It’s Garden Time!

We did It!!

We did It!!

Now is the time to start planning and planting you summer and fall harvest and your medicine cabinet for the year.  Yep, that’s right, you can plant a lot of the medicinal foods that will help keep you healthy year round, how’s that for a health plan?!

Last weekend Dana and I recruited my sister Elise and her boyfriend Dan to help us prepare the garden for the growing season.  Jen and Jeff at Green Meads Farm in Richmond, MA have once again generously loaned us some of their prime farmland.  Last year we accidentally killed our whole garden by using contaminated mulch.  It was free mulch, so at least we didn’t pay to ruin our garden, but still, I really missed having a garden last year.  So I was really excited to get out in the sunshine last Saturday with the horses in the paddock and everyone in the garden, including three dogs and at least one field mouse!

We started by ripping up all the weeds, by the roots, there were quite a few burdock plants and a lot of invasive comfrey too.  Comfrey is an awesome medicinal plant so plant it in a pot or somewhere it can safely take over if you want to grow some.  Once the whole area was cleared, Jeff used his tractor to bring in manure which we raked out evenly from edge to edge.  Dana used the rototiller to turn over the top layer of soil and the rest of us broke down all the cardboard boxes we’d saved up.  Cardboard is a great ground cover to keep weeds at bay, it biodegrades after a year or so,  it’s free and minimally processed.  Make sure to remove any staples and tape from the cardboard, and don’t use anything with lots of printing on it.

We laid the cardboard out in one big layer and then covered it with a lot of hay.  Once that was done, we gave everything a good soak with the hose to make sure the cardboard would start to break down and the wet hay was heavy enough that it wasn’t going to blow away in the wind.  Then of course it was time to relax and enjoy the afternoon sunshine!

Dana and I will be back on Sunday to plant some starts, we’ll pick up a bunch from Jaeschke’s in Pittsfield.  For more exciting heirloom varieties we get seeds from Johnny’s Seeds in Maine.  Here’s the short list of what we are going to plant:

Cabbages: easy to grow, easy to care for and you can turn your harvest into sauerkraut, which you can enjoy all winter long!

Lettuce and spinach: nothing like picking salad greens straight from the garden!  Plant spinach again once the warmest months have passed and enjoy another harvest.

Winterbor Kale:  as the name suggests this kale will keep on producing long into the colder months and sometimes through the winter!  Fresh garden greens in November?  Sign me up!

Herbs:  fresh basil is so delicious but you can also turn it into pesto which freezes well so you can enjoy it, you guessed it, all winter long!  We usually grow a few varieties of basil including Tulsi or Holy Basil which can be dried and used for tea.  Tulsi is an adaptogen that supports digestion, respiratory health and is very soothing when you feel stressed out.  I also love to grow lots of parsley and rosemary.  Herbs grow easily in pots and are perfect for your sunny porch.

Flowers:  sunflowers are easy to grow in all sizes and colors and you can harvest the seeds to eat or hang the heads to dry for an instant bird feeder.  Grow what you love and encourage the bees to visit and pollinate your garden.

Happy planting everyone!

 

 

Jamaican Jerk Veggie Curry with Mahi Mahi

And now for some on the fly leftover Jamaican jerk ‘curry’ with whatever is in the vegetable crisper…

1/3 of a quart ball jar of leftover Jerk sauce. 1/3- 1/2 can of coconut milk. Purple cabbage from the garden, roughly chopped. A small handful of carrots from my Dad’s garden and a few thick slices of onion.

Turn the heat to medium, mix and simmer with a lid on for 3-4 minutes. Add the thickest part of some chopped kale, simmer for 3-4 minutes more with the lid on.

Add the rest of the chopped kale. Put the lid back on and simmer til it’s done.

Add some toasted (or raw) coconut flakes and serve with….

baked Jerk Mahi Mahi, leftover carrot ginger soup and hot ginger tea, yum!

Camp Food and Travel Pictures: Cape Hatteras N.C.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, only 4 more hours to go!

Last week Dana drove us over 600 miles from the Berkshires to Frisco, NC on Cape Hatteras and back again, whew!   Our little ’84 Jetta was packed with camping equipment and of course, lots of food!  The state forest camp grounds were beautiful and totally worth the long drive to get there.  We camped for the first part of our trip and then moved a few miles down the road to a house on the beach that we shared with friends, what an awesome vacation!

The view of the Atlantic from our camp site in Frisco, NC

First I want to share my favorite way to enjoy avocados, with some tamari, wasabi and a spoon….

