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Ham and Zucchini Quiche

Ham and Zucchini Quiche 2

Summer is in full swing, which means it is prime zucchini season. Pair this quiche with a salad for a perfect summer meal that can be eaten hot or cold.

For a perfectly browned crust, bake the quiche with a pie crust shield. It is easy to Make Your Own:

Pie Crust Shield

For a low carb version, just bake this quiche without a crust in an 8-inch square baking dish.

Ham and Zucchini Quiche 1

Some ideas for salads to serve alongside this quiche:

Chopped Caprese Salad
Greek Summer Salad
Chipotle Lime Quinoa and White Bean Salad
Thai Cucumber Salad

RECIPE:

Ham and Zucchini Quiche

Ham and Zucchini Quiche 2

Single pastry crust for 9” pie plate
1 ½ cups heavy cream
4 eggs
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground cayenne or Ancho chile pepper
1 Tbs butter
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped cooked ham
¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan
1 ½ cups shredded Swiss, cheddar, or  Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Prepare pastry crust and place in 9” pie plate (deep dish, if possible).

In a medium bowl, use a whisk to mix cream, eggs, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Heat butter in a skillet. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add diced zucchini and cook until crisp-tender (about 3 minutes). Place vegetables in a mixing bowl and stir in diced ham. Cool slightly. Stir in shredded cheese. Spread filling evenly into unbaked crust. Pour egg mixture over filling. Use a spatula or fork to remove any large air pockets.

If desired, cover the crust of the quiche with a pie crust shield. Bake at 425°F for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350°F and bake an additional 30 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to set at room temperature 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving.

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Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

A Caprese Salad is the perfect accompaniment to grilled summer meats: chicken, steaks, pork, even hamburgers. Made with summer fresh tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, and a reduced balsamic glaze, it just screams summer and healthy eating.

Caprese Salad 1

I like to make a “chopped” version of the salad with various cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and mozzarella pearls. I drizzle this with some extra-virgin olive oil and serve the balsamic reduction on the side so that the tomatoes and cheese don’t soak up too much vinegar before serving.

I love these little “mozzarella pearls”. They are perfectly bite-sized:

Image result for mozzarella pearls   Pearls

If you are short on time, you can serve this with straight balsamic vinegar, but it is so worth the little time it takes to reduce the vinegar to a stronger syrupy consistency. I usually reduce an entire bottle of vinegar and then store the left-overs  in the refrigerator. You can also infuse some delicious flavors into your reduction while you are at it, things like fresh herbs and garlic. Some people add additional honey or sweetener to the reduction, but I find balsamic vinegar to be plenty sweet without additional sweetener.

If you don’t want to do the chopped version of this salad, you can also make it in the more traditional format with sliced tomatoes and mozzarella:

Caprese Salad 3

Tomorrow we officially begin our summer break (after a final half-day of school). This salad will be a frequent side dish on our table.

Caprese Salad 2

RECIPE:

Chopped Caprese Salad with Balsamic Reduction

Caprese Salad 2

2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup mozzarella pearls
¼ cup fresh basil, sliced in thin strips (chiffonade)
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
about ¼ cup  Balsamic Reduction

Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and olive oil in a serving dish. Season with salt and pepper. Serve Balsamic Reduction on the side to be drizzled over salad just before eating.

Balsamic Reduction

1 (16 oz) bottle balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs honey, optional (I DO NOT add honey)
2 whole cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer gently until vinegar reduces by about half and thickens to a thin syrup. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Remove garlic, bay leaf, and herbs (strain if necessary). Cool. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Yield: about 1 cup glaze

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Sugar-Free Strawberry Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

This sugar-free strawberry cheesecake may have just jumped onto my list of all-time favorite desserts, even those full of sugar.

This is a no-bake cheesecake that is easy to put together. Made with fresh strawberries, it is a fabulous summer dessert that won’t heat up the kitchen.

It is light and airy, not dense like a baked cheesecake. I sweetened it with stevia and erythritol, but you can easily substitute real sugar. But for those watching their carb and sugar intake, this is a wonderfully satisfying dessert. My kids don’t even miss the sugar!

