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Posts from — January 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons (and Oranges)…

LemonsOrange

. . .what do you make? Our answer: As much as we can! When Shawn and I first moved into our little house in 1997, we were fortunate to find our lot already graced with established and producing trees: one orange, one lemon and one pecan. We didn’t know a lot about how to care for them and ensure that they would continue to thrive, but we’ve made some mistakes and learned a lot during the past 13 years—and while we apparently still have a lot to learn (such as how to keep the heavily laden branches of our lemon tree from breaking under the weight of all the fruit, and why some of our oranges aren’t as juicy as others), we somehow manage to have a pretty decent harvest each year. Right now, the citrus is in its prime and ready to be picked. Though our trees are about the same size (and presumable the same age), the orange tree yields probably about 100 to 150 pieces of fruit each season, while its proliferous neighbor gives us about two or three times as many lemons.

So what do we do with it all? Well, we give some of it away and trade more of it with neighbors and friends who grow other fruit (grapefruits, tangerines). But most of it we keep! For the next few weeks, we’ll be picking, zesting, juicing and freezing what we can to use throughout the year. Sure, we drink some of the orange juice and make plenty of lemonade. But we try to keep plenty on hand for use in a few of our favorite recipes, too—including a batch or two of bite-size lemon tarts (from a recipe in The Lemon Lovers Cookbook, by Peg Bailey) to citrus-roasted chicken, flavored by stuffing halved lemons and oranges into the cavity before cooking (a method recently shared by a friend).

Right now, lemons, oranges and pecans are the only foods we grow—although we hope to expand on that in the coming years. I’d love to know what you grow—and how you handle all that you harvest!

And speaking of growing, I’m also hoping to expand on my knowledge of traditional food-preparation methods by enrolling in the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse offered by my friend Wardeh Harmon, who has planned a 15-week online class to teach simple methods for making healthy foods. I hope you’ll read what I wrote about the eCourse by clicking here, and consider joining us! And you have until next Wednesday (Feb. 3) to enter a giveaway for free enrollment. Click here for details!

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the book cover above, you will link to Amazon.com, where you will have an opportunity to purchase it—and if you do buy it after clicking through from my site, I will receive a small commission to support my work here, as well as my own book-buying habit. :-) Seriously, though, I’d be just as happy if my recommendations inspired you to check out the title from your local library or borrow it from a friend. And the banner for the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse is also an affiliate link to much more information about the eCourse and its offerings, as well as an opportunity to sign up when enrollment begins.

January 26, 2010   7 Comments

A Half Dozen. . .

. . .reasons why you’ll want to enroll in the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse scheduled to begin next month and developed by my friend Wardeh Harmon at www.gnowfglins.com:

1. Health. Whether you’ve recently become interested in the real-food movement or you’ve been committed for awhile now to preparing real, whole foods for your family, you’re no doubt aware of the health benefits that go along with eliminating processed, industrial foods from your diet and replacing them with what Wardeh calls GNOWFGLINS—God’s Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season. In each of the 15 lessons included in the eCourse, Wardeh will answer three basic questions about the nourishing, traditional foods she explores:
• What is this food and/or technique? What ingredients do I need?
• Why should we eat a certain food or prepare it a certain way?
• How is the technique carried out or how is this food prepared?

2. Time. Maybe you’ve watched the documentary Food, Inc. and read all of the real-food best-sellers (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma; Nina Planck’s Real Food) but you have no idea where to start when it comes to implementing the ideas they present in a practical way that fits your busy schedule. Or, perhaps the mere thought of having to wade through every sidebar and recipe on the 675 pages of the weightiest real-food tome of all—Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions—is enough to give you a migraine. Why not learn the basics—in a simple, methodical way—from someone who’s done the research and has a wealth of practical experience to share? Wardeh promises you won’t be overwhelmed by her simple plan that will take you through one step at a time.

3. Quality. I’ve had a chance to preview some of the things in store for those who enroll in this eCourse, and the attention to detail and multimedia presentation setup is incredible. Each lesson will be available 24/7 on a private Web site in print, audio and video formats to accommodate the learning style that works best for you—and so that you won’t miss a thing, whether you choose to read, listen, watch or do all three! I have followed Wardeh’s blog for about three years now, and I can vouch for her ability to present information in a thorough, down-to-earth way.

