Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Eggplant Caponata

So, Trader Joe's has an eggplant caponata appetizer that I really like. I find it tasty, especially on crackers or bread with hummus.

But it's $3.69 for probably 16 oz? (24 oz? I don't remember). That's $1.85 per cup.

I did some searches for Caponata recipes...crockpot, pressure cooker. Tried a couple, and I found that the one from Lorna Sass "Complete Vegetarian Kitchen" was quite good, better than TJ's. I just made it for New Year's Eve (we're alone this year, our friend's kid is sick). I made an adjustment - added tomato paste to thicken.

Eggplant Caponata for pressure cooker
1T olive oil: 0.11
1 eggplant, approx 1 lb: $1.39
1 red bell pepper, diced: $1.04
3 celery stalks, sliced 1/4 inch strips: $0.30
1 onion, diced: 0.25
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.08
1/4 c. kalamatas, halved: 0.35
1/4 c. green olives, halved: 0.27
1/2 of a 6 oz can of tomato paste: 0.17
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes: 0.60
1/4 tsp cinnamon: 0.01
1/3 c. raisins: 0.15
1 tsp salt: 0.02
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar: 0.39
1 T capers: 0.14
salt and pepper to taste
Total: $5.27 for 5 cups, or about $1.05 per cup

Dice eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Put in colander. Toss with salt. Put paper towel on top, put a plate on top, and add a weight (couple of cans of beans). Let drain for 1 hour.

Heat oil in pressure cooker. Saute onion and garlic for 2 min. Add eggplant, celery, pepper, capers, raisins, and olives. Stir and saute for a few more minutes.

In food processor, puree diced tomatoes. Stir in cinnamon and vinegar. Add tomato mixture to pressure cooker and stir.

Put top on cooker and bring to pressure on high heat. Reduce heat to low (maintain high pressure), and cook 2 min. Remove from heat. Use a quick-cool method (run lid under cold water to release pressure).

Stir. Cook longer if eggplant isn't soft enough. For me, this looks good, but at this point I add the tomato paste and stir.

I prefer it cold, my husband prefers it warm. Bread, crackers...yum!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Persimmon bread

I don't remember the source of this recipe. I have it written on a 3x5 card. So I probably got a recipe from the CSA or the internet and adjusted it. Last year we didn't get too many persimmons, but we got a bunch this year.

I basically waited until each persimmon was nice and soft. Then I cut the top off and scooped out the flesh and stuck it in a freezer bag. A couple of months later, I had 2 cups. Enough for two loaves of persimmon bread. We used a couple of persimmons for smoothies, lost one to mold.

Boy this stuff was so good that I put the second loaf in the freezer instead of giving it away. I'm going to have to estimate the cost of persimmons, 'cuz I have no idea what they would cost.

Persimmon Bread (2 loaves)
2 cups persimmon puree: $3.00
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. sugar: 0.09
1/2 c. canola oil: 0.26
4 eggs: 0.50
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon: 0.05
1/2 Tbsp allspice: 0.08
1/2 tsp cloves: 0.02
1/2 tsp nutmeg: 0.02
1.5 c. white flour: 0.23
1.5 c. wheat flour: 0.33
2 tsp salt: 0.01
1/2 c. raisins: 0.22
1/2 c. chopped walnuts: 0.56
Total: $5.37 for 2 loaves of about 13 slices each. Or about $0.21 per slice.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 2 pans.

In small bowl stir together persimmon pulp and baking soda. Let sit 5 min. It will set up.

In larg bowl, mix sugar, oil, eggs, salt and spices. Blend until smooth. Mix in pulp and flours alternately.

Fold in nuts and raisins. Pour into pans. Bake 1 hour.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book Review: Refuse to Regain

As some of my readers know, weight is a struggle that I've had over the years. I was a chubby child, a too-skinny 18-year old (crash diet), an obese woman in my late 20's to early 30's...I worked pretty hard to lose 57 lbs in 2002. Then again last year to lose the last 20 lbs of baby weight. My method of weight loss is weight watchers. I enjoy reading about weight loss and reading health and fitness books, blogs, and magazines.

