Wednesday, June 18, 2014

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Eat Well on $4 a Day: Interview with Good and Cheap Author Leanne Brown

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 06:42 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 7.27.00 AMWhile poking around the corners of the Internet recently, looking for the next great food idea, I ran into something tremendous: A free downloadable cookbook that teaches you how to eat well on as little as $4 a day.

Written by Leanne Brown, Good and Cheap, was originally envisioned as a resource to help people receiving government assistance eat better with the funds provided available. However, the idea has taken off, as you’ll see in our interview with Leanne. Her Kickstarter campaign for producing printed copies of the book had a goal of $10,000 — it has already surpassed that, and generated more than $38,000. Her excellent recipes are not only available in her books (her vegetarian cookbook, From Scratch, is also available for free) but on on her website. Check out all things Leanne here.

Obviously, the time has come for an idea like Good and Cheap. I was delighted to talk with Leanne about this wonderful book — the recipes are simple and delicious, by the way — as well as the reaction to it thus far.

Interview with Leanne Brown

You created the book as the capstone project for your Masters in Food Studies at NYU. How long did it take for you to come up with recipes that fit your criteria? 

I started working on the book in mid-June last year and completed a rough version in December, so I guess it took me about 6 months to develop the recipes. There was a lot of trial and error with the dishes themselves and the photography. After that, I sat on the book for a while. I posted the initial PDF on my website in April, and it was discovered by Reddit pretty quickly, which prompted my partner and I to finally finish editing it. Now, thanks to Kickstarter backers who sponsored 20 new recipes, I have to start experimenting again! But I love doing it, of course.

Why do you think it continues to be a difficult task to eat well and healthfully while on a limited budget — is there a basic misunderstanding out there about how to eat well? 

There are so many messages everywhere, from our televisions to our grocery stores, that tell us cooking is hard. But cooking is not innately difficult; it’s just a basic skill that requires practice, and the benefits of that practice are a joyful and delicious life! Compare that with packaged foods, which offer little in the way of immediate pleasure, yet cause your health and wallet to suffer in the long term, not to mention your sense of self-worth. If we can change our national attitude about cooking, we can all be a lot more satisfied with the way we eat—oh, and healthier, too.

Cooking and food shopping should be mandatory classes in every public school. They have traditionally been taught in the home, but many grow up without that knowledge, and they’re daunting to learn once you’re on your own. How are you supposed to eat well when you can’t cook, or begin to cook if you don’t know how to shop?

The book really appears to adhere to the Tips for Eating and Shopping Well that you share at the outset. They're very simple tips, too — buy foods that you can use in multiple ways, buy smaller amounts of produce so that it stays fresh, gradually build a pantry, use veggies for flavor, always buy eggs, and stay away from prepared drinks. If you do nothing else, will following these tips help you to save money? 

Thanks for noticing! Yes, I really think those things make a big difference. At the same time, the advice to build a pantry is perhaps the most controversial idea in the book. The institutional assumption is that food-stamp recipients ought to buy the very cheapest foods, and ought essentially to live paycheck-to-paycheck. But that’s not good budgeting in the financial world, and it’s not good food budgeting. Saving up for a bottle of medium-quality olive oil every few months can really make a difference in your quality of life!

Why did you decide to release the PDF of the book, as well as your first cookbook (a vegetarian cookbook, called From Scratch) for free? 

I made my first book, From Scratch, essentially for myself. Once it was complete, however, it didn’t really make sense for it to just sit around on my hard drive. The specific idea to make the books free ultimately came from Cory Doctorow, a science-fiction author who is one of the editors of the blog Boing Boing and a persuasive advocate for free culture. It’s pretty clear that giving the PDFs away for free is a great way to spread the word!

For Good and Cheap, it made even more sense for the book to be free — after all, it was designed for people who are already stretching every dollar to feed themselves. I didn’t want them to waste that money on a cookbook.

Were you surprised by the reaction to Good and Cheap? 

Yes, positively floored. I certainly hoped that the book could be useful for some people, but there are thousands of books published every year, and mine isn’t even properly published; I never imagined that this many people would even hear about it! My favorite thing is waking up every morning to new emails from people who tell me how Good and Cheap is changing their life, or that it would have helped them in the past, or that it’s changing their approach to cooking. I can’t read too many at a time or I get really choked up.

Do you feel people are just aching to find and learn how to make, good, inexpensive, satisfying meals? 

I guess they must be! And I think some people were just unaware that nice, modern dishes could be had for so little money, because the food movement doesn’t often talk about price. I’m happy to be able to help in my own small way.

Do you regularly make the meals found in Good and Cheap? 

Heck yes! Last night I made the kale salad, and this morning I had berry oatmeal.

