Hold the Pink Slime, Please.

First, a bit of background:

You’ve probably heard about pink slime. You’ve probably decided for yourself (and family, if you feed one) whether you care or not.  I don’t judge your decision either way, but I can say I feel deeply uneasy about it and prefer to eat meat that has not been processed in that way. I basically don’t want to eat anything that has been washed in ammonia…nor do I want to eat something that was raised in conditions that may necessitate its being washed ammonia to make it safe for consumption.

I don’t eat very much meat these days anyway. Since I want to eat non-GMO, one of the ways my family affords that is by eating lower–hence, cheaper–on the food chain. We’re not vegetarian, but our protein is more likely to come from plants or dairy products (we do eat a lot of chicken eggs; whether that’s a meat or a dairy product is a sort of murky line). Point being, since I don’t eat much meat, I don’t always remember all of the icky reasons I feel I need to be careful. Like the pink slime / ammonia issue.

Now, the story:

Yesterday, while I was drinking my coffee and commencing with my digital check-in with the world (email, FB, etc), I came upon this article a friend posted about Jamie Oliver getting McDonald’s to change its ways. I’d seen the video demo before, but I’d forgotten about it. So I read/watched, felt angry at the industry, betrayed by our governmental agencies that allow practices like this, and overall good about the ability of people to make changes they feel need to be changed. After all, Jamie Oliver is just a guy trying to be the change he wants to see…and he did it! That’s awesome and inspiring.

Fast forward to me at the grocery store for some milk, and I was shopping hungry (we all do it sometimes!) and was lured by prepared foods such as corn dogs, mini tacos, potstickers, egg rolls, pot pies…  Oh, so tasty, and so easy.  Ooh, and frozen pizza. That looked really good, too.  But every time I almost opened a freezer door to grab some prepackaged tastiness, I thought about what might have been done to the meat products in them. And I just couldn’t do it.

I made a potato chowder instead. It was delicious, I knew what was in it, it was way healthier, and it was easy and filling.  I didn’t take any pics before we ate all of it…oops!

Potatoes waiting to become soup

Tender little summer potatoes, yum!

I make potato chowder a lot. Everybody in my family likes it. Since I make it very often, I don’t really have a recipe for it. Pretty much the only constant is that I boil potatoes and add tasty things to them. This time around, I happened to have some kind of rubbery green beans that weren’t good for eating raw anymore, so I added them. I also added a fair bit of green onion (scallion) since it’s fresh and cheap at the farmer’s market right now. For the main flavor, I used a healthy splash of milk and some pepper jack and cheddar along with some dried rosemary. (Have you tried rosemary and cheddar together? Delicious!)

Note: if you are new to to cooking soup with cheese and/or milk, it’s important you keep the heat quite low once you add the dairy products, or you’ll wind up with an inedible rubber that used to be cheese, or the milk will do funny, stringy-looking things, or other bad things. Add as a last ingredient and use only enough heat to keep warm after that!  (Yes, I learned it the hard way. Believe me when I say that rubbery stuff is inedible!)

I’m glad I cooked something from scratch and didn’t give in to my junk food monster. I miss frozen mini-tacos, though. I tried to make my own once, and it did NOT work out. Maybe I’ll have to try again… Suggestions? Recipes?

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A Little Bit Granola

It’s a beautiful spring day here in the Twin Cities metro area. Outside in my backyard, apple blossom petals fall down in gentle breezes. Black-capped chickadees, gold finches, cardinals, and even a red-winged blackbird have been at my feeder today, and the recent rains have left my birdbath full of fresh, clean water for them to dip into.

The iris on the side of my house–the south side, with good sun and the warmth of the house warming the flowers–are in full bloom, and the iris along my sidewalk which get less sunlight are a few days behind.

Since it’s gorgeous outside, I’m inside, working on homework and cooking. Oh, and of course, it’s laundry day.  I’ve got a nice view, though, and it’s my own fault for reading the other day instead of working…

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about food again lately, and just enough research to be chagrined at where my food is coming from…again.  So, I’m on another kick, to know where my food is coming from and what it’s really made of, to know what those difficult to pronounce ingredients on the food labels really are, to buy foods from companies I approve of instead of not really looking into it…etc. Luckily, I’m coming to the bandwagon after a lot of other people already have, and it’s often a ten-second Internet search for me to find out what I want to know — after I know that I want to know it, which is part of the catch. I don’t know what I don’t know.

Today I made granola at home for the first time. After some time hitting the blogs looking for some good recipes, I hit the kitchen and started chopping some onions. 😉 I figured as long as I was going to be in the kitchen, I’d make dinner as well, so I made a pot of chicken chili to simmer away while I was stirring up some seeds and grain for later.

Here are the recipes I most closely considered while deciding how I wanted to approach my granola:

Willow Bird Baking

Chickens in the Road

& Whole Living.

I haven’t locked in to any one recipe yet, and I plan on posting it when I find what works for me. I’ll say, though, that I overcooked the first batch. I thought that was funny and mildly ironic since there are so many warnings about not burning the granola when it’s in the oven, “toasting.” I read the warnings and thought, “Why would I burn it?”

Uh huh.

I found that I need to use more sweetener next time; the quarter cup suggested wasn’t enough to get the oats and seeds to stick together. I put in about one-half cup of ground flax seeds, and those worked out just fine. I added about one-third cup of chia seeds as well, and they were sticking together nicely when I stirred it all up but then fell off to the bottom of the pan during cooking. Oh well…  It was too many chia seeds anyway. They have a strong flavor.

I toasted the first batch at 300 degrees and stirred every 10 minutes, like one recipe said to do, and that’s the batch that got too dark. In fairness, I used dark baking sheets, and I should have known to compensate by turning the temp down.

The next batch I toasted at 225 and stirred at 20 minutes, then in 15 minutes, then in 10 minutes, and then I pulled it out. That batch is much nicer, though it’s not quite right yet: the nuts and oats aren’t quite finished. I want the oats crisper and the nuts to have a more developed toasted flavor.

Also, I used honey because that’s what I had in the house, but I am definitely using maple syrup from now on. I found the same thing when I made candied nuts–honey just doesn’t have the depth of flavor that maple syrup does, even if it is a nice sweetener for some foods. The stronger flavor of maple suits nicely when baking, whereas I find honey’s flavor just gets smothered (even after I added a bit more than the 1/4 C. they called for and I used a stronger flavored honey than clover – maybe it was buckwheat? – it was a dark brown honey).

Oh! And I’ll definitely be using a touch of salt next time. I used salted butter and thought that might be enough, but with unsalted nuts to boot, it needs more of a boost there as well.

Still, it tastes pretty good, especially for an overcooked first attempt without strictly following a recipe. 😀 My daughter, a nut for granola, said “it’s good” and kept gulping it down. Good enough this time! Hopefully by the next time I need to make a batch I’ll have found a good source for local (or at least regional) maple syrup.

Sorry no photos this time – I misplaced the camera. Pics next time, including some finished pics of a home-made skirt and a pair of legwarmers I made recently.

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend! Please let me know in the comments what you’ve found when you made granola!

 

 

 

Some New Approaches to Life

I’m far from perfect – perhaps that’s why I don’t have New Year’s resolutions. I haven’t bothered thinking I’d follow through with them since I was about ten and I realized I couldn’t even keep a diary for 3 days, much less “be nicer” all year.

However, as I read so many entries, posts, updates, and whatever-elses about resolutions, I have been thinking about some of what MIGHT be called resolutions…if I could keep them. I’m fairly certain ‘good things’ is copyrighted by Martha Stewart, so I guess I’ll call them …

Things I’m trying (but don’t need to feel guilty about when I forget to try from time to time). Wait, that’s a horrible acronym.

