Sunday, December 14, 2014

Summer garden wrap-up

Bounty from this year's garden including winter squash, bell and jalapeno peppers, heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, raspberries, ground cherries, Asian, green and wax string beans

Winter has settled in here.  It seems as though the start of summer was such a short time ago, Somehow life just got in the way so I'm only now posting my wrap up for this year's summer garden. People often ask how much our garden really produces.  My answers have varied from - enough tomatoes so I don't have to buy tomato sauce until May or enough frozen pesto to get us until the first basil harvest the next year, but I didn't really know for sure.  So this year, I decided to keep track of the weight of the harvest. We found a nice vintage scale and general store weight sets after my digital kitchen scale gave out after about a month.  Here are the totals for the 2014 summer garden harvest,

An antique store find

Summer 2014 harvest (in pounds)

Basil, sweet 1.40 Ground cherry 3.20 Potatoes 8.00
Basil, Thai 0.05 Kale 1.00 Raspberries 7.54
Blackberries 0.27 Lettuce 0.68 Rhubarb 1.29
Broccoli 1.20 Mint 1.23 Soy beans 4.50
Carrots 0.53 Melon 35.86 Squash 32.27
Collards 2.95 Onion 0.95 Stevia 0.23
Eggplant 20.07 Oregano 2.00 Tomatoes 150.87
Garlic and scapes 2.11 Peas 0.73 Zucchini 8.56
Green beans 16.96 Peppers 24.36

Each year I learn a little more about raising an edible garden with the weather and nature making each year a challenge and a surprise.  I didn't have as much success with cucumbers and melons this this year after last year's never ending bumper crop, so it was nice to have a break after a diet saturated with everything from cucumber-melon juice to cantaloupe jam.  This year, we had an abundance of eggplant and winter squash for me to find creative new ways to use.

Here are some of my favorite photos from this year's garden adventures:
January through September in the garden beds
Garden fun preserving the harvest for the winter


In the bed, on the vine and at some colorful harvests
Garden beauties

It was a pleasant journey reviewing this last summer's work on a cold, dreary day.  I'm looking forward to getting back into the swing of writing, creating and sharing with you in hopes that you are inspired to explore something new or revisit a forgotten creative endeavor.

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song."  ~ Maya Angelou

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kitchen adventures: vegan chickpea omelet

Chickpea omelet topped with sauteed zucchini, sweet peppers, mushrooms, onions, garlic and tomatoes

It was one of those days that I had an armful of great veggies from the garden, and I wanted something light to take advantage of my harvest.  I decided to give a chickpea omelet a try.  The chickpea base was a perfect way to showcase some of the best of the garden harvest while providing plenty of protein.  It would also taste great topped with your favorite pasta sauce or any leftover veggies you have on hand.

Chickpea omelet

2 cups chickpea flour
2 tablespoons flaxmeal
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2  cup non-dairy milk + 1/2 cup water
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used thyme and parsley)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a mixing bowl, stir together all the ingredients except the olive oil.  Add more water if necessary to make a consistency like pancake batter.

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat.  Add oil and saute onions and garlic until fragrant and the onions are translucent.  Pour in the chickpea batter and cook until the top is set.  Optionally, If you would like to brown the top, run it under the broiler for a few minutes or flip the omelet onto a plate and slide it back into the pan to brown.   To serve, top with your favorite vegetables lightly sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic or a favorite pasta sauce .

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Sunny zinnias in the garden

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Zen photography

Under the shade of a canopy of trees at the US National Arboretum

This spring, I took a 4-week workshop called Zen Photography that blended mindfulness and the art of photography.  Our zen master, Tuan Pham, is an award winning amateur photographer.  He used meditation and exercises such as one-eye seeing and relaxed awareness to teach us wise attention so we could look at the world around us with awakened awareness.  Our classes included drawing and other creative exercises along with time spent taking photos in the US National Arboretum.  Each class ended with a slide show of our best shots from the previous week.   The course ended with a family day where everyone got to participate in mindfulness and creative exercises to see what we had been up to.  There was a final exhibition of all of our favorite photos taken over the weeks.

The course focused not so much on the technical aspect of taking photographs, but on how we see things and how our thinking minds influence how we see.  We were challenged to try things to get out of our comfort level and stretch ourselves.  I experimented with taking some photos that were outside of my usual style and was pleasantly surprised by the results.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Reflection - one of my classmates during a moment of stillness before going off to take photos

Water series - reflections in the water

The inside of an iris growing in a neighbor's garden

Close up of the ice cubes in a glass of iced tea

The end - a dog enjoying a rest in the shade at the arboretum

I really enjoyed the course and feel that it helped me view my surroundings in a slightly different way than before.  It is being offered again this fall and I've signed up to take it so that I can expand on what I've already learned and to apply it to my photography as well as all my other creative endeavors.

