Our First Ooooby (Out of Our Own Back Yard) Meal for the Season

Today, we had our first Ooooby meal for the season – Korean Garlic Chive Pancakes.

Even before rhubarb, even before asparagus, garlic chives appear in my garden. Garlic chives, aka: Chinese chives, Oriental garlic, and Chinese leek.  In case you are unfamiliar with garlic chives, you might like to know that they are a plant that is much like regular onion chives.  But, as the name suggests, garlic chives’ flavor is rather garlicky, yet less so than regular fresh garlic. Garlic chives can be used in much the same way as onion chives, as a seasoning or as a garnish. Yet, because garlic chives are larger and more robust plants, they may be used as a vegetable, too.  

Garlic chives pancakes is a simple and inexpensive meal.  There are many variations, but the basics are: an egg, a little salt, a bit of hot pepper, some flour and water to make a thin batter, and a big handful of garlic chives, of course.  Fry the batter in a little oil and serve with dipping sauce. My boys love this meal.

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Garlic Chives Pancakes

Beat:  1 egg.

Stir in:  1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose wheat flour or rice flour will do).

Add:  1 1/2 cups cold water and mix to a thin batter consistency.

Stir in:  cut garlic chives and cut green and/or red chili and/or julienne carrot for color,  if you wish.

Fry: in a little hot oil until batter is cooked through.

Serve:  with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Mix together:  2 tablespoons each soy sauce, vinegar (rice wine vinegar is nice), and water.

Stir in a minced fresh garlic clove and some minced chili pepper.

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Garlic chives, allium tuberosum, is a hardy perennial.  That means that once they are planted, they do not need replanting, because they come back on their own each spring. They grow in much the same way as regular onion chives, except that the leaves are flat instead of tubular. Garlic chives will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.  They grow to about 1 to 1 1/2  feet high, and have a fragrant, creamy white flower that attracts pollinators to the garden.

If you wish to grow your own garlic chives, start them by seed or propagate them by bulb. They enjoy well-drained soil and either full sun or partial shade.  They can spread aggressively if allowed to go to seed, so to control spreading, deadhead the flowers after blooming.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Feeding the Soil, Which in Turn Feeds the Plants That Feed Us

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Today, Josh and I prepared the raised bed at our community garden. When we arrived at our little plot of land, the bed was bare, and had a few weeds growing. So, we pulled up the weeds, raked out some trash and dug down a bit to see what the soil was like. We did not see any evidence of worms or other small life forms. Yet, we know that alive and healthy soil is full of worms and other small critters. So we set out to fix that.

Josh and I went home to get some worms from our worm bin and some supplies in order to make them comfortable in their soon-to-be new home.  When we returned, we dug a little trench down the center of the bed, and put in some red wigglers and many, many worm eggs. Then we covered them over with soil. Worms do not like sunshine!  Next, we watered the soil. Worms do like moisture.  Finally, we put on a layer of leaves to cover over the soil, and provide the worms with something to eat until the compost arrives.

A good friend of mine, and organic gardener, Moira Ryan, who we dearly miss, always advised, “Nowhere in nature, does bare soil exist”.  That is to say, when soil is left bare, the life in it is destroyed and then the soil disappears. Many folks may not think of soil as alive, but it is. Amazingly, there is more life living in healthy soil, than can ever live on top of it. Healthy soil will be alive with worms, other small critters, micorrhizae, and all sorts of microbes that I have come to think of as ‘the micro-herd’.   All of this life is desirable and we should encourage it and support it. This is the reason that when we garden, we try to disturb the soil as little as possible and this is why we keep it covered.

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Once we finished preparing the bed and covering the soil, we then stepped back to see how nice it looked. We thought to ourselves that perhaps we might lose our leaf mulch if there was a big wind. That would not be a nice thing to happen to our neighbors, finding our leaves all over. So we topped it all off with some cardboard boxes. To hold them in place we used a few pieces of wood. A good rain would sure help the soil and the soil critters a great deal right now. We intend to keep the leaves and cardboard in place in order to retain soil moisture and to also keep the weeds down.  An extra bonus of the mulching is that it will all eventually break down into new and healthy soil.

It is so nice to have fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, but gardening, to us, is about much more than just growing food. This project will be a part of Josh’s homeschool curriculum.  He can learn about horticulture and community building while working on this project. Furthermore, because the small act of gardening puts one in touch with nature, it is natural that he will be learning about environmental issues, too.  In this way, our summertime fresh-food project will be a hobby that produces, rather than a hobby of consumption.  Our little garden plot will produce fresh fruits and vegetables, some healthy outdoor exercise, plus an educational opportunity in the sciences, social studies, and in creation care.  This is truly a More-with-Less adventure.

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On Mother’s Day, my dear son and I plan to return to our little garden plot in order to install some fencing for trellis, and perhaps plant a few cold weather crops, too.

