Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Thermos Experiment

I'm all turned around this week. Jim's working a later shift and its throwing a monkey wrench into the works. Last night I made Mac Uncheese and added cooked lentils to make it a little heartier. It was a nice addition and everyone enjoyed it.

Before bed I put some red kidney beans into the slow cooker. Its such a great way to have the beans tender when you're ready to use them. I tried a little experiment with them. I filled Jim's 1 liter thermos about half way with the cooked beans, added a generous amount of cooked, shredded swiss chard, a tablespoon of vegetable broth powder, and some uncooked bulgur. I finished by filling the thermos with boiling water and shaking it to mix the ingredients. I'm curious to hear how it turned out when Jim gets home tonight. If it worked out well this offers me more lunch options not only for Jim but for the kids too.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Weekend Menus in Review

We had a great weekend snow tubing and hanging out with my sister and her boyfriend. My lack of lunch plans made no difference at all because we ended up eating a big brunch both Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday we had the tofu bacon, donut batter rolled out and filled with applesauce and cinnamon, toast, strawberry banana smoothie, orange juice and coffee. Nobody was hungry again until dinner which was quite the huge spread. We had pasta with sauce and tvp, cream of potato onion soup, bread and margarine, molasses cookies and an apple crisp like concoction that made use of the apple sauce that I opened but couldn't find a canning ring to close.

Sunday morning I made another batch of the tofu bacon, potato scramble which I added a little kale to for color, donut batter filled with homemade strawberry jelly and rolled up into a jelly roll, toast, orange juice and coffee.

We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the drive home, knowing dinner would be a little late Sunday night. Dinner last night was mystery soup. I dumped several containers of leftovers from the freezer into the pot along with some onions and garlic and hoped for the best while the leftover pasta heated in the oven. I made some quick drop biscuits with dill and onion powder to go along with it. I played around with the seasonings in the soup and dinner was pretty good. Whew!

Friday, January 27, 2006

I Still Don't Know What I'm Cooking for Lunch!

I've gotten down to the wire and I'm still not entirely sure what I'm cooking this weekend. Our crowd has dwindled a bit, it looks like we'll be having only two guests. The upside is its easier to cook for only two extra people. I was leaning toward chili with cornbread for Saturday's lunch, although I hate to serve two saucy meals in a row. Perhaps I'll go with Red Beans and rice instead.

I don't have to worry about lunch for guests on Sunday as they'll be leaving after breakfast. (Darn jobs getting in the way of the grownups having fun!)

If you're looking for frugal cooking ideas, go to the library and check out some wartime or early American cookbooks. I've already mentioned Grandma's Wartime Kitchen, but there are many others. Two nights ago I tried a recipe for Hot Water Cake from The Early American Cookbook by Hyla O'Connor. It was delicious and the ingredients couldn't have been simpler.

True the recipes aren't vegan and you'll have to do a bit of experimenting as you replace ingredients but these recipes seem to lend themselves to tinkering. Its also a real eye opener to see how people were able to make do in times of want without feeling deprived. I may try some of these this weekend.

There will be no posts this weekend but Monday morning I'll be back. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Veggie Bacon Recipe

I know I must have posted this before, but I can't find it in the archives. The original recipe is from the Compassionate Cook by PETA. The original recipe called for using only 1/2 pound of tofu but I've found that the amount of marinade is easily enough for 2 pounds of tofu.

Cut tofu into slices, you decide how thick or thin. Thinner slices will yield crispy "bacon" thicker slices yield chewy "bacon". Cut as much tofu as you need.

The Marinade:
1/2 cup tamari
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1 Tbs maple syrup

Whisk this all together and then ideally soak the tofu in the marinade overnight. I confess this rarely happens anymore, I just never remember. Even if you only soak it a half of an hour it still tastes good. Pan fry on a hot griddle until browned on both sides. I use a cast iron griddle.

