At the last family gathering I was totally surprised to hear how many of my family members actually read my posts here on Kitchen Apparel.  More than a few people told me I was crazy for making Ramp Salt, and then promptly asked me what the hell ramps were anyway.  I think when most bloggers start out they are worried that only their family is reading, but for me it was the complete opposite.  I have been pleasantly surprised to hear that many family members that I never thought would even click on my website, are actually reading (yes I'm talking about you Uncle Ron).  So where am I going with this...well, this bright yellow ice cream maker you see, was a Christmas gift from my brother and his wife (my favorite sister-in-law).  They actually bought it for me so that I could use it for posting recipes.  My brother was even awesome enough to pick out this book for me because he knows that I don't drink cows milk and I like to make vegan recipes.  I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that my family is so supportive of my weird domestic hobbies, but I will now be ever mindful and appreciative of their encouragement and love.    

    I also have a little bit of a confession to make today, "I, Sandra Kehoe, have never tasted nor cooked with rhubarb before".  I know, try not to judge me too harshly.  While working with my health coach, Irina Kachalenko I vowed to keep an open mind and try new things.  So this spring I got yet another chance to try a food that I always shied away from because it just seemed weird.  In my mind I have always thought, poisonous leaves on top of super long crazy hot pink stalks of vegetable matter. I'm not so sure I want to go near it let alone put it in my mouth.  So this year I put on my big girl pants and grabbed all the rhubarb at the farm stand counter.  I wonder if I looked a little desperate or maybe they just remembered me from my first trip when I cleaned out their whole stash of asparagus just minutes after they picked it (the crazy lady with two kids, I guess it's pretty hard to forget).  So to make a long story short, lets just say I have a new love for all things rhubarb.  I have been eating it on or with everything for the last few days and I can't get enough.  I really wanted to make an ice cream that was just purely rhubarb because I enjoy the tartness.  We have been having some hot sticky weather here in New Jersey so ice cream just seemed like the perfect treat in lieu of heating up the oven to make a pie.   

Rhubarb Ice Cream (Vegan)

3 cups coconut milk (full fat coconut milk or make your own coconut milk)
1 cup rhubarb syrup (recipe below)
1 cup rhubarb pulp (byproduct of making rhubarb syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon tapioca flour/starch
2 teaspoons beet juice (optional - to add color - I promise it won't taste at all like beets)

Simmer the 3 cups of coconut milk in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 cup of rhubarb syrup and 1 cup of rhubarb pulp and gently whisk to combine.  Allow the milk to simmer for 2-3 minutes while gently whisking and then remove the pan from the heat.  Whisk in the vanilla, tapioca flour and beet juice.  Transfer the mixture into a glass bowl and place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 4-6 hours. (You can cover the bowl once the mixture cools down a bit).  At this point you need to process the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufactures instructions or until you know it is ready (mine took two batches at 15 minutes each).  Transfer the "soft" ice cream to a container and freeze until the ice cream is set.

NOTE:  I recommend eating your ice cream right as it is processing in the ice cream maker.  They conveniently designed ice cream makers with a hole in the top just for this purpose.  I'm serious, there is really no better way to enjoy homemade ice cream!  

Rhubarb Syrup

Adapted from this recipe by the Hungry Tigress

2 lbs of rhubarb, chopped
1 cup of water
sugar (I used unrefined cane sugar)

    Simmer the chopped rhubarb in 1 cup of water over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until all the rhubarb is disintegrated.  Stir occasionally to make sure the bottom doesn't burn.  Transfer the hot rhubarb into a jelly bag or cheesecloth over a bowl and hang it up to allow the juice to strain overnight.  (This is the perfect time to chill the base of your ice cream maker). 
    In the morning take the juice and place it back into a saucepan over medium heat. (I got 2 cups of juice).  Reserve the rhubarb pulp that is left in the cheesecloth for making the ice cream.  Add 1 cup of sugar to every 2 cups of rhubarb juice and stir until the sugar is all dissolved.  Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat to cool.  The rhubarb ice cream will take 1 cup of the finished syrup.  Store the remaining cup in the refrigerator for other purposes.   

