Friday, July 22, 2011

Strawberry Jam

For me there is nothing better then fresh, Oregon strawberries, Hood berries to be exact.  They're little, compact, sweet, juicy gems.  Bright red all the way through, they stain your hands and your lips.  (You can expect this same adoration when raspberries and blueberries are in season and right after I've headed to the Gorge to get fresh cherries.)  This year, I took the girls and declared that we would be picking berries, actually hunching over the little mounds gathering our own fruit.  I would not just be pulling into the farm and buying them from the stand.  And it was fun; for about an hour. 
So I paid for a combination of the fruit we picked and some flats that were picked for us, loaded them up and stopped at the store to buy canning materials.  In my journey to feed my family a little bit better, a little healthier, I'm trying to make as many of the things we use so that I can control what goes into our bodies.  And jam is really easy to make!  We used the Surejell Recipe (by we I include my wonderful Mom, or Nama as my girls call her...she has taught me most of what I know about cooking and canning!) and we don't boil the jars to tighten the seal, just turn the jar over as soon as you've filled it and tightened the lid...wait about 20 minutes and flip right side up, and wait for the ping!  This little trick makes canning even easier.

Fresh Oregon berries, from an organic farm.

Cut strawberries with organic sugar, you can make sugar free jam but I figure you use very little jam so it might as well taste really yummy!

The finished product, we couldn't wait to try it, so we had jam on ice cream...versatile too!

I used the same preparation for getting strawberries into the freezer, just clean, cut and toss with organic sugar...fill a freezer bag and don't forget to note the contents and the date.  Frozen berries can be used for sauces, snacks, in baking, and smoothies; you name it the possibilities are endless!  And again, you control what is going into your families bodies and save yourself money. 

Here's the recipe:
*2 Quarts Strawberries, cut and crushed, should equal 5 cups
*7 Cups of Sugar (I use organic)
*1/2 teaspoon of butter
*I box powered SureJell
1. Pour crushed berries into large pot
2. Measure sugar into separate container and set aside
3. Stir package of SureJell into berries
4. Add butter (it keeps the foam down)
5. Bring berries to a full rolling boil (will not stop when being stirred), then add sugar
6. Stir constantly
7. Stir in sugar quickly
8. Return mixture to a full rolling boil, and boil exactly 1 minute, stir constantly
9. Remove from heat
10. Ladle quickly into jars that have been cleaned and preheated (if you can have them washed and in a warm dishwasher waiting, that'll be perfect)
11. Fill jars to about 1/4 inch from rim, clean sides and rim of jars
12. Place heated lids on jars (to heat lids, simmer in water for at least one minute) and be sure to tighten lids
*This is where my directions will differ from SureJell's
13.  Turn jars over for about 20 minutes, then flip right side up, and wait for a pinging noise...then you have jam!  Store in your pantry, and be sure to mark with the date and berry!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Snacks for a Long Day...

As parents we all have those dreaded days of hours spent on the side lines, in ice skating rinks, or dressing rooms(backstage)...days when you have little options for food, or when food isn't allowed.  Yet our active kids need to feed their growing, moving bodies. These were snacks I packed for my girls during dance rehearsal week, they technically couldn't have snacks...but we all know that kids need fuel and these were long 6-9 hour days.  Fortunately our dance school would allow the girls to throw on cover ups and grab a quick bite.  I packed foods that would give them a burst of energy, fill them up and not cause any mess to those darling costumes. 
This is one days snacks...I tried for variety but it didn't always happen.  They got jerky or pepperoni, pretzel and cheddar goldfish, cheese slices, applesauce, juice, fruit leather, bananas, apricots, apples, and water bottles.   The variety gave them lots of choices through out the day and met many of their nutritional needs.  There isn't much in the way of grains...but lots of fiber in the fruits and veggies.  Some days they got carrot sticks, cucumbers, yogurt, whole wheat crackers, grapes and dried fruit.  I love my reusable bags, just rinse them out with warm water and a little soap and your ready for the next use!

Just two of the adorable costumes they wore...this was for a Mary Poppins Acro was darling!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

4th of July

I know this isn't a lunch, nor is it very healthy...but it sure was yummy and fun.  I love the 4th of July more then any other holiday.  I am so proud to be an American (with faults and all), I love living here, I am grateful to the men and women who serve our country and I cry every time I hear the National Anthem.   It's only fitting then that our celebration includes a small town parade, a barbecue and loads of desserts!

Here's a picture of my Red, White and Blue Starcakes, and a bunch of sweet little girls waiting on the parade.
I use a basic English Scone recipe, which I cut into star shapes.  Macerate strawberries, raspberries and blueberries with a little sugar.  Top with some fresh whipped cream, instant yum!

Three families, 9 little girls (not all pictured), a giant handful of sugar and spice!  Hope your families had a safe and happy celebration!