Friday, March 31, 2006

A Baking Soda Tip

Okay I have a confession to make, I never sift my flour when I bake. Shun me if you must. However, having made a pumpkin bread one time that had very unappetizing and bitter lumps of baking soda in it, I do pulverize my baking soda, usually with the back of the measuring spoon. I recently discovered a more effective, less time consuming way to make sure no baking soda lumps end up in my baked goods.

I use a metal strainer that has a very fine mesh. I've had it in my cabinet as long as I can remember although I really can't remember using it before. I just place it over the bowl, put the baking soda into it and run the spoon over it until just the fine powder falls into the bowl. Perfection and it didn't cost me a penny.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Pressure Perfect: A Cookbook That's Not Even Close to Vegan but...

...its got a lot of useful information just the same (if you can get past the turkey carcass on the cover.) I took this out of the library yesterday because I'm looking to learn more about using my pressure cooker. I've already learned somthing useful from the book.

According to the author, Lorna Sass, you don't have to soak dried beans to cook them in a pressure cooker. Since this runs contrary to everything I've ever heard, I gave it a try last night. I followed her recipe to make Minestrone Soup. Well, I mostly followed her recipe. I used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, lima beans instead of cannellini beans and bulgur instead of pasta.

According to the recipe, the dried beans would cook in 28 minutes plus the time it takes for the pressure to come down naturally, about another 15 minutes. I'm shocked and delighted to report that this works. The beans were tender! Adding the remaining ingredients and heating them through, only added only another 10 minutes to the cooking time. So in about 1 hour, I was able to get a soup made from dried beans on the table.

The only down side is you need to be in the kitchen to monitor your pressure cooker. I used this time to make Peanut Noodles and banana bread so it was time well spent. I'm looking forward to mining this cookbook for more useful tips.

BTW, according to Pressure Perfect the time to cook dried beans in the pressure cooker varies based on the type of bean you're using and the recipe you plan to use it in.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Corn Muffins Stuffed with Russell's TVP Sausage is a Big Hit

Kudos again to Ruthie for the idea! I should clarify that I've been using the smaller tvp pieces not the chunks that Ruthie describes but things still work very well. I tried making these two ways.

For the first batch, I put a layer of cornbread mix in the bottom of the muffin pan, followed by a layer of the TVP sausage and ending with a layer of cornbread mix. These started out heaped slightly higher than the muffin tin. I baked them about 20 minutes, checking with a toothpick to make sure the cornbread was done. They were delicious!

The second batch was exactly the same except without the top layer of cornbread. It still required about 20 minutes to bake and the TVP sausage was delightfully crunchy. The only flaw is it was a little messy. Next time I'll press the crumbles into the batter to anchor them better.

The leftovers became today's lunches so you know they were a hit. If you follow The Vegan Lunchbox , you know that Jennifer said just yesterday, that anything in pie dough is a hit. I'd like to take that observation one step further and say, anything in almost any dough is a hit around here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ignorance is Unacceptable - A Rant

I've just returned from that special yearly trip that all women love. Every year since she delivered my 13 year old, my gynecologist has asked how she is. Since we've adopted as well she's taken to asking first about "my daughter" and then about "the rest." I'm done correcting her. After 15 years, I'm finding a new gynecologist because this well educated woman can not wrap her mind around the concept that THEY ARE ALL MY KIDS!!!!

Let me clarify for anyone else who might be confused, adoptive parents think of all their children, whether they joined the family by birth or adoption, as their children. There is no distinction. When any of my kids are sick, I take them to the doctor. When any of my kids are hungry, I feed them. When any of my kids outgrow their shoes, I buy them new ones.

There, I feel better now!

My Cookbooks Are Here!

Little did I know yesterday, as I fought to pry the library's copy of Vegan with a Vengeance from my fingers, my copy had arrived along with The Garden of Vegan and La Dolce Vegan! If only I'd had the time to joyfully peruse them once I got home but it was not to be. Monday's tend to be long and hectic. Today is not looking much better, but I know they're here as soon as I have some time, probably Wednesday afternoon the way things are going.

I'll be throwing a quick vegetable soup together in the slow cooker, since I'll be out most of the day. I'm planning to give Ruthie's idea of using Russell's TVP sausage recipe in a cornbread crust to go with the soup.

Am's feeling better. The cough and the green boogies seem to be abating so we'll give school a try today.

As for the room changing, I've employed a slightly different technique for dealing with the inevitable unwanteds. In the past I've listed everything on our local ecycle sight. This time I'm being a little more choosy about what I list because I need the clutter eliminated more quickly. For example, I took a bag of books to the library yesterday to donate rather than list them and wait for responses. I'm taking a bag of clothes with me to donate today as well. In the past I've found that clothes and books linger when ecycling while household items do not.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Clearing Begins

It was a productive weekend. Sunshine and warmer weather are really motivating. We did get the bookshelves moved and one closet is mostly cleared out. We ecycled a huge box of records that my husband didn't want. (Don't fret record collectors, he's still got about 400 records and the collection continues to grow. These just didn't suit his tastes.) I found a box of cassettes that were mine in the 80's. I'm having a bit of a big hair and green eyeshadow flashback right now. I wonder if anyone would notice if I snuck a few cassettes into my car?

The girls spent a lot of time assessing and making fixes on some family games. I admire their frugal creativity, it makes me proud. My favorite example was when one them went tearing up the stairs to dig some pick up sticks out of a drawer so she could use them to make Kerplunk work again.

Jim even installed a new (to us) ceiling fan in the kitchen. I love ecycling! It even came with two working lightbulbs! Its the simple things that make me happy.

Dinner Saturday night was a lentil casserole that I've made a few times before. Nothing exciting, just basic nutrition that cooks in one pan with no human intervention beyond putting it in the oven. We had a big breakfast Sunday (apple pancakes, potato scramble and Russell's TVP sausage made with maple syrup, YUM) then headed to my parents house where this picture of my son and Biscuit was taken.

Today it seems the green boogy, cough monster is visiting my son so he'll be staying home from school. Funny thing is, he wants to go to school and is a little miffed that I'm keeping him home. He's fighting back by sitting on the floor next to me doing math problems. There's definitely a big pot of vegetable soup with garlic and a bit of red pepper being made today to help him beat back the boogies and cough. How many six year olds ask if you can make something spicy to help clear them up? Veggie kids say the darndest things!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Shopping Observations

There's a grocery store in my area that recently remodeled. Its a small grocery store and historically was never well stocked and it had very few veg or organic options. In its new incarnation this has changed. Its running a lot of loss leaders including ones on fresh organic vegetables and some veg products. To give you an idea, Silk twin packs are on sale this week for $4.99. They've also sent people in the area $5 discount coupons. Its nice to have another shopping option.

Yesterday I had to go to the mall to get new sneakers. The thing about teaching aerobics is your sneakers may look fine but the cushioning and support might be all gone. I have one pair of sneakers that I use when I teach. When they're too dead for me to use teaching anymore, they become my everyday sneakers (this is very much the same system that Amy Dacyzyn describes in The Complete Tightwad Gazette.) This system had been working well until recently, when my feet and ankles started hurting. Its not frugal to hurt yourself in the name of frugality, so to the store I went.

The good news is, there are lots of non-leather options in the sneaker world nowadays. I was able to get in and out of the mall in record time with comfortable, animal friendly sneakers.

I did make one more stop while at the mall. For some reason Victoria's Secret sends me a coupon for free undies every few months. I haven't bought anything from them in years but they still send me these coupons. The idea behind the coupon is you can also get a discount on their bra of the moment. I never do. I just walk in, ask where the free undies are, hand in my coupon and hit the road.

Jim's working today, so its me and the kids working on the room switch. I'm hoping to move two bookshelves today and maybe clear out a closet.

On the food front, I made tapioca pudding last night with soy milk and topped it with the crumb topping that was leftover from the apple muffins I made from Vegan With a Vengeance the other day (I baked the topping in the oven at 350 for about 15 minutes). I can't wait until my copy comes, I have to return the other one to the library on the 27th. I tried to renew but someone else has it on hold so I couldn't! As for the pudding, I'm not a tapioca fan but everyone else in the family is. They all loved he combination. Maybe tonight I'll make the jerk seitan again.

Friday, March 24, 2006

A Successful Slow Cooker Experiment & Tamari Almonds

Last night I made Brilliant Baked Beans from How It All Vegan but I made them in the slow cooker. I cooked the beans in the slow cooker overnight and drained them. I sauteed the onions and garlic on the stove and put them and the rest of the ingredients into the cooker. I let it cook on low all day and the results were really good. Jim took the leftovers for lunch.

I had found whole almonds on sale the other day so I made tamari almonds for everyone to take as snack today. They're so easy to make. I put about two cups of almonds on an ungreased cookie sheet, use one with edges to keep the nuts from running away. Place these in a preheated 350 degree oven for 5 minutes. Pour 2-3 TBS tamari over them and a sprinkle of garlic powder. I use about 1/4 tsp but you might want to use more. Use a pancake turner to evenly coat the almonds with the tamari and garlic powder. Return to oven for 5 more minutes. Mix them around again, return them to the oven and turn off the heat. Let them sit in the oven for five minutes, remove and let cool. These have a slightly odd texture until they cool down but once they cool down they are addictive!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Cell Phones

Mercy, uncluttering is a chore but at least the process has begun. I'll attack another pile today.

As of Monday we cut our cell phone service way down. Jim got rid of his cell phone completely, he's got a beeper and he's never far from a phone. He threw his old one in the glove compartment so he can dial 911 in a pinch. I still have my cell phone but now only have 25 minutes a month. It'll only cost us $15 a month now down from almost $70. Everyone knows to only use it in emergencies and calling mom to ask if you can put on a video for your brothers is not an emergency. (I didn't make that up, I actually got that call on Tuesday.) BTW, we'd been thinking about this for a while and really began monitoring our phone use a few months ago to see if this was feasible.

On the food front, last night we made pizza using Russell's TVP sausage recipe. Wow, it was unbelievably good. I couldn't get my daughters' to keep their hands out of the pan while I was cooking it. I gave prebaking the pizza crust for 5 minutes a try. It definitely made a crispier crust. Since I only have one pizza stone and I make 4 pizza's at a time, I think this might be the route I go for right now.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Diving Into the Paper Piles

I'm very excited. Yesterday I ordered Vegan with a Vengeance, The Garden of Vegan and La Dolce Vegan. It was my reward to myself for completing the nutrition class. Besides, the money I made more than covered the cost of the books.

Jim's off today but the kids are not. We're hoping to get a jump on decluttering things in preparation for the room swapping. I'm the biggest offender, I'm a junk collector at heart. I'm hoping to focus on cleaning the cabinet where I keep my cookbooks and the piles of paper on and around my desk.

Jim came up with a great idea for dealing with school related clutter. We're going to hang a bulletin board in the kitchen. School work can be hung on it during the week but Monday morning it all comes down in preparation for the next weeks stuff. We did this when the girls were little but I'd forgotten. It really does work well.

Tonight I'm hoping to try Russell's TVP sausage possibly on a veggie pizza since I already have the dough made.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I Have Rules for a Reason

Somedays I feel more like the prison warden than mom. I have rules in the kitchen about what can be grabbed for a snack and what can not. The benefit of these rules is I can estimate how long a particular food will last based on planned usage.

Sounds technical, but think about something like a loaf of bread. When I left last night to teach my nutrition class, there was enough bread in the fridge for sandwiches for today. When I got home last night, there was not but I didn't discover this until this morning. (I suspect this was due to Jim's penchant for toast with a meal.) The result was a scramble to get food together for today's lunches and breakfasts at 6:30 this morning. Clearly, this will become a topic of conversation at dinner because I don't want any repeat performances in the near future.

On today's agenda, replenish the bread supply, make some breakfast muffins and get some laundry done. Check out Ruthie's pressure cooker ideas in yesterday's comments. I'm planning to give them a try tonight.

On a different note, I feel so much more relaxed now that the nutrition class is behind me. Its interesting, I should be tired because I got in late but I'm filled with energy, despite the list of things I need to do. I suspect its becase I can focus on my personal priorites today.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Everyone's Changing Places!

We've got a big family project that we're planning to start over the next few days. The boys are moving into the girls' bedroom, the girls are moving into my office and I'm moving my office into the boys' room. The reason is quite simple, everyone, except me, needs a bigger space. Part of my soul searching the other day, resulted in the realization that I have no desire to do individual nutrition counseling in my home anymore. I just don't like the way it encroaches on my family life. I'll keep my nutrition counseling at the gym where it belongs. Like Ruthie, I'll use this move (even though its only down the hall and up or down the stairs, depending on which room you're moving from and to) as an opportunity to organize and purge. The whole family is excited. An added bonus is the closet in what will be my office can be used almost solely as a pantry. Holy organization Batman!

I started purging my paper piles last night and as a result everyone attending my nutrition talk tonight will walk away with enough printed matter to paper the average size bedroom. Actually, its all valuable information but I regularly get more in the mail, so I have no need to hold on to so much. I feel freer and more relaxed already!

In an effort to dedicate the most time to the project, I'm planning to rely on my slow cooker a little bit more over the next few weeks. I'm also planning to explore my pressure cooker. Look for more recipes using both of these in the near future.

Tonight's dinner, Cuban Black Beans and Rice, is cooking in the slow cooker already. Last night, I put black beans with twice as much water into the slow cooker on low. When I'm done blogging, I'll drain the water and add fresh water (this steps helps decrease flatulence) and add the rest of the ingredients. If the beans are still a little hard, I'll add boiling water to get things cooking a little quicker. I'll cook rice on the stove top, maybe I'll use the pressure cooker! I'll serve this topped with the last crumbled remains of a bag of torilla chips.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Frugal Living for the Frazzled

I am mired in several projects that I really have no desire to be a part of. Last night I made myself a promise, I will not agree to do things just because I don't want to let people down.

Here's an example, I agreed to teach a fitness class to the patients in a local psychiatric center. I agreed because my boss was stuck, no one else would do it. It was supposed to last from July to March. Two years later, I'm still trudging off to teach there and I dread almost every minute of it.

Another example, I agreed to teach a nutrition class that covers way too much information, pays way too little money for the work involved and is over an hour away. Why? Well, it was a friend of a friend who new my work, blah, blah, blah. You get the idea.

Is this frugal or vegetarian? In some ways yes, with less things drawing on my time I can devote more energy to frugal living and veg cooking. Just as living in a cluttered, disorganized environment makes it harder for you to be frugal, leading a life cluttered with undesirable activity makes it hard to be frugal (and happy as well!)

I'll be offline until Monday but consider this post a weekend challenge. What dreaded activities are cluttering your life? Are you ready to let them go?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Guacamole Recipe & A Soup Idea

Here's the guacamole recipe I mentioned yesterday. Its based on one from The Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book.

Place the following into a bowl or food processor:
2 very ripe avocados cut in half and scraped out
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs of dried cilantro or 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
1 Tbs lemon or lime juice
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp seasoned salt (regular salt will work)

Combine all ingredients with a fork or by pulsing in food processor. I prefer mine a little chunky so I use the fork method. Ideally, you want to place in fridge for a few hours to let flavors mingle but it still tastes good if you serve it right away.

A few nights ago I made the Fettuccine Alfreda recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance. It was delicious and it left me with a gooey blender jar. I used one of my favorite tricks to get every last bit. I poured hot water in the blender jar, gave it a whirl and saved the resulting liquid to use as a broth for soup.

Last night I sauteed some onions and carrots until tender. Then I added the broth, some red lentils and a container of greens from the freezer. Right before serving, I ran everything through the blender just long enough to get rid of the big pieces of carrot and greens, while still leaving the soup chunky. The soup was delicious!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sprucing Up the Leftover Chili

On Monday night we had chili for dinner. Just for something different, I served it over bulgur. I also made guacamole. If you've never made guacamole, you really should. Its one of the easiest, tastiest things you could make. Serve it with chili and make a so-so dinner into a wow dinner! Premade guacamole and guacomole made from mixes are nothing compared to homemade.

Last night, I mixed up some of Ruthie's family cornbread recipe and poured it into a greased 9x12 pan. Using a spoon, I spread it out as evenly as possible along the bottom and sides of the pan. I poured the leftover chili and bulgur over the top to make a sort of deep dish pie.

I baked it in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes. I can't be sure about the time because after I put it in the oven, I left for work. When the timer on the oven buzzed, Jim turned the heat off but left the pan in the oven for another half an hour. It certainly didn't do any harm, the results were delicious. The corn bread was crisp on the outside and tender, not gooey, on the inside. I served it with salsa and black olives because there was no more guacamole left!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Cleaning the People in the House in a Frugal, Earth Friendly Way

Keeping the people clean and happy in a frugal house can be a delicate balance. There are certainly more frugal and more earth friendly ways than just the ones I mention below. For example, I'd love to ditch the commercial toothpaste and just use a baking soda paste. It would cost less and it wouldn't use a container that can't be recycled. However, when I tried this, my family, led by my husband, staged a mutiny. So for now we compromise and buy toothpaste in a tube.

I've also become a big fan of Thai Deodorant Stick. It lasts 6-8 months and seems to be the only natural deodorant (without aluminum chlorhydrate) that works for me. My daughters refuse to use this so again we compromise. I buy them a mainstream one, on sale.

I order my shampoo, conditioner and liquid soap in one gallon jugs from our food cooperative. I have smaller shampoo bottles, conditioner bottles and soap dispeners that I transfer these into to make them more manageable.

I don't water down the shampoo because that just makes it fly out of the bottle that much faster. Instead, the kids just know that the shampoo and conditioner in their bathroom needs to last at least a month. There are a couple of reasons why this works well for us. First of all, a good friend and hair stylist told my daughter that her hair would be healthier and less flyaway if she only washed it every other day. (I didn't even ask her to say that, she just volunteered the information!) Second, my sons have extremely short hair and only need to use a drop at a time. Third, my oldest daughter has locks and only washes her hair once a week. (This is not a wierd frugal thing, she's African American and this is the prefered way to take care of her type of hair.)

My shampoo and conditioner of choice are Nature's Gate Herbal. My liquid soap of choice is Dr Bronner's Almond Castille Soap. Dr Bronner's products have some of the most unique, rambling labels I have ever seen but his products are wonderful.

For the face, I've always been a fan of St Ives Gentle Apricot Scrub, although a bit of Dr Bronner's soap on a loofah seems to work just as well. As for the two teenagers and the associated acne that should go along with them, it seems vegan kids don't get that much acne or at least my vegan kids don't get that much acne. They use a bit of witch hazel to dab on breakouts when they occur. When I think back on all the acne cream I used as a teenager, that's nothing short of a miracle.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Cleaning the House in a Frugal, Earth Friendly Way

We spent Sunday in a cleaning frenzy, which was good because there certainly was plenty to do. Our bichon, Mel, is getting older and seems to have sprung a leak recently, so the first order of business was cleaning the carpet in the living room.

I have a Hoover Steam Vac, because with kids, dogs and carpets you just need one. I use Natural Choices Carpet cleaner from Gaiam's website. It does the job nicely without a chemically smell. I've heard of people using vinegar in their carpet cleaners but I've never tried it. This cleaner is a bit pricey but it lasts a long time, even in my house.

The next order of business was the laundry. I've already taught my 6 year old to sort the laundry into four piles; lights, darks, jeans and mommy's nasty gym clothes. (I keep talking about setting up hampers for each pile but it never happens.) I make my own laundry detergent based on a recipe from The Dollar Stretcher. I actually grate a bar of Ivory soap because I couldn't find soap flakes and mix equal parts of the grated soap, borax and washing soda. I wash far too much laundry to make the tiny quantities mentioned, so I mix mine in an old 9 pound peanut butter tub.

BTW, you only need to use about 2 Tbs of this mixture for each load of laundry, not the amounts listed in the link. I use an old ice tea scoop to measure this. The only time I use more of this mix is when washing my gym clothes. In that case, I double the amount and add 1/4 white vinegar directly to the laundry. (What can I say, I teach two classes a day, 4 days a week. My gym clothes reek!)

I gave up on fabric softener over a year ago when I read somewhere that white vinegar does the same thing. It really does! I use 1/4 cup white vinegar in the rinse cycle. This is seperate from the vinegar mentioned above. I put this in the automatic fabric softener dispenser of my washer. I buy the white vinegar in gallon jugs, not those teeny bottles.

Jim cleaned the windows, inside and out! Not only that, it was his idea to do it in the first place! (He's a keeper, don't you think?) He used just a squirt bottle of plain water and two rags, one wet and one dry. I had planned to use a mix of vinegar and water but he did such a good job it wasn't necessary.

Although there wasn't time to clean these place, my favorite cleaner for counters, sinks, and tubs is a sprinkle of baking soda. It really does wonders. I use it with a scrub brush on the tub to get rid of soap scum.

In the dishwasher, which with four kids is always as full as it can be, I use a mix of equal parts powdered dish detergent (usually Ecover or Seventh Generation, depending on what's on sale), borax and washing soda. This cuts the cost of the more expensive, environmentally friendly dish detergent. Once you've tried this, you'll never go back to the scary chemical dish detergent again. I use 1 Tbs for a regular wash or 2 Tbs for a heavy wash with pots and pans.

Friday, March 10, 2006

How to Make a Recipe Veg Friendly

I discovered a recipe for breakfast pie on the side of the black olive can that my daughters want me to veganize. It uses hash browns as the bottom layer, then crumbled bacon, two kinds of cheese, eggs and of course olives. It seems like the substitutions would be pretty straightforward. I'm thinking roasted potatoes instead of the hashbrown, tofu bacon or tempeh bacon, the cheese could be either a soy cheese or possibly an uncheese from Joanne Stepaniak's book, tofu would sub for the eggs. Once you get the hang of it, making things veg friendly is easy.

I like the idea because I could have it ready to go from the night before and then just pop it in the oven in the morning. Its interesting because in making this vegan, I'll also be making it much healthier and lower in fat. Funny how those two things can go hand in hand. Look for my progress with this in the next few weeks.

Tonight, I'll be clearing the leftovers from the fridge. There's defrosted greens, broth, quinoa, white beans and tomatoes, and a little leftover Green Olive Bruschetta. I'm leaning toward making soup with the broth, greens and quinoa. I think I'll make hot pockets with the white beans and tomotoes and Green olive Bruschetta. I'll use some of the extra pizza dough I made Wednesday for the crust.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Bread, Soup & a Pizza Discovery

I spent most of yesterday alternating between baking bread (whole wheat, cinnamon raisin and pizza dough) and doing laundry. Thank God I like baking or the day might have been a total loss! Actually it was a good pairing. While the yeast was proofing, I had enough time to run downstairs, pull one laundry out and start another load. I even hung clothes on the line OUTSIDE while the bread was rising. If you're wondering why make so much bread at one time, the reason is quite simple. Its a pain in the butt to clean the bread bucket. Therefore, once I'm using it, I'm really using it!

For dinner, I used the leftover broth from cooking seitan to make soup in the slow cooker. I added some leftover beans and barley with green peas, as well as some greens from the freezer. It was a pretty tasty soup but the real hit of the meal was the pizza I made to go with it.

I started with the recipe for Green Olive Bruschetta but discovered I had very little basil in the freezer. I ended up using parley from the freezer and 1/2 tsp of dried basil. I scraped this out of the food processor and added some roughly chopped walnuts (this gives a nice crunch that my family seems to enjoy). I spread this in a thick layer on the pizza dough. Then, I drained some organic, canned, diced tomatoes and sprinkled these over the top. I baked the pizza at 500 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

The result was three pizzas that my family devoured. The kids even fought over who would take the measly leftovers for lunch.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Vegan With a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal -Free Recipes That Rock

With this book, Isa Chandra Moskowitz has done the impossible. She made Jim enjoy seitan, Jerk Seitan to be precise. This has never happened before. We're all quite confused and delighted by it. Jim went so far as to volunteer to take the leftovers for lunch. That says it all.

I first heard about this cookbook in November from someone who was taking my Going Vegetarian continuing ed class. I never really got around to checking it out until I discovered it at my local library the other day.

I've already read it from cover to cover. How often can you say that about a cookbook? Aside from great recipes, she's got some great cooking tips (thanks to her cat Fizzle) and a wicked sense of humor. All of her recipes rely on unprocessed ingredients, which really appeals to me.

The texture and taste of her basic seitan recipe is like nothing I've ever made before. This is probably why Jim liked it so much. In the past my work with seitan usually resulted in a somewhat rubbery product. I do have to confess, I tinkered with the recipe but only because I was missing two ingredients. I used ketchup instead of tomato paste and lemon juice instead of lemon zest but it still was tender, delicious and blatantly non-rubbery. Her combination of spices for the Jerk sauce was heaven. Last night, my five year old asked for a snack before bed. When we asked what he wanted, he said, "that stuff we had for dinner, not the vegetables just the stuff." That's a pretty high compliment around here.

I've added this cookbook to my "please buy it for me if you're looking for a gift for me" list. Although, I like this one so much I might actually break down and buy it for myself.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Slow Cooker Beans and Barley

Yesterday, in a moment of reckless abandon, I put 1 cup of each of the following into the slow cooker:
kidney beans
green lentils
white beans
red lentils
unhulled barley

I then added:
3 huge carrots, sliced into coins
2 potatoes cuts into cubes

I covered the whole thing with boiling water (I had gotten a late start and didn't want to take any chances) and put it on high for about 6 hours.

Knowing this would be hearty but bland, I set about making a gravy. I was experimenting so here's the rough recipe. You may need to make your own adjustments.

In a bit of olive oil saute:
1 large onion, chopped
When the onion begins to brown or stick add a bit of water and toss in:
4 cloves garlic, minced
Let these simmer, without burning, for about 3 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Add in:
1 tsp thyme
1 Tbs Braggs
4 cups of water (I used water left over from boiling potatoes)

I ran this through the blender, added some cooked mashed potato to thicken and then put it back in the pot. Once this is heated, whisk in:
3 Tbs miso

This made a tasty gravy that went well over the bean concoction.

Monday, March 06, 2006

You Know You're Frugal When...

the lady at the thrift store greets you and asks where the rest of your kids are. Jim and I thought it was pretty funny.

I can't believe its Monday already, the weekend just flew by. Even though we had snow last week, I'm beginning to feel a bit of spring in the air. If nothing else, I know we're closer to spring than to fall. I'm anxious to see how the currant bushes fared over the winter. I'd like to get the worm box out of my kitchen and back into the yard. I'd just like to be outside and not be bundled up like an Eskimo!

This weekend Jim got the new thermostat and rewired it, so everything is back to pre-power failure functioning. This is a huge relief. He's planning his next task, a repair of the flashing around the chimney. In some ways, I highly recommend hiring an incompetent contractor to do a job around your house. It can be highly motivating. The bottom line for Jim is,unless he knows its beyond him (plumbing repairs involving a blow torch) he does it himself now.

I got quinoa from out last food order and everyone seems to like it. I made a pilaf with it the other day that was quite good. On Friday, I met someone (a very well respected local doctor) who serves millet as a dessert. I'm hoping to try some of her ideas later this week. BTW, that same doctor saw no problem with my son's veggie diet. In fact, the word thriving was used to describe him.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Update on My Mitten Project

I started tracing the pattern on the sweater to make the mittens when I was struck with an idea. I wondered if it would be possible to make mittens out of Am's old winter jacket. I had already taken the zipper off of it for another project and had been wondering what to do with it.

The short answer to the question is yes, you can make mittens from an old winter coat. However, as near as I can tell it takes more planning than the original sweater mitten project. I got one pair made and here's what I learned along the way.

First of all, don't try to cut through all the layers of fabric at once. The ones closest to the back get all oddly shaped and smaller than you intended. Second, you can fill in where the batting has separated with batting from another part of the jacket. Third, because of the thickness of these your pattern needs to be much larger than for sweater mittens.

The first pair was intended for my 6 year old, who has big hands. It wound up fitting my 5 year old, who has tiny hands. I'm going to try to make one more pair but ultimately I think my original plan of using the sweater is more workable. I'll keep you updated.

Yesterday, I visited The Post Punk Kitchen and discovered some really good recipes. I made French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme. It was tasty and it used some tarragon that I accidentally bought last year and never opened.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Its a Snow Day!

I sometimes wonder if I'm the only parent in the northeast that gets as excited as her kids do when its a snow day. The first flake hasn't even fallen yet but they've cancelled school already. I don't have to worry about work because as soon as school is cancelled, my morning classes are cancelled. Isn't my job the most mom-friendly job you ever heard of?

I've got big plans for the day. I finally did trace my sons' hands to make the pattern for the mittens. Today, I'll be cutting them out and maybe even sewing a few. If I can just get over my fear/mistrust of the sewing machine, I might get them all sewn. Maybe I'll let my 13 yr old give me a lesson since she's the resident sewing machine whiz. BTW, check out this link for other ideas on recycling/reusing clothes you already have.

Jim brought home episodes of the Monkees from the library. The kids all love the show, maybe we'll sneak one in later today. Wouldn't the Monkees and a bowl of popcorn be the perfect way to celebrate a snow day?

Here is a very simple soup that I made yesterday. I posted it this morning on the HVCC list I belong to, sorry for any duplication.

two large onions and saute on stove top in a little olive oil until soft. I add a little water when necessary to prevent sticking.

Put onions in slow cooker along with:
6 potatoes cut into small cubes
1 bag of frozen corn

Add enough water to just cover the potatoes and corn. Cover slow cooker and let cook all day. RIght before serving blend about two cups of the soup and add 1 cup plain soymilk. Return everything to slow cooker and mix well to combine. Serve and enjoy!

Added Note:

You might want to add salt or pepper or both to this. For whatever reason, my family likes this as is but it can be a bit bland for some. A tablespoon of tamari would be a nice addition to the pot as well.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Green Olive Bruschetta

This recipe was inpsired by a recipe that originally appeared in VegNews May 2002.

1 large onion in either a bit of olive oil or water until it begins to soften.

1-2 cups of thinly sliced mushrooms (it really depends on how much you love mushrooms.) Cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid from the mushrooms has pretty much dried out. Be careful, there's a very fine line between when the mushrooms dry out and when everything sticks to the bottom of the pan. Set this aside to cool.

In a food processor combine:
1 cup green olives
1 cup walnuts
1 cup fresh basil, loosely packed
1 clove fresh garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 Tbs of water

When this is well processed, add the mushroom onion mixture and processor until smooth. Its delicious warm or cold. My family loved it on toast. If you're salt sensitive, consider rinsing the olives before using them as this can be pretty salty.

BTW, check out Harmonia's blog. She's doing a feature called Midweek Munchies that I really love.