Saturday, December 31, 2005

How'd We Do With Our Goals for 2005?

Here's a quote from my blog this time last year:

So what's in store for 2005? I'm hoping to get more earth friendly and decrease my global footprint even more. Solar ovens, compost tumblers, and rain barrels are all things I'll be exploring. Planning our retirement home and life is also on my mind even though I'm only 34 and my hubby is only 39. The choices we make now will forever impact how and when we are able to live our work free years. I'll also be reading and trying out new recipes, especially ones written about lean times. One of the most creative cookbooks I came across was Grandma's Wartime Kitchen. It certainly wasn't veg but there were some great veg recipes in there.

We did use solar cookers this summer with pretty good success. Using a solar cooker is very similar to using a slow cooker. We'll definitely be using solar cookers again this summer and perhaps even earlier in the season.

The compost tumbler plan was aborted in favor of the worm bin (check out the archives for Monday May 23rd). I couldn't bear to spend the money on the compost tumbler. I'm really pleased with the worm bin. Those little guys are still eating away in their winter domain (a huge old cooler in our basement). They were instrumental in the success of our container gardening this past summer.

I never got around to doing anything with the rain barrel but I'm still planning to give that a try.

Planning our retirement is still high on our list of priorities. We used this year to take a hard look at where we are and where we'd like to be. Aside from the obvious things like paying off debt, things like planting the currant bushes, making plumbing repairs and insulating the attic at the cabin all tie into this. We want to get the big expenses out of the way while we are still working. We still don't have an exact timeline on this but in 2006 we will continue to solidify our plans. Spending the summer here really helped us realize that we could live happily in a smaller, simpler house in a smaller, slower community.

As for reading and trying new recipes, for me this is a joy and there will be more of that in 2006 as well.

When I teach Yogaball, I end our meditation with this thought:

Remember that yoga is a practice and there is something to be learned each and every time we practice, both in our successes and the things that continue to challenge us.

I think this applies to frugal living as well. Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Some Goals for 2006

Its that time again. Here are some of the things that top our list of things we'd like to accomplish in the new year.

First, I want to pay off all of our debt, (excluding the mortgages). We kept having runs of big expenses in 2005. They always came in bunches. You know the kind, you just spend $1000 on a car, then an $800 medical bill arrives, followed by a $1200 car repair. I want all that gone! We've mapped it out and should have it paid off by November. As soon as that's paid off, we'll shift into paying off the mortgages early.

Second, I want to continue to prep our cabin for our eventual permanent move there. There are repairs that need to be done and space/storage issues to work out (our house is about 1,800 square feet, the cabin is just 1,000) but mainly I'm talking about more plantings. This year we put in the currant bushes. I'd like to add something like that each year, so that by the time we make the move, we have well established, productive fruit bushes. This year, I'm hoping to add gooseberries and possibly blueberries. What I actually add will depend on how productive a plant is and how shade/acidic soil tolerant it is.

When I get dejected about the size of the land (its measured in feet rather than acres) and its ability to produce food, I draw inspiration from my great aunts. Behind their apartment house in Brooklyn, they had planted an incredible garden of tomatoes, peppers, fig trees and heaven knows what else all in a plot of land considerably smaller than ours.

Third, I want to continue to simplify and declutter the house. I'm a packrat at heart.

On a personal level, I'd like to finally get my website up and running. I've got the domain name, now I just need to get my butt in gear and actually put something together in Frontpage. I'm toying with a lot of different ideas that I'd like to explore but I need to get that website going first!

Tomorrow, I'll look back at our goals for 2005 and how we did.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Loving All the Leftovers

I'm kind of sad, tonight I might actually have to cook something from scratch for dinner! We have been living on Christmas leftovers since Sunday and its been a bit of a vacation for me. I've had a little extra time for other projects, like those darn drapes that I don't think I'm ever going to finish! So how do you keep the family from revolting when you're serving leftovers night after night? Here's how I did it.

First you may need to vary the presentation. In general, leftovers presented in the same crusty pot they were cooked in are unappealing to anyone. Having said that, some things work really well in the original pot. For example, the Tofurkey was long gone but the pot still had a good amount of stuffing in it, as well as a spoon or two of mashed potatoes and some leftover roasted veggies. We also had a huge amount of leftover gravy. I added some rehydrated tvp to the pot and mixed in some gravy. Viola, faux turkey casserole.

The Red Bens and Rice returned first as itself served with some leftover squash biscuits that were toasted to give them a new lease on life. They made their final appearance as burgers when I mixed the last bit with some oatmeal and flaxseed meal (these work as binders to hold the burger together.) I served the burgers with a soup made from the leftover veggies and broth from the gluten pot roast recipe and some leftover foccacia bread. The gluten roast itself never made it long enough to become anything but itself, my daughter and I really enjoyed it.

The leftover pasta was combined with the sauce, sprinkled with a cheese substitute called Fake Fake (its a mix of walnuts, nutritional yeast and garlic powder), and baked in the oven. I served this with focaccia as well.

The White Beans and Tomatoes haven't made a second appearance yet because I opted to freeze them. This will make my world an easier place on some future hectic night.

The baked goods have all made appearances as quick breakfasts for my husband on his way to work. A quick toasting does wonders for biscuits, breads and Apple Butter Pull Aparts that have gotten a little soggy from being in the fridge.

Shayla asked for some input on her new slow cooker, my response is in the comments section of yesterday's post for anyone else who might be interested.

Tomorrow I'll share some of our goals for 2006.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

So How Was that Holiday Menu?

To be frugal is to admit what worked and what didn't, especially in the kitchen. Having said that here's a review of the culinary side of our holiday. BTW, Ruthie was right on target with her plan to pare down their holiday menu (she is wise beyond her years!) There is part of me that is so afraid of running out of food that I always make way too much, but we'll get to that later.

Here was my plan for Christmas Eve Dinner:
Tofurkey with Roasted Root Vegetables and gravy
Potato Rolls
Molasses Cookies

Here's what we actually had:
The only change to this menu was the potato rolls. I made mashed potatoes instead. I should mention that since Tofurkeys are pricey little buggers, I always make a batch of my own rice stuffing to go along with it. The molasses cookies were the standout hit of the evening.


Here was my plan for Christmas Day Brunch:
No Fry Donuts (The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery)
Apple Butter & Pumpkin Butter Pull Aparts (Vegetarian Resource Group)
Squash Biscuits (Grandma's Wartime Kitchen)
Cinnamon Yeast Bread (Feed Your Family for $12.00/day)
Homemade applesauce
Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Here's what we actually had:
Time ran short for food prep on Christmas Eve and because of that we nixed the donuts. We ran out of pumpkin butter, so we just had Apple Butter Pull Aparts. No one was in the mood for smoothies, so I didn't bother making them. As for the apple sauce, my inlaws brought tangerines and we had those instead. The cinnamon bread was the standout hit of the morning but everyone enjoyed the biscuits and pull aparts as well.


Here was my plan for Christmas Day Dinner:
Not Your Mama's Pot Roast (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)
Pasta with Chunky Sauce (my own chunky sauce made with TVP to give a meaty texture)
Red Beans and Rice (Harvest Cookbook by Nava Atlas)
White Beans and Tomatoes (Miserly Moms by Johnni McCoy)
Molasses Cookies
Any Leftovers from brunch may be used as desserts
The Most Fabulous Frozen Peanut Butter cookies on the Planet Earth we used carob instead of cocoa powder

Here's what we actually had:
Actually there were no big changes here except not a single molasses cookie made it to dinner and I made Foccacia to go with the pasta. BTW, Foccacia is just pizza dough with Italian Seasonings and a spray of olive oil over the top. The pasta was the big hit but that is to be expected. People like to stick with the familiar, especially when dabbling in vegetarian fare. Most everyone tried a bit of everything. As I also suspected, the gluten roast was only enjoyed by my kids. The texture of gluten is something that not everyone is ready for, still I'm glad we included it this year.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the plethora of leftovers and how we made them palatable day after day!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas in the Rearview Mirror

The holidays always amaze me. Like a roller coaster ride, you creak up the hill and then suddenly, its happening, you're flying down the hill whether you're ready or not. Sometime on Christmas morning, I experience that same feeling, company is here, ready or not! Overall, I'm really happy with the way our holiday unfolded.

Our kids made us a beautiful patchwork quilt for our bed upstate (baby, its cold up there!) Perhaps it was the ultimate testament to our journey into frugality as a family. The only supply they bought new was quilting thread. The fabric was from freecycle, I believe a local seamstress was retiring and clearing out her fabric supply. The backing was a queen size fleece blanket that we already had. I had bought the batting over a year ago, on sale of course, with the intention to make a quilt for the same bed. To give my kids proper credit, I should remind everyone that they are 14, 13, 6, and 5. (My 13 yr old, the sewer of the group, did ask for some technical advice along the way but the kids did all the planning, cutting, sewing, decorating and embroidering.) I'm not sure anything that follows can top this gift!




For the kids, we kept it low key. We gave the kids personalized bathrobes (most were from the thrift store, one was acquired from my sister-that adds cool appeal, one was made from scratch using towels.) The kids all modeled these Christmas morning. Learning to embroider is such a useful skill at a time like this. The kids also got some books, some shirts, a new sheet set and the third Harry Potter DVD (used of course!) Jim and I exchanged some records (he collects them) and books (I love Joyce Carol Oates.) We also reminded the kids of the canoe we had purchased earlier in the year as a family Christmas present.

Santa brought the girls old style metal Atra razors (I've mentioned before these last forever. These were the most expensive item we bought, $57.77 for both of them on ebay, but, when you consider how long I've had mine, they were a bargain.), white Ked type sneakers (they wanted to decorate these with fabric paint), shaving cream and hair gel.

For the boys, the big man left a guitar (freecycle), a recorder (ebay), crayons, colored pencils, drawing paper, wallets and gloves. Throughout the day, the boys were seen playing music and discussing the songs they should write. At the end of the night, we found them in their room, tushes sticking up in the air, coloring.