Sometime last year I was reading CNN and saw a headline about someone's amazing weight loss. It's pretty typical to see these...they are doing a series. I clicked the link and the location said "Clarion, PA". Now, I'm from Clarion. Graduated from high school there. So I had an instant interest. I didn't know the woman profiled (Lynn Bering), as she moved there after marriage. But I enjoyed reading her story. She's lost 158 lbs. Occasionally I read her blog.

She has teamed with an obesity doctor to start a new website dedicated to helping people MAINTAIN weight loss (often harder than losing it in the first place). It was here that I learned about the book "Refuse to Regain: 12 Tough Rules to Maintain the Body You've Earned", by Barbara Berkeley, M.D. I placed it on my wish list, and promptly forgot about it. Until Christmas, when I received it as a gift. (I think my in-laws have given up, and understand that I just have weird book requests...I also got a vegetarian cookbook for kids, "Vegan Express" by Nava Atlas, and "The Complete Book of Running for Women".)

I spent a fair bit of time on Christmas day with a runny nose, reading the book. I picked it because of reviews that mentioned things specific to maintenance.

In general, I think it's a good book filled with some practical tips. She's definitely experience (this is her field). She discusses the differences betweeen NOWs (never overweights) and POWs (previously overweights) in physical and emotional terms.

She discusses, for example (as rule #1), that you have to be TOUGH, not MODERATE. Most people and dietitians, doctors, espouse "moderation". In reality, for weight maintenance, that doesn't work. Saying you'll have only "one" cookie heads you on the road to failure. However, being tough and strict is the way to success. I have to say that I mostly agree. When I have to be serious about weight loss and maintenance, I simply make sure there is no candy in the house. Over the holidays, I just decided to lose some weight and told myself I couldn't have any of the snacks at work. And I didn't. I still use measuring cups to measure my food.

Rule #2 says that you need to have a strict diet for 3 months. This actually does work for me (though 6-8 weeks is usually enough). That's about as long as it takes to develop a new habit. It's very difficult, for example, for me to lose 5 lbs and maintain that weight loss. It only takes 3-4 weeks. For 10 lbs, it generally takes 5-6 weeks. So at the end of that, it's a new habit.

Dr. Berkeley also recommends weighing yourself every day, in the morning, naked. Yep, I do this during maintenance. During weight loss, no. It's good to be honest. To get a feel for how your weight fluctuates by the day, week, months. You stop fearing the number so much, but can also reverse small increases.

Rule #4 is to establish a "scream weight". This is the weight that when you hit it, you IMMEDIATELY try to reverse it. My "scream weight" is 135, and I hit it in early December.

Rule #5 is to eat 90% "Primarian", which is her definition of what the diet of our ancestors tended to be. With a few small changes. I will discuss this one later. This is the big rule that I mostly disagree with.

Rule #6 is to eat one major meal and then mini-meals and snacks for the rest of the day. I tend to do this anyway.

Another point that Dr. Berkeley makes is to "scan and plan". Take a look at your day's schedule. Figure out what you will eat and when. What will be your major meal? Will it be in or out? What will your snacks be? I like this idea...I plan my meals a day or more in advance. On occasion, I have to be at work at 6 am, and I know that I won't be able to eat again until 11 am. On those days, I eat a big breakfast (that I can barely get down), because it will hold me until 11.

Rule #8 is to stop eating after 8 pm. Can't disagree with that (half the time I'm asleep by 8:30).

The next rule is to eat from a limited menu. The more variety available, the more likely you are to overeat. This is one reason why I am trying to stick to whole grains, beans, and veggies. I'm not quite at the limited menu as the folks at

Rule #10 is to allow yourself 1 treat per day. Even during weight loss, I find I have to allow myself one piece of chocolate, or one glass of wine, or some good cheese.

Dr. Berkeley recommends developing a "love affair with exercise." I couldn't agree more. My typical schedule is:

Mon: 30-40 min of elliptical or treadmill, 40-60 min of weightlifting (with or without a trainer).
Tue: Bike to work (45-50 min)
Wed: See Monday, but no trainer
Thu: off
Fri: See Tues
Sat: See Weds, but generally it's 40 min or more of cardio. I try to run to the gym (25 min), then do cardio with my friend, then lift.
Sun: varies. Running, walking, biking, or a day off.

In agreement with rule #1, she points out that successful maintainers exercise for an hour a day, which isn't exactly "moderate".

