Our fourth-annual Finch Frolic Marketplace will take place Nov. 21 and 22nd from 9 – 2. We’ve been working like little permaculture elves, harvesting, preparing fruit and vegetables, canning, baking, and inventing new recipes for your table and for gifts. We have a curry spice mixture that is amazing. Our record white guava harvest has allowed us to create sweet guava paste and incredible guava syrup. We’ve pickled our garlic cloves, as well as zucchino rampicante, and our Yucatan Pickled Onions have a wonderful orange and oregano base that is fabulous. Of course there is Miranda’s small-batch Pomegranate Gelato, Whiskey-Baked Cranberry Relish, and a selection of curds (passionfruit, lemon-lime, and cranberry). So much more, too. We’ll also be selling plants from several sources, and some collectibles and knick-knacks from my home. Please come support a small business early – a whole week before Small Business Saturday! Your patronage allows us to continue teaching permaculture.
Join us for a tour!
Our last two Open Tours will also be held that weekend, each at 10 am. The tours last about two hours and we should be having terrific weather for you to enjoy learning basic permaculture as we stroll through the food forest. Please RSVP for the tours to firstname.lastname@example.org. More about the tours can be found under the ‘tours’ page on this blog.
Finch Frolic Garden will be closing for the winter, from Thanksgiving through March 1. However, Miranda and I will still be available for consultations, designs, lectures and workshops, and we will be adding posts to Vegetariat and Finch Frolic Facebook (you don’t need to be a member of Facebook to view our page!).
Have a very safe and very happy holiday season. Care for your soil as you would your good friends and close family, with swales, sheet mulch and compost, and it will care for you for years.
I’ve labeled myself an ‘ethical vegetarian’ for nearly two decades. I stopped eating animals when I became horrified at the dichotomy of having glue traps under the house to catch wild rats and mice (and any poor, poor animal that happened upon it, such as lizards. Glue traps are horrendously cruel. I hadn’t put them there.) and a cage with an exercise wheel and specialty food for ‘pet’ mice in the bathroom. Justice is a man-made effort, and by not eating animals I was no longer approving of mass torture by buying into it. Although I no longer ate animals, I have still indulged in animal products, namely dairy products. Slowly it has sunk in how badly animals are treated for those, too. As someone who loves cooking, it has been difficult for me to wean away from dairy products. Butter is especially difficult. Unlike hens who have been bred to continuously lay without needing the services of a rooster, dairy cows must be lactating to produce milk. Cows are usually artificially inseminated, then after giving birth their calves are replaced by milking machines. The calves are most often slaughtered for veal. This process is repeated until the cow is used up from the constant pregnancies and lactating, and then she is slaughtered. This horrible practice is disguised by advertisements showing happy cows grazing in fields. That is a fantasy. ‘Grass fed’ and ‘pasture raised’ are sly terms that give you an image that is nowhere near to the truth. Please read Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma to understand where your food comes from and why.
To find an acceptable butter substitute has been an expensive and frustrating endeavor. For awhile I used a dairy substitute from Trader Joe’s, who I swear keeps tabs on what I buy the most and then discontinues it. All other butter substitutes either taste horrible, can only be used for spreading, or more commonly contain palm oil. The sudden fad for palm oil has created extreme clearance for the growing of palm in the areas which are habitat for the orangutan; indeed, if we don’t curtail our consumption of palm oil quickly the orangutan will go extinct within our lifetimes.
I finally found a recipe for a butter substitute that works pretty well for both spreading and baking. It is made mostly of refined coconut oil. At this point coconut oil is sustainably produced – please make sure that you support companies that do so. Refined organic coconut oil has no flavor or scent; unrefined has a mild coconut flavor and a toasted coconut scent. If you are using a batch of this butter for baking where coconut flavor is desired, then use the unrefined.
This recipe is by no means my own. I found it and a detailed description of the science behind it at VeganBaking.net . There are several options listed and a lot of cooking science behind the butter.
The mouth-feel is amazingly creamy and satisfying.
