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Recipe – Granola Nut Bars

 

Granola Nut Bars

2 cups natural peanut butter
1-1/2 sticks butter
1/2 cup raw honey
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered milk

3 cups organic rolled oats
1/2 cup raw organic unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup each:
raw hulled sunflower seeds
raw pumpkin seeds
sesame seeds
flax seeds
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw cashew pieces
1 cup cranberry raisins or regular raisins
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ

Melt together peanut butter, butter, honey and agave. Add salt and dried milk. mix well with a whisk to eliminate lumps of milk powder.
Combine remaining ingredients in the large bowl of a heavy duty mixer like a Kitchen Aid or Vulcan with the spill guard on. Mix on low speed and then pour in the peanut butter mixture. Mix well. Taste. If you want a sweeter mix, now’s the time to squirt more agave nectar or honey in. Mix and taste.

Dump out on a large greased 1/2 sheet pan and press into the corners. Cut while warm into bars, using a bench knife if you have one.
Once cool, separate into bars, put in individual sandwich baggies and refrigerate.

April Showers Bring May Veggies!

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Spring has definitely sprung, and if you haven’t done so yet, now is the time to get those vegetable plants in your beds if you live in the northern part of the country. As you’ve seen on this blog, raised beds are the way to go, and organic gardening is far preferable to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, as you want to be assured that yor fruit and veggies are the very best. It’s not hard to build raised beds; filling them is a little more tricky. I have found that it’s difficult to find organic compost at the garden stores, and according to Mel Bartholomew, the guru of square foot gardening, the best mix (and I agree) is equal parts organic compost, coarse vermiculite, and peat moss. Composting your own scraps is easy but it takes time. Just keep all animal fat out of it. I recommend one of the drum type units that you can turn to mix the compost. The finished brown gold crumbles down into a bin, ready to use. It’s not too late for tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs of all kinds, beans, eggplants, squash and carrots. Get planting!

Recipe – Health Nut Bread

I was unable to find my favorite health nut bread at the local supermarket so I decided to make my own. I took my favorite whole wheat recipe, added a bit more water and oil and a full cup of different seeds and nuts. It turned out to be a big, heavy, hearty delicious loaf. Here’s the recipe:

  • 2-1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 T. honey
  • 1-3/4 cup warm water
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 3 cups King Arthur Organic whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup each pumpkin seeds, hulled sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chopped walnuts
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds

Mix the honey and yeast into the warm water. Put the rest of the ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. After the yeast solution begins to bubble, add it to the mixer and mix on low until dough is formed and pulls away from the bowl. Put mixer on second speed and knead for 5 minutes. Remove dough hook, cover bowl and put in a warm place for 1 hour.

When dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down and gently knead for a minute or two. Form into a long log roll and put in a greased bread pan. Slit the top lengthwise and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until it’s about 2″ above the pan.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Enjoy!

Gardeners: Start Your Seedlings!!!

There is nothing quite as satisfying as growing your vegetable garden entirely from seeds. Some plants, like squash and beans, can be directly planted into your garden in October (Zones 9 and 10).  It’s not only the thrill of watching the little seedlings emerge and thrive, or the satisfaction you can get from eating a tomato that you grew from seed; the biggest advantage is that you can grow varieties of vegetables that you will NEVER find in any produce stand. It’s cheaper than buying all your plants, and to me much more satisfying.

I’ve written a few posts on this subject. Search in the upper left box on “seed starting” and you’ll find several blogs.

After trying many ways of seed starting from styro cups to real systems, I found I preferred using these reusable starter pots and trays. Gardener’s Supply had the best price the last time I looked for them.

Have fun shopping for seeds. Go to Burpee’s site and enjoy the brilliant variety of wonderful vegetables that God has made available for us to enjoy.

Happy gardening.

click here.

Life Feeds on Life!

