Thursday, February 19, 2009

Veggies Not As Healthy As They Once Were

I found this article on yahoo news this morning...

Eating Your Veggies: Not As Good For You?

Declining Fruit and Vegetable Nutrient Composition: What Is the Evidence?
By Donald R. Davis
Journal of HortScience; February 2009, 5 pp.
The Gist:

If the economy isn't grim enough for you, just check out the February issue of the Journal of HortScience, which contains a report on the sorry state of American fruits and veggies. Apparently produce in the U.S. not only tastes worse than it did in your grandparents' days, it also contains fewer nutrients - at least according to Donald R. Davis, a former research associate with the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas, Austin. Davis claims the average vegetable found in today's supermarket is anywhere from 5% to 40% lower in minerals (including magnesium, iron, calcium and zinc) than those harvested just 50 years ago. (Read about Americans' Incredible, Edible Front Lawns.)
Highlight Reel:

1. On the Difficulty of Comparing "Then" and "Now:" Davis is quick to note that historical data can sometimes be misleading, if not altogether inaccurate. Take early measurements of iron in foods: because scientists failed to sufficiently remove clinging soil, iron levels appeared unusually high in certain vegetables like spinach, (which gave rise to the myth that it contained exorbitant amounts of the mineral - a myth further propagated by the popular cartoon character, Popeye). Then again, good historical data provides the only real-world evidence of changes in foods over time, and such data does exist - one farm in Hertfordshire, England, for example, has archived its wheat samples since 1843.
2. On the So-Called "Dilution Effect:" Today's vegetables might be larger, but if you think that means they contain more nutrients, you'd be wrong. Davis writes that jumbo-sized produce contains more "dry matter" than anything else, which dilutes mineral concentrations. In other words, when it comes to growing food, less is more. Scientific papers have cited one of the first reports of this effect, a 1981 study by W.M. Jarrell and R.B. Beverly in Advances in Agronomy, more than 180 times since its publication, "suggesting that the effect is widely regarded as common knowledge."
Less studied, though, is the "genetic dillution effect," in which selective breeding to increase crop yield has led to declines in protein, amino acids, and as many as six minerals in one study of commercial broccoli grown in 1996 and '97 in South Carolina. Because nearly 90% of dry matter is carbohydrates, "when breeders select for high yield, they are, in effect, selecting mostly for high carbohydrate with no assurance that dozens of other nutrients and thousands of phytochemicals will all increase in proportion to yield."
2. On the "Industrialization" of Agriculture: Thanks to the growing rise of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, modern crops are being harvested faster than ever before. But quick and early harvests mean the produce has less time to absorb nutrients either from synthesis or the soil, and minerals like potassium (the "K" in N-P-K fertilizers) often interfere with a plant's ability to take up nutrients. Monoculture farming practices - another hallmark of the Big Ag industry - have also led to soil-mineral depletion, which, in turn, affects the nutrient content of crops.
The Lowdown:

If you're still not buying the whole "organic-is-better" argument, this study might convince you otherwise. As Davis points out, more than three billion people around the world suffer from malnourishment and yet, ironically, efforts to increase food production have actually produced food that is less nourishing. Fruits seem to be less affected by genetic and environmental dilution, but one can't help but wonder how nutritionally bankrupt veggies can be avoided. Supplementing them is problematic, too: don't look to vitamin pills, as recent research indicates that those aren't very helpful either.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Striking Oil!

We already covered flavored we are going to cover oils to put in your pantry.
These oils are good for many uses....vinegarettes, grilling, frying, etc. Anywhere you would use a non-flavored oil.

I normally only use three types of oil in cooking, baking, etc.
Olive Oil (usually extra-virgin olive oil)
Sunflower seed oil
Coconut Oil

Now, Coconut oil deserves it own entire post, so we'll ignore that wonderful product of nature right now and concentrate on the other two.

You can also use canola oil (aka rapeseed oil...they use the name *canola* to make it sound more consumer friendly!)

I usually use the Extra Virgin Olive Oil for those flavored oils intended for salad dressings and grilling. If I plan on frying food in the oil, I use the sunflower seed oil (or canola oil).

