Tag Archives: cheap

Sorry for the Delay Readers. Have a Cupcake, I Insist.

Oh readers, I am TERRIBLE. I mean that. I never intended to leave you hanging for as long as I did.

That being said, life got a little rough for a little while, and a break was necessary. I hope you understand. It is my intention to keep this as regularly updated as possible, and I’m going to do my best. I can’t promise I won’t go off the grid again, but I can promise you that we have at least another two months before my next scheduled freak out. 🙂

Still, I missed you, and I know a few of you missed me. I’m sorry. As penance, I give to you a recipe. No, no, it’s none of that health food nonsense. They’re cupcakes. Sweet, yummy, delicious…

…fruity?
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Cupcakes.

I call them “Kellycakes” since they were created for my coworker, Kelly (duh), who left for bigger, greater, and significantly more Korean things. I wish her well, but miss her terribly. As a goodbye, I prepared to bake up a fresh batch of those delicious raspberry cupcakes I made for Olive’s birthday. Then I noticed that Mike had eaten all the raspberries. Naturally, I punched him. Hard. Sadly, he is not some magical, fruit filled pinata, and I couldn’t get so much as a single raspberry out of him.

Strawberries are probably just as good, right?

As those were cooking I prepared the rest of the ingredients. I reached into the fridge for the applesauce. Hmmm…I don’t seem to have any applesauce. These cupcakes were almost a disaster!

I did, however, have one super ripe banana. Guess that has to do?

See, whenever I tell you to use applesauce instead of an egg, you can actually substitute the words, “pureed fruit” for the applesauce. The only reason I insist upon applesauce is because everything else will alter the flavor of the final product. Don’t get me wrong, I like bananas, but they have a time and a place, and a German Chocolate cake is neither the time, nor the place for banana flavoring.

So Kelly got Strawberry Banana cupcakes, and I got a new recipe.

Kellycakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
2 c white whole wheat flour
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c + 2 tbs sugar
1/2 c canola oil
1 ripe banana, mushed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c unsweetened almond milk
1/2 lb fresh strawberries, rinsed and quartered
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs vegan margarine
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F

Before you do anything else, place the quartered strawberries in a pan over a medium heat. If the berries are tart, throw a pinch of sugar in with the berries. Otherwise, you can just let them cook down until they go from this:

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to this:

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You should be able to get that consistency just by mushing the berries with a fork as they cook. However if you are an impatient spaz (guilty), you can throw them in the blender after they’ve already broken down significantly, just to even out the texture.

The next part’s simple. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, blend the oil with the mashed banana.

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Does this remind you of your old high chair? It should.

Add 1/3 cup of your strawberry “reduction” (we’re using that term loosely because I’m lazy and totally blended the bajeezus out of the strawberries) to the banana and oil and mix well. Stir in the vanilla and almond milk.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir only to combine. Scoop the batter into muffin tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

While those are cooling, feel free to make/taste/start dipping pretzel sticks into the strawberry icing.

In a bowl using a hand mixer on a medium speed, combine the margarine, remaining strawberry reduction, and lemon juice. Slowly add the powdered sugar until the consistency is firm enough to pipe with (or at least be able to slather it on carelessly without leaving too many puddles).

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Yum!

After your cupcakes are cool, simply ice them and share them with your favorite Kelly. Or some chick you know whose name is Kelly. Or just someone who looks like they could use a treat. It all works out in the end.

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The camera doesn’t do this justice at all. First off, the icing is an adorable pink color. In fact, I first decided to use berries because my daughter wanted a Pinkalicious themed birthday and I don’t much care for food dyes. Second, since I was impatient and iced these warm, you can’t tell how well the icing actually piped. Pity, since before the heat overtook the frosting it had been quite pretty. Finally, you can’t lick this picture and expect it to taste quite like the real thing. Sadly, you’re going to have to make these yourself.

Admittedly, strawberry Banana is a pretty offbeat flavor for a cupcake. It’s ok though, because Kelly is kind of an offbeat chick. Are they a little weird? Sure, but it didn’t stop me from eating three of them.

So readers, I have returned, and I came bearing cupcakes. Thanks for your patience. I hope you can have a few of these as consolation for my bad blogging practices.

