Monday, August 31, 2009

Book Review: The Complete Book of Running for Women

The Complete Book of Running for Women by Claire Kowalchik is a book that I got for Christmas. I've read it a bit here and there, but recently dug it out for a deeper perusal. I like the philosophy of running part. But right now, I dug it out for the more practical purpose. I'm training for a 1/2 marathon.

I know, it's not food. But running is frugal (need shoes and a place to run), healthy (assuming your body can take it), and very simple.

I am not really a runner. I didn't run in high school or college. When I downloaded some training plans to run a half, I was a bit intimidated by the "tempo" runs, "pace" runs, etc. I mean - just tell me how many miles to run. So I was gradually increasing my mileage, but the last two weeks - splitting headaches about three hours after the run. Debilitating. I mean, can barely function for several hours. So clearly, I'm doing something wrong.

This book has really good, simple explanations. She explains how to set your pace by your breathing...which is something that I never thought about. She explains a "pace" run, gives several different types, and mentions that your "speedwork" should not be more than 10% of your total weekly mileage. She discusses cross training, stretching, clothing, hydration.

She's got three training plans for the 5k/10k and three training plans for the 1/2 marathon/marathon. Bronze, Silver, and Gold simply refer to the maximum # of miles per week you can run. And I'm on the "working mom" plan. Which means Bronze, but even less. Her plan involves 5 days/ week, and I can only do three.

What I've gotten out of the book so far is this - I now know that my "easy" running pace is about 10:00 mile, and my "fast" pace for the pace runs (which is equivalent to my 5k pace) is about an 8:50 mile. And I also learned that I shouldn't be trying to run hard and fast all the time. So today, I actually ran 2 miles "easy" on the treadmill. And I *loved* it. It reminded me of what I like about running (except the treadmill part). I wasn't beet red when I finished, and I had energy to actually lift weights when done. I don't remember the last time that happened.

I've got plans for my "pace" runs on Wednesday (which will probably peak at 4 miles, not the recommended 6). I'm scaling back my long runs a bit...rather than adding a mile a week, I'm staying at 7 this week, then 8, then 6, then 8... And I'm going to start taking water with me. I didn't really need to hydrate during my runs for 5 miles and under. But these longer ones are taking a toll.

In the next couple of weeks I should get a feel for whether or not I can really run this thing. Might as well be sure before forking out $45.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Vegan Pumpkin Cookies

What would bring you to want to make vegan pumpkin cookies, you ask?

Well...last winter, we got a lot of pumpkin from the CSA, and I froze it in freezer bags. I had one lone bag with 2 cups left.

I planned to make muffins (which I will probably do tomorrow morning, when it's not freaking 90 degrees outside). But those only require 1 cup.

That leaves one cup. So I started googling pumpkin recipes. I found a few pumpkin cookie recipes. But eggs...I only have 3. I need two for the muffins, and one for the pancakes we are having for dinner on Monday. So, obviously the answer is - look for vegan recipes.

Then I found this recipe at I mean, is there anything that Isa cannot make vegan and delicious? They are yummy.

Cherry tomato and corn salad

We got 2 pts of cherry tomatoes from the farm this week. And four ears of fresh corn. I'm not a big fan of the 'pop' you get from biting into a cherry tomato. So I steamed some corn, cut it off the cob, and tossed with halved cherry tomatoes. Add a clove of garlic, olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper.

No pics...I've made it twice, at it ALL up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It's summer. It's hot. But even in the winter, my son loves popsicles. The "healthy" ones at Trader Joe's are $2 for 4.

Yesterday, I made 4 for $0.40. $0.10 each.

But they are not quite sweet enough. The peach wasn't quite sweet enough.

Peach Popsicles
1 ripe peach, peeled and chopped: 0.25
handful of grapes: 0.10
spoonful of yogurt: 0.05

Blend in a blender. Pour into popsicle molds. My peach wasn't QUITE ripe enough.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Lima Beans with Blue Cheese

Lima beans were a new thing that we started getting at the CSA last year. I was skeptical. My mom likes limas, but I always hated them.

Until...I had them fresh. You can find my other recipes here and here.

These, however, were even better. Simpler. And yummy.

Limas with Blue Cheese
2 lb unshelled lima beans.
1 T olive oil
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
2-3 T crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1 T melted butter

1. Shell the limas. Rinse. Put in a pot, cover with water. Cover, bring to a boil (pay attention to them, because they will boil over and make a mess. Luckily, today was cleaning day.) Reduce heat and simmer, covered, 25 min. Drain. (I did this a day ahead.)

