Gumboot Adventures

gowing and growing green

The Best Salad Dressing July 28, 2011

The Best Salad Dressing in the World

The Best Salad Dressing in the World

We’ve been eating a lot of greens this cool summer.  Which is fine by us, we have the yummiest salad dressing in the “whole-entire world,” courtesy of the magazine Edible Vancouver and the incredible Hollyhock Institute.

Edible printed Hollyhock’s famous dressing in their almost-spring 2011 edition, and it’s been a game changer at our house.  Here it is.  The best salad dressing in the “Whole-Entire World”

Hollyhock Yeast Dressing

As printed in Edible, from Hollyhock Cooks, with Linda Solomon and Moreka Jolar.

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

1/2 cup (125 ml) nutritional yeast flakes

1/3 cup (75 ml) water

1/3 cup (75 ml) soy sauce or tamari

1/3 cup (75 ml) apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp crushed garlic

1 1/2 cups (375 ml) Sunflower Oil

Combine the first 5 ing unredients in a blender until they are thoroughly mixed. While still mixing on high, pour the oil in a slow, steady stream. Add  all the oil or r when a desired consistency is achieved. (Honestly, we put everything in the glass mason jar we keep the dressing in, and shake. It’s delicious). When refrigerated, this keeps for 2 weeks.

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Foraging: Huckleberries & Pie July 22, 2011

Huckleberries

Huckleberries

We’ve spent the last couple of days foraging for huckleberries.  It’s so important to take advantage of the beautiful fruits that nature provides.  They’re there for the picking.  Pick them! PICK THEM! Admittedly, I take this to an obsessive sort of level – my poor husband has nearly had a heart attack on a number of occasions when I scream “STOP THE CAR” at the sight of a particularly good patch of blackberries.  But this early in the season, the whole family shares my unbridled enthusiasm.

Those long-awaited fruits have arrived.  In the forest near our home Salmonberries and Huckleberries are ripe.

This has been the first year that our son, now 6, has understood the benefit of putting the berries in the bucket to bring home. Like his mother, his passion for berry picking is absolute. But until this year, his impatience got the best of him every time and he ate every last berry he picked. Nothing wrong with that really. Fresh. Delicious. Healthy.  It’s what our 3-year old daughter did this year. But  neat to see our son able to exercise self-restraint – to pick berries, bring berries home, dutifully hand over the berries and patiently wait for them to turn into something even better.

And they did!

Huckleberry Pie

Huckleberry Pie

With the exception of our 3-year old daughter, who doesn’t like pie, we all agree that Huckleberry pie – with it’s  perfect combination of tart and sweet – is the true sign of summer.  Luckily, the summer heat is refusing to make an appearance this year, so baking it was not only easy, but also enjoyable! Coming up next, huckleberry jam and huckleberry muffins. Yum.

Huckleberry Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 4 cups huckleberries
  • 3/4 cup cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons soya milk or cream
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
  2. Gently coat  huckleberries in flour, then place in a pastry-lined pan. Spoon sugar evenly over berries. Sprinkle lemon rind and lemon juice over top. Dot with butter. Cover with top crust. Seal edges and cut steam vents in top. Brush surface with soya milk or cream, avoiding fluted edges of crust. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons sugar.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

 

Eat ALL the food – it costs less! November 16, 2009

Making Pumpkins

Making Pumpkins - first to look good, then to eat!

Over the last two years we, like so many others, have made the shift from occasionally organic to almost entirely organic.  And while this definitely requires that a larger portion of our monthly budget be attributed to food, it’s “not as bad” as we feared. Yes, it costs more to eat well.  But not as much more as we were worried that it might.

While there are a number of factors that have mitigated the potential food cost crises that plagued our fears during this transition, they all stem from a common factor – we appreciate our food more!  So we waste less.  We eat out less.  We cook from scratch more.  And we eat more directly sourced foods.  Although all of these changes are without question, monumental, I think the single most important commitment has been to waste less food.   I won’t lie – it’s a constant challenge and requires continuous thought.  But everyday is a little easier as waste-free choices become habitual.

