Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DIY Vegan Suet Bird Feeder

Photo of suet feeder with DIY vegan suet hanging on a tree branch outside with frosty yard in the background. https://trimazing.com/

Years ago, back when I was first vegan, I went to buy some suet feeders as we had a cold snap coming. As I grabbed them off the shelf at the bird store, I suddenly realized that they were made from animal productssuet is made from rendered animal fat. Birds do eat insects and worms and have been known to eat bits of frozen animal carcasses, but I really couldn't bring myself to buy a feeder made from fat rendered from farmed animals. I asked the shop if they had any that did not contain animal suet, but they had never considered it and didn't stock any. In fact, I still have never seen any in wild bird supply shops!

So I decided to see if I could make a vegan version. And lo and behold, I found recipes online! It is really simple and is a great project for kids!

I recently found another Make Your Own Suet recipe from the Audubon Society that came from the Misfit Baker (this site apparently doesn't exist anymore, so I cannot link to it). I like this version as it includes some additional grains in it so there isn't big areas of pure vegetable fat between the larger seeds.

What You Need

Photo of supplies used to make suet feeder, including suet feeder cage, quart jars of oats, bird seed, and cornmeal, a blob of vegetable shortening, empty plastic tofu container, and a stainless steel ice cube tray. https://trimazing.com/
Vegan Suet Feeder Supplies

  • Reloadable Suet Feeder
  • A Mold, I use empty plastic tofu trays and ice cube trays (I love these stainless steel trays)
  • Vegetable Shortening or Coconut Oil
  • Nut Butter of choice, I used peanut
  • Wild Bird Seed
  • Quick Oats
  • Cornmeal, I used coarse meal
Exact amounts of ingredients are in the Audubon Society's blog post.


Mix the bird seed, oats, and cornmeal into a large bowl. 

Melt together the shortening or oil with the nut butter. Pour the melted liquid into the dry ingredients and stir well. 

Photo of the author pouring a bowl of melted vegetable oil and peanut oil into a bowl containing mixed wild bird seed, quick oats, and cornmeal. https://trimazing.com/
Pouring melted oil and nut butter into seeds and grains

Spoon the mixture into your molds and smooth the top.

Photo of the author using a large stainless steel spoon to smooth down the top of the DIY vegan suet in a plastic tofu container. https://trimazing.com/
Smoothing down the top

Photo of a stainless steel ice cube tray with DIY vegan suet feeder in it. https://trimazing.com/
Using an ice cube tray to mold suet block cubes

Freeze until solid. I wait a couple of hours. And then unmold and put into the feeder cage.

Photo of unmolded DIY vegan bird suet from the plastic tofu tray and stainless steel ice cube tray. https://trimazing.com/
Unmolded suet block and cubes

The tofu trays make suet cakes in the perfect size, but if you don't have them, you can just pack the feeder with cubes.

The birds and squirrels love these. As long as it's cold outside, less than 50 degrees, the vegetable suet stays solid.

Photo of suet feeder with DIY vegan suet hanging on a tree branch outside with two chickadees on it. https://trimazing.com/
Chickadees enjoying vegan suet

Photo of suet feeder with DIY vegan suet hanging on a tree branch outside with a gray squirrel on a limb above. https://trimazing.com/
He thinks we can't see him...

Photo of suet feeder with DIY vegan suet hanging on a tree branch outside with squirrel hanging upside down eating. https://trimazing.com/
The squirrels are so entertaining to watch on the suet feeder!

I make a bunch at once and keep them in the freezer to have all winter. The squirrels make fast work of the suet, so if you have squirrels, be prepared to replace often or use a squirrel-proof feeder. We don't mind feeding the squirrels as well as the birds.

Besides being vegan, this can be a zero waste project as well. My local hardware store, Grange Supply, sells wild bird seed in bulk, which is awesome! Or you can sometimes find wild bird seed in paper sacks at feed stores. Coconut oil comes in glass jars, but I've not found vegetable shortening come that way, only in plastic. And I love having something I can do to reuse those pesky plastic tofu containers!

Have you tried making vegan suet feeders? What was your experience?

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

January 2019 Classes!

It's been busy around Trimazing! HQ as I've been working on several new classes that start this winter, after the first of the year:

A Clean Start to the Year: Green Housekeeping Workshop for a Naturally Non-Toxic Clean Home - January 12, 2019, 1-2 PM

Are you concerned about the chemicals in your cleaning supplies? Looking for options that are safer for your family, pets, and the environment? Want to save money too? Then join me for a green housekeeping workshop to kick start your year to a non-toxic clean home that saves time and money!

  • Health and environmental concerns of cleaning supplies
  • Safer, non-toxic alternatives, including recipes for common household cleaners you can make yourself
  • Waste-reducing and money saving tips
  • And make your own dishwasher soap to take home!
Space is limited, so sign up today to reserve a seat. Cost is $10 to cover materials.

And check out the Facebook event page.

Zero Waste 101 - January 20, 2019, 1-2 PM

Feeling like it's time for some waste reduction in your New Year?

Have the recent garbage rate hikes got you frustrated? Join Cindy with Trimazing! Vegan Lifestyle & Health Coaching to learn what's going on with our garbage and why the sudden increases in our garbage rates. We'll go over the five principles of Zero Waste and learn easy and practical things you can apply in your own home or business to reduce your waste, decrease your garbage and recycling bin sizes, and save money!

