Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Garden & Canning Inventory

Arugula (curly leaf)
Arugula (rocket)
Chard (Rainbow)
Chocolate Mint
Japanese Cucumber x 2
Tomatoes - 42 plants of 19 heirloom types
Tomatoes (~10 volunteers - mystery!)

broccoli rab
cucumbers, Japanese
peas, English
peas, Sugar Snap
plums, red

apples, green
apples, red-flesh
candy caps
golden chanterelles
lemons, Eureka
lemons, Meyer
peaches, yellow
peaches, white
pears, Asian
pears, bartlet
plums, green gage

applesauce, unsweetened
applesauce, unsweetened w/fresh ginger
apple pie filling
butter, quince
chutney, apricot
chutney, lemon-fig
chutney, lemon
chutney, peach-chipotle
chutney, peach
chutney, persimmon (3 types!)
golden chanterelles (18# dry sauteed & frozen)
infused vodka, apricot
infused vodka, santa rosa plum-ginger
infused vodka, green pear & vanilla
infused vodka, Asian pear
infused vodka, persimmon
jam, apricot
jam, apricot-chipotle
jam, fig
jam, green gage
jam, quince
jam, white peach
jam, yellow peach
jelly, apricot
jelly, white peach
jelly, yellow peach
jelly, yellow peach-chipotle
jelly, plum
jelly, plum habanero
jelly, plum lavender
jelly, plum spice
jelly, quince
juice, lemon
juice, Asian pear
juice, tomato
pesto, arugula
pesto, chard
pesto, basil
plum sauce
relish, Pottsfield
tomato sauce, red
tomato sauce, yellow
tomato sauce, orange

Asian pears
cherry tomatoes

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Persimmon Blondies

Originally uploaded by jennconspiracy
These tasty treats were easy to whip up and taste great - they blend persimmon, brown sugar, Chinese 5 spice and chocolate chips into a rich, moist blondie that I am looking forward to making again (with pecans!).

This is another recipe test for Hannah's new cookbook so that means no recipe secrets here!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Truth About Homemade Laundry Soap

I finally finished my bucket of homemade laundry detergent. Over the last six months, I have done some reading on the ingredients in the detergent as well and have some observations.

  • Homemade laundry detergent doesn't work very well. I stirred the goop. I doubled the amount used - my white cotton socks are so grey and ugly that they look like rags for cleaning the car.
  • The homemade laundry soap doesn't dissolve well in cold water (which is all I use) and often leaves goopy streaks on the washing.
  • Fels-Naptha is made from petrochemicals and isn't very green. Probably shouldn't go on the garden, either.
  • Borax, while a naturally occurring mineral, is bad for your vegetable patch in greywater as it can accumulate in the soil.
I've still got some Borax, washing soda and bar soap - I'm torn between making another batch, stronger, to see how it performs - or finding a hazardous waste disposal for the stuff and going with a biodegradable powdered detergent in a recycled cardboard box.

Thoughts? Observations?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fight the HATE!

Tomorrow, December 10, is my birthday and International Human Rights Day. Call in GAY! Or come celebrate with me.

"On December 10, 2008 the gay community will take a historic stance against hatred by donating love to a variety of different causes.

On December 10, you are encouraged not to call in sick to work. You are encouraged to call in "gay"--and donate your time to service!

December 10, 2008 is International Human Rights Day. CLICK HERE to join us, and search or add to the list of human rights organizations that need our help RIGHT NOW. "

BIRTHDAY: To be quite honest - I had planned to take this day off anyway, so I am not going to be complying with the intent of the cause as I had already made reservations for fun things for my birthday.

I am a sagittarius and we get the entire month to celebrate to make up for thanksgiving, xmas, and all the other holidays hogging the air time.

* Last weekend, I took and passed the motorcycle safety course and DMV written test last weekend, followed by a celebratory dinner at Berkeley Cha-Ya.

* Last night I went to see "I Can't Think Straight" at the Roxie with two friends (followed by dinner at SF Cha-Ya, what can I say - I like their food).

* Tomorrow (actual bday), I plan to:
  • do laundry & pack for my trip
  • visiting a thrift store in my neighborhood with limited M-F 10-3 hours for the first time
  • early lunch with a coworker who is calling in gay
  • soaking at Kabuki Springs followed by "Nirvana" package from 3-6
  • dinner at Millennium
* Thursday - Dame Edna "First Last Show"
* Weekend at Orr Hot Springs

PERSIMMONS: I am nearly done with persimmons. I know, it's silly. I have got to get the photos up. I didn't take a lot of photos of the table full of persimmons but James has one that I'll try to copy... some of the persimmons were so ripe that I ended up over drying them and they are a bit crispy but still delicious. I have a few more persimmons to dry - they are nearly ripe. I have a lot of pulp reserved for sorbet and frozen margaritas. Yum.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cherry Macaroon Tart

Originally uploaded by jennconspiracy
The second recipe test for Hannah's new book - turned out awesome - it's super easy to make: a sweetened coconut crust with a filling of sweetened cherries with a bit of almond essence.

Very tasty - I thought the crust would be crispier instead of chewier, but it lasted several days before soaking up the juice from the cherry filling. It was delicious at all stages!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

VooDoo Doughnuts

VOO DOO DOUGHNUTS: The doughnut mecca for vegans with a nice selection of vegan cake doughnuts with all kinds of crazy toppings. On my first visit to Portland last weekend, I insisted my dear friend take me there straight-away the next morning so that I could get a big box to take home.

The menu is pretty funny - it has crazy names for doughnuts like "triple chocolate penetration" (yikes) and "Memphis mafia." Click through to look at the larger size of the image.

The VooDoo Menu

They seemed to be low, so I just asked for a box of a dozen assorted doughnuts and ended up with this lovely selection of yummy items.


The first doughnut I ate was covered in crushed Chick-o-Stick candy. And, of course - I couldn't resist buying the t-shirt with their slogan "The magic is in the hole."

Jenn with Vegan Chick-o-Stick dougnut

My friend had to get a "maple bacon" doughnut - which he said was better than the last time when the bacon was overcooked and crispy. Eww.

Gregor and his Bacon-Maple Doughnut

But, he looked pretty happy with it - but not as happy as Jon was to have vegan doughnuts and beer at the Trappist with me when I got home on Sunday.

Vegan Doughnuts & Beer

RESULTS: Panopoly of Persimmon Chutney

The results: I confess. I got myself into trouble with the first two recipes. I don't know what I was thinking though I did run it by my friend Eric to eyeball it and didn't hear back from him before I started.

Next time, I think I will just press the persimmons in the ricer - that way I don't have to worry about scraping the skins and will get more juice and reduce the amount of chunks in the chutney.

Chutney #1 turned out nice and sweet with a good bite. Next time - I would halve the apricots, apples and raisins. I upped the amount of persimmons because they were lost in the mix.

Chutney #2 is lemony with a kick, the red pepper chunks held up but it was still way more.

Chutney #3 is citrusy-gingery-tart, might need a bit more cooking time - I will heat it up before canning it tonight and add the pomegranate seeds last.

Revised recipes below, I will make reduced quantity versions to post later:

Persimmon Chutney #1 - chunky, fruity, tart

25 ripe Hachiya persimmons, pulp only
6 c apple cider vinegar
6 c brown sugar

1/2 c ginger, minced
2 T chili powder
1/4 c mustard seed,whole
2 T coriander seed, crushed
3 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, whole
1 T whole cloves

8 c water
1.5 pounds dried apricot, chopped
3 3/4 c chopped onion
3 T finely minced garlic
4 chopped apples
1 c golden raisins
3 c raisins

1. Combine all ingredients except persimmons, vinegar & sugar, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until soft, stirring frequently until nearly all the juice is gone.
2. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced.
3. Add the persimmon and simmer until tender and the chutney has come together into a chunky mixture, breaking up any large pieces of apple or onion as you go.
4. Simmer about as needed. Really long time because it's like 2 gallons of chutney you big dummy. Next time - less apricot, apples and stuff.

