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bless the hands that grow {szechuan style green & black beans}

September 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

It doesn’t take much to get my hands dirty, foraging in the garden for the tomato harvest, cutting herbs for the kitchen or pulling up the few weeds that mock the dwindling layer of mulch over the soil. And those tomato plants love to leave their thick, green coloring on my hands and arms as I pick, the fuzzy leaves and stalks brushing against me. When I wash off afterwards, the water runs green in the sink, soap turning an odd greenish-yellow, the color of life from the soil.

(photo courtesy of Bossy Acres) 

 Come in to my kitchen…

try everything once, including grilled cabbage

September 4th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

It’s pretty rare that I won’t try something new. For food, that’s a given; and I’m willing to try most everything once. You can never say that you don’t like something if you never try it, and more often than not, you should try a food a minimum of five times before declaring it off limits. Certain foods, however, I have taken one bite, just to say “I’ve tried this.” but there was never any chance of a repeat performance.

Like beef tongue. And for the record, I realize that it’s ‘beef’. But when you walk in to your culinary class at 6:45am, bleary eyed and in search of coffee and a massive, pale, gross looking slug of WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-THAT??? is laying on the counter, to which your instructor glibly tells you ‘That’s beef tongue.’, it truly turns your stomach. You cannot even imagine how enormous the tongue of a cow is unless it’s laying on the counter in front of you. Think of what you see, then add about 18 inches. Plus, cooking that thing is…. pungent. Then you have to peel it, and that’s as horrible as it sounds, because it’s truly wretched when you hear, and see it happening. I asked my instructor if my grade would be based on eating the beef tongue and he shook his head, thankfully. I took one taste, though, fresh with the memory of that pale slug looking thing, and the ripping of skin in my head and that was the end of that.

These days, the list of foods that I eat is extensive, no more surprising that 90% of them, I’m betting, were foods I didn’t touch even 10 years ago; beets, fennel, tomato, chard, spinach, mushrooms, eggplant (jury is still out on that one), salmon, onions, squash (both varieties), fresh herbs, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts…. it just goes on and on. The expansion of your palate will never be a quick and perfect thing, and that’s ok. As long as you never stop trying new foods, new methods of cooking foods and keeping an open mind to it all, there may come a day when mushrooms are on your plate because YOU put them there. This is no more surprising to me than being jabbed with a pin, as mushrooms were so revolting to me for so long that I nearly gagged just being in the same room with them.

My work allows me a constant window to people’s eating quirks. And even after 2-1/2 years at this  job, I still am surprised to come across food aversions. I’m not talking about avoidance for health reasons, such as lactose or gluten issues, I’m talking about people who visibly shudder when I serve salmon. “It’s fishy.” is the standard response. And they don’t want to hear that it’s only fishy when it isn’t fresh. That the cooking method goes miles towards making it taste good. That even if they haven’t eaten it in 20 years, they really should try it again. Once someone makes up their mind that they don’t like a food, it’s pointless to even open their minds again.

And that’s sad. If that had been me 10 years ago, my life, my meals and my mind would be terribly stagnant. And what’s the worse that can happen? You make a dish and end up not liking it? Maybe it was the method. The seasonings. It was overcooked, or undercooked. Did anyone really love kale the first time they ate it? I sure didn’t. But I kept on trying, because if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained.  Which brings me to Grilled Cabbage.

My only exposure to warm cabbage in a meal was when I was young and the corned beef with cabbage dinner was prepared in our house. The smell was nauseating, and I couldn’t eat the pale, limp cabbage that was the result. With this memory, I’m not sure how I decided that grilling it might be better, but I’m always willing to take a shot and see what I hit. Something about that additional smoky grilled taste caught in my head, and I drizzled olive oil over sliced cabbage in an oven safe skillet and sprinkled it with a bit of sea salt.

Then I set the entire pan in the middle of a very full grill.