Enjoy!

***NOTE: I have received feedback from multiple sources about my zucchini muffins not setting in the center. My best answer is because the zucchini needs to be drained first, however, I need to test the recipe a few more times to see what is going wrong. I am so sorry for anyone who had a less than stellar muffin on account of me, and I’m working to fix the recipe immediately! Thanks!***

I’m Dealing With Some Stuff

Readers, I am quickly learning the value of a good schedule. When the quarter ended, I had three weeks before my new job started. Three weeks when my daily life looked a bit like this:

8:30AM–Wake up. Sort of
9:00AM–Realize that I had not actually woken up. Panic and start yelling at Mike to get out of bed and get ready for work.
9:15AM–Make Olive and Mike some breakfast.
9:20AM–Convince Olive that YES, her hair does need brushing.
9:30AM–Realize I have not packed Mike a lunch. Panic and promise myself to pack his lunch tonight before bed. (I won’t remember).
9:40AM–Throw Mike out of the house with a baggie of veggies, a piece of fruit, and a leftover I’m pretty sure he’s only been eating the past few days to make me happy. Kiss him goodbye and thank my lucky stars he’s polite enough to at least try to eat it.
9:45AM–Realize that he’s probably been getting subway every day, since the leftover comes back mostly untouched. Become filled with rage. Resolve to punish Mike for this later (I won’t remember).
10 AM–Eat WHATEVER I WANT FOR BREAKFAST. Usually this is a delicious fruit and veggie filled smoothie I made during my panic to get Mike out of the house, with a piece of toast. I then savor at least one cup of coffee.
10:30-11:30AM–unspecified internet time. I tell Olive I’m doing important work. Important work often includes reddit. Hey, I gotta keep the routine.
11:30-12:30PM–Gardening/miscellaneous chores/whatever I feel like doing. Sometimes that means laundry, cleaning the bedrooms, or weeding. Sometimes it means Olive and I get fancy and have a tea party, leaving the dusting for another, unspecified occasion. Sometimes this means I take a shower and think about things I could potentially do. Sometimes I have another coffee and doodle for a little while. It’s a very productive time.
12:30-1:00PM–COOK AND EAT WHATEVER I WANT FOR LUNCH. Remember I am lazy and opt for PB&J again. Yum.
1:00–3:15PM–Remember that I’m an adult and am supposed to do things. Freak out, clean the kitchen, clean myself if I haven’t already, and try really, really hard to remember if there was something I was supposed to do. I completely forget until Mike gets home.
3:15PM–Mike gets home and I remember that I was supposed to go to the grocery store. Hey Mike, wanna go to the grocery store?
3:15-5:00PM–Miscellaneous Mike’s home stuff.
5:00-6:00PM–Dinnertime stuff. We eat whatever I want to cook. It is glorious.
6:00-8:00PM–More miscellaneous stuff. We often sit around talking about what we want to do. This sucks up most of the actual free time. Usually, we let Olive play outside for a bit or run errands. What am I saying? Usually, I forgot that I Was supposed to do something, uproot everyone from what they were doing, and go do the other thing instead. This is also a very important part of the routine.
8:00-8:30PM–Olive’s bedtime. This often involves stories, songs, and pleas for more goodnight kisses. I can not stress the importance of routine enough, people.
8:30-10:00PM–I drive to the gym and get in a decent workout. Sometimes. Other times this part of my day involves me bargaining with myself to go tomorrow instead. This time can also be facebook time, movie time, or eating vegan ice cream from the pint time. It’s pretty versatile.
10:30PM–I start to get sleepy.
11:00PM–Convince myself that I’m not tired. Whine to Mike that I still have to do the dishes. Do the dishes with Mike, and then whine that I’m tired some more.
11:30PM–Tearfully apologize to Mike for whining so much.
11:35PM–Wait, wasn’t I mad at Mike about something earlier?
11:45PM–Pass out, if I haven’t already. Remember as I’m falling asleep that I had intended to read/sew/write a letter/call someone. Tell myself I’ll do it tomorrow.

Repeat.

Readers, I was bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. That’s why I had scheduled so much “miscellaneous” time. I mean, I could have come up with something constructive to do, and eventually I tried to a little bit, but when you’re broke, burnt out from school, and completely unfocused, it’s nearly impossible.

