Monthly Archives: October 2011

What a difference a day can make!

I’m a bit of a weather junkie.  Intense storms really excite me; the damage to my garden, however, does not!  I don’t really mind snow, but if it is going to snow, then freakin’ SNOW.  I can do without the 2″ inducing milk-bread-egg-buying-panic!

February ’09 gifted us with 3 blizzards in one month.  Everything shut down, it was glorious!  This past Summer we were handed a hurricane, earthquake, and a flood, all within the span of two weeks.  Excluding the massive damage, I loved every minute of it.

Last week, there was talk of a Nor’easter headed our way.  Never can I remember seeing measurable snowfall in October, but still I decided to air on the side of (excited) caution.  Much of Friday afternoon was spent outside winterizing the grounds and gardens; plants were pulled, herbs were cut, and stakes, cages, and trellises were taken down and put away.  Only the cold-hardy, not-yet-ready-for-harvest, plants remained.

Here are a few pictures of what my fall gardens looked like Friday, October 28.

“The Greens Bed” Various Kales, Lettuces, and Bok Choy.  I had plans of overwintering them in a cold-frame.

The main garden.  (L-R)  Several rows of various Carrots, Celery, Green Onions, Radishes, Bok Choy, Swiss Chard, Beets, and Red Swan Beans.

Spinach hidden by French Breakfast Radishes, Spring Mix, and Mustard Greens.

Baby Bok Choy, full-grown Bok Choy hidden under Black Spanish Radishes and Daikon Radishes.

Radish mix ready for harvest.

Red Swan Beans

Beets

My radish & carrot harvest: Daikon, French Breakfast, and Black Spanish radishes. Snow White and Dragon carrots.

This is what went down all day and into the night, Saturday, October 29.

Once I realized this Nor’easter was no joke, I bundled up, bolted outside and began pulling my onions, chard and celery.  Harvesting in the snow kind of sucks, big time! The weight of the wet snow had already begun to snap the chard and celery stalks!

Easily a 20 lb harvest!  The basket was FULL of Celery (4 plants worth) along with some Bok Choy.

After it was all said and done, I think we had about 6 inches of branch-breaking, power line-downing, snow.  The rest of the week is going to be in the high 50’s, and thankfully it has begun to melt.  My kale in the front garden (not pictured) made it through the storm, but I have yet to survey the main garden or the greens bed.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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Eggplant Marinara

The end is near.  Tonight’s forecast is calling for freezing temperatures.  This makes me sad.  Very, very sad.  The only silver lining is the sweet anticipation of those soon-to-be-arriving 2012 seed catalogs.

Knowing my summer-loving nightshade vegetables will not survive after tonight’s freeze,  I began harvesting all the remaining peppers, eggplants and tomatoes.  (I only had one tomato since late blight and flooding really took a toll on my garden this year.)  Now, what does one do will all those veggies?  Why one makes eggplant marinara of course!

Eggplant Marinara - yields approximately 4 quarts of sauce

5 ping tung eggplants, sliced into 1″ rounds, about 2 pounds

4 purple beauty peppers, chopped – these are a smaller variety, so 2 medium peppers will work just as well.

1 onion, chopped

4 large cloves of garlic, sliced

1 qt canned tomatoes, I used my Amish paste

1 qt tomato sauce, you can substitute a 29 oz can of tomato sauce if you don’t can your own

6 oz tomato paste

1/3 cup brown sugar

several sprigs fresh oregano, chopped

a handful fresh basil, chopped

1 cup red wine

1 tbsp fresh-ground pepper corns

2 tbsp salt

olive oil

In a large sauce pot, heat olive oil over medium heat; sauté onion and garlic ’til onion is translucent, 3-5 minutes.  Add canned tomatoes (along with their liquid), peppers, eggplant, tomato sauce, tomato paste, brown sugar, wine, basil, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit before puréeing with an immersion blender.  Ladle into quart containers and freeze.

I really enjoy this sauce on a bed of freshly made pasta, rice, or lentils.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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Kombucha

I savored my first sip of this tea-based fermented beverage in 2007.  It is surprisingly similar to fermented apple cider and I was instantly hooked!  Unfortunately, at $3.50 a bottle, it quickly became a rare indulgence.  About a year later I made an attempt to brew my own.  With not having anything to compare the growing culture to, I was convinced something was going terribly wrong!  After 3 weeks into what looked like a biohazard nightmare, I scrapped the idea and stuck to buying bottles.  This past summer, I decided to give it another try.  Turns out I was doing everything correct and the scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) is supposed to look like a nasty mess while forming.  If only YouTube had all those time-lapsed tutorials back then, maybe it would have restored my confidence in what I was doing!

