Eat from the Pantry Challenge Update

In my first Eat from the Pantry Challenge Post last week I announced our goal to spend $25 per week on groceries and use up the stores of our pantry for the majority of our meals. My biggest concern was that we might have to compromise on the quality of our produce. For both ethical and health reasons I strongly prefer to by organic fruits and vegetables. And so, I was quite pleased to find good prices on the items that I was buying and on my first two grocery runs it all worked out.

Groceries:

$17.79: 1 gallon 2% milk, apples, clementines, eggs, celery, carrots (all organic, excepting eggs)

$26.01: broccoli, bananas, red peppers, vegan cheese, eggs, bath soap for Little Boy Green (all organic)

$8.35: 6 Pack Dales Pale Ale beer for Mr. Green Me.

Total for week one and two: $52.15

At this point you may be wondering what we have been eating. Frankly, weve been eating like kings! The treasures that can be found in our freezer continue to astound me. Last Sunday we had a  most delicious meal of sauerkraut, potato dumplings and bratwurst. The entire meal was local. The sausage was from a small scale sausage maker here in town (they only produce in the summer and sell at the Farmers Market). The sauerkraut, apples, potatoes, carrots and onions all came from either Farmers Market or a CSA and were prepared and frozen by me in the fall. I cooked the meal and served it in my new cast iron skillet (thank you Santa!) and we practically licked our plates clean.

 

On Monday night we had a vegetarian pasta dish with a side of roasted acorn squash and sauteed mushrooms, garlic and onions. This meal was again quite gourmet and enjoyed by all. Little Boy Green even went so far as to say of the sauteed mushroom mix this is delicious Mommy!

On Tuesday we had a meatloaf made from frozen beef and various pantry items. This dinner was served with a side of roasted Brussel sprouts and purple mashed potatoes (the potatoes I have left are all purple).

Wednesday we finished off the meat loaf and started on a vegetable soup that Id made from canned tomato paste, CSA vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips and onions) and rice. The soup ended up too hot without a lot of flavor, so Wednesdays dinner was not so well received.

Thursday, I had the clever idea to mix sauteed garlic cloves, sliced dates and some Earth Balance in with the soup from Wednesday. Served over rice it gave it a distinctive Morrocan flavor and was quite delicious. Well be having that again for dinner tonight.

Meals for the weekend will probably included roasted sesame broccoli, brown rice and winter squash. Breakfasts will be pancakes and eggs. Lunch will likely continue to be left overs from the previous nights dinner.

The hardest part of this has been going to the grocery store. I am quite familiar with how to handle cravings for sweets and it is pretty easy for me (although not for many people) to just eat a square of chocolate and return the rest to the cupboard. However, it is amazingly difficult for me to walk by a little yellow sale tag at the grocery store and not stock up. A fact that just might explain my pantry that is bursting at the seems!

Have a wonderful weekend and may you eat well!

Health, Wealth and Happiness in the New Year!

My high school boyfriends family was of Polish decent. Every Christmas Eve they shared a beautiful and sad story about his great grandmother being taken during World War II from Poland by train and sent to a prison camp somewhere in Russia. When the war was over she was not sent home, but left to her own devices with other prisoners. From this unhappy situation she walked several thousand miles across a harsh Russian landscape, meeting with many tails of both adversity and kindness along her way. Eventually she made it home to her family and her husband. At this point her family chose to emigrate to the United States and a new story began in upstate New York.

For many years her family has thus celebrated Christmas Eve as both the Eve of Christmas, but also of the beginning of the New Year, wishing each other and their guests Health, Wealth and Happiness for the coming year. And although it has been many years since I have spent the holiday with this tale, I continue to appreciate the significance and history behind this New Years Greeting.

In this world of ours there continue to be stories of both adversity and kindness in our very own communities and around the world. The economic woes of the past few years and the political, military and religious woes since 2001 have served to highlight adversity in a world that is continually striving to do better and yet continually encountering set backs.

