Monday, September 13, 2010

firestorm garden gazpacho

august was a lovely month of fresh summer veggies and september is looking pretty good too. i made a big batch of gazpacho the other day for my housemates with most of the ingredients coming from the garden and the rest from our CSA. i got this recipe from firestorm cafe, a worker owned cooperative restaurant in Asheville, NC. i live in a large vegan coop house so the recipes from firestorm cafe are perfect for us since we need to cook in large batches.

if you also often cook for large groups of vegetarians and vegans, then check out firestorms recipe page and the moosewood cooks for a crowd recipe book. both are really great resources for large vegetarian meals. moosewood also has some of their recipes online here.

here's the firestorm recipe:
1 cans Tomatoes, diced (#10 can- really large, get it in the bulk section at a food coop)
2 cup Onion, chopped
4 medium Cucumber, chopped
4 medium Bell pepper, chopped
2 bunches Basil, chopped (and/or Cilantro)
4 clove Garlic
¾ cup Olive oil
½ cup Lemon juice
½ cup Lime juice
¼ cup Apple cider vinegar
1 Tbl Italian seasoning
1 Tbl Pepper
1 Tbl Salt
1 Tbl Sugar
1 tsp Cumin
  1. Combine half of ingredients in the food process and blend thoroughly. When the mixture has been reduced to a diced consistency (no pieces larger than a lentil), add it to a soup sleeve.
  2. Repeat with the remaining ingredients.
  3. Chill and serve!

one thing i do differently with this recipe is i blend most of the ingredients seperately and then mix them together in a large bowl with a spoon. i find that this keeps the texture of all the different vegetables while still blending their flavors together. i also usually use fresh tomatoes instead of canned if i have them, and then add some tomato juice to make up for the loss of liquid. (so essentially i just combine the moosewood recipe with firestorm)

happy end of summer!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

can't be beet chocolate cupcakes

ok. here it is. everyone asks me about how to make these cupcakes so figured it was time for me to write a post about it. i call these the "can't be beet chocolate cupcakes." they are made with beets and chocolate and are surprisingly moist and extremely delicious. and vegan of course. i'm actually entering them into the DC state fair cupcake contest next weekend so right now i'm making a test batch for my friend's going away party.

the recipe used for this cupcake is adapted from the chocolate red velvet cake recipe in "ExtraVeganZa." the recipe calls for a cup and a half of of beets that are boiled and then blended with the water it was boiled in to make a creamy beet sauce. this is for the cake batter, which is what makes the cake so moist. for this part i'm using beets from my garden (local and organic!)

beets from my garden

beets blended with beet stock water

it also calls for beet powder, which is possible to make on your own, but it takes a really long time and requires more beets than i had in my garden, so i bought beet powder online instead. i couldn't find any in the stores nearby so i bough it online at the spice barn. i know, it seems crazy to mail order ingredients for a cupcake, but trust me its worth it.

beet powder from spice barn

dry ingredients for cake batter

dry ingredients mixed with wet and blended beets

after the cupcakes are cooked, i topped them with a chocolate ganache frosting. this is adapted from the "vegan with a vengeance" cookbook.

cupcakes topped with chocolate ganache

after adding the chocolate ganche, i let them chill in the fridge to set and then iced with "creamy fuchsia icing," also from ExtraVeganZa. this frosting is made creamy with the help of some cashew butter, and its colored fuchsia with a few teaspoons of beet powder (yay i get to use my mail order spices again!).

for the final topping, i made candied beets and sprinkled them on top of the cashew frosting with some chocolate powder. the candied beets are made by chopping the beets very finely and then boiling them in a little bit of water and sugar. once all the water dissolved i added more sugar, cooked it a little longer on low just to dry it out completely.

and that's all! here they are, the 4 topping cupcake...

can't be beet chocolate cupcakes

vegan chocolate beet cupcakes topped with a chocolate ganache, cashew cream frosting and candied beets

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

so many uses for sunflowers

sunflowers are here and they make everything look happier. one of the many great things they are good for. they also provide many sunflower seeds in one head, which is good for harvesting and eating, or for forgetting to harvest and watching the birds enjoy. and you can save the seeds to plant again next year, like on the international sunflower guerrilla gardening day! (may 1)

last year i grew 6 "grey mammoth" sunflowers and harvested 6 cups of sunflower seeds (and they really are mammoth-- about 10ft or more). i had plenty of seeds to plant in the garden, give to friends and family, and also to eat.

