Category Archives: Vegan

Homemade Pickled Ginger

 

If you’re a sushi fan like me, you are familiar with the paper-thin, spicy yet sweet pickled ginger sushi usually comes with.  If you want an authentic at-home sushi experience (you can even try making your own! It’s probably easier than you think), you could buy it in a jar.  Or, for far less, you can make it yourself!

Ginger is a unique and strong flavor that is unmistakable and irreplaceable.  Ginger is delicious in ale, beer, tea, stir fry… you get the picture.  A few thin slices added to steamed veggies takes dinner from “meh” to “did you get this from a restaurant?”  A few slivers of ginger elevates a cup of plain green tea to something decadent and exotic.  A few pieces or ginger juice in soup adds layers of flavor and depth.  And in good times and bad, ginger ale soothes and refreshes.

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Not only does ginger taste delicious, it is also known to have hosts of health promoting effects on the body.  From head to toe, ginger has seemingly magical properties to aid and ease all kinds of complaints.  From ancient times to modern homeopaths, midwives and housewives, ginger in fresh, powdered, or pill form is useful for many health purposes.  Here are just a few:

The Benefits of Ginger

  1. Anti-Nausea: Ginger is a known remedy for motion sickness, morning sickness, and any other sickness which makes you feel like you need a trash can, stat.
  2. Cold & Flu Prevention: When you or a loved one starts to feel a little under the weather, some nice ginger tea may be just what the doctor ordered. Or at least, just the thing to keep you from needing to go to the doctor. This may also help with allergies!
  3. Reduces Inflammation: Ginger is a known anti-inflammatory, and some studies show it may even be just as effective as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like aspirin & ibuprofen.
    Ginger Heart
  4. Strengthens Immunity: Ginger helps to stimulate your body’s immune system, to build up new cells and make you more able to resist microscopic invaders on a day to day basis. It also decreases bacterial infections in the stomach.
  5. Prevents Cancer: Studies have shown that chemicals present in ginger help inhibit the growth of human colorectal cancer cells.  It also induces cell death in ovarian cancer cells.  Who knows what else this powerful plant can do!
  6. Stimulates Appetite: If you haven’t been feeling hungry, try a piece of ginger 10-30 minutes before a meal.  Ginger can help stimulate appetite and get your digestive juices flowing.
  7. Assists Digestion/Absorption: Ginger has many healing properties all along the digestive tract, from stimulating digestive juices in the mouth, to the stomach, to the intestines.  Ginger with a meal or in tea helps you get the most out of the nutrients in the foods.

Jar of Fresh Pickled Ginger Slices

The best news of all is that it is super easy to make your own pickled ginger and have it around all the time!  Ginger keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or more, and even longer in the freezer.  But if you pickle the ginger, you can store it for months in the fridge.  All you need is a nice big chunk of ginger root, some vinegar (rice vinegar is best, but honest you can use just about any kind), and sugar.  A tiny dash of salt helps too.  This recipe makes about one pint jar worth, feel free to multiply it for larger batches, or halve it for just a single meal’s worth.

Slice of Homemade Pickled Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fresh gingerroot (about 8 oz)
  • 1 cup vinegar (rice wine or apple cider are best)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 – 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water to fill jar

Sliced Ginger Root Ready to Be Pickled

Step 1: Peel the ginger using a sharp knife, butter knife, or a table spoon.  (Honest, it works!)  Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the ginger as thinly as possible.  My mandoline, even on the thinnest setting, still sliced these super thick, so I won’t be eating these slices alone.  Most likely they will get diced into stir fry or a strip or two tossed into a cup of tea.

Step 2: Pour the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Place the slices into a glass container (such as a canning jar, or clean pasta jar) and pour the hot liquid over, using a funnel if needed.  Cap it tight, and let cool overnight.

Big Piece of Pickled Ginger

And that’s all there is to it!  Put the jar in the refrigerator, and let it sit for at least 2 hours, but the longer it sits the more pickled it will become.  It also may turn pink over time, due to the enzymes in the ginger, this is nothing to be concerned about.  Use more or less sugar and salt to your tastes, or experiment with the types of vinegar.