2. Toss beans with salt, pepper, paprika, olive oil, and blue cheese. Put in a small casserole.

3. Mix butter, breadcrumbs. Sprinkle over limas.

4. Bake at 400F until you feel like they are done. 15 min? 20 min?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Red Chili Tamale Casserole

This is a rather simple dish. Chili, in a casserole dish, topped with cornbread, and baked.

Now, I know my chili. I think I've been cooking chili longer than any other meal. Even before I learned to cook, I made chili. And I've been making vegetarian chili for several years.

So I know my vegetarian chili. In fact, I have some in the freezer right now.

But this chili...this is deceptively simple. Beans, vegetables, a couple of spices. But it is GOOD. I'd wager it's one of the best vegetarian chilis I've ever had. Better than at least half of the ones I've made (including the one in the freezer).

Now, on to the recipe...nope. Can't do it. I got this recipe from Cook for Good (an E-book that I paid for). If you want it, you'll have to buy the E-book. (Cook for Good Basics).

As usual, I adjusted the spices a tiny bit, and I used small red beans instead of kidney beans...that's pretty minor as far as changes go. Even my husband said "this chili is really good, did you follow the recipe?" (because he knows how I am...)

I also adjusted the cornbread topping ... (in the Cook for Good Spring e-book) because I realized last minute that I didn't have the yogurt that it called for.

And I added cheese on top.

This made 15 servings in my 9x13 pan. My child eats about 1/2 serving. I eat 1 serving. Spouse eats 1-2 servings. And boy, it's GOOD.

For the record, I am in no way affiliated with the Cook for Good website. I don't even remember how I found my way to it. But I love it and I *will* make the sweet raisin flatbread someday.

Bean and Vegetable Salad

This recipe originated with 150 Vegan Favorites by Jay Solomon, but I adjusted it based on what I had on hand. It's a yummy one!

Bean and Vegetable Salad
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed: 0.69
1 can garbanzos, drained and rinsed: 0.69
2 ears fresh corn, steamed and cut off cob (or one can): 0.69
1 1/2 large fresh tomatoes, diced: 1.20
1 fresh cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced: 0 (garden)
1/2 diced red bell pepper: 0.50
3 green onions, sliced: 0.25
3 cloves garlic, minced: 0.15
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped: 1.99
1 T olive oil: 0.11
2 T balsamic vinegar: 0.11
1/4 c. fresh parsley: 0 (garden)
1/2 T. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Total: $6.43 for about 10 cups. $0.64 per cup.

By using dried beans, you can cut this cost to 0.58/serving.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Lazy Girl's Oatmeal or Granola ... aka... Muesli

I've been thinking a lot about muesli lately. I don't know why. Maybe because I read about French breakfasts. Or I was thinking about Simple Food for the Good Life. Or maybe one of the blogs I followed mentioned it. But I've been thinking.

Earlier this week, I was tired of my morning bread, and thought about oatmeal. Kath got me interested in oatmeal again. I used to eat the instant stuff...when you have a job and a's easy. Then I switched to steel cut, which tastes MUCH better. But it takes forever to cook. It reheats well, but I didn't find the magic combination. Then Kath introduced me to banana whipped oats...

So I decided to try some tropical oatmeal. I'd been meaning to make granola, but the weekend was filled with painting. Besides, granola you have to bake for about an hour. I had some canned pineapple, some coconut. But I was lazy. Even though it only takes about 5 mins to cook. And I thought...hmm...muesli.

So, I took about 1/3 cup of plain lowfat yogurt. I topped it with 1/4 cup of dry old-fashioned oats. Yep, dry. No cooking. Added some diced pineapple, chopped cashews (macadamias would have been better...cashews are cheaper and in my pantry), and toasted coconut (okay, I wasn't THAT lazy).

This was really really good. Having it again tomorrow.

Tropical Muesli
1/3 cup yogurt: 0.26
1/4 cup oats: 0.06
1/4 cup diced pineapple (canned): 0.10
4-5 chopped cashews: 0.15
2 Tbsp toasted coconut: 0.06

Total: $0.63 for one serving

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Javanese Peanut Noodles

This recipe is loosely based - very loosely - on a recipe in "150 Vegan Favorites" by Jay Solomon. I basically changed the noodles, changed the vegetables, and left out the cilantro (didn't have it). Really, the sauce is almost the same, and my 3-year old said 'Yummy noodles!'

