REAL Maple Syrup

Posted on September 10, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , |

Food - Maple Syrup

Did you know big food producers have now reinvented maple syrup?!  Yep, instead of a time-honored process of collecting sap and boiling it down to concentrate the sugars and flavors we can now consume maple syrup that has been literally force-sucked from a tree and reverse-osmosis-filtered down to where the cooking is very minimal.  We are told that you cannot tell the difference in taste.  Hmmm….really, who paid for that study?  Also, I noticed no one is looking at the difference in potential health effects between the two products.  We don’t really want to know, do we?  I know, it’s obnoxious to ask these questions.  The commercial stuff is a lot better than the imitation stuff that is basically colored and flavored high fructose corn syrup (basically poison.)  But I want the best.  I want the best for my body, for my money, for the environment.  And I can get it, so why not ask the hard questions?

Just look at that bottle above, newly acquired from my favorite source, a local slow-food believer who does it the old-fashioned way.  That dark color – oh my – full of nutrients the body appreciates and the palate recognizes as good.  The kicker?  This stuff is about 1/2 the price of the commercially-produced version in the discount store, it’s even cheaper than the tiny bottles in the big groceries.  And for my environmentalist friends, it didn’t travel from Canada or even the east coast of the U.S.  It pays on several levels to seek out the good stuff.  These people are around.  How to find them?  Get to a local farmer’s market regularly and get to know the growers.  They know everything about where to get the best products.  Once you become a valued customer you can even contact them in winter and restock as needed, but I buy at least a year’s supply.  I don’t ever want to run out!

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The Days Finds

Posted on September 2, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , |

rummage findsHere are today’s finds all from one quick rummage sale stop!  Rebound is a great 1970s game of “bank shots….angle shots…trick shots in this sizzling action game!” as the box says.  I snapped it up for $3.  It is complete with all the parts including the mint box and directions sheet.  These sell for $25-30 online, but this one has a little nephew’s name on it for our Christmas gag gift exchange.  I love to find a great game like this that hones fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination, even math as you must add up the score!  Best part?  No batteries required.  I know this will be a hit.

I also found a funky watering can for 50¢ which I suspected would work precisely and well with its long spout.  When I tried it I found I was right!  It works great.

Lastly, I found a huge 28 oz. stainless steel cup, probably from an old stand blender for 50¢.  This will work perfectly for the big fruit smoothies I make for lunch.  My husband gets whatever is left in the blender after I take out my 16 oz. serving and I am often overflowing his cup.  This will capture it all so I can clean the blender right away.

I think I did pretty well for $4!  One of the delights of summer for me is the many rummage sales.  I think it’s great to keep useful items out of the landfills and I’m amazed at how one person’s discards can truly become my useful or fun treasures.

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Monochrome Day

Posted on August 31, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Photography, Poetry | Tags: , , , |

Photography - B+W tiger lily

Today I narrow my focus

I do not strive to do it all

I get back to the structure of my life.

Today I pray

I thank

I hope

I listen for the voice of God.

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Have Some Fun

Posted on August 30, 2013. Filed under: Health, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , |

Philosophy - Have fun 1        Philosophy - Have fun 2

Have you had any fun lately?  I was told Ayurveda (Indian natural medicine) has a philosophy:  To be healthy each day should have 8 hours work, 8 hours fun, and 8 hours rest.  I LIKE that!  Are you getting your 8 hours of fun?  I have definitely been lacking.  But that is all about to change for me.  What can you do to have some fun today?

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Have You Ever Eaten a Fresh Chicken?

Posted on August 22, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Philosophy, Photography | Tags: , , , , , |

Food - WB Market 2

You are crazy if you don’t go to farmers’ markets this time of year!  Do you know what you can find right now?  Well for starters, these gorgeous sunflowers, gladioli and others!

Food - WB Market 1

I mean, first, it’s a feast for the eyes.  Have you ever seen such beautiful gladioli, just rammed into old buckets like that?  I love it!

Food - WB Market 3

Then there are the super nice people who sell everything!  They love to meet you and hear feedback about their produce.

