Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Garden planning and seed catalogs

It's hard to believe that it will soon be time to get seeds started indoors in a few weeks as the sleet is tapping against the window by my desk as I write this.  A fellow gardening friend and I were discussing that it is time to start planning our gardens for this year.  She asked about my favorite seed catalogs and hinted that it would be nice to have a post featuring just such a topic.  So here are some of my favorites:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - one of the most beautiful catalogs ever.  All heirloom and rare seeds from all over the world

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange - non-GMO, organic heirloom seeds.  They specialize in Southern heirloom varieties that do well in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states (although you can grow many of them anywhere).

Seed Savers Exchange - non-profit whose mission is to conserve America's diverse and endangered food crops through a seed bank.

Territorial Seed Company - non-GMO seed catalog with great artwork and lots of growing information.

Annie's Heirloom Seeds - small family run seed company.

Wood Prairie Farm - certified organic seed potatoes from a family farm

Johnny's Selected Seeds - great for garden supplies like fabric for garden tunnels

Growers Supply - also great for garden supplies like fabric for garden tunnels, greenhouse and irrigation system supplies

For some good gardening books to get you started and to keep on hand for reference, see the gardening section on my bookshelf page.

May your mailbox be filled with colorful inspiration for your spring garden.  Leave a comment if you have a favorite seed catalog that I didn't mention that you want to share.

Thanks for reading!

Winter berries dusted with snow

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Carrot cake granola and reading list

Carrot cake granola

I was craving something sweet (mmmmm carrot cake!), but wouldn't wreck my healthy eating plan (hmmmm not cake).  I was searching through a few recipes for ideas when I stumbled across a carrot-sunflower granola recipe in a the 20 year old version of the cookbook titled The Joy of Juicing - Creative Cooking with Your Juicer.  The ingredients were similar to the desired carrot cake and would use up some of the pulp from the fresh juices I have been adding to my diet.  I used the recipe in the cookbook for the inspiration for my version:

Carrot Cake Granola

makes about 6 cups

Pulp from 3 carrots run through a juicer - about 3/4 cup  (use the juice for carrot-ginger lemonade)
2 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw nuts (walnuts, pecans or almonds)
1/3 cup unsalted shelled sunflower seeds
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon almond or vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat the over to 375 degrees F.  Grease a cookie sheet.  

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients except for the raisins and dates.  Spread the mixture evenly on the cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.  Stir the mixture and bake for another 15 minutes or until the top of the mixture is lightly browned.  Remove from the oven and stir in the dates and raisins and set aside to cool.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.  Serve with your favorite dairy or non-dairy milk or sprinkle over yogurt or ice cream.   

This recipe will fill your home with the comforting aromas of cinnamon, maple and vanilla.  It smells just like carrot cake, but it's much healthier and kinder to the waistline.  

The winter evenings have me curled up in front of the fire with some granola for snaking and a few good reads.  Here are a couple of books I have been enjoying lately:

Product Details
Little House off the Grid: Our Family's Journey to Self-Sufficiency by Cam and Michelle Mather
An entertaining and informative story about a family that moves from the city into a 100 year old farm house on 150 acres and chronicles their journey to learn about solar and wind power, gardening and other skills needed to live and run a business off the grid.

Product Details
Marrakesh by Design by Maryam Montague
This is a beautiful book full of colorful photos and the history of the craftsmanship of Moroccans style that will have you inspired to add a little more color to your surroundings.  I was lucky enough to participate in a book signing and presentation by the author that has me dreaming of creating with color and rich textures.

I hope your week is filled with comfort foods and inspiring reading.

Thanks for reading!

View of the fire while I read

The recipe above  has been shared on Keep It Real Thursdays.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Winter Garden

Carrots and cilantro from the winter garden

I took advantage of some of the warmer weather during the previous week to check on my winter garden.  There are all kinds of greens and lettuces growing snugly in their fabric covered tunnels and I snapped a few photos while I gave the garden a quick watering and harvested a few batches of greens for last week's recipe of salad with vegan feta and also pulled some carrots and cilantro for another meal of Asian noodle salad.

 Salad greens with lots of arugula

 Spinach and lettuces

Bok choi 

 Asian greens for stir fry

 A jungle of leeks and fennel

A bed of cilantro ready for winter soups and salads

I hope these photos added a little brightness to your winter day.  The seed catalogs are filling the mailbox and it will soon be time to plan this year's garden.  

