Friday, August 31, 2012

Everyday nonsense

So... I have discovered one large tea bag (the family size) and one Tazo chai tea bag makes the perfect iced tea/chai in a one gallon pickle jar.

My cucumber plants have turned yellow and died for the most part so I harvested the last few cucumbers on the vine. not sure if we'll make pickles or relish but... I have seven of them.

Dinner tonight is iced chai tea, sweet potato puffs, Green Giant green beans almandine and crescent rolls stuffed with vegetarian hot dogs, Morningstar vegetarian bacon strips and velveeta.

Processed. All of it.

But hey-- my husband just finished a 12-day work stretch and we all survived a crazy work/school week. I worked, went to class, did a freelance project AND did a project for my internship.

Which brings me to my next topic. NPR ran a commentary on whether or not vegans and vegetarians feel superior to meat eaters.

Go google the article if you want to read it, but it got me thinking.

I am far from perfect. I wish I could visit more local farms for more produce. I wish I could give up more animal products. I wish I had the money to be choosier about which company's products I consume. I wish I never used processed foods.

I was a vegetarian for about eight years and I experimented with veganism for a few months.

I had gestational diabetes. This gives me an increased risk of type II diabetes.

I was severely anemic for two years.

My daughter retains fluid in her ears, which gets worse when she has dairy.

As a result of all of this, I think a lot about my food. I think about protein, carbohydrates, iron and vitamins. I think about how pure the food is that I feed my daughter. I read labels and avoid ingredients I can't pronounce.

My daughter doesn't eat orange cheese. She doesn't know how to open American cheese in the individual wrapper. She doesn't realize that fast food kids meals come with toys.

I try to balance our exposure to wheat, sugars, salt and soy. I try to mix colors in every meal.

We drink sun brewed iced tea, 100% juice diluted with bubbles from our SodaStream, and water. We switch between almond milk and soy milk.

I do this on a strict budget.

My daughter and I garden. We bake. We preserve our food via canning.

Because of all this, I think I am superior in the kitchen to the American with the standard American diet. I work hard at it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Best eggplant ever

So, eggplant is labor intensive. But for some reason I planted it. Now I have to cook it.

First, I washed and peeled the eggplant. Then I thinly sliced it and laid the cutlets on tea towels. I lightly lightly salted them, sprinkled them with garlic powder and Italian seasoning. I covered them with another tea towel and piled the tea towel with cookbooks and Le Creuset cookware.

Two hours later, I breaded them with egg and a mixture of my leftover crumbs-- bread crumbs, bagel crumbs, goldfish crumbs and everything pretzel chip crumbs.

Then I fried them in lots of oil.

Meanwhile, I browned some ground sausage. Added peppers and tomatoes also from my garden. And no salt added tomato sauce. And Italian seasoning.

Layered eggplant with the sauce to fill the casserole dish. Baked at 350 for an hour.

Back to School

So, in the last few days my husband has overseen feeding the family. We both have been so crazy busy we succumbed to the "let's get a pizza" mentality last night. We got a pesto pizza with fresh tomatoes and bacon AND a regular "red" pie with spinach and black olives. That's my homage to getting our vegetables. Spinach on pizza.

I stopped at Target last night to get some school supplies before the hard lines team dismantles the section and ending up getting school food. Juice boxes, some sparkling V-8 fusion as a treat, cashews, Zen trail mix, goldfish pretzels, cheese, Morningstar vegetarian sausage patties, Archer Farms real fruit bars (strawberry). And I got the makings to make some incredible eggplant from the produce in the garden.

Which I hope to do tonight.

The third grade teacher has sent home a note that healthy snack could be sent for a 10:20 snack break. That is awesome news and I am queen of healthy snacks, but my cupboards were ill-prepared for this. On top of this, I was not letting my daughter buy "popcorn chicken." So she got sent to school yesterday with mandarin oranges for a morning snack and leftover chicken and pasta in her thermal bowl for lunch (with a side of Healthy Harvest Blueberry Applesauce). But, with the thermal bowl in the lunchbox, that left no room for her thermos and with no juice boxes, I sent juice in a bottle and she spilled it. Couldn't have been too bad of a spill because I didn't see much mess in there after-the-fact. To avoid this in the future, I went to Target and got some juice boxes.

