Cool, and Light, and Best of All, Pre-Made

summertimeWith all due respect to the Gershwin Brothers and DuBose Heyward, they must have been high when they wrote, “Summertime, and the living is easy.”

‘Cause it ain’t.summernicEven when people lived very close to the land, in previous centuries, summer was no golden hazed, idealized dream world of fried catfish, starry nights, and summer breezes.

If you laid around in the summer instead of working your non-air-conditioned fingers to the sweaty bone come winter time you and your family would likely starve.  The summer is time for tending the fields, harvesting and canning, and killing, butchering, and smoking.

vacay traffic

A vacation traffic jam III Painting by Hilde Goossens

Nowadays we bustle around taking the kids to camp or intersession care.  At work we’re either filling in for vacationing co-workers or getting ahead for and/or catching up from our own vacation.  It’s hot, the traffic’s a mess, and tempers are short.  We’re horrifying ourselves shopping for a bathing suit, aggravating ourselves by returning said bathing suit, or giving up and getting no bathing suit at all.hot flashI am not even joking a little bit when I say I am over the summer already and impatiently awaiting the State Fair and sweater weather (the feelings may be exacerbated slightly by these hellish, fury-provoking flashes of heat I’ve been experiencing lately).

This week’s newly revamped summer recipe can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or dessert.  It contains seasonal fruit, and it’s vegetarian, but can be made vegan, gluten-free, keto or paleo.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s chia pudding.  Chia seeds are small pips which swell and soften when mixed with liquid.  It’s similar to tapioca pudding but is so much quicker, easier, and healthier.

I’ll give you a quick basic recipe, then break down ingredients so you can make substitutions and create something that is uniquely yours, tailored to the tastes of you and your family.

Summer Chia Seed Puddingchia pudding recipe

1 ½ cups milk

2/3 cup whole chia seeds

3 tablespoons liquid sweetener

½ teaspoon extract or flavoring of your choice

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup berries

Garnish and topping

Directions

Place berries in bowl and mash almost completely with potato masher.

Put milk, chia seeds, sweetener, flavoring and salt into bowl with berries.  Stir ingredients together.  You’ll feel the seeds start to absorb the liquid and swell. 

Cover and refrigerate for three hours or overnight, until seeds have swollen and softened to the consistency of tapioca. 4 servings.perfect chia puudingMilk-use anything from whole milk to fat-free; white, buttermilk, chocolate, or strawberry.  Don’t use anything thicker than whole because it will become greasy cement.  You can also use nut milk, coconut water, or fruit juice—cook’s choice.

Chia seeds-you can find them everywhere.  Buy black or white ones, organic or conventionally grown, it doesn’t make any difference.syrupsLiquid sweetener-Honey, maple syrup, agave, corn syrup.  If it’s sweet and you can pour it from bottle, you can use it.

Berries-they’re needed here because they add extra liquid to the pudding.  But another very juicy fruit works such as very ripe peaches, citrus fruits, or even tomatoes.juicy fruitsMix-ins and toppings-I love toasted pecans and dried cherries.  But what about salted peanuts and dried banana?  Or chocolate chips and biscotti pieces?  Or pomegranate seeds and pistachios?

Service-Ladle it into jars and sprinkle on toppings.  Then grab and go from the fridge or stick them in a cooler for road trips.  Or layer it (unset) into parfait glasses with cookies or pound cake for a dessert trifle.chia trifleThe whole idea of this chia pudding is that it’s stress-free and open to a multitude of interpretations.

And while summer may be anything but easy, this cool creamy treat truly is.

summer village

Not an actual depiction of an actual summer.

Thanks for your time.

Honey, It’s You

So there I was, seven years old, laying on my stomach with my pants down, trying not to cry  while my friend’s mother tried to gently pull the stinger out of my butt.

When I was informed that after a honey bee stings a person, it dies, I thought it was a fitting punishment for the mortifying position into which it had thrust me.  But the bee was actually a victim of my adversarial relationship with gravity (I’d fallen keester first on it while the poor thing was just minding its own bee’s wax).

I may not have appreciated honey bees when I was a child, but I do now.

They’re actually much more useful and impressive than most people you’ll meet today.

Honey bees do two huge things for us humans.

In the US alone, they pollinate 14.6 billion (yes, I said billion, with a b) dollars of crops a year.  They are the sole pollinator of almonds.  Without their industriousness, countless crops would be greatly reduced.  If you think produce is expensive now, think about paying $50 for a head of broccoli—if you were lucky enough to find one.

And then we get to their sticky, amber-colored signature product; honey.

Before we even get to its yumminess and versatility, we need to talk about honey’s miraculous properties.

Unlike just about every other food you could name, honey never goes wonky.  Archeologists found honey in 2200 year old clay jars that was safe to eat and still yummy.

It has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Put it on a cut—no infection.  Dab it on a zit, let it sit for 10 minutes or so and rinse it off.  The redness will go away, and in the morning, the pimple will be gone.

And it tastes so good.  The thing I love about honey is that not only will it sweeten anything it’s added to; it also adds its distinctive flavor.  And the flavor varies according to which flora the bees danced their pollination mambo.  The rule of thumb is; the darker the honey, the stronger the flavor.  My new obsession is buckwheat.  It has a surfeit of “honey-ness”.  It adds its uniqueness to all kinds of recipes.

Blueberry buttermilk chia seed pudding

blueberry chia

1 ½ cups low fat or fat free buttermilk

2/3 cup chia seeds

3 tablespoons honey

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup blueberries

Directions:

Place blueberries in a bowl and mash with a potato masher.

Put buttermilk, chia seeds, honey, vanilla and salt into the bowl along with the blueberries.  Whisk until fully blended.

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Cover and refrigerate for three hours or overnight, until the chia seeds have swollen and softened to the size and consistency of tapioca. 4 servings.

Gramma’s Cough Syrup

cough syrup

Juice of 1 lemon

¼ cup honey

¼ cup Bourbon

Whisk together and drink at room temp, or spoon into hot tea.

Chrissy’s Dressing

chrissy's dressing

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 shallot

¼ cup Balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil (approx.)

Salt and pepper to taste

Put first four ingredients into a blender or food processor.  Blend ‘til smooth.  Slowly add oil until it is a dressing consistency.  Season, and taste for seasoning.  For best flavor, eat within an hour.  Makes about one cup.

And if you’ve never tried creamed honey, give it a go.  A schmear makes a piece of toasted multi-grain totally taste like decadent French toast.

You may have heard of colony collapse disorder.  They truly are in peril.  So, support your local honey bee.

Don’t sit on them.

Thanks for your time.