Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Blackberry Smoothie

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Refrigerator Jam

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The Ingredients

  • Fruit of choice…such as strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, peach,
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • large pinch salt
  • 2-1/4C sugar
  • 1 box (1-3/4oz SURE-JELL
  • 3/4C water

 

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Preparing the Fruit

When buying your fruit, make sure to buy only firm, perfectly ripe fruit. Only the best fruit will give you the best flavor and consistency.

First wash the fruit and remove any stems or peels.

Pick through berries, discarding any soft or rotten ones.

Chop the fruit into large chunks if you feel like you need to…obviously raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries can all remain whole.

Mash the fruit, using a potato masher or fork. How much you smoosh the fruit will depend on just how chunky you want your jam to be.

Add sugar to the crushed fruit.

Let sit for at least ten minutes, while you are making the topping…stirring occasionally.

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Making Your Base

 

First place a couple metal spoons in the freezer…(you’ll see why a little later)…

Combine all of the ingredients in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Let boil for 1min.

Let the jam cook for about twenty minutes.

Use a candy thermometer to see if your jam has cooked long enough or not. Cook until the thermometer reads 220ºF.

If adding any fresh herbs—such as basil, mint, or thyme—to your jam, add them during the last few minutes of the cooking process so that they retain their bright flavor.

Remove saucepan from heat.

Don’t expect your finished jam to be as firm as traditionally processed jam…this will actually make the jam easier to spread onto your toast, biscuits, or whatever.

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Sterilizing the Jars

While you are waiting for your jam to finish cooking, take the time to sterilize your jars.

To do this, thoroughly wash these jars, their lids and their screw bands….then put them into a large pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil. Let boil for 15min.

Turn off the heat. Leave the jars, lids, and bands in the hot water until ready to use.

 

 

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Filling Your Jars

 

Use tongs to lift the jars, lids, and screw bands from the water, Dry them thoroughly.

Ladle the hot jam carefully into the sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ space between the jam and the top of the jar.

Screw the lids on the tops of the jars tightly.

Wipe any jam from the rims of the jars with a wet paper towel.

Let the jars set out on the counter at room temperature overnight.

The jam will stay good in the fridge for up to three weeks….or in the freezer for up to one year. If you freeze it, let it thaw out in your refrigerator before using.f

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Cobbler

Other Ingredients

  • 3/4C sugar
  • 1-1/2C flour
  • 1-1/2tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2C heavy cream
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1/2C butter, melted
  • 2Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt

 

 

 

 

 

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Making the Fruit Filling

Preheat oven to 350…(isn’t that what almost recipes tell you to preheat your oven to…just lately noticed this)…

Place a stick of butter into a 9×13 pan in the oven while the oven preheats….just make sure that you take the pan out so that the butter doesn’t burn.

Do whatever you need to do to get the fruit ready—such as wash, peel, stem, seed, slice, and so on.

You may need to cook some of the firmer foods—such as apples or peaches—before using them in your cobbler in order to bring out more of their juices. To do this, just stir together the fruit and a little bit of sugar in a pan. Cook on medium heat for just a few minutes, until the sugar dissolves.

Once you finish prepping the fruit, taste it to see if you need to add some sugar, spices (choose whatever you gut instinct tells you), or lemon juice.

If your fruit is juicy or you want your cobbler to be more firmly set, you may want to add some cornstarch.

Spread the fruit filling evenly into prepared pan. It should fill the dish three-quarters full…(almost like when Making the Perfect Muffins, right?!)

 

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Making the Topping

Mix together your dry ingredients—the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until pea-sized crumbs form.

Add the cream to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined; the dough will be quite wet.

At this point, your topping should look like cookie dough.

Scoop the topping over the fruit mixture, using either a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon.

Spread the topping out with a spoon or your fingers if you need to.

Sprinkle with coarse sugar or use an egg wash to give your cobber more sparkle and extra crunch.

