Save milkweeds, save monarchs. March 7, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, gardening, homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
Tags: milkweed, milkweed for monarchs, monarch butterflies, Monsanto, save the monarch butterflies
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Another reason to hate Monsanto. Our friend Ben read an article on LiveScience this morning that said that monarch butterfly populations were being driven to extinction because of Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup (generic: glyphosate). Because Roundup is so widely used in this country, milkweeds are being killed countrywide. And because milkweeds are the only food of monarch butterfly larvae and the only plants on which monarch females will lay their eggs, the monarch population has declined drastically, from over 1 billion to 3.3 million in just ten years. Our yard used to be full of monarchs; last summer, we didn’t see one.
People sometimes ask me why I hate Monsanto. Is it because of their “Frankenfoods,” GMOs (for “genetically modified organisms”) like corn and soybeans created out of things like mouse DNA to withstand massive applications of Roundup, with no thought to how these so-called foods might affect the animals and humans that eat them? No, not really. Is it because of the trick Monsanto pulled on farmers, forcing them to buy the GMO seeds, which they produce and sell, AND the Roundup in ever-increasing quantities every year to keep weeds at bay? No, not really. Surely farmers are smart enough to figure out this devil’s bargain for themselves.
What really frosts my flakes about Monsanto is its ruthless pursuit of world domination. When its horrible GMO pollen gets into the field of a small farmer who’s nurturing an heirloom strain passed down in his family for generations, instead of the farmer suing Monsanto for contaminating his crop, Monsanto sues him for “stealing” its seeds. And wins. Money talks, and Monsanto has ever so much of that. Every time a state wants to have GMO ingredients listed on food labels so its citizens can make an informed decision about whether to buy them or not, Monsanto throws big money around and buys so many votes that not one of the many GMO-labelling initiatives has passed.
Worst of all, Monsanto goes to Third World countries and persuades their small farmers, who have grown crops suited to their areas for thousands of years, to give them up in favor of Monsanto’s supercrops. And suddenly, they too find themselves paying for seed every year instead of saving their own, seed that isn’t suited to their climate or their diet. Or else.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are faced with Roundup residue in our food and water and soil and pet food, whether we want it or not. (Soon to be combined with 2,4-D, one of the herbicides used in Agent Orange, to give its waning efficacy a boost.) And we’re seeing the die-off of beautiful species like the monarch butterflies as a result, and wondering why our own cancer rate and our pets’ is shooting up.
I’d like to encourage everyone who loves monarch butterflies to stop using Roundup on your property and to plant milkweed. If you feel the need to fight weeds on your property and don’t want to pull them up, use one of the flamethrower weedkillers, sort of like a bigger version of a grill starter. (Except in the case of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac; you really need to keep after these while they’re small and pull them up wth latex gloves, then toss them and the gloves out in a plastic bag. Flame could blow the active ingredient, urushiol, on you, and give you a rash like you can’t imagine.)
We have encouraged the growth of our native milkweed (showy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa) here at Hawk’s Haven, as well as planting the aptly named butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Both are highly decorative; showy milkweed has dense heads of pink flowers, and you can now find butterfly weed in every shade from yellow through orange to red. Showy milkweed will form sturdy colonies if you let it, and butterfly weed is one of the perennial joys of summer. Please try to help the monarchs. And defeat Monsanto.
As the Catholic crusader for workers’ rights Dorothy Day said, “People say, ‘What is the sense of our small effort?’ They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time.”
Is it safe to eat food from a rusted can? March 2, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: can you eat food in rusted cans, canned tomatoes, food safety, rusted cans, safety of food in rusted cans
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Silence Dogood here. I was making chili on Friday and grabbed a can of pureed tomatoes, only to find that the top had rusted around the rim. Yikes! I had never encountered a rusted can before.
Considering that tomatoes are acidic, and that acidity and rust sounds like a pretty bad combination, I tossed the can. But I hated to waste the food, especially when the can was showing no obvious signs of peril such as warping and bulging. (Unless you want to die of botulism poisoning, throw a can with a bulging lid out!)
I was still curious, so I Googled the topic of rusted cans. The general consensus was that if the rust had reached the inside of the can, throw it out. If it was just on the outside, and the can was still the appropriate can shape, the food was safe to eat. The way to tell was to empty the food out of the can and make sure there was no rust on the inside.
My can’s problem was that the rust wasn’t on the inside but on the rim. To open the can, the can-opener would inevitably drop rust into the pureed tomatoes. Better safe than sorry!
Why this one can rusted when no can had ever rusted before continues to baffle me. But I think my safety, and our friend Ben’s, is worth tossing the occasional rusted can, however much guilt it produces.
‘Til next time,
The giant rat(s) of Sumatra. February 27, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in critters, homesteading.
Tags: killing rats, mouse traps, rat traps, rat traps that work, rats, rats in the house, Tomcat rat trap
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Fans of Sherlock Holmes may recall that the tale of the “Giant Rat of Sumatra” was one of those stories for which, according to his biographer, Dr. John Watson, “the world was not yet prepared.” (If you’ve ever heard the profane, bawdy version created and performed by The Firesign Theatre, you’ll know that he was right.)
However, our friend Ben is not, alas, referring to the adventures of the Great Detective, but to the giant rats that recently took up residence in our mudroom here in the precise middle of nowhere, PA. Surrounded by farm fields as we are, Silence Dogood and I expect that a few mice will venture indoors once winter arrives, and that our cats will make short work of the poor things. But we never expected rats.
Our mudroom is adjacent to the furnace room but is unheated, so it provides us with much-needed cold storage in the winter, staying at least as cold as our fridge but never freezing. We keep everything from canned, jarred and bottled foods and beverages to fruit and storage veggies like winter squash, onions and potatoes in there. It’s like having a pantry, root cellar, and extra fridge.
So you can imagine Silence’s distress when she noticed that something had gotten into the parrot treats, knocked over various items on shelves, and gnawed on some of the potatoes. “Ben! There are mice in here! We’ve got to set some traps!” (The mudroom is off-limits to our cats and dog; too many things to knock over and break.)
I dutifully baited two snap-traps, using only the finest sticky stuff, Brie and egg salad, and positioned them strategically. (Which is to say, within easy reach of mice but out of reach of nosy cats or a dog who might try to barge in there.) Like clockwork, the traps were sprung and the treats removed, but there was no sign of the culprit and the demolition of the mudroom continued.
“Ben, look! The thing ate through the cartons of almond milk and silken tofu, as well as the packages of quinoa and millet! Eeewww, you should see this mess! It’s even eaten into two of the winter squash!” Silence regarded me darkly. “I don’t think this is a mouse. We need a rat trap!”
If you think of rats as residing only in subways and on docks, let our friend Ben tell you that farmers’ corncribs are a rat’s paradise. It was because cats kept rats from ransacking the granaries of ancient Egypt that they were deified by the grateful pharoahs and priests. But rats in our house?!! Why would rats be in our house? (And needless to say, no well-fed housecat in its right mind would take on a rat.)
Needless to say, our friend Ben soon found myself in our local Tractor Supply looking for a suitable trap. Silence had given me strict instructions: no glue traps, which were cruel, and no poison, both because of our pets and because the rat could eat it, then go off and die in some inaccessible place like inside a wall, where it would stink to high heaven for months to come. A sudden and relatively painless death was in order.
I found a great, reusable mechanical trap, the Tomcat Reusable Rat Trap. Made of plastic, it had plenty of built-in safety features (which are necessary, since a trap strong enough to kill a rat can break every finger in your hand if you inadvertently trip it on yourself). You could bait it before you set it, and set it with your hand or foot. I put peanut butter in the bait cup, set it up as directed, and waited to see what happened.
As it happens, I didn’t really think the creature was a rat, despite Silence’s having taken to referring to it as the Giant Rat of Sumatra. Rats? Here? Nonsense! How would one get in? And the mudroom adjoins our bedroom, and though I tried to keep an ear open all night, I never heard a trap snap, and neither did Silence.
But in the morning, I was greeted with “Ben! The trap worked! Please come get this rat out of here!” Sure enough, the trap had worked like magic, breaking the rat’s neck when it went for the peanut butter. Its large, heavy body (a good 10 inches long) and long naked tail lay still on the mudroom floor outside the trap.
After disposing of the rat, I was ready to call it a day, but Silence insisted that I reset the trap and replace it where it had been. A day passed with no further sign—no dead rat, no disturbed shelves, no new attacks on food or even organic fertilizer (the rat’s final foray). “See? What are you worried about?” I asked.
Well, plenty, as it turned out. On the third morning, Silence informed me that a second rat was in the trap. Then, this morning, it caught a mouse. The trap is once again reset and in place. We’re hoping that this has taken care of our rat population and will continue to control the mouse population. Better safe than sorry! And if you find yourself in similar circumstances, we highly recommend the Tomcat Reusable Rat Trap.
Top ten cookware essentials. February 7, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: cookware, essential cookware, kitchen essentials, top ten cookware
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Silence Dogood here. If you could name just ten kitchen tools that you use constantly and that make your life easier, what would they be? Here are my ten:
* A gas stove. Gas has it all over electric when it comes to temperature control. Not only can you adjust the burners to the precise heat you need for each dish, but once you turn the burner off, it’s off (cool): no long cooling-down period as with electric. It’s got to be gas!
* LeCreuset pots and pans. Heavy, enamel-coated cast-iron pots and pans are a lifesaver in my kitchen. They have all the heat-retention of cast-iron without the bother of seasoning, rusting, off-flavors, and so on. They also are very easy to clean. I love my LeCreuset Dutch ovens and large, heavy frying pans. But they’re not the only options: I found a wonderful Mario Batali enamel-coated cast-iron saute/saucepan at a thrift store for pennies on the dollar of my LeCreuset pots and pans. (I’ve also bought LeCreuset pans and lids on eBay and saved big bucks.)
* A rice cooker. Perfect white rice, brown rice, lentils and rice, anything and rice, any kind of rice, every time: amazing. As someone who could never manage stovetop rice, the rice cooker has been a real godsend to me. We love rice and eat it often. And the rice cooker is fine with plain rice or rice doctored with everything from hemp and chia seeds to sauteed onions and mushrooms. Best of all, no worry about standing over the stove ’til it’s done. And its $19 price can’t be beat.
* Little Vicky. My Victorinox paring knife (fondly referred to by fans as “Little Vicky”) stays sharp and cuts beautifully. And it costs a fraction of what high-end knives like my Wusthof Trident paring knife go for. The Victorinox has serrations, unlike the Trident, and I find them helpful for holding slippery veggies in place while I’m trying to cut them.
* A real potato masher. I inherited mine from my mother, who may have inherited it from hers. It’s a heavy stainless-steel circle (of course, on a heavy handle) with square openings all over it. This design makes it not only incredibly easy to mash potatoes (or any other vegetable), but also to mash beans for refried beans or black bean soup. It serves as the perfect low-tech substitute for a blender or food processor when you need to thicken anything from a dip to a soup.
* An air-popper. Here’s another $19 item that will make life simpler if you happen to love popcorn. The air-popper spews out a bowlful of hot, fresh-popped popcorn, which you can choose to top with melted butter, shredded cheese, or whatever you like. No gross, stinky, carcinogenic microwave popcorn, no oil-coated popcorn and long, greasy cleanup. Once the air-popper is cool, just wipe it out with a paper towel and store until you need it.
* Pyrex dishes with lids. Forget storing leftovers in carcinogenic plastic containers, or storing takeout in the original containers. Buy an assortment of Pyrex glass containers with tight-fitting lids. They’ll go from fridge to oven (minus the lids), they keep food fresh, and they’re easy to clean. Avaialble in groceries everywhere.
* Corningware. I’d be lost without my Corningware, from individual heating dishes to casserole-size dishes with glass lids. I’ve bought all of it from thrift stores, except for the individual baking dishes, a hand-down from a friend, and I use them every day. I love the individual dishes because you can serve up a portion of leftovers and heat it up, just the right size for one serving.
* Bamboo spoons. I’ve dutifully used wooden spoons all my life, but they tend to fray and shred, even crack, over time. In my experience, bamboo spoons offer all the benefits of wood without the fraying and cracking.
* A good cutting board. Mine’s handmade maple, a gift from a friend. I use it every day, as I do so many items on this list. If I didn’t have this cutting board, I’d probably be looking into one made of bamboo.
* A hand-mixer. I have an old Sunbeam hand-mixer that I use whenever cream or eggwhites need to be whipped or butter and sugar beaten for a batter. It does the job perfectly and is easy to store afterwards, unlike a stand mixer.
There are so many other essentials that it’s hard to know when to stop. I couldn’t function without my set of stainless mixing bowls, which I use for everything from beating eggs for an omelette to serving as a salad bowl. What makes your top ten?
‘Til next time,
Let them eat cake. February 5, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: cake, fad diets, let them eat cake, Marie Antoinette diet, sensible diets, tapeworm diet, unrealistic diets
Silence Dogood here. We are so obsessed with dieting as a society that no day goes by that the popular news isn’t full of diet trends, tips, expert advice, and fads. This week, five of the hardcover nonfiction bestsellers (out of 10) were diet books. In an age where thinness is valued above every quality but youth, where Barbie dolls have thighs that are thinner than their calves and arms like toothpicks, this is still a testament to frivolous self-absorption but can hardly come as a surprise.
Yesterday, I read about yet another diet fad, the “Marie Antoinette Diet,” where the premise is, sure enough, that you can eat cake like France’s queen and still keep your figure if you have soup for supper (le souper in French). The same day’s news reported that a British medical researcher had consumed live tapeworms to see if it was true that they would allow you to eat whatever you wanted and still lose weight, a popular teen trend I’d read about some years before. (He actually gained weight, and the side effects apparently range from gross—as if being infested with parasites that can reach some 50 feet in length wasn’t gross enough—to fatal.)
But let’s get back to cake. Our friend Ben and I received a delightful belated Christmas present from our neighbor, Fran, a beautiful chocolate torte. The smell alone was swoon-worthy. We were going to our Friday Night Supper Club get-together, so I decided to bring it so the whole group could enjoy it. (This decision was made a lot easier since Fran had also given us some luscious-looking carrot cake.)
When we arrived, our friend Rudy was talking about how he and his brother Fritzie were trying to recreate their mother’s German jelly doughnut recipe. This recipe involved deep-frying the doughnuts in fat, then stuffing them with currant jelly or apple butter and rolling them in sugar. After a lengthy discussion, Fritzie asked Rudy if he thought they should really use Crisco, his mother’s choice, to fry the doughnuts. Was that really good for you?
Mercy. We’re talking about deep-fat-fried, empty calorie-laden, cholesterol-heavy, nutrient-free, diabetes-inducing junk food here. It’s a total indulgence, maybe a once-a-year treat. Deep-frying the doughnuts in canola oil isn’t going to transform them into health food.
I watched as the group ate their meal, then moved on to the chocolate cake. As I ate a half-cup of my delicious chili, a square of cornbread, and a half-salad (and no, I wasn’t depriving myself, that really was all I could eat), I saw the rest of the group go back for seconds and (in one case) thirds of hearty helpings of everything. I couldn’t call the cornbread healthy, but the vegetarian chili and avocado-rich salad certainly were. So far, pretty much so good.
Then came the cake. I watched with interest as each person cut their own slice. Some took paper-thin slivers, others half-inch cuts. Nobody cut themselves an inch-thick slab, and nobody had seconds. In fact, they tended to select a slice size that corresponded to their activity level. (I rarely eat sweets, so I considered my square of cornbread as dessert.) And yes, not one of them was even slightly overweight.
What to make of all this? As I see it, the answer is to stay physically active and match your food intake to your exercise output. To eat mostly healthy foods, and when you indulge, enjoy your indulgence, in its original form, to the fullest, but in rational portions and only occasionally. To eat a balanced diet, to eat only as much as you’re hungry for, when you’re hungry for it, and to forget about prescribed eating times and fads. And if you’re trying to lose weight rather than maintain your figure, you’ll just have to buckle down and follow the only valid weight-loss advice: Eat less and exercise more.
Folks, if you want a jelly doughnut, eat a jelly doughnut (or an apple fritter or even a Cinnabon), or French fries, or whatever. But eat the real thing—the actual thing you’re craving, not some sanitized substitute that can never satisfy you and could cause you to overeat trying to feel the satisfaction. Eat it only as a special treat, something you can look forward to, a few times a year. Don’t overeat it just to stuff yourself with a prized indulgence: Remember, enough is as good as a feast (and a lot less caloric). That way, if you want that gooey chocolate indulgence, you can have your cake and eat it too.
‘Til next time,
Let there be light. February 3, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: adding more light, new light bulbs, replacing incandescent lightbulbs, watts vs. lumens
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Calling all science, engineering, and electrically savvy types. Our friend Ben was just reading an article about all the new options in light bulbs now that traditional incandescents have been banned.
The article went to some pains to explain to us techno-idiots that the watt rating referred to the amount of energy consumed; the amount of light given off was measured in lumens. That meant that, with the more energy-efficient bulbs, fewer watts were required to produce the same amount of light, so that, say, a new 10- or 29-watt bulb (depending on the type) could give off the same amount of light as an old 60-watt bulb.
This explanation raised a question in our friend Ben’s mind. I’m assuming that all our current lamps and light fixtures warn us not to use more than, again let’s say, a 60-watt bulb because that’s the maximum energy draw they can handle. But, if we put in a new bulb that uses less than 60 watts, could we now use one that gives us the lumen equivalent of an old 100-watt bulb, thus adding more light to our homes? If so, that would be a truly wonderful development!
If you know the answer, please share it with us. Thank you!
The food stamp challenge. January 23, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes, wit and wisdom.
Tags: eating well for less, Food Stamp Diet, healthy eating, saving money
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Silence Dogood here. I recently read about something called the Food Stamp Challenge in an article called “7 Foods to Buy When You’re Broke” on U.S. News & World Report. The article explained that more and more people were trying to live on the amount of money they’d get for food from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps) for a week to see what it would be like to eat on 4 dollars a day.
Mind you, this is $4 a person, which is certainly better than $4 a household (unless you’re a one-person household). But those costs still add up fast, and trying to add variety when you’re restricted to $4 a day can be a challenge. Reading through the list of recommended foods in the article, I disagreed with some because of time constraints and some because they were simply appalling. Others definitely needed help to be edible, and some crucial foods were left out altogether.
So here’s my list of best foods for folks on tight budgets:
* Beans. The article recommended dried beans, which will swell from 2 cups dried to 6 cups cooked. But that’s assuming you’re unemployed and have all day to soak and cook the damned things, as opposed to simply being poor and working three jobs at minimum wage while trying to care for a family. Yes, dried beans are cheaper than canned beans, but watch for sales and buy the canned beans at 59 cents each, it will save you tons of time and they’ll be just as nutritious (full of protein, vitamins and minerals).
* Rice. The article I read recommended brown rice, which is certainly more nourishing than white rice. But there’s a reason why every single culture where rice is a staple food, from Japan and China to India and Pakistan, eats white rather than brown rice: It tastes better. It’s also, ironically, cheaper (you’d think unprocessed brown rice would cost less than processed white rice, but you’d be wrong). I eat brown rice often, but I make sure I make it palatable by adding sauteed onion, scallions (green onion), sauteed mushrooms, sesame oil, chili oil, shoyu (fresh soy) sauce, salt, herbs or spices, or the like.
* Oatmeal. “Old-Fashioned” oats (as opposed to instant) are a nourishing, cheap, delicious, filling breakfast. Like rice, however, in my opinion, you can’t eat them with pleasure unless you add ingredients like skim milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon, at a minimum, which certainly ups the cost. Plain oatmeal, like plain air-popped popcorn, plain potatoes, plain Cheerios, or plain anything else is an abomination. Maybe there are people out there who choke this stuff down plain, but God help them. Go for the toppings, but count the cost.
* Popcorn. Speaking of popcorn, if you need to fill up, a bag is cheap, and 1/2 cup quickly expands to a huge, full bowl. This is filling and cheap, but you’ll need, in my opinion, to cook it in oil and add salt, at the very least, to make it palatable. Or air-pop, as we do, and add a little melted butter to up the fullness and satisfaction factor, and/or some shredded cheese to add protein.
The key with both butter and shredded cheese is to look for sales: half-price sales on butter and shredded cheese (I’ve often found shredded cheese at 2 packages for $4.) This is significant, since you can also buy a jar of salsa on sale and use the cheese and salsa to flavor your beans and rice.
* Lentils and split peas. Lentils and split peas are legumes like beans, with all their protein and health benefits, but unlike beans, dried lentils cook up quickly. You can cook dried lentils in half an hour, and dried split peas in little longer. You can add them to rice in a rice cooker, put them in a slow cooker, or cook them up on the stove. Add sliced onion, carrots, and potatoes for lentil stew, or onion, garlic, tomatoes, and a little chile and curry for dal, a delicious, filling Indian dish that’s a perfect meal with rice, plain Greek yogurt, and a spoon of chutney.
* Whole veggies and greens. Those pre-made salad mixes and pre-chopped veggies and veggie combos are so tempting. Who wants to wrestle with a bunch of kale or collards or a head of cabbage when you could buy ready-chopped kale, collards, and cole slaw mix? Who on earth would want to struggle with a butternut squash or sweet potatoes when you could buy them peeled and ready-cubed? You can find every conceivable combination these days, from sliced mushrooms and asparagus to diced onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, and herbs.
Who doesn’t love convenience? Who doesn’t love the bright colors and dazzling combinations? But before you grab those packages, check the price against the cost of the whole head of lettuce or onions or sweet potatoes or squash. You might be in for a strong case of sticker shock! Not to mention that whole foods always last longer than pre-cut foods, and are probably fresher in any case, since those savvy grocers know how to maximize sales by chopping up past-prime veggies to add eye appeal while slapping on premium prices. Buy whole asparagus, mushrooms and onions and cut your own.
* Buy the small fruits. Who can eat a whole premium apple these days, anyway? They’re simply too big. And they’re expensive. Instead, buy a bag of smaller apples, which are so much cheaper, and are just the right size for a snack, or even a lunch combined with a couple of slices of (on-sale) cheese and a handful of nuts.
* Buy fresh produce in season. Buy fruits and veggies in season to save big bucks. Corn on the cob, tomatoes, peaches, and watermelon in summer are plentiful and cheap. Find out what’s in season in your area and stock up, but make sure you and your family will eat what you buy.
* Buy frozen foods out of season. Craving corn or strawberries in fall and winter? Your best bet is the frozen food aisle. Frozen fruits and veggies have fewer pesticides and are harvested at peak freshness, so they’re actually better for you (as well as cheaper) than many fresh foods. Just don’t assume that those frozen pizzas, breakfast foods, and branded meals, or for that matter fancy sauced veggie mixes, offer you the same health and price benefits as plain single-veggie or fruit packages.
* Skip the colas, granolas, fried foods, chips, wings, cocktails, and all the rest of it. We know what’s bad for us and what costs money. The problem is, we’re addicted to junk food. But on a Food Stamp diet, we simply can’t afford it.
* Don’t waste food. This should be the ultimate lesson the Food Stamp Challenge offers us: Don’t waste food. As a nation, we waste 40% of our food while so many go hungry. If we buy food we’ll eat and eat food we buy, we could make a real difference. Please, let’s try it.
Beans, pasta, rice. January 22, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, recipes.
Tags: bean recipes, beans and pasta, beans and rice, dal recipes, lentil recipes, winter recipes
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Silence Dogood here. Vegetarians have known since the ’70s that combining beans and grains makes a perfect protein balance, even without meat. Now everyone can get on the bandwagon and enjoy delicious, protein-rich meals without meat. Here are some fabulously flavorful, easy combinations you might want to try:
* Black bean soup and rice. Type “black bean soup” in our search bar at upper right and you’ll find the most luscious black bean soup ever. Serve it over rice and top it with sour cream and cilantro (if desired) for a truly fabulous, filling meal. Enjoy your soup and rice with an arugula-based salad and a citrus-based dessert.
* Refried beans. We like to make refried beans a smorgasbord experience, setting out several kinds of salsas (fresh hot, jarred, and tomatillo-based green), chopped cilantro, chopped green onion (scallion), sour cream, sharp white Cheddar or mixed Mexican blend cheeses, hot sauces, black olives, shredded lettuces, sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced red, yellow, orange, and green bell peppers, diced white and red onions, guacamole, and the like, so we and guests can create their own perfect taco, burrito, or simply create a dish where the beans are served over rice with all the toppings. (Type “refried beans” in our search bar for our favorite homemade recipe.)
* Kidney beans and rice. We like these heated up with salt and a little olive oil and served over rice. Plain, but nice. Add grated “Mexican blend” cheese if you like. To get your greens with this dish, you can choose to sautee kale, spinach and collards with diced sweet onion and mushrooms, or serve up a Caesar-style Romaine-based salad.
* Barbecued beans and pasta. Oh, yes. We love baked beans, barbecued beans, whatever you want to call them. (Bush’s Grillin’ Beans are our favorites.) And we love them served up with creamy pasta—either a quick and simple but thick and rich sauce of sour cream and butter mixed with al dente penne, elbows, or shells, or our all-out favorite, Crock-Pot Mac’n'Cheese. (Type “ultimate mac’n'cheese” in our search bar for the recipe, courtesy of our friend Delilah. Yum!!!) Serve up with coleslaw or a hearty kale salad and you’re set.
* Chili and rice. We’re a little divided about chili: Sometimes we have it over rice, sometimes with cornbread, sometimes over grits. It’s hard to go wrong with a rich, spicy chili. (Type “chili” in our search bar for some of our favorite recipes.) A nice tossed salad helps balance the heartiness of this dish.
* Dal and rice. The Indian version of lentil stew, dal is a luscious lentil- or split-pea-based dish that we like nice and thick, with rice, plain Greek yogurt, and chutney. Dal recipes can be comparatively simple or quite complex (type “dal” in our search bar for our favorites), but the effort is definitely worth it, and the leftovers keep and reheat beautifully for future meals. You can also serve dal as a side with any Indian (not Thai) curry.
* Lentil stew. When we get together for winter meals with friends, lentil stew is the most-requested dish (along with the Crock-Pot mac’n'cheese). This simple, filling, delicious lentil-based dish is extremely easy to put together and reheats well for leftovers, assuming your friends don’t devour it all in one sitting or take the leftovers home for themselves. Type “lentil stew” in the search bar to find the recipe. We like this with cornbread (check out my primo recipe by typing “cornbread” in the search bar), but you could certainly enjoy it with a side of rice or pasta. Broccoli slaw with raisins and slivered almonds makes a great accompaniment.
So, here are a few of our favorite bean- or legume-based dishes. What are yours?
‘Til next time,
Better butter. January 10, 2014Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, wit and wisdom.
Tags: better butter, butter, healthy butter, Laurel's Kitchen, margarine, trans fats, US butter consumption
Silence Dogood here. I grew up eating butter. My beloved Mama thought margarine was horrid and unhealthful, so only real butter ever made an appearance in our house. Of course, I loved it. As Chef Didier says in the movie “Last Holiday,” “You and I know the secret to life… it’s butter.” I couldn’t agree more.
But butter began getting a very bad rep in the age of fat-free diets, when it was associated with high cholesterol and heart attacks. Even before that, health-oriented, vegetarian-friendly cookbooks like Laurel’s Kitchen provided recipes for “Better Butter,” mixing softened butter with polyunsaturated vegetable oils like safflower oil and refrigerating it so it would resolidify and could be spread on toast and the like like real butter. (I made “Better Butter” and it was fine, if a bit “slipperier” than butter.)
Now, however, the outrage over the health concerns of trans-fats, widely used in margarine and other commercial butter substitutes, and new research on the health effects of butter have brought it back into the spotlight. Americans in 2012 consumed 5.6 pounds of butter per person, and everyone from chefs to nutritionists are touting its benefits—in moderation, of course.
“Moderation” being a relative term. If 5.6 pounds of butter a year sounds like a lot to you, consider this statistic: Prior to 1935, the average American consumption of butter was 18 pounds a year. Which means that half of us ate more than 18 pounds of butter every year! Butter consumption dropped due to a combination of World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, when margarine was introduced as a cheap alternative to a populace whose butter supply had been cut off.
Let’s compare this to the average consumption of sugar in the U.S., including all forms of sugar, such as the notorious high-fructose corn syrup. Two hundred years ago, the average American consumed just 2 pounds of sugar a year. By 1970, that number had risen to 123 pounds; today, it’s nearly 152 pounds per person. That puts butter’s 5.6 pounds in perspective, doesn’t it?
I think we’d be best off cutting our sugar consumption rather than obsessing over our use of butter. If you’re worried about butter’s health effects, buy organic butter, or butter from cows that aren’t fed GMO grains and corn and aren’t injected with bovine growth hormones and antioxidants. Then relax and enjoy in moderation!
‘Til next time,