October 30, 2011

Sunday Meditation

May the ancestors deliver blessings on you and yours... May the new year bear great fruits for you...
May your granted wishes be as many as the seeds in a pomegranate...
May the slide into darkness bring you light...
May the memories of what has been keep you strong for what is to be...
May this Samhain cleanse your heart, your soul, and your mind!
--- traditional Samhain blessing

October 29, 2011

October 27, 2011

My Eating Manifesto

To start, let me say that this post is simply an explanation of why I've made the choices I have. Everyone makes decisions about their diet and nutrition based on what's best for them and their families. I respect whatever your choice may be. I've been asked about mine, so here's the explanation. To get to this point, I've read works by various food scientists and food historians (if you haven't read Michael Pollan, I highly recommend him). I've watched and read about the adventures of Andrew Zimmern, Adam Richman and Anthony Bourdain. I've got a Master's Degree in environmental science. I've used all of that information, along with my heart and instincts to come up with the system that works for me.

Since I've begun this project, I've had lots of people ask me what diet I'm following-Weston A. Price, GAPs, gluten-free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian...The list goes on and on. And the answer is none of the above. I'm using the great-grandma test. Would my great-grandmother, who was born in the 19th century and grew up in the rural Ozarks (and lived to be very nearly 100), recognize it as food or an edible ingredient? If the answer is yes, it's on my "diet". I recognize that what we eat is vitally important to our health and well-being, but most people only think about their physical well-being when they think about food. Food is just as important to your emotional and mental health. It's also important for cultural health. When civilizations lose their food culture, they lose themselves. That's when mental and physical disease starts creeping in. It's all related. In addition, any of those above diets can be unhealthy to body, soul and environment if they are done incorrectly. Plenty of vegetarians and vegans eat a lot of processed, conventionally produced food. That's no better for them or the environment than eating the same diet with conventionally raised meat added to it. I also see recipes for things like "paleo almond joy". The point of a paleo diet is that you're eating similarly to the earliest humans ("cavemen"). I'm pretty sure that there was never anything remotely like an almond joy in their diet.

In addition, many people use their adherence to a diet as a reason why they can't eat out, travel, or visit friends at meal time. I don't think any diet is so important (unless it's for a real medical reason-celiac disease, for example) that it should come between people and their interactions. So many people complain that we are becoming an increasingly isolated society, why add to that unnecessarily. Eating the traditional foods of another culture is one of the fastest ways to learn about them. Eating at a local diner is the best way to learn about a town. Sharing a meal with friends and family is the fastest way to create memories and intimacy.

So, I eat real, unprocessed food that I prepare in my kitchen. Sometimes, I eat food that I wouldn't normally because it was prepared with love by someone I care about. Sometimes, I eat at a restaurant I wouldn't normally choose because the people I'm with are more important to me than some "rule" about what I'm going to eat. And, when I go on vacation, I always, always, always go find the local places that prepare food that has been made and eaten in that region for generations.

For me, eating is not about a sterile, boring chore that has to be gotten through. For me, eating is about the bonds I've formed, the places I've been and the people I love.

October 26, 2011

Long Family Farm

This time of year everyone is looking for the apple orchard experience. Some folks drive miles and miles to go to a crowded, expensive orchard. Don't get me wrong. I love orchards and I've been to many of them. But, I love that I get to drive a short distance over to Long Family Farm in Commerce Township. I've mentioned Long's before because that's where I got my asparagus this summer. You can do a quick trip into the barn, get some cider, some *warm* doughnuts (watch both being made through the big windows), and pick up some apples. Outside, there is a big pile of pumpkins to choose from (they're only $5) and you can be on your way. OR buy a Fall Fun pass for $8 a person ($10 for a season pass) and head out back. With the fall fun pass you get access to the goat petting/feeding area, the bounce house, the two giant hill slides, the big bouncer pillow (fun for all ages-my legs were sore the next day!), the two sandboxes, the multiple wooden play structures, the pedal-powered go-karts, the hayride out to the pumpkin patch and, of course, the corn maze! Whew, I think I actually missed a couple things there, but you get the idea. There is a ton to do! My son would've stayed much longer than the almost 3 hours we were there.

They also do a moonlight corn maze on weekends. Glow stick included!

I can't recommend Long's stongly enough. Come out to my neck of the woods and check them out. You will not be disappointed. And, since the pumpkins are all $5 (instead of by weight like most places) this is the ideal spot to find your BIG pumpkin!

This is actually a picture from last year...I *ahem* forgot the camera...

