Archive for the 'cooking' Category

So What Are You Making for Thanksgiving?

Sharon November 20th, 2012

So what’s on for Thanksgiving dinner at your place?  Wanna pass on that favorite recipe that you simply can’t get away with not making?

Here’s the (still slightly tentative) menu for us – w e just added a few more guests at the last minute, and I might find myself compelled to add more food, even though it probably already excessive.  But hey, this is my favorite cooking project of the year!

Provided by our friends of Chinese heritage who feel that turkey is a poor substitute for duck:

Chicken bao (chinese style dim sum buns)

Peking duck

My portion:

Turkey roasted with 100 cloves of garlic

Roasted garlic gravy

Cornbread-dried fruit stuffed squash (vegetarian entree)

Cranberry-raspberry sauce

Cranberry-port relish

Cornbread-carmelized onion stuffing with chicken livers (best stuffing on earth)

Herbed mashed potatoes and celery root

Sweet potatoes with coconut milk and lime

Lime-soy marinated  brussels sprouts

Shredded carrot-beet-apple and winter green salad with preserved lemon dressing

Balsamic-glazed roasted onions

Pumpkin rolls

Pumpkin Pie (non-dairy of course, since we’re kosher, but you can’t tell)

Apple-Quince-Almond crisp

Sweet potato and chocolate cake

So what about you?

Getting the People in Your Home to Eat the Actual Food

Sharon September 6th, 2012

I think I get more requests for ideas for helping people who are on-board with the idea of sustainable eating get the rest of their families on-board than on any other food storage topic.  So let’s talk about that.  I actually wrote this post back in 2008, before our fostering adventures, so I’ve added some suggestions since then, based on my experience of getting traumatized kids who have lived on not enough food and all processed to eat good, real food.

In a perfect world, of course, our partners, roommates, children and other assorted members of our lives would say “Oh, I’m so thrilled you are growing a garden – now I can get rid of the honey-barbecue chips and the fast food, and start really appreciating rutabagas like I’ve always wanted to.”  In our perfect world, when Daddy unveils his laboriously created six-vegetable risotto with an enthusiastic “Voila!” the kids would say “Wow, Dad, is there really, truly bok choy in it?  And we can have seconds?  Yay!” instead of “What’s ‘wallah’?  It looks gross.  And ewww, what’s that green stuff?”

I would say the odds are good that most of us live in a somewhat imperfect world.  If we’ve been lucky enough to have started our kids on this stuff from birth, we may avoid the latter (mostly), but since most of our lives also involve some adults we didn’t get a hand in raising, and who we love despite their weird habits, we’re kinda stuck with them, and the painful reality that shifts in diet run up against people’s weird habits pretty hard.

The thing is, changing someone’s food habits is a big thing – we can do this for ourselves – all of a sudden we see the light and begin eating a new way – but making others do it?  That’s a challenge.  In many ways, we define ourselves by what and how we eat – so attacks on diets look like attacks on people, and often are fended off with the ferocity of warfare.  Nor does moralizing work very well – we all know the truth – the Western diet kills people, and the dying often cling to it with a passion that proves firmly that you can’t make most people change by simply telling them how bad their choices are.

As far as I can tell, with rational adults, and extremely rational teenagers there are a few ways of at least getting them onboard for the broader project of changing diets.

1. You enlist them in the name of self-improvement and being better people.  You can do this straight, or manipulatively. (And yes, I know in a perfect world, you’d never manipulate people at all, but I’ve never met a family in which there was no manipulation at all, if you include the sort of blatant, half humorous stuff.)   The straight way is simply to say “I think we all ought to be eating better – do you agree?  Here’s what I want us to do.”  This works in some families and with some people – and it doesn’t with others, even if we wish it would.  Don’t forget to mention the chance to be self-righteous to them that like that sort of thing the “I can’t believe those people who eat all that processed…”

If you do need/want to be sneaky,  it helps, I think if you start the discussion from the assumption that you both care very much about these things and want the same things.  That is, some people can be confused a little by simply starting from the “Of course we both care desperately that everyone have enough food in the future, so I know you will agree with me.”  Some people will assume that if you are assuming they care about this seemingly good thing that they must, and that gets you part of the way.  Or perhaps you could enlist their help against a larger obstacle ”Katie our two year old is so terribly picky, and I’m so terribly concerned that she be able to eat things…perhaps you can help me make it easier for her…” Or if you think that it will work (and if they are a person you’d say this sort of thing to) you can tell them it turns you on when they eat what you want them to eat.    Heck, you’ve got weirder kinks than a taste for seeing your girlfriend devour kale, right?

