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Posted on Oct 30, 2013 in Inspiration

Wordless Wednesday

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Posted on Oct 28, 2013 in How to simplify, Resources

Simplify your life: don’t waste

Photo credit: PAVDW

Photo credit: PAVDW

I spent the evening tonight at a party to celebrate the anniversary of a local restaurant.  Not only were the owners and staff there, but the farmers that provide the food as well.  It was not a fancy restaurant that serves miniature zucchini and  beef from cattle named after the owners, and massaged daily with almond oil while gentle flute music plays.  The ingredients were pretty simple, simply prepared, and mostly vegetarian.

With the respect for the food and those that grow it that the owners showed in their menu, I was surprised to see them in a video presentation, smashing squashes and pumpkins on the farm with their kids.  I guess they were not good enough to serve in the restaurant?  Maybe those squashes were going straight to a pig’s feeding trough?  Maybe they were collecting the seeds for next year’s crop?

That video, along with the expensive groceries I bought for yesterday’s post made me think about something I was taught as a child.

Don’t waste food.

I have always thought that this rule brings unnecessary guilt about eating.  I know the feeling of opening the fridge when it is time to pack my lunch, and stealthily taking the strawberry yogurt from yesterday’s trip to the store when there is still a honey/vanilla one from last week.  Maybe it will turn into a flavor I like better if I ignore it long enough.

So, if I spend more money on food that is fresher, less processed and grown on this continent, I will think more carefully about wasting less.  Buy only what I need and using it, even if I have to make biscuits out of that yogurt.

Need a recipe to use up what you have?

You can search for recipes by ingredients here and here.

Any advice on how to waste less food?

 

Photo credit: Mr. T in DC

Photo credit: Mr. T in DC

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Posted on Oct 27, 2013 in Menus and Recipes

Where does dinner come from?

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This week, I took a challenge, to try organic chicken and grass-fed beef, instead of my usual whatever-is-on-sale kind.

The challenge forced me to shop outside of the supermarket and look at other ways food is grown, processed and packaged.  My friend told me that organic and grass-fed is better for us, more sustainably produced, and TASTES BETTER.

But, when I went to the several stores I visited to buy these meats, I found a lot of stuff. For chicken, I found normal, organic, free range, free roam, and all natural.  I had to look some of these up:

Normal.  These chickens are housed indoors, on rice hulls in large chicken houses.  They are, and fed corn and soybean meal with vitamins and other nutrients.  I was surprised to find out that no hormones are allowed with chickens for food. They live to be  5-6 weeks of age before becoming meat.  The problems with raising chickens this way is that they are kept in crowded conditions.  They can be burned by ammonia waste and grow very quickly, so moving around or standing gets difficult.

Free range. These chickens are bred to grow more slowly, have more space, and are raised outdoors so they have more interesting environment, and can move around more.

Free roam.  This is apparently the same as free range.  I guess I got to try this twice.

Organic.  These chickens are raised similarly to free range chickens, but have limitations on food additives and medications that can added to their food and water.

Natural.  This is chicken that is minimally processed.  It can be made from conventionally raised animals, but often the chickens are fed with a diet of food with fewer additives.

I bought chicken drumsticks and bone-in breasts from these sources, coated them in a simple marinade, and roasted them in the oven.   I didn’t notice much difference in the tenderness or size of the pieces.  The flavor was also very similar when they were hot out of the oven.  I noticed that the organic chicken breasts had more flavor when I ate them as cold leftovers.

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For beef, I found normal, organic and grass-fed.  (I thought I would have found grass-fed organic, but did not).

Normal beef for meat is raised partly in a pasture with grass and hay, and fattened in a feed lot with a grain diet.  This allows them to get larger faster that animals fed only grass.

Grass-fed beef stay on the pasture and eat grass for their whole life.

Organic beef must be born and raised in an organic pasture, eat an organic diet, and have unrestricted access to being outdoors.