Thanks for reading!

Austrian Heirloom lettuce (Forellenschluss variety)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Salad with Vegan Feta

Salad Greens with Vegan Feta

We've been having some unseasonably warm weather for January.  I found I was craving some lighter foods other than the hearty soups and stews of winter.  I was inspired to make the vegan feta from this recipe.  This vegan feta would be delicious served over any salad combination.   I served it with mixed salad greens, sliced mushrooms, avocado and pumpkin seeds with a baked sweet potato on the side. The perfect refreshing, but satisfying meal.  

Vegan Feta

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice or apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon agave nectar or maple syrup (or stevia to taste)
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 block of firm tofu cut into bite sized cubes

Mix all the ingredients together except the tofu.  Gently toss the tofu cubes into the dressing.  This can be served right away, but if you let the tofu cubes marinate in the dressing for a while, the flavor is even better.  Serve over on your favorite tossed salad.

Thanks for reading!

January harvest from the winter garden:  bok choi, cilantro, beets and salad greens

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Making Bath Fizzies

Homemade Bath Fizzies

I love taking long soaks in our vintage cast iron bathtub.  I enjoy having bubbles or scented bath salts in the water but have found that many products have ingredients I don't recognize.  I found that it's surprisingly easy and inexpensive to make my own bath fizzies with just a few easily found natural ingredients:  Epsom salts, baking soda, citric acid (available at health food stores) and witch hazel. Any scent can be made by stirring some essential oils into the dry ingredients before adding the witch hazel.  I also stirred in about 2 tablespoons of almond oil as a skin softener and mixed in some lavender buds and rose petals from my garden plus a little pink sea salt to add pretty natural color.  I used this recipe and shaped my fizzies by packing the mixture into a muffin tin.  After a few hours of drying time, they are ready to use.  These make a nice handcrafted gift tucked into little cellophane gift bags tied with a pretty ribbon or make them small (in a mini-muffin pan) and give them in a recycled glass jar.  You just drop one into a tub of warm water and the baking soda will create bubbles as the fizzie dissolves softening the water and scenting the air.  These are sure to be a bubbly relaxing treat in your tub.

Wishing you a creative day.  Thanks for reading!

 Snowstorm in Indiana over holidays

Friday, January 4, 2013

Roasted Vegetable Soup and Reading List

Roasted vegetable soup topped with garlic croutons and soynuts

The winter weather has made a warm bowl of soup a welcome meal. After roasting the vegetables, this soup comes together quickly in a blender.  The basic recipe is below, but use whatever you have on hand or like.  

Roasted vegetable soup

6 cups of vegetables (approximately) - I had a butternut squash and 2 beets - you can also use carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, parsnips, onions, leeks or mushrooms
4-6 cloves of garlic
olive oil
2 cups of vegetable broth (I used 2 Tbsp miso paste dissolved into water)
1 cup of milk (unsweetened non-dairy milk for vegan) or more vegetable broth
sea salt and pepper
Toppings - croutons (bread cubes browned in a little olive oil with garlic), nuts or seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cover a baking pan with foil to make clean up easier.  Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil on the bottom of the pan.  Prepare the vegetables by cutting up any large ones like squash or large sweet potatoes into halves or quarters so they are all about the same size. Put the vegetables and garlic in the pan and toss to coat with the olive oil.  Roast the vegetables until tender approximately 30-40 minutes until most of the vegetables are tender.  Everything is going to be pureed so it won't matter if there are still a few that aren't quite done).  Cool enough to handle, and remove any skins or peels.  Place all the roasted vegetables into a blender and add the 2 cups of vegetable broth and blend until smooth.  Add additional broth or milk (for a cream of soup) until the desired consistency is reached.  Heat the soup on the stove or, if you are using a Vitamix, keep blending on high until it is piping hot.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Serve with toppings of choice to add a little crunch.  

The inspiration for this soup came after I had read through the following books that I check out of my local library.  I am definitely going to look for copies of these to add to my bookshelf. 
Main Street Vegan: Everything You Need to Know to Eat Healthfully and Live Compassionately in the Real World
Information, resources and recipes for vegan living.

Product Details
Beautifully photographed vegetarian recipes from London's Ottenlonghi restaurants

Product Details
Healthy vegan versions of African, Caribbean, African-American, Native American, and European staples

Thanks for reading!