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We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other. - E.H.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Somehow after making all those vegan cabbage rolls we still have a number of (smaller) cabbages rolling around in the pantry - which was great, because we got to make sauerkraut! When salt meets cabbage, magic happens.

You'll need:

2 medium sized cabbages (if you mix red and green cabbages, you'll get bright pink kraut!)
3 tablespoons sea salt
Large ceramic crock/two large mason jar/clean plastic bucket.

1. Finely shred your two cabbages. You can use a mandolin, or a knife (and some patience). On a recent visit to Poland, we learned that you can use a vegetable peeler to make finely shredded cabbage for kraut - so you can use that too! Save a few of the larger, outer leaves - you'll need these later.
You can add other fruits/vegetables/spices as well to liven up our kraut - shredded carrots, beets, onions, apples, juniper berries - be creative!

2. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage in the sea salt.

3. Pack the salted cabbage into your fermentation container of choice. This part is magic. You will look at your huge mound of cabbage, and you will look at your (less huge) container, and you will think 'no way this is going to fit.' It will. It will, because you will be packing it in there with a wooden spoon until it submits.

4. Pack the sauerkraut into your fermentation container until the juice from the cabbages covers the cabbage itself. The cabbage should be completely submerged in juice. No need to add water for this to happen - just keep packing it in.

5. Take some of the outer leaves you set aside earlier, and pack them snugly on top of the kraut. Additionally, we often take ziplock bags with a little bit of water in them and fit them into the crock. This will prevent too much of the juice from evaporating, but will still let the gasses escape. If you're using large mason jars, fasten the lids very loosely.

6. Check on the kraut every few days. If a bit of mold forms on top, no worries - just skim it off. If it looks like the brine is evaporating and receding below the level of the cabbage, either push the cabbage down below the level of the brine or (if you need to) add a little bit of water to top it up.

7. After a week or so, taste the kraut. It will still be pretty crunchy and young at this point, the flavors will continue to change and develop as it ages. I like kraut best after about three weeks - but keep tasting and see when you like it best!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkin Carving

We had a pumpkin carving party the other night, and I just had to post this picture of my friend Shannon's masterpiece. Its Rosie the Riveter - in all her pumpkin glory.

Agata and I teamed up to make a pumpkin styled in honour of our friend Mason. I think we got pretty close.

Happy halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stove-Top Popcorn with Parmesan, Black Pepper and Rosemary

Its been a bit of a rough week around here. First off, "fall" seems to mean "rain" this year, and the sun has been hiding on us for weeks now, and on top of that? Agata has about five weeks to go before defending her Master's thesis (yay!). All of this calls for snacks, in a big way.

I think there is a conspiracy afoot, and it has to do with popcorn. Have you been to a theater lately? They sell you popcorn for like, $7 a bag! Even worse are those little bags of microwave popcorn they sell you, so you can make your own crappy MSG-filled popcorn at home. Also, specialty popcorn machines. The whole world is trying to convince you that you need their help to make popcorn. Not true!

The truth is, making popcorn is the simplest, cheapest, fastest snack out there. Popping corn, even the organic kind, is incredibly cheap at the grocery store, and all you need to make it is a pot with a lid. It's not hard, it's not messy, and it takes about 1 minute. And even better, once it's made, you can cover it in all kinds of delicious things. Here is my favorite fancy popcorn recipe to make me feel gourmet on a rainy day.

You need:
1 cup corn kernels
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan (or more, to taste)
1 tbsp of butter or olive oil (or more, to taste)
11/2 tsp sea salt (more or less, to taste)
1 tsp freshly grated black pepper (again, to taste)
2 tbsp fresh, finely diced rosemary (...)

Making stove top popcorn:
1. Heat up a tablespoon of butter or olive oil in the bottom of a medium sized pot on medium heat.
2. Once the butter has melted (or the oil is hot), toss in 1 cup of corn kernels and put the lid on. Shake the pot back and forth on the burner, holding the lid on tight. You should hear popping - this means you're doing it right. Keep shaking!
3. When the popping slows down, take the pot off the heat. Popcorn! At this point, you can really do whatever you want to it.
4. Add 1/4 of a cup of fine, freshly grated Parmesan, a pat of butter, sea salt, freshly grated black pepper (and I like it chunky, if possible), and fresh, finely diced rosemary.

