Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ups and Downs

I had a crazy past 24 hours.

Last night there was a great storm. Both Mike and I marveled at the thunder, lightening, wind, and rain...and didn't even think to shut our bedroom window. So our mattress was soaked all the way through. Our curtains were dripping. I ended up sleeping on the couch.

I also had the joy of finding my toothbrush in the dog's kennel. The kitten evidently knocked over the toothbrush holder, broke the soap dish, and gave my toothbrush over to the dog. Perhaps in exchange for a dog treat?

This morning I woke up to the sound of hammering at 7:30 am. And by hammering, I mean the steel-on-steel clanging of metal posts being driven into the depths of the earth to provide stability to a new Trader Joe's. Yes, our neighborhood will be the lucky recipient of a multinational corporate grocery store. I'm not thrilled, even if I do like their Rosemary Marcona Almonds (and it'll probably drive our property values up). But 7:30 am? That's too early.

On the upside, I had a great time cooking for my classes tomorrow. I rarely use the deli kitchen to prep class food, but it was pretty fun to hang with the deli folks, listen to music, use an oven that's always preheated and wield an immersion blender so large I could barely lift it.

Now, after a long day, I'm home and enjoying my Eat Local Challenge Nemesis: Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Ice Cream. That's about as non-local as you can get...but I topped it with Door County cherries! Does that make it local?

I scooped up about 6 pounds of these local cherries today, so now I just have to decide how to preserve them. I kind of want to make brandied cherries, but half my friends and family can't have I'd have to eat them all. Over coconut ice cream. MMmmmm.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


All that free squash became a total of 5 quarts of soup, 8 pints of squash & corn salsa, and one humongous casserole. I'd show you the casserole, but it's not much to look at. It's pretty tasty, though, with tofu & vegan gourmet cheeze, onion, garlic, and gluten-free saltine cracker crumbs on top.

I'm starting to get a little nervous about my next classes. I'm doing 2 mini-classes at the state fair on Friday (It's Co-op Day!). I know the recipes and the material really well, but so often it's not the material in the class, but the location that makes me nervous. If I could teach classes in my own kitchen, it would be SO EASY! Hmmm...maybe I can...

Anyways, we have classes throughout the day in the Eco Experience building and I'm on at 12 and 2 for Baking without Allergens and Local MN Favorites for Fall, respectively. It should be a really fun day!

I'm also gearing up for catering a wedding next week- I should have some pictures of the great sea of cupcakes that will be my kitchen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When life gives you squash...

What the heck do you make?

I am the lucky recipient of a whole case of locally grown, organic yellow summer squash. I need to preserve it somehow. I've read that summer squash and zucchini are best preserved in the freezer, but I just don't believe that they won't turn to mush. And I don't want to can just plain ole squash in water/lemon. I'm not sure I'd ever use it. So what should I make?

Last night I used about 1/4 of the squash to make 5 quarts of summer squash soup. It's just a simple soup of onions, garlic, squash, and veg. broth. It's light and summery- I think it'll be perfect for a quick meal this winter.

But summer squash preserving recipes are few and far between. And making sweet jam with them doesn't appeal to me (plus, I have a lot of jam!)
I'm thinking about a corn/summer squash salsa because you can never have too much salsa.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fresh soymilk!

I'm so excited to have my new SoyQuick SQ930P soymilk maker!

Sure, it's pretty easy and not that expensive to buy soymilk. And the Organic Valley stuff is even grown and processed within the Midwest. But there's something really satisfying about taking a raw product and turning it into something you usually have to buy.

So far I've make a classic soymilk and a soy-oat milk. We love the flavor of the soy-oat milk, but it was a little thick for regular drinking. I did use it in some blueberry scones for the kids and I, though, and I thought it was great for baking. It lent a richness to the scones- sort of like cream would do.

I've made one block to tofu so far- I didn't realize that one batch of soymilk will only make a little tofu block. But it hardly takes any time to make the milk, so it's no big deal. The tofu was a great texture- very firm, just like I like it.

I have plenty of soymilk, yogurt, and tofu projects to come, that's for sure.

The Sauce

So here's the sauce from last night:
The recipe said it would make 9 quarts, but I got 5 1/2. That's probably a blessing, though, because the pot was about to overflow before it reduced!
I really need a bigger stockpot.

Here's the goods:
Pickles, Tomato Sauce, Salsa, and whole tomatoes (not in the picture)
The whole house smelled so good like tomato sauce last night. Mike was kinda bummed that I had canned it all and not saved him any to eat right away- oops!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

So tired.

