Category Archives: Fruits

Low Sugar Spiced Pear Butter

Low Sugar Pear ButterSo I just discovered pear butter! I have been making apple butter every season for a while now, and I remember when my mom would make it while I was growing up, and it was so delicious! But I never realized that you could make the same thing out of pears, until my mom gave me some pear butter a few months ago! And it was just as, if not even more delicious, than the apple butter. I think I may now actually prefer pear butter as the tastiest if I had to choose, and I especially like it because the texture comes out a little bit creamier! It is delicious on toast, pancakes, or your favorite waffles!

I still don’t have a ton of time to spend in the kitchen, which is a main reason that I do not really enjoy canning. So…I made this recipe in my crockpot similar to the apple butter recipe, to minimize the required hands-on time. And it worked out great!

Here are a couple of tips I learned along the way, as I researched recipes and instructions on making pear butter.

  1. Use ripe pears
  2. Do NOT use Asian Pears for this recipe. (“So Easy To Preserve”, a research-based preservation guide from the Cooperative Extension of the University of Georgia, warns that canned Asian pears can develop botulism, unless they are acidified first before canning.) So for this recipe, I used Bartlett pears, which do not need the extra acidification.

I used the following recipe from the preserving guide I mentioned above, but added some orange extract and spices to make it even more delicious (and used ⅛ the sugar)! If your crockpot is big enough, feel free to double the recipe (I did). The added orange flavor is delicious – you will really love this! This is seriously the most delicious fruit butter I have ever tasted.

HOW TO MAKE HEALTHY CROCKPOT PEAR BUTTER

(makes 4 half pint jars)

Ingredients

20 pears
1 tsp orange zest
⅓ cup orange juice
½ tsp orange extract
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp Allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp cloves
½ cup sugar (optional)

  1. Grate zest from a fresh orange.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  2. Put the orange juice and orange zest into the crockpot you will be using to cook the pear butter. The orange juice can be either freshly squeezed or bottled orange juice (I grated the orange zest from the peel, and then used all of the juice from the orange. Because I didn’t have any bottled juice on hand, I then used reconstituted orange juice from frozen to supplement the remaining amount of orange juice called for in the recipe, and it turned out great!)
  3. Wash, core, and peel pears. Cut them into quarters. As you cut the pears, put them in the crockpot and mix them with the orange juice. This will help to keep the pears from turning brown.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  4. Once all of the pears are in the crockpot, turn the crockpot to low heat. Allow the pears to cook for 2-3 hours, or until they start to break down and become very soft, as shown below. You can then use an immersion blender to blend the pears into a smooth puree (or blend the pears in batches in a blender or food processor, then put the puree back into the crockpot).how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  5. Add the orange extract and spices, and stir them into the mixture.
  6. Once the spices and extract have been mixed in, taste test the puree. If you are happy with the flavor and sweetness, no need to add any sugar! If you want it a little sweeter, add up to ½ cup of sugar. (This is MUCH less than the 4 cups of sugar called for in the original recipe.)
  7. Take the lid off of the crockpot, and allow the pear butter to cook for an additional 2-3 hours, or until the liquid has evaporated, and you can take a spoonful of the pear butter and not have the liquid separate out of it. It will reduce down quite a bit in the crockpot as the liquid evaporates (as you can see from the lines in the crockpot below). The pear butter, when done, should be a thick, smooth consistency.how to use orange zest, how to make low sugar pear butter
  8. Enjoy the pear butter right away, or store it in the refrigerator for use over the next few days.

If canning: Pour pear butter into prepared jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Follow normal canning procedures to process the jars in a hot water bath according to your altitude. The recommended canning time, using ½ pint jars, is 5 minutes if you live at an altitude of 0-1000 feet. Add 1 minute of processing time for each additional 1000 feet of altitude (according to research-based preservation guide So Easy to Preserve). If you have questions about how to properly can, you can find information on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website. Store your canned pear butter in a cool, dark pantry, and use within one year for best quality.

Healthy Ways to Preserve Strawberries

Healthy ways to preserve strawberries, how to preserve strawberriesStrawberries are in season in the spring or summer, so that is a great time to think about buying some in bulk, or even better, harvesting them from your own garden! So what are the benefits of strawberries, and how can they be preserved for later use?

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF STRAWBERRIES
Strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse,  best known for being high in Vitamin C, with one cup providing more than the recommended daily intake for vitamin C. They are also full of antioxidants, low in calories, and a natural source of fiber and folate, among other nutrients. So they can provide a delicious, healthy snack or sweet treat!

