Art to FEED; “Community Hearts” and the Children’s Center at Modesto Gospel Mission

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Myself, Lilly and the lovely Angela, a volunteer at the center. 

Sometimes reality can  hit you hard. Going to the Modesto Gospel Mission to volunteer at their children’s center one evening with a group from church, I remember thinking, will there really be a need? Do we have too many volunteers to really help, will we be standing around, wanting to be helpful but doing so in vain. Many different thoughts come up whenever we try to do something of value. We start to believe all the negative voices, the ones that keep us from getting up and out to help. The sad reality is our world is a fallen one and the need is overwhelming. In entering the children’s center I had to take a seat. I was hit with this reality that exists in my own back yard. Children, infants, families without hope. I also write this having lost a childhood friend last month, after drug addiction and living on the streets ended in tragedy.  I don’t believe you need a worldly perspective to look around your own community and know things aren’t right.

Modesto is increasing in it’s population of homelessness,(Modesto Bee, August 2015). An increase in alcoholism, drug addiction, low literacy rates and mental illness seems to be only fueling this problem. It is easy for many to ignore this issue, how would one even begin to help?  One only has to drive down the La Loma neighborhood of Modesto, an area I used to ride bikes as a child, and one can see this growing problem first hand. The Modesto Gospel Mission exists here to help, and the children’s center offers a safe place for children who otherwise would have nowhere to go but out on the streets. This is a home to many, a community to many. It is at times a chaotic and volatile place, but there are much needed rules, structure, warmth and encouragement. The Mission has aims to improve community with a larger medical facility, women’s center and a newly purchased warehouse in order to teach skills for employment to its participants in their program. We donated our “Community Hearts” painting, done at the Homestead Market Fair in Ripon, CA. The painting was done by the community, who all painted their “hearts” as a symbol of support for the children’s center at the Modesto Gospel Mission.

Many homeless desire to work and be productive. Art to Feed has a vision in line with our philosophy that connecting people with food and agriculture improves community. This year we plan to create a small maintainable garden providing fresh produce for a salad bar daily for the children, women and men that come to the mission for meals. The garden will also teach skills and allow for a positive environment for the residents and the community that surround the garden. We also hope to incorporate some children’s programs with the help of a local garden club. We envision the garden growing every year and possibly leading to the selling of produce at local farmers markets, providing employment and skills for our homeless community. There have been successful models with a similar concept by Sol Food Street Farms, and we can only aspire towards this. For now a garden. I am not naive to think that this will solve all of our problems. But its a small step, and as one resident said in hearing of our plans, a much needed bit of “life.” Giving something living to take care of and watch thrive in an environment that is so accustomed to  failure is enough of a step for me and one I cant wait to get started.

If you are interested in donating towards the garden I will be having an art show thru February at the Carolyn Huff Gallery in Modesto, also a part of the down town art walk. All proceeds will be used to fund this garden. If you are interested in volunteering for the Modesto Gospel Mission, or just to learn more you can attend their monthly tours, and visit them online to learn more or donate at http://modestogospelmission.org/

 

Spiced Pear and Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins with Graham Crumble

 

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Over flow topping makes great ice cream fixings!

“Spiced Pear and Pumpkin Yogurt Muffins with Graham Crumble”…I love seeing how far a recipe can go in giving to others. I seem to always double a recipe so that I can save for giving or to feed my family later…food hoarder? Maybe. I think it goes beyond that, I think we all connect with food. To value food and take the time to cook means a lot in terms of who you are. Its part of the essential skills of living, just as farming is. God gave us the ability to create, communicate and care for this earth. Growing food, preparing it and giving of it to others gets us in touch with something greater than ourselves. Those who understand this appreciate the gift of food immensely, and I love sharing with those who feel the same. One of these is our sweet auntie, or technically cousin, Sierra. She gave us this delicious home-made Spiced Pear Butter that was prepared in her kitchen on their family dairy farm, along with bread and something else I’m sure, all the while 5 kiddos running around! Amazing. I had never tasted it before and it was delicious. I almost hated to hide it in a muffin, as it would be so good on toast or pancakes…maybe we can get some more… I will share her recipe later as well.