Persimmon Chutney #2 - salty/spicy

20 persimmons, pulp only
2 c apple cider vinegar
3 c sugar

2-3 large preserved Moroccan lemons (don't you have any in your fridge?)
1 red bell pepper, large, chopped
1 white onion, chopped fine
3 T red chili flakes
2 T fenugreek seed
1/4 c finely chopped raw ginger
1 T chopped garlic
1 c raisins

Combine all, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, stirring frequently until reduced. Taste & adjust spices, vinegar & sugar as necessary.

Persimmon Chutney #3 - sweet/spicy/citrus

15 persimmons, pulp only
2 c brown sugar
1/4 c rice wine vinegar
3/4 c apple cider vinegar
1 c pomegranate seeds

8 limes, juiced
3 c water
1 c dried cranberries
3 c red onion or scallion, chopped
6 small green pears, chopped
3 lg jalapenos, chopped
1/4 c fresh grated ginger

1. Combine all ingredients except persimmons, pomegranate seeds vinegar & sugar, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until soft.
2. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced.
3. Add the persimmon and pomegranate seeds. Simmer until thick.

This one had very few changes and actually fit in one of my pots. When I reheat to can it tonight, I'll add the pomegranate seeds.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Panopoly of Persimmon Chutney Recipes

You know what they say about a watched pot, right? Well, persimmons are the same way - they are somewhat persnickety and as they slowly ripen 1-2 at a time, I was worried I'd never have enough ripe at one time to make chutney or jam.

Sure enough, a girl goes away for a fun weekend in Portland to visit her pals and returns to find nearly 50 water balloon squishy ripe persimmons (only one got moldy, thank you muchly!).

A review of persimmon chutney recipes and ingredients I want to use revealed this: there aren't a lot of persimmon chutney recipes out there that excite me and none of them are built for large quantities of persimmons calling for 1-4 persimmons at most.

C'mon people - we're talking serious home canning volume here! In the fine tradition of this blog, I spent some time composing some chutney recipes. I will test them tonight and modify the final recipes after adjusting to taste, but here are the three main contestants:

Persimmon Chutney #1 - chunky, fruity, tart

15-18 ripe Hachiya persimmons, pulp only
6 c apple cider vinegar
4 c sugar

1/2 c ginger, minced
1 T chili powder
1/8 - 1/4 c mustard seed,whole
2 T coriander seed, crushed
3 T fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cinnamon stick, whole
1 T whole cloves

5-10 c water
2 pounds dried apricot
3 3/4 c chopped onion
7-10 cloves chopped garlic
4-5 chopped apples
3 3/4 cups golden raisins
3 c raisins

  1. Combine all ingredients except persimmons, vinegar & sugar, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until soft, stirring frequently until nearly all the juice is gone.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced.
  3. Add the persimmon and simmer until tender and the chutney has come together into a chunky mixture, breaking up any large pieces of apple or onion as you go.
  4. Simmer about 5 minutes more, as needed.

Persimmon Chutney #2 - salty/spicy

15-18 persimmons, pulp only
2 c apple cider vinegar
3 c sugar

2-3 large preserved Moroccan lemons (don't you have any in your fridge?)
1 red bell pepper, large, chopped
1 white onion, chopped fine
3 T red chili flakes
2 T fenugreek seed
1/4 c finely chopped raw ginger
6 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 c currants

Combine all, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, stirring frequently until reduced. Taste & adjust spices, vinegar & sugar as necessary.

Persimmon Chutney #3 - sweet/spicy/citrus

15-18 persimmons, pulp only
1 c unrefined white sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 c rice wine vinegar
1 c pomegranate seeds

8 limes, juiced
1 c dried cranberries
3 c red onion or scallion, chopped
6 small green pears, chopped
5 small red chilis, chopped (or jalapenos?)
1/4 c fresh grated ginger

  1. Combine all ingredients except persimmons, pomegranate seeds vinegar & sugar, bring to boiling, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook until soft.
  2. Add vinegar and sugar. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until reduced.
  3. Add the persimmon and pomegranate seeds. Simmer until thick.

Thoughts? Observations? Recommendations? Let me know before 7pm when I am going to be in the kitchen putting pots to bubble!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fall Farmer's Market Cooking Class at Millennium

Photos are up from the Fall Farmer's Market Cooking Class at Millennium - in this photo, Chef Eric Tucker demonstrates how to assemble a rustic galette filled with braised greens.

Matt's Log Cabin Quilt

Originally uploaded by jennconspiracy
Finally done - I'll have to go back to get better photos in more favorable light...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Adopt a Turkey!


Thanks to Urban Vegan's post on the Farm Sanctuary's Turkey Adoption Program, several people I know are going to get Turkey Adoption Certificates for their birthdays!

If you're still looking for places to donate for charitable tax deductions, Farm Sanctuary is a great organization to consider.

Even though Prop 2 passed in California, the treatment and slaughter of turkeys is still a widely cruel and inhumane practice. Check the FS site for more details on turkeys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Persimmons & Mushrooms

PERSIMMONS: I'm still up to my ears in persimmons - they are ripening about 2-3 per day now. I'm going to make fruit leather and the Excalibur is humming along, drying slices of persimmon into sugary, translucent, chewy treats. Even though I slice the persimmons at 1/8" to 1/4" - they still dehydrate down quite thinly.

MUSHROOMS: Nothing yet! Trips to the Oakland Hills and Lagunitas yielded some mushy oversize oyster mushrooms - at least Veronica got to see some mushrooms on her first trip out! Hoping to find porcini on Sunday - we just need another splash of rain and hopefully they'll be pinning and pop.

CALLING ALL PORTLAND BLOGGERS! If you could pick one Portland vegan restaurant, which would it be? VooDoo Doughnuts doesn't count.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ladybug bacchanal

Ladybug bacchanal
Originally uploaded by jennconspiracy
James and I went for a hike today and came upon part of the trail that was dripping with ladybugs - millions of them. Click through to see the other shots and look at some of the large versions of the photos...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fall Harvest Cooking Class at Millennium

Hey folks - check out the Fall Harvest Cooking Class at Millennium. The classes are a lot of fun - I will be there on Sunday and hope to see you there!

Fall Harvest Cooking Class
Sunday November 9th, 2008
10am-3pm (approx), $135/person
With a plentiful Thanksgiving upon us & nary an inspiration for a holiday menu, let chef Eric teach you a few new tricks... Optional opportunity to meet the farmers that provide for Millennium & it's guests: join Eric Saturday November 8th @ the Ferry Building for a guided tour through the Farmer's Market. Gather up your produce for the week & talk about the finishing touches to the class's menu the following day...10am @ the CUESA information booth located in the front of the building, just below the clock tower.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Persimmon Harvest

Today, James and I picked about 137 pounds (he weighed them) of Hachiya persimmons. They aren't quite ripe - I'll be spreading them out on newspaper on the floor in my spare room. Hannah is getting a flat rate box with 10.5 lbs of them this week. I'll be making chutney, jam and attempting some dehydration experiments... photos coming soon!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

After taking Dobson next door in costume to give treats to the neighbor children, I returned to spend an evening finishing Matthew's quilt... I'm so close!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rum Raisin Fudge Brownies

I volunteered to test recipes for Hannah over at Bittersweet Blog - the first recipe came in today and promptly set my spirits in motion. I've been feeling evil and craving chocolate -- this recipe was short and sweet and easy to make. After my rum raisin apple pie experiment, I was happy to give this a whirl.

Rum Raisin Fudge Brownie

I can't share the recipe with you folks - but I plan to remake this recipe and test out a few things on it, so if you are between home and work for me, I might could find my way to share...

I did get a picture up of my Fig Tart and edited the posting to include the result (it was totally eaten up!)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

REVIEW: "Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" & "Real Food: What to Eat & Why"

Lately, I have been in the habit of reading books that pair together - either by the same author or books that seem to treat the same topic. The two most recent books -- on the heels of the two Michael Pollan books I finished a few weeks ago, are "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" by Sandor Katz, the author of "Wild Fermentation" and "Real Food: What to Eat & Why" by Nina Planck. Since the Planck book is the least useful and most controversial, I'll start there - hoping to make this quick and painless.

