Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Homemade Granola

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I list boxed cereals from the store right up there with candy bars when I think of my vices. I know they are bad for me, and I shudder to think about what probably goes into the making of industrial fake food. I haven't kicked my candy bar habit, but I vowed my child would not be reading cereal boxes at breakfast time. But, to combat breakfast doldrums I make granola. A neighbor shared her recipe from the Scattergood Friends School some time ago. The original recipe called for wheat germ and wheat bran in addition to the other dry ingredients, but since reading Nourishing Traditions and learning more about the health benefits of soaking grains and nuts, I have dropped those ingredients since the bran and germ should not be removed from the wheat kernel and then added back in a recipe.

I have tried soaking and drying the oats and nuts first, and then making the granola. But found it so time consuming that I was making the granola less and less. I have found it easier to just soak the granola overnight and then serve it. And once in awhile we eat it without soaking. It is still a better substitute than boxed cereal.

Soaking grains and seeds before cooking and eating helps remove phytic acids that inhibit the absorption of minerals. The most common soaking methods call for yogurt, whey or lemon juice and warm water. All things in most kitchens.

Method: Combine 1 cup oats or cereal with 1 cup warm water (heated not tap water) and 2 tablespoons of yogurt, whey or lemon juice. Soak overnight, drain off any excess liquid and cook over medium heat for 4 - 5 minutes.


4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 cups dried fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Measure and mix dry ingredients. Add oil and mix well. Combine molasses and honey in measuring cup used for the oil, they will pour out easily. Mix well to make sure all dry ingredients are coated lightly with molasses and honey.

Spread in lightly greased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with sides.
Bake 10 minutes, stir; 5 minutes, stir; 5 minutes, stir.
Take out of oven and stir several times while cooling, add fruit. Store in airtight container.

You can mix and match dry ingredients, just keep the ratio of dry to wet the same: 6 cups dry to 3/4 cup wet. If you like granola clusters increase the molasses and honey.

To double this recipe, it is easiest to make two batches. It is easier to mix and you can easily bake two batches at the same time.

This also makes a great housewarming or holiday gift in decorative jar or container with the recipe attached.

Chop nuts of choice, I used filberts, err, hazelnuts.

Measure dry ingredients.

Add oil (I used olive) swishing the oil around the entire cup. Doing this makes the molasses and honey pour easily, and makes clean-up a snap.

Mix oil and dry ingredients thoroughly.

Measure molasses and honey, using the same cup. Add to the dry ingredients. See how easily they pour!

Mix thoroughly, and spread in cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees.

Stir several times during the baking according to the recipe.

Stir several times after baking. When completely cool, add dried fruit.
Pour into airtight container for storage!

Monday, 4 May 2009

How To Prepare For Swine Flu

by Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

Last night my family ate dinner in a Mexican restaurant, where the television was tuned to news about swine flu. We watched images of eerily empty public streets in downtown Mexico City, a city normally bustling with activity. My husband and I went there on our honeymoon. What a an amazing city it is, with a rich culture full of wonderful people.

I'm sure most of us have been reading about swine flu on the news, watching the television reports, listening to radio reports. There seem to be three main responses to the possible threat of a global pandemic: fear, humor, or indifference. I admit my mind travels back and forth between all three. And that's ok.

But if you listen closely, you'll hear the same phrase we heard during the avian flu outbreaks in Asia a couple of years ago: "it's not a question of if, but when." There may not be a flu pandemic this spring, there may not be a flu pandemic next winter, but given the way our society works today, there will be a flu pandemic in the not too distant future. I say this not to strike fear, but to remind us all that this is the reality of our world, so that we can take actions to keep our families and friends safe and healthy.

How Do You Prepare?

1. Emotional Preparedness

My graduate thesis project in 2006 focused on how to prepare for a global catastrophe such as a flu pandemic. Above all else, the number one way to prepare for this kind of a possibility is: to be emotionally prepared.

