Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Keeping Cool in the Kitchen

Its been hot and muggy here so I thought I'd share some tips for keeping cool in the kitchen.

1. The most obvious tip, cook as little as possible. Go with fresh, raw fruits and veggies whenever possible.

2. Choose foods that cook quickly. (Lentils, couscous, and bulgur immediately come to mind)

3. Choose the cooking method that generates the least heat. Can you microwave it or cook it stove top? Would the toaster oven work just as well as the oven but generate less heat? Could you use a solar cooker?

4. If you do turn on the oven to make dinner, make it worthwhile. Cook extra for another day or make some muffins, bread or cookies at the same time.

5. Take your cooking outdoors. I'm not just talking about using the grill. Put your slow cooker out on your deck to prevent the kitchen from heating up. Use your pressure cooker on a single burner outside as well.

6. Plan your menus for the week around leftovers. If you make a big batch of beans and rice one day, dress it up differently and get a few different meals out of it.

Here's what we did last night. I made whole wheat couscous in one pot and cooked lentils with one large bay leaf in the pressure cooker. I served a scoop of couscous topped with a scoop of lentils and a salad of mixed greens over the top. Each person topped this with their favorite dressing, mine is maple mustard (this is really just vegan honey mustard dressing). The result was a nice contrast in textures and temperatures and the kitchen didn't get heated up.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend

CSA pickups officially start today! Outside of our monthly food coop order, our weekly food bill is mostly soymilk, fruit and veggies. Our food costs drop way down now thanks to the bounty from the CSA. For those of you still eeky about the idea of the weekly commitment and an initial cash outlay that a CSA requires, get to a local farmer's market! I discovered our CSA, years ago at a local farmer's market and then waited a few more years before making the commitment to join. Check out Local Harvest to find one near you.

I've enjoyed reading everyone's responses to the Memorial Day Weekend Challenge. (I'll be respondong to everyone's comments later today.) It seemed to me that everything on the radio this weekend revolved around sales of one kind or another. I heard several "buy now pay later" type ads. It just seems to me that no one is thinking about the "later" portion of that offer but I'll save that rant for another time.

We had a great long weekend just keeping it simple with the kids. We spent a lot of time biking and taking family walks. Biscuit, our lab mix liked the walks. I tried tying Biscuit to my bike so he could run a bit (I have no hope of ever running as fast as he does) but I really need something like walky dog because he kept crossing in front of the wheel. Aside from that, he really seemed to love the experience.

The boys, especially Am, enjoyed helping me tend my the blueberry bushes. He really has a love of gardening, even though he's still a little too rough for the job. My sister and her boyfriend gave him a pepper plant and eggplant plant for his birthday and he dotes on them like they were children. He's also fascinated by the potatoes growing in the garbage cans. Quite frankly, I am too.

We also went canoeing and the kids even went swimming. I only went in up to my ankles because although the air was warm, the water was really cold! The girls and our neighbor's daughter also embarked on that age old past time, building a clubhouse. The boys were just having the greatest time alternating between outdoor activities. All around us families were just enjoying being outdoors in the warm weather. This summer turn off those video games and get outside while the sun is shining. Save the indoor stuff for after dark or rainy days!

We did end up doing a bit of shopping on Friday. Despite my best efforts, you just don't find men's jeans in thrift stores and even if you do find jeans, you'll never find them in Jim's size. So on the way up to the Adirondacks, we headed to the factory outlet to buy jeans for Jim but that was all we bought. Sometimes you need to shop as if you had blinders on to maintain your thrifty lifestyle.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend Challenge

I'll be offline for the weekend but I thought I'd leave you with a challenge. Do something new and frugal this weekend. Here are some ideas but feel free to come up with your own.

• Make the side dish that you’re supposed to bring to the family BBQ instead
of buying it
• Skip the sales at the mall and go yard saling instead
• Make a plan for teachers’ end of year gifts so you’re not running out at the
last minute
• Do some vegetable gardening
• Start a project that you’ve been meaning to start
• Find a local farmer’s market

Share you're adventures with us. Have a great weekend!

