Tuesday, December 21, 2010

January Food Group: Decluttering Home & Streamlining Your Kitchen

Hello, friends!

The New Year is nearly upon us, and we're looking forward to starting fresh and encouraging each other along the way. For the first Food Group meeting of 2011, we're going to spend time sharing ideas on Decluttering Our Homes and Streamlining Our Kitchens. If you'd like to join in, event details are below.

{ Simplify }

Why declutter?

Why streamline?

Why pare down possessions?

Gratefulness & Satisfaction.

Yes, it takes time to sort through the cupboards and bins and boxes. It takes time to make decisions on what could go and what should stay.

But how much time does it take to find something "missing" in the midst of messy drawers? Or to clean and put away fifteen dirty glasses when only four were ever actually used at the same time?

If I don't need it now and probably won't need it then...why not give it away and make space in my home for a deep breath and a simple view?

Personally, I often hold on to things out of worry. Worry that I'll not have enough when the time comes. Worry that if I let go of it now, I'll kick myself later. Worry that I might end up spending more resources to re-acquire possessions I've given away in haste.

Yet, we are called to make decisions out of trust and generosity and wisdom.

What I eat and drink and wear and store in my cupboards and closets? As it is written, "...do not worry about your life... Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

(In that vein, here's a song ~Birds of the Air~ by sweet-voiced Portland local, Annie Bethancourt.)

Valuing the possessions we do keep around, sharing the wealth of possessions that would otherwise go unused, and being mindful of the quality, source, and lifetime of new possessions we bring into our homes ~ these are the the bits of Food For Thought we plan to ponder.

You Are Welcome~
Wednesday, January 5th, 7:00-8:30pm
Bethany's Home
92nd & NE Burnside, Portland, Oregon
Please RSVP for Directions

Food Group: Join us the first Wednesday night of the month for ideas, resources, and camaraderie on the food front. As always, feel free to bring a friend, bring something to eat, bring a story about your food-life, or just bring yourself and enjoy the good company and conversation...

{ Pare Down }

To begin making progress one step at a time, see Emily's Decluttering Method.
To decide what to do with your extras, take a peek at The Story of Stuff and particularly watch the section on Disposal, then gather up everything that can be recycled and reused:

Bonus: If during the post-holiday lull you get a jump-start on your kitchen decluttering, please plan to bring your extra tools, utensils, and those perfectly-good-but-not-often-used cookbooks that you'll no longer be needing around your own home ~ we'll give the group an opportunity to swap (who knows? perhaps someone's really been needing that old egg timer of yours! no sense in purchasing if a friend has a spare), and then we'll package all of our extra items as a donation to My Father's House Family Shelter.

What have you been holding on to?
It's a New Year. Let's do this thing together...


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

20 Great TED Talks for Total Foodies

Looking for some insight and inspiration? Check out these TED talk videos for foodies! At ted.com you can also sort by tags: here are the links to food or sustainability talks.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Using Jams in Winter Baking: Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Muffins

My favorite recipes are the ones I can make without any special trips to the market.*

(*My favorite recipes are also those which require lovely planning and list making and special ingredient sourcing and involve the thrill of the magician illusionist's grand finale. But I contradict myself and digress.)

It's wintertime, and we're stocked to the hilt with preserved foods and bulk ingredients. Yet, despite my obsessions with late night canning and weekend milk runs, I am often challenged to make the best use of the stores we keep on hand before I run out of steam and resort to additional purchases.

I'm a working girl with an 8-5 routine, and I'll admit that I revel in the simple success of making up a Sunday evening batch of muffins for the coming week. These habits are the ones I hope to continue to cultivate.

Prompted by an extra stash of raw milk just begging to be used for baking and the need for a few easy breakfasts, I reached for my Sue Gregg Soups & Muffins cookbook (a helpful throwback from home school home-ec!) and scanned to find something that would work well with the ingredients I had on hand.