I used the basic recipe, Regular Vegan Butter, Coconut Oil Base. The recipe calls for curdling the soy milk, which will drive the butter flavor. I tried the full teaspoon of cider vinegar, then half cider vinegar and half coconut vinegar, then just half a teaspoon of coconut vinegar, and finally no vinegar, and thus no curdling, at all. I found for my taste that the vinegar flavor carried through and was much too dominant. Even at just half a teaspoon it was so noticeable to me that I didn’t like it on toast. It was good, however, when my daughter used it on sourdough and topped it with fresh avocado. The slight vinegar flavor enhanced the avocado deliciously.
The batch I made without vinegar seemed perfect. The mouth-feel of this butter with or without the vinegar is creamy and all that a high-fat butter should be. It looks, cuts and spreads like butter. The flavor is creamy and very mild, almost like a slightly salted sweet butter. This was a winner for me. For the soy milk I used Trader Joe’s Organic Plain, which does have some sweetener in it. I’ll try with an unsweetened plain organic soy milk another time.
I keep my butter on the counter. I know that organic butter holds its shape better in the heat than processed butter, but both stay stable unless the temperature is in the 80’s. Coconut oil melts at 76F, and in my summertime Southern Californian kitchen, this vegan butter must be kept in the refrigerator. The butter is hard when needed, so the next batch I will take the author’s advice and swap out a tablespoon of coconut oil with regular oil to make it more spreadable.
I wanted to test the butter in cooking and baking. I melted it in a pan and cooked eggs and other breakfast items in it successfully. I used it on toast and on mashed potatoes with great success. The experiment with shortbread cookies went wrong, however, but I don’t think that that was the butter’s fault. These were lemon rosemary shortbread cookies, and contrary to my baking sense I followed the author’s (another blog) directions and didn’t sift the powdered sugar before adding it. There were lumps, therefore, in the batter and I mixed it extra to try and beat them out, which I believe was responsible for making the cookies tough. They were flavorful, but not crumbly. Oh well, I’ll just have to try again! The cookies rolled out, cut, and baked well, retaining their shape and performing as well as with cow’s butter.
Shortbread didn’t spread using this butter, which was great. I don’t have a finished photo of the lemon-rosemary cookies because, well, they were eaten.
As with all substitutions, there is always a difference and vegetarians and vegans have to embrace it. Of course fake bacon and ground ‘meat’ is not quite the same: the great part is that it is far more healthy for your body (lower fat, few preservatives if any, often organic, and not the pesticide-drenched and drugged animals that people eat) and doesn’t perpetuate the extreme cruelty to animals about which humans have become nonchalant. Yes, other animals aren’t kind when feeding off of other animals (those which aren’t vegetarians). Yet we as humans have the option the others don’t, to make eating choices.
Here is the basic revised recipe; please see the original blogpost on VeganBaking.net and give the options a try. I found xanthan gum from Bob’s Red Mill at my local grocery store, and liquid lecithin and coconut vinegar online through Amazon.com.
You can double or triple the recipe with no problem! Enjoy.
Recipe update: I’ve since made some changes to the recipe, exchanging some vegetable oil for some coconut oil for more spreadability, and adding a little more salt for a more satisfying (to me) taste when spread on toast. I’ve been using this butter for a month now, and have noted that: when melting in a hot pan it will brown faster than regular butter, so keep the temperature down, that it will melt and separate at room temperature (its summer now, so the kitchen is usually in the 70’s – in the winter it will be different) so I keep it in the refrigerator. I found butter stick molds that have the teaspoon markings along the side, so I’ve made 8x the original recipe and poured it into the butter molds, then wrapped each unmolded stick in wax paper and frozen them.
Vegan butter sticks with teaspoon markings along the side for ease in baking.
