Vegetarian Eggplant Galettes

In an effort to create a protein that stuck together and had a, dare I say, “meatier” consistency, I went ahead and altered my chick pea burger recipe.  Just another experiment with a fancy name!

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Galette- a savory pancake in French cuisine

 

Ingredients

1 eggplant; skinned, cubed, steamed

1 can garbanzo beans; drained, rinsed

Pasta per package directions

1 egg

1/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp oregano

1 tsp parsley; reserve half for pasta

3 tbs olive oil

Pinch salt

Several grinds of pepper

 

Method

Cook pasta to package directions

Peel, cube, and steam the eggplant

Drain and rinse the beans

Combine and grind in a food processor (in batches if you need)

Mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl

The mix should stick together well; it shouldn’t be a hard ball, nor a runny pancake, more of a fritter consistency. If it’s too dry, add a splash of almond milk.  If a little too wet, add some more flour a little at a time.

When satisfied with your mix, heat oil on medium heat until water skips across the surface

Cook your galettes in batches; allow to cook about half way through and brown on one side, then flip

Once both sides are brown and crispy, transfer to a plate with a paper towel to drain excess oil

Mix cooked pasta with olive oil, salt, pepper, and the reserved parsley

Serve galettes over pasta, sprinkle with parmesan cheese

 

 

 

Jack in the Pulpit

 

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Arisaema triphyllum

Arisaema triphyllum, or Jack-in-the-Pulpit (sometimes called cobra lily) is an interesting shade-dwelling flower that lives in Eastern North America, it’s one of my favorite plants here in CT because it looks so tropical.

Jayce and I go on a lot of nature walks, especially on my lunch break.  A few feet down the road from my office is a beautiful park with a thick Hemlock forest ripe for investigation.

I’ve learned recently to look down, especially in the spring.  So many plants are beginning to come up, you’re bound to see something new.  While Jack-in-the-pulpits aren’t new to me, I saw six surrounding me and it inspired further research.

What’s exciting to me is the unassuming nature of the plant; at first glance it looks like poison ivy, or something even less sinister, but at the right angle the beautiful and intricate flower is revealed.

Take a few moments in a shady overgrown forest in the early spring, look a little lower than usual and you’ll see Jack-in-the-Pulpits everywhere!  I think you’ll feel the same excitement I do.

Identifying Jack-in-the-Pulpit

It gets is common name, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, based on its irregular shape.  The flower forms a cup for Jack to sit in with a hood over the top.  Scientifically speaking; the spathe (the cup that forms the pulpit) wraps around the spadix (Jack).  There he sits until forming bright red berries that last through the late summer and into early fall.

The plant has three leaves and in its earliest stages can be confused with poison ivy, so best not to touch these until the flower forms.

Jack-in-the-pulpits grow to a height of about eighteen inches, some reach thirty, the plants pictured above were only eight inches high and quite young.

This species is unisexual, but most flowers are male, once the male dies the female begins to grow and produces its own flowers.  This leads to a hardier plant species because they don’t inbreed, since male and female blossom and different times, the flowers have to pollinate with another completely separate plant in the opposite stage of bloom.

Growing Jack-in-the-Pulpit

Considering its location: a dark, moist forest floor, this plant is rather easy to care for.  It mainly requires compost and moisture, specifically generous composting once a year and deals well with poorly draining soil.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is ideal for shade gardens and bogs, or other moist and dark locations.  It’s a set it and forget it kind of plant, and can be harvested and multiplied relatively simply.

Propagating Jack-in-the-Pulpit

 There are two methods for cultivating your own Jack-in-the-pulpit, from seeds or from offset the plant naturally grows.

In order to grow from seed, you first need to locate and harvest the right thing.  The seeds form in the later days of summer and early fall, if you have a Jack-in-the-pulpit that you visit often, keep an eye out for bright red berries.  Once these form they may be removed with gloves, some say the seeds can be planted directly in the ground in the fall (a half inch deep) or can be brought indoors for stratification.

Remember to use gloves, every part of Jack-in-the-pulpit is toxic in some way, the berries have juices that will cause irritation and blisters for several days.

Stratification means to place the seeds somewhere cold and very dark for two or three months, much like the method of storing flower bulbs off season.  It’s important to place your seeds into a bit of sphagnum moss or another easy going growing medium, then into the back of the fridge in a bag that will not let light through.

Another method of propagating Jack-in-the-pulpit is to dig up the plant once it begins growing off sets.  These baby plants can be gently separated from the mother, then potted and kept indoors if frosts are coming, or until it’s grown at least six inches.  Once ready plant it in the ground in a partly shaded, soggy location!

These have potential to become heirloom plants; while researching I read of a mother who passed her grandmother’s Jack-in-the-pulpits down to her son.

