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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Arugula pesto pizza.

Lima beans with onions, tomatoes, garlic, ham, cheese.

Ground turkey with peas, carrots, onions, cabbage, and a bevy of leftover Asian sauces. Served over rice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cooking from scratch is HARD WORK

Here at frugal healthy simple we (well, I) discuss the virtues of cooking from scratch to enjoy healthy and frugal foods.

One thing that I haven't really covered is that it can be really hard work. Over the last several weeks, I've gotten to thinking about it more. I remember about 4 years ago, talking to my mother and my mother-in-law (in separate phone calls) about cooking. They both said "I don't know how you can't be sick of it". My answer back then was easy: "1. I've been cooking for two years, not 40. 2. my husband eats anything that I cook."

Those are important points to make. If my latest food experimentation du jour (or month) happens to be vegan vittles, my husband will happily scarf down mediterranean chickpeas and rice, or vegan pad thai, until the cows come home. My step-father and to a much smaller degree father-in-law, however, are picky. They don't like fish/vegetables/nuts/spicey foods/ethnic get the picture. So after 40 years of cooking the same foods (or getting a grimace with something new), I can see how you could get tired of cooking.

Now here we are 4 years later. I am still not tired of cooking, but I am kinda tired of the dishes. Yep, that's where the hard work comes in. I enjoy trying new recipes, chopping, stirring, sauteing. But with a toddler in tow, the schedule gets a little dicey. My cooking tends to be in 5-minute bursts, or while the toddler is napping, or after he's in bed, or on the weekend. You see, we work during the week (though I only work 6 hrs/day). I tend to cook 2 or 3 items each weekend day, in addition to making dinner. This allows us to have tasty leftovers for lunch and dinner during the week.

But boy, by Sunday night, I am feeling a lot like a scullery maid from The 1900 house. For each of those 5, 6, 7 dishes that I cook comes with dishes. Even today, where cooking is "only" cole slaw and pizza, I used the food processor 2x (for the slaw and to make arugula pesto for the pizza), the bread machine for the dough, the salad spinner to wash the cabbage, the frying pan for lunch...and TODAY I'm only cooking dinner, not anything extra. AND I have a diswasher!

Compare and contrast this to Thursday night, when we had frozen mini tacos and frozen veggies. One cookie sheet and one microwave steamer. I can see why folks tend to cook this way after a long work day.

For us, in particular, the "hard work" comes by choice, in the form of the CSA. This past week was our last week for the year. From mid-Jan to mid-Nov, we enjoyed weekly fresh, organic produce. And each week I spent minutes to hours deciding what to make, then cooking, pureeing, freezing, etc. to make sure that almost none is wasted. I am actually looking forward to the next two months - when I can simply run down to the farmer's market, and be broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, lettuce, and onions...and be happy for the week. But we're still signing up next year for our 9th year.

So don't beat yourself up about not cooking from scratch every minute. It's time consuming and can be physically exhausting. Today, I'd just started letting the water out from the dishes when I heard "daddy? mommy?" from under my son's door.

Here are some tips (okay, gadgets) that help you cook "from scratch":

Bread machine: we love this. We wore out our first one. I have to laugh when the truly cook from scratchers talk about how EASY it is to make bread and ANYONE can do it. You know, even the most basic bread takes 2 hrs to rise and an hour to bake. That math tells me that you have to have at least a 3-hour stretch to make bread...who's got that mid-week if you work outside the home? This machine can be set on a timer.

Crockpot: another wonderful gadget that you can set and forget. As we mostly eat vegetarian, this doesn't get very much use in our household. But it can be a great tool.

Rice cooker: Brown rice, less than an hour, don't have to watch it (can be playing with cars in the other room), what's more to love?

Pressure cooker: ideal for the near-vegetarian, can cook brown-rice and chickpeas in under 45 minutes. Soups in 10 min. Beans in 15 min. What's not to love?

Food processor: hummus, pesto, shredding cabbage, shredding cheese, chopping onions...

Immersion blender: it's soup season! And my son will eat anything if it's in a soup. So we make a lot of soup.

Anybody have tips to make cooking from scratch a little easier?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Weekly festivals

Check out the Festival of Frugality #152 at Financial Wellness Project this week. My "Staying Healthy" post is featured.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


A big part of any frugalista's shopping and eating strategy can be coupons. I say "can be" because it will depend a lot on what you eat, where you live, and the stores that you have.

I used to use coupons fairly frequently. Lately, however, it seems like there is very little payback for the amount of effort I put into it. I keep reading blogs that say how important coupons are, but I'm not seeing it.

