Blossoms and Honey

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

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And there are bees that visit these beautiful fruit trees.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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?

Halloween Oatmeal (with sweet potatoes and apricots)

Jen here.  I know … it’s been a long time since I last posted.  Amanda and her friends tackled their plant-based whole foods journey this year, and I just sat back and watched, and read, and learned.  I haven’t switched over completely, but I have been making slow adjustments in my own diet, and encouraging my family to eat more vegetables.

With that in mind, and to stay in the keeping of the season, and to give you something else to do with the leftover sweet potatoes you bought to make Erika’s chili, I made Oatmeal with Sweet Potato and Apricots this morning. I was inspired by the recipe I found in 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi Nancy O’Hara. This is a book I’ve had for over 10 years, and whenever I read it, I want to be there, eating in that dining room.

2nd helpings, with a little maple and brown sugar.

Oatmeal with Sweet Potato and Apricots from 3 Bowls (2-4 servings)

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated (about 3 cups)
4 dried apricots, chopped (tiny, because they expand and might weird your kids out)
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
“Bring 5-1/2 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the oats, sweet potato, apricots, and salt and return to a boil.  Reduce the heat to very low, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the oats are tender and the sweet potato is cooked, about 20 minutes. Stir in the vanilla.”

That’s the basic recipe.  I stirred in a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, and lightly sweetened with maple syrup and brown sugar.  Another time, I’ll use blackstrap molasses. There’s a variation in the book to make it either plain (use only 5 cups of water and omit the sweet potato and dried apricots, vanilla optional), or cinnamon apple (applesauce or fresh apples, peeled and grated, added after 15 minutes of cooking, along with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of vanilla).

This was mostly a success this morning, except my apricots weren’t chopped fine enough, and my 10-year old daughter didn’t like the chunks (they expand; I thought they were pretty tiny when I put them in).  She was fine with the sweet potatoes, so I’ll try again.

In my experiments to encourage my kids (10 and 6) to eat more plants, I have discovered that they’ll eat spinach leaves wrapped around mandarin orange segments, they’re more than willing to eat broccoli, and they love salad bar night. Looking for more ideas and suggestions to work with my picky kids … but I think time and exposure are the big secret.  Just keep offering, and they’ll join in sooner or later.

This week’s event – Host your own FOOD REVOLUTION DAY party!

It’s about education, on so many levels!

 

How I miss these things, I don’t know. I feel like I should magically have my finger on the pulse of “good eating”, but clearly I am not connected to the world of food. So …. NEWS FLASH!!! Saturday is Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day. What is it, you ask? Thanks for asking! I’ll let Jamie answer that:

Food Revolution Day on 19 May is a chance for people who love food to come together to share information, talents and resources; to pass on their knowledge and highlight the world’s food issues. All around the globe, people will work together to make a difference. Food Revolution Day is about connecting with your community through events at schools, restaurants, local businesses, dinner parties and farmers’ markets. We want to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone.

These are the kinds of things we love! I didn’t see any events on the Wasatch Front or Back, but you can always host your own dinner party, even if it’s just for your family.

We’ll be hosting our own here, feeding ourselves who knows what, but it will be lovely. Anyone up for an impromptu non-virtual potluck? There’s tons of information accessible from the website, my favorite being a Pinterest page all about the Food Revolution – and no, I’m not even on Pinterest (it scares me still).

Week 6: Chronicles from Feb 12, 2012

It’s hard to believe we’re 6 weeks into this adventure. It still seems brand new but at the same time it feels like we’ve got this all figured out. In many ways, this is the new normal for us, and my son has said things like this:

“Are you going to finish your sandwich?” “No, mom, I just want to eat fruits and vegetables.” WHAT!!! Who is this child.
And the night we had polenta – see below, he cleaned his plate. Completely. Even picked out the kale specially. Weird. I guess that means we’re making improvement. We have found this is definitely not cheaper, not when we’re going through 4 pounds of fresh strawberries (none in smoothies or juices, just eaten plain) in less than 48 hours. It definitely helps to make a lot of our own food, but I’m finding myself less enthusiastic and motivated, and more uncomfortable and heavy with this baby.