Now to really get you all pumped on this exciting lifestyle change, here’s a super glamorous truth. Reducing waste starts with good planning. Meal planners are the super heroes of smooth running kitchens and virtually eliminate “oops I didn’t use that and now it’s a rotten pile of mush on the bottom of the veggie drawer” or “the milk has chunks” waste.  And it’s not as dull, or as tedious, as it sounds.  Actually, I love having meal planners.  I update our five-day planner before placing our grocery delivery order and before picking up groceries.  This ensures that the brocolli’s cheese sauce has a definite repurpose in tomorrow’s mac-n-cheese casserole and that the leftover brocolli makes it’s way into the following day’s frittatta.  Leftovers magically and seamlessly become new meals while saving prep time and money!  As if this weren’t enough benefit for a 10-minutes-twice-a-week task, it also virtually eliminates the what-to-make-for dinner-tonight anxiety (that is annoying at best and leads to nutritionally inferior and costly impulse buys/orders at worst) and encourages the opportunity for the kids to look at cookbook with me and to participate in the meal choices.

Obviously, there are still the occasional items that pass that best before date (and I don’t mean the one typed on the yogurt, I mean the one that is evident because now the food is gross).  If you aren’t lucky enough to have backyard chickens, then this is where the compost bin becomes essential!

Suprisingly, making a sincere effort to minimize scraps on plates at the end of meals has also significantly decreased food waste.  It’s easy to overlook the scraps here and there, but we would be remiss to do so. Plus, it’s ridiculously simple to all but eliminate scraps. The solution – dish smaller portions and encourage seconds.  We like our kids to try a few bites of everything, so generally portion a small serving of each dish and allow seconds of choice foods when the plate is clear.  In so doing, I’d say we save approximately one “lunch”‘s worth of leftovers.  If that saves me buying lunch when I’m at work, we’re up $8.

Finally, we don’t intentionally waste anything. This is best illustrated using an example. Whole chickens are one of the most economical ways to purchase organic poultry, but they are a long shot from cheap! We roast chickens about twice a month.  When we do, we enjoy a yummy dinner.  Then I cut all the left over meat off the chicken and use that either for sandwiches, chicken pot pies or chicken curry. Then I boil the carcasses, and pull the final bits of chicken off the bones for chicken soup.  Lastly, I devide the broth, half for chicken soup right away, half for broth to be frozen for future use in any number of recipes. Or taking a recent example, we roasted and ate the Halloween pumpkins (mostly as soup).

pumkins - good soup when they're done being "spooky"

pumkins - good soup when they're done being "spooky"

In addition to bolstering the pocket book, reducing the amount of food we waste works with our overall green philosophy.  For example, returning to the roasted chicken illustration, we no longer purchase icky deli meat, bouillon/stock, packaged chicken parts (like breasts) or prefab soups.  All of these choices reduce the amount of energy (be it processing, packaging, transport, or product display) that our food requires.

This isn’t novel.  My grandmas all did it.  But somehow, meal planning skipped a generation and it’s a skill that we are learning anew. It’s a good skill, and I’m glad that the monetary incentive associated with eating organic has encouraged us to revist our wasteful food habits!

 

Hang Your…Tomatoes October 4, 2009

the last harvest of tomatoes

the last harvest of tomatoes

Everything has a season.  And the season for tomatoes is, sadly, over.

As the summer draws to an end I take a certain comfort in the familiarity of the rain and the fog.  They return as surely, as consistently, as rythmically as the birds migrate as the bears hybernate as the sun rises and sets. Our family settles into the food and routine of fall, substituting fresh salsas and salads with soups and stews, splashing in puddles instead of sprinklers, dawning the first tuques and tucking away sun hats. Bare feet are clothed. Apples finish their glorious display and fields of green turn to the most magnificent orange as the pumpkins ripen. There is plenty to look forward to, but as the nights erode into more and more of my daylight hours, there is also a sense of loss.  I will miss puttering in the garden with a glass of wine once the days work is done and the little ones are tucked in bed.

There is also a growing list of fall tasks that demand attention during those increasingly precious daylight hours.  At the top of my list are the tomatoes. So this weekend, I am hanging the last of the green Roma and Big Ben tomatoes to ripen on the vine. There are also plenty of ways to enjoy the fruit that just didn’t quite get there, and I’m experimenting with green tomato salsa by using unripened the cherry tomatoes (yellow and red) to make a salsa.

hanging green tomatoes to ripen

hanging green tomatoes to ripen

To preserve tomatoes for use later in the year we simultaneously freeze the ripe tomatoes, which are available in abundance squared at present, and hang or box unripe (green) tomatoes in a dark place to allow the fruit to ripen. To encourage your green tomatoes to ripen (and not rot) you have two choices.

