Monday, November 6, 2017

Tortillas - The dollar Stretching Wonder Bread

By the nature of my vocation I am often living for months or years at a time as what we call in the Army, a "Geographic Bachelor". I am again living in a barracks room away from my family. So I noticed something that is almost always in my refrigerator; tortillas. I am not Hispanic and I didn't grow up eating Mexican food. But sometime in my early Army career I started buying tortillas. Why, you ask? Because they are the perfect way to stretch your food dollars. It all depends where you shop of course, and sale prices, but generally they are cheap. I like the 10 inch flour ones best. 

What goes into a tortilla? Pretty much anything. If I have any sort of left over meat I slice it up, add lettuce, onions, tomatoes, grated cheese, and some salsa and presto, a healthy, filling meal. Peanut butter and jelly is great on a tortilla. Lunch meat and cheese, also very good. If you are traveling, hiking, fishing, or hunting a tortilla "roll-up" is handier to eat on the go, packs better, and gets less damage. I roll up whatever is going in the shell then roll that in aluminum foil. If you have health concerns about aluminum, as I do, lay a piece of wax paper or parchment on the foil first so the food does not come in contact with the aluminum.

Tortillas have far more calories than regular, fluffy bread, which is mostly air. More calories in less space at a cheaper price is always a good deal (unless you are trying to lose weight). 

 With a pack of the larger, burrito size tortillas, a can of refried beans, some onions and shredded cheese, you can make a dozen cheese and bean burritos in the oven for less than six dollars. My kids love them.

Check them out and use your imagination.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Carrots - Growing

I don't grow carrots every year. I should, I just don't. They are very easy to grow and the good thing about carrots is that like onions and potatoes they store very good. Today is 10 March 2017 and I am still harvesting and eating carrots from my 2016 garden. 

I planted a very small patch of carrots, an area about 30"x36" at most. I planted probably about a hundred seeds in that small area. The idea was to let them grow in densely and pull every other one once they got pinky finger sized. Then the rest would grow into the now open space until they also were crowded and I'd pick every other one again. 

I have many critters visiting my yard at night so I have to protect the more tasty plants from rabbits, groundhogs, deer, and sometimes squirrels. This cage works perfect and I got it from a dumpster behind a department store.

Whenever I do decide to plant carrots, I set off a more or less square area with boards or concrete pavers. Then I dig out all the soil down about eight inches. I run all this dirt through a 1/4x1/4 inch screen to remove all the rocks and stones. To this natural dirt I add compost and course sand. This creates a light, airy, loose soil, which is perfect for carrots. The course sand also cuts down on the slug population; they don't like oozing across sharp sand particles. 

I scratch out 1/2 inch deep lines (mini-furrows) and drop seeds in every inch. Carrot seeds are really tiny and often times more than one seed drops. That's no big problem, that is a min-carrot that I will harvest early. Then I cover the seeds with white sand. The lines of white sand help me to see what is a carrot coming up and what is a weed. I pick weeds when they are very small so that pulling them does not disturb the roots of my crop plants. 

I almost only grow the "nantes" type of carrot. These are short, stocky carrots that can push through heavier soils. I do this even though I have prepared nearly ideal soil for my carrot beds. These carrots are thicker and easier to pull late in the fall and into winter when the more slender, tapered carrorts will often break off as you pull. I also like the flavor of these carrots.

You will often read about how hard it is to get carrot seeds to germinate and they will offer tricks to help this process. I don't do any of that and I get nearly 100% germination within ten days of planting.