Monday, June 4, 2012

Processed vs Real Food

"MSG is used to create fat mice so researchers can study obesity. MSG is an excito-toxin that stimulates your brain to eat uncontrollably. When fed to mice, they pig out and get fat. It is in 80 percent of processed foods and mostly disguised as 'natural flavorings.'" (From the Huff Post.)

Obesity is an epidemic in our country. According to the article "68 percent of Americans are overweight" and   "from 1960 to today obesity rates have risen from 13 percent to 36 percent and soon will reach 42 percent." In order to fight this epidemic we need to eliminate most, if not all, processed foods from our diet. Real food, prepared from its natural state with no added preservatives, is always the better choice.

 Grow your own, cook at home, shop your local Farmer's Market. Eat real food. Simplify your choices and enjoy better health.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Edible Allegheny

If you live in or near the western Pennsylvania area, check out the magazine "Edible Allegheny." It has articles concerning the food scene in the areas around Allegheny County, as well as lists of Farm Markets and Farmers Markets and CSA's in the area, local wineries, and restaurants which source locally-grown food for their menu selections.
And, now and then, the cover is eye candy, like this one which shows some of the King brothers of Freedom Farms.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Love Fresh Strawberry Pie? You Can Grow That!

My strawberry plants are loaded with white blossoms. Each blossom is a potential strawberry. My future looks sweet and rosy, how about yours? No berries in your garden? You can remedy that!

Find a spot in full sun with good, well-drained soil (or improve the soil, or create a raised bed.) Get some strawberry plants from your favorite locally-owned garden center or nursery. Choose a variety that performs well in your area.

You can choose from "June bearing" or "everbearing" types, depending on your eating and preserving habits. If you mainly want strawberries to eat fresh, and want the harvest to last longer, plant "everbearing." (They bear smaller crops over a longer period of time.) If you want to make pies and jams or jellies, then you may want "June bearing" which bear more heavily but for a shorter period of time.

Ask for planting directions from your strawberry source-- they know the best time and methods for planting in your area. Pick off the flowers in the first year and begin to harvest your own juicy sweet strawberries next year. Strawberries? You can grow them!

Keep Cilantro (and Other Herbs?) Fresh Longer

From the blog Vegetable Gardener, an experiment to find the best way to keep cilantro from getting mushy and disgusting before you can use it. It might be worth trying this method with other herbs, too.

Grow your own if you can, and just harvest as much as you need to use at one time, but if you need to rely on farmers markets or the grocery for your herb supply, this may be just the information you're looking for.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Best Restaurants?

Why is it that the "Best Restaurant" articles usually are accompanied by a picture of a dish that can't be postitively identified as food?

What makes the restaurant judges think that an artfully arranged plate of herbs and flowers or a stack of foodstuffs with an artful drizzle of balsamic sauce should be shown as an example of what is served in a good restaurant?

Perhaps Noma is the best restaurant, I'm not the one to ask. But, as an example, show me a plate of meat and sides, or pasta, or a piece of glistening grilled fish.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fresh Herbs to Cook With? You Can Grow That!

Have you ever found a recipe in a cookbook or online and gone to the grocery store to buy the ingredients? I usually buy the meat or protein first, then the veggies and starches-- then I get to the fresh herbs. I need 2 TBSP or 1/4 cup of something, and I pick up the package of fresh herbs, and they cost... HOW MUCH? EEK!
You can grow fresh herbs in your yard, or even in a pot on your patio. Herbs respond positively to clipping, by throwing out new growth. So you have a good source of fresh herbs all summer and into the fall, from one plant, or one packet of seeds. And you'll pay the same amount or less for the plant or seeds as you will the single-use packet at the grocery. Talk about a win-win proposition!
Ask for instructions for growing herbs at your locally-owned independent garden center or nursery. They'll be glad to help, and they'll probably have a great assortment of herb plants and seeds for you to choose from. Happy gardening, and bon appetit!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chicken Mama

The new batch of chicks should arrive tomorrow. (We won't get into last year when they didn't arrive on Monday, or Tuesday... or Wednesday..... or Thursday..... and my mind just kept seeing them thirsty and starving to death in some Postal Warehouse. They finally had to send another batch.)
This time, instead of getting just one variety, as I did two years ago, or two varieties, as I did last year, I chose a flock of four different breeds: Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas, Barred Rocks, and New Hampshire Reds.
Yesterday I cleaned and disinfected the trough that they spend their first weeks in, tested the heat lamp, filled the trough with wood chips for bedding, and covered the chips with a piece of weed mat to allow them time to figure out that the wood chips are not food. (I'll remove the week mat in a day or two, once they all seem to be eating properly.)
Next I'll fill the two feeders with chick mash and the waterer with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 3/4 cup of table sugar to give them extra energy to recuperate from their trip across the country in a box. Then I'll wait for the call from my post office.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

"Eat Your Yard"

One of the websites that I follow had, as a title to a post, "Eat Your Yard." I didn't read the post, but the idea intrigued me. I would guess that most of you have a larger-than-postage-stamp sized yard, which consists mostly of a high maintenance crop, namely, "grass." (And not the kind you can smoke.)

