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Archive for the ‘Kitchen Witch Cooking’ Category

fern ponders the omnivore’s dilemma

food.  these days, i am rarely not thinking about it.  whether i am eating, planning to eat, or reading about eating, food is nearly always on my mind.  and now, with a wee babe on the way (due in 3 weeks!), i can’t help but wonder what kinds of food he will be eating as he grows.

of course, i can tell you what he won’t be eating.  at least, if i turn out to be the perfect mom i plan to be (ok, please stop laughing).  no fast food, no refined sugars, blah, blah, blah.  yes, i will make every attempt to keep this junk away from my precious child, but i am realistic enough to know i can’t keep him from eating at  every birthday party, halloween, or holiday event for the first 18 years of his life.  and i’m not foolish enough to think that we will never, ever have peanut butter and jelly for dinner on some hectic night.  inevitably, he will partake of some kind of sub-par badness that he will probably just love.  then i’ll face the challenge of how to deal with a tiny and tenacious sugar fiend.

so what’s a mommy to do?  well, i guess i’ll cross that bridge when i come to it.  more immediately on my mind, is how to condition his little belly when it comes time for him to begin the transition from boob to solid foods.  i know i have to birth the kid first and all, but there’s just so much to consider…

everytime i turn around, there’s a new diet revolution emerging.  or allergy.  there’s the raw food movement, the primal diet, there’s veganism and good ol’ vegetarianism.  there’s lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance.  and then, of course, there’s the rest of us:  the omnivores.

the honeyman and i are omnivores, vegetarian leaning.  we tend to eat vegetarian at home, and save our meat-eating for special occasions or when we go out.  i know, i know- this is pretty hypocritical.  after all, most of the places we eat out do not get farm-raised, free-range, organic meats.  neither do most of the people whose houses we eat at who cook meat as the main dish.  but since we’re pretty content to eat veggie at home (not to mention, we can just toss out the scraps to the chickens or the compost, and clean up using only vinegar!), we give our consciences a break when we have a date night or are guests in someone’s home.  it can get emotionally taxing to worry all the time, and it’s certainly not healthy.

so now, with the boy on the way, we wonder what kind of diet will be the best for his little gut.  i guess only time will tell.  we abandoned the ideal of perfection early in the first trimester, when money was tight and we had to cut some corners on our organic shopping budget.  we gave ourselves a break  and decided any food was better than no food.  we eat as local and organic as possible when we can afford it, and we cast love blessings upon any food we think is of questionable origin.  when it comes time for the baby boy to become aware of what and how he eats, we will be honest and share with him the ideal situation in relation to the reality.  and, hopefully, as he grows into a young man, he can decide for himself what is the best fuel for his body.

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Daisy freezes her patootie off and makes lunch.

Pitiful, frozen elder trees. Don't worry. She'll be back.

My garden is frozen.  The chicken waterer is a solid block of ice.  There is a lovely miniature ski jump of ice coming out of the hose nozzle.  The elder and hibiscus hang with dark, frosty, withered leaves.  This is a serious cold snap for Savannah.  My old cat Mojo has been sleeping inside nights, something he usually avoids.  I’ve even had to actually turn the heat on, which I’ve avoided like the plague this year so far. 

With all this cold weather we’ve had, I would be smart to get cooking and let the oven heat the house, but for some reason (maybe I’m a glutton for punishment) I’ve been preparing food to freeze.  I’ve already written about making food and freezing it; so far I’ve done chili, soup, meatloaf and breakfast muffins. 

The tiny, frozen waterfall on the end of the garden hose.

I’ve tried cooking for the freezer years ago, but I never really got into it.  Right now it seems to work for me.  I do have to spend time in the kitchen cooking (which I hate), but I’ve been thinking of it like a part time job.  I clock in, make some food, and clock back out.  It’s a worthwhile investment of my time.  It sure beats having a real job.

So I clock in and make some homemade food for my family.

