Quick, Cheap and Healthy: The Humble Bean

Red, Pink, Yellow or white, beans offer variety… and so much more !  When’s the last time you had beans in a new recipe?  Most of use enjoy a steaming bowl of soup and maybe a few  sprinkled on a salad, but do you know how good beans are for our budgets and our bodies?   Here are a few convincing reasons to try them:

• Convenience. A can of cooked  beans is just waiting to be transformed into a dip, main dish, sandwich, soup, salad, or satisfying side dish! No refrigeration, peeling, or – depending on the recipe – additional cooking needed. “Canned beans may be stored up to 12 months in their original sealed cans,” according to the American Dry Bean Board.

• Cost. Because beans are so nutrient dense and a great way to get low cost protein, a drained and rinsed 16-ounce can of cooked dried beans provides about three one-half cup servings or enough beans for two main dishes; the cost ranges from about $1 to $1.50 per can. Continue reading

Coping with Power Failures, On and Off the Grid

Depending on where you live, power failures can range from “no problem” to “major disaster.”  When we lived in cities, it seemed that they always qualified as a “major disaster.”  Living off the grid, power failures are not even an issue. When we lived back east, power failures were not only inconvenient, they were costly. Since our home was not well insulated, we used our heat and air conditioner most of the time.  Power failures only seem to happen on the hottest and coldest days of the year.

For a summer power failure, we opened all the windows to maintain an air flow.   Summer salads are the best food to eat when it’s really hot, so we immediately bought some ice and put salad makings in our cooler.  We then closed the refrigerator quickly, vowing not to open it until the outage was over.  Refrigerators and freezers will stay cold for a few days if you don’t open them.

Next, we got out the camping gear.  If it was really hot, we slept on the lowest level of the house.  Nylon sleeping bags can stay cool if you sleep on top of them.  If it’s really bad, we threw some cotton sheets on top of them and that helped.  If it wasn’t brutally hot, the tent pitched in the backyard made it a little more fun.  Making an impromptu camping trip out of a summer power outage is a good way to survive it. Continue reading

Feed Your Backyard Friends!

February means that winter is beginning to come to a close, but it doesn’t mean that it over.  February has the potential to be severe which is why it is National Bird-Feeding Month.  Over 100 species of birds visit bird feeders across the United States.

In 1994 Congressman John Porter, from Illinois, read a resolution proclaiming February as National Bird-Feeding Month.  During this month, which is one of the most difficult months for wild birds, people are encouraged to provide food, water, and shelter to help our feathered friends survive.

Watching wild birds feed in your backyard is entertaining, relaxing, educational, and doesn’t have to bust your budget. You can make some easy and inexpensive bird feeders at home and have a backyard full of feathered friends. Continue reading

Knife Sharpening 101

During most of my younger years my dad carried a folding lockblade knife on his belt. He was a minister on the weekends and a heavy equipment operator during the week. The knife he carried had been given to him in the offering plate one Sunday by a gentlemen who didn’t have any cash in his pocket at the time but had really been moved by one of dad’s sermons. Dad considered that knife a blessing …and having a sharp knife can be just that. A dull knife can be a curse.

That said, there’s a couple tricks to making a knife sharp and keeping it that way … whether it be a kitchen, pocket or sheath style. But the skills are basic and can easily be mastered. You need not spend a fortune to buy some exotic sharpening stone imported from a third world country. Blades can be shaped to a razor edge and maintained that way using a basic sharpening, or whet, stone and a couple other items. Continue reading

No Gym or TV Necessary

Back in Virginia, Craig and I were gym rats. We went to the gym at least 3 times a week. Cardio, weights and all the other machines designed to keep us fit. On the off nights, we enjoyed evenings of television. Lots of television.

Before we moved to the earthship in the middle of nowhere Arizona, we wondered about the gym. The nearest gym is about 35 miles away. It’s expensive and the time to get there and back plus the time to work out would take up the better part of a day or evening, at least 3 hours anyway. In bad weather it would be more. So, we thought working out at home would be the best thing. And then there would be the off nights. We knew the earthship would have minimal power, so we brought only the little 12 inch TV. We weren’t planning on getting satellite TV and there is no cable, so we just thought we would bring a DVD player and watch movies on the nights we weren’t working out in the home gym. We packed all of the weights, the stationary bike, the little TV and the DVD player into the moving truck and we were certain that we would stay fit and entertained.

Once here in Arizona, we unpacked the gym equipment and set it up temporarily on the concrete slab designed to be one of the greenhouses. That was in October. In spring, it would all be moved to the patio. Continue reading

The Churning Point

Yes, churning — as in butter. I know for you non-farm dwellers, butter churning might conjure images of someone’s floral-frocked Meemaw perched on the edge of her porch’s rocking chair, squinting against the effort of plunging a churn through gallons of cream. But you don’t need a fancy churn, a floral frock, or even much space to churn your own butter. In fact, it’s as simple as standing in your kitchenette with a jar or food processor full of cream — and the flavor will blow your biscuit-lovin’ mind. And of course, when you smear just-churned butter over those biscuits for Sunday dinner, you won’t be the only one who notices the difference.

