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  1. Sunday, April 26, 2020

    Pomona’s Pectin Freezer Jam, My New Favorite

    I have been writing about freezer jam for years. My mom always made it and I have continued the tradition as an adult. I love freezer jam – you don’t have to cook the jam, you can store it in any container you have handy and just pop it in the freezer, and it’s the best tasting jam around (in my humble opinion, at least!). I have a major update to share regarding my annual freezer jam process. I’ve always used Sure-Jell pectin because that’s what my mom always used and it’s what I could find in any standard grocery store. This year, however, I ended up trying Pomona’s Universal Pectin and I am in love!

    Boxes of Pomona's Universal Pectin in front of a jar of jam

    Since I have been limiting myself to just one grocery store per week (thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown), Pomona’s was my only option because that was what was available. I was a little nervous about switching it up, but I will for sure use Pomona’s Pectin over Sure-Jell going forward, pandemic lockdown or not!


    While I love the freezer jam I have always made with Sure-Jell, there have been a few drawbacks over the years.

    1. Potential of jam not jelling: Sometimes the jam simply doesn’t jell. You’ll follow all the directions precisely and for whatever reason the jam just never jells. So, every batch was stressful. And when it didn’t jell, it was just such a waste of time and fruit. I know for a fact I’m not the only one this happens to, based on years of comments here on the blog.
    2. Recipe misprint: One year Sure-Jell misprinted the freezer jam recipe in the pectin boxes. It is amazing how many years those bad recipes keep turning up for people, ruining batch after batch of jam.
    3. Sugar Content. The classic Sure-Jell freezer jam recipe uses SO MUCH SUGAR. I know, I know, Sure-Jell has a low-sugar pectin option and I’ll admit I never tried it. I’m sure it’s great. But I love the original so much, but it is a heck of a lot of sugar.
    4. Different Recipes for Different Fruits: The recipes for different types of fruit are all different, so you have to be super careful when reading the recipe to prepare your jam or it won’t jell.
    5. Finicky Recipe: The directions are very finicky in general – you have to follow them precisely or else, well, see #1 and #4 for why this is frustrating!  

    Spoonful of raspberry freezer jam made with Pomona's Universal Pectin


    Enter Pomona’s Universal Pectin. The texture of the jam is a little different from Sure-Jell’s, but it is equally as delicious. I will now address each of the issues listed above as applied to Pomona’s:

    1. Happy Jelling! This pectin is super reliable. I have made many batches now and every time the jam starts jelling instantly. It’s magic. And completely un-stressful.
    2. No misprinted recipe legacy. Pomona’s, however, does not include the freezer jam recipe in the box. You can find it on their website, but it’s kind of buried. So, I will share the recipe below (and re-write it with my notes). 
    3. Sugar Content: Pomona’s freezer jam recipe uses WAY LESS SUGAR and is still delicious. And the jam jells no problem and isn’t so dependent on sugar content. Also, the recipe gives you a range of the amount of sugar to use, so you can adjust to your taste.
    4. The recipe for different types of fruit are all the same. Four cups of prepared fruit per 4 teaspoons of pectin! (Note, there are approximately 9 teaspoons of pectin in 1 box, so don’t dump the whole thing for one batch…make sure you measure.)
    5. Simple Recipe: The directions are simper and seem no fail to me. I would be stunned if this recipe didn’t jell. It’s worked like a charm every time for me!

    So, there you have it. I’m a Pomona’s convert! 

    Looking down into a jar of raspberry freezer jam made with Pomona's Universal Pectin


    • Click here for my Freezer Jam Fruit Buying Guide. This guide will tell you how many ounces of fruit to buy for different amounts of pectin and sugar. I included measurements for both Sure-Jell and Pomona’s Universal pectins. This guide is a lifesaver for me year after year and I updated it with a nice graphic this year! Note: the guide is only for strawberries and raspberries.
    • Click here for the Sure-Jell raspberry and strawberry freezer jam recipe. Sure-Jell is delicious and some of you may still want to go that route. 
    • Lastly, the Pomona’s Universal Pectin freezer jam recipe! This recipe can be used for many types of fruits, listed below! 