2. You use a different motivator than the one that moves you.  If you know the person you are thinking of is, say, cheap, you talk about how to save money, with an emphasis of doing the things you want to do anyway.  If the person is into cool gadgets, talk about the neat stuff you can buy to preserve food.  With small children, a great strategy is to convince them that you don’t really want to share your asparagus anyway because it is a wonderful grownup food that children don’t need, or to describe the food  in disgusting terms – you aren’t just offering them healthy food, you are offering them roadkill stew with sweet potatoes, and if they eat it, they can tell their friends that they ate week old raccoon.

3. You sneak the food into their diets gradually.  This is often the case when the motivated person is the primary cook, and has some control over what goes into food.  Suddenly, the noodles are whole wheat or brown rice flour.  Secretly, the meatballs are half tvp or ground zucchini. The yogurt is in the old containers, but it comes from home and has homemade strawberry jam mixed in.  You don’t talk about it, unless someone says something nice.  The word “fritter” shows up in your meal, and the fritters are suspiciously green.  The cookies get kinda browner and a little denser.  When asked about these things, you tell people they must be imagining things.

4. You are a total hardass.  This works only if you are the sole cook for someone without much power to get food elsewhere – young kids, teenagers too young to drive or too poor to buy food, spouses so accustomed to eating the partner’s cooking (or sufficiently well disciplined ;-) ) that they won’t dissent too much.  It starts out once a week – there’s this meal, and no snacks unless you eat some of it.  Then it goes up to two or three meals a week – dal and rice replaces burgers, no one buys snack cakes and juice boxes and carrot  juice is in the pitcher.  Don’t like it?  Tough patooties.  Guess who is holding the car keys?  The problem here is the danger of mutiny, or that someone else might actually learn to cook.

5. You compromise – a little of this, a little of that – and the truth is that while you have to eat more out of your storage, and you find some meals that everyone will like, you never quite get to the point where everyone is really eating this way all the time – there’s still some frozen stuff and take out in your life.  And that’s ok – just as long as you have a range of things people will do with the 75lbs of dried chickpeas that don’t involve sculpture.

Some practical ideas:

1. I’ve had great luck (and other people I know have) getting kids to eat raw cabbage dipped in ketchup, even if they won’t eat it cooked.  For that matter, a bottle of Heinz is a small price to pay to help kids adapt to eating veggies.

2. Root vegetables roasted in a pan are the basis for tons of meals – they can go inside enchiladas or wrap sandwiches, act as a starchy side dish (and are great at room temperature or cold),

3. Fritters.  You can dip them in anything.  Also dumplings.  No one has to know what’s inside/

4. Less sweet pumpkin or sweet potato pie can be breakfast, lunch and dinner (although maybe not in the same day).

5. For people who like strong flavors and mixed up foods, things like jambalaya, gumbo and casseroley things are your friend, because it is hard to tell exactly what’s in it – particularly if you chop the mustard greens finely.  If kids or family members hate onions or pepprs, try pureeing them for inclusion.

6. For people who like everything to be separate with nice clean lines, the potato is your friend.  Meat and potato people can get used to an ever-increasing amount of potato and a gradually decreasing amount of meat.  Sweet potatoes are almost a potato, right?

7. Vegetarian cookbooks are your friends – even if you aren’t veg.  They often have recipes that you’ll be able to put together with only pantry and garden.

8. Teenagers like power.  Get them cooking – and give them the power, within certain parameters, to choose some of the meals.

9. It really helps to let go on some things.  If you reassure your honey you aren’t trying to take away everything she loves, that you will still love him if he stops at the convenience store, your kids that candy is still allowed now and again, this will help the transition.  In fact, it helps if you instigate – let them have ice cream sundaes for dinner once a year, and you put it on the schedule!  Work with them, at the same time you are working “against” them.

10. Sometimes using a fat/salt/sugar laden technique is what is needed to get started with a new food – make rutabaga chips fried in oil with salt – and once they admit they like rutabagas, then you can work on mashing them.  Cheese sauce makes all things better.