This week I tried cooking this a new way. It always seems like so much of breakfast needs to be cooked on the griddle. I wanted to see if I could decrease my cooking time by using other cooking methods. I greased an 8 x 8 pan and placed the tofu in, pouring the marinade over each layer. You wind up running out of marinade this way so I just tipped the pan and drained the marinade back into my measuring cup each time I ran out. When all the tofu was in the pan, I poured the last of the marinade over the top and I popped it into a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes while I made pancakes on the griddle. The end result was pretty good. The edges of the top layer of tofu were crisp, the center tofu was chewy (how's that for a compromise?) and the marinade was completely absorbed. Best of all, I got to sit at the table with everyone before the meal was finished!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How a Bulk Food Order Becomes a Meal Plan

Yesterday was food pickup from our food cooperative. I wonder how odd my monthly grocery shopping would look to you? Here's a peek at this month's order:

50 pounds of whole wheat bread flour
20 pounds of soy flour
1 pound sesame seeds
10 pounds of nutritional yeast
66 pounds of whole wheat pasta (it was an incredible sale)
24 pounds of extra firm tofu
5 pounds baking powder
1 gallon castille soap
1 deodorant crystal

The challenge of living a simpler, more frugal life is to look at those ingredients and know what to do with them. Having a stocked pantry and freezer makes this easier. It also allows me to take advantage of monthly sales at our coop while limiting non-sale items.

How these giant bags of food fit into planning a menu for this weekend? Well, some of the tofu will become tofu bacon, its a house specialty. (It may be the only thing we make that everyone raves about.) To make the tofu bacon we also need the nutritional yeast.

Pasta is usually a pretty "safe" food to serve to non-veg guests. We'll be serving ours with home canned tomato basil sauce and TVP. My homemade sauce is runnier than storebought so the TVP does a nice job thickening and making the meal more substantial. This will be Saturday night's dinner.

Some of the bread flour and soy flour will be used to make the potato rolls, to enjoy with the pasta, and bread dough for next week. I'll make the bread dough today or Thursday and have it in the freezer. When we get home Sunday we can just defrost, bake and we'll have bread for the week without all the work.

The baking powder will be used in pancakes and quickbreads for breakfasts. It might also be used in baked desserts. You start to get the idea.

I'm still on the fence about lunches. I need to plan one for Saturday and one for Sunday. I'm leaning toward something that can be cooked in the slow cooker.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Cooking for a Snow Tubing Crowd

This weekend we're entertaining in the mountains. We're having a snow tubing weekend. My posts over the next few days will focus on the meal planning and pre-prep work that will minimize my costs and my time in the kitchen.

The challenges in this are that I'm not sure how many people I'll be having and for which meals they will be there. This means I need meals that can easily be stretched and that store well in the event of leftovers. Most of the guests are not vegetarian which presents its own unique set of challenges.

We're also planning a morning thrift store spree. My two favorite thrift stores are in the Adirondacks and now that Mary's been introduced the local thrift store, its time for her to see the best one in the state!

I've gotten the ball rolling by making several batches of donut dough and popping it in the freezer. The dough will do double duty as icepacks for the ride up. Check out the comments from Friday, January 20, 2006 for some tips on making the No Fry Donuts.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Trash or Treasure?

Its snowing in NY! The kids have no school and are all still snuggled in bed, except for one son who's upstairs attemping to pour me some coffee. The dog is nestled under my desk by my feet. Sometimes the simple things in life just make me smile.

Yesterday we spent a great deal of time cleaning and organizing. Its amazing how quickly messes grow! Our house tends to be the last resting place of unwanted goods before they are donated or thrown out. Family and friends alike, often give us things to see if we can use them. We've gotten some gems this way; housewares, furniture, clothing, and toys. We've also wound up with things that aren't useful to us like housewares, furniture, clothing and toys. Notice how the list is the same?

Amy Dacyzyn discusses this in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. To summarize her thoughts, you never know what treasures might come your way but you have to show that you are open to hand me downs and that might mean taking some junk along the way. Honestly, some of the things we love the most have been deemed "junk" by the givers. Our personal challenge is to go through these treasures in a more timely fashion.

