Month: August 2009

Delicious Toasted Muesli

Mixing MuesliMy quest to make more food from scratch continues. This is the most delicious toasted muesli (for those of you in the USA, it’s somewhat like Granola) and I’m completely addicted to it. I was away for two weeks recently and I craved it the whole time. So, without further ado, here it is:

  • Preheat the oven to 300F degrees.
  • Put 5 cups rolled oats into a large bowl. Add 1 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, 1 cup slivered almonds, 1 cup bran, 1 cup shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Stir to combine.
  • Toasted MuesliHeat 3/4 cup honey (mia note: I used some of my crabapple syrup) and 4 tablespoons vegetable oil in a saucepan over low heat. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until they are well coated.
  • Spread the mixture on two (rimmed) baking sheets and bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Add 1/4 cup finely sliced dried apricots, 1/4 cup finely sliced dried apples and 1/4 cup finely sliced dried peaches (mia note: I used raisons and dried persimmon from a friend). Toss to combine. Store the muesli in an airtight container.
  • Makes 12 servings.
  • The Essential Guide to the Kitchen by Michele Cranston (Whitecap, September, 2005)

UPDATE: I’ve been informed that the calorie content of said muesli is ginormous, so please eat responsibly. I don’t want to be blamed for wider behinds. I usually modify mine to have less honey and oil than the recipe.

Preparing for the Worst – The economy as we knew it, is not coming back

While reading Nathan’s Economic Edge yesterday, I came across some words of advice from Robert Kiyosaki of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” fame. I read a lot of Kiyosaki’s work about 10 years ago but I wish I had read his 2002 book warning of the coming economic crisis, called Rich Dad’s Prophecy: Why the Biggest Stock Market Crash in History Is Still Coming…and How You Can Prepare Yourself and Profit from It! I probably would have been better prepared and maybe avoided losing an arm and a leg in the 2008 Stock Market Crash. Oh well….we live and learn. And I certainly have learned to keep myself better informed.

Below is an excerpt of Kiyosaki’s current thinking. Given all the other financial reading I’ve been doing, this aligns with my understanding of what the future holds for us economically. This is worthwhile reading.

Preparing for the Worst

by Robert Kiyosaki
Monday, August 24, 2009

“Is the crisis over?” is a question I am often asked. “Is the economy coming back?”

My reply is, “I don’t think so. I would prepare for the worst.”

Like most people, I wish for a better future for all of us. Life is better when people are working, happy, and spending money.

The stock market has been going up since March 9, 2009. Talk of “green shoots” fill the air. Yet, in spite of the more positive news, I continue to recommend that people prepare for the worst. The following are some of my reasons:

1. I believe the stock market is being manipulated. I suspect the government, banks, and Wall Street are doing everything they can to keep the market from crashing. Our leaders know that nothing makes the world feel better than a raging bull market.

Do I have any proof that the market is being manipulated? No. I just smell a rat, or a pack of rats. I believe greed, self-interest, arrogance, and fear control the financial markets. I suspect those in charge will do anything to keep us all from panicking… and I don’t blame them. A global panic would be ugly and dangerous.

2. In my view, this global crisis has been caused by the Federal Reserve Bank, the U.S. Treasury, Wall Street, and the central banks of the world. They caused the problem, profited excessively in doing so, and now profit by being asked to fix the problem.

Every time I hear a politician mention the word stimulus, my mind flashes back to high school biology class, when I touched battery wires to a dead frog to make it twitch. Today, you and I are the dead frogs. Pretty soon the dead frog will be fried frog.

In the 1980s, our government’s hot money stimulus was measured only in the millions of dollars. By the 1990s, the government had to ramp the stimulus voltage into the billions in order to get the frog to twitch. Today the frog has jumper cables with trillions in high-voltage hot money pouring through the lines.

While most us feel better when we have more high-voltage money in our hands, none of us feel good about higher taxes, increasing national debt, and rising inflation for the long term. Another old saying goes, “Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.” I say the government stimulus cure is killing us frogs.

