Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Are Fine But So Many Are Not
California Wine Country Fires

The view from our back porch Monday morning.

Thanks for your concern
Monday morning I was lazily resting in bed when our neighbor called to warn us about the fire. One might have walked past the window thinking it was a beautiful red sunrise but instead the mountains behind our vineyard were ablaze from one end of the horizon to the other. Santa Rosa, a mere 7 miles away, was burning and 50 to 60 mile per hour gusts of wind were blowing in our direction. It turns out this was only one of the many fires across Sonoma county that simultaneously erupted in the early hours. 

This could be the worst disaster in California's history when all is said and done and it's not the least bit done. Fires remain uncontrolled in many places. As of Wednesday morning, 90,000 acres had burned. And these weren't just acres of trees and wooded areas. These were acres full of homes and businesses - in fact 28,000 people live in these affected areas - most of whom are now in evacuation centers. There isn't enough resource to do the counting yet, but estimates say more than 3,000 homes and structures were destroyed as of Wednesday morning and fires still threaten many neighborhoods. Sixteen are confirmed dead and more than 500 people are missing. There isn't a person living in this town that doesn't know someone who has lost their home.

The blaze was so intense and the winds so strong that our house and yard are deep in embers. The largest is an entire page from a magazine that was charred - Doug found it under our back deck. He also found a burnt credit card receipt hanging from one of the vines. 

This charred magazine page flew at least 7 miles to our house.

Entire neighborhoods in Santa Rosa have been destroyed like Coffey Park and Fountaingrove. Landmarks, wineries, restaurants, music venues, schools, hotels - destroyed. Doug's Kaiser hospital, my Sutter hospital - not damaged but closed. The local airport is closed because there is no electricity for the terminals. Many roads are closed.

And it's not over. I have friends minutes from active fires knowing that tonight the winds are going to pick back up.

Doug was just at the grocery store. A man, about 70, in the checkout line in front of him had just lost his home in Fountaingrove. He had 10 minutes to get out. He remarked that he was numb but said there is simply nothing you can do in that situation but get out. Seven years ago this man lost his previous home in a fire. 

We are fine and thanks for your many notes of concern. The winds have shifted and even though they are going to pick up again tonight, they are blowing the other way. So unless they shift again, we will remain fine. Masks are needed to go outside and although they may remove the toxic particles from the air, nothing can remove the blanket of sadness that hovers over our beloved wine country. 


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Mexican Sushi With Roasted Poblano Peppers

You can make homemade sushi with just about anything!
A great dairy and gluten free meal.

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What a month!
It's been a crazy busy month here on our farm. First we harvested 5 tons of Pinot Noir, then a little Sauvignon blanc for my private stash. We've also been harvesting lots of veggies, putting in a Zen garden, getting ready to paint the outside of our house, and enjoying visits from our son and daughter-in-law (Vaughn and Karina), as well as our daughter and her fiancé (Linda and Jim), and our nephew Cody. Later today, we look forward to a visit from my cousin Lisa and her husband Rob. On top of it all, I broke my toe last Thursday so I guess I'm going to slow down a bit whether I want to or not!

Part of our Pinot Noir harvest

Poblano Peppers
With the end of summer come lots of peppers. One of our most delicious and prolific is the poblano pepper so today we're going to mix two of our favorite cuisines - Mexican and Japanese by making sushi rolls with roasted poblano peppers and topping them with a spicy red sauce made from jalapeños and serrano peppers. 

See my post, "Make Your Own Hot Sauce" for the homemade hot sauce recipe.

Homemade hot sauce.

Sushi Rolls
Japanese sushi rolls are very versatile. You can roll just about anything in a sheet of Nori and call it a meal. Roasted vegetables are perfect, especially when paired with a creamy avocado and rice. If you enjoy fish, you can make a smoked salmon and avocado roll for breakfast instead of lox and bagels. The combinations are endless.

No need to use sushi rice as any short grain white rice can be sticky enough to be used in a roll. My favorite is Tamaki Haiga, which is white rice that still has the germ. Traditionally the rice is seasoned with rice vinegar and a bit of sugar.


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Roasted Poblano Sushi
Vegan, Gluten and Dairy Free
[makes 4 rolls]

Requirements
Sushi matt

Ingredients
For the rice
1 cup uncooked sushi or short-grain white rice
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the sushi rolls
3 or 4 large poblano peppers
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 sheets nori
1 avocado, cut into strips
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into strips
Hot sauce to taste

Directions
Cook rice according to directions on the stove, in your rice cooker, or in your Instant Pot. Make sure the rice is rinsed well before cooking.

While the rice is cooking, clean and cook the poblano peppers. Remove seeds and cut into slices. Heat the oil in a fry pan on medium heat. Add the peppers and sauté until they blister and soften, stirring occasionally. Set aside. 


