Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Saturday Food Forage: Black Earth Meats

Starting with last summer's farmers market, our family has taken to foraging for food on Saturdays. Some months we forage more than others. For example, when on bed rest, it is all we can do to remain fed, let alone go on foraging excursions. Since my cortisone shots and osteopathic manipulation therapy this week, I have been feeling well and itching to get out of the house. So, being Saturday, we went foraging!

For months, I have heard about Black Earth Meats, but I was initially skeptical to try them. While their prices for grassfed and organic meats are great, they did not reply to several emails I sent inquiring about their buyer's programs. And, being contrary by nature, I wrote them off. Unfortunately, I have found our local farm source drying up, and prices at a nearby store are not nearly as nice as I'd like.

So. Off to Black Earth. If nothing else, it is a pretty drive through the countryside to get there, and Nathan and I have always liked to take the scenic route. We bundled the kids into the car with the promise of a nice drive and a "meat snack" once we reached our destination.

The store had a surprising variety of meat cuts, and it was fairly reasonable if you were buying meat by the cut. With four of us to feed (and a fifth causing me to consume everything in sight!), we need to buy a bit more meat, though, so we inquired about the buyer's programs. AGAIN.

For a hindquarter of beef, their prices are excellent! For grassfed beef, including wrapping , we only paid $2.79/lb, and we are getting a wide variety of roasts, steaks, organ, stew, and ground meat. The staff were very patient with us, and walked us through the entire cutting process, guiding us as to typical portion sizes, cuts, and variety. Definitely an excellent experience!

While we were there, we picked up some "meat snacks" for the kids, including beef sticks, which were some of the tastiest we've tried in a while, and dried beef. The dried beef was absolutely divine, and we're headed back in a few weeks to pick up some more!

Last, but definitely not least, we picked up some pineapple brats for our dinner tonight, and boy, were they something. They were a different flavor to those we get from Ruef's Meat Market in New Glarus, but the casings were soft enough for babies to eat. Another win.

Chalk today's excursion up in the win column! :-D

Friday, January 29, 2010

Book Review: Sophie-Safe Cooking

For my birthday, my sister gave me a copy of Sophie-Safe Cooking by Emily Hendrix. It is full of recipes free of all of the eight major allergens: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. Needless to say, this book is one of the best additions to my kitchen in the past year.

Unlike most books that cater to the allergy-friendly community, this one uses common household ingredients to make a wide range of baked goods, breakfast foods, dinners, and delicious desserts! (Can you tell which section I've been playing with?!) Each recipe is also easily customizable for a particular set of eating restrictions. For example, if dairy is not an issue, you can use milk and butter. If wheat is not an issue, you can use wheat flour. And so on.

The primary ingredients in a lot of the recipes are oat flour and Spectrum shortening. For some reason, these were major eye-openers to me.

For one thing, oat flour doesn't require xanthan or guar gum to yield respectable looking baked goods. For another, it is easy enough to grind your own in a food processor or blender from oats. Instead of paying $2.39/lb of brown rice flour, I can now pay $0.88/lb for organic oats. It sounded like it might be a lot of work to grind the oats, but it took me less than 15 minutes to grind 10 lbs yesterday.

And the shortening? Amazing! Spectrum uses cold-pressed palm oil for their shortening, so it is dairy, soy, and trans-fat free! Hooray! I now have a way to make pastries, cookies, and frostings that actually taste delicious.

There are many other nuggets of information in the book, and on her website All of the recipes are cheap, easy, and, most importantly, delicious!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gratituesday: The Co-op

It's Tuesday. Wait. It's Gratituesday! Time for another post!

I'm dealing with some pretty excruciating pain which has kept me house-bound for weeks now, and I just have not been able to get to the store to buy groceries. Since I usually keep a fairly stocked pantry, I haven't needed to get anything, but we are now down to eating, shall we say, creatively.

We are completely out of oats, flour, olive oil, and sucanat. And, since I haven't been cooking, the disappearance of kitchen staples has escaped my notice. That is, until this morning when my husband asked what to prepare for breakfast since we only had a half-cup of oats... Hmmm... Time to go shopping.

Which is why I am so grateful for the Willy St Co-op here in Madison.

I can sit at home and shop online, picking everything from frozen foods, rice milk, and produce to my staples out of the bulk bins. Then, when I send Nathan out to get the groceries, he just has to drive up, identify himself, and they load all of my items into his car!

After trying this online shopping once, I can't see going back to navigating the co-op with multiple kids ever again!

Thanks for making life so much easier for a mother who is stuck at home :)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yellow Cake in a Mug!

Yesterday was my birthday, and I needed to find an easy, vegan cake recipe for Nathan to make for me. After hours of searching recipe blogs and such, I stumbled across this recipe for cake in a mug. Once I made some changes to remove the egg and milk, it was perfect.

For young children (and apparently husbands, too) it is extremely exciting to eat your cake out of a mug! There were smiles all around, and the birthday mom was happy :-D

Yellow Cake in a Mug

6 T flour (you can use whole wheat, all-purpose, or gluten-free)
4 T sugar/sucanat
1/8 tsp baking powder
egg replacer to equal one egg (I use Ener-G brand)
3 T water
3 T oil
dash of vanilla

Mix the egg replacer and set aside while you combine the rest of the ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the mug and mix well. Stir in wet ingredients. Microwave for 3 minutes. The cake should rise. You can frost it in the mug, or tip it out onto a plate and then frost it. We ate ours in the mug!

Simple Vegan Frosting

1 cup confectioner's sugar
1-3 tsp water
dash of vanilla

Mix water and vanilla into sugar, starting with 1 tsp and adding additional water as needed to reach your desired consistency.

Gratituesday: My Life

This post is linked to Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.

