Today I’m canning… and doing laundry… and cleaning… and pulling sod off the back walkway… and trimming branches in the backyard… and folding clothes… and hanging up clothes… and doing dishes… and cooking, oh and let’s not forget weeding/trimming the rockery out front. And I have a blister. Now tell me again how this staying home thing is supposed to be relaxing? There isn’t a bon-bon or a soap opera in sight.
On the upside, I have 12 gorgeous quarts of chopped tomatoes canned in their own juice (you would think 28 lbs would go farther but no) and another 14 quarts of chunky homemade minestrone, which Sara calls my “seat pants” Minestrone since I’m known to make it by the seat of my pants with whatever I happen to have on hand. This batch has purple kale, navy beans, tomatoes, barley, carrots, onions, peppers, potatoes, zucchini, and mushrooms seasoned with garlic, onion, peppers, black pepper, and Italian herbs, all in a vegetarian chicken/vegetable stock base. In this case the ingredients were a product of the greens I had from our garden, what was in the “quick sale/clearance” produce section of our nearest neighborhood market and the seasonings I happened to have on hand. Not a traditional minestrone I know, but it is awfully good if I do say so myownself. Only one of jars of minestrone didn’t vacuum seal correctly (I’m betting it’s the one where I forgot to wipe the rim with vinegar before setting the lid on) and the other CV took it for lunch today. And it has been pronounced a superb success which tickles me no end. One of my shameful secrets has been a lifelong love of canned soup eaten right out of the can. I should hasten to add… not the condensed kind because really, that’s just a stroke in a can right there what with all the salt. Tomorrow, or this afternoon if I feel really motivated, I will start a batch of split pea soup for canning. I’m going to try using the recipe in the BBB (that’s the Ball Blue Book for those of you who like me spent several confused hours on the internet trying to figure out why everyone on the canning forums thought the Better Business Bureau was THE EXPERT in canning and preserving) but I will have to substitute field peas for split peas as I have over a gallon of them at last count. They are brown instead of green so I’m a little worried about how it will look when it’s finished but I imagine the taste will be wonderful regardless. The recipe calls for ham so I’m going to put in diced potatoes and liquid smoke to replicate the taste and correct volume of ingredients and still keep it vegan.
This will mark off the chopped tomatoes, minestrone and split pea soup from my canning list for now. One item I didn’t have on the list but have decided to make, and can if it’s as good as I hope, is a vegan Hungarian Goulash. The BBB has a recipe that used A LOT of beef but I think I will try substituting large velvety red runner beans and cubed potatoes into the recipe in place of the beef. Adding a bit of Better Than Bouillon’s No Beef Base to give the flavor of beef to the sauce should make this top-notch. The BBB also states to discard the carrots, celery and onions before canning the beef and I can tell you that that will just not do. Beside the fact that I LOVE slow cooked vegetables simmered with spices it’s simply so wasteful. I read online that the average American family throws out about 12%-14% of it’s food, 27% if you include restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores and an astounding 40-50% when you include farms, wholesalers and processors. Here is a graphic that illustrates just how much edible food is thrown away by a family of four in this country in one month (one study estimated that it amounts to about $600 a year but that was some time ago and I’m sure it’s significantly higher now). I have to admit that since we have been eating vegan, the amount of food waste in this house has dropped dramatically. We don’t throw away any food anymore. Even vegetable scraps and peelings gets saved for making broth and what cannot be used at all is composted much to the delight of the crow family (Steve, Edie and recently fledged Stuart) that live in the tree behind our house. They seem particularly fond of watermelon rinds. Who knew? And yes, it suddenly occurs to me I should be pickling those, no? Except I’ve never had pickled watermelon rind and I’m not entirely sure what one does with it exactly. It’s a mystery. Not unlike what the Queen carries in her purse. And what exactly does she carry in there? Spare keys to the castle? A hanky? Important phone numbers? Anyway, although my love of all things pickle related is well documented, I think I want to taste a pickled watermelon rind before I spend and afternoon canning it. But we’ll see…
