Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kale Potato Burritos


Just wanted to do a quick post about dinner: kale and potato burritos. I sauteed some kale and potato slices, and when they were tender, I set them aside. In same pan, sauteed onion and garlic with red pepper flakes and oregano...added some re-fried beans (they didn't show up in the photo, but they're there) and stirred it all together with some Bragg's Liquid Aminos and a splash of vinegar.

I used canned re-fried beans; I would have preferred to use homemade beans, but it was a hectic day and this dinner was quick to throw together. Served with fresh tomato and pepper salsa and some avocado this was really tasty.

For tortillas, I always use Food for Life Sprouted Grain Tortillas; they have lots of good texture and flavor and are healthier than regular flour tortillas. Their bread is cool's based on a recipe found in a bible scripture, which I find charming in itself.

Have a good evening!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Homemade Vegan Mozzarella

I've never been a big fan of vegan cheeses...although I do buy them occasionally. And I have never found a store-bought vegan mozzarella that I like. So, finally, ( I don't know what took me so long) I got around to making some at home.

I used this vegan mozzarella recipe from Veganize It...Don't Criticize It. Here's how it turned out:

This cheese did not disappoint! It shreds well, melts well, and the flavor is good. It actually adds to the quality of the pizza, rather than detracts from it, which is what most of the store-bought stuff does in my opinion.

Pizza Margherita before:

Pizza Margherita after:

See how well it melts? And, it was yummy. I definitely recommend this recipe.

I also made a cheeze-free pizza with lots of veggies and some tempeh that I marinated in Bragg's Liquid Aminos, then crumbled and sauteed with red pepper flakes, fennel, and garlic:

I think my next few posts will be about some of the other good home-made cheese recipes that I've found in the blogosphere. Bye for now. :)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hiking in Mt Rainier Nat'l Park

John and I went hiking yesterday, and while it's not food or gardening, I just had to post about it because it was so beautiful and exhilarating. I'm still hugging the experience and want to keep it clear in my memory as long as possible.

Mt. Rainier National Park is extensive (368 square miles) and offers hundreds of miles of trails. We hiked the Palisades Lakes Trail from Sunrise, which at an elevation of 6,400 feet, is the highest point that can be reached by car. Sunrise affords spectacular views of Mt Rainier (rising above at an elevation of 14,410 ft) and other volcanoes in the Cascade Range.

Here's John with the snow-covered tip of Mt. Rainier just discernible through the clouds behind him.

The trail cuts down along the northern side of the Sunrise precipice, and continues on through a series of valleys and ridges that are dotted with pristine alpine lakes. The first lake is Sunrise Lake--here's a view from the top of the trail:

More views along the the top of the trail:

After descending the precipice, the trail winds through several alpine meadows along the way to the first lake:

We ate lunch (tomato pesto and hummus sandwiches) at Clover Lake, which at 1.5 miles along the trail, is the second lake you encounter:

Some Gray Jays came to beg food from us; they were so insistent and adorable, we had to give in.

The hike continues on past 4 more lovely lakes until you reach the end of the trail at Upper Palisades Lake high camp... next time, we'll bring gear and camp there overnight.

The photos diminished as we hiked on and got into a primal, free-spirited, and light-hearted natural high that didn't prompt photo taking. Anyway, I wouldn't want to reveal the whole trail in the hopes that someday you can see it for yourselves, or at least create it in your imagination.

This trail makes a tidy day hike: 7 miles round trip, moderately rigorous--if you get an early start, you'll have plenty of time to tarry along the way.

Here are some other random shots:

Spot the froggy?

Pasque Flower mops

Lots of chipmunks here, although, none in photo

Mount Rainier again, just visible through the clouds in right of photo

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Tomato Pesto

This recipe is based on semi-dried tomatoes. Regular sun-dried tomatoes will work fine, but I would reduce the amount to 2/3 or 3/4 of a cup, as their flavor is more concentrated than the semi-dried tomatoes. This makes about 1 cup of concentrated pesto; it's potent and tangy, and the garlic flavor becomes more pronounced as the flavors meld. I like to make it as a concentrate and then add extra oil as I use it if I want a more unctuous consistency.

1 cup semi-dried tomato halves
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix all ingredients well in blender, scraping down the sides at least once during blending. The semi-dried tomatoes I used were already seasoned with salt and pepper, so I didn't need to add anything else.

I use tomato pesto for all sorts of things, adding it to sauces, lasagnes, sandwiches, pizzas, calzones, and soups. It adds a potent, tangy tomato flavor.

