Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: Aquafaba!

Oh my gosh, I am so super excited about this book. Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've probably heard a lot of chatter in the last couple of years about the amazing miracle of chickpea water (the liquid from cooking your chickpeas/from a can of chickpeas). In particular, the water, which has been officially named "aquafaba" can be used with great efficacy to replace eggs in any number of sweet and savory applications. I've been a part of the wonderful aquafaba facebook group for a couple years, and I've followed many of the posts - but up until now I had only experimented with using aquafaba as an egg replacer in baked goods (with amazing results, btw!). 

My pal Zsu Dever has written a book all about this liquid miracle, "Aquafaba." So, when Zsu and her publisher invited me to be a part of the blog tour (and offer a giveaway!) - I knew this was my chance to get serious, tackle my fears, and finally dive into the glory and mystery of the future of vegan food!!!! 

aquafaba is cool!

Let me just say straight off the top, that this is a great book - it's full of well-researched and well-tested recipes and information about something that is really new and cutting-edge in the world of veganism. There are a wide array of recipes and the instructions are very clear. The book has some working assumptions: for instance, that you have a stand mixer (i do not), and many recipes also assume you have a slow cooker/Instapot (i also do not). That said, I was undeterred - as you'll see - and the book always gives clear alternate instructions for people who don't have a slow cooker.

my jerry-rigged system

As I said, I don't have a stand mixer... but I was also determined not to be left behind on this exciting Aquafaba bandwagon! So I got my trusty little electric hand mixer, bungee-corded it to my Vitamix, and put a metal bowl underneath the mixer. I had to use some vegan books to get the bowl to the correct height. This was not as good as a stand mixer, and it took *forever* -- but it worked!!!


Check it out!!! Here's the thing. This took me almost 1 hour of whipping with my little set-up... It's supposed to take about 15-20 minutes with a stand mixer, though! Every once in a while, I'd turn off my mixer and let the motor rest a bit. Also, I'd turn the bowl often, because (unlike a stand mixer, where the whisk gets rotated around the bowl) otherwise the mixer was just whipping one part of the stuff. But really, isn't this just amazing? My mind was pretty much blown. I was so happy to conquer my fear of a new technique! 

big smiles for the desirable "stiff peaks" !!! 

Crustless Chile Relleno Quiche

So, what did I make with my fluffy fluff? The first thing I made was Zsu's amazing Chile Relleno Quiche. The aquafaba is whipped and then folded in with pureed cashews (or tofu, I used half and half), plus a lovely mix of seasoning and a load of freshly roasted poblano peppers.  The recipe calls for a crust (and provides a recipe), but I always prefer crustless quiche, and this worked just fine. 

slice of fluffy heaven

This quiche had a wonderful flavor and a super light and airy texture. Although I love a tofu quiche as much as the next vegan, it was pretty exciting to make a quiche that had that classic lightness to it! There is another quiche recipe in the book too, and once I get the hang of it, I see that I could just start ad-libbing in all sorts of quiche directions! This dinner was a huge hit with Mr. VE&T too - in fact, he ate almost all of it and I had to request that he please leave me a piece for breakfast the next day. ha ha. 

this recipe calls for a stand mixer
(I used a hand mixer - and patience - with good results)

It's SuperFluff and her amazing sidekick, FluffDog!

Toasted Oat Waffles, with homemade applesauce

Ooooh, I just LOVED these Toasted Oat Waffles! This recipe makes a wonderful, healthy waffle: very low in sugar, no added oil, and full of toasted rolled oats. The oats are toasted and then blended into a flour - and the end result is a beautifully rich flavor that's a bit nutty and earthy. Just remembering these waffles is making me want to make more for tomorrow morning. These are definitely one of my favorite new waffles and I know I'll make them again and again. Plus, served with some warm applesauce and cinnamon, they make for a delicious and totally reasonable weekday breakfast. So fun! 

this recipe doesn't require any special equipment (other than a waffle iron and a blender)

Hollah for the Challah!