I’ve also poured it back into the cleaned coconut oil jars and frozen them, keeping one in the refrigerator for unmeasured use. I’ve used it along with a non-dairy creamer in the Chocolate Ganache recipe and it is very chocolaty, but not as rich as the original. Part of that is due to the creamer; heavier creamer will produce creamier results, but in no way was it disappointing. It was very tasty, but not as heavy. When refrigerated it didn’t solidify as much as the other, so more chocolate might need to be added depending upon the type of creamer used but it was still spreadable and yummy.
Another Recipe Update:
I’ve been making the butter with unsweetened organic rice milk and it turns out well. At first it tasted too light to be satisfying, but when I had dairy butter at a restaurant it tasted greasy and heavy – my taste buds wanted the vegan butter! I found out that even when the kitchen is colder than the melting point of the coconut oil, it isn’t a good idea to leave the butter refrigerated because unlike dairy butter it will grow mold. The rice milk butter with the increased vegetable oil makes it perfectly usable from the refrigerator. I make sticks and freeze them in a freezer bag for baking and pour the rest into glass jars with screw-on caps for spreading. The jars are kept in the freezer until needed, then switched to the refrigerator. I’ve made biscuits, cookies, cakes, scones and breads with this butter, and with proper handling they all come out just fine. We offered both dairy and vegan butter to our holiday guests and they didn’t detect much of a difference. Since vegan butter is so much lower in calories, and coconut oil is so good for you, I don’t have to hesitate to use it. It is actually part of my weight maintenance program!
A wonderful vegan butter with no palm oil, but lots of options. My version is without curdling the soy milk. Please see the original excellent post for more explanations and options.
¼ cup + 2 teaspoons organic plain soy milk
¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt (I increased the total salt to ½ t. for spreading butter)
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (130 grams) refined coconut oil, melted to room temp. (For more spreadability, I used ½ cup coconut oil and changed the 2T and 1 t to vegetable oil, along with the following 1 T for a total of 2 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil.)
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or light olive oil
1 teaspoon liquid soy lecithin or liquid sunflower lecithin or 2 ¼ teaspoons soy lecithin granules
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ + ⅛ teaspoon psyllium husk powder (I used xanthan gum)
Combine soy milk and salt in a food processor or blender.
Melt the coconut oil until it is just room temperature and barely melted.
Add the coconut oil and the rest of the ingredients to the soy milk.
Blend or process for about 2 minutes on low.
Pour into ice cube trays, or into butter molds or trays.
Freeze until firm, about an hour.
Keep wrapped in refrigerator for a month, or frozen for a year.
OMG! How could I not have told you about clafoutis yet? If you have ripe plums, peaches, apricots… any stonefruit… and you need something to do with them, this is it! Clafoutis (clow-FOO-tee) is a baked dessert (or breakfast!) that is simple to make and absolutely yummy. Ripe fruit, especially those that are a little too ripe to eat fresh because of the texture, is topped with a flour and custard batter and baked.
Serve plum clafouti warm or at room temperature. So yum.
The result is firm enough to not gross out those who don’t like the texture of custard (like my daughter), not too sweet, and makes the flavor of the fruit bloom in your mouth. This is different than Plummy Skillet Cake, which is also wonderful. Of course clafoutis
Because of its simple ingredients and low sugar, clafouti is wonderful for breakfast. Peach clafouti is shown here along with asparagus and soy sausage.
is good with ice cream, but just powdered sugar on top for decoration or plain is fine. You can make it with liquid egg substitute and non-dairy milk substitutes; I used our hen’s eggs and organic soy milk. Plums are absolutely delicious in a clafoutis, but we’ve used peaches and apricots as well with great results.
It is melon time in the garden. Fresh green melons served with a little lime juice, or fresh orange melons served with a little lemon juice, are just heaven. When you have too many melons, it is time to look for things to do with them.
Last year we froze melon slices in a mild sugar syrup. This worked well when using the melons in something; the texture was too goopy for eating fresh with any pleasure.
This year I found a recipe in my Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog for melon pie. Melon pie? I did a little Googling on the subject and found a lot of melon pie, cake and bread recipes. Who knew? Well, not me anyway.
