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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Three Bean Salad

What to make for Mother's Day? I looked around my pantry and decided to make Three Bean salad. I really like this stuff. This isn't your mom's mushy three bean salad! It's full of freshness. I'm a bit evangelical about parsley. If your only exposure to parsley is to have a little slip of green on your restaurant plate, I challenge you to go into your grocery store, or better yet, to your local nursery and put it right in your face and give a big sniff. It is the freshest scent - so full of life! This summer grow and eat parsley. You won't be sorry, I guarantee!
One of the recipes I've been trying to perfect is a balsamic vinaigrette similar to Trader Joe's. I used to joke that TJ's Balsamic Vinaigrette is the universal donor of the salad world. Then my frugal, foodie daughter got on my case about buying bottled salad dressing. "But Mom, it's so easy!" So, this salad has my work-in-progress vinaigrette. I hope that this will become the universal donor dressing in our house. I've used the TJ's version on this bean salad, to marinate cooked beets and sliced onions, and on grated raw beet and carrot salad with cranberries. The possibilities are endless!
Three Bean Salad
1 lb. of fresh or frozen whole green beans
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 2.25 can sliced olives
1 small onion or shallot, sliced thin
1 BIG hand full of chopped parsley
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette (recipe to follow)
Steam the green beans until tender crisp. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans, kidney beans and olives. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Allow to marinate a few hours, stirring occasionally.
Makes 8 cups. 123 calories per 1/2 cup serving.
Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup red wind vinegar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. country style Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. McCormick Garlic & Herb Seasoning
Place all ingredients in a pint jar and shake like crazy.
Makes 2 cups. 45 calories per Tbsp.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Strawberry Freezer Jam

It's strawberry season in our valley, and many families grow strawberries on small farms/large lots in residential areas all around Sacramento. I bought this beautiful flat of berries on the corner near my in-law's house. They love strawberry freezer jam. In fact, when my mother-in-law was still making jam, this was about the only type she would make. Because she can no longer cook, I decided to make a batch for them for Mother's Day. Little did I know that this one flat would make four batches, which came to 29 half-pints.
The recipe is from the Sure Jell package. I like the Less Sugar Sure Jell that comes in the pink box. I like tart fruit flavor more than sweet. This came out plenty sweet, as the berries were sweet and juicy and perfectly ripe. Not a dud in the flat!
The Sure Jell instructions say to crush the berries with a potato masher, but I put mine through the slicing blade of my food processor, then pulsed about a third of the berries for pulp.

Freezer jam can be stored in jars or plastic containers. I washed and sterilized the jars in a 200 degree oven for 20 minutes, then let them cool. I just washed the lids. Some freezer jam recipes recommend letting the jam sit out over night before freezing, but this one goes right into the freezer once the jars are filled. The hardest part of this project was finding room in my little freezer for 28 jars. We're currently eating one, of course.
Strawberry jam is not my favorite, but this stuff is pretty darn great. It's delicious on Greek yogurt. I think I'll have it on ice cream on a day when my calorie budget allows. I might just spoon it right over a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich....mmmmmm!

Sure Jell Quick and Easy Strawberry Freezer Jam
4 pt. Strawberries - 4 cups prepares
3 cups Sugar
1 Box Sure Jell for Less Sugar (The pink box!)
1 cup of water
Wash and prepare containers. (I used 7 half-pints per batch.)
Prepare fruit by slicing and mashing. Be sure to leave some nice chunks. Measure 4 cups into a big bowl.
In a large sauce pan, place the sugar and stir in the Sure Jell. Add one cup of water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring constantly. (I had two pots going at once on separate burners. If you can implement a dual-stirring plan, you can make more than one batch at once, but do not double in one pot.) When the mixture comes to a boil, boil for one minute, continuing to stir constantly. When the minute is up, quickly stir the Sure Jell mixture into the fruit. Stir gently for several minutes to cool it down and distribute the fruit. (If you stir too vigorously you will increase foam.) If needed, skim the foam, and ladle into containers using a funnel. Wipe the rims and seal the containers. Will keep 1 month in the refrigerator or 1 year in the freezer. Makes about 7 half-pints.