Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bi-Monthly Book Look - January/February

I thought I'd take a look at the books I read in January and February of this year.  Maybe you'll find something here you like.

I've divided them into non-fiction and fiction.  Beyond that, they are in the order they were read.

Making It - Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen
My rating: 5 of 5.  This is a great book of formulas, recipes and instructions for making homemade food, drinks, cleaners and useful objects.  I liked this book well enough that I bought a copy for myself.

Fed Up With Lunch - The School Lunch Project - Mrs. Q
My rating: 3 of 5.  A Chicago-land teacher decides to eat her school's hot lunch every day for a year, and lived to tell about it.  While interesting, the book offers little to solve the problem of the declining quality of school lunches.

Made By Hand: My Adventures in the World of Do-It-Yourself - Mark Frauenfelder
My rating: 4 out of 5.  This is one man's account of his decision to delve into the world of "makers".  Not only does he describe his own experiences, but he discusses the philosphies behind what he calls the "DIY Movement" and the value of making mistakes.  It was a fun read and as someone who has always been a do-it-yourselfer  to some extent or another (and who doesn't think of this as a "movement" at all),  it was interesting to see the processes of DIY projects from the point of view of someone who wasn't naturally called to work with his hands.


The Heart Specialist - Claire Holden Rothman
My rating: 4 out of 5.  Historical novel about one of Canada's first female physicians.

Gone For Good - Mark Childress
My rating: 3.5 out of 5.  A 1970s rock star finds himself plane-wrecked on a tropical island, where other inhabitants include Marilyn Monroe, Amelia Earhart and other famous dead folks.

11/22/63 - Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5.  What if you could travel back in time and prevent JFK's assassination?  That would be a good thing.  Or would it?

I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive - Steve Earle
My rating: 5 of 5.  Alt-country music fans will recognize Steve Earle as a singer/songwriter; I think he does an impressive job with his first novel.  Imagine being a washed up heroin-junkie physician living with the ghost of Hank Williams.  What would it take to make you go clean?  (Coincidentally, this was the third novel in a row that included JFK among their casts of characters.  What are the chances?)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quick and Easy Indian-Style Chicken

Chicken used to be a frequent "guest" at our table because it was so inexpensive, but since I've started buying only free-range, organic chicken, it's become more of a special treat for us.  Because we only buy one fryer every month or so now, I try to be more selective about the chicken recipes I make.

I knew this would be a dish that Shane and I would enjoy, but I honestly wasn't sure what Kat would think of it.  I was so happy to find out that she loves it. 

It's an easy dish, which is always nice.  Just cut up a whole chicken (or buy it already cut) and pour a simple sauce over it, then bake it.  I think the recipe is better suited to dark meat, but breast pieces work well, too.

Unfortunately, I can't remember where I first saw the recipe I based this on, so I'm not able to give credit where it's due.

Quick and Easy Indian-Style Chicken

1 whole fryer chicken, cut into pieces (or 6-8 pieces pre-cut chicken)
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional, but without it I felt it was lacking)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish (or lidded oven-proof skillet) with your favorite pan spray.

Place chicken pieces in prepared dish.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine remaining ingredients and stir well to combine.  Pour over chicken pieces.  Turn chicken pieces a couple of times to coat them well with the sauce mixture.

Cover with foil (or lid) and bake for 45 minutes.  Remove foil or lid, spoon drippings over chicken pieces, and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes to brown.

Serve with regular, brown, or coconut rice.  Spoon pan drippings over rice and chicken as desired.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

This post is being shared at the Hearth and Soul Hop with Premeditated Leftovers and Delicious Dish Tuesdays with Full Time Mama.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Un-Happy Meal

I was contacted this morning by an administrator at FrugalDad to inform me of today's post there and to ask if I'd like to share the following graphic.

I used to be as big a junk food junkie as anyone.  Even now, I can't say I never have or will never again go to McDonald's or some other fast food place.  I can say that as time goes by, those visits are becoming less frequent.  Visits to McDonald's specifically are down to about once or twice a year.  Visits to all fast food places are down to about once every couple of months.  I also refuse to buy any more meals with toys.  Shane calls them "one-time toys" because they are junk and usually break or get tossed out after one use.

How often does the average family with kid(s) eat at McDonald's?  I really have no idea, but I'm confident it's more than we do.  How often do parents give in to the lure of the toy?  According to the graphic, a lot!  Some of the other statistics stated may surprise you.

It's going to be hard enough to keep Kat away from places like this once she is a teen and has some peer-pressure-driven autonomy.  I feel like I should do what I can now to steer her away from junk so that later, she might sometimes make better choices when she's out with friends.  At the very least, she'll be aware of the choices she makes and won't be simply following the pack.

What about your family?  Do you frequent McDonald's or other fast food places?  If so, how much does "meal-with-toy" marketing influence what you order for your kids?  Have your fast-food habits changed over time?  Discuss.


Money-Makin' Weekend and Random Thoughts

  • Like Goldilocks, sometimes you have to figure out what's "just right".  Shane said he wanted to work on something, but didn't know what.  I suggested the basement, but the look he gave me let me know he wasn't up for that.  So I suggested just the one corner of the basement that holds the camping gear that we don't use now that we have a camper.  That was a project that was just right for him.  He was able to put about 1/3 of it into the camper, 1/3 of it out to the curb to give away and the rest is listed on craigslist.
  • Because our logic is a little skewed, selling camping gear logically led to us selling an old Atari game system and several games to go with it. We didn't have the cables needed to hook it up to our TV at home, and the people at the used game store couldn't figure out how to hook it up at all, so we never did figure out if it worked or not.  The game place gave us a little less than $20 for all of it, but that was ok, because we only paid $10 for it at a garage sale a couple of years ago.
  • We also sold some gold rings that we no longer wore or wanted.  I guess I always figured those "We Buy Gold" storefronts were scams and that they wouldn't be willing to give more than pawn shop prices for jewelry, but I was wrong.  We received FAR more than I ever imagined we would.
  • On Sunday, we decided to work in the garden.  But somehow that morphed into taking our pop-up camper to the car wash and cleaning it up so we could set it up, get some pics and list it on craigslist.  We had it sold within two hours to the first person who inquired, and had three people lined up that I had to turn down.  Think we underpriced it?  Maybe, but it couldn't have been by much.  I think it's just getting to be the time of year people want to get out in the wild.  I don't blame them.  I can hardly wait to get our bigger little camper out for a weekend.

