What if a jar becomes unsealed?

There are certain rules in canning that when followed, food is safe to eat and preserved for a long time. However, sometimes the lids just don’t want to cooperate. You might find a jar with a bulging lid, or even one that completely became unsealed. This happens in commercially canned food as well, so don’t feel bad if it occurs to an occasional jar. In both cases the jar and it’s contents should be tossed, I am not referring to jars that you just processed, but ones that have been sitting on your shelf for some times. You cannot smell or taste the bad bacteria, so no sampling of the contents is allowed. I know it is hard to toss jars, but this reduces the chance of spreading bad bacteria that might be present. The jar and all of it’s contents are placed in a plastic bag and tied in a knot. Once the jar is in the garbage, sanitize any area of the kitchen the jar or contents came in contact with, and thoroughly wash your hands. While this doesn’t happen often (I had my first one yesterday in years) you should be prepared for how to handle it.

Jars should not be stored with the rings still on. Once removed for storage, that allows you to easily spot any issues in the future.
Jars should not be stored with the rings still on. Once removed for storage, that allows you to easily spot any issues in the future.

Sometimes you will discover black discoloration on the lid after opening. I know your first thought is mold, but take a deep breath. This is normal and occurs due to a chemical reaction. As long as it is more of a powder and not soft and fuzzy the contents are safe to eat.

If scrapped, it would seem powdery. This jar is safe to enjoy.
If scrapped, it would seem powdery. This jar is safe to enjoy.

Mistakes that might prevent seals not staying are easy to make. Make sure all jars are sanitized and that lids are following the newest guidelines before using. This means no more boiling, just place into hot water. Check jars for nicks before using. Wipe rims off with a wet rag before placing lids on. Use the proper sized headspace to prevent leakage. This leakage can leave a residue, preventing a good seal.

Something to keep in mind is the lids no longer need to be boiled. If you read the box you will see they only need to be dipped into hot water and then placed on the jar. Many suspect that since the change in procedure that those who use the old practice of simmering in water damaged the rubber seal which led to an increase in unsealed jars.

On a side note, there is a particular company who is advertising that it’s pressure cooker can be used in canning, however, when confronted has admitted that it has never properly been tested as a pressure canner, Only use a pressure canner to process food in.

Only use equipment designated as a pressure canner to pressure can goods, no matter the size of the jar.
Only use equipment designated as a pressure canner to pressure can goods, no matter the size of the jar.

Ultimately the goal is not to lose any of those beautiful jars that you made, but now you know what to do if it happens. Canning is such a great way to control the quality of what you are eating while limiting the added salt and sugar. Happy canning my friend!

Thirty Day Clenaing Challenge

A friend of mine who sells. Norwex put together a 15 day cleaning challenge on Facebook. Inspired by this I would like to extend it to 30 days. The idea is to take one small thing each day and work on it. Doing it in small chunks not only makes it seem less daunting, but easier to keep up. Are you ready? Here is week one!

Day. 1

The washer and dryer can get dirty fast. If you have a top loader, remove the lid and clean those little corners. The fabric softner container can often be removed and cleaned with a long brush. Scrub the tub down with a brush and soapy water. I keep it simple with hot water and a little Dawn when needed. The dryer can have the lint trap vacuumed and the duct as well. Lint can collect not only in the tube connected to the wall, but in the wall itself. A dry vac is able to suck it out easily. Be sure to check the vent outside to ensure it isn’t blocked.

Look for all the areas that collect dirt and dust.
Look for all the areas that collect dirt and dust.

Day 2

We use it every day and I think that is why it gets neglected the most. I really do clean out the inside before every major shopping trip. Hot water and baking soda work well and help deodorize. The outside however tends to get a lot of papers stuck to it. Don’t forget the top where dust collects. And if nobody has eaten that cereal in the last 3 months, they never will. Into the garbage it goes.

Don't forget the exterior and the top!
Don’t forget the exterior and the top!

Day 3

We all have that one thing that is getting out off. Something that we just dried doing. This is a good time to get the kids involved and help take care of it. Is your Christmas tree still up? Or have you been avoiding starting your taxes? It needs to get done and there is no time like the present!

Open season! What have you been putting off way too long?
Open season! What have you been putting off way too long?

Day 4

Pick a dresser that needs a little TLC. It might be the drawers, or that things are shoved underneath. Or, as is common in my kids’ rooms, things are just dumped on top. If the drawers are not sliding easily, now is a perfect time to run a bar of soap on the runners.

