Thursday, August 31, 2006

Whiteface Mountain

After years of talking about it, we finally took my in-laws to Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, NY. You drive most of the way to the top and then hike the last bit or take an elevator that was built inside the mountain. The view is unbelievable! This is one of the places we love to visit every summer.

At the base of Whiteface Mountain is a nifty little eatery called Mel's Diner. We discovered it in our pre-veg days but still love it now. It only has two veggie options but they are both delicious and the staff is very friendly. Besides, they have a life size cardboard Elvis that Kyle just loves!

On the way home we learned that our new nephew had arrived! Congratulations Mike and Audrey!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Our Trip - Part Three - The Recipes

In preparation for our trip I made a double batch of granola. I added a cup of millet and 1/4 cup of flax seeds to my usual recipe just to try something different. This was enough granola to cover breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning. We brought along raisins and soymilk to complete the meal.

I wanted to make something special for the car ride on Friday. Sometimes I miss the days of stopping at a deli and getting ham, egg and cheese on a roll. Don't misunderstand me, I don't miss the ham, egg and cheese but I do miss the experience. I mean why the heck can't a vegan breakfast for the road be fun?? With this in mind I set out to make a healthy, vegan breakfast sandwich that wouldn't fall apart in my lap if I was driving. I think I came pretty close.

On my pre-camping shopping trip I discovered some frozen hash browns that were vegan. I cooked these in the oven while I pan fried some Boca Breakfast Links which I just discovered had cultured whey from milk. Damn it, I really thought they were vegan. Oh well, mistakes happen, especially when gorcery shopping with four kids. Anyway, there are other vegan breakfast link options so pick when of those when you make this yourself.

I cut a whole wheat pita in half and placed half of a hash brown, two breakfast links and several slices of tomato into each one and voila we had a fun breakfast sandwich for the road. My only complaint, aside from the whey, is that its really salty but it sure was a crowd pleaser.

For dinner Friday, I made veggie hot dogs and a tossed salad. It wasn't very fancy but it did the trick. I had intended to make baked beans but no one was that hungry after the late lunch we had from Greenstar Co-op.

Saturday was a bit more creative, probably because we were a bit more hungry. We had veggie burgers with a homemade macaroni salad which was super simple to make. I made these in everyone's individual bowls mainly because I had no large bowl to mix it in. The amounts aren't at all exact and they really don't have to be. This was a really big hit.

I divide the following into 6 bowls:
8 sliced tomatoes
1 can black olives, drained
1 small jar green olives, drained
about 4 cups of cooked pasta
2 large zucchini cut into rounds and then into quarters, sauteed until tender crisp and tossed with 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

I also brought along hummus, whole wheat bread, canned pineapple, almonds, peanuts, salsa and tortilla chips.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Our Trip - Part Two

After Leaving Farm Sanctuary, we headed into Watkins Glen to the Glen Mountain Bakery & Market. The menu is very veg friendly with 5 different vegan sandwich choices and a variety of vegan pastries.

Leenie and I had the Sanctuary Special (seitan, lettuce, tomato, sprouts, olive oil, vinegar and spicy whole grain mustard on whole wheat bread). Tasha had the Roasted Red Pepper sandwich on whole wheat. The boys had Jackson's Revenge (market made tofu burger, olive oil, vinegar and spicy whole grain mustard on toasted whole wheat bread). Jim had the Vegetarian Chili. The portions were generous and the food was delicious, although I would skip the mustard on the boys' burgers next time. The staff was friendly and they had outdoor tables where our dogs were welcome.

Our next stop was just down the road at Watkins Glen State Park, which boasts a gorge trail that has 19 waterfalls. The dogs were not allowed on the gorge trail, although there were two other, far less scenic trails they were welcome on. Since there was a parking lot at either end of the gorge trail, I started up the 1.5 mile trail with the kids while Jim drove to the other parking lot with the dogs. He started heading down the trail towards us. Once we met I continuedon to the car and the waiting dogs with the boys who were too tired to hike back down the trail anyhow, while Jim and the girls hiked back down. The result was everyone got to see all the waterfalls and the dogs were only in the car about 10 minutes.

Afterwards we headed back to the campgrounds for dinner and a campfire. The rain had begun to get heavy again and we ended up playing games indoors. Thankfully, the cabin had an air conditioner which helped us dry everything out a bit.

