Monday, March 18, 2013

Seed-Starting Part 2: Seedlings Saturday

It may be cold outside but that isn't going my stop these new seedlings from springing up.  Just a few more weeks now (I hope) before the warm weather arrives and they will be ready for the outdoors!

Once these seeds begin to sprout, the next step is to give them light ... and a new home, that is, a bigger home to spread their roots.

Some supplies you will need to transfer your two inch sprouts include:

- small to medium size pots
- seedling and/or potting soil
- labels
- water
- fertilizer (optional, but most helpful in improving their health)

Since I started my seedlings using egg cartons and packaging shells, I had to make sure the roots would have to grow. They are not strong enough to break through the shells, so it's very important to carefully break the shells apart before placing the seedlings in a new container.

Top off with more soil ...

 ... And sit your newly potted seedlings in the light.  Constant light would be best, to achieve this you can use  artificial lighting. In my case, I wanted to save money (and energy), and fortunately I'm lucky enough to have about 12-14 hours of sunlight shining through my large kitchen window.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Apple Pie on a Sunday Afternoon

For all the baking I've done over the years I realized it was high time I made an apple pie, which up until recently, I never had, at least not in a long time!

I used a recipe for cherry pie but adapted it to use apples and voila, the best freakin' homemade apple pie I I could have made.

Apple Pie
Adapted recipe from Vegan Pie in the Sky

For the crust
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
8 tbsp vegan margarine
8 tbsp vegan shortening
6 tbsp ice water
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the filling
4-5 cups peeled and chopped apples
3/4 cup organic cane sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt

1. In a large bowl mix together the flour and salt.  Mix in the sugar.

2. Add half the margarine and shortening by the spoonfuls, cutting it into the flour mix with your fingers or a pastry cutter until it appears pebbly. Add the remaining margarine and shortening to the flour mix. 

3. In a cup mix together the water and cider vinegar.  Add the liquid mixture to the flour mix by the spoonfuls, gently mixing it in.

4. Knead the dough and add more water as needed.  You won't need much until it gets doughy enough and stays put together to work with.

5. Divide the dough in to two, rolling each half into a ball then press each one into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425F.

7. In a large mixing bowl mix together apples, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Set aside.

8. Prepare the pie plate with one half of the dough.  Add the filling.

9. Cover the apple filling with cut-out pieces of the other dough half.  I used a cookie cutter to create stars and circles but you can use any shape, or simple strips.

10. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 350F and bake for another 25-30 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

11. Place pie on cooling rack to cool down for about half an hour before serving.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Seed-Starting Part 1: Seedy Saturday

This past weekend we enjoyed Spring-like temperatures and celebrated Seedy Saturday at Evergreen Brickworks. As the weather warmed up everyone around the market was getting pumped and eager to start their Summer gardens, myself included.  I even gave myself a head start and bought seeds and the right soil early so that I could collect all the supplies I needed to start my seedlings sooner.   This year, as always, I like to find greener ways to start my seeds, which would not only be environmentally friendly but would also save me money.

Some easy-to-find and recycable supplies you can use to start your seedlings include:
  • Egg cartons, tomato or avocado cartons (the purple stuff in the picture above)
  • Plastic trays from previous year seedlings
  • Spinach/salad plastic containers
  • Newspapers
  • Egg shells (optional)
What you may need to buy:
  • Seeds (if you don't save your seeds from the previous year's crops)
  • Seedling soil
  • Plastic wrap (to cover the starters before they sprout)
Once you have all the supplies you need it's just a matter of figuring out what needs to be started when.  This weekend I started tomatoes (a bit early), peppers, eggplant, and a variety of herbs.  To find out when you need to start your plants check out Ontario's Ministry of Agriculture and Food website.

Essentially, when starting your seedlings you want to create a little "greenhouse" more or less.  Covering the soil/seeds with plastic wrap, leaving a few gaps for air, will keep moisture and heat in to help them germinate quicker.

Most importantly, label your starters! Once the seedlings spring up they will all look very alike and it would be near impossible to tell them apart until they reached maturity.

Another great option for creating a mini "greenhouse" would be to use a salad container.  In this case, I drilled holes on the lid to allow air/oxygen to pass through to the soil and seeds, also important.

And if you're really lucky, after just a few days you will see a few seedlings pop up!  Once they do appear they will of course need light.  Place your seedlings in a sunny spot where they will get at least 10-12 hours of light or more if possible.  Natural sunlight can be unpredictable so some people will add a light to the seedlings to aid consistent growth.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Coconut Everything!

I decided that I pretty much love anything coconut soup now and that this new recipe will be added to my repertoire of favourites.  It is delicious, sweet and spicy - can't go wrong with that!

Red Lentil Coconut Soup
Original recipe from Scaling Back, I altered my recipe a bit here ...

  • 2 cups red split lentils
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp fresh peeled and minced ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 7 cups water
  • 1 400ml can of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 15oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • Fresh cilantro & lime wedges to garnish (optional)
1. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large soup pan and add the onion and bell pepper, cook for 5-7 minutes or until the vegetables have softened.

2. Add the garlic, ginger, spices, and tomato paste then continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes or until the mixture is fragrant and browned.

3. Add the water, coconut milk, lentils and chickpeas and cook uncovered for 25 to 30 minutes, until lentils are softened to your liking.  Add the lime juice at the end of cooking.

4.  Add salt or more lime juice if desired depending on your taste.

5. Serve each soup bowl topped with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro and lime wedges on the side.

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