Bye-bye pop-up.  (Token post photo so that Mark stays happy.)

  • All told, we made a good chunk of money this weekend and had only one casualty.  The older of our two deep freezers finally bit it.  It was 11 years old, so we got a lot of use out of it, although we'd hoped it would last longer.  Unlike Shane's usual MO, I don't think he's going to try to fix it.  We'll probably just give it away on craigslist to someone who wants it for locked feed storage or something like that.
  • We didn't lose any of the deer meat, turkey, chicken or containers of lemon juice in the dying freezer.  Thankfully, all the pork was in our other deep freezer, but we did lose three pounds of shrimp.  I guess the salt-water content in them is why they thawed when nothing else did.  Shrimp was on the menu for Saturday's supper, which is how we found out we were having a problem again.  With nothing else thawed, we decided up going out for Mexican food and margaritas and called it date night.
  • I've heard some people say that microwave ovens are dangerous.  Now I know why.  After letting a couple loaves of bread rise in microwave, I was transferring the pans to the gas oven below it.  I managed to smack my scalp on the open microwave door hard enough to break skin. Forget radiation.  Head injuries are the real danger here.

So, how was your weekend?  I hope it you sold something and that you didn't get hit on the head.  :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anti-Inflammatory Dieting: Wrap-Up

Today is the last Friday for me to report my progress as I participate in Erica's anti-inflammatory dieting challenge.

So, how'd I do this week?  Better, I think. 
  • We continued to keep added sugar at lower levels in our home-cooked food and drinks, and continued using organic cane juice crystals, honey and maple syrup as our sweeteners.
  • Our meals were pretty meaty, with venison and pork being the protein in most of them.  Organic free-range (storebought) chicken also made an appearance in a couple of meals.
  • I managed to get a bit more exercise this week with a couple of afternoon walks and another 3-story stair climb at my doctor's office.  I know that doesn't sound like much, but if it's not something I normally do around the house (cleaning, gardening, hanging laundry, etc.), then I just don't get much exercise.
  • After said doctor's appointment and fasting lab work, I treated myself to lunch at a local restaurant called Ingredient.  It was a better choice than most places I could have gone.  I had a sandwich of salmon, bacon, avocado, spinach and tomato on an in-house-made ciabbatta roll and a side order of "grilled and chilled" veggies that included asparagus, onion, squash, and peppers.  I didn't feel much guilt about that meal.  :)
  • I'm still using a lot of coconut oil in cooking and as a stir-in for oatmeal.   If you add coconut oil, coconut, nuts, and maple syrup to oatmeal, your breakfast tastes a whole lot like the coconut-pecan frosting that's typically on German chocolate cake.  Now how can that be wrong?
  • We drank kombucha most days, and we're currently trying to figure out how much to make to keep us in our kombucha habit.
  • I wasn't trying to lose any weight, and I didn't.  I weigh exactly the same as I did a month ago.

Where did I fail?  A few places:
  • We ordered pizza one night.  Not utterly horrible, but I'm pretty sure it would have been more healthy if I'd made it at home.
  • On the same evening, I gave in to a craving for a Route 44 Vanilla Coke from Sonic.  Not just sugar, but sugar on top of sugar.  I found out later that Shane had also drank a soda that day.
  • Did not do quite as well at sticking with my sleep schedule.  There were a couple of nights when it was midnight or close to it when I turned out the light, and I felt it the next day.

My thoughts:
  • I think, after most of a month trying to eat better, I do feel better.
  • The pain I had been feeling in my right shoulder and right hip has been noticeably less the    past few weeks. 
  • I think, most days, my energy and mental focus were better this month.

What now?
  • We'll continue with the sugar reduction/changes in our drinks and baked goods here at home.   Why give up now that we have a good start?
  • We will continue using a lot of coconut oil in our foods and also our homemade health and beauty aids.
  • We'll continue to eat a meaty diet of wild venison, locally raised pork, occasional free-range poultry and occasional seafood.  I'll be trying to work salmon into our diet a little more often.
  • I don't think any of us is ready to give up grains, but I will continue to research healthier ways to cook them.
  • There might be one more follow-up post for me.  Because I was in a migraine medication study, I had lab work done on January 28 and again on February 22.  Since those dates nearly coincide with this diet challenge, improvements (or setbacks) should show in the blood work.  It will be a week or more before I get the results, but if there is anything to post about, I will at that time.
The nature of a challenge like this caused me to be more aware of food and dieting in general.  The way I see it, there are always better choices to be made, so why not make them?  On the other hand, there are always better choices to be made, but there is no way to make every one of them, so why not cut myself some slack?  I think the best a person can do is educate themselves, decide what makes sense to them, make all of the easy changes, make some of the more challenging changes, and make a couple of the really difficult ones.  See what happens, then tweak things as needed.  An all or nothing approach can be a good thing (like when I quit smoking), but I think in most things, baby steps lead to better success.

What do you think?  Have any of you made any recent dietary changes, and if so, how's it going for you?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February Sewing/Crafting - "That Afghan" Is Finally Done

The afghan I started more than two and a half years ago as a wedding gift for my daughter and SIL is finally done!    And I have to say, "What a relief!"

Now don't get me wrong.  I like the afghan and I think it's very pretty.  It wasn't that difficult to do, but it was really beyond the scope of my patience.  All those color changes, then working the ends in was te-di-ous!  I also realize, looking back, that I should have got my new eyeglasses long before I did.  Switching from lined bi-focals to transitional multi-focals really improved my staying power as I finished up this month.

My best guess for this project is 120 to 150 actual clock hours of stitching.  So, yeah, it could have been -- and should have been -- done a long time ago.

Below is a pic from the original pattern, done in Country yarn.

My daughter asked for to have the Claret (red) replaced with a deep plum and the Peacock (blue) replaced with a teal.  I think her choices were good ones, but they necessitated a yarn change. The final product was worked up in Red Heart Soft yarn.  The original pattern measured 50" x 64", but I added rows so that the one I made measures approximately 72' x 90".

