Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Real gardening at last!

Landscaping is officially done and I now have a real garden. No more patio container gardening for me! Off to the nursery...

Monday, October 24, 2011

Suzie's Farm: Week 1

This week I begin a trial run in the next CSA I'm trying as part of the CSA Smackdown:

Suzie's Farm

Suzie's Farm doesn't offer a "trial" period so the shortest subscription you can purchase is 6 weeks. Since there is no trial period, there is also no pesky "new joining/registration" fee that some others have.

Reading some reviews on Yelp, I saw that there were some complaints about the boxes containing too many vegetables and not enough fruit, but for me, this is probably a good thing. :) They also do not allow any substitution of items as Inland Empire did. However, their prices are cheaper. I was on a small box at the Inland Empire CSA for almost $35/box and the small box at Susie's is $18/box. Since the regular size box was only $25 (still less than Inland Empire's small box), I went ahead and signed up for the large box. It was $150 for 6 weeks ($25/box).

I picked up my first box yesterday at the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. The boxes are all in the back of a big truck and they expect you to bring your own bags, transfer the produce to your bags, and break down your box. I checked off my name and put all of the produce into my 2 bags. They were pretty heavy bags when I was done! One nice thing I noticed is that there is a printed list of everything in the box so I know exactly what I'm getting. Another nice thing is that a couple of recipes related to the box contents were also included:

Here is what week 1's box contained:
  • 4 cucumber (2 lb 6.75 oz)
  • 3 green peppers (11.25 oz)
  • tomatoes (1 lb 3.5 oz)
  • 2 brown onions (1 lb 14 oz)
  • sweet pepper mix (7.25 oz)
  • 1 butternut squash (1 lb 7.5 oz)
  • 1 bunch mint (1.5 oz)
  • 2 small heads of butter lettuce (9.25 oz)
  • 1 bunch celery (10.5 oz)
  • purple onions with the greens on (11.75 oz)
  • 8 zucchinis (1 lb 11 oz)
  • basket of jalapenos (8 oz)
  • 1 green melon (don't know what kind) (7 lb .5 oz)
  • dragon beans (8 oz)

The interesting items in the bunch were the dragon beans:

What am I going to do with these?

Otherwise, I'm thinking this box screams CHILI.

What is it?

Here are pictures of the final melon from the Inland Empire CSA. What is it??

Whatever it was, it was sweet and delicious. The watermelon and oranges were also especially sweet. Tomatoes were too ripe and several went bad in a couple of days.

I finished all of the produce this week from the CSA except for a few lemons and an orange.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Very Best Vegan Bac'n

I signed up to be a recipe tester for an upcoming vegan cookbook. First recipe...

Vegan Tofu Bacon!

Or should I say Facon?

I was excited to try this recipe since the MorningStar vegetarian bacon strips I've sampled in the past aren't vegan (they contain egg whites and milk) and it would be nice to have an acceptable substitute. Also, I don't know about you, but I like recipes that have non-scary ingredient lists. Look at the ingredients in the MorningStar strips:


I'm not even sure what half of those ingredients are and some of them are downright scary. What are "natural and artificial flavors" anyway?

This recipe was pretty easy. Although I'm not allowed to print the actual recipe, it involved marinating sliced tofu for a few hours before either pan-frying or baking them. None of the ingredients included TBHQ, Yellow #6, or sodium sulfite.

The result?

Not bad, but a bit too salty to me! If I sliced the tofu thin enough and cooked them long enough, they crisped up just like the Facon. They were good eating alongside scrambled tofu and in a FLT (Facon Lettuce Tomato) sandwich. If I was craving bacon, I'd make these over both real bacon (hello saturated fat!) and the processed and pricey vegetarian bacon strips.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Mystery Week 5 box

It turns out I had another box waiting for me from the Inland Empire CSA. I'm not sure what happened or why I have another box, but I'm not complaining!

This time, the note under my name said "no grapefruit" and there was ZERO grapefruit in the box.

