Category Archives: 100% local (garden/farmers market)

Traditional Tomato Sauce

Do you ever just wonder where the time went? That has honestly been the question I have been asking myself pretty regularly for the last 4 years (or should I just say since my daughter was born!) Despite my delay of posting a blog (sorry about that, by the way), I have been cooking up a storm over here… including all of my favorite oldies, as well as trying some new things.

As you can see, we have our fill (and then some) of tomatoes over here!

Our garden is absolutely exploding with tomatoes!   The last time I told you about my garden, we had a serious abundance of cucumbers… Well, i didn’t really know too many ways to eat them all!  We were literally picking off about 8 cucumbers a day on average for a while there!  We ended up eating a lot on salads… snacking on tortillas filled with diced cucumber/tofutti cream cheese (which is even better with a little salsa, says my 2 1/2 year old)… and we juiced the rest that we got to before they went too rubbery.  I really found that apple/cucumber juice (give or take a carrot or two) is really delicious! As is watermelon/cucumber/apple juice.  I meant to pickle some of our cucumbers, but I wanted to invest in a good canning set-up instead of using the quick-jar method using a pickling pack. I also had a recipe for a cold cucumber soup that I wanted to try (that also contained coconut milk, which I LOOOVE), but honestly, I’m just not really a fan of cold soup and I didn’t ever get around to making it… But alas, now it seems that our cucumber plants are dying.  Next year I may just keep it at 2-3 plants.  6 plants just produced too many cucumbers for us to consume at once!

So… tomato sauce!! This is my basic pasta sauce recipe. It’s easy, its quick, it freezes beautifully and its a GREAT way to use up extra veggies and (of coarse) tomatoes.  If you have fresh herbs, feel free to substitute them for the dry (if doing so, use a little more than the dry amounts). And feel free to add extra tomatoes, spices or veggies of your choice!

I find that making tomato sauce is a bit of an art… You can follow a recipe, but I find its best just to taste it occasionally and add what you think it needs more of 🙂 That being said, this is a great recipe to eat as is… but sometimes it changes slightly depending on what veggies are sitting in our fridge. Sometimes I even stir in a pack or two of faux beef crumbles if we’re in the mood for a “meaty” sauce.

Your Vegan Neighbor’s Traditional Tomato Sauce

1) Saute together everything but the tomatoes (and sugar) until the onion is tender.

2) Mix in the tomatoes and sugar. Simmer 15-30 minutes, to let the flavors blend, stirring occasionally.

Veggies:

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 8-10 mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 1 green or red pepper, chopped (or use 1/2 cup of each!)

Spices:

  • 2 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp each dry basil, thyme
  • generous 1/2 tsp pepper
  • pinch fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • generous 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil

Tomatoes:

  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes (or4 cups fresh, pureed)
  • 1 15-oz. can tomato paste (or two 6 oz cans)
  • 5-8 fresh tomatoes, diced (the bigger the better)
  • 1 or 2 tsp sugar, as needed, to balance the acidity

okay, so this picture is a little boring, but here is my humble plate of noodles topped with tomato sauce

my husbands plate looking much fancier topped with homemade sauce, nutritional yeast and fresh basil… leaves me wondering “why didn’t I do that?!”

This is roughly the amount of sauce the recipe makes. The big one went into the freezer, and the small one served 4 plates with leftovers!

If you missed my faux meatball recipe, check it out here!  I plan on experimenting with another meatball recipe soon!

Fruit Crisp

Summertime… and the livin’ is easy.. at least that is what they say, right?! Well, having a garden or yard that’s producing fresh vegetables & fruit sure make living seem easier!  There is nothing quite like being able to go out to the garden and get some fresh vegetables when they are needed!