This was totally new for me, and I wasn’t even sure I would like it, but I let it brown all over, tossing it occasionally with tongs as it cooked. When it seemed tender, but still a bit crisp, I took it off the heat and scattered a handful of crumbled blue cheese on it.

A tentative first bite, and contemplative chew revealed the smoky taste I was looking for, and a surprisingly crisp yield. A pop of blue cheese sealed the result; it was really good. Unbelievably, outrageously good; so good that I ate the entire pan, a half head of Napa cabbage, along with the rest of my dinner.

You know when you’ve had something extraordinary happen, and it seems to fill you with a sense of wonder? Like the air around you has shifted and you can almost feel a change taking hold of you? This, coupled with the start of September, a new month, and all around me seeing my friends children go off to school in new clothes, to new schools, from new homes and new states and begin brand new experiences and somewhere inside you, this time of year says ‘What was will never be the same again.’

And I don’t think I’ll look at a plain head of cabbage again, now that I know what heat and smoke can do to it. So try something new, and keep your mind open to possibilities and just TRY those foods that you maybe once hated, that maybe made you gag or roll your eyes. You just never know, do you?

What are some foods that you eat now that you once couldn’t stand??

Grilled Cabbage

Napa cabbage, shredded, but not too fine
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Blue cheese crumbles (or feta, if you are so inclined)

Heat grill to high, or prepare coals to make a good hot base.

In an oven safe skillet, or a cast iron pan, lay cabbage in one layer as best as possible. It will shrink a bit, so you can wedge it together at the beginning. Drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sea salt, or to taste. Place pan on grill grate and shut the lid. (Remember…. the handle will be HOT. Keep an oven mitt or towel close by, with a set of tongs)

Allow to sit, undisturbed, for about 15 minutes, then toss lightly, pressing it back to one layer. This helps with the browning, which provides tons of flavor. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and browned all over. How long you cook it depends on how crisp or soft you wish it to be. My pan was probably on the grill for (maybe) a half hour, possibly less, and the end result was crisp, but still tender.

Remove from heat and toss blue cheese on top. Allow to cool slightly, and consume warm. Season with pepper, if need be.

herb marinated cherry tomatoes

August 28th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Earlier this Spring, we took the leap and purchased a CSA share in the Bossy Acres farm. Bossy Acres, run by the team of Karla Pankow and Elizabeth Millard, grow organically on a farm in Northfield, and specialize in unique, heirloom varieties. Being a family of three, we decided to get the Mini share that would deliver every other week, plus an add-on share for fresh farm eggs and fresh roasted coffee.

Hands down, it was the best decision we made this year. In previous years, I would visit the Farmers Markets up to three times a week to keep a good stock of fresh vegetables on hand. In deciding on our CSA delivery, I figured that I would still be able to browse the markets on our off week from deliveries, but the wealth of vegetables showing up in our boxes keeps us chugging along in between delivery weeks, and only on a few occasions have I needed a quick visit to our local market to fill in around the edges. Our garden has also been producing well, and we’ve enjoyed broccoli, chard and a bounty of tomatoes from our own backyard, and the garden at our lake home.

In one delivery from Bossy Acres, complete with a copious harvest from the lake, I faced a counter full of cherry tomatoes that I desperately needed to do something with before they all started collapsing.

These simple marinated cherry tomatoes were a perfect option to take care of the bounty. One quart jar later, they were ready for a few days soaking in the refrigerator, redolent with fresh thyme, oregano and crushed cloves of aromatic garlic. The hardest part of the entire procedure was peeling the little things. The olive oil marinade even made enough to have some left over to fill an extra bottle for use on salads or drizzled over good bread.

A good marinated tomato has endless uses. I love using them on pizza, or you can toss them on your greens, too. Mashed and blended with vinegar, they make a simple vinaigrette, or like pictured here, scooped out and placed on bread, with some of the oil scattered over the top. Once the jar has had time to meld all the flavors together, what happens after that is only limited by your imagination and appetite.

