Two Easy, Delicious Dinners for Autumn

Green tomatoes are piled up in a basket, each turning red one by one.  There are spices in the cupboard.  We have piles of retrieved peppers before frost.

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Autumn Curry

Curries are so versatile and very easy.  For this one, I chopped up a head of cauliflower and rinsed a can of chickpeas.  I spread them out on a cookie sheet and drizzled generously with olive oil, and sprinkled on salt and pepper.  That went into a 425 degree oven for 30 minutes.

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If I had been thinking straight, I would have added one of the three dozen peppers waiting to be eaten.

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Now for the sauce.  In a good blender combine 5 red tomatoes, 1 Tb of your favorite curry powder, 2 Tb of cashews, 1 Tb tomato powder, 1 ts salt, 1 ts agave.  Blend well then taste and perfect.  Pour into a saucepan and warm slowly while vegetables are roasting.  Add 1 Tb butter or coconut oil and let that melt in.

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Get a big pot of rice made because you can use it all week!

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Alright, you are done!  Top rice with veggies and sauce and enjoy with a cold pumpkin beer!

Fried Eggs Over Greens and Potatoes with Hot Sauce

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I got out of the car after a long day of visiting relatives in Denver.  On my way to the porch I gathered the collard greens and picked some chives still in the garden.

I had read that morning in a magazine to smash parboiled potatoes and roast them, then top them with eggs and hot sauce.  It sounded so good to me.  But I always like to add a bit more.

Doug had boiled the potatoes before I got home just past parboiled.  This was a triumph because they came out of the oven creamy and crisp.  He transferred them to a cookie sheet smashed them with a saucer.  They had been in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes when I got home.  He then added a dollop of butter and salt and pepper to each one and I went straight to work on the greens.

Wash and chiffonade a good handful of greens.  Heat a skillet with a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and add greens.  I sprinkled on Cajun seasoning and garlic powder, along with salt and pepper and cooked them just past wilted.  Transfer to a plate.

Sprinkle bread crumbs on potatoes and keep baking.

No need to wipe out the skillet.  Add a touch more olive oil and cook four fresh eggs to over medium.

Split greens and potatoes on two plates and top with eggs and chives.  Serve with hot sauce.  Oh my, people, I cannot tell you how incredible this flavor combination is.  We grew all of the vegetables and our chickens laid the eggs.  A true farm meal.  And delicious.  And fast.  Also good with pumpkin beer.

 

Southwestern Chow-chow and Red Chile Corn Broth (2 ways to preserve corn)

20180821_153940 It is corn season!  I have put up two large bags of sweet corn from a farm ten minutes from here.  My neighbor came over on her lunch break for some coffee and I put her to work.  She had never shucked corn before but as we sipped our coffee she laughed as we removed corn worms and pieces of corn silk fell on her nicely pressed clothes.  Many hands make light work.  The more folks learn that those activities of old that take more time actually create a sense of peace of mind and calm that cannot be duplicated on social media, the more our generations will begin picking up a sewing needle, canning, and calling friends over to make soap.

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I put up ten pints of basic corn, ten pints of cinnamon sugar corn, and seven half-pints of Southwestern chow-chow.  “What is that?” you ask.  I have no idea, I made it up.  You see, I was going to make Amish chow-chow, apparently also a southern favorite, and went to following a recipe (not my strong point).  I had green peppers.  Then it called for red peppers, except my peppers haven’t turned red yet, but I did have a poblano and an Anaheim green chili in the garden.  So those went in instead.  I don’t love a lot of onion so I cut that amount down sharply.  No garlic?  Now, now, we must have garlic.  Three cloves.  By the time I was done I had a corn relish indeed, and it smelled heavenly, but it was made from a southwestern garden and it shows!

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Southwestern Relish (Chow-chow)

4 cups of corn

2 large green peppers, diced

2 poblano or green chili peppers, diced

1/8-1/4 cup of red onion, diced

3 stalks of celery, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 cup of sugar

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp smoked salt (optional)

1 Tbsp mustard powder

1 ts celery salt

1/2 ts of turmeric

2 cups of apple cider vinegar

Put everything but the corn in a good sized pan and boil for 5 minutes.  Add the corn and boil another 5 minutes.  Pour into 1/2 pints or pint jars leaving 3/4 inch headspace.  Clean rims, replace warm lids.  Water bath boil (in any old pot with water covering jars) for 15 minutes plus 1 minute per 1000 ft above sea level (I live at 4500 ft so I just round up to an extra 5 minutes.)  Makes 8 pints.

