Thursday, June 30, 2011

On my mind: Baked Beans are great for using stuff up; Sweet, Tangy Sausages; and NOT killing spiders!

These Baked Beans with Sweet Potatoes turned out to be quite tasty. Started them in the SunOven but finished them in the indoor oven. Trying to stay good to my vow to do more back-to-back cooking once the oven is heated. In this pic, you can see my frozen Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie dough thawing behind the bean pot.
Baked Beans after three hours outdoors in the SunOven. Couldn't get the temp over 225°F...too much cloud-cover for much progress some days!
Baked Beans are a great way to use up some stuff. This time, to add to the drained cans of pork-n-beans and black beans, I threw in a couple of minced jalapeños, some diced sweet potatoes, the last dregs of a jar of mustard (water added to clean it out), a tablespoon of some Tomato Jam (very fresh tomato taste but a bit unsettling if you're used to fruit jams), a couple of dashes of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of frozen tomato paste. Emptied daily, we use the blue plastic container with its no-longer airtight seal for gathering scraps for our compost bin.
Eating raw yellow squash from the garden in our salads these days. This was my quick, slow carb lunch when Hubby was out running errands. Really enjoyed this fast and easy Sweet & Tangy Crockpot Sausage, a recipe brought to my attention by Blessings! Almost forgot to add sprouts to this salad (yes, my OWN HOME GROWN sprouts) and unfortunately, I did forget to take another pic of the salad once I added the sprouts. Those are dried cherries, by the way.
Slow cooked some Polish sausages and onions in whole grain mustard, honey, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. I worried the honey AND brown sugar would make these too sweet, but guess the mustard and vinegar tempered the sweetness, 'cause they were just right! I'm trying to buy organic sausages these days, but first have to use up what's in our freezer. I just mention this to say that this recipe would have been even better with higher quality sausages, but still, this brand bought on sale a couple of months ago tasted pretty darned good cooked in the sweet, tangy sauce!
Okay, this spider I found on one of my cookbooks in the kitchen tripped me out! Fortunately, I was able to carry it outside to our deck without incident (meaning, I didn't scream, faint or get bitten!). Guess I've got a little Jain in me; I don't like to kill anything unless absolutely necessary. Though I want them OUT NOW, I don't usually mind finding spiders in the house, because I've heard that if you never find spiders, it might mean you have a brown recluse. But this spider is weirdly marked, so it worried me more than the more innocuous looking ones. Hope it's not a bad one, but if it is, glad I got it OUT!
   Thanks, Rhonda at down-to-earth, for sharing this On My Mind concept. What's on your mind today? Share your link here or on down-to-earth. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

If the food processor gets dirtied for one thing, might as well use it for something else

Zucchini Cheddar Bread, adapted from the Joy of Cooking Cookbook.
If I have to get the food processor dirty for one thing, I figure I might as well go ahead and use it for another. Dad wanted some more of those Peanut Butter Chocolate Magic Cookie Bars, so when I'd finished processing the graham crackers, I went ahead and grated some Swiss and cheddar cheeses, then grated some zucchini, fresh from our garden.
   Back to back baking should save some energy when cooking in the oven, right?
   When the Cookie Bars came out of the oven, an adapted version of Joy of Cooking's Zucchini Cheddar Bread went in. I subbed out 3/4 cup of whole wheat for an equal part of the white flour, subbed sweated, minced onions for the scallions, as well as added a few chopped nuts I had on hand. The scallions would've made for a more savory bread, but I read the recipe in a hurry & once I'd minced some onions, I just went ahead and used them.
   What I should have done is add a little more fat or liquid to account for the whole wheat, but the bread is good nonetheless. And when I make it again, I will be adding even more cheese and coarser nuts.
   My goal is to keep up with and use ALL the zucchini from the garden this year. Wish me luck! What's cooking from your garden these days?
    Yesterday, we visited Back Home Restaurant in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. To us the food was just so-so, but the restaurant was an old house on the historic register, and despite the overload of cutesy country decor, gotta love that there is still a bathtub in the Ladies' Room! And tho' the food didn't exactly do it for me, the restaurant got points for this little garden spot tucked in a corner outside.

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    A perfect day in Mr. McGregor's garden; Still looking for my fav crab dip recipe

    The hopeful little flower gardener! Hubby couldn't convince her that the cut flowers wouldn't grow, but she learned soon enough when she came back later in the day. After first fussing that we hadn't tended her garden, she accepted that flowers must have roots to grow. Think the same may be said of us all?
    If you see Peter Rabbit, please tell him to STOP eating our swiss chard!
    Helpful little hands made making the hot crab dip more fun. Lost my fav recipe, so will keep looking for it. Maybe I'll find one here among Food Network's 20 Crab Dip Recipe Collection.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    This moment: Gettin' my Kentucky on with burgoo and a natural bridge

    If you think burgoo looks like a gloppy mess, well, you'd be right. But burgoo's a spicy, meaty, slightly vinegary Kentucky stew, and we buy the stuff by the gallon anytime our favorite source has a kettle on the fire. Comprised mostly of ground-up chicken and barbecued mutton, the only recognizable ingredients in burgoo should be some corn, potatoes and the occasional onion (IMHO). Some misguided folks put Lima beans in their burgoo. That's so wrong! ;)
    That's my purse jutting off my thigh, not some bizarre body part. ;)

       Finally remembered to share pics of my favorite site we visited in our recent jaunt through northeastern Kentucky. These were taken at Carter Caves State Resort Park, in a "natural bridge" within the park. Bus-loads of school kids picnicking created a powerful noise near the entrance to this "bridge," but even that could not detract from the quiet beauty of this time worn natural phenomenon.
       Hope to find some time for quiet beauty today, and hope the same for you! For now though, it's time to head to the dentist for a check-up/cleaning. Just another of those "costs money but saves in the long run" little things we do!
       Thanks to Soulemama for this Friday photo sharing concept. Please feel free to share a link to your moment.  

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    On my mind: Works in progress like fried chicken, hardscaping the new garden bed and foodgawking

    Hubby is hardscaping the new garden bed. No more mowing the little strip of lawn between the garage and the driveway! Hubby collected the stones from our hobby farm, a little place we co-own with some other family members.
    Oh, my, am I ever thankful that I visited Niki over at Debt Free by Thirty this morn. She brought FoodGawker to my attention; that site is full of eye candy. If you need pictures to motivate you to get off the couch and into the kitchen, you'll love FoodGawker! (More to love: check out Niki's post on how watching The Twilight Zone teaches her about personal finance.)
       We don't have cable, but while at the folks the other day, Food Network's 5 Ingredient Fix was on. Claire's Roasted Curry Chicken inspired me, but I wasn't willing to pay for all that Greek yogurt, so I subbed out buttermilk to use in the marinade instead.
       And because I'm feeding DD today, I decided to fry instead of roast this chicken, so I'll have to let you know later how it works out.
    Pureed red Thai Curry Paste, garlic, roasted cumin seeds, salt and pepper and then stirred the mash into 2 cups of buttermilk for the marinade.
    Yum, 20 blueberries harvested from our yard went into this morning's Blueberry Strawberry Almond Nutmeg Smoothie. The phytochemicals in blueberries greatly benefit our brains and hearts, as well as fight off cancer-causing free radicals. They are so easy to grow, why didn't I plant some blueberry bushes years ago? Think of the money I'd have saved!
    I am so proud of my growing sprouts. There's a BIG salad in my future!
       Thanks, Rhonda at down-to-earth, for sharing this On My Mind concept. What's on your mind today? Share your link here or on down-to-earth. 

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Gather ye cookies and cauliflower while ye may

    Though I'm not a Magic Cookie Bar fan, I am a huge fan of the basic recipe! These Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars are the latest incarnation to come out of my oven. My dad is a HUGE peanut butter fan, and he LOVES these. These bars have about 6 ounces of mini chocolate chips and 6 ounces of peanut butter chips on the graham cracker crust/sweetened condensed milk base, plus 1 cup of whole peanuts.
    The Ball Blue Book said to blanch cauliflower 2-4 minutes before freezing.
    Hubby doesn't cover up the cauliflower as they grow, so they're not as white as those found in the supermarket. (They taste the same.) Here they're cooling after being blanched.
    Froze the blanched cauliflower in a single layer on my jelly roll pan for a couple of hours. Here they're ready for the freezer.
    My little baby sprouts! They're really!
    I am in a carbohydrate craving mode right now and cannot wait for Cheat Day! Looking at goodies is all I can do 'til then; so, if you have any great pics to share, I could use some eye candy right about now!