My daughter hasn't seen the finished product yet, but I think she'll be pleased.  If nothing else, she'll be glad to finally get it.  :) 

I bought myself a large knitting loom a couple of years ago and still haven't used it because I was waiting to get this done.  Now that it's finished, I can get started on something for myself with the loom.  I'm not sure what yet, but I can guarantee it will be just one color!

That will probably be my April project.  For March, I'll be sewing a couple of things for Kat; I don't want to put them off any longer; I'm afraid she might outgrow them before I get them done!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Free Compostable Seed Starter Cups from Citrus

We all know about compost, and how letting food scraps break down can help feed our gardens.  Well, here's another way food can help grow more food.

My friend Sharon passed this on to me via Pinterest several weeks ago.  Isn't it great? 

We ate several oranges and grapefruits in January, carefully cutting them in half across their "equator" and scooping the fruit out.  We let the rinds dry, since we knew we'd not be using them for a little while, then stored them in a glass jar with the lid kept off.

When it's time to use them, just fill the dried cups with potting mix and sow away.  When you water the cups, the rinds rehydrate and smell really good.

Alternately, you could rehydrate them first by soaking them in water for half an hour or so.  They'll be more flexible for handling while filling them.  Whichever way you choose is fine.

When you're ready to plant out, you can try planting the entire thing, rind an all right into the soil.  However, because we've had trouble with commercial peat pots breaking down quickly enough when we've planted them, and because not all plants need acidic food, we suggest removing your seedlings and surrounding soil from the citrus cup.   Plant the seedling and toss the cup in the compost bin.|

This post is being shared at the Hearth and Soul Hop with Premeditated Leftovers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

While Using Your Spring Seed Starting Rack, Keep This Tip in Mind for Fall

It's time for us to get the ol' seed starting rack (aka mini greenhouse) out again and load it up with seeds. Here are some pics from last year:

But while I'm thinking of it, here's a tip for fall, using the same rack.  If you find yourself with lots of green tomatoes still on the vine at first frost (like we did last fall), you can use the rack for ripening your tomatoes.

One way is to in a sunny doorway just like you would for seed starting.

Or you can do what we did and set it up in your basement, away from direct light.  We placed sheets of cardboard on the shelves for added support and to keep small tomatoes from falling through.  You'll not want a lot of light, so cover the entire rack with large trash bags or sheets.  We had some really big plastic bags that people use to discard Christmas trees, so we used those.  They are white, but in the dark basement, they worked well enough.

The idea is to trap natural gasses under the bag to accelerate the ripening process.  It's the same idea as throwing a few tomatoes in a paper bag to ripen, only on a much larger scale.

It worked very well for us.  Every couple of days I would go downstairs, lift the trash bags, and "harvest" a dozen or so of the ripest tomatoes and bring them upstairs to the kitchen table to finish off in the sunlight.  The we just pulled the bag back down and let the green tomatoes continue to ripen.

No, they aren't as sweet and red as vine-ripened tomatoes when you do them this way, but they are still much better-tasting than any tomato you'll buy in a store.

I suggest bookmarking this tip.  I intend to post it again in the fall, but knowing me, it'll slip my mind by then.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another Weekend In the Books

Before I start the week, I want to give a big thanks for all the new "Likes" on Facebook.  Likes for the Haphazard Homestead page on Facebook doubled over the weekend!  I think most of it was because I linked Saturday's rainwater post to a FB status update by Common Sense Homesteading, but also because I "Liked" several new pages myself.  Whatever the cause, I'm happy to see so many new folks checking out the page and the blog.  Thanks!


How was everyone's weekend?  Ours was a mixed bag, as usual. 

Kat was supposed to have been with her mom, but because of some scheduling conflicts, my daughter couldn't take her for the entire weekend.  Instead she came here and spent a few hours and also took Kat to see a matinee of The Secret World of Arrietty, which they both said they enjoyed.

While they were gone, Shane and I sneaked off for a couple of romantic hours alone at Orscheln Farm and Home, Tractor Supply Co., and Home Depot.  What? You have a different notion of romance?

We were tracking down seed potatoes and quick-set concrete.  The taters are self-explanatory.  The concrete is to set a pole for an over-sized martin house that Shane's step-dad has built for us.

The rest of the day was more or less uneventful.  For supper, I made a Hunan Beef sort of dish using venison, which turned out really well.  Afterward, Kat and Shane played some video games together while I worked on "the afghan".  It's almost done.  I'm putting the edging on today and just need to literally tie up a few loose ends.  Pics will be this week for sure.

Sunday was more of the same (uneventfulness), which isn't all bad.  Shane enlisted Kat's help in putting up some tie-back brackets for the drapes I hemmed last month.  I spent the morning in the kitchen getting things ready for later in the day, then had a little time to check email and Facebook.

At 4:00 on the dot, Shane's mom and step-dad showed up, supposedly to have dinner and bring us the aforementioned martin house.  But, for some reason they didn't bring it; I'm still not sure what's up with that.  We visited for a while, then Shane grilled some pork steaks to go with dinner.  Oh My Yum!  In the past, pork steaks have been a take 'em or leave 'em kind of food for me, but the way he grills them (and that they came from the farm-raised hog we bought last year) makes them irresistible to me. I made a big batch of potato salad, some green beans and layered lettuce salad to go with them.  MIL brought a fruit salad and we all ate and ate and ate.  I'm not sure why, but it all just hit the spot last night.

We were going to play a board game or dominoes after supper, but for some reason, that didn't happen, either.  I think we were too full! 

Kat doesn't have school today (President's Day), but we don't have anything special planned for her day off.  How about you?  Do you have the day off, and if so, are you doing anything fun?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Catching The Rain

Look! A Saturday post! This won't happen often, but I wanted to post about our rain catchment set-up so I could link it to a thread on Facebook. This is picked up verbatim from my old blog, from March 31, 2010. Enjoy!

Our backyard still needs a little spring cleanup, but I thought I'd go ahead and post about our rain gathering system, since gardening season is beginning.