I didn't grow up eating Challah bread, and I'm not even sure when I ever had it for first time, but somewhere along the line -- before going vegan -- I developed quite an affection for this delicious, semi-sweet braided bread. Over the years I've tried several vegan versions of challah bread, with mixed levels of success, but when I saw an aquafaba Challah, I knew I was going to try it out. This bread takes a while (two rises, and then a third rise after braiding, then baking time) - but very little of it is active time, and the results are 100% worth it! 

it's what on the inside that counts.

Let's just say that when I made this loaf, I promised my bread-loving friend (who is also Jewish and has been enjoying Challah her whole life) that I would save some for her, but then we ate it all. Oooooops. So, when she and her family came over for dinner this week, I made a second loaf for them. Of course, loaf #2 turned out perfect and amazing too. I got a text message from her later that night: "Omg. The challah. Makes me want to freak out. It is So So So Good. Chew is great, moisture lovely. !!!" ha ha ha. That's a direct quote, in case you were wondering. This is definitely my new Challah recipe!

this recipe doesn't require a stand mixer, or any special equipment

Zsu's publishers, Vegan Heritage Press have agreed to let us bloggers share the recipe for this amazing bread! The recipe makes two loaves, so each time I made it, I just halved it for one loaf. What was I thinking? I"ll never make that mistake again.
(from Aquafaba, copyright © 2016 by Zsu Dever. Used by permission.)

3/4 cup warm water (not hotter than 110°F)
6 tablespoons maple syrup, divided
1 tablespoon dry active yeast
6 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
5 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 pinches turmeric
1/2 cup aquafaba (see Note below)

Aquafaba Wash
1/4 cup aquafaba (see Note below)
1/2 teaspoon arrowroot or cornstarch

1. Dough: Combine the water, 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup, and yeast in a medium bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes to proof. Add the remaining 5 tablespoons of the maple syrup and oil.

2. Combine the flour, salt, and turmeric in a separate medium bowl and set aside.

3. Add the aquafaba to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and use a whisk to beat the aquafaba until light and frothy, about 1 minute. Add the yeast mixture and about 4 cups of the flour mixture. Knead the dough in the stand mixer or using a large wooden spoon. Mix well and add the rest of the flour mixture as needed to create a firm dough; try adding most, or all, of the flour mixture. Knead the dough for 10 minutes to develop the gluten. The dough should be smooth and push back when poked.

4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Deflate the dough and let it rise again until doubled, about another hour. Divide the dough in two and divide each half into three, four, or six pieces, depending on how you would like to braid the dough. Keep the pieces covered until ready to use.

5. Roll each portion of dough into a 12-inch long, tapered rope. Braid half the ropes into a challah loaf. Set the braided dough on a baking sheet, repeat the process with the other half of the ropes, and cover each loaf with a towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for 40 minutes.

6. Aquafaba Wash: Combine the aquafaba and arrowroot or cornstarch in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat just until thickened. Cool slightly before use. (For a sweeter, slightly sticky wash, combine 3 tablespoons aquafaba with 1 tablespoon maple syrup; no need to heat the maple syrup mixture before use.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

7. Brush the aquafaba wash all over the bread and bake for 10 minutes. Brush the bread with the wash again, continue to bake for 20 to 25 more minutes, and check the bread for doneness. If the bread is browning too quickly, tent it with foil or continue to bake it upside down. Tap on the bottom of the bread; if it sounds hollow, it is probably ready. Cool before serving.

Makes 2 loaves

Note: Although aquafaba is best if homemade using the recipe provided in the book, you can use aquafaba from canned chickpeas. Use the organic, low-sodium, canned chickpeas and strain off the liquid into a measuring cup using a fine mesh strainer. Note the amount of liquid you acquired, then add it to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid reduces by 1/3. Cool the aquafaba completely before using.

Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

These amazing cookies use the aquafaba as egg replacer, and Zsu's recipe for Soft-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies is based on Somer's recipe which you can fine online here. I made this big batch of cookies for a family dinner party, celebrating FOUR October birthdays in our family. I know of few ways to satisfy everyone's tastes better than chocolate chip cookies! These were a total and complete super-hit and I brought home an empty platter at the end of the evening. My brother's fiance was one of the birthday guests being honored, and she is crazy about coconut, so I added a couple tablespoons of coconut flour, and a big handful of some lightly sweetened organic coconut that Edwards & Sons sent me recently. The coconut was nice in these cookies! These cookies were pretty much perfect and will definitely be one of my top chocolate chip cookie recipes from now on.

this recipe requires no special equipment


Oh my gosh. A while back, someone posted a nougat recipe in the Aquafaba Facebook group and I pretty much freaked out. Nougat is something that I really loved in my pre-vegan days, but it is always made with egg whites, and usually with honey too. I've really missed it, and I was eager to try making it with the miracle of aquafaba!

This recipe was definitely a bit intricate (candy making always is!), but not hard to follow. The fact that I had to whip my aquafaba for 1 hour with my silly handmixer bungee cord set-up made it take a bit longer than it needed to -- but I was busy enjoying myself in the kitchen so it was okay. When it finally got to the stage of pouring the hot syrup into the whipped aquafaba meringue, I couldn't believe my eyes: it was turning into nougat!!!! SO amazing! The recipe calls for lemon zest, and add-ins of your choice: I used toasted hazelnuts and toasted almonds. It is so incredibly delicious. Also, isn't it beautiful?  I am really over the moon about how well it turned out.

I was pretty much freaking out as I watched my ingredients transform into nougat!!

my nougat candies all wrapped up and ready to be distributed.

I wrapped up all my nougat chunks in little squares of parchment paper (it's pretty sticky stuff!). I am planning to give these candies out on my Halloween morning yoga class - a perfect opportunity to hand out candy to my yoga students! This nougat is soft and chewy, with the lovely crunch of the toasted nuts, and you can definitely taste the lemon zest too. After being in the fridge, it gets more firm and less soft. There's a note in the recipe that you can reduce the quantity of aquafaba by half to yield a more firm nougat, and maybe I'll try that next time, just to see the difference. I'd like to take some of these and roll them in tempered chocolate and make little chocolate bars! 

this recipe calls for a stand mixer
(I used a hand mixer - and patience - with good results)

Chickpea Gulyas

One thing about making all this aquafaba, is that you will also end up with a lot of chickpeas in your life! ha ha. Luckily, both chickpeas and aquafaba can be easily frozen! That said, I love that "Aquafaba" (the book) also has a wonderful section in the back full of recipes for all your chickpeas. And of course they are great recipes!

Zsu is Hungarian, so the Gulyas (aka "goulash") caught my eye right away - this was a lovely and hearty stew with chickpeas (of course), carrots, potatoes, tomato, and a myriad of lovely spices and seasonings. Mr. VE&T always loves the flavors of Hungarian food, so I knew he would love this - and he did! 
chickpeas look like cute little butts

Korean Dak Galbi

YUM! I used up the last of my precious bag of Korean rice cakes on this dinner - and it was a very worthy use for them. This was a really, really delicious meal that was satisfying in every way: sauteed tofu cubes and chickpeas full of protein, rice cakes and sweet potatoes (I used purple sweet potatoes) for substance and starchy goodness, cabbage and fresh herbs for a veggie blast, and loads of spices and gochujang sauce for flavor and heat. Mmmmm. I loved this meal a lot. 

we are certified fluff-heads now that we have seen the glory of aquafaba

This is all I've made so far, but I have many more recipes that I am eager to try. Most of what we've heard about from aquafaba has to do with sweets and meringues, but actually this book is full of a surprising variety of recipes - just to give you an idea, here are some of the recipes I want to make:

Condiments Chapter: Butter, Country-style Aged Sharp Cheddar, Caesar Dressing
Breakfast Chapter: Baked Donuts, Classic Waffles, Fluffy Pancakes, Matzo Brei, Crepes
Lunch and Dinner Chapter: Levantine Kebabs, Swedish Meatballs, Eggroll Wrappers, Brioche, Hot Cross buns
Sweets from the Pantry: Marshmallows, Chocolate Mousse, Lemon Meringue Pie, Ice Cream
Sweets from the Oven: Espresso Macarons, Autumn-Spiced Bread Pudding, Pound Cake
Bean Recipes Chapter: Rosemary and Roasted Garlic Hummus, Curried Caribbean Coconut Chickpeas, Pulled Seitan Chickpea Roast

