Friday, December 30, 2011

Overnight Oatmeal

I got a new slow cooker for Christmas. It was time. I was using my mom's old hand-me-down and the small crack in the crock was getting bigger... and wiggly... and soon would not be so watertight. I'm thrilled with my new one. It programs to turn to warm after a set time, so whenever I cook it, the food stays warm, but doesn't over cook. I love it.

With my delivery of beans and grains from Lonesome Whistle there was a bag of Scottish Oats. The instructions call for giving them 30 minutes to cook stove top, and it's rare that I get a full 30 minutes to cook for my hungry tigers in the morning. But with the slow cooker...

Put 1 cup of Scottish Oats and a pinch of salt into a slow cooker with 5 cups of water (yes, this is a cup more than Kasey's instructions call for) at bed time. Set to Low for 8 hours. If you have a timed cooker it will switch to warm in the night, or still be slowly cooking when you get up. Regardless, when you get up, there will be warm oatmeal, ready to go.

The only disclaimer I feel I should add is that because of the long, low cooking time the oatmeal ends up more gooey than some people might like. We didn't mind at all. 

This is the perfect thing to do the night before a busy morning. Add some raisins, cashews, maple syrup...

I'm going to try it with barley next. I love barley cereal.

Daily Haiku: December 30th

Small hand grips marker,
words form laboriously.
A writer of thoughts!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Mindful Monday: Get Back on Track

Okay. I know it's Tuesday. But that's part of what we're doing this week. Trying to the best of our ability to re-establish our daily routine.

For the last two weeks there have been family in town, mad holiday preparations and celebrations and Papa home from work. It's been fun. Bedtimes have been erratic (almost to the point of non-existance most nights. Yawn.) Eating has been haphazard and involving more sweets than usual. I'm glad it's time to get back to our dull, fairly predictable, life.

Who: All the family
What: Re-establish our habits and routines. Get ready for a new school month that starts next week.
Why: We intentionally let most our routines disappear for the month of December. It's that time of year. But we also know that our housekeeping schedule, bedtimes, circle times, and so on, keep us sane. It's time to call back a little bit of that sanity.
How: Papa is back at work, and though we miss him, that helps re-create our habits. We will keep on with our morning circle (the only thing that didn't fall apart in the Holidays, thank goodness!). I will try to get the housekeeping back to the established schedule. The kids will go to bed at bedtime, movies will happen on movie nights, and so on. I anticipate this taking two weeks to really get back, but that's okay. I have to work extra this week and next at our food co-op, so I'm giving myself a little leeway to re-establish our days over the two weeks. This will also get us ready to delve back into our school work in January.

Here's to sanity!

Daily Haiku: December 27th

Wrappings all cleaned up,
Candy canes licked to naught.
Christmas come and gone.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy, Merry, and Bright

A Holiday with two little ones leaves very little time for writing. Multiple holidays and family birthdays with two little ones leave even less time.

Somewhere there are pictures of carefully crafted gifts...and someday I will post them, possibly along with instructions. Somewhere there are Simple Saturday drafts, about simplifying these family holidays. But we were just too busy for simplicity.

All that said, I hope you had a Happy Solstice, a Merry Christmas, Bright Hannukah, and Joyous anything else you celebrate at this time of year.

We did.

Blessings and Peace to All.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CSA pick up number one and a quick dinner

I was so excited as I opened my bucket of goodies from Lonesome Whistle Farm; the kind of anticipation my kids are feeling about the impending holidays. Flour! Barley! Beans! Oats!

Thursday after delivery was an unusually busy Thursday, with us rolling in late from errands due to a birthday party. I knew we would be snacking and enjoying cake and coconut ice cream, so something simple for dinner was key.


Brother-Bug chose the Vermont Cranberry beans and I set them in some warm water for a quick soak. Because the beans were so fresh they started to plump up right away.

Personal Disclaimer: I never remember to overnight soak my beans. I have, therefore, become adept at cooking dry beans fairly quickly without a pressure cooker. More about that in a future post.

A fuzzy picture of soaking beans.
After a couple of hours soaking, I rinsed the beans, added fresh water, and set them to boil, then simmer. They smelled divine and wonderfully bean-y while they cooked. I turned them off after about a half hour and left them. We ran errands and went to the birthday party. When we got home, while the bread was baking, I turned the stove back on and reheated the beans. Strained, mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme, they were ready to eat.

Onto the bread.

I like yeast breads better than quick breads, but I didn't have time for a long rise, punch down, and rise again. I was on a major time line. I adapted the Master Recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day as follows:

Measure 1 1/2 cups warm water, 1/4 cup honey, and about a tablespoon of yeast into a bowl and let sit till the yeast is going. If you've made bread before you will know what I mean.

In a large mixing bowl combine:
3 cups flour (I did one of the Rye flour, one and a half of the Whole Wheat, and a half cup of organic white flour to lighten the texture a bit)
1/2 tbl. salt

Add the water/yeast/honey, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough will be very sticky. Don't knead it. Don't add more flour. I swear. Cover the bowl with a towel.

Let it sit until you are ready to preheat the over (to 400 degrees). At least an hour, longer is okay too. Once you set the oven to heat, flour your hands and form a quick round loaf. Don't try for anything super artistic, just make a basic loaf shape. Cut a couple of slashes in the top with a sharp knife. Let it rest while the oven finishes heating.

I bake my bread on a pizza stone, but a cookie sheet will work too. Make sure you set your resting loaf on coarse corn meal so you can move it around easily.

When the oven is hot, put the bread in and bake for... I forgot to look at the time. Darn it. I baked it till the crust was turning a little golden and the bread made a hollow thump when I tapped the bottom.

Cool and slice. Eat!

That was the bread.

As I stated, I re-warmed the beans and baked the bread when we got home. I sauteed some kale. That was it. And it was good. It was eaten up by all family members, even those who had recently gorged on cake.

The Vermont Cranberry beans are almost aromatic in flavor - the same way the nuttiness of an almond is aromatic and still nutty. They don't taste like just struck me as the same kind of rich and subtle flavor, if not the actual same flavor. Their texture is smooth and starchy-creamy. Satisfying. Filling. And they are so rich in both flavor and texture that they didn't need more than the oil, thyme, salt, and pepper I tossed them in. Even that could have been too much. I am excited to try them in a recipe and see how they stand up to other flavors.

Papa-Bug expressed it best: 
"If beans were like this people would eat them."
Such a pretty, simple, satisfying meal...
And he's right. These beans are much more than just a burrito filler, to be covered over with other flavors. If I could always eat beans like these I would eat beans far more often. Thank goodness for the CSA!

The bread, the flavors of the flour... Wow. I wanted to keep eating it even after I was full. It was a dense bread due partly to the whole-ness of the flour and the short rise time, which was what I wanted for our dinner. It was a little sour and a little savory and rich of that nutty flavor that is an essential part of fresh wheat. Warm with butter... YUM!


A couple of nights later I threw together this recipe which was a hit with the whole family. I made this up out of a moment of indecision - wanting to cook with all the lovely things from Kasey and not knowing what to choose!

1 cup Arikara beans
1 cup Vt. Cranberry beans
1 cup purple barley
1/2 cup dried mushrooms (I used chantrelles - and if you soak them separately you can use the soaking water in your broth)

1 tbl. olive oil
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
3-4 cups broth (I used a mixture of water and chantrelle broth)
1- tsp. dried thyme or marjoram
1-2 cups frozen corn
Salt & Pepper

Soak the beans, barley and mushrooms for about an hour. In a soup pot, Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Strain the beans and barley, add to the pot with the mushrooms, broth, bay, & thyme/marjoram. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer till the beans and barley are done. Add the frozen corn and continue to cook till the corn is warm through. Salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Monday, December 12, 2011

Mindful Monday: Ride the Crazy Wave

It's the holidays. It's festive. It's crazy. There are little people in my world who are so excited they simply cannot contain themselves.

Family comes into town this weekend. We go with my family (all 12 or so of us) to the beach for four days of solid merriment. We get home from that and get ready for Christmas. We don't start coming down until after New Years.

Everything is upset; my housekeeping schedule, my blogging schedule, the kids routine.

My Mindful Monday this week is to do what needs to be done, enjoy the madness, release the blog schedule, but try to keep (somewhat) to the housekeeping schedule. I'll keep posting through the next few weeks, sharing the holiday madness with you all, but I'll do it on my schedule, as I want to or have time to.

Because my real Mindful Monday is to enjoy the Holidays and all the chaotic, glittering, exuberant madness.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Simple Saturday - Holiday Edition: Make It Ourselves

One of the things I deeply enjoy about the holidays is Creation. Baking cookies, making gifts, crafting decorations... Always the gifts we give involve some homemade elements. We buy a few things new (or "newly used" at the thrift), but I love the feeling of ingenuity I get when I create something special out of something we already have.


This year I knitted these darling cherries as a Tree Ornament. One tradition is that the Little Bugs always find a new ornament in their Christmas stocking. Often I find nice ones at the thrift store. This year I saw this pattern online and knitted up two little cherry bunches for their Ornaments. They were fun and easy to knit, very quick, and I made them out of yarn ends that were just gathering dust at my mom's house.

Tasty tree trims - made of old scraps.
I would post some of our other creations, but I don't know who reads this and don't want to spoil any surprises. After the Holidays, when the gifts are all given, I will post more extensive pictures and descriptions of some of our creating. I've been having fun, in a financially tight year, finding what I can make with what we have or can find. I often do this, but this year I am focusing on it more than usual and having great success!

The other thing I delight in creating each year is our holiday card. Some years I draw a picture, we color copy it, and make that design into a card. The year I was 6 months pregnant with Sister-Bug we sent a standard photo card. But since then I have been getting into minimizing our card footprint. What can I use to make a fun card?

We are blessed to have the Materials Exchange Center for Community Art (MECCA) here, which is an art supply thrift store. Bins of old fabric, stacks of paper, odd bottle caps, you name it. And more than fairly priced. MECCA is a blessing when it comes to making holiday cards. Last year I scored a stack of odd shaped white card stock, 55 envelopes, and a pile of used holiday cards for $4.00. A little work with paper cutter and glue stick and I had glued the old cards to the card stock, creating new cards!
Kid writing, fabric scraps, reused card stock. Voila!

This year I made these cards - again a stack of old card stock and assorted envelopes from MECCA. I added fabric scraps from my scrap bin, and had Brother-Bug write assorted festive words on a paper, which I color copied and cut out to finish the front. I used some other old card to print out our own greeting which I glued to the inside. I like writing this - what I want and not settling for an approximation of what I want in someone elses' words. Very home made. Very us.

Making my own cards is not simple. It is, in fact, far more complicated than buying cards at the dollar store, or getting a photo card printed. But there is a blessing here. The card says "I took time to make this for you. I thought about you." At least, that's what is says to me. It also champions recycling and reusing (the genesis of the card is printed on the inside, letting recipients know it is a reused item) which is so important to think about in this season of trash.

But though it is not a simple thing, it makes me plan ahead a bit. It makes me slow down and think about people outside my immediate family and those I make or buy gifts for. It makes me stretch my creativity each year as I find something new, something fun, something that will be special when opened.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Simple Saturday - Holiday Edition: The Great Toy Give away

One thing I try to teach, model, and live at this time of year is giving. It is a season of giving, not of getting. So while we do make lists for Santa, we try to focus more on what we are giving to others - talking about who we are gifting as we are making gifts and baking cookies, and how much those recipients will enjoy our gift.

We also have a yearly tradition that we call "The Great Toy Give-Away". It happens today, the first Saturday of December. We've done it every year since Brother-Bug was one (that first Christmas he was 3 months old, so didn't have much to giveaway).

The idea is simple. We look through our toys and find some nice ones that we no longer use. We pick them out and take them to a local family homeless shelter. While we are doing it, we talk about what it might be like to have Christmas morning without a house, how we are helping other kids have presents, maybe some kids won't have a present unless we share some of our excess.

Every year it is a little hard. Every year I am warmed to my core when Brother-Bug gets into it and truly gives from his heart. My favorite was when he gave up a Tonka dump truck, so shocked was he (at three) that some kid might not have even one toy truck!

