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This is what our kitchen looked like one afternoon last week after a marathon cooking session of spicy chickpea and tomato soup, several batches of zucchini bread, prepping some tomatoes, and freezing black beans in one cup batches for lunches. I cooked enough for several either whole meals or parts of meals. I realized that what has become a typical Sunday afternoon for me is either boring, daunting or difficult for many. I’m grateful that I have the time to spend cooking like this for my family and friends…thanks for reading!
Recipes to come, I hope!
We’re still getting some veggies from our CSA and the last of our tomatoes from our garden are ripening. I haven’t had tons of extra time on my hands for cooking and preserving, so I thought I would share my easy go-to method of putting up: the freezer.
For peppers of all kinds, I either slice of dice them, and then freeze them on a baking sheet for at least six hours. Then I put them in bags in two cup portions in the freezer. Freezing them on a baking sheet first helps to keep them from clumping together, so that I can take out just a handful at a time if necessary. The peppers work great in soups and for taco night. This method also works great for sweet corn. We’ve also been inundated with greens from our CSA, so I wash and rinse them well and then freeze them in large ziploc bags for an easy sauteed side or for smoothies.
For tomatoes, I just cut out the stems and freeze them on a baking sheet for a few hours before throwing them in a large container in the freezer. When I’m ready to use these, I usually set them out to thaw in the morning and use them for dinner that evening. I sometimes dice them for spaghetti sauce or puree them for vegetable soup or anything that requires a tomato base.
I have a post on canning to come, but I find that my quick-and-easy freezer method makes putting up much easier and less time consuming. Of course, you need lots of freezer space, which isn’t the most efficient use of energy. I hope to become a more proficient canner (and food dehydrator) with practice, but, in the meantime, I’ll relish having some garden goodies in the middle of winter. More freezing guidelines and tips here.
Did you catch this opinion in last week’s NYT? A mother writes about her efforts to feed her family healthfully on a shoestring budget:
My turn with spade and hoe started a few years ago when I found myself divorced and flat broke. My livelihood as a freelance writer went out the window when the economy tanked. I literally could afford beans, the dried kind, which I’d thought were for school art projects or teaching elementary math. And I didn’t know how to cook.
Luckily, my late father had hammered into me that grit was more important than talent. So, when I couldn’t afford fancy food — never mind paraben-free shampoo — for my babies, I figured, if peasants in 11th-century Sicily did all this, how hard could it be?
…My goal was to have healthy, unprocessed food for $10 or less a day. Cereal was the first thing to go. It dawned on me that making granola was a matter of tossing oatmeal and nuts into a bowl with a little oil, honey and spices — and then baking until brown. No more $14 boxes of fancy grains with pomegranate antioxidants.
Read the whole thing.
Along those same lines, check out Urban Hermit, a memoir about an extremely obese and deeply in debt man who resolves to do something about his condition and accomplishes both largely by eating real (cheap!) food. Now a diet consisting solely of lentils and tuna sounds like quick boredom to me, but the point is that eating whole foods doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive necessarily.
The biggest complaint I hear about “real food” eating and cooking is the time and cost it requires. While I sympathize with both complaints, we have actually found that eating real food is less expensive than how we used to eat, which, while not totally unhealthy, was much more convenience-focused. It does take more time, but I have found that creating something in the kitchen for my family or friends’ enjoyment is immensely more satisfying than many of the other ways I spend my time. I’ll try to do better about including cost and time estimates in my recipes here to be more transparent about how much time and money we’re spending to feed our family in this way.
A little of Wendell’s fiction for today, from possibly my favorite novel of all time Jayber Crow,
Just as a good man would not coerce the love of his wife, God does not coerce the love of his human creatures, not for Himself or for the world or for one another. To allow that love to exist fully and freely, He must allow it not to exist at all. His love is suffering. It is our freedom and His sorrow. To love the world as much even as I could love it would be suffering also, for I would fail. And yet all the good I know is in this, that a man might so love this world that it would break his heart.
1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.
4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.
Wendell Berry, The Progressive Magazine
We cleaned up the garden a few weeks ago. We chopped down all of the vegetable plants to the ground, so that their roots would decompose over the winter and make for better soil next year. We trimmed back all of the perennials. We picked all of the remaining tomatoes (and there were lots of them yet!). Then we planted some radishes and kale in the square foot and some cover crops in the rest of the garden.
