Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sometimes Convenience Is What Life's About

  So far this has turned into one of those weeks where out of necessity I have had to rely on convenience foods.   I knew the week would be busy and I tried to be as prepared as I could, but time seems to be getting away from me.

Yesterday I had two doctors' appointments and an hour and a half round trip to get to them.  Mid afternoon, when I arrived home, I helped my daughter finalize a project.  Mama came to spend the night and we had a quick supper because we were going to help my sister paint at her new house.  I pulled Boca Burgers and fries from the freezer.  Nothing fancy.

Today shaped up to be as busy.  Mama was here until mid-morning and I spent time doing some things with her.  We also researched several canning recipes for a future canning session.  About 11:30 I started my school work and when I looked up it was dark and well after 5:00.  I hadn't prepared anything in advance for supper and I could tell my blood sugar was already crashing.  I had just been so engrossed I didn't pay attention to the time.

I rummaged through the freezer and pulled out a back of pasta salad I bought from Aldi.  A quick addition of a can of chickpeas made a more balanced meal.  5 minutes in the microwave and I was good to go.
 

I ended up with enough for a good sized serving and some for lunch tomorrow.  It was actualy quite delicious and despite not being the most frugal item, it was far less expensive to make than take out would have been to buy.  (I have made a mental note to buy more of this if I find it in the store.  I may be having surgery later this month and I need some quick items my family can pull together.)  I like that I have lunch for tomorrow ready because the rest of the week is looking quite busy, too.  However, the end of the semester is in sight.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Home Again Home Again

After a long week of travel, helping family move, and having a great time, we are home again.  As much fun as we had, I can freely admit it is nice to be home, too.   Today has been filled with monthly paper work, a trip to Aldi, laundry, and school assignments. I spent $120.79 at Aldi, which sounds like a lot.  However, we had deliberately eaten down all the fresh items and finished off milk before we left on our trip.  Some of the items we picked up also include pantry storage and seasonal items. I rarely buy bread, but this week I picked up two loaves.  Some will go with my husband for the week and because this is my last week of school for the semester (and I have two doctors' appointments this week) I picked up some for here for quick lunches.  So a loaf of organic WW bread and a loaf of sprouted grains bread were on my list.  I bought a lot of fresh fruits and veggies.....6 bell peppers, navel oranges, Pink Lady apples, sweet corn, avocados, zucchini, romaine hearts, yellow squash, cabbage, celery, 2 bunches of bananas, acorn squash, cucumbers, radishes, white mushrooms, baby bella mushrooms, red grapes, sweet potatoes, and red potatoes.   For the snack items and to expand lunches I bought 2 2Liter Cokes, a bag of pretzels, and a bag of party mix. Refrigerator items included 4 cartons of organic soy milk, 2 cans of crescent rolls (for a planned treat), sandwich turkey, 4 lbs of cheese for my daughter's meals, and a container of hummus.   For the pantry I picked up 12 cans of beets, 3 boxes of herb stuffing mix, 2 packages of turkey pepperoni, poultry spice, ground ginger, prunes, 2 boxes of stevia, organic ketchup, wheat crackers, holiday baking chips, 2 bags of organic sugar, and fruit snacks (to have on hand when my grandson visits).   I came home and made a quick meal for lunch -- fresh veggie wraps and vegetable soup.
 
 
 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Success -- Dairy Free and Nut Free Creamy Pasta Sauce


I've finally made a vegan creamy sauce for pasta that I love!  It doesn't have any nuts at all like so many of the recipes.  It also uses ingredients I keep on hand.  It is literally made up of soft tofu, lemon juice, water, garlic, onion, salt, and pepper.  I added parsley to mine.

After Brandy of The Prudent Homemaker
talked about marinated artichoke hearts a while back, I decided to pick some up to try incoporating into my diet.  I'm pretty much the only one here who will eat artichokes, but I couldn't think of how I would serve them.  In her suggestion, she uses them in pasta salad.  I have done that and was pleased with the results.  I've also drained some and put on pizza with good results.  This time I decided to pop a few in the microwave briefly to heat them up.  They were perfect on top of this pasta, which is an Aldi find.

For the sauce, I found the recipe online here.  Of course, I made a few changes.  I used onion from the freezer and water sautéed it along with the garlic.  I did add about a teaspoon of Greek olive oil for flavor.  I used bottled lemon juice because it is what I had on hand.  I reduced the salt to 1 1/2 teaspoons and that was plenty.  I added black pepper, because I don't buy white pepper.  I used dried parsley and blended it in the sauce.  In the future, I will probably serve this as an alfredo sauce substitute with vegan chickn and broccoli.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A New Toy


I freely admit I have a weakness for kitchen gadgets. 
My husband indulges it because he loves to eat.
For us it is a mutually beneficial arrangement.  :-)

I've been watching the air fryer craze for a while and had avoided getting one.
We finally bit the bullet and picked one up.
This is our early Christmas present and something we are hoping our daughter will warm up to using.
When we travel I worry about her not eating "warm" meals and surviving on mostly junk.
This is small, user friendly and pretty versatile.

For our test run I let my husband pick a dish to try and his choice was apple crisp.
I had four apples languishing on the counter so this was perfectly fine with me.
I used those four apples, which I didn't peel, for the base.
Some sugar, cinnamon, coconut oil, and whole wheat pastry flour finished the list of ingredients off.  Nothing too fancy about it.
In 30 minutes it was ready and the topping was wonderfully crisp.


Monday, November 21, 2016

Plodding Along

Last week is such a blur I am having a hard time distinguishing one day from the next.
I had to pull out my planner to remind me of what we did and when.

It was an unusual week in that my husband was home every night.  We cooked from supplies all week and did not go to the grocery store at all.  In fact, I stayed in all week.  I didn't do anything beyond the usual household savings things, but I also didn't do anything to the detriment of the budget either.  (I have started Christmas shopping, but that was allowed for.)

Mid week I had two guests for lunch and I kept things quite simple.  I made a huge pot of vegetable soup and I served it with crackers and sweet tea.  They were in town for doctor's appointments and it was an "eat and run" kind of visit, so this meal was perfect. I didn't know exactly what time they would make it so the crockpot kept it warm for me.  (The bonus was I had enough soup left for the next day.)

After my success with a cream of mushroom type sauce, I decided I really needed to try again with a cream of chicken white sauce.  I used a mixture of cornstarch, soy milk, vegan butter, and poultry seasonings to create the base for this casserole.  It is a simple broccoli, rice and chick'n casserole.  I topped it with a crumbled flax and wheat roll I had baked earlier in the week. 




My husband really enjoyed this one. I think I would do just a little more tweaking on the seasonings, but the texture was a success.  (I'll add more onion powder, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning next time.)


I'm still working on school work and I am down to one more unit after this week. 
Sunday we opted to take the night off.
We had an "at home" date night and watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix.
I cooked a simple meal.  Rice seasoned with salsa (because I had rice precooked in the fridge.) Leftover broccoli because I had more than I needed for the casserole. Onion rings because he loves them and I had a few in the freezer waiting to be cooked.  Bean burritos because I love them.





Friday, November 18, 2016

Allergies

Cheryl has asked a valid question.  I went back through the blog, thinking I had addressed what happened between the time I closed the old blog and started the new.  I was suprised to find I hadn't.  I'm blaming it on a pre-senior moment.

 Long and short of the story, I have food allergies to 4 of the major 8 food allergens recognized here in the US.  I am highly allergic to peanuts, treenuts, fish and shellfish -- so much so that I have to avoid cross contact with other foods and carry my epi-pens at all times.   For a few months before I was diagnosed I kept having what they thought was either something wrong with my throat, my thyroid, or my lungs.  However, nothing would show up in the tests they kept running.  I was living on steroids and various medicines trying to keep things cleared up.  None of us even thought about allergies even though there are people in my family with the same allergies I have and allergies to eggs and milk as well.  I don't know why I didn't think to ask to be tested.

 Fast forward to one weekend and a trip to the beach combined with a snack of peanut butter crackers -- yes I hit what turned out to be all my major allergens in just one day.  Let's just say not being able to get in enough oxygen is frightening as all get out.  The hospital sent me home with a list a mile long of things to avoid until I could see the allergist.  Mostly I ate white rice, oats and a few other things during that time.  I eliminated all wheat, vanilla, dairy, spices, coffee, nuts, seafood, etc. No packaged foods were allowed.