"Real Food: What to Eat & Why" by Nina Planck has a beguiling cover that seems to offer promises of quality guidelines and content. While Planck writes with great passion in an accessible, chatty style, I found much of her book to be pompous, arrogant and repetitive. Although she does use footnotes in the first part of the book and lists a bibliography, her academic rigor is not nearly on the same level as "Omnivore's Dilemma."

In fact, there were several long sections that seem to be lifted right from Michael Pollan's book -- making "Real Food" seem more to me like a "Cliff Notes" version of "Omnivore's Dilemma" but tainted with a very subjected, personal angle that implies there is only one "right" diet and everyone else is an idiot. While Planck and Pollan are both journalists and food writers, it is clear that Planck's skill is not in writing -- her book seems like a very long blog article or diatribe. She relies heavily on secondary and tertiary sources, fails to properly substantiate many of her arguments except by anecdote -- you can hardly tear down the China Study, for example, by your own personal experience.

She also seems to be taking format cues from Sandor Katz's "The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" -- both in terms of the structure of her book and the individual chapters. Her weak attempts at describing food preparation and providing resources don't hold water next to Katz's superior book which describes the experiences and experiments of him and his friends and is very strongly supportive of readers exploring and finding what works best for them.

Reading the reviews for Planck's book on Amazon and other places on the internet was highly entertaining -- she has a very vocal following who will defend to the death her assertions -- afterall, Planck's book validates their current diets making very few recommendations aside from staying away from packaged, processed food. It's still basically the Standard American Diet - lots of animal products, eat as much as you want. The redeeming factor is that she encourages people to strongly consider the source of their foods -- staying away from big corporate farm produced foods.

Her argument boils down to something pulled right from Pollan's writings: anything your grandmother made is 'real food. However, that was what Pollan offered as a guideline for selecting better prepared foods -- not as a pretext to eat whatever the hell you want. Planck maintains that you should eat as much as you want of anything that's not packaged or processed crap -- somehow, your body will know when to stop because those foods are more satisfying. This leaves out the obvious -- calories are calories and must be burned. People eat for many reasons -- hunger, boredom, happiness, sadness -- and satiety isn't always a cue for ending a meal.

Planck is vehemently (and obnoxiously) anti vegetarian, particularly anti-vegan, and there is not a lot of material provided to encourage independent, critical thought or to make space for other people's experiences or conclusions. She puts little value on moderation or exercise, and doesn't allow for differences in individual body chemistry.

Pollan, on the other hand, goes to Polyface farm and works on the farm, he goes hunting, he goes foraging -- he talks to real people, he dives in and describes his experiences. All Planck does is to read Pollan and a few other books and write an over-long newspaper column that incorporates some of their key ideas with her own strong opinions. Her shameless theft of concepts from Pollan's books -- twisted to her own means -- lead me to make only one recommendation: Read Omnivore's Dilemma. It's a far superior book when compared to Planck's book or any others on the shelf.

"The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved" by Sandor Katz is created to be used by its readers, not merely consumed. He has clearly laid out as comprehensive and inclusive an agenda as any I have seen, covering industrial food production, dumpster diving, fermenting, foraging, vegetarianism and many other topics. His writing style is humble, clear and flows well -- while he incorporates plenty of information about his and his own experiences, the first person narrative is neatly integrated into the overall message. Each chapter is written as a standalone article and ends with recipes and resources for futher research.

Katz's approach is truly one of conservation and relativity -- he constantly notes that each individual's particular body chemistry, culture and food preferences mean that a diet that works for him (now) may not work for you. He encourages exploration, examination and critical thought.

Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the negative reviews of his books on Amazon are largely from homophobes. While he mentions he's fighting AIDS with diet and medication, and that he lives in a queer community - he's not hamfisted about his sexual orientation or lifestyle. He's clear and up front about it but in no sense does he ever offer judgement about the relative merits of his orientation to the mainstream (nor is the book in anyway about sex). Katz provides details about his life as they are relevant to his experiences and experiments with food -- but he's clearly not out to recruit people to the "Gay Nation" nor to challenge their assumptions on homosexuality.

It's very clear that his mission is to provide a catalyst for his readers (whom he assumes are intelligent, inquisitive folks) to scrutinize their diets and food sources and to arm them with tools for making the best choices based on their own particular situations.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tomates a la Provencale

Tomates a la Provencale turned out so well on Saturday that I think I am about to experience a slight addiction similar to the bruschetta addiction that ran from 2000-2002. Except, less bread, more tomatoes. This preparation is something I have done in the past - but for some reason, it went into a black hole in my brain and most of my tomatoes this season have been eaten raw or made into sauces.

No longer - I am going to be binging on garlic, fresh herbs and tomatoes from my garden, all baked up with a spritz of olive oil and panko until the juices are bubbly and the bread crumbs are crispy. Game on!

I swear - pictures are coming - I totally failed to take pictures of all the delicious food on Saturday and have not managed to actually get pictures of any of my roasted tomatoes in the last three days. Mmmm... tomatoes.

  1. Desired quantity of fresh tomatoes halved across the middle (if large) or stem end sliced (if small or mushy). You can use ripe tomatoes or tomatoes that are semi-ripe or green.
  2. Place tomatoes into a baking dish or bread pan -- something with sides.
  3. Mound tomatoes with fresh (more) or dried herbs (less) - my favorites are thyme and oregano, though I mix it up a bit and add lavender, rosemary or basil.
  4. Mound each tomato half with pressed garlic - as much as you have in the fridge or desire. Mound it, baby. Don't skimp!
  5. Sprinkle the top of the tomatoes with panko or fine bread crumbs (you can make it with stale bread ends or toast the bread in the oven while it preheats).
  6. Sprinkle with coarsely ground black pepper and coarse Celtic sea salt.
  7. Drizzle with olive oil.
  8. Drizzle with olive oil.
  9. Drizzle with ... oh. Nevermind. Just make sure it's really good olive oil.
  10. Bake in oven at 350-400 F depending on how much your oven wildly fluctuates until there are bubbling hot juices in the bottom of the pan but before the tomatoes are completely falling apart. You want to have something yummy to sop up with a piece of bread but you also want to be able to eat the tomato with a fork.
Don't forget the garlic. Lots of it. Yum.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fig Tart


I just pulled the fig tart out of the oven - I didn't find a good vegan recipe with the prettiest vegan fig tart I found online, so made my own. I used the pistachio tart shell recipe from Artful Vegan as a starting point, modifying it a bit, and made the tart custard similar to the Joy of Baking lemon bar recipe.

3/4 c unbleached white flour
1/3 c semolina flour
1/8 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1/2 c raw unsalted pistachios, finely ground (heaping 1/2 c)
1 T (heaping) dried lavender, powdered in food mill
2 T rosewater
1/4 c canola oil
1/4 c pure maple syrup
1/2 t vanilla extract

3/4 c silken tofu
1 c sugar
3 T rosewater
1 t vanilla

Fresh figs cut into quarters, sixths or eigths depending on size - I used bright green skinned figs foraged by Asiya

Sift dry ingredients for tart shell. Whisk wet ingredients add and mix. Spread into a tart pan with removable bottom - oiled and lined with parchment paper sprinkled with ground pistachio. Use your fingers (Artful Vegan recommends plastic wrap but I did fine with fingers) to press into place. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350 until it puffs up and starts to brown. Remove from oven. Whir tart custard ingredients thoroughly and pour into shell. Place the figs into the custard neat, messy - whatever - and bake for about 20 minutes or until it seems set. Remove and cool.

