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My Favorite Things 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013



Welcome to another year of My Favorite Things! Every year I participate in this linky party hosted by 320 Sycamore , and I look forward to compiling my list to share with you.  You can find years past Here and Here . 



One of my passions is decorating our home and making it feel warm and cozy to my family and friends. We tend to entertain alot and I am in LOVE with these Gold Rimmed Agate Coasters I found on Etsy . They are gorgeous and perfect to rest glasses on. The soft, muted colors and the organic, natural quality....perfection! Just looking at  them make me happy!



For the past few years, my signature scent has been Amazing Grace by Philosophy. You know the old saying, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"?  That is how I feel  about Amazing Grace. But a few months ago my husband and I were out and about and in a department store, I spotted Coach Poppy and took the liberty of spraying a bit on my wrists. It smelled amazing. Apparently my husband thought so too, because a few days later he gifted me a bottle , with the body lotion as well. I love this scent, and I LOVE that it stays on all day. When I do wear it, I layer the lotion and the perfume, and it really does last all day for me . Which is a huge plus  . I am too busy to remember to apply more throughout the day, and with this scent, I don't need to! Winner!




As a food blogger , I tend to spend lots of my time in the kitchen. Over the years I have come to realize that I am a messy cook. Messy. Dirty dishes , dirty countertops, ingredients strewn all over , that's me. I have learned that and apron is a necessity. I have had my eye on one of these halter aprons from Ice Milk Aprons for months. I have not purchased one as of yet ( they are pricey) , but I am hoping that maybe Santa will bring me one. They are so beautiful. Keeping my fingers crossed...


Scandal is my treat. Thursday nights at 10 pm, you will find me fixated on Olivia Pope. And the Gladiators. And JAKE! Superb writing, superb acting - what more can you ask for? 




I am obsessed with words. Obsessed. I have  quotes, saying, Bible verses and single words all over our home. I fell in love with Red Letter Words a few years ago. I have purchased a few small canvas prints for gifts, and I have this Bible verse in my home, hanging on the wall for everyone to see. And hopefully, God willing, my children to remember for their lifetime. They see it every day and hopefully it stays with them. Isaiah 40:31 is my favorite verse. It lifts me and encourages me. These canvas prints are pricey, but such great quality and you will have it for years and years. Highly recommended !





I am a cookbook hoarder. I admit it. I read cookbooks like novels. I pour over the ingredients , the pictures and the writing. One of my favorite cookbooks at the moment is Wintersweet by Tammy Donroe Inman.  Awesome recipes using winter ingredients. Think apples, pears, carrots, greens...winter foods. The recipes are wonderful, the pictures even better and the writing engaging. It is on my coffee table as I type this , and I will probably leaf through it again before the day is over.




If you have ever been to our home, you know that I always have a candle burning. I love to walk into the house and have a familiar scent greet us at the door. I have a few favorites , and they are all found at Bath & Body Works. I love their candles. The scent throws are perfect and they burn evenly, which is a pet peeve of mine. My all time favorite scent is London Calling ( it smells like fresh brewed tea with lemon. weird sounding, I know... but the smell is heavenly. I am keeping my fingers crossed they bring it back in the spring)  . But for the holiday season, and into January, I burn the fresh balsam candle. It smells like winter. Cold, snowy, foresty winter. I stock up when they go on sale. I have enough stocked away for this year and next. I'm obsessed.



I am a coffee drinker. Working from home every day, my Keurig definitely  gets a workout on a daily basis . ( not to mention the hot tea, iced teas and hot chocolate that my kids make when they are here). I like to use pretty mugs when I have my coffee. A small luxury, but one I love nonetheless. These monogrammed mugs from Anthropologie fit the bill. They are so simple, but the black letters and the handles really make them pop in my kitchen. *swoon*


I only wear nail polish on my nails for special occasions ( definitley not condusive when I work with my hands in the studio every day) . But I do try to keep my toes painted and go for regular mani/pedi's. My favorite brand is Essie . Right now my absolute favorite color for winter is Wicked. Deep red. Looks awesome on my toes. 

I admit it. Dry shampoo is my best friend. Mornings are hectic around here trying to get a husband and three children fed, dressed and out the door to work and school. And sometimes I don't get a shower until later morning. This stuff is a life saver for me. Especially with my bed head. I just spray , style and I am on my way. 