Register today at: https://trimazing.com/classes or https://zerowaste101.bpt.me . Cost is $10.

More in the Works!

More classes and events are in the works, including a Plant-Based 101 class and speaking engagement at a local animal sanctuary. Plus more events with Sno-Valley Vegans. You can always get up to date class and event information on our webpage at https://trimazing.com/classes or, better yet, subscribe at to get notified when things post: https://trimazing.com/subscribe.

And speaking of the website...stay tuned for a new and improved Trimazing! website with a beautiful downloadable recipe booklet and more! It's gonna be TRIMAZING!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Eating Brussels Sprouts Stalks—Really!

Photo of a Brussels sprouts stalk with all the sprouts cut off, set on a bamboo cutting board and Global chef's knife.  https://trimazing.com/

Autumn is my favorite season. I love the colorful leaves, wearing jeans and sweaters, crisp, sunny days, and fall veggies. Brussels sprouts are some of my favorite and I love buying them still on the stalk. They look like some medieval weapon! I don't buy them on the stalk to beat anyone with or just because it's cool, I like that I don't have to trim the ends of the individual sprouts that get hard and discolored in storage at the grocery store, and there's no wasteful plastic mesh bag to deal with. Plus, they're usually much fresher on the stalk, lending to better flavor. Brussels sprouts tend to get a stronger flavor when stored, which is probably why a lot of people don't like Brussels sproutsthey're eating old, strong-flavored ones.

 Brussels sprout stalk. https://trimazing.com/
Brussels Sprouts Stalk
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, in the cabbage, cauliflower, and kale family. They look like miniature cabbages, which is what the French call them, choux de bruxelles, "Brussels cabbages." Thomas Jefferson actually introduced Brussels sprouts to the US in 1812. While Brussels sprouts are super nutritious, full of vitamins A, C, K, folate, fiber, potassium, magnesium, and thiamine, their true claim to fame comes from their antioxidant and phytonutrient content, which has the ability to kill more cancer cells than any other vegetable (as noted by Michael Greger, MD of NutritionFacts.org and Jo Robinson of Eating on the Wild Side)! These are vegetables that you do really want to eat.

I posted the picture above on my Instagram last week and one of my followers, green_mama_doc, inquired if I'd ever eaten the stalk. Well I hadn't, but oddly enough, I was wondering if there was something I could do with it on a zero waste perspective. I love to eat broccoli stems, in fact, I prefer them over the flowery ends, so I was intrigued by this. I did a little research online and found only a couple sources that talked about braising the stalks for hours to cook the core, which they scooped out and spread on breadlike a kind of vegan "bone marrow." Now I've never eaten bone marrow and it certainly does not appeal to me, but I'm all-in to use scraps and reduce food waste!

So I decided to try cooking the stalk in my Instant Pot because I didn't really want to babysit a braise. I added 2 cups of vegetable stock I'd made from scraps to the Instant Pot and then set to work on cutting the Brussels stalk into chunks that would fit.

Photo of the author trying to cut Brussels Stalk with a serrated knife. https://trimazing.com/
Trying to Cut Stalk with Serrated Knife
Photo of the author Breaking Brussels stalk over edge of the counter. https://trimazing.com/
Breaking over the Counter
The stalk is really tough! I was able to cut the top section fairly easily, but none of my knives would cut through the larger sections, and I'd recently had my knives sharpened! I tried sawing with a serrated bread knife, which helped deepen the score line, but it didn't go through.

After scoring the stalk all the way around, I just broke it over the edge of my counter.

You can see there is a large pale core in the center of the stalk. It looks a lot like a broccoli stem. I didn't try to peel this because of all the nubs where the leaf stems and sprouts had attached. And, I wouldn't recommend this because of what I discovered after the stalks were cooked.

Photo of the cut end of a Brussels stalk, showing the pale center core. https://trimazing.com/
Pale Core in the Center of the Brussels Stalk

Photo of chunks of Brussels stalks stacked in a InstantPot with vegetable stalk. https://trimazing.com/
Stalks in Instant Pot

I added the chunks to my Instant Pot with the stock and set it to High Pressure for 45 minutes. The notes I'd seen on braising the stalks had said to braise for 2-3 hours, so I figured 45 minutes might do it.

When time was up, I did a quick pressure release because I figured it'd been in there a long time and I was anxious to see how it worked!

The stalks looked and smelled like cooked Brussels sproutsI know, duh! And the outside of the stalk was soft, including the leaf stems.

Photo of Brussels stalks that had been cooked in an InstantPot with vegetable stock. https://trimazing.com/
Brussels Stocks that were Cooked in the Instant Pot

I pulled a chunk out with tongs and worked to split the stalk lengthwise, and it cut through with a little effort.

Photo of author holding cooked Brussels stalks on a bamboo cutting board with tongs and splitting them lengthwise with a chef's knife. https://trimazing.com/
Splitting the Cooked Brussels Stalks

The inner core was super soft and scooped right out with a spoon. The other part of the round core was hard and wooden, bone-like, so I can see why people would compare it to eating bone marrow. It's definitely not edible.

