Flaxseed in the Garden

Flaxseed seems so mysterious, right?   I seem to find myself drawn to unusual plants and the discovery of  how they grow;  luffa, ginseng, gourds, cotton, so flaxseed seemed to fit right in.   We have been purchasing flaxseed and adding it here and there to our recipes.   The cost is quite high but we figured our health is well worth it.   It lowers cholesterol and is a healthy addition to most any recipe; it does have a strong flavor though.   The flaxseed flower is small, purple in color and grows into swaying stems adding a beautiful scene for your garden landscape.   The flower then goes to seed at the end of the season and each seed head contains several seeds.   Harvesting the seed when they are dry is rather easy, but cleaning for the flaxseed is very, very time-consuming.

Would I recommend growing flaxseed in your garden?   Only if you are looking for an easy flower to add to your garden or if you have the proper cleaning equipment which is a huge investment then yes – Grow Flaxseed.   The seed can be ground up into powder which can be accomplished with a coffee grinder, but the time to get to this point is like I said … very time-consuming.  

I am always looking for the ultimate healthy (sweet) snack so I decided to create another cookie recipe using flaxseed and they are pretty Good!   I named them Oatmeal Apple Flaxseed Cookies and posted the recipe at Mixing Bowl in the new group Garden Dish I recently created.   As with all recipes, ingredients can be added or eliminated depending on your tastes.   I wanted to use the Sage I had just harvested also (another strong flavor) – surprisingly it’s flavor is somewhat faint….maybe more next time.

The batter was somewhat dry so I ended up adding 1 tablespoon of oil – that’s all it needed!

Oatmeal Apple Flaxseed Cookies

On my way to creating the Ultimate Healthy Sweet Snack!

I decided to start some herb seeds now under my grow lights.   I already miss my gardens and the snow hasn’t even started to fall yet!   I have a nice setup with lights to start seeds so I planted a few trays; mostly herbs with a few flower seeds.  

 

This past summer I ordered and planted Stevia seeds.   When I received the seeds there were very few in the package – about 5.   I thought this must be an expensive, unique plant so I saved seed from my own plants and this is one I just planted under the lights.

Stevia seed – I didn’t really do much with the stevia as far as cooking, but I made sure to taste the leaves and they taste just like sweet sugar!   I hope to create some healthy food this coming season – I already see there are a few cookbooks using Stevia out there!

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Tomato and Garlic – 3 easy recipes!

Gourmet Garlic Giveaway will be posted 9/7/10!  

Will be posted at this blog and at GreatGiveaways!

This time of year tomatoes are ripening up faster than we can eat them and the garlic is awaiting its chance to liven up our recipes!   Earlier in the week I made up a quick quiche, a tasty salsa and a light pasta dish using plenty of tomatoes and garlic.   I really didn’t measure up I just added as I went along and it all came out fantastic.

The quiche got a little toasty on top but that made it more unique and tasty!   I started with a pre-made crust and added a layer of zucchini which I sauted a bit to soften up.   I added the garlic for a few minutes to the zucchini in the pan before adding both to the crust.   I used the Persian Star garlic and this is the first time I tasted this variety and I love it!   I don’t have any for sale this year but I will be planting for a harvest next year.   It has the right amount of kick and large cloves for easy peeling … a keeper!   I then added egg substitute and a few handfuls of mozzarella cheese along with chopped basil and spoonfuls of ricotta cheese.   The final topping was tomatoes and more cheese.   I baked it in the oven at 350 for about a half hour.

The salsa never lasts long in this house – it’s so fresh tasting … you can’t stop eating it!   I used Cherokee Purple tomatoes so it appears rather dark and I did drain off liquid several times since these tomatoes are very juicy.   I simply chopped the tomatoes, onion, garlic, fresh cilantro and jalapeno pepper and let chill in the refrigerator.

Lastly the pasta dish which is chilling right now and will make a great lunch for me in a few hours!   I boiled up the bow tie pasta, chopped some smaller roma tomatoes and also added some dried tomatoes (they have such a nice sweet flavor), added black olives, garbanzo beans, onion, basil and of course the garlic!   A few shakes of an oil and vinegar dressing and a dash of pepper and it’s all set.

Healthy and Easy …… can’t beat that!!!

Dehydrating Garlic, Tomatoes and Apples

My precious Excalibur dehydrator has been working overtime these past few days and is doing a great job!   The garlic is still drying at the present and I plan to vacuum seal into small packages for winter use since I still have plenty of fresh garlic right now.

The garlic and tomatoes did wonderful this year despite the extrememly hot weather and they are two of my favorite picks in the garden.