Even with all these nice ingredients, this whole snack is still significantly cheaper then a box of Oreos, and tastes better, too. How do you all like your popcorn? Any tricks I should try?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Vegan Cabbage Rolls

Its been raining non-stop in Peterborough for almost a week now, and I felt like the house could use some cheering. We also had a cupboard full of cabbages harvested last week, and a Sunday off work, and the whole set-up just screamed cabbage roll dinner party. So that's what we did.

Now, cabbage rolls are generally a ground beef and rice kind of recipe, but Agata is wise in all things Polish and vegan and came up with a (delicious) solution. These cabbage rolls are not only fun to make, but they also happen to be (a non-meat variation on) Agata's family recipe.

Cabbage Rolls:
2 large onions, finely diced
1 cup cooked brown lentils
2 cups cooked brown rice
4 cups button mushrooms, diced (or, if you feel like splurging, throw some shitakes in there)
1 cup dried mushrooms, if you have them.
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sea salt, or to taste
One large cabbage

1 can of diced tomatoes - (or approx. 5 ripe medium tomatoes)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce, but its not vegan)

Part one - prepare your filling

1. If you are using dried mushrooms, re-hydrate them in two cups of water for ten minutes.
2. Save the mushroom water, and add it as part of the water you cook your rice in. The mushroom water is quite rich, and the flavours will really come through in your rice.
3. Fry your onions and mushrooms together until softened, and combine in a bowl with the cooked rice, lentils, sesame oil and salt.

Part two - prepare your cabbage wrappers

1. Remove any damaged outer leaves from your cabbage - do not discard!
2. Place the entire cabbage in a pot, about 1/4 filled with water. Cover the pot and steam the cabbage for ten minutes.
3. After being steamed, the cabbage leaves should come off easily and without tearing. Remove the leaves from the cabbage. As you remove the leaves, carefully shave down the cabbage spines. You do this by turning the leaves upside down (so the raised spine is visible) and carefully running your knife along the leaf removing the raised part of the spine only. The whole leaf should still be in tact, but the thicker spine should reduced.
4. Roll the filling into the cabbage leaf like you would roll a burrito, tucking the ends in.

Part three - cook the cabbage rolls

1. Line the bottom of a large pot with the damaged outer cabbage leaves (or the broken or ugly ones) removed earlier. These will act as a barrier and make sure your cabbage rolls don't burn while they cook.
2. Place your cabbage rolls in the pot - its fine to stack them if you made a lot.
3. Add one cup of water, cover and steam the cabbage rolls for 45 minutes.
4. While the cabbage rolls are cooking, combine the sauce ingredients in a separate saucepan and use an immersion blender to combine. Bring the sauce to a boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Serve the cabbage rolls warm, and covered in tomato sauce. Enjoy!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saving Seeds

Last weekend, Agata and I spent a day putting the garden to bed for the winter. It was a gorgeous fall day (the first one without rain in almost a week), and we spent the day harvesting, planting garlic, saving seeds and getting the beds ready for the spring.

Agata has been saving seeds for a few years now, but like so many tasks in the garden this was my first time. It was a remarkably simple process really - by this point in the summer most of the plants had gone to seed, and in most cases, it was just a matter of snapping off the seed pods, and carefully shaking out the seeds into a bag and labeling them. If the seed pods weren't ripe yet we brought the plant home to hang dry.

(bachelor's buttons, also known as cornflower)

For tomatoes and cucumbers, the seeds need to ferment in their own juices to mature. We saved some of the tomatoes and cucumbers that were too far gone for eating (which is what you want - huge, orangey-yellow cucumbers and overripe tomatoes), separated out the guts and seeds and left them to rot in small dishes on the balcony, keeping each variety separate. After a few days, we separated out the seeds from the fermented juice and mold by rinsing them off with water.

