Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to Eden Organic Gardening


If you've ever noticed how well your flowers grow in a garden enriched with wood mulch, others have already turned it into a science. Back to Eden filmmakers profiled Paul Gautschi, a Christian, who grows vegetables and fruits in Washington state using wood chip mulch. He explains how wood chip mulch increases the oxygen supply in the soil, holds needed moisture, which in turn attracts microbes and earthworms to produce his lush organic garden. He claims that this method of gardening needs little water and is a low maintenance way to garden. Has this spiked your interest?

As you watch the film, you learn that you can't just mix fresh sawdust or wood chip material directly into your soil, because it will deplete the soil's nitrogen and delay the growth in your garden plot. Paul recommends that you either use it as a ground cover, or begin by using his method of sheet mulching that prepares the soil for a new garden bed. You will notice that this isn't bagged mulch, but the type you get from a wood chipper.


Sawdust and raw wood are a great mulch for perennial crops, as long as you scatter a bit of organic fertilizer, poultry manure, or other nitrogen source over the surface each time you throw on a fresh layer of sawdust.[1] Paul recommends the use of bloodmeal and other composted animal manure fertilizers (that don't contain weed seeds) when adding ingredients to a garden bed. The wood chips alone are not the magic bullet that will make this garden grow. You do need to supplement the soil with natural fertilizers at first, then after time it won't need to be done as often.[2]

As a side note, in a YouTube video, Paul mentions a visitor to his farm who had spent hours learning permaculture gardening. The visitor became emotional when he realized that permaculture is a flawed way to garden, and that Paul's method was far superior.

 An illustration showing the layers of permaculture gardening

Although I felt at first viewing that this method works hand-in-hand with permaculture, there are some things that are different. The New Age side of permaculture, and the fact that communitarians embrace this method, are definitely flawed. More study would have to be done to find which parts have problems. I have always suspected that permaculture's methods lacked the ability to control disease and pests, but I don't have any proof. Remember that there is often some truth mixed with blatant lies.  

I highly suggest that you closely read Paul's directions and watch any additional videos you can find on YouTube if you decide to give it a try. The Back to Eden method is interesting. You can watch the documentary film here or on Vimeo.

Other Related Posts
Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape
Foraging for Lambsquarters
Wood Ash: The Organic Soil Amendment
Garden Whimsy 
Recycle Old Items to Make a Beautiful Garden

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Beauty of Mismatched Spoons

Raising seven children has not made it easy to maintain a matched set of flatware. I recently noticed that my spoons have dwindled down in number, so I checked out our local thrift shop for some new additions. Although they aren't as charming as a silver vintage collection, I still think I hit the jackpot. 


 Didn't you know that matching stainless steel flatware is way overrated? Each of these spoons carries a history and is special in a different way.


Even if you prefer to have a matched set, there is still a place in everyone's flatware drawer for a "one of a kind." Perhaps you can use them instead of plasticware, or for eating drinking your morning coffee, or for eating dessert. When it comes down to it, you have to admit that some of the older flatware are downright simple and beautiful.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Preacher's Cake Recipe


Preacher's Cake is a favorite found in many church cookbooks. I had never heard about such a thing until last week, and had a chance to taste one today. What a delicious treat! You may not want to put an effort into a cake like this for everyday, but it makes a good contribution to a fellowship meal or family gathering. The directions and ingredient list are simple. This is how it's made.

Ingredients 
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla 
2 eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1-20 oz. can crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions 
Mix dry ingredients together first, then add wet ingredients. Beat by hand. Bake in a greased and floured 9x13 inch pan at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes. Cool, then frost.

Frosting
1 pkg 8 ounce cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla

Use electric beater and whip until smooth and creamy. Spread all of the frosting onto cooled cake, making sure it's spread evenly over entire cake. Sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts if desired, but it isn't needed.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homemade Curry Powder


Curry powder is a blend of many spices, and comes in different varieties. Each curry powder can have different component spices, in differing amounts-making each curry blend unique. I always thought that curry powder came from a curry plant, but I learned that this isn't the case. Some curry powder recipes don't even contain "curry" from the curry plant - so the telling of the spice blend isn't without twists and turns.

What is known for certain is that the blend of spices first originated in South Asia.


Since it comes from that region, the curry powder blend is actually a mixture of various spices grown in that area, including coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, cloves, and others. Although I don't know for certain, it is possible that each curry powder recipe could be different because of the availability of the spices in South Asia. For example, just as Chicken Adobo tastes different depending upon the region of the Philippines you visit, the spices used in the recipe is based upon what could be purchased in the market.

