Vegan Halloween Treats

Happy almost-Halloween!

I'm feeling a little under the weather today, but I wanted to hurry up and share a few Halloween treats with you -  because the day will be upon us before we know it! Whether you're hosting a party, attending a potluck, need a few host(ess) gifts or you're handing out treats to the kidlets, I'm sure you'll be able to find a treat or two here that won't be too tricky for vegans or others with dietary restrictions that might prevent them from enjoying traditional holiday snacks!

On the Foodista blog, a host of vegan Halloween treats are featured, from cupcakes to candied applies to vampire bat-shaped tofu cutlets!

Bryanna at the Vegan Feast Kitchen has a collection of vegan Halloween recipes that include beignets, pumpkin doughnuts as well as PETA's list of commercially-produced candies and treats that are "accidentally vegan."

My old standby VegWeb offers user-submitted recipes that range from the green Slime Smoothie to Dinosaur Eggs and Pumpkin Cider Bread.

Just trying to find some pumpkin recipes? The Post Punk Kitchen has super recipes for muffins, cupcakes, pumpkin butter and even waffles! Who doesn't love waffles?

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In the Dryer: Roma Tomatoes

This week, I'm launching a new recurring feature entitled, you guessed it, In the Dryer. Our dehydrator is one of our busiest appliances! More often than not, it's full of tasty seasonal fruits and veggies that we're prepping to save for the month's to come. Readers and friends frequently ask how things taste when dried and "what the heck" you're supposed to do with them. I've decided to use this feature to help answer some of those questions.

In the dehydrator this week: Roma Tomatoes




Roma tomatoes a variety of plum tomatoes and are usually egg-sized and shaped. Because they contain relatively few seeds, they make awesome fresh sauces and work well in salads and on pizzas. Any variety of tomatoes can be used for canning or making sauces, but I think romas are particularly nice when dried! I sliced them lengthwise, from tip to stem, in 1/4" slices. I lined my dehydrator trays with parchment paper to prevent any sticky messes and set my trusty machine to 125°F.

In my house, tomato slices like this typically take about 24 hours to dry completely. After they are dried and cooled, they can be stored in a number of ways. Plastic zip-top bags are a popular choice, but I prefer to keep ours in glass jars. If you like, you can stuff them into a jar and pour (good quality!) olive oil over them to create an at-home version of the expensive oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes available at your local supermarket.



So, how will we be using these savory little gems throughout the winter?


  • Diced and added to salads (especially when walnuts or pine nuts are also invited to the party)

  • Whole or sliced, as pizza toppings with dried basil, oregano and thyme

  • Rehydrated (in warm water) and added to soups

  • Make a sun-dried tomato pesto with olive oil, garlic, dried basil and walnuts

  • Steep in warm vinegar with thyme and dried capers for antipasto

  • Infuse olive oil or vinegar with tomatoes, drain off and reserve for salad dressings and sauces


Can you think of other tasty ways to use dried tomatoes later in the winter?

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NRDC announces 2010 Growing Green Awards

In their second annual Growing Green Awards, the National Resources Defense Council recognizes the efforts of innovative farmers, business leaders and promoters of sustainable food. In the struggle to make our world and our lives more healthful, these innovators are incredibly valuable partners in the development and maintenance of sustainable food systems across our nation.

The NRDC opens their nominations for the 2010 Growing Green Awards today and they are looking for nominees in four categories:


  • Food Producer: Farmers or other food producers, including aquaculture, who employ innovative techniques to sustain agriculture, the natural environment, workers and community;

  • Business Leader: Entrepreneurs who effectively use the marketplace to promote sustainable food systems, develop infrastructure that enables producers to be more sustainable, or advance sustainable innovations anywhere along the supply chain from farm to fork;

  • Thought Leader: Visionaries who advance sustainability as it relates to food through creative research, public education, and outreach.

  • Water Steward: Farmers or other food producers who have made extraordinary contributions in demonstrating water efficiency, sustainable water use and the protection of water quality.


Award winners will be selected by a panel led by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemmaand In Defense of Food.

To nominate a person or business, read more about the awards or view the 2009 winnters, visit the NRDC website.

