Tag Archives: Vegetable

From the Archives: Stocking Up. Vegetable Stock from Scraps.

Today, you get a random photo I took, because although it has nothing to do with the post, I like it.

We go through a lot of stock in this house, and I am a frugal person by nature and nurture. Waste isn’t something I stand easily, and definitely not waste of expensive things like organic produce and meats. A great way to stretch those items is to use them for stock. Homemade vegetable stock has a great seasonality to it, and this was written in the spring. It’s that time of year again, and I thought it would be fun to revisit this.  Read more…

  • Sorrel Soup (eclecticedibles.wordpress.com)
  • Scraps (rylandcanhearyouthink.wordpress.com)

How’s That Low-Grain Thing Going?

I’ve gotten this question a few times in the last couple of weeks, and the truth is that it’s a mixed bag. While I appreciate Paleo people’s commitment, my body prefers low meat and some grains. I have succeeded in cutting down on grains a good bit, but they’re not coming out of our diet completely. Why? Well..

1. My body doesn’t do the whole high-meat or high-protein thing and never has. I’ve tried a variety of different styles of eating, and it’s pretty clear that what my body wants is lots of vegetables, some quality meat, and a bit of whole grains. I was, indeed, eating too much grain this past year, but taking it out puts my body into fits.

2. It’s incredibly expensive. We prefer to eat quality meats (local, grass-fed, etc.), eggs, dairy, and vegetables (organic when possible). Grains can really help extend those things, because it’s just more than we can afford to do without them.

I have had some nice results from cutting down on grains in terms of visible musle mass, but I was also hungry ALL THE TIME, no matter how much I ate or what else I ate when I cut them out completely. I was tired and had a difficult time getting enough calories in to support my crazy lifestyle and workout schedule(when I did this with beans, cheese, nuts, etc., I just felt sick). I did do it for a while anyway, and sucked it up; but, in the long run, all the negatives weren’t worth it for us. Adding a bit of grain back in, but a lot less than we’ve been eating, seems to work well.

So, that’s where we’re at: small amounts of grains a few times a week, and almost never for breakfast or lunch for me (Thadd isn’t holding to this–he’s got a different body and metabolism). And, that’s how it’s going!

It’s About Time!

Well, in theory, I have internet access again. In reality, let’s not get our hopes up that it’ll last. But, while it does, I am trying to get photos loaded and posts written. First things first: I promised my twitter followers and some other folks a picture of the huge Mortgage lifter tomato we have in the garden, so here it is:

Keep in mind that the fella holding this monster is 6 1/2 feet tall. I have no idea what we’re going to do with it once it gets ripe (other than save the seeds, of course), but it warrants something special. If you’ve got ideas, leave them in the comments!

If you look closely, you’ll see part of our new tomato trellising system. Our tomato plants completely got away from us this year–some are taller than Thadd, and hanging so heavy with tomatoes even at the ends–so our initial system was a bust. Fortunately, a friend of ours has a huge stand of bamboo, and I have a partner who enjoys engineering challenges. Born of this combination was the tomato trellising system we began installing yesterday:

It’s not easy to photograph, but hopefully you get the idea. We got about about 80% of our tomatoes in the lower bed trellised yesterday before we ran out of bamboo. Hopefully, we’ll get the rest done later in the week. I am not sure when later in the week, since we also have a ton of other food-and-garden related stuff do to:

Yep, the tomatoes are in. Above is just a part of one day’s harvest. So, we’re canning on Thursday.  In the meantime:

Peaches are also in. These are from one of our absolute favorite places in the area, Vintage Virginia. I know their website says “Vintage Virginia Apples,” but  they also do peaches and plums, and everything is an heirloom variety. I’ve never tasted any fruit like theirs, and we try to put up a bunch of the peaches and apples each year (drying, canning, freezing, saucing,etc.). I got 30lbs of peaches yesterday, and plan to get another 30 lbs. next week.

Also, we’ll have damson plums from a neighbor to deal with later this week, and I can barely keep up with my basil. So, it’s a busy week, but I know we’ll really appreciate all the work when we have fabulous food all winter. What are you preserving right now?

The Garden

An online-friend and fellow healthy-n-frugal foodie asked me to post some garden pictures, something I really should have been doing all along, anyway.  We’re really excited to have a garden this year, since it’s the first year we’ve ever been able to have one of our very own. We live in a rental, and didn’t anticipate that the landlords would be keen on the idea of us tilling up the backyard. Turns out, we were wrong! They even tilled for us, how amazing is that? It did go in late, which means we had to plant in too much of a hurry for us to do a lot of what we’d like. But, that’s part of starting a new garden, right? We’re already laying out plans for our fall/winter garden, which will include more co-planting and more careful spacing, for starters.

