Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Pie (Gluten Free, Peanut free, Cow Dairy Free, Refined Sugar Free Option)

I have a confession to make.  One of the true Thanksgiving staples, pumpkin pie?  Well, while I do love it, I have this problem.  I eat one piece of pie and I'm pretty much done with pumpkin pie for a year.  My husband is the same way.

So, every year I end up making pumpkin pie because it sounds good and every year we eat one piece each of the heavy custard pie and we're done.  So, I end up eventually throwing away about 3/4 of a pie.  And I find myself depressed, because I hate wasting food.

So, this year I tried and tried to think of a way to get a pumpkin pie-like effect without the heaviness of pumpkin pie.  I would normally try to make my Pumpkin Custard, but my son is showing more and more curiosity in food, so I worry about him eating it with the amount of coconut milk in it with the coconut allergy.  So, I was back to square one.

Then I stumbled across a recipe for sweet potato pie.  Intrigued, I looked at the ingredients and thought that maybe it would indeed be lighter than pumpkin pie.  But, I still REALLY wanted pumpkin in the pie.  And there was the added problem that the sweet potato pie recipes I could find called for cow dairy, which I'm trying to have my daughter avoid for the sake of her stomach issues wherever possible.

And then one day, I stood in front of my fridge and stared at a jar of Gluten Free Easily Pumpkin Butter and had an epiphany.  A true monkey touch the monolith moment.

And thus, Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Pie was born!  It is the perfect balance of pumpkin pie flavor with the lightness of a sweet potato pie.

Now, to make this you are going to need two things that I didn't create, but I'll link to those in the beginning.  Trust me, they are both worth making!  And freeze the pumpkin butter if you don't want to use all of it within six months.  Trust me, I'll be doing more with it.  It is SO yummy!!!

Trust me.  Make this!  It's the perfect addition to a Thanksgiving table!

Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Pie (Gluten, peanut, cow dairy free with refined sugar free option)

First you are going to need:
Pumpkin Butter and Sweet Potato Pie Filling
  • 2 Large Sweet Potatoes cooked and mashed (both white and orange, aka yams, work for this)
  • 1 Small container (6 oz.) goat's milk yogurt, plain (vanilla works if you don't care about refined sugar)
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar (or 3/4 cup brown sugar if you don't care about refined sugar)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup  Gluten Free Easily Pumpkin Butter (depending how pumpkin-y you want your pie.  I like it with 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup ground ginger
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 Allergy Free Alaska Pie Crust
  • 1 Cup Blue Diamond All Natural (plain) Almonds, chopped coarsely (I put mine through a coffee grinder for a couple of pulses for the pie in the came out a bit too fine.  Chopping them with a knife works a lot better).  Do NOT roast beforehand. 
  • 1 to 2 tbs. Real Maple Syrup
Heat Oven to 350 degrees

Place mashed sweet potatoes, yogurt, sugar, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, egg yolks and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth.

Set pie crust, already in pie plate and ready to fill on a half sheet pan (to catch any boil over), fill with sweet potato mixture (you might end up with extra depending how deep your pie plate is).  Smooth top of pie with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle top liberally with almonds.  Drizzle maple syrup over the top of the nuts (mine probably took about 1 1/2 tbs. of maple syrup).

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the custard reaches a temperature of 165 to 175 degrees Fahrenheit (the temperature that custard sets).  The middle may still jiggle slightly.  Remove from oven and let cool in pan to room temperature.  Serve (store leftovers in the fridge as this is a custard pie).  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Welcome to My Gluten Free Kitchen!

Just to get this out of the way, I know I haven't been around much lately.  I've been busy!  But, I've got big plans for December, so just bear with me for another week here and we'll be good to go!

First, though, I'm involved with a bunch of other bloggers giving tours of their gluten free kitchen and this month is my month!  So, come on in, take a load off, and let me give you a tour of my gluten free kitchen!

So, here it is.  The space where all the "magic" happens for the blog here.  The first impression I always get from people when they first see my kitchen is, "Wow, your kitchen is small!"  At which point I always respond the same way.

"Yes, but it's very functional.  And well loved."

