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Recipe: Black Bean Brownies

05/27/2011

I’ve been craving chocolate lately, but I didn’t have any in the house last week, so I decided I needed to make something. And, seeing as how I am Kinda Crunchy Kate, I can’t just make normal baked goods without trying to slip something healthy into them. Thus, Black Bean Brownies were decided upon. I blended a couple of recipes to get the one I used. It ended up being really good and tasting more like a dark chocolate brownie. My husband and both of my children gobbled these down, so it couldn’t have tasted too healthy! :)

Black Bean Brownies

Ingredients

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed  — (I’m still not crunchy enough not to use canned food, but if you are, its about 2 cups cooked black beans)

3 eggs

3 Tbsp melted coconut oil

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 Tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it. I always try to use less sugar than the recipe calls for, so I used 1/2 cup.)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8×8 square baking dish.
  2. Combine the black beans, eggs, coconut oil, cocoa powder, salt, vanilla, and sugar  in a blender; blend until smooth; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 30 minutes.

This recipe is very easy to make and there are not many ingredients, which makes it a great recipe to let your kids help you with. Enjoy!

Learning Where Our Food Comes From: Foraging for Blackberries

05/23/2011

I was delighted to discover that there are wild blackberries growing all around my mother-in-law’s farm. Over the past couple weeks our family has enjoyed some really lovely evenings picking blackberries and eating them right off the plant. Even the dogs joined us. (Not sure how they were doing that without their noses getting pricked by thorns, but they didn’t seem to be bothered.) I’d never even seen a blackberry plant before. I actually thought I didn’t like blackberries very much, because the only ones I’ve had have been fairly tart or previously frozen. After eating them fresh off the plant, I can now say that they taste amazing. It’s getting really hot here now,  and we’re in the middle of a drought, so I think blackberry season is almost over—they’re starting to shrivel up instead of ripen.  It’s been a glorious couple weeks, though, being able to walk out and pick berries whenever we wanted to.

100_2330 Freshly picked blackberries with Black Bean Brownies—it was delicious! (Yes, even the brownies were good.)  Watch for the brownie recipe on Friday!

Is there any place where you could forage for food? So far I’ve found fennel, chives, and now raspberries all growing wild on the farm. Lots of people enjoy looking for morel mushrooms in the spring. I actually did this once, but I was little enough to be clueless, and wouldn’t eat them because it seemed icky. Now that I actually want to try some morels, I don’t know where to look. My kids really enjoy “eating plants” when they can go outside and pick things and just eat them. Obviously, I explain to them that some plants are edible and some aren’t. We even have a book about edible plants in North America, which my daughter considers an absolute page-turner. Really.

blackberries

I mentioned previously how I want my kids to have the benefit of knowing where their food comes from and how it grows. Plus, I think children are more willing to eat food that they have had a hand in providing—whether picking it or helping to prepare it. (Pay no attention to my morel story above.) Both of my kiddos have been willing to try basil, chives, and zucchini so far (and hopefully many other things once my garden starts producing more!), because it was fun. If you can’t get out in a forest or field, even dandelions are edible. Just don’t spray them with crazy chemicals first. When the honeysuckle was blooming in our yard, my husband showed the kids how to get the nectar from the flowers. They spent over an hour one evening hunting those single drops of ‘honey.’

Even if you don’t go out and look for edible plants, foraging could be as simple as asking for some apples from your neighbor’s tree, or making friend’s with someone who has an over-productive garden, perhaps in exchange for working in it for a bit. I know I’d be willing to trade some of my future harvest for some help with the weeding right now! *Hint hint.*

All of which leads me to…

omnivore imageThe book that got me thinking about where my food comes from: Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. If you haven’t read this, I highly recommend it. It was eye opening to me and my husband to see exactly where the ingredients in our food come from and how they were grown and produced. At one point, Pollan sets out to prepare a meal using only ingredients that he has hunted, gathered, or grown himself. Fascinating to my kinda crunchy self—probably because I’ve never eaten a meal consisting completely of things that I knew where they came from and had a hand in getting them to my table. I may actually be able to pull it off once my garden’s in full swing.

So, why does it even matter where your food comes from? As long as it’s on your plate and it didn’t cost that much, who cares, right? There are lots of reasons why it matters, I think. You’ll know what, if any, chemicals were used on the plants. You’ll know which food is in season and which food isn’t—it takes a lot more time and fuel to ship something across America or the world.

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My first harvest of the season—2 organic Black Beauty zucchini, some organic basil leaves, and the blackberries we picked.