Well, I finally sat down and made out my yearly canning wish list so that I know what to keep an eye out for at local farmer’s markets and produce stands:
- Tomatoes (chopped)
- Butter Beans
- Navy Beans
- Pinto Beans
- Garbanzo Beans
- Refrigerator Pickles
- My Secret Recipe Green Beans
- Dilled Carrots
- Boston Bakes Beans
- Tomato Baked Beans
- Fruit (various)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Blackberry/Strawberry/Raspberry Lemonade Concentrate
- Okra Stew
- Tomato Gravy
- Soup (Beans and Greens)
- Soup (Minestrone)
- Soup (Split Pea)
- Salmon Chowder Base
- Tropical Sauce
- Various Herb Pestos
Saturday we picked up 28 lbs of Roma tomatoes from a produce stand in Edmonds. Although they are not organic, which would have been my preference, I couldn’t pass up tomatoes at ~$0.61/lb. At least they aren’t on the Dirty Dozen list so I feel marginally better about that at least. We also got our hands on our first pickling cucumbers of the season and using 3 extra-large jars were able to can our first batch of about 7 quarts of my world-famous “SpongeBob’s Crispylicious and Oh-So-Garlicky Refrigerator Pickles”. A recipe that started as a lazy way to get rid of the last of some pickling cukes and leftover pickling brine and turned into the best pickle chips this side of Canter’s delicatessen. I had originally tried canning pickles (the kind you can store in the cupboard) but I realized that the reason I wasn’t impressed with them is the same reason I have NEVER liked any pickles that have been canned for long-term shelf-stability… they are cooked and no longer have that crispy texture that makes me go into a deep pickle swoon. There is a good reason that I have single-handedly kept Claussen in business all these years. Of course the downside the refrigerator pickles is that they must by definition be kept in the fridge and finding room for enough pickles to see me through the year when pickling cukes have limited availability is a challenge. I should state that I do plan on water bath canning a few quarts of pickles as I like to have that type around for my Polish Dill Pickle Soup. And if you have never tried a creamy and warm potato and dill pickle soup with crusty bread on a cold night you have never really experienced life as it should be lived… with pickles.
On Sunday I was able to harvest about 5lbs of purple kale, rainbow chard, and sorrel. I’ve sautéed the chard with some smoked salt and veggie seasoning from the Farmer’s market to serve over pasta, storing it in the fridge for impromptu eating. The sorrel and some miner’s lettuce has been turned into vegan sorrel pesto which I froze into ice-cube trays for storage in the freezer since you really cannot home can anything with a high oil content for safety reasons and the purple kale will go into home canned minestrone soup.
Interruption: ACK! ACK! ACK! I set the bags of fresh greens on the table and after dinner we went to reach for the bottle of mineral water and sitting right on top of the bottle cap with his antlers fully extended and a very excited look on his face was a SNAIL! I have to go faint now. I made Miss Skinny Pants release him back into the wild… hopefully in the neighbor’s yard and then bleach the bottle cap. Have I mentioned that snails and slugs and really anything from the one-foot-and-a-slime-trail genre gives me a seizure? Except Lowly Worm. He wore a shoe and a hat and was considerate about not leaving slime. Okay, and now we’re back…
After putting it out there that I needed a counter top composting bin I was able to find a nice ceramic one for $3.00 at Deseret Industries. AND, just as good, after reluctantly leaving Ian McDonald’s Desolation Road at Barnes & Noble the other night because it was $17.00 before taxes and the other CV has been sent home from work for an indefinite time while they sort out some kind of legal nonsense among the contractors and suits, I stumbled across it used today for only $4.00 when we stopped in at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park for some pickle sushi after working at the P-Patch all afternoon (yes, it’s really real and yes I had two orders of it). I discovered Third Place Books was having a 40% off sale on used books today. TPC is also a most excellent place for free and low-cost entertainment. Aside from the people watching, which is excellent, today there was a showing of Lilo & Stitch with popcorn and bean bags provided. Later in July we will be heading back over for a night of live Scandinavian Polka and vegan brownies. I mean really people, you can’t make this stuff up. Another night will be a 17 piece swing band and on Saturday mornings, Tai Chi… to help me with my chubby balance.