So I made a decision. For one month, I would go through the coupons in my paper and list them ALL, and note which ones we'd use and which ones we wouldn't. Great idea, right? Except there were more than 130 in today's paper. So maybe this week will be it. Here's what we had in the LA times this week:

Item Amount Use
Colgate toothpaste $1.00 yes
Suave haircare 1.00 on 2 yes
Country crock tub margarine 1.00 on 2 yes
Newman's own variety $0.50 yes (salsa)
lipton tea bags 1.00 on 2 maybe
Entemann's $1.00 maybe (hubby has a weakness)
Progresso broth $1.00 maybe, depends on price
Fresh express Salad $0.75 maybe, depends on price
Del monte vegetables 1.00 on 2 maybe, depends on price
Welch's dried fruit $1.00 maybe, depends on price
foil $1.00 maybe, depends on price
Del monte fruit, veg, tomato 1.00 on 4 maybe, depends on price
olives $0.50 maybe, depends on price
Ragu pasta sauce 1.00 on 2 maybe, depends on price
Star vinegar $0.50 maybe, depends on price
Da vinci pasta $0.50 maybe, depends on price
Lawry's mixes 1.00 on 3 maybe, depends on price
B&V wine $2.00 maybe, depends on price
Daisy sour cream $0.50 maybe, depends on price
Durkee seasoning 1.00 on 2 maybe, depends on price
Star Olive Oil $0.50 maybe, depends on price
Blue ribbon rice $0.25 maybe, depends on price
Quaker oats 1.00 on 2 maybe, depends on price, oats are $0.99/lb in bulk
Salad dressing 1.00 on 2 maybe, depends on price, processed though
Pam $0.35 maybe, store brand cheaper
Non-dairy creamer $0.55 no
Schick razors $1.00 no
Hershey kisses $1.50 no
Tone's seasoning $1.00 no
Simply saline mist $1.00 no
Balsam hair color $1.00 no
paper plates $0.35 no
Batteries $0.75 no
Dinosaur toy $3.00 no
lint brush $1.00 no
Scotch brite sponge $0.50 no
Colman's mustard $0.50 no
Dog hair remover $2.00 no
Sunsilk hair products 2.00 on 2 no
Lever 2000 soap 1.00 on 4 no
Wisk 1.00 on 2 no
Caress body wash $1.00 no
M&M premium $1.00 no
Sugar, raw $0.40 no
Suave men's haircare 1.00 on 2 no
Jello 1.00 on 3 no
Baileys Irish crème $2.00 no
Jetdry dishwasher cleaner $1.00 no
Delsym cough syrup $2.00 no
Delsym kids' cough $1.50 no
tums $1.00 no
Electrasol gelpaks $0.50 no
Jetdry $0.50 no
Blistex $0.25 no
Gaviscon $1.00 no
Tagamet $1.00 no
Target holiday photos various no
Phazyme $1.00 no
GM cereals $1.00 on 3 no (all sugary cereals)
Electrasol powder $0.35 no (buy generic)
Scott tissue $0.75 on 4 no (buy in bulk)
Scott paper towels 1.00 on 4 no (buy in bulk), but worth a try?
Frigo cheese $0.50 no (cheaper at costco by a few dollars a pound)
Sargento shredded cheese 1.00 on 2 no (cheaper at costco by a few dollars a pound)
Revlon tools $1.00 no (don't wear makeup)
Revlon makeup $1.00 no (don't wear makeup)
Uncle Ben's rice mixes 1.00 on 3 no (processed)
Country crock side dishes $1.00 no (processed)
turtles $1.50 no (processed)
Reddi whip $0.50 no (processed)
Poppycock caramel corn $0.50 no (processed)
Bahlsen cookies $0.50 no (processed)
Bisquick $0.60 no (processed)
Fiber 1 bars $0.70 no (processed)
Betty crocker cookie mix $0.40 no (processed)
White Castle burgers $0.50 no (processed)
Pillsbury biscuits $0.40 no (processed)
Betty crocker boxed potatoes $0.35 no (processed)
Pillsbury dinner rolls $0.75 on 2 no (processed)
chewy granola bars $1.00 on 2 no (processed)
Lipton soup mix 1.00 on 2 no (processed)
Knorr side dishes 1.00 on 3 no (processed)
Lee Kum Kee foil pack sce $0.75 no (processed)
Tyson cooked bacon $0.55 no (processed)
OreIda frozen potatoes $1.00 no (processed), Target only
Chuck E Cheese various no (restaurant not here)
Boston Market various no (restaurant not here)
Souplantation various no (restaurant not here)
Green Gnt Froz veg stmrs $1.00 no (store brands always cheaper)
Advil cold $1.00 no (store brands always cheaper)
Green Giant Froz boxed veg $0.50 no (store brands always cheaper)
True north nut snacks $1.00 no (too expensive, I buy nuts in bulk)
Meow mix $1.00 no pets
Purina dog snacks $3.00 no pets
Dog food $3.00 no pets
Pedigree dog treats $1.00 no pets
Suave deodorant 1.00 on 2 no, brand loyal
Vaseline lotion $1.50 no, brand loyal
Ajax dishwashing soap $0.20 no, brand loyal
Huggies diapers $1.00 no, buy in buik
cottonelle $0.25 no, buy in buik
Loreal hair color $1.00 no, don't color
Best foods mayo 1.00 on 2 no, it expires before we could go through that much
Vivid laundry detergent $0.50 no, Purex loyal
Earth grains bread $0.55 no, store brands cheaper
Lawry's spice $1.00 no, too expensive
Hillshire farms cocktail links 1.00 on 2 no, we don't eat this
Betty crocker frosting $0.50 only on a birthday
Beano $1.00 probably should!
Advil $1.00 rare
Oil of olay cleanser $1 to $5 sometimes (I'm getting older)
Mrs. Dash $0.75 this stuff is expensive, even on sale
Spice islands spices 1.00 on 2 too expensive. Buy no name.
Tabasco $0.50 we don't go through this very often
video game $10.00 we don't have any
Oral B brush heads $1.00 we use free toothbrushes from the dentist
Sugar 0.35>2 lb we're good on sugar for awhile

