A Few Knife Skills – Cutting and Chopping Veggies

Chopping and Cutting Vegetables with a Chef Knife

During our Healthy Eating Adventure (HEA) at Shippensburg University in Shippensburg PA we were fortunate to see knife skills presented by Nick Iula, Chef and Food Services Manager at SHIP. He told us that in culinary school, formal knife skills courses would take a whole semester to cover. Although Tom and I are not professionally trained in knife skills, we do have tons of practical experience cutting and chopping. Hence we’ve done our best to deliver a very short tutorial to start you on your way with basic knife skills. Hopefully this video will aid you in navigating around your kitchen with a chef knife – chopping and cutting vegetables. The video shows some of the basics. 

My favorite knife for cutting and chopping vegetables on a daily basis is a Ceramic Chef Knife (below). Since I have a bit of carpel tunnel, it’s a perfect weight and size for my hand, plus I do not feel any pain after chopping. To be honest, Tom does more cutting and chopping than I do! I like that the knife stays sharp, it has been my loyal plant-based cutting companion for years and “knock on a wooden cutting board” I have yet to cut myself with this knife. SAFETY FIRST!

CoachBJ's Chef's Knife
CoachBJ’s Chef’s Knife

On the other hand, Tom prefers a heavier stainless steel knife, but every once in awhile I find him using my knife. Make sure that your knife suits you and fits the cutting task. In this case it is so important to use the right tool. In today’s video Tom will be demonstrating chef knives only. He will use safety gloves to show you how easy it is use them for safety, especially if you’re a beginner. LET’s start CUTTING!

Happy chopping and cutting, get into the rhythm, it can be a meditative task!

Pennsylvania Apples

PA Apples

FALL is in the air, that means Pennsylvania APPLES! Did you know that PA is the 4th leading state in the United States which produces APPLES? Furthermore, Franklin County is the 2nd top producer of apples in PA (after Adams County). Aren’t we lucky to live in this fertile valley and have fresh fruit available many months of the year! Beautiful orchards lined with rows of apple trees grace the landscape.

Rows of PA Apples
Rows of PA Apples
Beautiful PA Fall APPLES
Beautiful PA Fall APPLES

Apples are raised to use for the fresh market as well as for processed products. For us Pennsylvanians, fresh locally grown apples can be found in September and into the winter months.


HOW TO MAKE APPLESAUCE IN A CROCK POT.
Many varieties of apples are available…today we will be making applesauce with Golden Delicious, McIntosh and Cortland. But use any variety which satisfies your taste buds. I like to mix one sweet type apple, like Golden Delicious, with various other apples to give the applesauce more complexity. Of course there are a variety of methods to cook apples but the day the video was shot I had purchased a number of bags of seconds so I used a large slow-cooker (crock pot) to cook up a batch of applesauce.

Directions to cook applesauce in a crock pot:

  • Scrub, quarter and core apples (I do not peel to retain more nutritional value and I don’t mind if the applesauce is not totally smooth; but, if you wish, peel to make silky smooth applesauce.)
  • Cut into similar sized chunks, place in the pot, do not add water (add spices is you wish)
  • Cook for 4 or more hours on slow. (To make apple butter, it takes 10 hours or longer.)
  • When the apples are breaking up and have a mushy texture, it’s time to blend with an immersion blender to make applesauce.

Watch the video to see how easy it is to make and freeze applesauce to have fresh eating all year round. The video is a few years old but I still use this method. ENJOY!

Roasting Chick Peas

Roasting Chick Peas

We LOVE to snack on roasted low sodium CHICK PEAS (garbanzo beans)! Nice and crunchy like nuts without all the calories. Our toaster oven makes roasting so easy, quick and energy efficient too.

[A spin off is that we always have aqua faba (brine from chick peas) on hand to use as a leavening agent in baked goods…it keeps well in the refrigerator for about a week or freeze extra.] 

