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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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  • [January 2, 2015] - It's that time of year again! I'm doing a bit of tweaking then blogging. Enjoy!

  • Sticky Post - Warning: 4ever Recap reusable canning lids. The reports are growing daily of these lids losing their seal during storage. Some have lost their entire season's worth of canning to these seal failures!

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Low Sugar Strawberry Jams

While I home can year round and have even taken to doing a bit of canning at our vacation home, this time of year through the end of September tends to be busier.  The canners (water bath, pressure) are going almost daily often several times in one day quickly putting up various fruits and vegetables as they are in season.  Unfortunately, I missed asparagus season.  There is still local asparagus available but the price is too high for preserving.  Strawberries just started.  We were on a road trip Saturday so I came home with a flat of local strawberries and fresh, free range eggs. 

low sugar strawberry jams
I made three batches of low sugar strawberry jam, all using Pomona's pectin (low methoxy pectin).  This pectin does not rely on sugar to gel so it is possible to use sugar substitutes like maple syrup, honey, stevia or agave.  If sugar is desired, it is used at a considerably reduced about usually 2 cups or less per batch in comparison to regular pectin that uses about 7 cups of sugar per batch.  The end result is the ability to create gourmet low sugar jams.  However, reduced sugar also means a smaller yield since sugar is a bulking agent as well.  This small price is well worth it for me. 

I also used a secret ingredient (non-alcoholic) to enhance the flavour of the jam.  I am pleased with the flavour and texture of the jam.  However, there is a bit more floating fruit than I would have liked.  Floating fruit is common with jams even when following the guideline to stir for five minutes before jarring.  This does reduce but not eliminate floating fruit.  The easy remedy for floating fruit is simply stirring the jar of jar when first opened.  Floating fruit does not affect the texture or flavour of the jam but it is not a desirable visual element for competition. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Shrimp Stir Fry

It has been an unsettled yet interesting year thus far.  Life has thrown a few curve balls but in our true spirit, we have lobbied them back successfully.  We still managed to spend most of the month of May in Florida and Aruba so I'll share some of those foodie adventures.  Earlier this month, my husband had his gallbladder removed.  Despite all of the horror stories folks managed to share with us about this procedure, the only problem was a nasty reaction to his pain medication.  Other than that, the healing process was problem free.  He is back to enjoying food and is quite pleased that nothing seems to be bothering his stomach!

The discharge nurse suggested a bland diet for a couple of months then slowly start introducing fats and spice.  That didn't happen!  Butter, olive oil and coconut oil were all introduced within a day of post surgery.  Garlic pepper was included with his first solid food the evening of the surgery.  The first week, I made various pasta stir frys for dinner. 

Each stir fry was made with spaghettini and seafood (shrimp or scallops).  I added vegetables into the stir fry for the third dinner.  The shrimp stir fry pictured was incredibly easy to make.  It was a tasty,  low calorie, high protein meal.  The jumbo shrimp was frozen precooked so I thawed and removed the tails while the pasta was cooking.  When the pasta was cooked, I drained then heated a little olive oil in a non-stick fry pan.  I tossed in the shrimp and frozen Asian vegetable mix, stirring until warmed through.  Then I added the pasta, a small pat of butter (about 1 tsp) for extra flavour, and a light dash of garlic pepper.  This delicious stir fry, like most stir frys only took 15 minutes to put together.

The beauty of stir frys aside of being delicious is they are very quick to put together.  They are versatile too.  While rice and pasta are often added to stir frys,  quinoa or potatoes can be substituted.  Any meat or seafood can be used as well.  The choice for vegetables is endless.  Although I seldom add a sauce to my stir frys, it is easy to do so if desired.  A thin sauce adds another element of texture and flavour.  Worchestershire sauce, liquid aminos (soy free, low sodium) or soy sauce are all great ingredients to add extra flavour to stir frys in place of a thin sauce.  All the way around, stir frys get two thumbs up in my book!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Final Leg of Our Kitchen Renovations

 Kitchen Countertop, Sinks and Faucet
March 27, 2015

I have been battling some type of persistent virus for the past few weeks, right on the heels of renovating a spare room into a small home gym.  Every time I think I'm over it, another symptom hits with a wallop, knocking me back down.  Ginger, green tea and water have been my constant companions.  Finally, I caved in an saw my doctor who ordered numerous tests.  While ongoing, I am feeling much better ready to get back into my routine!

