Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Organic Vegan Fertilizer

Anyone who's ever read through the ingredients on store-bought garden fertilizer will know that it's like reading a horror story...fish meal, bone meal, blood meal....yuck! Not to mention that those things are totally not vegan. Being a good vegan, I never buy that stuff and prefer to put together a gentle fertilizer for my veggies.

Here's a fertilizer recipe as given by Steve Solomon in his book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades. The recipe is published online here, so I think I can safely list the ingredients on this blog without any copyright problems.

Mr. Solomon calls this formula a Complete Organic Fertilizer (COF) because it provides a balance of the macro-nutrients as well as micro-nutrients and trace minerals that plants need to grow, thrive, and be nutritious. It's a fairly slow-release formula--basically a function of how long it takes for the ingredients to be broken down by soil organisms. He developed this particular blend to bouy trace minerals, calcium, and magnesium and also provide good levels of both nitrogen and phosphorus. Here are the vegan ingredients...measures are by volume: cups/ jars/ sacks, what ever works for the quantity you need:

4 parts seed meal (cottonseed or canola meal, or other seed meal that is locally available in your area)
1/2 part lime ( equal mix of agricultural lime and dolomite lime)
1/2 part phosphate rock
1/2 part kelp meal

Mix all ingredienst together...it is stable and can be stored long-term tightly covered in a cool, dry place. You can work it into the soil before planting or as a side dressing for already established plants. Steve Solomon recommends 1 to 2 gallons per 100 square feet as a general rule, but of course this will vary depending on how fertile your soil is naturally, seasonal growth rates, plant nutrition needs, and so on. The NPK ratio is 5-5-1 (5% Nitrogen, 5% Phosphorus, 1% Potassium).

I should also mention that Mr Solomon formulated this blend for soils specifically in the Pacific Northwest region west of the Cascade Mountains, our soils tend to be deficient in many trace minerals, and they tend to be slightly acidic with lower levels of nitrogen and phosphorus.

If you have a well-stocked garden center, you should be able to find these in smaller amounts like the ones shown in the picture. For larger scale production, you'd probably want to source these in larger quantities.

Ciao for now :)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Recipes from the Blogosphere: Super Healthy Salad

I was thrilled when I saw this recipe for Wilted Kale and Mustard Greens Salad over on Manifest:Vegan blog (thanks for the recipe Manifest: Vegan!). In addition to the great recipe, the post contains an interview with "The Blissful Chef," a lovely macrobiotic chef from LA, which is really interesting too.

I've been trying to eat either collards, kale, or mustard greens as part of my vegetable intake every day...they are all powerhouses of nutrition and so good for you...so this salad really caught my eye. It's quick and simple, with no added oils, and in addition to the nutritious greens,  it calls for walnuts, which provide Omega 3's.

The salad is essentially raw, but wilted by massaging the greens in grapefruit juice, salt, and agave. I'm sure it's the salt that does the wilting, but I think the citric acid from the grapefruit might also alter the proteins in the greens and make them softer...not sure about that though.

massaged greens

The next time I make it (and I will be making this a lot) I will follow the exact recipe. But  this time, I didn't have any tomato or avocado on hand, so I decided to give it an Asian-y twist. Instead of  tomatoes and avocado, I added yellow pepper, scallions, and cabbage. Instead of the portobella cap, I used shitake mushrooms and sauteed them in equal parts water, Bragg's Aminos, and sake for a teriyaki-type flavor. Also used hemp seeds instead of walnuts. The end result was really tasty...which ever way you make it, I definitely recommend giving it a try.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Radicchio, Dandelion, and Blood Oranges

Yesterday, I was out poking around in my garden and came across some radicchio that overwintered. It was growing up in these pretty little rosettes, so I decided to harvest some:

I thought the leaves might be bitter, but they weren't...they were actually much sweeter than store-bought radicchio; they worked well with the slightly more bitter dandelion greens. And look at the lovely scarlet colors:

Blood oranges are in season and so delicious at the moment; they were a perfect addition to this salad.  I had the oven on for other items, so I warmed the orange slices and walnuts slightly ( about 1-2 minutes) before adding them. The dressing was fresh blood orange juice, a little drizzle of olive oil, and fresh ground black pepper.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ratatouille Lasagne

This was a fun experiment. It's ratatouille done up lasagne style. Instead of noodles, I used eggplant and layered it with large chunks of courgette (zucchini), a chunky tomato sauce with red peppers, leek, and garlic, and a pine nut "cheese" filling. 

I sliced the eggplant lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices, and they worked like noodles would...except they released a lot of water while baking. Next time, I will salt the eggplant first to leach out some of the liquid and also make my tomato sauce a little thicker to reduce the amount of water.

For the sauce, I sauteed garlic, leek, red onion, and red peppers, with some Greek oregano, and red chili flakes...then tossed in the tomatoes and let it simmer. Thyme may be more traditional, but I went with oregano...let's face it, you couldn't really go too far wrong with any Mediterranean herb in this.

