Archive for February, 2011

Walnutty Green Beans

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Green Beans and Walnuts

On Geoff’s last visit to Wisconsin he prepared some of the family meals. After raiding the freezer for some homegrown veggies he came up with this tasty side dish – tamari flavored ‘walnutty’ green beans. It was his version of green beans amandine, replacing the almonds with walnuts and the salt with tamari soy sauce. I’m a big walnut fan so this dish went to the top of the list for me.

2 T. olive oil
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 cups frozen green beans, thawed (or blanch some fresh beans before tossing in the pan)
2-3 tsp. Tamari (double this if adding pasta)

Preheat cast iron frying pan on medium low, sauté walnuts in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until toasty but not overly browned. Toss in the green beans and tamari and cook until beans are done to your liking. Add a little water if necessary. Delicious!

Green Beans, Walnuts and Pasta

Here’s where I ‘value added’ the dish. The second time I made it I wanted something a little more substantial. I happened to have a package of fresh Tri-Color Four Cheese Raviolini from RP’s Pasta Company in the fridge. RP’s is a local Madison, WI company but I see that according to their website they sell in various states throughout the Midwest and beyond. I cooked the pasta, drained it and tossed it with the finished beans. Talk about a quick meal – faster, cheaper and healthier than going for a carry-out!

Plant a Heart Garden this year

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Over the holidays I discovered that I have borderline high blood pressure, due in part to genetics (Gee, thanks Dad!).  Although I already eat a relatively healthy diet and exercise regularly, I’ve been researching what other changes I need to make to reverse the trend in my blood pressure before it becomes a more serious problem.  Incorporating more herbs into my diet is definitely recommended.

Being a gardener, I don’t just want to buy the herbs, I want to grow them myself and have some fun learning how to use them.  Over the last couple of months I have been reading up on herbs from different parts of the world used both for hypertension and for general heart maintenance.  Now before I go any further, I need to say that I am not a doctor, or even a trained herbalist.  I am not giving medical advice.  Only some of these herbs have been evaluated in double blind studies, and of those, the variety or species that I can grow in Texas is not necessarily the same one that has been studied.  That said, this is the list that I am going to try to grow this year.

Hibiscus Flower

The red calyces of hibiscus are used for tea.

Hibiscus sabdariffa:  Hibiscus tea, called Jamaica (ha mai ca) in Mexico and sorrel in the Carribean.  A study published in Phytomedicine showed that a daily 16 oz glass of hibiscus tea could lower diastolic blood pressure by ten points.  I now drink this tasty tea almost daily.  Luckily for me in Austin, a lot of restaurants serve it here as well.  Last year I grew one plant and harvested enough flowers to make a few batches of tea.  It is not actually the flower that is used to make the tea, but the red calyces.  This year I will be growing several plants.  Seeds are available from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

Agastache mexicana:  Known as Lemon Hyssop, Mexican Hyssop and Toronjil.  It is related to the more commonly grown Anise Hyssop Agastache foeniculum.  It is used traditionally in parts of Mexico, but I am not aware of any studies that confirm or negate its effectiveness.  Seeds are available from The Thyme Garden in Oregon.

Crataegus reverchonii or Crataegus texana:  Reverchon Hawthorn and Texas Hawthorn.  There are over 200 species of hawthorns.  Rosemary Gladstar, in her Family Herbal book, recommends C. oxyacantha and C. monogyna as a general heart tonic.  The German Comission E Study recommends C. orycantholdes.  The berries of this shrubby tree are made into tea or jam.  The two species that I listed grow in Central Texas and I’m going to fit one of them into my backyard.  Again, I’m not aware of studies using the species that I will be growing.

Allium sativa and Allium cepa:  Garlic and onions.  Don’t overlook these great plants just because they are not rare and unknown.  Multiple studies have shown garlic, particularly raw garlic, to have a moderate blood pressure lowering effect.

Lycium barberum:  Wolf Berry or Goji Berry.  I had a chance to chat with David Creech of the Stephen F. Austin Arboretum in Nacogdoches last weekend and he told me that the berries of this small shrub in the tomato family are added to teas in China for hypertension.  Seeds from The Thyme Garden.

Taraxacum officinale:  Yes, the lowly dandelion.  I have a feeling that I will get more than a few of these volunteering in my garden this year.  Going to use my CobraHead to harvest the roots and use them in tea.  The tea has a diuretic effect.

In addition to using the herbs, I’m making an effort to use relaxation techniques such as meditation as well as monitoring my blood pressure daily to notice changes, positive or negative.  Gardening relaxes me most of the time, so the effects of growing the herbs hit me even before I ingest them.

Outsourcing Locally

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

As our little business grows we’ve had to develop selling aids so the stores who sell our products can display them prominently.   Hopefully the displays get noticed and entice people to buy.  They are referred to as POP’s – Point of Purchase Displays.  For the past several years I’ve been making them for both our short and long handled tools in  my garage.  The displays are okay looking and easy for me to produce cheaply in small quantities, but they are hardly works of art.

I knew last year that the demand for displays, always occurring early in the spring, was going to put us in a bind.  I wouldn’t be able to produce a lot of displays in a very short time frame.  To get around the problem, we had been discussing contracting the work out to someone who could do it better and faster.

It’s not what you know, but who, that helps you get through life, and I know Bill Bale.  Bill is a friend and a woodworking craftsman.  He designs and builds custom furniture and he’s very good at it.  His work combines Arts and Crafts and Mission Style in extremely solid and functional yet beautiful pieces of art.  You can see some of his work at the Sandhill Designs website here.

A while ago Bill let me know that he had some slow time before he had to start cranking up for this year’s art fair season and upcoming orders.  I asked if he would consider knocking out the displays I needed. Almost to my surprise, he said yes.  Because he could do them a lot faster than I could even dream about doing in my garage, he could do them at a price I could afford.

I took delivery last week of 50 displays for our small tools and a dozen displays for our long tools.  They are great.  Much nicer than the one’s I’ve been doing.  My customers will be happy. I’m happy.  Bill is happy.  I’ve always told the family that as our business got bigger, we should try to farm out the overage of work as much as possible to people in our local community.  I hope this is step one of a lot more local outsourcing.