April Showers Bring May Flowers

Planting tomatoes at the CDCG

Planting tomatoes at the CDCG

I’m home from the hospital and taking it easy this weekend. I don’t have results yet (will wait till early next week to hear from my doc) but I came through it ok. I think the next few days will be spent relaxing around the house and getting ready for Monday’s orientation meeting at the Capital District Community Gardens.

Louise's Leaves

Louise's Leaves

We picked up this locally-produced book at the co-op called “Louise’s Leaves.” It’s a cook’s journal that talks about which local foods will be ready and when (it was written for the Buffalo/Vermont area – so perfect for us). Even though we won’t be getting the fruits of our gardening for many moons yet, I took a gander to see what we local foods we could possibly be eating if we had a year long garden. Although the book “year” technically begins in May, I skimmed forward to the following April (the last chapter) to see what we could expect. Apparently the “big” items are kale and parsnips…doesn’t sound too yummy. But I am impressed that anything could be expected to grow in this tundra in early April. She recommends making a nice Kale slaw or stir-frying parsnips with some kale leaf and seasoning it with some chive and coriander. I’m already looking for some heirloom chive seeds to grow – I love onions and garlic a little TOO much.

We’ve been told that the most popular garden spot in Schenectady is still available, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for it! Our local community gardens have been tended for over 30 years, and currently there are 48 different locations through the Capital District Area. Most of the gardens do seem to be towards the… not as nice neighborhoods, but it’s a wonderful thing to bring gardening, fresh fruits and vegetables, and organic values to people who might not otherwise get to experience them.

The Capital District Community Gardens are organic – both in fertilizing and and growing methods. This is exciting because hubby and I don’t have to worry that our garden will be “contaminated” by commercial pesticides in the next garden plot over. The CDCG actually will give us free gardening classes and free seeds, but I’m enjoying looking at all the different seeds out there. We’re not sure exactly how big our plot will be yet, so I don’t want to make too many decisions before we know.

According to the seed planting schedule though, we can start planting the following plants in the next two weeks:

  • beets
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cabbage
  • chinese cabbage (this and cabbage could have been planted this week, but we don’t have our plot yet)
  • onions
  • peas
  • potatoes
  • radish
  • spinach

I LUFF SPINACH!! It is my favorite veggie in the whole wide world. And it’s sooo expensive at farmer’s markets. I really hope I can grow lots of it this summer!

    Homemade bread

    I’ve been hearing from friends lately about the wonderful benefits of having a breadmaker. Until this past year, when K and I started buying loaves of bread from the farmer’s market instead of the preservative-laden bread at the supermarket (come on, there’s just something unnatural about bread that doesn’t get moldy even after 2 months!), the thought had never really occurred to me. But after seeing and tasting the dense honey wheat loaves of bread there, it recently occurred to me that there is no need to spend $5 per a loaf, even if it lasts for 2 weeks. (We cut a loaf in half and freeze it to use the following week after purchasing.)

    So, gosh darn it, today I decided to try my hand at making my own whole wheat bread. So I took the whole wheat bread flour I bought at the co-op recently and got ready!

    Along with many other wonderful items, and of course, attributes 🙂 K came into our marriage with this cookbook:

    It has hundreds of recipes for different types of breads, but as I read through them to K, my ambitions getting higher and higher with each recipe name I read aloud, K kindly suggested I should try my hand at the Basic Whole Wheat Bread recipe first before trying anything seemingly more complicated like Vollkornbrot and Yeasted Sprout Bread. “Darn,” I thought to myself, but I knew he was right. Breadbaking entrepreneurship would come later.

    The ingredients for basic whole wheat bread are, well, basic.

    • 2 tsp active dry yeast
    • 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 F)
    • 6 cups who wheat bread flour
    • 2 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2 1/4 cups lukewarm water
    • 2 Tbsp honey or other sweetener
    • 2 Tbsp oil or butter (optional)

    Here are all the ingredients at hand, including my handy dandy Kitchen Aid mixer. Man, I love that thing. 1869 wasn’t good for everything (although imagine the biceps I would have!).

    So I took out the whole wheat bread flour I had purchased and then compared it to the white whole wheat flour we had in the house. There was a noticeable difference, though I’m not sure you can tell as well in the picture below.