Sunday: It’s official. I think Sunday night is now leftovers night. Thank goodness Saturday usually produces pretty good meals or we’d be in trouble.
Monday: Crock-pot Split pea soup and Bread
Tuesday (Valentine’s Day AND our Anniversary): Kale, Mushroom and Tomato Saute with Polenta from Whole Foods
This is the surprising dish my son finished off and I was definitely surprised. I made my own polenta, but would have liked a bit more moisture both from the polenta and the saute. I think it would have been much yummier if it had a creamy element
Wednesday: Chickpea Burgers with Tahini Sauce from 30-day Vegan Challenge. My vote – yuck. They lacked flavor, texture, holding power, and I just didn’t like them. My kids and husband ate them, but I just couldn’t enjoy them. I’m sure not everyone would agree.
Steamed asparagus with vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, and hot sauce dip
Thursday: Salsa & guacamole with chips – yep, typical Thursday – so sad!
Friday: The Blue Plate Diner – love it!
But careful, the vultures (husband and children) will try to eat your food if you get something tasty.
Saturday: Dinner at a church function, i.e. white rolls and iceberg salad were the closest we could get to safe. One major drawback – no leftovers for Sunday’s dinner – yikes!

Hummus for Schoolwork

A new post!  Jen here.  I know it’s been way too long.  I have cooked some.  My kids haven’t starved.  But we’ve been  having a grand adventure homeschooling, and I’m not blogging much right now, but I am learning about physics, the American Revolution and Ancient Egypt.  In fact, it’s our Egyptian studies that got us in the kitchen for schoolwork today.

We’re reading through a fun book this year, The Egyptology Handbook: A Course in the Wonders of Egypt, one chapter a week, and this week’s chapter, “Eat Like an Egyptian” (Lesson 11) includes a recipe for making hummus.  My 7 and 51/52 year-old daughter and I did this together, but I didn’t think about photos until the end, so I apologize that you can watch us pick the lemons from the tree in the backyard (a friend just gave us this tree, since our own lemon tree has had a pitiful existence, and looks more like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree with thorns than anything else), or smash the chickpeas, or squeeze the lemons and garlic, but you can see the end result.

Lesson 11, Hummus

We used one 15-ounce can of chickpeas, drained, the juice of two Meyer lemons (when you’ve got 2 kids, sometimes you have to squeeze one lemon apiece), used our garlic press for the garlic cloves, smashed the chickpeas with our potato masher, and blended everything with a rubber spatula.  I can’t tell you how much sesame oil we used, but it probably was around 2 tablespoons . . . we poured straight from the bottle and stirred.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget to add the salt, even though the instructions fail to say when to add it (although we liked it both before and after adding salt).  We did it together because my 8-on-Monday-year-old daughter doesn’t have enough upper body strength to smash and squeeze and use the can opener without help.  But she loved it – declared it the best she ever had.  (And I think we’ll be working on upper body strength for our P.E. classes.)

Still around . . . and feeding my kids

Jen here.  Seems like we all needed a bit of a hiatus.  Life happens.  Gardens and family take over.  Meals simplify way down (quesadillas and burritos are happening a lot around here).   Over Memorial day weekend, I processed over 30 pounds of cherries (thanks Dad and Melanie) – I’ve never done cherries before, except as a reluctant helper when I was much younger.  Thank goodness for the extra day off . . . I lost very few by the time I was done.

Smells so good - Danish Cherry Sauce

Smells so good - Danish Cherry Sauce

More than that, though, I wanted to share in the joy of my kids eating well!

Have I told you about . . . ? (Recipe Roundup)

Jen here!  I just realized I have pictures for lots of food I’ve prepared and haven’t shared.  I’m not going to share recipes right now, but I’ll tell you about some of what I’ve done, and where it’s come from.

My daughter has a couple of great kids cookbooks by Molly Katzen (Salad People and Pretend Soup) and every once in a while we pick a recipe and cook it.  These are absolutely wonderful.  I love reading through them with my daughter – we’ve used them as bedtime stories.  The recipes were all tried and tested in a preschool, so they work well, even with small kids.  This week’s recipe was Sweet Potato Surprise with sweet potatoes and cinnamon apples mashed together.  Very good side dish – and easy to make.

