Thursday, March 10, 2011


The Terrarium

The part of the backyard we aren't really going to use,
complete with Hank, the "dolpharoo" sculpture.

Our old potato/tomato pots.

Some beans growing on the left,
the compost pile in the far right corner,
and our herb and greens section on the right.

And, we need to do some weeding, but this is what the backyard looks like now. It's been raining almost every "off" day that Pat and I have had recently, but we're excited for the summer!

Foodin' #1

I already talked about our farmin', now it's time to talk about about the foodin' part of this blog (although, fair warning, I may put some things about my art on here too). Pat and I are both big foodies, and we really enjoy going out for meals, but we also enjoy cooking and eating in. I have four sisters and three brothers, so growing up, I learned from my mom how to cut costs on food. So to start off the food entries, I'll give you my recipe for black beans.
I modified this recipe from the New Deli's recipe for black bean chili (minus the chili). I started making this recipe on one of my many vegetarian stints, because, at that time, it was hard to find good vegetarian canned black beans (especially any like this more refried version). Now, a lot of stores sell refried black beans, but I still prefer the flavor of these ones, and the fact that I can control what goes into them (no, thank you, lard). And let me tell you, they are so much cheaper! The recipe is a pretty big batch, so I make it (and sometimes double it) and portion it into 1/2 or full cup servings, saran wrap, and freeze. When you want blackbeans for your tacos or burritos or whatever, just grab a portion out of the freezer and defrost. It's super easy.

what you need:
1 pound dried black beans
2 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons ground cumin
salt to taste (I sometimes leave the salt out till I reheat it later)

what to do:
Presoak the beans. This makes the cooking time shorter, and allows the beans to cook more evenly. You can either soak them with an inch of water above the beans overnight, or do the "quick soak method." To do this, place the beans in a pot and cover them well with water. Bring water to a boil and boil for a minute or two. Turn the heat off, cover, and steep one hour. Drain the water out, and the beans are ready to cook.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook for five or so minutes, until the onion has wilted.
Add the drained beans to the onion/garlic mixture, along with enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add the cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 3 hours or longer, until the beans are very tender. Stir every once in a while, and make sure there's enough water. Add the salt in the last 1/2 hour.
A couple of pointers on this recipe:
  • sometimes I use butter instead of oil (like when I forget to buy oil) and it adds a different richness to the flavor.
  • don't cover the beans during the 3 hours, unless you want a really soupy bean concoction. Believe me, it happens.
  • to "simmer" the beans for that long, you really need to leave the temp on medium or a little lower.
Also, the cost of the two or so pounds of beans that this yields is roughly $3. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

First off...

I'm completely new to this. I wanted to start this blog to talk about food (and my love for it) and our journey this year of "urban farming;" "our" meaning my husband, Pat and I. We live in the Richmond Hills of California (contrary to common belief, not the ghetto), and have a large back yard with lots of potential (pictures to come).
The previous tenant of our home was an elderly woman with three huge Newfoundlands, so she separated the backyard into three dog runs, separated by chain link fencing. We are planning on using two thirds of the yard (conveniently separated) to grow our fruit and vegetable garden in this year, and leave the third for our two dogs, Eko and Baloo.
We moved into this house last May, and by the time we got settled enough to think about planting anything, it was too late to do much with it. We planted some unfruitful tomato plants, fairly productive potatoes, and pretty productive herb garden (much of which is still there). We still have some chard and lettuce (which are winter crops) that I planted in November in the herb section of our garden.
This week, I am planning on building my lighting structures for starting our seeds indoors. We don't have any actual sunlight coming into our home, because of a surrounding overhang (which is nice for the dogs when it's raining). But we do have a large terrarium in our dining room, which is occupied by our roommate's boa, Zoe, who only takes up a quarter of it (again, pictures to come).
I am also anxiously awaiting my seeds from Bountiful Gardens, and starter pots from Runka. I can't wait until they get here and I can start planting!