For your bounty of garden tomatoes, pack up a jar or two of these beauties. You will love them.

Herb Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

2 c. high quality olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 t. crushed red pepper
2 sprigs each fresh thyme and oregano
1 t. mixed peppercorns
1 t. flaked sea salt (I used Maldon smoked)
2 pints Cherry Tomatoes

The Cherry tomatoes need to be peeled, and this was the most tedious part of the whole procedure. Score an X on the bottom of the fruit with a sharp knife and bring a pot of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of ice water nearby. Working in batches, drop the scored tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove from the pot and immediately drop in the ice water. Once cooled, simply peel off the skins. Place the tomatoes in a quart canning jar with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. I liked using the flowering tops of the herbs in the jar.

In a small saucepan, warm the oil, garlic, red pepper, peppercorns and salt gently, stirring to dissolve the salt. Do not bring to a boil. Add the fresh herbs and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely, then strain out the solids, pouring the oil over the tomatoes in the jar. Any remaining oil can be poured in to a carafe for other uses in the kitchen. Cover the jar and give a gentle shake, then allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. I doubt they’ll last that long.

You will see the oil solidify in the refrigerator. This is normal. Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for a short time before serving to bring the oil back to liquid.

linwoods super food products {review}

August 26th, 2013 | Comments Off

It’s hard to believe, when I think about it, what I used to eat on a regular basis. I was a certified junk-food addict for certain parts of my life, but I could easily justify it because I was so active that I was always thin. Trouble was, I was never healthy. I suffered severe sinus problems for years, respiratory illness was common for me in the Winter and my skin was always breaking out. I may have been a year-round bicyclist, riding upwards of 100 miles a week or more, and taking leisure rides for hours at a time, but on the inside, my body was showing all the signs of relentless poor nutrition. It wasn’t until I had a small child, and saw the foods that I was teaching him to eat that I decided I had to make some permanent changes.

Thankfully I’ve managed to move away from the poor foods and junk that I used to consume, and eating healthy is a huge priority for me and my family. Even my boy, an avowed carnivore, has embraced the plant-based eating that Mike and I took on in 2011, as long as he can still have a steak here and there. Mike does not eat any meat at all, no eggs and very little dairy. I will eat a small amount of meat, I eat eggs and a bit of dairy, but at home, we follow a vegetarian diet, with grains, nuts and seeds and legumes as well.

When the makers of Linwoods Super Food Products contacted me about sampling some of their items, I knew it would fit right in with our way of eating. Linwoods Super Foods are packaged and ground foods that pack a crazy good nutritional punch.

From their website:

“Super foods are also known as Functional Foods, or a food that delivers a Structural or Functional benefit. Our Super Foods range offers you a wide variety of health benefits due to the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are found naturally in these foods. When used daily, they may help maintain a healthy heart, boost your energy and support a well-balanced diet
and active lifestyle.”

Out of all the choices Linwoods offers, they sent me three varieties.

The samples can be used in multiple ways, from adding to baked goods to sprinkling over Oatmeal or other hot cereals, or adding them to smoothies. I received small sample packets and basically just poured them over my cold soaked Oats that I eat every morning. The flavor is minimal, mostly a nutty texture as the product is fairly well ground. I like that it’s simple enough to use that I just need to open a package, and not go through chopping nuts or grinding flaxseeds. I use whole nuts, flaxseeds and other items like this already in my kitchen, but sometimes those extra few minutes to chop or grind and add them hardly seem worth it. The Linwoods products make it a lot easier.

Linwoods has a wide selection of packaged and ground Super Foods available, and their website also lists extensive nutritional information on what these products can do for your health. I love the combinations they have, and at reasonable prices too, considering what you’d pay if you purchased all of these separately. And if you need inspiration for them beyond using on cereal or in smoothies, they have a nice recipe page to peruse, too.

