I can tell by my posts that I’m entering into full blown preserving mode.  During the summer most of my time is spent in the garden, harvesting and preserving.  However, I’m also in the kitchen with my mami.  It’s so refreshing and relaxing to spend an afternoon with her cooking.  Yesterday, bright and early we hit the farmers market and bought some wonderful fresh produce.  At the market, I asked my mami what we should make with green beans.  Like any well versed Spaniard she started mentioning all sorts of recipes.  This is why I love to cook with my mami.  She knows her seasons and she knows how to cook.  We settled on judías verdes con salsa de tomate.  A traditional Spanish side of simmered green beans in a homemade tomato sauce. We paired it with a side of fried potatoes, a green salad and a Spanish Rioja wine.  The perfect summer meal.  Light, fresh, and seasonal.

My Mami!
Judías Verdes Con Salsa de Tomate (Green Beans in a Tomato Sauce)
  • 1lb green beans
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 tbls extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season


  1. In a large pan, heat the olive oil.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent.
  2. Add the green beans, cover and sweat for 5-10 minutes.
  3. While the green beans are cooking, bring a pot of water to boil.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the large pot of boiling water and boil for 45 seconds.
  5. Remove the tomatoes and under cold water, slide their skins off.
  6. With your hands, literally crush the tomatoes into the pan of green beans releasing most of their juices.
  7. Break up the remaining tomatoes until they barely cover the green beans.
  8. Add salt to taste
  9. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 20 – 25 minutes or until the tomato sauce has reduced to a thick sauce and the green beans are tender.
  10. Serve with a side of fried potatoes, a green salad, and a Spanish red wine.

Buen Provecho!

This post is linked to Two For Tuesdays, a real food blog hop.


    The beauty of summers fruit can be preserved and enjoyed throughout the entire year by putting up jam, jelly and preserves.  I feel that most people’s gateway to canning starts with homemade jam or jelly.  Who can resist the luscious colors of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches or the sweet and juicy flavors that come with them.  Certainly not me and that is exactly how I started on my road to preserving.Making your own jam or jelly is not difficult at all.  All that’s needed are canning jars, pectin, lemon juice, fruit and a sweetener.  When I made my first batch of jelly I purchased the pectin that was nearest the canning equipment.  When I read the directions on the box of pectin, I was blown away by the amount of sugar needed to create the jelly.  It called for 7 cups of sugar to make 7 pints of strawberry jam.  That totaled a cup of sugar per pint!  It was then that I realized how much sugar is in jelly that you buy on your grocery store shelves and knew I needed to find an alternative.  An alternative using a natural sweetener.So what is pectin?
    Pectin is a natural occurring thickening agent found in fruits and vegetables.  Commercially, it’s made from apples and citrus fruits as they are especially high in pectin.

    In order for jams and jellies to gel, the fruit needs a correct ratio of pectin, acid and sugar.  Some fruits gel better than others because they have a naturally higher occurring amount of pectin.

    Which type of pectin should I use to naturally sweeten my jam or jelly?
    There are three different pectin methods you can use to naturally sweeten your jam or jelly.

    Method 1:  Homemade Pectin made from crabapples or under ripe green apples

    Last year I posted a recipe on making your own pectin.  Making your own pectin allows you to use a natural sweetener like honey, however, it does take an extra day of making the pectin.  It takes about 2 cups of apple pectin per batch of jam or jelly to thicken and you need to cook the fruit down for awhile to achieve the desired consistency.  In order to achieve the best consistency, it’s best to use fruits high in pectin and make sure to add a tablespoon or so of lemon juice if using a low acid fruit.  Definitely a method for the do it yourselfer!

    Method 2:  Using the fruits natural pectin to gel.

    Another method to naturally sweeten your jam or jelly is to use the naturally occuring pectin in the fruit.  This method allows you to skip a box by simply cooking the fruit down for a period of time and ensuring that there is enough acid by using lemon juice.

    For example,

    1. Cranberries, quinces, green apples, crab apples, blackberries, gooseberries, concord grapes, plums, and orange and lemon rind contain pectin and acid.  You can cook these down in large amounts without additional boxed pectin to gel your jelly or jam.
    2. Peaches, pineapple, cherries, pears, strawberries, and rhubarb contain practically no pectin when ripe, so pectin or some other gelling substance must be added.
    3. Pears and sweet apples are high in pectin but contain practically no acid and therefore require the addition of lemon juice.