Anyway, a few weeks of this went by and before I knew it, I was employed again, and my schedule starting looking like this:

6:00-6:30AM–Hit snooze button every ten minutes. Bargain with alarm clock to turn back time a little. I know it can do it and is just keeping the technology from me. Please?
6:30AM–Give up on the alarm clock. Wake up, get dressed, and pack gym bag.
7:30AM–Commute to gym.
8:15-9:30AM–Gym/shower/get dressed for the day.
10:00AM-4:00PM–SPREADSHEETS.
4:00PM-5:00PM–Commute home.
5:00-6:00PM–Hug family, cook dinner, thank god I am not staring at a computer screen.
6:00-6:30PM–Eat dinner, tell Olive that yes, she does need Mike’s help brushing her hair tomorrow morning, and no, I don’t think I’ll be able to teach him french braids.
6:30-8:30PM–Family time. This still occasionally involves panicked errands. Old habits are hard to break.
8:30-9:00PM–Olive’s bedtime routine. It hasn’t actually changed, it’s just a bit later.
9:00-10:00PM–Dishes and lunch packing for tomorrow. This includes me, Mike, and three days a week, Olive. Yes, I do pack them little notes. I have yet to find a note in my lunch bag, though. I resolve to give Mike what for about that later (I won’t remember).
10:00PM–Insist that I’m totally down for watching a movie or playing a game with Mike, as soon as I’m done with my blog/reddit/facebook/stalking Edward Norton.
10:30PM–“Actually, can we watch it upstairs, instead? I’m kind of tired.”
11:00PM–“No…no…I’m…I’m awake. I swear.”
11:05PM–/transmission

Now, you may have noticed that a large chunk of my day once devoted to panicking, using the internet, and whining, are gone. They are now completely devoted to spreadsheets. So. Many. Spreadsheets. This has caused me to organize things a little better in order to manage things, and to appreciate my evenings with my family. As a result, I go to the gym before they’re even out of bed (the lazy jerks) and eat my breakfast afterwards. This means that my delicious breakfast smoothie and toast are a no-go. The smoothie doesn’t pack well guys; please accept this as a fact and do not go through the process of learning this heartbreaking lesson for yourself.

I had a few go to foods initially. Sometimes this would be a cup of cheerios, some nuts, and a piece of fruit. A few times I packed a peanut butter sandwich with fruit. These are all fine and dandy, but lets face it, when you’re used to waking up and having your only dietary limit being what’s in your kitchen, they’re just plain boring. I needed something awesome and quick that would pack well and give me the nutrients I needed after a really hard workout.

Yogurt Oats
1 cup plain non dairy yogurt (omnivores and lacto–ovos, get what ever you’d like, but please check the ingredient list for gross stuff.)
1 cup of fruit (Any and all are fine.)
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
A handful of nuts (optional)
maple syrup, honey, or jam to taste

Ok guys, do you have a thermos? No? Go get a small one, they’re $2 at Walmart or target and infinitely useful. Mine even has it’s own little spoon hidden under the cap. So convenient! Anyway, to pack this, you’ll need a thermos, and I recommend putting it in your freezer for about ten minutes beforehand to get it cold.

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Please pretend that the froggy ice pack you see in my freezer is Olive’s and not mine. Or accept that adorable cartoon frogs are a very adult way to keep your lunch cold. Whichever.

To sweeten the plain yogurt, I usually use about a teaspoon of maple syrup. I was in the mood for berries this time though, so I added a tablespoon of my favorite jam.

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Add the yogurt.

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Yeah, you could buy flavored yogurt, but the big tub is cheaper, and do you really want to commit to one flavor for an entire week? I don’t. Besides, I like being able to control the amount of sugar and omit sweeteners. Aspartame for breakfast? Or ever? No thank you!

Add the fruit, oats, and nuts if you want them. I lift weights at the gym, so I like to get a teensy bit of extra protein. Besides, I’m also a big fan of healthy fats, and it’s not like I can get to a fridge to spread avocado on a piece of toast anymore.

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You can’t see it, but I added both berries, and a banana. Mix and match whatever you want. I have my suspicions that raisins and apples would be pretty awesome in this, too.

