Friday, December 25, 2009

What to Pack for a 23-hour Train Ride

Boy, my internet connection has been a big old pile of...lately.

We are embarking on a one-day train trip today. So naturally, my thoughts turn to food. What to pack for the trip? For any long trip by plane, my backpack tends to be a small bit entertainment for my son, and a large bit food. Which comes in handy when you are stuck in Houston for 10 hours and end up flying standby last-minute when your last meal was 6 hours ago.

Now, it's not like they don't have food on the train. They do, and I'm sure we will be eating some, considering that we'll be on the train for dinner, breakfast, and lunch. But most likely we'll only eat 1-2 meals.

My packing strategy is to choose items that will hold up well in a backpack and that are a mix of healthy and special snacks. On that note, here's the list:

satsuma mandarins (and a damp washcloth)

peanut butter filled pretzels
granola bars & Lara bars
dried apples
trail mix
cheese puffs

(My good friend gave us the last two as a gift for our trip.)

With these items, we can be happily fed for at least breakfast and lunch. We'll be at Union Station for dinner time, so might wander off to find something.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fried Rice

Not a traditional Christmas Eve dinner in either family. For my spouse's family, it's roast pork, red cabbage, potatoes, butternut squash, rice pudding with cherry sauce.

For my family, at some point it became "pick foods", aka, junk food. Cheese and crackers, meat slices, shrimp cocktail, fritos with velveeta dip, cookies, and maybe a veggie tray.

My husband and I have tried many things. More often than not, it's the roast pork. Last year it was chicken and tri-tip because our guests were Jewish. One year, it was failed fajitas because our tortillas were moldy and the stores were all closed.

This year is the final clean-out-the fridge meal: fried rice

1 cup brown rice, cooked: 0.60
a few green onions from the garden
1 onion, diced: 0.20
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
a few diced carrots: 0.30
1/3 bag frozen peas: 0.40
1 egg (the last one): 0.13
soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper: 0.40
Total: $2.06 for dinner for three and probably one lunch serving.

with some leftover green beans...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Hash Browns and Burritos

Let's see what's on the menu tonight:

2 avocados: $3.00 (one was halfway brown -boo!)
3 large potatoes: $1.50
1 onion: 0.20
tortillas: $0.15 each
cheese: $1.00
1 cup sliced tri-tip left over from Thanksgiving

I shredded the potatoes in the food processor, diced the onion, threw it in a hot pan with canola oil, salt, and pepper. Put the lid on so that the onion would steam and the bottom would brown. Then flipped (in parts) and continued to cook until nice and brown.

I reheated the meat, made guac, and had spouse heat tortillas and shred cheese.

Dinner: done.

Still left to eat before lunch on the 25th: 1 butternut squash, some carrots, two onions, frozen green beans...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Use it up Pasta

We are in the downswing towards the holidays and a mini-vacation. I'm working hard to eat through all perishables in the fridge. It's kind of fun. Not sure if we'll get to the applesauce and yogurt.

Pasta with Vegetables and Chicken:
1/2 lb. mini farfalle, cooked: 0.60
1/2 c. pasta cooking water.
1/2 lb. broccoli, steamed: 1.00
1 small onion, sliced: 0.20
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1 cup pumpkin puree: 0.50
4 small carrots, sliced: 0.25
1 cup shredded chicken (this was from freezer from Thanksgiving): 1.50
4 sun-dried tomatoes, sliced: 0.25
1/4 c. parmesan: 0.31
a few sliced green onions
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $4.74 for 6 servings, for $0.79 per serving.

Heat canola oil in nonstick pan and cook onion until brown. Add sliced carrots and cook until starting to brown. Add broccoli and garlic and cook a few minutes, until fragrant.

Add pumpkin puree and chicken and stir to heat. Add tomatoes, pasta, salt and pepper, and pasta cooking water and toss. Continue to cook until heated through. Add parmesan and stir. Top with green onions.
On a side note, awhile ago my son was playing with the camera and dropped it. You may notice that my images have gotten fuzzier. It was only a year and a half old, too. :(

Pumpkin bread

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread

Are you seeing a pumpkin theme? Using up some stuff from the freezer.

I thought that it would be nice to make some baked goods this weekend. Spouse and offspring made some cookies, and I got to thinking of pumpkin cream cheese bread. Which I've never made before.

So Google was such a help, and it popped up this almost 5-star recipe from

I am usually a bit horrified by quick bread recipes that I find on the internet or in most cookbooks such as Betty Crocker. This was no exception. If you look at the list of ingredients (which makes 2 loaves), it calls for 1 2/3 cup of flour and TWO FULL CUPS of sugar. More sugar than flour. That comes out to about 1 Tablespoon of sugar per SLICE (and these are small slices). I certainly don't think this falls into the healthy category of this blog.

So I pretty liberally adjusted the recipe like I normally do with quick breads. I cut the sugar down to about 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons (that's 10 tablespoons instead of 32!!). I also subbed some of the white flour for whole wheat. I often will decrease the oil and sub applesauce or more pumpkin. Didn't do that this time.

It was still quite tasty. But I took the bread out of the oven and took a nap. It fell a little, maybe because I left it in the pan too long.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread:

beat in a medium bowl:
1 8-oz package light cream cheese, softened: $1.25
2 Tbsp white sugar: 0.03
1 Tbsp flour: 0.01
1 egg: $0.13
1 Tbsp tangerine and/or orange zest (from our trees, I used a mixture): $0

dry ingredients:
mix in a medium bowl:
1 2/3 cup flour (I used a mix of white and wheat)
1 tsp baking soda: 0.02
1/2 tsp salt: 0.01
1/2 tsp cinnamon: 0.03
1/2 tsp cloves: 0.05
1/4 tsp nutmeg: 0.05
1/4 tsp ginger: 0.05

Wet ingredients:
Beat in a large bowl:
1 cup pumpkin puree: 0.50
1/2 cup canola oil: 0.28
2 eggs: 0.25
1/2 cup white sugar: 0.09

Total: $3.10 for two loaves of about 16 slices each, or about $0.10 per slice. Three slices with some fruit makes a good breakfast.

Preheat oven to 325.

Grease two small loaf pans.

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just mixed.

Pour about half of the batter into the bottom of two pans and spread flat. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top and spread a bit. Top with remaining batter.

Bake for 60 min, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pumpkin Soup and the garden

So, I have a favorite Butternut Squash Soup recipe, as you well know if you've been reading this blog.

But what about pumpkin? I got a large pumpkin this year from the CSA. And it generated 7 cups of puree. Which I froze. I always seem to find pumpkin soup recipes this time of year. But when I want to find them? Can't.

So this recipe started with a recipe from (I am on the mailing's free!) It's made additionally awesome because I can use up some curry powder and pick some green onions from the garden. Which I planted myself. In April. Yeah, they were slow growers. We're about ready to rip out the rest of the 3x9 feet garden. (Two squares of 3x3). Except we have that stupid cherry tomato plant, planted from a single seed, that is still producing.

What I learned from this first mini garden:

chard (the gift that keeps on giving)
cherry tomatoes
cucumbers (a little bit)
onions (eventually)

Dismal failures

Okay growers:

Anyway, back to the recipe. When I googled the recipe to see if it was "out there" and printable, I realized that it comes from her book. And a couple of reviews on the book found it too mild. I then thought about one of my favorite blogs ( for recipes and found HER recipe. And thus, combined the two. I'm not a big fan of creamy soups anyway (on occasion they are okay, but it's the recipes that call for 2 cups of heavy cream that kind of freak me out.)

Pumpkin soup:
3 cups roasted pumpkin: 1.50
4 cups chicken stock: free (homemade from the Thanksgiving chicken)
1 medium onion: 0.20
1 T. olive oil: 0.11
four green onions, sliced: free
1/3 cup orange juice: 0.09
3 cloves garlic, roasted: 0.15
3/4 tsp curry powder: 0.10
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $2.15 for about 8 cups, or $0.27 per cup

This was actually quite tasty and curry-licious. I think it would still be good with a little bit of milk or cream.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Well, the 2-year + anniversary of my blog came and went with nary a post, a recipe, a comment. (Truth be told, I had a different blog before this one, but I don't remember when that one started.) But this one started December 16, 2007. Can you believe that? Pretty crazy.

