Thursday, December 28, 2006

This Bark Has No Bite!

I may have discovered the simplest and neatest way in the world to melt chocolate. First, I place my cast iron griddle on the stove as a normally would and let it heat up over medium-low heat. While this is heating, I grease my largest cookie sheet and then place it on top of the griddle. My cookie sheet is large enough that it rests on the elevated lip of the griddle, NOT directly on the cooking surface of the griddle.

By resting on the lip of the griddle it creates an air space underneath that acts like the water does in a double boiler. When I put chocolate on it to melt, I am very careful not to put any chocolate on, or very near, the area where the lip of the griddle makes contact with the cookie sheet. I assume it would burn if I did. I cover the first cookie sheet with a second that is the same size, creating a lid.

I let the chocolate melt until it is soft but not liquid. I then took crushed candy candy canes, sprinkled them over the top of the melted chocolate and ran a knife through the mixture to evenly distribute everything. I then removed the cookie sheet from the griddle and placed it on a rack to cool. Don't forget to turn off the griddle at this point, I almost did!

Once the cookie sheet was cooled to room temperature, I placed it in my freezer for about 30 minutes. This causes the edges of the chocolate to lift making it very easy to remove the chocolate from the cookie sheet. Remove from freezer and break into small pieces (I used the handle of a butter knife to do this), place in a fancy serving dish and you have a very elegant dessert with minimal effort and mess.

I tried this with chocolate baking bars meant for melting and semi-sweet chocolate chips. Both work equally well. By using the griddle method I didn't have to worry about condensation getting into the chocolate and messing it up during the melting process which was a definite plus. If candy canes aren't your thing, you can add in whatever you like best instead.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Vegan Instant Cappuccino Mix

Here's the Cappuccino Mix recipe from The Vegetarian Group that I used as the starting point for my vegan version.

1 and 1/3 cup instant coffee
1 and 1/2 cup instant coffee creamer
2 cups instant chocolate drink mix
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix well, store in airtight container.

To use it, stir about 3 teaspoonsful into a cup of boiling hot water.

Here's my vegan version:

1 and 1/3 cup instant coffee
1 and 1/2 cup Better Than Milk powdered soymilk
2 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix well, store in airtight container.

To use it, stir about 1 tablespoon into a cup of boiling hot water.

I increased the amount of sugar because I was using cocoa powder rather than powdered chocolate drink mix. The Better than Milk worked very well. The girls like to enjoy this with a splash of vanilla soymilk.

The boys helped mix this up and gave it to the girls along with two coffee mugs and a tablespoon measure. It was a big hit! BTW, 1 tablespoon is equal to 3 teaspoons.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas - The Food

I'm going to take my own advice and forgive myself for not getting one last update in before the celebrations began. I hope others will do the same. I'm always a little sad when Christmas is over but there is a sense of relief that washes over me when the last guest leaves. This year, Christmas was like a 3 day festival (I've made the Woodstock comparison several times this weekend.)

Saturday, my in-laws came for coffee and cake in the afternoon. We had banana nut bread, chocolate chip cookies, rice pudding and sesame sticks as well as clementines which our guests brought. Despite teaching two classes Saturday morning (or maybe it was because I was teaching two classes), I was able to get the Baked Butternut Pasta totally prepped and in the pan before our company arrived. Once this task was done, I felt I could relax. I knew it wasn't likely that our guests would stay for dinner but it felt good knowing I could offer it to them.

Jim, the kids and I enjoyed the Baked Butternut Pasta immensely. I served it with homemade foccacia bread. The recipe was defintely improved by replacing 1/2 of the silken tofu with firm tofu.

Brunch Sunday morning was a big success. My 2 year old niece couldn't get enough of our chickpea scramble and pumpkin muffins with dried cranberries. That was a big thrill. We also served cinnamon raisin toast, roasted potatoes, rice pudding and fruit - once again brought by our guests.

As promised, for dinner we had Tofurky with roasted vegetables and gravy. I like the new basting mixture recommended on the Tofurky package. The new Tofurky gravy is delicious but way too salty for my taste.

For brunch Christmas morning I made pumpkin pancakes and served the last of the chickpea scramble with it. There were bananas and clementines as well.

Dinner on Christmas day was a vegetarian feast to behold. I warmed up a pan of the baked butternut squash pasta and the foccacia. I also put together a vegetarian baked ziti with baked tvp. We served this with a mix of ground walnuts, nutritional yeast and garlic powder and a green olive bruschetta. There was a salad and a veggie plate as well. Desserts ranged from the healthier pumpkin muffins with walnuts and dired cranberries to homemade chocolate bark made with crushed candy canes. I also made Dr. Furhman's Almond Carob Fudge which is always a hit.

After three days of entertaining, I'm fairly certain that no one missed the meat. Today we'll be eating leftover baked ziti for dinner while I tend to the laundry I neglected during this entertaining frenzy.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Final Pre-Holiday Update

I'll be giving a final update late Friday evening. In the meantime, lets all take a deep breath and remember the holidays should be about family and friends getting together and enjoying each others company, not papered packages under a tree or shoved in a sock. Let's give ourselves permission to skip that last minute marathon sprint through the local Walmart or mall for "just one last thing." Finally, let's forgive ourselves for all the things that we intended to do but never got to.

Friday Freebies

Free Dog Treat Recipes

Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags

Coupons for Ecos Earth Friendly Products

Coupons for Ecover products

Seventh Generation Coupons and free newsletter

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Menu

The menu is in a state of evolution, a very early state of evolution. Here are the meals I need to provide for company; dinner Saturday, brunch Sunday and dinner Monday. I've been going through my pantry to see what I have an overabundance of and what I might be missing. I've come to the realization that the pantry is quite full and I want to make use of the things I have on hand. For example, I still have a lot of squash from our CSA that I would like to feature in our meal, in part because I have an abundance but also because it was locally grown. I love to illustrate the connection between food, the seasons and local farmer. I think its a connection that needs to be made more often.

Thoughts of that squash whirled around my head all day yesterday until I finally decided how to use it. I'll be making a baked version of the Butternut Squash Pasta dish but I will be substituting extra firm tofu for the silken tofu to give it a more ricotta like texture. I'll make a loaf or two of bread to go along with it, possibly foccacia.

I like the brunch menu I used last year, although I plan to add oven roasted potatoes to it.

Since different people will be at the two dinners, I will most likely use the same menu. This will cut down on my food prep time which is certainly at a premium right now! Although, there will likely be more people on Christmas Day so I'm leaning towards making a Red Lentil Roast since it stores well.

As in year's past we will celebrate Christmas Eve with just the kids. The menu for that evening is by popular request. They want Tofurky! I'll make some stuffing and some mashed squash to go with it.

Desserts are still up in the air. Most will be fruit based because I know others will bring sweeter cookies and cakes. More on these tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas is Coming!

I took my pre-holiday stroll through the local natural food store yesterday in search of a powdered milk alternative. Ruthie had metioned Better Than Milk Soy Beverage mix in the past so I used this as a starting point. Sure enough, it was on the shelf waiting for me.

I did not have any success looking for powdered creamer in the natural food store but I think I can manage without it. I'll check the regular grocery store tomorrow but I know when I've checked these out in the past, they all have hydrogentated oils in them. I'll be doing test runs shortly.

Jim's on a quest today for the perfect gift for our niece (2) and nephew (not quite 4 months). These little guys have everything kids could want but we think we've nailed down the perfect, non cluttering, parent and child friendly gift. More on that later today.

Rob's class is sharing holiday traditions all this week. On Friday, I'll be joining him and his class to share our tradition of the kids hand making presents for the family. We'll be making rice pudding mix, in bags instead of jars to make it more school bus ride home friendly. I'll post the recipe later today.

The time has come to get our holiday menu in order! With the longer holiday weekend it looks like we'll be entertaining at three different times on three different days. The first order of business is to nail down when the company is coming. The menu will evolve from that. Look for my tentative holiday menu tomorrow morning.

Working more hours has clearly changed the way I operate and not always in a way I like. I'm not a fan of this last minute business. Although I am pleased with the way my fleece projects are coming, I wish I was further along with them. Similarly, I know I can pull together a holiday menu with the foods I have on hand but I don't want to lose the joy of the cooking/creating experience in the process. Scaling back my hours at work has become a bit of an obsession for me.

Friday evening will be the great Christmas project finale at our house. We'll put on A Christmas Story in the background and let it play over and over again (Jim's not a hugefan of this little tradition but the kids and I have come to love it! Sorry Jim). The boys will actually put together their rice pudding mixes, the girls will finish up their crafts and so will I. Thank goodness for the sewing machine! Its a festive bit of mania. Jim's not left out, he's our jack of all trades, filling in wherever he's needed, usually on clean up which is the most important and least appreciated job of all!

I finally found the rice pudding mix recipe! I've never been able to findground vanilla, so I use vanilla sugar instead or I add 1 tsp of vanilla to the list of ingredients to add.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Flavored Coffee Mixes as Holiday Gifts

I've got two cappucino hounds, disguised as teenage girls, living in my house. They both get dreamy eyed and rave whenever they talk about the cappucino sold at school. I'm putting together some flavored coffee mixes to satisfy their cravings without leaving them penniless.

