Reflections on Rosh Hashanah

Our Unitarian Universalist Congregation celebrated the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah begins a period of 10 days known as the Days of Awe: the time between the New Year and Yom Kippur. Our myths and legends tell us that traditionally, this period was a time of Divine terror, for on Rosh Hashanah the names of everyone who will live and die, prosper or experience failure will be written in the Book of Life and on Yom Kippur, sealed. While this Divine terror may have held meaning to our ancestors, as modern people who live in a world explained by science and aided through technology, how can we take these ancient themes and make them relevant for today?

Even in modern times, we still have strife and struggle. This year, some will be fed and some will go hungry, some will experience hardship and others will be prosperous. Some will be lonely and others will have the comfort of community. Some will fall ill and others enjoy health. And yes, some will live and others will die.
In our Story for all Ages, we read a tale of a certain rabbi who disappeared every Rosh Hashanah. The people in his village were certain that he went up to heaven every year. A skeptic, who didn’t believe in miracles, decided to follow the rabbi one Rosh Hashanah to see where he went. As he followed him, he discovered that the rabbi, dressed in peasant clothes, went to the woods to cut fire wood to take to a very ill and very old woman who lived in a shack. Ignoring the woman’s’ protests that she had no money and couldn’t afford the firewood the rabbi remarks “so, you’ll pay me later” and begins to build a fire and sing and dance to cheer the old woman.
The skeptic returns to the village where he becomes a follower of the rabbi. From this story we learn two important things that reflect not only Humanistic Jewish philosophy but Unitarian Universalist philosophy as well. One, the rabbi managed to give charity to the old woman while still preserving her dignity as a person and two, he demonstrated the idea that miracles occur everyday. They occur at the hands of ordinary people who decide to look deep within themselves and discover their own power to make them happen. To be the hand of God to a world in need. This is what the skeptic learned that Rosh Hashanah. That we have the power to make positive change in the world around us. To see the Divine spark within each person. And to seek out the best ways to show compassion.

L’Shana Tova! A sweet new year!

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Let’s Play ‘Find the Plant Based Protein’

If you are anything like me, you struggle to get enough fruits and veggies in your kids’ bellies.  One of the reasons our family began using Thrive Life foods is because of how easy they make hiding veggies in foods so our kids aren’t the wiser.

So now, we’ll play a game called “Find the Plant Based Protein”.  Really.  I dare ya.

Here is a picture of the taco mix I made this evening for our taco salads.  Our kids are notorious for only wanting meat and cheese on anything related to tacos.  So, I sneak.  In this mix is Thrive chopped onions, diced celery, and diced mixed red and green bell peppers PLUS a healthy serving of taco flavored TVP (soy based protein) mixed in with regular ground beef.  Can you tell what is beef and what is TVP?  Neither can the kids.  And that’s okay with me.  🙂


Broccoli Potato Soup- Meals in a Jar

Photo by leilacook 2014-07-16 17-07-13


This is an easy, vegetarian, soup in a jar that goes great with some homemade bread.  You can get most of the ingredients on my website:

Broccoli Potato Soup

Assemble in a quart jar:

1 1/2 cups Thrive broccoli
1 cup Thrive freeze dried diced potatoes
2 tbs. Thrive chopped onions
1/4 cup Thrive chopped celery
2 tbs. Thrive carrots
3/4 cup Thrive Bechemel Sauce
1/2 cup Thrive cheese Powder
7 tsp. Thrive vegetarian chicken bouillon

Add on:
(1) 8 oz. package cream cheese

In saucepan, bring 7 cups of water to a boil.  Whisk in contents of jar until combined.  Add cream cheese, reduce heat and simmer until cream cheese is melted and potatoes are soft  (about 15 minutes).

You Should Be Impressed I Know These People

I would like to introduce you all to some pretty talented friends I am fortunate to know and give them some props here on this humble little blog.  I like to surround myself with interesting people who do really cool stuff and these guys are all that and then some.  Read about them, like their pages, visit their websites, order their stuff.  And, as artists and craftspeople we ask you to please pass along this blog post so we don’t starve  can share our work with more people.  You won’t regret it- I promise.

book5DeZengo Moore is a graphic designer residing in East Tennessee.  She has a distinct style to her graphic work which reflects in her logo and advertising designs.  She has been a cover designer and contributor to Om Times Magazine for many years and freelances her work to help small businesses and organizations.  She is also a highly certified yoga and Zumba instructor.  You can view some of her work on her Behance portfolio.


