Secrets of Mom Search Results

Friday, April 29, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Honey Mustard Chicken

I originally found this recipe in a grocery ad and added a few veggies to it. Although the recipe was for marinated chicken kabobs. I don't own a grill and I am not interested in broiling things in my oven. (Here in the desert it is already summer time.) So I threw everything in my crockpot, and I didn't bother to cut the meat up as small. I'm sure that if I had it would have looked more appealing, but I'll admit sometimes I'd just rather throw it in the crockpot and forget about it. It was still tasty.

Honey Mustard Chicken
Food Storage Ingredients:
2 tsp steak sauce
4 Tablespoons of mayonaise
2/3 cup dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups prepared rice

Fresh Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken, cut into chunks
1 yellow onion, cut into chunks
1 green bell pepper, cut into chunks

1. Mix first four ingredients. (If you are making kabobs, use half to marinate chicken and half to dip chicken in after it's cooked.) 2. Throw all ingredients (except rice, salt and pepper) into a crockpot. 3. Cook on low for 6 hours. 4. Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.

This was a total crock pot meal. I cooked the brown rice in my small crock pot, the chicken and sauce in my medium and baked the sweet potatoes in my large. 20 minutes of preparation, a whole bunch of leftovers and I didn't have to heat up my kitchen.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Bartholomew and the Oobleck: (Caldecott Honor Book) (Classic Seuss)Yesterday I read Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss to my kids. A good story, but not my favorite Dr. Seuss. My kids enjoyed the silly thought of something green falling from the sky. Then I told them that we were going to make oobleck and they were skeptical. (I learned how to make this in elementary school and I can't even count the times I have made it since then.) They looked at me with raised eyebrows when I started mixing and playing with the goo. But it wasn't long before my entire family had their hands in the bowl of green goo. Oobleck is simple to make, non-toxic, inexpensive and lots of fun. Although I will warn you that it makes a big mess. Make sure you have a cheap waterproof tablecloth on your table before you start, or better yet, take this outside. (It's not too hard to clean up, it dissolves in water.)

2 cups cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water
a few drops of food coloring
1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. These measurements are approximate. I've never actually measured them. Just keep adding and mixing until you get the right consistency. It should feel powdery and wet at the same time. You should be able to grab a handful, break it like a solid and then have it melt between your fingers.

Here's a video to give you an idea of what it should look like.
Enjoy! And yes that is Thing 2 discovering a penny in the background. I have no idea how to edit video. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Our Potty-Training Experience.

Thing 2 is officially potty trained. Hooray!  I read a book and a multiple articles, but when it came down to it, the most effective thing in training him to use the potty was cueing into him and letting him take it at his own pace. When he was barely two years old, he decided that he wanted "to pee in the potty". He would go in the bathroom, pull down his pants and pee on the floor next to the toilet. This was the week before we were moving into our new house. I didn't want to rock his world too much, nor did I have the time and patience to be potty training just then. A couple months later he was begging to use the potty again. So I bought a small potty that played music, superhero themed underwear and  many prizes and treats. He did fantastic for about 2 days. Then he came down with an awful case of diarrhea and we went back to the diapers. After this we tried several times, but he just wasn't really interested in using the potty and I didn't push it. Occasionally he would come to one of us, tell us he needed to use the toilet, sit down and successfully do his business and request a piece of candy. I know it was all about the candy, but I did care because we were making progress, even if it was small and random progress. After he turned three I tried to encourage him more often, but he was pretty determined that he only wanted to wear diapers. I tried switching to pull-ups. He called them swim diapers and treated them like any other diaper. Finally one day I sat down and spent three hours coloring a potty chart. It's kind of like a game board with little prizes along the way, a big midway prize and a big final prize. He gets a sticker for going #1 and two stickers (or one large sticker) for going #2, after he washes his hands. The first couple of days he was only moderately interested, but after he started earning prizes, he started cruising through and I feel like he had it down pretty well by the time he was only a third of the way through the chart. (I overestimated how long to make the chart. For Thing 1 the chart had to be much bigger. I didn't know it at the time, but she struggles with bladder spasms, which complicated things.) Some of the prizes I used were: baking cookies, going out for ice cream, going to McDonald's, picking something from the surprise box (which I had filled with an assortment of inexpensive small boy oriented prizes), choosing a movie from Redbox,  choosing something from the dollar store, getting a new movie or choosing a candy from the store. His big prizes were visiting Pirate Island and Jumpin' Jacks, neither of which I really enjoy going to but have totally enthralled my children. It also helped that Thing 1 was very encouraging, because she also benefited from most of the prizes that he earned. And now we have four blissful months without purchasing or changing diapers.
The potty-training chart that is taped to the wall outside the bathroom.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Powdered Milk

