Homemade Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam (LOW SUGAR – PECTIN FREE!!)

 

 

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(Photo from : http://www.texanerin.com/2012/06/honey-sweetened-strawberry-jam-without-pectin.html)IMG_0902

Honey Sweetened Jam is Delicious! 

FINALLY!!! A healthy jam recipe!! I had pretty much given up trying to make jam after trying to make jam last year and only finding recipes that called for a lot of pectin and way more sugar than I was comfortable with. For example a normal jam recipe calls for 2 lbs strawberries, 2 lbs rhubarb and ….what? 10 cups of sugar???? No joke. So after making my first jam which I cut the sugar in half I decided the effort wasn’t worth coming up with a product practically as unhealthy as what I could buy at the grocery store.

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Gotta Love Fresh Fruit!

Since PBJ is its own food group in my house I’m always trying to find ways to get it down to the basics and make it more healthy.  I stumbled upon this recipe from The Texanerin and all I could  think was Hallelujah!!! I put rhubarb in mine which made it pretty tart. Rhubarb is one of those things that only tastes good with a lot of sweetness to balance it, so if you use rhubarb you will probably need to add a cup of sugar. If you stick to fruits that are naturally sweet you don’t have to add any sugar.

Lastly, the only downfall to this recipe is that it only last about a week in the fridge. Do I really want to spend an afternoon every week making jam? … I don’t even need to answer! I think the best solution to this is to add some citric acid. Typically you add 1 tsp to every quart. (You can buy this at the grocery store. It is made by Ball.)  Since this recipe already has lemon juice which contains citric acid you could probably use less. Try this and the Jam should say good for a bit longer. Either way, this is a great recipe for healthy and delicious jam that you can feel good about when your kid eats PBJ for breakfast lunch AND dinner. Enjoy!

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Ingredients

  • 920 grams / 2 pounds (~6½ cups smooshed) rinsed off, patted dry, and hulled really sweet strawberries
  • 70 grams  (~¼ cup) honey
  • 3 teaspoons lemon zest
  • ¼ cup (60ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions

  1. Place the strawberries in a large pot and smoosh with the bottom of a glass. Add the honey, lemon zest and lemon juice and heat over medium high.
  2. Boil, stirring every now and then, until the mixture thickens. With my really soft and juicy strawberries, this took about 45 minutes. It could take more or less time depending on your strawberries.
  3. To test, put some of the jam on a clean spoon and then put the spoon on a plate in the freezer. Let it sit in there for five minutes and then take it out. If the jam doesn’t fall easily off the spoon when you turn it to the side, it’s ready and you can take the pot off the heat. If it does pour off easily, continue cooking for another 5 minutes and try the test again.
  4. Let cool and then pour into jars and store in the fridge and for up 1 week.

*** This also makes GREAT gifts!!

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Step 1 – Choosing and Growing Plants from Seed

One new thing that I am obsessed with is GROWING food. I think this is the natural course for any person that is obsessed with food…which by the way, there is a big difference between people that are obsessed with food and people that are obsessed with eating food. The only reason I mention this is because I think it is a common misconseption that those who love food – love eating anything.(this includes my own husband who has a hard time understanding how I can love food so much, yet be so “picky”!)  Basically truly loving food includes a respect for food as well as the quality of food you put in your body. People that truly LOVE food, are conscious about what they consume and where the food is coming from. It is the Farmer’s Markets/CSA’s make us happy as well as some dirt or an occasional bug found in a bunch of leeks. If you love food, you can pick out what foods are fake vs. what foods are real….and nothing is more real than watching your food grow and reaping the benefits!

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Baby Cilantro!

One reason I am LOVING this growing food thing is because I think it allows for even more frugality and if done right, can help many people who lack the $$ for fresh/organic produce to grow it themselves for fractions of a penny! My goal is to be the home gardening guinea pig so I can share what works in hopes that I can demystify some of the ideas that growing food from seed is too difficult or takes too much time. And trust me, I am the perfect candidate for this because (as Alex knows) I am known for killing all plants I come in contact with. True story.  Amazingly enough, even me, the one with the plant killing thumb has been able to grow veggies – mostly because of the motivation of reaping some tasty veggies in the end! You should’ve seen me a couple days after planting my first seeds. I was pretty skeptical, like “ok I’m going to plant these seeds and nothing is going to happen. ” but lo and behold I saw my first sprout of tomatoes and I started jumping up and down like a kid that just one the golden ticket. lol Surprisingly, the excitment of seeing my plants actually growing from a tiny seed never gets old. I hope that you will get the same satisfaction from growing your own food as well! It is very rewarding!

