Planting the Seeds of Change

It’s a radical idea to grow your own food and more empowering then you can imagine.  Everyone who has seen our front yard converting from green lawn to growing beds and orchard has asked the same question – “Do you really think you can grow enough food to feed your family?”  My answer is unequivocably “YES!”

By the end of WWII 40% of all American produce was grown in yards.  A lot has changed in 60 some years.  We’ve forgotten that we have the ability to grow food, and even more empowering then growing it is completing the cycle – letting a few of everything go to seed and storing those to use next year.  Knowledge is power, and dangerous to food corporations. 

If everyone was doing 15% of what I am doing – just saying no to food that contains dangerous chemicals, or is harvested using forced and/or child labor which happens even in this country (think of your year-round tomatoes) – food giants would sit up and take notice.

In the same way the toy industry suddenly realized this year that consumers would indeed hold them responsible for using lead, pthathlates and other dangerous chemicals in children’s toys and baby items, they would realize the future needs to change.  Knowledge is power. 

My challenge to you is to take the time to understand exactly what is in one grocery item per week and how it is made and harvested.  Email or phone the company.  Read the ingredients on the box.  Use your google skills.   Empower yourself.

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Planting Potatoes

I finally got around to planting my potatoes (late of course).  Potatoes are a fun thing to grow with kids and a great thing for someone with minimal yard space to grow.  You can even grow them on a patio or balcony.

You can buy seed potatoes at most garden shops or through seed catalogs.  Or you can buy eating potatoes from a trustworthy organic farmer and hope they don’t have any diseases that might contaminate your soil for future plants in the same family as potatoes (like tomatoes for instance).  Once you buy your potatoes you put them in a brown paper bag in a dark place for a few weeks until they sprout.  A garage is perfect.  Non-organic potatoes won’t sprout, by the way, because they’ve been gassed to keep them from sprouting on you.  That’s in addition to the pesticides they have.  Nice, eh?

Read the rest of this entry…

Confessions of a Hyper Locavore

Allright, it’s time for me to come clean.  Friday while shopping for sweetener, soap and bulk Glory Bee honey at PCC I felt a tinge of guilt.  My toddler was pointing to the Annie’s bunny crackers pleading in that sweet little Oliver Twist voice that is so hard to refuse. 

Since taking our pledge for 2009 of not buying any processed food unless we know where every ingredient comes from and how it is made the only thing I’ve bought that sort of breaks these rules are [read the rest of this entry at the new blog…

Homemade Soda

I’ve never been a soda fan – too bubbly and sickly sweet for me – so it’s been with vindication that I’ve learned as an adult how evil it is for your body.  Of course my kids idolize it now that it’s been demonized so I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make healthy soda.

I ran across this article while googling for I can’t remember what and was intrigued.

A few weeks back I made the ginger bug as my culture by placing a cup of filtered water in a mason jar, then adding a teaspoon of diced ginger root and teaspoon of organic sugar to it.  I placed a paper towel over the jar and used a rubber band to keep it on so it could breathe.  I did that every day for about a week.

By the end of the week the “ginger bug” was bubbly and smelled just like strong ginger ale.  It tasted like strong ginger ale too – not sweet at all. 

I made a batch of simple syrup and when that was cool I added the ginger bug and 2 cubes of frozen lemon juice.  I put the lid on the jar and let that sit on the kitchen counter for about 4 days.  I tasted it one night and gave a little woot.  It was lightly bubbly, not too sweet, delicious.  My kids love it!  My husband even thought it was tasty! 

For me the best part is that it’s something healthy, and I don’t just mean that it’s not as bad as store bought soda is because it’s organic sugar and has no additives.  It really IS healthy.  The active yeast I harnessed has eaten a large amount of the sugar and left us with some wonderful probiotics in it’s place.

You’ve probably read a lot about synthetic probiotics and how good those are for your immune system and gut flora.  Those are nothing compared to the probiotics in kefir, kombucha, homemade yogurt and this soda.  If you really want to improve your digestion, make it easier for your body to absorb the vitamins and minerals that you are consuming, stave off those creepy flu bugs or give your body a better chance to do it’s job and protect your from rising rates of autoimmune diseases then eat real probiotics. 

Homemade soda is a great place to start!

Here is how to make your own soda:

Note – You will need a glass jar that holds a gallon or two of liquid, depending on how much soda you plan to make.

Make your culture or “bug” in a pint mason canning jar.

  • Place one and a half cups of filtered water in the jar. Chlorinated water may kill your happy organisms which would mean no bug or bubbles.
  • Add one tablespoon of diced fresh ginger root and 2 teaspoons of white sugar
  • Cover the jar with a paper towel and use a rubber band or the canning ring to keep that on so you don’t get fruit flies
  • Leave it on the kitchen counter away from other fermentation or culturing projects
  • Every day add 2 teaspoons of diced fresh ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar, swirling the jar to aerate it.
  • You can aerate the jar more frequently during the day to keep it oxidized and make it work faster.
  • If your bug gets moldy or starts to smell funky discard it and start again.
  • Depending on room temperature and other factors your bug may be ready in 3-4 days, or may take as long as a week. You will know it’s ready because it will be very bubbly like soda.
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    Add Flavoring.