We first got the idea for using these translucent white food grade tanks for our rain water when we were stalking my bloggy friend Sharon's house one evening.  She and her husband Kevin have similar tanks.  Basically, we've diverted all rain that falls on the house into the top tank, which sits on the house's original back stoop.  When it's full, we empty it into the lower tank and let the top tank fill again.  While we will use water from either tank, we usually will draw from the top tank if possible, because gravity makes the water flow faster.  Eventually we may get a pump for the lower tank to solve the flow issue.

At first, we blocked the downspouts on the other end of the house, but found that the tanks were getting full while the gutters were overflowing, so Shane opened the other end up again.  Currently, we aren't collecting rain on that end, but it's definitely an option for us in the future.

We found the tanks, which hold 275 gallons each, on craigslist; we paid $130 for both.  We've seen them both cheaper and more expensive since then.  Shane recalls that he had to buy some of the downspout material, some brackets and a couple of hose fittings for the spigots were also purchased.  The total cost for the entire setup was about $175.

What I do know is that we saved a bundle on water last summer.  We planted out in April, before we bought the rain tanks, and our first billing after planting was 50% more than our average!  After we bought the tanks, our bills went back down to average for the rest of the season.  We believe the money we saved in the first season recovered most of the cost; soon we'll be seeing nothing but savings from our rain barrels.

Granted, each season will be different and the savings will fluctuate.  When there is a lot of rain, we collect a lot of water, but we don't need to use as much of what we collect.  During a dryer season, we'll collect less, but will use more (or all) of what we collect.   Still, any savings is a good savings, both for our budget and for the environment.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Anti-Inflammatory Check-In

As many of you know, I've been following along with Erica at NW Edible Life as she takes on a month of anti-inflammatory dieting.  I've been participating to a small extent.  I know this kind of post isn't for everyone, but I think there is only one or two more update after this, so I hope you'll please bear with me.  Here's my recap for the week. 

I had some setbacks:
  • I made lunch for my grown daughter, who follows a vegan diet.  I made whole wheat pasta with cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, oven-dried potatoes and garbanzo beans.  We each added various oils and seasonings, and  I opted for vegetarian rather than vegan by adding three kinds of cheese to mine.  It was really tasty, so I ate the leftovers for supper that night and again for lunch the next day.  All that carby, veggie goodness made it hard for me to stay awake by Saturday afternoon.
  • On Sunday, we visited my dad and he served us mostly junk.  Now, of course I had the choice to not eat, and I did avoid some of it, but I would never intentionally hurt the feelings of a host (especially family) who sets out food with love.  So I did the best I could.
  • I do, however, claim full responsibility for the second soda I had on the way home from my dad's. 
  • I ate a school lunch on Valentine's Day.  You can read about it in my post from Wednesday.
  • I don't think I did a single thing toward getting extra exercise this week.

I made some gains as well:
  • I reduced the sugar in our big batches of iced tea even more than last week.  We were using 3/4 cup in a gallon of tea, and now we are down to 1/2 cup.  
  • I am still using honey, cane juice crystals, molasses, etc. in baking, although I didn't do as much baking this past week. 
  • I have rediscovered the wonders of coconut oil.  I knew about the health benefits that come from eating it, but I had never really put coconut oil into heavy rotation in my kitchen.  It is now!  
  • Coconut oil is making it's way into our bathroom, too, as a moisturizer, toothpaste, hair conditioner and so on.
  • I've been trying to add more veggies to our evening meals.  For supper, we usually have meat, a starch and two veggies (or maybe just one veggie occasionally).  I'm trying to add a third vegetable, or sometimes a piece of fruit, to most of our dinners.
  • I'm doing great at eating breakfast.  I don't think I missed a day all week.  I've had either oatmeal, oat bran or an avocado for most of my morning meals, and when it was oats, I stirred in a spoonful of coconut oil.
  • We're still drinking kombucha daily, and in fact, I set up a continuous brewing system yesterday.
  • We did not go candy crazy on Valentine's Day.  I bought Kat two small candy items and rounded out her gift with a craft kit.  Something to do, rather than something to eat.  :)  I made a batch of just five cupcakes from my Small Batch Baking book, but I used whole wheat flour, coconut oil and cane juice crystals in the cake and real butter in the frosting instead of ingredients that were listed.  BTW, one of those cupcakes still sits in the fridge uneaten.
  • We ate salmon twice during the week.  Living in the Midwest, the choices are frozen or canned.  If it is "fresh" (as in, not frozen) in the seafood case, it was probably still frozen during transit.  We ate previously frozen fillets one night and quinoa-salmon patties from canned salmon another.  In both cases, I made sure they were wild, not farmed.  We all like fish, so these dishes were a hit.
  • I'm still sticking to my 11:00 p.m. to 6 a.m. sleep schedule.   I find it really makes a positive difference when I stay on a schedule.

As for how I feel, the most noticeable change is that I feel like I have more energy during the day, and that I might be sleeping better at night.  When I didn't eat meat for several meals in a row, I felt a lot more sluggish, then better when I finally did eat some animal protein.

I feel like my skin is clearer and brighter. 

I had a migraine headache, but it was both milder and shorter in duration than most.  While I'd love to attribute that to something dietary, this will have to happen consistently before I chalk it up to anything other than some good luck.

One other thing I've noticed is that I've been comfortably warm.  I have hypothyroidism and I often feel uncomfortably cool.  That condition seem to have improved very recently.

It's just past mid-month.  Plenty of time to do better in the next couple of weeks...I hope.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

With Thursday You Get Cats

Yesterday I worked most of the day on my February craft project (otherwise known as that $#@! afghan), and today I really need to be in the kitchen.  I have no post ready, and nothing quick and easy is coming to mind, so you get cat pics today.

Tuxie and Siesta.

Swiper, in a drawer.

Same cat, different drawer.

Siesta -- napping.

Siesta -- napping.

Siesta -- napping.

Kitty television.  They really need to clean the screen, though.

One of our outdoor ferals.  I have no idea what he got into that day, but he was adorably dirty.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lunch at School

Whether I'm eating it, growing it, or just thinking about it, food is on my mind a lot.  So, after having been asked by Kat, and having recently read Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project, and because it was Valentine's Day, I decided to have lunch with Kat at school yesterday.