The seeds that are good quality are heavier and fall to the bottom, and the ones that are not mature enough or bad in some way float to the top. We spread the good seeds out on some paper towel to let them dry, and then packed them away for next year. Not pretty, but effective.

Beans and peas were easier. We made sure to save some of the beans on the vine, letting them get thick and woody and dry out. Saving the seeds just involved collecting the varieties we liked, shaking out the beans at home and spreading them out to dry and cure.

(rattlesnake pole beans and cranberry pole beans)

We tried lots of different varieties of tomatoes in the garden last year, and made sure to plant each variety far enough away from the rest that they wouldn't cross pollinate, so the seeds would breed true the next year. Of course we can't know for sure if it worked, but I wouldn't mind trying some made-in-our-garden hybrids, either.

We saved seeds from the plants that had worked well in our garden this year. I like the idea of saving the same strains of plants, year to year, as well as trying out new ones. One of the things I'm really loving about community gardening is that the garden itself will stay the same, even if we move in the spring. Planting the garlic felt like a promise - after the snow, spring will come and we can do it all over again. I'm jazzed.

(some decorative cabbage. Not edible, but pretty.)

As a side note, we're still in the market for a black tomato variety we love: any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


On a recent trip to North Carolina, I got sucked into a little bookstore called Internationalist Books.
This poster totally won me over. Because, you know, I like canning and making out.

This little bit of awesome in a Nikki McClure design. You can buy her stuff over at buyolympia.com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Purple Cabbage Salad

I'm a little wary of coleslaws. Perhaps it's unfair, but it's true. Maybe it's the fact that so many coleslaws are ruined by the copious amounts of mayonaise people add, (a plight shared by potato salad) but this cabbage salad won my heart. Its vegan, and colourful, and delicious. And did I mention toasted almonds? And currents? And that it lasts all week, and makes a great lunch? It's pretty much perfect, in my books.

I first found this recipe on Vegan Yum Yum - pretty much my favorite vegan cooking blog out there, although sadly, it looks like you can only access cached versions of the website. So by posting this recipe here, maybe I'm saving it from the ether?

Purple Cabbage Salad with Currants, Carrots, and Almonds

Makes 4-6 Servings

1 Small Head Purple Cabbage, about the size of a softball
4 Carrots, shredded
Sliced or Slivered Almonds, toasted
Dried Currants or Raisins

2 Tbs Balsamic Vinegar
4 Tbs Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tbs Water
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Maple Syrup
4 Tbs Canola Oil

Combine and mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Remove any dry looking outer leaves from the cabbage, and finely shred the rest. A knife works just fine for this, but I also like using a hand held peeler - a trick I learned travelling in Poland, where they know everything there is to know about cabbage. It shreds the cabbage much finer then you can with a knife, which is nice for those of us who don't have a mandolin. Add as many toasted almonds, currents or raisins as you like - I like lots.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Strawberry Balsamic Shrub

Ok, I know I'm not the first person to say this - but I've fallen in love with shrubs.

I was a bit slow to catch on. When friends started raving about drinking fruit vinegars, I'll admit, I was doubtful. Because you know, I clean with vinegar. Drinking it seems a bit strange, right?

Let me be the first to admit that I was wrong. Shrubs are the singular most delicious thing to happen to my face in a long time. It's like drinking summer. The taste is fruity and dry, and just a tiny bit tart, and so good.

Shrubs might be the newest internet stars, but they're hardly new players. They have a long history in Europe, waaay back before summer fruits were available year 'round, before refrigerators, when people were doing everything they could to preserve the tastes of summer for the long winter ahead. 

There seem to be an endless variation of shrub recipes, using any number of fruit, vinegar, and spice combinations. Our favorite so far is a strawberry balsamic vinegar shrub, which is super easy to make and pretty much caused a revolution in my mouth. Really, its that good.

Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub

2 cups strawberries (I think we caught the very last Farmers Market strawberries. hurry!)
2 cups sugar
1 cup apple cider vinager
1 cup balsamic vinager

1. Remove the stems from the strawberries and cut them in quarters.
2. Combine the strawberries and sugar, and mash them together with a potato masher to release some of the juice from the strawberries.
3. Store the mixture in the fridge overnight.
4. Add the vinegars, and give it a stir. Leave this mixture in a sealed mason jar on your counter for a few days.
5. Strain out the fruit, and voila! Shrub.
6. Combine the shrub syrup with soda water (vodka is nice too) to taste. Serve over ice.
(I would guess that I like a 5:1 ratio of shrub to soda water, personally - but play with it and see what you like.)

 (here is our strawberry balsamic shrub, posing with a raspberry shrub - which was also delicious)


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apple Cider

So recently, it came to light that a co-garden member had made his own apple cider press, and (having pressed all the apples he could) was willing to lend it out. Apple cider is awesome - especially with cinnamon and spiced rum - and so we quickly put our name on the list, and a plan was born.

Now, someone back in Peterborough's history clearly loved apples, and to this day there are apple trees growing all over the place, if you know where to look. No one I know here buys apples in the fall. Its wonderful.

We picked up lots of apples from the ground (which traditionally, are the apples you would use for cider), but couldn't resist doing some tree climbing. The apples were smaller then the ones you would buy from the store, but they were sweet, and awesome, and free. I think we filled every bucket and pot in the house with apples - and barely made a dent in the tree. We did a quick wash of all the apples in the bathtub, and then moved into serious apple cider production.

I cannot underscore how badass this cider press is. It had two main parts, a garborator, which is used to munch up the apples into a fine pulp, and a bin, where the actual pressing happens in a few stages: a) wrap the pulp in muslin bags, maybe 5 of them. b) sandwich those bags between plexiglass sheets (cutting boards, it turns out, works too). c) put your pulp/plexiglass many layered sandwich in your large bin, and d) stand on top of the sandwich and watch the apple cider pour out. There was originally a tire jack for this purpose, but no one could figure out how to use it, so we substituted human body weight instead.

Aaand it was that easy! Apple cider = apples, mushed up and squeezed. Presto.

Ok, so it wasn't pretty. It was actually a total disaster (the awesome kind). I could barely take this photo because my hands were so sticky (and the floors, and the walls..) and there was pulp flying everywhere. Unfortunately, non of the photos I took of the pressing process even remotely turned out. It might have been the pulp, the laughing, or the copious amounts of beer we were drinking at the time. It was a pretty glorious mess. But isn't that what the best projects are all about?

In the end, we made about ten gallons of apple cider. I'm not sure why, but our cider turned out strangely velvety - much more so then the apple cider you buy in stores. It could be because we were drinking it unpasturized, or maybe it was because of our somewhat unconventional pressing techniques. Either way, I like it!

About half of the cider headed home with friends of ours to become hard apple cider, and we made some of ours into apple cider molasses (post to come!), the rest we canned in a hot water bath for about ten minutes, with two tablespoons of lemon juice - so that even in the darkest days of winter, there will be hot apple cider and rum.

Friday, October 7, 2011


Kimchi is one of those foods that I find most people have a strong opinion about. My father, for instance, wont be in the same room as an open container of kimchi if he can help it. I couldn't disagree more. I love kimchi.

While its easy enough to buy kimchi in Peterborough, most of the store bought kimchi I've found has fish oil in it - and I cook for enough vegans that this can be a real pain. Besides, this recipe is so good, and SO easy, there's really no reason to buy it.

You'll need:

Head of napa cabbage - about one pound
Sea salt
Red chili flakes
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
3-4 green onions, sliced
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 ripe apple
1/2 ripe pear

1. First,  separate the cabbage leaves and chop them up, into roughly bite sized pieces.

2. Dissolve a quarter cup of sea salt in a big bowl half full of warm water, then pour salt water over cabbage leaves. Give cabbage a gentle toss to distribute salt water. Allow salted cabbage to sit for at least four hours, or overnight. The cabbage doesn't need to be covered in water - just tossed in it.