HEALTHY WAYS TO PRESERVE STRAWBERRIES
In the refrigerator, strawberries normally stay fresh for only a few days, often needing to be eaten within 3 days. So if you have too many to eat in 3 days, and want to enjoy them later, here are some delicious ideas below!

Strawberry Fruit Leather

Sources:

  1. Ohio State University Extension. Selecting, Storing, and Serving Ohio Strawberries. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-5531 accessed on 8/10/16
  2. Fruits & veggies more matters. Strawberries. Nutrition. Selection. Storage. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/strawberries accessed on 8/10/16

How to Preserve Avocados

how to use frozen avocados, how to preserve avocados

I love avocados! They are a great source of natural, healthy fats. I use them all the time – for homemade guacamole, as a salad dressing, in desserts and smoothies, diced on top of salads, or just eaten plain!

Luckily, I was recently able to purchase very cheap avocados in bulk from a local food storage distributor, for less than half the normal store price. Since I use them often, I decided to buy 20 and come home and freeze them as part of my food storage (now that avocados are expensive in the stores, I wish that I had bought more!). As I was picking through the already ripe avocados, I overheard a couple of ladies asking each other how to store them. So I thought this would be the perfect post, in case others have the same question! 

Note: Freezing of avocados works best with a puree, so freezing them will mainly be helpful for recipes where you would normally use mashed, fresh avocados. You can also easily throw them into a smoothie or toss them with salad greens any day of the week!

 STEPS TO FREEZE AVOCADOS

  1. Wait for avocado to ripen. (You know it is ripe because it will yield to gentle pressure when you squeeze it. The avocado will also change from a light green to a dark greenish/brown color when it is ripe, as shown in this picture.)color of ripe avocado, what a ripe avocado looks like, how to tell if an avocado is ripe
  2. Cut avocado in half, and remove the pit.how to freeze avocados, how to preserve avocados
  3. Using a spoon, remove avocado from the peel, and mash it with a fork until it is a puree.how to puree an avocado, how to freeze avocados
  4. Add 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice for each avocado (bottled juice is fine). Mix or blend juice into the puree until it is smooth (it is okay if it has small chunks and is not completely smooth).how to freeze or preserve avocados
  5. Pack puree into a labeled, freezer safe container, leaving some room at the top for the avocado to expand. I leave about 1/2 inch. Seal container and freeze. If using a ziplock bag, remove all possible air before sealing the bag. If frozen properly, avocados can be frozen for up to one year and still retain their nutritional composition and overall quality.How to freeze avocados in ziplock bags

TIP FOR FREEZING: I use quart sized, freezer quality ziplock bags to freeze my avocados, which I label with the date and number of avocados in each one. Ziplock bags are great because you can flatten them before freezing and then stack them on top of one another. That way, they store easily and take up relatively little room in your freezer.

TO USE AVOCADOS AFTER FREEZING: Remove the avocado puree from the freezer, allow it to thaw, and use it as you normally would in any recipe calling for mashed avocados.

How to Freeze Bananas

 

Frozen bananas stackedWhy do we want bananas in our food storage? They are rich in potassium, fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and magnesium. Also, they taste great and add variety to your food storage!

Bananas are one of my favorite items to have around because I use them all the time. I love them for their nearly daily use in smoothies, for banana ice cream, and one of my favorite pancake recipes!

It can save you money to buy bananas in bulk, or sometimes the grocery store will sell their ripe bananas at a discount price. I recently bought a 40lb box of bananas for $11 (27.5 cents/lb). It gave me roughly 100 bananas to preserve. Freezing is an easy way to preserve them – see how below.

EASY STEPS TO FREEZE WHOLE BANANAS

I think this is the easiest method, and is great if you want to use your bananas in smoothies, to make banana ice cream, or basically any recipe that calls for bananas. 

  1. Wait until bananas are ripe to the point of being a deep yellow color with brown spots. Peel bananas and place them side by side on a cookie sheet, leaving space between them so that they don’t touch. I break the bananas in half for easier use after freezing.Ripe banana ready for freezing
  2. Place cookie sheet in the freezer for several hours, until the bananas feel solid and are frozen through.How to freeze bananas on a cookie sheet
  3. After bananas are frozen, place them in freezer bags. Removing as much air as possible, seal and date the bags. Gallon sized ziplock bags work great. I especially like this method for storing because you can easily stack bags of bananas on top of each other in the freezer, using your space efficiently. frozen bananas labeled ziplock bag

Storage: Keep bananas frozen for up to 12 months for maximum nutritional quality.

