Sunday, February 23, 2014

Veggie Seeds

Yay! My vegetable seeds have arrived! 

I've been reading up a lot this winter on gardening to be better prepared for this attempt. I should really be starting the seeds now, but I'll have to wait until we move in a month. 

Seeds ordered from

So, in the meantime, more learning and planning!

I've really been enjoying the Growing Your Grub podcast. Steve does a nice job of breaking things down into the basics for his listeners. I enjoy his pleasant and authentic speaking style. 

I've also been perusing organic gardening articles on Mother Earth News. I figured that since it comes up in my searches so frequently, it must have some relevant tips for me. I didn't originally set out with the intention to garden organically, but I never really even considered using pesticides an option, so I've fallen into it naturally. 

Of course... since my dog keeps destroying my work, I haven't had much opportunity to practice. It seems like I finally have devised a way to keep her out that works, once I bought those concrete pavers to put under the gate. I'll be setting up the same arrangement once we move. 

I want to garden as inexpensively as possible, since we aren't planning to stay in this next home for more than a year or two. I am going to try to use the soil from the yard rather than investing in raised beds and bringing in purchased soil. I'll keep track of my expenses to share with you. 

So far this year, I've spent a total of $10.86 on seeds. :)

As always, I love to get your feedback! Please share your tips for gardening frugally and let me know if there is something in particular that you would like to hear more about.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Adventuuures Iiiin Sourdoooough

My sourdough starter has been bubbling happily along for about a month now. I tried... um... breeding(?) my own sourdough starter from scratch once quite a few years ago and met a dismal failure. However, the instructions on Artistta made it really clear and simple for me. Hopefully they'll work for you, if you want to give it a try, too! 

After the first week, when it stopped smelling awful and started smelling how you would expect a blob of yeasty bread gloop to smell, I began saving the extra starter. To keep your starter active, you have to feed it with fresh flour and water every day to keep your hungry yeastie beasties alive. Each time it is fed, it bubbles up and nearly doubles in size, so you end up with way more than what can fit in your jar very quickly. You can put this extra starter in a container in your fridge and use that in many recipes. 

So far I've found sourdough recipes that fit into two categories:
  • the quick, foamy baking soda variety, and 
  • the long-rising, sour yeast variety
Here are the recipes that I've tried: 

Sourdough Naan

The naan is up at the top. This was also my first time making an Afghan recipe. It's called Kabuli Palau and has my stamp of approval. :)

This was my first try at naan, period. They were not very pretty, and they were a little more doughy than the ones I have tried in restaurants. I think this had more to do with my lack of experience than the recipe. A little butter, garlic, and parsley helped! Each one I made looked a little better than the last, so I'm excited to keep practicing this recipe until I feel competent with it. 

Quick Whole Grain Sourdough Waffles 

These use a lot of leftover starter up. Instead of letting the starter do its thing overnight, you add some baking soda to make the dough foam up and get fluffy. I was impressed with how light and airy these waffles were considering they were made completely from whole wheat flour and had flax added to them. It makes a lot of waffles. If you can't eat them all, you can freeze them or put them in the fridge and pop them in the toaster to reheat. They're really yummy with fruit, yogurt, and jam! 

Classic (Long) Sourdough Waffles


With apple butter and yogurt


 These take more planning, but you get more of the tangy sourdough flavor than with the quicker waffles. My sourdough starter is made with wheat flour, but I used all purpose for all of the added flour in the recipe. This recipe also calls for buttermilk, which I almost never have, because I don't go through it quickly enough. If you find yourself in the same boat, you can make a substitute by adding about a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of milk and letting it sit for five minutes before adding it to your recipe. These were tasty, but they didn't crisp up very well. I think I'll try them one more time and leave them in the waffle iron for longer. 