Mix it up, and let it hang out for a little while. If you’re making this at home, just put your bowl in the fridge and eat it an hour or two later. If you’re on the go, keep it in your thermos, and when you get to eat it after your workout, it will be delicious!

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Letting the oats soak in the yogurt makes them very chewy. Some of you may have had muesli the traditional way by soaking it in milk overnight. This is kind of like that, but with yogurt and less nuts. It’s porridgy, and really filling.

Now, I’m not saying it’s best to eat your breakfast at your desk. I love sitting down with my family for as many meals as possible, including lunch and breakfast. Still, if I worked out at night, Mike wouldn’t see me, and if I worked out in the evening, Olive would start to miss me. This way, I get my day off to a great start and they get more time with me. If you have to pack your breakfast, this is an awesome way to get something that is tasty and healthy without spending your hard earned paycheck on something sub par. Everyone wins!

Plus, now I don’t have to deal with those two monsters in the morning. Of course, that has nothing to do with why I leave the house so early.

…I lied, it’s a huge a perk.

I mean it. They’re horrible. Remember the three bears?

Still, they’re my bears. And those bears are far, far away.

Eat something good today, readers!

Money Saving Monday–Dinner When You Can’t Be Home

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At three fifteen today, Mike came home and found that on the counter. Naturally, he was very confused.

But, before I get into what’s in that pan I’m going to explain why it’s there. Twice a week I’m not home for dinner. Sometimes I’ll have something in the slow cooker, others they’ll reheat something I cooked earlier in the day, and on rare occasion they’ll eat leftovers. Unfortunately, I leave the house at 1:30 PM on those days and won’t be back again until 10PM (since I hit the gym after class, most nights). Sure, it’s only twice a week, but they can’t eat that much slow cooker soup happily, I don’t particularly feel like spending my few free hours preparing a meal I probably won’t get to eat, and Mike usually has thirds of whatever I cooked so we almost never have leftovers. As a result, a lot of the time I leave Mike to fend for himself.

Mike has come up with a few strategies to deal with what has become known as “bad dinner night.” One of them is beans and rice and a steamed whatever vegetable we have on hand. If he’s feeling fancy, he’ll throw some soy sauce on top of it. According to Mike, this is what they eat most nights I’m not home.

Except Olive always rats him out later and tells me that they had what she assumes is “Daddy’s favorite food.”

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This isn’t a picture of their dinner. This is actually a picture of the dinner we had for our two year anniversary. Make of that what you will.

Nice try, Mike.

Don’t get me wrong, as far as fast food goes they could be doing a lot worse than Chipotle. They would also, however, be spending a LOT less, so a solution had to be created if I wasn’t going to spend an hour preparing an entire meal for them and he wasn’t going to spend our life savings (and lifetime quota for sodium) in one quarter.

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I had to get a bit creative.

Obviously, I didn’t have time to prepare much and I didn’t want to leave something simmering on the stove at 1:30 PM for him to come home to and feel obligated to eat that very instant, but I had time to chop some veggies.

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And leave some instructions.

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Naturally, when he got home he was confused.

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But he figured it out.

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I’m sure you probably wouldn’t have had to actually put the spices in a container with the other ingredients, but I know Mike. They had to at least be in the vicinity of his cooking space or he’d have forgotten all about them, instructions or not. This had the added benefit of teaching him a few basic cooking skills without me hovering around the whole time, ready to “save the meal” at any given moment.

For someone who doesn’t cook often a recipe from a cookbook is a giant, foreboding, mess. Half the time they don’t have the insight necessary to know they need to read ahead in the recipe. This way, each ingredient had a number and an instruction and he could literally go from A to B without needing to prepare something. He also didn’t have to blow a gasket trying to remember how to dice carrots. Yes. This is actually a legitimate concern.

Moms (and dads who cook for that matter) have to work, it’s a natural part of life for most people. Even if they don’t, sometimes they just can’t be home. Why shouldn’t their families still eat well when they aren’t able to be there? I see this as a perfect solution for both the kitchen inept spouse and the pizza ordering babysitter. This time I used soup, but I could see this working really well with casseroles and other foods. Put out a container of cooked rice already measured, some spices with instructions, the proper amount of fake cheese, nutritional yeast, veggies, etc, and a dish with the heating instructions written on it, and within a few minutes you have it prepared, and they can have it cooking. Cooperation goes a long way in a busy, crunchy, and broke house. Though it does hurt the hip factor quite a bit.

