In April, all my spare hours have been spent outdoors: planning the vegetable garden, working on yard maintenance,Â and making preparations to startÂ realizing some of my vision for improvements to the space. While I still had access to my dad and his pick-up truck, we built a log-walk as a centerpiece forÂ Nolan’s sensory garden, hauled in a load of faux-rock slabs that hopefully will become a patio under our back deck, spread wood chips and straw mulch, and brought inÂ 12 fresh straw balesÂ to form the basis of a new bed in the front yard. I am conditioning the bales right now in hopes they will be ready to plantÂ around Mother’s Day, which is theÂ approximate frost-free date in our area. After a year of growing sun-loving annual vegetables like tomatoes, squash and beans in these bales, I am hoping to break them down and layer them up lasagna-style with other organic matter to create a series of round keyhole and spiral beds in that same area; these beds will become home to perennial edible and medicinal herbs and flowers down the road if all goes as planned.
Moroccan-Style Chickpea Chili
This chili would also likely be tasty with the addition of green olives, some dried fruit like golden raisins, chopped dates, or apricots, or some cubed sweet potato, carrot, or butternut squash, but I kept it simple here. The tomato powder I used is homemade, from dehydrating skins I accumulated while canning last August. If you use tomato sauce instead of ketchup, you may want to add a drizzle of honey and a splash of red wine vinegar to taste.
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/3 lb ground beef
1 28ozÂ can chickpeas
1/2 C organic ketchup or tomato sauce
1 T ras el hanout or to taste
about 1 pint of chicken or beef stock
1 T tomato powder (or tomato paste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic in a Dutch oven or large pot in your fat of choice until translucent, then add beef; once it is browned, stir inÂ ras el hanout and tomato powder, then ketchup, chickpeas, and enough broth just to cover everything. Simmer together uncovered until slightly reduced and fragrant, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.