For better or worse 2009 presented me with multiple opportunities to both give thanks for the gifts that I have been given, but to also contemplate the fragility of life. My nearly invincible grandmother had a stroke in April and then broke her hip in December (she is amazingly going strong, although with a bit less steam). One of my cousins underwent surgery for a rare type of cancer, but just as she was healing her brother (another cousin) died of a cardiac arrest at the relatively young age of 40.  And yet again, the first cousin again underwent surgery for cancer. She is doing well, but there is much to be hoped for in the New Year.

Id not been close to the cousin who passed on as hed moved away after high school; however, several years before hed moved, hed introduced me to MTV. Perhaps an insignificant event in the world of many children, but for a child who lived in the mountains without a TV and with parents who did not pay much attention to pop culture, it was a significant to me.

I specifically remember watching the music videos of 3 musicians who have have since had an influence on my life. The first was Paul Simon (self contemplation, world music and politics), the second was Robert Plant (the simple love of melodies and rock music) and the third was Michael Jackson. Today, I am going to focus on Michael Jackson. The young me was hugely influenced by the Michael Jackson persona of the 1980s and early 1990s that was genuinely concerned about making the world a better place. From his collaboration with a handful of artists on We are the World to Man and the Mirror or even Heal the World and to the millions of dollars that he donated to helping children around the world, I definitely took the lyrics of these songs to heart. And I so you might say that my theme song going into 2010, is going to be Man in the Mirror.

A willow deeply scarred
Somebodys broken heart
And a washed out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya see
Cause they got no place to be
Thats why Im starting with me

Im starting with the man in the mirror
Im asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make a change

Taking the time to look in the mirror and making a change based on what we see is such a wise, yet simple recommendation that it could have easily come straight from a Buddhist tome on Enlightenment. And, it is a theory that I have pretended to follow for the last decade or so. In fact my original screen name on Live Journal (I deleted the account long ago) and various other online venues was waterreflecting, a term I had used in a meditation given by Thich Nhat Hanh.

We all have ideas about who we really are, but our actions (our reflections) speak to the reality of our being much more accurately than our thoughts. What is a dream without action?

In theory I pride myself on being a family person and yet as my grandmother has grown older and frailer, I have spent less time visiting her in persona and or speaking with her on the phone.  I am uncomfortable with the changes in her life and unsure how to react. I dont want to offend her or God forbid be offended by her and so I hold my silence and my distance. I understand the reasons for my behavior, but I am not proud of it and so this year I will let down my own ego and do what I can to help my grandmother enjoy the last years of her life.

Awareness of the fact that Ive been ignoring my grandmother, to put it bluntly, has been heightened by the loss of my cousin last summer. Id always intended to visit or to mention to him that hed had a positive influence on me as a kid. That hed opened up the world of music (outside of classical) to me and that I was forever grateful, but I was too shy to take the first step. He didnt contact me, so why should I take the first step? It is so easy for us to put things off for another day, but honestly, we never know that their will be another day, and so we might as well seize the day.

Seizing the day goes not only for my relationships with my family and friends, but also for my personal life. My own health, the health of my immediate family. Our physical health, spiritual health, and even our financial health. And so, going into the New Year I am going to focus on a few goals that will promote Health, Wealth and Happiness for myself and for those around me.

Happiness Goals:

– I will make an effort to connect with my living cousins. Facebook is oddly a wonderful forum for keeping tabs on busy families and kids, but perhaps we should take the time to actually have some Face-Time. First I need to visit with my cousin who just had surgery for cancer (the second time in since last year). It is clear that her experience has taught her to seize the day and yet I keep putting off making actual plans to visit with her.

-I will write my grandmother a letter with real pen and paper and send it by pony express each week. I actually made this promise in person to my grandmother the week before Christmas. I have not sent a formal letter, but I did write a nice note with her Christmas card and included another with a small gift that I sent her last week.