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Toasted Butternut Squash Seeds

When you crack open a pumpkin or any other winter squash, you've got handfuls of pulp and seeds to contend with. Sure, you could just pitch it in the garbage, down the disposal, or into the compost pile. Or, you could invest just a little bit of time and finger work and have yourself a tasty treat!

I roasted two medium sized butternut squashes and faced this pile of gooey innards:

IMG_3854

The hardest part of this whole process is separating the seeds (the stuff you want) from the sticky, stringy pulp (the stuff you don't want). It just takes some time, and there's no way to do it but by hand, and it's best to do it immediately after the pulp is removed from the rest of the squash. If you wait, the sticky mess will dry up and make your job a lot more difficult. Each clump of pulp has seeds inside it, so you'll need to grab it and press it with your fingers to squeeze the seeds out.

This would be a good time to preheat your oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Once you've freed your seeds from the pulp, you can discard the pulp. You won't be needing that anymore. The next step is to give your seeds a little bath in some cool water. This helps to rinse off any bits of pulp you might have missed, as well as to wash away some of the squash juice. There's no fancy technique involved here. Just place the seeds in a bowl of water and swish them around for a minute with our fingers.

IMG_3856

After rinsing your seeds, drain them and turn them out onto kitchen towel and pat them dry. Then, spread them in a single layer on your parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with just a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake 15 minutes, stir them around, and bake an additional 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container - or consuming in one sitting.

The toasted seeds are a yummy, nutritious snack all by themselves. However, consider your other options! They are a great addition to fall salads and as a garnish on soups (like, uhm, butternut squash soup!). You can also make your own autumn trail mix by combining your toasted seeds with dried cranberries, dried figs, sunflower seeds and perhaps some carob chips. Whatever you decide, congratulate yourself on making the most of your winter squash!

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Mate Chocolatté

While I generally use this time and space to promote using whole, fresh ingredients and steer clear of packaged products, I do occasionally encounter a product that I think is SO wonderful that it would be a crime not to share it with all of you. Today, I'm going to do just that.

Yesterday, a dear friend introduced me to a new product on a line I'm already familiar with. New to us, anyway! I've been a fan of Guayaki's Yerba Mate  tea for years now, but I wasn't aware of their Guayaki Mate Chocolatté, a truly delicious blend of yerba mate, cocoa and spices. It also contains stevia, an herbal (read: no calorie!) sweetener.


Guayaki Mate Chocolatté would be a perfect substitute for your morning mocha, especially if you added a touch of chocolate almond milk after brewing. Because it contains no calories and less caffeine than your average cup of joe, it would also make for a great afternoon treat and help satisfy that sweet tooth at the same time!

They call it "blissful" and I'm inclined to agree. The cocoa flavor melds perfectly with the earthy mate, offering up enough chocolate-y goodness to sate your chocoholic cravings, but not so overwhelming as to offend to not-entirely-chocolate-crazed such as myself. The nutmeg, cinnamon and clove lends a "Mexican chocolate" aspect to the tea, and there's just enough stevia added that I didn't feel compelled to add anything- sweetener or soymilk- to my tea.

If you're not yet familiar with yerba mate in general, any of the Guayaki products would be a good introduction. Yerba mate is an herbal tea, but contains caffeine and has long been heralded as nature's most balanced stimulant, packed full of amino acids and antioxidants. It's also really yummy.

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What's up, Butternut?

Lean in real close, readers, because I've got a special piece of information just for you. Are you leaning? All right. The secret word of the day is... squash!

I realize that this word makes a lot of folks, veg and non-veg alike, run for the hills. And I'll admit that I haven't always been the biggest squash fan myself. What's more, I'll admit to you now that there are a few varieties out there that I just don't care for. (Spaghetti squash? What the heck?!)



The one winter squash that won me over tothe dark side is butternut squash. It's sweet and nutty and has a great texture that lends itself to all kinds of applications-- mashes, smashes, soups, ravioli filling, even salads! Lucky for me, butternut is in season and in abundance right now on my local organic farms, and I've got enough on hand to make all of those things and more (if I wanted to)!

I've been craving fresh butternut squash since last winter like nobody's business, so a soup-making session is most certainly on the agenda. However, you've probably already seen a million butternut squash soup recipes and let's face it, most of them are pretty similar. So, how about something completely different for a change? Check out this high-calorie, vitamin-packed dish that pairs this Mexican squash with the flavors of Thailand!

