Tuesday, November 24, 2009

HEB, Bulk and A Pumpking Pie From Scratch

I have set it in my mind that today I will make a pumpkin pie from scratch. I've never made a pumpkin pie from scratch before, but the CSA pumpkin I received last week and the one I received at today's last pick up of the season, keep whispering to me, "Make me! Make me! I will tastes delicious!" So you see, I have no choice.

Today's shopping trip to the new HEB for the ingredients only inspired me more. Why? I discovered today that the new HEB has a bulk isle in the store where we, the customers, can grab a bag and fill up on ingredients like spices and nuts and snacks. The kind manager there explained the system to me. She also told me some of the items were local from Texas and others where from and eco-friendly vendor in California. I quickly caught on and then I asked her if we could bring back our containers to reuse and cut down on waste instead of using the a new plastic bag everytime. She told me they are working on it. She also told me some customers are interested in using glass containers to refill, but she let them know glass is heavy and that would weigh on the cost. That makes sense. I wish they were a way to seperate the weight though, because I have tons of glass. She then gave me tips on other ways to use the spices I was buying for the pumpkin pie. One spice I had never used before (cardamom) and the other was ginger. I wasn't sure if I had ginger at home.

The store was crowded and I overheard a few people complain about feeling overwhelmed from the crowd. I'm just happy it wasn't as crowded as the first week it opened. In a few minutes I will begin to cook our semi thanksgiving meal for my family. It will be eco-friendly chicken (yes again) with olive oil, rosemary from the CSA and basil I received today from the CSA. As side dishes I will cook today's CSA green beans, HEB sweet potatoes (candied yams) and last weeks CSA acorn squash (I need to eat these before they rot). For dessert I will make two pumpkin pies. One for our family and the other for tomorrows pot luck. I may even make my special semi-organic oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, but it already seems like too much food. Maybe I'll wait for next week to make the cookies.

I mentioned the menu to my girls and they were so excited they didn't know what to do with themselves.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

My Neighbor and I Just Traded Garden Food

My neighbor G and I just traded food. She stopped by to give me washed mustard greens from her garden and I snapped off a few twigs of rosemary from my rosemary bush for her. I wanted to tell her about the CSA, but most people are turned off by the expense of the CSA especially if they already grow their own garden. I decided to hold off on that conversation for now. A few minutes later I came inside and looked at the mustard greens then realized I forgot to ask her how to prep them. I haven't had much luck cooking or preparing leaves for eating other than the store bought romaine and such.

However I had had more luck with squash this time around. Just the last week I baked a whole chicken with olive oil and rosemary. On the side I made a butternut squash casserole (very much like the sweet potato casserole except with more of a butter taste to it). Opening and chopping and trying to peel a butternut squash was a new and learning experience. I saved most of the seeds to plant for next year.

Some squash is much like a potatoe and some squash is much like a cucumber or catelope. I printed the recipe for butternut squash casserole from daily green.

I printed another one for sweet potatoe fries and another one for winter squash. All the recipes are so easy to make, tasty, sweet and from the Daily Green.

I am really enjoying the vegetable and the service from this CSA. There really isn't anything for me to complain about. There is even a chance volunteering for free veggies next season. This will help me keep the cost down, something my household really needs. He wants us to grow more of our own and let go at least of one CSA which I'm fine with but we have yet to build raised beds and finish prepping the ground for January's seeds. Between his 60 hour or more job and my work and mom schedule it is still difficult to find time for the garden. About once a week I tend to the gardens for a few hours and the rest of the time I just watch and scan for bugs or problems walking past the garden when I dump the kitchen scraps in the back yard or when I wait for my daughter's bus in the front yard. The baby in my arms most of the time.

At the same time I really don't want to let go of my CSA. I enjoy supporting our local farmers, helping the environment and I love reading their newsletters. These farmers really care about their crop and they enjoy watching it grow. They put a lot of love into it. Then they enjoy sharing their grown love with people. They are very giving people.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Fridge is Making Me Rethink The Whole Food Storage System

Right now we can't afford a new fridge. We can't afford a repair guy either, but can we afford to go without a fridge? Can a family of 5 survive without a fridge. If it breaks down can living on daily fresh organic nuts, fruit, vegetables and beans be enough? There are many people that live vegan lives, do they need a fridge? What if our garden was filled with food daily...

