Monday, November 30, 2009

So, what kind of Christmas tree?

This is a conundrum for me. Albeit, a bit of a manufactured one as I am not a practicing Christian, though I was raised in a Christian tradition and my daughter considers herself one.

But, what's more environmentally-friendly? A fake tree, made of wire and plastic, or a real tree?

The jury's out.

I've had a fake tree for years and comforted myself with the notion that I'm not cutting down a real tree, only to throw it out a month later. But the tree is starting to get old, and shed its little bits (another reason for not having a real tree - clean up!) And yes, I know there are some greener options, such as a tree planted in a bucket, but I think only so many of those can be planted in a person's yard. So, maybe for a year or two. What then?

Perhaps we should phase out the Christmas tree tradition? It is really necessary?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Readjusting Priorities

It's been about a year since I started this blog, with (as always) the best of intentions. In some things (eating locally, healthfully, naturally) I've been fairly successful. In others, not so much.

Organic gardening was fun, but driving across town 3-5 times a week no longer became practical when my daughter went to middle school. First off, I have to take half my lunch break to drive her to school in the morning due to scheduling conflict, so the remaining 30 mins only allows me enough time to eat quickly and not enough time to drive across town to water my plot. There isn't a branch of the organic gardening co op on my side of town, so I had to let it go. I still have the herb garden, and potatoes and lettuce in pots on my porch. Right now, that will be the best I can do, besides shop at the farmer's market down the road from me.

I don't have a suitable spot in the yard to create another one, but I might co-opt one of my former flower beds and try it there if I can figure out how.

The recycling and reusing project has gone much better. We are recycling and reusing a majority of our waste, with plastics going into the bin and glass jars being reused. We fill up our bins almost weekly now, and we only put out one small bag of trash a week, so that's not too bad. We still buy a lot of second hand stuff, and generally most things bought have more than one use most of the time.

All in all, it isn't possible in today's society to be 100% green without significant effort, but strides are possible. Different choices can be made, I think, to make a life less consumptive, and more environmentally friendly. It may not be possible to grow your own food all the time, but it is possible to make sensible, thoughtful choices like fair trade, organic coffee (pay the true price of those beans!), and free range eggs or local produce.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

One Whole Chicken = 4 meals, Kasutera, Yogurt and A Canner

Okay, well my crowning achievement right now is what I call 'Four+ From One'. I bought one whole chicken (free range, organic) for about $7.00 USD and turned it into four meals. We love roasted or baked chicken, with a little lemon and fresh herbs.  We are 'mostly vegetarian' so we don't buy many chickens; one whole chicken is usually enough for two weeks worth for our family of three.

The first meal off the whole chicken was the breast of the chicken, with the skin removed. The organ meats were donated to locate stray cats, as we find them unpalatable.  We're white meat fanatics in this house and there is nothing like a tender bit of roast breast meat served with Brussels sprouts and maybe some quinoa, spuds or wild brown rice mix. Simple, filling and delicious!

The second meal was from the darker meat. I took it off the rest of the chicken and broke it into pieces. Using organic chicken broth (made from a previous whole chicken) and vegetables like diced potatoes, celery, peas, carrots and diced onions, with a touch of flour (or corn starch, if you prefer), I made chicken pot pie filling. With a batch of simple whole wheat pie crust, it became a delicious chicken pot pie. In our case, we made a hybrid form of shepherd's pie because I put homemade mashed potatoes on the top just for fun.  Whole wheat pie crust is either butter or shortening, flour, salt and some ice water.   A simple recipe would go:  2 c whole wheat flour, 1/2 c shortening worked well into that until it resembles loose crumbs, a pinch of salt and about 2 T ice water, dripped in slowly until the dough just holds together.  Roll it out on a floured surface and knead until slightly smooth.  Don't overknead or your dough will be dry and tough.  Roll it out and there you go, pie crust.

I made enough filling with the darker meat for two pies, but chicken pie gets old if you have it repeatedly for two weeks. lol We're a smallish household (3 people) and variety makes eating at home just as enjoyable as any meal out. Especially if one of the eaters agrees to help with clean up! So, instead of another pie I decided to save and freeze the other pie filling to be served over brown rice as chicken a la king. It is a comfort food I had in childhood, and a cinch to make.

Once the carcass was stripped of meat, I tossed it into a stockpot with the necessary veg (onion, carrot, celery, a small potato) and made chicken stock. About 2 quarts worth, actually. lol I froze it in quart containers and it will have a future as chicken noodle or rice soup, or in a casserole of some kind, who knows?

