Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bulk Food Ordering Update

Our first order has been delivered! It was quite the learning experience for me and there were some bumps along the way. Happily, all the grains for the Kindergarten classes arrived as ordered and most of the stuff mislaid by the shipper was mine. If I'm very lucky, they will have found it and it will be on a truck out tomorrow. I'm going to be really upset if my pickling cucumbers go bad before they find them and get them to me!

My gingergold apples are tasty but the peaches really stole the show. They are so sweet and juicy.

The next ordering window will begin September 13 and end at 10 AM September 17th. Food will leave the warehouse on Sept 21st and should arrive for delivery on the 28th of September. They charge your card the day it ships from the warehouse! Shipping came in a little lower than expected this time but please figure $.35 per pound just in case. The shipping charge is paid to me the day prior to delivery so that I can pay the driver.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pimento Cheese

If you're from the south, skip this. You already know.

Pimento cheese (pah-men-ah) is one of the great regional contributions the south has made to American food. It ranks next to (and pairs well with) sweet iced tea. As a regional specialty, there are probably as many recipes as there are cooks. Some people are happy with the tubs in the supermarket just like some people are happy to eat pop tarts. I'm not among them. Some people put strange things like jalapenos in their pimento cheese- I'm not with them either. Others argue the merits of hand grating versus food processor or blender. On that point, I can go either way- but the food processor is just easier.

Pimento Cheese, once made, has a variety of uses but the classic presentation is on a sandwich of white bread. This makes an appearance at most weddings as some people believe that a marriage solemnized below the Mason-Dixon line is not valid until the pimento cheese finger sandwiches (crusts removed) have been served at the reception. It is heavenly on grilled hamburgers. It makes wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches (especially with bacon!). It turns grits from blah to wow. I once had deep fried pimento cheese- little balls of the stuff frozen, dipped in beer batter and deep fried. It might be the most dangerous fair food in the world since you just can't stop yourself from eating the whole plate and washing it down with an icy coke. I know that coke, 'veggie' oil in a deep fryer, and white flour are bad, bad, bad and usually avoid them but I last tasted those cheese balls 25 years ago and I still remember them.

To try your own:

1 cup mayonaise
1 lb sharp cheddar (please- for the love of all that is holy, do not use any cheese whose name ends in 'eeta')
1 large jar diced pimentos- do not drain, use the juice too!
1 t celery seed
salt to taste

to shred: shred the cheese either by hand or in a food processor then mix in the remaining ingredients

or not to shred- cut the cheese into chunks, toss all ingredients into the food processor and puree.

If it is too dry, add more mayo. If it is too wet, add a little bit of cheese. You may want a touch more celery seed. The flavors blend and it improves after a day- if you can keep your family out of it.

Linked into Meatless Mondays at Hey What's For Dinner Mom?

Hey What's For Dinner

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cheaters Chicken Congee

After this morning's lunch fail (a 7 AM trip to the store for lunch stuff!) I realized that I had to get back on the wagon and actually plan meals and implement the plan! To accomplish that, I tossed a pair of whole chickens in the roaster pan, sprinkled on some sea salt, olive oil, fresh rosemary and greek spice mix and popped them in the oven. I also had about 1/3 of a rice cooker full of sushi rice. What I lacked was a burning desire to really get elaborate and 'cook'.

When the chickens came out of the oven, I pulled one out of the pan and picked half the meat off. I plopped my cold sushi rice in a saucepan and poured all the chicken juices from the roaster pan onto the rice & set that to heating.

Next into the pot was: 1 cup of frozen diced mango, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, about a tsp of pureed ginger, a T of wasabi paste, some soy sauce and a T of sucanat. Then I added in the picked chicken bits and 2 cups of frozen corn kernels and a splash of lime juice.

There are no pics because my camera is dead and, honestly, its not much to look at but oh my is it good on a cold rainy night. We all added varying amounts of sirachi sauce because we're freaks who love sirachi on most anything. This stuff is creamy and comforting and packed a lot of nutrients for very little cost. I think I would love it with chard in it or as a vegetarian dish with coconut milk instead of the chicken juices. It worked  out to be right at $1 per serving, all organic ingredients except the mango which is on the 'clean 15' list anyway.

To further stretch the nutrients from those two birds, all the bones went back into the pot (after I had picked off the rest of the meat and refereed a fight over the skin) with some carrot pieces, a few spring onions, sea salt and vinegar plus plenty of water. By morning, I'll have at least 1/2 a gallon of beautiful, nutrient dense gleaming chicken stock. I also have meat in bags for a batch of chicken salad and a pair of pot pies.

I've linked this to Pennywise Platter Thursdays at  The Nourishing Gourmet. Check it out some great ideas on how to pinch a penny 'til it screams without sacrificing nutrition.

