The New Home Economics


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Recipe: real baked beans

What?!  A vegetarian Nourishing Traditions recipe that could easily be made vegan?  Here it is, and this is one of the only recipes out of NT that I tried and immediately loved, with minimal changes.  It’s so easy that even I can make it.  Adam was not involved with this at all, and they turned out perfect.  Be warned: it takes two full days to complete the recipe, 98% unattended.

Baked Beans (from Nourishing Traditions)
4 cups dried beans (I used 1 c. black and 3 c. navy beans)
2 med. onions
2 T. butter
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small can tomato paste -or- 1 can tomatoes, with liquid
3 T. tamari or soy sauce
3 T. white vinegar or white wine
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. molasses
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp. salt
1 pinch red pepper flakes

Cover the beans with water and soak for 24 hours.  No shit: 24 hours.  Drain, rinse, and set aside for a moment.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a dutch oven and sauté the onions until just soft.  Add the beans, with enough water to cover them, plus all the rest of the ingredients.  Bring to a boil on the stovetop, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 6 hours.  Yep, 6 hours.  Stir it maybe once per hour.  The last three hours, you might need to add a few cups more of water if it starts to dry out.

Crock pot/extremely lazy variation: skip frying the onions and just throw them in raw with everything else.  Cook on low for 12-14 hours and use a bit less water.  You won’t need to stir more than once or twice.

The first few times I made these, I really thought they were awesome but would be even better if I cooked them with a pork hock all day.  I tried that a few months back, and honestly, decided I like them better vegetarian.  The pork just kinda killed all the other flavors. Also, I think the flavor turns out a bit richer when they’re made in the oven rather than the crockpot.  But, both are good.

The best part:

This made 5 very full pints of baked beans. We’ll have one for supper tonight and freeze the rest.  Barbecue season here we come.

If you’ve never made homemade baked beans from dried beans, you ought to try it.  The texture is so much nicer than store-bought baked beans.  Less mushy, more substantial, and definitely richer-tasting.  Also, it’s a nice bonus to skip the BPA, high-fructose corn syrup, and everything else that you get along with any canned food off the grocery store shelf.  Win-win.

Update, June 14, 2011: Apparently, adding 2 T. of vinegar to the water for the soaking process helps make beans even more digestible.  I will try it next time I make them.


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Suppressing weeds with burlap

Being a lazy proactive gardener, I always take early measures to control weeds.  Last year, I used landscape fabric in the three “aisles” between my planting areas.  I wasn’t real happy with it in the end.  Though it did a fine job of suppressing weeds, it also got a weird unpleasant grainy substance on it whenever it rained — maybe it was just sand, but I was worried that it was some kind of plastic residue.  It also deteriorated quite a bit at the end of the season and I had to hand-pick many tiny pieces of plastic out of the soil.

This year, I bought a roll of burlap at the hardware store and a bale of straw from Mother Earth Gardens. For our aisles, we laid down a thick layer of straw, then covered with the burlap and tacked it down with landscaping staples.  So far it’s working great, and looks nice too.  I put the rest of the straw around plants, leaving open only the areas where I’m waiting for seeds to sprout.

If you can find burlap bags from coffee shops who roast their own beans, you could layer them thickly enough to not even have to bother with staples or straw underneath. Warning: this is becoming very popular, so it might be a bit of a challenge to find them.

We also planted our potato tower this weekend, so stay tuned for a post on that as soon as I see signs of sprouting.

Also, can I just say it? I absolutely love my garden design this year. 2010 taught me a very important lesson: “scatter” planting does not work for me — I kept having to thin out and move around various plants, and it seriously annoyed me.  My designer’s mind likes things orderly, even if they’re not in classic garden rows. Everything is much more orderly in the garden this year, yet I still have several different kinds of plants in each area.


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Garden update

My garden is planted for 2011!  AND I got it done just in time for a lengthy gentle rainshower.  Talk about timing.

Shall we look at each area individually?  Yes we shall.

At the top, under the trellis, we have a tiny Golden Hops plant. Then we have 4 tomato plants and 4 sets of 2 basil plants spread out through the rest of the area.  For each set of basil there is one giant one and one tiny one.  I can spread out the harvest a bit that way.  Tomato varieties: Big Rainbow, Stupice, Green Zebra, and Blondkopfchen. Garlic lines the left side.

Garlic also lines either side of this area.  Down the middle, top to bottom: 1 sage, 1 tiny cabbage, 4 chamomile, 1 large cabbage, and a rosemary.  I planted carrot and kale seeds on either side.  Underneath the trellis on the right is Christmas Lima beans, and the one on the left is Cherokee Trail of Tears green beans.

Top to bottom: celeriac, rosemary, celeriac, parsley, celeriac, rosemary, celeriac, parsley, celeriac.  I planted beet and turnip seeds on either side.  I really like how the garlic frames these little garden plots.

Finally, we have 4 eggplants and a variety of pepper plants including sweet and hot banana peppers, jalapenos, poblanos, 1 bell pepper, and idontrememberwhatelse.  The trellis at the very back will have cucumbers.  The left side of the chain link fence by the deck will be 1 hill of squash and 1 hill of pie pumpkins.  I saved the seeds for both of those from a squash and a pumpkin that I picked up at the co-op last fall, so it will be interesting to see what happens there.

It’s all planted, yahoo!  I really stuck to my plan this year, too.

Here’s a first look at my master plan for the back yard:

Stock tanks!  The one on the right is from my Grandpa Rensenbrink’s dairy farm!  Cool huh?  I am eventually going to add one more of these, then surround all three with wood chip paths and pockets of tall perennial prairie grasses, sunflowers, and hollyhocks.  We planted lavender, radishes, and lettuce in Rowan’s garden and lavender, rainbow chard, and lettuce in Anneke’s garden.

If everything goes as I hope, this is going to be our biggest and most interesting harvest yet.