Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Local Booty and Garden Update - 2/19-2/28/09

It is hard to believe that it is already the last day of February, but here it is, time sure seems to fly as you get older. Anyways, after doing something I rarely forget to do - go to the Root Cellar when we need something - I remembered to stop by yesterday after work and was able to score some good finds. A lot of the produce isn't local, but it is winter in Missouri, what are you going to do?

Since not a whole lot is happening on the garden front, until things pick up, I will be doing joint local booty/garden updates.

Let's start with the local booty. This is our week's haul from the Root Cellar, I don't remember what this ran, this has been a bad memory week for me - meaning, I forget things a lot in general, but this week was particularly bad I suppose. Thank goodness for lists and notes! But anywho...

Starting from the bottom right: eggroll wrappers (not local), red and yellow onions (not local), ginger root (I'm pretty sure this isn't local), avocados (not local), oyster mushrooms (local), red cabbage (not sure), Uprise Bakery's Columbia Sourdough (local), red potatoes (not sure), organic white flour (not local), active dry yeast (not local - these last two items are for a "sponge" for a ciabatta I plan on making), peach butter (local), and Country Goodies hot pepper relish (local).

And now onto the garden update. A few of our seeds have germinated! I was planning on making newspaper pots this weekend and starting more seed since I ran out of pots last weekend, but - big surprise here - I forgot to bring home the newspaper I had been collecting from work. Sigh.

First, I will show you our revolutionary and high-tech seed starting operation.

I know, I know, very complicated and sophisticated right? We use these plastic bins to store our seed starts in. We've had most of these containers for awhile; we were using them as "storage solutions" for things we were never going to use. So, as we have slowly "pawned off" the stored items on people who wanted/needed them, we have gained "hot houses". We like starting our seeds in bins like this for a number of reasons: it saves space - these are stackable, it keeps the cats out of them, it helps the soil maintain moisture longer, and it provides heat and humidity. I use the spray bottle you see to water the plants. I use the "mist setting" and saturate the soil, I don't uproot plants that way and there isn't a whole lot of soil disturbance either. And of course, you see my handy-dandy gardening journal. If it wasn't right there with the starts, I would forget to document their progress. I've learned over the years many ways to compensate for my horrible memory.

Here is a Sheepnose Pimento pepper sprout - it germinated on Wednesday (2/25).

These are Winterbor Kale seedlings, we noticed they had sprouted yesterday (Friday, 2/27).

These are Renegade Spinach seedlings; they also sprouted yesterday (2/27).

These are Bright Lights Chard seedlings; we also noticed they had sprouted yesterday (2/27). I don't know if you can see it or not, but there are a couple more seedlings in one of the slots in the back.

Not much else to report on the garden front - we have been making sure that we keep the soil for the starts moist, and we are still battling the aphids, we want to get rid of them before we take the plants outside, and before we start anymore indoor things in the AeroGarden or otherwise. We do seem to be making good progress with the aphids, but I think this is also going to involve some sort of "starving out period" as well. Our "plant room" may have to be plant free for a little while. We have our seed starts in a different room, we don't want to deal with aphids on them unless they are an issue once they are outside - not that we want to deal with that either, but it would be better than them starting out with them from the beginning.

So, in other errant parts of J&B's strange world, I have "re-discovered" my camera, so to speak. Seeing that it is winter, and thus there isn't much in the way of good nature photo opportunities (not even snow dammit, you can't take pictures of the wind and that is what our winter seems to have been comprised of for the most part), and I don't like taking pictures of random people, or even really people I know for that matter, so what follows are some of the highlights from my novice photography stint this week in my free time.

Meet the other love of Brett's life: Ms. PS3. Isn't she lovely, what with all her cords coming out the back and her spaceship like functionalities?. I hate to admit it, but I am actually a bit scared of the thing, it can connect and communicate information with his PSP. What the hell? Am I the only one who is uncomfortable with that? Where will it end?


This is yet more of the competition I face: Head Coach 2009. You know I willingly purchased this for him as a surprise? No, I joke, he is really nerdy about the football like I am about books so we understand each other, even though our particular focus is different. And what's more, we are both comfortable enough to get lost for hours in our respective forms of entertainment, it is very nice.

And yes, those are "rabbit ears" atop the telly. We don't have cable and honestly don't watch TV unless it is football season (we did watch Obama's speech the other night). I know there is that whole "digital switch" thing on the horizon, but Brett's mom got us the converter box you need for Christmas, though we didn't get to go up there, so it is still in Illinois, but we aren't concerned about it, we won't need it until football season starts again.

Whew, am I long-winded or what?

Here are a few cat pictures because, well, when you don't take pictures of people, and also don't like going places you have to use whatever inspiration you have at your disposal. So I torment the cats by taking their pictures.

Both the cats really like having their heads rubbed. Nermal also likes you to rub behind her ears (she has some ear problems), she is like a dog, she'll even get a leg going from time to time.

Doesn't it look like she is smiling? Maybe I am just anthropomorphizing the cat.