How Do I Love Thee

No, this is not a sonnet for His Majesty, love him though I do. This is for the kids' school: Birchtree. How I do love it!!!

My children go there and they get to do incredibly fun things; they spend the day with wonderful, gifted, positive teachers; they learn things; they make music and art; they move and sing. Then they come home and there is significantly less bickering and destruction from T1 & T2. They're happy and occupied and learning.

I never would have believed that I would be so delighted to be dropping my kids off at school, especially a public school, in this country. The environment and the atmosphere in this school are so hugely different than what we experienced in our local 'regular' middle school last year. That school reminded me of a low security prison - it was dark and a little decrepit feeling, cinder block walls and dented lockers and florescent lighting (we are stuck with some florescents at Birchtree too but there is just so much more natural light!).

(note- the pic above was shamelessly lifted from the school's blog run by my friend Laura who is speaking at BlogHer Food! because my camera has shuffled off it's mortal coil. The class in the pic is not one that my kids are in but theirs are similar in size and feel and general wonderfulness) 

Off the Face of the Earth

It's been a busy week. School is in full swing for the younger kids, Miss V returned from Kodiak which required an overnight trip to Homer to fetch her, we got to do battle with a flea invasion (those things which allegedly don't live in Alaska) that included shampooing all the carpets, the Azure order went in, we're still trying to get Chase to fix their mess-ups and bring our escrow payment back to a reasonable level, and Estee didn't get to go to school where we expected so that is it's own set of challenges. I've run out of good options, OK options, and am hurtling towards bad options. Doing nothing because of lack of other options is the current bad option we're experiencing.

The fair yesterday was fun, expensive, and let me know that my new shoes really don't cut it for 8 hours on pavement. HM, V, and I went during the 'get in for $2' hours and slurped oysters, shared a tamale, and gorged on milk & cookies and sweet corn. Miss V got a pair of very on-sale Carharrt bibs to make into a jumper and a cute scarf that reminds me just a bit of Yasser Arafat . We scored cool wooden swords with leather scabbards for T1 and T2's Christmas (to go with the knitted battle helmets and tunics/surcoats). The weather was beautiful , the mid-way obnoxious, and the barns a little disappointing. It still managed to make me really, really miss my chickens.

Azure delivery should be Monday so I'm going to be cleaning out my pantry and doing some baking for the freezer. I was so wiped after the fair last night that I did nothing and made a 7AM run to Fred Meyer today for lunch stuff. Failure to plan and prep on my part.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Healthy Homemade Granola Bars

I came across this recipe for the fruit and oat bars which have replaced chocolate chip cookies at the White House. I'll be making some changes to it- notably using sucanat instead of the dark brown sugar & coconut rather than grapeseed oil- and a lot of dried apples (because I ordered 25 lbs of them.... what was I thinking? Does anyone need any dried apples? dried date pieces?)

These could be a really nice snack to send for school treats since they could be done with GF oats and don't contain nuts. On the other hand, for folks without nut issues, you could add some nuts and up the protein.

This is my doubled and altered version of the original recipe

3/4 cup coconut oil, plus extra for brushing pan

4 cups rolled oats

1 cup mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower and sesame

1 cup honey

2/3 cup sucanat

2/3 cup maple syrup

Generous pinch of salt

3 cups mixed dried fruit, such as raisins, cherries, apricots, papaya, pineapple and cranberries (at least 3 kinds, cut into small pieces if large)

2 teaspoons ground cardamom or cinnamon.

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a lasagna pan with parchment paper or foil, letting a few inches hang over side of pan. Brush with oil.

2. Spread oats and seeds on another baking pan and toast in oven just until golden and fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes, shaking pan once.

3. In a saucepan, combine oil, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and hot. In a mixing bowl, toss together toasted oats and seeds, dried fruit and cardamom. Pour hot sugar mixture over and stir until well combined.

4. While mixture is warm, transfer to prepared pan, pressing into pan evenly with an offset spatula.

5. Bake until brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to a rack and let cool completely. Using the overhanging foil or paper, lift out of pan and place on a work surface. Cut into bars, about 1 1/2 inches by 3 inches.

Bulk Food: Ordering problems!

If you've tried to order with us through Azure, please know that there is a problem- they put us on the wrong truck route. I am working with them to fix this but you will need to go back into the azure site, modify your order, and re-check out. You will know that the problem has been fixed when there is a drop box giving you the option of using "C1- August 24th" as a ship date. IF they don't get it fixed in time we may end up having our ship date pushed back a week. I will update here and on the Birchtree Facebook page as I learn more.

Thanks for your patience. We will get this straightened out and subsequent orders should go much more smoothly.

UPDATE - Azure is having some computer issues. They said to go ahead and submit the orders as going on the c-4 route on the 14th. The guys in the warehouse know to pull the orders manually for our group and they WILL ship next Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Simple Request

Could we please, as a society that allegedly values tolerance and individual freedom, embrace the idea that a human's inherent value is not tied to the possession of a college degree? That a person can be 'smart' and choose not to go into big debt for a piece of paper that attests to one's mastery of irrelevant (to that person) subjects?

