Preserving Everything…Including My Sanity (well…maybe not)

I’m sure I’ve mentioned: I’m a little obsessed with preparing and preserving food. My house is stocked for at least two zombiepocalypses and there’s no sign of abating the surge. Except for maybe winter. I am pretty much hoping winter will come soon. …So that…I can obsess over hunting for mushrooms instead. See what  mean? I think I’m hopeless.

So, one of my favorite things to make every year are pickles. Except this year (I made too many last year and didn’t finish them all, so I’m on restriction). That said, I recommend this cookbook: Canning for a New Generation. Not only does it contain a super recipe for pickling spices, it has wonderful old-fashioned pickle recipes, including a three week lacto-fermented brine. For the less inclined, there is an eight-hour and one which does not require any brine time, both intended to be processed in your water bath canner.

I recommend that cookbook to anyone reading. Maybe I already have. So, I’m doing it again if I have.

Well, off to decide what food to preserve today and to take a long walk to an apple tree. Lots of apples! Making apple fruit leather and applesauce today…in this 90 degree weather.

-Drippingly yours,


P.S. Making lacto-fermented sodas is easy, good for you, and delicious. Concord grapes are finally in season. I wait every year for this moment. I am making concord grape lacto-fermented sodas which start with making a ginger bug. This website got me started.

I Do Not Believe in Too Much Zucchini!

About this time of year, people are giving their zucchini and other summer squashes away. Maybe I am just selfish (probably), but I don’t. I want them and everyone else’s all to myself. My garden didn’t do as well as I would have liked this year. My output on squashes was puny for the size and number of my plants. I am currently in what I think is the final push of production. So, I am letting them grow…as big as possible. Seeds be damned! (That is, I don’t care if they get a bit seedy.)

A student gave me a zucchini last week that measured about 16 inches long and was probably five pounds. Good deal! I sliced it thinly, roasted on a sheet with oil and salt in the oven. (I used organic red palm oil this time) After some caramelizing, I poured a pint of my husbands marinara over the top and spread it around evenly and baked it some more. This we served over the top of some polenta I made earlier and baked in the oven. Over the top, we sprinkled porcini salt and homemade vegan Parmesan (nutritional yeast, salt, minced walnut mixture).

Divine and simple.

And, it was better the next day.



How Not to Store Bell Peppers, Apparently…

So, I don’t refrigerate all of my produce. Bell peppers tend to sit prettily in one of the decorative bowls in my dining room alongside squashes, cucumbers, tomatoes, and even ginger. This time several of my lovely peppers were sitting on top of some fresh ginger. I noticed one green one had turned red in a large swath. I picked it up and the other side squished in. Bummer. Curious, I picked up another…same result. Paranoid, I removed all of them.

Luckily, it was just the two, but food waste is not a good thing. At least it carries a lesson. I did a search and could not find any information regarding storage of ginger next to other fruits or vegetables, but my conclusion without further testing (and food waste I’d rather not undergo) is that storing bell peppers (and probably other foods) next to ginger is a bad idea.

Some plants release chemicals in the form of gases that affect other plants. I don’t store my onions next to my potatoes for the same reason.

So there you have it.

-Saving what’s left,


Rain Water Isn’t Free, but it Should Be

I have always wanted rain barrels. Now that we are homeowners again, I can’t wait to get it going. Unfortunately for others it isn’t legal in every state and I think that is fundamentally wrong.

We don’t yet foster being responsible for our consumer behavior in this country and all too often the essential elements of life on this planet are commodities for profit. Clean air, water, and healthy food should be available to all for free.

I am not advocating you get to go to the farmer or grocery store and help yourself. But, you should be allowed to grow your own, allowed to breathe clean air, and collect the rain that falls on your house and property for personal use without paying a corporation for living naturally on your own planet.

Here is a link to a neat system that got today’s rant started. There are helpful hints regarding algae and mosquitoes in the comments. I have not researched the suggestions as of yet, but I will and so should you.

Here is a link regarding legal status of collecting rainwater in each U.S. state. Scroll down for specific laws and laws pending.