Something that always makes me think of summer is fruit.  Fresh fruit… grilled fruit… fruit cobblers… apple, peach, blueberry, strawberry-rhubarb pies… mmmm I just love anything to do with fruit! There is absolutely nothing like being able to pick fresh fruit right off the tree or bush and eat it.  We currently have 2 peach trees, a fig tree and 3 blueberry bushes.  We had a small pear tree last year but it got some weird disease and we had to pull it up.

If you are a mommy, this recipe is one that the kids will definitely have fun helping with. They can pour in the fruit and help crumble the topping over the top, which practically makes it for you!

This is such an easy and delicious recipe it is one that everyone should have on-hand because anyone can make it, and like I said, it’s easy and delicious!  I decided to try using spelt flour this time (usually I use unbleached flour) and it turned out beautifully!   It’s good to know this quick dessert is tasty using spelt flour for those times when you need to whip up something quick for an unexpected gluten-free guest**(see note).  As long as you have some frozen fruit in the freezer (which we always do, since we are big smoothie makers over here) you should be able to throw this in the oven by the time it preheats.

** NOTE: Spelt flour is practically wheat free, which makes it a good substitute for people with a low intolerance for wheat, though some people with serious wheat allergies, such as those with celiac disease, are also allergic to spelt. In that case, you should try replacing the flour with a 100% gluten-free baking mix (most grocery stores carry a blend for general flour replacing). Please check if you are making these for someone who is gluten-free.

~Fruit Crisp~

  • 3/4 cup flour (unbleached all-purpose or spelt flour, both work well)
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 4 cups frozen fruit (fresh fruit should also work fine)
  • 1 stick vegan butter (I like EarthBalance soy margarine)

If using fresh fruit, wash and cut any fruit you like and sprinkle it with lemon juice.  Frozen fruit works great (no need for lemon juice) and that is usually what I use. Some good combinations I like are peach/blueberry or apple/pear.

1) Preheat oven to 375 F.

2) Combine the flour, sugar and salt.  Using a knife, cut 1 stick ( = 1/2 cup) of cold soy margarine into bits and add it to the flour mixture, crumbling with fingers or fork until thoroughly mixed.

3) Pour the fruit into a square 8×8″ baking dish and sprinkle the topping over the top.  Bake for about an hour, when crisp will be bubbling hot and golden.  Let cool about 5-1o minutes. Enjoy hot or cold! (Try this with ice cream for a real treat!)

We grew these peaches in our backyard!

Crumble the topping on over the fruit…

After baking, let it cool at least 5 minutes!

Enjoy hot or cold!

Your Vegan Neighbor’s Summer Garden (2012)

Well, I decided that it’s about time I should show you all my garden I keep talking about so you know I’m not just making it up! It does really exist!

We kinda got a late start to our garden this year because we missed out on planting the early leafy greens, like spinach, kale, and even carrots… but I should be able to grow those easily as late summer/fall crops. This is our 4th year of having a garden in this plot so our soil has become really nice and rich. And of coarse, I need to thank my husband for all his hard work including all of the tilling and row-making!

I am super proud of our garden this year because we grew the entire thing from seed (except for ONE plant) and it’s all organic 🙂  All our tomatoes are heirlooms.  Ahh… life is good when you have a garden!  I can’t wait until every plant is producing!  I won’t ever be able to decide what to make! Right now our choices are limited to basil, cucumbers and blueberries! (It may be time for some blueberry pie!)

This year we decided to try laying down this nice breathable weed guard that was given to us by my in-laws (thank you again!!) and it has worked out BEAUTIFULLY and saved me god knows HOW much time from having to weed the garden!  Definitely worth the small amount of extra effort!  The water absorbs right through the cloth and into the ground after several minutes.  It has done a fantastic job so far! I have it weighed down to stay in place by using empty juice jugs filled with water and potted plants.

Summer Garden : heirloom tomatoes, jalapenos, cucumber, green pepper, chili peppers, eggplant, collards and okra… and mint, cilantro and basil also.