For extended family, we made a variety of things based on the recievers lifestyle (I mean we couldn't give homemade placemats to my 18 yr old sister who still lives at home.) For some we made placemats and matching napkins or potholders, for others record bowls filled with cookies. Everyone got a flower pot decorated by the boys.

Not all the gifts were homemade, some were acquired creatively. One of my sisters was looking to go back to the gym. We gave her a gym bag, water bottle and jump rope that I had planned to use as a giveaway at work two years ago but never got around to. My brother recieved a brand new, still with tags on, Rangers pullover jacket that had been left at a friends house when they moved in. The price tag said $100, I got it for nothing and my brother thought it was a great story.

Some gifts were a combination of homemade and acquired, like the ceramic pig lamp for my sister in law (she loves pigs!) The lamp was perfect, the shade was not. We recovered the shade with fabric that matched her home's color scheme.

Three gifts were just bought, a griddle for my parents that we chipped in on with my brother, a bath set for my youngest sister, and a mesh bag and bath toys for my one year old niece.

The final price tag for the whole holiday was about $100 ($225 if you include the earlier purchase of the canoe). Tomorrow: a review of the food we served and how we're dealing with the leftovers.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

It Beginning to Get a Little Manic

Things are falling into place, although I'm really regretting my offer to sub for a friends two classes Saturday morning. What was I thinking???

Tomorrow, I will spend the early part of the day working with the kids on finishing presents. If all goes well, in the evening I will switch over to food prep. If all doesn't go well, I'll be sewing at the kitchen table while directing a teenage girl to chop, slice, mix and stir. You do what you've got to do. Its a fun kind of mania, especially because the kids are into it.

I will try for one more update tomorrow evening but there is a very good chance that there will be no postings until Monday morning.

For last minute food ideas check out www.vegweb.com, www.vrg.org, www.cok.net

Happy Holidays and Peace to All

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Our Christmas Menu

After much deliberation and scanning what's in the freezer and cupboards, we've settled on a menu. I also take into account what can be prepared ahead of time, what can be cooked in the slow cooker, what needs the oven and what needs the stove top. There is no bigger pain in my behind than planning a great menu only to discover you don't have enough room to cook it.

There are a couple of things worth mentioning. First, I don't include a lot of snack foods in my menu, that is deliberate. We don't need to snack on salty yum yums all day long. Also my family typically brings an assortment of snack foods. Second although this may seem like a huge amount of food, for the number of people we entertain, it really isn't. Everything I've chosen freezes very well so leftovers are welcome. Finally, since few of our family are vegetarian much less vegan, I like to offer a variety of taste experiences. I include the familiar, pasta, with the unfamiliar, gluten roast. Here's the menu...

Christmas Eve Dinner
Tofurkey with Roasted Root Vegetables and gravy
Potato Rolls
Molasses Cookies
(I'm sure there will be a fair number of candy canes and other treats from a variety of sources as well.)

Christmas Day Brunch
No Fry Donuts (The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery)
Apple Butter & Pumpkin Butter Pull Aparts (Vegetarian Resource Group)
Squash Biscuits (Grandma's Wartime Kitchen)
Cinnamon Yeast Bread (Feed Your Family for $12.00/day)
Homemade applesauce
Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Christmas Day Dinner
Not Your Mama's Pot Roast (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)
Pasta with Chunky Sauce (my own chunky sauce made with TVP to give a meaty texture)
Red Beans and Rice (Harvest Cookbook by Nava Atlas)
White Beans and Tomatoes (Miserly Moms by Johnni McCoy)
Molasses Cookies
Any Leftovers from brunch may be used as desserts
The Most Fabulous Frozen Peanut Butter cookies on the Planet Earth we used carob instead of cocoa powder

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Holiday Finances

My holiday party at work was yesterday evening. It was a low key affair, in the gym. Everyone brought a dessert to share. I got to try wasabi crackers with tabouli. It was hot enough to bring a tear to your eye but really delicious. The conversation was the best part.

One close friend confessed to spending $1500 on immediate family. I almost passed out. When I told her our holiday expenses so far were about $25, it was her turn to gape. (Its actually closer to $150. If you recall we bought a canoe for the family back in late October that was tied into our holiday budget. I did tell her that once I remembered.) What followed was a fascinating conversation on the act of holiday giving.

In the end, we weren't that far apart on our philosophies. My friend had only used cash, it was money that was specifically ear marked for holiday spending and she had not impacted her overall cash flow in any way. She had spent what she could afford to spend. I should also mention that she is a very highly paid computer programmer who moonlights as a fitness instructor, a scrapbooking consultant, a Mary Kay consultant and a trainer at Uno's. We all make choices.

On the food front, let the holiday food prep begin! Tonight we will finalize the holiday menu. Christmas Eve dinner is a quiet affair with just Jim, myself and the kids. My brother, his wife and daughter will stop by for dessert and coffee. Christmas Day is my big gig. We call it an open house. Family and friends come any time that is convenient for them. The hope is that this will lower the stress of a set time. We start the day with brunch type foods and then around 1:30 we change everything over to more substantial, dinner type food.

I'll share our decisions tomorrow morning.

Monday, December 19, 2005

We've Run Out of Pasta!!

We ran out of pasta last week, talk about inconvenient timing. Our food cooperative order is scheduled to arrive on 12/24. The challenge, can I make it to Saturday without any pasta in the house?

Since both of my quickie meals rely on pasta (Mac Uncheese and Peanut Noodles), I need a quickie alternative. I've set my sights on bulgur. I don't think it would be partcularly good in either of my quickie meals but it does cook quickly and the grains stay seperate, unlike millet which always winds up a gummy mess in my house.

Last night I tried this substitution in a recipe from the Vegetarian Resource Group for skillet macaroni with tvp and sauce. It actally substituted very nicely, almost better than the original. I've found in the past pasta can get gummy in this recipe.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Busy Little Elves

Its very busy around here. Everyone seems to have a project that they are working on. Jim is putting together his first batch of homemade wine. The girls are working with the boys on a present for Jim and I. I'm alternating between doing laundry and working on holiday presents.

So far I have two bathrobes personalized, one with a name the other with a name and picture of a dog that looks remarkably like ours. The picture was scavenged off a never worn tshirt that my sister was getting rid of. I'm currently working on a belt for a robe that was missing one. There's definitely a bathrobe/sleepwear theme going on this Christmas.

The pumpkin butter was pretty good. We used it to top pancakes, in place of apple butter in the Apple Butter Pull Aparts recipe and my sons ate it out of a bowl as is.

I'm going to go with some lentils for dinner. We need a quick cooking meal.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Pumpkin Butter and Kale Stems

When I was making bread the other day, I put it near the wood stove to rise. We are currently enjoying some of the fluffiest whole wheat bread I've ever made. I'll definitely use that trick again.

Last night I was on a quest to find a recipe for pumpkin butter. None of my cookbooks had it. If you knew how many cookbooks I have and how many time periods they cover, you'd understand how impressive that is. I ended up online and even vegweb.com didn't have a recipe. A google search revealed a plethora of recipes. I'm experimenting with one in my crock pot now. I'm hoping to use the pumpkin butter as a filling for holiday baking. We'll see how it goes.

I managed to get one of the bathrobes embroidered yesterday afternoon while everyone was at school. I'm hoping to get two more done today but we're already working on a two hour delay and I'm afraid school might be canceled all together.

Last night we had chick peas cooked with stewed tomatoes, onion, garlic, turnip greens, basil and finely chopped kale stems. I served this over brown rice cooked with some garlic scapes I had frozen a few months back. It was delicious.

I had read that kale stems can be used like celery but was a little apprehensive since my experience was that they were too woody to be palatable. During one of our steaming/freezing sessions this growing season, we finely chopped the stems and steamed them so we could give them a try over the winter. I'm really glad we did.

I feel experimental today, and with a two hour delay I don't have to go to work, so I'm planning to try a new recipe for dinner. Now I just have to find one that appeals to me.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Magical Culinary Combination?

I'm beginning to think that the following combination is some sort of magic culinary bullet.

1/2 cup tamari
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs maple syrup
2 tsp garlic powder

That combination made some fairly bitter greens, chick peas and bulgur into "the best soup ever." Jim said that and believe me, he's not one to give out unwarranted praise.

I have a two theories about this. First, I gave the greens a whirl in the Vitamix. I think the fact that no one ended up with a chewy mouthful of bitterness had a lot to do with the success of the soup. Also, I served the soup with Oat Sticks, which are basically quick bread sticks. They were a high fun factor food which ties into my long standing when in doubt add a fun food theory. Even grown ups like to have a little fun.

I'm a lot more confident today about getting through all the greens in the freezer. I should also mention that even though I'm calling this soup, if you stuck your spoon straight into it and let go, the spoon would continue standing. This was very thick soup.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gooey Squash

Yesterday afternoon I discovered that one of the butternut squash in the basement had gotten all gooey. That one went out to the compost bin and the other eleven got cut in half and baked. We had some with dinner. They were so delicious that we just ate them plain. I think everyone assumed I had put some margarine on it but I hadn't.

The rest were scraped out and put into a bowl in the fridge. I made squash biscuits this morning and I'll probably make some muffins tomorrow. The rest will get frozen in the amounts that I commonly use.

I just put some chick peas up to soak. I'll be making the chickpea and greens soup tonight. I'm going to see if I can sneak in some of those not so favorite greens. Later today I will be baking bread. The upswing of this is the heat of the oven will be welcome. Its mighty cold in NY right now.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Holiday Countdown

Last night I made veggie chili with the kidney beans. We topped it with some leftover cheez sauce (Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from How it All Vegan). I added a little oatmeal as a binder to the leftover peanut soup/black eyed pea concoction and shaped them into burgers to have with the chili. I thought we might have some left for lunches but we didn't.

On the holiday front, some good progress has been made with the kids. Wednesdays are family day at our local Salvation Army thrift store. That means half off everything except one tag color. Last week I was able to get bathrobes for both girls, really nice ones. I'm embroidering their names on them but I have to do it while they are at school. I have several easy reader books for Ameleii. Yesterday was the coup de gras, I got Kyle a kids guitar off of freecycle. He's been asking for one for weeks.

