Vegan Sunflower Bolognaise a la Mama

I’m sitting at the dining room table. The sun is shining through the windows and the sky is a crisp Fall blue. The leaves on the trees are a mixture or red and orange, and there is a slight chill in the air. I breath in deeply and take a bite of piping hot spaghetti and am transported back to winter in Miami as a kids sitting happily at the kitchen table.

I have been working on my bolognaise recipe for over 15 years and it finally tastes like my mom’s spaghetti. Ironically, I managed to nail it down with a few new products that I tried from our local organic grocery store – AND it’s vegan – the original recipe is meat based! So, not just 1 high five to myself, but 2!

Four years ago I decided to go vegan and in January of this year we decided to go all organic which was a harder step for us to take since organic foods are more expensive. However, it has been well worth the change. We have no more stomach aches or acid reflux from pesticide-laden foods or hidden additives that don’t need to be declared. What we have learned in the process is to buy only seasonal produce. We were already buying local before the change, but we don’t, for example buy tomatoes in Winter even if they are grown in a German greenhouse. They are more expensive than cabbage and kale and just don’t taste as good without all that Summer sunshine. Another thing we have learned is to avoid processed foods. We thought we did this before, but didn’t realize how many cans of beans we went through in a week.

So, to tie this to the bolognaise sauce – I have been eyeing ground freeze dried sunflower seeds (a processed product) at our local organic grocery store for a while. My niece recommended it to me, but I just didn’t have the heart to try it until this week when I had such a rare craving for spaghetti. I have to say that it’s a pretty impressive product. I am still going to stick to buying processed foods on rare occasions, but this is a great ground meat replacement.

For that special occasion:

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil

2 small yellow Onions, diced

2 gloves Garlic, finely grated

3 Celery Stalks, sliced

100 grams Brown Mushrooms, sliced

76 grams ground freeze dried Sunflower Seeds

Water

1 Tablespoon Basil

2 teaspoons Oregano

1 teaspoon Marjoram

1/2 teaspoon Pepper

1 pinch Thyme

1 small Pinch ground Rosemary

1 Liter Tomato Püree

1 Cup Water

Salt, to taste

500 grams Spaghetti

Directions:

Set a pot of water to heat up to a boil. In the meantime, prepare the sauce.

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté onions until clear. Add celery and sauté until it begins to soften. Add garlic and mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms begin to soften.

Pour the freeze dried ground sunflower seeds into a bowl and add a little bit of water at a time until they feel moist and no longer hard. Add ground sunflower seeds to vegetable mixture as well as basil, oregano, marjoram, pepper, thyme, and rosemary. Mix it up a bit to activate flavors. Add tomato purée and clean out the jar with a bit of water – add this water to the sauce – it’s about a cup. Give it a good stir and bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn the heat to medium-low and put a lid on it.

At this point the water for the spaghetti should be boiling. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and allow the water to return to a boil. Add the spaghetti and let it boil for 2 minutes, the turn off the heat completely and put a lid on the noodles. Let them sit covered for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes they should be perfectly al dente. Pour out the spaghetti into a strainer and then return to pot to keep warm.

Taste the spaghetti sauce and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Serve and enjoy!

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Welcome to the Jungle

We have had an amazing Spring so far – with lots of sunshine and warm summer temperatures. This is quite a treat since we live in a pretty grey-sky-ladened region of Germany.

Here are some pictures of “the farm”. I was at our local garden market this weekend and couldn’t help but buy a few plants from my favorite organic farmers. Thank goodness that the balcony in our new apartment is much larger!

Now growing on the farm:

Flowers:

Peonies

Clematis

Tulips

Hyacinths

Achillea

Scarlet Beebalm

White flowering Catnip

Herbs:

Chocolate Mint

Grenada Mint

Spear Mint

Strawberry Mint

Lemon Melisse

Savory

Italian Basil

African Basil

Krim Basil

French Tarragon

Leafy Mustard

Lavender

Koriander

Parsley

Sage

Pineapple Sage

Mandarin Sage

Scented Geraniums

Chives

Green Onions

Bay Leaf

Thyme

Creeping Rosemary

Oregano

Fruits:

Raspberries

Strawberries

Pineapple Strawberries

Wild Strawberries

Blueberries

Cape Gooseberry

Tangerines

Grapefruits

Bergamot Lemons

Figs

Vegetables & Co:

Cucumbers

Tomatoes

Wild white Tomatoes

Brown Japanese Tomatoes

Tomatillos

Purple Jalapeños

Pimentos del Padron

Sweet Habaneros

Purple Potatoes

Pink Potatoes

Yellow Potatoes

mini Striped Eggplant

Cambodian Chilies

Cayenne Chilies

Urban Gardening Season is now OPEN!