Call me a nouveaux hippie but I still have crazy ideas about how fame and fortune aren't necessarily relevant to happiness or satisfaction or a life well lived. I resent the implication that I am leading my children to doom by agreeing that a degreeless future need not be one of misery, social isolation or grinding poverty. I even have the audacity to believe that people with low intellectual functioning shouldn't be encouraged to want 'the college experience'. Not everybody can work at NASA. Not everybody wants to. The guy with the degree from StateU who is now frantically peddling plastic crap made in China to cover his $45,000 of student loan payments plus the $2500 credit card balance he ran up buying 'professional' clothes needed to land his $30K a year job is, according to the current mindset, a more valuable member of society than the guy who shows up to fix my plumbing when HM is away? Ummm...No. Flush toilets and hot showers trump My Little Pony or a Snuggie or a Ginsu Knife set any day. Every day.

I could rant on this for a while. Days maybe. But here it is: My brilliant daughter who I pushed and nagged through 3 years of college before she was 18 doesn't want to do any more of that and I think that its her choice and that she's more capable of making the best decision for her. Colleges aren't going to be vanishing from the earth and if she changes her mind, she can always go back. For the time being, she has chosen to spend these days of her life in a place that brings her joy, strengthens her faith, and encourages her to develop traits like patience, thoughtfulness, compassion, and diligence. I consider that a superior education and support it wholeheartedly.

Update about comments: I pulled them all down. It was starting to look too much like a public family squabble (not yours Anna, but I figured I should just take them all down, mine included)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

In which I hide in my room, typing furiously

to avoid some really regrettable parenting moments. T1 just threw a rock. A large rock. At a high rate of speed. He threw the rock in spite of many repeated past warnings about throwing rocks. Warnings in which he heard of the dire things that can happen. Head injury. Putting an eye out. Breaking a window on the house. Breaking the $942 +installation hatch back window on his sister's car. Yes. He did.

So I am hiding because if I hide and type I don't yell, scream, explain the financial doom forthcoming. I just pound little plastic keys and count to myself. He's fallen asleep on his bed. I'm still counting. But I'm getting better. When I'm all better, I will wake him up, reassure him that he is loved and that we will all forgive him, and figure out how he can make restitution for this. I think I know who is going to be stacking all the fire wood....and taking up the carpet tack strips....

Boys just aren't like us.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Frutti del Campo

No- that isn't nutcases on a camping trip. In Italian, it's  fruits of the field which seems more appropriate than the more usual frutti di bosco since most of my goodies came from a field rather than the woods (currants being the notable exception). This isn't to imply that we have not ever been nor will ever be nutcases on a camping trip, simply that such a scenario would be a different post than this.

Got the canner out and going last night. The Williams-Sonoma Preserving book recipe for Apricot Orange preserves is fabulous!  I think I want to do it again but as a jam. If only I had discovered it earlier in the season when I could still get organic apricots at a reasonable price...Could it be done with dried apricots? Maybe we will find out this winter. The cardamom and vanilla are such amazing flavor additions to this preserve. 6 pints was just nowhere near enough.

I also canned up some jam from the currants we picked up at Moose Creek with my new foraging friends plus some blueberries Laura brought me from a trip I couldn't make. To those I added strawberries, raspberries, and some knudsen Organic Berry Nectar to stretch the berries. I went fairly low sugar but am out of honey and low on sucanat so I used organic sugar crystals for sweetener. This also came out nicely with a beautiful ruby color.

Pictures? Maybe someday but the camera seems to be dead.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bulk Food Series- Part 8, Ordering Details

So now that you've suffered through the endless boring details of food prep at our house, you'd like to know how to actually order.

1. Go to www.azurestandard.com . Set up an account for yourself and start putting items into a shopping cart but don't check out before August 16th! If you do check out and finalize your order on, say, the 12th your order will be shipped all by itself and your shipping charges will be ugly.

2. Your azure shopping cart will give you two totals- one is a dollar amount and one is a weight total. Plan on about $.35 per lb for shipping. You will pay me the shipping directly by the 27th so that I can pay the delivery driver when the load is delivered, probably on the 30th. Our Drop number is 2781. You will be asked for this number as you are checking out with Azure.

3. Deadline for the first order is the 20th of August at noon. That means that you need to have checked  out and completed the order with Azure. Please send me an email when you have completed this step so that I can be sure that everyone is accounted for in the master order.

4. Our order will be delivered to Birchtree Charter School. The truck usually arrives in the valley from the American Fast Freight terminal around 10 but I have no way of knowing if our stuff will be at the front of the truck or the back. Most probable delivery date is August 30th.

