Here in Southern California, as in many other areas, we are finally legally recognizing the drought. There are rebates in place for those who take out their lawns, and here in Fallbrook there is a 36% water reduction goal. Many people just don’t know what to do with all that lawn. A very unfortunate continuing trend is to dump half a ton of colored gravel on it. Please! NO! First of all, once down gravel is nearly impossible to get out again. Gravel, like all rocks, is thermal mass. Instead of having a large rock heating up and radiating out heat, with gravel there are tens of thousands of surfaces radiating out heat and reflecting light and heat back up. It is the worst kind of hardscape. All that reflected heat and light heats up your home, making you use your air conditioner more frequently which is a waste of energy, and also dries out the air around your home. Desertification reflects light and heat to a point where moist air moving over a region dries up. There is less rain, or no rain. Most trees and plants trap humidity under their leaves. Gravel reflects light and heat back up under those leaves and dries them out, sickening your plants and trees. Pollen travels farther on humid air; it can dry out quickly. If you are relying on pollination for good fruit set between trees that are spaced far apart, then having some humidity will increase your chances of success.
By laying gravel you are turning soil into rock-hard dirt, because microbial life cannot live closely under it. That robs any plants you have stuck into the gravel of the food they need from the soil, which is opened up through microbial activity. You are adding to the heat value of the hardscape around your house causing you to cook in the summer and use more air conditioning. You have reduced habitat to zero. You have added to global warming by reflecting more heat and light into the sky. Although gravel is permeable, usually the ground below it bakes so hard that rain doesn’t percolate. I’ve read sites that want to you increase the albedo effect by laying gravel. In the short term albedo helps cool the atmosphere, but as a result of too much reflected light dries everything out. Think of the dark coolness and dampness of forests… that are now bare ground.
What do you do with your lawn instead? There are many choices that are so much better for the earth and your quality of life. First step, cut swales on contour on any slopes for best rain harvesting. Flat lawn? Easier still. Turn your lawn into a beautifully landscaped lush native garden. I’m not talking about a cactus here and there, but a creation with the awesome native plants we have in Southern California. Some of them such as Fremontia can die with supplemental summer water!
There is a chocolate daisy that smells like chocolate. Oh yes. And how can you not want to plant something called Fairy Duster or Blue-Eyed Grass? A native landscape planted on soil that has been contoured to best catch and hold water, and amended with buried wet wood (hugelkultur), will give much-needed food, water and breeding grounds to countless birds, butterflies, native insects and honeybees.
Or put in a pond. Wait, a pond during a drought? Yes! Ninety-nine percent of California wetlands have been paved over, drained or are unusable. Where are all the animals drinking? Oh, wait, we are in the epicenter of extinction, mostly due to wetlands loss. There are very few animals left that need to drink. Those that are left have to take advantage of chlorinated water in bird baths and swimming pools. The microbially rich and diverse clean, natural water that fed and sustained life is just about gone. So what can you do? If you have a swimming pool, you can convert it either entirely to a pond, or into a natural swimming pool that is cleaned by plants.
Suddenly instead of having this expensive eyesore that you use only a couple of months a year and pour chemicals into year-round, you have a lovely habitat that you want to sit and watch, and even better, swim in safely without turning your hair green or peeling your skin. You don’t need to clean the pool all the time, and you don’t need to put in chemicals. If you are in the San Diego or Los Angeles area, call Dr. Robert Lloyd of PuraVida Aquatics for a consultation and conversion. If you don’t have a pool, then build one that is cleaned by plants and fish. You don’t need a filtration or oxygenation system because the biology does it all. Where do you get the water from to top off your pond?
Connect your pond to a lovely, planted stream that is connected to your laundry water or graywater system. You are buying water every day, so why not compost your water through phytoremediation and have a pond full of great healthy chemical-free water that is wonderful to look at and is an oasis for thirsty animals and insects?
Or install a food forest. With good soil building and rain catchment first, and planting in guilds with sheet mulch around trees and on pathways, you will be using a fraction of the water you pour on your lawn and yet harvest lots of food. Too much food? Share it with a food pantry!
Or start a veggie garden without digging any sod.
Layer cardboard, sticks, grass, food scraps, leaves, more grass, more food scraps, more leaves and top it with about 8 inches of good soil, then plant right in it! That lovely standing compost heap will slowly turn into good soil while killing the grass beneath and growing crops for you immediately.
If ridding yourself of a lawn just breaks your heart, then substitute the high-water use grasses for a native grass mix that is comparable. Look at S&S Seeds for prices or for seed choices. Water a few times with Actively Aerated Compost Tea using any rainwater you may have caught in those 50-gallon containers and your grass roots will travel so deeply that they will find groundwater. Check up on the work of soil microbiologist Dr. Elaine Ingham and see how easy AACT is to make and use.
There are so many alternatives to using gravel that aren’t expensive, that are an investment in your property and in reclaiming habitat while beautifying your home and saving money. So please, just say, “NO,” to the gravel. Tell a friend!!
Which one of these would you rather live in? Which do you think is better for the earth and for the future generations?
Have a cold, or just near someone who has one? Headache? Aches and pains? Digestive problems? Here is a simple and very delicious East Indian recipe that mothers give their children when it is cold season. It contains some powerful anti-inflammatories, namely turmeric and ginger. I’ve written about how taking turmeric daily has kept my arthritic hands mobile and virtually pain-free. Look up the health uses for turmeric and you will be amazed. Black pepper helps activate turmeric, and since turmeric is fat-soluble it is best taken with a little fat in your meal. The following recipe can be made in a few minutes and feels wonderful going down. It was inspired by a post on Journeykitchen.com. I used organic vanilla soy milk, because that is what I had. You may use any dairy substitute that you want, but not non-fat. If it is non-fat, then add a half teaspoon of oil (such as coconut oil) to the drink, or eat some on the side.
I make a big pot of this in the morning, strain it and then rewarm it during the day as I need it. The longer you simmer the spices, the stronger they become. The ginger becomes a little hotter, and the others more bitter. For children or those new to these spices, heat the spices in the milk 3-5 minutes before straining unless they like it stronger.
Turmeric is a bitter yellow root that can be cooked with, or more commonly is found dried and ground to use in curries and as a colorant. Where do I even begin to list its benefits? As I previously mentioned turmeric is used for arthritis, heartburn , stomach pain, diarrhea, intestinal gas and bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems and gallbladder disorders. It is also used for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, menstrual problems, and cancer. Other uses include depression, Alzheimer’s disease, water retention, worms, and kidney problems. Turmeric can be applied to the skin for pain, ringworm, bruising, eyeinfections, inflammatory skin conditions, soreness inside of the mouth, and infected wounds. It is used as a facial to help skin and give darker skin a glow (I used it on my pale face and came up yellow for a few washings, but with nice skin!).
Ginger helps with the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, bronchitis, cough, menstrual cramps, arthritis and muscle pain, but is especially known for relieving nausea. I ate a lot of ginger during my pregnancies, and now we have some in the car to treat motion sickness.
Adding organic honey as a sweetener really boosts the healing power of this drink. Honey – and not the processed mass-produced kind, but unheated organic honey – has anti-fungal, anti-septic, and anti-microbial properties that really help soothe a sore throat and kill germs. The glucose and fructose are absorbed by the body at different times so that the energy they provide is slow and long-term -not the high and low that granulated sugar provides.
Cloves are anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic and analgesic. They’re packed with antioxidants and are good sources of minerals (especially manganese), omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and vitamins.
Peppercorns help turmeric work, are anti-inflammatory, carminative, and aid digestion. They are also an excellent source of many B-complex groups of vitamins such as Pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin, and are a good source of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-C and vitamin-A, and in flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants that help the body remove harmful free radicals and help protect from cancers and diseases.
Cinnamon has been used to reduce inflammation, it has antioxidant effects, and fights bacteria, and may lower cholesterol.
Cardamom is rich in nutrients such as iron, calcium and magnesium, potassium, manganese, many vitamins such as C, and is a co-factor for the enzyme, superoxide dismutase, a very powerful free-radical scavenger.
Cayenne is rich in capsaicin. The pepper also contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, and flavonoids (anti-oxidants), and has long been used to ease pain, headaches and to increase circulation. If you don’t use hot peppers regularly, please add just a few grains to the milk and work your way up.
If you are recovering from stomach distress and need some bland, comfort food, please investigate this recipe for jook, a wonderful cooked rice dish.
My best wishes for a healthy and happy day!
Turmeric MilkAuthor: Diane KennedyRecipe type: Beverage; VeganCuisine: East IndianPrep time:Cook time:Total time:Serves: 2 cupsThis quickly made hot drink will help ward off colds, or bring relief if you have one. The inspiration came from Journeykitchen.com.Ingredients
- 2 cups whole or low fat (not non-fat) organic soymilk, rice milk, nut-milk, or other non-dairy milk
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 3 black peppercorns
- 3 cardamon pods, cracked
- 3 whole cloves
- ½ inch fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or a fingernail-sized piece of cinnamon stick)
- Pinch of saffron (optional)
- A couple drops of vanilla (opt.)
- Cayenne to taste (opt.) (start with a few grains and work up)
- Organic honey, brown sugar or other sweetener to taste (opt.)
