Saturday, October 30, 2010


Last night we went grocery shopping and we spent too much for one week. Granted, some of it will last longer than a week and DH was out of both body wash and shampoo so he bought 2 of each.

Walmart: $11.58
Whole Foods: $80.74

Total so Far: $92.32

Next week should be pretty cheap, though. I'll try to stick to $50 or less and that will put me roughly on target for the month. I'm using a casserole from the freezer and more squash from the closet (it said cool & dark location, ok? Not my choice. haha).

Improvements to our Food this Trip
As for why our Whole Foods bill was so high yesterday, here's the lowdown (funny how improvements and increased expenses always seem hand-in-hand. sad.):

$12.50 to replenish 3 spices I was running low on. I won't have to buy those for probably a year now. These are higher quality spices so I am excited.
$7.99 for 12oz of real maple syrup, which is not a normal expense (but sadly, after tasting it, it probably will become a normal one!). I wanted to try it and it was called for in the recipe I used for granola. real maple syrup is a healthier alternative to refined sugar so I am excited about this new option, even if it is expensive.
$18 for 3lbs of my first real beef. It's really good and I like knowing that it doesn't have nasties in it. hopefully they will have another sale soon and I can make what we have last until then. I'm also going to check out a farmer's market nearby and see what their prices are like.
Half went to a splurge on burgers (which we never have) and it made 4 burgers so two meals. The other half I cooked up and froze right away last night so I would be sure not to waste it. Some of it wound up in the spaghetti sauce, but I have enough for probably 4-6 more meals.
$6 for OV cream to use for the last couple slices of pumpkin pie we have! Yum!
$10 for ingredients to use in my granola (not counting the syrup).

Why Did I Think this Was a Good Idea?

Hello Blogosphere,

So I had this great idea: What if I bake all day on Saturday! I could get so much done.

Well, I've gotten a lot done, but I'm tired. And I've still got a bunch of stuff to finish that's in the "halfway done" phase. I just put one loaf into the oven and I've got more dough rising. The only thing that keeps me working to get so much of this done is that when hubby gets home I want to be free to spend time with him and not have to still be cooking.

I have to keep reminding myself why I put so much effort into my food, sometimes.

1.) I'm striving to provide quality food for my family while on a budget. I don't want crazy chemicals like bleach or rBGH in my food.

2.) See above.

Haha, as you can see, I'm super-coherent right now. I've been learning a ton about food and I always am trying to improve our food while keeping it fun. I don't want to have lentils or black beans every single night--how dull!

Today I:
Baked 6 little rye buns which I am hoping turned out in spite of my errors.
Made a batch of spaghetti sauce.
Made a huge batch of granola! (the ! is because I'm very excited about this, in case you weren't sure)
I'm baking bread to freeze and use in a casserole later.
I've got dough for french bread rising to go with our soup later this week.

I've never worked with rye flour before and I'm almost certain I killed it. Which is sad because it's not the cheapest thing in the world. It was about $2.70 for just under 2lbs. I used most of it. It's awaiting judgement currently so I'll fill you in later.
The spaghetti tastes off so when I reheat it I'll probably tinker with it some more. I think it needs more garlic?
The granola! It turned out way better than I thought it would. I was skeptical because I've never made it before and also slightly intimidated (am I allowed to eat granola that didn't come pre-packaged? Isn't there a rule against that somewhere? lol) I used a recipe I found on Lauren's blog, here. You should go check it out because it's awesome. For some reason, though, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to cut and dry my own apples, a process I started last night which took... forever. And then when I got in a hurry it didn't work as well (go figure). I'm not sure I'll ever make my own apple chips again for this, but it's not necessary for great granola!
The sandwich (erm, casserole) bread looks very promising just now. I used my fancy new hand mixer that came with a bread hook attachment to knead it which resulted in much more developed gluten than I could ever get by hand with this dough. And I didn't have to add hardly any extra flour. I'm excited.
The french bread is the easiest bread I have ever made. It requires so little work because you don't have to knead it at all.

So that's my story today. Hope you enjoyed reading about my crazy adventures in the kitchen!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste

This was not such a good week.

1 meal's worth of bean soup from the freezer. I really tried to eat it all. I just didn't happen.
a couple tablespoons of canned jalapeƱos from... a long time ago.
a cup and a half of ground beef from the freezer that got freezer burned (I think. It tasted awful).
some frozen celery
If I don't think of a use soon, some of that bland squash soup will also be thrown away. I used a good bit of it--snuck it into the chili I made--but still have several cups leftover.

Oh well. Considering how I've have craptastic vertigo on and off all week, I don't consider this loss too much. I will be sad if I don't get off my bum and use up some of the peppers I have in my fridge: a poblano and a habanero. Yum.

What about you? Do you track your food waste?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dinner, Pumpkin Pie Cont'd, and Vertigo

For dinner we had a casserole from the freezer: Chicken Broccoli Bake. Rather little effort involved. Which is good because I feel like crap today. It tasted good and we have lunch for tomorrow now.

Mmmhhmmm, the pumpkin pie was super-tasty. It didn't quite set all the way, but it definitely gelled enough to cut and serve. It just sort of slumped over once it hit the plate like a tired cat flopping down on the grass.

But it was tasty. I bet if I had used cream it would have set better, but I didn't have any. If I had possessed any tapioca or other thickener I would have used it but oh well. I am pretty happy with it.

DH had a bad day at work and so forgot to get the cream, but it was good without it.