4. Quantity. You’re going to get an amazing amount of advice, ideas, recipes and techniques here—including printable guides you’ll refer to time and again, as well as access to freebies and resources that won’t be available on Wardeh’s blog. Among other things, she’ll teach you how to sprout beans and grains, cook pastured chickens and make stock, bake sourdough bread and brew water kefir (a probiotic beverage that can help you kick a soda habit).

5. Money. The eCourse costs $27 per month for five months (a total of $135)—a bargain considering the wealth of information you’ll obtain toward converting your kitchen into a real-food haven. And Wardeh offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can’t go wrong by trying it for a month to see whether it’s something that will work for you.

6. Mentorship. Whether you’ve read my blog since The Beginning (my first post) or this is the first post you’ve perused, you’ve probably gathered that Wardeh Harmon—though she doesn’t know it—has been my unofficial mentor as I’ve explored and experimented with real food. (Actually, she’s probably guessed that that’s the case, as I’ve asked her at least 1,095 questions—that’s one a day for the past three years—all of which she has graciously, patiently and satisfactorily answered!) 🙂 And, as someone who’s got the heart of a teacher, she’ll do the same for you. Seriously, IMHO, you won’t get better guidance from anyone else for making these changes in the way you cook and eat. And if you sign up for the eCourse, Wardeh won’t be your only mentor: Everyone who’s enrolled can exchange ideas and share recipe results in a special forum. I’m planning to be there! How about you?

Please note: It is my goal to provide a top-quality, content-driven, ad-free blog. That said, I do occasionally include affiliate links in some of my posts. For example, if you click on the banner above, you’ll link to a site where you can learn much more about the GNOWFGLINS Fundamentals eCourse. And if you decide to enroll after clicking through from my site, I’ll receive a commission—for which I thank you. But even if I didn’t stand to benefit in any way from sharing what I’ve written here, I honestly wouldn’t change a word. 🙂

January 20, 2010   2 Comments

Kitchen Cleanup

This week, my Kitchen Life revolved more around what I did to my kitchen than what I did in it. Which got me thinking that maybe I should share a photo of the room where I spend a lot of my time. But before I do, I must explain that much of our home—including this all-important room—has been in remodeling mode for more than a year. And believe me, that has made it incredibly challenging to undergo a conversion to real-food preparation methods all at the same time! As you will see from the photo, we aren’t finished yet. (Note the pieced-together old pink Formica and plywood countertops, which will be in place until we can someday afford to replace them with granite. And you’ve gotta love the rustic look of the walls that remain untextured, unpainted and—if this is a word—unbacksplashed.)

Kitchen

No, I am under no illusion that my kitchen looks great. But it’s getting there. Really. You should have seen it before. (I don’t have a photo handy of what it used to look like, and if I did, I’m not sure I’d share it.) 🙂

I think the thing I’m most proud of is the fact that we (well, Shawn, really) did much of the work. The tile floor (which replaced a very outdated cream-colored tile with burgundy grout that Shawn laboriously broke up and removed) and the recessed lighting (which replaced two hideous fluorescent-tube fixtures) were installed by outside subcontractors. And when we discovered that our old cabinets were solid oak buried under layers of paint and dark stain, Shawn asked a friend with a finishing business to strip and refinish them. But Shawn built the island unit to match the existing cabinets, replaced all the hinges and added knobs and pulls. He also removed an ugly soffit that once filled the prime decorating space between the cabinets and the ceiling, and tore out the existing unnattractive backsplash. He rewired a dead phone line and reconfigured the exhaust/venting system on the new microwave before installing it. (I’m not a big fan of the microwave oven, which removes most—if not all—of the nutrients from the food it cooks. I use it mostly to heat water and to time what I’m cooking on the stovetop. 🙂 But it turned out to be a better option than an oven hood to provide an exhaust outlet. Plus, it saves counter space and adds resale value—though I have to say, after all this work, I don’t plan on moving. Ever!)

In addition to all of the construction work going on, my kitchen had been cluttered up for quite a few months with unpacked boxes filled with everything from cookbooks to linens and utensils, as well as large bags of bulk grains and beans that I couldn’t cram into my pantry. This past week, I finally tackled it all. I unpacked, organized, discarded and donated until everything found a place where it belonged. I scrubbed the entire floor by hand and then sealed the tile grout. It was exhausting and invigorating at the same time! It helped me to catch a fresh vision of what my kitchen might someday look like (when we eventually have the new countertops and backsplash, a new sink, barstools, curtains, a few shelves, and whatever else we add to the list). And perhaps more importantly, it has helped me enjoy actually being in the room that requires so much of my time. My kitchen might never grace the pages of Better Homes and Gardens, but to me, it’s looking pretty good!