    Boxes of Pomona's Universal Pectin in front of a jar of raspberry freezer jam

    Freezer Jam with Pomona's Universal Pectin
    This recipe is for raw freezer jam using Pomona's Universal Pectin. "Raw" simply means you do not cook the jam. The jam can be stored in any air-tight container, in the fridge for 1 week and up to 1 year in the freezer. (Note: I'm certain we've kept it in the fridge longer than 1 week without it going bad, but do what you feel safe with!) Recipe suitable for the following fruits: Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Sour Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Pear, Kiwi, Blackberry, Plum, Peach, Apricot, Nectarine This recipe is from Pomona's Pectin website, but I have re-written it for ease and specifically for raw freezer jam, and have added notes as well.
    Serves: 4-6 cups
    • 4 cups mashed fruit (see step 3 below for preparation details)
    • ½ cup to 1 cup honey OR ¾ to 2 cups sugar (I use sugar)
    • ¾ cup boiling water
    • 3 teaspoons pectin (or 4 teaspoons pectin if using peaches, apricots or nectarines)
    • 4 teaspoons calcium water (plus more if needed, see step 1 below for how to prepare)
    1. Prepare calcium water: Combine ½ teaspoon calcium powder (included in the box) with ½ cup water in a small clear jar with a lid. Shake well. Set aside. Extra calcium water should be stored in the refrigerator for future use if needed.
    2. Wash and rinse freezer containers. Set aside.
    3. If using Strawberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, Blackberry, Sour Cherry, Sweet Cherry, Pear, Kiwi, Blackberry, Plum: Remove hulls/stems/pits/skins as applicable, mash or grind, then measure to 4 cups. Make sure fruit is at room temperature when making the jam. If using Peach, Apricot or Nectarine: Pit/Chop/Mash OR peel/pit/mash fruit - bring to boil in a pan, boil for 2 minutes while stirring then let cool in a bowl, then measure to four cups.
    4. Measure fruit into large bowl. Add chosen sweetener (honey or sugar) to fruit and mix well.
    5. Bring ¾ cup water to a boil. Carefully pour into a food processor or blender. Add 3 teaspoons pectin (note: for peach, apricot, nectarine add 4 teaspoons pectin). Vent lid and blend 1-2 minutes, until all powder is dissolved. (Jane note: I brought the water to a boil, then removed the pan from the heat, added the pectin, and whisked vigorously for 2 minutes and this worked, too.)
    6. Add hot liquid pectin to fruit mixture and stir to mix well.
    7. Add 4 teaspoons calcium water from jar, mix well into fruit mixture. Jell should appear at this point. If not, stir in 1 teaspoon calcium water at a time until jam is jelled.
    8. Fill containers, leaving ½" space at top of container. Store in freezer immediately for up to 1 year. Refrigerate after thawing.


  2. Sunday, April 19, 2020

    Kitchen Tip: Chopping Strawberries

    Since we’re chopping cauliflower, how about we chop some strawberries, too? I mean, it is strawberry season after all! Last year I was chopping strawberries for some strawberry shortcake and realized that every time I went to cut up a strawberry, I would do it this way…

    Step-by-step photo of the wrong way to cut up strawberries

    As you can see from my beautiful Photoshopping, this is the wrong way. I would always quarter the strawberries vertically from stem to tip first and then cut it into smaller pieces. This is no bueno because everything slips and slides, making it so that your pieces are all different sizes. It is also a wee bit dangerous, too.

    It’s taken a year, but I’ve broken the habit! I finally have retrained myself to cut strawberries the proper way, with no slipping and sliding to be seen! By cutting the strawberries horizontally (so not stem to tip) to start, you can then place the strawberry on its flat end (where you cut off the stem and leaves) and everything stays put! It’s a subtle difference but one I find that makes chopping strawberries much easier!

    Here are step-by-step photos! Tha may not be necessary, but strawberries are pretty so why not? 😉 

    Step 1: Cut off the leafy top.

    Whole washed strawberries on a black cutting board

    Strawberries on a cutting board with tops cut off

    Step 2: Cut the strawberries horizontally.

    You can cut them in halves or thirds, depending on the size of the strawberry.

    Top view of strawberries cut in half horizontally

    Step 3: Turn the strawberries up onto their cut-off-stem side, so the tips are pointing up.

    Backlit side view of strawberries cut in half horizontally

    Step 4: Quarter the strawberries, cutting tip to stem.

    Top view of chopped strawberries Side view of chopped strawberries

    Step 5: Knock all the strawberries over and eat them!

    Chopped strawberries on a cutting board

  3. Kitchen Tip: Chopping Cauliflower Without Making a Huge Mess

    A few years ago I posed a question on Facebook, something along the lines of, “What common kitchen task do you hate doing?” One of the responses was something I had never thought of but, once someone said it out loud, it forever bugged me, too! This fellow cook talked about how they hate chopping cauliflower because there are always a ton of tiny cauliflower pieces that get everywhere and are hard to wipe up. That person was right – those little pieces are annoying. So for years I’ve bemoaned the cauliflower mess, never quite figuring out a way to tackle it. UNTIL TODAY.

