Tag Archives: Food

Nutmobile | Mr. Peanut’s Wheels

by Jim and Melanie

We had our first Nutmobile sighting in January while driving from Iowa to Maryland. It was a brief glimpse since we were going opposite directions on I-70. We’ve seen the Wienermobile more than once.

© Planters

 

The Nutmobile is decked out with the latest in high-tech gear. It has solar panels on top, a wind turbine, burns bio-fuels, and more. The font is quite small. Click to embiggen for the specifics.

Nutmobile

© Planters

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Family Reunion 2015

Summer is a time for picnics and family reunions. On a recent mid-July Saturday, our family gathered at the home of our daughter in southeast Iowa for day 1 of our weekend reunion. It is a big family. Mom and Dad, no longer with us, raised nine children. They took us to reunions when we were kids. We felt their influence this time. Here is the family portrait, over 80 of us, except for one or two taking pictures who are not quite considered ‘family’ yet.

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Preparations were monumental. There was plenty of delicious food brought by many. Two men worked furiously in heat and smoke to grill the burgers, hot dogs, and brats. Kids of all ages were running around having a great time playing. The weather was sunny and bright after an early threat of rain that did not materialize.

Some came from the midwest, while others traveled from Maine, South Carolina, Washington, Arizona, and Louisiana. A good time was had by all.

The location for day 2 of our reunion was about an hour farther southeast in western Illinois. My brother lives in a small town with a park across the street from his house. He reserved the pavilion for us. Early that morning a very slow moving rainstorm dumped over 3″ of rain on the town in about an hour and flooded the park and street. Fortunately, the firehouse next door was available. Two trucks were moved out and parked in the driveway. We set up our reunion party in the firehouse. Food was in the back room. Tables and seating were in the truck bays.

The weather cleared out. The rain stopped. Water drained away. Kids headed for the park to play. We posed for group pictures of families in front of the big red fire truck. There were almost as many in attendance as the day before.

Earlier Sunday morning, mass was said at the small country church where my folks attended all their lives. It was founded by great-grandparents on my mother’s side. After mass, a graveside blessing was offered for those who could attend. Mom and Dad would have loved this weekend party.

Government Nutrition Information Posters

How I See It

This poster was created in 1919. The government thought this constituted a healthy meal. A lot has changed about our dietary needs. We have had years of carb loading as an official government policy. The USDA has again changed its guidelines. The food pyramid asking us to eat six to eleven servings a day of bread, cereal, rice and pasta has been replaced. Since 2011, we have a simpler graphic of a plate divided into sections for vegetables, fruit, protein and grains. You can have a little dairy on the side.


What have been the past recommendations by the government for nutrition? What other posters have been issued? Do you think we are now making the best recommendations?

The U.S. government early on recommended few fruits and vegetables. The focus was on having enough protein. Workers needed protein for energy to do a hard day’s work. Vitamins were discovered in the early…

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Caramel Layer Squares

Time to do some baking. We are going to visit family for a holiday potluck. This year we are trying to avoid bringing foods that require working over a hot stove and the resulting lengthy clean-up. Our family wants to leave more time for visiting. Good plan.

Many in the family will also bring delicious desserts. We are bringing a caramel layered brownie. The recipe is available for printout farther down on this page. Let’s get started.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and grease a 9×13 baking pan.

Remove the wrappers from a 12-14 oz bag of caramels. Add 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Heat slowly. Stir at times to a smooth texture. Keep it gently warmed for later.

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Did You Get Enough to Eat?

Ah, the holidays… From Thanksgiving until after New Year’s, it’s like the feast that never ends.

Turkey and ham, oysters and smoked salmon, potatoes and green beans, casseroles and fruit salads, pies and cream puffs. Not to mention all the cheese, crackers, cookies, and nut bars that seem too small to count. We taste and nibble, take more than we intend, fill ourselves, then fill our trash cans with food waste. When clearing the table and scraping plates from one holiday meal, we dump enough food to nourish several other people.

But what about the rest of the year? Did you get too much to eat to even finish it? Did some go to waste in your cupboard, your fridge, on the counter before you even had a chance to fix it? What left your plate or serving dishes for the trash can? How many times did you find forgotten leftovers and bid them adieu?

