Dinner in a Jar (the perfect gift)

I thought long and hard about a perfect gift for my girls. They are so busy and the dreaded question, “what’s for dinner?” always lingers at the end of the day.  My daughter gets home from work after dark, builds a fire in the wood burning stove and walks the dogs before hubby gets home. After all of that, cooking is hard. My daughter-in-law has two little ones all day long. All moms with young children are exhausted at the end of the day. 

What could be more perfect than pouring “dinner in a jar” into the instant pot and pressing a button at the end of a long, hard day?

I went through my recipes and converted the instructions to be used in their instant pots. “Dinner in a jar” could also be used for crockpot cooking.

It was a little overwhelming in the beginning when I was making out my grocery list. When I started putting ingredients in jars, my table looked like this. But it was fun layering food in the jars. I think they are beautiful!

This is Three Bean Chipotle Chili Mix.  It includes beans and spices. It is ready to add meat and tomatoes. Note: I precook a large portion of meat at a time, divide it into meal size portions, freeze it for later use. This makes cooking dinner a breeze, at the end of the day.

This recipe came out of a great book, Gifts from a Jar: Soups, Chilis & More.

This recipe is Ultimate Veggie Soup Mix. Just add water and (optional) meat and a few of your favorite vegetables. Here is a tip that I learned along the way. Put smaller ingredients on the bottom and larger ones on the top. As you can see in the jar on the left, the orange colored lentils are sifting towards the bottom. The jar on the right has a prettier display. 

Nutty Orzo and Brown Rice Pilaf Mix has dehydrated vegetables, spice, and chicken broth. I included instructions to cook it in the Instant Pot. Add a meat and dinner is on the table!

I think my girls are going to love “dinner in a jar”!

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Canning Turkey

What’s a gal to do when she finds whole turkeys on sale for .57 cents a pound? Head to the canning factory!

First step was to debone and grind it. This is the hardest step.

Second step was to put it in sterilized jars.

Next, it goes into the steamer to cook. 

After steaming, it is pressure canned to cook more and preserve it. The best part is coming home with 14 jars of ground turkey for nutritious and low fat meals, such as, Turkey Enchiladas, Turkey and Peppers over Quinoa, Turkey Tacos, Turkey Teriyaki Rice, and Turkey Chilli. Most of these meals will be cooked in my instant pot.

Concord Grapes

What a breathtakIng day to process concord grapes!

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There is nothing like being kissed by the dew from an early morning fog nestled amongst the mountains.

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This year yielded a beautiful crop of grapes–thanks to friends who share!

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After taking the grapes off the stems and washing them, it’s off to the canning factory we go!

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We used the majority of grapes to can homemade grape juice.

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Then cooked and ran the rest of the grapes through the juicer to remove seeds and skins.

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The next step is to strain the juice and can it, to make homemade grape jelly at a later time (it’s to die for!).

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We returned home to the most amazing sunset. It was just as glorious as the morning fog!

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Enjoying the fruits of our labor. There is nothing more refreshing and delicious as the treat of an ice cold glass of homemade grape juice! Isn’t the color beautiful?
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Traditional Mountain Apple Butter

Temperatures are dropping, the air is crisp and fall has arrived. When we moved Virginia, I was amazed by all of the apple butter making events in our part of the state. There is a detailed chapter in my book, Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, about one church’s process of making apple butter and their recipe. All of their proceeds go to missions. It takes several days to wash, peel, remove cores from enough apples to fill a fifty gallon kettle. A long day of  apple butter making starts before dawn and does not end until late afternoon. On a recent trip to the canning factory, I was amazed while watching one family make apple butter.

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They spent all day stirring the huge kettle with a stick about the size of a boat oar. For lunch, they had a little tailgate party going on outside of the cannery and cooked t-bone steaks,  potato salad and other delectable fixins. The steaks and apple butter smelt heavenly! My tuna salad was not near as exciting plus I forgot to bring a fork so I had to use my pretzels as an eating utensil.

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Assembly line on filling quart-size jars with apple butter. There were about five family members helping on this endeavor.

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They were kind enough to share a jar with me. I asked the man in charge if I could please purchase a jar. He replied, “No but I’ll give you one.” When the apple butter finished cooking, they offered me a taste. I can’t even describe how scrumptious it was!

Homemade Grape Juice

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Canning season is nearly over but I have to share one of my favorites with you. Homemade grape juice. It is unimaginably delicious and a special treat.
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My cousins tell me when they were children that they rarely had the pleasure of drinking it. They only received it when they were sick. Evidently it helps settle an upset stomach. It is one of my easier canning recipes. One half cup sugar, 1 cup of Concord grapes, fill a quart size mason jar with hot water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Water bath for 15 minutes.

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Over Abundance of Zucchini

What is one to do when blessed with it over abundance of zucchini? Here’s my two cents for what its worth.

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First things first. Make a fresh and fabulous zucchini and squash casserole. My daughter won a blue ribbon in the 4-H Food Show with this recipe. She then advanced to the district competition competing against twelve counties and won the District Food Show. She advanced to the state competition and won fourth or fifth in state. All in all, that’s pretty good considering there are over 250 counties in Texas to compete against. Bottom line–this recipe rocks! In the above photo I did not have crackers to crumble for the top, so I used french fried onion rings and it was an excellent substitute.

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Slice it and pressure can it in pint jars  jars for 25 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure. Note: pressure cooker will not work, you need to use a pressure canner. I will use these jars of zucchini and squash to make the above casserole recipe.

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Shred it and pressure can it in quart jars for 30 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure. Note: pressure cooker will not work, you need to use a pressure canner. This will give you enough to make  zucchini bread at a later time. Be sure to drain it well before making your zucchini bread.

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Dehydrate it!

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I sprinkled it with garlic salt and chili powder, then dehydrate according to manufacture directions of your dehydrator.

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Dehydrated zucchini is so good! And a healthy substitute for chips. Special thanks to my friend Judie Lilley for this idea.

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Dice it. Then pressure can it in pint jars  jars for 25 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure. Note: pressure cooker will not work, you need to use a pressure canner. I will use this diced zucchini in stew and soup during the winter.

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Last but not least, I had several events and pot luck dinners to attend in a two day period so I created “casserole kits”.

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