Wednesday, August 28, 2013

1/2 a Peck of Peaches and Two Flavors of Peach Jam Part One: Vanilla Peach Jam

Nothing is better than homemade peach jam!  Fresh fruit jam is sooo good I could eat it straight out of the jar!  About a month ago while reading my favorite canning website, Food In Jars, and Marissa was reviewing a recipe book by Pomona Pectin.  I found that their recipe book was available for Kindle on Amazon so my mom being really nice sent me a copy as a gift. I read her post and became quite intrigued with the fact that Pomonoa recipes were all low sugar or no sugar.  That was wonderful news to me because I have a child that has a low tolerance to sugar.

I've been told by people that it's because I haven't given her enough for her to gain a tolerance to it.  My answer to them is if you want to give the child some candy and then be locked in the same room with her for the next 3-4 hours while she climbs the walls be my guest.  I know how she reacts to the stuff and don't think it's fair to subject her or myself to that just to make other people happy.  I've discussed it with my pediatrician and he says the approach that I'm taking is the right one.

Ok enough of the soap box and back to the jam.  I was skeptical about the claims that jam, jelly or preserves could be made low sugar and still taste good and still set.  I've made peach jam before and always used the Ball liquid pectin and usually had mixed results.  My jam or jelly either didn't set or it was hard as a rock.  I remember being so excited about trying a jelly recipe that was supposed to taste like a creamsicle.  Now being on a dairy-free diet I have had to forgo the amazing treat called a creamsicle so I was excited about this.  I followed the recipe and was so pleased when it looked like it was setting beautifully!  The recipe only made one jar so instead of canning it we put it in the fridge.  The next morning I put a slice of bread in the toaster and dreamed, all be it a little dream, of creamsicle toast, creamsicle oatmeal, yellow cake with creamsicle filling.  Pop!  And my toast was ready.  I slathered on the Smart Balance Light and then on top of that I was ready to add the creamsicle jelly.  I put my knife in the jar and it bounced back!  My jelly was hard as a brick!  Determined I chiseled off a little piece and took a taste.  All of my dreams were destroyed it was hard and too sweet for my liking!

So after living with overly sweet jams and hard jelly I decided to take the plunge.  I found the pectin over at my local health food store and it was only $4 and change for a box that claimed to make 4 or 5 batches.  Right there I was sold because at I usually pay $7 or so, depending on where I go, for Ball Liquid Pectin and that really makes 2 batches.  With this economy wherever I can save money I'm happy!  I got home and opened the box and it came with a small pouch of white calcium powder and a larger pouch with the pectin.  And a sheet full of instructions on how to make your own jams, jellies, and preserves.  It pretty much stated the amount of fruit, amount of sweetener and any extra stuff that you would need to add to make it safe to can.  But otherwise it left the recipe open to your taste.  The first recipe that I made was the Honey Ginger Peach Jam from the book and it was really really good.  It set wonderfully and the thing that I loved the most was instead of tasting the sugar you tasted the fruit itself!  Next I tried Raspberry Jam and it was AMAZING!!  And it set perfectly!

So after looking over the directions sheet I decided that I wanted to try my hand at creating my own jam recipe.  I followed the directions for making jam with peaches and decided to add some fresh vanilla to the peaches and see how that worked out.  I pretty much stuck with the Honey Ginger recipe just subbed the vanilla for the ginger and I'm was very impressed by how it worked out.  To make the jam I only used 1/2 of the 1/2 peck that I had purchased at my local farm.  I had originally decided that I was going to make a mint peach jam and a honey peach jam but because I couldn't find the mint that I wanted I had to change my plans.

My first batch was the vanilla peach jam and my second batch was a cinnamon peach jam. And the cinnamon peach jam will be the recipe for part 2 of this post.  Enjoy!

Makes around 5-6 half-pint jars

3 1/4 lbs fully ripe peaches (4 cups peaches, peeled, pit removed)
1 vanilla bean
1/4 cup lemon juice
4 tsps calcium water (see below for explanation)
1/2 cup honey
3 tsps Pomona's Pectin Powder

1.  For the Pomona Pectin to work you will need to make calcium water which is extremely easy.  Each box of Pomona Pectin comes with a small packet of white calcium powder as well as a large packet of pectin powder.  In a small glass jar, I use a half-pint jar, add 1/2 tsp white calcium powder and 1/2 cup water and shake well.  It can be stored in the refrigerator and it lasts for months.  Discard if the settled white powder changes color or gets moldy.  Remember to shake each time before use.