Kombucha, which has an undocumented history dating back hundreds of years, requires nothing more than a few easy-to-find ingredients and a bit of patience.  I brew mine in gallon batches.  Once it has reached maturity, it is transferred into a separate vessel and the process begins again.

If you do not already have a mother culture, it will take approximately 4 weeks for one to develop depending on its growing environment.  Each time you ferment a new batch of kombucha, a second scoby will grow, which is referred to as the baby.  Eventually you will end up with several cultures resembling a stack of pancakes.  You can compost them or give them away; I do both.

(Freshly fermented black tea kombucha ready for refrigeration.  The top layer of bubbles are from transferring from one vessel to another.


Kombucha

1 gallon filtered spring or distilled water, do not use tap water.

1 scoby or a bottle of commercially brewed kombucha tea if you are starting from scratch.

1 cup sugar – This acts as the food source for your growing colony of bacteria.

6 organic tea bags, either black, white, or green (or a combination).  Never use flavored teas or teas with oil, such as earl grey, since they can harm the beneficial bacteria you are trying to grow!

1 gallon glass jar – Never use plastic, the fermenting process can leach harmful chemicals into your tea!

a piece of tightly woven cloth, such as muslin.  Do not use cheese cloth or other open-weave fabrics, since dust, fruit flies, and other insects can make their way into your jar.

rubber band

Pour a bit of the filtered water into a stainless steel sauce pot, add the sugar and turn the heat to med-high.  Once the sugar is completely dissolved and the water is about to boil remove from heat and add your tea bags.  Steep tea in the sugar-water for 15 minutes.  Carefully pour your tea into the glass jar and add the remaining bottled water.  Be sure to not overfill the jar since you will need a bit of space for your culture to sit.  Once the jar has cooled to room-temperature, add the scoby, or pour in the bottle of kombucha.  Place the cloth over the opening of the jar and secure it with a rubber band.

(Freshly brewed green tea ready for fermentation.)

Growing a scoby: Over the course of about 4-5 weeks a mother will form.  I warn you, it will look really really gross, which is completely normal.  Do not disturb the jar, just leave it alone to do its thing.  Once you have a fully formed scoby scoop out a cup of kombucha and with clean hands pull out the mother.  Dump the kombucha that grew the mother, it will be too sour to drink, and begin brewing a fresh batch of tea.

(A scoby/mother)

If you already have a scoby: Allow your tea to ferment for 10-14 days, remove the mother and reserve a cup of the kombucha tea for starting the next batch.  It is at this time you can do a secondary fermentation to increase the carbonation or begin drinking your tea.  If you are just going to drink it, strain and transfer the kombucha to another food-safe container and refrigerate.  You don’t have to strain it, but another culture will begin to form if you don’t.

Secondary Fermentation:  To increase the CO2 in your kombucha, a secondary fermentation will need to take place.  You will want to use a closed vessel, such as a growler, since carbon dioxide build up can cause bottles to explode!  Allow the kombucha to sit out for an additional week.  I have found that by the second opening of the growler the kombucha is flat once again… my solution to that problem!

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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Vanilla-Maple Applesauce

Typically, when it comes to applesauce, I’m a no-frills kinda gal.  I cook a blend of apples, send them through the food mill, and then into the canner they go.  No sugar.  No spices.  Just delicious, naked apples, sweetened by Mother Nature.  What can I say, I like my applesauce to taste like, well, apples.

This year, in keeping with tradition, I made a batch of plain-jane applesauce.  Then, I made a batch of knock-your-socks-off awesomesause.  Yes, you read that right, awesomesauce.  It. Is. Dessert. Worthy.

Vanilla-Maple Applesauce

20 apples, I used Honeycrisp and Rambo

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

4 tbsp vanilla extract

1 Madagascar vanilla bean

1/4 cup lemon juice

Core unpeeled apples and place them in a large stainless steel pot with about an inch of water.  Cook apples over med-high heat (stirring often) ’til apples are soft, about 20 minutes.  Run cooked apples through a food mill to remove skins.  Return sauce to a clean pot.  If you want unsweetened applesauce, it is at this time you will ladle into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling-water bath: 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts.  If you have a mix of jar sizes, process them all for the longest time.