This recipe works for any melon, the more fragrant the better. It was written for Mother Mary’s Pie Melon, an heirloom that we grew this year. It is small and fragrant, and just makes the right amount of melon the recipe. The version of the recipe in the catalog – which is also in their book The Baker Creek Vegan Cookbook – is vegan. I’ve changed it to vegetarian and you can do what you want with it. The cookie-like crust paired with the creamy yet firm filling is wonderful. Top it with a little whipped cream! They suggest topping with toasted coconut, but I’m not that much of a coconut fan. However I could really see this topped with merangue, like a lemon merangue pie. Yep.
This is an interesting and delicious way to use some of those plums that ripen overnight. Basil is also in season, and combining it with the heavenly, winey flavor of ripe black plums is amazing. If you grow other types of basil such as lime basil or cinnamon basil, use those instead, reducing the lime juice to 1 tablespoon.
Granita is juice that is partially frozen, forked around a little, then refrozen. You don’t need an ice cream maker. Easy, quick and nutritious, too!
Basil and allspice give a wonderful depth of flavor to winey black plums in this frozen treat.
1 cup water
⅔ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
6 whole allspice (if you don't have allspice berries, use a small piece of cinnamon stick)
1½ pounds black plums, pitted and quartered
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
¾ cup basil leaves (not packed)
In a large saucepan combine water, sugar, vanilla, salt, allspice and prepared plums and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the plums begin to fall apart.
Pour into a small bowl set in ice water in a larger bowl and cool completely.
Fish out and discard the six allspice.
In a blender or VitaMix process plum mixture, basil and lime juice until well blended.
Press the plum mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard solids. If you have a VitaMix you may not have any residual solids; the granita will be cloudier but will be more nutritious. Don't worry about it.
Pour the mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.
Cover and freeze until partially frozen, about 2 hours.
Scrape with a fork, crushing any lumps, and smooth down again.
Freeze for 3 more hours, scraping with a fork every hour so that it doesn't freeze as a cube, until completely frozen.
Serve in small scoops; really nice paired with little vanilla cookies.
My collegiate daughter needed a recipe to use up leftover frozen kabocha squash. She found a chocolate kabocha bread recipe, adapted it for ingredients she had on hand, and sent me the recipe. I’m such a proud foodie mom: this is the first recipe she’s sent to me. She had substituted yogurt for the oil, and only had cinnamon as a spice, but really liked the results. She said that it was kind of like hot chocolate in bread form; not too sweet and not too plain. Hot chocolate in bread form? I’m so there.
Today has been cold and a little rainy. My shoes and socks were wet from standing in wet grass trying to coerce my 100-lb tortoise back inside his heated room before he became too cold to move. I had some thawed pink banana squash puree leftover from making pumpkin scones for my son last weekend. It was so squash bread time.
I had all the spices, but I changed them up a little. I added some freshly ground nutmeg in place of some of the cinnamon. Due to conversations with others in my exercise class about eating fresh homegrown fruit with chili pepper and other warming spices sprinkled on them (spring fantasies!) I thought I’d heat up this recipe, too. Before Christmas I purchased some habinero powder at Old Town Spice Merchants in Temecula, and fell in love with their habinero sugar which they sprinkled over samples of dark chocolate brownies. I added some habinero powder to this recipe and it is fantastic.
The loaf took an hour and five minutes to bake. It was slightly crispy on the crust and dense, moist and dark on the inside. Yet it wasn’t cloyingly heavy or too wet. The cocoa flavor was satisfying; too often cocoa recipes taste as if the chocolate was just a coloring rather than a flavoring. This was good. The spices were just enough and not overpowering. The habinero powder was just right, making just a little heat in the mouth that really accented the chocolate flavor and warmed me up from the inside. I am freezing the rest of it, just so I don’t eat any more today. It was really wonderful, and it had vegetable in it, too! Thanks, daughter of mine!
I’m sure you could eat this with cream cheese, marscapone cheese, or dust it with powedered sugar, but it doesn’t need anything. Not even, apparently in my case, a fork or plate. So much for dieting today.