And I do mean that every single time I say it.  See, it's a small space to be sure, but I've been in other kitchens that were bigger, but so badly set up that it was literally a pain to work in them.  So, a well thought out space, even a small one?  Is worth it's weight in gold to me.

So, on with the tour shall we?  This is going to be sort of photo heavy as it's a small space, so no matter how well I cram myself into spaces, it's still going to take a while.

The first photo up there is a good view of my kitchen when you first walk in past the dining area (I'll get to that).  This photo shows the one corner that is blocked by my fridge in the photo above.  And some of my sizeable Tupperware collection.  The brown container houses my rice (we eat a lot of it around here).  Next to that it goes to Brown Rice Flour, Sorghum Flour, White Rice Flour and the little container on the end is my Xanthum gum.  The baskets above house my garlic (the yellow basket) and shallots and the other basket is currently housing my onions (in preparation of Thanksgiving cooking).  My always being used cutting board sits permanently on my counter.  I finally broke down and bought a Boos Block and absolutely adore it!  On my stove, my kettle sits pretty much all the time in preparation for me to make my morning cup of coffee or tea.

This is the little spot next to the stove.  When I told you an organized space is a wonderful thing?  Well this is one of those spaces that I love.  I keep my most often used spice blends and herbs in the spice rack.  I have Pink Himalayan Sea Salt in a salt pig (read chipped half pint mason salt cellar/pig ever!), along with coarse ground black pepper.  I also keep a poultry blend of salt in a small container and a thing of smoked sea salt in another (never know when you might want some flavor enhancers at the ready).  In the bottles I keep apple cider vinegar (for quick salad dressings), balsamic vinegar (for marinades and salad dressings) and extra virgin olive oil (which is my go to cooking oil).  Next to that is my recipe box where I keep the baking recipes I use the most often (like Banana bread, most of my spice blend recipes,Allergy Free Alaska's Pie Crust Recipe, Alton Brown's Gluten Free Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe and a few others).  And down at the end of the "spit" as it were, I've got my butter dish.  Yes, I keep butter at room temperature.  We go through a lot of it on toast around here, so it doesn't have time to go bad.

The view on top of my fridge where I store my various mixing bowls (that I use the most often anyway), my garbage bowls (the plastic bowls on the left) and my serving bowls (which you've seen, I'm sure in various photos of salad and/or pasta on here).  I also keep serving trays on top of the fridge too as it keeps my cabinets from getting too over run with things that barely fit in them.  Also housed on top of the fridge (which you could see in the opening shot of the kitchen) are various bubbles which we use for my son's bubble time after dinner.  Yes, for him, bubbles are that important.

As for the fridge itself, it's always cluttered.  I have a dry erase board where I write down things that need to get done right away, or things I need at the store (also keep a thing of paper on the fridge to finalize said list before going to the store).  I also have the aforementioned pad of paper on the fridge, school calendars, a regular calendar with events noted on it, a thing of dry erase markers and pens.  The rest of the fridge is taken up with children's artwork, which I take so much joy in :). Fridge art needs to be a standard in every household, I swear.

The view more toward the sink.  I try not to keep overly much on the counter that I use the most for baking and such, so the only things taking up the one corner are my mixer, my paper towels and one of the phone handsets (which tends to migrate, but it was the only place we could really put a charger where my son would leave it alone).

And here's the rest of kitchen "central".  My pot rack and the view out my window of our back yard.  My Flatware Caddy, tea container and sugar bowl right beside my beloved mug tree with my small collection of Fiesta mugs on it.  I love them so much and use one for my tea or coffee every single day (and yes, I'm serious).

You can also make out my "extract" rack, as I like to call it, under where my pot rack hangs.  I keep a ton of extracts around for various baking exploits.  I also hang my tea ball and such from the bottom of the rack to make them easily accessible in a near comatose state in the morning.

And now onto the "satellite" area of the kitchen.  I use the bottom of an old desk I refinished as a microwave cart (and yes, I use my microwave every day...usually to reheat leftovers for lunch or to boil water quickly).  On top of the microwave is our two toasters.  My husband uses the toaster oven for his gluten containing things and I'll make my son's whole wheat toast in there too (one of the few things he'll eat that's "real" food).  My daughter and I use the toaster for our toast.  Keeps cross contamination worries at bay.  The pizza peel on the wall is used for many a Udi's pizza around here come pizza night.

