Pumpkins are one of the most inexpensive, nutritious vegetables around... right now they're under 20 cents per pound where I live.  One cup (8 oz.) of pumpkin has more than 700% of your daily Vitamin A needs, 7g fiber, 3g protein, 19% RDA for iron, 17% RDA for Vitamin C, and 6% RDA for calcium.  All this for 83 calories and about 10 cents.

We grew a few, but the garden was pretty sad in general and we ended up buying a couple for our annual pumpkin-carving party at Grandma's house.  (To tell you how bad the garden was... the only pumpkins that survived were in the SANDBOX, where one son had spilled some pumpkin guts in late spring.  Yeah.  Go figure.  They even survived our free-roaming chickens.)

So now we have several carved jack-o-lanterns to set on the front porch for Trick-or-Treating.  The day after Halloween they'll get cleaned, sliced, and either cooked or dehydrated and turned to powder. My kids are excited at the possibilities.  Their favorite is pumpkin pie, but this shake tastes just like it, in a fraction of the time!

Pumpkin Shake
1 pint vanilla ice cream (about 4 heaping ice cream scoopsful)
1 1/2  c. milk
1 1/2 Tbsp. pumpkin powder*
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice OR 1/8 tsp. cinnamon plus a dash (to taste) each ground cloves,     ginger, and/or nutmeg
2 Tbsp. brown sugar, OR molasses, OR honey

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix on high until smooth.  Makes about 3 1/2 cups.

*If you don't have pumpkin powder, use 1/2 cup plain pumpkin puree, and reduce the milk to 1 cup instead of 1 1/2 cups.

Optional mix-ins:
2 Tbsp. raisins (add before pureeing so they get finely chopped)
2-3 oz. cream cheese
2-4 Tbsp. chocolate chips

Get this recipe and many more ways to use pumpkin, free, from The Great Pumpkin Cookbook.


 
 
There's just over a week left until Voting Day...

And people here in Utah have been asking what they need to know about the proposed Utah constitutional amendments.  There is a state voting website, vote.utah.gov , where you can read what the proposed change is along with a "for" essay and an "against" one, but I think some dialogue is missing.  This is what I'd like others to know about the proposals this year:


Constitutional Amendment A-  Joint Resolution on Severance Tax  

There are a few problems I see with this proposal.
1- the budget shortfall it creates until 2044 or whenever the interest generated catches up to the annual amount pulled out of use.

2- the inflexibility of the mandate.  Do we need RULES for everything?  They tend to discourage the use of reason and common sense in each year's budget.  How about understanding and living by principles instead? Yes, there are ways to access the severance tax fund in an emergency, but this seems too restrictive for the time we're in; see #3:

3- this appears to actually TAKE from future generations:  it takes away our ability to pay down our current debt. According to the Utah Debt Clock, our state has $19.5 billion in debt.  This is where we are truly stealing from future generations.  The greater favor we can do for them is to pay off our debt now, then have our state representatives learn to stay within a budget.   

If you made $40K each year but spent $46K annually, would you put money aside into a low-yield savings account while you were $39K in debt?  Those are the numbers that Utah Debt Clock translates to. 

This proposal would most likely be a great thing if we were debt-free. But we're not.
The smart thing would be to pay off debt as fast as you could with everything available, then live within (= BELOW) our means.  That's how we prepare for the needs of future generations.
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment A


Constitutional Amendment B- Joint Resolution on Property Tax Exemption for Military Personnel

No 'against' statement was given at vote.utah.gov.  When I called the Lieutenant Governor's office to ask why, they said those 'for' or 'against' statements must be submitted, before a certain deadline, by the senators who voted for or against it.  Nobody submitted the 'against', though there were some who did not vote for it. You can go to le.utah.gov to see who voted for or against this resolution.

This is not a matter of if I/we appreciate military sacrifices or not, though it's painted as such.  It is a matter of if an additional expense is justified in our state budget.  See budget numbers above.

This amendment proposes something that equates to a pay increase.  If it is truly justified, let's have a straightforward pay raise, then, rather than adding further complication to our tax system.  

Are our military people going to be in favor of this amendment?  Most likely.  It would be very tempting to me to push for something that exempted me from paying property tax; the only ones who like the tax are the cities and departments being handed the money to spend.   In addition, this proposal will decrease revenue, leading to "the government taxing entity" increasing property taxes on the rest of us.  I'm tired of being slowly bled to death by 'minor' fees.  They add up.  Furthermore, I will never truly own my own land, as it can be confiscated if I fail to pay property taxes.  It is not fair to say that some of us are subject to that threat and others are not.