I managed to catch a cold from my child late last week. Which turned into a RAGING sinus infection. I've never had one before. I don't recommend them. There has been no cooking this week. Right now I am thankful for leftover soup from the freezer, edamame, fruit, nuts, cheese, toast, boxed mac and cheese, and the Domino's pizza guy. And herbal tea. In a couple of days I will hopefully be thankful for amoxicillin. It hasn't kicked in yet. This is awful. No running either, and I'm missing that. They kicked me out of work today! (well, after letting me work 6 straight hours)

Okay, time for bed. Hopefully I'll be better in the morning. My hubby is hoping he has a date for his company holiday party tomorrow night. I'm not so sure.

I leave you with a little math:
If you substitute 1 glass of wine each day with 1 cup of herbal tea with a bit of honey (1 tsp), you save about 100 cals/day or 10 lbs in a year.

Not that I need to lose 10 lbs. I do like my wine, but not lately that's for sure...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Running with Headphones - yay or nay?

So, I started running this year. Further than ever before (prior to this year, I'd done a 10k.) I liberally used my Ipod to keep me motivated, particularly on the early-morning treadmill runs (and even that didn't work so well).

As I got into my half-marathon training, reading the book "The Complete Book of Running for Women", I noticed the suggestion that you should *never* run with headphones, unless you are on the treadmill. For safety reasons - you can't hear traffic, you can't hear people. Now, if I were running at my parents' house in the middle of nowhere with woods and narrow roads, I'd probably leave the headphones at home (and people have dogs. That aren't tied up.)

But I live in Santa Barbara. I run on surface streets and bike paths. I have to cross at exactly one traffic light - and that's running >10 miles. Okay, it's out-and-back, so it's actually two - the same light twice. I try to not have my music too loud so that I can hear what's going on around me.

As my training runs got longer, I experimented with running without the Ipod. I was somewhat successful. The half marathon "highly discourages" headphones. I found that eventually I was able to get up to 8 miles with no music, just the scenery and my own thoughts. At that point, I start getting tired and need more motivation.

It depends on the day though. On actual race day, I couldn't hit my "zone". Too many people, too much noise. Popped the headphones in at mile 5.

At the marathon (I ran the last 8.3 miles of a relay), I waited a few miles to pop them in. At the finish, one of the helpers got my chip, and started yelling at me what to do next. I realized that while my Ipod was on low and I could hear everything, he didn't realize that (oops, sorry dude). He seemed pretty ticked.

So why the hating? I guess I can see the safety point. But I get at least a little frustrated with "real" runners dissing "newbies" or "non-real runners". I consider myself a runner. I've run a half. I have a long run of about 8 miles or 10, and try to run 3x a week total. But I'm not fast. I will probably never be fast. I've heard and read comments about the slow people. Who's to say that a race is only for the sub-8:00, sub-7:00, sub-6:00/mile set? I'm perfectly happy to plug along in my 9:00/mile (for under 4 miles) or 10:30/mile (half marathon) pace.

I can see how it would a little frustrating on a race. But folks? I'm not your competition. You're running a 7:00 mile, you aren't going to be seeing me. Except maybe in the bathroom line at the start. I bring my own water. I bring my own Gu. And I bring my own motivation. And I guess that's part of the thing. If you run a 7:00 - figure your finishing time...and add 50%. That's how much longer it takes me to finish a race than you think you'd need a little pick-me-up if you were running 2 hrs and 17 minutes for half marathon instead of 1.5 hours?

I worry a bit about the running community alienating the rest of us. We do keep the sport alive in many ways. When I read the marathon rule "if you are competing for prizes, you cannot use Ipods", I thought "yeah, whatever, no prizes at a 10:00/mile, that's for sure."

Any runners out there? What do you think?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bean Soup v2

I used the last of that mixed-bean-and-grain mix from Whole Foods to make soup yesterday.

It's been kinda crazy around here. After Thanksgiving my mom decided on spur-of-the-moment to come for a visit. She arrived last Friday, stayed until Tuesday. She arrived with a cold unfortunately. Which she passed on to my son. Who passed it on to me. So spouse and I split our work days Tuesday and Weds. Today I have a bit of a sore throat but I'm doing my regimen that will hopefully nip this in the bud.

Since I was home in the morning and I knew I'd be working late...I decided on the crockpot soup. I soaked the beans and grains this time, for about 4 hours (starting at 6 am). At 10 am, I drained them, put them in the crockpot with 8 cups of boiling water, some sauteed celery and carrots, and italian seasoning. I cooked the soup on high until about 4 pm, at which point my spouse added about a cup of diced leftover beef from Thanksgiving, a veggie bouillon cube, frozen peas, parsley, and diced green onion. I didn't have any regular onion. But those green onions that I planted in the garden in April are actually growing now.

Finished off with salt and was a very tasty soup, and now we've got some for the freezer.

What I learned? Soak the beans and grains first. So far this soup has been better on our digestion than the last one.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Chicken Pasta

Yes, we made organic free range chicken and tri-tip for Thanksgiving, not turkey. Get over it. My spouse has labored over turkey for almost two decades. He deserved a break.

As much as we like sandwiches, and reheated stuffing and potatoes (which I just had as a post-dinner snack - um, I did run 10 miles today), you gotta do something else sometimes.

So I threw together a pasta dish. It was *very* good, if I do say so myself. Kind of a French-Mediterranean fusion?

Chicken Pasta Skillet
1/2 lb tri-color bowtie pasta, cooked according to package directions: 0.60
8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered: 1.59
One bunch onions (or one medium onion), diced: 0.50 - these are bigger than green onions
1 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
2 cloves garlic
a few sprigs dried thyme
a few cherry tomatoes from my still-producing plant, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 little bit of white wine (1/3 cup)
2/3 - 1 cup diced cooked chicken
7-8 kalamata olives, sliced
4 sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
a little bit of leftover goat cheese
a few Tbsp of parmesan cheese
red chili flake

Heat the oil and butter in a nonstick skillet. Add onions and mushrooms and saute several minutes, until they are well-cooked and browned. Add salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, cherry tomatoes. Cook several minutes, until tomatoes have given up their liquid. Add the wine and cook another minute.

Add chicken, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and cook until chicken is warmed through. Add peas and cook until defrosted. Add cheese and red chili flake and toss.
Served with a green salad with oranges from our very own tree.

A Variety of Topics: on Health, Size, Weight, and Running

Boy, I've been thinking a lot lately about health, food, size, weight, and other topics. So, in no particular order...

1. Weight vs. Health: I've got a few favorite blogs (listed on the right). Two that I read nearly daily are Kath Eats and Eat Live Run. They have both covered the topic of weight recently. Both are younger women with very healthy diets and very healthy, active lifestyles. At some point, both got on the scale, and discovered a weight gain of 7-10 lbs.

In Kath's case, she decided awhile back to just not get on the scale and go by "how she feels". She was shocked to see the 7 lb weight gain, but decided that she feels great, so the number doesn't really matter.

For Jenna, she recently moved from Florida to California. Working in the wine industry, she discovered our fair state put about 10 lbs on her (I gained 25 when I moved here...and it wasn't the wine or fine food. It was pizza and burritos.) She also decided that she is going to enjoy the "fuller" look that she has.

So, is that okay? It's a trick question. The honest truth is that these women are beautiful, and even with the weight gain, both are still at very healthy weights, well within the BMI guidelines. It can be difficult, however, to accept a weight gain - to go from "thin" or "ideal" (from a media standpoint) body to what I consider a "normal" body. I know I have struggled with the same thoughts in the past.

