Category Archives: Domestic Engineering

Bountiful Baskets – Fresh Fruit & Veggies for LESS

This weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in Bountiful Baskets! I love this concept – it’s a food co-op where people get together and buy produce and other grocery items directly from produce vendors, so you save a TON of money.

“The Co-op offers a conventional produce basket very other week which is generally ½ fruit and ½ veggies. The monetary contribution is $15.00 and is generally worth $50.00 retail. Organic baskets require a contribution of $25. To participate visit http://www.BountifulBaskets.org and check the schedule to see when your state is available to make your monitary contribution using a debit or credit card. Then, pick up your basket on Saturday morning at the time and place you chose when you contributed!” – BountifulBaskets.org

Volunteering is an important part of the process, since it helps keep costs to a minimum. They ask that you show up an hour early to help sort produce baskets at least every 4-6 weeks if you’re able. It actually looked like the folks at my pickup site were enjoying themselves, so I’m looking forward to pitching in!

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Image Courtesy: Bountiful Baskets Facebook Page

The simplicity of the whole operation is genius. On Monday last week, I went online and made my “contribution” and then on Saturday went to the pick-up site to get my produce!

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Image Courtesy: Footprints in the Butter Blog

For $15 (+$1.50 processing fee, +$3.00 one-time basket purchase), I got all of the following:

– 1 head Bok Choy

– 2 heads Green Leaf Lettuce

– 6 Radishes

– 1 Garlic Bulb

– 1 bunch Asparagus (about 25 stalks)

– 1 bunch Celery

– 2 Green Bell Peppers

– 4 Lemons

– 4 Mangos

– 7 Bananas

– 1 package Strawberries

That’s A LOT of food for $16.50!! I am very happy with the price and assortment of produce, but I think the best part is the freshness of everything. I hate going to the grocery store, and not knowing for sure how long the produce has been sitting on the shelves. The worst part is buying something that spoils in the next day or two.

To me, the most intimidating aspect of the whole Bountiful Baskets thing is that you don’t have any control over what kinds of produce you’ll get. However, I think that it’s also one of the benefits. I have a bunch of bok choy and radishes sitting in my fridge that will need to be eaten (I HATE wasting good food!), so I’m compelled to go online in search of recipes. In fact, Bountiful Baskets has a blog where they post recipes and produce tips regularly. This is actually where I found my Cucumber & Radish Salad recipe!

So what about you? Have you ever participated in something like this? Do you have any unusual (& delicious) recipes to share?

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Raw Milk & Real Food in Fort Worth!

I have recently been very pleasantly surprised at my whole food options here in the Fort Worth area. After too many frustrating years of shopping for meat & produce at Walmart {the closest “grocery” store in my area}, I have been looking for alternatives to the grocery model altogether.

Now that I’ve been eating more naturally-produced and nutritious food, I’m surprised to find that I don’t want fast/junk food nearly as much as I used to … I wonder if it’s because my body & brain are {FINALLY} getting the proper fats and nutrition!?

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Texsax Ranch is a family-run operation out of their backyard southwest of Fort Worth {it’s a big yard}. Their chickens – all 300+ of them – have the best life ever:

“Our egg layers are a mixed flock of Barred Rocks, Brahmas, Australorps and Welchsummers that roam freely with our cattle. They are our natural way of controlling barn flies and pasture parasites. They feed on our pasture bermuda grass and have free choice access to a certified organic, soy-free feedmix supplied by Texas’ only local organic feedmill (Coyote Creek).” – http://www.texsaxranch.com 

The first time I went to buy eggs from them, a fresh basket of {dirty} eggs had just been brought in, and I had first pick!! One of the most fun aspects of getting eggs from a mixed flock is the variety of colors and sizes of eggs that I get – I regularly see speckled brown, light brown {“pink”}, and green eggs. I’ve even cracked open a larger egg to find that it had twin yolks! JACKPOT!!

Heidi & I eat an egg every morning for breakfast, so buying eggs from this farmer is a perfectly easy way to be sure that we’re packing in the nutrition first thing in the morning. The yolk’s deeper orange hue and thicker consistency are signs of low cholesterol and high protein. Plus, they just TASTE better!

I randomly ran across this Flickr Photostream that illustrates this whole lovely situation. Check it out.

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Nors Dairy – this is another family operation that is located WAY south of the Metroplex {in Abbott, TX}.

They produce 100% grass fed beef and dairy.