sunflower starting to bloom

to harvest sunflower seeds:
- wait till the flower pedals start to fall off the plant while its still in the ground
- then cut off the head of the sunflower, leaving yourself about 6-12" from the end of the head
- hang the head upside down by the stalk and let it dry out for 2 weeks
- after its dry, brush of the little flower bristles (not really sure what to call them) and you'll see all the seeds underneath
- then gently pull out the seeds by brushing your finger along the sides to push them out.
make sense kind of? see pictures below.

sunflower heads after being dried out for 2 weeks

the sunflower "bristles" that need to be brushed off to get to the seeds

lots and lots of sunflower seeds packed into one head

my mum's garden in NY from the sunflowers point of view

but there's also another great thing about sunflowers, and that's the stalks. they are very big and strong and they dry really well. last year i saved my sunflower stalks, dried them, and then used them as my snow pea trellis/tripod this year.

3 dried sunflower stalks with string wrapped around them to make a trellis

if the sunflowers were also the type that produce sunchokes, or Jerusalem artichokes, then you could eat the roots like a tuber or make flour. if you've ever seen pasta made with Jerusalem Artichokes, that's what it is, sunflower roots. i think i'll try that for next year, but for this year i have a ton of great seeds to work with. maybe i'll try to make sunflower oil?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

salads for a change!

i realized today that i have only ever posted recipes and pictures of desserts that i've created. i do love to bake and eat desserts, but i promise i do sometimes eat vegetables when they aren't secretly baked into a cake!

in fact, i've been growing more lettuce and greens in the garden this year so that i can have a fresh salad greens around all the time.
(picture of lettuce and mustard greens growing in the front yard)

this was the first harvest of the year in mid-May

radishes and lettuce

here are some things growing in the garden that have gone into my salads lately:
mustard greens
baby spinach and big spinach
snow peas

snow peas!

snow peas growing in the front yard on a tripod built from last year's sunflower stalks

fresh garden salad with homemade dressing

dressing ingredients:
olive oil
apple cider vinegar
brown mustard
salt and pepper
fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, and whatever else is around

see! i do eat veggies in non dessert form sometimes.
only sometimes tho... :)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

strawberries and cupcakes

the strawberries are here! the past 2 weeks have been filled with fresh strawberries from the garden and the CSA (community supported agriculture) share that we have.

for my housemate joe's birthday, i decided to make him a bday cake that had lots of chocolate and strawberries from our garden. so i made...

vegan strawberry chocolate creme filled cupcakes

recipe and more about strawberries soon to come.. but here are the pictures:

after filling the cupcakes with the choco strawberry mouse

iced and topped with a strawberry

yum. happy bday joe!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

posts from the past (+ photos)

its spring!

time to think about what should go in the ground this year, and figure out what worked and didn't work last year. i guess this year will be a little easier now that i've actually had some practice at growing vegetables, but it also means i'll be spending a whole lot more time in the garden(s) since i know now what i need to be doing.

lots of photographs from last year:

i may try and do some 'posts from the past' over the next few weeks, since there were lots of fun things that happened in the garden last year that i never had time to write about.

blog posts soon to come:
- beets, and "can't be beet chocolate cupcakes" (rachy's bday cake)
- WWOOFing in england-- crooked end farm
- garden gazpacho
- searching for a CSA in DC (community supported agriculture)
- community garden, year 2
- so many seeds! where to put them all? companion gardening
- CSA work share-- get your veggies and grow them too!
- the amazing search engine:

more to come. happy spring!

field of daffodils near whitbey island, washington state- march 1, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

snow days!

there are two feet of snow on the ground already here in dc, and its sounding like we're getting another foot or two tonight. the federal government has been closed since noon last Friday, and i'm guessing it'll be closed again tomorrow.
yay snow days!

what do you do when you're trapped inside for 4 days?
drink hot chocolate!
knit hats
read books you've been meaning to read
and dog sit!
... well ok the last one is not usually what you do when it snows, but this weekend i happened to be dogsitting for a friend that is out of town so i get to go on lots of snowy walks with Laika.