Javanese Peanut noodles
8 oz whole wheat spaghetti: 0.60
1/3 cup natural creamy peanut butter: 0.50
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce: 0.50
1 tsp sesame oil (toasted): 0.07
juice of 1 lime: 0.15
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips: 1.00
1 Tbsp grated ginger: 0.05
4 scallions, sliced: 0.15
1 small squash, julienned: 0 (was in the garden)
1 cup shredded cabbage: 0.06
1 T canola oil: 0.03

Total: $3.11 for five 1-cup servings, or $0.62 per serving

Boil the spaghetti according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a nonstick pan to medium high. Add cabbage and ginger and stir-fry 2 min.

Add bell pepper, scallions, squash, and stir-fry 4-6 min.

In a measuring cup, stir together peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, and sesame oil.

Add sauce to veggies. When pasta is done, drain and add to veggies and sauce.

Crockpot Tempeh Chili

Another weekend of making a HUGE batch of chili in the crock, freeze some for later, eat the rest this week.

The keys here for me that make it a super cheap meal are using dried beans (and the pinto beans were bought in a 10-lb bag. If I buy a 1-lb bag or in bulk, they are $1-2 per lb). And I also buy my tomatoes in #10 cans (106 oz) from Costco. It does require me to freeze the leftovers. But $0.75 for 32 oz of tomatoes? I remember the days when 28-oz cans used to go on sale for $1, but they are long gone around here.

Tempeh Chili
16 oz tempeh: 2.29
1 T canola oil: 0.04
2 onions, diced: 0.49
1 bell pepper, diced: 1.00
1 anaheim pepper, diced: 0.50
3 cloves garlic, minced: 0.15
1 lb dry pintos: 0.67
1/2 lb dry black beans: 0.50
4 c. crushed tomatoes: 0.75
2 carrots, diced: 0.20
chili powder ~2 Tbsp: 0.10
crushed red pepper: to taste
cumin: 2 tsp: 0.10
oregano: 1 tsp: 0.05
cinnamon: 1 tsp: 0.05
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 small can tomato paste: 0.16

Total: $7.05 for about 16 cups, or $0.44 per cup.

Soak beans overnight and cook on the stovetop or pressure cooker or crockpot. I like the pressure cooker and the times for pintos (4-6) and black beans (5-9) overlap. Save the cooking water.

Saute tempeh and onions in oil with some chili powder until onions are soft and tempeh is brown.

Add peppers and garlic and saute 2 min more.

Add sauteed veggies to crock pot. Add drained beans, 1-2 cups of the cooking water, and remaining ingredients. Cook on low all day, or cook on high 1-2 hours then switch to low. I have to cook on high at least some to get the carrots to soften. If you shred them, they will soften faster.

We served this with cornbread.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Fruity Cole Slaw

This year at the farm, it's been slim pickin's. This is our CSA. We've been members for 9 years. Last year they doubled the numbers of families they allowed to join. This year they cut the price. The price of that is that we get less produce. Also, we eat a lot of produce. I try to make a point to eat some veggies for lunch and dinner, and at least two pieces of fruit per day.

When you do the math for the number of servings, multiply by 2.5 people, you are looking at about 30-35 lbs of produce a week. Now, the CSA provides 10-15 lbs. So I have to liberally supplement with farmer's market, produce stand, and wholesale produce store.

This week, no lettuce! (2 lbs of tomatoes though) So I bought cabbage. And coleslaw mix. I'd had a really good Hawaiian kind of cole slaw at a picnic not too long ago (mango!) This isn't Hawaiian, and I made too much dressing, but hey, it softened the cabbage up nicely.

Fruity Cole Slaw
1-lb bag cole slaw mix: $1.39
1/4 of a 20-oz can of diced pineapple, each chunk diced into four pieces: 0.20
1/2 cup raisins: 0.38
2 scallions, sliced: 0.20
cashews to crumble on top

dressing (this was a little too much, maybe cut back on the juice)
1/4 cup pineapple juice from the can: free! included in the cost of the pineapple
2 T canola oil: 0.07
2 T rice vinegar: 0.16
salt and pepper to taste

Total: $2.40 for about 10 cups before it all squishes down from the dressing. $0.24 per cup.
On another note, my mom is totally cracking up. Growing up, I hated tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and cole slaw. And now I'm eating them like crazy.