I'm also contemplating letting my daughter try breakfast at the school, since they sent home a menu which I can check. She's not buying breakfast on mini-bagel/cream cheese day since I don't think that provides enough protein and I think cold, untoasted bagels are a last resort. Toast them and enjoy them! Not soggy, chewy and cold.

I am sooooo glad that the school has breakfast. Now I'm trying to convince some neighborhood kids whom I know don't get breakfast at home AND they qualify for free breakfast to get to the school to claim it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Canning more

Today's trip out to the garden yielded two zesty peppers, two red peppers that haven't turned red, 3 red plum tomatoes, several pickling cucumbers and an eggplant.

So, we canned. We made a dill pickle brine, added fresh ground black pepper and garlic and prepped the cucumbers for pickling. We diced the red tomatoes and sliced the zesty peppers to add to the mix.

We reserved some of that brine and added more vinegar and some sugar to do a cold pack of pickled green tomatoes, based on the recipe in Better Homes and Gardens Can It!

Everything is in the hot water bath now.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Snack of rice and tomatoes

I have to eat something before work. I have cube steak in vegetable stock in the crock pot with carrots and Brussels sprouts.

So, I made a cheese and broccoli rice mix and added extra broccoli and tomato from my garden

Child breakfast

- 100% juice with added bubbles (Thanks to the SodaStream)
- mandarin oranges
- True North chocolate nut clusters

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


School starts for both my daughter and I in less than a week. Uggh.

I'm not ready. She's not ready.

C'est la vie.

My diet has been horrible lately. Full of cakes, candies and chips. Today I was cleaning the kitchen and I realized that once again I was hungry and not adequately feeding myself.

So while I cleaned I had my eight-year-old pack a picnic of greens, sandwiches and iced tea and we ate it in our pajamas in the front yard.

Now, the laundry beckons.

Monday, August 20, 2012

More corn salsa

We opened the corn salsa Saturday night and it was so incredibly delicious that everyone in the family agreed we should make more.

So while I went to work at Target Sunday, hand washing greasy pizza hut pans, my husband and daughter went to Buzas and got corn and extra tomatoes and peppers.

They bought 3 dozen corn, 2 tomatoes, 2 green peppers and a spicy pepper for about $17.

That yielded a dozen ears for eating, and 2 bags of 2 cups of corn for the freezer and a double batch of corn salsa (once I added the produce from my garden).

Today's corn salsa yielded 6 1/2 pints and 2 full pints.

And this all has me thinking how I'd love to have a canning set, spoons, a skillet and a pot for gluten free vegan cooking so I could be assured of the purity of my food and share with friends.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Greatly anticipated nachos

Tonight's nachos were incredible.

We made guacamole this morning:
- 2 ripe avocado
- several small tomatoes from my garden
- chives from my garden
- lemon juice
- extra virgin olive oil
- one clove garlic chopped very tiny
- one small red pepper from my garden
- a pinch cumin
- a pinch fresh ground pepper
- a pinch chili powder

The nachos tonight included beans I had cooked and stored in the freezer, sour cream, velveeta (a gift), Archer Farms raspberry salsa (my favorite was on clearance at Target), sour cream, the guacamole, and the homemade corn salsa we canned last week.

The corn salsa tasted incredible! It was so sweet and zesty. My husband said it went really well with the guacamole.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Applesauce Muffins

(adapted from the Betty Crocker 25th Anniversary cookbook's recipe for Applesauce snack cake)

Yield: about one dozen muffins

I wanted to use up some of my fruit canning syrup I had leftover so this is a tad odd.

Overnight I soaked in the syrup about 1/3 cup each:
- golden raisins
- dried cranberries
- raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- 1/2 plus 1/3 cup unbleached white flour
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- almost 2/3 cup old fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup canning syrup
- about 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup canola oil
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- large pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- the fruit
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

I topped mine with sliced almonds.

Bake about 15-20 minutes.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Corn Salsa

Today we're adapting the Better Homes and Gardens recipe for corn salsa. I tasted a few corn kernels and it is divine.