I bought three kinds of meat as round steaks, broiled them and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I noticed that the grass-fed beef was leaner.  They were all three about the same tenderness.  The organic and normal beef tasted pretty much the same, but the grass-fed beef had a different taste completely.  I expected it to taste beefier.  It was more flavorful, but not more of the same flavor as the normal beef.  The meat tasted fresher, although it was not any fresher from the store.

Overall, I would eat the grass-fed beef again just for the taste.  The cost is at least double the normal beef that I bought, but it goes on sale sometimes.  I like the idea of eating fewer additives.  The organic chicken I got from Trader Joe’s was more expensive, but not ridiculous.  I will look for it and buy it when I can.

The best part of this challenge was shopping in a butcher shop.  I got to ask questions about the meat, I got exactly as much as I wanted, and when I got it home, it had minimal packaging.

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Photo credits: wattpublishingDaveOnFlickrB4bees
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Posted on Oct 25, 2013 in Inspiration

The Beauty of the Mundane

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Photo credit: Joybot

If you ask a friend how they are, and likely they will say “Busy!”

What do we fill our busy days with?  We have so many challenges and demands on our time.  It’s easy to think of the everyday routine tasks as interfering in our day, but these mundane activities of tidying, doing laundry, washing dishes, going to the dentist make the foundation for a happy, healthy life.

How much time do we spend working on someone else’s schedule (work, soccer practice, store hours, appointments)? Once we launch ourselves out there in our work day, it’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life.  Sometimes, going to work feels like merging onto the freeway: we are obligated to maintain the speed of traffic.

On the other hand, if we set aside time to do what we need to make our own life better, we can set the pace ourselves.  We can slow down with meditation practice or a hobby, but maybe we can just enjoy the soapy water, spreading out crisp, clean sheets or the small joy of a momentarily clean floor before we head out into the fast lane.

Climbing into bed tonight we will thank our morning self.

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Photo credit: Starzyia

 

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Posted on Oct 23, 2013 in Inspiration, Resources

Coming Clean: A Memoir

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One of the things that is clear from reading Kimberly Rae Miller’s Memoir Coming Clean, is that her life is a combination of embracing and rejecting her parents’ lives.  She spent her childhood living with her father, a described hoarder of collected junk and papers of all kinds, and her mother, a habitual TV shopping network shopper.  While her father withdrew to immerse himself in his paper world and radio news, her disabled mother purchased a constant stream of things from shopping networks that were never opened, let alone used.  While she never described her mother as a hoarder, it is clear that both contributed to her desire to hide the reality of her life to her friends and colleagues.

“…it didn’t matter where I was or who I pretended to be.  I would always be the girl who grew up in garbage.”

As a successful writer and comedienne, she looks back on her life with her parents, and her history of taking responsibility for cleaning her parents homes; partly to protect them from the world’s response to their lifestyle, and partly out of concern that their collection could result in fire, flood, infestation or unseen squatters, all of which had happened before.

In her own home, she cleaned constantly, worried about infestations of fleas and bedbugs.

” …convinced that no matter how much dusting, mopping, and sweeping I do, I will never really be clean enough.”

Her mother had to spend much of her days in bed, described her father:  “This is how he copes with stress, he checks out.”  Her father asks “How did I raise such a neat freak?” and Kim reflects that “He really did see it that way–that he had some stuff laying around and I was a pedantic minimalist.”

Kim coped first by studying and copying the behavior of “normal people”, once attempting suicide, and later by over-cleaning and purging possessions in her own space.  In therapy and with help from her friends, she discovers that her family is not unique, and finds her way to a life she can live without shame.

But every person and each family have their secrets.  It seems that opening the drapes and letting the light shine on them make them less shameful.  This book is as much about loving our families even with their faults as much as it is about her experience with hoarding.  Do we all expect others to judge us for what we don’t like about ourselves? I found it a quick read, and it made me reflect on my own life from a new perspective even if the story is different.

That is what we look for in a memoir.  I recommend it.

 

 Photo credit: JasonParis
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