What you'll need:
Pint jars (or go whole hog and buy pretty bottles if you like)
Oils of choice.
Herbs, fruit, nuts, etc. for oil flavorings.

You can use a food processor to finely mince or dice your herbs, but I generally just chop my herbs and such rather coarsely.

Here are some great combos:
basil, oregano, onion, garlic
sage, dill, coriander
sun dried tomatoes, basil, onion, garlic
lemon rind, dill, fennel
rosemary, thyme, garlic
pine nut, basil, garlic
garlic, onion, hot peppers

I also like simple *one note* oils.
Sun-dried tomatoes are a great *one note* oil.

Basic recipe for that:
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup olive oil

Heat the olive oil until hot, but not simmering or boiling.
Put tomatoes in bottom of pint canning jar. Pour warm oil over tomatoes. Tightly cap.
Let rest in back of pantry three days, gently shaking jar once a day.
Drain oil through fine cheesecloth or a fine sieve (you do NOT want any *particulate* matter in the finished oil). Can or bottle strained oil. I generally use the oily tomatoes for cooking or put them in the compost heap.
Tomato oil is excellent for making an oil and vinegar drizzle on a summer salad or for brushing on steaks on the grill. Also good on fish!

Hot Cha Cha Oil
2 Habanero Peppers
1 Jalapeno Pepper
1 and 1/2 cups Olive Oil
WEAR GLOVES! You WILL need a pair of latex /rubber gloves to make this oil!

Carefully remove stem and seeds from peppers. Slice all three peppers into thin strips. Heat olive oil to very warm (no simmering/boiling). Put pepper strips into pint canning jar, pour oil over and cap tightly. Let set in back of pantry for 2 days, strain, discard pepper strips.
This oil is to be used sparingly. (Unless you are into very hot foods!)
Brush onto shrimp on the grill. Or fish or steak and chops. Add a few drops to pan when you are frying chicken to give it a spicy POP!

Citrus and Spice Oil
1/2 a lemon peel, cut in strips
1/2 a lime peel, cut in strips
1/4 orange peel, cut in strips
With ALL citrus peels, try to have as little of the white inner peel as possible, you want the yellow, green or orange skin, so to speak.
1 One inch piece of cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 cups sunflower (my preference) or olive oil
Put the peels and the cinnamon and cloves in a quart canning jar. Warm the oil and pour over the peels and spices. Tightly cap. Set in pantry for 3 to 4 days, mix by turning gently.
This oil is lovely to use for salad dressings. Also good for frying bananas, apples and other fruit.
For cake recipes that use oil try substituting this oil (if you made it with sunflower oil) for the oil called for. Brush on chicken on the grill or that you bake/roast.

You make the other oils in the same manner.
Some folks also make their oils by putting the vegetable matter in the jar, filling the jar with oil, tightly capping the jar and them setting the jar outside in the sunshine for 3 days to a week, inverting the jar once a day.

Remember to label all oils with the type, date made and type of oil used.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Things You Should Absolutely, Positively Have!

Okay, I know some folks out there have food storage. Water storage, Maybe even fuel storage.
This list is B-A-S-I-C-S.
Things you should have, even if you aren't a *raging survivalist* or *whole hog prepper*.

The list is rather short and simple.

1) A set of cast iron pans.
Reason: T-Fal and other pans just won't cut it if you have to cook on a grill or over a camp-fire. Get a simple, good basic set.
2) A manually operated grain mill.
Reason: If you store wheat, you are going to want to make flour eventually.
3) Four or more five gallon buckets.
Reason: These are indispensable in an emergency situation. For a simple port-a-potty to a water carrying just don't want to use the same bucket for both of those!
4) A dozen or more quart canning jars with lids.
Reason: Again, multitude of uses, from impromptu drinking glasses to storage of just about anything.
5) A decent First Aid Kit.
Reason: Pretty obvious. Read my post about my first aid kit for ideas.
6) A Bug Out Bag for every member of your family.
Reason: Again, pretty obvious. In the case of emergency evacuation, a back-pack with even minimal supplies can make it easier or even save your life.
7) A good tent.
Reason: This is a *just in case* item. Just in case the emergency shelter is full, just in case your car breaks down on a long road trip, just in case the kids want to camp out in the back yard. Everyone should have one.