Food - Tammera and MicahAnd here is the answer to my question in the title – a little birdy told me (actually a message on Facebook) that Dominion Valley Farm has fresh chicken again this Saturday at the West Bend Farmers’ Market (7-11a.m. – snooze you lose!)  I ate fresh (never frozen, was running around yesterday) pastured chicken for the first time 2 weeks ago and I couldn’t believe it.  It was by far the best chicken I have ever eaten in my life!  So here is your tip, if you are local, get to the market and check it out!  (If not, get to your own!!)Food - WB Market 4

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I Am Winning The Chipmunk War

Posted on August 16, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Plants | Tags: , , |

chipmunkThere he is, the little varmint!  Cute as can be and soooo destructive!  I have been having 2 wars with him all summer.  He is chewing up the rubbery base of my garage door AND digging incessantly very near my new and very expensive tree peony!

I have tried water down the hole, dog poop down the hole, big rock on the hole, mouse trap on the hole, big rat trap on the hole, reflective glass balls on the hole, new black duct tape on the garage door.  ALL TO NO AVAIL!

Today the tide turned in my favor all because of:

hot sauce Ha, ha, ha!  I poured this stuff down the hole and all over the top of the ground AND all along the bottom of the garage door.  Guess what!  No chipmunk activity at these two places today.  Hot paws and/or mouth = very unpleasant, maybe go dig elsewhere!!

This just proves that being human and having quite an advanced brain (when compared to a chipmunk) gives me the edge I needed to avoid resorting to chemicals of any harmful kind.

It’s good for a very good laugh, too!

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Think Twice Before Killing Bugs

Posted on August 15, 2013. Filed under: Health, Philosophy, Photography | Tags: , , , , |

Photography - FlyWhen I was a kid we found a big moth that was laying eggs.  My dad got a big glass jar and put the moth in there with a stick.  She laid eggs for quite awhile and the whole inside of that jar was full of eggs.  A little while later I noticed that all the eggs had hatched and there were caterpillars filling the jar and starting to come out of the holes my dad had punched in the lid.  Very swiftly my dad got something like kerosene, poured it in and killed all the baby caterpillars.  This experience has never left me.

For a long time we, as a society, have viewed insects of any kind as abominable creatures which should be eradicated.  According to the EPA, pesticide use in the US was 877 million pounds in 2007.  This is a 50-fold increase since 1950.  Our earth is struggling to withstand this pressure.  The bees are dying.  In China they are hand pollinating some crops now.  We must stop this insanity.  Our government won’t do it.

Do you know how it can be stopped in its tracks?  Reconsidering the choices each of us make in the hardware and food stores is how it will change.  Just look at the beautiful colors in that fly in my photo, would you?  He is in this world for a reason.  The bees, the mosquitoes, the spiders live here for a reason.  They are all part of the web.  When you buy organic fruits and vegetables at the farmer’s market that tastes amazing and gives you incredible nutrients, can’t you overlook the few spots from some bug activity?  Just cut it off for goodness sake!  It seems a small trade-off to me.  Perfect produce with little flavor or nutrients and tons and tons of chemicals poisoning our world.  How can that be a good deal?  When you are in the hardware store and they have highly toxic chemicals for sale to eradicate insects of all kinds, can’t you just walk on by?  Let those products go unsold I say!  The chemical companies will HAVE to stop producing them.  Let the chemical-produced food go unsold I say!  The giant food corporations will have to think differently about what consumers want.  We have this power, no government intervention is needed.

I like to rewrite the ending of my story above about the moth and her eggs.  In 2013 what we do is take the jar down to the pond in the park and open it up so all the caterpillars can go find a life in the wild.  And we wish them well because we need caterpillars.

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Are You Shopping the Farmer’s Market?

Posted on August 4, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , , |

Food - Farmers Market 1

These are my potato and onion growers.  Not organic, but when I asked about chemical use I got a complete explanation of how this year’s weather conditions were so perfect for potatoes there was no need for chemicals.  I like knowing these people are on top of my potatoes.  I got fingerlings, red, and blue potatoes virtually organically grown for a song compared to the store.  They were grown right here nearby and I got to meet these very cool farmers!  They were so pleased with me they threw in an enormous onion just for fun!

Food - Farmers Market 3

This is the guy who usually grows my lettuce, but today he was out by the time I got there.  He wanted to display his gorgeous fennel instead.  This stand is all organic all the time so I don’t need to ask questions.  He said, “I know you.”  I said, “Yep, I’m a regular and I’m the one who always orders 50# of beets every fall.”  Again, it’s nice to know the people who grow your food and to be known by them.

