Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There's No Room for Leftovers This Week!

Here's what happens when you don't feel like winding up with a lot of leftovers.

Half of the lima beans that I put in the slow cooker Sunday night became the Beans & Pasta recipe from Good Recipes for Hard Times, a very non-veg but nifty cookbook. I didn't have the celery called for in the recipe so I tossed in some bok choy instead. I also used scallions in place of the onions in the recipe. The final insult to the original recipe writer was, I omitted the pasta. I have plenty of pasta but I wanted to try making polenta and serving it with this recipe instead.

The end result was a tasty soup, the pasta would have made it less soupy. As for the polenta, if I hadn't added an extra 1/4 cup of water to it, it would have been great. Instead it was just ok. I knew I shouldn't add the extra water but I just couldn't stop myself! It was super simple to make. I will definitely try this again.

The remaining limas got mashed into a bean salad which we had on bread for lunch. I just used a bit of nayonaisse, garlic powder, onion powder, relish and a squirt of mustard to season the beans. Everyone seems to like this.

Now what to do with the leftovers of these two meals???

For dinner tonight, I cooked some barley in the leftover bean soup and I made whole wheat crepes. I served the leftover soup, now not water at all thanks to the barley,inside of the crepes. That's an awful description but it tasted really good.

For dessert, I put a tiny bit of water into a the practically empty jelly that was in the fridge. I took the remaining crepes, sprinkled a bit of powdered sugar on them, rolled them up and drizzled the jelly over them. These were good but there was an ongoing debate about whether cinnamon sugar would have been better than powdered sugar. Personally, I lean toward cinnamon sugar.

As for the leftover bean salad, it will be demolished by lunchtime tomorrow.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Ground Control to Major Tom

The countdown to the end of our summer vacation has officially begun. One week from tomorrow we will load the cars and drive away, turning our backs on another summer. I wonder if the kids understand all that goes into making this happen.

I've been sending things back home with Jim the last two weeks to lessen the load for the final trip home. Even though we can walk to the little mom & pop grocery in less than 10 minutes, I'm avoiding little trips to pick up this or that. If we don't have the ingredients, we either won't make it or we'll substitute something else.

I'm hoping to kick as many of the condiments as possible. Half empty containers of ketchup, mustard, relish and nayonaisse take up so much space in a cooler. I'm also working on using as many of the half full containers of grains, beans and flours that I can because these too will take up precious space on the ride home.

The ride home is much different than the ride up . On the ride up everyone is giddy with anticipation and the jam packed car just lends to the happy hysteria. On the way home, everyone is a bit bummed out and being crowded in just makes everyone cranky. I'm the crankiest of them all.

This morning brought cooler weather and with it I decided to do a little baking. I tried the Oatmeal Coconut Cereal recipe from The More With Less Cookbook. Initially I was dissapointed , it looked like a crumbly mess, but everyone raved about the taste. Its nice to have another cereal recipe in my repertiore.

I discovered some frozen currants in the freezer and used the 8 Minute Awesome Strawberry Jam recipe to make currant jam. I then used the currant jam in the Raspberry Fig Bar recipe from The Garden of Vegan.

I wanted to make some kind of wrap tonight so, in the interest of using up a bit more flour, I made Navajo Fry Bread. It is one of the quickest and easiest bread recipes that I can think of. We stuffed these with a mashed bean salad, using some of the aforementioned condiments. I think cooking like this is so empowering. At the very least, it should stave off Alzheimer's for a while.

I'm putting some beans in the slow cooker tonight so I can start the whole process over again tomorrow.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Doing the Can-Can

We ate leftovers last night so there are no new lentil recipes today. Our CSA pickup has been bountiful the last two weeks. I really love this time of year for that reason. In an effort to eat more locally and to support small farms, once school starts, our CSA shares increase from 2 to 5. I really want to avoid having to buy veggies over the winter. Let the canning begin!

I canned my first batch of tomato sauce last week. I'll get my second batch going later today. It was so exciting to return to canning after having so little time and energy to do it last year.