Impossible Pie


This is supposed to be similar to biscuit mix impossible pie, which requires you to dump savory ingredients in a dish, dump the biscuit mix on top, and stick it in the oven (in technical terms). Again, it uses baking soda, so you can whip it up in a moment's notice (Well, ok, more like 40 minutes' notice). For some reason, the biscuit part of mine turned really dark in the oven. Not a pretty dark, either. Almost gray or green. I'm thinking it may have been a reaction with the cast iron pan I cooked it in. But we still ate it and it tasted good! I'll try it in a glass pan next time and see if that fixes the weird cosmetic issue. 

And finally…. 

Sourdough Bread!



Haha, yep! My first attempt turned out kinda sad. I can see why many of the recipes online call for added yeast, to help guarantee the long wait for this bread is warranted. But I wanted to try the real deal with just the yeast I had been cultivating in my starter. I think it would have worked, too, but I made the mistake of trying to do it all in one day. It rose really well and developed a great sourness! But by the time I got the loaves formed and was waiting on their final rise, I was soooo tired. I called it quits and went to bed. In the morning, the outside of the dough had dried out, but it still looked worth baking. It's edible, but, as you can see, it's very flat. It's also very sour. I'm looking forward to giving this recipe another try with that first rise starting the night before bake day!

Your turn! What are your favorite sourdough recipes? Have any recipes you would like to see me try out next? 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Garden! or Dog For Sale

Well, that lasted a long time... Let me start at the beginning. This weekend I planted a garden. I was playing around on SproutRobot, realized once again that we have a ridiculously long planting season in this part of California, and decided to go for it and see what I could learn. 

SproutRobot is a handy site that lets you plug in your zip code for information on what, when, and how to plant vegetables.

The partially composted stuff-n-fluff that our dog had scattered around the yard seemed to make a good base/weed deterrent in the part of the garden that was not yet lasagna-ed. I picked up two 2 cu. ft bags of organic garden soil from the hardware store (for about $6.50 a bag if you're pricing it out). Then, I spread it out into three rows about 6' long by 2' wide by 3" deep. 

What bodies?? These are planting beds!

I planted parsnips, carrots, leaf lettuce, cilantro, arugula, radishes, and mesclun mix. Things dry out pretty quickly around here, so I also mulched over the top of them with some straw, and watered them really well. 

All tucked in and cozy

Oh, and I started another compost heap! This time waaay back in the corner away from the yard. No way could Sky reach through the fence and pull it out this time!

That bale of straw was a great investment!

It survived all day Sunday. This morning, I put Sky out while getting ready for work, like usual. When I went out to refill her water bowl, she had black feet! Urgh... I didn't put my beds far enough away from the wire fence. Within about fifteen minutes of being outside, she had reached through and stirred up the first few inches of one of the beds. But I could live with that, right? (I'm sure you've figured things out by now. Oh, Hindsight, my guileful foe!)

When I got home from work, I saw this...


She managed to squeeze under the "gate" (a flap of wire fencing that I fold around the last fence post). This is the only section of the fence that I was not able to tie to the chicken wire on the ground, since I needed to be able to open it. The garden beds were all flung about, and the new compost heap had become the next layer of my lasagna garden. Oh... and she left me a lovely doggie surprise to top it off (I resisted taking a picture of that. You're welcome!). 

I have now wired an extra fence post to the bottom of my "gate" to make it less flexible, and sprinkled the ground generously with cayenne pepper, but this dog... this dog is so determined! I don't know how I can train her out of it since she only really gets destructive when I am not in the yard with her. (Here's a new internet meme! Passive Aggressive Pooch.) Unfortunately, I have to work! I'm so looking forward to the day when I can build something more permanent. 

I raked things back into place, more or less. Hopefully I'll still get a nice crop! Telling the plants apart will be a bit more interesting now. Can we just call it permaculture practice? Hehe.

Have you dealt with gardening with a dog before? How do you keep your hard work from being undone?

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Ok, Dogbeast, you win this round...

This is what is left of my compost heap. Isn't our dog industrious? She keeps managing to push the cardboard aside and pull bits of compost materials through the wire fence. And then fling them wildly about the yard, eat them, and leave me piles of unhappy tummy on her bed.

