Sunday, December 21, 2014

Holiday Cookies

Have you baked with browned butter?  It might be my new fav ingredient.  I don't usually indulge in all these, let alone all at once, but my spouse loves to bake and 'tis the season.  Happy Solstice!

Molasses Crisps with Candied Ginger

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 pound butter, cut into pieces
1 3/4 cups evaporated cane sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift in the cocoa and set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time; then beat in the vanilla.  Beat in the dry ingredients just until combined.

Roll the dough into quarter-sized balls. Roll the dough balls in the remaining cane sugar, then in the powdered sugar until covered. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets.

Bake at 350°F until they are crackled and puffed, 10-12 minutes.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.  Adapted from Williams-Sonoma

Substitute the vanilla with peppermint extract or ground cinnamon
Roll the dough around around a piece of candy (chocolate, caramel, candied fruit, marshmallow) before rolling it in sugar

Brown Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies stuffed with Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
1/2 pound butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon sour cream or yogurt
2 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate raindrops, organic and direct trade from OB People's
1 jar of chocolate hazelnut butter - organic at OB People's
flaky sea salt for sprinkling (I like Murray River from Salt Farm at the Little Italy Farmers Market)

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When it begins to foam, whisk constantly until the butter begins to brown and has a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Allow to cool and blend in the sugar. Beat in the egg and egg yolk, one at a time. Stir in the vanilla and sour cream. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Chill your dough and chocolate hazelnut butter for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Once dough is chilled measure about 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough into a disc in your palm.  Make a depression in the middle and place a rounded 1/2 teaspoon of chilled chocolate hazelnut butter and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and gently flatten, just slightly.

Bake at 350° for 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown (they will look under cooked in the middle). Sprinkle each cookie with a few flakes of sea salt right after they come out of the oven, and cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 2 1/2 dozen.  Adapted from Clara Persis

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Crostini Trio

I recently attended a holiday potluck and was inspired by ingredients from the Little Italy Farmers Market to make crostini.  I had a Prager Brother's olive rosemary loaf of beautiful bread that I sliced thin, drizzled lightly with olive oil, and toasted until crisp.  And I made these three toppings:

Cannellini Bean & Roasted Garlic Spread
a head of garlic from the Schaners
1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves from Suzie's, minced
sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cup cooked cannellini beans (Suzie's Farm seasonally has them fresh in the pod or dried), saving the cooking liquid
juice of a small lemon from Honeymoon Ranch

Separate the garlic cloves, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and roasted at 350 degrees until soft and golden in color (this can be done on a cookie sheet, in a terra cotta garlic roaster, or wrapped in foil), about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool, remove skins, and set aside.

Over medium heat, saute the sage in a tablespoon of oil with a pinch of salt until fragrant.  Put all ingredients in a food processor, (start with just 1/2 the juice and add more to taste) including 1/4 cup bean broth. Blend until smooth. Taste and add salt to taste, and add more bean broth if it's too thick.

Makes about 1&1/2 cups.

Top with a drizzle of your favorite olive oil, fresh chopped parsley, caramelized onions, and/or some nice olives.

Sauteed Greens
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, quartered and sliced thin
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, destemmed, sliced into ribbons
1/2 bunch mustard greens, destemmed, sliced into ribbons
a couple big handfuls of spinach
fresh parsley, chopped
sea salt
red wine vinegar

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add onion, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, until onions are soft. Add greens, garlic and another pinch of salt; cook until wilted, 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar, season with salt to taste.

Artichoke & Mushroom
a can of quartered artichokes, drained and chopped
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
a large shallot or 1 small leek, sliced thin
a pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, sliced thin
freshly ground black pepper
thick, aged balsamic vinegar

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt, and allow to cook until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and browned, stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots, red pepper flakes, and a pinch of salt, and allow to cook until the shallots soften, stirring occasionally.  Then add garlic and thyme, and cook a few more minutes, stirring.  Remove from heat, stir all ingredients together, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.  Top with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Simple Soups for Healthy Holidays

During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it can often be difficult to want to spend the time to meal plan and cook. With stresses and flu season, we know this is a time of year when it’s very important to feed ourselves and our loved ones wholesome, quality foods. Between shopping, parties, family obligations, normal life and increased pressures, fast-food options may be increasingly tempting and good intentions for eating healthfully can go out the window. But with just a few ingredients and minimal prep time, you can have a healthy, home-cooked soup. Warm and comforting on a cool winter day, soups can easily be turned into a meal by serving them with a loaf of crusty, whole-grain bread and a salad.