Sympathy and gratitude do not justify further mandatory redistribution, especially in a manner that is easier to hide.  

Daniel McCay, a state representative from Riverton, voted against this resolution.  When I spoke with him, he said he voted 'no' because there are better- more straightforward- ways to deal with this than waive tax requirements. He was also concerned that this opens a new door- if we exempt active military, then what about firemen?  Police?  Teachers?  Other public sector workers? 
My vote: No on Constitutional Amendment B


Proposal for Salt Lake County Bond- Open Space, Natural Habitat, Parks, and Community Trails

This is a vote to allow additional debt of $47 million on a 20 year loan, plus interest, plus additional annual expenditures of $581,000, all paid for by tax revenue. General Obligation bonds, like this, are paid for through raising property taxes.

As of June 30, 2012, Salt Lake County itself has nearly $254 million in 'general obligation' bond debt.  This one proposal would take us to $300 million in debt. In 2004 we had $106 million in debt.  Let's not make it worse. Last year SL County paid out $21 million in interest (see chart pg. 155).
My vote: No on County Bond

 
 
This weekend I participated in a moms' retreat- our own little 'Education Week'end, you might say. (See here for one of the addresses we heard.)
We each brought food for either the dinner or brunch the next day.  Most of the ladies there try to eat very healthfully, and some of them have dietary issues like gluten intolerance, so I made a gluten-free, dairy-free (CF= 'casein free'- the protein in milk) cake. 

I actually used a cake mix- Pamela's Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix- which uses evaporated cane juice for the sugar, and organic grains.  That way everyone could eat happy.  Everybody- regular wheat-eaters included thought the cake was absolutely delicious.

By the way, this brand of cake mix makes two 8" or 9" layers.  Not all of the GF cakes mixes do.  Some, like Betty Crocker, only make one 8" layer.  So take that into consideration if you're pricing them.

GF CF German Chocolate Cake

Bake and cool one chocolate cake, using a two-layer sized gluten-free mix, or from scratch.  One good recipe is at Living Without.(This recipe calls for 1 c. coffee, to intensify the flavor- if you don't prefer to use coffee, use hot water instead and 1 Tbsp. molasses.  Reduce sugar by 1 Tbsp.)

Lower-fat, Dairy-free Coconut-Pecan Frosting (also egg-free) 
3 Tbsp. potato starch or tapioca starch, OR 5 Tbsp. rice flour
3/4  evaporated cane juice or brown sugar
1 c. coconut or rice milk
¼ c. coconut oil
¼ tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
½ c. pecans, toasted and chopped fine
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut, toasted

Stir together starch and sugar, then gradually mix in milk.  Add coconut oil and salt, then heat and stir over medium-high.  Cook and stir until thickened and bubbling.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut, reserving 1 Tbsp each nuts and coconut for garnish.  Chill first if spreading on a tall cake, frost immediately if spreading on a sheet cake.
 
 
A couple weeks ago I received a newsletter from the American Family Association, titled
"Who Should Christians Vote For?, published October 9, 2012  
I read the letter, read the article it referenced, and then sent a response to both the letter author and article author.  Below are the original newsletter, the article link, and my response.

Please look deeply at the underlying principles in this election and the long-term results of what each candidate proposes.  Will it help limit government to what the Founders intended?  Is it truly Constitutional?   Is it right, or is it wrong?  Is it based on force, or based on choice and natural consequences?  As important as is this presidential race, however, your local elections are even more important: you have much more relative influence in those.  Please really study the candidates and issues, and then vote in a way that will strengthen the moral fiber and accountability of each citizen.  

_____________________
The newsletter: 
Dear Rhonda,There is some discussion within the Christian community about who to vote for in the upcoming elections. Some are even questioning if they should vote at all. In the race for president, on the one hand you have one man who claims to be a Christian yet supports causes and policies that clearly violate biblical morality like abortion and homosexual "marriage."

On the other hand, we have a gentleman who is a member of church that promotes a different theological doctrine than historical Christianity teaches. What to do?

I have an excellent article here, written by historian Stephen McDowell, president of the Providence Foundation, that answers this dilemma to my satisfaction. It is not short, as it is well thought out and well documented. But it answers a lot of questions in a biblical manner.

I encourage you to read and then send it out to as many people as you can.

Obama, Romney, Other: Who Should Christians Vote for in the 2012 Election?

Sincerely,

Tim Wildmon, President
American Family Association

_____________________
My response:

Dr. Stephen McDowell, 
Tim Wildmon, of the American Family Association, sent me a link to your article "Obama, Romney, Other: Who Should Christians Vote for in the 2012 Election?".  It was an interesting read for me as an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly called 'the Mormons'.  While I agree with the conclusion and many of the reasons in the article, I would like to set the record straight on my religion.
   
