These adorable little tomatoes started life on a sunny South-facing windowsill in North Boulder. A friend of mine could not wait for Spring or Summer to arrive, so she started without them. She sowed tomato, pepper and flower seeds in tiny handmade newspaper pots, recycled pots and even a few hollowed out spaghetti squash shells. She lovingly potted them up to larger containers as they grew but, eventually, as Spring came on, the sun's position changed to moved away from the window and the plants started reaching for the light and getting a little leggy and needed to find more sun. My friend gave me two of the tall tomato plants but we did not know what kind they were since they came from a seed packet marked "Cherry Tomato Varieties ". One plant seems to be a "Sweet 100" Or is it Sweet Million "....? It has tons of teeny tiny, bright red , super sweet tomatoes....not great for drying...best for snacking raw.
The other plant has been producing lots of the guys you see here...nice deep dark red with lots of flavor. They are a smallish oval-shaped tomato with lots of rich tomato flavor. They are a little bit seedy for drying, but I don't mind. You could scoop out the major seed clumps if you wanted to, before drying. The best tomatoes for drying are the ones developed for sauces...the "plum" tomatoes ( San Marzanos, Romas....) since they have fairly dense meaty interiors, without a lot of seedy gel and goo. Below is a process I've used to oven-dry tomatoes for keeping. I store them in the fridge afterwards, but many claim that is not necessary. Mine were not as dry as they might have been if I had done some seed-scooping. You don't want crispy, you want leathery. But too wet and they would be prone to molding without the refrigeration I would think. So mine go into a jar and into the fridge. If you own a dehydrator...use that, following the maker's instructions.
Oven-dried Smallish Tomatoes:
Preheat oven from 160 degrees to 200, depending on how big and how many pans of tomatoes you are drying. Your oven may get warm enough with just the pilot on, if it's gas, or by turning on and leaving on the oven light or lights. If you have a convection oven, make sure to make use of the fan...check your oven manual for details...it may even have a "dehydrate" setting. Use an oven thermometer to check if you want, but really what you are going for is enough heat to get evaporation going but not so much that they cook...unless you want to roast them, but that's another post :)
Prepare a large flat baking sheet with a tiny bit of oil or cover the pan with a piece of parchment paper, or set a wire rack ( oven-safe ! ) over a baking sheet ( to catch possible drippings ).
Wash and de-stem your tomatoes.
Cut them in half ( lengthwise if they are oval or pear-shaped ).
Scoop out excess seeds and goo , if you care.
Lay them on their backs ( Skin side to the pan, parchment paper or rack ).
Dehydrate for 6-12 hours. Keep an eye on them...do not let them get super dry...you want to maintain a little bit of leathery-ness.
Cool completely and store in airtight containers either in the fridge or your pantry.
Use your dehydrated tomatoes in this awesome Vegan Pizza Dip recipe from Save the Kales. I made it a few weeks back, serving it with crunchy pita chips and EVERYBODY loved it...vegans and non-vegans alike !
And thank you, Kristen, for sharing your green thumb :)
I resisted this book. How many cookbooks does anyone need, anyway ? I am not even sure how many I own, let alone actually use. I've been whipping up the same fantastic recipe for chocolate cake for years now and saw no need to change. Vegan substitutions for animal products in baking had become second nature, ( thanks to all the recipe developers and determined animal lovers who have elevated vegan baking to it's current fabulous level ! ) and vegan chocolate is fairly widely available, with most of the really good chocolates being vegan because, why adulterate a perfectly great product with cow's milk ingredients ? So I felt like I was pretty well covered.
I resisted even after seeing that Vegan Chocolate was one of Grant Butler's picks for top vegan cookbooks of 2013 in his "Going Vegan" column at The Oregonian ( there's a recipe there for you...check it out ! ). I Friended the author, Fran Costigan, on Facebook and watched others gush about her recipes. Still....how many books ?
