Posts Tagged ‘cooking’

Dear abandoned blog, we are back at it again: 72 ideas in 72 days

September 2, 2015

So, a few years ago I attempted the 72 ideas in 72 days challenge.  I am going to try it again (call it a ‘cleansing diet’ for those who like Oreos.  There maybe some days I skip, I might do them out of order, and well, I’ll probably fall off the wagon around day 30 (honesty).  Here is the list that I am attempting to follow  (with a nod to whatever list it came from).

th that, focus on the next thing.

  1. Make a list of your top 4-5 important things. What’s most important to you? What do you value most? What 4-5 things do you most want to do in your life? Simplifying starts with these priorities, as you are trying to make room in your life so you have more time for these things.
  2. Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life. Everything, from work to home to civic to kids’ activities to hobbies to side businesses to other projects. Think about which of these really gives you value, which ones you love doing. Which of these are in line with the 4-5 most important things you listed above? Drop those that aren’t in line with those things. Article here.
  3. Evaluate your time. How do you spend your day? What things do you do, from the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep? Make a list, and evaluate whether they’re in line with your priorities. If not, eliminate the things that aren’t, and focus on what’s important. Redesign your day.
  4. Simplify work tasks. Our work day is made up of an endless list of work tasks. If you simply try to knock off all the tasks on your to-do list, you’ll never get everything done, and worse yet, you’ll never get the important stuff done. Focus on the essential tasks and eliminate the rest. Read more.
  5. Simplify home tasks. In that vein, think about all the stuff you do at home. Sometimes our home task list is just as long as our work list. And we’ll never get that done either. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks (automate, eliminate, delegate, or hire help).
  6. Learn to say no. This is actually one of the key habits for those trying to simplify their lives. If you can’t say no, you will take on too much. Article here.
  7. Limit your communications. Our lives these days are filled with a vast flow of communications: email, IM, cell phones, paper mail, Skype, Twitter, forums, and more. It can take up your whole day if you let it. Instead, put a limit on your communications: only do email at certain times of the day, for a certain number of minutes (I recommend twice a day, but do what works for you). Only do IM once a day, for a limited amount of time. Limit phone calls to certain times too. Same with any other communications. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  8. Limit your media consumption. This tip won’t be for everyone, so if media consumption is important to you, please skip it (as with any of the other tips). However, I believe that the media in our lives — TV, radio, Internet, magazines, etc. — can come to dominate our lives. Don’t let it. Simplify your life and your information consumption by limiting it. Try a media fast.
  9. Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels seriously terrific. Get boxes and trash bags for the stuff you want to donate or toss. Here’s my guide on decluttering. Here’s a post on starting small. More on purging below.
  10. Get rid of the big items. There’s tons of little clutter in our lives, but if you start with the big items, you’ll simplify your life quickly and in a big way. Read more.
  11. Edit your rooms. One room at a time, go around the room and eliminate the unnecessary. Act as a newspaper editor, trying to leave only the minimum, and deleting everything else. Article here.
  12. Edit closets and drawers. Once you’ve gone through the main parts of your rooms, tackle the closets and drawers, one drawer or shelf at a time. More here.
  13. Simplify your wardrobe. Is your closet bursting full? Are your drawers so stuffed they can’t close (I’m talking about dresser drawers here, not underwear). Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear. Try creating a minimal wardrobe by focusing on simple styles and a few solid colors that all match each other. Read more.
  14. Simplify your computing life. If you have trouble with too many files and too much disorganization, consider online computing. It can simplify things greatly. Read more.
  15. Declutter your digital packrattery. If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you. Read this guide to curing yourself of this clutter.
  16. Create a simplicity statement. What do you want your simple life to look like? Write it out. More here.
  17. Limit your buying habits. If you are a slave to materialism and consumerism, there are ways to escape it. I was there, and although I haven’t escaped these things entirely, I feel much freer of it all. If you can escape materialism, you can get into the habit of buying less. And that will mean less stuff, less spending, less freneticism. Read more.
  18. Free up time. Find ways to free up time for the important stuff. That means eliminating the stuff you don’t like, cutting back on time wasters, and making room for what you want to do.
  19. Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love. Go back to your list of 4-5 important things. Do those, and nothing else. Read more.
  20. Spend time with people you love. Again, the list of 4-5 important things probably contains some of the people you love (if not, you may want to re-evaluate). Whether those people are a spouse, a partner, children, parents, other family, best friends, or whoever, find time to do things with them, talk to them, be intimate with them (not necessarily in sexual ways).
