Monday, August 30, 2010

What's Cookin?: (Meatless Monday) Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I failed to produce a Meatless Monday post last week. Sorry! I was inundated with leftovers and eating out last week. Maybe I should call it Meatless every other Monday? LOL! In any case, this week I tried a recipe that's great for using up veggie leftovers in the fridge. I raided my odds and ends and ended up adding 1/2 a zucchini and 1/2 a green bell pepper to this recipe. It turned out to be a great dish and serves up a lot of protein in the quinoa and black beans. It is also chocked full of vegetables and tastes delicious! Mmm!!

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from: (Feb 1, 2009 Issue)
Serves 8

1/2 large sweet onion (about 1 cup), finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained (but reserve juices)
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 c. water
2 large carrots, grated
(optional) leftover zucchini and bell peppers
1 1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed
salt and pepper

1) Heat oil in a large saucepan (with lid) over medium heat. Add onions and celery (and zucchini and bell peppers if you are using them) and cook for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add cumin and garlic and saute for about 1 minute.

2) Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3) Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots and 2 cups of water. Cover and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.
4) Stir in 1 cup of cheese and mix well. Salt and pepper and add more cumin if needed.

5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the reserved tomato juice liquid into the bottom of a baking dish. Fill each bell pepper half with the quinoa mixture and place in the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.

6) Uncover and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbsp of the remaining cheese. Bake for an additional 15 minutes (uncovered) or until the tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand for 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to a serving plate and drizzle with pan juices before serving.

Gardening: Harvest 8/30/10

I had forgotten about my edamame plant. When I finally remembered about it, it only had 2 little edamame pods. Cute eh? LOL! I replanted more seeds andhopefully I'll be able to have some success with them.

I picked a few peppers last week. The Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers were round rather than long like they should be. Anyone know why? Did I pick them prematurely? My Shishito Peppers are finally coming in. Mmmm!!

I finally picked 2 gorgeous Paul Robeson Tomatoes. They were just perfect and pretty! It's classified as a black tomato and it's from Russia.

It's the perfect palm-sized tomato. The taste was different than the Cherokee Purple. It was sweet with just a hint of tart and smokiness. Delicious! Definitely a keeper!
Here it is cut in half and served as lunch....a Caprese Salad.

My Millionaire Eggplant are producing like a million bucks!
More green beans this week. I had thought my green beans were a bust but it seems they decided to kick in a second harvest. I also checked on some baby carrots. They need a little more time (and space cause they're a little distorted).
Happy Harvest!!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

NPR: Just Can It!

I'm a beginner when it comes to canning. I started with some freezer jam (still terrified of canning anything). I slowly worked my way up to dilly green beans, canned tomato sauce and dilly asparagus. This year I canned my first peach jam and even did some canned peaches. Hey, this is no big deal! Even I can do it!

There's a lot of great information on the internet for beginning canners. This article just popped up on NPR. I'm excited to try the Pickled Green Tomato recipe. If you have any great tried and true canning recipes or tips, feel free to leave comments! I'm eager to learn more!!!

What's Cookin?: Canned Peaches

This summer I've gone all out with the peaches! I've never bought so many peaches in my life! They've been extra delicious this year. I've canned 2 batches of them thus far. It's a way to preserve the delicious-ness of summer!!

I used the information on for reference when canning my peaches. Here's some general information on selecting peaches that I found handy:

- Select peach varieties that are sweet. Peaches that are freestone (cling-free) work best because the pits separate easily from the peaches. However, I bought some Sweet Sue Too Peaches that were not freestone and they separated nicely when ripe.
- After purchasing peaches, store them on the counter on newspaper to ripen. Be sure to place them stem side down.
- Allow the peaches to ripen before trying to can them (it'll make your job much easier). To test ripeness, the fleshy part of the peach around the stem should just give a bit.
- I found about 8 large peaches make about 5 pints of canned peaches. I used the wide mouth jars for easy packing. The pick your own website sites these quantities and end results:
- 5 good size peaches=1 quart jar
- 17.5 lbs =7 quarts
- 11 lbs=9 pints
- a bushel=48 lbs=16-24 quarts (avg 2.5 lbs per quart)

Canned Peaches

1) Prepare your canning jars
You can use one of the following methods:
a) Dishwasher: Wash and dry the glass jars (only jars) in the dishwasher on the "sterilize" cycle or complete hot water cycle. Keep the dishwasher door closed until you are ready to use them. Remove them one at a time when using them.
b) Hot Water Bath: Submerge jars (only jars) fully in the hot water (make sure there is enough room to cover jars by at least a few inches), bringing the water to a simmer (180 degrees F) and keep jars simmering for at least 10 minutes until just ready to use.
You will also need to sanitize your metal lids before using them. Most sources say not to reuse the lids (something I didn't know). Make sure you have fresh lids for your mason jars. You can wait to sanitize these (just before you need them). I use a "lid rack" and dip them in the hot water for about 5 minutes in almost boiling water just before I need them.