    Chopping cauliflower on a small cutting board on a rimmed baking sheet to minimize mess

    While prepping cauliflower to be roasted, I washed the head of cauliflower and cut out the core, used my hands to break it into large pieces, then put those pieces on the rimmed baking sheet to await being shopped smaller. As I reached for a cutting board, I ended up grabbing my smallest cutting board and putting it in the center of the pan. That’s where I chopped the pieces smaller, on the cutting board on the pan! It was awesome, my knife wasn’t damaged and all the cauliflower bits stayed right in the pan.

    I know it’s crazy I’m doing a whole blog post about this but that is how excited I am to make this discovery. Bring on the cauliflower! 

    Note: This tip will work well even if you aren’t planning to roast the cauliflower. Cutting the vegetable on a cutting board in a rimmed pan does a great job of minimizing mess. I’ll probably use this technique when chopping other foods, too!

  4. Week 671 Weekly Menu

    Hello again. Here we still are, at home. Hope you are doing well and you and your loved ones are safe!

    Week 671 Weekly Menu: Monday - Chicken Kai Pa Lo; Tuesday - Chicken Tostadas; Wednesday - Turkey Sandwiches; Thursday - Leftovers; Friday - Homemade Pizza; Saturday - Local Takeout; Sunday - Grill Night

    Chicken Kai Pa Lo

    Chicken Tostadas

    Cranberry Cream Cheese Turkey Sandwiches

    – Leftovers

    Homemade Pizza

    – Takeout night (local!)

    – Grill night + Salad

     I say this all the time, but I am SO grateful to everyone who posts menus each week. It truly is so helpful and inspiring. Let’s keep it going…share your menus in the comments below! Thank you!

  5. Sunday, April 12, 2020

    Week 670 Weekly Menu

    Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Spring! I hope whatever you are celebrating during this time of quarantine it is filled with joy and food.

    I actually totally forgot to plan for Easter on my menu last week. This Goundhog Day life is messing with me! So today we are having ham, funeral potatoes, kale salad,orange rolls, fresh fruit and yogurt. The bread is rising now!

    Week 670 Weekly Menu: Monday - Leftovers; Tuesday - Island Pork; Wednesday: Pesto Pasta; Thursday - Stuffed Peppers; Friday - Leftovers; Saturday - Takeout local!; Sunday - BLTs

    Not sure what’s going on…I know I cooked last week, but apparently I didn’t cook anything on last week’s menu! Oh, wait, there were two nights where kids ate leftovers and Nate and I did takeout because I was SO TIRED OF THE KITCHEN. 😉

    – Leftovers!

    – Island Pork with Sticky Coconut Rice

    – Pesto Pasta

    – Stuffed Peppers

    – Leftovers

    – Local Takeout Night

    – BLTs

    Thank you in advance for sharing your own menus in the comments below! I love reading them and I know they are helpful not only to me but to so many others!

  6. Saturday, April 11, 2020

    Modified Funeral Potatoes (That Won’t Necessitate Your Own Funeral Quite So Quickly)

    Ah, funeral potatoes. The classic potato casserole served by the Church Ladies at funerals for generations. The classic potato casserole that may have unwittingly caused a few funerals in the process. Not today, Funeral Potatoes. Not today.

    Funeral Potatoes on a plate with salad and ham

    Last year when I pulled out the ol’ funeral potato recipe for our Easter dinner (hint: funeral potatoes are really good with ham), I decided to live dangerously and CHANGE THE RECIPE. I used the recipe that my grandma always used and, while delicious, is more fat than potato and, while delicious, makes you feel awful after eating.

    Top view of a plate of food with potato casserole, ham and salad

    I didn’t change any of the ingredients, I just changed the proportions. And guess what? Just as delicious. I’m using the modified-still-not-healthy-but-at-least-not-a-murder-weapon version from now on!

    Funeral Potatoes, cheesy potato casserole, on a plate

    Modified Funeral Potatoes
    Same recipe as my grandma used to make, just not quite so deadly.
    • 2 pounds frozen hashbrowns
    • 1 cup sour cream
    • 1 can cream of chicken soup
    • ½ teaspoon salt
    • 3 chopped green onions
    • ¼ teaspoon pepper
    • 4 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
    • 1 cup corn flakes, crushed
    • ¼ cup butter
    1. Preheat oven to 350º F and thaw the frozen hashbrowns.
    2. Mix all ingredients except butter and cornflakes in a large bowl. Pour into a 9x13 casserole dish.
    3. Sprinkle top of casserole with corn flakes. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the corn flakes.
    4. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the casserole is bubbling and the top is nice and toasty!