The BHG recipe calls for:
- 4 large ears corn/2 cups
- 1 large onion/ 1 cup (coarsely chopped)
- 1 large green or red sweet pepper / 1 cup (coarsely chopped)
- 1 cup coarsely chopped peeled tomato
- 1 fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

For my mix I used:
- 3 cups corn from a local farm
- about 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons diced chives from the garden
- 2 (or was it 3) pickling cucumbers (chopped)
- 1 cup and then some chopped tomatoes from a neighbor's garden
- 1 small green pepper and one really small red pepper from my own garden, chopped

For the sauce:
The original BHG
- 1/2 cup lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

To this I added:
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon local honey
- 1/2 teaspoon hot chili powder

In large saucepan, combine ingredients and bring them to a boil.

Simmer, covered, for ten minutes.

Ladle into half pint jars. (oh bugger! I did 1 half pint, 2 half jellies and a pint.)

Process jars 15 minutes in boiling water canner.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shopping and corn

Came to Gayle's to cook corn, blanch it and cut it off the cob for canning and freezing. This may yield some corn relish...

Before I came over, I went over to Target for a dishpan. I didn't buy a dishpan, but I got some deals.

What I bought:
Up and Up Dishwashing Gel, $2.99
Up and Up Fabric Softening on Clearance for $3.38
A bottle of cherry juicy juice, $2.99 minus a 75 cent coupon
Market Panry lunch meat, black forest ham and peppered turkey, 2 for $5, plus free pound of Green Giant baby carrots
Market Pantry Tomato Sauce, 4 16-ounce cans at 67 cents each
Archer Farms Raspberry Salsa, 2 on clearance for $2.54 each
Market Pantry Wheat Rotini, 12 ounces I think, 2 boxes at $1.01 each
Arnold 12 grain bread, $2.54 minus 75 cent Target coupon
Eggs, one dozen, $1.39 minus $1 off coupon
Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk and Silk Very Vanilla, $2.99 each minus $1 coupon
Up and Up freezer bags, $2.49
Hefty one-zip, gallon bags I believe, 2 boxes at $2.24 each minus $1 coupon
5 boxes Market Pantry mac and cheese, 67 cents each, minus coupon for 1 free box
Up and Up Laundry detergent, the BIG bottle that lasts me about 4 months, 2 of them at $13.19 each, minus $1.50 coupon, PLUS free $5 Target gift card
Degree antiperspirant, 8 of them in two packs, $3.99 each two-pack, plus $5 gift card
Arm and Hammer Cat Litter, two 28-pound boxes, $10.79 each, plus $5 gift card

Plus 20 cents in reusable bag discounts

Subtotal: 101.42
Team member discount: -8.98
Red Card discount: -3.87
Tax: $2.97
Total: $91.54 PLUS $15 in Target gift cards

Bagel Day

Today my daughter and I pooled our resources to buy an $8/bakers dozen of bagels.

Came home and husband cut them all in half for freezing. Each family member gets half a bagel per serving. A bagel packs a lot of carbohydrates and calories so half is perfect for a sandwich, a pizza bagel or peanut butter toast.

Today we hadn't had breakfast and we were out running errands so we made egg sandwiches around 11 a.m.

- 1 from-the-farm egg
- Morningstar breakfast strips (veggie bacon)
- velveeta (a gift)
- spinach dip
-buffalo blue cheese dip
On half a toasted jalapeño bagel

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Unconventional dinner

It's 10:40 pm.
I just got home from work.
Dinner is a glass of water, last year's firecracker carrots, Fra Angelica and rice.

Spicy pickles

I started some pickle liquid this morning making this into my brine:
- Ball dill pickle mix
- Indian chili pepper (powder)
- crushed red pepper
- white vinegar
- a few splashes apple cider vinegar
- water

For the "pickles"
- 4 medium pickling cucumbers (from my garden)
- 1 spicy pepper (from my garden)
- 1/2 a large red onion

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kale and tuna

Daughter made lunch today. Open faced tuna sandwiches with spinach dip and cheese on an English muffin, kale chips, and homemade basil pickles from the pickling cucumbers from our garden.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Canning Ball Fiesta Salsa

I have two very similar goals when it comes to my canning. 1. To save what we can't eat fresh out of the garden and 2. To save the excess of fresh produce we may get into the house.

I'm a novice canner and a half-baked gardener so I try to get some quality food for my family and to use that food to the farthest extent.

But I'm a small batch canner and I don't see that changing. In about two hours, I can make a few pints.

Not the drinking kind.

Today I'm using Ball's Fiesta Salsa mix to season some garden veggies into salsa. Someone gave me the mix.

What they called for and what I did ate slightly different.