Luckily, my neighbor came to the resuce again and fixed what he thinks is wrong with the fridge this time. It seems to be working again, but this is the third time it has had to be repaired. Will it break down again and if so is going without a fridge an option? Could we do it for a week? How about a month? Could we go without it even longer? During the Ike aftermath we survived without a fridge for more than a week. It wasn't easy and we had to eat what we already had stored away because the stores and restaurants were closed, but what if they had been open?

Our ancestors use to gather food daily and survived. They had a hard life but they survived. We have more resources now, couldn't we survive too?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green Books Campaign: Sweet Gratitude

Image credit to Susan Newman

Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website.

A good recipe book offers its novice, intermediate or experienced chefs more than just recipes. It offers better cooking tips. It provides definitions of cooking styles, ingredients and the origins of the food used in the recipes of the book. A good recipe book will also provide its learning chefs easy step-by-step cooking instructions for each individual recipe and then it will point its learning chefs to a list of resources for additional cooking information at the end of the book. Sweet Gratitude: A New World of Raw Desserts by Matthew Rogers and Tiziana Alipos Tamborra did all this plus more and it was all done with love, patience, a smile, encouragement and wisdom.

“What we tell ourselves we are, we are,” pg 109.

The format of the book is built like a self-help book but with the comforts of food and though traditionally comforting oneself with food is problematic and unhealthy, doing so is the exact opposite in this book. Instead these sweet healthy treats can be enjoyed guilt-free and with power of choice.

“Food is the physical manifestation of the Earth’s love for us” pg 147.

With each chapter a new type of dessert is introduced (raw versions of today’s traditional desserts) and with each type of dessert comes wisdom and amazing recipes. For example, in chapter 2 the chapter of pies we learn to live in the present and in chapter 7 the chapter of Cacao (pronounced kuh-cow) we learn about love, but we also learn about the origins of cacao and its remarkable benefits to the human body when eaten raw. By the end of the book we learn to appreciate the benefits of cooking with raw food and we learn to appreciate our lives and how to make the best of what we have.

This is truly an inspirational and education book I enjoyed reading from cover to cover. I am not ashamed to say my mouth watered as I read through each chapter and it waters still just thinking of making these treats. Had it been in my budget to purchase a food processor, an ice cream maker or a dehydrator I would have done so and immediately began to give these recipes and creative cooking technique (ex. the swirl) a try.

How green is this book? The book is printed on recycled paper and the mailer it came in is made out of recycled material. In addition the ingredients called for in the book are vegan. There is absolutely no ingredient in this book derived from animal byproduct. Nuts and fruits are the main ingredients. I was slightly disappointed that I could not find some of these ingredients locally. Though I know I can find these ingredients online I am trying to make an effort recently to keep my ingredients local. Last but not least, the recipes made are made raw from raw ingredients so there is no baking involved. This is always a plus in my book. Four out of five is not bad.

Monday, November 9, 2009

I Cooked Tofu Today For The First Time

Late last week I finally dared myself to buy a package of tofu. Today, realizing that I forgot to thaw meat I grabbed the tofu from the refrigerator. I had never cooked tofu before. I didn't even know how to begin. My daughter's just watched me as I stared at the tofu after I took it out of the refridgeator. Then I walked up to my computer to look for a recipe. My oldest daughter, sweet thing that she is, told me to look up a recipe at allingredients then she corrected herself and said allrecipes.com.

Instead I just Swagbucked Tofu and clicked on a few links. Two of them were YouTube videos. Both of them suggested cutting up the tofu, draining the water in the tofu, mixing the tofu in a bowl of flour and spices of choice and then frying it in a little bit of vegetable oil. As a side dish vegetable stir fry and some white rice. That is exactly what I did. How did it taste? It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either. It tasted much better than I expected, a little bit like bland french toast. Not bad for my first time.

