Friday, November 22, 2013

The Tiny Whole Foods Kitchen and Why We Don't Use a Microwave

What could these possibly mean?

a)  Another earth quake has hit Northern VA and wrecked havoc in our kitchen cupboards.
b)  Greg and Lisa have a jar fetish.
c)  It's time to clean up and reorganize our cupboards AGAIN.
d)  We desperately need a house cleaner.

OK, so maybe all of the above except A are true.  Honestly, this is a cyclical thing.  We organize our kitchen and in short order, it is messy and disorganized again.  Is this because we live in a tiny place?  Or does this happen to everyone?

Compound that with the fact that whole foods don't come in neat, stackable boxes that make for beautiful shelves.  Jars of honey and coconut oil, bags of dried fruit and nuts, and whole grains don't come in uniform packages.  Add on top of that a bevy of mason jars, stock pots and crock pots, and the cupboards can become a disaster.
We love cooking and eating this way, so we have had to be creative in how to store the whole foods and all their tools.
This post is dedicated to the art of organizing the tiny whole foods kitchen, highlighting a few of the successes we've had in our journey.  We are still wrestling our way through this challenge-- these are just a few tidbits we have found that worked.  We'd love to hear yours!

Guidelines for Surviving in the Tiny Kitchen

1. Keep only items that are necessary and used.  Living in small quarters leaves no room for luxury items that are used only occasionally.  Which leads to guideline #2.

2. Regularly clean out cupboards, drawers and closets. Give away or trash whatever has not been used within the last year (that's being generous -- I almost said 6 months -- you get the idea).   Chances are very good that you won't miss the discarded items.  And, you can easily pick them up cheaply at a yard sale or thrift shop if you need them later. 

3. A home for everything and everything in its home.  The only way to survive living in small quarters is for everything to have a designated "home".  The item is used and returned to its home afterward.  That way when you need to use it, you know right where it is. 

4.  Make use of vertical space.  I stack items on top of my cupboards.  I don't want to waste any square footage. I applied this concept to my closets some years ago, and had shelves installed all the way up to the ceiling.  Though it cost money, I make much better use of the top four feet of my closets.
6.  Get creative.  This is where you use whatever you can to remain organized:  shelves, boxes, crates, racks, glass jars, etc.  Use your creativity to make the most of your unique space.  We use peg board to hang our pots and pans to make room in our cupboard for the crock pot and the Dutch oven.
We also hang this cool retro spice rack on the wall to store our spices so we have room in the cupboard for dry goods. OK, looks like the spice rack needs some organizing, too!
Clear plastic shoe boxes have come in handy in so many ways in our small place, even in the kitchen.
We repurposed this CD shelf (found at the dumpster) and now it neatly holds all of our jars.  It was free and its the perfect size!
7.  Use your microwave as storage.  Yes, you heard me correctly!  We stopped using our microwave years ago and have conveniently used it to store items that otherwise would not fit in our kitchen.

Did you know?  Heating food using a microwave changes its chemical structure, inactivates its living enzymes and depletes its nutritional value.  Studies point to other deleterious health effects caused  by microwave use such as anemia, and low white blood count.
You can more read about those studies in Dr. Mercola's article:
I hope these ideas provoke creative thinking for you in your kitchen.  I'd love to hear what you come up with.

And, yes, I will post new pictures as soon as the cupboards are better.  For now, I leave you with a few fun photos of our tiny kitchen.


Happy Trails!

--Two Peas

Friday, November 15, 2013

Please Comment for Saving Farms: Sample Letter and Links

I know how much you value your fresh food and the farmers that grow it.  Did you know that family and small farmers' livelihoods could be in danger?
The FDA regulations under the Food Modernization and Safety Act could easily put small and family farmers out of business, leaving us only with the large, mono-crop industrialized farms. This will affect the consumer, too.  Read how:
"Under the proposed regulations, many farmers will be forced to comply with high-cost, industrial-scale regulations, and they will be unable to use traditional, sustainable growing practices. Food hubs and local food businesses will be forced to deal with costly and burdensome paperwork. Ultimately, consumers will face increased food prices and reduced availability of locally and sustainably produced foods."
You can read the full article here:
How can you help?
Please submit your comments to the FDA before midnight tonight.  The complete information is available via the Farm to Consumer link above.  I urge you to read it and understand the issues.  However, I've simplified the sample letter and links where to paste it.
Copy and paste my sample letter onto the two places for comments.  Links below. 
On-Farm Produce Rule
Preventive Control HARPC rule:
Lisa's sample letter:  Put your name after "Sincerely,"
"Nov 15, 2013
 Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
 Food and Drug Administration
 5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
 Rockville, MD 20852