It seems like a bit of a cop-out, but today is my birthday, and I am grateful for my life.

I have not had a particularly long life yet (although that is hopefully going to happen! ) but it has been a very blessed life; my parents and sisters have been a fantastic presence throughout its entirety. My childhood is filled with great memories, from the early years in South Africa with lots of family and friends, to relocating to North Carolina and meeting lots of new friends. In high school I was blessed with relatively good schools, positive role models, and tons of dreams. And in college, I met and married the love of my life. From there, I have received the two most wonderful blessings a woman could hope for: my children. This year, too, should bring its share of joy.

When I consider the stories and pictures I've seen on the news, books I've read, and movies I've watched, I am awed that my life has been free of heavy burdens. The gratitude, today, on my birthday, is overwhelming!

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Philosophy...

The following is quoted from Steinbeck's East of Eden and seems to sum up my philosophy on life:

I don't know how it will be in the years to come. There are monstrous changes taking place in the world, forces shaping a future whose face we do not know. Some of these forces seem evil to us, perhaps not in themselves but because their tendency is to eliminate other things we hold good. It is true that two men can lift a bigger stone than one man. A group can build automobiles quicker and better than one man, and bread from a huge factory is cheaper and more uniform. When our food and clothing and housing are all born in the complication of mass production, mass method is bound to get into our thinking and to eliminate all other thinking. In our time mass or collective production has entered our economics, our politics, and even our religion, so that some nations have substituted the idea collective for the idea God. This in my time is the danger. There is great tension in the world, tension toward a breaking point, and men are unhappy and confused.

At such a time it seems natural and good to me to ask myself these questions. What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against?

Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man.

And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.

And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.

Haiti Relief

Sitting here in bed for the week, there has been no way to miss the Haitian crisis. Every time I turn the TV on, there are images of people in need. Starving, homeless, injured people who didn't have much before the earthquake and who are now completely bereft.

When I headed over to Heavenly Homemaker's blog this morning, Laura had a post up about how to save money to donate to Haitian relief. She is also donating $0.50 for every blog linked up to hers that talks about what people are doing to give to Haiti. So this is my meager contribution, since every $0.50 helps.

Nathan and I talked last night for a long time about how we would like to help the Haitians in this time of need. With a new baby on the way, and not too much wiggle room in our budget, we are not going to be able to donate as much as we'd like, but I suppose we all have to live within our means.

Nonetheless, we are going to put off our Azure Standard order (which needs to be a minimum of $550) and get our groceries from the co-op for the next few months. It may be cheaper in the long term to get our groceries from Azure Standard, but this way we will have some cash next month to be able to donate, instead.

Also, we are going to make our donation to Doctors Without Borders, since they are a reputable organization that does good work with people all over the world. Having lived in the third world for a portion of my life, I am hesitant to give money that will enrich corrupt politicians and gangsters. While food, shelter, and clothing can be stolen or bartered, no one can take medical care away from the recipient. Of course, they can do damage, but there is (I hope) no financial advantage to injuring the recipient of free medical care.

I hope lots of people link up to Laura's blog so that as much money as possible can be donated to help the victims of this awful earthquake.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Birthday Present!

My birthday is on Tuesday, and I can't wait to complete yet another year. Boy, am I getting ancient, or what?! Anyway, my mom and dad gave me a copy of Alison Stewart-Guinee's Fairy Tale Knits, which I have been ogling online and in bookstores since early December. It is a fantastic book, filled with gorgeous patterns that I, and hopefully my kids, will love!

When the book arrived, I gave it to Adrienne so that she could help me choose a project to complete (given that she is the one who has to wear what I'm making!) and she instantly fell in love with the fairy sun dress, pictured here on flickr. I'm not crazy about the length of the "leaves" at the bottom of the skirt, so I may lengthen them, but I am not sure at this point.

In any event, I rushed online to buy my yarn so that I can get started ASAP! I will post pictures of the finished product here when I'm done.

In the mean time, please check out Alison Stewart-Guinee's blog, which I was excited to find this afternoon. She has tons of other craft ideas, both yarn, fabric, and miscellaneous other crafts.

My New Project

For the last week, I have been stuck in bed doing nothing but growing baby #3. In so doing, my mom forwarded me a blurb about Gourmet Crochet, which is doing a crochet-a-long afghan. It has been a while since I started a new project that was not specifically for a child, so I thought I'd give it a try. Since then, I have found myself addicted--yes, compulsively the blog and twitching when there is no update--to this project.

Each day, Carolyn Christmas posts a new square with a variation on a shell pattern. I am making mine with scraps of yarn I have lying around the house, cluttering up my office. So far, there is no discernible color balance, but my mathematical/pattern conscious self will just have to learn to relax and go with the flow. Thankfully, it means that I can clean out some clutter, all while lying in the comfort of my bed! Hooray!

The best thing I have learned from this crochet-a-long, though, is that it doesn't take too terribly long to complete an afghan. I always put of projects because I'm busy with the children, cleaning, errands, life in general, but doing one square per day takes up no time at all. I have been doing them in the few minutes between when the children go to bed and my TV programs start or right through the programs. If I don't push myself and feel as though I need to complete the whole project in one night, I could easily crochet several afghans without even noticing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

More Allergies--More Eliminations

Hi all. Been a very long time since I've blogged! Hopefully, I will get into a rhythm one of these months and actually begin blogging in earnest. Yeah, right.

I've been kept busy with Noah, who we just discovered is allergic to dairy and soy. So. That means we are on what is essentially a vegan diet, minus the soy and with the meat! He also seems to be having reactions to several fruits and veggies, so I am not sure where we go from here. Luckily, he has an allergist appointment next week, and that should answer a few questions.

I'll add some of my new recipes later tonight...