  21. Spend time alone. See this list of ways to free up time for yourself — to spend in solitude. Alone time is good for you, although some people aren’t comfortable with it. It could take practice getting used to the quiet, and making room for your inner voice. It sounds new-agey, I know, but it’s extremely calming. And this quiet is necessary for finding out what’s important to you.
  22. Eat slowly. If you cram your food down your throat, you are not only missing out on the great taste of the food, you are not eating healthy. Slow down to lose weight, improve digestion, and enjoy life more. Read more.
  23. Drive slowly. Most people rush through traffic, honking and getting angry and frustrated and stressed out. And endangering themselves and others in the meantime. Driving slower is not only safer, but it is better on your fuel bill, and can be incredibly peaceful. Give it a try. Read more.
  24. Be present. These two words can make a huge difference in simplifying your life. Living here and now, in the moment, keeps you aware of life, of what is going on around you and within you. It does wonders for your sanity. Read tips on how to do it.
  25. Streamline your life. Many times we live with unplanned, complex systems in our lives because we haven’t given them much thought. Instead, focus on one system at a time (your laundry system, your errands system, your paperwork system, your email system, etc.) and try to make it simplified, efficient, and written. Then stick to it. Here’s more. Another good article here.
  26. Create a simple mail & paperwork system. If you don’t have a system, this stuff will pile up. But a simple system will keep everything in order. Here’s how.
  27. Create a simple system for house work. Another example of a simple system is clean-as-you-go with a burst. Read more.
  28. Clear your desk. If you have a cluttered desk, it can be distracting and disorganized and stressful. A clear desk, however, is only a couple of simple habits away. Read more.
  29. Establish routines. The key to keeping your life simple is to create simple routines. A great article on that here.
  30. Keep your email inbox empty. Is your email inbox overflowing with new and read messages? Do the messages just keep piling up? If so, you’re normal — but you could be more efficient and your email life could be simplified with a few simple steps. Read more.
  31. Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less, wanting less, and leaving less of a footprint on the earth. It’s directly related to simplicity. Here are 50 tips on how to live frugally.
  32. Make your house minimalist. A minimalist house has what is necessary, and not much else. It’s also extremely peaceful (not to mention easy to clean). More here.
  33. Find other ways to be minimalist. There are tons. You can find ways to be minimalist in every area of your life. Here are a few I do, to spur your own ideas.
  34. Consider a smaller home. If you rid your home of stuff, you might find you don’t need so much space. I’m not saying you should live on a boat (although I know some people who happily do so), but if you can be comfortable in a smaller home, it will not only be less expensive, but easier to maintain, and greatly simplify your life. Read about downsizing your home here.
  35. Consider a smaller car. This is a big move, but if you have a large car or SUV, you may not really need something that big. It’s more expensive, uses more gas, harder to maintain, harder to park. Simplify your life with less car. You don’t need to go tiny, especially if you have a family, but try to find as small a car as can fit you or your family comfortably. Maybe not something you’re going to do today, but something to think about over the long term.
  36. Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight. Sure, you can get the latest gadget, and more clothes and shoes. More stuff. But when will you have enough? Most people don’t know, and thus they keep buying more. It’s a neverending cycle. Get off the cycle by figuring out how much is enough. And then stop when you get there.
  37. Create a simple weekly dinner menu. If figuring out what’s for dinner is a nightly stressor for you or your family, consider creating a weekly menu. Decide on a week’s worth of simple dinners, set a specific dinner for each night of the week, go grocery shopping for the ingredients. Now you know what’s for dinner each night, and you have all the ingredients necessary. No need for difficult recipes — find ones that can be done in 10-15 minutes (or less).
  38. Eat healthy. It might not be obvious how eating healthy relates to simplicity, but think about the opposite: if you eat fatty, greasy, salty, sugary, fried foods all the time, you are sure to have higher medical needs over the long term. We could be talking years from now, but imagine frequent doctor visits, hospitalization, going to the pharmacist, getting therapy, having surgery, taking insulin shots … you get the idea. Being unhealthy is complicated. Eating healthy simplifies all of that greatly, over the long term. Read about how to simplify your eating habits.
  39. Exercise. This goes along the same lines as eating healthy, as it simplifies your life in the long run, but it goes even further: exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great. Here’s how to create the exercise habit.
  40. Declutter before organizing. Many people make the mistake of taking a cluttered desk or filing cabinet or closet or drawer, and trying to organize it. Unfortunately, that’s not only hard to do, it keeps things complicated. Simplify the process by getting rid of as much of the junk as possible, and then organizing. If you declutter enough, you won’t need to organize at all.
  41. Have a place for everything. Age-old advice, but it’s the best advice on keeping things organized. After you declutter. Read more here.
