Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

With the holidays quickly approaching and me starting a brand new and time consuming job, while still at the old one, I may not have time to post this week. 

But I find it absolutely necessary to share with you a great little place in Rutherford, NJ.

It's Sweet Avenue and it is a vegan bakery, with a daily selection of gluten and soy free cakes and cookies.

How they make such a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake and melt-in-your-mouth-like-butter-without-the-butter cookies I cannot say, but I'd love to learn their tricks. 

Go there, get cupcakes, love life!

*There is also a restaurant nearby that has a gluten free menu, Park and Orchard, East Rutherford, which I have heard great things about. Date night?

I promise I'll be back soon :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Great Pickle Challenge

I have a penchant for pickling pints of peppers…and beets...and eggs...and garlic...and beans...and carrots...and…ad infinitum. But apparently, the one thing I haven’t made is plain old pickles. The cucumber variety, dill, kosher, bread and butter, none of it. I guess it’s my need to hit the ground running with everything I do; quite possibly the desire to avoid the mundane like the plague. But there is something to be said for old standbys. The classics became just that for a reason. People like them! 

So upon the request of those nearest and dearest, I decided to try my hand at plain old simple pickles.

Now, of course, I couldn’t just grab a pack of pickling mix from the store, mix it with vinegar and be done…Not me! I made 4 variations on a typical pickle and hope to hone my skill to make the best pickle around.  

I mixed my own pickling spices, including some foraged bay leaf, hit some with the simple dill and another with a chili pepper because some like it hot (namely, me!). And since I was on such a pickling kick, and I happened to have had some cranberries left over from infusing a lovely (though not my best effort at adapting) cranberry Vodka, I pickled those too! Check out Food in Jars blog and the recipe on Serious Eats.

Quick note to those that are completely gluten free, White vinegar is generally made from “grains” which is likely to be wheat. To be on the safe side, maybe try a different one, rice, or wine, or i don’t know what, be creative. I like cider vinegar best anyway, so it’s not really an issue for me.

This isn’t standard format because I wouldn’t know where to start, but this is my best description:

My four pickles


4 pint jars and lids, cleaned/sterilized if canning
½ onion
8 garlic cloves
12 kirby, or other pickling, cucumbers, cleaned
2 teaspoons pickling spice (purchased or see below)
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons pickling (or fine sea) salt
2 cups vinegar (1 cup of each if trying what i did)
2 cups of water

I used 2 recipes in 4 jars with 2 vinegars = 4 different pints of pickles
(plus the ½ pint of leftovers with chili)

For 4 jars I sliced ½ an onion and 8 garlic cloves. This was split evenly between the jars.

For 2 of the jars I put about a teaspoon of dill atop the garlic and onion in each.

In the other two I put the same amount of home made pickling spice. 

I made this a few months ago in an unlabeled jar but I believe that was made of equal parts –
  •   whole cloves
  •   black pepper corns
  •   whole allspice
  •   whole cardamom
  •   whole black pepper
  •   crushed cinnamon sticks
  •   coriander seeds
  •   a few bay leaves
*to this mix you could add dill and or dried hot pepper. I opted to save that option for the day of pickling, depending on what was being pickled and who would be eating it.

To each of these jars I added a pinch of dill as well, and to the small jar, also a pepper. 

I figured on 2.5-3 Kirby cukes per pint. I sliced them into wedges, some quartered, some more, depending on the size. I squeezed them into the pints, tightly, but not crushing them.
If canning, bring a canner or pot of water to boil now, high enough to cover the jars.

In a small pot I brought to a boil 1 cup of water and one cup of cider vinegar, with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. If you choose to can these, you cannot mess with the vinegar to water ratio. That is why I added the sugar, as to not have incredibly bitter pickles.

Remove from heat and pour over 1 jar of dill and one jar of spiced cucumbers. cover and process for 10 minutes. Look into water bath canning here or ask me before you try it.

Repeat this process with the other vinegar, salt and sugar. Pour over the other two jars and process if desired.

I simply covered, cooled and refrigerated mine as I knew they would be gone too quickly to go to the trouble of canning them.

This extra I was speaking of, I sliced the leftover cuke, a clove of garlic and a bit of onion and put it in a ½ pint. I used the pickling spice with dill And chili and covered with the cider vinegar and water mixture.