When we were done working today, Josh said, “This is fun!”

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Growing Community

I’ve been busy preparing for the gardening season.  Last fall, my family had the old trees in our front yard cut down.  This was done for safety reasons, but also to allow more sunshine into our yard.  We will be planting more and more of our yard, each year, to fruits and vegetables. This year, we added 12 more blueberry bushes, so that now we have a total of 15. We also planted 4 pear trees. We had the branches of our trees chipped and shredded and left in a huge pile in our lawn. I’ll be spreading that over my growing beds this year to act as mulch.

The reason I am mulching, in this way, is because it is very good for the soil and for my plants, too. Mulch helps to smother the weeds, so that there are less of them. It also keeps the moisture from evaporating from the soil, so less watering is necessary. Because the soil then stays soft and moist, when there are weeds, it takes less effort to remove them. Plus, as the mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil, so very crucial for the wellbeing of the microbes, fungi and other critters that are an important component of healthy, living soil. Mulch, therefore, provides a healthy environment, full of nutrients that my plants need, while at the same time, saving me effort in the long run.  Furthermore, I spend less money on and use less resources such as water, and I have no need for pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.  This way of gardening is truly an example of living more-with-less.

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Image Source:  http://www.fortedwardchamber.org/community.garden/

Yesterday, I joined the Fort Edward Community Garden. The Fort Edward Community Garden was begun last year through the vision and effort of the Village Baptist Church, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and others in the community. Its purpose is to provide a place for community members to come together to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and also to support the Fort Edward Community Food Pantry. The garden is located at the corner of Canal and East Streets. I was glad to have met some really nice folks who are also interested in gardening and growing their own food, and supporting the local community and economy.Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace copy

Image Source:  http://www.wcldc.org/news/page/2/

I understand that before the summer is over, there is to be a farmer’s market, Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace, in the village, too. It is planned that there will be market space for vendors both inside and outside of the 200-year-old storage building that sits behind the Fort Edward Town Hall. Plans for renovation, through volunteer effort, are currently under way. In addition to building renovations, the sight is planned to have sidewalks, lighting, and public restrooms. The Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace is being designed with heating and cooling so that it can be a four-season marketplace, serving the community by offering us local products year round. How exciting!

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Guerilla Gardening


http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html

Ron Finley describes himself as an artist.  His canvas is unused city-owned land and his paints are fruit and vegetable plants.   Inspiration for his work came from looking closely at his ‘own backyard’ and realizing that the problem and the solution are one and the same: food.  What he saw was a food desert where the only food available was fast food, and he also saw the declining health of the South Central Los Angles population, and a city that has almost 26 square miles of city-owned vacant land, enough space to grow approximately three-quarters of a million tomato plants!.  Finley’s solution for his neighborhood’s problems is to engage in guerrilla gardening and to grow healthy and accessible food in what he names a ‘food forest’.

Guerrilla gardening is growing food on unused land that is often an abandoned site or other area not being maintained.  Guerrilla gardening is a form of political activism – nonviolent direct action or constructive program – and it is intended to create positive social change – specifically, the dismantling of the domination system in our food system. Where gardens such as Finley’s food forest spring up, amazing things begin to happen. Community gardens work to reduce the impact of poor nutrition by improving access to healthy food.  Yet they empower us to do so much more than simply that:

  • They can improve our health through exercise, fresh air and sunshine in addition to providing us with fresh and nutritious locally grown food.
  • They build community through the formation of community garden clubs.
  • They act as education centers that teach about gardening and the environment, plus exercise, healthy food choices, how to work together in community, and how to bring about positive social change.
  • They provide us with a new hobby to enjoy, and one that pays benefits instead of costing money.
  • They improve our environments and help us to save limited natural resources.
  • They provide for more nutritious meals while spending less money so that we may reach out and help others too.

Guerrilla Gardening is a fine example of living more-with-less.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Profit for Charity Business Model

There is fantastic new new business model developing – the profit-for-charity.

I’ll share information about a few such organizations.

Albany Bagel Co.

I just learned about a company named Albany Bagel.  This company has the stated purpose to bring real bagels to the city of Albany, NY and to build community at the same time. All of the restaurant’s profits will be donated to charities within the city of Albany, NY.  They will be selling bagels at the Crossings Farmers’ Market in Colonie every Saturday this summer.

The Mennonite Girls can Cook cookbooks is another profit-for-charity business.

Mennonite Girls can Cook describes itself as a group of ten women who share recipes and and their faith, with a purpose, inspiring hospitality while using their resources to help needy people around the world.

These women explain that their simple recipe blog, which had the original purpose of documenting their family’s favorite recipes, has resulted in two cookbooks:

Mennonite Girls Can Cook, uses any and all funds generated through the blog or cookbook to feed the hungry by sponsoring a greenhouse project at

The Good Shepherd Shelter in Ukraine

The Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations cookbook’s royalties for the first year will go to provide clean water for school children in Kenya through the

 WASH program…a project of Mennonite Central Committee.