One of my favorite breakfasts is tomato pesto and hummus sandwiches with shredded carrot and sprouts (I'm eating one right now in fact).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chilled Cucumber Salad

This is a simple salad I remember eating when I was growing up...and my mom remembers eating when she was growing up. On hot summer days, my mom would make what she called a cold dinner, which consisted of corn cobs and new potatoes that she had cooked in the morning and cooled to room temperature, sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sugar, and this chilled cucumber salad.

My mom used to top the salad with sour instead of that, I used the Silken Tofu, Tahini, and Garlic Dip/Sauce from Vegan Epicurean. This sauce is absolutely perfect, so even if you don't make the salad, you absolutely have to try the sauce. The tofu makes it turn out very smooth, and the balance of flavors is perfect. It's ideal for falafel, salads, dipping, anything you'd fancy tahini sauce with.

To make the salad, thinly slice cucumber and sweet onion...I used cippolino onions... and chill in ice water for 20-30 minutes. I think the ice water part of the recipe is a vestige from the days when veggies were stored in the pantry instead of the fridge...hence, it was a way to chill the salad before serving on a hot summer evening. (My mom grew up in Chicago, where summers are hot.) It's probably not strictly necessary if you store your veggies in the fridge, but I think it does crisp them up a bit...and I like to do it because it's "old-timey". Note: When I originally posted this, I missed a step. After chilling the cucumbers and onion in ice water, pat them dry, arrange on a plate, sprinkle salt and vinegar over them and let them marinate in the fridge. Top with creamy-style sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley to serve.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Semi-dried Tomatoes Applied

Here a couple of ways I've been using semi-dried tomatoes:

They went well with blanched romano beans, sauteed briefly with garlic slices and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I went to a potluck today and took the BLT Salad from VeganYumYum; I tossed in some semi-dried toms along with some fresh ones.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Semi-dried Tomatoes

The tomatoes I'm growing this year are a small but juicy variety, and they cook up a lot like paste tomatoes. So aside from making lots of tomato-based dinners, I've also been making batches of semi-dried tomatoes. So sweet and slightly tangy--they're worth making just for the aroma that wafts through the house as they slowly dry in the oven.

This is pretty basic, so please improvise. A lot of recipes call for thyme, and I've seen ones that call for wonderful things like pomegranate molasses, but I prefer to keep mine simple and just use fresh oregano.

Slice some tomatoes (low acidity varieties like Roma work well) and arrange on a baking tray. Drizzle with good olive oil, freshly ground pepper, a light sprinkle of salt, and any other herb that suits your fancy. Bake in a 200 degree (F) oven for 4-10 hours.

The drying time is a guide; the baking time depends on how dry you want them and how juicy or big your tomatoes are. I check on mine every so often, and when I like the way they look I take them out.

Here are some semi-dried toms after 4 hours in the oven:

...little jewels to adorn your food.

They keep in the fridge for several days; packing them in good-quality olive oil will help them keep a little longer.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Humble Harvest

This year I planted potatoes using the potato cage method. I made a cage out of wire and wooden stakes, which I then dug into the ground to create a growing area of about a 3-foot circle. The idea of the potato cage is to plant the seed potatoes in soil, and then build up layer upon layer of straw and compost inside the cage; the potatoes are meant to grow in the layers of straw and compost...providing extended growing space in a limited area.

Here's the cage in all its glory this past June...when I had high hopes of a significant potato harvest.

I put black plastic around the outside so the growing medium stayed nice and dark.

Before planting, I amended the soil with homemade compost and greensand, which is an organic fertilizer, mined from deposits of minerals that were originally part of the ocean floor. It contains about 3% potassium, along with iron, magnesium, silica and other minerals.

I planted 5 small Yukon Gold seed potatoes. Because they were small, I didn't cut them into seed pieces, but rather planted them whole. The plants came up nicely, and I built the layers of straw and compost around the plants as they grew. However, by late July they still weren't showing any signs of blossoming, which had me a little concerned. I did a little research, and found sources saying that blossoming was not necessary to produce a potato crop.

Over the last week, the vines began dying back, so I decided to take the plunge with anticipation of a hearty potato harvest.

As I dug down deeper and deeper into the straw and compost, I was expecting to see potatoes abounding...but I didn't find any until I got to the bottom of the pile...the potatoes only grew at soil-level; they didn't grow up along the plant stalks through the straw and compost.

Here's what I harvested:

...a rather disappointing ~ 3 lbs. I had my hopes set on at least 15!

