In my last gardening post I promised to share why we choose heirloom seeds and why I don’t buy vegetable and herb plants from the gardening stores. The reason is three-fold: variety, quality, and sustainability. [Read more…]
Last weekend we made an impromptu trip to one of my favorite places in DFW, Homestead Heritage . Seed planting actually began at our house about two weeks prior to this trip but why starting my seeds I realized that I was out of cherry tomato seeds. I was debating on not having any this year or maybe buying some seeds at our local shop. Neither option were very appealing. Then Saturday morning my husband asked if I had any ideas as to where we could take a motorcycle ride to. It took me about 30 seconds to suggest the trip to Waco. I mean really, what could be better, a ride along some back roads to buy seeds?!
We started of the day with a visit to the general store to buy our seeds. The store has several shelves filled with jars of seeds. Most of the seeds are heirloom seeds that have been harvested from the farms garden. Choosing seeds that have adapted to your region helps ensure quality plants that are able to tolerate the temperatures, pest and rain/drought conditions in your area. I know some gardeners don’t think it matters but our yield has more than doubled since making the switch and my tomato plants are often producing tomatoes months after my neighbors and friends have died off.
I went with the intention of buying some cherry tomato seeds but ended up buying cucumbers, eggplant, more lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, dill and Kale seeds. Each container is marked with details about the seeds: Common Name, scientific name, depth to plant, spacing, days to germinate and days to harvest. The store also offers a great reference sheet with information about each plant they carry. If you don’t want to purchase in bulk they do offer small seed packets like you find at a traditional gardening shop.
After buying our seeds we headed down to their restaurant to have lunch. The menu consist of food that is locally grown and organic. There was a short wait so after signing in to be paged we headed off to explore the farm.
Regardless of how many times we have visited the farm we always find and learn something new. As you walk around the varies buildings you can’t help but relax. Flowers, herbs and wildlife are all around and the absence of background noise and distractions is refreshing.
Each building has someone inside to answer your questions and explain the technique/trade that they perform.
If you have every thought about metal working they do offer classes.
I always enjoy walking through their herb and vegetable garden and comparing to what is going on in mine. It is reassuring to see they have a few weed popping up in their lettuce too! Of course they did have several ladies out weeding and I have yet to plan any weeding days this year but we won’t talk about that. I also like to find new ideas for vegetables and herbs that I could be growing. They still had some winter squash going and I pulled mine up several months ago. Next year I’ll give it a little longer.
While we were in the aquaponics garden we were paged for our table so I didn’t get many photos nor was I able to read more about it. Despite my husbands insistence that we don’t have room someday I want a small set up.
We took our time having lunch and then rode back home. Below you can watch the video my husband made of the trip for his blog. I hope you enjoy the photos and videos and will stop back by next week for my post of why we choose heirloom seeds and why we don’t buy our vegetable plants gardening store.
This year when planning my garden I decided that I wanted to plant a few extra plants in hopes of canning and freezing up some recipes. I haven’t had to buy canned tomatoes for several years but I was still buying canned rotel. In my mind I was going to can up or freeze enough to get me through to next spring. In reality I probably have enough to last until February or March, 24 jars and 3 quart size bags.
Homemade “Rotel” Tomatoes
1. Place all ingredients in medium-large saucepan.
2. Simmer until mixture is reduced by half
1 cup is equal to about one 10 oz. store-bought can of Rotel. If you want to can this you will need to add lemon juice to your jars. The amount of lemon juice depend on the size of the jar. Processing time and temperature will depend on the type of canner you use.
This summer I have had an incredible tomato harvest. I planted a mixture of tomatoes all of which were organic heirloom tomatoes. I have three rows of tomatoes with about 6 plants to a row. Normally the birds get a lot more than they have this year and I usually loose a lot to the heat. This year however has been a little milder that normal. I have official claimed this year as the unofficial summer of tomatoes.
When I was planting, my husband cautioned me that I was planting too many tomatoes. Not so I exclaimed and told him not to worry I had plans, big, big plans! I knew I wanted to freeze, dehydrate, can and make my own rotel this year. To do all of that I would need lots of tomatoes!
Once the tomatoes started coming in I was excited. Before you can do much with tomatoes you need to peel them. Peeling isn’t hard but it is a tad messy and time consuming if you are doing a lot.
Instead of taking a lot of pictures I decided to turn the video camera on and grab a video of the process. That way I knew I wouldn’t miss anything; I hope you enjoy it.
I recorded several canning videos at the same time so be sure to subscribe on YouTube!
Supplies you will need:
large pot of boiling water
large container of ice water
slotted spoon or hand held strainer
When I got ready to start canning this season I knew I was going to have to do something about my current canner. I had it tested and even though it was still reading accurately every time I use it the gauge fills with steam and becomes hard to read.
At first I thought I was going to have to buy a new pressure cooker/canner. I went ahead and checked Amazon and found that I could order just a gauge for less than $20, score! The only down side was several people left comments about it not coming with a nut and that it didn’t include instructions. I looked at my current one a figured it couldn’t be that hard to install so I ordered it. We have an Amazon Prime account so 2 day shipping was free. I assumed since I was ordering it on Friday I wouldn’t have it until Monday but Amazon just added Sunday delivery to our area which is also free for Prime members. If you are interested in an Amazon prime account you can try it out for Free for thirty days. You can use it, take advantage of the free shipping as much as you want during the trial and cancel if you don’t like it.
