Archive forOctober, 2012

Garlic and Onion Powders

It’s 11 p.m. on Monday night and Hurricane Sandy is whipping around outside. Our lights have briefly blinked a few times but has so far our power held steady. The wind is definitely raging and the rain has been fairly intense for a few hours, but I think Northern Virginia is faring a bit better than NYC and other areas north of us. So far we’re safe, dry, warm, and enjoying our electricity here at I Eat Food.

I mentioned my homemade garlic and onion powders and their awesomeness in a recent post, which earned a couple of interested comments, and since Saturday was the last farmers market of the season, I grabbed a bunch of garlic and onions so I could make up some more of each of the powders and document it for you, although believe me, if you have a dehydrator, it’s dead easy. Basically you simply dry the garlic or onions and grind them up. But if you’d prefer to see some photos and read my commentary, by my guest! (If not, scroll down for pictures of a wonderful hawk!)

I haven’t done this without a dehydrator, although I’m sure it’s just as simple to do it in your oven set at its lowest temperature. It’ll just take less time and you’ll want to check it periodically. Actually, garlic takes a REALLY long time in the dehydrator, so for small amounts, there may be some benefit in doing it in the oven. The onions might be a different story; you’d have to watch them much more closely and make sure they don’t cook.

I started doing this because, well, I’ve been going nuts with the dehydrator since I got it, but really mostly because I LOVE the garlic (a potent German variety) at my farmers market and I was thinking how sad I was going to be when it was no longer available. So I started buying a few more heads than I needed each week and dehydrating them to make garlic powder. Of course, the powder isn’t going to replace fresh garlic; I’m just going to have to resort to grocery store garlic throughout the winter (I just shed a tear), but it’s nice to have the good stuff in some format. And my powders are soooooo much better than that bland, tasteless stuff you can buy in stores. When I’m feeling really lazy – or if, god forbid, I’m snowed in (or hurricaned in!) this winter – I won’t be ashamed to toss in some of these powders instead of small amounts of fresh garlic or onions. But enough introduction, here’s what I did:

I’ll start with the garlic. You can make any amount of this you want. For this batch I used 10 heads of garlic from the farmers market, which resulted in over 2 cups of garlic powder.

This is the worst part of making either powder: peeling the garlic. I saw this tip on The Kitchn a while back so this time I thought I’d try it. I think it might work better for grocery store garlic, but it didn’t hurt to do it. One of the great things about the garlic I get at the market is it’s actually pretty easy to peel; it has a thick skin I can often pop off without even banging it with a knife. Anyway, the first thing I did was smash each head of garlic on my chopping block. They are strong, so I had to bang each one a couple of times, but soon the cloves fell apart. (You can see that for many of these cloves, I could just take the peel off them at this point without a struggle.)

Of those cloves with peels that were a bit more fussy, I put 2 or 3 heads worth into a mason jar and then put a lid on it.

Then I shook the jar vigorously for several seconds …

… then dumped them out. I was able to remove all the peels without using a knife using this method.

Look at the mess of garlic peels I made in my sink!

And here’s my peeled garlic:

Next you want to slice the garlic as thinly as possible. The thinner you slice it, the faster the dehydrating time, and as I mentioned, garlic takes a long time to dehydrate enough to powder. If your garlic has sprouts in the cloves, you can optionally remove them at this time. I removed the sprouts, small versions of which existed in most of the cloves. This took a long time and I’m not sure it was really entirely necessary, but I remove them at any other time, so I went ahead and did it.


Slice each clove at least in half lengthwise. Depending on their size, you may want to slice some into thirds or fourths. The thinner you slice them, the less time to dehydrate.

Arrange the sliced cloves on dehydrator trays; don’t allow them to touch. My ten heads took about 2 1/2 large trays.

Pop them in the dehydrator and fire it up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Next I started on the onions. This is less fiddly. Simply peel and dice as many onions as you want. I used four quite large onions, which resulted in about 1 1/3 cups powder. If you are sensitive to onions when chopping them, as I am, definitely wear goggles.

