Homemade Vegetable Wash (Spray or Soak)

I have to admit that it just breaks my heart to spend a big chunk of my food budget on veggie wash.  Those tiny spray bottles of veggie wash never seem to last long the way I use it, and plain water just doesn’t do the job for soaking leafy greens. Here are two simple solutions you can make at home with common household products you probably already have on hand. They cost only pennies to make and work really well.  (You should refrigerate the spray because it contains fresh lemon juice)

SPRAY:

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. baking soda

1 cup water

SOAK:

1/4 cup vinegar

2 Tbsp. salt

DIRECTIONS:

1. SPRAY: Put all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake gently to mix (it will foam). Spray on vegetables or fruit and allow to sit for 2-5 minutes, then rinse with cold water and dry.

2. SOAK: Fill a clean basin or sink with cold water. Add vinegar and salt, then stir until salt dissolves. Place vegetables or fruit in sink and allow to sit for 25 – 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water and dry.

These ideas came from http://www.food.com where you can find even more great recipes and money-saving hints.

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Vegan Seafood Salad

This recipe makes a great summer, picnic, or a take to work lunch.  The flavor is better if made ahead, so make it the night before and packing your lunch the next day will be simple. (The secret ingredient is the nori — for real seafood taste that makes all the difference in the world!)  Remember, organic ingredients are always best.

Ingredients:

1 parsnip, finely shredded

1 carrot, finely shredded

1/2 c. red bell pepper, finely chopped

3 – 4 stalks celery, diced (I like a lot of crunch — it adds interest to this salad)

1/2 c. onion, finely chopped

1 sheet sushi nori, crumbled or folded several times and snipped into tiny bits with kitchen shears (This is the quickest and easiest way)

1 tsp. nutritional yeast

1/4 tsp. pink sea salt (or to taste)

1/8 tsp. freshly ground pepper (or to taste)

1/4 – 1/3 c. Vegenaise (vegan mayo)

Method:

Toss to mix all ingredients.  Adjust spices to your preference.  Let chill for at least 1 hr. to allow flavors to blend.

Serve cold on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.  Also delicious as a sandwich spread on toasted whole grain bread.

ZOUP! Woodland Rd. in The Shoppes at Wyomissing, PA 19610, 610 372-6717

Zoup! is a new franchise restaurant in town.  If you follow Woodland Rd. east past the Berkshire Mall you will end up in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Wyomissing, an upscale strip mall where you will find Zoup! situated more or less in the middle of the strip.

My first impression of Zoup! was that is very clean and the staff was very helpful and answered all our questions — even offering free samples of the soup before we ordered. In appearance Zoup! is reminiscent of a scaled down version of Panera Bread; scaled down because they don’t have a bakery (or any desserts) on the premises.  Zoup! offers soups, salads, and sandwiches freshly made at reasonable prices.  They had four vegetarian soups on the menu the night we were there: vegetarian split pea, tomato basil, wild mushroom barley, and butternut squash (that is a larger selection than Panera, which usually only offers one, sometimes two). Any salad can be made into a wrap. Sandwiches can be ordered deli-style or grilled.

My partner and I both decided on the vegetarian split pea soup (large) and a “cali veg sandwich”, which we split (whole sandwiches are quite large). For an extra $1.99 any soup can be served in a bread bowl. We each had freshly brewed iced tea (free refills).  Everything we had was delicious.  With the soup you get a good-sized complimentary fresh roll (three choices: white, wheat, or multigrain), so there really is no need to purchase the bread bowl unless you really love bread.

Zoup! occasionally publishes coupons, and we had one that night for “buy one get one free soup.”  That was worth about $5.50 — what a deal!  With our coupon our entire bill for two, including tax, came to only $15.08.  We will definitely go back to Zoup!  It’s a nice place to go for a healthy lunch or casual dinner while shopping.  They also have free wi-fi. See them on the web @www.zoup.com

I thought Zoup! was a great value for the money. Plus, they have free internet!

Vegan “Parmesan Cheese”

This is an exciting recipe I discovered while viewing a recent cooking demo on http://www.therenegadehealthshow.com . (I highly recommend this site.)

