Saturday, February 23, 2013

Garden Seedlings Update

My seedlings are doing well! In addition to my original batch of seedlings, I planted a whole flat of sugar snap pea seeds a week and a half ago. I had success with them last fall, but it got too cold before they could produce any peas. So, I am trying again this spring and wanted to give them a head start inside. They are doing great!

I started by soaking the seeds in filtered water for 48 hours, and changed the water twice a day. I have soaked all my seeds (beside the tiny lettuce seeds) in water and it really makes a difference in speeding up germination time! 

I put the lid on the tray while they were sprouting to trap in moisture and set it by the window. It only took three days for them to sprout! 

This photo was taken yesterday. They sprouted last weekend and have already grown so much. The plants seem really hardy and I can't wait to get them in the ground! 

I took this picture today and it seems they grew an inch overnight! Maybe with 32 sugar snap pea plants I will have a chance at having enough for a meal :). 

I also transplanted all my beet and swiss chard seedlings into newspaper pots. They got leggy sitting in the window without any direct light. 

They are definitely much happier now sitting under the direct light of the fluorescents :). 

With how quickly my snap pea plants are growing, the progress seems much slower with all my other seedlings that I started in the end of January. I am thinking about setting them outside for a few hours in the afternoons when I get home from school and see if some natural sun will help them grow a little quicker. 

These are my lettuce plants. These seem to be growing the most slowly and a lot of them are drooping and falling over. When they sprouted they developed some white fuzz on the roots and then it went away. I wonder if that weakened the plants. Next week I will plant another batch of lettuce seeds just in case these plants don't survive the transplant to outside. 

My little kale plants. I am so excited to see their 'true' leaves coming out!

So, that's an update on my little seedlings. I have been itching to start all my summer crop seeds. But before I do that, I need to plant what I have under the lights now to free up space. Hopefully setting them out in the sun for a little bit every day next week will help them grow faster. Then, once my first batch of seedlings is planted I can start all my tomatoes, peppers, herbs and everything else. I can't wait until this summer!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beef and Kale Vegetable Soup

I had no clue what I was going to make for lunch on Sunday. I hadn't been grocery shopping in over two weeks and the empty shelves in my fridge were there to prove it.  I had a few old potatoes, some leftover sausage from making pizza a few nights ago, some frozen peas I had packed in my lunch the day before and never ate, 1 small zucchini, and some beef broth I made a couple days ago. 

The remnants of my bare refrigerator aligned perfectly. I was going to make soup! So, I made soup and it was delicious. While we were eating it, Chris kept saying how good it was and that the seasoning was perfect. That was a big deal because he doesn't even like soup! I thought it was delicious as well. We ate the soup for 3 meals and I was sad when it was gone. I definitely need to make this again soon.

When I made it, I just threw a bunch of stuff into the pot and tasted as I went. I tried to remember everything and give approximate measurements to write down a recipe. The best thing about this type of soup is that you can tailor it to whatever you have in your fridge.  

Beef and Kale Vegetable Soup
1 Tbsp of olive oil 
1 onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, chopped
4 potatoes, diced
1 bunch kale, chopped
4 cups beef broth
2 cups water (I don't remember how much water I added, you can add more or less depending on how much broth you want)
6 oz. tomato paste
4-8 oz. browned ground beef, sausage, or turkey sausage
1 zucchini, sliced into rounds
1 cup frozen green peas
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in onions, carrots, and beef and saute until vegetables are tender and the meat is cooked. Add potatoes and kale and cook for a few minutes longer. Turn down the heat to medium and add  the beef broth, water, and tomato paste and let simmer until potatoes are tender. 
Add in remaining vegetables, herbs, and seasonings and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender.
Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lacto-fermented Ketchup!

Over the past year I have been slowly adding to my list of food items that I make at home instead of buy at the store. With rare exceptions, I now make my own pizza dough, pesto sauce, bread, corn and flour tortillas, biscuits, salad dressing, sauerkraut, salsa, water kefir, and enchilada sauce. This has been a long slow process and one I will continue for years to come. For me, I have found a lot of success in tackling one thing at a time, mastering a technique or recipe, and adopting it into my kitchen routine before I try something new. It has allowed me to stay consistent and keep my time in the kitchen manageable. 

This brings me to ketchup. I have been wanting to make my own ketchup for years, and just never got around to it. I am more of a mustard girl and I don't eat Heinz ketchup so it wasn't a big deal. Around the same time that we ran out of ketchup, I opened one of the big cans of tomato paste from Costco. It seems fate would have it that I make ketchup. So I did :). 

Here is the recipe I used for Lacto-fermented ketchup from the Food Renegade blog. I made a few changes. I substituted garlic and onion powder for the cloves or allspice, and I used water kefir instead of whey. 

I mixed all the ingredients together (using my home brewed water kefir ), and poured 2 tablespoons of water kefir over the top to inhibit any unfriendly bacteria while it fermented. I covered it with a coffee filter and a rubber band and let it sit. 

4 days later I mixed it all up and put it in the fridge. 

Today we decided to do a taste test with our dinner of scrambled eggs, green beans, and oven baked fries. The other sauce next to my ketchup is Sriracha sauce. A spicy asian condiment that is great mixed with ketchup for dipping fries.

The verdict: I loved it! I enjoyed the sweet/sour/tangy taste of the fermented ketchup and it was great by itself or mixed with sriracha. The only thing I would want differently is a smoother texture. I might try adding more water kefir or apple cider vinegar to thin it out a little more. Chris' review is that it doesn't taste exactly like ketchup but it is a good alternative condiment for dipping fries or putting on burgers :).

I am so happy to have another kitchen item made from scratch where I can control the ingredients.