  42. Find inner simplicity. I’m not much of a spiritual person, but I have found that spending a little time with my inner self creates a peaceful simplicity rather than a chaotic confusion. This could be time praying or communing with God, or time spent meditating or journaling or getting to know yourself, or time spent in nature. However you do it, working on your inner self is worth the time.
  43. Learn to decompress from stress. Every life is filled with stress — no matter how much you simplify your life, you’ll still have stress (except in the case of the ultimate simplifier, death). So after you go through stress, find ways to decompress. Here are some ideas.
  44. Try living without a car. OK, this isn’t something I’ve done, but many others have. It’s something I would do if I didn’t have kids. Walk, bike, or take public transportation. It reduces expenses and gives you time to think. A car is also very complicating, needing not only car payments, but insurance, registration, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, gas and more.
  45. Find a creative outlet for self-expression. Whether that’s writing, poetry, painting, drawing, creating movies, designing websites, dance, skateboarding, whatever. We have a need for self-expression, and finding a way to do that makes your life much more fulfilling. Allow this to replace much of the busy-work you’re eliminating from your life.
  46. Simplify your goals. Instead of having half a dozen goals or more, simplify it to one goal. Not only will this make you less stressed, it will make you more successful. You’ll be able to focus on that One Goal, and give it all of your energy. That gives you much better chances for success.
  47. Single-task. Multi-tasking is more complicated, more stressful, and generally less productive. Instead, do one task at a time.
  48. Simplify your filing system. Stacking a bunch of papers just doesn’t work. But a filing system doesn’t have to be complicated to be useful. Create a simple system.
  49. Develop equanimity. If every little thing that happens to you sends you into anger or stress, your life might never be simple. Learn to detach yourself, and be more at peace. Read more.
  50. Reduce your consumption of advertising. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it works. Find ways to reduce your exposure of advertising, whether that’s in print, online, broadcast, or elsewhere. You’ll want much less.
  51. Live life more deliberately. Do every task slowly, with ease, paying full attention to what you’re doing. For more, see Peaceful Simplicity: How to Live a Life of Contentment.
  52. Make a Most Important Tasks (MITs) list each day. Set just 3 very important things you want to accomplish each day. Don’t start with a long list of things you probably won’t get done by the end of the day. A simple list of 3 things, ones that would make you feel like you accomplished something. See this article for more.
  53. Create morning and evening routines. A great way to simplify your life is to create routines at the start and end of your day. Read more on morning routines and evening routines.
  54. Create a morning writing ritual. If you enjoy writing, like I do, make it a peaceful, productive ritual. Article here.
  55. Learn to do nothing. Doing nothing can be an art form, and it should be a part of every life. Read the Art of Doing Nothing.
  56. Read Walden, by Thoreau. The quintessential text on simplifying. Available on Wikisources for free.
  57. Go for quality, not quantity. Try not to have a ton of stuff in your life … instead, have just a few possessions, but ones that you really love, and that will last for a long time.
  58. Read Simplify Your Life, by Elaine St. James. One of my favorite all-time authors on simplicity. Read my review here.
  59. Fill your day with simple pleasures. Make a list of your favorite simple pleasures, and sprinkle them throughout your day. List here.
  60. Simplify your RSS feeds. If you’ve got dozens of feeds, or more than a hundred (as I once did), you probably have a lot of stress in trying to keep up with them all. Simplify your feed reading. See How to Drop an RSS Feed Like a Bad Habit.
  61. But subscribe to Unclutterer. Probably the best blog on simplifying your stuff and routines (along with Zen Habits, of course!).
  62. Create an easy-to-maintain yard. If you spend too much time on your yard, here are some good tips.
  63. Carry less stuff. Are your pockets bulging. Consider carrying only the essentials. Some thoughts on that here.
  64. Simplify your online life. If you have too much going on online, here are a few ways to simplify it all. Article here.
  65. Strive to automate your income. This isn’t the easiest task, but it can (and has) been done. I’ve been working towards it myself. Article here.
  66. Simplify your budget. Many people skip budgeting (which is very important) because it’s too hard or too complicated. Read more here.
  67. Simplify your financial life. Article from a financial planning expert here.
  68. Learn to pack light. Who wants to lug a bunch of luggage around on a trip? Here’s an article on using just one carry-on.
  69. Use a minimalist productivity system. The minimal Zen To Done is all you need. Everything else is icing.
  70. Leave space around things in your day. Whether they’re appointments, or things you need to do, don’t stack them back-to-back. Leave a little space between things you need to do, so you will have room for contingencies, and you’ll go through your day much more relaxed.
  71. Live closer to work. This might mean getting a job closer to your home, or moving to a home closer to your work. Either will do much to simplify your life.
  72. Always ask: Will this simplify my life? If the answer is no, reconsider.