It wasnt until I saw it at the local library, looking lush and substantial...a hard cover book amongst flimsier paperbacks, announcing its presence in elegant script : Vegan Chocolate, Unapologetically Luscious and Decadent Dairy-Free Desserts The background picture of a deep, dark velvety slice of chocolate cake being served up clinched it. I took it home. And I fell in love. Ordered my own copy from Amazon. Seriously...this book is a tremendous reference for not only selecting, using and storing the best chocolate, but Fran Costigan has also provided us with some fillings and toppings that are pure genius. The Vanilla Custard Cream Filling is worth the price of the book alone. Some of the chapters included are Cookies, Bars and Little Bites; Truffles; Frozen Desserts; Beverages; Pies and Tarts and a special one on Master Recipes where she shares recipes and methods for a lot of basics like glazes, sauces, fillings and even marzipan. She does not skimp on detailed instructions, encouragement and tips. Weights of ingredients are provided along with the usual "cup and spoon" measurements to assist us in succeeding. If you love chocolate and love to cook, you NEED this book. And it doesn't matter how many cookbooks you already own...at least that's what I found out :)
AND as if all that werent enough, there is not a bit of margarine or palm oil used in her recipes. She advocates for using only ethically-sourced chocolate and organic sugars where ever possible. Yay!
On the subject of ethics and chocolate, check out Food Empowerment's new smartphone app for quickly identifying whether certain chocolates are slave-free...I've got it on my phone, and have used it several times...very handy !
Also...Sunspire has some great vegan, fair trade and organic chocolate chips that I've bought at Alfalfa's. I believe Vitamin Cottage carries them as well. I'll update a local chocolate and cocoa buying list in the next few weeks.
"A weight lifted from me that I didn't even know I was carrying," was a newcomer's comment on going vegan during the introductions we were all invited to share during last night's Boulder ( and Beyond ! ) Vegan Meet-up. A collective nod rolled through the room as many of us recalled the feeling of leaving behind the pain and suffering of billions of animals exploited for food, entertainment, research and profit and embracing a vegan lifestyle that celebrates all life and recognizes non-human animals as fellow sentient beings. What a joy. Lisa Shapiro, the organizer of the Meetup, had gathered us in a big circle that evening so that we could take turns introducing ourselves while enjoying the fantastic vegan potluck food on our plates. Lisa is not only a great organizer, but is also the heart and soul behind the Meet-up. She has grown and nurtured this group from 5 people to almost 800...in six short years ! Her mantra is: Making vegan choices has never been more urgent, more necessary or more delicious." I asked her to tell me more about the Meet-up in her own words:
Lisa: "I started the Boulder (and Beyond!) Vegan Meetup almost 6 years ago because I wanted to meet like- minded and hearted folks. It has evolved into a wonderful community of vegans along with pre- vegans and everyone in between ;-) I see the meetup as a support system for people in many ways. Often times when we have our own vegan awakening our partners, friends, family and colleagues may not follow suit and it can be isolating and challenging at times.
My experience of working with new vegans for 30 years tells me social situations are the hardest for new vegans especially. Meeting other folks that make you feel supported and good in your compassionate choices is very helpful (and healing!) for people. I know it is for me and I am not a new vegan. My world, like for most of us, is full of pre-vegans so coming together with a vegan intention and knowing the food will be all vegan is very comforting and supportive. People also have a lot of questions as they travel a vegan path. Some can be as basic and comprehensive as "what do I eat?" or "how do I deal with my family and friends who don't understand my new way of life". I love answering questions from our members as they travel along their vegan path. Our meetup has a 'Vegan Mentor" program where I match new veggies with experienced vegans that have similar paths: ie- A new vegan runner that has questions specific to his running would gt paired with an experienced vegan runner.
At almost 800 members we have a diverse crowd of folks with their own set of circumstances and situations but the fact that everyone joined a vegan meetup is certainly a common bonding. And let's not forget that the food is always fantastic! We have some incredible cooks/bakers/chefs amongst our group. The potlucks blow not-yet-vegans away. "Who knew you could have so much variety and deliciousness from plants?!" is something I hear at every potluck.;-) " My mantra is: Making vegan choices has never been more urgent, more necessary or more delicious. Please join us at our next potluck or outing and join an amazing community of friends and support and expand your dining options...along with your heart ;)
I also asked Lisa to tell me about starting and running her vegan-based business, All Things Vegan and to share with us the latest trends in veganism. Again, her words are better than mine !
