March 27, 2017

Frozen Pizza Alternative – Homemade Pizza Kits

Oct 17, 2013

These homemade pizza kits are great to have on hand for those nights when you don't feel like cooking!

In my search for a good pizza dough recipe I came across the idea to make pizza kits from Life as Mom.  I thought it was simply brilliant!  I always prefer homemade pizza, but usually when I want pizza I am not in the mood to make the dough. So store-bought frozen pizzas usually win.

A pizza kit is basically a large freezer bag that contains smaller bags of the following: homemade pizza dough, chopped veggies, shredded cheese, and meat toppings.  You can add sauce also, but I haven’t yet gotten into making my own sauce since I regularly get jarred sauce pretty cheap with coupons.

For this particular baking day, I chose to make 4 pizza kits that included pepperoni, diced green bell peppers and red onions, and mozzarella cheese along with my dough.  I did not have pepperoni on hand at the time, so I added some salsa chicken to demonstrate in the picture for you.

These homemade pizza kits are great to have on hand for those nights when you don't feel like cooking!

It’s just so cool!  This will make homemade pizza almost as easy to fix as a store-bought frozen pizza.  Great for pizza nights, lazy nights, or just plain ‘ole pizza craving nights!

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly – Part 4

Aug 10, 2011

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly -- Learn how to successfully and safely make your own canned goods to share with family and friends.

The following is a guest post by Raising A Family On A Budget.

Making jam really is as simple as reading the directions on the package of pectin. There are no real tricks to capture summer’s essence in a jar, just a little know how and you will be good to go.

One thing that I learned early on is that you do not need to buy the most beautiful fruits to achieve the most delicious jams. In fact, you can often purchase “seconds” at farm stands for a fraction of the cost simply because the fruits have small blemishes, are of irregular size or color, and sometimes are slightly over or under ripe. Fruits that are considered seconds are still edible and delicious, but they are much better in cooked applications where the physical qualities of the fruit are not nearly as important as the taste.

So far this year, I have taken advantage of strawberry picking at a local PYO farm for making strawberry jam, the $1.99/pint blueberry deal at Whole Foods for blueberry jam, and recently our local farmer’s market has had fresh peaches for $.77/lb so I bought enough for jam and filling the freezer.

When you are first starting out, it is hard to know how much of a particular fruit you will need. The boxes of Ball Pectin & SureGel have always had a direction sheet inside of them that would tell you how much fruit you need to prepare for a batch of jam using the entire box of pectin.

Without fail, I’d always have either way too much fruit, or be just shy in my quantities.

This year, I have found the best alternative to the boxes of pectin…Ball Classic Pectin – Flex Batch.

One jar of the Classic Pectin can make 22 half pint (8oz) jars of jam. One box of Ball Pectin or SureGel is equal to 6 Tbsp of pectin from the jar, so if you find recipes that call for “one box of pectin” you now have your equivalents.

More importantly, you can now scale your recipe based on the amount of fruit that you have using as little as 1 1/3 cups of prepared fruits, all the way up to 14 2/3 cups of prepared fruit if you are using an entire jar of pectin!

I have had a lot of success with the flexible measurements and my jam making. The package recommends not exceeding 10 jars per batch (about 7 1/3 cups of fruit) however, once you become more comfortable with jam making, you can successfully scale all the way up to the larger batch sizes because you will become familiar with the consistency that jam becomes when it is ready to go into the jars.

The other main ingredient in jam is sugar. While you can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipes and there are recipes that use sugar substitutes, such as Splenda, the best and most consistent results come from using Classic Pectin and sugar.

Below is the table from inside the Classic Pectin Flex Jar so you will know how much fruit and sugar to have on hand before we start jam making in the next post.