With all my leftover pumpkin pulp I am going to make pumpkin muffins and possible pumpkin bread. I'll probably make the bread since I don't have a muffin tin and then freeze some of the pulp for later baking adventures.

Vertigo = not fun.
Vertigo = can't think.
Vertigo = going to bed stupidly early because can't do anything else.
Vertigo = destroyer of productivity.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Real Pumpkin Pie

So, tonight I made my first ever pumpkin pie. Also, my first ever real pumpkin pie. No canned pumpkin for me, I went crazy on 2 real pie pumpkins and amid the flying pumpkin pulp, managed to collect probably 6-8 cups of the stuff.

It was a lot of fun, and if it tastes as good as it looks, I'll be quite pleased. Again, I'm sad I don't have a working camera or I would show you crappy pictures of an awesome pie! I can't wait to eat it tomorrow after dinner....

I used the recipe from Joy of Cooking (probably my fave ever). It called for almost a stick of butter for the crust (which, incidentally, finished off my old butter and now I can use my OV brand butter), but overall less sugar and eggs in the filling itself. It called for evaporated milk but I didn't have any so I just used regular milk. And I was pretty liberal with the spices (who measures things, anyway. haha).

I do feel good about my ingredients, though. The crust was made with WW flour. the pie with organic pie pumpkins, milk, and eggs, but regular sugar and spices.

If you've never made pumpkin pie before, the filling is pretty much liquid when you put it in. I was worried about that, but it looks like it's thickened up nicely, but I had to bake it about 15 minutes longer than it said to. Or 20. I can't remember. I just "cooked until done," you know?

So... That's really all I had to say... I can't wait to try it!! Hmm... I may to need to go to the store and get some heavy cream for this....


I've had three more grocery trips since my last post, I know, terrible, plus a few random other things


$27.59 at Home Depot
$34.58 at Whole Foods
$37.69 at Whole Foods
$46.94 at Whole Foods

Sub Total = $146.80

Previous Monthly Total = 119.65

Monthly Total = $266.45

In my last grocery post, apparently I failed at basic math, or I just didn't have my receipts in front of me, because my total then was not $133, but $119.65. We actually only bought one of the cooling pads in October, so that's probably where the difference came from.

So, at the end of the month, I went over by $16.45. I don't feel too bad about this, considering I stocked up on some squash the last time I was at the store. Also out of this month's budget came my temps and we stocked up on water filters. I don't have a problem with what we spent this month.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Step 0: What I Couldn't Do at the Beginning

At first, I was testing the waters slowly, but the more I read and the more I do, the more I feel the need to dive in. So, here goes! I will be getting rid of preservatives and other nasties. My first target was HFCS, which I've almost completely eliminated from our diet. I doubt I'll be able to do 100% at first with preservatives, but I am definitely going to be much more strict about what I allow into our home. I probably should have done this at the beginning, but I don't know if we could have gone "cold turkey" off our old diet onto a completely different diet. Instead, slowly using up the old and replacing it with better has been a good route overall for us. I just feel a need to step it up.

So, we finally made the plunge today. Remember all that stuff I posted about last week? That and more went to one of two piles today: trash, or for my brother.

Why am I getting rid of all of this food if it's still good? Because they each contain things that I've decided aren't good for us. I mentioned it to my hubby and said he was fine with it, so away it goes. I will have to find tasty substitutions for some of it, especially the salad dressing and the pickles because we both really liked it. I'm also kind of sad that some of my canned goods had preservatives in them. (If you're asking why I am giving some of it to my brother if it has things I wouldn't eat in it, the answer is simple: he's pretty tight on money right now and I'm sure he could use the random boost of food to eat. And this food is still better than fast food or nothing at all.)

In a way, I think clearing out all this garbage will be like starting over. I think it will make it harder for me to buy more crap, since I'm getting rid of so much. The sting of wasting so much money and food will drive me to consider each purchase more, and to make sure I am not buying junk!

To my brother:
3 cans of olives
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 box of chicken helper
6 boxes of jell-o mix
1 box of stuffing
4 boxes of mac & cheese
30-ish packs of kool-aid
10-ish packs of ramen
2 containers of bacon bits
3 bags of microwave popcorn
3 boxes of rice-a-roni knock-off
2 sleeves of crackers
1 bottle of salad dressing
5 cans of condensed soup
random pasta
2 shakers of popcorn flavoring

To the Trash:
1 jar each of chicken and beef bullion cubes
1 jar of opened jelly
1/2 a ramen package
2 open salad dressings
1/2 bottle of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 shaker of sprinkles
1/2 large jar of banana peppers

The two things I don't if I can bear to throw away is most of a bottle of white cooking wine (who knew it had preservatives in it) and what's left of our soda stash. The soda I am keeping for hubby and it's better than normal soda because at least it's made with real sugar instead of HFCS. Just last week I cut out caffeine so I will not be having any more of it myself. If I can get him to agree not to drink soda at work, I won't care of he has a soda once or twice a week from our stash. Plus we can keep it for company.

I feel good about this, although I am a little apprehensive about this final big change.

What do you think? Did you go through a cupboard cleansing to eliminate bad ingredients from your house? Was it hard to throw away so much money?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Umm... What Is It?

Well, I don't know, but it sure was tasty!

I went into this meal on Thursday night thinking "I am attempting to use up some sauerkraut I made forever ago, so if it fails, it was food I already wasn't eating."

