Sunday, February 21, 2021

Smart Gardener Review

Short answer, don't do it.  Save yourself $30.  Full review to come shortly, but just in case you saw them recommended  by people just putting out lists of available apps but haven't actually used Smart Gardener, don't do it.  They are advertising things they don't do, and when I pointed it out, they thanked me for my suggestions.  Um...what?

They partner with Baker Creek, yet the majority of information on the seeds they sell aren't here.

You want accurate advice based on specific plants?  Nope. You're getting info users inputted.  If I wanted info from non-experts, I would Google the answers, not pay for it.

Is Square Foot Gardening easier with this?  Nope.  The majority of recommended plants per square wasn't right and it won't allow you to customize it.

Anyway, go old school.  Write it out. This has been a waste of time.  

I thought they don't offer refunds because they didn't want people to get the info they needed and then request a refund.  Nope.  It's because they know they aren't doing what they advertise.  But you can't falsely advertise a product and get paid for it.  Now I have to waste more time filing a dispute with my credit card company.

Very frustrating.  

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

NJ SFG Garden Tour - June 24, 2020

I'm a lousy blogger. Not even sure why I'm posting now, but....I like documenting the garden's progress.  We took down the deck, and put in a stone, paver patio.  It's covered and has ceiling fans... It's been my dream for a long time and we've been spending more time outside than we have been inside.

In addition to us spending a lot of time outside, so has Chloe (a.k.a. Bear).  She is often bothered by the boys in the house, so she loves having time otuside in her catio, surrounded by catnip.

I decided to try herbs in pots.  Dill, chives, thyme, Emily basil, Greek basil, cilantro and several other things that did not germinate....  I've been good about watering them.  Guess what? That makes a huge difference!  And people, stop painting your terracotta. The point of clay planters is that they breath.  Painting them stops that and will eventually cause the paint to just peel off.

I have been talking about raised beds and Square Foot Gardening for a very long time.  So, after dismantling the deck, I saved the board to build these boxes.  I used roofing nails and nylon twine to make the squares.  Unfortunately, the whole thing came together so late, that I wound up direct sowing everything.  Somehow, it all seems to be working out. 

I did buy new strawberry plants at Gaskow's in Monroe. That place is insane!  And I left my kid and the dogs (a.k.a. the Goobies) in the car with it running so they could listen to the radio, and my battery died. I had to flag down a cop who procured some jumper cables and jump started my car for me.  We've been picking a few strawberries everyday.  Well, the ones the birds haven't picked at.

The peas and sugar snap peas are starting to flower.

So are the cucumbers.  I tried out Dar Cucumbers this year, not realizing it was a bush variety and didn't actually need to be trellised.  So basically, I built it for nothing.  Live and learn.

See that huge empty spot?  You can't see them, but there are some peppers, eggplant and celery growing between the sugar snap peas and beets.  I'm not sure why they're growing so slowly, but I will be sure to start them in modules next year for sure.

Only a few lettuce and spinach germinated.  But I have carrots and beets galore.  Do I super love beets?  No, I just didn't realize there are actually 2-3 seeds in each beet seed.  So I wound up with about 5000 extra beet seedlings which I transplanted all around the garden. 

I also accidentally planted more collard greens than I meant to.  Plus I interplanted collards and swiss chard, and thought the chard was beets, so now I have beets and chard mixed together.  Which is which?  Who knows!  There are also lactino kale, curly kale and zucchinis.  Well, two zucchinis because no matter how many I tried to start in that third box, it just wasn't happening. 

I also panicked and thought none of the tomato seeds were going to grow, started an extra set and now I have twice as many plants as I wanted.  

What have I learned so far?  The whole four foot deep boxes is legit.  The two boxes that are six foot deep are a disaster.  It's so hard to reach the middle!  No clue how I'm going to readjust for that next year.  Also, now that the beds are in and the fence is up, I will start those seedlings indoors much earlier. Direct sowing has been stressful.  Mostly because I'm pretty OCD, and the uncertainty of what will or won't germinate was making me anxious.  

I love the SFG method because I'm definitely growing more veg than ever before and less weeding.  Much less weeding!  Oh, my arthritis-ridden hands are so grateful for that.

Happy Gardening my friends.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Want an Easier and Faster Tofu Scramble? Make a Tofu Scramble Mix

I don't know what to call this.  A seasoning blend? Tofu scramble mix? Whatever you want to call it, it will make your mornings go faster if you're a tofu scramble kind of person.  You take my basic ratio and double, triple, get my to whatever will fit your container.  Mix it together so it's well-blended and use however much makes you happy.

My basic ratio is this:

Tofu Scramble Mix

1 tablespoon of  nutritional yeast (aka nooch)
1 teaspoon of kala namak (aka black salt)
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

I think I use more turmeric (every Asian I know pronounces it tumeric, no R. Just saying) and black salt than other people.  Turmeric has a lot of health benefits, including being an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.  But to really magnify it's benefits, you need to combine it with pepper.  Black salt also has health benefits, primarily aiding in digestion. Random info, black salt isn't really salty tasting. Indian Asian people use it a lot, which is why you're going to get the best price buying it at an Indian Asian store.  It's not a specialty item that you get up-charged on, it's just a regular old spice.

