Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer Fruit is So Yummy

I am sure that I have been blessed as I have had the opportunity to pick great fruit all summer. It started with cherries and has progressed through apricots to nectarines, peaches and plums. I just wish that I had more freezer space to accommodate the riches of fruit that I have received.

To combat the lack of freezer space, I have been cooking some of the fruit with great results. 2 of my latest, greatest accomplishments have been apricot ginger butter and plum ginger butter. They are simple to make and delicious on their own or mixed into savory dishes such as my Sweet and Sour Squash, which I will be making for a cooking demonstration this evening.

To make the fruit butter all you do is cut up the fruit and put it in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. My 4-quart Fagor pressure cooker works well for this (without its pressure lid). Cook over medium heat. Use a microplane grater and add ginger to your liking as the fruit cooks. Add sweetener to taste. I use agave syrup which is a low glycemic index sweetener that may be almost as sweet as sugar but doesn't give you that fast blood sugar rise. The agave is much more expensive, though.

I cook the fruit until it gets thick. And then it's done.

When it's plum season, there are lots of plums and this is a great way to use them. You could potentially add some spices to the plums, if you like. I haven't tried that yet.

Once the fruit is put into glass jars, you can can the jars to seal them in a boiling water bath for about 10 minutes. I won't go into the canning process but will say that I like to do what is called small batch canning. I might do 4 to 6 half-pint jars at a time, and that's all. It's easy to do and helps me use the fruits of my labor. Yes, I do pick the fruit myself.

If I did all this in a certified kitchen, I supposed that I could sell it but for now, I will enjoy it myself. And during the holiday season, what's left will become special gifts. This year, people might really be in luck. Need to get picking again...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Honarary Vegans at Family Camp

I am one of the vegan cooks at family camp up in Mendocino at the Woodlands. I don't take credit for the menu although I often have input. Katie and I have developed much loved recipes at camp like the one that we have for vegan coconut macadamia cookies. I don't keep the recipes, yet they come back year after year in Katie's trusted hands.

While there are likely just more than a handful of "real" vegans at camp, there are a group who sign up for vegetarian food, which is mostly vegan, because they say that the food is better. We had a new camper this year who saw the vegan offerings and asked if she could go vegan for the week? Of course we said because we usually make extra vegan food.

One of the meat-eating campers suggested that instead of having the vegans come into the kitchen serving line (versus having food on the table), that we put vegan or vegetarian food on the table and have the meat-eaters come into the kitchen. There is debate over whether that would be wise. Some think that too many people would be getting up for their food. I'd like to think that some people are inherently lazy and would just eat what's in front of them -- vegan or not. There may be only one way to find out -- Just Do It.

One year, though, we had an all-vegetarian meal for our special meal. Many people liked it but some hard-core meat-eaters complained. Others didn't enjoy the meal because it had a Middle Eastern theme and might have been too unusual for some palates.

Hopefully the fond memories of vegan camp food will translate to more vegan eating experiences at home for our honorary vegan campers.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Veggie Queen Comes Out of the Woods

Back to civilization today and the "real" world where I had to drive, shop and interact with people outside of camp. The good news is that there was a new farmer at the market in Sebastopol. The farm is called Three Ox Farm. Nice looking stuff. The woman of the couple, Bernadette, introduced herself and said that she met me years ago. That's easy to believe. The odd thing though was the prices that were listed ended in 99 cents which is what you generally see at the store, not at the farmer's market. Also, the price for kohlrabi was way too high. If I wasn't using it for show and tell later in the week, I wouldn't have bought it as $2 for a small one is beyond the acceptable price point for me.

They did have a specialty garlic called Music which once inspired a Greek moussaka take-off for me that I called Musica. I bought two heads and those were only $5 per pound, or something like that. I try not to pay too much attention to the prices and just buy what looks yummy but occasionally the price gets in the way.

I had a good time at camp, even though I worked in the kitchen 2 1/2 days out of 6. I still managed to get down time and do some crafts and reading. I planned to write more than I did, which was not much at all.

The best part of being away was the dark and quiet, and my little screened-in cabin by the creek. When I awoke during the night, I could hear the creek burbling and it was wonderful for lulling me back to sleep.

Now it will be back to work for me. I guess that I've already done that, shopping for classes this week. It's getting to be the time of year when everything exists locally -- eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, green beans, summer squash, tomatillos, snow peas and more. Gotta go cook now that I've made myself hungry.

You can find The Veggie Queen's cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment on her website at

Sign up for Jill's newsletter there, too.

Registered Dietitian Jill Nussinow blogs about pressure cooking at

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Veggie Queen Goes to Camp

You've heard that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well, the same thing goes for Jill.

