Category Archives: Cooking/Baking/Food/Recipes
I have created a monster: Buddy, the Tomato-Loving Puppy.
It started like this: On Wednesday, as part of the Crooked Sky Farms CSA, I ordered two extra boxes of organic, heirloom tomatoes, 30 pounds total (for $30!!)*. On Friday, I processed half of them to make salsa, the first step being peeling and coring them. After scalding the tomatoes and peeling them over the sink, I pulled my cushy office chair up to the island — that’s how I’ve been doing my meal prep: sitting — and started cutting out the tough area where the stem attaches with a paring knife.
Our “old” dog, Tally, sat down next to me, very attentive, with a polite request in her eyes. I kept declining, “Tally. Really. You don’t want a tomato core. Dogs don’t like tomatoes.” But, she patiently and gently disagreed. Finally, I tossed her a core. She snapped it out of the air and wanted another. I tossed her another. And another. She ate them like candy! In short order, Buddy, who is 5 months old, figured out that Tally was getting something he wasn’t and came to investigate. Buddy is quite pushy and bossy — which bothers me — but I ended up using it as a training reinforcement for him to sit and stay. Soon, he was on one side of me, Tally on the other, and as soon as I cored a tomato, I would toss it to alternating dogs.
Eventually, I ran out. Tally was all right with that, and sauntered off to lounge in the living room.
Buddy was NOT all right with me running out.
He’s not a very vocal dog. He whines a bit, but rarely barks, and is just generally a quiet dog. But, after he figured out that nudging my leg with his nose was not producing any more tomato cores, he put up a fuss. I wish I would have recorded it. He vocalized with such incessant pleading, loudly begging for more tomato cores, deep in his throat with a variety of pitches, howls, and vocalizations. He was also trying his best to sit and stay, maximizing the possibility of obtaining more tomato scraps. But, he worked himself just about frantic in his quest for more tomatoes. At first I was highly amused. NEVER have I heard him talk like that! But after a good ten minutes, I started to feel very sorry for him. Not sorry enough to chop up a good tomato and give it to him, but I did commiserate with him and try to comfort his comfortless self.
The next day, Saturday, I processed nearly 15 more pounds of tomatoes for Tomato Confit Sauce, and the same scene was repeated, much to the dogs’ delight.
However, Sunday… Buddy decided to take matters into his own paws.
I have six tomato plants growing in my mini-garden. Three of them are very large. They haven’t been the most fruitful of tomato plants, probably because I haven’t as highly-prioritized my garden this spring/summer as I have in years past! I’ve fed the plants infrequently, have not hand-pollinated, and other than putting tomato cages around them, mulching them with homemade compost, and watering them faithfully, I haven’t really done much with the plants or to them. However, each plant has a number of tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness, with the very first tomatoes of they year JUST ready to pick.
And they were picked. By Buddy.
My husband Martin woke me up on Sunday morning, “Babe… I’m sorry to tell you, but Buddy ate all your tomatoes.”
I was up in a flash. “WHAT???”
“All the ripe ones. They’re gone. I was on the back patio and I could see him over by the garden, but I couldn’t really tell what he was doing until it was too late.”
I practically ran — with my 38 week pregnant belly — down the stairs and out the door to inspect the damage. Sure enough. Only bright green tomatoes remained.
I about cried.
And this is AFTER this past week where I have mourned him plucking four of the six muskmelons off the vine. That, while I was heartbroken, I sort of understood: They looked like oversized tennis balls. I could imagine his confusion.
But all my tomatoes??? Oh, that saddened me.
And then, he one-upped himself: He branched, later Sunday evening, into sampling the GREEN tomatoes. He ate at least 2-3, and I found three more, on the plants, with teeth punctures in them.
Oh, Buddy! How could you?? Rascal dog!!
The only good news about this is that, a short time later, he puked up the green tomatoes. I’m hoping that the experience is enough for him to stop nabbing my tomatoes. And in the meantime, my husband is going to rifle around in our shed and see what he can find for some temporary fencing.
*They have a Groupon going!! $24 for 15 lbs of Crooked Sky organic, heirloom tomatoes.
When I make a dish for the family to eat, it’s always my hope that EVERYONE will like it. Something that all seven people at the dinner table will adore has proven rather elusive, however. I now see this as a good thing, mostly. For instance: I made sauerkraut earlier this week, and it is done fermenting today. My 13-year-old son has been highly anticipating its readiness, and is already preparing his sandwich in his mind. He mentioned that he wishes we had ham, but we don’t. So, he’ll have turkey, mustard, and sauerkraut. Not everyone else is so excited. But, other family members are expectant of different foods. I am roasting six bunches of small beets right now. My three youngest children are REALLY excited about that. I have received beets a number of times these last few months from our CSA and only ONCE have the beets actually made it into a dish. The rest of the time, after I roast the beets, peeling them becomes somewhat of a party, with everyone popping cooled, newly-peeled baby beets into their mouths, just like candy. I can’t say that I’m disappointed that not everyone feels this way about beets. My husband can’t stand them. My older two boys are rather ambivalent. The rest of us ADORE beets.
- Our new home is an older one, and it is an endless project. We knew it needed more insulation, as some of it was missing in wide swaths, some was thin and compacted, and some of it had shrunk away from ceiling joists and the outer walls. When we got our electricity bill for the time spanning from mid-April to mid-May, and the stinkin’ thing was north of $350 (and that is with our air conditioner thermostat set at 80-81°), that was a wake-up call. Last weekend, my husband Martin, after quite a bit of research (wet-blown cellulose? dry-blown fiberglass? fiberglass batts? do-it-yourself? or hire it out??) he decided to do dry-blown fiberglass, which requires a big machine. The blowing machine is rentable from Home Depot, or free with the purchase of enough packages of insulation. It was quite an undertaking. He purchased a head-to-toe coverall, and with goggles, mask, and gloves, ventured up into the attic. Actually, we have two attics, as part of our home is single-level, and part of it has two stories. It was hours of work. Our oldest son, Ethan, stayed at the ladder and fed the tube up into the attic as needed, and relayed hollered messages to our next-oldest son, Grant, who was feeding the batts into the blowing machine and turning it off and on as needed. At Home Depot, they supplied a cardboard measurement stick, telling us how deeply the insulation needed to be to supply a certain R-value. “How deep does it need to be again to reach R-38?” he asked Grant. “Thirteen inches,” Grant replied. “Good. We have about R-100 in most places,” Martin announced with satisfaction.
