Thursday, September 30, 2010

Three tomatoes

My first garden was pretty much a flop. The pots started growing mold and it took me a while to figure out that our balcony just doesn't get much sun. I also learned that I need to water in the morning here instead of at night like they tell you to in Utah.

Mysterious caterpillars ate the salad garden in under two days before I even knew they were there (we're on the third floor for Pete's sake!). After that, I got lazy about watering so that hampered growth potential as well. Somehow our tomato plant managed to produce three pretty, red tomatoes and they were even delicious. The second round of rosemary is going strong and the thyme hasn't died yet so they're keeping my gardening hopes alive for now.

The good news is that I already have the soil and containers set up so I can replant for winter since it's so warm here. And I definitely know a bit more about gardening now than I did in April. A small bit. Kale is supposed to be pretty hardy and I hear peas like the shade...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Freezing Red Peppers

I found some great looking bell peppers at the FM on Saturday and bought a bunch to freeze. The first step is to wash and slice the peppers. I learned on Iron Chef that it's much quicker to slice down the sides of the pepper than to core it and then slice. If you're careful, you can avoid the seeds all together when you slice it the Iron Chef way.

Place the washed, sliced peppers on cookie sheets and place in the freezer overnight.

In the morning, package them into freezer ziplocs or vacuum pack them if you're lucky enough to have a sealer around (thanks BC!). I'd like to go again this week and get more peppers to roast before freezing for soup. We'll see if I can wake up early enough.

Update 2/7/10: I never did make it back to the FM in time to get more peppers in season - and tonight I used up the last freezer pack for jambalaya! So for future reference, I need to buy a TON more of these suckers when they're in season. This year, I also want to buy a bunch to roast and then make freezer kits of Roasted Red Pepper Bisque with the veggies all pre-chopped and ready to go. I can't remember how many I bought last time but the number 14 is stuck in my head. I'm not sure if that was 14 peppers, or 14 lbs of peppers. Must have been 14 peppers. Wow, I guess I'm amazed they lasted this long. Weird. Maybe it was more. Or maybe they were just huge.

Blueberry Muffins

I made these muffins again using the blueberry variation. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup without replacing it with anything and then just sprinkled a very little bit of sugar on top of each muffin before baking, rather than doing the full crumb topping. They were great. I liked them better than the banana ones even. Make sure to use soft white wheat with these - you can't even tell they're whole wheat.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Banana Muffins

I tried out the recipe for banana muffins here. They were quite good. I think they were too sugary and mine did not look nearly as pretty as her's but they're definitely a keeper. I'll probably try to reduce the sugar next time without subbing anything in and see what happens.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Oatmeal Fudge Bars

This recipe is from V's mom. It is so yummy. Totally not real food worthy but delicious. I did at least replace the shortening with butter and used organic brown sugar, sea salt, and pastured eggs but I have no idea what I'd use in place of the swt cond milk and our dnd group needed a quick, delicious treat.

1 cup shortening (or butter)
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
4 cups oats

6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
6 oz butterscotch chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients but the vanilla in the fudge list in a small saucepan. Heat on med-low, stirring occasionally, while preparing the dough. For cookie dough, cream butter or shortening with sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add soda, salt and flour. Mix well. Add oats slowly with mixer on. Press 2/3 of dough mixture into an ungreased 11x15 cookie sheet with sides. Wet or grease hands to pat dough out as it's very sticky. Remove melted fudge filling from stove and add vanilla. Pour over cookie dough layer and spread around. Crumble remaining cookie dough over the top. Bake at 350' for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely before cutting if you want them to be pretty. Personally, I can never wait that long.

Note: you may add 1 cup chopped nuts to the cookie dough with the oats and an additional 1 cup chopped nuts to the fudge filling with the vanilla if desired. I think they're delicious without them and nuts are spendy so I leave them out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soaked Granola Bars

These are delicious. Go HERE for the recipe. It's actually a preview recipe of an ebook on healthy snacks that you can buy here if you want to. Also, the non-soaked recipe is here. Phew. Ok, I took a billion pictures of this process since they take forever to make so I'm going to do a picture tutorial even though I'm not listing the recipe since it's not mine.

Step one is soaking and then dehydrating the oats. Soak 6 cups oats, 2 cups water, 2 TB whey and 1/3 cup wheat for one batch of granola bars. After soaking overnight, I actually chopped mine up because they weren't being cooperative spreading out.

