Grains from the garden!

January 9, 2013 § 2 Comments

Last April, J attended an intensive weekend workshop in Willits, California, on the Grow Biointensive method of gardening. He came home, eyes glittering, and declared, “We have to grow grains.”

We had already planted our cereal rye, dreaming of amber waves of grain and loaves of homemade bread.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We didn’t count on the birds eating most of our grain heads. We managed to salvage a handful of rye stalks with grain still intact.P1050376 J let them dry out for several months. Then the other day, he decided it was time to do something with the dried grain. He recruited his usual helper for the project.

Here they are threshing the grain.P1050368

The threshing separates the the grain part from the chaff. Below is a pile of grain and chaff, no longer connected, but still all mixed together.P1050378

Little m especially enjoyed the winnowing part. As she dropped handfuls of the stuff in front of a fan, the heavy grain would drop onto the tray below, the lighter chaff blowing past and onto the floor. Very messy and very fun.P1050390

From our efforts, we now have a small pile of rye grain. Not even close the amount we would need to make a loaf of bread.P1050402

We’re going to plant that pile of cereal rye in the next growing season. Hopefully we’ll get better at the growing process. I’m still dreaming of a homemade loaf of bread made from grain grown in our own backyard!

Drying parsley!

December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Our parsley patch is a bit overrun these days. My cousin Jenn gave me a small packet of maybe 10 parsley seeds. Instead of putting them in the little pot they came with, I threw them into one of our planter boxes. After some negligence, they began to grow bushy and wild, choking out the green onions! Wow! What could I do with all that parsley? I took a big cutting to get the planter box under control.

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After washing and patting dry my bushy green bouquet, I tore leaves from stems, and little m helped me lay them on the dehydrator’s drying trays.

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The drying process took about half the day. Once the leaves were brittle and dry, I poured them onto a chopping board, chopping them with a knife and crunching them with my fingers.P1030071

I’m sure the parsley plants will quickly grow back what they lost on the chopping block, so I’ll have to do this again in a couple months. So far we’ve used the flakes in soups and on roasted potatoes. Yum! Now I’m curious about drying other herbs….

Making yogurt in the thermal pot

April 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

My kids eat a whole lot of yogurt. It’s the first snack food I pass them when we are home.

I had heard of people making yogurt themselves, and wanted to try it out. There were some great directions on this blog.  Genius! Here’s what I did:

Measure out some milk.  I poured out two quarts.

Heat milk to 180 degrees. It will look bubbly. When it hits 180 degrees, turn off the stove, and let the milk cool to 110 degrees. This part was the most difficult for me – all that waiting!

Scoop out half of a cup of the milk, and stir in a small bit of good yogurt that contains live and active cultures. I used 1 Tbls of Trader Joe’s Organic European-Style yogurt.

Mix the milk-starter mixture in with the rest of the milk. Insulate it. I use my Thermal pot.

Leave it overnight for at least 6 hours. I usually let mine sit for closer to 12 hours.

It’s tangy and delicious mixed with a little jam or fruit. Mmmmm. I’ve done this several times now, and I use yogurt from the previous batch as my starter each time.

Side note: J’s parents purchased this wonderful Thermal pot for us, and we love it.  It is a wonderful alternative to a Crock Pot, and doesn’t need to be plugged in. We make soup by adding ingredients, bringing it to a boil, and then putting it in the thermal pot to cook all day. The soups come out delicious and fresh-tasting. Highly recommend. And now it’s our yogurt-making pot as well!

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!

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