Let me know in what recipes you use your ginger!

Homemade Pickled Ginger

Homemade Pickled Ginger

Ingredients

  • 1 large fresh ginger root (about 8 oz)
  • 1 cup vinegar (rice wine or apple cider are best)
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 - 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup water to fill jar

Instructions

  1. Peel the ginger using a sharp knife, butter knife, or a table spoon. (Honest, it works!) Using a mandoline or very sharp knife, slice the ginger as thinly as possible. My mandoline, even on the thinnest setting, still sliced these super thick, so I won't be eating these slices alone. Most likely they will get diced into stir fry or a strip or two tossed into a cup of tea.
  2. Pour the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water into a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Place the slices into a glass container (such as a canning jar, or clean pasta jar) and pour the hot liquid over, using a funnel if needed. Cap it tight, and let cool overnight.
  3. And that's all there is to it!
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SOURCES

Mixed Winter Vegetables

 

Towards the end of February, it seems like nothing will ever grow again, and a juicy summer tomato is but a dream.  Most Americans just go to the supermarket and buy whatever exotic fruits or produce they are craving with no regards to whence it came, how many miles it has traveled, or how the nutrients have been degraded by early harvest and long travel time between dirt and plate.

I strongly encourage those yearning for the warmer days of spring where every corner bursts with greenery to make use of the oft-neglected seasonal produce.  Try searching Local Harvest for farmers markets near you.  Root crops store so well, while cold-tolerant crops are appearing in local markets.  If you are lucky you may even have farmers with greenhouses or cold hoops that grow tender baby greens and lettuces.

Many people cannot name 5 produce items that are in season any time of the year other than mid-summer, and maybe not even then.  During the coldest, bleakest times of winter it is especially hard to think of produce actually being able to withstand the harsh temperatures.  But in New England, there are tons of vegetables that you can find for mere pennies at the local markets, including: carrots, fingerling potatoes, beets (red and gold), rutabaga, squash, parsnips, turnips, radishes, leeks, onions, Brussels sprouts, baby micro-greens, spinach, kale, collards, and mushrooms.

This recipe makes a large meal for one, or side dish for two.  Feel free to mix up the vegetable content based on what you have available right now and what you like.  But if you are wary of these produce types, just try one and see how you like it.  You never know when you may fall in love with the sweetness of a golden beet, the carrot-like texture of parsnips, or the nuances of various radish strains.

Ingredients:

  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 leek
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 green onion
  • 1 small potato
  • 3-4 small beets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

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Step 1: Cut the tops and bottoms off of your produce, and dice into chunks or slices.  Add the olive oil & lemon to a frying pan, and add all the vegetables.  Cover tightly, and steam 5-10 minutes.  Stir up the veggies, cover, and steam another 10 minutes or so.  You want the heat low enough that it will slowly caramelize the sugars in the vegetables, not burn them.

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Step 2: Sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste.  Either serve alone or on the side with a meat and salad.  I enjoyed mine with some roasted chicken, baby greens, and homemade sauerkraut on top.  It is so simple, yet so wonderfully tasty!

 

 

Parsnip, Potato, & Leek Spring Soup

 

I don’t know about the weather elsewhere, but the weather here in Connecticut seems to be very bi-polar.  One day it is in the 50s and sunny, and I am getting cabin fever and want to plant everything in the seed catalog immediately, the next day we get almost a foot of snow dumped on us overnight.  What’s going on here?

I am so thankful that CT has some amazing farmers who have hoop houses, green houses, store rooms, and other ways of extending our crazy growing season, so that we are already getting some of the first tender crops of the springtime.  Though not quite yet asparagus season, we have access to several root crops (beets, parsnips, onions, potatoes, leeks…), winter squash, eggs & meats, and tender fresh greens (grown inside of course).

Spring Farmers Market Foods

Usually I plan the week’s meals before going to the store, but I decided to get crazy this week, and let the market make my meal plan.  Whatever was fresh and available, I will form the week’s meals around that.  This is one small step on my lifelong journey to be a locavore (to eat whole seasonal foods grown as close to me as possible as often as possible).