Photo of the author scooping the core from the cooked Brussels stalk with a spoon. https://trimazing.com/
Scooping Out Cooked Core

And then I realized that the outer skin was peeling off too! So I scraped it all off, leaving just the empty wooden core. I would have lost all this if I'd peeled the stalk prior to cooking it,

Photo of the author scraping the skin and leaf stems from the cooked Brussels stalk with a spoon. https://trimazing.com/
Scraping Off Cooked Skin and Leaf Stems

Photo of the author holding resulting wooden stalk that's left from scraping out the core and outside of the cooked Brussels stalks. https://trimazing.com/
The Hard Woody Pieces Left From Scraping the Cooked Brussels Stalks

The stalk yielded a ton of pulp, about 4 cups!

Photo of a bamboo cutting board with the scraped Brussels stalks and a bowl holding the four cups of Brussels stalks pulp that was scraped of the cooked stalks. https://trimazing.com/
Four Cups of Pulp and the Empty Cooked Brussels Stalks
In the end, I was left with a whole lot less waste and a lot of edible food that would otherwise go into my compost bin. I was amazed how much food the cooked stalk yielded!

So what does it taste like? Well it tastes like Brussels sprouts, but actually taste more like artichoke hearts to me! The inner core is sweeter than the outer skin, and it's pulpy, like pureed Brussels or artichoke hearts. The outer skin has a texture very similar to artichoke hearts. I think it's delicious and that it'd be a great substitute for artichoke hearts if you needed a bunch for a recipe and didn't want to go to all that work to trim artichokes for the hearts. It really would be a cost-effective substitute! 

In that vein, I experimented using the braised Brussels stalk core and skin in making a Mock
Artichoke and Potato Gratin. I sauteed some onion and garlic until soft, peeled a mix of potatoes I had from the garden and sliced them 1/4-inch thick on the mandolin, and made a mixture of soy milk and cheesy sauce I had leftover from making mac'n'cheez earlier in the week. I poured a little bit of the cheezy mixture on the bottom of a baking dish, layered the potatoes, onion/garlic mixture, braised Brussels stalk pulp and skin, poured the rest of the cheezy milk mixture on top, covered it, and popped into a preheated 400 degree oven for two hours.

It is delicious! And, if you didn't say anything, no one would realize it wasn't artichokes! So amazing!

Have you tried Brussels sprouts stalks? What did you think? How did you use them?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Refrigerator Salad Bar!

Photo of bowls of chopped veggies in containers on a counter arranged like a rainbow, including red cabbage, orange bell pepper, yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow summer squash, corn kernals, green onions, and mixed salad greens. https://trimazing.com/

Last month I participated in a video challenge to learn about taking videos, editing them, uploading them, and being more comfortable in front of the camera so that I could use them in my blog posts and in health coaching. One of the challenges included discussing a tip I share with my clients. Of course, I have lots of tips, but I chose one of my favorite ones for this: Turning your refrigerator in to a great salad bar!

For a lot of people, eating vegetables is hard, not necessarily because they don't like eating them, but because it can take time to prep veggies, not really fast food. They know they should eat a salad, but in order to do this, they have to wash, peel, and chop everything and then clean the mess up afterward. I get it! 

But think about a great salad bar in a grocery store or restaurant. Isn't it great to go with a big plate and grab a little bit of this and a little bit of that and easily have a big gorgeous salad? Everything looks so good and before you know it, you've run out of room on your plate! What made it easy was having everything ready and at hand. And you can do that at home too!

Here's my tips for turning your refrigerator into a great salad bar:

1. It starts with great shopping.

Photo of a stand at a farmers market with red cabbage, cauliflower, green cabbage, celery, rhubarb, broccoli, cucumbers, white and red radishes. https://trimazing.com/
Farmers Market Stand

You're going to need veggies, fruits, nuts, salad dressings, beans, grains, etc. to build your salad bar. Pick out things that are in season, a variety of colors (eat the rainbow), and things you want to eat.  You don't necessarily have to buy pounds and pounds of something, get bits of many different things so that your salad bar is full of variety. A bunch of little things add up quick! And don't be afraid to try new or different veggies. 

Photo of a pile of winter squash, including red kuri and kabocha. https://trimazing.com/
Red Kuri and Kabocha Squashes
  • Brussels sprouts - they can be thinly shredded into a chiffonade and mixed in with your greens.
  • Fennel - crunchy like celery but with a licorice-like flavor. You can use the bulbs for crunch and the feathery fronds like an herb or flavor.
  • Winter squash and sweet potatoes - cut into cubes, roast, then chill for added sweetness to your salad. Or, grate or spiralize raw—yes, you can eat raw winter squash and sweet potatoes and they're delicious!
  • Pomegrante seeds - give a pop to your salad and excellent antioxidants.
  • Apples and oranges - chopped fresh apple and sectioned oranges go great on salads.
  • Greens - there are a world of greens out there! Try mixing a whole bunch of different kinds, such as rainbow chard, arugula, different lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.
  • Roasted fingerling potatoes - make a salad Nicoise with steamed green beans, olives, raw firm tofu, jackfruit no-tuna, tomatoes, and oil-free vinaigrette.

2. Prep everything at once and put in containers in your refrigerator.

Unwashed, bagged up, whole vegetables tend to stay that way when you're in a hurry. So when you come home from grocery shopping, or on a prep day, take the time to prep all your fruits and veggies so they're ready in snap later and throughout your week. This gets all the work out of the way later and you only have to clean up a big mess once from all that prepping.

