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In the past, I’ve made little arrangements of annuals for the two big pots on our front porch. I typically don’t plant annuals in our beds, so I used the pots as a source of color all season long. We did some re-arranging with our landscaping this year (we’re changing the whole bed on the side of our house for perennial fruits…yay!), and I decided that I would rather use those nice front pots that enjoy plenty of morning sun for growing food instead of flowers. I started out with a packet of spring mix, which has been great because we have already gotten one harvest out of it and plan to get another two before the heat sets in. Once the warmer weather arrives, I think I’ll switch to some hot peppers…what do you think?

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I’m just a bit of a health junkie in the sense that I enjoy reading about all things health-related. I like to research the healthiest things and ways to eat and the most efficient and holistic ways to exercise and train. The most frustrating part of this research is how much of it conflicts with other parts!

All of that to say that I’m confused on the topic of grains. People are increasingly finding that they have gluten allergies or sensitivities. Many paleo diet proponents, raw foodies, and many others advocate eliminating grains.  Weston A. Price advises careful preparation of whole grains before eating. My problem with all of this reading? I really enjoy whole grains! I stay fuller longer when I eat them, and I don’t seem to have gluten sensitivities. All bets are off right now because I’m pregnant, but I do plan to experiment going grain-free for a month or so post-baby. I’ll keep you posted on my efforts.

What are your thoughts on the subject?

If you aren’t going grain-free anytime soon, make some of this whole grain mix from Kim Boyce’s new cookbook. Every recipe I’ve tried so far has been delicious. I made a huge batch of her whole grain mix a few weeks ago, and I’ve been having fun thinking up things to make with it to experiment.

Multigrain Flour Mix
From Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
1 cup barley flour
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup rye flour

Measure all of the flours into a bowl and then mix together. I typically quadruple the recipe, and then store the leftovers in a big flour jar marked “whole grain flour” to use in place of regular flour in recipes.

To make the barley and oat flours, I just put the same amount of rolled barley or rolled oats in my blender and pulverized them into a fine powder. So to make a cup of oat flour, I put a cup of organic rolled oats into the blender and turned the blender on high for a minute or two until the result was a fine powder (I think the food processor would work just as well). Kim recommends sifting the flours as you combine them.

One of the ways I “used up” the whole grain mix was with these delicious cookies…

Multi-Grain Peanut Butter Reese Cup Cookies
Adapted from The Curvy Carrot

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup multi-grain mix (see above)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 happily-raised egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp milk
6 ounces chocolate chunks (I used dark chocolate, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand)
10-12 miniature Reese cups, chopped (we had some leftover Easter candy that I wanted to use up)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients. Cream the butter until smooth, and then add the honey, sugar, and peanut butter and mix until smooth. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk, mixing completely. Then add the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Finally, add the chocolate chunks and Reese cups, stirring gently. Drop the cookies onto baking sheets. I have noticed that the whole grain mix takes a bit longer to bake, so keep an eye on any baking you do when you sub out the whole grain mix. These cookies took about 14 minutes or so per batch.

Wendell Berry’s National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson lecture was Monday evening. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

According to a tweet from Gregory Wolfe of the IMAGE Journal who was in attendance, the chair of the NEH stood up after the speech and said that Berry’s words did not reflect “the official policy of the US government.” Ha! Go Wendell!

Part of the fun of ordering a whole pig every six months or so is that we often get cuts of meat that you wouldn’t find at the typical store. I cleaned out our freezer last week to make room for some freezer meals (look for a post on those soon) and found a huge roast pork loin from maybe two pigs ago (oops!). I googled “roast pork loin” and didn’t come up with a whole lot that sounded similar to what I was looking at. This thing weighed almost six pounds and had a bone in it, so it wasn’t your typical pork loin. I finally decided to just wing it. It was so delicious. As usual, cooking it on the bone made a huge difference in terms of flavor. I don’t know where you’ll find one of these bad boys, but the technique would work just as well with a regular pork loin – you just won’t need to cook it as long. I’m usually not a big fan of brining, but it seemed to work well here.