 It was quite an experience. I was fortunate to be able to get in to see the allergist somewhere around 5 weeks later.  I even told him I was expecting him to tell me I was nuts because I was well over 40 and had never had a problem with any kind of allergies other than to stinging insects.  Imagine my surprise (and his too actually) when I went into shock there in his office.  They had to stop testing, treat me, and rely on blood work only for the rest of the tests.   I could add back in some things, but basically short of specially labeled things my days of eating anything packaged and eating out were pretty much over.  We cleaned out the pantry and I started teaching myself to cook again.  Somethings were easy to do and others were a little harder.  With strict orders to avoid cross contact I avoid most packaged foods and most restaurants.   Twice I have tried to be lax about following the "rules" and both times I have ended up in anaphylactic shock.  Once was over a cookie that didn't have nuts, but had been processed around them.  I didn't call the company to verify first.  The second time was when someone was served seafood near me.  I learned my lesson though and I try a bit of anything new, make sure people around me know I am trying it, and then I wait to see what happens. Over time I have found a few things I can eat that are processed, but I am vigilant to read labels each time. I also can eat a Chipotle tofu mix with no difficulties.  I can do a veggie sub from Subway.  They both verify nut free and I check with the local restaurants.  Beyond that I think every restaurant here sells seafood of some sort.   However, I don't live in a bubble.  I cook things for my family that I do not eat or they will eat out without me.  I choose to eat a vegan diet because it helps me control my blood sugars (I have reactive hypoglycemia)  in addition to other reasons that are much more complex.   I don't really know what else to add.  However, if anyone has any specific questions I will do my best to answer.  

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Like most people we are in the midst of preparing for the holidays.  We originally thought we would be hosting a Thanksgiving meal, but plans have changed and we will be traveling instead.  Right after we get back we will be in the middle of end of semester work and I have two doctors' appointments thrown in there.  Because of this we decided to start our holiday decorating a little earlier than we normally do.

Since my husband was coming home to help us put up the tree I cooked one of his favorite suppers -- Shepherd's Pie.  I'm excited to say I finally have the gravy (cream of mushroom soup type) consistency I want for this casserole.  It has taken me a few tries to perfect it, but this was spot on.
There were even enough leftovers for his lunch and mine.




  We put it together while my daughter was at her night class....with the help of a kitty or two.
Her job when she got in was to decorate it.





Because we will be traveling for the holidays we are both hedging on projects our teachers have assigned for the next week so we are keeping meals simple tonight...slow cooker veggie soup and fresh whole wheat and flax rolls.  The back buns are for tomorrow and are filled with black beans and vegan cheese substitute that I seasoned with taco spices.




P
Since we were working in the kitchen anyway as decided to fill the cookie tin while we were at it.  These are our favorite vegan chocolate cookies.



Thursday, November 17, 2016

Christmas Sewing

Lately my time has been very limited.  When I found myself with a few free hours and the urge to sew I pulled through my stash.  I found fabric leftover from a dress I sewed for my daughter years ago.  Possibly as many as ten years ago.  I'm trying to remember how old she was and cannot seem to do so.  I pulled out a toddler dress pattern and went through my zippers to make sure I had a matching one.  The results of my mornings efforts was a Christmas dress for my youngest niece.



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Cranberry Season

While I look forward to autumn all year because I love the barrage of pumpkin products, my husband waits all year for the appearance of cranberries in the stores.  He loves cranberry sauce.  I am not as crazy about it, but absolutely refuse to eat the "jelly" stuff from the stores.  I want chunks of fruit and not very sweet.  Much to his delight I spent yesterday canning his year's supply of cranberry sauce yesterday.
 
 
 
 
 
I ended up with 17 pints and a bit to go with his supper last night.
 
He ate the leftover bit with a yummy root veggie stew last night. 

Chocolate Tart Filling Recipe

The chocolate tarts are super easy to make.

Start with any crust of your choice.  I simply used a vegan choice from the freezer section.  I try to keep a box in the freezer for emergency dessert situations.  I have tried homemade crusts with no problem, made them with crushed graham crackers, used a cookie on bottom, and also made them in cupcake liners.

The filling is vegan.

Use 16 ounces of silken tofu, 3/4 cup of sugar, 6 or so tablespoons of cocoa powder and about 2 tbsp of vanilla flavoring.  Blend well together in a food processor.  Put in crusts and chill.

