Thursday, April 19, 2012

Whole Wheat Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies




I have been craving (with a capital "C") Cookies!!  As far as I am away from even caring about processed and refined foods, I get this little bug every once in a while for a buttery, yummy chocolate chip cookie.  Usually, the craving goes away, and I don't even bother trying to come up with a solution for it, but this time, that was so not the case.

I have tried honey based cookies in the past, and they always come out too cake-like because of all the extra liquid.  It's almost like the cookies steams itself while it's cooking.  This time, I boiled the honey into a caramel first and out came a crisp yummy cookie.  Eureka...just what I was looking for!!

 

WHOLE WHEAT HONEY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE

1/2 c. Honey (raw, local)
1/2 c. Butter (organic, unsalted)
2 Eggs (organic, farm fresh)
1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract
1 c. Whole White Wheat Flour (organic, fresh milled)
2 c. Rolled Oats (organic)
1/4 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1 1/2 c. Chocolate Chips (organic, 65% or higher cacao content)
Optional (but so much better with!):
1/2 c. Walnuts (organic)
1/2 c. Raisins (organic)
Preheat oven to 350

Bring the honey and butter to a slow boil in a sauce pan on medium high heat.  Once it starts to boil, allow it to come to temperature of about 225.   Remove caramel from heat and allow it to cool for 5 minutes.  Whisk eggs in a separate bowl.   Temper the eggs by adding a tablespoon of the caramel at a time to the eggs while whisking.  Once you have added about half of the caramel to the eggs, you can go ahead and combine it with the remainder of the caramel.  Add vanilla and mix well.

In separate bowl whisk together dry ingredients.    Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine.  Your mixture will still be warm, so allow it to cool in the refrig for 30 minutes or so before you add the chocolate chips.  

Once mixture has cooled and you have mixed in the chips, spoon the mixture onto baking sheets (makes about 2 dozen).  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until just brown around the edges.

Enjoy!!!




Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Toiling with the Land: Getting Rid of Tomato Worms


Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;  Cursed is the ground because of you;  In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. “Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.  Genesis 3:17-18

THANKS A LOT, ADAM!!!

Part of the reason for my lack of blog posts the past few weeks is a serious case of Genesis 3:17-18.  We have been infested with worms at the community garden, and they just reared their ugly heads in the front yard too!!!   What's funny, is they are a type of worm we've never even seen in our garden before...EVER! 

"Project Rid the Garden of Worms" started during our Spring Break week.  The first day, I boiled me up a heapin' pot of garlic and hot pepper tea.  I just boiled up a pot of water, smashed about 7-8 heads of garlic with the back side of my knife, threw them in the pot (skins and all), dumped about a cup of dried, ground, hot peppers (we had some habaneros we had grown last year) and let it boil.  Once it boils, turn the water off and let it steep for up to 24 hours.  Strain it and spray it all over the leaves of the plants. 

Side Note:  WEAR GLOVES!!!!  If you a little on the slow side like me, :), you might be tempted to not heed that warning.  Believe me, it's a mistake you don't want to make.  I was holding the leaves of the plants in my hands while spraying them and not even thinking about the strength of the hot peppers in my concoction.   Lord have mercy, my hands burned so bad for an entire day straight, I was completely dysfunctional!!  It about drove me to the brink of insanity!!  The only thing that finally took the burn away (and believe me, I tried EVERYTHING)  was soaking my hands in rubbing alcohol until the burn got so intense that I thought I was going to pass out.  This is coming from a girl who actually gave birth with no drugs and still swears it didn't hurt that bad.  The moral of the story...wear gloves!!

Next step...hand pick, and pick, and pick and pick some more.   Most worms only come out in the cool weather (which means evenings and into the morning until the sun starts getting too hot for them).  So, if you're looking to get rid of the little boogers, the early bird gets the worm. 

Then, a dose of our now must-have microbial organisms gave the plants some extra fighting strength. 

With those methods, we were able to mostly rid the garden of the leave munching nuisances, but some were just as persistent as can be, so we had to hit it with a round of thuricide.  I really don't like using thuricide because of the controversial reports on it, so it is only an ABSOLUTELY, HAVE-TO thing for us. Thuricide is a liquid bacteria that messes with the worm's digestive system and makes them not want to eat.  They starve in a few days after eating a leaf sprayed with the bacteria.