 In the article, you state "Mormonism is a non-Christian religion with fundamental theological beliefs that are contrary to Christian orthodoxy.  Mormons do say they believe the Bible and that Jesus is divine and their savior, but this is not in the same sense as Biblical Christianity."  and then later write, "Neither candidate acts like a regenerated believer who meets the qualification of fearing God as the Bible presents.

#1, non-Christian religion
It seems self-evident that a church with a name like the one I belong to would believe in Christ, the Anointed, my Savior.   Mr. McDowell quoted Noah Webster later; I'll refer to the same man's words here.  First off, let's define Christianity.  The 1828 Webster's Dictionary, published by Noah Webster, defines a Christian as "A real disciple of Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Christ; a believer in Christ who is characterized by real piety."  I study Christ's life and examples, as well as the teachings of his prophets through all ages, work to obey them, and emphatically proclaim that I am a Christian, as are other members of this church. 

#2, contrary to Christian orthodoxy
Now, about it being "contrary to Christian orthodoxy"; hopefully I've established that we are Christians, so what is the definition of 'orthodoxy'?  Let's go back to Noah Webster: orthodoxy is "a belief in the genuine doctrines taught in the Scriptures". Our church's Article of Faith #8 states, "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.  We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.".  In other words, I recognize the Bible as scripture, as well as the Book of Mormon.  I personally believe the genuine doctrines taught in the scriptures and try to govern my life by them.  Admittedly, a problem arises here because our doctrine differs from other Christian sects.  However, each sect's interpretation of doctrine differs from each other; who is to say which one is correct? I believe only the Spirit of God can whisper that to us. We ought to build each other up and look for the good, not tear each other down. The important parts, I believe, are that we recognize our complete dependence on our Savior's grace through his Atonement and our great responsibility to love and serve him and his children.  

#3 Jesus is divine and their savior but ... not in the same sense,
As to our recognizing Jesus as divine and our Savior, the critical points I believe are in harmony not only with the Bible but with most sects' interpretation of them.  Jesus is divine.  He is God, or rather the Son of God.  He is our Savior- he saves us from both spiritual death through our baptism and enabling us to repent and become more Christlike, and from physical death through his Resurrection and the promise of our own.  How is that not a Biblical interpretation?

#4, "Neither candidate acts like a regenerated believer who meets the qualification of fearing God as the Bible presents."  
While I disagree with some of Mitt Romney's opinions, and feel that our religion supports my viewpoint, I disagree that he acts like an unregenerated man.  How do you recognize a reborn man?  By his fruits, the degree to which the Spirit of the Lord has affected his life and his actions.  You see this in devotion to serving others, which shows his devotion to serving God.  Some of the chapters in the Book of Mormon record the words of a very righteous king in the Precolumbian Americas, King  Benjamin.  After recounting his years of service to his people, he tells them he worked hard to not only not be a burden to them, but to also avoid burdening them with heavy taxes.  He tells them this wasn't to boast, but to point out that he can face God with a clear conscience.  Then he says, "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God."   This man, King Benjamin, is one of our scriptural heroes and a prime example of living a Christlike life, and I think Mitt Romney will try to emulate not only some of Benjamin's finest points, but of the example of our Savior.  He has already demonstrated his willingness to help and serve others.

While I agree that Mitt Romney is likely not going to help us return completely to a non-socialist government, I can tell you that he is a Christian, he does fear God and lets that influence his life and choices, and that he has been 'born again'.  He is definitely the better choice between Obama, whose god seems to be the government, and Romney, who recognizes more that the way to true greatness is freedom and serving God and each other.

I bear you my testimony that Christ is our Savior, that he cares deeply about this nation, and that the way to return to greatness is to return to individually having God's law written in our hearts and displayed through our actions.  I invite you to read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and to read through both it and our church's website to find what we really believe.  

Sincerely,

Rhonda
 
 
This roast was was tender, juicy, and bursting with savory flavor.
You can use the same ingredients with a beef roast, or even with a whole chicken.

 It was great for our Sunday evening dinner- it happily cooked itself while we were at church. I used a 6-quart slow cooker. This made enough for all 8 of us, plus some leftovers to pack in lunches.