In the above pic, you can see a bit of the washing machine, with which I have a love-hate relationship. It is an LG, and when it works, it works WONDERFULLY. However, yesterday, we had the LG repairman out for the SEVENTH TIME in less than a year. Seven times. Granted, his visit on Friday was a follow-up from Tuesday’s assessment, and he was installing the parts that he had ordered on Tuesday. And two of the previous visits were — umm… — due to user error, as a quarter coin had slipped into the wash undetected, and had lodged in such a way that it was keeping the drum from agitating. BUT, this washing machine was the most expensive purchase my husband and I had ever made, barring cars and houses, in our 18 years of marriage, and frankly, I didn’t expect the thing to be a lemon. Or, I don’t know if it’s a lemon, exactly, but it just doesn’t seem that such a high-tech and expensive item should continually require repairs. So now, we are considering purchasing an extended warranty. I have kind of a moral objection to extended warranties. My thoughts are, “BUILD IT RIGHT IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND AN EXTENDED WARRANTY ISN’T NECESSARY!!!” And yes, this is said while shouting. I’m also kind of upset, because, before purchasing this unit, I did a lot of research to find the right product for our lots-o’-laundry family. This washer had glowing reviews and was universally touted as a heavy-duty, GIANT-capacity washer with few problems, certainly less problematic than a front-loader. However, the LG guy has been refreshingly honest with some information that I wish I had access to before I purchased. He has mentioned that, while the unit is power- and water-efficient, it actually runs better on the cycles which use more water (mostly the “Bulky/Bedding” setting). Also, the heating element in the washing machine, which allows the water to heat up super-hot (in the “Sanitary” cycle) especially for whites and cloth diapers, isn’t particularly powerful, and it takes a LONG time to actually heat the water. In the meantime, as I had observed, the washer just slowly spins, waiting and waiting and waiting for the water to heat, automatically adding MORE time to a cycle that is already THREE HOURS long. I guess I’m not the only LG customer who feels rather crabby about this, because just last night, I saw an ad for a new LG washer that heats up super-hot, but has an incredibly short cycle time. Hmph.
- Another thing I had wanted to add to our home is a clothesline. In our last home, the HOA forbade them. Even in the back yard. This house has no HOA and plenty of space. However, my husband wants to do the clothesline “right”, on its own separate poles, sunk in concrete, on the side of the yard, out of sight. But… that has been added to the very long list of to-dos, here in the house, and we have now been here ten months with no clothesline. So, last weekend, I procured four eye bolts and screwed them right into two trees in our back yard, and strung up some perfect nylon rope, handily left in the shed by the previous occupants. Voila! Clothesline. So, for a little more than a week now, I have been hanging up about 95% of our family’s laundry — everything except my husband’s clothes and the bath towels. Our handy new LG dryer (with which we have had no problems) has a great moisture sensor, and the few items from each load that go into the dryer are completed in about 20-25 minutes, instead of the 50-60 minutes each load was previously taking. A friend on Facebook (well, she’s a friend in real life, but she mentioned this on Facebook) said that she finds hanging clothes to be “meditative.” I didn’t quite understand her at the time, but now I do. I bring out a glass of ice water, put my basket of wet clothes on a chair, and actually enjoy the quiet efficiency of hanging clothes. I’m outside (which I love anyway); the sun is shining on me; it’s a gentle form of manual labor; I feel like I’m…. benefiting our family by saving money on power that would otherwise be spent on the electric dryer; it feels satisfying to provide my family with freshly sun-warmed and sanitized laundry; and it just feels RIGHT to be using the plentiful solar energy here in the desert to dry my clothes. Even when the day is hot (though I typically hang the clothes in the morning or evening), I have my ice water, and when I stand between the lines of damp clothes, the breeze cools and refreshes me… It is, indeed, a meditative activity.
With the Crooked Sky Farms CSA I host, I feel like we have a good plan for what’s going to happen when the baby comes. The sixth week of the summer season is on Wednesday, June 26, and the baby is due on the 27th. And… the baby could come at any time, really. I’ve been anywhere from 11 days early (twice!) to eight days past my estimated due date. While there have been a number of people offer to help, the most promising person is, ironically, a woman with seven kids. She hosts a raw milk pick-up (where I am a customer), so she is rather familiar with the ordeal of people coming to her house over the course of an afternoon and picking stuff up. Also, she’s a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom whose oldest is 16. Just like me! She said that she would be happy to either come to my home and host the CSA for a day, or to even have it at her house. So, the plan is that, if I have the baby on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday, she will have the CSA in her home. If I have the baby Thursday, Friday, or Saturday, I’ll probably just tuck myself upstairs with the baby and she will stay here for the afternoon, with my kids helping her. If I have the baby on a Sunday, it could go either way. That’s at least the plan. Another woman, who participated in the spring CSA season, sent me an e-mail yesterday saying that she would like to help around the time the baby comes, if need be. I was quite touched by her thoughtfulness. She isn’t participating during the summer because she has her own garden which is being very productive right now — no need to pay $20 for organic veggies if you grow an abundance of your own! I sent her a reply sketching out the basic plan, and asked if she’d like to be back-up, or perhaps be the host (as her home is much closer to mine, and would be less of a deviation from the regular plan for the other CSA members). Anyway. It just feels nice to know that things are taken care of, and that people are kindly offering to help out. I feel surrounded by wonderful folks.