I live in Georgia, and what I find grows abundantly with little effort (aka all you have to do is water it) is cucumbers, okra, figs (tree) and blueberries.  We also planted  eggplant, collards, green peppers and chili peppers, and jalapeno, none of which are producing just yet, though these all seem to have really started growing better since the weather got hotter.   Collards seem to grow great here, but they must be checked daily for little green worms that like to eat the leaves up. I really hate picking them off, but it is necessary… and on the bright side, I haven’t noticed them as much since it really started getting hot! In fact, since the latest heat wave, I swear our collards have doubled in size.

My favorite ways to eat okra are fried or grilled!

Cucumber and apples make the BEST fresh juice! Who knew!

Cant wait to make and preserve tomato sauce for the rest of the year!!

Our tomatoes are finally starting to get bigger but they are still pretty small and green.  In fact, they have grown quite a lot since I took this picture (above) about 2 weeks ago! We also have had great luck with our herbs (cilantro, mint and basil) which all grow great with little effort, besides watering regularly.

Here’s a good shot of the garden where you can see the weed guard… That’s the eggplants and green peppers in the front row, okra behind that and you cant really see the collards well behind those.

We have been getting a bowl full of blueberries DAILY!! We have 3 bushes right now but I say we plant 3 more!! You can never have enough fresh organic blueberries!

I’m trying to grow kale and cauliflower in containers just for the heck of it. These two plants aren’t supposed to grow well in hot weather, but I have them in pots under my front porch, so I guess I’m kinda just doing an experiment. The kale is actually lookin like its growing pretty good!

This year our garden has actually NOT been eaten by deer.  I seriously can’t believe it. We have never gotten so much out of our garden before because the deer usually get our cucumbers, blueberries and figs before we get a chance. We have tried hair clippings around the garden, fishing line, and even peeing around the garden on occasion to deter the deer, and we have never had luck. I swear we tried everything to keep the deer away…… So… This year we tried something new. We used a store-bought spray that you spray around the border of the garden.  It stinks. It’s basically made of rotten eggs (which is why we never tried it before – it’s not really vegan). But it apparently works.  The way I see it, is sometimes you gotta weigh your options. In this case, we decided to buy this spray so that we can save LOTS of money on vegetables. Our family eats a lot of vegetables.  And so far, we have not only saved money, but we have also been able to share the bounty with our family, friends and neighbors.  And that outweighs the cons in this case in my opinion.  (When you consider that after the deer eat your plants once it forever stunts their production if it doesn’t kill the plant entirely.)

Today is the 3rd day of temperatures over 100 (with a recording breaking 109 two days ago) so needless to say, we haven’t been doing much working in the garden (or even being outside) the past couple days.  I gotta say… and I’m sure my garden agrees… I can’t wait for temperatures to cool down!

Basil Walnut Pesto

If you ask me, one of the best things to plant in a garden is basil.  There are so many things you can do with basil… you can make bruchetta, pesto, serve atop pasta… add to fancy drinks, add to salads… or you can just dry it out and save it for later!  Not to mention, deer dislike basil, so having lots of basil plants around your garden may help keep the deer from eating your veggies before you do! I have a small boxed garden full of basil plus several basil growing in pots that I move around the garden wherever I feel necessary!

This is a simple recipe I threw together that turned out DELICIOUS! It probably made somewhere between 3/4 – 1 cup.  Mmmmm! Good thing I have about 15 basil plants outside because we devoured this batch in a day! I was REALLY surprised at how much my kids enjoyed eating this pesto! YAY! I love when my kids surprise me and really enjoy something I was hesitant to serve them! (Especially when its so healthy!) Next time I think we may even try it on spaghetti noodles instead of sauce!

(I found that you can really pack basil into a measuring cup, so it I think it depends on how much basil you have to how hard you pack it in.  My advice – just use your best judgement!)