The peppers tend to splatter so cover with a cooking screen.


Prepare the rice vinegar by warming the vinegar, sugar, and salt until all is dissolved. Stir this into the cooling rice.

To make the sushi rolls, place all of your ingredients nearby.


Place a sheet of Nori on the bamboo mat. Put one fourth of the prepared rice over the Nori starting one inch from the bottom. 

Place one fourth of the peppers, avocado, and a long strip of cucumber over the rice.


Using the sushi mat, roll from the bottom up. After the bottom edge is over the filling, squeeze it gently with the mat and then roll to the top. Wet the top of the Nori and complete the roll. The moisture will seal it. 


Cut the roll with a very sharp knife into 6 to 8 equal pieces. 


Dap a bit of hot sauce of each piece or serve with a tiny bowl of hot sauce.


Enjoy with a Mexican or Japanese beer!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Instant Pot Butternut Squash And Split Pea Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with extra protein and fiber.

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What to do with all my Butternut Squash
You may have seen last week's post where I shared our magic dirt formula that contributed to us getting 60 butternut squash from a single seed! The obvious next thing to think about is what am I going to do with all this butternut squash?


Part of my harvest.

Today's recipe is a very simple soup that I make in my Instant Pot. Most of the time, I make a very light and brothy butternut squash soup - the kind you sip from a mug. But for a heartier meal, I like to thicken the soup with split peas. The split peas not only make the soup thicker, but they add a significant amount of protein and fiber. While the soup is fat free and very low in calories (less than 200 calories per bowl), it provides a healthy 10 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber. 

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Butternut Squash and Split Pea Soup
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[makes 6 servings]

Requirements
Instant Pot Pressure Cooker
Potato Masher

Ingredients
1 cup split peas
1 small butternut squash (~1 1/2 pounds)
1 small onion, diced
1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
4 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of fresh thyme plus some for garnish
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Directions
Pick through the split peas and remove any rocks or clumps of dirt. Rinse well and drain. Place in the Instant Pot.

Peel, cut, remove the seeds, and dice the butternut squash. Read my post on an easy way to cut a butternut squash. Place the diced squash, onion, garlic, broth, salt, pepper, bay leaf, and thyme in the Instant Pot.


Press the MANUAL button and set for 12 minutes under high pressure. Make sure the quick release switch in the closed position. When done, press the OFF button and let the pressure release naturally. When complete, open the cover and tilt so that the steam comes out the back and away from your face. 

Add the lemon juice and gently mash the soup with a potato masher to break up the large chunks of squash. But don't be too aggressive since you still want small chunks of squash in the soup.

Mash but leave chunks of squash.

Pour into individual bowls, top with some fresh thyme and serve. 


Nutrition
Per serving: 185 calories, 0 g total and saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 58 mg omega-3 and 157 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 10 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 11 g dietary fiber, and 398 mg sodium.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Doug's Magic Dirt Formula
How I Got 60 Butternut Squash From 1 Seed!

I got 60 butternut squash from ONE seed!

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My Husband, the Amazing Farmer
Our friends always laugh when they see the size and yield of the vegetables from our garden. It's simply unbelievable how much our garden produces from a single seed. This year the winning vegetable was our butternut squash. One seed yielded a plant that produced 60 butternut squash, each weighing between 2 and 4 pounds - about 200 pounds of squash in all. A few even weighed as much as 5 pounds! I used a year-old seed from a packet of Johnny's JWS 6823 PMR Organic Squash Seed.  Their website says the average yield for this seed is 4 to 5 squash per plant. I can't wait to write to them to tell them that we got 60!

I believe the secret is Doug's magic dirt formula. Since everyone always asks us, "what's in your soil", I thought I'd write this blog post. It's kind of tough to create a recipe for this since he "adds a little of this and a little of that" and deals in huge quantities, but I think this will come close.

Doug's Magic Dirt Formula

Requirements:
Wheel barrel 
Shovel

Ingredients
1 cubic foot of native soil from your yard
1 cubic foot bag of organic compost
2 pounds earthworm castings
1 cup Biochar
1 1/2 tablespoons glacial rock dust
1 tablespoon mycorrhizae

Directions
#1 - Dig up a cubic foot of soil from your yard and place it in a wheel barrel.

#2 - Add a cubic foot of organic compost to the wheel barrel and mix well.
Compost is decayed organic material such as leaves, grass, etc. which greatly enriches your soil. You can buy it or create a compost pile from your vegetable scraps.

#3 - Add earthworm castings.
This is basically worm poop and is used as a fertilizer in organic farming.

