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!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Solar Dehydrator Intensive

My dear friend Jon loves carpentry projects -- he helped me out with the first step of the solar dehydrator project by taking me to Ashby Lumber to pick up supplies and then he cut up all the pieces a few weeks ago.

The project should have been easy enough to assemble -- but I was swamped with canning projects. My brother offered to help -- he thought it should be a snap, but Jon and I missed something in the tiny plans that resulted in a "Hey, we have a lot of extra 1" x 2"" and self-congratulatory slaps on the back for efficient chop saw use. My brother pointed out that the plans showed an internal frame -- four pieces on the backside of both vent ends and two pieces lengthwise.

Tonya Kay's sweetie made the construction of this solar dehydrator look easy, but we had some problems figuring out measurements for some of these things because of the difficulty of seeing all the parts on the plan. I also realize that he did a lot of modifications (using window screens and a totally different cover, for example).

My brother and I tried to figure out the correct dimensions of the internal frame - given that the sides are supposed to sit on top of the 48" square back. However, there was a slight miscalculation resulting in Tom cutting the pieces to totally fit flush along the edge of the back.



The other problem was that he was gluing as he was screwing -- instead of screwing everything together to make sure it fit, and then taking it apart, applying the glue and rescrewing it together. My brother didn't take this project as seriously as I wished -- he said, "Hey, it's just a box, we'll make it fit."

I tried to explain to him that this was now approaching $200 in materials, was to be used for food and had to have square edges with minimal gaps so that critters would be (mostly) kept away from the food -- to no avail. He accused me of "micro-managing" and wouldn't answer my question, "What is the problem with sticking to the plan if we have one?"

So, while the glue was still wet, I unscrewed the vent sides from the frame, then cut off the pieces that formed the frame. After a discussion with a neighbor who is a contractor, and my friend Jon about how to "make it work" -- a light went off in my head: use the other side!

Today, Jon and I put the dehydrator and shelves together. The biggest trouble we had was correctly figuring out the size of the internal frame. His plan was to put the internal frame together along with the sides -- it doesn't have to be an independently stable frame -- the internal frame just has to provide more stability. And, now that we have additional 1" x 2" along the outside edges on the back side, I think we have plenty of box stability.


I put together the shelves...


And then we had some beers and watched some movies. The next step is to paint and finish polyurethane.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Domain Added

The domain for this site has now been updated to reflect the title -- and now point to this blog correctly. Please update your RSS readers accordingly...

True story - the "options" offered by my domain registrar included:

I kid you not!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Save $$$ With Proper Produce Storage

DID YOU EVER WONDER why most modern refrigerators have two vegetable bins? It's not to keep your beer cans separate from your soda cans. I came across an interesting article on ethylene gas and proper food storage on vegan food blogger Kittee's website. I've heard about it before, and it was interesting to note that I already separate my food based on this.

Any amount of folk wisdom plus experience and observation will result in proper food storage, to a certain level, along with a sense of which fruit will ripen once picked and what will simply rot.

Certainly, I have picked up my share of tips at the farmer's market -- a tiny Chinese woman at the Heart of the City farmer's market told me the best way to preserve the giant bags of oranges is to spread them out on a baking sheet, with a towel underneath, so there is plenty of air between them, and eat the softest or ripest oranges first. Works great for other produce, too -- I do this with apples, peaches and apricots in the refrigerator.

Kittee's guide motivated me to do a bit of digging and found a great chart on how ethylene gas affects your produce. I also found a very comprehensive and useful guide to proper food storage on the website of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association.

Without further adieu, here's my guide to what should go into your two produce bins in the fridge, based on which fruits or veggies produce ethylene gas and which fruits or veggies will rot when exposed to too much of it (yes, even in low temperatures in the refrigerator).

Drawer 1: Fruit Drawer (Ethylene producers)
Carambola (star fruit)
Green onions
Kiwi fruit
Drawer 2: Potatoes, Onions, Garlic and Ethylene Sensitive Produce, including:
Asparagus (gets tough)
Unripe kiwi fruit
Beans - green & wax (sensitive to cold, causes russeting)
Belgian Endive
Berries (will get moldy)
Brussels sprouts
Carrots (will get bitter)
Greens, lettuces
Squash - winter/dark skinned
Sweet potatoes

Exceptions & Notes:
  • Potatoes, onions & garlic will sprout when exposed to too much ethylene, but have otherwise low sensitivity to it, hence the traditional co-mingling of potatoes, onions and garlic in the same drawer.
  • Some unripe fruit -- like kiwis, bananas, avocados -- are very ethylene sensitive and can be ripened in a paper bag with an apple
  • Cherries store with stems to prolong shelf life
  • Grapes absorb odors from leeks & green onions, get moldy from Ethylene
  • Rhubarb will absorb odors from avocado & green onions
  • Peaches, pears, passion fruit & tomatoes produce and are very sensitive to ethylene - store the ripe fruit in a single layer in the refrigerator

Don't spend money on silly bags and indicators -- just buy what you need, use what you buy, and keep an eye on how you store things together in the fridge. You know, like companion planting -- this is companion food storage.

BONUS: If you have a big kitchen and lots of storage space with different places that keep stuff at different temperatures, check out this link to the UC Davis Vegetable Research & Information Center Guide to Harvesting & Storing.

FIVE Food Storage Spaces for Optimal (not tiny apartment kitchen) Storage:
  • 2 crisper drawers in your fridge
  • 45-55 degree/85-95% relative humidity space
  • 50-60 degree cool dark place (basement, garage)
  • 65-70 degree room temperature area out of direct light

Monday, August 18, 2008

Traditional vs Green & Effective Treatments for Burns, Cuts & Scrapes

OUCH! What do you do if you have a burn or a cut? Pull out the bandages and the Neosporin or bactromycin?

