I DID THAT YOUTUBE!!!! F-ing Jam!

I DID THAT YOUTUBE!!!! F-ing Jam!

Oh how my frustration level is at its peak! My jam won’t set. I’ve tried all kinds of things. Cook it down, add pectin, give it more time to cool, don’t boil so long, do the ripple test, do the spoon test, and on and on. Hubby has invested a bit too, so he is getting frustrated, and as much as I get it, I also have this urge to fight over who gets to be frustrated. Hahhaha It’s a jam version of colic baby fights.

I mean, I’m not quite “Brittney Spears shaving her head” level,

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but, I’m definitely approaching this mom’s level:

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I really, really, just want to drag my butt to Grandma’s with my head down and say “please help me fix this all knowing one”.

Trying to learn from the internet and books is not so easy with jam. I mean, when I couldn’t figure out why my headlights flashed for no reason, I googled it, was told to change this plug-in piece. I YouTube’d that, and bam, all done!

With jam, I’ve checked YouTube, I’ve checked blogs, I’m around 7 batches in and still they all look the same. The 1st batch set. I don’t know why. I don’t think I did anything different……

I found a blog that says to add not just pectin, but water and lemon juice too. I think I’m just going to start completely over, I’ll ditch the KitchenAid mixer, I’ll deal with the seeds, and no multitasking.

Wish me luck.

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Strawberry Jam

Strawberry Jam

Before relocating to wine country, I decided to try my hand at jam making. However, I had a couple obstacles: 1. Doesn’t mom or grandma or someone normally pass this skill down? I missed my lesson. Missed actually being skipped out on. 2. I only like strawberry jam and I don’t like seeds. How do you get the seeds out? 3. Two little ones, one doesn’t want anything to do with it except eat, and the other wants my attention.

One day after work the kids and I met up with hubby at a u-pick strawberry patch a couple towns over. We were a little late to the party, so it was slim pickings, but we still had a great time.  I still remember the feeling from having baby in a front carry pack. It was quite the workout, 3 days later my legs were still killing me. I was basically out there doing squats with a 30 lb pack that moved & hits. I remember thinking I wasn’t sure about the hitting thing, it really made me nervous that the little man was going to be a handful. My older son never hit, or at least never out of anger or annoyance. That day the youngest was basically going – won’t let me down? Bam! take that lady. Should we go again?

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I swear this baby/ now toddler, has been Gods way of teaching me not to judge.

Me with baby 1: “oh I would never let my baby sleep in my bed, that is soooo bad”

Me with baby 2: F* this colic he has to be touching me 24/7 – baby slept in my bed for about 2 months.

Me with baby 1: “blankets are so bad for babies, only sleep sacks”

Me with baby 2: me to Dr over screaming baby – “there has to be something wrong he wont stop screaming!, my other had colic, this is not the same.” Dr – “give him a blanket to cuddle with, it will be more like sleeping with you”. Me “nooooo”. Next night – here’s a mini blanket (in fairness it was one of those little monkey/blanket lovie things).

Anyway, back to the point. The next morning I pulled up a blog from my favorite cook/pioneer woman Ree Drumond and sure enough she tells how to make strawberry jam. I took her recipe and adapted it a bit. I wanted something low sugar, and though that didn’t work out, her ratio was still a bit high (7 cups sugar to 5 cups berries). I made two batches the first I did and even split 5 to 5, then the 2nd I tried 3 cups sugar to 5 cups berries. The full adapted recipe is below. The 5 to 5 worked great.

Like I said I don’t like seeds in my jam or fruit leather, so I bought a fine mesh strainer and strained out the seeds after I pureed the berries as smooth as possible. It’s a bit time consuming, but seems well worth it. I found if you mix it in the strainer and scrape the bottom with a spoon it seems to go fairly quickly.

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This time around, I have our garden, and after picking a mid full big bowl (that holds 32 cups) of strawberries yesterday evening I couldn’t wait to try jam making again. This time with my KitchenAid – hubby bought me an accessory that is for sauces!

I should have taken pics, but I was preoccupied. This is basically the look, only not tomatoes.

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Last time my jars with less sugar didn’t set, and I didn’t measure this batch exact, so I became a bit paranoid that it was going to be a flop. I found a good youtube video with a grandma lady that explained how to tell if your jam will set. I tried others, and apparently its not my thing, because I wasn’t sure where mine fell. This test worked.

As the kids get older (not me haha), things like jam making bring back memories that make me smile. When I was their age and my family would gather for harvesting or jam making, there would be kids running and playing everywhere. Adults would be yelling for us “get out of the kitchen”, or “don’t slam the door!” They used all the standards we use now as parents.  To this day, my favorite sound is actually a slamming wood screen door followed by kids laughing. That is my happy sound.