Her final rule is to get, an on-line group, friends.

So back to #5. Here's where my big beef with her book is: She espouses the "primarian" diet. Which means no starches. No rice, no beans, no potatoes, no bread. Now, this is based on her experience with POW people and the "addictive" quality of these foods. Starches tend to trigger both weight gain and hunger in people who have been overweight. She also points out that our bodies are descended from hunter-gatherers who ate meat and vegetables and grains - they didn't cultivate them.

I see her point. When I need to get serious and lose a few pounds, I cut back on carbs, to about 6 servings per day. However, I don't necessarily agree that a diet with a fair bit of meat is good for the environment, the earth, or your body.

For example, her book quotes Michael Pollan, but his recommended diet is considerably lower in meat than hers. (The recommendations in her book include meat daily). She allows the use of sugar substitutes (aka, fake food), low-fat dairy (which certainly wasn't available to the hunter-gatherers). And didn't hunter-gatherers die VERY young?

The book seems to have absolutely no place in it for vegetarians...which I find interesting, because Lynn Bering is a vegetarian. The China Study discusses the health benefits of a vegetarian diet (and the problems associated with meat). I can't understand how you can ignore that.

In reality, I think bodies are different. Just as a lot of Asians thrive on rice and beans, the Inuits thrive on meat. Some people are gluten intolerant. Some can't eat very much grain at all. Others thrive on a vegan diet. This seems to be ignored in this book.

In short, except for a big, glaring disagreement on #5 (eating a Primarian diet), it's a good book. And I agree that starches should be limited. But not eliminated.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Heath, Fitness, and Weight Loss

Why frugalhealthysimple? Well, this blog had a different life before now. At first, it was a blog just about frugality. But I didn't really spend a lot of time on it and it fizzled. Then I started thinking...what are my interests? Food, for one. When we married, I had about 100 cookbooks and dh had about 5...and I didn't even cook.

Well, I'm pretty interested in frugality. This comes from growing up poor. I had a brief spendy time in my 20's, and got re-interested in frugality in my early 30's. I never did spend more than a earned though. Living frugally gives us peace of mind and money in the bank for emergencies.

Why simple? Well, frugality and simplicity often (but not always) go hand in hand. I learned when I had my child to "keep it simple, stupid". As far as cooking goes, anyway. If it can't be made in less than an hour with minimal supervision, then it doesn't get made (unless on the weekend). In fact, 3-4 days per week, our evening meal is simply leftovers.

That moves on to healthy. I have been interested in health for a very long time. A few years ago, my mother made me a scrapbook of all the health and fitness articles I cut out of magazines when I was 16-18 years old. Wow. Even in my "fat years" (aka, 1997 to 2002), I was interested in health. I just didn't do much about it.

A big part of being healthy is simply maintaining a healthy weight. As most of us know, this may be "simple", but it's not "easy". We are constantly bombarded by food. Most of it not healthy. There are millions of items in the grocery stores these days - items that don't really resemble the types of food available when I was a kid. Over 66% of Americans are overweight or obese, and it's only getting worse.

I have had my struggles. From being a chubby teen, to my senior year of HS when I lost 27 lbs...bottoming out at 110 lbs. Boy, that was not a good weight for me. All angles and bones...and no period. There were fluctuations in college and in the Navy, where my weight was mostly healthy. Then, there was California and marriage. My weight quickly ballooned from 135 at my wedding to 145 a year later, to 158 after 6 months in California to 170 lbs just 6 months later. Whew. It topped out at 182 lbs before I started taking control in 2002. And not because I said "that's enough". I just decided to give Weight Watchers a try. (Who knew that I wasn't supposed to be matching my 6-ft tall husband bite for bite?)

Losing weight and maintaining doesn't have to break the bank. Here are some of my tips. Some are frugal, some not so much.