The Pie Crust Chronicles

Sharon November 21st, 2011

Despite the fact that I’m somewhat famous for my association with pie ;-) , piecrust has always intimidated me a little bit.  I’ve made some truly dreadful crusts over the years (most hideously the first time I tried a coconut oil crust from a loathsome recipe that not only tasted bad but crumbled into dust).   I’ve also made some pretty decent ones, but I wanted a pie crust that was functional, could be used all the time, tasted good, but also was low input – no food processors (mostly because I don’t want to clean all the food processor parts just for pie dough), no running back and forth to the freezer to put the butter and flour in to keep them perfectly cold, etc… just the same basic tasty pie dough that has been filled with just about everything in human history – that thing that wrapped up pumpkin and pecans and mincemeat, bits of beef and onion for lunch and vegetables in broth for dinner pot-pie.  I wanted it easy, I wanted to be able to do it my sleep, and most of all, I didn’t want any vegetable shortening or lard in it – vegetable shortening because the stuff is gross, lard because I keep kosher. (Once years ago we stopped at an Amish farmstand and bought an elderberry pie, and I was filled with passionate admiration for the crust and went back to ask the woman who made it how she did it – her recipe began with “render your lard” and I realized that sadly some heights might be denied to me – I’ve come to terms with it, since suet makes a fine crust for meat pies.)

Thanksgiving is the season of pies – and of pie-related adventures.  The great virtue of pie is that you can put just about anything into it – parsnip pie is a family favorite, so is leftover chicken bits with root vegetables.  Sweet potato pie, of course is ubiquitous, and I make a not-very-sweet pumpkin pie my children love for breakfast (a Yankee, by definition, is someone who eats pie for breakfast).

My two favorite crusts are butter and suet.  The trick with the butter is to keep it as cold as possible (I do not fetishize this, however – the reality is that people have been making crusts in summer for a long, long time), and also not to try and perfectly mix it with the flour.  This was the bit I had to learn myself – what you want are small pieces of butter not fully combined, so that they can create that flaky quality.

Here’s a fabulous recipe for butter pie crust. While she is rightly concerned with temperature, this time of year that’s not too hard to achieve – just stick your ingredients outside if need be (remember not where the dog can get them ;-) )

Does beef fat (suet) crust sound disgusting to you?  It is actually really good – I got the idea from a New York Times article of a few years ago, and because we can’t use a butter crust with meat fillings or meat meals (mixing dairy and meat is not permitted in a kosher home) I really needed a good savory piecrust.  All suet is great for meat pies, but suet and coconut oil are really good for a nice pareve crust for a cherry or pumpkin pie.  I also like it in biscuits. Even kosher suet is quite inexpensive, and doesn’t have to be rendered to use it – none of the standing over a hot pot of lard business.

I think demystifying pie crust may join with learning to can in my most important kitchen moments – I hope some of you who are still intimidated find, in this season of pies, a happy ending dessert.


Eat What You Grow, Grow What You Eat?

Sharon July 6th, 2009

A thought experiment:

Due to a combination of crises – maybe a volcano explosion, the penetration of Ug99 into the main of the world wheat crop, drought in many of the world’s grain growing regions, zombie invasion etc…  the world experiences a catastrophic failure of its staple crops.  All of a sudden grain supplies drop like a stone, and there are none to be had in the market.  No bread, no rice, no soybeans or corn – none of those products are available in the markets.

At first, there is panic.  The government institutes a ban on the feeding of anything but grass and hay to livestock, necessitating a massive butchering of most national stock, which raises cholesterol levels but keeps people from starving initially. 

Then we begin a rapid inventory of what crops survived, and what foods are available to feed the hungry.  For caloric density, there is little that can match grains, but we do what we can.  The national potato crop was poor, but what there is of that provides some familiar food.  But it was a banner year for the American beet-growers, and rather than converting them as is often the case, to sugar, they are sent to market whole to feed the hungry.  Similarly, sweet sorghum survived fairly well, and rather than being pressed into syrup, is sent out to market.  Southerly nations, responding to a worldwide crisis commit some of their taro and cassava crop to feed the hungry.  Many farmers when the rain finally came, planted turnips and buckwheat, and a modest harvest comes out of the midwest.  And of course, US nut growers, aware theirs is the most protein dense crop available commit their harvest (at stunning prices) to the cause.  Meanwhile corps of poor Americans are set to harvesting urban and rural oak trees for acorn meal. We learn that there is enough food to go around and prevent starvation, even if it is unfamiliar.

