Sunday, May 22, 2011

Of Worms and the Rapture

Yesterday was the day we began planting our summer veggies. After weeks and weeks of rain and muck, it's finally time. I got a good workout turning over about 350 square feet of pure clay again. But there was a very important difference in the soil this time, versus when we first dug up the grass in March: Worms! Each spadeful of dirt had at least three or four of them. Amazing what a difference a truckload of compost makes to the earthworm population. As I kept digging them up I felt like an intruder to their peaceful existences, or like some horrible Godzilla monster causing 9.8 level earthquakes with every stroke of the spade that sent them screaming (if worms could scream) back down into a safer level of subsoil. But just before they realized the Worm Apocalypse had come upon them, I could see these actually quite fascinating creatures going about their usual business. That business being digesting and reproducing. It made me think of "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage" before the Flood. This Bible passage has often been quoted in reference to the May 21 Rapture prophecy Matthew 24:36f):

But of that day and hour no one knoweth, not the angels of heaven, but the Father alone. And as in the days of Noe, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, even till that day in which Noe entered into the ark, And they knew not till the flood came, and took them all away; so also shall the coming of the Son of man be. Then two shall be in the field: one shall be taken, and one shall be left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill: one shall be taken, and one shall be left.

Usually that would be the end of it, since it sufficiently answers Rev. Camping. But the rest of the chapter is just as worth reading:

Watch ye therefore, because ye know not what hour your Lord will come. But know this ye, that if the goodman of the house knew at what hour the thief would come, he would certainly watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Wherefore be you also ready, because at what hour you know not the Son of man will come.

Who, thinkest thou, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath appointed over his family, to give them meat in season. Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come he shall find so doing. Amen I say to you, he shall place him over all his goods. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming: And shall begin to strike his fellow servants, and shall eat and drink with drunkards: The lord of that servant shall come in a day that he hopeth not, and at an hour that he knoweth not: And shall separate him, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Even though this false prophecy has been widely regarded as a bad move, one positive that can be taken from it is that the people who believed it prepared for the Judgment by repenting of their sins and commending themselves and their families to God's mercy. They might not have otherwise done that. Even if their hope for that particular day was misplaced, fact is there will be a Judgment and we all have to be prepared for it. The temptation for those who don't believe it is to laugh at those who do. We all need to pray for those people though, especially those who spent their life savings spreading this message or quitting a job or some other drastic measures that they will now have to live with. The temptation to despair will probably be great for these souls. There's nothing funny about that. As for the rest of us, are we ready to meet God? Are we doing the work God has given us diligently? Is there something we have been over-indulging in ourselves? are we at the very least in a state of grace? Be you also ready.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Menu planning addendum

Okay, so I left out part of my menu planning process in the previous post. You remember all those post-it notes in my binder? Well I neglected to mention that each day's menu is either lifted directly from the binder or else written on a new post-it. These are then placed in my calendar on their day. If the menu's a keeper, it goes in the binder at the end of the week. Thus expands my cooking repertoire.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How I Menu Plan

A little while ago, Christine suggested I do a post on how I menu plan. I actually have a pretty elaborate system, but it evolved gradually over the two years of our marriage and it still is evolving. I will walk you through this week's menu plan and you will see the method behind my menu madness!

1. Go to and look at the weekly ad. Write down anything that is a good deal that we like to eat. Meat and produce deals are the starting point of the menu plan. This week chicken breasts were 99 cents a pound, ground turkey and turkey tenderloins were BOGO. There were other deals but they weren't that great. I find it hard to buy as much beef anymore, because it really has gotten expensive. For produce, strawberries, green beans, watermelon, spinach, and sweet corn are on sale for a good price. We tend not to buy a lot of packaged foods, and my pantry is pretty well stocked, so the only other things I wrote are cottage cheese and Nutri-Grain bars, both for Anthony.

2. Look in the fridge and see if there's anything leftover that needs to be eaten. We'd cleaned out pretty well before our trip to Pittsburgh, so the only stragglers are a half of a ham steak, bacon, carrots, a few stalks of soon-to-be-limp celery, and some lunch meat that's still fine. Write these items down next to the deals.

3. Quickly check the pantry for things running low, and the shopping list notepad on the fridge.

4. Now for the actual menu planning part. I have a binder that I keep in the kitchen that's kind of my housekeeping Bible. The Binder could be an entire post of it's own, but one section is labeled Cooking. In here I have several pages each with a different heading: Freezer Inventory, Quick & Easy, Slow Cooker, Friday, Sunday, Ryan's Favorites, Potlucks, and Desserts. Each page has several Post-It notes, each with a past successful menu and in which of my cookbooks each recipe can be found written on it. Using my binder menus and cookbook collection, I create a menu plan using up all the leftovers and guided by the weekly specials and our schedule for the week. There's a pretty familiar pattern by now. Generally I incorporate one or two new recipes, one from the Ryan's Favorites page, one from the freezer inventory. This sounds complicated, but I'm so familiar with the contents of my binder by now that sometimes I don't even need to look in it to know what I want to make, and not everything happens every week. This week I'm adding to the freezer stash, but not subtracting from it. It's like figuring out a puzzle, but there aren't really any wrong answers.

This is this week's menu:

Monday: Tuscan Soup (throwing in ham and celery), Cheese Batter Bread, Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Tuesday: Basil Turkey Burgers, corn on the cob, watermelon salad
Wednesday: Chicken and black bean burritos, chips and salsa
Thursday: Chicken/bacon/strawberry/spinach salad, rolls
Friday: Black bean soup (double for freezer), bread
Saturday: on the road
Sunday: Buca de Beppo for Elizabeth's graduation

Can you find the leftovers and weekly specials?

I don't plan breakfasts or lunches. Breakfast for Ryan is cereal and coffee most mornings and for me something more. Lunch is leftovers or a sandwich.

5. Go through the recipes and write down any ingredients I need to buy. Write down any other perishable staples we need (milk, fruit for lunches, eggs, etc.).

6. Organize the list by categories (produce, meat, etc.). So helpful when shopping with a curious baby!

7. Go shopping!

Coupons are conspicuously absent from this process. I used to clip them all the time and had them all organized and everything, but the amount I saved was so little for the time invested that I've pretty much given up on coupons for groceries. Anything you could use a coupon for I would almost never buy, or if I did the generic version was just as good and still cheaper even with double coupons. Or else I'd be tempted to buy something just because I had the coupon! Ryan tells me coupons are just a way they convince you to try a product in the hopes you'll become a loyal customer. I still go through the paper for them, but only clip ones for toiletries or the foodstuffs we actually buy. This week the only coupon I used was for the Nutri Grain bars. (Plus on sale! Bonus!)

There you have it, but I imagine everyone has their unique method. Having a plan saves me time by not having to scramble for an idea for dinner, and money from not wasting food and taking better advantage of sales. My way seems really long, especially all written out like this, but it really only takes me about half an hour without interruptions! Now, how do you menu plan?