I've always been a big fan of gifts in a jar. The challenge with these coffee recipes is to find vegan alternatives to some of the ingredients. I'll be working on that today. I'll share any discoveries I make and you can feel free to do the same.

Here are some links to recipes to get you started:

Mocha Espresso Coffee

Cappucino Mix

Instant Cappucino Mix

Swiss Mocha

Several different coffee mixes

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Vegetarian Article & Fleece Project Update

The link to a very intriguing article about kids, IQ and vegetarianism has been making the rounds on many of the lists I belong to. It turned up yesterday in our local paper as well. Jim clipped it out and hung it on the fridge. Just in case you missed it, here's the link to it.

I've heard others mention but I never realized there was a crockpot section at this site. Its definitely worth checking out. I'm especially happy about it because I'll be working some pretty long hours this week and this will make dinner time a breeze.

I've had some great success in my fleece projects. So far I've made hats for each of the boys and I'm working on my first pair of gloves for them. The source of fleece for these first projects has been a pair of fleece pants that Leen outgrew. The beauty of this is the sides of the hats were already sewn (the legs of the pants) I just had to pin and stitch the tops! I simplified the pattern to make the hats for the boys by rounding the top of the fabric rather than doing elaborate folding. This seems to eliminate some of the lumpiness the folding caused. They must be coming out ok because when Leen saw them, she asked me to make her one as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

So You Think You Have a Day Off?

Murphy's Law is hard at work in my life. I've got this morning off and I had big plans to accomplish things but there's a kink in my plans. My youngest is home with a skin rash that is actually a staph infection. How gross is that?! I always think of staph infections as gaping, non-healing wounds from my days in the nursing home but it turns out it can also just look like hives. The source of this wonderful infection is your own skin, but it only flourishes when the skin is broken as it was with my son's recent bought of eczema.

So instead of focusing on holiday crafts this morning, per his doctor's orders, I'll be washing his sheets and pajamas in hot water so he doesn't reinfect himself. On the lighter side, this is only bothering me. Kyle hasn't been bothered by it one bit. It doesn't itch or burn or anything. From his perspective its a bonus day home with mom, catching up on the latest PBS has to offer followed by episodes of The Partridge Family that Jim brought home from the library.

Last night I made split pea soup and Cold Thai Peanut Noodles. I usually substitute kale for the sprouts and cabbage but I didn't have any in the fridge. Instead, I boiled some small beets for about 30 minutes; until they were fork tender and the skins slipped off. I cut them into small pieces and added them, along with grated carrots to the noodles. Here's a little tip from my kitchen to yours, be careful what you add beets to. From a flavor standpoint, this tasted great. Visually, the results were not so stunning. The beets gave everything a pink tinge, which is very unappealing.

I love to make soups this time of year. Today I'll be tinkering with a dhal recipe that uses red lentils in the slow cooker. Jim isn't a huge fan of Indian cooking, in fact he can smell an 1/8 tsp of curry powder a mile off, but I'll serve it with something that he likes to make the whole meal more palatable. I find this to be a good technique with the whole family. As a result, we often have melting pot type meals that intermix many culinary styles.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Simple Fleece Projects

Here are some links for easy fleece projects. There are tons more out there if you don't mind sorting through a google search.

Fleece Socks

Fleece hat

Kids Fleece hat

Hooded Scarf

Fleece Hat and Scarf

Fleece Mittens

Another Fleece Mitten

Monday, December 11, 2006

Not Your Average Bow on a Package!

I think wrapping paper is a rip off, no pun intended. I prefer to get a little creative with my wrapping. For example, I'm a big fan of using recieving blankets for wrapping paper on baby gifts. The holidays don't always lend themselves to this kind of creative wrapping so in many cases I just go with the minimum. Yesterday, however, I came up with a frugal, waste free way to adorn my gift packages.

I have quite a bit of scrap fleece from my curtain lining project last year. Since the gift in question was for my 2 yr old niece, I used my youngest son as a model. I cut the appropriate width and length of fleece for a scarf and cut a small fringe into either end. I then used the scarf to create a chunky, toddler sized bow on her birthday package. It looked pretty neat.

Since I used fleece, making a scarf is a no-sew project. That makes it great for doing with the kids. A few years back we did it with our girl scout troop with good results as well. In the past, I've seen a pattern for a fleece hat that I may give a try. It only involves making one seam up the side. I'll post it tomorrow. Hats, gloves and scarves may be the perfect gifts to make for the child in your life who leaves more at the school lost and found than at home in his/her closet.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Holiday Shopping with Update

Its hard to go into specifics about our holiday gift giving plans when I know so many relatives read my blog, including my nosy teenagers who are itching to find out what they're getting. Ok kids, no reading past this point!

Today is the day I plan to finish shopping for the kids. Its pretty minimal because I've squirreled a few things away over the last few months. In fact, I'm on the hunt for just 4 things. I'll let you know how I do later today.

Good gift giving for kids is a challenge, especially if you are trying to keep it frugal while keeping your clutter potential down. All the electronic doodads that every kids seems to have really add up. Personally, I'm a fan of low tech, interactive toys like these Devil Sticks. We saw a guy on the beach playing with these and my kids were just fascinated. He let them try them out and it took a lot more coordination than they anticipated but it kept them busy for hours. I bought a set for the boys and one for the girls. Gifts that can be shared by siblings are a great way to give a worthwhile gift without breaking your budget. BTW, Chad over at the Devilstix website is a pleasure to deal with.

Upon entering the local mall, I encountered undulating masses of arms reaching and grabbing for toys and electronics. I'm not certain anyone was actually seeing what they were grabbing. It was akin to sharks in a feeding frenzy. There was little in the way of holiday spirit and I couldn't help but wonder where all these people were coming from at 1:00pm. Didn't anyone have to be at work? I left with nothing but a feeling of disappointment.

I headed back to the smaller plaza where my gym is located and entered a large toy store. It was equally crowded but at least it seemed a bit friendlier. It also helped that they had what I was looking for, a marching band type drum with cymbals for each boy, as well as small student size guitars. The lone guitar that Kyle got last year has been a source of jealousy all year. In fact, recently Am put his foot through it. As a result, the boys are buying each other guitars for Christmas. (FYI Toys R Us has them on sale for $19.99.)

A quick stop at another local store netted a digital camera the girls have wanted, on sale with a $20 rebate. Big ticket shopping is done, everything else will be hand made. More on that next week.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Amish Baked Oatmeal

I got this recipe from Donna over at The Vegetarian Group. Its a great resource for vegetarian and vegan recipes just be warned its high volume. I stick with the digest format to make it manageable.

The original recipe calls for eggs and butter so I tinkered a bit and here's what I came up with:

Katie's version of Amish Baked Oatmeal
The night before I combined the following in a greased 9" x 12" pan:
1 1/2 Cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 Cup vanilla sugar
1/2 Cup milk or soy milk
1/4 cup ground flaxseed meal
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup of raisins

In the morning, since I was unable to get out of bed, I had graduated from the bathroom floor by that point, Leenie added:

1 1/2 cups of plain soymilk

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 - 30 minutes or until edges are golden
brown. Immediately cut and spoon out into bowls; add
milk. Top with fruit and/or brown sugar if desired.

Serves about 6

This was really delicious and mighty convenient. Thanks to Donna for sharing the recipe.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Surviving the Virus

All the handwashing and cleaning I did last week didn't save me from getting slammed with the virus that my son and daughter had. In case anyone's curious, this mom follows her own rules. I too slept on the bathroom floor while active puking was in progress.

I'm feeling much better but my appetite in very minimal and I'm just wiped out, although it hasn't stopped me from teaching classes yesterday and today. Thank heavens for our teenage daughters who were able to run the house while we were out of commission. Leenie even filled in for me at a fitness event for Daisy Girl scouts. Poor child has been in the gym so much over the years that she was able to pretty much replicate the type of class I would have done with them. Of course it helped that she had all my notes but don't tell her that.

Tomorrow I'll blog on the baked oatmeal Leenie made herself and the rest of the kids Saturday morning. I had prepped the dry ingredients the night before so all she had to was add 1 1/2 cups of soymilk. That was a happy accident.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Hanging Out at Home

There are some serious stomach bugs traveling around our corner of the world. Usually we get by without a problem but not this time. So far Leenie and Am have been hit (5 days apart which doesn't seem fair to me. I thought we were in the clear!) I'm a handwashing, laundry doing, doorknob wiping psycho right now. Nothing puts fear into a mother of 4 like the prospects of throwing up.

I acutally have a somewhat unusual technique for dealing with a puking child. Since we have two bathrooms and its easier to clean up tile than carpet, the child in question drags his/her pillow and blankets into one bathroom and just sacks out on the bathroom floor (on the little throw rug of course) close to all the ameneties a puking person needs (a toilet, tissues, soap and water). This eliminates the dreaded run to the bathroom and possible mess along the way, as well as the truly disgusting cleaning out the barfy garbage bag from the garbage can near their bed. Instead we keep it all in one room away from everyone except mom and dad who wash their hands until little skin remains. Once active puking ceases, everything in said bathroom gets washed.