-I will make time to spend with both of my parents. Ive been better about this since the arrival of my son 2 years ago, but I still feel as though we dont see them enough.

– Take the time to read books that both broaden my horizons and stretch my noodle. It seams that since having my son I have gone from reading 4 books per week to 4 books per year!

– Be calm.

– Practice yoga.

Health Goals:

– Figure out exactly what is up with my digestive system and potential gluten intolerance. Right now I am actually eating a small amount of gluten and dairy each day, so that I can be tested again later in the month. So far it has been tolerable and honestly a little bit of fun just yesterday I had some Truffle Tremor Cheese. It is also bittersweet, because depending on the results, I just may never have this chance again!

– Get adequate sleep, so that I can continue to get up at 5:45 AM and walk with my faithful morning walking partner!

– Weight train at least 2 days per weeks, so that my body retains proper balance and strength and I do not re-aggravate old injuries whilst running or hiking.

– Get back into running. My walking partner and I have been doing some jogging with our walks a few days per week and so this goal will start off with the Oatmeal 5K this Saturday. (Thanks to a A Mama’s Blog for the motivation!)

Wealth Goals:

– reduce spending on groceries (we tracked all expenses in 2009 and our food budget was OUTRAGEOUS!)

– continue a vacation savings plan started late in 2009

– continue to pay ahead on car loan and mortgage

– jump start my own retirement savings program (hubby has his down pat)

And More on Happiness (because you just cant have too much!):

– Become an expert gluten free baker and possibly turn this into a career

– Continue to walk, jog and exercise regularly

– Spend dedicated time playing with Little Boy Green Me each day

– Have date nights every 6 weeks or so with Mr. Green Me

– Plant a garden

Colorado Cherry Jam with Pomegranate Juice

Ingredients:

3 to 4 cups Colorado Tart Cherries

1 Cup POM Pomegranate Juice

1 tsp Cinnamon

2 Teaspoons Calcium Water

1 Cup Colorado Honey

2 Teaspoons Pomonas Universal Pectin

Instructions:

  1. Sanitize 6 Jelly Jars (8 oz) and lids in Dishwasher
  2. Heat water bath to boiling
  3. While water bath is heating keep cleaned lids sanitized in simmering water on stove
  4. Puree fruit in food processor or blender
  5. Add calcium water and cinnamon to pureed fruit and stir in Pomegranate Juice
  6. Heat fruit and juice mixture to boiling
  7. Combine pectin with honey and stir well. Add honey pectin mixture to boiling fruit and stir rapidly to combine.
  8. Bring mixture back to boiling and then turn off or remove from burner.
  9. Fill jelly jars to about 1/2 inch from top. Wipe rims clean with sanitized cloth.
  10. Carefully place lids and screw tops on jars, tighten and add to water bath.
  11. Boil jelly in jars for 10 minutes plus 1 minute for every additional 1,000 feet of elevation. This means that on the Colorado plains at approximately 5280 feet of elevation I boil them for 16 minutes.

For more precise or thorough instructions please consult the printed instructions in your packet of Pomonas Universal Pectin. There are several other brands out there, but I prefer Pomonas because it can be used to make low sugar and or fruit only jams and jellys. And, it is a 100% natural product.

Quote directly from the back of my Pomonas box:

POMONAS UNIVERSAL PECTIN makes thick jam and jelly with rich, full flavor undiluted by large amounts of added sugar. Ordinary fruit pectins require your jam or jelly to be 55-85% sugar to set firmly.

POMONAS UNIVERSAL is a low methoxyl type pecticn extracted from citrus peel. Its jelling power is activated by calcium (included), not by sugar content.

I have never used more than 1 cup of sugar or honey with my Pomonas and I usually use less. On several occasions I have used 100% fruit and fruit juice and I have always had excellent results. The process is simple and the instructions are clear enough even for a novice!