**** June 14th, 2018 – Update : TRY AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!! MY JAM REFUSES TO SET USING MY KITCHENAID MIXER MIX —–ARGH!!!

Recipe:

5 cups Strawberry base (either puree or hulled mashed strawberries)

5 cups sugar (have pre-measured & pour all at once)

4 tablespoons lemon juice

1 pack 49 gram pectin

Directions:

  1. Pour berries into large pot (I use a spaghetti pot), mix in lemon juice, and fruit pectin.
  2. Bring to a boil and pour in sugar
  3. Bring back to a violent boil the kind that keeps boiling while you stir. Boil and stir for 1 min 15 seconds
  4. Turn off heat, Spoon off foam
  5. Fill jars to ¼ in from top & can using water bath canning technique.

Compromise

I seem to be in project mode. But my project mode is quite different from my husbands. His looks like this:

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Mine looks like this:

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And we compromise and do this:

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I say compromise because pickled asparagus is disgusting. Actually, pickled anything including pickles completely gross me out. But I did the good wife thing and said “yes honey I’ll help”. Quickly followed by “if this makes my house stink like pickles were done”.

Now I must tell you not only do I not like pickles I absolutely hate the smell to the point that hubby only recently got pickle privileges back. Now get your mind out of the gutter, and I’ll explain.

Back in the day before we got married we were living in the cute little cottage I called the doll house. It was so tiny our living room furniture consisted of a papasan chair and a hope chest with cushions on it. So anyway, the fridge had one shelf on the door that the tray had broken on so it was just a shelf with no rail. Obviously we didn’t use this shelf. Apparently hubby was moving stuff around in the fridge and set the pickles on the shelf then not thinking about it closes the door. Is he the next one to open the fridge, oh no, it was me. As you can imagine pickle jar falls out breaks splashing pickle juice everywhere. The house stunk! It was awful. So needless to say, I banned pickles. Happy wife happy life right? He accepted my crazy and we moved on. So for reasons that may fall into crazy, I’m hesitant to bring pickled anything into my space. But, homestead-ish wife, blah blah blah.

So “we’ve” been gardening:

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pickling:

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and modifying:

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My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

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Spring is here! One of my favorite parts about spring besides the lack of freezing temperatures is foods. All the best snacks start coming back out. Our strawberries aren’t out yet, but someone’s are so we stopped by a fruit stand and bought a flat of strawberries. They taste amazing. Plus strawberries make a great snack option since our house is working to be more diabetes friendly.

Now I will admit I am horrible. I’m trying, but I’m basically the diabetes equivalent to a chain smoking wife with a husband with lung cancer. Luckily, or somewhat anyway, hubby doesn’t like the same junk food I do. I’m a candy eater; he goes for chips and baked goods. I don’t like chips, and the only baked goods I really go for are chocolate chip cookies or cake batter. There is a good chance my son will also have this struggle, so I really see the value in ditching my sugar (though I usually just take it to work). It’s really hard. But I digress, I’m trying.

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Anyway, we bought the flat of strawberries and I’ve been cutting them up and dehydrating them. We use an Excalibur food dehydrator, but there are many options. I like ours because its square and you can remove trays for taller foods. Dried strawberries make a great snack option for hubby to take to work, and I can also add them to oatmeal or yogurt, or mix up a trail mix for the “snack shelf” for our son to grab.

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When dehydrating strawberries or any other heavily water based food I make sure to cut them a bit think, usually about ½ inch slices.

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I take the end pieces or berries that seem a bit small for drying and I place them in a bowl (cleaned and trimmed as needed). After I’m done putting the berries I want on the drying trays the other slices get put into food saver bags and thrown in the freezer for later. Frozen berries work great in the summer as a replacement to ice cream or popsicles; they’re our son’s favorite warm weather snack. We also make homemade ice cream for home BBQ gatherings, and they work great as a topper once thawed.

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I’ve had a helper with the food prep, though I think it was mainly so he could steel fresh berries.

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After we cleaned up our mess, my son  volunteered to give scraps to the chickens. He likes all the squawking from the chickens when you bring treats.

