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I recently got a great deal on some organic blueberries. Right away, I knew I wanted to make some blueberry jam! The best benefit of making your own jam is that you get to decide what goes in it! A lot of store bought jams can have additives that you might be trying to avoid. They can also be loaded with sugar. I wanted to make this jam as low sugar as possible and it was easily accomplished!
This is one of those recipes that you really can’t mess up and can be customized to your liking. After boiling down the berries and blending, I was surprised that the jam really didn’t need any sweetness at all! It was thick, smooth and perfect to put on a fresh slice of bread. The honey is optional in this recipe. Just give it a taste as you go along and add the honey if you would like it sweeter.
- 1.5 quarts blueberries (or however many you want! You can’t mess it up!)
- A few squirts of lemon
- 1/4-1/2 cup honey (optional! Add if you would like it sweeter)
- A dash of ginger (optional, just gives you a different flavor to try!)
- Place all of your washed blueberries in a medium or large sauce pan. Smash some of your blueberries so that there is juice at the bottom. A fork or potato masher works well for this. Add lemon and optional ginger.
- Slowly simmer and occasionally stir the blueberries for 10-15 minutes. If you want a thinner jam, Move on to step 3 now. If you’d like a thicker jam, continue to simmer until it’s the thickness you like. I simmered mine for 20 minutes and it’s a little thinner than normal jam but that’s how I like it! Just keep simmering and stirring if you really want a thick jam.
- If you have an immersion blender, (I have this one and love it! affiliate link) Just place it inside you sauce pan and blend up your jam. I like mine smooth, so I blended it really well. If you like you jam chunky, you can just smash it a little more with your potato masher. For a smooth jam and no immersion blender, wait until lukewarm and blend in a blender.
- Taste and decide if you would like a sweeter jam. Add honey now and enjoy!
This jam is perfect for water bath canning. If you plan on canning often, I highly recommend this kit. (affiliate link) I plan on doing a few more jars before the season is over. Enjoy you jam on toast, ice cream or on top of some blueberry cake.
Wondering why affiliate links are showing up in recent posts? These links give Back to the Breadbox a small amount when an item is bought through the links. The items are the same price if you went directly to the website. No price hike at all! Thanks for helping keep the lights on around here! 😉
Growing up I was not a huge fan of green bean casserole. The only part I liked about it was the can on crispy onions that went on top. I HATED the little pieces of mushrooms in the dish. Mushrooms were just one of those things I couldn’t get past. Now that I’m older I will eat mushrooms chopped up and mixed in a dish, but for my green bean casserole I decided to just leave them out. Instead of mushroom, I went with something way better. Make sure to take a look below!
One thing you can never leave out are the onions. This recipe calls for 4 (yes 4!) onions. The more the better I say! Whatever you do with this recipe, whether putting in mushroom or using white flour, DO NOT leave out the onions. They make this dish!
The best thing about this recipe is that there is no “cream of yuck” soup! I promise, it’s way easier than you think to make from scratch and so much better! Now let’s get cooking!
- 2lb of green beans (I usually don’t measure. I just use a basket full or enough to fill a casserole dish half way)
- 4- 6 Strips of bacon
- 3 TBSP butter
- 6 TBSP whole wheat flour (white whole wheat is fine)
- 2 Cups milk
- 1 Cup water
- 1/4 Cup cottage cheese
- 1/2 Cup Parm cheese
- 2 TBSP cream cheese (optional)
- Salt, pepper, Thyme and paprika, onion powder and garlic to taste
- Just a pinch of cayenne pepper
- 4 Onions
- 2TBSP avocado oil, olive oil or butter. (the bacon grease would work too!)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat or panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 TBSP water
- Preheat oven to 375.
- Start by snapping your beans to the desired size. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook beans for 6-10 minutes. Be sure to check that the beans are done! They will really stick out if they are under cooked.
- Heat a large skillet and cook bacon until done. set a side to cool.
- Using the same skillet, Add your oil of choice and saute your onions. The bacon grease is my favorite way to saute these! Saute until browned. Set aside in bowl
- Using the same skillet, add your butter and a little milk. Whisk in your flour until it is combined. Add the rest of the milk and water. Bring to a boil and continue stirring. Once thickened, add the Cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and cream cheese. Heat and stir until smooth Add in your spices.
