Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Recipe redo: Gluten-free pancakes

These pancakes are so delicious that there's no need to make them from wheat! It could be the natural sweetness of oats. I don't know, but these pancakes are wonderful -- and good for you. This recipe is gluten-free, egg and milk-free but it does contain cashews.

Thanks to my daughter who developed the recipe and took a photo of her finished work.

Oat Pancakes

2 cups gluten-free oat flour (some oat flours might contain small amounts of gluten -- we used Bob Red Mill gluten-free oat flour)
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup cashews
1/4 cup flax seed
1 to 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups water

If you have a good blender that will grind the cashews and flax seed finely just put all ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth, around 1 to 2 minutes.

If your blender does not grind things smoothly, soak the cashews and flax seed in the water overnight, pour into the blender and then blend until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and blend for 1 to 2 minutes or until well-mixed.

Heat a non-stick griddle or pan. Add small amount of oil. Pour batter onto griddle or pan and cook until bubbles form (it should take several minutes), turn and cook several minutes on the other side.

Serve with real maple syrup.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Using diatomaceous earth in the garden

No, this is not frost on my green beans but diatomaceous earth. I am trying to protect my beans from insects, particularly Japanese beetles. We always seem to have a problem with these beetles and according to what I have heard, diatomaceous earth is very effective as a natural insecticide. We also had a problem with bean beetles and this natural substance is suppose to help protect plants from all crawling insects.

Crawling bugs just don't like the way it feels and will go elsewhere for a meal. Apparently, it also works like boric acid to dry up slugs and other insects. Some people use it in construction to preempt bugs crawling in walls, foundations or crawl spaces. It is evidently catching on because it is safer than boric acid and other insecticides.

I heard before that it is volcanic and I have also read that it is made from some kind of crustaceans that are mined and finely ground. It is very fine and also very powdery. I use a powder sprayer to apply it and it is still a messy job.


Interestingly, when I was purchasing my bag of diatomaceous earth the other day, I asked if they had larger bulk bags and they said they did have it and wanted to know if I wanted the "food grade." Evidently people eat it because they feel it has health benefits and the food grade diatomaceous earth is safe for people and animals. Some use it as a safe pet-de-wormer. I was blown away when I read that. It can also be used to control ticks and fleas.

I didn't buy the food grade kind but I am a little awed that something that can kill insects in the garden can also benefit animals and humans.

So far, it has been very good and it is something that will wash off of vegetables and is not harmful to boot. I don't know if this is the best answer for organic vegetable gardening but it is nice when you find something that is safe and also helps get rid of pesky bugs that eat your food. If it is effective as I hear it is, I think it will really help in my garden this year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

More from Charlotte Nelson's garden

Straw bale gardening is one of the things Charlotte has worked to perfect but that is only one of her successes. She also grows potatoes underneath straw. Instead of covering her potatoes with dirt she tucks them under the straw -- they grow the same as normal potatoes but they just don't get dirty. They are harvested by pulling back the straw to get what you need. They can be covered again and harvested as needed. It's the clean way to grow potatoes.

As  her potatoes grow above the straw, Charlotte covers them with more loose straw on top and they grow above, and below the straw. Eventually the plants will die back. 

She has grown some very nice strawberries on top of straw bales.

Containers, like the one above hold her crop of sweet potatoes. I had never seen them grown in pots like this but Charlotte has had good success with container planting.

Above, asparagus is growing in a raised bed surrounded by railroad ties. It will take the asparagus several years to produce a crop, but this is a good way to keep them separate and protected from other plants.

Charlotte grows blueberries along her fence. I am telling you, she has everything.

I can't wait to see how her garden grows during the summer.

Charlotte Nelson's 2011 Straw Bale Garden

Each year I show you a peak of Charlotte Nelson's straw bale garden. We ran a story about Charlotte in Newnan-Coweta Magazine and there was so much interest in her garden methods. The link for how she did it is here. I know there are so many people who ran out and bought bales to make their own, easy-care garden.

I think it is really amazing, especially for a person who might have limited space or limited mobility. Charlotte said that she just adds more bales each year (plus she has so many great ideas) and everything I saw was well-cared for and looked very good. It really looks to be a bit ahead of schedule, compared to my garden. It is probably because of the heavy fertilization you do with the straw bales before the first plant is planted, or in this case, inserted into the bale. Also, they are easier to water -- and that makes a huge difference.

 I love the way Charlotte utilizes her space. She has a nice, well-cared for back yard but you can immediately see that she doesn't have the perfect space for a conventional garden. Her back yard has a pretty deep slope and I doubt she would get as much out of her garden if she used traditional methods. She certainly uses her space wisely.

