Friday, May 24, 2013

Grilled Broccoli Raab

So guess what we did with our broccoli raab? We grilled it! =)

Yes, I know. This is rapidly becoming a "grill only" blog. But it's the season for it. And seriously, I haven't turned my stove on since the middle of May. I will grill almost anything.

I have only had broccoli raab a handful of times, mostly on sandwiches. I was pleasantly surprised to taste it on its own - it's broccoli-esque, but also has an almost asparagus taste to it too.

After I cut the heads off, I put it in a bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes. Then I simply shook most of the water off, drizzled on some olive oil, salt, pepper, and some Italian seasoning, and then threw it on the grill.

It was quick and easy to grill and came out quite deliciously. The ends got nice and crispy and almost had a Kale Chip flavor to them. (which seriously, if you have yet to try kale chips - please please PLEASE make them now. Like, right now. Then come back and tell me how much you love them).

And here is the grilled raab in all of its glory.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Garden Update and Our First Harvest

Well the weather has been positively wonderful for the garden lately. It literally seems to sprout up overnight and every morning when I come out with the dog, it's completely different than the night before.

This is our first year doing the Square Foot Gardening method, and I admit I was a little worried that it wouldn't work out. I had read horror stories on the Internet about how if you don't mix the soil exactly so, the entire garden would be ruined and nothing would grow. We were a little haphazard with our soil mixing, but we figured we'd give it a try and see what happened. Surprisingly, everything has taken off and is looking phenomenal! Next year, I just may have to add another bed somewhere. (I have no idea where though - we've pretty much planted the entire yard except for a small patch of grass)

We were even able to make our first harvests yesterday! Broccoli Raab was our first vegetable that we harvested, and you'll have to check back tomorrow to see how we used it. But suffice it to say - we were quite pleased with it!

We also harvested some of our buttercrunch and romaine lettuce last night. Man, there is nothing like lettuce fresh from the garden. It was so tender and flavorful and so far from that organic romaine that we've been getting from Costco. It's going to be hard to go back to that when winter comes around again.

So far, our garden harvest tally is just a little over a pound! I can't wait to see what the final tally will be by summer's end.

Our peas have totally taken off. The tomato cage trellis has worked quite well. I was worried that some of the plants in the corners of the boxes wouldn't reach, but they certainly did and the plants are now almost as tall as I am! We planted golden snow peas and the plants have the neatest little purple flowers.

And just to show you how quickly the peas have grown, I took that picture last night and this morning, I came out and there were about 20 peas that had popped out overnight! Check out how cute they are!

The rest of the garden is also taking off. I'd show you our broccoli/cauliflower beds, and the turnip/kohlrabi/cabbage beds, but they're pretty boring. How about a picture of one of the flower beds??

And here's the rest of the large garden area. We finally planted our eggplant, pepper, zucchini, and squash seedlings, as well as more mesclun lettuce mix, but you can see that our kale and other lettuces are doing just fine. And if you squint your eyes, you can see the new herb garden at the top left of the picture.

Well that's it for today, folks! Be sure to check back tomorrow to find out what we did with our broccoli raab.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with Mango, Red Onion, and Indian Vinaigrette

So you know how it happens, right? A friend invites you to their BBQ/Cookout that they are having at their house and you ask, "what can I bring?" Your friend replies, "oh, I don't know. Maybe some sort of side?" And then you're stuck, trying to think what you should bring. I mean, don't get me wrong - I love the old standby potato or macaroni salad, but sometimes, you want to bring something to really "wow" people. You want people to taste it and say "this is amazing! Can you bring this to my house too?"

But secretly, you want it to be an easy recipe. Something you can just throw together and can make ahead of time but will still deliver on some serious flavor. Well here you go! This recipe is delicious. And yes, I know I say that about most of my creations, but this is really really good. And easy. And you can make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until you need it. And seriously - just describing it gets the tastebuds going.

You know we love quinoa, right? So we threw some cooked quinoa in the bowl and added some cooked broccoli to it. You can steam, boil, roast, bake, or grill it however you want. (We simply grilled ours with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper) Then you add some diced up mango, red onion, fresh cilantro, and then some olive oil and spices. That's it. It couldn't be easier, right?