- Lightly crush the peppercorns, cloves and cardamon pods
- In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except for sweetener.
- Gently heat and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
- Add sweetener to taste. If adding organic honey - which is a healing force on its own - stir it in as the milk is off the boil. Boiling will kill the beneficials in the honey.
- Strain into cups and serve.
For the past year I’ve been making my own vegan meat out of organic vital wheat gluten. This meat is called seitan (pronounced, humorously enough, say-tan, just like the fork-tongued guy in red). If you’ve eaten mock meats, especially in restaurants, you’ve most likely have eaten seitan.
I am not gluten intolerant, and I know that the current ‘epidemic’ of celiac disease is not what it seems. People eat far too much wheat in their diets, and that wheat is not only genetically modified, but sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, then processed until it has to have nutrients added back onto it to qualify as food, and then it is shipped and stored. The consumer has no idea when that poor tortured grain actually came forth into this world. As my good friend Bill says, “You can’t see the farm in it.” I believe that when people eliminate wheat from their diets they feel so much better because they aren’t eating all those hamburger buns, batters, snacks and other empty-calorie foods. They are also reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides they consume.
I know about developing an intolerance to food. I’ve developed an intolerance to soy milk (organic, mind you), which made me realize how much of it I have been consuming. Now I drink rice milk or water mostly, and manage my soy intake while keeping an eye out for other products I may be indulging in too much. My grandfather Walter Brower in the 30’s had developed a bad dermatitis. He was in the hospital with it, being treated for all kinds of things with no relief. He was missing work, and he was the sole supporter of his family. Finally someone recommended that he visit a chiropractor… a chiropractor? For a skin condition? In the 1930’s? This was radical thinking. Thankfully he was desperate enough to go. He visited the chiropractor’s office, sitting across from him at his desk, and told the doctor about his affliction. The chiropractor asked what he did for a living. My grandfather was a delivery man for Bordon’s milk. The chiropractor said that my grandfather had developed a milk allergy due to all the dairy products he consumed. My grandfather went off dairy, and the skin problem disappeared within days. (This was at a time before cows were fed pellets of corn and chicken feces laced with antibiotics as they are today, too.)
All that said, I make my own meat with organic products, as well as my own vegan butter , and am now experimenting with vegan cheese (more on that later). Do I have a lot of time on my hands? No. I spend a couple hours once a month making the seitan and the butter, enough for a month, and freeze both.
Seitan isn’t pretty before it is cooked. It is grey and spongy. However compare it to the flesh of a butchered animal and it is beautiful. You can buy vital wheat gluten just about anywhere now, but different brands have different quality. I use Bob’s Red Mill which has outstanding flavor and never gets rubbery. I also use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos instead of soy sauce, tamari and often other salt. It is organic and nutritious, and a little bit brings out the flavor of soups, main dishes, salad dressings, scrambled eggs, and anything its added to. Compare prices online for both; Amazon.com has good deals if you want to buy a lot.
When seitan is frozen, the patties are quickly thawed in a lightly oiled pan. The ‘meat’ is juicy, flavorful and delicious, and can be used in place of chicken strips, ground up instead of meat for stuffing or sausage, used as is in a sandwich or hamburger, or cubed for stew, curry… whatever. The problem I have is wanting to eat it too often!
Basic SeitanAuthor: Originally from ShrimpGhost on Allrecipes.comRecipe type: Main DishCuisine: VeganPrep time:Cook time:Total time:Serves: 12Organic vital wheat gluten makes a yummy, all-purpose meat substitute for very low cost.Ingredients
- 2 cups organic vital wheat gluten
- 1 teaspoon organic crushed dry rosemary (or minced fresh)
- 1 teaspoon organic dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon organic dried rubbed sage
- ¼ teaspoon organic cumin seed, lightly crushed
- ¼ teaspoon organic garlic powder
- 2 cups water
- ⅓ cup Bragg's Liquid Amino Acid (or tamari sauce, but it is saltier)
- 8 cups water
- ¼ cup tamari sauce
- ¼ cup Bragg's Liquid Amino Acid
- ½ teaspoon organic onion powder
- 1 4-inch piece dried kelp (kombu) (you may omit)
- In a large non-reactive bowl, mix together the vital wheat gluten, rosemary, thyme, sage, cumin seed and garlic powder. In a measuring cup mix the 2 cups water with the Bragg's. Quickly add the liquid to the dry and working fast mix thoroughly. The gluten will develop quickly; use your hands to work it to make sure there are no patches of dry gluten. There should be extra liquid. The gluten will be rubbery. Shape the gluten into a long loaf, about 3 inches in diameter. Allow to rest while you make the broth.
- In a tall stock pot combine 8 cups of water with the Bragg's, tamari, onion powder and kombu and bring to a boil.
- Cut gluten log into slices no wider than ¼ inch, or in strips (you can always cut the finished patties into strips later). Individually drop pieces into boiling stock (they'll stick together otherwise). Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain and either store seitan in refrigerator in some broth for no more than 5 days, or layer seitan patties flat in a plastic freezer bag laid on a cutting board or plate and freeze. When frozen gently break apart patties in the bag and keep frozen, taking out what you need. Patties can be heated quickly in a pan, sliced and stir-fried, thawed and breaded and baked or fried, or used any way you'd like.
I tried several seitan recipes, most of which were either too bland or too strong and muddy flavored. This recipe I really like for all-purpose, chickeny seitan. I freeze the finished slices flat in a plastic bag so I can pull out however many I need whenever I want them.
I should have more accurately called this post, Saving All the Insects, or even Saving the Wildlife, because the answer to saving one is the answer to saving them all. We’ve been inundated for years – my whole lifetime, in fact, – with pleas to save our environment, stop whale slaughter, stop polluting, etc. I remember winning a poster contest in fifth grade on the subject of curtailing littering. Since Rachel Carson’s books woke people up to the hazards of DDT and how chemicals have many deadly side effects there has been a grassroots effort to stop the pollution. Since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth came out the push for environmentally friendly lights, cars, LEED-certified buildings and many more positive anti-climate-change actions have grown furiously. Too bad no one listened to him decades before. A drop in the economy and the radical change in weather patterns have people exploring organics, making their own clothes and foods, changing their shopping habits and thinking about what they are bringing into their homes. However, this week the World Wildlife Fund released the staggering results of a study that states that between the years 1970 and 2010, 52% of the world’s animal populations are gone. Over half. Gone. On our watch. In my lifetime. I am stunned with shame. So what about the next 40 years? Over 97% of California wetlands are already gone. There are only 3% left in Los Angeles. The Colorado River hasn’t met the ocean for decades, except briefly last year due to major earthworks. We are pumping all that water overland, open to the sun for evaporation, to treatment plants that fill it with chlorine and other chemicals, then sell it to us to spray over lawns and flush down the toilet or let run down the drain while the water heats up. It is madness. All the wildlife that depended upon the Colorado River along that stretch are gone. All the insects, the frogs, lizards, birds, mammals, etc. that need a clean drink of water no longer have access to it. The only water they can drink is usually chlorinated domestic water in ponds and bird baths. Too often this water is treated with algaecide, which claims it doesn’t hurt frogs but it does kill what the frogs feed upon. We are killing our animals with poisoned domestic water.
One of the largest reasons we have extinctions in North America is mismanagement of rainwater in drylands (other than polluting the waters. Poaching, over-fishing, destruction of habitat and climate change are the main reasons). We have cleared and flattened the ground, and channel rainwater off into the ocean. Look around at your streets and houses. Are they harvesting water or channeling it? Any property that is slanted is channeling water away. Any property that is level – like the bottom of swales – is harvesting water. So many properties are inundated with annual rains because there is no water harvesting above them. When you harvest water, it runs into rain catchment basins and swales instead of roaring down the hillside taking all the topsoil with it. Water becomes passive and percolates down deeply into the soil. That deep saturation draws tree roots down into the ground. The roots break up hardpan, make oxygen and nutrient channels into the dirt and produce exudates (sugars, carbohydrates and starches) through their roots to attract and feed the billions of microbes that turn your dirt into rain-holding soil. That underground plume of rainwater then slowly passes through your soil, re-enervating subterranean waterways, refilling your wells and bringing long-dry streambeds back to life. We must harvest rainwater to save our animals and plants, and consequently ourselves. We must reestablish sources of clean, unpolluted chemical-free water for animals to eat and from which to drink.
Healthy pond water is off-color due to tannins, and is filled with tiny creatures. Some such as daphnia are visible, but just like soil microbes, many aquatic creatures are microscopic. Fish and frogs feast from this level of the food chain, and these creatures make the water balanced. They eat mosquito eggs. They clean up algae. They are as vitally important as soil microbes. Oh, and 83% of the frogs are gone.
I spoke with Quentin Alexander from HiveSavers today; he performs humane bee rescue around the San Diego area and has been trying to re-queen Africanized hives with calmer European queens which will breed nicer behavior back into the bees rather than having to kill the entire hive. He has had no luck in the past two years with European queens, even those bred in California. With very little wetlands left, and those often sprayed with DEET by Vector Control, or polluted with chemical fertilizers and oils washed out of front yards, streets and driveways, these insects must resort to drinking from swimming pools and bird baths. Again, these contain highly chlorinated water. Animals are being forced to drink poison, or not drink at all.
