Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

Hitting the reset button…

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DeCordova Museum

Last week was a budget buster! I managed to keep the grocery bill under $60 but the only way I was able to do so was because we ate out on Monday, got pizza on Wednesday, ate out on Saturday, and went out to brunch on Sunday morning (and I enjoyed every second of it) – that’s like a typical pre-layoff week for us and it was pricey.  This week will be all about reeling it back in.

The main reason for the budget-bust?  A lot going on and I wasn’t feeling well – I just didn’t have the time or energy to dedicate to the $60 a Week Project.  Luckily, because we keep really close tabs on our household budget, we know that a week like last week can happen sometimes and it’s okay, we can course-correct and bounce back.*

So, what did I buy last week and what did it do…

  • 1 quarter spiral ham for $12.75 – this week was a bit different, as you can surely see…
  • 1 jalapeño for $.02
  • 1 bunch (1.5 lbs.) of organic red seedless grapes on sale for $2.67
  • 1 bunch of mint for $1,49
  • 2 shallots for $$1.29
  • 1 bunch of collard greens for $1.29
  • 1 cucumber for $.50
  • 6 lemons for $2
  • 1 pint of organic cherry tomatoes for $.99
  • 2 lb. bag of yellow onions for $.99
  • 1 bunch of parsley for $.89
  • 1 1.75 lb. acorn squash for $1.39
  • 2 plantains for $.79
  • 1 log of chèvre for $4.99
  • 1 block of Emmenthaler for $4.40
  • 1 block of smoked Gouda for $3.53
  • 1 dozen eggs for $.99
  • Wright’s Silver Cream (not a grocery and not usually counted, but I’m too lazy to subtract it) for $3.49
  • 1 small can of black beans for $.75
  • 2 bottles of sesame seeds for $4.98
  • 1 bag of Goya bulgur wheat for $2.19
  • 1 dozen poppy seed bagels for $1.99
  • 1 large can of chick peas for $1.49
  • 1 set of pre-filled picnic salt and pepper shakers for $1.19
  • 1 Hershey’s Skor bar (because I have a sweet tooth) for $.50
  • 1 package of 12 pitas for $.99

Total?  $57.66.    This provided the ingredients for Thursday night’s supper (for us and a vegan friend and her son) and for Gist’s birthday picnic on Saturday.  We invited committed carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans to the picnic – planning the menu was fun.

DeCordova Museum

As you may have guessed, the picnic was at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, MA.  It is the perfect place for a picnic.  The Pollard Library has passes to the DeCorvova and four of us were able to go for free.  (I love the library’s museum-pass program and have definitely been taking advantage of it these past few months.)  There’s a lot of space for kids to run around, interesting sculpture to discover and explore…

DeCordova Museum

…hills to roll down…

DeCordova Museum

…and a museum.  Dogs are welcome, on leash, so we were also joined by Oakley.  It was so nice to spend a beautiful day in such a lovely place with some of our nearest and dearest.

The picnic was a potluck affair.  I brought a spiral ham, hummus, tabouli, pita chips, cheese & crackers, and birthday cake.  The D family brought a fruit salad, the 3D family brought drinks, Mrs. G brought chips & salsa, and the S family brought Tortellini & Green Pea Salad per Gist’s request.

Now I’m going to distract you with more art…

DeCordova Museum

…because I didn’t really take any pictures while I was cooking. Okay, I took two, one of sesame seeds for the hummus…


…and one of bulgur for the tabouli


Spiral Ham Glaze
Recipe adapted from Dave Liberman

This ham glaze is out-of-this-world.  I had a smaller spiral ham, so I halved the recipe (the list below is what I used).

Ingredients for the glaze:

  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

If you are serving the ham hot, warm the ham according to the package directions.  If you’re serving it glazed but cold (at a picnic perhaps) you can skip that step and just glaze the ham.

Pre-heat/crank up the heat to 425 F.

Whisk all ingredients together in a saucepan until smooth and heat over medium-low to medium heat until simmering. Simmer for 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Brush the glaze over the top of the ham to cover completely – I also dabbed some of it between the slices – yummm. Put/return the ham to the oven and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until glaze is caramelized and bubbly.

Toasty Hummus
Recipe courtesy of Vegetarian Planet

If you like hummus, you should definitely make your own. It’s really easy and so much better than the stuff you buy. This particular recipe has the extra sesame-seed toasting step (which I did wile the ham was in the oven) which adds about 10 minutes.

Once the seeds are toasted, making the hummus takes no time at all.  I know this because I dumped the sesame seeds in the blender at the opening drum beats of Bauhaus’s Bella Lugosi’s Dead (hello, blast from the past on my Bloc Party Genius playlist) and had made the hummus, put it away, washed the blender knife and cutting board, and started boiling water for the tabouli by the time the song ended nine and a half minutes later.  The hummus was just about done right around the time Peter Murphy was going on and on with the “I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead, I’m dead”, for those of you familiar with the song.

  • 1 cup hulled white sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2/3 cups lemon juice – the juice of about 3 lemons
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • water

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spread the sesame seeds out on a lare cookie sheet.  Roast the sesame seeds for 10 – 15 minutes, until they’re brown and toasty nut don’t let them burn.

Put the sesame seeds into a blender with a little bit, maybe 2 tablespoons, of olive oil.  Grind them into a paste.  Add the garlic and salt.  Begin pureeing and add the rest of the olive oil in a thin stream while the blender is running.  Add the chickpeas in two batches, pureeing well after each addition.  With the machine still running, add the lemon juice ans shallots.  If the hummus is too thick, add water to thin it out.



  • 2 cups cracked wheat (bulgur)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped mint
  • 2 cups fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Soak the cracked wheat in the hot water until the water is absorbed, about 30 minutes. Drain any excess water, if necessary, and squeeze dry.

Combine the salad ingredients, including wheat, in a medium bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together and stir into the salad mixture. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

I still have quite a few backlogged recipes from the past two weeks (!) to share.  They include, that amazing peanut butter pie that I’ve been going on and on about (and that some of you must think is a figment of my imagination by now), Coconut Rice with Edamame & Leeks, Rhubarb Big Crumb Cake, Jamaican Rice Mix-Up, and the most delicious Rhubarb-Lentil Soup that I made last night (Nance brought me more of her rhubarb at the picnic on Saturday – yay!).

* Really, we’re extremely lucky – I may be unemployed and we may be “broke” but we don’t have to deal with the issues raised in this article.  There’s a whole lot I could say here but I’ll just leave you with the article.

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