But seriously, the flavor?? Amazing. The mango adds just a nice little pop of sweetness that is the perfect companion for the Indian flavors. This is definitely one of those salads that will be the star of any upcoming summer get-together!

Quinoa Broccoli Salad with Mango, Red Onion, and Indian Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6
1 cup quinoa
1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
4 cups cooked broccoli
1 cup diced red onion
2 cups diced mango (this was about 2 whole mangos)
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp garam masala
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
Add quinoa, cumin seed, and coriander seed to pot or rice cooker and cook as directed on the package instructions. Place in a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Allow to chill for an hour or so to give flavors a chance to get all friendly like. Serve and enjoy!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

White Truffle Caper Vinaigrette

I didn't really discover capers until my early 20's. Some friends and I had driven up to Boston to visit another friend and decided to do lox and bagels on a lazy Sunday morning for breakfast. Capers were purchased and from that very first bite, I was hooked. There is something so delicious about the brininess and sharp flavor that I just love.

I wanted to grill up some potatoes to go along with our dinner, but thought it might be fun to make some sort of dipping sauce. I looked through the pantry and fridge, but nothing really spoke to me until I spied a dusty little jar of capers in the pantry. I started kicking around some ideas and finally decided to make a viniagrette. As I was grabbing ingredients to throw together, I also found a little jar of white truffle oil that we really should be using more often. After a few minutes of throwing things in the mini food processor and tasting, I realized that this was quite a tasty little dressing.

Not only is it tasty and has a nice combination of flavors, but it's dead easy to make. Seriously. You just throw all the ingredients in a mini food processor and let it go for about a minute. It whips up into this creamy delicious concoction.

It was absolutely perfect over some grilled potatoes and added the perfect little kick of flavor. But this sauce isn't just a one-trick pony. I also tried it on some grilled asparagus (Amazing!) as well as a quick romaine salad (Delicious!) so I'm sure there are several other ways to use it.

White Truffle Caper Vinaigrette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp capers
2 tsp stone ground mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tsp white truffle oil
pinch of salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients in a mini food processor. Blend for about a minute, until creamy.

Oh, and just because I love them so much - we grilled up some of the vegetarian ribz to accompany these potatoes. Man, sometimes I forget how tasty and delicious they are. Seriously - make them.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Grilled Philly Mushroom Sandwich

Listen, I promise this won't just be a "Grilling Only" blog. But I have to share this recipe with you and then I promise I'll get back to other recipes that don't require a grill. (Although seriously, grills are pretty awesome)

After the success of the mushroom gyro (and that was a very tasty success!), my husband came up with the idea for a grilled mushroom sub, sorta like a vegetarian cheesesteak. And since we live so close to Philadelphia and home of the Cheesesteak, I knew we had to do it right. (Technically, this is a "One Provolone With.")

We chopped up some lovely Baby Bella mushrooms, which are probably my favorite for just everyday tastiness. I love onions in my cheezesteaks, so we roughly chopped a gorgeous red onion to add into the mix.

The mushroom and onion mixture are drizzled with olive oil and then generously seasoned with Italian seasoning and fresh garlic, before they go straight onto a grill rack/pan. (If you don't have a grill, go ahead and saute them in a pan).

After those are all nice and cooked, we assembled the sandwich on a nice crusty hard roll with a healthy schmear (yes, that's a technical term) of marinara sauce and a few thin slices of smoked provolone. Add a generous amount of the cooked mushrooms and onions, and you've got yourself a sandwich that is guaranteed to satisfy any vegetarian. (or even omnivore!)

Seriously, this couldn't be easier and is the perfect meal for those summer nights where you don't want to spend more than 30 minutes making something hearty.

Grilled Philly Mushroom Sandwich

4 cups quartered Baby Bella mushrooms
1 cup roughly chopped red onion
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rolls, cheese, and your favorite marinara sauce

Preheat grill to medium high. Combine mushrooms, onions, oil, salt, seasoning, and garlic. Stir well. Cook on grill pan for about 4-5 minutes, until tender but not too mushy. Assemble sandwich and ENJOY!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Our Garden - Update

Whew! We're back. And what a wonderful weekend it was. I'll do a post with some pictures of our weekend vacation, but suffice it to say it was everything we'd hoped it would be. We spent hours reading on the screened-in porch at the cottage, slept in, did some exploring - it was all amazing. We also got permission from the landowner to revisit the waterfall right by the cottage, so we spent a good portion of time taking pictures and just enjoying the beauty of it all.
Tell me this isn't a gorgeous waterfall....