That's it.
Seven items. That's all.
You can obtain ALL of them for under 200 dollars. If you check flea markets and yard sales, you can probably do it for even less.
Not a lot to pay to insure you and yours can have a roof over their head, food on their table and a better chance to get through an emergency in good shape.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just felt the need to post this after my last entry!


Alright, I have been non-political and non-controversial in this blog.
Today's offering may change that.

The acronym SHTF stands for

Basically, what that means is a crisis situation.
It can be personal, such as losing a job.
It can be regional, such as a hurricane like Katrina or Ike.
It can be national, such as the collapse of the government or a national financial meltdown as in Iceland.
It can be multi-national, as in the wars in the Middle-East.
Finally, it can be global, as in worse case scenario global warming or global freezing. (Scientists still up in the air about that!)

I think we, here in the United States, HAVE reached SHTF, it just hasn't been reported by the main stream media enough to register with the majority of the population.

There are a few more *trigger events* for a lot of people to realize SHTF is here and now, but those *triggers* are beginning to cascade.

We have had:
Massive Bank Failures
Real Estate Bubble Burst
States Beginning to fail financially (read up on California not being able to pay employees or vendors.)
Slow down of transportation system due to fuel prices and other factors.(Check with anyone in the trucking industry about this)
Retail Outlets failing in big numbers. Many stores declaring bankruptcy and/or closing doors.
Marked rise in unemployment.
Retailers keeping less merchandise in stock. (This ties into the trucking industry and the banks. Retailers are cutting their warehouse/inventory volume to keep costs down)
The shadow of gun banning in violation of our Constitution is now over us.
RFID issues.
NAIS issues.
States openly informing the US Congress and Executive Branch that they will retain their rights under the 9th and 10th Amendments.(This is bigger than most people imagine)
States (especially California) being forced to release up to one third of their prison populations due to overcrowding and lack of funds to continue incarceration.
Weather related crisis, droughts especially, in various regions of the country.
The Bailout and Stimulus packages that will impact the taxpayers for decades to come.
Continued conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
and much, much more....

So, how does this all add up?
It adds up to SHTF...all we need is one trigger event. A good sized riot in one city or an unusually hot summer over most of the country.
The fuse is already there.
One spark is all that it will take.

Please, get your family prepared.
Get your self prepared.
Help your community or neighborhood get prepared.

Here are some ways to be prepared and help others get prepared:

Plant a garden. Even if you live in an apartment. Put potted vegetable plants on your patio/terrace/fire escape. Encourage neighbors to garden. Get involved in community gardens. Suggest that edible plants and fruit trees be put in local parks rather than plain decorative ones.*Guerrilla Garden*, plant edibles in less frequented areas of your neighborhoods, in traffic medians, in the parks, anywhere you can think of.

Learn to cook *from scratch*. Expand your knowledge to include campfire cookery and grill skills in case of power interruptions. Man does not live by microwave alone!

Spend a little each week on food storage. Even if you stock up on ravioli and Spam, it's better than nothing at all.

Store 150 gallons of water. This is possible, even in a studio apartment if you plan it out carefully and use the 2 liter bottles as I previously wrote about.

Buy a firearm and ammunition for it.Even an inexpensive shotgun or .22 rifle, if that's all you can afford. But get one, get the ammo and PRACTICE!

Join your Neighborhood Watch or Neighborhood Association. KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS!

Attend City Council meetings or the meetings of whatever political entity makes the ordinances for your town/village/county. Know what's going on and what measures your local community politicos are taking.

Keep your vehicle fueled up. Store some gas in cans if you are able.

Update your *Bug Out Bag* regularly.

Have a good First Aid Kit.

Know the escape routes out of your city if you intend to *Bug Out* in a crisis. Have a main route and at least 3 other alternatives in case your chosen route is blocked in some manner.