Sunday morning it was pouring rain. We loaded everything into the car and headed into Ithaca to the Ithaca Farmers Market, which is held in a covered pavillion. The Farmer's Market was huge and had a huge variety of vendors including fruits, vegetables, prepeared foods, wines, body care products and handcrafts. Local musicians were scattered throughout the pavillion and played a variety of music. The vendors were friendly, as were the shoppers who kept good moods depsite the pouring rain. As a mutlicultural family sometimes I feel like we stand out in a crowd, I never felt this at the Ithaca Farmers market.

We headed to The Commons in dowtown Ithaca even though the rain continued to fall heavily. Jim had been there on a business trip a few years back and wanted us all to see it. I wish it had been dry but we enjoyed it anyway. There was a playground in the center which the boys enjoyed. A record store caught Jim's eye (in fact we're listening to the Badsie Meets Bond album he bought as I type this) and a vintage clothing store caught mine. Next time we'll spend more time at the commons, hopefully indrier weather.

Our final stop in Ithaca was the Greenstar Co-op, where we got sandwiches for the road. Longtime readers will notice a distinct departure from my usual, make it myself lifestyle on this trip. Since we were entering this mecca of vegan options we decided to sample as much of it as we could and we ate luch out all three days. Unfortunately we weren't able to enjoy a sit down meal in Moosewood because of the dogs but we definitely will next time.

Tomorrow I'll share the cooking that I did in preparation for and on this trip.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Our Trip - Part One

Our weekend of camping was a rainy one. Thank goodness we were in a cabin and not a tent! We were fortunate that the rain really didn't prevent us from doing the things we wanted to, although our walk in the pouring rain through The Commons showed a lack of common sense on our part. Here's a recap of our trip.

We arrived in Ithaca late Friday afternoon and stumbled upon Greenstar Co-op. A train track runs alongside the parking lot. While we were getting out of the car, a train came through which thrilled the boys. They had never been able to get so close to a moving train without being on it. While the boys marveled at the train we marveled at the bumper stickers of the cars int he parking lot. The liberal vibe was almost palpable.

The Greenstar Co-op was an amazing store filled with amazing people. I know it sounds cliche but its true. Check out their website and you'll get a glimpse. I guess I was most impressed by the selection of products. This store seemed to have everything. We perused the store and got Fakin BLT sandwiches, organic grapes and organic plums and got ready to hit the road again.

We drove around downtown Ithaca a bit but the traffic was heavy and we were tired from the four hour drive so we didn't stick around long. We continued on to Watkins Glen where our campgrounds was. Along the way we passed an amazing waterfall that was in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

The Watkins Glen KOA was nice enough and the Kamping Kabin was cute. There was plenty of room for all six of us and the two dogs but our first night's experience was a bit tainted. We went out to the pool for an hour and when we came back there was a man loading our dogs in their crates into the back of a pick up truck. Despite our efforts, kongs smeared with peanut butter, the dogs had barked after we left. Someone had complained and they were moving our dogs. I suppose it was minor but it made me feel a lot less welcome. We didn't take a chance on leaving the dogs behind after that.

The dogs came with us to Farm Sanctuary, Saturday morning. They couldn't go along on the farm tour but they were welcome in the visitor's center and the store. The Farm Sanctuary tour was a wonderful experience. We got to right into the pens and pet cows, sheep, turkeys, goats, pigs and hear the stories of their rescues. There were other animals that we were able to see but that were too nervous to be touched like rabbits, ducks, and chickens. The kids loved this, especially the boys.

The experience at Farm Sancutary is very animal centered. You get to see what's best for the animals rather than what you want to see. For example, the cow herd had gone over the hill to graze and only two cows were left behind. One was recieving medical treatment and the other was keeping that cow company. These were the cows we were able to interact with.

The sheep at Farm Sanctuary had to be shorn because they've been bred to give excessive amounts of wool but the wool is placed out in the fields for the birds to use in nests. A woman on our tour questioned this and the guide explained that even selling the wool to a local artisan was against the beliefs of Farm Sanctuary.

I would recommend the Farm Sanctuary tour to everyone. For those of you living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle already, it will cement your beliefs and make you revel in the company of like minded people. For those of you who just love animals, it will make you question your choices when you see the impact it can have on other living creatures. If you have kids, no matter what your beliefs are, its a must.