"It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us."  
                                                                                -Henri Cartier-Bresson

    Alright I apologize, just one more ramp recipe I promise.  So I had my bunch of fresh ramps in the refrigerator and I made my Baked Eggs, with Asparagus and Ramps, but I was at a loss for what else to make.  After reading through Everyday Vegetarian I found the perfect recipe for Quinoa & Cauliflower Cakes with Ramps and that became our next meal.  But after that, there were several stalks left and I'd been wrestling with the idea of making ramp salt for the last few days.  I was thinking along the lines of how I like to put garlic salt on EVERYTHING, and ramp salt would be just as good if not better.  Sprinkled on eggs, mashed potatoes, homemade pita chips or that "everything" that I was talking about.  This would also make a super cool gift if you could manage to make enough to give away (well..maybe next year).

   I realize that not everyone has a dehydrator, but you should!  Ok maybe not, I really only use it every so often but when you need one, it is totally worth having.  Excalibur dehydrators are supposedly the best and a few months ago I picked up the smallest size one.  Like any big expensive kitchen appliance it is an investment for your future, but you definitely need space to keep it.  You could technically try to dry out ramps in an oven on a very low temperature, and if anyone is able to do so please let me know. The other thing you need for this recipe is a coffee/spice grinder, which is cheap, small and definitely worth getting.  I use mine for nuts, whole spices and everything but grinding coffee.  Once you have one you will wonder how you got through life without it.    

Ramp Salt + Powdered Ramp Leaves

2 teaspoons dried ground ramps (5-6 dried bulbs + 2-3 dried leaves)
3 1/2 tablespoons good quality flaked sea salt or your favorite choice of salt
Dehydrator - I use a Four Tray Excalibur

Wash and clean your ramps and dry them thoroughly.  Cut the bulbs from the green leaves.  Thickly slice the bulbs and place them on a dehydrator tray along with the whole leaves (you can leave smaller bulbs whole).  Make sure non are overlapping each other.  Run in the dehydrator on 125° F (vegetable setting) for 24-48 hours or until the ramps are completely dry and crispy. 

Once dried, grind 5-6 bulbs and 2-3 leaves in a coffee/spice grinder.  You could also try a mortar and pestle but a grinder is much faster and much more efficient.  This produced 2 teaspoons of dried ground ramps for me, but the amount will be different for everyone.  You can adjust the amount of salt used to suit your preference. I wanted a very "rampy" salt, but you could use less ramps and more salt for a milder flavor.  Mix the ground ramps and salt together and store in a sealed container.  Ideally let the salt sit for a day or two to allow the flavors to mingle and get know each other.  The salt should keep for about a year but the flavor might diminish over time like most herbs do. 

I had lots of leftover dried leaves so I decided to grind them up into a ramp leaf powder (as you can see below).  I have big hopes to use this in soups and stews, mashed potatoes or even to make some homemade ramp pasta.  The possibilities are endless in my mind, and you will probably be seeing it somewhere else on my blog in the future!
    I used up the rest of my fresh ramps by trying a recipe for Quinoa & Cauliflower Cakes with Ramps from Vegetarian Everyday by David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl of Green Kitchen Stories.  I am mentioning this only because I purchased their book, and if you love vegetarian food as much as I do, you too should pick up a copy.  The quinoa cakes were excellent by the way!
    Alright, this is a quick little post to go with my quick decision to make jam today.  I have been thinking about doing this for the last week or so, mostly because I wanted something to put in my breakfast crepes this weekend.  Crepes are a new favorite in our house and I have quickly gone through most of my fall fruit preserves in the past couples of months.  Honey apple butter, cardamom peach jam and cinnamon pear butter are now all gone and irreplaceable in this particular month in the calender year, so I decided to check in my freezer.  I saw that I had a bunch of frozen berries taking up valuable real estate that will be badly needed in a few weeks for my super stash of strawberries and sweet and tart cherries.  With berry season right around the corner I didn't need last years stragglers getting lost in the frozen recesses, only to be tossed away when new tenants moved in.  I didn't want to think about what combination of fruit I wanted to use so they all got thrown in together and here I present to you: Mixed Berry Jam. 

