Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Food Storage!!!!!! (Yet Another Way to Fight Hunger In America!)

I love food storage and we just got ours! Food storage kind of has a bad reputation in some ways. There's a Calvin Grondahl cartoon that pretty much sums it up for most people: "Who wants seconds on food storage?" (a.k.a dried watermelon rinds). The other thing most people think of when they think of food storage is hoarding massive amounts of food that they wouldn't know how to use (or want to eat) if there ever was an emergency. And then there are the Doomsday prepper types who are consumed by fears of government takeover, natural disaster or pandemic disease and give that as the reason why everyone should have food storage. Food storage kind of has a bad reputation, but I am actually really excited about food storage!

One of the biggest reasons to have food storage on hand (in my humble opinion) isn't government takeover or natural disasters or pandemic illness, it's simply to help us weather the financial ups and downs that sometimes happen and are more likely to occur than martial law or a massive earthquake. I think that's the thing some people do is they get so caught up in being anxious about what the future could bring that they forget to take care of today's issues. A couple of weeks ago we were wishing we had food storage because Malamute's check arrived a few days later than we were expecting and we had to tighten the belt a bit. Most families in America who suffer from hunger get in that situation because finances get tight and they have bills to pay and can't afford to buy food. (Like mine did growing up.) If more people took the example of Joseph from the Old Testament who advised Pharaoh to start setting food aside during a time of plenty in order to prepare for a time of famine, I think we would have fewer hungry families. It certainly would have helped when I was a hungry kid.

There are a number of things we are in need of right now as we are trying to get out, but we decided that we would make food storage a priority so we could be better prepared for any ebbs and flows that might come with his work. Another nice thing is that it makes our weekly grocery budget stretch further.

So why am I so stoked about food storage? It's because I'm excited to eat the stuff we have stored! Two things are crucial in building good food storage:

1) Know how to use it. A certain relative by marriage that I happen to live with also has food storage. She has several cans of grain and a few of dried beans. She doesn't use these either of these ingredients on a regular basis and has no idea how to cook with them. I'm not sure her food storage will do much good if there is an emergency. One of the best investments you can make is to get a high quality grain grinder so you can mill your own flour from whole grains. Grains keep much better than flour and your freshly milled flour will taste sooooo much better and be more nutritious. Learning how to make dishes from beans is really good to know too. You can make hummus from chickpeas (a.k.a garbanzo beans), crockpot soup from black beans, spiced ethnic dishes from lentils. You can even make desserts like Chocolate Covered Katie's Deep Dish Cookie Pie from chickpeas. =)

2) USE IT! You need to store food you actually use and you need to make your food storage a living, breathing thing by using and replacing the food on a regular basis. Our food storage is basically large, storable quantities of things we normally eat. We bought some things that store well (like grains and dried beans) in yearly quantities. We have other things we eat a lot of like seeds, nuts, and dried fruit that don't keep well long term so we have bought them in three month quantities and will replace quarterly or as needed if they last longer.

Our yearly food storage includes spelt, kamut, organic white and red wheat, oats, chickpeas, black beans, Himalayan Salt, and yellow split peas. We also have yearly amounts of baking soda and borax for cleaning and making laundry detergent and Dr. Bronner's Soap for body wash and shampoo. Our quarterly food storage includes things like coconut cream concentrate, Bragg's raw Apple Cider Vinegar, raw honey, raw agave nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, sucanat, molasses (I like to have a variety of sweeteners on hand for making treats) raisins, dates, cashews, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, coconut chips, raw cacao powder, carob powder, slivered almonds for making almond butter, dried unsulphured apricots, and dried figs. No dried watermelon rinds for us!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Treats and How to Open a Young Thai Coconut

I think I enjoy food now more than ever. I love making healthier versions of treats and good, nutrient rich, filling meals and not having any of the crash that came with eating junk food. I wanted to make this a special Father's Day for my Malamute, so in addition to making him a present (fire-starters- he LOVES making fires when we go camping, but it's definitely more difficult when the wood is wet) and going on a nice, big hike, I planned some special Father's Day treats for him:

Cherry Chocolate Bars- Malamute also LOVES cherries, especially with chocolate. So I used Chocolate Covered Katie's fantastic chocolate bar recipe and added some unsprayed cherries we got from the Farmer's Market. Ooooh so good!

Medjool Dates- We eat a lot of dates, but they are usually the Deglet Noor variety since they are cheaper. Medjool dates are softer with a mellower taste. I think they have an almost candy like taste to them. I got just a few of these since they are pretty pricy and we ate them as a trail snack while we hiked Timpanogos.