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Now we have a pile of corn cobs sky high on the counter.  The chickens love them but there is more to do to them before the chickies get ’em.  I already made several pints of plain, good, clear corn broth for soups and cooking throughout the winter but I want something in the root cellar with a little spunk.  So, I made several quarts of red chile corn broth.  And it is simple enough.

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Red Chile Corn Broth- Just pile up a large stew pot with corn cobs, onion, celery, a head of garlic, an onion, and a good helping of dried chili (red or green).  Add a bit of salt and pepper (you’ll add more seasoning as you cook with it so you don’t need much).  Fill it with water and simmer it for 2 hours.  Then ladle it into clean, warm quart jars leaving 1 inch headspace.  Clean the rim and replace the lid.  Pressure can for 25 minutes.  (10 pounds of pressure for most folks, all the weights for us high altituders.)

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Mama mia!  This is when I need an army of friends to help me clean up this kitchen!

 

Act 2- Culinary School

I was about six years old when I received my first cookbook.  I enjoyed cooking from it and helping my mother with dinner.  I made delicious desserts to take to youth group.  At sixteen I filled in as a cook for the daycare I worked at and created gourmet meals for the little ones.  I have always devoured food and wine magazines, watched every Martha Stewart episode, and never miss a good foodie movie.  Even as a vegan I read carefully how to make chorizo.  I won a national cooking contest through Frey Vineyards and have written four cookbooks.  Yet, it still surprised me (and my husband) that I would want to go to culinary school.  I have never even worked in a restaurant before! (I assume three weeks at Taco Bell doesn’t count.)  And yet, as I look forward to the second half of my life, it sounds like a very intriguing possibility.

I applied for the Culinary Program at a college an hour away.  I excitedly read the class offerings; knife skills, sauces, sustainable cooking, wine and spirits….

It didn’t take long for me to start doubting the whole thing.  What if I don’t get any financial aid? (I simply cannot take out another student loan!)  I want to spend time with my daughter and granddaughters at the store when they are there working, when will I go to school?  What if I have to drive at night?  My goodness, it sure didn’t take long for me to stand in my own way, did it?

I believe I will stop sabotaging myself and see how it all unfolds.  What’s the worst that can happen?

Whispered ideas and passions in your ear, what do you want to learn, create, do?  Follow that!  Life is waiting!

Quick Pickled Veggies

We have beautiful cucumbers and vibrant red carrots coming up in the garden.  Lush, fragrant basil, and bok choi leaves.  I have jars and jars of pickles I put up from last year but I wanted something really crisp and refreshing.  These are great to serve with any meal.  They are nutritious and little something different.  Quick pickled veggies are great on sandwiches, on fish, or on their own!  As the jar empties, you can always throw in another cucumber or carrot (or onion, or garlic, or beet…) to keep the batch going.  I suppose after a few rounds you will have to pitch it and make more.  But that’s okay, because it is super easy!

 

20180719_070512In a wide mouth pint jar add chopped veggies that would seem good pickled.  Add in a good sprinkle of salt and some pepper.  Maybe a little hot pepper.  I filled 1/3 of the jar with rice wine vinegar and 1/3 of a way with white wine vinegar that my friend, Rodney made.  Then I topped it off with a little filtered water so that the veggies are submerged.  Replace lid and shake.  Place in fridge for at least an hour.  Farm fresh eating!

Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!

A New Food History (the Garden Food Movement!)

20170917_154719Why is it so hard to eat healthy?  I often have wondered this.  I believe it is because as Americans we do not have our own food culture.  If we were from India we would crave curries and lentils and coconut.  If we were Japanese we would crave the tastes of sea weed and fresh vegetables.  We would crave the tastes of our genetic history, of fresh, local produce.  For someone like me, whose family has been in this country for over four hundred years (seriously, according to Ancestry.com no one in my family has come over since the 1700’s!) I have McDonalds and meatloaf to hold dear.  Monsanto lives here.  If it doesn’t have artificial flavors then it isn’t savory or sustaining enough.  It is just bland.  We crave the tastes of our youth!  American tacos, and steak, and canned vegetables!  Just kidding, I never crave canned vegetables.  But I can tell you that the folks that frequent the farmers markets have no clue what vegetables are local.

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Sure, we have regional specialties; fried chicken in the south, and clam chowder in the east, and we have adopted the cuisines of every other nation.  But we haven’t a clue about our own food history because a lot of times folks were just starving.  People of the world just started eating every animal in sight.  We have a genetic disposition for fear of starving or not having enough.