I'm exhausted. Bright and early this morning I scored great deals at the farmer's market.
25 #'s of pesticide-free roma tomatoes for $20
5 #'s of pickling cukes for $2
6 huge organic bell peppers for $4
Plus, organic blueberries, okra, sweet onions, and organic garlic bread.

I returned home from work/meetings/etc. at 3pm and started peeling tomatoes. Now, at 9:18 pm, I'm done with today's canning projects. Here's what I made:

8 1/2 pints of rockin' good salsa
5 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce with herbs
5 quarts of pickles
3 quarts whole tomatoes

This was my first time canning tomato sauce and whole tomatoes- I've only done salsa before. Overall- I feel pretty darn satisfied with my day. I sort of wish I had ended up with more tomato sauce, though. I'm enjoying the bit that wouldn't fit in a jar right now over some homemade pasta (made another day). It just might be worth the 4 hour simmer time...It's that good!

I'll take some pictures tomorrow- you don't want to see the jars in bad light and a messy kitchen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Vegan's Hundred!

Thanks to Hannah of Bittersweet for the Vegan's Hundred, a list of 100 vegan foods that you should eat at some point in your life.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto
2. Green Smoothie
3. Tofu Scramble
4. Haggis
5. Mangosteen (the juice at least)
6. Creme brulee
7. Fondue
8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Nachos
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a street cart
16. Boba Tea
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Rice and beans
25. Knish
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Caviar
29. Baklava
30. Pate
31. Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries
41. Raw Brownies
42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
56. Gnocchi
57. PiƱa colada
58. Birch beer
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Soy curls
63. Chickpea cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
75. Whipped cream, straight from the can
76. Pomegranate
77. Fauxstess Cupcake
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
79. Jerky
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup
82. Savory crepes
83. Tings
84. A meal at Candle 79
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds
87. Macaroni and “cheese”
88. Flowers
89. Matzoh ball soup
90. White chocolate
91. Seitan
92. Kimchi
93. Butterscotch chips
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Chili with chocolate
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato milk
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough

*If you are wondering what some of these are or how they might be made vegan, just visit one of the several links to Bittersweet blog. There are links to descriptions on many of the items there.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I love Hillbillies...

Tomatoes, that is.

When I saw a "Hillbilly" variety of heirloom tomatoes for sale at the co-op this year, I knew I had to get them. I mean, what a great tomato name! {You may recall that I frequently choose what variety of food to plant based solely on the name. I do the same for paint colors}

And now that I see these gorgeous tomatoes, I know I made a good choice. One of these babies is 5 1/2 inches in diameter! I'm tempted to go out and buy a scale, just so I can weigh them. The dollar in the picture is for size reference- these are not for sale.
So what to do with all these tomatoes? Some awesome Twin Cities chefs cooked at the MN Garlic Festival last weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed their tomato salad. So this is my attempt to replicate it. We sliced up one hillbilly and a few smaller yellow tomatoes for a simple salad- It fed 4 of us!
The salad was just sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and a garlic vinaigrette. Here's the super easy vinaigrette:

2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced
2 Tbsp. umeboshi plum vinegar (or rice vinegar + salt to taste)
1 Tbsp. liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave, or honey)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Whisk it all together and enjoy the sweet/sour/salty/garlicky goodness.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Garlicky Goodness

Here's what's been going on in our kitchen lately:

When we bottle up soda, the kitten likes to try to attack the brew as it bubbles through the tubing!

This latest soda is Maple Rhubarb. It uses 1/2 maple syrup and 1/2 sugar to sweeten it and rhubarb to give it some tartness. As you can see, it has some serious carbonation after 36 hours! (The leaves are some mint and lavender I had in my glass- not part of the original recipe).

I was delighted to see these blue/purple potatoes are the cheapest potatoes at the co-op right now. They're local, organic, and crazily colored- You really can't beat that. I used some yogurt/mayo mix and last year's sweet pickles to whip up a potato salad. It was super good today after it had marinated overnight.
Today was the Sustainable Farming Association's Garlic Fest out at the Wright County Fairgrounds. Sure, I added some food miles onto this garlic by driving out there all by myself, but it was great talking to the folks that grew the garlic! I picked up the following:

  • 2 heads Chesnok Red and 2 heads German Extra Hardy from Sunfresh Foods in Preston, MN. These guys are certified organic.
  • 2 heads Chesnok Red and 1 head Russian Red from Coffman Garlic in West Concord, MN
  • 2 heads Merrifield Rocambole and 2 heads Northern White from Hawk's Brain Garlic in Red Wing, MN
  • 2 heads Armenian and 4 heads Music from Living Song Gardens in Crow River, MN
  • 2 heads Polish Jenn and 1 head Polish White from StoneHouse Farm in Miltona, MN
  • Garlic powder from Girardin Gourmet Gardens in Cannon Falls

I also scored a great deal on some little potatoes from Earthstar Farm in Hickston, WI. They're not yet certified organic, but working toward it.