 

This recipe, of course, incorporates our yogurt made fresh from our dairy. Try my method for simple Cultured yogurt in the oven.  I was happy this recipe yielded 30 good-sized golden beauties, and were shared not only on a camping trip but also with two special neighbors, and employees at the dairy! All gave rave reviews, so pat on my back and hoping to share with you a successful moist muffin recipe!

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Everything here but the pumpkin!

Ingredients:

  • 4  C Flour
  • 1 C Oats
  • 3 Tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1/3 C maple syrup
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 2 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tsp Salt
  • 2 C Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 C Yogurt
  • 1 C Pear Butter (can substitute apple sauce)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Sticks Butter Melted

Crumble:

  • 2 Sleeves Graham Crackers( 3 C Graham Cracker Crumbs)
  • 1/2 C Butter Melted
  • 1 /2 C Brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp Flour

Directions:

Pre Heat Oven to 350 F. Prepare Muffin Tins: (Recommend Pam Baking Spray). Melt Butter in small pan and set aside. Measure out flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. In separate bowl measure out oats. By hand mix in  yogurt, melted butter, pumpkin, pear butter and sugar until combined and free of lumps. Let oats sit for 5 minutes. Fold an egg at a time into wet ingredients.

 

Slowly fold wet into dry ingredients until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Lumps at this point are fine! Spoon 2 large spoon full into each muffin tin. Should yield approx 30 muffins. For Topping melt the butter in same pan as prior and once melted add crumbs, brown sugar and flour. Add a pinch of salt. Using a pinching method mix until forms a rough crumble, adding more flour if needed. Add 1 tbsp toppings to each muffin, and bake for 20-25 minutes until firm in center and golden brown. Enjoy and spread the love!

Art to Feed; “Community Hearts” and the Parent Resource Center

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The Parent Resource Center of Modesto 

You don’t need to drive far to see need in our community. Often we are unsure of how to help. We feel we can’t help or we simply have too much in our own lives that helping others is last on our list. However just being there for your family and friends is enough to improve community. If everyone took care of themselves, their neighbors their children what a better world we would have. So much of our world’s problems comes from hurt, pain and a lack of understanding. We really don’t know why the man on the corner is without a home. We can guess, we can judge. Or we can simply choose to use what little we have to help. While we need to protect our resources and our energy, I also think it’s within our ability and our responsibility to take care of those in need. Not needing a reason, other than because we are fellow human beings. When we start believing we are better and the other is less deserving, what a slippery slope that is. Compassion its wants needed, even when you donate or give time and get nothing in return. All the drama is just a distraction, let’s use what we have and make the most of our abilities to help those we come in contact day-to-day. If you feel inclined beyond that seek out opportunities to help. Modesto has one of the highest crime rates in America, including violent crimes (Neighbor Hood Scout.com, 2016). According to the Census Bureau website, close to 28 % of our residents live below the poverty level. Our county has double the average illiteracy rate, approx 16 % do not speak english well, and homelessness rates are rising. I want to share this not to depress you or further convince you that Modesto needs help, but to shed some light on the fact that we have such an amazing rich agriculture region and yet we are so disconnected from the reality that lives “further down the road.”

The Parent Resource Center lies in the heart of Modesto. In the heart of a community littered with trash  and an abandoned gas station sits next door. Highway 99 is heard rushing by outside it’s front door. It could have no better location, it sits neatly to give direction to those in need. To help families so desperate for support. They have new mother programs, family literacy programs, a pantry and clothing. They have child care during classes, education for youth and teen parents. They also offer a program called “Hero’s for Change” to provide nutritional education to families. I was pleased to support their cause at the Art Walk in Turlock, CA this August. The community, both young and old painted their hearts on a canvas as they learned more about the Parent Resource Center and their programs.

