Sunday, February 9, 2020

Spiced Tomato Preserves

My mother used to make spiced tomato preserves in the summer, when the garden was overflowing with ripe, red tomatoes. The preserves were tangy and sweet, with hints of cinnamon and cloves. My mother no longer has the recipe, and I can't find it on the internet. I've looked everywhere. (You'd be surprised what falls between the internet's couch cushions....)

So I am making up a recipe based on my memories and the several recipes I've found that seem close, but not quite.

This tastes just like I remember.

Spiced Tomato Preserves
3 cups granulated cane sugar
3 pounds tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 lemon, sliced fine, then chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1.75 ounces powdered pectin

Prepare 1/2 pint canning jars and lids according to directions.

Measure out your granulated sugar and set aside.

Put the chopped tomatoes in saucepan and heat slowly to a simmer, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.

Add the lemon, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pectin. Stir well.

Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Add sugar all at once. Stir constantly. When the mixture comes to a boil that can't be stirred down, boil hard for one minute. (Yes, still stirring constantly. Black, burnt flakes from the bottom of the pot will ruin your beautiful preserves.)

Remove from heat. 

Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4" head space. Put the lids on and place in water bath. Process for 10 minutes (15 for altitude adjustment).

This made 4 1/2 pint jars.

My favorite way to eat tomato preserves is on top of a cracker with some goat cheese or brie.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Laurie's Grandma's Tsimmes

Laurie's Grandmother's Tsimmes

2-3 medium to large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2-3 decent sized
carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cup of pitted prunes
½ of a can of pineapple chunks
1/3 of a cup (approximately) of frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tablespoon of
cooking oil (expeller-pressed is better for you)
½ teaspoon of cinnamon
Cook carrots and sweet potatoes in boiling salted water, covered, until tender but still firm. (You can also steam them in the microwave – I used the same casserole dish that I cooked the whole recipe in. Add a little bit of water and check for doneness at three-minute intervals, stirring so they cook evenly.)
Put carrots and sweet potatoes into a baking or casserole dish. Add prunes, orange juice concentrate, pineapple chunks and cinnamon. Stir very gently. Dot the top of the dish with butter, then drizzle over some honey (the amount you use is to your preference) and some canola oil (ditto.)
Bake, covered, in a preheated oven at 350° for about 30 minutes. Bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Or as Grandma used to say, cook until done.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Vegetarian Chili with Home Grown Vegetables

I usually think of chili as something that pretty much comes from the pantry. My recipe used to be 1 onion, 1 garlic, 1 pepper, 1 pound ground meat or protein of some sort, 1 can beans, one can chopped tomatoes, 1 Tbs. chili powder. Everything (with the possible exception of the "meat") came out of the pantry. It was very quick and easy, but of course, nothing was home grown.

Here's how I make chili now:

Vegetarian Chili with Home Grown Vegetables

  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • garlic or 1 elephant garlic, chopped
  • sweet bell pepper, any color, chopped
  • 3 cups dried beans, cooked (I use a mix of whatever is handy. Black beans, chick peas, kidney beans, pinto beans, cow peas, navy beans all work, and it's nice to have a different colors. I cook the beans in the pressure cooker.) If you don't have dried beans on hand, you can use 3 cans of beans instead.
  • 1 cup barley (or rice), cooked (again, I use the pressure cooker to speed things up)
  • a couple of jalapeno peppers, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups corn
  • 1 pound red tomatoes, blended, or 1 15 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the onion, garlic, bell peppers, and cumin and cook until the vegetables are soft. If you are very brave, you can add the jalapeno peppers at this point. Otherwise wait until the end, and add them a little bit at a time and taste frequently until you have the chili as spicy as you like.

Add the rest of the ingredients.  Heat to a simmer. Taste, and add salt, pepper, and more jalapenos, if you would like. Let the flavors blend for 20 minutes or throw into the crock pot for a couple of hours on low.

Serve over brown rice, or baked potatoes, if that sounds delicious to you. Garnish with salsa, sour cream, chopped chives, cilantro, grated cheese, or whatever suits your fancy.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cucumber Lemonade

True confessions time.  We have too many cucumbers. I meant to plant a 50 foot row, and I had more seedlings than I intended, so I ended up with a 100' row of cucumbers. I know.  I should have just stuck with the plan, but I couldn't just murder the poor little dears.  Cucumbers are sort of a problem.  They need to be harvested at LEAST every other day. And the plants are prickly, so you have to wear long sleeves, no matter how hot it is. We grow cucumbers, but they are less fun than other crops. And one member of the family doesn't even like them.  But the first thing he said when the first uber-crop came in was, "Are we going to make cucumber lemonade?"

Oh, heck, yeah! Working in the greenhouse in the heat of the summer requires us to have cold beverages available at all times. And yes, we have to have something other than water available.  I may write a blog on why, at  some point.

