White Fig Jam

Snacks

Let’s talk about snacks for the kickoff of the last full week of Vegan MoFo.

I like snacks.

Lots of people have lots of opinions on the process of eating – when to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat. I grew up thinking 3 square meals a day was proper. Then, the diet marketing machine jumped in, and advice ranged from juice fasting to eating 6 times a day. Eat many small meals. Eat fewer large meals. Eat a bigger breakfast. Don’t eat less than 3 hours before bed. Midnight snack? Shame on you!

Well, having run the gamut myself on all extremes of health and fitness, I think I have the solution: there is no solution. Not one that fits all, anyway.

I eat a minimum of 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Most days, I also have a snack. Sometimes, that snack comes around 3pm when I know I’m not having dinner for another few hours. Sometimes, that snack comes around 10pm when I ate an early dinner but my stomach is rumbling and I still have 3 hours to go before bed.

The moral of the story: food is not the enemy.

Sometimes, I eat a handful of nuts as a snack. Sometimes, I eat a PB&J. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of cereal. Sometimes, it’s raisins or a banana. (It’s almost never vegetables, shame on me… thus, the juicer!)

This summer, I was all about making my own freezer jam. I also developed an affinity for figs. Unfortunately, by the time I realized I loved figs (and thought it would be a great idea to make fig jam), it was too late to find fresh figs at the market.

I finally broke down and bought a pre-made fig jam.

White Fig Jam

White Fig Jam

If you like Fig Newtons and have not tried fig jam or fig butter (I hear Trader Joe’s has an awesome fig butter, but there are no Trader Joe’s nearby, *sob*), you have got to try it.

Fig jam

Fig jam

It’s ridiculous. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this sandwich.

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Snack on, my friends.

Dried Mission Figs

Fig-A-Ro

Is it just me that ends up singing songs from old Tom & Jerry cartoons while enjoying my new favorite food?

It’s weird what we remember from childhood.

So, figs. Back in late 2009 when I started this whole whole-foods organic thing (pardon all the wholes), my New Year’s resolution for 2010 was to try 10 new foods. I ended up blowing that out of the water, trying nearly 50 new things. (It wasn’t hard; I’d lived a picky eater’s sheltered food life). To this day, I still try to grab at least one new food to incorporate into my diet with each trip to the grocery store. After all, variety is key to proper nutrition, and I prefer to get my nutrients from food, glorious food!

(And organic chai green tea. Chai is a nutrient, right?!)

I was inspired to try figs based on the recollection of how much I loved eating Fig Newtons as a kid (again with the childhood resurgence). My first dip into the fig pool happened recently over dinner with a friend at a restaurant called Mas Tapas in Charlottesville, VA. They had a fig plate that sounded intriguing. Thankfully, my friend confused figs with dates and didn’t much like the figs. More figs for me! I ate them all.

Then, figs kept popping up on various food blogs that I read, particularly on Kath Eats Real Food (KERF). She put figs in her oatmeal. She put figs in her salad. She put figs in her leftovers.

So when I came across dried black mission figs at the Friendly City food co-op, I grabbed ’em.

Dried Mission Figs

Dried Mission Figs. *Photo Credit: mar__ on Flickr.

I soon discovered that these dried figs tasted just like Fig Newtons! (Wow, right?!) And, they had a nice substantial chew to them – more hearty than just popping a handful of raisins, and just as sweetly satisfying.

I started chopping up dried figs and throwing them on my salads and into my oatmeal. Heck, I started grabbing random figs to munch on as I passed through the kitchen!

So, what is a fig? Where do figs come from? What good are they in our food rainbow (because boy, they sure are weird looking!)?

Figs originated in Spain and were brought to the US in the late 1700’s by Franciscan missionaries, who planted fig trees (known as Ficas trees – a member of the mulberry family) in San Diego and throughout California. When fresh, a fig is pear shaped with a purplish-black skin and pink flesh. They have tiny, crunchy little seeds inside. Figs are in season summer to fall in the US and are typically grown all along our US coastlines (zones 7-10, for all you gardening types).

Figs are a good source of potassium, calcium, manganese, and dietary fiber, amongst other things. If you choose fresh figs, note that they are very perishable – so pick figs that are tender but not mushy. They should smell mildly sweet, and not sour. Keep fresh figs in the fridge and eat them within a few days.

Fresh Figs

Fresh Figs. *Photo Credit: Xerones on Flickr.

Dried figs have a much better shelf life (several months, shelf-stable or in the fridge), but choose organic dried figs if you can. Conventionally processed figs are often treated with sulfites when dried and processed. Sulfites cause allergic reactions in an estimated 1 out of 100 people, and can be particularly acute to those with asthma. Federal regulations prohibit the use of chemical preservatives on certified organic foods.

Figs are a delicious, nutritious, sweet treat to help bridge the gap between lush summer fruits and the subtle squashes of fall. Eat a few figs and reminisce about your childhood. If Tom & Jerry like ’em, so should you!

*Photo Credits: mar__ and Xerones on Flickr

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

I Eat in Virginia

Hello from Virginia!

It has taken a few weeks to settle in, but I finally have a functional kitchen and food in my fridge. And, after 4 weeks of eating lacto-veg again (for sake of convenience during the move), I’m also back to my vegan ways.

To prove that you haven’t missed anything too exciting, here’s what I’ve been up to the past couple weeks:

A Meal Amidst Boxes

A Meal Amidst Boxes

A meal amidst boxes – I was still unpacking. I could only find one pot, so I boiled some water, steamed some broccoli, chopped up a red pepper, and made organic shells and cheese from a box.

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

Cooking! Quinoa Pineapple Stir-Fry from Veganomicon

My first actual post-move-in meal, fully cooked! I had a social gathering to attend, and made this recipe from VeganomiconPineapple Cashew Quinoa Stir Fry. It was a big hit, so I made it again for myself at home. I didn’t use as much pineapple juice as recommended – just whatever juice I could get out of my can of pineapple – and made the quinoa in the rice cooker with the juice and water. I find that quinoa cooks best and burns the least with a 2:1 water:quinoa ratio in the rice cooker.

Roasted green beans = Green Bean Fries!

Roasted green beans = Green Bean Fries!

Lastly, a new bit of awesomeness: roasted green beans = GREEN BEAN FRIES! Oh, how I love anything I can eat with my hands and dip into sauce. Actually, I was just mogging these babies straight off the cookie sheet while prepping the rest of the meal. They never even made it to my dinner plate.

A photo-less bit of joy around here lately: I’ve been chopping up dried figs and putting them in my salads. Nom. SO good.

I do have some big news coming, and that is – I made concord grape freezer jam this weekend! I had to cobble together how-to’s from various web sites, as most emphasized traditional canning methods, and I was determined to pull it off freezer-jam-style. The good news is, I sampled the fruits of my labor today, and it’s a win. Write-up soon to come.

Until then, mog on, my friends.