2 cups of that and chopped it up.
1/2 a large onion, chopped
a bit of red and green pepper I had chillin' in my fridge
a large can of tomato sauce
1/4 of a Polska Kielbasa sausage, chopped (not "coined") (a little more than 1/2 a cup)

I made this in a 5x9 bread pan
Mix all of that together and add a bit of vinegar, brown sugar, plain yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and we'll see what we have when it's done!

I cubed some bread I had in the fridge and coated it with melted butter and put it on top when it was already well heated through and cooked it about 15 minutes longer.

It was delicious! Next time I might serve it over pasta. I also liked the kielbasa in this a lot because even though I didn't add very much, it is a strongly flavored meat so you could definitely still taste it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sad Little Squash... Sad Little Me...


I hate it when I am excited about a recipe and I put a lot of effort into it and it turns out like crap. I had this soup recipe from Whole Food's blog about a butternut squash puree soup and it sounded amazing! But when I cooked it all up and dished it out, it was plainer than plain could be. Nothing I did could give it flavor. I added red pepper flakes. Nothing. I added more red pepper flakes. Nothing. I added some random cheese (I bought the wrong kind), and that only made it worse. I tried adding a few olives to my bowl, yuck.

Neither of us could stomach it, although we both tried.

I really don't understand why it was such a failure. The only thing I'm really left with, I think, is using this bland puree soup in a quick-bread or something. I found a recipe for it, but I don't think the puree in the recipe also had things like onions, peppers, and carrots blended in.

That's the part that I really don't understand. I added all these tasty, flavorful veggies, and after pureeing it, all I tasted was a very faintly buttery carrot taste (not in a good way as in, yum, buttery carrots, more as in, ewww, flavorless carrots smeared with flavorless butter). The poblano pepper I added (including seeds)? Not a hint. I can still taste the heat even now on my fingers from chopping it hours earlier, but in the soup you couldn't even tell it was there.

I think next time I make this recipe, I will puree the squash, and leave the veggies intact. Maybe having a different texture to break things up would help. It might also protect the different flavors from getting swallowed up by the squash so much.

Anyway, whenever I have a cooking flop, it always makes me sad. I had grand plans for the chores I was going to get done tonight after dinner and now I just don't know if I feel up to them. I know it's silly, but I hate when a recipe goes awry.

I think I am going to turn this failure into quick-bread tomorrow, but if that also fails I don't know what I'll do. Maybe I'll order chinese food to make up for it. Or make brownies. That's always a safe cooking exploit to boost my confidence (and caffeination) after a failure.

In the mean time, I'm going to go try and find something productive to do (pointedly avoids looking at sink full of dirty dishes)... anything except that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
This week I wasted a little bit of leftover egg from an omelet earlier this week and one frozen container of bean soup (meal for 2) that I just couldn't look at anymore. We ate all 4 of his brothers, but it was just too much. And some frozen celery.

I think that's it. I do have to try to use most of a gallon of milk this week, but worst case scenario, I will just make more yogurt with it, now that I've freed up one jar and I got another jar by finishing off some pickles.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I Might Have a Small Problem

I think I like food a little too much. I realized it today. I look forward to menu-planning time. I get excited about what new things I will make. I'm eagerly anticipating the Spring when I will start my crazy process of growing my own food on my balcony. While I'm eating one meal, I think about how to use my leftovers for something else new and interesting (or I'll be excited that I'll have leftovers of the same thing to eat again!).

Today, I am dreaming what I will do with the 2lbs of chopped butternut squash I have sitting in my fridge from Monday's cooking adventure. I am also enjoying leftovers from said Monday adventure for my dinner, actually. I really wasn't expecting to like squash this much.

I found some good ideas from Whole Food's blog here. I'm thinking of doing their soup or their not-salad-even-though-it-sounds-and-looks-like-one option they suggested. Honestly I might have to freeze some of because it's just so much food. But after reading how long they can last before you cut them if you leave them in a cool dark place, I am also thinking of buying a few more before the season is over so I have them for a while. It's really high quality food.

I'm thinking I'm going to come up with something really tasty and bring it as a dish to family thanksgiving. This also gives me an excuse to buy more squash. I'm thinking of buying 3 or 4. Is that excessive? 2 for our own consumption, and 2 for thanksgiving cooking (I have 2 families so one for each).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Omelets for Dinner

Yup. You heard (read) me. Why? Because they are delicious!

I used some of my local, organic, free-range eggs (that really does sound pompous, doesn't it... I don't mean it to be). Anyway, coupled with a LOT of good quality veggies including red onion, red pepper, green pepper, banana pepper, mushrooms, and let's not forget, of course CHEDDAR CHEESE (yes I know it's not a veggie).

We made one large omelet to split between us. It took 4 eggs and probably somewhere between a cup and a cup and a half of veggies and about 3 oz of cheese.

It was a total success, fairly healthy, and quasi-vegetarian (do eggs count as meat?).

I'm Sick of Using it Up

Before I learned about food, I bought a lot of crap. Box kit dinners, frozen dinners, ramen. Then, like now, I frequently stocked up to keep my pantry full. So, after I learned about food, I decided I couldn't, in good conscious, waste all of that food. I had easily over $150 worth of stuff in my pantry that I knew I shouldn't be eating, but couldn't bear to waste. So slowly, as the weeks and months roll by, I've been using it up. Every week I've been trying to fit one or two items into my menu plan to get rid of it, while still mostly eating much healthier. (Oh the irony of using some of my organic milk to make a box of tuna helper).