Lisa: " I started All Things Vegan, my natural products consulting business, almost three years ago to work with vegan food companies on their branding/messaging, sales and marketing efforts, and I help raise capital/funding when needed. The mission of All Things Vegan is "To promote quality vegan products, while expanding awareness of the positive impact of vegan lifestyles on animals, people, and the planet." I believe if we can make more vegan products more widely available more people will make vegan choices and consequently more animals will be spared. Until people have their own vegan awakening we need to make choosing vegan as effortless, convenient ( and delicious!) as possible. I spent most of my career (almost three decades) being a purchasing director for national retail chains. Time and time again I would see fantastic vegan companies launch only to be gone in less than a year because they didn't understand the challenges of retail on top of the challenges of creating a vegan product people will want. Often times creative entrepreneurs lack the full understanding of what it takes to operate a profitable business. All Things Vegan works to serve the vegan business community and help vegan companies become as successful as possible.
The latest trend in vegan food news are all the fantastic vegan cheeses that are soon to be hitting the market in the next 6 or so months. Plant based eggs like those created by Hampton Creek and The VEGG are creating quite a scramble. Beyond Eggs (Hampton Creeks) is now replacing all the egg mayo in Whole Foods nationally. Plant based meats like Tofurky and Beyond Meat are continutng to have mushrooming sales and gain wider reach as distribution and placement continues to grow. Veganism is no longer a trend but rather is being incorporated into a part of mainstream culture and that is great news for the animals that needs to continue to grow and take hold in mainstream culture."
And since Lisa has seen a LOT of potlucks, I asked her what was her favorite dish to bring to a potluck, and would she like to share a recipe.
Lisa: "Oh my goodness, I dont think I have ever repeated a recipe for any potluck I have ever gone to. There are just too many creations to try. I do go a bit crazy on desserts because they lend to such creativity in their creation and presentation and that seems to be an area that new vegans assume they will have to forgo. Anything made with animal cruelty can be made vegan. I say that confidently after eating my way through vegan eateries throughout the country. My vegan cheezecakes always disappear and anything chocolate is pretty much a given to be lauded. turning people on to vegan food is a great vegucator so I am an avid baker/cook and never tire of experimenting with the abundance of plant-based ingredients. "
Lisa has graciously offered the recipe for Stuffed Tofu, aka The Tofu Love Bomb, which had been previously posted in Steve Jones' Boulder Benign Blog, and where you can find it even now :) I made it last year...it makes a fun central dish, is beautiful to look at, you get to carve it, no bird had to die AND it's extremely tasty...a win for everyone, and back just in time for the holidays !
Well, as cookies anyway :)
I used a recipe I've adapted from the Vegetarian Resource Group, which you can find on my old New Leaf Vegan Society blog. It's a sturdy, very tasty gingerbread recipe that has oatmeal and some orange zest in it. The recipe is very to make and work with. A single recipe of the dough will yield a herd of about 12 bison...depending on how thick your dough is and how large the cookie cutter. The one I used is roughly 3"x5". After mixing up and chilling the dough, cutting out and baking them, I iced the wooly beasts with this:
1/2 cup powdered sugar,
2 tablespoons cocoa,
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
about a tablespoon or two of water.
I just stirred this up in a small bowl until it was the consistency of a thick ( vegan :) ) cream. You can add more water or sugar as needed. Then I spread some on the bison with a small offset spatula, starting at the head and dragging towards the tail. While the icing was still very wet, so the next things would stick, I set in a toasted almond sliver for the horn and chocolate sprinkles for shagginess.
I am a little embarrassed to be posting about another bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich but 'tis the season, and pretty soon our homegrown tomatoes will be just a dim memory. We can see the new snowfall up on Long's Peak and Mt Audubon on our walks now...and it won't belong for us ! In fact, I need to start looking at recipes to pickle the small green tomatoes that are not going to make it to a sandwich...
Coconut bacon. I resisted for some reason...I guess it just seemed too outlandish and reaching a little too far. Weren't tempeh, seitan and tofu bacon good enough ? There are several commercial vegan bacons on the market, but I never really liked them as much as the homemade version ...I like mine super salty and sweet.