Whew. As you can see, there are very few (4) coupons that we would definitely use. There are many more that I would consider - depending on the price. I'd say 80% of the time, the store brand is cheaper. And most of these items have unadvertised sales. This means I actually have to spend the time at the stores from time to time, and check on these items each time that I go. This takes quite a bit of time.

Also, only one of our stores double coupons anymore. Ralphs will only "round up" to one dollar for anything over 50 cents.

Much of the food coupons are for processed foods, which might be cheaper but are unhealthy with a lot of salt and preservatives. We don't eat those.

So is my time worth those 4 coupons? I'm thinking maybe not. Now I can cancel the newspaper.

Cabbage and Noodles

Ah, cabbage. I've had a lifelong hate-hate relationship with cabbage. It started by having to eat my mom's coleslaw, which I hated (something about the too-sweet dressing). It moved on to shredded cabbage with italian dressing (which was my parents' compromise), which I didn't like either.

Then there was the time I threw up after stuffed cabbage rolls, and don't even get me started on the green jello mold with shredded cabbage. About the only cabbage I liked was sauerkraut (and my brother in law now makes it from scratch - yum!)

Fast forward to 30 years later. I'm an adult and a CSA member, and we get a lot of cabbage. This week, we got a 4.5 lb cabbage. That's a lot of cabbage. I have developed a few acceptable cabbage recipes (slaw, cooked, etc.) but am always on the lookout for more - because that's a LOT of cabbage.

I did some web-surfing, found this recipe, and adjusted it a bit (a stick of butter? really?) I had a pound of tofurkey kielbasa (an impulse buy at the health food store) and voila! This was really really good. I can't wait to have the leftovers.

Cabbage and Noodles
2 lb, 5 oz shredded cabbage: $1.63
1 onion, sliced: 0.20
1 lb egg noodles: 0.75
2 T butter: 0.13
1 tsp salt: 0.01
1/2 tsp pepper: 0.02
1 tsp paprika: 0.05
1 lb tofurkey kielbasa: 2.99
Total: $5.78 for about 8 servings, 1.5 cups each. $0.72 per serving

Cook noodles according to package directions.

In a stockpot, melt the butter and saute the onions and sliced tofurkey until desired golden-brownness. Add the cabbage and 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 15-20 min, stirring occasionally.

When cabbage is cooked (don't over cook! it just gets stinky), add spices and stir. Add noodles and serve.

We ate this with a little sour cream and shredded cheddar, which takes the per serving value to $0.87.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Turkey Stock

My husband did a dry run of the Thanksgiving turkey this past weekend. We've decided to cook turkey "parts" not a whole turkey this year.

In any event, I made stock in the crockpot afterwards. It's rich, brown, and you can see it cooking away here...we got about 12 cups.

Granola (again)

Granola is something I've posted about before (see here). I tweak the recipe each time based on what I've got in the cupboard. Here's the latest installment. I love the stuff:

4 c oats (approx 11 oz, 0.99/lb): $0.68
1/2 c coconut: 0.14
1/2 c chopped almonds: 0.88
1/4 c wheat germ: 0.38
1/2 c sunflower seeds: 0.22
1/3 c dry milk powder: 0.14
3/4 t. cinnamon: 0.06
1/2 t. salt

1/4 c. brown sugar: 0.05
1 T. honey: 0.07
2 T. water
1 banana, mashed or pureed: 0.19
1/4 c. canola oil: 0.09

1/2 c. raisins: 0.22

Total: $3.12 for about 8 cups, or $0.20 per 1/2 cup serving. Add 1/2 cup milk and it's a nice cheap breakfast that really sticks with you. It's pretty high calorie. For a lower-calorie snack, add a couple tablespoons to 1/4 cup over some yogurt and fruit.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl (oats through salt).