The other day I made some chicken soup and some burritos.  They’re all packaged and frozen and ready to be thawed and heated.  My new favorite freezer food, however, is sandwiches. 

Little Boy and I usually end up having sandwiches for lunch, either peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese.  It’s not that we’re particularly fond of these sandwiches (nor are they fabulously nutritious), but they are cheap and easy, and so they win by default.  Lazy, lazy lunch.

While researching freezer foods, I ran across a website with pages devoted to making and freezing buttloads of sandwiches.  Peanut butter and jelly and ham and cheese to be exact.  There’s a trick to making the PB&J.  None of the jelly can touch the bread, so you spread both sides of bread with peanut butter, and spread the jelly in the middle, leaving a small margin of peanut butter around the edges.  With the ham and cheese, the trick is to use Miracle Whip instead of regular mayonnaise.  Who knew?

So we gathered our ingredients.  Most were from the local Piggly Wiggly, but an impromptu trip to the dollar store yielded two loaves of bread and some strawberry jelly.  I also got some freezer bags to store all my delicious sandwiches.  Lay out the ingredients, make the sandwiches, mark which kind they are on the bag, and stack in the freezer.  It took me about half an hour.

L to R: Chicken soup, chili, frozen burritos, red cabbage and potatoes (behind burritos), sandwiches (with another stack of sandwiches behind), more burritos (in door).

I made 9 PB&Js for under $4.00.  That’s less than 50 cents a sandwich!  The ham and cheese were more expensive; I made 9 sandwiches for just over $7.00, but that’s still a sandwich for under a buck.  Not bad in my little world.  The best part is, just take them out of the freezer and they’re thawed by lunchtime.

Little Boy and I have been having picnic lunches outside with the chickens.  The girls quickly figured out that we’re holding the good stuff when we come out there, so they come running when they see us.  They’ve gotten quite cheeky in their attempts to sample our lunches.  Mavis has snatched a pickle right out of Little Boy’s hand (she then immediately discovered that she doesn’t like pickles), and yesterday she jumped right into my lap!  Naughty girls.  (By the way, Mavis has started laying her brown eggs, so now we’ve got two girls “in production”)

These freezer sandwiches are not totally eco-friendly (disposable plastic freezer bags).  They’re also not the most nourishing whole food (store bought bread, cheap meat, etc).

But will they keep me from driving through at Taco Bell?  Absolutely.  Will they stop me from blowing 15 bucks on 2 days worth of saturated fat at Wendys?  You betcha.  Will they prevent me from stressing about what to make for lunch?  Of course.  They already have. 

Expenses?  Down.

Caloric intake?  Down. 

Stress?  Down dooby do down down.

I’m in love with freezer sandwiches.  Tomorrow I’m having PB&J.

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Daisy gets promoted from pet owner to farmer.

We have eggs!  After 6 months of sharing my backyard with these pesty, ravenous, feathered dinosaurs, they are finally beginning to earn their keep.  Or at least one of them is.  Betty, my Araucana with the gold and brown feathers, has matured and begun laying beautiful pale blue eggs. 

Right from the chicken's butt.

We’ve been expecting this for weeks.  We changed their feed to what the lady at the feed and seed store called “layer crumbles”, whatever that is.  It looks like plain cracked corn.  The Herban Cowboy made a nest box that we lined with wood shavings and nestled a golf ball inside for inspiration.  The girls have been “singing,” a sign that they are getting ready to lay some serious eggs.  It’s called singing, but it’s actually a kind of weird, creaky noise like, “Bra-a-a-a-a-a-a-ack.”  I’m not sure if that’s the exact spelling.  Transcribing chicken is harder than it sounds.

So last week, I went out to check on the girls and I only counted my four black hens.  While my eyes scanned the backyard for signs of Betty, my ears heard faint shuffling noises in the coop.  Wait, in the coop?  But they never go in there during the day…   Unless…

I got there just as Betty was emerging.  No egg yet.  But she had made a well in the nest box and was obviously practicing.  Good girl.  Over the next few days, Betty continued to practice, and Mavis started taking turns with her.  To tell the truth, I thought for sure Mavis would be my first girl to “ripen,” since she’s a hybrid.  But Betty beat her to it.

Despite my 4 daily trips to the coop “just to check it out,”  the Herban Cowboy was the first one to discover an egg.  We oohed and aahed over it forever.  I ended up taking the very first egg over to Aida’s, where she was packing for her move to Vermont.  She promised she would keep it forever and ever.

Betty's eggs, shown next to a white grocery store egg (R) for comparison.

Since last Saturday, Betty has laid 4 eggs.  One I found right after she laid it – the morning temps were in the low 30s, but the egg was warm in my hand.  They’re a bit smaller than the large eggs I normally buy at the Piggly Wiggly, but they’re much prettier.  We haven’t eaten any yet.  I think we’re waiting to have enough for scrambled eggs with cheese.  Another day or two should do it.

Now that the whole egg thing has started, I’m itching for the rest of my girls to start as well.  Come on ladies, mama’s hungry.

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fern has a shower

ok, let me just begin by stating that i am TIRED.  tie.  errrd.

part of that is the fact that i am hauling around about 32 extra pounds on a pair of chicken legs.  the other part is that, well, i am plumb party-pooped.

this past saturday, the honeyman and i hosted a shindig.  perhaps it’s a little tacky, but in lieu of a baby shower, we thought we’d invite a bunch of folks we really like into our home for a lively blessing party.  we called it the ‘anticipation celebration.’  and, boy, was it a success.

(on a side note, my three closest tribeswomen were in absence, though all for very good reasons.  lucky for me, it is largely due to each woman’s giving spirit that any of this was at all possible.)

folks, let me just give you a little insight about who i am and how i operate.  i will obsess over some self-inflicted concept of perfection for a ridiculous amount of time, will claim i can do it all myself, and in the crucial preparation days and hours before the actual event, will be stricken with a malady of indifference and laziness up until the day of, at which time, i begin to freak out, and attempt to do everything at once.  this event was no exception.

saturday morning, around 11:30am, i went shopping for party food.  i ambitiously planned to make all sorts of home-cooked goodies, comfort foods of all kinds, and to accommodate all of my dietarily challenged friends.  yes, i know- the shopping should have been done at least 2 days ahead of time.  yes, i know-  i could have made at least half of the menu the night before.  and trust me, that was the plan the whole time.  except i don’t do so good with plans.  i tend to rebel against them, especially those i create for myself.

i still have not discovered the root nor the remedy for this character quirk.  alls i can say is, it must work for me, because i keep on doin’ it.  and you know what?  somehow, magically, i always get just what i need to get done, just in the nick of time.

well, thanks to daisy’s foresight, and the thoughtfulness of many a good friend, not only did we have enough food for all 59 guests, we now have a fridge slap FULL of food.  never have i had so many options for what to eat.  and now, i am faced with the daunting task of… (wait for it)…  not wasting.  anything.

the day before the party, i cleaned out our fridge.  not even catholic mass could have prepared me for the guilt i felt as i tossed out bags of food.  fresh produce gone slimy.  moldy citrus.  green yogurt.  soured milk.  ick.  i have never been so ashamed.  and this was certainly not the first time.

so, now i have 6 sweet potatoes, 7 heads of garlic, 5 onions, 8 lemons, 26 apples, 3 containers of salad greens, nearly a pound of cheese, 3 containers of yogurt, several types of bread, and about 8 containers of already prepared foods to consume with my honey before anything spoils.

the challenge: use these ingredients wisely.

last night, we enjoyed a fruit, cheese, and wine spread in the late afternoon, followed by greens salads and garlicky pasta with spinach for dinner.  apples have been consumed all day.  today, we snacked on whole-grain bread and butter (getting on our winter coats!), and for dinner we’ll be enjoying indian-spiced veggies and lentils.

i have a witch of a challenge before me.  stay tuned as i cook and freeze and chop and squeeze and bake and fill our bellies with lots of homecooked goodness.  i’m kind of new to this domestic goddess gig, so i’m open to suggestions!

