Sunday, May 29, 2022

 Avocados in May!  51 harvested today -- and there are probably another dozen or so hiding in the glossy leaves of the avocado tree. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Straight Poop on Cat Litter

I have 6 adult cats -- here's our system:

In the last 30 years as an adult living on my own - I have gone through MANY many kinds of cat litter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Butternut Squash on Bittersweet Blog

Made some ravioli - guest post up on Hannah's Bittersweet blog - maybe I'll start blogging again here...

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Exploration: Reducing Refrigerator Dependence

The recent fires in Butte County have given me a lot of time to think, while hiding out from the smoke filled skies of the Bay Area.  I read that PG&E had considered shutting down the power grid -- but did not, and conditions resulted in the massive wildfire that decimated the town of Paradise and the evacuation of over 50K people.

One of the key considerations is the reliance on electricity and the challenges faced by less affluent households when the power goes out:  they can't afford solar panels or generators to keep their food in the fridge.   If you're not in a hospital or nursing facility, or dependent on electricity for some kind of healthcare related system -- your biggest risk is your week (or more) of food in the refrigerator and freezer.

So, how can we reduce our dependence on the refrigerator?  I found this interesting article about the history of refrigerators in the US -- and it got me wondering whether I could cut back my use of the refrigerator to a point where I would not lose perishables in a power outage of longer than 2-3 days (or however long a refrigerator stays cold).

This would require changing my shopping habits -- making purchases of fresh vegetables more frequently -- and not storing anything in the freezer.  I would also have to stop stocking up on perishables like vegan cheeses, seitan and condiments.  I've already experimented with using my Excalibur dehydrator to dry pesto and harissa -- and this year, I canned all my enchilada sauce (but not my tomato juice, for example). 

I'm going to start working toward reducing perishables in my freezer and fridge - and identifying foods that don't need to be kept in the fridge (does the hot sauce really need to be refrigerated?). 

If you have any experience with such an experiment -- I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Plum Jelly Round-Up

Earlier this year, tired of squirrel bandits on my bird feeders - I discovered that I could trap them in my Hav-A-Hart trap -- and relocated 3 of 5 squirrels to a park two miles away.  The unexpected upside of this is that my neighbors finally got tree-ripened loquats and I had a LOT more plums on the tree in my backyard this year -- I harvested about 125 lbs in the two days before July 4th!

I barely had room in my freezer and fridge to put all the juice and puree -- and this week I am making up jelly -- a lot of it!

16 c plum juice + 1 c lemon juice + 4 c sugar + 5Tb & 1tsp pectin + 5Tb & 1tsp calcium water + 3.75 oz habaneros (seeds cut out) =
  • 21- half pints plum habanero jelly

  • 18 - half pints 
  • 15 - quarter pints
20 cups of plum juice + 5 c sugar + pectin/calcium water + 1 c lemon juice =
  • 11 - 20 oz jars 
  • 13 - half pints

24 cups of plum juice + 6 c sugar + pectin/calcium water + 1 1/4 c lemon juice + lemongrass =
  • 33 - half pints

Monday, July 16, 2012

Zucchini & Tomato Soup

What else do you do with a giant zucchini - or two - but make a pot of soup (if you aren't making my Zucchin-Carrot Relish!) -- here are a couple recipes I have made recently, and since I put the information in on a web app - actually have the caloric data for it!

I threw in 3-4 frozen cubes of home made basil-garlic-raw almond pesto - so made the almonds an optional ingredient here, as well as the olive oil.  I also have a lot of roasted red padron puree in the freezer from last fall - one ice cube is roughly 1/4 c, I think, and I added that in - you could substitute Harissa paste (if you want heat), or chopped fresh red or green bell peppers.  Or throw in any spicy chopped peppers!

