Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Dinner and a steamy summer read

Green enchiladas with fresh marinara sauce

If you enjoy modern day romance novels and you are looking for a great summer read while relaxing on the beach or escaping the summer heat, you will enjoy:

The Right Zip Code:  Passion Pleasure and Love on Alaska's Last Frontier by C.B. Stanton

This is pure escapism for the mature reader.  From the first word to the last, you'll be transported to the rugged  vastness of Alaska to enjoy a love story full of passion and personal discovery while learning some of the history and culture of the United States' largest state.  The lead characters have strength, tenderness and imperfections that make the story believable. This book makes you feel as though you are reading a really juicy letter from a good friend.

I have known C.B. since my childhood and am enjoying seeing her fiction writing career take off.  As a long-time family friend, I see occasional glimpses from her personal life woven into her stories especially when it comes to time spent around the dinner table.  One of the dishes mentioned in the book is a personal favorite of mine.  I had collected this recipe from her many years ago and set it aside along with many others from friends and family with the vision of one day writing a cookbook.  I dusted off the recipe card and enjoyed adapting this recipe to a vegan friendly lifestyle.  Below are both the original and vegan versions.

Green enchilada casserole

Green enchiladas

original recipe courtesy of C.B. Stanton

I only made a few changes to the original recipe so it fits a into a vegan meal menu.  The original ingredients are in parentheses.  

2 -15 ounce cans or 3 cups cooked pinto, black or kidney beans or lentils, drained and rinsed (1 lb ground beef, browned and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste)
1 small package corn tortillas or 10 homemade ones
1 1/2 - 2 cups garlic cashew cream, recipe below (small can cream of chicken soup)
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 medium onion chopped
up to 2 cups of chopped vegetables like zucchini or summer squash (optional)
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated cheese  (vegan or dairy)

Garlic cashew cream

If you have time, soak the cashews in water for up to overnight.  If you're like me, you'll be pulling this together last minute so just use the cashews dry or even soak them in warm water while you get the rest of your ingredients for the dish together.  Discard soaking water.

1 cup raw cashews (soaked in warm water for 30 minutes or more if you have time)
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a high speed blender, blend cashews, nutritional yeast and garlic with enough water to make a thick, smooth cream the consistency of thick pancake or cake batter.  Salt to taste.

To prepare the casserole
  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.
  2. Tear the tortillas into 4-6 pieces each
  3. In a small baking pan coated with olive oil or cooking spray, line the bottom with a layer of torn tortillas.
  4. Place a layer of half the beans over the tortillas
  5. Sprinkle half of the chopped onions, chopped green chilies and optional chopped vegetables over the beans
  6. Pour half of the cashew cream over the chopped vegetables
  7. Add the rest of the tortillas
  8. Continue layering with the rest of the beans, chopped onions, chilies and optional vegetables
  9. Top with the rest of the cashew cream
  10. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top 
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F until heated through and the cheese is melted (approximately 30 minutes)
  12. Cool slightly before serving. 
  13. Serve with a roasted tomato sauce or salsa on the side.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vegetable eye candy - harvest photos from a suburban organic garden

Zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, mint (citrus and pineapple), basil, blackberries, raspberries, string beans (wax, purple, green, Asian long)

It's mid-summer and the garden is in full swing.  I gather a little something from the garden almost every day - sometimes for the evening's dinner and sometimes to stockpile for later in the week for preserving.  I thought I would share a few of the still life photos of what I've been harvesting.

Italian sweet pepper, string beans (wax, purple, green, Asian long), zucchini, cucumber, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs (thyme, tarragon, basil and mint)

Patty pan squash, Asian melon, tomatoes, string beans (wax purple, green, Asian long), ground cherries and basil

Zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, raspberries, string beans (wax, purple, green, Asian long) and sweet pepper

Thanks for reading!

Look for daily postings of the harvest and garden progress on instagram.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Garlic harvest

Garlic dried and braided for storage

My first garlic braid!  Maybe it's not the neatest first attempt, but it was harder than I thought it would be to twist those dry stalks into a braid.  It's now decorating the kitchen hanging from the pot rack within easy reach when I'm cooking.

The garlic had a rough time during our exceptionally cold winter this year so the bulbs were on the small side. However, they are still more flavorful and spicy than the standard commercial varieties.  I'm looking forward to trying my luck at growing some more next year,  Hopefully the weather will  be more favorable and the harvest will be larger.

No matter if you get your garlic from your garden or the grocery store, here's an easy way to peel lots of it in a hurry, like when you are making a fresh batch of pesto.  It really works!  I find that the larger the bowls, the easier it is.

Thanks for reading!

Garlic after harvest ready to dry

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Kitchen adventure: collard green egg rolls

What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of making something with collard greens?  It's probably not egg rolls, but they are a delicious twist on a southern staple and a great way to use an abundant harvest from my garden. These are easy to make and substitute collard greens (or kale if you like) for the usual cabbage.  They make a great dish for entertaining and it's a delicious way to add more healthy greens into your diet.  These have been popular appetizers when I've served them to guests.

