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Pasta and Kosher Dill Pickle Salad

This post is sponsored by Ball® Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands.

Yesterday, I showed you how to make the Kosher Dill Pickle Spears from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. These spears are my ideal pickle in both form and flavor. They are brightly flavored, have a hint of sweetness, and thanks to the addition of Ball® Pickle Crisp, hold on to their texture nicely.

These pickles are good for so much. They are obviously perfection alongside a sandwich. You can nestle one into the bun with a hot dog or grilled sausage. And they make a really delicious addition to all manner of summer salads.

This version of pasta salad takes some elements from classic macaroni salad, but tweaks it so that it’s less sweet and more vegetable-forward than the versions you get at your local deli.

I use just 8 ounces of pasta with 1 1/2 cups of pickles, along with chopped celery, red onion, hard boiled egg, chopped parsley, and a dressing made from mayo and pickle juice. It can be served warm or chilled and is the perfect thing to make ahead and keep in the fridge for a week of easy meals.

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Cooking from Just Cook It! with OXO’s One Stop Chop

This blog post was written in partnership with OXO.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about the kitchen tools one should pack when spending a week at a vacation rental. I went through my standard list – a couple sharp knives, a good peeler, a rasp-style zester, a big cutting board, olive oil and vinegar, flaky sea salt (a must for corn on the cob), pre-ground coffee, peanut butter, and homemade jam.

She was on board with everything I listed, but when I got to the end, she turned to me and asked, “What do you think about bringing a food processor?”

I told her that she was nuts. Vacation cooking is about simplicity. Food in the summer is so gorgeous that you don’t have to do much to it to make it amazing. Sadly, she was not entirely convinced (I believe she had things like fresh pesto and pureed homemade salsas in mind).

This post is written in partnership with OXO.

However, had I known about the One Stop Chop from OXO before I had this conversation, I would have heartily suggested that she consider bringing it. It’s the perfect tool those moments when you’ve got a lot of chopping to do, but can’t be bear the idea of pulling out and then washing your full-sized food processor. It’s great for small batches. And because it’s small and light, it travels very, very well.

The folks at OXO sent it to me, along with the copy of Just Cook It! (pictured above) by Justin Chapple, asking me to find a recipe in the book to make that would partner well with the One Stop Chop. After a trip through the book (which is a really terrific volume on approachable, tasty home cooking), I settled on the recipe for Smashed Chickpea Salad Lettuce Wraps.

The concept behind this dish is that it’s essentially chicken salad, with smashed chickpeas playing the role of the chicken. As someone who is slowly inching away from animal proteins but loves chicken salad, this recipe spoke to me.

Another thing I liked about it is that it’s a really pantry-friendly recipe. Other than the freshly snipped chives, everything it calls for are staples in my kitchen (and in a pinch, one could always use some dried parsley in place of the fresh).

The instructions call for you to rinse the chickpeas, put them in a bowl and mash them with a potato masher. Because I had the One Stop Chop at my disposal, I used it to break them down instead. The container was able to accommodate both cans of chickpeas and broken them down really quickly.

Another thing that I like about the One Stop Chop is that it has a leaver that allows you to suction the bowl in place on your counter. This means that you can apply a goodly amount of force to the handle as you first get the chopping going, without having to work against yourself to keep it in place. It also has a little tab that you lift to quickly break the suction when you need to move the bowl again. It’s a really smart design.

Once all your ingredients are chopped, you stir them together with a relatively small amount of mayonnaise (for those of you who are entirely plant-based eaters, all this recipe needs is a vegan mayo to work for you). Justin recommends that you eat this tucked into lettuce cups, though that felt a little gimmicky to me.

After I took that final picture, I torn the lettuce into bits and turned it into a salad, which felt far more manageable. I ate the chickpea salad for lunch on three consecutive days and enjoyed it each time (chances are good that I’ll make another batch next week).

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How to Grow Your Own Sprouts

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones dropped in today to share her experiences sprouting seeds! This is such a fun project. -Marisa

With the late onset of spring here in Philly, I’ve been craving fresh flavors and textures. Trying my hand at fresh, homegrown sprouts seemed like the perfect food project for April.

In order to get sprouts, you need to start with seeds. You can pick up bags of seeds and beans grown specifically for sprouting, like alfalfa, quinoa, adzuki, and others, by the ounce or by the pound. I ended up going for The Sprout House’s sampler pack, which includes about two ounces of 12 different kinds of sprouts, all certified organic, and followed their guidelines for home sprouting. I’ll spend the next few months cycling through all the different kinds to see which are my favorites.

Large, wide-mouth quart jars are best to use for this project. And since the jars of sprouting seeds need to be covered but allow air flow, I also picked up a fresh batch of cheesecloth. The one I got was a little more tightly woven than what I usually use — after trying it for sprouting, I’d probably stick to using a few layers of a cheesecloth with a more open weave in the future, just to make sure there are openings enough for drainage and airflow.