Basil Walnut Pesto

Simply blend it all in the food processor, adding the oil in last. I kinda pulsed all my ingredients together but then I just let it blend when I added the oil!  I guess it depends on how you like your pesto! Feel free to sub pine nuts for the walnuts, but don’t forget that using walnuts adds all those yummy omega-3 oils!

  • 1/3 cup toasted walnuts
  • 1 cup basil, packed, but not crammed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • < 1 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)
  • crank/dash of pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (instead of Parmesan)

Here is our pesto on a french baguette with diced tomato… serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for ultimate yumminess!

Pesto makes a great pizza sauce instead of your traditional tomato sauce!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake 1 (biscuit style)

If there is anything I remember seeing at the Farmers Market lately, it’s berries – especially strawberries.  Go grab yourself some strawberries or blueberries this weekend and surprise your loved ones with this amazingly simple shortcake. This recipe can be used with either strawberries or blueberries… or even peaches, though I’ve never tried those… yet!  I would recommend making the vegan whipped cream ahead of time to get it nice and cold in the fridge.  It will last up to 5 days!… If it lasts that long!

Vegan Strawberry Shortcake

To make the biscuits:

  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or use 1 cup whole wheat pastry + 1 cup unbleached flour)
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder (non aluminum kind, like Rumford)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water (using warm water makes it mix easier)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  In a small bowl, combine the coconut oil, water and extracts.  Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just mixed but no floury pockets.

Carefully pat the dough out about 1/2″ thick onto some parchment paper.  (I almost just used my 1/4 cup to scoop the biscuits out because the dough is very delicate, but if you have some parchment paper, you should be able to pat it out very gently and use a biscuit cutter okay.  I got 8 biscuits but could have gotten 9 if I had made them a teency bit smaller.)

Bake 12-14 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet until golden and allow to cool.

Shortcake biscuits, waiting to be cut and served!

Make the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup of chopped berries
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Place maple syrup, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of the berries in a saucepan.  Simmer on low, stirring, until the mixture thickens, crushing some berries during the process.  Set aside to cool slightly.

To serve:

Cut a biscuit in half, top the bottom piece with whipped cream, then sauce and then garnish with fresh berries.  Top with remaining biscuit (opt). DEVOUR!  (If your little one likes to help in the kitchen, stacking these sweet treats together can be quite a sweet treat for them!)

This biscuit was made with tofu whipped cream

Oh yeah… one more thing – I ran across this great little article on vegan baking tips from Vegan Pastry Chef Fran Costigan.  It’s a quick, print-worthy/stick it in your cookbook – kind of read! Check it out!

Agave Glazed Carrots, 2 ways

Personally, I am always looking for new exciting ways to eat veggies… And I am always looking for new and exciting ways to get my kids to eat their veggies!  I am a bone fide veggie lover, but I was not always thus!  In fact, I remember frowning at many a plate of veggies as a child (a.k.a. pretty much all of them).  My turning vegan (or even vegetarian) probably dumbfounded my parents!

Tonight I am tackling ways to eat carrots.  Lets see.. my kids are fond of carrot juice, pot roasted carrots (basically seasoned with olive oil, tamari and sage), plain carrots with hummus, carrot cake (obviously), and… well, that may sum it up.  I guess I should be happy that they eat carrots at all, but it never hurts to keep trying new ways… for everything, all the time 🙂

Carrots are pretty abundant at the farmers market right now.  I love to use fresh local carrots, or organic store-bought.  The deer usually make our garden into their own personal feasting grounds once things start to sprout, so we haven’t planted much yet this year.  In fact, this upcoming weekend I am planning on doing lots of planting and deer proofing our garden.

This first agave-glazed carrot recipe is simple and sweet.  It’s super fast, delicious, and kid approved.

Agave-Glazed Carrots 

  • 1 lb carrots (about 8 medium)
  • 1 Tbsp amber agave nectar
  •  2 Tbsp soy margarine

Put carrots in a pot with just enough water to cover them.  Boil until fork tender.  Drain.  Add margarine & agave to the pot and stir together until glaze forms, then add carrots.  Sprinkle with a dash of cinnamon if desired!