Don’t want to make a big mess in the kitchen? You don’t need much equipment to make these soups:
  • a cutting board 
  • a good chef’s knife (or whatever knife you like to chop with 
  • a pot with a lid, preferably a heavy pot, such as enameled cast iron 
  • a hand-held immersion blender, which is the easiest and safest way to blend hot ingredients for smooth soups
Making these one-pot recipes means that clean-up is quick and easy, too.

These soup recipes are simple, hearty, comforting, delicious, inexpensive, and easy to put your own spin on. You could make your own stock by saving your vegetable trimmings, which can be collected and frozen to be used at a later date. Or for a quick, ready-made option, use bouillon or boxed vegetable broth. Because most of these soups are blended smooth, the veggies that need to be prepped can be coarsely chopped into roughly 1-inch cubes to get these soups going fast. Don’t want to peel the vegetables? Scrub them clean and leave the peels on for a more rustic soup, which works great with most root vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, as well as thin-skinned winter squash, like kabocha, delicata, maybe even butternut.

Each recipe is enough for a family, to be reheated and enjoyed throughout the week, or frozen in individual servings to eat later. These recipes are also gluten-free and offer options so that they can be made dairy-free.

Want a little bit more advanced version? These recipes include ideas for different variations to mix things up to suit your tastes. Fancy them up with suggested garnishes. Holiday Bonus: soup poured into shot glasses and garnished with a pinch of microgreens are a great party appetizer!

Winter Squash Soup

Leek & Potato Soup

Carrot Ginger Soup

Tomato Soup

Vegan Chili

...or find even more soups here!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Another Mushroom Gravy

I wanted a slightly lighter, more liquidy, more traditional gravy this year.  Bonus: use oil instead of butter and you've got a nice vegan gravy!

7 tablespoons Spring Hill butter or oil
1/2 pound crimini mushrooms, sliced or 1&1/2 ounces dried, reconstituted in hot water for 30 minutes
3 large shallots (about a cup), minced from Schaner Farm
1/4 cup flour
3 cups vegetable broth or water from reconstituting dried mushrooms
1 tablespoon soy sauce (both for taste and color)
freshly ground black pepper

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and brown, then set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in the pan and lightly caramelize the shallots on medium-low heat.  Add the remaining butter and melt.  Add the flour and cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently. Whisk in the broth, so as not to have any lumps.  Add in the mushrooms and simmer 6-8 minutes until thick. Season with soy sauce and pepper to taste.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Winter Squash Stuffing

This year I plan to substitute the bread cubes with roasted winter squash cubes, to decrease the breads and increase the veggies and nutrient density on the table (and it just so happens this is gluten-free and dairy-free)...

about 1/4 cup olive oil
12 cups butternut/tahitian/acorn/your favorite winter squash, peeled and seeded, cut into ¾” cubes, from Suzie's, JR Organics, the Schaner's or Sage Mountain Farm
1 yellow onion, diced, from Schaner Farms
1 cup celery, diced
6 large garlic cloves, minced from the Schaner's
1 cup pecans, chopped from a friend of a friend's farm
1 cup fresh cranberries (or ½ cup dried)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 large green apple, diced, from Smit Farms
fresh chopped herbs (from Suzie's, the Schaner, or JR Organics):
1/4 cup parsley
2 tablespoons sage
1 tablespoon rosemary
2 tablespoons thyme
1 cup apple juice from Smit Farms
sea salt & fresh ground black pepper to taste
If you want to prep ahead of time, this much can be done the day before serving:
  • On a baking pan, drizzle the cubed squash lightly with olive oil, season with sea salt, and toss to coat. Roast at 400° until they start to soften (not totally mushy)  and are golden, stirring occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes.  Set aside.
  • In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, sage, thyme, rosemary and a sprinkle of sea salt and cook until the onions begin to soften. Add garlic and celery and cook a couple more minutes.
  • Combine all ingredients - except juice – and place the mixture in a large baking dish rubbed with olive oil. 
On the day to be served:
  • Moisten by adding haf of the juice. 
  • Cover and bake at 350° for about 30-45 minutes, periodically adding the rest of the juice to keep it moist.
Serves 12