Now imagine yourself, an ordinary shopper at the market, setting out to make dinner.  Here is a whole cassava root, with leaves attached.  Government propaganda has told you that the root is filling and starchy, but low in protein, but that this can be made up for by processing the leaves to remove the cyanide and then eating those – remember, they are perfectly safe, but you don’t want to get a paralytic neurological disease by inadequate processing.  Here is an enormous pile of beets, ready to be eaten in breakfast bakes, luncheon salads and dinner entrees.  Here is ground chestnut meal, to be mixed with sorghum and made into flatbreads.  Remember, there’s plenty of food – you just have to cook and eat it. 

I do not anticipate this particular scenario happening any time soon, but I do think it is a useful illustration of the degree to which we depend not only on food, but on the familiarity of our food.  In this case, with much muttering and unhappiness, some appetite fatigue and malnutrition, we probably would begin getting comfortable with acorn pancakes and turnip stew with taro dumplings.   This would be extremely difficult however – remember only a tiny percentage of Americans would actually even know what to do with the foods that they do eat all the time – confronted with a bowl of wheat berries or whole corn, or a soybean in its natural state, most Americans (and I suspect most people in much of the developed world) would see not “food” but something else.  Wheat comes in the form of bread, or maybe, for some, flour, corn in the form, at best, of cornmeal or tortillas, and more often in processed foods.  Soybeans are conveniently made into tofu or soyburgers.

But now let’s envision the scenario slightly differently, rather, say, like today.  Nothing happened to the world’s wheat crop, other than an increasingly large number of people who want to eat it.  Nothing happened to the corn or soybean crop that isn’t happening every day – sure, nitrogen is poisoning water ways, chemicals are causing cancer in farm kids, topsoil is washing away and the dead zone in the Gulf is getting bigger, but nothing much happened.  Nothing happened (thank G-d) to the rice crops on which almost half the world subsists. 

And yet, someone noticed that even though nothing in particular happened, most of those foods aregrown destructively – that is, something is happening, something disastrous.  The wheat is being grown often on dry prairie soils that should never be plowed at all.  The corn and soybeans are being grown continuously in the midwest, ripping off topsoil.  The dead zone, the aquifer pumping, the contamination of groundwater, the poisoning of frogs and fish in rice paddies – these things are happening.  And someone said “ok, we need to eat foods that don’t grow like this.  So, what can we grow without destroying the planet?”

 Well let’s say that what they came up with was much the same menu – the tastier white acorns, chestnuts, hazels and pecans to replace oil and protein crops, roots like beets, cassava, taro, sweet potatoes, potatoes and turnips that are easily grown either perennially or in combination with perennial agriculture in vegecultures.   Obscure grains suited to particular conditions – amaranth and old varieties of corn in hot dry climates, buckwheat in short summer climates, quinoa in high places, so that folks in Denver have pretty much only quinoa and maybe some barley, while in Pheonix, amaranth is it and in my neighborhood, you can have all the buckwheat you want – but not much else. 

 What do you think the odds are of Americans, or Europeans voluntarily shifting their diets?  Imagine the new ad campaigns “Now, with more cassava!”  Health food claims could probably do some – remember oat bran?  If you can get Alice Waters, Wolfgang Puck and Emeril Lagasse to do acorns,  who knows…the sky is the limit?

However, it won’t happen fast.  Food cultures can and do change dramatically – when I was 10, I went out for sushi for the first time with my father – at the time there were two Japanese restaurants in Boston, and not a single person I knew, including my extremely adventurous Dad, had ever eaten it.  I did it rather on a bet, and was accounted a huge radical eating raw fish in 1982.  Now my local supermarket sells sushi, and everyone eats it.  But the transition from “bait” to “universal” took at least 25 years from the first introduction of the concept in the US.  It is hard to imagine now that there were times when literally it was impossible to get basil or broccoli in the US – nobody grew them outside a few ethnic gardeners.  In every case, however, it was a process.

