Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out With the Old...

...food in the pantry and fridge. Sometimes we forget what we have hidden in our home, stowed away like some squirrels prepared for winter. Actually what I have is not necessarily old, just needs to be used.

Guess what? It is now officially winter (as of about a week ago) and it's the perfect time to use up what you have. There is a pantry clean-out happening at my place and freezer use-up to stretch that grocery budget just a little tighter.

Some things I found and how I might use them, might look like this:

Freezer:
3 cups ground cornmeal - cook up like polenta (see recipe forthcoming for tamale casserole)
1/2 cup carob powder - use to make "fudge" (mix together 1 cup nut butter, 1/2 cup honey, and 1/2 cup carob powder (or cocoa), then freeze
1 frozen ginger root - trim up and use in a stir fry or other Asian dish
2 -3 cups almonds - soak and make milk (then make a drink with frozen ripe bananas & vanilla in a blender, then pour into glasses with ground nutmeg on top - Thanks, Kristen!)
15 frozen ripe bananas - see suggestion above and for more smoothies, of course! =)
8 cups whole wheat grain (or berries) (both hard for yeast bread and soft for non-yeast bread) - grind for flour for bread baking and for other baked goods
3 cups whole rye grain (or berries) - grind and use in Old World Black Bread
2 cups pecans - snacking, cookies
2 cups walnuts - oat burgers
2 cups pine nuts - "better butter"
1 bag frozen spinach - spinach dip or as a topping for homemade pizza
bagged ice - leftover from making homemade ice cream 2 or 3 times worth (wasn't much, got tossed)
25 or so home frozen corn-on-the-cob - use some for lunch today
1 bag frozen peas - green pea salad
1/2 pound mesquite flour - any ideas, anyone? I bought a small package of it a few months ago and want to make something with it or use it in a recipe with something else.

Fridge:
1 cabbage - coleslaw or in a stir fry
2 half bottles of mustard - honey mustard chickpeas, or use in a salad dressing
2 cups maple syrup - pancake meal, use as sweetener in granola
5-6 big leaves collard greens - one batch worth of green smoothie for the family
1/2 tub sweet white miso - salad dressing, dip
2 cups homemade macadamia nut butter - see suggestion above for carob fudge

Pantry:
4-5 packages dried sheet nori - snacking, homemade brown rice veggie "sushi" rolls
2 packages dried shiitake mushrooms - use in "sushi" rolls, homemade spring rolls
1 quart home canned green beans - minestrone soup or other vegetable soup
4 pounds rolled oats - baked oatmeal, cookies
2 cans coconut milk - make ice cream, or use in a curry dish
1 bag lentils - make lentil soup
2 bags other beans - use in various bean dishes and salads, sprout
2 large cans crushed tomatoes - chili and other soups
1 small can tomato paste - ketchup, barbeque sauce, Catalina dressing, red sauce
5 cans pumpkin puree - soup, use in baked goods, make a pumpkin butter (like apple butter)
2 1/2 cups small pearl tapioca - use in pudding, grind up dry for thickener in soups, add to baked goods
1 can water chestnuts - use in spinach dip
1 jar sauerkraut - tempeh reubens
walnut oil - use in small amounts in baked goods
macadamia nut oil - ideas, anyone?
1 bottle Argentine chimi churri sauce (like A1 steak sauce) - marinade for tempeh or tofu?
10 pounds potatoes - baked
6-8 large sweet potatoes - baked or in casserole, sauteed with onions, use in baked goods

This is just a few things I found and some ideas for me to remember. Anyone have other ideas that I haven't thought of?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Traveling? Save money while you're gone...

Many people are traveling this time of year and visiting friends and family. If that's your case, why not "pack up" the house too? Not to take with you, of course, but rather to save some money on your bills while you are gone.

It makes most sense to turn down the heat to something that will still keep your plumbing from freezing up. In the case that you are traveling during warm weather, make sure your air conditioner will not be on all the time (or turn off). And what about your water heater? Some people have a "vacation" setting they can use.

We have used a checklist in the past to remind ourselves of things we didn't want to forget when we were busy packing. Some things we did a few days before. Others where done the day before and some were done the morning or a few hours before heading out. Organizing our travel this way ranked right up there with the best ideas we've done. It went something like this....

Hold your mail at the Post Office. See if you can do it online.
Turn in all library books and materials.
Have someone water plants (if needed).
Secure someone to feed pets and check them.
Clean all toilets.
Clear refrigerator of foods that may go bad.
Wipe down counters and wipe stove off.
Wash and put away all dishes and clean sink.
Check that all windows are closed and locked.
Tidy up, picking things up and putting things away.
Turn heat down.
Turn water heater to vacation setting or to pilot.
Close curtains and drapes.
Unplug all things not needed while gone (this may include the computer, stereo, lamps, alarm clocks, small appliances, etc., but leaving the refrigerator and chest freezer on).
Double check that the stove burners and oven are turned off (can unplug if easily accessible or gone for a long period of time).
Make sure all faucets are turned off and are not dripping.
Make sure toilets are not running unnecessarily.

There may have been others, but these come to mind right now. I know that each household will be different and have other things to remember. What I liked about a checklist is that we were reminded of things, in the busyness of getting packed and ready to go, we didn't have to think about it. Things were all written down.

The biggest benefit for me, besides saving money while we were gone, was having a clean house to return to. So nice. Like someone gave me a jump start when we returned.

Remember to leave your checklist out for when you return to make sure you turn things back on. No one wants a cold shower, so turn that water heater back on when returning.

Now enjoy your time with family, worry free.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Old World Black Bread

This recipe is for all those bakers out there wondering if they will ever like rye bread. If you are like me and just can't get to liking rye bread because of the strong caraway seed taste, this bread is for you. The nice thing about making things from scratch is that you can change things depending on your preference.

I honestly cannot remember if there ever was caraway seeds in this recipe someone gave me. I've been making it so long this way, I heartily enjoy this lovely dark rye bread sans caraway. This is a wonderful dark pumpernickel bread which lends itself to baking as a round bread giving lovely oval slices.

Old World Black Bread

Combine:
2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast

Stir together separately, then add to yeast mixture:
2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup rolled oats (optional)
1/4 cup carob powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:
1/3 cup molasses

Let everything stand for 10 minutes. Add:
2 cups whole wheat flour (or 2 1/2 cup spelt flour)

Add additional whole wheat flour as needed until you have a stiff dough. Knead vigorously for 10 minutes, or until dough is moist, but not sticky. Allow to rise until double (about 1 hour) in a lightly oiled bowl covered with a slightly damp thin towel (I like flour "sack" towels for this).