NOTES (10/11): After keeping for a day and a half, the crust got a bit soggy. I would definitely cut down on the tofu next time, and might also cut down on the liquid in the crust or cook it longer to crisp it up more... I will update the recipe next time I make it!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Chocolate Treats & Menu Planning

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS: I promised chocolate peanut butter cups for this weekend's brunch - so I threw a bunch of confectioner's sugar in the Kitchen Aid and then realized I should have measured -- I ended up adding nearly 2 cups (a whole jar!) of peanut butter and then scooped out 105 centers. Yikes. I ran out of chocolate (yes - really! I know! Isn't it shocking!).

This time, however, I modified my Peanut Butter Cup recipe a bit - instead of crushed graham crackers, I used ground raw flax seeds. It works quite well - it gives a little nutty crunch, blends in with the peanut butter and the chunks of pink Hawaiian salt and makes the candy gluten free and wheat free.

CHOCOLATE DIPPED CANDIED APRICOTS: I pulled out the candied apricot halves from the fridge. They rattled in the container. I let them warm up but they were still quite firm - a bit over candied but I thought they would soften up after being dipped in chocolate. The result were delicious, very chewy and possibly dangerous treats. Tonight I sliced up the chocolate dipped halves into strips and am redipping and melting the chocolate from them -- they are much more manageable as small strips and will definitely go farther for brunch on Saturday.

BRUNCH & RUMBA-POTLUCK: Yes. Food. I have planned some treats including:
  • Chocolate dipped candied apricot spears
  • Chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Rhurbarb crisp
  • Fig tart with semolina-lavender crust
  • Breakfast potatoes
  • Tomatoes "a la Provencale" (because it's easy and I have all the ingredients in my garden!)
  • DIY waffles with "Joy of Vegan Baking" recipe
  • Roederer champagne mimosas (if I can find fresh fruit at a farmer's market for juice)
If that isn't enough, I have also planned to host a rumba jam starting after 4pm. The foods for that will include several fillo based dishes because I am lazy:
  • Onion-olive pie (with fillo instead of bread dough because it will be easier)
  • Spanakopita with Spinach & Dill (sheet this time instead of hand pies)
  • Zucchini & mushroom tart (more fillo!)
  • Sliced fresh tomatoes
  • Pasta salad with fresh tomatoes, arugula & basil pesto
Onion-olive pie:
I found some darling small yellow onions about the size of my Moscovich Extra Early tomatoes -- those will be sliced up into rings for the onion pie (all 5#) and caramelized in a dutch oven on the stove with olive oil, then tossed with fresh thyme, oregano and black olives and sealed up in fillo and baked until the fillo is crispy.

Spanakopita: basically the same recipe as "Vegan With A Vengeance"

Zucchini & Mushroom tart: I think tofu is going to be involved here, but haven't decided quite on the recipe yet.

POTLUCK: Everything is a potluck at my house. Bring food. Bring drinks. Bring napkins, plates, cups. Pitch in, eat up, enjoy. I have several RSVPs and some promises of delicious contributions. James' conga friends Sam and Richard are coming - Sam always brings two armfuls of pain d'epi from Acme Bakery - it's fresh, delicious and the epi style makes it easy to tear off a single serving piece without a knife. I imagine Richard will bring his popular Chinese Chicken Salad. Chef Eric tantalized me with the idea of some kind of tempeh enchilada, "but you never know what will happen."

I promise photos! Really!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Problem of Peat Moss

I thought that gardening was basically safe -- growing my own seeds and planting them in the yard was just about the greenest thing a person could do, right?

After my tomato seedlings grew too fast and got too leggy, I looked for pots that were a bit deeper to repot them. At the Orchard Hardware & Supply, I noticed that they had "fiber" pots instead of peat pots. I read the label and was shocked to discover that peat pots are not at all good for the environment!

The fiber pots I purchased are made out of Coir -- the outer husks of coconuts -- a totally renewable resource. Coconuts grow 4x/year vs peat bog which grows at a rate of 1 mm/year. Harvesting coir does not harm the tree or the surrounding area -- the rest of the coconut is used (mostly for food). Coir is organic plant material and will biodegrade over time and does not result in mold and other problems inherent in peat moss pots and soil additives.

- 10% of all the world's fresh water is in peat bogs
- Amateur gardeners account for approximately 70% of the peat used in horticulture.
- Peat extraction requires draining an entire bog, irreversibly damaging a delicate ecosystem.
- Once dried, peat extractors remove up to 22cm of peat/year - the bog increases in depth only 1mm/year. It will take 220 years for the peat bog to renew itself, and the ecosystem that once supported wildlife and plant life is likely to never return
- Peat bogs act as a carbon sink, absorb 10-20% of the 7 gigatons of carbon produced by humans/year.
- Peatlands hold around 1/4 to 1/3 of the total carbon dioxide in the world, released very slowly through anaerobic decomposition. Harvesting results in the release of thousands of years of carbon held in peatlands into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

Coir as a replacement for peat moss
Sierra in News

Sunday, October 05, 2008


It's all about tomatoes this week. Friday, I cleaned the tomato seeds that I had been fermenting since Sunday and put them in the Excalibur on the lowest setting to dry them up.

Both James & I picked as many ripe tomatoes as we could from our gardens at the end of the week. I even pulled up four tomato plants that were done (three were volunteer cherries).

Saturday, I spent the day doing housework and cleaning. I even had a pair of housekeepers come in to help out while I labeled, inventoried and organized all my jars of preserves and boxes of wine from Dry Creek & Anderson Valley.

Saturday night, James and I set 9 trays of tomatoes to dry in the Excalibur. For those of you who dehydrate, that results in about 3 half pint jars of dried cherry tomatoes (ha!). We dried some bigger tomatoes but I need to cut those into strips and dry them a bit more. We also got started with the yellow tomato sauce and then put it away to finish on Sunday.

Today, we dilly-dallied a bit, had chai & backgammon, went to his house, then to brunch and on errands. We had a nap and then finally started on making the tomato sauce around 6pm. James worked his buns off with me for 4 hours. I have been waiting for the sauce to cook down and processing the jars for the last two hours. Here's the result:


Dried tomatoes:
3 - 8 oz jars of dried cherry tomatoes from Jenn's garden

Yellow tomato sauce:
2 - 16 oz jars (both gardens, more Jenn's due to Wonderlights)

Orange tomato sauce:
9 - 12 oz jars (both gardens, mostly James due to enormous Hawaiian Pineapples)

Red tomato sauce:
12 - 16 oz jars (both gardens)

This probably isn't the last batch of sauce for us. There are still a lot of tomatoes on both our plants. I cut down dead parts and removed branches from a few plants that had no more fruit or flowers -- I need to do that again on Tuesday or Wednesday this week to help the plants mature the rest of the fruit.

I do want to make more dried tomatoes, too. We both have a lot of basil that is about to flower, so we need to make up more batches of pesto. I think I may just make oregano-thyme-basil-garlic-oil pesto to freeze -- no pine nuts -- so that I can use it to season my tomato sauce when I open it this winter.

FIGS: Asiya from Forage Oakland brought me a couple dozen figs - so I am going to make another small batch of fig preserves.

RHUBARB & RASPBERRIES: Probably the last of the season. I bought these at the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market on Tuesday and intended to make a big crisp but was totally off track. I may just freeze up the raspberries on a cookie sheet and make rhubarb pie or crisp later this week.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tomatoes, figs, dried fruit, and bake sale prep

DRIED TOMATOES: Friday, I received my 9-tray Excalibur dehydrator - a bargain at $149 for a refurbished demo model (not a refurbished customer model) with shipping included. It looks brand new -- it has no "blemishes" on the case as described in the Ebay ad and if I didn't know any better, I'd say it was new.

Saturday, I put it to work right away on some Principe Borghese tomatoes - they are smaller than some of my cherry tomatoes.

1 - 16 oz jar dried tomatoes
1 - 8 oz jar dried tomatoes

YELLOW KETCHUP: Sunday, I put a couple pots of tomatoes on -- one full of 5# of yellow and orange tomatoes for ketchup and another of around 6# for marinara sauce. For the ketchup, I found a lot of recipes and even one ketchup recipe on a site that lets you customize the yield and adjusts the quantities of ingredients.