Choose any dresser in the house and organize all the drawers.
Choose any dresser in the house and organize all the drawers.

Day 5

Choose one thing outside that needs to get done. Perhaps it is sweeping the patio, raking leaves or changing the holiday decor.

It is chilly outside but there are still things that can be done.
It is chilly outside but there are still things that can be done.

Day 6

My favorite tip is to put a bowl of water inside and heat it to boiling. The steam will loosen any cooked on food. Be sure to move the microwave and clean behind as well as underneath. Mine is on a stand where I keep cookbooks so I organized that a little as well.

Often a badly needed area. The microwave.
Often a badly needed area. The microwave.

Day 7

I like to use my Norwex mitten to dust, but you can use a slightly damp rag or a disposable duster as well.

Time to dust those blinds! Be sure to go row by row to get all of them.
Time to dust those blinds! Be sure to go row by row to get all of them.

Canning Bean Soup for Lunch

You are running late for work and haven’t packed a lunch yet. You really don’t want to spend the money buying greasy fast food, but what other choice is there? Spend 15 minutes prepping soup in a jar and you can have delicious homemade soup on the go. You control the ingredients and save money. The ingredients listed below are for each pint sized jar you want to make. You can process as many or as few as you like. My pressure canner will hold 8 pint sized jars and I can do 2 levels so I am able to can 16 at a time. Double the recipe to make quarts.

Ingredients

1/4c + 2 Tb Navy Beans

2 Tb Ham*

2 Tb Celery

3 Tb Carrot

2 tsp Onion

garlic Powder

Black Pepper

Broth**

Water**

Pint sized canning jars

This is a great project to do when you have some veggies that you want to get rid of. Start by spreading all the jars out on the counter. Choose any ingredient and begin layering them in the jars. The order doesn’t matter because it gets all mixed up in the canning process. Do not soak the beans, and cook none of the vegetables. They are processed long enough to cook everything perfectly. I did not add salt because there is already plenty in the boullion.  Even if you use homemade stock, you most likely already seasoned it. There are two ingredients that need a little explaining so you can make the choice that works best for you.

It all barely fills the jar.
It all barely fills the jar.

*I did not use ham this time, but that it typically the meat chosen for this kind of soup. Meat can be totally omitted because the beans provide protein, but I think it adds a lot of flavor. Use anything from bacon to kielbasa sausage. What matters the most is that greasy meats need to be cooked first and patted dry before using. This reduces the amount of grease in your final product.

**If you have stock or broth available, feel free to use that in place of the water. Alternatively, you can use bullion or a stock paste and it will mix with the water in the canner creating broth. I say go for what is cheapest and the flavor you prefer. I am not a huge fan of powdered bullion in soups and use this jarred kind instead.

Every brand is differently how concentrated it is. I use 1 rounded teaspoon for a pint. The veggies and meat will be adding flavor to the broth as it cooks.
Every brand is differently how concentrated it is. I use 1 rounded teaspoon for a pint. The veggies and meat will be adding flavor to the broth as it cooks.

Sprinkle a dash of garlic powder and pepper into each jar and top with bullion. This should go last because as you pour in the water, it will a start to mix together.  You have a little wiggle room in your vegetables if you want to add something or increase the amount. But you cannot increase the amount of dried beans. If you do, there will not be enough liquid in the jar.

Pour in your water, leaving 1 inch headspace in each jar. Wipe the rims, add the lids and you are ready to go! Place the pressure cooker on high and once it begins to steam, allow to vent for 10 minutes. Place on your weight and bring up to 10 pounds of pressure. Adjust according to your altitude as needed. Process for 75 minutes working with pints. If you doubled the recipe to quarts, process for 90 minutes.

Before placing in storage, remove the rims and wipe down all the jars. I took a jar with me for lunch today and heated it up, using the microwave.

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Then I poured it into a bowl and it was de-lic-ous if I do say so myself. See, every bean was perfectly cooked through.

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If you liked this idea of canning soup using raw ingredients, stayed tuned I have a few more recipes coming soon.