Arrange the diced onions on dehydrator trays. With onions, you don’t need to worry about the no-touching rule; just spread them out in a single layer. I put about one onion’s worth on each large tray.

Slide those trays into the dehydrator to join the garlic. Dehydrate until the onions are completely dry and very crisp. I usually wait 24 hours, though they are probably ready before that. It’s hard to over-dry them. Remove from the dehydrator and let cool completely on their trays. Don’t skip the cooling step because you don’t want them to sweat on each other if you mix them up while they are still warm. You must keep everything as dry as possible.

Now, you can stop here if you want to keep some dehydrated onions in this diced format. I have a couple jars of these and they are nice to have on hand. You can throw them into super-quick soups, use them in dips or dressings, or even use them as a crunchy topping on casseroles, salads, and other dishes.

If you are making powder, simply grind them in batches (I do about a cup at a time) in a very dry spice (a.k.a. coffee) grinder or blender. Don’t blend too long; just enough to make the powder.

Now, the garlic. You have to be a bit more careful with it than the onions. Remove each tray from the dehydrator and examine each clove to decide if its dry or not.

What I do is take a bowl, pick up each clove individually, and attempt to snap the clove in half. If it resists or bends at ALL, put it back on the tray. If you are unsure, put it back on the tray. If it breaks in two but feels at all soft or mushy, or doesn’t break with a satisfying *snap*, put it back on the tray. Only accept cloves that are brittle. Garlic takes a really long time and it must be bone dry before you attempt to grind it. Usually the first time I go to collect it, about half of it is completely dry. When I’m in a dehydrating frenzy, I’ll just leave the remaining cloves in the dehydrator as I load it up with other items. You can’t over-dry it, so err on the side of caution. It’s been 30 hours and I still have half of the cloves I put in last night in there. The good news is they are dry enough that if we do lose power, there’s no rush to finish them. In the summer, I’d sometimes let the “almost-dones” sit in the dehydrator while it was off until I’d had a chance to slice up some other vegetables or fruits.

Again, spread the cloves out and let them cool completely before grinding them. When they are cool, grind them in the spice grinder or blender until powdered. This is about half of the 10 heads I started with and is about 1 1/4 cups of powder.

Transfer both powders to clean jars. They both, especially the onion, have a slight tendency to clump, although I’ve found it less pronounced than some brands of store-bought powders. Any lumps I do see very easily stir right out. Stick a silicone packet in the jar to prevent lumping. I’m using silicone packets I found in a tub of miso, but any will do. These smell amazing when you open the jar – like actual onions and garlic! Not dust, like store-bought powders. I’ve made a ton of each and I’m worried about going through it before spring brings me more farmers market garlic!

Last week I had to transport a red-shouldered hawk that had fallen or flown into a half-drained swimming pool (where he perhaps saw or imagined he saw some prey) and was unable to get out. This is because hawks can’t swim and once they end up submerged in water, they can’t get back out. Fortunately for this guy, the owner of the pool called Animal Control, who collected him from the pool. Then I was summoned to take him to the Raptor Conservancy of Virginia. Now, when I got the call about this I was very excited. I love all the little birds and squirrels and bunnies I usually drive around, but a HAWK?! Now THAT’s exciting! Plus I’m a huge fan of the Raptor Conservancy so I was thrilled to drive out there with my new hawk buddy. Kent Knowles is a really good educator and was happy to let me sit by as he gave “my” hawk a once-over to check for injuries (fortunately, he was just wet), and he showed me some of the other birds. And now I need to decide if I have the time to volunteer some time with them. I really want to because RAPTORS! I LOVE them. But I’m SO busy as it is I think I might be crazy. This full-time job of mine is a real hindrance…

Anyway, here is my red-shouldered hawk friend. Isn’t he beautiful? He’s lucky his shenanigans didn’t do more damage, but he was prescribed a few days to dry out, then he was to be put in a flight cage where he’ll have to prove he can a) fly and b) catch his own dinner. As soon as he proves himself, he’ll be released near where he was found, and hopefully he’ll have learned his lesson about swimming pools.