  7. Sunday, April 5, 2020

    Week 669 Weekly Menu

    Hey there, friends. Thank you once again for posting menus week after week. They truly are so helpful. And we get little glimpses into your quarantine lives, including Nancy celebrating her son’s wedding from afar with such a positive attitude (click here and read comment #7). 

    Week 669 Weekly Menu: Monday - Leftovers; Tuesday - Island Pork; Wednesday: Pesto Pasta; Thursday - Stuffed Peppers; Friday - BLTs; Saturday - Takeout local!; Sunday - Grill Night

    – Leftovers (we have so many from last week!)

    Island Pork with Sticky Coconut Rice

    – Pesto Pasta

    Stuffed Peppers

    – BLTs

    – Takeout night (support local!)

    – Grill night with salad

    Can’t wait to see what you’ve all got cooking this week – share your menu in the comments! As always, sending out lots of love!

  8. Sunday, March 29, 2020

    Week 668 Weekly Menu

    Hi everyone. How’s it going? I hope well, wherever you are and whoever you are with. Sending lots of love!

    Week 668 Weekly Dinner Menu: Monday - Orange Chicken; Tuesday - Thai Basil Beef; Wednesday - Tacos; Thursday - Leftovers; Friday - Pasta Bolognese; Saturday - Take out; Sunday - Grill Night

    Grammy’s Orange Chicken
    – Rice and Salad

    Thai Basil Beef with Carrots (but with ground turkey!)
    – Rice

    Cora’s Mexican Ground Beef (Turkey) Tacos

    – Leftovers

    Pasta Bolognese

    – Take out from local restaurant!

    – Grill night with salad

    Your turn! Share those wonderful menus! Thank you in advance for your awesomeness. 🙂

  9. Saturday, March 21, 2020

    Week 667 Weekly Menu

    We ended up doing takeout a few nights last week to support local restaurants. Praying they can all hang on through these locked down times. Here we go with another week with everyone home!

    Week 667 Weekly Dinner Menu: Monday - Spaghetti & Meatballs; Tuesday - Salmon; Wednesday - Chicken Tortilla Soup; Thursday - Chicken Pot Pie; Friday - Leftovers; Saturday - Take out (support local restaurants!); Sunday - Grill Night & Salad

    – Spaghetti and Meatballs

    – Zesty Salmon
    – Roasted Potatoes and Side Veg

    Chicken Tortilla Soup

    Chicken Pot Pie

    – Leftovers

    – Take out (support local restaurants!)

    – Grill Night
    – Salad

    Please share your menu in the comments! Thank you!

  10. Sunday, March 15, 2020

    Week 666 Weekly Menu

    Well, this has been a quite a week, hasn’t it? I look back on this past Tuesday and can’t believe how different things were: my conversations, our family’s plans plans for the upcoming weeks, I had my choice of parking spots at Costco. Fast forward two days: conversations changed dramatically, everything for the next 3-4 weeks is cancelled, there is a traffic jam just to get into the Costco parking lot. I have to say I’m grateful to be married to a person who studied viruses and can explain everything so clearly. And our family is 100% happy to do our part to flatten the curve. We are not panicked, and we are grateful for all the scientists and healthcare workers working tirelessly to guide and care for all the humans on this beautiful planet.

    I’m still planning my menu. I’m hitting Frazier Farms right when it opens, hoping there is food on the shelves. If not, we’ll go back in a few days. From here on out it’s all about breathing, kindness and going with the flow!

    Week 666 Weekly Menu: Monday - Spaghetti; Tuesday - Quesadillas; Wednesday - Pot Roast; Thursday - Leftovers; Friday - Salmon; Saturday - Eat out, support local!; Sunday - Grill Night

    Also, um, kinda funny(?) the weekly menu number for this week is 666. Calm down, weekly menu. 😉

    Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Kitchen Sink Quesadillas

    Slow Cooker Pot Roast
    – Mashed potatoes and salad

    – Leftovers

    Zesty Salmon
    – Roasted Potatoes and Side Veg

    – Take out (supporting a local restaurant!)

    – Grill night
    – Salad

    Please share your own meal plans in the comments below! And let us know how you are doing!