If you intend to *Bug In* (stay home) in a crisis situation, make sure you have fire extinguishers that are charged and up to date.

Have a rendezvous point for you and family/friends in case of crisis. Also, have a *Back Up* place to meet in case the routes to the first one are impassable or in case the first point is in a area where a situation is happening.

Designate an out of town friend/family member as your *contact* operator in case you are separated from family/friends. Call them asap if you have to *Bug Out* and let them know where you are going and what time you expect to get there. Call again when you get to where-ever you were going.If phone systems go down, this may not be possible, however. It is nice to have someone that will be able to ascertain where everyone is, where they are heading and whether they are okay or not.

My next blog will be about items you should already have and/or what you should immediately get for preparedness.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Today a little blog about :
Vinegar Mother

We all use vinegar. In salad dressings, as a seasoning, in cooking, etc.
Most of us use white vinegar and apple cider vinegar.
Some of us get a little fancy and use wine vinegar or rice vinegar.(I personally adore rice vinegar!)Balsamic vinegar, too, is becoming de riguer in the home gourmets battery of necessary condiments to have on hand.

How many make their own vinegars? Show of hands, please? Anyone? Anyone....?

Well, we are going to learn how to make flavored vinegars and our own vinegar today!
Tasty, healthy and with many more uses than most imagine!
First, the flavored vinegars...
Flavored vinegars are easily made using store bought white, apple cider, rice or wine vinegars.
It is good to have a supply of quart canning jars on hand to make these. If you want to *gift* someone with your creation later, get a fancy bottle.

1 small bunch of parsley
1 teaspoon of peppercorns
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 quart of your choice of vinegar: cider, white distilled, rice
wine, white wine, or red wine

Place the parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in a 2 quart ceramic or glass bowl.

Bring the vinegar to a boil. Pour the vinegar over the herbal mixture in the bowl.

Cover and let the mixture stand for two days. Strain the mixture and decant into a sterilized bottle. Add one to three sprigs of the herbs of your choice. Seal the bottle with a cork or lid. Let stand for two more weeks before using.

Tarragon and lemon in white wine vinegar
Chives, basil, and parsley in white wine vinegar
Oregano, rosemary and thyme in red wine vinegar
Lemon and dill in cider vinegar
Garlic, chives blossoms and chervil in red wine vinegar
Cilantro, jalapeño pepper and lime in white distilled vinegar
(this one is hot)
Lavender blossoms in cider vinegar
Ginger root and cilantro in rice wine vinegar.

Use herb vinegar in salad dressings, marinades, or to deglaze pans.

Basil, Lemon, Chive Vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
3 large strips of lemon zest
3-4 whole leaves fresh basil
10 stalks fresh chives

Basil Peppercorn Vinegar
1 cup white wine vinegar
4-5 leaves fresh basil
1/2 to 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
3-4 whole peeled garlic cloves
Dill Peppercorn Vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
4 sprigs fresh dill
1/2 to 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
Garlic Green Onion Vinegar
1 cup red or white wine vinegar
4-5 peeled whole garlic cloves
2-3 stalks green onions
Rosemary Garlic Vinegar
1 cup red or white wine vinegar
4-5 peeled whole garlic cloves
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Spicy Chile Pepper Vinegar
1 cup red or white wine vinegar
1 or 2 whole jalapeño peppers
Use the following ingredients in any combination you see fit.

green onions
fresh mint
fresh oregano
fresh cilantro
whole peppercorns
lemon zest
lime zest
orange zest
chile peppers
fresh tarragon
bay leaves

The process is simple. Cut your ingredients to a size that will be completely submerged in the liquid. Put ingredients into clean quart jars and pour red or white wine vinegar over them. Cap the jars and store in a cool, dark place for at least three weeks. If you don't have that much time, you can speed the process up somewhat by heating the vinegar till it's lukewarm and pouring it over ingredients that have been chopped or crushed. Store this in a cool dry place for at least ten days, then strain and discard the chopped or crushed ingredients from the vinegar. Return the vinegar to a cleaned jar and add new "whole" ingredients.

