Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Spring/Summer Rolls

Spring rolls are one of my favorite summer meals.  Maybe that makes them summer rolls?

While it pained me to turn on the oven to bake some tofu, the rest of the spring roll preparation was simple and perfect for a humid evening.  Because of the crazy quantity of garden cucumbers in my fridge, each roll included a couple of generous hunks of cucumber along with shredded local carrots, local lettuce, mint and basil from the garden and thin rice noodles.  That's it!  So simple, but so good.  This is one of the kids' favorite meals.

Dipping sauce is important for spring rolls and I usually do some sort of rice vinegar/ tamari concoction.  But tonight I mixed up peanut butter, Bragg's aminos, umeboshi plum vinegar, lemon juice and some hot water to make a smooth peanut sauce.  I was a big fan- It's going to be my salad dressing for the leftover rice noodles and veggies!

For the first time ever, we had leftover spring rolls.  This has literally never happened.  I made enough for us each to have 4.  But when I make enough for us to each have 3, it's never enough.  Oh, well!  More for my lunchbox!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Roasted Red Peppers Galore!

I felt a little like Santa Claus coming home from the farmer's market with a big sack of red and green slung over my shoulder.  Except the presents were for me: I found a 1/2 bushel of pesticide-free peppers for $15-  crazy cheap!

After dumping all these peppers into the sink for washing, though, it was clear that it wasn't as good of a deal as I thought.  About 6-8 peppers were totally rotten and many had big bad spots. I was momentarily upset with my farmers' market vendor.

But luckily these peppers were fated for roasting, so I just cut out the bad parts, ditched the slimy ones in the compost and left my crabbiness behind.  

In the past I've roasted peppers under the broiler or just held them over the flame on my stove.  But this was a LOT of peppers!  So I fired up the grill and let it work its magic while I relaxed indoors.

Look at how gorgeous these are!  The smell was fabulous and I didn't have to heat up the house (well, at least until I starting canning them...)

I followed Linda Ziedrich's pickled roasted peppers recipe from The Joy of Pickling to preserve these- A nice simple recipe with just some garlic, a little salt, a little sugar and lots of vinegar.  I admit to eating nearly a pint's worth plain.

I'm so excited to open these up this winter and enjoy their rich, smokey flavor!  I'm already planning all the fun uses for them and relishing the fact that I won't have to wait until the commercial canned ones go on sale!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vanilla Apricot Jam and Kernels

Apricot jam has always been one of my favorites, but until now I had never made my own.  Why?  I'm not totally sure.  Maybe just because I don't have apricots from my garden (yet- the tree is still a baby).  Maybe because I'm usually already overstocked on strawberry, grape and cherry jam?  

When we got in both organic apricots from Hoch Orchard and apricots from Barnard Farm in Michigan at the co-op, I just couldn't resist!  Plus, I've seen a couple of recipes on various blogs for pairing vanilla with apricots- And that just sounds too amazing to pass up.

I followed Linda Ziedrich's apricot jam recipe from The Joy of Jams and Jellies, but added 1 vanilla bean.

After halving the apricots, I remembered that you can eat apricot kernels... after processing them to remove the cyanide that hides out in there.  So first I had to crack the hard pit to release the kernels.  Not easy.  Those pits are HARD!  And once the pit finally cracks, the kernel shoots across the room.  I found it helpful to crack them while inside a baggie to keep them contained.

I also recommend not holding the nut cracker close to your body while doing this.  I accidentally pinched my belly between the ends and still have a bruise!

Then I followed Ziedrich's recommendation to simmer the kernels first.  Next I roasted them to make them crunchy.  I ended up with a lovely little dish of crunchy kernels!

But after all this, they were still VERY bitter!  Anyone have any recommendations?  Googling this results in lots of conflicting misinformation- none seems very credible.

The jam turned out perfect, though.  Very strong apricot-vanilla flavor with tons of little flecks of vanilla bean! I should have made twice as much!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Shameless Self Promotion

Here's a bit of advertising for some upcoming classes and events where I'll be talking in the next couple weeks.  It's a busy time of year!!!  I think I included links and info about registration...Just holler if I left out any important information!

Dishing up Nutrition radio show
The lovely folks at Nutritional Weight and Wellness asked me to be on their radio program to talk about organic, local, fair trade, free range, grass fed and natural foods- There's a lot of terms out there and knowing what labels you can trust is tricky.  You can listen at FM107.1 at 8-9 am on Saturday, 8/21 or on 6-7pm on Sunday, 8/22.  Or check out the podcast at the link above.

Pickling Class
I'll be covering how to can a couple styles of vegetable pickles and give tips for preserving crispness and not poisoning your family with botulism.  @Mississippi Market Co-op on Saturday, 8/21 from 1-3pm.  Cost is $18 or $15 for co-op members.  Call 651-690-0507 to register.

