Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Steamed Veggies With A Twist

Only a few more days to go on the challenge and things are getting close! We're out of milk, eggs, creamer and nearly out of coffee...I think we can muster a couple more days! (At least I can get coffee at work!)

Last week in our CSA box we got some Romanesca cauliflower.

Having no idea what to do with this odd-looking vegetable I browsed through one of my cookbooks and found a recipe that looked...interesting. Interesting enough to be worth a try.

FYI, this recipe was taken from Organic Kitchen, a cookbook from my dear friend Heatherly who, incidentally, is getting married this weekend--congrats!

Back to the recipe. I kinda cocked an eye at the ingredients which included lemon rind, hardboiled eggs and breadcrumbs...could be good, could be...interesting...

It was delicious. And easy, to boot! That's always a good thing for a side dish. So here is the recipe, if you care to liven up your boring old steamed carrots and broccoli (and Romanesca cauliflower).

Florets Polonaise

1 1/4 pounds mixed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, Romanesca cauliflower, carrots, etc. (anything you can steam, basically)

2-4 Tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil (depending on your taste preference and addiction to butter)

finely grated rind of 1/2 lemon (or a dash of lemon juice, like I used)

1 large garlic clove (don't be afraid to use 2...)

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, lightly baked or broiled until crisp (takes, like, 30 seconds in the broiler)

2 eggs, hardboiled (stay with me here)

sea salt and ground black pepper


1. Trim the veggies and break/cut into equal sizes. Steam whatever way you want to. In a steamer on the stove, in the microwave, in your shower like Kramer on Seinfield...

2.  While the veggies are cooking, mix together the lemon rind (or juice), garlic, seasoning and breadcrumbs. 

3.  Toss the steamed veggies in butter or oil and transfer to a serving dish (or a bowl...we keep it classy here)

4. Sprinkle the lemon/garlic mix over the veggies and stir to coat them with yumminess.

5. Finely chop the hardboiled eggs and sprinkle on top.

6.  Serve it all nice and warm. I pretty much ate this for dinner last night.  By itself.  

Bon Apetit!

Note: After this Morning Cup my mom suggested I start a blog just for cooking, recipes and wine and beer I did! Its called The Giggling Gourmet and while its still in its beginning stages there's a few good things to check out!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Last Week of No Spend Month!

Its the last week of No Spend Month! We start our financial week on Friday as that's our payday (we each get paid bi-weekly, but not the same week), and after another run to Trader Joe's we're at $193...$7 more dollars for 7 days!

I think I may have said originally we were going to try to go for a month on $150 but that hasn't really been possible for us so far, so we've been doing approximately $50/week. Most of that goes towards meat, dairy, eggs, breakfast items and fruit. And maybe a bottle of Two Buck Chuck ($3 up here in WA) if we have a bit extra.

One of the biggest challenges for us is that, since there's only the two of us, we don't really stockpile basics like flour, pasta, oil, beans, marinara, etc. I know some people who could go a year just eating what they had in their pantries, but by now ours is pretty bare.

I still have that can of water chestnuts I need to throw in a stir fry, and a can of pears I'll throw on a salad sometime, but other than that the stock is getting pretty low. Thankfully we had a 10 pound bag of organic brown rice, and a steady source of greens from our CSA, so we've been eating a lot of stir fry!

Here's a breakdown of what we got for this week's food supply:

As you can see we got some essentials (fruit, meat, dairy) with a few fun items like a beer or a bottle of wine. Tonight we're even splurging and having pizza which will cost us about $7 for two pizzas. But hey, its Saturday night and time to relax!

In other things we've tried to cut back as well. I'm running out of facewash so I've been using coconut oil and baking soda as a substitute sometimes. Watering down my shampoo and adding a bit of baking soda to that has helped stretch that out too. 

That's all the update so far...we may have to end No Spend Month a day or two early as I'll be headed to So Cal and enjoying time with my family, but we'll have accomplished our main goal, which was to kick most of our debt! You can head over to the Thursday Farm blog to check out our Debt-O-Meter and see how far we've come in a year! 

We're even thinking we'll do a bit more lenient version of the No Spend Month next month as well and finally get rid of all that Credit Card debt!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Vision

I started another blog today.

I know, why do I need another blog when I have this one?

Well, originally it was to use as a tester blog while I fiddle around with the background and templates for this one.

Then when it came time to pick a url I wanted something that maybe someday I would use.

Matt and I have this Vision, you see.

One day we'd like to own a house with some land, a big garden, maybe a small vineyard and a place where we can host weddings and parties and whatknot.

I wrote more about it in my first post, but the Vision is called Thursday Farm.

Its not going to have recipes or funny stories about Roy or tips on living frugally or anything like that. Its just about us and the journey. Read if you want, skip if you want. Its more for me than anything else, but I thought I'd share it with you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pumpkin-Applesauce-Flax Bread?