HOW TO USE FROZEN BANANAS

You can use frozen bananas in nearly any recipe that calls for bananas. For most recipes, just thaw and use the bananas as you would normally use fresh ones. Here are some of my favorite recipes where I like to use my frozen bananas.

Healthy Chocolate Almond Smoothie

Banana-Oat Pancakes (Gluten and Sugar Free)

Strawberry-Banana Ice Cream (Dairy Free)

Strawberry Milkshake

 

 

Crockpot Applesauce

Healthy applesauce with peelHere is some applesauce that recently made and canned at home, yielding 4 pints from about 15 Fuji apples. It was so easy, using a crockpot and very little hands-on time. In the past, I have been unsure if it was worth the effort to can my own applesauce because you can easily buy applesauce with no added sugar from the store. Usually I will only go to the pains to can something if I feel like it is better quality, healthier, or tastes better compared to what I can buy. I found that my applesauce came out with a lot more flavor compared to the store-bought applesauce I had in my fridge, so I give a few reasons below why it is totally worth it to can your own applesauce, if you have some time to make it happen!

REASONS TO CAN YOUR OWN APPLESAUCE FROM HOME

1. More fiber and nutrients (if you leave the peel on): Most of the fiber and nutrients in apples are found in the peel. Unfortunately, a lot of applesauce recipes suggest removing the peel before processing the apples – this is done mostly for aesthetic and texture reasons. Know that you don’t HAVE to remove the peels before turning your apples into applesauce – it is totally optional. Yes, the color of your applesauce will be slightly darker from blending the peels into it, compared to leaving the peels out, but you and your family will be glad that you are getting the extra fiber and nutrients later!

2. Better flavor: Canning applesauce at home gives you the leverage to choose your own, favorite apples with the flavors that you prefer. I personally prefer gala, honey crisp, and fuji apples for a lot of my recipes where I am going for a sweet flavor. But you can also use tart apples if you prefer, or a mix of both tart and sweet. Trust me, like about anything else homemade, your applesauce will taste much better than what you can buy from the store.

3. No added sweeteners: There is plenty of applesauce out there to buy that does not contain any added sweeteners, but there is also plenty of commercially canned applesauce that has had extra sweeteners added to it. If you want to buy applesauce from the store for convenience, just check the ingredient list to make sure it doesn’t contain added sweeteners. Otherwise you will be increasing your caloric intake with empty, sugary calories.

EASY STEPS TO MAKE YOUR OWN APPLESAUCE

1. Wash, core, and cut your apples into slices. You can peel the apples if desired, but I prefer to leave mine on for the extra nutrients and fiber.
2. Fill your crockpot with the apple slices, all the way to the top. Pour 1/2 cup water over the apples and cover with crockpot lid.
Easy Crockpot Applesauce3. Turn the crockpot on high, and allow the apples to cook for 2-3 hours, until they completely break down and can be mashed easily. While they are cooking, stir the apples every 30 minutes.
4. Using an immersion blender, blend the apples (peel and all) until they form the puree consistency that you would like for your applesauce.
TIP: Do not blend your applesauce in a high-speed blender if you are planning on canning it. This will add lots of air bubbles into your applesauce.
Immersion Blender Applesauce

Your end product will look like this.
Homemade crockpot applesauce5. While it is still hot, pour the applesauce into hot, sterile canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top. Follow proper canning procedures and appropriate boiling times based on the altitude where you live. If you are unfamiliar with canning, you can find instructions on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website HERE. Label and date the jars after they have cooled, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year to retain maximum quality.

During the following year, pull your canned applesauce out for a quick, healthy snack for you or your family!

Cinnamon-Raisin Apple Leather

homemade apple leather, apple raisin leather, healthy fruit leatherMaking homemade apple leather is a great way to store extra apples in a healthy, fun way. Homemade apple leather can be fun since you can add different spices and ingredients to make fun varieties. This recipe is much healthier than fruit leathers from the store, since it is mostly fruit (including the apple peel) with very little added sweetener. The sweetener that I suggest is raw local honey, which I prefer any day of the week over high fructose corn syrup that is generally found in fruit rollups from the store. If you want, you can decrease or leave out the added honey altogether. Added sweetener is not necessary to dry the fruit – it is just a matter of taste and your personal preference.

This leather makes a great, healthy snack for kids (or adults)! It can easily be included in a lunch box, and is great for travel, hiking, or any day of the week!

HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE CINNAMON-RAISIN APPLE LEATHER

INGREDIENTS

4 large red apples, cored and chopped (no need to peel)
1 Tbsp honey
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
2-4 Tbsp raisins

DIRECTIONS

  1. Chop the apples into pieces that are small enough to blend well in your blender (this may vary depending on the type of blender you own).
  2. Add all ingredients to the blender. Blend on high speed until the apple mixture becomes a smooth puree.
  3. Pour puree onto a lightly greased dehydrator sheet into a liquid layer that is about 1/4 inch thick. Using the back of a large spoon, smooth the liquid out over the sheet, leaving at least half an inch space at the edges of the sheet to prevent the liquid from spilling over the edges.
    how to pour fruit leather on dehydrator sheet
  4. Sprinkle raisins over the liquid mixture according to taste. (This step is optional, and you may leave the raisins out entirely and still make a great fruit leather.)
    homemade apple leather, homemade fruit leather
  5. Place the dehydrator sheet into the dehydrator at 135 degrees F for about 8-10 hours, until it has completely dried, but is still soft enough to bend and fold into a fruit roll.
    Checking for dryness: Be sure to check the middle for dryness, since fruit leathers tend to dry starting at the edges and dry in the middle last. It should easily peel off the dehydrator sheet when it is sufficiently dry, and should feel slightly sticky, but not wet or moist. Do not overdry it, or the leather will become brittle and will be difficult to fold onto itself without breaking.
    what does dried fruit leather look like, how to tell when fruit leather has dried
  6. To store fruit leather: Remove the leather from the dehydrator sheet (it should come off easily if the sheet was properly greased before drying). Place the fruit leather on plastic wrap or wax paper, and starting from one of the corners, roll the leather into a fruit roll. how to store apple leatherPlace the leather into an airtight container for storage, and label with the date. Fruit leather will store well for 1-2 months in the pantry, several months in the refrigerator, and up to one year in the freezer.
    how do I store fruit leather, how to wrap fruit leather

Fun Option: When leather is partly dry (about halfway through the drying process), use cookie cutters to cut fun shapes in the leather. Then allow the leather to dry the rest of the way. I did this one night, and my kids were so excited when they saw the little “gingerbread men” in the morning. Your kids will love it!
shapes with fruit leather

How to Make Low-Sugar Apple Butter

DO YOU HAVE TO ADD SUGAR TO CAN APPLES?

Generally, apple butter recipes contain a large amount of sugar in relation to the apples. Because I don’t eat a lot of added sugar in daily life, it felt weird to be canning apple butter and dumping multiple cups of sugar into it. So I researched some food preservation extension office articles to find out – do you really have to add all that sugar to safely can apple butter?

I found out that thankfully, you don’t have to add any sugar at all to apples to safely can them! In another article HERE it explains research-based guidelines on the use of sugar when canning fruit. Basically, when canning fruit, sugar aids in retaining flavor and texture of the fruit. The fruit’s shape and texture will be preserved better over time with increased amounts of sugar, compared to recipes with no or low sugar, but it is not necessary.

MAKING YOUR OWN HEALTHY APPLE BUTTER SAVES MONEY!

Sugar free apple butter

As you can see in the above picture, which I took when shopping at my local grocery store tonight, buying apple butter with no added sugar from the store, that is “just apples”, comes at a steep price! You will save a lot of money by canning your own healthy apple butter!

In the recipe below, I used naturally sweet apples – Gala or Fuji – which decreased the need to add sugar for a sweet flavor. I added just 3 Tbsp of honey, to balance out the sourness of the lemon juice, which was added to help retain color and quality over time. I would suggest using the apple butter within one year of canning for maximum quality in taste, texture, and nutrition. This apple butter really is nutritious, especially since it contains the apple peels, and is much lower in sugar compared to traditional apple butter recipes! I gave this apple butter out as a Christmas gift last year, and my husband’s grandma called me within a few days to let me know that it was the best apple butter that she had ever had! My favorite way of eating it is on top of whole grain pancakes along with a dollop of whipped cream – it tastes like apple pie for breakfast!

This recipe is great for people with diabetes, for people trying to lose weight, or for those who are just trying to cut down on sugar consumption.

