How to Make Crab Apple Jelly (With Your Kids)

carol1One of the hallmarks of the coming of fall and school’s return in the city of Toronto is sidewalks lined with crab apples trees in full array. Walking home from ice cream at Ed’s Real Scoop, I saw two such trees at our local park, just groaning with fruit. It was late afternoon, my boys and I had nothing calling us anywhere, the time was ours.  And I thought of crab apple jelly.

The timing is perfect – school is back, which means packing lots and lots of lunches. We need jams and jellies to go with our peanut butter substitute sandwiches. Good quality jams and jellies are expensive, especially if organic, and these organic crab apples would just fall and go to waste if not snapped up for jelly-making. Plus a quick look on my handy dandy phone revealed that crab apples have natural pectin so jelly can be made without commercial pectin (which I didn’t have anyway).

It was decided. The reusable bag I try to keep in my backpack was actually there, and my boys and I set to filling it. I lifted my littlest to pick a few crab apples, but as they were otherwise out of his reach and the capabilities of my back, he satisfied himself by playing at the park. But with the help of a bench and some climbing skills, my two older sons could reach many more. They picked and picked until our bag was bursting, motivated equal parts by the promise of jelly and the pleasure of the task.

Making the jelly itself was pretty easy as far as these things go.  You only need crab apples and sugar.

This is what you do:

    1. Wash the bounty.  Admire.carol2
    2. Remove leaves, stems and blossoms at the bottom of the crab apple. (You can leave the stems and blossoms on, but this will darken your jelly. I wanted mine to be pretty!)
    3. Halve or quarter the apples.  This step is more important when you have larger crab apples. Ours were mostly about an inch in diameter, so I suspect we didn’t have to do this. But I had three crew members eager to wield knives, so I wouldn’t dream of skipping this step. My four year old insisted he could cut a crab apple with a butter knife and he could, with satisfaction, I might add.  He happily chopped away alongside his brothers and their paring knives.carol3carol4carol5
    4. Put crab apples in a large pot and barely cover with water (if the apples are floating, there’s too much water).
    5. Bring to a boil and then simmer until crab apples are soft (for us, about 25 minutes). Try not to overcook, as this can reduce the natural pectin in the crab apples.carol6
    6. Strain juice from pulp. Cheesecloth would be ideal for this, but I didn’t have any so I used a clean muslin cloth over a fine mesh sieve, which worked great. Various recipes said to strain overnight but most of my juice was strained in an hour. I couldn’t imagine much more dripping out after that.  The recipes were pretty unanimous that one should not mush down the pulp in hopes of getting more juice because this will make the jelly cloudy, so I didn’t go there.088
    7. Return pot with juice to stove and add sugar.  You will need about 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of juice.  Stir until sugar is well dissolved.carol8
    8. Boil hard until jelly reaches 220 degrees. Note: it took a considerable effort for my biggest gas burner to reach 220 degrees, and only after I finally listened to my son who told me to put a lid on the pot. I thought a couple of degrees cooler wouldn’t matter, but they do. The  juice only gelled at 220 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometre, or even if you do, you can test the juice for readiness by putting a teaspoon of juice on a plate that’s been sitting in the freezer for awhile (or the top of a clean frozen orange juice can, as the case may be). Put the plate/can back in the freezer for a minute, and then push the edge of the juice with your finger. If a skin forms on the juice, it’s ready to become jelly.
    9. Ladle the juice into sterilized jars and wipe clean any drips on the lip of the jar. For the first time in my canning life, I did this using a canning funnel and one of those magnetic wand thingies that picks up jar lids. Oh man, is there ever something to be said for these not-strictly-necessary-but-so-wonderful-tools. No cussing during this canning project, nope. Easy peasy!carol9carol10
    10. Place jars in a water bath canning pot (or other pot that can do the job) and boil for 10 minutes (that’s the appropriate time for me in Toronto – canning times can vary depending on altitude).

Ta Da!! You now have jars of beautiful and delicious crab apple jelly (and if you used organic cane sugar like I did, you can slap an organic label on there too). And if you manage to make this with your kids, they will have a different relationship to it than the jar you bought from the store or even the farmers market, and share the pleasure of it along with you.

