My stockpile

I'm not a major food preserver. I don't spend full weekends preserving tomatoes or putting up the summer's harvest. But I do a little bit, when it's fun. We split a CSA share with friends this year- so manageable! I don't know how we ever made it through an entire full share before, and we eat a lot of veggies. Even with the split share, we had some extra produce laying around just waiting to be shoved in jars and preserved.

And that's what I did. We decided years ago that while unconventional, tomato jam is an absolute staple for us and thus a priority for canning. I slather it on breakfast sandwiches, lay it out with cheese boards and top our beet and brown rice burgers with it. It's so so good. Lifechanging. A little sweet, a little spicy. Get into it. Grab a bunch of cherry tomatoes, cut them in half and cook them up. One of our friends gave us a ton of grape tomatoes from his garden and they produced the absolute best batch of jam.

I also made a few jars of tomato sauce, splitting a 25 lb box of seconds from Denison Farm with Lesley and Joe, who are our CSA buddies. We spent a few hours chopping up and cooking tomatoes one night after work, and each came away with a few quarts. Splendid!

Of course, I made pickles. I'm not an enthusiast yet, but I sure do like sneaking them in sandwiches. I prefer a crispy pickle, obviously, so I stuck with fridge pickles that didn't have to withstand a 10 minute dip in the hot water bath to become shelf-stable. I gave lacto-fermentation a try too, but wasn't supremely successful. I generally stick with a recipe from Marisa's Food in Jars for Garlic Dill Pickles.

And then! More cucumbers! There are only so many Hendrick's cucumber martinis you can make, so I canned up a few jars of sweet relish. I doubted my judgment on this one, because I've never purchased a jar of relish before in my life. It's never crossed my mind. As it turns out, relish is great! Spread some on sandwiches, (veggie) sausage, crackers. Phew! I used a recipe from the book Canning & Preserving with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Make Jams, Jellies, Pickles, Chutneys & More. (Pictured above, a jar of pickled accouterments served with Al's martini a few weekends ago in Boston. I cringe at the thought, but consider this a reminder that you can put weird pickled things in your drinks.)

Finally, I canned up a jar of marinated roasted peppers for the fun of it. I have no idea how they will be when we open the jar. They look mushy in there, don't they? I'll report back. I used Marisa's recipe from her new book Preserving by the Pint: Quick Seasonal Canning for Small Spaces.

By the by, both of those books are on sale on Amazon for an insane $9 in case you are interested in scoring a killer deal! (Here & here.) Next up, I'm making some peach jam variations using (gasp!) out-of-season peaches I scored for a killer deal at Trader Joe's. Judge away. I will be coating my face with peach puree to spite you.

Related
Tomato jam, it will change your life
My tentative jump on the pickle bandwagon
Strawberry wrangling (I missed strawberry season this year)

guest post: homemade pierogi

Happy Friday! You all remember Sister and her super-popular homemade sweet potato gnocchi? You guys freaked out all of the internet about that one. Well, get ready, because today Kate is going to teach us how to make homemade pierogi! I know. I KNOW. My mom, sis and I got together one night to make them (Kate made the fillings ahead of time) and then got together another night to eat them. They are one of my favorite foods and, if you have a food processor, not as difficult to make as you might imagine. So take it away, Sister!

Ice is back with my brand new invention. Any Vanilla Ice fans? No? Dang. Anyhoo, I’m back but it’s not with a new invention. (Editor's note: Kate and I met Vanilla Ice while he was on his weird rap-metal comeback tour. Just thought you should know.) I’ve loved pierogi for as long as I can remember. As a kid I called them ‘okie-dokies’ which I think is absolutely precious. (Editor's note: That IS precious.) I even made a mobile about them in third grade…my teacher thought I was nuts until my parents translated for her. After years of eating Mrs.T’s Pierogies, then discovering Millie’s Pierogi at The Big E and most recently actually making pierogi with a friend, I decided to give it a whirl myself. If you have the time, handmade pierogi are absolutely worth the effort.

For those unfamiliar with pierogi Wikipedia says, “Pierogi are boiled, baked or fried dumplings of unleavened dough traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit. Of central and eastern European provenance, they are usually semicircular, but are rectangular or triangular in some cuisines.” I’m lucky enough to come from a Polish background so pierogi have always been around my kitchen.

