Friday, February 22, 2013

Give Away: Thy Hand Hath Provided COOKBOOK!

As I type this post, I've just finished a wonderful dish of Coconut Curry Lentils over rice (p. 53). Thanks to Jane at Thy Hand Hath Provided, I now have a recipe that totally satisfies my curry craving whenever I want! My husband said at least twice tonight "It's a keeper", meaning he really likes the dish and definitely wants it again - a high compliment as he is quite the foodie!

I've admired cookbook author Jane Bryan and her culinary skills for some time now. She grows most of her own food and is an avid canner. What makes her stand out is the fact that she actually uses all the food she puts up (in either the pantry or the freezer) in recipes all year long. It doesn't just sit on the shelf looking pretty. Wasting it would not fit her philosophy of food nor giving (read more about her family's journey to Eating Simply In Order to Give).

While many like the idea of the farm to table fad, this is truly how Jane's family lives... it sustains them; nourishing while warming the soul with most meals having traveled only as far as the garden to the table, only a few yards away. 

Another thing I learned from Jane is how to think in multiples. For example, she has a very nice pie crust recipe (p. 86) which she makes in large batches and freezes. By doing this, she is able to make a quick meal or dessert without having to stop and make the crust. I like that the recipe incorporates whole wheat flour along with the white and it's actually written out in the cookbook to make 9-11 pie crusts for both sweet and savory dishes. 

Pie Crusts (p. 86)

Table of Contents

Breakfast & Brunch
breads, Muffins, & Rolls
Salads & Dressings
Soups, Stew, Chowder, & Chili
Vegetarian Main Dishes
Main Dishes
All Kinds of Sides
Cakes & the Like
Bars & Cookies
More Sweets
Drinks & Sauces
Preserving: Canning Help
Preserving: Canning Recipes
Preserving: Freezing
Equivalents & Substitutions

What You Won't Find

These recipes are almost entirely "from scratch", so you won't see a bunch of "can of _______" or "cream of ________ soup" unless it's a canning jar holding something from the garden or a slightly more exotic ingredient such as coconut milk. Occasionally there is a box of Jello or a prepackaged cornbread mix, but these can easily be substituted for those who wish to avoid using anything from a box. There are a few recipes that occasionally call for shortening (something I personally do not use much, but again, substitutions may be made). 

Summer & Fall Pesto Pasta Salad (p. 44)

You also won't find ultra difficult recipes that require the home chef to have a culinary arts degree. For example, the Coconut Curry Lentils was an easy dish that required only two pots with an additional pot for the rice. Cleanup was very modest. On the other hand, the flavor was 5 STAR! I felt like I got a LOT of bang for my buck with this dish (so to speak).

There are plenty of basic dishes as well, but mostly in the canning section, where you WANT basics in order to use them in other recipes later on. But make no mistake about it, there are plenty of twists on old favorites such as Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 126). WOW! Sounds good, doesn't it!

Please note this book is chock full of recipes, not photos. However, Jane does have an extensive list of recipes on her blog with many great pictures. The advantage to having the cookbook is:

a) so many recipes in one location
b) something to carry around the kitchen while you're cooking (computers aren't so handy at that)
c) a resource for making notes in the margins
d) her canning & preserving notes
e) great material for curling up in bed and planning future meals!

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(please note, this recipe is on her blog, not the cookbook)

What You Will Find

If you've followed Jane's blog, you know she is a rare jewel. This gal walks the talk. And these recipes reflect how her family eats every day. Based on this cookbook, I'd say they're eating well and enjoying some great meals and lovely treats!

Because Jane consistently puts food up in jars or the freezer, she has included a section for each with foods her family preserves. For those getting started or wanting to know her particular methods, these pages will be an welcome addition.

Basic Tomato Sauce (p. 160)

Update 2/23/13: For clarification, please note that some recipes contain refined sugar and white flour. In most cases, easy substitutions may be made such as sucanat for sugar, soft white wheat (for pastries) or hard white wheat for other recipes.

I confess, my favorite thing about Jane's cookbook... her pasta and pizza recipes. Spring is right around the corner and as soon as asparagus is in season, I'm making this dish...

Pasta with Asparagus, White Beans, & Mint (p. 43)

Meet Jane...