5. We can set up a tarped area out of the regular traffic pattern to sort and distribute orders. It all comes off the truck as one big jumble! A few volunteers to help with distribution would be much appreciated.

6. We are not charging any coordinator's fees. The idea is to make healthy, high quality food accessible to everyone in our community.

7. If there is enough interest, a local farmer who raises chemical and hormone-free pastured beef is willing to also bring his coolers of frozen cuts of meat to pickup day. You would purchase directly from him but if you would like for him to come, please email me so that I can give him a rough idea of what to bring.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Starting to damage my calm

Laura was blogging about stress. About how maybe it makes us fat. I think it is also contributing to making us dumber, sicker, and more mentally unstable. Then, it is stressful to live with stupid unstable people who hate what they see in the mirror. So we become more stressed and less peaceful which leads to the consumption of more Ding Dongs, Cheetos, coke and take-out pizza. Which makes us fatter and sicker and dumber. rinse. lather. repeat.

My peace was disturbed (about a 6.5 on the richter scale) today when I opened the mail. There in our little Chase statement was an "Escrow Account Disclosure Statement". It's hard to tell through all the happy corporate-speak but it appears that my Escrow Account Disclosure Statement discloses that the folks at Chase are idiots. My previous experience with them also supports that conclusion. Not only am I a disgruntled customer, I was once a contract employee! Of the mortgage division. In IT.

Chase is a huge corporation. They have a lot of money. They make a lot of money. They got a lot of bailout money. One would think that an organization with so much money could afford the very best in IT infrastructure and intellectual capital.

I wish.

They paid my property taxes twice, decided that this caused a shortage in my escrow account, and then sent a letter demanding $4K (immediately, if you please) and announcing a 35% increase in my monthly payment. They also simultaneously reminded me that Chase's systems are not set up to accept split payments and informed me that I could now pay via an iphone app. Now on Monday, hours of my life will be spent on conference calls with some Chase flunkie in Bangladesh, a line of supervisors who will (hopefully) speak increasingly better English, the Borough tax folks, and maybe my bank. Plus my husband who is about as freaked out as a bird dog at 4th of July fireworks. He's not sure if he should bite someone or hide under the bed- and I'm right there with him!

I'm reasonably sure that this can all be worked out as just a minor inconvenience over the long-haul so I'm going to view it as a blessing. Just a little reminder that we need to be progressing toward the real goals and stop spending money (which is simply a fiat method of exchange for portions of my dearest's very life) on things of no lasting benefit or value. This does not, of course, include canning books!

Anybody need to rent a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house with a view ?

Friday, August 6, 2010

In which I rationalize blowing all my fun money....

on payday. This is why we pray "and lead us not into temptation": because we can find ourselves!!!! Or at least I can.

I went for the Costco run and to see if the shoes on sale at Lands End were similarly on sale at Sears in town. But since Sears is so very close to Barnes and Noble and I had a little money left on a gift card plus my teacher card, surely I should pop into B & N and pick up the less expensive of the two preserving books I wanted? You know- to save on gas money. So I left with a copy of  Well Preserved for a mere $9. Look at me! Aren't I thrifty! Snort.

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods

Then I went to Summit Spice and Tea. This is dangerous. Their web site is sad and blah but the store certainly isn't. I knew that a re-stock on Tea and Spices were both in order so this part of my spending wasn't quite as injudicious as it might have been but did I really need a jar of raspberry curd, a second small infuser, or the little cup of duck demi-glace reduction? Uh, well...no. Not really. As I was cringing my way through check out, the nice clerk assured me that I was nowhere near the point of her feeling it prudent to do an intervention. I had used all the restraint I could muster - and I bribed my children with the promise of Carl's Jr.

Yes- for those of you sure that I serve only organic local veggies with beef I raised and killed myself - I bought drive-thru burgers today. And there was silence for 5 whole minutes and it was good. Until the war of the kids meal toys began and I paid for my sins.

During the actual Costco part of the day, which was the reason I went to the city in the first place, I was again being very restrained. There was a lot of whining about the total absence of organic fruit of any variety. The children also complained. I flirted with the idea of picking up some of the organic ground beef because the price is $2 a lb less than my local farmer but stopped upon reading the disclaimer saying that it contained meat from cows from the US, Canada and Argentina. I recognize the irony of doing this as a Carl's Jr burger was digesting in my belly, really I do. But I decided that I would rather spend a little more and vote for local. However, my chickens won't be ready until October 1st so I grabbed a pair of organic whole chickens and some of the chicken breasts then some wild caught shellfish to make Thai curry for the now-canceled Birchtree potluck.