By far, one of my favorite books of 2013. I had read Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines before author Shauna Niequist released Bread & Wine. All of her writing ( and blogging) is inspirational.  I love the way she writes about family , and friendship, and faith. And she loves food as much as I do. Wonderful book. You will want to read it again and again.


A friend of mine gifted me one of these mini notebooks earlier this year and I fell in love. They are small enough to fit into my purse and I use them all the time to jot down things when I am in the carpool line, or waiting in the doctors office etc.  You can find them at Dayspring , where they are on sale right now.


so there is my compilation of My Favorite Things 2013!

Our Christmas Home Tour Part 2

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hi all!  I have been a busy bee these last few days. Finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts, making those last minute custom orders, school functions, etc. I am trying not to burn out, but if the pace doesn't start slowing down, I am afraid I will :( . I pretty much have the house decorated, and I am constantly adding and subtracting from the Christmas decor.  Here are the pics from the part two of the Christmas home tour. Soft, neutral and quiet. 



Our Christmas tree in our formal living room . I have some presents wrapped. Tons more to go. The pillow is from Dear Lillie , one of my absolute favorite places to shop for house decor! 


I found these handmade pottery wise men about nine years ago at the Flea Market at the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC. Over the years the their beards have broken off here and there, but I still put them out every year. I love them!


The top of the cabinet by the tree.  Lots of silver , black and white.


I bought the deer pillow cases on Etsy this year and I love them. They are so heavy and match perfectly with the overall feel of the house. I might even use them throughout the year. And of course, the display of small trees on a silver platter. ;)



A close up of the gorgeousness  in our little corner of the living room.


I found the tree and the Santa figure while thrifting with my husband in Maryland over the summer. I think I might do a white santa theme next year. I dig it!


This is an old barnwood shelf  in the den. More burlap and deer. Suprise , suprise!

I have the upstairs  and the basement decorated for Christmas as well, but I will not inundate you with pictures of garland, lights, more burlap and mini Christmas trees. So until next year , my friends...


Merry Christmas!!!

Our Christmas Home Tour

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Welcome to our very first Christmas Home Tour 2013! We made a major move this year and we have had so much fun decorating our new home. After many years of colorful Christmas decor, I decided to stick with neutrals and organic decor. My kids are getting older and I wanted a more grown up look. When we moved , I jumped on the burlap , birchwood and neutral decor bandwagon and I love the way the house turned out. The house ,of course, is a work in progress and I will collect more and more pieces over the years to add to the Christmas decor, but for this year, I am happy with the way the house looks. Here are some pics.


Here is our dining table. I wanted something not fussy. Burlap table runner with three Christmas trees on the table. Closer to Christmas, I will add candles and dinnerware.


This year I decided to hang the stockings on the stairs. I tried hanging them on the mantle in the living room, but they seemed too big and it made the mantle look so crowded. They look great as you walk in the front door. Burlap and linen. The yarn letters I found at Target.


The formal living room all decked out. The reindeer Night Before Christmas on the shelf is from Dear Lillie . The reindeer pillows I found on etsy .The NOEL burlap banner I made. I found the burlap banner at Hobby Lobby and painted the letters with black acrylic paint.


A closer look at the Night Before Christmas art print, reindeer pillows and Noel burlap banner.


The formal living room mantle. I used lots of wood in my decorating this year. I found the wreath at TJ MAxx, the star nativity at World Market and the snowflake pillows at Target. I made the reindeer silhouettes. So easy.


My nativity is from the Willow Tree line from Demdaco. It is beautiful.


A collection of vintage Santa Claus figurines and a glass Christmas Tree platter by Peggy Karr Glass.



The window in the kitchen over the sink.


A vignette on the coffee table in the living room.

Chalkboard print ! One of my favorites!
Stay tuned for the rest of the house next week! 

