Monday, January 30, 2012

Black Turtle Beans

unsorted black beans
sorted, washed and cooked black beans

Black Turtle Beans were available at last weeks CSA farm pick up.  They were available in two ways..... a free choice - unwashed, mixed in with dirt, stone and dried matter, OR sorted, cleaned shinny washed beans for a point option.   I chose the free choice option.   They look almost like pebbles on a beach. 

Black beans are an excellent source of dietary fiber and folate, good source of antioxidant-promoting manganese, muscle-building protein, energy-producing magnesium, thiamin (vitamin B1), phosphorus and iron.  Black beans also provide about 180 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per cup in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

I sorted and washed and cooked up the beans.  To cook beans - soak in water for 2 hours.  Drain, rinse, add cold water, 1 part bean to 2-3 parts water.  Bring to boil and reduce heat to a very slow simmer so that the beans stay in their jackets.  Simmer until tender - about 2 hours.
Black bean quinoa salad
from "Whitewater Cooks"

Cooked beans can be used in many ways - in casseroles, soup, salads, with rice, pureed in a dip for veggies or pita.   So far have made a Black Bean Quinoa salad from the Whitewater Cooks cookbook and a delicious Sweet Potato, Leek & Black Bean Enchiladas - a recipe from our CSA Farm Newsletter:

Sweet Potato, Leek & Black Bean Enchiladas
1 large sweet potato
4 small leeks, cleaned and sliced
2 cups cooked black turtle beans
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
6 flour tortillas (or corn)
1 – 2 cups grated cheddar cheese)
1 jar salsa
Preheat oven to 375. Bake or microwave the sweet potato until tender, peel and slice into cubes. In a large pan over medium heat, sauté the garlic and leeks in olive oil until leeks are tender. Add the black beans, cumin, marjoram, salt and pepper and stir until well combined. Spread a thin layer of salsa into the bottom of your baking dish. Lay tortillas on a plate and layer one end with the sweet potato cubes, leek and black bean mixture, and a sprinkle of cheese. Roll up tortilla and place seam side down in row into glass baking dish. Cover tortillas with more salsa, a light sprinkle of cheese, and any leftover beans. Bake ~20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and enchiladas start to brown.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Mystery Lace Knit-A-Long - Week 1

This winter I've been able able to do a fair amount of knitting/crocheting.   The weather hasn't cooperated for alot of weekend hiking with the amount or rain and ice we've been getting and it's certainly not gardening season yet.

Our Knitters Guild started a "knit-a-long".   Those who are participating are embarking on a lace scarf.   None of us has seen the end result yet (accept the leader), hence the name of the pattern is "Mystery Lace" and we've each been given the beginning of the pattern - the first couple dozen rows of the first pattern.  In a couple of weeks we'll all be given the next part of the pattern.  The idea is that everyone is knitting at roughly the same pace, and if you get stuck and need help, we can help each other.   A lace pattern was chosen, so that we could learn to knit lace.  A number of us use where our Guild has set up a group so that we can share comments about the knit-a-long, what's working, what's not and share photos of our work.

I have knit lace before, however, this pattern doesn't have alot of instructions - accept a visual chart.   I'm not used to reading charts and has been a bit frustrating so far.  

Progress - Week 1
I have learned a new cast-on method - "Provisional Cast-On".   I like the finished look it gives, it's not too tight.  It's a bit tedious and awkward to get the hang of, but worth the effort.

The first few rows of the pattern were easy and am now into the counting on the chart and it's just not working.  I've ripped out a couple of rows at least three times now - time to stop!    I'm off to the library tonight where there is a group of knitters who meet once a month for some knit share time and get some help.

Update :  I got some help - a simple interpretation of the chart was all it took, and was able to complete a few rows and see a pattern forming.   

Friday, January 27, 2012

Spring Thoughts...

At this time of year, the seed catalogues are out, gardening magazines are depicting spring bulbs, flowers and beautiful flower beds.   It's hard not to get excited about gardening and planning this year's garden, even though winter has finally arrived here.   Maybe we'll get a late spring?

I have kept a gardening journal the last few years.  In it I keep track of what has worked and not worked, times of the sun patterns and hours of direct sun I get on the various parts of the yard, the yield produced in my raised vegetable beds and my ideas for the next year's garden as well as other things I've learned along the way.   I joined our local horticultural society where we meet once a month.  Guest speakers and master gardeners speak on various topics.   I've learned alot and the price of the membership for the year ($7.00) is well worth it !

