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Chocolate Applesauce Muffins with Ball® Fresh Preserving Products Maple Applesauce

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

Yesterday, I showed you how to make the Maple Applesauce from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products. Flavored with a hint of cinnamon and sweetened with earthy maple syrup, it’s good eaten straight from the jar or used as an ingredient in all manner of baked goods.

I love using applesauce in baking. It has a near-magical ability to bring both needed moisture and welcome lightness to cakes, muffins, quick breads, and breakfast bars. I often use it to replace up to half the butter or oil in recipes and typically find myself preferring the versions made with applesauce. Just know that replacing more than half of the fat with applesauce undoes the balance of the recipe and will push it over the edge to rubbery. Consider yourself warned!

The ingredients for these muffins are pretty simple. You start by beating sugar and softened butter together until it gets creamy and you don’t see too many individual sugar granules. I like to do this in a stand mixer, but you can also opt for an electric hand mixer. Once the first two ingredients are well-incorporated, you beat in eggs, the applesauce, and some vanilla extract.

While the wet ingredients are combining themselves, you whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (don’t worry if the cocoa is still a little clumpy. It will work itself out). I made this batch with unbleached all-purpose flour, but I’ve also made these muffins with whole wheat pastry flour for a bit more fiber. For a gluten-free version, just swap in one cup of your favorite GF baking blend.

Add the dry ingredients one-third at a time, until they are completely incorporated and the batter looks like glossy milk chocolate pudding. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper liners or butter it well. Carefully divide the batter evenly between the 12 muffins.

Bake the muffins for 18 to 22 minutes at 350°F/177°C, until a toothpick inserted in one of the center muffins comes out mostly clean (a few damp crumbs are fine, wet batter is not). Turn the muffins out of the tin and let them cool on a wire rack. Once they are completely cool, store them in a zip top bag or airtight container. They’ll keep well on the counter for three to four days. For longer storage, wrap them well and freeze them.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Newell Brands as part of a compensated partnership. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

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Honey Cinnamon Pears from Ball® Fresh Preserving Products

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

Last month, I teamed up with my friends at Ball®Fresh Preserving Products by Newell Brands to share their recipe for Mixed Berry Jam and the Jammy Baked Oatmeal that I made with it. This month, we’re talking pears.

Honey Cinnamon Pears, to be precise. In this recipe, quartered pears are briefly simmered in a syrup made from apple juice and honey before being packed into Ball® Pint Jars with a cinnamon stick, topped with the syrup, and processed in a boiling water bath. It’s a really easy and approachable recipe (no peeling!) that produces perfectly sweet pears kissed with a hint of cinnamon.

To make these pears, start by getting your jars warming in the canning pot (for this project, I used the Ball® Sharing Jars). Fit your canning pot with a rack, place the jars on top and fill both the jars and the pot halfway with water. Bring it to a simmer over low heat and keep it around 180F until you are ready to fill the jars. Wash lids and rings in hot, soapy water and set them aside.

Once your canning gear is all set, you turn your attention to the pears. Wash them well (make sure to remove any stickers!), cut them into quarters, and cut away the cores.

As you work, place the cut pears into a bowl of acidulated water (that’s a fancy word for water spiked with either lemon juice or Fruit Fresh) to prevent the pears from browning.

Once the pears are prepped, make the syrup. Combine water, apple juice, and honey in a large saucepan (you want to use something large enough to eventually hold all the pears.

When the syrup comes to a simmer, add the pears to the pot and let them stay in the syrup just until they’re heated through (too much time in the syrup will lead them to overcook and fall apart, so stay attentive).

As soon as the pears are warm, it’s time to fill the jars. Remove a single jar from the canning pot and place it on a folded towel or cutting board. Place a cinnamon stick in the bottom of the jar and funnel the warm pear quarters into the jars. Use a chopstick to help settle them into place (I found that I could get 6-7 pear quarters into each jar).

Top the pears with the syrup and remove any trapped air bubbles, taking care to maintain a headspace of 1/2 inch. Wipe the rim of the jar, place a lid on top, secure it with a ring (finger tip tight, please), get that jar in the canner, and repeat with the next jar.

These pears are good to eat with yogurt or cottage cheese. You can warm them and serve them over pancakes or waffles. Or you could turn them into sorbet. Check back tomorrow to learn how to do just that!

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Giveaway: Printable Jar Labels from Worldlabel

Looking for affordable, beautiful labels for your canning jars that you can easily customize and print at home? Look no further than Worldlabel!

I confess that when it comes to labeling jars, I can be a bit lazy. My first line of labeling defense is typically a quick scrawl with a permanent marker. I write the contents of the jar and the month and year it was made across the top of the lid. This is done to ensure that I keep things like tomato jam separate from the pizza sauce (two preserves that look nearly identical once in the jar).

Often, my first act of labeling is also my last. I’ve been known to give these unadorned jars to my cousins and neighbors without a second though. However, as I move further into my life as a canner (this is my 11th active canning season! The mind boggles!), I find that I do really like having the option of giving people preserves with more detail on the label.