I acquired a Scooby Doo sheet set and valance off freecycle a while back. That had me stumped, what good is one sheet set when you have two boys who both like Scooby Doo? I ended up pairing the patterned sheets up with plain sheets to make two complete sets. One set has a plain blue sheet on the bottom and a Scooby Doo sheet on top, the other a Scooby Doo sheet on the bottom and a plain sheet on top. The pillow case was missing so the girls are taking plain white pillow cases and personalizing one for each boy.

On Sunday, the boys and Jim mixed and shaped dough for the dog biscuits that we give all canine family members. They are in the freezer waiting to be baked. The girls are working on their own projects as well. Its all still a work in progress, but at least I feel like we're making progress.

Is this Christmas on the cheap too extreme? I don't think so. My kids don't feel deprived, in fact they get right into the challenge of it all.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Finishing Up Before Getting Started

Sometimes you have to finish one project before you can get started on another. What a pain it can be! I still had a pile of fleece and four curtains to finish lining from my project weeks ago. I just never got around to the last four curtains. Now I needed some of the leftover fleece for a holiday project but I had to make sure I left enough for the curtains. There was no way around it, I had to at least cut the fleece and pin it to the curtains. Its all pinned but I still need to finish sewing 2 1/2 curtains. At least I know I have enough fleece left.

I ended up making peanut soup last night. I added black eyed peas and bulgur to it. The whole concoction ended up being more like a beans with a sauce than a soup. It was really good. Tasha chopped the veggies from the fridge to make vegetable soup. We didn't bother with the beets, turnips, carrots or celeriac since these all store well in the fridge. On the other hand, the bok choy, mystery greens, radishes and daikon radishes needed to be used. I tossed them into a pot with some onion and let it simmer for a while. We added a little tamari and then pureed the whole thing. We had a little last night, it wasn't bad but it needed some dressing up.

When in doubt about a meal, always serve a favorite food with it. We had homemade French fries with last nights meal, just in case!

On tonight's menu...something with kidney beans.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dogs, Holidays and Cleaning Out the Fridge

All Santa's little elves are scurrying around as I write this. There are plenty of craft projects to be started and many more to be completed. Later this afternoon the boys (Jim included) will begin making the mix for the dog biscuits. There are a lot of special dogs in our family who need gifts too! Each dog will get a bag of biscuits and a braided rope toy. The braided ropes are made from old cotton shirts. The dogs love them and you can throw them in the washer if they get too nasty.

Dinner tonight will revolve around cleaning out the remaining fresh veggies from the fridge. To my memory there is still some bok choy, turnips, beets, radishes, carrots and cabbage in there. Lately, things have been so busy that its been easier to dig into the freezer or cupboard for precut, prelabeled produce than to take the time to wash and cut the things in the fridge. Who says canning and freezing don't save time?

Anyway, all signs point to vegetable soup as part of tonights meal. There's a good chance that peanut butter will be involved as well since I have to grind some more peanut butter for the week. As I've said before, I like to use the water I rinse the blender with rather than just pitch it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Successful Holiday Gift

Yesterday was the first of outing of this years handmade holiday presents. Naturally, I was up completing it Tuesday evening when I should have been sleeping but I'm a born procrastinator. These gifts were for three special coworkers at the preschool where I do a nutrition program. (BTW, I don't personally think every coworker needs a gift but these ladies are more longtime friends than coworkers.)

I made them a quilted potholder each using multicultural angel fabric and a blanket for the batting. I already had both of the raw materials on hand so the cash outlay was nil. I used three of the flower pots that my sons painted this weekend and a candy cane. The pot holder was folded into quarters and stuffed into the flower pot so it looked much like a flower. The candy cane was inserted next to it. It didn't look like anything in particular but it added a nice touch.

I added this message to the tag:

Here's a pot holder for all the wonderful things you cook this holiday season, a candy cane to sweeten things and a flower pot to help remind you that spring will be here eventually!

This was perfect because all of these ladies like to cook and garden and none of them like the cold weather.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My Granola Recipe

Harmonia asked about it and I thought I'd post it here rather than hide it in the comments section. This recipe has evolved from an old Vegetarian Times recipe and the one in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. I've simplified it by eliminating every extra step possible.

Katie's Granola

In a large bowl combine:
5 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sunflower seed (walnuts or almonds work well also but sunflower seeds are the cheapest option)
1/4 flax seed meal or wheat germ

In a smaller glass microwavable bowl or in a small pot combine:
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar

Heat these ingredients until the sugar melts. If you're using the microwave do it in no more than one minute increments and make sure you don't use a plastic container. On stove top, heat over low to medium heat until sugar melts. Either way, stir frequently. Pour melted mixture over rolled oat mixture. Then pour a bit of boiling water into whatever you used for the sugar mixture and whisk it around to get the residue off. Don't use more than a cup of water. Pour this over the oat mixture. Mix until everything is coated. Spread onto greased cookie sheet and place in 350 degree oven. Bake 15 minuted, stir mixture and return to oven for 15 more minutes. Let cool and enjoy.

If you like dried fruit add it when you serve the granola, don't bake it with the granola.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last Minute Meal

Lately, I seem to be running perpetually short on time. I keep finding myself at about 3:30 without a concrete plan for dinner and very little prep work done. Five minutes later my sons get off the bus, the dog needs to run for half an hour and there's a pile of book bags and papers on the kitchen table. Its not the best time for me to ponder what culinary delight I can pull together.

Last night, I checked the freezer/cupboard inventory clip board and made a quick plan. I know this sounds anal but the clip board is a huge time saver. I grabbed a container of split pea soup from the freezer, a quart of canned carrots from the cupboard and an arm load of potatoes from the cabinet. I certainly wasn't in the mood for split pea soup and I was pretty sure no one else would be either so I needed a treat to make it fun, that's where the potatoes came in. I scrubbed the potatoes and cut them into strips to make French fries. The carrots and split pea soup went into a pot, along with some leftover bulgur. No one complained about the soup because they were too busy eating the French fries! We ended the meal with popcorn which, despite its simplicity, everyone loves.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Holiday Ideas

Yesterday I made two big batches of granola. It was a nice change from muffins for breakfast, although it does require more time to eat. Today I've got to make bread, I meant to yesterday but the holiday crafting began and took longer than I anticipated. You just can't walk away from a 5 & 6 year old who are wielding sponges and craft paint.

This year we wanted to give something that was not only frugal but useful. That can be a struggle, useless crap is cheap, easy to make and easy to give. Jim helped me come up with a really good idea that takes advantage of materials we already have on hand and also shares a little piece of our philosophy. Hey Audrey if you're reading, skip this part for now. We're making placemats and matching (or possibly complementing colors) napkins. The whole family will have a role in their production. Jim even offered to sew!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Steamed Brown Bread in the Slow Cooker

I swear people eat more in colder weather or maybe its because everyones been out running with Biscuit (labs need a lot of exercise). In any case, I can't keep muffins, biscuits, scones or any quick grab food in the house! Each night this week I've thought that breakfast was set for the next day only to discover its gone.

Last night I was too tired to stay up while something baked in the oven so I gave steamed brown bread a try. The recipe was in 125 Best Vegetarian Recipes by Judith Finlayson but, as always, I experimented a bit. Her recipe called for cooking on high 2-3 hours and using 3 individual 13 oz cans to cook in. I cooked it on low overnight in a pyrex bowl and it came out fine. She also used white flour, rye flour and whole wheat flour.

Here's my version of the recipe:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups plain soymilk plus 3 tsp vinegar (this is a buttermilk substitute)
1/2 cup molasses
2 Tbs olive oil (I used this but I think canola oil would work just as well)

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients in seperate bowl and add to dry ingredients. Pour into greased oven proof container of choice (remember it has to fit inside your slow cooker). Cover with foil and place in slow cooker. Pour boiling water into slow cooker. It should come up about an inch of the way on the OUTSIDE of the container with the bread batter. I screwed this step up and filled the slow cooker to an inch from the top of the container and it worked out fine. Turn cooker on low, cover and cook about 8 hours.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Frugal No Bark Solution

In an effort to get ready fot the arrival of Biscuit this past Sunday, I had to suck it up and go to Petco. I'm not a fan of big box retailers, but I needed a very specific collar and I needed it ASAP. Sometimes you have to compromise. The irony is, in the long run, I ended up returning the collar, it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Two visits to Petco in less than a week. That's a new record for me.

The variety in a store like that is enough to make my eyes fall out. Looking for an appropriate chew toy took half an hour because there were so many. Am I the only one who yearns for the old Sears catalog where there were generally three choices of any given product and they were labeled good, better and best? But I digress.

Biscuit has had his fair share of health problems arthritis from malnutrition during a growth spurt (I know it sounds ridiculous but if you had seen him limping you'd understand) to hook worms. Now that Biscuit is eating regularly and taking meds for the arthritis and hook worms, he's a much perkier guy. Last night he was so perky, he wouldn't stop barking when we crated him for the night.

Now I know there are quite a few no bark items sold and I know they're pretty pricey. Thanks to my neighbor's suggestion, I threw some change into an old empty coffee can and shook it whenever the dog barked. The result, almost instantaneous quiet. The cost, nothing the coins were foreign ones that we've saved over the years. The benefit to my mental health, priceless.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Peanut Soup

The Hopping John (black eyed peas and rice) was yummy last night. I made a double batch of cornbread, one to go with the meal and one to use as breakfasts this morning. I also tried something new, peanut soup. The inspiration was a recipe from a book called The Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Shelf Medearis. I veganized it and changed it around a bit and it was delicious. Best of all it was super quick and simple.

Here's the recipe:

Place 2 cups of peanuts in blender and blend into course crumbs(I don't think a regular blender is capable of handling this so you may want to start with 2 cups peanut butter instead.)