Allergy Free Antioxidant Muffins

A few weeks ago I decided to use juice and flax seed to make a fruit based mini-muffin as a snack. We were hosting a play date for a baby sitting co-op that my neighbor is putting together. At the meeting I had guests with allergies to eggs and nuts, as well as, gluten and dairy intolerance. One of the guests may have also had an issue with soy.

To get around all these food issues I made a pumpkin muffin using rice flour and juice for the liquid. The muffin turned out pretty tasty, but it was not quite perfect and so warranted a little adjustment. Most of all I was pleased to discover that juice made a perfect substitution for milk in a muffin recipe and so I was quite thrilled this morning to find a box of POM juice on my front porch.

Earlier this fall Id been contacted by POM to see if Id like to try some of their juice in a few recipes. Ive been a pomegranate lover since I was a little kid and my husband and I were definitely early adopters of POM Pomegranate juice; however, in the last few years since having our son weve sort of fallen off the band wagon.

One issue with being gluten free or dairy free or really anything free is that folks who eat these diets are more prone to nutritional deficiencies due to limited food groups. Dairy free folks tend not to get enough calcium and vitamin D.  Gluten free folks can easily miss out on fiber and other nutrients found in wheat, rye and or barley. And, so not only is it fun to make a muffin focusing on increasing antioxidants and other nutrients, but it is also smart!

And so, with a box of POM juice in my kitchen I was inspired to make an antioxidant muffin. Pomegranate juice has been all the rage for the last few years not only due to taste and its rich color, but because the fruit is packed with more antioxidants than your average fruit or berry. To make this muffin I decided to combine the antioxidant power of the POM with some organic cocoa powder rich in polyphenols and some flax seed meal to add both fiber and lignans, which are yet another antioxidant powerhouse.

You will also notice that I used raw Agave and cinnamon. Some people like agave, some don’t. If you are in the anti-agave camp feel free to substitute an equivalent amount of honey for similar results. I’ve found that adding cinnamon to recipes with either chocolate or fruit rounds out the flavor. Furthermore, studies show that cinnamon may help reduce both blood glucose and cholesterol. These are not health issues for my immediate family, but they are for much of the population, so whether or not you choose to use agave, I do insist that you make these muffins with cinnamon!

Sift Together Dry Ingredients:

1 and 1/4 cups gluten free flour mix (I used Bobs Redmill)

1/4 tapioca flour

1/4 cup finely ground flax meal

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1.5 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

Add 1/2 cup mixed dried berries after sifting and stir to coat berries with flour.

Mix together Wet Ingredients separately:

1/3 cup canola oil

1/3 cup Raw agave

3/4 cup POM Pomegranate Juice

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine dry with wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. Lightly oil mini-muffin pan (makes 24) or line regular muffin tin with liners. Spoon batter into tin until just below the top of the tin – do not over fill. Bake mini muffins for about 18 minutes and regular sized muffins for about 22 minutes. Muffins should rise gently and be springy to the touch when finished baking. Remove from oven and cool in the tin for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes gently remove from tin and cool on rack for another 10 to 20 minutes.

Serve immediately or eat within 24 hours. Freeze any muffins that are not consumed in 24 hours. Gluten free baked goods tend to taste better when frozen and reheated rather than being left out.

Substitutions:

  • You can easily substitute the gluten free flour mix with a regular whole wheat flour. If you do so, omit the tapioca flour and reduce the baking powder to 3/4 tsp.
  • You may substitute the ener-g egg replacer for one real egg. Add the egg to the wet ingredients and reduce the canola oil by 1 tablespoon.
  • You may could also increase the flax meal by one tablespoon and eliminate the egg replacer with no additional alternations.
  • If you do not have POM juice on hand you could use another juice; however, if you are looking for pomegranate juice read the labels carefully. In my own research Ive not been able to find another pomegranate juice that is 100% Pomegranate they all seem to be diluted with grape juice or other fruit juices. Also, POM juice is made from 100% California Pomegranates, which is important if you are concerned about clearing of forests elsewhere to grow pomegranate trees.