Tomorrow I'll share more about our trip.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Waterbottles & Road Trips

We're taking a little camping trip this weekend and I wanted each of the kids to have a water bottle. I wish I knew what happened to all the water bottles that dissappear over any given school year. Once again we find ourselves approaching the new school year without any non-leaking water holding devices. Today's mision is to find 4 high quality, non-leaky, unbreakable, reasonably priced water holding vessels to get my kids through the weekend and school year.

Our trip will be taking us to Watkins Glen for a visit to Farm Sanctuary and to Ithaca for a peek at the city voted one of North America's Best Veg-Friendly Places to Live by VegNews.

BTW, here's heads up for pet lovers who want the camping experience without the tent but can't find cabin accomodations that will accept their furry friends. KOA Kamprgrounds allow dogs in their kamping kabins (I'm not spelling impaired they do spell everything with a "k"). FYI, they don't allow pit bulls, dobermans, rottweillers or mixes of these.

There will be no new posts until Monday when I recap our weekend adventures.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Down With Corn Syrup

I hate using corn syrup but I really love the Cracker Jack-ish Snack recipe in The Complete Tightwad Gazette. I finally hit upon a solution. I substituted maple syrup for the corn syrup and skipped the vanilla extract. It worked out really well. My daughters' friend said we should work for Kettle Corn!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Stinky Washer: A More Common Affliction Than You Might Think

Something has been stinky up my laundry room this summer. I thought it was the dirty clothes but today my daughter opened the machine to take out her freshly washed load and was greated my the most ghastly smell. It smelled like a wet towel that had been tossed in the hamper and forgotten for a month or two. The laundry actually smelled worse after being washed. This, combined with the fact that my laundry room is in fact just a small cubby in the back of my bedroom closet (no joke, I have to push my clothes aside to get to my washer and dryer), meant that it was time for action.

A google search on "stinky washing machine" revealed some valuable information and ultimately solved my problem. After checking out several websites, I opted to follow the directions on I am not a fan of bleach or Cascade, I prefer more environmetally friendly options like vinegar and Ecover or Seventh Generation, but I needed the stink to stop. At least the label on Cascade said its ok to use in my septic system.

The good news is it worked. I followed the directions on the website, although I actually let it soak for 45 minutes rather than 10-15 because I forgot about it, and the machine stinks no more!

From a frugal standpoint, I saved a service call, I already had bleach (last used two years ago when a crayon went in the dryer with some jeans and my husband didn't want to wear jeans with red stripes) and Cascade was on sale at the little store in the village. Not bad for a day's work!

Monday, August 21, 2006

One Dollar or Less

Cleaning the roof of the Casita was a bust. The mildew had mildew and the vinyl was really brittle so we've opted to throw it out and create a new roof. Celina had a great suggestion (see Friday's comments) about where to find fabric that might work well for this.

For anyone who was wondering what this looks like check out this link to get an idea. Ours is a round one. We've actually decided to put the screens away until next summer. With only two weeks of summer vacation left, it doesn't make sense to rush to get it all set up. Now if only I could find a little space in the garage to store it.

Thinking of our overcrowded, moderately disorganized garage actually brings me to a little project I've been thinking about. We've got a lot of stuff that the boys have outgrown. I don't mean clothes. I'm thinking more of outdoor toys and things like small lawn chairs. You know the type, cute little ones that now make the boys look like grasshoppers when they sit on them. There's also a plethora of other rather abstract stuff. Lamp fixtures that we no longer need, field hockey sticks that are too short to be used, bikes that have good frames and not much else you get the idea. I'm tossing around the idea of having an everything is a $1.00 or less tag sale.

In our area there are online tag sale sites where you can advertise your upcoming tag sale no charge. Knowing that I can avoid the fee of running a newspaper add makes this idea plausible. Of course there's the time commitment of a tag sale but I've been informed by Jim that there's enough yardwork to be done at home to keep the whole family outdoors until December. Based on that, manning the tag sale shouldn't be a problem. It seems to me that this might be a good way to clear out some clutter and make a little spare change.

I should point out that the rules of our local Freecycle & Ecycle sites forbid the reselling of items obtained from them. I totally agree with this and any items that were obtained through these sources will be offered for free or donated.