Thai Butternut Squash
(Yield: 4-6 servings)

1 butternut squash (2 - 3 lb), peeled, seeded and chopped in 1 inch pieces
2 stalks celery or 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 thin slices raw ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground fennel seed
2 cups coconut milk (light or full fat, your choice)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 lb firm water-packed tofu, drained and cut in 2" X 1/2" X 1/2" sticks
1/2 cup blanched toasted almonds

In a large shallow saucepan, heat oil on medium heat. Add squash, celery, carrots, peppers and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes.

Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and fennel seed. Stir for a few minutes to combine.

Stir in coconut milk and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer until veggies are fork tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add tofu and almonds and simmer an additional 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro (if desired) and serve warm, with basmati rice, pasta or quinoa.

thaibutternut

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Home Preserving for Everyone

I write often of preserving: making jam, canning, dehydrating and freezing. Perhaps sometimes you might suspect that I'm someone's 70-year-old grandmother, stuck in the old ways, clinging to the past in order to maintain my usefulness in a convenience-based, modern world. Well, dear readers, it simply ain't so. I'm just a 20-something gal with a tight budget and a penchant for stretching out those tasty eats through as many seasons as possible!

It sounds like a lot of work. I'll be the first to admit that. But I'll also be the first to tell you that it's all an illusion. There's a time investment in any activity you choose, but so few carry the big long-term payoff that preserving does, and even fewer promise to save you so much money by allowing you to buy produce in season, when it's abundant and inexpensive, and save it for a few months down the road, when there isn't a local strawberry in sight.

Seventh Generation posted a great article today entitled Pickle Your Own Peck of Peppers that offers easy tips to incorporate preserving into your household.

Freezing
This is an easy suggestion from the Seventh Generation article, and anyone can do it! If you're trying to save herbs like basil, mint and chives, stick 'em in the freezer! Prepare herb pestos (like I mentioned this weekend) and freeze them in ice cube trays that create individual portions for cooking and eating. After the cubes are frozen, you can transfer them to a plastic freezer bag or box, sealed tightly to protect against freezer burn. Lots of other fruits and veggies can be frozen whole or pureed, in bags or boxes, but don't forget to label them! On a label or piece of masking tape, write what it is, where it came from (i.e. neighbor, Joe's Farm, etc) and the date it went into the freezer. This information will become essential in late January, when your freezer is full of identical containers and you have nothing but the color of the contents to go on!

Drying
I also happen to think that no home (even apartments!) should be without a dehydrator. Not only are they great for drying summer fruits and veggies to save until winter, but you can dry herbs for culinary uses and flowers for decorative uses as well. Dehydrators are sold in a wide range of styles, sizes and price ranges, but my reliable little beast (similar to this one) is one of the economy models and it serves me just fine.

If you live in a sunny area, Seventh Generation suggests, you can build a solar dehydrator. In the summer time, some Pacific Northwest residents use their cars as giant solar dehydrators! However, it's October and the skies have gone gray here in Washington, so I'll be sticking with my indoor electric model, thank you.

Canning
Canning is not as difficult as it sounds either, and doesn't require a large financial investment. Sure, you could spend your life's savings on a fancy pressurized canning machine. But if you have any memories of making jam with grandma, you'll know she didn't use much more than a couple of stock pots and a few special tools, like a jar lifter and a wide mouth funnel. If you're interested in making jam or putting up vegetables for winter, you must pick up an inexpensive home canning kit to help get you started.

Whatever your chosen method, preserving is an easy way to stretch your pennies as well as the sweetness of summer. Strawberries and basil pesto in January? They could be yours!

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Asian eats: Lunch date and cookbook

Today, I met the carnivore for lunch at the recently opened location of Uwajimaya in Renton, WA. This Asian grocer is a longtime favorite among Seattlites and offers a plethora of grocery and quick dining options for eaters of all varieties. We like to do quite a bit of our shopping for pantry items at the Asian markets in our area, but today we were just after some quick, hot lunches to enjoy on this gray fall day.