1. The internet - there are a lot of good places to go on the internet for health information. is a very powerful site based on the USDA food pyramid. You can enter your meals and they will rate them for you. There are lists of food, amounts, calories. - this is a free site (with software that you can download for a price), that lists foods and their nutritional values - vitamins, minerals, calorie, fat, fiber. If you are in to counting, or just want to know how much you are eating, this is a good site. If you like the site, then the downloaded software is even more powerful - you can build your own recipes and get the nutritional information. - this is another free site, like fitday, where you can track your food intake. The last time I visited, I noticed that it wasn't as easy to use as fitday, and fiber was missing in the food counts. They also have message boards and inspirational e-mails. I find that the regular emails that I get from them are very useful. It's a "healthy living community". - This is my website of choice. It's not free. It's about $17/month or so. Weight watchers is where I go when I need to take off weight. I used it to lose 57 lbs in 2002. I used it to lose the last 20 pounds of baby weight last year. And I'm using it now to lose the 5 lbs I gained on vacation this summer and the 5 I gained in November (2 weeks into it, have lost 5.4 lbs...only 4.2 to go).

I like weight watchers because I find the website easy to use, the point-counting system easy to master, and the message boards really supportive. And it works. - This is a site with personal interaction with a real dietitian. This is not inexpensive. I found it very helpful after I had my son to get a professional to LOOK at my diet and tell me where I was going wrong (chocolate and cheese). - This is a site dedicated to frugal living, and there's a FREE E-book on frugal health and fitness that you can download. You have to sign up for their regular feed, but I enjoy those emails.

Yahoo groups - healthycheapcooking - Nice group maintained by a woman in northern central PA, all about healthy cooking.

2. Books - this is where your library can be a big help. From healthy, vegetarian, and vegan cookbooks to books about exercise and healthy living. And free! Books that I've enjoyed reading recently:

The Omnivore's Dilemma
Refuse to Regain
Running and Walking for Women over 40 (I know I'm not there yet)
In Defense of Food
Eat Drink and Weigh Less (cookbook)
What to Eat
The Way We Eat
The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood
Vegan With a Vengeance (cookbook)

3. The gym - Not everyone has access to a gym. Not everyone can afford a gym. I find the gym to be very fun and motivating. And they occasionally offer classes on diet.

4. Adult education - cooking classes, health classes, aerobics name it, they've got it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fejoida (Brazilian black beans)

This recipe originated from Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine. Great book, full of more recipes than I could possibly try. We really like this dish. It's a vegetarian version of a Brazilian dish which typically has pork products in it.

1 lb dry black beans (0.64) - the last of the 10lb bag I got on sale for $6.39. Now they're $9.39
5 cups water
1 large onion, diced: 0.25
1 T canola oil: 0.05
3 cloves garlic, minced: 0.20
2 T chopped hot pepper (I used more of the poblanos, jalapeno is fine too): 0.20
1 cup diced canned tomato, plus juice: 0.30
1 tsp salt: 0.02
Total: $1.66 for about 7 cups, or 14 servings 1/2 cup each. Each 1/2 cup serving is then $0.12.

Pick over and rinse black beans. Soak black beans 6-8 hours. Drain and rinse, cover with 5 more cups water. I cook mine in the pressure cooker. Bring to pressure, turn down heat to maintain rocking, cook 7 min. Remove from heat and let come to pressure naturally.

Caramelize the onion: Saute onion in oil, on low-medium, covered, for 10 min or so. Until translucent. Remove cover, increase heat to medium, and saute until golden or lightly browned. Add garlic and pepper, saute 2 more min. Add diced tomatoes and juice and salt. Saute until thickened.

Puree about 1 cup of black beans and put back in the pot. Instead, I just used the immersion blender. Add the tomato/onion mixture and simmer until thick. This is where using slightly less water to cook the beans (or draining them a bit) would help. Usually do that, didn't this time - they're going to be cooking for awhile. Dinner's not for a few more hours anyway.

Chile Rellenos Casserole

I have a great cookbook called "One United Harvest". It's a collection of recipes from various CSA's around the country (including ours). I like it because it's got recipes for fruits and veggies that you might not find elsewhere.

This recipe is adapted from that cookbook, from a recipe by Solyssa Visalli at Cop Copi Farms in La Grand, Oregon. I dug it out because this year we got a LOT of poblano and anaheim peppers. Every year with the CSA, it's something. Something grows like crazy. Last year we got a lot of jalapenos.

So I roasted the peppers, peeled, sliced, and froze in small piles on a cookie sheet. Then put them in a plastic bag. I don't know if I managed to defrost the required "8 to 12" peppers. I just got a bunch of them out.

