Kitchen Staples for Healing Naturally

Healing is on my mind today as I sit here, stuck on the couch with a throat that burns and a cough that makes my head feel like it’s going to explode. At least the persistent sinus headache is gone. Everything has moved to my chest. Yeah me!

So what’s a girl to do but take a few homeschool teacher in-service days? My littles are playing outside and getting extra dirty in the morning and vegging on cartoons in the afternoon (thank you Diego and Netflix!). My older two are still doing all the schooling that they can do independently without mamma’s help. We are eating simply…cereal and juice, PB & J and fresh fruit, easy no-brainer dinners. One of my dear friends even brought me an already-made pasta bake and some fruit and veggies that we will eat tonight. Love those moments of provision that the Holy Spirit facilitates in our lives! Small, yes…but huge where it counts!

As I’m making concoctions for myself to desperately make this go away and avoid a trip to the doctor that will end in antibiotics, I thought I would share with you some of the awesome natural remedies that I have found over the years that have been essential for us when the yucky’s hit.

The kitchen is my best friend when it comes to healing us. Everyone has heard of chicken noodle soup as a go-to for healing food. But did you know it’s not a myth? I’m not talking canned soup here. The real deal made with homemade chicken stock from bones. That gelatin is magical stuff. Sauteed garlic and onions adds another layer of immune boosting properties. Too tired to make homemade chicken noodle soup? Try making ramen noodles with your own homemade chix broth instead of water. Tastes the same if you season with salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder without the damaging MSG of the packets. My kids LOVE this and it is usually a cheap lunch staple in the winter time for our family.

Another kitchen staple we use often in healing is honey usually added to tea. Any tea is good (the heat is what kills germs on your throat and loosens phlegm) so don’t worry if you don’t have those fancy herbal ones. Although I have quite a fondness for Wellness Throat Care and Celestial Seasonings Echinacea Wellness teas! Throw a touch of lemon juice and some honey (both act as antibacterial agents to kill germs and the lemon juice helps cut through mucus) and you have yourself a soothing cup of meds that are gentle on the throat and uplifting to the tired soul.

You can also use honey as a wonderful basis for homemade cough/throat syrups. (Don’t forget – not on infants under one years old!) Kids love the taste of honey and it makes whatever other ingredients you are adding more palatable for them. Most everyone has honey on hand and even if you are still going to give your kids over-the-counter meds, this works well when their throat is still achy and they want something between doses. From the kitchen means no side effects!

My favorite that the kids love is a ginger honey cough/sore throat syrup that tastes good and I don’t have to force anyone to take it. Just grate a piece of ginger and squeeze the juice from pulp into a bowl. Add a touch of lemon juice and some honey and stir. I take mine and put it back into the honey bear and label for fridge. If you have raw honey it’s even better because of the enzyme action in the honey not being heated. Notice I didn’t give amounts. That’s because this recipe is very forgiving. You will get about a teaspoon to tablespoon of gingerish liquid from the pulp. Honey is about 1/2 to 1 cup and lemon juice around same as ginger liquid. I never measure. I use what I have on hand (sometimes that’s more or less honey) and mix. It doesn’t have to be precise.

You can also try this tumeric honey recipe (just as the video says or combine with recipe above) for a more potent syrup. The spiciness of the tumeric (an anti-inflammatory) will most likely make this a more adult-friendly recipe. I must say, though, this has helped my throat the most. It may be spicy at first but soothes it for much longer than my throat drops did. Combine these with the simple power of a salt-water gargle in warm water a few times a day to help kill nasty throat bugs.  I do the salt water gargle first followed by the honey-turmeric and then wait at least 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything to let them do their job in killing bacteria.

And don’t neglect the power of Vitamin C. Most people get their 100% dose of Vitamin C per day via their foods and juices or vitamin supplements. But when your body is worn down and trying to heal from outside attacks of a virus, extra Vitamin C can really help your body repair itself faster. I keep Vitamin C throat drops on hand for my littles. These are better for sore throats than menthol drops because they don’t sting little throats and give a small extra dose of Vitamin C to little bodies. I use the Airborne for myself which is a mega boost with zinc and herbs to boot.

