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

 
 
    It doesn't get any better then this!  Baked eggs with fresh asparagus, foraged ramps, homemade goat cheese and topped off with a pea shoot almond pesto (from homegrown pea shoots of course).  Label me a localvore if you must, call me an über foodie even though the term foodie is über uncool lately.  So I might just be a little complicated, a bit demanding, and perhaps a tiny bit pretentious at times, but this is what I love to do.  Everyone has that certain something they choose to devote their "free" time to and mine just happens to be making cheese, growing greens, reading food blogs, and dreaming about having my own chickens on small farm in Jersey (I said it was a dream ok).  Is this dish overly complicated and would anyone else be able to make it? Of course it is and perhaps they might, but that is not the point. This is what I love to do and what I devote my time to, so here it is: my breakfast this morning! 

    Come on, how cool is it that you can make, grow, forage and find great food and put it all together in one dish.  I know there is at least one person who understands me and he has a Shared Appetite (playing link tag, stay with me). But anyway, I guess that is it really, and all I can say is that I had a lot of fun with this recipe.  The only thing that could have made this even better was if I woke up, walked outside and grabbed a few fresh eggs from under a chicken (one day it will happen, just not today).

Baked Eggs with Asparagus, Ramps, Goat Cheese and Pea Shoot Almond Pesto

Inspired by Aran Goyoaga's baked eggs with olive oil- poached tomatoes, coppa & brie in Small Plates Sweet Treats

Serves 4

1/2 cup milk (I used goats milk)
3-4 oz goat cheese, sliced into four rounds
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4-5 ramps (read more about ramps Here)
4-5 small asparagus spears
8 eggs
freshly ground black pepper

*Pea Shoot Almond Pesto (see note below)

    Preaheat your oven to 400° F.  Brush the insides of four large ramekins with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet.  Add two tablespoons of milk into the bottom of each ramekin.  Place a slice of goat cheese into each ramekin, smushing it a little if you want.  Cut the leaves off of the ramps and reserve the bulbs for later.  Place two or three ramp leaves against the sides of each ramekin (See picture above).
  Thinly slice the white ramp bulbs and slice the asparagus on a diagonal.  In a small saucepan over medium high heat saute the ramps and asparagus in a little bit of extra virgin olive oil until they become bright green and fragrant, about 4-5 minutes.  Spoon the warm ramps and asparagus into the ramekins, dividing it up evenly.  Reserve a little bit of the saute for on top (if you want it to look all pretty).  Crack two eggs into each ramekin and sprinkle on the remaining sauteed ramps and asparagus.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the egg whites are set.  Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper and serve your baked eggs immediately.  Note:  You could easily divide this recipe to make two or even one serving if you like.

*I used Aran Goyoago's Pea Shoot and Almond Pesto recipe (pg. 156) excatly so I didn't feel that I could post the recipe for it.  You can find it in her book Small Plates Sweet Treats which I definitely recommend picking up (It is essentially pea shoots, almonds, garlic, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and olive oil)
 
 
    In the spring, foodies and localvores become frantic over one little word:  RAMPS.  What is a ramp you might ask?  Ramps are an edible onion-like bulb that can only be found in the wild from Canada to Georgia.  They look like an exotic scallion with a pinkish purple stalk and beautiful flat green leaves.  What is really cool about ramps is that the whole plant is edible and it tastes like a cross between onion and garlic.  They have a very distinctive odor that is really hard to explain, even for a former fragrance industry professional like me.  After tasting and smelling these awesome veggies, I can tell you that I totally understand all the hype.  If you can get your hands on some of these you will understand exactly what I mean.

    Supposedly we have Martha Stewart to thank for bringing ramps into the limelight, and thereafter sending the population of ramps into decline (See Here).  I remember seeing an article in one of her magazines about ramps but I never though they would be something I could get.  I have never seen them in a grocery store, but some people on the internet have.  The major hurdle to finding ramps now is their popularity.  If someone before you gets to the store or farmers market and knows what they are, you can be sure they will most likely be buying all they can get their hands on.  So I knew my only option would be to go foraging and find some for myself.
    The first thing you need to do to find ramps is look near a stream or river.  There is a fairly large river that is close to where I live so I knew that is where I would start.  We walked along a paved path in a local park that is frequented by joggers and cyclists.  I started getting a little discouraged as we walked for a while with nothing in sight, but we soon came up to a flat clearing close to the water.  I took one step off the path to investigate and I looked down to my right and there they were.  Right there!!!  I found them!!! As the boys played near the river throwing in rocks and sticks I quickly dug up a few and placed them in my bag.  My husband gave me a few looks of bewilderment, either because he was surprised I found some, or because I was actually digging up wild plants with the intention to cook and eat them.  I felt like saying, "it's too late now, you married me!"  I may be crazy, but I like to think I'm at least a manageable type of crazy.

