Wonderberries Turned Homemade Triple-Berry Jam

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When I updated you on the progress of our garden, I shared a photo of the wonderberries (AKA sunberries) that had mysteriously begun growing there.  By the time we returned from Michigan on Sunday, they were ready to harvest.  Not naturally very sweet, we knew we were going to use them to make jam.

DSC_2065As you know, I’ve been craving peanut butter and jelly this pregnancy.  Between my PB&J smoothie, PB&J atop rice cakes and graham crackers, and good old PB&J sandwiches, I’ve got my cravings covered!  The downside to many jellies and jams, however, is that they are loaded with sugar.  Today, I’m making a triple-berry jam—inspired by our wonderberry harvest—that is low in added sweetener.

First, a few definitions that will help us along the way:

PECTIN:  A natural gelling agent found in the cell walls of plants.  You can purchase pectin in powdered form to make vegan jelly, jam, or jello.  (Gelatin, which is not vegan, comes from animals, and is found in such items as gummy bears and marshmallows.)  This pectin brand is available at Whole Foods.

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JELLY:  A smooth pectin-based mixture that contains fruit juice (or, unfortunately, artificial flavors that mimic real fruit) and no chunks of actual fruit.

JAM:  A less smooth pectin-based mixture that contains mashed, pureed, or whole fruits.

Of course, I am making jam.  As mentioned in a previous post, I try to keep my consumption of juice to a minimum; whole fruits contain more fiber, which aids in preventing the conversion of sugar to fat.  For my sweetener, I’m using light agave syrup, which I first introduced to you with my coleslaw formula.  Compared to many (if not most) store-bought jams, mine contains very little added sugar and no artificial sweeteners of any kind.

I must warn you, despite containing few ingredients, making jam does contain quite of few steps, including several rounds of boiling.  Having a helper in the kitchen makes a big difference, and you can make jam in bulk to save time later on.  🙂  This jam keeps at room temperature for one year, but should be refrigerated and consumed in three weeks once a jar is opened.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  JAM

Makes 2 small jars or 1 large*

  • 2 cups raw or precooked fruit**  –>  I’m using ½ cup wonderberries, ½ cup raspberries, and 1 cup blackberries.
  • 2 tbsps sweetener  –>  I’m using agave syrup.
  • 1 tsp pectin
  • 1 tsp calcium water (prepare according to package directions)

*You can find mason jars at many retailers including dollar or 99 cent stores.

**A hard fruit like apples will be easier to mash or puree if it has been precooked, but a softer fruit like raspberries will mash easily in a raw state.

Fill a pot with water enough to completely cover your mason jars in standing position and bring to a boil.  Add both the jars and their lids.  After the jars have boiled for a few minutes, turn the heat on low and keep the jars in the hot water.

Next, peel and precook your fruit, if necessary.  Place your raw and/or cooked fruit in a bowl and mash, or, puree in a blender or food processor.

DSC_2072Combine your mashed fruit and calcium water in a pot and bring to a boil.  While you are awaiting the boil, combine your pectin and sweetener in a separate dish.

DSC_2073Add the mixture to the boiling fruit and stir an additional 1-2 minutes, until the pectin is dissolved.  Remove from the heat.

Using tongs, remove your hot jars from the other pot and bring the water to a boil again.  While you are waiting for yet another boil, pour the jam into the jars, approximately ¼ of an inch from the top.  Wipe the rims clean and seal.  Once the water is boiling, submerge the jars in an upright position and boil for 10 minutes.

Use tongs to remove the hot jars and place on the countertop to cool.  Refrigerate once opened.

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I’m Bringing Coleslaw Back, Sans Mayo

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I used to have lukewarm feelings for mayo-based coleslaws, but once I made slaw with a vinaigrette dressing, I enjoyed it so much more.

Coleslaw gets a bad rap. It is often presented in ways that are unappealing, slopped down as an unwanted side dish with ribs, burgers, or fish and chips. No matter how good it tastes, it’s always overshadowed by other elements on the dish, and perhaps rightly so…until now. I’m bringing slaw back – and you won’t be satisfied with just that tiny plastic cup.