  • 5# seeded and halved tomatoes - cook down and process in food mill to remove skins, return to pot.
  • 1/2 large onion, pureed in blender or food processor
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed
In a small sauce pot, simmer:
  • 2 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 stick Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1.5 Tbs cloves
  • 1 Tsp fenugreek seed
  • Pinch chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed

Reduce the vinegar by 50% over low flame (you don't want to boil it off too quickly!)

Strain and add vinegar to pot with tomato sauce, onion and garlic. Cook down and then put in a slow cooker on low until it reaches a consistency you like. Puree in blender to reduce the rest of onion & garlc pieces. Can or store in refrigerator.

4 c orange ketchup

TOMATO SAUCE: Six pounds of tomatoes cooks down to just enough sauce for two plates of fresh rotini pasta, and leftovers for four lunches, after you've added herbs and vegetables.

GARDEN MARINARA RECIPE: 6# fresh tomatoes, seeded & halved - cook down and process in food mill to remove skins, return to pot.

Sautee in olive oil until soft:
  • 1/2 large white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped

Add to sauce bring to simmer:
  • 4-5 2" basil plant tops, chiffonade & chopped
  • 4-5 2" oregano sprigs, chopped

10 4" zucchini (or courgettes) cut into 1/2" rounds, sauteed until soft - add to sauce right before serving.

YIELD: about 10 cups sauce with vegetables
2 dinners over fresh rotini pasta with bread
4 lunch portions of pasta sauce

FIG PRESERVES: James' mom brought us some delicious figs from her neighobor's garden in Sacramento. "I brought you four dozen figs!" she exclaimed. We we curious to know why the figure was so exact and then impressed with her genius -- to keep the very ripe figs from crushing under their weight, she put them into egg cartons!

I brought home 2 dozen figs and decided to turn them into jam.

24 ripe figs, halved and mashed
1.5 c sugar
1/4 c lemon juice

Simmer figs in 1-2 cups of water until soft and mash. Measure - you should have about 4 cups of figs & water. Add the lemon juice and follow the pectin instructions -- in my case, 3 tsp of calcium water, and 4 tsp of pectin added to the sugar before mixing it into the preserves.

2 12 oz recycled jars, stored in the fridge (one for me, one for James)

DEHYDRATING: The new Excalibur works great! I dried tomatoes. Lots of tomatoes. The Principe Borghese tomatoes from Saturday came out on Sunday and are about the size of dried cherries. I also dried some of the other cherry tomatoes -- the volunteer cherries came out about the same as the Principe Borghese, while the Black Cherry, Blondkopfchen and Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry tomatoes were a bit smaller.

I also put in the rest of the Asian pears I had been saving in the refrigerator, along with a whole cantalope sliced up, and the rest of the red flesh apples and a few other apples I had been saving.

1 1.5 liter baling wire jar of thin dried fruit slices (I'll try to photograph before I eat them all)

(UN)BAKING: Last but not least - I also put together a double batch of lemon bars from the "Joy of Vegan Baking" cookbook, and started the Cafe Gratitude raw coconut cream pie recipe (but ran out of time and energy).

BIG THANKS to Lisa for coming over and helping to halve and seed tomatoes for the dehydrator, mill tomatoes, clean dishes and keep me company - we had a lot of fun for a few hours and it was really good to have some help. She also loaned her slow cooker so I could put the ketchup in it overnight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Darfur Stoves Project

If you're reading this, chances are you don't risk rape or other violent attacks when you prepare your meals. If you are a woman living in Darfur, where millions of refugees live in very dense camps, and you have to walk for up to 7 hours to collect firewood for cooking, chances are you will be assaulted and raped if you encounter a militia group. The catch is - you can't bring a man along for protection because he'll most certainly be killed by the militia and the camps are only about 20% male because of the genocide.

A group in Berkeley has engineered a cookstove that uses 75% less fuel than the traditional three-stone hearth used by these refugees.

Please consider donating to this project -- just $20 will help someone make dinner with less risk to her life and health.

Darfur Stoves Project
Engineers Without Borders

Monday, September 22, 2008

Paste Tomato Sauce-Off

This weekend I scored some killer tomatoes from an organic garden at a lovely private campground in Willits. These babies were huge -- like 7" long, looking more like big red peppers than tomatoes. The gardener said they were Romas -- and that all the big tomatoes had been picked and made into sauce already. I brought home about 10 of them and tonight I made a small batch of sauce (saving the seeds, of course) with these Romas, and a small batch of sauce with some of my Debarao tomatoes.

The Romas had a very sweet flavor before I even cooked them -- it's a lot hotter up there in Willits! The Debarao tomatoes had a very solid flesh and less juice than the Romas, and a very tomato-y taste. Both are good and after packing four small jars, I ate the rest of the sauce on warm bread.

2 - 8 oz jars Roma tomato sauce
2 - 8 oz jars Debarao tomato sauce

The Hawaiian pineapple and Yellow Ruffled are starting to come in, as are the Amana Orange. I think I am going to make some yellow and orange pasta sauce out of those babies, too. The Italian Tree tomatoes are starting to get really ripe, and may make a nice little batch of sauce as well.

I'm looking at buying an Excalibur dehydrator - we haven't had enough heat or sun for my solar dehydrator to work very well. I'm pretty disappointed in the lack of weather cooperation at tomato harvest time here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pear Vanilla Vodka

Today I decanted the green pear infused vodka -- the jar that had half a vanilla bean and four allspice berries in it? I just want to say "YUM" -- I put some into a flask with about a tablespoon of maple syrup and it makes a very delicious, fruity liqueur. I may try agave with this as well, before serving.

1 750 ml bottle pear-vanilla fruit brandy

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quince Butter, Round 2

Tonight, I was determined to make membrillo. I took the last 8 cups of quince pulp, added some juice and water to puree it in the blender, measured the sugar and pectin and cooked. And cooked - we're going on four hours now and I don't think it's going to be membrillo, so this, too, will be quince butter.

I also took the rest of the first membrillo attempt, added juice and pectin to it and made it into a nice thick but still liquid quince butter. I just hope it is still spreadable once it cools -- I'm afraid the first batch of quince butter is going to be rather firm and sticky, ideal for crispy toast or spreading on a slice of manchego (for those non-vegans) but not so good for soft bread. Might make a killer filling between two pizzelles, though.

I confess that this stuff is probably really good out of the jar with a spoon but I'll pass along those calories to my friends and family instead.


Quince butter #1 (super caramelized, same as Monday's batch)
4 - 12 oz jars
8 - 8 oz jars
1 - 4 oz jar
plus one 10 oz jar that went into the fridge.

Quince butter #2 (dark pink)
12 - 8 oz jars

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quince Preserves

The membrillo just didn't behave. All I can imagine is that there wasn't enough pectin in the fruit - perhaps it wasn't ripe enough. The quince paste has caramelized to a deep dark brown, it tastes great but it's not membrillo. It has the rich, dark, sweet texture of my favorite apple butter from cider mills in Ohio and Michigan -- most apple butter I find these days is just slightly thicker than apple sauce.

Tonight, I heated up a batch and put it into 4 oz jars, and labelled it:

Quince Butter

10 4 oz jars

I'm going heat up the rest of the quince paste and add pectin to see if that helps it out. I still have about 8 cups of quince pulp in the refrigerator and I'm going to add a shitload of pectin to it to make it set very hard. I will have membrillo, dammit!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pottsfield Relish

Pottsfield Relish
Pottsfield Relish, September 2007

After breakfast, James and I made up a big batch of Pottsfield Relish. This is from my grandmother's recipe -- it's a sweet tomato, onion and pepper relish. I actually found other versions online (varies as Pottsfield and Pottsville) which include cabbage, but the basic recipe is: tomatoes, onions, green peppers, a bit of vinegar and sugar. That's it.