I hope you pause from time to time to take in the scene around you with fresh eyes and enjoy the beauty in the everyday.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kitchen adventures: salad spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce (vegan and raw)

Salad spring rolls with peanut dipping sauce

The memory of summer is fading fast here, but there are still warm afternoons where you might want something light for lunch or dinner.  These fresh spring rolls come together quickly and can be made with whatever vegetables you like and have on hand.

Spring salad rolls with peanut dipping sauce

Dipping sauce
¼ cup peanut butter or other nut butter
3/4 cup very hot water
1 tablespoon Braggs amino acids or soy sauce
2 teaspoons agave nectar
2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
2 tablespoons olive oil
chili pepper, ,pepper sauce or chopped fresh hot peppers to taste

1. Stir together the peanut butter and hot water in a small bowl until smooth.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until thoroughly combined. Set aside at room temperature while making the rolls.

Salad rolls
makes approximately 12

12 cucumber spears
1 cup grated carrot
1 cup packed mung bean sprouts
1 ripe avocado, sliced lengthwise into 12 even pieces
12 lettuce leaves or 2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
1/2 cup grated radish
¼ c. fresh mint, Thai basil or cilantro, coarsely chopped
tofu strips, plain or marinated in Braggs amino acids or soy sauce, garlic powder and olive oil
12 rice spring roll wrappers

1. Place each ingredient in a separate bowl or plate.
2. Fill a wide, shallow bowl with warm water. Place one spring roll wrapper in the bowl and let it soak until limp, about 5 seconds. Lay the wrapper down flat on your work surface. In the upper center section of the wrapper, place 1 piece of lettuce or small bed of about 2 tablespoons shredded cabbage. You will want to leave at least 1 in. at the bottom of the wrapper uncovered; no need to leave any space at the top. In a compact vertical line, arrange a cucumber spear, avocado slice and tofu strip, small amount (approximately 1 generous tablespoon) of the carrot, bean sprouts  and radish plus a sprinkle (approximately 1 teaspoon) of the mint, basil or cilantro.
3. Fold the bottom edge of the wrapper on top of the filling. Then tightly (but gently) pull the left edge of the wrapper over the filling and the folded bottom edge and then fold the right edge of the wrapper over. It may be helpful to put pressure on the filling with your fingertips to make it as compact as possible while rolling.  Keeping the filling as compact as possible, roll the filling in the wrapper. Press the edges of the wrapper together to close. Repeat until all 12 spring rolls are assembled.
4. Serve with peanut sauce

Any leftover sauce makes a great salad dressing.  

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kitchen Adventures: A secret to fluffy vegan pancakes

Fluffy vegan pancakes

I have been doing quite a bit of experimenting with vegan baking with some success...and some results that were more suitable to the compost heap.  Getting the texture right and enough lift in vegan baked goods seems to be my biggest challenge.  I've had my fair share of flops, but I keep working at it to get things just right.

I've been struggling to get a nice fluffy vegan pancake.  Substituting flax meal and water for the egg in traditional recipes changes the chemistry and you don't get quite the same rising action.  I also tend to put some type of vegetable in just about every dish I make which allows me to reduce or eliminate the oil and add a little more nutrition, but it effects the density and height of my flapjacks as well.  I have found a little yeast is a magic ingredient that seems to give just enough extra loft to make my pancakes as fluffy as I like.

These pancakes have zucchini incorporated in the batter

Whole grain pancakes (vegan)

makes about 8 medium pancakes

2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon raw sugar or other sweetener
1 cups almond (or other non-dairy) milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup flax seed meal
1 cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup uncooked rolled oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/2 cup finely grated zucchini, carrot or raw sweet potato
Vegetable or coconut oil for cooking

Dissolve the yeast and sweetener in the 1/2 cup warm water and let sit to get frothy while you mix the rest of the ingredients.  In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients (flax seed meal, flour, oats, baking powder and soda and salt).  Stir in the grated vegetable and toss to coat the shreds.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients (yeast mixture, almond milk and vanilla).  Mix well, but do not overmix or it will toughen the pancakes.  If the batter is too thick, add a little more almond milk.  If the batter is too thin, add a bit more flour.  Let the batter sit for 10 minutes before cooking.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and grease with a little oil.  Cook the pancakes on the first side until bubbles appear in the batter, then flip and cook on the other side until golden.  Serve with maple syrup and fruit.

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