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Dehydrated Tomato Goodness

Dehydrated Tomato Goodness

For my birthday I finally bought myself something I’d been kicking around for several years but couldn’t bring myself to lay out the cash. A dehydrator. More on that to come in another post, but the giant metal monstrosity arrived and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I looked around my kitchen like a mad scientist thinking “what can I shrink??”

Those plump roma tomatoes caught my eye. Within moments they were sliced about 1/8 inch think and spread out on one of my racks. At 125 degrees and about 6 hours later, we had dehydrated tomatoes.

Test subject Bill was the first one to take a bit. He nodded approvingly and said, “It’s like candy!”

Tomato candy?

I took a bite. Indeed, the sweetness of the tomato had condensed into these slightly chewy little rounds of goodness. And now I know how to turn the world’s undercover fruit into a sweet snack!

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In one of my favorite movies, So I Married An Axe Murderer , the main character, Charlie, visits his parents to discover that his mom has purchased a Juice Tiger and “juices everything now” ala the Weekly World News Garth Brooks Juice Diet. While Charlie’s Mom did refer to a tabloid as “the paper” she may have been onto something with the juice…

Juice Fountain, Juice Tiger. Whatever you call it, it juices stuff at a prodigious rate.

Juicing fans believe that by juicing vegetables your body is better able to absorb the vitamins. They are not damaged by cooking, and you can consume a lot more vegetable nutrients in a glass of juice than you could eat in a sitting (or a day, or a week for some people!) Dr. Mercola has an excellent article on juicing here. If you want more reasons to juice, watch Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead or The Beautiful Truth: The World’s Simplest Cure for Cancer or Hungry For Change. (These are all great documentaries, by the way, regardless of if you want to start juicing or not!)

So I went out and bought myself a Juice Tiger. Ok, it’s actually a Breville BJE200XL 700-Watt Compact Juice Fountain . And let me tell you, I’ve been having more fun with this thing than should be permitted! Sticking stuff in and watching it tear it apart never fails to make me feel better. It generates so much lift that if you take your hand off the plunger when it’s running, it almost pushes it back out. Now that’s entertainment.

KKF Green Juice ingredients.

I made fresh orange juice this morning. 5 oranges for two people was perfect. And amazingly delicious. But more fruit (and the sugar therein) is not my primary goal for this new gadget. It’s veggies. I’ve discovered that for the most part, just throwing stuff in there (say, carrots, celery, parsley, ginger and a cucumber) and letting it rip results in a brownish juice that does not taste terrible. And that’s fine in a pinch, but I recommend going with some tried and true recipes. Generally, a bunch of veggies and a piece of fruit will do the trick. The little bit of sweet helps offset any bitterness in the veggies. Of course, some carrot juice is sweet all on its own…

Here’s a juice recipe I adapted from the cookbook that came with my copy of Hungry for Change.

KKF Green Juice

1 cucumber

1 small green apple

1 kiwi

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled

3 stalks of celery

bunch of parsley

bunch of cilantro

large handful of kale

1/4 head of fennel

Juice according to your juicer’s instructions. Makes one large serving.

You can't even taste the kale!

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It was a normal Friday. I did my work thing, test subject Bill did his work thing, we went out for sushi, we came home. Then it happened. SNACK ATTACK. I was just sitting at my computer Facebooking when all of a suddent I HAD to have something sweet or I was going to turn into a DRAGON.

Midori

Toothless

My cat Midori may bear a striking resemblance to Toothless, but the kitties really do not dig fire-breathing in the house. So something had to be done.

As luck would have it, I’d been out and about today and picked up ingredients for these Cocoa and Coconut Balls I found over at Mark’s Daily Apple. This would be my speedy fix – nuts to keep me from turning into a dragon. A quick zip of a multitude of nuts, dates, coconutiness and cocoa. Heavenly!

I followed Mark’s recipe very closely. I used 5 dates (I noticed he likes to use dates for sweeteners. Who can blame him? I sort of have a crush on dates after the Moroccan salad.) and about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil. I used 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, 1/3 cup shredded coconut and no ground coffee. After a squeeze and a taste, I added about 2 tablespoons of my favorite sweetener, Grade B maple syrup.

The recipe said to form them into balls. Yeah, right. Maybe you could do it, but it would take the patience of Job and I’m just not there yet. So I pressed the nutty, sweet mix into the bottom of a square glass pan and stuck it in the fridge while I cleaned up my mess, then cut them into 9 squares.

