Strawberry Love

Well, it’s summertime in Portland even if the calendar disagrees. We’ve had a steady week of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s. Now, I am typically not a fan of the heat, but I do appreciate the bounty of delicious fruits and veggies it helps produce. Case in point: beautiful Oregon strawberries.

The Big Load

I look forward to berry season every year. Tim and I were off on an exciting road trip (see Part I and Part II) during this time last year and missed one of our favorite activities, berry picking. It is one of the most calming and rewarding ways to spend a few hours. Plus, if you pick your own berries, you save lots of money! The photograph above shows the massive 30 pounds of local strawberries we picked on Wednesday morning. It took us two hours, but we found the reddest, ripest, most yummy berries in the field.

We already have four huge tubs in the freezer, several batches in the dehydrator, an abundance in the fridge, and a hefty batch of jam on the counter. It’s hot, it’s sunny, and walking into my kitchen is no different than walking into a sauna. But I’ve got homemade jam!

Strawberry Jam!

I always use this recipe, because it never fails me and it is super easy and quick. If you are new to canning, I highly suggest trying this recipe as a gentle introduction.

Can’t wait for raspberries, blueberries, pickling cukes, and cherries!

Annnnnnnd… It’s July (already?)!

Happy Summer!

Here is what I’ve been up to lately:

Summer weather arrived late in Portland this year (big surprise!) and despite my general dislike of rising temperatures, I am actually quite pleased with the sunshine lately. After all, warm weather fuels the growth of local berry crops! In the last few weeks Tim and I have picked close to 25 pounds of deliciously sweet, deep red, Oregon strawberries. Yesterday I turned some of those berries into jam. The photo above shows two pints of strawberry-orange jam. My list of future jams includes: raspberry, blueberry, peach, marionberry, fig-ginger, cherry, and kiwi. I am also quite excited to make dill pickles!!

Sandwiches are a quick and simple meal in the summertime. A few days ago I made panini sandwiches filled with chickpea spread, golden beets, green apples, olive tapenade, and sprouts. I found the recipe in the latest issue of Vegetarian Times. The combination might seem odd, but trust me, this sandwich was very satisfying!

Eating vegan ice cream is a great way to stay cool when the sun threatens to melt your shorts. Tim and I met up with friends today and enjoyed treats from Back to Eden Bakery. I had half of a Neapolitan cupcake and several generous bites of Tim’s banana split sundae (topped with peanut butter Newman O’s, Dandies, and house-made strawberry sauce).

A few weeks ago Tim and I went on an evening hike to Dog Mountain in Washington state. The hike is mighty steep but the views are very rewarding at the summit. Plus, we were greeted with tons of wildflowers along the trail and a gorgeous sunset. I am looking forward to August when the trails are lined with wild huckleberries (for making more jam, of course)!

I bought a doughnut pan recently and cannot stop making doughnuts! Eventually I will take the leap and try raised doughnuts but not until I have perfected the cake doughnut!

And finally, tomorrow I will be volunteering at Portland’s 2nd Annual Vegan Iron Chef competition. The event will be streamed live so you can tune in and watch the excitement from your lounge chair in the sunshine! Nifty, eh?

I hope everybody is enjoying summer (because my favorite season is coming up next!).

“F” is for Fig & Ginger Jam

It doesn’t matter what season it is, jam is always an appreciated accompaniment to meals. Last week during my cooking/baking extravaganza with Kittee, we created a beautiful, delicious, and irresistible fig jam. It was quite an adventure because obtaining the figs meant scaling a 9-foot ladder in the wind and rain (thanks Kittee!!) to pluck figs from the tree in Kittee’s yard. My role was essential too: Kittee passed me the figs and I placed them in a tidy pile and took pictures.

Kittee picking figs like a champion.

Fig overload!

The final masterpiece!

Want the recipe? OK!

Fig & Ginger Jam

Makes about 4 pints

Ingredients:

About 7-8 pounds fresh, ripe figs
4 cups unrefined sugar
2″ knob of ginger, grated
Zest from 1 medium lemon, about 1 teaspoon
Juice from 2 medium lemons
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3-ounce packet liquid pectin (we used Certo brand and called customer service to confirm that it was vegan – it is, obviously!)

Directions:

1. Wash and peel the figs. Put the fruit in a large bowl (it will most likely be a pile of smoosh). You should have about 9-10 cups of fruit.
2. Place all ingredients [EXCEPT PECTIN] in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.
3. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring continuously.
4. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes.
5. Stir in the liquid pectin, cook for 1-2 additional minutes, and then remove from heat.
6. Pour jam into clean, sterilized jars and allow to cool completely before refrigerating. You can also place jam in the freezer (make sure your jars are freezer-safe), just make sure to leave a 1/2″ of headspace in the jar so when it freezes, it has room to expand.

Enjoy!! I wonder what Kittee and I will make this week?!??