Well, that's what I used to do. I have had some pretty bad accidents and putting antibiotic ointment on scraps, burns and cuts was the "best" way to protect and heal such injuries.

Thursday, I burned the heck out of my arm on a very hot baking sheet. It's about 3" long and looks ugly -- no blisters, but the whole area around the 3/4" wide burn is very swollen. I put a gauze pad with some antibiotic ointment on it and wrapped it with a bandana (lacking bandage tape). After soaking in hot springs all weekend, I thought I should at least cover it up at work to protect it and realized all my ointment tubes (purchased in 2002 when I had a big skating accident) had expired years ago. So, I tossed them and went to Walgreen's to find bigger bandages and more ointment.

I must say - I was pretty shocked when I read the box and discovered that every single antibiotic ointment is based in petroleum jelly or "petrolatum." Not having many options at Walgreen's, I bought a Walgreen's triple antibiotic ointment tube and some Walgreen's waterproof bandages big enough to cover the burn.

After applying the ointment to the bandage and positioning it over my arm, I noticed some interesting reactions. About 20 minutes after applying the ointment, I felt like there were small hot stones under my hand and side of my arm. The skin didn't feel hot to the touch but something was happening. Less than 3 hours later, I had to yank the bandage because for almost 2 hours, it was killing me -- the adhesive was itching like crazy.

I shudder to think about the process of making adhesive, waterproof bandages -- I really do like the Nexcare bandages, they seem to work pretty well with my skin. I so rarely need to use bandages these days and it begs the questions:

What are the options? Why is petroleum jelly used in a product like this? Is it really safe to use?

ORIGIN & HISTORY OF PETROLEUM JELLY: According to Wikipedia, petroleum jelly was first discovered by workers on the country's first oil rigs as a buildup on the equipment -- but they discovered then it was applied to cuts and burns, it seemed to speed healing. Then, a young chemist patented the process of making petroleum jelly through vacuum distillation and filtration of the still residue through bone char.

Petroleum jelly is hydrophobic -- meaning it repels water -- and it should not be used on fresh burns because it traps the heat inside and can make the burns worse. During WWII, a type of petroleum jelly called "dark red veterinary petroleum jelly" was used in life raft survival kits to prevent sunburn because it nearly perfectly blocks UV rays. Vaseline is often used as a personal lubricant but it can dissolve latex condoms so is not recommended (other oils also break down latex, so you should use water based lubricants anyway).

COMMON USES: Vaseline is a pretty well known household name. Even I have had the same small container of it for 14 years -- I think I bought it while I was in Mexico and used it for protecting my boots. Come to think of it, it'll be the perfect lubrication for my small juice press. Lots of people use Vaseline for dry skin and for makeup removal. Petroleum jelly, or petrolatum, is used in a lot of cosmetics (lip balm, lip gloss, and ointments. The grade used is considered harmless but there are less refined grades which contain carcinogens.

Mineral oil is also made from petroleum and has a lot of effects on the skin and body which are the opposite of what you would expect. A website called "Skin Suicide" describes that mineral oil, as a petroleum product, "cannot be absorbed by the body. It "seals" the skin, clogs pores, attracts dirt and pulls essential trace minerals from the skin. It must be removed with harsh alcohol." Other sources note that cosmetic grade mineral oil is noncomedogenic but YMMV.

IS IT HEALTHY? Information on the safety of this ubiquitous product is hard to find. Even the Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safety Database entry for petrolatum is incomplete, though it is listed as a low risk ingredient.

It mentions possible contamination with PAHS but no real details there, either. There have been 876 studies listed in PubMed on petrolatum use -- that's a lot to wade through!

I also found this really lengthy debate about the safety and efficacy of petroleum jelly and mineral oil on a LJ forum.

My takeaways:
  • petrolatum is a petroleum product - there are many reasons to avoid purchasing petrochemicals that are easy to identify
  • petrolatum doesn't moisturize - it acts as a barrier to moisture and actually can dry out your skin
  • petrolatum doesn't heal -- it can protect (ie, preventing blisters in humid/hot environments) but it is a barrier, not a healing agent

My recommendations are:
  • tea tree oil (a natural anti microbial/fungal)
  • lavender oil is supposed to work great on burns to relieve the sting (not so sure about broken skin)
  • honey is always good on burns - it's a natural antibiotic
  • herbal or homeopathic burn care ointments such as Quantum Derma First Aid or Weleda Burn care Ointment might be safer, healthier alternatives

Next, onto bandages...

Friday, August 15, 2008

James' Chai Recipe

My sweetie makes the best chai -- he did a lot of research and experimentation into what makes the most traditional, balanced chai. He's had to modify since I'm dairy-intolerant and can't handle a lot of caffeine in tea.

I've learned to make his recipe over the last year or so, but I now do some modifications of my own like adding more ginger or some star anise. Here's the basic recipe and instructions.

