Meandering down a path of Creativity

Posts tagged ‘vegetarian’

Stretching the Food Budget- Waste Not, Want Not…

My seedlings are in that stage where I’m just waiting for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. The only news on that front is that about half of my mouse melons, aka Mexican Sour Gherkins, sprouted yesterday- this is my first year growing them, and I am very excited about that! I was surprised that it only took about 4 days for them to begin poking up through the soil! My seedlings are all in that stage that requires an abundance of patience, as I watch and wait for them to get big enough to begin hardening off. I have a circulating fan that will be set up to blow on them later today, and I’ll probably begin re-potting and thinning the tomatoes tomorrow. So anyway, that’s the ‘State of the Garden’ report.

Since I don’t have any garden tips today, I figured that this would be a good time to share one method of stretching the food budget. There is a lot of food waste in this country, and I often shake my head at the price of convenience. I try very hard to use up everything I can, and waste as little as possible. As well as being earth-friendly, it’s usually good for the body and less expensive than making ‘convenience’ purchases, too. I’m not going to go all preachy about that stuff, though. I’ll simply say that there was a time when boxed or canned broths were not available, and people needed to make them from scratch. With all of the food allergies and sensitivities people are beginning to recognize, it’s become a necessity for some of us, but it’s surprisingly easy to do, and is a great way to give your recipes an extra punch of both flavor and nutrition, and bonus- it’s pretty much free!

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Recipe- Creamy Potato Florentine Soup (GFree, vegan option, leftovers)

What do you do with leftover mashed potatoes & spinach? Make soup!

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Zoe’s Summer Squash Soup

Another squash recipe! It’s gluten-free, it’s vegan, and it uses up a lot of squash! Oh, and it’s pretty darn tasty, too! This soup recipe works great with either just zucchini or a mix of zucchini and crook neck or straight neck yellow summer squash… I’m sure it would work well with patty pan squash, too, but I haven’t tried that yet. It’s also excellent if you add a couple of cloves of minced or chopped garlic in with the onions, but since Mom can’t have garlic, my standard recipe doesn’t include that. Oh, and it fits in with my ‘waste not, want not’ philosophy- you know those giant zucchini that seem to appear overnight, with the giant seeds and tough, spongy flesh? They are perfect for the broth base!

Two giant squash from my garden, with playing cards and veggie peeler for scale

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Recipe: Baked Zucchini ‘Fries’- Vegan, Gluten Free

Do you have a garden? Are you growing any summer squash- yellow crook neck, yellow straight neck, zucchini, patty pans? Are any of your neighbors or local friends growing summer squash? If so, then odds are good that you, like me, have begun looking for new and interesting ways to use it up!

Aside from the standard steamed squash, I’ve got a few other ‘go to’ recipes for the annual summer squash glut. They include stuffing & baking, making squash soup, grilling, and fritters. That list of go-to recipes now also includes this one…

Oven-Baked Squash ‘Fries’ (more…)

Maple Hazelnut Birthday Cake- GF, eggless, vegan*

The creation of a birthday cake: a glimpse into my mind…
(The cake is vegan. The frosting is not)

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Garden Project: Seed Paper (aka Seed Tape)

So the weather has broken and the ground has begun to thaw, and my thoughts are on the garden! The tomato, pepper, and eggplant seeds have been started in the little trays, and now it’s time to get the parsnips and carrots in the ground!

The problem with parsnip seeds is that they are tiny, flat and lightweight; they’re very aerodynamic! Trying to place them, with accurate spacing, directly into the ground is not as easy as one might expect, especially as breezy as it tends to be around here at this time of year! And carrot seeds, though they’re not flat & prone to flying off like the parsnip seeds do, are just tiny and a bit awkward.

One solution to make life easier is to go buy seed tape. This is a strip of paper-type stuff that has the seeds embedded in it. You bury the strip at the proper depth, and only have to worry about the row spacing because the seeds are already spaced in the ‘tape’. The ‘tape’ dissolves once it’s been planted. It’s a great concept, but it can be expensive, and you’re stuck with whatever varieties of seeds the companies offer.

I’m a bit of a cheapskate, and a foodie, to boot. The commercially available seed tape just doesn’t do it for me. I decided to make my own. It’s easy, and can be done with stuff pretty much anyone has around the house. It also makes the garden set up a lot easier on your back!