Cocoa and Coconut Not Balls (AKA Dragon Nuts)

Despite my sub-par walnuts (they were a little old. I’m ashamed.) these little treats turned out really well. They are very crumbly, but that’s why God made forks. (Ok, God probably didn’t make forks. But he gave us brains that invented forks. And cute scarves.) The dates offer a really sophisticated sweetness that granular sugar in it’s overpowering way could never duplicate. Dates and maple syrup are Wushu. White sugar is WWE.

Anyway, I ended up not turning into a dragon so the evening is ending well. I recommend playing with this recipe and making it your own. It’s nutritious, fast, delicious and it could save your life.

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Pickled shrimp: sounds scarier than it really is.

My pickle frenzy resulted in a large variety of pickled items in my fridge. They are kind of taking over. So far I’ve pickled asparagus, butternut squash and pumpkin, shrimp, beets, mushrooms, broccoli, apples and onions. Yes, I pickled shrimp. The recipe calls for white peppercorns but I didn’t have any so I used black…I can see why she said to use white peppercorns. The black ones kind of look like…eyes…

Anyway, here are my findings:

Apple and Onion: I made this one too early. This really needs to go with Thanksgiving dinner. The cinnamon mixed with the vinegar is fun and suprising. I could totally see this going with any kind of a roast.

Asparagus: kind of disappointed in this one. I was hoping that it would be more like the dilled green beans. But it’s not. Somewhat blah. If I preserve asparagus again, it will be a straight up canning job.

Pickle buffet: broccoli in the ramekin and mushrooms in the jar. Shrimp, asparagus and butternut squash on the plate.

Beets: as I mentioned before, I really liked these ones. The Morrocan-style spices really make it interesting. Strong, though. You can’t just sit and munch mindlessly. Not that I ever do that.

Broccoli: this one is pretty good. Refreshing, a nice addition to a salad or a rich main course where the fat needs to be cut a little bit. I like it.

Butternut squash and pumpkin: Not bad on this one. Definately a better use than throwing out the pumpkin, which is what would have happened to it otherwise. Even test subject Bill liked this one. Sweet and sour…I should try it on ice cream. Wait a minute. Pickles and ice cream….NOOOOOO!

Mushrooms: these are very good – I would put these on a small plates buffet. Along side cheese and olives and crusty bread…oh yeah.

Apple and onion pickle. Looks rather refined, doesn't it?

Shrimp: they were not as creepy as I was thinking they would be. These could be little snackies to go along with the mushrooms in the above scenario. They actually kind of taste like the cooked shrimp they use at the sushi bar. Not creepy or freaky at all, even though it is pickled seafood. Rather messy to eat though.

All of these pickles were vinegar-based pickles. However, thanks to my successful kimchi experience I’ve been playing around with fermentation. Look for an upcoming post on dill pickles and sauerkraut. I have been absolutely devouring Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Wow! The world of microorganisms…who knew! And with the recent addition of a Gairtopf fermentation crock I’ll be a level 7 food freak in no time at all.

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How about two cents?

Who doesn’t like pickles? Well…test subject Bill is a self-proclaimed pickle hater. With this in mind…well…I made pickles anyway 🙂

With Alton Brown’s refrigerator pickle recipe recipe in hand, I was determined to produce the best pickles ever. Or, at least something edible. His recipe calls for “pickling spices.” I visited three different stores, including two different Whole Foods, but there were no pickling spices to be found. So I sought out my own pickling spice recipe. A fellow blogger was kind enough to provide her pickling spice recipe so I thought I was good to go:

PICKLING SPICE I

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Mix together all the ingredients.

Store in a small, airtight jar up to 2 months.

Makes about 1/4 cup.

Well…a few of those ingredients were hard to come by. I tore Whole Foods and Publix apart but had to substitute ground ginger for the dried ginger and ground mace for the whole mace. I made my pickling spice and hoped for the best.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Cucumbers waiting to become pickles.

Using a combination of cucumbers from my CSA box and the Saturday farmer’s market, I got to work slicing and mixing. The recipe is suprisingly easy – I can’t believe I didn’t do this before. I filled up nine small canning jars and one large one with cucumbers and onions, simmered the spices and vinegars and water together and poured them over the top of the veggies.

Alton’s recipe calls for half a cup of sugar. I don’t like using so much (plus I think sweet pickles are gross) so I did one batch with the full amount of sugar, one with half the sugar and one with a quarter of the sugar called for. I guess I just can’t leave things alone – must experiment!