I also try to get extra Vitamin C naturally in our smoothies. We do smoothies at least twice a week. I take whatever fruit is looking a bit wilty and chuck it in the blender with some frozen fruit (usually blueberries or strawberries) and greens (when I have them – spinach is our favorite), some milk or yogurt (plain, full fat), vanilla, and a 1/3 cup of sugar (not to worry, that covers 8 people). My kids LOVE these and I feel it is a great way to add fruits and veggies to their otherwise picky diets!

My fave is a winter Orange Julius smoothie. Throw in a bunch of oranges (4-6), heavy cream, yogurt, vanilla, a couple of raw eggs, 1/3 cup suger (or honey) and a teaspoon of Vitamin C powder (we keep this on hand to use all winter long – and use calcium ascorbate as it allows you to absorb the vitamin C better). Tastes JUST like the malls except extra healthy for you!!!

My last tip…soak the toothbrushes in Hydrogen Peroxide (change morning and night) to kill germs during the length of this sickness. This is also good for anyone who is struggling with gingivitis.  When the cold/flu passes, throw away and buy new brushes.

Now, if I can just learn to make these:

Honey Cough Drop Lollipops @ The Pistachio Project

Or these:

Horehound Lozenges @ Frugally Sustainable

My next winter projects!!!

Red, White, and Blueberry Waffles {and other Fourth of July Pinterest Stuff}

Don’t you just love the festive color combinations of this creative breakfast my hubby came up with? Okay, maybe the breakfast isn’t that creative…we actually have this quite a bit at our house…but my husband is totally proud of his creative name for it.  Although I must say, it is the best waffle recipe we’ve ever had. Adam has tweaked it over the years to get it just right. No crunchy, overfluffed Belgian Waffles for us. We wanted something old-fashioned, classic in flavor. Slightly crisp but just the right softness when our homemade syrup is poured over top! {See Recipes Below!}

And here is a lovely shot of the one beautiful hibiscus that bloomed in our yard. I didn’t even know we were growing hibiscus! (I’ve always wanted them!) So imagine my surprise as Delilah swooped into the bathroom and showed me her treasure find. I laughed as I remembered my post from yesterday and then turned it over to show her how these flowers first inspired making fairy doll skirts out of flowers. Gorgeous! I see a girlie summer project going on. That is, if we can get the flowers to bloom before being plucked forever out of existence.

My day is pretty mellow today. I’m deciding NOT to clean the house (against all my mom instincts). Who really is going to notice my dirty floor? Besides, little kids running in and out all night with smoke powder on their fingers and feet…who am I kidding? I’d just have to re-do tomorrow! So today is a lazy day. Kids are heading out swimming and I get to sit here and right this post. Later this afternoon we will be watching Independence Day (a no-brainer!) and staying cool in the air-conditioning. Then it’s brats and dogs and smores and yumminess mingled with explosives and lots of little kids. Good combo, right?

One fun project we’re going to try tonight is glow-in-the-dark bubbles. Saw this on Jolanthe’s Homeschool Creations Blog last week and fell in love with the idea! Hopefully I’ll have some fun pictures to show you tomorrow.

Glowing bubbles courtesy of Homeschool Creations.

Speaking of Pinterest, thought I’d throw out some of the fun Fourth things to try. Check out my Fourth of July Pinterest Board. Killer stuff here! I only listed a few so, please, go see for yourself…there’s MUCH, MUCH more!

{ 1 } Sparkler Shield

{ 2 } Fourth of July Punch

{ 3 } Tin Can Windsocks

{ 4 } Cup Cake Liner Bug Protectors

{ 5 } Independence Day Paper Plate Hats

And now, for the waffle recipe (adapted from James McNair Cookbook). We double this recipe for our family of 8 as well as doubling the syrup recipe.

Butter Rich Waffles

  • Melted butter for greasing
  • 2 Eggs, room temp, separated
  • 1 1/2 Cups Milk, room temp
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Cup Flour
  • 1 Stick Butter (1/2 cup), melted
  1. Preheat waffle iron.  Grease grids with melted butter.
  2. Beat egg whites to form stiff (but not dry) peaks. Set aside.
  3. Combine egg yolks, milk, baking powder, flour, and melted butter till smooth.
  4. Fold in egg whites.

