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Simple Strawberry Jam {No Pectin}

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Strawberries were $1.25/lb a couple weeks ago, so I got more than I usually would to make some jam.  Ever since I made raspberry jam and realized how good homemade is, I don’t tolerate store bought very well.  Bonne Maman is the only thing I’ve found that even comes close, and why pay $4 for a jar of delicious jam when you can make your own for less than $1 a jar?

So I made a simple jam, and it’s just amazing how boiling few ingredients can make something so delicious.  It is the concentrated flavor of perfect, sweetened & ripe strawberries, and pretty much makes everything you put it on taste like heaven.

The second best part is it’s so easy to make! The butter in it keeps it from foaming, so you don’t need to skim it, and you don’t have to boil the jars after filling them.  Perfect for a lazy (or first time) canner like me.

Simple Strawberry Jam

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 lbs strawberries, stemmed & hulled
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon butter

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over medium-high heat while mashing with a potato masher. Mash it as smooth or chunky as you like, and continue to stir the mixture while boiling it. Boil until the jam reaches 220 degrees, or until it gels up when you put a spoonful on a frozen plate and stick it in the freezer for a minute. You’ll know it’s getting there when it turns from watery to starting to get thick and coating your spoon. Using a funnel (this is my favorite for canning), pour into sterilized jars, then screw on the lids and allow to sit until sealed. Jars may be stored in refrigerator for up to a month. For instructions on how to can the jam to keep it at room temperature for up to a year, click the recipe link below.

Recipe source: adapted from Sweet & Savory by Shinee

Oh, and if you’re interested, the bread I used for my photos is non-alcoholic honey beer bread. Made the Buttery Soft Beer Bread with a bottle of non-alcoholic beer (Beck’s) and used local raw honey in place of sugar. So good!

Cake Batter Lovins

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Remember the “Cake Batter Everything” craze that swept over the food blog world in 2011? Yeah, I hopped on that and enjoyed it to the fullest.  I shared only one of my cake batter explorations with you, the Cake Batter Crispy Treats, which were my favorite cake batter flavored treat, but do you think I let the remainder of my bag of yellow cake mix go to waste? No way, Jose.

Here’s a few ideas if you need some ways to use up extra cake mix.

Cake Batter Oats. This is actually a pretty healthy recipe, considering there’s cake mix in it. And tasty too!

Cake Batter French Toast. What can I say, cake batter is such a great way to start the day. And sprinkles just make everything so happy.  This one would be fun for a birthday breakfast! I made a simple icing glaze by mixing like 1/4 cup powdered sugar with just enough milk to get it a drizzling consistency.

Cake Batter Candies. For these, I just melted some vanilla almond bark and added enough yellow cake mix to make it taste like cake batter, but not so much it got too thick.  I poured most of it in a chocolate bar mold (like the one I used for this Vegan White Chocolate), but I didn’t get a picture of that before I gave it to a friend as part of a thank you gift for turning a stain on my jeans into a work of art. The rest of it I poured into peanut butter cup molds and put sprinkles over the tops while it was still setting up.  Kids went crazy for these at a get together, even more so than my Cupcake Bites!

Have you made any cake batter flavored yums?

Toddler Tuesday: Mom confessions

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A friend of mine recently did a post called, “Confessions of a Toddler Mom” and I just loved it so much, I’m totally stealing her idea for today.  I’ll be he first to admit I’m far from a perfect mother…

I don’t always (OK, hardly ever) use the safety strap on shopping carts. Or changing tables. And not always on the stroller, either.

Meet one of my son’s milk cups.

Speaking of beverage containers, I use my “cleansing bottle” I came home with from the hospital as his water bottle. Moms who’ve given birth the “traditional way” know what I’m talking about.

I make people uncomfortable by taking my son to watch them work outside at close range, just standing there and staring. Because he loves it.

I let our dog do the first rinse on his hands after a meal.

I also never wash the windows.

I let him make loud sounds at Petsmart and in public restrooms so he can hear his voice echo. I may even make the same sounds back at him sometimes. (All the time.)

I get annoyed when his nap doesn’t last at least an hour.

But when it lasts longer, I get anxious waiting to see his face again and catch myself continuously glancing at the clock.

When I need a break, I send him outside to play with Jessie.  If he’s content for more than five minutes, I generally find him smeared in poop or covered in dirt, but it’s totally worth it.

I have plotted evil things against the ice cream man, tree trimmers, neighbors, and relatives, for making noise during nap time.

