Friday, June 29, 2007

Egg Hunt

I suppose it is no surprise that most of what I do revolves around food. In addition to gardening, one of my side "hobbies" is coordinating the purchases of our buying club. I inherited the job from the previous coordinator and it has certainly facilitated our Breatharian lifestyle and made it more affordable. It's fun, too. I get to do foodie stuff and spend other people's money. What's not to love? Members ask me my opinion on products and foods and I always have an opinion about something. A former supervisor acerbically informed me once that there is such a thing as an unexpressed thought. Really? Who knew?

We took delivery on our co-op order recently. Part of the shipment were two cases of eggs from an "Amish Farm" (who knows how authentic this is, but I'm taking it on faith). This is the third delivery we've gotten from them and the stuff has been largely satisfactory, at least as far as I'm concerned. In digging through the case to check for breakage, I found a few cartons with an egg missing out of each. And then....

The next carton had an egg missing. In its place was a wad of packing tape.

The next carton had a screw tucked under one of the eggs.

The next carton had a dime tucked under one of the eggs.

The next carton had a business card for an Amish cobbler and horse equipage in Ohio.

The denouement? The egg that was swathed in packing tape. One egg. In the entire carton.


Dog says, "What kind of weird scavenger hunt was that?" Yeah. What he said.

So that farmer and me? Oh, we're gonna talk....

Almost Everything Free French Toast, 'Cha

Several slices of Almost Everything Free Sourdough Bread
14 oz of coconut milk or other dairy replacer
4 eggs
1-2 tsp ghee

Blend up substitute milk with eggs. Sweetener can be added, if desired. Heat cast iron griddle or skillet on medium low, melting ghee until the oil is in motion. Meanwhile, soak bread slices in milk/egg mixture on both sides until saturated. Place as many slices will fit into the heated skillet and cook until browned on both sides and no longer wet in the center.

Can be served plain or with desired topping.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Of Mowing and Musing....

When you have an acre of grass to mow, you can look at it two ways: an onerous burden or an opportunity for meditation. Pick your perspective. It is either sweating drudgery or a chance for losing oneself in the drone of the motor and think about things. (Hint: Hobbits tend not to interrupt lawn mowing time, so it is almost a source of solitude.) Of course, when the cable to the propulsion system in a self-propelled lawnmower breaks, this extends the opportunity to embrace the life's challenges.

Because things go wrong all the time. Right now, the boiler/furnace needs professional attention every other day. The reset button won't stay reset. We're either jiggering the button and watching billows of oily smoke issue forth or boiling water on the stove for hot water while we wait for the service rep. The van is dogging and it is either the catalytic converter or the transmission. My grain mill has a crack in the head housing and flour is seeping in and coating the inner workings every time I use it. The warranty expired a few months ago and I've started a nest egg for a new mill. The face plate on the dishwasher that holds all of the gears together has fallen off of the front. The plastic housing for the screws that hold it in place deteriorated. I have it wired back in place with floral's too old to call a repair specialist, but not so old that I'm ready to replace it. I've already told you about the stove. And now the lawn mower.

But this is hardly unique. Everyone experiences these kinds of ebbs and flows in life. And these are just the minor annoyances in life. Not the Real Thing.

I've been thinking about the people who live with chronic conditions, cancer, continual without knowing if the load will lighten or struggling with the tantalizing hope that it will eventually lighten but the reality of that dangles out there, just out of reach. And I've been thinking about the ways that we choose to deal with these issues in our lives. I think Anne Morrow Lindbergh captured it:

"I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."

Remaining vulnerable. That means not shutting out that thorn in the side. It means taking full advantage of its presence to learn everything that the situation has to teach. To turn away, ignore it, deny it, run from it, is to miss the opportunity to learn, to grow, and become something more. And that process produces the kind of joy impossible to know without ever having embraced the turmoil. The one thing that I hope most in all this journey that we are undertaking is that I don't waste any opportunities for learning, growing, or becoming wiser while I'm here. Whatever the magnitude of this journey is--or isn't--whatever it is, when I get on the other side of this, I want to have something worthwhile to show for it.