In the U.S. we waste a shocking amount of food at all points in the farm-to-fork chain. At the consumer level, you may waste more than you know. The National Geographic says, “Spills, spoilage, table scraps, and other losses from the typical American family of four add up to 1,160 pounds of uneaten food annually.” Doing the math, that means in that average household, there are 24 pounds of waste per person per month. This doesn’t include food loss at the producer’s end of the chain.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC,)

In households, fresh products make up most of the wasted food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a typical American throws out 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk. Citrus fruits and cherries top the list for fruits, and sweet potatoes, onions, and greens are commonly wasted vegetables.(12)

Much of household waste is due to overpurchasing, food spoilage, and plate waste. About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.(13)

It can be hard to visualize the consequences of wasted or lost food. modernfarmer.com says

The environmental toll for throwing away so much uneaten food is also costly. Of the millions of tons that we waste in America each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 96 percent ends up in landfills. And currently, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space, more than paper or plastic. This produces methane gas, one of the most harmful atmospheric pollutants.

In case you didn’t get that, let me repeat: food waste is the number one material going into landfills, creating methane gas. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

If that weren’t enough, production of food we don’t eat requires tremendous resources including petroleum, chemicals for fertilizers and pesticides, and fresh water for irrigation. Again from the NRDC, wasteful production and use of food requires 25% of all freshwater used in the U.S. and 4% of total U.S. oil consumption. It costs $750 million per year just to dispose of the food and creates 33 million tons of landfill waste (leading to greenhouse gas emissions).

There is no way to soften this: producing and landfilling wasted food is environmentally hazardous.

What can you do to help? These tips from NRDC give great ideas for using your food dollars more effectively, and reducing resources used for producing, delivering, and landfilling unused foods.
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Or for much simpler tips, consider these created during World War I. Nearly 100 years ago in the depths of the war, we recognized that wasted food was wasted resources, which could otherwise be used to support freedom from tyranny. We are fighting a different kind of tyranny now, that of environmental change. This tyrant, too, must be defeated, and we have a role in that fight.
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Frog | Hunting On The Window

Last evening while watching TV, we noticed a movement on the window. It was a small tree frog about 2″ long. It had climbed up the glass stalking a moth attracted to the light from our room lamp. You can see the lamp faintly reflected. The window is about 16 feet above the ground.

We grabbed a camera and got this unusual perspective. Its toes look tangled with cobwebs. Afterward, it climbed over to another window and continued the hunt.

Just hanging around.

Just hanging around.

Ants | Following The Trail To Food

The cool Iowa morning drew me outside to enjoy my cup of coffee. Two Blue Jays were busy calling to each other as they patrolled the backyards. The air was heavy with moisture. Soybeans and corn grew tall.

I reached for my cup and noticed some movement out the corner of my eye. It was an ant, only ⅛” long, moving up a black metal rod. It’s antennae were feeling the way ahead of it. They were keeping it on some sort of invisible trail.

Heading toward food.

Heading toward food.

It went up and over the arch and down the other side. It carefully negotiated the wire hanger and went down the side of the bottle of sugar water of the hummingbird feeder. Each ant followed the same path to within about 1/2″. The invisible trail guided them well. Returning ants rounded the top of the arch and got to the rail of the deck where they moved along the edge to the left. They disappeared over the side and headed down to the ground somewhere. Two tiny bodies are visible about halfway up the post in this picture.

The prize at the end of the trail.

The prize at the end of the trail.

Close inspection showed several ants gathered around some pools of sugar water. Their mouths were touching the water. Each ant showed no movement for several minutes. They seemed to be drinking their fill of the sweetness. I watched several back away from the sugar water and begin their trek in the reverse direction along the trail.

Drinking their fill.

Drinking their fill.

I wondered if I could tell whether their abdomens were any larger because of drinking sugar water for several minutes. Positioning the camera and setting it for macro closeup, I patiently waited for one to come down so I could get a nice view in silhouette. Several attempts failed. They moved too fast. Then, success. To my amazement, their little bellies were so distended they were translucent. Light shined through them. What a fun nature lesson this morning.

Heading home...belly full.

Heading home…belly full.

Home Made Ice Cream

Summer is a great time for ice cream. The home made kind is a special treat. As kids, many of us remember getting out the ice cream maker. You needed a big tub, lots of ice, salt, the maker, and some people to crank the handle until it was too hard to turn. After the ice cream was finished, someone pulled out the beater and put it in a cake pan. Several kids would gobble up the ice cream stuck to it. You finally got a bowl of it with your favorite topping(s).

OH MY GOSH! MY BRAIN IS FROZEN!

Today, it is a lot easier to make ice cream. No salt is needed for some machines. Our maker has a mixing tub we keep in the freezer. Inside its walls is a liquid at room temps. It freezes when stored there, ready at any time.

