Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Farm

What a beautiful day today! The sun is shining and it's 78 degrees, but was much cooler this morning. I spent the morning weeding the garden- I can't believe how fast the creeping charlie and succulents spread!

I've been fighting off some aphids on a tomato plant and squash bugs on my cucumbers this last week. I think I've squashed the squash bugs, but I've got to keep up the soapy water spray for the aphids. I'd hate to have to pull the affected plant, but I don't want them to spread to the other tomato plants! I'll give it another week of treatment and see how it goes.

I'm so excited that our tomatillo plant has its first tomatillos!

Last week our strawberry harvest went from about a quart every other day to just a couple of pints in the week. It seemed like strawberry time was just about over. Yesterday the kids found about a pint, so I was thrilled to find another pint of berries today. Maybe they're not quite done yet! I promptly made the strawberries into a small batch of strawberry pancakes for myself and some strawberry Popsicles for the whole family.
The mulberries are starting to ripen now, too. Most are still white, but we got about a pint yesterday and it looks like more ripened today. We really have to harvest and process these every day when they start ripening. It's a lot of work, but we love mulberry jam, mulberry soda, and mulberry pie!Here's the harvest from today:
Tons of radishes that really needed to be picked, a head of lettuce, a bag full of green beans and snap peas, and a pint of strawberries.

What the heck am I going to do with all those radishes? These are radish and jalapeño quick pickles. I think they'll be a great condiment for salads, tacos, or just about anything.

Friday, June 27, 2008


My blog is getting a little facelift. Do you like the lemons?

They're not local, but I promise they're organic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I just finished teaching my "Vegetarian Trinity: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan" class tonight. I think it went over really well. We had barbecue seitan, tempeh sausage, and lemon-herb tofu crisps. So I've tasted and cooked enough protein to last me for weeks! Hopefully these folks will be inspired to give tofu a try again or finally try to make their own seitan.

Tonight I couldn't imagine cooking anything else, so I just picked some lettuce and snap peas from the garden for a big salad.
{Does anyone want any lettuce? I can't seem to use up all the lettuce in the garden and it's going to be bitter soon. How many mixing bowls of lettuce do I have to eat in a day?}

Anyways, the snap peas are just out of this world right now! I picked some up at the farmer's market this past weekend and cooked them up last night with some zucchini and tons of herbs and served them alongside some boiled potatoes.

Then we got in our local snap peas at the co-op...Yippee! They are better than candy. First a crisp, loud snap and then the crunch. Last comes the rich sweetness that you just can't get from sugar. I'm really enjoying them raw or quickly cooked in some Earth Balance and herbs. How do you cook your snap peas?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Strawberry-Rhubarb Cornmeal Tart

With all the strawberries ripening at once and the rhubarb going out of control, it was imperative that I make a strawberry-rhubarb something-or-other this weekend. But my standby pie crust recipe uses wheat flour and I want the whole family to be able to enjoy the fruits of our garden.

So when I was perusing the June issue of Martha Stewart Living, the Cornmeal Dough pie crust caught my eye. All it took was some flour substitutions to make this one a gluten-free crust and a butter substitution to make it vegan. Plus, our cornmeal and rice flour is locally milled.

The Cornmeal Crust (adapted from Martha Stewart's recipe)
1 1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 tsp. xanthan gum
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup frozen Earth Balance, cut into chunks
1/4 cup ice water

Combine rice flour, xanthan gum, cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse until thoroughly mixed. Add Earth Balance and process until the mixture forms pea-sized bits. With machine running, add ice water slowly just the dough begins to hold together. Press dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate about an hour. Then preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease a tart pan. Press the cornmeal dough into the pan, making sure to keep the sides thick enough to be sturdy. Prick holes in the bottom with a fork and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate another 20 minutes. Then cover the crust in foil or parchment paper and fill with dry beans. Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is firmed up and no longer shiny. Remove beans and foil and bake uncovered for another 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.


The Rhubarb Jam

2 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
1/4 cup maple syrup (I like grade B)
1/4 tsp. agar powder

Combine rhubarb and maple syrup in a small saucepan bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 13-15 minutes or until the rhubarb is the consistency of applesauce. Stir in the agar powder and refrigerate until chilled.

