Moving again

Hey Friends,

I’m moving back here to goodcleanfood.wordpress.com because life is simpler here and right now, I need simpler. If you need a recipe, it should still be searchable and you can always find me on my facebook page. I’ll still be an absent blogger, but my posts will stay put!

Happy summer. We’re off for a long vacation if my kids can get healthy fast enough!

-Amanda

Two VERY handy sites, and making Coconut Butter

The internet is LOADED with too much information, so much that I have a hard time sifting. Let me sift a little for you. And hopefully, you’re not completely sick of white stuff in jars since I keep posting them. But don’t worry, real food is coming. I’m just setting the stage for future greatness, giving you the tools if you will, to make wonderful things soon.

So first, have you ever found yourself cleaning out your cupboard or pantry and realized you had three cans of veggie broth, or that jar of roasted red peppers you knew was back there had been tucked away for longer than you’d thought – like two years? Did you know that the best by date isn’t always the definitive date? Yes, you probably do, but I still have friends for whom this is new information and so, I share.

Still Tasty

StillTasty.com not only tells you how much longer your canned goods are good for (sometimes two or three years!), but your fruits and vegetables, and well, everything other edible in your kitchen. There is so much information on this site, you could spend days and still probably learn something new, or at least novel. I will confess, there are many items lacking, BUT the catalog is continually increasing.

So, if after checking StillTasty you find you probably shouldn’t use that tempeh that ended up in the back corner of your fridge for six months, there is yet another site I frequent. It is where I go when I realize I am missing what I THINK is a vital ingredient.

The Cook's Thesaurus

Unfortunately, the URL is www.foodsubs.com rather than its name, but I love the URL since it’s easier to remember when I’m looking for a substitute ingredient. It’s not as easy to navigate as I would like, but the search bar is pretty helpful. One of the best parts is that some recommended substitutes have how-to directions!

I wanted to make Shira’s brownies at InPursuitofMore, but I did not have nor had I ever made coconut butter. So I foodsubbed it. This is what I found:

coconut butter  To make your own:  Toast grated coconut over low heat in a frying pan until lightly browned, then whirl it (while still hot) in a blender until it has the consistency of a smooth paste.

There were no pictures, but hey, those are pretty straight-forward directions and I’m not as dumb as I might look sometimes. So, I tossed some shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut and did just that. Heated it and popped it in the Vitamix and started it running. I was surprised by how it transformed from a pile of dried coconut into a creamy, SUPER-HOT, fatty quasi-liquid. It almost had the consistency of what happens when you mix cornstarch and water – a liquid-solid. It was also very much like butter (though very coconutty) and not anything I imagined should have worked.  As it cooled, it hardened much like coconut oil and works like butter in recipes. Cool, huh?

I have since repeated the procedure with more precise measurements to be more helpful. I know I would have appreciated a bit more info when I first tried it. I don’t think a regular blender could handle this, and I recommend a VitaMix because I found the tamper VERY useful. A BlendTec definitely has the power, it just requires more stopping and starting as you stir the contents.

Here are the details in a better form.

Homemade Coconut Butter
Adapted from Cook’s Thesaurus
Yield: 2 cups

4 c. shredded, unsweetened, dried coconut

Over medium heat in a large non-stick skillet, allow coconut to LIGHTLY toast, stirring or flipping frequently to keep from burning. (The goal is primarily to get it hot, but a bit of nuttiness from the toasting improves the flavor.) Quickly add the coconut to power blender, and turn it on and up. Using the tamper if you have one, push the coconut into the blades, adjusting blender speed in order to keep the coconut moving. You may need to stop and start, especially if you don’t have a tamper; pulsing it and shaking the jar will be helpful! This will take a few minutes and the contents will get HOT, as they reach maximum smoothness. The coconut will start moving itself as it begins to liquefy, at which point you’re close. Stop occasionally and check consistency – it should be quite smooth.

When it’s done, it’s done! Pour into a clean container and allow to cool at room temperature. If you’re really ambitious, pour into a muffin tin to get ½ cup portions because it’s pretty tough to break up after it cools.

