Starfruit Preserves

“Starfruit has been a very underutilized commodity. It grows like a weed and produces endlessly. The jelly is very marketable. There is nothing like it. People go somewhere just because of a sauce or jelly. How bout a glaze for fish or chicken? There is nothing out there like it.”

My neighbor shared these kind words after loading me up with a huge baskets of his starfruit, which were on the sour side this year. This was my second gleaning from his tree, and I had just dropped of a jar of the starfruit preserves I made. One of both of our favorite things about this preserves recipe is that the stars stay intact, so it’s a treat for the eyes to spoon the honey-colored sweet stars onto your toast!

It took some searching to find what looked like a promising starfruit preservation method. I suppose it is just because of the uncommonness of this fruit in nontropical regions. I finally found this Ghanaian study, which was a great place to start! The Preparation of Jam: Using Star Fruit. I modified the recipe somewhat, and I’ve made it twice. The first batch needed far less pectin than the second, so be sure to do the plate test to check that the jam will set before spooning into the jars.

Recipe

Yield: About 10 half pint jars.

Ingredients:
750 g sugar
1 1/3 c. water
1 kg starfruit
1 organic/homegrown lemon

Process:

  1. Wash all starfruit, making sure to get between ribs. I used a cloth to get any debris off of the waxy surface.
  2. Cut edges of ribs and each end off.
  3. Slice horizontally into star shaped slices, removing seeds as you go.
  4. Weigh out sugar and mix with water in a large pot, set to simmer to a light caramel color.
  5. Add 1 kg sliced starfruit.
  6. Add about 3 T. lemon zest.
  7. Add about 2 T. lemon juice.
  8. Simmer about 30 minutes.
  9. Add about 4 T. pectin. Stir in for 3 minutes.
  10. Perform cold plate test to ensure liquid is set. If not, repeat adding pectin until cold test shows accurate setting.
  11. Spoon into sterilized jars.
  12. The rest is just typical processing of jam or preserves, so it’s easy to find detailed instructions. Basically…
  13. Be sure to wipe any preserves from rims of jars to ensure the lids make a good seal.
  14. Heat lids on low to soften sealing agent.
  15. Place lids and rims on filled jars.
  16. Process in water bath canner with boiling water about 8 minutes. Leave to set for a few hours until cool.
Jasmina shows off the pre-jam bounty in our yarden!

Reflections on Simple Living & Squashy Blueberry Pancakes

It seems I am really adapting to woods life. This was made very evident the other day when we walked into the grocery store. The ambiance was such a contrast to what I am now used to, and I felt like I had wandered into a strange alien world: everything seemed so bright, white and clean, and there was a constant hum. People seemed very clean, ironed and tidy, and preoccupied with their shopping.

Living with less, I am for the most part content. The homestead I am at has no refrigerator, no oven, no air conditioning, simply an outdoor kitchen and a yome for the owner, a trailer with a porch for the wwoofers. I am constantly a little damp, dirty, smelly, and sun-kissed. I get tired when the sun goes down and wake up early with the birds and rooster. When I have my own homestead one day, I will be able to make some minor adjustments to make myself totally content. I think I could even get used to cooking over the open fire full time if I designed a barbeque-type hearth. I have been using the public libraries to update my blog, check email, etc. It will be  interesting to see just how off the grid I can get used to!

wild harvested blueberries

In the homestead garden, we have huge light green squash ripening. We’re not sure what kind it is, but it looks a lot like a Hubbard squash. It is delicious and the fruit is so huge that I decided to get creative with ways to eat it. With sweet potato pie in mind, I decided to try to make pancakes with the squash as the base. Keep in mind, I don’t have Internet at the farm, so I made this up completely; there might be a better recipe out there somewhere! First I chopped and cooked the squash in the awesome Lodge cast iron dutch oven over the fire so that it was nice and squishy and mashed with a potato masher. The next morning, I mixed some whole grain pancake batter, corn meal, one egg from our chickens, and cinnamon and folded in the wild harvested blueberries with the squished squash.

cooking over the open flame

They took a little while to cook through, but held together well and tasted delicious, a little sweeter than normal pancakes. We topped them with Vermont maple syrup. I definitely see more squash blueberry pancakes in my future – there’s still another half of our huge squash to eat up!