1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1/2 cup canned blueberries plus
1/4 cup blueberry syrup from can
1 and 1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1 cup FRESH blueberries, slightly crushed.
1/4 cup honey

Pour into a quart jar with an airtight seal. Seal and store in a cool dark place at room temperature at least 1 week. I would go for two weeks on this (but that's just me)Strain at the end of 2 weeks into a clean quart jar.

A serving suggestion is to add some extra virgin olive oil and dress a salad of pears, Gorgonzola, walnuts and mixed greens.

Makes 20 ounces.

Fill jar with dill blossoms. Cover with cider vinegar. Let stand 3 weeks in sun; strain.

Fill jar with sprigs of mint. Cover with cider vinegar. Let stand 3 weeks in sun; strain.

Fill jar with fresh celery leaves and tips. Cover with cider vinegar. Let stand 3 weeks in sun; strain.

Fruit Vinegar
1 cup red raspberries or other fruit (Any berry is good, also Peaches are yummy for this!)
1 quart red wine vinegar

Place clean fruit in a sterilized jar. Warm the vinegar in a non-reactive pan, then pour it over the fruit. Seal the jar. Let it stand for 1 month, then strain out the fruit and bottle the resulting vinegar in sterilized jars. For a refreshing summer drink, put a couple of teaspoons of Raspberry vinegar in a glass of club soda!
Makes 1 quart.

4 to 6 minced garlic cloves
1 quart cider vinegar
Put minced garlic cloves in cider vinegar. Let stand 20 days.
Strain and bottle.

9 chilies de árbol
7 cascabel chilies
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
2 fresh scallions
3 garlic cloves, halves
3 3/4 cups cider vinegar

In a dry cast iron skillet, toast chiles briefly over medium heat, just until fragrance begins to be released. Place the chiles in a quart bottle or jar. Add cilantro, scallions and garlic, using a wooden spoon handle to help position the ingredients.

In a saucepan, bring the vinegar to a boil, and pour as much of it over the chilies, vegetables and herbs as will fit in the bottle or jar. Cool to room temperature, cover, and store in a dark place for at least 5 days before using.

1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 small orange or tangerine, peeled and segments pulled apart.
1 and 1/2 cups rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey

Put segments, honey and zest in quart jar. Heat vinegar in non-reactive pan until very warm but not hot. Pour vinegar over fruit/zest/honey and tightly cap jar. Store in dark place for 1 week. Strain and store in clean jar.
This is wonderful on summer fruit salads!

Around 2 to cups loose fresh rose petals.
1/2 cup crushed raw almonds (Just get some raw almonds and crunch them up good by beating them with a rolling pin or a pan while you have the almonds in a ziplock bag or something)
1 quart white wine or rice vinegar

Fill a quart jar with loose rose petals.Add crushed almonds.
Add vinegar, tightly seal and store in dark place for 2 to 3 weeks.
Strain into clean quart jar.
This stuff is heavenly! Mixed in ginger ale, it makes a lovely summer drink.
Deglaze a chicken pan with it and add it to the sauce...drooooool. Mixed with a oil to make a salad dressing, it is wonderful on chicken salads, fruit salads, etc.

Now that you have seen all the variations of vinegar...okay, SOME of the variations, use your imaginations, there are many more...lets make our own vinegar.

The yeast spores that make vinegar are all around us. They float through the air, just looking for a friendly place to land and begin reproducing.
Your job is to *corral* those spores and give them a happy place to reproduce and start up their own little living community.
They like sugars, they like wine. (Little boozers!)They even like honey!
And honey vinegar is a *soft* vinegar. Tart, but not to the point of *ewwwwww...puckerface!*
So, here is how to make your own Honey Vinegar. This is a recipe altered from one in a 1905 cookbook. I have altered it so you can make your vinegar faster. (Otherwise it is a good 3 month process!)


You will need a ONE GALLON container. A glass canning jar or a crock is best.NO METAL AT ALL! Also, if you use a crock, make sure it does not have a glaze that will interact with the vinegar.
You will also need some cheesecloth to cover the top of the jar/crock. You can tie it on with string or fasten it with a rubber band.