I have done the following to get him to eat: let him run around free with it (i.e. food smears & crumbs everywhere), bribed him with sweets to get him to try something new, and shoved food into his mouth while he was screaming and crying.

On hard days I count down the minutes…and seconds…until bed time.

I’ve attempted to use the TV as a babysitter.  And really wished it had worked.

I let him jump on the bed, climb, explore, and destroy far more than I planned to.

I don’t feed him organic very often, and I use don’t eschew sugar.

I still hold him like a baby before nap and bedtime, and give him a sippy cup of milk just like I used to do with his bottle. I can’t. stop.

And sometimes (a lot of times), I just embrace the mess.

Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

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In looking over all the food photos I have in my “future blog” folder, I’m noticing a trend. Everything is baked in the oven! In the past, I’ve tried to save most of my baked recipes to share in cooler weather, but I just bake so much in summer, that’s really all I’ve got for you. Even the main dishes I’ve been making have come from the oven.  Am I the only one? Maybe I’ve got some Australian readers eager for baked treats & casseroles? haha!

So these are a box mix recipe which I know, is probably a food crime combining wonderful virgin coconut oil in conjunction with a box mix, but it’s really good! If you’re wanting a good from-scratch coconut oil brownie you might be able to just sub coconut oil in my favorite Fudge Brownies recipe.  But if you’re in a hurry, this one will do you.

My usual trick to make box mix brownies taste homemade is to sub melted butter for the oil, but I was out, so I used coconut oil. The slight coconut oil flavor mixed with the Kahlua (I used my homemade stuff) is pretty out of this world. Using the coconut oil changes the finish on the top and although it’s got that flaky crispy layer, it’s dull, not shiny. I also noticed they were harder to remove from the pan, but nice and fudgy and the flavor is much better than just following the instructions on the back. Enjoy!

Quick Coconut Oil & Kahlua Brownies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 fudge brownie mix
2/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup Kahlua, room temperature

Mix all ingredients and bake according to package directions.

Veronica’s note: You want the ingredients at room temperature to keep the coconut oil from hardening during the mixing. If it hardens, it will not mix evenly. Also, if your box calls for 1/2 cup oil, use 1/2 cup coconut oil, not 2/3 cup. Mine turned out pretty thin in a 9×13 pan so if you like thicker brownies, go with a smaller pan.

You can’t see in this photo, but he’s already holding a half-eaten brownie while reaching for another. These are definitely Joshua-approved. I served these to five other children and three adults besides myself, they were a hit all-around.

TILT: some more kitchen favorites

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Welcome to another edition of TILT: Things I Like Thursday.

Doughmakers 15-Inch Large Pizza Pan

First up is the pizza pan I have used to make every pizza on my blog (here’s the whole list if you’d like it), plus many more.  This one was recommended to me by Laura Flowers, previously known as The Cooking Photographer, who is also the person who supplied me with the chocolate chip cookie recipe that won me a blue ribbon!  All that to say, I trust this woman, and her recommendation was spot on.  This pan bakes up perfect crusts, and has a pebbled surface that prevents anything from sticking to it.

Fun note: this is also the pan I used for the My Little Pony cake display. You can see the surface of the pan in many of the prep photos on that post, and it still looks new after five years of use.  It’s made to last.


OXO SoftWorks Can Opener

Next up is something very simple: a can opener. I was so fed up with can openers that didn’t last before I bought this little gem.  It was recommended to me by two different friends on opposite sides of the country, who’ve both had theirs for years (one more than ten, the other I believe was five), and it still works perfectly.  I haven’t had mine very long, but it already has impressed me. I had bought some higher priced ones that were already wearing out after a few months of use. This simple little gadget has made me very happy.


Gourmet Rolling Fresh Herb and Multipurpose Kitchen Mincer

This is what Teri uses to make her homemade noodles, so I bought one and have used it to make thousands of delicious noodles over the last four years.  While affordable, it is good quality, I haven’t had any trouble with it at all.  And of course, you can also use it to mince your herbs.

Last but not least is my beloved canning funnel.


Prepworks Regular and Wide Mouth Canning Funnel

I love that it fits most any size jar, and has an outer collar that keeps the funnel lifted off the counter when not in use, preventing contamination and minimizing mess if you need to sit it down while canning for any reason.  Also, the handle doesn’t get piping hot as you fill jars – no burnt fingers!  It also features headspace measurements for precise filling. I love it so much.

