I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but we love The Minimalist Baker! We were looking up cookies for a Christmas baking extravaganza, and came across this recipe for Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprints. We cooked them up, and they were so good, we ate them all before we were able to hand any out. I suppose we should make some more to share.
½ cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup peanut butter
¼ cup soft vegan butter (earth balance)
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal and 2.5 tbsp water)
10 tbsp jam of your choice (we used raspberry)
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare flax egg, set aside. Beat peanut butter and earth balance together until they are light and fluffy. Then add flax egg and brown sugar, stir. Add graham cracker crumbs and stir to combine, then add flour a little at a time until the dough is firm, not crumbly. Scoop dough into one tbsp amounts, and roll into balls. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Next, flatten the balls gently with the bottom of a glass and use your thumb to make an indentation in the middle. Bake for 8 minutes, remove from oven. The indentations should’ve puffed up, so press them back down a little and put back in the oven to brown a little more, about 2-3 minutes until they are golden brown. If they over bake, they will be too crunchy. Let them rest on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks. Once cooled, heat jam until warm and pourable in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Spoon small amounts of the jam into the middle of each cookie. Sprinkle with a few more graham cracker crumbs and serve!
It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. Arthur Conan Doyle
I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things… I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind. Leo Buscaglia
Little doors can be found by paying attention
My view is that life is too short. I’m not being melodramatic or anything, but when your mother dies in your arms – just you and her, and it’s one o’clock in the morning, and you’re waiting for her to exhale – you just think, life’s too bloody short to argue about the little things. Saffron Aldridge
I don’t have to take a trip around the world or be on a yacht in the Mediterranean to have happiness. I can find it in the little things, like looking out into my backyard and seeing deer in the fields. Queen LatifahI
Wooden Bear sculpture in a tree
I found that if you take a few minutes out of your day to look around and find a few special little things in life— it is amazing how quickly all the big problems you thought you had all of the sudden seem smaller. Nanette Gregory
We have been up to FarmDaddy in the Sanford area to learn more about this growing system and what makes it different from many of the other systems out there.
One of the most ingenious features of the FarmDaddy is the simplicity of how the garden container is watered. The unit requires NO electricity, attaches to a common garden hose (or rain barrel) and is self-regulating . The garden container provides each plant the precise amount of water it needs at the exact time it needs it. Each self watering container maintains optimal plant hydration 24/7 which maximizes plant growth potential. One box can be daisy chained to up to 600 boxes. Due to the bypass in each box, only the boxes that need water receive hydration. Other so called watering box systems still need the user to physically add water at regular intervals.
The FarmDaddy garden container provides accelerated growth and increased productivity for growing fresh organic food or flowers.
This tasty, chunky spread goes great on toast, waffles, pancakes, banana bread, oatmeal, ice cream, yogurt… just about anything!
1 mango, finely diced
½ tbsp coconut oil
dash ground allspice
¼ tsp powdered ginger
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup orange juice
¼ cup brown or coconut sugar
¼ cup white sugar
Simmer mango in a small pot over medium/low heat with coconut oil, spices, and vanilla – stir. Let cook for a couple minutes, then add sugars. Let this cook until desired consistency, which is thick and syrupy. Stir occasionally, cook approximately 45 minutes. The bubbles will get larger when it is close to done. After it is finished, remove from heat, let sit until cool. Then, either serve or refrigerate.
This week blog post features another local Orlando business: Farm Boy Kombucha
Farm Boy Kombucha
Farm Boy Produce is a Orlando locally owned and operated company that was established in 2011. At Farm Boy, they strive to produce the highest quality Kombucha by using only the best organic ingredients. All the teas used in the brewing process are USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified. All the water used is treated with a four stage reverse osmosis system to remove all contaminants including chlorine and fluoride, to insure the healthiest Kombucha. In addition to this, all the tea used during brewing, and all other biodegradable ingrednts and materials are placed into productive compost bins and worm bins and recycled into productive soil, and generating hardly any waste in the process. These are some of key components on what makes Farm Boy different, and what makes Farm Boy a truly sustainable company.