6 large tomatoes - peel, cook and strain
4 large onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped

Add 1 c. sugar
1/2 c. vinegar
1 t. salt

Cook on stove 40-45 minutes or until thick. Ladle into jars and hot water bath process 10 minutes.

USE: This stuff is great to add to recipes, on top of potatoes, on top of mac-n-cheese and all sorts of things. My grandmother always put it on top of meatloaf and pot roast while they baked in the oven. As kids, we relished chilled Pottsfield relish on top of a bubbly open face cheese sandwich.

NOTES: After going out on my own, I continued to make Pottsfield Relish and applesauce every year -- even if I didn't have the time or resources to make other preserves. These two things are staples in my kitchen.

However, I've always double, triple or quadrupled the recipe, spending hours over the sink with a pile of large plum tomatoes, scalding them, seeding them, cooking them down. I always reserve the juice from the seeds to strain and reserve with the juice I pour off the tomatoes before adding the onions and peppers -- it makes a great soup base.

This year's batch, turned out a bit different -- it was a lot more watery and the tomatoes really cooked down lot.

I realize now, after looking at the results, the recipe and last year's photo that I did a few things differently. First, this batch of relish came out much like my grandmother's relish in her later years, after they moved to a retirement community. What I did differently this time:
  • I used Heirloom tomatoes - not just plum tomatoes - and they cooked down a lot more
  • I seeded the tomatoes, but didn't cook them down before adding the peppers and onions.
  • I didn't peel the tomatoes (they were really ripe and I thought they would just dissolve).
It's been years since I have used tomatoes that weren't plum tomatoes for this -- now I remember why! Plum tomatoes have stronger meat and hold their own in cooking a lot better. The result tastes great, but looks a bit different from last year's relish (I've got the last quart in the fridge having opened it only two weeks ago when tomatoes appeared imminent).

Still yummy, though.

13 - 12 oz jars Pottsfield relish
1 - 12 oz jar tomato juice
1 - ice cube tray of tomato juice


I got my vintage Rival waffle/pizzelle iron on Friday -- so today, we put it to use. It took several attempts and two batches of batter to figure out how to get it right, but I think I may have it figured out. It's been over 20 years since I have made waffles or pizzelles. I plan to make up a batch of pizzelles for a fundraiser at work... or maybe vegan cannoli since this came with cannoli forms.

Friday, September 12, 2008



Wednesday night, I spent about five hours peeling, quartering and coring 25# of quince. My plan was to use the juicer to process the quince -- taking the juice for jelly and using the pulp to make membrillo.

Sadly, this experiment did not work. The quince just aren't juicy enough. I cooked down all the quince and set the mash to drain in the colanders overnight, reserving about 1.5 gallons of juice for jelly.

Today, I took a PTO day to finish up the quince. I really wanted to get this mess out of my kitchen. I still have 15# of Asian pears in my refrigerator to manage!


QUINCE JELLY: The quince jelly turned out great -- it set nicely, though I think I boiled it down a bit too much and could have had more jars if I hadn't been distracted with outher housework.

14 8 oz jars

MEMBRILLO: Next project was to make membrillo. I used the leftover pulp for one batch and the juice/mash from the juicer for another batch. I followed the instructions and added equal weight of sugar to fruit and it got thick. It got like molten lava. The spoon could stand up and jumbo drops of molten quince goo came out of the pot and to burn my arm and leave blisters. I figured, it was ready. I put the quince goo into baking dishes (and some onto a silicone mat on a half-sheet) and put it in the oven at 125 to set.

But, after 8 hours in the oven, it didn't set. It's going to stay in the oven overnight in the hopes that it reduces enough.


Black Cherry Tomatoes


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Dried Tomatoes!


The Principe Borgheses turn into little tomato raisins - pretty, and tasty. I don't like this dehydrator because it dries things unevenly. Some tomatoes looked burned on the edges, others got a bit moldy and didn't look like they were drying at all.

James borrowed a 5-tray Excalibur dryer from his friends for Asian pears and the results are amazing: dry, soft and chewable, super sweet Asian pear slices. It's still too foggy and cold to consider using the solar dehydrator. Beginning to think that it is a Bad Idea.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Here's a pile of cherry tomatoes from the garden -- all varieties are represented here, including the volunteer cherry tomatoes (they are the biggest round tomatoes).

DRYING UPDATE: the Principe Borghese tomatoes are doing alright, but drying unevenly. The pears are crispy. They are brown. Not pretty.

Late Summer Bonanza

I owe a few posts - I have some started, and have some photos but haven't actually finished them up. The solar dehydrator is done, and late summer produce is kicking into high gear. My tomatoes are really taking off -- I made raw vegetable lasagna for my Labor Day Weekend getaway.
  • Last week, I juiced about 15# of Eureka lemons from Regan's yard.
  • Saturday, James and I decanted the plum-ginger and apricot infused vodkas.
  • James' friend has an Asian pear and a Meyer lemon in her backyard, so Sunday we juiced a big paper grocery sack of about 20# of Asian pears and got a gallon of juice which we put away in his freezer in quart bags.
  • After the juicefest, we went to clean off the Asian pear and Meyer trees, leaving us with about 20# of Asian pears and 15# of large Meyer lemons. Then we went to another friend's house and got 36# of quince.
  • Monday, we processed about 8# (a packed full paper grocery sack) of basil from James' yard and he made basil-pistachio and basil-pine nut pesto to freeze.
  • Tonight I'm working on the quince -- I have 10# of quince chopped and simmering for jelly, and another 5# for membrill0 -- 10# are going to Asiya at Forage Oakland and another 5# are going to a coworker who wants to make membrillo. The other 5# will be turned into a vodka infusion.
I've been busy. I swear, half-written posts with photos will magically reveal on this blog soon.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Houston, we have a problem!

The weather really changed -- it got chilly and foggy (just like summer) and there's no way the solar dehydrator can be effective. The pears have all gone into the oven at 125 degrees.

I've pulled out the "el cheapo" electric dehydrator - five round trays, heating element and no fan. I have put a bunch of Principe Borghese tomatoes into the small dehydrator. I halved them and reserved the seeds to ferment to save for next year. There are 2 trays full - we will see how they turn out.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Asian Pears, Tomatoes & not so hot solar dehydrating action

BREAKFAST at James included some of the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes out of my garden, including one ripe Aunt Ruby's German Green

Heirloom Tomatoes

Clockwise, from 6:00: Green Zebra, Moskovich Extra Early, Brandywine, Moskovich, Aunt Ruby's German Green

TOMATO REPORT: SO far, we have tasted quite a lot of the tomatoes that we have planted. Here are some notes:

  • Principe Borghese: this tomato is listed as a great drying tomato - they are a lot smaller than I expected, even smaller than the volunteer cherry tomatoes! They are firm and meaty with few seeds. Pretty tasty but not overly sweet, fresh.
  • Moscovich Extra Early: I expected these to happen in June or July, but two months of fog doesn't encourage me to do much, either. These are a great dark red, tender and very sweet.
  • Yellow Ruffled: very mild flavor, not exciting. We have only had a couple of these so far, so the jury is still out.
  • Amana Orange: these are really pretty tomatoes -- the size has varied, but most of them aren't yet ripe. They are tasty but I haven't decided if I want to grow them again next year, yet.
  • Deberao: a nice red paste tomato - this has the most outstanding flavor of any plum tomato I have ever bought. I plan to grow a lot more of these next year for canning.
  • Aunt Ruby's German Green: outstanding flavor, juicy, meaty and we can't wait for more to ripen! I will definitely grow these next year.
  • Paul Robeson: Very large, gorgeous and very delicious tomatoes. Definitely growing these next year.
  • Brandywine: A late season tomato which can't seem to wait for the earlies and mids to finish up! These are pretty tasty, I can see why they are a favorite and I'll definitely grow more next year.
  • Green Zebra: these are really good, but they have to be really ripe when you eat them or they don't have much flavor. I'll have one of these plants next year, for sure.
  • Italian Tree: the plant near the fence with more space got about 12' high, but the other plants were more closely planted and didn't get nearly as high. These are really big tomatoes, as big as the Paul Robesons and have a great flavor. Most still aren't ripe, so we'll have more feedback on these later.
  • Aker's West Virginia: a few of these ripened and they are great!
  • Black Cherry: the most amazing cherry tomato ever. Definitely growing next year.
  • Peacevine Cherry: small and delicious, I can't believe I only put in one plant!
  • Super Snow White: large white-yellow cherry tomatoes, tart and citrusy. I like them but not sure about growing them again next year.
  • Blondkopfchen: tiny yellow-gold cherry tomatoes, these are really good when they are really ripe. I'll definitely have one of these plants next year.
  • Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry: tasty but not exciting. I need a couple of hot days to really decide on this one.
  • Late Tomatoes: still waiting on Hawaiian Pineapple and Wonderlight. The Wonderlight plants barely germinated, I have two small, stunted plants that have about four large plum tomatoes that aren't ripe yet.