    If you have never made jam before let me give a few little tips.  Try to use a pot that has lots of room (very high sides) because there will be super hot splatters to deal with.  Definitely invest in a digital thermometer and use it (made that mistake once and I unintentionally made fig candy).  Don't get discouraged if it doesn't come out right.  If it comes out a little runny then just tell people you made berry syrup instead, they will still be just as impressed, I promise.  You need to become familiar with how jam feels and how you test to see when it is set, and the only way to do that is to try it. 

Mixed Berry Jam

made 1 1/2 pints of jam

6 cups (780 grams) of mixed berries:  Blackberries, Raspberries and Blueberries (Fresh or Frozen)
Juice from one lemon
1 cup sugar (I used Sucanat but feel free to use what you have)

1/2 cup *buckwheat honey

Start a boiling water bath if you plan on processing your jam.  Since this recipe doesn't make that much jam you could always keep it in a container in the refrigerator and not worry about canning.  

Place all the ingredients into a non-reactive pot and bring to a boil over medium to high heat.  Keep the mixture at a rolling boil and stir occasionally so that the bottom doesn't burn.  Heat the mixture until a thermometer reaches the set point at 220° F  (You could perform a freezer test if you want as well).  The mixture should be thick.  When you spoon through the mixture it should separate so you can see the bottom of the pot and it should sheet off the spoon.

Sterilize your jars, ring and lids and get them ready on the counter.  Spoon the hot jam into the jars, seal finger tip tight and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Set on the counter to cool and test the seals when they have cooled down. 

*Buckwheat Honey:  This recipe calls for buckwheat honey because I personally love it.  The smell is...well lets not talk about what it smells like because if you never noticed it before you will once I say it, and then you will never be able to eat buckwheat honey again.  You don't need to use it if you don't want to.  You can either use another 1/2 cup of sugar or a different kind of honey.  Everything about this recipe can be changed to suit your preference so please deviate if you want/need to.        

"Help your brother's boat across, and your own will reach the shore."
                                                                                                  ~ Hindu Proverb

    Today I am dedicating my post to raise awareness about food Insecurity in America.  I decided to take part in the "Food Bloggers Against Hunger" project after watching the documentary, A Place at the Table.  It opened my eyes to a lot of issues that I never knew about or even considered before.  At first I thought I would have nothing to contribute to a project such as this one.  What do I know about being food insecure?  I can’t even begin to understand how difficult it must be when you can’t feed your family.  I sit behind a computer screen and write about fresh wholesome recipes made with ingredients I didn’t have to think twice about putting in my grocery cart. I take for granted being able to walk into a grocery store to purchase whatever my heart desires that day.  And lastly what could someone like me actually do?  How does one person so far removed from this issue help at all?
    After thinking through this for weeks I came to understand that I could help in a small way.  The little that I can do is listen, learn and help spread awareness.  One person can’t change a whole country and the politics behind it, but there are small things we can all do that will help.

Drive the Demand for Better Food

     What does that mean?  It means we need to make a conscious effort to support local organic farmers that grow fruits and vegetables.  We subsidize the wrong crops in this country and by creating a higher demand for locally grown produce we will create the need for more of it.  Farmers markets are becoming more and more popular.  You can visit, Local to find one in your area.  Farmer's markets are seasonal so when they are not available make better choices in your grocery store.  Always try to buy organic fruits and vegetables that are produced as close to where you live as possible.  If there are no farmer's markets in your area and you live in New Jersey like I do, look for the "Jersey Fresh" signs in your local grocery stores.

Spread Awareness and Write to the Politicians in Your State

    Visit this website and submit a letter to congress.  It only takes a minute to send a letter asking the politicians in your state to support anti-hunger legislation. This is a quick and easy way to help!  (I sent my letter :)

    Please do your part as a fellow American and learn about the issues that we all face together even if they don’t affect you directly.  Check out the documentary, A Place at the Table.  You can download and watch it on iTunes or Amazon.  If you enjoy this documentary as much as I did, then please urge others to see it as well.
    So the dish that I am featuring today is a Fire Roasted Tomato Soup.  I wanted to have something that could serve as both a hearty vegetarian dinner, and provide some great leftovers for lunch.  One big pot makes this soup easy to prepare, all the ingredients can easily be found in a typical grocery store and this soup is super fast to make (about a half an hour).  I also wanted to make this soup because it is a family favorite and the weather here in New Jersey has still been a bit chilly. 