⅛ teaspoon habinero powder (or ¼ teaspoon if you like it spicier. It will be a slow warm heat in your mouth)
¼ teaspoon salt
1⅓ cups sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil or plain yogurt
1 cup squash or pumpkin puree (or plain canned pumpkin)
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and lightly flour an 8½ x 4½ inch loafpan.
In a medium bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients.
In a large bowl combine the oil, puree and egg until well combined. Beat in dry ingredients until well blended. (If using electric mixer, beat on low speed. You don't want a lot of air in the batter).
Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 350 degrees F for 1 hour and five minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for fifteen minutes then cut around loaf and turn out onto a plate or wire rack.
Serve warm, or any way you'd like to!
(Options: serve with cream cheese, marscapone cheese, or dust with powdered sugar. It is also great drizzled with chocolate frosting (what isn't?) or with chocolate ganache. Both recipes can be found on my blogpost on Buttermilk Chocolate Ganache Cake).
I know that you lose sleep over trying to figure out how to get more vegetables into your dessert. Well, snuggle up for a good long snooze, because here’s a recipe to bring you peace! I found this recipe in the Heirloom Gardener Winter 2012- 2013 edition. The magazine is created by the people who bring you Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (organic). A wonderful article about Thai cooking by Wendy Kiang-Spray features this intriguing recipe, and I had to try it. You hollow out a small Thai or Kabocha squash (they are drier in texture), fill it with a coconut milk custard, steam it, and Bob’s your uncle!
Scoop out the seeds and fibers and feed them to your chickens!
I just happened to have a 2.5 lb homegrown Kabocha squash handy, so I made the recipe (adding a little cinnamon). Not wanting to be scared alone, I brought the whole cooled squash over to my friend Lara’s house, who helping me fulfill last year’s New Years resolution by teaching me basic piano. Being a vegetarian and a loyal friend, she was game to try it. It came out very good. I was impressed. I will do this again!
Troubleshooting: whisk the ingredients together. I thought I’d be fancy and put them into my VitaMix on the lowest setting, but even that added a little too much air to the custard mixture.
Don’t fill all the way up. Steam the lid off to the side.
The top of the custard that I could see was yellowish, and I figured that this was due to the dark yolk in the eggs from my chickens, but I don’t know. Once cut into, though, the custard as a lovely white.
I turned my steamer on high until it was boiling, then turned the temperature down low and the custard wasn’t done in the allotted time. Next time I’ll keep it at a higher boil so that the steam is hotter. I cooked it much longer (I think too long because I was doing other things) and the squash split a little as it was very soft. I kept it in the steamer with something between the soft side and the inside of the steamer so that the squash would keep its shape as it cooled. After it was room temperature, I put it in the refrigerator for a short time and it the squash didn’t fall apart when I removed it.
Creamy coconut custard and dry delicious squash.
Ms. Kiang-Spray states in her article that this recipe is known in Thailand as Sankaya and is a classic dessert. With all the eggs and tasty squash, I’d call this breakfast or lunch, too!
I’m not big into candy; give me cake, pie or bread, or a good rice pudding instead. However I’ve made this brittle at Christmas for years now, and it is always a big hit. The cayenne makes a nice mild burn to counter the sweetness of the brittle. Cayenne is good for you, too, as are cashews (no matter how creepy it is that cashews grow!), so it makes sense in some distorted way that this candy is good for you. It is so easy, too. I have much less salt tolerance than the general American public. If I eat out I find myself desperately thirsty for days. The original recipe was made for high salt intake, but I have shown options on cutting it back. You don’t need it, for the delight of the candy is in the burn with the sweet. I also don’t like very hot (spicy) foods, but I like this. Make some and try to share.
Four sugar baby pumpkins that I’d kept for myself, and three pink banana squash, were all in need of preservation. They were not keeping well due to the warmth of our hot San Diego county Fall. During a rainy break in the weather I did something about it. You can preserve cooked pumpkin and winter squash best by freezing it. If you have a pressure canner you may can pureed pumpkin or pumpkin pieces in liquid, but since I only use the water bath method that wasn’t an option.
