Monday, May 31, 2010

Strawberry Jam With Homegrown Strawberries

Your hint yesterday was that there would be lots of red in today's photo's... did you guess correctly? Gold stars for all who did! Ok, imaginary gold stars.

Last year was the first time I ever tried my hand at canning. And yesterday was the first time I have ever made jam! I'm pretty darned proud of myself.

And now on to the strawberry jam! I cruised the internet and saw most recipes included only three things: strawberries, pectin and sugar. The sugar helps preserve the fruit's color and shape; I am not ready to experiment with low-sugar recipes yet. Anyhoo, every recipe had different measurements so I just made up my own. Click here for a good resource for canning instructions.  You don't have to can the jam; if you're going to use it up within a couple weeks, why bother.  Just keep it in the fridge.

For the recipe you will need: 
  • 5 or 6 cups crushed strawberries,
  • one envelope of pectin, and
  • sugar (I used 6 cups and it was a little too sweet for me... and I like sweet).
These amounts made enough jam to fill 9 half-pint jars.

For canning you will need:
  • jars and lids (this recipe made enough jam for 9 half-pint jars), and
  • a canner (a big pot to boil the jars full of jam).
 And for canning it can't hurt to have:
  • jar grippers/special tongs shaped to grab the jars out of the boiling water,
  • a funnel for keeping the rims of the jars clean when filling them with jam,
  • a fun stick with a magnet on it to pull the lids out of the water, and
  • that flat piece of blue plastic laying over the funnel is a tool to measure headspace in the jar. 
I get my canning supplies at the grocery store; they have not been hard for me to find.  I think I did have to go to a farm and home store to get the canner last year, but that may have been because it was later in the year and most people had already bought their basic supplies.  However, I was able to find jars and lids at the regular grocery store throughout the year.

Jam-making goes pretty quickly, so before you start it's a good idea to go ahead and sterilize your canning jars by leaving them in boiling water for 10 minutes in your big canner-pot, and also put the lids in a saucepan and barely bring that pan to a boil.  As soon as the lid-pan starts to boil, pull it off the heat.  Leave the lids in the warm water while you make the jam.  Pull the sterilized jam jars out of the water and start making your jam!  I did all my boiling and sterilizing while I was cleaning the berries.

Wash and hull the strawberries, slice them into chunks and crush them. I used a potato masher to crush them.

Mix one envelope of pectin with 1/4 cup of the sugar.  Stir that mixture and the strawberries together in a tall pot over high heat.

Stir constantly.  When the berries come to a boil add the sugar.

That's alot of sugar.  I cringed a little after seeing the huge pile of it, but it's for an entire recipe of jam and how much jam do you really use at a time, anyway?

Stirring constantly, bring the berry mixture to a hard boil, the kind you can't stir away.  Continue stirring as you keep it at the boil point for one minute. 

At this point, smarter people than me would test the jam by either putting a spoonful on a chilled plate or on a spoon that you have kept in ice water.  Cool the sample and check to see if it's still a little runny.  If it is, try boiling it a little longer or add more pectin from the extra box I was not smart enough to have on hand.  I, of course, did not test it and my end product was a little runny.  Lesson learned.

Pull the pot of jam off the heat and let it cool for 5 or 10 minutes.  This is a good time to skim off the foam.  Look at all the foam I removed! 

Later I microwaved it (not in that metal bowl, of course) and it turned back into jam. Foam is just jam with some extra air in it. It's not as flavorful as the actual jam and it can reduce the shelf-life of your canned product, so while it won't hurt you (prior to spoilage, anyway) it's a good idea to get it outta your jam.

Also, while I was letting the jam cool I put the jars back in the boiling water so they would not break when I filled them with jam. As soon as I was done skimming the foam off the jam I pulled the jars out of the water for use.

Give the jam a stir, then using the funnel fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the rim.  Wipe the rim and place the lid on it, then screw on the lid-ring-thing.  Once all your jars are full, use your special funky tongs to place them in the canner where you kept water boiling all this time, in anticipation of this moment! 