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Re-Planning Thanksgiving

I love cooking this meal that affords us the opportunity to spend time together in gratitude with family and dear friends. But I find that sometimes I miss out on some of that time because I'm very busy in the kitchen, while others might be playing games or enjoying conversations. Each year I vow to make next years' meal more simple, so I can have more time to relax with loved ones. And each year, I can't help myself but to cook all the elaborate favorites that keep me in the kitchen.

Last year I spent the weekend before Thanksgiving with my siblings in a cabin in the woods, celebrating a little early so we could be together (because as we grow older, our family expands, and Thanksgiving is spent at the homes of our respective in-laws). On Thanksgiving day I had a revelation as I watched my spouse's brother, a professional chef, leisurely put together a meal that he mostly prepped and cooked the day before.

Duh! Why haven't I thought of this? Why have I been so rigid in my plans to do almost everything the day of?

So now I'm re-thinking my recipes and re-planning my cooking schedule for the next time this (or any other elaborate meal I make for many others) gets cooked, which will allow me to actually enjoy the present moment, and be more relaxed and engaged with my family. Isn’t that the whole point?

If you have friends and family that enjoy working in the kitchen, make use of them! If someone asks, “Can I help?” say “Yes!” and find a task so they can share with the loving preparations for the meal. Or why not have a Thanksgiving potluck? Encourage folks to come whenever they like, bring an appetizer or their favorite holiday dish if they offer to bring something.

Another way to cut back on prep time? Make half the amount of food that you think you need. But what if we don't have enough? There will be enough. And if folks eat smaller portions, it is so much the healthier for them and the planet. Still, I'm terribly guilty of this, even after years of menu planning, so I always buy half of what I think I need and I continue to end up with plenty leftovers (which we love and eat the rest of the week).

So here's my game plan - 

A Week or More Ahead of Time:
  • create a menu, assemble recipes and make a food shopping list
  • gather or borrow any needed kitchen equipment, silverware, plates, and glasses
  • purchase all non-perishables
  • make cranberry sauce or compote (you could also freeze or can it)
The Weekend Before:
  • buy perishable ingredients
  • prepare the serving pieces, plates, flatware, glasses, etc
  • iron cloth napkins and tablecloths, if you're into that sort of thing
2 Days Before:
The Day Before:
Thanksgiving Day:

9am   Start the rolls.

11am  Prep fresh salad ingredients.

12pm  Form the rolls.

1pm  Bake the stuffing; make the salad.

2pm  As room in your stove top and oven permits: cook the mashed potatoes (for something extra special - yes, let's guild the lily - stir in grated cheese and 1 beaten egg per cup of potatoes, whip briefly and bake into a souffle until golden brown on top); roast or steam up pre-prepped vegetables; heat sauces and gravy; bake pre-prepped sweet potatoes. Finish and garnish all dishes except the rolls

3pm   Serve dinner and put the rolls in oven to be served hot. Give thanks & enjoy the bounty!

5pm  Make coffee and serve dessert. Make music & have fun!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Dia de los Muertos Lunch

After building an ofrenda for loved ones who have passed on, my family and I enjoyed a lunch honoring my great-great grandma Narcissa, grandpa, uncles and other family members who continue on in other forms and in us.

Tamales with Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

Black Beans

Romaine Salad with Creamy Cilantro Dressing, tomatoes, and toasted pepitas

Pomegranate Lemonade with Chia Seeds
I have pomegranates and lemons from friends.  Stir in 1-3 teaspoons or so of chia per cup of liquid and allow seeds to hydrate for at least ten minutes (but I prefer to let them fully hydrate overnight).

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting
I recently made goat cheese from fresh goat milk from another friend of mine.

This recipe makes about 50 tamales so get together with friends or family and have a tamalada! We used my large canning pot with the canning rack flipped upside down at the bottom as a steamer.

corn husks (next summer I'm saving my corn husks cuz I can't find these organic):
Soak the corn husks in hot water for a couple hours.  Make sure they are completely submerged.

