The Backyard

The Backyard

Monday, February 20, 2012

The 2012 Growing Season has Begun

Broccoli seeds are started for the 2012 season.  Brussel sprouts and celery will follow when the celery seeds arrive.  It's been warm enough in Central Pennsylvania that I'm toying with the idea of direct seeding spinach, kale, radishes, turnips, and maybe some salad greens.  Wednesday is a high of 55 which is way above normal and the long range forecast has the temps spring-like as far out as the prediction goes into early March.  That groundhog had it all wrong!  I truly believe we'll have an early spring.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Growing a Garden

My garden is growing.... larger in size.  Hubby and I just decided to add watermelon and cantaloupe which are vining crops that take a bunch of space.  And since we have the space, why not expand?  You can't hold a gardener back.  Here's my second and final order of the season.   Any others I grow will likely be from plant which I'll purchase locally. 

Fordhook Bush Lima Bean
Tendercrisp Celery
Straight Eight Cucumber
Bon Vivant Mesclun Blend Lettuce
White Stem Pak Choy
Shumways Gourmet Mesclun Mix
Ambrosia Hybrid Muskmelon
Crimson Sweet Watermelon
New Zealand Tetragonia Spinach
Antique Sunflower Mix
Double Dwarf Sunflower
Love Lies Bleeding Amaranthus
Queen Mixed Cleome
Oklahoma Zinnia Mix
Starlight Rose Zinnia

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Making Crackers on a Cold Winter Day

My mother loves crackers.  As she looked for her favorite on the shelf, I balked at the ingredient list of every cracker box I picked up.  The preservatives and unpronounceable ingredient list is way too long on nearly all of them.  Hubby sort of snickered when I said I'm going to try to make my own.  After looking at a couple recipes, it seemed too easy.  And it was!   Even Maria Rodale comments on the ease of making crackers.  My first attempt was a great success and cracker-making has just been added to my repertoire of cost savings and healthy (healthier than processed) creations.   I chose a recipe using sesame seeds because I have a supply of seeds that need used.  Below is my version of an eggless Whole Wheat Sesame cracker recipe I found via the Web.  This can be altered with countless additions.  Next time, I'll add more salt which hubby said they lacked. I may throw in rosemary also.   When my sesame seeds run out, I'll try flax seeds.  Hubby so kindly obeyed when I asked him to hide them from me.  They'd be gone by now.   Very, very tasty minus the unpronounceable ingredients -- and guaranteed easy!

1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup black sesame seeds (can also use flax seed)
1/2 teaspoon Salt
Cayenne Pepper to taste
1/4 cup coconut oil
8 to 9 tablespoons Water

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly.  Add the oil and mix until crumbly (like pie dough).  Add a tablespoon at a time of water and mix after each until dough stays together enough to form into a ball. I used 7 tablespoons, but could have used 8 I think.  Separate half the dough and roll as thin as you can.  Cut in cracker size pieces put on cookie sheets.  Do the same with the 2nd dough ball.  Bake in 350 oven for 10-20 minutes depending on the thickness of the crackers.  You'll find the thin crackers from the edge of the dough will brown much quicker and will need taken out first.  The remainder will take a little longer.    Enjoy! 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Time to Cut Back Raspberry Canes

It's February - a late winter month that, in my opinion, marks the beginning of the growing season.  It's the month to start the early spring vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflower indoors under lights.  It's the month to assure you have all your seeds for the summer if you haven't already done so.  It's the month to lay out your plan for the garden this spring - do you have enough room for everything?  And its the month to get out and trim up your grapes and raspberries.  Yes, raspberries are cut back to about 6 inches in late winter while dormant.  I'm not fussy in trying to find the canes that bore fruit last year and cutting just those; I cut them all, and have never had an issue with a lack of fruit bearing.  My raspberry crops are always plentiful unless there's a drought.   There's nearly always a warm sunny day to accomplish this chore in either January or February.  This past weekend gave Central Pennsylvania temps in the 50's and I took advantage of it and clipped the berry bushes. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bean Cake