Okay, I’m off to make a crustless apricot pie and some dill pickle rye bread.
I was poking around the internet for some ideas on an apricot and chickpea salad this morning when I saw a recipe for “circumcised lamb”. Well you can imagine MY face. I really should read things more carefully, cumin-spiced lamb is very different. I’m just saying.
I think, after much more poking around and after a gander at the apricot chickpea salad recipe in my Urban Pantry book I will combine several recipes to make my own, like I often do. Some of the various recipes called for kalamata olives (too salty), some for Bulgar wheat (too bulgary), some for pistachios (I don’t have them), and some for cardamom (Yechhh…) and all of them called for dried apricots. So I’ve decided to use Israeli couscous as the base and a mixture of dried and fresh apricots instead of just dried. With summer here, technically anyway, it’s a shame not to use more fresh ingredients. Most also use a vinaigrette dressing but I am thinking of using something with a fresh lemon juice base instead or the no-fat citrus dressing we tried on our garden salad last week. I should mention that with the garden salad we had another success with a very quick and easy to prepare off-the-cuff meal. I tossed a box of cooked elbow macaroni with two jars of home-canned pinto beans, a can of enchilada sauce and some diced onions and peppers to make a warm and comforting “Pinto Bean Mac”. We all had large servings with a green salad on the side and I have to say that for a cool rainy evening it was delicious. Last night we prepared steamed broccoli with garlic and lemon along with vegan whole wheat and potato gnocchi from Trader Joe’s smothered in marinara sauce. The gnocchi was fabulous and I’m thinking will be a tasty addition to my Puttanesca Stew in the future. Tonight is the teenager’s turn to make dinner (Something I am fairly certain he has forgotten). With the move essentially completed he is back to cooking dinner on Monday and Tuesday nights, a turn of events that apparently shocked him as he gives every impression now of laboring under the assumption that turning 17 and having good grades means that he need not be bothered with contributing to the household in a way that involves taking time away from his social life. But, while I won’t be cooking tonight I will be providing the recipe and ingredients ( I learned the hard way after a meal of meatloaf and ketchup and nothing else that it behooves me to help with the planning in these things). My only problem this evening… I have no idea what to have him make. It’s so much easier when I can just do things on the fly myself. I am trying out the new bread machine today though. I’m using a basic white bread recipe to start but I tossed in a packet of Knorr Vegetable Dip mix. We don’t eat toast much anymore because of the whole problem with applying butter with a putty knife but we still like it for sandwiches and for eating with soup so I’ll be interested to see how this comes out and if it makes for a nice savory loaf.
We stopped at our very neglected P-patch garden yesterday for some much-needed weeding, planting, harvesting and work party hours. I came home with big bags of beet greens, purple kale, dandelion greens and broccolini. I also ran to the nursery and picked up some kabocha, delicata, zucchini and tomato plants as well as some new golden beet starts to replace the ones I harvested yesterday. The other chubby vegan laughed at me for planting 6 zucchini plants, she says we never learn, BUT I pointed out that we didn’t throw away a single zucchini last year. So there, I said, out that in your zucchini bread and smoke it. At this point we have about 3/4 of the weeding done but it is raining today so I will try again on Wednesday when the rain is supposed to stop. I got our 2 tomato plants and a few raspberry canes in the ground here at the house and I’ll try and get some watermelon poppies and coral colored sweet peas into the rockery out front.