First I must say I that I am pretty picky about my milk. I only drink skim milk and I only drink it from certain stores. So the thought of drinking reconstituted non-fat dry powdered milk <shudder>, not going to happen, it smells too weird to me. However, I feel that storing powdered milk is an important part of emergency preparedness, so I store it, and I even use and rotate it. I try to consistently have some made up in my fridge and use it in recipes that involve cooking milk. I generally can't taste a difference. I have also used it many times when I am out of evaporated or sweetened condensed milk.

Types of Powdered Milk
 This is pasteurized skim milk reduced to a powdered concentrate. It can be found in two forms, regular and instant. They are both  made from milk in a spray-drying process, but the instant variety has been given further processing to make it more easily soluble in water than regular dry milk. Both types have the same nutrient composition.

Regular Powdered Milk
  •  More compact and requires less storage space than the instant variety.
  • To make; mix your milk with warm water using a wire whip, then chill. Before serving, give it another quick stir and serve. This will give the milk better flavor.
  • Need 4-#10 cans per adult = 1 c. per day. You'll need more for children.

Whey Based Milk (Morning Moo, Swiss Maid, Mountain Mills, etc.)
  • Most of the milk protein has been removed: Morning Moo, Swiss Maid, etc.
  • Does NOT meet protein needs of growing children.
  • Best tasting of the milks
  • Will NOT make yogurt or cheese because the milk solids have been removed. Whey is what’s left over after making cheese or yogurt.

Instant Powdered Milk
Instant milk is made by taking regular powder and making it a little flakier.
  • Most common variety found in grocery stores.
  • Dissolves instantly in cold water (will lump up in warm water)
  • Need 5 - #10 cans per person = 1 c. per day, more for children.

Flavored Nonfat Dry Milk
This may be found packaged in a variety of forms from a low calorie diet
drink made with artificial sweetener to cocoa mix or malted milk. The key
ingredient is the dry milk so buy and store these products accordingly. They
have less calcium than plain milks.

Dry Whole Milk
This dry milk has a higher fat content and therefore a shorter shelf life than nonfat. Other than that, it can be used in exactly the same way. Dry whole milk is difficult to find, but can sometimes be found where camping supplies are sold and from a few online providers, or in the Mexican food aisle of the grocery store under the brand name of Nido by Nestle.

Buttermilk Powder

Dry buttermilk is for use in recipes calling for buttermilk. Since it has a slightly higher fat content than nonfat dry milk, it generally does not keep as long. The acid in buttermilk reacts with baking soda or baking powder in your recipes to make batters rise a bit. This is what gives you puffy pancakes and batter breads.

Advantages to Using Powdered Milk
  • It needs no refrigeration (until reconstituted)
  • It is easy to store for long periods of time
  • By making just what you need there is less waste
  • It is fast and easy to measure and mix
  • Adding 1 T. dry milk to 1 c. fresh milk increases: protein, B vitamins, calcium and minerals.
Here are a few recipes that I use powdered milk in on a regular basis.

Noodles & Company- A copy-cat of the restaurant's creamy macaroni and cheese from I Dare You To Eat

Apple Wheat and Buttermilk Pancakes- My own crowd-pleasing creation, that's easy to make and uses most food storage ingredients.