A big bag of fresh microgreens, spinach, and head lettuce means tons of fresh salads.  Healthy brown eggs means breakfasts, frittatas, and quiches.  CT grown oyster mushrooms may be grilled, sauteed, added to soups, or stir fried.  The fingerling potatoes will complement just about anything, and the beets too have many many options.

Soup spices whole

The first dish I decided to make (after a giant fresh greens salad, because I couldn’t wait and helped myself almost as soon as I got home) was a slow cooker soup.  I had obtained leeks, parsnips, and fingerling potatoes.  Combined with onions I had over-wintered, fresh ground spices, and canned turkey broth (from Thanksgiving!) it would be the perfect thing on a chilly snow-covered day.

Parsnip Potato Leek Soup Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 large parsnip (or carrot)
  • 1 large leek
  • 3-5 small potatoes
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 2-3 cups bone broth, vegetable broth, or water
  • Optional spices: black pepper, fennel, cumin, sea salt, garlic

Spring soup in the crock pot

Step 1: If using fresh whole spices, grind them up in a coffee or spice grinder.  In a crock pot or small soup pot, add the broth.  Wash the outside of the produce, but leave the skin on.  Dice up the potatoes, parsnip, onion, and leek and add to the pot.  Add water to cover.

Step 2: Cook in crock pot on “high” for 4 hours or “low” for 6-8 hours, or bring to a boil on the stove, and simmer for 1-2 hours. Serve fresh with a drizzle of olive oil and maybe some thick bread or rolls.

 

 

Spring Microgreens Salad with Beet Vinaigrette

 

As spring slowly begins to win the seasonal fight with winter, tender crops begin to appear in the local markets.  Radishes, greens and lettuces, root crops, winter squash, carrots, onion and potatoes both old and new along with greenhouse grown herbs, eggs and meats and dairy, and mushrooms abound.  Take advantage of fast-growing baby greens and all the chlorophyll and concentrated nutrients they offer with lots of fresh spring salads!

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Basically any meal starts off right with a heap of greens of any kind, topped with various seeds, nuts, vegetables, or proteins of your choice.  Choose darker or colorful varieties for the most nutrition, including kale, spinach, sprouts, arugula or rocket, and watercress.  You can also whip up your own salad dressing at home in the time it takes to mix & shake, and it will be far tastier, healthier, and cheaper than a plastic bottle full of chemicals.

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All  you need is a mason jar, an oil, an acidic (vinegar, lemon juice) and flavorings (fresh or dried herbs/garlic/pepper).  This recipe is for a beet juice vinaigrette, which has tons of delicious flavor, liver-cleansing benefits, and as a bonus is a lovely pink color!  I’ll bet you topping any salad with this will automatically make you smile.  For the beet juice, you can either roast and juice fresh beets, or you can use the juice from canned beets, no judgment here.

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Ingredients (makes about 2 cups salad dressing):

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup beet juice
  • 1 heaping tsp miso

 

Step 1: Put all ingredients into a mason jar or other jar with a lid, and shake it up until emulsified.  The miso may take a bit to dissolve, but it’s worth it.  It adds a salty depth of flavor and a healthy boost of probiotics.  Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

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To make this lovely salad yourself:

  • 2 cups fresh mixed baby greens
  • 1/2 can sliced beets
  • Handful of almonds
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup artichoke hearts
  • 1 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 3-4 tbsp beet salad dressing

Place the greens on a large plate.  Add the beet slices (save juice for the dressing), artichoke hearts, nuts, seeds, and berries.  Shake up your vinaigrette and pour over all.  Smile, and enjoy!

Feel free to experiment with your salad dressing.  Try using lemon juice or lime juice, add chopped fresh herbs like mint, parsley, or cilantro, add crushed fresh garlic or peppercorns, use any kind of vinegar or oil you want.  It is so quick and easy, you are bound to find recipes you enjoy, and may never go back to store-bought dressing again!

 

Have you made your own dressings?  What is your favorite recipe?