What follows is a curry powder recipe from Greens and Seeds, along with their photographs. It may take some experimenting to find the recipe you like. Those can be easily found by doing a Google search.


Homemade Curry Powder

Ingredients
1 scant Tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or more for extra spicy)

Directions
  • Combine the coriander, cumin, fenugreek and mustard seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. 
  • Toast for a few minutes, until fragrant and just starting to pop. Careful not to burn them.
  • Transfer to a spice grinder, then add the peppercorns, tumeric, ginger and red pepper flakes. Grind into a fine powder. 
  • Store in a tightly sealed jar.
Makes 1/4 cup

Simple Chicken Curry

4-5 Chicken breasts (cut into medium-sized tenders)
1 can Cream of Chicken soup, combined with 1 soup can of milk
1 heaping Tbsp of mayo
Sprinkle of curry powder
garlic powder
salt and pepper
  • Prepare 1 or 2 rectangular oven safe baking pans that have been lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle the pan bottoms with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and cracked pepper. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Test for doneness before you proceed.
  • Begin cutting the breast into small morsels, placing them directly into a large pot as you cut. I use kitchen scissors and hold them with tongs.
  • Once they are all cut-up, combine the Cream of Chicken soup with the milk directly over the chicken morsels. Heat through until all of the lumps are gone. (Note: soy milk doesn't taste good if you are going to substitute.)
  • Now add the heaping Tbsp of mayo. Don't use a measuring spoon - rather use a utensil.
  • Sprinkle the top of your ingredients with about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp of curry powder. Try using less before using more. I don't measure it, but do it by eye. 1/2 tsp may be too much.
  • Once it is heated through, add a little more cracked pepper and salt to taste. Serve over white rice. A side of broccoli goes well with this recipe.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Mouk Story: The Gospel to Papua New Guinea

 Papua New Guinea became a separate Commonwealth realm with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reigning as the Queen.

Originally from Belleville, PA, Mark Zook and his wife spent 14 years in Papua New Guinea working among the Mouk tribal people. The following video is about how they brought tribesmen from sorcery and deceit to a life-changing understanding of what Christ did for them.

New Tribes Mission, the evangelical mission agency they were accepted by, focuses on teaching through the Scriptures chronologically. They spent months teaching the Mouk about their place in the world and the history of God’s work in the world beginning with creation. NTM missionaries typically begin with the Genesis account of creation and follow the storyline of the Bible through to the story of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the New Testament. By this approach, cultures that have no exposure to biblical teaching, are able to gain solid grounding on foundational principles of the Old Testament before they are introduced to the New Testament Gospel.[1]
 
Papua New Guinea is located near Australia

The mission's focus is on groups where no translation of the Bible exists.When such a group is identified, NTM first attempts to make contact and establish a relationship. Then, missionaries are sent to learn the language and culture of the native people, while further developing relationships and providing humanitarian aid. The missionaries translate biblical literature into the indigenous language, as well as teach natives how to read and write in their own language.


Although the New Tribes Mission is presenting the Gospel to the lost world, they don't come without controversy. As to not detract from the video and the work done in Papua New Guinea, you can follow the link to see the examples. Unfortunately, it's not uncommon to mission agencies.

The video does move very slowly through the details, but will pick up about halfway through the first clip. If you can deal with that, you will be blessed.

Part 1


(YouTube link)

Part 2


(YouTube link)

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Peaceful Heart


"A tranquil heart is life to the body..." Proverbs 14:30a

Related Post

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 7


Amaranth grain has a long history in Mexico and is considered a native crop in Peru. It was a major food crop of the Aztecs, and some have estimated amaranth was domesticated between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. Like the Incas, the Aztecs used the grain, which is actually a seed, as part of their Pagan ceremonial worship practices.

When Cortez and his Conquistadors landed in the New World in the sixteenth century, they immediately began attempts to convert the Aztecs to Christianity - just as they did with the Incas.  In doing this, they outlawed foods involved in “heathen” festivals and religious ceremonies, amaranth included.  Severe punishment was handed to anyone found growing or possessing amaranth.[1]


Although the Aztecs made it popular,  the word actually amaranth comes from the Greek word amarantos, meaning "unwithering". The word was applied to amaranth because it did not soon fade, and so symbolized immortality. The current spelling of amaranth, seems to have come from folk etymology that assumed the final syllable derived from the Greek word anthos ("flower"), common in botanical names.

