The garden. I’m ready. I’m so, so ready. I’d love to say that I’m one of those Michiganders who doesn’t sink into a hole at the end of February, but I can’t. I’m not as bad as some- I still push myself to get out into it, and I really try not to whine. I love the snow, I love cozy nights and scarves and all that comes with the cold season. I love going to check the chickens, trudging through the snow and pouring hot water over the icy crusted bowl from the morning… But it is long. I do try to stay in the moment, to savor the season and take in all it has for me. However, when I’m feeling randomly grumpy and find myself battling a relentless inner-critic, and then I look outside and realize I haven’t seen the actual sun for days… well, it’s a special late-February kind of grumpy. My remedy? This winter, it’s taking cod-liver oil, trying to stay active, enjoying these sweet people all around me, trying to go to bed earlier, and dreaming about the garden. I’m putting in our seed order today and doing a little planning, and I hope to be able to share a more vivid dream with you soon. Oh, the plans I’ve got!
It’s late February, and we’re eating very well. I regret that I’m not using quite as much of our stored food as I would like to- the fast pace of having another family here with us, Jeff and I working and juggling all of that, my class, kids, etc… some days you can’t even organize your thoughts! It just hasn’t been as planned as I would have liked. That is going to change over the next few months, though. I have a plan. My mom stopped in for a visit yesterday amidst the mess of it all. I was trying to get dishes under control and Jeff was at my heels scrambling to get dinner on (his stomach just won’t wait some days…). We talked about mess and about what it was like when we were growing up, etc. She said something I’d never heard before- "Routine eliminates confusion." That phrase has been rolling around in my head since then, and it’s really making waves with me. For all the things that are unpredictable in our day to day, incorporating routine most definitely would serve to eliminate a lot of confusion. While this doesn’t exclusively relate to food, I realized that it will definitely help in that area. Keeping the kitchen clean will help me work better in it. Having a day to menu plan, a day to soak beans/make yogurt/make kombucha/grab food from the pantry/etc… it will make eating the way we want to that much simpler. I’ve had pieces of the routine down before, but it’s never been very complete. I’m going to work at this over the next few weeks. The principle is simple. When things feel cluttered, it’s hard to think. This should free me up to be more creative and less stressed. Do any of you have a routine that helps you?
One of the things I try to focus on in our eating is working not to waste anything. When I’m looking everywhere for our little storage dishes and can’t find them anywhere, that’s usually a good sign that they are all in the fridge storing leftovers and they need a new life. I often make casseroles, one-pot stove top dishes, and plenty of soups. Here’s a meal I made the other night.
I chopped up some leeks and some eager potatoes.
I also chopped up these brussels sprouts- the great thing about these is that even when they’ve started to yellow and look bad, they just take a little peeling to get down to a good layer.
I sauteed it all in my big soup pot, and added a can of corn from the basement. Then I added the stuff in containers… I save all sorts of things. I save the juice from cans of vegetables that we’ve stored. One of the trade-offs from canning food is that many of the nutrients just get cooked off into the liquid. I strain that good veggie liquid and store it in the fridge and just add it to any soup I make that week. The other thing I’ll save is liquid off of meals that I’ve slow cooked. Remember those perfect tacos from last week? Well, it was beef slow cooked in a can of salsa + spices. After fishing out all the meat and veggies, there was this good tomatoey spiced broth, so I strained it and put it in a container as well. Then, there’s all that leftover sauerkraut that we had from V’s birthday party- it had been simmered with kielbasa for a couple of hours. So. All of this just got dumped in with the leeks, potatoes, sprouts, corn, and the last of our homegrown garlic (*sniff sniff* I hope to grow enough this year to last until summer!).
I added some dry basil and marjoram, a little more salt and pepper, and let it all simmer for a while. What we got was a really rich and flavorful soup that everyone loved. I often find that I enjoy meals better when you don’t know what you’re going to get. It’s like bringing everything back to life. I love watching people get up for seconds of something that, in another version of its life, would have been neglected and glossed over otherwise.
Last night I really wanted some chocolate pudding. Did we have any? No. Was I about to make some? Nope. So, I grabbed some greek yogurt (in the future I think I’ll just strain the yogurt I make to get a thicker consistency), added some honey and a big spoonful of that homemade hot chocolate mix I made. I also threw a little of our frozen rhubarb and strawberries on the stove on high heat and just let it cook down into a fruit topping.
About five minutes later, I had a delicious sweet treat, that I’d argue was quite a bit better for me than anything I’d get out of a box.