Homemade Syrup (cheap and easy!)

  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Water

~ Boil 10 minutes, turn to low and stir in:

  • 1 pad butter
  • splash of vanilla

Have a wonderful, safe, and happy Fourth everybody!!!

Summer Cooking {Pesto Crab Pasta}

I made my first batch of pesto tonight. I scheduled Alfredo Pasta with Crab for dinner thinking that Adam would be home to cook it. And he wasn’t. So I was staring at the clock…4 p.m….knowing something needed to be done to feed the kids and I was starving myself. Alfredo seemed…well, complicated. So I googled pesto + lump crab + pasta and came up with a simple recipe.

I love pesto. The spicy garlicky bite mixed with the fresh herb undertones of the basil. My summer staple. If there is one plant I will always have in my garden it is basil. Plus, now I know you can freeze it. Just pop your leftover pesto in an ice cube tray and you have fresh summer in the middle of winter.

Tonight pesto went into everything. A little reserved pasta cooking water mixed with pesto equals easy-to-toss sauce for noodles. A spoonful or two of pesto in the zuchinni being sauteed equals garlicky goodness. Touch of pesto warmed with crab equals salty perfection. Pesto painted over breadsticks equals soft, carb-o-licious heaven.

Make simple pizza dough. Check.

Turn into breadsticks. Check.

Make pesto. Check.

Boil pasta. Check.

Cut and sautee zuchinni. Check.

Lightly warm crab meat. Check.

Drain and toss pasta with pesto. Check.

Plate and take beautiful pictures in the evening sun. Check.

Eat heavenly deliciousness. Check.

Lick pesto off of plate. Check.

There are a million good pesto recipes out there. My basic recipe is below but I rely much more on tasting and adding what I think I need more of, usually more garlic or parmesan or olive oil. If using pesto as a basic pasta-toss sauce, be sure to check final flavor for a bit of salt and pepper!

  • 1-3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (who ever has pine nuts on hand, I ask you?)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup olive oil

 

~ Cookie Comfort ~

How do you bake cookies while simoultaneously holding a whining infant who may have RSV and has been clinging to you desperately all week day?

One hip…baby. Other hand…cookie scoop. Wasn’t this such a clever invention? I used to see it as a needless tool (my hubby wanted it) that I avoided just on principle. But, I’ll admit, today it has greatly come in handy.

We should be dosing up on meds and trying to clear out this sickness pervading our house. I should be packing the last little bits of our house. But there is something ultra comforting about home baked chocolate chip cookies in the middle of the afternoon! I mean, seriously, look at all that sweet, warm, fresh gooey goodness!

I’ve adapted our recipe from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. The only change being that I use all butter. No shortening or margarine in this house! And Adam has taught me to add the flour slowly at the end testing for that just-right-consistency. That has made all the difference in cooking the perfect cookie!

I cook mine at 350 degrees for exactly 9 minutes. No more, no less. Always pull even if you don’t think they look done! Everyone’s oven is different so that part may take some experimenting.

Scratch Real-Butter Ultra-Comfort Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 3/4 Cup White Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Cup Butter (slightly softened)

~ Mix with beater.

  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp real Vanilla
  • 2 Eggs

~ Mix again with beater.

  • 1 3/4 Cups – 2 1/2 Cups Flour 

~ Mix in 1 3/4 Cups flour with beater. Slowly add 1/4 – 1/2 cup more at a time till dough is still sticky but can be squished together in hand and keep shape.

  • 1/2 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

~ Stir in chocolate chips.

Cook, eat and enjoy!

And, by the way, the other cool secret about this recipe? You can use it for any type of cookie! Making peanut butter cookies? Add peanut butter and adjust flour accordingly. Making oatmeal cookies? Add a handful of oats and adjust the flour accordingly. As long as the dough has that same consistency then you’re good to go! This helped me in memorizing just on recipe and ditching the rest. Ultra simple for this overly busy mom!