- Combine your cooked beans and crumbled bacon with your cream mix (tip! If using a cast iron skillet, Just combine your casserole in your skillet so you don’t have to waste a dish!)
- Grab your bowl of cooked onions and mix in the water, Parmesan cheese and panko. Top your Casserole with the onions.
- Bake casserole for 20-30 minutes. Just don’t burn those onions! if your oven has a broiler, turn it on low for the last couple minutes to get those onions crispy!
And there you have it, a delicious clean eating casserole that hardly used any cookware! Did you notice that?! I HATE wasting dishes while making a meal so only having to use my large cast iron skillet and pot for boiling is a huge plus with this meal. Don’t have a cast iron skillet? Get one Here and Here (affiliate link).
*Spice it up tip! Add some chopped jalapeno to the onions to add a little heat and some great flavor!
Let me know how you liked it!
Let’s talk about Greek yogurt for moment. I’m sure you’ve heard that Greek yogurt is better for you. I hear it all the time. John Stamos can’t stop eating it! It has more protein and less carbs than regular yogurt. It has a tangier taste then regular yogurt. But my favorite part about Greek yogurt is not just eating as yogurt! Here are 2 ways I use Greek yogurt.
- In place of sour cream. The first time I had plain Greek yogurt I could have sworn it was sour cream. I’m not a huge fan of eating it plain. I prefer it in a smoothie or mixed with some maple syrup, nuts or strawberries. But after that first time trying it plain, I decided to try it in place of sour cream. It was so good! I eat it on top of enchiladas, potato soup, you name it! I also use it in my cupcakes….shhhhh! It’s my secret ingredient. So now the question comes if Greek yogurt is better than sour cream. I compared it to Daisy sour cream and it’s actually better for you! I’m sure that me just saying that means nothing to you though so I’ll break it down. At first glance, Daisy looks better. Especially when you look at the calories! Whoa! But Daisy is only a 2 TBSP serving whereas the Greek yogurt in using is a cup. So here comes a little math for you! I know it’s thrilling. There at 16 TBSP in cup. Multiply each nutritional fact by 8 and that will give you a fair comparison of both. 480 calories in sour cream vs 310 in Greek yogurt, 40 grams of fat in SC vs 22 in GY and 8 Grams of sugar in SC vs 5 grams in GY. There are more you can look at but those stuck out to me.
So have we cut out sour cream completely? No, not at all! It has it time and place-like on a burrito bowl at Chipotle! Greek yogurt is just a little bit better for you. The ingredients on this specific kind of sour cream is only cream so it falls within our eating standards. Just not something we eat all the time.
- In a pinch cream of chicken soup. I like to make cream of chicken on the stove starting with a roux. It’s so yummy and really pretty easy. Except when you need dinner NOW, have a screaming child on your hip that you don’t want near the stove or don’t have a clean pot. This little tip is for you then! All I do is take 3/4 cup of yogurt and start whisking in chicken broth until it’s the consistency I want. Add a little salt, pepper and garlic (or whatever) and voila! You’ve just made in a pinch cream or chicken. And it’s still good for you without resorting to the can junk! I use this at least once a week and it hasn’t failed my yet! The only thing I haven’t done is used it in a crock pot recipe. Soooo make at your own risk. So there you have it! 2 ways, besides smoothies and regular yogurt, that you can use Greek yogurt. I’m sure there are other things you can do with it but these are my go to ideas.
- both tips are using PLAIN Greek yogurt. Make sure it’s plain. I’m pretty sure vanilla yogurt on top of your potato soup would be awful.
One of the biggest hesitations to eating organic, clean foods is the price. There is this stigma that organic food is expensive. After all, you have likely seen this picture that has gone around the internet:
Yeah, that’s pretty bad. But, here is the good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. Buying organic food is not just for the rich, elite (evidenced by the fact that we buy organic!) it is for normal people too! Granted, sometimes we cannot afford organic vegetables and so we get the normal vegetables instead, but we do a good job at getting mostly organic foods. Here are a few things that have helped us with buying clean, organic foods.
1.Looking at the finances
How many times do you go out to eat in a week? Statistics say that the average American family eats out four times a week! First off, that’s ridiculous. It is no wonder that Americans struggle with obesity and diabetes! But consider how much you spend eating out. Most of the time, you will find that you will spend less money buying organic groceries and making your own meals than eating out (unless, of course, you are eating from the Dollar Menu at McDonalds). Get a piece of paper out and do the math, you will be surprised.