The Vegan Elementary School Birthday Celebration

I always have angst when I bring food to my kids' classes. I always feel like vegans/vegetarians can't send in a less than amazing treat or people will turn their noses up. Tuesday evening found me biting my lip while searching for the perfect treat. Just to make it interesting, several kids in the class have allergies to chocolate and peanuts. What's a frugal veggie mama to do??

Ameleii asked for molasses cookies. He just loves these, in fact, we all do. Here's the original recipe is from Vegweb. Naturally, I made a few changes. Here's my version:

Molasses Cookies
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoon flaxseed meal
2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together brown sugar, oil, molasses, and flaxseed meal in a large bowl. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.

Make tablespoon sized balls of dough. Then place 1-2 inches apart on ungreased sheet.

Bake for 13 to 16 minutes or until set (appears dry). Let cool for 1 to 2 minutes and place on wire rack or a plate is fine as well.

I didn't think they'd be a hit but everyone raved about them. Am's teacher asked for the recipe and made photocopies for everyone who wanted a copy.

Am also requested that I make something with carob chips for the people who can't have chocolate. Carob chips make me nervous, they look too much like chocolate but truly have a unique taste that is clearly not chocolate. More lip biting followed this request.

I turned to Simple Treats by Ellen Abraham. This is just the most amazing dessert cookbook I've ever encountered. If anyone could pull this off, she could. I'd made her recipe for Chocolate Chip Loaf before and decided to give it a try with the carob chips. The results were amazing! Not a crumb of this cake was left in the container when it came home.

Whew, success can be so exhausting!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Frugal But Not Second Rate

A few days ago I mentioned the jeans quilt that I was making for my sons. Yesterday, I was able to get a great deal done on the first one. I used the sewing machine all by myself, no tutorial required. My 7th grade home ec teacher would be proud, or maybe just shocked.

The first one is for my oldest son who turned 7 yesterday. About 1/3 of the squares are already sewn together, so he was able to envision what the finished product would look like. He was really thrilled, especially because I left pockets on some of the squares. He's planning to use them for secret storage.

When dealing with kids, I think one of the secrets to a project like this or any frugal project for that matter, is to to make sure the final product doesn't look second rate. The few extra minutes it takes to measure or rip out a seam you messed up are well worth the effort.

That having been said, I don't have a lot of time in my world for perfection, so I use a few shortcuts to make it look like I'm more talented than I actually am. With the denim quilt, I'm staggering the squares so no one can tell if they aren't perfectly even. I'm also knotting the quilt which will make any slightly irregular squares blend in because the knot causes the fabric to pucker anyway.

It helps that this is not the first quilt I've made. I've definitely gotten better over time. Still, I don't think I'd win any awards for my skills but what I've done so far has been very functional. All of my quilts wash beautifully, they keep you warm, and they were a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a new one. What more can a mom of four ask for?

For those of you who are intrigued but have never tried sewing before, the only cure for being new at something is to get right in there and try. Take a few books out of the library, talk to friends who sew or just try to recall those seventh grade home ec classes. Once you understand the basics, you take that info and make it relevant to your own project and before you know it, you're a frugal sewing whiz!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Harmonias Midweek Munchies Meme

Midweek Munchies: What Katie is contributing for the week

I've always liked this feature on Harmonia's blog but shopping once a month at a food cooperative, I rarely participate. Here's a peek at the food I bought for my monthly shopping trip:


The giant blanks in this shopping picture will be filled in by what's already in the cabinets and by our weekly CSA pickups. These are just the staples.

Links to other Midweek Munchies
(If you participate, leave your link in the comments and I'll post it below; or, you can post in the comments)

Click here for the Midweek Munchies code
Click here for Harmonia's blog

Trackbacks, pings, and comment links are accepted and encouraged!
Technorati Tag:

A special thanks to Running2Ks and Rift for all of their help with coding, graphics, and encouragement for this project.

PURPOSE of Midweek Munchies: Put together by a small group of Veg Women, we hope to spread the word about healthy vegetarianism while obtaining idea starters for meals, recipes, learn about new products, and meet other female veg*n bloggers. Visiting and commenting on other participants lists are encouraged but not required. Have fun and Go Veg!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Spring Frosts & Bulk Cooking Resources

There was a threat of frost last night. We ended up tossing a drop cloth over the plants in containers, just in case. I didn't have to worry about smashing the plants because they are all covered by milk crates to protect them from our cats. (All the world is their potty!) The drop cloth rested nicely on top. As for the potatoes, I just put the lids on the garbage cans. I don't think it actually got down to freezing but it sure came close!