As the summer warms up, I'm having more of an opportunity to exercise my choice in perspective on lawnmowing. The Hobbits are beginning to exercise their summer ritual of requesting popsicles. Dairy, seeds, and nuts are still off the menu, but coconut milk makes a great replacer in lots of things. In replacements like ice cream and popsicles, it absolutely shines. So much of the Breatharian stuff takes a lot of doing, but it's marvelous to have something so luscious that is so simple.

Footloose and Fancy Everything Free Popsicles

Coconut milk
popsicle forms

Since we're corn sensitive, I make my own extracts with potato vodka. When we were eyeballing potatoes warily, I did spend some time meditating on tequilla as an extractant since it is made from agave nectar. I dollop a tablespoon of vanilla and half a dropperful squirt of liquid stevia per 14 oz of coconut milk. Blend up. Pour into popsicle forms and freeze.

This is endlessly tweakable for tastes and tolerances. Some favorite variations among the Hobbits are: cherry concentrate, carob powder, orange juice for dreamsicles (I'm still pondering how to get that swirl) or blueberry concentrate.

It's time to go the lawn again.

"Don't wish me happiness--I don't expect to be happy. It's gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor--I will need them all." AML

Thanks, Anne.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hope is Doing

The title of the post that hit my email box was "I Have Cancer"....from someone I've never met in person, but who inhabits one of my email lists. I sent off a private note while other people sent on-list notes of encouragement, some mentioning their own recovery experiences. One that particularly caught my attention was from John Weber. He was responding to the poster's grieving that she'd not be able to garden while in the grip of fighting this cancer. A cancer survivor himself who was originally given three weeks to live, he encouraged her to not abandon the things that feed her life:

"For me, hope is not words, although the kind ones and the prayers are welcome. Hope is not statistics. Hope is doing. It is doing the things you have to, for me like splitting wood. And it is doing the things that arise in you and really are doing you. First, for me it was talking to kids all around Minnesota about not smoking. Now it is putting in an organic orchard for future food for people. This isn't heroics; it is living."

Hope is doing....

As we're on the road to healing and recovery, I think about where we've come and the hope that led us all this way. John is right. Hope is an active verb, not a passive one. It isn't sitting with fingers crossed, waiting for the possibility of a good outcome. Hope rolls up its sleeves and gets down to the job at hand; not paralyzed or disengaged, but busy about the tasks of life, believing the answer will come with time. Even when one is waiting, the waiting isn't slumped in is the selah in the song, the expectant pause, the counting the beats to join the dance again.

It is, indeed, doing "the things that arise in you." In the middle of all of this, as hard as it was and sometimes still is, I never ever seriously considered doing anything else. I looked at other options and other suggestions. I even pondered for a moment or two whether or not what I was doing was all a waste of time and why didn't I just do what everyone else is doing.

Except I couldn't. I just couldn't. Hope is following that rock-solid core of conviction and drive that leads to whatever lies ahead, in spite of the current situation and surroundings. Following with expectation. It's a plan of doing things that look forward to the finish line and beyond. Living as if there is more beyond this present struggle.

There's hope and expectation in the small daily tasks, keeping life organized and on track. In the thinking, in the planning, the creating, the researching and the searching. There's hope and expectation in every bite and swallow of a healing food. There's hope and expectation in every cooking experiment that ends up feeding the compost pile that turns around and feed our garden....I've gained a lot of comfort from remembering this cycle. There's hope and expectation in every food trial; hope that this time will herald another step forward in healing and the boundaries of our life will expand by another measure, by one more food.


Sprouts are one of the easiest things to grow. Just a little attention a couple of times a day for a few days and they're ready. In a mason jar with Sprout-Ease Lids or mesh screening, place two tablespoons of clover sprouting seeds with half a jar of water. Let soak overnight and drain. Rinse and drain. Leave inverted, at a slight tilt, to allow for thorough drainage and to avoid molding. Repeat the rinsing and draining a few times each day. As the sprouts grow in size, the lid can be exchanged for the next larger size meshing to allow for easier drainage. Sprouts are usually finished in 2-3 days.