The garden isn’t huge–we’re certainly not going to be able to live on it alone–but it’s a start. We’ll be putting a lot of it up for winter, and it’ll also help keep our costs down during the summer. Plus, fresh-from-the-garden just tastes better. And, our other neighbor has a garden that must be the size of Texas, because holy cow does that guy have produce. He’s been giving us some of his extras, and we’re going to return the favor in canned goods. Bartering for the win.

So, here it is! (Note: my good camera battery was dead, so these aren’t as beautiful as I’d like. I’ll get around to it soon).

We planted a slew of morning glories around the short fence we put up. This serves three purposes: it makes it really difficult for animals to get into the garden, it attracts loads of pollinators, and mostly it hides the very-functional-but-not-so-pretty fence nicely!

We planted 16 tomato plants, all heirlooms of various varieties. We got our first grape tomatoes this past weekend, and our first big tomato on Tuesday!

Above is the “hedgerow” made by the morning glories. We actually need bigger stakes for some of our tomatoes, which will get done as soon as the temperature drops below 99 degrees. Below, our pickling cucumbers and wax peppers:

And, of course, the basil:

This is just one plant. I have several of these, and I’m having to harvest about every other day. Thankfully we love pesto! Not pictured are several other kinds of peppers, the rest of my herbs, a random accidental volunteer zucchini plant, and my blueberry bushes. I’ll try and get some pictures of them soon.

So far, our harvest has been fabulous. We used one shot of homemade garlic aphid spray, and that was it. No chemicals. We’re looking forward to a long season of eating food from right out of our back door, and putting it up for fall and winter, too. I’ve already done a pile of ice-cubed basil (in both water and oil), pesto, sauteed squash, pickles, and some dried hot peppers from the garden.

How is your garden growing? If you’ve got garden pics or a blog, link to it in the comments!

Better Late Than Never, and On the Menu

First, a wrap-up of the Weekend Cooler Challenge.  This should have happened a week ago, but I had huge writer’s block (I have no idea why, I just did). This is the really short version:

It was a total win. No crappy fast-food, a weekend without stress about “where are we going to eat and is it going to cost my life-savings to have decent food?” The slightly longer version is better told by Gaylin herself:

“What do I wish we’d really had time to make? Well, if I hadn’t gotten an emergency call from work that derailed the middle of my cooking efforts, both the scones and the Wild-Caught Alaskan Salmon that we get from our fisherman, Montana Dan’s Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon. He sells at the local farmer’s market (as well as online). 
And how did it all fit in the cooler? With the exception of the wine, everything fit with more than enough room, for the time it spent there, including the ice used to keep it cool on the trip. Of course it didn’t stay in the cooler; it actually ended up in the hotel room’s bathtub once we arrived. But that’s another story. ” 
She later added: “Oh wait! I know what I forgot! The homemade nutella brownies. I wasn’t particularly pleased with those. I prefer fudge brownies, but they ended up more like cake brownies. They were good, to be sure, and disappeared almost as fast as the booze smoothies, but they’re a recipe I need to tweak a bit, I think. ” I’m putting this remark in this wrap-up, because I think it’s important to say that even those of us who cook a lot and do it well (and this wonderful woman makes me look like a talentless hack–she’s amazing) aren’t perfect. We have recipes that don’t turn out, we run out of time, we just plan give up some days. And that’s okay. It’s part of cooking, of learning to cook, of finding what works and what doesn’t.  You make a note that something needs to change, and you do it again.
People ask me a lot “where did you learn to cook,” and “How can I learn?” The answer is simple: practice. There’s no way to get good without mistakes. The more you cook, the less you’ll generally totally screw up, but you will still screw up. Generally, those “mistakes” come out less and less severe (I mean, do any of us really think that those homemade-nutella brownies would have been anything other than dreamy?), and sometimes will even result in wonderful new things.
And, with that, I’m going to remind you to visit Gaylin’s page regularly, because she’s awesome. And she admits her mistakes, as well as sharing her wonders (of which there are many). And that is the mark of a wonderful Chef!
This week is incredibly busy for us. For starters, I’ve got a bunch of blogg-y stuff to do, like updating my sample menus, which I’ve been promising to do forever.
Monday: Vegetarian Lasagna with homemade ciabatta bread.  The garden is coming in, and so is our neighbor’s. He planted squash. Lots of squash. I have something like 15lbs of it waiting for processing in my kitchen right now. I love this recipe because 1) it’s not a recipe, it’s more of an idea and 2) I haven’t met a vegetable that doesn’t work in it.  Fresh red sauce, basil and other herbs from the garden, squash, spinach, onions. I did not make my own cottage cheese, though I really need to get my rennet and get that started, nor did I make my own noodles (that’s just because I was lazy). Thadd, of course, did the baking.
Tuesday: BLTs. Tuesdays are always a hectic day here. I teach late, and Thadd works. So, generally this day needs quick meals. I have to admit, we’ve been waiting for this day for months: we’re eating our first garden-fresh tomato, from our own garden!
We’ll have it with our lettuce, and Thadd’s homemade bread. The bacon, unfortunately, isn’t local. There’s only one person at all even sort of local doing it, but it’s an hour drive to get it. So, this is hormone, nitrate, etc. free bacon.
Wednesday: Hoisin Tofu with Vegetables. We have some Twin Oaks tofu left in the freezer that needs to be used up. I’ll rub it with homemade hoisin sauce, skewer it, and toss it on the grill with (you guessed it) squash and grape tomatoes. The veggies will be rubbed in olive oil and sprinkled with Asian 5-spice. Since we’re using the grill and non-petroleum charcoal is expensive, we’ll be doing the other grill items for the week, too.
Thursday:  Grilled Rainbow Trout with Packet potatoes and vegetable. My nephew is a wonderful fisherman. It’s a shame he lives so far away from me, but I am really excited to finally bust out the fish he sent home with me on my last visit to MI. I love rainbow trout, and it’s a rare treat. We’ll grill it gently, and serve it with potatoes tossed in olive oil and whatever spices I feel like that day, and probably some kind of vegetable (we’ll see what’s in at the Wednesday market).
Friday:  Steak over Green Salad, with charred sweet potatoes. The grass-fed beef from Pannill’s Gate Farm is calling our name. We’ll do one steak on the grill Wednesday, then let it chill out in the refrigerator until we slice it up for the salad. It’s great cold. The sweet potatoes are an idea from some friends. When they’re put directly on the coals for about an hour, they get really creamy and lovely!
This weekend is up in the air for a variety of reasons, so no dinners for Sat or Sun.  Lunches, as usual, are leftovers. Breakfasts will be combinations of fresh fruit, yogurt, milk, eggs, bread, and leftovers (I am hoping we have some rainbow trout leftover!).
What are you eating this week?

On the Menu, A Missed Week’s Ketchup..Er, Catch-Up

The Cooler Challenge series was awesome, and a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed it as much as Gaylin and I did, and let us know if you try any of the recipes. Or, maybe you’ll take the challenge yourself, and share what you came up with! Either way, it did means some of my regularly-scheduled stuff got put off, including last week’s On the Menu. So, here is what we were eating last week:


Sunday: Leftovers. We each had plans that meant we wouldn’t be home to cook or eat together, so we cleaned out the refrigerator.

Monday: Grilled Indian  tofu and vegetable kebobs, with grilled salt & olive oil porgi, over brown rice in stock. Twin Oaks tofu is hand-made from local, non-GMO soybeans, and it’s spoiled me for other tofu. It’s got an amazing texture and a really meaty, nutty taste (I realize those two things sound weird together, but trust me). The veggies & tofu are rubbed in an Indian BBQ rub, and the chicken is cooked in homemade chicken stock. Now, here’s the weird part, I guess. We had some porgi, which is a fish, in the freezer. It’s kind of a long story as to why, but it needed to be eaten. There wasn’t enough for a meal in and of itself, so we decided to put it with another light main course.  I brushed it in olive oil, sprinkled it with black sea salt and fresh-crushed pepper, and tossed it on the grill. It was great!

Tuesday: Homemade multi-cheese mac & cheese, with fresh vegetables and smoked sausage. Served with salad. It was a week to clean out the refrigerator, apparently. Turns out we had a bazillion small bits of cheese, from smoked mozzarella to cream cheese, all local, that needed to be used up ASAP.  I tossed in some squash from our awesome neighbor, who has a garden the size of Toledo I think, some spinach, and a few other bits of veggies that I had lying around. I also put in some smoked sausage, though it wasn’t (unfortunately) local. We really need to buy a quarter hog. Anyway, the whole meal was rounded out with a fresh greens salad.

Wednesday: Cauliflower and Potato burritos. Vegetarian night. This recipe was originally from Vegetarian Times, but since their server is apparently having issues I can’t link it right now. It’s hefty and spicy and wonderful! It was also made with potatoes from that same awesome neighbor who gave us the squash.