Overall, I think this is a super exciting and interesting book - I've absolutely loved everything I've made from it, and I loved even more the joy and challenge of learning about new ingredients and new techniques. After almost 17 years of veganism, it's pretty wonderful to create flavors and textures in my home kitchen that I haven't had in years. Also, even if you don't have a stand mixer, I encourage you to consider this book -- there are plenty of interesting and delicious recipes that don't require it, and maybe you could fix up a cheapo hand mixer like I did. It just takes patience, but the results were really good.  

I felt some intimidation about really trying some of the new techniques with aquafaba, especially with my atypical equipment!, but I was absolutely impressed with how clear and helpful Zsu's instructions are throughout the book. I also really appreciated how much Zsu kept the community spirit of the online aquafaba group - she gives a lot of credit to the various people whose discoveries and recipes paved the way for her own recipes. I love this book! 

Guess what, lucky United States readers? I get to giveaway a copy of "Aquafaba!" To enter, leave a comment here and tell me if you have tried making anything yet with aquafaba, or which of the recipes I mentioned sound good to you, or really, any comment you want. **** Be sure to leave your email address or some way for me to contact you, or else I will just pick a different winner! ****
Gooood luck! 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

UH-mazing Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: Nocciolata

Holy Yumtown. This biz is good.

I remember the first time I ever had Nutella. I was just a little girl, and someone gave us a jar. I called my mom to verify the details, and as we recall, it was probably my childhood friend Mariya - whose father was German. It's funny that I don't remember who gave it to me - because I remember eating it in the back yard of my parents' house, and I remember quite clearly that it was amazing. My young, impressionable mind was blown. Of course I knew about jam on toast, and even cinnamon-sugar toast, but chocolate on toast was totally next-level.

little kiddo amey learns about the joy of chocolates + hazelnuts

But as we all know, Nutella is not vegan, so I haven't eaten it for many years. There are a few vegan versions of chocolate-hazelnut spread out there in the world, but to the best of my knowledge, they all contain palm oil, which I avoid. I'm especially not willing to purchase palm oil for such a total luxury item as chocolate spread. (If you don't know about the issues around habit destruction involving palm oil, you can learn more here -- it's a really important issue).

hey, good lookin'...

So, when Rigoni di Asiago sent me a jar of their new vegan, organic, non-gmo, palm-oil-free, fair-trade, and FEP list approved  Nocciolata Hazelnut & Cocoa spread to review for the blog, I was totally jazzed. The only thing I was concerned about was that I didn't find Rigoni di Asiago listed anywhere on the Food Empowerment Project list of chocolates that don't use slave labor. But then I read on Sistah Vegan's blog that Rigoni di Asiago replied to her inquiry and assured her that they even use a Fair Trade source of cocoa on this product (see her post here). Great news - I heard back from Rigoni di Asiago and they are officially on the FEP list now, and their chocolate is fair trade. I can't even believe it. Awesome sauce!! It's pretty freaking amazing to have such a delicious specialty item that also meets ALL of my many ethical preferences! (it's also gluten-free, soy-free, and kosher, in case those are concerns of yours). 

true love!

And, I'm happy to report that even with a high level of enthusiastic anticipation before opening my jar, my expectations were totally surpassed! This stuff is so fantastic: thick, spreadable, super chocolatey and super hazelnutty -- I was transported right back in time to my first mind-blowing bite of choco-hazelnut spread all over again. 

I have been seriously grooving on this jar of spreadable joy: I've enjoyed it on toast (the classic!), with pretzels, and (most commonly) straight out of the jar. Before this jar is empty, I gotta make some crepes though -- because crepes filled with chocolate hazelnut spread is something wonderful that I haven't had in years. Anyway, even if I "accidentally" eat my way through this whole jar before I get around to making crepes, that will be okay because it will just give me a "reason" to buy more of this amazing Nocciolata. 

