July 17, 2012

Collard Wraps with Mango Ginger Sauce

Even though I've spent a great portion of my time out in the garden the last four years, I am  still a new gardener.  Combine a little inexperience with my every cluttered brain, I do get some things confused.  Our cabbage patch is doing great and the plants are getting huge.  Due to the wet and cloudy weather the actual cabbage heads have been slow to form.  The plants have some really large outer leaves.  Most are coming in but these two plants just didn't seem to be making a cabbage head.  After working around them a little more, it dawned on me that they were collard greens, duh!  No wonder there's no cabbage.  I got to work harvesting those wonderful collards right away.  Going over to Rachel's the next day, they will make a great addition to whatever she and I come up with for dinner.

On the way home from the garden Friday night we stopped at the market where I found a very nice rice, grain, and lentil mix in the bulk foods.  It has a variety of grains: barley, spelt, wheat berries, quinoa, two kinds of lentils, black and brown rices.  I scooped some up and took it home.  We're headed out to Rachel's and Damon's on the island the next day for our cherry canning day and when I go out to Rachel's I usually throw whatever vegetables and fruits are around in a box, some favorite cooking ingredients, and my favorite knife.  She's a whole foods cook also, a very good one too, and between the two of us and whatever is in season, she and I come up with a pretty fantastic meal together without any pre-planning.

When I got there I steamed up the rice and grain mixture and set it aside.  I cooked it the same way I do rice, but since it has whole grains, it cooks just a little longer than rice, about 50 minutes.

I had a couple nice ripe mangoes at home so I brought those with me.  While the rice cooked I whipped up a very simple Mango Ginger Sauce in the food processor. 

Mango Ginger Sauce

½ small mango, chopped (¼ cup)
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes or ½ teaspoon seeded and minced hot chili pepper
1 tablespoon water or more for desired consistency
1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
Maple syrup or agave nectar to taste

Place all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 

Next, I lightly stir fried some fresh vegetables in a little toasted sesame oil.  The first veggies from the garden this year: zucchini, red onion, peas, and garlic scapes.  I added some fresh paddy pan squash and carrots I picked up at the farmers market, about a half cup of fresh pineapple, and a splash of tamari.

Then I put it all together.  I gently washed and dried the collard greens and brushed them with a little garlic chili flax oil to soften them.

I added a scoop of the grain and rice mixture and a couple tablespoons of the mango ginger sauce, a serving of the stir fry vegetables, some fresh cucumber and carrot sticks, and a slice of avocado.

Collard Wraps

I wrapped them up and set them on the grill for just a few minutes, just enough until the collards were bright green and a little crispy.  Served with some mango ginger sauce for dipping, these were an ideal summer treat during a long day of canning. 

Vive Beñe

July 15, 2012

Canning Cherries ~ Summer Fun in The PNW

It's definitely summer and the local fruits and veggies are beginning to show up in abundance.  I like to store lots of them for the winter months while they are 'in season' and fresh.  Much of the fruit and veggies we can get locally I freeze, dehydrate, or can.  I've already got about 50 pounds of strawberries in the freezer and dried, some cherries, and blueberries too.  In the next few weeks I'll get about 100 lb of tomatoes and peaches canned.  I ran out of tomatoes about a month ago.  I can hardly wait for them to begin ripening.

Got together with Rachel and Allison yesterday for a full day of canning cherries and fun in the kitchen.  We canned about 60 pounds of Washington Bing and Rainier cherries.  Rachel whipped up some cherry lavender jam using  dried Stevia for a sweetener.  She also pureed some fresh raspberries and blueberries and added a bit of lemon zest to be used in ice creams and sauces.  No sweetener was added to the raspberry and blueberry puré.  That way they can be used tart or sweetened later. The cherries don't have any added sugar either, just a bit of stevia in some water with lemon juice and a bit of red wine.

How many cooks can you fit in a 'single wide' kitchen?  We did great considering the space we worked in.  Special thanks goes to Scott, he was a great cherry washer, cherry stoner, stem plucker and photographer.

Plant Based Cooking Class

I am so pleased at the interest in the first plant based cooking class I taught in Longview.  Twenty four guests enjoyed a two hour plant based cooking demonstration and participated in some great discussion. It went really well.  I enjoyed doing it and during the preparation work I had many fond memories of cooking for folks back in California when the kids were small.  All the organization work paid off, nothing was left out, and with the help of some great friends, everything went very smooth. The only thing I forgot were my notes I'd been compiling for the last two weeks before the class.  But with veggies, knife, and food processor in hand, I just did what I love to do and everything worked. The folks at Country Village were pleased and it looks like we get to do it again. The next class will be in August and I've got some nice menu ideas rolling around my head.