To keep down on clutter and increase the likelihood that things actually make it to the donation spot, I've begun putting any bags of items to be donated on the front seat of my car. I see them, they bug me and I keep an eye out for a drop off bin in my travels. Gas is too expensive to make special trips. Freecycling or ecycling is another great option.

On the menu tonight, Peanut Soup (check the archives Wednesday, November 30, 2005)with black eyed peas and greens. I'll also be making some Overnight Apple Butter (check the archives Tuesday, October 11, 2005) for tomorrow morning. I'll be starting out with the apple sauce I canned in the fall.

To start with apple sauce, just pour it in your crock pot, rinse the jar out with a little water and pour that in too. Add the cinnamon and nutmeg and let it cook until it thickens. If you don't have a crock pot you can just cook it on the stove with very low heat.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

But Its a Bargain!

I've gone through the cupboards and I've poked through the freezer. My suspicions were right on target up to a point. I do have very little tomato sauce left, although I still have tomato and celery canned in tomato juice which will work in most chili recipes. As I suspected, I have a lot of applesauce. I'm planning to make some more apple butter and use it in place of the maple syrup I've run out of.
Since we normally only use pure maple syrup this will save us quite a bit and the kids all love it.

My search through the freezer revealed that there are still a great deal of greens in there but there were a few surprises. First, there is quite a bit of frozen strawberries, bananas and pumpkin/squash (I use them interchangeably). Those were the good surprises. Then there was the several containers of tahini.

The tahini dates back to my early days as a member of the food cooperative. I just looked back through my invoices and discovered that I bought 9 pounds of tahini on October 4, 2004 for $18.12. What a bargain, except that I still have at least half of it in the freezer. Aside from making hummus, the occassional batch of uncheese, or the rare occasion some sleepy lunchmaker mistakes it for peanut butter, its just going to sit there.

I dragged out the cookbooks, made a batch of Buffalo Mosterella from Joanne Stepaniak's Uncheese Cookbook and then tinkered around with the recipe for Tahini Sauce in The New McDougall Cookbook. The Buffalo Mosterella (a faux mozzerella) was very good, the tahini sauce was not. With the help of my daughter, Leen, we came up with a much tastier version simply by adding, mixing and tasting over and over again. Here's the recipe for anyone else who finds themselves with unwanted tahini.

Leen's Tahini Sauce
Combine all of the following in a blender:
1 cup tahini
3/4 cup water
1tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup ketchup
2 Tbs tamari
1/2 tsp seasoned salt

Whirl in blender until smooth. Scrape out with rubber scraper. Pour 1/4 cup water into blender and whirl to get most of residue off sides of jar. Pour this into tahini sauce and whisk together. We served this over pasta and green peas, first as a hot dish and then the following day as a leftover cold pasta salad type dish. It was extremely filling and quite good. If you find the sauce is lacking something, try an extra squirt or two of ketchup, it seems to be the magic ingredient.

Friday, January 20, 2006

A New Twist on the Red Lentil Roast

I got bored. Then I got creative. The next thing I knew, I was tinkering with the Red Lentil Roast recipe. I still like the original (its posted again in yesterday's comments) but this is just another loaf option.

Barbequed Red Lentil Roast
In a medium pot place:
2 large potatoes, chopped
enough water to just cover the potatoes (the exact measurement depends on the size of your potatoes)

3 cups uncooked red lentils
4 cups water
Simmer until soft and water is absorbed, about 25 minutes

In a seperate pan saute:
2 large chopped onions
3 cloves garlic
You can sautee in oil or water, your choice.

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar (although I think you might be able to use less)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp mustard (its supposed to be dry mustard but regular works fine in a pinch)
2 Tbs flax seed meal
1 cup oatmeal
2 tsp dried parsley

In a large bowl mix together potato lentil mixture, onion garlic mixture, and remaining ingredients. The mixture should be fairly thick. If it seems too soupy add a little more oatmeal. Spoon into greased 9x12 pan. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes or until crispy on top.