I love this stuff and we enthusiastically give it 4 thumbs up! 
(if dogs and cats could eat chocolate, I'm sure they would also give it 20 paws up)

Vegans Go Nuts Winner: Charj! 
ps. I'm sorry I was gone from my blog for so long. It turns out that travelling to Italy for a month really throws me off my blogging game. Plus, as soon as I came home, our computer crashed and we had to buy a new one. Ack! I'm stoked to be back in action - AND I finally picked a winner for my giveaway of Joni & Celine's excellent cookbook "Vegans Go Nuts" - Comment #49 was Charj! 

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: Vegans Go Nuts!

My vegan pals Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman have a new cookbook out called "Vegans Go Nuts" and it is totally awesome! (full disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review) I have - and love - several books from this dynamic duo. One of the things I really appreciate about these two is that their recipes are always creative and unique -- and this book is no exception. I've already made several great dishes from this book and have lots more that I am looking forward to making.

Vegans Go Nuts! 

Every recipe in "Vegans Go Nuts" has at least one nut or seed in it, and many recipes have several -- whole nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters or oils, nut flour, nut milks, and so on! So many creative and delicious and ways to include these nutritious and yummy goodies in our vegan meals! The book has chapters on Breakfasts, Soups Salads & Sides, Main Dishes, Desserts, and more.

Left: Citrusy Cashew Baba Ghanoush
Middle: Pepita Pepper Hummus
Right: Pistachio Dukkah

I am usually quite a hummus traditionalist and I don't usually appreciate anyone messing with my beloved hummus. And yet, something attracted me to this recipe for Pepita Pepper Hummus -- and I'm so glad I made it. This hummus has roasted poblano, jalepeno and green bell pepper in it, along with roasted pepitas, herbs and spices... and it all adds up to a totally new and magical combo. We both loved this recipe a lot!

The Citrusy Cashew Baba Ghanoush was also a delicious and creative spin on a classic. Charred and smoky eggplant, bright lemon juice, spicy harissa, and fresh herbs... all add up to a very satisfying spread. 

Of course I also had to make some Pistachio Dukkah, because I love Dukkah so much -- it's a nutty, salty, spicy mixture that is a lovely addition to hummus and baba ghanoush, but is also great on avocado toast, with olive oil & bread, and also just by the spoonful!

I had a little Baba G., Pepita Hummus, and roasted veggies left over after our dinner, so I used it all together in one glorious and delicious summer sandwhich - which I am eager to repeat and re-eat again!! 

This Pea Scramble with Peanut Miso Dressing was unlike like anything I've ever made before -- it's so refreshing and exciting to find recipes that are so wholly new. Tofu and peas are scrambled together with seasoning, served over shredded cabbage, and drizzled with a lovely Peanut Miso dressing. As you can see, I also made the optional Carrot Pickles ... which I highly recommend. In fact, I made a half batch, and I liked them so much that then I made a whole batch and I have just been eating them out of the container in my fridge! They are spicey and briney and seasoned with vaguely Asian-inspired spices, and they pack a serious yum punch! 

Boom! Pow! Yum!

Vietnamese Peanut Tacos
drizzled with almond-lime sauce and sriracha

Here are those magnificent carrot pickles again! This recipe for Vietnamese Peanut Tacos is one of my favorites so far from this book : I loved this dinner!!!! On the left is my taco with the sauces drizzled on top, and on the right is a still-bare taco so you can see more what's going on. This recipe takes some time because the pickles and the tempeh both need to marinate - but it's inactive time. After all the marinating is done, the whole thing comes together pretty quickly. These tacos are just bursting with flavors and textures -- some highly seasoned elements (like the carrots and tempeh) along with some very fresh and raw elements (like the cabbage, cukes, and garnishes). I can't wait to eat these again! 