We MUST stop using chemicals on our properties, and we MUST harvest rainwater. We MUST stop spraying well water into the air but irrigate with it in dripper form under mulch so that it is cycled back into the ground rather than evaporated. One inch of rain on one acre in one hour is 27,154 gallons of water! It is so easy to harvest rainwater – dig level-bottomed swales! Dig small ones with a trowel. Fire up the tractor and turn road ways into swales, or cross-cut vertical paths with swales that have dedicated overflows. Dig rain catchment basins to catch a flow of water. Catch water as high up on your property as you can. If you have level soil, fantastic! You have it so easy! Make gentle swales, rain gardens, rain catchment areas and sunken gardens to catch and percolate the water. Bury old wood perpendicular to water flow – its called hugelkultur.
Please watch this six-minute video by Geoff Lawton of the Permaculture Design Institute of Australia. You need to type in your name and email, but they don’t sell your information nor do they bug you with lots of emails. Here is the link. The title is Finding An Oasis in the American Desert, and it is about the Roosevelt swales dug during the dust bowl in the desert. If nothing that I say, nor anyone else says can convince you, then please watch this and see the effectiveness of rain harvesting. We MUST do this, and now before the rains come is the time. Catch all the water that falls on your property in the soil, and try to catch the water that runs into it. If there are flood waters channeled through your property, see if you can talk to the people who own land above you about harvesting water up there. It will reduce the flooding, save topsoil and benefit everyone’s property. Work towards keeping rainwater in your soil, reducing your domestic water, and making what streambeds are left come back to life. Keep our old trees from dying by watering deeply through rain catchment. If you have a pond or swimming pool and treat it with harsh chemicals and algaecides, seek out a natural pond professional. In the San Diego – Los Angeles region there is Bob Lloyd of PuraVida Aquatics, or Jacob Hatch of Hatch Aquatics. Jacob builds natural ponds and maintains large natural waterways. Bob maintains chemical-free backyard and display ponds that are full of wildlife. He can convert your pool into a clean swimming pond where the water is filtered by plants and thus is lovely year-round, provides abundant habitat and doesn’t need chemical treatments. No chlorine to burn your skin and eyes. How great is that? He can also create a constructed wetland that cleans your greywater with plants.
There are so many simple and inexpensive ways to harvest rainwater rather than allow it to flow into the salty ocean without penetrating the soil. Please, please, please do them, and if you already have THANK YOU and gently encourage your neighbors to do the same. We must stop the habitat destruction and start to rebuild what is gone.
Normally tours of Finch Frolic Garden are held by appointment for groups of 5 – 15 people, Thursdays – Mondays. Cost is $10 per person and the tour lasts about two hours. By popular demand, for those who don’t have a group of five or more, we will be hosting Open Tour days for the first 15 people to sign up in August and September. They will be Sunday, August 10 and 24, Sept. 7 and 21, and Thursdays August 7 and 28, and Sept. 11 and 25. Tours begin promptly at 10 am. The tours last about two hours and are classes on basic permaculture while we tour the food forest. I ask $10 per person. Please reserve and receive directions through firstname.lastname@example.org. Children under 10 are free; please, no pets. Photos but no video are allowed. Thank you for coming to visit! Diane and Miranda
I’ve labeled myself an ‘ethical vegetarian’ for nearly two decades. I stopped eating animals when I became horrified at the dichotomy of having glue traps under the house to catch wild rats and mice (and any poor, poor animal that happened upon it, such as lizards. Glue traps are horrendously cruel. I hadn’t put them there.) and a cage with an exercise wheel and specialty food for ‘pet’ mice in the bathroom. Justice is a man-made effort, and by not eating animals I was no longer approving of mass torture by buying into it. Although I no longer ate animals, I have still indulged in animal products, namely dairy products. Slowly it has sunk in how badly animals are treated for those, too. As someone who loves cooking, it has been difficult for me to wean away from dairy products. Butter is especially difficult. Unlike hens who have been bred to continuously lay without needing the services of a rooster, dairy cows must be lactating to produce milk. Cows are usually artificially inseminated, then after giving birth their calves are replaced by milking machines. The calves are most often slaughtered for veal. This process is repeated until the cow is used up from the constant pregnancies and lactating, and then she is slaughtered. This horrible practice is disguised by advertisements showing happy cows grazing in fields. That is a fantasy. ‘Grass fed’ and ‘pasture raised’ are sly terms that give you an image that is nowhere near to the truth. Please read Michael Pollen’s Omnivore’s Dilemma to understand where your food comes from and why.
To find an acceptable butter substitute has been an expensive and frustrating endeavor. For awhile I used a dairy substitute from Trader Joe’s, who I swear keeps tabs on what I buy the most and then discontinues it. All other butter substitutes either taste horrible, can only be used for spreading, or more commonly contain palm oil. The sudden fad for palm oil has created extreme clearance for the growing of palm in the areas which are habitat for the orangutan; indeed, if we don’t curtail our consumption of palm oil quickly the orangutan will go extinct within our lifetimes.
I finally found a recipe for a butter substitute that works pretty well for both spreading and baking. It is made mostly of refined coconut oil. At this point coconut oil is sustainably produced – please make sure that you support companies that do so. Refined organic coconut oil has no flavor or scent; unrefined has a mild coconut flavor and a toasted coconut scent. If you are using a batch of this butter for baking where coconut flavor is desired, then use the unrefined.
This recipe is by no means my own. I found it and a detailed description of the science behind it at VeganBaking.net . There are several options listed and a lot of cooking science behind the butter.
I used the basic recipe, Regular Vegan Butter, Coconut Oil Base. The recipe calls for curdling the soy milk, which will drive the butter flavor. I tried the full teaspoon of cider vinegar, then half cider vinegar and half coconut vinegar, then just half a teaspoon of coconut vinegar, and finally no vinegar, and thus no curdling, at all. I found for my taste that the vinegar flavor carried through and was much too dominant. Even at just half a teaspoon it was so noticeable to me that I didn’t like it on toast. It was good, however, when my daughter used it on sourdough and topped it with fresh avocado. The slight vinegar flavor enhanced the avocado deliciously.
The batch I made without vinegar seemed perfect. The mouth-feel of this butter with or without the vinegar is creamy and all that a high-fat butter should be. It looks, cuts and spreads like butter. The flavor is creamy and very mild, almost like a slightly salted sweet butter. This was a winner for me. For the soy milk I used Trader Joe’s Organic Plain, which does have some sweetener in it. I’ll try with an unsweetened plain organic soy milk another time.
I keep my butter on the counter. I know that organic butter holds its shape better in the heat than processed butter, but both stay stable unless the temperature is in the 80’s. Coconut oil melts at 76F, and in my summertime Southern Californian kitchen, this vegan butter must be kept in the refrigerator. The butter is hard when needed, so the next batch I will take the author’s advice and swap out a tablespoon of coconut oil with regular oil to make it more spreadable.
I wanted to test the butter in cooking and baking. I melted it in a pan and cooked eggs and other breakfast items in it successfully. I used it on toast and on mashed potatoes with great success. The experiment with shortbread cookies went wrong, however, but I don’t think that that was the butter’s fault. These were lemon rosemary shortbread cookies, and contrary to my baking sense I followed the author’s (another blog) directions and didn’t sift the powdered sugar before adding it. There were lumps, therefore, in the batter and I mixed it extra to try and beat them out, which I believe was responsible for making the cookies tough. They were flavorful, but not crumbly. Oh well, I’ll just have to try again! The cookies rolled out, cut, and baked well, retaining their shape and performing as well as with cow’s butter.
As with all substitutions, there is always a difference and vegetarians and vegans have to embrace it. Of course fake bacon and ground ‘meat’ is not quite the same: the great part is that it is far more healthy for your body (lower fat, few preservatives if any, often organic, and not the pesticide-drenched and drugged animals that people eat) and doesn’t perpetuate the extreme cruelty to animals about which humans have become nonchalant. Yes, other animals aren’t kind when feeding off of other animals (those which aren’t vegetarians). Yet we as humans have the option the others don’t, to make eating choices.
Here is the basic revised recipe; please see the original blogpost on VeganBaking.net and give the options a try. I found xanthan gum from Bob’s Red Mill at my local grocery store, and liquid lecithin and coconut vinegar online through Amazon.com.
You can double or triple the recipe with no problem! Enjoy.
Recipe update: I’ve since made some changes to the recipe, exchanging some vegetable oil for some coconut oil for more spreadability, and adding a little more salt for a more satisfying (to me) taste when spread on toast. I’ve been using this butter for a month now, and have noted that: when melting in a hot pan it will brown faster than regular butter, so keep the temperature down, that it will melt and separate at room temperature (its summer now, so the kitchen is usually in the 70’s – in the winter it will be different) so I keep it in the refrigerator. I found butter stick molds that have the teaspoon markings along the side, so I’ve made 8x the original recipe and poured it into the butter molds, then wrapped each unmolded stick in wax paper and frozen them.
I’ve also poured it back into the cleaned coconut oil jars and frozen them, keeping one in the refrigerator for unmeasured use. I’ve used it along with a non-dairy creamer in the Chocolate Ganache recipe and it is very chocolaty, but not as rich as the original. Part of that is due to the creamer; heavier creamer will produce creamier results, but in no way was it disappointing. It was very tasty, but not as heavy. When refrigerated it didn’t solidify as much as the other, so more chocolate might need to be added depending upon the type of creamer used but it was still spreadable and yummy.