And we page over a little more and we end up at the dining area.  On the wall is a poster from "Good Eats:  The Early Years".  Alton Brown is pretty much my culinary hero and I loved the poster, so I hung it up next to pictures of my kids *laugh*.

And in the final corner, is the "newest" addition to the kitchen.  I added a small bookcase that I had around the house and put my small appliances that were taking up counter space on it (my rice cooker, crock pot and ice cream maker are currently on the bookcase).  I also store my ground coffee over here as it's easier to get to then going into my pantry downstairs or into my hallway closet area (you can see my Melita cone on top of the coffee invention ever and makes as good a cup of coffee as Keurig, I swear) and a container of bulk tea bags for when I don't have loose leaf tea around.  I also keep my daughter's cookie jars down where she can get to them easily for an after school snack.  My husband keeps his bread in the bread box now, instead of all over my counters, so it helps keep cross contamination down.

Above, is one of the things that I really think makes my kitchen special (I'm just going to go through a quick list/photo shoot here).

One dollar frame from the used store, a piece of scrap booking paper (which I placed over the mat that came with whatever print was in said frame) and some "creative" (okay, kinda crappy) writing for Menu and the days of the week, place in said frame and voila!  You have a ready made dry erase menu for your weekly menu plan.  I love it so much I can't even begin to ooze!  It really gives me a thrill to fill it in every week and if I ever get bored with the design, all I have to do is trade out the scrap booking paper :).

I also collect frogs, so you find they show up in odd places in my kitchen (I even have a frog shaped tea holder for my loose leaf tea).  This sign I'm really proud of.  My husband and I designed it together and I painted it.  I wanted a frog themed pub sign and I got it.  I really treasure it since my husband and I did it together.

In front of it, by the way, is my Galloping Gourmet kitchen scale that I found for a buck fifty at a used store.  I loved watching that show when I was a child, so I was thrilled to add it to the kitchen decor.

Other frogs around the kitchen?

A reproduction print of one of the only frog themed advertisements.  I am working on SLOWLY getting the other like two ads that feature frogs (that revolve around food anyway), to hang up on the walls in the kitchen, but that falls to the bottom of my budget list.

In front of the ad is a couple more of my frog themed kitchen "things".  My frog cream and sugar containers.

My toothpick dispenser (the toothpicks sit in a compartment in his back).

And my "fine china", which is my limited collection of Toby the Toad dishes.  I hope my daughter really learns to love frogs, otherwise she might not like her inheritance too much ;).

And I know we're getting pretty photo logged here, but I just wanted to share a few more photos of things that I think help to make my kitchen unique...

This wine bottle tray is the best spoon rest EVER!  Just saying, in case you might want to copy the idea.  It really is huge enough to hold two spoons at once and catches all drips.  Love it!

And my custom made pot rack, which cost us a total of about four bucks.  My husband is an electrician and he managed to salvage an end piece of what is called cable tray from a job he was working on (usually data cable and stuff gets laid down in the section where my pot lids sit and it gets put in ceilings and stuff).  It was going to be thrown out, but he kept it to use for a shelf, but I grabbed it and put it over my cabinets.  A couple of brackets to hold it in place and some "s" hooks from the hardware store and voila!  A cheap pot rack that costs a LOT less than what the ones at the store go for. Love the space it frees up more than I can say, and I can safely say it's one of a kind.

So, there you have it folks.  My kitchen in all of it's small, but mighty, glory!

Want to check out the other kitchens in the series?
Enjoy all!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apple Brown Betty (and a Lesson about Life): Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free

Substitutions.  Replacements.  Ersatz.  Words that mean the world to those with food allergies if you think about it.

The moment you are diagnosed with an allergy or food intolerance, your life becomes a world of substitutions and trying to recreate dishes as close to the original as possible.  Sometimes those replacements are close, sometimes even better (which I honestly believe my gluten free banana bread is better than the original gluten containing one) and sometimes sub-par.  And you keep trying because you have to.