Roast pork loin
A Sara Original, with some help from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Ingredients
For the brine: 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of salt + water to cover
2-3 tbsp spice rub of your choice (I tried this recipe without mace)
Olive oil or butter
Barbecue sauce to cover (I used this recipe of course)

Directions
For the brine, mix the sugar and salt with some water until dissolved. Dump the pork into the mixture, and then add water until it barely covers the meat. Cover with a dishtowel and place in the refrigerator for two hours. Don’t over soak or the meat will become too salty.

After the meat has been brined, dry it off completely. Rub the olive oil/butter (your choice) on the meat and then rub in the spice rub of your choice. Let sit for at least thirty minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a pan, heat a bit of oil/butter and cook each side of the pork until browned. Then place the pork, tented with aluminum foil, in a shallow baking dish or roasting pan in the pre-heated oven  for two hours. After two hours, remove the foil and check the internal temperature. I like my pork around 155 degrees, but it was difficult to test it correctly with this roast because of the huge bone in the middle. When all else fails, I always fall back on the whole “cut it down the middle” method of meat testing! After two hours, I removed the foil and basted the pork with the barbecue sauce, and then I baked it for an additional 30 minutes at 400 degrees uncovered. Once it has nearly reached your temperature of choice, remove it from the oven and let it rest for twenty minutes or so. The heat from the bone will continue to cook the meat as it rests, and the juices will soak into the meat.

This made lots of meat, so the next day, Grant made these amazing sandwiches with some mangoes we treated ourselves to because they were on sale at Whole Foods. The sandwiches were easy but delicious: mangoes, spinach, red onion, pork and barbecue sauce. Yum! This has been the meal that keeps on giving because we made it on Friday evening, had leftovers on Saturday, Sunday and still have a good amount left for some pork tacos tomorrow!

Here is Jayber Crow (one of my favorite characters and novels) on the church…

My vision of the gathered church that had come to me… had been replaced by a vision of the gathered community. What I saw now was the community imperfect and irresolute but held together by the frayed and always fraying, incomplete and yet ever-holding bonds of the various sorts of affection. There had maybe never been anybody who had not been loved by somebody, who had been loved by somebody else, and so on and on… It was a community always disappointed in itself,disappointing its members, always trying to contain its divisions and gentle its meanness, always failing and yet always preserving a sort of will toward goodwill. I knew that, in the midst of all the ignorance and error, this was a membership; it was the membership of Port William and of no other place on earth. My vision gathered the community as it never has been and never will be gathered in this world of time, for the community must always be marred by members who are indifferent to it or against it, who are nonetheless its members and maybe nonetheless essential to it. And yet I saw them all as somehow perfected, beyond time, by one another’s love, compassion, and forgiveness, as it is said we may be perfected by grace.

Here’s another rotisserie chicken recipe for a quick and easy dinner if you have some leftover chicken. As mentioned before, we try to make dough on Sundays, so that we have it on hand throughout the week for easy stuff like pizzas or pitas. If we don’t have plans, we like to do pizzas on Friday nights. We try to let Jasper pick the ingredients, but last time he asked craisans, hummus, and guacamole. I think we might have to put a few more perimeters on his ingredient options before we start letting him pick out dinner.

Barbeque Chicken Pizza
A Sara Original, attempting to taste a bit like Puccini’s

Ingredients
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
1 cup barbeque sauce (recipe below)
1 small red onion, sliced
2 cups shredded cheese (we used colby, but feel free to experiment)

Directions
Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven. I like to assembly the pizza on one of those silicone baking liners (similar to parchment paper, but reusable). I learned this after many years of misshapen pizzas in trying to transfer the assembled pizza to the stone. If using the dough recipe above,  cut off about a grapefruit-sized amount of dough and roll it into your desired shape on a heavily-floured surface. Then transfer the pizza to a silicone baking liner or parchment paper (or don’t if you’re talented and can transfer it directly to the stone). Put the sauce, chicken, onions on the pizza, and then cover it all with the cheese. Place the assembled pizza onto the stone in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

As long as I can remember, my favorite condiment has been my mom’s homemade barbeque sauce. Even though I make it myself now, it never tastes quite the same as hers. Grant asks for it for Christmas and for his birthday, and we ration that stuff out throughout the year. Unfortunately for us, Jasper loves it too and calls it “Nana’s Sauce,” and asks for it on nearly everything. Make a big batch today!