Another Recipe Update:
I’ve been making the butter with unsweetened organic rice milk and it turns out well. At first it tasted too light to be satisfying, but when I had dairy butter at a restaurant it tasted greasy and heavy – my taste buds wanted the vegan butter! I found out that even when the kitchen is colder than the melting point of the coconut oil, it isn’t a good idea to leave the butter refrigerated because unlike dairy butter it will grow mold. The rice milk butter with the increased vegetable oil makes it perfectly usable from the refrigerator. I make sticks and freeze them in a freezer bag for baking and pour the rest into glass jars with screw-on caps for spreading. The jars are kept in the freezer until needed, then switched to the refrigerator. I’ve made biscuits, cookies, cakes, scones and breads with this butter, and with proper handling they all come out just fine. We offered both dairy and vegan butter to our holiday guests and they didn’t detect much of a difference. Since vegan butter is so much lower in calories, and coconut oil is so good for you, I don’t have to hesitate to use it. It is actually part of my weight maintenance program!
Ethical ButterAuthor: Mattie, at VeganBaking.netRecipe type: CondimentCuisine: VeganPrep time:Cook time:Total time:A wonderful vegan butter with no palm oil, but lots of options. My version is without curdling the soy milk. Please see the original excellent post for more explanations and options.Ingredients
- ¼ cup + 2 teaspoons organic plain soy milk
- ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt (I increased the total salt to ½ t. for spreading butter)
- ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (130 grams) refined coconut oil, melted to room temp. (For more spreadability, I used ½ cup coconut oil and changed the 2T and 1 t to vegetable oil, along with the following 1 T for a total of 2 Tablespoons and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil.)
- 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or light olive oil
- 1 teaspoon liquid soy lecithin or liquid sunflower lecithin or 2 ¼ teaspoons soy lecithin granules
- ¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ + ⅛ teaspoon psyllium husk powder (I used xanthan gum)
- Combine soy milk and salt in a food processor or blender.
- Melt the coconut oil until it is just room temperature and barely melted.
- Add the coconut oil and the rest of the ingredients to the soy milk.
- Blend or process for about 2 minutes on low.
- Pour into ice cube trays, or into butter molds or trays.
- Freeze until firm, about an hour.
- Keep wrapped in refrigerator for a month, or frozen for a year.
- Makes one cup.
Permaculture Lectures in the Garden!
Learn how to work with nature and save money too
Finch Frolic Garden and Hatch Aquatics will present four fantastic, information-filled lectures in June. Join us at beautiful Finch Frolic Garden in Fallbrook, 4 pm to 6 pm, for refreshments and talks on…
Saturday, June 7: Introduction to Permaculture and Finch Frolic Tour: We’ll take you through the main precepts of permaculture and how it can be applied not only to your garden, but to yourself and your community. Then we’ll tour Finch Frolic Garden and show rain catchments, swales, plant guilds, polyculture, living buildings and so much more.
Saturday, June 14: Your Workers in the Soil and Earthworks: Learn the best methods for storing water in the soil and how to replace all your chemicals with actively aerated compost tea and compost.
Saturday, June 21: Aquaculture: You can have a natural pond – even in a tub! How natural ponds work, which plants clean water and which are good to eat. Even if you don’t want a pond, you’ll learn exciting information about bioremediation and riparian habitat.
Saturday, June 28: Wildlife in your Garden: What are all those bugs and critters and what they are doing in your yard? We’ll discuss how to live with wildlife and the best ways to attract beneficial species.
Your hosts and lecturers will be
Jacob Hatch Owner of Hatch Aquatics. With years of installing and maintaining natural ponds and waterways, and a Permaculture Design Course graduate, Jacob has installed earthworks with some of the biggest names in permaculture.
Miranda Kennedy OSU graduate of Wildlife Conservation and wildlife consultant, Miranda photographs and identifies flora and fauna and maps their roles in backyard ecosystems.
Diane Kennedy Owner of Finch Frolic Garden, lecturer, consultant, Permaculture Design Course graduate, former SDC Senior Park Ranger, Diane educates homeowners on how to save money and the environment while building their dream gardens.
Each class limit is 50 attendees, so please make pre-paid reservations soon before they fill up. Fee for set of four lectures and tour is $45 per person. Single session fee is $20 per person. Contact Diane Kennedy at email@example.com for reservations and directions.
You will not want to miss this fascinating and useful information!
