...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Keeping Busy

During the summer, Ben told me I should save some of my posts for the winter when there isn't much going on.  I told him there would be plenty to blog about in the colder months, especially about recipes that utilize my preserves from the season.  But I've found a few other activities to keep us entertained as well. This week I started preparing some broccoli seeds for sprouting.  As I was looking through a hand-me-down cookbook from my mom, Healthy Food for Hungry Kids, (one I remember from childhood) I came across a section on sprouting, something I'd planned to do soon anyway.  I had just purchased some broccoli seeds at the co-op for this very purpose.  I've sprouted seeds in jars before, but I thought I'd try tray sprouting, which is much easier and works best for alfalfa, buckwheat groats, lentils, or brassica seeds.  First you cover the seeds with water and let them stand at room temp. about 3 hours or until the seeds swell.  Drain the seeds.  Line a shallow tray with 3 layers of paper towels.  Top with a single layer of cheesecloth.  Arrange the seeds in a single layer over the cheesecloth.  Spray thoroughly with a fine water spray.  (Paper towels should be wet, but the seeds shouldn't stand in water.)  Prick holes in a large piece of foil and cover the tray loosely.  Store in a warm (65-75 degrees), dark place.  Uncover the tray and spray with water 4-5 times/day until seeds sprout and grow 1/4 inch.  Then spray 2-3 more times/day, keeping sprouts moist at all times.  The sprouts are usually ready to eat in 3-5 days.  At that time, remove foil and set tray in a sunny place for several hours to let the leaves turn green.  Continue spraying sprouts.  To harvest, pull them off the cheesecloth.

Unholiday Gingerbread Cookies
This week we were cooped up inside as I was very actively working on potty training Vera, which was pretty exhausting and rather boring at times--lots of sitting, reading, sitting, watching vigilantly, sitting.  To pass the time one day, we were paging through one of my photos albums from early childhood and I came across a picture of me helping my mom make Christmas cookies, which I remember being a super exciting activity.  I decided that even if I can't eat the cookies that I should still engage in mixing, rolling, cutting, and baking them with Vera.  I found a recipe for "Gingerbread Boys" in Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, one my Gramma's coveted baking books that I inherited after she passed.  Vera loved licking the beaters, something my mom used to let us do.  This recipe was eggless so I figured the damage was minor.  She also seemed to enjoy rolling out the dough and loved using the cookie cutters.  I emptied the drawer of the cutters I thought she'd find most interesting, seasonal or not.  So we ended up with lots of gingerbread butterflies, bears, hearts, and stars.  The excitement was rounded off as we watched the cutouts puff up in the oven (Vera gasps and looks at me saying "Oo-ooh!")  Tomorrow we'll decorate them and take most to a holiday gathering on Sunday.
Roll It...
...And Cut It...

As you might imagine, since my allergy diagnosis last week I've been delving into research about food allergies as well as poring over gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, and other-free cookbooks from the library.  I've found some great titles that I think I'll add to my new collection.  Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book looks like a perfect fit for me.  In a different book I was reading the foreword about how food allergies arise.  It mentioned that one of the first symptoms is eczema or other skin irritations.  Last year I saw a dermatologist for a regular mole check and he told me I had eczema, which I'd already sensed.  He gave me some petroleum based shampoo, which I politely handed back to him and asked if there was some more natural or homeopathic way to deal with it.  He told me that was ridiculous and basically laughed me out of the office.  I'd like to find him now and ask him if he's ever heard anything about food allergies.  This also makes me wonder about my family's history with skin problems as well as Vera's intense eczema that was attributed, by her allergist's prick test, to a dust allergy.  Interesting that since we've weaned it's really cleared up.  Once again I'm amazed at how things circle back to nutrition.

On the topic of my new eating plan, it occurred to me yesterday that I might rethink my desire to have urban hens.  If I can't eat the eggs I need to recalculate whether it's worth the work.  Of course, backyard poultry is still advantageous for producing one's one garden fertilizer as well as having insect control and pets, not to mention a very strong bartering tool--those delicious huevos.  I'll still fight for others to have this opportunity, but I need to do more thinking before making plans for our own coop.

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