    The next step is to clean your ramps.  When you dig them up they have a slimy membrane that you have to remove to get to the white bulb.  It is almost exactly like cleaning the membranes of a scallion.  The only other thing to do is pop off the roots and rinse the leaves.  Once they are clean the task becomes figuring out how to cook and preserve them.  Fortunately thanks to Martha and a few other food bloggers there are plenty of recipes to try.  Below are a few of the ways I chose to preserve half of my ramp stash so I could slowly experiment with using them.
No, my hands are not that hairy.  My husband graciously offered to be a hand model since it is super difficult to take pictures of your hands while holding a camera ;)

Some of the best ways to preserve ramps:

Pickled Ramps

If you do a quick Google search for pickled ramps you will find more recipes then you know what to do with.  I read through a few of them and decided to go with this one from Local Kitchen.  

I did however use thyme instead of parsley and I added some whole mustard and whole caraway seeds.

Ramp Pesto

After making pickled ramps you have lots of leftover green tops.  There was no way I was going to throw them out so I made some pesto to freeze and use later.

Process the green tops in a food processor and slowly add some oil until a thick paste is formed.  Spoon into an ice cube tray or mini muffin tin and freeze.  Once they are set remove them from the tray and store in freezer bags.   

Ramp Compound Butter

I was most excited to make this, and I thought I was so smart and original for thinking to do this.  Turns out I'm not the first to make ramp compound butter, but I was right because most people say this is the best way to preserve your ramps.

It is really simple, just take 3-4 ramps and chop them up, leaves and all.  Mash 1 stick of softened butter on your counter top.  Mash the chopped ramps into the butter and reshape it into a log and store in wax paper.  Compound butter can keep in the freezer for up to a year.

Blanching and Freezing

I am not sure of the outcome to this method of keeping ramps.  I'll be sure to add an update once I find out if they can hold up to freezing in this fashion.  I have read a few places that say you can do it so I figured it would be worth a try.

Blanch the whole ramps in boiling water for 2-4 minutes so they become a brighter shade of green.  Then quickly transfer them to an ice water bath to cool down.  Pat them dry, place them in a plastic freezer bag and freeze flat.

Ramp Salt

It's like garlic salt, only better!  A great way to preserve the flavor of ramps in a condiment that you can sprinkle on top of any dish.

How to Make your own Ramp Salt

*Dehydrator needed
    The next task on my list is to create some recipes using ramps.  The best ways to use them is with other spring edibles and possibly eggs.  While I wait for some local asparagus to be ready to pick, I have a bunch of ramps stored in the refrigerator.  Keep them exactly like lettuce, with a paper towel in a plastic bag.  They will keep for 2-4 days in this fashion.  Make sure to seal the bag very well, or you risk having your whole refrigerator smelling like ramps.
 
 
    You're going to hate me for this I know it!  Dangling a sweet corn risotto in your face in the middle of April.  I couldn't help myself, the last few days have been sunny, beautiful and yes I'm sorry to say, 85° F in our backyard.  I already have the makings of a nice Irish tan; what's red, white and burns all over?  I can't help it if mother nature decided to give New Jersey some early love this spring, we definitely deserve it that's for sure.  So I was outside playing with the boys, planting some sugar snap peas and dreaming about summer tomatoes when I realized, "what the heck am I going to make for dinner?"  Then it occurred to me:  I still have a small stash of last years summer sweet corn in my freezer.  Since I was in desperate need to use up some more of my homemade farmers cheese, there was no other option in my mind than to make risotto.

    Don't hate me because I have a stash of summer sweet corn in my freezer.  I have been performing the same ritual every year for a while now.  In the sticky summer heat of August I collect as much corn as I possibly can from a farm in upstate New York.  I then proceed to strip down every ear in a process that will cover my kitchen completely in corn juice.  It is all worth it though, because in the middle of April I can pull out one perfectly proportioned bag and use it to make fried corn, risotto or stir it into a chili.       
    Risotto in my mind is the perfect dinner, or lunch, or heck even breakfast (poach an egg and slap it on top of reheated risotto...YUMMERS!)  Seriously, what is not to like about creamy sticky rice with wine and cheese...nothing I tell you, nothing.  And if you are thinking, "there is no way I am standing around stirring rice for 25 minutes" you need to have a heart to heart with your stove top and get stirring.  Don't consider those 25 minutes as ones you have lost, look at them as 25 minutes you get to stand...still...in one spot (for a mother of two boys standing in one spot for any amount of time is a little mini vacation).          

