Monday, July 25, 2011

The Lesson of Yosef and the Well-Stocked Pantry

And YosÄ•ph said to Pharaoh, "The dream of Pharaoh is one. Elohim has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do: The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good heads are seven years – it is one dream. And the seven lean and ugly cows which came up after them are seven years, and the seven empty heads scorched by the east wind are seven years of scarcity of food.

This is the word which I spoke to Pharaoh: Elohim has shown Pharaoh what He is about to do. See, seven years of great plenty are coming in all the land of Mitsrayim, but after them seven years of scarcity of food shall arise and all the plenty be forgotten in the land of Mitsrayim. And the scarcity of food shall destroy the land, and the plenty shall not be remembered in the land, because of the scarcity of food following, for it is very severe.

And the dream was repeated to Pharaoh twice because the word is established by Elohim, and Elohim is hastening to do it.

And now, let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Mitsrayim. Let Pharaoh do this, and let him appoint overseers over the land, to take up one-fifth of the land of Mitsrayim in the seven years of plenty. And let them gather all the food of those good years that are coming, and store up grain under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities.

And the food shall be for a store for the land for the seven years of scarcity of food which shall be in the land of Mitsrayim, and do not let the land be cut off by the scarcity of food."

And the word was good in the eyes of Pharaoh and in the eyes of all his servants. And Pharaoh said to his servants, "Could we find another like him, a man in whom is the Spirit of Elohim?" (B'reshith 41:25-38)

Last Shabbat we covered this passage from the Torah portion Mikeitz, and discovered many interesting things - the relationship between the fine looking fat cows and Rachel and the ugly gaunt cows and Leah, the reason why the rabbis say a dream is detailed twice in scripture (once is for that day, once is for a future time), the coming famine of the word as mentioned in the eighth chapter of Amos. And many other interesting things too, as we have an excellent teacher.

But, he is not in charge of a pantry. So he did not mention an important detail.

In the passage above I find a principle which I have sought diligently to apply as a wife and homemaker. That is, preparing for the worst of times while we can, so that we can not only take care of ourselves but also those who may not have "seen it coming" like we did. Specifically, the taking of one fifth of the produce of the land during the time of plenty for storage when the lean years arrive.

This is a very easy principle to apply to your weekly grocery shopping. Say if you average $150 a week at the grocery store, you take one fifth of that, or $150 x .20 = $30 and you use $30 of your budget to buy food for long-term storage. You buy things your family actually eats, in bulk, when it's on sale, and you package it properly and store it away in whatever place you can. Well, what about the $30 that I needed to spend on this week's food? Learn to do it on less. There's plenty of information available for how to trim the cost of your food budget. Change your palate. Eat more beans and rice; in fact, it's not only better for you than meat, but nearly the entire world's population survives on it. You can too.

Take advantage of whatever dirt you have and grow some food. Containers abound; use what you can find. Learn to compost your kitchen waste so you have soil amendments for free. Get a few chickens who will not only give you eggs but manure for your garden beds. Be creative! Last spring I was growing lettuce in my flowerboxes instead of pansies because, frankly, lettuce tastes better on a sandwich than a pansy. And even though it's blazing hot outside, it's the perfect season for getting another crop of green beans in. Get some carrots and beets in so you can dig them up later this fall. Pretty soon you can put in broccoli and spinach, as well as lettuce sets; get them going inside the house in containers from which you can transplant them. Take stock of your day. Do you really, really need to do your nails? Or would your time be better spent getting your household in order? You can grow food! You can try and fail and get better and learn and try again. This is the way it goes. It can be done.

I have friends who do not have much storage space, so they use the area under their bed. Others make use of the space under their stairwells. How many board feet of shelving can you put up on the bare wall? Probably enough to hold six months' worth of food. Designate an area in your house that is dedicated to food (and water, and soap, and TP) storage, and prepare yourself. Develop a mindset that sees the meaning of Pharaoh's dream, and is wisely stewarding for the days ahead.

Why? Let's just take a look at how much just food prices have increased in the last year.

