Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I also made chocolate chip cookies from Joy of Cooking's recipe for chocolate chip drop cookies--fantastic!

I was comparing it to the recipe on the back of the chocolate chip bag and, they are pretty similar, but here's what I thought was interesting:

Joy of Cooking said to use 1.125 cups of flour and 1 cup of sugar (the other ingredients aren't important, I just want you to get a feel for how much dough this would make) and said it would make 45 cookies.
Back of Chocolate Chip Bag said to use 2.25 cups flour and 1.5 cups sugar and it said it would make 5 dozen (60) cookies.

So, for double the flour and 1.5 times the sugar, you are only getting a paltry 15 more cookies. You know what this says to me? Portion size. Cookies are bigger now-a-days. This is something I've been becoming more and more aware of in my search for healthy eating habits / healthy food for my family. I could rant for a long time about portion sizes here, and eventually digress into an all-caps post about the evils of fast food, but I am looking to have a more positive outlook than that.

I made a half batch, but only got 20 cookies (partially because I ate some of the heavenly dough, as did my hubby), which tells me I am pretty close to a reasonable cookie size. I think that paying attention to this sort of thing can really help with perspective when making / eating food. I for one, feel guilty about eating a certain number of cookies, regardless of size, so if I intentionally make them smaller, even if I eat 5 and feel guilty, it's still better for me than eating 5 cookies that are each worth a "normal" cookie and a half or more.


So I had a 3/4 of a head of cabbage leftover from a stew I made and I didn't know what to do. So I did the only thing I could think of that had cabbage in it besides the stew I just made: Sauerkraut.

I let it sit for a week, doing my best not to disturb it too often, but also checking liquid levels and for spoilage.

I just tried it and I honestly can't tell if I did it right or not. It doesn't taste spoiled to me (always a good thing), but I wouldn't know what spoiled sauerkraut tasted like because I've only ever had sauerkraut in any form once, and that was a long, long time ago.

It's sort of a semi-sweet, semi-salty, crunchy mass of pale yellow / white stuff that also tastes a bit like caraway seeds (since I added these, this is no surprise). It also tastes no different--not even a little bit--when I ate some rinsed versus some that had not been rinsed, which makes me believe I screwed up somewhere.

Does anyone have any advice on this? Did I mess it up? Since it tastes ok, can I eat it anyway?

Monday, August 30, 2010


Whirl is a weird word. Just recently I've been seeing it crop up in a most unexpected place. Up until now, I've only seen it used in the past-tense or as a noun(?). But recently, I've been reading a LOT of canning blogs**, and in that culture, they use it in place of "blend," "chop," and "process" depending on which kitchen appliance they are talking about. I just read about Someone who said this about some apples in a recipe she was making: "I whirl mine through the food processor." I've seen it several other places, but this is the one I had open at the moment that made me think about this weird word.

I just find it interesting. That is all.

PS, I think next summer I may join the crazy canning community, it looks like a whirl of fun.

get it?

Sometimes I can't help myself...

I love coffee cake. I haven't had any really good coffee cake in a long time, and until just recently I had pretty much forgotten about my addiction.

Then one day I was flipping through my beloved 1975 edition Joy of Cooking and saw it: A recipe for a quick coffee cake. I was mesmerized by memories of well, coffee cake (what can I say, I REALLY love food).

So I whipped up a batch and threw it in the oven...

This is probably the best coffee cake I have ever had. It's not too sweet, but it has a lovely cinnamon streusel on top of it--delicious.

So this morning, as I'm enjoying a piece from my second pan of coffee cake in 2 weeks, I decide to figure out how much this addiction is going to cost me.

Here's the breakdown:
1.5 cups ww flour = $0.27
1/2-3/4 cups white sugar = $0.8
1 egg = $0.8
2/3 cup milk = $0.10
7 tbsp butter = $0.43 (some in the batter, some in the streusel)
some cinnamon = $0.05 (guessing here)
1 tsp vanilla = $0.05
2 tsps baking powder = $0.02

For a grand total of $1.08, plus maybe $0.020 for electricity for my oven (guessing here, too).

So, for an 8x8 pan of AWESOME which lasts me over a week of breakfasts, it only costs me $1.28.

I heart cooking my own food.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I was taking out the trash earlier today and on my way back, I look up at my apartment complex to see my adult neighbor blowing bubbles into the air unashamedly. Awesome. I smiled and he noticed and started laughing. He said he "just felt like blowing [his] bubbles." Even better.