For the batter:
7 cups masa harina (you can find organic masa in the bulk section at OB People's)
4 1/2 cups hot filtered water
1 pound and 4 oz Spring Hill salted butter, softened
4 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3 cups vegetable broth

Stir together the masa and hot water and allow to hydrate and cool.  Set aside.

I had to make this to two batches, half of the ingredients in each batch, in my stand up mixer but if you have an electric beater, you can do it all at once. On medium high speed, beat the salt and baking powder into the butter until well combined.  Beat in the masa for about 1 minute until light and fluffy.  On medium low speed, add 2 cups of the broth until well combined.  Test 1/2 a teaspoon of masa to see if it will float in cold water.  If not, beat until it does.  Then beat in the final cup of broth.

For the filling, whatever you like or have on hand (roasted anaheim chiles and cheddar, mushroom and goat cheese...):
4 large summer squash, quartered and sliced thin
4 large red bell peppers, sliced thin
2 medium red onion, sliced thin
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Saute the veggies a couple cups at a time in a tablespoon or two of olive oil until they start to soften.  Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

For each tamale, spread about 1/4 cup masa in a 4-inch square on a corn husk (or two overlapping if they're small), leaving about an inch and half uncovered on the top and bottom, and 3/4 inch on each side. In the center, spoon a couple tablespoons of filling down the middle of the masa.  Pull each side together, joining the masa with the filling in the center. 

There are many ways to tie tamales.  If I'm making a few different kinds of tamales, I'll fold each one a different way. Here's a few examples:

  1. Fold the bottom and top corn husk towards the center, forming a small rectangular package.
  2. Fold bottom up and leave the top open.
  3. Tie each end.
Use strips of corn husk or string to bind your tamales so they don't come undone.  Add 2 inches of water to your pot, boil and reduce to a simmer. Line the bottom and sides of your steaming pot with extra corn husks and fill with your tamales standing upright. Steam for about an hour and a half.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

thai peanut sauce

About time I posted this favorite. Use it in a whole wheat wrap, with Asian noodles, for stir-fried veggies, a dipping sauce or thin for a salad dressing. Goes great with greens, carrots, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, avocado, sunflower sprouts, green onions, fresh cilantro and mint leaves. Garnish with roasted or sprouted peanuts.

Thai Peanut Sauce
2 tablespoons namu soyu (soy sauce)
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon local honey or agave
2 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger (dry measure)
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup peanut butter (measured by displacement of the liquid)
2 tablespoons warm water (more or less to desired consistency)

Blend with immersion blender until smooth. Makes about a cup.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Homemade Face Moisturizer & Beard Oil

Yep, I make my own (and beard oil for my spouse ever since he came home with a $20 teeny tiny bottle from his barber).  I'm so grateful to have access to organic, wholesome products from my co-op!  Growing up with acne and oily skin, I never thought I'd be putting oil on my face but that's exactly what I do.  I also rub this into my neck, chest & arms:

My Face Oil
1 ounce jojoba oil
2 milliliters (or so) rose hip seed oil
a few drops of rose geranium essential oil

...all shaken together in a small glass bottle with a little pump top.

And every once in a while, I use coconut oil instead if I know I might be in the sun (it provides light protection, about 7 SPF) or if I'm extra dry.

His Beard Oil
.25 ounce jojoba oil
.25 ounce argan oil
a few drops of bergamont essential oil
a few drops of sage essential oil
a few drops of rose geranium essential oil

...all shaken together in a .5 ounce glass dropper bottle.  He drops several drops in his hands, rubs them together and then rubs it into his long, full beard.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dilly Beans, Pickled Okra & Pickled Carrots

Continuing to preserve the summer, these refrigerator pickles are ready after a couple days...