I get my milk and butter from them through a co-op, so I haven’t ever actually had to make the drive {although I’d LOVE to, if anyone is up for a road trip!} … but this is REALLY good milk.

I have found that I consume LESS milk and butter when it is sourced from healthy, grass-fed cows – it is just SO much richer, so much more delicious!

Here is a great article from the blog, Hail Merry, about their actual visit to the farm.

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Artisan Baking Co. – another GREAT family business, these guys make the most delicious handmade bread!

Apparently, they got their start by selling their handmade bread & baked goods at the Cowtown Farmer’s Market at the Weatherford Traffic Circle in Fort Worth, which is where I discovered them & bought my first loaf.

{By the way – the Cowtown Farmer’s Market is so COOL – go check this out if you haven’t already!}

Hint: if you drizzle a little honey on a toasted slice of their Nine Grain Harvest bread, I promise that you will die and go to heaven. Metaphorically speaking … but seriously.

They offer on-site baking and cooking classes, recipes online, and links to other awesome Fort Worth foodie establishments.

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What about you? How do you feel about the Local/Whole Food movement in Texas? Do you have any little local foodie tips to share?

Gardening Resources for North Texas

I’m kind of in the hurry-up-and-wait stage of the growing season, so I’ve got a little extra time to share some of my favorite sources of information for home veggie gardening.

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Image Courtesy: RaisedUrbanGardens.com

The very best information will come from sources that are closest {most local} to your backyard garden {because they’ll be the most knowledgeable about your particular situation}, so ask around at local feed supply stores, nurseries, and landscaping/garden centers.

Aggie Horticulture has tons of great info, as well as the TAMU AgriLife Extension Service. I am an Aggie, so I may be a teensy bit biased, but I really don’t think so.

These two resources have libraries worth of information at the ready – actually, my favorite way to find the info that I’m looking for on these sites is to just google the vegetable I’m interested in and include the term “tamu horticulture” in the search box {for example, for info on growing peppers in Texas, I’d google “tamu horticulture peppers” — works every time}.

Neil Sperry seems to be the local gardening expert around here – go find his Facebook page. I’ve learned so much just reading through some of the questions and ongoing discussions on his page.

Here in the Fort Worth area, I’ve also had really good experiences with The Plant Shed and Calloway’s Nursery. Both have locations all over the metroplex and carry high-quality products and plants. The Plant Shed is very competitive with Walmart prices and Calloway’s Nursery offers workshops and extra information online. Check ’em out.

A quick tip: Avoid the big box stores. I mean, I have nothing against big box stores, it’s just that the people there won’t be as knowledgeable about the area as the guy down the road who’s been running his own garden supply for so many years.

Another quick tip: do your research. Find out which types and breeds of vegetables do well in your area. If you just grab the prettiest seed packets or transplants from Walmart and drop ’em in the ground, you might get lucky … but it’s more likely that you won’t. Just trust me – do your research!!!!!!!!!!! Which just means: poke around on the links I provided, read a bunch, and ask a bunch of local gardeners for their experience. I learned the hard way, but you don’t have to 😉

PLEASE let me know if you have some sources of good information of your own! I’m really pretty new to gardening, and I’m still learning and discovering new places to find info. Share! SHARE!! SHARE!!!

{{EEK! In the process of writing this article, I discovered this: http://northtexasvegetablegardeners.com/ … clicked through a little bit and it looks pretty awesome!}}

An Encouragement for Decent Moms Everywhere

Tonight as I reflect on everything I heard this weekend – so many great mothers speaking a message of Truth and Grace for the mission of Motherhood – I’m struck with the question of why so many of us mothers (women in general, I think) spend so much time, energy, & emotion cutting each other down, when those resources could be more wisely spent encouraging one another & walking together.

Motherhood is hard! Raising civilized, well-adjusted people is a two-decade-long process, filled with pitfalls and inevitable mistakes.

Fearing judgment or harsh scrutiny, I have seen at least a few mamas isolate themselves from other women. Still others have suffered harsh criticism, even ostracism, by other women. And what for? Does it encourage or edify? Absolutely not. Or does it just give the other woman delusions of superiority in her own parenting methods? Is it an effort to lessen her own feelings of insecurity and inadequacy?

This weekend at the Mom Heart Conference, I am so refreshed just being around these other moms. We’re learning together. We’re crying & laughing together! I don’t feel judged or scrutinized or rebuked (for my many mistakes in my still-brand-new career as a mother) – I feel inspired!