 

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Baking the Cobbler

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until golden brown….(Just like with everything else that you  bake, stick a toothpick into the topping…if it comes out clean– it’s done.)

Once you have finished baking the cobber, set your oven on broil. Broil long enough to make it golden brown and slightly crunchy on top.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream…(duh)…

Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to four days.

Baked cobbler can be kept frozen for up to three months. To serve, thaw overnight in the fridge. Warm in the oven before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Blackberries…The What

Another good option when targetting your smoothie to be most effective for its antioxidant purposes is the blackberry.

This soft, plump, sweet, and juicy fruit is commonly found in Europe from June until November, but are now also grown commercially in the United States.

They also grow wild  in forests and hedgerows across most of North America…where they can be found as thorny bushes or trailing vines, known as brambles. These brambles have many very sharp prickles or thorns that can easily tear through your clothes, even through denim, with ease and make the plant very difficult to navigate around. These sharp, thick thorns help protect wild blackberries from large animals.

 

Blackberries are considered an “aggregate fruit” because each single blackberry, as we usually think of as blackberries, is not an actual fruit in itself. Instead what we think of whenever we think about blackberries is actually a cluster of about twenty-five tiny fruits called druplets. each having its own seed.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Be a Smooth Operator

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Making the Perfect Green Smoothie

So now that we know the health benefits of green smoothies, how do I make the perfect one…and what should I expect in the perfect one.

The perfect green smoothie is the perfect blended of your favorite fresh fruits and dark leafy greens…blended with the perfect textures and with no bitter flavors….giving you not only great flavor, but also optimal nutrients every time.

And making the perfect green smoothie is more of a method instead of an actual recipe….but let’s first talk about the ingredients….or perhaps a ratio—60% fruits to 40% leafy greens.

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THE GREENS

There are hundreds of types of greens out there–try any of them and mix things up to find flavor combinations you like. , any kind of green will work…All greens have nutrients and anti-nutrients…rotate your greens regularly….be cognizant of flavor when choosing your greens. Spinach will have a milder flavor, so you can get away with using quite a lot without running into taste issues; arugula, on the other hand, is quite spicy, so you might want to add in some other stronger flavors to balance that out…

  • arugula
  • collard greens
  • fresh herbs—such as cilantro, basil, parsley and mint
  • green cabbage
  • kale
  • mâche
  • microgreens
  • pea shoots
  • romaine
  • spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • mixture of any of the above

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THE FRUIT

Fruit gives your green smoothies extra nutrition, texture and flavor…not to mention the fact that adding fruit keeps your green smoothie from tasting like a smooshed-up blended salad.

Adding fruit to your your smoothie also means that you won’t need to add any artificial sweeteners, honey, agave nectar, or processed sugars…because fruit is naturally sweet.

Bananas or avocados are the secret to making perfectly sweet and creamy weapon smoothies….they also help bind together the rest of the ingredients…bananas are also sweeter than  most other fruit. Bananas are especially good if you have peeled and frozen them first.

Ice can be hard on your blender and will dilute your smoothie’s flavor.

You can either chop and freeze your own ripe fruit or berries, or buy the the packaged stuff…and by the way I just discovered that you can freeze your wilting package of greens by simply sticking it in your freezer…learn something new every day, right?

Use about 1C fruit per servingabout twice as much fruit as you have in liquid or greenspreferably frozen fruit because you never want to add ice to your smoothie.

Fruits that you might consider include…

  • apples
  • berries
  • lemons
  • limes
  • mango
  • oranges
  • peaches
  • pears
  • pineapple
  • pitted dates

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THE LIQUID

Obviously if you’re gonna make a green smoothie, or any smoothie, you will need some sort of liquid. You can try whatever liquid you like, but you might want to avoid sweetened liquids because the fruit will add enough sweetness on its own.

Use anywhere from 1/2C to 1C per serving.