James' Chai
  • 1 carton Pacific almond milk (vanilla if you want it sweet)
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 thumb size piece of cinnamon -- about 1/2" of a stick - not a lot though maybe more if you use Ceylon (soft sticks) than if you have Cassia (hard sticks).
  • 4 white peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 thin slices of fresh ginger
  • scant 3 Tb of loose Assam tea -Recommended: Brooke Bond Red Label Tea or Taj Mahal Tea (available at Indian markets). Large leaf teas do not work as well, but usable in a pinch, as are tea bags, though not recommended.
  1. Pour almond milk into pot.
  2. Turn heat on full.
  3. Crush spices in mortar/pestle or on cutting board with knife handle (careful not to send peppercorns and cloves flying across the room).
  4. Add crushed spices, tea and ginger to almond milk.
  5. Bring just to steam -- you don't want it to go past "just starting to simmer" because the almond milk will separate.
  6. Turn off heat and put on lid, allow to steep 15 minutes.
  7. Heat on medium to steaming, then remove from heat and serve. Pour through fine metal mesh tea strainer or into a teapot with a fine metal mesh insert.
  8. Enjoy!

Peach Chipotle Jelly

YELLOW PEACH CHIPOTLE JELLY: After steeping overnight, this tasted good - smoky with a bit of a kick which will go down a few notches when I add the sugar and lemon. I strained it with a metal mesh strainer and the put it through the jelly bag. I was so enchanted with the color and body of the white peach jelly that I wanted to try it again!

Next time - more chipotle peppers.

  1. Strain juice from cooked peaches and measure. I ended up with 6 c. juice.
  2. Strain juice through jelly bag -- add 1 c. water and simmer with 2-4 chipotle peppers. Let steep and stand overnight if you have the time, otherwise, add more water and simmer away longer.
  3. Measure - add more water to get back to 6 cups (remember - you're boiling away water, you don't necessarily want to concentrate the peachiness and decrease your yield).
  4. Add 1/2 c. lemon juice, and follow instructions for your pectin. I used Pomona's Pectin, so added 6 tsp of "calcium water" and put 6 tsp of pectin powder into 2.5 c. of sugar.
  5. Bring to a boil, then add the sugar-pectin mix, stir and make sure it dissolves and doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
  6. Return to a simmer.
  7. Skim foam.
  8. Put a test -- a teaspoon of jelly on a plate -- in the freezer for a few minutes. If it looks and feels like jelly in your mouth, you're probably all set. If not, let another test set longer, then consider adding a bit more pectin (mixed with sugar if you're using Pomona's).
  9. Put into sterile, hot jars from the oven and set on the counter, or hot water process.
  10. Label these jars - you don't want someone who hates spicy to get a surprise!
9 - 8 oz jars

Step up & Speak!

Time to speak out against the proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act. Submit your opposing comments to the changes documented in FWS-R9-ES-2008-0093. They are not accepting e-mail or faxes -- but they do have an online form for accepting comments. You can make it short and sweet.

To recap, the proposed changes "eliminate the requirement for independent scientific reviews of any project that could harm an endangered species living on federal land. Instead, federal agencies would decide on their own whether the projects — including construction of highways and dams — pose a threat and then move ahead if they determine there is no problem. [...] The new regulations would overturn one of the act’s most fundamental provisions. Under current rules, federal agencies are required to submit their plans to either the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service." (Source: New York Times, 8/13/2008).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Peach Jam

YELLOW PEACH JAM: Ah, here we are at midnight again... I cut up 2 gallons of peaches and have made peach jam. This time, I did take the skins off, so had a pot of water boiling in front of the bigger pot for the peaches, and the peaches on a big commercial baking sheet on the edge of the sink with the cutting board and cutting bowl in the middle. For 2 hours, I listened to the Olympics and had 5-6 peaches in the hot water, skinned, pitted and mashed or chopped the others. I put the hot peaches under cold water and on the side of the tray nearest me.

Then, I let the whole pot simmer while I pressed a bag full of lemons from Regan's tree -- I got 3 cups of juice which I need for jelly and for spanakopita (among other things!). I strained the fruit and divided it -- 8 cups in each pot, reserving 8 cups of juice. I ended up putting about 1.5 c of juice back into the fruit after adding the pectin, lemon and sugar.

Before going to bed, simmered the juice I strained from the pulp with some dried chipotle peppers and am going to let it steep overnight for a smoky peach chipotle jelly. No pictures, and I hope to make it to the 5:45 swim tomorrow... I'll never make it to the Olympics, unless it is the preserving Olympics!

14 - 12 oz
1 - 4 oz

Moroccan Preserved Lemons

LEMONS ABOUND IN CALIFORNIA. It seems like everyone has a lemon tree - except me. Fortunately, none of those folks know what to do with all their lemons and they are more than happy to have some help clearing lemons off the tree so they don't have to pick up moldy lemons from the ground.


I like to juice up a big pile of lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. I also save the zest and freeze it -- it's very usable for other recipes this way. Of course, there's the lemon chutney, lemon bars, and preserved Moroccan lemons.

When I first researched this, I found a lot of recipes out there -- the process is fairly straight forward and simple, varying only in quantities and spices.

For spices, pick your spices based on what you have at hand and when it comes to dried spices, make sure that what you have that isn't a million years old (throw out the old stuff in the compost heap). I used cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, coriander seed and bay. Check the different recipes for quantities and add to taste. Experiment with different levels of spices in different jars -- it's up to you!

  1. Sterilize your mason jars. Put some of the spices in the bottom of the clean jars, along with a couple tablespoons of salt. Save the cinnamon sticks and some of the other spices to add between the layers.
  2. Scrub your lemons very well. Trim any bad spots & trim off the stem end.
  3. Cut your lemon lengthwise almost to the end, then turn it over and cut from the other direction so it is quartered but still attached at both ends.
  4. Stuff as much kosher or sea salt into your lemon, then smash it into a sterilized mason jar using a wooden pestle -- press it down into the jar to get it to release more lemon.
  5. Add another layer of salt, a sprinkle of dried spices, and another salt-stuffed lemon.
  6. Once the jar has enough lemons, press them down and release more juice. Pour more freshly squeezed lemon juice on top to cover. Slide in the bay and the cinnamon along the side of the jar, and get the bubbles out with a butter knife or thin spatula.
The lemons I preserved in the last batch were from my sister's lemon tree -- the lemons are softball size. I found that I could get two of these monsters into a pint, but it was a struggle getting them in there (releasing a lot of juice in the process).