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 4

I made it in a 9” springform pan, and it completely filled the pan for a nice tall cheesecake. You could make it in a little bit larger pan instead if you don’t want quite as thick of slices.

I garnished the cheesecake with some whipped cream and fresh berries. A wonderful light and summery dessert.

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 3

RECIPE:

Sugar-Free Strawberry No-Bake Cheesecake

Sugar Free Strawberry Cheesecake 6

Crust:
¾ cup whole almonds (roasted and salted)
¼ cup whole pecans
¼ cup rolled oats
3 Tbs butter, melted
10 drops of liquid stevia

Filling:
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup erythritol
½ tsp liquid stevia
½ cup cool water
2 (1 oz) packages unflavored gelatin
1 quart (4 cups) whole strawberries, hulled
1 cup heavy cream

Garnish:
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs cream cheese, at room temperature
½ tsp vanilla extract
5 drops liquid stevia
Whole strawberries, and/or other berries (raspberries, blackberries)

Crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Place almonds, pecans, and oats in a food processor; blend until finely ground. Add butter and stevia  and pulse until combined. Lightly spray 9” springform pan with baking spray (I like coconut oil spray for this). Press crust mixture onto bottom of pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream, vanilla, erythritol, and stevia and beat again until smooth.

Place cool water in a separate bowl; sprinkle gelatin over water. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until gelatin has softened. Microwave for 15 seconds, or until gelatin has dissolved.

Place strawberries in a food processor. Blend until very finely chopped (mixture will be slightly liquidy). Add gelatin mixture to food processor and pulse until mixed. Add chopped strawberries to cream cheese mixture and beat until smooth. Taste mixture and add additional sweetener, if needed.

In a separate mixing bowl, whip 1 cup cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into filling.

Pour mixture over cooled crust in the springform pan. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours or until firm.

Garnish:
Combine cream, cream cheese, vanilla, and stevia in a mixing bowl and beat until stiff peaks form. Pipe onto top of chilled cheesecake and garnish with fresh berries.

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Artichoke Basil Chicken

Artichoke Basil Chicken 1

This chicken dish is healthy, delicious, and quick to put together for a weeknight meal. And since I just planted our garden, we have lots of fresh basil ready to use. I love cooking with fresh summer herbs and vegetables.

The chicken is quickly browned and then topped with Parmesan, chopped artichokes, tomatoes, and fresh basil.

Artichoke Basil Chicken 3

Bake for about 30 minutes and then top with fresh mozzarella and broil until melted. More fresh basil takes this from ordinary to amazing. (Ignore the one corner of this photo with no cheese: the child this piece of chicken will serve is very inconsistent with her likes/dislikes)

Artichoke Basil Chicken 4

We eat this on its own, but you could also serve pasta on the side to soak up some of the amazing juices.

Artichoke Basil Chicken 2

I use these artichokes almost exclusively when a recipe calls for artichokes. They are just the best part of the artichoke: all heart, no leaves. You get 7-9 hearts in each can. I love that there are no tough leaves. (They recently changed the can label: Left=old; Right=new)

Artichoke Bottoms

 

RECIPE:

Artichoke Basil Chicken

Artichoke Basil Chicken 1

2 Tbs olive oil
4 boneless chicken breasts
Greek seasoning mix (or Italian seasoning)
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbs white wine
1 can artichoke bottoms, cut into ½” chunks
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
3 Tbs fresh basil, sliced
4 Tbs grated fresh Parmesan
4 slices fresh mozzarella
4 Tbs fresh basil, sliced

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to skillet and sprinkle generously with Greek seasoning. Brown chicken on both sides (2-3 minutes per side; chicken should not be cooked through). Remove chicken from skillet and place in baking dish.

Add garlic to skillet and cook 1-2 minutes, or until browned. Stir in wine and chopped artichokes. Cook and deglaze pan until wine has reduced by about half. Add tomatoes to pan and cook for 2 minutes, or until hot. Stir in 3 Tbs fresh basil.

