Canning Classes

I’m so excited to tell everyone that I will be working with April Cunningham from North Coast Opportunities to put on a series of canning and cooking classes this year.  The classes will be offered at the Willits Grange Kitchen and the Ukiah Senior Center Kitchen (both of which are really nice commercial kitchens).  We’re working on adding some dates at the Redwood Valley Grange as well.  Workshops will focus on cooking and preserving seasonal produce from local farms.  I’ll show you how to make jam and pickles but we’ll do some fresh cooking too.  After each class, participants will go home with a bag full of goodies that we’ve made that day.  At just $20, the classes are a ridiculously good deal!  There’s no commitment to attend the whole series- feel free to sign up for one class and then sign up for the rest once you see how much fun they’re going to be and how delicious everything we make turns out.  fall preservesSpace is limited, so contact April Cunningham to reserve a space:, or 707-467-3212.  If you’re interested in attending but the dates don’t work for you, e-mail April to stay in touch about future workshops.

Upcoming Workshops:

April 18: Ukiah Senior Center 1:00-4:00 pm. – FULL

April 22: Willits Grange 2:00-5:00

May 6: Ukiah Senior Center 2:00-5:00

May 30: Ukiah Senior Center 2:00-5:00

June 16: Ukiah Senior Center: 2:00-5:00

Tangerine Jam with Vanilla Bean

It’s a strange time of year.  In November and December I was so tired from the summer that I was happy to sleep in and do not a whole lot for awhile.  Many hours were spent soaking in the bathtub and reading through seed catalogues.  tangerinesBy now, though, garden plans have been laid out, the first round of earliest spring seeds have been ordered and shipped to us and I’m starting to wake up in the morning with manic summer gardening thoughts in the front of my brain.

Before I forget, though, these tangerines! Citrus season in California is very much upon us.  A friend of mine in Ukiah gave me a huge bag of tangerines off of her tree.  They were juicy, sweet and delicious, and while we ate a lot of them fresh I also ended up making a couple different projects with them.


I held back from adding a bunch of flavorings to the syrup.  My goal was to make a fancy version of the canned mandarin oranges that they sell at the grocery store.  They’re basically the same thing, but with local fruit and a light syrup made with organic sugar.  tangerines in syrupI used this recipe here, which worked out just fine. Maybe I’ll tinker with it next time, but I kind of like that these are pretty plain.   They’re lovely straight out of the jar, tossed with salads, in a sauté with chicken, almonds and parsley, and a whole load of other recipes.


tangerine and vanilla bean jamI realized a few years ago that any jam that’s heavy on the vanilla makes for the best, most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  I think it’s something that ends up kind of being reminiscent of peanut butter and marshmallow fluff? But without the marshmallow? Maybe I’m crazy…  This jam is a good alternative to marmalade if you’re not a fan of the bitter flavor marmalade can have. It tastes like a creamsicle because of the classic orange-vanilla combination. If you want to use it for savory applications, just leave out the vanilla bean. I thought about making another batch with ginger instead of vanilla, which I think would be great on chicken or as a salad dressing base, but…. we ate the rest of the tangerines. Oops.

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: 6 half pint jars


  • 14 tangerines and 1 lemon, peeled and blended in a food processor, or about 5 c. of fruit puree.
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 box of sure-gel low sugar pectin
  • 2 c. sugar

Prepare boiling water canner, jars and lids.

Put the fruit puree into a large, heavy bottomed pot.  Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the fruit puree.  Simmer the fruit-vanilla mixture for 5 minutes on low heat.  In a small bowl, combine the pectin with 1/2 c. sugar.  Once the fruit has simmered, add the pectin-sugar mixture and turn the heat to high.  Once it comes to a boil, add the remaining 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until you can see the jam sheeting of a spoon.

Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims clean and attach lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

Note: I only use 1/2 box of pectin because I find that when I use a full box, the set is way too firm for my taste.  If you prefer a firmer set, feel free to add the rest of the pectin.


As you’re doing these projects, don’t throw away the peels. Save them and dehydrate them to make tangerine peel powder, which you can use as a spice with kinds of different applications.  I mixed some with garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, dried thyme and rosemary to make a savory rub for chicken or pork. You can also use it for sweet things — I find that any time you’re using desserty kinds of spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, a little pinch of the tangerine peel powder just makes it taste even better.  peelsYou can either dry the peels in a dehydrator or the oven; I don’t have a dehydrator so I used the lowest setting on my oven.  They took a couple hours to dry out, and then I ground them in my blender.  The powder felt like it still had a little moisture in it, so I spread it onto a cookie sheet and dried it a little longer to make sure it wouldn’t mold in the pantry. tangerine peel powderThe scent of the peels dehydrating is wonderful and will make your house smell delicious, like you’re baking a tangerine cake.

Happy canning!