Each recipe makes 1 pint:

Dilly Beans
1/3 pound purple, yellow and/or green beans from JR Organics
3 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly smashed, from Schaner Farm
4 sprigs fresh dill, from Suzie's Farm
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Pickled Okra
1 pint okra, from JRs
1/4 yellow onion, sliced thin, from the Schaners
1 hot chile, from Suzie's
2 cloves garlic, peeled and slightly smashed
1/2 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Pickled Purple Carrots
1 bunch small purple carrots, from JRs
1 hot chile
3 springs cilantro, from Suzie's
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup spring or filtered water
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons local honey

For each recipe, place fresh herbs and/or garlic in the bottom.  Stuff veggies and hot chile to tightly pack jar.  Add dried spices to jar.  In a small sauce pan, bring vinegar, water and salt (and honey if applicable) to a boil and pour over contents of the jar.  Seal, let cool and refrigerate.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Homemade Cajeta

What can I make with just shy of a quart of goat's milk?  It's not enough to make cheese.  It's too much milk to have hanging around my house.  I could make ice cream or...

3 1/2 cups fresh goat milk (traded from my friend, Mariah, who is part of a local goat co-op, for some of my backyard eggs)
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons evaporated cane sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped seeds and pod
1/2 inch cinnamon stick (I would use proper Mexican canela if I had it)
slightly less than 1/4 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1/2 teaspoon filtered or spring water

In a heavy (I use enameled cast iron) sauce pan, bring the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar.  Remove from heat and add the dissolved baking soda.  It will foam up (baking soda is added to neutralize the acids and encourage browning of the milk solids, otherwise you get a really pale cajeta without the deep flavor).  Stir until the foam subsides, then return to heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally (stir more frequently as you get close to the end and you get glassy bubbles), until it reaches a beautiful caramel color and it thickens (this takes an hour to an hour and a half).  Test thickness by putting a drop of cajeta on a cold plate.  The cooled cajeta should be a thick caramel-sauce-like consistency.

Makes a bit less than a pint.  Keeps about a month in the fridge.

Of course, it begs to be drizzled over ice cream, or berries, or an apple crisp, or pluot galette... also begs to be licked off a spoon.

Adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time

Saturday, August 2, 2014

DIY Hair Pomade

Ok, it's not food, but why buy products with a long list of ingredients I can't pronounce and probably are not good for my scalp anyway?

So I made up a test batch and it works great!  Is no one making organic, natural stuff like this to sell?

(all measures are by weight)
1/3 oz by weight beeswax, shaved (or 2 tsp melted)
3/4 oz by weight shea butter (or 1 1/2 Tbsp)
1/4 oz by weight jojoba oil (or 1/2 Tbsp)
several drops of essential oil (rose geranium, lavender, sage, or your favorites)

In a double boiler on medium heat, melt beeswax; add shea and allow to melt.  Remove from heat, add jojoba and stir to combine.  Pour into a small jar, add essential oil and shake to combine.  Allow to cool.

Adapted from mommypotamus

Monday, July 28, 2014

Fig Preserves Part 2: Spiced

3 cups fresh figs, chopped and destemed (thanks, Mariah!)
1-2 cups fresh apple juice, from Smit Farms
1 1/2 cups local honey
1/4 cup crystallized/candied ginger, diced
juice of one fresh lemon, from Schaner Farm
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Combine all the ingredients in a heavy medium-sized pot (I like enameled cast iron; it's safe, clean and the least reactive) on medium-high heat.  Stir frequently, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer (this is a good time to set up your water bath for equipment & jar sterilizing) until jam gels, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fill sterilized jars (that you've been keeping in hot water), wipe lip & outer threads with a clean, damp cloth, add lids & rings (that you've been keeping in hot water), not too tight, and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove and let sit undisturbed overnight.

Makes 4 cups 

If you're new to jamming, get yourself a good resource for a more descriptive process on how to jam.

(Ok, truth be told, the above recipe is what I wished I had made.  The recipe I was adapting this from was poorly written and had way too much cinnamon  - lesson learned for me -  so to try to salvage my jam, it became an "all fruits in" spiced jam and I cleared out my fridge to add an apple and a couple pluots, chopped up and another 1/3 cup or so of honey.  I'll call it christmas chutney and give it for holiday gifts and no one will be the wiser)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Honey Balsamic Fig Preserves

I am a big fan of trading.  Seeds, saplings, starters, recipes, clothes, work, skills, time... And I love food swaps.  I have too many eggs from my lovely backyard chickens, my friend has a heavy-bearing fig tree (or lemons, macadamia nuts, goat milk, honey, vegan tamales, tomatoes...), so we trade!  Yay!  Let's take some money out of the system and build community while we grow and produce our own!