The Sweet Cream

1/4 cup vegan cream cheese frosting
1/4 cup vegan sour cream

I apologize for using leftovers in a recipe, but I had some leftover frosting in the fridge and hope you do, too. (I believe I used the recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World). Whisk together the two until combined.

To assemble: Spread the rhubarb jam over the crust, all the way to the edges. Then pour the sweet cream over the jam, leaving a border of jam visible. Top with sliced or whole strawberries, depending on their size. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Two Sandwiches

I got home at 8:30 pm tonight and was famished. I had picked up some pea shoots at the co-op, but wasn't sure what to make with them. I had to harvest the day's strawberries before dark, so it was around 9pm when I started thinking about what I was going to make for a very late dinner.

Like any tired, hungry foodie, I googled "pea shoots" to figure out what I should make. And imagine my delight when I found a recipe that not only used my pea shoots and freshly picked strawberries, but also called only for ingredients that were locally produced and already in my fridge!

So my first sandwich was the Strawberry and Pea Shoot Sandwich.I did add a little Tofutti cream cheeze with the jalapeño jelly, because that's just such a rockin' good combination.

Second sandwich (because I needed some protein) was a tempeh salad sandwich. While I didn't have any locally made tempeh, all of the herbs, onion, lettuce, and bread is from MN or my backyard.

I'd like to say that I saved one of those sandwiches for my lunch tomorrow or shared that plate with a friend, but I didn't. I ate the whole darn thing and it was amazing.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ah, Salads

I hate to burst anyone's expectations/stereotypes, but this vegan doesn't usually eat a ton of salad. Sure, I crave salads during the summer, but usually it's the dressing that motivates me to eat lettuce (other raw veggies are more enticing). But since starting this local challenge, I've been eating salads every day.
My garden is bursting with lettuce (butter leaf, romaine, and mesclun mix) and we've got local spinach at the co-op, so I've got to take advantage of it. Plus, the radishes and strawberries are plentiful and both are great on a big salad. This salad has a mix of my garden's lettuces, barbecue seitan (recipe to be used in my "Vegetarian Trinity: Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan" class next week), cucumber, radish, and chive flowers. The dressing is ranch made with homemade soy yogurt.

While this salad (and all the others) have been amazingly delicious and fresh, I really want more than lettuce, radishes, cucumber, and beets on my vegetable plate. So I was thrilled to find these babies ready in the garden today:

While these are the lone snap peas large enough to pick, there are more on the vine that are a promise of vegetable diversity to come. I'll enjoy these in my lunch tomorrow!

*Sorry for the lack of posting lately- my blogging is divided amongst three sites right now. As soon as we "go live" with the co-op's Eat Local blog, I'll post a link for you to enjoy my and my co-workers' fun with local eating. The Eat Local America blog is here.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Local Sweets

I've wanted these cookies for 2 weeks now. They've been in my head- a recipe just waiting to be baked. And now that I've tasted them (and the dog has stolen about 6), I'll have to admit that they were worth the wait.

I wanted these so bad because I've been eating relatively few sweets since my local challenge began 2 weeks ago. I haven't baked much for sweets and I haven't bought many either because I know darn well that cane sugar isn't locally grown. But really, who needs cane sugar when we live amongst the maple trees. If I weren't allergic to them, I'd go hug a maple right now.

Everything in these cookies except for the oil, salt, baking powder and vanilla can be produced in the MN region.

Sunny Maple Oat Cookies
(vegan, wheat free, soy free, no refined sugar)

3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup oat flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, oat flour, oats, seeds, baking powder, and salt until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sunbutter, syrup, oil, and vanilla. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir until combined- it will be thick. Drop batter by the heaping spoonful onto the baking sheet, leaving room for the cookies to spread. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Note: if you want to make these with wheat flour, I'm sure they'd work just fine. Just replace the oat flour and/or cornmeal with wheat flour. The texture of the oat and cornmeal is pretty nice, though.