Checking his wings for damage (none was found):

Okay, finally, this has NOTHING to do with food or even wildlife, but IT’S THE MOST HILARIOUS VIDEO EVER so I just have to share it. I hardly ever watch Youtube videos but this is completely awesome. (A young) Glenn Danzig shares his book collection. Mark and I can’t stop quoting it, and Mark’s been hopping around the house parodying it non-stop (“Welcome to my stuffed animal collection,” etc.) Welcome to my book collection!

And now to try to fall asleep to the wrathful sounds of Sandy…. I hope those of you in the Mid-Atlantic with me are faring okay, especially those in areas harder hit.

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Maravilla Guesthouse, Puerto Rico

I decided I couldn’t stand to be in Virginia or even the United States for my birthday this year, but after our two-week European vacation earlier this year and summer trip to the mountains of North Carolina, Mark was low on vacation time and our vacation fund was low on cash, so I needed to find something exotic I could do in just a few days. I did some googling, looking for cheap, close-but-not-that-close, vegan-friendly places and soon found something rather unexpected: a vegan B&B in Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico wasn’t really near the top of the rather-long list of places I want to go. In fact, I’d been trying to make Ireland happen, but Ireland was just too much for a few days. I quickly realized, however, that Puerto Rico was genius. It’s a U.S. territory, meaning no Customs hassle – and Mr Best Friend with the expired passport wouldn’t have an excuse not to accompany me – yet not like the U.S. at all. It’s only a 3 1/2-hour flight away. I’d been lamenting the fact we never made it to the beach this summer and Puerto Rico would more than make up for that grievous wrong. It’s inexpensive. According to my adventure map pretty much the entire island is a wildlife refuge. There was someone willing to make me three vegan meals a day in a very meat-centric culture. Puerto Rico it was!

One small drawback is although the flight from the East Coast to San Juan is short, which is great, we had to immediately follow it up with a 2 1/2-hour drive across the island to get to Maravilla Guesthouse. If you make the same trip, follow Margo’s directions instead of your GPS because the route our GPS took us was a tiny, treacherous mountain road that was over an hour of constant hairpin turns and, though hopefully this won’t happen to you, it’s a common occurrence on the island – I had to drive it all in a raging thunderstorm. Was I ever happy to finally arrive at…

We dashed inside out of the rain and Margo showed us to the second floor, our home for the next four days. There are two bedrooms, which four of us were sharing. This was Mark’s and my bedroom. That’s a king-sized bed, which was super comfortable. The other bedroom is nearly as cute, but this one was my favorite.

The hosts, Margo and Mark, are artists, and made much of the furniture and art. It’s an adorable, very comfy, and charming place. Here is the living room. Not shown is a large DVD collection of quirky titles that shares about a 90% overlap with our own collection.

There are also games and books, although we had absolutely no time for any of them!

After we dropped our bags, Margo opened the balcony doors…and our harrowing drive was instantly forgotten. Even in the rain, the view was amazing. The balcony peeks out over a canopy of tropical trees, beyond which stretches hills punctuated by pockets of civilization, the lights of which twinkle bewitchingly at night. Margo showed us how to hang hammocks on the balcony but had just one request…that we keep quiet out there so as not to disturb…THE NESTING HUMMINGBIRD in an eave just next to the balcony!

Staying in the cottage is just one option at Maravilla. Also on the large property is a cabin. I didn’t choose the cabin because it doesn’t have electricity, but if we ever go back, I think I’d like to try it out for a night or two. Yes, there is a cabin in this picture, in the midst of the tropical forest.

Not only does it not have electricity, but parts of it don’t have walls! (And the top floor doesn’t have a roof!) (This is actually neater than it probably sounds!)

I think it’d be fun to cook outdoors…sometimes. There’s propane in the kitchen, so despite the lack of electricity in the cabin, the kitchen is actually more functional than the small one in the cottage, which only has a microwave and toaster.