I call my journal my "right size book".   Since we are always learning new things and getting new ideas, keeping track in one spot sure helps.  My gardening journal is not anything special, a regular inexpensive lined note book, 5 1/2 " x 8" -- just the right size to carry around and jot down ideas as they present themselves.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seasons : A Time for Everything

It never ceases to amaze me what a difference a season can make, whether it be in life or in gardening.

Time for Everything :   Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #6 : Handknit Socks

Another knitted Christmas gift this year was hand knitted socks.  I added a little texture to these socks by just adding squares of knit/purl to a simple pattern to make it a little more interesting. 

A sneak peak of a new pair of socks for my daughter who chose this yarn from my stash when she was home for Christmas.   I love knitting with the multi-coloured sock yarn.   You never know what the pattern will turn out to be - and you actually end up knitting a little faster just to see what pattern comes next.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Simple Cabbage

The Cabbage is a high fiber versatile vegetable.    There are many varieties of cabbage, such as savoy, white, red, and nappa, bok choy to name a few.  They are packed with vitamins, high in potassium and iron and low in calories and keeps well.   It is high in Vitamin C, beta-carotene and has antioxidant related health benefits, anti-inflammatory properties and rich in glucosinolates which helps in cancer prevention.  It has also been known to help reduce cholesterol and is high in fiber.  
It is an inexpensive frugal vegetable that can be used in so many ways.   For instance cabbage can be eaten raw in salads, steamed, stir-frys,  in stews, soups, and casseroles.   Many people avoid cabbage because of the flatulence it creates, however by adding a few fennel, caraway or cumin seeds while cooking will help with digestion. 

Here's an easy tasty version of coleslaw.
Asian Coleslaw
4 cups shredded cabbage (I used red and green)
1/2 cup finely sliced onion
1/2 cup finely sliced carrots
Dressing : 
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
salt/pepper to taste

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Saving Egg Shells for the Garden

I’m fairly new to vegetable gardening in the last few years and have learned mostly by reading and by trial and error.  

I love it when I come across a new (to me) gardening tip that is cheap and frugal and reusing something I already have in my house. For instance, I have always composted my eggshells, but didn’t know that if your crush them finely or into a powder they can be used in more ways.   Almost 98% of the eggshell is calcium carbonate, which is important to fast growing plants such as tomatoes, because the plant depletes the surrounding soil of calcium which is important to cell growth in the plant.   Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are also susceptible to blossom end rot, which is caused by calcium deficiency.   Other plants that benefit from calcium are: apples, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, citrus, conifers, cotton, melons, grapes, legumes, lettuce, peaches, peanuts, pears, and potatoes.   Potted plants, vegetable gardens and outdoor trees also benefit from calcium.

You can add the crushed eggshells into the bottom of the planting hole, or grind the shells into a powder and sprinkle around the plant and work into the soil.

Crushed eggshells sprinkled on top of the soil around your outdoor plants also help to deter snails, slugs and cutworms.  These pests have soft undersides and don’t like to cross over the sharp edges of the shell to get to your plants and seedlings.

Make sure you wash the eggshells first and allow to dry before crushing/grinding.   I’ve started to save my eggshells so I have a good supply before spring planting season starts.

Other ways to use eggshells:
-         break and place in the bottom of a plant pot to use instead of stones – they are lighter than stone and good source of nutrition to your plant.
-         If you are feeding birds, crush them up and place near a bird feeder.  Female egg laying birds, require extra calcium.
-         Soak a couple of teaspoons of crushed eggshells in water overnight and use the liquid as an instant calcium boost when watering.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #5 : Homemade Soap

I recently attended an evening workshop on making your own soap.  Making your own soap is a lot easier than I ever thought.   In less than two hours our soap was made and we each took home what we made.  My soap was made with coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, lye, water, oatmeal, vitamin E, seaweed and the essential oil cedarwood.

The hardest part of making soap was choosing what essential oil I wanted in it, and what sort of texture such as oatmeal, seaweed, tea. etc.

