Sunday, March 31, 2013

Seed starting and garden bed preparation

 Starting seeds for the 2013 garden

There has been a very cool start to spring for us in the Washington, DC area.  It's been a challenge to get garden preparations completed between the slushy snow and chilly, rainy weather.  I have been doing some planning, ordering seeds, and prep work for weeks in anticipation of warm weather.  To help with keeping things organized and on schedule, I use both Spout Robot, an online planting application and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Planting Guide (check online for a similar guide for your local area).  A local garden center, Behnkhe's Nursery, provides a monthly to-do list of garden chores for outdoor plants.  Here's a link to that March To-Do List for the Garden which has helped me get everything ready for when the warm weather does decide to come and stay.

I attended Rooting DC a free all-day gardening forum with a keynote speaker from the USDA, vendors and workshops covering topics from building beds, soil remediation, mushroom cultivation and just about every other garden related topic you could imagine with master gardeners available to answer any questions anyone might have.  I particularly enjoyed the irrigation system workshop had us working in groups to build a sample system and touring the newly installed greenhouse of Woodrow Wilson High School in DC which hosted the event.  If you are in the DC area, I would highly recommend this forum for next year.

Here are photos from the last couple of weeks' prep work.

Log inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores - the first harvest will hopefully be in about 12-18 months


Leeks, garlic and onion that grew under cover over winter and winter arugula remaining in a bed prepped for this year

Some of the last harvest from the winter garden before prepping the beds for this year

I am looking forward to an exciting 2013 growing season.  Are you planning any garden adventures for this year?

Thanks for reading!
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Winter salad greens and broccoli

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Pudding

Chocolate avocado pudding

This dessert is all about decadence while still being healthy.  It's fancy enough to serve to guests and you can put this together in about 10 minutes so it is perfect for unexpected company or a snack attack for yourself.  If you like your puddings cold, you'll need to give it a little time in the fridge, but you can eat it right after you make it too.  

Decadent Chocolate Avocado Pudding

makes 3 cups

1/2 cup raw cashews*
1 cup milk (I used almond)
1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons cocoa nibs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a high powered blender, process the raw cashews and the milk until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to process until mixture is well combined and completely smooth.  Spoon into serving dishes and chill before serving.

* If you want to avoid using nuts, you can substitute another ripe avocado for the raw cashews

Thanks for reading!

Produce display at Union Market, Washington, DC

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Sketchbook Project Update

I just received a digital postcard from my sketchbook from it's stop in Austin, TX!  My 2013 Project Sketchbook, along with a multitude of others, has embarked on a country-wide tour in a mobile library.  I was a little worried towards the end of last year that I wouldn't get it all completed before the early January deadline.  I got creatively stuck because I wasn't sure how a proper sketchbook should look, especially one that I was going to send out into the world to be seen by others and finally be archived in the sketchbook library in Brooklyn, NY.

I did a little research and discovered that however your sketchbook turns out is exactly how it's supposed to be.  It's a place to explore ideas and dabble in techniques - the goal is not a completed masterpiece. All year long, I experimented with collage, photography stamps, print making, paints and some watercolor pencils. Some experiments were more successful than others.  Some got painted over and became something else in the end.  It turns out that it was more than an art project, but a lesson in letting go, enjoying the process and being delighted (or dismayed!) at the result.

I encourage you to give it a try too.  Anyone can participate, no prior art experience necessary - give your doodles a home or take that pile of magazines you've been saving and cut and glue with abandon.  There are also smaller projects if you want to test it out first with a smaller commitment.  There are projects such as submit a photo or craft a project on the topic of the week.  To learn more or sign up, go over to  The Sketchbook Project website.  For inspiration  you can check out the digital library (and visit my sketchbook if you have the time).

Thanks for reading!

Supplies for getting creative

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie (vegan and gluten free)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

Here is a sweet tooth satisfying treat that is nearly guilt-free and super easy to make. It is also elegant enough to serve for a celebration treat with a little dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.  A friend of mine shared this original recipe by Chocolate-Covered Katie with me, and we did a little adapting to bring down the sugar content, but keep all the flavor and decadence.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

(vegan and gluten free)

2 cans mild beans, drained and rinsed (garbanzo, navy, white, pinto, kidney and black beans have all been used successfully in this recipe)*
1 cup oats
1/4 cup applesauce
3 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract (or another tsp vanilla extract)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup sugar (if the applesauce is sweetened, reduce sugar to 1/2 cup)
1/4 teaspon sea salt (omit if using canned beans or watching salt intake)
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate or carob chips
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch spring form pan for a thicker pie or two 8-inch cake pans (as pictured).

Blend everything (except the chips and optional nuts) in a food processor (not a blender) until smooth. Mix in chips and nuts, if using and spread into an oiled pan. Cook in the preheated oven at 350 degrees F for about 30-40 minutes until the edges start to brown and the middle is no longer damp. Remove from the oven and let the pie cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan(s). Cool and serve in wedges with berries or a small scoop of your favorite ice cream.

* To bring the salt content down, cook dried beans in unsalted water until tender, drain and use about 2 3/4 cups beans for this recipe.

I hope you enjoy this healthier version of a favorite treat.

Thanks for reading!

First flower of spring

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Easy Chunky Crocheted Beret and Reading List

Chunky crocheted beret

I'm ready for spring, but winter is not over just yet.  Gigantic wet snowflakes are swirling around outside the windows making it look like I'm sitting in a snow globe as I write this.  I have an indoor project to keep you busy until spring finally arrives - a crocheted beret.  It is a super easy crochet project even if you aren't very experienced and it only takes one ball of yarn.  I'm sporting the stylish and warm chunky beret in the photo above.  It's just the right combination of homespun and chic based on the positive feedback I've gotten while wearing it.  This project comes together in just a few hours.  I think you'll find the instructional video easy to follow.

If you're looking for an interesting documentary, perhaps to watch while you are working on your crocheted beret project, this is one to add to your viewing queue:
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Waste Land - Vik Muniz, a Brazilian artist based in Brooklyn collaborates with trash pickers (catadores) who extract recyclables from Rio's then the world's largest active landfill, Jardim Gramacho.  It's an enlightening look at the daily lives of the pickers, into the creative process of the artist who takes photographs of his "paintings" made with garbage and how these interactions change the lives of all who are a part of the project.  It will make you give more than a second thought to the consequences of consumerism.

And if you are stuck inside and looking for something to read, here are a few books on my reading list for this month:

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The Power of Habit:  Why We Dow What We Do in Life and Business - a fascinating look at how habits are created and methods you can use to change or create new ones for yourself.  I just finished this one, and there are some great tips help overcome some of the challenges of habit change that have been stumbling blocks in the past.

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May Cause Miracles:  A 40-Day Guidebook of Subtle Shifts for Radical Change and Unlimited Happiness
- exploration of how making simple shifts can lead to major transformation.

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Crazy, Sexy Kitchen: 150 Plant Empowered Recipes to Ignite a Mouthwatering Revolution - a cookbook full of simple, healthy vegan recipes.  I'm sure that I will be featuring some recipes inspired by all the tasty looking photos in this book.

Despite this winter storm, I can't wait to get the garden started.  Now that the seeds I ordered have arrived, I'll be setting up my seedling table in the coming week and look forward sharing the progress in this year's garden with you.

Thanks for reading!

Farmers market stall at Eastern Market on a sunny, winter Sunday in Washington, DC