    (Left: Whole Wheat Bread Flour, Right: White Whole Wheat Flour)

    According to King Arthur Flours, this flour is “milled from white whole wheat, rather than red, unbleached King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour has all the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat, with milder flavor and lighter color.”

    I don’t know which one overall is healthier for you, but I’ve learned that the more processed a whole grain is the less nutrients it keeps and the less it fills you. The whole wheat bread flour looks less fine-grained than the other, plus it was specifically called for in the recipe.

    Because I didn’t have 6 cups of flour, nor 2 loaf pans, nor the need for two loaves of bread this week, I decided to only make half the recipe, or enough for one loaf. So I mixed together 3 cups of flour and the salt in a separate glass bowl before realizing I had mixed the entire amount of salt in the recipe into half the flour – yikes! Oh well, nothing I could do now except make salty bread.

    I mixed everything together and poured it into the Kitchen Aid Mixing Bowl. Attached the dough hook – and voila! It kneaded my dough for a good 15 minutes until it was very elastic. The book called for 600 strokes – this is where huge biceps would come in handy.

    After kneading, I gathered the dough and put it into a bowl to rise. I clearly had too ambitious thoughts on how much it would rise though, given the size of the bowl I chose. The dough was set to rise for 2 hours.

    Before rising

    After rising

    After the first rise, I had to do it again, this time for about an hour. Afterwards I took it out of the bowl, deflated it and let it rest for another 10 min. Then I placed it into my big loaf pan and let it sit for a final rise of 45 min.

    Sheesh, by this time the day was mostly over! And I still had no bread. But finally it was time to bake and I did. But because the loaf pan was so big, the bread didn’t get much bigger and it didn’t come out tall enough for “real” slices. I was disappointed
    Alas, I do not see Vollkornbrot and Yeasted Sprout Bread in my future after all. Still, some warm, homemade bread is nothing to turn your nose up at, but after this process, I think we will continue to buy our bread from the farmer’s market – at least until we get a breadmaker!

    Hmm, I just saw one on Craigslist for $15…

    P.S. – Yes, the bread is salty.

    Checking out the local co-op

    My local co-op is one of my favorite places to shop. I find it strange that it’s located in the heart of Albany, practically right next to what one might consider the “projects,” yet it brings in such a wonderful, wide variety of people. It doesn’t sell only local or only organic items, so I don’t always succeed in my locavorism, but it’s still an awesome place. When K and I first started going here, each week was like a trip to another culture. You need to bring your own plastic bags for veggies, or containers to put things like rice or sugar in or you have pay for the ones you use. It’s a great incentive to bring your own and reuse items.

    It’s a bit “hippie-ish” for some people – lots of dredlocks and homemade clothing. I love it. The bulk section is amazing. Just look! We found everything from pumpernickel rye flour to xylitol (hard to find where we live) to plain citric acid. But you can find nearly any kind of flour, dried fruit, syrup, wheat, rice or bean you could want.

    Today we only needed a few things from the co-op. We do our food shopping at the farmer’s market and regular grocery store on Sundays usually. We picked up some local honey (as the beekeeper that is usually at our farmer’s market wasn’t there last week), some whole wheat bread flour (actually bread flour – is this different from regular whole wheat flour? I don’t know), some citric acid to try our hand at homemade dishwasher detergent, a couple of glass bottles of milk, and Dr. Bronner’s pure castile soap.

    So, I love Dr. Bronner’s – it has 1001 uses, I swear. Nowadays it’s even Certified Fair Trade and the oils used are certified organic by the National Organic Standards Program. I’ve been using the peppermint soap for years for camping trips because it was the only kind I could get, and was biodegradable and didn’t have phosphates and all that jazz. While his peppermint soap is, uh….zingy…it’s very overpowering – and I’m not a huge fan of mint overall – even when it’s an antiseptic. However, it made my foyers smell minty fresh for over a week, I must admit. But I thought that Dr. Bronner’s must have an unscented one, and if anyone would have it, Honest Weight would. I mean, look at all the kinds of Dr. Bronner castile soap they have!

    They did 🙂 I got 1 1/2 lbs (why pounds instead of liquid measurement, I have no idea) of Baby Mild Liquid Soap.

    Hopefully I will putting many of these things to good use in a few days!