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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Growing Veggies Grows Money

Growing Tomatoes and Potatoes - Gardening to Save Money on Food - The Daily Green
garden vegetables
If you shop at the grocery store for tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini, salad greens or strawberries -- and who doesn't? -- then you are the perfect candidate for becoming a kitchen gardener.

Growing your own will save you an incredible amount of money -- more than $1,200 if you plant all five, according to the analysis of one Maine gardener.

Roger Doiron, the founder of Kitchen Gardeners International (and a 2009 Heart of Green Award winner), undertook the painstaking process of determining how much his garden was worth. He weighed what he grew and compared it to the cost -- on a per pound basis -- of buying the same amount of conventional produce at the grocery store, local produce at the farmers market or organic produce at a nearby Whole Foods.

Doiron has a pretty big garden -- 1,600 square feet -- and he estimated spending $282 on seeds, supplies, a soil test, compost and water during the year of his analysis. He grew 834 pounds of produce -- 35 varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs. All told, he saved between $1,914.50 (compared to conventional produce at the grocery store), $2,149.15 (compared to local produce at the farmers' market) and $2,266.93 (compared to organic produce from Whole Foods).

Try and find a better financial bet in this -- or any economy. His return on investment was a whopping 678% (assuming he'd have bought that much produce at a grocery store).

Will you save that much? That depends on how much you spend on planting and maintaining your garden, how successful your harvest is (Doiron's apple tree was a bust), and how much the same produce costs at your local markets. (The analysis also papers over one confounding factor: Few would purchase 72 pounds of zucchini or 47 pounds of winter squash in a year, but if you've ever had a garden you know that part of the pleasure is finding recipes to deal with the mixed blessing of high yields.) Regardless, his analysis is a good indicator that you can save a bundle with a little effort -- effort that is rewarded not only in dollars, but in flavor, nutrition, exercise and time spent outdoors.

Here's a look at the 20 vegetables he grew that were worth $25 or more each, listed from most lucrative to least. For simplicity, we're listing only the value of the garden crop as compared to buying conventional produce at a grocery store. We've also rounded to the nearest pound and dollar. To see the comparison to farmers' market and Whole Foods prices for all 35 of Doiron's crops, and every decimal place, check out his raw data.
20 Garden Vegetables Worth $25 or More
garden vegetables

Crop Pounds Value
1. Tomatoes 158 $630
2. Potatoes 142 $211
3. Salad Greens 26 $198
4. Zucchini 72 $136
5. Strawberries 35 $104
6. Onions 54 $81
7. Carrots 34 $68
8. Cucumbers 34 $68
9. Peas 12 $62
10. Nasturtiums 1 $53
11. Snap Beans 21 $53
12. Winter Squash 47 $46
13. Leeks 12 $46
14. Celery Root 10 $39
15. Eggplant 21 $38
16. Peaches 13 $38
17. Basil 4 $32
18. Cabbage 40 $31
19. Endive 6 $28
20. Asparagus 9 $27

Read Doiron's account of his garden accounting and find more tips and encouragement for growing your own garden at Kitchen Gardeners International.

Thanks to KGI for sharing the data, and the cool money crop photo. The vegetable photo is by Sue Wilson/Getty Images.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Magic Beans

The Benefits Of Beans: 9 Reasons Why YOU Should Eat Beans | Natural Remedies: Natural Healing For Body, Mind & Spirit

January 2, 2009 by Sydney Johnston  
Filed under Wellness

The Benefits Of Beans: 9 Reasons Why YOU Should Eat Beans

The benefits of beans are so numerous that we can’t say enough in praise of a beans diet. Healthy beans are so outstanding that only green vegetables come close as a valuable food source. Beans are so loaded with nutrition and taste that we’ve listed nine reasons below to devour huge quanitities of beans – beginning today.

Beans & Protein:

Thanks to a relentless campaign from food industries, we have a highly exaggerated idea of the amount of protein that is needed by our bodies. In fact, we only need a small percentage of the amount we usually get. If you staunchly refuse to believe this statement, consider mother’s milk, which contains only 1.6 grams of protein per 1/2 cup, less than one half the protein of cow’s milk. The greatest growth time of our lives is when we are babies, so if we needed huge amounts of protein wouldn’t mother’s milk, the “perfect food”, provide it?