If you don’t want to use cheesecloth — the only drawbacks I noticed were that it’s not reusable and it will temporarily smell a little funky if you accidentally let it sit in water — there are a ton of special wide-mouth jar lids, like this one Marisa wrote about last year, to try out, too. And if you’re using cheesecloth, grab some snug rubber bands or sturdy kitchen twine.

The last piece of equipment I’d recommend is some kind of shallow, walled container, one for each jar, in which you’ll tilt your jars so the seeds won’t sit in standing water.

I selected three kinds of seeds from my sampler pack to start with: quick-growing broccoli and alfalfa and slower-growing sunflower (truth be told, my dream microgreen).

When you’re ready to sprout, pour a tablespoon or two of seed into your quart jars  — what you see here started with 1 tablespoon of each kind of seed.

Before you soak, start by sanitizing your seeds in a 1:10 solution of bleach or hydrogen peroxide and water for five minutes. (This step is recommended by the FDA for home sprouters and required of commercial sprouters.) Then, drain the seeds and rinse them in fresh water three times.

Once your seeds are sanitized, add water to submerge your seeds, then let them soak overnight. In the morning, drain your seeds, rinse them, and drain again so that no water will be left standing in the jar. Top with cheesecloth secured with a rubber band, or use a sprouting lid.

Here’s where those shallow containers come in. Place your covered jars of rinsed sprouts into the containers so that they’re leaning open-end-down, which will allow any excess liquid to drain out.

Rinse your seeds once in the morning and in the evening, being sure to drain them well and replace them leaning down in the container. Check the container before each rinse to make sure there’s no standing water accumulating in there, either.

By day three of rinsing twice a day, I definitely had sprouting, as you can see in the photo of the alfalfa seeds with their tiny, just-emerging shoots.

By day five, both the broccoli and the alfalfa sprouts were ready to eat. I transferred them to a fresh container with half a paper towel in the bottom and put them in the fridge. They were delicious on my bagel with some herbed fromage blanc this morning — crunchy, fresh, green, and nutritious.

Unfortunately, despite the same treatment, the sunflower seeds didn’t do so well. The Sprout House’s were hulled for easier sprouting, but I wonder if some of the seeds had been damaged or were otherwise not viable. Only a few sprouted, and the sprouts were small, not like the tall, juicy sprouts I buy at the farmers’ market. I’ll do some research and give sunflower sprouts a try again.

But for now, I’m happy to snack on my broccoli and alfalfa sprouts, which I’ll be putting on salads, sandwiches, toast, and tacos all this week — maybe even in a green smoothie.

Have you tried sprouting seeds before? What are your favorite ways to eat sprouts?

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Preserves in Action: Kimchi Noodle Soup

Need something spicy, flavorful, and warming? Alex Jones is here with a recipe for a tasty batch of soup that will help you make good use of that jar of kimchi you’ve got tucked in the back of the fridge! Yum! -Marisa

Throughout my preserving life, I’ve realized that I use some things all the time — pressure-canned tomatoes, stock and beans, dried herbs and Meyer lemon slices, frozen peak-season fruit. And others, like high-sugar jams, I don’t use much of at all.

As I go along each season, I try to learn from what I end up giving away or not enjoying so that I can maximize my food dollars, avoid waste, and devote space in my fridge and pantry to items I’ll actually eat.

When I found myself with two huge napa cabbages in my fridge two falls ago, I made a massive batch of kimchi (using the excellent recipe from Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking). After giving several jars away at the Philly Food Swap, I still had a gallon left. And while I’ve added it to rice bowls and eaten it on the side with scrambled eggs, two big jars still sit in the back corner of my fridge.

One of my intentions for the new year is tokeep my fridge slightly less jam-packed than it usually is — which includes using up good preserves that I sometimes ignore. Luckily, there’s an excellent Korean dish — kimchi-guk — that turns this pungent condiment into a delicious, warming soup.

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Tomato Soup Concentrate for Canning

Having a stash of homemade tomato soup concentrate in your pantry is like doing a favor for your future self. Portioning it out in 26 ounce jars from Fillmore Container makes it look extra snazzy!

labeled jars of tomato soup concentrate

My tomato preservation approach is one that is forever evolving. I make a point of trying at least one new-to-me tomato recipe to each season, always hoping that I’ll discover something particularly delicious and worthy of my time, resources, and shelf space.

tomatoes in a bowl for tomato soup concentrate

This year, there were two experimental recipes. The first was this barbecue sauce (which is quite delicious, but probably won’t be something I make every single year). The second is the tomato soup concentrate that I’m sharing today. I’m already hoping that when I get home from the trip I’m currently on (I’ve been away for a week, which accounts for the blog silence), I’ll be able to get enough tomatoes to make another batch.

washing tomatoes soup concentrate

Recipes for tomato soup concentrates that are safe for the boiling water bath canner aren’t always easy to find. I did a lot of reading and worked out more math problems than is typically required for a basic canning recipe in order to bring this to you today. I built my recipe upon the framework laid out in the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s water bath safe Tomato and Vegetable Juice recipe.

chopped tomatoes for tomato soup concentrate

The thing in that recipe that made everyone here possible is the fact that it specifies that, “Not more than 3 cups of other vegetables may be added for each 22 pounds of tomatoes.” Taking my cue from there, I used 15 pounds of tomatoes, and a scant two cups of diced onions. I felt comfortable doing that, because I was keeping to their approach while reducing the batch size by one-third.

milling cooked tomatoes for tomato soup concentrate

From there, it was a matter of chopping the tomatoes and cooking them down with the onion. Once they were soft, I pushed them through a food mill fitted with its finest screen. At that point, I had approximately 24 cups of flavorful tomato juice.

