Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Craft of Writing and Gardening

Yesterday I had a chance, before it started raining, to get outside and work on one of my raised beds.  In wool cap pulled down to my eyes, gloves and snow jacket, winter's cold air took my breath away and forced me to stop and rest, while I pictured the image of a bountiful harvest of fresh food I was working toward. 

An article in Sunday's paper reminded me of why I was doing this, rather than enjoying the warm comfort inside my door.  Grocery prices were again on the rise and threatened to tip the scales of how much a lot of people had to spend and how far their funds would stretch.

My goal, however, isn't simply to supplement what I buy at the grocery stores with what I'm able to grow on my own.  More important, my goal is to not support the agribusiness that spends too much fuel to transport those groceries or to help supply funds for unhealthy growing practices that deplete America's farm lands.

What food our farm can't produce will be bought from local farmers, as we did last year.  Our food doesn't need to be pumped up with additives.  Our beef doesn't need to be injected with hormones or antibiotics.  Not if the cows are allowed to eat what they're created to eat.  Grass. 

One of the points in Sunday's article made me laugh when I read it, then my husband and I shook our heads over the outrageous lie it attempted to tell its readers.

It stated that one of the reasons for meat becoming considerably more expensive this year is because of the rise in "grain" prices for feed.  Hello.  Cows who are forcefed grain and get fatter faster are the ones who have to have antibiotics because one of their rumens (stomaches--they have more than one) become infected.  Cows are not supposed to eat grain. 

Here's the deal.  Human food is meant to come from the soil.  Everything from the soil.  Cows eat grass which comes from the soil, and they give us milk, butter, and cheese.   Vegetables, including dried beans and  corn as well as green leafy vegetables, root crops like potatoes and sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, come from the soil.  Cows and other animals enrich the soil with manure.  Our gardens are fed with chicken manure.  Our chickens roam free and eat whatever they want.  We get eggs.

This is nature.  Natural.  For those who want to believe that their food comes from antiseptic sources and deny nature's cycle are not only living a fairytale but are eating really bad food if they think "clean" food comes from a box, bottle or can. 

One of the books I'm currently reading, perhaps one of the best on the subject, is Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation by Sharon Astyk.  The author makes a strong, valid case for storing good, healthy food in your pantry for your family.  You need not have a full-fledged garden, or live on a farm. 

For instance, last year our farm did not produce the amount of corn I rely on for my freezer.  I bought what I needed from a local farmer.  Why support a large corporation whose produce comes from across the country?  I want to see farmers in this area do well and profit.  The money I spend here benefits my family, my community. 

Besides making sure my family eats the best food possible, another goal is to inform others.  Look into it, please.  Give some thought to how you eat, how many meals you eat out at restaurants, how many dollars you supply to big-business retailers, how many staples you have stored for a from-scratch meal. 

It's estimated that in three days your local grocers' shelves could be emptied if shipments were delayed or stopped.  Three days.  I've seen that here most recently with a forcasted snow storm.  Can you get by that long?  What if it takes three weeks?  Be safe.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Craft of Creative Cooking and Planning

Winter Lentil Soup

A lot of people don't know about lentils.  I didn't either until I was grown with a family of my own.  I cook a lot of bean dishes, both with meat and without, especially in the winter.  Soups and stews rock when it's cold outside.  With a loaf of fresh baked bread and butter, what could be better?  That was one night's dinner last week, lentil soup, cornbread, and fruit salad.  It was good.  It was frugal.

In the 1970s and '80, when I was raising the kids, I devoured vegetarian cookbooks and natural-food books.  A single mom, we could barely afford meat.  I Also took the sugar out of our diet.  Honey only.

My children, when they get together, start talking about that experience every time.  And immediately the story of the "Maple Bears" comes up.  I found these cute, little maple bears at what used to be Nashville's best natural food store, The Sunshine Grocery.  I bought four of those adorable bears and gave them to the kids as a treat. 

This past Christmas, the same thing started all over again, the maple bear story!  The kids like to say, while other kids were eating chocolate candy bars, they were munching on maple bears. 

Those early days of raising four children on a limited budget gave birth to my Meal Planner.  I found that simply planning a week's worth of dinners ahead of time, usually on Sunday nights for me, and making out the accompanying grocery list, ended up saving me bucks.  I still use my Meal Planner.  I've planned for up to a month at a time, but I usually stick with the upcoming week. 

On Sunday night, I sit down with a few of my cookbooks, paper and pen, and start with Tuesday's meal, allowing me to fill the crockpot Monday morning with what I'd planned the previous week, and go off grocery shopping and running errands.  The cookbooks give me ideas.

That's just my plan.  There are so many variations on this theme.  The best parts:  (1) If you only buy the items on your grocery list and avoid impulse shopping, you will spend less and rest assured you have everything you need to prepare a week of food for your family.  (2) Invariably, I end up with food left over that stays in the freezer or frig because some meals go for two days (I cook big quantities), or I can freeze those leftovers for a night when I need fast and easy.  And then there are those unplanned dinners out that crop up, so I'm left with the fixins' for a meal to use later.

