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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Spring is a time of renewal

I am renewing myself this month with an overwhelming excitement about my life and then plans I have made for it. I just returned from a transformative weekend at the Quillisascut School of Domestic Arts. I went with a good sense of where I wanted my life to go, and after five days of amazing people with their love of everything local, fresh, and good, I am ready set my ship full steam ahead.

Today I am working on my business plan for Deep Roots Design. I will continue to work on my marketing strategy, price structure, and products/services we will offer. I think it will look very similar to AmyPennington's GoGo Green Gardener in Seattle, WA. I was so fortunate to have her as a teacher/mentor this past weekend at Quillisascut. I was able to run ideas by her and get valuable advice in return.

I also came across this fabulous website, Foodista, a very fun website similar to Wikipedia, but is everything food. I will be trying some new and inventive recipes soon!

As for the garden, this week is transplanting. I will be getting onions, broccoli, and cauliflower in the ground. I will also be direct seeding radishes and peas as soon as the soil has dried out a bit. It's been pouring down rain for two days, so my transplants are getting some much needed moisture, but I know they'd like their roots in some real dirt.

A new addition to our little backyard farm is Bennie and Layla. Bennie (Eggs Benedict) is a Black Australorp and Layla is a Buff Orpington. We built them a chicken tractor using reclaimed materials with a total cost of $4 for some wire and connectors. The Moscow City Ordinance allows for six laying hens per family, 25 chickens up to 12 weeks (for meat) and no roosters. We were a little worried at first that Bennie was going to be a rooster because she was so aggressive. But she's a good 'ol gal who is just beginning to cluck.

They are so helpful in the garden. Right now we've got them on a mostly bare patch of soil where we will be planting corn and tomatoes later on. They are rototilling and fertilizing the area for a few weeks before we plant. Chicken manure is very high in nitrogen which can burn plants, so if using chickens in your garden rotation, be sure to wait at least three weeks before planting into an area they have fertilized. They will eat most anything green or squirming and scratch through anything else, a great sanitation crew.

I am looking at this beautiful sack of lentils and thinking "I need to learn to make Indian food." I am trying my hand at a simple daal tonight. The recipe goes something like this: 1 cup lentil to 3 cups water, boil for 30-40 minutes covered, uncover and add Cumin, Coriander, Tumeric, and Cayenne and salt. In a separate pan, saute minced garlic and mustard seed in organic canola oil until garlic begins to brown then add to lentils. Serve immediately. I have some garlic naan in the freezer to eat it with and maybe some braised kale on top. I'll let you know how it turns out!

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Big Day!

Today was a beautiful, sunny day on the Palouse so we decided to work in the garden rebuilding our hoophouse. Our last one didn't fare so well under these harsh winter conditions (ha ha). So today the hoophouse got a brand new, study wood frame base and newly retaped UV treated plastic. Even though this new hoophouse looks so much fancier, it is still being done on a college budget. We figure about $10 in parts and pieces and two hours of labor from the master craftsman. It was very exciting watching this whole thing come together. We hope you're as excited as we are!
This is the frame without the plastic. This gives us 20 square feet of garden space for winter harvesting and summer crops that require more heat and protection like eggplants and peppers.

This center piece will hold the hoops steady. We purchased 1/2 inch PVC pipe from the building supply. They are thin enough to bend at a pretty severe angle. We attached the center piece by drilling a small hole at either end and lacing twine through. We then made several passes around the wood and pvc to make sure there was good connection and would not affect the plastic when it was laid over top. This is a solid frame!!

I call this our art deco yard art. We had several pieces of miscellaneous plastic from a hoophouse we helped build. The plastic is UV treated and rated to last four years. So if the snow (what is that again?) doesn't collapse the frame, it should last us a long time. The whole thing doesn't weigh more than less than 10 pounds. So it is easy for one person to move and will allow us to prop up during the hot summer months. 

MMMMMM... What's in the pretty little (new!) enameled cast iron pot? Bavarian Barley Stew!!
This tasty little dish is full of local pork sausage (prepared by my dad!), barley, and lots of our local storage produce like carrots, parsnips, garlic, and cabbage. My better half made a nice chicken stock last night after eating a wonderful chicken from a local producer. We also added our own stewed tomatoes from last summer's bounty. The only thing we had to add that wasn't local was a bay leaf. But I'm pretty convinced I should try growing a small bay plant/tree and harvest these tasty little leaves to sell locally and use for our own cooking pleasure.
It's so interesting too, we have found that the carrots we stored from October in our fridge are becoming sweeter. They taste so wonderful that we've been eating them like crazy. We might have to start digging up our carrots from the garden that we overwintered under a nice bed of straw. I'll let you know when that happens!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nut Cheese first try

I am so excited that today was my first try at making nut cheese. This is a recipe that I have been wanting to try and have had some expert advice in making. So today during my regular visit to the co-op I purchased raw, unsalted cashews and Brazil nuts.

I put a handful of Brazil nuts and two handfuls of cashews into my little food processor. The I added water, lemon juice, tahini, minced garlic and salt. I blended these into a chunky paste. I added more salt to taste and viola! This, I'm sure, will become a staple snack around our house.

 This is a great dip for crackers or as an addition to wraps or sandwiches. It's healthy and tasty, which all food should be! Try this recipe in a small batch first to see if you like it and then you can begin to experiment from there.

The ingredients I used are very basic as this was my first try at nut cheese. I plan to try more herbs and additions as I become more comfortable with the process and ingredients. I have also tried this cheese made with almonds. This is what sparked my interest and encouraged me to try more. So this weekend when we were in Nelson, BC we ate at a restaurant that was a raw vegan cafe. They offered a cashew and Brazil nut cheese with crackers made from pureed tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic and a few other things. I will be trying that recipe out in the future. They made crackers and wraps out of these ingredients by pureeing and then dehydrating. Sounds easy and they were so tasty.