- We’re almost done with school. Kind of. Three of my kids will be finished on June 7th, in less than a week! My oldest, who is a sophomore, won’t be done. He got himself behind and will likely be playing catch-up until the end of June. I’m rather displeased with that because, as a homeschooling mom, if he isn’t done, that means that I am not done! But, as he is a sophomore, we can’t just say, “Ah, well. We’ll come back ’round to it in the fall.” There aren’t really any do-overs once you’re in high school. So, he’ll keep working until he’s finished with the year’s curriculum… I will admit that I am very ready for summertime, and I’m very ready to focus on the baby. Two weeks ago, I told my middle boys (8th grade and 6th grade) that they will finish the last three weeks of school primarily on their own. Normally, I do about 60% of their work with them — reading to them, discussing assignments in depth, having conversations about the topics at hand, reviewing their work, etc. But, in order to help me be able to have time to prep for the baby, I was straight-up with them: “Listen, I know and you know that you learn better when we do school together. Having an actual teacher helps you glean so much more out of the material than if you just cover it yourself. However, you will be doing virtually all your remaining work for the year on your own, reading to yourself or reading to each other, because it’s either that or nothing.” That is one of the benefits of homeschooling: You can make it be flexible when you need to. They would learn more if I was more highly involved, so I feel kind of badly. But, three weeks of independent work within a 35-week school year won’t kill ‘em, I guess. It’s better than just stopping school. That sounds like I’m setting the bar rather low. Perhaps I am… But, that’s what is necessary for these last few weeks of school.
Ah, those artichokes… Who knew they could be such trouble-makers?
My seven-year-old daughter, Audrey, is still recovering.
Actually, it’s not the artichoke’s fault.
Having a wee bit of organic gardening experience under my belt, I can often (not always, but often) discern the difference between beneficial insects and harmful ones. More squeamish minds may disagree, but it always pleases me when I see a beneficial, crawling in the weekly produce I get from Crooked Sky Farms. It just makes me think, “The food is alive! It was just picked!! These bugs are HAPPY here! It’s a GOOD bug!!”
I usually scoop up these little garden treasures on a leaf and have one of my kids go deposit it in my own garden. Lately, I’ve been telling them to put the bug right on one of my dill plants, which are now in bloom and are (hopefully) operating as an aphid trap plant…
However, during a recent family dinner, while Audrey was happily peeling back the petals of her ‘choke, dipping each in mayo, she encountered a ladybug. A dead one. Dead from me cooking it, encased in its previous home. Loud wailing ensued, along with accusations of heart-heartedness, “HOW COULD YOU KILL A LADYBUG?? HOW COULD YOU COOK HIM???”
And of course, being seven, she is just not letting this drop. It has been nearly a week now, and she still isn’t letting me live it down. “Remember the cooked ladybug I found? Mommy, why would you cook a ladybug? Couldn’t you have found him first? I don’t ever want to eat a ladybug. I don’t think I want artichokes anymore. If you make artichokes, will you please make sure that all of the ladybugs are out of their homes? Open up each artichoke and check it first. Please don’t cook anymore ladybugs.” And this patter is still frequently accompanied by tears.
And, yes, this is the same daughter who will no longer eat pork, since we read Charlotte’s Web about a year and a half ago.
In related news, I think the CSA members are getting tired of artichokes; quite a few traded in their allotment of five. As the CSA coordinator and host, I’m the recipient of the cast-offs. Plus, I think the farm shipped extra yesterday. The result?? I have FORTY-SIX artichokes. Forty-six. Plus, they’re all quite small. Not quite babies, but still, quite small. I’ve been looking at my crate of ‘chokes, and decided that I needed a new recipe.
I usually prepare artichokes by the fairly standard method of cutting off the top 1/2″, steaming cut-side-down in salted water to which I’ve added lemon slices and garlic cloves…. Then dipping the leaves (petals, actually) in mayo (homemade is best, of course, but I usually purchase mayo from Trader Joe’s — all natural, in a glass jar).
I decided to Google “cooking small artichokes” and one of the first options that popped up was this:
Immediately, it made me reconsider the bounty, and that so many artichokes aren’t a bad thing at all…
The recipe, Sautéed Baby Artichokes, calls for Herbes de Provence — of which I have none. I will cook these tonight, and use minced fresh basil instead, and subbing pecorino romano for the called-for parmesan cheese.
In the meantime… I’m trying to give away 20 of the artichokes on Facebook, but the only takers so far are from out of state.
Every week I make info sheets for my CSA members. We receive eight different items and I choose three of them to highlight — usually the more unusual items in the week’s basket. It might be a long shot, but I thought maybe y’all would be interested to take a peek, either to see what you’re missing, or to give you ideas on how to use some more uncommon produce items!
Click each date for a Word document.
Week of 02/13/13 – Featuring Romanesco, Hakurei turnips, and Swiss chard.
Week of 02/20/13 – Featuring Wheatberries*, Tuscano kale, and fresh Fennel.
Week of 02/27/13 – Featuring Broccoli di Ciccio, Mizuna, and Cilantro.
Week of 03/06/13 — Ummm… I accidentally did a “save” instead of “save as” while writing over the top of this document and lost it. It featured Mustard greens, as well as more ideas for Mizuna and Cilantro — the last two ended up NOT being in our basket for that week, after all… Instead were Red Russian Kale and new-to-me Quelites (which is a spinach-like leaf of the young quinoa plant).
Week of 03/13/13 – Featuring a recipe for Easter Egg Radishes and Cilantro, as well as info and recipes for Dried Red Chiles and Dried Beans.
*As in, whole grain wheat. I didn’t partake, obviously, but provided preparation ideas and recipes for others who could!
I hate to call any food endeavor on which I embark a “diet”.
But, I guess how I’ve been eating for the last 3+ weeks qualifies, since I’m counting carbs.
It took me a bit, but I figured out that I need at least 80 net carbs daily to NOT lose weight. My goal is NOT to lose weight; it’s to maintain or to gain weight more slowly. By 21 weeks, I had gained 22 lbs. Once my morning sickness was over (bless God) I was packing on two pounds a week, all while eating GOOD FOOD. Now, I’m eating MORE good food, but fewer carbs.
Here’s my history:
- I have veinous problems. I have varicose veins including up into my lower abdomen. More weight gain is even harder on weak veins. And my particular kind of veins increase my risk (moderately) of hemorrhaging during birth. Not good.
- I also want to limit the stress on my heart during pregnancy by limiting weight gain. (I have Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome, which is fairly benign, but worrying symptoms ramp up during pregnancy.)