{I was provided sample packets of Linwoods Super Food Products free of charge in exchange for this review.
All opinions are solely my own, and I was not compensated for this post.}

dark chocolate nutella muddy buddies

August 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

There’s only a few foods that I simply can’t imagine not having on hand. Can you guess???

At the top of the list is peanut butter. But I bet you thought I was going to say Nutella, didn’t you?

Come in to my kitchen…

bananas foster baked oatmeal, and a perfect weekend

August 21st, 2013 | 2 Comments »

We celebrated our 11th anniversary with a quiet weekend at the lake, just the two of us.

It was perfect in many ways.

Come in to my kitchen…

deliberateLIFE magazine {review}

August 19th, 2013 | Comments Off

I’ve been loving my iPad mini.

It was a complete surprise gift from Mike back in late Spring. We’d been sharing a standard iPad at home, and I’d been using the mini at work for a few months so when Mike handed me my very own mini for home use, I was just thrilled.

One aspect of using the iPad that I really like is reading digital magazines. I’ve discovered a wealth of digital options through ISSUU- a self-published site with a huge variety, plus food magazines like Relish, Food & Chef, and Food Fanatics (you can search for these on an iPad only- you won’t find them if you search by computer) but one of my most favorite digital magazines that I’ve discovered has to be DeliberateLIFE.

The title is what really drew me in at first; I’m all about working to live with more intention in my life, and DeliberateLIFE’s tagline of ‘Inspire. Engage. Do good.’ appealed to me, plus, in the first issue I read, Editor Fay Johnson’s notes stated:

…one Deliberate Life’s core beliefs is that our relationship to nature and the world around us matters. Stepping away from our controlled surroundings into expanses too grand to bottle, embrace, or capture in a simple photograph- we can again find ourselves in the quiet and be reminded that we are only one part of the grand story of the universe.”

With that, I dove in, and swiped page after page, enthralled at the words, images and information. It was like being around a table of inspired and creative individuals, telling their stories, sharing the photos of their lives and passing a plate or two of good food, a tumbler of cocktails, soft breezes across the table, and talking long in to the night. Magazines, for me, need to tell me stories that transport me to other places and time. They need to be void of the unrealistic fluff, pointing me in the right direction, making me salivate and wanting to book a flight across the country, or the globe. And most of all, they shouldn’t portray their information in unattainable ways. You know what I mean…. you pick up a glossy tome and start riffling the pages; pages full of impossibly beautiful people, in impossibly beautiful settings, with nary a stray hair or smudge of dirt visible. I don’t want a magazine that shows me something out of my reach. That doesn’t make me dream. That makes me fling it aside forever. I don’t want to see photos of people wearing white clothes and supposedly eating messy, glossy, saucy ribs at a barbecue (with no sauce on their hands or face? What a crock.) because in the real world, that never happens. But I’ve seen it in a paper magazine. And I flung it aside in disgust.

DeliberateLIFE portrays real life, from travel stories, to interviews with people who are really making a difference in the world, to smart ways to handle the crush of life, to unique products that help support the way we ease through our days.

The current issue is all about back to school, and, as Fay states, “…the internally ingrained sense that new beginnings are just around the corner.” Every Fall season makes me yearn for something new; a new notebook for my writings, a new big book to learn from, a sharp pencil. The start of school brings a melancholy to my life, as if my very nature shakes off the barefoot feel of Summer and wants to buckle down to ….. something. Anything. I might or might not be done with school, with intentional learning and education, and I’m always open to where my life might lead me in that regard. I hope to never, ever feel like I should stop learning as I grow older.