Enjoy all year long, or as long as supplies last!carol11

ps. The white canning lids are made by Tattler.  They are reusable and BPA-free. I had read about them before and was pleased to see them for the first time at Canadian Tire.  So far, they seem to work perfectly, which means a safer and more eco-friendly way to can. I don’t think they look as nice as the metal lids for gifting though, and you probably wouldn’t get them back which defeats the reusable bit (unless gifting to a canning friend!). So I stuck with metal lids for the jars I thought would be gifts.  I don’t think I’m going to have any to gift though, the boys are loving this jelly so much.  Luckily we have more crab apples in the fridge for a second batch.

pps. If your jelly does not set after 24 hours, Google says no big deal, you can just redo the process – dump out the contents of your jars and start again. What the — ? A canning redo is a big, big deal for the likes of me!  If it is to you too, make sure you get your juice up to 220 degrees or have some commercial pectin as a backup plan. They also say that working with smaller batches is easier when it comes to setting the jelly. The batch I made produced 6 cups, and you probably don’t want to work with anything bigger than that.

Crispy Fish Tacos from EmmaEats


Our guest for today is fellow Savvy Storyteller Liz from EmmaEats . . . and Katie too! Liz is a busy mom of two, so she knows first hand that time is at a premium. Somehow she manages to create delicious recipes that are big on taste but don’t require tons of prep. Liz and I have something in common; we both have kids with nut allergies. Her collection of recipes is nut-free, allowing me to just follow along without worrying about substitutions. Follow Liz on Food Gawker or Taste Spotting for meal inspiration or her blog, EmmaEats, for good food for busy families.

These Crispy Fish Tacos, adapted from LCBO’s Fried Fish Sandwiches, are perfect for an alfresco summer family dinner.

Crispy Fish Tacos
(serves 4)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-5 tilapia fillets, cut in half into two strips (~1 lb)
  • salt and black pepper
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • tortillas (optional, to serve)
  • Zesty Avocado Dip (optional, to serve – recipe follows)
  • chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (to serve)
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional, to serve)
  • Chipotle sauce (optional, to serve)
In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, oregano, paprika, cumin, coriander, white pepper and cayenne. Salt and pepper the tilapia and rub the seasoning mix over all sides of each strip. Drizzle with lime juice and let marinate for 15-30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F.
Setup a workstation with egg in one platter and panko breadcrumbs in another.
Dredge each tilapia piece through the egg first and then through the breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
When all of the pieces are breaded, bake in the preheated oven for ~20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking. The fish should be flaky and opaque with a crispy and golden exterior.
Serve in warmed tortillas, topped with Zesty Avocado Dip, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers with a dollop of sour cream or drizzled with chipotle sauce.
Zesty Avocado Dip
(serves 4)
  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Halve the avocados and roughly mash the flesh with the garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or over Crispy Fish Tacos.

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce by Dinner With Julie

Our guest for today is Julie Van Rosendaal food writer, stylist and columnist frequently featured in Parents Canada, Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, a contributor to the online cooking series Good Bite and co-host of It’s Just Food on Viva Network.

Julie is a real foodie and her passion for good food goes beyond simply enjoying it. She shares it. Her blog, Dinner With Julie, is a compilation of recipes that run the gamut from appetizers to dessert, all indexed for easy search and execution. But here’s the thing. Even though she’s an accomplished gastronome, she’s a real mom. She knows that even with our best intentions to meal plan, we end up staring into the fridge trying to make sense of a disjointed collection of potential ingredients . . .some approaching their expiration date. She knows this, because she’s one of us.

For one less worry, bookmark her blog to figure out what’s for dinner or follow her on Instagram for meal inspiration.

Thank you Julie for sharing your recipe for Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. A summer condiment that is the perfect pairing for grilled meats and may even be sourced from your garden. Just remember, only the stalk of a rhubarb plant can be eaten, the leaves are poisonous.
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

2-3 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup water
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pure maple or golden syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, until soft; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer; cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender or cool and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use as you would any barbecue sauce – on grilled meats, in baked beans or drizzled on burgers.

Makes about 2 cups.


The Canning Kitchen

The Canning Kitchen coverI love it when bloggers experience success especially when it’s a blogger I’ve been following for some time. Seeing them on TV or their books in print, make me excited for them . . .mostly because I know that it probably took years of building a relationship with readers and juggling many plates while trying to deliver the best content. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fellow Canadian bloggers, in particular Savvy Storytellers.

When I saw that Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag, a go-to for quick and easy family friendly recipes, had published a book, I wanted to share it with you.

The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a must-have companion to the bountiful summer harvest season. I have wanted to try my hand at dill pickles and this book covers the classics but it also inspires with new recipes like for Salted Caramel Pear Butter.

Canning isn’t just for grandma anymore!  Give it a try and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

To order your copy of The Canning Kitchen click here.