The cottage kitchen may not be very expansive, but that doesn’t matter because Margo is a great chef! We requested “DIY” breakfasts and lunches and full-service dinners. What that meant is upon our arrival, our refrigerator was stocked with homemade waffles, bread, muffins, pastries, ginger tempeh, fruit, empanadas, bean burgers, cookies, and beverages, all of which we needed only heat up if we wished, and all of which packed well to take with us on adventures. Then at 7 each night we sat down to a 4-course meal by candlelight. I didn’t take my camera down to dinner the first night, but I did take (somewhat crappy) pictures the second two nights. Friday was my birthday. That dinner started of with a green salad (grown on site) with orange fennel dressing:

Followed by walnut soup …

… and vegan cheese cilantro quesadilla with guava topping:

This picture does NOT do the main course justice AT ALL; it was MUCH tastier than it looks here. It’s spinach-stuffed seitan in a wine sauce served with cassava with onions and peppers:

Oops, started on the chocolate cake with orange-chocolate sauce before taking the picture!

Saturday night began with a chayote-apple salad with orange-fig balsamic dressing and cold coconut cilantro soup …

… and breadfruit tostones with Puerto Rican dip (we scarfed these down so fast Margo and her helper felt obliged to make us another serving…soooo good!):

And a main of coconut-fried tofu on rice noodles with vegetables.

Cardamom banana ice cream with chocolate truffle cookie for dessert.

Eating all of this delicious food was probably the highlight for me, but there are plenty of non-food-related things to do on the grounds. One of my favorite activities was chasing lizards.

Friday morning while waiting for the boys to wake up, I took a walk by myself. So lush:

Gorgeous views:

Lemons and limes all OVER the place. And bananas!

In fact, I ran into a sweet couple picking bananas; they very kindly obliged when I asked with gestures to take a picture. I wish I spoke better (read any) Spanish so I could ask them why they were burning the leaves.

Yeah. The tropics.

It started to get hot and humid, so I headed back to the cottage and rounded everyone up to head to the beach. We drove towards Rincon and stopped at the first beach we found, Tres Hermanos. There was NO ONE there but us. The water was close to 80 degrees. It was SOOOOO serene and peaceful. I happily swam for a couple of hours and can’t imagine a better birthday!

Margo and Mark also have a beach house near Rincon, although we didn’t go there so I don’t have pictures. But if we go back, I’d definitely spend a couple nights there as well. I’ve never had an entire sea to myself before!

Saturday we found Gozalandia waterfall, which is about an hour from Maravilla. We had to pay $5.35 to park, although that’s apparently a lot better than how you used to have to access it, which required trespassing on private property, GPS coordinates, and a lengthy hike. Now there’s a parking lot just a 2-minute hike from the falls. Two minutes if it HASN’T JUST RAINED, that is. Of course, it began pouring as soon as we arrived, so we got back in the car and ate our Maravilla empanadas until the sun came back out. The rain had made the very steep trail extremely slick, so we had to be very careful not to break our necks or my camera equipment. It was very much worth it, however. The only bad part was we hadn’t brought our swimsuits, which sucked because the falls pour into a gorgeous swimming hole and the people in it looked like they were having a blast.

How cute are Fortinbras and his boyfriend Stephen??

The SECOND I packed up my camera, the skies opened up again and there was a HUGE downpour. Completely unprepared (although I do very fortunately carry a protective rain cover for my camera bag everywhere I go, so my camera was prepared), we got DRENCHED. And I do mean DRENCHED. I was more wet after walking back to the car from the waterfall than I had been stepping out of the sea the day before. Probably because we had TOWELS the day before! Despite looking and feeling like drowned rats, we headed off to the Arecibo Observatory. A still-drenched Renae:

Arecibo is home to the largest radio telescope in the world. Mark wanted to see it because of its connection to SETI and the X-Files. I wanted to see it because I like astronomy and physics. Fortinbras and Stephen wanted to see it because Science, and it’s been in a lot of movies and even a video game. It was really neat and worth the scary drive that Stephen’s GPS once again tortured us with (we took a more road-like road back home). It looks like alien technology to me! (Please note: I do not really believe aliens made the telescope at Arecibo. Or the pyramids. Or anything else the History Channel insultingly thinks humans are too stupid to have invented.)

