Weekly Update – 2/8

 

We call our homestead/aspiring intentional community The Liberty Project.  I’ve called this place “Heaven” so many times since diving into our adventure last August that I’m starting to think this blog has just been waiting for me to get here!

IMG_3501 (1024x768)Last night we enjoyed the lovely Full Moon in Leo.  Here on the 49th parallel I’m feeling quite happy to see her rise up above the treetops once again!

To honor the Leo-Moon I decided to try something bold and expressive, that I’d never made before.  Roasted grapes!  I’d noticed a trend toward the ingredient and had saved several recipes to try.  In the end I went with a roasted grape, goat cheese, and honey pizza that I adapted from this bruschetta recipe.  Roasted chicken with thyme, lemon, onion and grape adapted from this recipe.  And a sauce for the chicken that I made from the other roasted ingredients pulsed through the blender, white wine, a tablespoon of apricot preserves and a touch of honey.  Spectacular is a good way to describe the meal – just like the Leo Moon!

I also tried an experiment.  For the grapes roasted with the chicken (that I knew would be made into sauce) I used canned grapes instead of fresh.  Canned grapes?!  Why, yes!  You see, back at the end of Fall, after the sweet and savory jams, I canned the last of our grapes – 7 quarts – using an Amish method I’d read about.  Just to try it and see.  That is, the grapes are left whole and kept minimally processed, canned in a water bath and nothing more.  Although most sources report that grapes aren’t so good for canning in this way, I could see how they would fit nicely into our repertoire if it worked out and thankfully we’ve loved them!  I’m going to can grapes again next year, too!  When I open a quart, I strain off the liquid, mix it with just a bit of agave or honey, and pop it into the freezer for an after-dinner grape-ice treat.  Because of the grape’s softness, the seeds are quick to pop out, if they haven’t  already released themselves, and in specific applications they are perfect.  I’ve used them to make a  grape syrup for peanut butter French toast and a grape cake dessert, among other entirely successful ventures.IMG_3523 (1024x768)

The night before the Full Moon we brought home our new doggie, Sara.  Her mother is a purebred Rottweiler and her father, pure Black Lab.  She was born the day after my husband’s birthday back in the first week of November.  We first learned of Sara’s existence on the Winter Solstice, when she was for sale for $200.  My DH had an overwhelming feeling about her; he had long expressed the desire to cross paths with a Rott-mix puppy.  Yet we’d only talked about coming across a rescue (we watch Petfinder.com), and never buying.  On a whim he gave Sara’s seller our number and we left it at that.  Then on the weekend we were surprised with a phone call saying that Sara’s new owner couldn’t give the puppy the attention she needs and that we could have her if we picked her up by Monday, when she was being taken to the shelter.  She’s housebroken and proving to be really smart and great with the kids!

Also in this last week I guess you could say that I’ve been exploring my love for cheese.  This was originally inspired by my addiction to Mattar Paneer and the realization that like everything else, I could make the dish more often for less money and with better quality if I made the Paneer (cheese) myself.  My final product (And I got to choose the source of the milk and it cost less than $2 for a pound.):

IMG_3511 (1024x809)

This has led me to start delving into other simple cheese recipes like this and this.  And exploring the idea of waxing cheese to store it in the pantry.  I can’t wait to find a great sale on cheese just to try it out!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Prevent Food Waste, Save Money, Help the Planet

The results of an intensive 10 year study of food loss recently published through the University of Arizona reveals just how wasteful our nation is with its bounty.  The study, which also made use of decades of earlier research by the same UA Bureau, is the first to quantify the nation’s edible wastes with accurate percentages that track the entire production/consumption equation.  For example, at a commercial level the study finds that nearly half of all perfectly edible produce, nuts and grains are discarded without ever reaching intended markets, often plowed under due to failed bets on the high stakes commodities market.  This constitutes a major impact to the environment as mature crops are discarded in favor of a new bet on a new potential crop.

At a consumer level, the study finds that the average household ultimately discards 14 percent of all food purchases.  Nationwide this is the equivalent of 43 billion dollars each year!

So the question becomes, what can be done about it?  I believe we can turn this knowledge into a positive by letting it spur us to action.  In fact, the study noted three consumer actions that will have a big impact on the future direction these percentages take (given in all caps; the expounding is my own):

  1. PURCHASE PLANNING.  Keep a well-stocked pantry, free of lots of store bought cans and processed junk.  Repurpose glass jars and fill them with organic, whole foods bought locally in bulk and representative of everything your family eats the most of (i.e. don’t buy things just because they happen to be on sale).  When something is used from the pantry or you notice the bulk-jar needs a fill-up, immediately add the item to your next shopping list.  This will help you avoid impulsive trips to the store (the most likely time for you to buy a bunch of stuff you don’t need; 15 percent of such purchases statistically go to waste).  Plan your shopping trips wisely.  Examine the pantry, look in the freezer, examine the sale-ads for the store(s) you’ll be visiting, and then make a meal list for at least a week, if not two or more.  Buy on sale, but not just because it’s on sale.  For example, don’t let cheap prices lure your family into stocking-up on processed foods.  Instead look for good prices on fresh foods that can be paired with items on hand in your pantry, or turned into pantry items (i.e. a cheap price on strawberries becomes a year’s worth of homemade strawberry jam).  Also look for good sales on your common pantry items.  Try not to buy anything at the store that isn’t on your  list, unless you find a good deal on a healthy item that will expand your running list of meals.
  2. RESPONSIBLE USE.  If you appreciate flexibility like we do, avoid planning your meal list by the day of the week and instead just keep a numbered list of the complete meals you have on hand.  Remove meals as they are consumed and add them as they are acquired.  Put the meals that utilize the most perishable ingredients at the top of the list and make choices that don’t allow those items to go to waste (i.e. take-out can truly wait a night if you have fresh ingredients on hand you are letting spoil).  Save any leftovers from your prepared meals for lunches, save the unused portion of any ingredient for use in other meals (in fact, count on this when planning your list), and save the best scraps of meal preparation in freezer bags (for making great stocks, broths, gravies, casseroles, etc.).  If you see produce moving toward over-ripe, preserve it through freezing, dehydration, or canning; or let it motivate you to make something from it in impromptu fashion.
  3. EDUCATION.  Learn about the ingredients you buy and consume and how they are best stored and preserved.  Always take the extra moment to store things properly.  Label and date anything you freeze or otherwise preserve.

And if you really want to see our nation start to break its ties with the specter of mindless insatiability, I recommend a fourth.  Support one of the many programs nationwide that collects surplus foodstuffs from restaurants, grocery chains, produce warehouses, and distributes what would otherwise be thrown away to those who need it most.