After ten minutes Mike had this simmering on the stove, with no help from me at all (that would have been cheating, and this was for science!), and you know what? It turned out pretty good.

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Especially with the cornbread I whipped up. (Yes, that’s a teaser.)

What’s that? You want the soup recipe, too? Ugh, you whiners.

Split Pea Soup of Spousal Assistance
1 lb split peas
8 cups vegetable broth
1 dash liquid smoke
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
1 tsp poultry seasoning (minus the bird, of course)
1 cup carrots, chopped
1/2 a sweet onion, chopped

In the bottom of a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and onions and saute until the onions are soft. Add the garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, of until peas are soft, mushy, and heavenly.

I promise, you won’t miss the ham, especially since we added some yummy smoke flavor. It tastes like happy.

And now, Mike totally knows how to make it without my help.

I think this is a win for household cooks everywhere, yes?

Money Saving Monday: Tofu–Why You Need to Stop Freaking Out About It

How was your weekend, readers? Did you have a nice Holiday? We had a lovely series of events here. Saturday, Mike and I celebrated two years of happiness. We celebrated with ice cream! Then Sunday came and it was Easter! We celebrated with candy! Unfortunately, Easter candy is my favorite genre of candy (and understandably so!) and ice cream is my favorite dessert so I may have…overindulged…a little bit…I never want to look at candy again. Candy, you and I (and my tummy) are enemies! Boo candy!

(I was just kidding baby, I still love you, don’t be like that.)

Anyway, I’m not in the mood AT ALL for sweets, so today, and likely for the week, my blog leans towards savory. Today, I’m going to talk about one of the cheapest dinner (or lunch, or breakfast, or–dare I say it–dessert) options available–tofu. Oh my LORD you guys HATE that stuff, don’t you? I mean, I hear about it all the time. The second you tell someone you’re a vegetarian you get a “Oh wow, I’d totally do that but I HATE tofu!”

Some of you may have noticed the lack of tofu recipes on my blog. A few of you have even asked why there are no tofu recipes when I feature weird things like tempeh. Truth be told, we just don’t eat a whole lot of it in our house. It’s not because it’s expensive (four to five servings is only $2 at most stores), nor is it that I don’t like the taste. The reason we never have it is because it expires, and if I don’t know for CERTAIN that I’m not going to eat something THIS WEEK then I just tend to forget it’s around.

Tofu is so versatile, cheap, and yummy though (when cooked properly) that I’m beginning to rethink my soy policy. I’m beginning to think I could actively plan a tofu meal a week. Maybe I’ll even share a few with you?

So, here are some facts about tofu.

1. There are different types: silken, soft, firm, and extra firm. Silken works really well blended into smoothies, soups, desserts, dips, and sauces. Soft tofu makes the tastiest and easiest tofu scramble in the universe. Firm and extra firm are often what you run into at a Chinese restaurant and want homestyle bean curd (drooooooool). Typically, if you want to stir fry or bake it and serve it with dinner, you’ll be using firm or extra firm. Both are tasty.
2. Firm and extra firm tofu usually have to be pressed. Why? Because they’re packed in water and in order for your tofu to absorb the flavor of whatever sauce or marinade you’re using, you’re going to want to press it to get the water out first. Some people have a fancy device called a “tofu press.” Me? I go old school. Really, really, really old school.

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Thank you, Ancient Greek book, for finally becoming useful.