{ Sue Gregg's Strawberry Coconut Surprise Muffins }

Blend together and let stand for 30 minutes:
1 C. buttermilk (I used soured raw milk)
1 C. uncooked rolled oats

Blend into oat mixture:
1 egg
1/4 C. honey
3/4 C. shredded coconut, unsweetened
(I had sweetened on hand, oops!)

Blend together in separate bowl:
1 C. whole wheat flour (pastry flour preferred)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Blend dry ingredients into wet until just mixed.
Fill prepared muffin cups about half full, place in center of each
1 scant teaspoon of strawberry preserves
(I may have gone overboard on the "scant")

Add dab of remaining dough to cover preserves in each muffin.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Yes, there is a certain thrill to cooking with blackberry poison oak honey.
(Thank you to Andrea for sourcing our terrific local raw honey from Meadowlark Farm in Roseburg, OR.)

And with that ~ Sunday night's success:

a) a ready-to-go breakfast for the upcoming week of busy-ness
b) quality ingredients (and a delicious way to use June's sweet strawberry jam)
c) a cheaper price tag than the local cafe's jammers (delicious though they may be)
d) a tasty something to share with our kind neighbors (who surprised us with a knock on the door and fresh homemade enchiladas!)

If you're feeling inspired, here's another great muffin recipe I tried recently: Whole Wheat Spicy Carrot Coconut Muffins. I made mine with milk-soaked flour, dried cranberries, and toasted cashews, and they were lovely. Even Ted (the resister of all vegetable-filled baked goods) asked for seconds...


Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Drinks: Hot Wassail from the Family Farm

Christmastime on my side of the family means several things~

Stockings on Saint Nicholas' Day (December 6th), Advent Wreaths and old hymns ("Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus"), Christmas trees from the family farm (spoiled as I was in childhood, with a personal Christmas tree in my bedroom!), and a resurrection of the mismatched mug collection to serve up gallons upon gallons of piping hot wassail to our family, friends, and neighbors.

{ Hot Wassail Recipe Below }

When the season rolls around, my husband Ted and I enjoy inviting friends to join us in picking out Christmas trees at my family's farm, and my mom graciously brings out her enormous stock pot and makes Wassail for all.

A quick internet search yields many variations on the seasonal drink. I'll share my mom's non-alcoholic recipe at the end, but regardless of which recipe you may choose, the key ingredient is the juice/cider from the harvest of apple trees.

Mom's tradition of making Wassail comes from her English heritage. Interestingly (thank you, Wikipedia), "In the cider-producing counties in the South West of England...wassailing refers to a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive."

I'm not expecting Fraser Firs to sprout apples anytime soon (though let's not give the GMO producers any new ideas), but I'll certainly drink to the health of trees!

{ Christmas Tree Hunting 2010 }

Wassail sings festivity and friendship to me. After years of my mom serving it during Christmas open houses and family parties, the taste instantly brings me to memories of twinkling white lights, evergreen boughs, and smiles on dear faces.

The sweet taste of cranberries and apples and the faintly deep and sour black tea and lemon juice mingle well on the tongue, and deep in my spirit I'm brought to a place of peaceful "just-right-ness." The season of winter weather, cold hands warmed by hot cups, and crackling fires accompanied by carols is here, and it is welcome.

Recently, I made a smaller pot of Wassail at home to serve dinner guests.

{ Buck Family Hot Wassail }

~Mix and simmer~
1 quart black tea (3 bags)
1 quart apple juice or cider
1 quart cranberry juice
3/4 C. lemon juice (or the juice of three lemons)
2 C. orange juice
1 C. sugar (I substituted honey to taste)
3 cinnamon sticks
12 cloves

Garnish with slices of orange or lemon...

A period of rest from the industrious days of summer and the rush of fall comes kindly, offering us the chance to pause, if we will take it.

Perhaps by way of reflection - writing, photographing, musing - or simply by warming a drink and savoring the rising steam, we will each be calmed to the point of a quiet heart and a profound gratefulness.