Cucumber lemonade is delicious, refreshing, and a little unusual. The original recipe called for juicing fresh lemons, which is even more delicious than the way I make it with bottled juice.  But I make this EVERY DAY during cucumber season, so you will have to excuse me if I take a few short cuts. (Also, I doubled the original recipe, because of the quantities that we drink.)

One nice thing about this recipe is that you don't need to peel or seed the cucumber. Let the blender to all the work.

Cucumber Lemonade

2 Cups boiling water
1 Cup cane sugar
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
6 Tbs lemon juice

  1. Dissolve the sugar in the hot water, and let this cool in a half gallon pitcher or mason jar.
  2. Chop the cucumbers and liquefy them in the blender. You can add water to the blender if you need to.
  3. Strain the cucumbers into the pitcher (or a large measuring cup, if you are using a mason jar). This will leave you with a pile of cucumber pulp (or foam, depending on how enthusiastic your blender is). You can toss the cucumber foam into the compost, but I usually just eat it with a spoon, since it seems a shame to throw all that goodness away. Add the cucumber juice to the sugar water.
  4. Add the lemon juice and stir. 
  5. Fill the pitcher (or mason jar) with water. (The original recipe didn't do this, but it assumed that you were pouring the lemonade over ice, which would dilute it. We mostly drink it straight.
  6. Refrigerate.

Pickled Cucumbers

My mother's grandfather immigrated to the United States from Sweden.  When I was in junior high school, my mother decided to connect with her Swedish roots, and one of the ways she chose to do this was through food.  One of her favorite recipes was Pickled Cucumbers, or Inglada Gukor, as it says in the Swedish cookbooks.

Pickled Cucumbers

1 Cup cane sugar
1 1/2 Cups cider vinegar
1 large or 2 medium cucumber
fresh minced parsley

  1. Dissolve sugar in cider vinegar. Add a little salt, pepper, and some parsley for color. 
  2. Peel cucumbers. Score the cucumbers lengthwise with a table fork, all the way around. Cut the cucumbers in thin slices. The marks from the fork will make a pretty scalloped shape. 
  3. Put the sliced cucumbers in a 1 quart mason jar (or you can use a casserole dish, but my mother always used a mason jar). At this point I added some thinly sliced red onion to add a little color, but that is not original to the recipe.
  4. Pour the vinegar mixture over the cucumbers. Put the lid on, and refrigerate for 2 or more hours before serving. (Some of the cucumbers will float out of the liquid, so I shake the jar every so often to make sure all the cucumber slices get in the brine.

Usually, we just had pickled cucumbers as a refreshing summer side dish. But they are also fun on a sandwich. Here is my new favorite lunch. This is toasted french bread, topped with hummus and sliced tomatoes, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Add sliced pickled cucumbers, and garnish with microgreens. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Salad

Red, ripe tomatoes, fresh from the garden.  Yum! One of the nice things about tomato season is Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches.  Most of the year, we don't buy bacon, but come August....
Since we are trying to reduce the amount of bread we consume and at the same time increase the amount of greens we eat, salad seemed the way to go.

So here's how I make a 

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato Salad

1 head romaine (or any lettuce that looks delicious), ripped or chopped into bite sized pieces
6 slices bacon, (regular, turkey, or vegetarian equivalent) cooked crisp and crumbled
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 - 3 tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded if necessary, and chopped
1 avocado, diced

2 Tbs mayo, or similar sandwich spread
2 tsp mustard
2 Tbs  milk or non-dairy alternative

Whisk the dressing ingredients together.

Toss the lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, and avocado with the dressing. Top with the eggs and bacon.

This makes a pretty, delicious main dish salad.

Butternut Casserole

We've had a hard time growing winter squash in the greenhouse.  Between the heat, the squash bugs, the cucumber beetles, and the diseases associated with all of the above, we've never had a good crop until this year. The guineas killed the bugs. But most importantly, we got some extra special seeds from the fantastic folks at the local seed company, Commonwealth.

Butternut Casserole

1 medium butternut squash (2 pounds, more or less)
2 eggs
1/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c cream (or milk or the milk substitute of your choice)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp powdered ginger

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds.  Put the squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet with sides. Bake for 40 minutes (more or less, depending on the size and shape of your squash) at 375 degrees (more or less, depending on if you have something else in the oven at a slightly different temperature) until it feels cooked  when you poke it with a fork. Let cool at room temperature until you can handle it. (I sometimes do this the night before.)

Preheat oven to 350.

Scoop out the squash pulp and mash it with your favorite mashing method. Potato masher, electric mixer, stick blender, food processor.  Any of them work.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the nutmeg, and mix well. 

Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 45 minutes or until it seems cooked when you wiggle the dish.
It's mildly sweet, and a perfect fall side dish.