Am's sacked out on the floor in front of the tv. The barfing is over but he's just worn out. Biscuit is sleeping on the floor behind me, snoring loudly. I can't believe he's been with us a year already. Its hard to imagine life without this lumbering lab mix banging into you all the time. Mel, our bichon, is sleeping too but he's not snoring. Poor little guy has lyme's disease and he's all doped up. I feel like I should go to sleep to! Instead I'll hit the showers and try to make some progress on a variety of projects.

It seems I have a lot of half started projects, as well as supplies for future projects, that are not very well stored or organized. I'm planning to attack this problem today. Some projects can be done while watching a movie, thereby keeping your hands busy and your mouth empty, other projects require more direct attention.

The darn thing is I like having projects to do but I'm finding I have less and less time for them. I like the way it feels to create something that is useful or beautiful or maybe a little bit of both. Actually, the whole family is finding we lack time to do things we enjoy. Its a combination of things; time spent commuting, time spent at work both planned and unplanned, time spent shuttling kids to swim team four days a week, and a host of other mundane tasks that all add up. This lack of time has become a hot topic between Jim and I as we plan for the future.

I'm leaning towards a big pot of soup for dinner to clean out the fridge a bit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Raspberry Fig Bars Redux!

I love a recipe that can do double duty and last night I discovered that my trusty Raspberry Fig Bar Recipe from The Garden of Vegan works well with winter squash puree in place of the raspberry jam! Can you see me doing a happy dance? This time of year I'm fresh out of frozen raspberries from our days at the CSA, but boy oh boy do I have winter squash to spare!

I started with:
about 5 cups cooked winter squash
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves

I was trying to make pumpkin butter in the slow cooker. This never works well for me and this time was no exception. So I abandoned the pumpkin butter idea after cooking it all day on low, got out a fine metal colander and set about draining the excess liquid from the squash. I was left with about 3 cups of squash after draining.

I used a cup of this in place of the cup of raspberry jam the recipe calls for. (Actually, the recipe calls for 1/2 cup but I was doubling the recipe.) I had considered adding a bit of sugar but once the squash was pureed with the figs all the taste testers felt this wouldn't be necessary.

The result was really delicious!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tis The Season to Sit in the Car (or on the sidewalk in front of the store) at 3 a.m. and Wait for the Stores to Open?

I love a bargain as much as the next person, perhaps a bit more, but I don't understand this post-holiday tradition. I saw all the sale flyers and yes the prices did seem impressive on some items but I didn't have a burning need to purchase any of these items that would rouse me out of bed in the predawn light.

Black Friday always causes me to ponder wants versus needs. Like grocery store coupons, I suspect the mere presence of coupons promising huge discounts may persuade people to purchase things they might not ordinarily buy. Obviously, there's a difference between buying preportioned snack food with a triple coupon and buying a laptop that's 50% off between the hours of 6-8 a.m. but I think the concept is very similar. I think the flyers and commercials that bombard us this time of year train us to want more.

We boycotted the traditional Black Friday fare by hitting several thrift stores as planned. To me this is more like treasure hunting than regular shopping. Along the way we found several wants (a silver ice bucket with tongs for Jim's very Dean Martin vintage bar, some records and some books) as well as a few needs (a winter jacket, a denim jacket, some shirts, a pair of pants and a ladel). We even drooled while window shopping over a console record player that we loved but neither needed nor had the space for. Best of all, we got to introduce a friend to the wonders of thrift store prices.

Our No Crap for Christmas policy continues this year, although I'm not certain we called it that in years past. Gifts to adults must be useful or edible. They absolutely can not be clutter bought for the sake of just giving something. Gifts to children will take into account that there are far fewer kids than adults and, because of this, the kids will all make out like bandits. Less is more during the holidays. The less you get, the more you appreciate the things you do get.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Nut Roast & Other Thanksgiving Critiques

The Nut Roast was delicious but unbelievably messy. I followed the recipe but it just did not hold together in any sort of a loaf shape. I suspect it would have worked better if baked in a pan with a cover (uncovered for the last few minutes to brown a bit) and served with a spoon. I'll try it that way next time since it was a really tasty dish. BTW, I served it with Tofurky gravy, which now has mushrooms in it.

The Raspberry Fig Bars were a hit as was the Coconut Custard pie. The pumpkin pie was tasty but I forgot to drain the pumpkin before pureeing it. Actually, it was another winter squash. They can all be used interchangeably EXCEPT some have more liquid content than others. If you just put the cooked, but unpureed, squash in a colander, the excess liquid will drain off thereby avoiding soggy pie.

I also tried Isa's Pumpkin Muffins from Vegan with a Vengeance. I added in the optional cranberries and walnuts. These were sinfully good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Last night I experimented with a Vegan Coconut Custard pie recipe from How It All Vegan . Jim served as the master critic on this experiment since he's the cocnut custard pie fan. I'd actually never tried it before. The results were a stunning success for vegans and pie lovers everywhere! To quote Jim, "This is the best coconut custard pie I've ever had!" That's high praise. Anyone who knows Jim, knows he doesn't sugar coat his opinions.

Since I bought the raw cashews yesterday, I guess I've committed to the Nut Roast but I'm leaning towards including a the Butternut Squash and pasta dish I concocted suing the recipe from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook as well.

Tonight the kitchen will be filled with my cooking and Jim's tiling (there's some edges still left to finish!) Tomorrow my focus is on friends and family. I've never convinced anyone to give vegan food a try by discussing the dead carcass in the middle of the table. Instead I'll stick my usual plan of food that looks good (eye appeal is so important), smells good (the sense of smell really affects how we percieve taste) and tastes great (its a must, no so-so dishes on my holiday table).

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving is in Two Days

Jennifer over at Vegan Lunchbox posted her Thanksgiving menu and I think I'm going to use it or at least gather inspiration from it. I have all the ingredients except the frozen puff pastry which I can pick up on my way home from work tonight. Although, I still like the idea of a nut roast. Check out this link that Crystal sent me. Obviously, I've ruled nothing out.

Its funny, trying something new is a very me thing. Jim and the kids all want the Tofurky feast which I traditionally make the day after Thanksgiving. (Not to worry, this year is no exception!) They would all be perfectly happy if I made the Red Lentil Roast again to bring to my mom's. Who knows, maybe I still will.

I'll be making my pumpkin pie Wednesday night as well as experimenting with a vegan coconut custard pie recipe. If the coconut custard is a bomb it will stay home and no one will be the wiser. Raspberry Fig Bars are on the baking agenda as well.

We have a rather unique plan for Black Friday, which I'm already sick of hearing about. We're heading up to the Adirondacks Friday morning, as we always do. We spend the weekend listening to Christmas records and decorating for Christmas, which is fun but silly since we won't be back until New Year's. We also make our Christmas cards while we're there. This year we're adding a new element. On the way up to the Adirondacks we're hitting all our favorite thrift stores for a truly unusual Black Friday shopping event. We can't wait, although more than one person we know thinks we're a bit daffy.

I promise, tomorrow I'll have an actual Thanksgiving menu planned!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Its Monday Already!

Projects always take longer than you expect in the planning stages and the flooring project is no exception. I spent the weekend with my stove and refrigerator in the middle of the kitchen. Thankfully, they're back in place and all that's left to be done is the tiles around 2 edges of the kitchen and outside my son's bedroom door. Of course these are all the tricky cuts but at least the end is in sight. Jim and I are both pleased with the results so far. We have no regrets about not spending the extra money on laminate flooring.

Since my stove was out of commission for the weekend, I did some creative cooking on the two burner buffet range that I usually only use when canning. Its hard to justify take out for 6. After only a few meals, we'd spend the money we saved on flooring on food! The cooking discovery of the weekend was the Cast Iron Skillet Biscuits I made to go with one of my one pot creations.

The original recipe was from a book called Cast Iron Cooking and it called for cooking the biscuits in an inch of oil. Here's my version which uses the natural non-stick properties of my cast iron skillet.

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 heaping tsp of baking soda

Mix these together and cut in:
1/3 cup canola oil

Make a little well in the middle and pour in:
1 cup of soymilk whisked together with 2 tsp vinegar

Stir until dough comes together and then knead for about 15 strokes or until everything is combined and elastic. Heat cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Cut the dough into 30 equal sized pieces and roll them in your hand before flattening them slightly and adding them to the heated skillet. Let them cook 2-3 minutes on each side (watch carefully, you may need to adjust the heat to avoid burning.) Serve these hot plain or with a thin spread of margarine.

I discovered a frugal find this weekend at our local Walgreens. They have all Celestial Seasonings Teas on sale 2 for $2.99. Their selection isn't great but they do have a delicious holiday tea called Candy Cane Lane. I'm not a big fan of green tea even though I know it has wonderful antioxidant properties. In fact, I think it tastes yucky. Candy Cane Lane is the most delightful way to enjoy green tea that I've ever come across.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Freebies

PETA kids stocking stuffers

Simple Living Network Holiday Newsletter You have to scroll down a bit but there's a great article called Simple, Sustainable, Clutter-Free Gift Ideas Simplifying The Holidays as well as 10 Ways To Eat Organic On The Cheap

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I'm Totally Floored!