2.  Sterilize 5 half-pint jars in whatever method you prefer.  I know people who boil them and I know some that wash them in the dishwasher and time everything so that the jars will still be hot when they need them.  Call me lazy but I have too many other things to keep track of so I just boil them while I'm making whatever I'm canning.

3. Take 3 1/4 lbs fully ripe peaches that have been peeled and the pit has been removed and mash them up.  I like chunks of fruit in my jam so I just mash it with a potato masher.

4.  In a small bowl add honey and pectin powder and stir really well.  The honey is what is going to activate the pectin so you want to make sure that you stir it all in.  Set aside.
To save dishes I used the measuring cup
that I measured the honey into.
5.  In a stockpot, I use an 8 qt stockpot, mix together 4 cups mashed peaches, lemon juice, vanilla bean that is cut in half and scraped (add both to the pot), and 4 tsps of calcuim water.  Mix together and bring to a boil over high heat.

6.  Once the peach mixture has come to a boil add the honey and pectin mixture and stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and remove the vanilla bean.

7.  In a small saucepan add the lids for the jar and heat them over high heat till they come up to a simmer.  There is no need to boil them!
These lids have been heated and I had to ladle the peach jam
into the jars and had to pass it over this pot and didn't notice that I
accidentally go a little piece of peach into the pot.
8.  Remove your sterilized jars from the water bath and place a jar funnel on a jar and ladle the hot peach jam into the jar leaving 1/4-in headspace.  Remove bubbles from jar and wipe tops of jars with a wet cloth to remove any jam that got on the rim.  The jam will be kind of watery right now but don't worry it will thicken up once it starts cooling.  Add a lid and then add a ring and finger tighten.  Do not over tighten!

9.  Bring canning pot back to a full boil and add the jars to the canning basket making sure the jars do not touch.  Once the water is at a full boil add the basket with the jars to the pot and once it returns to a boil cover and let process for 10 minutes. 

10.  Remove the jars from the stockpot and let the jars cool.  After the jars have cooled check the lids which should be sucked down. Don't be surprised if while they are cooling you hear popping noises.  It is fine it is just the jars sealing themselves.  If the lid pops back store it in the fridge and enjoy!  

How to Peel Peaches

Beautiful peaches from Forest Hall Farm in
Mechanicsville, MD 

Ripe Peaches (trust me it is a pain trying to do this with unripe peaches)
Sharp knife
Paring knife
Cutting board
Large bowl with ice water
Large spoon or scooper to pull the peaches out of the hot water

1.  Fill a pot, I use a 8 qt stockpot purchased at Wal-Mart, half way with water and bring to a full boil over high heat.

2.  Using a sharp knife on a cutting board cut peaches in half from the top around.  Remove the pit and set the peach aside.  I usually try and cut and remove the pits of all the peaches I'm going to peel while I'm waiting for the water to come to a boil.

3. Once the water comes to a boil drop 2 or 3 peach halves into the boiling water at a time.  Boil for 2 minutes.  You can add more than 2-3 peach halves at a time but just make sure that you don't overcrowd them in the pot.

4.  Once the time is up remove the peach halves from the pot and submerge in a large bowl of ice cold water for a minute.  

5.  Using either a paring knife or your fingers you should be able to remove the peach skin.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Chocolate Cream Pie

I'll admit it I'm a chocoholic.  So after success with banana cream pie I was compelled to try making a chocolate cream pie.  I'm happy to announce that it was a success and it received rave reviews from my picky 5 yr-old taste tester.  She was a little upset that no one saved her a second slice!

According to her the only thing that would have made it better was if there were some sliced strawberries on it.  I don't know where she got the idea but every time I make something chocolate she tells me that it needs strawberry slices.  The kid is a genius because strawberries and chocolate are a match made in heaven!  I mean hello it's chocolate and strawberries!  So I guess next time it's going to be a strawberry chocolate cream pie.  I could easily go for that!

