Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mini-Crock Pot Keeps Lids Warm!

My kitchen is a good size for our family. It is not huge, however.

Especially when I'm canning.

I usually have to play a sliding puzzle game while I'm preparing the food to go in jars. Trying to keep a small pot on the stove to heat the lids has been quite a challenge with some recipes.

I remembered a small crock pot I had tucked away in the closet and brought it out. I filled it with hot water and turned the setting to high. I put in the lids I would need for this batch of grape juice, and started the juicer.

By the time the first jar was ready to be covered with a lid, the mini-crock pot had the lids simmering nicely!

Here it is with a few small lids inside.
You can't tell from the photo, but the water is steaming and is keeping the lids very hot, even when I turned it down to low.
I will be using this little gem again! It saves me a burner on the stove, and I can put it in a spot that saves me some counter space for food preparation.

Friday, November 1, 2013

New England Clam Chowder

This is our favorite New England Clam Chowder recipe.

1 lb hickory-smoked bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled (save 2 Tbl grease)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped (optional)
1 BIG can clams (51 oz can. I use SeaWatch brand Chopped Sea Clams from Costco)
1 quart Half and Half
1/2 cup Ultra Gel thickener
4 medium potatoes, cubed and boiled
4 oz cream cheese softened in the microwave
1 Tbl basil
2 tsp salt

Drain clams and reserve the liquid.

Peel, cube, and boil 4 medium potatoes until tender. Drain and set aside. I use a 2 quart pot.

While the potatoes are cooking, fry (or oven bake) bacon, crumble or cut into pieces, set aside.

In a large Dutch oven, saute onion in 2 Tbl bacon grease (or use butter) until onion is translucent. (You can saute 1/2 cup chopped celery with the onion if you like celery). Leave in the pot.

In a blender, mix reserved clam juice with 1/2 cup Ultra Gel thickener until thick. You might have to adjust the amount of Ultra Gel to your likeness.

Add the clam juice to the sauteed onions and garlic.

Add 1 quart of Half and Half,  salt, basil, and the softened cream cheese. Heat until the cream cheese is melted.

Add the cooked potatoes.

Add enough Half and Half until you like the thickness of the chowder.

Just before serving add the clams and bacon. If you add them while the soup is cooking they will become rubbery (yuck!)

*****************  Notes *****************
You can add milk if the soup is too thick, or add more Ultra Gel if it isn't thick enough.

We usually serve corn bread along with our Clam Chowder, especially on Christmas Eve. This is our traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

If you have teenagers, you can cut down on the amount of bacon in the soup by leaving the bacon on the counter. They will come along and snack on a few pieces to save you the calories!