Thursday, September 12, 2013

Peach blueberry chia seed jam

New concept: jam that tastes like the fruit it originally was!
I will now indulge in adverbial musing.

Gustatorily speaking, this jam is superior because it tastes like the fruit it originally was. It has none of that sugar burn that can mask the taste of fresh stone fruits in jams.

Nutritionally speaking, this jam is the tops. The original water content of the fruit is retained (and thus, so is its caloric value). The fruit is not cooked, so vitamins are retained. Chia seeds are nutritional powerhouses.

Economically speaking, I think it's a deal. Chia seeds are on the pricey side, but if you would have used pectin, that cost is gone, and you really don't use that many chia seeds for the jam. Also, it is much faster than other jams, so you have more time. Because you don't cook the peaches down, it makes more per pound of peaches. But then again, you will eat more because it is better than most jams. But then again, if you are eating more of this stuff there is the chance that you will be at the doctor's less. But then again, maybe you will live longer, and that will increase your cost of living. (Clearly I am no economist.)

Visually speaking, you have to overcome the fact that the chia seeds look like bugs. Our first batch had only peaches, and the bugs were especially noticeable. Owl threw in blueberries in the second batch, and that helped immensely. In the end, we went with it and called it "Bug Jam." The owl-cats smiled and ate it.

Historically speaking, this is a rare treat. Michael Pollan says that you shouldn't eat anything your grandmother would not have recognized as food. Well, sorry, Mr. Pollan, but I'm guessing Grandma would have tossed out "Bug Jam." What's more, Grandma had to put a whole lot of sugar in her jam as an anti-bacterial agent. So that's one food rule that should sometimes get tossed.

Blogatorially speaking, we are not original. Everyone out there has a recipe for this stuff (for good reason). Lemon juice may be added to help retain color or for brightness. Some people use fewer chia seeds.

Peach Blueberry Chia Seed Jam (a.k.a. Bug Jam)
A flexible recipe, depending on how much you have. See step 2 for guidelines on amounts.

Blueberries (frozen fine)
Chia seeds
Sweetener (maple syrup, agave syrup, honey, sugar--or stevia if you go for that sort of thing, but add less)

0. Wash fruit. Peel peaches (or not--I'm guessing it would be fine with peels if you trust your peaches)
1. Blend up peaches and blueberries.
2. For every 1 cup of blended fruit, add

  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds*
  • up to 1 tablespoon of sweetener of choice, to taste

3. Refrigerate for an hour to let it thicken.
4. Slather on toast. Eat. Rave. Repeat.
5. Storing: Everything I've seen says this will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator. I am going to freeze some and see how it goes. I don't want to can it, but some have.

*CHIA SEED UPDATE 9/20/13: I made another batch with very ripe peaches. That meant they were more watery. After the hour refrigeration time, I had to add more chia seeds. I checked it again an hour later and it was perfect. Just know that the amount of chia seeds may need to be adjusted depending on the fruit you have. I probably ended up at 1 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds per cup of fruit.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Best High-altitude Snickerdoodles (so far)

A surprisingly reliable recipe for smiles

These cookies once fetched $50/plate at a charity bake sale. That may speak better of the donor than the cookie, but trust me, this is a worthwhile cookie. A crunch on the outside, a chewy softness on the inside. (For those of you who bake at sea level, just know that those are not givens with snickerdoodles at high altitudes.)

I have to thank Owl, who has never complained at all the taste-testing involved in getting this recipe right.

These cookies freeze very well after being baked. It is always nice to have something in the freezer for a last-minute get-together. Thaw at room temperature for an hour. Then be prepared for compliments.

Youngest owl-cat said, "Smile, cookie!"
High-altitude Snickerdoodles
Note: You can chill the dough or bake right away. I haven't noticed a great difference in flavor or texture, but sometimes it is convenient to chill the dough. The dough is a bit wetter when baking right away, but it tastes the same after baking.

Dry stuff:
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar

Other stuff:
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening (helps with the softness)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk

Sugar-cinnamon stuff:
1-3 tablespoons cinnamon, depending on your taste buds (I really like 3 tablespoons.)
3 tablespoons sugar

0. If baking right away, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
1. Mix dry stuff and set aside. Mix cinnamon-sugar stuff and set aside.
2. Cream butter, shortening, and sugar.
3. Add eggs to butter, then the vanilla, then the milk.
4. Mix well.
5. Add the dry stuff slowly. Mix until it all comes together.
6. Optional: Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill.
7. Roll dough into balls (2 tablespoons is a good starting place. Adjust when you find your preferred size. I have even made big 1/4-cup dough balls. Big cookies make Owl feel special.)
8. Roll dough balls in sugar-cinnamon stuff.
9. Bake. In my oven, it is about 8 minutes for 1-tablespoon balls, about 10 minutes for 2-tablespoon balls. Bake until puffy and the dough still looks a little wet in the creases.  The edges will be firm and slightly golden, but they may not look quite done to you. (See picture below.)
10. Cool on sheets for 2-5 minutes. Remove to a wire rack.
11. Enjoy while warm. Share if you must.

