Tuesday, September 29, 2009

score of the century- heirloom tomato overload

Sunday turned out to be a pretty busy day as well.
The morning started with a drive to the Hollywood Farmers' Market off of Ivar. If you haven't been to this market-GO. it is every sunday from 8am-1 and it is definitely worth a visit...top 5 in Southern California.
My friend and fellow Master Food Preserver, Ernest Miller has been working the MFP booth for the past couple months answering questions with LA Master Gardeners. I finally was able to go up to the market and say hello, meet the crew and see what i needed to do, b/c i am taking over for Ernest next Sunday (only one Sunday a month)...more on that experience next week!
While at the market, i was able to meet my friends Ayshea and Robin who were going to be canning with me later that day. We took a quick tour of the market and located a booth filled with heirloom tomatoes. Remember what i said a few days ago about how to get a deal at farmers' markets???
With about 10 minutes left until closing, we went up to the side of the booth where we saw a box of softened tomatoes...these were the ones being sorted by the farmers that were not going to last the day. The conversation went like this:
Ayesha: how much for these?
Farmer: ummm, how about $1 a pound (good price)
(30 seconds later), Farmer: how about the whole box for $5?
A: sold!
if anyone knows ANYTHING about heirlooms, the first thing you know is that they are not cheap-they cost anywhere from $3-6/lb. when we finally weighed the box, it ended being almost 40 lbs...which is around $150 in tomatoes!

Obviously, with that much at that price, you have to do something.

But first we took a visit to the markets latest endeavor, The Farmer's Kitchen. This "extension" of the market sells produce, meals and in the future-education (I know Ernest has already been working with them...maybe i can help!). At the Kitchen, we had fresh teas and lemonade and some tasty egg dishes...a majority of it from the market.
(super good)

back to the canning:
(ayeshea and robin made jalepenos and guava chutney all on their own!)

on the list of things to make: basil jelly, ketchup, marinara sauce and whole canned tomatoes.
first up was the jelly, which was relatively fast and a great thing to show Robin and Ayesha of jellied infusions of which they can make a number of things.
(steeping the basil)

(this what we were working with)

next, the ketchup and marinara. these took up the bulk of our time as the ketchup needs to cook for at least an hour to reduce...along with the marinara, we had all 4 burners going for hours while we watched a few episodes of Project Runway.
(sriracha and lemon grass ketchup....GOOD but HOT)

(ayesha blending the tomatoes so we can strain them for ketchup)

(robin & ayeshea stirring pots of marinara)

(i didn't know about a "jar wrench"...did you??)

after 8 hours of canning, we came out with about 3 cases of product...i was so tired by the end, i had to skip on the pressure canning lesson-i think Robin was a little disappointed (sorry!)
PS i also can't find the rest of the photos from the event, my camera didnt transfer all of the images.

busy weekend and birthday plans

yes i know my birthday is in may, but i was inspired on saturday to start planning.
After a busy day at the store, i had to get ready for Elsa and Bernie's wedding (my boyfriend's sister). I was curious about what this was going to be like since i havent been to a Mexi-wedding since my mom would take me on the 18-hour journey to Nogales to visit a bunch of tios and tias that i couldnt speak Spanish to and ended up sitting in the corner somewhere or washing dishes.
But before we headed into Cafe Hidalgo in Fullerton, we stopped across the street at one of our favorite galleries-The Hibbleton.
(cute front!)

(small gallery, great art)

i got the latest copy of DWELL and a t-shirt, gustavo bought an awesome painting of maggots sitting around a dining table-he thought it was a bunch of baguettes.
(great painting huh!)

so we finally get to the wedding, and it was in this super beautiful historic building with a large courtyard. i fell in love with these branch centerpieces that had hanging candles and flowers.
(i ended up taking this home-you will see this in the store soon!)

but better than that we this 10-piece mariachi group that was absolutely AMAZING. each member sang, sometimes together and mostly alone, and you just knew that these guys were professionals-they were constantly moving around positioning themselves so that, depending on the song, certain instruments were heard or were more pronounced than others...some of the singers voices were so good that i almost cried!
(mariachi chica-she kicked a**)

that's when i knew what i wanted for Cinco-de-lilah 2010: a mariachi-taco truck-margarita extravaganza...i can't believe i havent thought about this before!

unfortunately, the awesome mariachi was replaced with a 13-piece band that looked like a small school marching band expect the band members outfits resembled Las Vegas more than your local high school. they were pretty fun though, and you calves get a serious workout bouncing around!
i have to say, it was a very fun wedding...i came home pretty saucy, wiped out and happy..congrats to Elsa and Bernie!
(passing around the serrano chilies with the dinner)

(the happy couple)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

craft night with Estasia at The Annex

forgive me for waiting a day on my CSA food tip...i have it..i was just too caught up in making new items for the store in our new space The Annex that is dedicated to DIY and sustainable living, learning and teaching.
on the last thurs of each month, the Annex is open to people wanting to hang out and do something creative...yes, just bring your supplies, sit down and chat while making your thang...there are even supplies just in case.
my friend Estasia, (who by the way, makes ADORABLE hemp skirts) came by to catch-up and make stuff...what did we make??
*remember my 127 yard sale adventure?? i actually bought a large bag of odds and ends- vintage lace and ribbon, buttons and fabric goodies. we turned these items into cute "pillowcase primers" or cute collages with a pillow template inside a small tag. all you have to do is sew and decorate!
(from this)
(to this)