Almost Work-free Curry

 

Curry is one of my favorite meals ever, because you can make it in a crock pot and basically do no work, or in a sauce pot and also do almost no work!  I’m sure that there are curry recipes which take many exotic ingredients and hours of preparation, but for a basic recipe, and an American palate, curry is super simple.

This curry incorporates chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and other aromatic vegetables for an amazing, nutritious, tasty recipe.  I used basically a jar of salsa starter that I had canned earlier in the summer, but you can also use frozen veggies, or fresh diced veggies. This is very filling, especially if served over rice.  If you must have meat, feel free to also add some pork or chicken or beef.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 medium sweet potato, diced
  • 1 medium white or yellow potato, diced
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • Optional: 1 tbsp turmeric, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp red chili pepper, 1 tbsp garam masala

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Step 1: Dice up the potatoes and throw them in a sauce pot or crock pot.  Add the diced tomatoes and vegetables.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook 20-25 minutes.  (Or set to low and cook 2-4 hours).

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Step 2: Open the chickpeas and drain.  Add to the pot, along with any spices you want to use.  Cook just until everything is heated through, if using a crock pot, add about 30 minutes before serving.  If desired, boil some rice and serve with the curry, or you can serve with flat bread.

 

Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad

 

Ahhh the tiny but mighty Brussels sprout.  The divider of nations.  The cruciferous ruiner of relationships.  You get the idea.

Brussels sprouts tend to be a very polarizing vegetable.  For as many veggie lovers that swear by the carmelized candy that is roasted sprouts, there are another 1-2 sad souls who have been turned off by less-than-ideal preparations of boiled, rubbery, or wilty sprouts and swear off these delicate nutrition-packed powerhouses.

Brussels sprouts grow on stalks up to three feet tall, and each bud resembles a miniature cabbage, with a diameter of 1/2 -2 inches.  Typically sold in grocery stores removed from the stalk, they can be found in farmers markets and some specialty stores still attached.  They also are offered canned or frozen, though I cannot vouch for their nutrient content or flavor in such preparations.

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Brussels sprouts are members of the family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, known as Brassicas.  These vegetables are lauded in nutrition circles for their hefty doses of vitamins A, C, and K, folate, and anti-inflammatory and potentially cancer-preventing compounds.

Taken from the website “world’s healthiest foods” (whfoods.com), Brussels sprouts have a whole host of healthful benefits:

“What’s New and Beneficial About Brussels Sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits if you will use a steaming method when cooking them. The fiber-related components in Brussels sprouts do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Raw Brussels sprouts still have cholesterol-lowering ability — just not as much as steamed Brussels sprouts.
  • Brussels sprouts may have unique health benefits in the area of DNA protection. A recent study has shown improved stability of DNA inside of our white blood cells after daily consumption of Brussels sprouts in the amount of 1.25 cups. Interestingly, it’s the ability of certain compounds in Brussels sprouts to block the activity of sulphotransferase enzymes that researchers believe to be responsible for these DNA-protective benefits.
  • For total glucosinolate content, Brussels sprouts are now known to top the list of commonly eaten cruciferous vegetables. Their total glucosinolate content has been shown to be greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli. In Germany, Brussels sprouts account for more glucosinolate intake than any other food except broccoli. Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. All cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates and have great health benefits for this reason. But it’s recent research that’s made us realize how especially valuable Brussels sprouts are in this regard.
  • The cancer protection we get from Brussels sprouts is largely related to four specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin, and gluconasturtiian. Research has shown that Brussels sprouts offer these cancer-preventive components in special combination.
  • Brussels sprouts have been used to determine the potential impact of cruciferous vegetables on thyroid function. In a recent study, 5 ounces of Brussels sprouts were consumed on a daily basis for 4 consecutive weeks by a small group of healthy adults and not found to have an unwanted impact on their thyroid function. Although follow-up studies are needed, this study puts at least one large stamp of approval on Brussels sprouts as a food that can provide fantastic health benefits without putting the thyroid gland at risk.”  READ MORE HERE

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For those who are wary of Brussels sprouts, from past experience or a lack of experience, try this salad to introduce them.  Finely shaved sprouts are mixed with naturally sweet fruit (apples and raisins) and coated in a mixture of sweet and tangy dressing to produce a side salad, or even main dish, of healthy intent sneakily hiding under the guise of almost-dessert.  Everyone can feel good about eating this.  Try it at your next picnic, potluck, as a Thanksgiving or Christmas side dish, or just because it’s Tuesday night.