If you mix together a batch of your own barbeque sauce, you could either top it before baking for extra flavor or put it on the table at serving time.

I didn't forget the freezer/canning evaluation. I'm still working on it.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's Left? Evalutating the Canning and Freezing Efforts of this Past Year

Its January and although I'm perusing seed catalogs, growing season is a long way off. Now is a great time to see how much is left in the freezer and the cupboard. Will we make it to the end of May without buying veggies, frozen berries and applesauce? Am I using things evenly or is there a glut of something and too little of another thing?

I suspect that I've used a lot more tomato sauce than I intended. I also suspect that despite using a lot of greens, I haven't used them as much as I've used other veggies. Finally I keep forgetting about the applesauce and I think I need to use more than I have been.

Later today, I'll be investigating my suspicions and I'll let you know where we stand tomorrow.

On the menu tonight, Red Lentil Roast with gravy and mashed potatoes. There will be another veggie on the side but I won't know what until I investigate the freezer later today.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Oatmeal Pie

I mentioned this recipe a few days ago. It is from New Penny Pincher's Cookbook by Sophie Leavitt. This is one of the many cookbooks I've acquired over the years from library book sales. I'm a big fan of the bag or box days where you fill up for a set price, around here its usually $3. BTW, neatness counts when filling a bag or box. The neater you place those books (or clothes or whatever you're allowed to fill the bag with) in, the more you can fit in the bag or box.

My kids really loved this recipe. Naturally, I've changed it around a bit, but longtime readers already knew that. Don't let the name Oatmeal Pie fool you. Based on the amount of sugar in this recipe, it is a dessert, not a breakfast.

Oatmeal Pie
Whisk together:
3 Tbs flaxseed meal
1/3 cup water

Add in:
1-1 1/2 cups brown sugar (I used 1 cup but I can see that you might want it sweeter.)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Stir in:
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 Tbs water

Place this mixture into an unbaked pie shell. I didn't have one so I used enough unseasoned bread crumbs (saved from slicing my own bread) to cover the bottom of my pie plate and mixed them with 2 Tbs canola oil. Another option for the crust would be graham cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. My kids said it was better second day cold but ate it willingly enough right out of the oven.

BTW, non-vegans can use 3 eggs in place of the flaxseed meal/water mixture.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A Quick Hearty Sauce

We took the kids to the discount movie theater to see the Wallace & Grommit movie. Tickets are $2 per person anytime, so for $12 we all had a big treat. What a funny, well done movie.

Afterwards I made pasta with sauce along with leftover black bean soup for dinner. The sauce was especially simple and yummy. Here's the recipe.

1/2 can of black olives chopped small (put the rest in the fridge for another time)
4 cloves of garlic, minced

Put these in a pot and let simmer until garlic is tender but not browned or burned. Add a little water or juice from the olive can if it starts to burn.

Pour in:
1 quart of tomato puree
2 cups TVP
2 cups of water
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs Italian seasoning

You made need to add a little more water if it seems to dry. Let it simmer 10 minutes while your pasta cooks and enjoy! I know most recipes that call for TVP rehydrate it first but it seemed to work out fine without doing that in this recipe.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Gardening & Cooking

Its freezing in NY! I kept warm yesterday by watching the first of the Square Foot Gardening videos by Mel Bartholomew. I am really excited about giving his system a try. He relies on 4 foot by 4 foot raised beds. The beds are then further divided into 1 foot by 1 foot squares. Each of these squares contains one type of veggie. This fits in nicely with our plans to gradually create a garden at the cabin.

He saves his extra seeds by placing them in a glass jar in the fridge and claims they will last 5-10 years using this method. Can you get any more frugal than that? Now I just need to scrounge some boards to make the sides of my raised bed...

