Yesterday, Hannah and I finally got some yard work done outside. She did a lot of weeding and bush trimming while I kept her company and helped with the bagging.
While we were out there, we realized that most of the mint growing in the front bed is already “past its prime.” Some of the plants in front were mostly dead sticks, with a few scraggly leaves left at the top. A few weeks ago, they were full of big, bright green leaves. Still, the plants in back looked very healthy, and there were still some leaves to be harvested from the scraggly stalks.
First she cut down the dying stalks and I salvaged what leaves I could from them. It was still enough to fill a 1 gallon food storage bag. If we’d done these weeks ago, I think we would have gotten 5 or 10 times as many leaves. After trimming away the ugly leaves in front, we realized it was probably wise to harvest the smaller plants in back too. They’re smaller, but shiny and green, and likely to die soon if it gets too cold at night. So we harvested all of those too, and got enough leaves to fill another bag.
I think that we would have gotten 1 or 2 bags of mint leaves in early November even if we had remembered to harvest the front plants in September. Most of the growth in the back plants happened after the front plants died off, providing more sunlight in the back. They might have grown even more than they did, had we cut the plants down a few weeks earlier than they thinned on their own.
All told, we've had a horribly stressful autumn and we still managed to get 2 gallons of fresh mint leaves. Last year we only harvested a few leaves, mostly for immediate use. I still have a windfall of fresh herbs I’m not quite sure what to do with.
I’d welcome any ideas anyone has for using these leaves up and for preserving them for later use.
Eggs are an inexpensive staple in my family’s diet. In a family of Os and Bs, we need lots of animal protein, and eggs tend to be less expensive than red meat, fish, or poultry. While I’m well aware of the nutritional and animal welfare concerns about eggs produced in factory farms, the “better eggs” are significantly more expensive. How can I pay $5 a dozen for eggs at the farmer’s market when I can get 3 dozen eggs at Costco for less money?
My son has never been a big eater of eggs because he gets headaches if he eats too many. I can make him one or two eggs, as long as he also eats something else with the meal, such as toast. Even then he gets a slight headache, but I still do that once in a while because his diet is so limited. It’s always a struggle to get him to eat enough protein, fruits, and vegetables- he’d live on grains and dairy if I let him.
Recently, I was in a local supermarket and Eggland’s Best eggs were on sale for $2 an 18 pack. Since that’s about the price I pay at Costco for the “cheap eggs” I picked up 2 packages. Then I made an amazing discovery- Jack can eat these eggs without getting headaches! He’s had 3 scrambled eggs and nothing else with the meal and feels perfectly fine afterwards!
I also found that these eggs were more satisfying. If I eat them with my usual vegetables for breakfast, I find that I won’t need to eat fish or leftover meat at lunch. So, even though these eggs are normally more expensive, it won’t necessarily add to the overall food budget.
I’m still trying to find them as cheaply as possible. They retail for $5 a package, but I can sometimes find them on sale for $2. The first time I found that sale, I bought 2 packages. The next time, I bought 4. I hope they’ll last me until the next sale.
I’m still trying to find other eggs that work well for Jack, so I can alternate based on what’s on sale that week. I’m also not sure about how well Eggland keeps its chickens. I was able to find lots of nutritional information on their website, but nothing about animal welfare.
I just had some dental work done on Monday. The dentist assured me that, while I would be sore for a day or two from the procedure, I should be in less pain than I was before, since my tooth is now “fixed.”
I was still in pain Monday night, but not worried. I’m still sore from the procedure, plus it’s possible that some of the pain isn’t from the tooth he just worked on, but rather the wisdom tooth 2 teeth away. But suddenly on Tuesday night, I felt excruciating pain when I bit down on the left side! No question- this WAS from the tooth he just worked on!
But Wednesday night started Rosh Hashana, and I was busy all day Wednesday getting ready for the holiday. I really did NOT want to spend the day at the dentist, nor was I willing to do any driving on the holiday itself unless things were very serious. I did watch myself carefully for signs of infection- had my mouth gotten red or swollen, or had I spiked a fever, I would have gone to the Emergency Room.