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Spicing up my smoothie and finally trying to sprout my seeds

    I've had these alfalfa seeds for almost two years, and I'm just now getting around to trying to sprout them. If this works, I'll no longer need to buy plastic-wrapped sprouts, reduces packaging but saves me money too! And it doesn't get any more local than growing your own! Can it really be as easy as soaking them in water one day, then rinsing and draining them twice daily 'til they sprout?
    Loving the book Healing Spices by Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D, as I do think the phytonutrients found in plants can keep us healthy. Thanks to Healing Spices, I now know which spice does what for the body. The book also had some excellent lists for which spices pair well with each other and a substitution list if you're out of a spice.
    These four ingredients are the base for my morning smoothie: a little coconut milk, a heaping tablespoon of brown rice protein powder, 6 ounces of plain organic yogurt, a tablespoon of stevia and a teaspoon of ground flax seed. Takes the guesswork out of eating breakfast. Gotta love that! This morning, I added a peach, 8 blueberries ('cause that's all I had!) and ground nutmeg to the usual base before blending. First time I ever added nutmeg...YUM!
    Ironically, there are not enough hours in the days of summer, but I figured pics with captions will get the job done. I'm off to hang out with my folks this morn. Hope something interesting comes along to spice up your day!!

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Little money wasters; also, Sierra Club turns circuit sheet into wallet, keyboard letters into magnets

    Oops! Took the cookies out 10 minutes ago but just discovered I left the oven on!
    Bought as set-ups for a party but everyone went for the margaritas instead.
    Tired of looking at these in pantry, they'll go with us to a family get together this weekend.
    No more buying cokes for parties!
    Sweet tea, lemonade, water, good sipping bourbon/liquors, and a signature drink will do.
    What the...! These pumpkin seeds taste like cardboard.
    Don't want to toss them. Any ideas?
    Not paying attention wastes my money!
    Accidentally picked up the "medium" instead of soft toothbrushes.
    Ah, well, one brush for car's glove compartment;
    the one I brushed with once for scrubbing; will donate the rest to charity.
       Stumbled upon the cutest little repurposing project in this month's Sierra Club magazine. If interested in ideas for repurposing computer parts, check this out: Repurpose - July/August 2011 - Sierra Magazine - Sierra Club. Best Buy and likely some other stores do take old computers, but love these projects anyway.
       Anyone else wasted any money lately?? 

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    Boy, do I hate spending money eating in a hospital cafeteria!

    I was in a hurry, so this quick tuna salad only contained
    pickles, salad dressing, celery seed, salt and pepper.
    Okay, there are worse things in life than being forced to eat in a hospital cafeteria...sure beats having to eat from a tray while in a hospital bed, for instance! But that doesn't mean I like to waste money buying ho-hum food when visiting loved ones in the hospital.
       To keep from having to spend a lot of money on convenience foods in these situations, I keep a box of Clif Bars (70% organic ingredients) in the car. Often used by hikers, the bars won't go bad in the summer heat of the car, and they make a quick meal when on the run. (No kickbacks for any product mention...just sharing what works for me.)
       Got lucky once to be home at mealtime. Not enough time to cook but enough time to whip up a quick tuna salad, the perfect fast food. Note: To avoid any mercury buildup from eating tuna, I mark on the calendar when we eat it and only serve tuna once a month.
       Once our loved one's health turned the corner, I even found the time to stop at a garage sale between hospital visits. Got the measuring cup set for 75¢ and the Fire King bowl for only 25¢. Isn't it a hoot that someone coveted the newer plastic cups more than the vintage glass?!
       Finding any good buys at garage/yard/boot sales lately? How do you save money when eating on the run?
    My 25¢ Fire King bowl garage sale find has some finger nail polish on the handle.
    Should be easy enough to clean.