Tomorrow I plan on planning out some canning (we ate all the jars of pinto beans I canned and need some more) and making a list of what we really liked: My Secret Recipe Green Beans, Navy Bean and Greens soup, Chili beans, Italian Stewed Vegetables, Herbed Carrots, canned red and green tomatoes, pinto beans, garbanzo beans and butter beans. (I don’t care what anyone says about how quickly you can soak and cook beans, when you’re tired and your feet feel like you’ve walked them down to the ankle bones, just opening a can and adding extras is so much easier than quick soaking and boiling. And not just physically but mentally.) I should also start roaming the farmer’s market looking for deals on whatever vegetables they will sell in bulk. I know Nash’s does carrots but I will have to learn to haggle this year and see what deals I can get on veggies that are not grocery store pretty but are still fresh and good.
If anyone has any good canning ideas let me know!
* Cheating alert* Junior found a can of Spam in his room tonight (don’t ask because I have NO idea and I’m afraid I don’t want to know) and given my embarrassing weakness for preformed, overly salty and canned pork products used to make things like Spam Musubi, I see a possible moral dilemma in my near musubi future. And you simply cannot make decent Spam from tofu no matter how hard you try.
On the more positive side, I’m feeling particularly thrifty this week as we prepare to move into our new home with several “new” goodies. On the “reuse and rehome” front this week we scored a Waring Pro Blender for $8.00, a gorgeous stoneware shortbread mold for $2.99 and a Breadman Ultimate bread machine for $0.00 on Freecycle (the best thing about this last one is that you can throw the ingredients in the machine, set it, set the timer, go to bed and wake up to a loaf of warm bread as it mixes it, kneads it and bakes it all in one… now if only they would invent one that removes the calories after slicing and buttering it).
Forgetting my knotweed fiasco last week I started my spring canning today. With our change to veganism we are eating a lot more beans and while dried beans are certainly less expensive than canned, canned are a lot more convenient. My solution, can your own. I’ve tried freezing them after cooking but I find it makes the beans more mushy and storing either big containers or zip lock bags of beans in the freezer, even a chest freezer is a pain. And trying to quickly defrost a large bag of frozen beans that froze in big ziplock wrinkles is a real treat… NOT. Not to mention I like having foods that won’t go bad and can be eaten out of hand in the event of a power failure. I know, I know, more zombie apocalypse preparation you’re thinking, but no, just being prepared in general. As it is I’ve been avoiding canning my own beans because it seemed like a big hassle to cook the beans first and then can them but as it turns out I don’t have to do that. I’m following a simple procedure I found online. Right now I’m prepping 7 quarts of black beans, 6 quarts of garbanzo beans and 1 quart of field peas. We got the field peas from our local farmer’s market last year and they taste remarkably like split peas when cooked in soup (a fact that doesn’t impress the other vegan AT ALL I might add… she hates split peas) so I am curious to see what happens when they’re canned. Oh, and I strongly recommend that even if you buy your bulk beans from a grocery store you double-check them before canning, and here’s why (see picture below)…
[I thought I had 7 jars of black beans and 6 jars of garbanzo beans. 1 jar of black beans shattered when I set it into the pressure canner and one jar of garbanzo beans has come up missing. (?!?!?!?!).]
As I finish this the black beans are just coming up to pressure and must go for 90 minutes so I will post the photos tomorrow or the day after as I have to take a few loads over to the new house in the morning as well as doing a bit more garden prep.
1. Place 1 cup of beans in each clean quart jar and cover with hot water.
2. Soak overnight.
3. Rinse several times in cool water and replace the beans in the jars.
4. Fill each jar with hot water to within 1/2 inch of the top and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.
5. Pressure can at 10lbs for 90 minutes.
6. For pint jars use 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 tsp salt and can for 75 mins at 10lbs.
The other night I made a Tofu and Apricot Tagine and it turned out WONDERFULLY. My only observation is that I would have preferred it without the tofu and used more vegetables and fruit. The other vegans in the house disagree, but as I pointed out, I’M the cook! Neener neener neener. So there! And again, I changed the recipe to the point where it really bears little resemblance to the original so I’m including it here:
Fresh Apricot and Tofu Tagine
16 oz super firm tofu, marinated in vegetarian chicken broth and poultry seasoning and cut into cubes
1/2 large white onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp red chile flakes
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 1/2 cups vegetarian chicken broth
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped (I used chili spiced dried pineapple)
6 apricots, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 to 4 tbsp cornstarch mixed with cool water
1. Place marinated and drained tofu on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and brown under the broiler, turning as needed. Set aside.