The painting was then pulled together by myself and donated as a symbol of community love and support, as well as encouragement that they will reach many more families in need. I pray we can all take small steps and use what  little valuable time we have to put others first. I am blessed to be able to have the resources to give, and pray for an improved community.

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Donation of “Community Hearts” Painting at The Parent Resource Center with some of the wonderful staff who lovingly serve our community. 

Creamy Balsalmic Yogurt Dressing

imageThis is my go to salad dressing. I haven’t met any one who doesn’t care for it, including my kiddos. It has a balance of sweet, salty, tangy and the silky texture is divine for any salad. Would also work as a great marinade. Try adding a twist of your own, maybe a hint of heat? I use my home made raw yogurt, you can also use store bought plain or Greek yogurt. We also use our Aunt and Uncle’s olive oil, California Gold. They make a wonderful balsamic as well! Use a good, authentic balsamic dressing. No red wine vinegar stuff! The key to this is to whisk the heck out of it to remove any lumps. I used this dressing on a mix of kale from our garden, but you could use on virtually any greens, including with coleslaw.

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Ingredients

  • 2 C EV Olive Oil
  • 3/4 C Real Balsamic
  • 1/4 C Yogurt
  • 1/4 C Mustard
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 1 Tsp Salt/ Pepper, or to taste.

 

Directions:

Whisk ingredients and pour over salad. For Kale salad a tip: massage kale leaves with a course ground salt to tenderize your salad 30 minutes before adding dressing. Add Feta cheese and candied pecans for a decadent salad. A word of warning, a little of this dressing goes a long way so add sparingly and increase if desired!

Super Moist Pumpkin Muffins…made with yogurt and almond Butter

img_7839I painted this pumpkin platter and made these pumpkin muffins in hopes that fall will come early! A portion of proceeds from this platter goes towards your local food bank and can be purcahsed at ART to FEED website.

I hope to try this recipe with fresh pumpkin from our cousins Pumpkin Patch, but you can also use canned pumpkin as well! My muffin recipes are no fuss, use one bowl and make your life easier please and have fun cooking!  Muffins give so much room for creativity to add you own twist as well. I added my Raw Yogurt and some almond butter that give these muffins a super moist texture. For a healthier muffin you can omit the topping. Purchase almonds for a good cause through Farm to Kids and make your own almond butter as well! These freeze well for busy mornings and this recipe makes enough to share with neighbors and spread the love for all things pumpkin! Makes approx 24 muffins.

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Ingredients

  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Maple Syrup
  • 1/2  C  Butter
  • 1/4 C Yogurt
  • 1/4 C Almond Butter
  • 1 15 oz Can Pumpkin or 2 C Fresh Pumpkin Puree

Topping

  • 1 tbsp Pumpkin Puree
  • 1 tbsp Vanilla
  • 2 c Oats
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 C Sugar
  • 1/2 C flour

Directions:

PreHeat oven to 350 F. Grease muffins Tins. In large bowl combine dry ingredients. Melt the 2 sticks of butter in microwave or pan. Make well in dry ingredients and in this order add; melted  butter and sugar. Stir to combine only the wet ingredients without scraping sides. Add eggs and beat into wet ingredients one at a time. Add yogurt, maple syrup and pumpkin (reserve 1 tbs for topping). Fold gently until just incorporated. Do not over mix. Over mixing you eggs will lead to a tougher muffin. In general with baking the less you handle the better. Batter will be lumpy and this is ok!  Spoon into muffin tins.

Prepare topping; Melt butter and add remaining ingredients. Stir until mixture resembles a loose crumble. Add more flour or oats if needed. Place a large spoonful on top of each filled muffin tin. Bake for 30-4o minutes or until golden brown.