Such is the way of the world, but I have had a major rethink the last little bit when it comes to food.  It all started when I stumbled across a blog called The 1940's Experiment.  I was immediately impressed with the woman's resolve to follow a UK rationing diet to lose weight and became intrigued with the way the women during WWII had to rethink how recipes were done to compensate for the lack of things like eggs, dairy and a lot of other things.  So, I started ordering books and absorbing everything I could on the home front living in both the US and the UK during the war years.

And honestly?  I started to feel like a lazy slug of a woman.

Here I was sitting in my nice comfy house with gas heat complaining about having to do laundry in my nice electrically run washer and dryer while the books I was reading was telling you how to hand wash everything, make sure you took baths in five inches or less of water to conserve energy and when you had any spare moment to be sure you were darning any weak areas in clothes before they developed holes, canning and preserving any food you could get your hands on and working, in many cases, on top of it all.  I was complaining about the price of food, but at least I HAD food options to choose from.  I can't imagine running to the market each day to wait in line for hours to see what kinds of foods you could get that were available on the ration that day.  Really made me rethink my entire life a bit.

The results of this excessive reading were many.  One, I now make darned sure I don't waste ANYTHING if I can help it, let it be clothing or food.  I thought I was frugal it was NOTHING compared to how I am now.  I plan meals around what I need to use and what I can find cheap at the store and find it a challenge to deal with the food I can get, instead of wishing that I could afford a better cut of lamb instead of marked down lamb shanks.  I do make sure I get my kids the foods they'll eat because I don't want a war on my hands, but we've definitely been eating healthier around here as a result of this research and I'm hoping it's also saving us money in the long run as we are eating cheaper.

So, be prepared for recipes on the blog that are simpler in construction (if I can help it...sometimes different mixes of flours are just needed in gluten free baking to make things taste good, sorry to say),  better for you (nutrition was stressed a LOT during the war years to make sure everyone was not suffering health-wise with the rationing) and taste good.  I have tweaked the original recipes I found to make them allergy friendly for our needs around here, but honestly it is really easy to tweak recipes when there isn't many ingredients to the recipes to begin with.  Warning though, portions back in the day were smaller than today (which in my mind is a great benefit to the recipes), so be prepared for it.

So, here's the first recipe I made.  Apple Brown Betty.  This recipe calls for gluten free bread crumbs.  If you have it, home made bread tastes MUCH better in this recipe as the crumbs tend to be moister, but if all you have is Udi's or some other store bought bread, it'll do in a pinch.  I've been saving the end pieces of Udi's loaves (my daughter is a toast fiend and will ONLY eat Udi's) to make bread crumbs with as a LOT of wartime recipes use things like bread crumbs in the recipes.  Remember, waste not want not.

Apple Brown Betty (Gluten, dairy, refined sugar free)


  • 2 Cups still moist gluten free bread crumbs (white bread works best here)
  • 3 large apples, peeled and sliced thin (separate out of the apples into three piles)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar (use blond for this if you have it)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. to 1 TBS butter, butter alternative or coconut oil, melted (I used Earth Balance Butter Spread once and used coconut oil another time, both turned out well)
  • Whipped coconut cream or whipped cream (if you can do dairy), definitely a great addition

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish or casserole.  Combine bread crumbs, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and set aside (if your palm sugar is really dry, as mine tends to be, use a tiny bit of the orange juice to make the palm sugar the consistency of brown sugar before mixing in with the other stops the sugar from settling to the bottom of the bowl of bread crumbs).

Arrange 1/3 of the apples (see, this is why I said to split the apples into three piles) in the bottom of your baking dish.  Top with 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture (2/3 of a cup if you want to do it the precise way).  Repeat with another layer.  Add remaining apples and then drizzle orange juice over the top.  Combine the remaining crumb mixture with the melted butter (or alternative) and sprinkle evenly over the top (Note:  If you forget to mix the oil and the bread crumbs on the last step...which I might or might not have done when tired one night, just drizzle the oil evenly over the bread crumbs after you spread them.  It does work just fine).

Bake until apples are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.  Cool 15 to 20 minutes then serve warm with cream, if desired.  You can also chill this and reheat it for breakfast.  It makes AWESOME left overs!
Serves four.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Put it Up (Winter Preparations) Part 3: Winter Wrap Up!