-Advocating for you,



Diving into Soymilk is like Diving into Cold Water and I am Sometimes Wimpy

So,  the first batch of the vegan bleu cheese was a success. It melts, is so delicious (on pretty much everything), and is far cheaper to make than the gourmet and less gourmet cheese alternatives out there.

Recently we spent $14.00 for a nut based gourmet “cheese”. It wasn’t bad and the cost was only justified in order to feel the texture and flavor they accomplished.

I do that…memorize (in a sense) texture and flavor so I can recreate it either through imagination or otherwise.

On the counter is another batch and in the fridge is a batch of sharp cheddar.  There are soy milk based cheeses in this book, but I can’t bear to do them yet. I don’t want to buy pre-made soy milk because I want to make my own.

I am not quite ready to take that plunge. Often I spot something new and then stall for long periods of time. It’s like getting into water for me. I love to swim, love the water, but hate getting wet. The pressure canner sat on a shelf for over a year before it was finally used. And it wasn’t even hard.

My sister recently said taunted me because I took a long time to finally get past my knees in the river. She said I was a wimp if I didn’t do it and that it wasn’t really a vacation if I didn’t get my head wet.

Eventually I come around and making soy milk is supposed to be easy. I did get my head wet in that river and then didn’t want to come out.

-Diving in…eventually,



Fermented Vegan, Gluten Free Cheese

Some would be daunted by the idea of vegan cheese or fermenting at home. I embrace both for several reasons. First, fermented means gut-friendly bacteria. That means healthier everything and it’s so easy! Vegan means I can eat it without getting sick since it’s non-dairy (as long as it’s also gluten-free).

Pre-made foods are expensive, have ingredients I can’t control, and made in an environment I also cannot control. When I make things at home, I can source my ingredients to my standards and specifications, ensure the food is safe for me to eat (no cross contamination possibilities), and I get the pleasure of doing it myself. In addition, I can change things up and then invent my own recipes if I deem it necessary or an improvement over the original.

So, I just finished making a cashew-based bleu cheese and am in the process of making a sharp cheddar now. The bleu is amazing! I love it and think that I could likely fool a lot of people if I were to incorporate it into a salad, etc. Now, if you are allergic to tree nuts, I apologize. I do not know how to solve that one yet, but if I ever figure it out, I will make that available. You could always experiment. The worst thing that could happen is that it wouldn’t work or have a pleasant taste. That’s a common experience for any adventurous person in a kitchen.

So, using this book and this recipe for making the Rejuvelac before you start the process is where to start. Basic skills are sprouting, rinsing, using a food processor, using a blender (High speed is best…not sure if a regular blender is enough, but I bet an immersion blender could get the job done if you can’t afford a Vitamix.)  Give yourself about 10 days total for the process. That is time intensive because of the fermentation, not because it’s a lot of work. It actually isn’t much work at all.


Into The Pot!: Recipe for Vegetarian Cocido

Cocido or Cocido Madrileño or Cocido Rojo is known as a hearty stew or soup that has its origins in the Middle Ages. The history takes it through Spain and then on in to Mexico where it takes so many forms. It seems everyone their own recipe.

A friend of mine posted a picture of his Cocido and it looked so delicious, I looked it up. Most of the ingredients were in my kitchen, so I decided to make it right then.

I substituted a few things, added others, and left out the meat. Even in Mexico, there are vegetarians, so how would they do it? I wanted hearty flavors, so I used mushrooms, miso, and tamarind. (The tamarind was my husband’s idea…and it made it beautiful!)

I wanted the cilantro to top mine and he didn’t. I wanted mine plain or with corn tortillas and he wanted bean thread noodles. Turns out, this soup resembles Vietnamese soups or even BiBimBap. It is thrilling  to see the similarities between the food in different cultures.  It seems to me most of us are eating the same things with variations in the spices and accompaniments.