Thursday: Grilled Chicken and Potatoes, with grilled balsamic squash. Thadd’s night to cook, and I am on the go. We’re using up potatoes and squash here, too! We did “hobo potatoes,” which is essentially a foil packet with olive oil, butter, pepper, sea salt, onions, and potatoes tossed on the grill. The squash were sliced lengthwise, the salted and allowed to set for about 15 minutes to remove some of the water. The salt was wiped off, and they were coated with a blended mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and basil.

Friday: Jambalaya. I have no idea why, but I have been craving this for a while now. It’s a great way to stretch meat, though I leave the chicken out most of the time.

Saturday: We had some friends over for Ethiopian!

Luches:  Leftovers for the most part, though I’m doing a lot of raw milk smoothies because I don’t get hungry in the heat. Breakfasts: Greek yogurt, fruit, homemade bread for toast, lots of pastured eggs, raw milk. Snacks: raw milk yogurt cheese (made from our milk), edamame and walnut mint pate, boiled eggs, fruit, other cheeses, nuts.

What’s your plan for the week?

Weekend Cooler Challenge Recipe: Spring Rolls

I love spring rolls. They’re a great way to make salad an on-the-go food, for one. But, they’re also versatile and beautiful. I suggested them to Gaylin in my menu ideas, and she thought it sounded like fun. Since she’d never used the rice wrappers before, I mentioned that I often double them up to keep them from ripping open (they’re fairly delicate, so if you’re using anything that has sharp edges, like carrot sticks, this can happen fairly easily).

Fresh Vegetable Spring Rolls

I have to confess the idea of using rice paper wrappers terrified the bejezus out of me when this was first floated as a possible recipe. I mean rice paper? It’s tissue paper delicate, right? My big fumbly fingers can can chop and dice with the best of them, but I am not a decorative cook by any means. And rice paper wrappers look…elegant. Delicate. Special. When I went to my favorite little Asian market near my house, I made the mistake of walking down the wrapper and noodle aisle (yes, they have a whole aisle dedicated to this!). And when I saw the neat little packages of square wrappers next to the round ones, I thought “Well, if it’s square, then it’s more like origami, right?” And into my cart went the packages. I’m so glad I did. These were my favorite dish of the whole trip.
The filling was key here.
I started with the last of several small containers of grains that I had gotten as gifts from people who know my love for trying new things (otherwise I would have used the grains from Hampshire Farms). Most of the grains had very little left in their containers, so I mixed them all together in an effort to clean the cupboards. In the end, the mixture included black rice, red rice, brown rice, purple barley, hulless barley, and rye berries. It was about two pounds of dried grains. I put these in our fuzzy logic rice cooker (one of the best high-cost items I’ve ever gotten for my kitchen), followed the directions for mixed grains, and let it work its magic while I was cooking the rest.
But here’s a little secret. Before I closed the lid on the rice cooker, I nestled 5 raw eggs still in the shell onto the mix. The rice cooker fit them all quite comfortably and when the grains were done cooking, I had 5 already hard-boiled eggs that didn’t require yet another pan on the stove. I use this trick almost every time we use the rice cooker because hard-boiled eggs are a go-to protein source for our household, whether they end up getting used on salads or simply eaten out of hand when we’re rushed for time and on the go.
While the grains were cooking for the filling, I sliced up some of the lion’s mane mushrooms we’d soaked ahead of time, adding both those and some red onions to my frying pan in some olive oil over medium-high heat. I wanted the onions to soften, but not to brown. As these were cooking, I defrosted the last of last year’s pea harvest (so happy to have found these lurking in the freezer). Once the mushrooms and onions were done, I tossed them together and let things cool for about ten minutes, then added a goodly amount of leaves and stems of sorrel that we needed to harvest before we left on the trip. The plant was already starting to bolt and we needed to use it up or lose it. The already green sorrel turned a lovely bright green when tossed with the rest of the ingredients. A splash of white balsamic vinegar, a quick adjustment of salt and pepper spices to balance the flavors, and this all went into the fridge.
The grain mixture cooked along its merry way and when it was done I spread it all out in a large baking pan and let it cool completely. This went into the fridge with the rest of the filling. Once everything was good and cold, I pulled out the grains, oiled my hands with a little olive oil, and broke up the large chunks of grains that stuck together, coating each of the grains in just a little oil. Into the oiled grains I tossed the mushroom mixture and mixed everything together completely, checked the seasonings again, and then got to work rolling them in rice paper.
Spring rolls make a great appetizer, lunch, or snack, and are so quick and easy. They keep in the refrigerator for several days, too, so you can make a bunch up ahead of time for cool summer snacks (try them with fruit salad, they’re great!).