Mix the brown sugar, honey, water, and canola oil in a small saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Add mashed banana and mix well. Pour wet over dry, mix well. Spread in a cookie sheet and bake at 300 to 325 for 30 min to an hour, until your desired brownness. Stir every 15 min.

When cool, stir in raisins.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Amy's Cilantro Cream Sauce

I have a need for Cilantro recipes. We frequently get bunches of cilantro from the CSA. My fave recipe is Sesame Cashew Pasta, but sometimes I need something different. This is where a search found me this recipe.

This is very good. I like it with tortilla chips. I had the cost breakdown written down all nicely and then lost it (the perils of scrap paper in a household with a toddler). I'll try to recreate it here:

8 oz cream cheese: $1.79 (this time, I do find it on sale for $1.00 occasionally)
1/2 large bunch cilantro: 0.50
7 oz salsa verde: 0.58
1 tsp pepper: 0.05
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.05
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder: 0.05
1 T. sour cream: 0.05
juice of 1 lime: 0.25
Total: $3.32 for about 2 cups, or $0.41 per 1/4 cup serving.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Coconut rice

This was pretty good. I'd cut down on the coconut next time, because my husband thought there was too much. I got this recipe from recipezaar, but heavily edited it.

Coconut Rice
3 cups cooked brown rice: 0.62
1/2 c. toasted macadamias (leftover from our last trip to Hawaii??): $1.50? If I didn't have them, I'd use something else
1/2 c. toasted coconut: 0.25
2 T. canola oil: 0.08
1 carrot, diced: 0.08
1/2 cup frozen peas: 0.25
juice of 1 lime: 0.20
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.02
1/2 tsp cinnamon: 0.02
1/4 tsp cardamom: 0.05
total: $3.27 for four 1-cup servings, or $0.82 each

Pre-cook the brown rice, 'cuz I'm lazy.

Dice carrot and microwave with peas for 3 mins to cook.

Saute garlic, peas and carrot in oil for a couple of minutes. Add spices & saute 30 sec. Add rice & saute until heated through. Toss with lime juice, macadamias, and coconut.

Later on we mixed this with diced chicken for leftovers.

Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Staying healthy throughout the cold and flu season is a very frugal thing to do. I know personally, when I'm sick I have less energy to cook from scratch, keep up with the house, and do more frugal activities. Also, a fair number of workers these days have limited (or zero) sick leave, so a sick day means loss of $.

So here are my tips to staying healthy, as well as the cost associated with each, denoted by $, $$:

1. Wash your hands. Frequently. What you need: Soap and hot water, and about 30 seconds of your time. What may also be helpful: a good hand lotion. Frequent hand washing has the disadvantage of drying out your skin. Two lotions that work well for me are "Udder Cream" and "Circle of Friends Mom's Little Helper Hand Creme" (the latter was a free gift when I ran a 10k). Cost: almost free to $

2. Get a flu shot. What you need: about $15 (although some places it's free). What may also be useful: acetamenophen for the pain from the shot. My arm was sore for several days. The advantage to the flu shot is that it can prevent the flu or lessen the severity if you do get it. I had a mild case of fever after my flu shot this year. Cost: $$

3. Wipe down public surfaces: What you need: Clorox (or other brand) of disinfecting wipes. These things claim to kill the flu virus or norovirus. We bought these last year when we were expecting houseguests but had a stomach bug. We ended up putting our family up in a hotel for a few days, and used these guys to disinfect the house before they moved in. Cost: $ (about $2 to 3).

These can also be useful at work. Most people I know come to work sick. And if they don't, they were probably contagious before they started feeling the effects. I have these at work, and if someone is sick, I may take extra time in the morning and afternoon to wipe down doorknobs, the fridge door, and other public spaces.

4. Sleep. What you need: A bed, pillow blankets. What might also be useful: a dark room and some white noise (a fan?) This cannot be underestimated. When I am feeling tired and stressed out, I often will just crawl into bed right after (or even before) my toddler. I'd rather have that extra hour of sleep than get any extra chores done. Even if it means I'm going to bed at 8 pm. It also may mean my body stays strong enough to fight a cold. Cost: Free.

5. Exercise. What you need: low-end, a good pair of shoes. High-end: a gym membership. Regular exercise keeps your body strong. Strangely, if I am feeling overtired and I overexert myself with a hard workout, I am more likely to get sick. So if I'm feeling weak, I dial back my workout a bit. What might also be useful: more wipes. I have gotten into the habit at the gym (thanks to a friend), of wiping down the equipment I use BEFORE getting on it. You never know what other gym-goers are carrying with them. Cost: $ to $$$.

6. Healthy diet. What you need: Fruits. Vegetables. Whole grains. Lots of water. What might also be useful: a multivitamin. If you aren't doing so well on the diet. Cost: well, you need to eat.