3. Old frogs don’t hop. Another reason I am cautious about the future is that the Western world has a growing number of old frogs. Between 1970 and 2000, the economy responded to bailouts and stimulus packages because the baby boomers of the world were entering their greatest earning years — their purchasing power increased, and demand for homes, cars, refrigerators, computers, and TVs boosted the economy.

The stimulus plans seemed to work. But when a person turns 60, their spending habits change dramatically. They stop consuming and start conserving like a bear preparing for winter. The economy of the Western world is heading into winter. Hot wires and hot money will not get old frogs to hop. Old frogs will simply join the bears and stick that money in the bank as they prepare for the long, hard winter known as old age. The businesses that will do well in a winter economy are drug companies, hospitals, wheelchair manufacturers, and mortuaries.

4. The dying frog economy will lead us to the biggest Ponzi schemes of all: Social Security and Medicare. If we think this subprime financial crisis is big, it’s my opinion that this crisis will be dwarfed by the crisis brewing in Social Security and Medicare… Medicare being the biggest crisis of all. As old frogs head for the big lily pad in the sky, they will demand young frogs spend even more in tax dollars just to keep old frogs from croaking.

5. The 401(k)Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme, like the scheme Madoff ran, depends upon young money to pay off old money. In other words, a Ponzi scheme needs tadpoles to finance old frogs. The same is true for the 401(k) and other retirement plans to work. If young money does not come into the stock market, the old money cannot retire. One reason so many people my age are worried, not only about Social Security and Medicare, is because they’re concerned about getting their money out of the stock market before the other old frogs decide to drain the swamp.

The facts are that the 401(k) plan has a trigger that requires old frogs to begin withdrawing their money at a certain age. In other words, as baby boomers grow older, more and more will be required, by law, to begin withdrawing their money from the market. You do not have to be a rocket scientist to know that it is hard for a market to keep going up when more and more people are getting out.

The reason the 401(k) has this law related to mandatory withdrawals is because the Federal government wants to collect the taxes that they deferred when the worker’s money went into the plan. In other words, the taxman wants their pound of flesh. Since they allowed the worker to invest without paying taxes, the government wants their tax dollars when the employee retires. That is why the laws require older workers to sell their shares — and pay their pound of flesh.

Demographics show that we are entering a battle between young and old. I call it the “Age War.” The young want to hang onto their money to grow their families, businesses, and wealth. The old want the tax and investment dollars of the young to sustain their old age.

This war is not coming…it is upon us now. This is one of many reasons why I remain cautious and say, “The worst is yet to come.”

Homemade Ginger Ale @ Edible City Celebration – San Diego

http___www.sdfoodnotlawns
This week has been the Edible City Celebration in San Diego. It’s a fantastic event held by San Diego Food Not Lawns. There were so many great events on every day of the week, so we had to be a little selective about which ones we attended. On Monday night it was the fermentation workshop where we learned how to make Hard Apple Cider, Ginger Ale and Kimchee.
Fermentation workshop
The Ginger Ale was so easy that we all made a batch right there at the workshop and brought it home with us. We were able to brew a batch of ginger ale in just 24 hours using standard baker’s yeast, sugar and ginger and a super high-tech device: a 2-liter soda bottle. Here’s how:
Equipment
  • clean 2 liter plastic soft drink bottle with cap (not glass: explosions are dangerous.)
  • funnel
  • grater (preferably with fine “cutting” teeth)
  • 1 cup measuring cup
  • 1/4 tsp and 1 Tbl measuring spoons

Supplies

  • sugar  (1 cup)
  • freshly grated ginger root (1 1/2-2 tablespoons)
  • juice of one lemon (or orange or lime)
  • fresh granular baker’s yeast (1/4 teaspoon)
  • cold fresh pure water