I've also been experimenting with the a cookbook from the 70's called New Penny Pincher's Cookbook by Sophie Leavitt. I made oatmeal pie last night and actually it was pretty good, a sort of low budget pecan pie. I'll share some of my more successful experiments over the next few days.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pizza Dough One Year Later

Here's bizarre little coincidence, it was on this date last year that I first posted our pizza dough recipe. Check out the archives to see how the recipe has evolved.

I make this dough in the bread bucket but you could easily use, a bread maker on a dough only setting or a mixer with a dough hook. The recipe makes two pounds of dough or enough for two thick or three thin crusts, depending on the size of your pizza pan. Since we're feeding 6 people, and they're getting hungrier every day, we use two large 11" x 17" cookie sheets.

2 Tbs olive oil
1 3/4 cup warm water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups whole wheat bread flour

Combine the olive oil, water, sugar, yeast and salt. Let sit until the yeast starts bubbling away. The most important lesson I've learned about using yeast is, let the yeast get active before adding the flour. Usually 15 minutes is plenty of time for the yeast to get bubbly.

Add three of the cups of whole wheat bread flour all at once. Gradually add the remaining flour as you are mixing, paying attention to the consistency of your dough. It should be elastic but not sticky. You may find you need a little more or a little less flour. Whatever you discover, make a note of it on your recipe so you know for next time.

Here's an important tip. Don't let your 13 yr old add the flour when she's trying to sneak a peek at the episode of Cyberchase that her brothers are watching. Depsite the educational aspects of the show, she will lose count.

I let the dough rise for about half an hour before rolling out but, like the recipe Shaunta mentioned in yesterday's comments, it works fine without any rising time.

If you're freezing the extra dough, get it in the freezer ASAP and check on it after an hour. You may find it has blown the cover off your container and needs to be punched down again.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Pizza, Frozen Dough and Double Duty With a Sticky Pot

This has been an incredibly long week. I think I like the snow days more than the kids do. We're going to celebrate Friday with homemade pizza. The key to keeping it frugal and sane is to make several batches of pizza douch at one time and freeze the extra in useable portions.

Useable portions is really the key here. A frozen blob of dough that makes 12 pizzas is not helpful to me, in fact its a source of aggravation. Three packages of frozen dough that will make four pizzas each is a godsend! You have to think about how much your family uses at one time and do your freezing based on that, no matter what you're freezing. Sounds simple but it took me a few years to figure that one out.

We're going to make southwestern pizza tonight by using black beans, salsa and cilantro as our topping. I'm going to peruse The Uncheese Cookbook for a possible cheesy topping but we may just use a sprinkle of nutritional yeast instead. (Store bought soy cheese is just too pricey.)

Tonight is game night with the kids. I may make a batch of the caramel popcorn from The Complete Tightwad Gazette. The kids love it, and so do I. I usually make a batch of granola before I make the popcorn because I can reuse the same huge pot (and then its just one gunky sticky pot to clean!) If I plan things right, I can have snacks and breakfasts already made for the early part of next week. I'll just have to make sure some of the popcorn is put away before the kids get home from school!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Introducing Mary to the Thrift Store

Yesterday, I introduced my sister, Mary, to "Family Day" at the Salvation Army thrift store. On Wednesdays, all but one tag color are 50% off. She got 3 pairs of jeans and a shirt for $11. Now she's hooked! Its really cool to watch someone experience thrift store prices for the first time.

I was able to pick up a beautiful winter jacket for my older son for $4. It won't fit hime for a year or two but he's hard on coats, so it pays to have a replacement in the wings.

On the food front, we're still enjoying vegetables that were either frozen or canned over the summer and fall. I think we may make it all the way to the first harvest from our CSA in June! (If you're not sure what a CSA is, check out The Robyn Van En Center to learn more or to find a CSA near you.

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is on hold at the library for me. Check out Mel's website for a plethora of frugal gardening info.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Vegetarian Slow Cooker Group Corrected Link

I accidentally posted the link to an inactive vegetarian crock pot list. I've corrected it in my earlier post. The correct link is below.