These baby plants grow off shoots which have tubers connected to the roots of the mother plant.  When you dig it up dust off as much dirt as possible, then using a sterile knife, cut the other plants away from the mother by the roots.

This separates the tubers (the bulb the plant will grow from every year) and allows you to spread out your Jacks.  Replant everything you dug up with a little more space between and, if you have time, more compost.  These plants love decaying matter and enjoy heavy composting once per year.

As long as you’ve set your Jack-in-the-pulpit up in partial shade and moist conditions, this plant will thrive without much interference and is rather cold hardy, using snow as an insulating blanket..

Jack-in-the-pulpit Folklore

Also known as Indian Turnip, Brown Dragon, Starchwort, Bog Onion and many others, all 150 plus varieties of Arisaema are known to be poisonous.  Reportedly the roots may be cooked and used to treat rheumatism and soreness of the eye, but this entire plant should be considered toxic to be safe.

Toxic components of Jack-in-the-pulpit

The particular toxin referred to is calcium oxalate crystals; this compound is found on  some plants in a needle like shape, being sharp at one end and dull at the other.  These crystals often develop due to excess calcium in the soil and are likely used as a defense for the plants, if an animal tried to ingest the plant, the calcium oxalate crystals would poison it in two stages.

The initial reaction is a mild numbness leading to painful sores anywhere the crystals may have touched.  Once digested stinging and pain in and around the mouth nose and throat may occur for up to two weeks.

Little tidbit: 80% of kidney stones contain calcium oxalate crystals.

Further…

Whenever you transplant or examine a new plant, its important to practice safety measures like wearing gloves.

Upon initial inspection this plant looks harmless, yet it is so interesting you feel a yearning to lift the hood over the Jack and peer inside.  But in nature it seems the more beautiful something is, the more likely it is to bite.

After learning more about Jack-in-the-Pulpit I’ve decided to transplant some from my back yard into terrariums we’ve been assembling for the wedding.  I’m hoping I can control the environment enough (part shade, moist atmosphere) so I can have a little piece our first home at the reception.  A detailed post on the terrarium project will be coming soon, it’s still in the experimental phase.

Sources

GardeningKnowHow.com

https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/ornamental/flowers/jack-in-the-pulpit/growing-jack-in-the-pulpits.htm

TheGardenHelper.com

http://www.thegardenhelper.com/jackinthepulpit.html

HowStuffWorks.com

http://home.howstuffworks.com/jack-in-the-pulpit.htm

Have you spotted any interesting flora in CT or the North East? 

 Have any tips on terrariums and gardening for a  beginner?

Please comment and share!

 

Raising Dwarf Puffer Fish

We’ve been very interested in specimen tanks lately.  It started with a beta, then some zebra danios, a cory catfish, plants, snails, and finally…dwarf puffer fish.

They’re the size of the last knuckle of my pinkie, they swim to the front of the tank when my fiancé walks in the bedroom, their eyes move in different directions!  They are curious and aware, at first glance they appear bland and brownish in color.  Upon further inspection the deep greens and bright yellows appear, their spots are as varied as their personalities and we’ve watched their colors darken and brighten depending on their mood.

Dwarf puffer fish can be found wild near shores in India and they are endangered because they are collected to sell as pets.  In the pet store, you can ask if they were caught in the wild or bred in captivity.

The puffer fish has a big personality, think Napoleon Complex, and can be a bully with their tank mates.  For this reason they are often kept in a separate species tank, but please note we have had success with keeping a cory catfish in the tank, they actually snuggle!

Their diet consists of small animals like copepods, krill, and especially snails; we use rams horn, pond, and Malaysian trumpet.  All of these snails are considered pests, you can go to the pet store and ask for some “pest snails”, they’ll often give you them for free.

We set up a snail breeding tank and haven’t had to worry about our puffers eating (they can be picky and can easily starve).  Some say that flakes and  pellets are fine but these guys are hunters and if you want healthy puffers, give them something to chase!

Pictured below are some rams horn snail eggs, we noticed one of our larger snails clinging to one spot for much longer than they usually do (you’d be surprised how much these snails move). After a while it had disappeared and left behind the eggs pictured on the left.  On the right is about a week later, almost ready to hatch!

 

Our puffers have become our hobby, all four of our tanks stemmed from the purchase of these two, trying to get their tank mates just right (none but the cory catfish worked for  us), water changes at least once a week.

While it’s difficult setting up their initial habitat, once you have your tank ready puffers are quite simple to take care of.

 

Vegan Alfredo Sauce (over peas and noodles obvi)

I was looking for a creamy sauce to mimic alfredo that I could eat with a spoon (I mean pour over real food), after some experimenting here’s what happened.