Here’s the deal: gather your ingredients, roll up your sleeves and grab a couple of friends. Ply them with food and beverage if the concept of homemade pierogi isn’t enough (then promptly re-evaluate said friendship…trust me, pierogi are worth it). Extra hands make the filling and pinching go by quickly. Which is exactly what went down a few weeks ago at our weekly Goddess dinner...

The night before I made two fillings—potato-cheese and cabbage. I’d never had cabbage pierogi before I made them with my friend. I was shocked pleasantly surprised that they were delicious.

Potato-Cheese Filling

  • 1.5 lbs of russet potatoes
  • 1 package (7oz) farmer’s cheese (ANY cheese would work)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Splash of milk

Peel and dice potatoes. Boil under very tender. Drain well, empty into large bowl. Mash potatoes well. Add cheese and mash/stir to combine. If very thick, loosen with a splash of milk. Should be mashed potato consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Cabbage Filling
  • Head of cabbage
  • 2T butter
  • Salt and pepper

Remove outer leaves. Quarter and core head. Using the use slicing blade in your food processor shredthe cabbage leaves. Melt butter over medium heat, add cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Cover and refrigerate.

Pierogi Dough (Recipe from here.)
  • 2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading and rolling dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into small pieces





To prepare the pierogi dough, mix together the flour and salt. Beat the egg, then add all at once to the flour mixture. Add the 1/2 cup sour cream and the softened butter pieces and work until the dough loses most of its stickiness (about 5-7 minutes). You can use a food processor* with a dough hook for this, but be careful not to overbeat. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or overnight; the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Each batch of dough makes about 12-15 pierogies, depending on size.

*I made this in my food processor with the regular blade. Worked perfectly and made for quick dough-making. This is a see-how-it-goes kind of process. Make some dough, use it, and repeat until fillings are gone. I used about 3 doughs for pierogi plus I also used the fillings to make this fun snack from WW. If you’re just making pierogi, you’ll probably need about 4 doughs total.

Pierogi Assembly


Roll the pierogi dough on a floured board or countertop until 1/8" thick. Cut dough into squares/rectangles.

Lay a dough square in your non-dominant palm, place a small ball of filling (about a tablespoon) on each dough square and fold the dough over—edge to edge for potato and cheese; corner to corner for cabbage (A neat trick stolen from my friend. Makes it easy to identify potato and cheese vs. cabbage for those anti-cabbage folks.)

Pinch to close in filling, squeezing air pockets out.



Place on cookie sheets and put into freezer. Once partially frozen (15 minutes), move to plastic storage bags and return to freezer.


To Serve

Add frozen pierogi to boiling water, careful to not overcrowd the pot. They are done when they float to the top (about 8-10 minutes). Drain well. Saute chopped onions in butter in a large pan until onions are soft. Then, add pierogi and pan fry until lightly crispy. Enjoy.

You are totally making Hurricane Pierogi this week, aren't you? Not a bad idea, if you are stuck inside and hungry. (Seriously though, check the maps and take the necessary precautions if you are in Irene's tracks. Other parts of the country are used to these storms, but if you are in the Northeast like me you are probably thinking, "Hurricane?! WTF?")


PS- Not to give away any ideas, but if Kate brought her homemade stuffed pastas to a food swap, she'd be the most popular swapper there.

small batch peach jam

I made some peach jam last night while listening to The Be Good Tanyas and drinking a cranberry seltzer cocktail. (If you like folksy bluegrass, check 'em. They are the perfect soundtrack for peach jam-making, among other homesteading activities.) I adapted a recipe from Ms. Stewart for this no-pectin peach jam. I was drawn to it primarily because it bypasses the hours of stove time time that would crank up the temperature in our place to unpleasant levels. Even though it's cooling down outside, our apartment is still holding steady at HOT and I wasn't inclined to bump it up with a slow-simmering pot of peaches. Although, yes, I made a peach cake in the oven this week but that seemed worth it. Because it is PEACH CAKE. As a freezer jam, this can be kept in the fridge for up to one month and in the freezer for way longer. You could definitely process this too, Martha says so. I am not equipped for home canning, though, so into the fridge it goes.


"We Live On the 3rd Floor and It's Hot" Small Batch Peach Jam
(Makes about 1 pint, maybe a little more if you don't overcook it like I did.)

