Monday, March 21, 2016

Sweet Onion Jam and Diet Changes

Well hello there!

Spring weather is almost upon us and I can hardly stand it. This is my favorite time of year - when the sun is out more often, the days get longer, and the weather starts to get warmer. It's also when we finalize our garden plan, which I love to do. I could spend hours pouring over seed catalogs and refiguring our garden layout and planting plans. I guess that makes me a bit of a nerd, but it's all worth it late summer when we're overloaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Saint Patrick's Day just passed us, and since I am now Irish by marriage, I like to try and make something special each year for my husband. Usually it's shepherd's pie (his favorite), but this year I decided to switch it up. I've never actually had corned beef or pastrami, but I thought this seemed like the year to try. Wait, whaaatt?!? 28 Cooks, the vegaquarian blogger is talking about eating meat?

I guess I should back up just a bit. Most of my friends and family know this by now, but yes, it's true. I've introduced some meat back into my diet. See, I had been a vegetarian for about 12 years. I started when I was 25 after realizing how horrible my diet was and figuring that if I spent 30 days eating just vegetables, I'd eat better. 30 days turned into 12 years and I really enjoyed it. That being said, I can't deny I had some issues with it as far as getting enough protein and iron. Since I became a vegetarian, I've been anemic and had very low iron. My doctor would admonish me every year to try and supplement with more iron, but no matter how much iron rich vegetables I ate or iron supplement I tried, it just stayed low. And it wasn't really a big deal overall and I just dealt with it. Sure, I was cold often and my fingers and feet were always freezing, but I wasn't ready to give up being a vegetarian.

And then I got pregnant with my son. And somewhere within my 3rd trimester, my iron became dangerously low. Because of it, I had some cardiac issues and ended up seeing a hematologist. We started some serious iron supplementation for a few weeks to see if I could get back to a better level. But several weeks of taking pills multiple times a day had little effect. He made it very clear to me that I was looking at blood transfusions, unless I did something else. And although I wasn't crazy about it, I decided that a steak sounded like a much less invasive option than all that comes with transfusions. I cried a bit over the decision, but then promptly called my dad (aka. The Grillmaster) and asked him to make me my first steak.

Now this is where I should say as a former vegetarian that it was horrible and I choked it down. But I didn't. It was actually on the tasty side. And after a few weeks of adding grassfed meat into my diet, I felt better and my lab levels were much better. I was able to stop my cardiac monitoring and the huge doses of iron I was on. It definitely wasn't an easy decision to make, but honestly my body felt so much better. And quite frankly, I would have eaten anything if it was better for my growing baby.

And so now, we still eat meat occasionally. I still miss being a vegetarian and we mostly eat vegetarian at home, except for adding in meat a few times a week. And we do our best to only eat local, organic, and grass fed meat as much as possible.

Now back to our Saint Patrick's day feast - I decided this year to try something different, and decided to make pastrami. We don't have a smoker, but I found this awesome recipe. It turned out incredibly amazing. I also made a loaf of Jewish Onion Rye (recipe to come later this week) but it needed something else to spice it up. Enter the onion jam.

I know it sounds weird, but the flavors of this jam are absolutely incredible. It's slightly sweet, yet has a lovely savory flavor from the onions and red wine. It goes great with the pastrami, but is tasty enough to use in other dishes. I used it in the middle of a grilled cheese for my almost 2-year old (which he loved) and also with a chicken salad sandwich. I'm sure there are a hundred other uses and I can't wait to make another batch.

It's very easy to make and most of the cooking time is just making sure to stir it every once in a while. So go ahead and give it a try - make sure you let me know how it turned out!

Sweet Onion Jam
Makes 2 cups

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup grenadine
1/4 tsp cracked mustard seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook over medium high heat until soft and just translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and lower heat. Leave uncovered and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before using.