Friday, November 28, 2008

Hope You All Had A Happy Thanksgiving!

I finished up the deep pink scarf this morning but my model is sleeping after covering a 5:30am lifeguarding shift this morning. I'll try to get some pictures up later.

We're just relaxing around the house accomplishing a bit here and there. We're eating leftovers from yesterday. True to my word, I kept it low key. Sourdough pancakes with homemade blueberry syrup, crumb cake, a tofu scramble with vegetables, orange juice and coffee made up our brunch.

For dinner I made a stuffing combining sauteed onions, mushrooms, brussell sprouts and butternut squash with bulgur. I placed this in a roasting pan and then topped it with Isa's quick gluten recipe from Veganomicon. I covered it and cooked it in a 325 degree oven. Viola, simple stuffed seitan which I served with biscuits and a simple gravy. The results were very good and I wasn't stressed.

I confess we did go shopping today but it was for tires. I don't think it should count as shopping since tires are a place where bald is definitely not beautiful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Traveling to Training By Train

I know tomorrow is Thanksgiving but I'm taking a very laid back approach to my cooking for it. This morning one of my yoga students asked if I was going grocery shopping today to get ready for Thanksgiving. I thought for a moment and answered that it depended on your perspective. Either I came home to a very clean fridge or a very empty fridge but either way a trip to the grocery store was inevitable.

It's likely that I'll do something with sietan and some kind of rice stuffing. In anticipation of this I bought some baby portabello mushrooms to put in the gravy. If you're in need of a gravy recipe, check out Chile's. If you're looking for more concrete Thanksgiving food inspiration check out Isa's blog post with links o' plenty.

I wanted to talk a bit about my decision to travel to Florida by train rather than air. First, and probably most obvious, I hate flying. Still, that alone isn't reason enough to sit on my behind for 25 hours. Cost was part of the reason but because flight prices did go down, other attendees flew in for about $25 more than my train ticket. Then again, there were other costs associated with flying like the car service to and from the airport (which in most cases was a little over an hour away) so although the ticket price was cheaper, the whole trip wasn't.

In the end, I chose to travel by train mainly because it's a more environmentally friendly way to travel. According to the US Department of Energy, train travel is 17% more efficient than domestic airline travel and 21% more efficient than auto travel on a per-passenger-mile basis (Transportation Energy Data Book, 2007, Table 2.13 and 2.14).

Ruthie wanted to know what I knitted on the ride. Here's a peek

You're looking at two almost completed scarves and a baby bib. If you're wondering why I didn't complete scarves, it's because I ran out of the yarn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Food While in Florida

There was a Whole Foods about three miles from my hotel in Sarasota. I walked there on my first day in Florida. It felt really good to move after 25 hours on the train (more on train travel tomorrow).

I stocked up on foods for the week, bearing in mind that I had very limited time to cook. I spent a total of $34.32 and walked home armed with enough food to last most of the week. I opted to buy a few Fantastic Food mixes (hummus, tabbouleh) as well as Road's End Mac and Chreese for my entrees.

A trip back midweek became necessary when an unexpected friend visited (ladies you understand...). That trip cost $27.83, $8.95 of which was organic tampons (are they made of gold in Florida? I can get them for $2 less in NY.) I also splurged and got myself food from the hot food bar to the tune of almost $9.00. The rest of the money went towards crackers, falafel mix and olive oil (because, although the hotel had pans in the room, I had nothing to grease them with.)

It really worked out great. I cooked at night which allowed me to enjoy most of my two hour lunch break poolside every day. If it sounds like a slice of heaven, that's because it was.

I had planned to go grocery shopping in anticipation of Jim arriving with the boys for the second week when I hit an unexpected jackpot. Many of the people from the first weeks training weren't staying for the second week. Since they knew I was, they gave me most of their leftover food including raw organic almond butter, organic peanut butter, organic fruit spread, 3 kinds of cereal, 3 partial loaves of bread, two kinds of juice, soy yogurt, almond milk, breakfast bars, assorted nuts, olives, and a few vegetables. I couldn't believe my luck.

I did make a $20 trip to the grocery store to fill in the holes in our newfound bounty because the difference between one person eating and four people eating is huge. All that food was demolished by the time we left. However, because we were traveling home by train, we could bring food on board. Once again we found ourselves the recipients of peoples leftover bounty. This combined with one final trip to the grocery store ($22.57) to once again fill in the holes make our train ride home much cheaper.

The food bills were clearly higher because cooking from scratch didn't fit in so well with long days of training, even if they did include two hour lunches! Still I'm really pleased with the way things went.

I did visit two great restaurants while in Sarasota. Pad Thai and Simon's Coffee House. Although very different experiences, both were delicious and very veg friendly.

Now I need to get back into the cooking from scratch groove. Last night's dinner was a crock pot full of all the leftovers from the first week I was gone. Everyone dutifully put leftovers into the freezer once it was clear they wouldn't be finished in a day or two, just like I'd requested! They seemed to think it was magic because it tasted really good but the reality was, most of those flavors went together really well.

So now I have a clean slate, an almost empty fridge, Thanksgiving in two days and I've promised I'd take my daughters to see Twilight tonight. I think I've got my work cut out for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wasn't I Wearing a Tank Top Just the Other Day?

Well the sun is shining and the sky is blue but 33 degrees is a far cry from the tank top weather I left behind in Florida. We finally pulled into the driveway a few minutes before 11:00pm last night and so ends my two weeks of yoga training in Florida. I'm a little too addle brained and backed up on laundry to go into great details about how I kept costs down while I was there but I'll give a peek into my technique.

Perhaps the biggest bit of wisdom I have to share is this: Sometimes the hotel that costs a bit more is clearly the better choice.
How can this be my frugal friends? Let me explain. I opted to stay at the hotel the training was being held at. It cost about $20/night more than some other local choices, even with the groups discounted rate. However, because I didn't need to worry about getting to my training every day, I eliminated the need to rent a car ($44/day before all those screwy charges they add on) or take a bus ($3.00/day unlimited transfers).

This hotel also had a fairly complete kitchenette, including fridge, stovetop, microwave, pots, pans, plates, cups, utensils and a dishwasher. This allowed me to go grocery shopping when I got there and eliminated the need for eating out which is always a big savings.

Additionally, this hotel had a massive continental breakfast every morning with lots of choices that a creative veg or vegan guest could partake of. They even had dinner included Mondays thru Thursdays with free unlimited wine and beer. No, I didn't eat the meatloaf or pulled pork in the name of frugality and I didn't need to pour myself into bed after a few too many but I was able to make a hearty salad every night to have along with whatever I prepared in my room. Best of all, the coffee was free and fresh 24 hours a day!

They also had a courtesy shuttle bus that would take you anywhere within a 3 mile radius, including back to the Amtrak stop so we could start our journey home.

Another bit of wisdom comes courtesy of my husband and a woman I met on the train ride down: Before deciding you need to rent a car so your kids and hubby can see the sights, check out the local bus system. The SCAT bus system was friendly and super easy to navigate. Jim was able to visit:
Siesta Key Beach

Coquina Beach on Longboat Key

Mote Aquarium

I'll share more but now I've got to get back to being mom (that's code for doer of laundry, maker of dinner, payer of bills, and general organizer of daily life.)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Greetings From Sarasota Florida!

Just a quick post to let everyone know that my first week of yoga training was just amazing. I expect my second week to be the same. I've been keeping a food journal to keep track of my meal costs, including on the train, but I won't be sharing that until I'm back in NY a week from Monday. The weather is far too beautiful for me to be inside blogging.

Om Shanthi to all.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Frugal Veggie Train Travel

I managed to get a few more things made including:
Cuban Black Beans

Lima Bean bake


vegan rice krispy treats

bread crumb cookies with Halloween chocolate used as chips

Thinking I was pretty much off the hook with the food for people staying, I turned to Simple Foods for the Pack (thanks again Ruthie!!) for inspiration. I want to try to avoid buying food on the train ride as much as possible. If I'm spending money on eating out, it has to be a little more impressive than an overpriced veggie burger. I'm saving my money for a few vegetarian places in Sarasota.

So here's what I've put together for my train ride down:

Carob Fudge

Seed Date Fudge

unsalted mixed nuts

2 Clif Bars

3 aeseptic packs of chocolate Silk

dried cranberries

dried papaya

I figure there's no way to avoid buying coffee and water once the batch I leave with runs out, so I'll be buying those. Let's see how little I can spend and still have a good time.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Did You Ever Try to Think Like the Instructions on a TV Dinner?

I'm leaving for two weeks of yoga training early Saturday morning. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity (Thanks Jim!! Everyone be extra nice to my hubby, he's obviously a saint.) but I'm not even close to being ready. How hard is it to throw your yoga mat, neti pot and a few clothes in a bag, you ask? Geez, that's the simple part. It's making sure everyone at home is set up and able to function in my absence that's slowing me down.

I am the chief organizer and chef in residence at our house. It sounds much grander than it really is. It just means everything that has to be done on any given day is written in my planner and it's my job to make sure everyone gets to where they need to go with whatever they need. It also means I know the answer to the ever present question, "What is there to eat? I'm hungry!" As a result the thought of me not being here is causing a bit of panic.

To make things easier for everyone and to prevent the budget from being blown completely, I've begun making meals to get them through the first week. Aside from being time consuming, this is mentally exhausting, because I'm trying not to leave any food prep steps out as I write out instructions for reheating these meals.

I love cooking and there's a calm that goes along with knowing that most culinary problems, except the giant crater in the middle of your cake, can be fixed. Besides, even cakes with craters taste good. However, that zen-like calm does not come easy to new and infrequent cooks. So everything is labeled with prep instructions and what to serve with it. With any luck the instructions that I write out for each night will be clear to everyone (at leat as clear as the instructions on a tv dinner, I hope).

So what's in the freezer so far?

Sliced gluten with applesauce to be served with steamed greens that are seasoned with a little toasted sesame oil and topped with sesame seeds

Red Beans with greens (recipe from 125 Best Vegetarian Slow cooker Recipes) to be served with cornbread

Red Lentil Roast to be served with sweet potatoes. Although, I haven't made the gravy yet.

3 loaves of Cornell Bread for quick breakfasts on the run

Now I've got to get back into the kitchen

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Moving Forward

I stayed up to see it happen and I'm still slightly stunned. This is an amazing time to be a member of an interracial family. My children, especially my young sons, have a role model that I never dreamed they would have. This is by no means a political blog so I'll simply say this, for the first time in 8 years I feel a little hope politically.

Now it's time to get back to the business of frugal veggie living...

The holiday season is just around the corner. ThriftyFun ran a list of homemade holiday gift ideas to get you started on your holiday planning. You can also check out the holiday idea archives on my blog here. Of course you may decide to forego gifts alltogether in which case you'll want to check out Buy Nothing Christmas.

No matter what you decide, you'll need some great food to go along with your decision. Check out the archives on vegetarian holiday cooking.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Like, Crazy Daddy-O

Halloween always finds me pinning or stitching right up until the last possible second on someone's costume and this year was no exception. Although the boys had their costumes under control, the girls did not.

Leenie, who dressed up as a rockstar, had a last minute urgent need for a sweatshirt to cut up a la Jennifer Beals in Flashdance. Fortunately, there's always a ratty sweatshirt or two hanging around our house. In fact, Jim and I both volunteered sweatshirts to the cause.

Tasha decided to be a beatnik. She planned to dress all in black, wear a beret and carry a Jack Kerouac book. But wait...we don't have a beret! "We'll make one for you," I announced with so much false confidence at 3pm on Friday afternoon that I even convinced myself. I did a quick google search on "easy beret" and came up with this pattern and tutorial. Now all we needed was some black fabric...

I came up with a very dark gray shirt that I'd somehow gotten a huge stain on the front of. Since Tasha planned to wear dark gray flats, this was perfect. I set about following the tutorial. Naturally I couldn't find bowls to match the sizes listed, so we improvised with slightly smaller bowls.

We worked assembly line style, I cut the pattern while Tasha set up the sewing machine (which brings up the fact that I really need to get rid of the bobbins that don't fit my machine. They just slow me down as I check to see if they fit for the millionth time!) It was definitely an easy pattern. In about an hour, including the time it took to do the google search and finding the fabric, the beret was done.

The beret came out remarkably well considering the haste with which it was assembled. It really completed her costume. Tasha liked it so much she wore it to a family party on Saturday and she's asked me to make her one in red. Go figure!