But you know what? I'm just sick of using it up. I just want to throw it all away. I know, I should take it to a shelter. But I don't even want to look at it long enough to plan the trip to go to the food pantry. At the same time, I haven't looked at this stuff for a long time anyway, when it comes to meal planning because it's just not what I want to be putting into my body. It doesn't even look like food to me anymore.

I have
1 box of Chicken Helper [$1.25]
3 boxes of Rice-A-Roni (off-brand) [$2.50]
1 box of stuffing [$1.25]
3 boxes of mac & cheese [$1.15]
1 box of crackers [$1.50]
some random white pasta [$2]
10 or so packages of ramen [$1.70]
5 cans of condensed soup [$5]
6 boxes of jell-o [$3]
30 packets of kool-aide type drink mixes [$3.50]
2 small jars of bullion cubes [$6]
6 packages of microwave popcorn [free]
2 small containers of bacon bits [$4]
2 containers of salad dressing [$4]

I just don't even care. It's not real food, anyway. But I hate to be wasteful. And this would be very wasteful. And after estimating how much I spent on these items, that's $36.85 worth of food. That's a lot of money to a frugal heart like mine. And that's probably not everything, that's just what I saw / thought of while scanning through my cupboards this morning.

Give this almost-but-not-quite food to a food shelter because it's better to give this to someone than if they starved or went hungry, or just pitch it because it really isn't food, anyway?

Regardless, I have to go to work now, hurray.

I'd Rather Be Sailing

"This mission sucks." -- Penny, Lost in Space.

I hate my homework. Homework is borderline Satan-Spawn. Seriously.

I'd rather be doing just about anything--including sailing. Which, if you know anything about me, says a lot. I hate sailing. I hate water (I almost drowned when I was ten, good story), I can't swim, plus, I get obnoxiously dizzy doing normal things like standing up or rolling over in bed, let alone being rocked (tossed about) by the gentle (terrifying) lake / sea / ocean waves.

I'd rather be making bread or cooking pasta or sewing or gardening or (and especially) sleeping. I'd rather be cuddling with hubby or even working on my stupid powerpoint for work. I'd rather be watching Oprah, another dead give-away to my distraught-ness at this horrorm-work.

Currently, I'm calculating simple interest. It's really boring, no one actually still uses simple interest to my knowledge, and I know how to do it 5000 times over. So why, then, am I complaining about it? Because I'm tired, I think it's a waste of my time, and I'm pissed at myself for feeling a moral block against copying the answers from the back of the book.

So, to sum up my above points, this mission sucks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cost Breakdown Yogurt

So, regular yogurt costs about $0.50 per 6-8 oz single serve, or about $3.00 for 32 oz plain or vanilla.

For organic yogurt a single serving costs $0.75 per 6-8 oz cup, or about $4.00 for a 32 oz container of traditional yogurt, or $3.50 for "liquid yogurt." While tasty, liquid yogurt is just weird to me.

A gallon of organic milk costs $6. I bought the liquid yogurt as starter. Keep in mind, I will hardly ever have to buy starter again.

So, $6 / 16 = $0.375 per cup I used 2 and 2/3 so $0.99-$1.00
I used about 2 ounces of starter so $3.50 / 16 = $0.22
plus 1/4 cup of sugar = like $0.05 if that
and a bit of vanilla so, another $0.05

For a grand total of $1.32 for 3 cups, or 24 oz.

$3 * 3/4 = $2.25 which would be the cost of 24 oz of regular, inorganic yogurt.

So, $2.25, versus $1.32. Win.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Yogurt, Cute Shoes, and Croutons

What do these three things have in common?

Well, I'm not really sure, except that they were a part of my day. Also, tasty soup.

I made my first big batch of yogurt--almost a whole gallon. I didn't have enough jars to use the whole gallon. Actually, I probably could have fit the whole thing, but I didn't know how much space I would lose when I added my starter so I over estimated and my jar for my starter next time was only 2/3 full). My hubby was so funny when I was making it. He was on his computer, watching with half an eye, if you will, and randomly interjecting with insight like "is it yogurt yet?" He eventually got up to see what it was I was doing and was very surprised at the simplicity.

"So all you did was heat up milk, add yogurt, and now the whole thing's yogurt?"
"Wow, that's so cool."

That's almost verbatim what happened (but my memory sucks so... maybe this didn't happen at all.. *twitch*).

By the way, this yogurt may be my best batch yet. I haven't tasted it yet, but as I was pulling it out of the cooler today, I noticed it was much firmer than the last batch when I took it out of the cooler. I turned the jar on it's side before putting it in the fridge and it only started to pull away from the side of the jar when it was completely horizontal. This was the jar of starter so it wasn't all the way full so it wasn't like it just didn't have anywhere to go.

We went to Walmart to get shoes for hubby today. So of course, bearing the burden along with him, I looked at shoes and, in order to fully understand his pain, even tried some on. :) I found a super cute pair of... ok, I'm a bit embarrassed, brown loafers and they were soooooooooo comfortable. Seriously. They were also leather, which doesn't matter at all, but was kind of cool. But they were $30. So rather than give into spontaneous purchases, I used my willpower to put them back in their little box and back into their little piece of shelf. But I want them. And if, in a week, I still want them, I may go back and buy them.

Croutons. are. tasty. But they are so overpriced. So this is my second attempt at making them by hand. This time was much better. A bit heavy on the garlic, but in a salad, I think it will be a good contrast. i used half a loaf of the french bread I made last week and put them in a bag so I could shake them up with the olive oil / spices combo to coat them. It sort of worked. I baked them on a much lower temp this time and it worked much better. They are really good!