Friday, August 18, 2006

It Pays to Say It Out Loud

The little bugs have been worse than usual in the Adirondacks this summer. We mentioned this in passing to my aunts while they were visiting. As it turns out they had a very fancy Casita screen room just sitting in their garage since the late 1970's. It looks like 11 screen doors that accordian out to make a room.

The screens are in wonderful shape but the vinyl roof is mildewy and scary. My plan is to see if the roof is cleanable and if not we'll attempt to create a new one. A new roof sells for about $300. The screenhouse itself sells for almost $500.

With a little elbow grease and creativity, this may be the best $500 I didn't spend.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What to Do When You're Singing the "I Made a Lousy Loaf of Bread Blues"

Have you ever made a less than delectable loaf of bread and wondered what to do with it? This happened to me just last week. Frugality prevented me from tossing it so my solution was to make a stove top stuffing. I used Amy Dacyzyn's recipe for stuffing from The Complete Tightwad Gazette as a guideline. Most of the changes I made were based on what I did and didn't have on hand. The results were quite good. Everyone ate the stuffing without complaint and that was a whole lot better than their reaction to the bread itself.

Cut the bread into cubes and let it dry out in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. You want to wind up with about 6 cups of bread cubes. Let cool and place in an airtight container. Add:
1 Tbs. dried parsley
3 Tbs. vegetable broth
2 Tbs onion powder
1 tsp. dried celery seed
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Cover and shake until well mixed. I found the seasonings seemed to settle to the bottom, so shaking and then shaking even more were very necessary.

To cook take 2 cups of the above mixture, add 1 cup of water or more ( I found I kept having to add more water as I went along) and 2 tbs olive oil. Heat on the stove or in a microwave. Fluff with fork before serving. I thought it would have benefited from a little gravy but no one else seemed to notice.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Empowering Frugal Kids

Frugality takes many forms, especially when it comes to our kids. Frugality isn't always about finding the best price on something. Sometimes its about getting the most use out of something you already have.

With this in mind, my seven year old son has learned to reattach his own bike chain. He likes to shift gears while pedaling backwards. This blows the chain off the bike every time so we decided reattaching it needed to be his responsibilty. Interestingly enough, he doesn't do it as much since it became his problem.

Similarly, my 13 year old has been rollerblading all over the neighborhood this summer and took it upon herself to learn how to adjust the brake on her rollerblades. I didn't even know these things could be adjusted!

When kids embrace frugality other interesting things happen. My daughter had a hair straightener that stopped heating up a few months back. Before relegating it to the trash, she decided to take it apart to see if she could find a loose connection. She didn't find a loose connection but I'm proud of her for trying.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Gardening Notes

Blueberry plants benefit from a mulch of pine needles. Conveniently, Mother Nature has provided me with all the free mulch I could want. I spent a little time yesterday raking the pine needles and spreading them around the bushes. The pine needle mulch covered the soaker hose which will help minimize loss of moisture, a nice added bonus. This time of year is not the best time to mulch (early srping and late fall are better choices) but I needed to do something with the pine needles lying around the yard and the soaker hose needed to be covered. This seemed like a good compromise.

I've attempted to set up a permanent herb bed. So far it has purple basil, mint and chives. Since mint can be invasive, I dug a large hole and put a large pot into it and then planted the mint in the pot. This will prevent the mint from taking over the entire herb garden or at least slow its progress down significantly.

I've also attempted to set up a permanent strawberry patch. My current patch is in a large compound container but I've set all the runners into a bed in the ground and they seem to be doing really well. Unfortunately, I won't know until next year if these endevours were successful but I'm optimistic.

The best surprise of the growing season has been the lack of trouble caused by the abundance of tree cover. Apparently, the sunshine in the morning and the dappled sunshine throughout the day is providing the plants (eggplant, pepper, strawberries, kale, beets, mint, basil, swiss chard, and chives) with enough light.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Eating in Season

We did a lot of entertaining this weekend. Since the CSA pick up this week included a lot of tomatoes, our meals did as well. We used them sliced on sandwiches and salads, diced in Meatos with fresh jalapeno peppers in place of the canned ones the recipe called for, chunked in white bean soup (its been chilly!) and pureed in sauce. Zucchini bread made another appearance on our menu because there was an abundance of zucchini in our pick up as well.