Our local thrift store puts canning jars in the "free" area. You won't hear any complaints from me! In the last two weeks, I've picked up almost 4 dozen pint jars that are in beautiful shape.

The task of preserving foods to get us through the winter requires me to look at every CSA pickup very carefully. What is most perishable? Lettuces, tender greens, cucumbers, and melons are eaten first because they just don't have the holding power.

What holds well in the fridge? Beets, collards, kale can sit happily in the fridge for quite a while. Tomatoes are easy to can but we love to eat them, so we eat some and can some.

What freezes well? An overabundance of zucchini or summer squash can be shredded and frozen to use in quick breads or pancakes. (Freeze these in the amounts that you would use in recipes to make things easier.)

Mother Earth News had a great article on winter vegetable storage in the last issue. I'm planning to try more low energy storage options this winter.

Speaking of getting through the winter locally, several local farms in our area have begun to participate in Winter Sun Farms. Winter Sun Farms operates much like a CSA with monthly pickups between December and March. They piloted this program last winter with one pickup and the response was encouraging enough to expand to four pickups. We've signed on for 2 shares. This will be a nice supplement to the preserving that I do.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Loving All the Lentils

Since we have a plethora of red lentils in the cupboard, our dinner the last two nights has included them. I've used the lentil recipes in The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery for inspiration. These recipes really call for brown lentils but I'm finding the red ones work pretty well too.

First, I tried her Honey Baked Lentil recipe substituting maple syrup for the honey. The recipes combines ginger, dry mustard, chopped onion and soy sauce with the lentils. It is topped with the maple syrup before baking. Despite my initial skepticism, this was quite a hit.

Next, inspired by Carla's Sloppy Lentil recipe, I sauteed several carrots and two cloves of garlic and then placed them in the slow cooker. Then I added dried red lentils, chopped green onion, 2 bay leaves, tomato puree and boiling water to just cover the whole mixture. I cooked this on high for 5 hours and before serving added a bit of tamari, basil and oregano. I served this over bulgur and it too was quite good.

The results have been so positive, I'm tempted to keep going. The Lentil Walnut & Rice Loaf and Ruth's Lentil Burgers are next up. I'm enjoying the adventure of living out of the pantry!

I did get a chance to try the Bean Hash recipe that I mentioned last week. I wound up using lima beans that I discovered in the back of the cabinet rather than the butter beans and black beans that the original recipe called for. This was simply because I didn't have any butter beans or black beans.

I thought the hash needed a bit more spice but overall everyone liked it. The texture of the Bean Hash was really good. Sometimes I think getting the texture right is the greatest challenge of vegan cooking. I'm anxious to try more of the recipes from The Bean Gourmet Presents the Greatest Little Bean Cookbook by Tom Chasuk. His pizza recipe sounds very intriguing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Speaking of Beans

I just found a cookbook called The Bean Gourmet Presents the Greatest Little Bean Cookbook by Tom Chasuk. This is one quirky little cookbook. He uses beans in everything from breakfasts to beverages.

I used his quesadilla recipe as the inspiration for the quesadillas I made tonight. I used his combination of spices and cooking technique. I used vegan cheese and I added chopped tomatoes because I like them and so do my kids. It really was delcious.

I'm anxious to try his Bean Hash recipe since corned beef hash was a favorite of Jim's way back when. From what I've read so far, the ingredients are common and there is minimal prep and cooking in all of his recipes. This might be a good one to take out of the library for any bean newbies out there.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

But What Will the Garden Gnomes Use to Dry Themselves??

The dish cloth situation in our house is dreadful. Despite the three knitted ones I recently added to the collection, we are still perpetually running out of dish cloths. Perhaps if people hung them over the faucet to dry rather than leaving them balled up in a dirty, stinky mess in the bottom of the sink this wouldn't be a problem...but that's another story.

I have several towels that are about the right size to dry a garden gnome. They are also low quality enough that you would be embarassed to hand them to a garden gnome despite the fact that he or she was not in fact alive and therefore unable to notice the aforementioned low quality. Today I finally found a use for these towels that, despite their apparent uselessness, I couldn't bear to part with (you all know the drill...but what if I need a garden gnome sized towel???)