After two straight weeks of work, the good news...the plants are thriving, producing and doing well...yey!!!

Through all the frustration and sweat, the whole process was an amazing reminder that we live in a fallen world, and there's nothing that we can do about it.  Believe me, those worms will be back.  The best news...Jesus has already taken care of it for us (worms and all)!!!   Even as we will toil with the soil here on earth, He is preparing a place for us where there is no worms eating your tomatoes, no diseases destroying your body, no sadness and no pain. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:1-6

Easter may be over until next year, but Christ is still risen, He will always be the only way, and He is coming back one day to take us to the place He has prepared for us.   So, when the worms have got you down, praise God for Hope!!

Happy Wednesday!!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pantry Raid #15: Pots and Pans


I've had a lot of readers ask me about what type of cooking and bakeware I like to use.  I have to admit, my selections were mostly on accident.   When I read up on it, I realized I was all good...whew!  My absolute preferred cooking surface is cast iron.  I really bucked using cast iron for years.  The hubby was raised on it, but the whole not washing it with soap and "seasoning" thing just scared the crumbs out of me.  When I finally caved, I couldn't help but wonder why in the world our generation seemed to have disregarded this amazing cooking surface.  Aside from the weight, the perks are endless.  My two favorite reasons to use cast iron--they are non-stick (when seasoned correctly) and indestructable.  I could go on forever about cast iron, but first, let's talk about what cookware options you have and which ones you may or may not want to be using if you are concerned about your health and/or the environment. 

Non-Stick:  In 1961, a new, technologically advanced cookware was introduced to the market with the claim that stuck on food was a thing of the past .  The cookware gained popularity as the "fat free" diet fad rose to its peak giving dieters a way to use less oils when cooking.  How does it work?  Most types are coated with a chemical called Polytetrafluoroethylene, which is most commonly known as the brand Teflon.  This chemical was accidentally discovered in 1938 when Roy Pluckett of Kinetic Chemicals was working on a new refrigerant using Tetrafluoroethylene. Unfortunately, when heated to tempatures above 200 degrees, the coating begins to deteriorate.  Most cookware is used at these tempatures on a daily basis.  Unpublished studies show that the deteriorated Teflon creates a by-product that has been tested to be lethal to birds and causes flu-like symptoms in humans. 

Aluminum:  Aluminum cookware can be purchased in two forms--anodized and non-anodized.  Anodized aluminum cookware has a coating that is created by placing the cookware in a bath of electrolytes like sulfuric acid and running an electrical current through the bath.  The result is a protective layer that keeps the aluminum from ozidizing which causes corrison, rusting and pitting.  My thoughts...the less chemicals the better.  Sulfuric acid is a highly hazardous chemical that, with high exposure, can cause nervous and respiratory system damage.  In regards to the environment, I give it a big thumbs down.  As far as your health, the coating (if undamaged) restricts the leaching of aluminum into your food.  Studies have shown that testing in Alzheimer's patients reveals a common link of aluminum found in their blood streams.

Stainless Steel:    Stainless Steel is deemed a safe cookware.  Look for cookware marked 18/10 stainless steel, which means 18% chromium and 10% nickel.  This type of cookware releases about 45 micrograms of chromium into each meal cooked, which is less than the published "safe" intake.  If you have a sensitivity to nickel, steering clear of stainless steel cookware is suggested.   

Cast Iron:  Cast iron cookware is made by heating iron to extremely high levels and casting it into the desired form.  When seasoned properly, it is non-stick and will not rust.  It distributes and holds heat evenly through the cooking process.  It can withstand being placed in direct flames without being damaged.  I am telling you, these pots are indestructable!!  If I mess one up, I run it though the self cleaning oven cycle and reseason it.  Cooking in cast iron can actually be healthy because it leaches additional iron into your food as it cooks.  Before aluminum cookware was introduced, cast iron was pretty much the universal choice of cookware.  All over the world, people are using cast iron cookware that is generations old, because it last forever!