A few options include…

buttermilk—not so sure about this, but great for making pancakes or biscuits…might have to try it

  • coconut water
  • cold brew coffee
  • cold brewed tea—especially mint tea or green tea
  • milk

  • nondairy milks—such as unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
  • “plain old water”

 

 

 

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THE EXTRAS

Now that we’ve talked about the three basic ingredients of a perfect smoothie—the greens, the fruit, and the liquid—let’s explore other optional ingredients and a few recipes for the different health benefits that green smoothies are helpful for.

Many of these ingredients will be for helping the smoothies taste better…others will be for getting additional health benefits…while some will do both.

Let’s brainstorm…

  • Bee pollen
  • Coconut oil
  • Cucumbers…cucumber have a high nutrition content, as well as a high water content…and the green peel is excellent for you
  • Fresh herbs—such as basil, cilantro, and thyme
  • Gelatin powder
  • Himalayan salt
  • Honey
  • Maca powder
  • Nuts—such as raw almonds or raw walnuts
  • Oats that have been soaked in water overnight, or at least for ten minutes
  • Oils—such as flax oil
  • Seeds—such as flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds
  • Superfood powders—such as cacao, maca, and acai powder
  • Spices—such as ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric, cayenne, chili powder, or some combination of these
  • Unsweetened protein powder
  • Vitamin C powder

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Conclusion

So by now, you have probably realized the countless ways to make green smoothies, not to mention smoothies in general…I sure have, especially after studying probabilities in order to take my GMAT in three weeks…

But don’t worry…in the next post we will be talking about how to make your green smoothie…and then looking at various smoothies that you might want to try, based on the specific health benefit you are considering at the given moment.

Getting Healthy

Date-Sugar Sugar Cookies

Now that we know that date sugar is a healthy sweetener alternative for diabetics than standard granulated sugar…where do we find it?…how do we make it ourselves?…how do we use it in a recipe?

What are the benefits of using date sugar instead of regular granulated sugar?

  • Antioxidants…Dates contain the highest concentration of antioxidants of any dried fruits.
  • Caloric Content…Date sugar contains 288 calories per half-cup, as opposed to regular white refined sugar which has 387 calories per half-cup.
  • Energy Boost…Dates contain 29 grams of natural sugars—such as glucose, sucrose and fructose—and are one of the best snacks that you could eat to help you have more energy.
  • Intestinal Health…Dates helps increase the amount of “good” bacteria found is in the intestines and as a result help to keep you “regular” and prevent constipation.
  • Nutritional Value…Date sugar is loaded with vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, copper, manganese, and selenium; where white sugar does not.
  • Potassium Content…Date sugar actually has more potassium per serving size than bananas do.
  • Weight Control…Date sugar is loaded with fiber, protein and carbs which make you feel full much longer. This can help to curb hunger and help prevent weight gain.

Where do we find it?

Commercial date sugar made from unsulfured, organically grown dates is typically hard to find in actual local grocery stores and even health food stores. Your best bet is to buy your date sugar online from such sources as Thrive Market, Bob’s Red Mill, and Amazon.

How do we make it ourselves?

The problem with date sugar, however, especially organic types, is that they can be very expensive.

But it is possible to save money by making your own date sugar.

Making your own date sugar is actually quite simple. Simply buy inexpensive fresh or dried dates in bulk…It is not even important that the dates that you choose to make your date sugar are  the richest, sweetest, moist varieties. Just any old date will do.

Pit and slice them, and dry them using a food dehydrator or a very low-temperature oven. Once your date slices are fully dry, pulverize them in a food processor.

How do we use it in a recipe?!

Commercial or homemade date sugar can be substituted measure for measure for both granulated white sugar and brown sugar…but many people claim that this makes their baked goods taste too sweet, and reduce the amount of date sugar to only 2/3C date sugar for every cup of sugar called for in the original recipe.

Date sugar is particularly good when baking nut or fruit breads that will also contain whole pieces or chunks of another type of fruit or nut….such as banana-nut bread or an apple-walnut bread.

