Saturday, March 6, 2010

Compost Maintenance

If you aren't composting, you should seriously consider starting. All your kitchen scraps break down into great soil for your garden, and then you're not filling up the landfills with unnecessary material. It's as easy as setting up a holding space with cheap chicken wire. Several people have complained that they don't want a smelly compost bin in their yard, but our bin doesn't smell a bit! It's not surrounded by flies or crawling with critters either. The trick is to make sure to add plenty of dry yard clippings...the rule of thumb is 1 part kitchen stuff to 4 parts dried leaves, grass clippings, or other yard waste.

My "soil circle" has been doing a great job composting our kitchen scraps and yard clippings. Last fall we collected several bags of dried leaves that have provided a lot of the necessary dry material. I decided it was time to expand the soil circle and turn all the material (turning the material every once in a while will help it break down faster, it's not necessary though) Check out how dirt-like the material at the bottom of the heap is!

Here's Nick expanding the tube for me. It is now a couple more feet across.
True confessions: I'm not always good about running the kitchen scraps out to the would be shocked how quickly this stuff accumulates. I had no idea how much food scrap we produced until we started to compost it...what a waste to just throw it away...go get your compost bin today!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pillow-Soft Dinner Rolls

These are the softest, melt-in-your mouth, die-happy-and-fat rolls I've had in a long long time.

I'm always so impressed what yeast can do.

1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pkg active dry yeast
butter for top after baking

Combine water and yeast and a sprinkle of the sugar, let set.
Add everything else...except only one cup of flour. Keep adding flour until dough pulls away from the bowl.
Knead until satiny and smooth.
Let rise until double.
Divide into rolls, place in greased dish.
Let rise until double again.
Divide into 12 small balls and arrange in a glass 9 x 13 casserole dish as pictured above.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (my oven = 12 minutes).
You know they are done when they sound hollow if you tap them.

Spread tops with butter to keep them soft and moist. Let rolls sit in the pan to cool a bit...until they aren't so fragile, then you can flip the whole pan out onto the counter. I think the taste and texture are much better when they have cooled all the way.

The recipe directs you to roll out the dough into a big flat circle, cut it into slices like a pizza and then roll those triangles into crescent rolls. As you can see, I just cut the dough blob into 12 pieces and arranged them in a glass dish...much faster and just as delicious. (Nick says they get "complete husband approval"...he just ate 3.)

Starting Garden Seeds

I recently received my order of home-grown, home-harvested seeds from a friend of a friend. I think his seed packaging is especially aesthetic...very appealing to me.

So, this year I plan to harvest my own seeds from my garden, so I am making sure all my seeds are "open-pollinated", which means that they were not pollinated under artificially controlled conditions, aka "hybrids". Hybrids are deliberately bred for specific traits, and their future generations will not necessarily carry on those your have unreliable and unpredictable results your following season. You can assume that if your seed packages are hybrids unless they specifically say "open-pollinated" or "heirloom".

Although I am planning a full garden of lettuce, spinach, onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, beans, peas and squash, I am going to put a lot of work into my tomatoes. I'm planning on about a dozen varieties and want to do a lot of experimenting with canning sauces and harvesting seeds. I'm also looking forward to learning everything I can about how they grow, and plan to have a porchful of container pots and hanging baskets all along our south-facing wall.

Planting my first seeds!

I'll keep you in the loop as my "Great Tomato Project" continues...