Ok, that's about it for now. Now I have to try to be productive for an hour or so until bed time.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Survived my Insane Week

Hello everyone,

Updates About my Life
I just wanted you to know, I am still alive.
I turned in my homework on time and got a B. Not bad considering.
I got my big project done for work (except clean up) by my deadline of today.

Food / Menu Planning / Stuff
I've made my menu plan for next week so I can go shopping tomorrow.

I think I will still come in under / at budget even with all the crazy extra things we bought, because I focused on using up a lot of pantry food I've been avoiding.

Overall, not a bad week, from what I can remember--just insanely busy! I still managed to get by with NO food waste. And I finally found a recipe I liked to use some of the sauerkraut I made forever ago. I was terrified it turned out wrong and I would die if I ate it (ok, not really) but I tasted it today after it's been chillin' in the fridge for a few months now and it tastes decent. I am going to use it in some kind of random casserole recipe I found. I'll let you know how it turns out.
I'm still having a hard time sometimes hitting my goal of at least one, preferably two meatless meals per week. This week I only have one planned.
On the other hand, I am getting better about using less meat in the food I do cook.

Other Random Undertakings
I'm making croutons this weekend.
I'm making my first big batch of yogurt this weekend.
I'm actually going to check my bank account to figure out exactly how much I've spent on groceries this month before I go shopping tomorrow, just to make sure I'm doing ok.
I started my compost bin today! I don't have enough stuff in it yet. I'm thinking about asking the grounds crew where I work if they have any yard trimmings I can have. As I live in an apartment, it's going to be hard for me to enough "browns" for my bin.
I also transplanted some of my tree seedlings to bigger containers, and while I was doing so, i found two little seeds sprouting in my bag of dirt I bought from Home Depot the other day. So I planted them, too. What the heck, right? It's not like it's going to be a strain of super-plant that will take overtake my entire apartment building and then the world, right? Can't be...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
So far I haven't wasted anything! I am very impressed by this considering the insanity of this week and the fact that I bought a huge thing of spinach at the beginning of the week. I froze a lot of it for making scrambled eggs at random moments.

Hurray!!! No food waste.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Yogurt Phase of Step 2 is now complete!!!!

I will probably talk about this more after this week, but my yogurt is awesome.

Sorry I've Been Scarce

So, I have a big project for school due on Wednesday at midnight, and also a huge project for work due on Friday...

This is probably my last post for this week, unless both go smashingly smooth and easy (ha! the odds).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Step 2: Organic Eggs, Yogurt, and Butter

Step 1 was organic milk. After much ridiculosity, I finally bought my milk and I love knowing that I've cut out one more source of bad things in our food. In just that short time we've already used almost a whole gallon -- can you tell I was in milk withdraw from not having it for a week?

Step 2 is to continue down the dairy path: Eggs, Yogurt, and Butter.

I actually just used my first organic egg last night in some scrambled eggs I made myself for dinner. The awesomeness that is Whole Foods makes it so easy to get these products that I want. I bought these eggs from a local farmer (ok, so about 100 miles away, not great, but not terrible), through Whole Foods. It was just easy. They look so much different than store-bought. I mean, apart from the fact that they are brown. They're not perfectly shaped, some are smaller or larger. They have these fun little speckles on the shells. Generally the eggs were actually larger than the normal "grade a large eggs" from the store which I thought was interesting.

So far, I really want to make my own. My first attempt didn't go so well. You can read about my ultra noob-ness here. Really, who knew?

When I have my first solid (get it?) success at yogurt, I will consider step 2 essentially complete. I expect I will only continue to improve my yogurt-making skills, but currently I definitely can see I need to work on it.

I just opened my last box of regular butter, so probably soon I will switch to organic butter. Once again I am going with Organic Valley brand. They sell it at Whole Foods which makes it easier for me.I might even buy some at the store today when we go.

Stay tuned for step 3: Chicken.

PS, random funness, I posted this at 10am on 10/10/10. mwhahaha.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste
I wasted 6 cups of milk which should have been yogurt. You can read about my hilarious adventures here and here.

Sorry I didn't get this posted yesterday, craziness ensued (the good kind for once!).

Other than that I haven't wasted anything this week! Woo-hoo. this completes my second clean-out-the-pantry-and-freezer week and we've done well. It's weird seeing our freezer so empty for the first time in so long.

Yogurt Fail-Sauce


My poor yogurt I made this week wasn't meant to be.

At first, it didn't really ever "gel." So I finally had the guts to open a jar of it thursday night and realized it gelled a little bit, but it was still really runny. It tasted ok but wasn't quite sweet enough for my tasted. So I thought, hey, I'll just reheat it and add more yogurt starter, and do it all over again now that I have a thermometer. This should be cake. Riight.

The cooking process did not leave me hopeful. First, all of the whey got cooked out of it. So it was all these little curds, almost like cottage cheese, only not as pretty, in a pale yellowy liquid. I let it cool to the proper temp and then blended it very thoroughly on the "liquefy" setting on my blender. It seemed to help. I added more starter and a bit more sugar and blended it more. Then I poured it in the jars and let it rest in the coolers.

Friday morning I got out my Frankenstein jars of yogurt and I knew my hopes were dashed. Of course, it had re-separated. It was the right sweetness this time, but it had a nasty grainy texture. I just couldn't eat it. I feel bad because I could at least eat it the way it turned out the first time. Plus I had no idea that a second cooking would completely kill the homogenizing that they do to milk.

So I threw it away. Sad day.

