Summer, Preserved.

It’s been a very hot and humid summer here in the DC Metro area. Upon an escape to visit my parents in my hometown of Coopersburg, PA I finally had a chance to read my August 2010 edition of Whole Living: body+soul in balance magazine.

Half way through my read I stumbled upon a chapter on canning local produce. I’ve never canned anything before, yet have always had the desire to do so. As I paged through the ideas, from tomatoes to pickles, the last recipe was on canning plum jam. Sold.

mag_jars_03

So, on Saturday morning (after Bootcamp, of course) I headed over to the farmers market in Reston (right on Lake Anne) and purchased 4lbs of plums from one of my local vendors.

Plums_01

Next I washed the jelly jars that I got from my grandmother.

jars_02

I set aside all the ingredients (plums, sugar and lemon juice) and started to boil the jars and the lids. Boiling the jars and the lids helps prepare your tools to properly seal during the canning process.

warmlids_04

boilingjars_05

Next, I had to prepare the plums by chopping them into quartered pieces and removing the pits. This process took FOREVER!

chopping_06

After everything was properly chopped and the pits were removed, all ingredients were combined in a stockpot placed over high heat. Ingredients were brought to a boil as I mashed up the plums with a potato masher.

mashing_07

The process of mashing boiling plums in not easy. The bubbles of the plum sauce are hot and splatter easily. Be sure to wear an apron as your mashing. Then you’ll begin to notice a bubbly scum compiling on top of your mashed, juicy plums. Be sure to skim that scum off the top of the surface while you’re mashing and mixing.

boilandskim_08

After about 10-15 minutes, depending on how much plum jam you’re making, the fruit should begin to rise to the top of your hot sauce. Once the mixture clings to your spoon, falling off in languid clumps, you’re ready to start filling your hot jars with the mixture. Take one can out of the boiling water one at a time. Funnel the plum mixture into your jars, leaving about a half inch at the top. Wipe rims and threads of the jar clean with a damp cloth.

fillthejars_09

Put the warmed lids on each jar of plum jam, seal them tightly and place them back into boiling water. This process should take about 10 minutes.

boilfilledjars_10

After 10(ish) minutes remove the canner from the hot stove-top and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Once cool, use your tongs to remove each jar of jam from the hot water. Check the lids for a seal, and wipe the lid and jar with a cool, clean cloth. Allow the jars to sit for 12-24 hours and then store in a cool, dry dark place until ready to eat!

coolingjars_11

sealedforfreshness_12

“Wired” to the iPad

I wasn’t sure I really cared about the iPad. I mean, how much more technology do I really need (I totally feel like my grandma saying that).

Here’s the thing: technology is changing the way we engage with each other and with content. The iPad is going to enable magazines to thrive again, using multidimensional experiences to re-engage with their audience. This is so cool! Check out this video by Wired on their new iPad App:

Yogurt & the 14-day Activia Challenge

I’m not sure if it was the money back guarantee or the fact that I was sick and tired of an upset belly on a daily basis, I tried the Activia 14 day Challenge. What did I have to lose ya know, especially since a 4-pack was on sale for $1.99 at Wegmans at the time.

Strawberry Activia

As most of you know, I just started writing professionally for Weight Lost Plans and as part of this week’s news assignment I decided to do a little research on probiotics and all their hype. First it’s important to understand that yogurt is made by introducing non-harmful bacteria into milk. All yogurts contain the starter cultures Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. It’s significant to also note that between these two bacterial, there are a number of strains, and studies show that all of these strains are associated with reducing diarrhea, which means yogurt on it’s own is naturally good for your digestive system. Recently though, several manufacturers of yogurt — and other products — are beginning to add extra probiotic strains to their products in the hopes of providing extra health benefits and improved marketability.

According to a Johns Hopkins health Alert, Dannon Activia was the first yogurt to market itself as “probiotic,” meaning that it has added live bacterial cultures. The added bacterial that it contains is called Bifidobacterium animalis DN-173 010, otherwise known as Bifidus Regularis, a proprietary strain trademarked by Dannon. The interesting thing about this strain is that it has been shown to survive the trip through the digestive tract and reach the colon intact.

And so it began for me – almost a month ago I began the challenge. At first I didn’t really notice much, but about 3 days in I realized that I ended the day with no cramps or bloating as I normally have. By the weekend I totally forgot my mid morning yogurt snack and by Sunday my belly was noticeably rumble-ly. HUH! Back to focus on Monday and through the next weekend, I was hooked. This yogurt was really doing the trick and to this day I’m still eating it. Marketing ploy or not, the 14-day Activia Challege worked for me!

What does Julia Child have to do with me?

This was the question that Julie Powell asked herself before she started her ‘deranged’ assignment where she spent the next 365 days cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. That’s 524 recipes and she even writes a blog about her adventure. This is the most darling true story, and I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVED IT! I loved the cooking, I loved the baking, I loved the story, I loved the blogging, I loved learning about Julia Child’s life. Please, if you have 2 hours watch this film. It’s purely delicious.

Letting Genius Catch You

Elizabeth Gilbert has genius, but she’d never go along with “being” a genius. It’s the natural way people thought about creativity and genius in the Western Culture before humans were at the center of the universe and began to refer to themselves as “a genius.” This is her TED talk. I found it funny, personal and surprisingly moving and hope you do too.