Farming in an urban setting

One day I was looking at my back yard, and I couldn’t help but notice how large and useless it was.  Sitting there all vast and green.

The soil needed tilling, huge rocks had to be picked up and moved, two by fours had to be driven into the ground, wire fence wrapped around it.  Seeds needed sowing, squirrels needed shooing, I needed all of it.  In one weekend in April the site of my very first micro farm was readied.  Over the next few weeks I planted seeds, a few weeks later I put in some starter plants like lettuce and kale.

And now I check up on the garden every morning and every evening. Whoever said watching grass grow was boring has never beheld pea shoots becoming long curling vines with beautiful pink flowers at the ends.

“The sleep of plants must be a very light one, and stirred by many ambitious dreams”

William Beebe

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ChocoChia Mousse

Need:

1/3 cup white chia

1 can coconut milk

cacao powder (to taste, about 1/2 cup)

sweetener of choice (honey for paleo, agave nectar for vegans) to taste

A vessel you can seal and store in the refrigerator (I prefer mason jars for…everything)

Method:

Pour coconut milk into vessel of choice, follow that with the chia seeds, cacao and sweetener, you’ll need a few taste tests to get the right amount of cacao and sweetener, add a little at a time and test frequently, over sweetening could prove disastrous.  I always try to remember what my Grammy taught me…sometimes less really is more!  Put the lid on and give it a good shake, store in the refrigerator overnight, by the morning you’ll have a moussey, chocolately, chia delight. Enjoy!

xx

Dreamcatcher DIY

Originating from the Ojibwe people of North America, dream catchers come from a particular story about the spider woman, Asibikaashi.   This woman used to watch over all the children of her people, but as they began to scatter across North America, she was unable to do this for everyone.  So they began making dream catchers, made to mimic a spider’s web.  Bad dreams get caught as an insect gets caught in a spider web, good dreams pass through and down the feathers and into the sleeping person’s mind.

I created mine with a metal hoop wrapped in leather rope; I then wrapped alpaca yarn around a quarter of the hoop, then preceded to create my web.  In one I wove beads right into the web, in all three I hung circular beads in the center.  From the bottom I incorporated a few feathers, but focused on textiles; alpaca yarn and two types of ribbon.

It is said that whenever a section of the dream catcher moves of its own accord, a dream has just passed through it.

This work was similar to my work with crochet, it was meditative.  It was a change of pace to work with such a variety of media, now one hangs above my bed, one above my niece’s, and one found a home in Nashville, Tennessee with my best friend Sarah.

Paleo Valentine’s Day Cookies (guaranteed to make your heart go pit-a-patter)

What you need:

Cookies

(Makes 30)

1/2 cup of coconut oil (melted)

6 eggs

3/4 cup of honey

1 1/2 cup coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

orange zest to taste

2 tsp vanilla extract

Frosting

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 tbs coconut oil (melted)

5 strawberries (pureed)

Method

1. Mix coconut oil, eggs, honey with hand mixer until frothy, using wooden spoon mix in vanilla and orange zest.  Mix in coconut flour and baking soda, set in refrigerator one hour to chill.

2. Preheat oven to 350, roll out dough between two pieces of parchment until 1/4 inch thick, cut out cookie forms and place onto baking sheet lined with parchment.  Bake about ten minutes (or until golden) and transfer to cooling rack.

3. Melt chocolate and coconut oil together in microwave in thirty second intervals, stirring between each cycle until bowl no longer feels hot.  Mix in pureed straweberries and frost your cooled off cookies.

4. ENJOY! Perfect snack for Valentine’s Day parties at school (they were a huge hit with my 2 year old niece and her ENTIRE class…and her Mama…and Da…and Mimi and Popop.  These are just a win all around. I ate twelve. In one sitting.)

xx

Paleo Eggplant Bites

Since I began cooking I’ve always looked for substantial replacements for meatballs, so I began making eggplant “meat” balls.  Since my Paleo lifestyle change I’ve missed these hearty bites that can be put on anything from salads to wraps, so I’ve replaced the quinoa I originally used with cauliflower, my new favorite versatile vegetable.

What you need:

1 eggplant

1 head of cauliflower, stalk removed cut into bite sized florets

flax meal

1 egg

curry powder, garlic salt, ginger, cumin, pepper

Method

1. Poke holes in eggplant with a fork all over, place on baking sheet and roast at 350 until the eggplant collapses on itself, about 1 hour (faster methods: skin, cube, and roast or saute until soft)

2. While eggplant cooks, places cauliflower bits into food processor and pulse until the pieces are as small as bulgur and it’s light and fluffy.

