Friday, August 31, 2012

Roasted Potatoes - Delicious!

Garden grown Purple Majesty and Viking Red Potatoes
I have been patiently waiting for Jacob to post his update on the potato bin harvest so I could share this post with you. This is my favorite way to prepare sweet potatoes, or any type of potato for that matter. Sweet potatoes paired with the Yukon Golds, Viking Reds, and Purple Majesties from our garden was amazing. So Delicious! I really love those garden potatoes. I hope we will be harvesting sweet potatoes in the fall.

This is how I prepare them: scrub your potatoes, we like to leave the skins on, except for the sweet potatoes, peel them, and then chop up everything into 1 inch pieces.  Put them into a large bowl, and pour about 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil over them. Toss them to coat entirely in the oil. I just use my hands and dig right in. Place potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Season as desired. We use a variety of seasoning depending on our mood or what we are serving it with. Our favorites are Cajun, garlic salt with rosemary and thyme, and season salt. Dill would also be really good!

Roast your potatoes in a 425 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Just keep an eye on them. You want them to be tender but also crisp and golden brown as well. Sometimes I broil the tops for a couple minutes at the end. But that is usually not necessary.

Roasted Purple Majesty, Viking Red, and Sweet Potatoes
These are so yummy, sometimes I feel like I could eat the whole pan myself.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Potato Bin - Harvest Update

 Early this year I started an experiment, I was attempting to grow 100 lbs of potatoes in just a few square feet with a potato bin using hay.  I harvested my bins a couple months back and I need to report to you the good bits and bad bits.  First off the potatoes tasted so good, far better than any from the store.  The Yukon's, Reds and Purples all were different and so tasty.  We really enjoyed the Purple majesty potatoes, they were probably our favorites. Despite how yummy they were, sorry to say this experiment did not yield the number of taters that we expected.

We did harvest potatoes but only about 8lbs from three bins.  We gained a harvest but no where near what we should have, even for planting them in a traditional hilled fashion.  Consider we planted 3 lbs of seed potatoes and harvested only 8 lbs, most sources indicated that one pound of seed should grow at least 10 lbs of potatoes.   

One thing I did differently was instead of adding soil and compost to the bin, I used hay.  I have heard of this working but I am not sure what climate it worked.  Also the other thing I have learned, is that a lot of hay has persistent herbicides in them.  These are herbicides that are sprayed on the fields when the hay is growing, these herbicides are taken into the hay plant, when we use hay as a mulch the herbicides come out and stunt or kill plants. I am not sure if I had  issues from the hay or not, though there is a good way to test the hay to see if there is problems, I'll post about that one day soon.

Very moist straw, starting to decompose
I did find that the core of the bin stayed really moist, too moist I believe.  I also did not use the best potatoes for this type of system.  I should have used a "main crop" or long season variety, these varieties will continually set tubers all season, where as the ones I used only set tubers for a short time.  Next spring I will order out some long season taters and use the bins again.  The more standard potatoes like the Yukon golds I will buy locally at a feed store for less than a dollar a pound.

Bin sides removed, I continually added hay almost daily
So all in all it was an fun experiment.  We learned some things along the way.  It is interesting to try new methods and learn from them and try to improve them.  I originally used the hay because I did not have a few extra yards of soil or compost on hand and hay was cheap.  We now know what potatoes should work better next time.  We learned that with hay and our current watering methods that the plants are staying too moist.  We also learned that there are some great local inexpensive sources for the more common varieties of potatoes, and there are some great online places to find the more exotic or heirloom types.

Let me tell you, home grown potatoes are by far the best way to get your potatoes.  As we strive to use methods far beyond "organic" methods we find an increase the nutrition and safety of our food.  The food really comes out better in every way.  We also gain the enjoyment of cultivating it and the pleasure of harvesting and then eating it.  Growing our own food connects us back to our food, the land and with ourselves.

Beautiful Viking Reds, Purple Majesty and Yukon Golds.
While the potato bin experiment did not yield several hundred pounds of potatoes we are not discouraged.  When we garden we expect to have things not work out, and when they don't we learn.  We then can take those learning experiences and apply them to future gardens.  Each year improving and expanding our knowledge and the production of our gardens.

