Grow Your Own Sprouts, Dummy

I want to dedicate this post to a one-time co-worker from back in my Whole Foods days. Through his willingness to overstep boundaries, call me names and tell me like it was I learned never to buy those wickedly overpriced prepackaged sprouts again.

Because growing your own sprouts is as easy as (if not actually easier than) 1-2-3.

Not to mention it’s cheaper than a crocus in March.

All you’ll need is:

  • Seeds — Alfalfa or bean (such as mung and garbanzo) are perfect for first-timers. The latter choice will yield “crunchy” sprouts and the former those delightful long strands you may know so well. Your best bet is to pick these up from bulk bins at your local natural foods store. For alfalfa you’ll only need about 1/4 cup for 1 batch. For the others, about 1/2 cup. It’ll likely set you back about $2.
  • Mason jar or comparable container
  • Cheesecloth or mesh
  • Rubber band

This time around I kept it at alfalfa.

The first step is to soak your seeds. Place 2-4 tbs of the alfalfa seeds (1/2 cup for beans) in the bottom of your jar and cover with cool water. Soak for roughly 6 hours (beans can sit for 8-10):

The second step is to drain your seeds. Place two layers of cheesecloth over the jar and secure with a rubber band (you’ll only need one layer for larger seeds). Find a place where you can keep the jars upside-down to allow the seeds to drain. If they’re on a solid surface, be sure to remember to lift them to remove excess drippage when you can:

The third step is to rinse your sprouts twice a day. Just fill the jar with water, drain and replace.

The final step is to watch them grow. Seriously. That’s it.

DAY 1:

DAY 2:

DAY 3:

There is one optional step — place your sprout-packed jar by a window for a few hours and BAM:

Chlorophyll is a wondrous thing. This is a great way not only to beautify your sprouts, but also to enliven them. Exposure to sunlight increases their level of chlorophyll, and while claims are contested, many agree that this life-giving molecule may offer fauna some of the same power it lends to basically 99% of the floral world. So why not. Use your window.

As if this whole process wasn’t already the simplest and most amazing thing ever, just wait until you unload your jar. With just $1-2 in the game, you’ll come out with about $25 worth of prepackaged alfalfa sprouts:

They don’t last too long in the fridge, so definitely plan on a few days of sprout-related meals in a row, but really – who’s complaining?

So next time I see you at the Whole Foods checkout line trying to hide your $10 plastic container of sprouts in shame, I’ll be the one calling you out. GROW YOUR OWN SPROUTS, DUMMY!

The Snack Most Worth Waiting For: Dilly Beans

This past summer I picked up a load of green and wax beans from my Aunt’s garden.  Not knowing what else to do with ’em, I took a nod from Marisa of the fantastic canning blog Food in Jars and went for Dilly Beans — an old fashioned pickled treat.  Lucky for me, the finished product was buried so deep in my pantry that I couldn’t be tempted to break in early.  After a full four months (three, even, would have probably sufficed) I opened a jar for the first time.  Verdict?  AMAZING.  My boyfriend and I literally ate the whole jar within an hour — well before we finished anything else on the associated cheese plate.  Even better news: NO BOTULISM!  So go ahead, have some fun.  Dilly those beans.

Dilly Beans

  • Wide mouth pint jars or 12 oz. jelly jars
  • Other associated canning supplies*
  • String beans (a combo of green and wax is nice!)
  • Garlic cloves (2 per jar)
  • Split hot chili pepper – fresh or dried (1 per jar)
  • 1 tsp dill seed (per jar)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (per jar)
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp celery seed (per jar)
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns (per jar)
  • fresh dill
  • water
  • white vinegar
  1. Sanitize jars.*
  2. Trim string beans so that when stuffed upright in jar they are about 1 inch from the top.
  3. Fill jars while still warm with string beans, garlic cloves, split chili pepper, dill seed, salt, cayenne, celery seed, peppercorns and a spring of fresh dill.
  4. For each jar you’ve filled, add 1 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar to a large pot.  Once boiling, pour the hot brine over your beans leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top of each jar.
  5. Run a chopstick or whatever you have on hand around the outside of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims very clean with a paper towel to ensure a clean seal.
  6. Apply warmed lids, screw on bands, and process in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.*
  7. They’re ready to eat basically immediately, and will last about a year in your pantry.