Let me give you a glimpse into our finances. We try to spend under $125 a week in groceries. That is all of our food in one week. Sometimes we go over, but most of the time we stick in that range. I just cited that the average American family eats out 4 times a week. My family has 4 people in it. Suppose my family ate at the cheapest of fast food places 4 times a week, McDonalds. Suppose my wife and I both got a Big Mac (no fries and no drink, just the burger), and we got my 2 children a Happy Meal to share. That would end up being about 11.50 a meal, which would end up being 46 dollars a week! That is almost half of my grocery budget on only 4 meals, with no fries or drink, at the cheapest place around. The point is made, if you can afford to go to McDonalds, then you can afford to do organic grocery shopping.
2.Using savings apps
Here is a fun one. I started using savings apps on my phone. For most of them, all you have to do is scan the receipt that you got when shopping and you will earn money. Here are a few apps that have been very helpful, and lucrative, for me.
Ibotta- Ibotta has been the best app. I have earned a lot of money from this app (45 bucks in 3 months). It is a rebate app, so there are certain items that you buy and they give you money back, sometimes 25 cents, sometimes a dollar. The awesome thing is that Ibotta has a lot of clean options for food. There are rebates for vegetables, any brands of milk, butter, etc, and plenty of organic brands (Larabar, truRoots, Sprout, etc.) Another awesome part is that you get 10 dollars just for signing up. Follow this link to sign up!
Receipt Hog- I enjoy Receipt Hog the most of all the apps I have. It is not a rebate app, all you do is take a picture of your receipt. It rewards you based on how much you spend. I think I like Receipt Hog so much because it is fun. The more points you earn the fatter your pig gets, there are different ways to earn points. It is a quirky app, but it is fun. It may not earn as much as Ibotta, but with patience it pays off.
Walmart Savings Catcher- This one is one that I only discovered recently. Whenever you shop at Walmart all you have to do is take a picture of your receipt on this app. Walmart will look at your receipt and price match all locations in your area. I live in a very small town, so my savings are limited, I’ve had the app for a month and have earned 3 dollars. But for a person who lives in a larger town…Boy, oh, boy, the sky is the limit!
Receipt Pal- Receipt Pal is similar to Receipt Hog with one major difference, it does not reward you based on how much you spend, it rewards you on the amount of receipts you log. So you receive 100 points for every 4 receipts you put in. A 1 dollar Amazon gift card is 400 points. It is simple, and I am good at simple!
Yaarlo- Yaarlo rewards you on how much you spend. But instead of using a “point” system, it rewards you a percentage of how much you spend. Bear in mind, the percentage is only .25% for grocery stores. But over time it will add up.
Keep in mind that you will not “get rich quick”. Using these apps is a practice in tedium. You will earn a little bit at a time but earning a little is better than earning nothing at all. Basically, if you only earn 25 cents on your grocery trip with Ibotta or another app, do not get discouraged and say, “Oh well, it’s only 25 cents!” No, a penny saved is a penny earned. Keep grinding and keep earning.
3.Shopping at Walmart
People look at Walmart as the “poor man’s shopping”. Of course, we have all seen the “people of Walmart” pictures. Some people claim they would never be caught dead in a Walmart. It is because of this idea that some think that Walmart may not have organic options, only the cheap, chemical laced options of food. Set that idea aside! Walmart is really branching out in the organic department, bringing in many different brands to their shelves including their own Great Value Organic brand which, in normal Walmart style, is pretty affordable. You would also be shocked at the price of organic produce at Walmart. Keep your eyes open and you can get good deals, there are times when organic carrots are cheaper than regular carrots, or even onions, and every once in a while apples. Why would you not go organic when it is cheaper than regular? Of course, sometimes the organic items are a little too expensive for us, so we make do with regular items, but we do the best we can.
Here’s a small list of organic items we get at Walmart: apples, onions, spinach, lettuce, garlic, grass fed ground beef (only dollar more than regular ground beef!), tomato sauce, canned pumpkin, free range eggs, etc.