Food waste? Thoughts for the New Year

January 1, 2014
It's what's for dinner

It’s what’s for dinner

 

I read somewhere along the way that Americans waste approximately 40% the food they bring into their homes (I’m not sure if the statistic is true but it brought home a point).  How much to we ‘over buy’ at the grocery if we have the luxury? One of my lame-ass New Year’s Day traditions is to clean out my refrigerator.  I was shocked to see what I tossed:  odds and ends of cheeses, a few science experiments, long ago expired milk (in defense, I did buy the smallest container available for one item and I just don’t drink the stuff).  I made a quasi-resolution.  I’m going to eat what is in my freezer, pantry, fridge before heading to the farmers market.  Yes, there will be some things that I need to buy but I was stunned what I had versus what I thought I needed to go buy.  Dinner/lunch for the reset of the week is above:  a pork roast done in the crock pot with balsamic vinegar, onions and honey.  Mashed potatoes.  I do need to pick up salad stuff (but trust me when I say that will wait until the snow has past!).  Also cooked for the week ahead? A chard/corn/cheese frittata for breakfast.  And with the exception of the cheese and balsamic vinegar? All locally sourced.

 

I have no idea how long this experiment will last: fresh vegetables are hard to find in New England this time of year.  It will be an interesting, creative experiment.  If anything, it might help me learn what I actually eat versus buy because “it was a great price”.  But right now I’m mourning the mac and cheese I could have made had I only been paying attention!

Ringing in 2014 with a Different Philosophy

January 1, 2014

From the onset 2014 looks to be shaping up as a challenging year.  Some is personal, some is professional some is just the fact that adulthood has more valleys than childhood (hey, let’s face it, even playing with Soviet Russian sharp edged cubes beats trying remember you are allowed to take 10 minutes for yourself).  A college friend of mine over at Mockingbird’s Nest did something in December that I thought was slightly insane: something new each day (including  the couch to 5K plan).  While I think the idea is GREAT, doing it in December is slightly insane.  But she is slightly insane plus her kids are 4-legged so she didn’t have to worry about the damn elf on the shelf drama but had the normal host of holiday insanity.

I’m not throwing down the gauntlet of insane challenges for 2014 (plus after the 5K turned into a half-marathon issue of 2013, I distinctly lack common sense).  My plans for 2014: work less, experiment more from the kitchen to pampering activities, write more, read more, pay down some of the damn student loan debt and walk a few road ‘races’, and figure out what is important and let everything else just go.  But the number one goal? Working less.  I’d be happy with a 45 hours week!  Oh, and Iceland.  I want to go to Iceland this year.

Dear #kale, I’m sorry.