Directions

  1. Add 1 cup sugar to the 2 liter bottle with a dry funnel.  (Leave the funnel in place until you are ready to cap the bottle.) NOTE: Do not use a glass bottle. Ginger ale is a very aggressive fermenter, producing high pressure fairly rapidly. Plastic bottles can be felt to judge pressure. Glass cannot. Tardy refrigeration can lead to explosions. Exploding plastic bottles are messy. Exploding glass botles are dangerous…
  2. Measure out 1/4th teaspoon fresh granular active baker’s yeast and add through funnel into the bottle, shake to disperse the yeast grains into the sugar granules.
  3. Grate the ginger root on a fine “cutting” grater to produce 1 1/2 Tablespoon of grated root and then place grated ginger in the measuring cup.
  4. Juice a whole citrus fruit (lemon, lime, orange) and add to the grated ginger and stir to create lemon-ginger slurry.  (Citrus is optional, giving a little tartness to the ginger ale)
  5. Add the slurry of lemon juice and grated ginger to the bottle.
  6. Fill the bottle to the neck with fresh cool clean water, leaving about an inch of head space. Securely screw cap down to seal. Invert repeatedly to thoroughly dissolve sugar.  (The ginger root will not dissolve.)
  7. Place in a warm location for 24 to 48 hours.  (Do not leave at room temperature longer than necessary to feel “hard.”  The excess pressure may cause an eruption when you open it, or even explode the bottle!)
  8. Test to see if carbonation is complete by squeezing the bottle forcefully with your thumb.  If it dents in as in the picture, it is not ready.
  9. Once the bottle feels hard to a forceful squeeze, usually only 24-48 hours, place in the refrigerator. Before opening, refrigerate at least overnight to thoroughly chill. Crack the lid of the thoroughly chilled ginger ale just a little to release the pressure slowly. NOTE: do not leave the finished ginger ale in a warm place any longer than the time it takes for the bottle to feel hard. Leaving it at room temperature longer than two days, especially in the summer when the temperature is high, can generate enough pressure to explode the bottle!
  10. Filter the ginger ale through a strainer if you find floating pieces of ginger objectionable.  Serve!
I took the bottle in to work to share it around and make sure it tasted ‘authentic’. My friend George made a lovely label to make it look more professional 🙂 Everyone was really impressed and I’ll probably run a lunchtime workshop in the office one day soon.
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Home

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Brendan and I watch a lot of documentaries, but last night we watched what I consider to be the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Home takes viewers on a ride around an Earth put in dire peril by its most adaptable life form, humanity.

The shot-from-above cinematography is simply stunning. French photographer Yann Arthus-Betrand has managed to turn the most dismally wasted landscapes into abstractions of color and form. One of the disturbing discoveries of “Home” is that there is beauty to be found even in environmental devastation, if you film it from far enough away. As a photographer I found the entire movie one of the most visually beautiful productions I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is second to none.

Anyone who appreciates beautiful and stirring music will also love the soundtrack. It’s extremely emotive. The script is exceptionally well written and powerful. It is narrated by Glenn Close.

Home2

A review from Change.org

Hopping quickly over the first four billion of the Earth’s Arcadian human-free early years, we arrive at the latter 200,000. Humans hunt and gather, discover agriculture, build cities, burn fossil fuels for energy, fill dismally dusty feedlots with corn-fattened beef cattle, over-consume resources, shatter the food chain with pesticides. They waste their minds on television, isolate themselves in suburbia, create sterile monuments to modernity, overfish the oceans, desertify the plains, deplete fresh water supplies, promote a wrongheaded “western model of development,” use up most of the oil, and refuse to own up to any of it.

And that’s just the first hour.

By the time we arrive at film’s end, where the narration exhorts us that “it’s too late to be a pessimist,” we’ve also depleted the soil, chopped down tropical forests for palm oil plantations, triggered the Sixth Great Extinction of animals and plants in the Earth’s history, hoarded wealth, built crowded megacities, left most of the swelling human population of six billion plus in poverty and environmental injustice, and tipped the climate’s delicate balance toward runaway global warming.

home3
Throughout the movie I had goosebumps and by the end I had tears in my eyes. Not just from the message but from the beautiful way it is portrayed. This movie is simply a masterpiece. Please set aside a quiet hour or two to watch it. You will not regret it.

Why we choose a bike over a car

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Photo by wvs.