All cuts of beef - 8.2%
Ground beef - 11%
Chicken - 2.1%
Turkey - 6.6%
Eggs - 11.1%
Fish - 8.2%
Milk - 10.2%
Cheese - 6.9%
Ice cream - 6.6%
Butter - 21.7%
Bananas - 5.8%
Potatoes - 11.6%
Tomatoes - 10.9%
Cereal - 5.2%
Sugar - 4.0%
Coffee - 17.6%
Oils - 9.7%

Let me ask you. Has your income gone up to account for these price increases? I suspect not. In fact, I know some of you are not working this year like you were last year, so your income has decreased. Inflation is up, 3.5% since last year, which doesn't sound like a lot, but over the last ten years? Up 27.5%. That means our dollar is worth about 3/4 of what it was ten years ago. Think about that. The price of gold is at a record high. Silver is going up. Oil is up. Natural gas is up. It may seem irrelevant to you, but all these things matter where your pantry is concerned.

I'm not going to tell you all the places you can go online to search for money-saving ideas (though there are some links here on this blog that will do just that). But I am urging you to take long-term food storage seriously.

Why? Well, maybe you should spend a little time in the Prophets to see what's coming. It's not pretty. And of course, there is this wisdom from the Proverbs:

"Go to the ant, O sluggard, observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest. How long will you lie down, o sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? 'A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest' -- your poverty will come in like a vagabond and your need like an armed man." (Proverbs 6:6-11).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Salad - It's What's For Dinner!

In this heat, it's rare that I use the big oven except for canning. Instead, I have a small convection oven that is large enough for a 12-inch pizza, and since it doesn't heat up much, it gets quite a workout in the summer. This is it: Mine is an older model, slightly different, but it also has a rotisserie capacity for roasting a small chicken.

Why am I telling you about a convection oven in a post about salads? Because it's what I use to either heat up Perdue breaded chicken or to bake wild-caught salmon for topping the salad and adding the necessary protein for the dinner meal. Here's the chicken I use in a pinch -

but of course Trader Joe's wild caught salmon is also excellent in this salad (yes, I'm getting to it!). You could also used a cut of flat iron steak, cooked medium and cooled, then sliced up for piling on top of the salad.

Ramen Noodle Asian Coleslaw
Serves 4-5 for dinner, maybe 12-15 for a side salad


1 bag of angel hair cole slaw, rinsed and drained (I use this):

1/3 bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped
3 green onions, trimmed and roughly sliced
Half a bag of spring pea pods, washed and roughly chopped (you could also use snow pea pods, but I like the crunch and sweetness of the spring peas)
1/4 red or yellow or orange or green bell pepper, small dice
1 medium cucumber, prefereably from the garden so you can leave the peel on, but if store-bought, peeled, then quartered and sliced crosswise into bite-sized chunks
1 pkg of oriental flavor ramen noodles (no meat products, vegetarian)
3/4 to 1 cup of whole raw almonds, lightly toasted in either a skillet or in the convection oven, cooled and roughly chopped
3 Tablespoons of brown sesame seeds (unhulled); you can use hulled but the unhulled are more nutritious
Other options
1 finely grated carrot, or
1 cup of mixed micro greens (broccoli, arugula, radish, etc.), or
1 cup sunflower sprouts, or
1 cup chopped pea sprouts, or
1 cup your favorite lettuce, washed and torn

Keep in mind the more volume you have, the more salad dressing you'll need. The recipe I'm giving you will cover the main salad plus an additional 1 cup of greens.

1 packet of oriental ramen seasoning from the ramen noodles
2 T. brown sugar
2 t. soy sauce
1 T. toasted sesame oil (I use plain, but you could use hot pepper oil if you're adventurous)
1/4 c. peanut oil
3 T. unseasoned rice vinegar
1 T. mirin (Japanese rice wine, very sweet)
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. pepper

Place the dressing ingredients in a pint jar, put on the lid, shake vigorously. It's ready. You could also add a few drops of sriracha sauce if you like spicy.

Combine all the salad ingredients except the ramen noodles, sesame seeds, almonds, and meat. I use a 12-cup plastic container so I can shake it all up. When you're ready to serve, add the ramen noodles (place them first in a plastic sandwich ziplock and smash the heck out of them until they're in tiny pieces), the almonds, the sesame seeds, and the dressing. Put the lid on the container and shake it all up. You can then dish out the salad and put the sliced meat on top of it, or you could add the meat before you shake it all up. I do the latter if I'm taking it for a community meal.

This is a delicious salad, much requested by those who have tasted it, and quite filling for a dinner meal. Add a glass of sparkling grape or pear juice, or a tall cold glass of fresh mint iced tea, and enjoy!