I have to apologize for having had such a long hiatus from posting here at Harmony Kitchen. I tried to make up for it a little by posting pictures of inspirational dishes--some with recipes--on both Facebook and Instagram. My hope is to get back into a steady routine of posting at least two new recipes per month. This month I am planning at least 4, though!
The biggest factors that took me away from posting for so long were continuing to pursue my music career here in Portland and purchasing a home this past year with my hubby. After moving into our new home came the "nesting" phase - we do have a toddler on the way! - which included many DIY type projects from a partial kitchen and bathroom renovation, where I took on the role as designer and head contractor, to lots of chalk painting of furniture, to planting my first garden and the list goes on and on. I still have a few more small projects to take on, but I am waiting for a rainy day to finish those off. The good news is that the bulk of the work has been completed, and my man and I are finally feeling more settled in both in our home and in the community.
And even though I was not posting, I have been busy in the kitchen experimenting quite a lot and am happy to share that I have several yummy recipes coming your way this fall. Highlights include a yeast bread, a grain and yeast free bread, garlic chickpea tofu, pumpkin spiced ice cream along with many others centered around striking a balance with what's on our plates and how it's fueling our bodies. Many of these recipes were inspired by several online courses I took recently: one focusing on women's hormone health and the other on plant-based fundamentals, nutrition and recovery. In addition, my own health journey where I have been dealing with some mineral deficiencies and out-of-whack hormone levels - some of this stemming from a horrible gluten exposure I had several months back, and the fact that I have an autoimmune disease. After doing a 21-day hormone reset diet, though, I am feeling much more energized and will be sharing more about that in future blog posts.
Now to the recipe at hand! Friends of mine here in Portland know I have the most amazing black mission fig tree in our yard and that I love to share them with anyone I come into contact with. I fertilized and watered our fig tree generously this year and our black beauty yielded us two separate harvests. With so much fruit coming in, I thought it would be lovely to make a preserve that I could enjoy at other times of the year when our fig tree is dormant.
As I was creating this recipe, I kept thinking about how figs pair so wonderfully with spices - plus I happen to be on a healing spice kick - so I chose two of my favorites, cinnamon and cardamom, for this preserve. Cinnamon has a long list of health benefits, from helping to regulate insulin levels to lowering bad cholesterol to having anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties as well as even helping to manage polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Just make sure you purchase Ceylon versus the Cassia variety to reap the most rewards from this antioxidant-filled bark. Cardamom has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, protect against gastrointestinal disorders and to have antimicrobial and anti-spasmodic properties. Keep in mind that spices contain delicate volatile oils, so always make sure to store them in tightly-sealed glass containers in a dark cool place so they retain their freshness. A good way to tell if it's time to kick your spice to the curb is the smell test - if it has a vibrant aroma keep on using it, if not, then it's time to compost it and head to the spice store. And this is always a treat for me because that's where I get to be like a kid in a candy store!
As figs contain a fair amount of sugar, I have limited the amount added to this recipe quite severely, making this a low-sugar preserve. Not only is this better for your pancreas, but this means you will actually be able to appreciate the rich flavor of the figs and spices instead of just tasting a mouthful of sugar. And since sugar creates a more acidic environment in our bodies, I have tried to balance this out a bit by adding alkalizing lemon juice and zest at the end of the cooking process. Plus there is the added bonus that lemon zest contains a spectrum of vitamins, minerals and fiber that can give your body a mini-nutritional boost.
And if you're wondering where the pectin is - a common preserve ingredient that thickens the mixture - that has been replaced with chia seeds, which swell when added to liquid and form a hydrogel capsule, absorbing up to 27 times their weight in water! There also happens to be a small amount of pectin both in the figs and in the zest of the lemon. And the best part is that chia seeds are loaded with fiber, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids and various minerals making this a nutrient packed preserve!
Note - this recipe can easily be halved if you don't have that many figs on hand. You can also play around with combining the figs with other fruits or just replacing with another fruit altogether. And I encourage you to get creative with your spices, especially knowing that they do so much more than make our foods taste and smell divine!
4.5lbs - approximately 12 cups of fresh figs washed and destemmed
3 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon raw vanilla bean powder or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar or maple syrup
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
juice from 2 lemons, approximately 6 tablespoons
zest from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Add all of the ingredients above to a large stock pot except the chia seeds - reserve the juice and zest from one lemon to be added at the end of the process. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes uncovered, stirring frequently. At this point turn the heat to low, cover and let the mixture simmer for 40 to 50 minutes stirring occasionally. Note - depending on the texture of preserve you prefer, you can mash the figs or keep them more in tact throughout the cooking process.
After the figs have fully softened, remove from the the heat - don't worry if the preserve has not totally thickened up, as that will happen once you add in the chia seeds. At this point stir in the chia seeds, juice from the second lemon and its zest until fully incorporated. Then spoon the preserve into sterilized mason jars. Let the jars sit out on the counter at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours - until cooled - before storing. Because this is a low sugar preserve, it will only last about 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator. You can also store the preserve in mason jars in the freezer for up to 6 months - make sure to leave a little room at the top if you know you are going to be placing your jars in the freezer.
Serve this preserve over toasted bread - you're getting a sneak peak at my new grain free bread recipe in the picture below - as a topping over your morning porridge or even on top of your favorite ice cream!
“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
~ Syliva Plath, excerpt taken from The Bell Jar