3. Transfer cauliflower to large saute pan (no need for oil) and saute, stirring frequently, for 7-10 minutes.

4. Place cauliflower into a large mixing bowl, add about 1/2 teaspoon of each spice (or as much as you’d like)

5. Remove the eggplant from the oven and wait until it is cool enough to handle, then scoop out the inside with a spoon, place in the food processer and pulse until a somewhat smooth texture is achieved. (chunks are exciting, leave ’em)

6. Add eggplant and egg to cauliflower mixture and mix with hands until well combined, sprinkle flax meal as needed so balls hold together. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper and roll mixture into one inch balls and place onto sheet.  Be sure none are touching, air needs to circulate.

7. Bake for 20 minutes, when outsides are lightly browned, use a spatula to carefully turn each one, bake an additional ten minutes keeping a close eye so none burn.

8. When you remove them from the oven you can eat them hot or cold (when I come home from work I’ll eat a couple cold if I’m really hungry).  Put them in wraps, over spaghetti squash, or in a salad.

Enjoy

xx

Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes WITH CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Stop it. I know. I literally can’t even.  Gluten free, paleo,  HEALTHY cupcakes.

Makes 12

What you need:

(cupcakes)

½ cup coconut flour

½ cup cocoa powder

4 eggs

2 medium banana (smashed)

½  cup coconut oil

1 cup honey

½  teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch of sea salt

(frosting)

2 ripe avovados

½ cup cocoa powder

½ cup of honey

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Combine coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, sea salt
  3. In a separate bowl combine eggs, coconut oil, lemon juice, honey, banana
  4. Add dry to wet and mix to combine, fill lined muffin tin ¾ full.
  5. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean
  6. While the cupcakes are baking, using a hand mixer beat avacados until smooth and no lumps remain.
  7. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until smooth and thick.
  8. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost them up!

Enjoy!

xx

Paleolithic Parsnips: Sour Cream & Onion Matchsticks

I am, as a rule, not one to jump on ban wagons and follow trendy fads.  But due to my pancreas issues, the Paleo Diet has captured my attention.  While it is an amazing diet for losing weight my goal is to stabilize my blood sugar, spikes and drops of which leave me weak as a kitten.  I’m generally not a fan of meat but I tolerate some chicken cut up on top of my salads etc.  The real pull of this diet, however, are the constraints and the culinary creativity required to create exciting and enticing meals.

That being said prepare yourself for Paleo friendly snacking with my Paleolithic Parsnips, a take on the addicting sour cream and onion chip without ANY guilt…NONE.

Also prepare yourself for few measurements, the beauty of this recipe is to season “to taste”.  Just take it easy on the salt, while there’s no real limit to the salt you can add the parsnips have this beautiful sweet earthy flavor that about two healthy pinches of salt enhance.  Don’t mask the beautiful nature of your foods!

Ingredients

Parsnips (cut down into matchstick sizes, variation is okay as this will add texture later on)

1/4 cup coconut oil (melted)

To taste: salt, pepper, onion powder, a healthy squeeze of lemon juice

Method

1. Preheat Oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine all the other ingredients, mix well using your hands (before washing off the oil I rub it in for a few minutes, the spices and salt act like exfoliates and the coconut oil is moisturizing…PALEO)

3. Spread parsnip bits into a single layer on your baking sheet.

4. Bake 15 minutes, remove from oven, stir around the bits and redistribute into a single layer.  Bake an additional 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on your parsnips, I prefer mine with some burned bits as they add an interesting flavor/texture, but remove yours when they start to brown a bit if you must.

5. LET THEM COOL A BIT, I burnt my tongue eating them fresh out of the oven!

I sprinkle these on top of my salads or use for a snack while I’m on a Netflix Binge (did you know they have ten seasons of Friends on there? Yeah…)

Enjoy!

xx

DIY Mason Jar Sewing Kit

As I grow older I’m realizing the magic of Christmas is in the love and thought put into each gift, not the monetary value.  This year I decided to go on a crafting spree, since my obsession with mason jars is more intense than ever, I went on an Pinterest scavenger hunt until I came across the perfect gift for my sister: an adorable sewing kit.

 

Hand Painted Chevron Accent Wall

 

I’m one of those weird people that thrive on a serious challenge.  Staring at my bright orange walls one morning I decided I needed to paint.   I’ve been obsessed with turquoise and grey for a while now and the chevron pattern has begun accenting many aspects of my life, from my phone case to my sheets.  So I figured why not paint it on a wall.