The very first essay in this issue is titled ‘The Secret to a Vacation State of Mind.” and talks about how to capture the calm and magic of vacation days, even when your tied to a desk. And speaking of being tied to your desk, the section entitled ‘Corporate Play- Learning on the Job’ gives us many reasons for constant growth in your work, and chosen field even after you’ve hung your diploma on the wall. The Odyssey Initiative outlines a grass-roots group of New York teachers who traveled across the United States to find out what innovative and effective teaching practices educators are using to connect with students. Other articles talk about the importance of adaptability in learning, the impact of mentoring on students, ways to nourish school children through interesting lunch box ideas and ways to eliminate waste when packing school lunches. The Lunchskins, Smart Planet’s Eco Collapsible Meal kits and adorable Takenaka bento boxes all make me wish for days of packing school lunch again so I can use these great items.

By far, my favorite section of this issue is all about the education and empowerment of women.

“Society appears to be making room for girls to transcend traditional expectations about abilities and aspirations,
just as long as they also conform to conventional notions of femininity.”

~~The Supergirl Dilemma, Girls Inc.

The Supergirl Dilemma is that American girls can have it all, but they must navigate all these hypocritical expectations: Dream big, but without aggression. Be smart, but not too smart. Change the world, as long as you look good doing it. (There’s a perfect example of why white clothes at a messy Barbecue make me fling a magazine aside.)

Multiple organizations are at work with American girls to dash this dilemma on it’s head, and I love how the article states “We must encourage our girls to pursue their dreams, without apology, embracing tenacity, grit and aggression, if needed.” Not only in the United States, but worldwide you will find organizations set up specifically to help support women’s rise out of poverty through education and DeliberateLIFE highlights several worldwide groups helping bring change to women everywhere.

And? They’re raising money to build a school. How can you not love something like that? Follow the link for more information.

Do you have an iPad? I challenge you to download just one issue of DeliberateLIFE, read it through and try not to fall in love with it.

Seriously. I bet you can’t.

 

{{I was asked to review the current issue of DeliberateLIFE magazine, but all words and opinions [[and rants. Sorry.]] are solely my own. Especially the rants. [[Sorry.]] I was not compensated for this review in any way. And I was already on the fan train before they asked for a review. Isn’t that cool?! }}

~ 11 years ~

August 16th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

August 17, 2002.

11 Things I’ve learned in 11 years of marriage

1. It’s ok to not figure it all out right away. You have time. Lots of time. The key is to just keep trying.

2. Sometimes a hug is all you need to bridge the space that’s come between you.

3. Never underestimate the power of a really good belly laugh.

4. Always hold hands. Wherever. Whenever. And kiss. A lot.

5. Keep exploring, changing where you go, the places you visit, the things you do. Boredom is a terrible enemy.

6. Keep active and healthy so that you can really enjoy each other until you’re old and gray.

7. Take time to do what you love, even if it takes you away from your spouse on occasion. You’ll have much more to talk about that way.

8. Encourage them in everything they do. You are their biggest cheerleader, their #1 fan. Show it.

9. They are imperfect. But they are perfect for you. Forgive the idiosyncrasies. Love them as a whole, every day.

10. Build a filter for your emotions and understand when to keep your mouth shut. And never, ever use the words ‘I told you so.’

11. It’s ok if you get angry. That’s normal emotional response. It’s never ok to be mean, punitive or spiteful.

Above all, remember the vow you both took. It will get you through the very worst,
and make you treasure the very best.

 

Happy 11th anniversary to  my sweet husband. And thank you for helping shape our beautiful life.

august

August 5th, 2013 | Comments Off

Just the other day, I slipped two fist-sized tomatoes off the vine in the garden. I went a bit overboard, maybe, with tomatoes this year, planting five plants in a space that’s probably much too small for all of them- plus the broccoli, chard, basil beyond necessity, oregano that needs a violent haircut every other week, parsley, lemon thyme, lemongrass and the curious curry herb I found- and yet, I’m not sorry for the riot of green stems that I tussle with every day, nor the fact that those five plants have an extraordinary amount of fruit awaiting that magical ripening. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

{{farmers market find from 2012}}

We do love our garden tomatoes. Two years ago, even my then 17 year old would nearly leap for joy when I came in from the garden, my hands laden with golf-ball sized yellow heirloom tomatoes that fell open to reveal it’s pink striped interior, a sweet, tender flesh that melted in our mouths. We’d crack fresh black pepper on them, maybe a thin drizzle of blue cheese dressing and eat them shamelessly. And prolifically. 2011 was the Summer of Tomato. By the time the season was over, honestly, I was kind of tired of them, but in a good, good way.