My mouth only got worse as time went on. It hurts to chew on the left side at all. It hurts to chew on the right side “too much” and it even hurts to talk too much! I prepared the softest foods I could within the holiday and Shabbos restrictions, but the end result was rather imperfect eating.
I did make some soft green beans in the oven, and some spinach later on, but I couldn’t use electricity to make a green smoothie. The rice stuffing from the turkey was way softer than any of the greens I prepared, so I found myself eating more carbs and fewer veggies than normal. Fortunately, the turkey was soft enough for me to eat, so I managed to get plenty of protein. Plus I had stewed sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash that were all soft enough to eat easily.
I’m trying to do better today. I started the day with a green smoothie. That contained pasteurized liquid egg whites, spinach, a banana, and flax seeds. Lunch was a bowl of rice cereal and 3 scrambled eggs. I’ve managed to avoid talking or chewing too much today, so I’m not in as much pain. Now that the holidays are over, I should be able to nourish myself properly, even without being able to chew.
I called my dentist last night, after Shabbos was over, and left him a message. He’ll probably call back tomorrow. I hope I can get this fixed sooner rather than later!
It’s the start of another school year, and this year there are many changes for my family. Leah’s going off to Israel again next week, but that’s not new. Hannah’s going to community college, which means that I won’t have the car 2 or 3 days a week. And Jack will be homeschooled this year instead of attending the public middle school near our house.
I’ve homeschooled before, but this is my first year sharing a car with one of my children. I’m going to have to be much more organized about my errands- I can’t just run to the store if I realize I’ve forgotten something, not if I don’t have the car.
Right now, Hannah is at class and my Mom took Jack and Leah to the pool. I’m enjoying the quiet. I got some household chores done, but mostly I spent the day unwinding and enjoying the time alone. I’m not going to have a whole lot of that this year.
As I started making dinner, I realized I was low on mushrooms. I thought that maybe I’d run out to the store and buy some, when I remembered that I couldn’t. It’s very freeing- I don’t have to run around like a lunatic- I *have to* stay at home and pace myself. I’ll *have to* stay home and make do with what’s already in the house.
Later in the year when it’s cooler, I may walk or bike to the store or other errands. I don’t currently have a working bike, but Hannah’s bike only needs some routine maintenance and she won’t be using it when she has my car. For now, I’m enjoying the quiet and the “forced relaxation” this new routine is going to bring.
This week, the CSA gave us 5 pounds of beefsteak tomatoes- in addition to about a pound of cherry tomatoes- plus we didn’t even finish all the tomatoes we got last week! Clearly, it’s time to make tomato sauce. We saved the cherry tomatoes for salads and decided to use the large tomatoes for sauce.
Last year, I made tomato sauce in the crock pot. I remember blanching tomatoes then peeling them and putting them in the crock pot, adding onion, garlic, and fresh basil, and letting it simmer overnight. It turned brown before it was done, and it was still thinner than commercial sauce, but still very tasty. I also pureed it with the stick blender before freezing it, since we were planning to use it for making pizza.
Before I had a chance to do any of that, Leah got started on making the sauce herself. After blanching the tomatoes, she sautéed onion and garlic in olive oil in our medium sized soup pot. She peeled, chopped, and seeded the tomatoes while the veggies were sautéing, then added the tomatoes and let it simmer on low-medium heat for a few hours. She got some basil from the garden and added that early in the cooking process. It was covered most of the time, but I left the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape so it would get thicker.
By bedtime, the sauce was done. It was still bright red, and probably as thick as it was going to get. She didn’t want to puree it, as she likes chunkier sauce for eating on pasta and such. I filled one small glass jar with the sauce and put that in the fridge. Then I put the rest into zipper sealed “snack bags.” I put all the little bags into a gallon sized freezer bag and put the whole thing in the freezer. Now we can easily thaw just enough for one bowl of pasta or a few pizzas.
If we get more tomatoes, and I make more sauce, I’ll probably puree the other batches. We mostly used the homemade sauce for pizza last year, and smooth sauce works best for that. I’m not sure if I’ll make it in the soup pot or the crock pot, though. The soup pot seemed to work better, but then I had to handle all of it in one day instead of being able to leave half the project for the next day.