Cultures for Health

I’ve said it before and I’ll keep teaching it. Live requires living organisms to feed on for optimal health and energy. No, I don’t have a PhD on the subjest. No, I can’t quote any studies that prove it. What I can point to as proof is how God Almighty set up this earth for us to dwell and thrive in. He gave man the herb yielding seed, the fruit of the garden, and the animals for man to eat. When not tampered with by man and ruined by chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the fertile soil will be teeming with life of all varieties. Fungi, bacteria, insects, worms, all life forms nourishing the plant roots and enabling them to recieve the nutrition inherent in the soil.

On this subject, I am a big promoter of eating live food. Sprouts are a great example of this type of diet addition. Another is fermented products and cultured products. Those bacteria are necessary for us to thrive. They are necessary for our digestive health.

I recently became an affiliate marketer with a company that produces live cultures, fermented food and other types of live food products. Here’s the disclaimer: If you order supplies from a link on my site, I will make a commission. The FDA says nothing like this can be claimed to increase health, so be it. It’s not medicine. It won’t cure you because the FDA says it won’t.

But what can be the harm in making sure your body is receiving all the life giving enzymes and bacteria necessary for optimum health? They’re all delicious.

The company is Cultures for Health. Enjoy their web site.

For the Love of Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the Vine

I have to admit that the main reason for my garden is the tomatoes. Most grocery store tomatoes are varieties that have been bred for appearance and shipping durability, but are often mealy and tasteless.  There is an almost endless variety of tomatoes available in the seed catalogues and garden centers, with varying color, size and purpose.  There are beefsteaks, grape, cherry, Roma, pear, zebra striped, yellow, orange, purple, and green tomatoes.  They’re all good if you ask me.

Tomatoes need to be started from seed indoors under a grow light, and they’re not ready to put in the beds until they’re 8 weeks old.  I’ll do a separate post about seed starting in a later post.  I have found great plants in the local home improvement garden centers and other local nurseries. One problem with these plants, however, is that they’re often either mis-labeled or the plants cross pollinated.  In other words, I’ve been surprised when the “beefsteak” I purchased turned out to be an Early Girl, or Celebrity or other type of tomato. They’re all good; it’s just that when you raise you plants from seeds, you know exactly what you’ll get.

Tomato plants fall into 2 categories, determinate and indeterminate.  Determinate plants are smaller than indeterminate, and produce their fruit all at once. Roma, bush tomatoes and some others fall into this category.  Indeterminate plants grow tall, some up to 9 feet!  They produce fruit over a longer period of time, usually throughout the season. Beefsteaks are usually indeterminate plants.  These take up the North end of most of my beds.  I like to have at least 6 tomato plants growing, and like to stagger the crop, so I plant Sweet Baby Girl tomatoes which ripen first, then I’ll also have Early Girl or Fourth of July, early 4″ tomatoes which will ripen while I’m waiting for the beefsteaks to mature.  I love Burpee’s Brandy Boy tomato, a large pink beefsteak, and it takes about 2 – 1/2 months to ripen.

It’s important to cage the plants.  I know some people stake them, but the beefsteaks grow so tall that two cages are a lot easier.  As the tomato grows, I just tuck the branches in to the cages. I secure the cages to the trellis so that the wind doesn’t blow them over.

Here’s an example of how I plant a tomato bed:

tomato bedYou’ll notice that I put the large two beefsteak plants at the North end of the bed, and put smaller, determinate tomatoes in the South end so they don’t shade the beefsteaks.  I tuck herbs like parsley in the front, basil in the middle, thyme and dill in the back, and onions and marigolds around the rest of the bed. These are all great companions to the tomatoes.

Tomatoes like to be planted deeply.  For this reason, I plant them lying down (the tomatoes, not me!)  Simply determine where you want your plant and dig a trench the length of the plant as deeply as you can. Strip off the lower branches of your plant, leaving 3 or 4 branches at the very top. Carefully lay the plant in the trench (tomato vines will break easily), water it well and cover it with soil, leaving the top of the plant poking out. Place a stick or marker where you put the root ball of the plant so you don’t accidentally dig there. Every where you stripped the branches off, roots will grow. This will give your plants a great foundation.

I know you organic snobs out there will hate this, but I fertilize with Miracle Gro for Tomatoes.  I mix it in the sprayer with an organic kelp fertilizer called Sea Magic, and if I spray the plants once a week, I get a ton of fruit.  Both work well as a foliar feed (meaning that the leaves absorb the nutrients) as well as a ground feed.