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Diabetic note:

Some fruits contain a very high amount of carbohydrates that can cause high blood sugar levels in diabetics. The 30 grams of carbohydrates found in a banana, the 50 grams found in a mango and the 52 grams found in a 16-ounce serving of orange juice can be too much for some people with diabetes. Checking your blood sugar levels after eating is the best way to determine whether the foods and fruits you eat allow you to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Strawberries and most other berries tend to contain less carbohydrates per serving and constitute excellent fruit options for all diabetics. – more information at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-diabetics-eat-strawberries-1678.html

 

Snack Packs

Snack Packs

This last year has brought many changes for our family.  One major adjustment our family is still working on is diet. This is more of a struggle for me than the rest of my family. Having always struggled with my weight in the opposite direction of most, I’ve always been able to eat anything I wanted, plus regularly drinking breakfast shakes to add calories. Now I know this sounds ridiculous to many, I’ve heard it all. My mother actually always told me growing up to “just wait, when your metabolism slows down you’ll be as big as a house”. Thanks mom. But really this is something I struggled with to an extreme growing up. In fact, as a sophomore in high school I was 5’8” and 86 lbs. So, yeah, that’s awkward. I remember my gym teacher actually calling my dad to say I had an eating disorder and to watch me for at least 30 minutes before and after meals.  I was goofy looking. Now, after aging a bit, having a kid, and slowing down, I’m a bit more average.  I’ll be 30 next year, and though I’m still thin, I notice that if I eat junky I feel junky. Plus, this last year hubby was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and this means that our son may have a higher risk of diabetes as well.

With these factors in mind I’ve been working on doing better with having healthy snacks readily available. The catch is eating like crap is cheap, eating healthy can be more expensive. So with this in mind I’ve been working on diabetic and kid friendly snacks.

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Snack grab bags:

Sunday is my prep day, so I sit down with a box of sandwich bags and make pre-packed snacks. I keep a Tupperware container in the fridge with pre-made baby carrot snack packs. We could probably save more by cutting up carrots, but convenience wins out on this.  Popcorn is another great snack that works great for the kiddo, but is also a great sugar free snack for hubby.

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Here are a few of my go-to snacks:

Carrots

Popcorn

Sliced bell peppers (not so much for kiddo)

Dried fruit – bananas, apples, pears, whatever’s on sale

For those looking to meal plan for diabetes, or to make better food choices in general, here are some great tidbits I’ve found in my searching.

fruit  seafood  vegies

These charts were found on the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm063367.htm#.UvqJetD-ecA.gmail

You can download them here:

vegetable nutritious facts

sea food nutritious facts

fruit nutritious facts

I also found a site that lets you enter your recipes and it will give you nutritious facts on what you enter.

http://nutritiondata.self.com/mynd/myrecipes/welcome?returnto=/mynd/myrecipes

If you have any kid friendly diabetic meals I’d love to hear about them.

Seed starts & fly control

Seed starts & fly control

I’ve given up on winter. No snow, 40 degrees in January, raining at 28, I’m over it. So, in honor of moving on, we planted seeds. Yes, it’s a bit early, but the thing I learned last year is that we need a natural pest control system. With the location of our little mini farm, we have flies. Gross I know. As a kid my step mom had 20-25 horses on 10 acres, we had flies, but this is worse. I grew up in dry land wheat and cattle ranch country. Now I’m in the land of irrigated corn and feed lots. We don’t live so close that we smell the feed lots, but there are at least 3 within 10 minutes of our home. And we have an irrigated cornfield on each side of our property.

Back to the seed starting.

There are a few herbs that work as natural fly repellants: basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, and bay.

We plan to have a handful of plants in the house, then several planters full on the patio around the back doors and probably one out front, hence, starting early.

Here are a few tips for starting seeds:

  1. Hedge your bets: choose plants that are easy to start. Basil is a good one, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes are also easy-ish.
  2. Timing is everything: you can find planting guides for all regions. The back of seed packets will list how deep to plant, germination rates (how long to sprout), and a general guide on how long till maturity.
  3. Have a drain tray. You can use nursery flats or punch holes in the bottom of a container that is about 2-3 inches deep, and set it on a tray or plate. By having the holes in the bottom you don’t have to worry too much about over watering, and that’s my style.
  4. If you’re just starting out, buy seed starter mix. Yes you can make your own, but I’d wait till you’ve been starting your own for at  least a season, that way you won’t be adding more unknowns to the learning process.
  5. Mini-greenhouse: cover your seed starts with plastic wrap, glass, or a tray cover and keep them around 70 degrees. Keep the soil moist.
  6. At the 1st sign of sprouts, move to the sun.
  7. Once they have germinated they don’t need to stay as warm. About 1 week before replanting outside, start to acclimate the starts to cooler temperatures. Set them outside for a little, do so more and more each day.

For us, one of the big parts of living in the country is the ability to raise our son in a way that he is able to learn lessons that have been passed down through family generations. I want him to know and understand the strength of his heritage.  He comes from a family of farmers, ranchers, and service men and women.  Above all he comes from hardworking people that take care of their own and step up to help others.

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