So, what was for lunch? I had udon soup with tons of green onions and big pieces of marinated, fried tofu. I believe the soup container was in the neighborhood of 20 oz, and there wasn't much left of it by the time I was finished. My lunch date had an enormous portion of something less yummy-looking (to me) that included a handful of blood-red screaming hot chilis. We both left happy, full, and warmed from the inside out with just a little bit of fire on our tongues. I only wish I'd had a little more time to peruse the aisles!


In the spirit of Asian dining, I wanted to share with you a new cookbook on the market, and a must for any of you who long to know the secrets of Asian "home-cooking," just like someone else's mom used to make (and probably still does). The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook is a collection of over 100 recipes from grandmothers interviewed by the author Patricia Tanumihardja. But, it's not just a recipe book. It's an attempt to capture bits of Asian cultures -- Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Indian and more -- that are rapidly disappearing into the abyss of fast food and convenience culture.


The book isn't vegetarian, let alone vegan, but I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Asian cooks have long based their cuisine on locally sourced ingredients and seasonal vegetables. Most Asian recipes can be "veganized" by swapping out just a few items. You'll have to get your mitts on a copy of the cookbook and see if you can find a recipe to re-do at home!


I arrived home from lunch in the early afternoon, with a gray sky still hanging above, and the thread of rain looming in the not-too-distant future. The house is a bit chilly today, but it's not quite cold enough yet to justify turning the heat on so I opted for my favorite internal heating alternative: tea! I chose an organic golden Genmai Cha Tea, a Japanese green tea with toasted brown rice. It's a tender, delicately flavored tea with earthy, almost-smokey rice tones, and it's definitely one of my favorites. There's nothing like a simple cup of tea to get you through your afternoon!

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Featured recipe: Sweet Provençal Flatbread with Anise Seeds

In my vision of an ideal weekend morning, there is fresh dark roasted coffee in the French Press, crisp cut fruit of the season, and something bready, chewy and tummy warming. That bready thing could be waffles, cinnamon rolls, or any number of similar breakfasty concoctions. However, when you're tired of the "same old" and looking for something a little different, but no less yummy, try this recipe for a sweet flatbread flavored with orange juice and anise seeds.


The recipe comes from my favorite bread cookbook: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoey Francois, and it's "vegan by accident" without requiring any additional substitutions.

Sweet Provençal Flatbread with Anise Seeds
from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Note: Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread.

Ingredients for a full batch:

2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon whole anise seeds for the dough, plus more for topping
1/3 cup sugar
Zest from half an orange, removed with a microzester
6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (can swap out 1 to 2 cups whole wheat or rye)
Flour for dusting
Water to paint on top crust

Mix all ingredients together in a bucket or mixing bowl, cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate for up to two weeks, removing portions as needed for daily loaves. The wet dough can be used at room temperature but is easier to handle when cold.

Cut off a pound of dough (about the size of a grapefruit) with a kitchen scissors or a serrated knife. Gently form a smooth ball by generously dusting the ball with flour and stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.

Using your hands, a rolling pin, and enough dusting flour to prevent sticking, flatten the ball to a thickness of 1/4-inch. Like pizza (1/8-inch thick dough), these don’t need to rest after you roll them out. Keeping your work surface well-dusted with flour, use a pizza cutter to make eight triangular flatbreads.

Using a spatula or your fingers, lift the triangles onto a greased cookie sheet, a silicone mat, or a pizza peel well-dusted with flour or covered with parchment paper. Use a pastry brush to paint the triangles with water and sprinkle with anise seeds.

Slide them onto the pre-heated baking stone (or place the cookie sheet or silicone pad on the stone). Pour 1 cup of tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until richly browned and firm.

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Putting up with Basil

One of my shameless summer love affairs recurs every year. When the sun is warm and high in the sky, when the days are just long enough and the humidity level is just right, something magical happens in gardens all over the Pacific Northwest. The basil plants sprout and run for the sun, tossing bright green minty leaves in every direction.

Well, that was June... July... and now it's October. And guess what? I still have some basil! How much? This much!

Basil

I picked through my basil stash in the kitchen the other day, separating out and discarding some of the damp leaves that had begun to go south. It didn't take long before I realized that I was working my way through the five stages of grief over the end of summer. It starts with denial and marches rapidly toward acceptance. That's generally the plan.

