Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sharing the bounty

Greetings fellow gardeners!

Last week on CNN, there was a story and accompanying video on "Using nature's bounty to feed the hungry." Gary Oppenheimer of NJ has built an amazing website and network at for the purpose of matching up home and small-time vegetable gardeners with local food pantries that distribute food to families in need.
Most of the time, food pantries carry food that stores well - processed, canned etc. It's sad to me that the best food for our bodies; fresh, locally-grown vegetables and fruits, are not available to everyone.

If you're like me, and you have the opportunity to share some of what you grow, please check out and click on the link for finding a local food pantry near you. If you can't find one, maybe google for a local food pantry, contact them to see if they're willing to accept fresh produce, ask them to register on and get started with sharing your bountiful harvests.

If you have other ideas on how to share your garden with others, please leave a note in the comments.
One such example would be my blog-friend Kim over at Inadvertent Farmer who has started a KinderGardens blog experience where she urges people to help children get involved in gardening and teach them the importance of learning how to grow your own food. How neat is that?

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The revenge attack of the mini maters

Here's a quick garden update. Everything is growing like crazy. The End.

Seriously, that could be it in a nutshell. We've had fabulous warm weather for a few weeks now. Nothing too seriously humid yet, but nice warm days and cooler nights. Everything but tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil and some of the leeks, kale and broccoli I had started indoors are in the ground. I've had a bumber crop of lettuce already and I keep getting more. I've made arugula pesto and put it on pizza and in pasta dishes. I just harvested some baby pak choi last night and going to use it in a stirfry tonight. Our peas, carrots, beans, corn, potatoes and cucumbers are growing really well. I think the combination of great weather plus the horse manure from our friends and neighbors is what is making a difference this year.

Did anyone notice the title of this post? Remember last years "Great Mini Mater Invasion"? The currant tomatoes that I had SO many of that I finally quit picking them? Well, guess what is coming back to bite me in the butt? (No, not Kane....he only bites arms. lol) Yes, the mini maters are back. In full swing. In what is now the cucumber bed (because I rotate my crop like a good gardener). Here's a picture:

After I took these pictures, I put Kane in a down and gave him a cow knuckle bone while I proceeded to weed the tomato plants out of the cucumber plants. It took him about 3 hours to finish the bone, and by that time the mini mater army was reduced to a rubble (a pile, really). I found 2 other tomato volunteers elsewhere in the garden, and I'm letting them live, for now. Mostly because I'm pretty sure they're not currant tomatoes. lol.

Meanwhile on the back porch - this years hopeful tomato plant contestants are sunning themselves hoping for a good showing and a nice new large lot space in the garden as soon as this weekend. Grow, babies, grow! I feel like one of the mom's on the horrid child beauty contestant tv shows (I just flip past them, honestly I can't stand to watch!) - everytime I walk by I tell my tomato plants to "stand tall, grow strong, you are gorgeous!"

Hope everyone's gardens are coming along well. I'll leave you with this video of Kane doing one of his favorite weekend morning chores; chasing away the Canadian Geese that come up in the yard to feed. As long as they stay away from the potatoes, corn and beans....I'm happy. Kane loves to make sure I'm happy. Good Boy!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Honey Rye Sourdough Yeast Bread

Now that you have all made some great sourdough starters, or at least read my how-to, here is a recipe for a very yummy honey rye bread. It's one of our favorites and who knows, maybe it will be yours as well?!

It is a mixed flour bread, with both rye and wheat flour, so the rye is not too overpowering. Just enough to give your tummy something to work on. :-)

I'm going to start you off with a bread that has both sourdough starter and yeast. To ensure your success, although I have complete faith in you being able to do this!

A note about yeast: I use bread machine yeast (also called instant active dry yeast) which comes in the small glass containers. Once the bottle is open, I store them in the fridge. Since I bake bread almost every weekend, this works well for me. If you are used to baking with other kinds of yeast, fresh (Lucky you!) or active dry yeast, you can use this conversion table to figure out just how much to use.There's one more thing to remember about yeast: dry yeast can be added with all the other dry ingredients (like the flour) while fresh yeast will need the warm liquid to dissolve in before you proceed. There are a million different opinions on how to add the yeast to your bread - throw it in and hope for the best, that's how I do it!

These loaves are on the small side. I've doubled the recipe before, so you should be able to, and then just bake them a few minutes longer. Maybe double the recipe and make three loaves as my friend suggested.

Honey Rye Bread with sourdough starter
1 1/4 cups of warm water
1.5 tablespoons honey (I've used both raw honey and "regular" honey)
2 tablespoons rye sourdough starter

1 1/4 cups bread flour

6 - 7 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups rye flour
2 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
2 teaspoons salt

Mix all ingredients in mixer (or in a bowl by hand if you want to!)

Run 3 minutes on low (Knead by hand for 6 minutes).
Run 9 minutes on medium (Knead by hand for 10 minutes).

Let the dough rest for 90 minutes with a kitchen towel covering the bowl.

Here is my dough after the first rise. It should double in size.

Pour the dough out on a floured tabletop and cut it into 2 pieces (or 3).

Form round balls with your dough, and then stretch them by turning and pushing the dough up on the that the dough stretches across the top.

Pushing the dough up on the underside while stretching with my hands.
Move the bread round in your hands to stretch evenly on all sides.

Stretched bread dough.

Let the dough balls rest for 10 minutes under a kitchen towel.
Form into oblong shapes using this simple technique:

1. FLatten the dough by pushing down with your hands to form a rectangle.

Gently pull on the edges and flatten with your fingers
until you have a 10-12 inches by 6-7 inches rectangle.

1. Fold one long edge over to the middle.
2. Fold the other long edge over to meet in the middle
3. Fold the two folded edges together
4. Roll slightly to get everything to stick together

Place your loaves on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.

You can add a design by cutting with a sharp knife across the top - lengthwise.

Let the breads rise under a towel for 60-90 minutes - until double in size.

Turn oven to 480 F. (or as close as your oven gets!)

Put your loaves in the oven and spray some water into the oven.
You can also add some icucubes to a tray underneath your bread.
Lower the temperature to 425 F and bake for 25-35 minutes.
Let your loaves cool on a rack under a kitchen towel.

Enjoy! If you bake this - please leave me a comment and let me know how it went!