For every 2 half pint jars of jam, you will need:

For every 2 half pint jars of jam, you will need:Traditional RecipeReduced Sugar Recipe
(still gets great results)
Prepared Fruit1 1/3 cups1 1/3 cups
Bottled Lemon Juice
(use only with blueberries, peaches, and sweet cherries)
1 Tbsp1 Tbsp
Ball Classic Pectin1 ½ Tbsp = 4 ½ tsp1 ½ Tbsp = 4 ½ tsp
Granulated Sugar1 2/3 cups1 cup

Note: The reduced sugar recipe noted above is still using Classic Pectin. There is no sugar/low sugar pectin available on the market as well. Also, less sugar equals a lower final yield on the amount of jam you have.

The best prices that I have found on pectin & canning supplies are at Walmart. I have also found decent selections at Lowe’s, ACE Hardware, TruValue, ShopRite, and other grocery stores.

Helpful Resources:

That concludes our canning series! I hope that you are now inspired to make jams of your own!

Other posts in this series:

Stephanie Huston is the mom behind Raising A Family On A Budget.  Her main focus is saving families money through couponing and shopping sales for the items we need and would buy anyway. In addition, there are often ideas shared for other frugal aspects of our lives (cooking, dining out, DIY, vacation, etc).

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly – Part 3

Aug 9, 2011

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly -- Learn how to successfully and safely make your own canned goods to share with family and friends.

The following is a guest post by Raising A Family On A Budget.

Now that you know the basics of what you need to have on hand to make jam, let’s make a batch!

Step 1 – Before You Begin

Prepare boiling water canner by filling half-full with hot water.  Keep water simmering while covered.

Heat jars and lids in hot, not boiling, water until ready to use.  Keeping the jars hot helps prevent them from breaking when hot jam or jelly is added.  To prevent seal failure, do not boil lids.  Leave rings at room temperature for easy handling.

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Step 2 – Prepare Your Fruit

No matter what type of fruit you are using, your ratios are the same.

1 1/3 cups of prepared fruit to 1 ½ Tbsp of pectin and 1 2/3 cups of sugar

To prepare strawberries, hull and crush one layer at a time with a potato masher.  For peaches or pears, peel, pit, and finely chop.  For raspberries, blueberries, or blackberries crush one layer at a time using a potato masher.  For cherries, remove stems and pits, then finely chop.

To save time and energy, on large batches of fruit, I use my food processor to pulse chop it to the desired size.  This goes for berries, as well as peaches.

For our recipe today we will be using strawberries.

Step 3 – Measure Out All Ingredients

Small Batch     2 half pint jars

Standard Batch
9 half pint jars

Large Batch
22 half pint jars

Cups of prepared fruit 1 1/3 cups 5 1/3 cups 14 2/3 cups
Pectin 1 ½ Tbsp 6 Tbsp 1 – 4.7 oz jar of pectin
Granulated sugar 1 2/3 cups 6 2/3 cups 18 1/3 cups

For blueberry, peach, and sweet cherry jams you will need to add lemon juice as well.  Please follow the directions on your pectin to know how much to use.

Step 4 – Start Jamming

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Combine the prepared fruit, lemon juice if required, and pectin in a large saucepan (6 – 8 qt for a standard batch of jam).  Bring mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, while stirring constantly.

Add entire measure of sugar, stirring to dissolve.  Once all of the sugar has been incorporated, return to a full rolling boil.  Boil hard for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat.  Skim foam if necessary.

image

Step 5 – Filling and Sealing Your Jars

Remove jars from hot water, and place on a towel to prevent thermal shock and breakage.

Ladle hot jam into hot jars one at a time leaving ¼ headspace.  Clean rim and threads of jars using a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue.

Center hot lids on jars, allowing sealing compound to come in contact with the jar rim.  Apply bands and adjust until fit is finger tight.

Place filled jars in the water bath canner.  Be sure water covers tops of jars by 1-2 inches.  Add more hot water if necessary.  Place lid on the canner, and bring water to a gentle, steady boil.

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Process jars for 10 minutes.  After processing is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid to the canner.  Let jars stand for 5 minutes more.

Remove jars from canner and place on a towel to cool.  Ideally, jars will remain on the counter undisturbed for 12-24 hours.  You will hear a popping noise as the jars form a good seal.