What you’ll need:

seeds of your choosing

paper

flour paste (instructions given below)

Tools: scissors; some way of getting a drop of glue onto the paper (I use an eyedropper, but if you don’t have one, you can use a stick, a cheap, fine paint brush, or even a toothpick); some way of measuring; a clean workspace; a cloth or paper towels for wiping up stray glue drips. If you are really particular about exact placement, toothpicks are useful for moving the seeds & glue.

You also need to know the size of the space you’ll be putting the seed paper into, so you know how much paper you need to make.

Here’s a photo of everything I used for the carrot seed paper I made yesterday:

Everything you need to make seed paper...

As you can see, I use cheap, single-ply, septic-safe bathroom tissue (referred to as “TP” from here on out) as the paper. It dissolves readily when saturated, which is a good thing, once it’s been planted! I use my fabric cutting mat as my workspace. I like to do it this way because it’s easily cleaned in case of spills, and the measured markings are visible through the thin TP, which makes spacing the seeds a lot easier. You can use pretty much any lightweight paper, though. Paper towels, old newspapers, etc. If you’re not using TP, you’ll just need to cut your paper into strips of anywhere from 1 to  4 inches wide (much wider than 4 inches becomes difficult to work with when planting).

The little bowl that’s to the right of the mat with a fork resting on top of it? That’s my flour paste. I used rice flour, because we don’t actually have wheat flour in the house due to gluten sensitivity, but you could use wheat flour, cornstarch, potato starch… pretty much any really fine powdered starch or flour would work here. To make it, you just put some flour in a bowl, dish, paper cup or whatever, then add some water to make a paste. I would start with 3 parts flour to 1 part water and stir- I started with around 1/4 cup of flour. The amount of water you need will vary a bit, depending on what kind of flour/starch you’re using.  If it’s smooth and combined, and somewhere between the consistency of thick gravy and white glue, you’re good!

If it’s too thick (most likely it will be), add more water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time, and stir, until you’re at the desired consistency. WARNING: There’s a very fine line between too little water and too much. If you make it too thin, just add another spoonful or so of flour and mix well. Oh, and be sure to not let this stuff dry on anything that you can’t let soak in hot water! It can be a real nightmare to get off!

Okay, so now you have all of your materials and supplies ready, let’s get on to the making!

Take a strip of your paper and lay it out at an angle that’s comfortable for you. I used a 4-sheet long strip of TP, because that’s an easy length for me to work with. Check your seed packet to check the recommended spacing for your seeds, and put your seeds on the paper at the recommended intervals:

Now that the seeds are laid out where you want them, give your paste a stir (it usually starts to separate if it’s left to sit for more than a minute or so), and put a drop of paste onto each seed:

Don’t worry if the glue drop isn’t centered just right on each seed; the glue just needs to be touching the seed to hold it in place. If you’re a very detail-oriented person, you can use a toothpick to manipulate the glue and seeds into exactly the right spot, but honestly, it is not necessary.

The next step is to put another strip of paper on top of the one that you just seeded & glued, and gently but firmly pat it down. The glue is going to hold the top piece and bottom piece together, with the seed in between:

Don’t worry if some of the seeds are not laying flat in the glue or if a seed or 2 seems to be poking out of the paper. As long as it’s in the glue, it’ll stay put.

If you are doing a single row of seeds at a time, you can use a single piece of paper. Just place the seeds along one side of the paper, and after applying the glue, fold the other side of the paper over. Personally, I find it’s easier to use 2 sheets, and I use the width of the paper as a way of measuring the row spacing, so I don’t do it that way. You can if you want, though.

Now all that’s left is to let them dry and then get them in the ground!

Once the seed paper has been assembled, I carefully lift them and turn them over, and lay them out flat to dry for a while. In my very, very dry house, with the super lightweight TP, it takes about an hour or 2 for them to dry enough to be gently stacked and put away. I’d advise putting anything on top of them, as the paste most likely won’t dry all the way through for a day or so, and even when it has dried all of the way through, you don’t want to risk crushing the seeds!

So that’s what I’ve been up to.

I hope you’ve found this to be interesting, informative, and helpful! This is my first foray into adding my own photos to the blog, so I hope they were helpful, too. Many thanks go to my mom for jumping in to take some photos of the gluing and patting process!

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup (dairy-free, gluten-free)

I decided that, since we’re dealing with recipes, they should each go into their own post. Hopefully that will make life easier for anyone who needs to search the archives for something specific in the future.