Pumpkin Apple Oatmeal Muffins- I've been making these for decades now and I still love them so much. Actually I use powdered milk in almost all muffins.

Now here  is the most important reason I think that people should store powdered milk. You can use it to make baby formula. I have personally never tried this. My kids refused to drink formula, period. (Which is ironic because for whatever reason formula companies still send me samples and coupons. At least my local food pantry got something out of it.) If there was some kind of crisis and I have a neighbor with a baby, I want to be in a position to help out. So here are a couple of baby formula recipes. Now this won't work if the baby has a milk allergy, and it doesn't have the extra vitamins and additives that commercial formulas do, but in a bind, it will do.

Baby Formula
⅓ c + 2t. instant powdered milk
1 ⅓ c boiling water
Mix together completely. Add:
1 Tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons sugar

Baby Formula 2
1- 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/3 Tbsp sugar
Boil water for 5 minutes, add milk and sugar. Pour into prepared bottles and cover.
Ready to use. Refrigerate unused portion. (DO NOT use Karo syrup or honey for sugar)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Truths and Myths About Warts

 Once last summer I went with my family to the beach. We had a great time. This was a Tuesday. By Wednesday evening there was a tender spot on my foot. By Friday, it was becoming painful. It was kind of a slow day at work so my co-worker and I used our available resources to rule out a lot of things that it wasn't. My foot looked perfectly fine. I was beginning to think I had a acquired some exotic foot disease at the beach.  By Sunday evening, it hurt so much that I couldn't walk.
 First thing Monday morning I made an appointment to see a podiatrist. He looked at my foot with a magnifying glass and said "Hmm". Then he cut off a few layers of skin. "Hmm". Then he cut off a few more layers. After this he came to the conclusion that deep inside my  foot there was a cluster (or mosaic) of more than a dozen warts, which had nothing to do with our trip to the beach. I just thought it was a more pleasant picture than the warts on my foot.  Fantastic. Personally, I'd rather have an exotic foot disease.
  So while I was sitting there with my foot in the air and him cutting a hole in it, followed by him freezing those annoying little things, I tried to focus on something other than the pain by picking his brain. Here are a few things that I learned from the experience and one other run-in with warts years ago.
  • Warts are caused by a human papillomavirus. They are contagious. There are many varieties of this virus and they are specific to certain areas of your body. (The HPV that causes plantar warts is not the same HPV that can give you genital warts or cause cervical cancer.)
  • They can disappear on their own after a few months, last for years or reoccur.
  • Common treatment of warts include cutting, freezing, salicylic acid (that over-the-counter Dr. Scholl's stuff) and lasers.
  • When I had a stubborn wart removed in high school, a dermatologist injected it with Bleomycin. He described it to me as an acid that they inject into cancerous tumors. It's pretty expensive and it feels like hell. But it worked.
  • There is some validity to the urban myth that duct tape can get rid of warts. It's not as effective as previously listed methods, but my podiatrist told me that studies have shown evidence that it is sometimes effective.
  • Same story for painting a wart with fingernail polish. Although he said that the studies couldn't explain exactly why for either method.
  • For unknown reasons Cimetidine (yes, as in the OTC heartburn medicine) is very effective in helping your body to fight off and get rid of warts. I tried it and it did seem to help. Of course I did this at the same time I was having him treat with it with liquid nitrogen and the knife.
  • Sometimes the skin around the wart will turn purple a couple of days after freezing. I was concerned when a fairly large portion of my foot turned purple. I called his office. His receptionist was an idiot and told me she was sure that it was because I had my band-aid on too tight. I'm pretty sure that a bachelor's degree in nursing qualifies me to correctly place a few spot band-aids, and that wasn't the problem. When I talked to him, he let me know that sometimes that happens and not to be concerned.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Family Night for Japan

Recently when reading a friend's blog about a project that she was involved in for children in Japan. The Sleepy Time Gal has a friend in Ishinomaki, Japan. This friend is an elementary school teacher there, and on the day of the earthquake many of her students' parents never came to pick them up.  (You can read more about the project on her blog.) These children have many needs right now and it is something we can do to help. Simple things that I have around the house would mean so much to them.