    I tried to calculate the cost of this meal per person, but it will vary greatly depending on the ingredients that you use.  I used mostly organic items when I made this dish, and when I calculated out the price it came to about $ 3.32 per person per serving (large bowl of soup and big wedge of bread).  If you were to purchase regular items the cost decreases to $2.58 per person per serving.  The personal choice is up to you, but if you can afford it, purchase organic tomatoes, spinach and peppers because they are all items that are subjected to heavy amounts of pesticides when grown conventionally.         

Fire Roasted Tomato Soup

6 Servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 (28oz) cans of fired roasted whole tomatoes with their juices
2 cups of vegetable broth (To save some money make your own from food scraps, Oh my Veggies shows you how, HERE)
4 cups of water
3 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon dried basil and dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground paprika
pinch of ground cayenne pepper  (if you like some heat)
1/2 cup of whole wheat orzo (or any other type of small pasta)
2 cups of cooked cannellini beans or 1 (19oz) can

2 roasted red peppers, chopped (use either homemade or a small jar of chopped roasted red peppers)
a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
grated Parmesan cheese for topping

    In a food process or blender, puree the tomatoes with their juices and set aside. In a large soup pot heat the oil over medium high heat.  Add the chopped onions and saute until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and cook 1 minute more.  Add the pureed tomatoes, vegetable broth, water, salt, basil, oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper (if using) and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and add the orzo, cannellini beans and roasted red peppers.  Simmer, partially covered for 15 mintues.  Just before serving (see note below) add the fresh spinach and a few cracks of black pepper.  Allow the soup to cook just until the spinach wilts.  At the table serve your soup with some bread and grated Parmesan Cheese. 

NOTE:  The spinach is best when it is only cooked until it is wilted.  If you do not want to serve the whole soup at one meal then ladle the extra soup into containers before adding in the spinach to the soup you will eat.  You can reheat the remainder of the soup another day or even store the extra in the freezer for an even quicker and easier dinner another day.
    The first day of spring has come and gone, and I've been trying not to read all the bloggers on the west coast who are in full spring mode with their asparagus and radishes.  That will be us soon and there will be ramps on the menu don't you worry (yes, I said ramps!).  But in the meantime I have been staring at my gorgeous citrus stash and trying to prepare myself for the inevitable diminish of bright citrus sunlight.  Sure with modern grocery stores you can still get citrus in the summer, but it is never as good and my favorite varieties won't be around for long.  I have been thinking about the best way to preserve my beautiful winter citrus so it will last through the summer months, and I finally came to the conclusion that I must make marmalade.  

    This marmalade is my love note to all my favorite citrus varieties.  I only just met Cara Cara, but it was love at first cut.  Her perfectly orange exterior coupled with a sweet pink inside.  Then there is the Moro Blood, whose bright colors and intense flavor never fail to impress.  And lastly the Sumo, bumpy and bulbous but with all the taste and convenience of a tiny mandarin.  These three varieties are my choice, but you can use whatever citrus you have available or that speaks to you in an intimate fashion.

    Please proceed with intent because making and putting up marmalade is no simple afternoon project.  Anyone that knows this blog, understands that I am not about quick and easy.  I enjoy making food that slows down life and brings enjoyment.  We move too fast, wanting instant gratification in so many aspects of our lives, but what ever happened to sitting for a while and focusing on a single project.  Making things from scratch doesn't have to be difficult, but it does require attention and time.  Personally, this is my favorite way to relax and find peace.  If your hobbies lead you to other activities then you can find delight in knowing that you can easily get great marmalade in a store or farmers market (or stop by my house for some!).  