Tomorrow we're going to the store to get more milk and I'm going to make a smaller batch so that if it fails again I won't waste quite as much milk. I am really hoping I get it right this time as I don't have too much starter left. I think it will work. I think with a thermometer for the first cooking, everything should be fine.

Lesson Learned: Don't ever, EVER try to re-cook a failed batch of yogurt. It's nasty.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


So, yesterday marked our first trip to recycling! We packed up the stuff I'd been saving for probably 3 weeks now and turned it in. It felt good.

So, this is random, but oh well, that's me.

Every time I go out to the car, I see all the trash on the ground. Grocery bags, soda cans, etc. After feeling all good about myself for recycling, I got mad at the people who couldn't take their trash the extra 100 feet to their apartment or the extra 40 feet to the dumpster. So today, I decided, enough was enough. I took a grocery bag of my own down to the parking lot and filled it with trash.

Here are some of the things I found in the precipice-like piece of land next to my parking lot.

2 brake pads (about 15 feet apart and partially obscured by grass)
grocery bags
part of a soda can
some random candy wrappers
styrofoam chunks
part of one slat of the large vertical blinds used for balcony entrances
Part of a wooden pallet (I might grab that later and turn it into a frame for my tomatoes)
a 4x8 foot piece of particle board

I put what I could of it into our bag for recycling, but really most of it wasn't recyclable, and threw out the rest. I wasn't able to get the pallet or particle board. I washed and kept the part of the blind slat. No, not because I'm a pack-rat, because just the other day I had read a post about how useful old blinds were for turning into markers for your garden. So I happily cut it into sections and got about 18 markers--for free!

I know I'm absent-minded enough to forget which pot I put what in, so this will be nice. Especially when it comes to planting different varieties of the same plant like tomatoes.

Does anyone know if you can recycle brake pads?

Feelin' Smug

Edit: I would like to make sure that everyone who reads this knows that I'm not "feelin' smug" because I think I'm better than someone else. I'm feeling smug because I am proud of the progress we've made and the good choices we continue to make.

We've been doing so well lately with our finances. Plus with my raise and us not really expanding our expenses much compared to the raise, it's going super.

Last month we paid about $1400 toward our student loans, but I figured it was just because we hadn't really been paying extra much over the past few months and we had several months of surplus saved up... Turns out, maybe not.

Looking at this month's budget, almost all our bills are paid already, we still have two pay periods left this month, which means next month's bills are covered, and we will probably again be making a payment of over $1,000 this month! Exciting, isn't it?

Well I am excited! If (I realize that's a big if with the holidays approaching), but if we can keep up with this level of intensity, we will be roughly paid down in 40 months, which is 3.5-ish years. Considering we started with nothing, and what we have, we've earned, I feel pretty good about this. The other half of my brain says it's not fast enough, but I try to tell that half to shut the hell up, lol. I do kind of doubt we'll be able to maintain this intensity, though. But we shall see.

I still regret sometimes getting the infernal student loans to begin with, but I am correcting it as best I know how. What I did in foolish lack of planning to begin with, I am making up for now with double the planning, (double the fun! haha), double the restraint (with double-mint gum!) with our finances.

What about you? Do you think student loans are a necessary evil? Or is it possible to avoid them? Do you regret ignorantly (or knowingly) signing off on wearing this horrible ball and chain of debt?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

I'm Glad I Burnt Dinner

I haven't burnt food in a long time. Not since I've been on my own. Sure, growing up, with a sad little gas stove that never had the correct air / fuel ratio, with crummy pots an pans, I used to burn stuff. It didn't help that mom was hyper-paranoid about disease from raw meat. I was supposed to burn it. I know, right? Most of our meat, especially pork products, were usually well blackened. MMmmhmm, tasty char.

But seriously, I haven't burnt food in years. I've got my little electric stove which always produces consistent heat and the oven's the same way. Last summer I spent $100 on a good teflon set of skillets / pots. I've overcooked things a bit here and there, but it was still edible, just a bit chewy / rubbery. And even then, it's not that often.

Last night, I burnt about 8 oz of black beans. I'm not really to upset about wasting it, even though I do hate wasting food, because it was only about $0.60 worth of food. Plus, I don't want to go on feeling guilty after something has happened. I do that enough anyways on different stuff.

Anyway, that's only half the story.

The other half of the story is that I'm actually happy that I burnt those silly beans. For $0.60 in wasted food, I got the chance to spend the whole night with my hubby. This is a rare treat with our busy lives. I wasn't up for cooking anything else, so I asked if we could go to Chipotle. We still had money in our eat-out budget (even though, as sad as this sounds, we've eaten out 3 times now since the beginning of the month. Ack), so we went for it.

We got to just talk about different stuff that's been going on, talk about our plans, etc. We got to plan at least a bit of our weekend (which never happens and I like to plan, heh). Friday night we're going to a friend's place to grill out / chill out. but besides that, it was just nice to actually get to talk to each other. Then we got home and got to continue spending time together just talking and cuddling. It was fantastic. I love my hubby.

so yep, I'm really glad I burnt dinner.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stuff I want to Cook / Bake Soon

ww bagels
soft pretzels
apple pie
more different kinds of homemade pasta
honey cakes
rye rolls / bread
some kind of cheese / veg (spinach?) stuffed pasta
more bean-based dishes
more meatless dishes
cheesy potato soup
pot roast

Sigh... most of these I can't even think about making till after this week. Which is ok, because I'm using up some of the older random food I have lying around. After that, I can buy stuff to restock.