7. A special "anti-cold" regimen. A lot of people have these. Based on discussions with friends and various practices, here's mine:

If I feel like I'm getting a cold - scratchy throat or stuffy nose (unfortunately, these symptoms match my allergies, which are bad during the wet winter months - mold allergy), I start my regimen: Every 3 hours (5x a day) I take Zicam (or a store brand of the same). This is a zinc supplement that is supposed to reduce the effects of a cold and shorten it. When Zicam first came out, it was in a nose-gel, and there were concerns about losing your sense of taste.

Now there are several different ways of taking it, including chews (yuck) and pills that dissolve (not bad). You can save money on these several ways: coupons (I see these regularly), sales (I purchased my last set buy 1 get 1 free), store brand. If you find yourself buying it without the benefit of a sale, you will probably pay $8-12 for a bottle, which is about one "cold's" worth - 5 days. When I am diligent about taking this at the onset of a cold, this stuff really really works. I started using this last year and my sick days have reduced both in number and in severity.

It certainly isn't cheap, but it's better than using all your sick days, or feeling miserable for a week.

I also take a 500mg vitamin C tablet once per day, and be sure to drink lots of water and take my multivitamin.

Other alternatives include echninacea, Cold-Eeze zinc lozenges, etc.

Cost for my regimen: $$ (about $10 each time I start feeling sick).

8. Segregation. What you need: a separate place to sleep. It's not popular, but our rule is that the sick person gets the bed, and the healthy person can risk it or not. It is not uncommon for one of us to bunk on the couch or the floor to avoid getting sick. With a toddler, it's harder. Cost: $ (for an extra pillow, mattress)

9. A follow up to #8. Stay home. It seems that any time I try to fly to visit family over the holidays, I get sick. I either get it from someone on the plane or from my family at the other end. Sometimes I'm so stressed out before leaving that I get sick before I even get on the plane. Cost: free - this saves you money!

10. If all else fails and I get sick anyway, here's how I try to get over it faster:

Drugs - the kind that help you sleep and treat the symptoms. If I am better rested and can breathe, I get better faster.

Exercise - after the first day, which is generally the worst, it helps to move around a bit - I just get stiff if I sit on the couch all day. Short walks. Free.

Saline drops to help clear out my nose. Or steam (hot shower).

Chicken soup and tea for my sore throat. Cheap if you use your homemade stock. About 5 cents for a cup of good tea.

Any other good tips out there?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Does it make me a bad person?

Does it make me a bad person that I get ticked off when the cleaning lady eats my food?

I mean, really. I can afford a cleaning person (we've had one since July), in part because we are very frugal. We are, in particular, very frugal with food. Cooking from scratch, rarely eating out, etc.

The first time I came home to find an avocado missing, I called the boss. I got an apology. I had a bunch of avocados, but I had planned to use the one, big ripe one for dinner, and it was gone.

Problem solved, right? Nope. The pizza we ordered on Sunday... came home yesterday to find a few slices missing. My husband didn't eat it. This is really good, really expensive pizza. $2.50 a slice. She eats $7.50 worth of my food that's a total treat for me. Why doesn't she sneak the 50 cents worth of cashew pasta?

I'm trying to get over this. She did reorganize and clean out my cabinets, my spice drawers, and my son's clothing yesterday (very nicely). But I'm starting to think she's not going to get a Christmas bonus if she keeps eating my food. I figured paying $75 every two weeks for the work was enough. I didn't realize that I had to provide food too.

Should I cancel? You know, we've never hired anyone else before. The few people I know with cleaning people have either women who have a LONG waiting list OR have people who "don't do deep cleaning". Seriously, I want the deep cleaning.

I'm just going to have to be careful to hide the good stuff. Go ahead, eat the chocolate! But not my pizza. :(

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Flu and Persimmons

Ah, I had all the best intentions. I decided to try a challenge over at Frugal Fu to not eat out in November. There were a couple of caveats- I would not deny my husband his Friday Lunches out (this is my goal, not his), and we would likely set aside 1-2 meals out with friends who are visiting for Thanksgiving.

And I blew it. On Nov. 2. I came down with a bit of the flu, spent all day in the couch feeling feverish and achy. And had my husband order pizza for dinner. I'd already defrosted the food, but didn't much feel like cooking (or eating) it. And worse, we ordered EXPENSIVE pizza ($40 for two mediums). It *is* our favorite pizza place, my son loved it, and we hadn't ordered pizza from there in more than a year though.

I'm feeling fine today. I'm guessing though it's not common, I probably just had a reaction to my flu shot on Friday. Better that than a 5-day flu event.

Ah well, back on the horse. I did an inventory of my pantry and freezer and figure I can feed my family for the entire month of November and then some. Not counting the Thanksgiving day needs. Tonight will be the orange chicken and rice with coconut and macadamias - which was supposed to be last night's dinner. I still have an unopened can of macadamias from our last trip to Hawaii (in April of 2007).

