Monday, December 31, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Ending 2012

The turn into the new year brings so many possibilities, and at every year's end I find myself so full of hopeful excitement.  Generally, by the middle of February I have sunk back into my normal, comfortable routines and begun to forget all about those resolutions.  By June, I have literally forgotten what my resolutions were to begin with.  The only one I remember from last year was the goal to drink more hot tea and less coffee (coffee can be an all day long habit for me when the weather is chilly).  As it turns out, I just ended up drinking more of both.  Not this year, folks!
It just so happens that I pledge to stick with it every year.  Surprising, I know.  The fact that I wait until the beginning of the year to enact changes I should have done months ago may explain my lack of success.  
Not this year, folks!

This year, I am listing a few goals here, and not in one of my bazillion notebooks that I will likely never look at again.  I am a list making fool, and when I make a list I feel more organized and accomplished, and then I don't usually look at the list again.  I make a new one.

In 2013, I'd like to:
  • Take more pictures
  • Keep up with my financials and taxes every month (I have seen this goal in my lists a time or seven)
  • Set up an art lab in the basement for the family to play.  I just bought this book, and I am BEYOND excited about it!!
  • Simplify and organize our home
  • Sleep in the woods more often
  • Get a food bombing group started.  A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that it would be relatively simple to regularly cook up a huge pot of warm goodness and hand deliver it in little boxes to people that may be in need of some warm goodness.
  • Walk the dog more often
  • Let patience and gentle kindness guide my words and deeds
  • Make something new every week
  • Pick up a pen, pencil, or paintbrush everyday (and not just to make a list)
  • Spread gratitude NOW
  • Grow more food
Looking at this, it occurs to me that my resolutions are all solutions to my end of year regrets.  I suppose this is probably true for many of us.
I regret not having more to remind me of this year that's passing; I regret having to spend two entire days of pure frustration trying to compile and make sense of the year's expenses; I regret freaking out when it's dinner time and the dinner table is not even visible under the piles of the day's activities; I regret spending too much time looking for things; I regret having only been camping twice this year; I regret not doing more for my neighbors when they need help; I regret not taking more time to leisurely stroll through my community with my family with no goals at all (except to get the dog to poop); I regret being a frustrated parent and not remembering all the time that I am a teacher; I regret ending a year with at least 35 projects still existing only in my brain; I regret not writing more; I regret not sending every single thank you note that I intended to; I regret only harvesting about 10 tomatoes this year, and that they all came from my mom's plants, not mine.

No regrets this day.
My biggest goal for 2013 will be to end it with very little regret. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Vegan and The Carnivore Intro

I believe it was last September, after a lot of reading, I decided to give a go of a vegan-ish diet.  I say vegan-"ish" because I found it difficult to satisfactorily replace the half and half in my coffee each morning.  Soy beans aren't suppose to make "milk" and though I do use it occasionally to bake some awesome biscuits, everyday use was not something I felt was very productive (kind of like turkey-bacon - what is that, really??).  I also love honey.

The purpose of the diet change, for me, was to eat as close to the ground as I could, putting as little processed,  artificial, or manipulated goods into my body as possible (especially the things I can't pronounce) and eating things that I naturally digest easily and get the most nutrition from!  I wasn't feeling good, I wasn't looking good, and I was having some wonky little health (girlie) issues.  Anyhoo, the point is that I, let's say a now very strict vegetarian, am still the wife of a whole heartedly committed carnivorous husband (who happens to be a chef)  (I might also add - that very rarely cooks at home), and the mom of one extremely picky eater (understatement), one on the fence vegetarian /ominvore child (who is "a vegetarian unless Daddy makes steak"), and one child that has the identical palate of his father and generally exclaims loudly "I love meat" at least twice during each of our ominvore dinners.  Challenge #1.