Pour in:
3 cups soy milk
2 cups water
1 Tbs Braggs or tamari
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp whole wheat pastry flour

Blend this well. In a large pot, steam chopped kale or collards until bright green. Pour blender contents into pot. Put one cup of water into blender and blend to get residue out of blender (makes it easier to clean later and you don't waste any.) Pour into pot. Bring pot to a boil, lower heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

TVP & Black Eyed Peas

Biscuit is adjusting nicely, although he's really thrown off my schedule with his frequent potty runs. But in the grand scheme of things, I much prefer running outside whenever he whines to dragging out the carpet cleaner because he didn't whine. Thankfully, we seem to have a pattern of walks now and he's now willing to come downstairs while I'm on the computer or doing laundry. If anyone tells you getting a dog isn't a lot like having another kid, they're just plain lying!

Last night I sauteed some frozen green peppers and some onions, added some of the tomato sauce that I canned, about a tablespoon of tamari, 1 tsp of chili powder and finally added some rehydrated tvp. The end result was a sloppy joe type concoction that I served over brown rice. The leftover soup was served on the side. It was all quite good. I'd forgotten how fast and convenient tvp could be. (This month tvp was on sale through our cooperative, hence its reapperance in my cupboard.)

Black eyed peas were also on sale this month, so tonight we'll be having Hopping John with steamed greans and corn fritters or maybe Ruthie's corn muffins instead. I like black eyed peas because they are fairly quick cooking compared to other dried beans. I've still got a fair amount of kale and collards from the bonus CSA pickup before Thanksgiving. I'm planning to steam it all tonight and whatever doesn't get used will get frozen.

Biscuit took up a lot more of my time than I anticipated so my holiday list is still a work in progress.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Frugal Dog Bed and More

This weekend we added an 8 month old yellow lab mix to the family. We found him in the petfinder.com website in the classifieds section. This is a section where individuals, rather than organizations, can lists animals in need of new homes. It is searchable by location which is always useful.

Aside from a routine vet check up tomorrow and an appointment to be neutered next week, there was no charge for his adoption. A wonderful woman named Tracey had found him and just wanted him to get into a good home.

We're opting to crate him at night for now, so I needed a dog bed for inside the crate. I used an old twin size fleece blanket that had seen better days as the inner stuffing. I figured it washes nicely, holds it shape well and really provided a nice bit of cushion and warmth when folded to fit into the crate.

I folded it into the size I needed and then did a basting stitch through all the layers to keep it together. I suppose you could just fold it without sewing it but with the dog moving around in the crate it might not stay nicely. Then I took some heavy cotton fabric that I had and stitched a simple pillow case to slip the folded blanket into. I left one side open so I could remove the blanket if I needed to wash just the case. (Here's a tip, whenever anyone offers you fabric, say yes. I never thought I'd have a use for this loud zig zag red and black print but it made a great dog bed pillow case!)

Knowing that last night might not be restful, it was Biscuit's first night at home, I put some leftover black beans, some leftover veggies, a bit of leftover rice, some chopped up kale, a bit of tamari and the hot water that I used to get the peanut butter residue out of my Vitamix (it adds a great flavor) into the crock pot last night. This morning everyone could just pop it into their insulated bottles and head off to school and work. It worked out well because my youngest was a little concerned about the size of the dog and must have gotten up 15 times last night. We're all a little delerious this morning.

I'll use that soup either as a side to go along with tonight's dinner or I might add to it and make it the main course. I'll have to check what's in the fridge.

Also on today's agenda, making a plan for holiday gifts. We had the discussion with our families about keeping things smaller, now its time to put pen to paper and figure out how to make it all happen.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Fork Is Mightier Than the Sword!

I couldn't get my behind out of bed so as predicted, the crepes never happened. In fact, neither did the potato scramble. We enjoyed the carob banana muffins, squash biscuits, oranges and grapes at brunch.

Later in the day, the Red Lentil Loaf was a big hit. The squash biscuits, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie and carob banana muffins were all delicious as well. I ran out of soy milk Thanksgiving morning so I made a quick batch of almond milk and used that in the pumpkin soup instead of soy milk. It seemed to taste better using the almond milk. The roasted root vegetables were a really nice addition to the meal as well. My mom even made brussel sprouts! I'm really glad my mother was open to trying/including so many things.

Along with all our vegan choices, there was also a turkey and a ham. In an ironic twist, the turkey was untouched at the meal's end. The fork really is mightier than the sword!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Vegan Thanksgiving Planning-Down to the Wire

Well there's not a whole lot of time left before the clock strikes twelve her in NY but here's a last minute update for any diehards who are curious. With the help of my daughter(she did the peeling), we rescued last nights very unimpressive squash dish and used it in our squash biscuit recipe. The thyme, oj and maple syrup that it had cooked in really lent a nice flavor. That took care of one request from my mother to go along with dinner. It will also do double duty as part of our brunch when my inlaws visit tomorrow morning.

I rescued some very spotty bananas from my mom's (she was on her way to throwing them out) and experimented with using carob in place of cocoa powder in a cocoa banana muffin recipe. They were a hit, so they will also be on the table at brunch. We'll round out that table with homemade applesauce, sprinkled with cinnamon and potato scramble. I want to try and make crepes too but I don't hold out a lot of hope that it will actually happen.

The Red Lentil Loaf with gravy is still coming to my mom's and I may be making pumpkin soup as well. (I still have to call my mom to find out if she wants it tomorrow morning.) The pumpkin pie is in the works as we speak. Whew!!

There will be no post until Friday evening when I look back at the whole affair. In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all! This holiday season be at peace with your own choices, share your good food and woo others to your cause by way of their taste buds.

Peace

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Thanksgiving Menu Plan-Subject to Change at the Last Minute Of Course

Despite all my tinkering, I've run low on time so the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving meal will be the Red Lentil Roast with gravy. I was thinking of serving roasted root vegetables with it but they don't hold the heat well. Since I'm cooking at home and bringing the food to my mom's, I'm going to bring a baked acorn squash dish. It sound similar to a glazed sweet potato dish (a little brown sugar, a little margarine, a little cinnamon.) I'm cooking it tonight and I'll post my review and actual recipe of it later this evening, probably much later this evening!)

There's a vegan pumpkin pie recipe that I'm going to try, that's been highly recommended. Heather on the vrgparents list shared it a few days ago. It is from Joanne Stepaniak's Vegan Vittles. Here it is.

Pumpkin pie- makes 1 pie, 8 servings

1 10.5-oz pkg firm silken tofu
1 1/2 c. unsweetened canned or pureed cooked pumpkin
1/2 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Dump everything in the food processor or blender and whiz until
completely creamy and smooth. Pour this mixture into the crust (if
it's homemade, it has to be prebaked).Smooth out the top, and bake on
the center rack of your oven at 350F for 45 minutes.
Remove pie from oven, and let it cool thouroughly or refrigerate
until ready to serve. Remember the veg whipped cream!!
Hope you enjoy it.

I'm so glad Heather shared this recipe since the one I'd been using didn't always set up firmly.

Now back to the kitchen!

Acorn Squash Update
The recipe I tried was a stinker. The one I ended up trying used maple syrup, orange juice and thyme. It was ok, but clearly not worth the work involved. The biggest drawback of the recipe was that you cut the squash into rings which looked pretty but were a pain in the tush to scrape the cooked squash out of. Back to the drawing board on that one.

I'll give the brown sugar and margarine glaze a try tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

What a busy weekend it was! Lots of little projects were completed, including installing the door sweeps to the exterior doors to keep the drafts out. I confess I still haven't finished lining the four living room curtains with fleece but I'm cutting the fleece as soon as I finish blogging! Lining the curtains has made a huge difference in keeping the bedrooms warm.

The door sweeps cost $4.99 a piece but work much better than the homemade draft dodgers we had been using. A draft dodger only works if you remember to put it in front of the door and even then, it only works if the dog leaves it there!

I've been tinkering around with some Thanksgiving recipes. I made a tofu/red lentil stuffed roast last night. It was a little sandy tasting but it had potential. I'll keep tinkering for now. I'm not worried about the stuffing portion of any roast, I'm just trying to find the best housing for the stuffing. I'm planning to play around with veganizing an acorn squash recipe that I saw on one of the morning cooking shows. Tonight I'll experiment a little more and, hopefully by tomorrow I'll have a Thanksgiving meal plan.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Using Leftovers to Make Yummy Patties

Last night's dinner was quite an entertaining mish mash that, in the end, pulled together nicely. We had leftover Mac Uncheese, baked potato and vegetable soup. Everyone seems to love baked potatoes in our house.

However, it didn't use any greens but thanks to Ruthie reminding me, we're having the garbonzo and greens soup concoction from my Wednesday, October 12, 2005 post (check out the archives.)

This morning I took some baked squash seeds that had been languishing about and ground them down in the blender. I added this to some leftover Lentil Soup, a tiny bit of split pea soup and what little remained of last night's vegetable soup. I added a scoop of peanut butter, a squirt of Bragg's and some flax seed meal mixed with water to bind the whole thing together. I plopped scoops down on my cast iron griddle. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, knowing that ketchup would cover almost any disaster I had caused. The end result was a tasty little patty that I liked with mustard rather than ketchup.

The secret to concocting something like this is to taste along the way and, unless you're sure you love what you're adding, only make small additions. I'll serve the rest of these with tonight's dinner.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Incentives & Food from the Freezer

I taught my last evening nutrition class for the year Wednesday night. I really enjoy sharing info with people but I'm thrilled that I no longer have to run out Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The challenge now is to clean out the bags I use for each course and prep them for February. This will also free me up for a little more creative cooking during the week, which my family will appreciate.

I've continued to dip into the freezer for the last two evenings meals. Tuesday night I dug out a lentil soup, to which I added some millet to make it more substantial. Wednesday I made Mac Uncheese (the recipe is from www.cok.net ). Its a very simple and quick recipe. I added cauliflower and green peppers from the freezer to it, although you could add whatever veggies you like.

In the interest of not ending up with only greens left in the freezer, tonights menu will probably include some greens. (I'm still in the planning stages for tonight's dinner.) Knowing that greens in general are not a family favorite, I'm planning to include a favorite dessert as an incentive just in case the meal is not a hit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Eating From the Freezer

Last night I began my foray into the freezer. Sure, I've been dipping into it here and there but as of Sunday night we officially ran out of fresh veggies. (I'm not counting pumpkins, squashes, potatoes, garlic or onions just the less hardy veggies.)

