April 27, 2019

Peppers from the Aerogarden Update

I ended up with 18 pepper plants which were started from seed in the Aerogarden. There's definitely different rates of germination, especially with the older seeds taking more time to germinate. The taller peppers are actually starting to form blooms, which I find odd since they're not that tall. The eggplants didn't come up, but they were especially old seed which I'd been putting off throwing out.
I've had a couple seed starting disasters. It started with purchasing what I thought were peat pellets, but were probably coconut coir pellets. There was no information on the tray in regards to the growing medium. The trays got replanted twice, but seedlings kept dying right after germinating.

My husband thought we should try monocropping something that could just be direct seeded. I was thinking Pink Eye Purple Hull peas and some melons. A big patch of sunflowers would be fun, but that would bring out all the squirrels in the neighborhood. Or maybe, just include one row of sunflowers with long beans grown up them. My gardening plans are in a bit of disarray at this point.

We're still getting lots of rain so it'll be awhile before the garden can be tilled. There might be still time to start a few things.

Edited to add 4/30: I spoke to a friend about my seed starting problems and he thought I might've burned them with fertilizer, which is entirely possible. I used the little bottle of nutrients included with the Aerogarden, but they don't have you add any until the plants are two weeks old. I think that's probably what I did, burned their little roots.

March 30, 2019

Irish Soda Bread

Lately I've been making the bread with hemp hearts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts. Hemp hearts lighten up the loaf and adds a creamy nuttiness, and the chia seeds add a magical light crunch that is very satisfying.
A very delicious and yet wholesome bread. Dense, yet soft, with just the right amount of moisture. I used to make this all the time when we lived in Oregon, but I lost the recipe in the move. It's taken a while to adapt something that is closer to what we enjoy.

This recipe is easily doubled to make two large loaves.

I usually include seeds or nuts like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chopped walnuts, chia seeds, pepitas, or hemp hearts. I would definitely substitute ground flax seeds for rolled oats, if our kiddo wasn't allergic to flax.

*Notes on substitutions are included at the end.

This has been published on both my diet/exercise and gardening blogs.

Irish Soda Bread
Makes: 1 large round loaf, or 1 large bread loaf
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 40 minutes

Dry ingredients:
2 cups flour
1 cup wheat flour
3 tbsp. butter, sliced into small pieces
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/3 cup seeds or chopped nuts

Wet Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 cup milk
3/4 cup yogurt (I've used strawberry Greek yogurt which is quite lovely.)
The wet ingredients just have to equal 2 cups, if you're going to do substitutions.

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or line a bread loaf pan with parchment.

2. Mix the two flours in a large bowl. Add the butter to the flours, rub the butter into the flours with your fingers until incorporated. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients.

3. In a 2 cup measuring cup, add the egg, yogurt, and milk until you reach 2 cups. Mix the wet ingredients well, and then incorporate into the dry ingredients. The dough will be fairly wet.

4. If baking in a loaf pan: Using a spatula just scrape the dough into the parchment lined bread loaf pan, and smooth the surface of the dough with the spatula. Go on to step 5.

If making a round loaf: Dust the counter generously with flour, and scrape the dough out of the bowl with a spatula. Sprinkle wheat flour on top of the dough and with floured hands, quickly work the dough on the counter into a round. I just roll the edges of the dough under with both my hands to clean it up a bit. Place the dough on the parchment lined baking sheet. Press on x onto the top of your round loaf with a knife. It's not necessary to cut into the loaf.

5. Bake for 40 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. The loaf will be a dark golden brown and should sound hollow when you thump it. I would give it an hour before cutting into it. Great toasted and served with butter and jam, hummus and cucumbers, or with mustard and thinly sliced extra sharp cheddar.

*Notes: Baking powder can be substituted for baking soda, but you'll need to use at least twice as much. It is important to use fresh baking powder in humid environments as the humidity in the air can already have activated it somewhat, making it less potent.

Baking soda needs an acid to activate, which is why buttermilk can be substituted for the yogurt and milk. For vegans 2 tbsp lemon juice and 1 3/4 cups nut milk can be substituted for the yogurt and milk.

Instead of an egg, vegans can use 1 tbsp. ground flax seeds in 1/4 cup water or 1 tbsp. chia seeds in 1/4 cup water. Although the chia seeds will need to be soaked for at least 15 minutes, including a minute of swirling now and again.

If you use sunflower seeds, they will turn a lovely dark forest green when they come into contact with different acidic and basic elements of the dough. It's a very interesting aspect of food chemistry.