  • Steep your flavoring in half of your filtered water (i.e. to make one gallon total of soda you will have 1/2 gallon of flavoring water, the other half will come from your simple syrup.)
  • To make ginger ale gently boil one sliced thumb’s length of ginger root per gallon of water for 20 minutes.
  • To make lemon, lime or orange soda boil citrus peel for 20 minutes.
  • To make sarsparilla or root beer let about 2 Tablespoons of dried sarsparilla root and 1 – 2 Tablespoons of dried wintergreen leaves steep overnight in your water. You can find both at Bob’s Homebrew in Ravenna/U District in Seattle.  You can also easily grow edible wintergreen in the Pacific NW.  I found my plants at Raintree Nursery.
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    Make Simple Syrup.

  • Warm the rest of your filtered water and dissolve 1 1/2 cups of sugar per gallon of finished soda you plan to make. I made one gallon of soda total so I made 1/2 gallon of simple syrup, using 1 1/2 cups organic evaporated cane juice.
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    Finishing Steps

  • Let your simple syrup cool to body temperature
  • Pour the simple syrup in your gallon jar and then add at least one cup of your bug and your flavored water.
  • If you like you can add additional flavoring like blackberry syrup or citrus juice.
  • Cover your jar tightly and let it ferment. According to the article I linked above, you let it ferment from 4 – 10 days depending on how sweet you like your soda. The shorter fermentation times will yield a sweeter soda. This is all dependent on room temperature and bug strength so taste it every day.
  • When your soda is ready you can divide it into smaller bottles and let it sit at room temperature for another 2-5 days to build up some fizz inside each bottle.
  • Once it is fizzy enough for you, put the bottles in the refrigerator to stop the fizzing process.
  • I don’t like very fizzy soda so I omitted this step and just put it into smaller mason jars in the fridge. The bigger the jar and the more frequently you open it, the less fizzy your soda will be.

    I’d love to hear how yours turned out, or flavorings that you used. The sarsparilla is my favorite!  Here is my flavoring water that I’ve let steep with sarsparilla root and wintergreen overnight, before adding the bug and simple syrup.
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    Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

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    I promised my 5 year old cupcakes today to make up for missing yet another birthday party and we decided on lemon. Last winter when meyer lemons were in season I juiced bags of them and froze them in ice cube trays. I also grated the zest and froze it in a ziplock. We’ve been using it in ice cream and recipes and are going through it way faster then I had expected. Hopefully we’ll have enough left by midsummer for at least one lemon tart!

    While working in the backyard today I spied the mundstead lavender flowers from last summer, dried on the bush. I picked a handful and they still smelled lovely so I brought them in to add to the cupcakes. There is something so romantic about the notion of cooking with flowers and they impart such a great, delicate flavor and aroma and interesting speckle to baked goods.

    My toddler insisted on frosting and then the five year old decided he wanted raspberry jam in some and raspberry icing so we customized them but the lavender ones were by far my favorite.

    Lemon Lavender Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup evaporated cane juice or rapadura
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 tablespoons lavender flowers
  • Mix together the flour through the salt. In a new bowl cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and fully incorporate each one before adding another. Add the buttermilk, extracts, lemon juice and lavender flowers. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until no lumps remain.

    Pour into individual cupcake liners and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let them cool on a wire rack.

    Make an icing from 1 cup powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons milk or buttermilk. Add more lavender flowers to the icing. Spread it over the cupcakes and let it set up before eating.

    City Chickens

    Chickens are on the list and now that the garden is started I’m starting to research them. Spinach and Honey had a great chicken post from a workshop she attended. It summarizes a lot of what I should be reading but I’m having a hard time nestling into bed with my Backyard Chicken book before I fall asleep.

    We have a very large old doghouse that we plan to convert into a chicken coop but I’m starting to feel like maybe it’s not large enough from some of the coop pictures I saw on backyardchickens.com.

    I planned to keep the chickens in the back yard in an area that I never finished landscaping. It gets morning sun but not summer afternoon sun. It’s about 5 x 15 feet with some nice shrubbery on the west and north sides which I would think would make it cozier but then I’m not a chicken. Maybe it makes them nervous that racoons can sneak up on them.

    And my yard is constantly full of energetic young super heroes running and screaming, slip and sliding through summer. Maybe that will make them nervous. This needs to be good for the chickens and not just our breakfast. Maybe I’m chickening out…

    Any chickens on here that want to comment?

    Finally – Mozzarella that made my husband say mmmmmm

    Last Saturday I set about making mozzarella again. It makes me really mad when I can’t get something to work (or I misplace something and can’t locate it.) I will spend all my energy figuring it out. I knew the last time I made mozzarella that I let the milk get too hot which makes the cheese tough and chewy. This time I figured out how to better control the temperature. And you can too by following my simple instructions.

    You will need a few things to make cheese [read the rest of this this entry at the new blog…]