{{herb sweet corn & tomato salad}}

I think the odd years might be best for tomato love in our climate. Last year I maybe got a half dozen off the vine all season long, and they just tasted flat. Something was just off in the air, the soil and the sun in 2012. My garden plot is organic, and ever since we began utilizing it in (maybe?) 2007, I’ve simply tossed all my kitchen waste on the soil, covered it once or twice in the Summer with cut grass, then buried it in fallen leaves each Autumn to rest. Each Spring, I just dig through the decomposing leaf cover and plant. The soil is black as night, fragrant and thick with fat worms. One season we had four tomato plants in that garden that each topped out at about six feet in height, so fat with leaves that the fruit hid deeply inside, only popping out at me when it turned bright red in it’s calling card to me.

{{tomato jam}}

But back to those two tomatoes. The skin had split on them, which happens in my garden. I believe I once heard it’s due to inconsistent watering, and that likely is true. I’m a lazy waterer, much preferring to rely on Mother Nature to help out, and boy, did she ever this Spring. But July came along and the rain was less prevalent, and at time, I ignored the soil, so a few cracked tomatoes is my penance. These two little gems, both no bigger than a racquetball left just enough behind once the cracks were gone for Griffin and I to stuff in our mouths and sigh, deeply. They were sweet as can be, but as my boy said “They’re almost perfect.”

And he was right. It’s August. It’s the month of bounty, as our staggering CSA boxes can attest. I literally groan under the weight of the 2-3 fully stuffed bags I drag out to the car every other week, my eyes shining as I unload them at home. And while the tomatoes are sweet, and suddenly, everywhere, in a few weeks with the right heat and sunlight, they will take on a taste like nothing else in the world.

August. And tomatoes. And everything else that is bursting through the soil and waving ‘Hello!’. I cut thick bouquets of fresh herbs, lifting my hands to my nose, the lemon thyme clinging to my fingers. I dream of herbed sweet corn salads, verdant pesto. There is little I can’t cover with a fluttering of tiny green flakes from the cutting board. I give bouquets to my friends, to share the wealth.

Sometimes I just sit and look at the garden, the floppy fence around it trying to keep out the freeloaders, the tomato cages sagging under the weight and the purple tomato plant that is loaded with what looks to be more than 50 tiny purple orbs that turn a dark reddish-violet when ripe.

The taste. Oh that taste. It’s August; the scent of Milkweed, and high Summer at twilight, humidity trapped in the grasses and big puffy clouds sweeping overhead. It’s sunshine and cool nights and gardens bursting with life, ice cream as the sun falls off. The rain has come often enough to keep the grass from turning to hay, and I’m ready to sweep up all the goodness of a bountiful season. The time after dinner, when dishes are done and bellies full is perfect for slipping in to a chair on the patio, leaning my head back and drawing in the fragrant air, the changing sky, lazily watching blue change to amber to purple and beyond.

 

blueberry vanilla chia ‘jam’

July 30th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Canning and preservation of food can happen year round, but it’s during the summer when people consider putting up the excess of the season the most. My Instagram feed is jammed with photos of …. well, jam. And pickles! Oh, the pickles. They are everywhere, veggies of every sort soaked in vinegar and spices and the giddy anticipation is felt right through the computer. It seems that the waiting time for proper pickles of any kind is now akin to the last few days before Christmas in it’s anticipation.