Top each chicken breast in the baking dish with 1 Tbs Parmesan cheese. Spoon artichoke mixture evenly over chicken. Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Top with fresh mozzarella slices and broil for 2-3 minutes, or until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Sprinkle with additional 4Tbs fresh basil and serve immediately.

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Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Last week, we attended a Boy Scout fundraising auction. I made a few items to contribute, including this Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake. It is a 4-layer chocolate cake filled with Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream icing. And garnished with chocolate covered strawberries.

There were sooo many delicious looking desserts at the auction. Not a good time to be on a low-carb diet.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 3

Since I didn’t actually get to cut and eat this cake, I don’t have an inside picture, but it looks similar to this Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake:

Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cake 5

except that I added sliced fresh strawberries in between the layers with the icing:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 2

 

RECIPE:

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake

Chocolate Covered Strawberries Cake 1

Ingredients (recipes below):
Chocolate Layer Cake
Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Chocolate Ganache
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Chocolate Layer Cake
2 cups flour
½ cup regular cocoa powder
½ cup Dutch process cocoa (or Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
¾ cups (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 2 9” cake pans; line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Grease paper and then dust entire pan with cocoa powder.

Combine flour, cocoa powders, baking soda and salt. Mix with a whisk. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars for 5 minutes. The mixture should be very pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until smooth.

Divide batter into prepared pans and bake for 28-30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, remove parchment paper and cool.

Cooled cake layers can be wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen until you are ready to assemble them. (For this cake, if you are freezing the layers: cut each layer in half before freezing to make 4 layers).

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing
1 ½ cups egg whites (about 12 large egg whites, or use pasteurized egg whites that come in a carton)
2 ½ cups sugar
pinch of salt
3 cups unsalted butter (6 sticks), at room temperature**
1 Tbs vanilla extract
about 1 ½ cups Strawberry Puree (see recipe below)
about 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries (set aside for cake assembly)

In the top of a double boiler, stir together  egg whites, sugar and salt. Bring water in bottom of double boiler to a low simmer; cook until the temperature of the egg whites reaches 160°F and sugar is completely dissolved (rub mixture between fingertips-it should not feel gritty). Mixture will be foamy and not a uniform consistency.

Transfer the egg white mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. With the whisk attachment, whip until meringue is completely cooled and glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. DO NOT ADD BUTTER UNTIL BOTH THE BOWL AND FROSTING ARE COMPLETELY COOL. Switch mixer attachment from the whisk to paddles. Add butter 1-2 Tablespoons at a time until incorporated. Mixture may appear curdled at times. Continue beating until butter is fully incorporated and frosting is fluffy and smooth.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Add vanilla and beat smooth. Add strawberry filling and beat until frosting is a uniform color.

**BUTTER NOTE: butter should be at room temperature soft, but not overly soft. If the butter is too cold, it will not incorporate well into the meringue, and you will have butter chunks. If the butter is over-soft, it will cause the icing to curdle while beating-this is okay, it isn’t ruined: it will just take longer (more beating) for the frosting to become smooth. If icing still won’t set, place in the fridge for 20 minutes, and then beat again.

Strawberry Puree:
2 cups whole fresh strawberries, hulled
2 Tbs sugar

Process strawberries in a food processor until very finely chopped, but not completely liquefied. Mix in sugar.

Chocolate ganache:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped (about ½ cup, slightly heaping)
½ cup heavy cream
2 Tbs corn syrup

Place the chopped chocolate into a small bowl and set aside. In a Pyrex measuring cup or microwavable bowl, combine the heavy cream and corn syrup. Heat for 30-45 seconds; stir. Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for one minutes, then stir until smooth.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries:
Fresh strawberries
Chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates

Melt chocolate and vanilla melting chocolates in separate bowls. Dip strawberries in melted chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Place remaining melted chocolates in Ziploc bags and poke a hole in one corner of each bag. Drizzle strawberries with contrasting chocolate.

Let chocolate harden completely before placing on cake.

Cake Assembly:
Completely cool cake layers. Cut each layer in half to make 4 layers. Prepare frosting and ganache.

