Sunday, November 06, 2016

Erica's Science Corner: Grow Lights or Proof I Should Have Listened to My Dad In The First Place

For me, starting seeds indoors has had a steep learning curve.  I've improved my soil mixture, watering techniques, and started sterilizing my pots in bleach  before using them, all of which led to a moderately successful batch of seedlings last year.

My father advised me to use shop lights and regular florescent bulbs like he does, but not having the time or tools to build a wooden stand for the lights, I thought I would save myself the trouble and buy really expensive grow lights that come with their own stand.  They haven't been everything i hoped for.  My seedlings seem smaller than they should be, and the lights fall off the stand every third time my arm brushes up against it.

Since starting, I've seen some great set-ups online using wire utility shelves to hang shop lights above rows of plants.  I wanted to double my growing space this year, so I bought a utility shelf, a shop light, and LED bulbs for less than half the cost of those fancy grow lights.

I still worried that the shop light wouldn't work as well as the official grow lights, and had no idea if LED was a good idea, so I set up an experiment.

Two identical flower pots, with equal amounts of the same potting mix and a teaspoon of micro green seed mix planted in each.  I like using micro greens when I'm testing a new procedure or potting mix because they germinate quickly and grow well.  Plus I can eat them any time of year.

I was careful to keep the lights at the same height above the pots and to water equally.  The only variable was which light each pot was under.

The pot on the left was under the grow light, the right was under the LED shop light.

It isn't night and day, but there's a distinct difference.  The shop light with the LED bulbs is the clear winner.  Science has proven that I should have listened to my Dad (the science teacher) in the first place.

Anyone want some used grow lights?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

These are protein packed and satisfying vegetarian stuffed peppers.  Leave out the cheese, or use a substitute and they can easily be made vegan.

Preheat the oven to 375.  In a small casserole dish (about 6 x 9) combine
  • 8 oz package of tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Bake at 375 for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tempeh is brown with crispy edges.  Leave the oven on after removing the tempeh.

Meanwhile, rinse
  • 1/3 c quinoa
  • 1/2 c brown lentils
Add to a rice cooker along with
  • 2 1/2 cups water
Cover, and cook the quinoa, lentils and water in the rice cooker until finished.  Coat a 9 x 12 casserole dish with olive oil.  Remove stems and cut in half

  • 4 bell peppers
place the halves, cut side up, in the oiled casserole dish and set aside.  In a large pan, saute until transluscent

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, about 2 cups, chopped, or 15 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 C fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
Cook, stirring often until the tomatoes have softened and the mixture has become juicy.  Add the tempeh and the mixture from the rice cooker when they are ready and stir well.  Turn heat to low and stir in
  • 1/4 grated parmesan
Remove from heat and spoon mixture into pepper halves.  For some extra cheesy goodness, get
  • 8 ciliegine--tiny balls of fresh mozzarella
poke one into the center of each stuffed pepper.  Bake the stuffed peppers for 20 minutes, or until they are heated through and the pepper cups have begun to soften.

Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Portobello tempeh Rueben

In order to improve my health and lose weight, I've changed my diet following the guidelines in the book "Always Hungry?"by Dr. David Ludwig.  I'm eating whole foods with more fat and protein than I was used to, low glycemic indexes, and no sugar or sweeteners.  I feel great and love what I am eating!

I love the tempeh Rueben sandwich that they serve at The Autumn Cafe in Oneonta NY.  This is a way to combine all of those great flavors without the bread, and to do it on a grill in good weather!  In winter, just do the same thing on a baking sheet in a 350*F oven.  Year 'round tasty-ness.

Use 4 or 5 large portobellos when serving these as a main course.  Use smaller portobellos to serve as an appetizer or side dish.  These are very filling!

Serves 4 as a meal, more as an app or side

Preheat grill or oven to 350*F.

Cut into thin strips

  • 8 oz tempeh
In a cast iron pan heat
  • 1 Tbs olive oil

Spread the tempeh strips in a single layer in the pan and fry for 5-6 minutes, until the underside has browned.  Then turn and fry the second side until brown.  Add more oil to the pan if needed.  Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Brush both sides of
  • 14 oz portobello mushrooms, stems removed
Brush surface of grill with olive oil, or if using an oven, line a baking pan with parchment paper.  Once grill/oven is up to temperature, place mushrooms gill side down on grill or baking pan and place pan in oven.  Grill/Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the mushrooms begin to soften but still hold their shape.  Turn mushrooms gill side up and top each one with
  • scoop of sourkraut about 12 oz total
  • sliced tempeh
  • Russian dressing (I use close to the whole recipe for 14 oz of mushrooms)
  • sliced Swiss cheese 8-10 oz total
Grill/bake until the toppings are hot all the way through and the cheese has melted.  Another 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your mushrooms.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Russian Dressing, Homemade and Sugar-Free

Traditional Russian dressing is often packed with sugar.  This is an easy to make, healthier, sugar-free version.  An immersion blender makes homemade dressings a breeze, but if you don't have one you could also do this in a traditional blender or even whisked together in a bowl.

Makes approximately 1 1/3 cup.

In a 1 pint wide mouth canning jar, or in the measuring cup of an immersion blender, combine
  • 1 c sugar-free real mayonnaise.  I use a variation of this recipe
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 4 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 Tbs minced shallot
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
Blend with immersion blender until thoroughly mixed.  Refrigerate for at least one hour, but preferably a day before using.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chickpea Cheddar Biscuits

I've been experimenting with several recipes to make a really good grain-free biscuit.  There are other cheddar biscuit recipes out there, but I believe this to be an improved version.  I love to eat these with soup, or split in half and use them for a breakfast sandwich or in place of the English muffin with eggs benedict.

Chickpea flour is the same thing as garbanzo flour or gram flour or besan.

Makes 5 really hearty biscuits.

Preheat the oven to 500*F  Butter a 6"-7" oven safe dish or ramekin.

Combine in the bowl of a food processor:

  • 1 C chickpea flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Pulse a few times to mix.  Cut into approx. 1/4 pieces and add to the food processor:

  • 2 T butter

Pulse 8-10 times to incorporate the butter.  You may still see small chunks of it, and that's ok.  Pour the contents of the food processor into a medium sized mixing bowl and add:

  • 1/2 C buttermilk or yogurt
  • 1 C shredded sharp cheddar

Stir with a rubber spatula until you have a consistently wet, sticky, lumpy dough.  Place about a 1/4 cup of chickpea flour in a bowl and line up the bowl of dough, followed by the bowl of flour, and then the buttered oven safe dish.  Use a 1/4 C measuring cup to scoop dough out of the first bowl.  Drop it into the flour and roll it around to coat, then toss it gently from hand to hand over the bowl to shake off any excess flour.  Place it into the buttered dish.  Continue with the rest of the dough, arranging the biscuits touching each other in a circle in the dish.  You'll make about 5 balls total.

Bake in the 500*F oven for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 450 for an additional 12-15 minutes.  They are done when golden with some browning on top, and cooked all the way through.  Turn out onto a plate to cool, and break the biscuits apart when cool enough to handle.

These are a bit too crowded in only a 5" dish.  If you make a double batch, a 9" pie plate will hold them perfectly.