How to quickly dry garden parsley

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Before I start, I would like to point out that there are many ways to dry parsley. The method I chose allowed for me to quickly and efficiently dry the herb I was trying to dry, while also retaining the natural green color of the leaves. It might seem different…or a little unorthodox, but this method relies upon the microwave oven.

Now, I realize you might be thinking, “won’t the microwave damage the leaves as it heats up the water?” The short answer is no, the long answer focuses on the thin leaves which allows for the heating water to quickly escape the leaves without harming the plant material. The process is quite simple too, and much faster than waiting on an oven to heat up or even several days waiting for the parsley to air dry.

  1. Harvest the leaves of the parsley. I chose to do this with my hands and simply pulled them from the plant but scissors may have made this easier to not harm the rest of the plant. Attempt to avoid any leaves that are damaged either by insects or are discolored.
  2. Lay these leaves out on a paper towel with a 1/4 inch gap between leaves, placing as many as will fit on a single ply of paper towel.
  3. Place another piece of paper towel on top of the leaf layer (this is essential as it gives the escaping water a place to go).
  4. Open the microwave and inspect the leaves, if they are dry and brittle enough to snap in half when flexed they are ready. If not, continue to microwave the leaves for 10 – 20 second intervals until finished.
  5. For storage, pick up a small spice container from the store (I got two nice matching ones from goodwill for $0.50 total) then smash all of the leaves before folding the paper towel in half and pouring them into the container.

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As I mentioned, microwaving the leaves is quick and retains the nice green color you expect to see when using spices. It is recommended you use the parsley within 9 months of drying as they will begin to lose potency after this point

If you happen to not have parsley, but have another thin leafed spice, feel free to use this same method! Mint, tarragon, cilantro, basil! The list goes on for the spices that can easily be microwave-dried.I just happened to have a LOT of parsley that I was seeking to preserve for use throughout the year.

The Part Time Vegetarian

[Recipe?] Gnocchi

 

I’ve said this before, and I will say it again, nothing compares to gnocchi. The light, welcoming texture of the gnocchi combined with a cheesy, well seasoned sauce creates a miniature heaven in your mouth. When I began making this recipe yesterday I planned on making BOTH the gnocchi and the sauce by hand, but I found out that gnocchi takes much longer than I had time for. I had planned for a quick lunch, but ended up with an hour mess. Luckily the potatoes I had prepared for the gnocchi were fully cooked and I ended up making mashed potatoes instead.

Today, all the wiser, I purchased a prepackaged gnocchi from Cucina Viva and made this with a simple sauce. Despite my shortcut, I wanted to share the recipe I was going to follow for the gnocchi. You can find that recipe here. Don’t feel bad though if you follow my lead, it is significantly easier (especially if you are new to cooking like me).

The sauce was a simple recipe I found with a different gnocchi recipe. I knew I wanted to have a cheesy sauce, so I chose the Parmesan and sage one below. Gnocchi is nice in that you can literally flavor it with any sauce you want and it is still the perfect dish. So go crazy, and don’t let my recipe dictate your gnocchi eating experience.

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Ingredients

  • 1 package (17.5 oz) Cucina Viva Gnocchi with Potato [Any brand will work]
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon, finely chopped sage
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Parmesan

Instructions

  1. Bring 10 – 12 cups of water to a boil.
  2. Add about half of the gnocchi so that it covers the bottom in a thin layer and continuously and gently stir.
  3. The gnocchi will rise to the surface, let it cook for 1 more minute, then carefully remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon. Repeat this process for the second half of gnocchi
  4. For the sauce, combine the butter, garlic, sage, and 1/4 cup Parmesan in a small sauce pan and stir until thoroughly mixed.
  5. Combine the gnocchi with the sauce, and add the remaining Parmesan and black pepper. Stir, and serve.

Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

[Recipe] Veggie Pizza

I was going to make gnocchi for today’s recipe, but after reading through the recipe and realizing the small amount of time I had I decided to change my recipe at the last minute. I had already begun cooking the potatoes for the gnocchi though, so I just turned them into mashed potatoes instead and began making the delicious vegetable pizza you will see below.

Normally when I make pizza it is composed of a thick dough, thick amounts of sauce, loads of cheese, and (before going vegetarian) meat. Instead, a vegetable pizza has heaping amounts of vegetables which really make the pizza taste fresh and delicious. It still isn’t the most healthy thing because of the large amount of cream cheese which replaces the sauce, but it can’t all be healthy.

This recipe comes directly from Pillsbury and although I have searched for other recipes, this one has been the best so far. The crescent dough is the perfect combination of light with a little crisp and the vegetables compliment the cream cheese sauce with utter perfection.

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Ingredients

  • 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cans (8 oz each) Pillsbury™ refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup small fresh broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup quartered cucumber slices
  • 1 plum (Roma) tomato, seeded, chopped 3/4 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrot

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven
  2. If using crescent rolls: Unroll both cans of dough; separate dough into 4 long rectangles. In ungreased 15x10x1 – inch pan, place dough; press in bottom and up sides to form crust.
  3. Bake 13 to 17 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the dough to cool completely (30 minutes)
  4. In a small bowl mix the cream cheese, sour cream, dill and garlic powder until smooth. Spread over the crust, top with vegetables and serve immediately. Alternatively cover the pizza and refrigerate.

Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

California, Massachusetts, and Gnocchi

I am by no means a world traveler, but I am certainly not a hermit. I’m a native of Wisconsin (US) yet have gone to states such as California, Colorado, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Florida just to name a few. In addition to this I had the very fortunate opportunity to live in Germany for a month with a school exchange. Every single time I travel to one of these places my absolute favorite part is the food, forgetting for a moment the amazing sites. Germany had the biggest difference in food, with freshly made bread, a plethora of fruit and vegetables, and a variety of desserts at every meal. Not to exaggerate anything, but it was truly heaven in my mouth.

When I used to travel the states, the food was less intriguing but that doesn’t mean any less looked forward to. Since I began eating vegetarian more often this has taken on an entirely different tone. I was just on vacation, which hopefully helps explain the gap in blogs, to California followed by Massachusetts. At an Airbnb in California I had the opportunity to live in the house of a man who was entirely vegan for several days. It was pleasant to have the constant reminder of my end goal throughout the house, and helped me choose to eat vegetarian for the four days I was in California. At restaurants, I would remember the house I was returning to, and would choose the vegetarian option when there was one. This was made easy by the impressively large number of vegetarian options available in California, something I have taken for granted on previous trips. I truly wish my home state of Wisconsin had even half the number of vegetarian options as California does.

Massachusetts on the other hand was an entirely different situation. I was there for six full days to visit my girlfriend for her spring break, so I was staying at her university but given the break, the dining halls were closed. What this meant for us was we were able to choose and cook our own food, and it was absolutely delicious. Various pastas greeted my lips, and I was able to eat vegetarian all but one day. I was quite disappointed in myself for the slip up after, but at the time I was entirely hungry and chose a burger instead of something vegetarian. It was a small mistake, brought on because of the relatively limited vegetarian menu at the restaurant, but a mistake nonetheless. Come the following week, we had the chance to eat in the dining halls which hosted a generous vegetarian menu. This is where I discovered something that changed my world, gnocchi.

For those of you who do not know, gnocchi consists of “various thick, soft dough dumplings that may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, or similar ingredients.” The gnocchi I devoured was coated in a delicious cheese sauce and made my mind wander to wonderful places. My mouth was in ecstasy. I cannot even begin to describe the change gnocchi made to my life. Although I had enjoyed vegetarian dishes quite a bit, nothing fully vegetarian has come close to being this enjoyable. The nice part about gnocchi too is that with a simple change of sauce the dish becomes something entirely different so the options are limitless. I have every intention of making gnocchi as often as I can, and I expect you can look forward to a post about a homemade recipe next week.

Vegetarianism has never been quite so delicious.

The Part Time Vegetarian

 

Nice Weather – Gardening

There is nothing quite like nice weather to finish up being sick. It clears the air, your lungs, and most of all motivates me toward productivity. It is impossible to compare to after a long winter and I would regret it greatly if I didn’t take advantage, so I began planning out my garden. You see, 2 years ago I built a simple garden box that was 4′ by 8′ and since then have been experimenting each year with various produce. With it being so nice out, I began planning again with my new vegetarian diet in mind.

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It is time to expand I have decided, so these are the first of many seeds I will purchase this season, but it is a great start. I chose three different spices that I love, but additionally can be dried with relative ease and used throughout the year. These three include thyme, parsley, and rosemary but I plan on adding a few more to this small list. The plan this season is to build a smaller garden box for spices behind my current box, and it will be able to house many more herbs, preferably all which I can use throughout the year.

Within the box I built several years ago I plan on planting numerous tomatoes. It seems that regardless of how many I grow, there are never enough for those in my house. To hopefully help with this I plan on growing several plants, as well as several different varieties to be used in different dishes. Along with these tomatoes, I plan on growing sugar snap peas, and carrots as well, as these are always delicious. There is nothing that compares to fresh, homegrown vegetables.

Additionally, the side of my house hosts a larger plot of land, although with a little less soil, so I hope to build this garden up more and fill it with potatoes. Filling this entire garden with potatoes would be quite excessive though, so as I continue on there I plan on adding other fruit or vegetables, likely some pumpkins and cucumbers. This entirely depends on the number of raspberry bushes which have intruded into the garden this year, as this makes the space fluctuate greatly from year to year, and they are too delicious to remove.

In the coming weeks I will be traveling to California, then to Massachusetts so my blogs may be random, but once I get back I will begin planting some of the larger plants inside. It helps them greatly in growing I have learned, and helps induce a longer growing season if they are allowed to sprout earlier, and I hope to get the most I can out of this season! I look forward to keeping everyone updated, and eating the produce of my labor.