In fact, there are serious dangers to high protein diets.  Two examples are: osteoporosis and kidney disease.  The bone thinning disease of osteoporosis is an epidemic in the United States and high amount of protein have unquestionably played a huge part in this explosion. High protein diets cause calcium to be lost in the urine. This calcium does not come from the meat – it comes from our bones. Animal products create uric acid which makes our blood acidic. Calcium is the mineral that is most needed by the body to fight acidity – and in its valiant attempt to protect itself, the body pulls this needed calcium from the bones, the most abundant source we have.

Further, if we eat more protein than the human body can use, it is broken down and excreted which overworks the kidneys by increasing the amount and flow of urine. The “nephrons”, which are the kidneys filter units, gradually die off in the process.

So, yes, we need protein – but not a huge amount of it and the best advice is to stick to plants. A variety of plant foods provides all the protein we need and, contrary to a popular myth, we don’t need to ‘combine’ those proteins in any special way to get all eight amino acids that the body doesn’t produce. That notion began with an influential book, Diet For A Small Planet. The author, Frances Moore Lappe, later recanted, admitting she was in error. If only all errors were so readily admitted!

Fiber And Beans:

There are two kinds of fiber. The first is “insoluble” fiber, alias ‘roughage’, which can’t be used by the human body. Instead it moves on through, carrying out waste products and toxins. The more insoluble fiber we have, the less likely we are to retain foods inside our bodies which keeps them from putrefying. Yes, that’s a gross thought but that doesn’t make it any less true.

“Soluble” fiber becomes gooey and helps to process fats, lowers cholesterol and slows the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. Many have reported a lower cholesterol score just from consuming more fiber.

Quite simply, fiber is what makes you feel full! Obviously, if we feel full we will eat less and be more satisfied, our appetite will be more easily controlled and we will either lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.

Fiber, Beans And Weight Loss:

The most popular theory of dieting and weight loss for decades has revolved around calories. Experts have loudly proclaimed that there is an immutable formula for calories in, calories out but, in fact, all calories are not the same because some calories require much more digestion than others. The harder your body has to work to digest those calories, the less of them will be absorbed. The difference between a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of beans is startling. In fact, if you’d like to reduce your calorie “price” by 10%, add an extra 14 grams of fiber. This means that if you eat 2,000 calories per day, and add 28 grams of fiber to your meals, those calories will only “count” as 1600. Cool!

It’s easy to get 30, 40, 50 or more grams of fiber a day. There are four foods that supply lots of healthy fiber …

* Beans
* Vegetables
* Fruits
* Whole grains

… and in that order, with beans being the best source of fiber. Set a target of at least 40 grams per day. Beans have approximately 15 grams of fiber per cup.

Fiber, Beans & Blood Sugar

Scientists rate how quickly foods release their natural sugars into the bloodstream using a number called the glycemic index or GI. Foods on the low end of the glycemic scale release their natural sugars slowly over a period of time. Probably most resident in the western world have experienced the famous ’sugar high’ and researchers are positive that sugar – literally – acts like a drug on the human system. In fact, some scientists have compared sugar to heroin!

Low glycemic foods, on the other hand, release their sugars more slowly and steadily, acting a constant source of energy. These foods don’t send your blood sugar skyrocketing only to crash soon after, causing your appetite to return and often making snacks irresistible.

And, if you’re overweight, your body tissues are most likely more sensitive to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood sugar.

What makes a food low or high on the glycemic scale? It’s about the carbohydrate molecules of the substance. With low-GI food, the molecules are stacked and dense and have been compared to a stack of logs waiting to be burned in the winter fireplace. When the agents of digestion in your body – your enzymes – go to work on these logs, it takes a long time to burn them and that’s why your blood sugar isn’t much affected.

High GI carbs are more like branches or twigs, with their molecules spread apart and surrounded by space. Your enzymes quickly break them apart, releasing all their sugar into the blood at more or less the same time.

Guess who’s the undisputed champion of the low GI food groups? That’s right: legumes – beans, peas, lentils – with green veggies being a close second, calorie for calorie.

A Beans Diet And Leptin:

A few years ago, it was discovered that a hormone named “leptin” [its name comes from the Greek word 'leptos' which means 'thin'] controlled the human appetite. There was an incredible excitement over this discovery and the dieting world hailed The Answer for all overweight folks. Unfortunately, leptin from outside sources has thus far been a huge flop.