Glass, Stoneware and Ceramic:  Cookware made with glass, stone and ceramic materials are all perfectly safe cooking options.

Happy Cooking!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

BIG BLENDTEC SALE

***********BIG SALE***********

The excitement over my new Blendtec makes me want everyone to have one!!  This thing is awesome!!  Here's the deal...it's first come, first serve. 

The first person to contact me to order their new Blendtec will receive 20% off of their purchase.  That's over $90 off a new Wildside Blender!!

The next 5 people receive 15%

And, until tomorrow evening (4/12) at 9pm 10% off for all those that missed out on the 20% and 15% discounts. 

FB Message or email me to get your discount amount now!! 

Good Luck!!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Amazing Plant Growth Enhancer


A friend of mine gave me a sample of an organic, microbial, plant-growth enhancer to test out on the garden.  The supposed effect that interested me the most was it's ability to assist the plants in water and nutrient absorption.   Three weeks ago, we started our field study.  The plants in the front yard were treated with the microbes and, a week later, a dose of the usual fish emulsions.  The plants at the community garden were treated with just the fish emulsion. 

I am amazed to say that the front yard is light years ahead of the community garden.  The plants are not needing as much water, they are lush and gorgeous and already producing.  Whereas, normally, we would have been watering twice a day during these high-heat spells we are experiencing.  We have not even staked the tomatoes yet, and they are doing beautifully.  In addition, because they are so healthy, we are not seeing bugs at all. 

 



 

 

The community garden is growing...just not as well.  There is growth, it's just not as pretty, and it's happening at a much slower pace.  Factoring in the mass amounts of plants and some surrounding gardens that are not tended as well as others, the bug issue we've had at the community garden may not have been nearly as bad under other conditions, but unfortunately, we have had a worm problem this week.  A good spray with some garlic/hot pepper tea and a heavy dose of thuricide seems to have cleared it up.  

Past crops in both gardens have done equally well, so, needless to say, we will be spraying the community garden this week with some microbes.  I can't wait to see what the results will be!! 

If you are interested in testing out the microbes out on your own garden, check out http://www.myearthitecture.com/ and get in contact with Emmanuelle.

Happy Gardening!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Break Bucket List





Most Spring Breaks, we wake up every morning and fly by the seat of pants for the day racking our brains on what fun activity we can do next.  I love having all the kids home, but keeping them entertained for a week straight is enough to give me a full head of gray overnight. 

Over the past month, the lure of Pinterest has sucked me in.  I can't help but check it everyday to see what kind of fun ideas all my friends are pinning.  Last week, I saw the most genius idea...a Spring Break Bucket List!   I even pinned it on my "Genius" board...lol!  We sat down one night over dinner and talked about some fun ideas to fill up our week.  What I found to be most entertaining was that the majority of the ideas were centered around food.

Make doughnuts
Make cupcakes
Go out for ice cream

Steak Night (the Hubby's idea :))

Of course we had the standard list.

Go to the pool
Bike to the beach
Go fishing
Dye eggs
Easter egg hunt

My additions...

Clean winter clothes out of the closets
Catch up on laundry :)

Then, a few extras...

Just veg
See the cousins
Do some of the crafts that have been piling up for years in our closets.

Today, while we are patiently waiting on the sun to come out, I am so glad we made this list.  There is a pile of unopened boxes in each of the kids' closets of fun pre-packaged crafts that they've gotten as gifts somewhere along the line.  At least once a month,  someone asks to do one of the crafts, and knowing that they need batteries (that I never seem to have or don't work if I have them)

 
involve paint or will somehow become a disaster (emotionally, which happened anyway,

 
or physically), I have found ways to delay the crafting.  Well, today, I am out of excuses and it's pottery time (without the batteries).




I think it may have been a positive for the sake of my sanity that the batteries were not working and each kid is working with their own little ball of clay.

 

It really is fun to see their imagination at work!

 

Thank you Pinterest!!    

Friday, March 30, 2012

Broccoli Sprouts



Last week, I caught myself spending a bit too much time perusing through the internet trying to find the perfect price on seeds for sprouting.  Luckily, I have come to a place in life where I am aware of when I pushing myself to the brink of obsession and know when to stop now.  My problem..the natural foods co-op offered a pound of alfalfa seeds for sprouting at the best price, but delivery time wasn't soon enough for me.  Whether it be broccoli or alfalfa, I must have sprouts with my tomatoes!!  It's one of my many quirks :).