Orange Clove Winter Stove Top Potpourri

 

winter potpourri

One of my favorite smells in the world is that classic cinnamon spice aroma that permeates the winter season. Most of us modern day Americans run to the store and purchase our Fabreeze or Glade cinnamon plug-ins. Some of us might even splurge on more pricey Scentsy warmers. But my favorite classic is the simple orange clove stove top winter potpourri.

This works especially well in a synergistic no-waste seasonal way as part of your kitchen clean-up. Winter is the traditional time for citrus to be in season and on sale. With a 4 pound bag of oranges at $1.49 a bag, who isn’t going to eat as many as will drip down their chin? So you are in your kitchen cutting up oranges for the kids lunch. What to do with the orange peels?

There is always the classic churn them in your disposal method. A wonderful natural cleaner for your disposal and sink pipes. But a better, more wintery way, is to simmer them on the stove top with some water, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks. (Stock up on them when they are half price in after Christmas sales…trust me, they will still be good when the next Christmas comes around!)

Ohhhh…the aroma! Just do as I say, not as I do. Use a bigger pot. There is nothing worse then your husband coming to you wanting to know what that burning smell is only to find your water simmered out and your cinnamon sticks are burning! Big pot + lots of water = lots of yummy smelling, house warming goodness! Enjoy.

101 Ways to Use PUMPKIN in Kid Friendly Dishes

Okay…maybe not 101, but a lot! 🙂

Canned pumpkin finally showed up at our store a couple of weeks ago and at 99 cents a can I stocked up! I’ve been doing a lot of on-the-fly cooking lately and have enjoyed experimenting with this nutritious staple. It’s a super easy way to get the kids to eat a nutrient dense super food!

Here have been our favorite ways to enjoy it.

Pumpkin Spice Latte’s.

Remember that recipe I shared? Well, I modified it a bit for our taste and my kids gave it a yummy thumbs up! (Yes, I’m a bad mommy. I do give my kids coffee every once in a while and they love it.) Stir together 4 cups coffee, 3 cups milk, 4 Tbsp pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar till heated through. Ultra yummy if you then top it with fresh whipped cream and sprinkle with cinnamon!

Pumpkin Muffins/Bread

Need I say more? A given that we will be doing this a lot! The key to super light and yummy muffins…use buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream for most or all of the liquids in your favorite recipe.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Make bread pudding with your favorite bread pudding recipe. Add in 1/2 can pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice to the liquids. Pour over stale bread and cook for 45 minutes at 350. Make some yummy caramel sauce to pour over the top (whisk a little cream, brown sugar, butter and vanilla together over low heat) and you have an instant fall dessert or, as in our case, a yummy dinner side dish!

Pumpkin Yogurt

This one I did on a whim. I was getting the kids yogurt for breakfast and realized I was out of jam. I looked down at the pumpkin I had already opened to use for my lattes. Hmmm….I wondered. And guess what? Mixing pumpkin, a bit of sweetener (honey, sugar, maple syrup…your pick) and cinnamon into plain yogurt completely hit the spot. My kids loved it. I’m thinking of trying this same thing with apple butter. Seasonal yogurt. Who knew?

Pumpkin Smoothies

If pumpkin yogurt works, why not throw it in a smoothie? I have this yummy oatmeal apple smoothie I do so I just threw in some pumpkin with it and, voila, instant yumminess. What goes into my smoothies? Well, it is never the same thing twice. Just depends on what I have on hand. Usually I throw in plain yogurt, raw honey, fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, pineapple…whatever I have on hand), and sometimes greens (spinach or swiss chard).

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

This is super yummy and is a way to get veggies into a simple, no-brainer for lunch. And the best part, for my kids at least, you can’t even taste the pumpkin! Easy recipe. Make mac n chz how you normally do (for me that usually includes 1 16 oz box noodles, whole milk, real butter, and colby or cheddar cheese…a few handfuls will do), stir in 1/2 can pumpkin and some parmesan cheese, add a bit of garlic powder, salt and pepper and you have creamy, instant success!

Happy Smiling Kids full of fortified goodness…

Large Family Chores: Mopping

I’ve been reading a wonderful resource lately…

Kim Brennenam’s Large Family Logistics (visit her blog here).