Here's an interesting resource for anyone interested in vegetarian once a month cooking. It was mentioned on the Vegetarian Group a few days ago. Some of the recipes use a fair amount of dairy products but overall I like the concept. Its a spring board for your own ideas.

Now I'm off to start sewing the first of the denim summer quilts. Hopefully, I can get the sewing machine working without waiting for my 13 year old to show me again.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Spring Greens

Our CSA had its member orientation on Saturday, as well as a bonus distribution of fresh veggies! What a thrill it was to go home with two bagfuls of fresh greens!

Saturday night, I made a Chinese stir fry. I cut tofu into cubes and marinated it in mixture of tamari, garlic, ginger, white wine vinegar(it really should have been rice wine vinegar but I ran out) and toasted sesame oil. After about an hour I baked the tofu in a 400 degree oven reserving the marinade for later. I baked it about a half hour.

While that was cooking in the oven, I chopped up onions, carrots and bok choy. I stir fried these, adding the bok choy last because it cooks the quickest. I added in some precooked brown rice and poured the remaining marinade over this. I served this with the marinated tofu and Oriental Cilantro Slaw from The Complete Vegetarian Kitchen by Lorna Sass.

On the gardening at home front, all the rain in NY has agreed with my plants. My garbage can potato garden is growing nicely. They took so long to sprout that I wasn't sure they actually would grow at all. The Jerusalem Artichokes are growing beautifully as well. As for the currant bushes, no one told them that they should be in shock from being transplanted. They are just thriving.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Guestbook

I just added a guestbook to the blog. The link is right under my profile link on the left. You don't know how much courage I had to muster up to tinker in the code! Take a moment to stop by and say hello.

Vegan Banana Blender Ice Cream

I made this little concoction with my youngest son last night. My blender is a Vita-Mix but any high powered blender should work. (Actually, any blender with an ice chopping function should work but I'm not certain how the final texture will be. I always managed to burn out the motors on regular blenders making concoctions like this one.)

Place 3 dried unsweetened, unsulphured pineapple rings and one pitted date in a blender. Pour in 1 cup of boiling water and let the pineapple rings and date soak until the water has cooled. Blend to puree the date and pineapple rings.

Add four frozen bananas and 3 cups vanilla soymilk. Blend until combined. It should have a slushy consistency. If its too watery you can drink it like a smoothie or add some ice and blend a bit more to thicken.

Its reminiscent of a Pina Colada. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Bike, a Blanket and Other Tales of Frugal Kids

I've been talking so much about food lately that I haven't shared some of the other frugal things I've been up to. Here are a few updates about frugal things going on with my kids. For any new readers, my kids are 5, 7, 13 and 14.

Update #1
My youngest son grew like a weed over the winter. When he tried to ride his bike this spring, it looked like a circus act. When he tried to pedal, his knees were higher than the handle bars. Clearly, it was time for a new bike.

My intention had been to hit the local thrift stores. This time of year bikes are plentiful. I hadn't yet gotten around to it when a 16 inch boy's bike turned up on my local ecycle list. All it needed was some air in the tires and the training wheels reattached. Fifteen minutes after I got it home, my son was zooming around the driveway with glee.

The moral of the story is, if your child needs a larger bike he can be happy with a bike that's new to him rather than brand new.

Update #2
Both of my son's need some sort of spring weight blanket for their beds because the quilts they use in the winter are just too warm, as are the blankets that I crocheted for them. I've been using two huge beach blankets while I try to figure out a solution.

I thought about buying cotton blankets but I was looking for a more creative solution. Besides, those cotton blankets never seem to hold their shape. Then I remembered a pile of worn out jeans that I had saved from the garbage. I had originally thought to use them in a braided jeans rug but I already have plenty of material for that.

Instead, I've begun to cut the jeans into rectangles which I'll use to make a summer weight quilt. Basically, it will be patchwork denim on one side and a solid bedsheet on the other. To avoid making it too heavy, I won't put any batting in between the layers. I already have extra bedsheets and enough embroidery floss to knot a quilt a day for the next 25 years.