Screw on the lids and put aside for a few weeks. These should be ready in 4-6 weeks.

  • Pull lemons out using a clean utensil, not your fingers or any utensil that has been used on something else.
  • Add more lemon juice and lemons as you go along -- if you squeeze a lemon, throw the squeezed (squoze?) half into the jar and push down. The brine and juice will do their thing and you can keep a jar going for a while.
Recipe links:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Time to Make the Doughnuts!

DOUGHNUTS: The other day, I came across my doughnut cutter when I was looking for a heart shaped cookie cutter for the pastry on top of my apple pies. I thought - gee, it's time to make doughnuts!

Then, a coworker made and brought in a pile of doughnuts -- not vegan. So, I did a search for some doughnuts, and found that People's Donuts makes and sells locally (but, ew - stale! I mean - once a doughnut has cooled down, it's done!).

In the last two days, I have come across several recent postings about doughnuts:

The universe is telling me that the time is here. I'm going to have to make some doughnuts -- maybe apple cinnamon doughnuts with my grandmother's (veganized) recipe.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Peach Chutney Two Ways

Reviewing recipes for peach chutney, I didn't find anything that really excited me. I wanted to do two versions -- one dark and smoky, one lighter with a bit of spice but more sweet. Here's what I have, so far, and this may change as I amend what's on the stove.
Peach Chutney - Base Ingredients:

5# Peaches, pitted & halved*
2.5 c (10 oz) chopped red bell pepper
3 c (10 oz) chopped white onion
2.5 oz chopped garlic
4 oz chopped fresh ginger (mince very fine or pulse in food processor)**
1/2 stick Ceylon cinnamon
2.25 c apple cider vinegar

Combine ingredients in pot and turn on med-low. Pick a variation or make your own.

*You might want to crush the peaches or coarsely chop them. If they are really ripe, you can just mash them with your hands. I didn't peel the peaches, and for the underripe peaches, this resulted in some skins floating up and looking unattractive. With ripe peaches, skins/fuzz cook down nicely.

**The minced ginger still looks pretty chunky in my dark chutney; I might recommend pulverizing the heck out of it in a food processor or blender, or using preserved chopped ginger in a jar if you want it to really blend into the chutney.
Variation 1: Smoky Peach Chutney
Variation 2: Light Peach Chutney
4 oz chopped dried figs
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seed
1/4 - 1/2 oz dried chipotle peppers*
1/4 tsp cardamom seeds
1.5 c Sucanat or Rapadura sugar
1.5 c dark brown sugar

Added 1# chopped peaches.

*Recommend putting the chipotle peppers in whole so that they are easier to extract. The chutney is pretty smokin' right now, and I am taking out pepper pieces so that it doesn't get too hot for anyone other than me and my crazy friends to eat.

4 oz chopped dates
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek
1 T red pepper flakes
2 tsp cardamom seeds
2 c unrefined cane sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c rapadura

The onions and everything cooked down a lot nicer in the light chutney. The dark chutney is very chunky. I think I am going to be up for a while to let it simmer down more, rest it on the stove overnight and simmer more tomorrow.

Update: the chutneys both look really good and taste good. They will have to wait until this afternoon to get put into jars.

Update (2): the ginger softened quite a lot during the day, so I imagine after ripening in the jars, everything will be pretty soft. I adjusted the sugar (already reflected above).


Variation 1: Smoky Peach Chutney

1 - 12 oz
10 - 8 oz
6 - 4 oz

Variation 2: Light Peach Chutney
9 - 8 0z
6 - 4 oz

I'm out of small jars! I have a few 12 oz, and all the rest are pint and quart size. Tomorrow I'll do up the remaining peaches as Peach Jelly and it will all be in big jars. Family size.

Save the Animals...

...not just the animals in your back yard. You'll all be happy to know that after knocking on a few doors, I did find the ball python's home. "Kittycat" likely fell off a windowsill while sunning herself and her human, Eric, was very happy to have her back (pictures coming soon!).

Other animals, however, are not so lucky. Our current government has plans to eviscerate the Endangered Species Act by taking away mandatory independent reviews and allowing states to decide for themselves if their plans for roads, dams or anything else threaten any endangered species habitat. This is such a short-sighted move.

Please use this handy form to contact your representatives to voice your support of the Endangered Species Act -- USPIRG already did the work, just edit the letter if you want to customize it, fill out your information and they will send it off to your legislative representatives.

Read more about the Endangered Species Act and the animals protected by this act. Sign up for notifications from your state public interest research group on USPIRG. Also check out the Endangered Species Coalition website for information.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Panzanella, Zucchini Blossom & Zucchini Fritter Dinner for 3


My friend Eric and I went to mess up James' kitchen - I had another pile of squash blossoms and some zucchini from our gardens. Eric decided a panzanella would be a great idea -- with some yummy tempeh cubes, sauteed with soy sauce to make them brown and savory. Eric also brought some killer Wellington wines.

The squash blossom fritters were stuffed with cashew nut cheese, same as before. I made it before heading to James house but overprocessed it so it was less cheesy and more like tahini, but it still worked.