On the menu was pasta with sauce (I sauteed fresh garlic, frozen green peppers and added frozen sauce), split pea soup (also from the freezer) and biscuits made with dill and onion powder (these had nothing to do with the freezer but they sure tasted good!) Dessert was an experiment, peanut butter and carob chip cookies. As experiments go, it was pretty successful!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Project Updates

The attic is finally insulated! What a disgusting, dirty, dusty job! In some ways I hate a job like insulating because the savings aren't immediately evident. In fact, we had to lay out a little cash for supplies! Patience is a frugal virtue, though. I have to remind myself, changing our oil burner last year, to a more efficient model, resulted in a savings of about $240 during the heating season despite the increase in heating oil prices. The rewards of frugal living are often best viewed over the long haul.

The curtain projects continue, mainly because I'm making these last curtains into draw drapes. (In defense of my apparent insanity, the rod was already there!) Its actually not as difficult as it sounds, I'm just double and triple checking my math along the way to make sure I don't royally mess up. I've started by sewing a large rectangle of my curtain fabric. Then I've taking the fabric that I'm lining the curtain with, in this case an old barney blanket, and cut it to the size I need for it to lie flat against the window. Then I've marked the blanket at the points where the drapery hooks will attach and where the pleats will be. This is where it gets tricky and time consuming, but I'm getting there.

Here's a picture of the first panel of the curtain.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

My Vegan Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

I got a couple of questions about the whole wheat bread recipe that I've had really good success with. Its a variation on the 100% whole wheat bread recipe from The Cornell Bread Book. The recipes in that book are easily veganized. The main change needed is the omission of dry milk and subbing in either soy powder or soy flower.

I use an old fashioned bread bucket to mix my bread but I don't see why this wouldn't work with other mixers. The batter is loose enough that hand mixing with a spoon wouldn't be impossible if you chose to go that route.

Place 3 cups warm water and 1 cup of raisins in a blender and puree until the raisins are just little pieces. Pour into mixing bowl and add:

2 pkgs dry yeast (this equals 4 1/2 tsp of dry yeast if you buy it in bulk)
2 Tbs. blackstrap molasses
2 Tbs. canola oil
1 Tbs. salt
4 Tbs. flaxseed meal

Let stand until little eruptions begin to form as the yeast becomes active. When the entire surface has "erupted" add the following:

1 1/4 cup soy flour
5 cups whole wheat flour

Mix until well blended. Let rise until dough has doubled, about an hour. Turn onto board and shape into three loaves. Place in oiled bread pan. Let rise until dough doubles and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Lower oven to 350 degrees and continue baking for 45 minutes. Cool on rack.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Menu for a Productive Saturday

The Chinese food last night was a big hit. I ended up doing things a little differently. I marinated cubed tofu in the tamari for about 15 minutes and then placed the tofu on a greased baking sheet. I cooked it in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, while I chopped and stir fried the veggies. I poured the tamari from marinating into the veggies and then added the baked tofu and mixed in the rice. I think baking the tofu really added a special flavor.

We've got a busy day ahead of us, we're finally insulating the attic over our bedroom. While Jim heads up the insulating job, I'll be working a lining the remaining unlined curtains. We're starting the day with a hearty breakfast of pancakes, potato scramble and Clementines. Lunch will be a quick grab, leftovers or sandwiches, so we don't lose a lot of time.

Dinner will be Red Lentil Loaf and a variety of roasted veggie sticks (carrots, turnips, and potato). You can either spray the cut veggies with olive oil or put about a tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl, cover and toss the veggies to coat. My kids love these with ketchup and they are so much healthier than conventional French Fries. Sweet potato fries are also really delicious if you have sweet potatoes on hand. I'm still thinking about what dessert to make.

We'll also spend a little time adding some additional mulch around the currant bushes to protect them from what promises to be a cold Adirondack winter. Fortunately for this frugal gardener, Mother Nature has dropped an abundance of leaves and pine needles for us to use.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Vegan Barely Fried Rice

My daughter, Tasha, was kind enough to chop up the greens yesterday. What a relief to have that done. Fried Rice is super easy to make, although the version I make is really more honestly called Vegan Barely Fried Rice. I usually use just plain old brown rice but basmati rice would work nicely too. Honestly, any rice except arborio rice (think risotto) would work well.

Cook the rice, per package instructions. While that's cooking, you get to be creative. Chop up some onions, mince some garlic and then poke around your fridge to see what else you have in there. Chop up any veggies you like or use frozen veggies. I've used bok choy, napa cabbage, regular cabbage, peas, carrots, broccoli, anything I feel like. Try to organize your vegetables by the time they take to cook to your liking. (Personally, I'm a tender crisp kind of a gal.)

Root around in the fridge a little more to come up with some tofu, tempeh or leftover beans. If the fridge has nothing to offer, open a can of beans from the cupboard.

When the rice is cooked, spray the bottom of your frying pan or wok with canola oil and add a few drops of sesame oil, toasted sesame oil is even better. (The sesame oil adds a nice flavor but it has more polyunsaturated fats and a bit more saturated fat than canola oil. It also has a lower smoke point. By mixing the oils you get the flavor without as much of the other stuff.) Heat the pan and toss in your onions and other long cooking veggies, like carrots. Next add the garlic, remember to keep stirring. Toss in any veggies that need a little less cooking, adding quick cooking veggies last. Toss in tofu, tempeh or beans and stir to avoid sticking. If things do begin to stick add a little water to the pan.

Pour in 1/4 cup tamari (remember I'm cooking for 6 hungry people, so this is a huge stir fry. You may want to use less tamari.) Add in rice and stir to mix evenly with tamari vegetable mixture. For a sweeter taste, add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the tamari before adding it. Serve and enjoy. This is one of the simplest recipes that my kids like the most.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I Forgot!

Oops, I forgot about making Chinese food and ended up making vegan Baked Mac & "Cheese" with collards and brussel sprouts. I made two pans of it which will take care of dinner tonight and lunch tomorrow. My kids love brussel sprouts which amuses people to no end. I'll shred the greens tonight so I remember to make the Chinese Food Friday night. Then I'll share the recipe, I promise!

I just took the book No Need to Knead out of the library. I'm curious to see what it has to say. The gist of the book is the bread recipes in it have a looser batter than most bread batters, hence there is no need to knead the bread. I'll let you know what I discover. Right now, I'm really happy with the whole wheat bread recipe that I use. Interestingly enough, its a pretty loose batter as well.

We've had two fabulous free finds in the last few days. A car stereo lying around in my parents garage collecting dust was a perfect fit for Jim's broken car stereo. My parents also had a ceiling fan that they removed a long time ago collecting dust. Jim just put it up this afternoon to replace our broken one. My parents were going to throw both of these things out! Thank goodness we happened to mention the broken radio and fan during a visit.

Jim's getting ready to give homemade winemaking a try. It will be interesting to see how that turns out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Chick Peas

I love chick peas! Today as part of my preschool nutrition program we made hummus and served it with pretzels. For tonight's dinner we'll be mashing up some of those chick peas, adding a little vegan mayo, garlic powder and lemon juice and serving the whole concoction on toast. We'll have leftover vegetable soup on the side.

The last regular CSA pick up was pretty big. I'm going to try to use the greens in this batch first to avoid a total glut of greens in the freezer. I'll be planning my meals for the rest of the week around the greens. Tomorrow night will probably be some type of Chinese food, probably Vegan Fried Rice. That will allow me to use quite a bit of the greens as well as some of the chick peas. I'll share my recipe tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

When Leftovers Go Missing

Last night, when I went to make the casserole for dinner, I discovered the leftover lentils had already been eaten. Instead I made a quick potato leek soup in the pressure cooker. Actually it was onion, I finished the leeks a few days ago. Instead of adding soymilk, I used the leftover gravy from our Tofurky. It really gave it a rich creamy texture.

I pureed some steamed greens along with some tomato and garlic and used this to top the feeble bit of leftover pasta that remained in the fridge. Finally I made a batch of Stedda Egg Salad (as in Instead of Egg Salad) from The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond, which we served on whole wheat toast. It's tofu and a mix of spices like cumin, curry, tumeric plus a few others. The pureed greens were tolerated but everyone loved the potato soup and the Stedda Egg Salad. My teenage daughters even took it for lunch today, that's the true mark of success.

I've begun the day by getting a batch of vegetable soup into the slow cooker. That cleaned out the last of the greens, carrots and parsnips from the fridge. This will become the base for the next few days meals.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Book Updates & Freezer Organization

I've just about finished reading Don't Eat this Book by Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me). Its definitely worth a read. I did finish reading The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond. She had some very interesting recipes including one for sunflower seed "milk". I recommend taking it out of the library and mining it for recipes that you find interesting but I don't think you need to buy it.

Today I'll be making a casserole with the veggies and leftover lentils in the fridge. Tomorrow is our last regular CSA pick up of the season. (There is a final, special Thanksgiving pickup the Saturday before Thanksgiving.) Next week my cooking will shift from what's in the fridge to what's in the freezer. I'm double checking my inventory sheet to make sure its all up to date. This will help me plan meals that will give us a variety of veggies. Hopefully it will also help us avoid being stuck with only greens for the month of May (CSA pickups begin in late May or early June.)

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Making Do With Food On Hand

We ran out of soymilk yesterday but I didn't notice until I began making pancakes this morning. There was no way in the world I was running out to the store. Instead I took the water I had saved from cooking pasta and threw it in the blender with some sunflower seeds and some flax seeds. I blended the whole thing together and used it in place of the soymilk in our favorite pancake recipe. The result was some delicious pancakes with quite a bit of holding power.

I also took the leftover peanut noodles, which had gotten rather dry, mixed them with some leftover veggies, some water and a bit of oatmeal to bind it all together. This mix became some rather yummy patties that tasted like a cross between a hashbrown and a veggie breakfast sausage. I had planned to make a smoothie but due to the lack of soymilk, made an apple juice slushie (apple juice and ice cubes blended together) instead. The best part everyone enjoyed the meal.

