Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves

Lately I've been making a concerted effort to eat foods that I haven't tried before, with mostly good results. While I simply confirmed that I do indeed hate olives, even fancy Kalamata ones, I also learned that I love rhubarb. I made a cardamom rhubarb version of the East Coast Coffee Cake from Vegan Brunch and was pleasantly surprised by the bright, tart flavor of the rhubarb (but, did anyone else find the topping of the coffee cake too flour-y?). Since then, it's been like rhubarbapalooza 'round these parts.

Come to find out, though, rhubarb is pricey. As usual, I just grabbed a handful of rhubarb, walked up to the checkout, and nearly had a heart attack when it rang up for $10. All my visions of cheap jam--a staple of Josh's diet--flew out the window. However I proceeded unabated and tackled the making and canning of my preserves. Unfortunately, I followed the Ball recipe for the first one, which called for 4 cups of fruit and 5 1/2 cups of sugar. Needless to say, visions of diabetes danced in my head with my first taste. Way to sweet for my taste and the sugar completely obscured the taste of the rhubarb. So, I gave those jars of strawberry flavored sugar to the kids next door and adjusted the recipe. After some tinkering and finding a whole bag of rhubarb for $1 in the eat-this today-at-your-own-risk bin at the natural foods store, I now have 10 pints of delicious rhubarby preserves which cost me about $14 to make.
Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves
makes 4 pints

4 cups diced strawberries
4 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
6 tsp. calcium water
6 tsp. pectin (calcium water and pectin are Pomona brand and are sold together)
4 1/2 cups sugar

Sterilize 4 pint jars and the lids (unlike me, remember to put jars in the water before you start to heat it up). Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring fruit, lemon juice, and calcium water to a boil over medium-high heat. As the strawberries start to get juicy, use the back of a wooden spoon to crush them. Next, mix the pectin into the sugar. Once the fruit is boiling, add the sugar mixture. Stir constantly until fruit/sugar mixture comes to a boil and let boil for 1-2 minutes. Don't stop stirring unless you hate your pot and are looking for an excuse to buy a new one (there's no better excuse than burned fruit/sugar). Don't worry about the fact that the preserves look to liquidy to firm up. They will.

Next remove sterilized jars from water one at a time and fill a quarter of an inch from the top. Adjust lids until finger tight and put back in the boiling water. Process for 10 minutes. Remove and let sit undisturbed overnight. By morning, you'll have perfect strawberry rhubarb preserves for toast, muffins, or--if you're anything like Vegan Patty--straight out of the jar.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Snapshots from the Gestationally Diabetic

Better late than never, right?

Though the gestational diabetes went away with the birth of Eames, the pictures still linger. I meant to document the trials and tribulations that went along with the condition, but I could barely get it together enough to go to work everyday and then drag my ass to bed--blogging was a no go.

In reality, I had an easy pregnancy. The gestational diabetes was the one annoyance and complication that I had to deal with.* Essentially, I had to make sure that I consumed a certain number of carbs at every meal throughout the day: less than 30 at breakfast and 45 for lunch and dinner and 2 snacks of less than 15. Technically, it's not supposed to matter what kind of carbs, but I quickly found out that my pregnant body wasn't fond of many processed carbs or grains of any kind (and bananas...). Rice, quinoa, and tortillas in any amount made me feel like death, for instance. As a result, most of our meals consisted of a protein source and vegetables.** Though I should've eaten more grains for balance, I couldn't seem to make it work and I finally gave up. The sweating and racing heart and worry about the baby that resulted from a couple bites of rice just wasn't worth it. I never thought it would be so hard to live without tortillas, but it quickly became obvious that I wrap almost everything in a lovely flattened, flour package of joy.

In retrospect, I think even those without diabetes of any kind can learn a lesson from this. Processed carbs are hard on the body and I think we'd all do well to limit them even when our insulin is working just like it should. So, here're some of the meals that worked for me when my insulin wouldn't:
Roasted Veggies with Smoky Seitan Stroganoff

Mini Crustless Tofu Quiche and Strawberry Salad
Josh's Special: Potato Tofu Beans and Greens
VSK's Rosemary Roasted Tofu Cubes w/ Roasted Asparagus and FUN-Kay Mashed Potatoes
Mustard Crusted Tofu and VSK's Citrus Collards w/ Raisins Redux

*And, frankly, it's one that worked out in my favor. The strictness with which I followed the diet resulted in "inadequate weight gain" and I ended up only gaining a total of 13 pounds. So, within 5 weeks of giving birth, I'm actually 16 pounds below where I started and I have a cute healthy baby.

**It's also important to note that the dietitian I saw had only one concern about my veganism: getting enough fat. I can't remember what role fat plays in insulin production now, but it's an important one and she insisted I consciously add fat to my diet in the form of oils, avocado, and the like. The sacrifices I make...

Swiss Chard Frittata and Diner Home Fries

Like many of you, I pre-ordered Vegan Brunch. However, it's likely that none of you then switched banks and forgot to update your credit card info and then got annoyed when Amazon kept sending you emails which you ignored thinking they were sales notifications or some such thing and, anyway, don't they know you just had a baby and can't be bothered with this crap? Jesus.
So, it took me a week or two to realize they really wanted to send me the cookbook I've been so eagerly awaiting (since I would argue that vegan cookbooks don't do breakfasty type stuff well, if they do it at all). I finally got it about 2 weeks ago and promptly made Mom's Morning Casserole, which was horribly unphotogenic but pretty good to taste. My second foray into the book was both tasty and good looking (mostly). The Swiss Chard Frittata was perfect with the chard I picked up earlier from the farmer's market only to have it wilt as it sat at the Community Cycles booth with Josh. I thought at first that 6 cloves worth of sliced garlic might be a bit overwhelming but the 'blonding' method does go exceptionally well with the earthiness of the chard. And the Diner Home Fries...well, you can't exactly go wrong with a potato. Isa only uses salt and pepper to season hers, but my love of paprika--especially on home fries--made me deviate from the recipe even though I usually try to make it, for the first try at least, according to directions. While the potatoes took a while, the frittata came together quickly and this was a wholly satisfying brunch/breakfast for dinner.