June 22, 2013

I hate admitting when I’m wrong.  And by hate, I mean hate.  Being wrong is something that doesn’t sit well with me.  For a few years, I’ve spent confounded at the ‘love of kale’ that a few friends have touted.  Me? I found the stuff disgusting.  I was flipping through a few food blogs looking for ideas for the impeding CSA season and noticed a key tidbit.  Kale, especially the dino kale, needs to be deveined.  Really? I texted a kale lover who I’ve known for years.  And pretty much got back the response of a-duh otherwise it tastes bitter.  (Yeah, I can tell you ALL about bitter kale).  Armed with this piece of knowledge, I jumped off the cliff kale cliff.

The results? Kale and avocado pesto has made it into my summer cooking schedule.

2c of roughly chopped kale (offending stems and veins removed)

2 avocados

4T minced garlic

2T olive oil

1/4c sliced almonds

 

add kale, olive oil to food processor, blend.  add in avo and almonds.

Serve over pasta (I made my sure pasta was cold before adding in) or shockingly as a spread in a sandwich.

Sigh.  I can’t believe what I’ve been missing.

The (mostly) organic, completely #glutenfree banana nut bread

May 15, 2013

For Christmas, a friend gave me a 5 pound bag of Jules Gluten Free Flour. She swore by it. I’ve had enough total failures in trying to find the “correct” gluten free flour for baking simple things like banana bread that I’ve all but given up. I’ve had that once in a blue moon craving for banana bread and thought, why not. I mean, worse case? I toss it after making it. This is a modified recipe from Simply Recipes.

4 medium slightly overripe bananas

1/3 (5T) melted Cabot unsalted organic butter

3/4 c of raw sugar (it’s a bit ‘less’ refined than the normal white sugar). Making it again, I’d debate about dropping it to between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup

1 medium egg beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c walnuts

The original recipe says your don’t have to use a mixer. For me? Meh. I’ll use a mixer the next time just for the simplicity of not have 3 kitchen tools, a bowl and a measuring cup to clean up.

Mash the bananas, stir in the butter. Add the sugar, egg and vanilla. Blend. Sprinkle in baking soda. Mix in flour.

Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for an hour. Mine turned out moist and a bit browner than normal because of the use of the raw sugar.

This recipe is a keeper for the foodie files.

 

 

#Chopped. It’s what for dinner (adventures in cooking).

May 9, 2013

A few weeks ago, I spent a day helping a friend traitor to the cause pack her kitchen for her move to Austin.  Since I’m one winged, the most I could do was clean out her fridge.  We started talking about all those parts of/left over items that you use a few times and they get shoved to the back.  We both can, shop farmers markets and generally try to minimize our carbon foot print (her husband makes a wicked beer by the way).  Fast forward to a get well soon gift from a college friend who knows of my love of canning and quirky gifts.  The result ? 2 jars of beer jelly (you read that right, beer jelly) from a Brooklyn company called Anarchy In a Jar.  I have to admit, I was a bit perplexed.  I like beer, I like jam/jelly.  But along  the lines of I like chicken and I like peanut butter cups, I’m not seeing how they work together.

The only thing saving me at the moment is the Food Network.  I’m sick of daytime television as I am recovering from this Bankart repair.  On a whim In a moment of insanity, I decided to do my very own Chopped challenge.  Mostly to alleviate the fear of opening the jar of beer jelly.  For the record, beer jelly has a heavy beer taste with a sweet undercurrent along the lines of apple juice (which makes sense since they are the top 2 ingredients). I didn’t know any of this before deciding to use what was in my fridge to make dinner using the beer jelly as the gotcha.

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

Beer jelly, walnuts, spinach, horseradish sauce, pork chops, soy sauce

So there are my mandatory items: all selected before the opening of the jelly (or reading the label).  Knowing that jelly can be a bit sweet, I went with something salty to try to balance it.  I prefer a bit of a kick so went with the horseradish sauce.  The meat is from the absolutely fantastic 8 O’clock Ranch  (really, if you are in their delivery area and don’t buy from them?).  The walnuts and spinach are from Wegman’s.  The horseradish was rescued from my friend. I used the gluten-free soy in my fridge but needed the smaller one for the pic.

I created a marinade of the jelly, 2 tablespoons of horseradish and a tad too much soy (I had to cut it with 2 tablespoons of local honey).  It probably should have been a jar of jelly and 2 tablespoons each of the horseradish and soy.  I had to use the honey to kill a bit of the salt.