Healthy Vegetarian Crock Pot Cookery

I've also just been made aware of Vegan Crock Pot Cooking

Sorry for the confusion.

Refrigerator Potato Rolls

I was really pleased with these rolls. I believe the original recipe was from the Cornell Bread Book. I've made it vegan by eliminating the powdered milk and eggs and replacing the honey with blackstrap molasses. I also substitute flaxseed meal for the wheat germ in the original recipe. I just never have wheat germ in the house but I always have flaxseed meal.

Here's my version of the recipe:

Cut 3 medium potatoes into small cubes, leaving the skin on. Boil until tender. Drain, reserving potato water, and mash them adding in potato water as needed to get the right consistency. (If you don't like the "chunks" of potato skin, run it through a food processor.) Set this aside to cool

Place the following in your bread bucket or mixing bowl and mix to combine:
1 1/4 cup of the reserved potato water (this needs to have cooled to 105-115 degrees, it should feel warm, not hot. If it is too hot it will kill the yeast.)
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (this is the equivalent of 2 packages)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup blackstrap molasses
2 tsp salt

Let this mixture sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast begins to really bubble. Add in:
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 cup soy flour
5-6 cups of whole wheat bread flour

Mix until all ingredients are well blended and then knead lightly. (I used my bread bucket and stirred for about 5 minutes.) Place in an oiled bowl in the fridge for at least 5-6 hours. To bake shape into rolls, crescents, breadsticks, whatever you like. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. In a pinch you can skip the rising but your roll will be denser.

The general rule for baking this is 350 degrees for 20 minutes but you made need more or less time depending on how big your rolls are.

I was able to make four batches of 12 rolls from this dough.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Evolution of a Casserole

Last night I made a casserole of lentils, brown rice, TVP, carrots, bok choy, bulgur and cheeze sauce. The dish just evolved as I stood in the kitchen. I had put 2 cups of lentils, 2 cups of brown rice, 1 Tbs of olive oil (to prevent foaming) and 8 cups of water, into my pressure cooker because once again, dinnertime snuck up on me.

As I waited for it to come up to a boil, I mixed 2 cups of TVP, with about 4 cups of boiling water, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tsp of garlic powder, 4 Tbs of tamari and 1 packet of duck sauce that I found in the fridge.

Then I poked around the cabinets and found a cheeze sauce mix that I had made from Joanne Stepaniak's Uncheese Cookbook. I made a quadruple batch of that. Along the way I also defrosted carrots and bok choy in the microwave.

I greased two 9x13 pans and divided everything between the two pans and topped it all with the cheeze sauce. A little bulgur was sprinkled on top because I thought it seemed to liquidy. I baked it at 350 degrees for 20 minutes and boy did it taste good.

Monday, January 09, 2006

How to Say Thank You with Pasta, Peas, Potato Rolls & Leftover Sloppy Joe

Some days I just have trouble thinking it all through. Yesterday was one of those days. We left the house early to pick up a couch and recliner from my inlaws. Thanks to a rented a van and some borrowed some muscle from my brother-in-law, we got our "new" furniture in the house with relative ease. Unfortunately, during this flurry of activity, I forgot about planning something to eat.

Thanks to some quick thinking on Jim's part, I made peanut noodles with peas but it didn't seem like enough, especially for a guest who had just lugged a monsterous couch across the icy tundra that is my front yard. Thankfully, I still had some refrigerator potato roll dough which I quickly shaped into rolls. I put these near the wood stove to rise. I gave them barely 15 minutes before popping them into the oven. We also had some leftover vegan sloppy joe, which I warmed up to serve with the rolls. In the end, it looked like quite a spread.