Whew, still with me? I’ll let you go in just a sec, but in conclusion, I had a FABULOUS birthday and I highly recommend Maravilla Guesthouse for a vegan, Caribbean getaway. Puerto Rico is an interesting place. It’s quite lovely, although I was disconcerted by the number of dogs on the side of the roads. You can’t drive 50 feet without seeing at least one dog – and perhaps a horse, and often some chickens – lying on, sitting in, or running along the side of the road, which I find terrifying, although only one of them got too near my car. (Well, two if you count one of the dogs at Maravilla, but I was in HER driveway!) You also can’t drive 5 feet without seeing the face of a political candidate stuck on a tree or post. They apparently take their elections very seriously. Although by “seriously” I also mean they drive around in parades, honking horns, with giant flags poking out their car windows, shouting over enormous loudspeakers, encouraging you to vote for their candidate at all hours of the night and day. Between the dogs and horses and chickens and ad hoc political parades and narrow mountain roads without guard-rails and oncoming traffic driving in the middle of the road and 10″-deep rain gutters and rain spilling out of those gutters and constant switchbacks…well, driving in Puerto Rico is an experience. Totally worth it though! Even if the one cat I managed to get near HATED MY GUTS. Look at him run from me!

Aaaand finally, it’s almost over, but today is Mark’s birthday! (Yes, our birthdays are very close, and our anniversary is next week!) Happy birthday, handsome husband!

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Meadowlark Gardens

I have several ideas for posts, but time…is…getting…away…from…me. Aaaaaand we’re leaving for a few days in Puerto Rico early Thursday morning. So although I didn’t have time to put together a food post, I thought I would make a quick post tonight celebrating my favorite month, October, before it’s gone.

I’d been looking for new places to take pictures in Northern Virginia and I read about Meadowlark Gardens in nearby Vienna, and coincidentally they were having one of their biannual “photographer field days”, where they stay open before sunrise to after sunset, the very next weekend! I lucked out with that timing because the hour before and after sunrise and sunset is coveted by photographers as the “golden hour” and this park isn’t usually open until 10 a.m., so I forced my night owl self to get up at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday and hauled myself over there. Not only is 5:30 more a bedtime for me than a wake-up time, but we experienced our first frost of the season overnight and I HATE cold, so this was quite a feat. Sooooo worth it! If you live in the area, Meadowlark Gardens is beautiful, and being there at sunrise was damn near magical. Moreover, I was even happy about the frost, if you can believe it, because the cool color of the grass was an amazing contrast to the warm colors of the fall foliage. I’m so shy that even being in the same park with other photographers is slightly difficult for me, but I quickly got over feeling self-conscious and just felt happy. Not that there was any reason for self-consciousness in the first place because there were maybe 20 other people, all photographers, there and they all said a friendly “hi” in passing but kept to themselves.

I’ll let some of the pictures do the talking from here on out. These are all better bigger so I’ve linked them to at high-res.

I’ll be honest; I don’t often see the sun rise, but every time I do I resolve to do it more often.

Look at that frost. Can the hot, hot, hot summer really be over? It was 39 degrees when I got to the park.

It was so cold there was a ton of mist off the water; it didn’t burn off until around 10 a.m. when I left.

The three pictures above are almost “zooming in”. Really I, not the camera, was doing the zooming, but if you look carefully in the two above this one of the bridge, you can see the same bridge.

Can you tell that Mrs Duck is looking at me inquisitively in this one?

This is essentially the same picture as above, but taken with the “normal” camera and not my infrared one.