While slaws are traditionally made with cabbage as the main ingredient, you can certainly use any hearty leaf that will hold up to being dressed and transported to a backyard barbeque. Today, I’m starting with the basics. Cabbage is high in vitamin K and anthocyanins, which aid mental function and concentration.  It is also a rich source of vitamin C and sulfur, which helps the body to remove toxins and improve skin.  Cabbage has number of other health benefits and can even assist in getting rid of that nasty hangover!

DSC_2053Another super food that I’m using in today’s slaw rendition is broccoli, which is in the same family as cabbage.  Thus, it also a powerhouse of vitamins K and C and contains detoxifying properties.

DSC_2057Finally, in my dressing, I’m using, for lack of a better description, a watered-down version of agave syrup.  Thankfully, this sweetener is all-natural, containing small amounts of juices from other fruits that amount to fewer calories.  Again, I don’t count calories, but what appeals to me about this sweetener over pure agave syrup is that it has a lighter, more refreshing quality about it, which I think pairs perfectly with a slaw like this one.  As you’ve seen in my other formulas, I use full-fledged agave syrup all the time, but I like this one best in this application.

DSC_2061So, I beseech you to consider giving coleslaw another chance.  My formula yields a crunchy, crisp dish that I would eat as more than a measly side.  If I’m hungry enough, I’ll eat at least half of the bowl myself.  🙂  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE:  SLAW

Serves 4-6 as a side; 2-3 as the main event

  • ½ head or 1 bunch hearty leaves (cabbage, kale, collard greens, rainbow chard, etc.)  –>  I’m using green cabbage.
  • 2 cups chopped raw fruit and/or vegetables  –>  I’m using broccoli.
  • ¼ cup “crunch” (raw seeds, nuts, etc.)  –>  I’m using sunflower seeds.
  • ¼ garnish (green onions, chives, fresh herbs, etc.)  –>  I’m using green onions.
  • Homemade dressing of choice*

*Today, I’m using a combination of 2.5 tbsps white wine vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp agave syrup, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chop or shred your leaves; it isn’t important that they are perfectly uniform in size or shape.  If you’re using cabbage—or a vegetable like it—cut around or otherwise remove the tough core.  If you’re using a green with ribs—such as a kale—cut around or otherwise remove those as well.

DSC_2054Finely chop your vegetables, crunch, and garnish (if needed) and add to your slaw base.  Mix your dressing separately and pour over the slaw.  Toss and serve.  Holds up well in the fridge for a few days.

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Make Smart Substitutions

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I am excited to share with you that I completed my first Fresh Formula publication outside of my blog.  🙂  I completed an article for the Adjunct Faculty Association spring newsletter, The Connection, and was among only five adjuncts selected to write in the health and wellness section.  Today, I thought I’d share that article with you.

If you’re a regular subscriber of The Fresh Formula, some of the article’s content won’t be new information, but a refresher never hurts.  I also included the recipe for my chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie, which was one of my first blog posts.  Click the link above to see the original article or read the text below:

On my plant-based living blog, The Fresh Formula, I share information and recipes for healthy eating.  One of the easiest changes we can make to our diets is to consider healthier substitutes for the items that we are using regularly.  Below, I have listed some examples of substitutions that I have made in my own kitchen:

  • White flour –> Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, graham flour
  • White granulated sugar –> Turbinado sugar, maple syrup, agave syrup, medjool dates
  • Iodized table salt –> Pink Himalayan sea salt

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  • Nut butters with additives –> Nuts-only nut butters
  • Eggs –> Chia seeds or ground flaxseed (mixed with water), bananas, steamed apple puree
  • Dairy milk –> Unsweetened almond, cashew, coconut, grain, and hemp milks
  • Canned beans –> Dry beans or unsalted canned beans (beans only)
  • White rice –> Brown rice, farro, quinoa, wheat berries, cracked wheat, barley
  • Prepackaged popcorn –> Bulk popping corn (made on the stovetop)

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  • Vegetable or canola oil –> Coconut, avocado, sesame, peanut, and olive oils
  • Boxed/canned stock/broth –> Unsalted homemade stock (can also be used as a flavorful substitute for water when cooking whole grains)

While many of these substitutions are more expensive, some are cheaper than their preservative-laden brethren; I believe that the health benefits are worth it either way.  I adopted a plant-based lifestyle because I had high cholesterol, so eggs, for example, were one of the first items to cross off of my shopping list.  Chia seeds, by contrast, are cholesterol-free sources of omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and calcium.

