Monday, April 25, 2016

What Vegans Eat: Morning Kickstart Smoothie

I did a review of Fern Green's book, Green Smoothies, a while back on my other blog.  Now that there's finally good, fresh, local produce available, I thought it was time to start trying some out.

I adapted this recipe from Fern Green's Green Smoothies Morning Kickstart recipe:  blend a handful of watercress + 1 peeled and deseeded lemon + 1 1/2 TBS wheatgerm + 1 1/2 TBS ground flaxseed + 1 TBS Bee Free Honee + 3 ice cubes.

The tyrant was not very impressed, but I liked it.  It was a little on the bitter side, so maybe a snidge more Bee Free Honee would have been good.  It definitely needed the ice. Warm, pureed watercress isn't all that appetizing...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are You Vermicomposting?

I have always been fascinated with the idea of vermicomposting.  What's vermicomposting?  Basically, it's like having worms as pets.  You feed them your scraps and they produce worm poop, because, as we all know, everybody poops.  Then you use that worm poop, a.k.a. vermicompost, as compost for your houseplants or garden.

A great source of information, believe it or not is a little paperback book originally printed back in 1982 (back in 1982...ha!  I was in elementary school back then...I am old!).  Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof is like the bible of vermicomposting information.  Before you run out and buy the book, check your library (it makes me sad that libraries have become such an underutilized resource) or read this article she wrote on Mother Earth.

I know some people are weirded out by the idea of worms in your home.  Get over it.  Bugs are everywhere, that's life.  If you live in a warm climate, you can keep them outside.  I've read some posts from people in colder climates that insulate the crap out of their worm bins, so they can keep them outside.  Some people even repurpose old refrigerators to use as outdoor worm bins.  The average person is not doing large scale worm bins, I don't plan on it.  If I did, they'd have to go in the basement, where they would eventually get neglected.  I feel like, if I'm going to do it and maintain it, then it needs to be somewhere I can see everyday.

You can buy a worm bin, obviously.  A lot of people do, and it seems a lot of people like the ease of these systems.  The Worm Factory DS3GT 3-Tray Worm Composter is a very popular one, with a lot of good online reviews.  You could also DIY it with a simple Rubbermaid container setup.  Red Worm Composting has a lot of information that is pro-Rubbermaid worm bins.

Personally, I don't like the cost of the commercial ones, nor am I into the plastic in general.  It's not breathable and from I understand, harder to maintain temperature and moisture.  Compost Junkie has some great info on why you shouldn't use plastic, and general vermicomposting information.  But, to each their own.  A quick search of the interwebs will show a slew of people that love their plastic bins, so do your research and decide for yourself.

There are also a lot of people that love The Worm Inn.  I could have sworn there was a video of how to use it from a very enthusiastic man on the site explaining the benefits, but it's not there anymore. I will say, but like the plastic bin set ups, a lot of people seem to love these too.  Many have DIY'ed it with pants, but there have been people reporting mold issues.  The non-DIY version is comparable in cost to the commercial plastic bins, and you have the option of buying or building a stand.  I just don't think I want that in my kitchen, mostly because I think the Ninja Attack Cat will destroy it.  I also think the DIY wood bins just look better.  

I did come across the Uroboro Domestic Vermicomposter by Marco Balsinha. I am obsessed.  Unfortunately, it was his master's of product design thesis, and as far as I know, not currently available for sale.  I was trying to figure out how to diy it by cutting off the bottoms of terra cotta pots, but the more I researched doing that, the more I thought a wood box is easier to make.  I am still considering it though.  IKEA terra cotta pots are inexpensive and I think you just need an angle grinder and a diamond blade...  It looks like a marriage of the two bins I talked about, where they stack, but there's no screens on the bottoms needed like the The Worm Inn.  I bet the terra cotta is more breathable, but you'd have to really stay on top of the moisture situation.  I also bet because it's so breathable, you wouldn't have a big leachate issue like you do with the plastic bins. We'll see....

In the meantime, I thought I might build a box.  I've been busily pinning things I've found.  Ana White has one on her site...of course, she has plans for everything you can imagine and then some lol.  But I liked this version on the Friendly Wom Guy's site. No building plans, but looking at the pic, I can figure it out.  (There were more pics, but the site doesn't seem to be working now).

I am still on the fence.  We even went to a vermicomposting seminar, me and my tiny human.  She took notes, and asked questions.  I was so proud of her.  I've been mulling this over for the past few years, but I think this is the year.  And if you're looking for worms on a budget, my understanding is you can buy the right type of worms at Walmart in their fishing department.  They reproduce quickly, so I wouldn't be concerned with buying a million of worms to start.  You can also purchase them online, but read the reviews carefully.  There are a lot of complaints with various companies, so do your due diligence finding a good source.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

We Finally Have Purple Broccoli!