Leptin is made by our body’s fat cells. When the cells realize there is enough nourishment available, [meaning you're not starving yourself by dieting!] they release leptin into the bloodstream which has two important effects:

* Your appetite declines …
* Your metabolism is boosted  and thus calories are consumed more quickly …

Plant based, low-fat foods help to keep leptin levels high – while fatty foods, like animal products, suppress your leptin supply. And guess what? Beans are only 2-3% fat which means they raise your leptin levels and reduce appetite, while causing your metabolism to work harder and faster.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Amount: 4 ounces
Calories: 306
Fat grams: 20
Protein grams: 23
Fiber in grams: 0

Amount: 8 ounces [twice as much as the beef above]
Calories: 227 [discount by 10% due to high fiber content]
Fat grams: .09
Protein grams: 17.9
Fiber in grams: 15

Nutrients & Beans:

Beans are loaded with nutrients that our bodies crave:

B Vitamins: are necessary for healthy brain and nerve cells, for normal functioning of the skin, nerves and digestive system.

Calcium:  for strong bones and teeth and to help keep the body more alkaline, rather than acidic.

Potassium: helps reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke.

Folate: a B vitamin that our bodies don’t produce yet dry beans are our single best source of this important vitamin which helps protect against heart disease and cancer.

These Healthy Beans Are Inexpensive

Beans are cheap! In fact, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, in the grocery store that is a bigger bargain than beans, peas and lentils. Yesterday I bought an entire pound of black eyed peas for $1.29. Granted, I normally pay more than that because I almost always buy organic beans. But even those babies are only about double the price of the ones grown with chemicals. Considering their nutritional punch, there simply is nothing in the store that is a better buy than beans. Check out the dried beans and lentils in your store and see for yourself. And if you can buy them in bulk, the way I do, they’re even cheaper.

A Huge Variety Of Beans

There are all kinds of beans available for most any palate … unless you’re one of those unfortunates that really detest beans. Sorry about that.

For instance, my least favorite bean is the kidney bean. I don’t dislike it, I just prefer other kinds and fortunately there are a myriad of choices. These are just a few that are quite popular in the US:

* kidney beans
* soy beans
* garbanzo beans
* adzuki Beans
* lima beans
* red lentils
* green lentils
* brown lentils
* black beans
* black eyed peas
* broad beans
* red beans
* butter beans
* fava beans
* great northern beans
* haricot beans
* mung beans
* navy beans
* pinto beans
* yellow split peas
* green split peas
* white beans

Versatile Good Nutrition

It’s impossible to even guess how many bean recipes exist on this planet. One thing is for sure – the number is in the hundreds of thousands and most likely the millions. If I assigned you the task of listing 100 different bean recipes, you could certainly do it. So in an effort to reinforce their versatility, here are some major headings:

Bean Main Dishes: beans are in stews and casseroles; they’re baked with meat; in some cultures, like that of Mexico, they’re unique dishes that are served constantly [think tacos, enchiladas, chalupas]; cattle drives moved across American eating huge pots of beans at every meal; Indian tribes ate beans for thousands of years.

Vegetarian Bean Main Dishes: vegetarians like me frequently fix main dishes without meat, using beans as the filling ingredient, rather than animal products. I frequently make chilis with beans and baked beans are common. With a salad and crusty bread, they’re yummy!

Baked Beans: are the most famous bean dish and they’re baked with all kinds of different ingredients: onions, garlic, barbecue sauce, cranberries, mushroom, pineapple – even Dr. Pepper and beer.

Bean Salads: everyone has eaten cold beans in salads. I recently ate a cold bean, mandarin orange and purple onion salad that had me threatening mayhem to the person of the hostess if she didn’t hand over the recipe. :-)

Bean Soups: there are bean soups in cultures all over the planet from Cuban black bean soup to Mexican spicy soups to French Canadian pea soup and my favorite, our American Senate Bean Soup.

Bean Dips: are a favorite of most people and are quite popular at all kinds of social gatherings and surely go well at a Super Bowl party with a huge bowl of chips.

Chili With Beans: chili without beans is simply a total flop. Actually, the beans are more important than the meat because there are meatless chilis but virtually no chilis without beans. Some folks cook the beans and meat in a separate pot and mix them together when served.

Bean “Breads”: beans have become so popular that there are many bean flours available these days, and they can be used like grain flours to make bread, pasta, muffins and loaves.

Bean Desserts: while not as common, there certainly are bean desserts. Asians often eat a red bean ice cream [which I've never eaten, but definitely will the first chance I get] and there are other goodies like a Pinto Bean Pie and an orange garbanzo cake.

