Summer Foraging Recipe: Elderberry-Blueberry Jam with Chia Seeds

In the woodland valleys of Central California, Elderflower trees have been in bloom all spring with their prolific, lacy white blossoms.  I've enjoyed making Elderflower syrup, candied elderflowers and sweet Elderflower Tempura.  A few days ago, I noticed that some of the trees are starting to bear fruit -- diminutive, tart little berries, deep purplish-blue growing in heavy clusters.  

Inspired by a love of biscuits and jam, foraging, and adapted from a recipe from Simply Beyond Herbs, I whipped up a simple and delicious jam made from the foraged Elderberries, fresh blueberries and using chia seeds for a perfect jammy consistency.

Enjoy and Happy Foraging!
PrintWith ImageWithout Image Elderberry-Blueberry Chia JamYield: One half-pint jarAuthor: Jenn Erickson Prep time: 10 MCook time: 10 MTotal time: 20 M An easy and delicious sweet-tart jam to make from foraged Elderberries. Ingredients:1 1/2 cups elderberries, rinsedPinch of salt1 cup blueberries, rinsed2 Tablespoons Chia Seeds1/2 Tabl…

Spaghetti & Zucchini Pancakes
(and a Compare & Swap Taste Test) finger food?
Yes, oh yes!

My kids loved dipping the crispy spaghetti pancakes into their own cup of sauce. I loved the way the parmesan got all toasty and golden, and the fact that I was able to sneak some veggies into my kids!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Here's how our new family dinner favorite, Spaghetti & Zucchini Pancakes (recipe at bottom of post),  came to be...


In my latest campaign for Smart & Final stores (#CompareandSwap) I was assigned to do a comparison of Smart & Final's private label brand (First Street) to a name brand pasta and pasta sauce. With two very picky eaters at the table, I knew we were in for an interesting challenge.  We'd never done a blind taste test at home (or anywhere else for that matter).  What if they refused to play along?  What if they liked the name brand better?  


Sharing a family meal designed around a blind taste test turned out to be such a fun, surprising, and laughter-filled adventure that we all agreed that we'll have to do it more often!  It turned out to be a wonderful way to get the kids to open their minds to trying new things.  We learned more about each other by observing the different reactions, preferences and comments.  And we came away with a new favorite pasta sauce and recipe too!


I always enjoy shopping at Smart & Final (You can follow my shopping experience HERE).  My ingredients were easy to find and the prices were great.  Here's how the key ingredients for the taste tests compared:

Barilla Spaghetti  .11/ounce
First Street Spaghetti  .06/ounce

Ragu Traditional Spaghetti Sauce .07/ounce
First Street Traditional Pasta Sauce .06/ounce


Test #1:   Plain buttered spaghetti, prepared as directed on the back of each package.

Spaghetti #1:  Got 4 out of 4 votes.
Comments: We liked the mouth-feel of the thicker noodle. Not as salty.
Spaghetti #2:  Got 0 out of 4 votes.
Comments:  Tasty, but a little salty.

Test #2:   Spaghetti & Zucchini Pancakes without sauce

Spaghetti #1:  0 out of 4 Votes.
Comments:  The pancakes didn't hold together as well with the thicker noodle.  Taste was still good.

Spaghetti #2:  4 out of 4 Votes.
Comments:  The thinner noodle was perfect for this dish.  This slightly saltier noodle added good flavor to the pancake. 


Spaghetti #1, First Street was the winner of the plain, buttered pasta test. The flavor and texture stood out in this test.

Spaghetti #2, Barilla, was our choice for the pancakes because of the smaller size and brighter taste.


Test #1:   A spoonful of sauce.

Sauce A:  3 out of 4 votes
Sauce B:  1 out of  4 votes
Comments:  We enjoyed both sauces but liked the stronger Oregano flavor in Sauce A. Sauce B was sweeter.

Test #2:  French Bread dipped in sauce.

Sauce A:  2 out of 4 votes
Sauce B:  2 out of 4 votes
Comments:  We were surprised that eating the sauce with the bread made a different in which sauce we preferred.

Test #3:  Spaghetti Pancakes dipped in sauce.

Sauce A:  4 out of 4 votes
Sauce B:  0 out of 4 votes

THE RESULTS -- A Clear Winner

Sauce A, First Street, was the favorite.  It was hard to decide, but we ultimately favored the more seasoned flavor of the First Street over the sweetness of the Ragu.


When it comes to both taste and price, Smart & Final's First Street brand of pasta sauce and spaghetti are a great choice!  My family loved the taste of the First Street Traditional Pasta Sauce as a dipping sauce for our spaghetti pancakes.  It's robust Italian flavor made it a standout.  While the smaller size of the Barilla spaghetti worked better for the pancakes, we'll be giving First Street pasta another try -- next time with the spaghettini.


Spaghetti & Zucchini Pancakes
(adapted from Real Simple)
makes 12-14

8 ounces First Street spaghettini
1 Tablespoon butter
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 zucchini (approx.  6 oz. each), grated
Optional:  1/4 cup carrot, grated
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup (4 ounces) finely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup First Street Traditional Pasta Sauce

Step 1:   Cook pasta according to directions on package.  Drain and set aside to cool.  

Step 2:  While pasta is cooling, melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini and onion (and carrot if you wish).  Cook until soft (6-8 minutes).

Step 3:  Add cooked vegetables to the drained pasta.  Add beaten eggs, parmesan cheese and salt.  Stir to combine.  

Step 4:  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, cook 1/3 cup portions of the spaghetti mixture until golden and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Use a spatula to flatten the pancakes once they've been flipped.  Remove from hot oil and place on paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

Serve with a bowl of warm sauce.  Dip and enjoy!



1.  Visit any Smart & Final store from April 18 to May 15, 2012. 

2. Purchase any two First Street products and a unique code will print on your receipt 

3. Enter your code here for your chance to WIN!

What can you WIN?
(1) One-year supply of First Street Pasta (based on a family of four)
(10) $100 Smart & Final SmartCash Card
(10) First Street Bag full of your favorite groceries (value over $50) plus a $50 Smart & Final Gift Card
You can get all the latest scoop on Smart & Final by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias. #CBias. All opinions are my own.

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