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Salad People by Molly Katzen

Mashing the sweet potatoes and apples together

Mashing the sweet potatoes and apples together

Surprised she likes it!

Surprised she likes it!

Up next we have Curried Lentils and Rice from Safely Gathered In (a great food storage how-to blog).  Everybody (kids included) really enjoyed this as a side dish to our oven pancake (you know, that food that has a billion names depending on where you grew up and where your ancestors were from, that pancake that puffs up really tall when you bake it in the oven).

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For my next trick, I’ve been working on making a sandwich bread big enough for sandwiches.  I have a favorite white bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.  It’s called Walter Sands’ Basic White Bread and it makes two 8″ x 4″ loaves.  I’ve used this successfully as a white bread, and a mixed grain bread (I substitute one cup of whole grain flour).  Recently, I wanted a larger, more sandwich friendly, 9″ x 5″ loaf, so I increased the recipe by half and had 2 wonderful loaves of bread.  It helped that it ended up rising in the pan for longer than usual.  I also made some this week using the whey left over from making lemon cheese (see below) as the liquid in my bread.

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Are you still with me?  I’ve got a lot I’ve done over the last month that I want to share.  The next picture is midprocess on our Sloppy Joes (from scratch).  This comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, 1,000 Lowfat Recipes by Terri Blonder Golson.  We feed missionaries from our Church, young men or women serving away from home for 18-months to 2 years.  We have them over for dinner about once a month, and I fix Sloppy Joes for them about every other month.  Almost always, I send a copy of the recipe home with one of them.  Think bell peppers, onions, and celery sautéed together with ground turkey, tomato sauce and spices (Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, mustard powder and a touch of cayenne pepper).  It’s easy.  It’s wonderful.  I’m sorry I don’t have better photos of the finished product.

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Okay – we’re nearing the end – we’re coming into my citrus phase.  It hurts, there are so many citrus trees in season here in the Bay Area that aren’t being harvested.  We did harvest from my dad’s house and came home with bags of two types of navel oranges (big and small) and Meyer lemons.  The next week we came home with another huge bag of regular (Eureka?) lemons and Meyer lemons from my husband’s grandmother’s house.  I think I’ve ended up with over 100 fruit.  I’ve tried a few things, including Microwave Lemon Curd using two lemons and one orange.  This recipe came from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving – a worthy book to add to your canning cookbook collection, just make sure you’ve the definitive guide from Ball for your most comprehensive resource and reference guide.

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Next in my citrus phase is Lemon Cheese from Home Cheese Making, a gift from dear Amanda.  This was so easy, and didn’t require anything more complicated than lemon juice, milk and way to drain the whey (the whey that I put in my bread this week).  I ran out of cream cheese for my bagels, and it worked beautifully (with the lemon curd, too).

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Finally, I made Honey (Spiced) Orange Slices from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  This smelled like Christmas in my home when it was cooking.  I immediately put some of the leftover syrup on my oven pancake.  Oh, so heavenly.  I’m still trying to figure out what we’ll eat this with besides pancakes and waffles (I have an excellent recipe for these from the King Arthur book).  It’s recommended to put the orange slices in a salad with a raspberry vinaigrette.  I doubled the recipe, used 11 oranges, and ended up with 11 half-pints of orange slices, and another one of just the syrup.  I also saved the water I boiled the orange slices in at the beginning, added a bit of honey and sugar, and steeped it with the spice bag for a few minutes.  It’s bitter, but it reminded me of orange tea.  If you like tonic water, this may be your “cup of tea” so to speak.

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Hungry?  I am.  I think I’m off to have bread, cheese and lemon curd or strawberry jam.  Enjoy!

PS – I just read somewhere that if I mentioned condron.us in my blogpost somewhere that they will include us in their blog-surfing engine.  I wonder what that really means?

Survey says . . .

Jen here.  Two out of two kids in my house prefer brown rice to Spaghettios.  They’ve asked for seconds on the rice.  They could take or leave the Spaghettios.  Try healthy with your kids.  They’ll surprise you!

Choosing the better part.

Choosing the better part.