The next two pictures are from the Korean Bell Garden area of the park – it’s the only one of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. I had to restrain myself from ringing – or rather striking – the bell. I know that goes counter to my statement above that I was self-conscious even being in the park, so why in the world would I possibly consider doing something I’m not only sure is verboten, but which would have been extremely loud and ruined the sweet, sweet serenity of the morning for everyone else around me and caused a lot of very unhappy attention to be heaped on me? What can I say, I’m a very curious person. Anyway, I controlled myself. I do want to hear it, though.

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Vietnamese Noodle Soup

I wasn’t going to post this because it was just something I threw together after getting home quite late and needing something in a hurry. I had the noodles, which I got at a Korean grocery store, in the freezer waiting for just such an evening. I know a lot of people will balk at the addition of MSG, but you can just leave it out. I don’t have a problem with it and I’ll sometimes use a bit of it when I want a fishy or Asian-y taste. Because I wasn’t planning to do a post, I didn’t measure or even pay attention to the amounts I was using of any ingredients, but after taking one gulp of this, before we even sat down to eat, Mark said, “I hope you are doing a post about this because it’s awesome,” so I quickly snapped a picture of it.

Vietnamese Noodle Soup

1 lb banh canh (Vietnamese udon noodles)
6 oz tofu, diced
3 oz vegan “seafood”, chopped or diced (optional; Mark picked it out of his and honestly, I don’t even really like the texture of vegan “seafood” myself)
6 cups veggie stock or vegan “chicken” broth
1 6″ piece kombu
3 Tbsp light soy sauce
3 Tbsp lime juice
1 Tbsp garlic chili sauce
2 tsp MSG
tiny dribble of sesame oil
fresh cilantro, basil, and mint – a handful of each, snipped and/or torn to pieces
1 sliced dried or fresh lemon (optional)
2 scallions, chopped on a diagonal, for garnish (I forgot this in the picture)
lemon or lime wedges for serving

Place all ingredients except the noodles and scallions in a soup pot and bring to a boil. You can skip this step, but my package of noodles recommended it: heat the noodles in a microwave for a minute or two so they easily separate. Place the noodles in the pot and gently stir. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until the noodles are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the kombu, and if you used it, the lemon slice. Serve in bowls, garnish with scallions, and serve with lemon or lime wedges.

Notes: I kind of regret not paying more attention to proportions because this was perfectly balanced. In fact, I didn’t use any of the sriracha I set out (and I LOVE sriracha) because even though it was just barely spicy, it just tasted so perfectly seasoned. I was even sparing with my lemon wedge because it was so perfect, and I’m as big a fan of lemon juice as I am sriracha. I threw a dried lemon wedge into the pot because I had one and wanted to see how it would flavor the soup. See, I had a bunch of lemons – even more than usual – and I’ve been obsessed with the dehydrator, so I sliced a few of them and dried them. They’re so pretty! They look so nice in a jar! I figured they’d be yummy tossed into soups, and although I don’t know what this soup would have tasted like without it, I DO know it tasted awesome with it! You could just use a slice of a fresh lemon instead, or just omit it, especially if you serve it with lemon wedges.

I had about 2 cups of broth left over, but no noodles, so the next morning I prepared a small serving of some very quick cooking Chinese noodles until they were barely al dente, and put them a bowl with the broth, which I then packed for my lunch. It was just as good!

Long-time readers probably know I’m obsessed with jars. I store almost all my dry goods in vintage mason jars, and I do a lot of fermenting of various things, most of which is also done in jars. I know a lot of others are also jar-happy, so I thought I’d share my favorite new thing with you: reCAP lids. I love storing my homemade hemp milk in a vintage mason jar, but it makes a mess every time I pour it on my cereal, so every morning I have to wipe dribbles off the jar. Not so with the reCAP lid! Last night I poured from the reCAP lid into a tablespoon for measuring into a recipe and didn’t spill a drop! I also make my own salad dressing by shaking oil, vinegar, and other ingredients together in a jar, and again, it’s always a big mess when we pour the dressing onto our salads. I can’t wait to switch to a reCAP for dressing as well!