1) store them in a cardboard box in a cool (but not cold) place. layer the fruit no higher than two rows high to avoid squishing.

2) hang the fruit on the vine upside down.  trim most of the leaves off the vine and hang the vine somewhere cool (but not cold) and dark.

Either way, avoid direct sunlight and check the fruit regularly.  In the picture above, the fruit is hanging on our gazebo – I transfered it to the garage, but since it’s not pretty, I’m not sharing pics!

green cherry tomatoes

green cherry tomatoes

Green tomato salsa can be made fresh and is a delicious treat to serve with nachos at bbqs, potlucks or other gatherings or as a garnish for a variety of meats or meat substitutes.  Experiment with the recipe below to add your favorite flavours (cilantro, bell peppers, you name it) and to work with what is available locally in your area:

RECIPE

6 green tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeño, large, seeded and finely chopped (or substitute chilies if you are growing them)
1 garlic clove , minced
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon kosher or Maldon salt
1/4 cup white onion, finely chopped

For A Chunky  Blended Salsa
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until coarse chopped and blended.

Salsa Fresca
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well.  Allow the salsa to sit at least 1 -2 hours to allow the flavors to blend

If you’ve got plenty of green tomatoes (and you likely do – tomato plants continue to produce new fruit even when it’s much to late in the season for the fruit to have any chance of ripening), you can also can this garnish to use all year.  I’m new to canning, but plan to try the canning recipe at the following: http://recipes.suite101.com/article.cfm/recipe_for_canned_green_tomato_salsa, by Stephen Allan Christensen.

Then of course, there are fried green tomatoes.  I’ve never been a fan – but if you’ve got the recipe that will convert me – please, do share!


 

Freezing Cold September 30, 2009

I am going to start canning.  But not this year.  This year I’m working, and my husband’s working, and our kids are little and we live in the city, and despite the fact that I have a fabulous urban garden that has produced in abundance, I can get away with not canning and not wasting.  I’m going to start canning. I meant to do that this year, but I’m not going to get there.

I am, however, freezing. You probably know that frozen produce has the same nutritional goodness as fresh produce.  It follows that “fresh-from-the-garden” frozen produce is packed full of “fresh-from-the-garden” goodness, in December.

Cherries from public picking

Cherries from public picking

BERRIES are an obvious, enjoyable and easy choice for freezing. We have the absolute joy on the West Coast of having an abundance of berries growing wild in the urban landscape, ready for the picking.  If you’ve followed my past posts, you know that I have a condition that makes it impossible for me to ignore delicious offerings that might otherwise go to waste.   As such, we have a freezer full of wildberries. A few favorites from this year:

  • Blueberries.  We picked up two large cases from an organic grower early it the season.  If you are just thinking about this now, think about it for next year!
  • Strawberries.  From the garden. So easy to grow. They like acidic, well drained soil . At this time of year, cut the runners so that each plant is permitted to grow one new plant.
  • Blackberries. In every alley, ditch and parking lot all over this glorious city.  These are the berry that is most abundant and most easily available free. Please pick it! Our favorite spot this year was near the airport in Richmond.  The kids could watch planes when they tired of picking.
  • Huckelberries. Growing wild in the forests all over the West Coast. Not enough to freeze this year.  Though I did manage to freeze a few dozen huckelberry & blueberry muffins.
  • Cherries.  Technically not a berry. But, at least in Vancouver, available to pick on public land here, there and everywhere, so they qualify in my book.  We did a lot of picking on Translink property this year.  Who knew the train had beautiful well established cherry trees all along it’s path, that hang into many a parking lot and go un-picked? Delicious.