Brussels sprouts salad ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded or diced very finely
  • 1 apple, diced very thin
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp raisins

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Step 1: Rinse your sprouts, and either use a shredder or a sharp knife to finely dice them, and put in a large bowl.

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Step 2: In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice, honey, mustard, vinegar and olive oil.  Use as high quality an oil as you are able.

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Step 3: Very finely dice and slice the apple.  The best & quickest way is to rinse the apple, then slice into fourths.  Cut out the middle core & seeds and discard.  Then lay each quarter on a side, and thinly slice.  Slice each of those in half and you should have very thin, bite-sized slivers of apple.

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Step 4: Mix the shredded sprouts, apple slivers, and raisins in a bowl.  Pour on the liquid dressing mixture, and toss well to coat.  You can serve hot, cold, or room temperature.  You can serve immediately, or let it sit in the refrigerator up to three days for the flavors to mix.

 

Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad

Sweet & Sour Brussels Sprouts Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded or diced very finely
  • 1 apple, diced very thin
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp raisins

Instructions

  1. Rinse your sprouts, and either use a shredded or a sharp knife to finely dice them, and put in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice, honey, mustard, vinegar and olive oil. Use as high quality an oil as you are able.
  3. Very finely dice and slice the apple. The best & quickest way is to rinse the apple, then slice into fourths. Cut out the middle core & seeds and discard. Then lay each quarter on a side, and thinly slice. Slice each of those in half and you should have very thin, bite-sized slivers of apple.
  4. Mix the shredded sprouts, apple slivers, and raisins in a bowl. Pour on the liquid dressing mixture, and toss well to coat. You can serve hot, cold, or room temperature. You can serve immediately, or let it sit in the refrigerator up to three days for the flavors to mix.
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Green Tomato Salsa

 

When you have lots of green tomatoes and are tired of fried green tomatoes, what else can you do besides wait for them to ripen?  You can turn a whole bunch of them into salsa!  Red tomatoes shouldn’t have all the fun.  Salsa is a classic condiment, and is great on tacos, eggs, in soups, or on chicken or pork.  Green tomato salsa has a unique vegetal taste that red tomato salsa can’t match.  And once you’ve made a big batch, you could can the rest and have it all year long!  Or give them as cute, thrifty, from-the-heart gifts.

This recipe includes no added sugar, you instead get some sweetness from baking apples.  If you require your salsa to be sweeter, you can add in a tablespoon or two.  I’d recommend apple cider vinegar over white, but you can also use white vinegar.  Add hot peppers to your own spice preference level too.  Same goes for sea salt, if you want some salt in your salsa.  I prefer my salsa as plain and clean as possible so I know what is in it and can adjust the meal as a whole later when I use it.

Green tomato salsa ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 10 pounds green tomatoes
  • 2-3 large green apples
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 green bell peppers
  • 1 hot pepper (serrano, jalapeno…)
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

Green tomato salsa ingredients chopped

Step 1: This step definitely takes the longest, but is fun.  Rinse your tomatoes and other produce, and chop everything into small bite-size pieces.  I just did them in rotating batches of lots of tomatoes, then half the onion, then one pepper, etc. until everything was chopped up.  Put it all in a big stock pot.

Green tomato salsa cooking

Step 2: Put the heat on medium-high, and add the cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.  Cover, and cook for at least one hour.  You can go do something else while this is cooking down, and could probably do it in a slow cooker as well.

Filled green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 3: If you want certain spices/flavorings (like bay leaves, cumin, sea salt, cilantro, etc) add them here.

Green tomato salsa jars no lids

Step 4: To use a pressure canner, consult the instructions for your machine.  To use water bath canning, same prep work.  Sterilize your empty jars by running through a dish washer cycle and/or boiling in plain water 20 minutes.