Chipolte, salt and lime on the left and my tamari and wasabi half on the right.

All you need is a spoon, and maybe someone to share the other half with : – )

Dana’s camp stove, which he took bike touring with him over a decade ago, decided it was time to retire when we tried to use it our first morning.  So we had to rely on the charcoal grill at our site.  Good thing we brought our cast iron pan!

Chopped cabbage, sauerkraut, bacon and eggs; everything you need for a hearty seaside breakfast.

I cooked the bacon first, then sauteed the cabbage, pushed everything to the side and fried the eggs in the rest of the bacon fat. Flax crackers and sun tea on the side. Eating directly out of the skillet means no dishes to do, we are on vacation after all!

One night for dinner we grilled asparagus and then cooked sausages and kale with mushrooms and onions in the skillet. Dinner is served.

Best beach house dinner: fresh fried mahi mahi fish tacos (‘slaw and corn tortillas not pictured) and sashimi tuna with bacon tacos. Gotta give Bill credit for the bacon and sashimi combo and the picture too!  I used romaine lettuce leaves to make my tacos, wicked good guys, you gotta try it!

Osso Bucco with Carrots, Cabbage and Onion

Pork and cabbage, how much more New England can dinner get?

This was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be when I asked James about the pork shanks in the case at The Meat Market.  I had not planned on making osso bucco for dinner (it sounds a bit intimidating, right?!) but accidentally defrosted this instead of the pork chops I’d bought at the same time!  As with many of my culinary discoveries, I was hungry and had to work with what was on hand.  I’m glad I did, osso bucco made with pork shanks is amazingly delicious and easy, it just takes some time.

At 5:30 in the evening I heated up my smaller cast iron skillet, lightly oiled and browned each side of the pork shank for a minute or two.  Then I added a couple frozen cubs of homemade stock (from our Thanksgiving turkey, still giving!) and a healthy 1/2 cup of red wine along with some carrots and onion slices.  I put the top from our creuset (any oven safe lid will do) and put the whole thing in the oven.  I set the oven to 300 and the timer for an hour.

At one hour the meat was thoroughly cooked but not falling apart.  Another hour and it was perfect, the sauce had reduced, the veggies were cooked and the meat was super tender, no knives necessary.

About 10 minutes before the skillet came out of the oven I chopped a bit of onion and sautéed it in butter with cumin and salt.  Added some shredded cabbage and cook it til it was wilted.

Next time, we'll definitely need one for each of us!

The cooked cabbage went into the cast iron pan with the reduced stock/wine/pork juices after we served the osso bucco and the veggies.  It wasn’t a ‘quick meal’ but it really didn’t take much time or effort in the kitchen.  And it was super flavorful, a great meal to make if you want to impress and a have a few hours before you want to eat!

Kimchi: Lacto-Fermentation is Easy!

You may remember this post I did for a quick version of kimchi.  Here is the lacto-fermented version which is pretty easy considering how much food you can preserve in about an hour, no boiling or sterilizing necessary.  Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria.  So basically you take a plant that is already good for you and preserve it in a way that makes it even healthier AND you can enjoy it all winter long.  Pretty neat trick, just ask Sally Fallon:

“The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anticarcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine.”    Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, pg 89

Simple Bites also offers a lot of information and instruction for lacto-fermenting whatever it is you have in abundance at the end of the growing season!  Here’s what my dad and I did with the beautiful cabbages he grew this year….

We started with about 6 heads of cabbage from the garden each weighing about 3.5-5 pounds!

For each 5 pounds of sliced cabbage you need 3 Tablespoons of kosher salt, 4 dried hot peppers, a head of garlic and a chunk of ginger, peeled.  The ginger and salt were store-bought but the rest my dad grew in his garden!

Hot peppers from Dad's garden drying on the table, we used 4, seeds removed, for each 5 pounds of shredded cabbage.

Dad shredded and weighed the cabbage for each batch while I.....

...removed the seeds from the hot chilis, measured out the salt, peeled the head of garlic and used the food processor to grind everything up.

Once the cabbage was shredded and the salt-hot pepper-garlic-ginger mix was ready, I mixed the two together in a large bowl. We ended up making about 4 batches.

The salt makes the cabbage release its water, creating the brine it will ferment in.

Once the brine can be seen above the level of the cabbage, which is very soft at this point, it's ready to pack in big, clean glass jars.

I packed the cabbage into the jar, added the brine, plus a little more so that it covered the cabbage by at least an inch. We used a plastic bag filled with water as a weight to make sure the cabbage would stay completely covered by the brine.