On the plus side, she has not actually gotten through the fence, so I still have hopes for being able to plant a garden once I have the beds prepared. 

Well, back to researching inexpensive compost container options...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Paradigm Shift

I've been studying up on nutrition quite a bit for the past couple of weeks. I've been interested in food and nutrition for a long time, but a few recent factors have gotten me to review some of my ideas with a more open mind.

First is the rising popularity of the Paleo diet. I've been seeing a lot of Paleo and gluten-free recipes on Pinterest for a while now. A few months back, I glanced through a couple of articles about the Paleo diet, gathered that it was a fad from the 70s, and dismissed it. Now, however, a couple of podcasters whose opinions I am gaining respect for are talking about how they switched to the Paleo diet and are feeling much healthier. It got me wondering about it again.

I was also under the impression that the gluten-free thing was mostly a fad. I know a couple of people who are allergic or have Celiac disease, but it's mostly a pop-culture trend, right? (Sorry, don't hate me for my ignorance.) I did a little more reading on that and learned that there has been a huge increase in diagnoses of wheat sensitivities in the past decade or so. Also, The National Institutes of Health concluded that Celiac disease is still "greatly underdiagnosed." There is a long, but very interesting and convincing (to me, anyway) article about wheat and why humans are developing problems with it here, if you would like to read more: 

The History of How Wheat Became Toxic

First time fermenting my own sauerkraut. So easy and so much tastier than the store bought pasteurized version! I'll take pics of the process next time I make it, but click the image for another site with good instructions.

Ok, that's nice and all, but I am too poor to eat grass-fed meat and cut out my cheap and filling grains and beans. So, the Paleo diet is out for now. (I'm still not 100% sold on it, anyway, but I am less skeptical than I was initially). And, thankfully for my budding aspirations to become a homebrewer, I do not believe that I have a medical problem with wheat or gluten. So, where am I going with this? Well, there are a couple more pieces to the puzzle.

First, I heard a story on my local NPR station in the last week or so about how people raised on farms have fewer food and seasonal allergies than people who were not brought up around animals. The story also said that maybe many of our  current problems with food and seasonal allergies are due to our food being TOO CLEAN. Our foods are so processed and sanitized that the only thing that most of us get any sort of healthy bacteria in anymore is yogurt. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a link to this story, but here are a couple of others I found about the benefits of healthy bacteria. If anyone else finds the one I'm talking about, please let me know so I can add a link.

NPR: Diverse Gut Microbes, A Trim Waistline, And Health Go Together

NPR: Staying Healthy May Mean Learning To Love Our Microbiomes

First time sprouting beans! I used dried garbanzos and lentils from the bulk bins at Winco. They added a nice crunch and lots of healthy enzymes to a salad and stir fry last week. Click the image for a great website to learn about sprouting.

And, lastly, I feel that I eat pretty healthfully. I prepare most of the food that we eat at home, and the vast majority of that is made from whole, minimally processed foods. We eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean meats.  However, my recent annual physical showed that I am low in some important minerals. Although I am willing to take vitamins when necessary, I feel very strongly that my diet should provide the nutrients that my body needs. This is the thing that really has me questioning what is healthy and nutritious.

Studying nutrition is very confusing.  I am a skeptical person by nature. I like to see things backed up by scientific studies, but so much of the information about nutrition seems to be contradictory. Also, it is difficult not to be suspicious when studies funded by a particular company get results that benefit that company. I guess I will have to learn to trust folklore and the experiences of individuals a little more. 

My latest attempt at a sourdough starter. It's looking promising this time! Click the image for a link to the instructions I used.

I want to start out by incorporating more healthy bacteria into my diet with fermented foods. It could be another health fad, but it makes sense to me that people used to eat more fermented foods, since it is a good way to preserve foods. Fermenting encourages the growth of healthy bacteria, like yeast and lactobacillus. Strong colonies of these healthy bacteria will kill off other sorts of bacteria which can make us sick. Also, I have read article upon article stating that sprouting grains and seeds, fermenting vegetables, and fermenting flour to make sourdough make them more easily digestible and make the nutrients more readily available. And, since I happen to like many of these foods, it shouldn't be too hard to try it out and see how I feel over the next few months.