Now, for the ingredients:
1 cup RAW Honey. No pasteurized or blended honey.
7 cups distilled water or bottle spring water. You do NOT want to use chlorinated, fluoridated treated water from a municipal system.
1/2 cup natural apple cider vinegar. They carry this at most Whole Foods or other organic grocers. Some main-stream grocers carry it as well.

Pour the honey into your gallon jar. Heat the water to very warm and pour it in the jar slowly, mixing it with the honey (use a wooden spoon!). Let cool 20 minutes or so, them mix in the vinegar.
Now comes the fun part!
Cover the top of the jar with the cheesecloth tightly enough to keep out bugs, but not, repeat, NOT *airtight*. Air HAS to be able to reach the mixture!
Now, set it outside. Picnic table, back porch, in a window-box, where-ever. Just make sure it will get plenty of fresh air and some sunshine!
Don't do anything except perhaps add a bit of water (if it seems to be evaporating) for two weeks.
By the end of two weeks, the mixture should have a slimy, soupy mixture in the bottom and the contents should smell *vinegar-y*.
The slimy soupy thing is your *mother*. You can use portions of that to make more vinegar whenever you wish!
Now, get a clean gallon jar or 3 or 4 clean quart jars with tightly sealing lids.
Remove the *mother* and put it in one jar. Cover it with wine, a honey/water mixture or apple cider. Put the lid on this one LOOSELY and store in dark place.
Strain the vinegar in your gallon container through fine cheesecloth into the quart jars. These you can cap tightly and store in the fridge, OR you can pour in a pan, bring to a quick boil for a minute or two and then pour into jars that you tightly seal and put in the back of your pantry.

Your *mother*, as long as it is fed, will continue to grow and produce vinegar.

Here's a couple videos I found on youtube about making vinegar....

Monday, February 9, 2009

Cup O' Tea?

No, this is not about the tea you brew on a chill morning to sip as you watch the sunrise. (I, personally, favor chai tea for that!)
This little blog is about MANURE tea.
Yes, tea made from horse, cow, goat or chicken manure.
( a whole new meaning to "one lump or two" doesn't it?)

Manure tea is one of the best things you can put on your garden.
Unlike *straight* manure, you can better control the amount of nitrogen and other beneficial minerals, organics and other goodies come in contact with your plants.

If you mix chicken manure into your garden, you may *burn* the roots of your plants, causing them to die or become stunted.
But, dump a shovel full into a 5 gallon bucket, fill that bucket with water and let it *steep* for a day or three, strain it and then you can put one cup of the *tea* per gallon of water. A *gentle* boost to your plants productivity and growth.

I prefer to use horse manure, sometimes mixed with a bit of chicken manure. The problem I have found with cow manure is many weed seeds pass unscathed through the bovine digestive tract and if you use *straight* cow manure, you will be mixing weeds into your garden soil! That will cause you problems and extra work later.

My method is this, regardless of whatever kind of manure I use:
Equipment Needed:
2- 5 gallon buckets
1 square of window screen big enough to cover top of 5 gallon bucket
Manure of choice

I put one shovel full (about 1 gallon) of manure in a bucket, fill to within an inch of the top with water. I give it a good mix or two (if you are squeamish, use a small long handle garden spade or fork, if not squeamish, use your hand and wash up well after wards), breaking up the manure as much as I can. The next day, I mix it again. Then I let it *steep* for another day.
On the third day, I put the window screening over the 2nd (empty) bucket and pour my *tea* into the 2nd bucket, straining out the solids.
The full strength tea is too strong for young seedlings, so you have to water it down. I suggest 1 cup *tea* to 1 gallon of water initially.
As your seedlings grow, increase the strength until you get to 50/50 strength.

Do NOT toss out the solids that you strained out! Use them one more time to make manure tea. After that, put them in your compost heap.

If you despair over finding manure for your garden, have no fear. Even if there is no farm nearby, there is still hope! Call your local garden Lowes, Home Depot. Wal-Mart (I hate that store), or your local garden nursery. Most carry cow manure in 25 or 50 pound bags. Just make your tea from that! If you just mix the manure into your soil, it is very expensive buying it from a garden center. But making manure *tea* is a frugal way to stretch the goodness of that manure for your garden.