Notes: The tomatoes in pots did not do as well as the plants in the ground. I'm seriously considering doing raised beds next year as I think this will resolve drainage and spacing issues. "French Intensive" is a method of raised bed gardening that allows planting things more closely together. It should also help keep the slugs out of my garden.

PEAR PRESERVATION: James and I juiced up a pile of Asian pears -- it made fantastic juice, though I did notice that leaving the skins on gave the juice a bit of a fermented taste and the juice darkened up a lot more.

MORE FORAGING: After breakfast, we headed over to his friend's house to pick more Asian pears and Meyer lemons, then we went over to Larissa's to pick her quince tree.

DRYING: Around 11:30, the sun started to come out so we put the pears back in the solar dehydrator. Then, the fog rolled back in. Fog is not good for using a solar dehydrator.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pears, Brandies and Lemons

BIG FRUIT DAY today - I cut up a bunch of Asian pears and green pears and set up two half-gallon jars to infuse with the fruit. I went up to Regan's house and picked a ton of lemons, in all their lemony glory:

Next, I quartered green pears and sliced up Asian pears, dipped them in lemon juice and put them out in the solar dehydrator. I had to work fast - it was getting late and I wanted to take advantage of as much heat of the day as possible.

FRUIT BRANDY: After getting the fruit out in the solar dehydrator, I decanted the fruit brandies -- a half gallon jar of apricots (and pits) and another jar of those gorgeous Santa Rosa plums and ginger spent about six weeks in vodka.

My friend Eric had recommended leaving the pits for the apricot infusion, resulting in a complex apricots and almonds scented infusion. The apricots held their form pretty well and only diluted the 750ml bottle of vodka by a cup or so.

The Santa Rosa plums nearly completely broke down into mush - James helped with filtering the brandies in the jelly bag and with a complicated system of wire mesh filters, and we still ended up with about a bottle and a half of liqueur -- it diluted by about 50% because of the break down of the plums. Both taste delicious -- the apricot infusion doesn't require any sweetening, but the plum-ginger is a bit tart.

DRYING: At the end of the day, we took the fruit out of the solar dehydrator. The fruit hadn't really dried much, and the oven thermometer showed that the temperature inside was about 115 or 120. That's not quite not enough.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Solar Dehydrator - Mission Accomplished

After working on painting, attaching the screens and trying to figure out my options for the cover -- I finally finished up the solar dehydrator this week.

Painting and shelves completed, cover frame leaning against front:


Totally finished:

IMGP8031 Completed!

Lid Open:

Thanks to: Jon for all his help putting this together, Tom for helping with prototyping the internal frame, and James for his emotional support and help attaching screens, hasps and moving this thing around.

FIRST DRYING PROJECT: James has a pile of Asian pears from his friend, I'm going to pick a pile of lemons from Regan's house and dry some pears!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tomatoes, Zucchini & Lemons

Today I took the day off to get ready for a weekend at Orr Hot Springs, I took the day off to prep some food for us to bring to eat over the weekend. Last night, I checked the tomatoes -- some were really close so I decided to leave them on the vine for at least a few more hours of hot weather (Thursday was hot and Friday promises to be warm as well).

Well, this morning when I went out to the garden, I discovered that someone else beat me to one of my beautiful Paul Robeson tomatoes:

Squirrel Snack

Believe me, that critter (likely a squirrel since there are small claw marks next to that groove), didn't eat enough to dissuade me from cutting out the chewed part and including that tomato in my raw lasagna. I got quite a few big tomatoes off the vines and a pile of cherry tomatoes (not all are pictured here).

Garden Harvest, 8/29/08


That basil turned into a big pile of pesto - most of the pesto was frozen in ice cube trays. The tomatoes mostly went into my first attempt at raw veggie lasagna.

VEGGIE LASAGNA: This was the first time that I made the I managed to get some photos of the veggie lasagna as I got it started, but was so busy that I didn't have time to take more photos of the process of layering and the finished product.

Prepping for raw lasagna

This tasted really good, but there are a few things I learned:
  • Making raw marinara with mostly sundried tomatoes and some fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and a pinch of cayenne is the most brilliant idea ever. It results in a hearty, thick, delicious marinara that I wouldn't hesitate to heat up for pasta. This confirms my desire to get the solar dehydrator done ASAP so I can dry up a pile of tomatoes!
  • Processed the pine nut ricotta too long -- resulted in something more like tahini rather than my friend's fluffy pine nut ricotta.
  • Use a bigger baking dish - using a smaller baking dish does not mean you will make less.
  • Using white truffle infused olive oil on the zucchini was a really good idea.

LEMONS - I also picked a pile of lemons from my friend Regan's yard to make a gallon of lemonade for our weekend at Orr. I also made a gallon of sweet tea using peppermint, spearmint and lavender.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

REVIEW: Omnivore's Dilemma & In Defense of Food

Truly, I need to keep on top of current trends, so decided to read two of the recent Michael Pollan books to see what the fuss is about.

"Omnivore's Dilemma" takes the title from the concept that eating can be risky -- is that a good mushroom or will it make me sick? You have to take chances to learn about food, or find some other way to test it. Pollan follows the most common food ingredients through the chain and, ultimately, I think that what he has uncovered is that the Standard American Diet is making us sick.

This isn't exactly news -- Pollan's story and the way he illustrates the food chain, processing and consumption patterns is engaging and moves along at a great pace. It feels more like a description of a personal journey which I think would make this very appealing to a lot of people. It's not very didactic, and there are some funny parts in there. The chapters on hunting and mushroom hunting gave me some giggles.

Bottom line - don't eat processed food, support local farmers, even if they aren't necessarily organic (ask about "pesticide free" produce) and stop eating things that aren't food.

"In Defense of Food" was not nearly as good as Omnivore. It was basically like a beefed up magazine article -- wait, that's exactly what it was. It was a bit of a Cliff notes version of Omnivore, but definitely a good read for people who want to get the basic concepts and aren't
big readers. It also provides easy to follow guidelines for folks who need to be told what to do -- things like "Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food," "don't eat anything with more than 5 ingredients or with ingredients you can't identify or pronounce."

Mostly, just eat food, mostly plants, not too much.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Endangered Species Act - still threatened!

Hey! Did you write to your legislators about the Endangered Species Act yet? Well, here's a link that makes it easy to do so -- just put your information and zip and they send off the letter for you.

The new regulations would:

- Exempt thousands of federal activities from review under the Endangered Species Act;
- Eliminate checks and balances of independent oversight;
- Limit which effects can be considered harmful;
- Prevent consideration of a project's contribution to global warming;
- Set an inadequate 60-day deadline for wildlife experts to evaluate a project in the instances when they are invited to participate -- or else the project gets an automatic green light;
- Enable large-scale projects to pass without review by dividing them into hundreds of small projects.