We spent the afternoon chopping and stacking wood from trees we had to have taken down earlier this year. This was our first foray into wood splitting but Jim seems to be a natural. The kids and I gathered up the small pieces and the bark to use as kindling.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Affluenza

I finished reading Affluenza and I really enjoyed it. It confirmed a lot of things that I suspected like the increase in home sizes over the years. The average size of a first home in the 1950's was 750 square feet and the average today is 2300 square feet, despite the number of kids we have decreasing over the years. Hmmm, I grew up in a 1,000 square foot ranch with my 4 siblings and both parents. (I'm one of four sisters and we only had one bathroom!) I don't remember feeling particularly crowded or deprived (although since I only have one brother, that bum got his own room while the girls shared!)

The biggest point the book drove home is the utter lack of satisfaction peoples feel despite the accumulation of material things. Its very good food for thought as we get into this holiday season. I don't think its a must own book but definitely a worthwhile read from the library.

On today's agenda, some cleaning and a lot of organizing. We really lose control over the household neatness during the week. Laundry gets washed but never put away, papers are brought home but left on counters, lunch containers lose their lids (within the house!!), shoes are everywhere, you get the idea.

On the food front, I'll be steaming some more greens to freeze, although freezer space is very limited right now. I've never been so thrilled to run out of space before!

Friday, November 04, 2005

Thanksgiving, A Practice Run

Last night I decided to make some Tofurky. Our coop food order had come in Tuesday so everyone saw the Tofurky come in and was itching to have some. Its like this every year around this time. I've played around with making it in the slow cooker quite a bit and here's my favorite recipe. Its a variation of the basic recipe on the Tofurky box.

Thanksgiving Tofurky Feast

2 Tofurky Roasts (frozen is ok)
1 small onion
potatoes
carrots
parsnips
beets
any other root veggies you enjoy

Grease the sides and bottom of your cooker and turn on to high. Slice onion thinly and spread over the bottom. Cut potatoes & beets into quarters, cut carrots & parsnips into coins. Add any other root veggies you like but try to keep the size fairly uniform to allow for even cooking. Place veggies on top of onions in cooker, being sure to leave enough room for the Tofurky roasts. Remove plastic covering (if frozen, let sit in hot water for a minute to assist with this) and place Tofurky on top of veggies. You can fill in around the Tofurky with any remaining veggies.

Combine:
1/4 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 Tbs tamari
2 Tbs maple syrup or other sweetener
1/2 cup water

Pour this mixture over Tofurky, place lid on and cook 3-4 hours on high or about 8 hours on low. I have tried cooking this with the gravy in the cooker but the Tofurky disintigrates a bit so I prefer to cook my gravy seperately.

I also steamed some brussel sprouts and baked some potatoes to go with it. Everyone was thrilled. I mashed together the leftover Tofurky, root veggies and potatoes with some leftover gravy this morning and used it as a sandwich filling. So far the reports have been postive!

On tonight's menu, Peanut Noodles. The reason is quite simple. I just bought 30 pounds of organic peanut butter stock from our food coop and I need to make a big batch of peanut butter in my Vitamix. Since the Peanut Noodle recipe calls for a certain amount of water, I can use the water I rinse the Vitamix out with and thereby minimize my left behind peanut butter!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Homemade Margarine

I'm really enjoying reading Morgan Spurlock's book. He's got a very witty way of getting dry, factual information across.

Today I gave making my own margarine a try. Someone had posted a recipe on one of the lists I belong to and it was too intriguing to pass up. It was actually quite good and based on the prices of the two main ingredients, it cost about $2.25 less than our current margarine. Here's the recipe:

Homemade Margarine
Place 1/2 cup plain soymilk into blender and begin to process on highest setting. While processing, through the hole in the lid, pour in the cup of oil slowly. Continue blending until the hole in the center fills in. Turn off blender and add a tiny bit of tumeric for color, a few drops of lemon juice for freshness I believe, salt to taste (we used about 1/2 tsp of salt.) Blend briefly on low to combine. Pour into airtight container and store in fridge.

We tried this on baked potatoes and it was a big hit. It is not as firm as regular margarine but just as tasty.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

My Trip to the Library

Yesterday I hit the library because some books I had requested were in. I brought home Affluenza (the book based on the documentary, I was inspired to check this out after reading Barbara's blog), Don't Eat this Book by Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me), and The American Vegetarian Cookbook by Marilyn Diamond. I also got a few craft books for my daughters to check out.

There's a quirky librarian there, who's on the same page with me regarding frugality. He always gives a little critique of what I take out. His comment yesterday was, "Affluenza? I hear there's an epidemic but if they're counting on me to go out and spend this holiday they're going to be very dissapointed." Here, here!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Slow Cooker Keeps Saving Us Money

It's been a rough go the last few days. We've been really busy and I've been relying heavily on the slow cooker to help us avoid ordering take out. It hasn't been anything fancy but here's an example of how the slow cooker helped me get through Tuesday, which is by far our most hectic night.

Last night before bed, about 10:30pm, I put frozen lentil soup into the slow cooker on high. This morning at 6:30am, the soup was hot and ready to go into everyone's insulated lunch containers. As soon as I finish blogging, I'll be chopping up the remaining cabbage, carrots and collards from last weeks CSA pickup to add to the broth that's left from the lentil soup. This will be served as a vegetable soup along with tofu "steaks" for tonights dinner. A quick simple supper is a big help since Jim has to go to the CSA tonight and I have to teach my vegetarian nutrition class.

Here's a quick way to use green peppers and tomatoes that are getting a bit soft. Slice the peppers into strips, removing the seeds and the white stuff. Dice some tomatoes that may also be headind past their prime. Finally, thinly slice some onions into rings. Put a drizzle of olive oil into a skillet, toss everything in and cook until the onions are soft. By the time the onions are soft, everything will be soft but that's ok. Serve over toast with a shake of garlic powder on top. Jim and the kids loved this.

Monday, October 31, 2005

We Planted the Currant Bushes

What a weekend it has been! I spent almost the whole day at the gym helping at the Open House on Saturday. We did exercise demos every half hour, by the time I left at 2:45 I had almost no voice and was pooped.

I had warned Jim when we ordered the currant bushes, they would arrive at the most inconvenient time and need to be planted ASAP. True to my prediction, they arrived in Thursday evening's mail. Because of their untimely arrival, I barely got to change my clothes after my time at the gym before we loaded the whole family into the car for a quick overnight trip to the north to plant the currants. What seems like a great idea at one moment sometimes seems like an idiot's idea the next!

Thanks goodness for the time change, we really needed that extra hour Sunday morning. I had put a potato scramble in the slow cooker Saturday evening before bed to make the morning go smoother. We also had a ton of leftover apple pancakes, which I popped into the oven before I got in the shower Sunday morning. In less than 30 minutes we had a hot breakfast, rounded out with orange juice and coffee (thanks to Jim for getting the coffee brewing!)

While at breakfasts we made our plan of attack for planting the bushes. We had to be on the road by 1:30 at the latest or risk missing a family birthday party at my parents' house. Since the family birthday party was my own, we really couldn't be late. We broke the task of planting into parts. I marked the holes, Jim dug the holes, the boys brought over the bare root bushes to the holes, I planted the bushes, Leen followed with a small layer of worm castings, Tash and the boys filled the holes with water, and Jim covered the holes with a final layer of mulch. In less than two hours, we had planted 20 currant bushes!

We closed up and were on the road by 1:30 on the nose. My only complaint is that the bushes are not guaranteed for fall planting but that must have been in really tiny print because I never saw it on the website. Grrrr!! Despite this, I'm hopeful, most everything I read suggested fall planting to be a better choice for currants than spring planting. I'll let you know.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

When the Fruit Flies Come for a Visit

I noticed the first fruit fly the other day. One fruit fly mean more are on the way and since the one we had was hanging out by our apples, it was obviously time to use or lose the apples. I got them cut and into a pot simmering ASAP. I added cinnamon, allspice and cloves in the same proportions Barbara mentioned in her Crockpot Apple Butter recipe (I had a lot more than 8-10 apples in there). I let it all cook until it was soft but not long enough to make it apple butter. I ran it through the blender, set aside some as applesauce and designated the rest to be used in baking.

The rest of our week, including Saturday, promise to be hectic so I made several batches of Apple Maple Muffins. Okay, truth is I made 8 dozen of them! Bear in mind, some went to my continuing ed class, we have company coming tonight and the muffins will be served with coffee, and of course the hungry mob will eat them for breakfast and snacks the rest of the week.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Many Faces of Split Pea Soup

The split pea soup that began as lunches on Monday made some interesting transformations since then. For dinner Monday night, I pureed the leftovers, added some leftover roasted veggies from Sunday's dinner and served it with millet. It wasn't bad, although everyone seemed to like it more than I did.

Since I badly misjudged and made a huge amount of millet, I mixed it with the leftover soup, added about 1/4 cup of peanut butter, a squirt or two of Braggs, and enough uncooked oatmeal to firm it up enough to shape it all into a loaf. I used a pizza pan, although in retrospect, I'm really not sure why.

I popped that into the oven at 400 degrees while I put together a barbeque sauce. Here's the recipe I used:
1 cup ketchup
1/2 Tbs garlic powder
1/4 cup brown sugar (I used turbinado sugar)
1 tsp mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar (you could probably use less)

I whisked it all together and simmered it for 10-15 minutes. I poured half of it over the loaf and popped the loaf back in the oven for about another 40 minutes. The remaining barbeque sauce I put on the table so people could add more at serving time. This was a big hit, although I plan to use less vinegar in the sauce next time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Frugal Compromise

I ordered the Tofurky. The mere mention that I was considering not ordering it resulted in agitation. Its actually a good example of a frugal compromise. The Tofurky was on sale and although not a true bargain, the satisfaction it gives makes it worth the price. I am going to play around with some other "roast" type recipes to bring to my parents and I'll save the Tofurky for us.

I dropped off the sewing machine at the repair shop last night. The repairs it needs seem to be minor, although he'll call if he finds anything else. This is another example of a frugal compromise. Repairing the machine and giving it a tune up will cost about $80, but its money well spent because in the long run it saves me time and money.