I explained to my kids about what had happened in Japan and how there were children there who didn't have houses and some didn't have families. For family night we went through our closets and pantry and found things that the kids might enjoy. Most of these items I got cheaply (and some for free) using coupons and hitting sales.

Here are some the things that Sleepy Time Gal suggested:
  • erasers
  • crayons
  • pencils
  • hand sanitizer
  • paper/supplies
  • shippable foods
  • children's clothing and shoes
  • toiletries
The most cost-effective way to ship things to Japan is ship in a priority mail box. From what I have read on the internet, a small box cost $14 to ship to Japan and a medium box costs $44.  I grabbed one of each. I discovered that the small box was too small to effectively send much of anything, so I decided to cram whatever I could in a medium box.
I included 6 packs of tuna, 5 packs of instant potatoes, had to incorporate some food storage into this project somehow ;) a notebook, 2 pairs of shoes, 2 boxes of crayons, 2 small bottles of hand sanitizer, a box of instant hot chocolate packets, 6 small sheets of stickers, a box of cereal bars, 2 bags of cough drops (I read that there is a flu-like disease running around there) and a whole bunch of organic fruit suckers. I was pretty impressed that we managed to fit all of that in this box.
Now I don't share this because I want to say, oh look at me, but because I want people to see this and think 'Hey there is something that I can do to help'. And it was something that I could do with my kids, so I am teaching them that it is important that we help others.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Italian Chicken and Peppers

Spaghetti noodles are one of those food storage items that if you play your coupons right you can get for free, and even if you don't coupon, you can still get them for very cheap. Unfortunately my husband does not like spaghetti. I generally make it once a year and that's only if I am willing to make or purchase meatballs. (Heather doesn't like meatballs.) Recently when I was at the grocery store they were offering samples of this recipe. I thought, hey this is great and my kids liked it too. And I incorporated  those green bell peppers that came in last weeks Bountiful Basket. Food storage victory.

Italian Chicken and Peppers
Food Storage Ingredients:
1 package of spaghetti
1 jar (24 oz) pasta sauce
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 can (4 oz) mushrooms (optional)

Fresh Ingredients:
2 lbs chicken tenders
2 green bell peppers (medium)
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
shredded Parmesan (optional)

1. Cut green peppers into 2 inch strips. (I chopped mine more finely to increase the likelihood of my kids eating them. This plan actually backfired. This time they refused the sauce all together.) 2. Heat  fresh vegetables and chicken tenders in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. 3. Stir in sauce and cook until bubbling. Add mushrooms if desired 4. Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Notes: My husband and I really liked this. Hooray I found a way to get my family to eat spaghetti! Although my kids ate the samples in the store, when I made it at home they opted for plain noodles with a little cheese sprinkled on top. Whatever. :S I used whole wheat pasta (13.25 oz) and Classico Spicy Tomato and Basil Sauce with happy results. The original recipe called for 16 oz of plain spaghetti noodles. I liked it with the whole wheat noodles better. When I was digging through my freezer for chicken I found 2 lbs that were marinated in an Italian Herb dressing. Wow, that smelled amazing while it was cooking.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Ideas from Parents April 2011

5 Easy Ways to Go Green (And get your kids involved too)
  1. Pre-cycle- Consider the product and it's container before you purchase it. Does it really need that much packaging? Can you reuse the container?
  2. Bring Your Own Bag- Make your kids the "bag police", and have them remind you to bring your reusable bag with you when you go to the store.
  3. Conserve Water- Have each person use one water glass per day and mark it in some way.  (The author used decorated clothes pins.) Fewer half glasses of water thrown in the sink and fewer dishes to be done.
  4. Eat Better- Fresh vegetables generally come with less packaging and are better for you.
  5. Turn Off The Lights- Teach your kids about the importance of conserving energy and get them in on the act.
 Parent's Magazine 10 Best Restaurant Chains- Healthy Food and Family Friendly
(I particularly wanted to remember this because whenever we travel I am faced with the dilemma of deciding where to eat. I want something healthy and delicious that also offers something our kids will enjoy too.)
  1. Jason's Deli
  2. Cosi Cafe
  3. Souplantation/ Sweet Tomatoes
  4. Red Lobster
  5. Chipotle
  6. Noodles & Company
  7. Red Robin
  8. Mimi's Cafe
  9. Panera Bread
  10. P.F. Chang's China Bistro

