Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

1 (16 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed      
1/2 green bell pepper, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 Egg
1 tsp. Chili powder
1tsp. Cumin
1/2 Cup bread crumbs

In a medium bowl mash the black beans until thick and pasty. In a food processor, finely chop the bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Then stir into the mashed beans.

Stir in the egg, spices, and bread crumbs and mix until the mixture is sticky and holds together. If you like it a little spicier just add a bit more chili powder and cumin, and maybe some hot sauce. My kids don't like spicy so I toned it down some.

Divide the mixture into four patties Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 375degrees for about 10 minutes on each side. When I made these I also added about 1/2 cup pinto beans, because I had a few leftover in the fridge. I also think some finely shredded carrot would be really delicious.

We topped them off with the traditional burger fixin's: mayo, ketchup, mustard, pickles, tomato, garden spinach, and lettuce. They were really yummy and even my kids devoured them.  I was very happy about this, because I have a hard time getting my little girl to eat beans and she definitely won't eat onions, but she didn't even know they were there. She ate the entire thing and said, "this is really good, Mom!" Success!

Friday, February 24, 2012


"A field of corn sounds like a dial tone.

 A field that has never been touched sounds like white noise.

I think God wants me to create symphonies in seed and soil - and that is permaculture.
Paul Wheaton "ode to polyculture"

Polyculture is in essence the opposite of what "Big Ag" (large scale commercial agriculture) does. With conventional farming you plant acres and acres of one crop, you may rotate your crops but typically there is only one crop in the field at a time. This creates an environment where pests run rampant and weeds abound. With only one type of plant in a large swath the pest has it really easy, 1000 acres of goodness for him and all his friends and family. So the obvious thing is to drench the fields in poison to rid the pests. The weeds are also a "problem," they cause issues including for the large harvesting equipment and so what to do....drench with herbicide. All of those toxins are taken up in the plants.

Polyculture is from Permaculture and is a methodology of having many plants inter-planted together leaving no bare soil. They then support one another in many ways. They shade all of the soil, reducing "weeds", they share nutrients at the root level, they confuse pest insects with the broad variety of plants.

Onions, Carrots, Turnips, Beets, Spinach, and Zinnias.
So what is the number of plants needed to be considered a polyculture? Well poly refers to more than one but the more the better I feel. It is worth making the effort to get as much in as possible. There is one school of thought out there where you just mix up a bunch of seeds and give them a toss, kick some dirt on them and see what grows. This is a novel idea but when your planting area is limited you need to be a little more judicious with placement.  The more the merrier.

In Permaculture these bunches of plants are called "Guilds".  But don't expect recipes for guilds to work perfectly for you, they are very site specific depending on your climate zone, your micro climate in the area planting, soil type etc.  Use any guild recipe as a guide and work from there.

A good example of a simple polyculture is the three sisters garden that some Native American Tribes used.  It consists of planing corn, climbing beans and squash in mounds.  The corn needs lots of nitrogen, the beans provide it, the beans need support the corn provides it and the squash covers the ground keeping the weeds at bay, the soil cool and moist and utilizes all of the unused space.  

We don't have to look far in nature to see polyculture in action.  Forests, meadows, savannas all have a diverse variety of plants growing amongst each other.  Some are there to support others and other find available niche's to fill.  These ecosystems find balance, when one thing becomes overly abundant typically a pest comes in and reduces the population.

How to implement poly culture in your garden.  My feeling is get in there and do it, if you look at the picture Below is one of our small beds.  This is our kids garden area, we planted it using Polyculture.  We planted probably 18-20 different types of seeds.
We ended up with only 15 of those things come up and produced: broccoli, cauliflower, rutabaga, turnip, beets, Kohlrabi, dill, parsley, carrots, onions, garlic, cilantro, a cucumber, peas, and marigolds.  They are all mixed up, some here and some there etc.  So we learned a bit about why the others did not come up; we needed to space our plantings a bit in time and not plant all at once.  We also learned that nearly everything we planted worked well together and some spacial limitations with some of the plants.  We will have even more variety and make better use of the space as we move forward.

  • Start inter planting in the open spaces in your garden
  • Think about what you could plant in the area your vining crops will cover later in the season, plants that will grow above the vine layer (like the 3 sister garden).
  • Utilize vertical growing spaces like fences, trellises or sides of the house.
  • Plant a lot of things together, you can typically plant closer than the package says.
  • Avoid rows after row of one thing, if you want rows try to alternate what each row is.
  • Look for plants that complement each other; for support, shade or nutrients.
  • Add non-edibles to the bunch, flowers and ornamentals.
  • Plant bee forage, and beneficial insect attracting plants.
  • plant with succession, or plant your crop to spread out over a month, spreading out the harvest.
  • Don't get bogged down over analyzing, learning by doing is always the best.   
Get out there and mix things up a bit.  Work to maximize every possible inch of your soil.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chick A' Dee's

Chick Pea (Garbanzo Bean) Snack

My kids call these crunchy snacks "Chick A' Dee's", I guess that is what they hear when I say "Chick Peas". No matter what you call them they are a healthy and delicious snack that are very similar to corn nuts but a lot healthier.