Sweet Corn Risotto with Farmers Cheese

serves 2-4

4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of sweet corn from 2 large ears (if using frozen, thaw beforehand)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small sweet onion, diced (or 3 spring onions)
1 1/2 cups of
arborio rice (aka -
risotto rice)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup crumbled farmers cheese (or other cheese of your liking)
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons of butter
scallion greens and micro greens for garnish


In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable or chicken stock to a boil.  Reduce the heat and keep the stock at a simmer.  In a larger saucepan heat the extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat and add the diced onion.  Saute the onion until it is soft, about 2 minutes.  Add the arborio rice and cook for a few minutes, stirring, until the grains become translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add the white wine and cook, stirring, until the rice completely absorbs it, about 1 minute.  Add one ladle of the simmering stock to the rice and start a kitchen timer for 20 minutes.  Continue to stir the rice until the stock has absorbed, then add another ladle of stock.  Continue stirring and repeat this process until all the stock is used (it should take 20-25 minutes).  About half way through the process add the sweet corn.  After all the stock has been absorbed and the 20 minutes are up, remove the pot from the heat and add the cheese and butter.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and continue to stir until the cheese and butter is melted.  Sprinkle on some chopped scallion greens, a little extra cheese and toss on a few micro greens.  Serve warm.

“It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”    - Rainer Maria Rilke

 
 
    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 Harvest.org 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.


 
 
    If you have never heard of rejuvelac before then you are in the same place as me a few months ago.  If you gave me the word not only would I not know how to spell it, but my best guess as to the definition of such a word would have been perhaps something used in a Spa?  I came across rejuvelac a few times as I was learning about sprouting, micro greens and raw foods. I was happy to find out that this weird liquid is actually a healthy fermented drink used to aid in digestion (considered a probiotic).  It is quite easy to make and it is also a key ingredient in many vegan cheese recipes.

    I get satisfaction out of sprouting and growing my own food, so being able to make my own probiotic drink sounded like something I wanted to try.  The taste of rejuvelac leaves something to be desired, but like a few healthy foods that I've tried, you develop a taste for it (take Kale for example).  Rejuvelac now regularly takes up space in my refrigerator alongside the fresh juice and chilled water.  I put it in my children's juice and I will drink a small glass almost every day.  Definitely a really cool thing to learn to make.  Rejuvealc today...perhaps wine or beer tomorrow!  

Rejuvelac (Made from Rye)

makes 3-4 cups

1 cup of Rye Grains (I buy mine from Sprout People HERE)
cold water
a glass jar large enough to hold 1-2 quarts of water (I use a carafe)


Sprouting the Rye:
Rinse your rye grains and put them in a glass jar.  Cover the grains with 4 cups of cold water and set the jar in a warm spot out of direct sunlight for about 8-12 hours or overnight.  Drain off all the water (I place cheesecloth over the top of the jar to keep the grains in the jar and allow the water to drain out).  Place the grains that have been completely drained back in the warm spot.  Every 8-12 hours (or once in the morning and once at night) rinse and drain the grains.  In 2-3 days of rinsing the grains should sprout little tails (roots) as seen above.

Making the Rejuvelac: Once your grains have tails fill your jar with 3-4 cups of water and set the jar aside in the same dark spot out of direct sunlight for 2 days.  After two days the water should look cloudy and even bubbly.  This is the finished rejuvelac, so the last step is to drain the rejuvelac from the rye grains into a container that you can keep in the refrigerator (rejuvelac is great cold).  You can discard the rye grains by putting them in your compost or even scatter them outside in the yard for the birds and squirrels.  (I've also been exploring some recipes for raw crackers with the leftover grains)
 
This same process can be done with other grains as well, but I agree with the Sprout People that Rye makes the best tasting rejuvelac.


Aged Chevre with Horseradish (Raw and Vegan)

Adapted from a recipe by Miyoko Schinner in VegNews Magazine (September/October 2012)

makes 1 roll, about 7 inches in length

2 cups of raw cashews, soaked in water 8 hours or overnight
1/4 cup of rejuvelac (recipe above)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons prepared horseradish + extra for rolling (extra is optional)


Drain the water from the raw cashews that have been soaking in water.  In a high speed blender or food processor combine the cashews, rejuvelac and salt.  Process until the mixture is smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover it and let it sit for 2 days, allowing the cheese to get thicker. 

After two days add the nutritional yeast, lemon juice and prepared horseradish to the cheese and mix until combined.  On a flat surface, lay out a sheet of wax paper.  Place the cheese mixture into the center of the wax paper and form it into a roll (about 7 inches long) by applying light pressure and rolling the wax paper back and forth (this may take some practice).  On another piece of wax paper spread out some prepared horseradish and transfer the rolled cheese on top of it.  Gently roll the cheese allowing the horseradish to cover the roll on all sides.  Roll the cheese up in the wax paper, tie the ends and set the cheese on a plate in a cool place for 2 to 4 days to let it firm up some more.  After a few days you can transfer your cheese to the refrigerator where it can age for up to 8 weeks.   


I sliced my horseradish chevre and served it with some roasted beets and sauteed beet greens.

Roasted Beets, Vegan Chèvre and Sautéed Beet Greens