All was going well until I walked into the crack den...I mean book section. There at the top of a tidy pile was the book, the one I really really wanted, which I had just virtuously passed by at B &N because I could get it more reasonably on half.com: Williams-Sonoma the Art of Preserving. $ 18.
Williams-Sonoma The Art of Preserving

As that book was jumping (all by itself! I swear!) into the cart and I was for the 14th time denying T2 permission to sample a Gogurt or some other sugary thing, I spotted Fun Stuff Silly Snacks and decided that it would be so very useful for lunches. Or something....

Fun Stuff Silly Snacks Cookbook

The good news is that Sears did not have the on-sale shoes so I had extra budgetary wiggle room. The bad news is that I partially melted my everyday, knock around shoes when we went fishing but I slunk home without replacing them this afternoon so that I could get lost in my new cookbooks and a cup of tea. The Lady Grey is excellent and I am dying to get my hands on some good apricots and meyer lemons.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rice and Beans and Eggs!

Miss V is heading down to Kodiak tomorrow to participate in the annual pilgrimage to Spruce Island and then share her mad Irish Dance skills with the folks at St. Innocent's Academy. This is a big deal for her since she's afraid of boats and large bodies of water. I'm going to miss her a lot but I know that she is going to have a wonderful, wonderful time there and its one of those growing-up adventures that a girl needs to have.

In addition to her little (huge) case of aquaphobia, she also gets an upset stomach from foods with a high sulfur content. This means that I don't get to indulge in some of my favorite low-budget, high nutrition dishes without making her something else. While she's in Kodiak (where she will likely be served beans and where, she says, she will eat them with a smile on her face because I raised her right) I will be making a lot of rice and beans, refried beans, black beans and squash, baked eggs, quiche, and some more rice and beans. I hate cabbage as much as she does- as well as its cruciferous relatives cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrhabi, and kale - but beans will be in daily rotation. My freezer is fairly barren (don't cry for me- its on purpose because we have a side of beef and 20 chickens ordered plus I'm getting more salmon and need another half of a hog) and the pantry is emptying out in preparation for the big azure order plus we're in the Dormition Fast so this is the perfect time to use what I have on hand and indulge my beany little desires.

Here's a great link to a bunch of suggestions for theme and variation on 'rice & beans'. My personal favorite is refried black beans over rice with a little shredded cheddar and big chunks of cooked winter squash or grilled zucchini.  Yum. Beans fried in coconut oil are great but the ones done in lard have even more depth of flavor. Leftovers make lovely lunch burritos.


Soak beans overnight, drain, rinse

Put them in the crock pot with some homemade bone broth if you have it or enough water to cover the beans by several inches, a chopped onion, a fresh seeded jalapeno and then cook them low & slow. Got whey? Use some of that too! 10 hours if you can manage it.

Melt a good half cup or more of coconut oil or lard in a big cast iron skillet. Chop or press a few garlic cloves into the fat and give them a minute to cook, being careful not to burn the garlic. Pull out a lot of your beans, leaving most of the liquid in the crock pot, and fry and mash them until they are very thick and pasty. Add in more whole beans and the bean liquid until you are happy with the consistency. Salt to taste then wait about 15 minutes and taste it again.

While your beans are cooking......

Chop the winter squash of your choice in half and scoop out the seeds. Oil the exposed flesh, place on a cookie sheet and bake until tender. Time will depend on the size of your squash. When the squash is cooked, pull it out of the oven and let it cool to room temp or at least a comfortable temp for handling. remove the skin, cut your squash into chunks and season to taste. Salt, pepper, maybe a little cumin?

Cook some rice. Brown rice is the best (unless, of course, one child left the bin of organic short grain brown rice open while another failed to clean out the cat box resulting in the very involuntary throwing away of your entire now-disgusting brown rice inventory leaving you with only arborio or sushi rice). If you have an abundance of stock, cook your brown rice in that and it will taste heavenly.

When your three components are done, put rice in the bowls and top with the beans and the squash and some shredded cheddar. I suspect some sauteed rainbow chard might make a wonderful addition but, alas, I ate all of ours.

In a hurry and need to cheat? Drain and fry canned black beans, heat some cubed butternut squash from the freezer section and you're all set.

Now please excuse me while I go put some beans on to soak!

More on Lunch

I promised my oldest daughter more details on packing lunch and I've been procrastinating because this is a topic that is tougher than I thought it would be!

First, good containers make everything easier. We have some of the 4 tier melamine tifffins sold at Target this summer and those are good but...they're too big for daily use. They were OK for camp because I was also sending snacks but I think that just for one person's lunch they are simply too much. They also aren't going to look very 'professional' and my son-in-law is in a very status conscious industry. Having a couple of options also allows you to vary lunches so they don't get boring. I like the look of the stainless tiffins,carrying cases, and reusable bamboo utensils at Happy Tiffin 

A laptop lunch set in a dark neutral color could be good:

and Bento boxes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Zojirushi even makes a "Mr Bento" line for guys who don't want to go to work with Hello Kitty or Spiderman

Another nice and very masculine looking option from katachiware 

Since packing a lunch has become more mainstream and less 'blue collar' more options have appeared. Once you have a few good containers (and smaller containers and thermos-type things for hot items) then you can tackle the issues of keeping foods at their most appealing temperatures and creating an appropriate, attractive, and enjoyable menu.