Beef Stew

Sunday, November 10, 2013


One of my favorite foods to cook and enjoy in the cooler months is beef stew. It is one of those foods that I find myself craving on cool, rainy (or snowy) days. This recipe calls for fresh herbs, and I highly recommend you do use the fresh herbs. The rosemary and thyme give it such a deep, fresh flavor that dried herbs can't. I also use a merlot or a cabernet sauvingnon and make sure there is enough left over for a glass for me and hubs at dinner. ;)

Beef Stew
Ingredients
  • 2 lbs. beef chuck, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup baby carrots
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 Tablespoons water
Instructions
  1. Place beef in a large plastic zipper bag. Add flour, salt, and pepper. Shake until beef is coated with flour.
  2. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil. Add beef and cook until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate. (you might need to do this in batches, not to crowd the pan as they brown)
  3. Add the onions to the pot. Cook for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add bay leaves, rosemary, and thyme. Add the beef back to pot. Add red wine and beef broth. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low.
  4. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until beef is fork tender. Add the carrots and cook for another 30 minutes more.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and water. Add to stew and bring to a bubble. Serve hot over rice, potatoes or noodles.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


One thing  I know for sure is that my family will eat pasta. Any  kind of pasta. So when  I  have not planned dinner and need to get food on the table in a hurry, I usually end up making some sort of pasta dish. This is an easy dish to prepare and it is so good. You can add any  type pasta you have on hand. I usually use penne or rotini  for this dish. You can also add other veggies , like black beans, to it to stretch it or make it heartier. Spice it up by adding chili powder or Rotel  tomatoes. If you use a rotisserie chicken, you can save even more time.So many different things you can do to make it your own. I  usually make a salad and it is a  great meal.

Chicken Enchilada Pasta

Ingredients
12 oz pasta (your choice)
3 cups cooked chicken (diced or shredded)
1/2 cup onion,diced
1 cup frozen corn,thawed
1 8oz can tomato sauce
2 cups mild  red enchilada sauce
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt, to taste
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar or monterey jack)
1 T chopped fresh cilantro

Directions
1.Preheat oven to 250 degrees and lightly grease a 13 x  9 baking dish
2.Cook pasta al dente ad drain.set aside
3.In a large  bowl, mix the pasta, chicken,onions,tomatoes,tomato sauce, enchilada sauce ,cumin and garlic powder  until thoroughly  mixed.
4.Pour into the baking dish  and sprinkle with cheese, then the cilantro
5. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, to heat through and melt the cheese.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Autumn is just around the corner and that puts me in a happy place. It is my favorite season of the year. I have been making these pumpkin Whoopie Pies for a few years now and they are great. My kids love pumpkin flavored foods, so this is  a treat for them. Easy to make, and so easy to eat :)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
recipe by Rachael Ray

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, 1 stick melted, 1/2 stick softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
1 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon plus 2 pinches salt
1 2/3 cups flour
4 ounces cream cheese, chilled
1 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, 1 teaspoon vanilla, the baking powder, the baking soda and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the flour.
3. Using an ice cream scoop or tablespoon, drop 12 generous mounds of batter, spaced evenly, onto each baking sheet. Bake until springy to the touch, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, cream the softened butter with the cream cheese. Add the confectioners' sugar and the remaining 2 pinches salt and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; mix on low speed until blended, then beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5. Spread the flat side of 12 cakes with the cream cheese frosting. Top each with another cake.

Buttery Cracker Chicken

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Every  once in awhile I fix this chicken dish for my family.  Every once in awhile only  because I can never seem to keep butter crackers in the house! My  kids see a box in the cabinet and can eat them in one sitting , half with peanut butter, half with cheese wedges. So I have found that in order to prepare this dish for dinner I have to either hide a box of crackers or bring a box straight home from the store and cook dinner! It is a fast dinner and the flavor is rich and crunchy. I have added garlic powder , italian spice and lemon pepper on different occasions and every spice mix works well. You can substitute chicken tenders or pork chops for the chicken breasts. So next time you are planning dinner, plan on  cracker chicken!

Buttery Cracker Chicken
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup crushed butter cracker crumbs
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
ground black pepper to taste
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces


DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Place eggs and cracker crumbs in two separate shallow bowls. Mix cracker crumbs with garlic salt and pepper. Dip chicken in the eggs, then dredge in the crumb mixture to coat.
Arrange coated chicken in a 9x13 inch baking dish. Place pieces of butter around the chicken.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink.