I think the photo above is of her cucumbers. She has a fence along the plants so the vines can run up the fencing.

Her eggplants look marvelous.

And yes, those are green pole beans on top of those bales with the fence in the background ready for the vines to climb.

This is a new area for her that is beside her house. She said that she worried about what her neighbors would say when she put them out, but instead of being angry, they asked questions and were fascinated by what she was doing.

These big tomato plants get their own bale. In between, she often plants basil or other herbs. She told me she was always trying something new with her bales.

Her tomato plants do look good.

And I love the way she can just pour a little potting soil on the top of the bales and plant entire "rows" of okra or squash.

I will be going back, later in the summer to take some more photos. I am anxious to get a look. It is sure to be beautiful.

Tomorrow -- we will finish up with some of her other garden projects.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Charlotte Nelson's Hosta Collection

The past couple of years I have given you an online tour of Charlotte Nelson's straw bale garden. (I will get to that.) Everyone who has read about her knows that her gardening methods are amazing. To see what she can grow on some straw bales is very impressive to me. This week I am planning to show some photos I took on a recent visit to her garden. First I will share something I found out during my visit that doesn't have to do with vegetables. Besides being a great vegetable gardener, Charlotte has a passion for collecting hostas.

Each year, she collects the Hosta of the Year and plants it among the other hostas in her shade garden. It's a beautiful place and I think such a great idea to add annually to her hosta collection.

I was particularly interested because I have a mostly shady yard and I am always wondering what to plant there. Charlotte recommends hostas and I will have to agree with her that it is a perfect fit for a shady spot.

I wish I had gotten the names of her hostas but I didn't do that. I would have loved to be able to say, "This is the plant of the year," but she has so many and I am afraid I will mix up the names.

I think it is such a great idea to collect plants like this. It is so interesting to see what will come out next year. I never had a clue that there was a plant of the year. I do love hostas, too, with their deep green and sometimes variegated foliage.

Charlotte has them lining her shady spots and I am sure the area will become even more lush with the showy plants growing to their full size.

I do know that deer love hostas and consider them tasty treats. Charlotte surrounds her hostas with fences to protect from the deer.

Tomorrow, I will have photos from Charlotte's 2011 straw bale garden.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tomatoes: Determinate or Indeterminate?

When I attended my recent gardening class, one of the questions someone asked was how to raise great tomatoes. One of the tips given was to first know if you have determinate or indeterminate tomatoes. I had no clue about this. I had never heard that term and I thought a tomato plant was a tomato plant and that the variety might be different, but I didn't know the plants were different.

If you have a determinate, or bush tomato you just let it grow without pruning until it reaches maturity. Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain size and for a certain amount of time and just run their course. A good example of determinate tomatoes are patio tomatoes like Celebrity.

Indeterminate tomatoes are true vines and will grow as long as you pull off the "suckers" that grow between the limbs and they can grow until the weather becomes cool. You should only have about two main shoots that grow very tall. They will also put out fruit clusters as they grow. If they have too many vines on one plant, the fruit will be small. The indeterminate plants will put more into developing the vine than the fruit if you don't pick off the suckers or new vine growths. At least that is the way I understand it.

Up to this point I had always just pulled the suckers from all my tomato plants, but now I am checking to see which are determinate and indeterminate and my "sucker-picking" will depend on that.

I didn't know that my Celebrity tomatoes were determinate before I started the seeds but I probably would not have grown them for the garden. At least I know that my bed with those plants will just be bushy and I will stake it well and not worry about the suckers.

The other two varieties I have in the garden that are determinate are Romas and Green Zebras. I will let them grow as bushy as they want, too.

The rest of my plants are indeterminate, my red heirlooms, Jubilee, Kellogg Breakfast, German Strawberry, Big Rainbow, Purple Calabash will all need to have the suckers trimmed or plucked.

Trimming them is easy. Just look for the new growth between the main stem and the branches and pull it off while small. Below is a drawing I made to show how to pick off the suckers. The little growth shown below, between the stem and branches is the sucker.

Just pick it off or trim it with scissors, being careful not to cut the main stem, branches or the fruit clusters. I hope this helps. I am going to work hard at making sure my plants are properly identified and cared for in a way to give me the highest yield. I think knowing what kind of plant I have is the first step in knowing how to care for them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My garden: the nickel tour

This week has been so crazy. My husband had minor surgery today and there was a little bit of garden work and English peas to shell. I have been so busy, I only have time to take you on the nickel tour.

It is beginning to look like a summer garden. We still don't have it fully mulched, but we are making some progress.

We have a higher fence, at left for our cucumbers. We did have to fill in a few bare spaces but I am hoping the higher fence will keep the cukes off the ground.