Me? Granola? No!

Journal Entry 6-24-2012:

Being out here, off the grid, I reflect upon a time in college when, because of all the DIY, sustainability and gardening books I ordered through inter-library loan, more than I could possibly read on top of my studies, my boss at the library asked if that was my major. I smiled and said, “I wish!” Not really sure how to pinpoint what that was, I knew that I had a strong interest in what I’ll now call self-sufficiency. Now, about three or four years later, I can declare any major I want in my self-guided, self-funded school of life. I believe I’d like to choose the “green path.” Wwoofing is proving to be a huge step in the right direction as I am perpetually meeting others with similar interests, goals and the tendency to practice what they preach. Upcoming classes: herbalism, herbal gardening, medicine-making, traveling light, mushroom identification, and probably so many more I cannot begin to anticipate.

Life skills I have learned so far through wwoofing:

  • how to run a farm stand and sell vegetables
  • yes to mulching, no to tilling
  • citrus and side veneer grafting, some plant propagation
  • need quantity and quality vegetables: need quantity to be less reliant on store-bought, to have excess for bartering, to make value-added products, to put up for the off season
  • how to make a bark bag, corn tortillas, effective cooking fire, canned tomatoes
  • some wild edible mushroom identification, wild blueberry and blackberry identification
  • goat care and milking and how to build a milking station
  • chicken care and why to build a mobile coop

stir that granola!

Looking at the life skills learned list, I realize how awesome wwoofing has been for my school of life! There are probably so many things I’ve learned which are not on the list, and just having these experiences is invaluable to me. It has been very interesting to practice my cooking technique over an open fire! The homestead I am at now relies solely on wood fires for cooking. The rudimentary temperature control and weather definitely make it more of a challenge! Above I am stirring some goji granola over our camp fire during the tropical storm Debby!

We had to stir it pretty constantly so that it wouldn’t burn. It turned out delicious, much like oven-baked granola: crispy and golden-brown with a hint of smokey flavor!

Homemade

I wanted to share some of the dishes I’ve been whipping up for my parents while I’m visiting in Florida!

papaya banana smoothie

My dad loves growing fruit trees, and I’ve been spoiled with fresh, organic, local-as-can-be papaya and banana. Gotta love that part of being in Florida!

bananas from my dad’s tree

fancy beans and rice

Thai curried tofu

Bon appétit!

Vegan Gluten-Free Banana Walnut Coconut Pancakes

These vegan gluten-free banana walnut coconut pancakes are DELISH!

Start with homegrown bananas…

Mix buckwheaties and oats in the blender to make a gluten-free flour. Add bananas, hand-crushed walnuts, non-sweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, molasses, vanilla, and enough water to achieve batter consistency.

Pan fry in coconut oil. I found it helpful to make smaller sized pancakes with this recipe. Whenever I make pancakes, I remember making them as a kid for my family (from Bisquick, no less) and my mom scolding me because I pressed them flat with the spatula. “I like my pancakes fluffy,” she chastised. Well Mom, unfortunately, with this recipe, you must squish. It was difficult to get the middle cooked through without the outsides getting burned no matter how low the heat. So squish away!

They turned out marvelous: nutty and sweet and stuck together well. I topped them with more walnuts, coconut and a little syrup.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Sprouted Buckwheat Pancakes

One of the last meals that I made in my Richmond apartment was buckwheatie pancakes. Buckwheaties, as I know them, are sprouted dehydrated buckwheat groats. I don’t have a dehydrator, so after sprouting, I just spread them on my stoneware pie pan and let them sit on the windowsill in the sun for a few days. They’re usually pretty dry after one or two long, sunny days, but if you want to store them, you want to make sure they are thoroughly dry.