And what happens is generally an addition of food – for example, Americans are eating a lot more tofu than they used to.  Back in the 1970s, when my mother and step-mother were experimenting with healthy foods, there were a lot of recipes for tofu loaves – and probably more was done to bring tofu into the mainstream culture by the death of the tofu loaf than anything else – but the idea was that tofu would substitute for meat.  Well, for some portion of people it did – but meat consumption also rose, until we were actually eating more meat along with our tofu, than ever before.  While jello for jello salad may have peaked back in the 1950s, a surprising number of jello salads grace tables across the country – tables that also may have sliced tomatoes and basil with mozzarella now, or marinated broccoli salad.  That is, we’ve no replaced the jello but added on to it.

Why is all of this so important?  Well, it comes down the question of why I include “eat the food” in my Independence Days project.  It seems like so minor a thing - ”Of course we’re eating the food, we’re growing it, right?” But I think all of us have yet to fully grasp the magnitude of the food question from a eater’s perspective.  Right now, the vast majority of our calories are coming from grain production, mostly not very sustainable grain production.  Those of us most aware of the issue are at least buying our grains direct from sustainable farmers – this is excellent.  A few people are eating mostly what is available in their regions.  All of us are eating more out of our gardens.  But it remains the fact that only 5% of US cropland is growing vegetables, nuts and unusual small grains – the vast majority of our agricultural land is growing either meat, dairy, grains or soybeans. 

And most of even the most committed people I know are (and here I cannot fully except even myself) eating a lot of things that don’t really grow all that sustainably in our regions because we like them, because our families are accustomed to them, because we feel that a meal without bread or rice or tortillas is not a meal.  Because we have picky eaters in our family.  Because we have no idea what to do with a big pile of acorn meal or a cassava root, and no real desire to learn – or if we do want to learn, no quick easy way to overcome the cultural weight of it not being “our” food.  Food is not merely food, it is culture, it is our identity in some ways – we think of ourselves, implicitly, as being part of a community of eaters, and if our community does not eat what we eat, we are dubious.

This is an issue that comes up across the PO/Climate change community spectrum, and one I think all of these communities rarely struggle enough with.  It is an issue for backyard chicken raisers who are rightly proud that they are raising eggs and meat in their yards – and who also are raising them almost entirely on purchased bagged feed.  It is an issue for permaculturists, enthusiastically replacing their yards with forest gardens, who have no idea what they are going to do with groundnuts and jerusalem artichokes, so who mostly do nothing with them.  It is an issue for growers like me, who very much want to grow local staple crops for market – but who simply can’t make a living growing potatoes, beets and turnips, because people don’t eat those things in quantities sufficient, or pay enough for them.  It is an issue for me, because my family loves rice and bread, but does not grow much wheat or any rice.  It is not that we must eat wholly as we intend to eat, but it does matter that we begin the dietary and agricultural shift we inevitably face ahead of time.

Most of our gardens bring in our greens and our flavoring crops, our berries and our other things that make life pleasant.  Most of us are not growing our staple foods.  My family is in some measure – we grow hundreds of pounds of potatoes, sweet potatoes and other root crops each year.  But we still haven’t fully dealt with our grain habit – in some ways we can’t – I consider food storage essential, but I can’t store potatoes or Jerusalem artichokes for as long as beans and grains.

It is possible to grow corn or soybeans, rice or wheat in ways that are sustainable.  But I’m not sure if we’re anywhere even remotely near that transition – one of the things found in both the former Soviet Union and Cuba is this – while small farms adapted very well to low input, sustainable food culture, larger farms simply didn’t, and yields never came back up to prior ones, until lots of fossil fuels were re-input into the system.  That is, there’s some compelling evidence that without a lot of energy, we can still grow grains – but not on large scale.  The traditional limits of, say, Amish farmers were generally no more than 100 acres.  The cultural shift required to imagine breaking up our grain farms into 100 acre increments, with the corresponding reality that some of that acreage must be used to feed animals, is a bit hard to imagine. 

Now it is possible we will simply reallocate our remaining fossil fuels to agriculture – this would be possible in the US, although tougher in countries that don’t have any.  But sooner or later (later probably) the supplies will be inadequate for even that – and remember, as I discussed recently in another post, Cuba lost only 20% of its oil inputs – a number that is much scarier than the 50 or 80% often quoted.  That is, when 20% of its oil disappeared, people began to go hungry, in large part because of the problems of competing priorities.  The 1970s oil shocks that caused a massive recession and energy crisis resulted from only a 5% reduction in US oil availability.  It is conceivable that agriculture will get all the oil – but police protection, education, military use, medical technology, transport, etc… will also be making demands.  We’d have to imagine a scenario in which we all agreed about something.  Good luck with that.

