Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Product Review

Two of my "new" favorite things!

To-Go Ware's large sidekick (stainless steel and perfect for nuts and berries)
Klean Kanteen's Reflect (sustainable bamboo, silicone and stainless steel - no plastic)

*Wishlist - 18 oz reflect for my bike, but it's not offered in any other size than 27 oz...

I really love both of these products! The To-Go ware is just the right serving size to take along nuts and seeds in my purse or a bag. And, no worries about plastic leaching into my food. The new Reflect from Klean Kanteen is really peace-of-mind for me. No worries about any "toxic" parts and no petroleum in this product either. It's a great water bottle and easy to haul around with me too. You know you want one of each, don't ya?

Product review

We've been using Ballard Organics' liquid unscented foaming soap for the past couple years and I love it! The refill concentrate is economical. To refill the soap dispenser: add one ounce of soap and the rest water; give a good shake and your soap is ready.

I recently purchased their bar soap after learning the goat milk soap I had been using for the past 4 years wasn't a good option for me. I'm not supposed to be eating/using any dairy-based products. I was really upset about letting go of my blackberry goat milk soap and was hesitant to believe something else could be so wonderful... Ballard Organics makes several bar soap options and one is unscented. It was love at first lather! Now, I can't imagine not using this soap in the shower. It lathers well every time and my skin is soft and never irritated. Now, if only it came in blackberry...

A click on the picture will enable you to visit their website.

Free Seeds arrived!

Seeds of Change had a special "25 packs of free seeds" offer on facebook and I was fortunate enough to register in time... I had begun to wonder if it had really worked. Recently, an unmarked manilla envelope arrived addressed to me and it was filled with my seed packets! I shared duplicates with our next door neighbors and planted many of these in our garden this weekend. Yippee!

Memorial Weekend in the garden!

Everbearing strawberries in planters

...and doing well.
*The rosemary on the top was transplanted into the front yard this weekend.

We're experimenting with putting tomatoes on the south side of the house this year (driveway) and hoping they get enough warmth for good production

The Meeker raspberries in the background looks like they're on steroids, but I didn't even fertilizer them this spring. Rhubarb has done well (on left side in front of raspberries - prior to second harvest this spring) and the strawberries are going to town too!

Strawberry bed with second year plants in front and new plants behind...

The new blackberry is really starting to grow...

Lots of new growth on the new-for-this-season black raspberry

This is our asparagus bed - planted crowns in February - but we're not sure if they are going to be productive or not. I decided to push in the soil that was on each side of the bed. We added more garden soil this weekend and I planted these brussel sprout starts on the right side of the bed (and out of the way of the asparagus ferns that we are hoping will grow).

Gooseberries doing well, so far, this season...

The new boysenberry is finally showing some good new growth!
The little green leaves behind the boysenberry are "low growing good bug" blend seed from Peaceful Valley and I'm hoping they are helpful in attracting the good bugs!

The new strawberries are in a great growth pattern and the Anne golden raspberries are flourishing...

Blue Star creeper under the maple tree.

A little concerned about the huckleberries, as many blossoms are dying and falling to the ground... Not enough bees around? We'll see how berry production is this summer.

The Black Pearl blackberry is looking good!

I've planted a low growing clover between the raised beds. Hoping this will grow and fill in, adding nitrogen to the soil and keeping the weeds crowded out.

The squash bed is struggling. I definitely think a tunnel would be beneficial for them. This cool weather just isn't helpful, yet surprisingly some seed I put in a few weeks ago sprouted!

The green pole beans we planted from seed have had about a 50%+ success in this very cool weather. Reseeded this weekend and will give the green beans a dose of fish fertilizer to boost their energy levels!

The cauliflower starts are doing well. However, the cabbage moth has been on the loose and I'm checking for eggs and little green worms every couple days. Can't say I mind squishing all I find!

I purchased some bush green bean starts from Rent's Due - hoping to supplement our slow pole bean crop...

Sage waiting to be put into a permanent home. The lettuces are doing well.

The sugar snap peas seem to be doing well despite their late start.
*We trellis our peas with chicken wire and weave stakes through the mesh to create support poles. Worked really well last season.

I did alot of planting this past weekend, so every space is now taken in the garden (until we harvest in the next few weeks). Coco is always nearby when I'm working in the garden.

...and often gets bored and naps while I work

Cabbage plant - doing well!

Garlic just keeps growing and growing and growing...

Cabbages on both sides of this raised bed with a curry (herb) plant in the front
Also growing radish, carrots (struggling) and broccoli - left to right
A single artichoke plant is in the center toward the garlic at the back of the bed

Monday was clear the back corner and a section of the fence-line day...
Backbreaking work, but thankful Blaine worked the corner while I focused on the neighbor's side of the fence (between their retaining wall and the fence - need to spray the wild blackberries, as they grow like weeds in the Seattle area.)

Then, I focused on pulling all the grass and weeds behind the black raspberry and boysenberry bed. Thankful for Blaine's help after dinner to get the job done. Had to deal with a large ant colony living in the area too... I put down low growing good bug seed and hope it sprouts quickly.

