Monday, April 21, 2014

Beet and Garlic Mustard Refridgerator Pickles: making leftovers earn their keep!

In our house, we eat leftovers.  We repurpose things for new meals later in the week, we usually have leftovers for lunch, and as you can probably guess, I can't stand wasting anything.

Earlier this week I harvested Garlic Mustard and made Pesto and then a little later I made Easter egg dye out of beets.  And so, sitting in my refridgerator, next to the leftover hardboiled Easter eggs and ham I had a bowl full of vinegar-y chopped up beets, and a ziploc bag full of Garlic Mustard roots.

I, for one, LOVE pickles.   I like to eat them by themselves, or on seasonal green salads and they're really easy to make.

So, while the kids were out of the house today, I put together this "project in wide-mouthed pint jars".  And I can't wait to see how they turn out in a couple of days!

Beet and Garlic Mustard Refridgerator Pickles

 About 1 cup Garlic Mustard Roots
3 boiled (or roasted), and cut up beets
1 large sweet onion, sliced in circles
1 1/4  cup Apple cider vinegar 
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or another 1/4 c. Apple Cider Vinegar)
2 1/4 teaspoons Seasalt
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
Several sprigs of dried thyme

You will need 3 sterile wide-mouthed pint canning jars. In 2 of the jars layer your sliced onion and beet  and top with a couple sprigs of thyme.  In the 3rd  jar, place your garlic mustard roots and top with onion and thyme.  

Boil together the Seasalt, vinegar, water, and sugar.  Make sure the ingredients are completely dissolved.  Pour the brine over the veggies in the jars.  Cap tightly and store in the refridgerator.  They should be ready to try in 2-3 days. 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Garlic Mustard Pesto: Our first harvest of the year!

Here are the things I know about Garlic Mustard.  1)  It's prolific (ok fine, invasive to the point of being an environmental problem) 2) It's delicious and garlic-y in the spring and becomes more pungent (think horseradish) as the season goes on 3) the entire plant is edible and the roots can be used as a substitute for horseradish 4) it's one of the first plants to green up in the springtime around here and it has pretty (edible) flowers later on in the season.

We went for a walk the other day.  Things are still pretty dormant, but the Onion Grass  (wild chives) and Garlic Mustard are growing like mad.  I brought my eldest daughter to help me harvest.  I pulled the Garlic Mustard (root and all) and she picked me a bunch of Onion Grass. 

There was quite a bit... so I made a recipe that used quite a bit.

First I washed and seperated everything.  Then I cut the roots off of the Garlic Mustard, leaving the rosettes intact.

I pickled the roots later in the week.

The leaves, I turned into pesto along with some of the Onion Grass and a few other ingredients that I had on hand... and it turned out lovely!

Garlic Mustard Pesto

  • 3 cups garlic mustard greens, chopped and packed.
  • 6 ounces sunflower seeds (or pinenuts or walnuts)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh Onion Grass (or chives), chopped
  • 6 ounces virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • add water to desired consistency
If you enjoy the pungent flavor of fresh garlic, simply toss all of the ingredients into a blender and thoroughly blend until you reach your desired consistency.  For a less pungent flavor (for kids, and people like myself) , first saute your garlic mustard greens and onion grass in 2 additional tbsp of olive oil.  Salt to taste, and then add to blender with the rest of the ingredients.

Enjoy!  Over pasta, on potatoes, on veggies, mixed into salad dressing, on eggs...  and freezes well too!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter (Oestara) Eggs! Done naturally! ... who knows what's in those dye pellets, anyway

With Easter rapidly approaching, and 2 little kids at home who can't wait to have an Easter Egg hunt tomorrow morning, I absolutely had to dye some eggs.  We just did a dozen this year, but we dyed them the natural way because I really want to eat them, not just look at them.  And, quite frankly, those dye pellets they sell in the store scare me more than a little  bit...

We get our eggs from our butcher.  We usually get a dozen or two gorgeous brown jumbo-sized ones (free-range, collected by the guys that work at the butcher shop).  Today I bought 1 dozen of my usual brown beauties, and 1 dozen white eggs (still local, but from about 1 hour down the road) for dying.  I usually prepare my eggs as a meal by themselves.  No meat needed...  which is how I justify including them in out weekly food budget.

Gorgeous Naturally-Dyed Easter Eggs
Per cup of water use:
  • 1 cup yellow onion skins — makes orange
  • 1 cup chopped beets — makes pink on white eggs
  • 2 tbsp ground turmeric — makes yellow eggs
  • 4 teabags Green Tea-- makes green eggs
  • 2 tbsp ground paprika--makes reddish-orange eggs
  • 1 cup chopped purple cabbage — makes blue on white egg
 For each color you choose to make, bring 1 cup of water to a boil and add your ingredient. Turn the heat down to low and simmer, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes. The dye is ready when it reaches a hue a few shades darker than you want for your egg. Strain liquid into a wide-mouth mason jar.   Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to every cup of strained dye liquid. 

Allow dye to cool.  

Hard boil 1 dozen eggs.  Let cool.

Put your eggs in your desired color and transfer to the refrigerator.
Allow to chill until the desired color is reached. Carefully dry the eggs, and then rub each one with a little bit of vegetable oil if you want them to shine. Polish with a paper towel. Store the eggs in the refrigerator until it is time to eat (or hide) them.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Thing About Spring is That Cold Weather is Never Far Away: Beef Barley Soup

The last few days have had our little family buzzing with outdoor activity. The birds were singing, the flowers were starting to bloom, and the bugs were out in force. We spent most of our time outdoors, and even met our new neighbors.  But then, BANG!  Today hit and the snow is flying again. 