If it is going to be a difficult (not impossible, but difficult on a different scale than adapting our diets) process to adapt grain production as we have it now in the US, then we have to imagine that we may need to shift to other crops that produce more on smaller scales to substitute.  And therein lies the problem.  Root crops produce more calories and nutrition per acre under hand cultivation than many grains do – hand cultivated potatoes outyielded green revolution grains into the early 1970s, and the odds are they will again.  Some roots have the advantage of being perennial as well, and potatoes and sweet potatoes can grow on ground too steep, rocky or poor to grow grains at all, expanding crop land, and without tillage, reducing erosion.  While Americans eat a tolerable number of potatoes, they do so mostly as processed fries and hashbrowns.  Only in the south are sweet potatoes a major source of food.  Turnips, beets, parsnips and perennial roots are a tiny portion of our diets – and none at all for the American mainstream public.

High protein nut crops, including acorns, are probably the densest vegetarian source of calories, proteins and fats available to us.  They are also a tiny portion of our diet.  Animals can be fed on both nut mast and on root crops – mangels and turnips kept animals alive through the winter in Europe, and chestnuts were the “Tree grain” of the East, while acorns were in much of the West, but people do not eat these crops on any scale – we need not “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” once a year, but large scale consumption.

Grains are going to be regionalized - irrigated grain production simply will not be happening in many parts of the country.  Growing rice in California is obviously an act of first-level stupidity, but in the dryer parts of the American prairie, grain production may cease altogether due to climate change.  Southwesterners may be able to get along with dryland corns and amaranths that evolved for the desert, plus mesquite flours and other crops - although the heating and drying of that region may make even that hard.   When fertilizer prices rose, many people stopped planting corn altogether, and were forced to think about other crops – if they rise again, which they certainly will eventually, we will have to think about less demanding sources of food than corn.  

And this is going to require massive retraining and work on people’s palates and food cultures – and it is hugely important work.  There are two ways this can happen – we can find ourselves in crisis, eating what we do know and probably do not like.  The cost of this for ordinary people is grumbling and unhappiness. For children, the medically fragile and the elderly, it is appetite fatigue, which can cause them to stop eating, and suffer malnutrition, illness or occasionally even death.  The price for farmers – and the people who rely on them (ie, all of us) is the danger of an abrupt shift into crops that are unfamiliar, and the possibility of poor harvests when they are most needed.

Or, we can start the work now – we can learn to eat the food.  That means pushing our comfort levels back a good bit, and beginning to replace the grains in our diet with other foods, even if it is hard, even if we think we can’t like them, or we can’t do it.  It means that if we are growing forest gardens full of figs and hazelnuts, they are not merely a snack, but a supplement to our diet, and we eat figs and hazelnuts, jerusalem artichokes and groundnuts.  It means pushing our gardens a little more towards the foods we should be eating - and then actually eating them.  Not that it isn’t valuable to make your own hot sauce – hot sauce matters.  But then comes the process of learning to put it into a salsa served with homegrown beet chips, or on those acorn pancakes.  It is in this homely way that we begin to save the world – with beet chips ;-) .


The Menu Project

Sharon January 29th, 2009

Food storage pushes us in the direction, often, of eating new foods.  We may be choosing them because we’re trying to shift our diet to a lower impact, more ecologically sound one, because we’re trying to develop a truly local food culture and cuisine, because we can’t afford more expensive foods or because we want to eat what we store.  Getting started with new foods can seem overwhelming, particularly if you are looking at a 50lb sack of wheat berries for the first time.

 A simple way to get started is simply to start asking – what do we eat that is compatible with food storage, and with the food we can preserve or get from our gardens (I’m assuming for the purpose of this discussion that I’m at the worst garden season of the year – which, actually, I am now ;-) ).  What home-based meals will we enjoy?  How can we adapt the menus we eat now to work with our pantries?  What new foods might we integrate  into our diets that our family members would actually eat?

Then we put together a week’s worth of menus, and look at the ingredients list.  Do we need anything we don’t have?  If you can store ingredients for this, you’ll have a solid, if somewhat repetetive diet set up.  You can start by trying this one meal at a time, first one a week, then two or three.  Then do another day or week’s worth to add variety.