October 25, 2011

Skull Island Haunted Halloween

I love Halloween! I love dressing up and heading to haunted houses. I love parties and friends and candy. Now that I'm a mom, I realize that many Halloween activities are either to scary for little ones or, to be honest, kind of boring. Enter Skull Island in the middle of Pontiac Lake in White Lake, Michigan.

Specifically geared towards elementary and young middle school students, Skull Island is spooky but not scary. For $35 you get entry for a group of up to 6 people and 20 tokens to use on the games, concessions and zip line. There's also a spooky trail, bonfire, bounce house, and play structure to enjoy for no extra charge. We got there early to enjoy as much as possible before it got dark and crowded. It was a beautiful night (about 65 degrees) so it got crowded fast, but getting there early is key! There is a short boat ride over to the island (life jackets are provided for the kids) and if you don't get there early, you might wait awhile for a boat. They have 3 boats that were circling constantly, but by the time we left (around 8pm) there was quite a line waiting on the mainland.

All in all, we had a good time and my oldest son is interested in the day camps and birthday parties that the camp offers in the summer time. Haunted Halloween is open one more weekend (Friday and Saturday) so go check it out!

October 20, 2011


So, some of you have found me out. I often write the outlines of posts early...and sometimes I accidentally hit "Publish" instead of "Save". Rest assured, those that clicked on my mistake, that a full write up of the Skull Island Haunted Halloween is on the way for next week. I hang my head in blogger shame.

October 19, 2011

Pinterest Project: Maple Cupcakes

You remember when I mentioned Pinterest? Well, I am full-on addicted. I love scrolling through everything that other members have posted and finding great things that I would never have seen otherwise. There is a downfall, however (well, besides the giant time suck that it can become), and that downfall is finding the time to actually do and make everything that you pin. So,  I've made a promise to myself that I'm going to start sorting through my pins (especially recipes) and try at least one every week. If it's good it goes in my recipe binder. If not, it gets unpinned, never to taunt me again!

My first test was this maple cupcake recipe from Country Living. I used the frosting recipe that is linked in the cupcake recipe. They turned out pretty well. I wish the cake part was more intensely maple-y. I'm definitely going to make them again, but I may use a darker maple syrup to up the maple flavor. On another note, I think the frosting would be delicious and decadent as a waffle or pancake topping.

October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tidbit: Today in History

The United States flag was formally raised over Sitka, Alaska on October 18, 1867.

October 17, 2011

Roasted Squash with Onions, Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

First, a note about the recipes I post here. Copyright and ownership are huge issues with recipes. If a recipe appears within the text of a post, it's one that I consider "mine". That's not to say that there isn't a similar one out there somewhere, but I didn't use one when I made it. If the recipe is online, I simply link to where I found it originally. And, if I've made a recipe out of a cookbook and it's not online anywhere, I will simply reference the book, but I will not repost the recipe. There are also recipes that are based on a well-known or basic foundation and can be found everywhere. I do post those. My lemon curd and preserved lemons both fall into that category.

All that being said, here's one that I put together for crisp fall evenings. I've made many variations of it and you can include any combo of root vegetables that you like. Try it with parsnips and sweet potatoes-yum! Feta cheese also works well.

Roasted Squash with Onions, Walnuts and Bleu Cheese
  • Peel and cut a medium butternut (or any other winter variety) squash into bite size pieces.
  • Toss with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper.
  • Roast in a 350° oven for about an hour (when the squash is soft and starting to carmelize, it's ready). About 30 minutes into the roasting time, add a sliced onion.
  • About 50 minutes into the roasting time, add a handful of chopped walnuts.
  • When everything is roasted, toasted and carmelized to your liking, remove from the oven.
  • Top with crumbled bleu cheese before serving.

October 16, 2011

Sunday Meditation

“Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness.”
― Khalil Gibran

October 11, 2011

Tuesday Tidbit

Ludington, Michigan
Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes and more than 36,000 miles of streams. You are never more than six miles from one of them.

October 9, 2011

Sunday Meditation

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”   
-Oscar Wilde

October 6, 2011

The Road to Financial Independence: Wine Tastings!

As you know by now, I've been experimenting with different ways of making some extra cash. My ultimate goal is to be able to create enough income that we will be financially independent, while still doing the things we want to do (helping pay for the boys' college, traveling, buying property for retirement, etc). A very popular way for people to make extra money on a part-time, at home basis is the home party company. You know what I'm talking about, the consultant comes to your house and sets up a display of whatever is for sale, they do a short presentation and then your guests get to shop in the comfort of your home, among friends. The parties are a lot of fun and everyone benefits. Now, I've tried a couple of these companies before with limited success. I was leery to embark on another of these adventures, but then I found Wine Shop at Home. I'm a fan of wine, so I looked into it and became a wine consultant.