My 13 year old daughter just stumbled upon me cutting the jeans up yesterday and asked what I was doing. When I told her, she asked if I would make her one too.

The moral of the story is, even teenage girls who are very concerned about their position in society like things that are handmade.

Update #3
Over the last few days all the kids have helped us working in the yard. For the most part, the girls have been weeding with me and the boys have been carting the weeds off to the compost bin. Was it a thrill or an especially good time? Not really but it all needs to be done.

The girls were given the opportunity to take on two of the more hideous areas themselves to earn a little extra money. They both welcomed the chance. Tasha has already completed her first section and is planning to do another section to make a little more cash.

The moral of the story is, if everyone does a little bit the really yucky jobs are finished more quickly. This moral is also known as the "mom and dad are not the maid and janitor clause." It also has the benefit of teaching the kids, in a very real way, that you have to work to earn your money.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Holy Baked Carob Cruellers Batman!

My son wanted to help make dessert last night and I was feeling adventerous. We decided to try a recipe from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook. We tried making Baked Carob Crullers.

I have to admit, it didn't sound promising to me. In my pre-veg, pre-nutritionist, pre-fitness instructor days, I dabbled in crullers. Glazed crullers, French crullers, unglazed crullers; I loved them all. Boy was I surprised!

We sprinkled cinnamon sugar on some and unsweetened, shredded coconut on the rest. The results were light and reminiscent of the crullers I remember, without the burps and heartburn that usually followed.

Second day softness can be a problem with baked items like this so I was apprehensive when I tasted one this morning. I was delighted to discover they still tasted fresh and soft. This recipe is a keeper.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My Version of Chef Alex's Roasted Vegetable & Quinoa Salad

I was given the DVD Supersize Me for Mother's Day. It included the recipes for the "Last Supper" Morgan had before going on his 30 day fast food binge. The recipes, all from vegan chef Alexandra Jamieson, looked interesting.

I made a variation on her Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad last night. Her original recipe called for beets, sweet potatoes, onions, brussel sprouts and cauliflower. Last night, my pantry did not include that variety so I just used sweet potatoes and onions. Per the original recipe, I cut the sweet potatoes into one inch cubes and sliced the onions into large rings. Actually, I cut the onions in half first, so they really looked more like rainbows. Since I wanted this to be a main dish, I also added cubed tofu.

The original recipe called for whisking together 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil, 2 tsp soy sauce and pepper to taste. I skipped the pepper and let everyone add it themselves. This mixture was poured over the veggies/tofu and tossed to coat. The vegetable mixture is placed on a cookie sheet and baked at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and then tossed with cooked quinoa.

I've really grown to love quinoa. The shape reminds me of the noodles from Lipton Giggle Noodle Soup. Who remembers that from their childhood? As Alex points out in the recipe handout, quinoa is high in protein and calcium. It also has a bit of iron too. Its also a nice change from brown rice.

I really liked this and so did the kids. Jim thought it was a little bland but he's working nights this week and I think it makes his taste buds cranky. I've just requested Alex Jamieson's book, The Great American Detox Diet from my library. I'm curious to see what she has to say.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dr. Furhman's Almond Carob Fudge Recipe

I've gotten permission to post Dr. Joel Furhman's Almond Carob Fudge recipe from his book Disease-Proof Your Child. Check out his website for a myriad of eye opening information on diet and health. Special thanks to Cindy in Dr. Furhman's customer service department for her prompt response to my email request.

Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup dates
1/4 cup soymilk
1 cup raw almond butter
1/2 cup raw carob powder
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 tsp vanilla extract

Chop dates and soak in soymilk over night to soften. Mash all ingredients together in glass dish. (We employed a potato masher to help with this.) Chill before serving. Serves four.

I must confess, I made one minor change to the recipe. I used vanilla soymilk and omitted the vanilla extract. Vanilla extract is so expensive!

My kids loved this recipe and it held together really well making it perfect for the lunch box. I especially loved that it was a healthy, vegan dessert option.

There's still some debate raging her over Friday's bread experiment. I'll be making another batch or two before I post the recipe.

Happy belated Mother's Day to all the moms who stop by and thanks to all who sent me Mother's Day wishes.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Fabulous Fudge!

We tried another recipe from Dr Joel Furhman's Disease Proof Your Child. This time it was Almond Carob Fudge and what a treat it was. Ok, its not like Ruthie & Russell's amazing fudge recipe but its very good in a less rich, guilt free way. Unfortunately, its not currently posted on his website but I'm hoping it will be in the near future. In the mean time, go check out his book from the library!

I tried a new, very simple, no-knead bread recipe last night. It rose like crazy and ended up overflowing the pans. What a stinky mess that was. I'll need to split the recipe between two pans next time. Aside from that, the bread baked up beautifully. The kids and Jim have all gone off with orders to report back on the quality of the bread. If its positive, I'll share the recipe on Monday.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Review of the Couscous Cereal

This morning I made Breakfast Couscous and it was delicious. It was a bit sweet so I'll probably cut the amount of brown sugar in half for next time but other than that no complaints from me.

The boys were the only other ones to sample it this morning. Am loved it. Kyle liked everything except the cranberries. He especially liked the raisins. I think the trouble with the cranberries was they were they were unsweetened ones from Just Tomatoes. These are great if you're looking for dried cranberries with no added oil or sugars. If you're used to dried sweetened cranberries, you might be in for a shock. I think almost any dried fruit would be delightful in this.

I wasn't sure if this recipe was one or two servings, I suspect it was two, but my kids devoured a whole recipe each and I did too. (Does that make me a pig??) I set out three bowls on the counter and mixed the dry ingredients right into each bowl. Then I added the boiling water from the kettle and mixed it around. Finally, I added the soymilk, gave a final stir and put a cake plate on top of each bowl to keep the heat in. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and then everyone got to uncover their own cereal. I think they may have liked the experience of uncovering their own personal serving almost as much as they liked the cereal.

If you're not a regular reader of the Vegan Lunch Box, check out the Cheese Sticks entry. Isn't Jennifer just the most creative person you've ever encountered? I can't wait to try something like this for my kids.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An Unusual Chili

I've heard about hominy but never seen it before. Yesterday, after stumbling on huge cans for $1.00, I decided to give it a try. Using the Hominy & Red Bean Chili recipe from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson as a guide, I concocted last night's dinner.

Despite the source of the original recipe, I didn't use the slow cooker. I actually used the pressure cooker. Since I was pressed for time, I opted to use black eyed peas which take only 6-8 minutes in a pressure cooker on high. Unsoaked red beans can take up to 30 minutes to cook and I didn't have that much time to spare.

Place the following into your pressure cooker:
1 Tbs olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
6 large carrots, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced

Let these cook over med high heat, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add:
3 cups dried black eyed peas
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp celery seeds
1 tsp cumin
dash of allspice
1 can jalapeno wheels (optional)
6 cups water

If using a pressure cooker, lock your lid in place and bring to high pressure for 8 minutes. Let pressure release naturally. If using regular pot, cover and cook until beans are tender. Add:

1 large can hominy, rinsed and drained
1 jar of mild salsa (chopped tomatoes would work if you wanted a less spicy dish)
1 cup whole wheat couscous (The purpose of the couscous was to absorb the excess liquid in the dish. You may need to use more or less depending on how soupy you want this to be.)

Let this heat through and allow the couscous to absorb the liquid, about 2 minutes. Serve and enjoy! This was a big hit. The hominy added an unusual, chewy texture that was really appealing.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Versatile Muffin Recipe

Back in April, I first attempted the peanut butter and jelly muffin. The results were good but a little oily. Last night I made the ultimate peanut butter and jelly muffin as well as a delightful cinnamon raisin nut muffin all from the same mix. It wasn't oily and had a lovely texture. What is this witchcraft, you ask? Actually, its quite easy. Here's how.

Basic Whole Grain Muffin Mix
6 cups rye flour
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
4 cups soymilk
1/2 cup flaxseed meal whisked into 1 cup water
2 cups canola oil
1/4 cup white vinegar

Combine all dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry, stirring until just combined. Grease 2 muffin tins. This next part is going to sound complicated but its really not. Just stick with me and it will all make sense.