Re: Preventive Controls Rule: FDA-2011-N-0920 and RIN 0910-AG36
 Produce Standards Rule: FDA-2011-N-0921, and RIN 0910-AG35
I am a consumer of fresh farm food.  I am deeply concerned about the impact that FDA’s proposed rules under FSMA would have on the farms that I buy food from.  .
I make a concerted effort to buy from farms that use sustainable practices because it is better for the environment, for the animals and for human beings.
I urge the FDA to address the following issues in the proposed FSMA rules:
TESTER-HAGAN “QUALIFIED EXEMPTION” in both the Produce Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule:
1. The gross sales test to qualify for the Tester-Hagan provision should be based on sales of food that is subject to FSMA, whether the produce standards or the preventive controls rule. Sales of food that would not be regulated under FSMA should not be included.
 2. The FDA should not rush the process of revoking a producer’s Tester-Hagan exemption. The agency has other mechanisms it can use if there is an immediate threat of foodborne illness.
a) The FDA should be held to specific evidentiary standards before it can revoke a farmer’s or food facility’s Tester-Hagan exemption.
 b) A farm or facility that is exempt under Tester-Hagan should be given at least 90 days to submit evidence and defend its exemption if FDA seeks to revoke it.
 c) If the exemption is revoked, the farm or facility should have at least two years to come into compliance with the FSMA rules.

1. The FDA’s approach to traditional farming methods, such as diversified livestock-crop farms, the use of working animals, and the use of biological soil amendments, is fundamentally flawed. The agency should not restrict these sustainable methods of farming without data showing an actual, verified increased rate of foodborne illness; the simple fact that these methods include diverse microbiological communities is not a sound scientific basis for restricting them.
 2. The waiting period between applying manure and harvesting the crop should be no more than 4 months, and there should be no waiting period between applying compost and harvesting the crop. The excellent track record for safety on organic farms shows that this standard is sufficient.
 3. Compost teas and other biological inoculants, including normal additives such as molasses, should be treated the same as compost.
 4. Water testing should not be required more often than once a month, and farmers should be able to test less frequently after establishing the safety of their water source through consecutive negative tests. In addition, farmers should be given the option to test for pathogens, rather than having to treat or stop using the water that tested positive for generic e. coli.
 5. The provisions on wildlife and domestic livestock need to be clarified to protect farmers who use biologically diverse farming from field inspectors using their discretion to require measures such as fencing or destruction of habitat.

1. “Very small facilities” should be defined as being under $1 million in total annual sales, adjusted for inflation. Imposing HARPC requirements on businesses smaller than that is unnecessary and overly burdensome.
 2. Any requirement for “supplier verification” should not prevent a facility from purchasing foods or ingredients from farms and facilities that are exempt from the regulations under the Tester-Hagan provision or other exemptions.
 3. Low-risk activities conducted by a farm using its own products, such as making jams, grinding grains, or dehydrating vegetables, should not be subject to these regulations.
 4. Low-risk activities, when conducted off-farm or by multiple farms working together, should not be subject to the same requirements as high-risk processing activities. The requirements should address both the scale of the operations and the level of risk of the activity.
Your Full Name Here"
You will feel good that you have done what you could!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanksgiving for Cold Days

It had been two weeks and this weekend's drive to our farm in Pennsylvania was shaping up to be like any other... except the landscape had turned golden, rust and brown and there was a definite sharp cold in the air.  As we pulled up, the woods surrounding our house were suspiciously gray and bare, the view of neighbors' flattened corn fields in full view.  It was true, winter would be here any day.

It was the kind of day you want to curl up with a good book, looking out through the window at the cold sky.  So that is what I did.  After all, grace is needed during this subtle transition from fall to winter.  It's colder, the days are shorter.

