Saturday, February 15, 2014

To Mix or Not To Mix -- that is the dilemma!

Ok, I am trying to regain my sanity straighten out and reorganize my pantry. I seem to have an abundance of outdated food and many duplicates of things that I don't need.  I know why.  It is a large pantry and very disorganized so when I can't find something I need I just go out and buy more and then shove it in the over stuffed pantry on top of the stuff I already have.  If they had a show for Pantry Hoarders I would be a great candidate for it.

Hubs and I have been looking at ways to reorganize and so we made several purchases.  Since I am trying to cook more from scratch and less from processed, boxed foods, I am looking for storage for more raw ingredients.  I had several of these jars in the past, gave them away and realized lately that they were really good so I have purchased more.

We have a reasonably large pantry with L-shaped shelves.  That is all fine and good except for those pesky corners which are very difficult to deal with because things get lost in them.  When you are shorter, like I seem to be getting, the third shelf up is just too high for me to get into the corner so we bought  three of these for two of the corners.

We bought two large ones -- one for bottles and one for baking supplies.  I seem to constantly lose that little tin of baking powder.  You can't imagine how much I was able to put on these whirly gigs and clear off much shelf space.  The smaller one we use for meds.  We don't have medicine cabinets in the bathrooms so we keep those things in the kitchen but want them up out of the way of curious children.  So, they have worked well so far.

 I have been paying close attention to our food and what is in it so I am making more of an attempt to cook from scratch.  My husband doesn't like my cooking -- much prefers restaurant fare -- so I thought he would really like home cooked meals from scratch.  Wrong! Again -- he prefers restaurant food.  I, on the other hand, am tiring of it.  As I find myself harkening back to a different time (makes my childhood sound eons past) I realize that I really like my cooking, such as it is.  I like easy, simple meals -- mostly cooked in an oven because the stove top and I don't seem to play nice together. ( A couple of months ago I actually started my first ever grease fire but that is another story.)  However, I don't like all the junk that is in most of our foods -- from the unrecognizable ingredients in boxed goods to the linings of the cans.  I mean, seriously, why do they have to screw up the green beans -- those cute little diagonally cut morsels we all put in green bean casseroles?  So, in an effort to find scratch recipes that will successfully replace the boxed varieties and get rid of the poisonous cans, I have been doing lots of research and lots of playing in the kitchen.  Fortunately, Hubs has been a willing taste tester although he doesn't like much of what I am doing but at least he is honest.

My first attempt was to make a hot cocoa mix that would rival Swiss Miss.  I found a recipe online that was DIVINE! It consisted of powdered milk, unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and white chocolate chips.  Basically you grind it all up together in the food processor and mix 1/3 of a cup of the mix to a mug of hot milk.  It was perfect and entirely too sweet.  I am making an effort to cut sugar out of my diet but I am realistic and know that is going to be difficult so I am going about it slowly.  If I am going to eat something sweet I want it to be worth it. Today I tried to make it one cup at a time, without the powdered sugar.  It was really good but it didn't mix up well so I am going to concoct my own recipe and try again.

Then, I tried to find a recipe for brownies that were as good as a boxed mix.  I googled "chewy brownie recipe" and picked from the numerous sites that came up.  They were chewy all right -- as in not done even though I cooked them longer than the recipe called for.  I will be revisiting that with a recipe I found from Rachel Ray's site.  It calls for three types of chocolate so we will see.  I will probably have to rely on somebody else's opinion of these because I am pretty sure there will be too much sugar for me.

Then, there was the cornbread.  I like my cornbread to be a bit cakey rather than crumbly and I found a recipe that I thought would work to replace my favorite Pioneer Corn Muffin mix.  I had read a couple of other recipes that called for brown sugar in them and so I thought I would divide the sugar using white sugar for half and brown for the other half.  The recipes said "it made the cornbread".  Well, not for me.  The bread rose up beautifully and had a lovely texture.  It was a little darker due to the brown sugar but it tasted really -- well -- brown sugary.  Too much molasses.  So, I will try it again without the brown sugar and I will probably swap the milk with buttermilk and cut the sugar in half.

Fortunately my regular white bread recipe has turned out to be a winner.  I did substitute butter for the shortening but that was the only change I made and it is the only bread we have had in the house for weeks.  It makes a lovely full loaf and it lasts for several days unlike the bread made in the bread machine.  I also used one of these pans for the last loaf I made and I loved the results although most breadmakers will tell you to just use a regular aluminum loaf pan.  I have been using that sort of pan and it turns out great but I ran across this pottery pan in the back of a bottom cabinet -- I forgot I had bought it -- and it was really good.

So, I can't believe I am having all these culinary adventures in my old age but I am .  My three year old granddaughter wants to be a "cooker" and loves to get in the kitchen so I am having thoughts of trying to influence her to cook from scratch, something I could never achieve with her mother.  She already has a good sense of "good food" versus "bad food" so maybe with a little encouragement from me her interest in cooking will grow.  Of course, for that to happen, I have to work at it myself so maybe I will have some recipes to pass on to her when she gets that restaurant of her own she says she wants.  Or, maybe she will just be able to feed herself which is a good goal as well.