 

Blossoms and Honey

apricot blossom 2

At our community garden, there are beautiful fruit trees that are loved and treated well and never sprayed. Nothing in our garden is.

apricot blossom 3

And there are bees that visit these beautiful fruit trees.

apricot blossom bee 3

And in August, when one of our local Farmers’ Markets FINALLY opens, you can buy their beautiful honey.

apricot blossom bee 5

The First Spring Honey is pale and lovely and minty and one of the most intensely wonderful things I’ve ever tasted.

apricot blossom 1

Now I know, I KNOW, many of you are strict vegans, and I COMPLETELY respect that, but I have a thing for these little guys and their products.

apricot blossom bee 1

There is something about participating in a very small, small circle of life that feeds us both.

apricot blossom bee 4

This year, in his own small patch of garden, my son is planting flowers.

the big kid

Not so much because he likes honey, but because to him, it is the right thing.

apricot blossom bee 2

FBAH: Slow-Cooker Lentil Soup aka my kids’ FAVORITE meal

lentilsoup3

What a way to launch the new website, eh? I’ve had a rough few weeks realizing that I must be very, very old in technical years (is that like dog years?) since I have no clue what I’m doing. Or maybe I’m technically young? All I know is life has been consumed by the fabrication of this not so fancy website. I don’t know how other people manage, but assume they hire someone much savvier in web skills.

KaleBut today is a big day. I am participating in Food Bloggers Against Hunger, a collaborative effort of more than 200 food bloggers attempting to bring awareness to the realities, and perhaps failings, of the American Food System. My head is full of things I want to say, but nothing is quite right, and so I leave you with this.

I believe not just with my intellect, but also my heart, that the Standard American Diet lies at the core of many of our greatest societal problems. The What AND the How. Do we eat as families or standing by the fridge or in our car? Do we have to play the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game to get our food to its whole and original state? Are the toxins in our food making us sick – not just the ones we put on, but the ones inherent – sugars, processed fats, animal proteins in excess? Do our children even know where food, REAL FOOD, comes from? Do bugs and dirt make them squeamish, do bees terrify them?

lentilsoup1When my kids publicly eat salad, fresh vegetables, or green smoothies with glee, I am frequently told I’m a lucky mom.

I am not a lucky mom. I work my TAIL off teaching my children.

I have spent countless hours growing, buying, and preparing wholesome food. Our most effective classrooms are our garden and our kitchen table. Smoothies are best when green. Farmers’ markets and produce co-ops are a way of life. I have taught them over and over again the most important truth about food, that our bodies are special and a MAGNIFICENT gift, and treating them poorly is wrong.

If everyone believed they were special enough to take care of, we would demand good food. Especially for our children. Everyone would, and it would make a difference.

my kids

My kids are special. So, so very special. My almost 6YO son’s favorite food is a raw red pepper. My daughter who turns three next week sneaks seaweed to the table. My baby knows the blender means food and eats everything I put on his tray, including the first food he happily ate … Lentil Soup. It is easy, totally affordable, homey, makes a TON, and I want to share it with you.

More information about Food Bloggers Against Hunger is below.

 

humble, brown lentil

Easy Slow Cooker Lentil Soup

Yield 4 quarts (or more)

Ingredients:
1-2 T. olive oil (option)
2 Onions, chopped
5 Carrots, sliced
4 stalks Celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
1-2 bay leaves
1-2 t. dried thyme leaves, or 3-4 sprigs fresh
2 c. brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 quarts broth equivalent:
2-3 T. vegan stock powder
1-2 T. vegetable base (I like Better than Bouillon’s)
1-2 cubes Rapunzel vegetable bouillon
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped (substitute: spinach)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Sauté onions, carrots and celery until soft, but not browned, over medium heat using oil or water-sauté method. Add garlic and cook quickly for 30 seconds. Dump the vegetables in your slow cooker, adding your bay leaves, dried thyme, lentils, and broth. Cook on high for 3 hours. Add tomatoes and salt, add more water if needed, and continue cooking for another hour or two until lentils are soft. Twenty minutes before serving, add kale and cook until just barely tender. Adjust salt and pepper, and serve.

Serve with homemade bread and salad.

*Cooking variations:

  • Without sautéing, add everything but the kale and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Add the kale just at the end.
  • After sautéing the vegetables, add everything but the kale to the slow cooker and cook for 8-10 hours.
  • Stovetop: follow directions, but allow soup to simmer on the stove for 30-40 minutes instead of in your slow cooker, adding the kale at the last five minutes.

Use this link to send a letter to congress asking them to support anti-hunger legislation.

And watch “A Place at the Table” to learn more. Trailer here.

