Monday, December 21, 2009

Square Foot Gardening

Square Foot Gardening is Great for Urban Settings!

Here in Mesa, Arizona you can grow year round.  Just look at this lovely garden box full of young lettuce.  Soon we will be harvesting this lettuce mix by cutting the tops and allowing additional leaves to form and replace what has been cut.  Amazingly, this 4 foot by 4 foot box will supply plenty of lettuce, even for our family of 6.  Be sure to use Non-Hybrid (Open Pollinated) Seeds, so that after harvesting the seeds you can begin to build your personal supply of seeds.

But before reaching this point we need to explain how to get here!  First, start with the All New Square Foot Gardening book by Mel Bartholomew.  It is an indispensible guide and can be found online or at larger book stores:
Square Foot Gardening

This is a comprehensive guide that takes you through the background of Square Foot Gardening, the Philosophy behind it, how to begin, the composition of the soil mix, how to build boxes, how to plant, how to harvest, etc.  Basically, it will take you through all aspects of Square Foot Gardening.

One of the best parts about Square Foot Gardening is the fact that the whole family really gets excited about it!  We really enjoyed working as a family on the boxes and soil mix:

We first start by pre-drilling holes into the sides of the garden boxes as seen above.  This made it easy to screw the sides together to form the box.

We were putting the boxes directly on to Bermuda Grass, so we had to put a bottom on the boxes to keep grass from growing up through.  We then drilled holes in the bottom and put landscape fabric on top and bottom to keep grass from growing up through the holes.

This box is ready to fill with "Mel's Mix", but don't bury your kids!  This would probably make a great sand box, but we need it to grow wondeful vegetables.

We stopped to pose for a picture after arranging our boxes and soil mix.

Mel's Mix basically consists of equal parts of the following materials:  Compost, Vermiculite and Peat Moss.  These three materials mixed together create the perfect blend for your planter boxes.  Be sure to read Mel's book carefully and enjoy your new project!

Don't forget your can of Non-Hybrid Seeds available at Preparing Wisely to start off with great open pollinated vegetables seeds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tracey's First Place Crescent Rolls

You Will Love These Delicious "Award Winning" Crescent Rolls

Our church group recently held its annual Chili-Cookoff.  The organizers asked for folks to make different dishes and foods to supplement the chili.  Tracey and Quinton decided to make some delicious whole wheat  crescent rolls.  We didn't know that judges would be on hand to award the best dishes and foods, but we were later surprised by some great news.  These amazing rolls were the best there and captured first place!

Here is the recipe:

Award Winning Whole Wheat Crescent Rolls

One Dozen Rolls

1/2 cup Milk

1/2 cup Butter Softened

1/4 cup Honey

1/2 teaspoon Real Salt

3 teaspoons SAF Instant Yeast

1/2 cup Warm Water

1 Large Egg Lightly Beaten

3 1/2 - 4 cups Prairie Gold Flour

In a pot, heat milk on medium heat until bubbles appear on edges.  In the mixing bowl, combine butter, honey and salt.  Add in milk.  In a separate bowl combine the SAF Instant Yeast and warm water.  Allow the yeast to dissolve.  Add yeast mixture and egg to the mixing bowl and mix on low speed.  Add 2 Cups of Flour until smooth.  Add remaining Flour until the dough pulls away from bowl.  Knead the dough, put in a greased bowl, let rise for an hour and punch down.  Divide dough in half and let rest for ten minutes.

Next, roll out dough into a circle on a floured surface and cut into six triangles:


Start at the large side and roll toward the thin side:


Continue rolling:


The roll should then look like this:


Next, form the rolls into crescent shapes and let rise for 3o minutes:


Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes until golden brown:


We like to brush a bit of butter at the end for even tastier results:


These rolls make kids happy!