There are many good things in Orlando and wanted to share one program with you that encourages all of us to be healthier and walk more—the Orlando Walks Project.
Orlando Walks Project
As an avid walker it has been great to see more areas around Orlando where walking is made easier by adding new sidewalks through the Orlando Walks project. One street– Cole Road off of Corrine– in particular was finished this week. This finished sidewalk made my day, as before it was completed the street did not have a sidewalk on and had a curve—- so many times cars could not see me in the street no matter what direction I walked. I often had to jump into someone’s yard at the last minute. Now I can safely walk this street to get to the shopping area on Corrine. Thank you, the city of Orlando for making my day!
Orlando Walks Project
About the Orlando Walks Project:
Keeping Orlando moving continues to be a priority for Mayor Buddy Dyer. Providing multiple alternatives such as transit, bike and pedestrian forms of transportation will offer all those who live, work and play in Orlando options for getting around the City. This offers a variety of affordable alternatives to having a car and connects more of our residents with access to jobs and opportunity.
To support this priority, the City is committed to providing a safe, comfortable and connected pedestrian system. The City’s Orlando Walks Sidewalk Project focuses on establishing an interconnected sidewalk network that helps to improve public safety and to encourage active healthy living. In an effort to maximize funding and more quickly complete sidewalk gaps, the City elected to seek additional outside funding opportunities and received a Federal grant to fund the current phase of sidewalk construction.
Inperennially water-starved Patagonia, Arizona, just 18 miles from the Mexico border, Gary Nabhan, well known as an author and ethnobotanist, farms a worldly array of desert crops that could make any food lover salivate. The harvest, more than 120 varieties strong, includes Sonoran pomegranates, Baja California Mission guavas, Winter Banana apples, amaranth, asparagus, globe artichokes, and even an arid-friendly Texas Mission variety of the infamously thirsty almond. His 5-acre farm, which he manages with his wife Laurie Monti, a medical anthropologist and professor of indigenous studies, grows these foods on precious little water — about 17 inches of rainfall a year, a dollop compared with the US-wide average of 28 inches.
Blending thousand-year-old desert crop varieties with water-saving approaches and farming techniques inherited from Moorish Spain, Africa, and indigenous North America, Nabhan’s modest arid plot offers a glimpse of how we could sustain ourselves in an era of chronic drought and increasing climate chaos.
A drought-friendly dinner “isn’t going to be any less delicious,” says Nabhan. Shifting what we eat could, in his view, mean a scrumptious revolution. During a phone conversation, Nabhan ticked off a tasty menu of other drought-friendly options: sea beans, Mesquite carob (good for diabetes), pistachios, figs, tepary beans, pigeon peas, quinoa, and soups and stews made with prickly pear cacti instead of the more water-intensive bell peppers.
In equally arid northern New Mexico, famed chef and author Deborah Madison surveys a hardscrabble terrain and sees another lush menu of possibilities. The Greens Restaurant founder, always scouting for new sustainable recipes in the garden and the kitchen, points to foods that “we are already familiar with, but haven’t tried growing as much” in recent times: Sonoran wheat. Quinoa. Red orach. Rattlesnake beans. Zucchini in multiple varieties.
One reason Nabhan is such a fan of these obscure food plants is that they’re adaptable. Like any plant, they like water; but when water grows scarce, these plants have natural methods of storing it, or thriving without it. Not so with the miles and miles of lettuce, strawberries, and other crops such as wheat (at least the modern varieties) that dominate the Western diet.
In California, the source of a full two-thirds of the nation’s fruits and nuts, one-third of its vegetables, and nearly 20 percent of its dairy products, growers’ response to drought has centered largely on water conservation measures such as drip irrigation.