Punch down and shape into round or oval loaf and place on (oiled or lined with parchment paper) cookie sheet. You can, at this point, lightly "dust" your loaves with additional rolled oats, if desired, and press gently. Then slash with a sharp knife an "X" (about 1/2 inch deep) on top of a round loaf before rising. Or two to three parallel slashes across an longer oval loaf before rising. Let rise 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when loaf is tapped on the bottom. Yields one 22 oz. loaf.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spinach Dip

The other night we had a family gathering and I took a few dips for the veggies I brought. The most popular one was the spinach dip. It's easy to make and looks great.

I generally add this and that until it looks about right. So I tried to estimate amounts below. I will say that this recipe makes a lot. If you have the 10 oz. boxed frozen spinach, then your ingredients should be reduced. As always, adjust amounts as needed for your taste. Enjoy!

Spinach Dip

2 cups (more or less) mayo (homemade or other vegan mayo, I used Vegenaise)
1 pound bag frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed out)
1 (8 oz.) can water chestnuts, chopped (or 1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped celery)
1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped onions
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon dried onion
1/4 teaspoon dried garlic
salt or seasoned salt, as desired

Mix well and chill.
For a great presentation, put in a (hollowed out) round bread "bowl" beside veggies and whole grain crackers. Great as the "mayo" on a lettuce and tomato (or other veggie) sandwich.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

This is another recipe I found in a children's magazine. This makes a large batch. You can freeze unbaked dough, or for that matter, bake them ahead and freeze the cookies.

Applesauce Oatmeal Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix together the following:
7/8 cup oil
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup honey
2 cups applesauce (unsweetened)

Mix together separately and add to the wet ingredients:
2 cups flour (I used whole grain soft wheat)
6 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups raisins

The original recipe reads "drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet." (I used a cookie scoop (like a very small ice cream scoop) and put on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. I think it would've been fine as suggested in the original recipe.) Flatten some before baking as they will not flatten on their own. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until done.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Stuffing Anyone?

I was making vegetarian stuffing for our Thanksgiving banquet at church yesterday and thought it would be a timely post for this week.

I found the recipe by Anne on vegweb.com. I made slight changes, so I am posting my version. The original recipe had a few optional ingredients and slight differences from my version. This tastes similar to that "stove" stuff. It's really good and everyone will enjoy it, vegetarian or not.

Vegetarian Stuffing with Gluten-Free Option

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put into a 9 x 13 baking pan in the oven to toast, about 15 minutes, watching closely (can even use a dry skillet on stovetop if needed, toasting the bread cubes in batches):
8 cups cubed bread (gluten-free bread can be used instead... great either way!)

Put in a large skillet:
2 Tablespoons coconut oil (or other high heat oil)

When heated, add and saute the following three (or four), over medium heat until onion is translucent:
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
chopped or sliced mushrooms, amount as desired (optional, but makes it a more of a main dish)

Separately mix the following together:
1/4 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon sage
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt (or seasoned salt)

Add the seasoning and nuts to the toasted bread.
Carefully drizzle with:
2 cups vegetable stock (gluten-free, if needed)

Mix gently. Bake, uncovered for 20-30 minutes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Applesauce Quick Bread

I found this recipe in one of my children's magazines (recipe by Denise Super-Braith). It is simple and the only thing I changed was the sweetener. I added (half as much) honey instead of sugar. Because I made homemade applesauce this year (might make more), I had some in the freezer to use.

Applesauce Quick Bread

Mix liquids together in one bowl:
2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup honey)
1/2 cup oil

Mix dry ingredients in another bowl:
2 1/2 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine wet and dry ingredients together, mixing well. Bake in a greased and floured bread pan at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the bread cool, then slice when ready to serve.

(When I made this the first time, I actually didn't have the cinnamon, so I added the cloves along with some allspice and nutmeg. Still came out great!)

This would probably do great as cupcakes too, just adjust for less time and watch your oven.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cooking with Oils

I have always known that there are certain oils that can be used in cooking (heated) and some that are best used in a cold state for full benefit.

The Spectrum company has a great online resource that can be useful in the kitchen. It's a kitchen guide that shows which oils can take heat and how much. It also shows you which oils should not be heated and the best Omega 3-6-9 sources. I printed one out so I can use it as a reference. I will put it into my 3 ring binder along with my recipes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"Mint" Your Carob Cake

I recently baked another yummy carob cake for a friend's birthday. Since it was to be a surprise, her husband gave me instructions for the evening and he gave me a great idea. He said she often makes her chocolate/carob cake with mint in it.

So I decided to figure it out. Without checking other recipes, I first thought about adding in some crushed mint leaves since I had those. And then I remembered that my husband uses peppermint oil for migraine relief, so I tried that. I was only making a small cake (one layer of a two layered cake) so I put in only about 4 or 5 drops from my little tiny bottle of peppermint oil.

I am happy to report that it was a success! And what's interesting is this friend has been using the same recipe for carob cake that I've been using for years too! =)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Salad

Another recipe from the "American Vegetarian Cookbook" to accompany the recipe posted yesterday for "Stedda" Ricotta.

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 -1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard, or 1 teaspoon vegan mayonnaise
6 cups fresh spinach, well washed
1/4 cup slivered sun-dried tomatoes (see my note)
1/4 - 1/2 cup "Stedda" Ricotta

(My note: Rehydrate the sun-dried tomatoes with some warm water for a few minutes while you continue with recipe. If they are oil-packed, then you don't need to do this step. Just remove as much oil as you can or use less oil in the recipe.)

Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk. Thoroughly dry the spinach and break into bite-size pieces into the salad bowl. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the "Stedda" Ricotta. Toss well.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"Stedda" Ricotta

I am sharing a recipe for a ricotta cheese substitute. It is from the "American Vegetarian Cookbook from the Fit For Life Kitchen" by Marilyn Diamond. I have used this for a salad recipe (from the same book), which I will share forthcoming.

So for now, make this and it'll be ready for the salad in the next post. Or you can use it for any recipe calling for ricotta cheese. And no, it doesn't call for miso, soy sauce, or nutritional yeast. Very simple to make.

"Stedda" Ricotta

1 pound firm tofu (I like the water packed kind for this)
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt or ground rock salt

Original instructions in the book:
Place three-fourths of the tofu and the remaining ingredients in a blender. Blend until thick and smooth. Mash the remaining tofu into the blended mixture.