Once the jars have cooled, test the seals by pressing the center of the lid.  If a lid flexes up and down, it did not seal properly and must go immediately go into the refrigerator or reprocess for the full amount of time using a new lid.

Sealed jars should be stored with the rings removed.  Label and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

While all recipes say that home canned goods are only good for 1 year, as long as the jars are maintaining a proper seal, then you can consume them for years to come.  Before opening a jar, make sure the lid is still properly sealed.  If it is no longer sealed – discard.  Once open, look at the contents.  If they look off, are bubbling, or fuzzy – discard.  Take a quick sniff.  If the product does not smell properly – discard.  Personally, I have kept pickles and jellies for up to 3 years with much success. 

Other posts in this series:

Stephanie Huston is the mom behind Raising A Family On A Budget.  Her main focus is saving families money through couponing and shopping sales for the items we need and would buy anyway. In addition, there are often ideas shared for other frugal aspects of our lives (cooking, dining out, DIY, vacation, etc).

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly – Part 2

Aug 2, 2011

Simple Guide to Canning and Making Homemade Jelly -- Learn how to successfully and safely make your own canned goods to share with family and friends.

The following is a guest post by Raising A Family On A Budget.

If you have been seriously considering canning, you probably have poked around a few websites and maybe even checked out a book or two from the library.  And if you are like some people, reading through these books brings flashbacks of high school chemistry class with lengthy procedures, tons of equipment, unfamiliar terms, and a heavy dose of caution.

While canning is a science, and you do have to follow certain steps in order to have a final product that is both delicious and safe to consume, it does not have to be overwhelming.

Before we get started, let’s review some of the terminology that you will come across in canning.

  • Canning Jars – also known as Mason, Ball or Kerr Jars.  A glass jar with a 2 piece lid.  When you first buy the jars, they come with the caps and rings.
  • Cap – the part of the lid that seals directly to the jar.  These can only be used once.
  • Ring – the part of the lid that holds the cap to the jar.
  • Pectin – a natural jelling agent added during the cooking process to guarantee that fruit spread sets up as desired.
  • Canning Kettle – A large heavy bottom pot that you can place your filled jars in with 2 inches of water above the top of the lids
  • Water Bath Canner – the usual canning method for preserving jams, jellies, pickles, and most sauces.
  • Head Space – the amount of space you leave in the top of the jar; this varies by recipe.
  • Processing Time – the amount of time the filled jars need to be in the canning kettle once the water has returned to a boil.

I find that a large soup pot works well as a canning kettle, and do not see the point to purchasing a special canning kettle.  If you have a tall stock pot or crab pot this will work nicely for processing pint jars, and smaller jars.  If you want to process quart jars, you may need to purchase a separate canning kettle (which is why most of what I make is in 8 oz or pint jars).

The next tools of the trade are a jar lifter and a funnel.  You can often purchase these as part of a canning kit.  The jar lifter is exactly that, a set of tongs designed to lift jars out of the canning kettle without sacrificing your fingers.  The funnels for canning are a must!  They fit nicely inside the standard and wide mouthed jars, and are a great way to ladle hot jams into the jars while keeping the lip of the jar clean.

Next up is pectin.  If you are planning on making any variety of fruit spread, you will want to buy a commercially produced pectin such as Ball Pectin or SureGel.  There are liquid and powdered pectins available on the market, and the choice in variety is yours.  I prefer powdered pectins for jams, but tend to use liquid pectins for jellies and butters.  Its just what my recipes call for so that is what I do, but the choice is completely yours.  In addition, there are pectins available that use little or no sugar.  These are a good option if you are preparing a fruit spread for someone who is diabetic and can’t have the added sugar, but the quality of the finished product is different than with a pectin and sugar combination.

Now it is time to pick your jars.  Ball and Kerr now make a variety of designer jars, as well as the plain standard jars.  If you are making the jams as a gift, by all means purchase the pretty jars.  If the items are just for you and your family, I say go with the plain jars and save yourself a few dollars.

When it comes to jars, I am a little particular about what sizes I use for which items, but again, the choice is up to you.

