Jam On

What is it about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that makes it such a fundamental food? It is simple. Cheap. And so easy to make even a child can do it. It was, perhaps, the first "fast food" we knew.

But I didn't grow up like everyone else. My mother loathed peanut butter and the blatant absence of this food from my childhood, as well as the ubiquitous peanut butter and jelly sandwich, means I am not much of a jelly lover either. While this quintessential food of our youth draws heavily on our nostalgia, by today's standards, it is not a meal that beckons any nutritional accolades or "mother of the year" awards. Particularly if it's made on nutrient-deprived white bread.

If you were and still are a lover of PB&J's, let's revisit this classic favorite for both a nutritional overhaul and a contemporary spin.

Almond butter and cashew butter are the grown-up versions of Jif and Skippy peanut butter--and with the growing awareness of peanut allergies, there two new nut butters also the safest option to keep in your pantry. Loaded with healthy fats and fiber, almond butter is a wildly versatile and tasty alternative that can be added to smoothies, used to make cookies, brownies, energy balls and more. Similarly, cashew butter is gaining attention because of its inherent sweet and creamy consistency that makes it utterly irresistible. 

Now that we've identified two contemporary replacements for peanut butter, what about something better than sugar-laden jelly made from fruit juice with perhaps a bit of preservatives and even water? 

Let me introduce you to fruit chia jam, a stunningly simple and wholesome solution to that jar of Smucker's that is stuck in the back of your fridge. Using three ingredients--fruit, a touch of maple syrup and chia seeds, you can make a homemade jam that everyone will want to slather on toast, swirl into yogurt or chia seed pudding and even smear it on vanilla ice cream. Unlike the time-consuming traditional process of canning fruit and making preserves, you can have this jam ready to eat in about 20 minutes.

Seriously, this is a jam you can feel good about eating--and serving. It's so lovely, you might even want to double the recipe and gift a jar to someone you love or make them a sandwich. Because nothing says,"I love you," like a homemade almond butter and blueberry chia jam sandwich. Filled with plenty of love and wholesome ingredients, whether you are 4 or 48, this is a sandwich to savor. But, please, don't serve it on white bread.

Buen provecho! 
Blueberry Chia Jam
The Cowgirl Gourmet thanks Oh She Glows for this recipe inspiration

Don't have any blueberries? Use whatever fruit you have on hand and frozen fruit works as well. Add different spices--a dash of cinnamon with peaches, strawberry with basil, fresh ginger with pears, etc. to celebrate the seasons. Serve liberally on toast, with oatmeal or other hot cereal, spoon into yogurt, add to banana ice cream, smoothies and more.

Makes 1-1/2 cups

1 pound fresh fruit, cut up into chunks, or 12 ounce bag frozen fruit of choice (blueberry, strawberry, peaches, pineapple, etc.)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons chia seeds
Juice of 1/2 lemon or other acid, if desired (balsamic vinegar would be nice with blueberries and strawberries)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste, if desired

In a medium saucepan, add the fruit and place over medium heat. Pour the maple syrup in and stir well to combine.
Bring to a low boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Stir frequently and cook for about 5 minutes. Using a potato masher, lightly mash the fruit, leaving some for texture, if you want.

Stir in the chia seeds and continue cooking for another 10-15 minutes.
It is done when the mixture has cooked down, there is no liquid left in the pan and it reaches the thickness you want in a jam. Once the jam is thick, remove from the heat and let cool.

Reserve in a glass jar and refrigerate.

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