Dec 112011
 

Thankful for the sun ten days from Winter Solstice, I took the annual pictures of the December greenhouse. We are very lucky this year to have had eggplant and habanero peppers right until Thanksgiving. We pulled those that weekend and seeded some Radicchio and Peas to see what they would do. Here is the roundup:

We had not been able to grow Lettuce all year this year (we only used seeds we had from previous years and germination was not good this year), but finally it is growing in the greenhouse.

We have Swiss Chard,

Kale,

Red Beets,

Endive,

Carrots,

and Leeks.

The Chives have been cut back inside the greenhouse. There are still harvestable Chives outside – these will grow throughout the winter.

Italian Parsley has germinated and should grow the rest of the winter.

and my prize every December – my Greek Oregano is doing fine.

Outside, there are still onions, radishes, leeks, and broccoli.
Head on over to Wild Rose Herbs Blog for the herb garden walkaround :)
Happy Holidays everyone!
Peace from Dharma Dogs Farm
Aug 072011
 

We use a lot of tomatoes – Italian is our favorite cuisine, so our tomatoes are used in everything from pizza and sauce to rustic stews and soups. We have never yet grown enough to meet our need, even though the tomato garden usually looks like this:

The Tomato Forest
Okay – down to it. Our favorite way to preserve the tomato harvest is to make crushed tomatoes and can them. These are perfect to throw into a soup or stew, easy to cook down into sauce, and easy enough to make.
Step 1 – Pick your tomatoes.
Pick your tomatoes nice and ripe – this is a mixture of Roma, Pompeii, San Marzano, Pompadoro, Beefsteak, and Brandywine. We mix every ripe tomato into these. Wash your tomatoes well and drain on a towel.
Step 2 – Ready the tomatoes for skinning and seeding. With a sharp paring knife, carefully remove the core from each tomato, then cut a small x on the bottom. This is to aid in removing the skins. Also remove any insect damage, disease, or soft parts of the tomato.
Step 3 – Skin and Seed the Tomatoes. For this you will need:
  • large pot of boiling water
  • bowl of ice water
  • container for refuse (which we put into the compost)
  • very large bowl for the tomatoes
  • sharp knife
  • slotted spoon
Put several tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30 seconds, or until you see the skins beginning to slip. You will not need to keep the water at a boil for this, but it must be very hot.
When the skins begin to separate from the tomato, carefully lift it from the hot water and plunge into ice water. The tomato will cool quickly.
Slip the skin from the tomato and cut the tomato in halves or quarters, depending on the size. Remove all seeds into your refuse container (along with the skins). If you find any additional blemishes after blanching, cut these out as well.
Put your cleaned tomato halves and quarters into the big bowl. If you want to keep the tomatoes as liquid free as possible, place a colander in the big bowl and put the tomatoes in this. The bowl will then catch any extra moisture, which you can pour away before adding the tomatoes.
Step 4 – Making the Crushed Tomatoes. Put a large soup/sauce pot on the stove over medium high heat. Add about 2 cups of your tomato pieces and mash them with a potato masher.
When these begin to boil, start adding your tomatoes, about a cup at a time. There is no need to mash these, they will break up as the tomatoes boil. When all of your tomatoes (or as many as fit in the pot) are  in the pot, allow them to boil for about 5 minutes.
Step 5 – Canning your scrumptious crushed tomatoes. For this you will need:
  • Water bath canner (or pressure canner with the plug removed from the lid)
  • Canning jars
  • Lids and Rings for the jars
  • Jar lifter
  • Magnetic lid lifter (nice to have)
  • Small pot
  • Ladle
  • Clean damp cloth
  • Jar funnel
Fill your canner about halfway with water and set on the burner at about medium high heat.
Put your lids into the small pot and cover with boiling water, set the burner on low to keep them hot.
Place 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice in each pint jar, 2 Tablespoons in each quart. (You can also use 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint, 1/2 teaspoon per quart)
Begin filling your jars. A jar funnel will really help in this process. Fill each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. Carefully wipe the top of the jar with the damp cloth. Lift a lid from the pot and center on the jar, then add a ring and twist finger-tight.
Carefully lower the jars into the canner.
Add boiling water as necessary to 2 inches above jars. Add canner lid and bring to a boil.
Step 6 – The Waiting. Process according to instructions for your canner – here’s what we do:
When the water boils in the canner, we turn the heat down just a bit to maintain a moderate boil (medium high on our stove). Process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 45 minutes.
Step 7 – You’ve Got Tomatoes! When the time is up – immediately turn off the stove and remove the canner from the stove. Take the lid off and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Remove the jars to a towel and allow to cool. You should hear popping – one for each jar you filled.
This is the first year we tried the Italian way – Basil leaves in the jars. We did two jars this way and we’ll let you know how they turned out :)
From the tomatoes pictured at the top, we got 10 pints of crushed tomatoes – PLUS, the following:
We removed the little San Marzanos from the mix before the de-skinning process, cut them in half and seeded them, and put them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. We drizzled them with olive oil and salted lightly.
We put these in a 375 degree oven for about an hour – and got these:
ALSO, we added several minced cloves of garlic and some oregano and crushed red pepper to the remaining tomatoes in the pot (rather than processing another canner full) and cooked it down further into a quart of yummy sauce (that will likely be on our pizza tonight and pasta one day this week).
There you have it – three options for preserving that yummy organic tomato harvest you worked so hard to achieve.
Peace,
Dharma Dogs Farm
Aug 072011
 