In some ways eating foods in season may seem redundant but at the same time it gives you something to look forward to. As the season gradually changes, the produce changes along with it. Besides, with each influx of a particular veggie you have the opportunity to get really good at using it before moving on to the next veggie. Of course the challenge is to remember all your brilliant ideas from one year to the next.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More on Meatos

I made Meatos yesterday. This time I used the diced tomatoes with chili peppers. I also threw in some chopped tomatillo that I had in the fridge. Its worth it to find the diced tomatoes with chili peppers, it really makes it taste delicious.

The girls and I devoured it while watching The Thin Man and Hot Shots. How's that for a bizzare double feature?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Conquering Soap Scum

Inspired by the many uses I've already read about and tried for baking soda, I decided to see if it was up to the challenge of the soap scum in my bath tub. I must confess, scrubbing the soap scum out my bath tub is one of the lowest priorities in my world. I guess I've always rationalized that it was clean dirt.

I made a paste out of baking soda and water. I spread this in a thin layer over the bottom of the tub and let it sit for the day. I'm not sure if this was a necessary part of the process but we were going out to the beach anyway so it fit right in.

When I got back home, I filled a cup with vinegar and working from the part of the tub farthest away from the drain, began pouring a little vinegar onto the baking soda paste. I followed each pour with a little scrubbing with a scrub brush. The scrubbing effort was very minimal and within 10 minutes, the tub was gleaming white!

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Variation on the Chunky Vegetable Sauce

We had a visitor this weekend and the chunky sauce I mentioned on Friday was such a hit that I made it again on Saturday. I peeled, chunked and salted the eggplant as always but after rinsing it I placed it on an oiled cookie sheet and sprayed the tope of the eggplant with olive oil. I roasted it in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, tuirning them over about half way through. I added the eggplant to the sauce right before serving. Everyone agreed that this really enhanced the flavor of the eggplant.

I also threw some shredded zucchini into our breakfast scramble this morning. In an amusing twist of fate, right after breakfast my neighbor's daughter presented me with two huge zucchinis.

Jim discovered a soaker hose in our garage that dates back to sometime in the mid 1990's. It turns out it's the prefect length to use on the blueberry bushes. I set it up today and am in the process of covering it over with pine needles to hold the moisture in. For any gardening newbies out there, soaker hoses are full of little holes that allow water to slowly drip into the soil, avoiding the leaves of the plant.

A minor snafu developed when I attempted to attach the soaker hose. It seems I ran the metal connector over with my minivan a few years ago and it was now oval rather than round. With a few taps of a hammer, Jim was able to make it round enough to make a tight connection. I'm still shocked that it worked!

Friday, August 04, 2006

What to Do When the Zucchini Begins to Take Over

This weeks CSA pickup left us with a lot of zucchini. I've already got quite a bit frozen so we opted to make some zucchini bread. I use the recipe from The Compassionate Cook but I use half the amount of sugar and oil. The results are less desserty but really delicious.

I also made a chunky vegetable sauce last night. I started with a little onion and a lot of garlic in some olive oil. I added some diced tomatoes, tomato paste, quite a bit of shredded zucchini and chunks of eggplant. (I had already peeled and chunked the eggplant, sprinkled it with salt and set it in a colander for about 20 minutes to draw the bitterness out. Before using it just rinse it to remove the bitterness and excess salt.)

I let the sauce cook until the eggplant was just tender. I served it over pasta with Russll's TVP The results were delicious.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Its Too Darn Hot!

Its been disgustingly hot the last two days. We spent most of them sitting in the lake, literally. Today its muggy but not nearly as hot. We've been living on sandwiches and cold cereal.

Our favorite concoction has been hummus and tabbouleh together on whole wheat flatbread or whole wheat bread. We first had this at a party my brother threw and it was a really delicious combination. We also had veggie cold cuts with tomato slices and baby carrots on whole wheat pitas. This was quite a yummy treat as well.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Pineapple Slushie

What do you do with the juice from a can of pineapple chunks? In the past we've drunk it as is or used to make ice pops. Yesterday the kids were clamoring for something different. I'd saved the juice from 3 cans of pineapple chunks so I threw that and a tray of ice cubes into my VitaMix and gave it a whirl. This created a very refreshing slushie that even my very picky neighbor's daughter loved. I may actually have to buy a can of pineapple juice so I can make this more often!