Sunday, July 31, 2016

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup for Canning

If you've been following me on Instagram (and please do, because I update that FAR more frequently than this old blog), you know that I have been can jamming like it's my part time J.O.B. My husband has been blessed to have a summer job at our local CSA, and one of those perks is getting to bring home a ton of vegetables. I've wanted to make the most of all of the amazing bounty, so I've been trying to preserve and can things at least every other day so nothing goes to waste. What he brings home, plus our own garden has given us an incredible amount of food, which will be incredible to have on hand for the rest of the year. Between canning, dehydrating, and freezing, we've been quite busy stocking up our pantry. (and I just took a count - so far, I've canned about 200 pints of things)

Although we've gotten some tomatoes from his job, and we have a few plants in our garden, I knew I needed more to be able to preserve all the tomato based things I had on my wish list (more spicy Bloody Mary Mix, salsa, tomato vodka sauce, and then some plain tomato things). While driving through the country side yesterday, I found a little Amish place selling 25 pounds of tomatoes for $6 a box. So I did what any good canner does and picked up 4 boxes. Yeah, I'm aware that's 100 pounds of tomatoes...

We added a pressure canner this year, and I couldn't be more happy. Although it's still a little scary to use, it's no different than a pressure canner. And as long as you follow the directions, you should be good to go.

This recipe is pressure canned, although I don't see why you couldn't freeze this if you wanted to. There is probably a way to water bath can it too, but if you aren't a canning expert, I probably wouldn't try monkeying around with it as apparently, botulism is no joke.

This recipe is from the new Big Ball Book of Canning, although I tripled the recipe and then added some spices to it, so here is my version. This yielded 14 quarts, and you could easily do this in pints if you liked a smaller serving size.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
24 pounds tomatoes, quartered, cored, and seeded
12 cloves garlic
3 tbsp. olive oil
6 cups minced onion
3 cups dry white wine
12 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3 tbsp salt, or to taste
2 tsp white pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 (18 oz) can tomato paste (optional - I used it because my soup was a little thin)
3 cups packed basil leaves, minced

Preheat oven to 375. Quarter, core, and seed tomatoes, and place cut side up on large rimmed baking sheets. Add cloves of garlic and tuck down in between tomatoes. Place in oven and bake 45 minutes to an hour, until garlic and tomatoes are nice and soft.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large stock pot. Add onion and saute, 8-10 minutes, until soft and tender. Add wine, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes, stock, seasonings, and tomato paste, if using. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes, or until heated through. Using a stick blender (or do in batches in a traditional blender), process soup until nice and smooth. Return to pot and add basil. Stir well.

Ladle hot soup into hot jars, leaving a 1" headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rim and apply lids, fingertip tight. Place jar on rack in pressure canner, containing recommended amount of simmering water. Place lid on canner and turn to locked position. Adjust heat to medium high. Vent steam for 10 minutes. Place the counter weight on vent; bring pressure to 10 pounds. Process pint jars for 50 minutes and quart jars for 60 minutes. Turn off heat; cool canner to zero pressure. Let stand 5 more minutes before removing lid. Cool jars in canner 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Sweet Onion Jam and Diet Changes

Well hello there!

Spring weather is almost upon us and I can hardly stand it. This is my favorite time of year - when the sun is out more often, the days get longer, and the weather starts to get warmer. It's also when we finalize our garden plan, which I love to do. I could spend hours pouring over seed catalogs and refiguring our garden layout and planting plans. I guess that makes me a bit of a nerd, but it's all worth it late summer when we're overloaded with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Saint Patrick's Day just passed us, and since I am now Irish by marriage, I like to try and make something special each year for my husband. Usually it's shepherd's pie (his favorite), but this year I decided to switch it up. I've never actually had corned beef or pastrami, but I thought this seemed like the year to try. Wait, whaaatt?!? 28 Cooks, the vegaquarian blogger is talking about eating meat?

I guess I should back up just a bit. Most of my friends and family know this by now, but yes, it's true. I've introduced some meat back into my diet. See, I had been a vegetarian for about 12 years. I started when I was 25 after realizing how horrible my diet was and figuring that if I spent 30 days eating just vegetables, I'd eat better. 30 days turned into 12 years and I really enjoyed it. That being said, I can't deny I had some issues with it as far as getting enough protein and iron. Since I became a vegetarian, I've been anemic and had very low iron. My doctor would admonish me every year to try and supplement with more iron, but no matter how much iron rich vegetables I ate or iron supplement I tried, it just stayed low. And it wasn't really a big deal overall and I just dealt with it. Sure, I was cold often and my fingers and feet were always freezing, but I wasn't ready to give up being a vegetarian.