Well, I guess the best way to put it would be to call them ‘approaches.’  Here are some of the recent approaches to life I’ve adopted.

Approach #1:

It’s OK that my house is messy. I’m still trying to organize it and keep it cleaner, but I have lots of other stuff going on, too. So cut the guilt and/or stress about it.

One of the approaches I’ve adopted is to be sure that I always put away at least one more thing than I took out. This is the sort of sustainable small change I can implement and remember. I’ve been trying this out for a few months now, and I’ll admit it would be going better if I remembered more frequently than ‘most of the time.’  Overall, though, it’s a low-key approach that keeps me tidier than doing nothing for long bouts followed by hours of tedious cleaning.

Approach #2:

Do the stuff I keep wanting to do and have no reason not to do. This means: trying for my crafty biz (seriously, if I had just one hour a week back from what I was spending online, loving other people’s shops, I’d have a decent little biz going right now), posting to the blog, doing things like going to the zoo or trying some of those DIY things on Pinterest.

Again, so far – going swimmingly. I’m posting to this blog fairly regularly, even though I never quite seem to have the pics I want ready or the little tutorials I have started are never quite finished… Because I got sick of waiting for that RIGHT TIME and the PERFECT POST.  I hopped online and in less than a week, I have a registered LLC, a federal tax ID, a state tax ID, and I’m scheduled to be in a craft fair on February 2nd.

One of the cutest ‘exhibits’ at the Minnesota Zoo yesterday. (There was a bit more snow yesterday…) (Photo boosted from MN Zoo website and not my work!)

Walked around the Minnesota Zoo yesterday with the kiddos and the boyfriend, and we all had a great time looking at the critters…including the tiger cubs and leopard cubs. SO. CUTE.

I hung the paper snowflakes on the mural of birch trees on my kitchen wall. I like them more than the beautiful matched-set glass ornaments I bought last year. Not bad for a few sheets of copy paper.

I hung the paper snowflakes on the mural of birch trees on my kitchen wall. I like them more than the beautiful matched-set glass ornaments I bought last year. Not bad for a few sheets of copy paper.

I cut out a bunch of paper snowflakes since I’d been wandering through Pinterest and came across some tuts for it and remembered how fun it was in elementary school…  It’s still fun. Lots of fun. 🙂  Wonderfully inexpensive Christmas / winter holiday decorations, and I get to keep them up at least through March if I don’t get sick of them first.

If only geometry class had been this pretty...

If only geometry class had been this pretty…

I also made a craft stick snowflake since I’d seen those around the ‘net as well, and then at my local art supply store. I meant to put glitter on it, but got busy with life and wound up hanging it as it was. I still think it’s pretty, as plain as it is. I plan to make more, though perhaps not ’til next year at this point. Putting this together brought me to appreciate geometric fabric designs much more, and makes me think I may need to play with some hexagon patterns soon.

Approach #3:

Eat the way I want to be eating more frequently.

I made a commitment to eating non-GMO, and while my store/co-op purchases are reflecting that, my lifestyle isn’t. I order pizza at least once a week from the local franchise…so tasty…and not a single ingredient I’d look at twice in the store. I find that I eat foods I crossed off of my list a long time ago much too often, and I get ill from them more easily lately.

I made beans and rice for dinner this evening. As we all know, it’s cheap, relatively healthy, and totally unglamorous. It tasted so good! And it honestly was easier than getting in my car, hopping on the freeway, and driving to and from the nearest drive-thru tex-mex place. I added a can of refried beans and a can of diced tomatoes to some still-hot rice (two cups dry), some chili powder, cumin, and salt, and that was it. We all added a dab of sour cream and a few dashes of hot sauce, and we all loved it.  Hurray for healthy(ish) cheap food!

And, this means breakfast tomorrow is cheap and easy. Leftover beans and rice + scrambled eggs = awesome!

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