I knew I shouldn't expect the homemade whole wheat dinner rolls or chicken and noodles that were standards in my school cafeteria growing up.  I doubted I should even expect made-from-scratch breads like those we made when I was a substitute lunch lady a few years ago.  Nor did I think that I'd be staring down at a handful of nasty paper and cellophane microwave meals like those pictured in Fed Up With Lunch.  What I ended up with was just what I expected -- something in the middle.

I was all set for an entree of biscuits and sausage gravy.  That's not one of their usual lunch offerings, but I like B&G much better than a toasted cheese sandwich, a hot dog or a "sunbutter" and jelly sandwich, which were my other options. 

As it turned out, because of the snow day, Monday's menu was served instead of Tuesday's.  My new choices were a breaded chicken patty on a bun, "Italian Dunkers", a hot dog or the sunbutter sandwich.  I chose the Dunkers, which were two halves of a hot dog bun with mozzarella cheese melted over them and spaghetti sauce for dipping.  I decided to call them "almost breadsticks".  With them I was offered canned peas and whatever I wanted from the salad bar.  I said yes to the peas, and chose lettuce salad and half an orange from the bar.  I also chose 2% milk; other milk choices were fat-free chocolate or strawberry.  The only dressing available for my salad was ranch.

Kat was a few people ahead of me in line.  When I caught up with her at the table, I saw that she had also chosen the Italian Dunkers, but her only other picks were strawberry milk and a whole banana.  Not good enough, but it wasn't the school's fault. Several veggies had been offered but she didn't take them.

As we ate, I asked Kat what would happen if she had only picked the main entree, and she said she also had to chose one fruit or veggie and one milk.  I asked her what would happen if she wanted a lot of the food from the salad bar.  She said that she could have a total of 5 items, including the main dish and her milk.  (At older grade levels, these limits increase, I think.)

Kat and I both ate everything on our plates.  I didn't especially enjoy the "almost breadsticks", and the peas were like any other canned peas.  On the other hand, the items on the salad bar were all very fresh and tasty.  The ranch dressing was overly sweet and reminded me more of bottled coleslaw dressing than ranch.  I would have preferred whole milk over 2%, but whatever. 

I paid $3.15 for my meal and felt like, in terms of quantity, I got a fair shake.  I left feeling comfortably full.  Kat's meal was $2.05.  I didn't think she had two dollars worth of food on her plate, but I'm sure on other days she does.

The meal wasn't especially healthy, but it didn't disgust me, either.  What did disgust me was that Kat had only 15 minutes to eat.  I couldn't finish my meal that quickly and sat for another 5 minutes after she left to finish up.  I don't think that is nearly enough time for students to eat their lunch. 

But wait...this was just something that happened today.  Kat is in a group of four students who are studying for some upcoming standardized tests.  For some reason, one of the boys in the group thought it was time for them to head to their study group 10 minutes early.  I would have thought a staff member would escort them, but I guess they are on their own for this activity.  In any event, I learned that lunch sessions are all 25 minutes long.  That's much more reasonable than 15 minutes.

In general, I think the school lunches could be better, but I don't think I'll deny Kat her favorites, which only come up about once a week.  She asks to take her lunch the rest of the time.

What do you think? Do you think this is an absolutely awful lunch or, like me, do you think it's fairly mediocre? 

If you have kids in school, do you let them eat the hot lunch, and if so, what kinds of things are served?

Does your school offer a salad bar, and if so, do your kids eat from it?  It seemed to me that a lot kids were choosing a banana or some canned peaches for their side item, but little else. 

Do your kids have enough time to eat and digest properly? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making Music

While Shane was working out of town for so many months last year, he decided to take up the guitar to combat the boredom of sitting in the motel room in evenings. 

We had picked up a cheap youth guitar at a garage sale last spring when Kat said she might want to learn.  She quickly found that the fantasy was better than reality, so Shane started out by taking that youth guitar with him.  Soon, though, he wanted one more his size, so he bought a good used one Eleca from a pawn shop in the town where he was working.  It's not a big name brand, but it sounds and looks nice.

6-string Eleca on the left.

While scouting for online lessons, some of which are on YouTube videos, he ran across something called a Diddley Bow (aka, primal slide guitar).  Of course, he had to make one, just to see if he could. He messed around with that for a little while, but was soon back at the "real" guitar.

That's when he found his nice little Martin Backpacker guitar at a really good price on craigslist.  Isn't it cute?  We actually have it hanging on the wall in our bedroom and it looks surprisingly attractive there.

Martin Backpacker.

 More recently, Shane and I both read the book Made By Hand: My Adventures in the World of Do-It-Yourself by Mark Frauenfelder.  One of the things he mentioned among his attempts to garden, keep chickens and bees, and supercharge his espresso maker was that he made a banjo from a piece of wood, some guitar strings and a tin can.  Of course, Shane had to try it, and actually ended up making two.  (By the way, we both recommend this book.)

That was Saturday, and on Sunday we visited my dad, who is a junker/reseller of the highest order.  He picked up this 1970s Ensenada 12-string guitar, sans the strings, for $3 at a garage sale.  It was priced at $5, but of course, he had to bargain a little for a better price.  My dad spent another $25 getting it strung and tuned at a music shop and had plans to sell it when he realized it has a physical flaw that could keep him from getting very much for it.  But it's still playable and sounds good, so he is letting Shane borrow it for as long as he wants it.

Old Ensenada 12-string.

Thus the story of Shane's instrument collection.  And now the good (or bad) news, depending on how you look at it.  I thought our camera only recorded video, but I learned it records audio, too.  It just doesn't have audio playback capability; I have to play the videos on the computer to hear them.  Why would I consider that bad news?  Because I usually can't be bothered to watch embedded videos and maybe you can't, either. 

If you do (want to be bothered, that is), just watch these.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Another Long Weekend

Three-day weekends are becoming commonplace around here. This is the third in a row, I think, for Shane to be home either on Friday or Monday. Today he's home because of snow/ice. Kat is home today, too, for the same reason. It's our first snow day this school year! She'll be so excited when (if) she wakes up. Of course, I'm kidding about the "if/when". I'll let her sleep an hour later than usual, but that's it.