Photo of different containers of veggies in a refrigerator. https://trimazing.com/
Different Containers of Veggies in my Fridge
Find containers that you like and are convenient for you. I love Pyrex Simply Store containers because they stack well, are freezer and microwave safe, are clear, and have several sizes. I also use canning jars, because I have a ton of them, and miscellaneous glass jars with lids. Whatever you use, put your prepared veggies, fruits, and grains in your containers as you go and store them in your fridge.

Now's a good time to consider roasting some of your veggies too! Take some of your prepped veggies, toss with a little balsamic vinegar or soy sauce thinned out with a little water, add some herbs, put on a parchment paper or silicone baking mat (like Silpat) on a baking sheet, and pop in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, turning a couple times during baking. Allow to cool when done and then store in containers in the fridge.

A note on avocados. They don't store well cut up. Keep your avocados whole and then cut up when you want to add them to your salad.

3. Make grains ahead of time.

Photo of multiple quart canning jars and a large 1 gallon glass jar with various dry grains in a wire shelf pantry. https://trimazing.com/
Various Grains in my Pantry

Grains are really hearty and satisfying and make a big impact on a salad. Cook your grains while you're prepping your veggies, either on the stove, in a rice cooker, or in an Instant Pot (note, Amazon generally marks Instant Pots waaaayyyy down for the Thanksgiving sale, so keep your eye out for that coming up!).

Here are some of my favorite grains:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Barley
  • Millet
  • Bulgar
  • Couscous
  • Wheat berries

And here's a tip within a tip: When you cook grains, ALWAYS cook up more than you need and pop the excess amount in the freezer! Grains freeze great and it's a HUGE time saver to be able to grab a package of already cooked grains out of the freezer and either thaw in the fridge or pop in the microwave for a few minutes when you're crunched for time. They even sell bags of cooked grains in the freezer section of grocery stores now, but why pay $3.00 for four servings of pre-cooked frozen organic brown rice when you can pay $5.00 for 45 servings of uncooked organic brown rice you can cook and freeze yourself at home? And you can do this with any grains, not just rice.

Whole grain pastas are fantastic in salads too. Try cooking up some orzo, spirals, or small macaroni shapes to add.

4. Have cooked beans on hand.

Photo of cooked scarlet runner beans in a glass container bowl. https://trimazing.com/
Cooked Scarlet Runner Beans
Beans are so good for us! And they're easy to have on hand. Stock up on canned beans, choosing a variety of low-sodium options. During your prep time, simply drain, rinse, and store your beans in a container to use later.

Like grains, you can cook beans from dry and have in the fridge or freeze. You can also can your own if you're so inclined. And like grains, if you cook some up, always make more than you need now so you have some later. I freeze a lot of beans and then simply pull a frozen container out and put in my fridge to have with my salads during the week.

5. Prep some hearty add-ons.

Maybe you want some added heartiness to your salad. Cube, marinate, and bake some firm tofu and then store in the fridge. Or do the same with tempeh. There are some great recipes out there for making tempeh bacon which you can cut up and have in the freezer for instant whole food, plant-based bacon bits! Make Mexican jackfruit (find recipe in the blog post about using the herb Papalo) or no-tuna salad. Want chef salad? Consider vegan lunch meats, seitan, and cheeses available in most grocery stores.

6. Use your freezer to supplement great salad ingredients.

Photo of jars of frozen veggies and fruits in a freezer door. https://trimazing.com/
Frozen Veggies and Fruits in my Freezer
So I've eluded to this in the previous sections with grains and beans, but have frozen veggies on hand too. Frozen vegetables are a fantastic option because frozen veggies you buy at the store are flash-frozen right after picking, preserving a lot of their nutrients, better than their canned counterparts. To use, you can simply put frozen veggies into a colander and run cold water over to thaw, or put in a container from frozen into your fridge and let them thaw. I do like to blanch and freeze a lot of my own veggies so I don't have the plastic freezer bag to deal with. You can find out more in my blog about keeping a zero waste fridge and freezer.

My favorites:
  • Petite green peas
  • Corn kernels
  • Shelled edamame

7. Keep nuts, seeds, dried fruit, fermented foods on hand for toppings.

A lot of nuts and seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids we need. They also have healthy phytonutrients and antioxidants, and are pretty dang tasty too! Keep them in your fridge or freezer to prevent the oils from going rancid. Some good ones to consider:
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Hemp seed
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Ground flax
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts
Have leftover or stale bread? Make croutons by cubing it up and toasting in an oven. A great zero-waste solution!

Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi are excellent in salads and so good for you. Fermented foods provide healthy probiotics that our gut microbiome needs for optimal health.

8. Have great salad dressing at the ready, or flavored vinegars that you love.

Look for oil-free salad dressings as much as possible. You're going to fill yourself up with all this healthy goodness, why foul it all up with unnecessary refined oil? There are some excellent oil-free options out there, even at the grocery store, you just need to check labels. You can also check out my Pinterest for simple oil-free dressings you can make at home. Flavored vinegars are a great option as well!

9. Keep prepped veggies at eye level.

Now that you've gone to all this work, put your containers of veggie love where you see them in your fridge. That way when you open the fridge at mealtime or in search of a snack, you'll see all these goodies and will think to grab them!

It's also a reminder that you need to use them so they don't spoil. Having veggies in your main area of the fridge rather than hidden in opaque crisper drawers helps reduce food waste because you know what's in there.

You've got everything chopped...Now what?