Then on my way home I saw Apple Jack Orchards and decided to see if they had any apples yet. Sure enough, they had some early crop apples for super cheap. And they're Midwest Food Alliance Certified!

I can't wait to try all the different varieties!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Interesting meals, Interesting night

Last night I couldn't resist buying some MN lobster mushrooms. Just look at them.

They're bright, richly flavored, and hearty mushrooms. I just had to get some...but I had no clue what I would cook with them.

But I did have 3 turnips I needed to use. So I started making some turnip soup and sauteeing the mushrooms in Earth Balance. Both the mushrooms and the soup were good on their own- But when I combined them, they were great.

Turnip and Lobster Mushroom Soup

1 Tbsp. Earth Balance
3 medium turnips, peeled and sliced thinly
4 cloves of garlic, minced (yeah, this is garlicky)
1 no-salt vegan bouillon cube
4-6 drops liquid smoke
4 cups water
1 tsp. fresh thyme
2 sage leaves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. Earth Balance
3 lobster mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced

Heat 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance in a soup pot over medium-high heat until melted. Add garlic and turnips and stir to coat them with the Earth Balance. Then add the bouillon, liquid smoke, water, thyme, and sage. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until turnips are very tender and falling apart. Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Heat 2 Tbsp. Earth Balance in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the slices of mushrooms and a sprinkle of salt. Allow the mushrooms to sit and sweat out their liquid before stirring. It may take about 5 minutes. Stir the mushrooms and allow the liquid to evaporate. Then taste the mushrooms to make sure they are tender. Add mushrooms to the soup and then taste. Add salt and pepper until seasoned.

Tonight I was working late because we had our "Surviving the Eat Local America Challenge" class. The class was a lot of fun, but I was so busy talking about local foods that I didn't plan my dinner.

So I relied on some homemade ravioli I had frozen last month and made it interesting by blanching some multicolored greens beans in the pasta water. The sauce was just melted Earth Balance, 1/2 clove of raw grated garlic, and toasted sunflower seeds. YUM! I know sunflower seeds might seem more suited to granola rather than ravioli, but they were super good. The ravioli filling contains sunflower seeds and they really complimented the green beans.

After eating some dinner and watching a little Law and Order, Mike and I noticed a gas smell. It seemed to be coming from our gas meter outside- uh oh!

So we called our gas company and they sent someone right out. Now they'll be sending a crew to dig up our meter and re-weld together some pipes at midnight. At least the leak isn't as bad as she thought it could be. At first she said we might have to take down our fence so they could get a back-hoe into the yard. Yikes!

Now how am I going to stay awake...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

My problem

I think I have an addiction. Drinking never appealed to me that much and just don't have time for smoking weed anymore. I've safely avoided gambling problems. So you'd think I was in the clear.
But kitchen appliances ...they are just too much for me.

Here is a list of some of my choice appliances and gadgets:
  • My Frigidaire commercial refrigerator (no freezer, baby. It's all fridge)
  • Haier chest freezer (holds enough kale to last us a year, plus still has room for ice cream)
  • KitchenAid mixer with pasta maker(in Tangerine to match my walls. Okay, no, the walls match the mixer because the mixer came first)
  • KitchenAid Food Processor
  • Champion Juicer (it will chew through anything)
  • CuisineArt ice cream maker
  • Presto stainless steel pressure cooker
  • Presto pressure canner (18qt)
  • Salton yogurt maker
  • Whirly-pop popcorn maker
  • Two 2-gallon Burley clay pickling crocks

So you'd think I would be satisfied with these, right?
Wrong. I just put a Soyquick Premier soymilk maker and tofu kit on my credit card. I feel super guilty and super excited to make my own tofu, yogurt, and soymilk/oatmilk/etc.

Validate me. Please.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fall planting

Well, we're back from our camping trip- and just in time, too. We ran out of food on our last morning, which made for an interesting breakfast of polenta, black beans, and 2 veggie burgers all mixed together with graham crackers and cherries on the side. All 4 batches of cookies were gone within 36 hours (To our credit, though, we shared with about 7 other people). No matter how much food I think I'm packing, we eat it all!

Today I'm enjoying a leisurely day. It's the last day of my 6-day vacation from work. (so sad!) This morning I harvested a ton of little tomatoes that had ripened while we were gone, some broccoli, peppers, and the last of the bolting mustard greens.