Okay at first glance that may sound gross.

But this is what happens during No Spend Month. You get creative.

I had a can of organic pumpkin that I really wanted to use, so I pulled up a pumpkin bread recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, From Portland's Palate: A Collection of Recipes from the City of Roses.  This was a gift from Matt's aunt and uncle for our wedding, and I have used the heck out of it!

I love cookbooks...I even tried to pare down my collection during our last move when we uncluttered a bunch, and I still have 15 cookbooks and a handful of pamphlets I've picked up traveling. I love being able to take the flavor of a place with me.  Like this one from Scotland:

I love the pictures in it, even though I'll probably never try to make Tripe Stew or some of the other more daring recipes in there.

The charcoal sketches make me want to stoke a fire and eat a bannock.

Or this one I picked up on an east coast trip with my parents and Matt. We were in Vermont and overnight the leaves brightened so drastically it look like God had used Photoshop.

This little pamphlet is chock full of little drawings and quotes from New England poets and authors.

Back to the Pumpkin bread.

It being No Spend Month I had run out of vegetable oil. It was a lazy Sunday morning and we weren't wanting to have to go to the store for any. 

That morning I had already made blueberry pancakes with flaxseed meal in place of oil. That was on a smaller scale, though. 

FYI, if you want to use flaxseed meal instead of oil the ratio is 1:3. For one tablespoon of oil you can substitute 3 tablespoons of flaxseed meal. The first time I tried it I was expecting it to be dry and coarse, but instead it was still moist and fluffy! The pancakes needed a bit more milk, but once you get the consistency right its all good from there!

The recipe for pumpkin bread called for 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.  That's 8 tablespoons of oil, or what would be 24 Tbl of flaxseed meal...that's a lot!

Then I remembered we had applesauce, too. Replacing applesauce for oil is a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes that can come out dry.

So for this I did part applesauce, part flaxseed meal and the result was delicious! We're running low on unbleached flour and whole wheat flour so I used a cup of each.

That doesn't look too dry now, does it? A little dollop of butter and a cup of coffee and it was de-lish! (Not that it needed either, but they completed Dorothy completed Jerry Maguire)

I would have taken a picture of the top of the bread but I had already eaten it...

There are a lot of benefits to flaxseed. Two tablespoons of flaxseed meal has just as much fiber as 1 1/2 cups of oatmeal! It can also lower bad LDL cholesterol and packs a lot of omega-3. 

So here is my modified Pumpkin Bread recipe, should you want to try it out.

1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used evaporated cane juice and it worked well)
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used a can)
9 tablespoons of flaxseed meal
5 tablespoons of applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup water (I just realized I forgot this...maybe the extra pumpkin made up for one's perfect, right?)

1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine sugars, pumpkin, flaxseed meal, applesauce and eggs. Beat until well blended.

In a separate large bowl, sift together flours, soda, salt and spices. Add the pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in water, raisins and nuts if using.

Turn into prepared pan. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Spread with luscious butter and make yourself a Morning Cup and you're ready!

For more tips on eating for cheap, check out my article on Frugal Fine Dining.

Friday, July 16, 2010

All Duct Up

We're past the halfway mark of the month and the official toll yesterday was $86! I was pretty stoked that Rachel Meeks of Small Notebook mentioned me on her blog. She was the one who inspired the whole No Spend Month in the first place!

Now, I think, is where I need to start getting a little more creative with the food we have in our pantry.

Throw those canned pears on a spinach salad...figure out something to do with that can of organic pumpkin...(maybe pancakes? hmm....) and I should probably try to figure out how to preserve all those greens in our fridge before they go bad!

that's a lotta veggies!

On a totally different note, I've had this fabric for a month or so I've been wanting to make into a dress. If you know me at all, you know I like making quilts and like the idea of making my own clothes...but I haven't been too successful at it.

Part of it for me, is I have a hard time with gathering and ruffles. Quilts have such nice, straight lines...I can get that. But when it comes to fitting something on me it usually comes out looking like happy hands at home.

One dress I tried to have Matt pin the back while I was wearing it...let's just say it didn't turn out so good...

Then I heard about making a duct tape dress form from Threads Magazine online, and decided that would be a cheap way to fix the problem of fitting things well.

Granted theirs looks a lot cleaner than mine, but mine does the trick!

Matt wrapped strips and strips of duct tape around me while Roy lay with his head on my foot looking up all worried. I'll take that as a hint not to mummify him when he's gone.

It was rather an odd feeling walking around like a robot...not being able to reach up to help Matt cut the strips of was a teensy bit fun too...:-)

for Matt's eyes only

Then Matt cut up the back of the form, we peeled it off and taped it back together and I stuffed it with a couple of pillows.


A dress form.

Using what we already had in the house.

Sure it might be a little deformed, but the measurements are still about the same!

Pinning things was so much easier this way!

It did take me about 4 rounds of pinning, sewing and cutting to get the whole thing to look decent, but its finally complete and I have to say I'm pretty pleased with it!

The front:

that's one big dog, you say? yes, we know

The back:

"Don't act like you're not impressed" that movie!

And I couldn't resist this one of me and my boy.

Now I'm off to change into sweats, run that crazy dog, fix up some greens and put my feet up!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What the Kale?

So far on our no-spend month we've spent about $90 on groceries and have kept up chipping away at that debt.

Having our CSA veggies and fruit pre-paid is nice and we've got an abundance of kale at the moment. Here's a typical conversation between Matt and I in the evening.

Me: So...what do you want for dinner?

Matt: Oh, I don't know.

Me: That's helpful.

Matt: How 'bout chicken?

Me: Thank you for being specific...we have a lot of kale too...

Matt: Stir fry?

Me: Sounds okay to me. Its been two whole days since we had that.
(just kidding...kinda)

Joking aside we're blessed to have access to so much produce every week and are glad we signed up...since it forces us to eat our veggies.

I was not a veggie eater as a kid.

I liked three vegetables: corn, carrots and potatoes.

Basically anything that was sweet or starchy and you could smother in butter.

But then, Julia Child smothers a whole variety of vegetables in butter and they all taste good too...braised turnips anyone?

As I got older I realized I needed to be a bit more adult and eat I smothered them in ranch dressing and choked them down.

Then I discovered what baby spinach looked like...and that I actually liked it. And then Matt brought home mushrooms one day (which I never liked since they were usually tasteless and slimy), and after a quick saute in olive oil with salt and pepper I found I was in love with mushrooms.

Our affair with veggies got progressively worse (better?) from there.

During the summer months (used to be year round but we're trying to eat with the seasons now) we would glut ourselves on zucchini and squash.

I bought an eggplant because it looked pretty and figured out how to make it taste pretty too.

I even began using *gasp* onions and tomatoes. The former I love the flavor but hate the crunch so I chop them up into itty bitty pieces. Tomatoes are the opposite...its just the flavor that I can't stand. So I mask it with curry or Italian herbs or anything else.

One time at a farmer's market I was walking with my Mom and a friend. As we passed a display of those gorgeous heritage tomatoes in a rainbow of colors, my friend tried a sample. Her face lit up and she handed it to my mom, who mmmmed as well. They handed it to me.

I don't like tomatoes.

But these are heritage tomatoes!

They still taste like tomatoes.

If you don't like these I'll actually believe you!

Just to prove to my friend I loved her I tried the tomato. And almost gagged.

I just. don't. like. tomatoes.

But I still cook with them and currently have a three foot high robust tomato in the backyard waiting for it to bloom so I can make some marinara.

Kale, admittedly, isn't my favorite vegetable.

But throw some olive oil in a sauté pan, when its medium-hot throw some garlic in. After that's smelling like heaven throw in some torn up kale, stir it around and let it wilt. Top with some salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice and its actually edible.

For more ways on how to stretch your grocery dollars, read my article on Frugal Fine Dining.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Another No Spend Month

We're doing it again folks!

Trying to go the month of July spending $150 or so on food and not buy any superfluous items. Last year when we did this we were able to save enough to make our $1,000 emergency fund. That sure came in handy when last winter we spent $800 on tires for my car! We were lucky to not have to go into debt then, and quickly built the savings back up.

This year the goal is to kick most of the rest of our credit card debt. We use an Alaska Airlines Visa for our every day purchases and pay it off at the end of every week, but we still have some hanging around another credit card from way back in the college days.

My cycle was work during the school year, travel in the summer, rack up the debt, pay it off while working the following school year.

Then I graduated and traveled and then had real expenses like toothpaste and oil changes.

Its fluctuated a little bit, but from that time on I've basically had the same amount of debt...and once we got married it was "our" debt. We were almost out when we moved, then got a dog, then our dog (4 days after we got it) got hit by a car and we racked up a lot of costs.

Last summer I read about Dave Ramsey's philosophy of being debt-free and having an emergency plan, and in conjunction read about Rachel's "No Spend Month" on Small Notebook , and we decided to take the plunge.

We got our savings, and have been chipping away at the debt. We even moved to a place with significantly less rent to contribute more.

Hopefully by the end of this month we will be much much closer...and Lord willin' and the crik don't rise we'll be out of debt by late August!

We signed up for a CSA last month and have more than enough vegetables from that, so we may be eating a lot of vegetarian meals!

Two nights ago I made a very green stir fry. Zucchini, snow peas, garlic spears and some mixed tasted ok but definitely wasn't the best thing I've ever whipped up!

Last year I wrote an article on Frugal Fine Dining - check it out for the way that we stretch our grocery budget!

On our list of things to use this week are a can of clams, arepa flour and a can of garbanzo beans...wish me luck!!!