Also, the original recipe called for 8 oz of cheese (cheddar/jack). I cut it down to 6 oz, but I think 4 would work just as well.

If you cut it into 9 squares, it's 4 pts each.

Chile Rellenos Casserole:

8-12 peppers (anaheim, poblano, bell, etc.) roasted: $3.00
1 yellow onion, diced: 0.25
1 T canola oil: 0.05
4 cloves garlic: 0.30
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt: 0.02
1 T. cumin: 0.12
1/2 T chili powder: 0.07
1 c. frozen corn: 0.50
4 eggs: 0.50
1 1/2 c. milk: 0.28
2 T. flour: 0.02
6 oz shredded cheddar cheese: $1.09
Total: $6.20 for 9 servings, or $0.69 per serving.

To roast peppers: poke holes in each pepper. Put peppers on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Roast under broiler, turning every 10 min, until skin is blackened all around (probably 20-30 min total). Remove from oven, put in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. When cool, cut the tops off, remove the skin and seeds, and slice.

At this point, I freeze in small piles...

Caramelize the onion: Saute in oil on low-medium, covered. Stir occasionally. When translucent, remove lid and increase heat. Continue to saute until golden brown.

Add garlic and spices. Saute 3 more minutes. Remove from heat and add corn.

In a medium bowl, mix milk, flour, and eggs. Beat with a whisk to mix well.

Grease a 9x9 pan. Layer 1/3 of the peppers on the bottom. Top with 1/2 of the corn and onion mixture. Top with 1/3 of the cheese. Repeat layers. (Note that it's 1/3 of the peppers and cheese, but 1/2 of the corn).

Pour egg and milk mixture over the whole thing. Finally, top with remaining peppers and cheese. At this point, I put it in the fridge. I was prepping during nap time.

Bake at 350 for 45 mins or until it's puffed in the center and brown at the edges.

Gingerbread Cookies

So, cookies probably can't be considered "healthy". But in the grand scheme of things, homemade cookies are better for you than the storebought stuff filled with HFCS and partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. And they are frugal.

This gingerbread cookie recipe comes from my sister in NC. And they're really yummy.

Frosty Gingerbread Cookies
3 3/4 c. sifted all purpose flour: 0.64
1 tsp baking soda: ? darn near free
1/2 tsp salt: 0
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder: 0.07
2 tsp ground ginger: 0.20
3 tsp ground cinnamon: 0.10
2 tsp ground cloves: 0.20
1/2 tsp nutmeg: 0.01
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened: 1.10
1 cup sugar: 0.30
1 egg: 0.12
1/2 c. molasses: 0.83
sugar icing (1/2 c powdered sugar and a little milk and vanilla): 0.50
Total: $4.32 for 98 cookies, or about 4.5 cents each.

Sift flour, baking soda, salt, cocoa, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg into a bowl.

Beat butter, sugar, egg, and molasses in large bowl with electric mixer. This is where I'm glad we have the Kitchenaid (thanks to my MIL, it was a wedding gift). Beat until fluffy-light. Stir in flour mixture until well-blended, a little at a time. Wrap dough in plastic wrap or foil, refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Roll out dough, 1/3 at a time, on lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out with floured cookie cutters. Brush off excess flour. Place cookies on lightly greased cookie sheets.

Combine scraps for second (third, fourth) rolling. Most you probably know that (but you never know!)

Bake at 350 for 8 min, until edges are lightly browned (our oven took more like 9-10 min). Let cool a few min on cookie sheets. Remove to wire rack to cook completely. Frost when cool, sprinkle with colored sugar if desired.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

They might even be vegan...I'm not sure how most/all vegans consider sugar. Some specifically use agave nectar and the like. I guess about half of the white sugar produced in the US is cane sugar (vs. beet sugar), and is often filtered through bone char. So they avoid it just in case.

For those of you who grew up on ground beef and Manwich (like I did), well, this isn't exactly a substitute. It is, however, a really tasty BBQ-style vegetarian sandwich. I surfed the web for vegetarian sloppy joe recipes. Most of them called for TVP. Some that called for lentils and vegetables also called for jarred BBQ sauce. I decided to pick and choose and make my own recipe. I don't have BBQ sauce, but I do have ketchup!

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
1/2 c. dry black lentils (used them up! I hope green lentils work too): 0.50
1/2 c. dry brown rice: 0.21
1/2 onion, diced: 0.21
1 carrot, diced: 0.10
1 celery stalk, diced: 0.10
1 c ketchup: 0.50
3 T brown sugar: 0.05
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar: 0.06
2 tsp. dijon: 0.08
1/2 tsp chili powder: 0.02
salt, pepper to taste: 0.02
Total: $1.70 for 6 servings ($0.28 each)

Cook lentils and rice separately. Drain and toss together.

Saute onion, carrot, and celery in a bit of oil until soft. Stir in lentils and rice and warm.

In separate saucepan, mix ketchup through salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 min.

Add lentil and vegetable mixture to sauce. Spoon over buns.

The buns were $0.12 each. So that' $0.40 per sandwich. (0.49 if you add cheese)

No pictures. We ate them for dinner and lunch. I had extra lentils and rice (unmixed with the sauce) that we used last night for burritos.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dedication and Bike Riding

My husband and I like to ride our bikes. This summer, in an effort to stay fit, save money (gas was $5 a gallon), and be kind to the planet, we decided to try and ride our bikes twice a week to work.

We work near each other (~1 mile). We've got an 11-mile drive to work (each way), but 13 miles from work to our daycare provider, and 5 miles home from there. So we were each driving 29 miles per day. We've got small cars, but still. Why didn't we carpool? Well, I work part time, he works full time.

With the biking 2x a week, we are saving 22 miles per day (basically, the 11 mile drive to work, each way). I bike to work in the morning, hubby drives (drops off child) with the bike on the back & delivers the car to my office. He bikes the rest of the way to work and bikes home. I get off early, slap the bike on the back of the car, and drive to pick up our son.

That's almost a gallon of gas per day that we are saving. Twice a week. It's about $4 week now, but it was $10 when gas was hovering around $5/gallon.

Then the time change came. Hubby decided to try biking in the dark anyway. He'd done it in years past, but it's cold, it's dark, he has to go slower...

Now it's butt cold. BUTT cold. I was standing at the kitchen table this morning, dressed, looking at my helmet. Thinking "it's only 40 degrees outside". Now, our family members are reading this and thinking "wimp!" But consider biking 45-50 minutes, 11 miles (13 miles/hour). Ya know, it's cold. After Tuesday (also cold), I "upgraded" my wardrobe.

We dug out the skiing gear (heh, last time we went skiing was 1998. I wish I was joking. Actually I've only been skiing twice.) I grabbed a lined pair of gloves and a scarf. I wore two long-sleeved shirts and a sweatshirt, double layer socks, and slightly thicker shoes. It was a great improvement over Tuesday, and only my toes were a bit cold. And I made it in 45 mins, which is on the fast side for me.

I am feeling very dedicated today. :) I only saw two other riders out today, a lot fewer than normal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuna Casserole ala WW

That's Weight Watchers for those of you who are wondering. I found this WW recipe recently and adjusted it based on what I had on hand. For example, I don't buy low-fat cheese, unless it's a naturally lower-fat cheese.

This was pretty easy, and a great use of those 12 cans of tuna you bought to make it through that last disaster (um...yeah, I have to eat them a bit faster). If you happen to be allergic to fish (you know who you are), use leftover chicken or turkey. If you are vegetarian, I bet mushrooms would be great in this.

Whole wheat tuna casserole:
1 c. milk (I used 1%): 0.19
1 T flour: 0.01
6 oz can tuna in water, drained: 0.50
1 c. frozen peas and carrots: 0.50 (anything would work here...broccoli, just peas...)
3 oz whole wheat pasta (I used up some regular): 0.14 (0.24 for whole wheat)
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded: 0.36
2 tsp dijon mustard: 0.17
1 T dried parsley: 0.05
1/2 tsp onion powder: 0.02
1/4 tsp salt and pepper: 0.03
cooking spray
Total: $1.97 for four 1-c servings, or $0.49 each. 4pt each, but probably 4.5 'cuz I used real cheese and regular pasta. Didn't do the math.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat milk and flour, whisking regularly, over medium heat until thickened. Be careful here, I always lose track and it gets all gummy, then I end up stirring little gummy bits into the sauce. (You can't see the difference once you add the cheese).

Remove from heat, add tuna, cheese, spices, and pasta.

Spray a small (1 qt) baking dish with cooking spray. Add casserole. Bake 20 min at 400F. Let cool 10 min before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Turkey soup

I made a big crockpot full of turkey soup today. Yum! Yeah, bay leaf is still in there.

Using whatever was around...of course.
Turkey soup:
3 qts turkey stock (homemade): $0
1 cup cooked turkey from Thanksgiving: $1.50
2 diced carrots: 0.50
3 celery stalks, diced: 0.30
1/4 large onion, diced: 0.15
sage, thyme, bay leaf, pepper, oregano: 0.15
1/2 can green beans: 0.25
2 oz black lentils (they were sitting around): 0.25
1/2 c. pearl barley: 0.50
2 small potatoes: 0.30

Total: $3.60 for, well...16 cups? That's my best guess, about four meals. $0.23 per cup. We're having it for lunch tomorrow. It was really really really good. The homemade stock is the key. I have a turkey carcass in the freezer and keep a bag of celery pieces, onion peels, etc. in the freezer for the next batch.

1/2 head red leaf lettuce: 0.50
1 carrot: 0.15
1 oz walnuts: 0.37
1 oz blue cheese: 0.60
2 tsp olive oil: 0.08
2 T balsamic vinegar: 0.19
pepper, garlic powder, sugar: 0.05
6 green olives: 0.19
Total: $2.13 for two, or $1.07 each. (big salad)

Corn muffins:
1 pkg Trader Joe's muffin mix (lazy!): $2.49
1 egg: 0.13
3/4 c. milk: 0.14
1/2 c. oil: 0.30
Total: $3.06 for 17 muffins. 0.18 per muffin (cheaper if from scratch!)

Hubby: 0.34 for soup (1.5 cups), 1.07 for salad, 0.36 for two muffins: $1.77
Me: 0.34 for soup, 1.07 for salad, no muffin (diet): $1.41
Toddler: 0.11 for soup, 0.18 for muffin: $0.29

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spanish-style fried rice

I've taken a recipe from a local cooking class, and I have adjusted it to make it easier to make with a toddler in tow. In short, I prep as much ahead as possible.

Spanish-style fried rice
1 c. brown rice: 0.42
1 3/4 c. water: 0
1 T. canola oil: 0.04
1 onion, diced: 0.25
2 celery stalks, diced: 0.16
3 T. diced roasted poblanos: ?
1/4 c. diced roasted red peppers: 0.19
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
1T dried parsley: 0.05
1 tsp cumin: 0.05
1 tsp salt: 0.02
1/2 tsp pepper: 0.03
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz): 0.60
6 oz diced ham: 1.03
1/2 c frozen peas and carrots: 0.25

Total: $3.17 for 6 cups, or $0.53/cup

Cook brown rice ahead of time (I use a time saving rice cooker, though a pressure cooker would work, for the whole dish I think).

Saute onion, celery, peppers in canola oil until soft. Add garlic, tomatoes, spices and saute until the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates. Add rice and ham. Saute until warm. Add frozen peas and carrots and saute a few more minutes, until defrosted but still bright in color.


Total: $1.85

1 cup grapes: 0.93
1/2 cup aloo gobi (cauliflower and potatoes) 0.29
1 salmon patty with 1 T ketchup: 0.42
2 celery sticks with 1 T peanut butter: 0.21

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Frugal and Green

I am certainly not the first person to note the obvious connection between frugality and environmentalism, and I'm sure I won't be the last. I know I first read about the connect in Amy Daczycyn's The Complete Tightwad Gazette.

I am definitely on the very frugal side compared to my friends, and I'm probably a little more "green" than the average person in So. Cal. But I'm no expert. Here are some of the things that we do to be frugal and green:

1. Drying Laundry. We dry our laundry outside whenever possible. Living in So. Cal, this is pretty easy. Except for rainy days, and days filled with fires or ash, or incredibly windy days, we hang our laundry out. Even if it doesn't fully dry, 10 min in the dryer is better than 60. My sister-in-law in NY has a basement with clotheslines along the ceiling, which is where she dries her laundry year round. Amy D (mentioned above) used her attic.