Leave them in the boiling water for 5 or 10 minutes, depending on the elevation of where you live.  Where I live it's under 1,000 ft above sea level, so I boiled them for 5 minutes.  Pull them out, again using your funky tongs, and set them on the counter where they will be undisturbed for about 24 hours.  You will  hear the lids "pop" as they seal; it is such a happy little sound!  After 24 hours, press on the middle of each lid.  If any of them click up and down, they didn't seal.  Use those first; it doesn't mean the jam isn't any good, it just means they aren't "canned" correctly, whether it was a problem with the lid, or maybe the jar's rim had a chip in it, who knows.  All you need to know is you can open this jar first!  This recipe filled 9 half-pint jars.

I dug into my jam first thing this morning, adding it to my peanut-butter wrap breakfast.  It was fab!


It's a little runny, as you can see.  And it is ultra-sweet.  I think next time I will try making it with 4 cups of sugar instead of 6, and I will use more pectin, too.  But it is a fresh, summery taste that I will be able to enjoy this winter when the only green to be seen is on the Christmas tree and spring and summer are something you just dream about.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Andrea, You Are An Angel

Andrea, whoever you are, thank you so much for you comment on this post.  I finally got around to trying your frappucino recipe today and LOVE it!  I would have emailed you instead of making this big production of a thank you, but there was no contact information/link on your comment.

You guys, she said to put 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, 1/2 to 3/4 cup cold coffee and a handful of ice cubes in the blender.  Follow her instructions, she is SO on to something.  I am going to save a fortune in frappucino's!  Not to mention it is less fat and sugar than my usual frapp.

Hope you are enjoying your Memorial Day Weekend!  Or for you non-U.S. residents, I hope you are enjoying your regular weekend.

Have a fab evening.  Stay tuned, tomorrow will be a recipe post and here's a hint... there will be alot of red in the photos.  Any guesses as to the recipe???

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pricey Purses

I just read an article about mall chain stores beginning to carry purses that cost upwards of $300.  I don't get the designer handbag thing.  I'll admit, right now I'm wearing pants from New York and Company (which is still called Lerner in my heart), a shirt from Old Navy, sandals from Wal-Mart and am carrying a purse  from Target.  I should stop this post right now because I've probaby already made a different point: I'm no style icon.  I couldn't spot a pricey purse if you swung it under my nose.  But I just don't get why a store would have a market for a purse that costs maybe ten times more than the average price of an item in their store. 

I like nice things; who doesn't?  I will splurge on an item occasionally.  But if you are buying the purse as a status symbol, wouldn't you still want to buy it somewhere where you will get the best value for your dollar?  If you don't care about having this season's fancy purse, buy it at an outlet store or on sale at establishment that specializes in that designer in accessories in general; they should have a discount section.  If you want the most current thing, again wouldn't you want to go to a store that specializes in accessories or has a reputation for having the latest, coolest, most current coast-to-coast thing? 

Don't get me wrong, mall stores are where I spend most of my clothing money.  But buying a $300 purse at a store where the average price of an item is $38 (per the article linked above) just leaves you with a really expensive purse, not a status symbol.  Unless maybe they are going to carry Coach and... ok, that's the only fancy purse line I know.  But if it's not a brand that is already considered covetable, what is the point of paying $300 for the purse?  And what makes those purses so expensive anyway?  Are they impervious to the jelly and boogers that small humans will wipe on them?  Are they indestructable or perhaps do they contain a jet-pack for when you're late to work?

I just don't get it.  Good luck with the new mall placement of pricey purses.  I'm concerned it will be a bust.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Happy Blog-versary To Me!

I totally let the one year anniversary of my blog pass by without notice.  May 24, 2009 was my first post.  I've had some starts and stops but keep coming back to the blogging; I love it.  I enjoy the creative outlet and the interaction with the blogging community.  So everyone grab a cupcake for a toast... here's to you, here's to me, and here's to beginning the second year of Shedding the Fat-Suit!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I know I've been MIA, and all I have to say is I've missed you, bloggie-friends!  And today, when I pulled back the bird-netting and picked strawberries, I knew I had to post tonight to share this picture of today's bounty!  I can't believe my tiny little strawberry patch is producing so much. 

