When I was younger my Mom would make jam. It seemed very laborious: sterilizing, special equipment, possibility of jars blowing up, wax seals, sweating, etc. I used to see jam in the store and think why not just buy it? Well we all know the answer to that, it just doesn't taste as good. That all said I still wasn't prepared for the full on jam making undertaking.
Welcome to my life freezer jam. So much easier, and in my opinion tastier. Because you are not cooking the fruit the jam can't be stored at room temperature, instead you store it in the freezer (hence the name). When you take a jar out to be used it can be stored in the fridge for up 6 weeks. I guarantee it won't be around that long anyways. It is still a good idea to use smallish containers, the 1 liter jar may be a little much jam for 6 weeks.
This all started when we went out to my uncles house to check on things while he was away, AKA pilfer his raspberry bushes. Hudson had a great time insisting on holding the bucket while eating like crazy. There was still more than enough berries to make jam with.
You need to add something to help gel the jam, I bought a package at the grocery store specific for freezer jam. There are a few kinds out there. I chose this one because I liked that the fruit to sugar ratio was a little higher. It is no secret that there is a lot of sugar in jam. It helps to preserve the jam along with making it taste sweet. Freezer jam has less sugar than regular jam, gotta' like that. I also find that freezer jam tastes more like the actual fruit because it isn't cooked. You do have to use great tasting, ripe fruit though because there is less sugar and cooking to hide behind.
glass or plastic containers with tight fitting lids (you don't need anything fancy)
4 cups of fruit
1 1/4 cups of sugar
I used raspberries so to prep them I just mashed them in a large bowl with a potato masher. I left some bigger chunks though. If you are using other fruit like strawberries or blueberries just chop finely (don't puree). Stir in sugar and let stand for 15 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in gelling powder while stirring for 3 minutes. Allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir again for 1 minute. Add jam to jars, leave enough room for expansion. It's ready to eat! Can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
Your package might be a little different, but that is the jist of it. My package called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar, but I reduced it (of course) and it still turned out fine and was plenty sweet. You don't want to play around too much as the gel to sugar ratio is important. It was so easy from start to finish maybe 30 minutes, are you kidding? I didn't have time to make my jam right after picking so I froze the berries. It had no adverse effects on the final product just thaw your fruit before using. Blackberries are in season now, so get picking and jamming.
I can imagine opening a jar on a dark winter morning and being reminded of that perfect summer night picking berries and my son's chubby, berry stained fingers and cheeks. It doesn't get much better than that.
I had planned to share a summery salad today, but with the rain it didn’t feel quite right. I can hear the drops bouncing off my roof, a sound I actually love. I kind of like the rain, I said it. Maybe it is because I grew up on the West Coast, maybe it is because it gives you an excuse to cuddle up with some hot tea and a good book in July. It also makes me grateful that I have a roof over my head and a place to call home. Would I want it to rain everyday? Probably not, but I can handle a few rainy days.
I eat my bananas when they are yellow, no brown spots. This is the way my husband likes them as well, so I have a few things to do with over-ripe bananas like muffins and adding them to smoothies. There have been a lot less of these brown beauties around since my son has turned into a banana monster, but I did have one the other day, looking rather sad and lonely in the fruit bowl. I have been wanting to make banana rice pudding ever since I came across the recipe two years ago, the time had come.
I like to think of myself as willing to try quite a variety of foods. But I had decided long ago that I didn’t like rice pudding even though I had never tried it. I knew I didn’t like tapioca and this all seemed the same to me. Then one day I tired it, I am sad that I wasted so many years not eating rice pudding.
Baked Brown Rice Banana Pudding (Adapted from the Swedish Heart Diet)
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups skim milk
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp margarine or butter
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 medium banana
Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook brown rice as directed or use left over rice. In a blender mix together milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, brown sugar, vanilla and margarine (this will all just fit in a Magic Bullet). In a large bowl mix together rice, raisins, pecans and mashed banana. Add the blender mixture and stir making sure the rice doesn’t clump. Pour into a 8”x 8” glass baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 45 min.
Very, very good. Huge hit with my son. I think cinnamon always adds a sense of sweetness, there is not a lot of sugar in the recipe but the end result tastes quite sweet. This rice pudding makes a great dessert or is great for breakfast in place of hot cereal (you know how I love new non-egg breakfast ideas). When reheating it helps to add a little milk to moisten. For a 1/2 cup serving there are 292 calories, 8 grams of protein, 7 grams of fat (mostly unsaturated) and 4 grams of fiber…nice! I thought the use of a blender sounded a little weird, but it worked out really well and made things a little quicker.
The perfect way to make up for my years of not eating rice pudding…
I think it is safe to say that summer has officially hit the Island. Today was a wonderfully warm and sunny day that involved sprinklers, eating meals outside and of course popsicles. I actually made the popsicles last week hoping it would entice the sun out of hiding.
