Did You Know?

Did you know??
Although using avocados and bananas are all the buzz now to get soft and shiny hair, all it will get you is a messy kitchen and bathroom. These products are great to help your hair for one day, but the proteins in them are way too big for your hair to absorb. And unless you are going to use them each day (yikes!), then you should head to a beauty supply store and check out some Vegan products that use "hydrolyzed" proteins - proteins from avocados and bananas that actually are small enough to help your hair.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Garden 2011 Recap

Looking back at the gardening year of 2011, even though it was rather cool and rainy, we were able to get a decent amount of vegetables out of the garden.  Ultimately, we ended up focusing on cooler-weather plants such as kale, spinach, arugula, and lettuce.  But, that's okay!  Better than nothing.  We tried growing cucumbers, squash, and zucchini in pots over mulch beds with little luck.  I'm not sure if that was because of the cool weather or because they were in pots-- after pulling them out for the fall, it didn't appear that the roots had needed more room, so I'm not too concerned about that.  Maybe it was because of the shade from the house compiled with the cloudy summer?

Our side-garden layout:  To the side of the small bed is our house/sun room, which were followed by the mulch beds further south where the cucumbers, zucchini, and squash grew.
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Our tomatoes did surprisingly well, and by well I mean they gave us about 5 pounds per plant-- nothing spectacular, but not too bad at all.  Considering the weather, I'm going to take that as a success.  I think I'll be moving the tomatoes to a place with more sun next summer-- we'll see how that works out.

The garlic appeared to need another year to really settle in, so we didn't pick any of it, and I'll let you know how it is next year.  The sunflowers also didn't end up doing so well in their position against the house-- I'm betting that there wasn't enough sunlight to help them grow.  However, some of them managed to shoot over the beans and wrap around the corner of the sunroom to catch more sun and grow a bit larger.

The beans grew well, providing almost five pounds by season's end (from this small section and the other-- see below), and I'll be saving plenty of the beans to plant for next year.  The celery, however, was delicious but small.  I've never grown celery in my life, so this was a completely new experiment which I'm feeling out as I go.

Below:  The larger portion of our garden-- you can see a weird section above the detailed drawing-- it's an only disposal/incinerary section that has a light covering of soil over the area.  Because of this, the space is limited primarily to plants that grow very shallow roots, and I've decided to put pots over the actual cast-iron incinerary hole cover with the squash.  This didn't work out well, so I'm going to try to come up with some better solutions for next year.

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As you can see above, we had a huge variety of stuff to grow.  We also have a fairly large space for gardening, concidering the city we're in.  I can't complain, except for the fact that we have a fair amount of trees providing shade over this space, making it a bit of a battlefield, especially in a summer like this past year's.

The corn as shown above, was growing surprisingly well, up until a storm completely eviscerated their existence.  It seemed that those that survived had stunted growth, and we didn't get any corn from them.  The beans, as stated earlier, did well, as did the peas (roughly 3 pounds of peas).  The eggplant gave us nothing-- they sat in the ground without growing almost the entire year.  I'm starting to think that the bushes to the east of our garden give too much shade to that area of the garden, and I should leave it mainly to low cool-weather greenery.  Sounds lik a good plan, right?

Both the carrots and the potatoes were first-time plants for me as well.  The potatoes did well, but were a bit small.  The carrots, on the other hand, were planted too closely together so they were wrapped over each other, none of which grew particularly large.  The Italian, banana, and jalepeno peppers did surprisingly well, as they were from seed (which we got nearly 30 peppers from), but the bell peppers only gave us maybe 6 peppers total.

Speaking of being concerned with the coolness of the east side of the garden, the broccoli, spinach, and kale did not do well-- they shot up too early, and gave us maybe three cups of greenery between the three of them.   I'm a bit doubtful about growing broccoli again, it seems to take up a lot of space without much return, but the kale is definitely going in next year.

Lastly, the onions and shallots were both absolutely delicious.  I wish I had planted more shallots, and I wish I had planted the onions further apart.  The only major concern I had with the onions was that they did not grow overly large, although again I think that was mostly weather-related.  Although, I do have concerns about my laziness in terms of weeding.

I've been reading more about urban gardening, and how a good garden shouldn't typically need to be weeded because you shouldn't have many weeds.  The idea is that you should have layers of plants-- i.e., lettuce growing underneath tomato plants-- the lettuce keeps weeds out, while the tomato provides shade for the lettuce.  This might be an experiment next year-- I will keep you updated!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chocolate Fig Biscotti







Ah, Fall is finally arriving in New England, and our fig tree was plenty generous this year. Unfortunately, all of them riped at once, and so we got a little brave with them and made some excellent biscotti. Biscotti are Italian breakfast cookies, typically twice baked and very hard as they are dipped in coffee as you eat them. The figs give a traditional chocolate biscotti a subtle fruity sweetness. I imagine dates would work as well if you needed to subsitute the figs.



