Southern Savers

The best website that I discovered in 2009 was definitely Southern Savers. It’s helped me take my couponing from a casual level up to some significant savings. I now have a serious game plan when it comes to shopping as well as a mountain of coupons. I’m saving anywhere from $75 to $150 a month on groceries.

A few highlights of what I’ve learned from Jenny and the readers at SS:

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Lunch for the Week

Aaron is always bugging me to “make a big thing of vegetables and rice” that he can take to work for lunch every day for the week. I finally did it. I used the recipe below and left out a bunch of the veggies, added one teriyaki-marinated chicken breast (cut into strips) in step five, and steamed a bunch of rice. It’s delicious and so very healthy!

Original recipe here, or after the break.

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I Disappeared

I guess I dropped out of blogging for about four months. The reason, in short: I got pregnant.

For most of the hot months of this year, I was feeling extremely lethargic and occasionally gross (but never nauseous) in the stomach. I spent July and August sleeping from about 9:30 pm to 6:00 am every day with the occasional nap at lunch time and a pretty much daily nap during the evening news. All this lethargy caused three things to happen: 1) I stopped caring about blogging, 2) I mostly stopped cooking, and 3) I tried really hard to keep up with my bees but doing so was not in the best interest of my health.

Spending a hour in the heat of an August afternoon dressed in bee garb with a hot smoker in my hand nearly made me pass out on more than one occasion. My beekeeping became a total chore and somewhere in the season my hive beetle management issues got totally out of control and they devastated the colony. I was so disappointed to have failed on my first attempt, but I’m resolved to give it  a go again.

But the good news is that I’m carrying a healthy baby boy due at the end of February! I’m learning a lot about the costs of kids as well as the environmental impact. Hopefully I’ll maintain the energy to write about that every now and again.

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Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons flour
12 to 16 ounces vegetable broth
16 ounces prepared lentils (Trader Joe’s steamed lentils are perfect)
Worcestershire sauce
Dried sage
Dried thyme
Salt and pepper
10 ounces frozen vegetable medley (any combination of peas, carrots, green beans, corn)
Prepared mashed potatoes
Garlic powder
Cheddar cheese

Saute the onion in the olive oil in a medium saucepan until softened. Push the onion to the side of the pan and combine the flour and about 1/2 cup of the broth stirring constantly to make a roux. If the roux seems dry, add more broth. Stir the onions into the roux. Add the lentils and stir until combined. Season with Worcestershire, sage, thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium low heat adding broth until the desired consistency is reached (should be wet without being soupy).

Prepare the frozen vegetables according to the package directions.

Spread the lentils over the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with the vegetables. Spread the mashed potatoes over the vegetables. Top with garlic powder to taste and shredded cheddar cheese. Broil for 3 to 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Serves 6

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Hive Photos

I have been seriously neglecting this space lately–lots of live action life stuff going on this summer! So, to keep things lively, here are a few photos from my last venture into the bee hive.

Frame with Honey & Pollen

A frame without too much development--mostly just honey and a little stored pollen. Notice the worker flying in the top left side of the image!

This frame is full of open brood (not capped); it's probably full of eggs the camera can't capture.

This frame is full of open brood (not capped); it's probably full of eggs the camera can't capture.

This frame shows more capped brood, with honey stores on the right.

This frame shows more capped brood, with honey stores on the right.

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Food, Inc. Event

On Friday night, I attended Nashville’s opening of Food, Inc. at The Belcourt Theater. The event was sponsored by Whole Foods and featured lots of snacks and a panel discussion with regional and local food advocates and growers.

Much of the information conveyed by the film was old news to me, but the interviews and stories were very compelling as was the graphic footage of both industrial animal and vegetable farms and slaughterhouses. It was so compelling, in fact, that I frequently had to cover my eyes (and even once wanted to stick my fingers in my ears).

But I already knew about sick cows being slaughtered along with healthy ones and the dangers of working in meat processing plants. What I didn’t know about, and consequently feel most enraged about right now, are the depths to which agricultural companies like Monsanto will go to hurt/subdue farmers. The story of Moe Parr, an old-school seed cleaner, broke my heart. Here’s a guy in his 70s, been cleaning seeds for farmers his whole life, who is sued by Monsanto for “encouraging farmers to commit copyright infringement.” You see, behemoths like Monsanto patent their seeds, and farmers who buy Monsanto seed are not allowed to clean and keep seed at the end of the harvest. Keeping the seed (which resulted from their own farming practices on their own fields) is illegal because Monsanto “owns” the idea of the seed, the patent for its genetic makeup. Moe Parr wasn’t even cleaning seed for Monsanto farmers, but the mere fact that his business exists in a world where Monsanto seed is used by 90% of farmers constitutes a threat. Moe eventually settled out of court with Monsanto due to his inability to continue paying legal fees–imagine that.

Other interviewees and personalities in the film include Barbara Kowalcyk food safety advocate who lost her son to E. coli; Joel Salatin, a philosopher farmer, who offers some delicious sound bytes on respect for food animals equating to respect for other human beings; the great food writer Michael Pollan; and Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation fame.

I encourage everyone to see this film. It will be eye-opening for many people and galvanizing for those of us already in the know. I, for one, don’t think I can eat meat of unknown original any longer. That means no meat in restaurants. My meat would have to come from my CSA or from a store like Whole Foods who can track its source to the grower. Sounds like a tedious way to deal with my protein sources, but I think quality is my choice over convenience in this instance. But GO, see the film. I hope that it will make you think and help you make better choices in the grocery and at restaurants.

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Squash Casserole

*Another great way to use up summer squash and zucchini.

8 cups chopped zucchini and/or yellow squash
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup olive oil
2 large eggs, beaten well
1 tablespoon dried basil

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Brush an 9- by 11-inch baking dish with olive oil. Pour the zucchini mixture in the dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until the top is browned.

Serves about 8 as side dish, 5 or 6 as a main course

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