Although there are 60 species and often considered weeds, also known as  herbs, people around the world value amaranth as a leaf vegetable, cereals, and ornamental plants. Both spinach and lambsquarters are in the same amaranthus plant family. It is related to pigweed, the enemy of many farmers. The weedy amaranth types are also edible and taste much like the cultivated varieties. A handful of amaranthus varieties are cultivated in different parts of the world. Sometimes local farmer's markets will offer bunches of amaranth greens, but they don't keep long, so you'd have to use them quickly. It's much easier to grow amaranth and cut it as needed, [2] and this would also allow you to harvest the seed from the pods.


The most common usage for Amaranth is to grind the seed into a flour for use in breads, noodles, pancakes, cereals, granola, cookies, or other flour-based products. This gluten-free grain can be popped like popcorn or eaten like oatmeal. More than 40 products containing amaranth are currently on the market in the U.S.[3][4]

When it comes to nutrients, amaranth is rich in the amino acid lysine, calcium, iron, magnesium, calcium, and a good source of vitamins A, B6, K and C, a well as folate and riboflavin. Some studies have even found that amaranth may even help prevent gray hair. Like spinach, it contains a moderately high level of oxalic acid, which inhibits much of the absorption of calcium and zinc. Amaranth should be consumed in moderation by those with diseases such as gout, kidney problems or rheumatoid arthritis. [4]

When simmered, amaranth turns into a porridge-like texture. To cook, bring 3 cups water or broth and 1 cup seeds to a boil; cover and simmer 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. It can also be combined with other grains if you desire a more "rice-like" dish, and it can be popped in a skillet like popcorn, as mentioned before. It has a nutty flavor and crunchy texture.

 (YouTube link)

Amaranth Breakfast Recipe


Amaranth Hot Cereal
1/2 cup amaranth
1 cup water
6 tablespoons coconut milk
2 tablespoons honey or 2 tablespoons agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions   
  1. Mix the water and amaranth in water, then bring to boiling.
  2. Reduce to medium - low and simmer. Stir frequently until all the liquid is cooked through and tender. Don't allow it to get too dry.
  3. Add honey, cinnamon, and milk, then serve.
Variation: Additionally, stir in cherries, walnuts, maple syrup, nutmeg, and butter. 

Recipe source
Variation source

Related Post
Foraging for Lambsquarters 
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 1
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 2 (Quinoa)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 3 (Bulgur)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 4 (Freekah)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 5 (Farro) 
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 6 (Semolina aka Couscous)

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 6


Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum used in making pasta, breakfast cereals, puddings, and couscous. Semolina is derived from the Italian word semola, meaning 'bran', and from the ancient Latin simila, meaning 'flour'. It is called smida (pronounced "smeeda") in Moroccan Arabic. It is the endosperm (or heart) of durum wheat kernel, which is yellow in color. Although semolina is famously used to make pasta or couscous, it also makes a very flavorful, chewy bread.

Durum is the hardest of all wheat varieties that contains very high gluten content and high protein. Once purified, semolina contains trace minerals, such as: phosphorus, zinc and magnesium, which are beneficial for the health of your bones and nervous system. Semolina is also known to improve kidney function, because of its potassium content.

In much of North Africa, durum semolina is made into the staple couscous - a dish of the same name.  Couscous is prepared and steamed over a soup or stew made primarily of chicken or lamb with vegetables. Some of the grain purchased in supermarkets is not actually couscous, and is instead a very fine cut pasta referred to as patina. Today 'made from scratch' couscous made from semolina is a more time consuming task.


As you will see in the video demonstration, the couscous is prepared in a double pot process, with the top pot providing the steam for the grain. You don't need to purchase the pot, since it can be done by just lining a colander with cheese cloth.


You would then set it over the soup of a large pot deep enough so that the couscous does not touch the broth and let it steam uncovered until tender. A good recipe will have full instructions and tips for making the perfect couscous.

Here's a demo of Couscous Tfaya in Caramelized Onions. The written recipe can be found on her site.


(YouTube link)

Israeli Couscous
Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, is similar to regular couscous in that it's a small, whole grain-like food made from semolina or wheat flour. Others might know it as "pearl couscous", "Jerusalem couscous", or, as it is known in Israel, "ptitim". Bob's Red Mill labels their product "Natural Pearl Couscous".