You won't have to sanitize the metal mason jar rings. Just wash these with soap and rinse with hot water.

2) Prepare the Peaches
Wash your peaches and drain them in a colander.
Blanching peaches is an easy way to remove the skin (and works best with ripe peaches). Bring a large pot of water to a boil on the stove. Dip a few peaches in the boiling water at a time. Leave them in for 30-60 seconds. Remove them with a large slotted spoon and immediately transfer them to a large iced water bath to stop the cooking process.
Remove your peaches from the water and drain them in the colander. I usually do the rest of the prep work with disposable gloves as the peaches can be slimy. Peel the skins off the peaches. I usually start at the bottom of the peaches and the skins come off easily and in large pieces. If your peaches weren't ripe, the skins will not come off easily. Try re-blanching them and keep trying.

**Save your skins to make peach honey! Store them in the freezer until you have enough**
Cut out any brown spots and mushy areas on the peaches. Cut the peaches in half, remove pits. Cut up peaches to your liking (ie: halves, quarters or slices) in a large bowl. I like mine in quarters.
Peaches will turn brown when exposed to air. To prevent discoloration, mix with lemon juice (enough to coat peaches) or 1/2 tsp Fruit Fresh (ascorbic acid) per 1 c. sliced peaches. I used the Fruit Fresh. Stir the peaches to make sure all the surfaces have been coated.

3) Make your Simple Syrup
Pour out the hot water you used to blanch your peaches. Reuse the large pot to make your syrup. You can decide which type of syrup you would like to use. I use the light syrup.
- light: 2 c. sugar, 6 c. water = 7 c. syrup
- medium: 3 c. sugar, 6 c. water = 6.5 c. syrup
- heavy: 4 c. sugar, 6 c. water = 7 c. syrup

Add the water to your pot and on medium heat, slowly stir in your sugar. Stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Bring syrup to a gentle boil and keep it simmering (not boiling) until you are ready to use it.

4) Hot Pack Peaches
**This is a good time to add your metal lids to your water bath while you finish up the peaches so they'll be ready to use**

If you used lemon juice on your peaches, drain your peaches first. Add your peaches to the barely boiling syrup solution and cook for 5 minutes.

5) Packing the Peaches
Pack your peaches tightly into sanitized jars. Leave about 1/2 inch of headspace at the top. Cover the peaches with your hot syrup solution (still leaving 1/2 inch of headspace).
Run a rubber spatula or non-metal knife gently between the peaches and the jar to release trapped air bubbles. Try tilting the jar slightly while running the tool between the fruit and the edge of the jar and press inward against the fruit a few times.
6) Processing the Jars
Wipe the jars (especially the rim) with a clean and damp cloth. Remove your lids from the hot water and turn the stove up to high. Using a magnetic "lid lifter", grab lids one by one and fit on top of the jar. Attach a screw ring and tighten firmly (but not too tight).

Place your jars into the hot water bath using a "jar grabber". Make sure there is at least 1-2 inches of water covering the tops of the jars. Place the cover on your pot and bring your water to a rolling boil. Process pint sized jars for about 20 minutes and quart sized jars for about 25 minutes. Start your countdown only when your water bath reaches a rolling boil.

After your time is up, turn off stove. Using a "jar grabber", remove jars out of the water and let them cool on a clean, dry cloth overnight. Leave about 1-2 inches of space between jars. Do not touch jars or check lids.