Sesame Za'atar Pepper Soup with Roasted Pepitas

Do you know about za'atar? It's a super delicious spice mix from the Middle East. One year I gave all my family members bottles of za'atar because I really wanted them all to love it as much as I do. So, when I saw this recipe for Sesame Za'atar Pepper Soup, I knew I was going to make it! It's a great recipe: spicy and rich with flavor. I added a can of drained chickpeas and a generous splash of almond milk too. Mmm. Mr. VE&T isn't a vegan, but he did actually go nuts for this soup, just like the book titled promises!

going nuts!

perfect late summer bowl of soup

Next I made the Cream of Pumpkin and Corn with Cashews and Lime Soup  -- a thick, pureed soup topped with roasted corn kernels and chopped scallions. Such a nice combo of a rich, creamy puree with the crunch and crisp of the garnishes. I also loved how this recipe combined perfect late summer season ingredients: corn and limes which are still available at the end of summer, and winter squash which are just starting to show up. 

Glorious creation that I cannot stop eating

Now. One last recipe that I must tell you about: Cashew Butter and Sesame Tomato Jam on Toast. Gentle readers, I love this delicious concoction so much. We had a lot of tomatoes in our garden, and so this recipe caught my eye. But I was a little unsure, because who's ever heard of tomato jam... so I just made a half batch. Holy bananas!! I loved it so much that I ate it all and had to make a full batch. This recipe is totally amazing -- avocado, tomato sesame jam, cashews, cilantro... It all adds up to something so special. The tomato jam is just magical -- so much umami and such unexpected and harmonious flavors. I am IN LOVE with it. I haven't actually made the toasts yet with the suggested cashew butter, but I've made them with just the avo + fixin's, and with Kite Hill Cream Cheese + avocado and all the fixin's. This is officially one of my favorite new things to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I have literally eaten it everyday for the last week. 

please feed these toasts to me on a conveyor belt! 

In addition to all the great recipes I made so far, 
I also have several more recipes marked to make soon:
Cheesy Almond Gravy
Tangy Almond Herb Cheese Log
Lemon Tahini Scones
Peanut Butter French Toast with Maple Pecan Sauce
Cajun Roasted Chestnuts and Potatoes
Zhoug Cashew Thin Omelets
Loaded Potatoes with Pepita Guacamole
Sweet Potato Salad with Tahini Sumac Dressing
Roasted Cabbage with Almond Lime Sauce
Nut Butter Magic Candy Ice Cream Topping


Great news! Joni has offered to send a copy of "Vegans Go Nuts" to a lucky VE&T reader - WORLDWIDE!!! Because she is awesome and generous! So, to enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this blog post and tell me about your favorite nut, your favorite nutty friend, a good recipe with nuts that you love, or anything. Be sure to leave your email address or a blogger contact so that I can track you down if you win! 

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Eating & Harvesting from the Garden!

my two prized eggplants

This month has been a busy time in my little garden! Earlier this year I bought some veggie seedlings and decided to grow some eggplants. My plant got big and beautiful, and full of blossoms -- but I only got two eggplants out of the whole deal. If you only have two homegrown eggplants, you gotta do something special with 'em:

Grilled Eggplant Lasagna

So! I knew just what to do! I made the Grilled Eggplant Lasagna from The Abundance Diet. Oh man, we love this recipe so much, it's pretty phenomenal! Grilled eggplants, zucchini, and red onions - layered with sauce, tomato slices and super special cheesy sauce. ZOMG. Now I need to grow two more eggplants just so I can make this again. Or maybe I"ll just go to the farmers market! 

super major and amazing garlic crop

I've been growing garlic for so many years and this year was my best and most abundant and beautiful crop yet! I am so stoked! Almost all the garlic heads this year came out big and robust and hearty with large cloves. I braided all these up and now they are hanging to continue drying. The next step will be to trim the roots and then select the best cloves for replanting in the fall!
my best garlic ever! 

garden bounty

I saved a couple heads of garlic whose stems had broken off, and picked a bunch of tomatoes (these are my Early Girls) - and used them to make:

Roasted Garlic, Tomato, Rice & White Bean Soup from Veganomicon
(not sure if that's the exact name of the recipe)

This is another of my favorite recipes, and I hadn't made it in a while! Mr VE&T loves tomato soup and asks for it pretty much all the time. This is one of my favorite variations because it also has beans and rice in it, so it feels more like a complete meal. Plus, two entire heads of roasted garlic = obviously an excellent bowl of soup! This recipe is highly recommended.

full disclosure: this is actually an old picture that I lifted off my own blog. This time around I guess I was so excited about eating that I never took a picture. Oops! 