Actually, I wish I was totally floored; right now I'm just a bit torn up. I'm talking about the floor in my kitchen, hallway and living room. We've needed to replace the rugs and linoleum for quite a while and today the process of removing the old stuff began.

After much discussion and price checking we decided to put down a laminate wood floor. Just this morning we chickened out. Once we calculated the cost of covering the 500 square feet we needed to cover (about $1900) we checked out other options.

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that we'd have to cover such a large expanse of space at one time. Our solution is functional, decorative and much more economical. We've decided to put down self stick 18" x 18" tile through the hallway and kitchen. They have a lifetime warranty, the larger size will make the job move along quickly and, even though we'll have to put down a layer of thin plywood over then whole floor first, the cost is about 1/4 of what we were going to spend. Also if the dog decides to dig a hole in one of the tiles, as he did with the sheet of linoleum that had been in my kitchen, I can easily replace it.

We're going to leave the living room for after the holidays. We might put down carpet. We might put down a wood patterned self stick tile. We may even decide to put down the laminate wood flooring in there after all. No matter what we choose, I feel relief knowing that the price tag won't be as high and I won't have to pay it all at once.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving Meal Planning

Yesterday's mail came bearing gifts, The Vegan Lunchbox Cookbook has arrived! My kids have already begun to persue its pages. I'm sure lunch requests will follow, although lately my 14 year old just wants generic looking sandwiches. How boring!

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the hunt begins for that perfect recipe to bring to the family table. It has to be omnivore friendly, it has to travel and reheat well. We cook it at our house and reheat it at my mom's.

In the past I've done Tofurky in a crock pot and Red Lentil Roast with Gravy. I'm looking for something new. I can't bear the thought of being accused of eating "boring" food.

I'm leaning towards one of PETA's nut roast recipes. There are more of them in The Compassionate Cook. Check out a whole range of vegetarian holiday recipe options. I will definitely be making the pumpkin pie recipe that I posted last year. It was easy and gave extremely consistent results.

I'm planning to do a practice run of whatever main course I choose on Saturday. I think its important to do a practice run or you might take a real stinker to the party, like the horrible acorn squash recipe I tried last year. As vegetarians, like it or not, the pressure is on you to prove that your food is just as tasty as everyone elses. There's just too much bad PR to deal with if the dish isn't delicious.

I'll try to get all the other Thanksgiving posts organized under the "vegetarian holiday cooking label" in the next day or two.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

This recipe was posted Jennifer C. on the Healthy Vegetarian Crockpot Cooking yahoo group last week. It was very easy and very delicious. I've put my substitutions in parenthesis. As always, most of my substitutions are based on using what I have in the house rather than making a trip out to the store.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice

1 pound small red beans
1 tablespoon boullion (1 Tbs All Season Blend from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak)
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
Several dashes of hot sauce (I skipped this and let everyone add their own)
2-3 bay leaves
2 small onions
1 green bell pepper (finely shredded kale)
5-6 stalks celery (1 celeriac and some chopped collard stems)
2-3 cloves garlic
About 6-7 cups of water (I used boiling water because I was nervous the beans wouldn't cook up by dinner time).

Serve with:
fresh parsley, minced
prepared brown rice

Dice the veggies very finely. Throw everything into a pot and let it
simmer for several hours (or throw everything into a crockpot and let
it cook 7-8 hours). Once the beans are very tender, remove several
scoops of them and purée them to make a paste. Or just put them in a
bowl and mash the heck out of them. Stir them back into the pot. Serve with brown rice and fresh parsley.

I cooked this in the slow cooker and didn't bother to mash or puree the beans. The result was a yummy dinner with minimal effort. If you're wondering why I used kale in place of the pepper but collard stems in place of the celery, it was because I had already used the leaves from the collards in something else and the stems were just sitting their in the fridge. I also find that collard stems work best in a long cooking recipe since they tend to be tougher than kale stems.

Last night I discovered that one of the teenage girls I recently hired is a veggie also! Isn't that a happy coincidence.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Do You Have Any Unclaimed Funds?

I've always heard about unclaimed funds but never gave them any thought until I checked out New York Unclaimed Funds. This is the website for the comptroller of New York and all you have to do is input your name to see if you've got any money lying around. Naturally, I had none but my hubby did! We just have to have the form notarized before we send it in to be processed.

That was a pretty interesting, but unexpected, experience. I'd imagine other state comptrollers have similar websites as well. It certainly wouldn't hurt to look.

Its a gloomy looking day in New York. The kind of day you want to snuggle up with a blanket and a book. I'll be making some Lima Bean Minestrone Soup in the pressure cooker.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

There's Always More to Learn!

I've just begun reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Its a pretty graphic read for its time. The descriptions of the slaughterhouses read like the script of a PETA documentary.

I'm trying out a Cajun Beans and Rice recipe in the slow cooker today. If its a hit, I'll share the recipe.

In other news, I'm so aggravated. I got my free copy of the Environmental Risks of Breast Cancer a few days ago and one of the chemicals they list as a risk, paraben, is in nearly everything, deodorant, hair gel...even the Nature's Gate shampoo and conditioner that I've been buying for years! So the frugal veggie hunt begins for alternate, eco-friendly, non paraben containing products. I swear, if I can find user friendly recipes, I'm going to just start making my own. More on this later...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Pasta & White Beans with Chunky Cheezy Vegetable Sauce

I wandered into the kitchen last night with only the vaguest plan for dinner. In knew I had white beans already cooked and that was about it. I put a pot of water up to boil and took out my container of Instant Cheez-It dry sauce mix from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak. A plan was developing!

I mixed a double batch of the Instant Cheez-It sauce (1 cup of mix to 2 cups of water) and added a dash of olive oil to it. I put this over medium low heat, whisking every few minutes while I began chopping some very iffy looking tomatoes. I then chopped some roasted red peppers and a fairly huge amount of kale, saving the stems for another time. Once the Instant Cheez-It sauce began to thicken I tossed in the tomatoes, peppers and kale.

By this time the water had boiled and the pasta was already cooking. Just before the pasta was completely cooked I added the already cooked beans to the boiling water to heat them. Once the pasta was tender, I drained the bean/pasta mixture.

By then the cheez sauce was thick enough and the kale was wilted, so I mixed it into the pasta/bean mixture. The result was unbelievably good. No complaints about taking leftovers for lunch today!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Did You Remember to Vote?

If you didn't vote yet, there's still time so get out and do it. 'Nuff said.

I ended up making the leftover black beans and barley with the cornbread topping last night. It was just too convenient to pass up. I did find that I had to cook the whole thing longer than I would if I was simply making cornbread. It took 40 minutes to get the cornbread topping to cook completely. Jim wasn't thrilled with it but he had unwittingly taken the same thing for lunch. I think he was just bored because everyone else enjoyed it.

I forgot that I have to teach a class tonight and unfortunately I didn't set the slow cooker up as I intended. I'll be putting together a pasta and white bean dish of some sort before running out. I've been flipping through The Garden of Vegan for inspiration.

In other frugal news, I've been doing a great deal of mending recently, mostly missing buttons and split seams. Its been piling up for weeks. Its nice to see the pile diminish in size. Of course, with four kids there will always be more on the way.

Jim made a trip to the Salvation Army this morning to donate some of our useful clutter (useful to someone else, clutter to us). To regular readers we must seem like clutter magnets. Its one of the hazards of accepting hand-me-downs. Amy Dacyzyn talks about this in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. She mentions, if you're really picky about what you accept from people, they may stop offering you things and you may miss a real gem. A fairly regular trip to the thrift store to donate the excess seems a small price to pay.

With the weather getting colder, the days getting shorter and my goofy neighbor putting up Christmas lights already, the holidays are obviously on their way. Now's the time for a little frugal holiday planning. I'll begin sharing my holiday ideas later this week.

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Mini Bulk Cooking Spree

I've been itching to build on my first bulk cooking experience back in September but I've had trouble finding the block of time to do it. This weekend I did a smaller verison that should last the week.

I began by making 6 loaves of Barbara's bread. The results were once again spectacular. I should mention that this bread is a dream to mix in my bread bucket. It comes together into a ball beautifully and cleans the inside of the bread bucket in the interim. Like Barbara, I wind up using about 3 1/2 cups of whole wheat bread flour for each recipe.

I also made a huge batch of black beans and rice, actually I used barley. We had this for dinner Saturday along with salsa, guacamole and tortilla chips. The leftovers will be topped with cornbread batter for a meal later in the week.

I cooked up a big batch of white beans to use as the base for several meals during the week. Since the beans are already cooked, I can set them up in a recipe in the slow cooker the night before, refrigerate and then begin cooking in the morning. You need to have a slow cooker with a removable crock to do this.