Being frugal doesn't mean never spending a penny, it simply means all the pennies you spend are spent wisely!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Curtains, Gluten Roasts & Tofurky

I'm a feeb with the sewing machine. Thankfully, my 13 year old is a whiz with it. While I pinned the fleece to the curtains, she threaded the machine, set up bobbins and did a good portion of the sewing. Things were going well until the machine started making a hideous noise and a black plastic thingy began to shred. That slowed us down a bit. The sewing machine is a beautiful old Graybar and needs/deserves the TLC only a trained technician can give. Fortunately, there is a sewing machine repair shop in the same mall as my gym. I'll be stopping in this morning to get some info on repair costs.

We switched over to the other sewing machine. Actually, Leen switched over to the other machine, I panicked and began hand sewing because the curtains we were working on were for the French Doors that face the street. I was afraid that once the sun went down we'd be putting on a side show for the whole neighborhood. Two broken needles later, the sewing machine was making a tiny zig zag stitch and I was just too tired to figure out why. I'm sure in the light of day it will be obvious. At the end of the day, the curtains for those windows were done. They look nice and they did keep the room noticeably warmer.

My oldest daughter hates sewing. She prefers to cook. So, with a little oversight from me, she made a delicious gluten roast with roasted veggies and gravy for dinner. She also managed to get 6 loaves of bread made for the week. Everyone pitching in made all the projects go a lot smoother.

Before bed, I put some frozen split pea soup into the slow cooker to put with lunches today. That really helped this morning.

Jacqueline's comment about the Tofurky and the success of the gluten roast last night got my wheels turning. I'm really thinking about skipping the Tofurky this Thanksgiving. We go to my parents every year and I'm not certain if its the best vegan taste experience to share with the family. I've got a few hours before I have to place the order to decide.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Food Coop Orders

I have to finalize my food cooperative order today and get it to our coordinator. If you're wondering how I put together my order, here's a peek into my thought process. First I go through the price list, all 200 pages of it to see what's on sale. I write down any sale item that we might want. Generally speaking, I avoid prepackaged mixes. I also check our inventory of staples to see what we are low on.

Comparing the sales and the staple needs gives me a basic list of items, then I bring it to the table. I mean the dinner table of course. I try to let everyone have some input, within reason. For example, if two things they like are on sale but we are only able to budget for one, which would they prefer?

Keeping to this method I am usually able to keep our food order cost under $250/month buying mainly organic foods. About once a year we wind up with two food orders from the same pricelist. Our current pricelist is the one this occurs with. I'm pretty pleased because this pricelist has quite a few things on sale that I'd be happy to stock up on, like kidney beans, black eyed peas and Tofurky (my kids love Tofurky!)

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Snugging Up

First of all, for Judy and anyone else who was curious, the recipe for Pumpkin Muffins appears in the May 4, 2005 blog entry. Just click on May's archives and scroll down for the date. I'm going to need an index soon!

The baked mac & cheeze was a delicious end to a pretty good experiment. Jim didn't even realize that the veggies had been part of the original soup. We did add some collards for color (it was a little too yellow/orange without them) and because we certainly have plenty of them. As long as they are cut into small pieces, my kids love collards.

Jim's ended up working this weekend so our insulating plans at the cabin have been pushed off. I've turned my attention to snugging up this house. (I'm not certain that snugging is a word but if its not, it should be.) Joanne Fabric has all its fleece on sale so I bought enough to line the back of all the curtains here. At $3.99/yard I probably could have done better by locating thrift store blankets but that would be hit or miss and, gas being what it is, it didn't seem frugally logical. Also, the curtains here are mainly shades of beige. Any patterns on thrift store blankets would show through making them useless to me. When he's not working, Jim will be putting door sweeps on the bottom of the doors to keep out drafts.

I've come across some interesting items in magazines recently. Although I'm not a fan of Vegetarian Times, check out pg 10 of the November/December issue for a tasty sounding, vegan, tofu based unturkey. The October/November issue of Mother Earth News has a great article on page 102 called, "Make Your Own Whole Grain Cereals."

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Week Winds Down

Ruthie's idea for making hot pockets was a big hit! I used my whole wheat pizza dough recipe to make the pocket and filled with a veggies and some of the leftover pumpkin and white bean soup. We ended up with a fun and yummy meal. Thanks Ruthie!

Tonight the vegetable soup will make its final appearance as it is used in Baked Veggie Mac & Cheeze. The original recipe called for broccoli but I've used collards, cauliflower and a whole lot of other veggies. Since I've used most of the broth already, its just the veggies that will be in this dish, although leftover broth could certainly be used in place of the water in the recipe. Here's the recipe:

1/4 cup canola or olive oil
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups of water (boiling is ideal but cold works as well)
1 Tbs plus 2 tsp tamari
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
pinch of tumeric
1 cup nutritional yeast

I a small saucepan heat the canola oil. Whisk in ww pastry flour until crumbly and combined. Add water and continuing whisking. Whisk in remaining ingredients except for nutritional yeast. Cook until sauce thickens and bubbles. It is a very forgiving sauce, you can add more water if it gets too thick. Remove from heat and whisk in nutritional yeast.

This is enough for 4 cups of uncooked pasta plus 1-2 cups of added veggies, depending on your tastes of course. Pour 3/4 of this cheeze sauce over pasta and veggies mixing thoroughly. Pour mixture into greased 9 x12 pan and top with remaining cheeze sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Vegetable Soup-Day Three

The dumplings in last night's soup got mixed reviews. No one hated them but no one loved them either. I used a cornmeal dumpling recipe which I suspect was part of the problem. The taste of cornmeal complemented the soup nicely but makes a drier more crumbly dumpling. What I appreciate most is everyone ate their meal with the understanding that the dumplings wouldn't be appearing again. The soup itself, with the addition of pureed white beans and pumpkin was thick, creamy and delicious.

Tonight I'm going to use Ruthie's idea and make hot pockets using the vegetables from the soup and bread dough. If there is any of last nights soup left over after lunches are made, I might use some as a gravy inside the pockets or maybe over the pockets.

BTW, I know people are always curious about how my kids fare on a vegan diet so I thought I'd share this with you. My daughters' who are 13 & 14 recently went for their physicals. When the doctor reviewed their charts we discovered they had not had a single sick visit in the last year. My youngest son (age 5)had no sick visits either. My 6 yr old son did have pneumonia last year but he was born 9 weeks premature, has asthma and he's prone to pneumonia. And no he wasn't premature because of my vegan diet during pregnancy, he's adopted!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Vegetable Soup-Day Two

Last night's soup with the Cajun spices and peanut butter was a big hit. It almost made up for the fact that I took the wrong bag to my continuing ed class last night. I opted not to put in dumplings last night because I was in and out of the house too much to give them proper attention. Tonight I only have a 7pm class to teach so I should have plenty of time to make the dumplings.

I've cooked up some white beans again, because there flavor is mild. I'll be pureeing the white beans with some cooked pumpkin/winter squash and adding that to tonight's version of the soup. I decided to use pumkin puree because, despite having at least three more harvests from our CSA, our freezer is totally full! Since the pumpkin I had on hand was getting funky, I had to cook it or lose it, hence the addition to tonight's meal.

Since I still have far more veggies in the fridge than we can use in a week, I'll be exploring canning possibilities. I'll also be reorganizing the freezer portion of our refrigerator to see if that gives me more space. Although I mostly use containers in the freezers, I've just resorted to freezer bags to make use of the space in between containers. So far its working like a charm. I think we will easily make it through the winter on this year's CSA shares and I find this really exciting.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Veggie Soup - Day One

I did make that huge batch of veggie soup yesterday. It worked out really well except I forgot how long it takes 16 quarts of anything to heat up and cook. Dinner was a little late last night because of this. Here's what I ended up putting into the soup:
3 leeks
a refrigerator drawerful of carrots cut into coins
3 bunches of red radishes with greens chopped
8 large potatoes chopped
1 whole bulb of garlic chopped
a mystery container from the freezer labeled "broth"
thyme and sage

I had never added radishes to a soup before but according to Carla Emery in the Encyclopedia of Country Living, they cook up just like carrots and the greens are edible so we gave it a try. They worked out very well, the peppery taste added a nice touch to the soup and the chunks themselves were fairly mild after simmering a while.

Last night we served the soup with tofu sliced into "steaks" and sprinkled with a little Braggs, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. I baked the tofu for about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. You could certainly turn it over to make it crispy but I didn't bother. We also had toast some Tofutti Cuties that my mom had brought over the weekend.

For tonight's dinner I'll be using some of that soup as a base and adding some Cajun seasoning and a scoop of peanut butter along with some white beans that I soaked overnight and started cooking in the crock pot this morning. I know peanut butter and Cajun seasoning sounds odd but I found that tip in one of Nava Atlas' cookbooks and it really lends richness to a dish. I may give dumplings a try tonight as well.

Tuesdays are manic at our house with my teaching schedule and the CSA pick up. Thankfully I only have five more weeks of continuing ed classes and the CSA is winding down as well. For anyone thinking about joining a CSA, now is the time to get info. Our CSA does sign ups beginning in the fall for the following year's harvest. Our CSA actually sold out its shares this year so checking it out now may save you dissapointment later.

In an effort to make good nutrition real to my continuing ed participants, I've been cooking for my classes. So far I've shared pumpkin muffins and apple crisp. Tonight I'll be sharing some kind of apple muffin or loaf recipe. (I still haven't found my old apple bread recipe. Grrrrr!) I think its so important to show people that healthy vegan food can be yummy too. There are far too many people who think vegans just gnaw on wood chips or things that taste like wood chips.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Making the Week Easier With Vegetable Soup

The Chickpea Nibbles weren't bad. I made two batches; one with 1 stp chili powder and 1 tbs olive oil, the other with 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 Tbs tamari, 2 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp sesame oil. I think both batches would have tasted better with more spice. Next time, I'll double the chili powder and garlic. I also thought they were too oily so I'll try using half the amount of oil. The other thing I discovered was you really want them dried out when you take them out of the oven or they have a strange texture when they cool off. They taste best crunchy. I chickened out and didn't bring them on our visit.