I've sweetened the deal a little. As we go through the toys, we find a present from Santa. It comes with a note thanking our family for being so generous. The present is usually a Christmas DVD. It doesn't add to our toy load and helps us look forward to this exercise in generosity.

Also, we've linked this with the getting of the tree. Take the toys, pick out a tree, come home and decorate, watch a new Christmas movie. It ends up being a really nice day.

My hope is that we make some space in our toy storage for some of the new toys arriving in a few weeks.  My hope is that the kids learn that giving is an essential part of this season. My hope is that they take the needs of others into consideration when approaching this most festive of seasons.

They might hate it now, or tolerate their Mother's insistence. But maybe the lesson will stick. I hope.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Meet Our Farmers: Lonesome Whistle Farm

We are getting ready and excited for the first delivery from our Lonesome Whistle Farm Grain & Bean CSA. While we wait, I thought I would bring you a post highlighting Kasey & Jeff, and some of what they are doing. My earlier post about Black & White Popcorn balls was also graced by Lonesome Whistle harvest.

Growing fields of beans.
This post is an interview with Kasey White. She and Jeff are the ones growing us such good beans and grains. One of my favorite things about shopping at my Farmer's Market is developing relationships and deepening my understanding about food and where it comes from. Getting to know Kasey, hear her passion for garlic, and see her wonderful bean jewelery has been a delight.  

An heirloom bean from the Mega-Whole-Nutrition-Style store might be tasty, but one that my friend and community member grew will always taste just a little better to me. I know that it is mostly in my mind, but that's okay. I love the warm feeling I get eating foods that came from friends. 

That said, let's meet Kasey, Jeff, and their lovely 

Tell us a little about your big is it? What do you grow? 

We grow beans, grains, corn, and vegetable crops on 20 acres.  We are located 9 miles north of downtown Eugene on River Road.  

When did you start farming?

We started farming in 2003 on 2 acres and have been on 3 different farms in our 9 years.  We just secured land with the help of some investors and will be putting roots down on this farm, very exciting.

 Why did you start farming?

We have a food justice and social activism goal with our farming.  We wanted to do something meaningful and direct with our lives and provide healthy food for us and our community with the goal of becoming less dependent on corporations to meet our needs. 

Some of that hard work...Brother-Bug loves this!
What is the hardest thing about being a farmer?
The work never stops.  You are always thinking about what the next step is and problem-solving.  Often, we are using equipment we have no experience with and old equipment at that.  Like a combine from the 1970's and cultivating tractor from the 50's.  You have to be on your toes and a jack of all trades to do it well.  It's hard being "on" all the time. 

What is your favorite thing about being a farmer?
Making my own schedule and the quiet time in the field to have my thoughts to myself.  Not punching a time clock, and being creative.  We see farming as an art form.   

Why grow heirloom beans and grains? Why should we buy them?
We grow heirloom seeds because they are open pollinated, old varieties that are interesting and resilient.  They are not available through the industrial food system, and many of the varieties have outstanding taste and characteristics.  We keep discovering new and beautiful beans and corns that we can't resist to grow out each year.   

What is your favorite thing to grow?
Jeff's favorite is corn.  We grow Dakota Black popcorn and other dent corns.  I love the beans personally.  I love them so much that I am making jewelry out of them.   

Of the things you grow, what is your favorite thing to eat?
Bean burritos are Jeff's favorite food of all time.  He eats two large ones a day, in fact.  I love to eat beans too, but love making my own bread with our grains and using our vegetables too.   

Share a favorite recipe?

The beautiful booth at the Lane County Farmers Market in downtown Eugene.
My basic pot of beans is seasoned with rosemary, thyme, olive oil, and salt and pepper.  Really simple. 
Besides signing up for a CSA share, what can community members do to help local farmers?
The best thing to do is come to farmers market or become a CSA member and offer support to farmers through your consistent buying, eating, and enjoying of their foods.  Small gestures go along way in the middle of a stressful farm season.  

If we wanted to come visit the farm, how would we go about it?

We would love to show you the farm! Because of our schedules, please call or email in advance of your visit to make sure we are able to show you around. 
You can contact the farm here. 

Who wouldn't want to eat beans and grains grown by such loving and beautiful people?