Monday, June 9, 2008

What's Growing

Usually my weekends are filled with cooking, but I did more relaxing than cooking this past weekend. I relied on easy salads and Galactic Pizza made with locally grown ingredients to get me through the weekend without too much effort. So instead of Liz-made goodies, I'll show you some garden-made goodies.
For the last 2 years I've let some of this lettuce go to seed so that it pops up first thing in the spring. I think it's the buttercrunch variety- it is so tender! This looks like a million heads of lettuce are trying to fit as close to the path as possible. In the corner there are the carrots which are looking quite hardy already.

Here are the snap peas- just starting to flower. We also planted lima beans and green beans this year.
Last week we got our first ripe strawberry and now we're getting about 2-3 per day. Just look at all the little green babies in this picture! The mulberry tree has plenty of green "berries" (not technically berries, but collective fruits) on its branches now. It won't be long before we'll be harvesting about 2 quarts a week!
And here's the garden (except for the potato bed, the separate herb garden, and the berry patch) (oh, and the community garden plot that houses the squash). We've had so much rain in the last 2 weeks that I haven't had to water at all! All I've needed to do is a few hours of weeding and planting some more carrots. I love lazy gardening.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

We have a visitor

I came home from work yesterday to find the kids spying on this little guy up in our apple tree. It was daylight then and he was chillin' in the tree, eating a cupcake.
Yes, I said eating a cupcake.
You see, when I burned those cupcakes last weekend, I threw a good number of them into the compost bin- wrappers and all. Apparently raccoons and squirrels like cupcakes, because we've found the wrappers in the yard and now in the apple tree. I think it's time to get a lid for the compost bin!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Local Recipe Redux

Today I was craving Sweet and Sour Tofu. But we're not growing any citrus, ginger root, rice or sugar in these parts so I almost dismissed my craving. But I'm not one to give up easily- especially when it comes to a craving.

Here's how my brain was working:
Sour = rhubarb and sorrel
Sweet = maple syrup
Aromatic = fresh basil and green onion
Salty = miso
Rice = wild rice

This is my Minnesota in early Summer version of local Sweet and Sour Tofu with Rice. Here's the recipe with my notations for where it was grown!

2 cups wild rice (MN)
4 cups water
5 stalks rhubarb, finely chopped (about 2 cups) (Backyard)
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp. maple syrup (MN)
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. miso (MN grown soy, homemade)
1/4 cup olive oil (CA & Argentina)
1 package firm tofu, cubed (IA soybeans, but shipped all around)
1 bunch beet greens, roughly chopped (WI or MN)
1 handful sorrel, roughly chopped (WI or MN)
1/4 cup basil, minced (MN)
4-5 green onions, minced (? ran out of local ramps & green garlic)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Combine wild rice with 4 cups water in a medium saucepan and heat until boiling over medium high heat. Then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until rice is tender (about 45 minutes).

Meanwhile, combine 1 Tbsp. miso, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a bowl. Whisk until combined. Add the cubed tofu and toss to coat. Transfer tofu to a baking sheet, reserving the oily marinade. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir a bit and bake another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the rhubarb, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup water, reserved marinade and 1 Tbsp. miso in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the rhubarb is the consistency of applesauce. Smash it around a bit to help it become a sauce. Then add the chopped beet greens and sorrel, put a lid on, and cook until greens are just wilted. Last, add the baked/fried tofu and stir to coat the tofu in the sweet and sour sauce/greens.

When everything is done, serve a generous scoop of the wild rice with the tofu/greens/sauce on top. Then garnish with green onions and fresh basil. We thought a splash of tamari was a great addition at the table.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Eating Local

For the next few months I'll be a blogger for Eat Local America sponsored by the National Co-operative Grocer's Association and for my own co-op's Eat Local Challenge blog (not up yet, but will be launched when the challenge starts in August and will be used in our newsletter). I might cross post some of these on this blog, but that seems kind of like cheating.

I started my local challenge on June 1 and I'm trying to eat 80% of my diet from locally grown foods or at least locally owned businesses. {Really I'm aiming for more than 80%, but I'll claim 80% in case I'm being too optimistic for a vegan in Minnesota in early June.} And our co-op defines "local" as from MN, WI, IA, ND, or SD.