They take 2-3 days to dehydrate in my machine. Around the 2nd day, I'm telling myself these better be seriously delicious for all the effort they take to make. They are - keep going. When dry, food process into small chunks.

Step three is to make the syrup out of honey, butter and vanilla. Because I invariably get distracted anytime I have important things on the stove, my syrup bubbled at least 5-7 minutes rather than the recommended 3 both times I've made it. No big whoop.

Pour syrup into oats, then stir in add-ins. I use coconut, raisins and soaked walnuts or pecans.

Bake at 325' for 10 minutes and remove even though they look like they could use more time. Score when warm. Cool completely. Cut and wrap individually. Store anything that won't be eaten within a week or so in the freezer. This will be nothing unless you've made more than one batch. Speaking of, I highly recommend making at least a double batch of these since they take so long. They're not hard, they just take like four or five days with all the soaking and dehydrating and cooling after baking.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


V has been wanting burgers ever since we got the September issue of Bon Appetit. I wanted them to be 'real food' style so it took a while to get all the components lined up. Over the last week, I made the sourdough buns, lacto-fermented mayonnaise and made fancy ketchup. I found some up-to-snuff pickles at Whole Foods and we used grass-fed beef and Dubliner cheddar.

Tonight, V added sea salt and freshly ground pepper to the beef, rounded them into balls and patted them out flat just before putting them in a hot, buttered pan. I sauted some onions with butter, made oven fries with coconut oil and sea salt, mixed up some fry sauce with mayo, ketchup and pickle juice, and toasted the buns. Dinner was delicious!

Notes for next time: make sure the hamburger balls are really cold so the patty stays together and keep the pan on high for more char-effect. The onions were totally worth the effort as was cutting the potatoes into fry-shape. For some reason, potato sticks are way more fry-like than square homefries even though they're the same thing.

Canning Applesauce

This is the first time I've ever canned applesauce and it was so much fun! I was really surprised at how easy it was. AD came over and helped tend the Monkey - which helped a ton. 20 lbs of apples made 7 qts of sauce. I think I need to get another 60 lbs of apples next month and do it again!

  • Buy a ton of Ginger Gold apples.
  • Wash apples.
  • Peel, core, and slice them.
  • Put in big pot with 1" filtered water.
  • Cook covered until very soft.
  • Meanwhile, 
    • Bring water in Canner to a boil.
    • Put jars and rings in dishwasher.
    • Put rings in small pan of water to simmer.
  • Mash apples with potato masher when soft.
  • Add a few dashes of cinnamon.
  • Sample WITHOUT burning your tongue to bits.
  • Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/4" headspace. 
  • Wipe rims, place lids on and screw rings on loosely.
  • Place in canner with 1" water over lids.
  • Process 20 minutes after the canner reaches the green zone.
  • Lift out.
  • Cool overnight.
  • Check seals (like I haven't done that 12 times already). 
  • Refrigerate any unsealed quarts.
  • Try not to eat them all immediately.

My only real dilemma was trying to figure out what to do with all the cores and peels. I ended up throwing them away since we have no composting option in our apartment. It seems like such a waste. I was excited about trying to make pectin out of apples using these leftovers but upon further reading, it seems like you need to use full-sugar recipes to make it gel. I'd rather use store-bought, low-sugar pectin if that's really the case. I would really like to figure out something useful to do with the refuse between now and when I get my 60 lb order from Azure Standard next month.

Labneh Yogurt Cheese

I've had some extra milk to use up around here so I made some Labneh Yogurt Cheese. First, make a batch of homemade yogurt or buy some plain flavored yogurt from the store. Line a sieve or colander with cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt in and place in the fridge.

Check on it every day or so to be sure it's not sitting in the whey - the clear-ish liquid it drains off. After about three days it should look something like this:

My two quarts of yogurt made about 1 1/2 cups of cheese. I save the whey in a quart jar to use in lacto-fermented condiment recipes (like ketchup and mayo) or to soak my grains. At this point, think about what you'd like to use your cheese for.