Once the jars are cool, you can check the seals. Press the center of the lid gently. If it pops down and up, the seal is no good and the jar should be re-processed. If the center of the lid feels concave and it doesn't pop when pressed, it has sealed. At this point, you can remove the screw bands if you like. Store jars that have sealed in a cool, dry and dark place.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What's Cookin?: Braised Baby Artichokes & Patty Pan Squash

I got some gorgeous Baby Artichokes from the Farmer's Market. I've never cooked with them before but I was game to try something new. I also had some Patty Pan Squash from the garden on hand just waiting to be jazzed up. It was a marriage made in heaven! This is a fantastic side dish for any dinner!
The real trick for cooking Baby Artichokes is preparing them. Although they look intimidating, they are actually much easier to prepare than the larger artichokes. You can eat the baby chokes. Also, to prevent browning of the artichokes as you prep, have a bowl with lemon juice ready. As you prep the artichokes, place them in the lemon juice water until you are ready to use them. When you are ready, drain the artichokes in a colander.

To prep then, pull off about 3 layers of outer leaves of the baby artichokes, or until you reach the tender light green or yellow leaves. Trim the bottom stem and slice the baby artichoke in half (lengthwise). They should look like tight rosebuds. Trim about 1/2 inch off the tops. That's it! You are now ready to get cooking!

Braised Baby Artichokes & Patty Pan Squash
Serves: 4-6
2-3 lb. baby artichokes (prepared as noted above)
2-3 baby patty pan squash, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper

1) In a large skillet (with a cover), heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add garlic and artichokes and saute until golden. Stir occasionally.

2) Add the chicken broth and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes, or until the artichokes are almost tender.

3) Add the patty pan squash, white wine and lemon juice. Boil, uncovered, until the liquid is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

**Linking up to Wendy's Garden to Table (Week 2) Challenge at Greenish Thumb**

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wildlife Wednesday: 8/25/10

This week I caught this guy in the tree just on the other side of my backyard. He stands watch in this tree. When another hummingbird comes to drink nectar at my feeder, he quickly sends them a barrage of squeaks. If they don't heed his warning, he'll chase them off. Zoom, the go darting around the yard. He'll even fly straight up into the air them come rocketing down to Earth. It's fun to watch him in action. I really doubt he realizes how tiny he is!

I caught this pretty ladybug on my melon plant. He doesn't have any spots. I wonder if he's an immature ladybug? Or maybe not a ladybug at all?

This is definitely a ladybug on my cosmos.

The bees are back in full force. They just love the cosmos!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Gardening: Fall Garden & Planting Edamame

Looks like parts of my fall garden are falling into place. The peas that I planted a while ago are coming up! I couldn't decide which to plant so I sowed all three again for fall.
My beets are also coming up.
I had forgot about my edamame plants. My first sowing didn't do well. I think it was too early for them and our wet spring killed them off. My second sowing went largely unattended. I forgot about them. They died then came back with lots of greenery. I found 2 edamame pods on closer inspection. I'm not sure if this plant is done yet. There seems to be an attempt at more pods but we'll see.
I didn't have the heart to pull it but planted more seeds around the soil. I decided to use the inoculant method on my fall trial of edamame. I used this method on my fall peas. With the peas, to get the to germinate, I put them in wet paper towels for a couple of days until the sprouted. Then I rolled them in inoculant and planted them.

For the edamame, I put them in some warm water for a few minutes.

Garden inoculant can be used for peas, snap beans and lima beans. It helps the nodules on the roots develop that fix nitrogen. It's supposed to increase your harvest and the plants ability to make nitrogen.
I placed the damp edamame seeds in some inoculant and rolled them around.

The seeds were then they were planted. I hope they turn out okay!

Restaurant Rambling: Andina

I've blogged about Andina before. I love, love, love the food here. It's easily in my top 5 favorite Portland restaurants. The cuisine is Peruvian and the food is amazing! They even have a gluten-free and vegetarian friendly menu.

I love the interior of the restaurant. The walls are colorful and photos of everyday life in Peru line the walls. Even the tables are decorated in colorful napkins!

They bring out bread and a trio of dripping sauces for you to nibble on. The sauces are yummy.

Sweet Lime Juice

These small tapa plates were $9 a pieces and very delicious!!

Chicharron de Langostino (crispy golden prawns studded with quinoa, served with salsa agridulce)
Musciame de Aton (cured tuna loin with garlic oil and avocado-tomato salsa criolla)

Pimento Piquilla Relleno (piquillo peppers stuffed with cheese, quinoa and Serrano ham)
They were nice enough to split an entree in half for us. Here's half an order of the Arroz Con Mariscos (a Peruvian paella with aji panca-infused rice topped with a seafood medley), $16

I can't tell you how good the food is here. The staff are very friendly and don't be afraid to ask for their recommendations. They're always happy to help.

1314 NW Glisan Ave
Portland, OR 97209
ph: (503) 228-9535