The final rinse and dehulling is probably the most intensive part of sprouting. Place sprouts in a large bowl and fill with cold water from the tap. Plunge a hand into the water and sprouts and shake vigorously. The hulls will float to the surface and the unsproutable seeds will sink to the bottom. Separate the sprouts from the hulls and seeds, rinse and drain thoroughly.

Sprouts will keep in the refrigerator 1-2 weeks.

This is what I ate during the grain-free years, when I was the only one who could eat bread and it wasn't worth the effort to bake it just for me. The irony of this is that now that grain is back on the menu and I've got this fantabulous sourdough bread, I'm the only one who can't tolerate it. I--who never had a digestive reaction to anything--suddenly can't, for some reason, tolerate this bread. So I shrug and go back to my egg salad and sprouts on rice cakes. My mother calls them styrofoam saucers. Yeah, the nutritional level is about equal to styrofoam, but it gets the rest of the food in there. Things like sprouts and a layer of dulse to get my daily dose of trace minerals.

One of the beauty of sprouts is that it is source of fresh and simple greens that can be sustained year round. No needing to wait for spring or being subject to the vicissitudes of gardening. Just rinse and drain, rinse and drain, and magically these fresh greens will unfold underneath the fingertips, bursting with B vitamins, anti-carcenogens, and freshness.

"Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation*....Occupy till I come." **

Hope is doing.

*Romans 8:17-25
**Luke 19:13

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Side Tracked Breatharian

I had so many plans for the week, but it was consumed in stocking up a friend with gf bread for the month and a couple of other friends for the week. And getting caught up with a grungy house. And grungy laundry. And the ten million kid things. And grocery shopping. And co-op orders.

I had a lot of plans for Saturday. I was going to bake bread for us. Get caught up on laundry. Again. Then hit the yard and mow the not inconsiderable amount of grass, both in square yardage and height. I had already flippantly told Tool Guy that it needed to go to seed before we cut it. But Saturday would be the day, promise-promise! Then I'd work on the next week's blog, which included tweaking that recipe some more. Which meant more baking.

Un, huh.

I dunno what it is with me and that stove. I truly love it. It's a great stove. It's me; I'm the biggest klutz there is. In the short life span of this stove, I've created an oven fire with spilled coconut oil (the clean up from that was on par with the clean up from the gumbo fountain since dry powder fire extinguishers generate an amazing amount of powder) and then the aforementioned gumbo fountain. And today, of all days, I create an over-boil. Amazing what kind of havoc a little water in the wrong place on an electrical appliance can cause. I now know the intimate workings of my stove and it has been mopped and cleaned in places I never heretofore even imagined existed.

Actually, as I explained to Tool Guy, who was shaking his head in disbelief, this was the sequel to the gumbo drama. If we'd not had to replace the GFCI outlet, we wouldn't have known that there was water creating a short in the igniter in one of the burners, since it dutifully tripped off as designed, informing us of the problem. Who knows how this could have unexplained kitchen fire, perhaps? Okay, maybe I'm reaching, but I'm trying to find some meaning out of these kinds of annoying and time-wasting road blocks. So humor me.

Oh, and when I went out to mow the lawn? Yeah, well, the mower and both of the gas cans were all empty. And I couldn't leave to get gas because I had a batch of bread rising in the toaster oven, the stove being out of order until Monday, because there is no way on God's still-green earth that I'm going to call a repair specialist out on a Saturday. And by the time all was said and done, there wouldn't be enough day left to mow such acreage. It would need to wait. In fact, everything I'd planned would need to wait.

So what did I do with my day? I went out to the garden and finished transplanting my tomato starts. Then packaged up the starts that I'm giving away to other gardeners. I dug out all of the materials to transplant several herb plants to larger containers. Bug has decided that along with being a chef, chemist, and artist, he wants to become a horticulturist. For his recent birthday, Tool Guy took Bug to a botanical garden, where Bug picked out a gardening tool kit as a birthday gift. Since I had all of this suddenly unencumbered time, he and I transplanted the herbs and he, to his delight, got to use his tool kit. While he trimmed the dead leaves off, he waxed enthusiastic about how much he was enjoying this gardening time.

