Monday, August 16, 2010

Lemon Basil Strawberry Muffins

Lemon and Strawberries are the essence of summer. This recipe is not only very refreshing, but also very easy to make and with the right ingredients can be quite healthy. Lemon Basil is a fun treat to add to many dishes. It has a smell of fresh lemon drop candy that I so much enjoy while walking through the garden. As with several herbs, Lemon Basil takes part as one of my favorite aroma therapy sessions.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 egg (organic or farm fresh is best)
3/4 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup organic expeller pressed sunflower oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp. homemade strawberry preserves (can substitute with fresh or frozen organic strawberries) or a good quality organic strawberry preserve.
1/4 cup fresh Lemon Basil leaves (chopped) or flowers stripped from stems
1/2 to 1 cup of unsalted raw sunflower seeds (amount depends on desired crunchiness)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rack should be in center of oven. This recipe made 20 muffins. I used baking cups in my muffin pans.

In a large bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk, oil, lemon zest and juice and vanilla extract. Add the strawberry preserves, Lemon Basil and oil to this mixture.

In another large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Whisk it to mix it well. Add in the sunflower seeds. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry mixture and mix only until well combined. Over mixing will cause the batter to become to tough.

Fill each baking cup almost full. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes. Check by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean they are done.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

If you don't have buttermilk you can make your own by adding one tablespoon of lemon juice or white wine vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Let it sit for about 5 minute and you will have instant buttermilk.




Happy Gardening!
Pammy

More Than Just A Pretty Tomato

In the photo above I hope that I can share a small portion of what diversity means and sustainable growing methods. These are some of the important factors for growing a sucessful organic garden. In my raised beds of Tomatoes you will also find companion plants growing with them. Pictured here are Heirloom Tomatoes growing along side of Basil, Marigold's and Nasturtium just to name a few.

I would not be able to write this blog without the help of dedicated people, like Donald R. Davis, from the remarkable Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas. Also as one of my valuable resources at Bountiful Gardens located in California, who do so much in teaching us and the world to grow food to become sustainable. In other words they are teaching the world how to feed themselves successfully so that they are not depending on other folks to feed them. There are many more dedicated people and valuable resources available to learn much about organic and sustainable gardening. I only hope that I can share from my own experiences and what I have learned from them.

Most of us who garden understand why we have such a passion for it. For me, it has become a matter of preserving our American Heritage. We work our land as our pioneering fathers did before us. For health, nourishment and sustainability.

In today's modern world of agriculture we face challenges far different than our founding fathers. With the populations that have exploded in the United States the belief has become that in order to feed such a vast majority of people we must mono crop thousands of acres. Hybrids have been developed by major corporations that are actually causing us to loose thousands of species and varieties of plants. Varieties are now produced solely for the market. The considerations of today remain focused on cross country transportation and the appearance of the produce in your supermarket. Commercial growers have mega-machine harvesting and test us to the limits of tolerating chemical pesticides. Most crops are harvested unripe so that by the time they reach the store they seem perfect. Little do most of us know that because of these growing methods our food has lost its majority of important minerals and vitamins as well as cause very harmful side effects to our human health. Studies have shown that we have lost 5 to 40 percent of important nutrients compared to what was grown just a scant 50 years ago.

In the early 1900's there were nearly 7,000 different varieties of apples that existed in this country alone. Now there are less than 1,000 left. This is just an example that is easy to understand. It is not just a matter of apples. This is happening to almost all of our fruit and vegetable varieties. To understand this further a good place to begin is by researching a company called Monsanto. The simple explanation can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monsanto If you can understand what is going on at Monsanto you will find that as with most major corporations, banks, Insurance companies, etc. that the power and money becomes the conditioning in which we live and becomes the normal way of life. My question to humanity is what is normal? Is it normal that now at the young age of 7, girls are going into puberty linked to harmful hormones injected in our food. And that now laws are being passed for condoms to be passed out in our public schools to children as young as 7 yrs. old. Would it be normal to find that we've been pumping our children full of drugs to control ADD and ADHD when it has now been linked to the chemicals and pesticides being used on our crops. This is just a very small amount of examples that we must examine. I believe God had a much better plan for us in teaching us the values and morals of tilling the earth.

Above is pictured an heirloom variety of Japanese Yard Long Beans. They are growing along side of Morning Glories, Marigold's, Petunias and several other Herb's. A Heirloom is a non-hybrid variety dating at least 100 years or a vintage mid 20th century or older. These are the varieties that have been passed down from generation to generation. They are open-pollinated seeds which means when the seed is saved and planted again it will grow true to its variety. Hybrid seeds that you find in vast array at your local garden store were not bred for the backyard garden. They were bred for commercial use. This is not what you want to be growing in your garden. You will never experience the flavor, texture and all the other elements by growing Hybrids. By growing Heirlooms you can save seed like our founding fathers did to pass down to your children and save a species from extinction. Heirlooms will acclimate to your garden and improve in its hardiness each new year that it is planted.

There is so much more to write about the wonders of organic gardening. I hope I can share more. The experience of watching mother nature takes its coarse as nature was intended is an overwhelming and remarkable experience.

Happy Gardening!
Pammy

Monday, August 9, 2010

Banana - Pecan Bread

This is an Old Southern recipe that is almost like cake but certainly bread. I always make extra to put up in the freezer for later. It's very simple and quick to prepare. Pecans are one of the main nut trees that grows so well in Texas. They are gorgeous tall stately trees that reward us with plenty of much needed shade in our hot summer weather.

Preheat your oven to 325

1/2 cup butter softened
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs, fresh farm raised if possible
1 cup bananas, ripe and mashed up
2 cups all-purpose flour (unbleached is preferred)
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup chopped pecans ( I get them fresh from the farmers market as halves, place them in a ziplock bag and run my rolling pin over them)

Blend butter, sugar, eggs and mashed bananas until smooth. In a separate bowl mix together with wire whisk your flour, salt and baking soda. Add your dry ingredients to your banana mixture alternating in with your warm water. Stir in the Pecans and divide into 2 lightly oiled loaf pans. Bake for at least one hour. Check the center with a toothpick. When it comes out clean the bread is done. This old fashioned bread will crack at the top. It is so beautiful and the aroma will fill your kitchen. Cool pans a bit before removing them from the pans. Let them finish cooling on a wire rack.



Oh the Lazy Hot Days of a Texas Summer!!
Happy Gardening!!
Pammy