Strawberry Freezer Jam

It’s strawberry season, and I can’t think of a more welcome taste right now.


I love strawberries.  (Who doesn’t?)
Time to make some strawberry freezer jam.
My family loves this stuff.  Last year I made enough freezer jam that we’ve had homemade jam to eat all year long.  It’s been great, and I have every intention of doing it again this year.

I’m making my jam today using the basic recipe that comes in the pectin box.
Last year I discovered liquid fruit pectin.
I’ll never go back.
Today I’m using Ball liquid fruit pectin, which comes in a box with two pouches.

Here is our cast of ingredients:


Pretty simple: pectin, lemon juice, sugar and strawberries.
And the other fabulous thing I discovered last year:


These fabulous new freezer jam containers.  I’ve saved them through the year as we’ve eaten jam, and now they’re washed and ready for another round.
These, too, are made by Ball and can be found at many supermarkets or stores like WalMart.

So, here we go.  First, wash your fruit.


Now, on this next step I will freely acknowledge that the proud recipe developers at Ball, not to mention my great-grandmother, would probably be ashamed of what I’m about to do.
But I’m trying it anyway, because I have dinner to make and soccer practices to get to.
I cut off the tops and plopped the strawberries in my blender.


Then I turned my blender on low and let it run just until there weren’t any more whole strawberries.
They aren’t completely pureed.  There are still chunks.
And as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy to have just taken 2 minutes to eliminate a 20 minute cutting and mashing job.


You need two cups of crushed strawberries.


And a mixing bowl with four cups of sugar in it.


Pour the strawberries into the bowl of sugar and mix thoroughly.


When it’s all mixed together, set the bowl aside and set your timer for ten minutes.
And if you’re like me, and you need far more than one batch to satisfy your family, this ten minutes is when you get another batch started.  (That’s why I use the timer, so I can keep track of everything.)

After the ten minutes, add one pouch of liquid fruit pectin to the bowl.


And add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.


Now stir the jam for 3 minutes. (I set the timer again.)


My daughter liked taking that picture.

After three minutes, ladle the jam into containers.


Remember to leave about 1/2 inch headspace at the top of your container so the jam has room to expand when it freezes.
Wipe any drips off the container with a damp towel, put the lids on, and you’re set!
You have 3 options:
Serve immediately (you will be tempted!)
Refrigerate for up to three weeks Freeze for up to 1 year

Here’s an important reminder:  use whatever measurements (sugar, lemon juice, crushed strawberries) come in the instructions for the pectin you choose to use!

No matter what you choose, enjoy!  It will be delicious!


Yum!  Now I’m craving some homemade bread!

Sandwich Cookie Cake

I picked up this cute new pan at Williams-Sonoma last week, and this morning when I was getting ready for a luncheon I decided to try it out.


It is actually a set of two pans, and it comes with a recipe on the box, but I didn’t have time for melting chocolate and so forth.  So, I decided to just opt for the good old-fashioned Devil’s Food Cake Mix, straight from the box.


Here, apparently, is the big key:  You have to grease the pans well and sprinkle generously with cocoa powder instead of flour (so you won’t introduce any white to the dark brown color of the cookie cake).


I used a pastry brush to get Crisco in all the little spots.



Then dusted with cocoa powder.


Then poured the cake mix into the pans.  I tapped them a few times on the counter to try to work out any air bubbles (but you’ll see later in the post that I wasn’t as successful as I hoped).


Then I baked the two cakes according to the directions on the box, for 30 minutes at 350.


When they were done, I placed them on cooling racks for 15 minutes before inverting the pans to release the cakes.  Gratefully, they came out easily and I didn’t lose any cake, but I did feel like there were lots more air bubbles in the tops of the cakes than I wanted.  Oh well.  I’ll try a different recipe next time.

When the cakes were entirely cooled, I placed one cake, right side down, on a 10 inch round cake circle.  I then spread vanilla ice cream over the cake and placed it in the freezer for 15 minutes to set.  I used about 1/4 gallon of vanilla ice cream, which I mixed by hand with a spoon for a few minutes until it had the consistency of soft serve ice cream.


Then I put the other half of the “sandwich” on top, and popped it back into the freezer.  After I put the top on, I realized I should have leveled the cake so it would sit better on the ice cream, but that’s what happens when you’re in a hurry and you’re experimenting with something when guests are on the way over to your house!  I then put the cake back in the freezer until it was time to enjoy.



