Pickle Platter & Curry Ginger Scones

Sunday, another brunch day – today I’m enjoying an assortment of our homemade pickled veggies: okra, beets, garlic scapes, turnips, and jalapenos (which can be a bit of a Russian roulette). We pickle cukes and almost anything extra – but the garlic scapes & okra are my favorites! I like pickles with zing and tons of garlic (not with sugar).

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I also veganized an awesome recipe from King Arthur Flour, which I ran across on WordPress adapted here by Cooking is my Sport: Curry Ginger scones! Oh, they were so good, this is now one of my favorite scones! I was impressed with the sweet & savory combination and the way the small amount of curry brings out another side of ginger, which I do love to use copiously. I’m not sure why but there are lovely red speckles throughout. I did a few things different from the recipe – used water and palm oil instead of dairy, non-crystallized shredded ginger root, added some oats & cinnamon (so they had a hint of gingerbread), and forgot to add the pumpkin puree somehow. They still turned out quite moist, spicier and sweeter than I’d expected.  As you can see, I couldn’t stop eating them while photographing them.

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Peanut Butter Bars

It’s kind of funny how certain dishes become favorites/standards. I’ve spent the past 10 + years cooking at this 100-person farm community, have cooked a wide variety of dishes with varying popularity, from gnocchi to raw VGF dressings and everything in between. My usual back-up list of dishes that are easy to fill in an empty slot at a meal includes mac & cheese, lentils, spiced rice, spiced molasses cake, baked potatoes, garlic bread, salads, and of course whichever veggies are in seasonal abundance. But it wasn’t until this year that I developed a recipe that seems to have become a popular staple here, that could get made fresh and eaten up each day, that’s also easy enough to make with cheap enough ingredients. I started making these peanut bars as an easy grab-and-go snack that’s also semi-nutritious, with protein and not super sweet, and even sneak some whole grains in there. Something quickly accessible to our busy farmers and factory workers, since we supply lots of ingredients & leftovers, but not so many ready snacks. There’s homemade granola, bread, yogurt, and things that require bowls. This treat may not be from the garden, but it’s homemade & well-loved. Now I make this recipe (which fills our largest sheet pan) a couple times a week, and they all get gobbled up.

I use organic peanut butter (smooth or crunchy) from our friends at East Wind Nut Butters in Missouri. They also make a delicious “mystery butter,” with part cashew, part almond butter and sometimes a hint of tahini – that worked well when I tried it in this recipe once, so if you don’t eat peanuts, feel free to substitute any nut butter. Peanuts and sunflower seeds, easily grown domestically, are cheaper, more sustainable nuts than almonds, cashews, or the like. As much as I love almonds and cashews, they take tons of water to grow, are often imported, and take more labor to process.

For the flax preparation, an egg replacer, I grind flax seeds and mix them into a cup of water and microwave it for 45 seconds, stir, and repeat twice until it’s boiling and bubbling and thickened to an egg-like consistency (it may thicken slightly while cooling). I do this in a larger cup than necessary, say a pint measuring cup, because it likes to boil over sometimes. You could also boil a kettle of water, and pour the water over the ground flax, stir, and let sit for a few minutes, but it doesn’t quite thicken the same.

For sweetener, I usually use fake maple syrup, which still disappoints the Vermonter in me. I would love to use real maple syrup instead of the mostly-corn-syrup stuff, but it is cost-prohibitive, especially in the South. Most folks outside of maple states grow up with fake maple as the norm, an exception made for corn syrup by those who usually shun it. It strikes me as less sustainable than the real stuff as well as less healthy. Personally I have a strong preference for the taste of real maple, having grown up with it dripping just a few feet from my house. It’s expensive in Vermont too, but there it is often an exception item in people’s budgets, the quality and locality is valued, sometimes neighbors trade maple for other items, a natural bartering gold. Honey works well for this recipe, but is also expensive – same with agave, which is imported. Our farm also trades with Sandhill Community for sorghum, which is like a dark honey. Use whichever your sweetening preference is.

Peanut Butter Bars

4 c oats

4 c peanut butter

1/3 c molasses

4 c maple syrup (or honey, sorghum, agave, etc)

2 TB vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp salt

1 TB baking powder

6 cups all-purpose flour

flaxseed preparation of 4 tsp ground flaxseed with 3/4 c hot water (see above for preparation instructions)

Sift together the all-purpose flour & baking powder. Mix all other ingredients separately, then combine with flour mix. Dough/batter will be sticky. Spread it out evenly about a half an inch thick, patting with your hands (wet your hands with water or oil first, or a dusting of flour, to combat the stickiness). Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly for 10 minutes, then cut into bars while still warm.

