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.
Freezer Waffles

Freezer Waffles

I love frozen waffles. They are great for mornings that i’m running behind, or fend for yourself breakfast days. Breakfast is my favorite meal, but some days the kids just like to have yogurt or cereal.

Our grocery store in town is okay, but for budgeting purposes we try to do one big shopping trip a month and use the local store for odd and ends the rest of the month.

Recently I bought a KitchenAid mixer, I bought a larger model with a 6qt bowl and the head raises and lowers rather than tips back. We wanted a stronger motor to allow for meat grinding and anything else that may come up over the years. I was so excited I bought flour at Costco, it seemed like overkill at the time, but I didn’t care. I had a list: white bread, wheat bread, cinnamon rolls, waffles, pizza dough, I was ready to use the heck out of this thing! FYI, i go thorough one of these bags every two weeks now.

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Turns out, my 9 year old who claimed to not like sandwiches just didn’t like store bought bread. I tell him all the time he needs to learn how to cook or he will starve when he moves out on his own. He doesn’t like anything from a box: hamburger helper, instant potatoes,  rice a roni, nothing!

 

I make a large batch of waffles every weekend and toss them in the freezer. I found a small 4″ waffle iron that is the perfect size for freezer waffles. I have a few learned lessons though, always set it on a plate for when you accidentally overflow it not paying close attention, and have a couple extras for the measuring cup you use for scoop/pouring, and one for the waffles your going to end up eating.

Waffles:

1 cup Milk

1 egg

1 cup flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp oil

I add the milk and egg first into the mixer so it mixes better, but if you use a hand mixer it doesn’t matter what order you mix ingredients. 

 

Seasoning Blends

Tupperware quit selling seasoning blends, which was disappointing. But they gave us recipes to make up for it, and they are easy ones too!

Each yield approximately 2 cups.

 DIY Seasoning Blends

DIY Cinnamon-Vanilla Seasoning

Forget vanilla extract. This all-natural seasoning tastes scrumptious when sprinkled over sugar cookies right before popping them into the oven.

1¼ cups granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ cup ground cinnamon
1 tsp. coarse kosher salt
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise*

1. Combine ingredients in Counterscaping Dry Container, insert vanilla bean halves, shake to combine and seal.
2. Store up to 6 months.

*Or substitute 3 tbsp. vanilla powder.

 

DIY Cilantro-Mojo Seasoning

Punch up a pork roast or chicken breast with a Cuban-inspired seasoning blend.

Zest of 6 limes
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp. coarse kosher salt
3 tbsp. garlic powder
3 tbsp. onion powder
3 tbsp. dried oregano
¼ cup dried cilantro leaves
2 tbsp. ground thyme
1 tbsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. ground black pepper

1. In the base of the Power Chef® System fitted with the blade attachment, combine zest and salt until well blended. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Add garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, cilantro, thyme, cumin, cayenne and black pepper. Pull cord 10 to 12 times to combine.
3. Transfer mixture to a Counterscaping Dry Container and seal. Store up to 3 months.

 

DIY Steak & Chop Seasoning

Before reaching for that store-bought dry rub, try this herby, aromatic blend instead.

½ cup black pepper
¾ cup dried minced onion
6 tbsp. garlic powder
3 tbsp. caraway seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup coarse kosher salt

1. Combine ingredients in Counterscaping Dry Container, shake to combine and seal.
2. Store up to 6 months.

 

DIY Southwest Chipotle Seasoning

The ideal smoky seasoning blend for fajitas or tacos.

2½ tbsp. smoked paprika
9 tbsp. ground cumin
1 ½ tbsp. garlic powder
2 ½ tbsp. chipotle powder*
2 ½ tbsp. dried cilantro
5 tbsp. onion powder
2½ tbsp. granulated sugar
4 tbsp. coarse kosher salt

1. Combine ingredients in Counterscaping Dry Container, shake to combine and seal.
2. Store up to 6 months.

*Or substitute chili powder for chipotle powder.

 

DIY Italian Herb Seasoning

This Italian blend is just begging to be sprinkled into marinara sauce.

Prep time: 5 minutes

10 tbsp. dried oregano
5 tbsp. dried basil
5 tbsp. dried parsley
7½ tbsp. onion powder
4 tbsp. garlic powder
5 tsp. coarse kosher salt
5 tsp. crushed red pepper

1. Combine ingredients in Counterscaping Dry Container, shake to combine and seal.
2. Store up to 6 months.

 

DIY Chocolate Seasoning

Ditch the salt and butter and season your popcorn with this luscious blend made with cocoa and espresso powder.

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
¾ cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. instant espresso powder (optional)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (optional)
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise*

1. Combine ingredients in Counterscaping Dry Container, insert vanilla bean halves, shake to combine and seal.
2. Store up to 6 months.

*Or substitute 3 tbsp. vanilla powder.

I made apple sauce!

I made apple sauce!