Then, I had one of those "ah, ha" moments.  Duh, Danielle...you have a ton of broccoli in the front yard going to seed! With some good planning, the seeds can be dried and sprouted just in time for the first round of tomatoes.  Here's how...

I have a garden full of broccoli looking like this and attracting bees like crazy, so I haven't cleared it out yet.



A closer look shows all the cool little seed pods shouting off each flower stem.

     
As they get large enough, you just pick them off and let them dry in the sun.

Or, if you have more patience than me.  You can wait until the whole stem is covered in pods that are ready, and just pluck the entire stem and let it dry out.  Either way :)

When they are dry, you will break the pods open and collect your seeds.

Broccoli sprouts are the most nutrient dense sprouts you can consume.  One ounce of broccoli sprouts contains 4% of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber, 15% of the recommended amount of vitamin C, and 2% of the recommended intake of calcium.  Studies have even shown they sprouts contain an anti-cancer compound called sulforaphane.  Healthy and delicious...who wouldn't want to eat these everyday?!?!?
Keep an eye out for the next post on how to sprout them...I can't wait!!

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Homemade Butter





One of the class experiments that my kids rave about for months after they experience it is always butter-making.  It will usually be around the Fall and either their teacher or one of those really fun moms will bring in baggies or little jars of cream for the kids to shake up until it turns into a beautiful, luscious, creamy BUTTER!!!   I have I mentioned that I adore butter!   

Butter has gotten a pretty bad rap over the years.  Contrary to popular belief, it actually contains nutrients that are GOOD for your heart like Vitamin A, Vitamin K, antioxidants and lecithin.  The kicker...the levels of these vitamins are very low in the average stick of butter found on the grocery store shelf.  If you are looking for a healthy version of butter, buy grass-fed.  

Why grass-fed?  Because in some grain-fed butters, these vitamins are lacking completely.  High levels of these vitamins can be found in grass-fed butters.  Do a quick experiment at home.  Buy a stick of grass-fed and one of the regular grocery store sticks.  Open them up and look at the color.  This in itself will show you the major difference.  

Why is the grass-fed so yellow?  It's the higher levels of carotene and Vitamin A (like carrots).  I think it is so fun that the level of vitamins is actually visible to the eye!!!  Quality grass-fed butter comes from cows that eat a more nutrient rich diet.  They are eating what God designed them to eat--grass.

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate--bringing forth food from the earth...   Psalms 104:14 

You can find grass-fed (pastured) butter in most grocery stores.  I just made my own, because I had some grass-fed cream that needed to be used up and...it's fun!

HOMEMADE BUTTER RECIPE

Are you ready for this...it's the hardest thing ever (just kidding).

Pour cream into bowl.  Beat with mixer until the fat separates from the liquid (past the stage of whipped cream).  Strain off the liquid (buttermilk) and Enjoy!!!

I used the buttermilk to make some muffins, and then put the butter on the muffins...heaven!!!

Happy Butter Making!! 
 

Here's a qui    


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Exciting News!!


I got the confirmation this morning...Big Life, Little Garden is now affliated with Blendtec!!  That means that our readers will be the first to know about all the great deals and any fun going-ons at Blendtec.  That also means lots of fun posts on how to use a Blendtec if you have one!  If you don't have one, as of this morning, you can purchase one right through Big Life, Little Garden!! 



Monday, March 26, 2012

Whole Wheat Soft Pretzels




Back when I was pretty much nothing short of a mall-rat give or take a few years in the maturity department at the ripe age of 26, one of my favorite things about the mall was the soft pretzels.  I think I used the excuse that I was sharing it with my daughter, so the impact they had on my hips (never mind my health) was somehow lessened...as if a nine-month-old made that much of a dent in my caloric intake.

I still get hit with an occasional craving for one of those warm, melt in your mouth delights, and this recipe is just the thing to satisfy.  The kids love them in their lunches too!!  Throw in a veggie and some good, raw cheese and they are on cloud nine thinking they got something extra special for the day.