Every year, my vacation days from work are spread out to care for the garden. In the early spring, days are spent cleaning up the garden and planting the early vegetables (peas, radish, lettuce, beets, onions, carrots, spinach, broccoli, rapini, cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, cucumbers). Late spring is for early harvest and preserving, and planting the summer vegetables. Late summer finds me in the busiest harvest of the year – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squashes, beets, beans, corn, summer greens. It’s also time to plant the fall vegetables (2nd round of tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, lettuce and greens, beets) and the greenhouse veggies for winter. Autumn will be time to put away apples, peanuts, and potatoes, onions, winter squash, and any second sowings of summer veggies. Winter is not only time to plan the garden, but also to tend to the greenhouse garden.

So, here I am with four days of vacation. The first day was spent in the garden, harvesting and planting the autumn sowing.

The second day, we were canning. Here’s the take:

This is 7 jars of No Sugar Blueberry Jam – something I sort of made up from reading no sugar jars of fruit. It’s pretty good, I opened a jar for breakfast.
4 jars of Dill Relish
5 jars of Dill Pickle Chips
8 jars of Dill Sandwich Stackers – including two with a hot pepper (see jar on left)
9 jars of Pickled Beets
4 jars of plain Red Beets
5 jars of Salsa (yes, that really was 5 jars – we ate 1 already and opened number 2 :)
There is only one problem -
There is nowhere left for Vacation Day 3
THE TOMATOES, oh my!  :)  Read on for step-by-step crushed tomato instructions!
Peace,
Dharma Dogs Farm
Jul 312011
 

My three week Vegan trial is over – and here is the result:

I’m not Vegan.

I have learned over the last several weeks what it means to be Vegan. It’s so much more than a way to eat. Animal rights figure into every single decision. I admire the Vegans I have met – while I do believe in most of what they do, I don’t necessarily agree with it all. It’s a hard balance for me – growing up in a way that taught me reverence for every living being did not mean to not eat meat, but to raise the animal humanely and use every bit of it for something when killed for the family table. I did not like meat – and most of our dinners had names – it was a pretty easy jump for me to become Vegetarian almost as soon as I left my parent’s home. What made me every stray, I really don’t know – but I am very happy to be back to full-fledged Vegetarianism.

Here is the real result of my experiment – I have found enough information in the last three weeks to make me realize the health benefits of avoiding dairy and eggs. Honey is a gift from the bees to me and is very healthful. I make many of my herbal preparations with organic, local honey, and will continue to. I will still eat dairy and eggs on occasion, particularly when it appeases family members during holiday meals, etc. When I do, however, I will be sure the animals have been treated well. I am in the process of finding additional sources for small organic humane farm products.

Most of the Vegan options I have found, I will continue to use and like more than the dairy. These include Earth Balance butter replacement – Coconut or Soy milk replacement for half n half – Tofutti sour cream replacer – Tofutti cream cheese replacer – Coconut and Soy ice creams – Daiya cheese replacements. I am still experimenting with cheese replacements and will be posting a comparison soon.

I expect to eat this way at least 98% of the time, but I am not ready to call myself Vegan. Perhaps in the future, maybe even the near future, this will be true.

Peace,
michele

Jul 192011
 

You just can’t have the Zucchini Times without at least one stuffed zucchini :) This was a very good stuffing mixture and since I am in my three week vegan living trial, this is completely vegan (which is why the cheese is not melted).

1 gorgeous, yes we still love them, fresh zucchini – size is a matter of preference
1 Italian vegan sausage (mine was homemade, recipe will be posted in the future)
2 Tablespoons quinoa, color does not matter
1/4 cup veggie stock
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 large basil leaves, minced (or 2 tsp dried)
salt and pepper to taste
a pinch of crushed red pepper if your sausage doesn’t have it
fresh tomato sauce
mozzarella cheese – I used Vegan Gourmet

Toast the quinoa in a dry pot over medium heat just until you hear it begin to pop, shaking frequently. It will get slightly darker and smell a bit nutty. Add the veggie broth, turn the heat to med-low and cover tightly. Cook for 10-12 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is tender.

Meanwhile, crumble the veggie sausage into a bowl and add the onion, garlic, and basil. Toss in the cooked quinoa and breadcrumbs. Season to taste – yum.

