Healthy Barbecue Tips for Veggie Lovers

Vegan BarbecueWhy is it that food on the grill tastes so much better than on the stove? Well, in addition to searing in the juices and adding a smoky flavor, the grill probably taps into your memory and reminds you of those fun summer days with your family, casual backyard parties with friends, and more. Although you might be used to cooking meat on the grill, you can prepare incredibly healthy, lip smacking vegan barbecue foods too. Meat and dairy free foods are nutritious and compassionate options that are surprisingly easy to pull off on your backyard grill.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re an omnivore, vegetarian or vegan, you and your body can appreciate phytonutrient rich vegetables. Along with other food groups, veggies are a staple ingredient for optimal health and vitality. Fortunately, there is a rainbow of options, so you’re sure to find ones you like. From bean varieties to spinach, mushrooms and eggplant, there are veggies out there that you can turn into delectable barbecue foods. Also, vegan foods such as tofu and seitan can give you a meaty flavor and feel without actual meat.

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Cooking with Wine

Cooking Wine Have you ever wondered what to do with that half-bottle of wine that’s been sitting around for several days? Can you cook with it?

Pour it out.  If it isn’t good to drink, it won’t be good for cooking, says Patti Ballard, author of Fine Wine in Food, and Wine in Everyday Cooking.

“Think of wine as food, as an ingredient,” insists Patti.  “If you are going to use only the freshest vegetables and ingredients in your cooking, you wouldn’t want to spoil it by using old, acetic wine.”

Always use a good wine for cooking—the alcohol evaporates during simmering, leaving only the flavor of wine in your sauce.  Wines labeled “cooking wine,” or old wines that have turned acetic will give disappointing results.

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Problems in the Compost Pile

Compost PileComposting is a great way to recycle organic matter such as weeds, leaves, lawn clippings, and non-meat kitchen scraps. When piled together in a properly managed compost pile, organic matter decomposes to the point where it is no longer recognizable and forms compost. Compost is the perfect soil amendment. It builds soil structure while nutrients leach from the compost, feeding plants and making them disease and insect resistant.

A compost pile is a living organism that needs a healthy diet to function properly. A healthy diet for a compost pile is three parts “brown” organic material and one part “green.” The “browns” consist of dead plant matter such as dried hay, straw, fallen leaves, manure from animals that only eat vegetation and small sticks and stems. The “greens” are fresh non-diseased plant material from the garden or kitchen. Meat and grease from the kitchen or domestic pet feces are never used in a compost pile.

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Smoking Pulled Pork on a Charcoal Grill

Smoked Pork ButtPulled pork is one of my favorite types of meat to barbecue. If done properly it is extremely tender and has a wonderful smoky flavor. Don’t be fooled into thinking that you need a large smoker to turn out great pulled pork. It can be done on a basic charcoal grill with amazing results. There are six basic steps to smoke pulled pork on a charcoal grill.

1.  Choose the correct cut of pork. It is important to choose the right cut of meat for pulled pork. My favorite cut is a pork shoulder blade roast, more commonly known as a Boston Butt. This cut is similar to a bone in chuck roast from a steer. It is an extremely tough piece of meat with a lot of connective tissue. The long and slow cooking process will break down the connective tissue, creating a tender roast.

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Top Plants for Shady Aspects

MECONOPSIS LINGHOLM 10Often perceived as a difficult place to plant, shady aspects in the garden can be turned into wonderful and exciting grottos. Whilst borders that are in full sun are often filled to the brim with bright and vivid flowers, shady areas are often left to languish with little growing. However, there are a number of fantastic plants for shady locations that will both brighten the mood and provide an interesting, and unusual planting plan to a garden.

One of the most important things to do for gardeners who do have a shady area is to enrich the soil. Shade is often caused by large trees which have spent many years sapping the soil of water and nutrients. Meanwhile, areas close to buildings often have poorer soil quality due to excess building material being left in the earth and simply covered with a layer of top soil. A home-made compost, or rich, well rotted manure is ideal for enriching the soil. In addition, especially for shady and dry areas, use mulches to retain as much moisture as possible, and ensure regular watering and feeding to help plants.

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Growing Pepper Plants

Pepper PlantsPeppers are warm season vegetables that grow best in rich garden soil with daytime temperatures above 85 degrees. There are dozens of varieties of peppers, most are for eating and some are so colorful they are used simply as a garden ornamental.

Everyone knows peppers can be hot and spicy. They have the capacity to produce capsaicin, an oily substance capable of creating a burning sensation when applied to mucous membranes such as the eyes or inside of the mouth. Different varieties of peppers have different levels of capsaicin.