Winter Citrus Marmalade (CaraMoroSumo Marmalade)

made 10 jars (4 oz each), but you can use any size jars you like

4 lbs of citrus (I used an assortment of Cara Cara, Sumo and Moro Blood Oranges)
4 cups of the liquid from cooking the zest
5 cups of sugar (I prefer to use unrefined natural cane sugar but regular white sugar is fine too)

Wash the oranges in warm soapy water and then dry completely.  Using a serrated vegetable peeler or sharp knife, remove the zest from all the fruit.  Stacking a few of the zest strips at a time, slice them as thin as possible.  Collect all the zest and place it in a large pot with 2 quarts of water.  Bring the zest and water to a boil on the stove top. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the zest is tender.  When finished drain the zest from the water and reserve 4 cups of the cooking liquid. 

While your zest is simmering this is a great time to supreme all the citrus fruit.  Collect the segments and juice into one bowl and collect the membranes and seeds in another bowl.  Once all the fruit has been separated, collect a handful of the seeds and some of the inner membranes and bundle it into some cheesecloth and tie shut with twine so that no seeds can escape.  Prepare a boiling water bath and sanitize your jars and bands.  Place cleaned lids into warm water and set aside.  Set sanitized jars and bands on the counter in preparation of filling.   

In a large and deep pot combine the drained zest, 4 cups of cooking liquid, segmented citrus, sugar, and the cheesecloth bundle of seeds.  Bring everything to a vigorous boil and continue to boil until the mixture reaches the set point at 220° F, which can take about 30 to 40 minutes or longer.  Make sure to stir occasionally so it doesn't burn.  The mixture must hold at 220° F for 1 minute after you remove the pot from the heat source (you should also test the marmalade using the freezer test).  If the marmalade is not ready then return the pot to the heat and cook an additional 5 minutes and test it again.  Once it is set to your liking remove the pot from the heat and remove the cheesecloth bundle and discard it. 

Ladle the marmalade into the prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space and wipe the rims clean.  Add the lids and bands (finger tight), and process the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove the jars from the boiling water and set on top of a kitchen towel on the counter to cool.  Listen for the tink, tink, tink of sealing jars and check the seals using the finger test the next day.  Label your jars and pass them out to family and friends!

If you would like additional information about canning and techniques visit these two great sites: Food in Jars and Local Kitchen.  You can also pick up a free "Intro to Canning" on the Ball website: Click Here.   

    So are you tired of me using sunflower greens yet!  I can't help myself, they are just too much fun.  I use a pallet of them and immediately start growing another.  I realized the other day that I wanted to share a juice recipe that included sunflower greens to show you yet another way to use them.  This juice is not for the beginner and definitely not for anyone who has a bad relationship with beets.  But if you are into juicing and interested in a new combination, then let me introduce you to one of my favorites: Sunflower Sunset.
    You may be thinking, "why is this drink called Sunflower Sunset?"  Because every juice (just like every color of paint) needs a great name.  One of the fun parts to juicing is trying to come up with a name for the color of juice that comes out of all the different combinations of fruits and vegetables.  Do you ever wonder how the names get chosen for colors?  Like, whose really fun job is it to come up with a new name for a crayola crayon.  Color is so important because even without putting something in your mouth you can taste and feel it just by seeing it's color.  Was "Sunflower Sunset" the correct name for the color of this juice, you tell me?    

The juicer that I use is a Breville Juice Fountain ® Compact

How to grow your own Sunflower Greens:  Click Here

Sunflower Sunset Juice (Raw & Vegan)

approx. 3 cups of juice (results will vary between juicers)

1 pallet of sunflower greens (approximately 2 cups)
3 peeled moro blood oranges
3 organic beets with their tops, scrubbed completely clean from dirt or sand
1 peeled sweet potato
4 large organic carrots, scrubbed clean
1/2 teaspoon spirulina*(optional)

Process the sunflower greens, oranges, beets, sweet potato and carrots through your juicer.  Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of spirulina if using.

*Spirulina is one of those health food items that is said to be super great for you.  I was recently introduced to this blue-green algae by my health coach.  Spirulina makes my mouth very dry when I consume it, but it doesn't seem to bother me when placed into a juice in small amounts.  It has a grassy and earthy flavor that seems to work well with the root vegetables in this juice which is why I like to include it.   