Ingredients

Rice and quinoa noodles with vegan alfredo sauce and peas, because broccoli is played out (not sorry)

¼ cup fat of choice (I use olive oil)

¼ cup flour

8 cloves of garlic, minced (It sounds like too much as I write it down, but for the sake of reducing salt intake I up my flavors quite a bit)

2 ½ cups almond milk

PINCH of salt (I really can’t help it)

Many turns of pepper

Note: because this sauce is so fatty theres lots of potential to burn, it needs to be watched and stirred gently and consistently throughout cooking.  I find it’s a perfect assignment for my tiniest or most inexperienced helpers.

 Method

While making the sauce, cook pasta according to package instructions

Get your helper and ingredients prepared, things move quickly with white sauce!

Get your medium sauce pot out and on the stove

Oil in on medium heat, let it melt

Add garlic and cook until golden

                Keep a close eye, burnt garlic ruins the entire dish without an effective fix

Add flour and mix until it combines completely

I like to toast it a little extra, browning the flour a bit, in gravies that gives a little more flavor and I assume the same concept applies.

Add almond milk and bring up to a boil

Reduce and simmer until the sauce begins sticking to the spoon and the side of the pan

Add peas to cooked, drained, rinsed pasta and toss

Add sauce to pasta pea mixture

Serve immediately, stores in the fridge but heat gradually if using rice quinoa pasta, it turns into a brick

Chicken and dumplings, sans chicken…or any other animal by-product

Lots of recipes recommend using a faux chicken of sorts; I am a firm believer that the less manufacturing food goes through, the better. Because of this I buy lots and lots of raw ingredients that I then “process” myself by turning into soup or veggie burgers etc.  In this situation, I beefed up (excuse the pun) my veggies to create a filling dinner.

Ingredients:

Peas

Corn

Carrots (3 large)

Celery (2 stalks)

One onion

Baking mix w/ ingredients needed for biscuits

Bay leaf

Salt

Pepper

Six cups vegetable stock

¼ cup flour

¼ Olive oil

Method:

Prepare your biscuit dough! I make two cups worth with this recipe.

If using almond milk (or any fatty milk); pour in a tablespoon of vinegar and allow to sit for a few minutes, it’ll curdle and make butter milk.  Gives the biscuits a little more…woomph.

Heat olive oil in skillet, add onion, celery, and bay leaf, cook until translucent

Add carrots and continue to cook until fork tender

This is your mirepoix; the base of many soups made up of portions of carrot, onion, and celery.  The termed was coined in the eighteenth century but it was probably used well before.  This combination for soups is actually seen in many cultures called different things.  In Spain it’s called sofrito, Portuguese speaking countries call it refogado.  Italy has a sofrito as well which is a mirepoix base with spices and finely chopped meats.  Other variations include garlic or peppers; they all have the same goal in mind, creating a flavorful base with nice bits of brown stuff on the bottom of the pan to add complexity and depth to your soup, yum!

Stir in flour until everything is coated and combined

The flour and oil (or another fat of choice) make up your roux: this thickens the sauce and has been in use in French cuisine for over three hundred years.  This method crosses cultures but without variation, fat and flour simply add up to deliciously creamy soups!

Pour the stock in slowly, stirring until fully combined

Bring to a boil, pour in peas, and allow it to come back to a rolling boil

Drop your dough one by one

Spread your drops out in a rotation, it gives the dough enough time to cook so when your fresh dough drops come back around they won’t stick together.

Keep an eye on your temperature, you want a light boil and the lid off slightly.  I have a tendency to over boil this once in a while and I get a huge overflow and mess to clean up.

Cook for twelve or thirteen minutes, I constantly take taste tests to see how done they are but I’m always full by dinner.

Serve it up; this recipe is adapted from my mother’s originally and various sources throughout the internet.  A basic crowd pleaser and a comfort meal for any time of the year (although my mother refuses to cook it between March and September because it’s a “winter dish”).

Creamy vegan sweet potato soup

Came home from the store the other day and realized I bought a second pound of sweet potatoes and hadn’t even touched the first! What a bummer…unless you love creamy root vegetable soups.

Ingredients:

One pound sweet potatoes, cubed

One large yellow onion

One cup almond milk

Bay leaf

Four cups vegetable stock

Salt

Pepper

Olive Oil

Cinnamon; ground for garnish

Method:

Heat oil in a large soup pot on medium heat

Sauté onion and bay leaf until browned and caramelized

                (I set half aside to add in at the end so I had some whole pieces of onion that were never blended which was nice because they actually melt in your mouth)

Add sweet potato and vegetable stock

Boil until potato is fork tender

Transfer in batches to blender or processer, blend until smooth

Transfer back to cooking pot

Add almond milk and bring back to a boil, reduce to simmer

Ready to serve; sprinkle cinnamon over top

Can be stored in the fridge for a few days