Temperature: Currently in the school supply sections of both Walmart and Target I've seen little mats with cubes of blue freezer coolant fluid that you could (carefully!) cut to fit your containers. Hardware and building supply stores sell a very thin silver insulation product that can also be cut to fit to line or surround containers.Tiles from the building supply store can be heated in the oven and packed with the lunch to keep things warm (not a concern in a Chicago summer, I know- but winter comes eventually). Some foods handle being frozen and serve as natural ice packs. Yogurt does very well and lunch meats and cheeses often do too. For a wrap or a sandwich you would freeze the meat and cheese then pack it separately from the veggies, condiments and bread.

Menu choices: Google bento, low carb bento, and low carb lunch ideas. There so, so many options. With someone who isn't excited about raw carrots and celery, think of ways to put the veggies in the food. Shred them and put them in things.  It doesn't matter how good for a person something is- if they don't like it and there are other choices (Hunny Bunnies, Lara Bars, vending machines!) the more desirable thing will be chosen. Rice is nice because it is versatile, freezes well, and its so easy. For a guy who likes to graze all day, small rice balls (onigiri) can be filled with things that are good for him and yummy- take those veggies, mix with some meat and terryaki for instance. Thai spring rolls can be made without the rice noodles and using butter lettuce for a wrapper with no loss of taste. Steamed chicken and veggies with some soy sauce on a bed of rice is calorie conscious and more attractive than the raw carrots. Burritos and tortillas are good. For people who already spend half the GDP of Zimbabwe at Whole Paycheck, why not use some of their healthier hot bar items in a thermos? A tiffin would be great for a big chef's salad but guys usually don't feel that they have had a full meal with a salad as a main course. When the weather turns, chili or stew in a thermos is filling and comforting and an easy way to get veggies in someone. Hard boiled eggs pack well and are loaded with protein. Bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese are another option.

Happy packing!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Green Thai Curry

Combine in a gallon bag, pyrex or other freezer container (or just in a pot for immediate consumption- but start with the onions and pepper for that)

1 tbsp Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste
1 can coconut milk
16 oz of the shellfish or fish chunks of your choice (shrimp, scallops and squid rings are our favorites)
1 tbsp Soy Sauce
2 tbsp succanat
1/3 cup veggie broth
1 onion, diced and sauteed with the pepper
1 red pepper, diced and sauteed with the onion
1 T coconut or other oil for cooking the onion and pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen green beans
pinch of salt
fresh basil - 3-4 leaves, cut in a chiffonade
lime zest and juice

Combine all those ingredients in the bag, cooking only the onion and pepper. Squeeze out all the air and freeze. This is the perfect brainless busy-day meal for me because of my rice cooker. I pull the bag of curry stuff out of the freezer and pop it into the fridge in the morning and start a cooker full of rice. 15 minutes before we want supper, I dump the bag o'curry into the rice cooker, stir well, and re-set the rice cooker for a fast cook. 15 minutes later, you have supper ready and no mess in the kitchen. Even if you are starting from scratch to eat it immediately, this goes together fast.

Every one of my kids loves this. The 1 T of curry paste does not make for a very spicy curry. The boys often add more curry paste or the Garlic Chili paste or sirachi sauce. This is also a great way to use salmon when you've hit the point in the year where everyone is just sick of it! Play with the veggies- use what you have or what your kids like.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bulk Food Series - Part 7, Meal Plans: Supper

Nearly any meal your family loves can be made with real food!

Two weeks of suppers at our house could look like this:

Monday: Pot Roast with Potatoes and Carrots and Onions,Caesar Salad, Vanilla Custard

Tuesday: Chicken Pot Pie, Green Salad, Brownies

Wednesday: Baked Salmon, Smashed Potatoes, Slow cooker green beans, Apple pie

Thursday: Chili with rice, cheddar and sour cream, Salad

Friday: Green Thai Curry, Fresh rolls (the Thai sort, not the bready sort)

Saturday: Leftover Banquet and/or fried egg sandwiches

Sunday: Pizza

Monday II: Beef Stew, Green salad, Chocolate pudding

Tuesday II: King Ranch chicken, green salad, Brownies

Wednesday II: Salmon Chowder, bread & butter, blueberry cobbler

Thursday II: Lasagna, salad, chocolate chip cookies

Friday II: Burritos of refried black beans, pumpkin chunks, cheddar and sour cream, pico de gallo and greens