Zucchini fritters are pretty easy to make - just shred the zucchini into a colander, sprinkle some salt, toss and let sit 20-30 minutes before squeezing out as much liquid as you can. Then toss the zucchini with some flour and pepper, add a bit of water (not the zucchini juice though - it might be too salty). Once you have a consistency that holds to gether well enough to drop on hot oil and fry, you're ready to go.

Panzanella is a classic Italian salad -- ours had Japanese cucumbers, some cherry tomatoes that Eric picked out at Whole Foods on our way over, tempeh cubes, basil, rosemary, oregano, finely diced red onion, pine nuts, white corn, and some croutons (sauteed in olive oil) all tossed with olive oil, seasoned and sprinkled with balsamic.

Super yum!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Applesauce & Ball Python

APPLES got finished off today. I made up 2 gallons of unsweetened applesauce, after putting it through the Foley mill, I canned the first batch as plain unsweetened applesauce and the second with a ton of fresh grated ginger and a scoop of Succanat.

Unsweetened applesauce
5 - 16 oz
2 - 8 oz

Ginger applesauce
4 - 16 oz
2 - 8 oz

PYTHON: This evening, there is an extra heartbeat in my home. After my friend Jon and I walked back from dinner on Piedmont, we rounded the corner from 40th toward past Mama's Royal on Broadway to the sight of a man and woman looking at the sidwalk, or wall, or something. "What kind of snake is that?" the man asked. "It can't be anything bad, maybe a king snake." I looked closer -- "It's a ball python!" I knelt to get a photo and a closer look -- I could feel the heat from the brick wall that attracted this large, beautiful snake but the smell of urine was dreadful (there is a gap between building and retaining wall where patron's of the the corner bar avail themselves). Jon tried to pick up the snake but she turned her head under her body quickly, so I reached down and picked her up just as FOUR Oakland Police cruisers pulled up.

Apparently, the bartender had called the police. I stepped toward them and offered the snake, curled around my left arm, for examination. Did you ever see four cops levitate backward 5 feet? I did.

I decided to bring her home, put her away safely and find her owner on craigslist. I will put a note up on some posts in the neighborhood, too. She clearly is a man's snake - she liked Jon's big hairy arm better than mine, and she gave him her throat to stroke but freaked out when I tried the same thing. The kitties have varying reactions - Dobs is a bit scared, George is curious, and Carmine is completely noninterested. Snake is safely in a large kennel with some tissue and a water dish, a heating pad on medium under one end of the cage. I left a message with the East Bay Vivarium and hope to find her owner soon -- I know I'd be freaking out if I couldn't find my 4.5' long ghost ball python.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Apple pie...

Pies for Jon's Birthday Party

I have a love hate relationship with pie crust. When I try to follow directions, I end up with something I don't like as well as when I follow my instinct. I got everything - marble board, marble rolling pin, shortening, flour, water super cold, cold, cold. The first pie crust was such a bitch to roll out.

The second was better - the last two I let set out of the fridge longer and they were much easier. I think the first one didn't work so great because there were too big patches of shortening resulting in a few gaps in the crust. I didn't want to do double crust or lattice, I just rolled out the leftover pie crust dough and cut out heart shapes, putting 5 hearts on top of each pie.

After mixing the apples with the flour, sugar, spices and lemon, I let them set and then put them in the crust with a slotted spoon, leaving the juice in the pot. None of the pies overboiled and messed up my oven.

I cut up the rest of the pink apples for a batch of apple sauce which is a gorgeous light shade of pink.

4 - 9" apple pies
7 - 16 oz jars of unsweetened pink applesauce

Friday, August 08, 2008

Canned Apple Pie Filling

The test batch of apple pie filling on Wednesday went well but I was shocked at the shrinkage after 20 minutes of hot water bath! I had packed the apples flat to the bottom in layers, but ended up with about 2/3 of a jar of apple, 1/3 of syrup after the bath.

Friday, my dear friend Jonathan came over to visit and he helped to quarter and core the apples which I sliced and left the sliced quarters together so that I could pack them vertically in the jars. I got a lot more apple in the jar this way and am very satisfied with the results.

Jon was delighted with the apples from Lawrence's batch which he said tasted just like the apples from the tree in the backyard of his childhood home. He was rewarded for his efforts with a cache of jams, jellies & chutneys and a promise of apple pies for his birthday/housewarming party on Saturday.

2 - 1 qt Larissa's red flesh apples
5 - 1 qt Lawrence's tart-sweet green apples

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


APRICOT-CHIPOTLE JAM is going to be a big hit. Small yield, but I'll do a batch of peach chipotle, too. I let the jam cool overnight on the stove with one chipotle pepper (it softened to about 3" in length).

This morning, I reheated it, added 1/2 c. lemon juice and 1/2 c. boiling water before adding the sugar and pectin to get it moving because it was very dense. I added the sugar and pectin, let it heat up and added a bit more water and boiled it to about 195 degrees. At this point, it tasted good but not too spicy -- smoky chipotle and a tiny bit of spice.

I simmered about 5 minutes more (hey, I'm on a schedule here, I gotta get to work!) and put it in the jars. I tasted it after I put it all in the jars and, let me tell you, that extra couple of minutes really added some zing!

It's not as spicy as the Plum Habanero Jelly, but it's got a bit of kick. I snipped up the chipotle pepper into 9 pieces into each of the jars to ensure a bit more zing.

5 - 8 oz jars
4 - 4 oz jars

I still have 3 cups of juice in the fridge, so plan to experiment a bit more. Apricot Chipotle sorbet, anyone?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Green with Envy

GREEN GAGE PLUM JAM: The Green Gage plums are so GOOD! I finished up the jam and added as little sugar as possible because they were so sweet:

6 - 8 oz jars
9 - 4 oz jars

3 c. puree for sorbet

JUICER: I did test out the new juicer -- I'm not sure it's the one for me. Bits of apricot went flying off into the pulp area from the spinning knife/strainer basket that are still quite juiceable. It did a great job on lemons, though, once I cut off the peel with my knife (didn't try it with peel on).