Why did you decide to create a Kickstarter campaign to fund printed copies of Good and Cheap? What do you think of the reaction to the campaign, which has raised almost $30,000, when you only wanted $10,000 initially? 

At the end of April, someone posted a link to the draft version of Good and Cheap on Reddit. It received intense interest and was downloaded 90,000 times in just a week. That made me realize that this was something people really did want, but I felt it was particularly important to get the book to people who may not have access to a computer, or who may not be very internet-savvy. The people backing the campaign—at this point, more than a thousand of them!—clearly feel the same way.

The funds they’ve contributed are just spectacular, because they mean we can print a truly huge number of copies of the book. The initial $10,000 goal was really the minimum viable amount, but we were always hoping for much more, since a lot of that $10,000 goes to the one-time cost of setting up the printing press. With that cost behind us, each new pledge helps print a bunch more copies—some to give away for free, and some to sell to organizations dirt-cheap (about $4 per extra copy).

What recipes have people said they've liked the most from both Good and Cheap and From Scratch? 

You know, there is no clear consensus winner, I am surprised to tell you. The variations on oatmeal and toast are both surprisingly popular, which is interesting, because you would never find those in a normal cookbook. A few years ago, when my friends got From Scratch, many of them said they really liked the chana masala. That’s a lot of the reason I included the chana masala in Good and Cheap as well—plus the fact that it’s so inexpensive! I’ve also heard a lot about the banana pancakes and the eggplant-and-tomato pasta. But people are drawn to a wide variety of the recipes. It just goes to show that there is no one best food or recipe—it’s all a matter of taste.

You're a food studies scholar — from your viewpoint, what are the most important issues in the world of food right now? 

Gosh, there are a lot, but they are all very interconnected. First off, the way that the vast majority of our food is produced is environmentally unsustainable. The distribution of our resources is also insane: there are about the same number of people on the planet who are starving as there are people with illnesses related to overconsumption, like diabetes or heart disease.

This is a bit selfish since home cooking is my pet issue, but I think so many things could be solved by a return to cooking for yourself. If everyone cooked from scratch, we could focus on growing more fruits and vegetables, grains for human consumption, and smaller numbers of animals for meat and dairy. We could promote farming practices that allow the land to heal instead of polluting the rivers and eroding the soil. It just takes an attitude shift about how we balance our time and what we value.

In North America, we have a really unhealthy relationship to food. We use it to reward and punish ourselves. And, like I said above, cooking isn’t taught in schools, so it is becoming a lost skill.

After Good and Cheap, what's the next food subject for you to tackle? 

I’d love to start a community-kitchen program, like a cooking library where people could have access to a central kitchen space and could borrow equipment as needed. I cook a lot, but even I only use my stand-mixer maybe once a week; why should it just sit there? A lot of occasional cooks can’t justify that kind of expense. It becomes a catch-22, because if you don’t have the right equipment, there are a lot of dishes you can’t easily make. Shared resources could really help draw some of those occasional cooks back into the fold.

Merrci is the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Contributor on Squidoo

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 06:15 AM PDT

merrciToday, we’re happy to introduce you to Merrci. She’s our Alzheimer's and Dementia Contributor on Squidoo.

Tell us a little bit about your niche topic.
My niche, Alzheimer’s and Dementia, is a serious topic but one I like to lighten up. Too often these days I say “It is what it is.” But that sums it up. Once someone has Alzheimer’s there isn’t much you can do about it. It may be possible to slow it down, and hopefully there will be further advancements toward a cure soon, but for now one can only learn to live with it. Personally I prefer to do that with laughter.

On the other hand, there may be steps we can take to either delay or prevent ourselves and our family from a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. That is of huge interest now with so many baby boomers reaching retirement age. So I hope to focus more on that in the coming months. It’s important and urgent. It’s something we should start now. Still, Mom is in the last stage of the disease, so I can’t resist spending time on where we’re at now.

Tell us about the moment you fell in love with your topic. Was it an immediate thing or did it happen over time?
It definitely wasn’t love at first sight! I suppose it started when Mom was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but it wasn’t until my father died that it become close up and personal. Mom didn’t want to be in her room, so we would spend time in the main living room with the other residents. The more time I spent the more I got to know most of them, and the more attached I got to all of them. Being there, talking to them, getting them a cup of coffee is a joy to me now. They are Mom’s friends and mine too.

Who had the most influence in your life?
I would have to say my parents. We had such a good childhood. Sure it had it’s moments, but all in all, it was so normal. Both Mom and Dad both had a great sense of humor. They worked hard, lived pretty frugally, loved God, and loved each other and us. They also gave us a love of books, and the confidence to do our best.