This is the kind of thing that makes my heart sing, you know? When that chicken carcass was finally sent away to be disposed of, it had gotten its full use. And even though meat of this kind can be expensive, we have managed to make it completely cost effective! It's as close to perfect as a frugal green foodie can get!


One of the things that I like about the Internet is that it exposes me to new things. I was looking for a good, simple sponge cake recipe that had few ingredients and wasn't too complicated to make. And of course, I found one. Kasutera, or Castella, is a simple Japanese sponge cake that has a lovely taste and meets all of my specifications for simplicity and ease.

Here is the basic recipe I used:


My cake came out beautifully - gorgeous, light and fluffy. It was an immediate hit in our house and I can see how it would be good for light social occasions. And yes, it really is best the next day!


I made homemade yogurt.. It's been a while, but it turned out pretty well. I decided to start making it again after I checked the sugar content in the fruited yogurts (even, disappointingly, the organic ones!) I had been eating. There was a lot of sugar in there. So, I resolved to make my own and eat it with fresh fruit instead.

Like bread, yogurt, once started, is pretty self-evolving. Give it a try!  Once the milk has been sterilized and cooled, and the starter added, just put it in a draft-free area (I put mine in a warm 115F water bath in my stock pot inside my oven. Eight hours later, voila! Enough yogurt for a week (I just did 2-3 cups of milk due to household size.)

Once set, I put it into clean glass jars I had prepared at the start and refrigerated it. Done.  It's good for up to 7 days.


My splurge, if you will, was a $20 water bath canner. You can do it without a real one, as many a mountain woman or homesteader will attest, but it's better to do it with one. Less breakage of the jars and it really is worth 10x what it costs to buy. The one I purchased online will hold 7 jars, with a rack and is stainless steal with an enamel coating.

Now that we're bringing home large amounts of food from the organic co-op, we're having trouble storing it all. It will be nice to be able to can certain things, and give my freezer and fridge a little breathing space. Plus, it feels like you're being useful, doing something like that. I know when civilization falls apart, I'll be in beans, peas and home-canned and frozen food for a while. Add to that my herb garden, the co-op plot, I bake bread, my neighbors' orange trees and that I recently planted blueberry shrubs in my yard, we'll eat. And fairly well, too. All without pesticides or anyone having control over our food supply, with the exception of meat and dairy. Try as I might, though, my neighborhood covenant won't permit chickens or a cow! lol

My actual goal is to be as independent as possible from mass food conglomerates. We're a long way off, but we're making progress and keeping to the outside aisles of the store 90% of the time, when we go. Fruit, veg, dairy and fish/chicken are the bulk of our diet. The only time we're traveling to the inside aisles is for coffee and grains. (I haven't bought any coffee bean plants yet, but I'll keep you posted! I did, however, contemplate buying quinoa or amaranth to grow in my yard.)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Make Homemade Orange Marmalade Out of Sour Oranges

The point of this blog - making homemade marmalade from organic sour oranges! We were out at the co-op and there was a bunch of fruit and we took some home over the holidays. More than we could reasonably eat and since I hate to waste food, so I made some of it into organic marmalade without pectin. It's much easier than you think! Over the winter, when a lot of people were gone their broccoli went into flower, as did their lettuce. We had to trim them down and compost them as they became inedible. It was sad to see all that hard work go into a bin, so I became inspired!

I took out my old Joy Of Cooking and looked up an easy recipe for sour orange marmalade. I'd made it before, when I was a kid, with my mother. This time, however, I was on my own.  Below, find my recipe for sour orange marmalade.

First, I cleaned (scrubbed) the rinds and washed the fruit thoroughly. Then, I sliced and seeded it. Then, I soaked them in 11 cups of water for 24-36 hours, to soften the rinds and get the good flavorful juices and oils in there. The next day, in the evening, I took out the fruit, removed the pulp and put the rinds into the food processor. While I was doing this, I started the simmering process with the liquor. After bringing the liquid to a boil for an hour, I added the sugar, stirring periodically. I turned the heat down to medium-low so as not to kill the pectin. I continued simmering this way for an hour more until the orange marmalade gelled on the spoon. Then, I turned it off and let it cool in the stainless-steel stock pot.Once it's done, the sour orange marmalade will keep for 6 months in a crock, or longer if you decide to put it into boiled jelly jars. I put mine in a crock for now (it's about 18 jars worth), but I will jar some in the near future to be put up for longer - or to be given as gifts to friends. I have mixed feelings about using the white sugar, but honey and other liquid sweeteners don't work to gel the jelly. It was organic sugar, so I could keep the homemade marmalade recipe pesticide and chemical-free.

So, there it is. Delicious, homemade marmalade. It's very smooth, tasty and makes a great gift!