The book is good for me. Most is common sense and stuff I’ve heard or already knew but the key to this book is how she takes all that knowledge and brings it together into a workable solution for your family. Kim has 9 kids, homeschools, and lives on a working farm. Her similar interests means she is a woman I can glean from…especially being a woman of God who puts that above all else and wonderfully shows how to put it above all else in your own life in spite of a large family that produces daily chaos and mess. This has been sobering and refreshing for me all at the same time.

Today we are practicing one of her tips: Listening to audio books while mopping.

With six little kids 9 and under, our floors are filthy no matter how many times a day we sweep. I even try to spot mop after every meal to keep things manageable. Six little feet drag dirt, sand and grass onto the floor daily. Six little mouths miss food as it falls into puddles of stuck-on gunk on our floor.

So today we put on a story, got out six rags, made our own floor cleaner, put the baby in the play pen and set to work. The kitchen smells lemony and wonderful. While they have not perfected the art of mopping, it is MUCH cleaner than it was before and there was no complaining or grumbling…just giggling while they worked on their chore. I think I will use this tactic for other once-a-week chores!

What are we listening to today?

Ivy and Bean

 

A good story for Halloween and one of my children’s favorites!

How are we cleaning our floor?

  • scoop of baking soda
  • splash of vinegar
  • squirt of dish soap
  • sprinkle of essential oils: lemon and rosemary
Mix in a bowl with warm/hot water and deep clean, disinfect your floor.
Happy Mopping!

Real Food Part One: Dinner and a Movie

Maybe some of you remember the $5 Food Challenge invitation?

Yesterday was the big day. I admit, I was a little worried. Because of time and money restraints I wasn’t able to go shopping until the day before.  But due to the generosity of friends and being able to go shopping at a new wonderful all local food store, Tomato Tomato, everything came together beautifully!

The Challenge ~ Can we eat a local, real food meal for less than the average value meal ($5 per person)? Do we have to sacrifice nutrient-dense healing food for processed, mass produced pretend food?

How did we do?

People attending: 20

Challenge Food Budget: $100

Actual Spent: $50.73

Per Person: $2.54

~ Dinner Menu ~

Herbed Arm Roast

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Buttered Green Beans

Smoked Bacon Swiss Chard Gratin

Fresh Baked Bread

Local Fresh Farm Milk

~ Dessert Menu ~

 Fall Apple Crisp with Fresh Whipped Cream

Locally Roasted Coffee: Columbia Sierra Nevada

~ Movie Snack ~

Local Stove Popped Popcorn

The biggest challenge was deciding how legalistic I was going to be about the whole event. Does every little thing have to be local? Does it all have to be organic? It is easy to fall into a trap in every ideology, whether religious or worldly, that one must adhere to strict rules and never fall off the path. But the biggest life lesson I am learning is that grace abounds and that allows flexibility and freedom while seeking the heart of an issue.

The heart of this challenge for me was two-fold. First I wanted to bring people together to share in food and good conversation. That is so key to what my family believes in. Second I wanted to offer up fodder for conversation on the food war front. We can only change things if we are making informed decisions. I was excited to share a film that would spur debate and critical thinking that we greatly need right now about our food industry.

Some of my local, real food challenges for this dinner…

I needed butter. I wanted vitamin-rich grassfed butter. There was none to be found. So I had to settle for butter at my regular grocery store and just made sure I picked the most local vendor.

I decided to go ahead and use the spices already in my cupboard…salt, pepper, garlic, etc…and not stress about whether they were local or organic.

Price Breakdown ~

Arm Roast$17.85 (3.50 x 5.10 lbs – Range West Grass Fed Beef)

Potatoes free (neighbor’s farm)

Green Beansfree (neighbor’s farm)

2 Onions$ .96 (Spring Valley Gardens)

Swiss Chardfree (own garden)

Herbsfree (own garden)

Apples$8.74 (4.5 lbs)

8 oz Smoked Bacon Cheese$4.60 (Jisa Farmstead Cheese)

Gallon Whole Milk$6.22 (Burbach – $4 credit for bringing back bottles)

Pint Cream$2.87 (Burbach – $1 credit for bringing back the bottle)

1 lb Butter$4 1lb (Highland Dairy)

Flour –  $2 for 2lbs (Grain Place Foods)

Oats $1 for 1lb (Grain Place Foods)

Popcorn$.49 for 1/3 bag ($1.49 bag – Hilger Agri Natural)

Coffee$3.00 for 1/3 bag ($9.30 16oz – locally roasted at Midwest Custom Roasting Inc.)