    I think this recipe pretty much speaks for itself.  Winter vegetable stew is just that, a stew made from vegetables and eaten in the winter.  It is simple, warm and delicious to say the least.  I was actually looking for a great reason to use the last of my canned heirloom tomatoes and a root box full of sweet potatoes.  I found a new mixture of beans and grains by Bob's Red Mill and I knew I had dinner plans in the making.  The signs of spring are quickly sprouting (pun wholeheartedly intended), so this was my opportunity to make the last of my warming soups and stews before we jump outside and start shedding some layers.   
    There is nothing difficult here, just great ingredients and one large pot.  Soups and stews are my favorite thing to make for dinner because I can prep the ingredients a little at a time during the day, and throw everything together at the end.  Or you could even make this ahead of time and reheat it in a few minutes (and there are always leftovers after serving 2.5 people, which equals a future free night from cooking for me!)  Served alongside some crusty whole wheat bread, there is nothing quite like the warmth and comfort you get from a big bowl of stew for dinner. 

Winter Vegetable Stew

1 cup of Bob's Red Mill Whole Grains and Beans, soaked overnight *
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 small spring onions, sliced (yes I put spring onions in a winter stew - if you can't find them use 1 medium onion, chopped)
1 large leek, halved and sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 stalks of celery, sliced
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 quarts of Ultrabroth or Vegetable Stock
2 teaspoons salt
1 bay leaf and 1 bundle of fresh thyme and rosemary (About 3-4 springs of each)

1 (2-inch) square of Kombu (This is to aid in the digestion of beans, useful but not essential)
14 oz jar or can of chopped tomatoes, drained (I was able to use canned summer heirloom tomatoes)
5-6 fresh leaves of sage, finely minced

Rinse your grains and beans mix thoroughly.  Soak them overnight in a bowl full of water that is about 2-4 inches above the beans.  The next day drain the grains and beans and discard the water.

In a large pot heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the spring onions, leek, garlic, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes or until the onions become translucent.  Add the sweet potatoes, grains and bean mixture, ultrabroth or vegetable stock, salt, bay leaf, thyme/rosemary bundle and kombu.  Bring everything to a boil and then reduce the heat.  Simmer, partially covered, for 40 minutes.  

After simmering for 40 minutes, turn off the heat.  Remove the bay leaf, kombu and thyme/rosemary bundle and discard.  Add the 14 oz of chopped tomatoes and minced fresh sage leaves.  Give a few good stirs and then your stew is ready to serve. Of course make sure you have some yummy crusty bread to serve along side your stew.

* If you would like to make this stew gluten-free pick a different bean mixture that doesn't have whole grains such as Bob's Red Mill 13 bean soup mix or your choice of dried beans.

    Did you know that February is National Sweet Potato Month? Neither did I until just recently.  I'm not sure if this is an official or unofficial thing, but I am beginning to wonder if that is why my grocery store had an excess of sweet potatoes.  Either way, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite foods that I equate with comfort.  I can't remember why I was thinking that I wanted some sweet potato biscuits, but I know that I wanted something warm from my oven (that was also gluten-free and vegan). 

    Despite my attempts to counter seasonal affective disorder with excess amounts of vitamin D, I still can't shake the chilly, wet drabness that has been lingering around lately.  I have been longing to see sprouting daffodils, robins bobbing around my yard and the grass growing a more vivid shade of green with every warm rain shower.  February may be sweet potato month, but if ever there was a color for a month I would give February "beige
."  As I was collecting my pictures for this post I realized that I was lacking great color, but sometimes you mirror how you feel in your environment.  Right now the interest is on texture, patterns, shadows and mood.  So therefore, I am trying to project warm, cozy, crackly and delightful thoughts to usher us through to those brighter and more colorful months ahead.

