Stacking Functions Garden

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The deal with salt

My one or two loyal readers (thanks, sis) may remember a post I did a couple weeks ago about the Weston A. Price Foundation and the many, many things about their eating and nutrition advice that confused me.  One of their recommendations was:

Use only sea salt, preferably celtic sea salt.

I now have a better understanding of the “salt” issue thanks to two things:

1. Cookus Interruptus.  This hilarious video blog about cooking and food in general.  In particular, they have an informational video about salt.

2. A book that I just started reading that just might change the way I look at food, forever:  Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon.  I don’t want to write up a full review of it until I finish it, so stay tuned.  (Clue: Sally Fallon is the President of the Weston A. Price Foundation.  See how this is all coming together?)

Basically, the deal with salt is:  natural sea salt contains traces of many different minerals including iodine, which humans must get a little of so we don’t get goiters (can’t type that without thinking of Seinfeld).  Table salt, or sodium chloride does not contain iodine.  Therefore, food processors add iodine to it, in order to help us out with our iodine requirements.  Aren’t they nice?

However, the problem is, the iodine makes the salt all yellow and clumpy, and “the American Consumer” [supposedly] needs their salt to be white and easily pourable.  So our friendly food processors bleach it and add things like non-caking agents to make it, well, non-caking.

What about Celtic sea salt that the WAPF people are so fond of?  Apparently that has a super-higher-than-average mineral content.  I am unable to find it at my local CO-OP and I imagine that it’s not exactly cheap.

What about kosher salt?  Adam and I have been using Kosher salt in cooking for a while, because it has a really nice texture.  According to Wikipedia, kosher salt is just like table salt, but does not have iodine or other additives, although some kosher salts apparently still have anti-caking agents added.  So if we keep exclusively using Kosher salt as we have been, we might get goiters?  We are going to switch.  Thank goodness for the educational value of Seinfeld.  Goiters are not something I want to mess with.

My next question is, how “green” is sea salt vs. table salt?   I don’t know if any table salt is produced in or near Minnesota (which would beat sea salt for shipping), but even if it was, there’s still all the bleaching and chemical additive production.  But how DO they harvest sea salt, anyway?  Anyone want to weigh in?  Stay tuned…

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Two things

1. FRESH: Another movie, similar to Food, Inc. but a bit more optimistic.  I’m such a sap that I got tears in my eyes watching the trailer.  There’s going to be a screening in Minneapolis June 2.

2. I was listening to The Splendid Table again and Lynn R-C talked to a guy from the Environmental Working Group, who talked about pesticides on produce.  The interesting thing that he noted was that these tests are performed after produce has been washed (and cooked, where applicable).  Here’s the full list.

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Recipe: Danged Quesadillas

This is my very own healthier version of one of my favorite Mexican treats, and it’s super fast and easy.  Perfect!

Danged Quesadillas
4 sprouted-grain or whole grain tortillas (burrito size)
About 2 c. black, pinto, or really just about any beans, cooked & drained
2 T. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
Generous pinches of: chili powder, cumin
1/2 c. cheese, shredded (cheddar, mozarella, etc.)
Generous handful of raw spinach leaves (or frozen ones, thawed and drained)

Preheat oven to 375.

Put the beans, olive oil, garlic, chili powder, and cumin in a bowl and mash with a potato masher until they look kinda like refried beans.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spread the bean mixture on two of the tortillas.  Next spread a layer of spinach leaves.  Then sprinkle the cheese and the salsa.

quesadilla1Top with the remaining tortillas and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.  If you bake them directly on the rack they are a little tricky to get in and out of the oven, but they will be crispier.  Otherwise you could do them one at a time on a pizza pan.

quesadilla2Garnish with a little plain yogurt (full-fat will remind you much more of sour cream than lowfat will) and some fresh cilantro, if you like.  This serves two very hungry adults or two normal adults plus two toddlers.


How to make a raised bed garden

Yesterday we helped my parents install 4 ft. x 8 ft. raised-bed garden.  They haven’t had a garden for years and wanted to get back into it.   Here’s how we did it:

3 2x12x8 ft. construction-grade pine boards
1 2x2x8 ft. contstruction-grade pine board
2 1/2 in. ceramic-coated screws
Total cost: $30

1. Cut one of the 2x12x8’s in half.  Cut the 2x2x8 into 6 pieces (each is 16inch long), and cut one end of each at a 45 degree angle (see picture).

2. Assemble your garden structure upside down, as seen here:


Using the 2×2’s as braces on the inside of each corner makes the whole thing sturdier.  You screw your bigger boards to each other as well as to the 2×2’s, and put your two extra 2×2’s in the center of your longer board.  This will help with some of the outward pressure that the dirt will exert on the longer boards.


3. With the bed still upside down on the spot where you want it, make an outline with your shovel.  Then move your structure aside, rip up the sod inside the square, and break up the ground a bit.