Canning Yams or Sweet Potatoes

I watched my mother can as a child and my absolute favorite thing she did was her green beans. They were so yummy because she used onions and bacon. Nowadays the bacon is not recommended due to the length of time required to process would turn the beans to mush. But canned food was how my mother fed 4 kids on a waitress’ salary. I began canning about 15 years ago and started with pickled asparagus and apple butter. My asparagus took Best of Section at the county fair, and I knew I was hooked. Not only does it taste better than what is in the store, but I am controlling the ingredients. This means adding flavors my family likes and reducing the amount of sugar and salt in our diet. Add in that I buy fresh produce when it is cheapest, or get it for free with my gleening group, and it saves a huge amount of money.

Two things to note. First is the most important. Because it is a vegetable it MUST be pressure canned. The ONLY way to get the jars to a high enough temperature to kill all bacteria is to use a pressure canner. I know others say differently, or grandma did it different, but this is based on science and very important. We know more now than we did 50 years ago and have better equipment. Second, I am doing a Raw Pack method. The Ball Book will tell you to blanch the yams first, but that isn’t a safety reason, it is so you have a fuller jar when done. More on this later.

Ingredients
Yams
Canning Salt
Lemon Juice

First, all the yams need to be peeled. Many use a paring knife but I think that takes off too much of the yam. For years I struggled with awful peelers till a friend posted what she used, unfortunately, her direct sale company is now out of business so I cannot share a link. But I do suggest spending a little money and getting a good one because it saves you a lot of time and frustration. After they are all peeled, cut them into cubes about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Too big and you won’t get as much into the jars.

I used quart jars because even if there are leftovers, I will eat them the next day for lunch. But if you prefer, go ahead and use pint sized. Fill the jars to the rim with your diced yams. Sprinkle 2 tsp of canning salt on top of each jar. If using pints, cut it in half. I prefer to pack the yams raw because it reduces a huge amount of processing time. Cooking them first does two things. The end result is a fuller jar because raw yams will absorb some of the water while processing. Cooking will also pull out some of the starch which leaves a little sediment in the bottom of the jar.

Putting the salt on top allows the water to distribute it for you.
Putting the salt on top allows the water to distribute it for you.

Because I do a raw pack, I do not heat the water in my canner or the water going into the jars. It will take longer to get up to pressure, but I am fine with that based on my schedule for the day. Follow the directions for your pressure canner. Mine says to add 2-3 inches of water. I think at one time I may have even had a line in there but I no longer can see it. If you use hot water in the pressure canners, you need to use hot jars with hot water being added to them. Placing cold jars in hot water can cause them to crack.

Don't forget your tray on the bottom to slightly elevate your jars. If you have a second tray and are processing pints, you can put it on top of the jars and add a second layer.
Don’t forget your tray on the bottom to slightly elevate your jars. If you have a second tray and are processing pints, you can put it on top of the jars and add a second layer.

Add 2 Tb of lemon juice to each jar. This will not effect the flavor of the yams, but does greatly help to keep them a bright orange. You can leave it out but the yams turn a slightly brown color if you do. Fill each jar with water and leave 1 inch headspace. In the past I used a ruler but now there is this awesome stick you can buy that rests on the rim. The notches are for determining your headspace.

The lowest notch is one inch and each notch is 1/4 inch less. I laughed when I first saw this but when I finally got one I can't believe I waited so long.
The lowest notch is one inch and each notch is 1/4 inch less. I laughed when I first saw this but when I finally got one I can’t believe I waited so long.

The other end is perfect for removing the bubbles. I always say I like multi functional tools and this baby is a thing of beauty as it does just that. Bubbles must be removed or the water may not be enough to properly can. Just poke it down the sides and wiggle it a little bit. This looses the bubbles in the middle enough that they will float to the top and burst.

Make sure you recheck your headspace after this. Sometimes it changes drastically.
Make sure you recheck your headspace after this. Sometimes it changes drastically.

Once the jars are added the water may or may not completely cover the jars. As long as you followed the manufacture’s directions, this will be fine. Pressure Canning is not the same as water bath canning.

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My pressure canner has arrows in the lid and handle so you know where to put the lid and twist.

Thank you Presto
Thank you Presto

Remove the weight first. Turn the heat on high until the pressure gauge reaches 10 pounds of pressure. Adjust if needed according to your sea level.

Once it hits 10 pounds, turn the heat down to medium. Keep an eye on it to ensure it stays there, and adjust the burner temp as needed.
Once it hits 10 pounds, turn the heat down to medium. Keep an eye on it to ensure it stays there, and adjust the burner temp as needed.