So here is my recipe for Cocido Vegetariano:

Vegetarian (Vegan) Cocido


  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp. Olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. White miso paste
  • 2 cups crimini mushrooms, sliced thickly
  • ½ white or yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 2 large carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 large ear of corn, cut across the cob into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet (or other) potatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks/Alternatively, cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped kale or other green
  • 2-4 spicy peppers, sliced (I used small jalapenos) optional
  • 2 summer squash cut into 1 inch slices (about 2-3 cups)
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves (to garnish and flavor after cooking)
  • ¼ cup tamarind paste or chutney
  • Salt added to taste


  1. Add olive oil to large pot (4quart or larger). Use medium-high heat.
  2. Add chopped mushrooms when oil is hot and brown.
  3. When mushrooms are browning and starting to stick, add about 1 cup of the water to deglaze.
  4. Add the onion and garlic and stir. After a couple of minutes, add another cup of water.
  5. Add miso paste and stir to incorporate. (Alternatively, whisk into some of the water in a cup beforehand to break up the paste and then add to the pot)
  6. Add carrots, potato, corn, kale, and remainder of the water.
  7. Add salt to taste and the tamarind.
  8. Cook on medium heat (do not boil) for about 20-30 minutes.
  9. Add summer squash and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until tender.
  10. Serve with cilantro over top.

This serves well with bean thread or rice noodles, corn tortillas, or just by itself.

Serves 3-6

-Bon Apetit,


P.S. I have no pictures of this yet, but it is more of a very chunky vegetable soup as opposed to the giant chunks of meat, etc. you see in the links to other recipes.

Relish the Day

Unless I’m mistaken, it seems we can’t do everything. The belief that anything is possible seems to fuel me, but it’s an illusion or maybe a delusion and anyway, most of the time it’s productive. My husband makes this jalapeño and onion relish. It’s gorgeous. Sweet, spicy, oily, and savory all at once. He created it a few years ago just by mixing things up and voilà!

So, we had grand designs to can this stuff up using the pressure canner and have it for all year-round. Upon searching for a comparable recipe in terms of style and content so we could determine how many minutes at whatever pounds pressure is recommended, we found that it simply should not be done. We referenced and cross referenced, read passages aloud to each other. Searched through the multitudes of cookbooks, blogs, and government websites (go to the question about canning herbs and pesto and then to the question about canning butter). What we found was that even though pressure canning is for low-acid foods and we did indeed have that, oils have to be at a minimum because apparently oil protects Clostridium botulinum (botulism, for the uninitiated). At first, I thought the issue was that oil could prevent a proper seal by getting in between the cap and the jar and that we’d just check the seals when we were done. But, alas, there is a more compelling problem.

And now we are jarring it up, tossing it into the fridge, taking a jar to the neighbor’s house, and smothering our dinners with it. Incidentally, baked potato fries with a slice of Daiya, the jalapeño relish, and homemade coconut “bacon” is decadent. So while we mourned, we mourned in style.

-To your health,


Tomatoes: A Labor of Love

Twice now in the past week, we have driven to a local farm and purchased two cases of tomatoes equaling nearly 40 pounds each time. These are organic heirloom tomatoes at a dollar a pound. In the stores, they are five to six dollars a pound and the same at the farmers’ markets.

Apparent delusions of grandeur fuel me in the summer months, but somehow, we succeed in our quests. We have so far produced, 16 pints of marinara sauce, 20 pints of stewed tomatoes, 12 four-ounce jars of tomato paste, and are currently experimenting with ketchup. Personally, I don’t like the stuff, but the other members of the household do.  I always buy organic ketchup and I probably only purchase two bottles in a whole year, but still the plastic container bothers me. I am also bothered by the nagging feeling that it would be less expensive and local if I made it myself.

So here we are, whipping up a test batch and concluding that this will culminate in our own recipe as we adjust to suit our tastes (even mine…I do know what it ought to be like even if I don’t care for it). Also, this is the first year for stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, and the second for marinara. No more worries about Muir Glen, etc. and their cans or politics. No more guilt about the fuel it costs to ship and process long distances. No worries about the quality of the product. And, this is what I meant when I suggested that living sustainably is a process.

We take it one step at a time, trying to change our lives and our world through small actions. And, they matter.