Walmart is not the only affordable place to get organic food. Aldi is another store that offers affordable options, the only reason we do not go to Aldi is because we do not have one nearby 😦 . Basically, the point is this, you do not have to go to Whole Foods, where the food is exuberantly overpriced, and grocery shop there. There are options for normal people like you and me.
4. Keeping a Budget
This really should go without saying, and it is important for life, in general, not just when it comes to eating clean. Know what you are going to spend on a weekly or monthly basis and then do not go over that amount. Figure out what your family needs to spend on food and don’t go over it. Too many times people go grocery shopping and just grab things off the shelves because it looks good to them, only to be dismayed when they are shown how much they have to pay. Watch your money. We use an app called EveryDollar to keep track of our spending, I highly recommend it.
Those are the things we do that allow us to shop organic. What about you? What methods do you use or ideas do you have to make grocery shopping more affordable?
After cloth diapering for almost 3 years and 2 children I thought I would share the reasoning behind our fluff addiction!
It’s no surprise that cloth diapers can save you money. But really how much money can you save?
I did the math using Up and Up disposable diapers since that’s what I use if we are traveling. *Gasp* You can stop clutching your amber necklaces, my fellow cloth mommas, but sometimes we do use sposies. Very rarely, but it does happen. A 144 count box is $25. My son uses about 6 diapers a day. That would be 180 diapers a month! $31.25 would go to diapers each month plus $5 for wipes. It would cost $435 a year to use disposable diapers. So in 3 years of diapering it could cost you $1,305 or more to diaper 1 child. I think my heart just skipped a beat thinking of all the fluff I could buy with that. Of course this is just an estimate. A newborn goes through a ton more diapers than a one year old so the cost will be a little more than that. Especially if you buy a name brand diaper.
You can easily cloth diaper a child for under $200. I personally have a large mix of diapers and have spent about $450 on diapers, wipes and wet bags for 2 children. I know it sounds like a big upfront cost but I didn’t start out with a big stash. I had about 20 newborn diapers when my daughter was born and would use a few sposies when they were in the wash. I was able to purchase a few diapers each month and build a nice stash. The best part about cloth is you can resell them! Depending on the brand you purchase and the condition of the diapers you can get at least 40% of your investment back.
3 years of disposables (cheap brand)- $1,305+
3 years of disposables (Pampers)- $1887+
3 years of cloth-$200-$450 with a 30-60% return
Some people do spend more on Cloth diapering. I’ve heard of people who spend $500-$800. But even that is still saving money! And cloth can be used for multiple children. I would have spent over $2,610 on disposables by now!! Whoa, right there is why this is reason number 1 we cloth.
It’s no secret that disposable diapers make a lot of trash. But that trash take a lot of time to decompose. It’s been said it takes about 250-500 years for a diaper to decompose! That’s a long time for a poop catcher to decompose! I didn’t get into cloth diaper to save the planet from trash but it was something that made me feel good about doing cloth. Taking care of our planet is important and it felt good to be able to help in some way. Since starting cloth, we have even started using other reusable products. Lots of other ways to keep our planet clean then just cloth!
3. No blowouts
If your tiny human has ever had a blowout in that fancy car seat you spent way to much money on, then listen up! I have never had a blowout in cloth. When researching cloth I always would hear of people happy to not have blowouts but I never realized truly how much joy this would bring me. When my daughter was a few weeks old, she was cooing at me while she lay on my pillow. Then to my horror I picked my daughter up and saw poop. Poop everywhere! She thought it was funny but I most certainly did not! But I did get a new pillow out of the deal. So….thanks kid.
Since we have switched full time cloth I haven’t had a single blow out. With a proper fitting cloth diaper, it is sure to keep all the mess in the diaper and not on any of your possessions!
4 . Very few rashes
I want to say “no rashes” but there can be the occasional rash when using cloth. When we switched to 100% cloth all diaper rashes disappeared except for one time when my daughter got a rash. That was my fault though and once I switched up my wash routine I’ve had happy bottoms since, baby bottoms that is! I think a big reason why cloth tends be low rash is because baby skins isn’t near some of the harsh chemicals that are used in some disposables. I’m sure we have all seen the photos on Facebook of a poor baby whose diaper leaked those beads that are inside and caused some kind of burn. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.