 

The Pantry Project – a small space DIY pantry for $270

Until last Saturday, I had food in the following places in my house:

Under my bed
Under my children’s beds
Behind books on the shelves
IN THE BASEMENT (the bulk of it)
In the coat closet
On some scary shelves in the most stupidly designed hallway (The DMZ – we demilitarized it for our children’s safety)

I told you I got inspiration from IKEAHackers.com. One night while holding my sleeping baby and looking at the most horrifying example of organization I received inspiration. Call it divine, call it genius, call it “about time”. But after six years of living here, I finally came up with a way to get my food and my kitchen together (don’t judge me by the contents).

PantrypantryPantry

But no more. For $270 and a half of a weekend’s work, I have a beautiful pantry that takes up no more space than my junk did.

A long-ish trip to IKEA one Saturday after measuring and researching products and sizes online. The following Friday – cleaning out the scary and stupid hallway between taking care of kids. Friday night – painting that hallway and building shelves. Saturday, installing shelves, adding doors, and moving food. Saturday afternoon – trip to the park and a walk around the neighborhood.

We used the Billy Bookcase because they are cheap, versatile, easy to put together, and they were a perfect fit. They also have the great benefit of being only 11″ deep. This is deep enough for binders, my food processor, cereal boxes, and almost two #10 cans. Our trash can required some modifying, and I don’t have a place yet for my dirty napkins, but everything else is accounted for.

(When looking at the pictures, remember this is the most horribly designed hallway with terrible lighting, but it totally fills this need.)

BEFORE:

Before Before Before

AFTER:

After After After

What we used and what it cost:

  • A bare and useless wall, painted white to disappear – Free (or the cost of paint)
  • Billy Shelves from IKEA with doors (sold separately)
    • Two 31 ½” x 78” bookcases= $50/each (2) = $100
    • One 15 5/8” x 78” bookcase = $40
    • Five doors = $25/each X 5 = $125
  • Hooks (if desired) = $4.99/4
  • Drywall anchors (we had some on hand, but maybe a couple bucks at the hardware store)
  • Tools we already had: A cordless drill, tape measure

Total Cost: $270 (+ tax)

IMG_4840 (Medium) IMG_4849 (Medium)IMG_4844 (Medium) IMG_4851 (Medium)

How We Did It:

  1. Make a plan. We measured our work area (84 1/2″ x 85″), and decided we needed two of the wide and one of the narrow bookcases, which made almost a perfect square of 78” x 78”.
  2. Get our stuff – yes, we braved IKEA with three children. On a Saturday. Brutal.
  3. We prepped the area. We had to clean it out, remove the baseboards and cold-air intake, and paint the area white.
  4. We built the shelving according to the instructions, but did not put the backer board on. This allowed us to mount it to the wall, creating a built-in pantry system that feels like it belongs, as well as securing it more firmly to the wall for safety’s sake.
  5. Positioned the bookcases where we wanted them (we had a light switch to work with), and then mounted the bookcases to the wall using the included brackets (two come with each shelving unit plus one per door).
    1. Make sure to use drywall anchors if NOT attaching to a stud.
  6. Attached the doors to the bookcases. We had to keep in mind shelf location relative to the hinges, since the shelves are easier to move than hinges. I trusted Matt’s judgment. (Remember, you will need to load heavy stuff on the bottom – these aren’t designed to hold 10 shelves full of cans of beans.)
  7. Adjusted and loaded our shelves. These shelves are super easy to move, but it got tricky when working in a small area, so I recommend you go either top-down or bottom-up, rather than meeting in the middle like I tried to do.
  8. We added some hooks for my kids’ helmets and bag of onions, taking over the less visible end of the pantry.
  9. Smiled at our awesome, affordable, space efficient new pantry full of all of the things we didn’t remember we’d shoved in the back of the basement.

Just a few changes

Things might look a little different around here the next couple of weeks. Bear with me. I’m experimenting. But I’ll totally be pulling out all of the stops in the kitchen, the garden, and every other random thing you’re used to being subjected to.

Pi Day – 3.14

From geek.com

We do school here, as in within the walls of our home. You know, like “HOMESCHOOL”? I don’t know how to spin or weave, so they don’t wear homespun (j/k), but we do call playing soccer in the backyard and going on trips “school”. We also teach our five year old about mobius strips, birds of the world (he can identify more than a few), indulge his desire to read books about the desert, legos, and scriptures, and let him color his leprechauns whatever color he wants…though they’re usually green. But if he WANTED, I wouldn’t care if they were red or yellow, or if he didn’t even color one.

So, today, March 14th, aka 3.14, we celebrate Pi. That obscure number that helps us calculate the circumference and area of circles and other roundish things. I think I’ll be making a strawberry pie to celebrate to teach my child mathematical principles. How will you celebrate learn?