Nutritional Info for 2 Mini Muffins or 1 regular muffin (recipe makes 24 or 12): 180 calories; 7 grams fat; 22 grams carbohydrate; 2 grams protein; 3 grams fiber.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog did receive complementary POM Pomegranate Juice from POM; however, I have no other agreement with nor have I received compensation from POM other than to use the juice in recipes. I readily agreed to this offer as I am continually looking for healthy and tasty ways to mix up and inspire our everyday foods! Please feel free to add questions or comments below and I will respond as best I can!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Have you ever had a miracle in the kitchen? I can claim to have had more than a few miracles visit my kitchen over the years; however, this is the first time I’ve been visited by three consecutive miracles, including, a visit by the Virgin Mary.

It is late afternoon and the husband has gone out to run a few errands, while the kid takes a nap. Appropriately, it is also Sunday and I am putzing around the house getting things done, when I realize that Id like to have pizza for dinner. I pull up the recipe for the Friday Night Pizza as published in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Opening the cupboard I am dismayed to discover that not only am I completely out of Canola oil, but that I also only have a few drops of Olive Oil left in the bottle. The recipe calls for Olive Oil and truly, any oil would likely do, but it looks as though I may be flat out of any kind of oil.  Ive already started to proof my yeast in the water, so I decide to try and claim the last of the Olive Oil from the bottle.

The first miracle is that I had exactly 3 Tablespoons of olive oil left in the bottle, the exact amount called for in the recipe. Does that EVER happen? The second miracle, is that my husband was diverted on his errand run and had not yet made it to the grocery store, so I was able to call and add both kinds of oil to his shopping list. (This was a rare event, he has ALWAYS left the store by the time I call to ask him to pick up something else).  Miracle #3 is that the Virgin Mary showed up in my yeast mixture as I added the Olive Oil. Coincidence? I think not

And now, we know why it is called Extra Virgin Olive Oil!

The truly amazing part of this story is that I just drizzled the oil from the tablespoon over the proofing yeast, shook it a few times, and ended up with what, really does look like some intentional fresca fresco of the Virgin Mary!

Vegan Red Curry Squash Pie

Tomorrow I am entering a non-vegan version of this pie in the City of Louisville (CO) Fall Festival Annual Pie

Contest. This was my first time baking a pie at our new-to-us home and in a disposable pie tin, so it is not as pretty as could be, but I do hope that it is at least delicious!

For at home consumption I made a vegan version of the recipe, which takes inspiration from my moms famous pumpkin pie and the Farmers Daughters Butternut Squash Pie. When I first made a pumpkin pie a few years ago I learned that the reason I dont like many pumpkin pies is that I am not fond of the combination of spices. My mom likes to keep it simple with cinnamon and all spice. She also uses less sugar than is called for in many pie recipes.

Prior to reading about the Butternut Squash Pie last fall, I had not considered making a pie with anything besides pumpkin. However, there are several varieties of sweet fleshed winter squash that can also make delicious pies. At our local farmers market the winter squash are just starting to make an appearance and the Red Curry Squash was recommended to me by Anna of Ollin Farms. Lest you are concerned, Red Curry is indicative of the color of the squash and has nothing to do with the flavor!

Vegan Red Curry Squash Pie
  • 1 cup pureed squash
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¾ tsp allspice
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 3 Ener-G eggs prepared
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • ¾ cup sugar

Instructions:

Prepare pie dough for one pie (I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks in standard pie dough recipe). Preheat your oven to 425F.

Add pureed squash to bowl. Sprinkle with spices and salt. Mix together Energ-G eggs and add coconut milk and sugar to the mix. Add to pureed squash and stir until thoroughly combined and smooth.