We chose to use mostly natural fibers for our diaper, the exception to that is fleece. I like to use that at night so my kids don’t feel wetness against their skin while they sleep. I have found natural fibers to be the best route to go when avoiding rashes; but if your baby doesn’t have sensitive skin then certain diaper materials make work fine for them.
Okay, so maybe its not the most important reason but, come on, a little fluffy butt baby crawling around it just to cute! You can customize your baby’s bottom to anything you wish. Lions, tigers, tardis’, whales, donuts, chickens and bears, OH MY!! There are even ruffles on some diapers. Etsy has pretty much any diaper you can image. And, of course, some of the big name company companies have amazing prints. Bluberry and smartbottoms are two of may favorites. They can be pricey so I usually wait for a sale or a grab bag of random prints. My favorite diaper that is easy on the wallet are NCDCo AI2. LOVE LOVE LOVE these. I wont even confess how many I have. But be warned when getting into cute cloth prints, it is a deep, dark hole that is almost impossible to get out of. Good luck with that!
In conclusion, WE LOVE CLOTH DIAPERS if you couldn’t already tell. But do think everyone should cloth diaper? No, I will say its not for everyone. I will say everyone should consider it! Just like with every other choice we make when having a baby, cloth or disposables is one of them. And it doesn’t just have to be one of the other! You can do a mix of both of just do cloth for the newborn stage where they go through what seems like a millions diapers! You have lots of options and I hope this list was help to someone.
There are others reasons I could list for why we cloth diaper but these were the 5 that stuck out to me. Let me know your reasons in the comments!
I never thought that I would take up running. Growing up, the biggest part about sports that I hated was running, which is probably why I never made it off the bench in any sport I participated in! That makes it hard for me to fathom that in just a few weeks I will be running my first 5k! I decided back in January that I was going to run one, and then my wife decided to join me, and we have had a blast. The only problem with both my wife and I running is that we have to take the kids with us. Three times a week we put the kids in a stroller and we train for our 5k. In the last few months of running while pushing my children, I have learned a few tips that may help you.
I know what you’re thinking. Stop laughing at my running!
Watch Your Posture
I already told you that I originally hated running. Because of that, when I would run pushing my children in the stroller, I was tempted to lean on it a little bit, or bear down on it. I was not very diligent about my posture and my second time running I started to feel it. I had never pulled a muscle in my back before that day, and boy was it painful! If you are not careful with your posture while you run, you will suffer the consequences. When running with a stroller (or just running in general) remember to keep your chest up and your belly button drawn in.
Get A Good Stroller
I know that not everyone is able to do this. Strollers are super expensive. We actually got our double jogging stroller as a gift, and we love it. It is comfortable for the kids, and allows us to make longer strides while we run. The one we have is a little clunky, but other than that, we love it! It has speakers so that the children can listen to music, it has a swivel wheel in the front for turning. If you are able to invest in a good running stroller, I highly recommend it! Here is a link to a really good.
Entertain the Children
Here is a truth, if your children are screaming, yelling, and are generally miserable when you run, you will not be doing it for long. You have to keep those kids entertained. We make our runs fun for our children by doing a few things. First, we run by the lake near our town. There is a running track along the lake, and my daughter especially enjoys pointing out the water and the geese. Make sure that your route is scenic. Second, we play Disney music and other songs that they know. I know that “Let It Go” may not be the most motivational song to play when trying to run, but if it keeps the kids happy, then it will pay off. Get out your phone and turn on Pandora, and then play some of their music. Third, we give them snacks. If the kids mouths are full of food then they can’t yell! Fourth, interact with the kids. We use a program called C25K, and when it comes time to run, I count down from 10 out loud, my daughter loves this and has started to count with me.
Dried strawberries and puffs were today’s delicacy
Reward Your Children
One main reason my children put up with sitting in a stroller for our 30 minute runs is because they know that after the run is over they are going to get to play on the playground. There is a slide and swing set just walking distance from our running trail, so when we finish we just walk over there and let them play for 15 minutes. It has become part of our routine and is a special treat for them.
One thing that kept me from pursuing running for a long time was the fear of dragging the kids along. But we have made it so that it is actually enjoyable to have them come along. There are plenty of benefits to having your children ride along when you run: You are spending time with your children, they are getting out of the house, and you are teaching your children the importance of fitness by modeling it. Don’t let a toddler hold you back from running, take your kid with you and have fun with them! Happy running!