I’ve always owned a bike, but mostly it sat in the garage collecting dust. When we moved to the USA, however, we decided not to get a second car but to rely instead on our bicycles. For the first six months or so, my bike remained in the garage, but on the 4th of July last year I dusted it off and haven’t looked back since. Independence Day in our neighbourhood is a big thing. People from all over make the trip to our little city and clog up the streets with cars. If you don’t get a park by about 5am, you aren’t getting one at all. The parade down the main street at 10am makes getting around by car even more difficult. The solution? Peddle power. We rode everywhere that day – to the parade, to the shops, to a friends party on the other side of town. What I hadn’t expected was how much fun it would be. At about midnight as we slowly cruised back home, there were still plenty of people out riding their bikes and enjoying the beautiful night. Since then, I ride everywhere in my neighbourhood and to work most days.

Saving Money I know this is so obvious that I probably don’t even need to mention it, but have you ever done the sums? Here’s what we pay for our one car on a monthly basis (averaged over three years):

  • $105.00 – insurance
  • $8.00 – roadside assistance
  • $30.00 – registration
  • $55.00 – maintenance
  • $95.00 – gas

Since we always make a point of buying our cars with cash, we don’t have interest payments to consider. However, if I have $10,000 earning 7% in my mortgage offset account rather than using the money to buy another car, that’s another $2,329 in interest earnings over three years. I also need to account for depreciation which is the most painful aspect of owning a car in my opinion. Using a car depreciation calculator I worked out that a $10,000 car could depreciate between $2,950 and $4,880 in three years. Over the three years we will be living in the USA, the decision to not have a second car saves us somewhere between $15,800 and $18,000! That’s a darn good holiday!

Health Benefits My legs are stronger, my heart is fitter, my mind is clearer. These can only be good things. Taking away a passive activity (sitting in a car) and replacing it with a simple everyday activity has been an easy way to increase my movement. I’m usually the type of person who battles exercise, but when I took up riding with its many benefits, I didn’t see it as just exercise. It’s been a clever way to trick my mind.

Better for the environment For me, this is a big one. Often when I ride home from work I overtake about a hundred (not an exaggeration) cars caught in traffic jams. I casually cruise by while each of their gas guzzlers idle and belch out toxic emissions. Not only am I saving money, but I’m saving non-renewable raw materials. I’m reducing my carbon footprint. I’m keeping the air cleaner and reducing that nasty smog which seems a permanent fixture in many American cities.

Simplifying Life Getting out and riding a bike to work and around the neighbourhood truly makes me notice things I wouldn’t have while stuck in a car. I enjoy the breeze in my face, the sun on my back, the exchanging of pleasantries with people I pass. I find it so much more relaxing to ride to the local library than to drive and try to find a park on the main street. Using the bike has so many benefits that I truly hope that this can be a permanent change in my life. Who else has discovered the joys of using a bike instead of the car?

Caterpillars…the latest invasion of grubs

After being out of town for two weeks, the caterpillars decided to have a party all over my broccoli plants. I usually am happy to share, but there were so many I had to do some selective culling. These sacrificial ‘pillars were left for the birds. The next day, all the birds must have found out about the feast because they came into the yard and cleaned up the broccoli plants for me. If they keep this up, I won’t have to get my hands dirty collecting caterpillars.

Caterpillars

I got the fright of my life after coming across the biggest caterpillar in the world on one of my cayenne pepper plants. I don’t know what this guy has been taking but he’s a monster compared to all the other caterpillars in the garden. I initially decided to leave him be so we could watch the metamorphose, but after some research I discovered he is a Tobacco Hornworm and could demolish whole plants overnight. I didn’t have the heart to kill him so I had Brendan come out to try and relocate him. We tried our hardest to pry him off with kitchen tongs, but there was no hope of getting him off that plant. Eventually I cut the whole branch and ‘relocated’ him elsewhere. (Hope my neighbours don’t read this 🙂 If we had left him, he would have become a Hummingbird Moth.

Tobacco Hornworm

Independence Days….back from my work trip

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Photo by: Guille

I’ve been away for work for two weeks and came back to a garden in full swing. It’s our first ever vege garden, so I wasn’t expecting much when we started planting earlier this year. Surprisingly it’s been really productive. I guess the plants love that California sunshine. I’m even more surprised that I haven’t killed anything. I’ve never really got into the traditional lawn and flower gardening and usually managed to kill everything through neglect. Not so with the veges….they’ve been a labour of love since the start. I’m completely surprised how much I enjoy it. Ok…since I was away for a few weeks, it’s been a busy weekend.