7+ years ago, I lost 57 lbs. (Weight Watchers). I leveled out at a nice 125 lbs. Then there was trying to get pregnant and gaining, losing some, actually getting pregnant, taking longer to lose the baby weight... I eventually found myself back at 125 lbs. Then a vacation put me back at 130. Since, I've been 130-132, for the most part. I have maintained this weight almost effortlessly. When I occasionally hit 135, I do take care to watch the intake of wine, chocolate, and bread. There's still this tiny voice in my head telling me that 125 would be better. And I'm almost 40. I should know to ignore this voice. My husband and friends *really* don't like 125. Sometimes they are nice about it (sometimes not). But the fact is, my face gets really gaunt at 125 - so if I want "trim" hips and thighs (and they just aren't naturally thin), then it comes at the price of my face. I start looking old. So, okay.

I really like seeing young women with great habits also having good body acceptance (the earlier the better). Those two women are gorgeous, healthy, and fit and a TOTAL inspiration to this pushing-40 mama. There is so much disordered eating out there, from obesity to anorexia, bulimia, extreme food control, that finding a person with balance is refreshing.

This brings me to ...

2. Size. I've been thinking quite a bit lately about "vanity sizing". I discovered how ridiculous it has become when shopping for clothing at a CAbi party. I found a great pair of jeans, and the consultant suggested I buy a size 6. Um, I'm not a size 6. I was a six for awhile my freshman year in college when I was 20 lbs lighter and so skinny that I was amenhorreic. I ordered the 8. I got them home, tried them on, hemmed them. Then the first day that I wore them, they "stretched" and they are too darned big.

So why do I think this is awful? Well, I'm fit. I'm 5'2.5", and 130 lbs or so. I have a very curvaceous, muscular, lower half. I'm not offended at being in the double digits, really. But at this CAbi party, I have several friends who cannot even fit into a size ZERO anymore. So, I started thinking back.

In 1988, I was 110 lbs and a size 6.
In 1992, I was 130 lbs and a size 10-12.
In 1996, I got married at 135 lbs and my wedding dress was a 10 or a 12.
In 2002, I was 182 lbs and a size 18. When I lost weight, at around 130 lbs I was a 10. At about <127 lbs, I could comfortably fit into an 8.
In 2009, I am 130 lbs and a size 6 to 10.

To me, that looks like vanity sizes have dropped by at least two sizes (from a 12 to 8) in the last 17 years. I was the same size in 1992 as I am now. I mean, I bought running shorts in a small. A SMALL. Anyone who has seen my hips KNOWS I am not a small. I have to have my family order me shirts in a small because mediums (which I wore all the time 20 years ago) will swim on me.

So this made me wonder how long this has been going on. A simple google search did not turn up much useful information. Instead, I decided to google "1940's women's dress patterns". I used to sew clothing a bit in college, and from what I remember, you had to buy a pattern about two sizes up from what you bought in the store. If you were a 10 (as I was), you'd have to buy a size 14 pattern. Maybe that means vanity sizing started long ago, but the pattern makers did not catch up.

So I found this pattern.

I picked it because I measured my waist and hips, and they about match what this pattern said. When you look at the large image of the pattern, what does it say:

Size 16!! Yep. 16. (So don't listen when people tell you that Marilyn Monroe was a 12, when they talk about "size 12 isn't fat". Marilyn's size 12 wasn't what it is today.)

3. Running

I ran a 4-mile race on Thanksgiving. I felt GREAT. I finished in 36:46, beat my old best 4-miler time by 3 minutes. I passed people. A LOT of people. One of the guys that I caught up to was an old guy. He was hunched over. I stuck with him for about a mile, and was just thinking about passing him when we hit, oh, about 3.2 miles. Then he kicked it in. He just took off! I couldn't even keep up with him. Wow!

I went home and looked him up. 75 years old. He finished 5 people ahead of me. I hope that I'm running like that when I'm 75 (well, heck, I'd like to run that pace now). Older folks who are out there running are absolutely inspiring. Heck, all runners inspire me.

Today I ran 10 miles and I think I'm going to lose a toenail. Dang half marathon.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some pictures

Photo download only works on the laptop these days, so I'm never writing the blog at the same time as uploading the photos. And blogger does this weird thing on windows where if I upload a photo into the blog, it inserts a line at every the ingredients list has a space between every line. It's annoying. Anybody know how to fix that? Because if I upload 3 pics, it does it 3 times.

So here are some pics of our food...the chickpea cutlets, the ravioli, and tonight's risotto and salmon wraps.

Salmon wraps and more risotto

Today, I made butternut squash risotto. For the recipe, please see acorn squash risotto. Sub butternut squash for the acorn, use only 3.5 cups of water/broth, and add in about 2 oz of goat cheese. It was really good, a bit sweeter than the acorn squash version. Made a ton.

With the macaroni, sesame cashew noodles, risotto, and salmon sandwich filling, I don't think I need to cook the rest of the week, until Thanksgiving. The big T-day is traditionally my spouse's day to cook. We decided to bag the bird this year. Instead, we went with a free-range chicken and a free-range beef tri-tip. We did that combo for Xmas last year, and it was MUCH easier than trying to get a bird that's not too dry or undercooked.

For the salmon wraps, I searched for "canned salmon recipes". Why canned salmon? It's frugal, it's healthy (omega-3's), and it's sustainable. But how many salmon patties can a family eat? Well really, we eat about one can of salmon a month. I'm not sure that's really enough to get the benefit of the omega 3's, but when I remember, I also throw chia seeds in oatmeal or grind up flax seeds in bread or smoothies. I didn't remember to do that this morning. We had smoothies with apple, frozen banana, strawberries, spinach, and OJ. They were...kind of a greenish brown, but they tasted pretty good.

Back to the canned salmon recipes...go to the source, in this case the Alaska Seafood organization. Quite a few recipes, and at least more than one that I would try. The one I used is here.

Alaskan Salmon Sandwich spread
14 oz can salmon, drained and flaked: $2.50
8 oz softened light cream cheese: 1.69 (I haven't been shopping the sales lately).
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives: 0.50 (I wish I could get chives to grow in my garden).
1.5 tsp italian seasoning: 0.10
1/2 tsp onion powder: 0.05
1/2 tsp red chili flake: 0.05
salt and pepper to taste
juice of one lemon: 0.25

Total: $5.14 for about 6-7 wraps worth, or $0.73 per serving. We served with chopped lettuce, shredded carrot, and some olives. I used whole wheat tortillas, at about $0.40 each.

Friday, November 20, 2009

30 minute ravioli

So, It's Tuesday (just...pretend). And you're at a mom/toddler "Thanksgiving" party thrown by your lovely friend Linda. Who took over for you because you were sick. But means she totally went way beyond whatever you were going to do. (Man, it was good.)

But you don't really want to eat, because you still have to go home and cook for the hubby. You do, however, grab some green beans and let yourself get talked into a piece of pumpkin pie. Your toddler chows on grapes, a corn muffin, and pumpkin pie.

So you get home at 6:25 pm and the hubby is starving. You let him make himself a sandwich (his choice). But there's nothing for lunch tomorrow. What to do?

Enter the less-than-30 min ravioli.

Step 1: Start boiling water for ravioli.
Step 2: Heat a little canola oil in a nonstick pan
Step 3: Chop and onions, red bell pepper, 3 stalks celery. Cook until soft, then add 2 garlic cloves, the rest of a can of chickpeas. Cook until the chickpeas are browning in place. Add a can of diced tomatoes, some dried basil, oregano, and pepper. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break up the tomatoes.
Step 4: When boiling, add 1/2 lb mini ravioli. Boil according to package directions.
Step 5: Add some olives to the sauce.
Step 6: Drain pasta, toss with sauce, serve.

27 minutes, start to finish. We've had some for lunches this week, and it was quite tasty.