EASY STEPS TO MAKE DELICIOUS LOW-SUGAR APPLE BUTTER

healthy apple butter, healthy canning, apple butter diabetes

(Recipe fills 4-5 half-pint canning jars)

INGREDIENTS

5 lbs sweet apples (about 10 large apples – I prefer gala or fuji)
½ cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves

DIRECTIONS

  1. Core apples and slice them into wedges. No need to peel.
  2. Place cut apples in a slow cooker and pour ½ cup water over apples, into the slow cooker. Cover with lid and turn cooker on high.
  3. Cook apples for 2-3 hours until they become soft, stirring them every 30 minutes.
  4. After apples are soft, use an immersion blender to blend them into an applesauce-like consistency. (If you don’t own an immersion blender, you can use a blender to blend the mixture in batches, and then return it to the slow cooker.)
  5. Add lemon juice, honey, vanilla extract, and spices. Stir into mixture.
  6. Continue to slow cook apples on high for an additional 5-6 hours, removing the lid the last hour of cooking to allow moisture to escape. Butter is done when it remains rounded on a spoon, without liquid separating.
  7. While still hot, pour the apple butter into sterile canning jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace at the top. Follow proper canning procedures and appropriate boiling times based on the altitude where you live. If you are unfamiliar with canning, you can find instructions on the National Center for Home Food Preservation website HERE. Label and date the jars after they have cooled, and store in a cool, dark place for up to one year to retain maximum quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Ways to Preserve Apples

Right now it is Fall here in Utah, which means apple season! We are lucky to have some local apple orchards nearby,  and a local distributor has been selling freshly picked orchard apples, for $0.50/pound! So I have stocked up on Gala and Granny Smith apples, buying 34 lbs for just $17. Now what to do with them?

Traditional food preservation recipes call for lots of sugar. Commercially preserved apples, that have been either dried or canned, also generally contain significant amounts of sugar, corn syrup, or both. Over the next few posts, I will show you different ways to preserve your own apples in a healthy fashion, preserving maximum nutrition, without loading them with sugar! I will share with you how to make some of my favorite, storable snacks with apples.

How to Make Dried Apple Rings at Home (No added sugar!)

Homemade dried apple rings are SO much better compared to storebought ones. Most commercially dried apples that I have found have not included the peel (where the majority of the nutrition lies), they have already turned brown from oxidation, they have had oil and sugars added to them, or they have been sulfured as a food preservation technique. In the picture below, I compare home dried apple rings with a few commercial ones from my local grocery store – there is really no comparison!!! And the home dried one tastes MUCH better!

Difference between home and commercially dried apples, apple rings

Can you tell which ones are homemade? They are the pretty ones on the lower right! It is hard to tell in the picture, but the other ones are more brown, and the ones on the top right have oils, corn syrup, and other preservatives added to them. The ones on the top left actually taste pretty good and include the peel, but they are more crunchy compared to home dried ones, and they came broken in pieces. The rings on the lower left were taken from bulk bins in the grocery store health food section – they don’t include the peels and were highly oxidized (brown – meaning some nutrient loss) when I bought them.

SIMPLE STEPS FOR HOMEMADE, DRIED APPLE RINGS

  1. Wash and core apples. For maximum nutrition, leave the peels on. They also look prettier that way when dried!Picture of how to core apples
  2. Slice apples into rings about ¼ inch thick.
  3. Lay apple rings on a lightly oiled dehydrator sheet. The oil will prevent sticking. (Optional: Before laying the apple rings on the dehydrator sheet, soak the rings in pineapple juice or ascorbic acid mixture for 3-5 minutes. Pat the rings dry. Dipping apple rings is not necessary to dry them. However, it does extend shelf storage life by slowing oxidation of the apples. The ones shown here were not dipped.)
    Apple rings on dehydrator sheet
  4. Place apples in the dehydrator at 135 degrees for 8-10 hours (time will depend on thickness of rings). Check the apples for doneness – there should be no visible moisture when you bend the apple ring, but it should still be pliable and be able to bend without breaking.Homemade dried apple rings
  5. Store apple rings in an airtight storage container. I prefer quart-sized glass canning jars or airtight ziplock bags. Label and date your container.

Stored apple rings in quart jars

Tips for storing dried apples: I prefer to use a clear container so that you can see when the dried apples need to be used (you can see if there is any moisture in the jar, or mold growth). The container should be airtight, to prevent oxidation of the apple rings. You should also store the apples in a cool, dark pantry, away from light. Avoiding exposure to heat, air, and light will help to preserve maximum nutritional value. The dried rings last for about a year if stored properly. You can also put them in the freezer, in a freezer appropriate sealed container, for extended storage.