Build your salad! Simply pull out containers and pile it on! Or...

Make Salad in a Jar.

These are great for grab-and-go lunches and snacks for school or work. Simply layer your salad, with the dressing at the bottom, to keep everything fresh and prevent things from getting soggy. You can build these at the beginning of the week and have them all ready for the next several days. They keep about three days. To serve, shake and dump onto a plate or into a bowl.

Graphic with direction for salad in a jar recipe. https://trimazing.com/

Make a Buddha Bowl!

Buddha bowls are awesome! The key to a great Buddha bowl is that they have:

  • A Grain - this includes noodles, like udon or soba!
  • A Green - any type you like
  • A Protein - tofu, tempeh, seitan
  • 2-3 Colors of Veggies
  • A Healthy Fat - avocado, nuts, seeds
  • Flavor - dressing, fermented foods, herbs, spices
Need some Buddha bowl ideas? Check my Pinterest for some great links! But some of my favorite include vegan sushi salad with rice, nori rice seasoning, pickled ginger, baked tofu, veggies, and avocado; burrito bowl with rice, beans, greens, roasted fajita veggies, salsa, and guacamole.

Use those scraps!

Photo of a stainless steel bowl of vegetable scraps ready to be made into veggie stock. https://trimazing.com/
Veggie Scraps for Stock
During prep day, save the peels, root ends, stems, and leaves and make veggie stock! For more information on making veggie stock, check out my blog post, Canning Vegetable Stock (Note, you don't have to can it, you can use right away or freeze. All options are in the post). If you don't have time to make the stock during prep day, just freeze all those scraps! I stuff scraps into quart canning jars and put them in my freezer until I'm ready to make stock. Then, when I'm ready, I put warm water into the jars to release all the scraps, pour into my Instant Pot or stock pot, add any additional water, and simmer away! Simply compost or vermicompost your cooked scraps after your strain off your scraps. It's a great zero waste option.

Make soup!

I've always loved the days after throwing a party because, inevitably, there was always a portion of the veggie platter leftover and I'd chop the vegetables all up and make vegetable soup. Having a refrigerator salad bar is just like having an after-party veggie platter. If it's getting to the end of the week and end of your veggies lifespan, simply turn them into soup, adding some of your homemade stock from the scraps, herbs and spices, beans, pasta or other grains, and voila! Homemade vegetable soup is surprisingly one of our grandkids' favorite things, next to applesauce, that is! And, if you have more soup than you can handle, portion it off into your containers and freeze for a quick meal another day.

The convenience and waste reduction of prepared veggies.

Beyond having the ease of quick salads, bowls, soups, etc., having chopped vegetables on hand really speeds up cooking, especially weeknight dinners or morning tofu scrambles. I don't have to worry about taking the time to clean and chop veggiesI have instant mis en place, the fancy French word chef's use for having everything chopped, measured, and ready for efficient cooking. It also makes making smoothies faster!

I find that if I have cut up fruits and veggies available, I grab them for snacks. Dressing can serve as a dip. Crunchy pieces of celery work great for a snack bowl and is so much better for me than a bowl of granola.

Photo of an aluminum mini muffin tray with snacks in each hole (carrots, celery, Romanesco, apple, dried cranberries, pecans) amongst kids' toys (fire engine with extended ladder, UNO cards, coloring book and crayons). https://trimazing.com/
Snack Tray in Action!
And here's a great tip for families with kids. Our grandkids love what we call Snack Trays. We use ice cube trays or mini muffin tins and fill the compartments with yummy, healthy snacks. They can choose from the fruits, veggies, nuts, and dips we have and it makes it really simple when we've got things already prepped. Dips, like hummus, dressings, or nut butters, can go in them too. Then they've got a fun little tray they can carry around. Nothing touches, they don't have to share, and it doesn't fall off a plate! Plus, it's super fun and different for them, which kids like.

Finally, having veggies prepped and at eye means you're more likely to use them and can monitor their freshness. Crisper drawers, while great for keeping fruits and vegetables together, are also great vegetable concealers. How many times have you opened your crisper to discover a mushy pile of some veggie you completely forgot about? I know that's happened to me on more than one occasion, but prepped veggies early in the week has exponentially cut down on this problem.

I hope you find this tip helpful. A little bit of work on the front end really does make life easier and helps to make healthy eating choices.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Instant Oatmeal

Photo of a pint canning jar full of instant oatmeal, a yellow custard cup with instant oats, and a clear silicon Stasher bag with red hash marks on it full of instant oatmeal. https://trimazing.com/

Alan travels a lot for work, which can present challenges for eating plant-based and healthy. When he's at home, he eats old-fashioned oats, which he loves. For years, he's traveled with packets of instant oatmeal to have for breakfasts and meals in a pinch. They are convenient, but not all instant oatmeal packets are vegan, a lot have milk powder, and artificial colorings and flavors, not to mention a lot of added sugar. In addition, we're picky about our oats, preferring non-GMO, organic oats to reduce our exposure to glyphosphate (the herbicide Roundup). The Environmental Working Group has found levels of glyphopate in the majority non-organic oatmeal products they tested to be higher than what they consider safe, posing an increased cancer risk. You can check their studies out at https://www.ewg.org/childrenshealth/glyphosateincereal/ and https://www.ewg.org/release/roundup-breakfast-part-2-new-tests-weed-killer-found-all-kids-cereals-sampled. And, instant oatmeal packets generate a lot of trash, which we are actively working to reduce. One would think they are just a paper bag and therefore would be recyclable, but no, they are lined with some sort of plastic (check out this hack about cooking your oatmeal right in the baggie https://lifehacker.com/5879863/cook-instant-oatmeal-in-the-packet-when-you-dont-have-a-bowl), which we certainly don't to expose to our food. So, given all of these things, coming up with a better alternative for Alan's instant oats was high on the list to find a solution for.