30 minute ravioli:
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
1/2 lb dried mini ravioli: 1.00
3 celery stalks: 0.45
4 green onions, sliced: 0.25
1 red bell pepper: 0.85
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1 can diced tomatoes: 0.62
1/2 can chickpeas: 0.45
a few olives: 0.40
basil, oregano, pepper: 0.20
Total: $4.35 for about 6 servings, or $0.73 per serving.

Of course, after all that, at about 7 pm, toddler says "where's dinner", but is perfectly happy topping off the "dinner" with a banana.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chickpea Cutlets from Veganomicon

I didn't take a picture, we just ate them. These were:
1. very easy
2. very tasty

Next time, I might try them with a mushroom gravy or even a mustard sauce.

You can find the recipe on-line here (or even google it and you'll find it elsewhere too, along with pictures).

1 c. chickpeas (I was lazy and used canned): 0.40
2 T. olive oil: 0.20
1/2 c. vital wheat gluten: 0.87 (I'm going off memory here)
1/2 c. plain breadcrumbs: free
1/4 c. water
2 T. soy sauce: 0.12
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
1/2 tsp lemon zest: 0.15
1/2 tsp dried thyme: 0.05
1/2 tsp paprika: 0.03
1/4 tsp sage: 0.05
2T. canola oil for pan-frying: 0.08

Total: $2.05 for 4 cutlets, or $0.51 each (wow! that's cheap!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What's in my fridge?

I was inspired by Green and Crunchy's recent blog post to take a picture of my fridge. Now, my fridge is not nearly as neat as hers (I took the pic on Friday, home sick, no energy to organize it).

And of course, we're not vegan and we don't have 5 children, so you'll see different items and in different amounts.

And the pic was taken two days ago, so we've eaten some stuff (kale, soup, strawberries) and have added others (eggplant, peppers, celery).

Top shelf: salsa (2 jars), strawberry jam, sunflower seed butter, organic natural peanut butter, almond butter from the farmer's market, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, yeast, organic yogurt, chocolate milk (daddy had the day off this week), sour cream.

Cheese drawer: havarti, cheddar, american, cream cheese, and BOLOGNA (did I mention daddy had the day off? We haven't had bologna in the house in at least 5 years...)

Shelf #2: 1 pt. strawberries from the CSA, TJ's hummus, tahini, more American cheese (gotta love Costco).

Shelf #3: Oikos yogurt, 3 pints of farmer's market strawberries.

Bottom shelf: Water, 3# bag of pink lady apples, apple cider from the farmer's market (same place as the apples), large head romaine lettuce, leftover butternut squash soup, wheat germ.

Left drawer: 1 bunch kale, 1 1/2 bunches radishes, 2 granny smith apples from the boss's tree, 1.5 lb of pink lady apples (yes, I love them), 1 bunch green onions, 1 bunch arugula, 3/4 lb of anaheim and jalapeno peppers.

Right drawer: 1/2 head red leaf lettuce, 4 limes, 1 bunch cilantro.
Yes, there are a lot of plastic bags in there to keep the food fresh, but I do wash and reuse them.

Meal Plan for the Week

I decided to start posting my meal plans so that I can look back and see what I made each year in case I get bored with the same old...

11/13 Friday: veggie burgers, salad
11/14 Saturday: sesame cashew noodles, kale chips, butternut squash soup (leftover)
11/15 Sunday: caponata, chickpea cutlets from Veganomicon, salad
11/16 Monday: sweet potato fries, salad, leftover caponata
11/17 Tuesday: fried rice with egg, peas, green onion, celery, bell pepper
11/18 Wednesday: Shithi's lentils from freezer, naan
11/19 Thursday: leftover lentils and naan

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pasta Salad

So, this was a big, busy weekend. First, I don't know if you heard, but I ran a half marathon. :) My dear friends invited us over for dinner (albondigas soup, chicken, bread, salad) so that I didn't have to cook.

Then my spouse tore a muscle in his leg, which necessitated a trip to the ER. So that meant my day was spent doing laundry, cooking, and doing dishes. I didn't need to cook dinner (dear neighbors had us over for dinner), but I definitely needed to prep something for lunches this week.

I decided on a pasta-style salad, in true Marcia style, which means "throw in whatever I've got". I have two bunches of arugula, which is a total pain to clean and use, so I made a big batch of arugula pesto ("big batch", meaning "6 ice cubes" in the tray). I kept a lot of the ingredients raw, because I think it tastes better that way. And it's easier.

Arugula pesto:
2 bunches arugula, washed, trimmed, and spun dry
1/3 to 1/2 cup almonds (I toasted mine)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

In food processor, chop garlic. Use spatula to scrape sides, add almonds, and chop until almonds are mostly chopped.

Add 1/2 the arugula and process until smooth. Add the remaining arugula and the cheese and salt. Process until arugula is fully pureed. Add olive oil in a thin stream while processor is still running until you get desired consistency.

Pesto pasta
1/2 lb mini ravioli, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup arugula pesto
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
6 green olives, sliced
3 radishes, sliced
3 green onions, sliced
1/4 lb green beans, steamed and sliced
1 small summer squash, cut into short matchsticks
salt, pepper, and red-wine vinegar to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill.

Photo to come later...upgraded software means we can't upload pics from the camera right now.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


10:28 per mile, 82/152 in my age group. Not as good as I was hoping for, but still decent. I had to work through a couple of side stitches, a sore hip, and the desire to throw up for the last mile. I managed to hold a 10:00 mile for about 8 miles or so. (The first mile and 7 in the middle, in between the side stitches.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Acorn Squash Risotto

Have I mentioned that I am in love with risotto? Especially in the pressure cooker? I think I have.

Today, it was even worth the blister on my thumb (from cutting and peeling and dicing a couple of acorn squash).

I am always looking for a good squash recipe. But the first gazillion acorn squash recipes you find are sliced and stuffed. Not really in the mood for that. But then I thought "risotto", and hit pay dirt.

My ending recipe was a combination of two found here and here. Now, you probably can't go wrong with Mario Batali (but really, he goes a little heavy on the butter). And the other one I just like because it's stored at So what are recipes doing in the computer science department at CMU? I dunno, but it's my alma mater, so I had to use it.

Acorn squash risotto
2 T olive oil, divided: $0.22
1 small acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced into 1/4 inch pieces: $2.00 (just a guess, we got this from the CSA)
1 onion, diced: 0.25
2 cups arborio rice: 2.50
1/2 cup white wine: 0.40
3.5 to 4 cups vegetable broth: 0.50 (I used water and a veggie broth cube)
1 T. butter: 0.06
1/2 cup grated parmesan: 0.63
salt and pepper to taste
Total: $6.56 for about 8 cups, or $0.82 per cup

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil in pressure cooker for about 5 min, until softening. Add squash and continue to cook, stirring, for 10 min.

Add rice and other Tbsp olive oil, and toast rice a bit. Add wine and broth. Put cover on pressure cooker and lock into place.

Bring to high pressure over high heat. Once at pressure, reduce heat to maintain high pressure. Cook for 5 min at high pressure.

Remove from heat, run under cold water (quick-release method). Stir. It might be pretty soupy. Add butter and parmesan and stir some more.

This was SOOOO delicious. Yum yum yum. I served it with baked chicken, baked marinated tofu, and salad.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Skillet Pasta with Salmon

This is like tuna casserole, but with canned salmon. Why canned salmon?

Well, I grew up on the stuff. We were Catholic, no meat on Fridays during lent. But fish doesn't count. And we couldn't afford fresh fish.

Also, it's cheap. And it's Wild Alaskan salmon, which means it's safer and a better environmental choice than other salmon.

My hubby's got low good cholesterol, so I'm trying to fill him with omega 3's. We've got flax and chia seeds in the house too...

This was an experiment along the lines of the "Mexican skillet pasta".

I used fresh onion and portobellos (that's what I had). I made the white sauce with dried milk and cornstarch and herbs. Frozen peas, canned salmon, water, tri-color bow-tie pasta...and it took 40 mins start to finish, major score (since I made it after getting that burrito, and took it for lunch).