Pam Paulsen hails from cold and wintery Minnesota and, when she’s not baking or rendering multiple things in the kitchen, she is crocheting, knitting and sewing away to her heart’s content.  Her business motto is : “Where old fashioned methods make new creations”.  She prides herself on taking traditional craft techniques and using them to make modern creations.  You can find her at A Hand Spun Home online.

book8Keisha Longwell also lives in Tennessee, although not quite as far east as DeZengo.  Keisha has been my friend for a long time …nevermind…  and is crazy with a crochet hook.  She specializes in whimsical crocheted designs for all ages and publishes patterns for many of her creations.  Really, she can make just about anything into hat.  Seriously.  I own at least five of them myself.  Or at least, my kids do 🙂  Look her up at her Etsy shop.


Chuck Sutherland is a middle Tennessee naturalist that hikes, caves, and photographs the outdoors and underground.  He is a seriously talented landscape photographer using digital enhancement to coax out details in his photos that would normally not be seen.  He has also recently put together a self published book of his photographs which is available by special order.  Find him lurking around his Flicker Account where he posts his photos and adventures.

book9Troy Smith is a professor of history at Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, TN and, when he’s not teaching or advocating for things like drug testing for Congress, he spends his time as a published author.  He specializes in  western and historical fiction, mystery, fantasy and sci-fi.  His novel Bound for the Promise-Land won the Spur award from Western Writers of America.  Impressed yet?  You can find him on the interweb at his website


Renee Goff is another Middle Tennessee photographer who specializes in family and children’s portraiture.  Preferring natural light and settings, Renee’s photos explode the adorable-ness meter, especially with her newborn photography.  She captures each family’s unique qualities and conveys her love for the country and small town culture in her photos.  She’s a pretty darn good wedding photographer as well.  Look her up on her Facebook page and ‘like’.

book3Lulu Bea is an artist and crafter specializing in upcycled creations.  Her goal is to turn trash into treasure and not only does she do it herself but she loves to teach other people as well.  Her newest project is opening her own store and studio.  If you ever find yourself anywhere near the Lakeville, MN area, you should stop by Lulu Bea’s and say hi.  Bring your trash too.  She’ll help you turn it into something amazing.  Find her online at

Ron Smith is a biologist that works as an environmental consultant to the US Army. His interest in craft beer stretches back fifteenbook4 plus years. Along with Mary Boyle, he has operated the beer blog since 2010. They are also the authors of Atlanta Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in the Hub of the South. This book detailing the history of beer and brewing in Atlanta was released in September 2013.  (He also sent this entire paragraph to me already written so I didn’t have to write it myself, lol)  You can find the site for the book here:  You can also find some of Mary’s handcrafted jewelry on her Artfire site.

book2Evelyn Gagnon hails from Canada and is a brilliant graphic artist and designer.  Her art is fresh and edgy.  I would seriously want a T-shirt made from everything she creates but that would be a lot of t-shirts and I don’t don’t sell enough art to be able to afford them.  I DO have an original piece of a seven branched menorah she did for me displayed in my home. ( I traded a handmade bearded hat for mine but cold, hard $$$ will suffice if you want some of her work, lol) In her off time, she does photography, gives tarot reads and researches paranormal phenomena.  You can read all about the interesting things she is into on her site ObsidianSignum Arts.

Give these guys some of your time and check out the nifty things they do.  It will help you live longer and give you a seat at the popular table 🙂

Fun with Food Storage- Meals in a Jar- Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

chiliI promise I do blog about things other than food storage.  But I have an online Thrive party going on right now for a friend that I am in need of blogging new recipes for, so you guys are kind of stuck with these for now.  I have a ‘Personal Life Hacks’ post I’m working on, so stayed tuned in for that.

Here’s a recipe I made up for the Meals in a Jar series.  It includes a product in our line of TVP but you could substitute ground beef and a packet of chili seasoning.  It is loaded with veggies as well as quinoa to provide some great nutrition.  Made vegetarian, it has very little fat.

Vegetarian Quinoa Chili

Layer in the jar:
1 cup Instant Red Beans
3/4-1 cup of Sloppy Joe TVP
2 tbs. Green Chili Peppers (FD)
2 tbs. Mixed Peppers(FD)
2 tbs. Chopped Onions (FD)
2 tsp. dried, minced garlic
2 Tbs. Celery (FD)
1/4 cup Tomato Powder
6 tsp. Vegetarian Beef Bouillon

In a small bag or mylar pouch:
6 tbs. Quinoa

Add ins:
7 cups water
1 can petite diced tomatoes

Bring water to a boil.  Remove baggie from jar and rinse quinoa thoroughly and drain.  Add to boiling water along with contents of jar and whisk in.  Add canned tomatoes and stir.  Continue boiling for another minute or two and then reduce heat.  Simmer for about 35-40 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.

