Now that we are nearing the end of Spring (that never really felt like Spring, dangit) - it's time to preserve some of that delicate seasonal fruit. I'm talking strawberries and rhubarb, people. I tried out three different jam recipes in the same day, because I am a crazy person (and because I bought way too many local strawberries at the farmers market).
First up is my mother-in-law's fresh strawberry syrup recipe (pictured in front and in the bowl on the right) - if only I had access to Oregon berries like her! Jasper loves this recipe, so I make a TON and freeze it to use all year (if it lasts that long). He loves to put it on sourdough pancakes and vanilla ice cream, I like it swirled into plain Greek yogurt. This is a raw fruit jam recipe (with more berries and less sugar to make it more of a syrup than a jam), so the taste of the fresh berries really comes through.
Next is a Raspberry and Rhubarb Jam with Cardamom (pictured in the middle and in the jar on the left) that was supposed to use apple juice, but I had cranberry on hand so I subbed that and it added a lot of cranberry flavor. It tastes very fall like to me because of the cranberry and spices. This is the only jam that I canned, so I will probably save it for the fall. If you want more of the rhubarb flavor to come through, use the apple juice instead.
And last is a Rhubarb, Raspberry, and Strawberry Jam thickened with Chia Seeds (pictured in the back and in the jar on the right). This is touted as a healthy recipe because the fruit is raw and it uses raw honey as sweetener. Because you use chia seeds to thicken it, instead of pectin, you can use much less sugar than you could for a traditional jam. This one came out pretty tart for me, but Jasper really likes it. The concept works really well, so I will probably be trying out different fruits. This recipe actually said to just puree the raw rhubarb, but I was pretty skeptical about that, so I simmered it in a little bit of cranberry juice first (since I was already doing that for the other jam).
Let's get jammin! I really crack myself up...
I'm about to get all raw food, vegan, and healthy on you. If those words make you cringe, don't worry - these things are addictively delicious no matter what diet you follow! Let's talk about dates - they are naturally super sweet and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are also low calorie compared to processed sweets. In other words, they are nature's guilt-free candy. Now let's talk about Barhi dates. Oh. My. Gosh. These dates have a really short season and can be hard to find (I order them from here), but they are totally worth the hunt. They taste like butterscotch candy or caramel, just on their own! There is seriously a world of difference between Barhi and other dates, believe me. And in this recipe? Killer.
Now that we've established that you should totally use Barhi dates because they are way more delicious than any other kind, what else do you need to make these caramels? Tahini, coconut oil, cardamom, and that's it! Blend it all up in a food processor and press into a lined pan. I had trouble getting all the coconut oil to incorporate, which didn't make any difference taste-wise, but made them less pretty. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and freeze until firm.
Once they are firm, cut them into little squares and that's it! You have to keep them in the freezer so that they stay firm, but that's not so much to ask, is it? They are rich, sweet, and complex with the flavors of caramel, tahini, cardamom, and coconut coming together, and the sea salt just takes it over the top. Good for you, delicious, fits any diet, and makes great gifts - why are you not making these yet? Get on it!
Raw Tahini Date Salted Caramels
adapted from The Kitchn
*I made double
1 cup pitted dates (Barhi highly recommended)
1/2 cup tahini
2 tbsp coconut oil (room temperature)
1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
1/8 tsp fleur de sel or other finishing salt
Combine the dates, tahini, coconut oil, and cardamom in a blender or food processor. You should have a very smooth, creamy, and thick paste.
Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined loaf pan (or another equivalent container) and use a spatula to press it down evenly. Sprinkle with salt.
Freeze until firm. Remove from the pan and cut into bite-size pieces.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to a month.
This rustic beauty came about by accident. I had intended to make a cherry pie, but my plans for obtaining cherries fell through. So I ended up with some pie dough and nothing else. I went to the store to see what fruit was available and found some Turkish figs. "This could definitely work," I thought. Then I thought of a creamy smear of mascarpone underneath, and oh! What if I added in some goat cheese, too?
So I dumped a container each of goat cheese and mascarpone cheese into bowl with some honey and mixed them together. Then I got to thinking, "What about some cardamom in here?" So in it went.
I rolled out my pie dough and spread the cheese mixture over it. I only ended up using half of it, but it made a great dip for crackers and fruit so that was fine. I arranged the quartered figs over the spread and then had another thought. "You know what goes great with cardamom? Coconut!" So I dug out some sweetened coconut flakes from the pantry to sprinkle over the top. A brush of cold water and sprinkling of turbinado sugar later, and my masterpiece was ready to bake.
I threw a lot of ingredients into here, but they ended up blending perfectly. The spread sort of merged with the flaky crust to make a creamy base for the figs; and the coconut came out perfectly toasted. Bonus? My husband was out of town and I got to eat the whole thing myself! This recipe may have been an accident, but I will definitely be making it again.
Holy Mockingjay, Batman - I am so excited about this post! Food 'n Flix and Cook the Books have teamed up to do a double post for The Hunger Games, with Heather from girlichef hosting! Announcement post is here.
The Hunger Games is the first book of a trilogy about a dystopian alternate timeline where war has reduced America to 12 Districts ruled by a Capital. As punishment for a rebellion, all 12 Districts must offer up 1 boy and 1 girl between the ages of 12 and 18 as a tribute to compete in the Hunger Games each year. These children must then fight to the death in a televised spectacle with only 1 survivor. To make things even worse, all of the Districts are purposefully kept in a state of starvation except for the District of the winner - which is given ample food for a year until the next Hunger Games (hence the name). Food, therefore, is extremely important and a focus throughout the series.
The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, is an extremely tough teen who would do anything to protect her family and especially her little sister, Primrose. When Prim is selected as Tribute (a death sentence for the timid 12 year-old), Katniss volunteers to take her place. Before being entered into the death-match proper, the Tributes are primped and pampered and paraded around the Capital. It is here that Katniss experiences luxury and an overabundance of food for the first time in her life.
Her favorite dish is a Lamb Stew with Dried Plums - it is mentioned frequently and even sent to her as a present when she is fighting for her life. I decided that the stew would be the perfect dish to make for this post, served on some wild rice that seemed fitting for the setting. I also served it with goat cheese rolled in herbs (inspired by the cheese that Primrose makes from her prized pet) and rustic seed bread (inspired by Peeta - Katniss's love interest and fellow Tribute, whose family owns a bakery).