Here's a hearty soup to keep us all warm (eventhough my eldest daughter is wearing shorts over her leggings today):

Traditional Beef Barley Soup
2 1/2 quarts water
1 lb stew meat cut into small pieces
1 can diced tomatoes (or 4 roma tomatoes, diced)
1 large onion diced
3 stalks celery diced
1 soup bone (beef marrow)
1 cup barley
Seasalt to taste

Add all ingredients to a large pot.  Bring to boil and reduce heat to low.  Stir often.  Cook 2-3 hours.

Serve and enjoy!  We had big baby spinach salads with this... it IS spring, afterall!


Monday, April 7, 2014

Delicious and Green: Whole Grain Pasta with Peas and seafood of choice

SPRING'S HERE!    Or, at least, it's above freezing and the ice is out of the pond. While it isn't quite grilling weather yet (BARELY above freezing), I'm still wanting dinners to be a little lighter.  Less sauce, less fat, more flavor and color and texture.

One of my family's favorites is pasta with peas.  We usually make it with a lot of garlic and shrimp and the kids love the little pieces that they can pick out one at a time to eat.

Whole Grain Pasta With Peas and Shrimp
1 lb whole grain pasta 
 6-8 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, sliced
1/2 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped and destemmed
1/2 bag frozen peas (I threw a handful of leftover adamame in this time as well)
20-25 pieces frozen shrimp (or salad shirmp, sliced calamari, or bay scallops)
Salt to taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, until al dente'.  Drain and set aside. 

In a large skillet saute garlic, green onion, parsley, and peas in about 3 tbsp of oive oil.  Salt to taste.  

Add Pasta to pan and toss together ingredients. 

Put in a large bowl and serve right away.

Enjoy... with a glass of wine!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Zen Center Morning, and another Grandma Memory: Vegetarian Lentil Soup

Long before yoga and meditation were mainstream or even practised "on the fringe" (the 1980s to be exact), my Grandma was doing both of them.  "Stretch" classes and "resting" on the couch while sitting upright with eyes closed were what she called it.  While I couldn't be convinced to slow down  and participate back then, I could certainly be convinced to eat her lentil soup at lunchtime.  Usually with a half of some sort of sandwich. 

Then, while I was in college two of my professors strongly encouraged their students to have the experience of at least one day of meditation at our local Zen Center.  It was eye-opening, excruciating, amazing, and completely worth it. We had a silent lunch of lentil soup and salads punctuated by the sound of windchimes and a singing bowl.

And so, with an open heart, I'm presenting to you my Lentil Soup Recipe (I assure you, there is Zen in the chopping):

Vegetarian Lentil Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
        1  onion, finely chopped
3 ribs finely chopped celery
1 finely chopped bell pepper (any color)
1 pound  whole lentils rinsed
1(14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
2 quarts vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
Seasalt to taste

In a large skillet, saute together the onion, celery, and bell pepper with the olive oil.  When onions are translucent and fragrant, add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients to a large soup pot. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Let simmer 30-40 minutes until the lentils are tender.

Serve and Enjoy!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another Shift In Perception: Vegetarian Hoppin' John

For years we've wanted an electric car.  For even more years, I've read about all sorts of "green" living tips and philosophies... ranging from homesteading and "grow-your-own-everything (including children LOL)", to DIY sources of power, sustainable diets, carbon footprints, wabi-sabi style, "living small", re-purposing, wild-crafting... the list is seemingly endless. And over the years ideas have come, and ideas have gone by the way-side depending on where we were in life. 

Now we've finally come to a place where a BIG idea has been made an affordable reality.  We are now the proud owners (leasers, really) of an electric plug-in Nissan Leaf.   If feels fantastic to finally be in a place where it fits for us both in our budget and in our hearts.

After only having this car for 1 day, my "green" sensibilities have been peaked once again by one mind-blowing fact:   This car is plugged into a standard  (USA) electrical outlet for 12 hours and has enough charge drive 17+ miles to work, and back.  That's an entire commute, and with some leftover in reserve.  We're leaving lights and appliances plugged in 24 hours per day.  I finally understand the amount of energy we're using up... more than enough to power several cars!

And, of course, this gets me thinking about tons of "green" things and my plans to do better and what can be done first.  Replace old appliances... sure...   insulate the farmhouse better... you bet.  But probably the easiest is to eat lower on the food chain a few days per week.  The statistics are out there and blatant about how many millions of tons of grain and gallons of water go into sustaining our 1st world meat-eating habit.   Am I going vegan?  Nope.  But I AM being more mindful and actually employing it weekly in my grocery shopping list.

Hoppin' John is a Southern (U.S.) black-eyed pea dish usually made around New Years Eve and is thought to impart good luck on the household.  I made it in hope of good luck in out transition to an electric car:

Lucky Vegetarian Hoppin' John
1 lb dried black-eyed peas
1 bayleaf
1tsp oregano
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp dried basil
freshly ground black pepper
cayenne pepper (to taste, if desired)
 Sea Salt to taste

2 tbsp Olive oil
2 cooking onions, chopped small
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (28oz) tomatoes
2 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
Hot sauce (optional)

Rinse and soak black-eyed peas overnight.  Drain and rinse again.  Put peas into a heavy soup pot and cover them with fresh water.  Bring to a boil and add bay leaf, oregano, thyme, cayenne, sea salt, and black pepper.  Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 hours. Stir occasionally and add water if needed.

In a skillet, heat olive oil and saute' onion until translucent.  Add the pepper, celery, and garlic.  Saute' until tender.  

Add veggies, canned tomato, and cooked brown rice to the pot of peas.   Stir well and heat through.  

Serve and enjoy (Mark and I liked it with hot sauce!)

I apologize that the picture is in terrible focus...
Here's a couple "Spring's Trying Real Hard To Get Here"  shots: