Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pantry Raid

Ok,  my kitchen sweep for High fructose corn syrup (herafter referred to as 'the offending ingredient' or simply 'crap') proved to be not nearly as painful as I thought it would be.  Here are all the products in our house that contain the offending ingredient.  The stack is actually smaller than I thought it would be and several of these products we don't use that often anyway.  It shouldn't be too hard to replace most of these items with healthier versions.  In fact, I think I'll let this be the guide for my pantry replacement challenge.   
I'm planting pickling cucumbers in the garden this year, so I will add relish to my list of 'things to can' as well as pickles.  Strawberry season starts in a couple weeks and we live about 3 blocks from the field where they are grown and sold.  Only problem with that plan is that we all LOVE strawberries and I'll have a hard time making jam before they get eaten. I guess I'll just have to buy 3x as many and make the jam immediately.  

I found a recipe for ketchup and we're growing loads of tomatoes this year. Hopefully, we'll get a better crop than we got last year.  Not sure about the Apricot pineapple jam, which I use in one of our kids favorite recipes (along with the dried onion soup mix).  I guess I can buy apricots at the Farmers market and settle for non-local pineapple (aren't they grown in Hawaii?).  I'll get back to you on that idea, as well as the enchilada and Worcestershire sauces.  

  We are taking a road trip on Sunday to visit Brad in Fresno, so we'll stop by Trader Joe's and Whole Foods to see if we can find REAL chocolate syrups...did you know Hershey's is made with Genuine Chocolate flavoring?  

 Finally, hiding in the back there is the ever popular health food - Cocoa Puffs, which on any given day could be replaced with Fruit Loops, Cocoa Pebbles or Captian Crunch (known as 'the Captain' to our youngest son - who is 17yrs. old BTW:).  That particular food item may not be off the shopping list until said child moves out of the house.  But hey, he will eat an entire bag of carrots (withOUT Ranch) in one sitting (I know cause he leaves the bags all over the house).  So I guess I can cut him some slack when it comes to his breakfast cereal choices.  Besides, his older brother gets on him enuf already about his diet; at 20yrs. old Sam has discovered the benefits of eating healthy and is intent on 'converting' his little brother.  

So there you have least 4 items I can replace with homegrown or local produce...several more that I will search out recipes for homemade versions to least 'clean up' the ingredient list and a couple we can replace with healthier versions.  I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

High Fructose Corn Syrup

I think I'm going to be adding a new resolution to our list.  We need to eliminate High fructose corn syrup from our diet.....completely.  Reading Omnivores Dilemma has solidified my commitment to emptying our shelves of this crap.  We are living in a world where a piece of cardboard, with a little help from corn syrup and 'natural flavorings', can be made to taste like pretty much anything....from a grilled hamburger to  strawberry cheesecake.  It's all very science-fiction to me.  I keep waiting for them to hand out the little grey and white jumpsuits, you know the ones everyone wears in the movies any time a futuristic scenario is called for.........creepy and scary.

Monday, February 23, 2009

An Aha Moment...

Canning may sound like a strange path out of the dark woods of despair, but all the other ways, from Prosac to suicide, are really hard on your body.  And therapy - breathing new life into the story every week - doesn't always help.  When you're really depreessed, you have to do something that takes you out of the drama, that makes you detach from the big world and become king of a tiny, controllable world, like one of berries and Ball jars.  Just because this last thing didn't work out and your heart is smashed, it doesn't mean that all of you dreams will end in a big mess. 

Canning is a whole world of a thing to do.  It requires that you get out of your head.  it's a Zen thing.  You cannot be wondering about your inadequacies and how they drove Bob off and be making jelly.  You'll wind up with big, cylindrical jujubes.  You have to be in the moment, paying attention. You boil and sterilize stuff, you time things, you measure and take temperatures; you create an orderly little world.  Unlike what has happened to you, these steps take you to what you planned on.  You become a person in a world in which things turn out the way you thought they would.

  - Debby Bull   
 Blue Jelly -Love Lost and the Lessons of Canning

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quote for the Day

Cowardice asks the question: Is it safe? Expediency asks the question: Is it politic? Vanity asks the question: Is it popular? But conscience asks the question: Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular — but he must take it simply because conscience tells him it is right.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

ps thanks to  Towanda whom I stole this from.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Not exactly glamorous but here is the latest from my foray into cloths! I actually started the blue one to use up the last of some yarn that I had, but I've decided that it's a good way to practice knitting stitches.

I would love to make a scarf using the 'raised box stitch' which is in this gold one...'s called the 'waffle knit dish rag' and I found it on the wonderful blog Homespun Living.

I also love the pattern in this pink one from How stuff works, tho it's hard to tell in the photo, it has ridges running thru-out the piece. It would make a beautiful sweater. It turns out that practice was pretty much the only thing I got out of the first 2 projects. I didn't read (aka ignored) the part in the instructions about making these out of cotton yarn (the pink is 100% organic cotton) and used synthetic. Fine for scarves, but lousy for something that is supposed to wipe up tends to just spread stuff around. Turns out synthetics have very poor absorption capability...I will remember that.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentines Day!

My dear, sweet, intelligent, funny, endlessly patient husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary on Wednesday of this week. We went out to dinner at a very nice, very expensive (choke choke...but we had a gift certificate :) restaurant. Food, wine, and conversation were all wonderful. Even in these troubled times, I feel extremely blessed.

Conversation with daughter as I was getting ready......

dd.....What anniversary are you celebrating?

me....Our 25th.

dd ....Why aren't you dong something special?

me....We are; we're going out to dinner.

dd ...(exasperated sigh) People do that all the time Mom.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Our Inspiration

This is what we want our house to look like when it 'grows up'...

....and here it is as of yesterday.

Note the parkway beds with mini-fences, those are our potatoes. We covered them with straw this we'll see what the neighbors really think about our front-yard 'farm'.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Simply Stupid

I recently got a subscription to Real Simple thru a fund-raiser at my nephews school. I've never been a huge fan of the magazine but usually I find a couple good articles and a decent recipe or two. I do find it odd that a magazine calling itself 'simple' inevitably includes a $200 dress and designer shoes. It's just not the world I live in. But this months issue was beyond ridiculous and I just had to send in a letter to the editor......

Though I thought there were several relevant articles in the March issue I take exception to the 'Living well with Less' compilation of money saving strategies. To start off with the statement, "If you spend $20 a week on fresh flowers (that's $1040 a year!) ... buy a houseplant" is an absolute insult to the majority of Americans trying to put food on the table. And to suggest that we can get thru this crisis by buying less-expensive jewelry is ludicrious.

As for the article following this one, how exactly do you decide to even use the term 'budget' in a piece that includes a $396 jumpsuit?

Where do you people live, because I think you need to take a little trip to kind of sucks but it's what we have to deal with for the time being. A lot of Americans are finding REAL ways to save money, like gardening, selling a vehicle, preserving food, re-purposing furniture, clipping coupons, riding bikes, cooking from scratch, and buying NOTHING that is non-essential.

...In another section of the magazine they recommend using a coffee filter to line a bowl when mixing together dry ingredients so you could just toss it away afterward and not have to wash the bowl...(isn't a coffee filter is a bit small for this job anyway?)...

And as long as I'm the 'New Uses' section, why in the world would you suggest using a coffee filter, which then ends up in a landfill, to avoid having to wash dishes?!?! Here's a thought (cretins) these are DRY ingredients....wipe the bowl out with a dishcloth....they are DRY for heavens sake (or use your t-shirt!!!)
Seriously tho, you need to get out of your offices once in awhile and mingle with the huddled masses...lots of good folks out here.

I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires,
rather than in attempting to satisfy them.

-John Stuart Mill

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I used boiling water to kill a few weeds in the garden last month. It worked on everything except the 'grass' looking weeds. I guess I'll just have to hand pick those....bummer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

True Love Waits

Our beautiful daughter and several of her equally beautiful (and handsome) friends went thru the True Love Waits seminar over the weekend and I just wanted to publicly commend them for giving up their Saturday (and Friday night and Sunday morning :) to participate in the program. Our girls had even initiated the process on their own (not knowing, of course, that it was going to cost them a weekend :). I was also very impressed by the sacrifice from parents outside of our church (also giving up a weekend) in order learn how to help their teens stay committed to abstinence. On Sunday morning, the 9 Exeter kids (83 total teens completed the conference, 10 from Exeter - one was unable to attend the ring ceremony) stood in front of our congregation and pledged to wait until marriage for an intimate relationship; it was a VERY brave thing to do.

I know there are many who think these programs don't work...and certainly nothing in our culture is persuading teenagers to rethink their sexual choices. We have a national problem with STD's and teen pregnancy and we don't seem to get the correlation between sexually explicit television COMMERCIALS (let alone programming, movies, and music) and sexual activity. Note to doubters - the correlation is real and it is strong and it can't be wished or rationalized away.

Will all these kids make it to their weddings unscathed?....possibly not. But we've at least armed them with something besides 'Just say no' or 'Use a condom' in order to fight the prevailing societal pressures.

Our hope is that when they are tempted or find themselves in a compromising situation, they will remember their Lord, their maker, their first true love and will pause. They will have the strength to step back and realize that they have value far beyond their sexuality. They will remember the covenant they made and it will enable them to be make the wise choice.

Friday, February 6, 2009

More Tots

This last weekend was so lovely (temps in the 70's - my apologies to those of you residing in the Midwest) that I decided to plant some more potatoes. These are the ones we had purchased intending to eat, but since they sprouted I decided to go ahead and use them in the garden.

We used the barrel (made in USA) that we bought last month...

...and planted them about 2 inches deep. Potatoes can be planted anywhere from 1 to 6 inches deep depending on how you want to harvest them. Some people even set them right on the topsoil and just cover with straw, making it that much easier to dig them up. Since this is my first year growing potatoes, I feel more comfortable with them in soil.

Also, I think (famous last words) that with our more temperate climate (tho it is supposed to get chilly next week) ours will be ok at this depth (deeper would keep them warmer). We intend to cover these with straw as they grow. Next week I'll post on the ones out front and the process of 'hilling up' to cover the growing spuds.

The ever popular cat guard.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Our Future...Make your voice heard

Today I got an email from the Organic Consumers Association, of which I am a member. Their website is a wealth of information for all things sustainable and many times I have been compelled to take action after reading articles on the site. Not this time. Todays email encouraging thier members to write to their representatives in support of the massive stimulus bill is something I just CAN NOT do.

While I applaud the inclusion in the stimulus package of 'green' jobs and environmentally sound provisions to help secure our future. I find it impossible to believe that borrowing close to a Trillion dollars to finance it makes any kind of sense, green or otherwise. And look closely at the list of items we are being asked to finance....

--$198 million for U.S. military benefits for Filipinos who fought for the U.S. during WWII

- $75 million for smoking cessation activities

- $87 million for the design of a new polar icebreaker

- $335 million for HIV/STD screening

- $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees

All projects worthy of money, to be sure, but are they worthy of being part of an economic stimulus plan that's now expected to cost U.S. taxpayers $900 billion?

(excerpt from Yahoo news)

While I would certainly have traded the bailout of Wall Street for the stimulus package....that is sadly not possible. The point is....even good and practical things are just plain WRONG if you cannot pay for them! This country simply can't afford this massive pork barrel.

We will be urging our senator to VOTE NO on the stimulus bill.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pantry Challenge.....finally!

I mentioned earlier that I had deviated from the original replacement plan which was to make mushroom soup. When our neighbor gave us access to ALL his grapefruit, I just had to go with it.

And since the BIG freezer is still on our 'wish list', I decided to can the juice.

I found a couple recipes in the Ball Home Preserving book for canned juice. One was for a 'Four Fruit Nectar' that combined grapefruit, orange, and pineapple juices with peach puree. We happen to have some frozen peaches left from last summer but no other citrus handy, so I improvised.

I had frozen the peaches whole with the skin on....which makes them SO easy to peal when you need to use them. Just wash under warm water and the peelings slip right off....yea!

Then I sliced them up and pureed the fruit in the food processor.

The kids helped me juice all the grapefruits....not enthusiastically, but they got the job done :)

I mixed the peach puree and the juice in a large pot, heated it thru and filled the hot jars....

...leaving a quarter inch of head space.

I processed the jars in a water bath for 20minutes....

....and ta da! 7 quarts of grapefruit peach and 4 quarts of grapefruit berry.

The berry juice was the second batch I made. We have such a small freezer and it was overflowing at this point so I decided to use up all the 'smoothie' fruit (since we really only drink smoothies in the summer anyway). After looking thru the fruit juice recipe section, I decided to try a rendition of 'Strawberry Lemonade'. I used a combination of strawberry, blackberry and raspberries with the grapefruit juice. The grapefruits are almost as tart as lemons so it came out pretty yummy (with very little added sugar).

My little kitchen helper :)

We drink ALOT of grapefruit juice in the summer. It's great added to sparkling mineral water, on ice, especially when the temps creep up to the 110 mark. It'll be so nice this summer to open up our very own homemade juice drinks....yea!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Walk around Exeter...and a good friend

Before Christmas, I was asked by a very good friend to write a letter of recommendation for a mission trip she is going on. Now usually when asked to write these kinds of letters (hey, I get asked) I cringe and get out the Thesaurus...looking up new and different ways to say interesting and loves a challenge (code for psychotic and a trouble maker). This time however, it was a very simple task....I didn't have to LIE...mostly ;)

Nancy, who I have known for ...ahem ...25 years, is someone I am proud to call my friend....truly. She is talented, funny, selfless, sarcastic (love that part) dedicated, faithful and an all-around great gal. If I run out of gas in the middle of nowhere (which actually exists about 7 miles from our house) she would be the third call I would make (let's be honest, my hubby and sis top that list....they HAVE to come get me :)

We go to lunch together several times a month now,
and it's always such a treat.

Plus I combine it with my walks around town...I ride back with Nancy to the school where she teaches and walk home from there (less than a mile....small town).
Once in a while I bring my camera.

On this day we had just gotten a bit of rain....wish that happened more often!

...pantry post tomorrow, I promise :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

This is why He gets paid the big bucks

I will get to the pantry in a moment....or several. For now (and especially all you teachers out there) take a look at my wonderful hubby's latest post :)