In our absence, our garden exploded in growth! It was so exciting to come home and see that our garden was HUGE! I think we're going to start harvesting some things this week, which we can't wait to do. We thought we'd take a page from One Hundred Dollars A Month, which is one of my favorite daily reads, and weigh everything we harvest to get a tally for how many pounds of food we grew this summer.

I warn you - this post will be picture heavy.

Our peas have done really well. We have them trellised on tomato cages strung with netting that we got at the hardware store. I was worried that some of the plants in the corners of the squares might not reach far enough, but they certainly did and everything is looking good. Just saw a flower on a few this morning, so we're not far from a harvest.

Our onions are popping up as well...

This is that cute little napa cabbage I posted a few weeks ago. It got huge!

Here is our broccoli and cauliflower beds - we planted 2 varieties of broccoli (Calabrese and Romanesco) as well as 2 varieties of cauliflower (Snowball and Cheddar). We can't wait to see how they all turn out.

And our Broccoli Rabe is doing wonderfully. We are actually going to harvest our first batch tonight and cook it up. You know I'm going to have to try and grill some, right?? I'll let you know how that turns out.

Our Pak Choi is looking quite wonderful and I think we can start harvesting some of these pretty soon too.

And finally, our potato baskets. These absolutely exploded with growth almost overnight! They are so healthy and full. I think we're almost ready to add our second layer of dirt to the baskets. Potato plants love to have dirt mounded around them, so we'll continue to mound it up until it reaches the top. Don't they look good??

And finally, the flowers. We had some extra space so I decided to add some color to the garden. I potted some flowers and made a nice little flower bed.

 I'm going to add another flower bed this weekend, as well as another small raised bed strictly for herbs (if my darling husband will kindly build me another box).

Aren't these petunias gorgeous?

This weekend will be busy in the garden. I've got tomato seedlings I need to do something with, herbs to plant, flowers to put in, and things to harvest.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

And we're off!

I can't believe how fast time has flown! This weekend, my husband and I are going to be celebrating our first anniversary. We are going to stay at his family's cottage, which is actually where we got engaged. There is a gorgeous waterfall right by the cottage, which is not only beautiful but holds a ton of memories for his family, all the way back to his grandfather who played there as a kid. And now it holds special memories for us as that's where he popped the question. I'll have to take some pictures and share them when I get back.

And I can't wait to show you pictures of our back yard! The garden has grown so big and all of our plants are doing so well. Those little seedlings I showed you two weeks ago are now huge, full-grown plants. I planted more flowers and created another flower bed. But the most exciting part is that we strung old Christmas lights across the backyard and it turned out absolutely amazing.

Well, that's it for now folks! I'll be back next week!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Drunken Cow Cheese

So last week, I showed you all of our cheesemaking equipment. I was seriously surprised at how easy cheesemaking was. I thought it'd be much harder, but using the book "Home Cheese Making" has seriously been such a huge help. It's very easy to understand and it walks you through step-by-step. You can also learn a lot from the Internet. (Seriously, what did I do before the Google machine? Or my new favorite "google," which is Pinterest. Here's my Cheese Making board if you're interested.)

I'd also purchase the cheesemaking kit to get started - it'll give you all of the ingredients and supplies that you'll need. You can also purchase them separately on Amazon or New England Cheesemaking, which is pretty much the authority on cheese making. Oh, and if I can say one important thing - cheesemaking does take a block of time. Most of it is non-active time, but you do have to make sure you are paying attention and setting a timer. It takes me about 3 1/2 to 4 hours from start to finish, and then there is the pressing time. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there is nothing worse than having to set an alarm for 2:30 in the morning so that you can take the cheese out of the press. Not that I know what that's about.