While I’m talking about jars, can I tell you about a fact I learned earlier this year which I feel really stupid for not thinking of before but which has changed my life? Rubbing alcohol removes permanent marker from glass, with no effort. Now that I know this, I just write all over my jars! This is onion and garlic powder that I made from farmers market onions and garlic using my dehydrator. They are both AWESOME. (These are just jars I’m reusing from commercial stuff I’ve bought.)

The best use for this tip is writing dates I made things. I am TERRIBLE about putting something in a jar to ferment and convincing myself I will magically remember when it’s ready. Of course, two days later I’ve completely forgotten. I don’t know why I am so bad about this; I can understand the not remembering part, it’s the being so SURE I’ll remember, EVERY time. Anyway, now I just write the date right on the jar! This is sauerkraut (actually only a small portion of a bigger batch) made from farmers market cabbage, on what I later learned from my German-American father to be German-American Day, which I thought was appropriate.

I snapped a picture of the dried lemons I mentioned above whilst photographing all my jar action tonight; the picture doesn’t do them justice – they’re so pretty. I’ve come to realize that most of the things I see beauty in are food and animals…

Final jar picture: soaking quinoa in order to sprout it for rejuvelac. I bet many of you know why. Yes, I could no longer resist buying Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese. I had it on my wish list and knew it was something my dear aunt would buy me for Christmas because she ALWAYS gets me at least one cookbook, but every time I was on Amazon, Amazon was all, “Treat yourself! I DEMAND THAT YOU TREAT YOURSELF TO ARTISAN VEGAN CHEESE!” and it’s only $12, and I have two of Miyoko’s other cookbooks and like them, and Kittee and so many other bloggers have been talking it up, and it just sounded RIGHT up my alley. It arrived yesterday, so let the cultivating begin!

Bonus raccoon picture:

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British Pickled Onions

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I love pickles of all sorts. My favorite food right now is British-style pickled onions, which were inspired by the pints of mixed pearl onions my favorite farmers market farmer offers:

The pickles feature one of my favorite vinegars (well, I pretty much love all vinegars): malt vinegar.

I pretty much followed this recipe, although I was not very precise when measuring. These are excellent; the only problem is waiting a month to eat them!

British Pickled Onions

3 pints pearl onions
1/4 cup salt
2 cups malt vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp whole allspice (for my first batch, I only had ground allspice, which worked fine)
large pinch red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf

Peel the onions. To do this, I first trim both the top and bottom, though you could just trim the root off. Place the onions in a pot of water, bring it to a boil, and let boil for 2 minutes, then drain them. They will slip right out of their peels.

Dissolve the salt into enough water to cover the peeled onions, in a bowl large enough to hold them. Add the onions and cover with a plate that fits into the bowl in order to keep them submerged. Let sit for 2 days.

Meanwhile, bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil, whisking to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Drain the onions and place them in a sterilized jar. Mine fit in a quart canning jar. Pour the cooled vinegar mixture over them. Refrigerate for one month.

Sooooo good!

The small jar above contains the onions I’m eating now. The jar below has another two weeks to cure.

Also in my refrigerator are some balsamic pickled onions, but I’m only 5 weeks into the 8 week waiting time for these. Look how dark they are!


And now for some outtakes from the above photo session:

They’re so nosy! I was thinking that I still don’t have any interesting pictures to show you, but it’s chilly here today and so when I settled into my chair to process the onion pictures and compose this post, I grabbed a blanket. Within 10 seconds of spreading the blanket on my lap, this happened:

I had to use my cell phone for the pictures and they are inexplicably terrible, but yes, I am attempting to write this post on my laptop while two cats are hogging my lap. Of course I love it.