Skillet Pasta with Salmon
1 14-oz can Alaskan Salmon, drained: 2.00
1 T canola oil: 0.03
6-8 oz mushrooms, chopped: 2.50
1 onion, diced: 0.25
1/2 lb pasta: 0.60
make-your-own cream soup mix: 1/2 cup (see below): 0.15
3 to 3.5 cups water, divided
1/2 bag frozen peas: 0.55
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
handful of shredded cheese: 0.25
Total: $6.33 for 8 cups, $0.79 per cup, but a serving is more like 1.5 cups, or $1.18

Cream soup mix:

I leave out the bouillon.

Saute onion and mushroom in oil until softened and browned.

Meanwhile, mix 1/2 cup cream soup mix with 2 cups of water. Add to the sauteed onion and mushroom and stir until thickened. Add remaining cup of water, pasta, crumbled salmon, salt, pepper, and garlic.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 mins or until water is absorbed (you may need more water). Stir occasionally.

Add peas, cover and steam 5 more minutes. Stir, add cheese and mix. Serve.

I had this for lunch today. Yum! A little bland, as is typical when I take a recipe that usually comes with canned soup and remove the can (less sodium). I think next time I'd add more pepper and more herbs (basil, thyme, garlic). I'll try to post a pic later.

Butternut Squash Soup and Pomegranate Seeds

Well, we've got a bunch of pumpkins this year...several from our CSA, one from the pumpkin patch. Yesterday was the day of carving and roasting pumpkin seeds. And butternut squash seeds, because we had one of those too.

My good friends invited us over for dinner last night. I brought a salad with seeds.

No picture, sadly, but it had red leaf lettuce, lightly steamed green beans from our garden (there was only a handful), broccoli, and...pumpkin seeds and pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranates are a pain in the butt. But we got 6 from the farm (one more to go woo!) I put them in the salad. I had a stowaway spider who ended up in my water bath. He got sent down the drain.

Yesterday I roasted the squash itself and used it today to make my mother-in-law's famous Butternut Squash Soup. I used my fancy new Lodge Dutch Oven (La Creuset is not in the budget, and neither was a trip to Target). I've been slowly replacing some of my pots and pans. I bought a large nonstick set at Costco a few years ago. It's been great...but nonstick wears out eventually. And I cook a lot. So I've worn out almost all of of the pans (they aren't nonstick anymore). The large stockpot, the two large frying pans, and the griddle...gone. We've started using cast iron for our griddle (should last forever), and I've now made the switch to the Dutch Oven. I also saute in stainless steel now for everything except a few things that will stick like crazy (potatoes...) Interestingly, our stainless pots that my spouse got used when he headed off to college in the late 80's are still going strong.

The soup is for dinner tomorrow night and probably later in the week too. Some will find its way into the freezer I'm sure. I'd like to note that the soup itself is vegan this time. I sauteed the vegetables in canola oil. I used water and vegetable bouillon instead of chicken stock. (I don't have chicken stock.) I will probably make the ginger butter, but you could use vegan margarine instead.

Running update

So yesterday I began my "tapering" weeks. Last week was 12 miles in the awful heat and humidity with a tight hamstring (it was...awful). 11 min miles with many many stops to stretch, plus stomach cramps...I almost feel like this is a big science experiment:

1. how much do I eat before the run, and when?
2. what can I eat in the days before (i.e., I've decided no beans on Thurs or Fri)
3. how much water to drink the day before and in the morning so that I don't have to pee one mile in...which I've had to do every day except for the day that I took cold medication with pseudoephedrine.
4. drugs. none? Aleve?

Yesterday I felt MUCH better on the 10.75 miler, but still my pace was 10:47, a ways off of my (good-weather) goal of 10:00. Can I make that up on the race? "The Complete Book Of Running for Women" says so...says that I should be running my long runs at 11:09, and my half should be around 2:08. I'm not so sure.

I'm coming to the conclusion that I'm either going to GET a good time or HAVE a good time, but not both (especially if it's 85 degrees like last week! then it will be neither).

So we'll see. Maybe if I don't hit 2:11 this time, I can run another one and get it later. I'm not so sure how well the 39-year old body likes distance though. I think my 2010 goal is going to be more of a speed goal. My best 5k thus far is 27:19, I'm thinking I set a goal of 25:00.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mexican Skillet Spaghetti

This recipe started with a recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Favorites. And then I adjusted it. A lot. And it was delicious.

You could make this vegan by eliminating the cheese and sour cream. I liked it with that stuff, but it's good without it too. And you could add a couple of cups of beans to the recipe too. I threw in some fat free refried beans with the leftovers...yummy!

Mexican Skillet Spaghetti
8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti: 0.65
2 T. canola oil, divided: 0.07
1 onion, diced: 0.30
1 small bell pepper, diced: 0.30
1 stalk celery, diced: 0.05
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1/2 an ice cube pureed chipotle in adobo: 0.20
2 cups crushed tomatoes: 0.38
1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp cumin: 0.02
salt and pepper to taste
2 oz cheddar cheese, shredded: 0.34
sour cream for topping
Total: $2.41 for 4 servings, $0.60 per serving.

Heat 1 T. oil over medium heat in nonstick skillet. Toast spaghetti until it starts to brown, remove to a plate.

Heat other T. oil. Saute onion, celery, pepper until soft, 6-10 min. Add garlic and cumin, stir and fry for about a minute.

Add tomatoes, water, chipotle, salt and pepper, and pasta. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 min or until pasta is cooked.

Top with cheese. Serve with kale chips. Or whatever.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sausage and Many Bean Soup

So...a new Whole Foods just opened here in our town. Word has it that there was a line around the block to get in on the first day. So I decided to wait a couple of weeks to check it out. I've never been to a Whole Foods, and I guess ours is on the small side.

On a Friday afternoon I decided to wander on over there with my boy. I enjoyed a bit of perusing...I found that red lentils are about $1.50 per lb cheaper than the other three stores with bulk bins. I scooped a bunch, then heard "but Mommy I want the colored ones!" Sure enough, right next to the red lentils was "sunshine soup" mix. Looked like a mix of red lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, yellow and green split peas, barley, and a few other things. I wasn't sure what to do with it, but I scooped some.

Google found another poor lost soul asking for advice, which was basically "cook on low all day". I figured it was a good candidate for the slow cooker.

Sausage and Many Bean Soup
1 lb mixed bean and barley soup mix: 2.99
4 links chicken and gouda sausage: 3.00
1 Tbsp canola oil: 0.03
1 large onion, diced: 0.50
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
2 large carrots, diced: 0.30
4 stalks celery, diced: 0.50
1 medium tomato, diced: 0.75
1 tsp each basil, thyme, rosemary: 0.25
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp sage
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $8.42 for about 14 cups, $0.60 per cup

Rinse the bean soup mix, put in the crockpot. Cover with 6 cups of water and turn on high for two hours. Reduce heat to low. Cook for several more hours.

Saute onions, sausage, carrots, and celery in a pan in oil until starting to brown. Add garlic and spices, except for salt and pepper. Saute a couple more minutes.

I have a vegetarian slow cooker book that specifically mentions sauteing vegetables - not only does it impart rich, carmel-y flavors, but it also gets them softened. I have learned the hard way that carrots don't like to soften in a low crockpot. When browned, deglaze the pan with a little bit of water.

Add the sausage and vegetables to the pot. At this point, I added two more cups of water that I heated in the microwave with a little bit of beef bouillon, until I read the package and realized there was no beef in the bouillon, but there was MSG. So, most of the cube went into the trash, but some made it into the soup.

Continue to cook over low for a couple more hours. Add the tomato, cook a bit more.

There was a method to my "add a bit here and there" madness. It's possible that you could dump everything in the crock in the morning and it would be fine at the end of the day. I don't know. I've read, though, that salting dried beans (or adding acid, like tomatoes) makes them impossible to soften. Of course, I've read elsewhere that it's not true. Being as this was a weekend, I decided why risk it? So I cooked the beans first, and basically added the rest of the stuff when the beans were mostly cooked through and softened.