What do you guys think? Am I kooky or am I just slow to catch on? Do you have any suggestions for foods I should make that incorporate healthy bacteria? What are your favorite nutrition powerhouses (oo, I feel so buzz-wordy)?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How Very Pinteresting!

Volume 1

This weekend I tried out several things that I had pinned on Pinterest, and I thought it would be fun to share my results with you fine folks! Also, I am hoping that making this into a new segment will encourage me to stop procrastinating on other pins that I have been wanting to try and not getting around to. So, here goes!

Cinnamon Roll Pancakes - Win!

Not too bad for my first try, huh?

This woman is a pancake genius. If you like cinnamon rolls and pancakes, make these. You won't be sorry. 

I had planned to halve the recipe, since there are only two of us and it says it will make 8 pancakes. However, after halving the cinnamon filling and the cream cheese glaze, I realized that it is difficult to halve an egg... so I made the full amount of pancake batter. It worked out. I guess my pancakes came out a little bigger than hers, even though I used the recommend 1/3rd measuring cup. It probably would have made 6 pancakes for me, but I did four 1/3rd cup and one larger one with the leftover batter. I had to skimp a little with the cinnamon filling on the last big pancake, and there turned out to be extra cream cheese glaze. I may have added a little too much powdered sugar to it, because I had to thin it a little bit with milk to get it to drizzle. Amazing. My favorite fella says these may be the best pancakes he's ever had.

Mom's Super Laundry Sauce - Win! (so far)

Maybe I should call it Laundry Butter, instead?


Fairly easy to put together, even though the dust from grating the Fels Naptha made me sneeze. The initial cost was about as much as buying laundry detergent, but the box of borax and washing soda will last through many batches, so it will be very inexpensive from here on out. 
I didn't have anything really grubby to test it out on, but our clothes smell fresh, and I don't see any residue. The reviews were very good, so I have high hopes that we will continue to love this!

Tub Scrub - Win!

Tub Scrubs Scrub Tubs!

Our bathtub is terrible. It might be the original from when our house was built in 1950. In any case, it is in dire need of a reglaze. Just days after a good scrub it looks like it hasn't been cleaned in months, since stepping into it with any dirt on your feet guarantees stuck on foot prints. I have tried Comet, scouring pads, Barkeeper's Friend (liquid and powder), various combinations of bleach, baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and dish soap recommended by the Internet, and Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Some worked better than others, but all required excessive elbow grease to get the tub white again each week. This cheap, non-toxic cleaner blows them all away.

Well, the first round came out better than I expected! Not all of the links I have found through Pinterest have worked out so well for me. Do you have any Pinterest gems or flops to share?  

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to Cut Up A Whole Chicken

I like buying whole chickens for several reasons. They're usually cheaper per pound than trimmed chicken pieces. I've gotten leg quarters or half breasts with skin and bone for cheaper, but have you noticed they usually have big chunks of skin tucked underneath? I'm not sure how much weight that actually adds, but it feels sneaky to me. I think the thing that I like the most about this is that I can get the most possible use out of the whole chicken. The only thing I don't know what to do with is the skin. Any ideas?

There you have it! With some practice, we might be as fast as Yan someday!

A few notes:
  • Save those giblets! If you aren't a giblet gravy person, your cat or dog will love you for them. I like to cut them up into treat sizes and flash freeze on a tray with wax or parchment paper. I have also heard that chicken liver makes good fish bait.
  • Sorry about the pic for separating the leg quarter into drumstick and thigh. I somehow missed that one! You can see the line of fat in the picture I used for now. I'll update this post the next time I cut up a chicken.
  • A post on making chicken stock with the lovely chicken carcass is forthcoming. :)
Please share your favorite ways to prepare chicken! Do you have any special tricks to make it extra delicious?