When she isn’t at Squidoo, you can find Merrci at the following places online:
Alzheimer’s HQ
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Squids on Facebook

Merrci invites you to stop by and share a review at her Sharpen Your Mind, Review a Book of Brain Games.

Lens of the Day: Are Recycled Pallets Safe to Use?

Posted: 18 Jun 2014 04:12 AM PDT

palletThere’s a lot of great home and garden projects you can build using recycled pallets but before you start there’s a few things you should know.

Stop by today’s Lens of the Day, Are Recycled Pallets Safe to Use?  by the_micro_farm_project, to learn how to choose and safely reuse pallet wood.

When you’re done reading the lens, why not share one of your own home and garden projects or an important safety tip on a new lens?

Here is the link to create a How To lens.

We’d love to see it so, please do share the link here in the comments when you’re done.

New Cash Payout Threshold

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 07:54 AM PDT

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.53.39 AMStarting with the July 2014 payout we’re changing the cash payout threshold to $25.

Currently you can set your cash payout to $1, $5, $10 $15 $20 or $50. Having multiple thresholds makes it hard for us to scale and we’ve found that the majority of the web uses a more standard payout threshold, usually in the $25 to $50 range.

This means that you’ll accumulate your earnings in your reserve hopper. Once the hopper reaches $25 or more you’ll be paid via PayPal.

You can read about the new policy in the Payment FAQ’s too.

 Image Credit

12 Must-Have Music Albums

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 07:20 AM PDT

Think back. What was the very first album of music that you absolutely had to have?

Now, read through each of the following lenses to compare notes, find something new to love or to simply take a virtual trip back in time by way of these 12 super music reviews.

Destroyer by KISS - Birthing a Baby Metal Head - First Step in my Rock and Roll Journey

1. Destroyer by KISS – Birthing a Baby Metal Head – First Step in my Rock and Roll Journey

It was the 70′s. I was a young almost tween just getting into music. Being a bit of a rogue even then, I shocked my parents silly when they saw the first album I ever bought. They had gotten me a record player a few years before for Christmas. Yea, I…

Review: Michael W. Smith Project 1983

2. Review: Michael W. Smith Project 1983

He was my first. That makes him special. When I was five years old, my godparents Mike and Georgia gave me a cassette- playing Walkman, a set of portable headphones, and a set of AA batteries as a gift. With money I received in greeting cards from other re…

My First Soundtrack: The Muppet Movie

3. My First Soundtrack: The Muppet Movie

Looking back it only took me a few moments to remember the first movie sound track I ever purchased. And yes kiddies it was on 8- track. And even more scary, I still own it. And the 8- track still plays. Now if only the player did. But in the good news the…

Greatest Love Song You Light Up My Life Forever

4. Greatest Love Song You Light Up My Life Forever

Rising to the top of the charts in 1977, the single, ‘You Light Up My Life’ by Debby Boone (daughter of Pat Boone of GMA fame) made the song an unforgettable one hit wonder of the seventies. On Billboard’s Hot 100 list for ten consecutive we…

Shakin' Stevens Greatest Hits

5. Shakin’ Stevens Greatest Hits

The very first album I ever owned was Shakin’ Stevens – Greatest Hits. I don’t remember receiving the album, I was too young, hence it’s an album I’ve had as long as I can remember. I remember playing it in my room and dancing around to…

My First Album Bought: Mothership

6. My First Album Bought: Mothership

My Taste in Music and The First Album I Bought For Myself It has been such a long time since I’ve actually bought a physical album. In fact the first and only album I ever bought was in CD form and it was a Led Zeppelin album called Mothership. I boug…

Highway to Hard Rock

7. Highway to Hard Rock

‘Highway to Hell’ was the first album I bought myself and I was instantly in love. In a world where the only music I had experienced was 90′s popular and kid’s music, AC/DC was everything I needed to break free of the monotony of the mu…

Shaun Cassidy - Da Doo Ron Ron

8. Shaun Cassidy – Da Doo Ron Ron

One of the first records I got was Shaun Cassidy way back when I was younger. I still have it to this day! I’d listen to it over and over till cows came home for milking! I’d sit and stare at the record cover because Shaun was so cute! My favorit…

Reliving the Past with Journey's Greatest Hits

9. Reliving the Past with Journey’s Greatest Hits

Cruising with my pals along the country roads of Oahu, enjoying the lush greens of the island landscape that is Hawaii, the endless streams of songs keep us company throughout the journey. During the 80′s we still relied on radio for our music and whi…