And then I got pregnant with my son. And somewhere within my 3rd trimester, my iron became dangerously low. Because of it, I had some cardiac issues and ended up seeing a hematologist. We started some serious iron supplementation for a few weeks to see if I could get back to a better level. But several weeks of taking pills multiple times a day had little effect. He made it very clear to me that I was looking at blood transfusions, unless I did something else. And although I wasn't crazy about it, I decided that a steak sounded like a much less invasive option than all that comes with transfusions. I cried a bit over the decision, but then promptly called my dad (aka. The Grillmaster) and asked him to make me my first steak.

Now this is where I should say as a former vegetarian that it was horrible and I choked it down. But I didn't. It was actually on the tasty side. And after a few weeks of adding grassfed meat into my diet, I felt better and my lab levels were much better. I was able to stop my cardiac monitoring and the huge doses of iron I was on. It definitely wasn't an easy decision to make, but honestly my body felt so much better. And quite frankly, I would have eaten anything if it was better for my growing baby.

And so now, we still eat meat occasionally. I still miss being a vegetarian and we mostly eat vegetarian at home, except for adding in meat a few times a week. And we do our best to only eat local, organic, and grass fed meat as much as possible.

Now back to our Saint Patrick's day feast - I decided this year to try something different, and decided to make pastrami. We don't have a smoker, but I found this awesome recipe. It turned out incredibly amazing. I also made a loaf of Jewish Onion Rye (recipe to come later this week) but it needed something else to spice it up. Enter the onion jam.

I know it sounds weird, but the flavors of this jam are absolutely incredible. It's slightly sweet, yet has a lovely savory flavor from the onions and red wine. It goes great with the pastrami, but is tasty enough to use in other dishes. I used it in the middle of a grilled cheese for my almost 2-year old (which he loved) and also with a chicken salad sandwich. I'm sure there are a hundred other uses and I can't wait to make another batch.

It's very easy to make and most of the cooking time is just making sure to stir it every once in a while. So go ahead and give it a try - make sure you let me know how it turned out!

Sweet Onion Jam
Makes 2 cups

1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dry red wine
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup grenadine
1/4 tsp cracked mustard seed
1/4 tsp celery seed
pinch of salt

Melt butter in a medium skillet. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook over medium high heat until soft and just translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and lower heat. Leave uncovered and cook 30-40 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the liquid has thickened and coats the back of the spoon. Transfer to a bowl and let cool before using.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Multi-grain Sandwich Bread, easy enough for beginners

Frequent readers of Home by 28 Cooks know that we are a bread lovin' family. I know, I know - gluten is evil. But gluten is also tasty. And it also happens to be one of the things that my newly-picky-and-exercising-his-independence-to-say-no-to-things-even-when-he-likes-them is one thing my 16-month old hasn't refused. Yet.

I've talked to quite a few people who are scared of bread baking. The multiple steps and rising and all of that mumbo jumbo leaves them afraid to try. And although I must admit baking fresh bread does take some extra time and care, most of it is inactive. And seriously, the result? Amazing.

This has become our new standard weekly bread recipe to make. It produces such a wonderful hearty loaf, chock full of whole grains. And seriously, it's easy. Very very easy.

I mean, look at it. Doesn't that look tasty? So if you've been hesitant to try baking bread, I urge you to give this one a try. And if you do, let me know how it turns out!

I do usually double the recipe (like I said, bread family y'all) and I've included the measurements for that down below. We use organic unbleached all purpose flour for ours, but you could also use half whole wheat or even bread flour if you want.


Multi-grain Sandwich Bread
Makes 1 8x4 or 9x5 loaf
Time: about 4-5 hours, plus another 1-2 hours to cool the loaf

1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup whole wheat couscous (or regular)
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 tablespoons olive oil (or butter)
2 tablespoons honey (or molasses for a darker loaf)
1 1/2 cups boiling water

2 tsp active dry yeast or 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup flaxseeds
1 3/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup organic all purpose flour

Add millet, couscous, oats, olive oil, and honey to a large glass bowl and stir in boiling water. Allow to cool 15-20 minutes, until temperature of water is about 100 degrees. (or whatever temperature your yeast prefers - check the package for exact temps)

Stir in yeast, then flax seeds, salt, and 1/2 cup flour. Add remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. (I usually start to use my hands to mix it after about 1 1/4 cup). Scrape down sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let mixture sit for 20 minutes. This allows the starches in the flour to absorb the water, which makes the dough smoother and easier to knead. It also allows you to add less flour, which makes a lighter loaf of bread. Fancy bread bakers call this process autolyse.

Uncover the bowl and scrape dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough about 7-8 minutes, adding light sprinkles of flour if it starts to stick. You do want the dough to be somewhat tacky when finished.