We had a fairly nice weekend. Saturday was really cold. More likely, it was normal and we're just really spoiled by the mild winter we've had so far. We stayed in most of the day. I just did ordinary chores around the house, but Shane was a "maker" that day. He made a tofu press for my daughter (she and her husband are vegan and want to try making their own tofu), and he made not one, but two "canjos".

Here's what you need to understand. In the past 6 to 8 months, Shane has bought three guitars and has made 3 homemade stringed instruments. But...he doesn't know how to play any of them! In his defense, he is learning on his own and is now looking into buying some lessons, but I think it's time to quit acquiring guitars and start getting down to the business of learning to play them. :) Give me a few days, and I'll post some photos of his homemade "canjos" and "diddly bow".  They're kind of fun.

Also on Saturday, Kat went to a tea party at her friends' house. It was quite the affair with about a dozen girls and two young gentlemen in attendance. Here are a couple of pictures of her, pre-party, in her velvety attire.

On Sunday, we visited my dad for a few hours.  I'm not going to get into the long story, but let's just say that while at his house, I took a break from my current Primal Blueprint way of eating.  I would never be rude to him (or anyone else) by criticizing the food they are kind enough to offer me in their home -- and at nearly 80 years old, I don't think I can expect him to change what he eats if I did say something -- so I just kept quite and did the best I could.  Of course, it was a nice visit with Dad otherwise.

That's it for our weekend.  Sounds tame compared to the busy ones we've had lately, but it was a good one.  How about yours?  Did you do anything exciting or fun?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Something To Think About

Last week I wrote about following along with Erica at NW Edibles as she does a month of anti-inflammatory dieting.   I mentioned then that I was participating "casually", since I don't have a defined goal in mind.  I'm not concerned about losing weight and I don't have many issues with pain (other than migraines and a mild, but frequent shoulder ache).  Mostly, I think, I am following along to learn something new.

Since last week, I have:

  • Done a little bit of reading about the Primal Blueprint diet.  Even if I don't agree with 100% of Mark Sisson's guidelines, I'm intrigued. Actually, I agree with most of what he says, and I love the way he presents his thoughts.  First he tells you what he thinks and why, then he opens up his blog posts and forums to readers to discuss and debate.  He also makes clear his idea that the plan is adaptable to each person's needs and pace.  In my brief reading, nothing is set in stone.  I find that refreshing.  (I apologize for not having links.  I am unable to get to those pages right now...will add them later when I'm able.)

  • Been eating a good deal of good meat, both venison Shane hunted last fall and quality pork that we bought directly from the farmer last August.

  • Reduced our consumption of granulated white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.  I've been using cane juice crystals in our drinks, and have reduced the amount of sweetener I've been using in hot tea by half and in iced tea by a third.  I've used honey in baked goods.  I bought ketchup that's free of HFCS and we've had no soda at all in the past week.

  • Consumed probiotics in the form of kombucha every day this week.

  • Used coconut oil almost exclusively in cooking and baking.  I have also used a little bit of butter and a little bit of peanut oil.

  • Reduced the amount of grains we consumed, but have not eliminated them (and currently have no plans to).

  • Tried to be more active.  Nothing formal, but I've managed to do more walking this week and made sure to take the stairs when I went to my 4th Floor doctor appointment on Wednesday.

  • Attempted to eat breakfast more often.  I'm not a breakfast fan, and I don't like traditional breakfast foods in the morning (but love them later in the day).  I've been trying to eat at least a an orange or an avocado within in the first couple hours of my day.

  • Managed to stay on a regular sleep schedule of roughly 11:00 p.m. to 6 a.m., even on the weekend.

As you can see, I'm not being very strict about this.  I'm just learning and trying a few things out.  Do I notice anything different yet?  No, not really, but it's only been a week.  If anything at all, I've not had the "afternoon slump" that I sometimes get around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon. That's a good thing.

I also think there's a certain amount of well-being that comes simply from paying attention to my body and what I'm putting into it. 

Stay tuned for another update next Friday.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Homemade Fajita Seasoning

This recipe is based on some others I found online, but I made a few changes.

Annie's Homemade Fajita Seasoning

3 Tbsp. cornstarch (or other thickener of choice, see below)
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. salt
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. sugar
2-1/2 tsp. chicken base (similar to bouillon)
1-1/2 tsp. onion powder
2 packets of True Lime flavoring
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Pour into small glass or plastic container, seal tightly and store in a cool, dry place. Makes the equivalent of 3 packets of commercial or purchased Fajita Seasoning Mix.

To Use:

The easiest way to use this is to add a small amount of oil to a large skillet and saute thin strips of meat (chicken, beef, turkey, venison, pork, etc.).  When meat is mostly cooked through, add 3 Tablespoons of the fajita seasoning mix, 1/3 cup water and some sliced bell peppers and onions, then continue to cook until all ingredients are coated and peppers become slightly tender.

For another way to make fajitas, you can mix 3 Tablespoons of seasoning mix with 1/4 cup water and 1/4 cup oil and use this mixture to marinate the slices of meat for several hours before cooking.  Saute the onions and peppers separately in just a bit of oil.

It can also be used to season ground beef for tacos or sprinkled onto steaks, chops or chicken before grilling.

Optional changes:

Use beef base or bouillon instead of chicken for beef or venison fajitas.  (I think the chicken-based version works fine for red meat, though).

If you don't have or don't want to use True Lime powder, add a few spoonfuls of lime juice or the juice of half a fresh lime to the meat and vegetables when you cook them.

If you don't like using cornstarch, try using Mochiko (sweet rice flour), potato starch or all-purpose flour as thickeners.

Heat things up by adding more cayenne pepper (original recipe called for 1/4 teaspoon) and/or 1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New Batches of Soap

Clockwise from top left:  Lavender shampoo bars, cinnamon-clove bath bars, tea tree bath bars.

On Sunday, we made three batches of soap.  The first bars we made were shampoo bars.  We used this formula from The Crunchy Chicken as a starting point.  As advised, we used the jojoba and caIstor oils, but we changed the other oils to coconut and olive. (Because we changed oils, we were sure to run the changed formula through a soap calculator to find out the exact amounts of lye and water we needed.)

