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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fast food, alcohol, and honoring ancestors

We went to my grandfather's funeral today.  The church ladies were very nice and provided a luncheon after the service.  Unfortunately, we had to stop for something on the way because of the length of the drive.  We stopped for fast food.  It is definitely NOT real food.  Fast food will kill you in the long run, but when you need something in your belly you'll stop for whatever is available.  We know that it's just fuel, something to keep you going, but it's not something we'd want to ingest on a regular basis.  We generally feel crappy after eating fast food, which tends to happen to us because our bodies aren't used to it (not that we want our bodies to get used to it).  It doesn't help that we've got some kind of crud that our immune systems are trying to fight off, and now it has to fight this off too.  I think this is my reminder that we need to plan ahead a bit better and pack a snack/lunch bag, or maybe hunt down a grocery store. 

It also didn't help that the church served really good cake, and we had several pieces of different kinds.  Grief must lower your willpower.

While the church that held the service and provided the luncheon was the one that gramps attended, that's not to say he was a very godly man in the sense that others would consider godly.  He drank, smoke, and swore.  Indeed, beer and shots were made available at his home after the service.  He was known for having a beer and a shot.  His shot of preference was whiskey with peppermint schnapps.  As I'm breastfeeding a baby that's not even on solids yet, and I was going to be driving home, I skipped the beer.  I tasted just a sip of the shot given to Jaimie.  It was terrible, but most everyone there downed it anyway, in honor of grandpa. 

Grandpa was "preceded in death," as they say, by his granddaughter, my sister.  Tanya died 2 1/2 years ago.  On her birthday, I bake (or convince Jaimie to bake) something that she would have loved.  The year before last it was creme brulee and last year it was a khalua chocolate cake.  This year, I think we'll make tiramisu.  So, I was thinking that maybe we could make a brew in grandpa's honor.  It only seems fair.  But, if I do that for grandpa, I should do it for grandma that passed last year, and ones that have passed before that.  It's all about honoring the ancestors.  I think food and drink are great ways to connect to the people you love, past and present.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Acts of Love and Pleasure

At first I wanted to name this blog All Acts of Love and Pleasure.  The reason is that we do all that we do as an act of love and it's pleasing to do it.  We love our home, we love our environment, we love the Earth, we love our children, we love each other.  We take all of that love and put it in to what we feed ourselves and our children.  Of course, this blog is not named All Acts of Love and Pleasure, mostly because friends suggested that it would attract the attention of the FBI as a potential pornography site.  So, on second thought, we decided against that name.  But, the intent stays the same.  We want our food to be grown with love, the animals we will eat to be raised and grown in a natural and healthy environment, and the cooking done as an act of giving and caring for our children and ourselves.

This was in my mind as I happened upon an article that suggested that we need to appreciate the pleasure of nourishing each other.  It also noted that eating junk food is not necessarily cheaper than eating healthily.  I've got to agree on both counts.

As the wheel of the year turns

It's fall now and it feels like the perfect time for soups, warm breads and comfort foods.  We've already changed the menu by having wild rice soup tonight because our toddler isn't feeling well and soup is good for helping with that.  The change of the season makes me want to bake, and take in the autumn scents.  Something with honey or apples will be my preference.  We love the smell of apple butter in the crock pot, but we're not willing to deal with anymore apples because we've already spent two weekends on it.  Maybe I can get a nice smelling apple butter scented candle. 

As the year progresses into cooler weather, I wonder if our daughter's fever is another ear infection.  Her recurring ear infections the last two years have made me consider a spot in our garden for medicinal herbs.  I know that mullein is helpful for earaches, and we have one growing in the crack of our driveway that I couldn't bring myself to pull out, even though next year, when it's two years old and flowering (I'll need the flowers to make the oil), it'll be in the way of the side door entrance.  Unless Jaimie gets tired of it, I think I'll keep it there until I get one to grow in the backyard.  I love the soft leaves of it.

It's also coming to cold and flu season.  Last year I made yarrow tincture, which helps with that, but tastes terrible, so I suggest having it with honey and tea.  It's alcohol based so it'll last, so I didn't make more this year.

Yarrow tincture, according to some of my herbalist friends, is also good for bug spray.  Just put 6-8 drops in a cup of water and apply frequently.  No oils, no additives, no nasty smell.  It works too.  I suppose this info isn't as helpful because yarrow is gone now for the season and the mosquitoes aren't around as much, but keep it in mind for next year.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Menu planning for the next two weeks (9/26/11)

Our menu plan is generally based on what we have in the house, what needs to be used quickly so it doesn't go bad, and what we have going on (to know how much time we have to prepare it).  I work full-time while Jaimie goes to school full-time.  We have an active toddler and an infant that needs attention, so some days we just don't have as much time.  On Tuesdays, when I teach a yoga class, Jaimie makes a quick meal or has leftovers (or must-goes, as we sometimes call them).  When I'm home to take care of the girls while Jaimie cooks, he can linger a little longer in the kitchen.  Most of our meals tend to be vegetarian, but with less fresh produce, we'll likely be heading toward more meat as the cold approaches.  I also tend to change our menu as the week progresses, depending on what leftovers we have too much of to have just for lunch.