Friday, December 11, 2009

Troy's Take on the Back to Basic Hand Grinder

My brother-in-law purchased the Back to Basics Grain Mill (Hand Grinder) and it has been permanently attached to his countertop ever since.   Why is it a permanent fixture you might ask???  Because of its versatility.
back_to_basic_hand_mill II

For everyday use, there really is nothing better than a great electric grinder like the WonderMill or NutriMill.  However, these mills have their limitations.  They do not crack grains or process courser grade flours or meals.  My brother-in-law uses this hand grinder on a fairly consistent basis to crack wheat for breakfast cereal.  I prefer cream of wheat, so I tighten the head down a bit to make farina.  (For some reason I just love the "lumpy-ness" of cream of wheat!)

This grain mill will crack cereal, grind to farina grade cereal, grind corn into corn meal and do a medium grade flour that is good enough for bread, rolls, pancakes, etc.  It takes a couple of minutes to grind a cup of cracked wheat and about 5 minutes for cream of wheat.  Unfortunately it takes over 10 minutes for a cup of flour, hence the need for an electric mill if you mill flour on a regular basis.

This mill is probably the most popular backup grinder in case of emergency and also couples as a nice primary grinder for cracking your own wheat.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Troy's Hot Cocoa Mix using Food Storage

This simple hot chocolate mix can be made from the items in your food storage!

On Sunday night our children were clamoring for a treat.  They decided on hot chocolate.  We found we had one little packet of hot chocolate, which doesn't go very far for 4 children and 2 adults.  So, we decided to make our own.    It was simple and delicious!  Not only did it taste great, but after looking at the back of the one hot chocolate package and seeing the list of corn syrup solids, hydrogenated oils, sucralose, monoglycerides, diglycerides and artificial flavors, I was really glad we made our own!   Here is how we made our homemade hot chocolate mix:

Combine the following ingredients in a stainless steel or plastic bowl:

1 Cup Country Cream Real Instant Milk

1 Cup Sugar (Organic or Traditional)

1/2 Cup Cocoa Powder

Mix the contents well and store in pint jars.  Add a large, heaping tablespoon of mix to 8 0z. of hot water and serve.

This hot chocolate mix makes a delicious hot chocolate without all of the ingredients of the traditional, store-bought mixes.  For a healthier alternative than traditional sugar use a replacement sweetener such as rapadura or demarrara.  You could also exclude the sugar from the mix and add agave nectar or honey to your mug to taste.

As can be seen in the picture above, you could make a nice gift by putting the mix in a pint jar and decorating the jar a bit by adding a small piece of holiday fabric.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Taste Test! Which Instant Milk is Best?!


And the winner is...............I am not going to tell you just yet.

When we are asked about instant milk and which one is the best, I have a firm, definitive answer.  This answer comes from my own preference, but is backed up by our cumulative experience with taste testing at different venues and from customer reports.  We have had samples given out at church meetings, preparedness fairs and in various homes.  There is one milk that wins these taste tests.  There is one milk that is consistently rated as the best by our customers.

And the winner is..................Country Cream Real Instant Milk!
Country Cream

Country Cream is the only milk that we have found that tastes just like fresh milk.  It is real, instant milk.  It has one ingredient:  Milk ( is A&D fortified).  I am somewhat weird in that I love to drink whole milk.  You can prepare Country Cream as per the directions and have a  great tasting non-fat milk, although the taste is closer to 2% which is more to my liking.  However, if you want to have a milk that tastes more like whole milk.......just add a little extra powder!  I also appreciate the fact that Country Cream will store from 10-20 years.  That is a great shelf life for a dairy product.

Country Cream mixes up easily in hot, warm or cold water.  The milk alternatives require hot water for mixing and then you have to chill them.  Many of the other milks on the market are whey based or milk alternatives.  They are often flavored with sugars or syrups and typically have oils.  Morning Moo has been all the rage for years, but I feel like Country Cream is the better choice based on the ingredients and shelf life.  Most children seem to like Morning Moo, but children and adults alike prefer Country Cream in our experience.

As with anything, preferences and tastes will vary by person.  However, Country Cream is the milk of choice for the folks at Preparing Wisely.