Now, while you watch your garden grow, sip some chai tea and day dream about those lovely veggies...
Chai Tea Bulk Recipe:

* 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
* 1 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
* 1 cup French vanilla flavored powdered non-dairy creamer
* 2 1/2 cups white sugar
* 1 1/2 cups unsweetened instant tea
* 2 teaspoons ground ginger
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 1 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 teaspoon ground cardamom


1. In a large bowl, combine milk powder, non-dairy creamer, vanilla flavored creamer, sugar and instant tea. Stir in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup at a time, until mixture is the consistency of fine powder.
2. To serve: Stir 2 heaping tablespoons Chai tea mixture into a mug of hot water.


You may choose to omit the French vanilla creamer, and use 2 teaspoons vanilla extract instead. To do so, mix the vanilla into the sugar, let it dry, then break the sugar into small lumps. Follow the same procedure as above.

I got this recipe from

I have a much more complicated recipe for the mix I use...but I'll post that another bulk mix is more *from scratch* and doesn't use any white sugar for sweetening. I use honey.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds and Grocery Stores...

Okay, I put in my seed order at (I highly recommend them!) and here's what I am getting:
Long White Cucumbers: From the site "A rare heirloom cuke. Very large, smooth white fruit are very crisp and mild. Can grow to 6 lbs, one of the best for fresh eating, delicately flavored and unique looking."

Corn Salad - Dutch

"This old-time favorite has a mild nutty flavor. Tender leaves are excellent in salads, and also excellent as a cooked green."

Wild Rocket - Arugula
"Has a more pungent taste than regular arugula, leaves are deeply lobed. An Italian favorite."

Lau's Pointed Leaf Lettuce
"This variety was collected from Lau, a Chinese farmer in the highlands of Malaysia. It produces star shaped plants with long, thin, bright green pointed leaves. The flavor is sweet and very tasty. This variety was the fastest growing and most vigorous of the many lettuces grown by the managing editor of our magazine. Rare!"

Lollo Rossa Lettuce
"Very curled leaves are light green with stunning bright red edges. Mild and tasty. A most beautiful lettuce - it is superb for market."

Carentan Leek
"Long, thick (2" across) vigorous and fast growing, delicate, deliciously mild flavor, great fresh or cooked. The Carentan leek was mentioned by Vilmorin in 1885. An old European favorite that is becoming rare. Very adaptable and yields are good."

"(Cymbopogon citratus) The famous, tropical lemon-flavored herb of Thai cuisine. It has long, slender, pale green stems that are thick and fleshy. I just love the wonderful flavor this herb adds to soups, curries and stir-fries. We enjoy cooking with it often. This perennial must be grown in warm weather or inside to keep from freezing. We are pleased to offer this rare and much requested seed."

Golden Cal Wonder Bell Pepper
"78 days. Colorful golden bells that are very sweet and tasty. Gold peppers are superb for fresh eating, great for kitchen or market gardens."

Mini Red Bell Pepper
"60 days. Oh, so cute! Tiny, red, bell peppers are only about 1-1/2" tall and wide. They have thick, red flesh that is very sweet and great for stuffing. 2' tall plants produce loads of these little winners and early, too."

Purple Beauty Bell Pepper
"75 days. Purple peppers are always a favorite, as they are so colorful. This variety produces loads of beautiful bells on compact, bushy plants. Crisp texture and mild, sweet flavor makes this one popular with everyone. I even believe Peter Piper picked a peck of these purple peppers and I don't blame him."

Paul Robeson Tomato
"90 days. This famous tomato has almost a cult following among seed collectors and tomato connoisseurs. They simply cannot get enough of this variety’s amazing flavor that is so distinctive, sweet and smokey. 7-10 oz. fruit are a black-brick color. Named in honor of the famous opera singer star of ‘King Solomon's Mines’, 1937. Paul Robeson was also a Russian and Equal Rights Advocate for Blacks. This Russian heirloom was lovingly named in his honor. We are proud to offer such a wonderful variety."