Pour mixture into prepared pie plate and raw crust. Bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and bake and additional 35 to 45 minutes 60 minutes (or) until firm in the center or a tooth pick inserted comes out clean and dry.

Apparently, Ener-G Egg does not cook like egg in a pie! At an hour and 10 minutes out my pie still smells great, looks great, but is liquid in sidegoing to bake another 10 minutesmaybe it will set as it cools. I ultimately took it out and it started to set, but tastes very carmelized. Hubby says this is yummy and I am disappointed! At least this was not my contest pie! I might have to try this recipe again with arrowroot instead of Ener-G.

Let pie cool completely before serving.

The Deceit of SIGG

Recently it has been brought to my attention that all SIGG water bottles produced prior to August 2008 contained BPA. Prior to this date SIGG misled consumers into believing that their product was not plastic, but a water based epoxy resin the implication being that it was safe and did not contain BPA.

Read more at these links:

SIGGS BPA Confession at Zrecommends

How to Identify Your SIGG at Consumerist

Letter from SIGG CEO at SIGG

The big SIGG BPA letdown at Crunchy Domestic Goddess

Here is my open letter to Steve Wasik the CEO of SIGG. Please feel free to write him yourself and do spread the word.

Dear Mr. Wasik,

The news that your SIGG water bottles (prior to 2008 production) contain BPA is the greatest news of deceit that I have encountered as a consumer in my lifetime. Since learning I was pregnant with my son in September 2006, I specifically avoided and continue to avoid plastic products, including those products containing BPA, as it is a known endocrine disruptor. Around this time our family purchased two SIGG water bottles that we have used religiously when out and about and away from our water glasses at home.

While preganant I drank from my SIGG bottle 4 days per week as I had a long commute to a college campus where I did not have easy access to water. When my son was born I breastfed him and carried my SIGG bottle around with me to have water on walks and at the store. Last year, when my son turned one we got him a big boy SIGG water bottle. I would not have made any of these purchases had I known your products were lined with BPA. I am in fact outraged to know that if my son were to be tested and show levels BPA in his system the most likely culprit would be our SIGG water bottles.

First off, I was raised in a family that never trusted plastic products and so, I was an early adopter of the theory that one ought to be better safe than sorry in regards to BPA and plastics in general. From 2005 to 2007 I switched out all of our older Tuperware for glassware. During this time I elminated plastic bowls and cups from household use and I continue to purchase food products in glass and or I make my own. We eat out in frequently and have minimal exposure to BPA.

When my son was born I purchased BPA free bottles, teething rings and other baby products. When I supplemented breast milk with formula I did so with the only brand that guaranteed no BPA in their liner. I would have spared no expense to buy a BPA free water bottle and so I did OR at least I was led to believe that my purchase was a BPA free bottle. To say the least your tactics and wordings were deceptive and at worse, lying through omission.

I am outraged that despite my personal research and diligence, to learn that I have been reading drinking from a bottle lined with BPA. Needless to say, we will no longer be drinking from our SIGG Bottles and I will not be purchasing new ones, rather, if we do purchase replacements, we will do so from a company who willingly acknowledged the BPA content of their water bottles, while working to develop a new formula.

Sincerely,

Green Me (personal information withheld for privacy)

P.s. This is an open letter that will be published at www.greenme.vg and will be shared with friends and family.

P.p.s. I have read that 3rd party testing has not found leaching of BPA from bottles, but I wonder (a) how old are the bottles that they are testing and (b) have they left them in a hot car on numerous occasions? Heat and age cause other products to leach and our bottles have been left in the car on numerous occasions and are over 3 years old!

**** Prompt Response Received from SIGG ****

Hi Alison,

First off, thank you for taking the time to write to me.

I understand your point and recognize that there is a lot of confusion about BPA out there right now. To my knowledge, we at SIGG have never advertised our old liner bottles as being BPA free.  Sometimes SIGG retailers or journalists will hear the “no leaching of BPA” message and inadvertently shorten that in their communications to “no BPA”. We did our best to correct them but usually it was after the fact.