I actually cannot find the 16 ounce tofu and I use the box that is almost 13 ounces.  I decrease the vanilla and start with 1/2 cup of sugar.

This has a "not super sweet" chocolate taste, but you can add more sugar to taste.

This also makes a great quick chocolate pudding.

Mending -- Expanding my Skills


One of the things on my to learn list was how to replace a zipper.  I know how to sew one in, but replacing one can be a beast of a different nature.  The opportunity presented itself when my husband broke the zipper on a favored pair of pants.

Taking the zipper out required some maneuvering because of all the lining.
After careful consideration, I actually hand stitched this one in.  


One less item is now in the mending pile.
As if that isn't enough reward on its own --
I can mark that off my to learn list.
My husband gets to keep these pants.
I didn't have to toss them and shop for another pair.
He didn't pay someone else to fix them.
And biggest bonus of all --
He thinks I am a genius!



Tuesday, November 15, 2016

He Loves Me

My husband attended a meeting last week and the local library was discarding books. He came home with this stack for me.  Nothing says true love to a girl like me more than a stack of books.  I've stacked them beside my chair and I've been reading in snatches -- a stolen moment here and there.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Frugal Happenings Last Week

Last week was a weird mix of frugal and expensive happenings.  I spent money to save some in the long run -- kind of thing.

 1.  I did a huge Sam's Club stock up. With the holidays in site and us planning various things, having stuff on hand will save a lot of time.  I also restocked a lot of the quicker pantry items.  While some convenience foods aren't the most frugal, they are comparatively cheaper than eating out.  This was also the time for our huge stock up on paper products and things.  Knowing that I may be looking at some minor surgery in a couple of weeks made this a prudent thing to do.

 2.  We had medical appointments and tests, but because a large portion of our out of pocket expenses have been met, the timing was good.

 3.  I did all the usual household things to try to keep costs down with the laundry, etc.

 4.  We did buy a few meals out.  However, they were all planned and allotted for.  One was after medical tests where fasting was required, one was a birthday celebration for my son and daughter in law, and one was pizza for my extended family for my birthday celebration.  

 5.  I saved pickle juice to use in salad dressings.  I refilled my oil bottles from larger containers. I ground grains for our baking.  I used up the last of some lingering sprinkles (on muffins) and plan to continue to whittle down the bottles I have.  I took advantage of sales at Sam's Club and had discounts apply to what I bought and earned a $10 rewards card.  We started a new series on Netflix after opting to not go out for date night.  I used recycled paper for school work.  We played here instead of driving to the park.

  I'm sure there are other things we did, but this was the biggest part of them.

Busy Times and This and That

Last week was a whirlwind week.  I packed doctors' appointments in, major medical tests, my birthday, and a week with my grandson in. I managed to get through a week of school work, too.  Not too bad, but it left little time for stopping in here.
We ate well, but many meals I didn't get the opportunity to photograph.
My three year old grandson loves "pisa" as he calls it.
 
We made "take and bake" cookies one evening.
 
 
I made vegan banana and chocolate chip French toast -- with a large batch for the freezer.
 
I chopped bell peppers and onions for the freezer.  
We had vegan quesadillas.
We baked vegan cinnamon muffins.
 
 
I made vegan chocolate tarts for my birthday dessert and Moo Goo Gai Pan for my meal.
 
 
Then we ended out my birthday weekend with "hamburger" steak.
 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Short Break

I'll be taking a short break.  Things are fine here, but we have 3 doctors appointments, school work, and my grandson is visiting for the week.  Plus we have guests coming for next weekend.  Busy, but in a good way. Be back soon!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Going with the Flow

I'm finding this mini-semester class to be quite time consuming.  Before one section is finished the next is opened. Since the assignments are mostly essays I seemed to spend the first two weeks learning exactly what style my professor wants.  However, I think I finally have the general idea now.  Fortunately the class will be over the first week of December.   Meals are staying on the simple side and I've been nibbling on a bowl of pasta salad for two days now.  I have to admit to a weakness for pasta and especially pasta salad.  I used up some lingering items to pull a simple one together.  Some mixed pasta at the bottom of my pasta container, a lingering zucchini, 1/4 of a red onion, and a carrot along with 1/2 of a jar of chickpeas tossed in some quick dressing made a great salad.  I served it with sliced tomato.
 