I'm so sorry about the delay in posting!  It's been, busy, hectic, depressing and all around just overwhelming here the last little bit and honestly I just haven't had the extra energy to blog.

So, since I've had you waiting for weeks now on these posts, I figured I'd better do a wrap up post to share everything I did so that this series gets done know...winter!

So here you go folks!  Be prepared to get bombarded with recipes a little bit :).

1.  Freezing Pesto (Use for Basil)

Before this year I decided I needed to dry my herbs and would hang them up in elaborate bunches around my kitchen.  This year I decided to take it easy on myself.  So, for my basil, I decided the best thing I could do was to freeze it into pesto pucks.  Most recipes, including the one I used call for you to freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. I wanted bigger portions, because I knew that the only thing I'd be using the pesto for was pasta.  So, I put them in muffin tins instead.

The changes I made to work within our allergies:  I used Blue Diamond almonds in place of the other nuts the recipe called for.  I also used pecorino romano cheese (it's sheep's cheese) instead of Parmesan to make tummies not unhappy when we eat it.  I also left out the raw garlic and will add it in when I make the pasta as raw garlic tends to go bitter when you freeze it (that and I'm always concerned about the garlic allergy rearing it's ugly head again, so I'm overly paranoid).  The pesto came out good, I have to say :).

2.  Herb cubes (Use for fresh herbs)

I did kind of a two tiered attack when it came to the rest of my fresh herbs.  I divided them up and some I made into "herb pucks" with olive oil to make herb paste later to slather under the skin of chickens that I'll roast or something.  Those I tended to mix herbs that went well together (parsley, sage and thyme...that type of thing).  The rest I took and diced up fine and placed in ice cube trays.  I then took a dry erase marker so I'd know what herbs  were where (o for oregano, etc).  Then I just filled the cubes the rest of the way with water and froze solid.  Took the cubes out by herb type, bagged them in different freezer bags and tagged them for later use.  And voila!  I now have herbs that I can throw into soups, stews, or other dishes or I can defrost and use later.

3.  Blueberry Syrup (Use for blueberries).

If you are lucky enough to have time to pick blueberries, you can use some of the ones you pick to make awesome home made blueberry syrup.  If you DON'T have time, like me, you either have great friends who give you some of their blueberries or do like I did this year and just got the giant bag of frozen blueberries from Costco.  I halved the original recipe, by the way, as we just don't go through enough blueberry syrup around here to make the original recipe's worth.

And, you should have the perfect amount of blueberries left (if you get the frozen blueberries that is) over to make

4.  Spirted Blueberries.  I know it sounds like a kind of odd recipe, but if you make the blueberries with coconut rum?  You will be surprised how close to heaven they taste!  I tried these on a whim a few years ago and they are definitely on my "can every year from this point onward" roster.  They are SO good over pound cake!  If you don't like alcohol or don't believe in it?  Give these a try.  Trust me by the time they get done boiling away in a canner for 20 or more minutes the alcohol is boiled out of them, but the coconut depth flavors will remain and it just adds a depth of flavor that is astounding!

If you don't want to do the alcohol, you could leave it out and just can the blueberries, but you don't know what you are missing ;).

 5.  Blanched and Frozen Kale (Use for dark greens)

I know that a lot of people end up with a LOT of kale up here if they grow it and this is how I use my bumper crop for winter.  I tried canning greens a long while ago, but found that it just wasn't worth the use of the jar as the greens shrunk so much, had to spend so much time in the canner that they'd come out tasting like mush and you'd pull out a tiny bit of green for the use of a big jar.  So, the last couple of years I've blanched and frozen my greens and it works great!  

Instructions can be found HERE.

6.  Ketchup Based BBQ Sauce.  Yes, using fresh tomatoes and such make a better quality of BBQ sauce, but when it comes to my lazy nature, using ketchup as the base for BBQ sauce (I use organic as I think it tastes better), works for me :).

7.  Victorian BBQ sauce or Rhubarb BBQ sauce (use for Rhubarb):

I fell in LOVE with this recipe last year and made it again this year.  If you add some liquid smoke to the final product you'll never know that it isn't traditional BBQ sauce (well it is chunkier).  GREAT stuff!

Check out the recipe HERE.