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People that come to America are always surprised at what our serving sizes look like.  One meal at a restaurant could feed a whole family!

That is why it is hard to eat healthy.  We don’t know what that looks like.

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We don’t have our own food history.  We have let big companies take over our food system.  But can we rewire our brains to crave certain foods?  Is it too late to simplify our palates?  I wonder.

It seems to me that a plate full of whole grains; farro, buckwheat, rice, barley, rye, topped with in-season vegetables of varying colors, and topped with a savory sauce of some sort; tomato based or smoked cashew or asian or red chile, would be amazing at every meal.  Inevitably we start craving restaurant food.  It is never as good as what we make at home yet there must be artificial ingredients and flavorings that our bodies crave.  Like it’s the taste of home, or something.

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The gardening season is coming up and I intend to retrain our taste buds!  We are now on a rather strict budget (time to practice what I preach) and we will not be gallivanting around restaurants anymore.  Eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, seeds, legumes, and nuts help us to avoid the more expensive, processed, nutritionally deplete foods and save A LOT on the grocery bill.  Pastas (homemade or not), homemade sourdough, whole grains, fresh, sauteed, or roasted vegetables from the gardens or market, fresh fruits, roasted nuts as toppings for meals, or made into sauces, or eaten as snacks, seeds added to delicious, crisp salads, and beans and other legumes seasoned and added to meals.  We will create our own food history.  The Garden Food Movement!  Not a diet, but a lifestyle.  The new food history of America.  One household at a time…

All of the above dishes are plant based.  It’s time we take back our health and our food.

Delicious Homemade Granola

taosAt a bed and breakfast in Taos, New Mexico in December we sat before a roaring fire in the kiva, a table was set for two.  The first course was so delicious and simple.  Yogurt topped with granola and drizzled with honey.  I don’t know if was the Christmas lights all around or the fire or the vacation but that tasted so good to me and I have been eating it nearly every morning since.

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I have written three vegan cookbooks and I am going to re-release one of the them soon.  I have been cooking my way through the book to make sure they are still great and came across my old recipe for granola.  It is so easy to make and makes a great big bag of it.  Add a few big handfuls to a bowl of yogurt.  I like So Delicious brand Cashew yogurt with vanilla.  There are many amazing non-dairy yogurts out there.

Drizzle with local honey or agave or maple syrup.  Delicious, nutritious, and your own bed and breakfast treat!

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Farmgirl’s Granola

6 cups of old fashioned oats

1 cup of nuts, such as slivered almonds, pecans, almonds

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar

1 T of spices, such as pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, etc

1/2 t salt

Mix all ingredients with 3/4 cup of organic olive, sunflower, or canola oil

Spread out on a large cookie sheet or broiler pan sprayed with non-stick oil spray.  Drizzle with maple syrup.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Fold in 1 1/2 cups of dried fruit of your choice, such as currants, raisins, acai, apple, etc.

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Continue baking for 20 more minutes.

Stir often as it’s cooling to prevent it from clumping or sticking to the pan.  When it is completely cool store it in a gallon freezer bag.

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How to Use Fresh Herbs

20180227_204739Fresh herbs are delicious and very good for you.  It takes awhile to get used to their intensity, but once you start using fresh herbs it becomes second nature.  Those crisp, strong flavors adds pizzazz to any dish.  Most of the time you will add fresh herbs at the end of cooking.

Using scissors is the easiest way to clip or chiffonade herbs.  For large leaves like basil and sage, roll into a tight roll and clip into ribbons.  The best way to store fresh herbs is like fresh flowers.  Place them in a glass of water in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle ribbons of fresh basil on pastas and pizza.

Clip oregano leaves on to pizza or put in crust before baking.  Fresh oregano livens up red and green chile.

Chives top salads and potatoes and soups.

Saute olive oil, garlic, brown sugar, a little salt and pepper, with sage leaves for a delicious pasta with sage sauce.

Roast root vegetables with rosemary, sage, thyme.  Or for a fresher taste, top roasted potatoes with herbs.

Cilantro goes beautifully piled on top of beans, rice, guacamole, or tortilla soup.

Mint and parsley with garlic and lemon liven up veggie meats and vegetables.

Be brave!  And add spice, health, and freshness to supper.  Make sure you plant these lovely herbs.  They are even better straight from the garden!