One method, using a jar and a marble, will give you a workout, a conversation piece and a novel way to entertain kids. Start with a quart of heavy cream from cow’s milk — this will make a pound of butter and two cups of buttermilk. Let your cream ripen at room temperature for 12 hours. This makes the cream slightly sour, which yields richer, faster-whipping butter. Just don’t forget to drape a clean towel over the top to keep out opportunistic kitties.

Put the cream into a jar large enough to be two-thirds empty so your cream whips faster. Drop in the marble and shake. That’s it! It can take anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to make butter, depending on how hard you shake. The cream will go from frothy to firm and heavy, then coarse and grainy, and then voila — butter! If you’re not sure if it’s happened, it hasn’t. The cream’s final separation is a dramatic, hallelujah moment, with a butter island suddenly emerging in a sea of splashing buttermilk.

Drain the butter in a cheesecloth-lined colander, applying pressure with a wet wooden spoon to squeeze out extra milk. And for Pete’s sake, catch and save the buttermilk that runs off! After you’ve squeezed out all you can, massage the butter under icy cold water until it runs clear. Be diligent, ’cause poorly washed butter is sour and unappetizing. Put your butter into a bowl and press it to one side, squeezing out the water. Thoroughly mix in one teaspoon of fine or flaked salt, pack the butter into an airtight container or crock, and store it in the refrigerator. Continue reading

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Cabin Fever! 11 Low-Tech Ways to Kick It

I love winter–the fresh beauty of glittering snow, warm soups and long, cozy evenings in front of the fire. But even so, being cooped up in the house can take its toll. With six of us in a relatively small space, it takes some effort to fight off that dreaded winter malady: cabin fever.

The good news is, cabin fever is easily prevented or cured, and it doesn’t require a high-tech or expensive solution. If it strikes your household, here are eleven simple remedies you may want to try.

1. Get outdoors! Build a snowman, take a walk, sled or ice skate. Sending children outdoors for at least a few minutes each day will make a huge difference in their attitudes. Welcome them back in with steaming mugs of hot chocolate or hot cider.

2. Watch the birds. Put out a feeder, pull up a chair and watch the show. Winter is a perfect time to learn to identify birds, and all you need to get started is a good field guide. Have each family member start their own bird list. Once you become proficient, visit a nature center or park add to your list. Continue reading

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Maple Nutmeg Feather Cake

Lehman's Pure Maple Syrup

Lehman’s Pure Maple Syrup

Even though I’ve lived in Europe for over thirty years now, there are still some childhood tastes and flavours that stay with me. It’s like they are engraved in my tastebud DNA. My partner, Irish to his marrow, cannot understand my fondness for sweet potato.  When I have Thanksgiving with other American-born friends he will pass on any sort of squash too, including pumpkin custard pie (my favourite.)

But having a sweet tooth he does get maple syrup, which to me is a sort of superior honey.

I substitute maple syrup for honey in bread making and on cold winter days there is nothing like oatmeal with maple syrup to help you face the day.

But for my beloved the real piece de resistance is Maple Nutmeg Feather Cake. Here’s how to make it. Continue reading

“No more China!”

Recently I received an email from our customer, Danny L, complaining about some items he found in our catalog. His problem was that despite being acceptable quality, they were made in China.

He said, “I am a retired small business man and just thought you should know how I feel about it. This is a turning point for my family, from here on it is made in USA/CANADA/ maybe even Europe, but no more China. The too big to fail companies here have to under stand we will no longer support them off-shoring all the American jobs.”

Because this issue is close to our hearts here at Lehman’s, I wanted to share my response to him with all of our customers. Here is the email I sent him:

Danny,

Thanks for your email and for your business. I understand your frustration, and that is why I wanted to respond personally and speak from my heart as an owner and as the president of Lehman’s. Continue reading

Chocolate for Everyone! (Fun facts and two luscious recipes)

If you have heard lately about chocolate actually being healthy for you, what you heard is right.  Chocolate does provide some antioxidants. These antioxidants flush out free radicals and the damage they cause to your body. Chocolate is also good for your heart, and your mind. Eating and consuming chocolate releases hormones in your body that when they reach your brain, trigger senses of well-being and happiness.

It all starts with cacao. Cacao trees thrive beneath the shady branches of taller trees in the rainforest. Cacao trees won’t begin to bear fruit, however, until they are at least three to five years old.

A cacao pod contains about 30-50 almond-sized seeds—enough to make about seven milk chocolate candy bars!

The average American will eat about 10-12 lbs of chocolate per year.

Chocolate melts in your mouth because its cocoa butter component has a melting point that is slightly below the human body’s average temperature.

600,000 tons is the average global consumption of cocoa beans per year.

Here are a couple of fun recipes to make for your Valentine – or yourself!

Molten Lava Cake
6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate Continue reading