It was such a great display of childlike innocence. He was standing on his balcony on the third floor, happily blowing his bubbles and watching them float down below. I feel like stuff like this doesn't happen very often. People are too busy doing grown-up things to enjoy life's simple pleasures. Not that grown-up things are bad, but there is definitely a place for some childlike fun, too. It was a "stop-and-smell-the-roses" kind of moment.

This totally just made my day.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Monthly Groceries

Hello, hello.

I usually plan meals and buy groceries monthly, with little side trips every so often. My monthly budget just went from $200 for food and household items to $250, so I am excited. $200 was a bit tight and I usually went over by $5-$20 each month. I've seen a lot of people list out everything they buy, I'm not into that. What I will do each time, is list out the improvements I have consciously made toward buying healthier foods, as well as the amount of money I spent.

Aldi = $39.60
Walmart = $95.46
Total = $135.06 (so far, there are more veggies and several other more expensive things coming later in the month)

This included buying a replacement mixer--my old one sucked a very thick batter up inside of its motor, so it's not doing so well. It also included buying soda for the next 3 months.

I am mostly excited for the increased food budget because it will allow me to buy higher quality meat and veggies. My freezer is pretty well stocked at the moment, but as I use up the different types of meat / etc, I am going to do better.

Improvements to My Food this Trip:
  • I bought King Arthur brand white flour to replace my bleached, nasty white flour. I was trying to use it all up, but we didn't use as much bread as I thought we would this month. I am just going to throw the rest of the bad white flour away. One more thing off my list. I don't feel too terrible about this considering: a.) how much bad stuff was in it, and b.) that I bought it like a year ago and still haven't used it up, because I use mostly ww flour.
  • The soda I did buy was "Throwback" soda, meaning it was made with real sugar and not HFCS. I am happy about this.
  • I found a replacement for the brand of applesauce I was buying, also because of HFCS. The great thing is that it was actually cheaper. It was $1.69 for a 42oz jar (Yay, Aldi!). I also threw the last single-serve applesauce away.
  • I was really craving Cheetos, but instead of buying the normal kind, I tried to find a healthier approximate: white cheddar, natural Cheetos. No food dyes, none of the typical crap. It's not perfect, but c'mon, it's Cheetos. If I actually wanted to be 100% healthy, I wouldn't even have been in that isle. :) I will be using these with my lunches this month, I can't wait.

Ack! Salt!

One of the things I've been trying to do since I've been married is cook with less salt. I want to make flavorful dishes that don't require it. Just yesterday my mom talks to me and says the doctor told her to go on a low sodium diet, and did I have any suggestions. So, since I have to type all this up anyway, I thought I'd also share my salt story with you today.

  • mg = milligram
  • dv = daily value
  • oz = ounce
  • "low sodium" means 140 mg per serving
  • "no sodium" means 10 mg or less per serving
5 Quick Tips
  • Pay attention to mg content, rather than the percentage dv and try to stay below 1,500 mg per day (less than 1 tsp)
  • Don't eat "meals in a box" or any other of the instant foods, unless they specifically say low to no sodium. No "helper" meals, no mac & cheese, no "Home Bakes."
  • Don't use canned veggies, soups, or meats with any frequency, as part of the canning process is to add a LOT of salt.
  • Don't eat fast food or any ham more than once or twice a month, as it will completely blow your sodium goals for that day / week.
  • Drink lots of water because it helps your body with salt and salt distribution
Fruit / Veggies
  • Fresh vegetables have almost no sodium, while some canned veggies can have over 400 mg per serving. Canned fruits don't have too much sodium, but fresh fruit is better for you anyway.
  • Pretty much any fresh veggie or fruit is a good choice: asparagus, avocado, broccoli, cucumber, peas, potatoes, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, apples, pears, apricots, cantaloupe, grapes, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, strawberries, watermelon... etc
  • The key here is to remember not to dump lots of salt onto all these great veggies you are eating.
  • A great trick I learned is to season veggies with chili or garlic powder, or use lemon pepper seasoning. It adds a great flavor with none of the salt.
Meat / Dairy
  • Avoid ham, as a single serving can have your entire daily allotment of sodium or MORE, depending on how it was cooked.
  • Use meat as a garnish rather than as the main event; this will produce a savings on your grocery budget as well as reduce your sodium intake. EG: I make a lot of one-dish meals, and when I do, I usually add a pre-portioned amount of meat from my freezer. So one meal for 4 people, winds up only having about a cup of ground beef.
  • The same goes for cheese. One idea for cheese is, buy a stronger flavored cheese, like Parmesan or extra sharp cheddar. You'll get more flavor per oz, which means you can use less.
  • In poultry, dark meat has more sodium than white meat.
  • Avoid "shelf-stable" meats like summer sausage because they are very high sodium foods.
Breads / Pasta / Beans
  • Pretty much all pastas and rices are low in sodium, so long as they aren't part of a meal kit with a flavor (read: SALT) packet. Of course, I am biased to using whole grain products as a rule, and white only as an exception.
  • Store-bought breads have more sodium than homemade, but not everyone has the time or the inclination to make their own, so look for low-sodium breads or just read the packaging until you find one that is lower than normal.
  • Oatmeal is a great, simple, heart-healthy food and it actually is a zero sodium food.
  • Don't use canned beans as they are very high in sodium. instead, buy bags of dried beans and soak them overnight when you know you will use them the next day. If you must use canned beans, at least thoroughly rinse them to cut down on the salt. Crock pots are wonderful for cooking dry beans
  • Out of the bean family, lentils have the highest sodium content, so might be best to avoid that one or to eat it in small quantities.