Puffy cookies right out of the oven. They will deflate a bit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pandora's peanut butter box

Good chocolate + good peanut butter= danger

Use your knowledge wisely.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Oh, what to do with a glut of plums? Freeze them, jam them, jelly them, but don't can them

Plum jam without pectin

This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold 

--William Carlos Williams

Every year Owl prunes the plum tree in February and I think we will have no plums. Then he thins the plum tree in May and I know we will have no plums.

And then August comes, and he brings in a tub of plums each morning. No chance of wreaking this marriage by surreptitiously eating the few scant plums tucked away in the icebox.

What we have found during our plum harvests:
  • Flash-frozen plums are great for smoothies or lassis. (Or freeze them and make jam later in the winter when a boiling pot of plum jam adds warmth to your somber day.)
  • Plum jelly is divine. It makes beautiful thumbprint cookies at Christmas.
  • Plum jam without pectin (recipe forthcoming during some plum season) is fun to make for those of us who grew up thinking pectin was required for all jams and jellies. It is like all those dreams coming true where you actually can fly on your own. (Okay, maybe not that great.)
  • Sometimes the aforementioned plum jam without pectin turns out to be plum syrup. It just wanted to be eaten on top of Owl's pancakes or swirled with plain yogurt.
  • Plum butter is the most plummy of all. Eat with baguettes and a nice soft cheese.
  • In a fit of ambition we canned Chinese plum sauce with star anise in 2010. It is very good with potstickers, but we still have a few awkward jars on the shelf. (To eat or not to eat old canned goods...)
  • My plums are not worth canning. They look deceptively like peaches, but when you try to eat them, they are gooshy splooshy. This contradicts other's experience. Possible reasons: 
    • Long cook time: I have to adjust for altitude, so when I can in a water bath canner, my processing times go up 5-10 minutes. Would pressure canning (so a lower processing time) help?
    • My variety of plum (which I cannot name): My mother says it reminds her of a Jefferson prune. The flesh is orange-ish yellow, the exterior golden-ish with purple deepening as it ripens.
    • Related, some people have good luck canning whole plums (of a different variety), and that may keep them in tact. My plums get much too large to fit in the jar whole.
    • Most probable: they want to be eaten in their prime and refuse to behave in a jar.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Raspberry Ice Cream

Let be be finale of seem.
The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream. 

--Wallace Stevens

Three more "get-ups"* and the oldest owl-cats will be in school. They are ready. Their mother is not, so she is plying them with rare treats. 

*"get-up"-n-how my mother counts down to a special occasion, as in (literally) three more times "getting up"

Raspberry Ice Cream
2 cups raspberries (frozen fine, but thaw a bit first)
3/4 cup sugar

1 cup milk 
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

0. Make sure your ducks are in a row for making ice cream. For us, with a cuisinart ice cream maker, our bowl needs to be frozen. For some of you, that will mean the whole rock salt/ice thing. For those without ice cream makers, try this ziploc bag solution.
1. Blend berries with sugar in the blender.
2. Strain puree through a fine-mesh sieve.
3. Mix puree with remaining ingredients.
4. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's directions. Here are mine.
5. Enjoy--with children or with warm brownies.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Musings on canning

A few years ago we were at a party with smart people. One commented that she likes to can produce. Her shocked family members accused her of turning "domestic." She just shrugged it off, and said, "I call it sustainable."

And that is how it goes. You can have lush "domestic" canning blogs. Or you can have edgy "punk" canning blogs. And guess what? They both proudly (as do we) put fruits in nice glass bottles and put them on the shelves and eat them in the winter.

But would they talk on the subway?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oh, what to do with a glut of cucumbers: freezing cucumbers and how to eat them later

Cucumbers ready to freeze

When you have eaten your fill of cucumbers, but the garden is still providing more than you and your neighbors (and your child's piano teacher) can eat, you can freeze them. 

They aren't going to taste exactly fresh, but they are much fresher than a pickle. They are vinegary and sweet and a bit crunchy. It is hard to remember this in the heat of summer, but there will be a very cold day when you trudge into the grocery store only to find a few limp cucumbers waiting for you. Then your heart will warm at the thought of being able to pull these out of your freezer.

We love to eat these cucumbers with braised meats (e.g., pulled pork sandwiches) or spicy Asian food.

Freezer Cucumbers

7 cups cucumbers sliced thin (not peeled)
1 cup onions sliced thin
1 tbsp kosher salt (or non-iodized)
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon celery seeds

0. Prep freezer containers. (Wash them and rinse in boiling water or wash them in the dishwasher.)
1. Place cucumbers in a colander and sprinkle them with salt. Put on a timer for 1 hour.
2. In a medium pot combine vinegar, sugar, and celery seeds. Bring to a boil, and then stir until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool.
3. After your cucumber timer sounds, drain the cucumbers. (Do not rinse.)
4. Mix cucumbers with onions.
5. Put vegetables into freezer containers.
6. Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables, leaving 1-inch headspace. Freeze.

Variation: You can also add 1 cup of sliced red bell pepper. It adds a nice color.