*I’ve never bothered to put together a nice primer on canning but they are certainly available out there. For something comprehensive, try the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning – it’s a bible of sorts.  Alternatively, here’s a quick and simple Canning 101 from Simple Bites!

A Chapter from the Autumn Almanac: Applesauce

Again inspired by a sudden excess of perishables, I learned something new last week:

Applesauce is ridiculously easy to make at home.

It’s so easy that I actually almost added steps just to make it feel more like I was doing something.  Granted, for my first applecookin’ experience I stuck with the bare essentials – but it doesn’t take much to spice it up!  Add garam masala for an eastern twist…or some berries for a tart touch!  I’ve also spent a good deal of time contemplating how to most efficiently incorporate bacon into my applesauce.

Whether you keep it simple or go nuts, I promise: if you buy yourself a bushel of apples, set aside an hour or two and do this, you’ll never go back to store bough applecrap again!

How to Make Yummy Applesauce in an Hour or Less

I used about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of apples bestowed upon me by the ancient heirloom trees out on my Aunt’s property:

I managed to enlist some assistance from my lovely boyfriend in peeling, coring and quartering the apples (thanks to a bribe of hockey and Chex Mix), which was the only real labor involved:

Just add 3/4 cup water (you could also use apple juice or cider), along with 1 clove and 2 star anise (totally optional, but classic add-ins), cover and heat!  Let the apples simmer for 15-25 minutes until they’re nice and soft.

Using an immersion blender, or via batches in a normal blender, combine the apples with 1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon and 1-2 teaspoons nutmeg until you reach your desired sauciness:

I prefer my applesauce unsweetened (aren’t apples sweethearts enough?!), but if you would like, go ahead and add any kind of sweetener you prefer be it sugar, honey, agave nectar…what have you!

I ate this stuff faster than a constipated grandpa, so I didn’t really have any left to preserve.  I stuck a small container of it in the freezer (it freezes wonderfully!) in case of emergency, but otherwise packaged it into small jars for snacks at work – yum 🙂

If you’d like to preserve, please follow the USDA instructions found here, processing in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes for half pints and pints or 20 minutes for quarts.

Happy autumn!

When Life Gives You Lemons: Make Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

It’s amazing what having access to a high-yield vegetable garden has done to my life.  I’m not sure if it’s good or bad – but I’ve developed this squirrellish tendency to hoard produce and devilishly conceive of ways to keep it in my arsenal long past the originally predicted date of decay.  Maybe it’s the sudden abundance of my Aunt’s new vegetable garden, or maybe it’s the coming apocalypse…can’t say for sure.

The fact is that for better or for worse, my current tendency towards gardening and gardens partnered with an irrational/rational fear of impending doom has birthed a hobby: figuring out what to do when you have so much of something that it threatens uselessness and the thought of letting it go to waste induces nausea lest you encounter a future need for past excess.  Now that’s a torment worth prevention.

This week’s culprit: green tomatoes.While I personally like these tart, crisp little buggers on their own, they’re a hard sell fresh.

So on one of those devilish mental tears, I became inspired by the South Philadelphia Tap Room‘s unbelievably sour and spicy selection of pickled delicacies, and decided to attempt my own version of their fiery green tomatoes.And this is what emerged:Do they taste good?  Ask me two months from now.

Do they look good?  Yes.

Try it.  It’s fun!

Habanero Pickled Green Tomatoes

Makes 2 pint jars

  • 1-2 lbs green tomatoes
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 habanero chili
  • 2 garlic cloves*
  • 3/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp dill seed
  • 2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tbs kosher salt
  1. If you’ll be preserving, prepare your jars for battle!*
  2. Core tomatoes, and cut into thick slices (horizontally).
  3. “Eighth” onion.
  4. CAREFULLY seed chilies and quarter.
  5. Prepare brine by bringing vinegar, water and salt just to boil.
  6. Once jars are warm,* pack em: stuff each full with tomato slices, a few chunks of onion, half of each chili, a garlic clove (smashed), 1 tsp dill seed, 1 tsp celery seed, 1 bay leaf, 1/2 tsp peppercorns.
  7. Pour hot brine over tomatoes, removing any bubbles with the end of a spoon or chop stick – leave 1/2 inch headspace.
  8. If fridging, allow to cool, and refrigerate – they’ll keep for up to a month.
  9. If canning (in boiling water canner) – process for 10 minutes.*

*If canning, please follow USDA instructions found here!