 

Slow and Low Crunchy Almonds

 

This recipe is was a revelation to me! I learned about this through the “Nourishing Traditions Cookbook” Almonds lose their heart healthy fats when roasted at high temperatures. This recipe requires soaking the almonds in water for 6- 12 hours. This process is also known as “sprouting.” By doing this you unlock the foods nutrition potential as your body is more able to break down and absorb nutrients. By placing these soaked or “sprouted” almonds in oven at very low temp for long period you are also preserving their heart healthy fats. I love the taste and crunch of these almonds more than those that are roasted and seasoned. This is a standby snack for myself and our family. It helps keep the body satisfied by providing the right balance of fat, protein, fiber and nutrients. I am fortunate to live in the central valley where almonds are prevalent and I have neighbors and family almond ranchers! My lovely sister and brother in law bring me a 25 lb box of fresh almonds from their ranches. If you are looking for a good cause along with your purchase of almonds visit Farm to Kids online to purchase! Art to Feed supports all local farmers and needs, so blessed to tie in local farmers with our recipes!

Ingredients:

  • 4 C Raw Almonds
  • Filtered Water to Cover
  • 1 tbs Salt (non iodized)

Directions:

Place almonds in bowl and cover with water until covered with 1 inch of water above almonds. Soak for 6- 12 hours. Drain water, place on baking sheet and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt if desired. Place in oven at 135- 150 F for 12- 24 hours. Place in air tight container and enjoy!

A Garden

The Dairy is my husbands workplace. Not mine. He works day in and day out, on nothing much more than faith and a love for what he does. My boys enjoy going there and working with dad too. Where does that leave mom and Lilly May? I am the support at home to a farmer and I know my role is crucial to the farms success, but I feel left out. I am a doer.  I like to get dirty, put on my boots and get to work. Sometimes you can’t wait for an invitation. Sometimes you have to make your own opportunity. I needed a reason to be at the dairy. To get to know employees and serve the dairy in more than just the role of wife at home.

A few mornings ago I told my boys; “Get your gardening gloves! We are headed to the dairy and planting a garden by our old house.” The boys were excited and so was I. I called to let the men know. The answers I got where; “nothing will grow there”, and “take care of the garden you have at img_7189home, and, “you have enough going on.” Silly men, don’t they know that will only make me try harder! Kids loaded up, we got what was left of any vegetables at the nursery (for a 50% discount as most of it was wilted away) and headed to our spot; shovels, gloves, hoes and vegetables in back.  We got to work. I have never been so proud of my children’s little hands. Lilly had a blast getting dirty and petting the cows. Our little garden may not survive. It may not be enough to share with all the employees, it may not bring people together, and it may not work out. In more ways than one. But our job is to have faith, to take care and create where there is none, and to give of ourselves. To love who we are now and where we are at. To not depend on others to create an  opportunity or place blame on them when there is not. It is within each of us and we can do this through the smallest things. A garden, a painting, a word, a meal.  Rather than staying at home being unhappy at my husband for not creating an opportunity for me, I decided to do this myself. It may be silly but I felt pretty damn good doing it.

Hearts of Harvest and Art to Feed

img_6750So Grateful and blessed to be able to give with ART to FEED. Last Thursday’s Farmers market was  a truly special time. Working in partners with Hearts of Harvest Foundation, a foundation that gives support to families facing health crisis. Many children and families the foundation  has helped are affected by heart problems at young age, and need extensive surgeries and therapies at hospitals that require extensive travel. This foundation pays for families to stay near to their children, a situation know all to well by my dear friend and vice president of Hearts of Heavest, Jeana Hoff.  The foundation is doing wonderful things for our community, visit Hearts of Harvest online to learn more. This was a very special time for  me to have my family by my side, to hear all the stories form individuals who have been affected by the health crisis of a child, and to see all the new local farms and their wonderful produce! The community was so supportive; children, community workers, families, elderly, and special needs children all painting their “hearts” on the same canvas to show their support. I cant wait to donate this special img_6738painting towards Hearts of Harvest Foundation! Stay tuned to see the finished product!
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