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Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

Every year in October (although once I think it was November), vegans around the world unite and participate in a blogging event called Vegan Mofo, in which they strive to blog nearly every day of the month, and every year I think yeah, I should do that, but then every year I think HAHAHAHA HOW COULD I EVER DO THAT? I’m busy all the time, but it seems like October is THE busiest time of the year for me, even with the wildlife stuff winding down a bit. I also tend to travel a lot in October. Of course, I’m just a big whiner because lots of bloggers are just as busy as I am and a lot of them travel more than I do and yet they still manage to post every day for Mofo. I just feel as if I would get stressed out about it so I’ve never made the commitment, much as I admire everyone else who does it and enjoy reading all the blogs.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying I’m not doing Mofo because I’m a big whiner. Ironically I’m suddenly brimming with blog post ideas over here and I have a bunch of meals planned this week and next that are new and possibly blog-worthy, so maybe I could have pulled it off after all. I honestly think I could have done a Month of Vinegar theme, I have so many post ideas involving vinegar alone. Wouldn’t that have been awesome? I’m kind of regretting not signing up and at least doing a food diary. Y’all care what we eat daily chez Renae, right? Fortunately, as wildlife duties have been slowing down, our daily meals have been getting more interesting. I don’t know how interesting tonight’s really is, but it features mixed Asian mustard greens that I got at the farmers market and I get really excited about things like bundles of mixed Asian mustard greens so here I am, sharing my glee with you. I’m pretty sure I’m going to cry myself to sleep when the farmers market ends at the end of this month.

Asian Mustard Greens with Tofu

1 bundle mixed Asian mustard greens, stems removed if necessary, and chopped
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 lb extra firm tofu, chopped
3 cups soybean sprouts
1-4 chili peppers, sliced (depending on the type and how much heat you like)
2 green onions, sliced, white and green parts separated
1 small hunk of ginger, grated
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1/2 cup vegan broth
1/4 cup fermented black bean paste
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 drops stevia (or 1 tsp sugar)
2 Tbsp cornstarch whisked into 3 Tbsp cold water

First stir together the broth, black bean paste, soy sauce, wine, and stevia in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Set aside. Also set aside the cornstarch and water mixture.

Put some oil in a wok and add the white parts of the green onion, ginger, garlic, and chili peppers. I do this cold – although in general you heat the pan and then the oil before adding anything else – to prevent the garlic and ginger from scorching. Turn the heat to medium high and start stirring when it begins sizzling.

Add the onions and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.

Add the tofu and cook, stirring for another couple of minutes.

Add the greens. Look how pretty they are! Stir and let them cook down a bit.

When the greens have wilted, add the sprouts and stir until they wilt as well.

Pour in the broth mixture and bring it to a boil.

Then stir in the cornstarch mixture, allowing it to thicken the broth and coat the tofu and vegetables. It will become shiny.

Serve with rice and garnish with the green parts of the green onions. Mine wasn’t very spicy so I heaped some chili garlic paste on the side as well.

As you’ve probably noticed, I tend to add a personal photograph or twelve to the ends of my posts. However, I don’t have much to share with you this week. I didn’t even take any pictures of raccoons this week (too busy trying to convince them I could clean their cages much faster without two of them on my head). So I could search for some earlier photo you haven’t seen – I only have a gazillion of them – but no, I’m too lazy to do that. Last night I was testing the remote control for my camera to see from what angles and distances I could get it to work and thus the following photos got imported from the camera along with tonight’s pictures of greens and tofu, so THAT’s what you get to look at. Pictures I took to test stuff and intended to trash. Wow, I’m really hurting for content.

I don’t think when I tripped the shutter on this one that I realized I was taking a picture of Mezzaluna, but you may recall several posts back when I mentioned that we play a game with him in which we place pipe cleaners in hard-to-reach areas that he has to hunt down and retrieve. If you can see it (it’s on the shade right above his head), this one looks easy but it’s tied on securely and is the more challenging than it looks. He kind of needs opposable thumbs for that one, but I’ve seen him get even harder ones by being clever, so he’ll get it.

DERRR does the remote work when I’m directly in front of and 6″ away from the camera? AM I A HUGE DORK?

Hm, okay, next time I’ll find some real pictures, or just give you a break from my mediocre-to-bad photography.

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