The New Home Economics


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Change

Our lives are changing rapidly right now, so I decided we needed a new header as well.  The images are (left to right): hoar frost on my mother-in-law’s crabapple tree, our kitchen, my snow-covered raspberry canes, Anneke peeking at some pumpkin muffins, and the best bread I’ve ever baked.

This won’t be a surprise to friends and family, but for the rest of you kind readers: after eleven years I have decided to leave the Star Tribune and pursue an opportunity with the Minnesota Orchestra.  I’ll still be doing web design, but I am going to dip my toe into the non-profit world and see how much I like it.  I’m very excited!  I’m sad to say goodbye to my friends at the Strib, but the time felt very right to make this move.  The new job starts March 15.

The same week I got my job offer, Adam also found out that he will very likely be able to go full-time at his school next year.  So thus ends our 3 year experiment in having at least one parent be home part-time.  I’m nervous about the change, but I’m also grateful that we had as much time as we did.  Our financial situation won’t dramatically improve with Adam working full-time, but it definitely will ease up a bit.

My hope is that all the richness we’ve built up in our home over the last 2.5 years can continue, even when our lives become a little bit more hectic with both of us working full-time.  We have until September to find out, so for now I will focus on my new job, the start of biking & gardening season, and continuing with the Hennepin County Master Gardener program.  2010 is going to go down in history as my craziest year ever…


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Recipe: yogurt cheese & whey

This isn’t really a recipe, so much as a general how-to.  Take any amount of plain yogurt.  I prefer the full-fat kind, but this works fine with low-fat as well.  Place a bit of cheese cloth or floursack towel with a rubberband over a bowl or cup, then spoon the yogurt on top.  Let it sit for at least 2 hours, or overnight, in the fridge.  Spoon the thickened yogurt into a separate container and use or store in the fridge.  The longer you let it sit, the thicker it gets.

So what do you use it for?  Anything that you can imagine using sour cream on, basically.  You could dip vegetables in it, or stir it into Indian lentil dishes to give them that nice creaminess.  Lately I’ve been spooning it on top of scrambled eggs in order to work a cultured or fermented food into our breakfast routine.  You could use it to top nachos or tacos, or even stir a bit into some chili.

An added bonus is that you end up with a bunch of whey that has drained off the yogurt when you’re done making it.  A couple of tablespoons of whey gets the fermentation process going nicely if you’re making sauerkraut, soaking grains, etc.  I made this the other night so that I could use the whey to help with some bread dough that I was attempting to sour overnight.  That bread was a giant fail, but that’s another story.

If you ever cook with the Nourishing Traditions cookbook it seems like every other recipe in there calls for whey, so this is an easy way to acquire some.

UPDATE March 16, 2010: Mark Bittman (my cooking hero!) talks about yogurt cheese in his “Minimalist” column in the NY Times today.  Read it right here.  He prefers a flour sack towel to cheesecloth, and he’s probably right.  I will try that method next time.  Silly him, though, for having absolutely no use whatsoever for whey.


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Intensive hydroponics and another new movie

Oh, do I long for a time when I won’t be so busy.  My life is absolute craziness right now.  So I’m not going to spend a lot of time with you this morning other than to point out two cool things I read this week:

Aquaponics
Aquaponics — a hydroponic gardening system that incorporates fish and uses their waste as fertilizer (and the fish themselves as food) seems to be gaining popularity.  Perhaps some of this is due to movies like FRESH, which featured a farmer who is using it rather intensively: Will Allen of Milwaukee.  Anyway, a NY Times article and a beautiful slideshow this week showcased a home-scale example of aquaponics in Colorado.

Greenhorns
There’s another movie about the food revolution coming out this year.  This one’s about young farmers, and it’s called Greenhorns.  This documentary film is also connected with a grassroots non-profit out east whose goal is nothing less than to support, promote and recruit young farmers in America.  Here’s the website.


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Using up old seeds

Got some old, unplanted seeds lying around in envelopes from last year, or even the year before?  Wondering whether they’re viable?  University of Minnesota Extension Service to the rescue!  Here are some general guidelines from my “Vegetables” textbook:

Seeds that last 5 years:
Broccoli
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Celery
Chinese cabbage
Collard
Corn
Cress, water
Cucumber
Eggplant
Endive
Kale
Kohlrabi
Watermelon
Lettuce
Muskmelon
Radish
Rutabaga
Spinach
Squash
Turnip

Seeds that last 4 years:
Beet
Mustard
Pepper
Pumpkin
Tomato

Seeds that last 3 years:
Asparagus
Bean
Carrot
Pea

Seeds that last 2 years:
Parsley
Okra

Seeds that last 1 year:
Leek
Onion
Parsnip
Sweet corn

I should put a giant * here, and say that these averages are based on storing your seeds in nice conditions — that would be room temperature, with low humidity.  If they smell rotten or funny they are probably no good.  If you kept them in your garage, the temperature swings probably did them in.

I would also still sow seeds just a little more thickly if they’re older.  You can always thin out the seedlings later.  But this should save you some money if you have some old seeds lying around that you can use up.