Summertime Margarita

This post by Beth-Anne was originally published last summer, but as everyone knows a good margarita is timeless.  Enjoy!

This summer we’ve been all about margaritas! They are so yummy and can easily be made without alcohol. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not comfortable in the kitchen and I have a tendency to “wing” it (insert disastrous result), and I do the same when it comes to mixology too. I like to go by taste, so every measure that I am about to give you is an approximation. Let your sense be your guide!


Start off with some limes, both regular run-of-the-mill juicy limes and those flavour-bursting key limes. Juice 2 limes per glass. This is where the math comes in. If you’re going to make a pitcher of 8 drinks, you’ll need sixteen limes. It’s a lot of squeezing but it will be worth it.


Pour the lime juice into the pitcher and add some club soda (1:1 ratio). Now add a healthy dose of tequila. I prefer white (or clear) and I figure about 1.5 – 2 shots per glass. Again with the math.  Squeeze in some agave nectar. This is where it gets personal. Sweetness is subjective, so be sure to taste and add accordingly.


Pour in a touch of orange juice. That’s a very technical measurement. Don’t screw that part up.


I’ve sampled several versions of this recipe over the summer and each time I tweak it slightly. I know nothing for sure, other than this drink tastes best served in a tall glass over lots of ice and a thinly sliced key lime.


The Harbord Room’s Juicy Burger

unnamedToronto’s The Harbord Room is a favourite spot in the city. We had a special 4Mothers dinner a while back and hardly noticed the celebs on the patio because we were enjoying our food (and conversation) so much. On May 28th National Hamburger Day was celebrated and while we may be late to this party, The Harbord Room’s co-chef Robbie Hojilla shares the recipe for their much-loved burger. People, this is insider scoop!

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 8 minutes

Makes 8 burgers and 3 cups of aioli


4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp grainy mustard

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp thyme leaves

1 tbsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups canola oil
¾ cup olive oil

Combine all aioli ingredients except oils in a food processor and mix until blended. Slowly pour in both oils while machine is running, until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.


3 lbs ground beef brisket
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil
8–16 slices aged cheddar
8 fresh buns or large brioche buns

Transfer meat into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combined and form into 8 patties.

Preheat bbq to medium. Use a clean, oiled, hot grill and barbecue the patties for 5 to 6 minutes with the lid closed. Flip the burgers, top with cheese and continue cooking for 4 more minutes with the lid closed. If the BBQ isn’t an option, coat a cast iron pan or skillet with a little oil and set over medium-high. Cook 4 patties until browned (about 4 minutes), then flip. Top with cheese. Continue cooking for 4 more minutes (for medium-rare) until browned. Repeat with remaining patties.

To finish, smear aioli on bun, followed by the toasted burger patty, caramelized onions and sliced tomato (or your garnish of preference). Serve with a side of hand-cut fries and your favourite summer beverage.

To experience a fantastic summer meal, head down to The Harbord Room. Can’t make it? Follow The Harbord Room on Instagram for your food porn fix.

Grilled Pineapple With Cinnamon Coconut Sugar

Jo-Anna of A Pretty Life and fellow Savvy Storyteller is our guest for today. Jo-Anna is a mom of three striving to live a more simple life. Her blog offers easy recipes, simple DIYs and housekeeping tips. Jo-Anna’s regular posts are always polished to perfection with gorgeous photographs and accessible suggestions but it’s her holiday posts that really wow!

For housekeeping pointers, help in the garden and figuring out what to make for the potluck, visit A Pretty Life and for simply beautiful inspiration follow Jo-Anna on Instagram.

Today Jo-Anna shares with us her mouth-watering recipe for Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon Coconut Sugar. To view the recipe click here.


Summer Salads with Jane’s Adventure In Dinner

We’re excited to have Jane from Jane’s Adventure In Dinner as our guest today. Jane’s blog is a go-to for everything from appetizers to desserts. She’s passionate about food like no other, but as a busy mom she also understands that recipes need to be both delicious and do-able. Regardless of your cooking level (ahem, I am still a beginner after all of these years) Jane is the best teacher and you’re in capable hands with her step-by-step instruction . . .accompanied by gorgeous photos!

Today Jane shares simple salads that are perfect for the hot days of summer. Be sure to follow Jane’s website for meal inspiration and instruction. You won’t be disappointed.

Jane’s Summer Salad

I start with a nice big plate and drizzle it with 2 tsp. balsamic glaze.


I added a layer (about 1 ½ cups) of spring greens.