Gabby looking like she would like me to stop taking her picture (which I obliged - I loathe having my picture taken, so I understand).

Well anyways, I am off to make a sponge for a ciabatta, enjoy some reading, some music, you know, all those things that boring (young) curmudgeons like me enjoy.

I'll leave you with my Song of the Day:

"Blues in A Minor" - Modern Jazz Quartet

Have a great weekend!

'Til next time.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just Some of the Reasons We Love Nermal

Brett and I are very lucky to have two very sweet kitties - different in their own right, but they are both wonderful pets (though admittedly, Gabby seems more like a dog sometimes). Gabby, due to her permanently kitten-like face, ever-presence, and rude determination, tends to have the spotlight most of the time. And really, she tends to take better pictures than Nermal. Nermal generally looks so angry and displeased to have her picture taken, so tonight provided a rare opportunity to show her at her best.

It is moments like these that make all her frustrating quirks cease to be important. She is a very special cat who, in addition to occasionally providing free grooming, also lets you rub her belly, nuzzles your face, and gives you some very sweet (though a little gross due to kitty breath) kisses. This helps make up for her constant meowing, endless rituals, and the particularities and subtle "preferences" (read: non-negotiable demands) one must heed most of the time to pet her just right, if you don't get everything right, well, she determines you aren't worth it and either teases you by going just out of reach (stupid human tricks), or leaves the room, generally with her displeasure being made known on her way out.

The grooming is something Nermal used to do with frequency and great intensity before we got Gabby. This attention was directed towards Brett for the most part - she would try to groom me, but my hair is long and she would end up choking on it. Anyways, many o' days in the early morning she would decide she wanted to groom Brett and would go to town. He would wake up, literally, with a wet head. It was/is both gross and sweet. He was generally awoken once she had tired of his hair and moved on to his skin where she likes to focus on one area with her sandpaper tongue. This is one word - painful. She used to do this to me, and she'd often center on my closed eye, not pleasant at all.

Anyways, tonights experience was a painless grooming and after getting Gabby, she completely discontinued grooming or licking either of us very often. She has gotten back into it over the past month or so and I got the opportunity to get some good pictures tonight.

It's hard to get mad at her sandpaper tongue or smelly kitty breath (or to think about how gross her kitty slobber is for that matter), with how sweet it is.

And I had to share this gem. I haven't been taking pictures much lately and I guess I was excited because I just started snapping pictures as soon as the flash was ready and I caught this moment.

I love it! You can bet this became our computer desktop picture right away.

In other news, we got our first round of seeds started this weekend and signed up for our community garden plots. All I can say is we are going to have a lot of plants. We filled four "hot houses" with small containers of greens, herb, pepper, and tomatillo seeds. I was able to start two pots of each of the tomato and tomatillo varieties, but was getting short on containers by the time I got to the peppers (I am growing far too many varieties, but I love them all), so there are only one pot of each going right now - two of a select variety. We used egg cartons made from natural fibers (not the styrofoam ones) to start the spinach, kale, chard, cumin, cilantro, and two types of basil seeds. We have another in our fridge right now, and once we are done with the eggs, I will use those to start more pepper seeds. I've heard of folks making newspaper pots for their plants, I may be really dumb to ask this, but how is this done, how do you make the pots?

Our wormies are experiencing a bit of trouble - we are having our first worm health crisis. We've noticed that each day, more and more of the worms were making their way to the top of the bin and on top of the newspaper sheets. Each day the worms that appeared looked more and more bloated and just all around not good. We did a little investigating and research and determined that our bin had too much moisture. We added a big batch of shredded paper (courtesy of the office), and left the lid part way off for most of the day today. No more worms are trying to get to the top anymore and it seems to be helping. It is a good lesson to make sure to have plenty of fiber bedding, the ratio to food should be 50/50, which it wasn't. Phew. When lives hang in the balance, even just "lowly" worms, I get concerned, I was a bit worried that we were going to have the "blood of 1,000 worm deaths on our hands", you know, like we a worm genocide or something, but luckily it doesn't look as though that is the case. I don't know how people with kids do it, I can't even keep worms happy and I give myself anxiety over their well being perhaps beyond what is necessary, having children would not be good for my anxiety issues. I can't even imagine, I would have no hair, and I would never eat - hair and appetite loss seem to be very common stress-related side effects for me.

Anyways, I hope everyone had a great weekend and here's to a good week!

I will leave you with today's picks for Song(s) of the Day:

With Words: The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
Without Words: Alone Together - Bill Evans (the one and only)

'Til next time.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Garden Update and Local Booty!

As promised in my last post, welcome to this week's garden and local booty update! I have missed doing these posts, but there wasn't much going on in the garden and due to circumstances, I wasn't really up for going to the Root Cellar and cooking a bunch of meals. But the times, they are a changin' (thankfully). As noted in the last post, I have been cooking some of our favorite tried and true meals and we have really been enjoying them. I didn't realize how much both of us missed some of our staple recipes. Trying new recipes all the time can mean some of the "oldies but goodies" get put on the back burner so to speak. Well not anymore! I will make sure that our favorite recipes are in regular "rotation".