  • 8 c zucchini, skin on, cut into large chunks (remove pithy parts and large seeds) (168 calories)
  • 4 c crushed canned tomatoes (312 calories)
  • 2 oz dried shitake mushrooms (200 calories) - or - 16 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 Carrots (150 calories)
  • 1-2 c broccolini greens & florets (45 calories)
  • 8 Garlic, Cloves, Fresh (35 calories)
  • 1/2 c chopped basil leaves (4 calories)
  • 2 c sweet/Vidalia onion, chopped or sliced to preference (128 calories)
  • 2 T dried Thyme (or double fresh) (16 calories)
  • 3 c cabbage, chopped (66 calories)
  • 1/2 c green onion, chopped (9 calories)
  • 8 c vegetable stock (160 calories)
  • 2 packages Westsoy Chicken Style Seitan (770 calories)    
  • 1 bunch of chopped parsley (16 calories)
  • 1.5 T Red miso (the refrigerated kind) (45 calories)
  • 3 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (120 calories)
  • 3 Tb raw almonds, finely ground (102 calories)
  • 1/4 roasted red padron puree (9 calories)
  1. Break up the dried mushrooms into quarters or smaller and place into a heat proof dish or pan; pour boiling water over the mushrooms and allow to steep while you assemble the rest of the soup.
  2. Pour the stock into the pan - note - I used tomato juice from canning tomatoes last year -- which is just the water that was around the seeds.  As I seed the tomatoes before putting them in the pot, I put all the seeds into a metal mesh strainer and then stir them around to get all that water out separately and save it for soups.  In this case, about 5 cups of my vegetable stock was tomato water (not sauce!).  If you like more tomatoey flavor, throw in another can or pint jar of crushed tomatoes -- they'll break down and give you plenty of flavor.
  3. Add the Westsoy Chicken-Style Seitan - be sure to keep the broth in the container, it's tasty stuff - and tear up any extra large pieces of seitan with your fingers.
  4. Add the carrots first - I slice them on the diagonal for nice big chunks, and put them into the stock first while it's heating up.  Add in the rest of the veggies items as ready -- and add additional water to cover if needed.
  5. Reserve for last (as in - just a few minutes before serving) any fresh herbs and the red miso paste (which you can dissolve with a small whisk separately before adding in).
  6. Salt & pepper to taste --  and yes, this a HUGE pot of soup but you can eat as much as you want because the entire thing is a whopping 2300 calories -- 12 large servings at 191 calories each!


Sunday, July 01, 2012

Zucchini Vegetable Farro Soup (no onions/no garlic)

I made this giant pot of soup and shared it with my family - the corn kernels mix in with the similarly sized farro and provide a nice counterpoint of flavor and texture.  Tarragon & thyme provide the flavor - no onions or garlic in this soup, resulted in a soup that was sweet from the corn and carrots only.

  • 10 c zucchini, skin on, cut into large chunks (remove pithy parts and large seeds if using monster zukes) (210 calories)
  • 6 carrots (150 calories)
  • 4 c crushed canned tomatoes (312 calories)
  • 2 c farro (400 calories)
  • 4 c broccoli or other sturdy greens like collards (140 calories)   
  • 1 oz dried shitake mushrooms (100 calories) - or - 8 oz fresh button mushrooms, sliced
  • 16 c vegetable stock (400 calories)
  • 2 packages Westsoy Chicken Style Seitan (770 calories)   
  • 2 ears of corn, cut off the cob (147 calories)
  • 3 Tb "Mellow" white miso (90 calories)
  • 4 tsp red miso (45 calories)
  • Dried herbs to taste - I used lots of tarragon & thyme
  1. Break up the dried mushrooms into quarters or smaller, place in a heat proof dish or pan and cover with boiling water to steep while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.  When they are soft, add the pieces and the water to the pot.
  2. Pour the stock into a very large pot -- if you cut down the stock by half and use water instead, the soup will probably taste just as good!  Use what you have on hand!
  3. Add the carrots first - I cut them up into big chunks, and put them in the pot so that they cook up faster.
  4. Be sure to add the stock from the seitan package - it's yummy!  If you don't have this brand available where you live - substitute your favorite seitan or even some nice smoked tofu (yum!).
  5. Add the miso paste last -- you will want to take some stock or hot water and dissolve it so that it mixes into the soup better.
  6. Don't cut yourself cutting the fresh corn off the cob - after cutting off the niblets, be sure to scrape the cob with the back of your knife over the pot to get all the juice and flavor out of the corn cob (yum!).

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Summer Strawberry Jicama Slaw

Summer Strawberry Jicama Slaw

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped small (not fine)
  • 1 cup jicama, julienned
  • 1-2 limes
  • 1/4 c finely minced mint leaves
  • salt, tiny pinch
  • champagne vinegar, 1 tsp
  • (optional) 1 small jalapeno pepper, finely minced
  • (optional) 3 Tb toasted pumpkin seeds
Toss ingredients and serve at room temperature - the crispy sweet jicama makes a delicious counterpoint to the sweeter and more tender berries, with a little acid from lime/vinegar to punch it up, and complemented by the mint & spicy jalapeno pepper.

BONUS: Turn this slaw into a salsa by chopping up the strawberries & jicama into smaller bits and adding half a chopped red onion and two pressed garlic cloves.