It’s important to succor the plants once the fruit begins to form. What I mean by this is that I’ll trim off the branches that don’t have blossoms or fruit on them, I’ll strip off the bottom branches, and I’ll try to encourage one or two main vines to grow. This concentrates the energy of the plant to growing the fruit.

I usually harvest the tomatoes when they begin to blush. If I don’t, sometimes bugs begin to munch on them.  Green tomatoes are also delicious lightly breaded and fried in a little butter.

And one main rule: NEVER REFRIGERATE TOMATOES!  This ruins the flavor and texture.  There’s an enzyme that breaks down under 40 degrees and you’ll lose that great flavor. They’ll do just fine in a basket or large bowl on the counter.

Happy Gardening!

Marian

It’s Time to Plant Beans!

Ahhh yes, the musical fruit. Full of fiber, protein and deliciousness. Here in South Florida, about the only things that will grow well during our tropical summer are sweet potatoes and beans. Sweet potatoes require very little maintenance, and I like them because they cover the beds with vines and push out the weeds. When I harvest the potatoes, I have (relatively) weed free beds.

I also love to fill my bean beds with lots of bean seeds. The tropical rainy season is perfect for the yard long beans which grow about 2″ a day and love lots of rain.

Here’s a pic of Burpee’s Asparagus Yard Long Beans. You can click on the picture to get to Burpee’s site for this seed. This variety is particularly wonderful. The beans grow quickly into yard long beans, and usually sport 2 beans per blossom. They’re easy to harvest and go a long way in the dinner department. About 10 beans cut up is plenty for a side dish for 2. They keep for weeks in the fridge in zipper bags and are tasty and tender. Try them!

Make sure to use a good probiotic full of nitrogen fixing bacteria when you plant legumes. It’ll insure healthy roots and add lots of nitrogen to the soil.

Happy Gardening!

Plant Supports

This beautiful cucumber trellis is a great example of utilizing every square foot of real estate in your raised garden bed. I love that in this picture, the gardener planted lettuce all around the cucumber trellis, which has very shallow roots. The cucumbers will send their roots deeper into the soil so you won’t have root competition. I also love that they showed the cucumbers dangling below the support (why it’s a must to use chicken wire or good stiff garden trellis netting) so that the vine can grow on both sides of the trellis. These plants will stay aerated, will get a lot of direct sun, yet will allow for a nice variety of lettuces to grow beneath it.

Gardener’s Supply is the on line store that I’ve given my business to for many years. They just have the best selection of plant supports at the most reasonable prices. Every year for several years I ordered more of their tomato cages. They last forever if you pull them out at the end of the season and clean the damp soil off of the legs. I now have about 24 of them, enough to support all of the tomatoes and eggplants that I want to grow.  They now sell extenders for the cages, but I always found that another cage would easily stack on top of the other. Here in South Florida, these tall extendors offer protection when I have to throw a sheet over the plant for any expected frowts. They fold flat to make storage easier, they are easy to stack to support my tall beefsteak plants, and they make harvesting so very easy. It’s also much easier to find predators such as the dreaded tomato horn worm because you can see the plant foliage very easily Rather than continually tying the vine to a stake, you just tuck the growing branches into the cages.

Click on the pic below to take you to their site.

 

Hot Peppers

cayenne pepperHot peppers hail from Mexico, and the closer you can mimic that climate the more successful you’ll be at growing them. They like lots of sun and hot, dry weather. Start them in the spring 12 weeks before the last frost if you’re living above zone 10. Here in Florida they do best during the hot summers. I grow them in the winter garden as well, but they don’t produce fruit until the weather warms up.

Square foot gardens in raised intensive beds are ideal for growing peppers.  They like to be planted close together, one per square foot. When mature their leaves should touch.  If you fertilize them you’ll get lots of leaves and very little fruit, so just plant them and keep them weeded and they’ll grow like crazy. Mid season an application of wood ashes around the plants can help stimulate a second blossom production.  If you can make yourself pinch off the first few peppers when they reach dime size you’ll help stimulate the production of more peppers.