(Pssst! These carrots are also really yummy if you use maple syrup instead of agave nectar and add some dill!)

Balsamic-Agave Roasted Carrots

This method took about 45-60 minutes but the end result was delicious. It has a little more of a “grown up” flavor, if you will. My kids didn’t go for these so much. Oh well. You gotta try everything once! 

  • 1 lb carrots (about 8 medium carrots)
  • 1 turnip (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp amber agave nectar
  • olive oil for coating pan, as needed

** For another option, replace the agave nectar with 2-3 Tbsp olive oil and add 1 tsp each fresh chopped rosemary and sage.

Preheat oven to 425.  Peel and uniformly cut carrots and turnip, if using. Whisk together the vinegar and agave.  Oil up your roasting pan and arrange the veggies on a single layer.  Put about 2/3 of your mix on the veggies. Roast for 25 minutes. Pull out of oven, add the remaining agave/vinegar and toss.  Return to oven for another 20 minutes or until tender!

I love roasted vegetables!  If you haven’t already, you should try these maple roasted parsnips! Roasting any kind of root vegetable makes a great side dish for any season! 

 

Happy Day-Before Easter!

I have fond memories of Easter growing up…. (besides going to church) I remember waking up and seeing my wicker basket, in line with my 3 sisters baskets (mine was the one with the pink bow with flowers on it) on the bench in front of the fireplace, totally full of all kinds of deliciousness!  Yes, I feel that my parents seriously  went all out for Easter (thanks guys!). My favorite candies were the big Reces Eggs, but of coarse there were also Peeps, little chocolate eggs, jelly beans galore and who could forget the BIG SOLID CHOCOLATE  BUNNY!  Yes, I still celebrate my vegan Easter the same way – with lots of chocolate!

A vegan easter requires a bit of extra planning, however.  Unfortunately, if you want the really good stuff, you will most likely have to order online… and early.  I was lucky to find several small basket-stuffing goodies at the local Earthfare, but you can only go so far with lollipops, gummy bunnies, Mambas and Starburst jellybeans, unless you want to go for a basket full of full size chocolate bars.  (Hmmm… I could live with that!)  So my #1 rule is: You have to order chocolate early. (Geez, I guess I’m a little late in letting you know… sorry! I’ll remind you earlier next year!)  You should note that most of the small individually wrapped chocolates that are easter-basket friendly go first.  #2 – You’ve got to find a place close enough to get the chocolate shipped to you with reasonable shipping charges and without it melting.  Many of the best sites I saw with lots of variety were based in California, and unless I wanted to overnight it to Georgia (for $30), I wouldn’t guarantee it would make it here before melting, so just remember: the closer you find the chocolate the better.  Especially if its warm in your area. And pay the extra $5 for the ice pack/box to guarantee a safe arrival! It’s worth it.

You can just type in “vegan easter candy” into your browser to find many sites offering vegan chocolate and gelatin-free candies.

Here is a great list of basket-fillers fit for vegans that you can find almost anywhere! Vegan Candy

Here is another fun site The Natural Candy Store

This is where we ordered most chocolates from this year! Amandas Own (which is based in Ohio).

And another great store in West Virginia Rose City Chocolates

I really wanted to have made something to share for an Easter recipe, but I just feel like I lost track of time this week!  Sorry! We were planning on leaving the Easter bunny a carrot tonight, but maybe I will end up making him some carrot cake instead!

Today is Saturday and the first day of this years Farmers Market. It was great to see all the smiling faces and fresh produce and wonderful live bluegrass music!  We ended up bringing home some homemade soap (from our soap-making friend who sells wonderful soaps and candles Songbird Soap), and zucchini, kale, collards and tomatoes from various local farms.  I can’t wait to see what we end up making with all our veggies!  I just know this is gonna be a great summer.