I’ve also been considering the possibility of making limited edition batches to sell, which would require nicer labeling that I currently can muster.

Happily, just as I was pondering ways to up my label game, I got an email from the folks at Worldlabel. They sell a huge assortment of blank labels that can be endlessly customized. They’ve got lots of templates that you can use to design your own labels, or you can use their assortment of free, pre-designed printable label templates.

I wanted to keep things simple for my first attempt at creating my own labels and decided that I would simply make Food in Jars logo stickers that I could use to dress up my jars (and potentially also use to dress up the packages of books I occasionally send out).

The folks at Worldlabel sent me 2 inch round labels (in both white and craft) and rectangular shipping labels (also in white and craft). I opted to try the white rounds first and headed over to Worldlabel to find the right template. They offer them in a variety of file formats (Word, PDF, Illustrator, etc) and identifying the one I needed was really easy.

Once I had the right file, I opened it up in Word (I am not a designer), and dropped in my logo file. I had to do a little bit of tweaking, but it wasn’t hard. Then, it was just a matter of saving and printing.

I’m pretty pleased with how approachable it was and how cute my labels look.

Now, if you don’t have a cute logo to drop into a template, fret not. The folks at Worldlabel have a really robust assortment of already-designed labels that you can download and print at home. They also curate a highly useful Pinterest page where they collect free printables that will work with their labels.

I think my finished labels turned out really well and I can’t wait to start using them. And while the company did send me this package of labels at no cost so that I could play around with them, 100 sheets of these labels costs just $18.75. That works out to less than $.19 a sheet, which is pretty darn accessible for even the tightest budgets (far cheaper than the name brands you get at office supply stores).

Because Worldlabel wants to help canners feel empowered to create their own labels, they’re also sponsoring a giveaway. Five lucky readers will each win 20 sheets of labels that they can customize. Use the widget below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Worldlabel paid to appear in this space and provided the labels pictured above at no cost to me. All thoughts and opinions are honestly conveyed and entirely my own.

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Sponsored Post: Meet McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies

I’ve learned a lot about gear in my years as an avid home cook and canning teacher. Nothing is more useful than a freshly sharpened knife. Always bring extra jars and containers to classes. And most of the time, the best place to buy durable, portable, affordable equipment is your local restaurant supply store.

Recently, the folks from McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies reached out and asked if I might be interested in dedicating a post to some of the tools they sell that are just as useful at home as they are in more professional food settings. Of course I said yes!

First, a little about McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies. Founded in 1994, they’re based in the New York metro area and carry more than 20,000 items for restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, supermarkets, catering companies, and home cooks.

If you visit their 25,000 SF showroom in Brooklyn (open M-F, 7am – 7pm; Sat, 8am – 2pm), you’ll find professional cutlery, food prep tools, kitchen hand tools, mixing bowls, cookware, and extra-sturdy commercial grade dinnerware (great for households that are hard on their dishes). Home mixologists will find shakers, muddlers, cocktail prep tools, and kits that can help raise their cocktail game to the pro level.

Now, on to the gear!

  1. Giant, polycarbonate measuring cups – These big, indestructible measuring cups are amazing tools for canners. You can easily see how much produce you’ve prepped, they’re relatively light, and they can go in the dishwasher. For maximum versatility, get both the 2 quart and 4 quart versions.
  2. Stainless mixing bowls – They come in a huge range of sizes, but I like the 8 quart for holding produce and mixing salads.
  3. Stainless steel skimmers – These are the best for lifting foam from the top of your jam and scalding tomatoes and peaches for peeling.
  4. Rasp-style zesters – These are a quarter of the price of the name brand zesters and work just as well.
  5. Large, polycarbonate food storage containers – I use glass in my kitchen wherever I can, but there are times when nothing serves quite as well as a really large, plastic container. I use my 4 quart square poly tub for leftover soups and stews all the time. It may well be the hardest working vessel in my kitchen.
  6. Waterproof digital thermometers – I reach for my thermometer on a near-daily basis and use it to test for doneness in jams, loaves of bread, roast chicken, and even the honey syrup I use to hold my homemade granola bars together. So useful, and when bought from a restaurant supply store, so cheap!
  7. Jars – McDonald Paper carries some cute jars that I’ve not seen at other outlets. I think there’s a road trip to Brooklyn in my future!

That’s just a short list of some of my hardest working gear from restaurant supplies stores. Do you guys have any favorites?

Disclosure: McDonald Paper & Restaurant Supplies is a Food in Jars sponsor and contributes to the upkeep of this site. All thoughts and opinions remain my own. 

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Sponsored: Fennel Gruyere Gratin + Anolon Vesta Baker Giveaway

The last couple of months have all been leading up to this week. The first draft of my next cookbook is due to my editor on Friday, just as the yearly conference for the International Association for Culinary Professionals begins. This is typically the only conference I attend each year, and it’s a chance to see friends and colleagues, as well as make new connections that will hopefully lead to more work and opportunities.