2. Coat large pot or dutch oven with cooking spray and add carrots and onion. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook until lightly brown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and chile flakes. Cook one minute, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add stock paste, water and dried fruit and bring to steady simmer.
3. Add tofu back into pot. reduce heat and gently simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally. Add cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened to desired consistency. Add fresh apricots and simmer until soft, but not falling apart, about 10 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. taste and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve over couscous, brown rice, quinoa or any soft whole grain. Each serving can be topped with pine nuts and mint (we used chopped scallions). Stew can be prepared up to 2 days in advance; cover and refrigerate. Reheat gently. Serves 6.
Serving Size 268 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 42
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.6g, 7%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 687mg, 29%
Total Carbohydrates 16.9g, 6%
Dietary Fiber 2.9g, 12%
|Vitamin A 80%||
Vitamin C 14%
Nutrition Grade B+
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
Before I barrel into what happened diet-wise today I should mention I have NOT canned the Japanese Knotweed yet. What was supposed to be a 5 minute trip to sign paperwork with our new landlord turned into a 3 hour conversation over tea followed by a frantic trip to our neighborhood teriyaki place for stir-fried tofu and veggie tempura. So one might say the “fat” ship sailed again today but really, by 8:30 we were ready to gnaw off our own arms from hunger. Even worse, *I* had a part of a cheese sandwich this afternoon. I had thought I would be able to continue having meat and dairy in the house for my catering, and as long as it’s frozen I am fine but let me defrost it, put it in the fridge or cook it and all my willpower heads to Ensenada for a beer and a vacation. So no knotweed, no willpower and the cat won’t speak to me. BUT we did run up the street to our local second-hand shop (we call it the room of requirement and if you get the reference you rock!) to look for a new living room reading chair, which we did not find but we did find 2 older but in very good shape electric space heaters for our son’s new basement room and our new bedroom, or maybe the office downstairs. AND, to make it even better it was 50% off day so we got both heaters and some extra canning jars for about $7.50. (Doing the Snoopy dance today.) I will try to can again tomorrow as the water bath canner is sitting on the stove as we speak giving me it’s most pathetic and neglected look.
Now, onward and forward… I have decided that I simply cannot BEAR another moment without tuna. Mind you, when I was eating tuna I wasn’t eating tuna that often but nonetheless, absence has made the tuna heart grow fonder apparently. So, after tasting an absolutely fantastic vegan tuna substitute at the Wayward Vegan Cafe in the University District (which is across and down the street from Pizza Pi, the site of my first OMG! vegan pizza epiphany) I decided that I had to come up with something. I would have asked the guys at the Wayward for a sort of hint on how they make it but they tend to communicate recipes in what I term an “economy of expression”… i.e. not even Julia Child could figure anything out from what they say. Not that Julia “oh she of the creamery butter” Child would WANT a vegan tuna recipe but you get my meaning. So, here it is, my first attempt at vegan tuna and according to the other vegans in the house it is pretty darn lip smackity.
SpongeBob Fishpants’ Tuna-riffic Vegan Sandwich Spread
1 cup whole brazil nuts
2 (20 oz) cans garbanzo beans
1 tbsp Sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 tbsp brown mustard
2 tbsp nonfat tofu mayonaise
2 scallions, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1. Soak brazil nuts in cool water overnight and then chop finely in a food processor. Don’t process until it’s nut butter though, you want texture in your “tuna”.
2. Rinse and drain garbanzo beans. Mash to desired consistency. Add brazil nuts, relish, mustard, mayo, scallions and celery to the beans and mix thoroughly. If mixture is too thick you can add more mayo or a bit of plant milk (I used plain rice milk).
3. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed for personal taste or let each person season their own sandwich/wrap. Makes aprox. 8 generous servings (You could realistically cut these servings in half and conveniently cut the calories in half as well).