So... I've listed the ingredients I used- but I rarely make this kind of food exactly the same way twice.  Use whatever vegetables you have- potatoes would be really good, but we had mashed potatoes on the side  this time.  With this roast, the mushrooms add to the savory flavor, and the small bit of tomato adds a boost- but you can leave them out anyway if you like.  Adding a tablespoon or two of tomato paste or tomato powder would have the same result. And if you leave out the mushrooms, consider adding a couple splashes of soy sauce or Worchestershire sauce to keep that meaty flavor high.  

Rosemary Pork Roast with Vegetables
2 onions, quartered
3 lb. pork roast
4 tsp. salt, divided
6" sprig fresh rosemary OR 1 1/2- 2 Tbsp. dried rosemary
1/4 c. minced garlic chives OR use 2-4 minced garlic cloves
2 lbs. carrots
1 lb. mushrooms, quartered
1 tomato, cut in 8 wedges

Add the carrots, mushrooms, and tomato and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tsp. salt. Put the onions in the bottom of a slow cooker, then add the roast (mine was frozen SOLID).  Top the roast with garlic chives, rosemary, and 2 tsp. salt.  Add the carrots, mushrooms, and tomato and sprinkle them with the remaining 2 tsp. salt.  Put the lid on, then cook on high 6 hours or until everything is tender.  If your roast wasn't frozen, it may only need 4-5 hours on high, or 6-8 on low.

Use the juices to make gravy, or just ladle them over the meat and vegetable as they're served.
 
 
If you're making homemade bread, you're bound to have a few crumbs.  Most of the crumbs come from slicing the bread, but there are always a few in the bottom of the empty bread bags, too.

It's common to just shake them into the sink or the garbage, but is there anything else!

Oh, yeah.

Since they're already dry, they don't spoil if kept fairly airtight.  I scoop them into a plastic container with a lid and save up until there's enough to do something with them.

Add to hamburger to extend it a bit
Use in  Meatballs
or Zucchini Cakes
coating for Chicken Nuggets

You can even use them as a substitute for oats or flour in recipes- 
1/2 c. crumbs = 1/2 c. rolled oats, 
1/2 c. crumbs = 1/4 c. flour

Or use them in place of graham cracker crumbs for a pie crust.  See below.

Crumb Crusts
1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs 
¼ c. sugar 
5-6 Tbsp. melted butter 

Stir together crumbs and sugar, mix in butter. Press firmly and evenly in a 9” pie pan. Chill 1 hour OR bake at 375 degrees 6-9 minutes, til edges are brown (and it smells wonderful).  
Use a blender to crush the cookies/crackers, or a cereal box liner or big zip top baggie and a rolling pin
Breadcrumb crust:use dry breadcrumbs, increase sugar to 1/3 c. You’d never know!
Chocolate Crust: use 1 ½ c. crushed chocolate cookies (take out creme filling), don’t use the sugar in the crust recipe.
Gingersnap Crust: use all gingersnap crumbs or part gingersnap, part graham. Leave out sugar.
Nut crust: add 1/3 c. finely chopped pecans, almonds, walnuts, or other to any crumb crust.
Vanilla Crust: use crushed vanilla wafers, leave out the added sugar.

 
Try it!  (Now, won't you feel thrifty?)
 
 
They are the bane of some people's existence, the best friend of others.  Some people turn them into casseroles, but they often turn into soup at my house.

What are they?

Leftovers.

Yup, love 'em or hate 'em, we often have 'em sitting in the fridge or pantry.  That last half-cup of gravy, a lonely bowl of chili, a stack of day-old (OK, maybe several-day-old) corn tortillas...

They call out to be useful.  To be loved.  To be eaten.  Maybe disguised first.

Dinner tonight was Tortilla Soup, sort of a Mexican twist on chicken noodle soup.  So how does this tie into using leftovers?  Those dry tortillas got cut into strips, then toasted in the oven while the soup cooked.  The soup itself was made using water, some Mexican-type fat free salad dressing (like a watery lime-cilantro salsa, a great flavor base), a cup of leftover meatless chili (for fiber, heartiness, and deeper flavor), that aforementioned 1/2 cup of gravy (providing a little body and more chicken flavor), a package of frozen cooked turkey from just after last Christmas, and a can of corn (sweetness, saltiness from the 'juice', and a pleasant 'pop').  The tortilla strips were stirred in at the last minute because they disintegrate if you cook them much.  If I had any fresh cilantro or sour cream it would have gone on top as a garnish.  Cheese would be delicious there, too. 

Take a look in your fridge and see- what can you do to give those leftovers another shot at life?

Leftover Tortilla Soup  the way I made it.  Feel free to improvise; that's what this is!