- I have a history of macrosomic babies. My smallest was 8 lbs 13 oz. My largest? 10 lbs even. Large babies increase one’s risk of hemorrhage.
- This is my 6th baby. For every baby >5, a mother’s risk for hemorrhage increases quite dramatically.
- I am planning a home birth and want to maximize my chances for success — to actually BIRTH in our home, not have to transfer due to blood loss.
- I did a similar diet under an OB for my last birth — I gained zero weight from weeks 28 onward — and the baby was STILL 8 lbs 13 oz.
- I have never had gestational diabetes but for baby #5, my oral glucose test (the nasty syrup) was “borderline-borderline” for GD, and I figured that a lower carb, no-sugar, high-protein diet wouldn’t hurt anything. It didn’t.
- In pregnancies #1-4, I gained 37-50 lbs each, ALL WHILE EATING A HEALTHY, WHOLE-FOODS DIET. My first OB told me that, for some women, their bodies go into “starvation mode” and operate with extreme efficiency, grabbing onto everything it possibly can and storing it as fat. He was pretty certain that that is what my body does. I did a food diary for him for a month (as I recall — it was 16 years ago!) and he was impressed with my diet. The only thing he recommended was taking out fruit. I didn’t, which is why I probably gained those 50 lbs.
- With pregnancy #5, on the lower-carb diet, I gained a total of 17 lbs, produced that 8 lb 13 oz baby, and recovery was immeasurably smoother for me, post-pregnancy. It was fairly easy to lose that extra 10 lbs, as opposed to being faced with a whopping 40 lbs to lose. I didn’t even have to try to lose those 10 lbs. They just melted off with a return to my regular metabolism, plus nursing.
For this pregnancy, in a couple of weeks, my midwife — who does offer the syrup-based oral glucose test, which I declined — is going to test how my body handles a “normal”/high amount of carbs via a large meal. I’ll go into her office at 7:30 a.m., and we’ll do a blood draw and test my blood-sugar levels. (She’s also going to re-test a couple of other things that were abnormal in an earlier blood test.) Then, I’ll go home and eat a “regular” breakfast — not one that contains 100 grams of glucose like the oral glucose test though it will be higher in carbs than I would normally eat for breakfast; I’ll probably eat eggs and a homemade muffin or two and shoot for 50 g carbs or so. Then, she’ll re-test my blood at 10:30.
We’re testing mostly out of curiosity. No matter what the results are, I’ll still maintain my current diet.
So, what am I doing in this “current diet”?
- Eating about 75-100 grams of protein daily, which is very similar to the Brewer/Blue Ribbon Baby Diet. (However, I’m not tracking my protein consumption down to the gram.) I eat 3-4 eggs every breakfast. I eat meat at lunch and dinner. My snacks tend to be high-protein, as well — nut-based or plain yogurt.
- Limiting myself to about 80 grams non-fiber carbs daily. (I have discovered that with fewer than 80g, I lose weight, which is not the goal.)
- Eating an additional 30+ grams of dietary fiber carbs daily.
- Eating at least NINE servings of veggies daily.
- NOT tracking fat consumption. At all. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that this is a high-fat diet.
- Sticking to foods that are MOSTLY Paleo: veggies and meats. However, I do eat some dairy and some legumes, which most people eating a strict Paleo diet, don’t. Many Paleo adherents don’t eat any nightshades, either: tomatoes, potatoes, etc. I eat virtually no potatoes, but I often eat tomatoes. I’m not avoiding nightshades. (In a Paleo diet, the goal is to train your body to burn FAT for energy, and for it to NOT rely on sugar-carbs for energy. That is how one can eat a high-fat diet and not gain weight. A Paleo diet is also healthy, long-term, for one’s pancreas as it profoundly limits blood-sugar.)
- NOT counting calories.
- Keeping my sugar-intake extremely limited. This is all sugars, including honey and naturally-occurring sugars in fruit.
- Drinking 80-100 ounces of water daily. This is in ADDITION to other liquids I may drink. I actually shoot for a gallon of water daily (128 ounces) but rarely hit that goal.
- Taking supplements in addition to the foods I eat: 6400 IU vitamin D, 1000 mg cod liver oil, 1200 mg calcium, 600 mg magnesium, 250 mg Horse Chestnut extract, a multivitamin, and 500 mg vitamin C. Some of them are chewables, which accounts for the 3g carbs for my vitamins if you view my sample daily diet PDF. If I take an extra vitamin C chewable, that adds another 2g carbs.
Here is a sample of what I eat, daily (click for PDF). A few notes:
- Yes, I drink coffee. Two mugs of half-caff. I put organic half & half in it, along with stevia.
- I do use a kitchen scale for many foods.
- I use this website: Self NutritionData to calculate the content of most of my foods.
- I usually don’t include ingredients in my daily tally, but on the opposite page of my spiral notebook, I do some serious figuring to many recipes in order to figure out the carb and fiber grams per serving. Yes, this does require some math. No, I don’t mind.
- Some things I have to estimate. For instance, we go out to eat about twice a month. I made a rough estimate of 60 grams carbs plus 10 grams fiber for a recent (splurge!) lunch at a Mexican restaurant. This was for beans, corn tortillas, and some tortilla chips that went along with my shredded beef tacos. But… some restaurants — chains, especially — publish their nutrition data online. For instance, I ate a Double-Double Protein Style Animal Style (with “wheat allergy” noted) at In ‘N’ Out Burger. No fries. I drank water. That felt like a splurge, but I found out online that it as only 8g carbs plus 3g fiber.
- My go-to snacks:
- Organic celery sticks with sunflower butter (I get sunflower butter from Trader Joe’s. Yes, it has a small amount of sugar in it).
- A half, large avocado
- A handful (two ounces) of raw almonds
- There are a few gluten-free, low-sugar, high-fiber snack or protein bars — like ProMax LS or ThinkThin Or Kit’s Raw Organic — and I do buy a few of these to eat in a pinch. But, I tend to shy from packaged snacks.
- At the end of the day, especially if I need more carbs, I will sit down with a bowl of plain yogurt with blueberries or — if my carb count has been REALLY low for the day — 1/2 cup of g.f. granola. It’s odd to consider, but if you truly stick with virtually all veggies, nuts, and meat during the day, by the end of the day, you will have to eat a relatively carb-heavy snack or meal to KEEP yourself from losing weight.
