Saturday, February 26, 2005


Last night's entertaining went off without a hitch. There's leftover pizza too!

Perhaps you're asking how does one judge the success or failure of a dinner? You can safely assume you've succeeded when your sister in law asks you to share recipes because they always like the foods they try at our house and your brother (devout carnivore) doesn't disagree! They left last night with writer's cramp and an armload of recipes.

I've often thought food speaks louder than leafleting and shouting.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

More entertaining!

Our last round of entertaining went fairly well. There were some minor difficulties and changes but overall a success. If I came away from it with one thought it would be this:

If you don't want to eat vegetarian/unfamiliar food, perhaps you should bring something you do enjoy rather than barely nibbling for two days!
However that comment only refers to one person, everyone else had a culinary blast. My next challenge is to feed my brother and sister-in-law Friday. Since menus are always a point of curiosity here's mine:
Homemade pizza with soy cheese, black olives, portabello mushrooms and artichoke hearts. Never fear, some will just have the soy cheese. My sons don't like stuff on their pizza.
French Onion Soup
Pumpkin Cookies
Coffee or Tea
I've also been asked to share some quick and healthy recipes during their visit so the menu may expand based on that. I was upfront with my brother about the menu, I never try to "fool" someone. I think that does everyone a disservice.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gift Ideas

You're invited to...a one year old's birthday party...a christening...your adult sister's birthday...AAAAHHHHH!

Sometimes I feel like the world is just full of people trying to sabotage my frugal lifestyle. Just yesterday I got invited to a Southern Living Home Fashion Party. I don't even know what one could expect to find at such a party, nor do I care. I declined the invitation, not rudely, just firmly. I'm not going to hang out at my friend's house, eat her food and then not help her earn points to get her free stuff. No, I'll just sit this one out.

But what about the other times, when you have to go and you have to bring a gift? Here are some ideas that have been working well for me and a few I intend to try.

My sister lives across the country in Arizona. Anything I get her needs to be easily transported and appropriate for her climate. I'd be a frugal fool if I made her an afghan or a scarf. I found a cross stitch project that she had started and abandoned when we were kids. I completed and framed it and sent it out to her. There was much debate at my house, was this a good or a bad present? The answer came in a phone call from my sister. She loved it.

The one year old birthday party is trickier. This little girl is the youngest of three kids. She's got all the toys and clothes a child could want or need. I settled on a small canvas tote bag (just her size) with a handmade teddy bear inside. I embroidered the tote with her name, added a small cross stitch of a little girl to the front and viola! The teddy bear is very simple and made of felt with button eyes. She'll be getting this on Sunday so I'll post her reaction afterwards.

For the christening I'm finishing up a cross stitch sampler that will framed for the baby's room.

By now you may be running around, screaming, "BUT I DON'T LIKE CROSS STITCHING!!!" Fear not, I cross stitch because I enjoy it and I'm good at it. What do you like to do? If you figure out what you're good at and what you enjoy, the rest is easier. Also, having a hobby that uses your hands prevents you from stuffing your face, an added bonus.

I do cross stitches even when I don't have a particular occasion in mind. That helps me avoid being unprepared. I recently read an article in Mother Earth News archives about making granny squares. The writer's grandmother (I think it was her grandmother) kept a trunk full of granny squares so at a moments notice she could put together a special afghan. I like that idea, although I don't know how to make granny squares yet. Its on my to do list.

The bigger lesson, is make sure you personlize the gift to the person who's receiving it.

Friday, February 18, 2005

We're entertaining this weekend!

The title says it all and nothing blows a budget like company.

Here's the setup: It's a snow tubing weekend and we're the house closest to the snow tubing. In addition to our usual crowd of 6, they'll be between four and six more people. The challenge: create tasty veggie meals for a sometimes cranky, non veg crowd without getting too cranky myself.

So here's the plan: First of all, I need foods that are not overtly vegan. I'm sticking with familiar foods this weekend.

Friday: I should be off the hook for tonight but just in case anyone has the munchies I'll have homemade bread with hummus.

Saturday: We'll be making several batches of pumpkin muffins today for easy grab and go type breakfasts and snacks tomorrow. Lunch will be peanut butter and jelly because everyone likes that and soup, probably French Onion. Dinner will be chili cooked in the slow cooker along with two kinds of corn bread. Dessert will be popcorn and apple crisp.

Sunday: We'll do a big breakfast, potato scramble (see below), banana pancakes, banana berry smoothie and coffee.

Potato Scramble is a mix of several different recipes. As with most of my favorite recipes, it allows flexibility for taste and availability. Here's the basic recipe:
Potato Scramble
8 large potatoes scrubbed and cubed, I leave the skin on (if you need it to cook quickly, shred them)
2 onions, chopped
any or none of the following: chopped carrot, leftover chick peas, chopped broccoli
1/2 cup tamari
1 Tbs. nutritional yeast
1 Tbs. maple syrup

In a heavy pot, I'm partial to cast iron, brown the onions in a little olive or canola oil. Add the potatoes and stir frequently until they begin to brown. Add in optional items. Whisk together last three ingredients and pour over potato and onion mixture. Add water to just cover potatoes and cook covered until potatoes are tender. To make it thicker simmer with cover off once potatoes are cooked. Serve as is or as a crepe filling.

I haven't forgotten about the gift ideas, I mentioned last time. They'll be up soon.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Gift ideas

Occassions just keep coming up that require gifts. I'll be putting together some ideas later this week. Right now I'm still in the brainstorming stage of things.