Jane Bryan is a Christian (Mennonite) stay at home and homeschooling mom of three and wife to "pharmer" Jamey (gardener/pharmacist).  As a family, their goal is to bring glory to God by living simply in order to give while striving to eat food in it's purer forms - without pesticides, chemicals, and the necessity of miles and miles of transportation.

"The bounty of all good food available to us is overwhelming in a world where so many are hungry." ~ Jane Bryan

If you'd like to know more about Jane of Thy Hand Hath Provided, please visit her blog to find out "Why We Do What We Do" or read her interview with me on the Homestead Tour from August 2010.

Enter To Win a Cookbook!

If you would like an opportunity to win a copy of the Thy Hand Hath Provided Recipes & Preserving Cookbook, all you have to do is click on the options below. Jane is hosting 2 copies so at the end of next week, Punch Tab will randomly select 2 different winners!

UPDATE 2/25/13: Jane has graciously offered to give away a THIRD cookbook! Why not order one for yourself and if you win, give one as a gift to a fellow homesteader, a new bride, or someone struggling to cook from scratch? Spread the blessings...

Friday, February 15, 2013

Must We Have Politics Served As a Side Dish to Homesteading?

When I post something political on the HomesteadRevival Facebook page, I always receive at least one comment asking me to keep politics out of homesteading. Must we include political discussions in our endeavors to homestead? 

Unfortunately, yes.

Look... I don't want to stir up emotions or hard feelings here. I don't want to be a conspiracy theorist. Nor do I want to see evil lurking behind every tree. But freedom of choice in our country is rapidly disappearing and I never dreamed it would be food related. It's becoming harder and harder to pretend we don't have a food issue. (Perhaps I'm preaching to the choir here... please bear with me.)

Wherever there is money, there is the potential for priorities to become skewed. Now you may not THINK agricultural endeavors are big business (because seriously, none of us are getting rich at this, right?), but on a national level, Big Ag IS making serious money. We don't see it because it's only a handful of corporations that ARE Big Ag (Monsanto, Cargill, DuPont, etc.)

Besides the money issue, there are only a few things that are REALLY necessary for life, and food is at the top of the list along with water and air. If you look back over history, you’ll realize wars have been fought over food resources and for centuries, the trading of food has been considered a form of monetary exchange. Those with available food (and land, because land equals more food potential) were considered the wealthy and often had “noble” status. Read Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky to get an idea of how just one food commodity changed nations.

So... why do we bury our head in the sand and say that food is not political? Sure, I’d MUCH rather hang out with my goats and chickens, munch sugar snaps straight off the vine, sing kum-ba-ya, and ignore the political roar in the background. But as in most generations since Adam and Eve, our food supply is at risk and we need to be alert, attentive, and active. The only difference since the dawn of time is the players and venue have changed, but the fight is as old as the hills. 


Be aware that someone wants your food supply under their control… Big Ag. The UN. Honestly, it’s so big; it’s kind of hard to identify all the players. The point is to know that this is happening and acknowledge the fact you can’t ignore it.


Set aside some time each week to do some research… thirty minutes, an hour, whatever you can carve out.  Watch for laws and regulations that will limit your freedom to purchase or grow food of your choice. Find some good news sources that gives reliable information and read them weekly. Farm to Consumer is a good example.


Reposting news and information on Facebook, Twitter, and blogs is excellent. The more people that can be educated about current food and farming restrictions, the better. But don’t stop there. Write a letter. Financially support a group that lobbies for a cause you believe in, such as raw milk sales. Take part in a rally. Join a CSA and support a small farmer. Refuse to buy Big Ag products (in as much as it is humanly possible). Grow and raise your own groceries and share the bounty when possible and tell the recipient why you do it (they're bound to ask)!

Current News You Should Be Aware Of

As of January 1, 2013, the fight against small farmers and food freedom seems to have hit a new high. Perhaps Monsanto feels energized from their recent victory in California over the defeat of food labeling laws on GMO products. Here's a few examples...

