

    Spoonful of raspberry freezer jam made with Pomona's Universal Pectin

    POMONA’S UNIVERSAL PECTIN: PROS

    Enter Pomona’s Universal Pectin. The texture of the jam is a little different from Sure-Jell’s, but it is equally as delicious. I will now address each of the issues listed above as applied to Pomona’s:

    1. Happy Jelling! This pectin is super reliable. I have made many batches now and every time the jam starts jelling instantly. It’s magic. And completely un-stressful.
    2. No misprinted recipe legacy. Pomona’s, however, does not include the freezer jam recipe in the box. You can find it on their website, but it’s kind of buried. So, I will share the recipe below (and re-write it with my notes). 
    3. Sugar Content: Pomona’s freezer jam recipe uses WAY LESS SUGAR and is still delicious. And the jam jells no problem and isn’t so dependent on sugar content. Also, the recipe gives you a range of the amount of sugar to use, so you can adjust to your taste.
    4. The recipe for different types of fruit are all the same. Four cups of prepared fruit per 4 teaspoons of pectin! (Note, there are approximately 9 teaspoons of pectin in 1 box, so don’t dump the whole thing for one batch…make sure you measure.)
    5. Simple Recipe: The directions are simper and seem no fail to me. I would be stunned if this recipe didn’t jell. It’s worked like a charm every time for me!

    So, there you have it. I’m a Pomona’s convert! 

    Looking down into a jar of raspberry freezer jam made with Pomona's Universal Pectin

    FREEZER JAM RESOURCES

    • Click here for my Freezer Jam Fruit Buying Guide. This guide will tell you how many ounces of fruit to buy for different amounts of pectin and sugar. I included measurements for both Sure-Jell and Pomona’s Universal pectins. This guide is a lifesaver for me year after year and I updated it with a nice graphic this year! Note: the guide is only for strawberries and raspberries.
    • Click here for the Sure-Jell raspberry and strawberry freezer jam recipe. Sure-Jell is delicious and some of you may still want to go that route. 
    • Lastly, the Pomona’s Universal Pectin freezer jam recipe! This recipe can be used for many types of fruits, listed below! 

    Boxes of Pomona's Universal Pectin in front of a jar of raspberry freezer jam

    Freezer Jam with Pomona's Universal Pectin
     
    This recipe is for raw freezer jam using Pomona's Universal Pectin. "Raw" simply means you do not cook the jam. The jam can be stored in any air-tight container, in the fridge for 1 week and up to 1 year in the freezer. (Note: I'm certain we've kept it in the fridge longer than 1 week without it going bad, but do what you feel safe with!) Recipe suitable for the following fruits: Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Sour Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Pear, Kiwi, Blackberry, Plum, Peach, Apricot, Nectarine This recipe is from Pomona's Pectin website, but I have re-written it for ease and specifically for raw freezer jam, and have added notes as well.
    Author:
    Serves: 4-6 cups
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups mashed fruit (see step 3 below for preparation details)
    • ½ cup to 1 cup honey OR ¾ to 2 cups sugar (I use sugar)
    • ¾ cup boiling water
    • 3 teaspoons pectin
    • 4 teaspoons calcium water (plus more if needed, see step 1 below for how to prepare)
    Instructions
    1. Prepare calcium water: Combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (included in the box) with ½ cup water in a small clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Set aside. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use if needed.
    2. Wash and rinse freezer containers. Set aside.
    3. If using Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Sour Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Pear, Kiwi, Blackberry, Plum: Remove hulls/stems/pits/skins as applicable, mash or grind, then measure to 4 cups. Make sure fruit is at room temperature when making the jam. If using Peach, Apricot or Nectarine: Pit/Chop/Mash OR peel/pit/mash fruit - bring to boil in a pan, boil for 2 minutes while stirring then let cool in a bowl, then measure to four cups.
    4. Measure fruit into large bowl. Add chosen sweetener (honey or sugar) to fruit and mix well.
    5. Bring ¾ cup water to a boil. Carefully pour into a food processor or blender. Add 4 teaspoons pectin. Vent lid and blend 1-2 minutes, until all powder is dissolved. (Jane note: I brought the water to a boil, then removed the pan from the heat, added the pectin, and whisked vigorously for 2 minutes and this worked, too.)
    6. Add hot liquid pectin to fruit mixture and stir to mix well.
    7. Add 4 teaspoons calcium water from jar, mix well into fruit mixture. Jell should appear at this point. If not, stir in 1 teaspoon calcium water at a time until jam is jelled.
    8. Fill containers, leaving ½" space at top of container. Store in freezer immediately for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after thawing.