- I will admit that, once this month, I splurged at Yogurtini. I eat frozen yogurt about once a month from the store. Yogurtini’s no-sugar-added flavors do NOT contain aspartame (they are sweetened with maltodextrin, sucralose, or other “non-sugar” sweeteners) but they DO contain artificial colors. This is not a choice that anyone should make on a regular basis, but I’m just keepin’ it real and honest here and admitting to my yogurt consumption. One five ounce serving (including a scoop of fresh blueberries) ran me about 22 g carbs and 7 g fiber.
I’ve been newly employed this year as a coordinator for a CSA — a farm share program. For the last four weeks, folks have picked up their locally-farmed, organic produce at my home every Wednesday afternoon. It has been more work than I had anticipated, mostly in managing everyone’s quirks and preferences and keeping everyone happy. I’m not very good at that, in my own nature, but I’m trying and I’m learning.
Something that I am coming to understand is that, no matter what, some people are just thankful and pleased, and others are just grumpy. Blessedly, I have many more of the “thankful and pleased” sort of folks: I have received many genuine thanks, both spoken and in e-mail, from our now-24 members for the efforts that I’m making on their behalf. That’s endlessly encouraging.
I participated for a couple of years in a different CSA and this particular one — through single-farmer-owned Crooked Sky Farms — is excellent. They wash and portion-out everyone’s share. There have been a few missteps, but generally communication has been excellent. There’s a weekly trade basket, so if you don’t want Red Russian Kale, for example, you can trade it in and pick out three navel oranges instead. The farm — including one particular employee, who rather runs the place — works diligently to satisfy everyone’s needs, as best as she can. For instance: Even though every week’s share is eight portions of in-season produce, the most that any one particular thing has been repeated is once; the farm is mindful of trying to provide as much variety as possible. So, in our four weeks, 32 portions total now, the most we’ve seen any one thing is twice.
On my end, too, I do my very best to take care of everyone’s needs: Letting them come early, letting them pick up late, using my personal share to supplement theirs if something runs short, making note of what they like or don’t, compiling weekly documents that contain info and recipes for the produce that might be less familiar, communicating regularly via e-mail, etc.
I’m not trying to pat myself on the back too hard, but I think both the farm and myself are doing a good job.
Yesterday, though, one woman was fairly incensed about something and freely expressed her dissatisfaction to me. “What?? Dill again?? I didn’t even use nearly all my dill last time and I think that’s kind of like cheating when a small bunch of herbs is included as part of our share. It’s so small, and you can hardly use it. That’s why I stopped participating in the CSA last time, because they kept giving us too many herbs.”
I just listened to her, and then suggested that she trade it in. However, as she was one of the last people picking up, the trade basket only had curly mustard greens and arugula in it, in addition to more dill, and she didn’t want those, either. She just puffed her disappointment and left.
I tried to let her words roll off. “Not gonna make everyone happy…” I thought. It was only the second time in four weeks that we’d received dill and only one of the eight things weekly have been herbs; I don’t think that’s excessive. But I do understand her sentiment; I’d probably rather have a big bunch of carrots than a bunch of dill, even if the portion of dill is generous — and it is; it’s probably 4-5 times what would be in those little plastic packs of fresh organic herbs which you can find in the grocery store produce department.
Still, though… After she left, I felt a little emotionally bruised.
Then, the next person came in to pick up her produce. She had started a little late in the season; this was only her second time picking up produce. “Oooh, is that dill?” she asked, eyes wide, pinching a leaf and sampling it, “It is! I love dill. I could smell it before I even tasted it.” She clutched the dill to her chest. “To me, dill smells of home and my mother…” She went on to tell me that her mother — now sadly deceased — used to regularly make homemade bread using fresh dill, and it was one of her favorite memories and favorite smells. She firmly stated she would be making some fresh dill bread the next day….
She seemed close to tears.
I thought of that woman’s own daughter, and how this bit of herbs in her hand would be the vehicle to pass on a treasured childhood memory to the next generation.
I was then close to tears.
That interaction erased the negative words of the previous CSA member. It felt… powerful and perfect.
She sent me a follow-up message later in the evening:
I was serious about the smell of dill…it is home and momma and love and snuggles on a cold winter night to me…made me cry actually and now relishing all the sweet memories it brings…cant wait to make that dill bread tomorrow… csa is more than veggies, for sure.
If anyone else complains about dill, it will be water off a duck’s back, for certain. It’s all worth it, grumpy customers included.
Here’s part of a message I wrote to a friend, who has an 11 month-old with NO teeth, and is trying to figure out some non-milk ways to add protein to his diet.
For little ones, this sounds a little crazy, but I like serving beans. Of course, too much beans will make anyone gassy… But a small amount is a great source of protein. Garbanzo beans are the least gassy of all beans and have a very mild flavor that is appealing to most babies.
Also, you can use a blender or mini food processor to mash up beans and even meat. It’s really easy, actually, to make your own baby food. Put some cooked brown rice, some cooked beef (stewed works well), some cooked garbanzo beans, and some spinach — raw or cooked — into the blender (or some other healthy combination you think he’ll like — cooked squash, chicken, oatmeal is another idea, or plain yogurt*, blueberries, and oatmeal) and blend to process. Put it in an ice cube tray, and when frozen, pop out and put the cubes in a Ziploc. Then you’ll have quick little portions. I’ve even saved store-bought babyfood jars, and in the a.m., put 2-3 cubes in the jar in the a.m., and by lunch time, they’re thawed and ready to eat.
When I make babyfood, I will often just set aside an unseasoned portion of whatever I’m making for the family either to grind up for baby’s dinner that night OR I’ll save brown rice one night, beef the next, squash the next, etc. and then when I have small bowls in the fridge of a good babyfood combo, I will put them in the blender and make the babyfood.
I do that, though, because I’m cheap + healthy. Gerber and Beechnut typically have so many crappy additives, especially in the stage 2 & 3 meals, but the organic baby food is SUPER expensive. And once you get in the habit, it literally is about five minutes extra of your time to make and freeze babyfood cubes.