Canning Basics Class
All the basics to get you started canning safely!  Wednesday, August 25, 6 to 8 pm @ Valley Natural Foods, 13750 Cty Rd. 11, Burnsville, MN 55337.  Cost is $10 members/$12 nonmember for each class with registration required. For information and to register, call 952-891-1212, #239.

State Fair Classes
Two classes on 8/27 on the Sustainability Stage in the Eco Experience building.  At 4:30 I'll be teaching "Preserving the local harvest" (short version of canning basics) and at 6:00 I'll talk about "Shopping local and organic on a budget".    No registration needed- just stop by!

Hot and Spicy Preserving Class
Chile ristras, 2 kinds of hot sauce and Moroccan harissa!  Be prepared to sweat! Saturday, 8/28 from 10 am-12 @ Mississippi Market Co-op .  Cost is $18 or $15 for co-op members.  Call 651-690-0507 to register.

Pickling, Poetry and Potluck
Pickling workshop on Sunday, 8/29 @ Chakra Khan in the Ivy Building for the Arts (2637 27th Ave S #216B  MPLS  55406).  I'll cover the basics about canning/pickling and then we'll make some pickles together!  Plus, there'll be poems and artwork inspired by love for your CSA (community supported agriculture).  Cost is  $15.  Email CSAlove@juliekesti.com for registration info.  

Great Green Gathering
I'll be speaking about food preservation here (big surprise, huh?).  The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet are rockin' ladies and they're hosting a Great Green Gathering on Saturday, 8/28 from 1:30-4pm.  Should be a good time and it's free!

Canning Basics Class
All the basics to get you started canning safely!  Tuesday, 8/31 from 6-8pm @ Mississippi Market Co-op.  Cost is $15 or $12 for co-op members.  Call 651-690-0507 to register.  (This class was added because the previous sessions filled, so you won't see it listed on the fliers or newsletter.)

More State Fair Classes
Two classes on 9/4 on the Sustainability Stage in the Eco Experience building.  At 4:30 I'll talk about "Shopping local and organic on a budget" and at 6:00 I'll be teaching "Preserving the local harvest" (short version of canning basics) No registration needed- just stop by!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Local Check-In

It's been a bit since reporting on my local eating endeavors.  The good news is that eating locally isn't feeling like some big accomplishment right now.  It's just feeling like eating good food.   The bad news is that it doesn't feel very blog-worthy.  I'll have to work on that.   Anyways, here's some yummy stuff from last week.

I canned lots of Thai-style pickled green beans and cucumbers!  They had mint, lemongrass, ginger, garlic and chilies.

 Taco salad!  The easiest meal to eat locally: LaBore lettuce, Whole Grain Milling Co. chips and black beans, homemade local corn and tomato salsa.  Fantastic!

Local camping is tough.  I remember it being easier last year.  There were homemade granola and muffins with local ingredients,  pickles, sandwiches, etc.  I relied on some non-local staples like canned beans and TVP (textured vegetable protein) for chili, but used my home-canned tomatoes and WGM chips again here.

 Kinda looks like dog food on chips, but I assure you it was really good!  But we were really hungry after swimming and being lakeside for about 3 hours, so maybe it wasn't as good as I remembered???  I do know that it was filling as hell and warm on a really chilly evening!

I was weeding the garden a couple days ago and look what I saw: Trouble cat has taken to napping in the beets, carrots and garlic!  Must be cool among those plants because she didn't even move when I started snapping pictures of her.

Tonight I'll be at the Ramsey County Library talking about local foods for a Simple, Good and Tasty event.  Here's the link in case you're in the area.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More Vegetables, Please

Continuing on the theme of eating lots of vegetables, here's what I have prepped for eating in the next couple of days:

Steamed Beets
Sure, not that exciting.  But I love beets like nothing else and can eat them steamed plain!  Maybe I'll make these into a salad for my lunch this week.

Beet Greens

This was a huge bunch of beet greens from the garden.  I sautéed a locally grown shallot in some Driftless Organic sunflower oil and then wilted the greens.  On top is some toasted locally grown sunflower seeds.  I like to toast the seeds in a cast iron skillet and then sprinkle with salt while they're still hot.  It gives the greens some crunch and brings tons of minerals and protein to the dish.


Fresh corn is going in everything these days and salsa is no exception.  These are heirloom garden tomatoes with fresh (uncured) garlic, super hot chiles and corn.  Only the corn isn't from my garden- It's from Wheatfield Farm. Just a splash of vinegar and salt and it's a rockin' good salsa.

Lest you think I'm eating too healthily, here's a photo of that giant blackberry biscuit I made a couple days ago.  Just regular biscuit dough with fresh blackberries and sugar pressed into the top.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vegetable Takeover

I like to think that I do pretty good with eating my vegetables, but taking the Eat Local Challenge always reminds me that I can eat more.  My world is revolving around vegetables right now.  The garden requires daily harvesting, every day at work there's some new vegetable or fruit arriving from the local farms (Zestar apples already!!!), and it's too hot too eat much besides vegetables.