If the Thrive FD Chopped tomatoes and another 1/4 cup of water is substituted for the canned tomatoes,  this is a completely portable meal for camping.  You can add extra chili powder, paprika and ground cumin plus salt and pepper to season to your taste.

Why Prepare?

ThriveCansWithLabels I’d like to take a moment to write a little bit about my personal feelings on the subjects of emergency preparedness, food storage and soup.  I will explain the importance soup plays in this conversation in a little bit.  First, I would like to explain my personal story of how I got into preparedness and what my motivations are to continue learning about this subject.

I think my interest in the subject began shortly after Hurricane Katrina.  My personal observations alarmed me.  What I saw were thousands of helpless people without any means of caring for themselves and their families, overburdened and overwhelmed safety and emergency departments and government assistance that was sluggish at its best.  Now, where we live, we aren’t in any danger of hurricanes but it really made me sit down and think:  If there was an emergency would I be able to sufficiently take care of my family’s needs without relying on anyone else?  The answer was an alarming ‘no’.

I’m a mother of five children.  As a mother, my job isn’t only to care for the basic daily needs of my children but also to plan for their future as best as I can with the resources I have.  To me, this includes being able to care for them in the event of an emergency.  Socially, it just makes good sense as well:  if I am able to stay off roads and out of the way of emergency personnel, out of grocery stores, emergency rooms and doctor’s offices, I can leave those resources open for people who will really need them.   Without getting into politics, it is apparent that our weather patterns are changing and that the weather these days is doing some funky fresh stuff and not in a good way.  It seems unpredictable and we are seeing longer and stronger hurricane seasons, tornado and severe weather seasons, freezing winters (if this winter was any indication), hotter summers, droughts, etc.  These things should not only alarm people to start educating themselves on what actions we might can take in this area but also to be prepared for the fact that it will more than likely continue.

So, that brings me around to my second point which is food storage.  I have always been of the mindset that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  I think this applies to all areas of our life, not just our health.  Putting food back just make good sense to me.  Let’s put the subject of emergencies aside a moment.  How many of us have either experienced a job loss, an illness that left us unable to return to work for a period of time, a death or know someone who has been affected by these things? In times like these, I can imagine what a relief it would be to know that because I prepared, my family’s basic needs could be covered for a time.  Life happens and sometimes it gives very little warning.  I look at it this way:  The worst that could happen storing some food and supplies is that I wouldn’t have to visit the grocery store for a while (and if you hate going to the grocery store as much as I do, that thought makes you giddy).

And now, we get to the soup part.  I LOVE cooking with my food storage ingredients.  I think the best way to learn about them and fit them into your monthly budget is to make sure that you use them and use them often.  I love coming up with new recipes and new ways of using the foods I store.  But I am also a realist.  I am not going to pretend that in an emergency situation I am going to be cooking up chicken Florentine or lasagna  or such.  My main concern is meeting my family’s nutritional requirements in the easiest way possible that maximizes the uses I can get out of my foods.  And that, my friends, is where soup comes in.

Soup is great because you can just toss a bunch of stuff in there and make it edible.  But to make a good soup, there is a bit of rhyme and reason to it.  So first, you have to start with a base, usually chicken or beef stock.  For our everyday purposes as well as food storage (because it lasts so long and is so easy to use) we keep on hand the Thrive chicken and beef bouillon bases.  These are so great- they’re vegetarian based, they have a great flavor and I use them to not only create soups but to flavor rice and vegetable dishes as well.  1 teaspoon per cup of water is all it takes.  They are great to put together cup of soup recipes for lunchtime at work or camping and backpacking as well.  Meals in a jar are a snap to make with these.

veggievarietypackSo, next comes the vegetables and you really want these to be the main part of your soups because they are going to give you needed vitamins, minerals and fiber.   Freeze dried are great to work with and they re-hydrate right in the soup as it is cooking.  The freeze drying process helps preserve many of the nutrients and minerals that are lost through canning and the basic process of entropy as food sits in the store.   I feel like I give my family better quality of food and that I use less processed food when I keep freeze dried on the shelf all the time.  And Thrive has some really great choices.  My favorites are red and green peppers, sweet corn, green peas, chopped onions, diced carrots, green chilies, chopped spinach and celery.  Another product that I LOVE for making beef based or chili type soups is the tomato powder.  It add a good amount of vitamin C to your dishes and we use it for all types of foods including homemade Spanish rice (another easy meal in a jar dish to put together).

