Tag Archives: low sugar

Low Sugar Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

Canning is generally a summer sport. Summer harvests mean you usually have to spend the hottest days of the year blanching fruit, stirring boiling pots, and having steam from a boiling water bath canner fill the kitchen with heat and humidity.

Do you ever wish that you could do your canning in the middle of the winter, when a little extra heat and humidity would be most welcome? I can’t get rid of all of that summer canning, but here is one recipe that is perfect to make on a cold, snowy day. And it will make your house smell truly heavenly.

Pears make a wonderful jam and are an easy fruit to work with any time of year. Most varieties have thin skins, so you don’t need to peel them, and you can chop them quickly in a food processor.  This jam is also flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, which makes it easy and amazingly delicious!

I use a combination of sugar and stevia to make a lower sugar jam that doesn’t compromise on flavor. You could add additional sugar if you don’t want to use the stevia.

And it’s not just for toast: try stirring it into some plain yogurt or spreading on some homemade pancakes for a delicious breakfast or snack.

RECIPE:

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam (Low-Sugar)

Yield: 6 half-pint jars

Cinnamon Vanilla Pear Jam

8-10 ripe medium-sized pears (about 4 lb)
1 Tbs lemon juice
2 ¼ cups sugar, divided
1 box low-sugar pectin
½ tsp liquid stevia
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped; or 2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare equipment: sterilize half-pint jars, lids, and canning equipment (ladle and funnel). Prepare a boiling water bath.

Wash and core the pears, but do not peel. Finely chop or coarsely mash to yield 7 cups fruit. (I use a food processor to finely chop/mash the pears). Stir in lemon juice.

In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup of the sugar with the box of pectin. Mix well and set aside.

In a large pot, combine the chopped pears, remaining 2 cups sugar, stevia, cinnamon and vanilla beans (both seeds and pods), if using. Bring to a full rolling boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium (maintain a low but continuous boil), and boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in sugar/pectin mixture and vanilla extract, if using. Return jam to a full boil and boil for an additional 5 minutes. Remove vanilla bean pods and discard.

Remove jam from heat and let sit for 3-4 minutes. Stir jam. Ladle hot jam into prepared jars. Wipe top edges of jars with a damp cloth. Add lids and rings. Place in a boiling bath canner and when pot has returned to a full boil, process jars for 10 minutes. Remove jars from canner and place on a towel on kitchen counter. Let sit for 24 hours. Check seals before placing on pantry shelf.

NOTES:

  • Use thin-skinned pears like Bartlett, d’Anjou, or Comice
  • Stevia brands can vary in sweetness. Taste jam before adding pectin and adjust sugar to taste.
  • Use either the vanilla beans or the vanilla extract, not both
  • Letting the jam sit for a few minutes before ladling into jars helps to reduce foam and keep the fruit chunks from settling to the bottom of the jars.

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Cherry Blackberry Cobbler

072710 037-1 I love sour cherries in the summer, especially when they are paired with a sweeter berry. We had some blackberries that were getting a little over-ripe, so adding them to this dessert made a perfect Family Night treat. And topped with cinnamon ice cream that we were given in trade for a used girl’s bike? Best trade we ever made!

072710 001-1 This is a double batch of the recipe printed below. Small scoops of dough are dropped onto the hot fruit filling, and then sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Twenty minutes in the oven and the topping is perfectly cooked and ready to eat!

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072710 023-1 The cobbler topping is not made of hard dry biscuits, or loose crumble. It is soft, tender, not-too-sweet, cinnamon-topped mini cakes that soak up that fruit goodness and just scream for a scoop of real vanilla (or cinnamon-thanks Jenny!) ice cream.

072710 011-1 This is bowl-licking good stuff!

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RECIPE:

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Cherry Blackberry (or Raspberry) Cobbler

Filling:
1 quart (4 cups) pitted sour cherries
———(or 2 cans sour/tart cherries + juice)
2 cups blackberries, raspberries or mixed berries
1 cup sugar (or ½C Splenda+¼ tsp stevia)
2 Tbs Clear Jel (or cornstarch)
½ Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
¼ tsp salt

Cobbler:
3/4 cup flour (or half wheat & white flour)
2 Tbs sugar (or Splenda)
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 Tbs cold butter
½ cup buttermilk, kefir, or milk (use less if using regular milk)
1 egg
1/2 Tbs sugar + 1/8 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Combine filling ingredients in a saucepan. Cook and stir over medium heat until bubbly and slightly thickened. Pour into an 8×8” pan, or 2-qt casserole dish.