Creative Ways to Cook With A Lot More Vegetables

_BBF2511_gThere is something about the various colors of vegetables that I find so beautiful.  Artists for centuries have been painting their curves, their textures, their light.  Vegetables are among the most appealing sights to me.  It fuels my gardening.  It fuels my diet.

I am still surprised when people tell me that they, or their spouse, or their children do not eat vegetables.  Missing out on that satisfying crunch, the way the savory slices gather in sauce and spices, the bright colors creating a mesmerizing palette on the dinner table.

I will never forget when my friend, Nancy, and I were running our market booth and two women came over and pointed at green, frilly leaves and asked, “What’s that?”  We stared at them for a minute.  “Lettuce,” we replied.  “What do you do with it?” they inquired.

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So, perhaps folks do not know what to do with vegetables.  Here are some ideas to easily incorporate lots of glorious colors, textures, and flavors into your meals.  Listen, if mama is cooking, the folks around the table are going to eat it.  We raised our children vegetarian.  Their primary diet was vegetables!  They never turned their nose up because they were never given an option.  That goes for men too.  No one got their own meals.  There were no chicken nuggets and fries for the kids while we ate crisp slices of eggplant with spaghetti.  The kids (and this goes for how school lunches should be too) should eat the same fabulous food as adults.  That is how they learn to love vegetables.

With that, let’s get cooking!

First buy or grow lots of beautiful, organic produce.  Whatever appeals to you or interests you.  Now think of a theme.

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If you want to go Asian- chop maybe five different vegetables (like cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, and red pepper) and saute them with tamari, scallion oil, a touch of orange juice, and serve topped with peanuts or cashews and rice.

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If you want to go Italian- slice eggplant real thin and bread in flour, non-dairy milk, then panko and fry or bake.  Put salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and oregano in the flour and panko mixtures.  Make your own sauce by sauteing onions and garlic, then add in diced tomatoes, and simmer with dried basil, oregano, a touch of thyme and paprika, a dash of wine, then top with basil as you add it to the pasta.  Or just pick out a great pasta sauce.

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Pizza night- Layer pizza sauce on thin pizza dough (15 minutes to make tops).  Layer on (or for more depth, saute first in olive oil) oyster or lobster mushrooms (these aren’t your slimy canned bit, they taste like seafood), red and green peppers, black olives, and diced eggplant and zucchini.  Top with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, maybe a bit of truffle salt and a swirl of truffle oil.  Bake.

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Maybe you want Mexican food tonight- How about sauteed red and green peppers and onions in mini-tacos.  Maybe add diced, roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or zucchini.  Pinto beans with green chilies. Top with salsa (which is a vegetable), guacamole (best vegetable), lettuce, tomato, and a creamy vegan cashew queso (5 minutes to make).  Serve with a margarita (not a vegetable, sadly).

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Spanish calls for paella with its slow cooked rice, savory seasonings like garlic and paprika, and lots of finely diced vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale.

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Indian food is quite easy with its various curries and sauces using any vegetable but especially lentils, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

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Create a hash by sauteing or baking onion, garlic, bright colored peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  You can add in crushed up tofu colored with turmeric for scrambled eggs.  If you have farm fresh eggs from happy chickens, you can throw all the vegetables you have into a cast iron pan, saute, then add eggs to make a frittata.

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Soups are always comforting and easy to put together.  With most meals start with a sofrito.  A sofrito is a blend of onion, garlic, celery, and carrots slowly sauteed in olive oil.  Then add diced veggies.  Any and all combinations.  Then add spices depending on what theme you chose.  Then add rich vegetable broth or bouillon.  At the end you could add a bit of cashew cream or almond milk for creaminess.  Add lots of beans.  Use an immersion blender to hide the Brussels sprouts if need be.

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A few tips:

Garlic should go in everything!

Top dishes with toasted pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or walnuts.

Add beans, lentils, or dried peas.

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Serve with pasta, big hunks of warm Italian bread and olive oil, rice, cooked rye, barley, or quinoa or homemade croutons.

Roasted vegetables cooked with rosemary, thyme, and garlic increase flavor and are wonderful served with bread and salad.

Top dishes with a drizzle of great olive oil or flavored olive oil.

A touch of sugar balances acidity in tomatoes.

Spices, spices, spices.  Layer flavors as you cook.

Put on some music (preferably Andrea Bocelli), pour a glass of wine, put your apron on, and enjoy cooking.  Vegetarian food takes half the time to prepare and is real easy on the wallet.  Antioxidants and nutrients kill disease and make healthy kids and hubbies.  And vegetables taste great!  Bon Appetit!

 

 

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