Now, my husband has some dietary issues of his own.  He has, in the last year developed some crazy food sensitivities that result in a pretty gnarly and sometimes full body breakout of hives if he isn't careful (yep).  And, of course, he's a guy, so generally, he isn't careful.  Recently, his "low histamine diet" (you'll have to google that one) has been slightly altered to become a "yeast free diet" (it's very interesting how incredibly similar they are).  That isn't nearly as simple as it sounds.  It's not just an avoidance of yeast bread, or the nutritional yeast dressing (recipe will come soon) that we rely on for comfort and joy around our house, it's essentially an avoidance of anything that is fermented or may have mold related to it or its processing.  Mushrooms!  Mushrooms are off limits.  Canned tomatoes, chocolate, ANYTHING with vinegar in it (which is almost everything), black pepper,  cheese, and BEER are all no-nos to name a few.  

Needless to say, this has been an enormous challenge.  Luckily for us, we don't rely on any processed foods, and we have for a long time eaten a pretty healthy diet (especially for an American family).  My second lucky strike is that I can cook!!  However, grains and veggies repeatedly get pretty dang boring, and I have found it very easy to get into an inspirationless (that's a word, right?) dinner rut.  I hope that the sharing of my recipes will help spark in me some of that food creativity that I miss a whole bunch.

Whether you are a vegan or vegetarian, on a yeast free or low histamine diet, an average omnivore, or whatever, I hope you will be able to enjoy some of these recipes, and I will offer different ways to whip them up to cater to those with or without special needs.  I promise they will all be delicious, unless I also share my disasters with you, and in that case, it will likely be hilarious!
I'm going to start this off with the trusty, never fail (never failed me) buttermilk biscuit recipe.  I literally failed at 20-30 recipes before perfecting this one!

2 C Unbleached All Purpose Flour**
1 T Aluminum Free Baking Powder
1 t Baking Soda
1/2 t Salt
5 T Butter or non-hydrogenated shortening, chilled 
1 C Buttermilk or soured *** soy milk

Preheat oven to 425°
Mix the first 4 ingredients together with a whisk.

Cut the butter or shortening (v) into small pieces and add the the flour mixture.  Cut in with a pastry blender or 2 forks until mixture has the texture of coarse cornmeal with no lumps larger than the size of a pea. 

Add the buttermilk or soy milk and stir, preferably with a wooden spoon just until dough comes together.  The best way to do this is make a well in the center of the flour to pour your liquid into.  use the spoon to scrape the flour from the outside of the bowl, tossing it into the center where your liquid is.  Spin the bowl and go around the outside several times.  Mixture should be pretty wet.  Stir just enough to incorporate the flour and DO NOT OVERSTIR! 

Turn the dough out onto a heavily floured surface and knead a few times until dough is smooth and not so sticky.

Roll it out to about a 1/2 inch think, fold dough over itself, roll out again to 1/2 inch thick and fold over one more time and very gently roll just enough to press the 2 layers together but not dramatically change the thickness of the dough.  Use a biscuit cutter or drinking glass to cut out biscuits, and put scraps together, re-roll, and cut some more.  We always have a crazy pressed together wonky biscuit at the very end.  The kids always fight over it. 
Place your little creations on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake on a middle rack for ~ 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
before baking

Pat yourself on the back and dig in!

**Feel free to use a combination of flours here : an equal mix of all purpose and whole wheat (which is what I used here), or you can go all whole wheat (more yeast free diet friendly).  Non glutenous flours do not hold well together, so usually you would need to add an egg or another binder.  I have not tried a gluten- free biscuit yet, so I offer little advice here.  Keep in mind that whole wheat flours take a titch longer to rise, so you may not have a very tall biscuit in the end, but it will still be tasty.

Some special secrets:
***You can make buttermilk or sour soy milk with ~1.5 T of vinegar or lemon juice (for yeast free) to each cup of milk.  I generally add my acid to the measuring cup first and then fill up the milk or soy milk to the appropriate amount (here, 1 cup).  YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY AND THROW OUT REALLY OLD EXCESS  BUTTERMILK AGAIN!  Ta da!

Over kneading or stirring the biscuit dough will develop the gluten in the flour and make the biscuits a bit denser and not so awesomely fluffy.  As soon as you see the softness and smoothness of the dough, restrain yourself and just step back and admire it for a second!  It is a really beautiful thing!!!

Rolling the dough out and folding it a few times makes a more layer-y biscuit that pulls apart easily.

I hope you enjoy!!!