*OK, break time: i am in LOVE with Knudsen's Jamacian Lemonade
...this is the BEST canned/store-bought lemonade around and mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with champagne, well, it is BETTER than a mimosa.
*bean ornaments: we then made these cute ornaments made from hot-gluing dried beans to stryo (YES I KNOW it is stryo) balls...but they are pretty damn cute.

canning class: Preserving Summer

for anyone interested, i will be teaching a workshop at the Irvine Fine Arts Center next Thursday, October 1st from 6:30-9:30.
we will be covering the basics of food preservation, making a few items from summer produce, tasting samples. class includes take-home information and preserved products from our class.
If you are interested and want to sign-up, click here to register/view the class.
i will be posting more canning classes soon!

Monday, September 21, 2009

tomato season canning extravaganza!

love me tomatoes-and we all know they are at their peak. just last week i was at the farmers' market and noticed how they were selling at incredible prices!
NOTE at a farmers market: when items are super cheap=they are at peak of season and are about to be extinct until next season so buy up! i will go into pricing and produce seasonally, but let me tell you this-BUY TOMATOES NOW!
i am taking advantage of this fantastic time to buy up every last ounce of heirloom tomatoes at the Irvine Farmers' Market...beware! the best deals happen at the END of the market, especially with SUPER-PERISHABLES like tomatoes, they are like 2-day diamonds!
I am going to preserve the bounty at a friend's house in LA, teaching pressure canning while preserving the peak of the summer season...watch out!

PaTcHwOrK arts & crafts fair 5 is coming to town-November 15th!

i just finished having a meeting with Harveys Seatbelt Bags for what will be another exciting Patchwork Craft show. In case you haven't heard of it, Patchwork is the brainchild of my niece Nicole of Random Nicole and myself. Back when we lived in Irvine, after a few glasses of wine, Nicole mentioned how she always wanted to have a craft fair...i realized that Orange County really didnt have a decent one, so we joined forces to create a hip-contemporary and community-based festival. What started out as a 30 vendor operation is now over 90 vendors large, with awesome community supporters, music and demos and even a mention on NPR!
So far, our scheduled date for the holiday show is NOVEMBER 15th, 2009 from 11-5 PM. I will send out more info on the event but for right now:

*If you are an interested vendor, please see our website for information on an application. NOTE: they are due October 1st (no exceptions).

* WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS: if you and/or friends would like to help, please send me an email (via facebook or store site). We will have one mandatory volunteer meeting a few weeks before the event. Shifts for the event are based on your availability and are 3-4 hours long.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

affordable art: Sharon Montrose

i love etsy, it really is an addiction when you are on the computer too much.
Every week or so, they have a Featured Seller on the bottom of their homepage. There is an interview about what inspires them, who else to they like on etsy, how they ended up doing what they do, etc...
Last week, they featured Los Angeles photographer Sharon Montrose who does these pretty kick-a** photographs of animals against a white background...very natural but minimalist at the same time, i love them!

These photographs are so reasonable-she even has bookmarks and notepads-what a great and original gift!

Here is a link to her etsy store if you couldn't find it from the interview.

Friday, September 18, 2009

word for the day: Industrial Organic

Last week i mentioned something about the Opportunity Green Conference and one of the readers commented how some of the natural products companies are being bought by major/big-time corporations. This automatically triggered a diagram i saw while reading Cool Cuisine: Taking a Bite Out of Global Warming last year (PS if you want a copy, we should be getting them in next month) of SOME of the "who owns who" in the organic food industry. A quick search lead me to Phil Howard of Michigan State University's work..get ready!

Now note: this was created in Jan 2008, well over a year ago AND we both know this does not include every "organic/green" product out there, JUST FOOD (and probably not all of that either).
This is another big debate in the green industry-some say that having small, start-ups bought by big business is a good thing: more marketing dollars. Others however, say that the integrity of the original mission-statement, ingredients, operation, sourcing of raw goods, and manufacturing might be compromised with a buy-out.
my opinion: if you wanted "green", why not do it yourself, or better yet, change what you are doing now.
i would love to hear more comments on this chart or the debate!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CSA cooking: pesto and bruschetta

basket inventory: BIG time basil, carrots, curly kale, dandelion greens, avocados, cantaloupe, various citrus, eggplant...and some other items. to be honest, i gave more than 1/2 of my basket away to a gentleman in our neighborhood who hard been having a hard time looking for work and was really struggling. The best that i could do was give him some of my food so that he could help his family..times are tough!
The great thing about CSA food is that it lasts a lot longer than "conventional"/store bought produce, i still have items from even 2 weeks ago! so i have been using what i have to get us through to next week.

big handful of basil leaves
cup or so of Parmesan cheese (which i will call "parm" from now on)
salt, or spicy salt in our case!
cup of nuts (usually people use pine nuts, but i have seen walnuts, you want "buttery" flavored nuts) this time i used a mix of pine nuts and pepitas (pumkin seeds) for mexi-flair
olive oil

combine everything but the oil in a food processor until well chopped. then little by little, add the oil until it is the consistency that you like. taste; add more basil if you like more basil, nuts if you like more nuts, salt/season...you get it. store in the fridge for a week.
pesto is great on pasta, toasted bread, on top on an Italian-themed egg dish, it is just plain good. add more peppers or cilantro for variation. we used ours on spaghetti squash i bought at the Irvine Farmers Market.