Today, I'm going to show you a quick little step-by-step of how I made my most recent cheese - a Drunken Cow Cheese. I've had a Drunken Goat cheese before, and I'm very  much looking forward to this one. It's a washed curd cheese, which means literally that - the cheese curds are washed with fresh water, as opposed to just staying in their own natural whey. This will lower the overall acidity of the cheese. (Don't worry - I know I'm throwing around a lot of terms, but it'll all make sense if you read through the book.) This is not necessarily a tough recipe, but it might be easier to start with a recipe where you don't have to wash the curds. I'll be honest though - I've done both now and I find them both about the same in difficulty. You just have to make sure you're following the directions.

Did you know you can make cheese with milk from the grocery store? You can use any form of cow's milk, as long as it isn't Ultra-pasteurized. Or you can use raw milk, provided you let it age at least 60 days.

One of the most important parts of cheesemaking is maintaining a certain temperature for a certain period of time. This is probably one of the most important parts, as certain cultures react differently at certain temperatures. This is the thermometer that was included in my cheesemaking kit, and it actually works pretty well. (although I've since upgraded to a digital one.)

Another important thing is the pot. I have a heavy Calphalon stock pot that holds the same temperature for at least 60 minutes, so it's worked perfectly for me.

So once you get the temperature to where it needs to be, you let it sit for awhile, until it has a "clean break." To me, that just means it's gets sort of jello-like and you can cut it with a knife and it holds it's shape nicely. When that happens, you can then move onto the next step, which is probably one of my favorites. Cutting the curd is when you take a sharp knife and actually cut the gelled cheese mixture into squares. The book explains it extremely well and I found it so easy to do. Look at how pretty the little squares are!

Then you slowly heat the curds, which allows them to release some of the whey, which is the clear liquid on top that you see here.

For a washed curd cheese, you scoop out this whey and replace it with clean hot water a few times, hence "washing the curds!"

It'll then go into the press and will come out looking nice and compact.

After a few hours of some air drying, it'll take a lovely little wine bath for a total of 48 hours. Ours took on the most delicious dark red color, although it still looks very light here.

And then it goes into the cellar for about 3 months. If you don't have a cheese cave like ours, here's a great post for other options. The Drunken Cow cheese is on the top right. And don't worry - that's not mold - it's salt residue from the brine.

And there you go! I can't wait to crack into this cheese! I'll have to update the post once we do! And if you've tried your hand at cheesemaking, I'd love to hear how it turned out!

Drunken Cow Cheese
2 gallons whole milk
1/8 tsp Mesophilic direct set culture
1/8 tsp Calcium Chloride, diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
1 tsp liquid rennet, diluted in 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
1 tablespoon cheese salt (or good quality sea salt)
6 cups water, heated to 175 degrees F
1 bottle dark red wine (i used a Merlot)
Pour milk into large pot. Add the diluted Calcium Chloride and stir well. Heat the milk to 90 degrees F and stir in the mesophilic culture. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Add the diluted rennet and stir for one minute. Cover and let set for 60 minutes, maintaining the temperature. If your pot does not hold heat as well as mine, you can immerse the pot in a sink of 90 degree water. You will probably have to periodically add hot water to the sink to maintain the temperature.
Insert a knife and see if you have a clean break. If so, you can cut the curds into 1/2" cubes. Stir gently for about a minute and then cover and let them rest.
With a sterilized measuring cup, take out about 1/3 of the whey. (this was about 2.5 cups total for me). Gradually add the heated water and stire to bring the temperature of the curds up to 92 degrees. (Again, this was about 2.5 cups for me). Stir continuously so that curds don't clump together. Once they reach 92 degrees, let them rest for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain off whey to the top of the curds using the measuring cup again. Continue to add heated water until the curd temperature is 100 degrees. Rest for 15 minutes, keeping at the target temperature and stirring occasionally to prevent clumping. Let the curds sit for 30 minutes at 100 degrees.
Pour curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander. Pour the curds back into the pot and break into 1/4" pieces with your fingers. Blend in the salt.
Pack the curds into a cheesecloth lined mold. Cover the curds with the cloth and press at 20lbs for 20 minutes. Remove the cheese from the press, unwrap and flip over. Rewrap cheese and place back into mold. Press again at 20lbs for 20 minutes. Remove, flip, rewrap, and place cheese back into press and press again for 20lbs for 12 hours.
Remove cheese from the mold and cheesecloth. Skewer 10 holes in each side of the cheese, going about halfway down each time. Bathe the cheese in wine for 24 hours, making sure the cheese is completely covered in wine and flipping halfway through. Remove, lay on a sushi mat for 6 hours, until dry to the touch. Repeat the wine bath again for 24 hours. Remove and allow to air dry until dry to the touch. (This took about 8 hours for me)
Store the cheese in your cheese cave (or wherever you age your cheese) at around 50 degrees F at about 85% humidity for three months. (For our cave, we just have a container of water in the bottom of the fridge and it keeps it nice and moist. Or check out this post for other DIY cheese cave ideas)
Turn cheese daily for about 2 weeks. Wipe down with a brine solution (a nice heavy salt water) if mold starts to form on the surface. (which is perfectly  normal and okay - I had to keep telling myself this)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Mushroom Gyros