Cabbages are beginning to head. We sprayed them with BT and are hoping to keep the worms at bay.

Carrots! We actually have fingerling carrots. They look and taste wonderful. We do need to let them grow a bit larger. These are our best carrots ever.

We fertilized and pulled dirt up around our corn after we saw this photo. The corn looks top-heavy and hopefully we can keep it growing straight and tall.

Pole beans. It is filling in and running up the bamboo poles. I love the way they look.

We still have lettuce. Some of it is flowering but that is a good thing because we want to attract bees and good insects.

Pepper blooms ...

On our sweet pepper row. We have the sweet peppers caged. The hot peppers still need the cages.

I love shallots but I really don't know when to harvest them.

Our squash looks wonderful. We have been trying to protect it from bugs using BT and we have been handpicking squash bug eggs.

The yellow squash are setting fruit.

The zucchini, too.

Our tomato beds look good but we will be working on a staking system soon.

And our beefmasters have some nice tomatoes already.

That's the quick tour -- maybe worth a nickel.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Recipe redo: Making dairy-free "cream cheese" frosting

Last week I tried to make a dairy-free version of cream cheese frosting. It is a southern favorite and a favorite with my family. I wasn't worried so much about the sugar, even though that is only good in moderation and I don't think I really consider this moderation. My goal was to take out the milk so that those who can't have milk products can have a reasonable version of a good old southern recipe. This is great on carrot cake, applesauce cake and just about any kind of spice cake.

The main change was to substitute a soy based cream cream, in this case Tofutti cream cheese, for the regular cream cheese. It does have less calories and fat, no saturated fat and it is a good replacement for regular cream cheese frosting. Surprisingly, my husband liked it. I usually try to gauge his reaction when I try to create something new and if he likes it, I think it is a success.

It is easy enough to make and I think a good redo recipe.

Mock "cream cheese" frosting

8 ounces soy cream cheese (I used Tofutti but there are some even better brands at makets like Whole Foods. Make sure you use a casein-free version)
1/4 cup vegan margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 (16 ounce) box Confectioners' sugar plus extra on humid days. It could take as much as 1 cup or more, depending on the weather. Add until it is of a good spreading consistency
Optional: A pinch of salt

Mix soy cream cheese and margarine and vanilla in mixer until smooth and creamy. Slowly add Confectioners' sugar. Add a pinch of salt, if needed. Blend until smooth and creamy. Frosts a 9-inch, two-layer cake or generously frosts 12 cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator after a few hours. Frosting will harden, much like butter cream frosting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cardboard and mulching

 This weekend my sis and I went dumpster diving for cardboard boxes. We went to our local dump and loaded up our truck with cardboard to put between the rows in our raised pepper beds.

After we got back, we cut the cardboard into strips that fit in the rows and then topped it with mulch.

I think in addition to the fact that it looks good, the cardboard and mulch will hold the moisture in and keep the ground from getting quite so hot in the blazing summer sun. The mulch will also prevent weeds from coming up between rows. That means no tilling and the bad insects won't be able to hide in the weeds. The weeds won't take the nourishment from the soil and the mulch will eventually add compost to the soil.
The cardboard, over time will turn into compost, too and best of all, we shouldn't have to pull weeds or till in this area all summer. The only place we might need to till before next year would be if we decide to plant something after the peppers are done at the end of the summer.

I really hope it works for us. So far, so good because it really looks just like we hoped it would.

I will say that it has been hard work to get things to this point. If we get the benefits I expect it will be well worth it in time saved. I think weeding takes roughly half the time of mulching but we have to weed periodically during the season. If we don't have to worry about weeding, there should be less work in the end.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“Cuttin' Up and Showin' Out ”

Tuesday night I attended our county's monthly Backyard Association meeting. Usually the topic is something like garden pests, native plants or perennials, but this time the featured speaker was Cheryle Turner from Hampton, Georgia. Cheyle delighted us with her creative vegetable and fruit carvings. She uses them to decorate vegetable and fruit trays. It is a given that when she throws a party, the guests will be delighted with the imaginative centerpieces and whimsical carved "animals" she makes. 
 She showed us a strawberry "rose" centerpiece with kale and lettuce "greenery." (You can see it above, thanks to a photo by Diane Comonoor.)

She then made an eggplant man from an eggplant, toothpicks and cuttings from radishes, bell peppers, kale and a grape.

 She also made an easy duck was made from a squash, a carrot and two cloves and a mouse from two radishes and some cloves.

I thought her carvings looked easy, didn't take her very much time at all and required normal kitchen tools. She also sold little booklets with instructions for all her creations. I think I will use this book for my next vegetable tray. She had some really good ideas and it looks easy -- we will see.