Now, I earn extra money by going to people's houses and  performing guided wine tastings for them and their guests. It's a great time. They get to experience new wines with good friends and I earn extra money on my terms.

If you've been thinking about earning some extra money with a home party company, be sure to do your research. Find a product that you love and talk to another consultant or two to get a feeling for the structure of the company. It's not automatic money, you have do some work. You must network, promote, follow-up and, of course, do the parties. If you put time into it, though, you will reap the rewards!

And, of course, if you're in the southeastern Michigan area and love wine or need gifts (corporate or personal), visit my website and drop me a note! I'll be happy to assist you!

October 5, 2011

Follow Me On Facebook!

If you're on Facebook, come like the Living From Scratch page. I often post little tidbits, recipes or recommendations there. Especially short thoughts that don't warrant a whole post. So come follow and don't miss anything!

October 4, 2011

Organic Food in Surprising Places

I try very hard to buy fresh, local food. I visit farm stands, farmer's market and craft shows (a great place to find baked goods, jerky, jam, etc).  When the things I'm looking for are not available in those locales, or if those locales are unavailable (Michigan winters don't keep many farm stands in business!), I have to get them from grocery stores. I often shop at the local VG's chain and sometimes hit the (also local) Hiller's. I also hit the Michigan-based Meijer on occasion. All of these chains carry some organic products and they even mark the Michigan-based brands. If your local market doesn't carry many local items, talk to them and see if they'll start. Also ask them to mark the local products to build awareness.

Now, all that is well and good, but I must admit to a weakness. Costco. Buying in bulk, when done correctly (only buying what you'll use, comparing unit prices, etc) saves a ton of time and money. Not to mention packaging. Imagine my happy surprise when I began finding wonderful organic products in their vast aisles! Just goes to show that you can't discount any options when looking for affordable organic options.

October 3, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

It is football season! I am a huge fan of football food, the game, not as much. The food, though- it's portable, it's a bit on the indulgent side and it's fun! Now, I hear most of you wondering how I can justify football food while preaching real, homemade food. That's easy-I make real, homemade football food. When you make it yourself, you can modify the ingredients that you don't like, add ingredients that you love and swap out ingredients that are less than healthy. Understand, I'm not claiming that my football recipes are health food. That's part of the allure of football food-it's general unhealthiness-but, mine is better than what you find in your freezer section or at the local sports bar.

I threw this together as a munchy for my little guy's first birthday party. I made it up as I went, but it turned out great. This recipe is incredibly simple (so much easier than making poppers), healthier than deep fried poppers, and so yummy! Try it for your next party and see what you think. I bet you'll be happy with the results.

Jalapeno Popper Dip
  •  5-6 jalapenos (or serranos or cubanelles or...)
  • 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sour cream (add as much or as little as you want to acheive your desired consistency)
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used extra sharp and shredded it fine)
  • Roast peppers in a 450° oven for about 20 minutes. When the peppers are soft and the skins are dark, they're ready. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
  • Remove skins and seeds from cool peppers and chop the flesh finely.
  • Stir together chopped peppers and all other ingredients.
  • Refrigerate for at least an hour to let flavors come together. Serve at room temperature for easy dipping.
  • Place peppers in a paper bag as they cool to make peeling the skins off even easier.
  • Serve with tortilla chips or baked flour tortilla chips.
  • Adjust heat by adjusting the number or type of peppers you use.
  • No fresh peppers or short on time? Substitute canned green chiles.
  • For an interesting twist: add some crispy, crumbled bacon.

October 2, 2011

Sunday Meditation

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad. ~Edwin Way Teale

October 1, 2011

I'm baaaack!

OK, I promise this time! I'm recommitting to regular posting. I hope to go back to daily posting, but I promise new posts at least 3 times a week. Deal? Great!

What have I been up to in my absence from the blogosphere? Well, I've done some cooking, some gardening and some fun home projects. I've also gained another addiction: Pinterest. It's a great website that allows you to "pin" items you love from all over the web. You can also see what others are pinning. I've discovered a ton of great ideas and recipes!  Of course, actually doing any of the projects I pin is another thing altogether!

Anyway, I can't wait to update you on all my adventures and get back to posting about the craziness we get into over here at LFS-Central!
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