This pie is easy to make and so that it would make sense I added the directions on how to make the pastry cream.  I know I didn't do it with the banana cream pie but all that entailed was a recipe of pastry cream with alternating layers of bananas.  This one we had to make an easy alteration to the pastry cream so I figured that it would just be easier to add the full directions.

If you would like to make your own crust I found a really easy recipe on the site What's Cooking America for an Oreo cookie no bake pie crust.

Enjoy!  And drop me a line and let me know what you think!


Pastry Cream
4 lg egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 cups (1 can) Coconut milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 tbsps Earth Balance sticks, cut into small pieces

1/4 cup Chocolate Dream semisweet chocolate chips, melted
1 chocolate cookie crumb pie crust (I think this was an Oreo cookie crust I got at Wal-Mart)

1.  Combine the cornstarch with the sugar in a mixing bowl.

2. In another bowl whisk together the 4 egg yolks.

1.  Pour 1/2 cup coconut milk into the cornstarch miture and whisk together.

3.  Whisk the egg yolks into the cornstarch mixture until smooth.

4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the remaining 1 cup coconut milk to a simmer (be sure not to boil).  Once it comes to a simmer, remove the pan from heat immediately.
I know you can't really see it but it is simmering!
5.  Drizzle the hot coconut milk mixture a little at a time into the egg mixture.  Keep on whisking while you drizzle in the milk.

6.  Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat.

7. Whisk vigorously until it comes to a boil and the whisk leaves a trail in the pastry cream, about 6-8 minutes.  Trust me the tired arms will be worth it! 

8.  Stir in the vanilla and the butter.
I know the pot changed but the original picture I had was blurry
because it is really hard to whisk and take a pic at the same time.
This pic is from the post on making pastry cream.

9.  In a double boiler or in my case a glass mixing bowl over a small saucepan with an inch or so of water in the saucepan over medium heat melt the chocolate chips.  Stir continuously otherwise they will burn.

10.  Add melted chocolate chips to the pastry cream mixing well.

11.  Transfer chocolate filling to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap making sure the plastic wrap touches the surface of the chocolate filling and refrigerate for 2 hrs.
Before it goes into the fridge

After its been in the fridge for 2 hrs.
12.  Pour chocolate filling into pie crust and spread evenly. You can either top with soy whip or you can make some coconut milk whipped cream.  Once again I tried but the coconut milk and I are not getting along so I just drizzled it over the top and I think I like it better this way.  It looks so pretty!
After adding the filling to the crust I let it sit in the fridge overnight.
Meant for it to only be an hour or so but got so busy we forgot about it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Banana Dream Pie

One of my favorite summer desserts are cream pies.  I love banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, strawberries in shortcake pie (strawberries layered in a graham cracker crust with whipped cream on top), etc...  When I found out I was allergic to dairy it was one of the most depressing things I had experienced.  I grew up in a family that went through 2 gallons of milk in a week, ate ice cream (I really miss Carvel), cheese as a snack, and those delicious but very bad for you pizza rolls, oh and can't forget pizza itself.  I now drink almond milk in cereal, soymilk in my morning homemade latte, I've learned to cook with canned coconut milk, and I make pizza with either Daiya or no cheese like products at all.  Now I just have to find the ice cream maker and start working on some sorbet and dairy-free ice cream recipe.

I'm proud to say that I've conquered banana cream pie and chocolate cream pie!  It all starts with some yummy and easy to make pastry cream, add some bananas and some soy whip and you have a slice of heaven!  Really easy and a great dessert to take to annual summer barbecue's and pot lucks that we all have on our busy schedules!


1 recipe of Pastry Cream
4 ripe bananas, sliced
1 9 oz Keebler graham cracker crust
1 can Soy Whip

1.  Add a layer of sliced bananas to the graham cracker crust.

2.  Next spread some pastry cream over the bananas.

3.  Add another layer of bananas.

4.  Add another layer of pastry cream.

5.  Add another layer of bananas and then cover with Soy Whip.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Grilled Honey-Gingered Pork Tenderloin

This post is a couple of weeks late going up but we have had a very trying past couple of weeks with Rambo leaving for Texas to start his new career as a truck driver and MJ and I going to Myrtle Beach on vacation with my parents.  And the worst was a little less than a week after we got back from vacation my father-in-law was admitted to the hospital and was put in the Critical Care Unit and we were given the grim diagnosis that he had cancer and that is was so far advanced that there was nothing they could do except to make him comfortable.  I received the call that he only had a few days on Thursday, June 27th and had to find a way to get Rambo home and up to Buffalo to say goodbye to Poppy.  After searching every airline we found a cheap ticket on United website and he flew to Baltimore the next morning and we left straight from the airport and started the 8 1/2 hour drive to Buffalo.  Around 3:30 we received a call from my mother-in-law stating that Poppy had passed away at 12:30.  At 12:30 we had only been an hour outside of Baltimore.

