Saturday, July 16, 2011

Baking Successes

More gluten-free success this week.

First of all, Fanny Farmer's banana bread - I followed the recipe exactly, just substituting gluten free flour blend for regular and adding an extra banana. It was very, very good.

Second, there was cheese straws. Ones the whole family thought were great. I'd serve these at a cocktail party, they were that fun and yummy.

Art of Gluten Free Baking's Cheese Crackers and Straws.

I added a sprinkle of salt and baked until totally crispy:

And then there was shortcakes, for strawberries. These were good. Not my grandmother's shortcake, obviously, but a little on the tropical side with almond flour and coconut oil. I substituted sugar for the honey and it was a bit too sweet. But, we enjoyed them.

Speaking of strawberries, our strawberry patch finally started producing, and I swear! these are the best strawberries I have ever in my entire life tasted. So red and juicy. Red all the way through. I am having a love affair with strawberries again, after years and years of those beautiful huge store berries that taste like nothing and are white inside... I finally remember what Grandma's berries were like, and why she got up early every morning to water her berry patch. I'm sure I was 10 the last time I ate her berries... and now here I am in my (gasp) 40's and finally have her secret back.

So, when my little patch did not give me enough to get through the year with my new berry love and refusal to ever again buy the grocery store/costco ones... Luke and I went berry picking at an organic farm.

I made, for the first time, strawberry jam. Freezer jam. The first batch did not set, but is still delicious. The second batch worked great (I decided to follow exact directions for a change).

And now I'm inspired to can for real. Glass jars, hot water, the works. I got my ball canning book and I'm ready to go, I just need something to can! Raspberry picking is up next, if it would only stop raining around here.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Edible Landscaping

Have you heard about the lady who had to go to jail because she planted veggies in her front yard? No, that's not the beginning of a joke... though I can see how you might think it was, it sound silly enough to be one. Sadly, not a joke, and not even funny.

Meet Julie Bass of Oak Park, MI - this is her blog:Oak Park Hates Veggies, here she is in the news: Julie Bass of Oak Park Faces Misdemeanor Charge for Vegetable Garden and here is a petition you can sign online to help her: Stop the Prosecution of the Bass Family for Growing Veggies.

This is her yard, her front yard veggie garden:

They had to tear out their old yard to repair a sewer pipe and decided to install some raised beds and grow some food for their family. Sound pretty criminal, no? Of course not. She is not in jail (yet, though it sounds like her town council would like to put her there), but is going to trial over it this month. I sure hope she wins and shows that town of hers what's what. Please take the time to sign her petition and even send a letter to her city, if it strikes you as crazy and unfair as it does me.

Growing a garden seems like such a basic right. If you own your own land, you should be able to grow your own food, to feed your own family. And unless you bought into a community with strict laws about what color you had to have your house painted and how high your fence can be and how many cars you can park in your driveway... you should be able to do just that. And not only that, but look at her place - it's totally neat and clean, not a weed to be seen. And she was starting with a bare dirt from the pipe issue, so it's not like she's even had time to let it grow and get wonderful yet!

I don't know why this has struck such a nerve with me, but it has - it's making me very mad, and she's half way across the country! Of course I'm on the West Coast where it's very hip to have edible landscaping - it's part of the whole urban homesteading thing - and I too have had edibles in my front yard. It was great. I met more neighbors the one summer I had the raised beds out front than I have the entire 5 years I've lived here. The neighbors walking by when I was out there working or watering would comment on my veggies, telling me how they were watching that pepper turn red, or wow, how great to see my garden growing, or whatever. When we pulled it out to move it all to a sunnier spot, people stopped to tell me they would miss seeing my garden grown. Just thinking about it, and knowing Julie Bass's story, makes me want to put some edibles back out there. And I think I will!

(I was telling Frank about this story and the first thing he said was "You are going to put some veggies back out front, aren't you? And I support you, we should." - This is just one of the reasons I love that man.)


I've been looking at gardening books and googling front yard veggie garden pictures, and I have to say, I'm totally inspired.

Let me inspire you, too, but only after you go back up to those links and sign that petition, ok?!

First, the books, I do love gardening books:

The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden


Edible Landscaping

And now for the pictures - just google front yard gardens and hit images to see tons more:

First of all, I wonder who's house this is? The ultimate in front yard veggie gardens:

Great article: Why the White House garden matters.

Sunset Magazine's Grow Veggies in the Front Yard

A really beautiful front yard veggie garden:

From:Garden Porn.

And another, this one is huge! The link is worth clicking, just to see the garden progress from sprouts to lush wonder:

OK, that's plenty, you get the idea. What are you going to plant in your front yard? Are you as hot and bothered by this as I am? I think I'm going to start with strawberries and blueberries. And sunflowers. Maybe I'll try some pole beans too since the ones in my back yard are not doing so great. Whatever, you know I'll share pictures when I get this project going. But first, I need to go write a letter to Julie Bass's City Council. Did you sign that petition yet? Please do!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Backyard Chickens

Everything is done, just waiting for the eggs now!

Chicken tractor - two parts to move around and fit between the raised veggie beds.

Hanging watering system - with poultry water nipples:

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Upgrades and Add-ons

The chickens are still getting the extra-special treatment around here. They are so spoiled, I sure hope they appreciate it!

First of all, we upgraded their watering system. While I love the way the old-fashioned galvanized farm ones look, they are awful. Always dirty and a pain to clean and fill. Plus, they take up valuable floor space. SO, we fixed that:

Some PVC pipe, caps, poultry water nipples... which can be found here: Push in water nipples - you can also get screw in ones.

All done!

We made a smaller one for inside the coop too:

And! We began the chicken tractor. Half of it is done. It's a two part modular model. One part transportation unit, one part dockable foraging station. The foraging part fits in between my raised beds - and this is the part that is done:

The other half needs a roof and a handle, it's almost done. Pictures soon.

Oh, and one more - a cool vintage find I scored on Etsy:

Ok, so I'm a little spoiled too, how did I get so obsessed with chickens? Did you know you can even get chicken decals to put on the back of your car windows... you know, like the kind for your family and all your pets? Yeah, I know, that's probably taking things a little too far... even for me.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Happy National Ice Cream Month!

Is there really such a thing? I don't know, but I saw it on Facebook, so it must be true. At anyrate, I thought I'd start the month off right by making some. Gluten-free, dairy-free, all chocolate yum.

It couldn't be easier.

Chocolate Coconut Milk Ice Cream

In your blender, mix together:

2 cans of coconut milk - you want the full fat kind, not the "lite".
2/3 cups cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

*optional 2 teaspoons Erythritol (I like Organic Zero)

*The erythritol is supposed to keep the finished product from freezing into a block of ice that is impossible to scoop. Corn syrup does the same thing, but I don't do corn. Mess around with your own favorite sweeteners, I'm sure you can make anything work here that will make your sweet-tooth happy.

Then, pour the blended mixture into your ice cream maker and mix according to your machine's instructions. I used my KitchenAid ice cream attachment, which works pretty well:

Here is mine, mixing and mixing for half an hour. (I would have liked to dump in some chocolate chips, shredded coconut and almonds at this point, but then no one else in my family would have eaten it. Oh, wait, why didn't I do that?! Next time. Muwahahahahaha!)

It thickened up and expanded, but never got really frozen, so I just poured it into a tub to stick in the freezer.

And then... we ate it. I may never buy store-bought ice cream again. Really.