Back to School Ideas : Homework Caddy

Monday, August 26, 2013


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Today my three boys started a brand new school year. One more year of homework, projects and reading logs. I am a bit sad to see them go. I love having them here during the day with me. But I know that they are eager to be in a new class with new friends ( for a few weeks. We are relocating to another state in a few weeks. More on that in a later post). One of the things about the school year that I am adamant about is homework time. Same time every single day. They all know homework comes before outside play, Kindle play  and tv watching. One of the things I have learned over the years is that I need all materials in one common place.  If I have all pencils, markers, glue etc all in one place, they will not be as distracted and will focus on their work at hand. Sometimes ;). I found this caddy at Rogers Flea Market in Ohio a few years ago. It works perfectly for all of their needs come homework time. And it can be carried from room to room easily. No more trying to find glue or tape in every drawer in the house! Here's to a great new school school year for my children, and yours! 

Baked Turkey Pesto Meatballs

Thursday, August 22, 2013



I bookmarked these turkey pesto meatballs from Bree over at Baked Bree . Absolutely lovely blog with incredible recipes and incredible pictures. Tell her I sent you! Anyway, Bree blogged that her kids loved these meatballs and the ingredients intrigued me, so I made a batch this week. Wow, was she right. Every single one of my kids raved about these meatballs and every single kid ate every bit of their dinner. I made rotini noodles and added a bit of my homemade marinara sauce , then put the meatballs on top. I must admit, these are so easy to make and so good. I will be making them again and again. Next time I will make meatball subs with them.  When ground turkey goes on sale, I will make and freeze . Thank you Bree, for a fabulous recipe.

Turkey Pesto Meatballs
Baked Bree

2 pounds ground turkey breast
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs whites
Mix everything in a bowl and combine well.  Roll mixtures into balls.  I use an ice cream scoop to make them all the same size.  I put them on a cooling rack on top of a foil lined cookie sheet sprayed with a little cooking spray.
Bake the meatballs at 375 degrees for about 20-25 minutes.

Sweet & Sour Smoked Sausage




This is a quick dinner to make on the weeknights. To make it easier, you can cut up the vegetables the night before and just toss in the skillet when you are ready to  cook it. I use bottled, store bought sweet and sour sauce for this. You can find it in the asian section of most grocery stores.My kids love sweet and sour sauce and this dinner always gets smiles from them. I serve it over brown rice with a side salad . You can mix up the veggies with what you have on hand. I think adding broccoli would be a wonderful addition. *If you are serving kids, make sure you adjust the hot sauce.

Sweet & Sour Smoked Sausage


Ingredients

  • 1  pounds smoked sausage, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced into chunks
  • 1 orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 1  can pineapple chunks, drained
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sweet and sour sauce
  • 1 pinch ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 dash hot pepper sauce, or to taste

Directions

  1. Place the sliced sausage in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute for 5 to 10 minutes, flipping often, until well browned. Drain excess fat and set sausage aside.
  2. In the same skillet over medium heat, combine the green bell pepper, red bell pepper,orange/yellow bell pepper, onion,pineapple chucks and butter .  Saute for 10 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Add the sausage and stir together well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Then add the sweet and sour sauce, cayenne pepper and hot pepper sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing all the flavors to blend.
  4. Serve over rice or pasta.

Cucumber Salad

Monday, August 19, 2013



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Hands down one of my favorite summer recipes! We always get huge bumper crops of cucumbers in our garden every summer, and I make this salad for us all to much on a few times a week. Super kid friendly in our house! So simple to make with a minimal amount of ingredients! I use lots  and lots of fresh cracked pepper on mine, but you can use less depending on your taste!

Cucumber Salad

1 large English cucumber, sliced 
1/2 of a small red onion, sliced 
1/4 tsp. salt
fresh ground black pepper
2 T unseasoned rice vinegar
pinch of sugar


1.  Season sliced cucumbers  with salt and pepper. 
2.  Combine the sliced cucumbers  with the red onion slices.  Mix the sugar, if using, with the rice vinegar, and pour over the cucumbers and onions.  Mix well to combine.  
3.   Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.   Drain off any excessive juices that accumulate before serving . Refrigerate .