All in all, it adds up to savings, savings, savings.  And good, nutritional food for my family.  When I make my grocery list, I just automatically add fresh fruits and vegetables, and a few cans of fruits.  I make desserts with almost every meal.  It makes dinner lots more exciting.  We have a lot of salads too, including fruit salads.  My family looks forward to meals here.  Three grown, healthy-eating men! 

My older son does help with the cooking, giving me some breaks, but he always says, "What are we having tonight?"  He knows I've planned.  On occasiona, we turn him loose to be creative on his own.  Seems I recall a conversation Christmas Eve about having him do one of his fish fries the grandkids love.

Sunday we had "rubber chicken."  That's when you roast a whole bird in the oven, a nice fat one, hopefully a free roamer, stuffed or unstuffed.  I stuffed ours with homemade gluten-free dressing.  I scattered chopped potatoes and carrots in the pan, and used a thyme, Rosemary, and butter rub to season the skin. 

The "rubber" part comes in when you  s-t-r-e-t-c-h  that bird for several more dinner entrees.  Next night we had another sliced chicken dinner with mashed potatoes and green beans.  Next night was chicken soup.  Tonight is chicken and rice casserole.  Our bird weighed eight pounds.  And after tonight, I still have a carcass to boil for broth, which I store in my freezer.

Tomorrow we get a break from chicken and get Dark Baked Beans with Molasses and Country Pork Sausage.  More cornbread of course.  Pineapple upside-down cake.  Wish you could come.

I guarantee you this week's meals cost very little money compared to the average grocery shopper.  Leave a comment with any questions. 

If you click to "follow" this blog, you'll receive a copy of my ebook on scrapbooking and story-saving that is being published in a few weeks -- Free!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scrap Knit Scarf

Finished this scarf yesterday, using a lot of leftover yarns in my basket.  Used #15 needles, so it knitted up in a couple of days using plain old stockinette stitch.  Length is 5-1/2 feet, just right for husband Gary.  He said it was so warm, he had to take it off once.  Most of the scraps are Lion Brand. 

What I love about knitting:  I do it in the morning while I watch the Today Show for a little bit while I sip my coffee.  During this time, I keep my notebook open because I think of things I need to remember to do during the day, calls to make, errands, deadlines, new writing ideas.  Once my mind can't come up with anything else to jot down, I go do something else. 

I love the frugality of making handmade gifts.  Plus nothing says love like something you made especially for someone. 

Now I'm making a scarf for a female.  I'm starting to like it so much, it might be for me!  I don't have one.  I got the pattern from the Vogue Knitting Shawls & Wraps.  I'm making the one on the cover.  I didn't have any gold silk yarn in my stash, but I have a soft tan sports yarn I'm using.  This book is awesome.  There is a very pale pink cape I've got my eye on, and a whimsical black ruffled shawl to die for.  You might try your library for the book.  Ours had it.  But now I'll buy it because it's so a keeper.

Vogue Knitting Shawls & Wraps

Original ScrapBox -- Sew Box

On Facebook today!  Contest to win one of these.  Can't imagine being this organized with a box like this.  Go to Original Scrapbox to enter for a chance to win one. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

11 Tips for Saving the Stories in 2011

Published today, 11 Tips for Saving the Stories in 2011.  Not just about scrapbooks and albums.  Check out all of these ideas.  One you are most likely already doing and don't realize it.  And it's sitting right there for you to put it to use.

Crafts of Cooking...Gluten Free

Think about all of the crafts you enjoy everyday.  Are you a mom?  The craft of motherhood.  Sew, quilt, scrapbook, knit, crochet, even reading.  The craft of...  You fill in the blank. 

The Craft of Writing.  My favorite. 

Today I'm using the writing craft to tell about another craft I enjoy--Cooking.  And because I have a family member, my youngest son, who has Celiac disease, I have the challenge of cooking without the grains of wheat, rye, graham, and a lot of sneaky ingredients they slip into foods on the grocery shelves.  I have to read labels, which means I have to have my glasses with me. 

Did you know every can of soup on the shelves has "wheat flour" in it, either as a thickener in cream soups or in the noodles.  Remember pasta is made from wheat. 

I'm close to creating the perfect gluten-free piecrust.  It's been a long "journey to find."  (i.e., my blog name "journey2f") or sometimes it's "journey to faith," faith that I will make it work in the end.

One of my favorite sites is The Gluten-Free Girl, and I stumbled onto a reader's comment there about a wonderful pie crust recipe was from the Wild Oats Marketplace, which was on http://www.cooks.com/.  Go to http://www.cooking.com/recipes-and-more/recipes/Gluten-Free-Pie-Crust-recipe-8118.aspx for the recipe.  I made the Schmidt Family Chocolate Chip Pie several days ago with this crust.  It's tender and flaky, sort of like shortbread.  My gluten-free boy, Jeff, likes apple pie best of all.

Women's Memoirs

Women's Memoirs
Women's Memoirs