I added Italian seasoning and granulated garlic, and cooked it down until I had a thick, tasty 16 cups. Once I was finished cooking, I added salt to taste (it’s always best to wait until you’ve finished cooking something down before salting it. Otherwise, you can end up with something inedible).

cooked tomato soup concentrate

Then I portioned 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid into five square sided 26 ounce jars from Fillmore Container and filled them up with my soup concentrate. I added five minutes to the processing time required by the NCHFP for the tomato and vegetable juice, to compensate for the increased thickness.

I love canning tomato products in these square sided jars because they give it a more professional look, and I find that the squared off sides make them easier to grab when I’m moving quickly. The 26 ounce size is also great from a portioning perspective. Reheated with a bit of milk, there’s just the right amount for two people to enjoy bigs bowls with a side of cheesy toast or garlic bread.

Oh, and if you find yourself liking the looks of the square shape, know that they’re also available in 8 ounce and 16 ounce sizes.

five jars of tomato soup concentrate

Disclosure: Fillmore Container is a Food in Jars sponsor. Their sponsorship helps keep the site afloat. They provided the jars you see here at no cost to me. All opinions expressed are entirely mine. 

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Farro, Kale, and Feta Salad + OXO SNAP Glass Round Containers

This farro, kale, and feta salad is easy to make, tastes great, and stores beautifully in OXO’s 8 Piece SNAP Glass Round Container Set.

stacked OXO containers

I have always had a thing for food storage containers. When I was in elementary school, I would beg to be allowed to pack peanuts or raisins for my lunch in one of my mom’s two tiny Tupperware containers (when I was still an infant, she had been invited to a Tupperware party by a neighbor, and though she wasn’t particularly interested in plastic food storage containers, had picked out the smallest item in the catalog so as not to be rude).

watermelon in OXO container

In middle school, I cajoled my parents into buying me a set of matching plastic containers, so that I could tote my lunchtime yogurt and granola in style. And I still remember how delighted I felt my senior year of college, when my roommates and I went in on the large assortment of food storage tubs and bowls at the local Kmart. Looking back on this, it’s really no wonder I’ve made a career out of putting food in containers.

vertical OXO snap containers

About a year ago, I became a little bit obsessed with this new wave of glass food storage containers with snap-on lids. Every time Scott and I went to Costco, I’d pause in front of the display of Pyrex Snapware for so long that he’d sigh and make a move to put a box in our cart. I’d snap out of my trance and tell him to put it back. Between the set of containers we’d gotten for our wedding and my VAST collection of jars, we simply did not need it.

pork and pineapple in OXO

So, when I got an email from the folks at OXO, asking if I might like to participate in a blogger promotion centered on their new 8 Piece SNAP Glass Round Container Set, my resolve crumbled and I said yes. I was finally going to get a chance to work with food storage containers with snap-on lids.

faro salad with bowl of greens

I’ve now had this set of containers in my kitchen for a couple weeks and they’ve become my preferred vessels (so much so that I’ve taken to hand-washing them between uses rather than wait to run them through the dishwasher).

The containers themselves are made of sturdy, shock-resistant borosilicate glass, so they can go straight from the fridge or freezer and into the oven or microwave. The lids have a thick, leakproof gasket (it comes out for cleaning) that, once locked into place, prevents even a drop of moisture from leaking out of the container.

This means that when you pack soup or a dressed salad into one and tuck it sideways into your work bag or backpack, you can be secure in the knowledge that it won’t leak all over your computer. This feature is also fabulous if you find yourself occasionally needing to set container on its edge in order to get it to fit into your fridge (this happens in my kitchen more than I’d like to admit).

plated farro salad

These containers are the perfect thing for the picnics and potlucks so many of us plan during these warmer months. Lately, my go-to dish for such events is a room temperature salad made of farro, lightly cooked kale, feta cheese, and golden raisins. I use a technique that I learned from my Deena many years ago, in which you cook the farro and the kale in the same pot, adding the kale no more than two minutes before the grain is finished.

You end up with both components cooked perfectly and only one pot to clean. I mix the rest of the salad in the cooking pot as well (wait to add the cheese until it’s cooled a bit), and then transfer it to the OXO container when it’s time to store or transport. I like to serve it over a bed of baby arugula, though considering the amount of kale you tuck into it, is entirely optional.

Disclosure: OXO sent me their 8 Piece SNAP Glass Round Container Set, 2-in-1 Salad Servers, and Little Salad Dressing Shaker to try and write about. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

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