And, I know it kind of defeats the purpose of buckwheaties being a raw food, but I really wanted to make them into sprouted buckwheat pancakes. Plus, sprouting grains and seeds makes them more easily digestible. I ground the dry buckwheaties in my blender, then added some all-purpose flour, baking powder, molasses, salt, cinnamon, and allspice in a bowl. I used coconut oil to fry the pancakes. Dipped in maple syrup, they were the perfect tasty high-protein finger food throughout the day full of the duties that come with moving: packing, lifting boxes and scrubbing.

Sprouted Buckwheat Pancakes

End of the Cleanse

The final day of the Cleanse America event was on Wednesday, and I made it through the end! Before beginning, I thought that the hardest part would be bringing enough raw food to work with me to last me the whole day. But, as I mentioned before, the raw week I did before the 10-day cleanse boosted my confidence and know-how, and I think really prepared me for a longer period of rawness. I felt good up to the end, and even considered extending my raw diet for… two weeks?… a month?…

Well, due to the fact that it was my LAST DAY at my public health office job on Thursday, my wonderful coworkers decided to present me with a beautiful cake! Thursday being the first official non-raw day,  I had to partake. The sugary cake must have been quite a shock to my body after 10 days of living foods!

I have to admit, I was pretty happy to see my usual breakfast of oatmeal with tons of toppings on Thursday morning:

I did bring a raw lunch with me to work on Thursday, a recipe I created: Broccoli and “Cheese” (a mixture of Bragg’s liquid aminos, nutritional yeast, water and garlic powder).

Now, with birthday and departure festivities coming to a close, I am seeking a healthy balance in my diet. I don’t know that exclusive raw food is possible for me in the long-term; although, I think I could do it if I could slowly learn more recipes for my raw repertoire. I feel like my body is ready for a “building” period of wholesome mixture cooked and raw. Plus, I have some delicious Twin Oaks tofu to eat up before I roll out of town on Tuesday. Destination: Jacksonville, FL.

While I didn’t notice much physical change throughout the raw period, I have to trust it was a good cleanse and resting period for my body. I didn’t have a terrible healing crises or a lack of energy, I didn’t have any miraculous changes either.

Purple Morning and Raw Lasagna

I keep wondering to myself why I decided to quit my job and start wwoofing in the middle of summer. We’re enjoying what feels like the last of cool, dewy mornings here in Richmond; by 9 am, I can already feel the beginnings of the hot rays of the sun.

I went to a very inspirational Richmond Vegetarian Society meeting last night during which local foods activist, Ellie Sparks, talked to us about things we can do to help curb global warming. I found out about the Citizens Climate Lobby, which organizes citizens to put political pressure on elected officials to support “green” legislation. I am definitely going to look into getting involved with Citizens Climate Lobby.

On to the food! Good morning blueberry bear!

And I’d like to share what I made for dinner last night: Raw Lasagna!

It was crunchier than the real thing, but, I must admit, it was really good!! I got the recipe from Rawsome! It was very satisfying and had LOTS of flavor, probably due to all of the zesty Italian herbs.

On that note, I’d like to do a quick update on how I’ve been feeling. Today is day seven of the ten-day raw food cleanse, and I’m feeling great! I’m finding that I don’t need to eat nearly as much to feel full and I can go longer without eating than I can normally. (Normally I have to eat every hour on the hour, lest I feel lightheaded.) Prior research suggests that this is because when one eats a very “clean” diet of whole, easy-to-digest, organic foods with low residue, the mucousy lining in the intestines goes away. This lining is usually there to protect your intestines from bad things in your food. However, it also inhibits nutrient absorption. So, when you’re eating well, and the mucous goes away, you are able to absorb more nutrients from the food you eat, hence, you don’t have to eat as much to get the same amount of nourishment.