We chopped:
- 3 huge tomatoes from the farm stand
- 3 tiny tomatoes from our garden
- 2 small peppers from our garden
- not quite 1/4 cup red onion
- 1/2 cucumber from our garden
- 1 large glove garlic

Yield: 6 cups

In my large Le Creuset saucepan I mixed:
- 4 tablespoons white vinegar, 5% acidity
- 2 tablespoons strawberry basil vinegar
- 1 packet Ball Fiesta Salsa mix
- 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Add vegetable/tomato mix. Heat to boiling. Simmer 5 minutes. Pack with 1/2 inch headspace.

I have 2 pints (one with more liquid than I'd like) and 2 half jelly jars. 35 minutes in boiling water canner.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fruit canning

We went to Piazza Farm this weekend for produce, including the best New Jersey watermelon.

Today we made a light syrup of sugar and local honey to can mixed fruit.

Our yield was 3.5 pints. Our fruit included: three peaches (one very large), two plums, two red plums, two white nectarines, two nectarines and a pear.

Waiting impatiently for them to come out of the hot water bath.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Red boats in a green sea

I think sometimes my daughter sees food as poetry. She was helping with dinner and she called the sauce in my skillet "red boats in a green sea."

So, what was it?

- some extra virgin olive oil
- a touch of butter
- a few pinches fresh ground black pepper
- basil from my garden
- chunks of tomato from my garden

Served on spinach ravioli, topped with a few pinches of shredded parmesan

basil update

Well, now I know why they say to use ice cube trays! The basil does not easily fall out of the mini muffin tins, even though they were sprayed. An ice cube tray can be twisted. Oh well. I went on to plan B.

Using a butter knife, I slipped it down between the basil and the tin. They popped right out.  Though a couple broke. But that's okay.

I had the Tupperware waiting to receive the basil blocks. Then returned them to the freezer as soon as possible. My house is still hot/humid and I didn't want them to melt and stick. If your house has A/C you might want to take the time to put wax paper or parchment between the layers.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Gayle's basil revisited

Hi this is Gayle and I've hijacked Angels blog again. It's been quite a while. (Maybe last year this time when we canned.) At one point I had hoped to do food tours and farm markets and we never quite got to doing that together. But we may, and if we do, be assured that I'll write about it. Food just doesn't work in my walking blog!

Last time I talked about preserving a motherload of basil was back in 2009. The scenario is about the same. This time I received an email from my neighbor that said, we have extra basil, do you want some?

He arrived late this afternoon carrying two basil trees. It was a lot of basil. Once you pick it the clock starts ticking. It turns black in a New York minute and my house, like Angel's, has no air conditioning. So the spoiling window is even smaller.

Last time I picked the leaves, put them on cookie sheets and put them in plastic zip bags. I really didn't like how it thawed. It was all limpy and broken. So this time I decided to do a twist on the "put pesto in an ice cube tray" idea.

I washed it, and dried it between two towels. I still have not bought a salad spinner. It's days like this I really want one. (The picture is about half the leaves.)

Then I put it in the food processor, a bit at a time and chopped it.

In the meantime, I took my mini cupcake tins (I don't have extra ice cube trays) and sprayed them with olive oil. You could use something like Pam. I just put oil in a small spray bottle. Then you can have lots of oils and no chemicals. Yes, sometimes it does get clogged.

I used a teaspoon, and picked up a lump of ground basil, and used the other hand to guide it into the cookie tin.

Finally, I put it in the freezer to harden. When they are hard, I'll pop them out, put them in an airtight container and use as I want. A brick or two to make pesto. A brick in my sauce or a stew.

Should work great and I won't have to try and cut slippery basil.

More garden pickling

Three more fairly large pickling cucumbers so we made three more jars of pickles and let our neighbor friend help.

We made one dill jar, one basil dill and one chive dill. (Using herbs from my garden.)

We used the Ball Blue Book as our guide.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Recent food

You can tell child is away.

Recent meals:
Kraft macaroni and cheese with peas and Parmesan.
Vouvray and jalapeño poppers.

And now a real lunch!
Chicken salad...
- Chicken
- mayo
- that tzayaki (sp) yogurt dressing I can never spell
- fresh ground black pepper
- country herb seasoning
- mandarin oranges
- golden raisins
- sliced almonds

To be served on Archer Farms Blueberry Breakfast bread with lettuce.