Out of the garden and into the oven: kale chips

March 22, 2012 § 3 Comments

When I first heard about kale a few years ago in Ruth Yaron’s book Super Baby Foods, I was convinced our little girl could benefit from some super-porridge. We started buying kale, which we would cook up with lentils, oatmeal, and cheese. It made for a great baby breakfast, which she ate daily for many months.

We were also starting to get interested in growing our own food, and learned that leafy greens would grow well in our foggy SF microclimate. We decided to give it a try, and are now in our second successful season of growing lacinato (dinosaur) kale from seed.

One way we love to use our kale crop is to make it into chips. I heard about it through a friend’s blog.

They have since become a favorite in our home.

Here’s our how-to.

Get a bunch of kale. Lately we have been going out and picking a pile of kale leaves from our winter garden.

My sweet girl loves helping with the harvest.

Wash the kale and lay it out on a baking sheet. Spray the leaves with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 275 for maybe 20 minutes, or until the leaves are nice and crispy.

Let cool. Then enjoy.

The whole family loves them. Highly recommend.


Time to plant some seeds!

March 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

It’s seed-planting time in our household. We have been gardening since October of 2009, and are learning more each season.

The first season, we chose seeds based on what we wanted to eat (including some sun and warm-weather-loving crops such as eggplants), threw them into the ground, and waited. We didn’t know what the plants would look like when they came up. Only a few sad scrawny plants were able to fight their way through the tangle of weeds.

J and I built several 3″ and 6″ seedling flats last year. Last weekend, J planted brussel sprouts, kale, broccoli, nappa cabbage, tomatoes, celery, and onions in 3″ flats. We mist the soil a couple times a day to keep them moist, and keep them on a warm germination mat until they sprout. Here are our onions starting to sprout:

We also had a special seed-planting time with the little m. She carefully decorated some small milk cartons for her sunflowers.

She’s been so excited watching her sunflowers start to spring up.

I’m looking forward to watching little m as she tends her flower patch this spring. She has already started coming out to water the plants with me. Love.

Out of the garden and into the soup!

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been carefully watering and watching my turnips, and noticed one growing a little faster than the others. A couple of days ago, I noticed a little crack in that beautiful turnip. Time to pull him up!

He had strong green tops. Who knew you could eat the tops of turnips?

I gave him a good washing and chopping, then added him in with some potatoes and chicken that I was roasting for dinner. Next, I chopped up the turnip greens.

I pulled out a hambone from the freezer, then sat down and googled, “hambone soup turnip greens”. After reading through this recipe for inspiration, I came up with my own hambone soup recipe.

Hambone Soup

    • 1 hambone with some bonus meat on it
    • 1.5 cups of baked black beans (from my freezer)
    • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
    • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup of butter
    • 1.5 cups of greens (used turnip greens and kale)
    • 4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
    • water

In a stockpot (mine is a 6-qt), melt the butter. Sauté the celery, carrots, and onions until they are nice and soft. Add the hambone, and cover with water. Throw in beans. Simmer for 1.5 hours, uncovered. Skim off any yuck from the top, and add the potatoes and greens. Simmer for 30 minutes more.

We ate ours with some brown rice and crusty sourdough bread. Delicious. Its highest praise – my daughter, who generally isn’t interested in dinner, loved the broth. WINNER!

I think the best part of the whole thing was that we were eating something from our own garden. Planting the seeds, watching them grow, and eating the greens of our first turnip of the season. I suppose it’s telling that this process is so exciting for us – it’s not a regular every-day part of our lives. Here’s to hoping it will be from now on.

San Francisco sourdough!

February 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

After years of having a glass jar of sourdough starter living in the fridge, we are finally finding a rhythm for baking bread. The goal is to make bread and crackers once a week. Our starter is clearly happier now that he is getting some attention, and is happily bubbling up just as he should.

The KitchenAid stand mixer is doing the bulk of the kneading, followed by some hand kneading by J. We keep our rising dough in the oven with no heat, overnight, to protect it from any drafts.

In the morning, J forms the dough into rounds.

Instead of proofing baskets, we have been using colanders for our two rounds. The colanders make the best little bumpy designs. Beautiful. I have been using kitchen shears to make the cuts in the bread – I haven’t figured out how to get our knives sharp enough to create those cuts.

The bread rises for about 5 more hours, and then I bake them, following The Cheese Board Collectives Works instructions involving misting the rounds, and twice pouring ice water in a roasting pan at the floor of the oven.