Thankfully, it is in this time of gloom that lovely blessings abound in disguise.  Here are just a few.
The desire to cook and bake accompanies the desire to warm oneself. 
Sheltering dear friends from the cold with warm coffee and bread.  
No yard work. 
Indulging oneself in reading, comfort foods and watching a good BBC movie.  
Yes, there is plenty to be thankful for.  Soon enough the days will be long busy with digging, planting, and weeding. Right now, it is good to just be here. 


Enjoy These Chill Chasers For a Cold Day

Spicy Warm Coconut Cream:  Heat Coconut Cream with a teaspoon of turmeric and dash of nutmeg. 

Spice-Flavored Coffee:  Sprinkle your favorite ground spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) into your coffee grounds just before brewing for a natural flavored coffee.  Add a teaspoon of honey to your brewed cup and your favorite cream.

Energy-Boosting Simple Lemon:  Twist a slice of lemon into a mug of hot water.  It's so simple, but tastes great and boosts energy.  Sweeten with honey.

Garlic Tea:  Crush a clove of garlic into hot water.  Add a teaspoon of honey and a twist of lemon.  Steep for 5 - 10 minutes. Great to chase away colds.  Start drinking as soon as you feel a tickle in your throat.  Drink 2-3 cups a day and the cold will disappear.

Peppermint Tea:  A simple way to dress up black tea.  Pinch off a few leaves of peppermint and infuse for 5 - 10 minutes in your cup of tea.

 Keep Warm,
--Two Peas

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Thanksgiving Stuffing with Turnip and Bacon

What do you do when life hands you a loaf of dry bread?  Make stuffing!
That is just what happened last weekend.  After a bread-baking fest last Friday, one of our loaves turned out just dry enough that it was not fit for sandwiches or soup. 

It was my first loaf of bread baked with organic Einkorn wheat flour.  This ancient wheat grain is unlike the wheat in today's market.  It has never been hybridized, and for that reason is radically different than today's wheat:  it is kind to the gut.  In fact many people with wheat or gluten intolerances can consume Einkorn wheat with no adverse reaction whatsoever.  This makes it an extremely digestible, gut-friendly choice for bread or stuffing.

For more information on Einkorn wheat, you can read this article by Sarah at the Healthy Home Economist:

We measured, proofed, kneaded, proofed and baked, according to the recipe on the bag. 

But, it wasn't meant to be.  This crusty loaf was officially deemed a "lesson learned". 
My husband, ever quick on his feet, instantly suggested we make stuffing out of the bread.  I thought, "I have never made stuffing from a loaf of bread before."  I had always bought the bag, followed the directions on the bag, and not given stuffing much thought.  It couldn't be that hard, could it? 

Now, the norm in our home is to work with what we have on hand, and last weekend was no different.  We did not have sage or celery in the house, but we had a turnip and some other herbs.  Those could work.  Oh, and we just happened to be cooking some pastured bacon at that moment.  Lucky us!  We could use bacon grease instead of butter, and then chop up some bacon and fold it into the stuffing.
So, we used bacon grease, turnip, onion, garlic and herb seasoning in the stuffing.  It was amazing!  The turnip added moisture and crispness without too much flavor.  The bread absorbed all the liquid and was moist.  And, well, bacon makes everything better.  It was so good, we plan on making it again for Thanksgiving.

Recipe:  Stuffing with Turnip and Bacon

5 cups of cubed bread (if prepared without herbs, add herbs to the stuffing)
1/4 lb of pastured, uncured bacon (free of nitrites and nitrates)
1 cup broth or water
2 tablespoons bacon grease (we probably used more to be honest!)
1/2 turnip, chopped finely
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup suggested herb mix: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram, fennel, coriander, bay leaf **Note: use just 2 tablespoons if your bread was baked with herbs
1/4 cup toasted chopped hickory nuts (totally optional -- we happened to have some from our friends' tree)
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Cook bacon, reserving the oil.  In an 8-quart sauce pan, sauté the turnip, onion and garlic in the bacon grease until very soft.
2.  Stir in the herbs.
3.  Add water and bread cubes and stir together.
4.  Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes on warm/low to let the bread steam and completely soften.

This recipe was posted on the Food Renegade Fight Back Fridays for Nov 8, 2013.

Enjoy!  Let me know if you end up using the recipe!

-- Two Peas