If the benefits of beans can’t persuade you to give this delightful food group and try, then consider this: beans are tasty! There are a bazillion bean recipes available for you to try and simple experimentation might lead you to find healthy beans that you truly enjoy. After all, humans have been eating beans for – literally – millenia and they didn’t eat them for any reason of ‘bean nutrition’. They just ate them because they’re yummy. Anything that I like to eat that makes me healthier definitely gets an A+.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker Recipe

 Store bought Yogurt is expensive.  A 6 oz. container can cost anywhere between .50 to .99 cents.

Making Yogurt Without a Yogurt Maker Recipe
You can make yogurt in a thermos, an oven, on a heating pad, in the sun, on a wood stove, and in a crockpot. See links below for yogurt machine methods.


1. Milk
2. Plain yogurt (cultured)

Here are Phyllis Hobson's techniques for making yogurt if you do not have an appliance designed for it.

With a thermos
Almost fill a thermos bottle (preferably widemouthed) with milk heated to 100 degrees F. Add 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and mix thoroughly. Put the lid on and wrap the thermos in two or three terry towels. Set it in a warm, draft-free place overnight.

In an oven
Pour 1 quart of milk into a casserole dish and add 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Stir well and cover the casserole. Place in a warm (100 degree F.) oven with the heat off. Let it sit overnight.

On a heating pad
Mix 1 quart of milk and 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. Set an electric heating pad at medium temperature and place in the bottom of a cardboard box with a lid. (A large shoebox works well.) Fill small plastic containers with the milk-yogurt mixture; put on the lids. Wrap a heating pad around the containers, then cover with towels to fill the box and let sit, undisturbed, for 5 to 6 hours.

In the sun
Pour 1 quart warmed milk into a glass-lidded bowl or casserole. Add 3 tablespoons plain yogurt and cover with the glass lid or a clear glass pie pan. Place in the sun on a warm (not too hot) summer day and let sit 4 to 5 hours. Watch it to make sure it is not shaded as the sun moves.

On the back of a wood-stove
Many grandmothers made clabber by setting a bowl of freshly drawn milk on the back of the stove after supper. Make yogurt this way by adding 1 cup starter to 2 quarts milk and let it sit, loosely covered with a dish towel, on the back of the cooling wood range overnight.

In a crockpot
Preheat a crockpot on low for about 15 minutes, until it feels very warm to the fingertips. Put covered containers of yogurt mixture into the Crock-Pot, cover it, and turn off the heat. At 35- to 45-minutes intervals, heat the Crock-Pot on low for 10 to 15 minutes.

Make your own Greek yogurt:

Line a sieve with a coffee filter and set it over a bowl. Place 4 cups plain whole-milk yogurt in the filter and refrigerate for 12 hours (you'll get about 2 cups thick yogurt)

Yogurt Cheese

   1.   Line a strainer with a coffee filter. In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, salt, pepper and garlic.
   2. Pour into the cheesecloth lined strainer. Place the strainer over another bowl to catch the liquid, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 days, until all of the liquid has drained off. Empty the drainage bowl occasionally so you can see when the cheese has stopped draining.
   3. Transfer cheese to a covered container, and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

** Add herbs like dill for flavoring.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

One man's cheap and organic alternative to fancy store-bought grow bags.


In the Bag
Cauliflower and tomatoes grown in plastic bags.

by Sampath Jagannathan
One man's cheap and organic alternative to fancy store-bought grow bags.

Take a plastic bag.
Fill it with soil.

Scatter some seeds.

Seedlings sprout.
Let them grow.
They become bigger.

Cover the soil with:
Fruit peels.
Uncooked vegetable waste.
Tea and coffee grounds.

Water when the plant asks for water.
It won't ask often.

Will it grow into a plant?
Will it flower?
Will it fruit?

It did for me.

Cauliflower and tomatoes grown in plastic bags.  Photos by Sampath Jagannathan

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What Can I Sprout?

What Can I Sprout?
sprouts 200x149 What Can I Sprout?

ALFALFA. This has only recently been discovered to be excellent for sprouting. Alfalfa comes from North Africa where it is used as a crop for animals and green manure. Some believe alfalfa sprouts to be the most nutritious food in the world. They are high in protein, chlorophyll, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin K. When the root is 1 1/2 inches long , it will begin to develop tiny green leaves. At this stage it needs to be eaten immediately so the plant will not switch to photosynthesis that exhausts the stored food in the seed. Raw alfalfa is delicious in stuffing pitas, nori sheets or sandwiches, using an avocado dressing. It would seem a grievous act to cook these delicate threads of life.
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BARLEY. Barley converts the largest amount of starch to sugar which is why it is widely used in producing beer. It has therefore been studied more thoroughly than any other seed. Again, as with many grains, the roots should be no longer than the seed size itself.