 Now I've got all these figs (she brought me a sizable bag of them) -- enough to try 2 different small-batch fig jam recipes (and bonus: figs are another fruit that don't need added pectin to jam), so here's the first...

2 1/2 cups fresh figs (thanks, Mariah!), chopped into eighths
3/4 cup local honey (or your favorite sugar or syrup)
1/4 cup apple juice from Smit Farms (or orange juice or other liquid of your choice)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice or another vinegar)

If you're new to jamming, get yourself a good resource for a more descriptive process on how to jam.

Set up your water bath for equipment & jar sterilizing.

Combine figs, honey, juice and vinegar in a heavy medium-sized pot (I like enameled cast iron; it's safe, clean and the least reactive) on medium-high heat.  Stir frequently, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until jam gels, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Fill sterilized jars (that you've been keeping in hot water), wipe lip & outer threads with a clean, damp cloth, add lids & rings (that you've been keeping in hot water), not too tight, and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove and let sit undisturbed overnight.

Makes 1 1/2-2 cups

Adapted from

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Mulberry Meyer Marmalade

I love making marmalade because it means I'm making my own organic pectin, and not adding anything from a box.  And while our mulberry tree has not been as prolific this year (maybe because I need to feed it, maybe because of our changing climate), I'm still thinking about coming up with new things to do with mulberries (although they are quite lovely just eaten straight off the tree).  I did bake them up into a mulberry crisp a few weeks ago, and simmered them into a quick compote to serve on waffles or pancakes, and then I thought of this!..

3 1/2 lbs Meyer lemons: ours from my mother-in-law's beautiful yard in the Oakland Hills
4 cups filtered or spring water
4 cups evaporated cane sugar
3 cups mulberries, stems removed

Scrub the lemons clean. I do not use soap (yuck); just rubbing and water.

Cut in half and juice the lemons except for one (you need about 2 1/3 cups of juice), saving all the seeds & membranes in a muslin bag or cheesecloth.  Scrape the white pith (and save in the bag) from the lemons.  Julienne the peels (for 3-4 cups).

Cut the last lemon in 8ths, lengthwise.  Remove seeds and membranes and add them to the bag.  Slice the sections into thin triangles.

Put the juice, peels, Meyer triangles, water & muslin bag (closed tight, let the string hang over the edge but don't let it catch on fire) in a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring so the fruit and bag don't stick to the bottom and burn.

Remove from heat.  Transfer bag to a bowl and allow to cool.  Measure the marmalade mixture and for every cup, add 7/8 cup of sugar.  Squeeze the pectin juices from the bag into the marmalade mix (I save it and squeeze it more after it cools, saving the pectin liquid for later jamming).

Heat the marmalade back up to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.  Secure a candy thermometer in your mixture, making sure it does not touch the pot.  You want to get the temp up to 220-222 degrees so it will jell.  Then stir in the mulberries.

Fill sterilized jars (that you've been keeping in hot water), scrape down side to remove any air bubbles, clean head space & outer threads with a clean, damp cloth, add lids & rings (that you've been keeping in hot water), not super tight, and boil in a water bath for 10 minutes.

I got about 9 cups.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Rose Grapefruit Lemonade

Wow! Just made this one with inspiring ingredients on hand and it was amazing!!!  Perfectly refreshing with this super hot weather...

spring or filtered water
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
a handful of dried roses
3/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, lemons from my neighbor
3/4 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, grapefruits from Sage Mountain Farm

In a small pot on high heat, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the roses and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Strain into a half-gallon container.  Add a few cups of cold water, then add the juices (this way the heat doesn't cook the raw juice; I don't like the taste of cooked juice) and fill the container with cold water.  Delicioso!  And it's a beautiful pink color.

Check out more lemonades here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Snacks, Hydration & Greywater

I'm so very excited to have some of my greywater now going into my soil to water some newly planted grapes (muscat and wild native).  I also plan to plant bananas, a few passion fruit vines and more.

I'm very happy that I was able to do this as a workshop, providing an opportunity for folks to learn and share and build community.  Three of the 17 folks who came were my neighbors living within a few blocks of me!  I'm so grateful for the opportunity to get to know them.  And one of them will trade me his kale & lemons for eggs (love the chance to build the barter/underground economy)!