(My note: Where you want a more "pudding" like texture for your recipe, the above instructions will serve you well. If you like a chunkier texture, then use my method below for your dish.)

My method:
Mash all the ingredients in a flat bottomed bowl or container with a potato masher (aka: "avocado masher"). Be careful when mashing to start at one side of the tofu block working your through. You have just mixed it pretty well, by the time you are done mashing. Now just chill it. I like it this way. =)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Green Pea Salad

Here is a quick and easy salad to make when you might not have lettuce on hand.

Green Pea Salad

1 pound frozen peas (or thaw first)
2 green onions, sliced
1 Tablespoon olive oil (can use part flax seed oil)
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt or homemade seasoned salt, to taste
dill weed, as desired

Mix together the oil, lemon juice and seasonings. Mix this marinade and the onions and peas up to 3-4 hours before serving if frozen. If peas are thawed when making this recipe, then they will be ready to serve in less time.

I have made the marinade the night before, then mixed it with the (frozen) peas and onions a few hours before the meal. Then stirred again before serving. Works well this way and didn't need to be refrigerated once mixed all together.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Crockpot Layered Dinner

With cold weather upon us, I think about warming meals to make. This dish was made for us shortly after our daughter was born. We don't make it often, but it has a good homemade feel to it. Of course, I love having the crockpot to cook all day while I do other things. It has an interesting combination of herbs and spices. It's like a casserole in a crockpot.

Crockpot Layered Dinner
from McDougall Plan

Layer in crockpot in order given:

6 potatoes, sliced
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
mushrooms (optional)
broccoli (optional)
green beans (optional)

Mix together this sauce and pour over vegetables:

2 1/2 cups tomato sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium tamari (or other soy sauce)
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon basil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon sage
2 Tablespoons parsley flakes

Cook on low for 12 hours or on high for 6 hours.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kale Snack "Chips"

I've been seeing recipes for a kale snack that I've been wanting to try for a while. I finally tried it yesterday. It is very good and I don't know why I haven't tried it before. It's very simple to make. It's a sort of a melt-in-your-mouth crisp and not really crunchy. It is really good right out of the oven. Since my children and I enjoyed them this way (and we ate them all!), I don't even know if they'd store well. They disappear and leave you wanting more.

I am posting the recipe for how I made it, although it seems to be pretty standard. Add oil and salt/seasoning and bake.

Kale Snack "Chips"

1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, in bite size pieces
oil (I used olive oil)
apple cider vinegar (optional)
salt or seasoned salt
(for variety, add other seasonings as desired for other flavors...spicy, chili, etc.)

Mix together in a 9"x 13" cake pan until coated. Spread out on the pan evenly. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes or more until crispy. They will shrink some. I had apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle and gave it a few sprays, drizzled the oil onto the kale and then salted. Amounts are as needed.

If you want to make more, just make another pan as needed with another bunch of kale. I have a feeling that if you were making this to take somewhere, you'd want to make sure that you put it into a rigid container to make sure it doesn't get crushed. Otherwise you might end up with seasoned kale powder! =)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Honey Mustard Chickpeas

This recipe has been a favorite of our family. I've made it like the basic recipe here or added vegetables to our liking or according to what I had on hand at the time to fill it out a bit more. Some of you may recognize this as a non-vegetarian recipe in the More With Less cookbook.

I have three ways to prepare this dish: baking, stove top, or crockpot. See my vegetable variation below the basic recipe as follows. You can add tofu (bean curd) for another variation. Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Chickpeas

1/3 cup oil (I have used part coconut oil and part extra virgin olive oil)
1/3 cup honey (more or less, depending on how sweet you like it)
2 Tablespoons prepared mustard (any kind)
1 teaspoon salt or seasoned salt
1 teaspoon curry powder (or more)
4-5 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained (reserve liquid)

Stir to combine all ingredients. Add liquid to almost cover chickpeas and any vegetables that you decide to add (see below). It can be reserved chickpea cooking liquid, veggie broth, pasta or potato cooking water, or any combination of these, etc. This will produce a nice liquid to keep everything moist. It works very well if you are serving the chickpeas with rice or other cooked whole grain, or pasta. You can use a slotted spoon and keep the extra liquid for another meal, however you like. The amount of liquid you had will decide how moist or dry this dish will be. You can find out what you like best. (Please comment how your family likes this dish.)

Recipe can be multiplied.

To bake:
Bake in 350 degree F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Stove top:
Cook in medium size saucepan on medium low until heated through. If desired you can continue cooking on low for longer to allow flavors to blend.

Crockpot:
Heat on high for 4-5 hours or on low for 8-10 hours. The great thing about a crockpot is that your schedule can determine how long you cook this dish. It just needs to be heated through, but flavor is better with longer slower cooking.

Vegetable Variation

In addition to the chickpeas you can add vegetables. Using the vegetables you like in the amounts you like, will greatly enhance this dish. Some that we have used in the past (all or some of the following):

onions, sliced or chopped
cabbage, chopped
garlic, whole cloves or coarsely chopped
zucchini, chopped
bell peppers, chopped
green beans, cut into 1 inch lengths
carrots, shredded or chopped
celery, chopped

Though not necessary, sometimes when I add vegetables (especially onions and garlic), I saute them first in a skillet, using the oil in the original recipe, before adding to the other ingredients. Then proceed as usual. When adding 3 cups of vegetables or more, you may want to double your sauce ingredients (all but the chickpeas in the original recipe) for more flavor.

Another Indian tip I learned a few years ago while my husband was at seminary...When adding vegetables to saute, first heat the oil, then add your curry powder, stirring to cook a little, then add your onions, etc... to give it an even better flavor.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Spices...In The Round

Moving into a different home recently has put me into organizing mode once again. I am always wanting to try new ways of doing things to see if I like something better. But since some ideas can be pricey to try out, I stick to new ways that don't cost anything first.

One of my usual organizing dilemmas, the kitchen, has me wondering two months later if I still have it right. I am in there quite a bit, so I'm always thinking about the best solutions. For example, I have had my herbs and spices organized two different ways (other than my usual) since moving here and I still don't like it. So this week I'm pulling out my organizing friend once again. Good 'ole Miss Lazy Susan. It certainly does a great job at keeping my bottles in order.

