If you want to add a homey, nostalgic touch to your home, look no further than the humble Mason jar.
They're not just for canning anymore. Cooks and party hosts are finding dozens of uses for them.
If you're heading out for a picnic, pint-size jars are a great way to transport iced tea, lemonade and smoothies. On the way, they'll keep everything in the cooler chilled. When ready, just unscrew the lid and drink right out of the jar.
Cooks also are using them to store dry foods -- oatmeal, corn meal, rice, beans, pancake flour and more. They keep moisture and critters out, flavors in.
Line up the jars on an open shelf for a useful, decorative storage system. Best of all, you can tell at a glance when you're running low.
Food bloggers, too, have discovered a score of uses for these sturdy, versatile containers -- including baking. Dani Cone, owner of High 5 Pie and Fuel Coffee cafes in Seattle provides recipes for making pies in Mason jars in her cookbook, Cute Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory and Adorable Recipes.
Martha Stewart, in the January 2011 edition of her magazine, Martha Stewart Living, recommends party hosts make individual servings of Seven-Layer Bean Dip in the half-pints. They are neat, portable and you can double dip.
Dine under the stars
PROSSER -- Kestrel Wines will be sponsoring a Big Night in Washington Wine Country event on Sept. 29.
Guests will eat a traditional Italian dinner paired with Kestrel's wines served outdoors in the vineyard.
The food will be created by Kestrel's chef, Jessica Smith, with celebrity chefs Armandino Batali of Salumi Salami and father of famed chef Mario Batali, Roy Breiman and Mark Bodinet (Copperleaf Restaurant at Cedarbrook Lodge), Kim Berto (Central Market), Mike Easton (Il Courvo), Walter Paisano (Tulio) and Bob Prince (Tribunala).
The event runs from 2 to 6 p.m. at Kestrel View Estates, 58802 N. Hinzerling Road, Prosser.
Cost is $250. To make a reservation, call 509-786-2675. For more information, go to kestrelwines.com.
Instead of placing a chicken on a roasting rack, try this cooking tip from the Food Network's Donald Link of Cochon and Herbsaint in New Orleans.
Cut thick slices of onion, put them in an oiled pan, then place the chicken on top. The onion will absorb the chicken juices. After roasting, let the chicken rest while you make a sauce with the onions by adding a little stock or water to the pan and cooking it for about three minutes on high heat.
The book: The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte.
Best for: According to the publisher, Ten Speed Press, the author has included 100 of her most mouthwatering recipes made with fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins, natural sweeteners and other healthy ingredients. Richly illustrated, this bright, vivid book celebrates the simple beauty of seasonal foods with original recipes -- plus a few favorites from her popular Sprouted Kitchen food blog tossed in for good measure.