Week 5's box:
  • 1 bag arugula (6.25 oz)
  • fingerling potatoes (1 lb 1/2 oz), not pictured
  • heirloom tomatoes (2 lb 4.75 oz)
  • 6 round zucchini (2 lb 5.75 oz)
  • romaine head (9.75 oz)
  • mystery melon (2 lb 6.5 oz)
  • part of a large seeded watermelon (3 lb 12.5 oz), not pictured
  • 2 ears corn (1 lb 9 oz)
  • 3 lemons (10.75 oz)
  • 5 oranges (1 lb 11 oz)
  • 1 eggplant (9.75 oz)

I should be able to use all of the contents this week... but I'm wondering what I'll do with all of the zucchini...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Beet Burgers

I read this article from the Union Tribune on different veggie burgers around town. I'm always looking for good meat-free options and the article made mention of a few I haven't tried yet. Although I have been to Neighborhood, I had their black bean burger while there and not the beet burger. Imagine - a restaurant that carries not one but TWO homemade veggie patty options!

Since I didn't see myself going to Neighborhood any time in the next few weeks and we had a BBQ to cook for (with vegetarians coming), I tried making the beet burger recipe from the article.

The wide range of ingredients made it a time-consuming recipe to make, especially if you make the seitan from scratch. But the result was worth it. Beautifully pink-red patties with a nice texture, the vegetarians and I loved them.

Here's one shown with sliced heirloom tomatoes, red onion, and hummus spread on the bun:

Beet Burgers
Serves 10 (as 6-ounce patties)

Craig Jimenez, the chef at East Village’s Neighborhood, recommended this recipe for do-it-yourself cooks. He suggested using the freshest ingredients possible, which contributes to consistent texture.

“We are looking for the same salivation we get from eating an aged beef burger — its juiciness, flavor, bite resistance,” Jimenez said.

Note from Veggie Choices: The beet burger is just as mouthwatering to non-meat eaters.

4 to 6 large striped beets, (roasted, then peeled, then grated)
1 1/2 cups lightly roasted cooked chickpeas
1 to 1 1/2 cups toasted and ground flaxseed
1 cup cooked red quinoa; cooked according to package directions, then lightly roasted in a sauté pan
1 cup prepackaged plain seitan or homemade seitan (recipe follows)
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon roasted garlic
Coarse sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black Tellicherry peppercorns, to taste

Combine all ingredients until they form a ball. Add more toasted ground flaxseed for the right consistency. It should come together smoothly and not be dry or too soft or mushy. Remember, the texture of each ingredient should be visible and provide bite.

When your patties are shaped to a 1/2-inch thickness, sauté in a nonstick pan. Place on a toasted whole-wheat bun and top with aged cheddar or Gruyere cheese, fresh tomatoes, red onions, butter lettuce, pickles and spicy brown mustard. Chipotle hummus also makes a nice spread.

Homemade Seitan

Ever since I found out that the fake meat they serve at most vegetarian restaurants is "wheat gluten", I've wanted to try making it myself. Call it a weird food fascination. I finally had a reason try making it a couple of weeks ago. I was making veggie burgers and the recipe called for homemade seitan. What was even better was that the recipe included a seitan recipe to make it at home.

It was relatively easy and the final product is... not bad. I haven't passed final judgment on it yet, mostly because I haven't made anything with it except for the veggie burgers. The veggie burgers had a lot of other ingredients included and I couldn't tell where the seitan was hiding. Like tofu, seitan doesn't really have a distinct flavor and instead soaks up the flavor of whatever it is cooked with.

The recipe was simple and didn't involve too many ingredients... just vital wheat gluten, some spices and a mix of water and veggie brother. I followed the instructions exactly and kneaded the dough as required.

Much kneading and resting later, I had an unappetizing brown log of sponginess.  I cut the dough into strips and boiled it in veggie broth for 45 minutes.