10-12 corn tortillas, cut in 1/2" wide strips
1 quart water
1 (14 oz.) can whole kernel corn, WITH the juices
10-16 oz. salsa or similar
1 cup of chili or 1 (14 oz.) can of beans
2 cups cooked diced chicken or turkey

Spread tortilla strips on a baking sheet, put them in the oven about 8" under the broiler, just long enough to toast them a bit, about 2-8 minutes, depending.  (The idea is that if they're toasted, they might not disintegrate as quickly in the soup.  I might be wrong.  They at least have a better flavor when toasted.)

Combine the water, corn, salsa, beans/chili and chicken/turkey in a 3-quart or larger pan.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes to combine flavors.  Remove from heat and stir in tortilla strips.  Taste, then add salt and pepper if needed.  If it needs more flavor, a little lime juice, chopped cilantro, chicken bouillon, or chili powder would taste good.

Have fun!






 
 
I have a large freezer; this lets me stock up when perishables are on sale or overflowing in the garden.  The freezer is full of fruit, vegetables, butter, nuts, shredded cheese, and meat.
Having a freezer means extra expense to run it; to cut operating costs I have a manual-defrost freezer, which takes about 2/3 as much electricity to run.

The reason a freezer needs defrosted?  Each of the shelves in the freezer has cooling coils running through it.  Whenever you open the door, new air gets inside, and this air always has some moisture in it.  This moisture condenses on whatever is coldest- the coils- and freezes.  It gets thicker with time, and that layer of ice traps the cold.  This makes the freezer work harder and harder to cool.  Ice blanket= bad.   
 
Defrosting every 6 months is usually about right.  It's a little hassle, but pulling everything out reminds me of what all is in there. Seeing it all again= good.  

At any rate, you're trying to melt all the ice out of the freezer while NOT letting all that food thaw.  There are some tricks I've learned along the way to help with that.  Watch the slide show above to learn them.
 
 
When the leaves start falling and skittling across the sidewalks, I start making warm, savory soup more often.  
Picture
There's just one problem- most of my kids hate cooked onion.  

At least, that's what they think.

What they're really opposed to is the slippery texture.  

I've left onion completely out of soup a couple times and didn't tell them; everyone said that  soup tasted funny.

So the trick is to get the onion in, in a way they won't recognize it.   They have the same issue with celery.

Tonight we had Corn Chowder and everyone happily ate it, with its tender chunks of potato, sweet pieces of carrot, sweet and chewy kernels of corn, and crunchy oyster crackers

This is a really flexible recipe.  The onion adds both savory and sweet, to boost the corn's flavor. Sometimes I'll add chunks of chicken to it, or ham, or bacon.  Sometimes I add mashed potato to stretch and thicken the soup.  For the creamy dairy flavor, you can use evaporated milk, half-and-half, a little cream, or milk- but milk won't give it as much flavor and body.  I've even used coconut milk before, or, better yet, coconut cream.  If you're used to eating low-sodium, you won't need to add any salt to this; the liquid from the canned corn may be enough for you.

This time, I stirred in a cup of leftover chicken gravy, a bit of liquid smoke to give it a bacon-y smell and taste, and a small amount of curry powder.  Just enough to add 'something', not enough that it'd jump out at you.  I also added a handful of parsley when pureeing the onion; while the flavor was good, the color was not pretty.  More like split pea soup.  

This recipe will make about 2 1/2 quarts.  If you want to freeze the leftovers, use arrowroot powder instead of flour or cornstarch.  It doesn't separate after thawing like the other two do.

Corn Chowder
1 medium onion
2-3 stalks celery
2 cans of corn (14-15 oz each)
4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot OR a handful of baby-cut carrots, sliced or cubed
1 can evaporated milk OR 1 ½ cups half-and-half
¼ c. flour OR 2 Tbsp. cornstarch

Flavor add-ins:
Salt and pepper to taste
½ tsp. liquid smoke
A bouillon cube or ½ tsp. bouillon granules
½ tsp. curry powder
1 c. diced ham OR  2-4 slices crumbled crisp-cooked bacon

Put the onion and celery in a blender.  Add enough of the liquid from the corn that the onion/celery will blend.  Puree until smooth.  Pour into a large saucepan.  Add the corn, including the liquid.  (This has salt, remember that later!)  Add diced potato and carrots.  Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until potatoes/carrots are tender.  (This will take longer if the cubes are big.)

Mix ¼ c. of the evaporated milk with the flour or cornstarch, to form a smooth paste.  Stir this into the hot mixture, along with the remaining milk.  Bring back to a boil, stirring so nothing sticks to the bottom.

Taste a bit, then add whichever of the Flavor add-ins you have or feel like.