Yesterday, as the Hubby was trying to get that stupid 6 foot deer fence taut (it is not as easy to do as you'd think), I took a stroll around the garden.  As usual, onions, onions everywhere.  Funny-ish story, I ran out of onions the other day and was irritated I had to stop at the store on my way home from work.  I'm an idiot.  I should've just walked into the backyard...yeesh.

The kale is doing well, no sign of bugs.  Yet.

Next to the kale, is a plant that also survived the winter.  I haven't had a clue what it is.  Then as I peered down at it, I saw it...a purple head of broccoli!

I am not sure if it's a Purple of Sicily cauliflower, but I'm pretty sure it's an Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  I think.  Whatever it is, I'm excited.  Perhaps, the key to growing these is to start them in the winter, so I can put them out in our mini-greenhouse very early in the year.  

I started new broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts seeds last month, and instead of leaving them inside to sprout, I left them out in the greenhouse so they'd get exposure to the cold weather. Hopefully, between this method plus my new sprayer, (knock on wood) it'll be a more successful year for my brassica family plants.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Book Review: Food with Friends

I've been hemming and hawing about writing this review for  Food with Friends: The Art of Simple Gatherings by Leela Cyd.  Usually, when I get a new cookbook, I'm super excited and I pour over the pages like it's food porn.  Cookbooks are my thing.  There was something decidedly unexciting about this cookbook.  I hate to say that....I haven't cooked anything in it yet, so maybe everything is amazing.  But that's my point, it didn't make me want to run to the kitchen and cook.  

Some of it just seemed silly.   Spa waters?  That makes a great Pinterest photo, but in a cookbook? Bruleed do you even eat half a roasted orange?  Skin and all?  I don't get it.  There were an extraordinary amount of floral elements:  Candied Flowers, Lemon-Lavender French Toast, Rhubarb Rose Floats, Pistachio Rose Clouds, Orange Blossom Hagelslag on Toast, Blooming Flower eating flowers a big thing now? 

I will say the South Indian-Style Veg Cutlets and Masala Corn looked interesting.  I'd even whip up a batch of vegan feta to try the Blood Orange & Feta Stacks.  There were a little of this and a little of that that looked like it might be worth trying, but I'm not really sold on this cookbook.  I'll try out some recipes and get back you.

IS IT VEGAN FRIENDLY:  Yes and no.  I got this book, because I thought I read she was a vegetarian once upon a time.  While it doesn't appear to be listed anywhere as a vegetarian cookbook, I don't believe I saw any meat in it.  My thought was I could veganize the recipes easily.  While these recipes don't have meat, they do have a lot of eggs and a ton of dairy...heavy cream, sour cream, butter, etc...all of which have easy vegan substitutes.  It's not that you couldn't veganize the recipes, I'm just not sure it'll be worth the trouble.

WOULD I BUY IT:  Probably not.  I want to say yes, because it is a pretty book and I'm sure Leela Cyd is a lovely woman. The truth is, this book just didn't make me feel inspired to cook.  Plus, I was very thrown off by all the rosewater and flowers and whatnot.  I'm not really into floral cooking.  I will try a few recipes in the next week or two, and I'll update you if I change my mind.

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like it is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.

Do You Have a Ladbrooke Soil Blocker?

I am fascinated by the idea of these soil blockers.  I've been thinking of buying the Ladbrooke Mini 4 Soil Blocker.  I like the idea of the soil blocks in lieu of the trays I use now, but I'm not sure I'm convinced they work.  It just comes across like an As Seen on TV type of gadget.  I wish they had them in stores, but it seems like you can only buy them online.
I like the idea of not having to save my plastic trays.  I also really like the idea of not disturbing the roots of the seedlings when I transplant them. You can get the Micro 20 Soil Block Maker that insert the larger blocks. In theory, this all seems great.

Now, I'm usually a DIY kinda girl, but after I saw this guy's video, I realized that DIY soil blockers are a little too labor intensive for me.  

So I was on the fence.  Is it better to buy it?  Then I found this video:

And you see how much faster it is than the DIY.  I think when you factor in the time to make it and how it's not as fast to use, I think it's better to buy it.  I mean, this isn't cheap, per se, but it's not going to break the bank either.  At around $30, to have a lifetime of not buying trays....seems like a worthwhile investment.  I am a little concerned about making these soil mixes.  I think I'll have to do more research.  Anyone who's used these and wants to chime in, I'd appreciate it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Seeds are Sprouting!

Only three out of the six artichokes have sprouted.  I have to plant more.

So far only the Boston Pickling cucumber seeds and the Dark Star zucchini have sprouted.

I'm only doing five varieties of tomatoes this year, and will hopefully grow around 25 tomato plants.  Although, last year I had a slew of plants just magically pop up and I had to find homes in the garden for them.  Unfortunately, they were mostly cherry tomatoes, which are the bane of my existence.  

(I bought this tray of biodegradable pots on clearance last year.  I am not a fan, they get really moldy.)

Of course, the weather has been wonky in Jersey.  It's freezing today.  We may get snow again soon.  Fingers crossed that it gets warm again soon.