These two cookbooks are more than just a collection of recipes, they encourage us to ‘think about HOSPITALITY versus entertaining’ so that we may discover a ‘joy in BLESSING versus impressing’.

Toms is a business that sells shoes and eyewear that is designed to help change lives with their One for One ® business philosophy.  They state that, ‘with every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One.®  For each item purchased, Toms either gives away a pair of shoes to a person in need or helps to restore eyesight to a person in need.  What a wonderful idea!

These business models show us new ways of thinking about how we understand and interact with one another.  These business models are designed with the wellbeing of people in mind, as opposed to a sole purpose of profit in mind.

If you are aware of any other profit-for-charity businesses, please drop me a note and include a web address if you have one.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Live Below the Line

Tomorrow I will begin a new project in More-wtih-Less Living.

This project is titled, Live Below the Line.

Live Below the Line is a campaign designed to bring about awareness so that we may take action to help meet the first of the Millennium Development Goals, that of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide.  Extreme poverty is classified as living on less than $1.50 a day. Today, there are more than 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty.  That is more than four times the entire population of the United States.  By joining this project, I will save money that would otherwise be spent on groceries.  I will donate the money I save to organization(s) of my choice.  I also expect that I will develop a greater degree of empathy for those that must live in this situation every day of their lives.  In reality, I cannot live on less than $1.50 per day, because housing and taxes for one month, consist of more than an entire year’s worth of expenses for those living in extreme poverty.  It is good for me to remember that limiting my food consumption to equate to $1.50 per day is, in reality, a poor approximation to the conditions of those who do live on less than $1.50 per day.

I believe that eradicating poverty is more than just donating money to poor countries, though. Eradicating poverty also consists of learning about the conditions which bring about this poverty and correcting those conditions.

Please join me in learning about this very important issue.

It is important to understand that the decisions we make, here in the U.S., have impacts on others.

Please support institutions that promote equality.

Shopping with organizations and companies such as Equal Exchange, Sole Rebels, and even the The Salvation Army, which are all committed to helping others, can make a big difference if many folks join in.  This helps in more than one way.  It helps by directing our purchase dollars away from the companies and organizations that make decisions that promote inequality, while at the same time empowering those that do work for equality and justice.  Considering local and green purchases promotes greater social justice too.

See more about the Live Below the Line project here.

See more about the Millennium Development Goals here.

Please leave a comment and let me know which companies and organizations you support in this effort to shop Fair, Green and Local, so I can check them out too!

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

Making Vinegar is one of those really easy things to do.

You can use almost any fruit.  I use apples, or rather apple peels, and cores.  So, making vinegar always begins with an apple dish, and I save the peels and cores for the vinegar.

Here’s one apple dish I make – homemade apple cinnamon oatmeal:

I use regular oatmeal and chopped apple, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar & nutmeg, add water and microwave for a few minutes.  No silly little expensive packages with a few dried bits of apple.

This is the real thing.  It’s filling and yummy, too.
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Save those peels and cores and place them in a jar and cover with water.  Add a little raw apple cider vinegar as a starter culture, cover with a cloth and band and set in a dark place to ferment.

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Continue adding cores and peels as you accumulate them.
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Your vinegar is done when it is the strength you like.
Strain and compost the solids.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

I Relish the Fact That You’ve Mustard the Strength to Ketchup With Me

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Making my own condiments – catsup, mustard, relish.
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Homemade Catsup
In a saucepan, whisk together and bring to a boil:
12oz Tomato Paste
1 1/2 Cups Water
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
1/4 teaspoon each Onion Powder, Ground Cumin, Cinnamon, Dry Mustard, Granulated Garlic, Ground Cloves
Simmer for a few minutes then allow to cool.
Add:
1/4 Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding Raw Apple Cider Vinegar once all is cool, makes this a living probiotic food.
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Homemade Mustard
In a non-reactive container soak overnight:
1 Cups Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
1/2 cup Filtered Water
2/3 Cup Yellow Mustard Seed
1/3 Cup Brown Mustard Seed
The next day place above mixture in blend and mix with:
2 Tablespoons Honey or Brown Sugar
1, 2, or 3 teaspoons Salt (adjust to your taste)
Mix all until consistency you desire.  If a thinner mustard is desired, add more water.
Place in a nonreactive container and age for a few days at room temperature – until it’s bitterness goes away.
If a hot mustard is desired, refrigerate it once the bitterness is gone.
If you prefer a more mild mustard, age it longer so that the heat will dissipate, then refrigerate.
Experiment with your mustard seed, you can use yellow, brown, or black mustard seed & in any combination.  You can choose any vinegar or sweetener of your choice too.