On to persimmons. This is a fruit we get this time of year from the farm. And I never know what to do with them. You have to wait until they are very soft. And then what? Persimmon cookies, persimmon bread - these are "sweet" things, and I really would prefer healthier options.

So this weekend, I decided - hey, they are mushy, I bet they'd make a perfect smoothie. And they did! I was glued to the couch, so my hub made smoothies with persimmon, apple juice, and some frozen tropical fruit (purchased in the 6-lb bag from Costco). Yummy!

Anybody have good persimmon recipes?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Best Hummus

I love hummus. I have a LOT of hummus recipes, a few listed as "best" (or, the best I'd come up with then). I have had difficulty getting that creamy texture you get at restaurants. I did once find a recipe that gave me that...but 45 mins of pushing the stuff through a sieve (to get off the skins)...not my idea of fun.

Which is why I was happy to try the recipe from Cook's Illustrated. I love these guys. They take apart a recipe bit by bit. And they didn't disappoint. And no sieve! I have adjusted the flavors a bit.

Best Hummus
1 c. dried garbanzo beans: 0.65
4 T lemon juice (fresh is best, but I totally cheat sometimes): 0.24
6 T tahini (or a mixture of tahini and peanut butter): 0.56
3 T olive oil: 0.33
2 cloves garlic, pressed (0.10
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.07
pinch cayenne
1/3 c. water
Total: $1.95 for about 3 cups, or $0.16 for 1/4 cup serving

Soak beans 4 to 8 hours. Cook in pressure cooker for 18 min. Cool, drain.

Mix water and lemon juice in a bowl. Put drained beans, salt, cumin, cayenne, and garlic in food processor. Process until almost smooth, about 15-20 sec. Scrape down sides.

With processor running, add lemon juice/water mixture through feed tube. Scrape bowl and process one more minute.

Mix oil and tahini/peanut butter in a bowl. Start processor again, feed mixture through the feed tube. Continue processing and scraping until it is smooth, about 15-20 sec.

Sometimes I add flavorings such as sun-dried tomato or kalamata olives.

This makes a lot of hummus. I froze some.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spinach Balls

This is a great little appetizer or snack. I liberally substitute whatever greens we have from the farm, collards, kale (though not much since I've discovered roasted kale), and chard. This little gem of a recipe came from my friend Pamina more than a decade ago, and we make it regularly. (Though the original recipe called for a full stick of butter.)

Spinach Balls
2 10-oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, drained and squeezed dry: $2.50
2 cups bread crumbs ($0 - seriously, we toss all heels and scraps into a bucket in the freezer)
1 medium onion, minced and sauteed: 0.23
3 T. butter or margarine, melted: 0.19
2 eggs, beaten: 0.42
1/2 c. grated parmesan: 0.82
1/2 tsp each pepper and garlic salt: 0.10
Total: $4.26 for approx 49, $0.09 each

Mix ingredients. Chill a few hours. Form into balls. Bake at 350F until brown (20-30 min).

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mediterranean Lima Beans

I made these on Tuesday, combined two different recipes, from Veganomicon and World Vegetarian.

Mediterranean Lima Beans
2 lb fresh, unshelled limas (we got these from the CSA, my two year old helped me shell them). (3.00?)
12 oz fresh tomatoes, diced (1.50)
1 medium onion, diced (0.23)
1 medium carrot, diced (0.25)
2 cloves garlic, pressed (0.10)
1 tsp red wine vinegar (0.05)
1 tsp dried thyme (0.05)
1 tsp dried oregano (0.05)
1 tsp salt
black pepper to taste
1/4 c. fresh parsley, chopped (0.20)
1 tsp maple syrup (0.09)
2 T olive oil (0.22)
Total: $5.74 for four generous servings (we ate it as a main dish). $1.43 per serving.

(You can reduce the price by using dried beans and canned tomatoes. We had the fresh ones...)

Shell and rinse the lima beans. Cover with water, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer 25 min. Drain.

Saute onion and carrot in olive oil for about 5 min, or until soft. Add garlic and saute 1 min. Add diced tomatoes and cook until soft. Add remaining ingredients, including lima beans, and stir.

Put in baking dish. Bake covered at 375 for 30 min. Remove lid and bake 10 to 15 more min.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Split Pea Soup

I combined a couple of different recipes to make this soup. Day 1 it was "eh". Day 3 it was delicious.

Split pea soup
1 lb dried split peas (0.69)
1 medium carrot, chopped (0.25)
4 bay leaves (0.16)
1 T. veg bouillion (0.20)
6 c. water
1 bell pepper (0.75)
2 small onions, divided (0.40)
1 tsp cardamom (0.15)
4 cloves garlic (0.20)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Total: $2.80 for about 10 cups, or $0.28 each.