Even sugar baby pumpkins can be difficult to cut when raw. There’s a better way!
Roasting a squash isn’t difficult at all. In fact, you only have to wash it, put it on a tray in a 350F oven for about an hour (longer if its a really large pumpkin), and then slice when cooled.
Roasting a whole pumpkin makes the scooping so easy!
Its easy to scrape out the seeds and then spoon out the cooked flesh out of the hardened shell. This is what I did for the sugar baby pumpkins. There was too much banana squash to fit whole into the oven, however, so I cut them into chunks, scooped out the seeds, covered them with aluminum foil (it helps steam them) and baked 350F for forty-five minutes.
Then I had a lot of squash to puree! These squash and pumpkins were dry, so I added a little water to the VitaMix and tossed in the chunks.
Pumpkin and seeds.
I pureed batches until smooth, then spooned cups full into freezer bags. My pumpkin scone recipe calls for only half a cup, so I froze one-cup batches, as well as two-cup batches for pie. The secret to ‘vacuum-packing’ freezer bags is to close the top of the bag around a straw and then suck all the air out. It really works well, and is kind of fun, too.
Get a straw, suck out the air and presto: vacuum packed!
However, the best thing that happened out of all this squashing was that I had a little less than a cup of pureed roasted squash left in the VitaMix, too little to freeze and really irritating to scoop out. It was a cold day and past lunchtime. I had an idea and spooned in what was left of some Chai tea mix, poured in vanilla soy milk, blended it until it warmed up and sat down to drink. Heaven! I’m not one for pumpkin flavored things, but this was the real deal.
It was so good that the next day I took a cup of the pureed squash that I refrigerated, poured in 1 1/2 cups of vanilla soy milk, a touch of orange syrup left over from candying orange peel, added cinnamon and blended until it was hot. It was thick, satisfying, a little sweet, spicy and full of beta carotene, fiber, protein and other good things. I’m sure you can do the same thing with canned pumpkin and other liquids, such as milk, rice milk, almond milk or coconut milk. If fact, I insist that you try it.
Just because I don’t post as often as I ought to, doesn’t mean that I’m not always preparing for posts. I take lots of photos, look up lots of data and try lots of recipes. Many recipes are researched, tweaked, photographed, made and turn out… icky. For instance, the no-bake cookies of last week that were only firm enough to cut at refrigerator temperature. At room temperature they turned into a pan of chocolate sludge, and at freezer temperatures they were too hard to cut. I have found, to my dismay, that many food bloggers post recipes even if they don’t turn out well, just so that they have something to post. I’m learning to read and heed the disclaimers.
The recipe I’m about to impart to you is not a fluke. It is, frankly, heavenly.
At a baby shower a few months ago I ate a bar cookie that was supposed to taste like a Twix candy bar. It was very good with its layers of shortbread, caramel and chocolate. I asked for the recipe and reproduced it at home. The recipe called for crushed pre-made cookies (the Keebler elves had made them, apparently) topped with melted caramel candies (unwrapping all those little buggers took time), and spread with melted milk chocolate chips. The result was tasty, but I couldn’t get over the store-bought flavor of the shortbread. This cookie has three simple flavors that need to complement each other, and since I don’t usually eat store-bought baked goods, it took some adjustment for my palate. However, they froze very well and defrosted quickly.
Ganache, baked shortbread and caramel mixture beginning to boil.
Then I found a better recipe. And then I made it perfect. It is a basic shortbread cookie crust, topped with a simple homemade caramel, then topped with chocolate ganache. The driving impetus for this improvement was that I had leftover heavy cream in the fridge from making homemade ice cream, and needed to use it before it went bad. The ganache topping adds a bright, lighter flavor which keeps the cookie from being cloying. Yum.
Eat a small piece with some hot tea and be very, very happy.