Ingredients
  • 3 pounds of fresh peaches, peeled
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar

Directions
  1. Half and pit the peaches, then cut into small 1/2" chunks. In a large bowl, coat the peaches with lemon juice and then add in the sugar. Toss to coat. Cover the bowl and let sit for 3 hours, stirring a few times an hour. I know this a really long, possibly inconvenient amount of time, but it saves you from standing over a hot stove for too long. For me, that was completely worth it. I just started it when I got home from work and finished it before bed.
  2. The sugar should now be completely dissolved and it should look a bit like those fruit cups you can buy of peaches in syrup. Because that is pretty much what it is. Transfer to a large, wide pot.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for about 25-30 minutes until liquid is syrupy. But not too thick! Even if it looks a bit thin, it will gel up over time. Trust me. I didn't realize that and now we have super-thick jam. C'est la vie, no? Skim off the foam with a slotted spoon and transfer jam to a storage container. I let it cool and then poured it into one of these Ball Freezer Jars.
And that's the story of my first-ever peach jam. When I made it, I let it simmer on the stove for closer to 45 minutes and that was way too long, considering it already sat in the syrup mixture for 3 hours. 25-30 minutes should be about perfect. Spread it on your English Muffin with a bit of butter. Or glop it on some vanilla ice cream. I bastardize all of this fresh fruit, "nature's dessert", by pouring it on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream. I can't help it. It's so freaking good that way.

bbq tofu & rice bowl


I had a few things to use up last Friday and the heat had broken just enough that I could bare to think of cooking over the stove. Plus, my end-of-week reward was a trip to the theater to see Midnight in Paris had me motivated to cook up something nice instead of having buttery popcorn for dinner. As I may have done when I saw Harry Potter the week before. Can't quite remember. (Midnight in Paris, by the way, was wonderful. It was one of those movies that as soon as it ended, I was tempted to buy a ticket to the next showing just so I could keep absorbing it all in. The synopsis on IMDb sells the film short, so have a look at this movie cheat sheet from The Atlantic instead.)

I needed to use up a package of tofu, half a jar of homemade swapped BBQ sauce and leftover whey (from the cheesemaking! Ouy, let's schedule that recap post right now, shall we? How about... next week. I will tell you about making cheese next week. Tuesday.) The result was much better than I anticipated, and I credit the rice-cooked-in-whey and the BBQ sauce with that. I'd never cooked rice in whey before and to tell you the truth, was a little skeptical because boiling leftover milk remnants sounds a little strange. The resulting rice was so smooth and flavorful, though, that I was completely won over. Of course, you could follow this recipe and just cook the rice in water or vegetable broth without a problem. And the BBQ sauce! At the June food swap in 'Toga, I had traded the lovely Sarah Without A Blog For Me To Link To some strawberry-rhubarb muffins for a jar of strawberry-rhubarb BBQ sauce. (Super seasonal, eh?) Her strawberry rhubarb BBQ sauce was phenomenal. Unless you can persuade her to make you some, you may have to settle for regular ol' run of the mill sauce. Still delicious, but maybe not quite as delicious as what I had on hand.

BBQ Tofu Bowl with Peppers & Onions
Ingredients
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups whey (water, or veggie stock)
  • one package extra firm tofu, sliced into one-inch chunks
  • olive oil for sauteing 
  • 1/2 onion, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • salt and pepper 
  • 1 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce*



Directions
  1. Start your rice! I always forget this part until too late and am waiting forever for it to finish cooking. In a medium saucepan, bring 2 1/2 cups whey (water, or veggie stock) to a boil. Add in the uncooked brown rice, return to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes or until water is completely absorbed. As always, watch it carefully in the last few minutes and stir to avoid scorching. I cannot even tell you how many times I've scorched rice. Like really badly. Keep an eye on it.
  2. Dry-fry that tofu in a skillet (see step 2 in this post). Once much of the liquid has been pressed out, set aside the tofu on a plate.
  3. Using that same skillet, cook the onion in a bit of olive oil over medium heat for about ten minutes. Add in the green pepper with salt and pepper. Cook for another 7-8 minutes until the pepper is softened. Next, add in the cooked tofu along with the BBQ sauce. Reduce heat to low, stir and simmer for about five minutes so the flavors can absorb.
  4. Serve tofu and veggies over rice. Yields about four servings.

