Monday, November 23, 2009

CSA Week #6

Realising this blog won't write itself, I figure it's time. I'll admit I'm hesitant since I'm feeling a little guilty about my progress with our veggies. My reason for blogging about our experience with a weekly Community Supported Agriculture share was to force me to be accountable and push me to use it wisely. Thank goodness for that, otherwise we might have long been buried in rotting produce.

I'll also admit that this week I've also been a little distracted. I've been crocheting my little heart out, both for my family and for charity. The kids have been challenging too this week and when they'd finally relax, so would I. We had our in-laws here for the weekend and for once, I didn't cook much. (Usually I relish the opportunity to try out some new recipes on them, as they're adventurous eaters.)

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #6
Carrots (bag) 921 g
Onions (4) 639 g
Boston Lettuce (1) 234 g
Arugula (1 bunch) 103 g
Celery (1) 831 g
Yams (1) 470 g
Potatoes (5) 748 g
Cabbage (1) 524 g
Bosc Pears (5) 926 g
Apples (6) 888 g
Bananas (6) 1.006 kg
Oranges (3) 438 g
Total - 7.728 kg

We've currently got 3 full bags of carrots (!) in the fridge begging to be used. There's still zucchini, avocado (is it still usable?), lots of salad greens, celery, some apples, and pears. There's a pile of onions, potatoes, and yams waiting patiently for consumption. I still haven't made the Curried Carrot and Cashew Soup (today, maybe) or the Zucchini Carrot Muffins. I did make a butter chicken dish using some of the onion, potato, and carrot - delicious, but I used a commercial spice mix so won't be posting the recipe this time. I'm still a little intimidated by guacamole (is it tough to make? how quickly does it need to be eaten? are the avocados still edible?) so that hasn't been made yet.

I did make a Spelt Bread this weekend, which was well received. It's super easy and quick with only 5 ingredients and no rise time. I've been inspired to try making green smoothies with some of our greens, but am a little nervous that K., who is still breastfeeding, will get really gassy. I'm willing to try it at least once, since it seems like an excellent way to get in some important nutrients. I suppose I'd better get busy, after all, we get another haul tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

APLS Blog Carnival at Greening Families

I'm thrilled to be listed first in my first submission for November's APLS (Affluent Persons Living Sustainably) Blog Carnival. Hosted by Greening Families, this month's posts concern how people have been affected by their efforts to live a more sustainable life. Read all the posts here. For more about APLS read this.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Behind the Times and Loving It

One could argue that it's because I'm getting older (though I'm only 33), or because I have two young children, but I believe that it's mostly because of our decision to simplify our lives and live a more frugal and sustainable life that has caused it. I never would have guessed that I'd become so out of "the know" regarding popular culture. I couldn't tell you what television shows, movies, songs, or stars are popular. I haven't the slightest idea. What's more: I don't care. How far I have come.

Media unplugged: It began with not listening to the radio, when I became a stay at home mom, as I was no longer commuting to work. I also no longer watched the news in the morning as I prepared for the work day. With a young baby who was very sensitive and needy, we quit going to the movies, because he couldn't take being away from me for very long. When my son started paying attention to television and began to react to what he saw, we stopped watching many things when he was in the room. We then realised that there was little time or energy to watch these things when he wasn't in the room. Eventually we cancelled our television service. When my beloved newspapers started piling up after having our second child, I cancelled the newspaper too. I recently received some magazine subscriptions for my birthday (at my request), but I can't keep up and don't want them renewed.

Shop less: As finances got tighter, shopping lessened. I found one of the best ways to save money was to not go shopping! I started to fall out of fashion (not that I was ever terribly "in fashion"). The latest technical gadgets became far out of our reach. Flashy cars (not that we'd ever really coveted those either) were an impossibility without going into debt. The big house was too expensive to buy, decorate, and maintain. The "better neighbourhood" was too far away from my husband's new job and to live closer cost less so we moved. (BONUS: We love our current house, neighbourhood, and city much more than the last.) Without television urging us to "buy, buy, buy", we don't even know what we're missing.

Have you seen...? Have you heard...?: No and no. I keep somewhat up to date with current events via the internet, and I overhear friends discussing current entertainment. Aside from that, don't know, don't care. For my Christmas wishlist, I ask for DVD box sets of the next season of some of my favourite tv shows (many of which have long since ended) and throughout the year I slowly plod through them. I really enjoyed The Sopranos, but I still haven't finished the final season. I adore LOST, but please don't talk to me about it; I still haven't finished last season. Every now and then I borrow a season of Big Love or Weeds from the library, but I only get to watch a few episodes before it goes back and I'm on the waiting list again. (I should 'fess up here and admit that I am pretty aware of what is popular in the preschooler entertainment world. Somehow, we haven't escaped that!)

Don't you miss it?: I never thought I'd say this, as I used to be quite the pop culture junkie, but absolutely not. I am more aware now of advertising and marketing. When watching television at someone else's house, I feel assaulted by the commercials. "Leave me alone! I don't need that!" I feel.

What do you do with your time?: I've found that I have more time and energy (and money) for other pursuits. I cook more. I read much more. I spend more time with family. I play with my children. I vacation in the backyard. I socialize more. I blog. I grow my own food. I can and freeze and dehydrate homegrown or local produce. I research ways to save money, eliminate chemicals from our home, be more self-sufficient. With out the busy-ness of keeping up with popular culture, I live at a slightly (since I have two very young children) slower pace. The best part: now that I am not so distracted, I have and take the opportunity to savour simple pleasures and share these with my husband and children.

"...The positive psychologists confirmed scientifically, in other words, what simple-living advocates have been asserting for so long anecdotally: a life lived with less emphasis on acquisition might have the effect of leaving more time for richer, less resource-intensive life awards, making both the planet and the people happier." from "No Impact Man", by Colin Beavan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

CSA Week #5

This CSA Tuesday, a few events reminded me of the importance and centrality of food and eating:

While picking up this week's CSA share, I met a new mom of a 2 week old girl. She had her baby in a carrier on her front and we chatted as we loaded our food into bags. I was happy to see that she and her husband are concerned about the quality of food their family eats and where it comes from, and are committed to a CSA even in the crazy early days of parenthood.

As I drove back home and was stopped at a traffic light, I noticed 3 teenage boys (I'm guessing about age 16) crossing the street. They looked like average teenagers, dressed in trendy clothes and talking and laughing together. Then I saw that each of them was carrying an empty reusable shopping bag and were on their way to the local grocery store. How wonderful that not only are they involved in food shopping (although they could just be buying pop and snacks for all I know - but I'm being optimistic), but they are helping to eliminate plastic bags by bringing their own.

Before all of this, I was at Ronald McDonald House with Social Mamas, preparing dinner. I always enjoy myself there (it's no secret I like to cook) in the great big light-filled kitchen. We spend the time talking about anything and everything (often heavy topics like religion for some unknown reason), and always laughing. Every now and then, someone comes into the kitchen for some food or just to pass through and we're reminded of our purpose there: to make a home-cooked meal for the families of children who are in the hospital. Most of the time, these are really sad cases. We met a mom last night whose son suffered brain damage and blindness as a result of choking on popcorn in a movie theatre. He went without oxygen for 10 minutes and noone helped him. They don't know if the blindness will be permanent. I can't even imagine.

At first I felt bad for our cheerful chatter, thinking we might be being insensitive, but then I realised that the sounds from the kitchen might help others feel like it was an ordinary household and not just a very serious and sad place. As I peeled and chopped the vegetables carefully and arranged them on a platter, I was aware of how cooking for others is a way to comfort and nurture. It can be so easy to forget the basic importance of nourishing our bodies and our souls.

All this brings me to our CSA...

The leeks from the past two weeks and some of the celery went into a delcious Slowcooker Chicken with Leeks in Cranberry Walnut Sauce. The lettuce and arugula have been almost all used in some tasty salads, and the fruit was eaten fresh. The mushrooms were dehydrated - so cool and likely the topic of another post - as were previous weeks' parsley and red kale. Last week's kale will also be dried and the yams will likely be chopped and frozen. I'm still planning on making a guacamole, but I can't seem to get around to it. We've already lost one avocado, and all the turnips and beets.

What we received this week in our share:

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #5
Carrots (bag) 936 g
Zucchini (2) 497 g
Onions (6) 1340 g
Swiss Chard (bunch) 295 g
Red Potatoes (5) 939 g
Avocado (1) 211 g
Spinach (bunch) 232 g
Yam (1 XL) 518 g
Bartlett Pears (5) 833 g
Apples (9) 985 g
Bananas (6) 975 g
Total - 7.76 kg

The zucchini are a welcome addition, but they hail from Mexico and I'm a little conflicted about that. We certainly don't need more carrots, but I'll find something to make with them: perhaps another batch of Carrot Zucchini Muffins and some Curried Carrot and Cashew Soup. I'll likely combine this week's and last week's potatoes with some of the onions and roast them for dinner. I'm going to try using some of last week's butternut squash in an Acorn Squash Lasagna, since butternut and acorn squash are interchangeable. And the rest? We'll see...

Festival of Frugality #203

My blog post Homemade Gifts has been included in the latest There are links to many excellent posts about all things frugal-minded. Go have a read!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

CSA Week #4

While I've still got of last week's produce still kicking around, things should change this week as I fire up the dehydrator. I managed to use all but a few leaves of the boston lettuce in salads (soo yummy and pretty) and the previous week's romaine is long gone. The bananas were gobbled up and today I made a delicious and easy Apple and Pear Sauce. One pumpkin succumbed to a toddler's heavy hand (K knocked it down a few times, the skin split, and it rotted). Aside from that, we've got everything else left. I plan (yes, I've said it before) to catch up this week.

Speaking of which, here's what we got:

FrugalMaman's Fall CSA Box Week #4
Yams (2) 636 g
Mushrooms 101 g
Leeks (3) 345 g
Butternut Squash (1) 2.39 kg
Avocado (1) 223 g
Celery 654 g
Boston Lettuce 227 g
Arugula 125 g
Kale 359 g
Apples (10) 1.11 kg
Bartlett Pears (3) 489 g
Bananas (5) 929 g
Oranges (3) 385 g
Total - 7.98 kg

The very small oranges were a nice surprise and 2 of the 3 were consumed by F and I within minutes of them coming in the door. Also welcome is the arugula since I love its nutty flavour and would like some variety in my now daily green salad. The kale is green this week, not red and the pears are Bartlett not d'Anjou. We've got our requisite butternut squash (destined to join its brethren in the freezer), as well as apples (gala), and bananas.

My excitement over the oranges made me realise that my best efforts will go awry (am I mixing metaphors here?) once clementine season arrives. I think they're only grown in Morroco. They are one of my favourite fruits and as I said to DH, "I'm not made of stone."

Homemade Gifts

Now that Halloween has passed, Christmas is fast approaching. What a tricky time for a frugalista and a...greenie (haven't found myself a good nickname there)? How to wade through the commercialization and over-consumption that is the Christmas beast? Better yet, how to do it as the parent of two young children?

I'll start with the second first: we give our children very little for Christmas. Sacrilege! What we do give is second hand where possible and generally consists of books or music or a toy. The grandparents (they've got 6) will shower them with more than enough gifts and so we keep it very simple at home. The boys are 1 year (K) and 3.5 years (F) and so far this is working well for us.

What about my husband and I? We are very good at not buying indulgences throughout the year for ourselves and try to save these wants for special occasions. In the past we have stuck to a strict budget when buying for each other and buy a few small gifts that we're sure the other really wants: again things like books, music, DVDs, games, etc. Lately my husband is getting harder to buy for because he has less time for reading and playing. Back when we were both working we would also buy a gift for the two of us ("the house"). This year we may even forgo gifts for each other and just get something for "the house": most likely a digital SLR camera as it's something we would use constantly.

What do others get us? Our family likes us to create wishlists for every member of the family. This is a great idea, but the more we simplify, the shorter these lists get. Making them for the boys is even harder since they "need" very little. As F gets older, he's better able to vocalize his wants, but we try very hard to teach him that wants are not needs and that we don't get everything we want, which is okay. Luckily he still enjoys simple pleasures and even favourite fruits get him very excited. Our youngest, K, needs next to nothing and wants less. Most of what he has is handed down and he couldn't care less. It's a wonderful age! Above all, we encourage gift-givers to give the kids preloved (used) items and not to overindulge.

What do we get the rest of the world? Now there's the tricky part. For nieces and nephews I've made things like hats and mittens when they were young:

We ask for wishlists when available or find something thoughtful and useful (perhaps even educational or creative) and keep the budget low. For adult family members, over the past several years, we've been making baskets. Here are some previous examples (I can't believe I didn't get pics of last years when I made biscotti, cookies, sauces, and other yummies!):

These include items to be consumed (food and drink) and, increasingly, homemade items. I love to cook and bake (obviously) and so I tend to give many baked goods and things that can be frozen and consumed later. This year we have a pressure-canner which I'm hoping to use for soups and chilis and the like. (I'm very excited about this and will definitely blog about it.) And I'm working on a way to present these baskets next year without cellophane (which was always on its second life when I used it).

Aside from comestibles, I've found it difficult to think of useful items that can be homemade. I don't want to give silly useless, or tacky things that must be displayed. That is not green and it is not frugal. I was thrilled today to find (at my new favourite blog Domestic Cents) a listing of 50+ Homemade Christmas Gift Ideas. Nicki gives lost of unique ideas and links to wonderful sites. (I said to myself, not for the first time, as I was discovering yet another fascinating blog, "how am I supposed to do anything else with my time?") I'm loving Skip To My Lou, Bella Dia, Geekware, Stardust Shoes, I could go on and on. Go, have a look around, and if tell me if you've gone down the homemade route before.

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival

I have just participated in my first Blog Carnival at Make It From Scratch. You'll find lots of delicious recipes and other crafts and things. My contribution is my Zucchini Carrot Muffins. Please check it out!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zucchini Carrot Muffins

As the carrots and apples from my weekly organic CSA shares are piling up, it is time to get muffin making. The zucchini is from this year's container garden harvest, which I shredded and froze for just such an occasion. I've made these once before and they were a huge hit with the family. I found them a little sweet however, and have reduced the sugar this time. (Normally I would replace some of the oil and sugar with mashed ripe banana, but I'm all out.)

These are one of my favourite ways to sneak vegetables into my kiddies. They devour them and prove how great they taste.

makes 28 medium-sized muffins

2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped peeled apple
3/4 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup hulled hemp seeds (or chopped almonds)
2 teaspoons orange zest (optional - didn't use, didn't have)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup multigrain flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins

1. Gently toss together carrot, zucchini, apple, coconut, hemp seeds and orange peel; set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and salt.

3. Combine eggs, oil and vanilla; stir into dry ingredients just until moistened (batter will be thick). Fold in carrot mixture and raisins. (I mix with my hands, I find this the easiest way.)

4. Fill greased or paper-lined muffins cups two-thirds full. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Cool in pan 10 minutes before removing to wire rack.

Adapted from Recipezaar Recipe #118885

Click here for a printable version.