Take a plate, throw your tofu on it, throw another plate on top and find the biggest, heaviest, most pretentious book in your house (we used to use the complete Chronicles of Narnia) to put on top. You can let it sit anywhere from 30 min to 1 hour, but I always prefer to go the hour route to get every last bit of juice gone. Then I drain it off and marinade it.
3. You should probably marinade it. You don’t have to, but it will taste a lot like a sponge if you don’t. I’m not kidding. It will be GROSS. (You could also bread, batter, or deep fry it, but those aren’t really the most healthful options.) So, chop up your pressed tofu to it’s desired size, and throw one of these marinades over it and let it soak in.
Awesome marinades:
Barbeque Sauce (not kidding. It’s amazing)
Taco Sauce (I’m serious!)
Teriyaki Sauce (no brainer!)
Soy Sauce
And more!
Let those marinades soak into your tofu for AT LEAST an hour, or overnight for best results.
4. Bake it! I love baking my tofu. I hardly ever fry it if I can help it, baking it is so easy and healthy. Just pop those little cutlets (or dice, or blobs, or whatever) on a lightly greased baking sheet (they WILL stick) at 350 for about 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through. Tada! You have baked tofu. Yum, yum, yum.
5. Rice Schmice. You don’t need rice for tofu. You could just as easily…
…eat it in a taco.
…have it as a sandwich.
…eat it with some pita.
…gnaw on it by itself for a snack.
…throw it in a wrap.
…or have it over noodles.
Tofu should NOT be relegated to stir fry!

Seriously, fifty cents a person feeds at least four people a serving of protein and nutrients, as well as whatever fortifications are added, and it is as easy as pressing, picking a marinade, and baking. Give it a try! It’s really not nearly as icky as you think and it keeps great (after you cook it).

Have a good week guys. Expect yummy recipes, soon!

It Doesn’t Have to be Cold to Get a Little Chili or “Oh God, Why am I Allowed to Title my Posts?”

There is one word that is uttered with an alarming consistency in my kitchen–“Oops.” Actually, that word isn’t “oops” and it’s more like two words, the first being “oh”, but I’m not sure any of your would appreciate the amount of profanity I actually use in my kitchen. I put sailors to shame.

To be honest, guys, I screw up all over the damn place, and it’s usually because I’m forgetful. Take yesterday, for instance. Thanks to my wonderful mother, who took Ollie out to eat after preschool, Mike and I got to go grocery shopping by ourselves before ten o’clock at night for the first time since before we can remember. Readers, it was glorious. We perused all the aisles, filled our cart with produce we’d actually taken the time to consider (as opposed to chucking it in the cart and hoping we need it later) and enjoying our time together. I think it might have counted as date night.

When I came down from my euphoric grocery trip and realized I had to make dinner, I was resigned to make my world famous chili. (State famous…City famous…My friends all really like it…) I got out a few cans of tomatoes from my ample supply. I located a sweet potato, peppers, corn, and a jalapeno pepper. I was out of quinoa, but I had bulgur (and rice would have been fine, too). Oh yes, I had everything I needed. Then I opened the cabinet for some kidney beans. This is what I got.

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How did I go to the grocery store and forget to buy beans? What kind of vegetarian am I???

Furthermore, I was out of liquid smoke. Still. I should definitely start bringing a list when I go shopping.

So, when life hands you lemons, apparently you should try for grape juice.

The Most Adaptable Chili Recipe Ever
2 15 oz cans beans (I recommend kidney or black beans, but apparently, even chick peas work)
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeded if you want it less spicy)
1/2 a sweet potato, diced (save that sweet potato! We’ll make something yummy with that later, for sure!)
1 cup corn
1 cup quinoa or other grain (bulgur and barley work great, too)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 tsp garlic powder
3-4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tbs cocoa powder
dash or two of liquid smoke

This one is as simple as throwing everything into a pot and bringing it to a simmer (I typically add the grains last). Let it all simmer for about 30 minutes and you have a complete meal in a bowl. It’s delicious!

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As it turned out, the chickpeas weren’t nearly as off putting as I thought they’d be. In fact, the texture they had was lovely! The magical thing about chili is you could literally throw everything from your cabinets in a pot and so long as you added some pepper and a tomato base, you could still call it chili.

Try and tell me that’s not a manly looking bowl of vegan chilli! It’s hearty and wonderful, full of nutrients, filling, and really everything chili ought to be. I like to sprinkle ours with some nutritional yeast (gotta have that b12), and if we have it on hand sometimes I’ll top it with a pinch of vegan cheese.

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I always, always, ALWAYS add extra heat to my bowl. Feel free to get kind of liberal with the cayenne (or hot sauce), to give your bowl that extra “kick you in the face” quality.