4.  Tip your garden so that the spikes point into the ground and jump a little bit on top to sink those stakes into the ground.  I suppose you could use a rubber mallet, but come on, how fun would that be?

5. Fill with black dirt.  You will need 1 cubic yard.  My dad has a pickup so he was able to go get it from a local garden center for $35.

Raised beds seem like they’re getting more popular all the time.  They offer a number of advantages including increased drainage, decreased soil compaction, better productivity per square foot, they warm up sooner in the spring, oh there are tons of reasons.

Because we used regular pine boards, this particular one is not going to last forever.  If you have the means, I would highly recommend using cedar boards.  But they are like 3 times more expensive than pine, so be aware of that when planning this out.  I personally would not use “green-treated” lumber for a garden that I’m going to raise food in, since I wouldn’t want to risk leeching chemicals into my food.

Total cost of this project: $65

This is not a super big garden but it’s a great size to start with.  Eventually you could add another one (or two) and then suddenly you have this really convenient way to do crop rotation, etc.

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Gardening is the new black

My hometown newspaper (and employer) has an article about community gardens and the red tape that can accompany the effort to get one started. The  Homegrown Minneapolis initiative is trying to change that, and I applaud the effort.  Their very noble goals are:

• Using public and private land for community gardens and food production.

• Increasing access to farmers’ markets or mobile food delivery services.

• Encouraging restaurants, schools and other organizations to use locally grown food on their menus.

• Supporting entrepreneurs who want to create small businesses focused on local food production.

I am not going to be able to make this, but the Homegrown Minneapolis folks will host a public meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Monday at Martin Luther King Park, 4055 Nicollet Av. S., Minneapolis.  If you go, let me know how it was.

Here’s a slightly more critical yet still hopeful take on the project.

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Companion planting

Last night, I read Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte.  Inspired by what I read, today I planted some herb “companion” seeds for my vegetables.

Brussels sprouts: added lettuce, dill, and onions.  The brussels sprouts are still very small so in the large spaces in between, I planted little bunches of these other “friends of cabbages” (according to the book).

Tomatoes: added radishes, basil, and parsley.

Cucumbers: added radishes.

I also moved the fennel out of the garden, because according to the book fennel and tomatoes hate each other.  (Who knew?)  I had the fennel right next door to the tomatoes.  I replaced it with onions which apparently benefit just about everything you put them next to.

So what’s with these “companions”?  According to the book, for example, radishes repel cucumber beetles.  You plant them not to have extra radishes for eating, but precisely because their presence will help out the cuke in the long run.

I really liked this book; it was easy to read and it’s organized in alphabetical order by vegetables and herbs, so you can easily reference whatever you’re working on.  Now, we’ll see what happens…

Has anyone out there done companion planting?  Does this really work?  Will these herb companions help hold down weeds while their vegetable buddies are still small?  (These are not rhetorical questions; I really want to know.)


Recipe: pizza

Frozen pizza used to be a staple in our household in our college years.  Then for a couple of glorious years, delivery pizza was our weekly treat.  When our twins were first born we were ordering pizza 2-3 times a week.  Both frozen pizza and delivery pizza are rather high in fat, and frozen pizza is chock full of preservatives.  Nary a whole grain is to be found in either one.

If you have a bread machine, you can easily make your own pizza dough to whip out your own healthier pizza.  The best part is that the ingredients for pizza dough are not perishable so you can put everything in the bread machine right away in the morning and set your delay timer and the dough will be ready and waiting for a very quick meal when you get home.

This recipe is adapted from the Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my bread machine:

Pizza Dough
1 c. warm water
3/4 tsp. honey or sugar
1 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
2 T. extra virgin olive oil (a generous 2)
1 1/2 c. white bread flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat bread flour
1 3/4 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder (optional)
1 tsp. oregano (optional)

Put all ingredients in bread machine, set to “dough” setting, 1.5 lb loaf size.  If possible, the first time you make this watch it while it goes through the first mixing/kneading cycle to make sure it’s not too wet and not too dry.

The more whole wheat flour you use, the trickier that part is because whole grain flours absorb more liquid, and they absorb it more slowly, than white flour.  So it’s good in general to keep an eye on your dough the first couple times you make any bread machine recipe and try to adapt it to make it more whole grain.


Preheat oven to 450.  Lightly grease a med.-large size cookie sheet and spread your dough out as thin as you like.  Top with pizza sauce, or pesto, or just brush with olive oil, some toppings, and bake in a 450 degree oven for 12-20 min.  Makes a nice big pizza, 5-7 servings.

I made this pizza last Thursday.  What ends up happening around here is that pizza is the last thing I make when we have run out of EVERYTHING so my toppings are really random.  This pizza was topped with: adzuki beans, whole garlic cloves, a 1/2 can of tomatoes which were cooked with a little bit of onion and spices, a little bit of grated monterey jack cheese, and a little bit of grated parmesan rind.