How much do you use?  It's your tofu scramble, use as much as you want!  After I crumble the tofu in a hot, oiled frying pan, I add about 2-3 teaspoons per package of tofu.  Mix it together and cook until you think it's heated through, and voila.  I usually add onions, spinach, tomatoes, cheese...but this is your tofu scramble, so you do you.  You can also rub it on slices of tofu and fry it. Now you have the perfect faux egg for an egg sandwich!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

EVA Accidentally Vegan Birkenstocks Review PLUS How to Stop Them from Making Noise

Did you know Birkenstock now makes some vegan friendly shoes?  I did buy a pair of the Mayari Vegan Birko-Flor sandals, I'll talk about that some other time.  But in addition to those, their EVA collection falls into the accidentally vegan category.

EVA stands for Ethylene vinyl acetate.  As per their site, "EVA is a skin-friendly plastic with exceptional abrasion resistance... EVA is flexible and, of course, water-friendly." I couldn't find them locally at a store so I could try them out, so I ordered the Birkenstock Essentials Gizeh EVA Anthracite sandals. Yes, they look a little odd, but apparently Birkenstocks are now trendy?  When did that happen?

I was a girl of the nineties, with my pointy-toed high heels, running around to bars and clubs, inadvertently destroying my feet in the process.  I need more support than a traditional flip flop can offer.  At about forty dollars a pop, I thought it was a better to own one pair that don't hurt my feet and shins than several pairs that do.

I tried them on, walked around and just loved them.  Great support. Good fit despite my insanely wide feet.  But then there was the noise.  This horrible farting sound every time I walked.  Hmmm...were these worth keeping if they sounded like this?  Nope.  But I wanted to keep them!  So to the internet I went.

Pages of pages of reading and I found someone with a solution. It was a random comment on some random site.  Reddit maybe?  I wish I remembered or could find it again so I could give that person credit.  The very simple solution is Velcro.  Yes, you read that right, Velcro.

Take a piece of Velcro, the soft fuzzy part, obviously not the hard scratchy side.  Cut it to the length of the inner arch.  I recommend rounding the corners so it doesn't lift up and start scratching at your foot. I don't know for sure that it would happen, but err on the side of caution.

Obviously, everyone's feet and adventures are different.  But for me, I've warn these Birkenstock Gizeh EVAs out and about, to the beach, and to the park for the past two months.  They've been holding up really well and I've had no issues with the Velcro staining or pulling off.  For me, the comfort of these outweigh the look and if I do wind up having to replace the Velcro every few months, I'd be okay with that.  Hope this tip helps!  That farting noise is a deal breaker! 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Book Review: Veggie Burger Atelier by Nina Olsson

If you've been following me on Instagram, then you know I've developed quite the love affair with Veggie Burger Atelier by Nina Olsson.  It's only $8.14 on Amazon right now.  Talk about an underrated book!

Yes, it's a vegetarian cookbook, not vegan, but she provides plenty of vegan options.  The rest are things you can easily figure out substitutions yourself.  I do have four suggestions if you do go buy this, or take it out of your local library.

Image result for veggie burger atelier

The first is to ignore all of the panko breadcrumbs listed in the ingredient section.  It tends to be dry and not hold together that well when you use it.  Instead, use vital wheat gluten.  It gives it a much meatier feel and holds the burger together better.

Secondly, do everything by weight.  If you substitute panko for vital wheat gluten cup for cup, it'll be a disastor.  You have to do it by weight.  I feel like these recipes in general work better when you measure everything by weight.

Third, all the ones that say to bake them are too squishy when you eat them.  Add a little extra vital wheat gluten so it holds together better and then pan fry them.  The texture is better this way.  I always use my trusty cast iron pan, but that's up to you.

Lastly, these recipes make gigantic burgers. I cut them in half and make three more normal size burgers.  I think they cook better that way and are simply easier to eat.

Sage, Kale and Butternut Squash Burger.  This is the first burger I made.  Too squishy, but otherwise really good.  I'd definitely use vital wheat gluten next time.

Le Parisien.  So good!  Listen to her topping suggestions.  They sound crazy, but they're great with every burger.   I used Follow Your Heart Gouda in lieu of Gruyere cheese, Just Mayo, homemade peach jam and caramelized onions.  It was the perfect mix of salty, sweet and sour.

'Shroom and Egg Burger.  OMFG.  This was my favorite out of the book.  It would be a great brunch burger.  There are a million ways to make a vegan egg, use what you like.  There are great vegan yolk recipes, but you can just use The Vegg Vegan Egg Yolk.  Don't skip it, the yolk makes the burger.

The Lahmacun Burger topped with cashew toum (my daughter is obsessed with this and forgoes cream cheese for toum on her bagel), red onions, lettuce, and a dollop of harissa.