Despite my required weekend trip to grab a few grocery items, my husband wanted me to go ahead and go to Sam's Club today.  I keep a running list and try to go when I have enough items on it to justify it.  I admit the list was getting long, but I didn't realize how long. Turns out he was right.  Most of the items were bathroom and cleaning supplies -- so nothing exciting.  I also came home with a bag of apples, a bag of onions, and some bell peppers.  I did buy 4 large bags of cranberries, too.  If all works out I will be canning his favorite cranberry sauce this weekend.   I did take the time to go through and look for any bits and pieces before I decided on my final shopping list.  I feel like we are pretty well stocked on most things, but I do need to pick up some stevia and soy milk from Aldi.  Fortunately I can wait until this weekend todo that.  In my bits and pieces I have about 1 more cup of mixed pasta, some opened Cheerios, some dry lentils, and some brown rice to use up.  I'll try to incorporate them into meals as this week progresses.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Frugal Happenings for the Last Week of October 2016

Frugal happenings for last week were mostly the usual. We went to get our free flu shots.  I hung laundry to dry, with the exception of a couple of loads. I found a few items at a yard sale.  I gifted some items from my closet to a family member.  I cooked our meals at home with the exception of one sophrita burrito, which my husband and I shared.  I also used the slow cooker whenever I could. I printed out school work, which is still far cheaper than buying the book.  I then added the paper to our scratch paper pile to be used on the backside.   I also finished a crocheted bag (made of yarn that was being discarded) for my sister.   When I read the list sometimes it just doesn't feel like a lot.  However, I actually had a really full week.   I also have the beginnings of my Christmas shopping list.  While I haven't actually bought anything I now have requests from several of the people on the list.  They're all quite reasonable and I'll easily be able to do them.

Busy Days

The days have been busy around here.  For our Thursday girls' day we each worked on a project.  I finished crocheting a bag I was working on -- a gift for my sister.  My sister worked on a cross stitching project.  My Mama worked on another quilt.  My poor daughter worked on calculus homework.  
Friday morning we needed to do some errands.  While we were out we went to my favorite thrift store.  We found two pair of jeans for Mama and that was all we bought there.  We also had to pick up some things at Walmart.  While I was there I found some inexpensive long sleeved t-shirts for my daughter and I bought her 4. We buy these in solid colors so she can mix and match them with jackets and sweaters through the fall and winter.  I also bought myself 4 neutral turtleneck tops.   Friday night we attended a ceremony, at which my daughter was awarded honor cords to wear for graduation.  These were for her service for both her local and regional chapter. Saturday morning we were up at 5:00 to help host a community yard sale that raises money (by collecting the rental fee for slots) for a local student organization.  I actually did a little shopping while I was there.  I came home with: 2 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of navy sweat pants for my grandson -- $3 1 sweater and 1 button up top for my niece -- $4 1 long denim jumper and matching jacket for my mom -- $4 1 pair of pants and 3 sweaters for myself -- $5 I'll share photos later.  Right now everything is hanging to dry. I did get a little baking in.  I made dinner rolls and sweet rolls.  For the sweet rolls I used cherries and orange zest I had dried over the summer.  The taste was great!
Sunday morning was miserable.  I had my flu shot Saturday and despite reassurances it cannot make you sick I was down with fever and body aches.  I don't know if it was a result of autoimmune issues or if I had been previously exposed to something.  Despite that I absolutely had to buy a few groceries for my husband to take with him this week.  However, on a good note I think we are well set for the month.  I should only have to buy perishables and any "cherry picking" items I find. Monday was chaos.  I'm swamped with my class work.  In my feverish state I messed up on an assignment.  We also had our traditional Halloween chili meal.  I was so tired by the end of the night I literally cried myself to sleep.  Thank goodness I am feeling better this morning.
 
I made two pots of chili.  One pot was vegan and went into the Instant Pot on slow cook mode.  I used three kinds of beans in it and added a handful of veggie crumbles near the end. 
The crockpot chili had kidney beans and ground beef.  I used some of the ground beef for two burgers for the one who will not eat chili.  I ended up with enough leftover that I browned and seasoned some for quick tacos for her lunch today.
I served crackers as the bread portion of the meal.
It was nice to pull everything from either the pantry or the freezer.  
   

Childhood Foods Revisited

While my husband and I were drinking our morning coffee, we were reminiscing about favorite elementary school meals. We both agreed tha...