 
I have two double tiered lazy susans that hold my herb and spice bottles. Since I make a lot of my own herb and spice blends for cooking, I have quite a collection. A few years ago, I decided to buy bottles that were the same size, so I purchased two dozen amber spice bottles to start with. I ordered them through our local food co-op store. They were only a little more than one dollar each purchased this way. Since then I have bought two more dozen to keep up with my growing collection. Although I don't use them all, I very nearly do with experimenting with new herbs and spices here and there.

To keep things organized, I made very simple labels. I made a list (Allspice, Bay Leaf, Cinnamon, etc...) on my computer using a font I liked and then spaced the list 2 or 3 spaces apart down the page. I then cut them apart and neatly taped them onto my bottles with clear packing tape.

You can organize alphabetically or in groups of most used together (cinnamon, cloves, and ginger together and/or basil, oregano, and thyme together, etc...). No more searching high and low for the herb or spice I want, digging back into cupboards with odd sized bottles here and there.

The nice thing is, I can refill my bottles by going straight to the local food co-op (a different one now) and getting just the amount I need from their bulk spices without extra packaging. They weigh the empty bottle for me and then again after I've refilled the bottle for the price.

It was fun to create this homemaking project. I really love how my collection looks and it's organized too. Not only pretty, but practical too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Go Paperless

Living in a home means having bills. Electric bills, gas bills, phone bills, water bills, and all manner of other services that come to mind. Then there's insurance and bank statements and such. And that usually means paper... invited or not, there is a way to make it easier.

For regular utilities, why not sign up for paperless bills online? You can even get bank statements online. You can keep notices and important papers filed right in a web based email account (so you can access it from any computer with internet) and never worry about having to file beyond that. When and if needed, go and print what you need if you need proof of payment.


Having less paper come into my house means less work for me. Sure I have paper files for the few things that do come in for utilities for example. It's a very thin file and if I wanted to eliminate that, I could even scan and "file" those things on a computer...and still be able to print those out, if it ever becomes necessary.

Check out MyCheckFree.com for a easy way to pay regular bills. They even have a way for you to schedule your payment based on the best time for you (before the due date, of course). For other bills not listed there, ask the companies that you do business with to see if you can go paperless with them. You save a stamp each time or even save gas if you are used to paying in person.

For questions about privacy, check with each company you deal with for details. Make sure that the sites are protected when it comes to your details and personal information.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Buy Organic

Our potential exposure to chemicals can come from many different sources. The air we breathe, the things we put on our skin and in our hair, the water we drink, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the building materials in our house, our furniture and list goes on and on. It's everywhere.

There's one thing we can do to limit our exposure. We can buy foods that are organic. I would add that organic is best combined with gmo-free. The Environmental Working Group has a great resource called the Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce. This full list is worth looking at for more information.

The list includes the cleanest foods to buy that have the least residues and the worst foods that have the most residues. The idea is that you can make more informed choices about the produce you buy to choose more "clean" produce and less chemicals. This list is especially helpful if you can't find everything organic. There is a quick guide you can download here from their website.

I hope that you can use this list to help you make the best choices for your family. Children are more sensitive to these chemicals because they are smaller than adults and still actively growing. May we all benefit from healthy choices all through life! =)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sarah's Raw Salsa

The last of the reader's contest entries that I haven't posted before. Enjoy.

Sarah's Raw Salsa

4 tomatoes, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper
1/2 onion
a few cloves of garlic
1/2 cup (or so) fresh cilantro.

Chop in a food processor or blender. Add salt and lime juice to taste. Sometimes I process the tomatoes separately from the rest of the veggies and puree them a little more. Sometimes I put them in all together and leave it a little more chunky. I typically leave the seeds in the pepper and use whole tomatoes. If you seed the pepper you might want more than one to achieve the desired spice level.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Donna's Great Raw Guacamole

Another great contest entry from a reader. Enjoy.

Donna's Great Raw Guacamole

3 ripe avocados, mashed
1 small onion, chopped very fine
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 T chopped fresh cilantro
½ t cumin
¼ t cayenne
¼ t sea salt
fresh juice of one lemon
1 diced Roma tomato (optional garnish)

Mix together, chill for 20 to 30 minutes and serve. Great served with raw veggie sticks!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lisa's Raw "Ranch" Dressing

Another really yummy raw idea from a reader's contest entry. Enjoy.

Lisa's "Ranch" Dressing

1 cucumber-diced
1/2 lemon-juiced
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp parsley
1/2 tsp dill
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder

Blend in blender until combined and refrigerate for 1/2 hour before using. Tastes just like ranch dressing without dairy or mayo.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kristi's Raw Green Energy Drink

Another reader's contest entry. Enjoy.

Kristi's Raw Green Energy Drink

1 cup cucumber juice
1/2 cup kale juice
1/2 cup celery juice
dash of lime juice

(Blog author note: this requires the use of a juicer that can handle leafy greens.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tiffani's Raw Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

Another (really yummy and creative idea) reader's contest entry. Enjoy.

Tiffani's Raw Herb Stuffed Mushrooms

1/2 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup soaked sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped mushroom stems
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/3 red pepper
2 green onions
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs lemon juice
3 sundried tomatoes, rehydrated
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 packages button mushrooms
olive oil for brushing mushrooms

Preparation: De-stem and clean mushrooms. Brush with olive oil. Set aside. Process nuts and coconut together until light and almost fluffy. Do not over process. Add remaining ingredients and pulse chop until well blended. Stuff mushroom caps. Eat or dehydrate for 2-4 hours at 115F.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Zelda's Raw Carrot Cashew Dip

Today I am visiting my reader's comments and sharing with you some entries from my contest I had last December. Enjoy.

Zelda's Raw Carrot Cashew Dip

PLEASE NOTE all measurements are approximate.

1 1/2 cups chopped raw carrots
1 cup raw cashews
large handful fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped raw organic broccoli (organic tastes different than non-organic)
1 clove garlic
1-2 in piece of fresh ginger root
juice from 1/2 organic lime (organic tastes different)
sea salt to taste
black peppercorns to taste
slight amount of spring water if needed for desired consistency
green onions chopped for garnish

Place all ingredients except green onions in blender and blend. Enjoy with whatever you typically "dip". For me, it's veggies since I'm gluten free.

(Blog author note: it helps to have a powerful blender for this dip.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Financial Freedom

I wrote one year ago today about financial independence. Go read it now, I'll wait.... =)


(Seriously!)


How's it going?
Are you where you want to be?
Have you taken the opportunities God has put in your path to be more secure moneywise?
What about saving money where you can? ...And then some.

Please, if you have found some tips that have helped you to keep and save your money, please comment on this post and pass them along. Pay it forward, so to speak. I'll be reading every one of them and sharing the best ones in a future post.