Oh well, I'll try again next year. Even when things don't turn out in the garden...I'm always grateful for the learning experience it affords me. The vine stalks themselves look healthy and free of fungus; I don't see any signs of pest damage. The potatoes that I did get are fine:

Some thoughts on what might have gone wrong:

-- soil acidity and/or fertility was not ideal...must look into a soil testing kit
-- plants may have been wilting due to disease or pest rather than maturity

Any other suggestions are welcome.

On the bright side, I 've got the makings of a nice compost pile from the layers of straw and the old potato vines.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Vegan Sausage and Peppers & Frozen Basil

Hooray!!! It's raining! You can always tell a Pacific Northwest native--we're happy when it finally cools down and rains...that's what we expect from this part of the world, and it's down-right comforting.

I love to open the kitchen window, light a few candles on the sill, listen to the rain, and get stuck into cooking. A glass of wine, candlelight, raindrops, what else do you need for a romantic evening? Sausage and peppers? Sure, why not.

I brought home some beautiful Eastern Washington peppers from the farmers' market last Friday, which were perfect for this meal. I also used some frozen basil. You may already know this, but it was news to me that you can freeze fresh basil directly from the garden. Just harvest it, make sure there is no moisture or water droplets on it, put it in a bag, and freeze.

Here's some fresh basil after being frozen for 2 days:

I was skeptical; I thought it would turn black as I chopped it, but it didn't:

The key is to use it immediately after taking it out of the freezer. After chopping, I tossed it in as a finishing touch for the vegan sausage and peppers:

Ingredients (Serves 4 over rice or other grain/pasta of your choice)

1 1/2 - 2 lbs peppers of your choice, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 large cloves garlic, sliced ( or more to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoons oregano ( to taste)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes ( to taste)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
5 to 6 cups canned or fresh blanched tomatoes (~ 40 - 50 oz)
4 to 6 good-sized Italian-style vegan sausages ( I didn't have any homemade on hand, so I used Field Roast Italian Style.)
handful of fresh (or frozen) basil
salt and pepper to taste

In large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, add pepper slices and allow to cook slowly, tossing occasionally; 20 - 30 minutes.

When the peppers are soft and beginning to brown, add in the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and fennel.

Continue to saute for 3 - 4 minutes; when the garlic is beginning to soften, add in tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste, and allow to simmer gently for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and if necessary, adding water to maintain desired consistency.

Meanwhile, drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and brown the vegan sausages.

About 10 minutes before serving, add browned sausage to the peppers and tomatoes, and toss in a handful of fresh basil.

Serve over rice or other grain of choice. I served it with leftover rice ( 50% white, 50% brown) and a tomato and baby arugula salad dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction:

If I bought good balsamic vinegar, I wouldn't bother with a reduction. But, I buy cheap stuff and just reduce it over low heat until it gets sweet and syrupy.

The rain also means that I don't have to water my garden for a couple of days...but I made sure to cover my tomatoes so they won't split.

Here's my crazy rigged up tomato tent:

Needs a bit of work, but it held up through the night. ;)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Whole Wheat Zucchini Apple Bread

Here's a healthy snack cake to help use up all that zucchini this time of year. This recipe doesn't call for cinnamon or allspice, mainly because my husband doesn't like them. I used some ground ginger and Old Bay seasoning instead.

3/4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon ground flax seed
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use Bob's Redmill 100% Organic Whole Wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
grated zest of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning (or use allspice, cinnamon, or other spice of your choice)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped apple
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line a 9x5x3 bread loaf pan with parchment paper.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed with three tablespoons water until thoroughly mixed. Mix in agave syrup, olive oil, and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl combine flour, remaining ground flax seed, baking powder, orange peel, baking soda, ginger, Old Bay, and salt.

Add the flour mixture, zucchini, apple, and sunflower seeds to agave mixture; mix until well blended. Expect the batter to be very thick and chunky. Spoon batter into lined loaf pan. Bake at 325°F for 60 - 75 minutes depending on how your oven is took 75 minutes in my oven. When it's done, a wooden kebab stick or toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 20-30 minutes; remove from pan and allow to cool completely before slicing.

And on a another's a volunteer pumpkin that I harvested today...I know it's way early for a pumpkin harvest, but this girl was already well-established before I even planted my own squash. I'm pretty sure she's the reincarnation last year's Halloween pumpkin, because I threw our carved pumpkin in the compost bin. I used the compost to amend my beds this spring before planting and she came up in no time. Pumpkin plants are really both he and she, but I think this particular pumpkin must be a "she" because she was so determined, efficient, and pretty.
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