* my internship at Avanti Cafe (which i will be talking about later) has taught me even more that simple food is incredible when using great ingredients, this recipe was derived from watching Chef Tanya make a family meal a few weeks ago. This is a wonderful recipe to get rid of tomatoes that are getting soft or if you don't want the trouble of making a sauce.

tomatoes (at least a cup, but more is better), diced in irregular pieces
dash or 2 of salt (to taste)
pepper, italian spice mix (to your liking, start with small amounts- 1 tsp), Avnati makes a good one called Tuscan Kiss
olive oil about 1-2 tbsp
finely chopped basil (have 5 leaves and add more after tasting, we like a lot)
1 shallot or small red onion sliced fine

mix everything in a bowl except oil. taste; add oil slowly until it is where you like it. let it sit on the counter for a little bit and then chill for 30 min. mix again. add to crusty bread or we added scoops to our squash and pesto!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

the beekeepers are coming!

I am so excited about my friends Kelly and Janet of the Backyard Beekeepers coming in to do their seasonal lecture on local/renegade beekeeping!! This Sunday, from 3-5 the ladies will talk about basic beekeeping, the bee crisis and what it takes to raise your own hive (which allows you to yield INCREDIBLE crops like never before. These ladies produce some amazing honey that doesn't stay in the store too long...yes it's that good!
Not only do they make honey and rescue bees throughout Southern California, they also make lip balm and natural lotion from it! Both Janet and Kelly have amazing homes filled with chickens, produce, hives and even a horse (Janet that is)!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

affordable art: Virginia Kraljevic

I just recently found these whimsical prints from artist Virginia Kraljevic. I think that these would look adorable in a children's room or small hallway (even framed on your office desk). Most of the prints can be found on Virigina's etsy store.

For under $25 a pop you can have these works or some adorable pins and cards like the ones below:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

ending the debate of SIGG vs. Klean Kanteen

Over the past month we have an above average request for Klean Kanteens and i recently found out why.

Going back over the past few years of this store, there has been a debate over the 2 popular drinking container companies SIGG and Klean Kanteen. Klean Kanteen, what our store has been carrying, is a stainless steel canteen while SIGG is an aluminum one with an interior "epoxy". The core of the debate has concerned on what exactly is in SIGG's epoxy and is it safe.
For as long as i have been following, SIGG has defended their bottles saying that they are safe and nontoxic.
Personally, we as a business have always sold and supported Klean Kanteen. I have never rationalized having a coating to cover aluminum when there was no need to have aluminum (which is toxic) and an additional coating when stainless steel was safe to use for drinks. also, I was against SIGG's narrow mouth which made it difficult to clean (leading you to buy an additional special cleaning brush) only adding to more purchases and work when it wasn't necessary.
So going back to the original debate and the recent rush in demand of Klean Kanteens: it was stated recently that:
Swiss sports and children's bottle maker SIGG has admitted what many consumer advocates have suspected for years, but never proven: That the epoxy lining used for years in SIGG bottles - which they secretly swapped out for a new liner last summer - contained the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A.

In the past year, SIGG has created a new "eco-liner". Why do that when they were safe to begin with?
Steve Waskik, CEO of SIGG made a public apology for the recent findings. Some people accept it, while a number of consumers are enraged. As far as we are concerned:


CSA cooking: tomato tart & cumin carrots

basket inventory: field carrots, rainbow chard, basil, pummelo, cantaloupe, heirloom cherry tomatoes, radishes, dandelion greens, parsley, limes, orange, passion fruit, quince, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers.

made an amazing tomato tart. practicing the recipe over the past month, but now i have got it down.

ready-made pie shell
2-3 eggs
cream cheese (whatever you have, at least over a 1/2 box)
goat cheese (just make the 2 cheeses = 1 cup)
various spices you like with ingredients
1-2 toms, more if you want to cover the entire tart

bake the pie shell for 10-15 or until crust is set (it gets,light brown). blend cheeses, eggs and s&p, spices and after pie crust is ready pour into cooled crust. bake at 400 for 10 min add toms 1/2 way. bake another 15-20 min. add basil leaves as garnish.


1 bunch carrots (if you use large ones, cut them down)
1-2 pats butter or 1-2 tbs olive oil for vegans
1 tsp cumin
juice of 1 lime

heat oven to 350 (or 400 if you are making the tart at the same time!). in a cast iron skillet, saute the carrots with all other ingredients (add lime last) for 10 or so minutes. transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

i served these on top of a few raw swiss chard leaves.