3. Give the cabbage a good rinse to remove excess salt, then transfer cabbage to a large bowl.

4. Combine a quarter cup of fine red chili flakes with warm water, stir gently with a spoon to create a red chili paste, then transfer chili paste to cabbage.

5. Add minced garlic, minced ginger, and the green onions.

6. Blend yellow onion, apple, and pear with one cup of water, then add this natural sweetener to the cabbage.

7. Put on a pair of plastic gloves and give everything a thorough toss and rubdown. You want to evenly distribute all ingredients, especially the red chili paste.

8. Transfer seasoned cabbage leaves into glass jars. Be sure to use firm pressure with your hands to push down on cabbage leaves as they stack up inside the bottle.

Transfer any liquid that accumulated during the mixing process into the bottle as well - this liquid will become kimchi brine. Some liquid will also come out of the cabbage leaves as you press down on them as they are stacked in the bottle.

Be sure to leave at least an inch of room at the top of the bottle before capping it loosely* with a lid, and allow the kimchi to ferment at least 24 hours before you eat it. Some sights recommend refrigerating the kimchi at this point to slow down the fermentation process, but we usually leave it out to keep fermenting, and eat it over the course of a month or so.

* Although its never happened to me, a reader commented that she had jar explode on her after capping a lid too tight! So I've changed the original instructions - cap loosely my friends!!

Ed: If you're wondering what to do with your kimchi, check out this recipe for kimchi fried rice!

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Remember that time I was talking about how my house has been completely inundated with tomatoes, and they're filling up all the bowls in the house and more just keep coming? Talk about champagne problems, right?

I only seem to be complaining though, because its forced us to think of all kinds of creative things to do with tomatoes. We canned them. We dried them. We made them into paste. We made them into salsa, and shakshuka sauce, and canned those. Last week I made tomato jam, which I forgot to document for the blog but which I not cannot stop eating. Now, there's ketchup.

I don't usually eat ketchup. (Unless, like, we're camping and then all bets are off). But this ketchup is a revelation. Its sweet and a bit spicy, and tastes like cinnamon and cloves and a million other things you can't quite place. It tastes like the ketchup I am familiar with but is infinitely better. There is way more going on in this ketchup then in your traditional Heinz 57.

And really, if you'll forgive me a rant, when you start cooking things yourself this keeps happening. You try your creation, say for example, ketchup. You pause for a moment to appreciate. Then you look back at the crap they pass off at ketchup in the grocery stores (which is all corn syrup and color) and you're like, what the hell? Maybe you feel like you've been lied to, all this time.. But I digress.

Most of the ketchup recipes we found online contained Worcestershire sauce, which as it turns out, contains anchovies and thus, isn't vegetarian. We feed a lot of vegetarians around here, so we had to stray somewhat off the beaten path.

You need:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped
10 cups chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2-3 tbsp molasses
2-3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 whole head of garlic, roasted
2 hot chili peppers, chopped
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
2 cloves, whole
2 tbsp tamarind paste
olive oil (to fry onions/toast spices - maybe 2 tbsp?)
2 lovage sprigs (optional, or use celery)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt

1. Fry mustard seeds until they stop popping, add crushed cloves, coriander, cumin - remove from heat.
2. Put all the spices in a coffee grinder/food mill and grind to a powder.
3. Fry onion until lightly browned, add hot peppers.
4. Put the onions and peppers in a pot with the tomatoes, then add all of the other ingredients except for the lovage and the bay leaf.
5. Cook for 10 minutes, then blend with an immersion blender.
6. Add bay leaf and lovage/celery stalks, cook for 1/2 an hour. Remove lovage leaf/celery stalk.
7. Cook for another 90 minutes, or until it looks sufficiently ketchupy.

If you plan to can the ketchup, add it to sterilized mason jars and immerse in a hot water bath for 35 minutes (for pint jars).