Once it hits 10 pounds allow it to vent steam for 10 minutes. Return the weight onto the lid and set the timer for 90 minutes for quarts. When time is done, turn off the burner, leave the canner on the burner, and allow it to come down to zero pressure on its own. Do not do ANYTHING to make it drop faster. This includes placing the pot in cool water, releasing pressure by lifting the valve or trying to remove the lid. Doing so is dangerous! Don’t be afraid of pressure canning. If you follow this one rule it is perfectly safe. Once it is at zero pressure, remove the lid, being careful for venting steam. Allowing the jars to sit in the water for 15 minutes can help prevent losing water in the jars. Using your tongs, place the hot jars on a towel to cool. Do not touch them for 24 hours. This includes removing those rings, no matter how tempting it might be. Now sit back and wait for that glorious ping that tells you that 7 quarts of yams are ready for storage.

Raw packed yams will absorb some of the water. This is okay and they will look like this.
Raw packed yams will absorb some of the water. This is okay and they will look like this.

I purchased my yams back in December when they were .69 cents a pound. While I bought 30 pounds, I have used some since then. I ended up with 17 quarts.

Just need to wipe them clean, label and they are ready to be put away.
Just need to wipe them clean, label and they are ready to be put away.

I use a sharpie to label every jar I can. I write what it is and the date. In this case, I did one batch with orange juice and sugar so I need to be sure those are labeled as candied yams. Now comes the great yam debate, with or without marshmallows? Tell me how you like to eat your yams.

Deep Fried Cheesecake Wontons

The big game is coming up (Go Seahawks!) and you need finger foods. A LOT of finger foods! Finding desserts that are easy to eat can be a challenge and that is where these babies come in. A big plus is that it only needs 4 ingredients!

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg Wonton Wrappers
1 pkg Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar + 1/2 c Powdereed Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
Cup of water

Oil for frying

Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Be sure to use an oil with a high smoking point such as vegetable oil.

Allow the cream cheese to come to room temp. This makes it so much easier to whip it that you don’t want to skip this step. Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until soft. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla. Mix till blended.

Lay the wonton wrappers out and place 1/2 tsp of the filling in the center. I know it is tempting to do more but if you do they tend to leak. I really do use a measuring spoon for this.

1/2 tsp and no more!
1/2 tsp and no more!

There are two ways to seal your wrappers. One is by making a triangle and folding corner to corner.

Make sure the tips meet so you have a good seal.
Make sure the tips meet so you have a good seal.

The other option is to make a pouch. Bring all 4 cornered together and seal 4 sides together. This way takes longer but looks prettier.

Squeeze tight.
Squeeze tight.

No matter which way you choose to do it, use water to wet the edges before sealing them together. I just use my finger and run it along the edges. A little goes a long way, you don’t need to soak them. Once the oil is up to temp, place a few at a time in it to fry up. Overcrowding leads to them sticking together and the temperature of the oil will drop way too low. Never drop into the oil, lower them growing away from you. This ensures any splatters go away from you as well. Make sure that before you do a second batch that the oil has come back up to 350 degrees.

These beauties will start floating right away.
These beauties will start floating right away.

They cook quickly so you cannot walk away. It only takes about 1 minute on each side to get a light golden brown. Then you will need to flip them over. Allow to drain a little bit then move to a cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet. This lets oil to drain away from the crispy wonton.

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Once they have completely drained, sprinkle the remaining powdered sugar on top. If you do it while oil is still on the wonton the sugar will soak in and you won’t have the pretty white you see here.

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This will make about 44 fried cheesecake wontons. It depends on how much filling you put into each one. To show your team spirit, add a little food coloring to the cream cheese when you are whipping it. Altogether is took me about 40 minutes from start to cleanup. Excuse me while I go have another one. 🙂

What to do with leftover cornbread.

One of the best ways to keep down the grocery bill every month is to throw away as little food as possible. Vegetables that are not crisp and chicken bones can be used to make broth. Leftover veggies from dinner can be tossed into soup. And cornbread can make dressing or crumbs.

It is so easy and can be done while you are washing dishes. Make your favorite cornbread recipe and server it for dinner.

Honey cornbread is always yummy and adds a little sweetness to your stuffing.
Honey cornbread is always yummy and adds a little sweetness to your stuffing.

It doesn’t matter if it is already cut into pieces because you are going to dry it out anyway.

Bonus, the bread can cut and dried out a little already.
Bonus, the bread can cut and dried out a little already.