Sweet Potato Biscuits (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

Adapted from Apple & Oat Biscuits by Green Kitchen Stories

makes 8-10 Biscuits

Sweet Potato Mash
1 tablespoon extra virgin coconut oil, at room temp
2 large sweet potatoes
1 cup water
1 small apple, peeled and chopped * (optional - I find it adds a little extra sweetness)

2 cups gluten-free oat flour
1 cup sorghum flour

1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons of arrow root or cornstarch

6 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil, at room temp
1 cup of the sweet potato mash

1/4 cup maple syrup

Making the Sweet Potato Mash: Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and apple (if using).  In a saucepan heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil and toss in the sweet potatoes.  Give them one good stir and then cover and cook for 5 minutes (it is ok if they burn a little, in fact it is a good thing if they do).  Stir in 1 cup of water and the chopped apple then give it one more good stir.  Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a fork.  Take them off the heat and mash them with a fork or a potato masher.  You can leave it a little chunky if you like.  Set the mash aside.  (This will probably make plenty of extra so you can either make two batches of biscuits or save the leftover mash and eat it with some brown sugar and a pat of butter)

Making the Biscuits:  Preheat your oven to 450° F.  Place a cookie sheet in the oven to warm while you prepare the biscuits.  In a large bowl whisk the oat flour, sorghum flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and arrow root starch.  Add the 6 tablespoons of extra virgin coconut oil and, using your hands, work the oil into the flour mixture until it resembles small crumbs.  Add 1 cup of sweet potato mash and 1/4 cup of maple syrup and use a spoon to mix everything together until you can gather it up in your hands.  Work the dough in your hands by pressing everything together, working the dough as little as possible.  Flatten out the dough into a round about 1-inch thick.  Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass (about 3-inches in diameter) cut out as many rounds as you can.  Gather up the dough and cut out the rest.  Take the warmed cookie sheet out of the oven and line it with parchment paper.  Place the biscuit rounds on the cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are hard and the bottoms slightly browned. 

*These are best eaten warm out of the oven with some coconut oil spread and a drizzle of maple syrup.  If you need to make them ahead you can always cut them in half and warm them in a toaster oven. 
    I am not really that big into Valentine's Day celebrations.  I have had my fare share of good Valentine's Days and bad ones too!  I contemplated coming up with some chocolatey sweet dish, but my husband gave me a little hint (I really hate surprises) that he was going to get me some chocolate.  That covered it for dessert so the only thing left to do was prepare a dinner.  Over the last month I have been working hard to develop the ingredients in this dish.  The reason why I've decided to post this just in time for Valentine's Day, is because making this meal was truly a Labor of Love.  

    I am not a vegan, but I do enjoy eating and making vegan dishes.  After seeing an article in VegNews Magazine for vegan cheese, I knew I had to make some.  One of the ingredients that is needed in most vegan cheese is Rejuvelac, which is a drink made from sprouted grains.  Rejuvelac takes a few days to make, and preparing and aging the cheese takes a few more (about 8-10 days in total).  Was it worth it? I would say it is definitely worth it if you live a vegan, diary-free, or RAW lifestyle.  The reason I decided to go with Aged Chèvre was because I love the combination of goat cheese and beets.

    *If you are not a vegan or you don't want to spend a week or two preparing nut cheese you could always make substitutions.  Swap out the cheese and make roasted lamb, wild caught salmon, or dare I say filet mignon (which is what I would put with it, if we were being "grass-fed and pasture raised" carnivores that day). You could even just use regular goat cheese if you want, but whatever you serve make sure to add some horseradish to it because it goes great with the beets.   

Roasted Beets, Vegan Chèvre and Sautéed Beet Greens

serves 2

2 bunches of organic beets with tops (about 6-8 small beets)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
grey sea salt (Sel Gris)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Aged Chèvre with horseradish (For the recipe - Click Here)
Micro-greens for garnish

Roasting Beets
Preheat the oven to 400° F.  Scrub the beets until all the dirt is removed.  Cut the tops off, leaving about 1-2 inches of the stem attached.  Lay down a layer of aluminum foil and lay down a layer of parchment paper on top.  Place the beets in the center of the parchment lined aluminum foil, drizzle them with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with sea salt to taste.  Close up the beets, bundling them with the parchment lined aluminum foil.  Place the package in a roasting pan to collect any drippings and place it in the oven for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until tender.  To serve the beets, peel them (or if they are organic, I just leave the skins on) and cut them in half or keep them whole.  You can drizzle a little extra extra virgin olive oil and salt on top if you prefer.