Speaking of local booty, we got some really awesome stuff this week from the Root Cellar. This haul ran us $35.

It's all local. Starting from the bottom right: oyster mushrooms, 2 Uprise Bakery granola bars, 1/2 pound pecans, 1/2 pound black walnuts, 2 bags full of soft whole wheat pastry flour (wahoo for the Missouri Grain Project!!!!!), a bag of kidney beans, and a big ol jar of County Goodies pickles.

Not only is having Missouri grown whole wheat pastry flour super exciting, it is very local, this flour comes from Terra Bella Farm in Auxvasse, Missouri, not very far from here at all - about 20 minutes by car.

I am very excited about the flour, as was the woman at the Root Cellar. I had seen whole wheat berries there before, but do not have a grinder. Then when we contemplated getting one, things went awry and we both forgot all about it. Now I just have to figure out what I want to bake with it. We are going to be making some pesto soon since our Genovese basil in the AeroGarden is flippin' huge (more on that below), anyone have any ideas as to what sort of bread I could bake to serve with pesto pasta? Seems like the perfect meal, pesto made from homegrown basil, local garlic, and local walnuts along with some homemade bread made from local flour.

One of my coworkers is a big fan of auctions and garage sales, thanks to her hobby, we have received all sorts of goodies from her: gardening implements, gardening books, and now, vegetarian cookbooks. She went to an auction a short time ago and found 6 vegetarian cookbooks for $1, thought of me, and picked them up for us. I can't wait to look through them. Ann seriously rocks, I have already thanked her profusely but just in case she reads this, thanks again!

On to the garden update. It has been awhile since I have done one of these. We basically gave up on trying to grow anything beyond salad greens, catnip, wheatgrass, and pepper starts since we weren't having much luck with anything else. That is, until we got the AeroGarden. Not only are we getting good herb production from the AeroGarden, the additional light it produces really helps the other plants.

I was planning on starting some seeds for our container and community gardens last weekend, I honestly don't remember what we did on Saturday (no alcohol was involved either, I just have a bad memory), and Sunday my dad and step-mom came down for a brief visit. They brought us a steel, six-shelved, really tall, and sturdy shelf for our kitchen. The thing plain rocks, we have so much more space to work with now! They also brought us a few canisters of different sizes for our flours, sugar, and rolled oats. I was happy enough that they made a visit for no reason (it is usually just holidays and birthdays), but the shelf and canisters are really helpful. Wahoo for storage solutions. So anyways, I got off track as usual, because of all that, I didn't get the seeds started. And this week, well, my excuse is it's been a cross between laziness and working from home. I will get them started eventually. I did make a seed starting plan last night though.

Anywho, check out the progress of our plants. If you saw the last garden update, you may be surprised at how much one of the cayennes has grown.

Our lone jalapeno plant. It is doing better than it was; I'm really not sure why the cayenne has grown so much more than the other peppers.

Our very lush cayenne, the remaining cherry bomb pepper, and our philodendron. This cayenne plant is going to have a great head start when we put it out in the spring.

Here is the other cayenne, it is also looking a lot better and getting quite dense.

As requested, here are a few pictures of the AeroGarden.

Here she be with the light on. I didn't do the best job of arranging the plants in the AeroGarden, I wasn't thinking very spatially when I was planning it, I suppose. Anyway, because of my ill though planning, the Thai Basil, Genovese Basil, and sage have over crowded the mint, oregano, epazote, and chives. They are growing, but not as fast since the tall plants are hogging all the light.

I didn't know if it was better to show a picture with the light on or off, so I decided to do both.

Our Hammond is getting a lot of plant love. :-)

Here it is up close. We have been clipping the basil almost daily and it is going crazy. I think it is time to take about 1/3 of the plant. It should provide more yield and we will have enough basil to make pesto and some sort of Thai dish.

And finally, the one I am most excited about, the epazote! It is finally starting to take off, I can't wait to use some of this, what a treat!

In other garden-related news, we are really enjoying our vermicomposting bin. The worms have taken to the food and we are getting close to starting a second working tray. Those little guys eat!

We shred a lot of paper at my office, and it make excellent bedding for the worms, so I asked if I could have it to feed to our wormies, since it was just going to be recycled, nobody minded, and it sparked curiosity about the worm bin. Some coworkers have even started donating their newspapers to the "worm cause" :-). So we get to reduce waste and produce compost! I emailed some pictures to my coworkers and was even questioned by one's husband about the birthing process (can anyone elaborate, I don't know anything about it, do they lay eggs or what?) and the potential income if they over breed by selling the "excess" as bait. I don't know if I could do that, I think I would feel bad. Is that pathetic?

Anywho, I hope all is well and everyone is having a good week.

I have a date with my food processor, hummus awaits!

'Til next time.