Saturday II: Leftover Banquet or fried egg sandwiches

Sunday: Pizza

To accomplish real meals every night, I'll be using the freezer again. A lot. To get through a month I'll use this menu twice. The only way I can pull off 3 meals of real food every day without losing my mind or feeling like a galley slave is by making things ahead. Some people do all of their cooking in one crazy day. I tend to spread mine over two or three. With this menu I would do this:

Day 1:

Place 4 whole chickens in roaster pans with some seasonings and roast. Cool so they are comfortable to handle. Pick the meat and place into a holding container in the fridge. Bones then go into the stock pot with veggie trimmings, a little salt, some herbs and a bit of vinegar to make stock.

brown 2 large chuck roasts for pot roast. Cube two more large chuck roasts(or a lamb leg or half and half) and brown the chunks for stew. Peel 3 onions and chop into halves, peel 3 more and chop into a large dice. Place a whole roast + 3 onion halves in a freezer bag; repeat. Place half the browned stew meat in a freezer bag + half the diced onions; repeat. Seal, mark and freeze.

Brown 6 lbs of ground beef or other ground meat with diced onion and garlic for chili and lasagna. Divide it into 3 equal portions. Season two bags for chili, mark and freeze. Take the remainder and a portion of frozen or canned grated zucchini, carrots, or other veggies; add tomato sauce, tomato paste, seasonings, a little wine or balsamic vinegar to your taste. Then make up two lasagnas. There are two ways to handle the freezing part. The greener way is to make your lasagna in your regular lasagna pan, freeze it, then pop it out of the pan by running hot water on the outside of the inverted pan. You then wrap the entire lasagna in plastic wrap for freezing. The less green (and, admittedly, my) way is to buy a pack of the disposable aluminum pans at Costco and make your lasagna in that and wrap then freeze the whole thing. Aluminum is very recyclable and there is still less embodied energy in my one pan than a Happy Meal. I know- I'm rationalizing.

Put black beans on to soak. You want to do enough for two meals of chili, two meals of burritos, and the enchiladas for school lunch. For my family of 6 at home, that means about 3-4 lbs.

Day 2:

Prep shredded cheese

Cook black beans

Assemble chicken dishes. I make just the creamy filling and freeze that in large ziplocs & add the crust or the tortillas before baking. You also want to put aside enough chicken for chicken salad for sandwiches for lunches. That I chop into the fine dice for salad, add my pickle relish and store in small ziplocs. I add mayo at the last minute before packing the lunches.

Assemble the shellfish/coconut milk/veggie mix for the curry into ziplocs and freeze

Assemble chowder ingredients- salmon, sauteed onion, bacon, corn, dill, salt. Freeze in large ziplocs.

Make Pizza crusts. Enough for the family for 4 weeks. Mix, rise, blind bake, top, wrap and freeze.

Day 3: Baking

Make pie crusts, chicken pot pie crust, cookies, brownies, lunch baking

Some things just have to be done that day and for other things, I'm relying on having previously canned other ingredients (carrots, pie filling, stock). Puddings and custards are just too good warm and too easy to do for me to do them ahead for supper desserts. Potatoes don't freeze well.

I still need a plan for Sunday coffee hours- I invariably find myself scrambling at 9:30 on Sunday morning because I've failed to plan and have still not gotten used to the idea that I need to bring something small every week as opposed to having one week a quarter or so when I needed to do the whole thing. It's always evolving!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Why We Don't Drink the KoolAid

I've long observed a correlation between food colorings and negative behaviors in some of my children. I was not aware that some of our FDA approved petro-based colorings are also linked to cancers in laboratory animals. I thought they just made my kids hyper and obnoxious.

When you combine that with the chemical load from things like pesticides and air pollution, leaching plastics, and who-even-knows-what-else I have to ask: when do we start drawing some lines? The CSPI report notes that these dyes are now directly linked to behavior problems in Britain and being more heavily regulated in Europe:

"Two recent studies sponsored by the British government on cross-sections of British
children found that mixtures of four dyes (and a food preservative, sodium benzoate)
impaired the behavior of even non-hyperactive children (Bateman, Warner et al. 2004;
McCann, Barrett et al. 2007). As a result, the British government told the food and
restaurant industries to eliminate the dyes tested by the end of 2009, and the European Parliament passed a law that will require a warning notice on all foods that contain one or more of the dyes tested after July 20, 2010. The notice states that the dyed food “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children” (Parliament accessed February 20, 2010). Distressingly, some products made by McDonald’s, Mars, Kraft, PepsiCo, and other major U.S. multinational companies contain dyes in the United States, but natural or no colorings in the United Kingdom."

Call me a food Luddite if you will, but I can't justify feeding my family chemicals whose only real purpose is to make nutritionally suspect products more appealing - especially if there are behavioral side effects.