CHICKPEAS. Commonly known as garbanzo beans. Primarily a pulse crop grown in India. The sprout is tender and delicious and is ready toe at when the root is between 1 1/2 and 2 inches long. Cooking requires only 5 minutes.

CORN. Finding corn for sprouting is a real trick because the germ is rarely intact because of how the kernels are removed from the cob. The root should be allowed to grow for only 1 inch in length. Cooking time is approximately 8 minutes.

FENUGREEK. This legume is still used in medicine, food and teas. It is a spicy seed that is excellent for making curry. Use when the sprout has grown to 1 1/2 inches long. Fenugreek is often sold where the seeds are broken for making fenugreek tea. Make sure you buy whole fenugreek seed.

LENTILS. When lentils are sprouted, they become sweeter with a delicate flavor. They need only 5 minutes of cooking compared to 30 minutes for dried lentils. But we love them raw! Lentil sprouts are ready to be eaten when the root is 1 inch long.

MUNG BEANS. These are the easiest to sprout for beginners. Mung bean sprouts are common in Chinese restaurants and grocery stores. They have a delightful fresh raw flavor. When the bright white root grows from 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, they are ready to eat. Cook no more than 3 minutes.

PEAS. Sprouting peas increase their sugar content, giving pea sprouts a sweet vegetable flavor. Wrinkled or smooth varieties work equally well. When root is 2 inches long, they are ready to eat raw, or need only 5 minutes for cooking.

SOYA BEANS. These are the most nutritious of all sprouts and are commonly used in China. The small soy bean that is yellow color is excellent for sprouting. Soya beans are considered fairly difficult for the experienced sportiest because they are prone to fermentation, especially during the warm weather. To overcome this problem, rinse sprouts often and remove discolored and unsprouted seeds. They are ready to eat when the root is 2 inches long. Soya bean sprouts require approximately 10 minutes for cooking. These sprouts are higher in protein than any other bean.

SPROUTED BREAD. This delicious cake-like bread has been enjoyed for thousand of years. Sprouting grains and baking at low temperatures allows the wheat to be less mucus-forming and more digestible. This is a better quality bread because it is closer to a living food. Sprouted bread can be bought at your local health food store.

VARIOUS LEGUMES. Other legumes that can be sprouted successfully are lima, maro, pinto, kidney, harlot, navy, aduki, and broad beans. You can also sprout black-eyed, cowgram, pidgeon and redgram peas. Some of these may be difficult to find but are fast becoming more available.

WHEAT. A light delicious flavor resembling fresh, picked corn. The sprouts should not be longer than 1/2 inch or less. Grains sprouts grow faster than legumes and refrigerating them does not seem to slow them down. Do not confuse wheat grass and wheat sprouts. As wheat sprouts become wheat grass, they take on completely different nutritional properties. Wheat sprouts cook within 8 minutes or less. When can be bought in health food stores.

Spice It Up With Herbs

spices 200x136 Herbs and Spices Guide For Cooking

Herbs and spices are the perfect partner to fruits and vegetables for bringing out flavor. Chamomile, cayenne, cinnamon and hops all give different flavors to your carrots, or you can spread horseradish or mint spreads on bread for wildly different effects.

Even better, many herbs have doubled through the centuries as healing medications. Today, including certain herbs in your diet can make you feel better. Fresh herbs are best for flavor and for most medicinal purposes (and you can even grow your own in a kitchen or windowsill garden), but dried herbs will do as well. Herbs are primarily made of the whole plant – blossom, root, stem, and seed. Spices are similar, but tend to be stronger, aromatic, and tropical in origin. Spices are also great at preserving food as well as seasoning it.

Herbs are mild and used for more delicate flavors, but spices tend to be bold, even overpowering if used to excess. However, the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Herbs can be dried in the oven, if you don’t allow the temperature to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit – that’s setting the oven on Warm. Spread the herbs evenly on a cookie sheet, and keep the door of the oven ajar so that air can circulate. After the herbs have fully dried, keep them away from light, in a relatively cool place and in an airtight container, preferably glass or pottery.

In some way you have linked spices with successful cookery - and now you want to know more about them.

Part of the "mystery" of spices is the inexactness of knowledge about what they are. "Is garlic salt a spice?" "What's an herb?" The word "spice" is used generally to cover the waterfront of spices, seeds, herbs and the vegetable seasonings.


(The information below was reprinted with permission from the www.astaspice.orgwebsite!)

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