Some of my friends think I'm wierd and ask if it's just to "save money". As you can see, we have quite the setup. We have an umbrella stand, an umbrella style clothesline, and a sunshade. The sunshade is because we have birds and bugs who do their business (little brown drops) all over the back. I'm pretty sure that since our "setup" cost us about $100 total, it will take a few years to recoup our costs.

The reason we do it is that the sun is free. It seems incredibly wasteful to use electricity and gas to dry clothes when we can get solar power. In other areas where it rains and snows, it's less practical. People in apartments are unlikely to have enough room to hang all of their clothing. But we can, so we do. And in the long run, we are saving on our electricity and gas bill.

2. Washing Laundry. At some point in the last 100 years, as a society we went from having only 3-5 oufits of clothing to more than we could wear in a month. At some point we apparently also decided that we needed to wash all of our clothing after each wearing. This still makes sense for some things...I wash items when my toddler has been playing in the dirt, or I've been out running and sweating (phew!), or I spill something. If you are someone who has a sweaty or dirty job or are just a sweaty person, you'll need to wash clothing more often. But the average person doesn't need to wash their clothing after each wearing.

I wash my workout gear after each workout. My pants get washed about every fifth wear and my shirts after every third wear. We wash our sheets about every two weeks when we are being good, every month when we are not, and certainly after one of us has had a cold. We use about three dish towels a week, one hand towel, and one bath towel (so 3) per person per week.

We do not wash towels after every use. Some people do. Um, can you say wasteful? I know of people with the same family size as us, who wash 10-12 loads per week. We are at 3, 4 if we are doing sheets. This saves water and gas. It also saves our clothing.

3. Reusable water bottles. We recently switched to stainless steel, in the efforts to avoid plastic. But we used plastic before. We have a Brita filter. Some friends have the large 5-gal delivery service, and some people use a reverse-osmosis filter. Here our water tastes disgusting, so filtration is common. But I have friends who drink only bottled water. Bottle after bottle. This is not only expensive, but very bad for the environment.

Water filters are fairly cheap.

4. Canvas/reusable grocery bags. We have a ton of these. And I don't always remember to take them. Reusing a bag is better than getting a new bag, even if you recycle. And I am surprised at some friends who didn't realize (until recently) that you can recycle plastic bags. Most of the canvas bags I've found are $1 to $6. Even if you shop monthly and need 12 bags, you can slowly accumulate enough to do all of your shopping.

This can save money. At least one of our grocery stores gives us a 30 cent discount for bringing our own bag.

5. Washing/reusing ziploc bags. This could be the mantra and the love/hate for frugality. Some people use this as a badge of honor. Others feel it "puts off" normal people. We wash ziploc bags, until they fall apart. But we throw them away if they had meat in them.

6. Eating in/eating leftovers. Eating out is expensive, we know this. But think about the plastic, styrofoam, and cardboard that gets thrown out after one use.

Eating leftovers is a no-brainer. Don't waste food!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kitchen Sink Pasta

as in...everything but...all the leftovers got tossed into this dish.

To anyone (all three of you) wondering "what about Thanksgiving?" There was no Thanksgiving post because (1) Turkey day is my hubby's cooking day. All I did was peel potatoes. and (2) we had guests in town all weekend.

Pasta dish
1 lb rotelle: 0.75
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes: 0.60
1 head broccoli: 1.00
1 onion: 0.30
1 bell pepper: 0.50
garlic powder and italian seasoning to taste: 0.20
1 T canola oil: 0.05
1/2 oz grated parmesan: 0.22

Total: $3.62 for about 6-8 servings, or $0.60 per serving.

I'd like to say the picture is washed out because of the camera. But no, I overcooked the broccoli on purpose to make it easier for my toddler to eat it. Eventually I can stop doing that.

Cook pasta al dente. Drain.

Saute onions in oil for about 5 min, covered, on medium heat to soften. Add peppers. Cover and cook 5 more min. Add broccoli florets and stems and 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook 5 more min.

Add can of tomatoes and spices. Stir and cook 5 more min (see a trend here?) Add drained pasta and warm through, about 5 min.

Top with cheese.