Halve your zucchini lengthwise – I’d say get a medium, but that can mean a lot of different sizes when you are dealing with zucchinis. If you are growing your own, I’ll say it’s a 5-7 day old one :)

Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and drop a few drops of olive oil in each. Give it a good massage – inside and out and season with salt and pepper. Stuff the zucchini halves each with half the stuffing. Coat the bottom of a baking dish with a bit of the tomato sauce (how much is your preference). Carefully set the stuffed zucchini in and cover with foil, being careful not to touch your lovely stuffing with the foil.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes (more or less, depending on the size of your zucc). Uncover and add your cheese. Back into the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Plate and enjoy!
Peace,
DharmaDogsFarm

Jul 172011
 

Yea, I know – there’s no zucchini in chick pea salad. There is when you’re eating your harvest and the cukes aren’t ripe yet!  - and it’s actually pretty darned good :)

Chick Pea Salad with Zucchini
1 15 oz can chick peas (garbanzo beans – organic if you can)
1 small onion, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
4 basil leaves, torn
1 lemon, juice and zest
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 chive, diced (if you have it)
1 pinch crushed red pepper
salt and black pepper to taste

Put first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Mix next 5 ingredients in a jar and shake to mix. Pour jar into bowl and add salt & pepper as needed.

Great side dish or lunch :)

Peace,
DharmaDogsFarm

Jul 172011
 

I’m really feeling pretty good – and liking following my own beliefs a lot more. Danny and I have really had a great week, though occasionally stressing a little over ‘what to eat.’ The truth is, when you eat vegetarian, you can make an entire meal out of anything you have a lot of, and other staples from the kitchen. For real, you ALWAYS can make an awesome meal – use your creativity, or search a good vegetarian cookbook.

When eating vegan, it’s almost as easy – check for animal products – dairy, cheese, honey, dry milk, eggs, egg powder or beaters. Veganism goes a lot further than what you eat. There are animal products in body care products, your clothing, household products – a LOT of things. In this way, I am not vegan yet. I have leather shoes, use a lotion I see has dry milk as an ingredient, I haven’t done the research on every single thing I use in my daily life – I did even find my favorite vegetarian cheese contains a bit of casein – which makes it NOT vegan. I’ve been using rice cheese substitutes, and they do not at all compare – don’t believe what is on the package – I haven’t found a rice cheese that melts yet.

Okay, so tonight, we have our first ripe tomato :) It’s a beefsteak, and we’re having  BLTs – I’ve got homemade wheat bread, Lightlife veggie bacon,  and vegan nayonnaise. We’re having homemade french fries (baked potato strips) and vegan cole slaw (previous recipe) and fresh canteloupe.

Two more weeks – who knows?

Peace,
michele

Jul 162011
 

We could can green beans, but we like the texture and flavor of freezing them a lot more. We do our best to can and dry much of the harvest so we use as little energy as possible (none) to store it. There are some things though, like beans, that just taste better frozen.

Wash your beans. De-stem and snap, if desired. If it has been a muddy harvest, wash again.

Set a large pot of water to boil. When you are happy with the cleanliness of your green beans, submerge them into the boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the size of the beans).

Remove beans to a towel and allow to cool completely.

Divide into amounts you will need for a meal and place in heavy freezer bags (we’ve not been able to come up with a more ecological solution for this). Squeeze out as much air as you can and zip closed.

Label and freeze.

Another vegetable that is surprisingly good this way is beets. Wash and roast beets in a 350-degree oven or a grill. Peel, de-stem/root, and cut into the size you would like. Cool completely and freeze in heavy freezer bags. When you want these in the middle of winter, remove from freezer bag and place in 350-degree oven. They will taste like you just roasted them in about 20 minutes!

Corn is usually best frozen, as are cole crops – broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. I steam all sorts of greens, from spinach and chard, to beet greens and dandelions, and be sure to press all of the water out and freeze in small batches.

Peace,
DharmaDogsFarm

Jul 162011
 

I’m really happy with the way I eat, but still not sure I’m really vegan. That said, I had an awesome vegan dinner and desert :)

I made a totally vegan cheeseburger sub – with vegan mayo, tofutti american cheese, and Boca burgers. It was AWESOME :) The chips are UTZ reduced calorie Sour Cream and Onion – made with whey, they actually have protein content. I had peanut butter swirl coconut ice cream for desert and it ROCKED :)
I think you can find products to make anything you want vegan. I was completely satisfied with this Friday night dinner – it’s low calorie, nothing bad for you , and vegan. :)
Jul 142011
 

I feel really good – and I’m not really missing cheese :) Danny is really being very supportive. He got me a new book - The Vegan Table: 200 Unforgettable Recipes for Entertaining Every Guest at Every Occasion by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and we are finding tons of yummy recipes. This book helped me get over my first fear – that my favorite staple food, pizza, would be off limits. She has several vegan pizza recipes in the book that inspire much more flavorful pies. I am starting to wonder why I ever liked the cheese-laden slices I was used to eating. There are also some good recipes for ‘cheese’ sauces, cheese block and tempeh bacon, which will come in handy when those tomatoes get ripe!

I also check VegWeb.com quite a bit. There are very inventive recipes here for just about anything you could crave – including vegan fried chicken – hmmm.

I’ve found that I have to eat a lot more to keep my blood sugar stable, but I’m eating mostly fruits and veggies. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t experimented too much with different recipes. I’m really happy with what I’ve tried so far.

The only cheese issue I really am having is eating out. We are going out for dinner one day next week to our favorite restaurant, where I have several vegetarian favorites – but they all have cheese. I’m not sure what to order.

Peace,
michele