I Am Not Sure When it Happened .....

but, I have changed.

I am a child of the 50's -- you know, that perfect decade where all women vacuumed in high heels and pearls and children could run free without fear.

I am a teenager of the 60's -- you know, the perfect generation even with all the social discord and inequities and drugs but wonderful clothes and music which drove most of our parents to distraction and practically the poor house.

I was never a "flower child".  I was too busy being cute in preppy clothes and since I didn't seem to be able to grow long, gloriously straight hair it seemed pointless to try.  I did try being "mod" and would layer white eyeliner over blue eyeliner (thanks Maybelline!) and I tried my hand at asymmetrical hair cuts.

The 70's found me in the professional world which I didn't do very well, fashion wise, a wedding dress which I did quite well and for the rest of the decade I was in maternity or mommy clothes.

Everything after that was a blur.  I seemed to have completely lost my identity.  I can't remember what I did, other than Mommy things, or what I wore.

Now here I am -- 63 years old and suddenly discovering a "new" me.  I am a late bloomer -- now I am becoming a flower child -- environmentally that is -- not particularly politically -- I am too religious to think politically -- they don't seem to go together very well.  I digress.  I don't know what to do with this new found me.

I don't even know when it happened.  I could feel it coming on a few years ago when the news about plastics leaked (sorry for the pun) out. Then I started reading about the toxins in our everyday world -- things I had been exposed to all my life.  Then I thought about my children -- how much had I exposed them to toxic things never realizing.  The guilt was a little overwhelming.  I watched my parents pass away due to self inflicted diseases -- they were life-long smokers -- how could they do that, how could their addictions be more important than me -- how did their smoking affect me long term.  I started changing everything in our lives -- my husband's head was spinning.

 Then I got the diagnosis -- you know, the one everybody dreads.  You know, the one that seems to be more and more common and suddenly my interest in our environment -- generally and personally -- was tantamount. Nobody knows what happened with me.  I was asked if I smoked or lived in a smoking home -- well, yes, for twenty two years.  I got "the look", the nod and info duly noted.

So, since that little life altering event I have done a lot of major changes.  I have taken to buying more and more organic food.  I have just about completely cut sugar out of my diet and am eating more fruits and vegetables -- almost to the point of being vegetarian.  I have tossed all my cosmetics and skin care and have replaced these items with organic items -- most of which I can eat.

Good as skin moisturizer and to pop popcorn

good for facial masques and for burns

Good in granola and on your face

Ok -- don't eat this

 My household cleaning items consists of soap/water, baking soda and vinegar.  I make my own laundry soap and am planning to making my own dishwashing soap next week.   I am completely aware of everything I put on my body as well as in my body.  My husband isn't sure of all of this -- especially since I refuse to use his favorite Dawn dishwashing detergent  but I do allow it in the kitchen.

I have been doing all I can to increase my exercise without actually exercising, although some of that is going to start happening as well.  I bought a pedometer and now count my steps throughout my day.

If, late in the day, I don't feel as if I have walked enough, I have a "track" through my open concept house that I walk-- it is 100 steps around it so I just do several of those.  I was so stiff this morning that I did a few laps just to walk through the pain and loosen up -- it worked.

These are all things that have changed about me.  I have become more thoughtful about what I do and how I spend my time.  I have become acutely aware of what we, as humans, do to our environment and to ourselves and it is totally frightening.  I have, as a result, gone back to doing things like we used to do them when I was a child.  I wash more dishes by hand (little bit of exercise there), I bake our bread by a recipe that I mix with a spoon, not a bread machine--great upper body exercise.  I have regressed.  I have walked away from our modern, advanced life in many ways.  I watch less tv and read more books.  I have cut down on computer time and sleep more.

And, what have I got for all of this?  Am I healthier? I would like to think so.  Am I more socially aware?  Oh yes.  Am I richer?  Monetarily -- in a way because doing things the way I am doing them is cheaper.  I am not buying expensive cosmetics and skin care or cleaning items.

The things, however, that I have gotten from all of this is doing things the "old" way keeps us moving.  Using non toxic products and a little elbow grease won't hurt us.  If using less toxic cosmetics mean we use less and look more like ourselves-- so be it.   I have learned that less is truly more.  By feeling like I am doing something positive for myself, my family and those around me I feel calm.  I am not obsessing over things anymore.  I am not anxiety ridden anymore.  I am not frightened anymore and I am able to "live and let live".  I don't worry one whit about what people think about me or what I do or how I think.  I am focused on "paying it forward".  I haven't figured out how to do that on a large scale and maybe that is because it isn't supposed to be done on a large scale -- maybe it is the little things that count.  I don't know but that is my goal -- to pay it forward.  It is my purpose in life now, aside from my family, to do what little good I can for others and trying to reduce my carbon footprint is one of those ways.

Yes, I think I have become a flower child.  I wonder if I should try, once again, to grow long, glorious hair?