Ironically, dinner snuck up on us as well. All the furniture moving sparked a cleaning frenzy and no one noticed the time until it was well after 6pm. I rummaged through the fridge and came up with small containers of Peanut soup and Sweet & Spicy Lentil Chili from the week. Tasha minced two cloves of garlic. Leen chopped one onion. I added one quart of carrots, frozen beet greens, the leftovers and a handful of bulgur. 15 minutes later, we had a pretty good soup along with toasted potato rolls and the remaining peanut noodles. Whew!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Your Money or Your Life

I finished the above mentioned book by Joe Dominguez two days ago. It was a very interesting read. Initially, the mind numbing attention to detail regarding past income seemed like a bit much but having read the whole book, it makes more sense. This attention to detail really isn't all that different from the price books that many of us already keep.

He wants you to look at where you've been financially, where you are financially and where you're going financially. He asks you to explore the expendidtures you make for your income (gas, clothes, lunches etc.) and then determine what your income really is.

His whole purpose is to help you pinpoint the moment where your investment income surpases your expenses, thereby making you financially independent. You'd really need to read the book yourself for a better explanation. Personally, I'm left pondering the whole experience of reading it for right now.

I made a big batch of granola for breakfast this morning. It was a nice change.
There will be no post tomorrow, I've got too much to do.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Sweet and Spicy Lentil Chili Review

I added a link to the Vegetarian Slow Cooker group to yesterday's post. Its a great resource for slow cooker recipes. The Sweet and Spicy Lentil Chili was delicious and so were the potato rolls. No one was thrilled with the greens (turnip and beet) that we had as a side dish but everyone agreed they prefered them on the side rather than added to the chili.

We made banana cookies for dessert from an old fashioned woodstove cookbook. The kids liked them but I thought they needed work. I suspect part of the problem lies in the fact that the recipe had no oven temp or cooking time. (It said cook in a moderate oven until lightly browned.) I made a double batch of batter so I'll be playing with that recipe a bit more later today.

Today's menu is still up in the air. Its Friday and I'd like to make it a fun menu, like pizza but I'm beginning to run low on sauce. I'm leaning toward vegetarian sloppy joes made with TVP served on the potato rolls. I made this last week from scratch for the first time and it was a big hit. A veggie soup would round things out nicely, and if I run it through the Vitamix, no one will complain about the greens.

Also on today's agenda, organizing the kids, their chores and our expectations. We had a family meeting last night and we have part two tonight.

Tomorrow, I'll give you my two cents on the Joe Dominguez book.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hand Me Down Jackpot!

Tke kids have a two hour delay today because of icy roads. Welcome to winter in the Hudson Valley. I don't teach on days with delayed or cancelled school. So far, I've only taught aerobics 2 days this week but I burned plenty of calories chipping ice off the driveway.

Yesterday, I taught my nutrition program at the preschool. We were learning about where flour comes from and how to make bread. In years past, I used an electric breadmaker, this year I used the old fashioned bread bucket exclusively. The kids got to sniff the ingredients (did you know yeast is stinky?) and do all the mixing. I've been doing this for 9 years and I've never gotten as many compliments on my program as I did yesterday.

I just found a recipe for Sweet and Spicy Lentil Chili from the Healthy Vegetarian Slow Cooker group I belong to. I'm going to give this a try for dinner tonight. I'm also planning to debut the refrigerator potato rolls.

Last night we visited my in-laws for dinner. They are in the middle of a huge purge. We left last night with 2 comforters, assorted games, a tracphone (I don't care about it but my daughters are thrilled), and a host of other things that I can't remember. In the next week or two, we'll be taking their couch and reclining rocking chair. Due to a lack of kids in their home, these are in much better shape than my newer couch and chairs.

The moral of that visit is:
It pays to make it known that you don't mind hand me downs!

Tomorrow I'll give my reviews of the chili and potato rolls.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

My Productive Day

Yesterday was extremely productive inside the house which almost makes up for the fact that we didn't finish clearing the snow/ice outside the house. Later this afternoon I've got to shovel the path and finish the driveway. (Who's idea was this really long driveway anyhow??)