However you make these, it’s simple and tasty. I know which one I like the best, but I’ll wait the recommended day or two to get a consensus.

Happy pickling!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Vegetable Soup

It's getting colder out there. The nights are getting longer and worst of all, the big, bright, local, fresh veggies are dwindling! 

It appears it's time to remember our starchy root friends and the comfort they provide in these dark months.

<<<   Remember this guy?

Yeah, he’s not pretty, but man is he tasty! As well being as low in calories and high in fiber, it has 0 fat or cholesterol and is less starchy than many other roots. And did I mention that it’s delicious?

Its many names include celeriac, celery root, turnip rooted celery and celery knob. As you may guess, it is a relative of common celery, bred to have a bigger bulb. It is mild, somewhat like a celery and parsley blend, so it adds a great flavor to this soup (or other stews).

As is often suggested, I paired it with potatoes as a base, threw in some more veggies and roasted. I prepped this two ways, blended and left whole.

This recipe is vegan, gluten free and very easy if you simply use what you have on hand. 

Root Vegetable Soup


1 Large Celeriac
2 Large (or 4-5 baby) Potatoes – I used the ones at the local farm, no idea what they are called
1 large Sweet Potato
2-3 Carrot Sticks – my farm has the fun rainbow kind
5 Shallots
Grapeseed/Olive oil
Dried Thyme
1 Quart Vegetable stock - I make mine, but if you don’t, you should go organic, you never know what’s in that carton
Vegetarian Protein – Use silken tofu if blending, firm or extra firm, or even tempeh, if leaving in chunks.
Alternatively, you could use a few good dollops of creme fraiche or sour cream to get that creamy texture and added protein

***Organic vegetable proteins (tofu, tempeh, ect) are best all around - no genetically modified franken-soy for me please.***

~Optional but fabulous~
Korean Red Pepper for a slight kick in the finished product – I have a huge bag that I use for making Kimchi and thought of it just before I popped the baking pan in the oven. Replace with some chili pepper or a bit of ground red pepper and cayenne if you want to.

As always, sub as desired. Play with colors and flavors. Beets would add great color and sweetness; parsnips have a distinctly creamy texture and taste; throw in some squash in place of sweet potato if you’re feeling adventurous. My second serving was accented with a few tablespoons of leftover tomato sauce that I had wanted to use up.

Peel and Chop

Celeriac is awful looking. You need to pare away the tough skin and deep set dirt to get to the creamy flesh inside. You should rinse it and just start hacking away with a knife, as you would a pineapple. No mere carrot peeler will do. Once it looks mostly clean and white, chop it into large chunks. You can always discard the bits with the dirty creases in them.

Peel and chop the white and sweet potatoes, carrots and anything else you are using, to uniform bite size pieces (especially if you want to keep the final product whole). Peel the shallots and ½ or quarter, depending on the size. I have little ones this time, so halves it was.

Mix and Roast

Toss all veggies with a couple tablespoons of oil, just to keep them from drying out, salt and pepper to taste, and about a teaspoon of dried thyme (or fresh if you have it) and red pepper. 

Lie out on a pan and roast at 350’ for about 30-40 minutes, until everything is fork tender.

Simmer and Blend

While those are in the oven, get your quart of stock up to a nice temperature. You don’t want to boil it or cook it down too much, the water is needed to thin the starchiness of the potatoes. You just want it hot.

Add the roasted veggies to the stock and simmer for a few minutes. You want to make sure there aren’t any hard, sharp edges in there. You won’t lose any of the depth of flavor achieved by roasting, I promise.

Since there is a negligible amount of protein in the soup, and I wanted a creamy blended type dish, I added ½ a block of silken tofu to the mix. Between the stock and that, the end result was a thick and hearty soup with a smooth, creamy texture.

Carefully ladle the mixture into a blender and blend until the tofu is completely incorporated and your product is creamy and smooth. It is very quick. Season, if needed, and enjoy.

If keeping the pieces whole, add any protein you like, silken can still work, but firm may be better. Tempeh is good, though be sure to CHECK to see that it’s gluten free. You would be done with this step. Enjoy.

Be careful handing hot soup, in whatever form or step. Burns are easy to come by when you have to keep transferring liquids.