#4 - Add Biochar.
Biochar is burnt, carbonized biomass which is used as an amendment for soil to help retain water and nutrients.
.
#5 - Add glacial rock dust.
Contains a wide variety of trace minerals that replenishes the soil. Glacial rock dust is a natural product produced from glacial action taking place over thousands of years.

#6 - Mix it all together in the wheel barrel and then add to the planting area. 

#7 -Sprinkle mycorrhizae in the hole where you place your seeds or cuttings.
Mycorrhizae are fungi that form a symbiotic relationship with your plants' roots. They allow your plants to increase their ability to absorb water and nutrients from the soil. The plant provides food in the form of carbohydrates to the fungi. A match made in heaven!

Well, that's it. Sounds like a bit of trouble but the results are worth it! You will not need to fertilize your plants - this will do it all. You can double, triple, quadruple or cut this recipe in half. 

Warning: this recipe may result is lots of cooking, canning, freezing, dehydrating, and searching for friends and neighbors to take your vegetables!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Cool As A Cucumber Salad
With Garbanzos And Cherry Tomatoes

Beat the heat with this cucumber salad.

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We've had record breaking heat this last week. Sebastopol topped its record with 111 degrees. So needless to say, we've been eating a lot of raw foods and foods that are cooling. Cucumbers are very hydrating and I just happen to have a cucumber plant that is presenting me with 2 enormous and perfect cucumbers a day! 

Here's a quick salad that we made for lunch yesterday. It also uses our garden cherry tomatoes. With protein-packed garbanzo beans and good fats from the avocado, this is a perfectly balanced vegan and gluten-free meal for two hungry people or a side dish for 4 to 6. 

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Cucumber Salad with Garbanzos and Cherry Tomatoes
Vegan, Dairy and Gluten Free
[Serves 2 large meal-size salads or 4 to 6 sides]

Ingredients
Salad
1 long English cucumber or 2 smaller ones
2 dozen cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 avocado, diced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 serrano pepper, minced (optional)
2 tablespoons red onion (optional)
Dressing
1 tablespoon EVOO or cold-pressed hemp oil
1 tablespoon lemon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon dried dill or 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped

Peel the cucumber and slice vertically. Then slice into half moons.

Place the cucumber in a medium bowl and add the tomatoes, avocado, garbanzo beans, pepper (if using), and red onion (if using). 

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a cup or small bowl and stir with a fork until well incorporated. 

Pour over the cucumber salad and toss gently. Serve immediately.
And remember to stay cool!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Review Of The Beyond Burger
Check Your Local Markets

No soy or gluten and it's GMO free. And delicious!

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Race to Replace the Meat Burger
There seems to be a lot of upcoming competition in the field of vegan burgers that really look, feel, and taste like burgers. I had been patiently waiting to try the much anticipated Impossible Burger from Impossible Foods. But they are only served in restaurants and I discovered that they contain wheat and soy, two ingredients many people try to avoid. The Beyond Burger, on the other hand, is available in stores and is soy and gluten free.

High in Plant-Based Protein
If you love burgers but are trying to reduce or eliminate your beef intake, you'll be happy to discover the Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat.


Beyond Meat has a mission. They want to create better way to feed the planet by replacing animal protein with plant protein. This tasty, meat-like burger is loaded with 20 grams of protein. The source is pea protein. 

It's actually found in the meat section

Now I'm sure there are a lot of vegans who don't want their food to resemble meat so this product may not be for you. But for those who gave up red meat and miss it, you may want give this product a try.

Guilty Pleasure
I'm not saying that this is the healthiest meal in the world. It's pretty high in calories (290 calories per burger) and fat (22 grams of total fat and 5 grams of saturated fat). The fat is probably what makes it taste so good but it's from canola oil, coconut oil, and some sunflower oil. I think you can reduce the fat by blotting it with a paper towel before serving. But it's free of cholesterol and the saturated fat is from coconut oil. 

No Soy, No Gluten, GMO Free
The ingredients are:
Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil,Refined Coconut Oil, Water, Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Gum Arabic, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Succinic Acid, Acetic Acid, Non-GMO Modified Food Starch, Cellulose From Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Beet Juice (for color), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Annatto Extract (for color), Citrus Fruit Extract (to maintain quality), Vegetable Glycerin.




How To Prepare
You can cook these on a grill or in a pan. We cooked it in a pan.
Pre-heat the grill or pan to medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes per side. Because of the high fat content, you don't need to put any oil in the pan.


You can see the fat being released in the pan during cooking.

After 3 minutes, flip to the other side.

The center will remain pink due to the beet juice and annatto.

Prepare your bun. Cook the other side for 3 minutes and serve. 



And take a big bite!

Enjoy!

To find a store near you go to The Beyond Meat Store Locator and enter your zip code. 