If your name is Mike, you’ll eat this with guac and chips and get thirds. Somehow, there will still be leftovers, but not for terribly long.

To my meat eating friends out there–give this a try. You don’t have to worry about pink slime or the quality of your ground beef (which, lets face it, unless you’re shelling out some cash is going to be kind of crappy and have those weird little hard bits in them) and you still get plenty of protein and iron. Besides, this is thicker than any of the MEAT chili I’ve tried. Give it a chance, you can always add some ground beef later.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me it’s nearly ten, so I must be getting to the grocery store for the beans, liquid smoke, and toothpaste I forgot to pick up yesterday… :-/

Eat up, readers. You’ll need the energy to put up with the grocery store night staff.

Money Saving Monday–You Need to Buy a Lunch Box

Readers, I’m not going to lie, I hate buying lunch if I’m not going to eat it with other people. I have no idea why this is, though I have some theories.

Theory One: As a former overweight child, teen, and adult, I always assume that people are watching me eat. Judging me. Without my wall of people who love me and are eating far grosser things than whatever I picked out from the menu (Mike) I have no buffer for their criticisms. “Oh, she bought her lunch? And she’s eating THAT? Oh, she should NOT be eating that.” At least when I pack my lunch, the “Oh my god, what is she eating?” question becomes legitimate, since I currently have a snack bag that looks like this: Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App
It’s entirely likely that I could sell this to an idiot freshman for like thirty bucks.

Theory Two: Pretty much anything I could buy is either 1.Expensive 2.Unhealthy or 3.Gross. Typically, since I am a college student, it will be any random combination of the three. Oh yes, I could buy that Dorito taco thing all the commercials are talking about it, but the price would be very dear. Very, very dear. To my colon. Owie.

Do you see my problem? It’s not a good problem. I have the options of 1.Going Hungry and 2.Trying my luck at whatever slop is being served in my general vicinity while simultaneously panicking that everyone is watching me eat (because, you know, people do that), which is bad because I’m almost certainly going to have some gastrointestinal distress from whatever it is I’m eating any minute now, making it a bad time for everyone and her mom to be watching me.

I’m a hoot a dinner parties.

That being said, I’m a big believer in packing your own lunch. It gives you the ultimate control over both your budget and you nutrition. When you pack a lunch you get to choose:

1. How much you will spend. The rates for the things you have in your fridge are not subject to anything, so you know how much that lunch will cost you. You have no idea what the cafeteria or local restaurant is going to charge you day to day. Rates at the restaurants change, but your PBJ will be as reliable as the gastrointestinal distress caused by eating anything that combines the words “dorito” and “taco.”

2. What you will eat. It is so, so easy to not eat a Dorito Taco in your kitchen, because you don’t have any. At least, I really hope you don’t. The same can not be said for the real world. Picture this–you are on break and starving and you have nothing to hold you over till dinner later. You duck into the closest restaurant you can find and look over the menu. You find you are somehow craving the spice of a flavored tortilla chip as well as the savoriness of what may or may not be “meat”. Hey, they have just that on the menu! Perfect!

Packing your lunch can take some extra time, but in my house it’s usually as easy as throwing whatever leftovers we had from the night before into some containers and going on my merry way. In a matter of minutes I saved myself $2 and some severe pain from not stopping at my local Taco Bell.

(Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for Taco Bell, but that time is sometime after the bars close and that place is wherever your DD is willing to take you.)

For those of you complaining about the extra dishes from packing your own lunch, I don’t want to hear it! You jerks probably have dishwashers and I’ve been forced to do my own for the past fourteen years! Don’t you talk to me about dishes!

These lunches don’t have to be boring, though! I would be lying if I said I didn’t eat a LOT of PB&J for packed lunches, but I certainly don’t eat them every day! Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Pack up last night’s leftovers. Easiest lunch ever.
2. Make some granola bars to have on hand whenever hunger hits but you shouldn’t buy chips.
3. Try this sandwich filling.
4. Or don’t have a sandwich at all and pack one of these with some nuts, chopped veggies, and fruit.
5. Take a whole wheat hot dog bun. Slather it with peanut butter and place a banana where the hot dog would normally go. Best. Vegan. Hot Dog. Ever.
6. This is the smartest way to pack a salad I’ve ever seen.
7. Pack a boatload of snacks! My favorite lunches are usually things like crackers, veggies, hummus (for the dipping) and fruit. None of those are “meal time” foods, but why should they have to be? A well balanced snack makes for an awesome well balanced meal.
8. Don’t forget your treat. 🙂

Honestly, packing is as easy or hard as you make it, and as boring as fun as you make it. Just make sure that whatever you’re making, it’s balanced, will give you enough energy, and is satisfying. Because god help us, there are Dorito Tacos in the world.