I was stuck on worrying about the repair bill on that igniter problem. With an effort, I managed to shove all of that aside and force myself out of my "Martha moment."

Just enjoyed the gardening with my little guy.

Roaming the yard with Princess, looking for bees.

More digging in the dirt and listening to Bug bubbling over with pleasure about how much fun we were having together.

Sometimes it takes a crowbar...or a kitchen lever me out of my ruts and go with the flow. Dinner wasn't anything like I'd planned. I love our outdoor grill and in emergencies like this one, I really appreciate having a fall back plan. It was one of those simple nights: just grilled chicken sprinkled with some seasoned salt. Early in our everything free days, when I was winnowing out the corn sources, Lowry's Seasoned Salt went off the menu. Maltodextrin. Scrounging around and looking on the internet at all of the top secret substitutes, I tweaked ours to look like this:

Almost Everything Free Seasoned Salt

2 T Real Salt
2 T paprika
2 T chili powder
1 T turmeric
2 t kelp powder
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
1 t red pepper
1 t cumin
1/4 t nutmeg
1/4 t coriander
1/4 t allspice

Blend well and store in covered container

I'm still tweaking the turmeric and kelp powder to get the maximum amount without unfavorably distorting the flavor. Turmeric has been found to be anti-carcinogenic, which is beneficial when one is introducing carcinogens via bbq grills, as well as protective against Alzheimer's. And kelp is a good source of iodine, especially in everything free diets where iodized salt--yeah, more corn--is off the menu.

My faithful and much abused stove is still with us. No, never did call a repair specialist. While I was out puttering with the Hobbits, the wiring dried out and she's back to her chipper old self, so there was that additional virtue in getting sidetracked. Sometimes a tincture of time fixes everything.

I've promised to save all of my major boiling projects for the outdoor burner. And Bug and I have a date to separate some of his herbs* that have outgrown their pots already.

*Parsley and Basil in photo compliments of Bug.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Lost In Austen

I used to be an avid reader. The librarians would flinch when I walked in the door. Seriously. Before children, I would swoop in with a cavernous gym bag and not leave until it was almost too heavy for me to drag out, leaving wide gaps on the shelves. And I've lived before there were computerized check-out systems. Just imagine.

However, the rigors of time management require having less time to curl up with a good book, let alone a mountain of them. Then a few years ago, my partner in food crime shared with me her enjoyment of books on tape. Just plug that puppy in and go about your day. Oh, my. Absolute heaven.

Doing a little poking around the very cutting-edge library system we have at our fingertips here, I discovered a vast wealth of audio books at my complete disposal. Thanks goodness for Library Elf, because with four library cards in my pocket, I'm worse than a shopaholic with all of the credit cards. Needless to say, these days very little of what I "read" is actually words on a printed page. But I'm able to cover, if not all of the volume of books I once regularly read, at least enough to keep my mind entertained, challenged, and active.

A while back, I decided to cover in full all of the Jane Austen novels that I enjoyed so well as A&E productions or feature movie productions. I spent a whole year lost in Austen. And my children went with me. Poor things, they didn't have a choice, because there were the lilting, vibrant narrative tones following them through the house, over and over. Even the incomparable Wanda McFadden can't best Lyndsay Duncan's version of Pride and Prejudice. I should know because I've listened to them both. A few times.

On top of this, Tool Guy bought me a portable dvd player to entertain me while in the kitchen, cooking dangerously. My stack of Jane Austen productions are looking, shall we say, "well-loved" at this point. I realized just how much was trickling down the food chain, as it were, when I was standing toe to toe with Dog about getting a job done. As I won the point and he slouched off to perform the required task, he tossed back over his shoulder, "Very well, but it gives me no pleasure." Who knew? I'm raising Mary Bennett.