My oldest liked it a lot. She just mentioned it needed salt. My youngest ate half of it. My 10 month old gobbled it up. Before we sat down to eat it, I made sure to tell my oldest daughter who has been feeling guilty for eating meat lately (killing of an animal) that if she chooses to she can have healthy meals without meat just like "this one". This made her very happy and eased her mind a bit. Poor thing.

What did I learn today? Tofu really isn't that bad. I plan to cook with it again.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Broken Refrigerator and Today's CSA

Our freezer gave us another scare earlier this week. We tried the same technique as before. We defrosted the block of ice built up in the back, but when all was done and the food put back, the freezer would still not drop to its normal and safe temperature. What made matters worse was that the refrigerator side would not cool either. Did this mean we would have to call a repair guy? How much would that cost? Was it even worth it? We bought the fridge new but second hand from a not so nice lady several years ago.

After paying rent and health insurance the first week of this month we had nothing to pay for someone to come repair the fridge. We still hadn't even paid our electricity. So we panicked! Would we have to live with out a refrigerator for a while. Where would we store our food, our meats, vegetables and everything else? That made me rethink about the need for a refrigerator and our diets. Could we give up refrigerated food? Could we live on nuts and counter stored veggies and fruits? Would we have to live without milk and eggs and meats? I guess if we had to we could, but I'm not sure we could do it well.

Before we did that though we called our neighbor. We had considered calling our neighbor before but we felt bad for always bothering him and we assumed he wouldn't know how to fix it. We also wanted to try to fix it ourselves. It feels good to be able to fix something by yourself. When we realized we couldn't and we knew we definitely could afford a repair person to come fix the problem, we called our neighbor. Actually my husband did. I was at work.

While at my part time job (1-5 hours at the most a week) at the Y my neighbor and my husband unscrewed the freezer indoor panel. They said the coils were covered in one large solid piece of ice. They defrosted that and that is when my neighbor discovered the freezer heater was broken.

The freezer has a heater? Apparently so. Everyday we learn something new....So my neighbor and my husband waited for me to get home to watch our baby so that they could go to the store and buy the heater part. In the mean time our frozen food was in my neighbors freezer. Whew! That was a relief. That was our CSA meat and that stuff is expensive. We almost lost it last time too. When they came back they put in the new heater and then we all chowed down on not so eco-friendly store bought Mexican food for lunch.

Our freezer works now and all it cost us was the heater part and a free meal for my neighbor. That's how he likes to get paid for his labor, free food. He often talks about one of his friends saying that feeding him is more expensive than paying him. We all smile when he says that. In a way I guess it is and isn't true. My neighbor helps us so much we owe him more than we could ever pay him back, not that he asks us for pay back or anything. He isn't that kind of person, but we would like to repay him for his help. With the baby and work and everything else it's kind of hard to invite him over for a meal all the time though especially since he likes a lot of attention when he talks and our kids want attention too.

That same day we repaired our fridge and ate Mexican food for lunch I invited him over for dinner at 6 for spaghetti. It wasn't my best spaghetti. I was in a hurry to make the food, watch the kids, have my older ones to their homework.... My point is as I'm taking the plates to the dinner table the food in the plate in my left hand slides off and falls all over my daughters right arm. She begins to scream. I pull her long sleeve shirt off and rush her to the bathroom sink where I stick her arm under cold water. I just burned my kids with spaghetti and I felt terrible but we were lucky she had a long sleeve shirt on. Her skin was a little red but it recovered in no time.

Meanwhile my neighbor who is an elderly man who likes a lot of attention makes a few insensitive jokes about eating the food off the floor. I smile but try to ignore. He's an elderly man who has never had kids before. I think at first he didn't realize the seriousness of the situation and then when he did he was a little nervous and made jokes to ease his nerves. My dad is kind of like that sometimes. Shoot my oldest sister would say I'm kind of like that sometimes. Oh well....

So today our fridge is still working fine and just in time because yesterday we were almost all out of food. We had to go grocery shopping and today we had to pick up the CSA vegetables: more Poblano peppers. Yum! We also have more of that strange fruit persimmons, some cucumbers, some squash and some zucchini.