So here is step number 1!

1. Choosing your Veggies Carefully

Going to Home Depot and scanning over the giant amount of seed selection can be really overwhelming! You are likely to walk away with some crazy vegetable that looks cool but isn’t really a kitchen staple. When figuring out what to grow with limited space (most people do not have large back yards to work with. I have about 250 sqft of yard to work with as well as a deck.) you want to choose a couple veggies that are going to make a BIG impact on your grocery bill. Think of veggie you buy almost every time like – onions, garlic, tomatoes, zuccini, potatoes, lettuce/spinach. These are the staples you want to stick to and guess what? They are also some of the easiest to grow!! Also be aware of when to plant. Lettuce and Spinach does better in cooler months as opposed to squash and tomatoes which love the summer sun. You can get some really easy to read info about what plants to grow in you area by going to http://www.burpee.com/ and entering in your zipcode on the left.

Going back to the idea of growing things that will save the most money…a major one is herbs. I use herbs in cooking all the time.  They are a fresh and healthy way to add flavor and color to any dish, yet unforunately they cost quite a bit at the grocery; ranging from 1$ for parsley and cilantro to 2.99 for a couple sprigs of basil, rosemary, or dill. I didn’t include thyme because thyme is an herb that I have found tastes very similar dried, but for the other herbs fresh is the way to go. I chose to start up rosemary, basil, cilantro, tomatos and zuccini this summer. (Scroll down for extra info on growing cilantro, as it was different from other plants!)

Summer crops depending on your area can be started after the last frost. In many areas you can actually grow 2 sets of summer crops! In August (now!!) you can start your fall crops as well as second-season crops (these are crops that mature in under 75 days and will be harvested before the first frost. Winter crops will continue to grow through light frosts in mild regions.) Once again, consult www.burpee.com for more personalized information about when and what to grow in your area.

Recap:

Common Summer Crops – (Plant after last frost)Sweet Potato, Tomatoes, Summer Squash/Zuccini, Basil, Cilantro, Dill, Peppers,  Mesclun (French for “mix” is a hearty and easy to grow lettuce mix commonly seen at farmers markets in the summer)

Common Fall Crops – (Plant in August for most states) Kale, Broccoli, Arugula, Spinach, Cauliflower, Garlic, Onions, Potatoes, Rosemary.

Step 2: Growing From Seed

You can use a potting soil or garden soil. I like to get the organic brands that use fruit/vegetable compost. I actually found that these bags of soil are the same price or less than scotts brand.

You can also make your own garden soil, but I would hold off until you’ve decided you actually like gardening. I love [THIS] website, for Mavis Butterfield’s techniques on home gardening because she is uber frugal (her website is called 100 dollars a month!) and comes up with all sorts of creative ways to keep home gardening cheap! Because as you well know, if you go and buy everything from home depot from their pots to tools it makes it unaffordable and a waste. Instead, search craigslist for used garden tools/planters or get on Mavis’s website for ideas in using commonly trashed items to grow in! I’ve seen it all!

The first thing you can skip at the check out counter are those silly plantable seed starting trays. They go for about 1$ and really add up – DON’T DO IT! Why? Because you throw a perfect one away every week! – Your egg crates! Most grocery stores (including walmart!) now use compostable egg crates. These are made of the same materials as plantable seed starters. You can plant your seeds in these shallow containers and use scissors to cut them and plant them. You can also use a spoon to scoop out the sprout and plant, but if you tug on the sprout and it doesn’t lift out easily, that means the roots have grown into the egg crate so you should just do the cut and plant method. This is super easy!

(Frugal gardening goal #1 – Go to the store and ONLY spend money on soil and seeds! )

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Spinach Sprouts in Egg Crate Seed Starter

Veggie Issues So Far:

So far I have had success with all sorts of veggies. The only one I had trouble with initially was cilantro. The leaves kept wilting and I was confused because I thought they needed full sun. On the contrary, they like only partial sun and are very suseptable to wilting. They are still good for a summer crop, you just have to baby it a little more than others. :)Also, don’t make the mistake of putting each individual seed in each egg compartment. Cilantro doesn’t grow big like other plants, it’s more like grass. Go ahead and use the pot you intend on using and skip the egg crate. Loosely sprinkle cilantro all over the pot and lightly press the seeds into the soil. Cover with a light layer of soil and water GENEROUSLY! You should get a nice crop of cilantro growing in a couple weeks!  Lastly, I tried to grow red bell peppers and they didn’t even sprout a bit. It was weird. I might try these again next summer, but so far those were my dud plant.