Place waxed paper strips along edges of serving plate. Place one cake layer, cut side up, on the serving plate. Waxed paper strips should cover the exposed part of the plate, but not be too far under the cake layer. Spread cake with a layer of strawberry icing. Press sliced fresh strawberries into icing. Top with another cake layer. Repeat with frosting and remaining cake layers. Ice entire cake with a thin crumb coat of icing. Refrigerate cake for 2o minutes to set slightly (optional). Create a smooth finish with remaining icing over entire cake (top of cake should be completely flat).

Drizzle cake with ganache, letting it drip down the sides. Refrigerate cake.

Decorate top and base of cake with chocolate covered strawberries.

Storage:  Store cake in refrigerator.

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Mango Jalapeño Jam

Mango Jalapeno Jam 1

Slightly sweet, slightly spicy. Perfectly versatile.

Serve it with savory scones, like these Bacon Jalapeño Scones:

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 5

Use it instead of apricot jam in this Apricot (Mango) Glazed Chicken:

Apricot Chicken 1

Serve it with these Indian Samosas:

3711 099-1

Heat the jam until warm and dip Chicken Taquitos in it:

041811 073-1

-Bake it with Brie wrapped in puff pastry dough for a delicious appetizer. Or cut pastry dough into squares and press dough into a well-greased mini muffin pan; place a square of Brie in the center and top with ½ tsp jam. Bake until browned.

-Spread it over a block of cream cheese or goat cheese and serve with crackers.

-Spread it between tortillas, along with grilled chicken and cheese, and grill for amazing quesadillas.

-Spread it on an English muffin and top with egg, cheese, and bacon for a breakfast sandwich with a kick.

-Add it to a grilled cheese sandwich.

-Spread it on a sandwich of leftover roast turkey or chicken.

-Add it to a marinade for roast pork or grilled chicken.

RECIPE:

Mango Jalapeño Jam

Yield: About 7 half-pint jars

Mango Jalapeno Jam 1

3 lb peeled and seeded mangos (weigh after peeling/seeding), about 6 cups
6-7 oz (about 6-7 whole) jalapeños
¾ cup apple cider vinegar
4 ¼ cups sugar, divided
1 box low-sugar pectin

Chop mangos in a food processor until finely chopped, but not pureed. You should end up with about 5 cups finely chopped mango. Pour into a large pot.

Use the food processor to finely chop the jalapeños. Leave the seeds/ribs in the jalapeños for a more spicy jam; remove them for a milder jam. Add to the pot along with the vinegar, and 4 cups of sugar.

Bring to a full rolling boil, reduce heat to medium, and boil for 20 minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together the pectin and ¼ cup sugar. Add pectin mixture to the pot and return mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil for 2 additional minutes.

Remove from heat and ladle into sterilized jars. Wipe rims of jars with a damp cloth and add lids and rings. Process jars in a boiling bath canner for 10 minutes for half-pint jars. Remove from canner and place on a towel on kitchen countertop. Let sit 24 hours. Check seals before storing on pantry shelf.

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Bacon Jalapeño Scones

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 4

Scones don’t have to just be a dessert food. Scone dough is perfectly suited to add savory ingredients and served for breakfast or brunch. Or as an accompaniment to soup, stew, or chili for dinner. These scones are stuffed full of bacon, green onions, gruyere and Parmesan cheeses, and chopped jalapenos.

I only used one jalapeño this time, which was hardly noticeable. Next time I will use 2-3. Heat levels of jalapeños vary widely, however, so it is wise to taste a small piece before committing to adding 3 full jalapeños.

You can eat these plain, slathered with butter or Clotted Cream, or topped with jam. I served them with a homemade sweet & spicy Mango Jalapeño Jam.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 5

To form the scones, transfer your dough to a well-floured surface and use your hands to shape dough into an 8” round disc about 3/4-inch thick.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 1

Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 wedges. This recipe makes 16 scones. Don’t make one large circle and cut into 16 pieces. Instead, divide dough in half and make 8 from each round.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 2

An important factor in getting light, airy scones is not working the dough more than necessary. An easy and effective way to cut your butter into the dry ingredients is to use a cheese grater to shred frozen butter into your dry ingredients and then mix only briefly. You want there to still be strands of visible butter. That is what will create the air pockets and layers in your scones.

Tip for adding butter: This recipe calls for 8 Tbs (1 stick) of butter. Freeze TWO  sticks, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

You can also grate butter that is just refrigerated, not frozen, but it will hold it’s consistency longer if you freeze it for about 30 minutes first.

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 3

RECIPE:

Bacon Jalapeño Scones

Bacon Jalapeno Scones 4

2 ½ cups flour
2 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter (freeze TWO sticks for 30 mins for easier grating)
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten lightly
½ cup chopped crisply-cooked bacon
¼ cup chopped green onion
2-3 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
2/3 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
¼ cup grated fresh Parmesan

Egg wash: 1 egg, beaten + 2 Tbs heavy cream

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture to form coarse crumbs. Tip for adding butter: Freeze TWO sticks of butter, then take a pen and mark around the 4 Tbs line on each stick. (It is hard to grate slippery butter all the way down to the end of the stick without grating your fingers ) Fold back the paper on the sticks of butter to the line you’ve drawn.  Holding the paper-covered end of the butter, grate the butter directly into your dry ingredients (briefly stir occasionally so that you don’t have a big pile of butter in one spot). Stop grating when you get to the line where you’ve folded back your butter paper. I usually use the larger of the two grating hole sizes on the grater.

Mix together the buttermilk and the beaten eggs. Make a well in the center of the  flour mixture and stir in milk just until moistened.

In a small bowl, stir together the cooked bacon, green onions, jalapeños, and grated cheeses. Mix gently into the scone dough.

On a floured surface, knead dough lightly until evenly mixed. Divide the dough in half. Pat each dough half into an 8-inch round about 3/4 inch thick. Cut each circle into 8 wedges.

Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Place dough wedges on prepared sheets and place in freezer for 30 minutes to chill.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Remove scones from freezer and brush lightly with egg wash. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Serve plain or with butter, Clotted Cream, or Mango Jalapeño Jam.

Yield: 16 scones

.

**TO FREEZE SCONES TO SERVE AT A LATER TIME:

Scones can be frozen either before or after baking.

To freeze before baking: Prepare scone dough. Cut scones and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. DO NOT brush with egg wash. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Brush tops of scones with egg wash. Bake at 400°F for 18-20 minutes.

To freeze after baking: Prepare and bake scones. Cool completely and place on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Freeze until firm. Place into Ziploc bag or freezer container and store in freezer. Place frozen scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone mat. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Bake at 300°F for 10-12 minutes.

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Cheesesteak Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers 2

Whether you are eating low-carb, or gluten-free, or just want a delicious dinner that the whole family will love, this recipe fits the bill. The only ingredient some of my family object to is the mushrooms, but if I chop them finely enough, they don’t even know they’re there.

And if you buy pre-sliced beef, you can have this on the table in under an hour.

Shaved Beef Steak

I like to serve this with Chipotle Black Beans and Green Chili Cilantro Rice.

Chipotle Black Beans 2  Green Chili Cilantro Rice

.

Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers 4

RECIPE:

Cheesesteak Stuffed Poblano Peppers

Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers 2

2 Tbs butter
1 large onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, chopped (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapenos, finely diced
2 lb thinly sliced beef
2-3 tsp Montreal Steak seasoning
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
4 large poblano peppers
Provolone cheese and/or mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly spray a 9×13” baking dish with olive oil spray.

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add chopped onion, mushrooms, garlic, and jalapenos to the skillet and sauté until softened. Add beef to skillet and cook over medium-high heat until beef is cooked through. Stir in steak seasoning, garlic powder, and salt. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Cut poblano peppers in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and place in baking dish. Sprinkle peppers lightly with salt. Place a slice of cheese, or small amount of shredded cheese, in each pepper. Spoon cooked beef mixture into the peppers. Top each pepper with additional cheese.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown.