Finally, I made 4 loaved of Apple Bread and a triple batch of my granola to use as breakfasts and snacks. I tried something new with my granola to cut down my use of sugar. I put 1 cup of date pieces into my Vita-Mix, covered them with water and pureed them. I added this to my granola recipe and cut the sugar from 3/4 per recipe down to 1/4 cup per recipe. That amount of dates is for the triple version of the recipe but you get the idea. The results were fabulous, no one detected the change and once I mentioned it, no one cared!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Leftover Casserole Creation

The weather is getting colder, it must be casserole time! I love casseroles because they are a great way to use up leftovers, they dirty only one pot and the heat of the oven warms the kitchen.

Earlier this week I combined leftover Vegan Sloppy Joe's with 2 large, uncooked, cubed sweet potatoes and put this mixture in a greased 9" x 12" baking pan. I topped this with some leftover mashed potatoes and a sprinle of paprika. I cooked it in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes, until the top was beginning to brown and the sweet potatoes were tender. I'd imagine you could cut your cooking time down if your sweet potatoes were already cooked.

The result was very much like a sheperds pie but with a tomato based gravy.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Freebies

Here are this Friday's links:

Yogi Tea Samples

Juicy Juice Sippy Cup

Free Gentle Thanksgiving Kit

Tomorrow I'll share my latest leftover creation.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Its Cold But the Garden Still Grows

Swiss chard and kale are just amazing. We've had a little frost and a lot of cold nights in the high 30's but still they grow, in containers! In theory they should die off quicker in containers because the soil cools more quickly but they didn't get the memo. I wonder how long I can keep them going?

After work today, we'll be upending the last of our potato barrels. I'm anxious to see how many pounds of potatoes we ended up producing. The challenge I've discovered is what to do with the dirt afterwards. From what I've read, using the same container soil 2 years in a row is not recommended because of the potential for pests to thrive in it. I believe crop rotation is important for regular gardens as well.

The Jerusalem Artichokes grew wonderfully as well. I'm planning on harvesting a few just to see what they taste like. My overall plan is to let them spread and take over the patch of garden I planted them in.

My herbs are all indoors and frankly the mint isn't happy. I've yet to find a spot it likes. Its dropping leaves like crazy. On the other hand, the sprig of sage that I rooted a few weeks back seems to be doing well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Vegan Sloppy Joes

The candles were a big Halloween hit at the gym, although one member did ask why we didn't do Tootsie Rolls instead. She wasn't unhappy with her candle, she just had a Tootsie Roll jones and needed a fix. Personally, I never liked Tootsie Rolls, give me real chocolate rather than rubber chocolate substitute any day.

The neighborhood goblins were happy with the chocolate and pretzels that we gave out. I let the girls take all their candy to school today. I just want it out of the house. One option for chocolate candy is to cut them into small, chip size pieces. Place these in the freezer and use them in place of chocolate chips in cookies. The results can be quite unique.

Take out restaurants must make a fortune on Halloween. I know I was the only person cooking in my neighborhood last night. I mentioned yesterday that I had an excess of produce in the fridge from last weeks CSA pick up. The majority of it was greens. I have a repertiore of strongly seasoned recipes that hold up well with the slightly bitter flavor that can accompany some greens. Last night rather than use beans, I opted to make Vegan Sloppy Joes.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe but my favorite is based on a recipe from Feed Your Family For $12.00 a Day by Rhonda Barfield. Here's the recipe:

In a heavy pot over medium heat combine:
1 Tbs olive oil
1 large onion or leek diced
1 large bunch of kale, chopped with stems or chopped celery, or beet greens, chopped with stems or collards chopped with stems or 1 large celeriac, peeled and chopped or any combination of the above.

Let this cook for about 3 minutes stirring frequently. If you've used a lot of leafy greens, cook them until they wilt down. Add in:

3 cups tvp
3 cups of boiling water
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
2-4 Tbs brown sugar (I started using 4, now I use 2)
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper

Stir to combine. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.

I love to serve this over bulgur.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

If you haven't checked out The Vegan Lunchbox today, do it now. As usual, Jennifer doesn't disappoint. I confess, I've bought her cookbook. There was no way to read her blog day after day and not want to have a copy for myself!

James sent me a really neat recipe link for Sandie's Menu. I haven't tried the recipes yet but the they look really intriguing.

Yesterday's Autumn Harvest Stew was very good despite the accidental overdose of thyme. The shaker cap fell of my dried thyme and about 1/4 cup of it went in. I was able to fish a good portion of it out but there was clearly more than planned in there. The flavors blended together nicely and it reminded me of the vegetable strudel we had at a get together Sunday, minus the excess thyme of course.

The vegetable strudel was a medley of vegetables including portabello mushrooms, which add something special to any dish, in a light gravy wrapped in phylo dough (at least I suspect it was phylo dough.) It was very good. I always enjoy having a meal out that I would never have time to assemble at home.

I did end up buying the little bags of pretzels to give out, as well as candy. At least if we wind up with leftovers, I can use the pretzels in my kids lunchboxes, guilt free.

Tonight's dinner is a mystery! I'm just throwing some dried beans in the slow cooker and deciding what to do with them when I get home. I don't feel very creative this morning. I've also got a fridge full of produce and a CSA pickup tonight. Yikes, I need to get cooking! I'll let you know how the mystery turns out tomorrow.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Tricks Just Frugal Treats

My schedule at work has definitely improved but not quite as much as I'd hoped. Oh well, such is the life of a manager. At least the gym doesn't have horrible hours overall or I'd be sunk.

One of the challenges I have at work is to constantly make my members feel special without spending too much money out of my own pocket or compromising my beliefs. I have to confess, I despise Halloween. I'm not sure if its the nutritionist, the vegan or the mother in me but I do hate Halloween. The whole thing seems like a shakedown to me.

That having been said, I'll be hitting the store tonight to grudgingly buy candy for neighborhood children, (although they have these little bags of pretzels that intrigue me). I've also heard of people giving out little toys, a la Oriental Trading Company, but that stuff can be such junk plus I never think of it soon enough to order. Never you fear, my kids do trick or treat. We have two 80's chicks, Batman and Harry Potter living at my house right now.

I wanted to do something special for the members of my gym as well. Lets face it, deep down we all want a treat, don't we? Snack foods after a workout seemed like a bad idea so I opted for an non-edible Halloween treat. I bought several boxes of votive candles in fall colors from the dollar store and put them in a large clear candy bowl with this poem:

Trick or Treat
Here's something that smells sweet
And you can't feel guilty
'Cause its nothing to eat!

I'll let you know on Wednesday what everyone thought of it.

For tonight's dinner I'll be trying Autumn Harvest Stew a recipe that Sally Parrot Ashbrook posted a few days back. I've also been making batch after batch of apple butter and freezing it. Unfortunately, my new job responsibilities coincided with canning season and I don't have the solid block of hours to dedicate to canning this fall.

Friday, October 27, 2006

News Flash

Jennifer over at The Vegan Lunchbox has just published her cookbook! She's currently offering free shipping, so for those of you who miss her daily lunches you might want to order one now.

Friday Freebies

I thought this was a fun idea so I'm doing it again. Enjoy!

Celestial Seasonings Tea Sample

Kashi Granola Bar

Organic Gardening Tips for the West Coast

Crocodile All-Natural Bug Discouragement by Dancing Roots

Kiss My Face Discount Link When you are done ordering, if you enter HOMEFRONT in the discount and promotion code box you'll get 20% off your order.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

CSA Decisions for 2007

There are so many decisions to make this time of year! Its time for us to sign up for next years shares at our CSA already. This year, we're thinking about joining a CSA in the Adirondacks for the summer and then joining our usual CSA for the fall. It won't necessarily save us money but it will save Jim some time, effort and aggravation next summer. In the long run it may save a bit of gas as well.

We've also discovered an interesting option to join a CSA for winter shares, which sounds very intriguing. Unfortunately, decisions on all of these things need to be made very soon or we will lose out on all of them. For those of you new to the CSA concept check out Local Harvest to learn more and to find a CSA near you.

We've participated in our local CSA for the past 5 years and I would highly recommend it to all my readers. For those of you who think you won't know what to do with all those unfamiliar veggies, there's no place like a CSA and no one better than a CSA member at share pick up time to help you figure that out. For those of you with kids, there is no greater way to motivate tentative taste buds than to let your kids be a part of harvesting at your local CSA.

My kids will eat it all from brussel sprouts to celeriac and everything you can imagine in between. I attribute this largely to our participation in the CSA and the weekly influx of all types of veggies.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

My Vegan Swedish Meatball Experiment

Just when you think things are letting up they get a little more complicated again. I've been unbelievably busy this week because Jim is working nights. Fortunately, my work schedule has eased up a bit. I even had some time to experiment with a recipe last night, although having been through two blissful weeks of having food on hand in the freezer, it wasn't as thrilling as I thought it might be. I'm definitely bulk cooking this weekend.

I tinkered with a recipe for Swedish Meatballs from Grandma's Wartime Kitchen. I'm not certain why this recipe intrigued me so but I'd wanted to try it for a long time. 5 out of 6 family members really enjoyed this. The 6th family member was neither thrilled nor disgusted about it.