 

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Daisy puts the herb in Herban Cowgirl.

It got colder than a witch’s you-know-what last night here at the Green Goddess Gardens; I should know.   Winter is coming, and Christmas is right on her heels.  With the cold and the stress, the Cowgirls are doing our best to stay nourished during this vulnerable time of year.  In that vein, today’s post is about how to make nourishing herbal infusions.

First of all, making infusions was Lesson One in my herbal studies with Susun Weed, but have I done a post about them yet?  Um, no.  How did this get by both me AND Aida? 

Anyway, you may be saying to yourself, “But Daisy, why should I care about herbal infusions?  I tried mint tea once and I didn’t like it so whatever, pass the coffee.”  I hear you, you imaginary naysayer.  But I’m not talking about some pansy herbal tea that you soak in a cup of water for a minute and then drown with honey.  No, I’m talking a thick, witch’s brew overflowing with vitamins and minerals.  And here’s how you make it:

Put one ounce (about one cup) of a gentle, nourishing herb (oatstraw, stinging nettles, red clover, raspberry leaf, violet leaf, mullein, etc) into a one quart mason jar.  Pour boiling water over it, filling the jar and screwing on the lid.  Steep 4-8 hours.  Strain and refrigerate.  Drink it within 48 hours.  After that, feed it to your houseplants or pour it over your hair in the shower for a final rinse (I’m not kidding!).

One ounce herb in one quart jar.

You can make an infusion before bed and strain it when you get up in the morning.  Or put some on in the morning and have it by lunchtime.  The wet herbs you strain out can be thrown on the compost pile if you have one.  Drink one to four cups a day.  Sweeten it.  Heat it.  Ice it.  However you like it, just drink it.

The long steeping process extracts lots of vitamins and minerals from the herbs, WAY more than you’d get from a simple cup of tea.  One cup of raspberry leaf infusion has more vitamin C than an orange.  One cup of stinging nettles infusion has more than 500 mg of calcium.  The nutrients come directly from the plant, a little more as nature intended, as opposed to a vitamin pill, where substances are isolated, synthesized and concentrated. 

Topped up with boiling water and capped. Steep 4-8 hours.

In addition to wholistic nourishment, herbs are cheaper than vitamin pills.  Depending on the herb and if you buy bulk, a cup of infusion costs anywhere from 15 – 50 cents.  That’s some delicious possum living. 

You can find your herbs at a Whole Foods or your local independent natural grocery store (shout out to Brighter Day in Savannah!).  If you live in a rural place without a fancy hippie store, you can order online (Frontier Herbs and Red Moon Herbs are good companies to try).

My favorites are oatstraw and red clover, but I also love raspberry leaf and linden flowers.  The Herban Cowboy likes stinging nettle the best, but it’s a bit too strong for me, so I sweeten and dilute it.  Little Boy’s favorite is oatstraw.  He makes it for his stuffed animals sometimes. 

From Left to Right: Raspberry leaf, Oatstraw, Stinging Nettles

You don’t have to make infusions every day.  Two or three times a week should do it.  So toss your expensive vitamin pills and nourish your body with simple herbs.  Build optimum health and keep the flu at bay this winter.  Seriously, give it a try.  You may find yourself suddenly on the other side of winter without having incurred a single cold.  It’s worth a try.

We just finished up a big pitcher of nettles at our house.  Tonight we’ll make some oatstraw.  It’ll be perfect in the morning, heated up with a spoonful of honey.  Mmmm…

Here’s Susun Weed talking about infusions and her favorite infusion herbs.  Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pKpe_YGUUw

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If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health. -Hippocrates

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Daisy cooks up a storm (not literally of course).