At some point, when the weather gets warmer, we start treating our grill as if it's the only cooking tool we have. Seriously, everything gets grilled. I think we grilled 80% of everything we got from our CSA last year. And that was only because we preserved the rest. We've already started with grill-a-mania this year, so don't be surprised if you see a ton of recipes that are grill friendly popping up regularly. And don't fret if you are grill-less - you can always broil or saute things instead.

One of the things that makes my life easier is a grill tray. Actually, I have several, depending on what I'm grilling, but I have a flat one that covers most of the grill and is my most used one. (looks kinda like this, but a bit heavier) I love to grill almost any kind of vegetable on it, from mushrooms to brussel sprouts to asparagus.

When I was trying to think of what I wanted to make for dinner last night, I knew I wanted to use up some mushrooms that had been lingering in the fridge. One of the things I love to get at a local sandwich shop is a mushroom gyro. Although they usually look at me funny when I order a "gyro, no meat, but with mushrooms instead," it's really quite delicious. We decided to try making them at home, and I don't know if I can ever eat one at a restaurant again. They were absolutely delicious!

The mushrooms take on a lovely grilled and meaty texture, making them hearty and just perfect as the start of this wrap. We decided to make it even healthier and do a lettuce wrap, which turned out to be wonderfully crisp and light. Topped off with fresh tomatoes, red onion, and of course, tzatziki sauce, this might just be one of my favorite recipes yet of 2013.

You really should give these a try! You'll thank me!

Mushroom Gyros
Serves 2

4 cups quartered baby bella mushrooms
1/8 c olive oil
1/2 tbsp oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt

Tzatziki Sauce8 oz plain yogurt
1/3 c diced cucumber
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp salt
pinch sugar
1/4 c fresh dill, minced

Romaine lettuce leaves
fresh diced tomatoes
Slivered red onions
Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Wash and quarter mushrooms. Add olive oil, oregano, garlic, and salt and stir well to combine. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the tzatziki sauce. Allow to chill for a bit for flavors to come together. Preheat grill and grill pan to medium high heat. Grill mushrooms for 5-7 minutes, until tender. Remove from heat. Assemble wraps on lettuce with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and top with parsley.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Indian Quinoa Salad

As some of you know, both my husband and I are vegetarians. And thankfully, neither of us are picky eaters, so it's not uncommon to see a meal of just grilled vegetables with a simple side. (Yes, I realize how blessed I am to have a husband who will happily sit down to a plate of grilled mushrooms and asparagus with a side of quinoa). We do like to get our protein in, which is why quinoa makes a frequent appearance at meals in our house. And if you have a rice cooker, it couldn't be easier to make.

This dish has a nice layered depth of flavor, given some key ingredients. I added coconut milk to the boiling water for the quinoa, which makes it super creamy and flavorful. There's some curry powder and garam masala, to keep things interesting. And then we splashed some lime juice and sesame seed oil in there - you know - just for fun. Cilantro is probably one of my favorite herbs, and seriously, it does wonders in this dish. The final ingredient, and please - hear me out on this one - golden raisins. Listen, even if you don't like raisins, you should try this. One of the Indian restaurants I love puts them in their curries and I died the first time I discovered them. It provides this wonderful texture and just a hint of sweetness that pairs wonderfully with the curry and acidity of this salad.