While buying local, organic produce is pretty expensive, growing it yourself is way cheaper. And I personally find it deeply satisfying to have worked the ground or took the time to gather this and that to feed my family. It’s hard to explain. I get a huge sense of satisfaction knowing that I personally helped in a very tangible way to get our food on the table. I think that reason alone is enough to continue gardening after this experimental year.

Does anyone else feel this way about food? Or have I read too many of Michael Pollan’s books? :) Have any of you foraged for food before?

Adventures in Gardening: A Garden Update

05/13/2011
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The growing season is well under way in southern Georgia. I am amazed at how quickly everything is growing. I don’t go out into my garden every day, and after three or four days of not seeing it, there has been noticeable growth. Its incredible! I’m having fun watching everything grow. I’m honestly having fun working out in the garden too. I weed once a week and it usually takes about 2 hours. I go out early in the morning (at least for me) and listen to my iPod and work out there while my mother-in-law watches my kiddos. Its rather relaxing and very rewarding to look on a nicely weeded garden. Although I am in desperate need of a shower after I get done!

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It makes me happy to look out and see this. It actually looks like a real garden!

Pictures!

Here are some pictures of the different kinds of plants with some commentary by me when needed.

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Heirloom tomatoes – Brandywine, Homestead, and Riesentraube

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Yellow summer squash in the middle, with catnip and lemon balm to the left. These squash plants have some very territorial stink bugs that live in them. Every time I weed,  they come out and see what I am doing. I’ve left them there because I haven’t had any bugs trying to eat these plants yet, so I figure they must be earning their keep. {Edited to add: These aren’t stink bugs! They are squash bugs and they and their eggs need to be removed pronto! Thanks to my Organic Gardening Expert friend Laura for mentioning this to me in the comments. I removed and  killed a dozen bugs and hundreds of eggs today! I got them before much, if any, damage had been done to my plants.}

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Stink bug—No, that is not me holding it. Eww. I found this picture on another site.

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Black Beauty Zucchini Squash on the right and the tiny little plants are the eggplant. Its kind of hard to believe the eggplant was planted at the same time as the squash. I guess that’s why you need an extremely long growing season in order to grow eggplant. (Or just start it indoors so it gets a really good head start.)

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Tiny eggplant seedling

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Bell pepper plants – These haven’t grown as quickly as I thought they would, but they are still doing well.

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Hybrid tomato plants – These started out much bigger than the heirlooms when I planted them and they have taken off like crazy! The Early Girl plants my pastor gave me are certainly living up to their name!

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They already have little tomatoes on them!

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North Georgia Candy Roaster Squash – Aren’t the leaves pretty?

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Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon the the left and lavender on the right.

Since I mentioned lavender, I wanted to bring up the point that I have had a horrible time growing lavender from seed. Its taking forever to germinate and then it doesn’t grow very quickly. Both of the plants you see there were bought. I’ve also had lots of trouble with rosemary (seeds won’t germinate) and feverfew (seeds germinated, but quickly died and the ones that didn’t are taking forever to grow). Next year, I won’t be trying those from seed again.

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Bush beans – I’ve had some trouble with bugs eating these, but that seems to have subsided at this point. On the whole, I haven’t had much trouble with bugs yet, but I kind of feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. Like one day I’m going to go out there and the garden is going to be decimated by bugs. Hopefully not though! I have found a few grubs and a couple caterpillars on plants, all of which I promptly killed (without the use of crazy chemicals).

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Pole beans—I put an old chair in the middle for them to climb up. Speaking of them climbing, I’ve kind of let them go crazy since I didn’t have any poles out there for them to climb on. I fixed that today.

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See how crazy they are? There are tendrils everywhere and they are winding around each other.

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I put four bamboo poles out and then strung sisal string between the poles and also between the poles and the chair. I used sisal because it was left over from baling hay last year and wasn’t going to be used again this year. I like when things are free. :) There are some other good ideas for pole bean supports over at the Grow Blog.

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I’m not done yet. I still need to put up some more string, but I was getting too hot to finish it. I’ll work on it tomorrow. :)

One final note:

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I planted borage all around my garden as a natural pest repellent. I’ve had more bugs and bunnies eating this than anything else in the garden!  So either its not working, or the bugs are eating it instead of the rest of my plants. The jury is still out about which theory is right.

Gardening Around the Blogosphere

Others around the blogosphere are gearing up to garden. Here are some gardening related items I’ve read recently.

Emily at Live Renewed is starting her garden soon.  I found some useful gardening tips over at Open Eye Health. There is some good advice in the comment section over at Simply Rebekah if you are having trouble with the plot of ground you have for gardening. After reading this article on the Grow Blog, I decided to prune my tomatoes a bit.

How about you? How is your gardening coming along? If you’ve read anything helpful online about gardening, I’d love to hear about it in the comment section.