The pine nut "cheese" was really good...I usually use tofu as the base for these types of fillings, but not anymore...I really liked the way this filling turned out. I followed this recipe for  Lemon Pignoli Ricotta. You'll have to scroll down on the page a little to see the recipe.

Happy Saturday!

Roseann LaPonte
Rosanne Tobin

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Slaw with Collards

I've never been a fan of cole slaw with a mayo-based dressing. When I make slaw, I usually just go for trusty old oil and vinegar to dress it. This time, I varied a little and dressed the slaw with the tamari/lime dressing  I used for the sprout salad earlier in the week.

The slaw contains red and green cabbage, and collard greens. I think raw collards have a green, fresh taste. It was good and full of crunchy nutrition. I added sesame seeds, orange zest, and green onion to each serving, but they would be just as good incorporated into the slaw as a whole of course. (Hemp seeds would have been good here too.)

This is another salad that's great for taking to work for lunch. And, my darling spouse, who is generally reticent about eating raw veggies, eats this...so, it's a great way to get some raw veggies into him.

Lemony Mustard Greens Soup

 If you like tangy, lemony flavors and/or you are a mustard lover, you might like this soup. I have to warn you in advance that my husband described this soup as "ill-defined and contradictory," which I thought was a very creative critique of soup. You'll have to decide for yourself whether it's something that you might want to try. For my part, I really liked it.

I garnished the soup with lemon zest and broccoli sprouts, and I have to say that they are an essential part of enjoying the soup. The lemon zest enhances the lemon in the soup and the peppery crunch of the broccoli sprouts round it off perfectly. Also, I used organic russet potatoes. Usually, I don't peel them when I use them, but in this case I did because I didn't want the dark skin to darken  the color of the soup (the photo does enough of that on its own, he he:).

1/2 lb mustard greens, roughly chopped (1 large bunch)
1 large leek, both green and white parts (~2 cups chopped into rounds)
2 large or 4 small russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into medium pieces (~ 1 lb)
3 cloves garlic, slivered
pinch of red chili flakes
1 large rib of celery, chopped medium
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 cups water or veggie broth (enough to reach and maintain desired consistency)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1.5 - 2  tablespoons Dijon mustard (according to taste)
salt and pepper to taste
lemon zest, broccoli sprouts, and olive oil for topping
lemon wedges for garnish
In a large pot, gently saute the potatoes, leeks, celery, garlic and chili flakes  for 3-4  minutes until the leek begins to tender. Add enough water/broth to amply cover the leek and potato mixture, bring to a simmer, cover and let it cook for 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables are soft enough to puree.

Now, stir in the  mustard greens, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Allow he mustard greens to blanche in the hot pot for 1-2 minutes. Transfer soup to blender and blend until smooth. Return the soup to the stove, stir in the lemon juice and mustard, add salt and pepper to taste, and allow the soup to heat through for a few more minutes.

Serve garnished with olive oil, lemon zest, and broccoli sprouts.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sprout Salad

Here's a recipe for all you sprouters out there...and for all you non-sprouters too. (I used store-bought sprouts...I know...it's a lot cheaper to sprout your own, but I usually can't get organized enough for that to happen.) 

It's a simple salad, but very tasty, crunchy, and nutritious. Here are the ingredients:

~ 1 lb sprouts of your choice: I used mung bean, broccoli, pea, and lentil sprouts
1 cup unsalted, lightly roasted peanuts
1 good-sized handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (~1/2 cup chopped, or more to taste)
1 large carrot, julienne sliced or shredded 
1/4 cup tamari
1 teaspoon fresh, very finely grated ginger (or more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (toasted sesame oil is stronger and more intense than light-colored, plain sesame oils...a little goes a long way)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice/or garnish with lime wedges and squeeze over each serving to taste

Toss the sprouts, peanuts, carrot, and cilantro together and dress with the tamari/ginger/sesame/lime mixture.

This makes a perfect lunch to take to work; it really satisfies and fills you up without being heavy. If you want to make a large batch without it losing its crunch over a few days, mix the sprouts, carrots, and cilantro and keep the dressing and peanuts separate, dressing and "peanutting" as you go.

The next time I make this, I'll add some watermelon radish, which is making regular appearances at my local co-op these days.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Recipes from the Blogosphere: Thai Butternut Soup & Beet Chips


This is a combination of  recipes from two blogs that I follow and really like. The Thai Butternut Soup is from Mangocheeks  at the Allotment 2 Kitchen. The other recipe is Vegan Epicurean's Beet Chips. I've been wanting to try both for a while.

First, the soup: Mangocheeks won an award for it, and it was well-deserved. This soup is not only a creative combination, but  a perfect one. It's sweet, piquant, and rich. The flavors go perfectly together and it becomes rather addictive. I followed the recipe pretty much to a 'T', except that I added some lemon grass. It's wonderful with lime juice squeezed over the top. The soup is even tastier the next day and/or the longer it simmers, as the kaffir lime and other flavors become more pronounced. And I don't know whether this sounds odd to anyone, but I think a tomato soup version of this would be delicious as well.