Happy Planting! ~ Kristi

Grain-free Almond Lemon Blueberry Muffins

Once again, BIG thank you to Texanerin Baking for this delicious recipe. The only thing I will do different next time is make a double batch of this because it had a low quantity yeild for the amount of work required. Double the recipe = solve problem!

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My Photo

Almond Lemon Blueberry Muffins - Gluten-free and Grain-free | texanerin.com

Her photo…man she’s good.

DO put these in cupcake liners! They are pretty crumbly without them. I love that these are grain-free. They make your tummy happy. ;)

Ingredients

  • 225 grams (~2½ cups) blanched almond flour (not almond meal or any other type of flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 tablespoons (120 grams) honey
  • 65 grams coconut oil, melted (~4½ tbsp)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon extract
  • zest of 3 lemons
  • 170 grams (1¼ cup) fresh blueberries*
  • sliced almonds, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with muffin liners.
  2. Combine the almond flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl, combine the eggs, honey, melted coconut oil, lemon extract and zest.
  3. Fold the almond flour mixture into the wet mixture and then fold in the blueberries.
  4. Fill each of the 12 liners about halfway. If you like, sprinkle some sliced almonds over the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean and they should be golden brown. Immediately turn out onto a wire rack to cool. They tend to get greasy if you let them sit in the pan.

Notes

  • I’ve tried these with frozen blueberries, which is what I normally use in my muffins, but they came out soggy. So use fresh!
  • German bakers: I use Suntree gemahlen Kalifornische Mandelkern from Kaufland. They come in little 59 cent 100 gram bags. I’ve seen this brand elsewhere. I don’t know if other brands work so I’m sticking with this one!

http://www.texanerin.com/2012/05/grain-free-almond-lemon-blueberry-muffins.html

Grain-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (aka: Chickpea Cookies)

I saw THIS photo on pinterest one day.

The Original Grain-free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites - no white sugar, no oil, no flour! So gooey, simple and delicious! With a surprise ingredient | texanerin.com

I’m not sure there are many other things that scream “EAT ME!!” more than this. Not to mention, the Grain-free aspect went right along with my meal plan. I was intrigued and decided this was worth a try. Was it possible that a ball of chickpeas, honey, peanut butter and chocolate chips could be that good? YES! Also, because they are made of beans which are heavy rather than four and butter which are light, they fill you up really fast. Even Alex and the kids gave these two thumbs up with elated, bean cookie stuffed faces.  Who would’ve thought?

http://www.texanerin.com/2012/04/grain-free-peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-cookie-dough-bites.html

Ingredients

  • 1¼ cups canned chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel (Try to buy organic. Chickpeas are one of the few types of beans I have found can taste really bad if you buy the cheapest brand.)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (165 grams) natural peanut butter, SunButter Natural or almond butter – room temperature
  • ¼ cup (80 grams) honey (commenters have used agave and maple syrup with success!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt if your peanut butter doesn’t have salt in it
  • ½ cup (90 grams) chocolate chips (use vegan and dairy-free chocolate chips, if needed)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F / 175°C. Combine all the ingredients, except for the chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Make sure to scrape the sides and the top to get the little chunks of chickpeas and process again until they’re combined.
  2. Put in the chocolate chips and stir it if you can, or pulse it once or twice. The mixture will be very thick and sticky.
  3. With wet hands, form into 1½” balls. Place onto a Silpat or a piece of parchment paper. If you want them to look more like normal cookies, press down slightly on the balls. They don’t do much rising. (You will need to rewet your hand occasionally!)
  4. Bake for about 10 minutes. The dough balls will still be very soft when you take them out of the oven. They will not set like normal cookies.
  5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the fridge) for up to 1 week.

Notes

  • My can of chickpeas was 400 grams, 240 grams without the water, and I used all but a few tablespoons.
  • Don’t even try with regular peanut butter! They’ll come out oily. You MUST use natural peanut butter. :)
  • If you need grain-free baking powder, you can use 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot.