Monday, March 31, 2008

Tote Bags & Meatos Recipe

I finished up my bag for the swap. Anytime I try a new pattern, whether knitting or sewing, there is a learning curve involved. I usually find myself in the slow learner category. I stare at the words trying to decipher their meaning. I often wonder, is this written in a secret code? Many times, on a second go round with the same pattern, I am wiser and more immune to slack jawed "huh?" of my first attempts. I'm sure this pattern will be no exception.

I do have one thought on the pattern that others might find helpful. The pattern makes a very strechy bag with a fairly narrow opening. This is great for preventing things from rolling out of your bag when you put it down but it might be bothersome if you're trying to pack quickly as the cashier scans your groceries. I suspect if you use larger double pointed needles, a wider opening would result.

Also, I need to practice kitchener stitch when no one else is around. I get distracted way too easily. Overall, I love the pattern. It's easy to follow and the bag really looks nice. (I'm not bragging, I'm just so surprised that it actually came out looking like a bag!)

So here's what the bag looks like empty:

Here's what it looks like full (we used balls of yarn to simulate groceries):

Some people were having trouble opening up the link to the Meatos recipe so I've cut and pasted it below. This recipe comes from Judy in the Vegetarian Group

1 cup Peanut Butter
2 16 oz. cans Petite Diced tomatoes with Green Chilies or Jalopeno's
1 tsp. Sage
1 c. Onion, diced
1 tsp. Salt
3/4 c. flour(more or less)

Mix all the ingredients, adding the flour until it is thick like cake batter
mixture. Put into a sprayed casserole dish. Bake @ 350 for about 1 hr.
Check middle for being done.

I've used salsa in place of the tomatoes with green chilies. I've used plain diced tomatoes and added a teaspoon of chili powder too. I usually use 1/2 the amount of salt or skip it entirely. Everyone in our house loves this recipe.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Frugal Eco Wierdness!

We're about half way through Blue Vinyl which Beth Terry from Fake Plastic Fish recommended. Like Chili, lately I'm just left wishing I was blissfully ignorant once again, but I'm not.

So here's my plan to stay sane amidst all the bad news. I'm going to keep being that wierd aunt that gives the nieces and nephews homemade presents. I'm going to keep giving new life to clothing by mending or making it into something else I need. I'm going to continue to learn more about old ways of doing things that I can incorporate into making my daily life more green. I'm going to buy used whenever possible. I guess I'm just going to continue to be me with the hope that people will see what I do, take notice and make some changes as well.

We can make differences. When we first spoke about adopting all those years ago, we didn't really know anyone who had adopted. 12 years later (10 years after our first adoption) we know many people who have adopted. Many of those people approached us over the years, long before they began the process, with questions about our experiences. At this point, right off the top of my head, we know 4 families who have been collectively adopted more than 10 children after picking our brains about our experiences.

We are ambassadors of our beliefs and values, so wear your frugal-eco-wierdness proudly so the more cautious can pick us out in a crowd and learn more!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lima Bean Bake

Ruthie asked for the Lima Bean Bake recipe that I mentioned here. This recipe was inspired by a recipe in Miserly Mom's by Jonni McCoy (Terry's Lentil Rice Casserole to be precise). I like it because it doesn't use tomato. Don't get me wrong, I love tomato in all its many forms. It's just that you can't have it in every meal and maintain any kind of a pantry.

When I make this, I triple or quadruple the recipe because we love leftovers and there are so many of us.

Katie's Lima Bean Bake

Combine in a greased casserole dish that has a cover:
about 2 cups cooked lima beans (you can use a bit more or a bit less)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
2 onions chopped
1 Tbs dried basil
1 Tbs dried oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt, optional
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 tsp dried dill
1 Tbs dried parsley
uncooked chopped veggies, your choice (I've used beets, carrots, celery, kale, collards or anything else I have on hand.)

Stir all the ingredients and add enough water or vegetable broth to cover the mixture. Cover and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half. I serve this with biscuits and the Mighty Miso gravy recipe from How it All Vegan. If I don't have mushrooms on hand, I skip them and it comes out great anyway.

Although I haven't tried it, I would imagine this would work well in the slow cooker or solar oven as well.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What's Going On with Update

The kids are on their last day of Easter break. It's amazing how busy things get when the kids are home. It leaves very little time for blogging. I'll try to recap the last few days.

Our second pizza night was a stunning success. We opted to top one pizza with tomato chunks and tofu ricotta. The other was topped with tomato chunks and Fake Fake (a parmesan substitute that's a mix of ground walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and seasoned salt). We seem to have gotten in the habit of serving our pizza with soup, so I made vegetable soup as well. I've taken to adding dill to my vegetable soup. It adds a buttery richness that I love.

The Easter egg and Easter bunny washcloths were a big hit, although all the adults agreed that the egg pattern was more functional since it didn't require you to split your fingers into an alien salute (was that from Star Trek or Mork and Mindy? I can't remember!!) I gave these to the kids in baskets with brightly colored soap from Clearly Natural. These brightly colored soaps made a great jelly bean looking substitute in the baskets. I guess its official, I am that wierd aunt.

I'm now focusing on my tote bag swap commitment. I've begun working on this bag. I love the way its coming out. I hope my swap partner, Sarah, likes it too!

In sadder news, we lost two guinea pigs this weekend. I'm keeping a close eye on the remainig one. She seems fine but they can be so fragile. Although the little guys are really cute, the kids can't deal with their short life spans. We're sticking to cats and dogs.

Rachel B brought this to my attention
"The "alien salute" is actually a Jewish tradition, used by the priestly class when they bless the congregation."

When I said alien salute, I was refering to the V made with your hand by moving the ring finger and pinky away from the middle finger and index finger. If you were a kid in the 70's, chances are you spent a good deal of time mastering this maneuver. I'm sorry if anyone was offended.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A 14 Day Menu - Sort Of

Here's the list of entrees we came up with for our 14 day menu plan. It's still a work in progress and I am aware there are more than 14 entrees listed. For now, I'm using this as a starting point whenever I get stuck. I've listed only the entree as the things served with it will vary based on what's in the house. I hope you find some inspiration in this list.

Cajun Black Eyed Peas

Jerk Seitan


Lima Bean Minestrone or Lima Bean Bake

Turkish Red Lentil Stew

Cold Thai Sesame Noodles or plain Peanut Noodles


Cuban Black Beans

Split Pea soup

Pasta with Spicy Vegetarian Sausage or Russell's TVP

Baked Seitan Roast with Gravy

Veggie Burgers (to use up leftovers)

Red Lentil Roast I use less nutritional yeast now.


Homemade Gluten hot dogs - this is a long story that I will save for another post.

I'm off to finish knitting another bunny washcloth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pizza & Food on the Road Rundown

Pizza night was a smashing success. The extra dough is packed away in the freezer awaiting this Friday's version, which promised to be a bit more elaborate since the kids are off from school.

I made two pizzas using large cookie sheets for pans. This is enough to feed the whole crew. Round pans never work when making pizza for large families like ours. We went cheese free this time, topping one pizza with Spicy Vegetarian Sausage that I simmered in sauce for a bit and tomato chunks and the other with beans and sauce. I should have followed the recipe for the bean topping as planned but I fatigued out after a long day. I promise to follow the recipe this week so I can give a better review. We served the pizza with French onion soup per Kyle's request. This Friday we'll also make a vegan cheese to top one of the pizzas.

We brought some of the leftover sausage and sauce to the swim meet for Saturday's dinner. Lunch was a simple pb & j. The hit of the weekend was the banana muffins from Veganomicon that I made for breakfast and snacks. I added some hemp seeds to them for a little extra holding power. They were really yummy and the recipe was super simple. They weren't crumbly and they traveled well, what more could you ask for? Between the whole family we must have eaten three dozen of these over the weekend!

Sunday found us a little burnt out as we had to once again drive out to Long Island. (Why would anyone want to live there, the traffic is perpetually awful!) We packed only sandwiches and muffins this time since this was to be a shorter day. Also, they were selling fruit cups at the concession stand and, although they were pricey, we wanted to show our support so we bought two of them to fill things in. It made me crave warmer weather and the bounty of fresh fruit it brings!

I guess I should also mention that we brought our own coffee and water but I think at this point, its probably understood. We didn't have a huge amount of variety but I think we did ok considering how little time we had to get things ready.

BTW, I've continued to make yogurt several times a week with awesome results. I can't believe how easy this is or how well it works. I've been using what's left on the side of the container from my last batch to start the next batch and so far no problems. We're totally hooked on this. Its so good topped with granola and currants!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Are They Bunny Ears?? No, They're Easter Egg Washcloths!

In a spectacular moment of creativity and gall (I mean honestly, who am I to create a knitting pattern??), I created a simple, functional and cute addition to my niece and nephews' Easter gifts. Its an Easter egg shaped washcloth!

I worked it in the round using multicolored cotton yarn. You'll need size 6 and size 8 needles, either double pointed or circulars. Here's the pattern.

Cast on 45 stitches on size 6 double pointed needles or circulars
Divide the stitches so that 15 are on each needle
Knit all rows until you have about 1 1/2 inches
Change to size 8 needles (again either double pointed or circular)
Knit all rows working until your piece is about 3 inches from beginning
Increase 4 stitches on your next row so you wind up with 49 stitches (I did this by knitting 10 and then knitting into the 11th stitch twice.)
Knit all rows until your piece is about 5 inches long. On your next row, you'll begin decreasing.
Knit 5, Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Knit the next 3 rows
Knit 4, Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Knit the next 3 rows
Knit 3, Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Knit the next 3 rows
Knit 2, Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Knit the next 3 rows
Knit 1, Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Knit the next 3 rows
Knit 2 together, repeat to end of row
Cut yarn leaving about a six inch tail. Using a large needle, thread this through the remaining stitches closing the top of your project. Weave in ends of yarn. That's it, you've made an Easter egg washcloth.

I have made one of the bunny washcloths that I mentioned last week but I needed a really simple pattern while I was crunched up in the bleachers at the swim meet this weekend. I'm planning to give one of each washcloth with some bubble bath to my niece and nephews.

I'll post about our food from the weekend tomorrow. Now get knitting!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Can't Get Enough Frugal Veggie Mama?

I've just set up a Feedburner account so now you can sign up for an email subscription or a feed of my blog. Look for the icons on the left to get you started.

What a simple yet exhausting process! Now I feel like I need a nap.

It's Pizza Night Vegan Style

Things don't always go as planned. Instead of mixing the pizza dough last night, Rob helped mix it this morning before getting on the bus. Fortunately, he's a early riser with endless energy and didn't mind one bit. The dough is rising in the bread bucket and pizza night is on!

I'll be making a batch of Spicy Vegetarian Sausages to go on top. I'm also planning to try a bean pizza topping recipe from The Greatest Little Bean Cookbook. I'm thinking about skipping faux cheese entirely on this batch. We'll see what the gentlemen think when they get home from school.

Also on today's agenda is planning food for our weekend at the swim meet. Aside from the food choiced being attrocious, even though its an ahtletic event, I can't bear the cost. Admission alone is going to run $6 per person, per day and then there's gas for the almost 2 hour ride. We can't bring food in but we can go out to the car to eat. Since there is plenty of down time at a swim meet, that's what we'll do.

Look for a rundown of our pizza and our swim meet food Monday. Now, I've got to get my knitting bag ready for the weekend. They'll be time to knit on the car ride down, during the meet and on the car ride back. Woohoo!

Happy Weekend to All!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tell The Easter Bunny to Go Home!

Who decided Easter should come so early this year? It's always been a low key event at our house with mostly edible gifts and small ones at that. I'm not worried about my kids, a little organic, free trade chocolate and they'll be tickled.

That's the funny thing about your kids getting older. In many ways, the holidays are less work now. Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, even the tooth fairy have been outgorwn in our house. My kids, even the boys, somehow recognize that the torch is being passed on to the littler ones. I think I'll savour this moment.

But, now that I have a niece and two nephews (the cutest ones in the world I might add) I want to do something for them. It has to be something small and useful if at all possible. Hmmm...

I'm leaning toward knitting a Bunny Bath Mitt but if I have time I might also make a Curly Purly Easter Egg. (Ok, the egg isn't useful but you could use it like a ball.) I have plenty of yarn for both of these projects and since this weekend is back to back swim meets for Rob, I have plenty of time to get started on them.

What are your Easter giving plans?

I'm still working on that two week meal plan. I'm aiming for a plan that will work around whatever ingredients I have on hand and that makes it a little more challenging. It doesn't help that I seem to use tomatoes in every other dish. Once I get it more finalized, I'll share it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Robert Declares Friday Pizza Night at our House!

For anyone who was intrigued by yesterday's post about leasing an apple tree and is hoping to find a place near them who does this, give these links a try.

You can also find more traditional CSA's at these sites. Now's the time to join one. I won't torture you with all the reasons why you should join one. Instead you can click on CSA in my topic list on the left and learn more. I will say this, joining a CSA is one of the best things we've ever done for our family's health. Now go join one!

After much ambivilence on my part, I've finally decided to put pen to paper and write out a two week dinner rotation. With the kids requiring so much of my energy lately, it will help keep me on track in the kitchen. I'll let you know how it evolves.

Robert has become very interested in certain spects of the kitchen, mainly making pizza. He has requested that Friday nights become pizza night and he's offered to help make the dough with his brother on Thursday night. He's even agreed to help make the cheese. (I hate spelling it with a z, or calling it uncheese, you all know I mean vegan cheese).

I've agreed but it makes me a little sad. Their sisters want no part of cooking and are rarely home for dinner since they joined the working world. Making dough and rolling it out is no longer part of their repertiore. Jim and I are beginning to re-experience what its like to have just two kids. Its hard to believe that this post is only just over a year old! At the same time, its nice to see the all the kids growing and maturing into new roles. It's also a lot easier to get two kids moving when you have to go somewhere than four.

No matter what, making Fridya night pizza night sounds like a good idea.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Planning for Spring & Keeping Warm in the Interim

After the rain of Friday and Saturday, it was great to finally spend some time outdoors yesterday, even if it was spent splitting and stacking firewood. Spring seems to be in the air here in NY. It's that time of year when you look in the garage and wonder what demon was unleashed inside it when you weren't looking. When perusing the yard, you wonder how all those things the melting snow keeps revealing were left there before the snow came. How did I miss those, you ask yourself. No matter, the newfound warmth of the midday sun gives us new energy to pick all this garbage up and resolve to never let it get like this again. This could be the year.

In a homage to the impending spring, I checked my worm bins. The one in my laundry room has chubby worms while the one in my garage has skinny ones. I suspect the temperature difference plays a role in this. We'll start adding to them soon to build up the worm population a bit.

In the wake of our gigantic beehive in the compost bin disaster of last season, we've taken to just tossing what would normally go in a compost heap into the bushes behind our house. That sounds so trashy but there's only woods and a creek behind my house. We've never had a raccoon problem and it doesn't bother the neighbors. Really, I swear!

Speaking of yards and gardening, we checked out the Seed Savers table at the farmer's market this weekend and got some heirloom tomato seeds. Rob is really into the idea of planting, growing and especially harvesting tomatoes. It's interesting to see him make the connection between garden and food. I'm hoping he will be my gardening buddy this summer.

Over the years we've been planting an edible landscape but because of limited yard space fruit trees haven't been part of the plan. Just this weekend I learned of a local orchard that is offering a CSA type arrangement with its apple trees. For $50 you get to lease an organically grown apple tree and harvest fruit off of it. The website states the average yield of an apple tree is 80-120 pounds which works out to about 50 cents per pound for organic apples. I think this sounds like a great way to support the local small farms and while providing ourselves with reasonably priced organic produce. I'm signing up!

As much as the cold weather is waning midday, we're still freezing our buns off at night (although not officially since we never actually signed up for Crunchy Chicken's Challenge). Actually, the thermostat is set at 55 degrees but the heat never comes on because we've been using the woodstove to heat the house. (The exception to this is our daughters' downstairs bedroom which is on a seperate branch of the heating system and totally out of the reach of our woodstove.) It's usually about 59 degrees when I get up in the morning, although, the temperature in the bedrooms is noticeably colder. We use extra blankets and warm jammies to make sleeping toasty.

When I lamented the skinny quilts last year I assumed I needed to make new quilts for the boys. When I didn't get around to doing that, the boys came up with their own solution. They use the denim quilts (these are summer weight) with the skinny quilts on top like a throw blanket.

See the denim quilt poking out from underneath? Are my boys brilliant or what?

Friday, March 07, 2008

How to Be A Kitchen Magician with Bonus Bathing Suit Rant!

When planning yesterday's dinner, I had to accept the fact that a great number of leftovers remained in the fridge from earlier in the week. There was a kidney bean and beet concoction, some of the quickie chick peas (although none of the kidney bean spread), some BBQ chickpeas and bulgur too. I get to the point where I want to cook from a clean slate, so these leftovers had to go.

Into a bowl everything went. I mashed it all with a potato masher because I couldn't face cleaning the blender! I added a scoop of peanut butter, a handful of oatmeal and a bit of water to bind it all together. In just a few minutes, burgers were cooking away.

I made a simple cream of tomato soup to go with the burgers. Here's a tip, don't add soymilk, or any milk for that matter, to hot soup. It curdles and although it tastes fine, it looks icky. I covered this screw up by making some home made croutons to toss into the soup. They are so simple I'd hardly call it a recipe.

I heated a cast iron frying pan while I cubed some bread. Once the pan was hot, I tossed the bread in and sprinkled the top with onion powder and a bit of seasoned salt. The nooks and crannies of the bread hold the seasoning in without any added oil. Just let these toast up a little and you're done.

To really cover my screw up, I served the soup in cups with croutons on top, thereby covering the little curdles completely! No one noticed. In fact, Kyle asked to take the leftovers for lunch today.

So the fridge is devoid of leftovers and today we start from scratch...

Speaking of scratching, nothing makes me itch (or is it bitch?) more than the thought of buying a new bathing suit. Why must the ones we love wear out?? I hate it for all the standard female reasons. I often wonder if I'm the only one in the world with boobs that want a little support in my bathing suit. How come you can find bathing suits to tuck your tummy, slim your hips and cinch your waist but none are marketed to hold up your boobs as if you were still in your teens?

If anyone's got a great bathing suit website (you know, bathing suits for women with real bodies but not granny suits) let us know, I can't be the only one who's wondering.

Has anyone made a bathing suit? Share, we want to hear about it!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Gardening Gripes

The garden, source of inspiration and aggravation all at once. Longtime readers will recall the currant bush snafu.

As it turns out, the law making my currants illegal in the Adirondacks was changed back in 2003 although no one seemed to know about it, not even the good folks at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Warren County who are reputed to be the be all end all on answers to questions such as these. Here's a link that outlines the new law which now considers only my white currants outlaws.

Since the currants were thriving in the acid soil and partial shade of the Adirondacks, we've decided to move them back, except the white ones of course. I don't anticipate any problems with transplanting because these are such hardy, forgiving bushes.

However, there is one problem, I can't tell which bushes are which until they have fruit on them. It looks like they won't be moving until June! Not ideal but not impossible either.

This Saturday marks the last of our Winter Sun Farm pickups. I plan to check out the Seed Savers Exchange table that was there last month.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Beans on the Brain

My kids like chickpeas way more than the average chickpea fanatic. Just yesterday Leen came home from school and made this perennial chickpea favorite.

Quickie Chickpeas
Put a little olive oil in a pan, dumped in some chick peas and seasoned salt and let it all brown for a few minutes. Eat and enjoy! The trick is to use just enough olive oil to prevent sticking but not enough to make your fingers greasy should you choose to eat with your fingers.

This is essentially an "I'm too hungry to wait" version of Chickpea nibbles from How it All Vegan.

Although the boys love this concoction, they were begging for some homemade hummus. Sadly, I had plans to use the remaining chickpeas in a stir fry last night. Not to worry another big batch of chickpeas are soaking as we speak.

Speaking of last night's stir fry, I essentially used the quickie chickpea recipe (if you can call that a recipe) and added some onion powder and balsamic vinegar. Once they were browned, I removed the chickpeas from the pan. I gave a quick toss in the pan to some mung bean and broccoli sprouts (less than a minute). I mixed the sprouts and chickpeas together. I deglazed the pan with a bit of water to get all the yummy bits that were left behind. I poured this over the chickpea-sprout mix which I served over bulgur.

In other bean news, I created a kidney bean spread that was inspired by a recipe from The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart. This is a classic case of not having all the ingredients in the house and coming up with something yummy in spite of it.

Katie's Kidney Bean Sandwich Spread
2 cups cooked kinedy beans
3 Tbs nutritional yeast
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 Tbs tamari
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/4 tsp seasoned salt

I mashed everything with a potato masher but a whirl in the food processor would work well also. I thought it tasted bland at first but after sitting in the fridge overnight the flavors seemed much more pronounced.

When I was little, my dad used to call me Katie Sue Beanie, perhaps he could sense my impending love of beans even back then?

Monday, March 03, 2008


Jim really liked the home made yogurt so I made another batch. I had run out of vanilla soymilk so I tried using plain. Interestingly, although it became yogurt, it didn't make as firm a yogurt as the vanilla did. Or maybe a better way to look at it is there seemed to be more whey created in the plain batch. This is fine with me. I've used the whey in pancakes and biscuits with great results.

I did everything the same, even using Silk yogurt as the starter, rather than using my yogurt. I wonder if the higher sugar content of the vanilla might be responsible for the difference. Either way, the results tasted good. We're currently enjoying the yogurt with dried currants or dried blueberries thrown in. The simplicity of making yogurt is amazing. I'm really enjoying this process.

Speaking of simple living, I just finished reading See You in 100 Years by Logan Ward. Thanks to Annmarie for suggesting it. I think what I take away from books like this and shows like Frontier House is the desire to live more simply not necessarily by replicating the past. Instead, by taking the best pieces of the past and the progress made in the intervening years I want to create the most frugal, fun and eco friendly future I possibly can.

For example, I love baking bread but using a bread bucket, which is non-electric but didn't have its unvieling until the 1904 World's Fair, is a lot easier than hand kneading.