The lurid photo at the top comes from a better written and more comprehensive post at elephant journal

Bulk Food Series - Part 6, Meal Plans: Lunch


My kids will need lunch packed every day. Although the majority of the Birchtree parents I’ve met so far have fairly similar ideas about children eating real food that isn’t 95% ultra-processed corn with a little hydrogenated oil for texture, I still have the idea that lunch should look and taste great. It’s the only thing I can control that might possibly dissuade them from bartering for a classmate’s Twinkies or Doritos.

Lunch will rotate on themes:

Monday: Mom’s choice
Tuesday: Stew or Soup
Wednesday: Bento
Thursday: Sandwiches
Friday: Mexican or Italian

These themes give the children a sense of rhythm which is encouraged by their school and give me a place to start in my planning. I'll spend a day every two weeks doing some prep work to allow the lunches to go together fairly quickly. On my big prep day I will do things like:

1. Bake a pan of mini-bundt cakes
2. Make gelatin cups and individual cheese cakes
3. Make onigiri, sushi rice mats, burritos, pizza crusts, and sandwich fillings
4. Bake cupcakes and cookies
5. Make granola bars
6. Blind bake tart shells
7. Make yogurt cups
8. Bake rolls

A week of lunches might look like this:

Monday: Bacon and cheddar individual quiche
Veggies with ranch dip
Vanilla custard with carmelized apples

Tuesday: Beef stew made from the leftovers of a pot roast
Homemade roll and butter
Cheese cubes
Chocolate chip cookies

Wednesday: Onigiri
Nori rolls
Fruit gelatin cup

Thursday: Chicken salad sandwiches
Mini cheese rounds
Cucumber salad
Mini bundt cake

Friday: Enchiladas
Individual cheese cake

Sunday, August 1, 2010

No Poo?

Not so much. I tried it for a few weeks and just couldn't do it. My hair felt oily right after a shower. I couldn't stand it. It was gross.

I went out, bought the least objectionable crunchy no-nasty-stuff shampoo I could find, didn't go back to conditioner (kept the vinegar rinses every few washes) and have been much happier.

Also, Miss V tried this with me and was also grossed out by the greasy feel but...the first few times of washing with shampoo again she was using the pantene left from our pre-experiment stock and noticed that while on the baking soda regimen, he hair had stopped falling out but as soon as she went back to the pantene it started dropping out in hunks. I found her one of her beloved Liggets tea tree oil and hemp shampoo bars and the hair loss stopped immediately.

Bulk Food Series - Part 5, Meal Plans: Breakfast

My plans involve the freezer. I would be very challenged if I lost my grinder, my rice cooker, or my mixer but I would melt into a puddle without the freezer. It makes my sanity possible.

I am not a morning person. Before noon, my IQ is about 60 points lower. This is not the time for me to be figuring out meals on the fly. First priority then is breakfast foods. I’ve let this go over the summer since we didn’t have to be anywhere or do much on any specific schedule but knowing that school is starting means that I must, must, must have breakfast under control or we will not make it out the door on time. I’m going to lean toward things that are portable and can be eaten in the car if necessary. Muffins, quick breads, yogurt and granola, individual servings of breakfast casserole, eggs (love the egg cooker!), sausage balls, and bacon.

This day spent making breakfast foods will cover breakfast for me for at least 6 weeks.

Monday: Zucchini or carrot bread with butter, tea, soft boiled eggs
Tuesday: Pancakes and bacon
Wednesday: Granola and yogurt
Thursday: Egg cups
Friday: Scrambled eggs, muffins & milk
Saturday: Sausage balls, cream of wheat
Sunday: church (we don’t eat before communion)

1. Defrost my bacon. I purchase side pork in 20 lb packs and brine it for flavor then freeze it in gallon bags. Once I thaw it, I will cook it , drain and save the grease, then re-freeze it. When re-freezing I put the strips on a cookie sheet so they don’t touch, freeze them, and then transfer to a bag. You could skip the first freezing- I do it that way to spread out the labor.

2. Grind my grain mix. If you buy flour, you obviously get to skip this step. I'd like to move to all sprouted flours but the expense is just too high and I'm not going to be able to afford a really good dehydrator before spring.

3. Brown sausage. I have a local source for a very nice pork breakfast sausage without anything bad in it.

4. Make quick breads. I still have carrot and zucchini grated in the freezer from last summer’s harvest so I will be using that up first to make room for the new stuff. I did those in gallon bags and it was way too much in one container. This year: smaller bags! Or canning. I wonder how grated carrot and zucchini will can? And if I can open a can of grated carrot, drain the liquid off, add whey and ginger and ferment them?

5. Make muffin batter. A separate post on muffins and their storage will follow. I freeze the batter so there are lovely hot fresh muffins.

6. Assemble egg cups

7. Sausage balls- make them, freeze on cookie sheets, then bag.

8. Make Granola

9. Make pancakes. If I am a very clever girl, I can make the batter and put my husband to work cooking them. He does a great job of it.