Mrs. Bennett's catty remark about her daughters not having anything to do in the kitchen because they were well able to afford a good cook made me start thinking about how we live today and how they lived back then. When we first started this everything free business, I told a food friend that I was living a 19th century life in the 21st....sort of like the folk in Frontier House, but without all of the soap opera drama. I have to tell you that this creates a certain amount of dissonance with the dominant culture. People who can toss frozen dinners into the microwave or order out for pizza or pop off to the closest fast food restaurant have a concept of time that is very much at variance with mine. Life feels like it moves at a much faster pace for the rest of the world than it does for me. Many of my foodie friends tell me they have the same experience.

My days are about planning, prepping, staging. One meal flowing into the next. Or housework. Hanging out laundry. Or yard work. Or gardening. Oh, and there's some homeschooling in that mix somewhere. But that's probably the way that it's always been. The speed of life as we know it today is a modern construct....perhaps an artificial one at that....and not how most people have lived over the larger course of history. For most of our history, with the exception of the Bennetts of this world, people did it all themselves, as extended family, or as a community. Another friend, who has similar food issues, visited a family down in Mexico who live in a rural setting. She described their days much as I'd always imagined and I feel an affinity for their daily rhythms. Only there were other hands to help so nothing was terribly burdensome and the husband always made sure there was wood for the fire or sufficient water available. Community is and always has been terribly important in this lifestyle. Our Western ideas of autonomy definitely drive the inspiration for labor and time-saving devices and food. My friend said the food there was real and wonderful. So much so that she burst into tears in the middle of a meal. "Way to startle a hostess," she lamented. I thought it was the ultimate compliment. I can understand that kind of gratitude for a safe meal from someone else's hands that is exquisitely delicious.

The affluent of Regency England hired people to see to all of those details for them. Today most folk do the same, only they are paying manufacturers and producers indirectly instead of directly hiring servants. Then there are the "everything free" folk who are doing everything themselves. See why I don't do much reading anymore? Well, I did manage to squeeze in What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew: From Fox Hunting to Whist-The Facts of Daily life in Nineteenth-Century England by Daniel Pool. An easy read and very interesting.

All of this culture sparked an interest in Bug and even Princess. It started when she came home with a hand-me-down toy china tea set made from real china. After they'd played with it for a while, Bug wanted some real tea. And scones, please, Mom. Tweaking a scone recipe when one has never eaten scones before is, needless to say, an additional challenge. On the other hand, if there's no basis for comparison, the untutored palate should be easier to please, right? Hey, some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you. This scone recipe is a work in progress and I expect that as I refine it, this post will be replaced with the updated versions. Kinda like Scone 4.7.

I would love to say that these scones are identical to the authentic ones that you'd get within the embrace of the UK, but in all honesty, I can't. Ingredients like milk were originally added to recipes for the very reason that they do appealing things to the end product. I've found that losing milk in baked goods makes a significant dent in the outcome. So if you're looking for light and fluffy scones, then continue looking, gentle Breatharian, for these are not they. But they're not exactly hockey pucks either. They are buttery tasting with a slight tang, a little crispy on the outside, and provide an adequate raft to the garnishments of High Tea for an indiscriminate Hobbit's enjoyment.

Almost Everything Free Scones

1 cup gf flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/2 cup dried potato flakes
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. guar gum
10 drops stevia liquid
1/4 cup ghee
1/2 cup coconut milk kefir

Cut ghee into dry ingredients, stir in coconut milk and stevia. Knead lightly until incorporated, adding liquid if necessary. Roll between silicone, parchment, or wax sheets, cut out and place on baking tray. Bake at 400* for 10-12 minutes.

Everyone enjoyed the tea immensely. Well, Dog didn't care for the beverage itself, but he did enjoy the experience and the scones. Bug and Princess relished it all. Looks like Tea is going to become a tradition around here. Here's to gracious living.

These days the librarians still flinch when we troop in. Because I don't come alone. Dog has inherited my book gene and we've discovered how the tandem stroller that hobbits have outgrown will accommodate one hundred books quite nicely. Good thing everything is computerized, right? Tomorrow is library day and we're going to go get lost.

Princess wants to know when she's going to be old enough for her own card.