A beautiful moment's pause I've been enjoying this year:

{ Christmas is Happening }

I hope it is a gift to you~

~ Bethany

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Decluttering Your Kitchen and Home

I'm currently obsessed with decluttering.

Paul and I have been in four apartments in our three years of marriage. The more I move, the less attached I become to our "stuff." We currently live in a 600 sq. ft duplex with our baby and the "Decluttering Bug" has bit me hard. The clutter in my pantry, closets and "behind closed doors" is annoying the dickens out of me. So...I started a game with myself and I think I'm winning.

My game has two rules:
1. Everyday, get rid of 10 things in your home.
2. For every new thing you bring home, get rid of two (This is actually a Flylady rule)

When I say "get rid of" I mean recycle, give away, and if necessary, throw out. I've been doing this off and on for about two weeks and already it's making a huge dent in the clutter. The items can be as little as some paperwork or as much as a piece of furniture.
I love displaying canned goods in my kitchen because, to me, they are both useful and beautiful.

This method is really helping me get my kitchen organized. As a new mom with a baby, I don't always have the time or energy to set aside two hours to organize my kitchen. By playing this "game" it's an easier way to quickly look though my cupboards to see if there is anything I'm not using.
What a thing of beauty! :)

My 10 items today were:
1. Laundry lint (A rather painless disposal)
2. An old wedding invite lurking on the top of the fridge
3. A recently used Amazon gift card
4. Really old and cheap vanilla extract
5. Really old sheets of nori seaweed
6. A wrapper from some slivered almonds
7. A headband that I never wear
8. Lanolin from when Elaia was a newborn
9. About a dozen used matches from lighting our gas stove
10. An REI receipt

Sometimes it's the small stuff that gets ignored the longest and contributes the most to a cluttered home. Eventually I will run out of small things and be forced to make decisions about larger items (like that stamp collection in the closet...you think I'm kidding!). The game is over when everything in my home is either very useful or beautiful (and yes, sentimental items like old love letters from my hubby are extremely beautiful). I'm planning on winning this game and I'm off to a good start.

What are some ways you help keep clutter to a minimum in your home?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thank You for Coming! {Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap}

On Wednesday, December 1st, we hosted Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap. What a treat to see so many smiling faces and beautifully diverse, home made, hand crafted products.

Branch & Birdie's front room glowed with the buzzing energy of swappers and passers by eager to take a peek at the activity.

{A Peak at Swap Festivities}

Ted's favorite swap of the evening:
Our Oregon black cherry liqueur for Chris and Jenny's spicy pickles

{Our Swaps}

In Trade For:
Spiced Peaches
Honey sweetened cardamom apple/pear butter
Vanilla bean peach butter
Marionberry jam
Sweet pickle relish
Homemade ketchup
Hand toasted/blended curry powder
Hand blended green seafood rub
Red currant & lime lip balm
Cherry liqueur

We carried home:
Whole grain mustard
Dried hot peppers
Apple butter
Cardamom spiced pears
Buckwheat pear bread
Strawberry jam
Salves and lip balms
Cortido kraut
Raw honey
Cranberry pear chutney
Homemade granola
Blackberry cinnamon infused vinegar
Homemade soap

And then there were still the ones that got away!
Sour cherry liqueur
Canned wild elk
Canned tuna
Tomato jam
Plums in honey syrup
Grain free granola
Immunity boost tinctures
Hand blended herbal teas
...and much more!

Upper left: The scrumptious appetizer potluck complete with "lemony goodness that will change your life" ~ recipe shared at rosemarried.

Thanks to much positive feedback, we may indeed host another annual (or seasonal?) swap in the coming year. Please stay tuned, and if you're interest in being on the contact list for the next event, please send us a note.

To our new friends & neighbors ~ thank you for the opportunity to meet and exchange hand crafted goods and smiles. We enjoyed the celebration of artful homemaking, and we're eager to swap again!


Portland's First Hand Crafted Food Swap

Preview the mini-documentary at Cooking Up A Story

Want to receive updates on future swaps?
Like the PDX Swappers Facebook Page


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...