After the jars cooled to room temperature, I lidded and refrigerated them. The great thing about these pickles is that they are ready almost right away. I tried some the very next day and was pleasantly suprised. The sugar wasn’t overpowering and offered a nice balance to the tartness of the vinegars. I didn’t taste too much difference between the full sweet and half sweet ones, so I think I’ll just use half the sugar from now on. The quarter sweet ones I also enjoyed, although they were a bit more sour than the others. The substitutions I made in the pickling spice didn’t seem to have had an adverse impact on the final product. Yay!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Oh pickle my pickle!

Test subject Bill finally taste tested them tonight. “These taste better than pickles,” he announced. (All according to my plan…slowly but surely I will turn him…) I have to agree – they are superior to store bought pickles and not difficult to make. The only problem is that they only last two months.

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Here I am, catching up after a whirlwind few weeks. Test subject Bill and I went to Virginia on a wine tasting/hiking/eating tour, then shortly thereafter went on a cruise to the Bahamas – a vacation to remember and filled with GOOD EATS!

Stuffing spread

Stuffing spread

But back in my kitchen, my creative fingers were itching again to produce something fun. Right before leaving for Virginia, my Korean tutor gave me three plants, a Korean herb that she loves: ganep. (Not sure if that’s an appropriate English transliteration but it seems right.) Anywho, ganep leaves get huge and are begging to be stuffed with something. After being exposed to some Korean food ideas I came up with the following:

The stuffing spread: fresh ganep leaves from the plants my tutor gave me (which are growing like crazy near my garden), brown rice, red bell peppers, garlicky & spicey lightly steamed broccoli, sweet onion, tofu marinated in soy sauce, and a black bean paste/chili paste mixture for the sauce (sadly store-bought on those two).
Plated and stuffed ganep

Plated and stuffed ganep

I laid the ganep on a plate and loaded up as much goodies as I thought it would hold, then poured a little sauce over it. So pretty!

Finished product in my hand and ready to eat. For my first effort I think it turned out well. It was tasty, fun, a little messy. Maybe next time I can try to get some more authentic ingredients for the sauce and make it a little hotter – it wasn’t quite spicey enough for me.

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

I don’t know if you can get ganep in an Asian market, but it seems to grows very well in Georgia’s clay-saturated soil. I recommend it – it has a very unique flavor and it’s just a little bit fuzzy. You could stuff anything in it – tuna or chicken salad, rice and marinated beef, let your imagination go wild 🙂 There’s nothing more satisfying than venturing beyond your culinary borders, trying something new and getting a good meal at the end.

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Rye: An Inspiration

I was perusing the latest issue of Vegetarian Times and came across a recipe for Classic Rye Bread. Up to now, I’ve just been doing my same old bread recipe with a few variations so I was ready and open to the idea of trying a new bread. I can’t post the recipe here since I’m pretty sure that would be copyright violation, but I can tell you that you can get a FREE subscription to Vegetarian Times here – all you have to do is download some software to receive your subscription electronically. That’s what I did 🙂

Rye Out of the Oven

Rye Out of the Oven

ANYWHO – it was pretty similar to what I’ve been doing, just a little different technique and ingredients. I also had a good experience this time with rye flour, unlike last time. It took a bit longer because I had to let the “petrin” (like a starter) sit for an hour before really getting started, but really it’s not active time so it wasn’t a hassle or anything. The recipe called for caraway seeds which I wasn’t terribly familiar with but was able to find at Whole Foods. When I opened them up and took a deep breath I thought, “Yeah, that’s what rye bread smells like.”

Rye Cut

Rye Cut

My hard work and patience were rewarded with two beautiful Rye twins. The smell was incredible, the flavor was spot on and it was so moist. Again I made obscene sounds while sampling it fresh out of the oven.  I was such a proud mama!

Apparently I was really excited because I launched into total chef mode after that. I went hog wild in the kitchen prepping all kinds of small plates, tapas, antipasta, whatever you want to call it. I had planned a tapas dinner for tonight but it turned into an all-out around the world sampler.

Kung Fu Around the World Plate

Kung Fu Around the World Plate

To the left, you’ll see the finished product. Provencal Rosemary Almonds (in the little cup), fresh grapes, Manchego cheese (from Costco), marinated artichoke heart (purchased, Cocina brand), roasted red pepper (roasted at home! My first roasted red pepper!), Marinated Mushrooms, Sage Roasted Potatoes, steamed asparagus, smoked salmon (from Fresh Market), garlic hummus in the middle and of course a slice of rye bread. I washed everything down with a nice glass of organic, sulfite-free Syrah.  I totally felt like I should have been in Tuscany. Or Rhodes. Or the south of France. Or…heck, my back deck would have been nice but it’s a little moist out there today. Santé!

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