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter. Combine milk and egg. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk/egg mixture. Stir just until dough clings, adding more milk if necessary. Spoon into 6 mounds over hot filling.

Mix sugar and cinnamon. Lightly sprinkle over topping, discarding any extra.

Bake, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes. Check topping with a toothpick.

 

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Low Sugar Strawberry Citrus Jam

072210 028-1 Summer is in full swing here; temperatures hover between 85° and 90°, with humidity levels making it feel a good 10 degrees hotter. So have we been hanging out at the swimming pool, or in the sprinkler? Or finding nice, cool activities to do inside? No-we’ve been canning! Seeing just how hot we can get the kitchen with multiple pots of boiling water and macerated fruit. I do have some great helpers in this effort. Mashing fruit with the potato masher is quite a coveted job around here!

And it will all be worth it come January when we are snowed in, cracking open a little bit of summer in a jar.

I tried several new jam recipes this week, including this Strawberry Citrus Jam. Made with strawberries and and a chopped orange (plus peel), it is quite tart. Not so tart that the kids wouldn’t eat it, however. They really like it. I do too. And I love how the orange really brought out the color of the strawberries. I make most of my jams low sugar (substituting all but one cup of sugar with stevia), and the lower sugar often makes the jam less bright and clear. But the added citrus really brightened up this jam!

If you do try this jam, take a taste before you add it to your jars, and adjust the sweetness to your liking.

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RECIPE:

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Low Sugar Strawberry Citrus Jam
—————————(adapted from Big Black Dog)

1 large orange
4 cups crushed strawberries (measure after crushing)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp powdered stevia
1 box low-sugar fruit pectin

Grate zest from orange into a large saucepan (you should have about 2 tsp). Cut white rind from orange; discard. Chop orange pulp and add to the saucepan. Stir in crushed strawberries, lemon juice, sugar and stevia.

Optional step: Let fruit/sugar mixture sit for 1 hour to overnight (place in the refrigerator if you are going to let it sit overnight). Letting the fruit sit in the sugar will help sweeten the individual fruit bits. It also helps keep the fruit bits from settling in your finished jam.

Stir pectin into fruit mixture. Bring to a hard boil (bubbles don’t stop when jam is stirred) over medium-high heat. Boil hard for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

NOTE: This is a tart jam. Try the jam at this point. If it is not sweet enough, add additional stevia or sugar. If you add additional sweetener, return jam to a hard boil before filling jars.

Ladle jam into sterilized jars. Wipe rims; add lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let jars sit on a towel on kitchen counter for 24 hours to set. Check seal.

Yield: 6 half-pint jars

 

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Beef and Broccoli

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After fabulous holidays full of rich, sugar-laden foods, it is time to get back to some healthier cuisine around here.

A stir-fry is one of my favorite ways to make a quick, healthy meal that no one turns their nose up at. This one is especially quick as the meat does not need to be marinated ahead of time.

I usually make this with just beef and broccoli, but I had a lone zucchini hanging out in the crisper just begging to be used as well.  So for dinner tonight, we have Beef & Broccoli (with a little zucchini thrown in for fun).

Cut fresh broccoli (and any other lonely veges you want to include) into bite-sized pieces. Heat a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add 1-2 Tbs oil. Add vegetables to hot oil and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until broccoli has turned a bright green, but is not cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

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Slice a flank steak into very thin slices. This is easier if the steak is just slightly frozen. If the steak is really wide, you can cut it half first and then cut thin slices.

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Add a little more oil to your pan and cook the steak slices over high heat until browned. Season with garlic powder and black pepper while cooking. If you are cooking a lot of meat, or using a smaller pan, cook the meat in small batches. Try to maintain a single layer in the bottom of the pan so that it will cook evenly.

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Stir together sauce ingredients and add to pan, stirring until sauce just begins to thickens. I don’t like the sauce to be too thick. If you like more of a gravy consistency, just add more cornstarch to the sauce mix. DSC02016-1

Stir in broccoli. Cook 1-2 minutes, or until broccoli is heated through. Keep the veges crisp, not mushy! DSC02018-1

Serve over white or brown rice.

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STIR-FRY COOKING TIP: Chop all of your ingredients and stir together the sauce mixture BEFORE you start any cooking. Then you will be sure to not overcook anything while doing prep work.