I seared the pork on both sides on a very hot grill pan  turning 4 times (these were completely thawed boneless chops).  In what would cause the Chopped judges to take off points for creativity, I opted for a variation of a spinach salad.

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

Local honey, madeira vinegar, hard boiled egg, pancetta, Dijon mustard

With the meat resting, I chopped the egg and added it to the spinach and walnuts.  I cooked the pancetta (points off, it was a bit saltier than I expected).  Then deglazed the pan with the vinegar (around 2T and 1T of Dijon mustard).

Frying pancetta

Frying pancetta

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

Deglazing with mustard and vinegar

I tossed the warm pancetta into the salad to get a bit of a wilt, tossed in the dressing platted  I’m sure I would have been axed (I forgot a starch; you know how those judges are).  But a ton of fun when trying to figure out how to use beer jelly.  And yup.  I contacted Anarchy in a Jar to see where I could get a few more bottles.  I’m really not in the mood to start making beer jelly.  But it is a great base for fun cooking.

May 012

Really glad I was kicked off before the dessert round.  :)

It’s all about the Piecaken

November 25, 2012

Looking for a strange new challenge to go after for a Thanksgiving potluck and a few hours of conference calls to do reasearch, I found an interesting concept: the piecaken.  Apparently, this trend has come out of the missionary community: I’m not sure what to say on that one either theologically or politically so I’ll let each of my 12 readers decide independently.  What I found was a decided lack of directions except for a list of “nots” and the idea to use pre-made cakes.  Look, if I’m going to bake a pie in a cake, the pie is going to be from scratch.

The concept is pretty self-explanatory: bake a pie into a cake; a perfect dessert for Thanksgiving.  After scouring the blogs, I decided that the one aspect made-from-scratch piecaken creators all lamented was a berry pie.  After playing with flavor profiles, I decided to do a coconut pie and chocolate cake.

The coconut pie was a breeze to make: the recipe didn’t say but I poured into an unbaked pie crust.   I made the pie the day before (tip from another blog) and cooled completely.

The next day, I made the cake.  I’ve made exactly one cake from scratch so I went with the tried and true Betty Crocker cake.  The only modification I made was to swap the 1/2c oil for 1/2c of water.  I figured the oil wouldn’t be needed based on the cake recipe and would help to figure out the baking time.  I poured roughly 1/3 of the cake batter into a well greased spring form pan (10”).  And then the tricky part: transferring the pie from the pie plate to the cake.    I removed the outer edges of the crust, flipped the pie onto a cookie sheet and flipped back.

Mine broke a bit but I was able to piece back together.  Pour the remaining cake batter over the pie and cooked until knife clean (70 minutes at 350 degrees).

I let the piecaken rest overnight (I didn’t want the cake to ball up when I frosted it).  I frosted with a simple butter cream frosting.

I hauled a cake weighing more than a newborn to a foodie potluck and viola, a piecaken for the ages.

Now, on to the next culinary adventure!

The Piecaken Adventure. . . Part I

November 11, 2012

I have no clue how many parts will be in this story.  Think of it as some free form epic poem.  I’m on a quest to make a piecaken for a post-thanksgiving potluck.  A few minor details:

1) I don’t bake.  Cook yes, bake no.

2) I have a torn rotator cuff on my non-dominant hand (that is for sympathy).

3) I don’t like pre-made mixes.  I mean, if you are going to make a piecaken, seriously? Mrs. Smith meets Betty Crocker?

4) I’m not wild about apples or spice cakes which hinders flavor profiles.

5) There seems to be a lack of information on how to make a piecaken compared to what not to do and how it is a bad idea to make a piecaken because how it points towards American excess.

Lucky for me, I have to make 2 pies for work this week for a going away party (I figure it’s a good way to test textures).  Right now, I’m searching for good cake receipes.  And really? Why is it the only information I can find on the piecaken how to is from people who use cake mixes?