It is fruit season and citrus and stonefruit are becoming ripe in the garden. When the fruit comes to the kitchen, and particularly when the peels and pits go into my open compost bucket, fruit flies appear as if by magic. It is amazing how quickly they show up and how quickly they reproduce. Fruit flies are busy laying eggs in any spot on any fruit or juice vegetable such as tomato. Gross. Here is a quick and inexpensive method of trapping and -unfortunately- killing the little things. I don’t like to kill anything, but I don’t know of a way to get around this, even when I drape towels over the fruit.
Take a small canning jar or baby food jar – something like that. Use the rim of the lid of a canning jar, or just a strong rubberband. You’ll also need a small piece of plastic to cover top of the jar; you can reuse some cellophane or part of an old plastic bag.
Fill the jar only about halfway with apple cider vinegar – not white distilled vinegar. Place the plastic over the top and secure with the lid rim or a rubber band.
Take a toothpick and prick tiny holes in the plastic. Set the jar near where the fruit flies accumulate and forget about it. Be sure to remove other lures such as old kitchen scraps or fruit, or cover it with dishtowels. That’s that. The flies swarm to the jar and eventually disappear into it and can’t get out.
Thanks to my daughter Miranda, our permaculture food forest habitat Finch Frolic Garden has a Facebook page. Miranda steadily feeds information onto the site, mostly about the creatures she’s discovering that have recently been attracted to our property. Lizards, chickens, web spinners and much more. If you are a Facebook aficionado, consider giving us a visit and ‘liking’ our page. Thanks!
Last Tuesday when I opened the chicken tractor to let the girls come bounding and clumsily flutter out for their breakfast, Belle our genetic crossbill Americauna didn’t emerge with her usual energy. I make a custard of blended chicken food, whole eggs, greens and fruit, cooked and cooled, to feed her. The custard contained all the goodies the other hens had, but was easier for her to scoop with her twisted beak. I’d fill her dish before I come down to ‘do the hens’, and she was fed first. Her dish was placed into the top of the quail hut with the door propped open so only Belle coud get in and out; the other hens loved to share her food otherwise.
Although Belle ate vigorously, she never gained full body weight. Her beak prevented her from eating well enough. Out of every five scoop attempts at the custard I’d say that she’d get one mouthful. Yet she was always perky, always running around interested in everything, and even tried dominance tactics over some of the other girls. They’d let her since she wasn’t a threat to any of their food.
Because Belle’s eating habits were very messy her neck and head feathers were straggly, and combined with her twisted beak gave her a comical, slightly crazed look. Because she was handled so much when she patiently allowed us to trim her beak and nails, and give her a bath, she was very friendly. She’d jump on our backs and shoulders any time we’d bend over in the coop. She’d enjoy being carried around. She was very spoiled. We’d read posts where owners of crossbills, who didn’t cull them but kept them as pets, had them live up to ten years and lay eggs. It was all dependant upon to what degree their bills crossed, and Belle’s became severe.
About a month ago we noticed mites on her, something that is common on hens, and gave her a good bath and treatment with food grade diotomaceous earth. The FGDE works immediately and is very effective and safe. Otherwise she was bright, fun and perky, burrowing under the other girls on the roost overnight to cuddle.
Tuesday Belle was slower to come around, and didn’t want to eat. A hungry hen not wanting to eat? Bad news. We immediately took her into the house. It was a cold day, so we made her comfortable next to a space heater. On inspection we discovered that she had mites all over her. We also checked the other hens right away and they were all okay, so apparently Belle’s diminishing health encouraged them to reproduce, and as she couldn’t groom herself she was stuck. We coated her with FGDE, not wanting to bathe her while she was feeling poorly since it was a cold day, and dropper fed her food. She showed some energy and wanted to run around, and took the food hungrily.
It was time to trim the Christmas tree, and my daughter put Belle under her sweater to keep her warm and comforted as we worked; Belle loved being cuddled and held, so she put up no resistance, but we could see that she was ill.
We brought in the cage that we used for Viola the ex-house chicken, and for all of our patients, and tucked Belle in for the night next to the space heater.
In the morning Belle was sitting very still. I knew that she was nearly gone. Just after waking my daughter, Belle died as she held her. She is buried outside our bay window where we watch birds, close to the house.
Birds are so tricky. They can seem perfectly fine, but when they show illness it is usually too late and the end comes quickly. There is little you can do for them besides keep them comfortable. Neither of us expected Belle to pass away; she showed no previous symptoms and was her usual plucky, fun self. Something internal gave way from slow malnutrition caused by that darned crossed bill and her inability to eat enough. On reflection I don’t think that Belle had a bad life. She ate enough to not be hungry all the time, and her custard gave her ease of eating. She was much loved and spoiled. Her end was quick, which was merciful and not granted to many of us. But Belle will always be remembered.