We are still happy that through all the time of not finding work for my husband that we have remained debt free. I can't say enough that everyone should save up emergency funds and work whenever the opportunity arises to help someone out here and there, whether you get paid or not. It's not always in cash that God provides. He is faithful. So you be faithful.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Buy Secondhand

Summer time brings good opportunity to find some needed things through yard sales. Buying secondhand doesn't mean buying things second rate. Rather I see it as a time to find the things that you've been looking for that aren't sold anymore new. OK, antique...or pretty near. Actually when I need anything that's not food, "new to me" or old, I mentally put it on my "look for" list when I'm out and about.

Recently I found an old high chair at a garage sale just before my sister came to visit with her 18 month old. It's a very sturdy wooden chair painted white with a colorful stuffed animal theme.

The wooden tray is equally cute. It seemed like a good deal at only $10. I bought it, brought it home, washed it up...it's as good as new.


Buying secondhand has been not only "green" but very economical for my family for years. Save the energy it takes for companies to use new virgin materials being used to make new products. We get more use out of something that would otherwise not get used or even thrown away.

I've bought new clothing (still in the packaging), stainless steel food containers, out of print books, a rebounder (mini trampoline), wooden toys, misc. kitchen glassware, and many other things I can't even remember at garage sales. It takes time to find things, but as flea market goers say, "it's all in the hunt."

When buying at rummage sales and yard sales, cash is the currency used, so if you haven't seen some of those greenbacks for a while, use it to save lots more "green".

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another GMO-Free Resource

Recently a friend passed along some very important information that will help me to shop, eat, and enjoy gmo-free foods.

I am sharing the information with you, because this is precisely why I am writing this blog...to give you the tips that I didn't have back when I started my own kitchen.

Responsible Technology has a great website the I have not fully explored yet. When I do, I will post more links. Some things I've seen so far are: eating gmo-free, shopping gmo-free, more info about "The World According to Monsanto" documentary, etc... really, really good stuff!

Check it out!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Water Bottles

If you drink any amount of water, you may have a favorite water bottle. My favorite lately has been the Klean Kanteen. I ordered them online for our family. We have the 27 oz. size and our three year old has the 18 oz. size. No matter which bottle you pick, having one that you use regularly will help you get the water you need.

I like the Klean Kanteen bottles because they: 1. are made with recyclable 18/8 stainless steel, 2. are aluminum free, 3. are BPA free, 4. have a good weight (more than 6 oz. empty!) and 5. have a wide bottle opening. Hey, they even fit into our car's cup holders. I purchased the loop top for us. I opted not to buy the stainless steel caps, although I thought about it...thought it might make a loud squeaky noise (and they were more expensive anyway).

I've seen the ones they sell in some stores - too lightweight and not heavy duty, flimsy caps that are hard to get on right. If you drink water... and these summer days call for it...you need a container you'll use to help you get the water you need.

Don't be a disposable water bottle buyer. Get a purifier and drink it from your own bottle. Saves money and you won't ever forget which one is yours. Maybe you're wondering how we tell ours apart. Mine is the one with a bead tassel on it, my husband's is a "no decor", my son's has a metal keyring on his, and our daughter's is the small size. Otherwise they look the same.

No matter which one you pick, make sure you like it and it's convenient to use.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Water

Did you know...
* The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water.
* A human can survive for a month or more without eating food, but only a week or so without drinking water.
(thanks to The Water Information Program)
Not only can you drink it, you can bathe in it and much more.
We need to make sure we stay hydrated so our body functions the way it should. Some drinks actually dehydrate you. Coffee and sodas will not quench your thirst. That's why you need good ol' water to keep your body working well. Make sure you are drinking clean water. Filtered is good, but purified is even better. When dining in a restaurant, ask for lemon with your water. Fresh lemon juice will help purify tap water which is what most restaurants serve you.
Bathing washes away the waste our skin eliminates and the dirt we get just from being in the environment. A baby's bottom usually doesn't need all kinds of special potions and fancy wipes...all is needed is some room temperature (or slightly warmer) water on a baby washcloth to get clean. Same with us. We are wash and wear.
When it's hot outside, playing in water can really cool you off. Children love to dance around in the water. Not only does it help them to cool off, but it keeps them active as well.

Water is good for many other things too...but not good to waste. Please use good judgment when brushing teeth and taking baths and showers to use less. Using hot water on skin can dehydrate skin so go easy on the temperature and amount. Always turn running water off when not using it. For example: when in Africa, we used water in a container that we poured over our toothbrushes since the running water was not fit to drink. Sometimes when we were low on drinking water, we learned to use just enough (maybe only one cup worth) to get the job done.

So when drinking, have at it....but when bathing, use enough to get clean and no more. If you have city water this will help your water bill too. Living in Africa reminded me that we cannot take clean water for granted. Many people are sick because they have no clean water to drink and bathe with.

Water...drink it in. And be thankful for fresh clean water.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Life is but a vapor...

This life we have is fleeting. We never know what lies ahead. Two deaths in the family have caused me to be much more grateful recently.

Living for eternal things, things that will last forever makes so much sense when considering what matters after someone dies. I am grateful that both of these wonderful ladies (my grandmother and my own mother-in-law) were believers. I can say that I will see them both again. I am glad. I can't wait to see them without the aching bodies they once called home.

"I am just a stranger in this world....I'm just passing through"....these words remind me that this world is not my home. I have an eternal soul in a mortal body. When this body dies, I get to make my final trip to my eternal home...with Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord! To spend eternity with him and sing his praises forever couldn't please me more.

Tell your family that you love them. Give them extra hugs and kisses. Squeeze them a little tighter. Love them a little more. Reconcile with a friend. Humble yourself more. Ask for forgiveness more often. Be more forgiving. And be forever grateful that you have a Savior.

Live so you have no regrets.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Homemade Pizza

Pizza is one of those universal dishes that everyone loves. And it brings up good memories too. From reward "pizza parties" in elementary school to college, eating pizza in dorm rooms.

My husband was a youth pastor at a church when we were dating and first married. Once we even made homemade pizzas for a fundraiser. We made prebaked crusts, cooled them, added sauce and did simple toppings. We had earlier gathered pizza orders for the kinds we were making. We then packaged them up in plastic wrap and pizza boxes and had people pick them up on a certain day.

I don't remember if we made much money or even if the pizzas were popular, but I do remember the memories. And at the request of a former youth (who now is married and has a family of her own!), I am posting the recipe for the pizza crust that I use. I include ideas for toppings at the end.