 

Stewing Over Some Ideas

January 8, 2012

I freely admit, I have an ongoing love affair with my crock pot.  The I only have one huge thing to wash (no dishwasher here!) is a major selling factor.  It’s probably energy efficient (which makes up for my unhealthy love affair with my iPhone but that is a different tangent!).  This weekend I spent some time on the prowl at local thrift/resale/consignment shops trying to come up with some fun ideas for decorating my condo.  I know this will be an ongoing project this year … but it will be fun.  My goal is to only by the couch new (unless I can find a killer one at one of the few consignment places I found) and try to re-do the entire place for under $2,000: mostly using finds from other places and spaces.  Who knows? It will give me something to do . . .

Anyway, back to my unhealthy crock pot obsession: this week for my SOLE challenge I made some beef stew.  I have enough leftover for a few lunches which is EXACTLY what I need!

2 lb beef spare ribs

1 quart canned whole tomatoes

2 lb carrots

1/2 c dry sherry

1 c water

2T herbs de provance

Slow cooked beef stew

Slow cooked beef stew

The bread is from the Mass Local Food and was made from local ingredients as well.  Although we’ve had an insanely mild winter to date, there is still a certain amount of self-satisfaction when I open an ingredient I canned over the summer!

Soup that’s good for the SOLE

January 1, 2012

As usual, I goofed on the deadline for the publishing dates for the Dark Days Challenge (maybe I should use the calendar that I was given for Christmas?).  I was reading the re-caps of the others participating and came upon a fantastic article the at explains (for me anyway) one of the reasons the entire SOLE “trend” is very important.  Barbara at the Crowing Hen posted a wonderful article about the conditions in the meat industry in the US.  For me, it’s that PLUS the insane amount of energy we expend getting items from the farm to the grocery store.

As the writers over at EmptyWheel noted regarding a complex cotton subsidy program:

“In WTO language, Brazil was allowed to suspend its obligations to  U.S. companies under the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property  Rights (TRIPS) agreement. This constituted a major threat to the profits  of U.S. agribusiness giants Monsanto and Pioneer, since Brazil is the  second largest grower of biotech crops in the world. Fifty percent of  Brazil’s corn harvest is engineered to produce the pesticide Bt, and  Monsanto’s YieldGard VT Pro is a popular product among Brazilian corn  farmers. By targeting the profits of major U.S. corporations, the  Brazilian government put the U.S. in a tough spot: either let the  subsidies stand and allow Brazilian farmers to plant Monsanto and  Pioneer seeds without paying royalties, or substantially reform the  cotton program. In essence, Brazil was pitting the interests of Big  Agribusiness against those of Big Cotton, and the U.S. government was  caught in the middle.

The two governments, however, managed to come up with a creative  solution. In a 2009 WTO “framework agreement,” the U.S. created the  Commodity Conservation Corporation (CCC), and Brazil created the  Brazilian Cotton Institute (BCI). Rather than eliminating or  substantially reforming cotton subsidies, the CCC pays the BCI $147  million dollars a year in “technical assistance,” which happens to be  the same amount the WTO authorized for trade retaliation specifically  for cotton payments. In essence, then, the U.S. government pays a  subsidy to Brazilian cotton farmers every year to protect the U.S.  cotton program—and the profits of companies like Monsanto and Pioneer.”

How many sustainable jobs would $147 million dollars create for local economies?  Yes, I live on a dry bones budget: there are 2 things I simply cannot avoid buying from big time producers: cat food and cat litter.  I have a 14-year-old cat: I’m not switching his brands, he’s too old.  Part of my resolution for this years is to buy as much as I can from SOLE providers, then local merchants and local chains last.  Will it do anything to help revive the economy of my community: doubtful.  Is it a teaspoon in bucket? Yes.

Any way, for my blogged about SOLE meal of the week, I made a huge pot of Cuban inspired black bean soup.

2 lb black beans from Baer’s Best Beans (soaked overnight, drained, rinsed)

2 quarts canned whole tomatoes from Old Nourse Farm (summer CSA), with juices

3 medium onions chopped from Shared Harvest

3 medium jalapeno peppers, seeds removed, chopped (from Mass Local Food)

4 cloves garlic also from Shared harvest

2 quarts cold water (you may need to add more while cooking the beans).

For me, it was simple, dump everything into a big stock pot cook until beans are soft.  Blend with an immersion blender.  Add hot sauce/salt as needed.  I garnish with a local cheese.