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Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

Making low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin

strawberry jam

Last year, I meant to preserve things. I had such good intentions. I even bought jars… but they disappeared into the cupboard to make up for the glassware I break all the time, into the fridge, into the lunchbox drawer. What can I say, mason jars are amazing.

This year, it’s all different. I’ve started already!

My previous experience of canning and making jam had been marathon sessions in a boiling hot kitchen, working quickly to process kilos and kilos of strawberries we had brought home from the U-pick farm which were literally turning overripe as we worked. It’s tiring at the best of times, but after hunching in the sun picking berries, driving 90 minutes each way, no one is in the mood to then can the jam for four hours. The first time my husband accompanied me on one of these crazy outings was also the last time. He told me in no uncertain terms he was not doing it again!

So I had been reluctant to take on that project on my own, but a chance discovery at a fish canning class offered through my incredible local community-supported fishery gave me the confidence to get back into it.

The instructor mentioned making high fruit, low sugar jam with Pomona’s Pectin. I was intrigued, because the other thing keeping me from making jam was the truly insane amounts of sugar involved. Pomona’s Pectin is activated by calcium (supplied in the box), not by sugar, so you’re free to keep the sugar levels low – and in fact use all sorts of other sweeteners like honey, sucanat, stevia, or fruit juice concentrate.

For instance, I took advantage of some great sales on organic strawberries lately and made a batch last night of regular strawberry jam. With the Pomona’s Pectin recipe, I used 1 cup of sugar for 2 1/4 lbs of fruit. For slightly more fruit, the Bernardin’s website suggest 7 CUPS of sugar. Strawberries are gloriously sweet already, the idea of adding that much extra on top makes my teeth ache just thinking about it.

I’ve also harnessed the rhubarb abundance and made a very zippy rhubarb jam with ginger and vanilla. It’s a bit tart for toast, but I suspect around January it will be very welcome. Smeared on the edge of a piece of crumbly, aged cheddar though, oh, it is amazing.

I highly recommend checking out the imaginative Preserving with Pomona’s Pectin book, which contains the rhubarb jam recipe, as well as lovely sounding things like peach champagne jelly and strawberry balsamic conserve. Though the instructions inside the box are very comprehensive if you’d like to just start with a basic single-fruit jam.

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On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

On Treehouse: Rice cooker apple oatmeal

rice cooker apple oatmeal titled

I love oatmeal from the rice cooker. It is so easy, and doesn’t involve soaking the pot where I burnt a third of the porridge either. The other week I had the brainwave to dump apple chunks in with the oats and the water while it’s cooking. Even more brilliant!

The full instructions are over on Treehouse Parents.

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Burrito bowls

Burrito bowls

burrito bowl

I am secretly obsessed with those ‘what I ate’ blog posts and magazine pages. I know, I know, most of them are made up or at least massaged into appearing super healthy. But like most people, I struggle with inspiration for my daily meals.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to start posting recipes for the meals we eat at home all the time – the ones that get requested again and again. They’re not particularly original or very complicated, but I think we could all use a few more of those regular meal ideas.

Burrito bowls are, by their very nature, super flexible things. We eat these at lunchtime mostly, utilizing leftovers in the fridge, but the base stays essentially the same: brown rice and black beans. Often I will cook a batch of onions, corn and peppers to add to omelettes and burritos, and keep it in the fridge. Add hot sauce, nuts, whatever takes your fancy. Skip the salsa and sour cream and use a miso-soy dressing and it’s immediately more Asian, no longer really burrito related but also amazing.

Here’s an example bowl we had today. I haven’t given measurements because this is up to you.

Burrito bowl

  • Cooked brown rice
  • Black beans, rinsed
  • Corn kernels, frozen
  • Peppers, chopped
  • Onion, sliced
  • Cheese, shredded
  • Kale, either raw and chopped or leftover fried kale, chopped
  • Pico de gallo or salsa
  • Sour cream

1. Heat or cook the rice, add black beans if you’re just heating it up.

2. Fry the onion, corn kernels and peppers together, by the time the onions and peppers are softened the corn will be defrosted.

3. Layer rice, then beans in a bowl, top with shredded cheese, and then the onion mixture. All the heat will melt the cheese for you.

4. Finally, top with the kale, salsa and sour cream. Enjoy!

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Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

squash mac & cheese

Ever aiming to squeeze more vegetables into my family, I have been experimenting with augmenting macaroni and cheese.

A basic cheese sauce is actually not that much harder to make than reconstituting one from a pouch. I was quite annoyed when I figured that one out! Yes, you make a roux, but it’s just some whisking really. Nothing to panic about.

Butternut squash seemed like a perfect candidate for the added veg as the colour was right, but so often recipes I tried with squash would turn out too fibrous or too watery. Roasting rather than boiling the squash, and pureeing the life out of it, seems to have solved those problems. Finally, I don’t like crumb on top of my macaroni cheese, but by all means, add some breadcrumbs on top and broil for a few minutes until brown.

Macaroni cheese with sneaky butternut squash

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Olive oil
  • 500g shaped pasta, like macaroni, penne, bowties
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 heaping tsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 60g shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds, brush with olive oil. Lay cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour or until very soft. Let cool for 10 minutes, or until you can handle it with a hot mitt.
3. Scoop out squash flesh with a spoon and transfer to food processor or powerful blender. Process for 2-3 minutes until squash is baby food consistency. Press through a fine sieve with the back of a spoon if you can still see fibres. Put 1 cup of pureed squash in a small bowl, store the rest for another use.
4. Put a pot of water on to boil, prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain pasta and return to pot.
5. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add flour one spoon at a time, whisking constantly. Add milk a splash at a time, whisking to incorporate.
6. Add squash puree to white sauce, and whisk until smooth. Add more milk if sauce is too thick.
7. Tip in the cheeses, whisking to melt the cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Take pan off the heat.
8. Pour sauce over pasta and mix gently with a wooden spoon. Serve with more parmesan cheese on top.

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On Treehouse: Kale-studded meatballs

On Treehouse: Kale-studded meatballs

kale meatballs

I know, I know, I can hear you from here. Really Erin, kale in MEATBALLS? What’s wrong with you?

Like most people, we don’t eat enough vegetables, which means I put extra veg in everything. It’s my goal this year to eat more vegetables, so whenever I’m making something there’s always a moment when I say: ‘Can I put kale in this?’

Use your food processor to chop the kale very, very fine. By the time it’s mixed in with everything else, you can’t even taste it. I would say use pretty much any combination of beef, pork, buffalo, venison, moose – but I don’t think this would hold together with turkey or chicken. I find it quite hard to get poultry meatballs to stick together without adding loads more fat, which defeats the purpose really.

These are great in lunchboxes with a little container of ketchup for dipping, in a tomato sauce with pasta, in the fridge as a quick protein snack. For some reason, my son loves meatballs, so it’s my go-to when he’s been refusing other protein. I don’t know what it is with kids and round foods, but it seems to go over well.

 

Read the recipe for my kale meatballs over on Treehouse Parents.

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