This too, is a probiotic food if you choose to use a raw vinegar.
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My homemade Bread-and-Butter Pickles become . . .
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The best Sweet Pickle Relish I’ve ever tasted . . .
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With just a quick zap of the blender stick!
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© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Peanut Butter: Changing the Brand We Purchase

I always used to purchase the store brand of natural peanut butter because the store brand is less expensive.  Today, I found that the store brands are now packaged in plastic containers.  This disappointed me very much.  I have always received a bonus with my peanut butter purchases – a ‘free glass storage container’.

It seems that these jars have just become more scarce.

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This is my new peanut butter brand, still packaged in a glass jar.

I will miss the familiar plastic yellow lid.

Why do I save peanut butter jars?

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They make fantastic food containers.  I cook most all the food we eat from ‘scratch’, including condiments.  Above is a picture of my homemade catsup, mustard, and sweet pickle relish, all in peanut butter jars.

We, as consumers, do not think too much about the waste that is inherent in our current capitalistic economic system.  When I do things, such as cook from scratch, the savings go well beyond the benefits to my family’s finances.  There are benefits to the environment, too.  I grew the cucumbers for the relish.  The jars they are canned in will be used time and time again.  These foods need no transportation, no special building and equipment for processing, they use minimal and recycled packaging (no printed labels or boxes or bags), and no advertising or retail space.  This is a huge savings to the environment.  Plus, whenever I can re-use a glass bottle, instead of discarding it or recycling it, a few less resources will be used up, because it takes resources to recycle, too.

Another plus is that I make these foods with ingredients of my choosing – no artificial ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup.  I can make the catsup as spicy as I like, and as thick as I like.  The mustard can be spicy or mild, grainy or smooth, sweetened with honey or not.  The choices are unlimited.  The sweet pickle relish is made using my  homemade bread-and-butter pickles.  Now that I have made my condiments, and know how very good these foods can taste, I will never return to pre-packaged, store bought condiments, ever.

How our food is produced does matter. It matters for our health and well-being, for the well-being of folks in other countries, and for the well-being of the natural environment. The foods we choose determine what kind of world we live in.  Small acts, such as being mindful of our food purchases and seeking out answers about who grows our food, who harvests our food, how our food is processed, transported, stored and sold, can bring a new awareness to how we wish to spend our food dollars.  This is living more-with-less.

We are what we do.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Bone Broth

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Do you know what bone broth is and why you should make and eat it?

Bone broth is how soup was made before we invented processed food. Bone broth is made by simmering the bones, and the skin, and other parts of the carcass of an animal that you otherwise would not eat, such as what is left after the Thanksgiving turkey is no longer.

Broth contains minerals that we need, and in a form that our bodies can easily absorb.  From broth we can get calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, and trace minerals.  It contains glucosamine from the cartilage and tendons.  These are all things we pay a lot of money for at the drug store.

Making bone broth is very easy to do.  After you have cooked your turkey or chicken, remove the meat off the bones and put all of the bones, skin, and everything you do not want to eat into a crockpot.  Cover it all with cold water and add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.  Turn your cooker on to low and allow to cook for about 24 hours, then strain.

If you wish to make Chicken Stock, it is made in the same way, but add onion, carrots and celery to cook with the bones.  Strain all when done.

I skim the fat off the top and use that for cooking too.  It is fantastic to cook fried eggs in, as they will not stick.

When I still had a dog, I fed what remains after straining to him.  The bones became very soft and crumbly, as much of the calcium gets pulled out and is dissolved in the broth.  This is the purpose for the vinegar.  Now that Barkley is no longer with us, I put what is left after straining into my compost, as it’s good for my garden microbes too.

What can you do with your broth?  Make soup or gravy, or cook rice in it.  Place it in small containers and put it in your freezer.  Use this broth, in place one of those little cubes or cans of broth, in your recipes.

You may notice when your broth gets cold that it has gelled, not unlike Jello.  This is very, very good.  It means that your broth is not only full of wonderful and good for you minerals, it is also full of protein.

“Where did I learn about making bone broth?”, you may ask.  I learned it from The Weston Price Foundation.  There you may find lots of information about healthful eating and many lessons about the benefits of bone broth and good-for-you fats, amongst other things.

By making my own bone broth:

  • I keep my food bills lower while providing my family more nutritious and tasty meals.
  • I am able to make inexpensive, tasty, and nutritious soups and gravy.
  • I replace some of my cooking fat, that I would otherwise need to buy, with healthful chicken fat.
  • I have a free source of  ‘bone meal fertilizer’  for my organic garden (which further acts to reduce my family’s food costs).
  • I help the environment (creation care) by making the most from what I have, and therefore reserve resources that would otherwise go into the production and the sale of what I otherwise provide for myself and my family.

This is truly living More-with-Less.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.