The Berlinger Burger served with homemade curry ketchup and homemade sauerkraut and potato wedges on the side.  I wasn't sure about the kraut, but it all really went together so well.

IS IT VEGAN-FRIENDLY?  Yes, most definitely.  There are some things she didn't provide a vegan option for like halloumi cheese, but can google "vegan...whatever" and I'm sure you can figure something out.  The bulk of the book is easily veganizable if it's not already vegan.

WOULD I BUY IT?  Yes, I did buy it!  I cannot believe the success I've had with Veggie Burger Atelier.  I can't believe how every recipe, including the condiment and side suggestions, have been so amazing!  Granted the panko was a mistake, but whatever.  Make a few tweeks and this book is well worth the money.  I love that I finally have some great options for veggie burgers that aren't the usual black bean or Beyond Burger.  I highly recommend you check out this book.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Is Dr. Bronner's Vegan?

No.  Well, kind of.  Yes, their products are vegan-friendly and cruelty-free. 

The no is if you are someone that cares about companies as a whole, then no, they're not.

I was shocked when I saw this article from "Dr. Bronner's Supports "Humane Washing" Enterprise from United Poultry Concerns

Many of us animal rights activists have used Dr. Bronner’s’ “Magic Soap” for years, confident that the company’s lofty rhetoric reflected the highest ethical standards toward animals and the planet as professed in their Cosmic Principles of guidance “in everything we do, from soapmaking to peacemaking.”

Imagine our surprise on learning that Dr. Bronner’s business, which espouses “Be kind to animals, earth and body,” is funneling profits to Farm Forward, an organization that promotes farmed animal production and consumption, including the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Kansas and the Good Shepherd Poultry Institute dedicated to preserving “heritage poultry breeds and helping rebuild an agricultural system that puts animals back in the center of farming.”

Um.  WTF?! Right.  Then there was this press release from Dr. Bronner's, that said in part:

Dr. Bronner's infographic showing support for Farm Forward
Support of Farm Forward and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals
This year the company is proud to continue to support Farm Forward, an organization that supports advocacy around the New York Times best-selling book Eating Animals, which has been adapted into a documentary produced by Academy Award winning actress Natalie Portman and directed by Christopher Quinn, the award-winning director of God Grew Tired of Us. The film premiered at the Telluride film festival this past September. Farm Forward collaborated extensively with board member and author, Jonathan Safran Foer, for three years while he wrote Eating Animals and is planning to organize advocacy around the film. Just like Foer’s book, the documentary uses a combination of humor, adventure, muckraking, and memoir to explore the realities of contemporary animal agriculture alongside the complexities of food ethics.
“We’re incredibly grateful for Dr. Bronner’s generosity and commitment to an ethical, just, and sustainable food system,” said Aaron Gross, Founder and CEO of Farm Forward. “Eating Animals has galvanized resistance to factory farming like no other work. With the support of Dr. Bronner’s, Farm Forward and other animal advocates are able to leverage the book and ultimately the film in tremendous ways,” continued Gross.
When I tweeted them about it, this was their response:

Replying to  
Hey there! Our support for Farm Forward to date has been around their outreach related to “Eating Animals,” one of the most successful books of recent years addressing the problem of factory farming. -Stacey

Yay!  Supporting a book that promotes veganism!  Awesome.  Hey!  You know what else Farm Forward promotes? "Humane" animal agriculture.  Here's the mission statement from their site.

We pursue this work by:
  • Promoting agriculture that combines the best in traditional husbandry and animal welfare science by increasing the market share of more humane, sustainable family farms.
  • Eliminating the worst practices in factory farming.
  • Advocating an acute reduction in the consumption of factory-farmed meat, fish, eggs, and dairy by encouraging conscientious consumer and institutional decision making.
  • Supporting interdisciplinary research and undergraduate teaching about the cultural significance of animals and animal agriculture.
  • Stimulating the production of essays, books, films, and religious activities that raise awareness about the problems in animal agriculture and the deeper cultural issues behind them.

Let me say this.  I shop at stores that sell non-vegan products.  I bought a car that isn't vegan-friendly.  I have bought products from companies that sell vegan and non-vegan merchandise.  But here's the thing.  None of those companies are out there promoting themselves as a vegan-friendly company. 

For Dr. Bronner's to support an organization who is promoting the false idea of humane animal agriculture goes against everything they used to stand for.  And it makes their new campaign to "End Factory Farming" completely hypocritical in my opinion.

So you decide.  If they are supporting an organization like Farm Forward, are they really an company you still want to support?  Too bad really, I did like their products. 

What are you other options?  I like Mrs. Meyers.  Do you make your own with vinegar?  That's a bad idea, but I'll tell you why in another post.  Have a great holiday. 

All ideas in this post are my own opinions.  I have presented publicly available information and test directly from the groups involved.  I have a first amendment right to my opinions.  Just thought i'd add this in case Dr. Bronner's is the type to sue bloggers for pointing out what is going on.