Round the dough into a ball and place into a large bowl coated with oil. Roll the ball of dough around the bowl a bit to get a light coating of oil on it. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled, about an hour and a half. (For me, the perfect place is in my oven. I have an electric stove, so I will heat it at 400 degrees for 1 minute, and then turn off. I place the dough in and shut the door and it rises perfectly in there. Gas ovens are typically warm enough without preheating)

Grease your loaf pan with oil. Turn the dough out onto a surface very lightly dusted with flour. Pat into a rectangle, as long as your loaf pan and twice as wide. Roll the dough up snugly, cinnamon bun style, and pinch the seam shut. Tuck the ends under the loaf and roll it a few times, seam side down, to smooth it out. Place the log, seam side down, into the loaf pan. Place the entire pan into a large plastic bag (we use those plastic grocery bags) and tie the bag shut, leaving it inflated to give bread room to expand.

Let the loaf rise until doubled in bulk and 2" above the rim of the loaf pan, which usually takes about 45-60 minutes.

Place a metal or cast iron pan that you don't care about on the floor of the oven or on the lowest rack. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove the bag from the loaf pan. Fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup with ice cubes. Open the oven and quickly but gently place the loaf pan inside. Toss the ice cubes into the pan on bottom of the oven. Close the door and don't open it for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven to 350 degrees. Rotate the pan and bake for another 30-40 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the loaf should read 195-200.

Remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely before cutting (the internal steam continues to cook the bread as it cools).

To double the recipe, double all ingredients, except for yeast. Use 3 tsp active dry yeast or 2 1/2 tsp instant yeast. The rest of the instructions remain the same. 

Monday, November 09, 2015

Acorn Squash stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, and Toasted Pine Nuts

Well hello to you! Yep, it's been a long time but I'm back. Now that my kitchen helper is almost 16 months old, he loves to supervise in the kitchen from his high chair. And that means more time for me to cook and develope recipes!

Not to say I haven't been cooking the past few months, but since his attention span was so short, I was opting for quick and easy meals that I could throw together in a few minutes. The old pressure cooker and crock pot have really come in clutch the past few months.

Today I'm back with a recipe. I've actually never cooked acorn squash before, but was inspired by a friend's Instagram photo (hey Eva!) to try. And wow - was I impressed and surprised at how easy it was. Not only is it pretty quick to put together, but the flavor of the squash itself is sweet and savory, which lends itself to a wide variety of fillings.

Although I've opted for a vegan filling for this recipe, you could easily throw some sausage in yours, or amp up the crispy panko topping with parmesan. You could also toss in some dried cranberries or golden raisins for a little sweet snap of flavor!

The recipe couldn't be simpler. I halved and scooped out the seeds of 2 acorn squash, and then drizzled them with melted butter, a little sprinkle of brown sugar, and salt and pepper. They roast in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Then for the filling, I started with a lovely wild rice mixture and added some fresh apples and toasted pine nuts. If you don't have pine nuts, try toasted pecans. Either nut will add a delightful little crunch to the recipe. Topped off with panko bread crumbs, they were put back into the oven to toast the tops and bring the flavors all together. At the end, you have a delicious and savory dish that looks incredible! This would be a wonderful side dish for the upcoming holidays.

Any other tried and true ways you like to cook your acorn squash??

Acorn Squash stuffed with Wild Rice, Apples, and Toasted Pine Nuts
Serves 3-4

2 acorn squash
1 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp brown sugar (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked wild rice (or brown rice)
1 tbsp coconut aminos (or Bragg's)
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika)
1 tsp no-salt seasoning blend (I used Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 cup diced apple
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts (or pecans or walnuts, diced)
1/2 cup seasoned panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 450. Cut squash in half, scoop out seeds, and drizzle with melted butter. Sprinkle with brown sugar and season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake until just fork tender, about 25 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat up olive oil in medium sized pan. Saute onion 4-5 minutes, until becoming soft and opaque. Add in garlic and saute another minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in rice, aminos, seasonings, apples, and nuts. Stir well to combine. 

In a small bowl, combine butter and panko crumbs Set aside. 

Remove squash from oven. Fill each piece with rice filling and top with panko crumbs. Place back into the oven and bake another 20-25 minutes, until top is toasted brown and filling in heated through. 

Serve and enjoy!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

It's Zucchini Season, Y'all!

So zucchini is starting to overwhelm local gardeners, so I thought I'd post a few recipes that are great for using up some of that fresh produce. I just made 2 of these recipes myself in the past week, and am sure I'll be using the rest shortly.

Although this original recipe for Indian Fritters was made with eggplant, I tried these using some fresh zucchini and they were amazing!