Turkey Meatballs

It’s January so we’re all eating healthy stuff, right? meatballsI know that if I start talking about “cleanses” or “detoxing” it brings up a lot of really strong emotions. The whole conversation can get really pretentious and conjure up ideas of juice diets or other really restrictive programs (which don’t always sound very healthy).  I’m not sure if what I’m doing really falls in the same category, and I’m only talking it here because it’s worked so well for me and I want to share some of the recipes I’ve been making with you.  The program is called the Whole 30, and it’s basically a strict version of paleo, where you take thirty days and eat only meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, seeds, grains and healthy oils.  That means no sweeteners of any kind, no grains, no soy, no corn, no dairy, no legumes, no alcohol… and there’s probably other stuff that I’m forgetting but that’s the main idea.  I did a full month in November and I felt like a rockstar so I’m doing another one.  There’s no calorie counting or restricting and I just eat when I’m hungry.  I really, really like taking a full month to make my diet a top priority and form new, healthy habits.  There a lots of times where I get really busy and stop planning, and this program makes me take the time to actually eat breakfast, pack myself a real lunch, and cook a real dinner with vegetables in it.  Yes, we have a vegetable farm, and yes, sometimes we get insanely busy and tired and eat macaroni and cheese from a box.  Isn’t that horrible and messed up? It is.  Different diets suit different people, so this may not be ideal for everyone, but I feel so much better omitting grains and sugar from my diet.  I’m so happy I took the time to try it out and see how it made me feel.

I’ll be posting a couple of my favorite weeknight recipes during January in case other people need some inspiration. The first one I have to share are these turkey-mushroom meatballs.  You can make them with spaghetti squash if you want to mimic pasta, but I actually like to eat them over a big pile of greens. It doesn’t really matter what kind; cooked greens are good, kale salad is good, collards, spinach, whatever. It all tastes good with tomato sauce and meatballs!


Serves: 2-3


  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 c. grated mushrooms*
  • 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
  • 1 tbs. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 quart jar of tomato sauce

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, combine the turkey, mushrooms, onions, parsley and garlic powder. Season the mixture with salt and pepper.  Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high heat.  Form the mixture into balls and put then place them in the olive oil.  Don’t touch them for a few minutes to let them brown.  After that, gently turn the meatballs to continue browning the rest of them.  Once they’re browned, pour the sauce over them and put them in the oven to cook for 20 minutes (just to make sure they’re cooked through).  Serve over vegetables or with salad.  Delicious as leftovers.

*Just grate button mushrooms on a standard grater. You could probably put them in the food processor too.

Winter Salad with Butternut Squash, Greens, Chicken and Candied Pecans

This salad!

winter saladI should have taken more pictures of it. This isn’t even really the finished salad, just the almost-finished salad. The finished version disappeared too fast to take pictures.  (The finished salad has chopped nuts and dressing on it).

This is the perfect winter salad, and the perfect antidote the cookies, cakes, cocktails, and candy that apparently we’re supposed to all be making and eating because it’s the holiday season.  Cookies are good and all but this salad is actually real food that’s delicious and you can eat for dinner and not feel like death afterwards.  butternut squash cubesThe salad components are simple: roasted butternut squash and red onions, a bag of salad mix from the farmers market, leftover roasted chicken, and some chopped candied pecans.   Oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, then it’s ready to eat. candied pecansThe candied pecans are a whole separate story…  My next door neighbors gave me a bag of pecans from their trees, and I guess I drank a ton of coffee the other day and actually sat down and shelled them all and made this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts.  It took forever to shell all of them, but jars of the finished nuts are nice Christmas presents that took time instead of money, which was very of important to me this year.   You could certainly substitute any kind of toasted nuts if you don’t feel like making this recipe, although I highly recommend it.  There’s a pinch of cayenne pepper in the spice mix that coats the nuts that really makes it taste amazing.

Here’s wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year! I hope you all are warm and happy, with good food on your table and friends and family close by.

WINTER SALAD with Butternut Squash, Roast Chicken and Candied Pecans


  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 red onion, sliced into thin wedges
  • a few sprigs of fresh herbs: thyme, oregano, rosemary, whatever you have is fine
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • vinegar: apple cider vinegar or whatever you have
  • 1/2 lb. of mixed salad greens: use a spicy mix with some arugula and mustard greens in it
  • 1/2 c. candied pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. or so of leftover roast chicken, cut into cubes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butternut squash and onions onto a cookie sheet with the fresh herbs. Drizzle liberally with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake until the squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Put the salad greens in a bowl.  Top with roasted vegetables, chopped chicken and pecans.  Dress with oil and vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Brandied Cranberry Pear Preserves

cranberries peCranberries are one of the things that make me buy non-local fruit.  I just can’t not do it. I love them.  I want to put them in everything I make.  The pears are local! They’re from my friend’s farm in Potter Valley! I drove all the way over there by myself way out into the boonies out of cell phone range on a dirt road in my frail old pickup truck with the engine light on! That’s how committed I was to those beautiful bartlett pears.  That should forgive the fact that I bought cranberries in a plastic bag from the grocery store.  Shhh.  SHHHHH.  No judging.cranberrypearpreserves The obvious use for cranberry preserves is to put them with roast turkey, but I really love this preserve on regular old whole wheat toast on all kinds days that aren’t Thanksgiving.  I think it tastes best when it’s cold and gray outside and you make a cup of tea and some toast.  I am a huge fan of fall, winter, rain, sweaters, fires in the wood stove, etc., and this jam fits right in with all that stuff.