 

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Gluten-free Bread

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This week I managed to make a pretty good vegan gluten-free bread! Not an easy task. I’ve spent years experimenting with gluten-free baking, with varying success. I’ve been meaning to actually write down recipes and post them, rather than just doing things by sight/memory/improv. Hopefully I’ll get some more gluten-free recipes up soonish. I have a few gloriously gluten-less cakes in mind, like lime-coconut, lemon gel, and mocha gel. But I digress into cake territory, yet again.

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Here’s the dough rising for its first hour. I had to switch over to a wooden spoon at this point.

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The ingredients together before being whisked, clockwise from left: sunflower seed meal, yeast, flax, baking powder, olive oil, buckwheat flour, molasses, and salt.

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To make sunflower seed flour/meal, just grind raw sunflower seeds until powdery in a coffee/spice grinder. You could also sub out any other nut meal flour, like almond or cashew.

 

Vegan Gluten-Free Sunflower Seed Bread

makes 2 medium loaves

Ingredients:

4 c sunflower seed meal

3.5 c buckwheat flour

4 tsp flax seeds, ground

1.5 tsp salt

2 TB molasses

2 TB olive oil (Edit: or coconut oil or sesame oil)

1 TB yeast

3 TB baking powder

4 c warm water

 

Directions:

Whisk together all ingredients and let sit, covered, to rise for an hour. Switch to a wooden spoon, and give the batter/dough a good stir before allowing to rest and rise for a second hour in the bowl. Gluten-free flours, being often of hearty whole grains, benefit from longer sitting to allow the flour to absorb and fully hydrate.

Grease two medium bread pans (not used for glutenous bread). Split the dough between the pans, smoothing the tops just a bit. Let rise in the pans for 40 minutes, until just puffing above the edge of the pans. Gently place in a 350 F oven, bake for 45 minutes. Let the bread cool in the pans for 15 minutes after removing from the oven. Use a butter knife to run along the sides of the pans, then dump the loaves out onto a cutting board. They may need a couple of taps to pop out.

Then, a golden crust. A strong crumb that holds together. A tasty, toasty, nutty flavor that is yeasty like bread, and otherworldly delicious! Whether you’re gluten-free or you have gluten-free friends, a loaf like this, steaming from the oven, is a sight (and taste, and smell) to behold.

Sure, the peculiar taste of buckwheat isn’t for everyone, I just happen to be a lifelong fan of it. Buckwheat is high in magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant. Mixed with the extra protein of the sunflower seeds, a wonderful nuttiness comes out strong, if you enjoy that like I do.

Today I also attempted another VGF bread made from red lentils and rice flour. It was less picturesque, although a pleasant dusty sunset color, and tasted great flavored with basil & rosemary. But that is a bread for another day.

 

Sprouts & Salads

It’s so easy to sprout things, and then they’re alive! Sprouting changes the texture and make-up of beans to make them more edible with less digestive issues, and makes some vitamins more accessible. There’s just something special about eating a live bean rather than a dull, dried bean (nothing against them, I cooked some yummy pinto beans with apples & turmeric the other day). My favorites for sprouting are green lentils, mung beans, alfalfa, chickpeas, and sunflower seeds (raw, not toasted – non-irradiated). Making sprouts adds a fresh-grown item that could be a good substitute for salad during low-yield times in the garden.

I like the way sprouts twist and curl and reach out. And their crisp crunch that tastes so fresh and clean. Here I have added some green lentil sprouts along with mung beans, chickpeas, navy beans, pintos, chard, dill, lemon, & olive oil to make a glorious 5-bean salad, a step up from the white bean salad I’ve been making lately.

First soak your bean/seed of choice (dried, not canned or cooked) in cold water for the first day, to fully hydrate. Then rinse them with fresh cool water twice a day (morning & night), straining the water out. All they need to live is water and a bit of air, and they will start sprouting in a couple of days. When the sprouts are big enough for your taste, refrigerate them to prevent overgrowing. It’s that simple.

I sprout in a metal pot with a holey lid, and strain with a sieve. In the past I’ve used a set-up with glass mason jars fit with screened lids, that you can simply fill with water and strain without having to undo the lid.

We’ve had some red sumac powder in the pantry that someone saved last fall. It’s an unusual item that looks like chili powder but isn’t spicy at all. It tastes very lemony, kind of like a whiskey sour. Here I have combined sumac with lime juice, olive oil, turmeric, white pepper, and pickled beet juice to make a lovely colorful dressing that probably most people weren’t sure what to do with. Also shown here is a coconut-mint-lime dressing (coconut milk adds a creamy factor to vegan dressings), and a spicy thai dressing with a green bell pepper puree.