Split vanilla bean lengthwise; using the back of your knife, scrape out the seeds.  Add seeds and vanilla bean to the applesauce along with vanilla extract and gently simmer on med-low heat for 15 minutes.  Stir often.  Add sugar, maple syrup, and lemon juice, cook an additional 10 minutes.  Remove vanilla bean and ladle applesauce into hot, clean jars and process in a boiling-water bath for 20 minutes.  Yields 7 pints.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from Tigress in a Jam and Toronto Tasting Notes.

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Slow-Cooker Seitan

Seitan (pronounced say-tan), also known as “wheat meat” or “wheat gluten” is an excellent source of protein.  Although not as well-known as tofu, seitan’s popularity is quickly on the rise due to its ability to take on both the taste and texture of meat.  There are many ways to prepare, flavor, and cook seitan; honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice!  My new favorite is the crock pot method!  Not only is this a “fix and forget” recipe, but it also produces the best “meat” texture due to a long, slow simmer!  Boiled seitan (when I make it) tends to produce a spongy texture, which I have a hard time swallowing since it makes my teeth squeak.  Those with an aversion to textures know what I am talking about!  It makes me squirmy just thinking about it!

Slow-Cooker Seitan with Spicy Green Beans, and Homemade Mashed Potatoes

for the seitan

2 cups wheat gluten

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

2 tbsp tahini paste

1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

1-1/2 cups vegetable stock

for the simmering liquid

7 cups vegetable stock

2-1/2 tsp crushed black pepper

2 tsp dried thyme

2 tbsp vegetarian Worcestershire sauce

1  6 oz can of tomato paste

1 large onion, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

for gravy

2 tbsp butter

2 tbsp flour

for the breading

Panko seasoned breadcrumbs

cornstarch or arrowroot powder

water

To make the seitan, using a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; in a small bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.  Add wet to dry and mix until a stiff dough forms.  Knead for several minutes until dough becomes elastic.  Set aside so dough may rest.

Place all simmering ingredients into the crock pot, stir well, then set the temperature to high.

Cut seitan into two equal portions and place in the slow-cooker.  Go do something else for 5 hours while the seitan cooks.  After 5 hours have passed, remove one (or both) portion(s) and slice.

Heat oven to 375°F.  Pour some breadcrumbs on a plate, and in a small bowl make a slurry with the cornstarch and water.  Dip seitan cutlets into the cornstarch mix, then on the breadcrumbs, coating each side.  Transfer breaded cutlets on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Once all the cutlets are laid out on the baking sheet, spray them with a bit of olive oil.  Bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway, spraying again with olive oil.

for the mashed potatoes

3 large potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1″ cubes (this yielded 4 servings)

milk

butter

water

salted garlic scapes

fresh ground pepper

When the seitan goes into the oven, place your chopped potatoes in a med-large pot and cover with several inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer, cooking for 20 minutes.  Drain potatoes and place back into the pot.  Mash potatoes with a potato masher and add several tbsp of butter.  I probably used three; add enough milk to make them creamy.  I didn’t measure, so if I had to guess, maybe 3/4 cup?  Add salted herbs and pepper to taste.

for the gravy

When your potatoes are simmering, ladle 2-1/2 cups simmering liquid into a large sauté pan.  Try to scoop up as many onions as possible.  Bring to a steady simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes to reduce a bit, transfer to a heat-safe bowl.  In the same pan, melt 2 tbsp butter and stir in the 2 tbsp flour.  Return the reduced liquid back to the pan and stir well until thickened.

for the spicy green beans

green beans (trim ends)

olive oil

1 clove of garlic, minced

a handful of chopped walnuts

hot pepper flakes

smoked paprika

salt to taste

This will be the last thing you make because it takes literally 3 minutes.  Place green beans and garlic in a hot (but not too hot) pan with a bit of olive oil.  Keep them moving so they do not burn.  After about a minute add walnuts; sprinkle on paprika, pepper flakes, and salt.  Cook for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until green beans are crisp-tender.

If you cooked only one of the seitan portions (which is what I did) the other one should be refrigerated in the remaining simmering liquid.  Cook within 4 days.

Images and content copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge. Recipe adapted from the Vegalicious Family Kitchen.

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Wordless Wednesday: Vintage Jelly Jar

Image copyright © 2009-2011 Danielle R Limoge.

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