I have been working in my kitchen for the last three days straight.  Well, I did take breaks to pee, hang out on Facebook, and go to rehearsals for the play I’m in (stage version of “A Christmas Story” first 2 weekends in December at Muse Arts Warehouse for those interested).  But other than that, I’ve been hard at work making food out of meat and vegetables and cheese and eggs and flour.  And then washing dishes and doing it again.

I really hate cooking.  I guess it’s fun once or twice a week, but to have to think about making something to eat several times a day is exhausting for me.  I couldn’t care less about the preparation of food.  I’d like it to just magically appear in front of me whenever I’m hungry.  It’s such a pain to spend hours of the day preparing food that it takes 15 minutes to eat.  I can’t help but feel sad when it’s so quickly gone.

This is it kids. This is where the magic happens.

You can see how a person with desires and feelings like this would get hooked on junk and convenience foods.  Anything in a package is great; just tear it open, eat it and throw the wrapper away.  Nothing to wash.  How lovely.  Fast food is just amazing; sit in my car, collect my lunch that I didn’t have to prepare, eat at home and toss the “dishes” in the trash.  Frozen dinners are a luxury; no preparation, just heat and serve and (again) throw the dishes away.

What a fabulous life!  The costs of this lifestyle, of course, are staggering.  First of all financially, since it’s cheaper to prepare (and even grow!) good food at home.  Second of all ecologically; it’s an awful lot of trash generated by convenience food.  There’s also the toll this food takes on my physical health.  Y’all, right now I am the fattest I’ve ever been in my entire life, and it’s because I’m lazy and I hate cooking.  PC about fat people aside, I’ve put myself at a high risk for diabetes and heart disease, among other things.  Curse you Taco Bell!  You and your Nachos Bellgrande can go straight to hell!

Sorry, where was I?  Oh, right, how my crippling addiction to fast food is slowly eroding my physical and financial well being, as well as contributing to the destruction of our natural habitat.  Right, right, right.  Anyway, since it dovetails nicely with my “Vow of Poverty,” I recently redoubled my efforts in the area of home food preparation.  Uch.  Fine.

So here’s the list of all I’ve made in the last three days:  lemon garlic crockpot chicken, herbed rice, sautéed green beans, vegetarian chili (a gallon), lentil/split pea soup (3 quarts), cornbread, blueberry oatmeal muffins (1 ½ dozen), iced tea (so I don’t buy diet soda), meatloaf (2 of them) and a buttload of steamed broccoli. 

Foil wrapped meatloaf, bagged muffins, plastic tubs of chili and soup. I better get crackin'. I've got enough room in there for some more muffins and maybe a casserole...

I’m trying to get ahead with some of this.  The chili, soup, meatloaf and muffins were mostly frozen for future meals.  What’s really crazy to me though is that this is how much food my maternal grandmother cooked all the time.  She had five kids.  I mean, dang.

I haven’t even started my Thanksgiving food.  Little Boy, the Herban Cowboy and I will meet my sister and her family at my mom’s tomorrow.  I’m making traditional yams with the marshmallow crust on top (for the kids) and steamed green beans with dried cranberries and sliced almonds.  Mom’s making a turkey breast thing and maybe some stuffing or mashed potatoes.  And cheap, store-bought, white bread rolls from the grocery store, because it just isn’t Thanksgiving in south Georgia without them. 

Although I hate cooking it, I am grateful for this food.  I am grateful to the Herban Cowboy, for working his hands to the bone so I can eat this nourishing abundance.  I am grateful to Little Boy, for constantly reminding me what’s important in any given moment.  I am grateful to my sister and her family, for traveling hundreds of miles to be with me.  I am grateful to my father for his neverending support.  I am grateful to my mother, for all the home cooked meals of my childhood.  I am grateful to my friends, for being my tribe.  And I am grateful to my grandmothers, for showing me the way.

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