I, however, am not ashamed to admit that I refuse to truly accept the end of summer. And do you know what? I don't have to! Thanks to a simple kitchen appliance and the wonders of indoor refrigeration, I can make the last basil stash of summertime last until February, namely in the form of pesto. Watch me!

Pesto in progress

Basil Pesto
Yield: About 1 cup, multiply at will!

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup pignolis (pine nuts) or walnuts

In your trust blender, whirl up the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt. Add basil leaves and process until all the leaves are incorporated. Add nutritional yeast flakes and nuts, then pulse til combined.

This sauce keeps in the fridge for about 3 days but it can be frozen for up to 6 months. For easy late winter retrieval, store the basil in one-meal portions in plastic freezer bags or boxes. Frozen pesto will thaw quickly when placed in some warm water!

Pesto

For some off-season alternatives, consider that you can make a pesto (paste) out of any herb combined with garlic and olive oil. Try flat leaf parsley, cilantro, green onions, or any combination of green herbs!

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Why did the mushroom go to the party?

Because he's a fungi, of course!

All right, let's dispense with the kindergarten humor and get on to the real business of what I'd like to share with you today. Mushrooms, and lots of them!


Wild ones, to be exact. Here in the Pacific Northwest and in most parts of the country, mushrooms grow in the wild like, well, a fungus. They're everywhere. They're in your backyard, in your neighborhood park, and in almost any place where there are trees and dirt. See?



Of course, not all wild mushrooms make for good eats. Most varieties are edible and harmless, but just because you can eat something doesn't mean that you should. And, of course, a stern warning should be dispensed that some mushrooms can bring you serious harm and should not be consumed. Be sure about what you've harvested before you stick it in your maw (that means before you eat it!). If you're setting out to hunt for wild mushrooms for the first time, your best bet is to go with someone who already knows what's what. I would also highly recommend finding a wild mushroom guidebook (or three) particular to your region of the country with full color photos and thorough descriptions and rubrics for identification. There are also a few great internet resources, like this one for SW Washington, but do consider your source!

Now, let me tell you about our recent adventure in fungi foraging. We love mushrooms. If courtship between human and fungi were allowed, we'd surely have some sort of alternative relationship structure worked out by now. Early October is a great time to hunt for wild edibles in the Northwest and we set out recently in search of chanterelle mushrooms. They are considered "choice" edibles, which means exactly what it sounds like, and if you've ever seen them at your local grocer, you know they fetch a pretty penny. We weren't interested in harvesting mushrooms to sell, however. We just wanted to find enough for a nice dinner.

Sadly, we did not find the chanterelles that we had our hearts set on. However, we did happen upon a fine bounty of angel wings (Pleurotus porrigens, if you care). They are small, thin white mushrooms that grow on downed trees, and they are related to oyster mushrooms. We saw quite a few angel wing colonies, but we collected a mere 1/4 lb stash to take home and cook up. Here's what some of those mushrooms looked like when we found them:


When we returned home, mushroom bounty in tow, we compared them to our guidebooks and got ourselves a positive identification. We did, in fact, have (safe, edible) angel wings at hand and we were eager to prepare dinner!




Mushrooms can be cooked in any variety of ways, but my favorite method for all mushrooms is very simple and allows the natural flavors of the mushroom to really shine. The first step is always, always, always clean your mushrooms! Here's how:




  1. Using a mushroom brush or dry paper towel, brush/wipe off any visible dirt and other non-mushroom plant matter that may be on your mushroom.

  2. If you're cooking mushrooms with stems, you may choose to remove and discard the stem. This would be the step in which to do that, if that's the case. Angel wings don't have stems though!

  3. For wild-harvested mushrooms, it's advisable to take a little extra step to rid the shrooms of any bugs that may be lingering within their gills. To do this, fill a bowl with cool water (filtered is desirable) and submerge your mushrooms for about 30 seconds, swirling them around with your fingers. If there are any bugs hiding in your fungi, they'll be separated from your mushrooms in no time.

  4. Strain your mushrooms and dry them gently on a flour sack towel. If you want to slice or quarter your mushrooms, now is the time. Angel wings are small, so we opted to prepare them whole.


Now, for the cooking!

  1. In a nonstick pan, warm some olive oil on medium heat. The amount of oil depends on how much mushroom matter you're planning to cook. For our 1/4 lb haul, I used about 1 Tbsp of oil.