IceCream1Our recipe is from the instruction booklet. It is reliable and can be altered for variety. Today, we made vanilla. In the third ingredient, we used a cup of half-and-half with a cup of whipping cream instead of two cups of heavy cream. Sometimes we only use half-and-half. Mint Chip is great with peppermint and green food coloring. Try whatever recipe you like.

Mix up the potion and set it in the freezer for 30 minutes to give it a good chill. The machine freezes it in a shorter time when pre-chilled.

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Here is the mix ready for the pre-chill. Stir it for long enough to dissolve all the sugar grains.

IceCream2After 30 minutes in the freezer, pour it into the machine and turn it on. It takes ours 25 minutes.

IceCream3The machine has an opening in the top to let you see the consistency of the ice cream. When it looks ready, turn off the machine and open it up. Looks good, huh? You can’t have any yet. It is going into the freezer for a few hours to get more firm. The bottom photo shows it ready to go in the freezer.

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After a few hours, dish it out, add toppings if you like, and enjoy a great summer treat. Yum 🙂

 

 

 

 

People Gotta Eat

by Melanie and Jim

Melanie:

One of my favorite quotations is from Mother Teresa. She said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, just feed one.” In other words, we all have the capacity to make someone’s life better, even if we can’t change the world.

Sometimes our impact is through a kind word or gesture. Other times we literally feed someone. Today Jim and I had the opportunity to do something more rare. We fed a hundred.

Several times a year the Johnson County (Iowa) Democrats and OFA (Organizing for Action) prepare and serve for the Free Lunch Program. The program provides a free hot meal six days a week to anyone who shows up. On average, more than 130 meals are served a day. There is no obligation, no expectation, and no religious or other preaching. From the website:

Respecting the dignity of the guests has been the cornerstone of its service. “An open door, a full plate, no questions asked.” This guiding principle of unconditional respect and hospitality has been as integral to the program as the hot, nourishing meals.

We have helped with this service for a couple of years. Our roles have varied from meal prep, to serving, to clean-up. It takes more than a dozen people to pull this off. Today we had a crew of seven to fix the meal, and we helped with the prep. I stirred up two big pans of cornbread, helped with the dessert, and readied three large bowls of greens for salad. Jim and I also got the dining room ready, moving chairs from tabletop to floor, and wiped tables off.

The menu today was a popular one we’ve used before: baked chicken thighs with barbecue sauce, baked beans, cornbread, two kinds of salad, hard-boiled eggs, and peach crisp. It was good to use a familiar menu, because we were in an unfamiliar location.

Jim:

It was fun to see the faces of some other volunteers as they came into the new facility. The former location was in the basement of the Wesley Center near downtown. It was the home of the Free Lunch Program for 30 years. The kitchen was small and very crowded. One large center island served for food prep and storage of dishes, cups, silverware, hot pads, etc., in the compartments below it. The serving room was full each day. Storage and freezer space was in three different locations. Equipment was on its last legs.

The new location has ample room in the kitchen and in the dining area. There is new and donated equipment to make the work easier. There is a lot of shiny stainless steel. Front doors unlock automatically at 11:30 and re-lock at 1:30. Folks come in and head for the bathrooms and then some hot coffee. Serving starts at noon. Any food leftovers are offered for take-home.

It is a wonderful change from the cramped and dated space before. Mary, the person who has been in charge for the entire time of the program, is beaming with happiness about the new facility. She feels she has accomplished her primary goals and announced her retirement from the position last September as work progressed on the new location. As of today, no one has been hired to fill her post. They had better get moving. Mary deserves a break from her years of hard work.

This post may be an unusual addition to the list, but we are linking up with the Novice Gardener’s Fiesta Friday. We hope you all have a great weekend, and next time you fill your belly with delicious food, please remember Mother Teresa’s exhortation. Because people gotta eat.

Homemade Yogurt!

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Creamy, pure white, smooth and rich. Add fresh fruit and a little drizzle of honey, you get a small piece of heaven. Jim and I have been making our own yogurt for the last month or so.

Why not just buy it? Several reasons, actually. My main reason is that purchased yogurt comes in plastic tubs, and the way we’ve usually bought it for years is in individual servings. I cringe to think of all the plastic waste we’ve dumped into the world, just from our yogurt cups. (And yes, we recycle!) Making our own yogurt reduces our plastic footprint.

Another reason is because I’ve been trying to take better control of the food I eat.
-Click here to find out more, including how to make your own!>