Planted: Nil

Harvested: Tomatoes by the bucket-load. Crabapples by the bucket-load. A handful of Squash. 35 Jalapenos. A head of Broccoli. Basil. Oranges.

Preserved: Tomatoes were made into spaghetti sauce. Half the Crabapples became Crabapple Liqueur and the rest were blanched and frozen. Hung the Jalapenos up to dry. Made Pesto from the Basil and froze it.

Waste Not: I cut back some of the squash and tomato plants and added them to the compost with the kitchen scraps. The first compost bin must be almost ready to use, so I’d like to get the second one full before I leave for three weeks in September.

Want Not: Before I left on my work trip we had been collecting a few items which had been left for trash. Brendan has been collecting old radios and electronics and is inventing something in the shed. I don’t see him anymore! Yesterday he unveiled a new Antenna for the TV which he’d made from some discarded timber, coat-hangers and various other items. It even worked! (Not that I had any doubts).  He’s extremely creative and manages to turn all sorts of junk into useful items. A few old pots left for trash outside the Marriott Hotel was all I managed to scavenge. They’ll be useful when I start seeds again later this year.

Learn a New Skill: I’m still working on learning skills regarding preserving foods. It makes sense given the abundance we have at the moment.

Work on Community Food Systems: Nothing new. Green Waste collection at work was on hold while I was away, but one friend still dropped theirs over. Brendan gave some of our garden bounty away to some friends who had him over for dinner while I was away.

Where in the World? Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA

In July we did a roadtrip through Colorado, South Dakota and Wyoming. A trip to Yellowstone National Park has been high on my list of places to visit, so when we had the opportunity to go to Colorado for a seminar, we decided a detour to North-West Wyoming would be worth it.

Upon entering Yellowstone, we decided to bee-line it to Old Faithful, the most famous of the geysers in the park. For those not aware, a geyser is a hot spring which intermittently ejects water and plenty of steam. Eruptions of Old Faithful occur every 45-125 minutes and they can be predicted within a 20 minute timeframe, so when we arrived we knew we had about half an hour until the eruption.  It was a hot day and we could see that the viewing area was going to become packed with hundreds of people so we decided to hike up a small mountain for a better view. It was a good decision, because as usual very few people had bothered and we had a great view and no crowds to contend with.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 U.S. gallons (14–32.000 litre) of boiling water to a height of 106–185 feet (30–56 m) lasting from 1.5 to 5 minutes.The above photo will give you a good idea of the height of the eruption when you consider the size of the people in the crowd down there.

Solitary Geyser

After watching Old Faithful blow, when went for another short hike to check out some of the other geysers in the vicinity and then had to rush off to find ourselves a campsite for the night. Being high Summer, the park is full of people on vacation and we didn’t want to be left without somewhere to sleep for the night.

Yellowstone Geysers

Check out more photos from my travels

Cayenne Peppers 101

First cayenne peppers

One of the earliest successes we had in the garden was the cayenne peppers. Of course, we cheated just a little bit and bought six plants as seedlings. We put three directly into the ground, one into a large pot and we experimentally tried two plants in a straw bale. While those in the straw bale managed to stay alive they failed to thrive and started turning yellow. Eventually they looked so sick that I pulled them out and planted them in the ground. After a little bit of nursing they are now doing very well.

The plants grew easily and the one in the pot flowered very quickly. In hindsight, I would have pinched off those early flowers. Once flowering, all other growth ceased and it is now only a third of the size of the other plants which were slower to flower. Consequently it’s also produced less fruit.

The cayenne peppers got to their full size quite quickly, but it took at least another two months for them to start turning red.  It took some patience to leave them there, but our first taste of a green pepper lacked any sort of heat so we were determined to give them some time to spice up.

Eventually we had some ripened red peppers and a good sized bite left me with tears in my eyes.

ready to harvest

We love spicy food, so these peppers will be used all year around. At this stage I have over 80 peppers drying in the kitchen and another couple of dozen have been pickled. We still have plenty left on the plants, so I suspect we are going to have to grind some dried peppers into flakes and give them away to anyone who enjoys spicy food.

drying cayenne peppers