So now that we have talked about bases and veggies, we’ll move on to proteins.  For emergency storage, you really cannot beat the price and quality of TVP (textured vegetable protein).  This is the same thing used in the veggie burgers and meat substitutes you find at the store, only they last a whole lot longer because they are freeze dried.  There are opinions for and against using TVP and soy products and I won’t get into them here because when we are talking about emergencies, I really don’t think any of us are going to sit around debating the pros and cons of a protein source.   Vegetarians have been using soy for a LONG time as a meat replacement and they are some of the healthiest people on the planet.  I really like the chicken TVP– I can put it in chicken noodle soup and no one really notices the difference.  I LOVE the taco TVP not only because of the texture but the flavor as well.  It’sthrive_taco_tvp1 great for taco dishes and burritos but also to toss into chili as a quick protein source.  Beans are another staple and the great thing about the instant beans Thrive sells is that they can cook up in about 20 minutes in a soup or stew without soaking or simmering for hours.  I can literally grab a handful, toss them in and we’re good to go.

We also need to throw in a word about grains here because there are several that have very good sources of proteins, especially when combined with legumes.  My go to for storage would be quinoa.  I choose this because it is a food that contains all the essential amino acids in it that the body cannot manufacture itself.  I would call it a superfood and it has been used since ancient times.  Quinoa technically isn’t a grain- it is a seed- Quinoa-withfood1but whatever.  It’s great- rinse and toss some in every soup, stew and chili you make and don’t miss out on giving your family its incredible nutrition.  Another good one to store of course is rice- especially brown rice which when combined with a food such as lentils, provides a complete protein source as well.  Rice can be tossed easily into soups.  Barley is another great choice to keep on hand (now you can see where I’m going with this soup thing).

So, whenever someone on a budget ( like most of us) has a question on how to get started with storing food when there is so much out there to choose from my answer is ‘start with the soup’.   Make a list of the ingredients you need to make several quick soups and begin stocking those first and then add on more selections as those stocks build up.  We get to our destination by taking one small step at a time.  Planning is key.  And USE your foods.  Cook with them, see how easy they are to use and prepare healthy, nutritious meals for your family every day in about the time it would take you to drive down to the fast food restaurant and stand in line for a burger and fries.

Fun with Food Storage: Creative Ways I Use My Fruit

Freeze dried fruit can be expensive, I’ll admit.  But I have found ways to maximize what I get from a can and still be able to keep a large variety on hand all the time.

Why do we choose freeze-dried fruits over fresh or frozen?  Well, actually we don’t.  We use them together.  I love to purchase things like apples and bananas when they are on sale at the store to throw in my kids lunch boxes or have a quick snack.   However, my kids aren’t always so interested in eating these things and this is an area where I had to get a little creative.  The slow freeze process breaks down the cellular structure of plants which is the reason when you defrost frozen fruit, it is  limp and kind of yucky.

I also love to bake breads and muffins and like putting fruit in them to add some extra nutrition.  Freeze dried foods are perfect for this.  My kids like the instant packets of oatmeal at the store as well but they are pretty unhealthy for you.   What’s better is making our own fruit and cream oatmeal with stir-ins created from freeze-dried fruit.  (I’m going to show you how we do this below).  I make my own yogurt and it is SO good when mixed with some ground freeze-dried fruit and honey crystals.

Here is a picture tutorial I put together on grinding and using the fruits to make flavored oatmeal.  The fruit powder you make can be tossed into anything- breads, muffins, yogurt, smoothies.   If your kids are like mine and don’t like chunks of stuff in their food, this is perfect.

thrivefruit4 I put my Thrive freeze-dried fruits in a coffee grinder that I keep just for fruits ( I don’t grind coffee in it, lol)  These are Thrive Peach Slices.  The grinder grinds the fruits into  a powder that we can then spoon into all manner of things.
thrivefruit1Here are apples, peaches and raspberries.  For apples and cinnamon oatmeal you can add a tablespoon or two of apple powder, some brown sugar or honey crystals and a dash of ground cinnamon.
thrivefruit3To make a fruit and cream variety you can add a tablespoon of Thrive Instant Milk, fruit powder and honey powder or brown sugar.  My Sophia says that raspberry is ‘awesome!’
thrivefruit2I store the leftover powder for quick use in the mornings for yogurt and oatmeal.