Until Next Time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

Seasonality, It Matters

This is a vegetarian blog. It is likely that those who have visited this website know that, and if I have failed to convey this…I deeply apologize. With that being said, it is important to point out that there is a distinct reason I have decided to become a vegetarian, and that is because of the environmental impact of eating meat. Cowspiracy brought to my attention a 2006 UN report which pointed out that “rearing cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars.” This has been examined further by more recent reports which have explored this topic in detail and confirmed the above mentioned conclusion. The reason I am talking about this is because today’s post will stray from the more typical posts about the consumption of food, and focus more on the acquisition of the food that I eat. I do this because in the end my goal is to save the planet, and I feel as if sharing may help in some small part to achieve this goal.

This is where we get to the title of this article, seasonality. It turns out that not all food grows year round. In fact, almost no food grows year round. Growing up, I was ignorant of this fact. It seemed I could have an apple anytime I wanted if I just went to the grocery store and asked my parents politely to purchase one, and that is in fact the case. Yet that apple isn’t always from near where I live. It is likely the apple I eat mid winter is actually brought in from somewhere warmer such as California, or one of the numerous countries south of our border. These countries are near the equator or are so far south that their summer occurs during my winter.

The fact of the matter is that apples in the United States have a growing season which goes from August to November at the latest. This is the time when you can go to apple orchards and pick your own apples, and each meal can have either applesauce, apple cider, or some combination of both. After this time it becomes too cold and the production of apples decreases as the trees go dormant until the next season. During this time the cost of an apple increases, not necessarily for you and your wallet, but someone must pay more for the transportation of the apples which have to come from further away. This transportation often is by semi trucks that transport the fruit and continuously spews out greenhouse gases along the way…

Last week, I made a butternut squash soup in an attempt to make a new, delicious vegetarian dish, but in doing so I became a champion against my own goal. This is not something I intend to do ever again. In order to do so I found a chart online which outlines the growing seasons of various kinds of produce found in the super market. The dark green highlights the typical growing season of the food, and the light green shows when it can easily be found, but has to be brought in from some place warmer. I did not create this chart, and a link at the bottom of this page shows its original producer who I highly recommend you give a visit. More importantly though I urge you to look for foods you commonly eat and if you normally purchase it off season to search for some alternative. I know I will be doing so, in order to reduce my personal greenhouse gas footprint.

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Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

SOURCE: http://www.agriculturalinstitute.org/seasonality/

 

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

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Homemade Butternut Squash Soup

Total Time: 1 hour

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash (2-3 pounds), peeled and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • Nutmeg, salt, and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Cut Squash into 1-inch chunks
  2. In a large pot, melt butter
  3. Add onion and cook until translucent (about 8 minutes)
  4. Add the squash and stock then simmer until the squash is tender (15-20 minutes)
  5. Remove the squash chunks and place in a blender and puree, before returning to the pot
  6. Stir the soup, seasoning with nutmeg, salt, and pepper

 

Preparation

After having an amazing butternut squash soup last week, I decided to set a goal of creating my own that was hopefully as good as the one I had ordered at a local restaurant. I have to say, I achieved this goal, while I must also admit, I am incredibly biased with this since I made the above soup personally. Yet the soup was at least comparable in taste as far as I was concerned. I searched a while to find a recipe with high ratings, and it was food network that gave me this one. The original recipe called for chicken stock, but I substituted in a vegetarian stock to make this soup entirely vegetarian.

Peeling the squash can be quite difficult for a novice chef like me but after trying several different utensils I found that a short, sharp knife worked best. Although it was rather crude, it worked faster than the peelers I tried because of the awkward shape of the squash. After peeled, simply chop the squash in half and carve out the center like a pumpkin.

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Peeled Butternut Squash, ready to be seeded

After the simmering is complete, instead of scooping out the individual squash pieces I found that an immersion blender makes life a lot easier. While eating the soup though I noticed approximately three different pieces of squash sitting at the bottom of the pot.The immersion blender made life significantly easier and sped up the cooking of this dish, but also I feel as if the soup would have been a little more thin and soup-like had I simply used a blender on the pieces themselves. So the decision is entirely yours if you have this device.

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Butternut Squash Soup, pre-blending

Butternut Squash and Seasonality

For those who are unaware, the reason I became a vegetarian is because I want to reduce my personal carbon/greenhouse gas footprint. Yet as I was cooking this soup I realized that despite not having any meat in the dish, the squash itself is not at all in season. I hadn’t even thought of this until I was cooking the soup itself since a local restaurant had been serving it just the week before. Regardless, this is something I plan on learning more about.

I’m fully aware of the global impact that is involved with transporting produce that is in season in one country and bringing it to a place (such as my local grocery store) where it is not. Although this allows for us to eat certain produce year round, it is something I will avoid into the future as much as possible. There is no need to eat a butternut squash near the end of winter when it is a late summer/fall fruit. The first step with this is of course learning which items are in fact in season throughout the year. Hopefully I can share my findings with you folks as I learn more and continue on my path to being a vegetarian.

Until next time,

The Part Time Vegetarian

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