SUBSTITUTIONS: if you can't find jicama, substitute cabbage for a slaw, or cucumber (no seeds, please!) for the salsa or a chunky salad.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Pears, Persimmons & Sourdough

Well, it's been a while! What can I say except that things got away from me. I visited family in November, my mother visited for 3 weeks in December, plus I had to deal with the 8 weeks long chest cold from hell. 

My chief culinary accomplishments of late fall and early winter include:

PEARS: My friend George forwarded me a note from a community list along with a photo of a gorgeously laden and tempting looking pear tree.  I harvested about 30+ lbs of small pears which seemed quite hard, along with my friend Veronika.  The location was near Oakland's Chinatown, so while we were back there, some neighbors came by and also harvested some pears.  V and I thought they were kind of firm but one lady bit into it and said they were good.

The pears were small, a bit mealy and very hard.  They had a yellow-green skin under a brown layer that scraped off with light application of fingernail or nylon scrubby pad.  I washed all the pears and laid them out to ripen on trays.  And waited.  And waited.  After 2 weeks, some of them just went mushy, so I did some research.

What I discovered is that there are some old varieties of pears that are only for cooking - I think these pears were Kiefer pears.  So, I poached some pears and they came out so amazingly delicious!  I canned the rest of the pears in several batches - some with light syrup and some with light syrup and spices (clove, cinnamon, star anise). I'll be set for a while for canned pears, I promise some lovely pear photos.

PEAR VINEGAR: As Marilee from Urban Legend Cellars said, "folks don't know how EASY it is to make vinegar!"  I put a big pile of pear peelings and cores into a gallon glass jar with distilled water - and I keep adding water and aerating it.  It's now growing a mother on top - just like kombucha or Bragg's apple cider vinegar!  Soon I will get up the nerve to taste my pear vinegar.  Expanded post with pictures coming soon.

GROUND CHERRY JELLY: the ground cherries kept going long after everything else quit.  The one Giant Ground Cherry plant I got from Annie's is still going out there - and I hope to promote those for the next season over the smaller kind.  I made up 12 half pints of jelly but it didn't set as firmly as I want, so the jars are still on the kitchen windowsill waiting to be remade (or poured over pound cake and ice cream, tough call).

PERSIMMONS: In early November, I made my annual harvest of persimmons from Larissa & Geoff's 3 story high Hachiya persimmon tree. After I picked about 200 persimmons in early November, left them to ripen while I was gone for a week - and ripen they did!  Then I and dried them all - with some pulp in the freezer as usual.  I made two giant trays of persimmon bread pudding for Holly & Marina's wedding reception - it was very well received and there were no leftovers!

SOURDOUGH: I took a Sour Flour class just a few days into the onset of the Horrible Chest Cold from Hell - and had mixed results with the starter (it eventually died).  I plan to get some starter from a neighbor named Ana.

GARDEN - Veggies vs Flowers: no, I did not manage to get my winter greens garden in properly this year again.  However, I did manage to keep alive my digitalis purpura and put it in the ground, along with some jasmine and a 2-stick rose plant - so there will be lovely scented flowering things along the fence in my garden.  The brugmansia that I got as a leafless wine barrel size root ball from Freecycle is flourishing in the side yard and sending up leaves and new growth, fingers x'd that I will have some lovely scented angel trumpets in the spring.

The broccoli di cicco has gone feral and seems to be flowering continuously - an attack of little grey aphid-y things on the broccoli, mustard and broccoli rab volunteers makes them inedible but I am leaving the large stand of broccoli di cicco because it seems to be making the honeybees very happy.  Once my other flowering plants start producing flowers, I will tear it out to make space for tomatoes.

What I love about my neighborhood is that you get random curb scores - I got a paper grocery sack half full of rhizomes labeled "FREE!" Purple and light blue irises!" which are going into the ground along the house by my steps this week.

Wow! And here I thought I hadn't done much - it turns out I've just been a lazy blogger! I promise to make it up to you, the one reader who still checks in on my blog occasionally (hi Aunt Sue!) and some backdated posts that I obviously owe are coming this week!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dried Tomato Disappointment

Looking for tea today, I moved my quart jar of dried Principe Borghese tomatoes - 8 lbs fresh.  Full of little worms covered in webbing (not moving around).  *sigh*  It only cost $5.60 for the tomatoes, but it took me a while to pick them and then wash, dry, slice and dehydrate them... I guess it's good I didn't eat them.  Was it one bad tomato?  Were there several? I'll never know.  I wonder if I should have frozen the dried tomatoes after they cooled off (just put the whole jar in the freezer, right?)