What is Operation Jam Jar?

Operation Jam Jar is all about getting back to basics in the kitchen.

Check out my efforts at cooking from scratch - cakes, soups, biscuits

Learn how to make things that you would normally buy at the supermarket - wraps, ice cream, pizza bases

Try to live a more 'country' lifestyle in the city - making your own jams or relish

Get the skills to enjoy cooking in a thrifty way, and have a bit of fun while you do it

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Date and oat biscuits

I’ve gone a bit date crazy lately.  Of all the dried fruits, no other has the potential for such deliciousness (hello sticky date pudding).  So when I found this recipe for a no butter no sugar treat including dates, I had to give it a go.

If you are trying to cut down on your sugar intake, pure apple juice concentrate (available from health food shops) is a great alternative for sweetening your baking.

I have tried these biscuits on toddlers to adults, and everyone seems to agree that they are pretty special.  They have a bit of a muesli bar flavour but without all the crazy preservatives and hidden sugars.

These are about to be my morning tea for the week, and frankly I am looking forward to 10.30am.


10 pitted dates
6 tbsp apple juice concentrate
1 ½ cups rolled oats
1 cup sultanas
½ cup nuts
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 eggwhite


Preheat the oven to 180°C and spray two trays with cooking oil.

Place the dates and apple juice concentrate in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer for about four minutes, until the dates are soft.  Puree the dates and juice in a blender or food processor and place in a large bowl.

Add the oats, sultanas, nuts (I used walnuts), oil and cinnamon and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg white until fluffy and fold into the mixture.

Use your hands to form and compress the mix into golf ball size, then flatten with your hand.  It can be a little crumbly so you may need to spend a little time bringing each biscuit together.  Place all of the biscuits on the tray and bake for 10-12 minutes.  

Allow them to cool on the tray – if you move them too soon they will fall apart.  Store in an air-tight container.   

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Healthy fruit and nut muffins

With winter settling in, it’s easy to start over doing it with the comfort food.  So today I scoured the internet, plus my trusty book shelf, to find something healthy that still felt like a bit of a treat.

These muffins are great as there is very little sugar and fat, plus they are packed with hidden grains, nuts, seeds and fruit that we all know we need but don’t always get.  I'll be honest with you, they are not the best looking muffins going around - but they definitely taste better than they look.

The use of natural yoghurt in the recipe stops the muffins from coming out hard and dry.
It is definitely a trial and error sort of recipe.  You could remove the walnuts if they’re not your thing, or add different dried fruits instead of the dates.  Mix and match to your own tastes until you find a combination that suits you.


¾ cup plain flour, wholegrain
¾ cup whole rolled oats (not quick oats)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup pitted dried dates, chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp sunflower seeds (optional)
½ cup natural yoghurt
¼ cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 egg, lightly beaten


Preheat the oven to 200°C and line 10 muffin trays.  

Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl and bring together with a wooden spoon.  

Spoon mixture into the prepared muffin trays, until each one is three quarters full.

Bake in the oven for 25 mins or until a skewer inserted into one of the larger muffins come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 5 mins before eating.

These keep well in an air tight container and are great for packed lunches. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

A couple of thrifty tips for the week

·      If you don’t already, plan your meals for the week.  It saves you money, time and stress.  Try it, you might even like it.

·      Buy meat whenever you see it on sale, freeze it, and use it to plan your meals for the next week.

·      See what veg is on special at the market, and make soup from it.  Cauliflower soup doesn’t sound very appealing but it’s actually delicious.

·      Do a pantry audit.  You may (like me) discover about 10 cans of chick peas.  See what you’ve got and try to dream up some dinners that will use up some of your surplus.  Lentils – lentil burgers.  Chick peas – hommus.  Beetroot – dip.

·      Try not to shop when hungry.  I never really believed this one (or maybe I just never let myself get hungry) until the other day when I went to Woolworths a bit peckish, and came home with ice blocks, jelly, frozen yoghurt, and nothing for dinner. 

·      Try and avoid one trick ponies in the kitchen.  Appliances like rice cookers and popcorn makers are pretty cheap – but they take up valuable kitchen space and can only do one thing.  Use a saucepan instead.

·      Have one night a week where you have a super thrifty meal like cheese on toast, baked beans on toast, fried eggs on toast etc (can you tell we love toast at our house?).  Sometimes it’s easy to forget that simple things can often taste great.

·      Try not to buy food that has had work done to it.  Buying pre-cut mushrooms instead of whole ones may save you time in the kitchen but you are often paying extra for it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lemon, Coconut and Passionfruit Impossible Pie

Any recipe with the word ‘impossible’ in it would normally have me running for the hills.  But allegedly the title for this tangy dessert refers to the fact that it’s impossible to fail. 

This pastry-less pie is simple to make and yet impressive enough to serve at your next dinner party. The best part is, you only need a large mixing bowl, and a whisk.  I took it over to a friends house for dessert last night, along with a big tub of ice cream.  It would also be nice served with natural yoghurt or whipped cream.

I was a bit worried that it wouldn't be cooked in the middle, as the old skewer-test would be useless on such a squishy pie.  The centre was a little wobbly, but I think that's how it is meant to be.  Needless to say, it was all eaten in the kind of silence that only dessert can bring to a rowdy table of friends. 


½ cup self-raising flour
¾ cup desiccated coconut
¾ cup caster sugar
60g melted butter
3 eggs
Grated zest of 2 lemons
½ cup lemon juice
1 ½ cups milk (skim or full-cream)         
Pulp of 1 passionfruit (or half a small tin), to place on top once baked


Pre-heat your oven to 180°C and line a round cake tin with baking paper.

In a large mixing bowl, place all of the ingredients except for the milk.  Whisk for one minute until combined.

Add the milk and whisk for a further minute.

Pour into your lined cake tin and place in the oven for 55-60 minutes.

Stand for ten minutes to set.

Pour the passionfruit over the top, plus some extra coconut for decoration, and serve.