Coconut Grape Chia Pudding

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Most of my friends and aquaintances know me as the girl that knows a bit about agriculture and growing vegetables. Few of them remember or know that I started out in college as an English major, or that I actually did continue to take English classes all the way through, receiving a minor instead. All my favorite classes as an undergrad were in the English department, not the college of agriculture. I particularly enjoyed the upper division writing and research-intensive classes as I enjoyed reading others’ research even more than I enjoyed actually reading the classic literature itself.

 

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What I’ve been particularly excited about since deciding to go back to school is the opportunity to dive back into the academic literature—this time in a way that is a little more applicable and interesting to me now than the cohesion of magic and religious practices in medieval literature. Like grape juice. Is grape juice beneficial? Will the grape juice in my freezer enhance my athletic pursuits? Can it do other things?

 

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I’ve had a gallon of really tasty homemade/homegrown grape juice hanging out in the freezer for over a year now. My best friend’s parents gifted it to us for Christmas in 2014. Having already used half of it last year, I knew it was good. But I rarely ever crave a glass of juice, let alone a gallon of it. And William, though he’s quite keen on green juice, proclaimed grape juice is for summer, and turned up his nose when I asked if he’d drink it.

After defrosting the juice, I noticed the thick must from the home-pressing settling at the bottom. It looked, smelled, and tasted like there was a lot of nutrition there, in a good way. Since tart cherry, pomegranate, and beet juice have all been in the research and news these last few years for their benefits to athletes, I started wondering what the verdict has been on grape juice? I did a quick initial search and scan through peer-reviewed journals, and though there’s not an overwhelming amount of research on grape juice and exercise, there is enough to suggest grape juice might increase running time-to-exhaustion (1), improve recovery (2) and immune function (3). What I’m really excited about is to learn how to pick apart the good research from the bad since a study can be found to support just about every viewpoint on any given topic.

For now, I’m comfortable with the idea that eating this coconut-grape chia pudding might have helped me avoid coming down with a full-blown cold last week when I was experiencing a little sore throat and depleted energy. Or it might have been that I recognized the signs and took it easy for a few days. In any case, I’ve been wanting to turn that grape juice into chia pudding for a while now, and as it turns out, grape juice thickened up with chia seeds and some coconut makes an excellent dessert, or breakfast, if you’re of the mind.

 

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Coconut-Grape Chia Seed Pudding, makes 4 cups

The Recipe Redux challenged us to an easy, seven-ingredient-or-less recipe this month since it’s Income Tax Season. What I like about this recipe is that it makes a big batch, can last for several days or feed a crowd, and can be interchanged with another type of juice for a flavor mix-up. I prefer to serve it with tangy yogurt and crunchy granola, to create more of a parfait, but the chia pudding is also quite nice on its own. 

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

3/4 cup chia seeds

4 cups 100% grape juice

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

granola of choice, optional

plain unsweetened coconut yogurt, optional

peanut butter, optional

  • In a medium bowl, whisk the chia seeds, coconut flakes, vanilla extract, and grape juice together. Let sit out for a few minutes and then whisk again to make sure the chia seeds are evenly distributed. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  • Remove from the fridge, spoon into dishes, and serve as is or with the optional mix-ins.

 

 

References:

  1. Toscano, L.T., Tavares, R.L., Toscano, T.T., Oliveira da Silva, C.S., Monteiro de Almeida, A.E., Biasoto, A.C.T.,…and Silva, A.S. (2015). Potential ergogenic activity of grape juice in runners. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 40(9): 899-906.
  2. Dalla Corte, C.L, De Carvalho, N.R., Amaral, G.P., Puntel, G.O., Silva, L.F.A., Retamoso, L.T.,…and Soares, F.A.A. (2013). Antioxidant effect of organic purple grape juice on exhaustive exercise. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 38(5): 558-565.
  3. UPI NewsTrack. (2008). Quercetin, found in produce, fights flu. Business Insights: Global. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards

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I go down to the edge of the sea.
How everything shines in the morning light!
The cusp of the whelk,
the broken cupboard of the clam,
the opened, blue mussels,
moon snails, pale pink and barnacle scarred—
and nothing at all whole or shut, but tattered, split,
dropped by the gulls onto the gray rocks and all the moisture gone.
It’s like a schoolhouse
of little words,
thousands of words.
First you figure out what each one means by itself,
the jingle, the periwinkle, the scallop
       full of moonlight.
Then you begin, slowly, to read the whole story.
                                     – Breakage, Mary Oliver
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I was at church a few weeks ago, an hour before mass. The college-student musicians were rehearsing and as I spent a quiet hour in contemplation, the fits and starts of their rehearsal played out in my periphery. Soon my mind wandered to simply listening. Their music is just what I need each Sunday and one of the reasons I go to the ‘sinner’s mass,’ the last one offered. As I listened, I silently marveled at how such a beautiful performance in the next hour could come from a sub-par practice.

I let my mind continue its wondering, thinking back to my own practices growing up. I played the saxophone and piano. The noise made by a substandard seventh grade sax player was a horrendous thing to listen to, I’m sure; my siblings made it clear they’d rather I not practice. The music group at church is substantially more talented but like many rehearsals, theirs was remarkably un-put-together.

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I find that life is much the same as these practices. It’s rough around the edges with fits and starts, jumping from a particular staccato section to the line down the page so as to get the timing down, and then sweeping in and out of the harmony, dropping each one part way through and picking up at another spot.

There’s a randomness to it that is uncomfortable when our expectations are linear. It reminds me of this diagram of expectations versus reality.

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In moments when I most need them, the right words often come back to me, as if in having read them once months or years before, they were saved up for just the time I’d need them again. Ryan Hall’s Facebook posts often harbor the right words:

Sometimes your goals feel far from where you’re at in the moment. Rather than feeling overwhelmed, think ‘What can I be faithful with today to get one step closer?’ and celebrate progress.

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What I’m trying to say through the disorder of these paragraphs, is that life is not meant to be clear. We don’t know what we’re in for when we start. The way through can be equally hazy. As Mary Oliver says, there are a thousand words or experiences or paths to be sorted, each one to be picked up and puzzled back together into some semblance of sense.

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Beauty can come out of the fragmented practices. The hard going and the demanding everyday workouts prepare and toughen us for the real tests, the big performances, the meeting of monumental goals, and dreams that once felt far out of reach.

Sometimes we know what lies ahead; we are confident we can pull off the performance despite not having done it before. Other times we’re simply walking in faith, offering our best in each step and celebrating progress, even the barest glint of it, along the way.

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Savory Grape Syrup on Black Rice with White Beans + Collards
, serves 4

I spent half my childhood practically living at the home/nursery/farm of my two best friends down the road. Jari and Sheila, who I consider my second set of parents, gifted us the richest, grape-iest home-grown and pressed grape juice for Christmas. I’ve had gallons of it tucked away in the freezer for months, all the while trying to scheme up exactly the right way to make use of it. I boiled down a few cups into a thick, molasses-type concoction that is heavily infused with fresh ginger and rosemary. If you have an hour or so to mostly ignore a simmering pot, grab a bottle of grape juice and make syrup! It is simply the best with earthy black rice, white beans, and whatever greens are on hand this spring. 

3 cups grape juice

2 Tbs. freshly grated ginger

2 Tbs. finely chopped rosemary

1 tsp. ground mustard seeds

1 cup uncooked black rice

2 1/4 cups water, chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups cooked white beans

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 medium onion, chopped

2-3 tsp. olive oil

1 large bunch collard greens, stems removed and chopped

a handful or two toasted walnuts, chopped

black pepper to taste

  • For the syrup:  In a medium-sized saucepan, bring grape juice, ginger, rosemary and mustard to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced to about 1 cup of syrup.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the ingredients by cooking the black rice, chopping the onion and greens, and toasting and chopping the walnuts.
  • When the syrup is reduced, heat olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, adding a splash of water or more oil, as needed. Then, stir in the salt, black pepper and greens. Cook just until the greens begin to wilt.
  • In a large bowl or on individual plates, stir together the rice, beans and greens. Top with walnuts and drizzle the syrup over the top, stirring through before serving.