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January 2015

While January has been a mild weather month, I loved this little picture.  There’s something clean and renewing about a robin in the snow.  It’s the best of winter – that point just before spring comes.  This year spring feels like it’s going to come early and maybe it will stay awhile.

I thought instead of giving you a rundown of my goals and little things I know I will forget about come the end of the year, I would give you a slightly different version of my monthly update.  Since this year I have two “large” goals – Learn to love my neighbor and overhaul my pantry – I thought I’d focus on them which would also give me another goal – document my year.

Thursday, I’ll be sharing my food planning and the journal I designed to help me.  That way I can skip over that part of the month.  I will say that the journal is the best idea I’ve ever had.  I love it.

For my first goal – I’ve been reading the gospels and getting to know Jesus a little more.  I did discover that translation makes a difference.  I’m using a more modern translation that a friend gave me.  As I started it, I told my husband it’s really hard to read this because Jesus just doesn’t come across as a great guy.  He’s kind of arrogant and kind of makes me mad.  So we sat with our two bibles – mine and my husband’s King James version.  The King James Jesus is the Jesus I want in my life, he comes across as caring and his words are less harsh.  While I am still reading my funky version of the bible, I have to remind myself that the translation makes him sound less appealing and what I am searching for there is the story.  I’m thinking I may finish the new testament with this bible and go back and re-read it in the King James version.

Anyway, with this reading, there are a few things that I have taken to heart.  Jesus was adamant that we should live in poverty.  If we have more than we need, then we need to give it to those who are in need.  Being someone who lives in poverty and has her entire life, it makes me feel better.  It may not be something I can put into words but it makes life okay.

Last week I read this quote “happy people don’t try to purposefully hurt other people“.  What it reminds me is that if I can be okay and love my life and situation, I am less apt to transfer my negativity to others.  Loving myself really is the first step to loving my neighbor (I’ll talk more about that tomorrow).  Things I’ve done for myself – I’ve used the neti pot every time I showered and I put lotion on my hands every night.  While they seem like such tiny weird things – it’s opportunities for me to put myself first.  I am doing things for my health which will make me feel better.

Now for my pantry – We bought produce at a local one day produce sale and a huge amount of produce from Bountiful Baskets this month.  At the produce sale, we bought oranges.  My mom got some and for some freaky reason she looked up eating the pith.  She called me to tell me that the pith has the most nutrients of the entire orange.

So what I did was use a potato peeler on the oranges to remove the zest and then peeled off all the pith.  Those went in the dehydrator.  We chopped up the zest for use and turned the pith into powder.  The idea is that we can add it to whatever we are eating (we thought smoothies in the beginning but I’m betting it will be awesome in sauces).  The pith smells so good.  I find I just like sniffing the jar.  We did the same for our lemons.  The actual fruit we canned in a light syrup.

We also canned – cantaloupe, pineapple, green apples (added molasses to the syrup to make caramel apples but we haven’t tried them yet), papaya, strawberries and 40 pounds of tomatoes.  And we pickled 10 pounds of carrots.

Our poor dehydrator was put to work too.  We’ve dried – carrots, green beans, white asparagus, raw potatoes, green and yellow bell peppers, beet, kale, celery, and squash.

We dried all the parts.  The less desirable parts we set aside and turned into powder.  This allows us to add it to dishes without worrying if it’s aesthetically pleasing.  We are storing them all in leftover glass jars in the pantry.

There are three more tidbits I want to share with you:

1. we saved seeds – pepper, squash, citrus and papaya.  The papaya are supposed to be good as peppercorn replacement so we’ll be trying that as soon as we feel they are dry enough to crush.  The rest we will be using for sprouting experiments.  According to the research I have done the only toxic sprouts are tomato and potato so here’s hoping the rest work out okay.  We can always try planting them later if they taste bad.  Our squash was local organic so they should grow into plants without a problem.

2. Crockpot yogurt – I did heat the milk on the stove first but I really think that for my next attempt I’ll just pour the milk in the crockpot.  Our crockpot holds 8 cups of milk.  Add a tablespoon of plain yogurt and leave on warm overnight.  We drained off the whey – got 6 cups whey, 2 cups of yogurt cheese (I drained a little too much whey).  The flavor is amazing and we are thrilled with the result.

3.  Fruit vinegar – I took the pineapple and apple scraps and started two vinegar experiments.  The pineapple scraps I put in a gallon jar, filled with 12 cups of water and added 3/4 cups of sugar.  The apple scraps went in a half-gallon jar with 8 cups water and 1/2 cup sugar.  I set a water bag on both (just a ziplock bag with enough water in it to hold the fruit below the water line but not overfill the jar).  Let ferment one week.  Strain out fruit scraps and cover with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, ferment until desired vinegar.  We’re still fermenting but so far, so good.

I lied, there is one more thing I want to share.  I wanted vanilla powder so I could start making “instant” dessert mixes.  I could buy it but then I discovered I could make it.  I got 5 vanilla beans in my basket so I took one and ground it with sugar until I felt like I had spread the bean as far as I could (in my blender).  I would say it was about 6-8 cups of sugar.  Then I repeated that.  The end result is a small grained sugar with the most amazing vanilla flavor.  It’s the best vanilla sugar I have ever had.  It’s quick so no waiting for the flavor to be incorporated.  Because it’s a smaller grain sugar, less is more.  I use less than a 1/4 cup in my cocoa and just ohh and ahh.

So there was January.  We were busy little bees.  We got our pantry space all organized and ready for the upcoming year.  We’ll be tackling our freezer space next which means getting ready to make soap since a lot of what’s in one freezer is fat for soap making.

* I forgot to mention that I wash all our fruit and veggies.  The fruit that I wanted to save the skin got a soap and water wash to remove anything funky since we didn’t know what might be on it.  Other items got a vinegar soak while others got just a rinse.