Homemade Pizza (This appears in the "More-With-Less Cookbook" as Cheese Pizza, page 142. I have some variations on the ingredients though.)

Combine in a large bowl:
1 cup warm water
1 package yeast (scant Tablespoon of bulk yeast)

When dissolved, add:
2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1 1/4 cup whole grain wheat or spelt flour

Mix well, until smooth. Add:
2 cups additional whole grain flour, or enough to make a stiff dough
(may use part unbleached flour to make a lighter crust...100% whole grain dough is great and fine, but many people will want to ease into this and start out slowly...using some unbleached flour is a good first step)

Knead until elastic, about 5 minutes. Place in oiled bowl and let rise until double, about 30-45 minutes (depending on room temperature and humidity). Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Form 2 balls for a thin crust, or use the full recipe for a thicker crust. You do not need a round pan. I often make pizza with my jelly roll/cookie sheets. Pat out or use a straight, tall drinking glass (or a special pastry short rolling pin) for rolling out directly on a oiled pan. Take a fork and prick dough (not edges) Let rise 10 minutes.

I sometimes bake the crust by itself for about 5 minutes at this point. If I'm making it a thin crust there's no need. Just make sure that you aren't putting too many toppings on. Otherwise it won't bake well all the way through.

Topping Ideas (best to only have 2-4 toppings for each pizza if thin pizza...if you have a thicker, prebaked crust, turn down the heat to 400 degrees and don't overload the pizza)

Tip: don't have overly wet ingredients or the crust won't bake properly

Sauce: Any homemade or prepared sauce you prefer...doesn't need to be a tomato sauce either

Veggies:
garlic
onion (red is nice)
bell peppers
mushrooms (not just white button)
hot peppers
fresh or sun dried tomatoes
spinach, fresh or frozen (thawed and squeezed dry)

Other:
black (ripe) olives
pineapple (yes!)
anything you might like to try on a pizza...be creative!

Once assembled, put a sprinkling of oregano on top and put into the hot oven. Depending on thickness, bake for about 20-25 minutes or until done. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Skilllet Brussel Sprouts

I know not everyone likes Brussel sprouts. It's too bad too, because they are delicious if prepared properly. Believe it or not, when asked his favorite vegetable, my son says Brussel sprouts. Maybe because of recipes like this to prepare them. I made these today. Leftovers are great added in a pasta salad. Enjoy!

Skillet Brussel Sprouts

2 Tablespoons sunflower oil (or other mild oil)
1-2 pounds Brussel sprouts, trimmed of outer leaves, washed, and cut it half through the stem (if very large, cut into quarters)
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
soy sauce (I use Liquid Aminos)

In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Stir for a minute or so while it cooks. Then add the Brussel sprouts and stir for another minute or so. Add a few dashes (or sprays) of soy sauce and then cover with the lid and let steam cook for a few minutes until cooked through. The length of time will depend on how large the Brussel sprout pieces are. They should have a nice dark caramelized side (the side that was on the bottom of the pan when they were steaming) and be more translucent when done.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Quick Meal - Pasta Salad

Based on how my life has been lately, I need to have a quick meal idea handy. Although in ideal circumstances, I like to make things from scratch and always have the least processed foods to serve my family, lately I have kept some "convenience" foods like whole grain pasta, canned beans, and even (gasp!) minced garlic in a jar. =)

Today I made a pasta salad. This is what I had on hand: Whole wheat penne pasta, leftover cooked (long and slender) green beans, garlic, canned garbanzo beans (chick peas), carrot sticks, fresh broccoli, celery, 8-10 dried shitake mushrooms, and a small bottle of salad dressing (if I would've had onions, I would have added them too).

What I did:

Prepared the pasta in boiling water, drained and rinsed,
Cut the green beans up into shorter lengths,
Opened the jar on the garlic (see?=),
Drained and rinsed the canned beans,
Chopped the carrots,
Washed, trimmed, and blanched the broccoli in the boiling water before cooking the pasta, then drained and rinsed the broccoli,
Chopped up one stalk of celery finely,
Soaked, then sliced, the mushrooms.

Then I mixed everything together with the dressing. Chilled it until supper time. Then mixed once more before serving to mix the dressing again. If I hadn't had the bottled dressing, I would do the usual oil and vinegar (or lemon juice) and my homemade seasoned salt. I put the nutritional yeast on the table to top it off.

So for quick and convenient, this meal idea has saved the menu some days and helped use up those last bits of leftovers in the fridge. Even if the leftovers don't seem like much, a few beans here and some carrot sticks there give some nice color to a pasta salad.

For more kitchen tips, head over to Tammy's Recipes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oat Burgers

A name like oat burgers sounds like nothing special. But when I make these at our house, they are anticipated with much joy. Many people think that eating vegetarian must mean eating a lot of meat and cheese analogs (foods made to taste, look and feel like meat or cheese). There's the burgers, crumbles, meatless "bacon", slices, shreds, and other stuff out there.

I found that although I did eat some of these things at first and many of the dairy analogs (especially after going vegan), after a while, these things didn't appeal to me anymore. There's just something about eating good, whole, and if I may say, pure food. And I realized that there are a lot of claims about these foods on either side of the fence about how healthy they are for you.

Generally the less processed food, the better. If you look at a veggie burger in the frozen food section and the ingredient list is a mile long, put it back. Then go pick up some of these ingredients and make yourself some oat burgers. Or go make some of your own veggie burgers using this Meatless Burgers - Universal Recipe.

Oatburgers
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons (or more) sage
1 teaspoon salt or Homemade Seasoned Salt

Mix all ingredients well in a bowl* and let sit for 30 minutes to 1 hour (can refrigerate). This allows it to firm up to hold its shape better. I can get about 13 burgers out of this recipe if I use the canning lid shaping idea.

(*Vitamix help: put the water in the Vitamix container to the 1 1/2 cup mark, then add onion, cut into quarters, until you reach the 3 cup mark - this adds a little more onion, but we like it this way - then add your premeasured 1 1/2 cup (non-chopped) walnuts. Pulse at about 6-7 on low until chopped well but not pureed. Add to the rest of the ingredients, which are in another bowl, and proceed. This will still make your eyes a bit watery, but it's faster than doing it by hand.)

Once shaped, put on an oiled cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and then turn over and bake another 10-15 minutes or until done.