Fram-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund: Morningland Cheese to Be Destroyed 

A Word For Readers Who Farm for Big Ag

If you’re still reading at this point, I commend you! I realize that you’re probably very angry. Angry at me, angry at those who would seek to take away your income, and probably even angry at Big Ag who tends to make life difficult, squeezing out every bit of profit they can (which often means you and your family make the sacrifices directly, not the corporate heads). I recognize the hard work you do and your desire to provide others with food. It’s a noble calling indeed and many don’t acknowledge or appreciate what you do.

Let me throw out a few thoughts for you to ponder…

• Is the current method of conventional farming really seem sustainable? In other words, do you feel that current farming methods are realistic on an on going basis?

• Does it seem logical that every year the rules/requirements change; often dramatically?

• Are you having to work two or three jobs just to make ends meet?

• Is this how your grandparents farmed? great-grandparents? What would they say about the methods we're using today?

• Are you feeling peace about your stewardship calling (based on Genesis 1:28-30 AND Proverbs 12:10a)?

Final Thoughts

In case you’re not sure where I stand politically, let me lay it out clearly:

• I am an ultra conservative on moral issues such as abortion, religion, etc.
• I am very conservative on constitutional issues such as gun rights, free speech, etc.
• I’m in a class not covered by liberals or conservatives when it comes to environmental issues – following Genesis, I believe we are to take dominion over the earth and subdue it, but I do not believe that means destroying massive parts of it and then ask God to fix it. We are to be good stewards of the earth without worshipping creation itself. So often it may APPEAR I’m an environmental liberal, but I'm not. Neither am I a traditional conservative in this area. (I highly recommend Noah Sander's book Born-Again Dirt for a better explanation).

That said, I often find that those I’m debating on the issues of GMO labeling, raw milk, and other small farming rights are the very people I side with in other political areas. Often I have voted for these people because MORALLY they are conservative, but in terms of food and agriculture, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum. This creates strange bedfellows indeed, making the daily battle even more difficult.

I live in one of the most conservative counties in CA, where agriculture is king. While third in ag for the state, I’m sure it’s one of the top farming counties in the nation as well. It’s the “Bible Belt” of CA, but at the same time, Monsanto and it’s subsidiaries, rule. The representative that I support is in line with all my own beliefs EXCEPT when it comes to food. It's so disappointing and can be disheartening. Perhaps you are in a similar situation as well. What should we do?

Never underestimate the power of the local government. You have a much greater chance working with a local leader than you’ll ever have influencing a national one. Form a local lobby group and select a handful of members to meet with your local representatives. Be respectful, but firm. Know your stuff and have a prepared written statement of your group’s concerns.

I confess, perhaps I am not as active as I could or should be. But I'm doing more today than I was 5 years ago. Today I'm alert. I'm as attentive as time allows. And I am making small steps to be active. I have to... The future of our food is at stake. 

Please note: Thank you for practicing kindness and civility. While debate can be a healthy intellectual engagement, comments not in keeping with Eph. 4:29 will be removed. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Peanut Butter Balls

I can not believe I haven't posted on this yet! Peanut Butter Balls are the BEST! Well, my daughter thinks so, anyway. But I bet your kids will, too, if mom and dad don't eat them after their bedtime first!

PBB make a great afternoon snack or they can be just right for a light lunch served with apple or banana slices and maple yogurt dip. And because you make them from scratch, you can control the ingredients and keep these as healthy or decadent as you please.

This recipe has lots of latitude for you to adjust ingredients, so just use your imagination and go for it! I'm posting the original recipe and then my modified version that I typically make, but it could change on any given day.

Original Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
1 cup Kashi puffed cereal

Walker Family Version of Peanut Butter Balls

1 cup organic peanut butter (no sugar variety)
1/2 cup raw honey
1 - 1 1/2 cups homemade granola

Using one of the recipes above, combine ingredients and mix well by hand. Roll into 2" balls and cover with toppings.

shredded coconut (raw or toasted)
finely chopped nuts
finely chopped carob chips or chocolate chips
melted chocolate
* Toppings are easily chopped in a small coffee grinder.

Place on a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax paper. Chill in freezer just until hardened. Transfer to an airtight container and store in refrigerator. Monitor closely as these have a way of suddenly disappearing when your back is turned...

Ah, well... much healthier than a lot of things the kids could be eating!

What will you coat your peanut butter balls with?


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