Place split peas (rinsed and picked through), diced carrot, ONE diced onion, bay leaves, and water in a crockpot. Cook on low 6-8 hours, until soft.

Saute 2 cloves garlic, other diced onion, and diced bell pepper in olive oil until soft. Add to soup. Remove bay leaves. Add cardamom, salt, pepper to taste. Add final two cloves pressed garlic. Puree in blender or using immersion blender (I love that thing).

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Free Range Chicken

I have been doing a lot of reading about food over the past several years. Fast Food Nation, The Omnivore's Dilemma, What to Eat, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter. All of these books lead me towards eating foods that are fresher, organic, local, and sustainable. I've learned a lot about factory farming, feedlots, the egg business, the dairy business. While I still do not have a moral problem with eating meat (I did grow up in a hunting family), I would like the meat I do eat to have a reasonably happy life.

Over the years our meals have gotten more and more vegetarian and vegan, and more and more local. We've been members of our local CSA for about 8 years now. We shop at farmer's markets and farm stands. The one area that I haven't gone yet, however, is local, free-range meat and eggs.

There are two main reasons for this: 1. I am frugal. Growing up in a large, rural, poor family, I sometimes cannot bring myself to spend more than I need to on something. And free range meat is expensive. 2. I don't eat very much meat or eggs. So I rationalize it by saying: "if we only eat one chicken and one roast a month, does it really matter?"

In any event, I finally made the leap this weekend. We had friends over for dinner, and I bought a chicken from Lily's Chickens (they also sell eggs) at the farmer's market. One 3 to 3.5 pound chicken is $12. Generally, I buy my chickens on sale at the grocery store, for $0.59/pound. One chicken is about $2.50 for 5 lbs. So the free range chicken is more expensive and a lot smaller.

I simply roasted the chicken using the Roast Sticky Chicken recipe from It was enough to feed the four adults and two toddlers present, with maybe a little leftover for a sandwich. I completely forgot to save the carcass for stock. But boy, was it good. We could honestly taste the difference. Now I know why my Chinese friends talk about how tasteless American chickens are - they are used to free range. My husband said "we're buying this stuff from now on."

We will probably continue on the path of eating less meat and making more of it local and free range. Because after all, we can afford it. Not everyone can. And I figure if I support my local farmers, maybe it will become more affordable for everyone else. (It also makes us less dependent on Big Agriculture). Next time I need eggs, we're trying their eggs. Not cheap at $4 a dozen.

All in all, our dinner - which included a salad with organic greens, pomegranate seeds, apples, and avocado, the chicken, and aloo gobi (Indian curried potatoes and cauliflower from World Vegetarian) by Madhur Jaffrey, cost about $25 - including the snacks (hummus and guacamole) that our friends brought. Much healthier, cheaper, and tastier than eating out!


This is the first year since we joined our CSA - oh, 8 years ago or so - that we've gotten more than one pumpkin. Last week I chose a carving pumpkin. I chose it pretty poorly, darned thing won't stand up - so we'll have to carve it to look like it's been knocked over somehow.

This week we got another pumpkin. I walked into the field to choose (that's just so much fun), and got into a conversation with a 7-or-8 year old girl on the virtues of an "eating" pumpkin vs. a carving pumpkin. She chose to pick up a very large sugar pumpkin (one that I decided was too big). I selected a slightly smaller sugar pumpkin.

Then on Friday night I roasted it. First, I microwaved it to soften the skin (3 min on high). That's a tip I learned here on the internet. Then, I sliced it in half crosswise, scooped out the seed (1.5 cups!) and placed the halves face down in two baking sheets (with lips) - lined with foil. I added a little water. Then I roasted it for 1.5 hours at 375. I flipped over the halves so they would cool, scooped out the flesh, and put it in the fridge.

I got a fair bit of water, a couple of cups. I suppose I could have saved it for soup, but I just dumped it. I also got about 5.5 cups of pumpkin. I roasted the seeds.

Saturday morning I baked Pumpkin Apple Muffins, & packed up the rest of the puree into the freezer. I had planned on giving a bag to our friends with the 6-month old baby, but forgot (perfect baby food!) Maybe we'll drop some off in the coming weeks.

Pumpkin Apple Streusel Muffins:
1.5 c. all purpose flour: 0.28
1 c. whole wheat flour: 0.22
1/2 c. sugar: 0.19
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten: 0.42
1.5 tsp cinnamon: 0.25
0.5 tsp ground ginger: 0.05
1/4 tsp nutmeg: 0.05
1/4 tsp ground cloves: 0.05

1 cup organic pumpkin puree: 1.00
1/2 c. vegetable oil: 0.25
2 cups chopped apple (organic): 1.33
1/2 c. raisins: 0.22

2 T. flour: 0.02
2 T sugar: 0.05
1/2 tsp cinnamon: 0.08
4 tsp butter: 0.08

Total: $4.54 for 20 muffins, or $0.23 each

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 18-20 muffin cups.