We believe we have the best protective liners in the world and have been extremely transparent with the testing of our bottles which you may have seen in the info section on our site (www.MySIGG.com/bulletin). The controversy that has swirled around BPA in the past has involved the problems of plastic bottles leaching BPA into the water – and in my 4 years with the company, SIGG has never had a problem with leaching. For the record, my family and I are still drinking from SIGG bottles with the former non-leaching liner which I have complete confidence in.

We actually did make an announcement about the new liner in January when the bottles hit the market. However, the media did not pick up the news. Due to a long-term agreement that SIGG had with our supplier (& owner) of the old liner formula, we were unable to speak about the ingredients. This placed us in a difficult situation and was another reason we began development of our new EcoCare liner with a new supplier.

Sorry to hear that we have lost your faith. If you should reconsider, please feel free to contact our Customer Service Department ([email protected]). They will contact you directly if you wish to exchange your old SIGG bottles for new SIGG bottles with the BPA-free EcoCare liner. Thanks again for your email.

Best regards,

Steve

Our Slow Food Dinner: good, clean and family food!

On Sunday afternoon we hosted half a dozen families (about 14 adults and that many kids) for a local slow food dinner. Everyone made his or her own dishes (including some home brewed hard (local) apple cider and Kombucha) and used as many local ingredients as possible. The spread covered everything from home baked Artesian breads and freshly made Queso to massaged kale salad (delicious!), cantaloupe salsa, beet salad, roasted corn and Colorado grown beans and tortillas.

The motivation for this dinner came from our small organic co-op organizer (otherwise know as Nature Deva) who has been lamenting the fact that our local Slow Food organization does not welcome children to their dinners. And what could emphasize the values of Slow Food more than taking the time to break bread and savor it with both friends and family? In our view teaching everyone, children included, about the pleasures and history of our vast food heritage is of utmost importance.  Indeed, we all had a wonderful meal and, the highlight of the evening was enjoying our children eat, play, sing, run and be silly. My husband (a self proclaimed foodie) said that it was the best party weve ever had and with out the kids it just would not have been the same.

As a group we are compiling recipes and pictures for the evening. I will post links to other blog posts about the event as they are published. In the meantime here are the recipes for the dishes that I prepared:

Simple Madagascar Style Beans (made from a Colorado cousin of a pinto bean):

To start:
-2 tbsp canola oil in bottom of crockpot
– 1 large or several small onions diced (I used fresh small red onions from the Farmers Market)
– several cloves of garlic chopped (also local from market)
– 2 to 5 bay leaves
– 2+ cups beans (2 cups dry, soaked over night in water)
– 1 tsp allspice
– water to cover beans plus an inch
Cook beans in crock pot until tender about 3 to 5 hours depending on your pot.

Add when beans are cooked:
– 1 to 2 tsps salt (depends on taste preference)
– 1 tsp ground coriander
– 2 large or 4 to 6 small potatoes chopped
Cook an additional 2 to 4 hours until potatoes are tender and soup is starting to thicken

When I was in Madagascar I stayed at a reserve where the Malagasy cook made salty beans cooked until almost mushy with onions. This recipe is about as close as I can replicate you can make it with any type of bean and I think it tastes delicious over a bowl of rice. When our beans were too salty one night at the Reserve, the Malagasy researches that I was staying with said that it meant the cook was in love! So, if your beans come out too salty, it just might be good news! Simple, but satisfying!

Tortillas (I found my recipe here, but altered as seen below):

– 4 cups fine whole wheat flour (we are lucky to have a great source for locally milled flour!)
– 3 teaspoons of baking powder
– 2 teaspoons of salt
– 2 tbsp canola oil
– 2 tbsp melted Earth Balance Spread
– 1 tsp local honey
– 1.5 cups warm coconut milk

As the recipe at Home Sick Texan recommends, knead the sticky dough for two minutes on a floured board. I covered mine with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. I then pinched off small balls and rolled them out flat (about 6 inch tortillas) and cooked in a skillet.