Filling mixture before rolling and finished rolls ready for cooking or freezing for later use.

Collard green egg rolls

makes 16

1 bunch of collard greens (or kale) stems removed and roughly chopped
3 cups mung bean sprouts, rinsed or additional small bunch of greens
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Thai basil, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
Bragg's amino acids, soy sauce or tamari
2 teaspoons sesame oil
package of egg roll wrappers
Vegetable oil (canola, olive or peanut) for cooking
Favorite sweet and sour, hot sauce or peanut sauce for dipping

  1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat
  2. Add in and saute the onion, garlic and ginger until translucent and fragrant  
  3. Add in the chopped greens and saute just until limp but still bright green
  4. Toss in the bean sprouts, if using, until thoroughly mixed
  5. Remove from heat and season with Bragg's or soy sauce to taste
  6. Stir in the sesame oil
  7. Cool filling for 15 minutes
  8. Fill and roll the egg roll wrappers according to the package directions
  9. To bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush the egg rolls with olive or peanut oil and bake turning over after about 20 minutes.  Cook for another 10-15 minutes until brown and crisp.   To shallow fry, heat about 1/2 inch of cooking oil until hot and cook the egg rolls until crisp and brown without crowding the pan.  Drain on absorbent toweling before serving.  
  10. Serve with your favorite sweet and sour, hot sauce or peanut sauce for dipping
These can be frozen before cooking on a cookie sheet and stored in a storage bag or container until ready to cook.  Cook without thawing or the wrapper will get soggy from the filling.

Thanks for reading!

Collard greens and Thai basil used in this recipe along with a harvest of green, wax, purple and Asian long beans, squash, tomatoes, jalapeno and ground cherries

Friday, July 18, 2014

Daily harvest

The harvest is shifting from mostly green to rainbow colors and becoming more plentiful as more things ripen in the garden.  Here is a day's harvest from a few days ago:

  • Rhubarb
  • Zucchini
  • Thai basil
  • Asian long beans
  • Asian broad beans
  • Beans (wax, green and purple)
  • Yellow and red plum tomatoes
  • Some of the last of the raspberries
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Garden tour - mid-summer look at the vegetable beds

Raised beds in the front yard growing tomatoes, string beans, soy beans, watermelon, basil, carrots, collards and peppers

We are mid-summer now and the heat is really kicking in making all the summer vegetables go through a growth spurt.  The garden is looking a bit like a jungle after lots of rain because of thunderstorms, and it's exciting to see the progress everyday.  Soon it will be a challenge to keep up with the harvest, so I am just enjoying the lushness of everything for the moment  I hope you enjoy the quick tour.

Strawberry beds and a view of the bamboo poles with Lima bean and Asian long bean vines in the next bed

A bed along the fence with asparagus going to seed, zucchini and patty pan squash, cantaloupe and a few sunflowers peeking over the edge.  The peas had been growing on the frames in the back, but soon the melons and squash will be climbing all over them.


Asian long beans



Thanks for reading!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Summertime grilling - quick homemade BBQ sauce

"Pulled" BBQ tofu and eggplant sandwich

I love grilled food!  My father was famous for his grilling.  He had an oil drum cut to make a smoker/grill that could hold enough food to feed the neighborhood (which it seemed we often did).  He used the locally available mesquite wood for smoking and would make homemade marinades and sauces to give everything such delicious complex flavors.   Although I use a gas version, I still love cooking on the grill every chance I get.

My most recent grilling adventure made use of some freshly picked Japanese eggplant gifted to me from a neighbor's garden and a block of super firm tofu.  I used this quick to make BBQ sauce from Bondi Harvest to spice up my "pulled" BBQ tofu and eggplant sandwich.  Check out the original recipe and video that was the inspiration for this dish.  This is a great recipe base and I made it my own by adding some of my favorite ingredients and spices that I use in my slow simmered sauce recipe that I make during tomato harvest and canning season.

Quick homemade BBQ sauce

makes about a pint

1 cup mustard (I used stone ground)
3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (more or less to taste)
3 tablespoons raw sugar, maple syrup or agave nectar (more or less to taste, I used maple syrup)
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons Bragg's amino acids, soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 cup tomato paste or thick tomato sauce
cayenne powder or pepper sauce to taste (optional)

Put everything in a pot on the stove over medium heat.  Cook for approximately 15-20 minutes until slightly thickened, stirring often to avoid burning.  Cool and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

To make the sandwich, marinate tofu slices and lengthwise sliced eggplant with Bragg's aminos or soy sauce, olive oil and fresh herbs of your choice or use your favorite spice rub.  Grill as desired - I like nice grill marks and for the edges to be a bit crunchy.  Cut into narrow strips and toss in as much BBQ sauce as you like.  You will not need the entire sauce recipe for this and will have plenty for another use.  Pile high on a bun topped with your favorite coleslaw.  Have lots of napkins ready!

Thanks for reading!

You can also find me on:

Sign up for the newsletter here.

Sunny day on Sunday drive