WHOLE WHEAT SOFT PRETZEL RECIPE

  • 1 1/8 cups Water (70 to 80 degrees F)
  • 3 cups Whole White Wheat Flour (fresh milled, organic if you have access)
  • 3 tablespoons Honey (raw and local)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
  • 2 quarts Water
  • 1/2 cup Baking soda
  • 4 tablespoons Butter, melted (organic)
  • Coarse Sea Salt
Preheat oven to 425

Mix together first four ingredients.  Knead for 10 minutes (by hand or can use dough hook on stand 
mixer).

     

Let rise until double in size.



Turn dough out onto a floured surface.


Divide dough into eight balls.  Roll each into a 20-in. rope; 


Form into pretzel shape




In a saucepan, bring water and baking soda to a boil.   Drop pretzels into boiling water, one at a time; boil for 10-15 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels. 

Place pretzels on greased baking sheets or a wired rack over a baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. 



Lightly brush with butter. Sprinkle with salt.  Enjoy!!


Happy Monday!!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen



For many, buying 100% organic is not an option either due to availability or budget constraints.  In either of these cases, knowing which fruits and veggies are most or least contaminated in the growing process provides excellent ammunition when trying to make decisions while grocery shopping. 

I got this list from EWG.  The Enviromental Working Group is a Washington DC based team made up of scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers who make it their sole purpose to "use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment".  Check them out on ewg.org.  Their website has all types of great information!!

What are the dirty dozen you ask?  They are the 12 fruits and veggies that leave the consumer most exposed to chemical toxins from pesticides and fertilizers.

This is the most current list in order of contamination--apples being the most contaminated. 
Apples
Celery
Strawberries
Peaches
Spinach
Nectarines
Grapes
Sweet Bell Peppers
Potatoes
Blueberries-Domestic
Lettuce
Kale/Collard Greens

What is the Clean Fifteen?  The fifteen fruits and veggies that leave the consumer least exposed to chemical toxins from pesticides and fertilizers.  I'm not saying don't buy these organic, but if the option is not there to buy organic, then "settling" is ok :)  Buying organic whenever possible supports the environment and eliminates your consumption of chemical toxins through your food (which is always a good thing).

Here's the list with mushrooms being the cleanist.
Onions
Sweet Corn
Pineapples
Avocado
Asparagus
Sweet peas
Mangoes
Eggplant
Cantaloupe - domestic
Kiwi
Cabbage
Watermelon
Sweet potatoes
Grapefruit
Mushrooms
Happy Shopping!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Transitioning the Garden--Spring Planting


Even though it is so hard to believe that yesterday was the first day of Spring, considering our weather in the high 80's for the past two weeks, I am so excited it's officially here!  We came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that unless God had a seriously different plan, the odds of another frost were right up there with pigs flying (watch us get another frost now...lol).  So, the Spring plants are in the ground...woohoo!!

Not that I am tired of eating all the yummy winter veggies, but how many different ways to prepare cabbage can a girl come up with?!?!  I am SO ready for some new variety.

I am especially ready for some tomatoes!! 



We loaded up the car last weekend and headed over to the community garden to plant these beauties.


Three rows of them!! I can't wait!!


We ran out of space and had to start pulling onions so we could plant tomatoes in between them.  Sometimes you have to do unconventional things like that to make use of the space you have available.  It always ends up surprising me how pretty mixing the plants can look.  


Another 30 or so tomato plants got a new home in the front yard amongst the broccoli.  As the broccoli goes to seed to collect for sprouting, we will be replacing them with peppers and eggplant...if the tomatoes leave some room :)


We are experimenting with a few new varieties of cucumbers this year, and put those down last weekend as well.


Our experiment with dumping some corn seeds in a pot seems to be working...a little too well.  Aesthetically speaking, I'm a bit nervous about the end result of this one.


Here's what's left of the Winter garden.  They will soon all be replaced with cucumbers, squash, peppers, eggplant, okra, peas, beans, a new round of herbs, ground cherries and tomatoes.  









Farewell Winter, Hello Spring!!!

Happy Planting!!