Monday: Italian polenta - Jaimie makes the polenta earlier in the day or the night before and then bakes it right before dinner.  We generally add tomatoes and zucchini on the polenta, which are plentiful at the end of the summer season.  We started making this last year after trying to find something to use up those veggies and we loved it.  You could add your own toppings, or just serve polenta as a side dish with butter.

Tuesday:  Pasta.  It's quick and easy for a Tuesday night, and we still have to use up more tomatoes.  It helps that our daughter absolutely loves tomatoes.

Wednesday: Out to eat.  We're attending an out-of-town family funeral.

Thursday: Quinoa stuffed peppers and fried plantain.  We tried quinoa for the first time not too long ago and it's pretty good.  It counts against eating local, but it is a one-ingredient food.  We have some peppers to use up from the farmer's market, and we have to use up the plantain from the clearance rack at the Asian food store.  We had some plantain earlier and it was pretty bland, but it's really good with jalapeno jelly.

Friday:  Curried potatoes and rice

Saturday: Chickpea burgers (basically, a large burger-sized falafel)

Sunday: Wild rice soup


Monday: Couscous and whatever fresh veggies we have (Jaimie makes the couscous in chicken broth).  Our 2-year-old loves couscous and gets excited whenever we have it.  Thankfully, it's very easy to make.

Tuesday:  Black bean quesadillas.  I wasn't so certain about my quesadilla maker, but it's actually a very cool appliance now that we use it.  It's a simple meal with black beans and shredded cheese (maybe some meat if there's leftovers), and dip it in salsa. 

Wednesday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I don't know why my mind went to easy meals for three days in a row, but it works.  Our grilled cheese is made with delicious WI cheese (local), and my homemade egg bread.

Thursday: Egg foo young.  Jaimie loves this one. 

Friday: Corn chowder is on the menu, though it may be pad thai by the time this day rolls around.

Saturday: Lamb skewers (from our friends' lamb), baked potatoes and veggies.  If it's nice enough, maybe we can do this on the grill.

No more Bisquik

We're trying to be locavores - about 50% most days but maybe reaching up to 75% (ok, I can't give up everything that's not local because we're in zone 4A and we love avocados and other delicious things).  We are also trying to eat only sustainable, real food.  By real, I mean the definition from Michael Pollan's books (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food, Food Rules).  This means nothing included in the meal that you wouldn't have in your own pantry and nothing that you can't pronounce.  We were inspired by his books, as well as Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
We like to garden, make use of what we have (including things people commonly consider weeds), and we like to eat really well.  Jaimie likes to do most of the cooking and I like to do meal planning and baking.  We both enjoy harvesting and brewing.  He mostly enjoys brewing beer, while I enjoy brewing mead (a honey-based wine).  Luckily, there's an apiary in our town.

Here's the run-down of our September (I'm sure I'm missing a few things):
*more than a dozen jars of green tomato jam (I had to pull the tomatoes.  It's getting cold out).
*LOTS of salsa
*dehydrated tomatoes (great for tomato risotto or just as a sweet treat).
*dehydrated apple rings
*apple butter
*apple sauce
*pickles - sweet and dill (of cukes, beets, beans and green tomatoes)
*jalapeno jelly and ghost pepper jelly
*mint jelly
*habanero chocolate cake
*dried herbs: oregano, basil, dill, mint, thyme
*freezing of lots of veggies/fruits: carrots, zucchini, apples, various berries (ok, berries weren't in Sept)
*8 jars of mango jam (definitely not local mangoes, but on the clearance rack at the Asian food store).
*key lime pie (key limes also from the Asian food store).
*peach cobbler with matching peach ice cream (the ice cream is the BEST I have ever tasted.  I'm so grateful for the Christmas gift of an ice cream maker last year).
*lots of breads (We haven't bought bread, except for 1 loaf while camping, in a year).

We also made things earlier in the season, including violet jelly and violet syrup, lots of ice cream and sorbets (especially from our home grown watermelon), and various desserts from berry picking.

We've stocked our freezer with local, sustainable meats: chicken, lamb, & soon, beef, all from people we know who raise their animals well.  After 18 years of eating no mammals, I have decided to try to eat some food with meats that are raised well (which basically means not much from the grocery store).

This first post was not so much for bragging purposes, but just a taste of what you'll likely be seeing here.