Ingredients:
1 ½ cups of plain flour, sifted.
½ teaspoon of baking powder.
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder.
2/3 cup of sugar.
2/3 c silken tofu or 1 large mashed banana
1 cup of dark chocolate, chopped.
½ cup of dried figs, chopped.
1/2 tsp cinnamon (can be left out if you aren't a fan)
sugar for sprinkling



Preheat oven to 375°F.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, cocoa powder and cinnamon, if using, into a large bowl.

Chop up your chocolate and figs.



In a blender, puree the tofu until smooth and consistent. Pour this tofu mixture into a smaller bowl with chopped chocolate and chopped figs.

In three batches, add your tofu mixture to the dry ingredients. It's easiest to do this with your hards, so be prepared to get a little dirty.




Once your dough is stiff and solid, you can knead it on a lightly floured surface until it is completely smooth.

Roll out to form two large logs, like french bread loaves.

Flatten your logs slightly and place them on parchment paper. Sprinkle on some sugar to make the tops crispy and bake for about 20 minutes.

Once they are completely cool to the touch, cut your loaves into smaller cookies at a diagonal angle. You want them small enough to eat in a few bites, but also long enough to dip into coffee without melting your hands off on the first dip, so bear that in mind. Once all your cookies are cut, bake them again on your parchment paper at the lower temperature of 300 degrees for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until they are completely hard to the touch.

In order to be true to the hard, biscotti nature of breakfast cookies, you should let them cool before eating them. However, the cookies are rather good warm as well, particulary with the melty chocolate. We won't will blame you for not waiting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fresh Fig and Coconut Cashew Creme

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Figs are back in season,so what better way to announce it than to post a delicious recipe for a vegan fig dessert?  Not only is it vegan, but it's almost raw!  We managed to make it a weekend breakfast treat with some coffee, which combined to make a fantastic Saturday morning.  If you skim down and look at the nutritional facts, the numbers might scare you--but remember these are good fats from the cashews.  Here you go:


1 1/2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
3/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tspn salt
1/3 cup agave syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cocoa powder
8 fresh figs, cut in half
1/3 cup unsweetened, large coconut shreds, lightly toasted

Cover cashews in water and soak for at least 6 hours (but no more than 48).  When you're about to make this dessert, strain the cashews and preheat the oven at 350.

In a blender place cashews, 3/4 cup water, vanilla, salt, agave and coconut oil. Blend and pulse until completely smooth. Taste and add more sweetness or salt, if desired. Set aside.

After the cashew creme tastes how you'd like, slice figs and toast coconut shreds in a medium, un–greased pan for about 2 minutes, until coconut is slightly brown and fragrant and the figs are warm.

When serving, spread cashew cream onto the plate and arrange the figs on top.  Enjoy!


Caloric Info
Servings 6
Calories326.6
Total Fat: 23.7 grams
Sat Fat: 9.6 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 2.7 grams
Monosat. Fat: 9.5 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 106.3 mg
Potassium: 272.1 mg
Carbs: 25.0 grams
Dietary Fiber: 3.4 grams
Sugar: 12.6 grams
Protein: 6.2 grams

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ezykiel Bread

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During the fall, there is nothing better than warm, fresh bread.  This recipe is a vegan alternative to the famed Ezykiel Bread supposedly given from God to the chosen people.  Regardless of religious affiliation, this is a delicious and nutricious breakfast waiting to happen.  If you've never had it, you're in for a treat.  While the ingredients are a little bit expensive for this bread, if you buy these items in larger quantities it really isn't too bad.  I find that a lot of these ingredients have other uses that I wasn't aware of, mostly because I wouldn't have looked for uses for many of the items.  This bread goes great with Cinnamon and Nutmeg Coffee, and it's a great excuse to crank up the heat from the oven on a brisk morning (hey, we're in New England-- the rest of you get to enjoy summer for at least another month!).

Alas, here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups wheat berries
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup barley
1/2 cup millet
1/4 cup dry red lentils
2 tbsp dry great Northern beans
2 tbsp dry kidney beans
2 tbsp dry pinto beans
4 cups warm water (110 degrees/45 degrees C)
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2 tbsp salt


Mix the water, agave, oil, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir all the grains and beans together until well mixed.  Grind in a flour mill.  If you don't have a flour mill, a coffee grinder works well too.  If you don't have a coffee grinder either, try a food processor.

Add the freshly ground flower and salt to the large bowl with the yeast mixture; stir well until mixed, about 8-10 minutes.  The dough should be like that of a batter bread.  Pour dough into two well-greased 9x5 inch loaf pans.

Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour-- the dough should reach the top of the pan (or close to it).  I usually put it near the oven while it pre-heats (and I'm usually making something else at the same time, so around the oven works well).

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50 minutes to an hour, or until the loaves are golden brown.

Caloric Info
Servings 16
Calories240.3
Total Fat: 5.2 grams
Sat Fat: 0.7 grams
Polyunsat. Fat 0.8 grams
Monosat. Fat: 3.2 grams
Cholesterol: 0 grams
Sodium: 185.1 mg
Potassium: 188.2 mg
Carbs: 41.1 grams
Dietary Fiber: 8.8 grams
Sugar: 2.6 grams
Protein: 9.3 grams