It isn’t fall yet…and here’s this chilly crisp note in the air already. We did have a well-behaved winter last time and the summer this year had been just too friendly. There were some rains shattering our weekend vacations goals intermittently, and yet, by far we were able to soak in the summer sun and make the most of the season with a sunny-side-up! The weatherman hasn’t been kind to all though. First, it was hurricane Harvey, and now Irma. The mass devastation, the despair…it more than pains to read and hear about the catastrophic damage in the southern states that are affected. With prayers in my lips and a lot of hope, wish there’s an end to their agonizing ordeal soon. I lived not far from the New Jersey city, where Hurricane Sandy made a storm surge in 2012. The aftermath was very cruel and extremely difficult. There was massive flooding, no electricity, acute shortage of food supplies, homelessness and destruction everywhere, to say the least. It took months for the situation to stabilize and to combat some of the damage done.
And then, I read about the current crimes in India that set the news and social media on fire. Amidst incredible headway made in sports, technology and business, there are also news that are very disturbing and regressive. Assassination of a very respected, senior and one of the gutsiest journalists the country had. A ruthless murder of a grade-2 boy in school. A five year old assaulted while she was in school, right in the country’s capital city. A prominent spiritual guru with a reputation of exploiting his female followers. Where are we headed with all this and more? There’s a lot of disgust and anger brimming. At times I feel so angry and want to fill posts after posts, and covering walls with writings against these hateful events. And yet at other times, I feel very dejected…a peculiar disconnect to shut down all media portals that carries these saddening news to me. Does that change anything? It never will. It doesn’t matter how I feel. I may just be a drop of water in the ocean. Things would turn around for better, when they are facilitated to be different than they are today…when hopefully one day there’s a rather drastic sweep-out law passed against the heinousness…and when all country-women and men, are able to stand together with optimistic like mindedness for a paradigm shift in the society.
These things apart, my transition into this new week has been fairly easy. Technically, we are into the 2nd week of back to school. And it brings in a bunch of lunch-box plus snack-time ideas/thoughts/plans among other notions. 7 year old Big-J loves fun foods, isn’t amused with what her school cafeteria offers, dislikes cheese, and prefers her multigrain sandwiches and pastas over upmas, rice preparations, wraps or parathas. I do try to add a small side of veggies/fruits and an egg or a tiny portion of meat, when I can. Moreover, my picky eater doesn’t like her lunch-box menus change drastically, so I try to do what best I can in varying her sandwich options minimally over the week. Because time has always been this monster, I stick to what’s easy, quick and as healthy as it can get.
Sometimes, I’d boil and mash veggies together the night before, or pair them with egg/meat and pack a sandwich. Or I use this creamy avocado and veggie spread or homemade hummus on her bread. These spreads keep well when refrigerated and provide such solace during lunch-packing! Most other days, it’s her favorite tropical mixed fruit preserve with chia seeds, that go between the bread slices. This one’s such a savior, I tell you. One batch of this jam and it lasts for a couple months in this household of 4. Breakfast time and most lunch-boxes are sorted for this mom.
Mango fuels my family and it never goes wrong with it. This recipe is essentially how Ma makes her fruit preserves…only that, here I used my own blend of fruits, replaced sugar with honey and added chia seeds. I use frozen mango chunks with frozen pineapple and diced fresh clementines. I cook them till nice and mushy. Mash and blend them. Add some honey and lots of chia. I then bottle them. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet been able to succeed Ma’s way of flawless canning (I am not even half way up there!). One failed attempt at it and I registered myself for a live canning demonstration and best practices session locally. Soon after, and amidst juggling between accomplishing work goals, list of to-do’s and keeping a track of our family activities, I realized I had missed that demo! Defeated, I seriously think I shouldn’t give another shot at canning…not until I take a beginner’s class on “how to can your preserves, sauces and squashes (concentrated syrups)”. May be one day I’ll learn canning from Ma or from one of those community classes they organize here. But I doubt, I’ll ever get myself to take the time and do the right techniques, when I can easily refrigerate my preserve bottles without a problem and store for a couple months.
Now before I get on to yet another thought-provoking agenda and start ranting again, here’s the recipe of the tropical mixed fruit preserve with chia. This jam is light, loaded with the goodness of fruits, crunch of chia, honey sweet, and has a comforting taste with a welcome hint of citrus laced with cloves. The best part of making is that it doesn’t involve a tedious straining of fruit pulp. Pulp is considered beneficial, so the recipe scores some brownie points here too. Also, given this one’s homemade, it has a very nice texture and consistency…it effortlessly spreads on bread and yet holds up good. This jam relies on the natural jelling properties of chia seeds for the purpose. In the name of sweet ending to a meal, I often steal some straight out of the jar. One other favorite way we like this preserve is on a bed of reduced fat goat cheese over wholegrain Wasa crispbread. Although nothing beats rolling up some in a luchi or poori or a paratha! Do make some, leave me a comment to let me know how you like them and have a great week you all…
Makes about 8.5 US cups of preserve
- 4 cups chopped skin-on, fresh clementines or sweet orange (I use 7 clementines)
- 4 cups frozen mango pieces
- 4 cups frozen pineapple pieces
- About 2 cups good quality, raw honey
- 1 full cup chia seeds
- 1 tsp ground cloves
**Scale-up or scale-down the ingredients proportionately, for a larger or smaller batch
- Place the chopped clementines, mango and pineapple pieces to a large heavy bottomed pot, over medium heat. Cover cook the fruit for about an hour, till soft, mushy and nicely done. Occasionally, open the lid to stir during cooking to avoid the fruits sticking to the pot-bottom. All moisture/juices should have had evaporated till now. If not, open cook for a couple more minutes to dry out excess moisture. When done, take off from heat.
- Pour honey and add ground cloves in a blender. Transfer the fruit mixture to it. Blend till uniform and smooth.
- Transfer the blended mixture back into the large pot and add all the chia seeds. Give a hearty stir to mix and let stand for about 5-10 minutes, for the chia seeds to swell up.
- Check for consistency (although, the preserve slightly thickens when completely cooled down). If the preserve is thinner than desired, add some more chia seeds (2-3 tbsp at a time) and allow to stand. At the right consistency, the preserve shouldn’t drip down, when spooned.
- Laddle the preserve (while still warm) into mason jars, leaving about 1/2″ inch headspace. Tap down the jars gently to get rid of trapped air bubbles. Screw the lids tight.
Refrigerate the preserve bottles right away, till fully consumed. Alternatively, proceed to can the jars (follow proper canning instructions), and store the preserve bottles at room temperature in a cool, dry place. Once opened however, refrigerate the bottles. This preserve is best consumed within 4 months. Use a clean dry spoon/spreader for the preserve from bottle.
- Wash and pat dry the clementines before you use them. Use the ones that have orange skin without black spots.
- You could also use same amounts of fresh mango and pineapple in the recipe. Though the cooking time may slightly vary.
- You may need less or more than the prescribed amount of honey, depending on the natural sweetness of the fruits you use.
- If you do not like whole chia seeds in your preserve, add them to the blender and blend them together with rest of fruit mixture.
- Use ground cinnamon or nutmeg in the recipe, if you prefer them over cloves.