For babies younger than 11 months, it’s even simpler, as you should only use one food at a time — steamed carrots, baked squash, etc. When your baby is around 7-8 months, they can usually tolerate a simple combination of two foods at a time. The older they grow, the better able they are, typically, to digest more complex food.
Making your own babyfood is more trendy than when I started to do it, nearly 15 years ago. Responding to consumers, the are now a number of babyfood cookbooks, “kits”, and other supplies… Although I love cookbooks and kitchen gadgets, I find most of that stuff to be kind of a waste of money. Just take plain versions of what YOU eat — provided that you eat healthy, whole foods — and prepare it as babyfood. Voila! No cookbook needed. And if you have a blender or a mini-prep food processor and some ice cube trays, you don’t need any special gadgets.
*And, yes, I know I just said “non-milk” and there was a reference to yogurt in there. It appears that her little one MIGHT have a sensitivity to milk — but milk sensitivities can be tricky. Is it just lactose? Lactose is milk sugar. In honest, fully cultured yogurt, there is virtually no lactose; the yogurt cultures “eat” the milk sugar, and the resulting fully cultured yogurt has no lactose. Same with hard, aged cheeses — like cheddar. The process eliminates lactose. But, if a child has a sensitivity to casein or whey or another milk protein, you’re up a creek, and even yogurt won’t help; you have to quit all milk products altogether.
The bad news is that I was up with my four-year-old in the middle of the night. We tried a number of things to stop her incessant cough, ending in the tea. I didn’t start with tea because she doesn’t really like it, and there were a couple other things I could try first. They didn’t work this time, but the good news is that the tea did.
My husband had a childhood full of asthma and tends to somewhat panic when our children cough, as he immediately correlates coughing with, “MY CHILD CAN’T BREATHE AND SOMETHING MUST BE DONE NOW.” I appreciate his sympathy, and frankly, his urgency regarding coughing has kicked my rear end into gear a number of times when I would be content to just let my kids cough it out.
For everyone’s benefit, I now try to identify coughs better:
- Is this asthma and my child really can’t breathe?
- Is this a “wet” cough because my child is on the recovery-end of an illness and s/he is coughing up mucus (which is a good thing)?
- Or are they just coughing incessantly and it’s disrupting their sleep, spreading germs, and not having any productive effect?
Fi’s was the third. She miserable, unable to sleep, had been coughing for several hours to the point where her stomach muscles were aching from coughing so badly. And weakened stomach muscles often = puking in our home, and I determined that for her peace, to keep food in her stomach, and to reduce the chance of the cough spreading to the other six in our family, we needed to address the cough.
First, we tried an oregano oil breathing treatment. “My” oregano oil breathing treatment works AMAZING WONDERS on my 11 year-old son’s asthma. It is also fabulous for deep-down lung pain and infection. Fiala’s cough seemed more upper-respiratory, so I didn’t have much hope that it would work for her, but I thought I’d try.
Oregano Oil Breathing Treatment
This requires a nebulizer, typically used for albuterol breathing treatments.
Into the medicine receptacle of the nebulizer, place:
- ONE DROP ONLY of pure oregano oil
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- One dropperful of 250 ppm colloidal silver (or, colloidal silver at LEAST 100 ppm)
- Turn the nebulizer on and breathe deeply. Inhale and hold for a few seconds. Repeat for 3-10 deep breaths. This DOES put a little tickle at the back of one’s throat, and breathing oregano oil is kind of a learned skill. However, if my young children can do it, you can, too!
- Alternately, you can put 2-3 drops into a large mug, fill it with boiling water, and breathe the steam deeply for as long as possible.
Oregano oil is an amazing product that is virucidal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal. It is also anti-parasitic. I’m uncertain WHY it works on asthma, and there is less research on oregano oil’s effectiveness on asthma (unlike various funguses, bacteria, and viruses, which has been studied and proven effective numerous times).
Colloidal silver has effectiveness against a variety of viruses, bacteria, and funguses, as well.
Secondly, we tried:
Simplest Cough Remedy
My daughter Fiala, in particular, is super-suceptible to yeast/candida overgrowth, so I limit her sugar intake, including honey. And even though honey is good for just about anyone for a wide variety of reasons, I’m still leery of sugar, even natural sugars. So, I would never give a whole 2 tsp to anyone.
Our favorite “medicinal” honey is from Y.S. Organic Bee Farms and is called Super-Enriched Honey. It is raw and unpasteurized and contains pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. It is really thick and has an unusual taste. I find it pleasant, but if you’re expecting a honey-taste found akin to that found in the McDonald’s honey packet, you’ll probably be startled.
I simply scoop up a small spoonful of honey and let the child slowly lick it. Consequently, when anyone coughs even a tiny bit in our home, they tend to come running with a certain proclamation of, “I need a honey spoon!”
When neither the herbal breathing treatment nor honey was doing any good, I brewed up a batch of my no-cough tea.
Into a wire mesh tea ball, place:
2 tsp loose chamomile flowers
- 1/8 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp fennel seed
- 1/8 tsp licorice root powder
- optional: 1/2 tsp dried peppermint leaves
- optional: 1 tsp dried mullein flower (verbascum thapsis)
- Place tea ball in a very large mug and pour boiling water over the top. Let steep 10-15 minutes, then stir well.
- Sweeten with honey (especially if you didn’t use a “honey spoon” to stop the cough) or stevia, or simply don’t sweeten at all, as the licorice root lends a sweet taste.
- Put 1/4 cup of the brewed tea in a smaller mug and let child sip slowly for 10-20 minutes.
- If cough hasn’t stopped, repeat with 1/4 cup doses.
- This may take up to ONE HOUR for effectiveness — in other words, 3-6 doses of 1/4 cup each over the course of an hour, until coughs subside.
- Extremely effective for stopping coughs for 3-4 hours. So, repeat throughout the day as necessary, trying to re-dose before your child returns to violent coughing.
(For readers local to the Phoenix area, all of the tea ingredients can be found at Sprouts. All of the herbs — except the mullein — can be found in the bulk spice area. Mullein flower can be found, packaged, hanging close to the “regular” tea and herb area, God’s Garden Pharmacy brand.)