    Saturday, June 18, 2011

    What frugality, peak oil and preparedness have in common

    Besides water, food and shelter, written in gold way up on the list of our most important basic needs are health and physical fitness. But in this cushy era, a time when everything needed sits on a grocery shelf or at a take-out window, we are hard pressed to find reasons to work toward our ultimate potential for fitness, both mental and physical.
       I mean, who besides a Navy Seal faces general requirements to meet certain standards in the 500-yard swim, 2-minute timed push-ups, 2-minute timed curl-ups, pull-ups and a 1.5 mile run. Still, considering that exercise boosts job performance, trains our brains, lowers health care costs and slows the progress of many diseases, as well as builds psychological resilience, you'd think we'd all get moving. Why, according to Money Magazine, buying running shoes is one of the 50 Smartest Things to Do with Your Money! Since there are myriad reasons to whip ourselves into shape, it doesn't take too much of a stretch to imagine the impact of fitness on these scenarios:
    • A catastrophic event wipes out all resources for water, food and electricity for 48 hours at the least, THAT'S THE DAY we're gonna wish we had exercised regularly.
    • Peak oil ends the era of cheap gas and we're required to get everywhere under our own power, THAT'S THE DAY we're gonna wish we had exercised regularly.
    • All the credit cards are maxed out, bankruptcy sounds like a good idea, words like "downsizing" start being thrown around and that dream job is in jeopardy, or the doc throws down the "change or die" ultimatum, THAT'S THE DAY we're gonna wish we had exercised regularly.
    • The realization sinks in that a sweet little baby--a precocious child who looks up to us for everything that's important--silently watches and intuitively learns from our every move, daily developing skills that will see him/her through to the future, THAT'S THE DAY we're gonna wish we had exercised regularly.  
         We have a loved one in the hospital. Nothing like spending a few days/nights visiting at the hospital to remind me of the importance of staying healthy. Fortunately, this close-to-home scenario is destined for the best possible outcome. THIS IS THE DAY you'll find me smiling as I take the stairs on my way in and out of the hospital.

      Thursday, June 16, 2011

      On my mind: Never thought I could learn so much from a dinner party!

      One Tonne Life, Sweden's remarkable reality show experiment in lowering the carbon footprint of living wrapped things up recently. Much to learn from the site and its webisodes, particularly the dinner party episode embedded here.
         Often what I learn reinforces what I already know, but as they say, "knowing and not doing is not knowing." So, for me, the value of hearing energy saving tips again is they increase my motivation to start or maintain the takes-more-time tasks...hanging laundry for instance.
         Besides saving our planet, saving energy more often than not means saving money. Gotta love that!!
         Thought I'd share some of the One Tonne Life tips/data that have helped me to intensify my focus on frugality. Let me know if you've anything to add...some days I need all the motivation I can get to not take the easy way out! Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some laundry to hang!

      One Tonne Life Energy Wasters:
      • Cooking with the lid off the pan results in a loss of 80% of the energy.
      • Layers of frost and ice make a freezer work harder, which uses more energy.
      • Pre-washing dishes is unnecessary in newer models of dishwashers.
      • We throw away about one third of the food we buy, which means we should take less or clean our plates!
      • There's a significant jump in the environmental impact of beef, as compared to chicken.
      One Tonne Life Energy Savers:
      • Defrost frozen foods in the fridge, so the fridge has to work less.
      • If you must pre-rinse dishes before putting in the dishwasher, at least do not use running water. Instead, stopper the sink and use as little water as possible (preferably captured water).
      • Cooking for many people at a time is a climate-smart move.
      • Cooking enough extra for the next day's lunch or another meal reduces energy consumption.
      • Open fridge and freezer as little as possible.
      • Spend 5 minutes less in the shower daily to save 14,000 liters of water per year.
      • Fill the washing machine to capacity to save every two out of three washes, by saving energy, water and detergent.
      • The clothes dryer generally uses four times the energy of a washing machine. Air dry whenever possible.
         Thanks, Rhonda at down-to-earth, for sharing this On My Mind concept. What's on your mind today? Share your link here or on down-to-earth. 