Photo of a Red Talley Stasher snack bag on black background. https://trimazing.com/
Red Talley Stasher Snack Bag
The hardest part of change was not in making the instant oatmeal mix, which I'll share in a moment, but in the packaging. Alan needs something durable but lightweight and small, something that will easily fit in his computer bag or carry-on for the airplane. A glass jar is too bulky and we aren't using plastic storage bags anymore. I'd considered sewing up one of my vegan wax wraps, but we didn't want wax inside of his computer bag or carry-on in case it got warm on the airplane or in the trunk of a rental car. I finally discovered the silicone resealable Stasher bags and decided to give them a try. They come in different sizes and the snack bag size seemed perfect! And it wasit fit perfectly in Alan's carry-on with no spillage.

Photo of stainless steel bowl full of ingredients for Trimazing! Instant Oatmeal, including quick oats, raisins, powdered coconut milk, ground flax meal, coconut sugar, and cinnamon. https://trimazing.com/
Ingredients for Trimazing! Instant Oatmeal
For the oatmeal, here's a little info on what ingredients I use. I use organic quick oats because Alan usually only has a little coffee pot available in his hotel room, no microwave. Quick oats cook up great in a coffee cup with hot water from a coffee maker (truth be told, he often uses hot coffee to cook his oats half the time!). Use whatever dried fruit you want, or omit. I'd rather use fruit than adding sugar. Flax adds healthy omega fatty acids, which we should eat every day. Adding it to morning oatmeal gets your daily dose of omega fatty acids done first thing so you don't have to worry about it later. You could exchange ground chia seeds or hemp. For milk, I use Wilderness Family Naturals powdered coconut milk, but you can use other powdered plant-based milks, such as soy. I bought the powdered coconut milk a while ago for our trip to Iceland because Wilderness Family Naturals had small labeled resealable sample bags that I thought would go through security better than unmarked baggies of white powder! Finally, I put in a little coconut sugar, but you can use other dry sweetener of choice or omit, and cinnamon.

Trimazing! Instant Oatmeal

2 cups organic quick oats
1/4 cup organic raisins (or dried cranberries, dates, apples, other fruit)
3 Tablespoons ground flax
2 Tablespoons coconut or soy milk powder (you can find online or in bulk section)
1 Tablespoons coconut sugar (or other dry sweetener, add more to taste)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix all together and store in a sealed container. To use, add 1/3 cup of oatmeal mix to a cup or bowl and add 3/4 cup of boiling water. Stir and let stand 2 minutes before eating.

Alan loves this instant oatmeal, in fact, he likes it better than the packaged stuff we used to get at the store. It's fresher and tastier than what we used to buy. We hope you love it too!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Growing Garlic

Photo of a pile of purple-streaked garlic bulbs. https://trimazing.com/

Garlic is a great vegetable to grow, especially if you're a beginning gardener, and now is the time to plant it.

Garlic is an allium, part of the onion family, along with leeks, chives, shallots, scallions, etc. They've been an important part of our diets for millennia, as stamina boosters during Egyptian times, performance enhancers for athletes in the first Olympic games, a way to ward off the plague during the Middle Ages, and in antibiotic poultices during the Civil War and World War I. Garlic's antibiotic qualities were just not imaginary. According to Jo Robinson of Eating on the Wild Side, three cloves of garlic contain 21-39 grams of allicin, the main active antibiotic ingredient in garlic, which is the same amount of antibiotic activity as a single dose of penicillin! So garlic is more than just a flavor enhancerit is good and good for you. Garlic has also been shown to have chemopreventative (cancer preventative) properties, reported to have great effects preventing breast, brain, lunch, pancreatic, prostate, stomach, and kidney cancers (leeks edge out garlic in the case of kidney cancer), according to Michael Greger, MD (check out his great book, How Not to Die).

Interestingly enough, however, how you prepare and use your garlic, and any other allium, for that matter, has a great impact on how much allicin you get from it. Allicin is only produced when two substances in alliums come together: a protein, alliin, and an enzyme, alliinase. Alliin and alliinase don't connect until the barriers between them are broken, which occurs when alliums are cut, smashed, pressed, or chewed. But it takes more than an instantaneous connection for allicin to form, so a good rule of thumb when using garlic, onions, and any member of the allium family, is to cut or press your alliums first and let them rest for 10 minutes before using. Cooking before alliin and alliinase fully connect wipes out the ability for allicin to form. So simply chop your onions and garlic first, prepare your other ingredients, and then start cooking. If you're using your garlic or onions raw, no worries, allicin will form just fine, no need to waitit's the early cooking process that can interrupt the allicin from forming.

There are two types of garlic, hardneck and softneck.

Photo of hardneck garlic bulbs in a bowl. https://trimazing.com/
Hardneck Garlic
Hardneck garlic grows its cloves in a single row around a center stalk that gets hard as it grows, thus the name hardneck. It is most akin to wild garlic. They are best for growing in colder climates, produce less numbers of cloves per bulb, and are often milder (not as hot) than softneck types. This type of garlic has a shorter shelf life.