Cheery Cherry Tomatoes

Now let's talk about what's really going on in the garden: Cherry Tomatoes up the wazoo. Sooooo many. I have literally been giving away pints and pints of cherry tomatoes. I have red ones, orange ones, and a whole lotta yellow ones. Mostly I stand out in the driveway and eat them by the handful. That is my favorite thing to do with them, but the cherry toms pictured here became:

a summery tomato salad!

This colorful salad had halved cherry tomatoes, red onion, cucumber (peeled and scored, just the way Mr. VE&T likes it!), and kalamata olives -- with a very light olive oil and vinegar dressing. Such a delicious and perfect way to enjoy tomatoes in all their natural glory!

picking tomatoes off the plants, with Footie rolling around on the pavement
~ a daily scene

Apples?! Already?!

This year all the apples have arrived early -- and my tree is no exception. It's unexpected and weird - so strange to be canning tomatoes and apples at the same time!? Plus, I am preparing for a big trip to Italy and I think I'll miss most of the apples, unfortunately. BooHoo! Most of my apples get little bug holes or some other blemish -- so those are great for apple sauce or apple pies -- but every once in a while, I come across a perfectly blemish-free apple! All the apples on the cutting board are perfect! I wrap those in newspaper sheets and store them in the garage, where it's quite cool. They'll last a pretty good long while.

homemade applesauce

I've already made two great big batches of applesauce too - I made about 8-9 jars of "chunky" applesauce and another 8-9 jars of "smooth" applesauce. For the chunky sauce I mashed my applesauce with a potato masher, and I used a food mill for the smooth sauce. I like the chunky sauce better for straight up eating, but the smooth sauce is so much better for baking and such. I'm glad that I didn't miss my apple tree's harvest entirely! 

like a nut job, frantically canning tomatoes, applesauce and marmalade before going on a big trip. 
I can't stand to miss out on the harvest! 

top left: Bearrs limes
bottom right: Calamondin / Kalamansi limes

This year I've had a bumper crop of limes -- from both of my trees! My Bearrs limes are slowing down for now but I really wanted to use some of them to make lime marmalade again. I made it a couple years ago and loved it SO much that I was eager to make it again! That lime tree has a particular cycle where it goes into growth mode and the whole tree will be covered in little tiny baby limes, they'll ALL mature at once and it's totally overwhelming... and then a new cycle starts. So right now, my ripe limes are almost all gone, and the tree is covered in baby limes and for a long while now I will be limeless. Citrus fruits take a long time to ripen.

marmalade beauty

I made a big double batch - about 2/3 Bearrs lime juice & peel and 1/3 Calamondin juice and peel. As you can see, it is totally gorgeous and made a lot. I made lots of small jars so that I can give it away at holiday time for Xmas prezzies. As you can't see, it also has a lovely limey flavor, a little sweet, a little bright, a little bitter... just a perfect marmalade experience! I'm so happy I made the time to do this! 

Waltham Butternuts

One more crop I'm so pleased with this year: my Butternut Squashes! Aren't they lovely? This is the variety that my grandma and grandpa always grew. They used to harvest 80 squash a year or something wild like that. I grew 14, which still feels fun and exciting to me. A few of them are HUGE and a few are small, so that's nice because I can pick accordingly, depending on what I"m planning to make. Butternuts will last a long time if stored in a cold, dark area, so my butternuts are hanging out in the garage, waiting for me to be in the mood for fall flavors. It will be wonderful to eat these and think of my grandparents who I loved so much.

beautiful Footie on the fence

Last but not least, I leave you with this picture I took of Footie, balanced on the gate, and looking intently up into the jasmine bush. He is a great cat.

Vegan Bowl Attack Giveaway Winner! 

Footie also wants you to know who won a copy of Jackie Sobon's excellent cookbook "Vegan Bowl Attack!" -- I used the Random Number Generator and it chose comment #38, from KZCakes! Whooo hooo! Congrats, KZCakes!