      Wednesday, June 15, 2011

      Old becomes new and Cauliflower Soup too

      One day Hubby dragged an ancient, white-painted mirror home, and because I had seen something similar in a Pottery Barn catalog, I requested he leave it as is but add hooks to it. Well, that was several years ago, and as the mirror languished in his outbuilding, its mirror cracked.
         Having long forgotten my original request to leave the chipped paint on it, Hubby recently stripped the paint and installed a new mirror. He remembered the hooks tho', and this mirror now graces a wall in our mudroom. (Click to enlarge and you can see the mud-sink reflected in the door.)
         So now every time I come in the back door, I can readily see that my hair is a mess. The mirror's makeover makes me want a makeover myself!
      Yea, we're now getting cauliflower from the garden.
      Not as white as its supermarket counterpart but just as tasty!
      Cauliflower boiling in chicken broth, while the onions caramelize
      in olive oil, butter and a little brown sugar.
      This is where the immersion blender comes into play.
      A can of cannelini beans in the mix helps thicken things.
      Finally time to add some seasonings. Kept it simple
      with salt, black pepper, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and Swiss cheese.
      Added a sprig of fennel only as a garnish.
      I'm not familiar with fennel's taste and want to learn more about the stuff before seasoning with it.
         Thunder-boomers woke me up this 4 o'clock. How rude! Hope you got to sleep in? Care to share any old-becomes-new makeovers gracing your home? Feel free to leave a link, so the rest of us can easily make the jump!

      Tuesday, June 14, 2011

      Playing the frugal game with laser-like focus, including the Fire King bowl I bought

      Typical camp table.
      Though we seldom use aluminum foil, it does come in handy for some camp foods. 
      All right, despite my 2011 pledge to spend less, save more, I've been spending like crazy this spring. No regretful purchases, I mean, what's not to love about seeing the grandkids outfitted in matching pink visors, sunglasses and pink-flowered Crocs? Besides, having the money to spend when you want is one great reason for saving, but despite increased spending in some areas, I have re-intensified my focus when it comes to everyday purchases.
         Did rack up some points in the frugal game during our jaunt through northeastern Kentucky. We only ate out twice during our five-day excursion. And "souvenir" purchases were limited to one Jesse Stuart book, bought in support of the JS Foundation, and a vintage Fire King Blue Mosaic bowl found at a yard sale for a quarter.
         Yup, I went to a yard sale while on vacation! What better way to get the real scoop on the lives of eastern Kentuckians than sifting through folks' castoffs?
         True to form, I also hit a grocery in one of the towns we passed through. Groceries are one of my fav travel attractions, as I seek to bring home locally produced foods from whatever part of the country we find ourselves in. Got extremely lucky in eastern Kentucky when we stumbled upon a grocery that was going out of business, so everything was 40% off. That's how Knox gelatin ended up mingled with our camping gear.
         In an effort to decrease our consumption of food additives, I've decided to buy less Jell-o. If champion frugalista Amy Daczyzn can make her own jell-o, so can I!
         Anyone ever used unflavored gelatin? I'm flying in uncharted territory here! (New to me, that is.) Have a tom-terrific Tuesday!
      Easy campfire Brats-n-Onions, with carrots hidden underneath.
      Seasoned the brats with curry, oregano and pepper. Yum!
      The sweet potatoes from last year's garden we brought along were simple and delish too.
      My 25¢ yard sale find: a vintage Fire King Blue Mosaic bowl.
      Embarrassed to admit that I had a box of Knox gelatin in my cabinet that must be 20+ years old.
      Tossed it!
      Boy, was I surprised to find their packaging virtually unchanged from then to now! 

      Monday, June 13, 2011

      Love it that they still have ferry boats!

      Pic taken with my head out the roof, looking back to where we'd been.
      This Green River Ferry is quite near to Mammoth Cave National Park. The short little ferry ride is free...gotta love that too!
         Took all these shots in a hurry, so sorry that the exposures are not great. Any ferries in your region of the country?
      Isn't that the sweetest little ferry boat ever? ;)
      Not a big ferry, so we had to stay in the car.
      The kiddos thought it worth a look back too!
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