To prepare Israeli or pearl couscous, you'll need about 1 1/4 cups of water or vegetable broth for every 1 cup of dry grain. Simmer the grains on your stovetop, covered, for about 10 minutes. The grains fluff up just slightly. Like barley, they have more an "al dente" mouth feel when when done cooking.

Here's a recipe for Israeli Couscous.



Curried Cranberry Couscous Pilaf
Prep Time: 5 minutes  Cook Time: 10 minutes  Makes: 4
Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock 
  • 1 cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup NatureBox Cranberry Jubilee
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Directions:
1.  In a medium saucepan, bring vegetable stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in couscous and curry powder. Reduce heat to medium; cook 8 to 10 minutes or until couscous is tender. Drain off any remaining liquid.
2.  Add chickpeas, Cranberry Jubilee, and oil; toss to combine. Transfer to serving bowl; garnish with parsley.

Source for recipe

Related Posts
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 1
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 2 (Quinoa)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 3 (Bulgur)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 4 (Freekah)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 5 (Farro) 

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 5


Farro is a hearty grain that played a significant part of the daily diet in ancient Rome. Some say farro is the original ancestor of thousands of other wheat species — making it “the mother of all wheat.” In ancient Rome, farro was eaten regularly by the Roman legions, and it was even used as a form of currency. Today this heirloom grain is still highly regarded in Italy, where it has been grown for generations and featured in many traditional dishes.[1]

Farro is commonly used when referring to three ancient wheat varieties first cultivated in the Fertile Crescent and still grown in Italy. They are:  farro piccolo (einkorn), farro medio (also known as emmer, the Hebrew word for mother), and farro grande (spelt). Grains of wild einkorn have been found in Epi-Paleolithic sites of the Fertile Crescent, and can be found in some health food stores today. Emmer, the most common variety found in Italy, is grown in Tuscany. Spelt is commonly grown in Germany and Switzerland and is eaten and used in much the same way. [2][3]

Farro has a nutty flavor and chewy texture, and resembles barley. It is high in protein and low in calories. It is an excellent form of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, vitamin B3, zinc, magnesium, and iron, and it contains antioxidents. Unfortunately, it does contain gluten, but farro easy to digest. It’s rich in the cyanogenic glucosides, which will stimulate the immune system, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol. [4]

This is how you cook farro.


(YouTube link) Not an endorsement. There are cheaper brands.

If you watch more videos on farro, you'll notice that there are different ways to cook it. Just as with rice, you can cook it with chicken broth or vegetable broth, giving it more flavor. You can also presoak it, or gently toast the grains in oil or butter, then add the liquid to cook. I've also noticed that cooks use different amounts of water to cook the farro in, but I suspect they want a different end result.

Farro is used by a lot of cooks in salads, as you will see in this Farro and Grape Salad recipe.


(YouTube link) (Start at 1:16)

Food Network Farro Recipes

Related Posts
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 1
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 2 (Quinoa)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 3 (Bulgur)
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 4 (Freekah)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 4


Freekeh is an ancient grain, and has been enjoyed for centuries in countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. Freekeh (pronounced "free-kah") is gaining popularity in American kitchens, and it too has noted health benefits. It has four times the fiber of brown rice, which helps keep blood sugar low, and it has powerful vision protectors, compared to other grains. It's also known to help increase healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. It compares well to other healthy grains such as quinoa and farro.

Freekeh is made from young wheat, typically durum, that is harvested while still green. It's put through a roasting and rubbing process during production. It has a smoky, nutty flavor and a firm, chewy texture similar to bulgur. This is the way it's produced.

(YouTube link)

If that doesn't scare you away, you'll find Freekeh to be versatile and easy to work with in the kitchen. It cooks in 20 minutes and can easily be substituted for rice. It can be eaten as a cereal, in the form of puddings, in soups, casseroles or even enjoyed as a pilaf/side dish. [1]

Here's some more background, and a cooking demo.

(YouTube link)

This isn't a Middle Eastern dish, but it does incorporate Freekeh into a healthy recipe.

Kale and Freekeh Soup
1 cup wholegrain freekeh, cooked until tender
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 bunch kale, chopped and deveined
2 quarts of  vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat oil in a large pot, add onion, garlic and carrots and cook for a few minutes. 
  2. Add kale and vegetable stock (start with 2 litres, add more if necessary) and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 
  4. Finally, add cooked freekeh to the soup and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Turn off the heat and serve. Serves 4
Related Posts
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 1
The Mediterranean Way to Eat: Grains - Part 3 (Bulgur)