Green tomato salsa jars horizontal

Step 5: Fill each jar up to 1 – 1/2 inch from the rim.  Wipe the rim clean, and place a lid and ring on it, tightening it (but not too tight, you need air to escape).  Here I tried the Tattler re-useable jar lids for the first time!

Green tomato salsa jars in water bath canner

Step 6: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and place the jars inside.  Process the jars for about an hour.  Adjust for your altitude if above sea level.

Green tomato salsa jars vertical

Step 7: Remove the jars to a towel, and let them sit, undisturbed, overnight or about 8 hours, to cool.  The lids should “pop” tight and will not give or bounce when pressed.  Put any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.  Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place for up to a year.

 

How to Make Oven-Dried Tomatoes

 

Since between my own backyard garden and my generous neighbor who has a football-field-sized garden I still had a bumper crop of tomatoes, even after canning oodles of quarts and pints of sauce and tomato broth and salsa, I decided to try my hand at oven-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil.

Dried tomatoes in olive oil are delicious little flavor bombs to add to garlic bread for a simple bruschetta, toss into salads or pasta, or top a pizza. The oil itself can also be used in salad dressings or anywhere tomato-flavored infused oil would be tasty. Very popular in the Mediterranean region such as Greece and Italy, this preservation method has been around for a very long time, and I had bags of romas just begging to be bathed in high quality oil that was on sale.

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But a jar can be quite pricey, up to $10 in the supermarket. It is far cheaper to can your own! You must invest in the jars and good-quality oil, but it is worth it for the superior taste and nutrition of using local tomatoes, and you can re-use jars forever.

All you need is some wire racks, an oven, and some time. If you have the oven on anyways, to make a roast or cookies, or perhaps to heat the house in the chill of autumn, this is the perfect project. This oven heat is conducive to drying many things, so you could also make a platter of dried apples or sweet potato chips at the same time.

There is some debate over the safety of dried tomatoes and botulism risk. It is possible that small droplets of water may stay inside the tomato and provide a medium for botulism or bacterium to grow. Obviously read up on facts and use your own best judgment when deciding whether to refrigerate, process, freeze, or store at room temperature. This article is not advice, just what I chose to do in my own kitchen with my own produce.

Ingredients:

  • 40-50 tomatoes, Roma are the best for drying
  • 2 wire racks (cookie sheets work too, you’ll just have to flip them halfway to make sure they dry on all sides)
  • 2-3 cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-3 canning jars, lids, & rings

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Step 1: Cut the tops & cores out of the tomatoes, slice them in half, and push out as many seeds as you can with your fingers or a knife. Save the seeds for planting, drink them, use in a soup, or compost.

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Step 2: Place the tomato halves on a wire rack or baking sheet, cut side up, and put into the oven at 200 degrees. Crack the door open if  you don’t mind the heat to allow more air circulation. Let them dry for 1 hour, then flip them if using baking sheets and check the dryness levels.

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Step 3: Take the completely dry tomatoes and begin packing them into sterile mason jars. The tomatoes are ready if they are rubbery with absolutely no water when squeezed, but you don’t want them so dry they are crunchy with no give. If you choose to use a vinegar dip, use tongs to dip each tomato prior to placing in a sterilized jar.

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Step 4: Pour in olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Make sure they are completely covered. If you feel okay with it, you can now store your tomatoes this way in a dark cabinet, or in the refrigerator.

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You may also choose to water-bath or pressure can your jars at this point. Totally up to you.

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These little jars will store for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator, and potentially up to a year in the cupboard if processed. They make lovely presents, if you can bring yourself to part with them. I recommend putting them somewhere easily accessible as you are likely to want to use them all up within days.

For ideas on how to use these, start here:

Check it out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350506783478334749/
Check it out on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/350506783478334749/

How to Can Homemade Pasta Sauce

 

Since moving to Connecticut, we have slowly made friends with the neighbors. We are lucky enough to live in a pretty safe and quiet area, where the people are very kind and welcoming. My good fortune is knowing a guy named Tony, a few houses down the street, who gardens for his health.