When I started to write my own menus out, I was tempted to embellish them a bit.  Hey, I can make the people who read this think that my kids eat apple-cranberry muffins for breakfast – and that Mommy rises before dawn to make them (yeah, right, I rise before dawn, but only because the kids make me and let’s just say that my eyes aren’t usually wide enough open to safely mix food). 

Probably like many people, we eat the same stuff a lot here ;-) .  Breakfast is particuarly unimaginative at my place – that is, my kids already eat either oatmeal or toast with jam or peanut butter for 90% of their breakfasts.  The other 10% they might get eggs, or rice pudding, and three or four times a year, they get muffins.  I mention this because sometimes I think we go around making menus and think that we have to be really imaginative with them – and yes, imagination is great in food.  But there’s something to be said for “we all like it and it gets to the table” meals that my family, at least, relies on – we’re content to eat these more than once a week. Oh, we might prefer something new, but it is food, it is good.  So don’t make yourself nuts, unless you already live in household where elaborate and complex meals are made new three times a day.

 Here’s my family menu

7 breakfasts: toast or oatmeal, eggs (occasional) real tea for me, herb tea with honey for kids. 

Storage ingredients: wheat, yeast, molasses, salt, brown sugar, rolled oats or groats, earl grey, peanut butter, chicken feed.

Home produced ingredients: Homemade jams, lemon-mint herb tea.

Snacks: Dried fruit, nuts, homemade fruit leather, cheerios, carrot sticks, yogurt, applesauce, lollipops, wheat pretzels, bread and jam (see above), cheese, apple cider.

Storage ingredients: Dum dum pops (these are cheap little bulk industrial lollipops – did I say we weren’t perfect yet?), dried cranberries and raisins, cheerios, organic dry milk, pretzels, rennet and cheese cultures, cider.

Homemade: Dried strawberries, dried cherries, dried apples, dried peaches, dried plums, fruit leather, carrots, applesauce, nuts.

Lunches (we drink only water with meals anyway):1. Roasted root vegetable wraps, garden or cabbage-carrot salad depending on the season  2. Baked potatoes with greens and chipotle sauce (adults) or salsa (kids)  3. 3 bean chili, cornbread, and stir fried greens or cabbage.  4. Pumpkin Pancakes with applesauce and fruit (fresh or home canned), 5. Vegetable Soup, bread and dried cranberry and sprout salad. 6. Sandwiches of herbed yogurt cheese with onions, pickles and sprouts, carrot sticks and apple slices 7. Dal and Curried Rice with greens and stir fried vegetables.

Stored ingredients (does not include items listed already): balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, canned chipotles in adobo, dried beans, tvp, dried corn, buttermilk powder, canned pumpkin, sprouting seeds, lentils, brown rice, mango pickle, tamarind paste, spices, mushroom “oyster” sauce, kecap manis, coconut milk,

Home preserved ingredients: mint chutney, root cellared vegetables including most roots, cabbage, apples, pears, daikon, etc…, greens (garden or season extended), chicken broth, homemade salsa, applesauce, home canned fruit, dried sweet peppers and mushrooms, herbs, pickles, parsley in a pot.

Dinners: 1. Drunken Noodles 2. Laotian chicken soup with greens or stir fried sprouts and rice.  3. Salmon cakes and beet-carrot salad 4. Onion Soup, Crusty Bread and greens with lemon dressing 5. Spaghetti and “Wheat Balls” (much better than it sounds, btw), cabbage, carrot and sesame salad 6. Pita bread, falafel, labneh, beets with tahini and parsley- quinoa salad. 7. Lamb stew, Challah, applesauce and lemon-pepper cabbage

Stored ingredients: Tahini, honey, lemon-pepper, quinoa, fava beans, sesame seeds, bulghur, parmesan cheese, fair trade, wild caught canned salmon, matzah meal, canned pineapple, soybeans (or shelf-stable tofu), dried rice noodles.

Home preserved: Basil plant, keffir lime, lemongrass plant in a sunny window, Lamb Stew base, garlic, onions, canned lemon juice.

 Now some of this may look like a lot, or a lot of work – but that’s simply because I’ve chosen the meals we like best, not the easiest ones.  Were I starting from scratch, I’d probably choose more peanut butter and jelly (we eat that too) and less Lamb stew.

 How about you?  What’s on your routine food storage menu?


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