Shane and I have both been using our homemade soap as shampoo for months, but we wanted to see if this formula really is better for hair.  We wanted to encourage Kat to use it, too, so we scented it with lavender essential oil and a bit of lavender tint.

We also made more bath soap.  With Shane's help or without, I've made about six batches of soap so far, using different oils each time.  This time we decided to go back to our very first formula, because we seem to like it best.  It is made with olive, coconut, rice bran, and peanut oils.  We made a fairly large batch and split it.  We added tea tree oil and a touch of green tint to one half.  To the other half, we mixed in essential clove oil, 1/ teaspoon ground cinnamon and some pink soap tint.  It has a wonderful fragrance and a pretty speckled color.

These soaps will be ready to use in 4-6 weeks.  Meanwhile, we're using the last of two batches that were cedarwood/juniper scented (with some whole juniper berries mixed in) and lavender scented.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Solid Lotion Bars

Last week I discovered a new blog, Common Sense Homesteading, and saw this "recipe" for solid lotion bars.

These are so easy to make.  All you need are equal amounts of beeswax, cocoa butter and the oil of your choice.  I used olive oil.  I used 2 ounces of each (by weight on the beeswax and cocoa butter, and by volume on the oil).

Melt all together...

Pour into molds (I just recycled some yogurt tubs)...

and a couple or three hours later, pop them out.

These are really fun to make and have a nice chocolaty scent when you use them, but the smell doesn't linger and become a distraction.  The emollients soak into your skin quickly so you aren't left with a greasy feeling on your hands or body.  I really like that all the ingredients are natural, and that this one product can be used all over my body, including my lips.

I used olive oil, but I think next time I will try coconut oil instead, in hopes it will yield a slightly firmer bar.  This batch made four bars for me (1.5 ounce each, approximately).  There are only three in the picture, though, because I already gave one to my daughter.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Exhausting Weekend, But In A Good Way

Thanks to rain on Friday, Shane had another three-day weekend.  He spent part of his day off in the doctor's office, though, getting meds for a sinus infection he'd been fighting all week. 

He was already feeling a lot better by Saturday morning, so out we went.  First to drop Kat at her mom's for the weekend, then to Lowe's to pick up a special dryer vent, to a thrift store to drop off a mountain of donations that were in the back of the van, and to the credit union to make a payment on our camper in person because they forgot to include a February ticket in our payment book. 

That was followed by an hour-long drive to pick up an almost new tiller from someone who'd listed it on craigslist (the same new one at Lowe's was more than twice as expensive!), followed by a stop to see Shane's dad and step-mom, install the dryer vent we'd bought earlier, and to have lunch with them.

After leaving the in-laws' house, we went to a health food store for some soap making oils, went to a freight salvage store just for fun, stopped at Sam's Club to get a few things I'd missed last time I was there, and we finally ended our day by going to a Chinese-and-sushi buffet before heading home.

We were out for 12 hours straight, and I barely stayed awake until 10:00.

On Sunday, I put in my monthly volunteer hours at the recycling bins.  Our city is getting 24/7 recycling bins soon, instead of the one-weekend-a-month bins we have now.  That means recycling will be easier for everyone here and no one will have to monitor bins anymore.

It was too muddy for Shane to work outside, so we worked together nearly all day making two small batches of bath soap bars, one batch of shampoo bars, and a batch of solid lotion bars.  No pics of any of it yet, but I'll probably take some as the goodies come out of the molds.

We rebottled three batches of kombucha, some with fun flavor combinations, and we got two new batches started.  We also used our juicer to make some orange and pineapple juices. 

When Kat came home around 5:30 , we made some roast beef wraps with lots of veggies (sub-shop style) and watched a couple of kids' shows on TV with her.  By the time she went to bed we were wiped out!  We were in bed with our books by 9:00 and were asleep before 10:00.

That's two good weekends in a row for us.  We got a lot accomplished and had some fun doing it.

How was your weekend?

Friday, February 3, 2012

February Follow-Along

For February, I'll be following along with Erica at Northwest Edible Life as she tries an anti-inflammatory diet.

I've never followed any kind of diet in my life.  At best, I've made a few changes along the way based on things I've read and agreed with.  So, this isn't usually my kind of thing, but when I saw on Erica's blog the details of Mark Sisson’s Primal Meat and Fat diet, I realized I was already eating many of the foods on the plan.  I decided to hop on board for the fun it.  Just call me a very informal (haphazard?) participant.

You don't have to follow along if you don't want to, but I hope you'll follow the link and at least see what's going on. 

There's a book giveaway, too, but you'll need to participate and you'll need to hurry.  The first progress report is due today! 

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I've tried a few different ranch dressing recipes and finally fiddled with them enough to call this one our family favorite.  Hope you like it.

Homemade Ranch Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise -- can use Miracle Whip, but dressing will be much sweeter if you do
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar -- or white (clear) balsamic vinegar if you can find it
1 teaspoon dry parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dry dill weed
1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

Combine all until smooth. Let chill for several hours for best flavor.

This recipe is being shared at the Delicious Dish Tuesdays Hop with Full Time Mama.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Making Kombucha Tea

Who here is familiar with kombucha tea? It's a fermented tea drink that is thought to be healthful.  If you've not heard of it, here's an excerpt from wiseGEEK, who explains it better than I can:
Kombucha is a fermented beverage made of tea and bacteria cultures. For the last 2,000 years in Asia, families drank kombucha for its purported medicinal qualities. The special yeast and bacteria cultures are usually circulated person-to-person, although now mixtures can be purchased online. This homeopathic drink tastes tart but full-flavored, like carbonated apple cider. Kombucha recipes have traveled to Korea and Japan, from there to Russia, and finally reached Europe after WWI.

You must have a "mother brew" to cultivate kombucha, which is why originally it was handed down through generations of a family. Much like yogurt, a cup of kombucha can be reserved to make the next batch. This is because it is a living brew, with microorganisms that are beneficial to our digestive tract and others claim help other internal systems. The culture is not a fungus, as some report, but a mixture of bacteria and yeast that forms a gelatinous, yellowish substance.
Ok, so it doesn't sound all that appetizing, but if you like tart, slightly fizzy drinks, it's a good one.  Shane and I both like the commercially-prepared kombucha tea we've tried in the past, but it's kind of dear at $3-$4 for a 12-16 ounce bottle.  It's not that easy to find, either, so we'd been trying to find a "mother", also known as a scoby (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) for a while.  The closest we came was talking to a person on craigslist who not only lived too far away, but had a weird schedule and a weirder online presence.  When that didn't work out, I put the idea on the back burner.

