Sunday, January 27, 2013

Garden Mapping

It's nearing the end of January, and our table has had a pile of seed catalogues with pages marked for some weeks now.  We make our annual pilgrimage to the Guelph Organic Conference at the end of the month, and like to buy most of our seeds there directly from the growers.  We've also had good success with seeds from High Mowing Seeds in Vermont, a small company with great ethics (100% organic and non-GMO) and beautiful selection exceptional greens and unique heirloom varieties.   We have also saved some of our own seeds for planting so each year our needs for purchasing decreases somewhat, as our own get established.

For the locals - please take note to SAVE THE DATE - our 11th annual Organic Seedling Sale is set for Saturday, May 18th from 9 am-12 noon.  More details about plants and vendors to come... (on blog and website).

As we were working on our garden plan and seed lists, our daughter made her own garden map.  She has her own small plot in the yard where she can plant, tend and eat what she wants.  She cut out pictures from old seed catalogues and mapped out what she wanted - this year her garden map has strawberries, corn, beans for climbing on the trellis, and lots of flowers, plus stepping stones and a log for sitting.  We'll see if we can make it all happen!

Spelt Banana Bread

We're always on the look-out for healthy snacks, including wheat and sugar free options whenever possible.  We are having fun going through Molly Katzen's kids cookbooks with our almost-5 year old, who loves helping in the kitchen.  The recipes are simple, healthful and vegetarian - three things that are surprisingly hard to find in a kids cookbook!  The books include step-by-step pictures so kids can follow the recipe even if they are not fully reading yet.  We see how kitchen projects can build confidence for children - reading, measuring, numbers, cooperation as well as independence, learning to following something from start to finish to get delicious results - not to mention creativity, as each recipe gets adapted based on what we decide want to add or change.  Needless to say, we love working together in the kitchen as a family and try to do a little of that every day. 

Here is a new favourite recipe for a banana bread that is sugar-free.  It's great for breakfast or mid-day snacks, and has lots of stages for kids to help (mashing bananas, beating eggs, mixing dry, mixing wet, etc):

Spelt Banana Bread


2 cups whole spelt flour (or other flour you wish to use)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnut
1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional (this makes the bread a little sweeter)

4 bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk or milk substitute (or even yogurt)
1/2 cup applesauce, pearsauce, applebutter, plumbutter (whatever you have)
1 tsp pure vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350F.  Oil large loaf pan.
2) Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.  Mix wet ingredients in another bowl.  Combine wet with dry.
3) Stir just to combine, do not over-mix at this stage.
4) Bake aprox. 55 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean.  Let cool before cutting.

New soaps - and soap classes

Since our holiday sale in December our soap stock has been seriously depleted.  I haven't had time to make new batches of soap until this past week, and was so happy to get my hands back into it.  I love making soaps - it's relaxing, creative, scientific, beautiful, and unique and slightly unpredictable every time.   Best of all, in making your own soap you know exactly what will be going on your skin.  Soaps can be modified to suit all skin types, also providing healing properties as well as good cleansing.  You can use local ingredients, herbs grown in your own garden, etc.  So, finally the soap batches are curing on our shelves again - including some of our old favourites (lavender-goatmilk, patchouli-cedar-sage, rosemary-lemongrass), loads of new shampoo bars, some wedding soaps I'm making for an early summer wedding, as well as soaps for our shop.  The new favourite as pictured below - a refreshing peppermint soap that is marbled with natural indigo.  So pretty! 

For those who have been asking, yes!  I'll be offering 3 soap workshops coming up this winter-spring: one in Feb, March and April.  This is the traditional cold process soap method, using lye, pure vegetable oils, and pure essential oils and botanicals.  Details (dates and registration) will be posted later this week - here on our blog and the website.  Sign up quickly if you want to take part - these soap classes fill up fast!

Homemade herbal cough drops

In the fall we made our annual cough syrups to be ready for cold and flu season.  We made a batch of elderberry-ginger syrup, and the stronger version: sage-horehound-astragalus syrup.  These effective and delicious syrups are made by simmering the medicinal herbs (berries, roots and leaves) for a lengthy time, adding honey and simmering long enough to get a syrup consistency.  We have made these healing syrups for several years with good success, but had never tried cough drops.  That's just what we did today.

Cough drops are made with the same ingredients as cough syrup, but the process is slightly different.  The ingredients are simmered long enough to reach a very hot temperature (over 300F) so everything solidifies into a hard candy.  Inspired by myhealthygreenfamily, here is how we did it - the method is very simple, but you need to be careful of the hot temperatures and work quickly when the candy starts to firm up.

Elderberry-Ginger Cough Drops

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup black cherry juice (no sugar added)
your choice herbal cold and flu tea (we used elderberry and lemon)
3 inches peeled organic ginger root
1/2 cup raw honey
powdered sugar for dipping afterward (or slippery elm powder, as suggested by a friend)

1) In a large pot bring water, juice, herbs and ginger root to a boil.  Set to simmering, and reduce from 2 cups down to 1/4 cup.  Strain the tea back into your large pot.
2) Now heat the reduced tea with the raw honey over low heat.  Do not let this boil over.  Stir constantly.  It will start to foam and bubble, and get extremely hot.
3) Stir constantly until tea-honey mixture reaches just over 300F.  Do not let this burn!  Remove from heat.
4) Pour quickly into candy molds, or onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper that is dusted with powdered sugar.
5) Once cooled, dust each candy with powdered sugar (this helps to keep them from sticking, but is really optional).  Store wrapped in parchment paper or in a glass mason jar.  Keeps one month, or longer if kept in freezer.