March 28, 2019

Vegetable Coconut Curry

Vegetable Coconut Curry
Makes: 8-10 servings
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons, peeled and minced ginger
4-5 carrots, chopped into circles or half moons
2 large sweet potatoes, chopped into large chunks*
2 tablespoons Madras curry powder
1/2 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 cans chickpeas, drained
enough water to cover the vegetables
2 tablespoons nuoc mam
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups of milk
1 can of full fat coconut milk

1. Heat large pot on medium heat. Add olive oil and sauté onions and ginger while stirring, till onions are translucent.

2. Add carrots, sweet potatoes, and Madras curry powder to the pot. Sauté and stir for 5-10 minutes on medium heat.

3. Add cauliflower, chickpeas, enough water to cover the vegetables, nuoc mam, and sugar. Give a good stir. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to simmer the vegetables for 15 minutes.

4. Stir in milk and coconut milk. Let the pot return to a simmer for 5 minutes. Check to see if the potatoes and carrots are tender. Adjust the seasonings. I usually add some nuoc mam, curry powder, or sugar.

5. Serve on top of rice or with toasted French bread.

Note: Madras curry powder has more heat than other yellow curries. But if you like it even spicier, add chopped garlic or a chopped hot pepper with the cauliflower and chickpeas.

*Half a butternut squash may be substituted for the sweet potatoes.

March 4, 2019

Seed Starting Using an Aerogarden

Aerogarden planted Friday, March 1st, with peppers and eggplants.

Sounds like madness? Maybe a little.

Peppers take forever to germinate for me. Our house doesn't have any of the things peppers need, like consistent warmth and bright light. So I wondered about using the Aerogarden to start seedlings. And what do you know? They make a seed starting system.

I actually got an Aerogarden Harvest model last year from my mother in-law. It's a little hydroponic system that grows plants in soilless pods. The LCD light on this thing is powerful. Like staring into the noonday sun. I had to purchase the little seed starting tray which fits on top of the little water bowl, and can start 31 plants at a time. Soilless pods and a tiny bottle of nutrient broth came with the seed starting system.

To start out I put it on a 24 hour vegetative light cycle to keep the seeds warm enough to, hopefully, germinate. With the strong constant light cycle the seedlings should grow fast. It's probably a good idea, to pot them up after just a week or two of growth because you don't want the roots to get too tangled together.

This thing is actually tiny. Less than a foot long, so it hardly takes up any counter space. The system circulates water and tells you when to add water or nutrients.

The first thing I did was wet the soilless pods with water and then microwaved them for four minutes, to kill any mold spores that might be lingering in the sphagnum peat. Then one or two seeds are placed in the premade divots in each pod. Then I covered the top of the tray with plastic wrap to help trap heat and moisture. I then set the instrument, so it knew the system was newly planted and it informed me that it'll be two weeks before the seedlings will need to be fed.

It's probably a little late to be starting peppers and eggplants. I usually start them in February to give them a few extra weeks to germinate and get a little bigger before I start tomatoes. Once the peppers are potted up, lettuces will have a go in the system. I'm hoping it'll be a good way to start lettuces regularly since we are way into salads lately.

February 11, 2019

Crazy Times and 2019 Planting Lists

We've gotten 9 inches of rain in February, which is close to our record of 12 inches. Maybe this means we'll get all the rain out of the way, and things will dry out enough to plant early. Now, that would be amazing.

The plan is to have a smaller garden with less plants to give individual varieties more room to grow. Diseases were terrible last year with the wet weather, hopefully giving plants ample room will help with that.

Cherry Tomato List
Black Cherry
Fat Cherry
Indigo Blueberry
Red Grape (F1)
Sungold (Hybrid)
Sweet Apperitiff

Tomato List
Black Brandywine
Black Zebra
Celebrity (Hybrid)
Cherokee Green
Chocolate Stripes
Chocolate Prince
Dark Brandywine
Flame or Hillbilly
Granny Cantrell's German Red
Green Zebra
Jaune De Flamme
Marianna's Peace
Peach Blow Sutton
Pink Berkley Tie-Dye
Super Marmande
Yellow Brandywine

Sweet Pepper List
Boldog Hungarian
Corno Rosso
Corno di Toro
Corno di Toro Giallo
Figitelli Sicilia
Red Marconi
Sweet Happy Yummy (F7)

Hot Pepper List
Aji Angelo
Aji Golden