Last night I went to the Glendale Whole Foods for a quick chair massage, and decided to treat myself to a bottle of GT's Kombucha afterward. As I was checking out, a Whole Foods employee informed me that as of about two weeks ago, they now have select flavors of GT's Kombucha on tap! At the Kombucha bar, 16 ounces is $3.49 compared to $3.69 for the 16-oz sealed bottle. They also have 12-oz and 24-oz options at the bar, and once you purchase a freshly filled bottle from the bar, you can bring it back for refills. Yesterday, they had the Gingerade, Grape, and Superfruits flavors on tap.
Kombucha is definitely still a splurge, but now that I know that I won't be purchasing a new glass bottle with each drink, I plan to treat myself more often than once every few months. Thank you, GT's and Whole Foods, for creating this option!
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - a time for family and friends to come together and feast!
The photo above is the beginning of a cranberry-pomegranate sauce - a delicious recipe I found in Sunset magazine (scroll down to see the finished product).
This year, I have a big project going on, so I was unable to return home to the Midwest this weekend. However, my mother came to visit me in Burbank last week, and we celebrated early-Thanksgiving with a few friends.
The five of us had a real feast, complete with a 3.7 lb bone-in turkey breast, pancetta-sourdough-apple stuffing, cranberry-pomegranate sauce, roasted sweet potatoes with apples, green beans with lemon breadcrumbs, roquefort-spinach-leek casserole, mixed rice with cream of mushroom, apple pie, and three types of ice cream...!
Some of the leftovers and extra ingredients became these cute little pot pies the next day:
I spent Thanksgiving day with my gardener friend in Altadena, who hosted a party of 13. Many of the dishes utilized homegrown ingredients, including eggs, lemons, and squash from her garden.
I brought a fresh batch of cranberry-pomegranate sauce:
And apple pie from my mother's recipe:
Here are a few tidbits of what I've been up to during my silence the last couple months:
- I moved next door to a one-bedroom apartment (owned by the same landlord). A whole glorious 450 sq ft to myself - a 50% upgrade over my previous 290 sq ft studio :)
- The backyard garden at the apartment complex is now all mine, as the neighbor I was working on it with was the one who vacated my now-apartment. Last week I sowed the raised beds with lettuce, spinach, and mixed greens. They are supposed to take 7-10 days to germinate, so I've been eagerly watering and waiting for the seeds to sprout.
- My new apartment has a private balcony, where the Bokashi bin now lives, as well as...
- My new worm bin! I am now the proud owner of a full-sized three-tier "Wriggly Wranch", courtesy of the director of Glendale's recycle center. We met at a party for the Altadena Heritage Society over the summer.
- I'm still helping in the CSA garden in Altadena. The tomatoes, particularly the Yellow Pear variety, did very well in the late summer, especially one week in October when it rained unusually early for SoCal.
- We've been planting the winter garden now at the CSA with onions, garlic, greens, potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and more.
I took a few baskets of tomatoes and sprigs of basil home, and was inspired to use them as pizza toppings.
If you've ever had Domino's crispy thin-crust pizza, you're aware that it's infinitely tastier than their original recipe. I replicated the crispy crust at home using a shortcut, with delicious results!
- Toast whole-wheat flour tortillas in a toaster oven or oven until they are firm and dry, like big crackers.
- Spread pizza sauce on each tortilla (I love Trader Joe's pizza sauce in the glass jars - tastier than the version sold in tubs in the refrigerated section)
- Generously heap on shredded cheese - I recommend something more flavorful and pungent than mozzarella, for instance fontina or parmesan
- Sprinkle with herbs, such as oregano, dried red pepper flakes, garlic powder, etc.
- Top with fresh garden vegetables, such as sliced tomatoes and basil leaves
- Pop back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese
I often like to host pizza-making parties, using either dough made from scratch, or Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza dough. From now on, however, I'm going to switch to using tortillas. The advantages:
- No hassle rolling out dough, which can be somewhat time-consuming and messy
- Guaranteed crispy crust! No more soggy or chewy crusts, even with generous amounts of sauce and cheese.
- The tortillas are 100% whole wheat
- This recipe so speedy, it makes for a suitable easy weeknight dinner.
A white pizza my mom made, with no sauce, but abundant tomatoes, bell peppers, and hot peppers from her garden in Illinois :)
As I mentioned in that post, although I am thoroughly enjoying the process of growing vegetables, my palate has been slower to catch up. I just lack a natural "talent" for gnawing on large piles of veggies and finding them delicious. In order to get a sufficient volume vegetables into my diet, I decided to try juicing.
My first experiment with a borrowed Krups juicer produced 40 ounces of juice using:
- Baby spinach, roughly 1 lb. (< $1.00)
- 1 cucumber ($0.50)
- 4 carrots ($0.20)
- 2 oranges (free)
- 1 grapefruit (free)
The free citrus came from my gardener friend, and the vegetables were procured cheaply from Golden Farms (an Armenian grocery store in Glendale).