I was able to get our bread for the week baked yesterday, which is a huge relief. The batch of banana bread I made yesterday is already almost gone. There might be enough for school snacks for Tuesday but I'll need to come up with another breafast option. Since there are still apples, I'm leaning toward apple bread but I'll have to go on a treasure hunt to find my recipe. I don't know why but I haven't used it in a few years.

There are a great deal of veggies in the fridge including carrots, peppers, beets, turnips, cauliflower and broccoli. I also have a lot of potatoes, garlic and onions. Since the cool fall weather is here, I'm planning to make a big pot of vegetable soup today that I can use for the week. I don't mean have the same soup everyday, I mean using a basic vegetable soup as a base for a variety of soups during the week. For example, I might add rice one night, tofu another, beans on another still. If I keep the soup really basic I can change the spices each night as well. Some nights the soup may be the main course, other nights it might be a side to go along with dinner. The added bonus is it will clean out the fridge. I'll keep you posted each day about how we use it.

One note of caution, DO NOT add cauliflower and broccoli to a soup like this except on the day you plan to serve it and only right before you serve it. If cooked for a long time, they will make your soup, and your house, rather pungent. Also, I'm not kidding when I say big pot. I'll be using a 16 quart stock pot to make sure we have enough for the week.

On the frugal project front, I've got to get working on the last pair of heavy curtains for upstate. I need to have them done by Friday.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

More Chickpea Options

Today we'll be visiting with family who flew in for the wedding. I'm planning to make more of the Apple Butter Pull Aparts to take with us but I've just realized one family member is gluten intolerant. I've decided to try making Chickpea Nibbles so she has a snacking option as well.

Chickpea Nibbles are a recipe from How It All Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer but I've seen versions of it in several places. Basically it's two cups cooked chickpeas tossed with your favorite seasonings and 1 tbs of oil. Its baked in a 400 degree oven turning halfway through. I know it breaks my rule about never trying new recipes on company but it certainly sounds simple enough and if its a bust I'll just leave it home. BTW, for fans of How It All Vegan and The Garden of Vegan, Sarah Kramer has a new cookbook coming out in November called, La Dolce Vegan. I love the titles of her/their cookbooks. Sarah's website is www.govegan.net if you want to keep track of what she's got in the works.

Also on today's agenda is making bread and breakfast for the week.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Aldi's Link

Thanks to a list I belong to, I've discovered that Aldi's has a weekly newsletter with the specials in it. The nearest Aldi's is about 45 minutes away, so it would have to be a pretty spectacular bargain but if you have one closer this may be very worthwhile info.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cleaning Up

Last night I finally gave Ruthie's corn muffin recipe (see comments 10/9/2005) a try and got two thumbs up from everyone in the house. Thanks Ruthie! Ruthie hit upon what I've always suspected, you don't need the salt in corn bread/muffin recipes. In fact, it tastes better without it. My kids decided to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the muffins for lunch today. That's the best sign of approval this mom can get.

My kids were all off yesterday so we were able to accomplish a lot. With the help of my oldest daughter, we got the greens rinsed, chopped, steamed and frozen. My younger daughter helped me start to reorganize the basement. I didn't realize how cluttered it was until I tried searching for a bat in it the other night. Aside from vacuuming, her main contribution was to transfer all the scrapbooking stuff off the table and into a storage cabinet that was sitting around empty. We even got some laundry done. They were both huge helps!

Getting organized is such an important part of being frugal. Think about how much money I'd be wasting if I hadn't gotten those greens into the freezer and they'd gone bad. It would be like going to the store buying your veggies and then chucking them into the garbage on the way out. You spent the money but have nothing to show for it. Everytime food goes funky in your fridge, you've wasted a bit of money.

If you're wondering how getting the scrapbooking supplies under control saves money, here's how. First there's the obvious, do I have a particular thing I need for scrapbooking, like glue sticks or am I out? Knowing when you're out of something let's you plan for buying it when the price is right. Honestly, I'm not a big scrapbooker, for me the bigger savings is that my craft table is clear. This makes it easier for me to work on other craft projects (think birthday or holiday presents or even curtains.) Many of the crafts that I do are in some way money saving. If I have to hunt for space to work on them, I'm less likely to do them and in turn less likely to save money upon their completion.

There will be no creative cooking tonight, we're heading to a wedding and my parents are watching the kids. They're planning to bring a veggie treat for dinner, nuggets or soy pizza or something similar.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

That Nap Really Helped

My ambitious plans for yesterday were cut short by my desire/need to sleep. I got the flour put away, put my kindergartener on the bus, threw a log on the fire and sacked out on the couch with Mel, our dog. The events of the night before wore me out.

Afterwards, with a much clearer head, I was able to make dinner (split pea soup and eggplant-check out Sept 1st post, Super Easy Eggplant), dessert (apple crisp) and breakfast (apple butter pull aparts). The fridge full of veggies still await me.

Here's the recipe for Apple Butter Pull Aparts it's originally from The Vegan Handbook from the Vegetarian Resource Group but naturally I've played around with it a bit.

Stir together:
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs dry sweetener

Cut in with pastry cutter or fork:
1/3-1/2 cup canola oil (I use 1/3 cup or it seems to oily but you decide)

Add:
2/3 cup water
Stir until well mixed. You should have a pliable dough. Roll out on floured surface to about a 16"x18" rectangle.

Spread:
1/2 cup apple butter onto dough (you can use a little more if you like, just keep it about an inch away from one of the long sides.)

Sprinkle top of apple butter with:
1/2 cup raisins

Begin rolling up dough from one of the long sides (not the one you kept an inch away from.) I use a rubber scraper to help the dough roll up without leaving any behind. Wet the edge to seal shut and keep the apple butter inside. Place seam side down on a greased cookie sheet. I use two pancake turners to move the roll.

Spread:
1/4 cup apple butter on top of roll

Sprinkle with:
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Using one of the pancake turners, slice into 1 inch pieces (but do not seperate them) before placing into preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. As the name suggests, once baked, they just pull apart.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bats in my Belfry?

Actually, the bat was in my basement and then in my bedroom. I could have done without the bat hunting at the end of my long day but sometimes life just throws you a curve. I'm not certain of the proper way to trap a bat but after much lunancy and running about with heads covered, Jim threw our quilt over the little bugger and finally managed to get him out the door at about 11:30pm. Aside from a small piece of my sanity that is gone forever, no creatures (human or bat) were harmed. Needless to say, I had a little trouble settling down to sleep last night.

Due to a blatant lack of time and imagination, I ended up making soup for dinner last night. I filled my 6qt pot about half full with cooked chick peas. Then, I combined 1/2 cup tamari, 1 Tbs. nutritional yeast, 1Tbs maple syrup and 2 tsp. garlic powder and pured this mixture over the chick peas. I added enough water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. I chopped up some carrots that were hiding in the fridge as well as some of the greens. Finally I added 1 cup of bulgur, stirred it all up and hoped for the best. I brought it up to a boil, lowered the heat and let it simmer for about an hour. We served it with whole wheat toast.

I had to teach a continuing ed class last night so I grabbed a quick bowl before anyone else. I thought it tasted pretty good but I wasn't prepared for how much everyone else liked it. They were all raving about it when I got home, even while we were bat hunting. Everyone took it for lunch today! I think I may have stumbled on a really tasty way to deal with all these greens!

On today's agenda: put away the 50 pound bag of whole wheat pastry flour I've been ignoring, steam/freeze some greens and other veggies, possibly can the last of the apples (although I think I'll do this tomorrow), and make some muffins or other breakfast food. I may also take a nap, I didn't sleep very well last night!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Overnight Apple Butter

Apple butter made overnight in the crock pot was delicious! I used Barbara's recipe as a model and simplified it a bit to suit our needs. Since there are six of us, I cored and chopped enough apples to fill the crock pot. I didn't peel them. I used a mix of apples; Cortlands, Macouns, and Yellow Delicious because these are what I had on hand. I added a cup of water (because I didn't have any apple juice), 2 tsp cinammon and 1 tsp nutmeg (because I didnt have allspice or cloves).

I cooked on low overnight. In the morning I used a potato masher to mix it all around. I turned the crock pot to high and left it uncovered while I hit the shower. By the time I had the pancakes made, the apple butter had thickened to a great consistency, slightly chunky and not watery at all.

I chickened out and didn't make the cornbread but I'll be giving Ruthie's recipe a try later this week. Thanks Ruthie! Last night I put chick peas in the crock pot for tonights dinner. I still have a fair amount of greens in the fridge, 3 eggplant, some broccoli and a bunch of radishes. I'm leaning toward soup with the eggplant cooked as "steaks" on the side but I'll be perusing my cookbooks for a more creative way to combine these ingredients.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Closing Things Down for Winter

The rain let up today and we were able to enjoy a parade and fireworks. In between, we cleaned out the garage, put away all the outdoor furniture and made a plan for insulating the attic over our bedroom. It turns out the insulating job is a much bigger deal than it originally looked to be because there was no moisture barrier put down initially. We don't have the time or manpower to accomplish insulating this weekend it will wait a week or two.

Our visit to the thrift store yesterday was a thrill. I found a seemingly unused ceramic countertop compost container and paid $3.00 for it. It sells on gaiam.com for $42. I'm tickled because the container I had been using, one of those fundraising tins, was falling apart.

On the food front, yesterday I did get the applesauce canned as planned and dinner went off without a hitch. Today we went with rice and beans, another meal that requires very little tending while cooking. Topped with salsa and served with collards it was yummy. We snacked on pumkin and squash seeds afterwards.

I'm going to give the apple butter that Barbara posted on her blog a try for tomorrow (check out http://frugal-pdx-living.blogspot.com/). I may try cooking it overnight and then making crepes to go with it for breakfast. The leftover beans, rice and collards along with some other veggies will be combined into a soup for tomorrow's dinner. I'm leaning towards cornbread to go with it, although my success rate with cornbread is less than stellar. (I only stink at making two things, cornbread and brownies, but I keep trying every now and then.)

On tonight's agenda, an old movie with the kids and hopefully finishing the covers for the fans.