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Low Sugar Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

Canning is generally a summer sport. Summer harvests mean you usually have to spend the hottest days of the year blanching fruit, stirring boiling pots, and having steam from a boiling water bath canner fill the kitchen with heat and humidity.

Do you ever wish that you could do your canning in the middle of the winter, when a little extra heat and humidity would be most welcome? I can’t get rid of all of that summer canning, but here is one recipe that is perfect to make on a cold, snowy day. And it will make your house smell truly heavenly.

Pears make a wonderful jam and are an easy fruit to work with any time of year. Most varieties have thin skins, so you don’t need to peel them, and you can chop them quickly in a food processor.  This jam is also flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, which makes it easy and amazingly delicious!

I use a combination of sugar and stevia to make a lower sugar jam that doesn’t compromise on flavor. You could add additional sugar if you don’t want to use the stevia.

And it’s not just for toast: try stirring it into some plain yogurt or spreading on some homemade pancakes for a delicious breakfast or snack.

RECIPE:

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam (Low-Sugar)

Yield: 6 half-pint jars

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

8-10 ripe medium-sized pears (about 4 lb)
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 ¼ cups sugar, divided
1 box low-sugar pectin
½ tsp liquid stevia
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped; or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare equipment: sterilize half-pint jars, lids, and canning equipment (ladle and funnel). Prepare a boiling water bath.

Wash and core the pears, but do not peel. Finely chop or coarsely mash to yield 7 cups fruit. (I use a food processor to finely chop/mash the pears). Stir in lemon juice.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the sugar with the box of pectin. Mix well and set aside.

In a large pot, combine the chopped pears, remaining 2 cups sugar, stevia, cinnamon and vanilla beans (both seeds and pods), if using. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium (maintain a low but continuous boil), and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar/pectin mixture and vanilla extract, if using. Return jam to a full boil and boil for an additional 5 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pods and discard.

Remove jam from heat and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Stir jam. Ladle hot jam into prepared jars. Wipe top edges of jars with a damp cloth. Add lids and rings. Place in a boiling bath canner and when pot has returned to a full boil, process jars for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place on a towel on kitchen counter. Let sit for 24 hours. Check seals before placing on pantry shelf.

NOTES:

  • Use thin-skinned pears like Bartlett, d’Anjou, or Comice
  • Stevia brands can vary in sweetness. Taste jam before adding pectin and adjust sugar to taste.
  • Use either the vanilla beans or the vanilla extract, not both
  • Letting the jam sit for a few minutes before ladling into jars helps to reduce foam and keep the fruit chunks from settling to the bottom of the jars.

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9th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies Recap

Here is a list of the twelve cookies from this year. I hope that you all enjoy the rest of this Christmas season with family and friends.

Scroll to the bottom for links to the previous 8 years of cookies.

Almond-Toffee-Sandies-3_thumb1

DAY 1: Almond Toffee Sandies

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies_thumb[2]

DAY 2: Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown-Sugar-Cinnamon-Squares-1_thumb

DAY 3: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Squares

Roasted Spiced Pecans_thumb[1]

DAY 4: Roasted Spiced Pecans

Chocolate Thumbprints_thumb[2]

DAY 5: Chocolate Thumbprints with Homemade Caramel Filling

Chewy-Pecan-Cheesecake-Cookies_thumb[3]

DAY 6: Chewy Pecan Cheesecake Cookies

Almond-Butter-Cookies-1_thumb2

DAY 7: Glazed Almond Butter Cookies

German-Lebkuchen_thumb2

DAY 8: German Lebkuchen

Lemon-Cake-Mix-Cookies_thumb2

DAY 9: Lemon Cake Mix Cookies

Salted Caramel Bars_thumb[2]

DAY 10: Salted Caramel Bars

Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies 2_thumb[3]

DAY 11: Dark Chocolate Cream Cheese Cookies

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread 2

DAY 12: Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Lots More Christmas Cookies and Treats:

1st Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2009)

2nd Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2010)

3rd Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2011)

4th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2012)

5th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2013)

6th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2014)

7th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2015)

8th Annual Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies (2016)

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