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

January 20, 2010   9 Comments

Timeline: Keillor’s First Haircut

Keillor; Jan 16, 2010; 4:01 p.m.

Keillor; Jan 16, 2010; 4:01 p.m.

Keillor; Jan. 16, 2010; 5:16 p.m.

Keillor; Jan. 16, 2010; 5:16 p.m.

January 16, 2010   7 Comments

Buttered Up, Blended Together and Bowled Over

That headline describes much of my Kitchen Life this past week. Despite battling a cold and working to pack up and put away the holiday decor (let’s just say I was “functional,” but with most of the “fun” taken out), I decided to experiment with a couple of things I’d been wanting to try.

Almond butter before. . .

Almond butter before. . .

. . .and after.

. . .and after.

First was homemade almond butter. Because two of my children experience allergy symptoms from eating peanut butter, we have long substituted almond butter for it in everything from sandwiches to cookies. And ever since I learned about the benefits of soaking and dehydrating nuts to make them easier to digest, I’ve wanted to make my own version. Following the soaking/dehydrating directions and an actual recipe (including honey, coconut oil and salt) for almond butter in Nourishing Traditions, I ended up with a result that tasted fantastic but had some surprising characteristics. For starters, I wouldn’t really say it was spreadable—more like a somewhat crumbly topping—especially straight out of the fridge, where the recipe recommended storing it—that you could pile up on a piece of toast and pat into place. Of course, once the warmth of the toast kind of melted it a bit, it was easier to smooth out. And it had a soft and creamy—not gritty or dry—mouth feel, as well. I think the coconut oil contributed to both the crumbly texture and the incredible taste. I’ll definitely be making it again—especially because now that I’ve sampled it with everything from pancakes to oatmeal, I don’t have enough left over to use in a single batch of cookies!

Garbanzo beans, from sprouts. . .

Garbanzo beans, from sprouts. . .

. . .to spread.

. . .to spread.

The next thing on my list was making hummus from sprouted garbanzo beans. I had two different kinds of garbanzos in my pantry—the traditional golden-colored ones and their smaller, darker chana dal cousins. I started sprouting a jar of each variety and was surprised to see that the chana dal beans sprouted sooner than the traditional kind. Once the beans in both jars showed sprouts (after two days), I combined them and cooked them until they were tender—they simmered on the stovetop for about two or three hours. Then I blended them with the usual hummus ingredients (garlic, cumin, olive oil, lemon juice, salt) in my Vita-Mix. The result was a tasty dip and spread that we enjoyed all week—especially wrapped up in whole wheat tortillas made from a soaked-flour recipe I borrowed from Wardeh Harmon’s site, www.gnowflins.com. (Click here for the tortilla recipe. I had so much more success with this recipe than with an almost identical one using sprouted flour, that I’ve called into question my grain sprouting/dehydrating method. I’ve decided that dehydrating my sprouted grain in the oven is too hot a process—most likely eliminating the beneficial enzymes I’m after by sprouting in the first place, and ultimately drying the grain out so much that the resulting flour is parched and requires a lot more moisture to work with. I’m holding out for an actual dehydrator, which will allow better temperature control and energy efficiency.)

New fam favorite: Sloppy Joes in a Bowl.

New fam favorite: Sloppy Joes in a Bowl.

Finally, our family enjoyed another of Wardeh Harmon’s recipes two times in the past week and a half: slightly different incarnations of her Sloppy Joes in a Bowl (click here for a link to another site where she shares the recipe). Both times, I soaked brown rice overnight in water with a little apple cider vinegar (to break down the phytic acid that makes all grains difficult to digest). The first time, I opted not to rinse the rice after soaking, but simply added chicken stock and cooked it. It came out a little vinegar-y, which I didn’t mind but the kids definitely noticed. The second time, I did rinse the rice before cooking it in fresh water and chicken stock, and the kids were much happier with the outcome. My son Kerrick helped to make the meal and even photographed it for me, declaring that he could eat it for dinner every night. Now that’s what I call a rave review!

This post is part of the Tuesday Twister blog carnival hosted by www.gnowfglins.com. To link to today’s Tuesday Twister on that site, click here.

January 12, 2010   2 Comments