Roasted Chick Peas
Roasted Chick Peas

The process for roasting Chick Peas is simple:

  • Just pre-heat your toaster oven 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 minutes or roast in your regular oven.
  • Take a can of low sodium chick peas and save off the aqua faba (brine) to use as an ingredient in baked goods.
  • Do not rinse the chick peas, place them in a single layer on the roasting tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Sprinkle on your favorite seasoning, we like garlic and cayenne pepper.
  • Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning mid-way. That’s it!

Tom and Zipper had fun making this video…Zipper was hungry.

A downside is that they are so good that we gobble up the roasted Chick Peas in a hurry and have to made more! ENJOY!!

Potatoes in a Crock Pot

Gleaning Potatoes

POTATOES, POTATOES, POTATOES! We’re always searching for methods to prepare vegetables that is quick and easy…potatoes cooked in a Crock Pot fits this bill perfectly. It’s so easy that we were wondering if it was worth shooting a video but what the heck, practice makes perfect. At least once a week we cook a batch of various potatoes – our favorites and the most nutritious are yellows, sweets and reds. You can mix and match, just be aware, each one takes a different amounts of time to cook. 

Potatoes in a Crock Pot
Potatoes in a Crock Pot

You can make these in the evenings or on weekends, let the slow cooker do the job. This technique is very simple, just scrub potatoes and put them into the pot (no need to pierce or add water). Fill, cover and slow cook on low for between 4-6 hours. That’s all there is to it.

Now you have a batch to use for a potato bar or snacks. Store the extras in a bowl in the refrigerator…yum, just waiting for anyone who wants a healthy snack to grab it on their way out or as an evening snack. In particular, we love our potatoes plated on leafy greens and topped with specialty mustards. An additional benefit of using a Crock Pot, especially in the summer, is to save the environment,  it’s an energy saver and keeps the kitchen from getting hot. See we told you eating whole food, plant-based can be simple! 

Heirloom Tomato Soup – easy in the Pressure Cooker

Tom's Heirloom Tomatoes

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes…we love heirloom tomatoes, Tom grows Cherokee Purples, Brandy-wine,  Beefsteak, Striped German and more! This year was a banner year for all things tomatoes, with the plentiful rain in PA our tomatoes are growing fast and furious. They even survived the rabbits and ground hogs. With all these critters you would think we lived on a farm but we live in town. So we are thankful for the fabulous crop. What do we do with all of our beautiful tomatoes – no problem, plenty of recipes for tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, soups and more. We grow our own but people in our area are fortunate to have plenty of tomatoes available for sale at the Farmer’s Market, produce stands and grocery stores. Take in the rainbow of colors, unique shapes and sizes, and range of flavors, we are lucky!

Heirloom Tomatoes at the Farmer's Market
Heirloom Tomatoes at the Farmer’s Market

For our video today we are showing Coach BJ’s  quick, simple pressure cooker Heirloom Tomato Soup recipe. We are using a Swiss made Kuhn Rikon Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker (5-1/4 quart). We use it practically every day, it’s been a faithful companion for nearly eight years. Benefits of using a pressure cooker over other methods of cooking include the following;  a time saver, retains beautiful appealing food color, easy to store just like a soup pot and nutritional value of plant-based foods are keep intact. Besides demoing the pressure cooker we have included a bonus, that is, how-to use an immersion blender to quickly blend the soup. Check out this plant-based tomato soup with minimal calories but terrific nutritional value, you can eat this all day long!


COACH BJ’S HEIRLOOM CHUNKY TOMATO SOUP:  What a treat for the taste buds and your heart will love it too! Use your favorite garden heirloom tomatoes to make a quick nutritious soup to eat with salads or sandwiches or snacks.