So every year in July I take a week and go to family camp back in the woods in Mendocino at a magical place called Mendocino Woodlands. I stay in a rustic screened in cabin which I share with my husband and/or son, or some combination of the two of them. This year my 15-year old son Shane will go with me, while last year my husband Rick went.

The joy of going to camp is just being away with no strict schedule, other than meals which are optional. RIGHT! I do eat at every meal.

We (I am part of the kitchen staff and have been every year that I've gone to camp which is at least 8 now) make great food. In fact, the food at our camp is a big deal. We use fresh ingredients, all made with love and care. And here's the best part: we have vegan options at every meal. Now, how cool is that?

The bad part about the vegan options is that often we have meat-eaters who want in on the action because our food can be more appealing. Some campers become vegan for the week, and sign up as such so that they are assured the "good stuff".

So, I won't be blogging for at least a week while I trek through the woods, do some cooking and get rejuvenated. The timing is always perfect because it's less than a month before my junior college classes start. And my fellow campers are incredibly interesting people who love engaging in heady conversation, and sometimes just being and acting silly. It all works for me, especially nap time, whenever I want it -- well, not in the kitchen, of course.

I hope that you take the time to enjoy your week.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Nature's Treats While Walking the Dog

I get up and walk my dog every morning when I am at home. I love the ritual of doing it -- most of the time. I walk no matter what -- cold, hot, rainy, windy, sunny, foggy or anything else. I'd have to say that I most enjoy walking the dog when we both have our needs met.

This morning was a perfect example of that. Bear wants to sniff, take care of bodily functions and eat as much oat grass as he can find. I, on the other hand, want to get a bit of exercise, observe nature and forage for wild fruit, and eat s much as I can get my hands on while walking a dog.

Today was glorious as it's a bit overcast, which is much better than 80+ degrees at 7 a.m., and cooler. Before we even hit the creek path, I had picked a ripe blackberry (notice the restraint here -- just 1 blackberry), followed by an unctuous ripe fig from a tree that I affectionately refer to a "my fig tree", which just happens to be on someone else's property and hangs on the side of the fence that I can get to. Now, if I were only taller I could get more figs. And, if I didn't have the dog with me, I could really stop and pick. But 1 ripe fig was absolutely wonderful, and a good way to start out.

As Bear found one of the few patches of green oat grass,, I spied a small, ripe, dark red wild plum which I picked and ate. Delicious. But Bear did not want to leave his oat grass eating and move on. I said, "Bear, I think that you are more into eating grass than I am into picking fruit." He was now chewing on dead grass. But then, I realized that he was done with grass-eating and I would continue to consume small amounts of fruit throughout the walk, as I found it: a few more blackberries, a yellow wild plum, a pinkish wild plum and then the path ended. So, my fruit escapades were done.

Throughout the walk, I reflected on nature's abundance and how we need to appreciate it. It became apparent to me that eating refined sugar is not a good option when you can eat real fruit and have it be so satisfying. I do eat foods containing sugar occasionally but they just don't compare to what our mother has to offer. Please keep this in mind.

And if you get a chance to walk a dog, have a good time while you're doing it. It could change the way that you see the world. It has for me, and for that, I thank Bear.

Friday, July 11, 2008

this isn't about me: Cezanne's Carrot: “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution!”

this isn't about me: Cezanne's Carrot: “The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution!”

You will find me, The Veggie Queen, and my website mentioned on this blog. I just love the quote and can only hope that the day is coming soon although, I suspect that a ripe tomato would more likely set off a revolution but any vegetable revolution, or evolution, will do.

Monday, July 07, 2008

At Work on My Next Book -- Pressure Cooking

I have started working on my next book which is about Green Cooking in the Pressure Cooker. I had a working title and a proposal for it, but those went out the window, along with the data on my computer. So now I get to start fresh. Maybe that's part of the title -- FRESH. I'd love to hear what you have to say about this.

One possible title was The Veggie Queen Cooks Green in the Pressure Cooker or Cooking Green with The Veggie Queen: Using the Pressure Cooker. At this point, I'll just keep writing.

I have some recipe testers lined up. I am debating about using recipes from you, and not just my own. Any thoughts?

The basic book will have about 100 recipes for making all kinds of whole food vegan basics such as vegetables, grains and beans. I am also going to do an advanced version for those people who already know how to use a pressure cooker and want to do more complicated recipes.

I may be biting off more than I can chew but because it's healthy stuff I know that it will be easily digestible. I am going for simple with this book -- getting the info into hands without worrying too much about how pretty it looks.

If you've got any great ideas, I'd love to hear them. Anything special that you'd like to know?