Thanks for TILT’ing it up with me today, folks.  You can check out last week’s TILT on USA Pans if you missed it, and if you are thinking about cloth diapering, check back next Thursday for some cloth diaper fun. :)

Full disclosure: I am not being compensated for these reviews, I just really love these things and think you deserve to know about them!  This post does contain affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you buy anything after clicking the links. Thank you for supporting my blog!

Potato, Onion & Spinach Hash

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This is something I threw together to use up a few things before they went bad, and ended up with a plate of magics. Weeks later, we are still eating this once or twice a week and is one of Joshua’s favorite meals.  I’ve never been very much of a potato person, but man, you can’t hardly beat crispy seasoned potatoes dipped in runny egg yolk.

Potato, Onion & Spinach Hash

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 medium potato
2 thick slices of sweet onion
1/2 cup fresh spinach
Extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic salt & pepper to taste

Pierce the potato through the middle with a knife and microwave for 3 minutes, or until tender all the way through. Meanwhile, dice the onion. Once the potato is cooked, put a skillet on medium-high heat, and cut the potato into small cubes, removing the peel if you wish. Once the skillet is hot, add a generous swirl of olive oil to the pan, along with the potato and onion. Stir to coat with the oil, then sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cook without stirring until golden brown on one side, then stir, trying to turn over as many of the pieces as possible. Allow to sit again until golden brown, then add the fresh spinach and cook for a few more minutes, until wilted and soft. Serve hot with eggs, or as a side dish.

Toddler Tuesday: Our July 4th

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Patriotic cousins.

This was the first ever 4th of July we’ve spent with Dennis’ family, and it was the best Independence day of my life! We are kind of sticks in the mud and usually don’t do a single thing for the holiday, not even a single firecracker or grilled piece of meat.  So this was a nice change of pace.  I’m thinking we’ll need to make this a tradition.

We got there Friday night and Grandma and Grandpa Miller had a surprise for Joshua, a Radio Flyer trike! It was in new condition, and Phyllis found it for only $1 at a garage sale. Joshua has been trying to play with the bikes in neighbor’s yards, and he’s is sooooo happy to have his very own trike now!

This is Joshua’s shy smile, he will look to the side and smile at you out of the corner of his eye. He did this while walking down the “runway,” along with running to and fro until Daddy reigned him in. 

We went to the park on July 4th, where they were having a big celebration with a Baby Beauty contest, frog races, turtle races, bouncy houses, free hot dogs, swimming, etc.  It was so hot we only stayed to do the Baby Beauty contest and the frog race, and Joshua bounced a little on the step going into a bouncy house, which was perfectly fine with him. Joshua didn’t place in the beauty contest, Dennis says because they didn’t have any “Grand Champion” ribbons, and his little frog didn’t win either, but of course neither bothered him. He was just having fun.

Auntie Joan introducing him to the frog he was entering into the race, courtesy of Uncle Richard catching it on their property.

There were horses all along the fence as we were leaving.  Being obsessed with horses, Joshua kept pointing and making noises indicating he wanted to get closer.  We stopped to watch a little girl bridling a horse and her Dad asked if Joshua wanted to sit on him. Oh yes, he did!  I didn’t catch his smile, but he was so excited.  First the bike, now the horse, all his lifelong dreams were coming true. lol

After his nap, Joshua cooled off in the redneck Miller swimming pool, the old sheep trough. Gotta love country living!

Jessie enjoyed the trough too.

Auntie Joan had gotten Joshua a flag tank top to match his cousins’ shirts so we had to get a photo of them together. She’s also responsible for her boys’ awesome socks. Would you just look at these handsome boys?

This photo was Grandma Phyllis’ brilliant idea, she wanted to get the “Biker Cousins” in a pic together.  Is this too much, or is this too much?

Too. much.

We had the most amazing grilled burgers (my contribution was CW’s Strawberry Shortcake), but I didn’t get a picture of them. Instead, I give you Joshua, who swiped Grandpa’s corn cob off his plate. He loves corn on the cob!

Auntie Joan took him on a trip on his fire engine (another of Grandma’s garage sale finds).

And we got down to business, cracking poppers, doing smoke bombs and snakes. Joshua loved it all!

Cracking Poppers with Uncle Richard.

This is the “Pooping Dog” – a snake comes out his butt lol.

A friend showed up on his motorcycle and Grandpa took Joshua to check it out. This kid is even more obsessed with motorcycles (and trucks and anything that goes vroom) than horses. Here he is working on his James Dean look.

And I’ll close with the last picture I took, of Joshua and his Grandpa watching the motorcycle leave. <3

See you next week for another, hopefully much less photo heavy, Toddler Tuesday.

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