There have been some highly-publicized cases recently, of folks who were persecuted, if not prosecuted, for growing veggies in their front yards. I would also guess that most of you reading this don't live in a community whose homeowners' association is so rigid as to determine that vegetables don't belong in the front of the house. (If you do, good luck. Quit reading now, before you become frustrated.)

Unless you have one of those spouses who just can't wait until it's time to mow the grass again (and I know that there are some of you out there...) why not reduce the mowing burden by planting up some of the yard (front or back) to vegetables and fruits? If the mowing spouse throws a conniption fit when the need arises to mow in a curve instead of a straight line, then make sure the veggie/fruit area is a definite rectangle in shape. But the space that is wasted (sorry-- my opinion there...) by growing grass could be helping you to reduce your grocery costs, improve your health, and educate your children to the fact that food does not originate in the grocery store. It really isn't that hard. And the rewards far outweigh the effort.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fresh asparagus? You Can Grow That!

Right about now your local grocery stores will begin having asparagus at a pretty decent price, since asparagus is what they call "in season." (To us in northern areas of the country this means that growers in warmer zones south of us are beginning to harvest asparagus.) But you could be looking forward to harvesting your own uber-local asparagus from your back yard in a year or two if you plant some asparagus crowns this spring.
Start with healthy crowns, purchased from your locally-owned independent garden center. Find a sunny part of the garden that is well-drained and won't be disturbed each year, and till the soil deeply. If drainage is poor, build a raised bed. Soil preparation is VERY important for perennial crops like asparagus, even more so than for annual crops that you harvest and replace each year.
Add compost or composted manure to add organic matter to the soil. Then dig a trench 8 to 12 inches deep and 12 inches wide. If you plan more than one row, space the rows 3 to 4 feet apart. Sprinkle in a complete fertilizer, mix with the loose soil in the bottom of the trench, then make a low mound of soil in the bottom of the trench with the enriched soil.
Space the crowns 15 inches apart on the mound, spreading the roots over the sides of the mound. Cover the crowns with loose soil about 2 inches deep. Water in well. As the shoots emerge, fill in around the shoots, but don't cover the growing tips. The trenches should end up filled to the soil level or just above if you don't have raised beds.
Don't cut any spears the first year. Keep the bed well-watered the first year, and mulch to keep the soil moist and the weeds down. Harvest lightly the second year, and as desired after that. Your own, fresh asparagus patch.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Grass Fed Meats

Ask your meat market or local food purveyor for grass fed meats (or raise your own.) They have more vitamins and minerals, a more nutritious fat profile, and are healthier for the environment. Oh, and they taste better, too!

"Anything But Sushi"

I'm sitting here, quivering, in my eagerness to get started on what will be my best garden ever! (Isn't that what we all think when we begin each new garden?)

I've got great plans for what to grow and for what to eat this spring. My first attempt at arugula will be with a packet of Wasabi Arugula from Renee's Garden. Arugula is a peppery green that can be used in a salad or cooked into a stir fry. This one, from the name, will be even hotter than the usual varieties.

Most people who know wasabi think of it as a condiment for dipping sushi. It is a Chinese horseradish, many times more potent than common horseradish. Which brings me to the title of this post.

For several years when we would go to Chicago to visit our younger son, he would ask what type of restaurant we would like to go to, and he would get the answer from me, "Anything but sushi." As a dyed-in-the-wool sushi lover, he could only take that a few times until he said, "OK, we're going out for sushi." The first time we let him order a variety of styles of sushi and sashimi for us so we could decide whether we liked it or not. And guess what? We LOVE sushi! It's fresh-tasting, and surprisingly filling.

Anyway, to get back to the arugula... I'm hoping the wasabi arugula lives up to its name. A peppery bite would add another layer of flavor to a summer salad. I'll let you know how it turns out. Now if I can only convince myself not to plant it all at one time. (It never seems like very much when you sprinkle those tiny seeds in that seed furrow, but when it begins to produce, I am buried in greens.) A little arugula goes a long way.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Focus for 2012

The focus of this blog for 2012 will be self-reliance. I'm going to concentrate on becoming less dependent on the grocery store with their dubious produce and meat sources and more reliant on my own efforts to grow fruits and vegetables, and doing more toward producing my own meat and eggs. And as I learn, I'll share my successes and failures with you so that you can do it, too, if you've a mind to.
As you may remember, we have a small flock of chickens for producing eggs. They are now beyond their peak laying age and we'll be replacing them with a mixed flock of peeps in the spring. And we'll butcher the hens and the rooster for stewing meat. When the weather moderates, we'll be adding rabbits to the meat mix.
The blueberries should begin to produce this year, and the strawberries will be plentiful now that the deer can't eat them. We'll have more grapes, and we'll add more raspberry bushes. Come along for the ride... Oh, the places we will go!