   

After a delicious dinner that everyone felt was much more like Thanksgiving rather than a usual evening meal, we retired to the living room to watch the controversial documentary Food Inc. The first time I watched this movie I literally walked out of the theater crying. I was already much more in the know about the food industry then most people I knew yet I was still shocked by what I saw. Having studied much more extensively about food since then, watching it this time just made me very angry. My first viewing left me wanting to change and I did make small baby steps. This viewing left me with a steely resolve that I need to get this food thing figured out for my family. We had some great conversation starting points and I think most everyone left with something to think about.

It was a great night of delicious food and even greater fellowship.

And it gave me much to talk about and share here in this virtual space. So I will be picking my own brain and hashing out thoughts throughout the next couple of weeks in a Real Food Series. Be sure to check back for more discussion and how your family can start making changes.

In the meantime, watch the movie Food Inc. Start reading (your local library is a great resource) and thinking. And check out Slow Food USA and “like” them on Facebook for real-time news stories. Let’s stop pretending that our world is fine and that we don’t need to change. Let’s start taking a real look at food and get back to eating food as God intended it to be.

Want to hear about our night? Listen to my husband on a radio podcast on in-season eating over at Judy A La Carte’s radio talk show.

Crockpot Peach Butter {and my favorite canning book}

I’m a bit sad to see strawberry season pass us by yet peaches are here and I am enjoying sweet juice dripping down the chin summer eating! Seasonal sales of 98 cents a pound beckon. But with so many peaches in house, ripe only lasts so long. What’s a girl to do? Make peach butter. I wanted to last year and decided to give it a go this year.

I used my favorite (ever!) canning book ~ Preserving

This is a Timelife classic…one of those buried-in-the-library kind of books that no one ever thinks to check out. And then you do and a gem is found. I am a visual learner and this book has literally every kind of preserving technique with step-by-step color photographs detailing everything you ever wanted to know. And the back is filled with a plethora of recipes from all kinds of old-time random sources.

Here is the recipe I adapted:

  • 3lb ripe peaches (8-10)
  • 1/2 C water (I used just enough to cover the bottom of my pot…about 1 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
Put the peaches in an enameled, tinned or stainless-steel pan and pour in the water. Cover and bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Put aside to cool. Lift the peaches out of liquid, do not discard liquid. Slip off peach skins and remove pits. Puree pulp and measure (should be about 5 cups). For every 1 cup puree add 1/2 cup sugar. Add sugar and 1/2 cup cooking liquid back into puree.

Now comes the part where I adapt the recipe to fit my needs. Who has time to sit at the stove for 2 hours and watch peach puree simmer down? I discovered with apple butter that the crockpot is your friend in times like these…especially in the heat of the summer. I barely just had time enough to simmer the suckers and quick puree. Time to dump them in with the delectable seasonings and let it go till morning on low.

After you wake up in the morning wondering what that funny smell is and quickly run to your crockpot opening the lid to uncover a gooey dark mess that looks like you’ve completely burnt and screwed up the recipe…

Take a deep breath, stir it and scrape the sides. Relax and realize everything is okay. Fill 3 pint jars or 6 1/2 pints and water bath or freeze or, if you’re like me and are planning on using this stuff in yogurt and yogurt pops and oatmeal and PB&J and toast and biscuits, just refrigerate and gift a pint. It will be used up in no time anyway! 🙂

BEAUTIFUL!

Canning No-Chunks, Kid-Friendly Strawberry Jam

Mmmmm…..

I’m sitting here smelling strawberries simmering down on the stove top. There is no other smell like it in the world. I can only describe it as scrumptiously heavenly. The childhood memories it evokes…grandma’s house, strawberry shortcake dolls, summer playtime, childhood foraging…is probably as strong as the deliciousness of the smell. And today it reminded me that I had taken some previous pictures of canning strawberries and forgot to post about them.