Photo of curled garlic scapes growing out of leaves of garlic. https://trimazing.com/
Curled Garlic Scapes
What's great about hardneck garlic is that it produces edible scapes in the summer, a flowering body that should be removed to allow more energy to go into the growth of the bulb. Don't throw the removed scapes out, they are a delicacy! You'll often see garlic scapes at summertime farmers markets and farm stands when farmers have removed them to enhance the growth of the garlic bulbs. Pick these up when you see them! Or, simply grow some hardneck garlic for yourself and enjoy your own fresh scapes, pinching them off at the leaf tips just when they begin to curl. I'll have more information at the end about making Garlic Scape Pesto!

While I love the scapes, I prefer to grow softneck garlic. Softneck garlic does not produce scapes. It grows with the cloves bunched together and is the type of garlic you typically find at grocery stores. Softneck has more cloves, about 16 per bulb, with large cloves on the outside and smaller ones as you move in toward the center. This type of garlic has the typical papery skin we are all familiar with and long, flexible stems that can be braided. Softneck garlic stores longer, which is why I prefer to grow this variety. There are two types of softneck garlic, silverskin and artichoke, the difference being that artichoke varieties are larger than silverskin.

Photo comparison between softneck and hardneck garlic bulbs. On the left, bulbs are whole. On the right, bulbs are cut in half horizontally. https://trimazing.com/
Softneck Garlic with Rows of Cloves and Hardneck with Cloves in a Single Row Around a Solid Center

Planting Garlic

Either use garlic you have grown or buy seed garlic from a nursery or supplier to grow garlic in your garden. Garlic you buy at your grocery store may have been treated with growth inhibiting chemicals or have diseases that interfere with good growth. Seed garlic comes in familiar looking bulbs, like you would buy at the grocer.

Photo of a bag containing three bulbs of seed garlic and one outside the bag on dirt of a garden bed. https://trimazing.com/
Bag of Seed Garlic for Garden Planting

Prepare your soil so that it is loose and amended with compost for good drainage and nutrients. You can grow a spring/summer cover crop in your bed to help boost the nutrient content of your soil and then chop that into the soil before planting. Choose a location that is sunny, with about 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.

Break up your garlic bulbs into individual cloves the same day you are going to plant. Gently pull the cloves apart, leaving the papery skin intact as much as possible--don't peel the cloves!

Photo seed garlic bulb broken into cloves for planting. https://trimazing.com/
Breaking up Garlic Bulbs into Cloves for Planting

Select the biggest cloves for planting for bigger bulb growth. Use the small cloves for cooking!

Photo of a garlic clove showing top and bottom orientation for planting. https://trimazing.com/
Orientation of Garlic Clove for Planting

Dig a little hole and put your clove in with the flat side down, pointed end headed up. It is important to position them this way so they grow straight. Have 2-inches of soil above the top of the clove. 

Photo showing planting garlic clove using a small hand spade. https://trimazing.com/
Planting Clove, Depth 2-inches Above Top of Clove

Apparently I missed a few cloves when harvesting the bulbs earlier this fall! I do recall having sliced a few with my hand spade when digging them up. There were bunches of garlic sprouts popping up when I was cleaning up my beds, so I dug them, divided the cloves, and replanted them in the new location.

Photo of garlic sprouts showing spacing of clove planting. https://trimazing.com/
Garlic Sprouts Showing Spacing of Clove Planting

I plant my cloves 6-inches apart on all sides. You'll see varying guidelines on this, but my bulbs grow beautifully with this spacing and I get a lot of garlic, nice big bulbs, out of my raised bed with this spacing. I've never had issues with small bulbs this way.

After sowing the cloves, I cover the bed with a mulch of fallen leaves to help keep weeds down and to keep nutrients from leeching away from the soil during our winter rains. It's a great way to use autumn leaves. This can be removed in the spring to help the soil warm up.

Photo of raised garden bed with garlic illustrated stake mulched with autumn leaves. https://trimazing.com/
Mulching Garlic Bed with Autumn Leaves. Pretty and Useful!

Pull weeds as they appear in your garlic bedgarlic hate competition and won't grow as large if there are other things pulling nutrients out of their bed. Don't worry if your soil freezes during the winter, the cloves go dormant during the winter and start growing again when things warm back up. Water them during spring and early summer, about an inch per week, but stop watering when the leaves start turning yellow and falling over in late summer. You'll harvest about two to four weeks after this, when the foliage is dry and yellow.

WSU Growing Garlic is a great guide for growing garlic. You can also contact the Garden Hotline for more specific questions you might have about growing garlic in the Pacific Northwest.

I hope you give it a tryit really is an easy thing to grow!

Garlic Scape Pesto

Photo of a fork with garlic scape pesto pasta twisted around the tines. https://trimazing.com/
Garlic Scape Pesto PastaYum!
This is soooo good!

10 garlic scapes
1/4 cup pine nuts or other nut you like
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
pepper to taste
1/3 cup vegetable stock, or olive oil

I prefer to make my pestos with vegetable stock rather than oil. Cut the scapes into 1-2 inch pieces, including the stem and flower pod, and place in a food processor along with the nuts, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper. Start the processor, stop and scrape down sides as needed, until finely chopped. While running, start pouring in the vegetable stock in a slow stream until the pesto is your desired consistency. Adjust salt and pepper as desired.