How much you break it up depends on if you want to make bread crumbs of stuffing. For stuffing you will want larger pieces while bread crumbs you, well, want it to be really crumbled up! Lay out on a cookie sheet and place in a 200 degree over for about 30 minutes. Test it before removing from the oven as it needs too be completely dry. It is okay if the cornbread isn’t totally crumbled up before you dry as it crumbles easily once dried out.

I prefer to store it in a jar rather than a ziplock bag.

Isn't that pretty?
Isn’t that pretty?

Use it like you would a box of stuffing or bread crumbs. Tonight I am making Tuna Nuna Casserole. Not only is it keeping food out of the garbage, it is adding a lot more flavor than the traditional bread crumb.

Yummy casseroles!
Yummy casseroles!

Give it a try on casseroles, fish or even in your meatloaf. Anytime you would use breadcrumbs and tell me how you like it.

Dream Big and Achieve It

Look at  a soccer or football field and the players know exactly where the goal is, and that they need to get the ball there to win the game. Basically a goal is a well defined target. There is no doubt that the soccer goal is at the end of the field with that huge net around it and protected by the goalie. Nor is there anyway you cannot see the end zone and know that football needs to get across that line to score points. They are similar in that they are both for a ball game, but each has specific requirements to be successfully achieved. Goals are best achieved when following the SMART formula. They need to be Specific, Measureable, Realistic and Time specific. Goals and dreams differ greatly.

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A dream is is an image of something you wish to achieve. They are inspirational and can change your life. On their own, that is where they will forever stay, a place of fantasy that you long for. As children we tend to dream every day of things we want or want to be when we grow up. Yet rarely do children have any plan of action to attain those dreams. As time passes by, we forget about dreaming and just deal with the daily grind of life. Want to know the big difference between a goal and a dream? Lets look at the game of football.

Say a team has recruited some great players I will call them Wilson, Sherman and Lynch. The coach has goals for those players to improve their game and make them work hard at practices to achieve those goals. The players work their butts off, but for what reason? Is reaching those goals why they get up in the morning? Or is it the dream those goals are helping them to reach? Their dream is to make it to the Super Bowl and get a very special ring. Every practice, every bump and bruise, every sore muscle is to get to that one big game and prove they deserve to be there. It is a hard season, full of highs and lows, but that dream is one day fulfilled. Does Wilson now sit back and say “I fulfilled my childhood dream I can take it easy!”? Along with Lynch and Sherman he has a new dream, to do it two years in a row. So these guys work with the coaches and set new goals for every week, they practice harder stay determined and focus their eyes on that dream of playing in Arizona on February 1st. Many other players have the same dream of playing in Arizona, but only two will have the opportunity. Teams full of players like Wilson, Sherman and Lynch who set goals for themselves and their teammates and worked on them daily. Men who kept that dream in front of them every day to remind them why they worked so hard to achieve certain goals. Teams who dreamed together and worked on their goals together to do something that millions of fans wish they had the talent to do, play in the Super Bowl.

It's all about that bling!
It’s all about that bling!

What are your dreams? If you cannot list them take some quiet time to dwell on it. The sky is the limit, anything you want, what would it be? Something big, and something small, it is all good. Get the whole family involved. Write the. All down on a list, the longer the better. Now go through and we’d out all those things that would just be nice, keeping only those that you really desire.

Sit at the table with a poster board, markers, pencils, magazines and glue. Every one of those dreams is going to be written, drawn or a cut out of a magazine and represented on your poster board. Once down it will hang in a place where you will see it several times a day. There will be no doubt what your dreams are when you look at it.

Type them out and place them in whatever order you like.
Type them out and place them in whatever order you like.
Make it as artsy with a definite theme or pattern.
Make it as artsy with a definite theme or pattern.
Let the pictures speak for themselves or add text to be very specific.
Let the pictures speak for themselves or add text to be very specific.
Forget the pictures altogether  as me just use words in various fonts and colors.
Forget the pictures altogether as me just use words in various fonts and colors.

There is only one rule, don’t overwhelm yourself by putting on too many things. You can always make another one when you have fulfilled this first grouping.

Way too much!
Way too much!

Of course you cannot stop here, next step is to write Smart Goals that will lead to fulfilling those dreams. But that is another discussion. For now, share some of your dreams you have for this year and maybe some you reached in 2014.

Check out my dream board on Youtube.