What the ingredients are and why they work:
- Chamomile (matricaria recutita) flowers have antianxiety, antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-spasmodic properties, mainly due to chamomile’s natural phytonutrient, chamazulene. The “anti-inflammatory” and “anti-spasmodic” characteristics especially important for calming coughs.
Thyme (thymus vulgaris) is a strong antiseptic. Its natural phytonutrient, thymol, is actually the active ingredient in classic Listerine. Thymol is also an active ingredient in most naturally-based antiseptic cleaners. For coughs, thyme is effective not only in destroying germs, but it is a powerful anti-spasmodic and has bronchial-clearing properties. (Thyme oil is extremely strong and should be used with caution. However, using a pinch of the dried herb itself is safe for just about everyone, pregnant women and small children included.) Thyme does have somewhat of an unpleasant “green/herbal” taste in tea; however, do not omit it!!
- Fennel, in general, is truly a miracle plant. It is by far one of the most nutritious and helpful plants one can consume — from bulb to stem to feathery top to seed. I personally cannot understand why it is not at the top of “Superfood” lists! Fennel, as well as being anti-spasmodic, is also a pain-reducer, fever-reducer, and has antimicrobial activity. It soothes upset stomachs and speeds healing of muscle strains (including muscles sore from incessant coughing!). Fennel’s “magic” properties are largely due to the phytonutrients creosol (also found in chaparral and creosote) and alpha-pinene. (Again, use the whole herb — fennel seed, not fennel oil, which is extremely strong and dangerous, if used incorrectly.)
- If you have ever had Throat Coat tea by Traditional Medicinals, licorice root is the main ingredient, followed by mullein. Licorice is extensively used, world-wide, as a remedy for an astounding number of ailments, from lupus, to cancer, to diabetes, to chronic fatigue syndrome, to HIV/AIDS and more. Its effectiveness is primarily from the naturally-occurring phytonutrient glycyrrhizinic acid which, among other properties, acts as an incredibly effective immune stimulant. For our purposes here, licorice root relieves the dry, tickly feeling associated with hacking coughs — as well as shortens the healing time needed to recover from illness.
- Peppermint has properties helpful to those with coughs and colds — however, the flavor rather clashes with the flavors found both in thyme, fennel, and licorice root. Peppermint contains the phytonutrient menthol, long known for relieving coughs and other respiratory disorders. An alternate tea, especially if your child enjoys the mint flavor, would be simply chamomile and peppermint.
- Mullein (verbascum thapsus) has soothing, emollient effects via its plentiful, naturally-occurring mucilages. It also reduces inflammation via natural tannins. Mullein promotes expectoration, meaning it loosens phlegm in the respiratory tract, causing coughs to be more effective.
I dearly hope that some readers find this useful. If you do, post a comment and let me know!!
If you think this is a post in which I
berate encourage you to do a better job planning, it’s not.
I don’t plan. Not really. Well, sort of, I do.
But not like my friend Daja at the Provision Room. She’s a pro.
A friend asked me yesterday, “Do you have a website that you use to plan meals or do you just wing it?”
Here was my response:
Somewhere in the middle. I don’t use a website. What I do is see what is on sale for the week, and plan my meals — roughly — around that. “OK. Pork roast is on sale. I can do a Crockpot with green chile pork.” And I know that I always have green chiles, onions, garlic, and the spices to make that happen. “OK. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are on a smoking sale. I’ll buy four packages, put one in the freezer, do stirfry with one, grill two packages using one batch of grilled chicken for dinner that night and saving the other grilled chicken for chicken sandwiches on the night I have small group and I need a fast meal…” Like that. I also purposefully make LARGE dinners, both so that Martin can take leftovers for lunch at work (he prefers that, and it saves money) AND so that we can have at least one night during the week (usually Saturday) where we have a whole meal of just leftovers.
And then… if there isn’t a cut of meat on sale at a price I want to pay, or if there are other staple items that have taken a big chunk out of that week’s grocery budget, I pull stuff out of the freezer.
So… I don’t plan stuff out like with a website. But, I do make a rough plan in my head, based on what I know I keep on hand in the pantry, dishes I know our family likes, and dishes that will best use what’s on sale that week.
Hope that makes sense.
This does bring to mind a few things:
- I have quite a few standard pantry items. When I run out of one thing (or come close to it), I always put it on my grocery shopping list. I know my pantry well, and I ensure it stays stocked.
- When I make my grocery shopping lists, I combine both what I know I need with what is on sale that week, using the weekly ads, if the store has one. With the sale ads, I can see what “occasional buy” type items might be found at a good price that week. For instance, in my shopping trip last night to Sprouts, I had, among other things, arborio rice, chia seeds, and yogurt on the list. When I looked at the sale ads*, I saw that Sprouts also had bulk quinoa at $2.49/lb, Mom’s Best cereal (not g.f., not organic, but all-natural and my older two boys can eat it) at $2/box, and Cascade Fresh 6 oz yogurt cups at 2/$1.00. Those are all things that I can and will use, even if they weren’t initially on my list. Yes, there was yogurt on my list, but I usually only buy plain. Cascade Fresh is one of my favorite brands — all natural, fruit-juice-sweetened, and it was nice for a treat. So, I purchased. (I also purchased one soy-based yogurt at $0.99 for my son who can’t have dairy. It was a brand that uses non-GMO, organic soybeans… I’m not a huge fan of soy, but when he only has one soy yogurt every month or two, I think his body can weather it.)
- I have a mental file of what is a good price for pretty much everything. For example, on my shopping list were dry beans and canned pumpkin. However, this shopping trip, both were expensive – - not on sale. So, I didn’t purchase. I’ll wait until next week or another store to get a good price. Can I wait for a few days or a week or even more to purchase those things? Yes, I can.
- I cook exclusively from scratch and mostly without using recipes. I know not everyone has this skill… My mom taught me how to cook, starting at age seven. I’m 39. That’s 32 years of cooking. I enjoy it, too! So, while I often keep an eye out for a new recipe to try, I would hazard to say that nine out of ten dinnertime meals are made without a recipe. This allows me to be more flexible. I know what I can make, I know what our family likes, and I can make those items, sans a recipe. I don’t have to pull out a recipe card, look at the 15 items, realize that I don’t have 13 of them, and then put all 13 things on my shopping list. In other words, what’s on sale dictates the menu, not the other way around.