Honey Balsamic Fruit Salad



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I make many bowls of fruit salad for the kids (and myself) to munch on during the week. There is a very large lidded tupperware bowl to be found on the bottom shelf of the fridge that everyone knows is full of fruit. I usually buy fruit that looks good to me at the store, come home and cut it all up and just pop it in the bowl. Sometimes I will make a lemon poppyseed sauce or a honey balsamic glaze, which I used on this batch of fruit salad.  For the fruit in this particular salad I used organic blueberries, organic blackberries, red grapes and organic honeydew melon. I have to day, the darker colors of the fruit and the pop of green from the honeydew was beautiful in the bowl. ;) As far as the glaze, it is an eyeball it kind of recipe. I drizzled the salad with honey and balsamic vinegar and stirred well.I suggest using a small amount at first, taste , and add more if you need to. Both the honey and the balsamic go a long way, so you don't need much. You don't want your fruit saturated with balsamic, just a hint of it is all it needs. And the result is heaven in a bowl. And the kids love it as much as I do. This recipe is great for picnics or a brunch! Happy Eating! 

A Quick Snack Idea : Stuffed Raspberries

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


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My mind is always churning on trying to find ideas for snacks for the boys that create interest and get them to sit down and eat a bite in between running in and out of the house  and up and down the stairs. This idea has been a hit with the boys  and they always come running when they see me stuffing these things! It  really isn't a recipe , so I will not actually write one for it. All you have to do is wash and pat dry a pint of fresh (preferably organic) raspberries and stuff them with white chocolate chips! How easy is that?  My kiddos prefer the white chocolate chips, but when I make these for my husband and I , or for a special treat for a friend, I use dark chocolate chips. I love the dark chocolate/ raspberry combo! And as a bonus, these are great for lunchboxes and picnics!

Kidtastic Grilled Chicken Legs

Monday, July 8, 2013


My boys are in love with these chicken legs. And I am in love with the ease of preperation, cost (chicken legs are cheap!) and taste. I double the recipe for 8 pieces. There is a sweetness to them from the sugar that kids love!

Kidtastic Grilled Chicken Legs
8 chicken legs
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 tsp garlic powder
2-3 T olive oil

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients except the chicken. Place the chicken in a glass dish and pour the marinade over top. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours. Take out of refrigerator about 30 minutes before grilling to come to room temperature. Grill chicken until done.

Chili Lime Chicken Skewers

Sunday, July 7, 2013







Yet another recipe for the grill. I told you we grill often in the warmer months. This chicken is so good. I was so impatient  while they were cooking.The smell alone made me swoon. I threaded the chicken on skewers without  veggies, which is rare for me. I usually add a pepper or onion. But honestly, I didn't want to bother, knowing the chicken would be flavorful. I served them with grilled herbed potatoes and a fresh salad using greens from the garden. *note - I  marinated the chicken for about 5 hours and it was perfect.

Chili Lime Chicken Skewers
adapted from allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • cayenne pepper to taste
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • skewers

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and lime juice. Season with chili powder, paprika, onion powder, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish with the sauce, and stir to coat. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the grill for medium-high heat. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill skewers for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chicken juices run clear.

Strawberry Freezer Jam

Wednesday, June 26, 2013



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My canning of strawberry jam is done.We took the boys to a strawberry farm and made a day of it.And after their tummies were full and they lost interest we packed up a trunk full of berries and headed home.I made 14 pint jars of yummy jam.The kids love it on their pancakes and waffles or over homemade bread in the cooler months.And it really is easy to make.Our blackberries are going to be ready in the coming weeks and I will put up blackberry jam as well.YUM!

Strawberry Freezer Jam

1 quart fully ripe strawberries
4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
1 box fruit pectin (like Sure Jell)

You will need clean containers and lids; rinse them thoroughly with boiling water and make sure they are completely dry.
Rinse strawberries gently with clean water, pat dry, then stem and crush them thoroughly, one layer at a time.
Measure exactly 2 cups crushed berries into a large bowl; stir in sugar.
Let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix water and pectin in small saucepan; bring to boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
Continue boiling and stirring 1 minute.
Remove from heat and add to fruit mixture; stir constantly for three minutes or until sugar is dissolved and no longer grainy; a few sugar crystals may remain and that's okay.
Fill prepared containers immediately to within 1/2 inch of tops.
Wipe off top edges and immediately cover with lids.
Let stand at room temperature 24 hours.
Your jam is now ready to use, and can be stored in the fridge for up to three weeks or frozen for up to one year.
Thaw frozen jam in the fridge before using.

Glimpses of Our Home

Tuesday, June 25, 2013