The tomato was added last because I forgot about it.

Are we weird?

Reading a few blogs of late has caused me to ask that question.

Heather has made the comment that she doesn't eat "normal" food. I love to read what she is eating. But I will admit, some of her food is "out there" for me (oatgurt?). But it's "out there" not in a "gross" kinda way, but in a "hmm...I will have to try that" kinda way. I say, it's good to not be normal these days. Because "normal", is overweight and sedentary.

Most recently, the fruit-and-vegetable recommendations are what have made me feel a bit weird. Now, anyone who reads about health, diet, and exercise knows that in the last couple of years, the recommendations on produce have been increased from 5 servings a day to 9 servings per day (for an adult). Heck, even now my 3-year old should be getting 3 cups (he doesn't. I bet there are kids out there who do, like these. But he gets 1.5 cups most days and 3 on some days.)

That got me wondering...why was the recommendation increased? Was it increased because most Americans get only 3-4 servings a day (only 1.5 to 2 cups)? So the though is if the recommendation is 9, maybe now they'll get 5-6? Was it increased because the produce we eat today has less nutrition than in the past? Even the fresh veggies are picked far before ripening and are bred for shelf stability, not flavor or nutrients. Is it in the hopes that Americans will replace some of the less-than-healthy foods in their diets with more fruits and veggies? Maybe a combination of all 3.

I recently had a few conversations with some women in my life in an older generation. Namely, relatives in their 60's. I got a bit of a flabbergasted reaction when I mentioned that we eat about 30 lbs of produce a week among the 3 of us. I started to wonder if I'm weird. But I've done the math based on the recommendations:

My math uses the following assumption
1 serving = 1/2 cup = 4 oz.
(recognizing that leafy greens a serving is a cup, and probably weighs less).

High end:
2 adults @9 servings/day = 18 servings @4 oz = 4.5 lbs
1 toddler @6 servings/day = 6 servings @4 oz = 1.5 lbs
6 lbs/day x 7 days = 42 lbs per week

Low end:
2 adults @5 servings/day = 10 servings @4 oz = 2.5 lbs
1 toddler @3 servings/day = 3 servings @4 oz = 0.75 lbs
3.25 lbs/day x 7 days = 22.75 lbs per week.

So at about 30 lbs, we come in right in the middle.

I think part of the reaction to the amounts stems from serving sizes. Many of the older adults that I know maintain a reasonable weight. They may eat meat at every meal, but just enough to flavor the dish. They often grew up in times of scarcity. They eat healthful meals, but in smaller amounts than most people do today. (It also might be a factor that I know a disproportionate number of women from foreign countries (Asia and Europe)). My husband's uncle (from Europe) visited several years ago and was flabbergasted at the serving sizes of even the salads.

The most recent conversation included the comment "don't you think that eating all those veggies really is going to fill you up and make you uncomfortable?" I think that's sort of the point. "Volumetrics" is based completely on that premise...that it's the volume of food that matters in filling you up, and that's how you lose weight. Eat foods with low calories per unit volume (more veggies). In fact, I eat veggies and fruit FIRST. Yes, they fill me I might be hungry sooner. And that's okay. I eat my fruit at 10 am, and I'm hungry for lunch.

This week, we've gotten (among CSA and farmer's market and stores)
3 lbs strawberries
3 lbs bananas
3 lbs apples
1 lb tomatoes
1 lb cherry tomatoes
1 lb peppers
1 large head lettuce (2.5 lbs)
1.5 lbs celery
1.5 lbs onion
1 bunch kale
3 large carrots
2.5 lbs broccoli
1 lb edamame
1 lb peas (frozen)
1 large avocado

That's 24 lbs right there, plus we've got some dried fruits and dried beans and canned tomatoes to round out the menu.

What do you think? Is 30 lbs a week for a family of 3 too much? Too little?

Sausage and Polenta

I've been in a polenta mood lately. Now, the most frugal way to make polenta is to cook it from scratch. Most of the recipes I've found for soft polenta come with a lot of cream, butter, and cheese. And really, I kind of prefer the tube-polenta that is pan-fried in a little olive oil.

I did try to make it this way myself once. Cooked up from scratch, baked it in a pan to dry it out, and then fried. It was a mess. So now, when I want polenta, I pay $1.99 a tube at Trader Joe's.

I had a few chicken and gouda sausages in the freezer from my parent's visit earlier this year. We're not big meat eaters - I think that's the only meat in the freezer actually. (The rest of the sausage is going into today's bean crockpot soup). I thought it would be a perfect topping for polenta.

In my desire to "use it up", I decided to add cherry tomatoes. The CSA has had a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this year. A few weeks ago, I heard mention of how some members are tired of them. Well, for a few months we've gotten a overflowing pint a week. I'm not a big fan of raw cherry tomatoes. Combine the high acidity with the feel of popping in your mouth (I don't like grapes either), and you get...yuck. So I slice them in half in salads or relishes. Or I cook 'em.

Today they made a lovely sauce.

Sausage and Polenta
4 chicken and gouda sausages, about 1 lb: ~$3.00 (don't really remember)
1/2 a large onion: 0.40
2 small purple bell peppers: 0.50
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
1 pint cherry tomatoes: 3.00
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
1 tube polenta: 1.99
1 Tbsp olive oil: 0.11
3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese for topping: 0.37
Total: $9.50 for about 3 servings. $3.16 per serving.

Of course, this could be make more frugal by eliminating the meat and making your own polenta. You can use any kind of tomato (including canned). I am estimating the cost of the cherry tomatoes. Mine are local and organic and part of the CSA, so I don't really know the true cost.

Served with a big salad...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Curried Singapore Noodles

This recipe started with a recipe America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.

But I so liberally substituted and changed the amounts of the stuff in the recipe that I figure I can post it. I generally don't like to mess with ATK recipes because they are well tested. But I just don't go to the store to get stuff just for one recipe. So, there you go.

Curried Singapore Noodles:
6 oz rice stick noodles: $0.70
1 T canola oil: 0.04
2 small yellow bell peppers, sliced thinly: 0.50 (CSA)
1/3 small red onion, diced: 0.20
1.5 tsp curry powder: 0.10
2 small summer squash, cut into matchsticks with V-slicer: 0.70
1 c. cooked shelled edamame: 1.00
2 cloves garlic, pressed: 0.10
4 scallions, sliced: 0 (garden)
3/4 cup water
1/2 veggie bouillon cube: 0.25
1/4 cup soy sauce: 0.30
2 T. dry white wine
1 tsp sugar

Total: $3.89 for what they call 4 servings. It really made closer to 5 or 6 for us. So $0.78 per serving.

I think it tasted good. I added chili garlic sauce, which kinda burned. Spouse and kiddo liked it for sure.

Cook the rice stick noodles according to package directions, to al dente (go light on the cooking time), drain.

Combine water, bouillon, soy sauce, sugar, and wine in a measuring cup.

Heat oil in pan on medium. When hot, add onions, peppers, and curry powder and cook until softened, about 3 min. Add garlic and cook 30 secs.

Add cooked noodles, edamame, zucchini, sauce, and scallions. Cook, stirring, 5 min, until everything is warmed through and thickened.

Granola and Pasta Bake

No recipes today...I've made this stuff before, and I'm a "throw in whatever you've got" kinda person.

So the granola has oats, almonds, wheat germ, sesame seeds, coconut, cinnamon. The wet ingredients this time were a mixture of canola oil, maple syrup (out of brown sugar), and orange juice (no ripe bananas).

Breakfast today was yummy:

yogurt and strawberries:

meet my homemade granola:
together = perfection!

The kiddo had something similar (applesauce instead of strawberries). He was a bit disappointed in the granola at first "I want regular oatmeal", but that ended as soon as he had a bite. I look forward to the day that my work schedule returns to normal and I can actually eat breakfast at home, instead of in the car on the way to work. (This, I ate at home...tomorrow, I will be eating in the car or at my desk.)