2. In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, spices, baking soda, and salt. In separate bowl, mix together eggs, pumpkin, and oil.

3. Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients. Stir just to moisten. Fold in apples and raisins. Spoon into muffin cups.

4. Mix streusel topping in a small bowl. Sprinkle over muffins.

5. Bake for 35 min, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

$25 a week menu

There's been a flurry of e-mails going around the frugal living blog-o-sphere about the possibility of living for a week on $25 worth of food. It stemmed from the amount that a typical food stamp person gets. I read this post at Cheap Healthy Good, where she randomly picked a zip code, found the nearest stores, picked no more than two, looked at the sales flyers, and tried to keep under $25.

Whew! She did an excellent job, I must say, especially since she's in NY and ended up with a city in Michigan. In the past, for fun, I've done a similar exercise (allowing myself to use things in the pantry, but counting their cost). I've also done a 3-week trend, where you use the "unused" money from week 1 for week two. Of course, economies of scale mean that if I'm trying to feed my family of three on $75/ week, it's not too terribly hard. And the most recent times that I've tried this, it was at least a year ago - and food prices have gone crazy since then. So I thought I'd give it another try, using my local stores.

So here were my rules: I'm starting with zero in the pantry. I'm shopping at only two stores - Trader Joe's and Tri County Produce. I know they aren't necessarily your typical grocery store, but that's the point. I rarely shop at the grocery stores because they don't have the best prices. If I'm not allowed to "build up a pantry" by shopping sales at the grocery stores (and cherry picking - which requires shopping at 4-5 stores), then I'm not going to shop at a regular store for this test. Frankly, the sales fliers don't tell you enough about pricing. I see some pasta on sale for $1.25/lb, but what if the store brand is 0.80? It's not listed on the flier. See my point? You don't know the generics prices...

I'd like to point out that I'm not actually going to try eating this way for a week. But it could be done.

The food:

Apples, 3lb bag, Tri County, 3.00
bananas, 7 @0.19 each, TJ's, 1.33
bread, 1 loaf whole wheat, TJ's, 2.00
pasta, 1 lb, TJ's, 1.00
peanut butter, 1 lb, TJ's, 1.79
jam, TJ's, 2.00
milk, 1 gal, TJ's, 3.19
canned tomatoes, 28 oz, TJ's, 1.19
carrots, 2 lb, Tri County, 0.66
1 onion, Tri County, 0.20
1 head garlic, Tri County, 0.40
broccoli, 1 lb, Tri County, 0.89
canned salmon, 13 oz, TJ's, 2.39
oatmeal, 10 oz steel cut, Tri County, 1.25
canned beans, 1 can, TJ's, 0.69
salt, Tri County, 0.50
oil, 16 oz, 1.50
Total: $23.98

Save the last $1 for some rice and dried beans next week, maybe spring for some salsa.

The meals - this is where boredom sets in, breakfast and lunch are same every day. But I ate like that as a kid...
Day 1-7: breakfast: oatmeal with diced apple, milk.
Day 1-7: lunch: PB&J (2 T peanut butter, 1 T jam), banana
Day 1-7: snack: apple, except there's only 13 in a 3# bag, so I come up short one day.

Day 1-4: pasta (1 cup) with sauce made with canned tomatoes, canned beans, onions, garlic, one diced carrot. Cup of milk. Stir-fried veggies.
Day 3-7: salmon patties (salmon, bread crumbs from bread heels, salt) fried in oil. Stir fried broccoli and/or carrot. Cup of milk.
Added bonus: salmon patties makes about 5, so you'll see that days 3 and 4 you get BOTH pasta and salmon.

Calories per day (approximate)
2 c. 1% milk: 240
2 T peanut butter: 180
1 T jam: 100
2 slices bread: 200
1 c. oatmeal: 100
2 apples: 120
1 large banana: 100
1 T oil: 120
1 c pasta: 200
1/2 c. sauce: 50
assorted veggies: 25
1/2 c beans: 100
1/5 can salmon: 125

Total for the day when doubled up on pasta and salmon: 1760, which is a fine # for me, but not a large male.
Total for pasta only day: 1645
Total for salmon only day: 1510

In any event, this is still considered "dieting" for me. I did make sure that I got at least 3 servings each of fruit and veggies per day...a total of about 5 lbs of fruit and 5 lbs of veggies for the week.

Still, I ended up with $1.02 left for the week, plus there's leftover peanut butter (18 Tbsp), pasta (1/2 lb, unless I eat it on the hungry days), salt, oil, and garlic.

Lesson learned? You can do it. It's tough, it takes serious planning and repetition (at least until you use those extra $1 to build up a pantry, instead of say, buying a soda). I think the point, however, is that food stamps aren't supposed to be your only source of food.