     


  9. Sunday, April 19, 2020

    Kitchen Tip: Chopping Strawberries

    Since we’re chopping cauliflower, how about we chop some strawberries, too? I mean, it is strawberry season after all! Last year I was chopping strawberries for some strawberry shortcake and realized that every time I went to cut up a strawberry, I would do it this way…

    Step-by-step photo of the wrong way to cut up strawberries

    As you can see from my beautiful Photoshopping, this is the wrong way. I would always quarter the strawberries vertically from stem to tip first and then cut it into smaller pieces. This is no bueno because everything slips and slides, making it so that your pieces are all different sizes. It is also a wee bit dangerous, too.

    It’s taken a year, but I’ve broken the habit! I finally have retrained myself to cut strawberries the proper way, with no slipping and sliding to be seen! By cutting the strawberries horizontally (so not stem to tip) to start, you can then place the strawberry on its flat end (where you cut off the stem and leaves) and everything stays put! It’s a subtle difference but one I find that makes chopping strawberries much easier!

    Here are step-by-step photos! Tha may not be necessary, but strawberries are pretty so why not? 😉 

    Step 1: Cut off the leafy top.

    Whole washed strawberries on a black cutting board

    Strawberries on a cutting board with tops cut off

    Step 2: Cut the strawberries horizontally.

    You can cut them in halves or thirds, depending on the size of the strawberry.

    Top view of strawberries cut in half horizontally

    Step 3: Turn the strawberries up onto their cut-off-stem side, so the tips are pointing up.

    Backlit side view of strawberries cut in half horizontally

    Step 4: Quarter the strawberries, cutting tip to stem.

    Top view of chopped strawberries Side view of chopped strawberries

    Step 5: Knock all the strawberries over and eat them!

    Chopped strawberries on a cutting board


  10. Kitchen Tip: Chopping Cauliflower Without Making a Huge Mess

    A few years ago I posed a question on Facebook, something along the lines of, “What common kitchen task do you hate doing?” One of the responses was something I had never thought of but, once someone said it out loud, it forever bugged me, too! This fellow cook talked about how they hate chopping cauliflower because there are always a ton of tiny cauliflower pieces that get everywhere and are hard to wipe up. That person was right – those little pieces are annoying. So for years I’ve bemoaned the cauliflower mess, never quite figuring out a way to tackle it. UNTIL TODAY.

    Chopping cauliflower on a small cutting board on a rimmed baking sheet to minimize mess

    While prepping cauliflower to be roasted, I washed the head of cauliflower and cut out the core, used my hands to break it into large pieces, then put those pieces on the rimmed baking sheet to await being shopped smaller. As I reached for a cutting board, I ended up grabbing my smallest cutting board and putting it in the center of the pan. That’s where I chopped the pieces smaller, on the cutting board on the pan! It was awesome, my knife wasn’t damaged and all the cauliflower bits stayed right in the pan.

    I know it’s crazy I’m doing a whole blog post about this but that is how excited I am to make this discovery. Bring on the cauliflower! 

    Note: This tip will work well even if you aren’t planning to roast the cauliflower. Cutting the vegetable on a cutting board in a rimmed pan does a great job of minimizing mess. I’ll probably use this technique when chopping other foods, too!