The pasta bake was
1 lb pasta
1 large bell pepper
1/2 large onion
a bunch of tomatoes from the garden
some parsley (from the garden)
2 small summer squash
1 medium carrot
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 small can tomato paste
2 cloves garlic
basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, S&P

All the veggies went into a sauce, the pasta got cooked, it all went into an oiled pan, and topped with mozzarella and a little bit of parmesan.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yoga, and who'd have thunk it?

Last night, I did yoga for the first time. It was awesome! Even considering I was in a small room with about 20 coworkers (it was a company event).

A lot of the 2.5 hour program was explanation of yoga's purpose in keeping you balanced, in getting rid of the "residue" of life. Which I thought was going to be all touchy-feely and weird. But you know, it did make sense. From the parts about how stress and life all come with "leftovers" that you need to take care the parts that how we all "accept" that as we age our physical capabilities will decrease. The 50-something year old yoga instructor pointed out that this is just not true. (As an aside, he's also a well-known professor in the area of semiconductors, which confused me before I realized...yep, same guy.)

And I guess...if you had told me a year ago that I could complete a 5k in under a 9:00 mile, I would have said you are crazy. If you had told me that I would run 8.5 miles, and it would feel pretty easy...I would have said the same thing. I am amazed, sometimes, with what my body can do.

And I'm going back to yoga tomorrow...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Frugal Healthy Cooking for the Busy Person

I was going to title this: Frugal Healthy Cooking for Working Moms. Or Busy Moms. But why limit myself? Because I certainly have a lot of friends who complain about how hard it is to cook healthy meals and find the time to grocery shop. And some of them are single, or married without kids.

It doesn't matter if you are a single guy with a full time job, softball games, and grad school, or a married woman with volunteer responsibilities and family get-togethers. It can be hard to feed yourself (and others).

So here are my recommendations. They aren't new. In fact, go to almost any frugal website, blog, book, etc., and almost the first recommendation for a newbie asking "what do I cook for dinner?" is to have a plan by the day of the week.

That's all this is.

Why now, you ask? Well, I've been feeling busy and stressed. In addition to that half marathon training (which really is only taking up an extra 1.5 hours per week), there are other *things* in my life causing stress.

I noticed, for example, that my budget for groceries was totally blown in September (you can see that on the right, was supposed to be $160). Why is that, you wonder?

1. I'm kinda tired of the budget. I started the year with a full spare freezer and pantry. And it's pretty bare now. So filling our bellies without the extra food is a bit of a challenge.

2. My son is now in preschool, and his preschool has a farmer's market on Weds. Folks who know me know that I'm really into local and organic (within financial reason). Our CSA provides a LOT of veggies, but not much fruit. Excellent quality. For the most part, the local farmer's market provides veggies at better prices and better quality than the grocery stores.

However, I've started buying fruits at the farmer's market. And fruits can be expensive. Certainly, in season, citrus, strawberries, avocados, grapes, and melons can be a great deal. But items that don't grow as well here - apples and stone fruits, are expensive. Easily $2.50-$3 a pound. So my weekly farmer's market bill has been about $20, with apples, apple cider, grapes, strawberries, and eggs. I don't *need* to buy free range eggs, but it's much better for the chickens and they taste really good.

3. My work schedule. This time last year, I was working part time, which was about 30-35 hrs a week. I let myself get talked into full time (40 hrs) earlier this year. Now with the startup of a new fab, I'm suddenly at 45 hrs...and wait, that's 13 hours a week more than before. No wonder I'm having a hard time...less time for planning, grocery shopping, and cooking.

Enter the "day of the week" meal plan. As you can see, this is pretty much the vegetarian version, but a "chicken on Monday, beef on Tuesday" wouldn't be too far off the mark too. The advantages are:

1. you know what you are making each day without thinking about it
2. you choose what to make based on items that you always have on hand

Saturday: Soup and bread - makes 2-6 meals (minestrone, chili and cornbread, lentil soup with biscuits, butternut squash soup, vegetable soup, egg drop soup)

Sunday: Casserole - makes 5 meals (lasagna, enchiladas, shepherd's pie, tuna casserole, spanakopita, ziti bake, macaroni and cheese)

(Saturday or Sunday option: roast meat of some kind for special occasion, pizza, grilling)

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: Pasta (pesto, cashew cilantro, tomato, mexican, asian peanut sauce, pad thai, creamy vegetable primavera, skillet pasta)

Wednesday: Rice (spanish rice, fried rice, chickpeas and rice, stir-fry veggies with plain rice, risotto, or some version of other grain - quinoa, couscous, bulgur)

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: sandwiches (veggie burgers, grilled cheese, burritos, pizza, falafel) Or leftovers.

So there you have it...boring, but in the short term, can keep your family well fed for less.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I live in a beautiful place

So, I am training for this half marathon thing. I changed my workout schedule to allow myself to run 4x per week instead of 3. But what I didn't count on was this:
I don't want to run 4x per week. My 39-year old body doesn't want to run 4x per week. Particularly as it's short and stocky, and not built for distance (think: gymnast-shape, but with even bigger thighs and calves).

But I also feel weird about not doing *anything* on most Sundays. So I'll try and go for a walk alone or with the family.

This morning, I went on a short (2-3 mile) walk up to the Mesa. It's cool and windy - fall - or what passes for it in So. Cal, has arrived. Our thermostat says 59 degrees outside, perfect for a walk. It makes me think of pumpkins and apples - fitting, because we're headed to the pumpkin patch today, and just defrosted the last of last year's pureed pumpkin - and I'll be making soup for dinner.

As I turned for home, I have a big hill to walk up (the whole walk is a big hill, up, down, up, down). I was in a shaded, hilly, closed-in twisty-turny neighborhood. I came around the corner and BOOM, there it was. A gorgeous vista of deep blue Pacific ocean, white caps visible. A clear, sunny day with Santa Cruz Island visible in the background.

What a gorgeous place to live.

Well, it's off to get a glass of apple cider, then shower, then pumpkin patch!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

So, I've got some leftover potatoes in a bag. And a bunch of vegetables. I decided to make shepherd's pie. I think because it was part of a challenge on Top Chef last week. And it's finally not 91 degrees here.

I looked up a bunch of recipes on the 'net, and the one common thread was "use whatever you've got". So, here goes:

Veggie Shepherd's Pie (most veggies are from CSA, and hence the amts are estimates)
1/2 cup dry brown lentils: 0.25
1 T. canola oil: 0.03
3 small carrots, diced: 0.30
1/2 red onion, diced: 0.25
2 small summer squash, diced: 0.40
1 small bell pepper, diced: 0.50
1 cup frozen peas: 0.60
1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, quartered: 1.50
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
1 Tbsp soy sauce: 0.10
pepper and sage to taste: 0.15
1 piece veggie bouillon: 0.50
1 T. cornstarch

1.5 lbs potatoes: 0.20
1/2 cup milk: 0.07
1 Tbsp butter: 0.06
4 oz cheddar cheese: 0.50
S&P&garlic powder to taste:

Total: $5.51 for one 9x13 pan, 12 servings. $0.46 per serving. Served this with collard chips.

Rinse the lentils. Cover with water (at least one inch, maybe more), bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, cook for 20 min. Drain.

Saute onion, pepper, carrots, summer squash in oil until browning and carmelizing (great flavor). Add cherry tomatoes, peas, and garlic and cook until tomatoes give up their liquid. Add bouillon cube, sage, soy sauce and pepper.

Mix cornstarch with 1/2 cup water. When well-blended, add to veggies and boil until thickened.

Meanwhile, peel potatoes, cut into large pieces, and put in a pot covered with cold water. Bring to a boil and simmer 20 mins or until they are pierced easily with a knife. Blend with a hand mixer, adding milk, butter, salt and pepper.