hot chocolate
so instead of just making hot chocolate, i made spicy hot chocolate AND made cookies to go with them. there is a great recipe in vegan cookies invade your cookie jar for "mexican hot chocolate snickerdoodles." super yum, and perfect for these cold snowy days.

i think spicy chocolate got popular after the film chocolat because the woman who owned the chocolate shop specialized in hot chocolate with a bit of chili pepper in it (see clip, fwd to 6 mins).

don't watch this movie on an empty stomach.

after making hot chocolate, i started knitting. i have to go to a baby shower later this month so i decided to knit two baby hats as a present.

the hats are surprisingly easy and pretty quick since they are so small. there were almost too many patterns available online, so i ended up just making it up since i couldn't pick one of the fancier ones. its hard to know if its going to be the right size though, so i tried it on anything baby shaped i could find in my house (like a grapefruit, haha, thats baby head sized right?).

the book i'm reading right now is "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.

its all about gardening and its getting me excited for the spring and planting seeds again. i still have quite a few weeks left before i can start my indoor seeds, and then a few more weeks after that before they can get in the garden. this is what my garden currently looks like:

compared to early summer last year:

ok time to walk Laika again!

see you at the next snow ball fight

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

carrot from the garden cupcakes

mm mmm

just finished icing the last of the cupcakes i made this morning. they are vegan and gluten free carrot cupcakes, made with carrots that i pulled from the garden yesterday. this cake is a favorite in my family and was my brother and his wife's wedding cake for their wedding celebration #2 and 3 last year.

i found this recipe on vegweb and i knew it would be good since the title is "incredible vegan carrot cake" and there were almost 100 comments praising it. i changed it a little bit so that it would be gluten free, and also decided to use apple sauce as the egg replacer, and added a bit of lemon zest to the frosting.

here is the recipe:

Incredible Vegan Gluten Free Carrot Cake

Ingredients (use vegan versions):

2 cups gluten free flour mix (i used Bob's red mill mix)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ginger powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup brown cane sugar
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups finely grated carrots (from the garden!)
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 cup shredded coconut
nuts and raisins optional (i use 1/2 cup each)

Faux Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 8 oz package of vegan cream cheese
1/3 cup vegan soy margarine (like Earth Balance), softened.
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2-3 cups vegan confectioners sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, spices, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, mix sugar and apple sauce until creamy - add vanilla, then add vegetable oil. Mix wet and dry ingredients together and add carrots, pineapple, and coconut. Place cupcake liners in the muffin tin. Spoon in batter til each cupcake liner is 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Be sure to let the cake cool before frosting.

Faux Cream Cheese Frosting recipe:

With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla and zest, then add sugar. Top with candied walnuts, or pipe on some carrots made with icing.

Makes: 30 cupcakes, Preparation time: 25 minutes, Cooking time: 20 minutes

happy birthday sophie!

Monday, January 18, 2010

it feels like spring! (but its not for 2 more months...)

its 54 degrees (F) today in DC. a perfect day for a stroll in rock creek park, and a great day to dream of spring in the garden.

today i finally harvested the very last of my vegetables from last year-- carrots! they have been in the ground ready to eat for months, and in the fall i had started harvesting a few at a time here and there but i was waiting to do the big harvest later. this way i could have fresh local vegetables when there hardly any around. most of the farmers markets around town closed in November for the season, except Dupont Circle and Takoma Park, which are open every sunday year round. but the options get pretty limited for fresh veggies at the market in the winter, so these carrots i pulled up today are a special treat.

in the twin oaks community garden, pulling the last of the carrots from my plot

over the summer i was trying to figure out when i'm supposed to harvest the carrots. i figured it out mostly by trial and error-- i pulled up one or two early on and they were the size of my pinky, so that was way too soon. i ended up searching online when to harvest and thats when i found that if you cover them up in the fall with leaves and staw, then they will stay warm in the ground so that you can harvest them later in fall or winter.

the tiny carrots i pulled up in the june when it was waaay too soon to harvest

so what to do with my 12 pounds of carrots?!

carrot ginger soup!
carrot cake! (vegan and gluten free)
... with a bunch leftover for snacks and cooking with later.

carrots and my housemate sophie's hummus

recipes and pictures of cake and soup soon to come! (i promise!)