Serves: 6 || Prep Time: 15 minutes || Cook Time: 4 minutes medium pressure
8 tomatoes, mix any heirloom vine ripe, core and quarter (no need to peel)
3-4 stalks medium celery, diced
1 medium onion, quartered
1 clove garlic, sliced
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1-2 cups or as needed, water
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or to taste
sprinkle with red pepper flakes

++++++++++++++++
Prepare all ingredients and place in the pressure cooker. Cook on medium pressure for 4 minutes. Take the cooker off the hot burner and let set for about 10 minutes, quick release if needed. Mix ingredients with an immersion blender. To make it chunky save off a few cups of the soup; blend a short time then add the cups of chunks back into the soup pot. Or to make the soup creamy, blend the whole pot to your desired consistency.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 61  Calories from Fat 3, Total Fat 1g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 40mg, Total Carbohydrate 11g, Fiber 4g, Sugars 1g, Protein 5g

Coach BJ's Heirloom Soup Recipe
Coach BJ’s Heirloom Soup Recipe

Potato Chips in the Microwave

New Potatoes at the Farmer's Market

Cooking potatoes in the microwave to make crispy potato chips without any oil is just too easy. All we need are a few potatoes, a microwave, Mandolin, safety gloves,  a few spices, microwaveable food tray and 7 minutes.  Normally we use yellow potatoes but try other varieties too. Use any of your favorite spices too…variety is the spice of life. The real key is to thinly slice the potatoes. The clean up is so easy. What’s not to like!

As you heard in the video, the potato chips are crisp and crunchy. We love our chip snacks, anything potatoes, whole foods plant-based eating is so much fun! One warning, I hate to mention, but the downside is that we eat the potato chips before we can load up the next tray again!  

How-to Make Cantaloupe Banana Ice Cream

Cantaloupes at the Market

A nice cool refreshing dessert made from frozen fruit, including bananas and fruits of your choice, is easy to make with another toy that we own – Yonanas. But don’t fear, if you don’t own one, you can do the same by using a strong blender.

Yonanas
Yonanas

No dairy or added sugar but all the wonderful nutrients makes this a super healthy treat. Plant-based ice cream can be made anytime of the year but it is especially pleasurable during the summer.

Ice Cream Made with Bananas and Blueberries
Ice Cream Made with Bananas and Blueberries
Cherry Banana Ice Cream
Ice Cream Made with Bananas and Cherries

The other day I noticed that our cantaloupe was getting ripe faster than we could eat it. We’re aware of food waste and try our best to eat what we purchase or grow. So what to do with those fast ripening fruits, well easy, just freeze them, especially bananas and, in this case, half of that cantaloupe. I’m curious about how yummy this ice cream will taste. First time try but I think it will be perfect with cantaloupe’s natural sweetness!

You can see from my food photography that I’ve made ice cream from bananas and blueberries and cherries. Try strawberries, peaches, mangoes, raspberries…how about watermelon. So let’s see what happens with the cantaloupe in this video, what do you think?

Remember to throw over-ripe or excess bananas and fruit in the freezer – make an ice cream treat later! Top with nuts and add chocolate chips too. Delicious. Waste NOT!

Cooking Ears of Corn in the Microwave

Corn in the Wind

More CORN, CORN, CORN…we love it, summer fun! Takes us back to those playful summer vacation days. Aren’t we so lucky to have an abundance of fresh produce and fruits in Franklin County, PA. A perfect place to raise whole food, plant-based on fertile farmland  – the soil is filled with wonderful nutrients to grow fantastically healthy food, add blessings of sun and rain, and hard working farmers…can’t beat it.

Tom and I volunteer for the Gleaning Project of South Central PA and view fields and fields of beautiful fresh corn up close and personal. I have learned how to pick full ears of corn and toting those heavy bags is wonderful exercise, saving us a trip to the gym. Helping our community by providing saved veggies is another breath of fresh air. We love gleaning! 

Gleaning Corn in Franklin County, PA
Gleaning Corn in Franklin County, PA

Speaking of corn, let’s cook a few ears for ourselves. How to cook a few ears of corn on the cob without the fuss of pots and water while saving time is shown in the video. We’ll be watching Tom cook ears of corn in the microwave. Depending on your microwave, cooking time takes only between 1-2 minutes per ear. NO need to add anything to the hots ears, they are packed with natural sweetness. Let’s get started, I’m getting hungry. 

…and now enjoy those tantalizing ears of corn!