One of the things I like about this salad is that it works perfectly as a side dish as is, or you can beef it up and make it a main dish. You can easily add sauteed vegetables, some smoked tofu,  or even shredded chicken if you are so inclined. Regardless of how you make it, I'm sure you'll find this salad quite delightful.

Indian Quinoa Salad
Serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well (I used a mix of both red and quite)
1 cup light coconut milk
1 cup water

1/8 cup olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins

Cook quinoa according to directions in coconut milk and water. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sesame oil, and lime juice. Pour over the quinoa and add remaining ingredients. Stir well and serve either warm or chilled.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Cheesemaking - the Equipment

So in our quest to be as self-sufficient as possible, as well as responsible for as much of our food sources as possible, we decided to try our hand at making our own cheese. I'm a huge fan of cheese (and sadly, cite it as probably the only reason why I am not a 100% vegan, although we mainly eat a vegan diet). Thankfully, I'm also blessed with a husband who will pretty much go along with whatever crunchy idea that pops into my head, so when I said "let's make cheese!" he said, "how much milk do we need?"

First of all, not only is cheesemaking much much easier than I thought, but the set-up is relatively inexpensive. So today I'll walk you through the equipment I have and then later in the week, I'll walk you through the most recent cheese I made, a Drunken Cow cheese. (this cheese takes a lovely long bath in red wine for 48 hours and takes on the most gorgeous color)

We first purchased a kit at our local homebrew store, which was relatively inexpensive. Amazon has the same kit for about $28.

This kit comes with almost everything you need to make several batches of cheese, including a mold, all of the cultures, a thermometer, and a recipe book. The book included is actually quite helpful, but I've found the full book written by the same person to be the most thorough and helpful to understand the process of making our own cheese.
Although there is a pretty flimsy mold included, we actually made our own. I purchased 2 sturdy plastic containers at the local restaurant supply store.
I drilled holes in the bottom one to allow the whey to be released during pressing. They work quite well, actually. You can use any size container, just as long as the top container fits snugly inside the bottom one.
We also made our own cheap rendition of a cheese press. I know, it looks pretty rickety, but it actually gets the job done very well. For the press, we simply took 2 pieces of flat board, drilled 4 holes in the corners of each board, big enough to fit a 1"dowel rod. We then cut a dowel rod into 4 pieces and glued them into the holes of the bottom piece of wood. The top piece slides up and down on the rods, depending on the mold underneath.
Cheese gets pressed under so many pounds of pressure for specific periods of time, so it's important to make sure you have an easy way to monitor that. We use some old weights from a weight lifting set and they work quite well. You just have to make sure they are stacked squarely and evenly on the board.
The final piece of equipment that we added was an old dorm refrigerator to use as our cheese cave. See, as cheese ages, it needs to be kept at a temperature between 45-55 and at a relatively stable humidity. If you have a basement that stays at this temperature, you can do without the cave and simply use plastic food storage boxes with a wet towel/sponge inside and it will make a perfect little cave. But if your basement is like ours and the temperature fluctuates with the seasons, you might want to invest in a fridge like we did. We found one on Craigslist for about $50, but we've seen them as cheap as $20. Actually, this is a great time to start looking, as I'm sure there are plenty of college kids who are moving out of dorms and wanting to get rid of theirs.
Thankfully, if you turn this fridge setting to the warmest one (10 on the scale of 1-10) it keeps a perfect 50 degrees, which we verified with a thermometer. If your fridge isn't quite so perfect, you can purchase an external thermostat, which will regulate the temperature for the refrigerator.
Oh, and the cheeses in our fridge on the bottom rack is the first one we did (and probably the easiest) and is a Farmhouse Cheddar. We waxed it and it's currently getting all good and aged. Oh, and waxing is super easy. We just bought a block of cheese wax, melted it in a double boiler, and brushed on coats with a natural bristle paint brush. The top left is an Asiago with peppercorns, and then the top right is the Drunken Cow.
So that's it! Check back later this week and I'll show you the process of cheesemaking.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Grilled Enchilada Pizza and a Garden Update