- If I have a hankerin’ for something or someone makes a special request — like homemade pizza or homemade Caesar salad — I’ll put mozzarella cheese, (nitrate-free!) pepperoni, and tinned anchovies on the list, and I’ll purchase them if I can find them at a good price, and make that special item. Often, though, I will “plan” to make a special dish for two, three, or even four weeks before I find all the items needed to make that special dish at the right price. If those items cost too much that week — or if they don’t otherwise fit within the budget — I will add the “special purchase” item back to the grocery list for next week.
- My flexible approach makes participating in a CSA, farm share, or other “random” produce plan work well: It really doesn’t matter what kinds of produce I get that week. Whatever comes in the basket, I can find multiple ways to make it work.
So, I guess that’s what it boils down to: I prefer flexibility and saving the maximum amount of money OVER having all my ducks carefully lined up in a row and me knowing a week (or a month!) in advance what I will be making on any given day. But, like I wrote to my friend above, that doesn’t mean I don’t plan at all; I just don’t plan in what might be considered a traditional, menu-planning way.
So, how about you? What tools do you use? Any? Are you looking to change your meal-planning habits any time in the future? If so, why? If not, why? Inquiring minds want to know….
*As a bonus, Sprouts has double-ad Wednesdays. Each sale ad starts on Wednesday and ends Thursday, eight days later. So each Wednesday, two weeks’ worth of ads are valid. So, when there is a screamin’ deal — like navel oranges at 4 lbs/$1.00, I know I can buy 10+ this Wednesday, and 10+ lbs next Wednesday, too. I virtually always shop at Sprouts on Wednesdays to take advantage of double ads.
After a flurry of almost daily blog posts, this last week, I’ve ground nearly to a halt.
…has been consumed by the CSA — the farm share I’m coordinating for Crooked Sky Farms. It is wonderful, and I’m glad I’m participating. I’m certainly not regretting agreeing to be the coordinator — largely because I got two HUGE crates of produce out of it. Literally: Nine heads of Romanesco; four bags of baby lettuces; four huge (probably 2 lb each) bunches of carrots; two bunches of Swiss chard; about four lbs of red potatoes; 13 tangelos; three bunches of baby Hakurei turnips; and four bunches of “grilling” onions (onions with small white bulbs and very large but tender green tops). Part of this was my share, and part of it was — I think — people just not taking all eight of the bunches of produce allotted to them… Or something. I think the farm threw in some extra produce, just in case. And all those leftovers were even with me finding buyers for the produce that should have gone to two people who didn’t show! Anyway, that’s a good probably 40 lbs of fresh, organic, local produce, all for me — for my family. Ah-MAY-zing. Some of it we’ve eaten, some is in the fridge, and some is now in the freezer. However, it has been a lot of work, especially when one person canceled beforehand, and then the aforementioned two people didn’t show… I was supposed to have a minimum of 20 paying customers in order for the farm to deliver to me. I ended up with 16. Ack! But my contact at the farm has been very gracious and they haven’t dropped us or anything. But I am being encouraged to try to drum up more business. I’M TRYING!! I really am. Since Wednesday, I actually found two more full-time members (one is an airman from Luke AFB who calls me “ma’am”), and then another guy who wants to sign up for only the 2nd half, and two or three more week-to-week people, and at least a couple more potential CSA members… Plus the eggs. So many people wanted eggs, and I’ve found two people within a mile and a half who have eggs that I’m selling. Again, that’s GOOD, but it’s more work. More bookkeeping. More keeping track of this and that…
- And the seed giveaway. That took a lot of time, just regulating!! Especially on the second day, I had a lot of comments… I was trying to respond to everyone who asked questions, send e-mails to folks who hadn’t followed the instructions… Um, I gave that up after a while. But, the seed giveaway was fun!!
- My heart has been worrying me. I have Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, where there is an extra nerve connecting the left (I think) atrium and ventricle, which produces a wonky feedback loop. It is benign — though I just can’t help but thinking it CAN’T be good, long-term, for one’s heart to beat wrong — and normally, I have 5-10 episodes (weird/hard/thumpy heart beat, heart stops for a few seconds, or it races for 10 seconds or so, etc.) while my heart resets itself. But, while I’m pregnant, it happens… I don’t know… 30? 50? times a day, sometimes for multiple minutes on end, especially when I’m just sitting down (after standing) or just lying down. At my midwife’s insistence, I saw my cardiologist (whom I really love — he’s my favorite doctor for anything, ever), and I wore a 24 hour Holter monitor a few weeks ago. I finally got the results this week. And they essentially said, “Why, yes, you are having quite a few PACs, but it’s OK. See you again in April.” And that made me feel a lot better.
- My pregnancy is going well. I am now 21 weeks along. All-day “morning” sickness finally ended about three weeks ago, to my great relief. I’ve gained 20 lbs already, which is not good… That’s more than I gained with my whole pregnancy with Fiala. In what is a recurring theme in any weight gain I typically incur, I do eat good food — not junk; I just eat too much of it. Even if my midwife doesn’t suggest it, I think I’m going to do a counted-reduced-carb diet — herder-gatherer Paleo — which is almost how I eat anyway… just that from weeks 28 – 40 (or whenever), I’ll be extremely careful. After about week 28, nothing new develops in the baby; she will simply put on weight and whatever is already there matures. So, it’s less critical that a mother gain weight. In case it sounds worrisome that I’m planning on “dieting” while pregnant, I did this with my last pregnancy (Fiala): I gained a total of 17 lbs and she STILL came out at 8 lbs 13 oz. I would have felt badly if she was scrawny… But she wasn’t. And I became a bigger believer than ever in eating high-protein and low-carb in the last trimester. With my first two pregnancies, I gained nearly 50 lbs, so I know that, left unchecked, that’s probably where I’d end up. I just feel better and recover faster when I’m not toting an extra 20-30 lbs, postpartum.