8.  Strawberry jam.  Kind of straight forward.  I made a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that made a "strawberries on top" effect where you end up with strawberry jelly on the bottom and your solids kind of float to the top.  It's a neat effect.

There are TONS of strawberry jam recipes on line, so feel free to just google that one.

9.  Sauerkraut (use for cabbage)

I LOVE this recipe for sauerkraut because you ferment in the mason jars.  I do a couple of things different.  I half the water (I know weird right) during the fermentation stage.  It gives you a slight ferment to the cabbage instead of a major one when the ferment period is up.  And since you essentially double the salt during the ferment, the cabbage ends up coming out with a crunchy consistency instead of being mushy when it is all said and done.  It is AWESOME!

When your fermentation period is done, add your water to where it should be (in this case I had to add a half gallon of water back to the brine), heat to not quite boiling, jar up and process in a water bath canner 10 minutes per pint and 15 minutes per quart.  This definitely tastes better when you let it mellow for two months in the pantry.

The amount of sauerkraut above made 14 pints of sauerkraut when it was all said and done (I canned it yesterday). 

10.  Dehydrated celery (use for celery)

I grew some celery in my garden this year with all of these lofty plans to have ants on a log and other cool snacks with it.  Unfortunately the stalks never got big enough to do much with.  So, I decided I was just going to dehydrate it all.  Now I have celery leaf (which imparts a really good celery flavor believe it or not) and cut up pieces of celery stalk (the little jar on the right) to use in soups and other applications over the winter.  Worked really slick!

And there you go folks!  I am thinking about doing a couple of more jam type applications this year (to make into easy tarts and such later) and maybe some extra condiments, but for the most part, I'm done with winter prep for this year.  Hope you all had good luck putting up your stores for winter too!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Put It Up (Winter Preparations) Part 2: Fireweed Jelly

Last year was my first year making things out of the prolifically growing flower (at least in the summer) that we know as Fireweed here in Alaska (and elsewhere).  When I realized all the uses for Fireweed, I got excited and made Fireweed jelly for the first time.  While a BIT of work (you have to harvest 8 cups of densely packed blossoms for the recipe I make), the jelly comes out a beautiful pink color and if done RIGHT (which I totally screwed up last year, listening to a recipe I found online and ended up with little crunchy bits of pectin in the jelly...not good eats by any means) it comes out with a taste that reminds me a bit of cranberries.

This year I decided to make fireweed jelly with one purpose.  Gifts for teachers for my son and daughter.  I figure it is a really nice gift that is classy and costs next to nothing to make.

The recipe I ended up tweaking and coming up with makes four 8 oz jars of jellly when done, but I've seen recipes that call for 8 cups of blossoms (make sure you use wet and packed blossoms to get that 8 cups so it turns out well) to make juice and you end up with a LOT more jelly, so use your judgement on how much you'd like to make, how strong a flavor you'd like, etc.

I use no sugar or low sugar added pectin for this recipe, but still use a typical amount of sugar in the recipe.  I've found this is kinda a fail safe for me (not a natural jelly maker am I) so that the jelly gets a nice hard set to it.

I also use refined white sugar for this as it's safe to use in canning and all agree it's okay to use.  If you want to make refined sugar free you could try using palm sugar or some other sugar for this, but I'd go for freezing it (use freezer pectin instead in place of the pectin called for in the recipe) as I'm not sure how well it'd can with other sugars involved.

So, here you go folks.  My recipe for fireweed jelly.  Enjoy!

Fireweed Jelly (adapted from  Makes 4, 8 oz. jars)
  • 2 1/2 cups fireweed juice (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 3 TBS low sugar or no sugar pectin (or use one box of the pectin instead)
  • 3 cups sugar 
Combine pectin, lemon juice and fireweed juice (room temp) in a pan and whisk to combine (it takes a while to get the lumps of pectin worked out, but keep at it!).  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar all at once and whisk to combine (once again, this is going to take some arm muscle, but it will combine, just keep at it).  Switch out your whisk for a wooden spoon (less heat conduction) and stir frequently until mixture comes back to a boil.  Boil hard for one minute (or, until the mixture sheets off the back of a spoon).