I wanted a Mediterranean-style cheese spread so I added in kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, dehydrated garlic and some sea salt. If I were going to use it as a cream-cheese substitute, I would have added some vanilla and a bit of fine-ground salt. You may also add your seasonings at the beginning when you first start draining the yogurt, but know that your whey will come out flavored as well. Since I use my whey, I choose to add the flavors at the end.

I made a double batch of Naan Bread to go with it and served it in with cucumber and tomatoes. So yummy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Soaked Granola

This one took a couple of tries but it's up to par now. I used my original granola recipe I got from BH and tweaked it using this soaked version as a guide.

4 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut oil
3/4 cup kefir or yogurt
1/2-1 cup water
1/2 cup honey
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup crispy nuts
handful raisins

Melt oil and add to oats with kefir or yogurt and as little water as necessary to wet all of the oats. This will vary depending on how runny your yogurt is. Let sit on the counter overnight.

Melt honey on low, remove from heat and add salt, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir into oat mixture. Add coconut and chopped nuts. Mix well. Spread thinly on 2 cookie sheets and bake in preheated 200' oven for about 1 hour or until starting to brown. Take out and break up into chunks using a metal spatula. Either return to oven until completely dry or move to dehydrator to finish overnight. Add raisins and store in an airtight container.

Note: May use half/half rolled wheat with the oats and half/half butter with the coconut oil if desired. I used a silicone baking mat for the oven baking time and it worked well. Also, my oven's lowest setting is 250' so it probably finished faster than normal.


Since grapes are in season and I still feel like dehydrating things is magic, I wanted to try making raisins.My first batch used the big black grapes I got from the FM on Saturday. They turned out well enough, I decided to check out the cost efficiency of the enterprise before making a ton of them.

I measured out 1 lb of grapes, washed them, and put them in the dehydrator. They took a lot longer than I thought they would - most of three days. They have a lot more flavor than store-bought raisins and I like the texture better too. I probably dried mine out a little more than commercial varieties so they're more chewy.

The cost evaluation did not turn out in their favor though. My 1 lb of grapes turned in to 4 oz of raisins. I bought local, non-organic grapes on sale at $1/lb. Costco sells 72 oz of Sun-Maid raisins for $6.45. 72 oz of my homemade raisins would cost me $18 plus the electricity to run the dehydrator and the effort it takes me to keep the Monkey from snitching for 3 days. The improved flavor and 'wonder' of doing them myself are totally not worth that to me. For future reference, if I can find grapes for 35cents per lb or less, I should buy 50 lbs of them and make raisins. It was a super fun experiment though.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farmer's Market

This is what we got at the Torrance Farmer's Market today - four dozen eggs, tons of grapes, mushrooms for pizza, peaches, avocados, corn, green onions, basil, romaine, rainbow chard, and two big bunches of spinach. $40 for everything. The eggs and mushrooms were $15 total, so if you take those out, you can compare it with my $25 csa pictures. I definitely get more produce from the market than the csa bag. It's not all organic though, so it may still be about even. I'm not sure. The Monkey did not do very well at the market today. She just wants to eat all the fruit she sees. Poor thing.

The eggs are my main point of going there. $3.25/doz for extra large eggs from cage free chickens that eat bugs. Most of the 'cage free' egg brands I've found in stores around here are labeled vegetarian fed. I've looked up at least three different brands online to figure out if they eat bugs and the websites read like they're in large hen houses with no 'cages' rather than roaming around eating bugs in grass. Plus, they're more like $5/doz in the store. So I'll be driving to Torrance at least once a month for my eggs.

We made a quick lunch when we got home from the market. Spinach salad with goat cheese, flax seeds and poppyseed dressing. Avocado toast. Grapes. And some Irish Cheddar.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Red Beans and Rice

Hmmm. I can't remember where I got the recipe for these yummy red beans and rice - or did I just wing it? This is exactly why I do a blog - so I can find my recipes!

Nut Bars

Go HERE for this awesome recipe. I just made it last night. I used raisins, flax seeds, and honey for my add-ins. No baking required, but you do have to wait for it to get cold before they're hard enough to cut. I had 'crispy' almonds on hand but I'm sure it would work with raw almonds too. I'm going to try wrapping some in plastic wrap and taking them in my purse for the Monkey's snacks. We'll see how it goes. They are sure yummy though - not too sweet and very satisfying.

Note: 'Crispy' almonds are simply raw almonds that have been soaked in saltwater and then dehydrated.