Young Thai Coconuts- These are another favorite and they are so much fun! You cut them open, drain the coconut water and drink it (which is soooooo delicious!), and then take a spoon and eat the inside. There are a lot of different ways you can open Young Thai Coconuts, but this is my preferred method.

Picnic Lunch- After hiking a good portion of the Timpanogos Trail (in about 5 1/2 hours with a toddler; not too shabby), we had a picnic lunch. I made a homemade sourdough bread sandwich with homemade vegan pesto sauce, lettuce, avocado (another Malamute favorite) and a little red bell pepper. I also brought a salad, a few of those Farmer's Market cherries and a Cherry Chia Seed Kombucha (Malamute's favorite flavor).

Amish Peas- These were grown by the Salt County Jail in their Prison Horticulture Program and boy were they good! If you didn't see last week's post on the Prison Horticulture Program, let me sum it up: Go get your veggies from them! Malamute loves eating sweet peas and these were some of the best tasting and best priced!

Almond Butter Cookies- I will be posting this recipe soon. It is a favorite around here!

A note on the fire starters- These are a great gift for the outdoors fire bug in your life. And they are also a great way to use up random pieces of garbage. There are a bunch of different ways you can make them, but I took toilet paper and paper towel tubes, stuffed them with dryer lint, wrapped them in wax paper and tied the ends.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Should Kids Read "The Hunger Games"?

Should kids read The Hunger Games? My short answer is yes, but to understand that let me back up a bit here. 

I was always a precocious kid reading material with subject matter that was way beyond my years. When I was 8, my ward set a goal to read the Book of Mormon all the way through during the month of December to celebrate Christmas. I decided to read the children's Book of Mormon reader all the way through. The Book of Mormon reader contains all the stories from the Book of Mormon, but it's written in simple language so kids can read it themselves. This really helped me focus on the stories and what was going on rather than being bogged down by the King James style language associated with scripture. Those of you who have read the Book of Mormon know that it contains accounts of some really heavy stuff, and the children's reader keeps those stories while explaining them in a gentle and sensitive manner. This was the first time I realized just how cruel people can be to each other. By the time I was 12, I had read about Cambodia's death camps, the civil war in El Salvador, and life in Korea during the occupation by Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union. My dad is a World War II history enthusiast and had explained to me as sensitively as he could about the treatment of Allied POW's by Japan and Germany and the horrors of the Holocaust at a young age.

Each time I heard or read about these subjects, it made a deep impression on me. At first, I would wonder how I could be happy again living in a world where these sorts of atrocities take place. But over a few days, happiness would win out again as I socialized with my friends at school or went on outings with my dad and siblings to the grocery store. I'm glad that my first introduction to the evils of the world didn't come from a newspaper when I was an adult, but from sources close to me like my religion's scriptures and my dad. Novels for preteen readers also played a big role in this because when I read novels like Grab Hands and Run (about the civil war in El Salvador) and Year of the Impossible Goodbyes (about growing up in occupied Korea), it helped me put a person with the suffering and turmoil I was reading about instead of it being something that happens far away, long ago, and to other people. Reading books like these also helped me see that even great evil could be overcome and survived. 

So that brings me to The Hunger Games trilogy. This is a series of novels that depicts war atrocities in detail. Suzanne Collins's father was a Vietnam War veteran and I have a feeling that much of what she has written about has its basis in his experiences. The torture of prisoners, the use of civilians as pawns by the power hungry, and the nightmares that never go away are all things I have heard echoed by former soldiers and surviving refugees. They have their basis in reality. Also, the country Panem bears a significant resemblance to the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes in many ways. Real people have lived, suffered and died under conditions similar to those described in The Hunger Games. And I think that's why books like The Hunger Games are important to read. Because the worst thing we can do is to run away and hide from these things. Because if we do, we will forget them and repeat them. My husband and I have decided that this is a series of books we want our kids to read when they are teenagers. (The earliest I would introduce this book is thirteen.) I expect that at some point in the future it will probably become part of a home school unit study on war and peace. But it will be just one of many steps we take in educating our children about what happens when the love of power grows to dangerous proportions and also teaching them compassion for suffering.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Salt Lake County Jail: The Best Place to Get Unsprayed Greens

The Salt Lake Farmer's Market just started up this past weekend and Malamute and I made a new (for us) discovery there: The Salt Lake County Jail Horticulture Program. Yes, you can go to the Farmer's Market and find inmates in blue jumpsuits with name tags selling you greens they grew themselves using organic growing practices.