The only pests that bother them are aphids and spider mites. A row cover will prevent these from pestering your peppers, but make sure to remove the covers when the blossoms appear so the bees and other pollinating insects can get to them.

Peppers like it on the dry side, so don’t overdo it with watering. You can plant different varieties together, but if you plan on saving the seeds for next season, beware that because of the open pollination, you may get a hybrid that looks like a jalopeno but has the heat of a habanero!

Picked young, hot peppers are not so hot. As they ripen, their heat develops. The heat of peppers is measured in Scoville units, named after an Englishman named William Scoville who first developed the rating system in the early 1900’s.  A Hungarian wax pepper may be mildly hot at 500 Scoville units, while a cayenne pepper may be 5000 – 10000 units. Move into the Scotch Bonnet and Habanero peppers and you’re up to 100,000 units! Take care when handling hot peppers. Wear latex gloves when handling the really hot varieties, as even the outside skin can have oils that can burn your hands for days.

Hot peppers are great slow dried in the oven at 150° for 12 hours, then cooled and ground into flakes (with a food processor) or powder (with a coffee grinder, used only for spice grinding.)  I make both every year from my cayenne peppers, and the aroma of fresh roasted cayenne peppers is just wonderful. I sprinkle the flakes on garlic bread, in salads, on pizza, and in all sorts of sauces.

Get those peppers planted!

Happy gardening.

How to Grow Cucumbers

Baby Cuke

This was the first baby cucumber of my garden.

Cukes are one of my favorite vegetables. Seldom do I not have a few in my crisper drawer. They vary in delightful ways, from “burpless” varieties to ones bred just for pickling to slicing varieties. They come in round, long, short, yellow, green, and white varieties. They are all great in salads and cold soups and sauces. No summer garden (or South Florida winter garden) should be without them.  If given direct sun, evenly moist, fertile soil with good drainage, success is all but guaranteed. Before planting, work in lots of good organic compost if you have it to help the soil retain moisture.

There are two types of cucumber plants, like tomato plants, there are vining types and bush types.  “Salad Bush,” “Bush Champion,” and “pickle bush” are all types that can be grown in a 5 gallon bucket on a patio.  Just one plant can produce many cucumbers if it’s watered daily.

The vining type of cucumber is well suited to the raised bed vegetable garden.  You can grow them in the back row of your square foot garden, and let them climb up the trellis.  Or, you could build a cucumber support such as this one that allows you to grow lettuce underneath it.

Cucumber Trellis

Cucumber Trellis

The only problem I see with this support is that it’s not large enough to support full growing cucumber plants. They would still need a trellis upon which to grow or they’ll spill over into the yard.

Utilizing one of your beds for cucumbers would be ideal for them.  Plant the seeds in the back 4 square feet of your bed. Most varieties come with instructions to plant 3 or 4 seeds in a little mound, 18″ apart.  This translates to a square foot garden in one of two ways.  Utilizing the back two rows of square feet, plant 3 or 4 seeds in the middle of each 4 sq. ft. square.  Or, you can plant one seed per square foot in the last row only.  They need plenty of room for the roots to grow, so don’t crowd them.  Cucumbers like peppers, which would be good planted in the squares just South of the cucumbers. In the front row plant herbs or lettuce or radishes or carrots.

South Florida has a particularly nasty little beetle that has destroyed my vining crops in my past attempts to grow organically. I called the Broward County extension and spoke to the master gardener about this problem. My cukes, cantaloupe and squash were doing fine until one day the leaves got spotty, then turned into hairnets, then died. He recommended one spray that is the “closest thing to organic” insecticide that would work. It’s Bayer’s multi purpose spray and I now use it on the growing plants before they send out blossoms or fruit.  If you do choose to use an insecticide of any kind, use it only at dusk so you don’t kill your bees.  Bees are your friends, and their benefits will be discussed in a later blog. In the mean time, protect your bee population by never spraying in the mornings especially when they’re gathering nectar.  If you kill your bees, you will have no cucumbers unless you pollinate them yourself.

Happy Gardening!

Marian