My strawberry jam is kid-friendly…by that I mean no chunks!!! You know how texture-oriented kids can be. But the best part about this jam is its versatility in my kitchen. Not only is it good on PB & J sandwiches, biscuits, or morning toast, we also use it on pancakes, in crepes, and as our natural sweetener for homemade yogurt and ice cream. The no chunks translates well to all other applications making them kid-friendly as well. So I’ve tweaked the original recipe which I swiped from the book Jams and Preserves under Classic Strawberry Jam (lovingly given to me as a gift from my mother in law) and have made it my own.

I’m not going to go into all the canning process…you can read about that in any good canning book or visit Freshpreserving.com. I’m just going to share the process of my recipe. And, I must note, this jam is ideally made with strawberries that are locally in season where you live…not the grocery store chain variety. But, I will sheepishly admit, mine are made with the grocery store variety due to price prohibitions. I am taking baby steps to that local, food-sustainable living thing but that is not the baby step I am on. I buy my strawberries when they are in season and go on sale for 99 cents per pound. That makes canning them economically work for me. Canning is cheaper than store bought jam and avoids that nasty high fructose corn syrup…the greater of two evils at the moment. (My cost is about $2 per pint jar. I try to buy my sugar on sale too.) And yes, I know strawberries is one of the dirty dozen yet I also can’t afford grocery store organic variety. So you work with what you have. This I will garauntee  you…it will still be the best tasting strawberry jam you’ve ever eaten! My kids won’t eat any other variety.

Now…on to making jam!

Step 1 ~ Get all your equipment ready to go.

Step 2 ~ Wash your fruit thoroughly. I use about 4-6 one pound containers.

Step 3 ~ Cut the tops off your strawberries (a steak knife works great for this), cut away any bruises, and halve or quarter. I know, I know…what a waste…use a strawberry huller! A) I don’t have one. B) I’m lazy. I put my diced strawberries straight into the pot I’m going to cook them in. One less bowl to wash. Did I mention I’m lazy?

Step 4 ~ Compost your strawberry tops (or let your little ones play garden with them!) and rinse and recycle your containers. (See…those tops didn’t go to waste. They are soil builders…yeah, soil builders!)

Step 5 ~ Dice up (with skin on) into 1/4 inch pieces 2 granny smith apples. This creates natural pectin. Have you seen the price of pectin? Outrageous. With kids we always have apples on hand. You can make your own pectin which I’d like to try some year…not this year. You can also use rhubarb if you have it available. It is the in-season fruit to use but I never have it on hand.

Step 6 ~ Add a splash or two of lemon juice (acidity helps with preservation) and simmer the whole thing over medium heat for about 20 minutes…or until berries collapse. Take the opportunity to clean your kitchen while inhaling this oh so yummy aroma. Or blog like I am. You know…whatever.

Step 7 ~ Blend your berries in a blender, food processor or with an immersion wand. Just a quick blend will do. This helps further mix that apple in with the berries and obliterates the chunks making it kid-friendly.

Step 8 ~ As you add it back to your pot, measure it. Then add 1 and 2/3 cup sugar for ever 2  cups of strawberry liquid gold. You don’t have to be super precise with this part. Ball park it.

Step 9 ~ Simmer again for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the scum. This helps the jelly to be clear, not cloudy. I don’t know if this is kosher or not but, yes, it is okay to lick the scum spoon. It tastes heavenly and why let a good thing go to waste?

Step 10~ After about 15 minutes check temperature with a thermometer. If it is just at 220 (setting point) then you are ready to can. You can do the gel method test but I’ve never been good at this and ended up way over-cooking my jam so I just stick with a concrete temp. Allow to cool on stove top about 10 minutes and skim again.

Step 11 ~ Ladle into jars with a canning funnel. Make sure to wipe rims clean and check for air bubbles. Lid jars with new lids…learned this the hard way! Although, I’ll be checking out these new reusable canning lids soon! If you have a jar that is only half full then allow that one to cool instead of canning and use first (refrigerate).