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I have this goal to start using foods more completely and even start eating foods that I would normally view as not bad, but not good. We live in prime agriculture area, and fresh produce is really easy to come by at low cost to free.

Recently I was given a large amount of of freshly harvested apples. My family goes through a lot of store bought applesauce, and my son loves the applesauce pouchesfor lunches.  I decided to turn the extra apples into homemade applesauce.

Problem #1: I’ve never made applesauce before.

Problem #2: I’ve never canned before.

Canning was always done by my grandma, and she’s not here to do it for me. I looked around for an adultier adult and came up empty handed, so it was up to me. I found an old family “recipe” if that’s what you can call, a list of mix a bit of this and that together and can.

I used my son as my taste tester. I don’t eat applesauce, it’s a texture thing. Not something I expect to get over anytime soon. It actually turned out great. According to my son “it tastes just like the stores”. I figure that’s a 10 coming from a kid that can taste the difference between brands of peanut butter.

So, for all those looking for an easy – I’ve never done this before recipe, here it is. I’ve lso included fruit mixes that I made for lunches.

Plain Applesauce:

Peel and quarter apples. I did enough to fill a medium sized sauce pan about 2 inches from the top. Fill about half way up the fruit with water, and boil. My son like a little more texture to his aplesauce, so I cooked the apples until they were soft enough I could push a wood spoon through them. Then I poured the apple mixture (including liquid) into my blender, and blended until the consistency desired. This is where my taste tester came in handy. I took samples from the mix and cooled it in the freezer for testing. Can using water bath method. Directions below for those like me.

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Mixed berry applesauce:

Peel and quarter apples, then top strawberries and add berries (about ½ as much as you have apples) to the pot, and fill about half way with water. Cook until apples are soft enough to push wood spoon through, softer if you like it with less texture. Poor mixture into blender and blend to desired consistency. Water bath can when done. You can also freeze or refriderage right away if preferred.

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Water bath canning:

  1. Fill jars about 1 inch from the top
  2. Wipe rim jar clean with papertowel, same with lid.
  3. Close jar and place in waterbath canner. Make sure jar is deep enough so lid is covered by 1-2 inches of water.
  4. Boil approximately 15 minutes

Remove and let cool. Jars will seal as they cool. You may hear a pop, you might not.

Make your own baby food?

So even as a beta mom (you can check out that blog here), I make my own baby food. Now I can see you thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that”. HAHA. But really, I do it because for me it’s convenient. We eat fairly balanced in my home, so the majority of time I just puree up leftovers for baby. However, there are some days I put a few extra minutes into it and make a stash. That’s what I did last night / tonight.

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Last shopping trip I picked up a bag of frozen peas and some frozen blue berries, and I had some sweet potatoes in the pantry already. So after work I tossed peas in a pot, peeled the sweet potatoes first and then cut them into chunks, putting them in a pot to cook too. While this was happening I had the blue berries thawing on the counter.

Once the peas were cooked I tossed them into my ninja blender and pureed them.  Personally I love the Ninja, it blends everything, we even grind coffee in it. I tried milling flour to see if it would work, and it seems like if you wanted to listen to it, it could, but I really don’t have time or patience for that.

I bought these ice cube trays off Amazon (someday I may tell you about my love affair with Amazon and their two day shipping), they work great for baby food! I love that the are so easy to manipulate and get the cubes out. And if you choose, they make pretty ice cubes too, haha.

I also love to use these reusable pouches. I can use them for both baby food, and apple sauces for my older son too.

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Sorry I get side tracked easily, back to my point. I add baby formula to my puree to make it smoother, plus my kids drop weight fast once they start eating solids, so I love the idea of adding the extra calories and nutrients. You can use breast milk or water too. Once the puree is the thickness I like, I spoon it into the tray to freeze overnight. Then puree the blueberries, same basic process.

At this point, I shove the sweet potatoes in the fridge to deal with the following day, as I have enough to do as is. Plus, the next day I can put the peas and blue berry cubes into freezer bags and freeze the pureed sweet potatoes.

Personally, when I do baby food I leave the texture in it, you could strain out the skin from the peas, or puree the sweet potatoes super smooth, but I learned with my first son that if its always perfect, its hard to get him to eat the not perfect. Tip: buy store bought food every now and then. I took my first son back with me to South Dakota for my Grandfather’s funeral when he was still eating only purees, and he refused to eat store bought. I’d never tried it before and he refused. He wound up eating apple sauce the whole time. As if it wasn’t stressful enough I had a baby refusing to eat. I suggest Beech-nut brad, it seems the most similar to home made.

Thinking about it now though, there is a good savings when you take the extra couple minutes to make your own food. I figure the bag of peas cost me $0.99 at Winco, and I made about 15 cubes and a baby food jar, so I would say that would equal out to about 6 baby food jars and a savings of about $2 ( $0.60 x 5 jars – cost of peas). Not too bad.

Plus, living in a farming community we get a lot of opportunities to get free  fresh produce.

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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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