    Now, if you were to combine a high pectin fruit with a high acid fruit, you could create a jelly by cooking them down together.  This is a great and natural alternative to making jelly without the added use of a boxed pectin.  However, in order to make a jelly like this, you will need to cook the fruit down for up to 30 minutes eliminating many nutrients and it’s very time intensive.

    So for me, my favorite method of making jelly is using method 3 or Pamona’s Universal Pectin.  An easy way to making jelly that can be sweetened with local raw honey.
    Method 3: Low-Methoxyl (LM) Pectin Pamona’s Universal Pectin is a low-methoxyl pectin.  It’s found through or any natural/health food store.  LM pectin is different than other boxed pectin in that it requires calcium salts, usually a dicalcium phosphate solution.  Pamona’s Universal Pectin uses monocalcium phosphate which is a natural crystalline material used as a leavening agent in baking.  This citrus pectin allows you to sweeten your jam or jelly with as much or as little natural sweetener as you’d like.  What I really enjoy about using this pectin is that you do not have to boil the nutrients out of your jelly.  A quick rise of temp and it’s done!  So quick and easy as compared to normal pectin.  It literally takes me about 15 minutes using this pectin.  The jelly has a fresher fruit flavor since only a bit of honey is required.  You can also do the freezer jelly/jam method with this pectin without having to cook down your fruit at all.  A completely raw and nutrient dense jelly!  Since I do not currently have the added freezer space, canning is necessary for all of the jam and jelly that I make during this season.Another added benefit of using Pamona’s Universal Pectin is that if you understand the different pectin and acid levels in fruit, you can make any combination of jelly that you’d like.  You can start to experiment with added herbs and spices.  It takes ordinary jelly to another level!  Pamona’s Universal has an extensive list of recipes, however, it can be a bit confusing to understand.  In order to truly grasp this method, I recommend the book, Stocking Up, The Third Edition of the Classic Preserving Guide.  They have an amazing list of tried and true jam and jelly recipes using this style of pectin with raw honey.

    Below is a step by step pictorial on how to use Pamona’s Universal Pectin using strawberries to give you a better idea on how easy and quick this method is.

    Step 1:  Combine the dry pectin with honey.  (For this particular recipe, I used 2/3 cup of honey)

    Step 2: Combine the fruit or fruit juice and lemon juice (if called for in the recipe) in a large pot and bring to a boil. (2 quarts of strawberries, no lemon juice needed since it’s a high acid fruit)

    Step 3: Stir in the pectin-honey mixture and return to a boil.
    Step 4: Stir in the calcium solution and remove from the heat.  (The calcium comes in the box of Pamona’s Universal Pectin.  You add water to it and store the solution in the fridge.)
    Step 5: Check firmness with a jelly test.  Cool some jelly on a spoon by blowing on it.  After it’s cooled down, if it rolls in one sheet, the mixture has gelled!  Congratulations, you’ve just made a naturally sweetened jelly!!
    So delicious, simple and quick to make!  I encourage you to try out any of these methods to naturally sweeten your jam or jelly :)  If you do or have used this method, feel free to comment on your experiences.
    Until next time, happy jamming!!

    It’s Simple Lives Thursday.  Below you’ll find the linky to add your post to.  Remember you can add your link on any of the four hosting blogs.
    As a reminder:  If you are going to be linking to this blog hop, please add a link to this post at the end of your blog post entry.
    Your Hosts
    1. A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa
    2. Sustainable Eats
    4. Culinary Bliss

    Wherever you choose to post, it will show up on all 4 sites!  As a reminder, this blog hop is a way to share with many people your posts on what you are doing to live a simple life. Whether that’s gardening, raising urban chickens, homeschooling, sewing, making your own deodorant, or cleaning supplies… we want to know about it!  If you’re into homeopathy, ways to save $ by conserving energy or other ways to live frugally… we want to know about it!   If you bike, cook real food, homestead or farm… we want to know about it!

    Link Up :D

    Fermented Green Beans with Radishes, Red Onions and Thyme

    My favorite part of growing my own food and visiting my local farmers market this year has been coming up with new recipes for preserving the harvest naturally.  Here is a great recipe to preserve the ever growing bounty of green beans.

    Fermented Green Beans with Radishes, Red Onions and Thyme

    A couple weeks ago at my farmers market I found some beautiful radishes.  Since green beans are at the height of the season, I decided to ferment them together with red onions and thyme I have growing in a container in my front yard.  To add a little pizazz, I decided to throw in a Thai chili pepper that I had frozen last year.  I allowed this to ferment for about 1 and a half weeks. It was definitely done as when I unscrewed the lid, it was fizzing like crazy!  A clear sign of fermentation.