 

 

“A” is for Amaranth

Happy second day of Vegan MoFo 2010! I had trouble falling asleep last night because I couldn’t think of an “A” food that wasn’t boring (apples are yummy and all, but I wanted more excitement). It wasn’t until the wee hours of this morning that I thought of the jar of amaranth grains in my pantry. Perfect! That was enough motivation to lure me from the cozy depths of my bed and into the kitchen for a creative experiment:

Jam-A-Print Cookies! [Recipe follows]

Yes, thumbprint cookies have been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth, but I doubt those cookies were made with amaranth grains! Wait, what the heck is amaranth? Here are some fun facts for you:

1. Amaranth is a plant that grows as a weed. The seeds produced are harvested for grain (and some varieties are harvested for greens!).
2. Amaranth is gluten-free!
3. Amaranth has unusually high amounts of protein.
4. Amaranth is high in iron.
5. Amaranth, unlike most other grains, contains lysine, an essential amino acid.

What’s not to like? For such a tiny little grain, amaranth is pretty powerful! The cookies pictured above are mighty healthy, and can be made sugar-free depending on the jam you use. They can also be made gluten-free if you dare to experiment with flours!

Jam-A-Print Cookies (the “A” stands for Amaranth!)

Makes approximately 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups amaranth grain
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
scant 1/2 cup coconut oil (already melted)
1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
scant 1/2 cup water
About 1/3 cup jam of your choice (I used Ginger-Fig Jam* and Strawberry Jam)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment or a non-stick baking mat.
2. In a spice grinder, working in small batches, process the amaranth grain until it resembles coarse flour. Some whole grain pieces are preferable. Measure out 1 1/4 cups of flour and set the rest aside for another use.
3. In a large bowl, stir together amaranth flour, all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, oat bran, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
4. In a small bowl, stir together coconut oil, agave nectar, and vanilla extract. Don’t add the water yet.
5. Add your wet ingredients (minus the water) to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture should seem a bit coconut-oily, but don’t fret that will soon change!
6. Gradually add the water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until a nice dough forms. It will be tacky to the touch, but should hold together nicely when rolled (or scooped) into balls. If your dough is too dry, add more water.
7. Using about 2 teaspoons of dough per cookie, form balls by rolling (or do what I did and use a cookie scoop) the dough between your palms. Place balls on prepared cookie sheet.
8. Using your thumb, or any finger, gently make an indent in each cookie. Fill each indent with jam (amount will vary depending on the size of your indent – probably about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon).
9. Bake in your oven for 10-12 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly golden and cookies are firm to the touch. Allow to cool on cookie sheet for several minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

*Ginger-Fig Jam? Why yes! My friend and I spent Monday afternoon creating lots of wonderful yummies in her kitchen and Ginger-Fig Jam was the final masterpiece. Stay tuned for my “F is for…” post because it just might feature the jam and a recipe! Ooooooh!!!

Jammin’!

The word ¬†jammin’ reminds me of a college professor I had my junior year. He taught computer programming and every time a student answered a question correctly, he would gleefully shout “Jammin’!”. In fact, I think he shouted that word any time he was happy, which was often. The title of this post is twofold: (1) I quit my job a week ago and couldn’t be happier about the decision – it was impulsive and unplanned, but needed to happen; and (2) It’s berry season and I’ve been busy making jams!!! Jammin’!!

While I am feeling mighty insecure financially, I have some plans brewing… Hopefully I can share them with people soon… We shall see!

And now, it’s jam time:

Tim and I went raspberry picking a few days ago – a total luxury on a weekday morning – we were the only people in the raspberry field! We didn’t pick our usual 20+ pound haul, but we did pick enough to last us several months (I hope!). A majority of the raspberries have settled cozily in the freezer and our bellies. The remaining bunch made a nice batch of jam. It’s maddeningly hot in Portland and preparing jam makes a tiny kitchen even hotter, but I don’t care. Homemade jam is pretty much a necessity if you live with Tim. What seems like enough to feed and army usually lasts a day or two. That’s a slight exaggeration, but Tim is the biggest jam-snarfer I know. To be fair, he does help with the process by obediently stirring jam on the stovetop and making spaceship noises as he lowers the jars into the canner (and again upon their removal). I am convinced our jam is better as a result.

Anyways, the very first time I made jam I used a recipe printed in my local newspaper. It has become my favorite recipe although I have adjusted the sugar amount slightly (I know this is a no-no, but overly sweet jam masks the flavor of the fruit and I’ve never had any troubles using less sugar). Here is a link to the recipe. I replace the butter in the recipe with Earth Balance (and sometimes don’t even add that because it isn’t necessary). If you have never made your own jam before, you should try, it’s fun and rewarding!

So far this season I have made both strawberry and raspberry jams. Up next: blueberry, cherry, peach, and apricot! Mmm! And, what goes nicely with homemade jam? Homemade bread!

This is a basic whole wheat bread that I rolled in a bunch of seeds. Warm weather is ideal for bread baking because the dough rises like crazy (and quickly too!). Tim and I ate PB&J’s with homemade jam, homemade peanut butter, and homemade bread. Living on a new food budget isn’t so bad!

Enjoy your weekends! Now that my schedule is more open I hope to post more often. Fingers crossed!