But Craig McNamara, the President of the state’s Board of Food and Agriculture, argues, “We’re going to have to change what’s for dinner.” Bespectacled and chiseled with a straight-combed silver mane, McNamara, who farms 450 acres of organic walnuts and olives in Winters, California, bears a striking resemblance to his father Robert, the former defense secretary who steered military offensives in the Vietnam War. Today, McNamara worries that California’s drought could topple the state’s agricultural primacy. “For the first time, I’m tremendously worried about where we are…I’ve never felt we are closer to collapse than I do today.”
Despite the “beyond painful” drought crisis, McNamara says the conversation about shifting crops is still at a whisper: “I’m not sure how much this is getting to farmers.”
About 180 miles south of Davis, near the town of Madera in the gut of San Joaquin Valley, organic vegetable farmer Tom Willey sees market signals pointing farmers toward more thirsty crops, not fewer. “I don’t see a headlong rush to more water-saving crops.” Even as the drought deepens and water supplies disappear, Willey says many growers are still moving into almonds, which have been much vilified lately for their heavy water demands (roughly a gallon per nut). In fairness, it should be noted that much of today’s almond acreage used to grow cotton, which is one of the plant world’s biggest water hogs. So while almonds do use a lot of water, California at least traded T-shirts for more protein.
On his 75-acre patch of land, Willey has a little more flexibility than the average farmer. He produces a “seasonal progression” of row crops — annual vegetable varieties such as squash, leafy greens, and peppers that can be shifted depending on weather, water and market demands. “We can act and react much easier than farmers with permanent crops” such as fruit and nut orchards, Willey explains.
The Drought’s Opportunities
On his small homestead farm in San Juan Batista, sustainable agriculture educator Jim Leap produced a prodigious harvest this year of dry-farm beans, corn, winter squash, and tomatoes on just 10 inches of rain (and no irrigation). Leap, who for 21 years managed a research farm at the UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, points out, “I can’t superimpose that on farmers who are trying to make a living.”
Prior to the 1950s, when sprawling irrigation canal projects and increasingly globalized markets took hold, the Golden State produced a very different bounty — grains, sugar beets, potatoes, beans, dry-farmed apples. With the rise of California’s massive agricultural aqueducts came access to cheap irrigation water, which, coupled with lucrative new export markets, spawned an array of thirsty specialty crops. At present, there is no fast track back toward more drought-tolerant harvests.
Absent sweeping policy changes, more and more small farmers are bucking the trends. And, in this case, “the market” is leading the way. Thomas Nelson, who analyzes sustainable food markets for the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, notices a growing interest among chefs and farmers in harvesting drought-tolerant wild greens such as miner’s lettuce, wild mustard, bristly ox tongue, and black locust flowers. They may sound obscure, but these foods are increasingly popular among professional foragers and chefs at up-market restaurants.
“The market has a really push-pull dynamic,” he says. “One reason almonds have grown so big is because there was a big marketing push behind them. It becomes a self-perpetuating system.” Well, the same could be true for drought-tolerant heirlooms and other dry-farm fruits and vegetables. As Nelson points out, the booming niche market for heirloom tomatoes and salad mixes was just a glimmer 25 years ago.
Going dry and small
Back in the eternally dry Southwest, famed sustainable-foods chef and author Deborah Madison sees progress on the margins. “Some people are definitely starting to look at [shifting to water-saving crops]. Every agriculture conference I go to ties into these issues,” she says — “but I don’t think it’s happening fast enough.”
Much of the solution, says Madison, who founded Greens Restaurant (one of the nation’s premier vegetarian venues), lies in “hyper-local” farming systems that can provide a diverse food supply with greater adaptability to climate chaos. “The solutions depend on lots of hands, and smaller farms,” she says, and smaller economies of scale that enable attention to detail. “A lot of the changes we need, I don’t think big agriculture can do it.”
From his rain-deprived vantage point near the Mexico border, Nabhan makes a compelling case for scaling up desert crop varieties and time-tested farming techniques. What’s especially compelling to Nabhan is that these are not new ideas. The challenge, he says, is to “make certain that we don’t grow these in monocultures as we’ve done with other crops.”