Date Sugar and Liquids…Remember that date sugar does not dissolve when stirred into water or liquids. Many chefs try dissolving the date sugar in boiling water before adding to the batter. This might work if water is already an ingredient in the given recipe. I personally hate changing ratios and proportions, and leave all this to the people who actually passed college algebra the first time that they took it.

Otherwise, just be aware that date sugar may show up as distinct, sweet flecks in cake, pancake or waffle batters.

Storing Your Date Sugar

Date sugar, just like brown sugar, tends to clump together…because they both are naturally “hygroscopic”…new word of the day, simply meaning “able to readily absorbs and retains moisture.”

So be sure to store your date sugar in an airtight jar or other container…probably in your pantry with perfectly-alphabetically-lined Mason jars containing brown sugar, coconut sugar, and now date sugar…

If you want to store your date sugar in a shaker, place a saltine cracker or two in the container to absorb any moisture.

Date-Sugar Cookies

Date Filling:

  • 2C chopped dates
    1C sugar
    1C water
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 pound chopped walnuts or pecans

Combine chopped dates, sugar and water in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat to low. Simmer ten minutes. Add lemon juice and salt. Cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dough

  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1C butter or margarine, softened
  • 3 1/2cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½tsp ground cloves
    1Tbsp baking soda
  • Confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Cream together vanilla, eggs, sugar, milk, and butter until light and fluffy.

Combine flour, sugar, cornmeal, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.

Add to creamed mixture.

Cover dough with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Roll out dough to 1/8″ thickness. Cut with floured 2 1/2″ round cookie cutter.

Cut out and remove 1″ round hole from center of half of the cookies. Return dough centers to remaining dough for rerolling.

Place the whole cookies on ungreased cookie sheets.

Spoon 1tsp cooled filling onto center of each whole cookie.

Top with dough ring. Press the edges of each filled cookie together with the tip of a fork to seal.

Bake for ten minutes. Let cool on pans two minutes. Remove from pans. Let cool completely.

Let cool. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar.

Getting Healthy, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Adding This to My Grocery List—Avocados

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I have three reasons that I am especially interested in adding these “good” fats to my daily diet…

First of all, a diet that includes these “good” fats helps you to keep your cardiovascular system healthy–decreasing glucose and insuin concentrations, promoting healthy blood lipid profiles, mediating blood pressure, improving insulin sensitivity, controlling cholesterol levels, and regulating glucose levels.

Next, a diet that includes these “good” fats helps lower depression, anxiety and other mental disorder risks. Pretty important to me since my husband suffers from PTSD, members of my family have been diagnosed as being bipolar, and being a fifty year old raising a “resident four year old” could make almost anyone feel like they are going completely insane at times.

Finally, a diet that includes these “good” fats is best at helping you lose and maintain a healthy weight because these foods are very willing and allow you to wait longer between meals without getting hungry.

So I get it… instead of attempting to remove all sources of “fat” from our diets, we should be careful to choose foods that contain “good” fat and not “bad” fat.

 

But here’s the problem…

I refuse to become one of those obnoxious people standing in the grocery aisle with her reading glasses on trying to decode a given package’s nutrition label.I want to be able to simply grab what I need when I go shop for groceries, not have to read more than I ever did in all four years of high school English combined.

First of all, I shouldn’t be standing in those center aisles in the first place because I’m eliminating most of the processed food items found on those shelves and replacing those foods with fresher and healthier ingredients found along the perimeter of the store…right?!

Also, one of my goals is to create my own list of pantry staples and foods to always keep on hand. Soon I will start working on that post…starting with the best foods for helping with insomnia that we have previously talked about in this article.

After including this list of optimal midnight snacks…sorry, Blue Bell, our midnight rendezvous are over, at least for now…the next item on my grocery list will be avocados…

 

Avocados?!…Why avocado?! 

 

Avocados are possibly the single best food source of the “good” fats that our bodies actually do need. In fact,  avocados have a much higher fat content than most other fruit. One-third of a medium-sized avocado contains roughly six grams of  “good” fat.