The biggest thing is that I know this month I will have to get creative, as we spent a lot of our grocery / household budget already and bought hardly any food. We still have a few more things to buy that will come out of this budget as well that are not food.

It shouldn't be too bad. I've already resigned myself to the fact that I'm probably not buying any more meat until next month's budget, so we will be living off what we have left until then. I don't want to buy cheap meat anymore that has all those crazy hormones. So I will wait patiently and plan every penny.

And I will enjoy my beans this month. :)

PS, DH and I went to Whole Foods for the first time and he actually liked the store! Even though it is "a hippie store." We made fun of the imported water from Norway together (seriously! Talk about food miles. Not Cool, Whole Foods) and sampled some awesome cheese together. It was a good time and I don't think he was turned off to the store because we only spent about $30 there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

My Yogurt is... Yogurting?

Fermenting? Resting? Curing? Well, whatever it is, it's doing it's thing in the cooler and hopefully the result will be tasty yogurt. I made 6.5 cups and split it into 2 jars, and I drank the last half cup that wouldn't fit. It was tasty. I don't have any canning jars so I just used some (very thoroughly washed out and then sterilized) salsa jars.

Hmmmhmm, Salsa yogurt. Just kidding. I added a bit of sugar and vanilla so we'll see how it goes.

Sometime soon I will establish a price point of this yogurt, made with organic milk, vs organic yogurt.

That's all for now. Now I must make myself go write my document for work. I am awesome at procrastinating.


Bee Slayer

I am the bee slayer. Hubby is allergic and so at first site of bee, I must rush in to save him. Which I don't mind at all. His fear is pretty well completely justified considering how allergic he is. But still, poor bee! Yesterday was one such killing.

Which is sad, because I love bees. They are such awesome little creatures. They are what every church should be: unified, diligent, productive, pollinators (spreading the "Seed").

Ok, I know that sounds weird, but it totally makes sense. I hate it when churches are apathetic towards the community or reaching out to people. I hate it when church is passive and not active. It's like we've turned church into a television show you drive to and not a get-your-hands-dirty-helping-people activity center used to reach those in need.

Bees are always busy, they are always working, working, working. They build up their stores for the winter. They are good stewards. Everyone in the hive has a job, from the very young bees to the old, all have a purpose. They are (almost) always unified in purpose. One colony helps countless hundreds and hundreds of plants by pollinating them. this in turn helps the plants' survival, and the animals which depend on that plant. They are one of the reasons the world still turns.

The church should be as integral in their community as the bees. They are always flying around helping plants and animals.

The other thing I thought of was that I need to be like a bee. All of those things I just said I hate about the church? I need to make sure I am not like that. We could all learn something from bees about productivity. A bee colony in decent conditions makes way more honey than it could ever use.

I know this is sort of random, but that's what came to mind today as I squasheded the little guy (technically, girl, but heh).

I hate apathy.

Saturday, October 2, 2010



I had no time to prepare a monthly menu plan. Plus, I didn't even want to. Finally, I decided to do another week of cleaning out the freezer / pantry, so when I finally made my menu plan, I deliberately only made it for one week and I tried to incorporate as many pantry / freezer items as possible to make sure I am not letting anything go to waste that way. After the sad tortillas in the freezer, I was reminded that stuff in the freezer doesn't actually last forever. Eek.

So, here's what we've spent so far, approximately. There are some very non-food items in here this time around because... I don't know where else to put them. They may wind up getting taken out of our surplus at the end of the month instead of our grocery / household budget. but for now, they are here.

$22 for my Temps -- WOOHOO. (You have no idea how excited I am). Now I can finally start driving and hopefully still make my goal of getting my license before winter. Cross your fingers for me!

$30-ish (can't find receipt at the moment) for a cooling pad for each of our laptops. That's $30 total, not per.

$62.66 @ Walmart -- The filters for our faucet water filter were on sale, so we bought two 2-packs, saving about $4 per filter! Normal price per, $16 and change, price for 2-pack, $24.48. Total savings, $66 - $49 = $17!! Plus, now we have water filters for probably close to a year, as each one lasts about 3 months. We also bought a small cooler for an experiment into the realm of yogurt-making! Hubby is skeptical, my only concern is that I don't want the cooler to melt! We opted to pass the $3 styrofoam ones for the $10 plastic one, hoping it will withstand the temps.

$20.20 @ Whole Foods -- We actually spent almost $30, but $10 of that was for the organic milk and yogurt which was most definitely coming out of last month's budget, I just could never make time to go get it what with life's general insanity.

So all told so far, we've spent about $133, but very little on food. But we have a lot of food already so, we'll be fine.

I'm just stoked to have milk again! :)

Autumn in a Cup!

Ok, so it's Fall. I love Fall. I dunno if it's because I was born in the Fall or what, but I love it. I love everything about it. Partially because Fall and Spring, to me, are practically magic. The incredible transformations that occur in just a short time amaze me every year. How everything works like clockwork together to create a symphony of new sights and smells and sounds. Ahh, breathe in the magic.

Anyhow, I'm off topic. Today I finally got my milk! It's tasty. Ok, it tastes about the same, but that's not why I'm switching.

So what better way to celebrate finally having milk in the house than making... hot chocolate! I didn't want just ordinary hot chocolate, tho. I wanted hot chocolate that tasted like Fall. So I made hot chocolate and for a little bit of Fall kick, I added cinnamon and ginger.

It's amazing!