Duran Duran - Rio

10. Duran Duran – Rio

My first albumIt may not have been the first album that I owned, but Duran Duran’s Rio was the first album I ever bought with my own money and that’s always going to be special – it must be, I remember it now and it was easily 30 years ago! I was…

The Legendary Rocket Man-Elton John

11. The Legendary Rocket Man-Elton John

The year was 1974, when Elton John released his first Greatest Hits album; it would also become the very first album I would own. The one thing that stays in my memories of that time in my life was the music playing on the radio. I remember while being dro…

The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan -My First Favorite LP I Had to Have

12. The Pleasure Principle by Gary Numan -My First Favorite LP I Had to Have

Gary Numan’s Pleasure Principle was my fist album that I ever absolutely had to have! I was only 9 years old. I heard the song Cars and then just had to absolutely have it along with the whole album. My ears just loved all those new synthetic sounds!…

Lens of the Day: I Hope They Dance: Children And The Humanities

Posted: 17 Jun 2014 04:54 AM PDT

dance123Today’s Lens of the Day comes to us from our NEW Best of Kids and Education pages on Squidoo.

At I Hope They Dance: Children And The Humanities, lensmaster gypsyowl shares about a wonderful book for parents and grandparents who want to encourage their child’s love for the arts.  Don’t miss it.

When you’re finished reading, think about making your own lens that might fit this terrific new category where we’ll be covering pregnancy, babies, kids, teens, family and eduction.  We’d love to see your personal product reviews, lesson plans, informational articles, tips, advice and anything else you’d like to share regarding children.

When its done,  post the link to your new child and/or education lens here so we can all take a look.

DIY Community Quest

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 03:24 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 6.12.11 PMGet your DIY on!

A couple of weeks ago we asked all of you to create some DIY lenses and here’s what we got!

This quest was so popular we decided to do a repeat. So grab your glue gun and hammer and share your best DIY tips, products or How-To’s with Squidoo.

Need some help? Check out this lens: How to share your DIY project on Squidoo.

Tweet your new DIY lenses to @bdkz for a feature. We’ll be sharing these on the Squidoo home page rotation too.

Quest Deadline is June 29th. Submit lenses right here or via your Quest tab.

Image Credit

Update on Social Connection Buttons

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 03:03 PM PDT

Screen Shot 2014-06-16 at 5.44.48 PMLast week we announced new social connection buttons on Squidoo and we gathered your feedback.

Here’s an update on the buttons that will be added.

A link to your blog.

Some of these buttons are active and we’ll be adding the rest soon. Thanks for all the great feedback.

NancyCarol is the History Buff Contributor on Squidoo

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 12:06 PM PDT

Facebook-page-coverToday we’re very pleased to introduce you to NancyCarol.  She’s our History Buff Contributor on Squidoo.

Tell us a little bit about your niche topic.
I’m the History Buff Contributor as well as the Women in the Military Contributor. These two niches constantly intermingle, so it’s a nice fit. I love the stories that can be found in history, the little nuggets that give us that, “Wow, I didn’t know that!” feeling when discovered. History is not dull.

Tell us about the moment you fell in love with your topic. Was it an immediate thing or did it happen over time?
My love affair with historical stories began in my 8th grade, with a great history teacher, who taught us that getting to know history doesn’t have to be dull. Learning about the stories of people, places, things, events can be exciting. He taught us to look for the interesting part of history, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Who had the most influence in your life?
There are many other influences, but my mother was the greatest one. She never had more than a grade school education, but firmly believed in learning. She encouraged my love of books from the time I was three years old. As I grew up, I have memories of sitting in the evening after dinner with her at our kitchen table, both of us reading a book. She would ask me if she came across a word she didn’t understand, and then we’d go to the dictionary. She loved it that I had a love for reading and for words.

NancyCarol invites you to share a review at her lens, Review one of these Historical Movies.

When she isn’t here on Squidoo, you can also find NancyCarol at the following places online:
Hand In Glove With History Blog
Hand In Glove With History on Facebook

Lens of the Day: The Poor Woman’s Mosaic: Wood Base Button-Craft Decor

Posted: 16 Jun 2014 05:10 AM PDT

buttonsWhen I was a kid, my mom had a tin filled with buttons and after reading this lens I wish I could go back and grab it right now.

Stop by The Poor Woman's Mosaic: Wood Base Button-Craft Decor by lensmaster vicki_p to find a wonderfully creative and fun way to craft yourself something gorgeous.

Crafting with recycled or inexpensive items is a great way to save money.  Have you got a budget-friendly idea to share?  Why not create a new lens about it? Whether it’s for a craft project or something else, people are always looking for new ways to save money.   Don’t be stingy.  Share your wealth of ideas.

When your  lens is done, we’d love to see it.  Post the link in the comments below.

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