Freezing berries is easy. Wash well. Then lay the berries on a flat surface (cookie tray) that has been covered with wax paper and freeze. This ensures that the berries don’t stick together when they freeze. Once the berries are frozen, transfer to whatever reusable container you’ve selected and repeat with the next batch of berries and the same piece of wax paper.  Obviously cherries need to be pitted first. And actually, I like cherries better stewed. But that’s another post…

Kale frozen in ice cube trays

Kale frozen in ice cube trays

KALE is pretty much the most versatile and persistent leafy green you can grow. It also happens to be the nutritional superhero of vegetables.  Long after my varieties of lettuce have gone to flower, after the spinach has all been eaten, after the second harvest of chard has been sautéed, or devoured by the slugs, the Kale is still going strong.  And by strong, I mean we cut it and cut it and eat it and eat it, and it’s still waist height, and lush. So we freeze it to enjoy year round.

There are two ways to freeze Kale:

  • Blanch it. Slice the Kale into large pieces, removing thick stems but including smaller stems. Boil a large pot of water and fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes.  Plunge the Kale into the boiling water for one minute, then transfer to the ice water.  Dry Kale. Freeze in airtight bag.
  • Mince it.  By far my preferred method. Remove the stems. No need to blanch. Throw leaves in the food processor and chop as finely as possible. Press minced Kale into ice cube trays.  Once frozen, transfer cubes to your container of choice.  Admittedly, the cubes can be tricky to pop out of the trays. Nonetheless, I find this to be more convenient than freezing the minced kale on parchment and keeping it loose in a bag. Throughtout the winter, add a couple cubes to soups, sauces, and everything else.  This is the sneakiest and most effective way to get my kids to consume leafy greens regularly.

TOMATOES only last so long. This is where the canning really comes into play.  I had the best of canning intentions, but said adventures will have to wait until next year. Freezing tomatoes is however, at least as simple, completely hassle free and almost as convenient on the other end. I’m also consoling myself after foiling the canning plans with the fact that frozen tomatoes are nutritionally better than canned tomatoes. I’m not sure if this is true, but I’m going with it.

To freeze tomatoes:

  • Boil a pot of water
  • Submerge tomatoes for a maximum of one minute
  • Transfer immediately to icy cold water
  • Pull the skins off (after this boiling process, they practically fall off)
  • Squeeze to drain seeds and water (this isn’t an art)
  • Freeze in an airtight bag

Tomatoes are now ready for use in sauces, chilies and other recipes all winter long.

In case this little intro has you all excited about the preserving potential in your garden, check out http://www.pickyourown.org. I’ve found loads of useful information about freezing, canning and otherwise preserving on their site.

 

Urban Potatoes September 23, 2009

a new potatoe from the garden

a new potatoe from the garden

I begrudge buying potatoes.  Whether we’re talking about 5 lbd bags from the grocer or exotic purple potatoes from the market, I resent the very act of purchasing these stables. In my mind, potatoes are cheap sustenance.  Which is not to detract from their deliciousness – there is nothing quite like fresh baby potatoes or fluffy mashed potatoes or perfectly roasted russets. I do like potatoes.  I just don’t like buying them!

But I’ve also never grown them. Potatoes don’t have the luster of sweet tomatoes.  They can’t be trained to climb like our nibble squash.  They don’t demand the spotlight like peppers or corn.  And so, despite my resentment, I have always bought potatoes.  Until this year. It was with a light heart that I set about planting potatoes in tires this spring. I’d learned about the solution to my urban garden potato dilemma earlier in the year and with a renewed vigour for local eating, I happily set about stacking tires and shoveling dirt.

layers of potatoes growing in stacked tires

layers of potatoes growing in stacked tires

Ironically, or not, it was my mother-in-law who first suggested that I plant potatoes in tires.  Ironically, because she doesn’t garden. Perhaps not so ironically because it seems more often that not the keys to sustainable living lie in knowledge of generations past. When my mother in law was a girl, tires were stacked, filled with dirt, and planted with seasonally appropriate varieties of potatoes.  When the early potatoes were ready, they were harvested and the top tire was knocked to the ground, and so on.  After a trip to the neighbourhood mechanic with a request for old tires, we spent an afternoon building our potato tower.