I use a number 24 scoop, which is equal to 2 2/3 Tbs, to meaure out how much batter to put into each muffin tin. I don't quite fill the scoop. If you don't have a scoop just put about 2 Tbs into the bottom of each muffin tin and you should be fine. Just a little side bar about scoops, they make many kitchen tasks easier. I use them to make equal size pancakes, cookies, muffins and much more. Now back to the muffin recipe. Once you've placed the batter into the botttom of the muffin tins, use a small rubber scraper to make sure the bottom of the tins are covered with batter.

For Peanut Butter & Jelly Muffins
Add to each:
2 tsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp jelly

Top each with about 2 Tbs more batter. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For Cinnamon Raisin Nut Muffins
Add to each:
about 8 raisins
1 tsp sunflower seeds

Top each with about 2 Tbs more batter. Sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top of each muffin. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

This recipe made a total of 3 dozen muffins; 2 dozen Peanut Butter and Jelly and 1 dozen Cinnamon Raisin Nut. As of this moment, there are 2 Peanut Butter & Jelly muffins and 2 Cinnamon Raisin Nut muffins left.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A Frugal Veggie Foul Up

Sometimes you just screw up, plain and simple. I think admitting that you were wrong is sometimes harder than fixing the problem. Here's my story, which includes an explanation of the 28 holes that had to be dug, as well as the reasons for redigging an additional 13 holes.

Longtime readers know that we planted currant bushes last fall. We chose currants because they tolerate partial shade and don't mind acidic soil. They are also very cold hardy. It also turns out that they are illegal to plant in certain counties in upstate NY because they can transmit White Pine Blister Rust. It turns out our little currant bushes were outlaws in their Adirondack home. Fortunately, they are perfectly legal in our Hudson Valley home, hence the need for the 28 holes to be dug.

In place of the currants, we planted 13 blueberry bushes, hence the need for 13 holes to be redug. The rest of the holes are filled in for now. The currants are resting comfortably in their new home and I'm a lot less stressed out as a result. Hopefully the trauma of transplanting won't be too great.

Here's the real kick in the teeth. I felt that a big part of my mistake was to have gone through a mail order nursery, even though the one I chose was from New York. It turns out, the well respected, local nursery we bought the blueberry plants from sells the same currant bushes that we bought through the mail! When my husband mentioned our mistake to the owner, he had never heard of a ban on currants. This is someone who is in the business for years! I felt a little better.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Vegetarians in Paradise

I just discovered Vegetarians in Paradise. From what I've checked out so far, it looks like a site with a lot of great information on vegetarian living. The Cinco De Mayo celebration recipes they have posted sound delicious. So many recipes so little time! I may try a few of them tonight using the pressure cooker to speed things up.

I'm planning to do the majority of my cooking for the weekend tonight. This will allow me to spend more time actively participating in things that need to be done around the house this weekend, both inside and out.

I'm shifting my focus to the great outdoors for the rest of today. I need to get several (28 to be exact) holes dug in preparation for some transplanting later on this weekend. Sometimes being frugal means working a little more now so you can reap the benefits later. I'm going to keep repeating that mantra as the sweat drips off me.

Last night we made spaghetti squash and topped it with Russell's TVP Sausage, diced tomato chunks and steamed carrots. Unfortunately, the spaghetti squash was a little overcooked so the strands weren't very strand-like but overall it was delicious.

Enjoy the weekend!

A Quick Healthy Snack Idea

Lately, I've come to admire the versatility of dates as both a binder and a sweetener in recipes. Here's the nutritional info on them if anyone is curious. Obviously they are high in sugar, hence their ability to be used as a solo sweetener in a recipe. However, they are high in fiber and potassium. They also provide a little calcium as well.

I had used dates before in baking and in granola but my new respect for them really started with the Date Nut Pop'ems from Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Furhman. My kids really loved this recipe, both to eat and to make.

This morning I discovered we didn't really have any appealing snacks for my youngest to take to school. Actually we had no snacks, appealing or otherwise. Sometimes its rough being the last one to leave for school.

Hidden in the back of the fridge was about 1/2 a cup of the Crunchy Buckwheat Cereal that I thought was already finished. Using the same concept as the Date Nut Pop'ems, I added 1 coconut rolled date to the cereal and mashed the two together with my hands. I pinched off small pieces and rolled them into bite size balls. Kyle was out the door in a flash with a fun, healthy snack.

I'm looking forward to finding other fun snack ideas using dates.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Tale of Two Cereal Recipes

The recipes for Crunchy Buckwheat Cereal and Millet Crunch Granola in The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook were a welcome addition to my home-made cold cereal repertoire when I first discovered them. After making them, tasting them and getting the rest of the family to taste them, here's the final verdict.

The Crunchy Buckwheat Cereal is a Grape Nut like, extremely crunchy cereal. Its essentially a mixture of buckwheat groats, maple syrup and the nut butter of your choice. Its delicious but because the groats are never softened up, chewing it becomes a really big time commitment. I don't think I'll be making this cereal again any time soon. However, I couldn't help but think that it might be delightful sprinkled on top of some Soy Delicious Dairy Free Ice Cream.

The Millet Crunch Granola on the other hand was a delightful, tasty change from our usual granola. The recipe called for tahini but we substituted almond butter. (My whole family is unimpressed by tahini unless its well hidden in hummus.) We also used sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin seeds. My kids all liked this served with raisins and soymilk.

Here's a tip when trying new recipes, even when cooking for a crowd like my family, make a small batch. Normally when I make granola, I double or even quadruple the recipe because a single batch will only last a day. Because I used this strategy with these two cereals, I have no leftovers of either. I think knowing the supply is finite, makes it easier for my kids to accept/eat new recipes that aren't big hits.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living has several granola recipes that I might try as well. With warmer weather approaching, hot cereals become less appealing. I'd like to have a variety of cold cereal recipes to draw from for the summer.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Vegetarian Group

I recently joined The Vegetarian Group, a yahoo group that shares a ton of recipes. Even if you're inbox is jammed, you might want to give this group a try. The number of recipes shared is astounding. The recipes are nicely organized in the files section. I believe you have to join to access the recipes.

Last night I tried Cold Thai Sesame Noodle Salad and it was unbelievably good. It was a nice change from the Peanut Noodles I usually make but just as quick and easy. The original recipe called for 1 Tbs of sesame oil but I put a few drops in instead and it worked fine. The recipe also called for shredded cabbage and carrot mix, which I didn't have on hand. Instead I substituted thinly sliced carrots and chopped broccoli. I steamed these for just a few minutes before adding them to the mixture.

I also made two different kinds of granola last night with recipes from The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook. I'm curious to hear what the kids thought of them. I'll post the reviews tomorrow.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Wonders of Leftover Pancakes

Friday night we had breakfast for dinner. It was fun and easy. It also gave me the perfect excuse to get Saturday morning's breakfast taken care of.

I started by making a double batch of Tofu Bacon and setting half of it aside.

Next up was a batch of banana pancakes. I tinker with this far too much to give an accurate recipe but this should give you the general idea. I started with equal amounts of uncooked oatmeal, pastry flour and cornmeal. (I used about 2 cups of each.) Then two tablespoons of baking powder, 1/4 cup flaxseed meal and 2 tablespoons of brown sugar. Whisk it all together to avoid lumps. I also tossed in a handful of chopped walnuts and another handful of sunflower seeds.

I put about 6 over-ripe bananas into the blender along with plain soymilk and a bit of blackstrap molasses and blend it all up. I combine the wet ingredients with the dry and almost always discover that I need more liquid, so I add a bit more soymilk or even water. When its the right consistency, I make a batch on a cast iron griddle. By the time I'm ready to make my second batch, I need more liquid but that's what happens when you cook with oatmeal.

I also made a strawberry banana smoothie and an apple crisp to go with our breakfast for dinner.

Saturday morning, before hitting the shower, I assembled breakfast sandwiches out of the leftover pancakes and tofu bacon. I put these on a cookie sheet and baked them at 350 degrees until the pancakes were crispy, about 15-20 minutes. The result was a quick grab breakfast that was a little different from our usual muffin or quick bread fare. It was a big hit with the kids and because of it, the boys made it to karate on time!