Mangocheeks topped her soup with some tofu croutons, which I'm sure are delicious, and which I will surely try another day. But oddly, in a strange twist of events, I wasn't in the mood for tofu when I made the soup, so I decided to try Vegan Epicurean's beet chips as the topper instead. They bake up nicely in the oven, and make a great snack as well as a nice garnish. The beet chips worked well with the soup and added a crunchy dimension over the top. 

If you like Thai flavors, my advice is to give this soup a try...and if you like beets, those beet chips are not only fun, but definitely worth your while.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Romaine w/ Lemon-Date Dressing & Pizza

This salad is from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Donna Klein. It is very simple, but surprisingly delicious. I have a lot of cookbooks, which I'm ashamed to say, I rarely consult. But, every now and again, I like to peruse them for ideas; this recipe reminds me that I should do that more often.

I don't feel like I can give a proper review of this book, because I've only used it once or twice. And, I'm sure a lot of you are like me; you already have too many cookbooks that you don't use very much. But I will say this,  the book provides a broad range of recipes with simple, yet becoming combinations of ingredients and flavors, and she provides the nutrition information for all the recipes. Here's a review I found online that I think sums it up nicely.

Now, back to the salad. The dressing is simple: olive oil and lemon juice, add in a pinch of cinnamon and some crushed coriander seed...it all pairs deliciously with the romaine and the chopped dates. The recipe calls for sugar, but I left it out...who needs sugar when you've got the sweetness of the dates? The cinnamon and coriander really make this salad a treat. (I snuck in a bit of flax oil  for nutrition's sake...if you're not a fan, leave it out and enjoy the simple flavors unadulterated.)  I can't publish the exact recipe...but combining the simple ingredients to your taste would probably do the trick.

Tip: the dates tend to get a sticky when chopped, so mix up the olive oil and lemon juice in bowl, then toss the chopped dates in and give it a good stir...the oil in the dressing separates the date peices nicely.

Then,  I was channeling Alicia of Vegan Epicurean  when I made this healthy spinaccoli pizza:

It's a whole wheat pizza with lightly cooked broccoli, garlic slivers, and chili pepper, topped with fresh spinach, walnuts and pinenuts. I put the spinach and nuts on at the very end of baking and let them heat up a little so they weren't cooked, but just warmed.

For the sauce, I made a batch of VE's Sundried Tomato Marinara, and it is delicious...it went perfectly with the broccoli and spinach. The marinara is meant to be a raw recipe, but it I baked it with the pizza crust, so became unraw...but really yummy just the same. We ate the pizza slices topped with nutritional yeast.


Happy Saturday All!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Edibles 2010 (Spring/Summer)

     Flower rotation from 08: Sweet Peas, Poppies & Nasturtium

It's that time again...garden-planning time that is. I've made a few garden resolutions this year:

1) Any needed structures, e.g., trellises or hoop houses, will be built well and correctly...no more wonky "quick-fixes" that make my garden look like a mad inventor lives in it.

2) Wait until April to start tomato seed indoors...this in an effort to avoid having a jungle of 3-foot tomato plants sitting around my living room during the entire month of May.

3) Focus on quality not quantity...do not go wild and try to do too much for my small garden areas. This year the garden will be well planned and appropriately spaced.

We're having a very mild winter and soil temperatures are much warmer than usual this time of year. I'll be planting in fava beans this weekend, and getting my cabbage started indoors next week. Shell peas will go in at the end of the month....the rest is yet to come...

Having said all that, here's what I'm planting in my edible garden for spring/summer season:

New edible plantings:

Alaska Shell Peas
Black Cherry Tomato
Image source: http://heirloomtomatoplants.com

Black Beauty Eggplant - Organic
Bloomsdale Long-Standing Spinach - Organic
Cilantro - Slow Bolt/Organic
Early Bountiful Broad Beans - Organic/Heirloom

Edens Gem Melon - Organic
Image source: solanaseeds.netfirms.com
Babylon Cucumbers 
Italian Sweet Peppers - Organic
Nurti-red Carrots - Organic

Image source: http://www.westcoastseeds.com
Peron Tomatoes - Organic
Red Bunching Onions

Image source: http://www.onestoppoppyshoppe.com
Red Express Cabbage (early variety) - Organic
Russet Norkotah Potatoes - Organic
Savoy Express Cabbage (early variety) - F-1
Speckles Lettuce - Organic
Italiko Rossa Dandelion
Image source: www.namayasai.co.uk
Wild Arugula
Edible Chrysanthemum
Image Source: http://www.egardenseed.com
Flat-leaf Parsley
Sunflowers (start in pots and plant in when peas are done)

Established edibles from past years:

In containers:
French Sorrel
French Tarragon
Heritage Raspberries
Image source: http://www.lakeview-farms.com

In ground:
Pineapple Mint

Would like to grow and still searching for:
Perilla (Shiso)

I hope they turn out as pretty as the pictures.
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