I think this is on the menu tonight with almond crackers, made wheat free by Diamond nut company, topped with some goat cheese. Alongside a spaghetti squash with our homemade spaghetti sauce that we canned this summer using mostly veggies from our garden. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


We were fortunate once again to attend a potluck with other folks who have food restrictions and allergies. This was another wonderful event to attend where we tried many new dishes and got to share our own creations. This first dish that we made is a combination of winter squashes (Hubbard and Chinese I think) baked in a margarine and maple syrup glaze topped with toasted almond pieces. It's almost sweet enough to be a desert, but it balances nicely with other bold flavors that were beside it at the dinner, such as garlic and paprika potatoes and very garlicky green beans!

Our next dish was a spaghetti squash that was baked whole and then scooped out into a frying pan. We added butter (or margarine) while lightly sauteing and then added Herbs d'Provence. These herbs are probably my favorite blend of flavors for a quick dish, fried potatoes with Herbs d'Provence being #1 in my book.

Anyway, as we sauteed the squash in herbs and butter, I added about a tablespoon of hemp seeds. Just another quick heating through and it was done! A delicious, hearty and healthy savory squash dish in about 10 minutes (without baking time). I guess that's been a challenge of mine this winter. I have had a hard time finding savory squash dishes... besides soups, it can be difficult to downplay the overpowering sweetness of many squash. And as I am not a huge fun of overly sweet foods, I am especially wary. But it seems that my other half has very different ideas.

He has been making variations of squash custards for a couple of months now. Don't get me wrong, I have a sweet tooth, I just don't eat a lot of sweets at once. So all these squash custards he happily eats himself. Even though they are really tasty.

So, another potluck we greatly enjoyed and were able to share more unique recipes with friends who are adventurous eaters due to their diet needs. It's so enjoyable to sit around and toss ideas back and forth about food.

Another tip about squash, we often will bake two or three squash in one fell swoop  if we already have the oven on. So its an easy way to cook ahead. Cook the squash whole with several fork pokes in the skin. Place a dish or cookie sheet under the squash if you want to catch any drips. Bake for about an hour or until you can poke it and it feels tender under the skin. We then let them cool completely on the counter, and it we have time we'll split and seed them, if not, we just let them hang out until we're ready to use them. We're fortunate to have a back porch that stays very cold during this weather, so we use that as a makeshift fridge. We'll store these cooked squash there for no more than a few days before we use them up. It makes life a little more efficient.

That's all for now!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Thanksgiving Success!!

Whew, the holiday that had been looming, the one that surrounds the most comforting food of the year. It was sure to be a battle of good vs. allergies. Well, the allergies won and the food was amazing! Of course it took some forethought, baking the wheat free/dairy free bread the day before. We used a new recipe from Gluten-Free Girl which called for club soda. It made it a bit less dense, but it still seemed as though we may have guzzle water along side it. But after it's requisite toasting in the oven, adding sausage, onions, celery and healthy dose of sage, it soaked up the chicken stock beautifully. It stayed looking beautiful too, the breading holding it's cubed shape so you knew what you were eating. Yummy. I completely forgot to take pictures of the meal itself, forgive me. I'll do better next time.

Making the cranberry sauce was a first for me. I wasn't quite sure if I was doing it right. I did hold off on all the sugar it asked for, liking the sweet tartness of cranberries myself. It sure looked beautiful in the glass bowls under the glow of the candle light.

The pumpkin pie was the main event though. There was a lot of fussing over the crust and which wheat free mix was best. They were all pretty good, but Bob's Red Mill makes the flakiest, MaryJane's held together the best. I guess it depends on your preference. The filling was easy for my better half, as he's been making pumpkin custard without milk for weeks now. It's so creamy, you'd never know there was no milk or cream in it. We've been using a lot of hemp milk lately since coconut milk doesn't sit well with said custard maker.

So I'll cut this one short today since there are no pictures to entice the appetite. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were able to share it with the ones you love and if you couldn't be with them, you kept them close to your heart.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Food Allergies

Having food allergies is a daily struggle to find foods that will nourish your body. Reading labels becomes a common routine during every trip to the grocery store. Doing research to find ALL  the names for corn, soy and wheat so that you can identify the culprits that make you sick in everyday foods. The easiest way to beat the label is to create your own delicious meals.

Right now I have a huge pot of onions caramelizing on the stove for French Onion Soup. The sweet smell of those onions that I pampered and raised this summer, that I so carefully cured in the last days of the hot summer sun, are now going to become another dish that can be safely consumed by my better half. We can top it off with Glutino Millet bread toasted to perfection and some shreds of Pecorino Romano Parmesan Cheese, which is 100% goat's milk. Yummm.

The hardest part for me, who is gluten-free by choice for other health reasons than allergies, is going to other people's homes for dinner. I love potlucks and dinner parties, but its so hard to know what everyone has made and how they made it. But recently we found a wonderful group of folks who understand our limitations because they have some of the same! It's so nice to be around people who can share struggles and recipes. We have been introduced to the companies who do gluten-free/dairy-free well and who does it not so well. I'll be sharing those items and brands as we move along in this adventure. But I have to say here that we have found that what others make and package for convenience are so much better made at home. Is it that special that makes is better? Well, yes, that and you control everything about it! Convenience food is STILL convenience food no matter if they are gluten-free or not, full of preservatives and fillers. The best food comes from real food! Although I must admit to eating a lot of convenience food as a college student. Always on the run in between classes makes it tough to sit down for a real meal. But as with anything, we do the best we can.