There are still quite a number of tomatoes still ripening up on the vine along with the bountiful harvest ready for salsa.   I did dehydrate a considerable amount also and I refer to them as my sun-dried tomatoes (even though they weren’t actually dried in the sun).   They are excellent in pasta recipes or even sprinkled in a salad!

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The tomato that I dehydrated is the Principe Borghese which states it is good for sun drying.   I found it quite small and full of seeds – the smaller romas which I also dehydrated were meatier and had very little seeds.   Next year we stick with the romas for drying.   Two other varieties that did well were -

Illini Star tomatoes

Cherokee Purple tomatoes

Before the kids left for college I was able to dry up a ton of apples for them to snack on – they really enjoy these … and so do I!

Here’s hoping they eat healthy!!!

Garlic Scapes

This year I decided to harvest the garlic scapes from the hard garlic growing in the garden.   Some folks do this and others don’t – last year I didn’t and all the garlic harvested seemed quite large to me.   This year by cutting the scapes (the curly stalks that hard garlic grow) I am giving the bulb in the ground an even better chance of growing larger – the growing energy is directed towards the bulb and not the stalk or scape.   So now I have all these Garlic Scapes

and browsing through the blogs participating in the GROW project I spotted this perfectly timed post by Colleen at In the Garden online  and spent the day yesterday making Garlic Scape Pesto and canning up 6 pints of pickled scapes.   The pickled scapes will make a great addition to my Father’s Day gift since my Dad loves garlic and the garlic bulbs are not ready yet to harvest.

I cut the scapes to fit the pint size jars (I made 6 pints) and added the hot brine along with some red pepper flakes and dried oregano.   To make the liquid brine you heat up 3 cups of vinegar, 5 cups of water and 1/4 cup of kosher salt.   Then you use the hot water canning method and cook 45 minutes.   They need to set for 2 weeks before eating to allow the flavors to blend.

I also made the Garlic Scape Pesto and it is totally addicting – I am thinking even better than a Basil Pesto ……. really good!   I modified the recipe a bit.   I cut up 1 cup of scapes and added them along with 1/3 cup of walnuts to the blender.   Blended a while and added 1/2 cup olive oil and lastly about 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.

 So very delicious!!!   Thank you Colleen for your timely post – I am enjoying my Garlic Scapes to the max!

I recently returned once again from the trip down south and my mailbox was full of wonderful treasures …. 2 new magazines I have subscribed to;  Runner’s World and PaperCrafts.   I have decided I now have to purchase the Provocraft Gypsy to go along with my Cricut simply because of all this back and forth traveling.   The Gypsy will allow me to travel and create without lugging the Cricut machine each trip….how exciting is that!

Renee’s Garden once again floored me with their promptness and generosity.   I received the media kit with my Nasturtium seeds and decided to send for the 18 free packages of seeds they offered.   I received them all within a few days and am overjoyed with all these wonderful new possibilities to add to the gardens down south.

Happy Gardening!!!

Garden Soup and Chili Powder

There is nothing better on a cold winter day than a nice hot bowl of yummy soup … Garden Soup – fresh from the garden!  Only glitch is … we are covered with snow and the temperature is just plain COLD!  The garden regretfully is not producing ingredients for the Garden Soup I dream of.

With a little imagination and the desire to jump in and see what I could come up with I managed to create “one of the best soups I ever made”!  I had some tomatoes in the freezer.  Here is how I made tomato base for the soup and will continue to use it in future recipes.  After canning all the tomatoes, my plants were still producing so I simply cut the whole tomatoes  into quarters and froze them as is in a plastic bag.  Tossing a couple in soups and stews was my intent.  What I actually did was took a whole baggie of frozen quartered tomatoes and simmered them down, removed the seeds & skins as best I could and Voila I had my tomato soup base!  My thoughts were a minestrone soup so I added chickpeas (which I plan on growing this season). I didn’t stop there … I kept adding -

 Garlic

 Peas

Both grown in the garden!!  Then diced celery, carrots, onions, cabbage and spinach.  No exact measurements, just diced and added.  The spinach I blanched before freezing and I have also frozen the spinach just as is.  The only drawback with the spinach frozen as is it takes up a considerable amount of space. I love spinach and last year it actually grew back after the cruel winter weather – quite a surprise!

 Fresh Spinach 

I think the ingredient that really made a difference in this soup was the Delicata squash. Earlier in the week I had baked up several and planned to eat them throughout the week.   Instead I peeled the skin and chopped them adding to the soup.  They acted as a thickener and the taste was Good! 

 Delicata squash 

Several types of beans, corn, broccoli … whatever you have on hand can be used.  Herbs would add great flavor – I just sprinkled parmesan cheese on and enjoyed my Garden Soup!!!