Folks worked so hard (my soil needs serious rehabing).  Here's what I fed them to keep them fueled:

granola, trail mix & fresh farmers market fruit (strawberries, grapes, tangerines, tangelos, apples from Smit, Schaners, Suzie's Farms

garlicky hummus with fresh veggies (carrots, sugar snap peas, cauliflower, romanesco, broccoli, green onions, radish from Sage Mt and Suzie's Farms)

fresh squeezed lemonade

and iced tea...

Orange Ginger Iced Tea
1 oz black tea (I used Darjeeling)
1/2 oz dried orange peel
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

Bring a gallon of filtered or spring water to a boil.  Add tea, orange peel and ginger and steep for 5 minutes.  Strain the tea and allow to cool.  Serve over ice, sweeten as desired or mix with lemonade.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Citrus Jamaica Chia Fresca & Holistic Orchards

I've been taking a wonderful class through Wild Willow Farm & Education Center on holistic fruit tree care with an inspiring and extremely knowledgeable teacher.  I'm about to plant citrus, avocado and even bananas(!) and I already have a few citrus, loquats, pomegranate, peaches, and a mulberry so I can immediately (and gratefully) put what I'm learning to good use.

Last week, we spent some time at one of our classmate's beautiful and extensive mostly-citrus grove and, lucky us, she was kind and generous with her lemons.  I love to make all sorts of lemonades, so here's what I brought to class to share this week:

3/4 oz dried hibiscus (the edible kind)
1/4 oz dried orange peel
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar (more or less to taste)
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (more or less to taste)
1/2 cup chia seeds (more or less to taste)

Bring 4 cups of filtered or spring water to a boil and add the hibiscus and orange peel.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.  Strain the liquid into a gallon container and allow to cool.  Add the lemon juice and chia seeds and fill the rest of the container with water.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Cinnamon Apple Cake with Goat Cheese Frosting

This was a delicious breakfast and could totally be baked into muffins.  And instead of frosting, you can tart it up in several ways (bake it topped with a crumble, drizzle with caramel...) depending on how sweet you'd like it to be.

4 oz cup Spring Hill butter
1 1/4 cup rapadura sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
2 cups apple - peeled, cored, chopped about 1/4"
1/2 cup walnut or pecans, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the milk, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in the apples and nuts.
Spread batter evenly in the pan. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Cinnamon Goat Cheese Frosting
2 oz butter (from Spring Hill: the secret to a perfect frosting), room temp
4 oz chevre cheese, room temp
1/4 vanilla bean (or 3/4 tsp vanilla extract), fair trade of course
3 oz powdered sugar
a pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
and if you want to get real crazy, a couple scrapes of orange zest

Scrape vanilla seeds from the bean (save the pod for vanilla sugar or make your own extract). Whip all ingredients together until smooth.


Crumble Topping
6 tablespoons butter or nut oil (or a mix of the 2)
¾ cup rapadura sugar
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup rolled oats and/or chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans...)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix together and crumble over the cake batter before baking. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

More Smoothies

This first recipe is my very favorite smoothie right now.  And my favorite way to eat it is in a bowl with a spoon, topped with granola and drizzled with honey.

1 packet frozen unsweetened acai
4-5 strawberries from Suzie's or JR Organics Farm
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
a slice (about the size of a quarter but a little thicker) fresh ginger, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons cacao nibs
2 pinches local bee pollen
2 inches of frozen banana
1-2 dates, pit removed
1 cup (or more if needed) fresh pressed apple juice from Smit Farms

Blend all ingredients until smooth (about 2 minutes) in a very good blender.  Add more liquid if needed for good flow (you want to see the whole mixture moving).  Makes about 3 cups.

I recently got a hold of dragonfruit smoothie packets to test for the co-op as a possible new product.  They made the most beautiful smoothies, gorgeous magenta color, and my spouse actually preferred them to acai:

1 packet frozen dragon fruit
1/3 cup mango
a slice (about the size of a nickel) fresh ginger, peeled
1 kiwi, peeled, from Smit Farm
2 inches of frozen banana
1 cup orange juice from Schaner Farm (or apple)
1 date, pit removed
a tablespoon of local honey (more or less to taste)

(Follow the same instructions as above)