Also,  if you want to be fancy it’s pretty amazing with soft chèvre or brie.


Cook Time: 1 hr., plus waiting overnight for fruit to macerate

Makes: 4 1/2 half pint jars


  • 4 c. diced pears (peel and core first)
  • 2 c. cranberries
  • 3 c. sugar
  • 2 tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • a splash of brandy (how big is up to you)

Day 1:

Combine all the ingredients in a nonreactive container.  Stir well to coat the pears with sugar.  Press a layer of saran wrap over the top of the mixture to prevent browning.  Put the container in the fridge for 24 hours.

Day 2:

Bring boiling water canner to a boil and prepare jars and lids.

Transfer the mixture to a large, nonreactive pot.  Turn the heat to high and cook until the jam reaches the gel point, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Partway through cooking, I like to give the mixture a few mashes with a potato masher to break up some of the fruit pieces to get a jammier texture.

Remove the bay leaf and discard. Ladle hot jam into hot, clean jars leaving 1/4″ headspace.  Wipe rims and attach lids. Process for 10 minutes, adjusting for altitude if necessary.

Vegan Mushroom Gravy

Sometimes I like to make this vegan mushroom gravy because you can dump it all over all kinds of stuff and it makes everything taste amazing. Savory and meaty and delicious.  (Sausage gravy will achieve the same purpose, but this is cheaper than buying nice sausage from the farmers market, and mushrooms are really tasty anyway). mushroomsToday I put it on a baked sweet potato for lunch.  Last night I put it on spaghetti squash and collard greens.  This is my go-to gravy for making vegan/vegetarian soul food dinners; I usually make mashed sweet potatoes with some brown sugar and bourbon, whip up a batch of this gravy, stew some greens, maybe fry a couple green tomatoes or bake some biscuits…. good to go.  No meat needed. purple sweet potato and mushroom gravy(I feel like I need to acknowledge that this sweet potato is bright purple.  I bought it at the co-op the other day, not realizing how vivid the color would be.  Hooray for purple vegetables, right?)


Cook Time: 20 minutes


  • 2 tbs. vegan margarine, butter or olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. diced onions
  • 3 c. sliced mushrooms*
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. of soy sauce (or, if you don’t eat soy, balsamic vinegar is good)
  • 3/4 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tbs. chopped parsley
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Heat the butter in a sauté pan on medium.  Add the garlic, onions and bay leaf and sauté until the onions are translucent.  Add the mushrooms and sauté until they are cooked through.  Add 1/4 c. of water to the mushrooms while they’re cooking to make sure they don’t stick and burn.  Add the whole wheat flour and nutritional yeast and stir to coat the mushrooms mixture.  Let it start to brown on the pan a little bit, add the soy sauce and let it cook for another minute. The pan should be getting a little brown and crusty, but not actually burned.  Deglaze the pan with 1/2 c. of water or vegetable stock.  Keep stirring and the gravy should come together and thicken within a few minutes.  If it’s too thick, add a little more water.  Add the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

*I used a mixture of shiitakes and button mushrooms, but it really doesn’t matter what varieties you choose.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

moroccan vegetable stewThis is a perfect fall stew, filled with vegetables from the late summer garden and richly spiced with cinnamon, cayenne and turmeric.  It’s based off a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant, so I can’t take credit for the brilliant idea, but when I made it for the cooking demo at the Redwood Valley Farmers Market this past Sunday, I realized I’d made so many small changes to it so it would fit what we have locally available that I should probably write up a fresh version so I don’t have to explain it to anyone else.  Because it’s so good! You must make it. If you want a simple, cheap, delicious dinner using a bunch of stuff you probably have around anyway, this is it.

The original recipe is from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites, which is a fantastic cookbook and worth every penny.


Cook Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 6


  • 1/3 c. olive oil
  • 3 c. diced onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. (or less) cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 4 c. peeled, cubed winter squash – 1″ cubes (this is about 1 average sized butternut squash or 2 average sized buttercup squash)
  • 2 c. water or vegetable stock
  • 3 c. diced heirloom tomatoes
  • 3 c. diced eggplant
  • 1 c. diced bell pepper (any color)
  • 2 c. diced summer squash (any color)
  • 1 15 ounce can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. diced tart apples
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • lemon wedges, optional, for serving

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium low heat. Add the onions and salt and cook, covered, for five minutes.  Add the garlic and spices and sauté, covered, for another three minutes.  Add the winter squash and sauté for a couple more minutes, then pour in the water.  Add the tomatoes and eggplant, cover and let everything simmer for ten minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Add the peppers, summer squash, chickpeas, raisins and apples, cover, and simmer for another fifteen minutes, or until the winter squash and eggplant are tender.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with lemon wedges.

Feel free to change around the fruit based on what you have available.  This stew would be great with dried apricots instead of raisins and I’d love to try it with chopped fresh pears instead of the apples.