Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Egg Shell Powder

Every once in a while, you come across an idea that is so simple, yet so brilliant. Like eggshell powder. And you wonder why you never thought of that!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Red Lentil Soup

This is a really simple but satisfying soup that I love to make and freeze in serving size batches. When I get a hankering for simple and delicious meal, I just pull some out of the freezer, and fry some onions while it is heating up. So yummy!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Hooked on this Heirloom: Amish Paste Tomato

As I start to grow and collect the seeds from heirloom vegetables (and flowers, too), I am going to start showcasing our favorites! First up in "Hooked on This Heirloom" is our current favorite: Amish Paste tomatoes.

Okay, so maybe you've heard of heirloom tomatoes. You think they look pretty, sound tasty, and must be unique, but you aren't sure what makes them any different from a 'regular old' tomato. Here is a quick explanation: 

An heirloom, or heritage, breed (of any vegetable) is a variety that has been saved and passed through many generations. The seeds from an heirloom will breed 'true'- you will get the same vegetable as the plant you saved the seed from. 

A hybrid vegetable is a cross between two different varieties, usually to take advantage of the best traits of both plants. Hybrids can be wonderful in the garden, but they have one major disadvantage: you can't save their seed. Or more specifically, you can't keep the breed going by saving their seed. You can certainly try to replant hybrid seeds, but you will likely get a plant that produces odd tomatoes, or no tomatoes at all.

*Don't confuse hybrid with GM (genetically modified), please! They are not the same at all. Farmers have been creating and breeding hybrid vegetables for thousands of years; they are completely safe and don't require a scientific laboratory. You just can't save their seeds reliably. :)

There are very good reasons to grow heirloom tomatoes, and here are mine:

1. You can save their seed from year to year, saving money (a big plus for me!).

2. The varieties are astounding! Browse my favorite heirloom seed companies, Baker's Creek or Seed Saver's Exchange, and the beauty and array of all the types of tomatoes will amaze you. You will also find, as you start making gardening friends old and new, that most are very willing to share their heirloom seeds with you. (bonus! make new friends by sharing/swapping seeds!)

3. You can implement your own 'natural selection' year by year. Take the seeds from the plant that did the best and produced the nicest tomatoes and then plant those seeds the next year. With each passing year you will have selected your own strong strain that is suited for the conditions and climate in your own yard.

4. You are helping to preserve seeds that may be rare. Many varieties of veggies have gone extinct, which I find very sad. By saving and planting all kinds of different heirloom plants, you will not only have fun with the variety, but you'll be helping to keep rare breeds alive and well for the generations who follow you.

Throughout the growing season, we find that Amish Paste can produce a variety of shapes. Most of the tomatoes that grow are the classic roma, or plum, shape, but in this photo you can see we get some other shapes as well:


We even sometimes get a few 'Siamese Twin' tomatoes!

Here are the reasons why I'm especially in love with Amish Paste and will continue to save their seed year after year:

  • They are a good all-around tomato. Beautiful for saucing, dicing to freeze or can, or just slicing to eat fresh.
  • The plant is EXTREMELY hardy. Despite my error last season starting them too early indoors, and a rough start outdoors, they flourished wildly.
  • They produce an astounding amount of tomatoes. Quite honestly, at times it's hard to keep up with them. 

We sauce them,

Dice them,

Tower up our containers,

And fill up our freezer. We are learning to can, as well.

As the summer wears on, it seems every day 

we come in the house with a bowl-full of Amish Paste!

Not a bad performance, considering the little space we have.

These tomatoes have us convinced; heirlooms are absolutely worth a try!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Finally Took the Plunge--Coconut Oil Deodorant

Homemade coconut oil deodorant is ALL over the internet, and most blogs have covered the topic quite sufficiently already. This is new to me, however, and perhaps new to one of you. So here you go!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

5 Signs You May be a Compost Addict

I realized it this morning--it hit me like a ton of bricks. For the first time, I took leaves from someone else's curbside, knowing how valuable they are for brown ingredients in my compost pile. I crossed the line, I took some leaves. I am truly a compost addict. Are you a compost addict, too? If you fit one or more of these criteria, I'm betting you are.

1. You drive or walk past a neighbor's house and see unwanted bags of leaves...and then can't think of anything else all day until you can return to ask for them.

Leaves on a neighbor's curb from a little spring yard cleaning: VERY exciting!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Creamy Crockpot Chicken Tomato Soup

I've been playing around with tomato soup recipes ever since I started growing my own tomatoes. I tried this one last week and it blew my socks off. The flavor is so incredible.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Peanut Butter & Jelly Oatmeal

Ah, peanut butter and jelly. Don't we all just crave a good old PB &J sandwich sometimes?

But have you ever tried it in your oatmeal? I have...and let me tell you, it's my new favorite way to eat breakfast. You won't believe how filling and DELICIOUS it is.