Serve with crusty bread or mix with cooked pasta. Wonderful on sandwiches, on grilled vegetables, or as a sauce on pizza! Freezes beautifully. Put into ice cube trays and freeze. Store frozen cubes in containers and thaw when desired.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tomato Paste

Photo of home-cooked tomato paste in a large pot. https://trimazing.com/

Please note, this post is meant as an overview of canning tomato paste and does not replace or represent itself to be an official guide for proper canning at home. It is important to consult safe canning resources, which are listed at the end of this post.

It's gotten to the end of the tomato season in my Pacific Northwest garden. The vines are getting dark and the tomatoes are slow to ripen and spotty. I've brought many inside the garage to finish ripening, but I don't completely trust their condition, as some of them grow mold inside, so I cut them open before using to make sure they're okay. Not really great tomatoes for canning whole, but perfect for making tomato paste.

Photo of a bowl of frozen cubes of tomato paste that had been frozen in ice cube trays. https://trimazing.com/
Frozen tomato paste cubes

Because I wanted to can the tomato paste, I used a recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, but you can certainly freeze tomato paste. In fact, most of the time I only need a tablespoon or so of tomato paste, not a whole can or jar, and freeze the leftover paste in ice cube trays and store the frozen cubes in jars in my freezer. You can do the same with marinara sauce, pesto, guacamole, etc. If you want to just simply freeze your paste, follow the directions up until the point of canning, then put the paste into freezer-safe jars or ice cube trays and freeze.

Photo of a pot of cut up tomatoes to be made into tomato paste. https://trimazing.com/
Cut up tomatoes for paste

The first step is to cut up washed tomatoes and simmer them into a sauce. You don't even have to peel them, which makes prep fast and easy! No water is necessary as the tomatoes will release their own liquid as they cook. Just stir often at the beginning so they don't stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Once they've come to a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on, and let them cook down an hour.

I used mostly paste tomatoes, which don't have a lot of excess liquid in them to cook off. There were some unknown non-paste heirlooms in there that I got as freebies from a market vendor.

Photo of pot of cooked down tomatoes to be pressed into juice. https://trimazing.com/
Cooked down tomatoes

Your tomatoes will look like this after they've cooked down.

See how juicy and soft they got? You want them really cooked down so you can get all the pulpy and juicy goodness out of the skins.

Note, I prefer to use stainless steel or lined pots when cooking down tomatoes. The acid in the tomatoes will react with aluminum or cast iron and give the finished product a metallic taste and often discolors it. I use a Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot for making tomato paste.

Photo of tomato skins and seeds leftover from pressing through a cone sieve. https://trimazing.com/
Pressing through cone sieve

Now you'll run the cooked tomatoes through a food mill or press them through a sieve to separate the skins and seeds from the juice and pulp.

You can add the leftover skins and seeds to other vegetable scraps to make vegetable stock. There will be a lot of tomato essence still left. Or you can cool and give to composting worms! At the very least, add them to your compost pile or municipal compost collection bin.

Photo tomato juice obtained by pressing cooked tomatoes through cone sieve. https://trimazing.com/
Resulting tomato juice

The juice is returned to the pot and simmered until it reduces by more than half and becomes a paste. It took about an hour for me, but I was doing a half recipe with paste tomatoes, so time will vary based upon the amount of tomatoes and type of tomatoes you use.

You can add bay leaf and garlic at this point, if you'd like, and also add citric acid. You'll need citric acid if you are canning your paste so the mixture is acidified enough for safe canning. If you are not canning, just freezing, you can omit the citric acid.

Run your ventilation fan while this is cooking down to help pull off the moisture and help it cook down.

The paste will get thicker and denser little by little as the liquid cooks off:

Three photos of the progression of tomato juice cooking into paste. https://trimazing.com/
From juice (left) to sauce (middle) to paste (right)

You want to cook it down until it is reduced into a thick paste and holds its own. Here's a little video of what it looks like when you run a spatula through it (I have my vent fan turned all the way up, so its a little loud!). See how slow it is to fill the space back in? This is where you want to take the paste to:

Now you can remove the garlic and bay leaf, if you used, and fill into hot half-pint or quarter-pint jars. I use quarter-pint (4-ounce jars) because I don't use a lot of tomato paste at a time.

Photo of 8 4-oz. jars of tomato paste on a granite countertop. https://trimazing.com/
8 4-oz. jars of tomato paste
This is the amount of paste I got from 7 pounds of tomatoes. It is really concentrated tomato, each little jar is the flavor of about 1 pound of tomatoes! A lot of folks won't find it worth it to make tomato paste, but I think it tastes better in glass than an aluminum can and I know it's not lined with BPA or BPS plastic. Furthermore, it's way easier to store after opening. I can scoop out what I want, replace the lid, and either refrigerate if I'm using again soon, or pop in the freezer.

Process these in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes for half- or quarter-pint jars, if at sea level. Check the recipe for other altitudes.

Photo of 8 4-oz. jars of canned tomato paste out of the water bath canner, cooling on a towel. https://trimazing.com/
Canned jars of tomato paste cooling from water canner


There are some great resources available for home canning. Internet resources are fantastic as they are generally most up to date. There are some standby books, but remember to get new ones every few years to be current with updated guidelines.