Fill hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Tighten lids to finger tight and place in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat under canner and leave sit for five more minutes.  Remove jars to a dish towel or other insulated surface (to stop thermal shock...breaking jars are bad) and let sit until completely cool.  Check jar seals.  If a jar doesn't seal place in fridge and use immediately, but otherwise store in your pantry for up to one year.

Fireweed Juice
  • 8 Cups wet tightly packed fireweed blossoms (only the blossoms)
  • Water
Place fireweed blossoms in a saucepan and fill up water level right below blossoms.

Boil until blossoms turn grey.

Strain mixture through a cheesecloth lined wire mesh strainer.

NOTE:  The juice should be a deep purple, not brown.  If your mixture is brown you used too much water.  Once you have a decent amount of juice you can then freeze it to use later or use to make jelly (I honestly like to freeze mine in a freezer bag to use later as it lets you harvest fireweed throughout the summer and get a large amount of jelly made at one time, if you want and I've also found it really helps to deepen the color of the'll be amazed how purple the juice gets in the freezer).

Add juice to measuring cup large enough to read 2 1/2 cups.  If there isn't quite enough juice, add water to bring up juice to the proper mark (this is where making a strong concentrated juice comes in handy, like with this recipe).  Use to make jelly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Put It Up (Winter Preparations) Part 1: Canned Salsa

It was a busy (as in VERY busy) weekend around here.  It wasn't PLANNED to be quite as busy as it ended up being, but a forecast of frost completely changed the "hey, I'll get a few things put up from the garden" plans I'd had for the weekend.  So, Saturday and Sunday ended up being a time where you would have seen me scrambling to find all of my canning jars, getting my dishes done so I had unlimited access to the dishwasher and it's wonderful, "Sanitize" cycle and doing lots of lists and looking up of recipes. 

Some people showed an interest in learning how I "put things up" for winter around here, so I thought I'd share what I was up to around the house this weekend.

I used to do all kinds of elaborate canning every year, especially the last three or so as I got into the habit of giving canned goods as gifts.  This year, though, I decided I was scaling WAY back on holiday giving (mainly because of an extended period of unemployment for my husband and a hectic schedule around here), so that helped me to get my priorities straight on what I was going to can this year.  Basically?  I canned what I KNEW we'd use and that we actually go through every year.  And that, my friends, was it. 

Second, I decided about three years ago that I just plain did NOT have time, with Alvah's various needs and his want to get into everything while my back was turned, to babysit a pressure canner for ages, so everything I canned this year and the last couple of years, has been JUST water bath canning.  It's just so much easier to slap a lid on a water bath canner, set your timer and be able to chase a child around the house, then worrying about if your pressure is going to creep up or down past where you need it to be.

I will be sharing other "methods" for preserving things for the winter that don't involve canning, but I thought I'd start out with a "recipe" (which isn't really a recipe of mine at all) that is perfect for beginning canners and is something that I get compliments on whenever someone tries it.  Salsa!

I ended up giving a bunch of salsa away to family when my son was first diagnosed with a garlic allergy years ago and since then have had a bunch of compliments about how everyone loved it and asking me for my secret recipe.  Well folks, the "secret" is officially out of the bag, literally ;).

This is the secret to my salsa success.  Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix.  I get mine at Fred Meyer (where it's a lot cheaper than what they're charging on Amazon).

Now, I did research and contacted the company.  This mix IS gluten free and dairy free, but if corn allergic or something I  have no idea what the cross contamination is like when it comes to corn products (since I know this company makes things like pie filling with modified food starch in it), so just wanted to bring that to people's attention. 

The mix is really easy to use.  You can even use canned tomatoes (which is what I do) and you just throw the packet into the pot with petite diced tomatoes (I use organic because I personally think organic tomatoes taste a lot better, especially in the canned varieties) and 1/2 cup of vinegar, boil for the allotted amount of time, put into your sterilized hot jars and process for like 40 minutes in a water bath canner and voila!  You have salsa!

You can also freeze said salsa too (they have directions on the back of the packet that covers all of that).  The mix makes five pints, which is usually enough to see us through the winter (I have been known to pick up another packet and make more salsa in the spring if we need it).