Ashley Week Part Two–or, “Why You Should Marry Your Slow Cooker”

Readers, you may have noticed I don’t usually post on Tuesdays. I have a large number of excuses for this, as Tuesday, without fail, seems to be the busiest day of my week. My last quarter as a Classics student, Tuesday was the day I had class until four (language classes, no less) then came home to a “No Mike” house where I needed to do mom stuff and cook dinner. Also, Tuesday has always been the day my band rehearses. So yeah, you’re not always going to get a post on Tuesday. My apologies.

The one thing Tuesday has taught me to appreciate however, is the beauty of a slow cooker (and which pizza places have friendly drivers). You see, with a crock pot you can just throw a bunch of crap into your pot and come out with very, very tasty food without any supervision. After a long, horrible day, it’s really nice to come home to a heavenly smelling kitchen, knowing you put in absolutely no effort for it to get there.

Crock Pots have kind of a weird place in the vegetarian world. Almost all of us own one, and typically it’s a throwback from the days when we used to buy crappy cheap meat that the crock pot would turn into moist, tender, fall off the bone flesh. These are weird memories for me, because now the previous sentence makes me gag a bit. At any rate, when we were meat eaters our crock pots were our best friends.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

This guy is my crock pot. When I got him, I was most excited that I could fit an entire chicken inside. When I stopped eating anything that used to move of it’s own volition I stopped using my crock pot. That is, until I realized that beans are a lot easier to cook when you don’t have to watch them all day.

So, for Gluten Free/Weight Watchers/Ashley Week, I bring you my favorite bean soup, cooked for six hours while I went about my day and gobbled up by my family when I got home.

Pinto Bean Soup–Slow Cooker Edition
Serves 8
2 cups dry pinto beans
6 cups veggie stock
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt and Pepper, to taste
4 cups brown rice, cooked (optional)
hot sauce to taste (optional)

Throw everything but the rice in your slow cooker. Set the slow cooker for about six hours. You may notice I didn’t presoak the beans. That is because I am so lazy it causes people physical pain to look at me. If you DO soak those bad boys you’ll cut the cooking time down quite a bit, but it really doesn’t matter. Also, I usually chop up half a sweet onion and chuck that in, too. You can totally do that, but onions make one person in my home and at least one person in Ashley’s home kind of gassy, so I decided not to tempt fate (not that all those beans are going to help matters, any). You could also throw in a few bell peppers as well, but I only like to do that for the last hour so they don’t become mushy beyond all recognition, so if you don’t have time, leave them out.

At the end of six hours it will be soupy, mushy, and so ridiculously yummy. You can eat it as a soup with some cornbread or the “cheese” biscuits I’m this close to perfecting and it will be wonderful.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

That’s how Ollie ate it, and she downed the entire bowl. Point–Mommy.

But for Ashley, and how we usually eat it out of sheer laziness and ability to conjure brown rice at will (or rather, we keep some in our fridge for emergencies/bouts of ravenous hunger), I suggest ladling it over a half a cup of rice.

Uploaded from the Photobucket Android App

That’s what it looks like after you eat half of it and go, “Oh crap, I have to post that to my blog!” You’ll also notice that I favor hot sauce on my soups.

Either way you eat it, pair it with a steamed veggie or salad and you have yourself a meal!

Mike had seconds, again, and I took an extra bowl to Ashley at her work for her to have for lunch the next day. She loved it! How do I know? Because she sent me back a picture of a completely empty container. I’d say that’s a win!

Prep Time: Five Minutes
Cook time: Six hours in a slow cooker
Points Plus (for one serving with rice): 7

Hey Ashley, I’m gonna need you to clean that container.