Grease 9x13 pan. Spread veggie mixture on the bottom. Spread mashed potatoes on the top. Top whole thing with shredded cheese and bake at 375F for 30 min. I used 375 because that's what the collard chips need. You could use 350F.

This was a keeper. Cheap and delicious. Yum yum yum.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I hate it when food goes bad

I'm pretty good at using up food so that I don't waste it. This weekend (Sat), I bought tortillas. Now generally, I buy flour tortillas and stick them straight in the freezer. This time, I tried a new TJ's product, whole wheat organic wraps. I ate one on Saturday in a sandwich.

Tonight: quesadillas. And I opened the package, with 9 tortillas left and - they were starting to mold! After only a few days in the fridge! $2.00 down the drain. Bummer.

And then I gotta send my spouse up the hill for tortillas, right before dinner. Luckily we live nearby.

This reminds me of a Christmas Eve dinner, our first in So. Cal. together, when I decided to make fajitas for dinner. Now, back then ('97), I didn't really cook. But I bought the ingredients, and made the fajitas, and opened up the tortillas (which I didn't buy, because my spouse already had them, he was the cook), and...they were moldy! And it was 8 pm on Christmas eve! So every place was closed.

So we ate fajita fillings. I was SO disappointed, and apparently, I haven't forgotten about it.

So, back to the freezer for my wraps/tortillas. Sadly, they lose freshness that way. But better than tossing them.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Ethiopian Lentil Stew, Fried Rice

Last night's dinner was Ethiopian Lentil Stew. I served it with sourdough bread. With the sourdough, it was quite good (but then, Ethiopian food is served with injera bread, which is sour). Without the sourdough, it was just "meh". I don't have a picture. I had it for lunch today and will have it again Thursday for lunch, so there's still time...

Tonight's dinner was fried rice, and I did quite a good job today.

Fried Rice:
1 cup uncooked brown rice: 0.60
1 3/4 cup water
1 T. canola oil: 0.04
4 green onions from the garden, sliced: 0
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
1/2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger: 0.05
3 small carrots, diced: 0.20
1 medium summer squash, diced: 0.50
1 cup frozen peas: 0.50
10 cherry tomatoes: quartered: 0.30
3 eggs: 1.06 (these are free range eggs...)
2 T milk: 0.02
2 tsp dark sesame oil: 0.15
2 T. low sodium soy sauce: 0.17
juice of 1 small orange (from our tree)
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $3.69 for about 5-6 cups, or $0.67 per serving.

Cook the rice a day ahead. I use the rice cooker.

Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium high. Add zucchini and carrots and peas and saute until the zucchini starts to brown at the edges and is cooked. Add the ginger, garlic, and green onions. Saute 30 sec. Add the rice and stir-fry for about 5 mins to warm. Add S&P to taste.

Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl. Add S&P to taste.

Move the rice to a bowl. Add a bit more oil if necessary, and add the eggs. Cook the eggs, breaking up, until set. Add to rice in the bowl.

Add the quartered tomatoes and saute until they give up most of their juice. Add the soy sauce. Add the eggs and rice mixture. Add the sesame oil and orange juice. Mix well and heat through.

We served this with steamed broccoli (tossed with olive oil, S&P).

Steamed broccoli:
almost a pound of fresh broccoli ($0.67), cut into florets. Peel the stalks and slice.

Steam in the microwave with a little water for 4 min.

Toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil (0.10), and S&P.

This makes 4 servings, $0.19 each.

(There's some sourdough bread and hummus on the plate too.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Couple of Yummy Dinners

So, tonight's plan was Ethiopian Lentil Stew. Which I made. But you know, stew generally gets better with time. And well, I went to the grocery store today. While I didn't really need much, I noticed that potatoes were on sale ($0.68 for 5 lbs), and broccoli and cauliflower were on sale (0.77/lb), so I couldn't resist.

So I made aloo gobi. And I had Indian spiced chickpeas in the freezer. And I made kale chips. I am in utter heaven. This was SUCH a good, vegan dinner.

And last night I was craving crazy amounts of salad, so I made a salad with avocado, toasted walnuts, pomegranate seeds, cherry tomatoes...we had it with the old standby, Mediterranean Chickpeas and Rice.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Been Missing!

I know, I haven't posted many new recipes lately. Truthfully, I haven't made any, except for a delicious couscous and black bean salad (made with whatever veggies I had around...). I've also had a very busy work schedule, and had guests in town last weekend (family - Mother in law and her best friend). And my running schedule is getting longer. So I've been doing a lot of cooking of the "old favorites".

I promise to try at least one new recipe this weekend, maybe two if I'm up for it.

On the running front, I've discovered that running >6 miles really suppresses my appetite. And, what I do crave, is raw fruits and veggies. I am remembering now during those last two 3-day walks, that when my training walks got to >10 miles, the same thing happened. I wanted salad salad salad. So I've had a watermelon-strawberry-kale smoothie today (didn't much care for the kale, would have been better with banana, which I didn't have). And an apple. I am going to go to the farm and buy myself some lettuce and hopefully avocado.

The dinner plan for tonight is chickpeas and rice, which I love, but am not feeling (not raw). Instead of the zucchini with cherry tomatoes, I'm going to put the cherry tomatoes in the salad. Still have to find that avocado!!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Potato Peanut Curry

Another great recipe from Cook For Good. This one is printed on-line. You can find the recipe here. We had this with green beans and leftover baked limas.

Potato Peanut Curry (I made 1.5x the recipe, used fresh tomatoes, and added chard)
1. 5 lbs organic potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1/2 inch chunks: 0.90
20 oz fresh tomatoes, pureed: $0
3 T. tahini: 0.56
3 T. peanut butter: 0.19
3 T. canola oil: 0.12
1 cup water
1 bunch chard, steamed and pureed: 0
6 cloves garlic: 0.30
1 tsp cayenne: 0.10
3/4 tsp turmeric: 0.15
1/2 tsp salt
Total: $2.32 for 6 servings. $0.39 per serving (3/4 cup to 1 cup each), plus $0.40 for a piece of flatbread (per slice).

So, I basically followed the directions. I used fresh tomatoes, added the chard with the tomatoes (steamed and pureed first), and totally forgot about the parsley (should have picked it when I picked the chard).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

So, I struggle with spaghetti squash. Today, I made a casserole. It's not very pretty. But it tasted very good.

I also tossed the seeds with olive oil, s&p, cumin, and a teeny pinch of brown sugar and roasted. Yum! My toddler asked for more (truthfully, I only gave him the last few).

Spaghetti Squash Casserole.

1 spaghetti squash: $2
1 onion, diced: 0.30
1 T canola oil: 0.03
1 zucchini, diced: 0.60
1 red bell pepper, diced: 0.60
1 carrot, diced: 0.10
2 cloves garlic, minced: 0.10
a bunch of fresh tomatoes, chopped: 0 (that one darn tomato plant...) Probably about 3 cups.
salt, pepper, basil, oregano to taste
2 cup of cottage cheese: 1.75
1/4 cup parmesan cheese: 0.38
1 oz mozzarella cheese (basically one piece of string cheese): 0.25

Total: $6.11 for what looks like about 8 cups. I'm just guessing though. $0.76 per cup

1. Cut squash in half. Scoop out seeds (save seeds to roast). Put cut side down in a baking dish with 1-2 cups water. Bake at 350F for 1.5 hours. Let cool. Scoop out squash with a fork.

2. Saute onion in oil until soft and golden. Add squash, carrots, peppers and saute until soft. Add garlic, diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, and basil and oregano. Simmer a long time, until cooked down. Add a little red wine if you like.

3. Add spaghetti squash and stir.

4. In an oiled casserole dish, layer 1/2 of the veggie mixture. Top with cottage cheese. Add remaining veggie mixture. Top with parmesan and mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350F for about 30 min.

This was a little runny (as happens when you've got watery veggies - like zukes - in a casserole). But still, very very tasty. We had our neighbors over for dinner. Ate this with bread, fresh limas with blue cheese, and some great homemade carrot soup made by the neighbor.