And what greens! They had varieties of lettuce I had never even heard of like Mireille Quatre. According to an inmate named Doyle, they are growing 84 kinds of plants and even have blackberries coming later in the summer! They had some of the best looking greens there and they taste wonderful!

And they were the some of the least expensive greens there too! We got bags of lettuce and mustard greens and kale for $1.50 each! Wow! They had tennis ball lettuce two for a dollar (they weren't the best of the greens, but they were OK and extremely inexpensive). I love how they listed their prices right up front too. (For some reason, a lot of booths don't list their prices. Most of the time, I pass those booths right by.) But you can't beat the free labor they're getting at the jail, and those savings are passed on to the citizens of Salt Lake County. We love this because greens are the staple of our diet. We have three green smoothies and one or two salads a day, plus kale chips, so we go through a lot of greens. We've made a number of wrong turns that have gotten us into trouble financially and having affordable, healthy food is incredibly helpful to us.

The best part though was seeing what a difference this was making in these men's lives. They were able to hold their heads up with dignity that they had done work that was beneficial to others. They were so excited when we got a big bag and started filling it full of greens. They kept thanking us over and over, but I was the one who felt grateful that I could feed my family good food at an affordable price. In most prisons, inmates just sit around all day with nothing to do and little in the way of structured activity. (This dates back to the Quakers and their idea that silence, solitude, and a lack of things to do would turn criminals' minds to meditation and penitence, thus the term "penitentary".) All this does is make the inmates bored and keep their minds coming up with more new ways to screw up. One inmate named Matt said, "When I was in jail before, all I would do is think up more stupid things to do. Now I have something to fill my day. This is the first good thing I've done in three years." Wow. I want to be a part of that! These guys just lit up when they were talking about their garden.

Matt also said that since he has started eating the greens from the greenhouse, he has developed a love of vegetables and doesn't want to touch the stuff they serve at the cafeteria. So those of you transitioning to a healthy diet, take heart, your tastebuds will adjust.

The Salt Lake County Jail Horticulture Program is administered in partnership with Utah State University's Extension Program so that inmates can learn trade skills for when they are released. We really need more programs like this in our prisons and I am so glad that the SL County Jail is doing this! So if you're in the SLC metro area, mosy on over to the Farmer's Market and help support this program by buying some tasty and inexpensive greens.

One thing to remember if you go- get there early and buy what you can right away, because the prison horticulture greens go FAST!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Camping Trip Where We Forgot The Diaper Bag

Malamute and I have started going on an overnight camping trip once a week with Duckling and the dogs. It gives us some time away from his parents and also makes it easier to do some really good hiking. We've been doing it for about a month now and have been congratulating ourselves on how good we're getting at it. However, this last camping trip, we made a pretty big mistake: we forgot Duckling's diaper bag.

We were feeling stressed and in a rush to get out the door and I left it downstairs. I had been reminding myself about it so much that when we got in the car to go, I assumed we had it. I had even refilled the little squirt bottle of soap and water to spray on the cloth diaper wipes so I could be sure we would have enough when we were out into the wilds. Didn't even question its presence. It wasn't until we got to our campsite and had the tent up and everything unpacked and it was time potty Duckling before our hike that I realized that we had no diapers, no potty, no wipes, no wet bag, and no cute little bottle full of soap and water to spray on the absent diaper wipes.

Well, I was thoroughly annoyed for a few minutes as I searched the truck. Malamute started going over the options in his head. We could go for a hike and then head back home for good. We could go back for the diaper bag and then come back and finish our camping trip. There was a Smith's nearby, maybe he could run out and get some disposables...

Fortunately, we had several clean rags in the car that we use for camp clean up. This has been my back up plan when I'm out of diapers and haven't been able to wash yet and it always works just fine. Since it was just overnight, he wouldn't need too many diaper changes. I pottied Duckling by the trees, dug out an old, empty ziploc bag from our hiking backpack to store the dirty and wet diapers in, the DEET free essential oil bug spray we have worked as wipe spray, and we went on with our camping trip and had a great time.

A little while ago, this is something I might have let ruin the entire trip. But instead of focusing on what I didn't have and letting that take over, I focused on solving the problem and moving on. So I take two lessons away from this camping trip:

1) Rushing and stressing really doesn't accomplish much. It's better to take some extra time to make sure everything is in place. And...

2) Life is what you make of it. If I want to have a fun camping trip after forgetting the diaper bag, it's totally possible. But it's entirely up to me.