Monday, February 14, 2005

It's a Family Affair

Saturday was an interesting example of how being frugal and vegetarian works in our home. I left in the early afternoon to attend a workshop while my hubby stayed behind with all four kids. The only thing I asked them to accomplish was to have pizza dough made by 3:00pm so it had time to rise before I got home around 4:30.

Thankfully, I had turned off my cell phone during the workshop but when I turned it back on there were several questions to field:

I can't find the olive oil can we use canola? Yes!

Did I need to dissolve the yeast in water first? Yes.

But I forgot to and everthing is together except the yeast. No biggie, dissolve the yeast in about 1/4 cup of warm water, let it sit for five minutes and then add to the mixture. You can always add more flour when you begin kneading if the dough is too sticky.

Pizza dough is pretty forgiving. By the time I got home it was rising nicely and it wasn't too sticky at all. When the time came to knead it again, we divided the dough into four balls and gave one to each child. I'm not picky about my kneading, I just let them play with it like play doh. Everyone had a blast (even the 12 and 13 year olds).

My oldest daughter greased the pans, (we used cookie sheets because there are too many of us for a pizza pan:-) and grated the soy cheese. Grating is definitley worthwhile, we use one 10oz blck of soy cheese to make four pizzas and it doesn't seem skimpy at all. The trick is to cut the cheese block into four equal pieces and grate on at a time, so you know exactly how much to put on each pizza.

My younger daughter rolled the dough out, placed it in the pans and helped spread the sauce. The boys put on the soy cheese, black olives and mushrooms.

While the pizzas were in the oven, we put together a quick apple crisp. Again, everyone pitched in. Someone washed the apples, someone else greased the pans, I cut the apples, the boys placed them in the baking dish, the girls put together the crumb topping. It was easy, healthy and delicious. The recipe is in one of my really early posts if anyone is interested.

Dinner was yummy and so was dessert. Everyone had worked together and had fun in the process. Being frugal is so much easier when everyone chips in. In its own way, pizza night is a reward. Its a fun meal but its a great way to get everyone involved without making it such a burden for the cook of the house. We have music playing the whole time, its just fun.

Give it a try!

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Saving Strategies or how to make the small stuff add up!

I work in a gym. For anyone out there who think fitness instructors make a killing, you obviously haven't seen my paycheck or the paychecks of my colleagues. Its ok though, I like the fact that I can't skip my workout if I don't feel like going. My job keeps me in shape and healthy, I really can't ask for more. A few days ago a coworker who works only one day per week for 3 hours in the nursery, told me she had been putting her paychecks in a seperate bank account since she started working there and now she has over $ 3,000.

I've always thought about doing the same and now I'm convinced.

The other recent savings event around here is discount night at the local specialty fruit/veggie market. To be honest this place has a bakery, a butcher, a gourmet cheese section, its pretty hoity toity but the veggie prices are fair and the Silk is the cheapest around here at $2.99 a half gallon. Wednesday nights between 6-9pm they take 10% off your total order. I've known this for years but I can't bear the crowds. Of course I'm used to traveling with a pack of kids so that could be why. we recently discovered that my hubby gets home just about the time discount night starts and he's so in the zone when shopping that the crowds don't bother him. So for the past three weeks, he has detoured on his way home to grab apples, potatoes, onions, bananas, and Silk. The average savings is around $3.00. In a year that will be about $156. I like that!

Our food bill has recently begun to go up, as we are almost out of the vegetables that we canned and froze this past year. Although we still have plenty of frozen pumpkin and squash. Canning was an exciting, though stressful little endevour. I'm really pleased with the way it turned out and plan to do more this year.

Little things really do add up and based on that, I have to go sew the curtains for my sons' bedroom because there is no way I'm paying for curtains!

Friday, February 04, 2005

Goals for the Weekend

Here are the goals for my weekend. Fortunately no one around here is a big football fan so the Superbowl will not get in my way:-)

Bake bread for the week. That means a minimum of 5 loaves. I don't mind, whole grain bread is a great food choice. (A big raspberry to the Atkins diet!)

Baking grab & go breakfasts for the week. This may be pumpkin muffins or a big batch of French Toast (yes you can make really yummy vegan French Toast).

Make a few loaves of Cornell Bread recipe that I've been experimenting with. This is a whole grain recipe I just found in the current issue of Mother Earth News. I've just tweaked it to make it vegan. Still a work in progress although pretty pleased with the results so far.

Make and freeze pizza dough. I make about 4 batches at a time and freeze the extra.

Then of course there's laundry and housework but no one wants to hear about that!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My First Going Veg Class

I am tickled to report that my Going Veg class had enough people enrolled to run! We had our first class on Tuesday and it was such a neat experience for me. I met a teenager who wants to go veg but needs to learn the nutrition end of things. She had dabbled in junk food vegetarianism and ended up pretty sick. I also met her mother, who wanted to learn about healthy vegetarian choices as well! How cool is that? I give her the mommy of the year award for being open-minded.

Judy wanted to know if I was vegan. I guess I am, although I usually cop out and say nearly vegan, just in case I missed something. March 2003 I went to a Meat Out talk and after hearing Gary Yourofsky speak, my hubby and I went home and ditched dairy. (It was the pus in the milk that killed me.) I had already been vegetarian for years at that point and had stopped eating eggs. Cheese had to go a few years earlier because my cholesterol was borderline high, so the remaining dairy items were all that was left to go.

The thing about getting away from being a junk food or french fry vegetarian is you need planning and lots of it. Most the food in the world that is convenient is garbage. If you think I'm wrong try walking into your local 7-11 or Mobil on the Run and finding something healthy to stave off your hunger.

More on planning next time.