  • 4 oz jars – these are great for just a sampling of the jam.  I like to have these on hand for when there is a little jam left in the pot that won’t fill a larger jar.  These are also nice if you are giving jam as a gift and want to give the recipient a variety.
  • 8 or 12 oz jars – these are ideal for jams and other fruit spreads.
  • Wide Mouth 8 oz jars – these are perfect for salsa.  They are short and wide which is perfect for dipping right from the jar.
  • Pint Jars – this is the jar that I use the most at home.  It is perfect for pickles, jams, apple sauce, barbecue sauce, and marinara.
  • Quart Jars – I don’t recommend making jam in quart jars, but they work well for anything else as long as you have a canning kettle that is tall enough to accommodate the jars.

For the purpose of this series, we will be working with 8 oz jars.

I have found that the best prices on canning supplies are at Walmart.  They tend to have a large selection in their stores, but their canning supplies are only available from May through August in our area (you may be lucky to have a longer growing season where you live, and in turn Walmart may carry things later into the fall).

If you don’t have a Walmart in your area, many grocery stores also carry canning supplies, however they tend to be more expensive.  You can also find a lot of the basic supplies at your local hardware store (TruValue, Ace, Agway or privately owned establishment).  You can also purchase canning supplies from Amazon or directly from Ball/Kerr.

Other posts in this series:

Stephanie Huston is the mom behind Raising A Family On A Budget.  Her main focus is saving families money through couponing and shopping sales for the items we need and would buy anyway. In addition, there are often ideas shared for other frugal aspects of our lives (cooking, dining out, DIY, vacation, etc).

My Freezer Cooking Experience: 30 Meals in 2.5 Hours!

Jun 8, 2011

How I made 30 freezer meals in 2.5 hours! Great ideas for cook once, eat twice, plus how to do a meal swap with friends.

I mentioned in my menu plan last week that I was planning to do some freezer cooking as well as a meal swap with friends. I am so pleased with how well it went!

For the freezer cooking, I just doubled the recipe for some of the dinners I was already making. This way we got dinner for that night plus an extra for the freezer.

When you double your meals, it saves in SO many ways! You use about half the dishes (use your skillet once for both meals instead of using and washing it twice for two meals on two different days), you are able to streamline your processes (chopping vegetables all at once), and you save so much time (instead of spending 30 minutes each time you make a tamalie pie, make 2 at a time and spend only about 35-40 minutes total)!

I also made five of two of the meals for a meal swap. I got together with three friends and we decided to each make two different dinners for each person. The meals I chose were Tuna Fettucine and Tamalie Pie. I made one of each for our dinner those nights, one for our freezer, plus one for each of my friends. Then we all swapped. I traded my six meals for six different meals from the others. A great way to get some variety! We all agreed to just do one meal next week though because two was a little much for us.

I only spent approximately 2.5 extra hours cooking last week. For my efforts I now have 30 meals in the freezer! All of the meals are actually enough for us to make 2 or more dinners (so each meal you see in the picture will give us 2 or more dinners), so I was able to get many more meals than I expected.

Here are the meals I now have in my freezer

  • Chicken Curry – 5
  • Tamalie Pie – 3
  • Sausage Strata – 3
  • Tuna Fettucine – 2
  • Lasagna – 3
  • Sausage Casserole – 3
  • Chicken Wontons – 3
  • Country Creole Peas ‘n Corn – 2
  • Peppered Steak – 2
  • Chicken Penne Pasta – 2
  • Burrito Beans – 2
  • Mashed Potatoes – 14 (this was something extra I did to use up some potatoes that I purchased in bulk)

Most of the recipes I used were from the Meals in Minutes Cookbook by Sue Gregg. I was VERY pleased with this book and everything we’ve tried has been delicious!! Her recipes use whole foods and are kid-friendly. (PS. This post is in no way sponsored by Sue Gregg. I bought this book at a book fair and loved it so much I had to tell you about it. 🙂 )

I definitely think freezer cooking is worth it! I won’t be doubling meals every night but I will be doubling them far more often after seeing how easy it is!

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