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Product Review: CSN Grain and Nut Grinder

 Recently CSN Store contacted me to do a product review. They provide a gift certificate, I choose an item and review it here on my blog. And being the food storage nerd that I am I chose a hand-cranked  Universal Grain, Corn and Nut Mill. I am fully aware that an electric one is faster, but I want to have both in the event that there's a power outage/ shortage.
Picture from CSN Store site
 As for the shopping process, I wished there was a product description or review. I realize that they ask people to do these things so they will have those reviews, but there wasn't enough information. I had to search for the same product elsewhere on the internet to get a description. They were however, very prompt in their shipping.
Here it is, set up in my kitchen
 Another minus for this product was that there were very little instructions. Just one diagram on the side of the box on how to assemble. I could only fit it on the back side of my kitchen island because the tightening screw is too wide to tighten it on the side counter lips. As I began to use it I found that the pieces don't fit together very well.
View looking down into the mill.
 As you can see there is a small gap between the two of the pieces where you pour in your product that you are grinding. No amount of turning closes this gap. This means that as you operate the mill little bits are flying onto the counter and floor and generally making a mess.

 Now it's kind of hard to see from this picture, but when all the pieces are tightened all the way, they don't fit together. When slightly looser, the gear and grinding plates are centered, but not very effective for grinding. And as you crank the mill, the pieces tighten a little more on their own, meaning that once again the pieces are not fitting together.
 Here are the wheat kernels that I sent through the mill ten times. They changed very little between the third and the tenth time through. I don't think that this thing could ever turn my wheat into flour. The picture on the website and the box show a bowl of finely ground corn meal. I can't imagine ever getting anything so fine out of this mill. It works for making cracked wheat or perhaps for grinding coffee beans, or corn kernels into feed, something where you want a coarse product, but not for turning grain into flour.

Now I really wanted to like this product and give it a good review. I was excited to get it and I have had good experiences with CSN Stores in the past, but I was less than impressed. I can't honestly recommend it. If I hadn't gotten this product for almost free I would have returned it, but it's not really worth the hassle for the chance that I might get back what I payed for shipping.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Being A One Car Family

 It has always been our policy to avoid debt like the plague. And for us this has meant ever since we have been married we have only had one car. There are numerous times that it has been inconvenient, but for us it has been worth it. Given our circumstances, to afford a second car we would have had to do one of two things a) Not spend money on anything fun and put that money (plus some) towards a car or b) I would have to get a second job and work more than I already do. I don't really like either of those options, and it is more important to me to spend time with my family than to have a second car. Many times people have said to me, 'I don't understand how you can possibly survive with only one car', I guess it just comes down to priorities.
 Now I fully understand that having one car per family just doesn't work for some people's circumstances, work schedules, distance from work, etc. But here are some things that we have found to make one vehicle per family work for us.
  • At least three days a week my husband bikes to school/ work. (Weather permitting.) The college is  about 5.5 miles from our house and his old job was almost 7. It's doable. Well for him it is. If I had to get up before 4 am so I could bike to work before a 12-13 hour shift I would cry, really.
  • Previously where we lived this was not feasible, so most days he took the bus to school. Yes, public transportation is not always the most desirable method, and sometimes very inconvenient, but it played a big part in both of us getting through college without debt.
  • Every week I plan one day where I do most of my shopping, errands and activities (like take the kids to the library or museums). I try to be organized and make shopping lists so I don't need to make as many trips to the grocery store.
  • We make good use of the park that is within walking distance of our home.
  • We spend a lot of time at home. My kids love to play in the backyard and I can watch them from my kitchen while I cook, clean or blog. I enjoy being in my house.
In addition to not having an extra car payment, not having an extra car has the following benefits:
  • Less money spent on gas, licensing fees, insurance and maintenance
  • I feel like I waste less time, I rarely go to the store for one item and subsequently spend less time running errands.
  • Fewer trips to the store means less impulse buying.
  • Less driving is better for the environment. :)
  • If you're using public transportation (especially as a college student), you can use your transportation time as study time, which is harder to do when you're driving.
  • Walking and biking, when feasible, provide good exercise.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