 

The method seemed obvious to me, measure out a grid pattern of dots on my wall (I settled on thirty inches horizontally and five inches vertically) and basically “connect the dots” in the chevron pattern.  The tricky part was when I reached the bottom and had some partial lines to make, but I solved that by making small triangles five inches from the line above.  Once it was all taped out I painted the turquoise over the grey I’d picked out but AS IF THAT WEREN’T ENOUGH I took it a step further and hand painted a tiny line of a glossy, muted yellow on the bottom of each chevron.  Following you’ll see my masterpiece.  I wake up every day, look at this wall, and pat myself on the back, it’s a total ego boost to be able to be proud of yourself at least once a day.

 

What’s that smell?! The low-down on telling whether or not your once fresh and bountiful produce is still edible.

It happened today around 3:30 pm, a hankering for a delicious, social network post worthy smoothie.   I opened the fridge and began digging round for a mish-mosh of vitamin packed veggies and fruits to blend together into a smoothie that will, god willing, yield a vibrant color I can enhance with LoFi and post to every social media outlet.

During my rummaging some questions came to mind; how long ago did I buy that? How much mold really is too much mold? What’s that smell?

After settling on some questionable strawberries and spinach that left something to be desired, I blended (after taking about thirty pictures of my ingredients pre and post blend and feeling superior to everyone having chips or popcorn for a snack) and decided to get to the bottom of these questions I haven’t had the guts to look into.  I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve eaten something spoiled from every food group, secretly I hope you have too, and here are my findings.

Info gathered from the USDA website http://www.fsis.usda.gov/

#1 fact learned: one rotten apple does not spoil the bunch! Just because you find one spoiled fruit in your bunch doesn’t mean everything else in the bag has gone bad, depending on your gag reflex you can, in theory, eat every other piece of fruit immediately and be fine.  My tactic: freeze, blend, and give away everything you can.

Our first question, how much mold is too much mold?!   Cue gag reflex, mold isn’t like bacteria which is too small to be seen, mold is made up of so many cells which form roots that burrow into your produce and sprout stalks with spores above the surface they can be seen with the naked eye.  Credit where credit is due I must admit the USDA did find a beautiful way of describing how these spores spread “When airborne, the spores spread the mold from place to place like dandelion seeds blowing across a meadow.”  Lovely.

Okay, mold is gross, but is it dangerous? It can cause allergic responses and respiratory problems and some carry mycotoxins that are poisonous and make you sick.  If you find a moldy food item DO NOT SNIFF IT, that’s what it wants you to do.   Properly discard or use the moldy food, clean the area of the fridge where you found it and check the rest of your food, we don’t want a bunch of dandelions popping up all over the place!

Here is your guide on handling moldy foods:

  •  lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs DISCARD
  • hard salami and dry-cured country hams USE (scrub off that mold and don’t tell anyone!)
  • cooked leftover meat DISCARD
  • cooked casseroles DISCARD
  • cooked grain and pasta DISCARD
  •  hard cheese USE (I’ve heard it tastes better ;] simply cut one inch around and below mold spot, don’t touch the knife to any of the mold due to cross-contamination, and re wrap a little tighter this time)
  •  soft cheeses DISCARD
  •  yogurt, sour cream, jams, jellies DISCARD (that wasn’t a tasty bit of avocado in my sour cream as it turns out)
  •  peanut butter, legumes, nuts, bread and baked goods DISCARD (my god the mold I’ve eaten)
  • soft fruits and veggies such as cucumbers and peaches DISCARD
  • hard (hehe) fruits and veggies such as carrots and cabbage USE (cut around it one inch just like the cheese taking care not to cross-contaminate and ask the person that consumes it if they think it was aged appropriately).

Next, expiration dates, does anyone really follow them? Well as it turns out you should, for a more lengthy list of the food-borne pathogens that can be lurking in expired or improperly stored food go to the USDA website.  From that list a few I could actually pronounce and recognize were: staph infection, salmonella (over 2,300 types WOWZA), and noroviruses.

To avoid illness, make sure all your products have expiration/packing dates and if they don’t, use a Sharpie and write the date you bought it.  Trust me I just started doing this and I already feel better than everyone else.

A cursory glance at my refrigerator and I found these guidelines most helpful based on what was in there

  • leftovers, cooked veggies, soups and stews, 3-4 days
  • cooked chicken or turkey 1-2 days; opened package of lunch meat 3-5 days unopened 2 weeks
  • hamburger and ground meats 1-2 days
  • bacon 7 days

According to the USDA the golden rule is “when in doubt throw it out!” If it’s slimy, smelly, or, damn, you just can’t remember where that came from, toss it.

Finally, what is that smell?  After employing visual check for mold, checking the expiration date, and it smells kind of funny, ask a loved one.  If they agree it stinks and it’s not some paranoid delusion in your head, toss it and store it better next time! I’ll still love you :] I promise.