Go ahead, put out the burger fixin's: ketchup, mustard, vegan mayo, romaine lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and maybe even some "5 S" Barbecue Sauce to top it off. Have a mouthful of fun! =)

Check out more kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Making Granola in the Crockpot

I am always interested in recipes using the traditional in a new way. For example, making good old fashioned granola in a crock pot. Enter this post on A Year of Crockpotting blog by Stephanie who made something in her slow cooker everyday in 2008.

I decided to try it. Since I have a large slow cooker, I made a double batch. Check Stephanie's blog post for her commentary on making it at her house. I made a vegan version (used oil instead of butter), but other than that I made it almost exactly the same.

It is nice not having to stir it all the time and ending up burning it anyway. This seemed so much nicer cooking it this way. I may try my other granola recipes with much less sweetener and oil like this one. It makes for a much looser cereal and not so much clusters, but I really enjoyed it.

Crockpot Granola


5 cups rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
1/4 cup honey (or you can use maple syrup)
1/4 cup oil
1 Tablespoon flax seeds
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit (added after unless you like it extra chewy)

Mix all ingredients in your crockpot. Cover and vent with a chopstick (or a wooden spoon like I did). Cook on high for 3-4 hours, stirring every so often. Stephanie says if you can smell it, you should go stir it. It can burn, but it won't burn near as fast as it could in the oven. After it is done to your liking, pour out on a cookie sheet or two to cool. Put into an airtight container.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Raw Chocolate Cake

I have tasted raw chocolate cake and it is good. From a good friend, here is her recipe for a rich treat! Oh, and by the way, the only way to eat chocolate in any dish - raw organic cacao nibs! =)

Raw Chocolate Cake



1 1/2 cup walnuts
10 dates (cut up into small pieces)
dash of salt
1/3 cup (or more) powdered organic raw cacao nibs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
2 teaspoons water

Process walnuts and dates in food processor first. Then add salt and cacao powder. Next add the vanilla and water, mixing in between each addition. Can add more sweetener for more flavor.
Form into small cake shape on a serving plate and cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes. Cut into small pieces and enjoy. Yummy!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

One Great Way To Cook Tempeh

Ever since my first taste of the Tempeh Reuben sandwich at the Mustard Seed Cafe, I have wanted to create it in my kitchen. I use this recipe and everyone loves it.

Tempeh is made from soy by itself or often with other grains and vegetables. If you've never had tempeh, you should try this. For those of you who used to eat meat, tempeh definitely has a "meatier" texture than say, tofu, but more crumbly than chewy seitan. Tempeh is also great crumbled for chili.

Tasty Broiled Tempeh


tempeh
mild oil
soy sauce (I use Braggs Liquid Aminos)
garlic powder
ground coriander

Since tempeh comes in flat rectangular cakes, the way to get 4 square slices for sandwiches is to lay the tempeh on the cutting board, slicing horizonally as if to slice a piece of bread into 2 even thinner slices. Now that they are laying on top of each other, simply cut the two rectangles in half (like this: ==). Or you can slice them on a bias (slant) into "fingers" for non-sandwich recipes or for wraps.

Oil a cookie sheet liberally with mild oil. After slicing the tempeh as desired, place cut side up, on oiled cookie sheet, spray/sprinkle with soy sauce, then garlic powder and coriander. Place under a hot broiler until slightly browned. Using tongs (because it could fall apart on you if you use a fork), turn once, spray/sprinkle soy sauce again and brown on second side. Now it's ready for your recipe.

My favorite tempeh recipe:
Tempeh Reubens

rye bread/pumpernickel/whole wheat bread (toasted if desired)
hot cooked tempeh (see above recipe)
warm sauerkraut
creamy salad dressing (thousand island dressing variation)
vegan swiss "cheese" on top (optional)

Layer sandwich makings in order given and top with another slice of bread on top. Alternatively, you can use a wrap instead and eat burrito style. Yummy!

Check out Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Creamy Salad Dressing

This is my coleslaw dressing recipe. But I've also used it for sandwiches and for dip on veggies. Use it with your own variation. Also great on tempeh reuben sandwiches!

Creamy Salad Dressing

1 cup vegan mayo (I like Vegenaise)
2 Tablespoons non-dairy milk or water (for thicker sauce, leave out)
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey or 1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt (I use my homemade seasoned salt)
1/4 teaspoon paprika
dash red pepper

Mix well by hand. Chill. Makes about 1 1/3 cup.

Variations:
"Ranch" Dressing
- add parsley, dried onion and dried garlic
"Thousand Island" Dressing - add a bit of tomato paste/sauce and chopped dill pickle

For a great Coleslaw - chop, shred or cut thinly any amount of the following as desired: cabbage, carrots, celery, onion and other misc. chopped leftover veggies like cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, colored bell peppers, cauliflower, etc. as desired. Mix creamy salad dressing with veggies and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes or more in the refrigerator. Mix again when serving.

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Library: A Reader's Retreat

My family has recently enjoyed going to the library almost on a weekly basis. It's fun to see all the books (and other media) available to borrow free of charge. Even our two year old loves to play in the children's area and borrow books. For great tv free options, a library can't be beat.

My ten year old has used the "hold" option on books not in our local library, but in the same system, to be able to reserve books he wants to read. My husband likes checking out music cd's and humorous novels. I like to read non-fiction on things I'm interested in at the time. I may read some vegetarian magazines or how to organize a home (can you tell?). I have different interests that always give me something new to look up.

A great thing is that I can see what everyone in my family has checked out by checking online. Books checked out, books requested, and any fines are there for us to see without needing to call or visit the library. There's even a way for me to get a weekly update sent to my email box if I choose.

It's a wonderful extension of homeschooling. In fact, there are many books that you can just borrow instead of buying for this very purpose at libraries. There are story times and other activities available through our local library. Most (that are of any size) will have a book sale about once a year. So when it's useful to own a book, ask about these sales.

Check out your local library to see your options. You don't have to buy every book you read, or every cd you listen to, or every movie you see. Ask about inter-library loan. I've read very old books from a library all the way across the country. It's great fun and costs nothing. If you can't get to the library (due to a disability), there may be a way for you to get library items brought to you! All you have to do is ask. Check out your local library today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Nice Thing About Museums

No matter what kind of museum you enjoy, there are many interesting things to see and admire. There's a bit of history in every piece. What I like most about museums is that although I like to see the exhibitions, there is nothing I desire about the upkeep related to taking care of each piece. Thanks to curators, who oversee the care these collections require, we all can enjoy history a little more.