Growing up, my Mom did not do any preservation. During the Summer she spent plenty of time and cash purchasing cases of peaches and cherries, and maybe a pie or two was made from the bounty, but she loved fresh fruit, and we loved fresh peaches and cherries and most of that case would end up in our mouths, fruit juice staining our shirts or running down our elbows; I have the quintessence Summer memory of sitting on the back steps with a peach in hand, pressing my teeth over and over in to it’s superb flesh, and getting soaked in sticky-sweet juice like every child should at some point or another. The smell of ripe peaches catapults me backwards to sultry Summer, and the eager anticipation of that overflowing box of fruit, colanders filled in the sink while a Summer breeze shifts the window curtains, and more sweet, intense peaches, or cherries, to eat than should be legal. I love the idea of canning fruit, but there isn’t even comparison to flavor of fresh, no matter how diligent you are in the process, and that slip of difference always keeps me in check when I think of fresh peaches any other time of year. If the burning sun isn’t drying peach juice on your hands, it just isn’t the same.

My sister-in-law is the jam-maker in the family. She loves it, and makes quite a lot that she happily shares. I love a good, homemade jam, and I’ve tried making it a few times. Once, it was perfectly jam-like and I didn’t mind the process at all. We coveted the result, too; opening a fresh jar of deep and dark jam that smelled like summertime was such a treat in the dead of Winter. The next time I ventured to make it, it felt like the process was mocking me. It didn’t feel right, nor did it go right, and the final result was more like a thick syrup than anything close to resembling jam. We ate it anyway. Are you kidding? Blueberry syrup is divine. From that moment on, I just made syrup. Forget the jam. Me and pectin apparently don’t know how to figure each other out.

This raw Chia jam isn’t even like jam at all, except a bit in it’s consistency. If you’ve ever made a pudding with Chia seeds, then you can kind of get how this jam works- the mighty little Chia seed, worthy of soaking in up to 10 times it’s weight in liquid, is the binder, no pectin needed. Fresh fruit is whirred in the food processor with Chia seeds, the scrapings of a vanilla bean and a good dose of crossed fingers, then in a jar it goes for an overnight stay in the refrigerator. The next day, spread on toast, it’s fruity, with the tiny, almost imperceptible gel-like quality of Chia and the unearthly beautiful scent and flavor of fresh vanilla. I buried the vanilla bean pod in the jam for it’s overnight, to infuse more of the flavor because a vanilla bean buried in anything with fruit is magical in every way. What the jam isn’t is overly sweet. There is no added sugar, which you need a ton of in homemade jam. In this version, you taste fruit, subtle and sweet all on it’s own, but if you like the cloying sweet taste of jam with it’s sharp undercurrent of pectin to hold it’s shape, this jam might not be for you. But I encourage you to try one jar, as it’s just the simplest of simple things to make, and keep your mind open to possibility. It may ‘Wow’ you in an unexpected way.

My original inspiration came from Shockingly Delicious, who’s photos of her Raw Strawberry Chia Jam made my eyes bug out. I switched out the vanilla syrup that her recipe calls for to use the vanilla bean, and instead of lemon juice, I added fresh squeezed lime juice and a bit of zest, which you just don’t taste at all as much as it adds a dash of brightness to the final end result.

And it should suffice to say that any fresh fruit would make for a fine substitute for the Blueberries. Get crazy with it.

 

Raw Blueberry-Vanilla Chia Jam

1 c. fresh blueberries, washed
1 tsp. fresh grated lime zest (lemon is fine, too)
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
Seeds scraped from one vanilla bean

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and consistent. Alternately, you can place all the ingredients in a bowl and mash with either a fork or a potato masher for a thicker, chunkier consistency. Scrape in to a jar with a tight fitting lid. Press vanilla bean pod down in to jam, seal lid and place in refrigerator overnight. Stir jam before using. Vanilla bean pod can be discarded or left in jam to heighten the flavor.