Food - Farmers Market 4So, are you shopping at your local farmer’s market?  If not, why not?  You cannot get this kind of produce in the store for as little money and as much flavor.  This stuff has not traveled thousands of miles, using up petro- chemicals and supporting big agriculture.  No, these are the small producers who provide the tastiest, healthiest stuff!  Get your buns out of bed on Saturday morning and get to the market! Food - Farmers Market 2

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I Must Be Cooking

Posted on July 25, 2013. Filed under: Food Made Simple, Health, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , |

Food - Cooking on the stove

The Wall Street Journal ran an article in June called, “The Art of Almost Homemade.”  The article explains that food manufacturers are “working to identify subtle cues that signal cooking.”  This is because people want to feel like they are cooking when, in fact, they are not.  At best, people who use these new food products are assembling, not cooking.

Here are the things the food manufacturers have found out through research of “constrained wishful eaters:”

  • 2 steps are better than 1
  • Include a little bit of chopping or mixing (15-30 minutes) of real ingredients
  • Use the stove or oven (no microwave)
  • Wrap in cellophane as opposed to a box (for a pizza to bake at home)
  • Pour something over a meal like a sauce from at least 2 jars over rice or enchiladas
  • Put seafood into a parchment bag (as opposed to packaging them together this way)

Don’t you hate to be manipulated?  How hard is it to really spend 30 minutes chopping actual vegetables, sautéing them in actual butter or olive oil in a pan and cooking up some rice at the same time?  Oh yes, and a splash of soy sauce?  My goodness, it’s disheartening that people have become so separated from cooking their own food that they need a box of food-like products to assemble so they are fooled into thinking they are cooking!

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Volunteer Bread Run

Posted on July 18, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy | Tags: , , , |

Philosophy - Bread Run 1     Philosophy - Bread Run 2

My husband and I are part of a volunteer network to save baked goods from the landfill to help people who need food.  We are cogs in a big wheel that begins at our church where a van was donated and dedicated to this ministry.  The congregation fuels, maintains, houses the van and organizes the volunteer network.  We show up one day a month to drive a route to mostly suburban food outlets where we pick up soon-to-be-outdated baked goods.  We deliver to an inner city church that continues the flow.

This morning this cartload was waiting for us at one of our stops.  We enter the back of the stores where we find our dedicated offerings.  We box the lot and haul it to the truck.  It is great that the stores hold these items until we can pick them up, but they have little patience with us if we are late.  Sometimes we have missed them dumping the lot into the dumpster by minutes.  We have tried to explain that we will be coming if it is scheduled unless there is dangerous driving weather in winter, so please, just hold it for us!  I think once it’s been scanned and entered as a loss in their system they don’t really care that much if it goes to food pantries or the dumpster.  Sometimes it is more important to get it out of the way for incoming shipments.  This is true of some, not all of the stores.  Some managers really value the good these leftovers can do for the poor people just a few miles away.

We have noticed some trends since the economy sunk.  The stores which we visit, across the board, are making less.  I wonder if it has become more expensive to have a lot of extra, in materials and manpower, as much of this is baked on the premises.  I don’t know if this is good or bad.  I’ve heard of some places in the central city that have too much leftover bread and it still goes to waste, then.  It is disconcerting to look at food waste statistics for the U.S. especially considering these items from stores go into the dumpster in their bags and plastic boxes, all mixed together.  No one spends the time to separate the plastic containers from the food.

A part of me aches to think of all the compost that could be made from the food waste that comes out of grocery stores.  We only pick up the baked goods that don’t need refrigeration because this limits liability of the store donating it.  The refrigerated food that becomes outdated is simply dumped.  Also, for the most part, anything that is a name brand gets reclaimed by the distributor.  I don’t know what happens to that.  I hope it then goes to a mass food bank distribution system, but I wonder if it just gets dumped also.

Philosophy - Bread Run 4      Philosophy - Bread Run 3

At least for today, these boxes were saved and will be put to good use.  Karen here at the drop-off point for us was really glad to receive this lot.  From here there is another distribution system with everything from sending some to nursing facilities to food pantries to making sandwiches to distribute to gang members on the street to try to win their trust.  We pray it does some good in the lives of hurting people.  We hope it makes a dent in the amount of waste that goes into the landfill every day.

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