We made a vegan and gluten free chocolate cake with vegan buttercream frosting, Cilantro Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms, Raw Pasta Puttanesca, and I brought some vegan mac & cheese along.  I only had two hours so I couldn't fit it all in, but the mac & cheese is such an easy and good dish for beginning vegan cooks, I couldn't leave it out.  I also brought some savory pepitos to have on the tables for munchies while the students waited for the tasting.

July 11, 2012

The Summer Harvest Begins & Tofu Piccata Recipe

Strawberry Crowns

My favorite time of year, summer, when fresh produce is abundant.  Each weekend I get to store something wonderful for the future months.  This week my husband and I froze and dehydrated about forty pounds of fresh strawberries.  We've already started on the cherries, but I expect to be spending the weekend preparing more cherries for drying and freezing.  Then I'll be working on tomatoes and then peaches.  it makes for some busy weekends, but it's so worth it not to have to go to the grocery store as much in the winter.

The fresh organic produce is starting to show up at the farmer's market.  We picked up some fresh organic cucumbers, zucchini, some golden beets, and lots of fresh greens Saturday.  We spent the day Sunday listening to the Blues Festival broadcasted from Portland with the windows open working on a little kitchen organization project.  I have more things to store now that I've started teaching plant based cooking and doing cooking demos.  I need to get more organized in the kitchen.  Very soon, there will be an abundance of vegetables to clean, process, and/or give away.  We are so blessed.

I picked some nice oregano from our garden and pureed it and froze it for use in the winter.  That's the first time I've done this.  I got the idea from one of my FB friends.  What a great idea!  I think I'll do this with basil and rosemary too.  I just cleaned and removed the stems, added a little filtered water and pureed the oregano.  Then added a touch of avocado oil in the bottom of the ice cube tray and froze.  Now I have little herb pellets anytime I want them.

I did take some time to make a nice Sunday meal though.  I made a tofu piccata with super firm tofu.  I love this ingredient, it's so easy to marinate and saute or grill.  It holds together well and really has a hearty texture.  The white wine and lemon combined with the capers made for a very nice summery meal.  I steamed some fresh corn and zucchini and sauteed some baby portabellos in toasted sesame oil.

Tofu Piccata

4 - 6 ounces linguine pasta, I used a gluten free quinoa pasta
10 ounces super firm tofu
sea salt and pepper
3 TB flour (A gluten free flour can be used, brown rice flour, oat flour, etc.)
2 TB vegan margarine, I use Organic Earth Balance
¼ cup white wine
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 TB capers
4 TB chopped Italian parsley

  1. Slice tofu into 1/8" cutlets, salt and pepper each side, dredge in the flour.
  2. Cook linguine according to directions.
  3. Meanwhile, heat a pan to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon vegan margarine.  Add the tofu slices and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until golden.  Remove from pan.
  4. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.  Squeeze the lemon juice and add the capers, stiffing to remove any cooked-on bits from the pan.  Remove from the heat and add half the parsley and the remaining 1 tablespoon of vegan margarine, stirring until melted.
  5. Top the linguine with the tofu and drizzle the sauce over.  Sprinkle the remaining parsley over and around the plate.


Summer Made it to the PNW - Garden Update

Summer finally made it to the Pacific Northwest.  It usually rains on the fourth of July, but this year the sunshine came out to play.  This makes three years in a row it's rained just about daily throughout the spring.  It was a pleasure to walk around town and see the smiles on peoples faces as they walked around in sandals and shorts.  I could hear lawn mowers, motorcycles, airplanes, and other various outdoor toys.  We shared a pretty good family Saturday beginning with a morning yoga class, a romp to the farmer's market, a fun lunch and a little playtime at Lake Sacajawea with Kaylee. 

The garden is thrilled about the sunshine too.  I've wandered out there after work a few times disappointed at the lack of growth due to all the rain.  It seems we've been planting and digging for awhile now.  We spent our usual time out pulling weeds and planting the last of the seeds this weekend and I started to find some surprises.  The plants seem to be standing tall right now and enjoying the warmth.  I'm started to see evidence of vegetables now.  I've got some little zucchinis and crookneck squash.  The corn is almost knee high. I can see carrot tops, beet greens, and potato flowers popping up now. I even found a tomato I wasn't expecting while trimming the dead leaves.

Oh yes, we have put up the girls in the garden too.  Isabelle and Molly are happy to be out in the sunshine too.

We're expected to have some really nice days for quite awhile now. I expect the garden to be getting taller and greener by the day.  I don't need shoes in the garden now, Lovin' it!