The first thing that happens to most people in a disaster is that your mind doesn't work the way it normally does - you enter into a state of confusion, or sometimes shock. Children and adults both do this. So, what you need to do ahead of time is to prepare your family, and to talk about what you would do if something like this were to happen. Let your children play an active role in this discussion so that they remember it, and so that they aren't fearful.

Before having this discussion, you should do some research about the possible scenarios of a pandemic. Pandemics can be fairly mild, like the 1968-69 Hong Kong Flu, or they can be quite severe, like the 1918 Spanish Flu (which was, incidentally, the H1N1 strain we are seeing in the current cases of swine flu). Don't scare yourself to much when you read about them, but you should know what could happen: life could go on fairly normally, or your city could shut down entirely, or it could be anywhere in between.

Once you know the possibilities, think through the possible scenarios in your head: what would you do? What would you need? How would you get ahold of your family if phone lines were jammed? Who could pick up your children? Where is the nearest hospital? Is there a family member's house that is better suited in an emergency, and could you go there for a while if you needed to?

These are not pleasant thoughts, I know. No one likes to think about the negative things that could happen. But this can save your family's life, and make things a lot easier for everyone if something like a pandemic were to happen.

2. Physical Preparedness

There is a ton of information available about physical preparedness, including some great posts here at the co-op, so I will be brief here.

Since you have now researched what has happened in the past pandemics, you know the possible scenarios. You could end up in a quarantined area for weeks on end. You could have water or electrical lines that don't work - and nobody can come fix them. Banks, schools, hospitals, groceries, gas stations, and public transportation systems all may be closed. Again, not to scare yourself, but simply to know what might happen so you can prepare for it.

Things to do now:
  1. Make sure good hygenic practices are ingrained into your family's routines.
  2. Keep your children home if they are sick, and stay home if you are sick.
  3. Save up enough money to get by on a loss of income for at least a month or two, in case your workplace closes or you are not able to work.
  4. Prepare an emergency contact list of family, close friends, physicians, pharmacies, and veterinarians. Here is a good template to use. Also plan who will take care of your children if you are severely sick - make sure you make solid plans with that person now, just in case.
  5. Keep your gas tank consistently full.
  6. Plant a four-season garden to keep fresh, nutritious foods at home.
  7. Think about each essential service you need as a family (including pets), and store two weeks worth of it in your basement, garage, closet, or cupboard:
  • Non-perishable foods and baby formulas
  • Prescription drugs
  • Vitamins and any non-prescription drugs you take regularly
  • Water - 1 gallon per person per day in clean plastic containers
  • First Aid kit, including pain relievers, fever reducers, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, thermometer, and anti-diarrheal medication.
  • A small amount of cash in case ATMs and banks are closed
  • Pet food and litter
  • Portable radio (hand-cranked is best)
  • Alcohol-based hand cleaner
  • Flashlight
  • Batteries
  • Manual can opener
  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper, disposable diapers
  • Respirators and/or N-95 masks (the only type of mask that filters airborne pathogens)
  • Vinyl or latex gloves
  • Books, games, crafts, and school supplies
  • Printed out instructions about how to care for someone with influenza at home.

3. Community Preparedness

Remember: "A pandemic would touch every aspect of society, so every part of society must begin to prepare." - Centers For Disease Control.