Originally founded in 1978 by a group of cooking school owners and instructors (including Julia Child, Jacques Pépin, and Anne Willan), over the last 40 years IACP has become a robust professional organization for food writers, cookbook authors, bloggers, editors, food tour guides, and others.

As part of the lead-up to the conference, I was asked by the folks at Anolon (they’re a dedicated IACP sponsor) to dream up a recipe inspired by one of the organization’s founders. I chose to look at Anne Willan’s life and work as a starting place for my dish.

I met Anne briefly at my very first IACP conference in 2012 (just before Food in Jars came out!), when she was promoting her amazing book The Cookbook Library (if you love cookbooks, you must check out this book. It covers the four centuries of cooking and recipe writing that led us to the point of culinary literacy where we are today). I remember thinking that I would be incredibly fortunate to have even half the career that she has had.

Starting with the knowledge that Anne was the founder of the La Varenne Cooking School in Paris, I knew my dish would need to be grounded in French cooking. I took a wander through her website and paged through the copy of La Varenne Pratique that I inherited from my Aunt Flora, and decided I’d make a Fennel Gruyere Gratin.

The thing I love about a gratin is that it is versatile and relatively easy (a necessity as I approach my deadline!). We think of gratins as being heavy dishes that are full of cheese, but they can actually be relatively light. I only use three ounces of cheese in this particular version. For a side that produces between six and eight servings, that’s not overly cheesy at all!

I used fennel as the primary ingredient because it brings a lot of flavor to the dish and I can almost always get really fresh, beautiful fennel at my local produce shop. However, you could apply this same technique to zucchini, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, or various root vegetables.

I used an assortment of Anolon tools while creating this dish that you’ll see pictured throughout this post. They sent me a trio of blazingly sharp and easy-to-handle knives, a sturdy teak cutting board, and the Vesta Stoneware 9 x 13 Baker in Umber. I was particularly excited to use the Vesta baker because I’ve been on the lookout for a good, deep 9 x 13 pan. This one fits the bill perfectly.

Thanks to the folks at Anolon, I have one of these lovely Vesta Stoneware 9 x 13 Baking Pans in Umber to giveaway to one of you! Please use the widget below to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Anolon paid me to write this post and develop the recipe you see below. They sent me the baker, knives, and cutting board to feature in this post. And, they are providing the stoneware baker for giveaway. However, as always, the words and thoughts expressed here are entirely my own.

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Blue Apron During a Busy Work Season

Today’s post is sponsored by Blue Apron.

In a little less than three months, I will be turning in the manuscript for my 4th(!) cookbook. This book focuses on cooking, baking, and otherwise transforming homemade preserves. Over the last month or so, I’ve been deep in the recipe development phase. This means that I might spend a full day in the kitchen and end up with nothing that can be eaten for dinner

Occasionally, I pre-cook strategically for those days when the recipe development schedule leans sweet and have some leftovers ready to go. Other nights, a bag of salad and a grocery store chicken is the answer. And during one recent busy week, Blue Apron swept in and saved the day by delivering three meals directly to my doorstep, so that I could easily cook dinner without having to plan, shop, or waste a drop of food.

You might think I’d be tired of being in the kitchen after a day of recipe testing, but as long as I don’t have to make any additional decisions or hit the grocery store, I don’t mind it a bit. Blue Apron does all the choosing and thinking for me, which transforms the process of making dinner into something pleasurable. Each week, they offer up eight new recipes that are designed to satisfy eaters of all stripes (including vegetarians!).

We can just add this to the list of ways that Blue Apron meal kits have saved my bacon. They’ve also helped me be a good houseguest,  avoid take-out while preparing for a conferencebumped me out of my weeknight dinner rut, and made it possible for me to hand off dinner prep to my husband.

This time around, our 2-person box (there’s also a family plan) included ingredients for Seared Steaks and Mashed Potatoes (cheesy mashed potatoes!), Soy-Marinated Chicken Tenders (yellow sweet potatoes! delicious!), and Spiced Chicken and Garlic Rice (I loved how the roasted squash was tossed with the rice before plating).

As always, I was impressed by the food I found in the box. The quality of the ingredients was top notch, the portion sizes are perfect for two people, and the chef-designed recipes were approachable, educational, and delicious.

One of the concerns that people often have about Blue Apron is the amount of packaging involved. I continue to be impressed with how the amount of packing materials seems to reduce with every order I receive (and most of it is recyclable). If you can’t recycle the materials in your area, you can also opt to return the packing materials through the mail for reuse and recycling.

This blog post is the last one in my formal blogging partnership with Blue Apron, but I plan on continuing on as a Blue Apron customer. I don’t plan on ordering every week, but will opt in during my busy times because it allows me to skip the grocery store and still eat high quality, home cooked food. They add dishes to the rotation on a regular basis, so there’s always something new to try.

If you’re intrigued by my experience with Blue Apron, they’ve got an offer for you, too! The first 50 readers to use this link to sign up for the service will get $30 off their first Blue Apron order.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. They sent me a 2-Person box, containing three meals for two people. They’ve also compensated me for my time and attention. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed are entirely mine.

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