So ever since we discovered how easy it was to make grilled pizza, we've been obsessed with thinking of different varieties. And since it's Pantry Week around these parts, we really needed to become creative. What's Pantry Week, you say? Well, you know how you always seem to have random things stocked in your pantry that you never seem to use? Dried beans and sauces and grains and all other sorts of things that just get pushed back when you buy new groceries. Or, if you're like me, you buy the same item every time at the store and then realize you already have 3 of them in your pantry. (For me, these items are red curry paste and tomato sauce). So during Pantry week, we can only eat "from the Pantry." Ideally, we don't purchase any groceries during that week, unless we are completely out of fresh vegetables.

 So after making a survey of the pantry this week, I realized we had almost all the ingredients for enchiladas in the house, sans tortillas. We made vegetarian chilaquiles one night, which were incredible and dead easy. (Seriously, simply layer tortilla chips with generous amounts of enchilada sauce and whatever beans and veggies you have on hand. Top with cheese, bake in the oven for 15 minutes and viola!) I realized that we still had enough ingredients left over to do something with, and the idea of an Enchilada Pizza was born.

It couldn't be easier. Simply make the pizza dough I introduced last week, to which I added cumin and crushed red pepper. Then coat with enchilada sauce and top with whatever floats your boat. We used black beans, chopped jalapenos, chopped onion, halved cherry tomatoes, and corn. After it was all good and cooked, we topped with a generous amount of roughly chopped cilantro. Man, was it tasty! Oh, and took me about 30 minutes to throw together. That's almost too easy!

 Now let's talk garden, shall we? I love this time in the garden. Not only are the seeds and seedlings
we planted doing extremely well, but they seem to grow almost overnight. Every morning while I let the dog out, I take a walk and survey the new growth. It's amazing.

Our peas are growing extremely well, but my favorite plants to look at are definitely the cabbages. We have several different varieties growing, including napa and pak choi.I just love the way the plants are growing - I can almost imagine what the full-sized plants will look like.

Well that's all for today, folks! Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Veggie Burgers with some bite to them!

I've been a vegaquarian for about 10 years now, and it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. But every year at grilling season, I do have a tiny twinge of sadness, as I see and smell ribs, steaks, and burgers on neighbor's grills. It's not that I want to eat meat, but there just aren't that many vegetarian things that are quite as easy as throwing a burger on the grill.

I've tried several different vegetarian burger recipes in the past, but they never seem to satisfy. They usually end up either falling apart on the grill, or being completely mushy and without texture on the inside. Although the flavor is really good, they really lack the texture that I'm looking for.

Until these burgers. I've had TVP in my pantry for awhile and although I've used it in some other recipes, I really don't use it as much as I could. For those of you who don't know, TVP is a soy-based textured vegetable protein. Although I try to stay away from soy as much as possible, I do make the occasional exception for some TVP.

This has honestly been one of the best grilled vegetarian burgers I've ever had. Not only is it flavorful, but it has a nice little texture to it. Now don't get crazy and think I'm saying that these are exactly like a real burger, but they are definitely closer to the texture than any other homemade burger I've ever tried. And the key to keeping them together is to freeze them for a bit before they actually hit the grill, which will allow them to hold together. I had no issues with them falling apart, unlike the other recipes I've tried. (as a sidenote - you can either grill these or bake them)

I've kept this recipe fairly simply spiced, but you can easily get creative with it, and make it spicy or Indian spiced or whatever flavor your little heart desires. Go ahead and give it a try - you just might make a vegetarian's day!

Veggie Burgers with some bite!

