Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Resolutions

I'm pretty bad about even making the effort to write these down, let alone keeping them. Nonetheless, I post them with the best of intentions.

1. STOP Drinking Cokes.

There's a billion reasons not to drink cokes. Not only are they bad for me, but they are bad for the environment. 2010 brought me a lot of awareness as to how things like food are produced. I began recycling, and I guarantee you the styrofoam that piles up in our recycling is embarrassing. Not to mention that we are tightening the reigns on our budget and as "cheap" as a coke is... they add up. Between my husband and I drinking at least one fountain drink a day, we probably spend at least $100 a month on soda alone. (Embarrassing... I admit.) I'll spare you the obvious health reasons for abstaining from drinking sodas because we all know that there is no nutritional value in them.

2. Nutritious Meal Planning
This is actually several goals combined into one. I want to reduce the amount of processed foods we eat. Realistically we won't completely stop eating processed foods this next year, but we can reduce things like eating out and buying unhealthy packaged foods. I also want to plan meals in advance to reduce costs and having unused groceries go to waste. I need to make meals on weekends to freeze so we are less likely to eat out on evenings we don't feel like cooking. I'd also like to practice making Bento boxes for my son's lunch. I'd like to experiment with new cooking techniques and try new foods.

3. Organize and Keep A Schedule
From budgets, to meal planning, to my son's activities... I'd like to keep better track of where we need to be, tighter reigns on our spending, and make an effort to plan in advance.

4. Time for Self
This year I am going to start meditation with a group. (Sound lame? I've heard positive things about meditation and just want to give it a try.) I want to commit to that and also spend time doing things that I really enjoy like art, quilting, crochet and sewing. Along with that comes the same resolution that is on almost everyone's list... exercise more. My goal would be to exercise or run three times a week. Yes, I need to lose weight. That's an uncomfortable place for me to be since the majority of my life I have been underweight. I lost several pounds after I had my son, but then gained rather quickly to a place I'm not real happy with. (Cutting the cokes should help with this, too.) Anyway, I need to make myself a priority if I want to be able to take care of my son in the way I want to.

5. Move Toward Self Sufficiency
I'm going to plan our garden ahead of time and rotate crops. I hope I can plan it successfully enough to feed our family year round. This past summer I learned how to can and want to really spend time practicing preserving food. I made many cans of jams but want to try vegetables. We also started recycling, and I want to do a better job of that. I'm going to continue studying permaculture principles.

6. Quality Time with Family
The flip side of time for myself... I want to spend time with my family that is worthwhile and not in front of a TV.

These aren't original resolutions, but I hope I can keep them. They mainly focus on living a healthier life not only for myself but for my family and the "footprint" I will leave on our earth.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bento Boxes

So naturally with my new interest in food and my frustration with processed foods, I've been struggling with what to send my preschooler for lunch. What will my picky eater eat that won't need to be heated up but also won't be just a sandwich and chips or a lunchable. I've learned about Bento boxes, and I'm going to see how these work out. Basically a Bento is a visually appealing, healthy lunch packed in a box. If you're serious about it, they have guidelines on proportions of grains, veggies, proteins and the like. Which, eventually, I'll get there. But I'm just going to start with packing him a lunch he will eat. :P (Little man only eats lunch at school one day a week, so I won't be working on one every day.)

My First Bento

Broken into four compartments are: 1. Corn on the cob, grapes, almonds, zucchini, and carrots (The lettuce is just to help it fit nicely. He won't eat it.) 2. Yogurt with a chocolate pizzelle cookie 3. Orange 4. (Covered) Extra carrots and corn

Today's Bento

1. Chicken Lo Mein (with peas, carrots, zucchini, squash hidden under the noodles.) I imagine he will only eat the carrots and noodles, maybe the peas. 2. Organic applesauce
3. Snowflake Ritz crackers with natural peanut butter and cheddar cheese with almonds 4. Another Orange
Eventually I'd like to get to the place where they are more creative and more like an actual Bento should be, but I think this is a good start. I'll be combing the web for ideas. (Nothing with quail eggs or anything...)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cherry Pies in a Jar

I've seen people bake cute tiny pies in a jar, and I wanted to try to do it for place settings on Christmas day. I will have about twenty adults, and this evening I only got five pies done from the sour cherries I froze this summer. (One of which I baked as a tester, so really I only ended up with four.) The good news is that they are super simple; they just take some time. I thought I'd share how I made mine. I know there are better ways to do this and better recipes for the filling, but I'm pretty happy with the results of my first attempt.

First thing I did was make some pie filling. I really don't know any recipes for pie filling, so I kinda made it up. (As I mentioned before, I tasted one, and it was pretty good.)

4 cups frozen sour cherries, pitted and stems removed
2 cups of sugar (to start with... I added every now and again, but didn't measure. It was more to taste.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 TBS corn starch
1/2 cup water (Added additional water as needed.)
Splash of Lemon Juice

I combined the cherries and sugar in a pot, then I added the water and brought it to a boil. I added the cornstarch mixed with 2 TBS cold water. I added additional extracts and lemon juice and just cooked it until it was the consistency I wanted. Actually, I think I cooked it a little longer than I would have liked it, but I am still happy with it.

I cheated and bought pre-made pie crust at the store, but it sure made life easier. I used an old Country Crock bowl to cut out the dough. I then put it in the 1/2 pint glass canning jar. I grabbed four "corners" and pinched them together to drop them in the jar.

The dough didn't fit perfect, so I just added little bits to fit inside the jar.

I used the same process for the pie tops. I traced around the screw on lid that comes with the jar so that it is just a little bigger than the jar top itself. I also used a snowflake cookie cutter to cut a center piece out.

My son helped out with this part. He loves to use the rolling pin and use cutouts.

I scooped the filling into the jar but didn't fill it to the top so that I can add the pie crust top.

Now for the top! I later added some sugar to the top.

I'm going to freeze mine to use for Christmas, so after the filling cooled I added a lid. You have to remove the lids when baking them. Tonight I baked mine at 350ยบ until the crust browned. I haven't attempted to cook a frozen one yet, but I'm sure it's the same process.

So, as I said previously... I filled one too full and it overflowed through the top crust. I decided to go ahead and bake it anyway just to see how they tasted. Not the prettiest thing ever... but man, it tasted wonderful! In hindsight I probably should have just taken some filling out and made a new top. Mistakes make wonderful excuses to eat the goods though!

So I ended up with a little left over filling. Not enough for a jar... I used it to fill a rolled pizzelle I made for a different Christmas project. It has chocolate on the ends and powdered sugar on the top. Let me tell you... this wasn't too bad either. :)

And that ends my experiment with the pies in jars. I am going to further test peaches and apples that I canned over the summer. Now I know to fill them a little less. I'd also like to find a smaller cookie cutter for the top embellishment. Overall, I think it was a success. Even if they don't turn out as pretty as I hope, I know they are going to taste nummy!