My only complaint with the recipe was I thought there should be more sauce. This problem could easily be solved by doubling the sauce portion of the recipe. Here's my recipe:

3 cups TVP
3 cups boiling water
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp tamari
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs vegetable broth powder
1 cup bread crumbs
3 Tbs flaxseed meal whisked into 6 Tbs water

Grease a 9" x 12" pan and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Use a scoop to shape the mixture into about 24 balls and place them in the pan. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. They should be firm and a bit crispy on the outside. Remove from oven and let cool while you do the next step. Decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine the following in a small saucepan:
1 1/4 cup soymilk
2 Tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vegetable broth powder

Stir constantly over medium heat until thickened. Use a pancake turner to loosen the balls from the bottom of the pan and pour the sauce mixture over the top of the balls. Cover the pan with a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Barbara's Whole Wheat Bread is a Hit!

When Barbara mentioned that she had come up with a whole wheat bread recipe that had a soft crust I was intrigued. When she posted the recipe I had to try it and the results were just as she promised.

The bread has a fine texture, not as heavy as other home made whole wheat breads and it held together well. It is great in sandwiches, especially with peanut butter and jelly.

I used my bread bucket rather than an electric mixer but it was easy to mix. The only change I made was to substitute blackstrap molasses for honey. So go check out Barbara's recipe today.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Apple Butter Pancakes

All those apples we picked last weekend inpsired me to make some Overnight Crock Pot Apple Butter. I doubled the amount of cinnamon and nutmeg that I used last time and the results were delicious. I also pureed the cooked apples before turning the crock pot up to high since everyone prefers a smoother apple butter.

This morning I used some of that apple butter to make Apple Butter Pancakes. I was making a quick, before work breakfast for Jim so its a very small recipe but I don't see why you couldn't double, triple or even quadruple it.

Katie's Apple Butter Pancakes
1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup flax seed meal
1/3 cup crushed walnuts
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp brown sugar

1 cup apple butter
enough plain soymilk to make it the right consistency

Cook on a hot griddle. If you went a little heavy on the soymilk, you might want to cover the pancakes while cooking to help avoid gooey middles.

We rarely use syrup on our pancakes. Instead we'll either eat them as is or top with apple butter or other fruit. In most cases, it doesn't even occur to my kids that they should ask for syrup with pancakes. I think this is one of the best things about a largely unprocessed, vegetarian diet. Your taste buds are more open to the nuances of the flavors of foods rather than the things we add to them, like syrup.

With obesity on the rise, the last thing we need to give our kids is more sugary (calorie laden) foods. To those of you new to a veg lifestyle or unprocessed foods, never fear, taste buds do change over time.

BTW, I've begun archiving my older posts by topic so keep an eye on the topic list on the left side of my blog. I've started at the oldest posts and will work my way forward but with 448 posts, this could take some time! Along the way I'm also adding in some links that were missing from the original posts. I was a little slow at learning how to add links. I hope this makes my blog more user friendly for everyone.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Freebies

I thought it might be fun to share some freebies with you all today.

Living Green Book - A Practical Guide To Simple Sustainability. Courtesy of Garden of Life.

Free Greenies for your four legged friend

CD Environmental Risks and Breast Cancer from Vassar College in partnership with the Center for Environmental Oncology of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

Free wildlife calendar

On the food front, I tinkered with the Butternut Lasagna recipe from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook and came up with a delicious pasta dish, mainly because I wanted to make pasta for dinner but I had no tomato sauce. Here's what I did:

Put a pot of water up to boil for the pasta. While you are waiting for it to boil put the following in a blender or food processor:

3 cups cooked winter squash
3/4 cup plain soymilk
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs Bragg's Liquid Aminos
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Once this mixture is smooth, pour it into a pot and cook over low heat, stirring frequently. In a microwave safe bowl combine:

2 packages of aeseptic pack silken tofu
2 Tbs olive oil
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs cider vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder

Mash this together with a fork and microwave about 3 minutes (time will vary based on the age and power of your microwave.) By now the water should be boiling, so toss in the pasta. While you're waiting for the pasta to cook, heat a cast iron frying pan on medium heat and add 1 cup chopped walnuts. Stir this constantly until the walnuts are beginning to brown.

Once cooked, drain the pasta and toss in the walnuts. Serve by placing pasta on the dish first. Top with a generous portion of the winter squash mixture. Place a dollop or two of the tofu mixture on top of the winter squash mixture and enjoy.

This looks pretty and tastes amazing.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

One More Time in the Slow Cooker

Today should be the last of the truly, hellishly overscheduled days for quite a while. Today's fun events include a days worth of training for my job followed by a 30 minute window to pick up my daughters and rush them to their physical appointments. The joke, of course, is that I'll be rushing to get there on time knowing that I'll be sitting and waiting for quite a while once I get there. I'm planning to bring a cross stitch to work on while I wait. It makes the time pass.

I can't bear the thought of another crock pot meal tonight (I want some tender crisp veggies for a change!) so I will only cook black beans and barley in the slow cooker today. They will be ready for me to toss into a black bean, barley, chopped vegetable and vinagrette medley I've been concocting in my head. If it turns out well, I'll share the recipe.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Scheduling Insanity

Did you ever notice that right before your schedule eases up it has to get super crazy? Mine is no exception. Through a rare stroke of scheduling brilliance, I'm slated to work at the gym until 5pm and then do a fitness program at the Girl Scout Council, across town, from 5:30pm - 7:30pm. The only good news is the Girl Scout Council is 2 minutes from my house. Its another, slow cooker night.

For tonight, I'll be making a lentil & rice casserole inspired by the one in Miserly Moms by Jonni McCoy. I usually make this in the oven but it will work just as well in the slow cooker, although since I am using the slow cooker, I will use barley instead of rice. I prefer French lentils to regular lentils because they have less of a sandy texture and they maintain their shape through cooking. The original recipe doesn't call for vegetables, except onions, to be added. I always add in whatever I have on hand; root vegetables work very well. I skip the cheese that the original recipe calls for.

Click here to see my review of Jonni's book.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Money vs. Time

I guess for me it all comes down to quality of life. Right now, despite the extra money I've been making working extra hours, my lack of time at home is affecting the quality of all of our lives. There are tell tale signs everywhere. (The mountain of laundry is just the first clue.) Getting dinner on the table each night has been a real challenge as well. The slow cooker has been a life saver during this time and tonight I'll be relying on it again.

Since our CSA pickup is tonight, I'll be using the last of the veggies left over from last weeks pickup. That means the primary vegetable will be winter squash, although I do have a bit of daikon as well.

I'll start by tossing a bit of scallions and collard stems (already chopped and frozen from earlier in the season) into the slow cooker. Next, I'll add some of the winter squash that I cooked over the weekend. I might puree it if it seems too stringy (or I could wait and puree the whole thing after its cooked). Finally, I'll be adding dried split peas, water, some thyme and some vegetable broth powder. I'll set the whole thing cooking on high for now, because crunchy split peas are a bummer. When my daughters get home from school, I'll have them turn it down to low. (Another option is to boil the water before adding it to the slow cooker and cook the whole day on low.)

I accidentally forgot to call my daughter to put the slow cooker on low. As a result, there was no need to puree anything because both the split peas and the squash had gotten so soft. Simply stirring before serving was enough. I have to say the flavor of the squash really lent itself to the split pea soup. It was a big hit.

Monday, October 16, 2006

A Frugal Family Day

Yesterday we had a frugal family day. We headed over to High Falls for a trip to Mr Apples Low Spray Orchard, the kitschiest apple orchard you over did see. The apples were delicious, the people were friendly and the prices were reasonable.

Before leaving the house we packed a cooler with sandwiches and water for everyone. Once at the orchard we ate a ton of apples while we picked a ton more. It was so nice to be in a place where the apples weren't perfect looking (although they were perfect tasting!) but people shared our desire to be as organic as possible in their growing techniques.

Afterwards we walked along a trail that follows the old canal system and stumbled upon an antique sale. After perusing the antiques we headed into The New York Store , a local coffee shop which was very veg friendly. We left with coffee and kettle corn.

Even though they were low spray, they cost less than the traditional orchard we'd been going to for years. The kids had a great time tromping through the orchard. High Falls itself was a neat little town.

I'm delighted to report that my hours at work will be going back to normal next week and as a result my postings will be more regular as well.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Seitan in the Slow Cooker

I upgraded to Blogger Beta yesterday and so far so good. Its going to take me quite a bit of time to organize my posts by topic but I'll try to do a few each day. Keep an eye on the Label list right above the archives.

Courtney asked how I cook seitan in the slow cooker. The short answer is, never from scratch. I've tried over and over again to make it from scratch in the slow cooker using Robin Robertson's recipes in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker and I always end up with a rubbery mass. I don't know if its her recipe or if seitan from scratch just doesn't lend itself to the slow cooker experience. I may try the slow cooker again but using Isa's recipe this time.