Today it's called tofu -- in 1970 it was called Bean Cake.  From Richard Hittleman's 1970 Yoga Natural Foods Cookbook:
Bean Cake
Bean Cake is also known as Tofu or soy cheese.  Bean cake is precipitated soy bean milk.  It is very  high in vegetable protein, can be used in soups and enjoyed in much the same way as cottage cheese.  Bean Cake can be kept up to one week if submerged in a bowl of water, and kept in refrigerator. 
1 cup full-fat soy flour
1 cup cold water
2 cups boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
Beat soy flour into cold water with wire whisk, mixer or blender,  Pour into boiling water and cook 5 minutes.  Add lemon juice.  Cool.  Strain through cheese cloth and pack into square container. 

Bean Cake and Onions
1 lb Bean cake (Tofu) *
3 onions (sliced)
4 tablespoons oil
3/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
Saute onions in oil until wilted.  Drain bean cake and cut into one inch squares.  Add bean cake to onions and stir.  Mix corn starch, soy sauce and water. Pour over bean cakes. Simmer and stir until well heated and sauce is thickened.

* See instructions for making bean cakes, this chapter.  Tofu can also be purchased in most Chinese and Japanese groceries.

After reading this, it occurred to me that even tofu falls into the category of "processed" and many would not consider purchasing today's standard of grocery-store shelf tofu.   How far tofu has come in just 40 years.  It's ancient in the far east, but a true infant in America.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Circa 1970 Natural Foods Cookbook

In my husband's youth, Yoga was gaining popularity in the US.    He gravitated to Richard Hittleman's books on practicing Yoga.  Yesterday, I found one of those books that caught my healthy-eating eye; "Yoga Natural Foods Cookbook."  It's from 1970 - a time when organic food and vegetarianism was considered "different" -- something the hippies were doing.  Natural foods were far from the norm at that time and they were difficult to find.  But then again, they aren't really the norm these days either with a McDonald's or other fast food joint on nearly every corner. 

From the back cover of the book (remember... this is 1970!):  "Life Force Foods will change your life.  90% of the foods in the typical american diet are contaminated with chemical additives that destroy vital nutrients... dull your taste... deplete your physical vitality.  There is an alternative!  Learn from a famed Yoga teacher how to prepare over 250 delicious natural food recipes.  Learn Yoga secrets for keeping your weight down and your energy up. Experiment with natural, unprocessed foods and feel your vitality growing and your tastes reawakening.   

The book encourages eating life-force foods. Natural foods - primarily those which grow.   We designate vegetables, herbs, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes and certain dairy products, "natural." "Natural eating is consuming these foods either in their natural state or in a state that renders them fit for easy digestion with minimum destruction of their life -force.  The extent that natural foods are de-natured, that is, refined, canned, preserved, smoked, aged, colored, fumigated, stabilized, thickened, enriched, and processed, as well as cooked through such methods as frying and boiling, they are devitalized, rendered lifeless from our viewpoint."  If Mr. Hittleman were alive today, he'd be cringing at the amount of processed foods on store shelves, not to mention the obesity rate.   Paging through the recipes, I found Garbanzo Sesame Spread.  Yes - modern day hummus and not much different than hubby's Hummus.  There's no sugar used in any of the recipes, and no "flesh foods."  Interestingly, the words vegan or vegetarianism are no where to be found in the book.  The author writes three pages about proteins and flesh foods, and how "the yogi believes there can be no life-force derived from a dead creature."  And here we are 40 years later, with an alarming amount of factory farms and factory-raised animals being fed to billions of people.   The 1970 book mentions organic foods and states, "Unfortunately, organic produce is not plentiful because of economics involved; it is available at some health foods stores and at farms and occasionally at markets in the proximity of large produce areas.  The philosophical as well as practical advantages of your own vegetable garden deserve your most serious consideration."  Those are some sweet words - words that are ringing in the ears of many organic growers these days for both health and economic reasons.  If you are reading this, you are likely an organic grower or healthy-eater -- keep it up, and spread the word.  Enjoy that "natural" lifestyle.  It's been around longer than many of us realize.