The beauty in this recipe is that ingredients in the BBQ sauce were local, the whey was from local milk and the pepper & onion were from our CSA. Not too bad for a dish that, at first glance, may not seem completely seasonal. This tofu bowl makes for a great lunch too because I have no problem eating the leftovers up cold. If you wanted to kick up the tofu, you could dredge it according to these directions from my sesame tofu recipe. It takes an extra step, but the result is a crispy, crunchy tofu that tastes like it's been decadently deep-fried, but isn't actually all that bad for you.

Update: This recipe was a winner in the 2011 Homegrown.org Cook-Off!

choco-beet cupcakes


Yup, I put beets in these cupcakes. And they were awesome, so stop rolling your eyes. There are only so many ways you can eat beets before you start wondering how you can make them into a dessert food. I'd heard rumors that beets (mandrakes, anyone?) could be put into chocolatey things without disaster, and I do love chocolatey things, so I started looking around. I found this great recipe, originally concocted by Straight from the Farm and then adapted slightly by Eggs on Sunday. Unfortunately, my baking process wasn't as whimsical or magical as in this gorgeous video.

I've gotten really lazy about frosting cupcakes recently. That leads some people to believe that they are muffins, but no, they are just unfrosted cupcakes. I sprinkled a little powder sugar on some, but that only lasts for a little while before it melts right into the cake. I'm trying to make things from scratch these days (even though I love store-bought cake mix and frosting!) and making frosting after making a cake usually seems like an unnecessary bit of extra work. These would be great with a whipped cream cheese frosting, though, if you are so inclined.

I didn't change this recipe much because it was pretty great as is. I used about 4 ounces of chocolate because I like chocolate. I made cupcakes instead of a cake because they are easier to share. I used Straight from the Farm's genius space- and dish-saving method of mixing the dry ingredients in a plastic bag, instead of dirtying another bowl.

Choco-Beet Cupcakes
Ingredients
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 4 oz dark chocolate
  • 2 cups pureed beets (for me, this just took 2 gigantic beets, but 4-5 medium beets should do the trick too)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup bread flour or all-purpose
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions 

Note: To make the beet puree, first you'll need to trim the stems and roots off of the beets and quarter them into smaller pieces. Place those beets in a medium sauce pan filled with water, bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 50 minutes. As I write this, I'm realize that you could absolutely just microwave those beets in a bowl, because I've microwaved beets before and it's fine. Especially since you will just be pureeing them and baking them into a cake. Once you've cooked the beets and let them cool a bit, peel off the skins and add to a blender or food processor. Pulse until a puree forms with no large chunks. It's ok if there are small chunks though, they will melt when baked. This step can be done a few days ahead of time.

  1. Using a hand- or stand-mixer, cream 3/4 cup of the butter together with the brown sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. In a small bowl, microwave the chocolate with the rest of the butter. I set my microwave to "low", kept an eye on it and it took about 45-60 seconds for the chocolate to melt a little. I took it out and stirred it rapidly to mix the butter and chocolate together. Don't over-microwave it! Just get the chocolate softened a bit and when you mix it up it will continue melting.
  2. Stir the chocolate mixture, beet puree and vanilla into the creamed mixture.
  3. Next, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a separate bowl (or a gallon-sized plastic bag, to cut down on dishes!). Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well.
  4. Fill greased or lined cupcake pans about 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Let cool (really, it helps the flavor of these) and serve to people without telling them the secret ingredient. When they are begging to know how these cupcakes could be so delicious, scream "mmmm I'M DROPPIN' BEETS YO!", throw a few beets on the ground and then walk away with as much swagger as you can muster. Let me know how that goes for you, by the way.
Makes about 16 cupcakes, which is a strange number. I filled them fairly unevenly so maybe it should have made 18. Who knows.

You don't taste the beets at all in these cupcakes, and nothing else about them is hippie-healthy so don't be nervous. Beet-phobes, take a deep breath. Just know that you are getting a healthy serving of beta carotene and veggies with your dessert tonight. As a sidenote, I just googled "droppin' beets" and there are a lot of hilarious vegetable-eaters out there. You can buy this t-shirt, this needlepoint, and this other awesome shirt. I love the internet. One day I found a website where you can type something in, and it will spit it back out to you in LLAMA FONT. Which is just what it sounds like. Like I said, I love the internet.