Homemade Yogurt (vegan yogurt too!)

We’ve made many changes in our home over the past few years to reduce our consumption of plastic and make things from scratch. And yet, we’ve continued to bring single serve yogurt containers into our home on a weekly basis. We are able to recycle them, but that only reduces the waste created by this tasty habit.

Folks have told me I need to buy a yogurt maker, but I am hesitant to own single use appliances (outside of the coffee maker). I don’t own a bread machine nor do I own a yogurt maker. However, I do own a crock pot, so imagine my glee when I came a across a thread on the Mary Jane Farm message board regarding making your own yogurt and then a few folks suggesting a particular simple recipe for crock pot yogurt. I was literally jumping for joy!

Now as you all know I am lactose intolerant, so I generally do not join in the yogurt eating fun at our house, except when I decide to indulge in a non dairy yogurt. These days there are a variety of non dairy yogurts, but none of them are really up to the job or for daily consumption: soy yogurt (not satisfying), a rice yogurt (spendy and weird flavor), or the newer coconut yogurt (tasty, but SPENDY).

So, I decided to try the crock pot recipe with coconut milk for a nice vegan yogurt that is also dairy, casein and lactose free! Start up costs were not cheap with cans of organic coconut milk at $1.99 each (needed 5) and a starter coconut yogurt at $1.59. This made about 10 servings of yogurt for $1.15 each, which is still more expensive than your average soy or regular dairy yogurt, but much cheaper than the $2.59 coconut yogurt sold at Whole Foods ($1.59 at my local health food store). Now I have my own starter and just need to find a more affordable source of coconut milk if I didnt use organic for example, I could further reduce costs!

The important question however is: how did the yogurt turn out? Excellent! The flavor is delicious and only very mildly coconut. The texture is smooth and creamy. The consistency is thick, although more like yoplait than some of the almost jello style yogurts. I also used a table spoon of arrowroot powder in my cooking process in hopes that it would help thicken things up and although I dont know if that helped; perhaps next time I will use two tablespoons and see if I can get it a bit thicker. Nevertheless, my experiment was a success!

And, now that I know that I can make yogurt in a crockpot, I can also start to make some at home for my son and maybe even talk the husband into taking it in his lunch to work!

Hoo! Hoo! and Meow! Crackers for the Munckin (and his Dad)

A few day ago I was finally inspired to make the cracker recipe published at the Green Phone Booth a few months ago. Baby Green Me has discovered bunny crackers and I am hesitant to not only feed him a snack on a regular basis that is lacking in nutritional value (no fiber, just carbs) and that is also quite pricey per ounce. On the flip side, who can pass up cute animal crackers?

The first time I made the recipe I followed EnviRambos recipe, except for substituting sesame seeds for rosemary. The second time I made the crackers I increased the nutritional yeast to 4 tablespoons for a cheesier flavor, increased my sesame seeds to two table spoons and I added an extra 2 tablespoons of water to make the dough work (with the extra yeast & seeds).

Both times I used my mini kitty and owl cookie cutters to make animal crackers that my son would love. Not only did the crackers work, but Baby Green Me loves themhe might eat them in exclusion of any other foods if I let him! And these crackers are filled with fiber, protein, and a little extra calcium and B vitamins thanks to the nutritional yeast and sesame seeds!

I wont recreate the recipe here as the original is a perfect starting point; however, I have included a few photos of my cracker making experience. Enjoy!

If you have a cracker fiend in your home or just need some healthy on the go snacks for your kiddos I highly recommend trying out these crackers. They were super easy to make (it took less than 10 minutes to mix up the dough), easy to handle, they cook in 15 minutes (or less) and then are ready to go!