I took a firm pear (I’m a sucker for Anjou) and cut it into 6 wedges. I took out the core and started to lay it on the greens.


Add 3 T Roquefort (or your favourite blue cheese) to the centre. Don’t like blue cheese? How about some Boursin or an herby cream cheese?


Fold the pear pieces back together, top with toasted walnuts and drizzle with a really good quality olive oil.


Drizzle on a bit more glaze . . .


And add cracked pepper to taste.


Classic Salad Update

We seem to just live off the bbq in the summer.

I love to cook but I really like to keep the house cool and I’m not a huge fan of running the air conditioning all the time.

We’ve gotten used to having our little 1950’s bungalow vent itself for the most part and even though it’s lots bigger after the reno (yes, I promise to finally get all the pictures together this summer, I’ve got 1000’s) we designed the build to allow for our original airflow.

Having said that, if the oven is on all the time then nothing can keep the house cool so bbq it is.

I’ve been playing with a number of salad recipes lately that I’ll be sharing with everyone in the next couple of weeks but this is one that we’ve now had at least six times since I was happy with the recipe.

Hope you love it too.

To serve four adults for an appetizer start with four romaine hearts cut in half.

Bring them to room temperature, drizzle with olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves and lots of crushed, crunchy black pepper.

Let sit for 30 minutes.

Grill on high on each side JUST until a little charred.  This is about 30 seconds a side.


While your one and only is grilling your lettuce (thinking that you are totally mental with your weird cooking ideas), crisp pancetta (I got super thin pieces that you blink at and they are cooked), or cook four really good pieces of bacon and crumble.

Put your yummy lettuce on a platter and top with; bacon/pancetta, slivers of parmesan, chunky croutons…


drizzle with lemon juice.


Plate one half per person (trust me, folks will be back for the other half) with plenty of pancetta and drizzle with balsamic glaze (you can find this all over the place OR boil balsamic until it is half its volume).


Follow Jane on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad by Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life

I am excited to introduce our first guest for the month, Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life. Sylvia’s blog is the loveliest nook of the blogosphere. Her photos are stunning and celebrate the beauty and joy in the simple things that make up life.   My favourite post is one of her more recent, Lilac Mornings. Sylvia thoughtfully reflects on lilacs, fragility, nature, beauty and life without being overly saccharine or maudlin. Instead, I feel like she has granted me permission to enjoy the moment and join her in reflection. Treat yourself and spend some time visiting Sylvia’s blog or follow her on Instagram to see beauty in the everyday.

Today Sylvia shares one of her simple summer recipes.


Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Summer is here and I cannot think of a better time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to eat fresh, honest, simple dishes. Summer abounds with colorful treasures of the field ­– from juicy ripe tomatoes, green beans and sweet peppers through fragrant basil and lavender to fresh berries, apricots and melon. Farmer’s markets are operating at full speed giving to those who do not have their own gardens an opportunity to buy local and eat seasonal, something I have committed myself to long ago. Summer also comes with cooking techniques that are easy, straightforward and quick – who wants, in the heat of the season, to be simmering dishes for hours – and there is no need to; simply let the fresh vibrant products do the work. With this simple, easy and delicious pasta salad I am about to share, you can do just that. Full of gorgeous colors and flavors, this market-inspired recipe, truly my family favorite highlights the season’s best and freshest ingredients. Perfect for a potluck, a casual summer get-together or a weeknight dinner whether as a side dish (you can omit the grilled chicken) or a main meal. Put it in a jar and you have a picnic-perfect pasta salad.

Feel free to improvise, make my family favorite recipe your family recipe and do not forget that “when you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simple and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is”, one of my favorite advices from Alice Water. It’s really just that simple and as easy as, well, the summer itself.


1-2 skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
375g tri-colour vegetable rotini, or whole-wheat fusilli

250g (1 box) heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped into thin slices

200g fresh green peas
Parmesan cheese
fresh basil

Oil and vinegar dressing
8 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
minced garlic

salt and pepper


Marinate chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes in white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill each side of the skinless chicken breasts. It only takes a few minutes per side over direct medium-high heat for them to be brown, beautifully moist and evenly cooked. Let them cool.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool. Boil green peas in salted water for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. In the meantime, cut heirloom cherry tomatoes in half. Slice pepper halves into strips about 1/4″ wide. Combine all vegetables in a large salad bowl. Add pasta and the sliced chicken breasts.
To prepare the dressing whisk garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper together.
Add the dressing to the salad.
Toss with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.


Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad



Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled Chicken Breast