Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Incredible Edible Garden

This is a great time of year to catch the "garden bug."  Whether you have a dedicated garden bed, a few grow boxes, a patio container garden, or a windowsill garden - this is the time to begin planning a summer garden.  Even if you have never had a garden in your life - February and March are great months to begin planning one.  In February I usually begin to sort through last years seed packets, browse though online seed catalogs, and visit local nursery's for ideas.

One of the reasons I like to garden is that it is rewarding to see the little seeds you plant begin to sprout, grow and hopefully flourish.

I support the idea of eating local foods and try to buy most of my food from local growers at farmer's markets.  You can't get much more local than what grows in your own backyard garden.

I support organic and I favor organic gardening methods.  Growing my own food has given me a much deeper appreciation for those that produce food using traditional non-industrial methods.

I support non-GMO seeds and seek out companies that produce non-GMO seeds.  Go to this site and click on the link that will take you to the Council For Responsible Genetics where you will find a list of companies that have signed a safe seed pledge.

One thing I am certain of - is that you cannot beat a home produced vegetable for taste.  Even the fairly fresh farmer's market produce that I frequently buy cannot stand up to a home grown vegetable for taste.

When you grow your own vegetables you know where those vegetables have come from and what they have been exposed to.

When you grow your own vegetables you can choose the most amazing varieties.  At first it may be hard to contain yourself.  I enthusiastically endorse trying LOTS of varieties.  Two of my garden favorites are "painted serpent cucumber" and "moon and stars watermelon."  I am a sucker for interesting names and especially varieties with a history.

Heirloom variety seeds are particularly appealing.  By planting heirloom vegetables you support plant diversity and help preserve seeds that would otherwise be lost to the all too prevalent mono-culture agricultural methods.  I plant and grow as many heirloom varieties as I can.  Besides fulfilling my criteria for having interesting names, heirloom variety vegetables taste different because they are not bred for transport - they are preserved and grown for their taste and uniqueness.

With a few exceptions, the last thing you might want to think about is ditching the idea of planting nice neat rows of veggies - and this will bother neat-niks - but I gave up planting many of my vegetables in nice neat rows several years ago.  What I learned over years of observing the habits of plants is that they are social creatures.  They actually like to cuddle with each other.  I think it is fun to see the surprising ways the plants in my garden, and nature for that matter, grow and mingle together.  That is one part of gardening I would not want to miss.

Gardens are meant to be shared.  They are a fun place to bring people of all ages.

Have fun in your incredible edible garden!

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Friday, February 24, 2012

Vegetarian Chili From Carrisa's Kitchen

Carrisa adapted a recipe from Sally Fallon's book "Nourishing Traditions.  Carrisa followed the original vegetarian version of the chili and then she added one pound of cooked grass-fed beef when it was finished.  Carrisa said salting and draining the zucchini and eggplant is an important step as it keeps the vegetables from getting mushy during the cooking process.

Vegetarian Chile

1 eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch cubes, salted and drained in a colander for 1 hour
2 zucchini, diced, salted and drained in a colander for 1 hour
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 c. chicken stock
1 can tomatoes, chopped briefly in food processor
1 small bunch of basil leaves, cut up
2 T. chile powder
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. oregano
2 c. black beans
2 c. corn kernels, fresh or frozen


chopped green onion
grated raw Monterey Jack cheese
chopped cilantro
sour cream

Rinse eggplant and pat dry.  Saute in batches in several tablespoons olive oil and transfer, using a slotted spoon, to a large casserole, adding more oil as needed.  Rinse zucchini and pat dry.  Saute in batches in olive oil and transfer, using a slotted spoon, to casserole.  Saute peppers and onions in batches and transfer to casserole.

Add stock, tomatoes, and seasonings to the pot, bring to a boil, skim and simmer for 1 hour.  Add beans and corn kernels and simmer another 1/2 hour.  Serve with garnishes.

Cubed Eggplant Salted and Drained for One Hour
Cubed Zucchini Salted and Drained for One Hour

Medley of Chopped Onion, Red Bell Pepper and Yellow Bell Pepper

Chili Simmers on stove for One Hour

A Delicious Vegetarian Chili

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Test Kitchen

I have been busy working on a cookbook.  What I have found very helpful is to have Carrisa test some of the recipes with me.  This week Carrisa tested a fruitcake recipe.  While I have been busy in the kitchen experimenting and developing a delicious gluten free version of the original family fruitcake recipe - Carrisa baked the traditional version of the recipe using sprouted wheat flour instead of regular flour.  Here are some of the photos she took in her kitchen.

Carrisa mixes up the dough using real food ingredients.

Carrisa stirs in organic nuts and dried fruits.

Carrisa pours the batter into a parchment paper lined baking tin.

Here is the fruitcake fresh from the oven.

The fruitcake cools on the counter,

The finished fruitcake inverted onto a plate.

A delicious slice of fruitcake.  

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