Pasta Ponza

No picture today. I forgot. Mostly because I was half way through making it when I got a request to go back to work. So I cooked it, ate it in 5 min (I *will* have meal where I sit and eat it leisurely. I will. But maybe not today, as we're painting the living room and I ate sitting down in my son's room and standing up in the kitchen).

This comes courtesy of Giada on the Food Network. I randomly taped a show, and she made this meal, then on Thursday we got a pint of yellow cherry tomatoes at our CSA. So I picked some more cherry tomatoes from our plant "the cherry tomato plant that ate Manhattan", some parsley, and voila!

First, I used 1/2 to 2/3 lb pasta. So mine was a little soggy. Still tasty.

Second, I added garlic, why not?

Third, I used homemade breadcrumbs with basil and oregano mixed it. It was quite good. Rest went into the freezer. I have been the queen of cooking ahead and freezing leftovers for later. Workdays have been really long, so dinner cooking has been minimized.

Pasta Ponza
butter for greasing
2/3 lb pasta: 0.74
1 pt. yellow cherry tomatoes: 3.00
1 pt. red cherry tomatoes: $0 (from my garden)
handful of fresh parsley: $0
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
2 T. capers, rinsed and drained: 0.25
2 T. olive oil: 0.22
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese: 0.38
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs: $0 (I use leftover heels of bread)
1/4 tsp each of oregano and basil: 0.05

Total: $4.74 for 6 servings, or $0.79 each.

See the link above for directions. Basically, you roast the tomatoes and breadcrumbs,l cook the pasta and toss together with cheese...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fried Cabbage

I made this recipe on Sunday, but have been too busy to blog about it. It was tasty, and though it makes 8 servings (1/2 cup each), we eat about 1 cup at a time. So truthfully, this was one dinner for 3 and one lunch for two. It was pretty tasty.

Fried Cabbage (4 c cooked)
1 small cabbage, shredded: 0.55
1 bell pepper, diced: 0.50
2 T canola oil: 0.10
2 cloves garlic: 0.10
juice of one lemon: 0.25
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, curry powder and chives: 0.15

Total: $1.65 for 8 servings, or $0.21 each.

The recipe originated here. I basically followed these directions, with different spices, but you know, I never did see the turmeric. I love turmeric.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bean Salad

Bean Salad:

1/2 lb. fresh cranberry beans
1/2 lb. fresh green beans
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
1/4 c. diced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T canola oil
2 T apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp sugar

Rinse and cover cranberry beans with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 mins or until tender.

Steam green beans.

Combine all ingredients and chill.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

How much do we really cook?

Thanks for Cheap Healthy Good's Megalinks, I get to read lots of interesting articles out in the internet about food. I really enjoyed one this week, a Michael Pollan editorial.

Now, Mr. Pollan discusses Julia Child, and how she got millions interested in (French) cooking. And how she was the prequel to the food network. And how people JUST don't cook anymore. Women work outside the home, there's ample opportunity to eat out or buy frozen meals. it true? And if so, is it a bad thing? You know...I don't really *want* to cook beef bourguignon or duck a l'orange, despite my high school French. I like more simple, vegetarian foods. And one of my favorite cookbooks is "Simple foods for the good life" by Helen Nearing, which is about as "un-cookbook" as you can get.

If you are eating fresh, does it matter that you spend 27 mins, or 36 mins per day prepping meals instead of 2x that? And what is considered cooking? I use prepared ingredients...canned tomatoes, sometimes frozen vegetables. I buy bread (do make the occasional crusty loaf). My mom certainly cooked more "from scratch", but there was still cream of mushroom soup in our cupboard.

Why do we like to WATCH cooking without actually cooking? I love food and like to use the cooking shows as inspiration. Let me tell you, when I was on maternity leave, my husband ate like a KING. I like to cook. But I don't like doing dishes. So given the chance, I'd prefer to cook 3-4 x a week and fill in with leftovers. And our meals are simple: salads and sandwiches in the summer, soups, stews, casseroles in the winter. I don't like reading that "the skills are already lost". Now, that's sort of true. I started this blog, in part, to record my attempts to make a good roast chicken and a good pizza dough...figuring that when I succeeded, I could just look it up next time. But how many of these other skills do we actually *need*. In order to feed my family a healthy diet, I need to know how to bake, chop, saute, steam, carmelize, roast. Mostly plants.