Now here is where things went not-as-well as they could have gone. We planted potatoes stacked in tires four high, with an early variety in the top two tiers and a later variety on the bottom two tiers.  We planted all four layers at once, per my mother-in-laws instructions. I should have researched instead of following blindly! About six weeks later, the top layer of potatoes had flowered and was ready for harvest.  Unfortunately the second layer of potatoes was sending shoots into the top layer, but hadn’t yet produced mature potatoes. It was nearly impossible to harvest layer one without damaging layer two.  The harvest was somewhat tedious, and the yield not as substantial as it could have been. None the less, we’ve enjoyed a fabulous crop of home grown potatoes this year, and since they flourish in the cooler weather of the early fall, we will continue to do so for another couple months as we dive into the bottom rung.

kids helping to wash potatoes - yum

kids helping to wash potatoes - yum

A little research has revealed the proper tire-potato technique, which will surely help with smooth potato adventures next year:

1. pick a nice sunny spot.

2. lay couple inches of dirt in the bottom tire. place about 5 seed potatoes (of a late season variety) in the tire, with the “eyes” (buds) pointing up.  These potatoes will benefit from chitting (storing them in a dark place for a week or two so that they start to sprout shoots), but they can do without since they are late season varieties. cover with dirt until it is level with the top of the tire.

3. when the shoots are about 8 inches tall, add a second tire and repeat the process, again using a late season variety.

4. repeat step 3 for the top two tires, using early or mid season varieties, which require chitting

5. water potatoes really well twice a week.  potatoes don’t like to swim, but they do like a good drink all the way to the bottom of your tire stack. potatoes are very resilient and will grow in almost anything.  that said, they prefer a slightly acid soil (ph 5.8-6.5) that is light and loose.

The tires act as a “heat sink”, which causes lateral roots to grow.  What that means for you is more potatoes.  It’s a good thing!  Plus, the tires are saved from a truly sad fate in the landfill.

A final tip for good potatoes – dig around in the dirt with your hand and pull some of the baby potatoes to make room for the others to grow. I know you are supposed to let your potatoes dry out for a day or two before eating, but we’ve taken to boiling the baby potatoes for dinner the night they are pulled, and they are a thing of beauty with a little butter and a dash of salt.

Enjoy!

 

Pick Your Radishes and Eat Them Too June 12, 2009

Filed under: Food,garden — gumbootgarden @ 8:26 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Early Harvest - Radishes

Early Harvest - Radishes

Until recently, I’d thought of radishes as sort of dried up little nugget things – bland in flavour and full of nasty bite. But all that has changed.  This year, inspired by a neighbour, I planted radishes.  I planted radishes not because I wanted to eat the radishes – a thought which actually filled me with a certain sense of dread. I planted radishes because I realized that if I planted radishes I could harvest them in June.  And that was exciting!

It’s June.  And we’ve been harvesting radishes en masse.  Eating them.  Handing them out the neighbours.  Chopping them into salad. Loving the colour and the sense of really harvesting something so early in the season.  But having now started to exhaust the novelty of fresh radishes-in-salad and raw-radishes-with-homemade-hummus it’s time to branch out.  A little research has revealed that while radishes aren’t known as the bell of the garden ball, these early temptations are much more versatile than we give them credit for.

With my darling husbnd away,  I’m  juggling the kiddos, and work, and the garden and volunteering  single parent style, so my recipe mandate was healthy, delicious, mostly local and the priority of the day – fast or prepare-ahead-able.

Pickled Radishes.

A bit of sugar, but worth it –

http://www.canadianliving.com/food/quick_and_easy/quick_radish_pickles.php

Baked Radish Chips.

My kids love home made veggie fries.  But I’d never thought to bake radishes.  Steam instead of putting them in the microwave to maintain maximum nutritional value.

http://caloriecount.about.com/baked-radish-chips-recipe-r28902

Radish Relish.

Yes, it’s pink. And it’s a great way to use the end of the radishes when you tire of them.  This recipe does require citrus, which isn’t available locally.  I can’t seem to give up lemon.  It’s just too good!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/citrusradishconfit_85604.shtml

And though I haven’t had a chance to try this one, I’m yet to be dissapointed by any of Alanna’s fabulous recipes.  So from A Veggie Venture (Kitchen Parade), try Creamed Radishes with Pimenton http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/2005/09/day-151-creamed-radishes-with-pimenton.html

My four year old is admitedly more excited about the pod peas.  And the one year old is all about the snap peas.  But I have to say, I’m a little over the moon about radishes.  Who knew!

 

 
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