I have included my irresistible chocolate peanut butter banana smoothie recipe incorporating many of the aforementioned substitutions.  It is so decadent, it can serve as dessert, but is a healthy option for a meal or snack, too!

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER BANANA SMOOTHIE

Serves 2-3

  • 2 frozen bananas (or fresh bananas and a few ice cubes)
  • ½ cup peanut butter (nuts only)
  • 1 heaping tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 2 pitted medjool dates
  • Unsweetened almond milk to achieve desired consistency (start with ½ cup)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree until silky smooth.

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For more valuable health tips, information on plant-based living and eating, and tons of delicious recipes, visit thefreshformula.com and subscribe for regular updates.  Cheers to good health!

Dip, Salsa, or Square Meal?

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To answer your question, this dish, based off of my bean salad formula, is all three: dip, salsa, and square meal. I’m housing it under my Square Meal Formulas because while it makes for a great snack, it can serve as a delicious, filling, and protein-packed lunch or dinner, too.

If you tuned in last week for my chili recipe and are not ready to leave the Southwest, you will love trying out my bean salad. This recipe is a cross between my mom’s “Texas caviar” bean dip and my husband’s mango salsa. It is served cold and alone, with tortilla chips, or as an addition to a Latin or southwestern dish.

Before we get into making this dip, salsa, and square meal, a word about a few ingredients that I love: sesame oil, agave syrup, and pink Himalayan sea salt. As this blog grows, you will see these ingredients throughout many of my fresh formulas and recipes. Here’s why…

DSC_1542While my recipes minimize added fat, sugar, and salt, I do sometimes add just a little to maximize flavors. Sesame oil lends itself perfectly to this philosophy, as it is extremely flavorful in quite small amounts. To keep your blood sugar levels at bay, organic agave syrup—a low glycemic sweetener—is a great alternative to white, granulated sugar, which I haven’t purchased in years. Finally, pink Himalayan sea salt is the super salt of the sodium world! This salt contains over 80 vitamins and minerals, is naturally high in iodine, has less sodium per serving than table salt, and has a myriad of other health benefits. If you’re adding salt, this is the way to go.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, make your own tortilla chips to compliment this bean salad. Never having yet made them myself, I’ve purchased a few from a local Arizona Mexican restaurant so I can see how it’s done!

FORMULA BASE: BEAN SALAD

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups cooked beans, no added salt –> I’m using extra beans today, in an effort to mimic elements of my mother’s Texas caviar recipe. I’m incorporating equal parts kidney, pinto, and black beans (just like my chili recipe), totalling about 5 ½ cups.
  • 2 cups chopped raw fruits/veggies –> I’m using ½ of a small green bell pepper, ¼ cup frozen corn, 1 medium size mango, and ¼ cup fresh, finely chopped cilantro.
  • ¼ chopped raw onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • ½ cup seeds and/or chopped raw nuts –> I’m using raw sunflower seeds, a little less than a ½ cup.
  • Citrus juice (size matters…start small) –> I’m using the juice of two limes.
  • Spices, herbs, salt, and pepper to taste –> I’m using ½ tsp each of chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and pink Himalayan sea salt, and ¼ tsp cumin.
  • SPECIAL ADDITIONS: 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 tbsp agave syrup (I would use less or none at all if my mango were sweeter.)

Before anything else, chop your onion and get it soaking in the citrus juice. The citrus helps to break down the abrasive flavor of the onions.

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Next, drain and rinse your beans, allowing them to drip dry in your colander while chopping your fruits/veggies. Combine all ingredients and mix. Store in the fridge up to a week.

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