The lids are just sitting on top so that the air can escape and the little guys doing the fermenting can breathe!

And that’s it!  The jars will sit out for a few days and then will be kept in the fridge (or a cool root cellar) until they get eaten!  Lacto-fermented foods are good for everyone and especially beneficial to those of us on the Candida diet.

Caraway Cabbage with Bacon

This is another yummy recipe I got from my dad.  He made this as part of our family Sunday dinner a few weeks back and I discovered that it’s good hot as well as cold since I took home all the leftovers!  This makes 3 generous portions and can easily be doubled.

Caraway adds unexpected flavor to cabbage sauteed with bacon.

As you have probably noticed, I have a thing for bacon and I only eat locally produced, ethically raised animal foods.  I buy local, happy bacon for the same reason I was a vegetarian for 13 years: factory farming is disgusting and I refuse to support it. It’s up to us, the consumers, to demand higher standards for raising and slaughtering animals. Factory farming is horrible for the animals, for our environment, for the poorly paid workers who spend their days slaughtering miserable sick animals and it’s bad for you too.  Ultimately, you eat what your food ate.  Animal foods produced using factory farming results in meat, eggs and dairy made from the lowest grade, genetically modified feed, antibiotics and growth hormones.   To me, that’s not food and it’s not acceptable.  And here’s the alternative, check out these beautiful pictures from small farms all over our country!

Yes, good quality meat costs more and it should.  Raising healthy animals outside on pasture takes more time, more effort and produces superior food.  Spending a little more money and eating a little less meat means you’ll be consuming food that’s actually good for you, while respecting the animal it came from, the farmer that raised it and our environment.  If you’re still not convinced to go for the good stuff, maybe you’ll listen to Paul McCartney, he was, after all, more popular than Jesus.

Ingredients:

3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 T brown rice vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons caraway seeds

1/2 medium head of cabbage, shredded

Half a head of organic cabbage from the Great Barrington Co-op.

Dice up bacon and fry on low until cooked but not yet crispy; add chopped onion and caraway cook until the onion is translucent and the bacon is crispifyed.

Cooking the bacon, onion and caraway over low heat.

Add the brown rice vinegar and shredded cabbage, turn up the heat to medium and saute to desired degree of donitude. Salt and pepper to taste.  Enjoy hot or cold, the left overs were delicious.

Dad’s Kimchi: Spicy Shredded Cabbage

So this is a kimchi-ish recipe, it’s not fermented and I am using a regular head of cabbage.  Rich in nutrition and fiber, cabbage is an absolutely phenomenal source of Vitamin C. Even more impressive is that cabbage is famous for a specialized, naturally occurring, nitrogenous compound known as indoles. Current research indicates that indoles can lower the risk of various forms of cancer.  So it’s got that going for it.  Cabbage is also rich in the following nutrients:

Vitamin A: responsible for the protection of your skin and eyes.

Vitamin C: an all important anti-oxidant, it helps the mitochondria to burn fat.

Vitamin E: a fat soluble anti-oxidant which plays a role in skin integrity.

Vitamin B: helps maintain integrity of nerve endings and boosts energy metabolism.

No wonder I crave this vegetable!  Cabbage is very low in calories, about 15 per cup.  Adding fat, like sesame oil, helps make this side more filling.  The fat also breaks down the cell walls of the plant, allowing your body to access the nutrition inside.  Ok, enough with the science, let’s get on with the recipe!

Everything you need to make this quick version of Kimchi

This first part takes about 5 minutes and then you let it sit for an hour.

Thinly slice a small/medium organic cabbage.

Shredded cabbage, ready for salting.

Layer it in a big bowl with salt.  Let it sit, with a weight on it for best results, for at least an hour.  This makes the cabbage softer and easier to digest.

While the cabbage is sweating, make the dressing.  Mix together 1 heaping tablespoon of each of the following ingredients:

Chili Garlic sauce

Soy Sauce or Tamari

Sesame Oil

Brown Rice Vinegar

and just a dash of stevia or 1/2 Tablespoon of honey.

Rinse and drain the salted cabbage when it’s ready.  I used a salad spinner.

Mixing the cabbage with the dressing

Combine the cabbage with the dressing.  I find that a spaghetti wrangler works well for mixing.

Let it sit for another hour to develop more flavor and continue to wilt.  This will keep well in the fridge for a week or so and is a great side dish, I like mine with mushroom soup!

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