Now, there are lots of well-known reasons why gardening is good for the body and soul. Being out in nature brings a sense of peace and calm, helps relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and may boost your immune system. Having home-grown fruits and vegetables enables healthier food choices and better nutrition, while keeping you active and exercising. All those hours of digging, planting, weeding, tending, picking, and preserving burns serious calories and keeps you toned and limber.

Not to mention the fact that gardening can save you serious cash! Just buy the seeds and materials once (better yet, swap seeds with other local gardeners for better-adapted produce, and save your own seeds for next year!) and you can garden for free almost forever. It is easy to find local, free sources of soil amendments like fertilizer and mulches if you ask around and get creative.

Tony takes this to a new level! His garden is literally the size of a football field, all out in his large 2-acre New England backyard. He and his wife single-handedly till, plant, weed, and tend this garden every year. His wife tells me that he has even shrunk the garden a little this year, due to time constraints and health issues, so the garden used to be even larger before I knew about it. Amazing.

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Tony says his favorite thing about the garden is the sense of community. Everyone on the block knows Tony, and knows they can come by anytime to pick a bag full of produce to take home. His garden produces far more than he and his family alone could enjoy, so he gives freely to everyone around him.

This is the beauty of gardening. You make friends, share food, recipes, and stories, and build a true community.

Needless to say, I was hooked.

By mid-August, I had my kitchen table and counter literally covered in tomatoes, and needed to finally take the time to do something with them all. A large batch I simply cut into quarters and put in gallon freezer bags. They will sit in the freezer until I need to make a soup or chili; then I will thaw them, and the skins will fall right off, and I can use them in whatever recipe is on my mind.

Another large portion goes into cans as sauce to rest in the pantry until it’s pasta night. Tony shared his “lazy Italian” way of making sauce, which saved me tons of work and hours in the kitchen!

The typical way of making sauce is to boil the tomatoes briefly, then submerge in ice water. This makes the skins easy to remove. You then separate the seeds and skin from the inner flesh, and cook down for hours until it thickens into a sauce.

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This cooking down process makes the house smell amazing, and warms it up on a chilly day. But this also takes a lot of time, and energy from the stove. I’m a fan of the new “lazy” way, and the sauce tastes just as good! So pull out your blender, and lets get started!

This recipe will make about 5 quarts of sauce.

Don’t add the spices if you want a plain tomato sauce, or change up the spices to whatever you want in the end product. This does use the water-bath canning method, read up on all possible dangers of canning or use a pressure canner if you are unsure.

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 pounds assorted tomatoes
  • 5-6 canning jars, lids, & rings
  • Per jar:
    • 1 tbsp dried onion
    • 1/2 tbsp dried garlic
    • 2 tbsp basil
    • 2 tbsp parsley
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • Blender
  • Strainer
  • Cheesecloth or coffee filters

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Step 1: Sterilize your jars by boiling for 5 minute,s or run them through the dishwasher. To each jar add the spices for the sauce. I also chose to add one whole tomato just diced to each jar, because I like a little texture in my sauce. You can skip that step and just add the pureed tomatoes.

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Step 2: Wash all your tomatoes, and cut out the middle hard part & stem. Remove any brown or black spots or mushy areas. If you want to and have time, you can remove the seeds (and save them for next year!).  Cut the tomatoes into quarters.

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Step 3: Put the tomatoes into a blender, and blend in batches. My blender can handle about a dozen large tomatoes at a time. You may need to squish some juice out of them to get the blender going at first.

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Step 4: Line a strainer over a large pot with coffee filters or cheesecloth. Pour the tomato puree into the strainer and let it sit. You can wait a few hours, or leave it over night if you have a lid. This lets most of the watery juice drip out, leaving the thicker sauce on top. Saves you the hours of boiling down, and now you can keep the tomato water too!

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Step 5: Pour your separated sauce and tomato juice into prepared jars. Wipe the rims and put on the lid and ring. Process in the water bath for 35 minutes (adjust for altitude). Remove the jars to a cloth and let them cool 8-10 hours.

The jars are ready if you hear the “pop” of the lids seal, or if when you press down in the middle the lid does not spring back. Any jars that do not seal, put in the refrigerator and use within a week, or process them again.