  1. Work: Plan to work from home as much as possible. Find out from your employer if you can create a telecommuting plan in the event of an emergency. If you work in an essential services field, make sure there is a plan to keep basic services operational, despite the possibility that many workers may not come into work. Help spread information to your co-workers about good hygiene and how to prepare for a pandemic at home.
  2. Neighborhood: The closer-knit your community is, the better off it will be during any kind of emergency. Start getting involved in community-building activities in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors, and become involved in your community as it works to prepare for an influenza pandemic. If there aren't any groups creating a community plan, start one!
  3. School: Find out what your school's plans are for a pandemic event. If they don't have a plan, help them create one. Encourage other parents to keep children at home if they are sick. Get together with other parents to find ways to continue children's learning if schools are closed - can you create a Plan B Online learning system, for example, with a few teachers teaching online?
Above all else, STAY INFORMED. Knowing the facts - not the fears, not the indifference - is the key to preparation. Reliable, updated information can be found at the following websites:

Or you can call:
  • US: 1-800-CDC-INFO
  • Australia: 1802007
  • If you live in another country, please leave a comment telling us where you get your reliable information and I will add it here!
And if you cannot reach anyone via phone or online, you can listen to your portable radio for updated information.

Now, I'm sure I've missed something here, so please add what you know into the comments below. It could help us all in ways we cannot imagine!

Stay safe, happy, and prepared.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Spending to Save

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

I’m really starting to realise lately that buying quality is serving us well. Very early in my adult life I was gifted several sets of Tupperware brand plastic containers. I also bought several other pieces over time. I have used these continually for over 15 years now with only a few split lids (which Tupperware replaces for free). The amount of money, food and landfill I have saved by using these containers must be huge! I still use the odd snaplock bag (which we wash and re-use, cling wrap (have had a roll for years) and take-away style containers (also re-used) in the freezer but would ideally use 100% Tupperware if I already owned enough to meet all of our needs. Without wanting to sound like an advertisement for the company, we use these containers for: storing dry goods, keeping leftovers in the fridge, freezing bulk meals and foods bought in bulk, taking food to work for lunch or on picnics or other outings.

Thinking about my Tupperware got me thinking about other items we own…

The quality stainless steel saucepans given to us as a gift 15 years ago are used almost daily and are in the exact same condition as when they arrived in their box (okay, they aren’t quite shiny anymore!)

Our towels were bought from a manchester shop – seemed like a huge outlay at the time but they’ve been used almost non-stop for over 10 years and are still thick and absorbent. I am tired of the colour though! Cheaper ones from a chain department store have not lasted nearly as long before fraying at the seams, going out of shape and fading.

Cane laundry baskets have outlasted several of the plastic type. In fact, I will only be using cane baskets from now on (we do use several baskets for wet and clean/dry laundry each day in our larger household).

Last time I replaced our electric kettle and toaster I bought near-industrial quality ones – brushed stainless steel outers, decent warranty period, no flimsy switches or other disappointing features. I’d bought a few mid-range ones from chain department stores over the years, so thought I’d try paying around twice as much (on sale!) for a better brand from a homewares store. These were even better quality than I could find in the local electrical appliance shops and have been worth every extra cent. They work well, look great and so far they’ve outlasted most of their predecessors and yet seem to be as new.

We are very blessed to have been able to afford, or been gifted such great quality items. I tend to request practical gifts, or spend any gift cards or money on practical items (or trees), because I’m not a jewellery or perfume kind of girl.

Other items we’ve bought which save us money include:
* freezer - bulk buys and bulk cooking
* Vacola unit - preserved harvests
* slow cooker - less energy than the oven
* wind-up torches/flashlights - no more batteries
* battery charger - no disposable batteries for other items
* sewing machine – repairs, clothing, shopping bags and other useful items
* sets of quality cloth nappies (diapers) – saved $1000s on disposables for our large family
* timber furniture – might get scratched and dented, but it doesn’t crumble, snap, warp or otherwise disappoint (this was a slow process – investing in one piece every few years, making some and buying 2nd hand)

What’s at your place that has been a larger initial outlay, but saved you a lot of money, time and/or waste in the long term?

Saturday, 2 May 2009

An Economical Family Meal

brown rice patties

If you were to ask what my current 'go to economical meal for my family' is, it would have to be Brown Rice Patties. I've written the recipe on my personal blog, but I think it is a good idea to have it on file for all of you here as well.