Now I wish I had not waited so long ! All this time I could have been making crunchy, smokey, salty, sweet coconut bacon for less than five bucks for about 4 cups worth ! Enough to sprinkle on salads and tofu scrambles for weeks and weeks ! But most importantly to layer into a vegan BLT. My all-time favorite sandwich. If you are coconut-adverse you might not like it, but really, the coconut flavor is very subdued...I don't know that I would have picked up on it if I had not known for a fact it was coconut. I baked mine for about 20 minutes, stirring in 5 minute intervals, to get the extra-crispy deep browned look and crunch. With so many recipes out there already, I can't really add anything here, except that you should give one of them a try and adjust your spices as to how sweet, peppery, salty and smokey you like your bacon. I followed Skye's general directions from his Gentle Chef website, but you should also check out the Post Punk Kitchen's entry as well as this one at Vegannomnoms
Ok, so it's not soup made from an ACTUAL unidentified flying object, but that squash is sometimes called a spaceship squash and it was given to me by a neighbor who works at Ball, here in Boulder... a company that makes "space-based instruments" for satellites ...so I'm sticking with Spaceship Soup ! This squash, also called patty pan and scallop squash, is a relative of zucchini and crookneck squash, and like them,is a summer veg. It will not store for months like the heavy-skinned, drier-fleshed winter squashes like pumpkins, acorns, butternuts and such. Its skin remains pretty tender, even at a larger size, such as this one ( slightly over 1 1/2 pounds ! ) I think a nice big zucchini would work just as well, and give the soup an authentic extraterrestrial green hue to boot ! This soup couldnt be simpler...I chopped everything up, threw it in a pot, cooked it for about 25 minutes, removed the bay leaf and then ran it through the blender . You could use an immersion blender, or just leave it chunky. If you are going to serve it chunky, cut the pieces of everything up into smaller more uniform pieces. I added about a 1/2 cup of coconut milk at the very end, because I had some left over from another recipe and thought a little creaminess wouldn't hurt, and wow...it really brought it all together. The following recipe is how I made the soup with what I had on hand, your results may vary, depending on the make and model of your spacecraft :)
1 Spaceship Squash, 1 to 11/2 pds, stem and any major seeds removed, roughly chopped.
1 large baking potato, about 10 ounces, scrubbed. Leave the skin on ! Roughly chop.
2 or more cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 largish shallot or small onion peeled and chopped
2 big stalks celery, chopped
1 large cube Not-Chick'n bouillon cube
1/2 cup of nutritional yeast ( optional, but oh-so-good )
1 bay leaf
several sprigs fresh thyme, or about 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
Throw everything together into one medium pot, bring to a boil and cook until all the veggies are soft, about 25 minutes. Remove the bay leaf. Carefully pour the soup into a blender and blend till smooth. Return the soup to pot to reheat. Add the coconut milk and heat a little longer. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend it all, or just go with chunky.
Boulder Humane Society held their 24th annual 5K Doggie Dash, and I was there helping my friend Lynn Halpern pass out samples of her delicious homemade Eggless Salad ( recipe below !) to hungry ( human ) participants along with Field Roast Frankfurters, a variety of commercially available vegan milks and my Summery Carrotcake Cupcakes ( recipe in an upcoming post ! ). It was fun meeting such devoted animal lovers and the parade of dogs that visited our booth, and helping some of the dog guardians make the connection between their dogs' own sentience and joy-of-life and that of cows, chickens, pigs and others. They all want to live, none wants to be caged, enslaved or mutilated for our pleasure and profit. We also met a fair amount of vegans... yay ! We had lots of literature and recipes on display for people to freely help themselves to and we were also able to get this wonderful booklet by United Poultry Concerns (with a hard-hitting "Milk comes from a grieving mother " flyer by Peaceful Prairie tucked inside ) into many hands, as they were sampling our goodies.
Here is Lynn's amazing Eggless Salad, perfect for crackers, wraps and sandwiches.
1 lb firm tofu, drained and hand-squeezed to remove as much liquid as possible
1/3 cup Vegenaise or other vegan mayo ( Earth Balance, Nasoya Nayonaise...)
1/4 tsp turmeric ( for color)
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp chopped onion
2 Tbsp chopped red bell pepper
2 Tbsp chopped celery
1-2 Tbsp chopped pickles or pickle relish 1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped or 1 tsp dried dill
Crumble drained and squeezed tofu into a medium bowl and mix in the remainder of the ingredients. Chill.
Greetings from Boulder, CO ! I'll be blogging about our new life here on the Front Range where the Plains meet the Rockies in awesome geologic confluence :)
Blog Roll ( in no particular order )