White Tomesol Tomato

"80 days. An amazing heirloom that is bursting with fragrance and natural goodness that's hard to beat. The cream-colored fruit are beautiful, smooth and weigh about 8 oz. each. For taste, it's one of the best I have tried, being both sweet and rich. The vines set heavy yields of this rare treasure that is sure to become a favorite of gourmet growers. Popular at our 2004 "Heirloom Garden Show"."

Pink Grapefruit Tomato
"75 days. A really unique tomato of medium size. Beautiful yellow fruit are blushing pink inside (hence their name). They have sweet-tart taste that does have citrus overtones. A productive, round tomato that is a winner."

Gold Baby Watermelon
"75-80 days Sweet flesh is a beautiful creamy-lemon color. Fruit weigh around 5 lbs, and are perfect for small gardens. They have thin, green-striped rinds, vines produce well, and the fruit are quite colorful; very rare."

Orangeglo Watermelon

"85 days Beautiful, deep orange flesh; very sweet, excellent, almost tropical flavor! The best-tasting of ALL orange varieties we tried -- the favorite of many who tried it at our place. High yields. Very resistant to wilt and insects; strong healthy vines. These will sell at roadside stands & markets!"

Canton Bok Choy
"The typical Nai-Pe-Tsai type pak choy. Semi-upright plant produces thick white stems and deep green leaves. Good for warm areas as it is heat-tolerant."

Giant Noble Spinach
"This is the giant of the spinach clan, plants spread to 25"! Tender leaves are great for canning, steaming or salads, for those who want quantity and quality, introduced in 1926."

Now, I plan on other things in my garden, but I will be buying the seeds or plants locally.
My potato sets are almost ready to plant. I got them at....THE GROCERY STORE!
Yes, right there in the produce department, no problem at all!
I could have ordered potato sets online and had the hassle of paying shipping and handling, be worried about them drying out before they got here, etc. But I long ago figured out the easiest way to get *almost free* potato sets.

We have all had potatoes sprout, no matter whether they were in a cabinet, pantry, under the sink, where-ever.So you know they will sprout and grow under the right conditions.
This happens less frequently if you buy potatoes at some place like Wal-Mart (may that place burn )because the potatoes there are sprayed with a type of *sprout retardant* chemical, so they will last longer on the shelf and in the dark environs of the average consumers cabinets. (Please, people, if you get potatoes from a major grocer, wash them to within an inch of their potato-y little lives before you consume them. You cannot sprout them, but PLEASE wash them or peel them before cooking!)

I buy my potatoes at two stores. One is a local Hispanic/Mexican grocer and the other is a "Whole Foods" type organic grocer. We don't have a "Whole Foods" market here, but if you have one near you, get your potatoes there!

At the organic grocer, I was able to find my blue potatoes, my red-all-the-way-through potatoes, my fingerling potatoes. I got my *regular taters* at the Hispanic grocers.
I purposely picked potatoes that had good *eyes*. In fact, at the organic grocer, I asked if they had any sprouted potatoes in the back that they were discarding. They did and they GAVE them to me! (I was also able to score some sprouted Spanish Red onions! YAY!)I had already bought some regular taters at my Hispanic grocers, so I just picked out a couple of likely looking *sprouter* candidates and helped Nature take her course.

Here's how you nudge Nature along...
First and foremost, DO NOT WASH your sprouting potatoes.
Pick out 2 to 5 potatoes with plenty of eyes or tiny sprouts already on them.
Place them in a dark plastic bag (thank you Hefty trash bags!), tie up bag and put in warmish corner of your pantry or in a cabinet that gets a little warmer than the others.
Wait one week and untie the bag. Should be some sprouting going on!
Hopefully, your sprouts will be an inch long or longer. They are READY!
Cut potato in four quarters with a good sprout on each quarter.
I generally plant at least 3 chunks o' sprouting potato in each one of my Potato Towers.

Onions and garlic can be handled much the same way.
Happy Planting!
(Will let y'all know when my seeds get here and I HOPE to be able to borrow a camera to take some pics of my garden-in-waiting to post)