Some Previous Potato Posts

Potato Bin Grow 100lbs in 4 square feet?

Potato Bin Update

Seed Potatoes Where to Buy Them

Our Focus on Gardening 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tomatillo Time

So for Mother's Day I was pleasantly surprised with this gift: two packages of Tomatillo seeds. I was actually very excited - it was the perfect gift for me. I became so excited with all the wonderful things I was going to make with my own home grown tomatillos, including canning green enchilada sauce.

Tomatillos also know as Husk Tomatoes love the hot weather. They originate from Mexico and are a favorite in Mexican Cuisine. Tomatillos belong to the solanaceae or nightshade family of fruits and vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, etc. They have similar growing characteristics to that of a tomato. One difference is that this fruit grows inside a paper like husk.


When I returned home from our extended visit to Utah I arrived to find most of my garden dead :( as I had expected. But I was delighted to see that my tomatillos where flourishing :). They were filled with wonderful yellow blossoms and there were tons of little solitary bees feasting on their pollen. This morning, I was so excited to finally discover that my plants are producing fruit. Hurray! I had read previous to planting them that you need to have more than one plant in order for them to be pollinated. I have three and I have no idea if they are the yellow or the purple, but hopefully one of each.

I adore these tomatillo plants, they are actually really beautiful little plants. They are much more delicate and more ornamental looking than a regular tomato. So I'll bet you are wondering how a tomatillo stacks up against it's cousin the tomato - nutritionally I mean. Well, here is what I learned: Tomatillos are actually a bit more nutritionally dense than a regular tomato. They contain more minerals than a tomato of the same weight. They are of course low in fat and cholesterol free and contain very few calories. They are a great source of fiber, vitamin A & C and folate. They also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which we know are good for our heart. One thing that a tomatillo does lack that tomatoes do contain is lycopene, which is a powerful antioxidant. But tomatillos contain different antioxidants know as withanolides, which also contain anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. This is an example of why God has given us the counsel to eat every fruit in its season, as they all contribute different amazing things that He has created for our benefit and good.(Doctrine and Covenants 89:11) This is part of His "Word of Wisdom" to us.

Of course, in the near future I will be posting about all of the exciting new things I will be making with my tomatillos so check back with us or sign in on the sidebar to receive an e-mail each time we post something new.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

Today I would like to share with you our recipe for Spaghetti Sauce. Jacob and I always make spaghetti sauce from scratch. We very rarely use a store bought bottled sauce. We came up with this recipe together and sometimes we add this or that for variety depending on our mood or what we have in the fridge.

2 Tb. Olive Oil
1/2 Med. Onion, Chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Quart Diced Tomatoes
1 Small (4 oz.) Can Tomato Sauce
1 tsp. dried Thyme
1 tsp. dried Basil
2 tsp. Salt
Pepper to taste
Tomato Paste - if needed to thicken
Other options to add: 1/2 to 1 lb. browned ground beef, turkey, pork, or Italian sausage, mushrooms, green pepper, or other veggies. 

Heat oil in saucepan and add onion and garlic, saute' until tender. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices. Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for at least 1/2 hour or longer, until sauce reaches desired thickness.

When our garden was busting at the seams with tomatoes I made this batch of sauce with all these amazing fresh ingredients.

Chopped onion from the garden. And of course garlic, lots of fresh garlic.

Tons of fresh basil and tomatoes from the garden.
Instead of using a can of tomato sauce I just pureed up some of the tomatoes.

When I make fresh sauce from the garden I just chop up my tomatoes skins and all.  I don't bother to remove the skins because I don't mind the skin in my sauce this way.  I do however, remove the skins when I bottle tomatoes because the skins tend to become tough over time.

I also added some salt, pepper, and dried thyme to the sauce.

I added a couple of jars of baby veggies to my sauce (tricky, tricky, huh!). They helped to thicken my sauce and added some great veggie power. Jacob hates peas and he didn't even know they were in the sauce!

I didn't buy these with the intention of using them for this purpose (they are way too expensive), I just had a bunch leftover from when my 10 month old decided baby food was no longer for her. You could apply the same idea by simply taking some steamed veggies and pureeing them. This is a great way to get more veggies into little tummies. 

I then added about 1/2 pound of browned ground beef to my sauce and let it simmer for about 45 minutes. 