I'd been keeping the mustard greens in the garden even after they flowered because I wanted to harvest the seeds for the spice pantry. But I really couldn't justify keeping these bitter greens in valuable Fall garden space much longer, so I plucked them out and set up the seed pods to dry.

A couple of stalks were already fully dried, so I harvested them- and yielded a whopping 1 tablespoon of seeds. Time consuming, yes, but so satisfying when combined with coriander, cumin seed, asafoetida, and turmeric in my mustard green soup for breakfast.

I also pulled the cilantro/coriander for drying. Today I used the last of the dried coriander seeds from last year's garden. This year I didn't plant as much, though, so I don't think it will last so long.

After clearing these guys out, I planted more radishes, turnips, carrots, and green beans for the Fall garden. Hopefully these little seeds will sprout quickly so they can mature before it gets too chilly!

I'll have to add pictures of these things later, as I dropped the camera under the deck.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Camping Food

Preparing for camping is one of my favorite things to do. When I'm packing away our supplies, I get the very same feeling I used to get when playing house on the front porch, weaving together baskets out of monkey grass to store away the berries and acorns I'd gathered from the neighborhood. Only now I'm old enough to actually identify and eat the berries I find.

Camping involves the ultimate combination of planning (including list-making) and food: Two of my favorite things. I keep a camping supply list on my computer so that I'll never forget to pack something. And about 2 weeks ago I started planning what food we'd pack.

Did I mention we're only camping for 3 days and 2 nights?

Yeah, I know I make it a bigger deal than I need to...But that's part of the fun!
And when camping with 2 hungry and very energetic 8 year old boys, you need some serious food. Plus, when your family is eating organic, local (or fair trade), gluten-free, and mostly homemade, it takes some time to make all this!

Here's what we're packing:
2 jars of homemake TVP and kidney bean chili (For "frito" pie!)
1 jar of homemade mexican style black beans
1 jar of homemade, local salsa
2 bags of chips (local org. tortilla chips and organic "fritos")
a triple-batch of homemade tofu jerky
4 ears of local org. corn
1.5 pounds Door County dark cherries
1 pound local org. green beans
3 Larabars
1/2 pound instant hummus
1 can org. tomato sauce
bulk polenta
1 pound org. local hemp granola
Org. local popcorn kernels
Org. graham crackers
2 boxes of gluten-free crachers
Fair trade chocolate
Vegan marshmallows
Org. peanuts in the shell
4 batches of homemade cookies
12 homemade mulberry/cherry/maple sodas

I was worried about not having enough food. Now I'm worried about having too much junk and not enough veggies. But really, isn't camping is all about eating junk food? Or maybe that's just my idea of camping?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Walking the Line

I'm wondering if I've crossed some sort of line between cooking from scratch and... crazy.
I was standing over my new 18 quart pressure canner, carefully adjusting the heat between 11 and 12 pounds of pressure when my mother in law asked, "Why are you canning your own beans?"

I have to admit I was a little stumped. Of course I was canning my own beans. Why not? These Whole Grain Milling Co. black beans are good and I can now safely precook and preserve them for years at room temperature! Do I need more of a reason than that to spend 5 hours in the steaming hot kitchen on my day off?

Then my partner pointed out that organic beans are cheap and are often on sale for less than the cost of the canning jars, not to mention the cost of the fuel used to cook them.

Darn! If I don't can to save money, then what's my excuse? Because I'm preparing for holing up in my basement for a month and being perfectly well-fed on wholesome locally grown foods during the apocalypse? Because I'm bored? Because I've been reading too much about urban homesteading? Because I'm paranoid about BPA lining aluminum cans?

You know, a few decades ago I wouldn't need an excuse. Everyone would be too busy canning to ask.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Summertime Soup

I've been craving soup lately- probably because it's my favorite thing to cook. I can only be deprived for so long before I break down and enjoy a steaming bowl in spite of the hot weather. Today's soup was designed around the local veggies in my fridge that needed to be used.

Summer Squash Soup
The creamy, tender squash, bright herbs, and simple broth make this soup light enough for summer. The kidney beans make this dish a complete meal.
serves 2

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow summer squash (a.k.a. yellow crookneck squash), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2-3 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 cup cooked kidney beans, rinsed
2 cups water
1 no-salt vegan bouillon cube
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)
1/2 tsp fresh thyme
1 Tbsp minced fresh sage (about 3 large leaves)

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, squash and carrots and stir frequently until the squash begins to break down a bit, about 3-4 minutes. Add beans, water, bouillon cube, salt, and nutritional yeast (if using). Bring to a simmer and cook about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender and squash is soft and falling apart. Add the sage and thyme to the soup and taste. Adjust salt as needed.