You will need cocoa powder, sugar, milk, cinnamon, and ginger. It takes a little practice to figure out the balance you like. I went heavier on the cinnamon than the ginger. I bet pumpkin spice would be fantastic in this.

You should probably try it.... now. :) And let me know what you think!

"There Is No Secret Ingredient"

This post is about one of my favorite movies: Kung Fu Panda. Before you laugh, I have legitimate, adult(ish) reasons that this has become one of my recent faves.

Apart from the beautiful art and the fun music, apart from the good story and engaging characters (Broth runs deep through our veins!), I love the message in it.

The message that our self-worth isn't based off of some object we possess (be it a magical scroll or a wad of cash). It isn't based off of our personal hygiene or the years we've spent in training. It's not based on anything. It just is.

We, as people, have an intrinsic value that isn't based upon deeds or possessions--Just being us is what makes us valuable.

Oftentimes in hero stories, there will be the "hero-in-training" who really isn't that good, and is just your average Joe. Then, there will some momentous turning point, some bestowing of a gift upon them, that turns the ordinary, into extraordinary. And only once they get the magical staff or the nifty pendant, are they able to fulfill their hero-ish destiny.

But in Kung Fu Panda, he isn't given an external source of power to draw from. He is given assurance that he, Po, has worth, just for being Po. He learns that "there is no secret ingredient." No magical fairy dust that makes someone special or able to fulfill their destiny. From that point on, he has the confidence in himself--not kung fu or his master, but himself, that he is sufficient for his destiny. When he faces his nemesis, he defeats him, using his unique skills and talents.

(I especially love the part where he is dancing around on the stilts jumbling all the pots together to hide which pot contains the scroll.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Not Productive Enough

Man, I'm trying, I'm just not making it.

I had all these grand plans for this weekend and I've already gotten off to a crappy start. For starters, tonight I was going to power thru for about 3 hrs and bust out a document I need for work soon-ish. so what happened when I got home? I tried to stay awake for a while on "mental break" from work for a bit so that I wasn't just a complete zombie, but I hardcore fell asleep until 9:30. So, while I was supposed to be done with it by then, I haven't even started.

I was also going to call stores until I found that carries Organic Valley dairy products. I called a whopping one store during my mental break before I fell asleep. Lame. But I think Whole foods will carry it and I will be calling them tomorrow at 8 when they open to verify. I haven't had milk in the house in a week and it's driving me crazy! I want my milk! WF's website had a coupon for OV milk, so that is promising, but it was on their main site and not the site for the specific store local to me, so I'm not completely sure.

Just in general, I'm struggling to maintain a high level of productivity tho. It's like every task on my list has been all willpower and a lot of effort. I want to do so much, but only have a limited amount of time. Especially with my job being intense with this big project I'm working on. I only have so much will / spirit / energy leftover after work to devote to taking care of my family outside of fulfilling the bulk of the financial burden (not that it's a contest by any stretch, and my hubby definitely puts in plenty of hours at his job. My job is very mentally taxing tho.).

My tomato seeds are almost ready for drying and storing, which is nice. I got a random (but tasty!) tomato from the craigslister I bought my containers for my balcony garden from and also some pear tomatoes (small yellow tastiness) from my husband's uncle. I'm hoping some of them actually pan out. I think they will because a good number of the random tomato seeds are all at the bottom of my watery moldiness and maybe 1/2 to 1/3 of the seeds from the pear tomatoes are. It should be enough to get my 3-5 plants going. We're only talking maybe 8 seeds need to germinate.

I still need to get my dirt. I want to start composting (hubby is against it, have to try to talk to him at some point about why I'm doing all these hippie things). Need to actually get a schedule for dropping off recyclables (hubby is neutral, but unsupportive, and I can't just take it myself. See 3 paragraphs down from here.). I am pricing out my organic seeds for the spring. I am planning to start ordering them from this month's food budget since it IS a new month and I can.

I've been checking every day for postings on craigslist and freecycle for canning supplies, but nothing yet. I am hoping sometime before April I will find a canner / canning supplies. But that's like 6 months so I feel like that is doable.

My avocado seed is sprouting (his root just stuck his tongue out at me!) and I just planted my second one. I need to get my dirt soon because I've got all my seeds squeezed into such a tiny tight space / small amount of dirt that very soon they will kill each other fighting over it. Another thing where I need hubby for since he is the one with the driver's license.

Speaking of, one of my goals this year, before winter sets in mind you, was to get my license and I still haven't done it! I'm so upset about this because I feel so trapped sometimes. I know we only have one car but I still hate it. I am just going crazy. I want to leave when I want to leave. I want to drive when I want to drive. I hate having to bother him from whatever he's doing just so I can go to the store or window-shop or go to the park or visit with friends.

I was going to talk to hubby about all this stuff tonight but he had to work late and then asked if he could go hang out with friends. Which, how could I say no? He's already... Oh I dunno.

Sometimes I just don't know what to do.

Tomorrow will be better.

Food Waste Friday

My Food Waste

This week we wasted a little bit of leftover blueberry smoothie that I froze. It turned completely tasteless and nasty when we froze it. Ugh, we also wasted 3 homemade tortillas that I froze but which somehow turned terribly bitter and nasty in their short stint in the freezer. Gross. Thankfully it wasn't much, overall.

Other than that we've been slowly using up some of the stuff I've been wanting out of my house for a while--yay! I will probably continue our scrounging for another week, only buying some fresh veggies ( and things like milk. I really want to continue to use up some of the crap we have so we can get rid of it once and for all.

I will replace it with much healthier alternatives and I am excited for the change.