We are loving the results. It is incredible that this bread is made only of flour, salt, and water. Wow. We’ll see if we can keep it up!

Just for the girls: A green way to deal with that time of the month

February 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

So I held off on blogging about this, because it’s a more private topic. But lately I have been thinking that it’s too important not to write. I wish I had heard about these options so much sooner in life.

A couple of years ago, when I was thinking about cloth diapers as opposed to disposable, I began to wonder if there was a greener way to deal with that time of the month. I did a quick search on the internet and was amazed at what I saw. I found a reusable product called the diva cup. I read the reviews and decided I had to give it a try. It’s a bit of a learning curve, but with a little practice, it is quick. And it makes that time of the month WAY less gross. It’s comfortable and easy to clean. For bonus security, I like to pair the cup with a liner.

There are so many awesome tutorial sites that explain how you can make your own washable liners and pads. I followed this one, and made a bunch out of previously-loved flannel baby blankets.

After making those, I took one of my regular disposable pads and traced it to make my own pattern for some longer liners. I used some fun flannel on these. Custom! And I daresay, cute.

This is another green shape in my life – a win-win-win. For me, the cup is so much more comfortable and effective and the liners are breathable and soft. Also, these reusables are much cheaper than the standard disposable route. For the earth, I am no longer sending all that plastic and packaging to sit and not rot away in a landfill. Okay, I posted it. Spread the word.

Making crackers!

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Alinna passed me a jar of sourdough starter back in October of 2009. We named the 3-year old starter Jim and got a copy of The Cheese Board Collective Works. I read the instructions on maintaining my starter, eager to get some sourdough bread baking in the oven. Then I got to this part:

“To feed it, remove it from the refrigerator, discard all but 1/4 cup, and stir in 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 2/3 cup bread flour.” – p. 91

DISCARD!? I hate wasting things. Oh well. J and I began experimenting with sourdough, and enjoyed baguettes and sourdough rounds. Sometimes we used the discard to make pizza dough, other times we winced as we dumped the extra starter into the compost bin.

But recently, we hung out with our friends Nate and Christina. They always inspire me with their sourdough projects, and suggested we make crackers out of the discard starter. I woke up our neglected starter, and threw together a batch of dough following this whole wheat cracker recipe. Great recipe and super-easy!

The dough sat overnight in my measuring pyrex. In the morning I rolled it out on a silpat baking mat as flat as possible.

Next I cut the crackers into squares gently with a pizza cutter.

Finally, I coated the dough with a layer of olive oil, and sprinkled on kosher salt, sesame seeds, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

I just love how simple and quick they are. Love! I think I’m going to try to feed Jim once a week, and hopefully make crackers at each feeding.

Our first batch of crackers were gone that same day.

Feeding our garbage to the wormies!

January 30, 2012 § 3 Comments

I posted recently about trying to find “green shapes” in my life – things that are wins on many fronts (example: biking is good for the earth, good for health, good for the soul – a green triangle). One green shape we put into place last month was that we set up a worm bin.

After seeing a worm bin in action at the little m’s rocking co-op preschool, I was inspired enough to actually have a worm bin. It was surprisingly pleasant – not smelly and gross like I had expected.

We did some research on then J began. He drilled a bunch of holes in a Rubbermaid bin we already owned, and sat it inside another.

Holes drilled around sides and top with 1/8" drill bit.

Into the bin went some great kitchen scraps – carrot peels, apple cores, some greens, along with some shredded cardboard and newspaper.

We purchased a pound of red wrigglers (you cannot use regular garden earthworms – they aren’t garbage dwellers) and loaded them into their new habitat.

Red worms purchased from Sloat Garden Center. That's J's hand holding them. I can't do it.

Our worms had a few troubles at first – we had some that didn’t make it. One of m’s preschool teachers gave me some ideas about what could be going on and loaned me a book called Worms Eat My Garbage. The worms needed more damp newspaper to balance things out.

Now, the worms are thriving. They are growing bigger and multiplying! We love that some of our food scraps will go back into the garden, building our soil. Happy worms, happy us, happy earth, happy plants…a win, win, win, win – a green rectangle!  WOO HOO!

Another win for the whole process is that the little m loves when we open up the bin and check on the worms. I hope my little ones continue to have that excitement and wonder over the amazing things in life. Things like worms eating garbage.