It greatly expanded in size. After 45 minutes, the pieces were drained and rinsed in cool water to prevent further cooking. They still looked unappetizing, but then again, most fake meat does.

Homemade Seitan Gluten Dough
This can be made ahead of time.

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten Flour [I used the Arrowhead Mills brand]
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth
3 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water

Combine dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Separately, combine liquid ingredients. Add wet dough to dry with a fork and knead. Rest the dough for 10 minutes, then knead for 5 minutes, folding it into the middle. Roll the dough into an oblong shape with a diameter of 4 to 5 inches. Rest for another 10 minutes.

Bring the broth and water mixture to a simmer.

Cut dough (it should feel tacky) into 2-inch strips, cover and simmer in the broth for 45 minutes. Add more water if needed. Strain out the liquid and rinse under cool running water. Dough can keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Wrap up

This week marks the end of the 4-week trial with the Inland Empire CSA. We had a lot of food to finish up from the BBQ we hosted last weekend, so I didn't do as well finishing last week's CSA contents. I still have an apple, 1/2 bag of arugula, the watermelon, the green beans, and 2 grapefruits (surprised?). I plan on taking this week "off" and officially starting the next CSA next Sunday.

Since this was my first CSA, I don't have much to compare it to, but here are some things I liked and didn't like about the Inland Empire CSA:

  • a good amount of fruits and veggies for me (one person, voracious produce eater), although I did supplement by buying greens for the week
  • ability to swap out items I didn't want at the farmer's market

  • cost seems higher when I compared it to other CSAs
  • most of the produce needed to be eaten immediately (e.g. the tomatoes were almost over-ripe and would get moldy in a day)
  • too much grapefruit, but more importantly, they ignored their own message to not put grapefruit in my box!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maple Blondies with Butterscotch and Chocolate

I have a lot of maple syrup to use up soon (thanks Costco!) and was looking for a treat that would use some for the monthly potluck. This recipe from "The Ultimate Brownie Book" uses a half cup of pure maple syrup and was exactly what I was looking for at 7 pm when I didn't want to go out to buy something I needed. I had all of the ingredients I needed in the house. I opted not to use cocoa nibs and did a mix of half butterscotch chips and half chocolate chips (3/4 cup each).

This was a fairly sweet, maple-flavored... cake. I wouldn't exactly call them blondies. They weren't bad by any means... I just expected something else. The "blondies" were moist and light in texture with hints of sugary maple and a nice kick of chocolate.

I probably won't make them again since I don't enjoy cake-y brownies, but there was no shortage of people trying them at the potluck.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Inland Empire CSA: Week 4

We had a BBQ at our house on Sunday so Kameran picked up my final box from the Inland Empire CSA at the farmer's market. Obviously I didn't trade anything out. I was a bit annoyed to find 3 grapefruits in the box again, especially because I noticed that they had a noted under my named label: Note: No grapefruit

Apparently the person packing the box did not read that part, or didn't care!

Week 4's box:
  • heirloom tomatoes (1 lb 2.5 oz) - probably more than double this, because I had cut some up for the BBQ before I weighed them
  • bag of arugula (8.75 oz)
  • small bag of green beans (8 oz)
  • small watermelon (5 lb 3.25 oz)
  • 3 large grapefruits (2 lb 4 oz)
  • 8 oranges (2 lb 14.25 oz)
  • 4 yellow squash (13.5 oz)
  • 2 small green bell peppers (5.75 oz)
  • 2 green apples (9.25 oz)
  • 2 onions, brown (10.25 oz)
  • 3 small heads garlic (2.5 oz)
  • 1 bag fingerling potatoes (15.25 oz)
  • 2 melons, not sure what kind (2 lb 11.25 oz)
  • 1 small melon with green stripes, not sure what kind (14 oz)
  • 2 small heads of garlic

I did pretty well with week 3's box, finishing almost everything except for the onions and garlic. Those keep longer though so I'm not worried about using them up.
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