Most of the fat that an avocado does contain is monounsaturated fat….(on average avocados are about 71% monounsaturated, 13% polyunsaturated, and 16% saturated).

As my family begins to start depending less and less on the fatty foods that once were staples in our family menu plans—such as high-fat meats, fish, and dairy products—I plan to start using more and more avocados. So let’s learn more and finally start sharing some recipes…

Getting Healthy

When life gives you lemons, drink them

  
 

August is also National Water Quality Month.

Being dehydrated can negatively impact everything from your mental focus to energy and metabolism. 

  
One of the most important purchases you can make when creating a more healthy home and lifestyle is a water filter. 

The type of filter that you should buy depends on just how clean your tap water is to begin with.Checking water quality can be done either by checking your municipality’s mandatory Consumer Confidence Reports, an annual water quality summary that’s released each year by July 1st, or using a test kit from the local hardware store. 

NSF International is a trusted organization that sets certain standards for judging water purity. Filters are tested by adding specific contaminants to the water and then determining how much of each impurity remains after going through the filter.

  • NSF Standard 42...This means that the filter passes for “aesthetic effects,” like making the water taste and smell better. 
  • NSF Standard 53...This means that the filter removes a given list of dangerous impurities, like lead and giardia.
  • NSF Standard 401…This means that the filter also removes trace amounts of prescription drugs and pesticides. 

To see how your current water filter rates, check the NSF website.

Water filters range from personal on-the-go filters to pitcher filters, faucet-mounted filters, refrigerator filters, and countertop filters…and also vary as to price, filtration method, and size.

  • Aquacristal 
  •  Aquasana
  • Big Berkey 
  • Brita Everyday Water Pitcher
  • Full Circle Home Wherever Lemon Water Bottle
  • Soma Pitcher

      

     
    A few health benefits of fruits most commonly used in infused water, for example are…

    • Cucumbers…Cucumbers contain 95% water and are actually more nutritious than plain water. Cucumbers help keep you hydrated and also help flush out toxins from the body.
    • Ginger…Ginger helps calm your GI tract.
    • Lemons…Lemons are full of Vitamin C which can help boost your immune system. 
    • Limes…Limes contain citric acid, which is an excellent fat burner and are also full of antioxidants.
    • Mint Leaves…Min leaves can help you lose weight because the leaves stimulate the digestion of fat and help eliminate toxins from the body.

    Fruit infuser water bottles make infused water that much easier to make and keep you from having to deal with fruit and leaves touching your lips every time that you take a drink.

    Colorful infused water full of fresh fruit-such as blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry-will also help you lose weight.

    Water can also be a good way to “cleanse” your system, instead of spending a bunch of money on expensive store-bought cleansing programs.

    A “cleanse” differs from a “detox.” 

    A cleanse flushes out any unneeded bad junk inside your body..

    A “detox” involves cutting the “junk” out of your diet, and perhaps even your home and lifestyle, that are just “dirtying up” your system, making you sick, and causing fatigue, gas, bloating, and water retention. This will naturally feel more alert and awake with much less mental fog. 

    Before you begin a cleanse or detox, be sure cut out all the carb-loaded drinks. alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, sugary foods, and saturated fats at least a week before starting.This will help reduce any withdrawal symptoms and allow you to benefit more from your cleanse or detox.

    Be sure to eat more foods that are high in the healthy fats, such as avocados, raw nuts, and seeds.

    1.  Lemon Cucumber Mint Fat Flush Water... Cut the cucumber into very thing slices and add about a half a lemon and squeeze the juice in. Add as much mint as you like.

    2.  Orange-Kiwi Infused Water..
    ..Combine 2C water or sparkling water, 2 ice, 1 slicedorange, 2 peeled and sliced kiwis.

    3.  Strawberry Infused Vitamin Detox…
    Slightly mush up 1C strawberries in a bowl with 2 sprigs fresh rosemary. Add 2C cubed watermelon. Pour filtered water over the fruit. Chill.