Just to keep things a bit more interesting while I was under the weather, our kitchen was torn apart once again for a full weekend in preparation for the granite countertop installation making it the third year in a row the kitchen has been torn apart.  While the main installation only took a day, it actually took a full week to get the kitchen back functional.  The new sink could not be plumbed for 24 hours but hubby couldn't get to it for a couple of days.  Then, the installers had to return to add the backsplash as we decided to keep the old tile on the wall.  During the first install date, they installed new sinks and granite countertop in the upper bathroom as well but plumbing went a little south.  Hubby was able to get one sink fully functional but we had to have a plumber in for the other. 

We replaced the microwave oven, faucet and sinks at the same time. There are still a few smaller projects to finish in the kitchen but this should be the final time for any major renovations. The only remaining features of the old kitchen are the floor, wall tile and refrigerator.  Everything else has been upgraded or changed in some way.  This past week the kitchen joined our home automation network adding to both function and aesthetics.  All in all, we are pleased with the kitchen renovations thus far!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese

Despite being Canada's favourite, I have never been a fan of Kraft Dinner aka KD.  Years ago our youngest who was about seven at the time, came home from a friends and proceeded to tell me about the wonderful macaroni and cheese his friend's mother had made.  It was in a 'really neat' blue box!  After I pulled my eyes out from the back of my head and picked myself up off the floor, I carried on making dinner while listening to him go on and on about this fantastic 'meal in a box'.  Occasionally, cave in and I would buy a couple of boxes of KD for the kids but our staple macaroni and cheese has always been from scratch, oven baked.  KD did find its way into our pantry during the y2K scare as part of our emergency preparedness

making easy mac and cheese
We were on the topic of food as we often are and the discussion turned to macaroni and cheese.  One of our kids swears by one pot, stove-top, creamy mac and cheese as her tried and true, kid approved family favourite.  Essentially this is an easy, versatile one pot method for cooking macaroni and cheese on the stovetop.  I've also heard of this method called the one-to-one because the portions are simply a 1:1 ratio.  I decided to try this method to see how it compared to the boxed and oven baked versions.

I did not follow the Todd and Diane's recipe exactly nor did I do an actual one-to-one.  I started with 1½ cup of half & half because I was out of milk then stirred in 1½ c of uncooked elbow macaroni and 1 tbsp butter.  I heated this mixture slowly while stirring adding in just enough extra half & half to keep the mixture runny while cooking.  When the macaroni was al denté, I stirred in 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.  Once the cheese was melted, the creamy macaroni and cheese was ready to be enjoyed!

easy mac and cheese
KD and other boxed macaroni and cheese dinners are not exactly health food.  Even if the organic brand is still a heavily processed food item.  There are preservatives but more importantly tartrazine, a synthetic lemon yellow azo dye derived from coal tar.  This synthetic dye has numerous side-effects ranging from allergic reactions to heart palpitations, OCD, and in severe cases, anaphylatic-like reactions.  The Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese, has just four ingredients: milk, pasta of choice, cheese of choice and butter (optional).  That's it!  There are no artificial ingredients.  The result is rich, creamy macaroni and cheese that is even easier to make than the boxed version with no extra packaging either.  It isn't a lot but that packet containing the powdered cheese mixture in boxed macaroni and cheese can't be recycled so ends up in the landfill.  The Oh So Simple Mac 'n Cheese tastes better than boxed and it definitely has a creamier texture.  It is just as quick to prepare.  Oh, and this macaroni and cheese actually works out less per serving than the boxed version!

Any milk can be used although milks with a heavier cream content will give a bit creamier flavour.  The butter really is optional.  I know it is supposed to be added to boxed macaroni and cheese, and I added it as well but the butter is really just for added flavour.  Any shredded cheese or combination of shredded cheese can be used.  I have it on good authority, aspiring chefs Little Miss C and Little Master A that aged white cheddar is the cheese to use!