The tomato broth that filters out is like liquid gold, and will be great as a base for soups and stews, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays to cook veggies in instead of using oil. The sauce will bring back the taste of summer later on in the dead of winter.

And this is how I processed and preserved about 50 pounds of tomatoes in two days time!

And it is so easy. As long as you use vinegar or lemon to acidify the tomatoes and broth, they are perfectly safe to water bath can at home. Enjoy preserving your bounty. Do you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with?

More things you can do with tomatoes:

Do you can or preserve? Have any other ways to save tomatoes? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Mushroom & Asparagus Barley Risotto

 

As summer is winding to a close, I am still in denial.  I don’t want to let go of the beautiful unfolding of spring, the delicate greens and fragrant blossoms, the heavy fruits ripening on the vine, the cornucopia of riotous color at the farmer’s market.  Spring and summer make this farm-loving, healthy-cooking, veggie-eating foodaholic girl’s heart sing.

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So when I saw some end of season asparagus and some shiitake mushrooms on sale, I had to nab them.  For a fleeting taste of spring, summer & autumn all rolled into one, this risotto is earthy and vegetal, and completely delicious.

And the best part is, if you use canned mushroom & frozen asparagus you can make this all year round!  A well-stocked fridge/freezer/pantry can bring any season to your plate.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pint chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • Optional add-ins: diced tomato, garlic, onions, spices to taste

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Step 1: Rinse your asparagus and wipe off any dirt from the mushrooms. Dice them into bite-sized pieces.

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Step 2: Put the barley in a pan with 1 cup of stock or water. (This can be vegan if you use vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken stock). Bring to a boil, and then simmer.

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Step 3: Let the barley cook, watching the liquid level. When it gets low, add a few more tbsp of stock and stir. Continue for 20-25 minutes, until barley is chewy and nearly cooked through. Add the diced veggies for the final 5-10 minutes of cooking.

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At this point, you can season to taste, I only used a little garlic salt. This tastes amazing on its own, or you can add any of the option mix ins suggested, or anything else you happen to have laying about.

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This recipe makes about 2 cups worth of risotto, enough for 4 small side dish servings or two full meals.

Mushroom & Asparagus Barley Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pint chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 pound asparagus
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 cups chicken stock or water
  • Optional add-ins: diced tomato, garlic, onions, spices to taste

Instructions

  1. Rinse your asparagus and wipe off any dirt from the mushrooms. Dice them into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Put the barley in a pan with 1 cup of stock or water. (This can be vegan if you use vegetable stock or water in place of the chicken stock). Bring to a boil, and then simmer.
  3. Let the barley cook, watching the liquid level. When it gets low, add a few more tbsp of stock and stir. Continue for 20-25 minutes, until barley is chewy and nearly cooked through. Add the diced veggies for the final 5-10 minutes of cooking.
  4. At this point, you can season to taste, I only used a little garlic salt.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/vegan/mushroom-asparagus-barley-risotto/

 

Nutrition Facts
4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  • Calories 246.8
  • Total Fat 2.2 g
  • Saturated Fat 0.5 g
  • Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
  • Monounsaturated Fat 0.8 g
  • Cholesterol 3.6 mg
  • Sodium 178.2 mg
  • Potassium 399.9 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate 49.8 g
  • Dietary Fiber 9.3 g
  • Sugars 3.8 g
  • Protein 9.3 g
  • Vitamin A 4.2 %
  • Vitamin B-12 0.0 %
  • Vitamin B-6 15.2 %
  • Vitamin C 8.0 %
  • Vitamin D 0.0 %
  • Vitamin E 3.9 %
  • Calcium 2.6 %
  • Copper 32.9 %
  • Folate 17.0 %
  • Iron 10.8 %
  • Magnesium 13.9 %
  • Manganese 41.1 %
  • Niacin 25.7 %
  • Pantothenic Acid 15.0 %
  • Phosphorus 17.2 %
  • Riboflavin 15.5 %
  • Selenium 44.6 %
  • Thiamin 13.2 %
  • Zinc 12.5 %
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.