JAM: I got the apricot-chipotle jam started, but 2 tsp of powdered roasted chipotle pepper didn't add much flavor to 4 cups of fruit, so I put a whole chipotle pepper in the warm fruit over night to soften up and flavor it.


APPLES: The apples I got on Sunday from the lovely Larissa -- same place as the plums -- are all a nice light yellow outside and when I cut them open to try them in the juicer, they are a nice red-pink inside! I have never had red flesh apples before and these are beautiful and delicious.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Zucchini Madness


ZUCCHINI FRITTERS: After perusing several recipes this afternoon, I decided to make up my own zucchini fritter recipe and it came out darned good.

4 c. grated zucchini
1/2 c. grated onion
1/4 c. grated carrot
handful chopped squash blossoms

Usual directions about salting the zucchini and leaving it set in a colander for 10-20 minutes apply. I used my potato ricer to squeeze out the juice right into a bubbling pot of veggies that I later turned into a zucchini-golden chanterelle bisque.

For the batter:

1 c. flour of your choice
2 T. baking powder
2 T. crushed black pepper
2 T. fresh, chopped thyme
2 T. fresh chopped oregano
handful of fresh chopped parsley

Add enough water until it starts to resemble a thick batter instead of a dough, then mix in the zucchini and veggies. Stir in more water until it reaches a consistency that will form nice 1/4 cup globs that you can pat flat on the frying pan with your fingers. Brown on both sides until done. Eat with some delicious Pottsfield Relish* or chutney or fresh salsa. Maybe an almond-lemon pesto.

ZUCCHINI (Golden Chanterelle) BISQUE: I had a monster zuke from the new friend who has opened her yard to my foraging for apricots, green gage plums and apples. Big zukes are good for zucchini bread, fritters and bisque.

If you did not know, a bisque is a soup that uses rice (and potatoes, sometimes) to create a nice creamy, starchy consistency. No dairy, cheese or bizarre thickeners required, I swear.

Cook up 1/4 c. of arborio rice and let sit in the hot water.

Cook over med-high heat until tender:

5 c. zucchini, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. carrots, chopped
2 c. fingerling potatoes, chopped

In the dutch oven, heat enough water or vegetable broth to cover the veggies (start low and add more once the veggies are done sauteeing). I added 1 packet of dry sauteed, sliced golden chanterelles and about 1 c. of golden chanterelle broth to the pot. Once the water is hot, add the rice, too - what the heck. Also added 1 T crushed black pepper. Don't add any salt yet -- remember, you added miso!

After adding the softened veggies to the pot of broth, I added about 3 T of miso, along with 1/3 c fresh parsley leaves, some fresh oregano and thyme. I let everything cook until it was very soft.

Cool the veggies and broth. Process in blender or food processor. At this point, I pulled out two more 8 oz (before dry sauteeing) baggies of chopped golden chanterelle and let them defrost in the bisque. It tastes pretty good -- I will let it cool and check the seasoning tomorrow when I heat it up. This bisque will be great to freeze in individual portions for lunch!

PLUMS: James pitted most of the plums -- I had to stop him so we'd still have some to snack! Even then, we were plucking plums out of the pot as they warmed up, these are the tastiest plums we've ever had. The plums are resting - skins and meat - I am going to strain some and just make jam out of the meat tomorrow. I think I may pull out plum skins with tongs if it is easy enough, otherwise I will just leave the in.

APPLES: Apple sauce requires a lot more peeling and paring than I think I have time this week. I now have a whole big milk crate of apple from my friend Lawrence -- when I called to check on our morning carpool he said, "I have a surprise for you - you're going to hate me!" So, I have apples from Larissa's house on Sunday - light yellow, and a crate full of tart green beauties (much bigger) from Lawrence's place in Danville. I'm thinking I should make some canned apple pie filling -- he had told me he was going to make a rum raisin apple pie, so I think I should make at least one batch of rum raisin apple pie filling. I can leave on the peels and just slice up the cored apples, cover them with the syrup/batter and hot water process them. Any other ideas on what to do with apples and limited appendages and waking hours?

APRICOTS: While the plum jam is cooking tomorrow, I may focus on the apricots since they'll go off earlier than the apples. I wish the solar dehydrator was done! Hoping my brother will finish it off on Tuesday, then I can do some dried apples!

*Recipe for Pottsfield Relish coming soon. I promise. I just opened my last jar in anticipation of a bumper tomato crop. I swear - pictures are coming soon for everything!

Easy Plum (Habanero) Jelly

PLUM JELLY can be easy or difficult -- if you don't have freestone plums, the best way I've found is to clean and cook the whole fruit.

First, wash/sterilize your jars and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 125 or 250, whatever makes you feel good. If you don't keep the jars hot - the boiling hot jelly may make your jars crack and break, causing a big unhappy mess.  Boiling hot jelly will sizzle in the jars kept at 125 and you won't be able to grab the jars with your hands so have pot holders ready.


Next, gather your plums and wash them really well to get off all the bird poop and bugs. Or not - it's all going to get strained anyway and you might like the protein. Cut out any bad blemishes or parts you wouldn't want to eat. Your plums should look all clean and pretty:


I never add juice to the pot for the plums -- but I squish them hard with my hands as I put them into the pot -- I use both hands and squish a small handful of plums. Once the bottom of the pan is covered, I turn on the heat on low and continue adding smashed plums to the pot. This helps the juice release more quickly.