Makes 4 large burgers or 6 small burgers
1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein)
3/4 cup boiling water
1/4 cup A-1 sauce
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/2 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1 tbsp olive oil
In a medium sized bowl, combine the TVP with the boiling water and the A-1. Allow to stand for 10 minutes and then add in remaining ingredients. Stir well to combine. Scoop out a handful and shape into a patty, making sure to press firmly. Repeat until all burgers are formed.
Place on a foil-covered sheet and place in freezer for a minimum of 30 minutes. If grilling, preheat grill to medium heat. Rub a thin coat of olive oil on each side of the burger. Place on heated grates. Cook for 4-5 minutes on one side, then flip over to the other side and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.
If baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on greased baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Herbed Quinoa Salad

Quinoa is probably one of my favorite grains of all times. Not only is it very easy to make and extremely versatile, but it also packs a great nutritional punch. Quinoa is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids. It's also a wonderful source of protein, yielding about 8 grams of protein for just 1 cup of cooked quinoa. Quinoa is also a great source of fiber, magnesium, manganese, zinc and potassium and is low in gluten, which means those with celiac disease can eat it. One of these years, I'm going to try and grow it in my garden.

I love a good cold grain salad, especially one based on quinoa, because not only are they quick and easy to make, but they also hold well and make wonderful leftovers. They are also the perfect accompaniment to a warm summer evening's meal.

I threw this salad together one night to go along with some grilled burgers we were having (stay tuned later this week for that recipe - might just be my favorite non-mushy vegetarian burger ever!) and it was quite delicious and full of flavor. I used my rice cooker to make the quinoa, which is almost too easy. After it's cooked, you simply toss it with the remaining ingredients and can serve it either warm or chilled. Either way, it's bound to be a great addition to your meal.

Herbed Quinoa Salad

1 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp coriander seed
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp good olive oil
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/4 c chopped fresh dill
1/4 c chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro

Add cumin seed and coriander seed to water and cook quinoa according to directions. (For me, that's 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups water in my rice cooker) Meanwhile, saute mushrooms in 2 tbsp olive oil until cooked. (about 5-7 minutes) Add to bowl with cooked quinoa. Add salt, lemon juice, additional olive oil, garam masala and worcestershire sauce and combine well. Add fresh herbs and toss until combined. Serve warm or chilled.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Our garden, part dos

Thankfully the April showers have started in a big way the past few days where I live, which has been great for a few things. One, I don't have to worry about watering the seedlings in the garden daily and two, it's been great to get some of that pollen out of the air.
I took these pictures about 2 days ago and already I've noticed a change in how big the plants have gotten. I can't wait to give an updates when everything has fully grown in.
So here's our tiny yard tour. On one side of our yard, we have 3 7'x2' beds which we've sectioned off into one foot sections. My husband built them (very easily and cheaply) and they look great. I'd like to add another 2 next season, but we'll see how it goes.

This is the first bed, closest to our house. We currently have a variety of snap, sugar, and pod peas and they are coming up super fast. As soon as they are fully harvested, we'll turn this bed over and plant beans.

This is the second bed and you can also see a cold frame that good friends of ours lent us. This bed currently holds broccoli, cauliflower, and broccoli rabe and they are coming along very well. We'll turn these beds over in the summer for tomatoes and peppers.

Our third and final raised bed currently holds cabbage, kohlrabi, and turnips. Surprisingly, all of the seeds we planted and all of our seedlings have done very well so far. I'm excited for our first harvest. And once these are done, we'll put our melons in over the summer. But just look at this cute little Pak Choi seedling!

And towards the right of the picture, you can see 3 laundry baskets that currently hold our potatoes. We have 3 types of potatoes going. This is our first time trying potatoes in baskets, so we'll see how it goes. If it works as everything I've read on Pinterest indicates that it should, we should have a nice little bumper potato crop.

 And this is our final and main garden area. This is where our eggplants, herbs, kale, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, carrots, radishes, okra, onions and the rest of our hot peppers. We're also going to do strawberry plants in the cinder block holes. (ignore the mess on the deck - I was in the middle of pulling out pots and rearranging gardening stuff)

We'll also have a variety of containers planted around the garden, with more herbs, flowers, and other veggies. I can't wait!

And this is our big helper, Gracie! She has been loving our tiny but much loved backyard. I've had her since she was a wee pup and we've only lived in apartments where she had to be walked on a leash. When she first discovered that she could run around on her own and and be wherever she wanted in her own back yard, she lost her little mind in excitement.

So that's it! That's our humble but happy garden. I can't wait to share pictures once everything has fully grown in and looks like a real garden.

Happy Spring, y'all!