Do I need to know how to cook every manner of meat? Not really. We eat mostly I've learned how to roast a chicken, bake a tri-tip, saute salmon and shrimp. Just enough to get by...since it's a rarity to cook these things in my home. I *do* however, know how to make a mean pinto bean burger and some pretty good falafel.

What have I cooked this week? Well, this was a busy work week. I cooked beans and rice, and later used them to make burritos (no, I did not make the tortillas, but I have in the past). I made up a delicious pesto and vegetable pasta dish. I made a number of open-faced tomato sandwiches and a lot of guacamole. One night was veggie burgers (I don't really count that as cooking). I sliced up veggies for salads and fruits just to snack on. I cooked eggs for breakfast one morning, and used the blender to make smoothies and popsicles. Remaining for the weekend will be a sauteed shrimp with cashew curry sauce (Martha Stewart), a bean salad chock-full of CSA veggies (green beans, cranberry beans, garlic, red bell pepper), a green salad, and either a pasta dish or some homemade falafel.

CSA Update and Busy Busy

Boy, what a busy two weeks. Spouse and I have been both working long hours, not much sleep, we're pooped! I hurt my foot on Monday on the treadmill, so also had a light workout week, and missed my last 5k race.

Made up for it this morning running 1.6 miles at 9:22 pace, then on the way home (up hill) did min running all out (just shy of a sprint), one min walking. Did...10 of those.

This week I took a pic of our CSA haul. Which is smaller than in previous years, now that there are more members. Still the tomatoes are fabulously delicious.

There's 1/2 lb green beans, 3/4 lb red bell peppers, large head lettuce, 1 pt strawberries, 1/2 lb cranberry beans, 3 ears corn, 2 lb tomatoes.

Also this week (on Weds) we went to the new farmer's market at the school just down the hill. I bought local free range eggs (they really do taste better), and grapes and a watermelon, because my son just had to have it. But then I had to carry the watermelon back up the hill. Luckily, half way up the hill my hubby drove by...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Crockpot Beans and Rice

See recipe here:

This was yummy, looked just like it did in the photo in the link, and cost about $2.60 for 16 cups, or $0.16 per cup.

Even adding toppings such as sour cream, salsa, and cheese, it's a cheap dinner.

We ate this with broccoli salad (mix from Costco, recommendation from a friend), also delicious.

Broccoli salad was probably about $0.50 per cup. Don't have the receipt in front of me.

Nacho Cheese Sauce and a Bare Pantry

So, I was driving home from work craving...something. On Friday. Now, Friday is generally "leftover day", but I felt like something different. So, I thought about pizza, and when I got home...there was a dominos coupon floating around in our front yard.

$15 later and a large veggie pizza (spinach, onion, roasted pepper, olive, feta) was in our tummies.

But I needed something else...I wanted cheese...but our pantry was empty. All we had was american cheese. Google is so helpful and allrecipes came to the rescue.

Nacho cheese sauce
1/4 small jalapeno: 0.10
1 clove garlic, pressed: 0.05
2 T. butter: 0.09
2 T. flour: 0.03
1 c. milk: 0.14
5 slices American cheese: 0.38
1 T. blue cheese: 0.11
1 T. parmesan cheese: 0.08
1/4 c. diced tomato: 0.25
Total: $1.23 for 1.5 cups.

So, here's the empty pantry. This experiment of alternating grocery budget months from $160 to $300 is very eye-opening. It is also making me have sympathy with people who struggle like this every day, with very little food. The first two $160 months (Jan and Mar) weren't too bad. I started the year with a full pantry and spare freezer and I was able to get by. The $300 months were flush in comparison.

Then it got harder. Because the $300 months I restock the pantry, or do I get some "treats"? Treats being olives, fish, crackers, nice cheese.... And there are still two $160 months left (one of which includes Thanksgiving). Whew. In May, our spare freezer was empty and we unplugged it.

Yesterday being day 1 of August, and $300 month...I went shopping and spent nearly $100. So that will mean the other few weeks will have to be about $60 each.

Summary of how we've done so far:
Jan: $159.77
Feb: $297.92
Mar: $145.65
Apr: $278.47
May: $160.35
Jun: $300.51
July: $158.58
CSA: $850/year * 5.5 mos/10 mos = $467.50

Total: $1968.75