Plums on the stove

After you've smashed up all the plums and they've filled the pot with juicy goodness, turn them into a big colander or sieve lined with 2-4 layers of cheesecloth over a big bowl or pot to collect the juice.

Straining the plums

You can stir the plums to release more juice, or pick up the corners of the cheesecloth from time to time to give a wiggle and shake. Once you've collected all your juice, you can store it and finish it another night or put it back in a pot and start thinking about flavor accents -- like habanero or jalapeno pepper or lavender.

In this picture, you can see the jars I used to store the juice in the refrigerator - you can also freeze the plum juice if you want to make it much later or really have a lot of plums.

Starting the jelly

Adding pepper can be tricky - so you have to start with a little, bring it to a simmer for five minutes and then taste it (let it cool, first!). Add more chopped pepper if you want more heat.

Making plum jelly

Simmer a bit and then strain out all the pepper (or lavender or other herbs) and put back in the pan.

Add the lemon, sugar and pectin as instructed by your pectin manufacturer. I use Pomona's pectin - so I put the lemon juice & calcium water into the pot, and mix the pectin in with the sugar really well using a wire whisk before adding.  Then I follow the instructions for bringing back to temperature and testing for set.

Pour into hot jars and put the lids on and process in hot water bath.  Then, set the jars out to cool and wait for the sweet plink of success (some people skip hot water bath with jelly -- this isn't recommended by the folks at Ball but it's done often since the simmering jelly is hotter than boiling water anyway).

plum pepper jelly

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Squash Blossom Brunch & more fruit...

IMGP7177SQUASH BLOSSOMS: I've been dying to make these. Somehow, James and I never got around to making dinner after we got home from The Trappist on Friday -- we found ourselves busy with non-food preparation related entertainment.

After the picnic in Dolores Park with the green bloggers, I took him to Ristorante Bacco for the first time - we had a fantastic dinner with the same server, Lucca, who was there the last time I had dinner with my friend Samael7.

James ordered a salmon carpaccio over a fennel salad, and I had a nice arugula and radiccio salad. For dinner, he had the fregola (tiny round pea shaped pasta) with seafood, and they made me a fantastic dish of rigatoni with truffle oil, green beans, asparagus, pine nuts, red pepper and carrots. Since we have liked the Layer Cake primitivo, we ordered another primitivo which had a bit more bite but which was delicious. We finished off with a mango sorbet that was creamy and delicious but not nearly as good as the WWOZ mango sorbet.

All this means is that we still had squash blossom sitting in my fridge when we got back to the east bay.


This morning I was determined to make up a squash blossom brunch. I made a nice nut cheese to stuff in the blossoms:

1/4 c raw pistachio nut meat
1/2 c raw cashews
1/4 c. raw pinenuts
1/2 tsp of chopped garlic from a jar
1/4 tsp chopped ginger from a jar
1 Tb white miso
1/4 tsp powdered cumin
dash of cayenne & salt
nutritional yeast to taste (optional)
dozen sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1/2 tsp lime juice (optional)

IMGP7169 Whir in a food processor or high watt blender with a good knife-in-bowl system.

The nut cheese came out pretty astonishingly good.


Stuffed 12 squash blossoms with the nut cheese, and roll in batter:

1 c. flour
3 Tb crushed black sesame seeds
salt and coarsely crushed black pepper to taste
1-1 1/2 c water to make a thick batter

Make sure you get the blossom ends and a bit inside the blossom ends to keep them stuck together when you fry.


Thinking a batter would cling to the blossoms better than if I dunked them in flour-water-flower. It worked stupendously -- we had the most gorgeous and delicious squash blossom fritters with a side of sauteed red pepper, mushroom, chopped squash blossoms and grated zucchini and one sliced, sauteed sage-apple gluten sausage (pictures are coming, I swear!). We made a sauce with some chili oil, soy and lime -- but I think I would try one of the fruit chutneys I have made or a fruit- chili based sauce next time.

IMGP7172 IMGP7171

FRUIT: I know - I was going to take it easy, but... after delivering jars of apricot jam (and I got a jar made from the same apricots by James' neighbors), I picked more apricots from the tree next door to James' apartment. We went and got some gorgeous green gage plums and some light green/yellow apples. The plums are so astonishingly tasty - it's all I have had for dinner so far. Dobson loves the bruised apricots and the squishy plums, too.


I put all the fruit out on trays so that the apricots and apples can ripen a bit more. Then I spent aobut 2 hours cleaning the kitchen - I pulled out the stove and cleaned behind as best I could without detaching the gas hose pipe. I took the top off and cleaned out all the gooey, caramelized, burnt jam from under the burners, pulled out the bottom shelf and scrubbed it and the inside of the oven door. The sides are clean, as is the side of the cabinet and I even vacuumed and got all the bottle caps from behind the stove. It is CLEAN.

After finishing in the kitchen, I spent about six hours re-staking and re-tying tomato plants. My brother arrived and worked on the solar dehydrator -- it's practically a whole box now! I'm pretty excited and feel very grateful that my brother has stepped up to assemble the solar dehydrator for me. I don't know when I would have had time to do it with all the other stuff I have going on with preserving and housework. Oh - and there's that quilt I'm trying to finish up for Samael7 before his birthday on 9/11.

Ah... projects. I am going to figure out the dinner project and find a book. The kitties are zonked (except Dobs) -- George found a neighbor cat to fight with (no scratches or blood) but he was so tired out that he has been asleep since eating dinner at 6pm. Even though all the doors were open until 8:30, he just curled up on the bed in a ball and won't even wake up when I pet him.

