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Garden Progress – June

Brian and I spent a large part of early spring building a new garden.  Last year, we just tilled part of the back yard and threw some starters in the ground and called it good.  The soil isn’t great though, so my garden didn’t do its best and I didn’t even get to hoard enough tomatoes to make sauce.  I knew building beds would be expensive because of all of the dirt, so when we got a settlement check from Toyota (what the settlement was for, I don’t remember) for $125, we agreed to put it towards the garden.  If you’ve built raised beds, you know that $125 doesn’t cover two cedar beds and a cinder block bed and all of the dirt.  So much dirt.  We just used basic soil and a little mushroom compost, plus my own compost and I think we spent nearly $100 just on dirt.  We bought 24 cinder blocks at a little over $1 each, and I can’t remember how much the wood was but cedar is pricey.  The only thing that made it a little better was that Menards was having a rebate promotion for a percentage back, so we were able to mail in a couple of receipts and get ~$20 back in store credit.

The rebate promo was in March, so we bought the wood and blocks then, and Brian built one bed one weekend and the other the next.  We were in no hurry since I knew that planting weather was still a ways off.  The hardest part was getting the blocks and dirt to the yard, we don’t have an alley or anything and my garden is on the opposite corner away from the gate.  So I had to load the blocks onto a moving dollie and pull them.  Dollies make moving heavy objects a lot easier, but that ease was kind of negated by the fact that I had to pull the dollie through grass instead of just over pavement.  I wanted cinder blocks so I could plant my herbs in the holes on the outside, and if I want to expand it next year I can pretty easily.  We went with two layers of bricks so I could plant greens in it from seed and not worry about Harley hopping on top of them to nap.  If you want a raised bed but don’t want to mess with cutting wood I would totally recommend cinder blocks, just keep in mind that they are HEAVY, we had to take ours home in two trips, and leveling the ground can be a pain in the ass and then you won’t do it properly and you’ll end up with some crooked bricks that you’ll have to push inward while trying to shovel dirt underneath with your hand, and that dirt will eventually settle and then the blocks will be crooked again.  Hypothetically, I mean.  That totally did not happen to me.

The greens as of yesterday.  As you can see, they’re doing great!  I have kale starters, then kale from seed, collards, and two kinds of lettuce that I can’t remember what they are and the seed packet is out of reach.  The front and back have basil, basil, more basil, sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.  I stuffed the bottom layer of the blocks with old leaves and dirt we dug up to level the ground to help keep the empty ones stable.  If you look on Pinterest, there are some really cool looking cinder block beds, you can even make a simple planter out of a couple, paint them, whatever.  And you can dismantle them at any time and re-arrange!

And here are the cedar beds, things are starting to flower and i’ve been eating really small strawberries this week but nothing too exciting so far.  The far bed is all tomatoes because i’m insane, the closer one is strawberries in the front (I planted four last year just to get them started and transplanted about a dozen into the bed from the babies they made), then peppers and eggplant, then four zucchini plants (I know, why, i’m stupid) watermelon because I thought i’d give that a whirl, and cucumbers in the back.  I tend to grow the same basics every year and try one new plant just to see if it’s easy to grow because i’m the laziest gardener ever.  Everything is doing great so far, we’ve had a decent amount of rain since I planted a month ago.  I hope to have a small jungle by this time next month!

posted: June 5, 2014
under: gardening, life, pictures

Poor Man’s Cashew Cream/Sauce

It’s been a long time since I posted a half-assed recipe.

I first made this years ago, before we had a ton of fake cheeses and I needed to use up half a pack of silken tofu. It came out great and was what won Brian over to the side of vegan pizza so we don’t have to make two. But then all of the vegan cheeses came and we got lazy. Since Isa is being paid off by the cashew lobbyists and cashew cream is everywhere right now, I made it the other night for the first time in a long time so I could pass it along because cashews are expensive and raw cashews can be hard to find, so make those suckers stretch!

One thing to keep in mind is that you kind of need the nooch to cover the silken tofu flavor – I don’t really like the taste of silken tofu so I can’t imagine using this without nooch in it, so if you don’t like nooch or want something that’s just like blended cashews + water only, take a pass. But it makes a great alfredo-y type sauce and is really good on pizza!

3/4-1 c soaked and drained cashews (I was using up leftover soaked cashews and I had slightly over 3/4ths)
1/4th a cup almond milk, or enough to blend the cashews up
1 pack of silken tofu, the shelf stable size
2-3 tablespoons of nooch
salt to taste
optional for you, but always for me: half a ton of black pepper, 1 tsp garlic powder (or more if you want), a couple of shakes of thyme (cumin and red pepper flakes if you want something spicy)

Blend the cashews and the almond milk, then add the rest and blend. Heat in a pot on the stovetop over medium heat stirring so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. I should thicken up in 5-10 minutes. Taste for your desired level of saltiness. Use it how you will. If you use it for pizza, the top will get yellow-ish and dry out a little, but underneath it will be creamy goodness. When I put it on pizza I just use a silicone spatula spoon to plop down blobs and then gently spread it.

The amount made will thickly cover one large pizza with leftover sauce, so i’d say you could easily cover two medium sized pizzas.

This is how it looks on the spatula after it’s cooked, it will still drip but as you can tell, it’s pretty thick:

P.S. If you are like me, in a small town without a bulk bin in sight, raw cashews are probably impossible to find. I order this five pound bag from amazon, it’s a good price and you can freeze them. Or go on a cashew binge, whichever.

posted: December 20, 2013
under: food, pictures, recipes

Product Review: Amy’s Veggie Sausage

When I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan, I had no problem with letting go of most of the non-vegan things in my house. Some things I finished, some things I gave away. But the three boxes of Boca sausages in my freezer, I had trouble letting go of. Ever since I ate the last one, i’ve been waiting for an eggless version to hit the market. Homemade seitan sausages are great, but they’re not the same thing.

I saw this box of Amy’s sausages in the cold case of a health food store and squealed. Was this it? The product I had been waiting for? No, not really. They’re good, if you’ve had their Sonoma burger they’re kind of like that because they’re made out of quinoa, but with sausage-y spices. They’re also smaller than I expected, even for breakfast links. When I opened the package I thought they looked pretty sad and health-foody. They cooked up well, but the ones that were touching had separation anxiety and the ‘skins’ had stuck together.

We definitely enjoyed them, but as you can see from the price tag they are pretty pricey. I don’t remember how many sausages there were, but we had them with tofu scramble and had no problems eating the box between the two of us in one meal. If they were a few bucks less i’d be inclined to eat them again, but not at six dollars a box. They might be cheaper in a regular grocery store, but the health food store I bought them from has pretty decent prices so I don’t think they had them exorbitantly marked up.

Sometime in the next week I will have a review/giveaway for Kelly’s new book, Cheers To Vegan Sweets, so check back for that!

posted: November 5, 2013
under: food, pictures, products, review

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