On Saturday my wonderful sister-in-law and I helped my mother-in-law with the arrangements for Poppy's funeral that Tuesday.  It was a beautiful ceremony with a lot of tears being shed because he was a wonderful caring man who had suffered from a lot of ailments for the last 20 years.  He was a proud Irishman that loved his family especially his 9 grandchildren.  He is greatly missed but I think what has helped all of us is that he is now in a better place free of pain and suffering.

Favorite picture of Poppy and MJ.  MJ was 2 1/2 months old
and it was the first time they met her.  He had to sit in his lounge
chair because he was scared of dropping her because of weakness
from a bad back injury.
We didn't bring MJ with us because she is still quite young and was really attached to Poppy.  We didn't know what the situation was going to be like when we got up there and we wanted her to remember Poppy as he was when he was alive.  When we returned from Buffalo after about a week and half up there we had the not so pleasant news of telling MJ that Poppy was in heaven with God.  I don't know how much she understood but so far so good.  Every once in a while she will tell me that she is sad because she misses Poppy.  And then she hits you with one that makes you question how much she understands by telling me that she wishes that she was really really old so that she could go see Poppy in heaven or asks you when he's going to come back from visiting God in heaven.

Now on to the yummy stuff!  One of the things I love most about summer is grilling!  I know you can do it anytime of year and I have but it's not the same.  Sure during the summer you it's hot and you get attacked by mosquitoes so I use a little OFF Botanical's and go on my merry way.

This is an easy recipe and cooks really fast on the grill.  The part that takes the longest is the marinating which takes a minimum of 4 hours.  But trust me it is well worth it!  I think my favorite thing about this recipe is the taste.  It has a wonderful sweet and savory flavor that gets enhanced by cooking it on the grill.  When I was first putting this together MJ came by and asked what the smell was while wrinkling her nose.  I guess soy sauce is not a really appealing smell to her.  I told her what I was making and of course got the usual reply from her, "I'm not eating that!"  To which I told her that she had to try it because our rule is you can't say you don't like something if you don't try it.  

When I served it at dinner she looked at it and after being told once again she had to try it tasted it.  And then she ate all of the tenderloin and asked for more!  Rice and veggies are still not her favorite but we are getting there.  

Enjoy this wonderful dish!Oh and I just noticed that my pictures show 2 tenderloins and that was because of the number of people I was cooking for and I like leftovers.  To make 2 just double the recipe.

1 1/4 lbs pork tenderloin
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (GF option is Wheat Free Tamari)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp ketchup
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Cooking spray

1.  Put pork tenderloin into a freezer bag and put aside.

2.  Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl and mix really well.  A great tip for measuring honey or peanut butter is to spray the measuring cup with cooking spray and when you pour the honey or peanut butter into the bowl it all comes right out without a fight.
Cooking spray helps the honey pour out really nice!

All ingredients added

I wish you could smell it because it smells soooo good!

3.  Pour the marinade into the freezer bag with the pork tenderloin and marinate for a minimum of 4 hours or even better over night!  Remember to turn it every couple hours.

4.  Before grilling cut tenderloin in half lengthwise but not all the way through.  Oh and reserve the marinade for basting.

5.  Preheat grill to 350*.  I usually cover the grates on my grill with foil and then just spray it with cooking spray before adding the meat.  It keeps the grates clean and helps to prevent flare ups by keeping any juices away from the flame.  After adding tenderloin to grill brush it with the marinade and turn every 3 minutes 3 times brushing the tenderloin with marinade after each turn.

6.  After flipping and brushing with marinade 3 times you are going to cook it for another 3 minutes each side turning 3 times or until internal temperature is 155*, but this time you will not brush it with marinade.  Once it is done remove it from the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
Simple dinner of tenderloin, jasmine rice and broccoli!