Now for the Chili Powder!  I didn’t add it to the soup, but I could have!  We had made up a batch of chili and were not happy with the chili powder – it seemed flavorless, so we decided to try making our own.  Simple procedure really.  First we purchased the dried peppers and deseeded them. 

 Using the coffee grinder we whirled until we had powder!

 Before

 After

Homemade Chili Powder – the peppers we used are Arbol and if this chili powder stands up in the cooking (not too hot) we will be growing these peppers this year!

               …..   A day spent creating warmth during the deep chill of winter!

Healthy Eating

I dried some cantaloupe the other day and was planning on making a trail mix with the cubed dried fruit but I have changed my mind.  Since I have been paying attention to what I put in my mouth and tracking my nutrition and fitness activity daily I have been sidestepping the chips and cookies (since I realized they are useless calories) and instead have been taking a  handful of the dried cantaloupe and munching on that and I am lovin’ it!!!  The dried apple is really good too – it’s like a new discovery here.  I have been drying fruit for a while now and usually leave it for the kids to munch on, but now I look forward to snacking on it!

 Dried apple & cantaloupe

I also picked up this Sharp Cheddar seasoning to add to popcorn for another healthy snack and it is actually very good.  Just 1/2 teaspoon is only 5 calories and that pretty much covered a whole pan.  I am sure you can more if  you want, but I was fine with 1/2 teaspoon!

Now for lunch the past 2 days I enjoyed this Asian Chicken Salad. The recipe I found on Spark People and it is healthy and low calorie … way to go!   A little preparation ahead of time and I am very happy with what I am eating.

For dinner we made Pork Stir fry ….. healthy, healthy and enjoyable once again!

 Pork stir fry

Marinate 1 lb. of pork loin, cut in 1/2″ cubes with 3-4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger root and 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce overnight in the refrigerator.  We found using a plastic bag made it easy to swoosh the food and marinade around for good coverage – do this every couple of hours or so.  Next day prepare your vegetables – we used bean sprouts, snap peas, cabbage, red bell pepper, zucchini and onion.  Keep the vegetables separate and add them each to a skillet to cook – longest to cook, cook first.  Meat —>onion, pepper —>peas, cabbage —>zucchini, bean sprouts.    Add 2 cups of water with 2 chicken bouillon cubes and 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch.  Let cook for 2-3 minutes and serve over brown rice.

Puppy Billie seems to rule the roost here … that didn’t take long!

Composting for a healthy garden

Even in the winter months you can still add to your compost pile or bin.  It may just freeze depending on where you live, but once the weather warms the process of decomposing will begin.  Compost occurs naturally and continually with or without our help.  A natural process where leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps, etc. break down and go back into the earth’s soil to nurture it.  The nutrients provided from the compost feed new growth and beautiful healthy plants emerge!

Composting eliminates a lot of waste that is thrown into your trash can and hauled away.  Starting a compost bin or just a pile is relatively easy.  Find a spot in your yard – preferably near your garden so you don’t have to haul it that far.  Gather leaves in the fall, weeds, grass clippings, most kitchen scraps and add them to the pile.  You can let it sit or turn your pile for faster decomposing.  When we moved into our home there was a compost bin already standing.  Every year I added leaves and just let it sit.  Now everything goes into the bin (with a few exceptions).  Just recently I started adding chicken manure from the 3 chickens we acquired this past year.

I use the screen to sift through the compost and return the uncomposted material back to the bin.

 End Results!

I also have a huge pile out in the forest area that I try to turn a couple times a month during the warmer months.  We actually used an old trampoline that was left on the property and turned it into a huge bin.  We enclosed the circular frame with chicken wire to contain what we added to it, left the top open and use the trampoline canvas as a cover over the compost.

I also started a worm bin several years ago inside the house.  The worm castings are excellent natural fertilizer for the gardens.  Vermicomposting (the name for composting with worms) takes a little more practice to master.  Patience is the key ingredient.  You start by adding damp newspaper, kitchen scraps, some gritty material like crushed eggshells (just a small amount) and a bit of soil….plus the worms.  Then let it sit.  The worm bin or factory I purchased has 3 bins with a lower section that catches the liquid runoff.  This I can use to make compost tea and add to the water when watering the plants.

 Adding newspaper

 End result – worm castings!

The worms do a remarkable job, but like I said it takes patience and several months to see results.  I found that adding newspaper or shredded papers keeps the contents stable.  Do not add too many scraps at first.  Take your time and observe – you will get the hang of it after a while and your garden will love you for it!!  The soil in the garden is the foundation for healthy happy plants and one of the most important parts of successful gardening.

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