Send a message to Kempthorne and members of Congress that these changes are unacceptable.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Crunchy Vegan's 100

I'm always up for a challenge and always happy to challenge others -- so here's a more eco-organic Vegan's 100 list -- this list eschews most highly processed and packaged foods (with some exceptions) and focuses on stuff you can find, grow or make yourself.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Fresh, home grown arugula (so radically different from Farmer's Market)
2. Pimientos de Padrón with homemade aoili
3. Wild Mushrooms (Fresh, local, non-cultivable like Golden Chanterelles, Candy Caps, etc.)
4. Golden Chanterelle Stroganoff with homemade pappardelle
5. Mangosteen
6. Avocado Tempura Uramaki
7. Fondue (chocolate, hot oil or broth)
8. Panzanella
9. Borscht
10. Homemade Baba ghanoush or hummus
11. PB&J sandwich
12. Pho (this can be found vegan!)
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a street cart
16. Homemade mushroom pate (Moosewood has a classic recipe)
17. Fresh black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Gyoza
20. Homemade ice cream, sorbet or granita
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Haggis
25. Knish
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Muffalatta (olive) spread
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Spanakopita
33. Mango lassi
34. Raw fermented sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac (a really good one!)
37. Tamales dulces (strawberry, pineapple and chocolate are traditional in Mexico for the feast of the three kings in early January).
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries
41. Raw Brownies
42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans
43. Phaal
44. Raw coconut creme pie
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed (hijiki or wakame make great salads)
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone mushrooms
54. Quinoa for breakfast with cinnamon, apples, almond milk and maple syrup
55. Belgian (style) beer, greater than 8.5%, locally brewed even better!
56. Gnocchi
57. Piña colada
58. Birch beer
59. Lemon bars
60. Homemade raw vegetable pickle
61. S’mores
62. Candied grapefruit peel
63. Hot pepper jelly with nut butter (plum habanero, apricot chipotle)
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Homemade chutney (apricot, peach, lemon - the sky's the limit!)
69. Fried plantain (green or sweet)
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho (so easy to make!)
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies
73. Absinthe
74. Moroccan tagine
75. Longan (like grapes with shells)
76. Pomegranate
77. Traditional Balsamico di Modena
78. Yukon Gold Mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Savory crepes
83. Saba and fresh local strawberries
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (Michael Mina's does killer vegan!)
85. A meal at gourmet (or "high end") vegan restaurant, like Millennium
86. Sprouted grains or seeds
87. White chocolate
88. Flowers
89. Matzoh ball soup
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Corn chowder
92. Kimchi
93. Rose harissa (recipe)
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Mole poblano
96. Homemade fruit preserves
97. Apple pie, any variety (rum raisin? yum!)
98. Polenta
99. Raw lasagna
100. Homemade sweet tea with fresh or dried homegrown mint (tip - sweeten with simple syrup to keep the sugar dissolved)

Vegan 100

Hannah, from Bittersweet, recently posted a list of 100 things every vegan should try (adapted from The Omnivore's Hundred).

This list includes things that are vegan or easily veganized, but it includes a lot of packaged products and soy. I'm going to post a green-non-processed Vegan 100 (more true to the original sentiment of the original list) .

Your mission, should you choose to accept it:
1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto
2. Green Smoothie
3. Tofu Scramble
4. Haggis
5. Mangosteen
6. Creme brulee
7. Fondue
8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Nachos
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a street cart
16. Boba Tea - I fuckin' hate tapioca. Bleargh!!
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche
24. Rice and beans
25. Knish
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Caviar
29. Baklava
30. Pate
31. Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries
41. Raw Brownies
42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk (allergic!)
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
56. Gnocchi
57. Piña colada
58. Birch beer
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Soy curls
63. Chickpea cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
75. Whipped cream, straight from the can - did it as a kid with regular canned stuff, but soy allergy and aversion to horrible processed foods prevents this one from ever being fulfilled.
76. Pomegranate
77. Fauxstess Cupcake
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
79. Jerky
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup
82. Savory crepes
83. Tings - oy, again with the processed foods?
84. A meal at Candle 79
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds
87. Macaroni and “cheese”
88. Flowers
89. Matzoh ball soup
90. White chocolate
91. Seitan
92. Kimchi
93. Butterscotch chips I had my share of butterscotch chips as a child -- unless there's a solid organic, vegan alternative, I'd take a pass on these!
94. Yellow watermelon
95. Chili with chocolate
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato milk - I'll stick with almond milk.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough

I got most of these... and now, stay tuned for my Organic-Eco-Friendly Vegan 100 list....

Edited to add: Maybelle's Mom's Vegetarian 100 List

  1. Edamame (?)
  2. Cha Soba (?)
  3. Arame (?)
  4. Earth Balance Buttercream (soy allergy)
  5. "Homemade" sprouts
  6. Green Bamboo Rice (?)
  7. Absinthe
  8. Eat at a raw restaurant
  9. Fresh (real) wasabi
  10. Deep fried pickle
  11. Fiddleheads (?)
  12. Garlic stuffed olives
  13. Smen (?)
  14. Goji Berries (?)
  15. Shiso or Perilla (?)
  16. Amaranth (?)
  17. Pomegranate molasses (?)
  18. Water convulvulus (Water Spinach) (?)
  19. Pea eggplant, Thai eggplant, green eggplant, Japanese eggplant, Indian eggplant, Sicilian eggplant...
  20. A Zen Buddhist Vegan Meal (?)
  21. Kohya Dofu (?)
  22. Wild Asparagus (?)
  23. Elderberry (?)
  24. Candlenuts (kemiri) (?)
  25. Salsify (?)
  26. Nutritional Yeast (?)
  27. Pandan (?)
  28. Roman cauliflower (?)
  29. Anything with acorn flour (?)
  30. Poi (?)
  31. Chaya (tree spinach) (?)
  32. Pitahaya (dragon fruit) (?)>
  33. Asafoetida (?)
  34. Fried plantains
  35. Basil seeds (?)
  36. Cardoon (?)
  37. Durian (?)
  38. Ground Cherry or cape gooseberry (?)
  39. Fresh waterchestnut (?)
  40. Cashewnut cheese
  41. Nettles (?)
  42. Fake duck from a can, tofurky, or any prepared vegetarian product to resemble meat
  43. Kimchi (?)
  44. Masala Dosa (?)
  45. Lotus Seed (?)
  46. Matcha (?)
  47. Loubie Bzeit (?)
  48. Quince (?)
  49. Blue Potatoes (?)
  50. Injera (?)
  51. Nasturtium (?)
  52. Turkish Delight or Lokum (?)
  53. Spruce tips (?)
  54. Breadfruit (?)
  55. Mangosteen (?)
  56. Swede or Rutabaga (?)
  57. Garlic Scapes (?)
  58. Lavash (?)
  59. Candied Angelica (?)
  60. Rambutan (?)
  61. Sambal (?)
  62. Bhutanes Red Rice (?)
  63. Candy-cane or Chioggia beets (?)
  64. Mango
  65. Ras el Hanout (?)
  66. Vegan marshmallow (?)
  67. Umeboshi (?)
  68. Red Currants (?)
  69. Puy or French lentils (?)
  70. Millet (?)
  71. Fresh Bamboo shoot (?)
  72. Jerusalem artichoke (?)
  73. Wild strawberry (?)
  74. Jambool (?)
  75. Po cha or Yak butter Tea (?) (not vegan! I can't tolerate cow, doubt yak would work)
  76. Adzuki beans (?)
  77. Shirataki (?)
  78. Manioc, yuca, cassava (?)
  79. Quinoa (?)
  80. Ramps (?)
  81. Chufa (?)
  82. Purslane (?)
  83. Curry Leaves (Kadipatta) (?)
  84. Sorrel (?)
  85. Sumac (?)
  86. Vegan cupcake
  87. Montreal bagel (?)
  88. Peri-peri (?)
  89. Syllabub (?)
  90. Chartreuse (?)
  91. Kamut berries (?)
  92. Kalamansi Lime (?)
  93. Aloe (?)
  94. Morels (?)
  95. Raw “bread”
  96. Dandelion wine
  97. Rosti (?)
  98. Loomi (?)
  99. Stinky tofu (?)
  100. Something grown by you -- Every day!