If you have allergies or sensitive skin, making your own soap allows you to control what goes into your soap.  Many commercially made soaps have added preservatives or chemicals which are often irritants.     There is so much to be learned in making your own soap, various techniques and types.  There are many good books available on making your own soap.   Our evening workshop instructor recommended "The Soapmaker's Companion - A comprehensive Guide with Recipes, Techniques & Know-How" by Susan Miller Cavitch".  She also recommended keeping separate pots and utensils just for soap making and not to be used with your regular cooking.    I'm on the lookout now at thrift stores for a good pot, and utensils just for soap making. 

My homemade soap 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Knitter's Stash

I recently read a book from the library called "Stashbuster Knits" - Tips, tricks, and 21 beautiful projects for Using Your Favorite Leftover Yarn by Melissa Leapman.  

In it she says "I like to think of a person's yarn stash as his or her own personal yarn shop".   "Every knitter has a stash of leftover yarn, but what can you do with all those odds and ends?"  In Melissa Leapman's book she offers tips and tricks that will have you using -- and loving! -- your own personal yarn collection".

Somehow over the years my stash has grown faster than I can knit.   As mentioned in a previous post, many have given me garbage bags full of yarn that is no longer wanted.     I made a small dent in my stash this Christmas making various gifts and items for our Knitter's Guild Christmas hamper project, however still have a long way to go.   Our next Knitter's Guild project is knitting pneumonia vests to be sent to third world countries.

In Melissa Leapman's book she says keeping your stash organized by sorting similar yarn types together makes mixing and matching easy and you'll be able to pick that "perfect ball at a moment's notice".  "A well organized stash will empower you..... it's important to take the time to organize and store its precious contents so it is manageable, easy to use, and most important, inspirational."

So, today, I did just that.   I organized my stash, by weight and colours, so that my stash can be put to good use.   I even sorted through all my patterns, discarding what I know I'll never make.   My Knitter's Guild inspired me to get going on sorting all the patterns, as we are having a pattern swap at our next meeting.   Check out (free membership) for many ideas for using up your stash.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #4 : Homemade Cards

Do you ever send cards for no reason ?   Just to say, you're in my thoughts, hope you're having a good day....

Last Fall I collected various leaves around my yard and while out on hikes.   When I got home I waxed them, by placing between two sheets of waxed paper and ironed them.    Later, I made note cards with them and gave them as gifts this past Christmas.

Monday, January 9, 2012

How far can you stretch a roasted chicken ??

Chicken's were on sale recently at the store.   Two 5 lb chickens for $10.00.

Before cooking

How far can you stretch one chicken ?  I have three ways :

1)   First I roast it ... one meal.  I save all the drippings for soup - refrigerate or freeze the drippings so that the fat goes to the top and take off once cooled.
2)  Next - leftover's go in to a casserole, stir fry or for sandwiches
3)  And best .... using the bones and drippings for a big pot of low fat healthy soup which will last for several meals ( throw in any combination of your favourite vegetables ie, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, kale, cabbage, garlic, carrots, tomatoes, beans, lentils herbs any left overs- ie rice/potatoes/grain, vegetable stock saved from various steamed vegetables from previous meals and frozen ) - see my Stone Soup post for ideas on making soup.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #3 : Mittens

Another of my handmade gifts given this Christmas were mittens.  Everyone can use mittens during Canadian winters.   I used an old basic mitten pattern from Patons, using worsted weight yarn from my stash and added a cable down the front.

The fun part about making home made gifts is that you can personalize them.  For the mittens I chose colours that would suit the recipient and knitted them according to the size of their hands.   I made several pairs - different sizes and different colours.

Mittens knit up quickly and I made a few pairs in a week - just knitting in the evenings.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Homemade Gift Series #2 : Crochet Afghan

My wool stash over the years has grown faster than I can knit/crochet.   Those who know that I knit/crochet have given me several large bags of yarn that they no longer wanted or were downsizing.   I gladly took the yarn with the intention of doing something with it.  

I've committed myself this year - to not buy any more new yarn and use up what I have.      The first item was to crochet an afghan using only yarn from my stash. 

This afghan went to my daughter for Christmas, who now has her own place, to help her keep warm this winter.

The pattern was a simple one.   Two rows of pattern, repeated.   I found the pattern in "The Ultimate Book of Scrap Afghans".  Here's a link for the pattern is called "Love Affair" found in Google books.

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