We all know how expensive commercial brands of veggie cheese are, so I couldn’t wait to try this recipe.  I made it last night to serve on tofu stuffed shells, and it was great.  You can make a larger batch to keep on hand. It’s simple and stores well in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

5 large Brazil nuts, rough chopped

1 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

sea salt to taste (I found that 1/2 tsp. works well)

Grind the nuts.  Add sea salt and nutritional yeast, and grind again.  Done!

Is that easy, or what?

Freeze Your Tomato Harvest

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I grew up helping my mother can tomatoes the old fashioned way. We spent hours skinning the tomatoes in boiling water, sterilizing glass quart jars, and then processing the tomato-filled jars in a boiling water bath and waiting to hear the “pop” as each jar cooled and sealed. It was an all day project that most gardeners endured in order to enjoy the fruit of their labor during the long winter months.

Later, as a young wife, my mother-in-law taught me how to freeze fresh tomatoes. It still involved skinning the tomatoes in boiling water, and then slicing them into eighths. But, instead of the canning process, you just had to pack and freeze them in plastic quart containers. I thought this system was a real time saver, and did it that way for years.

Imagine my surprise when I learned just last year that there is a MUCH simpler way to freeze all the tomatoes we harvest from our garden, and now this is how I do it:

First, wash and core (cut out the stem end) your whole tomatoes.

Place the cored tomatoes on a tray with sides (leave a little space around each one — you don’t want them to touch) and place the tray in the freezer. (notice that you DO NOT have to peel the tomatoes). IMG_0177

When they are completely frozen (like the next day), put the whole frozen tomatoes in a gallon size plastic freezer bag, zip closed, and store in the freezer until needed.

When you are ready to use, simply remove however many tomatoes you need and hold each one under hot running water. The skin will easily slip off the frozen tomato. Then let them defrost just long enough to be able to slice or chop.

That’s it! You can easily fit this method of preserving your tomato harvest into even the busiest day and be satisfied with the results.

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Zucchini, Zucchini, and More Zucchini!!!

IMG_0141By mid July most home gardeners find themselves drowning in zucchini. We loved planting those seeds a couple of months ago and the almost instant gratification when we saw the sturdy green sprouts poke through the soil. But by now we are asking why we ever planted so much zucchini (face it, you really only need one plant and you’ll have all the zucchini you need for the summer). You know it’s bad when friends start to avoid you because they’re afraid you’ll try to “bless” them with more of your zucchini harvest!
Well, did you know that you can freeze fresh shredded zucchini , and it’s so easy to do? Simply wash the zucchini. Don’t peel it, but cut off the stem and the blossom end. Shred the whole zucchini. Zucchini is very moist, so you will want to get most of the water out. An easy way to do that is to put the shredded zucchini in a colander or large strainer; salt and toss it so that the salt is evenly distributed. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then squeeze out the moisture — you will be surprised how much comes out. You can freeze the drained shredded zucchini in one cup portions, and then it will be ready to use it in your favorite recipes all winter.
Hiding this shredded zucchini in whatever you cook (soups, stews, “meat” loaves) is a great way to get more green veggies into your kids’ diets. Hint: to make it even more inconspicuous, peel the zucchini before shredding and they will never suspect a thing:)

Very Berry Pie

This recipe comes from “Country Life Vegetarian Cookbook.”  It is easy and so healthy. If you pick your own blackberries as I did, it’s also very economical. The taste is sweet/tart and the berries stay whole and fresh because you never cook them. YUM!

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. pineapple juice or apple juice concentrate (I used the apple juice concentrate)

1/2 c. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

6 1/2 Tbs. organic cornstarch

4 c. frozen raspberries, blackberries, or boysenberries (I used blackberries)

Method:

Blend the first four ingredients on high for 10 seconds or until smooth. Pour into a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat and gently fold in frozen berries with a rubber spatula.

Pour the berry mixture into a 9 inch baked pie shell and chill.

That’s it — Enjoy!

Refrigerator Cucumber Slices

I took this to a covered dish picnic today and had several requests for the recipe. It’s really quite simple, so here it is for you to try:)

1 large cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced

Combine in a cup:  1 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. Nayonaise (soy Miracle Whip type dressing)

2 Tbsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. dry dill weed or one sprig of fresh dill

Pour sauce over cucumber slices and toss lightly until all slices are coated. Refrigerate at least 45 minutes before serving for flavors to blend. This recipe may be doubled or tripled — adjust salt measurement to your preference.