One thing that became very clear today was that I will need to plan ahead. Today I didn't have dinner planned and I came home at 5:30pm when we were going to a Twins game at 7:00. And we were out of toilet paper and I had to get to the bank before it closed, too, just to complicate things. I ended up eating cold beans with last year's garden pesto and a roll from the New French bakery in Minneapolis and cookies from Country Choice in Eden Prairie, MN. Not the best dinner! The boys enjoyed the aforementioned beans on a hotdog buns with cream cheeze and romaine lettuce. They loved it, but it did look a little odd.

Yesterday's menu was great:
  • Steel cut oats (Welcome, MN) with SunButter sunflower seed butter (Fargo, ND) and maple syrup (Cumberland, WI)
  • Leftover potato salad (WI, MN, IA, backyard)
  • Leftover barley salad (MN)
  • Leftover cannellini beans with pesto (far away beans, with backyard pesto)
  • Corn chips (MN)
  • Roasted parsnips, beets, and ramps (WI & MN)
  • Sauteed beet greens with cremini mushrooms (MN & WI)
Today's menu was clearly not as well designed after lunchtime:
  • Toast from 3rd St. Bakery (Duluth, MN) with leftover potato salad (WI, MN, IA, backyard)
  • Leftover roasted parsnips, beets, and ramps (WI & MN)
  • Leftover beet greens and cremini mushrooms (MN & WI)
  • Leftover barley salad (MN)
    • See my lunch box below
  • Country Choice cookies (MN owned)
  • New French Bakery roll (MN owned) and leftover beans with pesto (backyard pesto)
  • Tofu tacos (IA grown soybeans, far away lettuce, taco shells, salsa, onions)
  • Spud puppies (WA)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Wedding Bells

(Nope, not for me) My friends Erin and Tony got married this weekend and I got to bake their desserts! This was really fun, really stressful, and really rewarding. Here's the making of the cheezecakes:

One got a crust of crushed pretzels, a touch of oil, peanut butter, and a little extra salt. The other got crushed chocolate cookies, sugar, and oil.

I pressed the crust into my mini-cheesecake pans with the back of my measuring cups. It worked great!
Then I poured in the filling: Vanilla cheesecake for the chocolate crust and peanut butter cheesecake for the pretzel crust (this was really just the vanilla batter with peanut butter stirred in).
Then they went into my (dirty and temperamental) oven for about 45 minutes total. {You'll notice an extra cheesecake in here, I'm sure. My recipe makes enough for 3 minis and I wanted a back-up cheesecake in case something terrible happened to one of them.
Here's the finished products: The chocolate crust/vanilla cheesecake got homemade caramel sauce, chocolate ganache drizzles, and pecans. The pretzel crust/peanut butter cheesecake got peanut butter caramel and white chocolate shavings.

I also baked about 200 cupcakes, but somehow missed taking a picture of them at my house. There were about 6 or 7 large bakery boxes full on my kitchen table. My house smelled AMAZING! I had to use my cake carrier turned upside down as a bowl to mix the batter.

Flavors were almost all from VCTOTW: Chocolate Raspberry (chocolate cupcakes filled with raspberry buttercream and topped with chocolate ganache), Spice with Cream Cheese frosting, Lime Margarita, and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
There were these beautiful hydrangeas, ferns, and lilacs waiting for me to use around the desserts when I arrived at the reception hall. I think they looked so beautiful- and everyone I talked to said they loved them. I even saw a couple of women having their pictures taken while taking huge bites out of cupcakes! Erin and Tony were so sweet and introduced me to everyone as their baker- so perhaps I'll get some more jobs out of this!

I was REALLY nervous about how this was going to turn out. Along the way I learned that I can't bake cupcakes on the bottom rack in my oven. Even if I lower the heat and take them out early, the bottoms will be blackened. I learned this after ruining about 48 cupcakes.

I also learned that Earth Balance now makes 1/2 butter, 1/2 margarine sticks. I learned this after buying 4 pounds of it and almost dumping it into my mixer for the frostings. Close call! Luckily I had a stockpile of REAL Earth Balance already in the fridge, so I was able to use that.

So what do you do when life gives you burned cupcakes?

You cut off the tops and make Margarita DingDongs! This are firming up in the freezer right now.