Bean Salad with Chard & Chives

We have lots of lovely rainbow chard brightening our plates this week. Kale and spinach too, which all seems to go down with a bit more enthusiasm when combined with various forms of garlic. Fresh green garlic chives and scallions are in great shape this spring, a flavorful garnish for pretty much anything. Lately I’ve been favoring this cold white navy bean salad with chives, chard, fresh lemony sorrel, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice (a bit of zest would add oomph), salt & white pepper. I chop up the rainbow chard stems like celery, a colorful crunch, then slice the greens up finely. This is a refreshing way to use up some of the abundant greens this spring.

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The Many Faces of Tofu

At the farm, we make a lot of extra-firm tofu – it’s a business of ours, so we eat a lot of it too! We had a website which had posted some of my recipes, which is being redesigned right now. I thought I’d lost the recipes, but come to find out I did end up making a backup of it! Tofu is such a blank slate that really, a lot of creative possibilities exist. Here are a few of my favorite recipes I’ve developed over the years of dressing up tofu. Really, any kind of sauce could be put on it after baking it for 15-20 minutes, sliced or cubed. Honey-mustard, BBQ, marinara, pesto, spicy peanut, orange glaze…

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Honey-Walnut Tofu

tofu, plain extra-firm, 1 Lb
oil for baking, about 2 Tb
coconut milk, half a can (shaken)
honey, half cup
lemon juice, 2 tsp
water, 3/4 cup
canola oil (gmo-free if possible), 1 Tb
salad mustard, 2 tsp
fresh ginger, 1 tsp grated
salt to taste, quarter tsp perhaps
cornstarch, 2 Tb
walnuts, half cup

Cut the tofu into bite-size pieces, such as cubes or triangles, about a half inch thick. Toss the tofu pieces in oil to coat them. Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes, until golden and crispy on the outside, but still moist and chewy inside. Toast the walnuts in a cast-iron skillet, no oil, on medium-high heat. Stir them frequently for 5-10 minutes, until they are browned and aromatic, and set them aside. To make the sauce: in a small bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 4 Tb of the water til smooth, and set aside. In a separate sauce pot, combine the coconut milk, honey, lemon, remaining water, oil, mustard, ginger, and salt. Heat on medium-high heat to a low simmer. Whisk the cornstarch liquid into the rest of the sauce. Continue whisking until the sauce thickens slightly (about 1 minute), then remove from heat. Stir together the baked tofu, walnuts, and sauce. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the tofu to absorb some of the sauce. Serve over rice, best with white basmati cooked with a little shredded coconut.

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Cardamom Cream Tofu Soup (similar to the Thai Tom Kha soup)

serves 4

1 lb. tofu, plain extra firm
1 quart whole dairy milk (or almond milk)
1 can coconut milk
1 cup water
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1 tsp cardamom seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 dash fresh-ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped

Cut the tofu into 1-inch cubes. Toss all other ingredients (except the parsley) into a soup pot, and heat until just below a simmer. Do not allow to boil. Add tofu cubes and heat on low, 15 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

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Mu Shu Tofu

Vegan, gluten-free

serves 4-6

1 lb. tofu, plain extra firm
1 head of cabbage
2 carrots
half an onion
5 florets of broccoli
4 oz baby bella mushrooms
4 oz woodear mushrooms (optional)
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
3 Tbsp non-GMO canola oil
approx. dozen mu shu pancakes, or flour tortillas
1 jar of plum sauce, or make your own, recipe follows

Shred the tofu by hand using a grater. A mandolin is perfect for slicing the cabbage, carrots, onion, and broccoli very thinly, but if you don’t have one, either grate them or slice super thin. Slice the mushrooms thinly too.

Heat the oil in a pan or wok. Add all the veggies, tofu, and ginger and stirfry until quite soft. Gently warm the tortillas. Serve the stirfy inside a wrap with plenty of plum sauce.

Homemade Plum Sauce

1 cup dried prunes (fresh can be used too, if flavorful enough – taste first)
2 cups water
half cup soy sauce
half cup molasses
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried ginger, to taste

Boil the prunes in the water until very soft, about 15 minutes. They should be mushy and plump. Let cool slightly, then place plums and their juice in a blender or food processor. Add all other ingredients, and puree until smooth.