Anyways, back to my gauge! I received it Sunday and immediately dug into the box. Imagine my surprise when I saw this beauty next to my current one. It is 1,000 times better. I was happy to see that replacing it was easy but like others warned it did not come with a nut to hold it in place. The nut from my old gauge did fit but if for some reason yours does not or you no longer have the gauge take your new one to Home Depot or Lowes and you should be able to get one for less than .25. My new gauge looks great and I am ready to start canning tomatoes!
It has been an amazing summer so far! I started my summer off visiting my daughter for her college graduation. A few weeks after I returned my husband and I took an 11 day motorcycle trip last month to The Blue Ridge Parkway and since school is out I have been able to spend a lot more time with my boys! School being out has also meant I have gotten to teach more kids sewing classes, I always enjoy those. Summer time also means gardening and lots of canning!
While we were on our trip Texas received a lot of rain. That is good and bad for the garden. I left with plants about to my waist and returned to a jungle where most the plants were to my shoulders or head. The weeds also went wild, that’s the bad part of so much rain.
This should be filled with herbs but the weeds and fallen tomato plants took over. I spent several hours trying to pick the tomatoes, getting rid of the bad ones, pulling weeds and trying to pull out dead plants. After three days of work it began to look like a garden again.
This was my first harvest after getting home. I still had another two bags worth of tomatoes I went back and picked that evening after it cooled down. I was pleasantly surprised to find that despite it being around 100 degrees out most days lately I have tomato blossoms and baby fruit still forming. So, instead of working on sewing post I have been canning tomatoes, making homemade rotel, drying tomatoes and much more! I can’t wait to share some of the recipes with you later this week. I have also been canning black beans, pinto beans and black bean soup.
I don’t usually cook meat at home but when my husband exclaimed this is the best pot roast I have ever had at Bennigan’s a few months ago I felt as though I HAD to out do them! I looked around online and found a few variations. I followed one exactly except I added the vegetables, the second go round I and some herbs. The results “This is even better than Bennigan’s”. Mission accomplished!
If you have read my blog for any amount of time you know I have a passion for two things sewing and cooking. One skill they have in common is accuracy. Have you noticed I rarely post pictures of my veggies cut up? Well, that’s because my knife skills are lacking! Ummm, actually lacking is probably an understatement.
Are you wondering why knife skills are important? I mean it’s all going to be eaten , right? Well, aside form presentation the way a food is cut affects how it cooks and the length of time needed to cook. This is really important when it comes to pot pie, soups, stews and casseroles.
Since I eat a lot of soups, salads and other fruit and vegetable based dishes I often feel like my lack of cutting skills leave me at a disadvantage if for no other reason than I think my dishes don’t look as pretty as they could.
So you can imagine how excited I was when I received an e-mail from Craftsy announcing their latest FREE mini class Complete Knife Skills. Here is the class description:
” Become faster and more accurate with your knife work, and create dishes that cook evenly and look truly professional. Guided by chef Brendan McDermott, you’ll explore proper hand placement and the four fundamental cuts. Learn to dice, mince and julienne a range of produce. Find out how to chop herbs without bruising them or losing flavor, and never again cry when cutting an onion. Uncover Brendan’s favorite shortcuts for working with butternut squash, pineapple, chiles, citrus and more. Discover the four knives every chef needs in their kitchen, and finish the course with a lesson on honing and sharpening your knives at home!”
Doesn’t that sound wonderful? I signed up and am starting the course this week-end, be prepared to see a lot more food pictures on the blog in the near future!
I have been really itching to bake lately, but after my last failed attempt at baking cookies using powdered egg replacer, I have been sort of avoiding it (unless the recipe is totally egg-free in the first place, like this yummy vegan coffee cake).
I was SO excited to find a recipe for an egg replacer I could make myself in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Joy of Vegan Baking that I just had to try it out! It’s so easy and I just happened to have the ingredients already on hand – flax seeds and water.
Vegan baking experts seem to all agree that it’s not a good idea to try to replace more than 3 eggs in a recipe – the results will usually be disappointing. That is possibly what my problem was using the powdered egg substitute, though I honestly don’t remember which recipe I tried or how many eggs needed replacing. I do seem to remember a funny after-taste, though.
I found a new oatmeal raisin cookie recipe that only had one egg in it, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ll share that recipe another time, but let me just say they turned out perfectly using this homemade flax seed egg replacer!
(makes 1 ‘egg’):
1 TBS ground flax seeds + 3 TBS water
It’s recommended that you grind your own flax seeds instead of buying them pre-ground* (in the form of flax seed meal). You can use a coffee grinder, or do it by hand with a mortar and pestle.
You could also use a blender. Either way, be sure to clean up right away – this stuff dries hard as a rock!
You may need to let the mixture sit for a few minutes to thicken up before using it.
Store the flax seed egg replacer in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
3 Tablespoons = 1 egg
Remember, try to avoid replacing more than 3 eggs in any recipe for best results.
* I will admit, I used flax seed meal because I already had it, and it worked great. The reason it’s recommended that you use freshly ground whole flax seeds is because apparently in ground form, the exposure to oxygen breaks down the oils and releases free radicals much faster – in other words, it will go rancid very quickly. Good to know!
If you grind up more flax seeds than you need, you should store the flax seed meal in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer instead of the pantry.