Sautéed Beet Greens:  About 10-15 minutes before the roasted beets will be done, start to prepare the greens.  Start a large pot of water on the stove top and bring to a boil.  Thoroughly rinse the beet greens under running water to remove any dirt or sand attached to the leaves.  Cut off the stems and discard them.  Prepare a bowl full of ice water and place it on the counter top close to your stove.  Once the water on the stove is boiling, place the beet greens in the water and blanch for 2 minutes.  Take them out of the boiling water and transfer them right away to the ice water bath.  After they have cooled drain them and squeeze all the water out of them.  Roughly chop them.  Heat 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a non-stick skillet and add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute or until fragrant.  Add the chopped beet greens and saute for a few minutes and toss them around to coat.  Season them with salt and pepper and then serve warm. 

Serve your sauteed beet greens and roasted beets alongside slices of Aged Chèvre with horseradish and garnish with micro greens to make it look all fancy! 

    I am probably a vegetarian about 80% of the time, but during the other 20% I love to enjoy foods like this freshly caught Black Sea Bass. I have lived near the Atlantic ocean my whole life, and fish was always part of our diet because my father's favorite hobby is fishing.  Fresh seafood wasn't always part of our family meals, as I still cringe thinking about the frozen fish sticks my mother would serve us as children.  We have come a long way since my father has gotten a boat, and we are now enjoying fresh fish from the deep sea off the coast or out of the bay waters of New Jersey.

    Black sea bass is one type of fish that you can find off the coast of New Jersey in "artificial reefs."  I have gone a few times with my father to fish for these because the deep sea tuna fishing is reserved for my brother (and other men with the arm strength that I just don't have).  The fish pictured above is actually not one that we caught.  Hurricane Sandy forced my father to winterize his boat, so we were shut down early this year.  I did however find my dinner at the local grocery store and it was a locally caught fish, which is why he landed a ride in my shopping cart (I generally don't buy farm raised fish)

    Roasting fish is so incredibly easy, throw it in a pan with some aromatics and pop it in the oven. I listed a few things that I like to use below, but you could try any other fresh vegetables, herbs and citrus that you like.  The only hard part is figuring out how to cut up the fish afterwards.  When I have any questions regarding "how to do something" in cooking I refer to this book, Essentials of Cooking by James Peterson.  In this book you can find picture by picture instructions on how to de-bone and serve your fish.  However the best tool to learn how to do this is by watching someone else do it.  I have been watching my father cut up fish for most of my life so that's how I learned.  If you want to watch someone de-bone a fish check out this guy!
The two pictures above are of some of the black sea bass we caught on the reefs.

Whole Roasted Black Sea Bass

Serves 2-4 people

1 (2 to 4-pound) whole black sea bass (or any other fish like snapper, trout, striped bass, etc.)
 *When you get your fish ask the person at the counter to remove the guts and gills, and scale the fish for you.  You could also ask them to cut off the fins, but that is easy enough to do on your own.

2 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 bunch of fresh parsley
1 bunch of fresh dill
*You could also use fennel, fennel fronds, fresh chives, celery leaves, fresh rosemary, cilantro or any other type of fresh herb you like
2 Mayer Lemons, sliced (or regular lemons or even oranges)
1 shallot, sliced (or onion)
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated (or sliced thin)

A splash of white wine

Preheat the oven to 450° F.  Rinse your fish and pat it dry with some paper towels.  You could either choose to cut off the fins with kitchen shears or leave them on (I cut them off because it is easier to de-bone later).  Set the fish aside while you prepare the pan.  Coat the bottom of a large baking dish or roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Lay down enough herbs to cover the bottom of the pan because you don't want the fish to touch the bottom of the pan.  On top of the herbs lay down the lemon slices, shallot slices, and grated or sliced fresh ginger.  Generously season the fish with salt and pepper, both inside and out, and place it on top of your bed of herbs and lemon.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of white wine over the top of the fish.  Cover the roasting pan with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. (Or until the meat is flaky and a thermometer inserted into the center reads 120° F.)  Let the fish rest on the counter for 5 minutes before you start to de-bone and serve it.  (I like to serve fish with some roasted potatoes or fresh vegetables)
The finished product may not look as stunning, but it sure tastes great!