For example, bell peppers and sweet peppers may have little or no capsaicin and the naga jolokia pepper has so much capsaicin in each pepper it can be used as a weapon. Although the growing requirements for all peppers are similar, the amount of capsaicin produced in hot peppers can vary depending on the geological location and growing conditions.

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DIY No-Till Gardening the Lasagna Way

Lasagna GardeningLasagna gardening or sheet composting is a way that one can garden without commitment.  This type of gardening is easy to set up and just as easy to tear down.  And if the garden is removed it leaves the gardening environment better than it was before.

To start a lasagna garden one must map out where the garden will be located.  Stake out the boundaries and outline with twine.  Now it is time to build the lasagna garden.  Lay three layers of black and white print newspaper or one layer of brown corrugated cardboard directly onto the sod and water in.  This layer will kill the grass in a couple of weeks and will jump start the decomposition process.  This layer will also create a dark, damp haven for earthworms that will aid in loosing up the soil.

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Winterizing Your Yard: Accessories to Help You Survive Those Months of Hibernation

Prepare Your Home for WinterThe first snowfall of the year can be a magical experience — the white snowflakes can be so hypnotizing, and your yard becomes a winter wonderland. It’s even better when you get to share that moment with a loved one. This season wouldn’t be so bad if you could live in your robe and drink hot cocoa every day. Unfortunately, the reality of it is that you have to drive on the icy roads to get to work and try to heat your home in an efficient and cost-effective way.

Winterizing your home is an effective process that you can carry out on an annual basis. Before the snowfall hits don’t you want to know whether your heat works and how much wood you have left from last year? Preparing for this season involves activities such as stocking the pantry and ensuring that your car and other outdoor belongings are protected from the weather. When it comes to your yard, there are a few essential accessories that can help you survive until spring’s revival.

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How to Maintain Gardening Tools

Garden ToolsGardening tools take a licking and keep on digging for at least one season but with a little care can last for years.  Enemies of gardening tools can be moisture, hard surfaces, and the occasional hidden brick in the landscape.  While we cannot predict what will be found in the soil we can control and protect our tools from moisture and the deliberate hit of the sidewalk.

The first step to garden tool maintenance is thoroughly cleaning after every use.  Simply spraying off to remove all soil and letting completely dry will reduce rust and help keep the storage container or shed clean.  Making a habit of running the business end of the tool through a bucket of sand will help keep an edge on the tool for the season.  Also storing tools when not in use is another preventive measure one can take.  Placing tools in a floor rack or in wall-mounted brackets will reduce clutter and save the edges from being damaged from hitting hard surfaces.  Hand tools can be safely stored in gardening hoister, bucket, or toolbox.

To put garden tools away for the season takes some additional effort but it will save time when gardening season starts again next year.  First inspect handles for damage.  This can be splinters, cracks, and nicks.  If the handle is damaged enough completely replace it for safety.  Gardening tool replacement handles are easy to find at any home improvement or local hardware store but inspect before purchasing.  Check and make sure the grain of the handle is going in the direction of use.  For example, the handle for a shovel ‘s grain, viewing form the top should be toward one because as the shovel is used it is pulled toward oneself.  If the handle is acceptable and/or replaced rub down with olive or linseed oil.  This will moisturize the wood and protect the wooden part of the tool for the winter.

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Growing Upside-Down Tomatoes

Upside Down TomatoesTomatoes are such a popular garden vegetable that people have come up with a variety of ways to grow the ultimate tomato. We’ve all seen the myriad of ways to grow tomatoes that include special soils, fertilizers and containers. They are all designed to grow tomatoes that will be the envy of your neighbors. Although some of these ideas are designed to grow someone’s bank account rather than a really good tomato, a few really work. One of those is the idea of growing tomato plants upside-down. The philosophy behind growing upside-down tomatoes is simple: Grow the tomatoes from a hanging container so they take up less room and are off the ground away from insects and disease pathogens.

While a typical hanging basket might suffice for growing some small tomato varieties, hanging baskets usually do not hold enough soil for large tomato root systems and plants spilling over the edges of a basket will break once they are loaded with fruit. Also, tomatoes grown upside-down have less chance of getting damaged by high winds and they are a breeze to water.

Any container that holds at least 3 gallons of soil can be converted to grow upside-down tomatoes. You can probably find a suitable container around the house or hardware store. The lightweight small bags often sold to grow upside-town tomatoes are too small for healthy root production. The container must have an open top and capable of having large holes drilled into the bottom from which the tomato plants can grow. A plastic five-gallon bucket is ideal. Choose a bucket with sturdy sides because it will be holding a lot of weight.

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