So my project of the week has been to learn a little something about cooking from legumes and dried beans. Here in Portland we can get all of our grains and most of the other dried foods (cereal, nuts, flour, etc) from bulk bins, which allows us to avoid extra packaging, get only the amount of food we will use, and to save a little bit of money. This meshes well with my personal mission to learn to be content with less without hoarding things “just in case.” Maria reminded me that our tiny little house came furnished with a slow cooker — an item I love in theory but have never actually used. Since I am a chronic forgetter and often burn things, the low temp and delayed gratification of throwing stuff in a pot all day appeals to my style. I googled, then crowdsourced on facebook for some help. An obvious favorite emerged, Crockpot365.
My first stash of new-to-me beans and grains is a jar of quinoa and a jar of navy beans. Apparently with dry beans, the trick is to soak them long enough so they get soft, but not so long that their skins come off (because then they’re mushy and apparently cause more gas). Also, cooking beans with a fat (commonly, butter) will avoid the boilover problem. All these fun bean facts!
I’ve been in a real soup mood here in Portland, so this is the direction I’m headed first with this bean thing. Apparently, I have to learn about ham hocks and stock and soup bases and why in the world so many soup recipes call for celery. My first attempt with navy beans using what I had on hand (leeks and potatoes, one small can of chicken soup base, onions) is rather bland and lifeless and also instantly toot-a-licious. So we probably won’t eat much of it.
Quinoa and wild rice blends are next on my list. I have some fresh mushrooms from the farmers market and some beef soup base I am excited to use together. Good thing I’m not eating vegetarian these days.
I have an ulterior motive for this exploration of beans beyond a craving for warm soup to cut through the oncoming winter gloom. I’ve gotten used to the luxury of shopping at Whole Foods, co-ops, and farmers markets in an attempt to eat organic and support the local market. Unfortunately, everything extra at these stores (spices, cans, boxed food) is marked up crazy time. My jaw dropped recently when I went into local huge warehouse-style chain WinCo and three bags full of supplies cost $20. I’m so used to putting out at Alberta Co-op that garlic for $0.31 is almost a foreign concept. I’m hesitant to buy produce in this environment because I KNOW the stuff is heavy on pesticides and exploitative labor practices, and also trucked in from everywhere but the local farms. I’m ok paying more to know where my food came from and have it grown with love… but I’m not ok spending $35-60 every time I walk into a market to pick up a few things.
Ali and I are prepping to go on a long, exciting adventure together. We have $70k in debt leftover from designer educations, and we’re going to attempt to pay it all off once and for all by December 31, 2011. HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE?! This means cutting back on all extras like eating out/entertainment/Target wanderings/travel, slashing our food costs, and finding creative solutions to our needs rather than purchasing the easy answer. It also means that we need to get our income up, obviously.
I am extremely excited for the project and drawn compulsively to the end goal. Being debt-free is a BHAG that will enable us to make wise decisions and life choices. But I gotta tell you, I am a little scared about living like a grad student because scarcity is a psychological trigger of mine after growing up middle-class-constant-debt.
Abundance mentality, here we come!