RECIPE:

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Beef and Broccoli

2-4 Tbs peanut oil or olive oil, divided
4 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 flank steak or skirt steak
ground black pepper
garlic powder

Sauce:
½ cup soy sauce
¾ cup chicken broth
1 Tbs cornstarch
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1-2 tsp chile paste
½ tsp Gravy Master or Kitchen Bouquet
2 Tbs toasted sesame oil

Chop broccoli into bite-sized florets; set aside. Cut steak in very thin slices (Partially freezing steak beforehand will make this easier); set aside. Combine sauce ingredients; set aside.

Heat 1-2 Tbs oil in a wok or large skillet. Add broccoli and cook for 3-4 minutes, until broccoli has turned a bright green, but is not cooked through. Remove from wok and set aside.

Add an additional 1-2 Tbs oil to wok. Add beef (in small batches) to pan. Sprinkle with ground black pepper and garlic powder. Stir-fry until tender. Drain excess moisture from pan, if necessary. Add sauce to pan and cook for about one minute, until it just starts to thicken. Stir in broccoli and cook until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

 

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Low-Sugar Peach Butter

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uthcjam2009I know that summer is long gone and buying good, fresh peaches is no longer an option for most of us. But I wanted to submit this recipe to Aimée’s  (Under the High Chair) Virtual Jam Swap. What a fun way to showcase fresh fruit from around the country (world?) and how to preserve them in one of my favorite forms: homemade jam!

I like Apple Butter, but Peach Butter is my all-time favorite. It has some of the same flavors as the apple butter, but is so much richer and has a full body that apple butter just can’t touch! I make most of my jams with a reduced amount of sugar, using  Stevia (a naturally sweet herb) to provide most of the sweetness. I have not been successful, however, canning with only Stevia and no sugar. The jam seems to need at least some sugar to help it gel properly and to provide some of the “sheen” that makes jam look so good. So I use a substantially reduced amount of sugar and a little Stevia (a little goes a LONG way).

Peach/Apple Butter are great, but much more time consuming than regular jam. With five kids running around making constant demands, I am not very good at stirring and watching a pot closely for hours at a time. So I make this jam in the crockpot. It takes a good long time – at least 12 hours, sometimes 24, depending on your crock-pot and how humid your house is. But if I only need to stir it every hour or two, that I can handle.

DSC01559I use a large crock-pot, about 6 quarts to make this jam. I end up getting between 7 and 9 half-pint jars in the end. This will depend on how thick you like your peach butter and how full you fill your crock-pot. I used 25 peaches (almost 1 peck) for this batch. Free-stone peaches are much easier to work with than cling peaches, but since the peaches will be crushed, either variety will produce a great result. It just depends on how much you want to work to remove those pits!

Start with peeling your peaches: Bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce heat and maintain a slow simmer. Drop (carefully!) peaches into the boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice water. Let peaches sit in the cold water for a few minutes. The peels should come off easily now. Cut peaches in half and remove the pit. You can place the peach halves directly into your crock-pot, or slice/chop them a little so that you can pack even more peaches in the pot. I usually use the most sophisticated method of crushing the peach halves in my hand (freshly washed, of course).

Stir in your sweetener (sugar and/or Stevia) and some seasonings to taste: I like cinnamon, cloves and allspice.

Turn your crock-pot on low and cook with the lid OFF for 12-24 hours. Humidity will greatly affect how long it takes your peach butter to thicken. If your crock-pot begins to splatter (I don’t have a problem with this, but the low setting on my crock-pot seems REALLY low), you can place a splatter screen over the top, or put the lid on only partway.

Stir occasionally and enjoy the delicious smell all day long. When peaches become very soft and start to thicken, I use an immersion blender to make a smooth spread. You could also use a food processor or blender, but be careful as it is very hot.

DSC02189Continue to cook until peach butter is thick. It will become a gorgeous caramel color, and a spoon drawn through the mixture will leave a trail. The exact consistency is up to your personal preference. Taste and adjust spices as desired.

If you are canning the peach butter, prepare your jars and lids and boiling bath. Fill jars to within 1/8″ of rim. Wipe rims of jars (or they won’t seal properly). Place lids on jars. Place jars  in a boiling bath canner. Return water to a gentle boil and process 5 minutes. Cool  on a towel on your kitchen counter for 24 hours. Check seal.

Enjoy!