Blaine also rototilled a section of grass where I'm hoping to start espaliered jonagold trees next year. Once we clean out the grass, we'll add some compost and throw down some good bug blend seed and some sunflower seeds...

Looking down on our garden from the hillside above!

Next work day in the garden... pulling grass, bindweed and other weeds from behind the raspberry beds (our side and the neighbor's)

GFDF Banana Bread

I am experimenting with cooking with honey instead of sugar. The process has been quite slow, but I wanted to share my banana bread comparison with you. I recently purchased 3 different raw, unfiltered honeys from local beekeepers. I used the honey from Fruitland, WA for this recipe (I think it's less sweet than the other ones).

Banana Bread recipe
*from Glutenfreehub
  • 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Flour Mix
  • 1 cup sugar (I prefer organic evaporated cane sugar) or 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) Earth Balance margarine, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp hemp milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice)
  • 1 tsp vanilla (1/2 tsp extract flavoring of your choice)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
Mix sugar and Earth Balance with mixer until creamed and fluffy. Mix in eggs, one at a time. In a separate bowl, mash bananas and stir in milk, cinnamon and vanilla. Add banana mixture to creamed mixture and combine with mixer. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Slowly stir into wet mixture until flour disappears.

For muffins: grease muffin tins; 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes
Regular loaf: grease loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes
Mini-loaf: grease 3 mini-loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.
*Use toothpick to test for doneness. When done, let cool for 5 minutes and remove from pans. Allow to completely cool before wrapping. I use a piece of parchment paper under loaf and then wrap in aluminum foil. Enjoy!

I made one batch with organic sugar and a second batch with honey.
There is a difference in the batters. Sugar above and honey below prior to baking.

Baked in the oven at the same time, the sugar recipe has a darker finish to the bread (on the right), whereas the honey loaf is lighter and more golden (on the left).

The honey loaf had a more golden look to the bread (on left), while the sugar loaf was a more uniform color (on right).

As for the taste comparison...the sugar loaf had a brighter banana flavor and the honey loaf was moister. Personal preference was the sugar loaf in overall flavor. Perhaps a slight increase in the amount of banana and slighty less honey would achieve the flavor I'm seeking... Also, a different honey would produce a different outcome, as no two honeys taste the same.

Guess I'll have to keep experimenting. I love banana bread!

Fresh from the garden...

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday Morning Harvest

There is something really special about the garden in the early morning hours... especially when the neighborhood is quiet, a marine layer hovers overhead, and the birds are awake and singing. Sometimes, I can't help slipping out into the garden just after I've risen in the morning. There is a truly special feel when you're in the garden at just this right time - God's creation all around, a quiet holy feeling; just Jesus and I in this place. Yesterday was one of those mornings... and in the midst of it all I decided to harvest the rhubarb. It just seemed like what I should do.

Harvested rhubarb on the back deck

Yes, I really was out in the garden in my robe and old clogs...

LOVE this knife for garden work! Wow, it is so sharp!

Poisonous rhubarb leaf carnage!

Delicious stalks ready for cleaning and processing in the kitchen...

hehehehehehehe... I match the rhubarb!

Still loving the cutting board Uncle Earl made for Blaine and I when we got married.
It looks wonderful after 25 years of continual use.

Another view of the harvest

Rhubarb on tray for freezer.
Unintentional mosaic by me and photographed by Blaine!

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Ice Cream maker!

After hearing so many wonderful reviews on this Cuisinart ICE-21 ice cream maker, yogurt, sorbet maker... (and these were dairy-free, gluten-free sites), I just had to have one. Did some checking around and Amazon had the best price at $49.95. Most reviews suggested getting an extra freezer bowl to keep "ready for ice cream action". Most places offered in the $29.99 range. In searching, I discovered Williams-Sonoma offers a set - maker and an extra bowl - for $59.95! Best deal! And, not only is it their internet price, but also the store price. I picked one up at our local store and saved the shipping cost (tax was less than shipping).

I think I'll need to do alot of testing to get really good at making dairy-free ice cream... Wouldn't you agree?!

*Photo is from Williams-Sonoma site... I'm sure those cookies are not gluten-free, but I'm looking forward to making gfdf cookies and cream ice cream!

Friday, May 20, 2011


Always willing to help, Blaine installs hooks for the new hanging baskets...

I love new maple leaves as the open...

Everbearing strawberries!

Grapes leaves. Will there be little clusters for the birds this year?

Weeding the garden paths is not one of my favorite jobs...

However, I love the way it looks when the job is done. This year, I'm experimenting with a low growing clover for the pathways... We'll see if it works. Watch for updates.

Maple tree on the deck; starting from a random seedling in my cousin's yard. Transplanted it to a half wine barrel this spring. Love to look out our bedroom and see this special tree.

My private little corner on the deck.
Love how the evening sun casts a shadow of my maple tree on the house...