Instead, I prefer to make seitan on the stove, let it cool (it makes the seitan firmer) and then cube it or slice it to use in the slow cooker. So when I made my concoction of seitan, quartered potatoes, cubed pumpkin and kale the other day, the seitan was already cooked. In fact, it was frozen (in its broth) and so was the cubed pumpkin. Both were cooked during my bulk cooking extravaganza.

I placed both the frozen pumpkin and the seitan into the slow cooker first and then filled in the spaces around them with the potatoes and kale. I added just enough water to cover the bottom of the slow cooker to prevent scorching while the broth was beginning to defrost. I placed the lid on and set the slow cooker on low for the day.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What Can You Do With Seitan?

Johanna wanted to know more about how I use seitan. It seems to me that you first have to find a good recipe for the seitan itself before you worry about how to use it. Isa Chandra Moskowitz provided that recipe in her awesome cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance. Luckily, she also posts it on her website. Honestly, if you use her recipe as a starting point, you can't go wrong.

Once the seitan has been cooked and cooled I use it in much the same way I use tofu. It works wonderfully in the Veggie Bacon Recipe, although mariniating it first is a must. This weekend we tried it as an addition to our potato scramble with very good results as well. Its great pan fried in barbeque sauce or other sauce (Like Isa's Jerk sauce.) You can also slice it thinly and use it in sandwiches with mustard. Truth be told, my daughters will both eat it right out of the cooking broth with no additional seasoning.

I'd like to try it simmered in tomato sauce as a meatball replacement but I haven't tried it yet. If anyone has, please share your results.

On another note, I've discovered that the search my blog archives function is not working as well as I'd hoped. If this blog is to be a really useful resource, I'm going to need to add an topic index. My quick perusal of leads me to believe I need to upgrade to blogger Beta to do this. Life is currently too busy for me to give this my full attention but know that changes are on the horizon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More Crockpot Cooking

Yesterday's crockpot concoction of seitan (with broth), quartered potatoes, cubed pumpkin and kale was so delicious that I decided to do a variation on it again.

Last night I put chickpeas in the slow cooker. In the morning I drained them and added the last of the broth from the seitan, chopped stems from collards and sliced fennel. I let this cook all day on low. Right before serving I added some uncooked whole wheat couscous to absorb some of the excess liquid. It was really delicious as well. I really like the flavor the fennel added.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

If I Were a Window, I'd Want to Be Dressed!

Despite my best intentions, a quirky laptop prevented me from posting this weekend. Sorry to everyone who checked in hoping for something new. We snuck away for a beautiful fall foliage weekend in the Adirondacks. It was also an opportunity to close things down there for the winter since the night time temperature was getting down into the 30's regularly. We spent a lot of time and energy snugging up last year at both places but it seems there's always more to be done.

We turned our attention to a large window over the kitchen sink that just has a swag over it. Down came the swag and up went a quickie curtain made out of a fleece blanket. We took another fleece blanket and thumbtacked it to the wall behind our regular curtains to cover another large window. (The curtains on this window didn't lend themselves to being lined with fleece permanently.) In the girls room, we slid a blanket between the window and the curtain rod and just folded it over the top of the rod. Finally there was the obligatory plasticing of our bedroom window.

Now some of these fixes are only practical because we don't live there full time. Thumbtacked blankets and blankets resting over curtain rods wouldn't last long in a house with four kids everyday. Clearly I would need to do something more permanent as mentioned in the link above. Whatever your method of choice, its time to get those windows covered to avoid heat loss.

BTW, lining the curtains at home, although time consuming, was a very worthwhile task. The only flaw I can see is the potential for moisture to develop between the curtain and the window. However, this is easily eliminated by opening the curtain daily when the sun is shining in.

I'm tossing the last of the seitan into the slow cooker along with potatoes and kale for tonight's dinner. The week looks pretty busy but I'm anxious to check out the bread recipe that Barbara posted on her blog Frugal Portland Living. Its whole wheat and sounds divine.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Links for Some Veg-Related Freebies

I recently got an email from with these links for free vegetarian and vegan information, recipes, and other free stuff. I've cut and pasted in the body of the email below. I've visited most but not all of these sites.
Free easy vegetarin and vegan recipes, tips on how to go vegan, health info you need to know and more.
Lots and lots of recipes, and more.
Learn more about how a plant-based diet benefits not only your health and the animals, but also workers, the environment and the entire planet.


Here are some more places online where you can order FREE vegetarian recipes, magazines and more:

FREE DVD with music videos and interviews from vegan bands, free stickers and more:

FREE CD-R of "Meet your Meat" Video:

FREE PETA Kids magazine subscription:

FREE Animal Comic books:

FREE Vegetarian Bumper Sticker:

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Applying Frugality

I work for a non-profit and I just took over as manager of our women's gym. The challenge is to promote the gym and increase membership with an advertising budget of zero. The frugal skills I use at home have been coming in handy at work these last few weeks. Here are a few examples:

Recycling: An event was planned but rained out leaving the gym with a huge amount of those Nike like backpacks stuffed with granola bars, water bottles and frisbees. They had the name of the event on them so they weren't really useful for future events. I brought a bunch over to the women's gym to use as giveaways when people sign up for our goal challenge program.

Stretching resources: We wanted to offer group cycling classes but there were only 10 cycles and they were at the main building. I reviewed class sign in sheets and discovered that the most cycles used at any one time was 6. As a result we were able to get 4 cycles at the women's gym and our program kicks off today!

Using What You Have on Hand: We got permission from the mall management to post fliers in the entranceway. I needed a flier and I needed it ASAP. I discovered a stash of old fliers that weren't worded the way I would have but would certainly get the job done. I got some breathing room and the fliers got out quickly.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Red Lentil Spread - Quick Change

In keeping with my bulk cooking trend, I made a quadruple batch of Russell's TVP this weekend. I also made a double batch of the Red Lentil Spread. Here's a different way to use the Red Lentil Spread that uses some of that TVP.

Cook about 1 1/2 cups of whole wheat couscous and spread it in a greased 9"x13" pan. Spread a layer of Russell's TVP over it and top with the Red Lentil Spread. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Serve with steamed greens or better yet, layer the greens into the pan before baking. This was just delicious.

Tonight we'll be having the last of the meals I made last weekend, White Beans with Tomatoes, although I think I can get two nights out of it. I just need to think up a creative way to use it the second night.

Monday, October 02, 2006

A Delightful Little Sandwich Spread

No time for a long post this morning, so I'll leave you with a little recipe I concocted this weekend.

Red Lentil Spread
1 cups dried red lentils
2-3 cups broth (I used leftover broth from making seitan last week.)

Cook until the red lentils are mush. Put into food processor and add:
1 large tomato
1 clove garlic
1 large roasted red pepper

Process until smooth. Serve on toasted bread or rolls. YUM!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Vegans Don't Just Eat Vegetables!!! A Succint Rant on the Idiocy of Preconceived Notions

I don't expect people to do culinary back flips for my family when we are invited to an event but is it too much to expect that at least some rational thought will be given to our food needs? Do people honestly think we only eat vegetables? I could go on for a few hours with this but I won't.

Instead, let me encourage all my non-veg readers to find a vegetarian they know and ask them questions about the way they eat. Ask them why they are veg, or if its boring to be veg, or if they only eat vegetables or if they miss meat, or what they could eat if you went out to a particular restaurant together. Ask them for a taste of their favorite food, if you like it ask them to share the recipe (you might be surprised, they don't all contain "weird" ingredients.) Ask them anything you were ever curious about, they won't bite(after all they are veg!) If you don't know any real live vegetarians, ask your question here.

With intelligent dialogue, we can dispel many of the myths and preconceived notions that surround vegetarianism and veganism but someone has to start the conversation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Few More Thoughts on Bulk Cooking

Annmarie had a great idea for lessening the load of bulk cooking if the kids aren't involved. She suggested doing it with a friend. That's definitely a win win idea.

I have to clarify a misconception about my families involvement in my first bulk cooking experiment. I wasn't actually ditched in the kitchen while everyone else was having a blast. The kids were less involved because I didn't have a clear picture of how they could best help me. Kids, even teenagers, need a lot of direction in the kitchen and I was too busy sorting out my own thoughts and continually trying to make a plan of action to give them adequate instructions. This should improve as I become clearer in what I need them to do.

Last night's chickpea dish was ok but not worth sharing. Dessert, on the other hand, more than made up for it. For each person, I took a small square of Dr Furhman's Carob Almond Fudge and topped it with the leftover soy ice cream cake. It was decadent but delicious!

Tonight, by popular demand, I'm making Isa's Jerk Seitan. Its so much easier to have the seitan premade rather than trying to make the seitan, marinade it and then cook it in the jerk sauce all in the same day.

You Want to Pay for Ripped Up Clothes?? - An Open Letter of Apology to My Mother

I confess, when designer jeans were the rage I wanted tight jeans not straight legs. When I watched Flashdance all those years ago, I wanted a sweatshirt with a ripped out neck like Jennifer Beals wore. When jeans with ripped knees were sold in stores, I wanted them too. In other words, when I was a teenager, I wanted to wear the current fashions. (Now, much to my daughters' chagrin, I wear whatever I want which is usually either jeans that actually cover my butt crack or gym clothes.)