Soup Season

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Yes, soup season is upon us at last! Chilly days present an opportunity for Hygge, just as summertime ag jobs wind down and we seem to start reconnecting with each other on the farm. Rainy grey days bring some of us indoors, stoking the first fires of the season to warm ourselves while weaving hammocks. It’s this season that I look forward to, standing stirring steaming soup cauldrons. Some days I start a stock early in the morning, and build the soup over the course of the day. Paired with a hearty oat bread, soup can be filling and fulfilling. Cooking for approximately 100, two or three varieties (meaty, creamy, and vegan) in 4-gallon pots feels plentiful. Here are several of my favorite soups to make lately, with very general as-you-go recipes. Substitutions may be made anywhere needed – just use what you’ve got. Lots of beets? Make borscht. Lots of squash? You know what to do. But first, how to make the base layer of soup:

Great Broth

Whether you’re making vegetable broth or meat, start with whatever still-technically-edible (nothing gross, just using up veggie scraps) vegetables are around, like carrot tops, onion skins, wilted greens, that old celery, those tiny green peppers picked the day before first frost, mushroom stems. Add handfuls (or spoonfuls, as the case may be for smaller batches) of herbs: thyme, oregano (both contain thymol, a natural antibiotic), rosemary, sage, peppercorns, bay leaves, and any other flavors you favor. Best, add whole stalks of fresh herbs from your garden. No need for chopping. If you’re in an area with wild nettles, or if you have some dried nettles for tea, it can also be added to broth to deepen the flavor. Don’t forget a bit of salt!

Soup is a chance to use up and extract food from bits of things that might not otherwise get used, that need an extra long, slow time to cook. Especially beef or chicken bones, which both contain marrow and cartilage which heal our joints and more. “Chicken soup for the soul,” a great broth can heal deeply. This is an opportunity to use those rivetting giblets that come inside bought chickens, or get saved by our friends who do the brave slaughter. I usually find a mix of chicken necks, hearts, livers, and bones do the trick, if I don’t have a full chicken or two. Fresh, whole chickens can get boiled for a couple hours til it’s nearly falling apart. I strain the broth, setting the chicken bits aside to cool enough to sort through. Fondly, chicken’ pickin’ is a chance to sit down and attend to sorting out the bones and the good meat (no cartilage), which I look for in every nook and cranny as time allows. Good meat goes back into the broth with chopped carrots, potatoes, etc, while the bones & scraps can get boiled a second time for more broth. Remember not to give chicken bones to pets, as they can splinter and be dangerous.

For beef, use up bones leftover from t-bone steaks, or find some soup bone cuts (which are usually cheap & are cut open to reveal marrow), chunks of chuck stew meat or other tougher cuts, pot roast, heart, or tongue all make very tasty broth. Beef bones take longer than chicken bones and don’t really break down as much. These bones I prefer to start boiling as soon as I wake up, or if you have a crock-pot or safe setup for overnight boiling, I recommend 10-14 hours for beef bone stock, stirring & adding more water every hour or few.

Roasted Sweet Potato & Garlic Soup:

Cube sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces. Place them in one layer (not too crowded) on a baking sheet pan, and into a 350-degree oven. Roast for about 40 minutes, watching for that sweet spot in doneness that has the potato cubes caramelizing and browning but not burning. During the potato roasting time, take a few (to taste, which for me is a lot) whole, peeled garlic cloves, and toss them in a bit of olive oil and onto a pan for roasting about 15-20 minutes, until they soften and turn golden. When both the sweet potatoes and garlic are done, scrape them and all the yummy oil/caramelized goodness you can from the pans into a soup pot. Add salt to taste and a chopped sprig of fresh rosemary, and water to cover and boil until the roasted items start to break down and wash all their yummy roasty caramel goodness into a broth. Employ a potato masher to break up the contents even more, and boil, stirring, until the broth becomes silky and thicker with still a few chunks of sweet potato left. Savor that sweet spot.

Another vegan roasty-goodness soup – made with roasted green peppers, green tomatoes, chickpeas, and cilantro:

Chop up the green peppers any old way, removing the core and top. Only jullienne if you feel like it 😉 Toss in oil, and roast on a baking sheet in a 325-degree oven until soft and starting to brown, about 35 minutes. Chunk an equal amount of green tomatoes into small pieces, and chop a couple handfuls (to taste, of course) of fresh cilantro. Add all ingredients to a soup pot, cover with water, add a can of chickpeas, salt and pepper to taste, a pinch of coriander & cumin, and boil til soft, about 1 hour. Puree the soup using either a food processor, blender, or immersion blender til smooth as possible. The soup should be a lovely green color! Garnish with more fresh cilantro on top, and enjoy this savory-sour treat!

Stay tuned for more soup recipes, including creamy chowders, borscht, mushroom rice noodle soup, and a discussion of regional soup traditions. In the meantime, here is one more delicious & easy vegan soup recipe I created with Twin Oaks Tofu: http://twinoakstofu.com/bridgets-tom-kha-tofu-soup