There are about a bigillion recipes online for home-made popsicles. I browsed a few but most didn’t catch my eye. A lot of them called for juice. I have a bit of a beef with juice and children, even 100% juice. In my humble opinion there is no good reason for young children to drink juice. First off, not good for their teeth. Second, not a lot of health benefits. It is basically sugar water with a little vitamin C (if you’re lucky). Third, it replaces room for food that actually has some benefits. Water is the perfect drink and real fruit provides all the vitamins and fiber that juice can’t. That’s my dietitian rant, I will now move on.
When I found this recipe for Strawberry Raspberry Yogurt Popsicles I was sold.
1 cup plain yogurt (for children under 4 use full fat, for the rest of us 1% or non-fat works great too)
1/2 cup strawberries
1/2 cup raspberries
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Blend in your blender, pour into popsicle molds and freeze. If you don’t have molds use any small container that will stand upright, freeze for half and hour then insert popsicle sticks so they stay in the middle. (Adapted from The Perfect Scoop)
Of course you can use any mix of fruit you would like (I might try pineapple strawberry next time). I like that the yogurt provides creaminess and gives the popsicles less of an icy texture, plus added calcium. Because I used plain yogurt I can control the amount of sugar. I tasted it with no sugar and found it pretty tart. If you use flavoured yogurt there would be no need to add any sugar. These were very quick and easy and far better than the store bought variety.
My cousin and her daughter came to enjoy the afternoon. The popsicles were a huge hit with the two little ones…and their Mom’s. I heard a few “more please”. Ahhh summer welcome back, feel free to stay a while.
I went to the Comox Valley Farmer’s Market on Saturday with a friend, her twin boys and my son….all in the same vehicle. Car seats galore. It was an action packed ride that included a lost apple and a foot stuck in the door handle, but we made it. Once there it was great. I love seeing what people actually grow (I try not to compare it to my first-timer veggie garden). The boys enjoyed the musical entertainment, snacks and helium balloons.
I came home with some rhubarb and cheese. I love rhubarb, probably because I like tart things. I don’t eat it that often, but have been thinking about it a lot because of the road-side signs advertising its availability. When I got home I did a quick Google search for recipes. I came across one for rhubarb chutney, sounded good but must involve some kind of processing or canning. Not so! It was actually quite easy and a way I have never used rhubarb.
Spiced Rhubarb Chutney
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon ground garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes fresh rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup raisins
Combine first 8 ingredients in heavy large pot. Bring to simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion and dried raisins; increase heat to medium-high and cook until rhubarb is tender and mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature before using.) Adapted from Bon Appetit.
I served it over barbequed pork medallions that I seasoned with a pinch of salt. The chutney had a very rich, spiced flavour that was very complex. The different spices would pop up in each bite. I reduced the amount of sugar because I like the tartness. I think it would also be good over chicken or on a multigrain baguette with a soft cheese.
I still had some left over rhubarb, so I decided to make the classic strawberry rhubarb crisp. Trying new things is good, but enjoying classics is still great too. My Mom used to make it for us. It always seemed close to my birthday (the end of May) maybe that’s why I have such good memories. Rhubarb also always reminds me of my mom warning us 1000 times that the leaves were poisonous (when she saw the rhubarb in my fridge from the market she thankfully reminded me again, for real).
Preheat the oven to 375°
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon whole wheat flour
2 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup oats
Combine white sugar, 1 tbsp flour and fruit in an 8x8 glass baking dish. Combine the rest of ingredients in a bowl. Use a fork to cut in the margarine. Top fruit with the mixture and bake for 45 min.
Serve alone or with vanilla frozen yogurt. I don’t need to tell you how good this was. To see the original recipe look here. I reduced both the brown and white sugar, the margarine, switched to whole wheat flour and increased the fruit.
Who wouldn't want their house to smell this good and who wouldn't want car seats three deep for a little adventure?
So I got around to trying the microwave paper bag popcorn method I mentioned in my original post. Well you might as well call me the paper bag popcorn princess...it works, it really works! For nights when the thought of washing a pot after making stove top popcorn is too unbearable this is the way to go (I detest washing dishes by hand).
It is so simple I was sure it wouldn't work. Microwave popcorn bags are filled with food-like substances that ensure the popcorn pops and there is some sort of lining in the bag that super heats or something. Maybe there is, but not needed my friends.
I took a plain, brown, paper lunch bag, filled it with 1/4 cup of popcorn kernels, folded the top of the bag down twice and put in the microwave for 4 minutes. I stood and listened for when the popping slowed down and stopped it then (it was around 3:30). It took a little longer than conventional microwave popcorn to start popping, but don't panic. How did it taste? Heavenly. I was sure the folded top would not hold causing kernels to pinging all over the microwave or there would just be a black, smoking mass of kernels in the bag...no to both presumptions.
So as stated above the recipe is pretty plain, I wanted to try bare bones to see if it worked. You can coat the seeds in olive oil prior to popping and add a pinch of salt after or dress as you like. Keep in mind the popcorn itself is low in calories, it is the additions after than can add up. Three cups of plain popcorn has 3.5 g of fiber (insoluble fiber which keeps you pooping) and only 93 calories. A great choice for an after dinner snack.
So get out your dental floss and become your own paper bag popcorn prince or princess!
Tiffany McFadden, RD