Recipe 2: Roasted Sweet Potato Soup

Loosely based on this recipe: http://healthyblenderrecipes.com/recipes/creamy_vegan_roasted_sweet_potato_soup/

So, the night that I wrote the post about how to breakdown a large cut of meat into smaller portions for several meals, I used one of my pork roasts for dinner. We had it with roasted sweet potatoes and ‘sugar snap’ pea pods. Now, I had happened across the recipe I linked above a while back and had been wanting to try it, but I don’t like to run the oven just for roasting up some veg- I prefer to keep it more efficient than that. So, since I had a whole bunch of sweet potatoes from the trip to the market, I popped them all in the oven while the pork was roasting, and then stuck what we didn’t eat into the fridge to make this soup the next day. It came out really nicely and was a hit all around.

What you’ll need:

– Food processor or motorized chopper/blender thing to grind up the nuts into a smooth puree

Stock pot or large pot with a minimum capacity of 12 quarts (You can scale the recipe down if you don’t have a pot large enough to handle this)

– Immersion Blender (aka stick blender- Optional– it just makes the soup pureeing a LOT easier)

4-6 lbs cooked sweet potatoes, peeled (I’ll include how I cooked mine below)

– 1/2 small to medium sized onion, chopped (I used a sweet onion, but any white or yellow onion would be good here)

– 2 Tbs olive oil

– 10-12 cups cooking liquid (I used a combination of vegetable broth, squash soup base I made and canned last summer, and the liquid the sweet potatoes cooked in. You could use vegetable broth and/or chicken broth, but I highly recommend using the sweet potato cooking liquid, as it gives a little extra oomph to the soup flavor)

– 1 c macadamia nuts, unsalted, soaked and pureed (if you don’t have macadamias, cashews would work here, too- if you want the macadamia flavor, but are using cashews, try adding a teaspoon or so of unsweetened flaked coconut to the pot at the same time as the cooking liquid)

 seasonings of your choice (I used about 1 Tbs of thyme, and the squash soup base added approximately 1/4 tsp marjoram, a dash of onion powder and some salt)

– 1 Tbs cider vinegar

What to do:

Cooking the sweet potatoes:

Give the sweet potatoes a quick scrub under running water. Cut them up into chunks that are maybe 2-3 inches on a side. I don’t bother peeling them at this point. Put them in an oven-safe pan. (I lined mine with foil for easy clean-up.) Important: No potatoes should be above the edge of the pan. Add water so it’s about halfway up the wall of the pan, and either put on a tight fitting lid or seal the top with foil. You don’t want the water to escape as steam, so really crimp that foil down on the pan edges. Pop them in a preheated oven at about 350F for an hour or so, until the sweet potatoes are fully cooked. Take off the lid and allow them to cool enough to be handled.

Making the soup:

At least 6 hours before starting the soup, pour a few cups of hot water over the macadamia nuts and allow to soak for an hour or 2. Drain the water, rinse the nuts, add more water and allow to soak until you’re ready to start the soup.

Change the water in the nuts again.

Chop up the onion, and, in a stock pot (or whatever you like to use for soup), saute in the oil until translucent. Add the thyme and marjoram, giving it a stir to distribute the herbs. Add about 10 cups of cooking liquids and heat this soup base over medium to medium high.

While the soup base heats, peel the sweet potatoes and add them to the pot as you go. (The peels compost very nicely!) Once all of the sweet potatoes are added, put the lid on your pot and allow it to come to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it’s boiling, remove the lid and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Taste, and adjust your seasonings. Allow to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Drain & rinse your macadamias one last time, then add them to the bowl of your food processor, along with about 1 cup of your soup base. Puree until as smooth as possible- any little bits that are not ground up now will be in the finished soup.

Remove the soup from the heat, add the macadamia puree to the pot, stir & put the lid back on. Walk away for 10-15 minutes.

At this point, you can either blend the soup in batches in your food processor or use your stick blender to puree it in the pot. Use more of the cooking liquid to thin it out, if the consistency is too thick for you.

Once it’s pureed, give it another taste to check if it needs salt or any other seasoning adjustments and then serve with bread and butter (a nice cornbread would be a perfect accompaniment to this soup!)

BONUS: Since there’s no dairy, leftovers can be frozen without worry of separation or curdling!

Please don’t forget to let me know what you think if you give this a try!

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