I must have had a frugal streak even back then because I remember altering 4 pairs of my jeans by hand when I was in high school. I had quite a technique. I would pin them the way I thought I wanted them to be and then try them on inside out, with the pins in, to see if I got it right. Then I stitched each pant leg 4 times, by hand, because only death could be worse than splitting your pants in high school and my mom's sewing machine didn't work at the time. I don't remember riping up a sweatshirt but I probably did that too. I think I let the ripped knees in the jeans happen naturally but I can't be sure. In short, I drove my mother crazy.

Flash forward 15 or 20 years and my own little cherubs are driving me nuts too but generally in a frugal way as well. Leen just went scissor happy on a pair of jeans that were too tight around the knees. Her plan is to get a pair of leggings to wear under them so she can wear them in the winter. Besides, she tells me, she needs the leggings to wear under her denim skirt. (Help, help, I'm having an 80's flashback complete with Martha Quinn!) Tash and Leen both made Flashdance style sweatshirts a few months back as well. Since they are the "hand me down queens" from their very fashionable, college age aunt, they had no problem coming up with a sweatshirt to ravish. Sometimes they troll the thrift store just to find the perfect piece of clothing to revamp. They do a good job too.

So mom, I'm sorry that I made you crazy but I'm getting mine right now!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Bulk Cooking Four Days Later

I realize I forgot to mention a few things I made as part of my bulk cooking. Here they are:
a quadruple batch of granola
a quadruple batch of Isa's Fettucini Alfreda
a quadruple batch of Cold Thai Peanut Noodle Salad (although I subbed steamed kale for the cabbage and sprouts)

While the granola was part of my bulk plan, the pasta dishes were actually for some entertaining we did on Sunday.

So far I've been really pleased with how this has gone. Dinner has been on the table with much less rushing and, as a result, a greater variety of entrees. If there's a kink in the plan it seems to be our weekly CSA pickup which causes us not to have all the vegetables on hand to freeze completed meals. I've had to prep/cook veggies each night.

On the other hand, that's not necessarily a bad thing because of the potential nutrient losses that go along with cooking, freezing and reheating. Besides, I like most of my veggies crisp not limp and overcooked. Finally, veggie prep/cooking just doesn't take as long as measuring out a tsp of this and a tablespoon of that.

Here's a peek at what we've had for dinner so far:
Saturday: Red Lentil Loaf with Gravy and veggies
Sunday: Fettucini Alfreda/Cold Thai Peanut Noodles/Coleslaw made with vinagrette
Monday: Sunday's Leftovers (Hey, I had to work Monday night!) with steamed broccoli
Tuesday: Seitan simmered in salsa and black bean dip (leftover from Sunday) with sliced green peppers and salad
Tonight: I'm trying a new chickpea recipe in the crock pot that includes tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant. More on that tomorrow.

Another challenge I'm having is remembering to defrost things, like pumpkin bread or cinnamon raisin bread. I really should have taken a loaf of one or the other out last night but I forgot. This morning we had just enough for the first round of departures (Jim and the girls) but the boys had to leave enough time to sit down and have granola with raisins and soymilk.

Depite all the food I made, I don't think we'll get more than a week and a half out of it. I'm already putting together my plans for the next round of cooking.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

How to Impress Your Friends and Family With a Bundt Pan and Plastic Wrap

I know your intrigued but before we get to it, I just wanted to let everyone know the link for the Red Lentil Loaf recipe mentioned in yesterday's post is now working. I'll be talking more about my bulk cooking experience tomorrow as I see how my efforts are panning out but now on to today's topic.

You'll need:
2 quart containers (or the equivalent) of the soy or rice ice cream of your choice
1/2 package of Midel Chocolate Snaps
a bundt pan (although any pan will do, the bundt pan just looks fancy)
plastic wrap

Let the ince cream soften on the counter while you take the bundt pan and line it with plastic wrap. The ice cream needs to be soft but not watery. Press one whole container of ice cream into the bundt pan. You want to make sure you press it into the pan so it takes the shape of the pan.

Run the chocolate snaps through a food processor to make crumbs (or if you've had a particularly stressful day, put them in a doubled plastic bag and beat the into crumbs). Sprinkle the crumbs in an even layer on top of the ice cream that's already in the bundt pan.

Top with the remaining quart of ice cream, smoothing it out with a rubber spatula. Cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and place in the freezer until serving time.

Before serving turn the cake over onto a serving plate and remove the plastic wrap. Voila a very impressive looking ice cream cake with minimal effort.

Our favorite combination is So Delicious (formerly Soy Delicious) mint marble fudge and vanilla.

Monday, September 25, 2006

My First Foray Into Bulk Cooking

Margaret wanted to know my tvp recipe. As in the past, I have to give credit to Ruthie's hubby, Russell for opening my eyes to the wonders of tasty tvp. Check out this link for my version of it. If I don't have broth available, water works fine as well.

Bulk cooking was an eye opening experience for me. The first challenge I encountered was putting together a series of recipes that my family enjoyed that lent themselves to bulk cooking and freezing. There was that inevitable moment where I wished someone had invaded my thoughts and put together a magical vegan once a month cooking book for me. I think I did ok in spite of this.

The first thing I did was to replenish my staples a bit. Out came my copy of The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn. I put together her recipes for seasoned salt and taco seasoning. These are two spice mixes that are handy to have around. Isn't it easier to through in premixed taco seasoning than diddling around with tiny spice bottles as you frantically try to get dinner on the table?

I next grabbed The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook by Joanne Stepaniak and put together a double batch of her All Season Blend, which works well as a vegetable broth powder, and a quadruple batch of Instant Cheez-It dry sauce mix, which I've used both as a sauce and for grilled cheeze sandwiches (use less water for the grilled cheeze).

This prep work behind me, I moved on to the main event. Here's what I made:
6 loaves of cinnamon raison whole wheat bread
2 Red Lentil Loaves
2 batches of gravy to go with the lentil loaves
1 batch of White Beans, Tomatoes and Barley (this makes a huge amount, so no need to double.)
a quadruple batch of Isa's Homemade Seitan
4 loaves of pumpkin bread with walnuts
large batch of cooked chickpeas (unseasoned)
double batch of Dr Furhman's Almond Carob Fudge although I used cashew butter because I was out of almond butter.

Here's what I learned along the way. I need to know how many onions to cut, how much garlic to mince, how much (fill in the veggie of your choice) I need for all the recipes to make the whole process go smoother. I also need to have a flow of prep work into cooking so it doesn't take forever. Finally, I need the whole family more involved so I'm not alone in the kitchen talking to my wooden spoons so much of the day.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Just Chuck It In

Dinner tonight is a mix of the leftovers from the entire week tossed in the slow cooker. There's a bit of whole wheat couscous, Monday night's red lentil concoction, last night's chunky vegetable pasta sauce, some baked TVP, a few extra tomatoes that I chopped in. In a few moments I'm going to add in the Mac Uncheese that went horribly wrong (the pasta got tossed in before the uncheese sauce was ahisked together) to it. My plan is add some Cajun seasoning to it before serving but that will depend on the taste.

Clearing out the fridge clears the way for my foray into bulk cooking!

Its Alive!!

The symptoms of my dryers death were just that, death. I pushed the button and nothing happened. Jim had taken it apart and, seeing no other problems, figured it was the motor. We were ready to sell it for scrap but my father-in-law managed to bring it back from the dead. Its kind of spooky really. This is its second ressurection this year. I'm just thrilled that it works again. I don't even use it that much but its nice to be able to throw damp clothes in from the clothesline if you need to.

Since I'm only working for a short time today, I'm planning to get some recipes together for my own bulk cooking spree which will happen between tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Home, Home Is My Range

My new oven is finally here! Its nothing fancy but it works like a charm. I already baked a batch of scones in it. I went with a fairly basic model, not a ceramic top. The reason for this was not price, although the ceramic top ranges sure are pricey. My reason is actually because the majority of my pots and pans are cast iron and cast iron is not generally recommended for use on ceramic tops.

The main reasons seem to be that cookware used on a cermic top needs to be smooth on the bottom and cast iron cookware is commonly ridged and cast iron tends to scratch the ceramic burner surface. Here some links that discuss the pros and cons of using cast iron cookware on a ceramic cooktop:

I made an interesting observation a while back when I cleaned my old oven. It looked like it was going to be an awful job but it actually wiped clean with a wet cloth. It occured to me that because we are vegan, nothing ever really spatters around the oven the way a turkey or roast would. Its the burnt on grease that makes an oven horrible to clean. Knowing this, I almost went with an oven that didn't have a self cleaning feature.

In the end, it was my cast iron cookware that made me decide to go with a self cleaning oven. The reason is simple, a horribly cruddy cast iron piece that you find at a tag sale can be rehabilitated by running it through your oven on the self cleaning cycle and then reseasoning it. Since I have several pieces that were rehabilitated this way, I had to go with the self cleaning model.