    Fermented Green Beans with Radishes, Red Onions and Thyme

    Oh my wow, am I ever pleased with this recipe. The radishes and red onions compliment the green beans nicely adding a bit of a bite and a stronger tasting pickle.  The thyme infused the ferment beautifully and tastes great along side the vegetables.  I’ll definitely have to make a few more of these jars before the winter is upon us.

    For nutritional benefits and an explanation of what lacto-fermentation is, click here.

    Naturally Pickled Green Beans with Radishes, Red Onions and Thyme
    These measurements are not exact.  Feel free to add more or less of any ingredient.


    • A good handful of freshly picked green beans, cut in thirds
    • 1/2 red onion, sliced
    • 1 garlic clove, sliced
    • 4-5 radishes, sliced
    • 3 sprigs of fresh Thyme
    • 1 Thai chili pepper (optional)
    • 1 tbls sea salt
    • 4 tbls whey (If you do not have whey, feel free to add 1 tbls extra sea salt)
    • filtered water (must be filtered as chlorine will disrupt the fermentation process)


    1. Blanch the green beans for 3 minutes.
    2. Once blanched, in a large bowl mix together the green beans, onion, clove and radishes.
    3. In a quart sized mason jar add 1/3 of the vegetables and a sprig of thyme.
    4. Add another 1/3 of the vegetables followed by the second sprig of thyme.
    5. Finish with the last 1/3 of vegetables and the last sprig of thyme.
    6. Top with the Thai chili pepper.
    7. Add the filtered water, sea salt and whey.  Make sure you add enough water to cover the vegetables and that it’s 1″ from the top of the jar.
    8. Cover and shake it up.
    9. Uncover and make sure all vegetables are underneath the liquid.  Cover and tighten the lid.
    10. Allow to ferment in a dark cool place for 3 days up to two weeks (or more).  For this recipe, it took about 1 1/2 weeks to ferment.
    11. After fermentation, place in a fridge where it will continue to ferment at a much slower pace and develop in flavors!

    Buen Provecho!

    This post is a part of Two for Tuesdays.

    It’s Two for Tuesdays!  I’m sure many of you already know and participate but for those of you who haven’t you can click here for the details.

    As a reminder

    1. Create a post featuring real food… something traditional, made from scratch, made with love.

    2. Include the badge or a link to this page in your post  (you don’t have to use my badge, you could also go to either of the other 6 hosts pages and include their badge/link).


    3. Go to any of the 7 hosting blogs on a Tuesday and add a link to your post (post specific URL, not your home page URL).  Leave a comment once you’ve linked up so that we’re sure to see your entry.  Your entry (in thumbnail form) will then appear on all seven blogs!  The linky for each particular week will stay open until the following Tuesday, so if you’re running a bit behind, no worries!  You can link up later.
    4. Have fun!  You don’t have to link up every week and we don’t mind you sharing the same post on other carnivals or hops :)

    Let the fun begin!  Link up those posts :D

    Your Hosts:

    One of my favorite parts of summer is visiting local u-pick farms with the boys and picking (and eating) berries to our hearts desires.  What a treasure in the juiciest and sweetest berries you will ever eat.

    The boys have so much fun learning how fruit grows and honestly end up with more in their bellies than in their baskets.  It’s a joy to watch.

    Not only is this a fun experience to have with your family, but it’s so frugal!  You do save quite a bit of money by picking your own and buying them directly from the farmer in bulk.  With all of the berries, I freeze, jam, and make syrup.  On this particular trip, I picked 12 pounds of blueberries for $30.00.  At the farmers market, a pint can cost about $4.00 – $5.00!  At the Berry Patch Farm, where we picked, they were selling them at $2.50 a pound.  That’s quite a bargain for local chemical free berries!  They were so plump and sweet that we ate about 3 pounds of them fresh!

    By picking your own fruit, you also start to learn about eating in season.  Which fruits grow during what part of the season.  Strawberry season has already passed as well as blackberries and the first round of summer raspberries.  We’re now into Blueberries and fast approaching are fall raspberries, peaches and apples.  I encourage you to seek out local berry farms and orchards.  I’m sure if you check out their website, they’ll have a great listing of what’s in season, what has passed and what’s to come!

    To find a local listing visit,  If you’re from Iowa, make sure to stop by The Berry Patch Farm for the best in Summer berries and apples!