How refreshing to know that other moms have kids that act like children (gasp!); how encouraging to have someone to cheer you on to fight another day!

How life-changing to be reminded that our job as mothers isn’t to create perfect automatons, it is to fight the daily battle for their minds and hearts and souls, guiding them into Life and Truth … That an excellent education means nothing without depth & quality of character.

Why can’t we walk in this all the time? Why can’t moms build each other up & support each other when it is needed most?

I think it’s time to show each other a little understanding and a lot of grace. Time to quit seeking the approval of others & time to seek the heart of Jesus.

Working on My Mommy Skills

… And also, let’s be honest – I’m having a blast & getting super refreshed at the Mom Heart Conference in Las Colinas.

Learning a little bit about discipline & a little about grace. Can’t wait to share with you!

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How I Got My Toddler to Eat Vegetables

So, I’ve had the hardest time trying to get Heidi to eat her veggies. I’ve done my best to offer them to her at every meal, providing a wide array of options over the last few months. I’ve tried not to make a big deal about them, and tried especially hard to avoid any negative associations with them – no scolding, pressuring, etc if she didn’t eat them.

But she just wasn’t interested.

Now, I’ve seen lots of ideas and suggestions floating around on the interwebs about how to do it: offer it at every meal (no takers), slip it into other foods (too much effort, not practical for us), mix it with other foods (like broccoli in the mac ‘n’ cheese – she just picks it out), etc.

Nothing helped.

But today, as I was chopping away at stacks of veggies for tonight’s dinner, she wandered into the kitchen, looking for a snack. I was too busy (read: too lazy) to grab something from the cupboard, so I threw a few red bell pepper sticks into a small plastic bowl and put it on the coffee table in the living room where she was playing (a spot I can see from the kitchen).

Went back to chopping in the kitchen. Didn’t say a word to Heidi. Did my best to not even pay attention.

Next thing I know, she wanders back into the kitchen – CHOMPING. ON. A. RED. BELL. PEPPER.

What??!

After she FINISHED the bowl of bell pepper sticks, and came asking for more, I thought I’d push the envelope just a tiny bit. Putting on my best poker face, I put a scoop of the Black Bean & Couscous Salad that I’d just prepared in the little bowl on the coffee table.

In addition to black beans and couscous (and those yummy red bells), this particular dish also features corn, green onions, and cilantro. With cumin, rice vinegar, and olive oil for a delicious kick.

Not exactly chicken nuggets or mac ‘n’ cheese.

But – no lie – as I sit here typing this, she is devouring the stuff. She just came to show off a bit of green onion she discovered. Then she popped it in her mouth!

GREEN ONION.

This is mind-blowing stuff folks. This girl won’t even touch corn. Even if it’s slathered in butter.

I should write a book.

^Super sarcastic. This whole situation is a completely fluke-based discovery. I really hope it works for you. If it doesn’t, no worries. Just keep trying! Maybe one day they’ll just give up and eat some vegetables.

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(Maybe that’s the real reason behind this “development”?)

Time to Plant Early Spring Veggies in Fort Worth!

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Early Spring garden is planted! The broccoli and onion slips are the only visible plants right now, but soon little buds will start popping up: I’ve also planted peas, carrots, and soy beans … I’m excited to watch it grow and share my experience with you =)

I’m pretty new to raising these types of veggies – in the past, I’ve had very good luck with plants that love the heat. Peppers and tomatoes are a cinch in my raised beds. Here in North Texas, getting lots of heat over a long period of time is a pretty safe bet. But I’ve never really been “in the mood” for gardening early enough in the season to plant the early season vegetables. I’m curious to see how it goes!

On Fertilizers: I’m pretty lazy as far as gardeners go. Our soil here in North Texas is not exactly the easiest to work with, as it’s pretty heavy on the clay, so I have installed three 10’x3′ raised beds for planting food crops – DIY dirt! And while I’m not necessarily the most organic gardener (I’ve been known to use some fire ant killer at various times, and I’m not above a chemically-produced fertilizer, but I use that stuff as a last resort), I LOVE and *highly* recommend John’s Recipe by Ladybug Brand! I get mine at the local feed supply store, and I’ve also seen landscape and garden shops carry it. I have used it from the start and have never had a bad experience with it. Tomato plants seem to especially thrive on it. A little bit goes a LONG way in the home vegetable garden!

Anybody else in the planting spirit lately? I wanna know what you’re putting in the ground! What works well in your neck of the woods? What are some challenges you’ve had?