My husband originally made this when we had numerous red peppers from one Bountiful Basket and it became a favorite for Meatless Mondays. He can't remember where he found the recipe and we tend to wing it every time. It's fairly simple and delicious.

Red Pepper Pesto Pasta
Food Storage Ingredients:
1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Italian spices to taste (rosemary, sweet basil, Italian parsley)
1 7oz can of mushrooms, drained
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz of pasta, cooked according to directions

Fresh Ingredients:
2 red bell peppers
1 clove garlic
freshly grated Parmesan

1. Broil red peppers until blistered on a pan covered in foil. (Similar to peppers for chile relleno) When thoroughly blistered, remove from oven and wrap in foil from pan. Allow to sweat for 10-15 minutes. 2. Toast almonds in oven. (In the same pan if you wish.) 3. Remove peels, seeds and stems from peppers and put remaining pepper pieces in a small blender. 4. Add olive oil, almonds, garlic and spices and puree. 5. Top each plate of pasta with half of canned mushrooms, red pepper pesto and freshly grated Parmesan.

I served it with some toasted Rosemary sourdough bread from Costco.

Portraits of the Fallen

I found a link to this short video on my friends blog.  I love stories like this about people using their talents to help others. Take the five minutes to watch it, it's definitely worth your time. And I dare you not to cry.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Importance of Straight Teeth

As I may I have mentioned before, I am somewhat of a hoarder. I have stacks of magazines and newspaper articles that are piling up, because at some point I want to refer back to them or there is some recipe that I want to try. I have made a new resolve to sort through these piles, put the useful info on my blog every Thursday and recycle the rest. Today's article, Straight to the point-Why straight teeth are so important was written by Dr. Jacqueline Fulop-Goodling, an orthodontist in New York and published in The Costco Connection in March 2011. I thought it would be a helpful reminder for when I'm paying for braces for Thing 1 and Thing 2. (Given what my teeth and my husband's teeth looked like before braces, there is no if involved here. Our kids don't stand a chance.)
  • Well-aligned teeth are the mark of a healthy mouth
  • Straight teeth make it easier to brush and floss efficiently, as well as improve speech and digestion
  • Straight teeth trap fewer particles, leading to fewer areas of tooth and gum decay
  • People who chew longer and eat slower, digest their food better and tend to be slimmer.
     Straight teeth help in this process.
  • Managing periodontal disease reduces the risk for heart disease and diabetes.
And this one is from my own personal experience, before I had braces I had frequent migraines. After braces I stopped getting them. I think my migraines were caused from the pressure of very crooked teeth. Even now if I go several months without wearing my retainer, I start getting them again as my teeth slip out of place.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

And it's a...


And here are her sweet baby feet

For blogging purposes I'm going to refer to here as Cindy Lou Who. 
For those who know me in real life, she'll have a first name from the Bible like her siblings and her middle name will be after my husband's grandmother who recently passed.
Only 20ish weeks to go.

Preparedness Wednesday: March in Review

  • Hung energy efficient curtains in front of the biggest window in my house (Saved $21 using coupons at Bed Bath and Beyond)
  • Planted a garden
  • Planted a pomegranate tree
  • Fixed one toilet so it didn't take literally hours to fill with water after flushing
  • Sorted through and packed up clothes that are too small for Thing 1 and Thing 2
  • Worked a couple extra shifts to put money into savings (or car repairs)
Food Storage:
  • 24 boxes of Annie's pasta and cheese in various varieties (49 cents each)-Smiths
  • 6 packages of various pastas (Free with coupons)-Smith's
  • Multiple cases of water My husband mocks me for purchasing bottled water. 1.39 for 24 bottles after catalina deal at Smith's (Plus I found a couple $1 off coupons which made two of them 39 cents per case)
  • Canned tomatoes, beans, green chiles and mushrooms (48-70 cents each) from Lin's Case Lot Sale
  • Sliced almonds from Costco

Monday, April 4, 2011

Book Review: Back to Basics-Tips for Gardening

Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third EditionAfter the love of my life discovered that I would remotely even consider a "self-sufficient" lifestyle, he picked up Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills. This book is not 'light reading', but it is a great reference. It has articles on every skill I can imagine that would be useful if you were to live off land or 'go off the grid'. Some of the topics it covers include: making your house energy efficient, gardening, planning and building your own home, preserving food, quilting, fishing and camping. I will readily admit that I did not read this entire book, but I did read the large section on raising your own produce. Here are some things that I learned from my reading.
  • Companion Planting: Some plants grow better in the company of others and do poorly with others. For example pumpkins grow well with corn, but not potatoes.
  • Tall vegetables (corn, tomatoes) should be planted at the north end of the garden or the side near a house, wall or other light barrier.
  • When selecting what to plant, avoid market or cropper varieties. These will provide your entire harvest all at once.
  • The most important soil-improvement task is to add organic matter to the soil.  Compost and other organic matter should be mixed into the top 12 inches of soil. Ideal soil is loose, soft and crumbly.
  • Most plants grow best in soil with a pH of 6.1-6.8.
  • A greenhouse should face south to maximize winter sunlight.
  • Almost any waterproof container can be used to start seedlings. Used, clean milk jugs and yogurt cups work well.
  • Seed sprouts are easy to grow and rich in vitamins and proteins, however tomato and potato sprouts are poisonous.
  • To supply enough produce for 2 adults and 2 school age children for a year, you need approximately 2,500 square feet of gardening space.
  • To avoid diseases and pests you should not plant members of the same plant family in the same spot two years in a row.
  • Hardy (easy to grow) vegetables include: carrots, beets, collards, kale, mustard, onions, radishes, rhubarb, horseradish
  • Difficult to grow vegetables include: cauliflower, celery, asparagus, artichokes, celeriac
  • Cucumber vines grow only from the tip.
  • Peas taste best if cooked within a few hours of harvesting them from the plant.
  • Potatoes sold in food stores are not recommended for seed pieces. They often are treated with chemicals to keep them from sprouting and contaminated with disease.
  • Sweet potatoes are actually part of the morning glory family.
  • Tomatoes are closely related to potatoes, eggplant, peppers and tobacco.
  • Tomatoes yield more fruit if you pinch off the shoots that grow in the joints where the leaf stems meet the main stems.
  • Organic mulch can smother weeds, conserve moisture and add organic matter. Cheap options include sawdust, leaves, newspaper, compost, pine needles and lawn clippings.
  • It is better to water heavily once a week than lightly every day.
  • The best time to water is in the late afternoon.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Food Storage Friday: Winging It

Last Friday morning I decided that I wanted pulled pork sandwiches for dinner. So before my husband left for school I ran to the grocery store for a small pork roast. I didn't get far when I started having car trouble. No funny noises, but a check engine light. I couldn't accelerate very well and could not get up past 20 mph. So I turned around and had him look at it. Fortunately he has one of these babies to diagnose check engine light problems. (Worth every penny)
Black & Decker AD925 Smart Scan Automotive Check Engine Light Diagnostic Tool
 Unfortunately the problem was not something he could fix. Fortunately he managed to get it to the closest auto shop. Unfortunately it was not something that they could fix either. It required a part that they didn't have and couldn't even order, only the dealership could. Fortunately it was a part that had had a safety recall. Unfortunately, they weren't able to even look at it before Monday, and as it turns out it wasn't a part that was recalled in the state we live in, so we still had to pay for it. The upshot is there were to be no unnecessary trips to anywhere last weekend. Fortunately I had enough items in my food storage to throw together something for dinner that my family was happy with. And when I say throw together I mean I literally grabbed a few items from my pantry and dumped them in my crock pot in an experimental fashion. Food storage saved the day again. Enjoy.

BBQ Pork and Rice
Food Storage Ingredients:
2 cans (14.4 oz) cooked pork chunks
1/2 of one 20 oz can crushed pineapple, not drained
1 bottle (18 oz) BBQ sauce
1 Tablespoon dried diced red and green bell peppers
2 Tablespoons minced dried onions
4 cups prepared white rice

1. Dump first 5 ingredients in a 3-4 quart crock pot and stir. 2. Cook on low for 2 to 3 hours. 3. Serve over rice.

I served it with fresh green beans that I rubbed with olive oil, seasoned and roasted. (The yellow stuff is an onion vinaigrette.) If you don't happen to have canned pork chunks handy, I'm certain that this recipe would work very well (probably even better) with a small pork roast or boneless ribs, but you would have to drastically increase the cooking time and then shred the meat into the sauce after it is cooked.

Spring Gardening in St George- from Utah State University

Last week at church there was a pile of handouts about spring gardening in St George. The information comes from the Washington County extension of Utah State University. It seems like great info, but the last thing that I need is another piece of paper to get lost on my kitchen counter. So I thought I would share it here and recycle the hard copy.

Spring Gardening in St. George
By Rick Heflebower, Washington County Horticulture Agent
Vegetable gardening in Washington County can be rewarding and successful. The county has a wide range in elevation which has a significant influence on the climate and growing season. For example, St. George has an elevation of 2,624 feet and a frost-free growing season of more than six months. Enterprise has an elevation of 5,346 feet and the frost-free season begins later in the spring and ends earlier in the fall (shortening the season considerably.) This doesn’t mean that you can’t grow vegetables there – you just need to know when to plant.

Cold-hardy vegetables such as cabbage, onion, peas, spinach, and turnips can be planted before the danger of frost is over. This is because they can tolerate cold temperatures and they do not fare well once temperatures get into the mid-eighties and above. Other plants such as beets, carrots, potatoes and parsnips may be planted before the last frost date but could be tender if they are out of the ground on a night when the temperatures drop well below freezing. Keep in mind that the frost-free dates given here are only average dates and will vary from season to season.

Even though the season starts early and ends fairly late in the St. George area, the middle of the season is too hot to grow most vegetables successfully. There is a period beginning in June which often goes until August when the temperatures exceed 95 degrees nearly every day. This extreme heat renders the pollen of most vegetables sterile and fertilization cannot take place. This is often seen on tomatoes and squash when the flowers wilt and die in mid season rather than forming young fruits. During the hot period, areas of higher elevation and cooler average temperatures will have much better success with gardening.

Another way to deal with the heat of summer is to think of it as two growing seasons. Begin early and plan to mature vegetables before it gets really hot. You can also plant late in the season and try to have plants come into bearing late enough to miss the worst of the heat. In theory, this works well on short-season crops like beans and squash but is more difficult on long-season crops such as tomatoes and melons. You may also beat the heat by purchasing young transplants and putting them in while it is cool. Transplants will take less time to mature than direct-seeded vegetables and therefore mature before it gets too hot. However, this does not work well with all vegetables. For example, corn, beans, and carrots should not be transplanted. Some gardeners have used shade cloth or other ways to shield plants from the harsh afternoon sun. The period from 2 pm until sundown is generally the hottest time of the day. Where possible, offer protection from the sun from the west in late afternoon.

Planting Times for St. George Area
By Rick Heflebower, Washington County Horticulture Agent
Cabbage (plants)
Kohlrabi (plants)

Cauliflower (plants)
Swiss Chard

Bush Bean
Summer Squash

Lima Beans
Cantaloupe and melons
Eggplant (plants)
Winter Squash
Tomato (plants)
Pepper (plants)

Pole Beans

Last frost in Spring – April 1st
First frost in Fall – October 1st