Today I pulled in 5 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, 2 pounds of cucumbers, 2 pounds of green beans and 2 pounds of beets & greens.  The cucumber situation is getting a little out of control.  Just last week (not counting today) I harvested 16 pounds of them.  I was able to use about 10 pounds of overgrown pickling cucumbers in a giant salad for my friend Morgen's wedding.  Usually these cukes are not too good for eating and they're definitely too big for pickling.  But the salad was nearly gone by the time I got to the buffet line, so I'm fairly certain it was delicious.

Too Many Cucumbers Salad

5 parts overgrown pickling cucumbers, peeled
2 part tomatoes, seeded and cored
1 part sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 part kalamata olives, sliced
Lots of fresh basil, thinly sliced
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Halve the cucumbers lengthwise and scoop out all the seeds.  Sure, it seems wasteful.  But you weren't going to use these overgrown cukes anyways, right?  And the seed slime makes salads too watery.

Cut the cukes in half lengthwise one more time and then slice cross-wise.  Chop the seeded tomatoes and add all remaining ingredients into a big salad bowl.

If preparing in advance, keep the dressing ingredients on the side until serving.  The cukes and tomatoes will give off a lot of juices that I like to drain off before serving the salad.  You could probably drink the juice and it would be awesome.

Tomorrow: Beets, greens and salsa

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eat Local Day #2

Day 2 of the Eat Local challenge-
Here's what I've eaten so far:

Garden tomato sandwich on 3rd Street Bakery bread (Duluth, MN) with homemade mustard and non-local Veganaise
Garden green beans simmered with non-local garlic and onion

Shredded vegetable salad (about 60% local)
Shanghai dumplings (not local at all)

Blackberry biscuit....
Let me tell you about this one.  Last night I wanted something a little sweet and a lot local.  So I mixed up my usual biscuit dough using locally grown flour.  Then I patted it out into a rectangle and smashed garden blackberries into the top and sprinkled it with sugar.  I baked it just a little longer than usual biscuits and then sliced it into squares with a pizza cutter.  I highly recommend this covered with ice cream, but it was also good cold as a snack!

I just picked up some lettuce and ears of corn from the co-op, so I might use those for dinner.  Still not sure.  I didn't get very far with planning my meals this week.  Need to practice what I taught at the local challenge class tonight and plan my meals!

On a different note, but related to eating locally...

It's time to update you snobbery readers a bit.  A few months ago I started eating a bit of local, organic cheese.  I'd say my diet is still about 95% vegan, but I want to be totally transparent with you folks.  You see, I'm not ethically opposed to dairy on principle, but know I need to avoid it because I have fibrocystic boobs (too much information?!?!) and allergies.  My diet has shifted away from lots of really processed foods and I found myself preferring the thought of simple locally made dairy cheeses to various industrially-made non-local soy cheeses.  So I'm giving a little dairy a try.  I understand if you don't agree and that's okay.

One thing I'd like to try soon is to make my own cheese.  I figure that I need to fully understand and participate in the making of my food- whether it's growing my veggies or baking my bread or making cheese.  So I'll let you know if I do that.  But otherwise, I don't think the content of this blog will change much.  Just wanted you to know since this blog is all about the food I eat!


Yesterday's post was my 500th one!  Woo hoo!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Eat Local Challenge: Starting off slow

The Eat Local Challenge started on Sunday and I'm still trying to clear out the very tempting non-local stuff from my fridge.  It's hard to eat super local when your fridge is still full of grapes from warmer regions and Szechwan dumplings shipped from New York.

I started off my day with harvesting a couple pounds of tomatoes from the garden and diced those up with some fresh corn kernels and basil.  On top I drizzled some basil infused balsamic vinegar from The Golden Fig.  Yum! This was a super easy lunch salad that I could make any day.

I also stopped to pick some blackberries this morning.  Our berry patch is out by the garage, so I usually eat berries when I'm getting home from work or leaving for work in the morning.  Yep- that's my rear end you see poking out of the thorns while the car is idling in the alley.  The berries looked perfectly ripe and bigger than my thumb...but wow are they sour still!  These are destined to be pie.

Dinner tonight is simple: Miscellaneous shredded vegetables from the crisper with some Salad Girl dressing.  I think there's cabbage, spinach, carrots and cucumbers in there.  It looks kind of like coleslaw, but with a light lemony dressing.  I know the cabbage and cukes are local, so I figure I'm at about 60% local for the salad.

Now?  Time to plan out some meals.  That's the real ticket to being able to survive an Eat Local Challenge!  Speaking of surviving...I'm teaching a Surviving the Eat Local Challenge class Tuesday night from 6-7pm at Mississippi Market's West 7th store.  And it's FREE!!!

Anyone else out there taking the challenge? Wherever you live (in the US), there's probably a co-op near you hosting a month of Eat Local events...it just might not be during August if your growing season is different!