BANG: Oh - and - there was a shooting around the corner from me last night. I missed it because I was at my sweetie's house... the 2 victims crashed their car, taking out about 4 cars and totalling them. The neighbors say there were about 8 shots, semi-automatic weapon fire.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Fair, Sunny and Breezy with a side of juicer


Happily, lovely weather prevailed on Saturday! I first went to pick up a like-new (used 5 times) Breville Juice Fountain Compact from a craigslister in the Lower Haight for $80 - and got to meet her stunningly beautiful cat, Simon -- a medium-long hair, long flowing curly whiskers and the palest, green-white eyes. *swoon* Such a gorgeous cat and nice people.

My sweetie took me to Dolores Park to meet up with the visiting Arduous, and other Bay Area green bloggers. FakePlasticFish and Car(bon) Free in California were the first to arrive, scoring parking right on 20th between Mission D. and Church. We opened some nice wine, cut up some bread, and had some of FakePlasticFish's hummus and then realized -- hey! where's everyone else! Arduous, Kale for Sale and Green Bean Dreams were all standing on the corner, scratching their heads. We flagged them down the hill and we had a lovely picnic, opening up plum habanero jelly, pistachio butter, white peach jelly and apricot jam and wolfing down Dagoba lavender chocolate and red wine. We had a great view of San Francisco, and despite a bit of wind, it was still warm enough to be comfortable and we had a fine visit. I promise - photos and more recipes coming soon!

I do love a good picnic -- I wish we could do this once a month for the Bay Area green bloggers. At the very least, FakePlasticFish have vowed to do a monthly kitty visit & picnic at each other's homes, though it could be more often since we only live 1 mile apart.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Places you'd expect to be green...

Carrying a theme from Fake Plastic Fish, who is a great letter writer and who wrote a very inspiring letter to the Santa Sabina retreat center, I have noticed a few places I have patronized to be somewhat lacking in the green department on a few items. I did address some of the issues at two of the places, and only got feedback on one.

Melitta Station Inn (Santa Rosa, CA) - I adored this place and even went so far as to write reviews on Yelp and SustainLane. The inn runs entirely on solar energy and puts energy back into the grid. They draw on well water from the Annadel State Park aquifer and it's all UV irradiated and filtered (no messy chlorine or fluouride).

The hosts are darling, thoughtful and generous. It's a very comfortable place to stay and it's clear they do make a tremendous effort to be as green as they can. Except for one thing -- the house-branded lotion, shampoo, conditioner and liquid soaps available for use in the guest rooms all have SLS/SLES in them.

I raised this with the hostess -- she said that the manufacturer had assured her the ingredients were all "green" and I told her about some of the ingredients in the bottles and also why antibacterial liquid soap wasn't really green. She very graciously entertained my information, asked questions and said she'd look into it. I'm not sure, at this point, if I should e-mail articles to her or just wait til the next time I go up to visit to ask. I also have an extra copy of the Co-Op America Green Directory -- I hardly use it, but it seems like the sort of thing that might really be interesting to those folks. Thoughts?

Harbin Hot Springs (Middletown, CA) During my 3 day spa retreat, I noticed a lot of things that surprised me. First, the food at the restaurant is not terribly green -- it's not all organic, and they even have a $24.95 salmon dinner on the menu. Nearly everything is laden with butter, milk and cheese. For breakfast, they offer a vegan option of "chinese breakfast" -- rice and veggies. I understand they are trying to use as much organic produce as they can, but most of what is delivered is conventionally grown produce.

They have a large garden which is supposed to be for the residents. It's a rather haphazard affair -- the amount of land the use for the garden could be more efficiently planted and managed to provide quite a lot of local, fresh, seasonal vegetables to the kitchen. Shockingly, they don't even have drip hoses or drip lines set up in their garden -- they just have big fan sprayer sprinklers. Yes, I know they are probably tapping water from the spring that feeds the pools. A sprinkler is woefully inefficient for watering plants and a huge waste of water, no matter how unlimited you feel your supply to be. Shameful!

There are some small, lush lawns in front of the Azalea and Walnut guest houses -- you walk past them on your way up to the pools. They are shaded and very nice and soft. They are quite small lawns -- one should think them an ideal candidate for a reel mower. This would cut down on the noise pollution and air pollution generated by using a gasoline powered lawn mower -- again, I was just amazed that such a thing would even be permitted on the grounds. What next, a leaf blower?

Though the big community kitchen in Fern has composting and adequate recycling, it wasn't so easy to recycle in Dome 5's kitchen, and there was no place to put compost. Worse yet, housekeeping doesn't seem to be terribly aware of recycling, landfills and the problems with plastic. I had put a single Bumble Bar wrapper in my trash can and the next morning, the housekeeper had taken the entire trash bag out, knotted it loosely and had it by the downstairs door ready to go to the landfill. I adjusted and put the plastic bag back in my wastepaper basket. She also did not sort the recyclables -- so I did it after I spotted the bag from my Dome in the trash can outside the Dome area later.

I did fill out a comment form at Harbin but haven't heard back from them at all.

Club ONE (San Francisco, CA) I recently joined Club ONE and was pretty shocked at the lack of labeling on the products available for member use. There's no statement supporting the use of biodegradable, green or organic bath products. There is, however, a notice in the showers about water conservation. I was also pretty shocked at the way they hand out bottles of water -- I got coupons for free bottles of water when I joined and didn't notice recycling cans in the locker room for plastic bottles. You'd think it would be really easy for a gym to be green, right?