With a little help from the kids, I packed away the Christmas decorations. I'm really not a scrooge but the tree was in the way. We baked 6 loaves of whole wheat bread, 4 loaves of cinnamon bread and I finally made a batch of refrigerator potato roll dough. I figured the bread bucket was already dirty, why not keep going! I've frozen some of it, hopefully for next week.

For dinner I made a split pea soup with Cajun Seasoning. Its a variation on a recipe from Nava Atlas' American Harvest Cookbook.

In a crock pot on high:
Spray bottom with cooking spray
Layer into crockpot:
2 chopped onion
2 cloves of minced garlic
5 diced potatoes (I leave the skin on)
2 bay leaves

Cook on high for 1/2 hour
Add in:
2 cups dried split peas
1 cup frozen corn (optiona)
Boiling water to cover (I go about an inch above the split peas/corn)

Cook on high 5-6 hours
During last 1/2 hour uncover and add 1 tsp Cajun Seasoning or more if you like it spicy.

It's really hearty and delicious. I didn't have corn so I used carrots that I'd canned this fall. They worked very well in the soup. BTW, it cooks well on stovetop too.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Breakfasts, Snacks and What I'm Reading

Last night, after driving home from the Adirondacks, I made four loaves of pumpkin bread to use as breakfasts for the week. Then I left the house to teach a class. When I returned, one loaf was almost gone. This my friends is why nothing lasts in our house. Someone is always hungry and whatever I've baked for breakfast makes a convenient snack as well.

Actually, I don't really mind. I'd rather have them eat something healthy than junk food. Although they'd have to go to someone elses house to find the junk food, so maybe that's not a bad idea either!

On today's agenda, baking some whole wheat bread, possibly baking some cinnamon bread and making some hearty soup for dinner. (Its snowing like crazy here and we've all got stuffy noses.) School has already been canceled for my kids, so I have some helpers. We might even get to make the pretzels my kids keep asking about. The bonus of all this cooking is it helps keeps the house nice and toasty.

We're really sticking to only using the woodstove for heat (except when we're away). We have a little more than a $600 credit balance with the oil company (we use the budget plan) and our oil tank is currently 3/4 full. We're aiming for a refund at the end of the season.

In the mania of the holidays, my pantry inventory sheets weren't really used and need to be updated. Unfortunately, same goes for the freezer. I'm hoping to get to it later this week.

I'm reading Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. Its very interesting so far.

Thanks to Ruthie and Shaunta, I've really gotten into Path to Freedoms's website

BTW, in the category of things I'm not thrilled with, what happened to Budget Living Magazine? Gone are the cool do it yourself projects and instead there are "bargain" $89 jeans. My renewal was only $5 last time and boy am I glad.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Free Entertainment Finds

Yesterday we watched a few hundred people take a Polar Plunge into Lake George. I'm told the air temperature was about 23 degrees and the water temperature was about 40 degrees. Depsite this, people came from as far away as Rio Dejanero to jump into the water. My kids were just thrilled by this. They couldn't believe what they were seeing, and frankly, neither could I! Does free entertainment get any better than this? It was well worth the drive.

We also discovered in our travels that a nearby park has free ice skating, snow tubing, cross country sking and snoeshowing. We usually spend $16/family member, $8.00/boy because they're 6 or younger, to go to a local ski resort to tube for 2 hours once a year. The notion of it being free was intriguing. We'd need to buy a snow tube for each child would it be worth the money?

A little online research revealed snow tubes for $13.99-$89.99. We're seriously considering tubes that are on sale for $13.99 with free shipping. In one use the tubes will almost pay for themselves. (The kids have agreed to use some of their Christmas money to purchase their own tubes.)

Here's the interesting thing, this free park is not advertised anywhere that I've seen. We stumbled upon it by turning at a sign that said "Recreation Area" with an arrow. Our neighbor who lives there year round didn't know about the park and she's lived there all her life. So keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll find.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year 2006!

A new year, filled with new opportunities, and new possibilities is here. Enjoy!