Step 12 ~ Water bath can in boiling water for 10-15 minutes (start timer after your water comes back to boil when putting jars into the water).

Step 13 ~ Turn off heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so. Take out with canning tongs and move to cooling rack. Allow to completely cool before putting away. Remember to check for proper sealing. If one didn’t seal right, just stick that one in the fridge and use first.

This makes between 2-4 pints.

Step 14 ~ Enjoy for lunch on fresh homemade bread and stirred into plain yogurt. Use again on biscuits at dinner because it was so good that you thought that making breakfast for dinner was a good idea. Plus, you were too tired after canning to think of a clever dinner.

Homemade Baby Food

It’s that time again. Little guy is getting bigger and his appetite is increasing. Time to start  putting aside some baby food.

Sure, I could go to the store and pick up some food. Seems pretty cheap in a jar. Seems to be nutritionally sound…just some fruits and veggies, water, and ascorbic acid. They even carry the organic stuff so why not?

I’ve done both ways, to be honest. And, yes, it’s easy and convenient to go to the store. But it’s also easy and OH SO MUCH CHEAPER and nutritionally fresh to do it yourself at home. The easiest way…work it into what you’re already doing in the kitchen.

Making supper for the family? Throw on a pot of extra veggies for the baby.

Doing dishes at lunch? Simmer down some fruit for the baby.

Passing out bananas at breakfast? Mash down a half for the baby.

Easy as pie.

  • Cook your veggies or fruit how you would normally. (They say steam is the best but I don’t have a steamer so boil, simmer or roast it is.)
  • Season with just a touch of salt or cinnamon…not too much. (They say no seasoning…baby doesn’t know anyway. But you DO want him to like it right? Have you ever tasted green beans without salt? Yuck. Just no butter or fats yet.)
  • Strain.
  • Puree in a blender or food processor with just a touch of the cooking liquid. Really pureed for 6-9 months. Still a bit chunky for 9-12 months.
  • Cool for about 15 minutes.
  • Freeze in ice cube trays.
  • Store in labeled freezer bag.
  • Thaw in fridge or reheat in microwave.
I also add a bit of baby cereal to my recipes after it has cooled. This adds that little extra carbohydrate and saves me from having to feed him two things.
And for you newbies out there…
Here is a fabulous site called Nurture Baby with everything you’ll ever need to know.
Homemade Green Beans for Baby ~ 
  • 1 16oz bag frozen green beans = $.87
  • Makes 7-14 portions = .12 cents for 7 portions
Store-bought Baby Green Beans ~
  • .59 per jar = $4.13 for 7 portions
Now just think of the savings when you upgrade to the number 3 jars!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal ~ Fortified Goodness!

How to get a nine-year-old, always super hungry, growing boy who hates oatmeal to eat his oatmeal?

Why with chocolate, of course!

The thought came to me serendipitously while making No-bake Cookies. I had already been thinking about and experimenting with using more blackstrap molasses as a natural iron supplement in my baking. So oatmeal was already on my mind as I had made it using this potent old-fashioned goodie. But as I was baking cookies I thought, “If you added cocoa powder and peanut butter to your morning oatmeal, wouldn’t that taste similar to no-bake cookies?” Hmmm…

And, woila, it does! Even better, he loves it and asked for seconds (this coming from a boy who would rather starve then touch oatmeal).

But the best part is this ~

By making it with cocoa powder, blackstrap molasses, and peanut butter, I actually fortified it with all kinds of goodies!

Now most everyone knows the good-for-you properties of peanut butter but have you ever looked at the label of cocoa powder? ONE TABLESPOON yields 2 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein and no sugar! Now combine that with the 1520% of your daily iron, calcium and vitamin A, magnesium, copper, and potassium from ONE TABLESPOON of blackstrap molasses and you’ve got yourself a heaping bowl of nutritional brain food for the school day! And the peanut butter with a touch of cream (or whole milk) adds just enough fat to satisfy until lunchtime.

Here is my recipe which fed me and five children with a bit to spare.

  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • twice the amount of water

Cook to desired consistency. Then add ~

  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 2 T blackstrap molasses
  • 2 T peanut butter
  • a touch of cream or milk
  • sugar to taste