Snacking Tokyo-Style: Plum Onigiri

riceAre you looking for an easy way to jazz up your weekday lunch?

All over Tokyo, food courts and convenience stores sell triangles of sticky rice filled with all sorts of wonderful goodies. Called onigiri, these snacks fit easily in the palm of your hand, are quite filling, and are very affordable – many cost the equivalent of $1 or less. Our whole family enjoyed sampling onigiri filled with pickles, plums, smoked salmon, and even hard boiled eggs. Our favorite were the plum-filled snacks, which we are creating today.

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Onigiri mold

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Detox Gazpacho

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Put the chocolate Easter bunny down and back away slowly. I hear the siren song of sugar right along with ya, but we can do this! Instead of eating something which will lead us to wallow in guilt later, let’s eat something healthy and invigorating! This soup is one of my favorite detox foods, so I’m sharing it again.

Springtime tends to make vegetable lovers giddy with excitement. Unfortunately, it also makes us impatient, as the fresh, ripe flavors we crave become  s  l  o  w  l  y   available. Right now, the zucchini at the market (not yet from my garden) looks fresh and delicious. Cucumbers and peppers aren’t half bad right now, either.

But those supermarket tomatoes?

Sigh.

Don’t even bother with springtime tomatoes. I think they’re just little cardboard orbs disguised as tomatoes.

So, what’s a vegetable lover to do? Cheat. Relax, I’m not telling you to cheat on your taxes or cheat on your calculus exam. We’re going to cheat by avoiding fresh tomatoes altogether, even in a dish which ordinarily features fresh tomatoes quite prominently.

How are we going to cheat? We’re going to use salsa and vegetable juice. Stay with me for a minute.

Salsa, whether home canned or store bought, is often a superior alternative to out of season tomatoes. The blend of tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices offers a whole lot more flavor than whatever was picked green and trucked up from far away, gassed along the way to artificially force a red color (without doing a darn thing for flavor). Likewise, vegetable juice forms a perfect – and perfectly obvious – base for a simple gazpacho. If you don’t believe me, try this recipe. If I’m wrong, post a comment below!

WIN_20150408_091740Ingredients (Serves 4)

1 small zucchini, peeled and chopped

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped (save one slice unpeeled for garnish later)

1 yellow pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish later)

1 red pepper, seeded and chopped (set aside a small piece for garnish, later)

1 clove fresh garlic, diced

1 cup salsa

2 cups tomato-based vegetable juice (such as V-8)

Directions

Add all ingredients except garnish to a blender and puree until smooth. Serve well chilled and sprinkled with colorful diced vegetables. If you’d like, add a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy!

Microwave Potato Chips

chips1Our garden produced a nice crop of lovely little purple potatoes this year. The insides are ringed with beautiful shades of violet, but the small size of these potatoes makes them impractical to peel. Voila! Potato chips! What a simple way to show off the color of these heirloom veggies!

On our Kitchen Gadgets page, we’ve provided a link to an affordable gadget which makes potato chips (oil free) in the microwave. It works really well, but makes small batches. We have a LOT of potatoes, and needed to find a way to process larger batches of chips. Aha! This worked like a charm:chips3

Emson Bacon Wave, Microwave Bacon Cooker

Yes, friends, an “As Seen On TV” microwave bacon maker, no joke! We used a mandolin to slice potatoes really thin, sprinkled them with a bit of sea salt, and arranged them in the bacon maker as shown:chips2

We microwaved our chips for approximately 6 minutes (until the chips started to brown). Done! So simple! What a great way to enjoy the high fiber goodness of garden fresh potatoes, without adding fat.

PS – this same technique works for vegetable chips made from yams, beets, carrots, and parsnips. Stay tuned!

 

Great-Grandma’s Corn Relish

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My Grandpa Fred grew up enjoying this corn relish on the family dinner table. He remembers it fondly. I found his mother’s corn relish recipe in a treasure box of family recipes and, since my Grandpa is just about the coolest guy around, I’m happy to make a batch just for him whenever fresh sweet corn is available. I love you, Grandpa!

*Note: I’ve scaled this recipe down to a manageable size, as Great Grandma made a LOT of corn relish at once! Original quantities (which I occasionally prepare) are 3 times the quantities listed below.

Ingredients (Makes 8 pints)

8 ears of fresh sweet corn

2 onions

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 cup sugar

1 1/3 cup vinegar

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 teaspoon mustard seed

1/3 teaspoon celery seed

Directions

Step 1) Working carefully, use a sharp knife to slice the kernels from each ear of corn.

Step 2) Dice the onions and bell peppers.

Step 3) Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Done!

Step 4) Corn Relish may be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks, or may be canned in sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. If canning, process jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Canned Corn Relish will remain fresh for up to one year.

 

 

Garlic Rosemary Refrigerator Pickles

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If you’ve never made pickles, what are you waiting for? If you can slice cucumbers into bite size pieces and boil water, you have all of the skills you need to make scrumptious homemade pickles! You don’t even need to fuss with canning jars – just place your pickles in any resealable container in the refrigerator, and wait a week. Voila! Delicious.

This recipe uses garlic and rosemary instead of dill, for a flavor that’s refreshingly different from store-bought pickles. Let me know what you think!

WIN_20160725_160826Ingredients (Makes 2 quarts)

8 cups of bite size cucumber chunks Continue reading

Zucchini “Apples”

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Zucchini “Apples”

The zucchini plants in my garden have gone completely bonkers. The first few zucchini were fun… we enjoyed Cheesy Zucchini Roses for dinner, and filled the freezer with Chocolate Zucchini Bread… but the zucchini just keep growing! Here’s another delicious way to make good use of this abundant garden vegetable. Zucchini “Apples” can be frozen or canned, and make a delicious “Apple” crisp (see below). And yes, they taste just like apples.

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Ingredients (Makes 6 quarts)

6 large zucchini

2 cups lemon juice

2 cups sugar

2 cups water

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

1 tablespoon cinnamon

 

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Directions

Step 1) Peel zucchini and remove 1/2 inch from each end. Slice peeled zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds. The pulpy middle, which contains seeds, is a brighter white color than the outer flesh – scrape out all of the pulp with a spoon and add this to your compost pile. Slice the zucchini flesh into bite size pieces, approximately 1 inch long and 1/3 inch thick. You should have about 24 cups of zucchini pieces.

Step 2) Combine zucchini pieces and all remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and allow zucchini to simmer until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Proceed with any of the following options:

Option 1) To freeze your zucchini apples, allow the zucchini to cool slightly. Then, ladle the zucchini apples into quart size freezer bags. Squeeze out the air, seal tightly, and freeze. You’ll end up with 6 to 8 freezer bags of zucchini apples.

WIN_20160724_120815Option 2) To can your zucchini apples, ladle them hot into sterilized canning jars. Leave 1/2 inch of head space. Seal with lids and bands, and process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

 

Option 3) To make zucchini apple crisp, place 8 cups of zucchini apples from Step 2 in a medium size pot. In a small bowl or cup, whisk together 1/2 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Drizzle this mixture over the zucchini apples, and bring the pot to a boil. Boil for 1 minute or until liquid is thickened. Transfer mixture to a greased 2 quart baking dish.

In a medium size bowl, combine 1 cup oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons butter. Use two forks or a pastry cutter to combine ingredients until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Spread this mixture over the zucchini apples and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1 hour. Delicious!