We all know that cooking from scratch is more economical, but what exactly can we cook that is kid friendly, whole, nutritious, and not pasta! It's too easy to grab that box of spaghetti. I love pasta, but grains are more important, and they need to be delivered in a way that my eleven year old will actually love. This fits the bill perfectly, I serve them with applesauce from the pantry and a green salad. Everyone is happy, especially the very particular eleven year old of mine. The first time I made these my husband thought they were potato pancakes. Now who doesn't love a potato pancake?

Brown Rice Patties

3 cups leftover brown rice
1 cup grated carrot grated in food processor
1 medium onion, grated in food processor
2 cloves minced garlic, minced in food processor
1 t salt
½ t pepper
2 eggs
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
Vegetable oil of your liking for frying

If you do not have a food processor you can use a box grater instead. Just make sure any onion juice makes it into the bowl, lots of flavor there!

Combine all ingredients except the oil. If you have the time to make this in advance and let it sit for a bit the garlic and onion flavors will blend even more, but it's not necessary, just nice. If the patties don’t hold together because they are too dry then add another egg. If they are too wet add a little flour.

Heat a frying pan or griddle on med - med/high heat until hot and add oil. Use a ¼ cup measuring cup to scoop out the rice mixture and gently lay them on the frying pan. Use the back side of the measuring cup to flatten out each patty. Cook until golden brown on each side, you might want to keep the oven on 250 with a baking sheet in there to put the finished ones on as you cook the rest. Enjoy!

I hope you try it, recipes like this will seriously stretch your grocery dollars, and I think we can all use a little extra stretching right now.

Print this out and keep it handy, I bet you make it more than once!

Happy weekend everyone!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Five Simple Machine Sewing Projects for Beginners

By Julie, Towards Sustainability

Have you begged, borrowed or been gifted a sewing machine that's gathering dust in the corner because you don't really know what to do with it? My mother recently upgraded and gave her old machine to my sister who is looking for some simple projects to get her started, so I thought I'd share a few links for everyone here as well.

Firstly, many people don't have the instruction manual for their machine, so you could have a look at these instructions at eHow.com for generic instructions, or you could Google your machine to see if the manual is available online. Or, if you are a visual learner like me, you might benefit from a few video tutorials on the 'net to watch first: you could try this one at Expert Village, or this one on You Tube.

Next, you might want to practice getting a feel for the machine by doing some random sewing on scraps of fabric. I recommend trying different thicknesses and types of fabric too if you can find them, to help you get a feel for how your machine feeds fabric through the presser foot and how the foot pedal feels.

Now that you've done that, there are a number of simple straight-line-stitching-only projects you might want to try, many of which also make great gifts.

* Napkins and place mats. Bad Human recently posted a fabulous tutorial for making napkins, which I highly recommend having a look at. Use the same technique to make matching place mats using larger pieces of fabric.

* Basic aprons. Try this apron, made out of a pretty tea towel and some ribbon; or this one made from a pillowcase; or there is this one made from a pillowcase and a sheet (lots of how-to pictures in this tutorial). I made a child's full-length apron here, which you could make bigger to adapt to an adult size too.

* Pencil/ crayon/ notebook rolls or holders. These are really simple, and I've been making dozens of them for gifts this year. Try this tutorial for a pencil and notebook holder or this one for a simple pencil or crayon roll.

* A simple tote bag. Here is a dish towel tote bag tutorial; a child's tote bag made from one fat quarter; you could make a Morsbag from an old sheet (this has a great animated tutorial); or this one made from an old pillowcase.

* Wheat bags. These are great for those aches and pains, and are really quick to make. Try this tutorial from Creative Outlet, which includes a lovely little poem for you to type out and attach to the sacks if you are making them for a gift. Too cute.

Lastly, don't forget to re-read Eilleen's terrific post about learning to sew and reconstructed clothing here, she has a great list of links for learning more sewing techniques.

Happy sewing!