Yum! It turned out delicious! Spaghetti is always a hit at our house and it tastes even better with homemade sauce made with the freshest of ingredients.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Shaun-ta's Southwest Black Beans and Rice

I am sharing with you today another great Food Storage Recipe that my family really enjoys.  I actually adapted this recipe from another dish that we really like to make it vegan, as we been striving to eat less meat and add more beans and legumes into our diets. Another bonus is that it is a quick and easy one dish meal.  I hope you enjoy it too!


1 & 1/2 tsp. Chili Powder
1 & 1/2 tsp. Seasoned Salt
1 (15oz.) Can Black Beans, drained  (or about 2 &1/2 Cups cooked black beans)
1 (14.5 oz.) Can Diced Tomatoes (Southwest Style)
1 Cup Frozen Corn or 1 Can Corn, drained
1 Cup Rice
1 & 1/2 Cup Water

Combine water, tomatoes, rice, and 1/2 tsp. each of chili powder and seasoned salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, or until rice is almost tender. Add beans, corn, and remaining seasoning. Cook for another 5 to 10 minutes or until rice is completely tender and liquid is completely absorbed. Top with shredded cheddar cheese if you like.
I served this with cheese quesadillas. They would also be great served inside a tortilla or along side some corn chips.

Don't be afraid to change things up in recipes. If you want it a bit spicier add more chili powder. The recipe I adapted this from has chicken in it. This is a great addition. Simply cook some seasoned (with some of your chili powder and season salt) bite sized pieces of chicken breast in about a tablespoon of oil and add to your dish at the end. I used long grain white rice, but you can substitute brown rice or instant rice just adjust the amount of water used and your cooking time accordingly. If you don't have southwest style tomatoes just use a bit more seasoning and add some green bell pepper or a can of green chilies to it. There are tons of possibilities. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

What are you doing with your Grass Clippings?

Last summer I remember listening to my older sister complain about how many weeds they had in their garden and how they just couldn't keep up with the weeding. (She has about 1/4 of the garden space that I do.) I made the comment that I hardly ever have to weed because Jacob and I put all of our grass clippings down into our garden. She then told me how they haul all of their grass clippings to the dump.  I then gave her a stern talking to about never taking her grass clippings to the dump, because they are amazing for your garden.  Not only do grass clippings keep the weeds down, but they lock the moisture into your garden and add nutrients to your soil. My kids and I have spent the last month visiting our family in Utah and I was happy to see that my sister, even though she didn't plant her garden this year has at least been putting her grass clippings into her garden space to control the weeds. So I have since been trying to convince my dad to do the same.  He has been a little reluctant, but he did put some down into part of his garden and wow what a difference, I may have him converted. I took some photos of  some of the areas of his garden. I wish I had before and after pictures but I didn't think about it at the time so you will have to take my word for it. 

So here is a part of his garden where there are no grass clippings down. I had already cleared this row of weeds so that explains the lack of weeds, but as I was weeding you could really tell the difference in the amount of moisture in the soil.  This was at about 10 O'Clock in the morning and it had rained a bit the night before.  The soil here was already dry and well very hard to weed.

Here is a section of the garden where my dad finally broke down and put some grass clippings  into the garden.  There were hardly any weeds here and the few that had come up were easy to pull because the soil here was still very damp from the rain the evening before.

This is not the best picture but I pulled some of the grass back here and the soil was still dark and very moist.
Now here is where I wish I had a before and after picture but a week and a half ago this row of squash was about half the size it is now. I thinned some of the squash out and my dad put some of his grass clippings around the base of plants and covered this row.  They have also had some rainfall which has been great, because they hadn't had any in about 90 days. But if you look at the garden overall you can definitely tell a difference between this row and the others. It is flourishing much more than the others and has hardly any weeds and no weed killer was used.

We encourage you to use grass clippings or other organic means (leaves, compost, etc.) to control the weeds in your garden. Using chemicals like roundup to kill weeds in your garden means those chemicals are going into your plants and then into your body. I have heard that Roundup can stay in your soil for as long as 20 years. Part of the benefit of planting your own garden is to avoid chemical laden fruits and veggies. Give grass clippings a try and see if it doesn't help your garden to flourish too.