I feel more in tune with my body overall, and I feel like I’m getting better at listening to its subtle cues. I’ve discovered that when I’m full, I’ll almost feel a gentle “click” in my abdomen, a little cue that says, “Enough.” Like I said, it’s very subtle, but very obvious once I learned to hear it.

I’ve also tried to be more strict about my waking and bedding hours. I’m reading Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra, which suggests going to sleep between 9:30 and 10:30pm and waking at dawn without an alarm clock. I’m not quite up at dawn yet, but I have been regularly waking up at about 7am without an alarm and definitely going to bed before 10:30, usually around 10pm. While it has only been about four days since I’ve been observing these hours, I’ve noticed a huge difference! Not only do I feel like I have a steady energy throughout the day and I’m tired when it’s time to go to bed, I’ve noticed an almost magical flow about my day. I’m arriving places a few minutes early, or right at the perfect time. I’m fitting just enough activity and social interaction in my day, while still having enough relaxation and reflection alone time. Instead of brushing off half of the items on my to-do or to-be list, I’m fitting everything in without feeling overburdened. I highly suggest reading Perfect Health, or at least try paying attention to your circadian rhythm and see what a difference it makes. As Chopra posits, our bodies have only healthy desires deep down for bliss and balance!

As my yoga teacher said yesterday, “May anything that is not in line with your higher self simply fall away.”

Have a beautiful Sunday!

Raw Almond Milk

Today was the beginning of my three-day weekend! I celebrated by trying something new in the kitchen. I have been meaning to make raw nut milk for quite a while. Luckily, the Internet had a few easy recipes, so I gave it a try. I put one cup raw slivered almonds, three cups water and one soaked date in the blender. Then I strained the mixture through some cheese cloth to give me this:

It turned out a little less flavorful than the commercial product, so I may add less water and more dates the next time. However, in all of its raw goodness, I was happy with the end product. Blending it so thoroughly gave me this amazing foam on top, a pleasant surprise! As I wrote about in a previous post, I am a barista, so you know what I thought when I saw that foam…

While I’m not drinking coffee during the 10 day cleanse, I did make some tasty herbal tea – with foamed “milk.” It was kinds weird when the foam melted in though…

I also made a new smoothie with the raw almond milk. It was strawberry banana plus flax and chia seeds. I was looking forward to the pretty pink color I thought it would be. But, I couldn’t resist throwing something green in there – Spirulina powder! It turned out a weird gray color, but it tasted great!

Have a wonderful day!

10 Day Cleanse

I’ve been meaning to update about the 10 day raw food cleanse for the past few days! Today is day 3 and things are going well. There is no doubt that the raw food week I did in March helped boost my confidence and abilities for this cleanse. I have a few staple meals now (green smoothies & cauliflower curry soup) and I think my tummy is getting more used to this way of eating. I was wondering the other day if I’m eating fewer calories than normal. My first instict was YES! However, I have been eating a lot of nuts and seeds, olive and coconut oils, as well as my homemade chunks of energy. (I’ll admit the first batch was not 100% raw, but the next one will be  – to come!)

This is the green smoothie I began the cleanse with on Monday.

Absolutely delicious!

I also wanted to share my happy table:

And a yummy salad: Swiss chard, spinach, yellow onion, avocado, pepitas, nutritional yeast, homemade kraut-chi and homemade dressing.

For dessert! Avocado-banana pie!

This pie was absolutely delicious and tasted just like a naughty dessert – guilt free! The crust is a mixture of almonds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts, coconut oil and honey. The pie is pureed avocado, banana, and walnuts, sprinkled with unsweetened coconut. For next time, I got the idea to add chocolate from Edible Perspective! Can’t wait to make this later in the week with the raw cacao nibs I indulged in at the health food store last night! Will share!