The snow has finally melted away for the 20th time this year, the day’s sunlight is growing by leaps and bounds, the temperature is slowly warming up, the birds are chirping, and little buds are popping up all over my planters – my balcony garden is calling.

Cucumbers and Basil

March and April are fun yet “hard” months for the urban gardener. There is a lot of planning to do but it is mostly from indoors. I have already planned what will go in my planters this late Spring and have already sown seeds that are growing on my kitchen counter.

Wild white tomatoes

This year I have decided to take up organic and permaculture gardening and am making thoughts on how to live this out on my balcony so that I can have a mini-urban homestead on my balcony that supplies us with Mother Nature’s goodies all year long – yes, even in Winter.

Texas Tarragon

I just spent a wonderful two weeks listening to interviews from the Bio-Balkon Kongress (German) and am even more certain that my plan will work. In all actually, I have been gardening using similar methods for the past 15 years without having a plan. My hope is to make vegetable, fruit, and kitchen-herb production more efficient in the small spot that we have available.

Sage

Here are a few inspirational blogs that have great tips:

Biotopica Farm

Bio-Balkon

And, don’t forget that you can find tons of information in books for free through your local library. Here is my latest cache:

Gardening Books

Meine Mini-Farm

Grüne Stadtoasen

Die neue StadtGartenLust

Vertikal Gärtnern

Pineapple Sage

There is no time to waste. If you dream of homesteading but have no yard or land you can still grow food on you balcony or even on a windowsill. Just give it a shot – it’s worse not to have tried at all than to fail.

Simple Tomato Pastries

I rarely watch tv…I mean really rarely.  Every once in a while I enjoy watching a documentary, and recently discovered Chef’s Table.  I love watching the well thought out moves of the kitchen staff, and find the presentation of the different style fascinating: the delicate moves, the precision of every wielded knife, the vibrant colors of fresh ingredients…I love it.  I have worked in a few kitchens in my life…but none as nice and the ones in the show.
So, when I watched Alain Passard from L’Arpège (in Paris) roll out a homemade sheet of puff pastry, lightly brush it in butter, and cover it in a colorful mixture of thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes – my mouth began to water.  He has such an amazing garden that produces fresh fruits and vegetables for his kitchen – a dream.  One day I will get around to making my own puff pastry…it’s been on my bucket list for years, but will have to stay there a little longer.  Luckily, my local grocery store sells vegan puff pastry, so I picked up some San Marzano tomatoes from my local farmer’s market and got right to it.
This is a really simple recipe, and my kids love eating these delicious crunchy pillows.  The lightly caramelized tomato gives this savory snack a silky sweetness.
tomato_pastry4

Simple Tomato Pastries

Serves 4 (Snack) – 12 (Amuse bouche) / Prep Time 5 min / Total Time 25 min
Ingredients:
1 sheet vegan Puff Pastry, cut into 12 rectangles
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/8 teaspoon Onion Powder
1/4 teaspoon Fleur de Sel
6 San Marzano Tomatoes (can substitute with Roma), halved
1 pinch of Sugar
1 pinch of table Salt
1 hand full fresh Basil, chopped
Directions:
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Remove the wire rack from your oven and line it with parchment paper.  Place the rectangles of puff pastry on the parchment paper, making sure that they are not touching each other.
In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, and fleur de sel.  Brush each piece of pastry with the mixture, and place a tomato half on each piece of pastry – cut-side up.  Larger tomato halves can be cut again in half to help them bake more evenly.
Brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil on the
tomatoes, and sprinkle each tomato with a small amount of sugar and salt.
Place the wire rack on the very bottom of your oven and bake for 10 minutes.  The, set the wire rack in the center of the oven and continue to bake for another 10 minutes.  Baking the pastries at the bottom of the oven allows the bottom of the pastry to become really crunchy.  If we had a pizza oven, we could skip this step.  Take care not to leave the pastries in for too long as the puff pastry goes from golden-baked to charcoal-black rather quickly.
Once done, remove immediately from oven and allow to cool slightly before sprinkling with fresh basil.
The pastries can be stored for 2 days at (cool) room temperature and still taste great.  These guys always taste great…breakfast..lunch…dinner…or in between meals.