Thursday, August 17, 2017

2-Minute Instant Pot Lemony Potato Salad

Enjoy this Italian-style potato salad in minutes.
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Working my way through our Potato Harvest
In my quest to use the 50+ pounds of potatoes that we harvested, I whipped up this potato salad yesterday using my Instant Pot.

This is an Italian-style potato salad that my dad used to make for me using lemon and oil instead of mayonnaise. It also uses parsley from my garden and fresh garlic that I harvested a while back.

New potatoes only take a few minutes to cook in the Instant Pot and don't need peeling, just a good scrub.

I only use 1 1/4 pounds of potatoes in this recipe because it's best when served warm and fresh.


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Lemony Instant Pot Potato Salad
Vegan, gluten and dairy free
[makes 4 cups]

Ingredients
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 1/4 pounds of new potatoes, 
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup small diced celery, center stalks
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions
Make the dressing. Mix the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, black pepper, oil, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl or cup. Set aside.

Scrub the potatoes and dice in 1" cubes. You should get about 4 cups.


Place the potatoes in the Instant Pot with 1/2 cup of water. Sprinkle 3/4 teaspoons of salt over the potatoes. 


Secure the lid, press the “Manual” button, and set for 2 minutes at high pressure. When done, press the “Off” button and quickly release the pressure. Then, remove the lid carefully with the steam vented towards the back. If the potatoes are not done, just place the lid over the pot and let sit. Check each minute until the potatoes are just fork tender.

There will be a little water in the bottom of the pot. Do not remove as the potatoes will eventually absorb it.   

Pour the dressing over the potatoes along with the celery and parsley.


Toss gently and thoroughly to coat the potatoes. Serve immediately while warm.

Enjoy warm

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Barbecued Zucchini Rollups With Miyoko's Vegan Cheese

Zucchini rollups for your next tapas party!

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Great Appetizer or Tapas
In our quest to use all of our garden zucchini, Doug and I created this delicious rollup. This combination uses Miyoko's Winter Truffle vegan "cheese" but you can use any of your favorites or, if you eat dairy, it would work well with a goat feta.

Since Doug loves roasted red pepper, we included that in the rollup but I can envision a schmear of pesto or hummus or olive tapenade. Use your imagination and your favorite ingredients - the combinations are endless. But they all begin with this BBQ'd zucchini. Here's how to do it.

First, make some basting sauce by mixing together the following:

Basting sauce Ingredients:
1/4 cup veggie broth
1/4 extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions
Use medium size zucchini (not giant ones) and slice vertically into 1/2-inch slices. If they are extremely long, first cut them in half vertically. 

Sliced zucchini and basting sauce
Heat the grill on medium and scrape off any residue from previous use. Reduce the heat to low. Place the zucchini on the grill.


Generously baste with the sauce.


Cook very slowly, turning and basting occasionally until nice and brown.
Cook until nice a brown

Even though they are brown and a little crispy, they will be pliable. Remove from the grill.

Get your fillings ready. For our "cheese", we selected Miyoko's Winter Truffle.


Lay the zucchini on a plate, put a dollop of "cheese" on the bottom and place a strip of roasted red pepper along the zucchini, or whatever other filling suits your fancy.


Roll it up and up a toothpick to hold it together. I placed a halved cherry tomato on top but you can also use an olive or a marinated artichoke heart.



Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Easy, No-Mess Beets In Your Instant Pot

Simple Beets Salad with Balsamic and Scallions.

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Beets - Delicious but Messy
I love beets. When dining out, I almost always order a beet salad if it's on the menu. But I don't often make them at home because they are a mess to handle. But this morning with a single rubber glove, my Instant Pot and a butter knife I made this easy beet salad wearing a white blouse! I don't suggest the white blouse, but here's what I did.

Instant Pot Beets
I started with small to medium sized beets - about 2 inches in diameter.


I rinsed them in a colander.



Holding them by the tails, I cut the tops to remove what was left of the stem.


I tossed them into my Instant Pot with an inch of water. I pressed the Manual button and set for 20 minutes. They take a surprisingly long time to cook. (You may want to start with 10 to 15 minutes and test them and if they aren't cooked, set them for another 5 or 10 minutes.) Do a quick release and test them with a fork. Once you can pierce them (not easily, but firmly), they are done. Drain the beets in the colander. 

Put a rubber glove on your left hand, if you are right handed. This is the only time you will have to barely touch the cooked beet. Place the beets on a cutting board. Holding the beet with your gloved hand, take a butter knife with your right hand and carefully scrape off the skin.





Slice the beets and place into a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil to taste. Mix to coat and top with thinly sliced scallions and serve or refrigerate.


Enjoy!