Just about anything is ok in small quantities, and remember your body does need some salt in order to survive, but if your doctor is telling you to reduce your salt intake, some or all of these tips can help you along the way. As for me and DH, we don't have a sodium restriction in place from our doctor, but we generally try to follow the ideas mentioned above. We still use box dinner kits sometimes, we still use canned veggies and fruits. The biggest thing here is, moderation. We don't eat a dinner kit every night; but it is a nice convenience when we're both too tired from work and classes that day. I make a lot of our own breads, which also cuts down on sodium.

Moderation. Remember that. Quick Low-Sodium Meal Ideas
  • fresh fruit or veggies
  • oatmeal with milk & sugar
  • toast w/ jelly or preserves
  • toast w/ an egg
  • fruit smoothies
  • an apple w/ reduced sodium peanut butter
  • a boiled egg salad (romaine, red onion, hard boiled egg, and a bit of olive oil & freshly ground pepper or a vinaigrette)
  • lemon pepper veggies over whole wheat pasta
  • a baked potato with a bit of cheese
  • rice w/ veggies
  • crock pot beans w/ veggies

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on sodium in food. My final thought is, do what works for you. If you don't want to make your own bread, don't. If you don't want to use dry beans, don't. Just make sure that you are making enough changes to reduce your sodium intake to 1,500 mg or less per day. Read food labels, look for "no sodium" or "sodium free" items as those are easy things to get you going in the right direction.

What do you think about sodium?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Food Waste Friday

I have been following Budget Confessions for a few weeks now and Cate had an idea I really liked. Every Friday she posts how much food her family wasted that week. She does this in order to keep herself aware of how much food she is throwing out.

So I am joining the ranks. In order to keep myself aware of how much food I am throwing out, I am posting a list every Friday. I am playing my small part in a larger online movement of getting serious about waste. I believe it is important to be aware of ourselves and how we are living our lives, and a large part of that in America, I believe, is keeping track of and reducing waste.

The Less Food We Waste...
  • the less money we waste
  • the more food is available to other people
  • the less food is needed to feed our country
My Food Waste
  • 1 pancake's worth of batter
  • about 1 cup (1 meal's worth) of leftover chicken-something
  • 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal
Not too bad for my first official week of tracking it.

Living Within Our Means

For my DH and I, we are not what you could call poor. I landed a lucky job at the university we attend and he also works 30-40 hrs / wk. Plus, due to a nice raise I just got, we just pushed our gross earnings to over 40k / yr. We have no children to support, no elderly parents to support; we are pretty much free to do with our money what we want.But for us, it's not about how much more stuff we can buy or how many more square feet we can get with our increased income, it's about how we can continue to spend our money wisely.

So instead of looking through online listings for bigger and better apartments or going to the mall to buy more useless gadgets, we are making calculated changes to our budget. Our focus is to pay down our 40k combined debt, while still eating / living well. In response to the raise, we are increasing our food / household stuff budget, our savings, and how much money we are paying toward our debt each month.

We don't live on beans and rice, but we also don't eat out 3 times a week. We don't live in a studio apartment, but we do have a small one bedroom in a cheaper part of town. We don't abstain from all forms of entertainment, but we don't buy the biggest cable package or put things on credit cards.

In a word, we are striving for balance.

What do you think?

My Inaugural Post

Hi there!

Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my blog. My desire with this blog is to share my stories of cooking and maintaining a home, stories of life as a married woman, and stories about making good use of my time and money.

Quick facts about me:

  • My DH and I have always been known as "the old couple."
  • We are currently striving to pay down our school loans, while still making time to enjoy life and each other.
  • We are both attending college and hope to be finished by 2014.
  • We both want to start a family, but are waiting to become more financially stable.