Monday, September 30, 2013

Today's harvest

The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler, but the tomatoes, peppers and raspberries continue to keep coming.  Enjoy these harvest still life photos

Heirloom red and yellow tomatoes, mild and fiery peppers and strawberry popcorn

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Garden tour part 1 - edibles
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Friday, September 27, 2013

Vegan ice cream sundae

Banana/raspberry/cocoa nib ice cream sundae

Summer may be coming to an end here, but one of my favorite summer treats (or really any time of year) is ice cream.  Here's a vegan version that can be easily made in a high speed blender in just a few minutes.

Banana ice cream

3 generous servings

3 large frozen bananas, broken into chunks (must be frozen to work)
1 cup raw cashews
1 cup non-dairy milk (plus additional if necessary)
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup or honey (non-vegan)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or scrapings from one vanilla bean)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cocoa nibs (optional)
3/4 cup fruit in small pieces (raspberries, strawberries, peaches are good) (optional)

In a high speed blender, put all the ingredients except the cocoa nibs and fruit.  Blend until smooth, adding additional milk if necessary until the mixture resembles soft serve ice cream.  By hand stir in the the cocoa nibs and fruit pieces if you are using them so they will remain in chunks.  It is ready to serve at this point.  If you would like a firmer, scoopable texture. process the mixture in an ice cream maker or pour into a freezer safe container and let freeze until firm enough to scoop.  Serve with your favorite toppings.

If you keep frozen bananas on hand in your freezer, you can whip this up any time.

Thanks for reading!

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Swallowtail butterfly

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yesterday's harvest and fall garden update

Heirloom red cabbage and strawberry spinach
Summer's bounty is definitely winding down as this is the last of the eggplant. After a stint of 90 degree weather a few weeks ago, it's starting to feel more like autumn. The transition is starting to show in the garden as more of the cool weather plants are starting to show some vigor now that the weather has started to change.  It's looking like a promising start to the new season.

Brussels sprouts
Swiss chard, kale and carrots

It's not too late to start some lettuces and other greens even in some pots or buckets if that's all the space you have.  Fresh picked greens are a real treat.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today's harvest: salad makings

Today's harvest including ingredients for a salad

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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Canning projects and tomato sauce recipe

Late summer harvest

I had quite a productive day making some headway into filling up the pantry for this winter.  Although it's always a pleasure to spend time creating stores for the winter, the cooler weather made it a real treat to work in the kitchen over a hot stove today.

Fortified with a green smoothie for breakfast, I turned out:

- pickled peppers with onions and garlic
- tomato sauce
- salsa
- Whipped shea butter to moisturize the skin and hair

 Peppers, garlic and onions in jars ready for brine

Pickled peppers with onions and garlic after processing in a hot water bath

A dear friend requested a tomato sauce recipe, and below is one that is inspired by Sherri Brooks Vinton's Put 'Em Up!:  A Comprehensive Home preserving Guide for the Creative Cook.  Her book provides great practical advice and loads of inspiration for making preserves.

Salsa and pickled peppers

Basic small batch tomato sauce

makes 6-7 pints

10 pounds heirloom tomatoes, any large cores removed (see note)
4-6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 onions, finely diced
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves (4 tablespoons dried)
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves (1 tablespoon dried)
red chili to taste
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar or bottled lemon juice per pint (about 2/3 cup)

In batches, chop or puree the tomatoes, garlic, onions and herbs in a food processor or blender.  Pour the sauce into a large non-reactive stock pot.  Add the herbs, salt and sugar (if using).  Cook over low-medium heat at a simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 2-2 1/2 hours.

Transfer the sauce plus 1 1/2 tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice (per jar) into pint jars (double vinegar/lemon juice if using quart jars) and leaving extra head space for expansion if you are freezing the sauce in the jars.  Wipe the rims clean and put on the lids and rings.

To store:  refrigerate for 1 week, freeze for 6 months or process in a hot water bath for 45 minutes for shelf storage up to 1 year.

Note:  I don't peel my tomatoes because my high speed blender chops them small enough that they are not a bother.  You can peel your tomatoes before chopping if you prefer.  Dip each tomato into boiling water for 5-10 seconds and then plunge into an ice bath.  Slip off the skins, remove any hard cores and then proceed with the recipe.

I'm fortunate enough to be able to have a garden to provide me with much of my produce for canning, however, please check out your local farmer's markets and stands or natural food co-ops for a great selection of heirloom and organic produce.

If you have a favorite fruit or vegetable that you like to put up, please share in the comments section below.

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Neighbor's flower box

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cucumber-melon juice plus time saving workouts and 5 ingredient recipes

Late summer harvest

At this time of year, my evenings are filled with harvesting and prepping veggies and fruits from the garden (and a few from the farmer's market too).  I find it's fairly late by the time I get a chance to fit in some of my regular evening routine.   I've found a few time savers that have come in handy especially when I'm spending a good deal of time minding pots of simmering sauces and preserves.

Even if I only have a few minutes, I find that I can fit in a bit of my favorite activities so I don't miss out on them completely and lose momentum or inspiration.

Get your next meal on the table with ease

Delicious, healthy dishes that have only five ingredients each will have your next meal ready in no time at all from the Stone Soup website and blog.

Fitness program at home

The garden provides me with plenty of physical activity many days, but sometimes I am looking for a little more movement or stretching.  A husband and wife team have created  which has plenty of interval training videos that work for all fitness levels.  The videos are easily searchable by length of time, intensity, simple equipment needed, etc. and can be combined to create personalized workouts that fit your fitness or energy level and the amount of time you have available.  Access to the videos is free and there is plenty of variety to keep your workout from becoming boring.

Staying hydrated

Cucumber melon green juice from fresh produce from my garden (or market)

To take advantage of my bumper crop of melons and keep hydrated while I'm melting over the hot stove, I have been making plenty of this delicious green juice lately.

Cucumber-melon green juice

1 cantaloupe, seeded and rind removed
1 large cucumber, peel if not organic
2 carrots
3 large kale leaves

Put all the ingredients through a juicer and serve over ice.

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Sunflower in my garden

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