Indian Eggplant Fritters

This Cilantro Zucchini Hummus is one of my favorite recipes for zucchini of all times. I just made a huge batch of this and have been using it to dip carrots into or to toss with fresh salad greens.

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus

Want a quick AND easy dinner? You can have this Summer Vegetable Cacciatore on the table in under 25 minutes. You can't beat that!

Vegetable Cacciatore I

This oldie-but-goodie recipe is quick, easy, and tasty. I made this Curried Zucchini Soup a few weeks ago and it was the perfect meal.

Curried Zucchini Soup

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Roasted Poblano and Summer Squash Soup

Summer seems like an odd time to be eating soup, doesn't it? Yet for some reason, this week, I've been craving it. But even if you're not up to a hot bowl of something when it's hot outside, summer is a great time to make a soup and freeze for cooler times.

I know I'm not alone in having an overwhelming abundance in summer squash and zucchini. This year, I'm determined to use up every single one in a new way. So far, it's been going great. We've made Bread and Butter pickles with squash, and they are exceptional! I'll be posting a recipe later this week.

Our pepper plants also seem to be working overtime, and I just picked some lovely poblano peppers this morning that I wanted to use up. You can't go wrong roasting vegetables for soup, so I decided to throw some zucchini and poblanos in the oven and then make a soup. I also threw in a red onion and some garlic, because why not?

Here it is after roasting in the oven, in all of it's roasted gloriousness.

After roasting, the rest of the soup couldn't be easier. Simply add water or stock, a few spices, and blend it all up in a blender or with an immersion blender. And viola! You've got yourself a bowl of warm summery goodness.

This soup also freezes extremely well, so make a double or triple batch and put some away for the winter.

What are you doing with your zucchini abundance? And if you need some more zucchini recipes, check back tomorrow for some ideas!

Roasted Poblano and Summer Squash Soup
3 large summer squash, seeded and roughly chopped into 2-3" pieces
2 poblanos, seeded and cut into eights
3 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion, quartered
2-3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups water (or stock)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
salt to taste
Heat oven to 425. Place squash, poblanos, garlic, and red onion in 13x9 baking pan and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss well and place into oven. Roast 30-45 minutes until vegetables are soft and browned. Place into a large soup pan over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and blend with an immersion blender. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sourdough Focaccia

Those that know me are aware of my passion for bread baking. The entire process just makes me happy. And earlier this year, I resolved to conquer my fear of sourdough. At some point in the past, I tried the "DIY sourdough starter" and it didn't work and ended up getting pretty gross. A few months ago, I found a starter in one of my favorite health food stores, so I thought I'd try it again. And it's been wonderful.

We lovingly refer to the starter as "Hank," because, well, everything in our house gets nicknames. So we'll talk about feeding Hank and making sure Hank has had dinner and well...Hank has really become part of the family.

Here's his home on top of my fridge.

Anyway, so Hank has been maturing and has the most delightful "sourdough" smell to him and makes the best breads. I've tried him in baguettes and multigrain sandwich bread and pancakes and there's still so many things I want to try.

But one of my favorites is sourdough focaccia. This recipe is definitely a staple around here and we make it.....let's just say we make it rather frequently. But it's easy and you can top it in so many ways. Today's variety was just Italian seasoning, garlic powder, cracked pepper and coarse sea salt.

Or we've done kalamata olives and thinly sliced onion. Or my favorite combination - raisin and rosemary. Seriously it's crazy delicious. But what I love about the recipe is it's relatively simple. You mix it all up, knead it for a few minutes, let it rise twice, and then it's ready to go.

There are so many great primers out there for sourdough, so I won't go into the nitty gritty, but suffice it to say it's so much easier than I thought and it really doesn't require a lot of extra work. I keep Hank out on top of my fridge because I use starter almost every day (between baking and giving it to friends) but you can easily keep it in the fridge and only feed it once a week. Very very easy. So give sourdough a try. It's so worth the effort.

And if you live close, you're welcome to stop by and get a little Hank Jr. to take home.

Sourdough Focaccia

1 cup sourdough starter, fed or unfed
3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp instant yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp. olive oil

1-2 tbsp. olive oil
Italian seasoning, garlic powder, coarse sea salt, pepper, etc
kalamata olives, onions, etc

Combine all dough ingredients in a large bowl. Mix together well and knead for 5-7 minutes until dough is smooth. Place in a lightly greased bowl and let rise for at least an hour. Punch down, then let rise again for at least another hour.

Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan or cookie sheet and pat or roll dough into a long rectangle in the pan. Brush the olive oil over the dough and sprinkle with herbs and desired toppings. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425. Remove plastic wrap and bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from pan and slice when warm.