Three years ago I noticed a few random, teeny tiny strawberry plants in the yard.  Someone must have had a strawberry patch there a long time ago and then pulled them out and seeded grass.  I transplanted the orphans into a 2 ft x 2 ft raised bed.  The next year they gave us three little berries.  The year after that they produced enough berries that we had a few handfuls to snack on.  This year they are on steriods!  And they are escaping the raised bed and making a run down the hill towards the driveway.  I think I'll let them; I like the idea of a slope covered with strawberry plants.  I'll just throw down some stepping stones this fall or next spring so we have a place to stand when picking.

We picked a pint of berries a couple days ago and today, an entire gallon!  We had strawberry shortcake with homemade whipped cream after dinner tonight, and I think this weekend I will be figuring out how to make jam. 

Have a fab evening!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Eat Smarter, Move More

I think we all agree that there are two rules for weight loss: eat less (or smarter) and move more.  I get caught up in plans and points and ratios and rules for eating, then I break the eating rules, then I break them again, and then I give up.  As much as I talk about successful weight loss coming from a lifestyle change and not from a diet, I sure do seem to get on the diet bandwagon.  And then jump off it with abandon. 

It doesn't have to be complicated.  Eat better.  Move more.  That's it.  As for eating better, Stephanie Small of quotes Jillian Micheals as saying "Don't eat anything that doesn't come out of the ground or have a mother."  That's pretty simple.  Harder said than done, but simple.  I don't think I can go whole-hog on that one because I'm not going to dump dairy products or bread or tortillas.  But I can work on eating healthier choices of them. 

As for moving more, I think it can start as simply as parking farther away from your destination, or walking to the corner store instead of driving.  Then there's my gym membership... no more setting outrageous goals like getting up at 5 a.m. every day to go work out before work because I usually last about one day with that plan.  How about taking a short walk around the block before my morning shower if I get up too late to go to the gym? 

Just some thought that are running around in my head.  Have a fab day.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Does anybody watch Ruby on the Style Network? I haven’t really before and this weekend sat down to watch a few episodes. And I fell in love with Ruby. She seems so sweet and genuine, and is working so hard. She’s made big changes in her life and has lost tons of weight. The episodes I watched spent a lot of time featuring her struggles with staying on track, and I found that encouraging because despite her setbacks she is still having enormous success. It just goes to show that none of us are perfect and we shouldn’t expect to be perfect. It’s not diets but lifestyle changes that are going to make the difference: moving more, eating smarter, and learning how to beat whatever might derail our efforts.

Ok, I Couldn't Leave The Busy Template Up Any Longer

It was starting to bug me.  I tried out two new templates and definitely like the plain white one the best.  Here's what the other contender looked like:

Clearly I need more to do on my day off.  Alright, I'm outta here, everybody have a fab day!

New Template #2

I like this one too, but I think I like the white one better.  Here's the white one for comparison.  It's "minima" from blogger's templates.  This one is "rounders 4."  Thoughts?

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Trying Out Some New Templates

But it's still Shedding the Fat-Suit!
I may try a few out over the next couple days before I decide which one I like.  My blog's one-year birthday is coming up soon and I thought I'd give it a little bit of a makeover for the occasion.  Feel free to weigh-in on the templates, opinions welcome!

I Totally Just Replaced The Keyboard On My Laptop All By Myself

With a little help from for instructions.  And I have no IT background whatsoever.  It took $11 and five minutes and I feel like I have a new laptop!

My left shift key died what seems like forever ago, and the 'N' key bit it about a month ago.  Lately the 'A' key and another I can't remember right now were starting to go.  I ordered a new keyboard from Ebay for $10.99 and free shipping.  I was a little nervous about it but I went with a top-rated seller and crossed my fingers.  The keyboard came in about a week ago and I've been nervous about trying. 

Today I bit the bullet and memorized the instructions on Dell's website.  I thought they were too short to worry about printing.  I took out the battery and disconnected the power cord and went at it!  The faceplate snapped off and the old keyboard was secured with two itty-bitty screws.  Unfastening the ribbon cable was a little scary; I couldn't figure out the release so had to go look up the instructions again on another pc.  But I figured it out and here I am, back up to my 70+ wpm due to all keys being in working order!  Who knew it would only take $11 and a few minutes to fix something that's been a thorn in my side for months.  Yay me!

Have a fab weekend.