Jan’s Barbeque Sauce
My mom’s famous sauce

Ingredients
44 oz ketchup
1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp of the following herbs: rosemary, thyme, sage, majoram, oregano
3 tsp basil
1 bulb of garlic, minced
1 1/2 small bottle tabasco

Directions
Mix all of the ingredients together in a large pot. Bring to a light boil, and then reduce to a simmer, covered, for about twenty minutes. Reduce the heat to low and cook for another twenty minutes uncovered. Remove from heat, let sauce return to room temperature, and then bottle and refrigerate for your use or for gifts.

So I guess Mr. Berry spoke at a book club at some town along the Ohio last week. First, I’m intrigued by a small town that holds an annual book club meeting – that sounds like my kind of place. And second, how did I miss this with it being so close?!

At any rate, a blogger jotted down some notes from his talk, and I particularly appreciated this rough quote:

After World War II, industrialization affected everything — agriculture, entertainment, health care. Local people stopped telling local stories and instead talked about what they saw on television. That’s a profound change. Real culture consists of conversations between old people and young people. Without that, something is really lost.

Wendell Berry, April 2012

I only work in an office these days a few days a week, but I have lately been surprised by the amount of chatter that goes on around me that revolves around everyone’s TV watching habits. I’m typically left out (which is fine) because we don’t have cable, and we don’t watch much of the same stuff that my co-workers watch. Berry argues that we have lost much from this phenomenon. I can’t help but agree…so what now?

You’re composting, right? If not, you should be. It has to be one of the easiest and greenest practices to incorporate into your lifestyle and family. We joke that Jasper doesn’t even know what a trash can is because most everything we dispose of is either reused, recycled, or composted. It’s amazing how much of household waste can avoid the landfill.

Grant started vermicomposting last year (see link above). We’ve actually had really good luck with the worms. They thrive in their homemade bin, and we’ve generated lots of compost and compost tea from our one little worm bin. Last weekend, Grant said it was time to sift the compost.

Because we only have one bin, we usually only do this about twice a year. He waits for a very sunny day (the worms hate the sun) and transfers the compost (worms and all) to a cardboard box. He lets it sit out in the sun for an hour or two, which sends the worm to the bottom of the box and makes it much easier to collect the compost off the top. We then dump the worms and remnant compost back into the bin, along with the now damp cardboard (the worms love cardboard!). It isn’t an exact science by any means, and we still have much to learn in this department. But we have a small operation, so we don’t need anything too complicated.

This year, when Grant started the process, there were tons of worms – far more than last time. He quickly decided that there were too many worms for one bin, so he went out to get another bin. While he was working on the new bin, I spread the compost in the garden and raked it in a bit to prep the beds. Grant followed the same process as last time with the new bin, and then added in several handfuls of worms + compost. I topped it all off with plenty of bedding – lots of shredded paper and torn up cardboard. So we are now a two worm bin family. We’ll keep you posted on how this goes!

H/T Going Local.

There were so many great nuggets in the Dissent Magazine interview that I just had to include another one:

To live and work attentively in a diverse landscape such as this one—made up of native woodlands, pastures, croplands, ponds, and streams—is to live from one revelation to another, things unexpected, always of interest, often wonderful. After a while, you understand that there can be no end to this. The place is essentially interesting, inexhaustibly beautiful and wonderful. To know this is a defense against the incessant salestalk that is always telling you that what you have is not good enough; your life is not good enough. There aren’t many right answers to that. One of them, one of the best, comes from living watchfully and carefully the life uniquely granted to you by your place: My life, thank you very much, is just fine.

Wendell Berry

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