The ease of making the salsa, especially with canned tomatoes (look at Costco for cheap organic canned tomatoes!) just makes this the simplest thing, for me, to can every year.  And easy is always good!

Oh and just as a word or warning from someone who made this mistake last year.  Do NOT can salsa in the pretty blue Ball jars they came out with last year.  The mixture looks...well we'll just say "gross" in the blue jars and leave it at that. 

It sure does look pretty in the green jars that they came out with this year, though (seen above).  Anyway, just wanted to share some aesthetic points there ;).

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bento Box It: The Teddy Bears' Picnic (gluten free, cow dairy free) With Recipes!

"...Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic..."  Excerpt from "Teddy Bears' Picnic" Nursery Rhyme

Today's Bento Box is inspired directly from an old nursery rhyme that I, like many other parents, used to sing to their children (well in MY case I used to sing like the above verse and the chorus because I didn't know the entire song *laugh*).

My daughter wanted teddy bears in her lunch.  Yeah, I don't get it either, but hey, I'm never one to shirk from a challenge as I've said before.  So, I came up with a way to get her "noodles" (her other request) and teddy bears in her lunch at the same time.

The "treat" in this lunch came in the form of home made gelatin jigglers.  I made mine out of an orange mango juice blend I had in the fridge, but you can make this out of any juice you have around (I like cherry juice in these). 

I used grassfed gelatin in ours, which gives a minor "gamey" type of aftertaste to it, but if you are using Knox gelatin, just shake out 1/2 a TBS from an envelope and you should be set.

The meatballs with the spaghetti have a secrete ingredient.  Cassava chip crumbs.  I use Crisproot chips because they don't have anything funky in the ingredients (the plain flavored ones), but feel free to sub out gluten free bread crumbs or other things you might have around.  You can also omit the crumbs and the egg, but be aware that it will make the meatballs more prone to being dry.


Let's break it down by level shall we?

Home Made Gelatin Jigglers (gluten, dairy, egg, nut free)
  1. Pour 1/3 Cup of the juice (cold or room temp...NOT HOT!)  into a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin.  Stir to combine.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour remaining 1/3 cup juice into a pan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat.
  3. Pour hot juice into juice and gelatin mixture.  Whisk to combine.  Pour gelatin into a mold (I used a 6" diameter Pyrex flat bottomed bowl for this, but you could try using even a large plate with a deep lip on it.  If you want to make a 9x9 type of pan of these, I'd double this recipe as I'm not sure how far 2/3 of a cup of jello is going to go for you.  You can also use a variety of gelatin molds for this project as well.
  4. Put gelatin mixture in fridge and let sit for at least 3 hours, preferably over night.
  5. Remove gelatin sheet from pan (I just jiggled mine around with my hand while it was upside down and it popped right out) and use a Teddy Bear Cookie Cutter to cut out Teddy Bear Shapes.  Place in bento in a silicone baking cup.
And now on the top floor we have spaghetti and meatballs.  By the way, the flowers are a hard sheep's cheese I bought that I just cut out fun shapes in.  The cheese tastes like parmesan cheese, so I figured it went with spaghetti pretty well.  Armina said the cheese melted over the spaghetti when she microwaved it in class and she liked it, so success there!

Freezer Mini Meatballs (gluten free, dairy free)

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (you could also use turkey or chicken for this, or whatever meat you have around)
  • 1/2 cup smashed into crumbs CrispRoot Cassava Chips, Sea Salt (I found mine at Fred Meyer)
  • 1 TBS ketchup
  • 1 TBS mustard
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (omit if garlic allergic and add 1 tsp. onion powder)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Form meat into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through. 
  4. Let cool to nearly room temperature and then place meatballs in a freezer bag.  Freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to add to bento, remove the amount of meatballs you need (in this case it was four) and either place on spaghetti frozen (which I did since my daughter has a microwave in her classroom to heat up the spaghetti) or microwave for 20 seconds or so to warm up and then place in bento.

And just as an aside, I may be developing a unhealthy obsession with bento picks.  Aren't the Leaf picks just adorable!?!

So, have fun making your own Teddy Bear Picnic today!!!

Note:  The bento box used in this bento is Urara Red Rabbit 2 Tier Japanese Bento Box.