I have likened my house to a museum sometimes to get a feel for the care I must give to keep things in order and in good condition. It matters to me the maintenance needed to take care of one more item in my "collection". When I see something in a store I like, I need to remember that unless I remove an item at home to make room for this new item, that I will only add to my daily work of having to take care of one more thing. Depending if it will help me more than it will make me work, I may consider it.

I see many beautiful things when I'm out and about. But I can much more enjoy them knowing I don't have to take care of them. Sometimes leaving them exactly where they are is key to enjoying them best.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Truffles

A great no bake recipe that I tasted at a seminar. I know that the ingredients don't seem like much, but they are yummy. I made these the other day and shared them with my family. They confirmed what I already knew... this recipe is a keeper for sure.


Truffles

1 cup organic raisins
1 cup walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon (or less) sea salt

unsweetened finely shredded coconut (optional)
sliced almonds (optional)

Process, using a food processor with S blade (or use a blender) on pulse, the first four ingredients until well mixed and chopped well. Using a very small amount of mix (it's rich), form into small balls. You can leave them as is or roll into coconut and put a slice of almond on top like I did. They are yummy either way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Junk Mail

Did you know about 45% of all junk mail is thrown away unopened? It's no wonder. If you, like me, have wondered what to do to cut down on the amount of uninvited mail that shows up in your mailbox, there is something you can do.

Type in "stop junk mail" on Google (or other search engine) and check out numerous websites for all kinds of tips for eliminating your unwanted mail. There are tips on how to deal with unwanted catalogs as well.

What I've found that has been helpful is to stop unwanted mail as soon as I see it coming. It takes a little effort, but they will take you off. If you have lots coming your way, make it a point to make some calls (or send postcards) 30 minutes every week until it's done.

Just state that you'd like to be taken off of their mailing lists. Be polite. If you are calling, make sure you have the mailing label in hand. If they made mistakes with your name or address, then give them the info as they wrote it. Do the same with the info if you are mailing them a request as well.

Using the same tips and guides to eliminate mail will also point ways to cut down on telemarketers and email spam as well. So, check it out.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Newspapers

Did you know that it takes 75,000 trees every week to print the Sunday edition of the New York Times newspaper? Not every newspaper is as large as the New York Times, but consider a move toward a greener life by taking a bold step.

Try a few months buying only the weekend edition of your newspaper or cancel your subscription altogether. Yes, in some households, it may be bold, but it sure cuts out a lot of paper and the results are immediate.

We have not gotten a newspaper since the mid 1990's. Occasionally we have bought (or borrowed from a friend) the paper for classifieds or checked online for the headlines from larger national papers, but we have always been glad that we made the decision to discontinue it.

The other option is to get an online subscription to your favorite newspaper. The good news is that many magazines offer this service as well. Check out yours today!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Organizing

As the song goes..."Oh, the weather outside is frightful..." so I've decided to do some organizing.

Being a bit of a bookworm (non-fiction), when I check out books from the library on what I'm currently interested in, I burn through them. I think I've read about every book about organizing the home that my local library owns!

One interesting tip that I gleaned from Julie Morgenstern on "Organizing from the Inside Out". When organizing, people tend to throw out things first. She says there's a method to it. She uses the acronym, S-P-A-C-E to remember the order of things.

S - Sort
P - Purge
A - Assign a Home
C - Containerize
E - Equalize

First, Sort: getting your things into categories, separating things into like items. You may find you have some paper files that need to go elsewhere or long lost projects that are outdated and no longer wanted.

Second, Purge: You can now see all you have from the sort step. Now you can decide what stays and what goes. Some may go into the trash, be moved to another location in your house or be given away and some will stay. This is the step where you may find you have 9 unused garment bags taking up space. Can you use some for dust covers for infrequently worn suits or dresses that you still want to keep? The rest you can pitch if you haven't used them for some time. Anything you don't like or can't use (or won't use) can be given away or tossed.

Third, Assign a Home: This is the step I love. You get to decide where things should go. Most people who write on this subject will tell you that you will be most organized if you put things where you use them. This applies to all rooms of the house. So remember that when you are assigning a home to all items. Most people put things where there is room and not where they should go. Assign all items to a certain spot in your home. When asked, you should be able to tell someone else where an item is without searching for it. Keep that in mind.

Fourth, Containerize: See what you have and the space you need to put it in and then you can decide what kind of containers you need to use. Just like you wouldn't need a deep drawer for only two small items, you need to make sure the items you have will fit into the appropriate container, shelf, drawer, etc. with a little "wiggle" room so things aren't stuffed in. This is the step that people often do ahead of when they should. They go buy containers without sorting and purging first. And assigning a home is very important before you go buy anything or you may be getting something that isn't appropriate. Wait to buy until after the first three steps are done. Don't forget that you may have some containers already that don't have a job yet. (Too many of us buy these because we like them and never get around to actually using them. When I'm tempted to buy something to "help" get organized, I try to think of a use for it right there at the store before I buy it. Most often I end up not buying the item at all.) Remember that measuring spaces cannot be undervalued in this step.

Fifth, Equalize: This step is the working and adjusting step. Make it work and if it doesn't when your circumstances change in 6 months, then adjust it. You've learned the steps, just go back and think through it again. Make it work for you. Once you've had organization you'll realize how much it really does the work for you. Remember to always put things away when you are done using them and it'll work like clockwork.


One interesting story: a couple had some leftover items from a recent room remodel project they did in their home. It was taking room up into their garage so they finally decided to organize it. When they went to buy a shelf to do this, they found the appropriate one to cost around $100. When the man figured out how much the actual materials were worth that they wanted to organize, he realized that they were not worth $100 total. They then easily decided to give the items away and not buy the $100 shelf in the end. When they needed a certain item in the future, they could just go and buy the piece they needed without keeping everything. So do your homework before deciding to keep even the useful things. Unless you use it quite frequently, you could be blessing someone else with it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Self-less Victory

Life is full of new beginnings. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is still undiscovered.

May you be able to reach the goals that you've been working on for awhile. Sometimes the victories over things that we've been challenged with to work our hardest are the sweetest.

This time of year people make resolutions that may be broken all too soon because of unrealistic high expectations. And sometimes our goals are too low to mean anything at all.

Maybe this year we can be part of helping someone else achieve a goal that they've been working on for a good while. Doing so moves our focus from selfish to self-less.

When you think of all the resolutions that you've broken, how many of them would you have been able to succeed at had you gotten the support you needed? Think about it, really. If we help each other...Oh, the sweet victories we'd have!

Have a great year in 2009!
Shalom