Serving Size 1 serving (89.1 g)
Amount Per Serving
Calories from Fat 80
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8.9g, 14%
Saturated Fat 0.4g, 2%
Cholesterol 0mg, 0%
Sodium 86mg, 4%
Total Carbohydrates 42.7g, 14%
Dietary Fiber 12.2g, 49%
Vitamin A 2% • Vitamin C 6%
Calcium 7% • Iron 24%
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet
And how did yesterday go? Fairly well, but not without its bumps. I allowed my post nap munchies to get the better of me and demolished a third of a box of crackers before bothering to check the fat content (we are endeavoring to keep our daily fat intake under 10%). Needless to say, I often need to remind myself that when it comes to processed food, “baked” only means they added the fat directly INTO the cracker rather than frying it in the fat. Also, a far more serious slip occurred in cooking meals for a friend. Sometimes having someone else in the kitchen saying “Oh, are those your homemade meatballs?” with a touch of drool on their chin can be far more dangerous that expected. My resolve not to taste them melted like frosting on a hot dashboard and we both ended up tasting both the meatballs and the minced chicken I made for a Quiche. Bad, bad vegans!
On the positive side, last night we celebrated a belated mother’s day with the kids as well as our daughter’s 22nd birthday. I had picked up a copy of Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner at our local library and decided to try the Not Your Mama’s Pot Roast with Roasted Vegetables. The picture looked amazing and I am such a sucker for a spanking new cookbook with pretty pictures. And the best part… it’s made in a slow-cooker. You’ll soon learn that the crock pot is my dearest friend as I spend enough time in the kitchen to love any appliance that cooks for me and doesn’t heat the entire condo. The recipe was easy, the ingredients on hand and the results, well… mixed, for us anyway. The simply spiced seitan “loaf” cooks under a blanket of veggies and savory gravy for 4 hours and is served sliced, drizzled in gravy with a side of succulent potatoes, carrots and onions. The problem was that I love pot roast and this was most certainly not like pot roast in taste or texture. So, essentially, I set myself up to not like this by buying into the name. Now, if you REALLY like seitan for it’s own sake, then this roast is right up your alley and I think that the recipe could be tweaked to make a really good meatloaf, but it is most definitely NOT pot roast. So, all in all, I’m giving last night’s dinner 3 out of 5 stars and 2 1/2 are for the veggies. *In the future I will include recipes that I come up with or tweak into my posts, along with photos, but in this case since it isn’t my own to post so instead I will strongly recommend checking out the book from your library and if you love it as much as I suspect I’m going to, picking a copy up.*
Lastly, a few days ago we headed over to a community garden near the University of Washington that has a particularly lush stand of Japanese Knotweed. (Japanese knotweed is an invasive plant that is loved by bees and has a young shoot that tastes a bit like a lemony cross between celery and rhubarb.) This is a doubly good find as we know that they need to keep the stand under control and being an all-organic garden and attached to an aviary, we need not worry about pesticides or herbicides. We picked about 10 lbs and hauled it home. Today is the day that I begin canning it. After a little research I believe that due to the acid content and my addition of honey, water bath canning should be sufficient. That being essentially how I can rhubarb as well. I will post pictures of the results once I actually leave the computer, toddle off to start peeling and slicing knotweed and, oh, get it canned.
One last thing, because I can’t help but do the happy dance… we have been cooking our rice in the oven using the Alton Brown method. It makes perfect rice but heats up the house something fierce on warm days, so we put out there that we wanted a rice cooker. I had priced them new at Uwajimaya and eventually came to the conclusion that we would need to take out a bank loan just to make a down payment (larger ones that could cook brown rice were between $200 and $300). So I am sending out a HUGE thank you and a hug to the kind soul that decided to re-home rather than throw away a beautiful, working, 20 cup rice cooker and was additionally considerate enough to include all the extra pieces like the cord, steam basket, and water collector. I was able to buy it for $4.99 at my local second-hand shop!