I’ll work on the presentation next time, but everyone loved the cute idea of having an “oreo cookie” ice cream cake, and it actually tasted really good.  It turned out to be just the right amount of ice cream and chocolate.  This pan set is definitely a keeper!  Think what a simple, great dessert this would be to pull out at a summer party.  My oldest son has already requested it for his birthday cake this summer.



Black Bean Tart Recipe

This black bean tart has been a favorite in our home for many years, often requested for birthday dinners and special occasions.  It’s meatless and flavor-packed, full of vegetables, and beautiful.  My kids eat so much of it that I now have to make four of them for our large family.  It’s not difficult, but does take some planning ahead to get the crusts made.  It also tastes great as a leftover.  Recently I served it for lunch at a quilt retreat with some of my favorite quilters and not only did they love every bite, but they also requested the recipe.  You’re going to love it!

black bean tart

Here’s how to make it.  (Scroll to bottom of post for easy to read recipe!)

To make the crust:

Start with 1  1/2 cups flour.  Add 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Mix them all together, and make sure you enjoy the wonderful smell of all those spices together!

Next, add 6 tablespoons cold butter.  Cut the butter in with a pastry cutter.  The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

Add 6 tablespoons of cold water to the bowl, adding a little more water if needed, until you can form a ball with the mixture.

Pick up dough, form into a disc, and place in the center of the bottom of a tart shell pan with a removable bottom .  (I use an 11 inch round tart pan.)

With a rolling pin, roll dough out into a circle until you have covered the pan bottom.  Carefully pick up the pan bottom and place it inside the tart pan.  Using your fingers, press the dough up the edges of the pan.

Chill the crust for 15 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 350.  Line the unpricked crust with foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake another 8-10 minutes or until the crust is beginning to turn a golden brown.

Remove crust from the oven and allow to cool completely!  And since cooking at my house is usually done with more than one child hanging on my legs and sometimes with more than one helper, I thought I’d share this shot my daughter took of my 16 month old baby helping measure the flour for the second crust.

To make the filling:

Rinse and drain 2 (15 oz) cans black beans. Thaw 12-16 oz frozen corn, and drain if necessary to avoid a runny tart.  We prefer sweet white corn.

Chop one sweet red pepper.  Slice 1/2 cup green onions.

Now chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh cilantro (I love the smell of chopped cilantro!)  If you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute parsley.  My family likes cilantro so much that I usually add a little more than 1/2 cup.

In a large bowl, combine remaining black beans, corn, red pepper, green onions and cilantro.  Add 1 1/2 cups cheese.  You can use mild cheddar, colby-jack,  monterey jack, or whatever blend you like.

Mound filling into crust.  Filling should sit higher than the edges of the pan but will settle while baking.

Place tart in 350 degree oven and bake for 20 – 25  minutes or until cheese is melted.

black bean tart

Remove from oven, let cool just long enough to allow you to carefully remove the bottom of the pan and then serve!  We like black bean tart best when served with creamy cilantro ranch dressing drizzled over the top (or in the case of my teenagers, drowning in dressing).

This black bean tart is INCREDIBLY delicious!  It can be served as a main dish, a side dish, or even as an appetizer.  This recipe is worth every minute of the effort you put into it.  It’s colorful, tasty, and always a huge hit!  Here’s the recipe:

Hopeful Homemaker’s Black Bean Tart

1 1/2 cups flour 1 tsp. ground cumin 1 tsp. chili powder 1 tsp. paprika 1/2 tsp. salt 6 Tb. cold butter, margarine or shortening 6-8 Tb. cold water

In bowl, combine flour and spices.  Cut in butter or shortening with pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add enough cold water to make mixture form a ball.  Roll out or press dough onto bottom and up sides of a 9 to 11 inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom.  Chill for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line unpricked tart crust with foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 8-10 minutes longer or until golden brown.  Cool on wire rack.


2 (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained 12-16 oz frozen sweet white corn, thawed 1 sweet red bell pepper chopped (at least 1 cup) 1/2 cup chopped green onions 1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh minced cilantro or parsley 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, monterey, colby jack or some combination)

Rinse and drain black beans.  Thaw and drain any excess liquid from the corn.  Chop red pepper, green onions and cilantro.  In large bowl, combine remaining beans, corn, red peppers, green onions, cilantro and cheese.   Spoon mixture in to crust (the pan should be very full).  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Remove from pan and serve!

Creamy Cilantro Ranch Dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix 1 cup sour cream 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro 1/2 tsp. minced garlic juice of 1 lime 3 tomatillos, husked and washed 1 cup salsa verde 1 Tb. sugar Chop cilantro and tomatillos.  Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.  Chill before serving, if possible.

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