A 64-oz bottle of vegetable juice from Trader Joe's costs $3.79 - the ingredients for my juice would be about $2.70 for the same amount. Granted, it did take time and effort for me to make the juice and clean the juicer. However, the benefits of making it at home include freshness, and the knowledge of exactly what went into it. The first ingredient in Trader Joe's juice is water, used to reconstitute some powdered ingredients. Although vegetables also contain a lot of water, I know that my juice was not further diluted, and everything was fresh.
Adding fruit to my mix was definitely key for flavor. The result was a muddy green beverage that tasted of mild, grassy grapefruit juice. I included a few strawberries in my second batch of juice, which brought it up to the level of downright deliciousness!
I liked using spinach for its nutritional density, but it was the least convenient item to juice, as I had to turn the juicer off while I wadded together small bunches of leaves using both hands (or else little leaves would go flying as I tried to stuff them into the small opening of the machine). Cucumbers and carrots were especially convenient to put through the juicing machine - though these are vegetables that I actually already enjoy nibbling on raw.
I poured the finished juice into empty 16 oz. glass bottles to bring to work. I only made 2.5 days' worth at a time, as there are no preservatives in the juice.
* * *I'm still helping out in my friend's CSA garden on the weekends. The main job recently has been to wrangle the overgrown tomato plants and lift them off the ground with twine strung between tall stakes.
We have also been busy harvesting for her CSA deliveries! The swiss chard is unfortunately infested with aphids, but we've still got kale and some kohlrabi going, as well as leeks, zucchini, and more peaches!
I have pictures of the garden from June and July, which I will post later.
My first task, as usual, was to clean the chicken coop. It went very smoothly, as we were able to tempt all ten hens to leave the coop for their adjacent enclosure - using stale tortillas. My friend actually has eleven hens, but only ten live in the coop. The little black hen, "Suzie Q," is a different breed, and much smaller than the others. They tend to pick on her, so Suzie Q gets to live outside the coop, truly free-range! I rarely see her, but she was out and about in the garden on Sunday. Here she is below, laughing at her confined would-be-tormentors!
The garden has been growing fast, and we were able to harvest many things on Sunday. Look how far the chard has come since April:
There are plenty more carrots ready for harvesting, but the afternoon was wearing on, and we already had a lot of other fruits and vegetables ready to deliver. We picked every last orange lingering on the tree, as well as a few lemons.
In all, we delivered almost 30 kilograms (more than 60 pounds) of peaches to the CSA members! That's not counting the basket of "rejects" that we kept for ourselves.
Here's a shot of the beets, oranges, lemons, and some fava beans, ready for the CSA members to come pick up. There were also a few heads of lettuce, artichokes and kohlrabi, not shown.
The CSA consists of 8 families that all live in the same neighborhood of Pasadena. My friend leaves a list so that they each know how much of each type of item to grab when they come to pick up their produce. There is a scale for bulk items like the fava beans, while larger fruits and vegetables like the lettuce are indicated by number of units.
Two weekends ago, we had intended to start covering the empty plot with aged horse manure and wood shavings to begin enriching the hard soil. It turns out that the reason the ground was so hard was because our landlord had filled it with decomposed granite (the same material used in horse riding arenas in our area). We decided that we would make life easier by building small raised beds. Since we have free access to aged compost, we'll continue to add it to the garden to use as mulch and ground covering, but building raised beds would allow us to get started planting right away.
We used Mel Bartholomew's All New Square Foot Gardening book as a reference, and built two 4' x 4' raised beds out of wood. The beds will be only 6" deep, which Mel claims will be sufficient for all but long carrots. The potting mixture is equal parts peat moss, vermiculite, and compost. We used our free compost, but purchased the peat moss and vermiculite. Vermiculite, like Perlite, is a mineral used to improve soil drainage. It's more expensive, but not as lightweight, so it won't float away as easily as Perlite (which for a long time I thought was actually styrofoam!).
Here are some photos of our new raised beds, at around 1pm. They do get some sun in the hours surrounding noon, and we plan to prune back the tree branches soon to allow our future garden more sunlight.
Over Memorial Day weekend, we plan to add grids so that we can easily visualize each square foot. Mel recommends using thin strips of wood or even old venetian blind slats for durability, but we plan to scavenge plastic twine from our horses' hay bales.
We are also going to make a simple compost enclosure using chicken wire. Now I'll have three types of composting operations at home - Bokashi, vermicomposting, and traditional yard waste composting!
For our first planting, we plan to purchase seedlings. Meanwhile, we'll start the cooler season's plants from seed indoors.
I use Smartpak supplements for my horse*, and recently saw a neat idea for reusing the empty plastic wells to start seedlings. I wish I could find the photo!
*Since I have only one horse, it's actually not more economical to buy bulk containers of supplements, since they lose effectiveness after being exposed to air over time, and I can't use them up fast enough. Also, the Smartpaks are made of recycled plastic. I would prefer to reduce and reuse rather than simply recycling my empty containers, and now I have a good use for them!
It's still an issue of constant confusion for my friends when I try to describe why I bother to buy Bokashi bran to help dispose of my kitchen waste. Why not just bury it directly? Why do I have to buy a product to help me pickle it first?