I cut the towel into 8 dish cloth sized sections and then I used my sewing machine to zig zag stitch the edges to prevent fraying. I trimmed the edges and now I have plenty of dish cloths. I don't know what impressed me more, finding a use for the towels or figuring out how to use the zig zag stitch on my sewing machine!

Monday, August 13, 2007

This Vacuum Really Sucks

Actually, the vacuum really didn't suck at all. It was just too clogged to do much of anything.

We bought it at a tag sale this weekend for $5.00 mainly because Jim was tired of shlepping my Oreck (which I love) back and forth with him every weekend. I thought we could get by this way but it seems that Biscuit's hair makes once a week vacuuming impossible. Despite the hardwood floors, the broom is just no match for the hair of a yellow lab mix.

I discovered the clog while taking the hose off to vacuum the edges of the room. The pile of sand that fell out of it was the first clue anything was amiss. We upended the vacuum and a ton more sand and lint fell out. I wish things came out of the hose that easily but that task took the better part of an hour using a broom handle and a wire snake to clear things out. We opted to do the job outside to keep the indoor mess to a minimum.

It turned out that the entire length of hose was clogged, as was pretty much any other cavity that could be. We took every part we could off and just kept cleaning until we could find nothing else to clean. Then we cautiously plugged it in and hoped for the best. It actually worked really well. Despite our sweeping earlier in the day, we were still able to fill up the dust cup with Biscuit hair. We emptied it immediately to avoid the same problem twice.

In the end, the vacuum really did suck, but in a good way. The moral of the story is, when buying a used vacuum, check for clogs first.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm Having a Ball

Actually, I'm rolling lots of yard sale yarn into balls. Since I took that knitting class I've had my eye out for yarn every time I go to a thrift store or yard sale. I must confess, I'm not worried about dye lots so the missing labels cause me no stress.

As a result, I've got quite a supply but it was badly organized. (In truth, it wasn't organized at all. It was all thrown into a closet under the staircase.) I'm about half way through the job. Maybe I'm goofy but I think there's something aesthetically pleasing about a basket of yarn balls. Once the weather cools down I'll be ready to go into a knitting frenzy.

There's an odd feeling to this part of the summer. I hate to admit it but the cool mountain nights remind me that September is not too far off. The time has come to start using up the staples in the cupboards to get things down to winter food storage levels. (Up until this point in the summer if I run low on something that I have a stash of at home, Jim brings it up to me.)

So far we've run out of chickpeas, black eyed peas and white beans but we've still got plenty of limas, red lentils and kidney beans. The whole wheat pastry flour is getting low but I have quite a bit of barley and wheat berries, both of which can be ground into flour. My raisin stash is getting a little low so we're going to rely more heavily on dates and figs for these last few weeks. The goal is to use enough to have room for people in the car on the ride home.

Its really a frugal mind set that works well even if you don't have a summer place. Think about how much lower your grocery bill could be if you depleted your pantry a bit. I don't mean leaving it bare, I just mean exploring it a bit more thoroughly before deciding you have to go out for dinner supplies.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

We're Having Scallions for Dinner?

Wednesday is our CSA pickup, so Tuesday's dinner revolves around using up the leftovers of last week's CSA pickup. Today I was presented with a unique situation. There was nothing left in the fridge but four huge bunches of scallions and a watermelon. The watermelon was self explanatory but the scallions had me stumped. What could I possibly make for dinner using scallions as the vegetable???
The answer was either going to involve brilliance or idiocy.

I wound up making French Onion Soup using the scallions in place of the onions and it was delicious. I was shocked at how well it went over. I served it with toasted uncheese sandwiches. Of course I could have run out to the store to get a vegetable but part of being truly frugal is getting creative with what you've got. Besides I view it as a challenge.

Speaking of odd concoctions, for dessert I took leftover Mexican Rice Pudding from VwaV and mixed in a cup of flour, 1/2 cup oatmeal and 2 Tbs oil. I formed these into balls and cooked them in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The result was a tasty little cookie.