I haven’t had the best luck with green tomatoes in the past. I usually put them in the windowsill in the kitchen and wait for them to turn, but only a few of them ever do. This year, we had several pans of green toms, so I told Grant that I would try putting them in the dining room (which faces east) instead. I wasn’t feeling too confident because the kitchen gets more sun (or so I thought). At this point, nearly all of the tomatoes have turned red – and delicious. Jasper and I have been chowing down on five or six tomatoes a day even this far into October. I’m so glad I have the other room a chance. Moral of the story: test out a few spots around your house in order to find the best place for turning all of those fall tomatoes!
Before (just a sampling):
After only a few days:
Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.
“The Pleasures of Eating” from What are People For?
Have you found Pinterest yet? My advice? Don’t. It’s ridiculously addicting, and I
spendwaste entirely too much time on there. It gets my creative juices flowing, but I seem to just spend more time looking up stuff instead of actually DOING the stuff I’m “pinning.” For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about or just don’t care, I’ll get to the point. I’m already daydreaming about next year’s garden, and Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. A few ideas worth sharing:
- I’m researching inexpensive and sustainable ideas to incorporate square foot gardening principles at the Grace Garden next year…
- Step-by-step guide to making your own square foot gardening boxes
- A little bit different from what you usually see
- Helpful square foot resource
- I’ve always had trouble growing carrots, so I’m going to try these tips next spring.
- A great resource blog for beginner and experienced gardeners – shows the importance of having and sticking to A PLAN!
- This is genius – my square feet never end up looking as pretty and organized as the ones in the pictures. Not that I care about how it looks, but straighter rows would help with weeding and proper spacing.
- I love growing potatoes, but they take up so much space. I will be doing this next year. I’m collecting big barrels/buckets now if you have any laying around that you want to donate…
- I want to try more foraging. I need to study up this winter, so that I’m prepared next spring.
- I planted our mint in a large container when I originally planted it a few years ago, but it has still gone crazy in the garden. I’m hoping to revamp things a bit next year and give the herb garden its own real estate. Here are some helpful mint tips.
- I’ve also been lots of chicken research, but it is our little secret!
Of course, if you’re already on Pinterest, find me on there so we can waste time together!
I recently finished Fair Food (review coming soon), and it has changed my thinking a bit on the “food movement.” While I still think local answers are the best solutions to the problems with our food system, Fair Food opened my eyes to the fact that, because of the scope of the problem, we need larger players involved as well. Specifically, Fair Food talks about the sustainability efforts by Costco and Sysco.
In light of these new conclusions on my part, I found this recap of Michael Pollan’s conversation with Jack Sinclair, the executive vice president of grocery merchandise for WalMart, particularly interesting (and a bit depressing after reading about other business leaders willing to take risks for the sake of health, justice and the environment). Unfortunately, though, as the article says, “WalMart is an 800 pound gorilla that can’t be ignored [in the food debate].”
I love summer eating and “cooking.” At our house, summer cooking is really more assembling than cooking. There are so many great ingredients right outside our back door (or arriving in our CSA box or from a trip to the farmer’s market) that I spend a few minutes cutting up a few things and throwing them together with a few other things and that’s our dinner. It’s so delicious, and I’ll dream about heirloom tomatoes, basil, onions and Gorgonzola (my favorite lunch that I ate for about 27 days straight at one point this summer) all winter long.
I love to cook. I love spending awhile in the kitchen, putting together a meal, enjoying the smells and test tastes. I don’t do that much in the summer, but the temperatures have turned lately. I’ve been back in the kitchen and loving it. I made this recipe last week on Monday, and it made enough for two dinners + lunch for me all week! That’s my kinda meal…
Cuban Black Beans and Rice
Barely adapted from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant*
7 cups black beans
3 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup onions, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomato juice or orange juice (I used tomato this time around)
2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
6 cups brown rice, cooked
Cook the beans and reserve at least a cup or two of the cooking liquid for later. Saute the onions, garlic, and spices in the oil until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the green peppers and saute for 5 minutes more. Add salt, black pepper, juice, and tomatoes and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
Combine the drained black beans with the vegetable mixture. Puree 2-3 cups of the bean-vegetable mixture with a stick blender, adding the reserved liquid if necessary to make a smooth puree. Stir the puree into the beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste for salt.
Serve the beans on the rice and top with hot sauce and a dollop of sour cream.
Leftover tips: The black beans also make a great filling for burritos. If you thin this out with a bit more tomato/orange juice, it would make a great black bean soup.
*In my experience, if you ever see a Moosewood cookbook for a decent price (I see them at Goodwill often), BUY IT! You won’t regret it…