Cooked Chick Peas  AKA Garbanzo Beans -You can use canned if you want or cook up a bag of dried beans to make this snack very inexpensive.
1 -2 tablespoons olive oil
Desired Seasoning

I cooked my beans in the pressure cooker. Then I drained them and let them sit in the strainer for an hour or so to dry. You could also spread them out onto a towel to dry them. Once they are pretty well dry place them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Coat them with olive oil. I used about 1 Tb. of olive oil for 1/2 lb. of beans (about 2 Cups of cooked beans). I just drizzle the oil over the beans and then use my hands to toss them until they are all thoroughly coated. Then season your chick peas as desired. My kids just like theirs salted. I use kosher salt.  My husband likes me to use a curry seasoning and I like Season Salt!  Be creative! Bake the Chick peas in a 425 degree oven for about an hour or two.  Just continue to watch them and toss them occasionally to keep them from burning. Cook them until they are crispy.  The ones on the outside get crispier faster than the ones on the inside so keep tossing them especially near the end of cooking time.  Do the 3 bean test to make sure they are all done to your desired crispiness. These are tasty! Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Bean Cookin' 101

Most often the thought of cooking dried beans brings thoughts of dread to our minds. It seems like such a time consuming process and something you always have to plan ahead for.  There are several methods to cooking dried beans, some do take more time than others. But as you get into the practice of cooking and utilizing dried beans in your meals you will find them to be a very economical, nutritious, and delicious addition.  Below are some of the most common methods for cooking dried beans:

Before you begin cooking your beans you should first rinse and sort them, checking for any bad beans or small stones.
There are two methods for soaking beans:
1.Overnight Soak- For 1 lb. of beans cover with 6 to 8 cups of cold water and let sit overnight or for at least 6 to 8 hours. Drain and rinse before cooking.

2. Quick Soak - For 1 lb. of beans add 6 to 8 cups of Hot water in a large pot. Bring to a rapid boil and allow to boil for 2 minutes. Then remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse before cooking.

After your beans have been soaked you can cook them. To cook them on the stove top, add 6 cups of hot water to drained and rinsed beans. Bring to a slow boil and allow them to simmer with the lid tilted for about 1&1/2 to 2 hours or until desired tenderness is reached. You can also cook your beans in a slow cooker but this can take anywhere from 3 to 10 hours depending on the type of bean. I usually do chili this way.

 The simplest and fastest way to cook dried beans is to use a pressure cooker. We have a small 4 quart pressure cooker that is perfect for this. In some cases, there is no need to soak the beans you can just throw them in the cooker with the recommended amount of water and you have cooked beans in as little as 3 minutes for some beans and as much as 45 minutes for others. This method is by far the quickest way to cook dried beans. I have been using our pressure cooker a lot the past few months experimenting with different beans. A word of caution: Be sure to follow the manufacturers instruction for using your pressure cooker.  A few days ago I had a big mess on my stove top and kitchen when the safety valve on my cooker released all the steam at once because I had failed to clean the vent pipe properly.  It scared me to death it sounded like the whole thing exploded, lesson learned. As long as you follow the instructions a pressure cooker is the way to go.  Until you become experienced cooking beans in the pressure cooker it helps to follow a time chart to know how long to cook each type of bean. As you become more familiar with your pressure cooker and the different types of beans it will be easier to judge the time more accurately.  This is something I am learning as I have overcooked more than one pot of beans. I need to check the chart more often than I do. Good luck with your Beans! I hope you have as much fun as I have.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bean there done that ;-)

Black Beans are one of our Favorites

Legumes are a main portion of our long term food storage.  "5lbs per person per month" is the direction from our Church Leaders.  Beans are packed full of life sustaining nutrition.  We especially love black beans, but often use red kidney, garbanzo navy, pinto and lentils.  We try to incorporate beans into many meals.  We often will use beans in place of meat or to reduce the amount of meat included in a recipe.  If properly packed and stored legumes have a shelf life of over 30 Years! There many great benefits from using legumes in our diet.      

Nutrition - Beans can provide a large portion of the required protein, fiber, iron, calcium and minerals our bodies need.  They are low in fat and take on the flavors of spices and dishes well.  Each type of legume has it's own nutritional profile.  1 Cup of Black beans for example has 15 grams of Fiber and Protein and also provide Iron (20%), Vitamin C (5%) and other vitamins and minerals. If you eat beans with rice or corn you will have the right combination for proper protein synthesis.

Cost - Beans are a very low cost item with a lot of nutrition.  They can either take the place of meat in dishes or just a good addition to them.    A great way to help make your grocery budget stretch is to incorporate dry bean to your diet.  You can buy canned beans for convenience but using dry beans is even more economical, one pound bags are typically under one dollar but will yield 5-6 cups of cooked beans (or about  2.5-3.5 cans of beans).  6 Cups of beans for less than 1 dollar!     

Cooking  - We will post a lot of bean recipes in the future, watch for them.  We try to incorporate beans in meals, but also try out various side dishes rather than the usual sides.  We often will reduce the amount of meat in a recipe in favor of more beans, Chili for example.  Beans can be added to any rice dish, stew or soup.  We often will add several types of beans to recipes making 3-4 bean chili, soup etc.    

Varieties - There are around 1000 types of Legumes worldwide.  We suggest trying our some new verities with your family, try out various recipes for each type.     

Clover root; Nitrogen nodules (clover is a legume)
Beans in the Garden -  Many beans grown in the garden can be picked early(green beans) and if left on the plant will dry to be harvested as dry beans.  It is fun to look through seed catalogs at all the various varieties. Legumes are nitrogen fixers or they accumulate nitrogen from the air into nodules on the roots.  These nodules then make the nitrogen bio-available in the soil and for surrounding plants.  Many gardeners will "inoculate" their legume seeds to jump start the process. Beans plants either grow as a bush or climbing vines.  We have a permanent trellis on the south-side of our house for climbing beans.