I was thrilled when I learned in December that an acquaintance, George, makes kombucha tea.  Most of the friends we have in common with George think it's just weird and wouldn't even try it, but things like kombucha are right up our alley.  George was so pleased that we even knew what he was talking about that he offered us some mothers for free.  I made a couple of small "starter" batches just to make sure I could do it right, then I started making gallon-sized batches.  Here are the details of the first big batch I made.

Beware that these photos may not be suitable for wimps the "culinarily squeamish".

Three "mothers" (starter cultures) in some kombucha tea that our friend gave us.

The jar above contains three scobys and about 1 to 1-1/2 cups of kombucha tea from one of George's batches.  The scobys are disc-like and spongy.  I read somewhere that they feel like calamari.  Yep, that's as good a description as any.

Per directions George gave me (which appear to have come from the Cultures for Health website)  I brewed some tea, using 13 cups of distilled water, 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of loose tea (or I could have used 8 tea bags).   After letting the tea steep until it cooled to room temperature, I strained it to remove the tea leaves, then added 1 scoby and 2 cups of George's kombucha tea.  I covered the jar with a coffee filter to keep out dust and other foreign particles.  Then I left it to sit on the counter, out of direct sunlight, for several days.

Brewed sweet tea with a scoby and some kombucha tea added.
Closer look at the scoby in my first big batch.

The tea can be ready in as little as 5 days, depending on your taste.  We like ours a little more tart, so we leave ours longer.  Here is the same jar on Day 9.  

Notice how the tea has lightened in color. You can see the new "baby" culture on top and you can also see that the mother floated to the top at some point and attached to the baby.  It happens sometimes; other times not.  Doesn't really matter. 

This is a living culture, so it changes daily and never turns out exactly the same way twice.  The tea tastes sweet, tart, musty (like wine, especially homemade wine), and is lightly carbonated.  It "tingles" on the tongue when you taste it.  If you've ever had homemade ginger beer or soda, it's kind of like that.

Then what?  First of all, I reserved a three cups of the new tea -- 2 cups for the next batch I made and 1 cup to cover and protect the new scoby I now had.  Then we stored this first batch in the fridge and drank it as it was, either straight or mixed with more of our regular sweet tea.  Since then, we've been playing around, using green tea as the base, letting batches ferment for 2, 3 and 4 weeks, mixing some of the tea with fruit juices and other beverages and pouring some into airtight containers to ferment a second time so that it becomes even more carbonated.

Over time, we're going to find ourselves with more babies than we need.  When that happens, we can either give them away to someone else who wants to make their own kombucha, or we can compost them.  No problemo.

So, that's that.  It's an easy process, but not a quick one. It's a real money saver, too, if you're in the habit of drink kombucha tea regularly.   Doing a very rough calculation based on costs of tea, sugar and distilled or purified water, a batch like this could cost as little as $1.80 (more if you use organic tea and sugar...I didn't, but I probably should in the future).  I get about six 16-ounce servings after taking evaporation into account.  That's as little as 30¢ for what would cost at least $3.00 in the store.

I'll be posting more about kombucha as I learn more about the brewing process.  If you're eager to learn more about it, check out this tutorial from Cultures for Health.  Or just do a Google search and you'll find dozens of links.

Anyone else out there tried kombucha?  Would you ever consider making it at home?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

January Sewing/Crafting: Just Under The Wire

Remember when I said I wanted to complete a crafty project a month this year?  And that the first thing I wanted (needed) to complete was cutting and hemming some drapes?  And that it wasn't exactly what I would call a fun craft?
Well, as expected -- by me, anyway -- I put it off and put it off until January was almost in the books.  I finally got the job done yesterday, just in the nick of time.  Thank you, dear blog readers!  If I didn't have you to be accountable to, all eight panels (our bedroom and Kat's) would still be dragging the floor.

I promise to be more punctual with my next project.  I'll succeed by default since there are only 29 days this month!

Small Batch Old-Fashioned Cornbread

Here is one of the recipes from the Small Batch Baking cookbook I reviewed yesterday.  This cornbread is unlike any I've had in the past.  For one thing, it contains no flour.  For another, it has a deep dark molasses flavor that I think will be a big selling point for some and a deal-breaker for others.  I love it, but if you don't like molasses, this may not be the recipe for you.  Or maybe you could substitute honey for the molasses.

The recipe says to bake this recipe in two jumbo muffin pans, but I used two mini loaf pans with good results.  I also ground my own cornmeal from organic popping corn, so the bread had a fairly course texture that paired well with the steak soup I made last week.  A more finely milled cornbread would probably yield a less coarse bread.

I couldn't think of anything I needed the yolk for by itself, so I used the entire egg instead of just the white.  It turned out just fine.

Old-Fashioned Corn Bread
(from Small Batch Baking)

1/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons light or dark molasses
White of 1 large egg
1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted (I used olive oil pan spray instead)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Place the buttermilk, molasses, and egg white in a small bowl and whisk to blend.

Place the cornmeal, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt in a medium-size mixing bowl and whisk to mix well. Add the buttermilk mixture and whisk just until the batter is blended.

Place 1-1/2 teaspoons of the melted butter in each of 2 muffin cups.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly between them.  Fill the empty muffin cups halfway with water to prevent them from scorching.  bake until the corn bread is crusty around the edges and springy to the touch, 9 to 10 minutes.  Remove the muffin pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes.  Carefully pour the water out of the empty muffin cups.  Turn the muffins out of the cups and serve hot or warm.  (They are best eaten the day they are baked but will keep for up to 1 day in a plastic bag at room temperature.)

Makes 2 large corn breads; serves 2.

I have linked this post to the Hearth and Soul Hop for 2/7 with Premeditated Leftovers.  Click through and check it out!
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