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Peach Butter

Peaches (about 25 for a large 5-6 qt crock-pot)
1-2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/8-1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp Stevia extract (or about 2-3 cups additional sugar)

Peel peaches (dip in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, then put into large bowl of ice water). Cut peaches in half and remove pits; slice peaches, if desired. Fill a crock pot with as many peaches as it will hold (leaving about 1” at the top). Stir in spices and sweeteners (proportions are for a large 5-6 quart crock pot). (NOTE: Start with a small amount of sugar/sweetener, as sweetness of peaches and personal tastes will vary. You can add more sweetener later, after the peach butter has reduced, if you want it sweeter) Set the crock pot on low or medium. Let it cook, without the lid, for 12-24 hours (cover with a splatter-guard if necessary). Stir occasionally.

When cooked and reduced, use an immersion blender to make a smooth peach butter (or leave it coarse, if preferred). Taste and adjust sweetness and spices. If butter gets too thick, add a little fruit juice. If mixture is still too thin, cook longer or transfer to a saucepan and gently boil (stirring constantly) until reduced.

Ladle hot mixture into jars, leaving 1/8” headspace. Wipe rims of jars. Place lids on jars.

Place in a boiling bath canner or steam canner. Return water to a gentle boil. Process 5 minutes. Cool on a towel on kitchen counter for 24 hours. Check seal.

Yield: 7-9 half-pint jars

 

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Sweet & Sour Pork Stir-Fry

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Tonight was one of those “Oh no, what I am going to make for dinner tonight!?” nights.  You would think that after 20 years of marriage, dinnertime would not come as such a shock to me. But, alas, sometimes it does. I try to be organized and have a list of meals and available ingredients so that dinner preparation is a little easier. However, there are many a night when 5 o’clock rolls around and I have yet to even consider what we are going to eat for dinner. When those nights happen, one of my favorite fall-back recipes is a stir-fry. I can usually scrounge up enough ingredients, fresh or frozen, to pull something together in a fairly short amount of time.

Tonight, the meat of choice was pork. I had a nice pork tenderloin in the freezer that would not take too long to thaw in the microwave. Vegetables included fresh onions, carrots and celery, frozen broccoli (I wish it had been fresh, but it still worked out fine) and a can of water chestnuts. The sauce: sweet & sour (not too sweet, however: I do not enjoy overly sweet stir-frys).

If you are tackling this last minute like me, put the pork in the microwave to thaw and start chopping vegetables. Put the yellow onions, carrots and celery in a bowl, and have your water chestnuts and broccoli handy. If you have green onions, place these in a separate small bowl. They are added at the very end.

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Stir together sauce ingredients and set aside.

When the pork is thaw, cut it into bite-sized thin strips. Once everything is chopped, it is time to start cooking. Don’t try to cook and chop at the same time when making a stir-fry. It is easy to overcook the vegetables and end up with a really soggy stir-fry. It is worth the small wait to have all of your ingredients cut before you start cooking.

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Heat 1 Tbs peanut or coconut oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add yellow onions, carrots and celery. If you have fresh broccoli, add it now too. Or any other fresh vegetable you have with a slightly longer cooking time: like red or green peppers, mushrooms, green beans, Chinese cabbage. Wait until later to add quick-cooking vegetables like green onions, snow peas. When vegetables are crisp-tender, remove them from the wok and place them in a bowl.

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Add one additional tablespoon of oil to the wok and add your pork. Stir-fry on high heat until pork is cooked through and begins to brown.

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Pork tenderloin is often a high water content meat, so if you have a large amount of liquid in the bottom of your pan, drain it off. You want to stir-fry the meat, not boil it.

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When meat is cooked through, add the sauce with any frozen vegetables you are using and cook 3-4 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken and vegetables are crisp-tender. Return onion/celery mixture to pan along with water chestnuts and green onions (and any other quick-cooking vegetable you are using). Heat through.

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Serve with white or brown rice.

RECIPE:

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Sweet & Sour Pork Stir-Fry

2 Tbs oil (peanut or coconut), divided
2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into thin strips
1 red or green pepper, diced (I used broccoli instead this time)
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup julienned carrots
1 can water chestnuts, drained
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1″ slices

Sauce:
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup rice vinegar (unsweetened)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbs toasted sesame oil
1/2 Tbs minced garlic
1 Tbs sugar or agave nectar
1 Tbs cornstarch

Combine sauce ingredients; set aside. Chop vegetables and pork. Heat 1 Tbs oil in wok or skillet. Add vegetables (except water chestnuts and green onion); cook until crisp-tender. Remove from pan. Add additional 1 Tbs oil to pan. Add pork and cook until pork begins to brown. Add sauce to pan and cook 2-3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Stir in cooked vegetables, water chestnuts and green onions. Heat through. Serve with white or brown rice.

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