  2. When the oil is warmed, add your mushrooms and stir with a wooden spoon to coat.

  3. Sprinkle with sea salt (somewhere between two pinches and 1 tsp, to taste).

  4. Reduce heat to medium low and cook mushrooms, covered, for a few minutes. Different mushrooms require different cooking times, but you'll know when they're done. Angel wings and other light mushrooms do not require much cooking time, so our side dish was done in about 5 minutes.



Whatever your mushroom lust is and whether you opt to hunt your own in the wild or visit your local grocer to purchase your choice edibles, I hope my mushroom tips will inspire you to invite some fungi to your party this fall!

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Fruit of the gods!

Dear readers, I've been absent longer than I'd hoped and I hope you'll forgive me. First, I was attacked by one of those nasty cold bugs currently raging our nation, and then I was out of town. Now that I'm back home, delivered safe and sound to my precious Pacific Northwest, I found that I had a lot of work to do!


Namely, that work is in the department of persimmons. Okay, so we don't really have a whole department for it, but those little golden fruits had become ripe (some even overripe) and when I turned my attentions to them I realized that I had nearly 10 lbs of precious fruit to deal with.


What to do? Persimmon jam? It felt like a cop out. Persimmon pudding? Bake 20 pudding cakes and freeze them all? No thanks! Persimmon salsa, chutney, compote? No, no, no!

I decided to go the nice, quick, simple route with what I'm hoping will provide the biggest long term pay-off. Drying!

I had so many persimmons that I set myself a nice little assembly line. Cutting board, large chef's knife for slicing, small paring knife for peeling, compost bag for collecting the skins and stems, and tons of dehydrator racks lined with parchment paper. I sliced each fruit cross-wise (horizontally) in 1/4 inch slices -- each fruit yielded only 3-4 slices, mind you. Then, laying the slices flat on the cutting board, I dug in with my paring knife and spun the fruit around, separating the thick skins from the juicy meat.


I'll admit, I may have eaten a slice here and there before they made it to the dehydrator trays. But with such soft, sweet, golden meat and the 8-pointed star in their centers, who can resist, I ask you? Who?!

So, I've set my persimmon bounty to dry. They'll take approximately 24 hours at 105°F, or perhaps a bit longer since it's raining here in Washington. After they're dried and fully cooled, I'll bag or jar them, seal them tightly and save them for a less rainy day. I'm envisioning these dried fruits as great snacks on their own or with spiced nuts, but also as great additions to teas and holiday punches or chopped in salads. Whatever the use, I'll be looking forward to tasting these fall beauties throughout the coming months!

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Tea, tea, tea, morning, noon and night!

In our house, we love tea all year round but as the temperatures begin to slide down the thermometer, our tea drinking certainly increases. We all know that tea has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries and I'm not here to give you a history lesson (although I do reserve the right to teach and preach at a later date).

No, I just want to share with you a few of my favorite, simple tea recipes that get me up in the morning and keep me going throughout the day and, oftentimes, put me to bed at night.

Morning Start Tea
Yield: 1 serving

8oz hot (not boiling) water
1 tsp minced or pureed ginger root
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of ground cardamom

Combine ginger, cinnamon and cardamom in tea cup. Pour hot water over and stir. Allow to sit a few minutes before enjoying. Can be sweetened with 1 tsp honey if desired.


Midday Slump-Chaser Tea
Yield: 1 serving


8oz hot (not boiling) water
1 teabag strong black tea, such as Irish breakfast tea
pinch of ground cayenne
few whole dried rosemary leaves (not whole sprigs!)

Place teabag, cayenne and rosemary in tea cup. Pour hot water over and allow to steep 3-4 minutes. Remove the tea bag (and fish out the rosemary leaves if you like). Enjoy as is, or stir in 1 Tbsp vanilla almond or oat milk.

Soothing Bedtime Tea
Yield: 1 serving

8oz hot (not boiling) water
2 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1/2 tsp dried catnip
1/2 tsp dried lemon peel or 1/2 tsp dried lemongrass or 1 tsp lemon juice

Place chamomile, catnip and lemongrass in a metal infuser spoon, basket or reusable tea bag and place in tea cup. Pour hot water over and allow to steep 5 minutes before enjoying.

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