Flexitarian Nachos

20120304-155356.jpg

One of the common staples in our pantry is dried beans. Beans are a substitute for meat in our meals 3-4 days a week. They are so easy, cheap and delicious. I bought a 1lb. bag of black beans for less than a dollar. Soaked overnight, rinsed and cooked in a crockpot on low for eight hours.

Add beans, green peppers, onions, salsa, sour cream, cheese on your favorite chips and voila vegetarian nachos.

It’s very easy to have delicious meatless meals. This meal is can easily adapted from traditional nachos with shredded chicken or beef to vegetarian if you substitute the beans. It can then be converted to vegan if you buy friendly tortilla chips, omit the cheese (or substitute with vegan “cheese”) and replace sour cream with guacamole.

Even better, I was able to freeze the left over beans and will get at least two more meals from it. For a dollar Im pretty pleased. If I would have bought a pound ground beef I would have used it all and it would have cost 3x as much.

I’m not making recipes that are going to be famous on pinterest, but they still taste good, they’re cheap and they feed my family.

Walrus Feathers

The holiday season is approaching and it never fails, not matter how much I try to stock up with inventory of various crochet items for sale, people always want something custom made. No complaints, because I love being creative and making something one of a kind that someone will love.

A co-worker is requesting 3 matching hats and scarves for her daughter and two friends for their club, The Walrus Feathers.

All I have is that hat, the scarves will be done by their deadline.

Paper Projects & Peeves

I am the type of person who cannot stand throwing things out. Especially if the item could possibly be used somewhere down the road for a craft project that I may or may not accomplish in the next 10 years.  When we moved across the state I was forced to recycle all the magazines I had been hoarding for the past 6 years. I thought I would use them in the scrapbooking I never did, or I would actually reread a Glamour issue from 2006.

I did manage to hold on to every single card I received at my baby shower and in the hospital with my son. In my efforts to be a better environmentalist I absolutely hate greeting cards. I don’t want to throw them away because someone spent four dollars on a card with a sweet saying and its another piece of trash in our landfills.

My point of this rant is I finally did something with my cards and can toss or recycle the scraps, guilt free.

I made a picture frame. Well, I bought a $4 wooden frame from Hobby Lobby and with a little bit of craft glue, I cut pieces out of the greeting cards and places on the frame. Now I just need to use some Mod Podge and insert a newborn photo of my (now 13 month old) son.

Voila! Of course, it may take me another year to apply the Mod Podge and actually choose a photo of my son. Then I must choose a place to hang the photo, this could also take an additional 6 months.

Alas, I used up my cards. They are not cluttering the craft/ junk closet and I was little greener today. Yay me :-)

Cooking in bulk

Sunday was my first attempt at something I’ve been wanting to try for quite some time.

I enjoy cooking, but a toddler with an 8pm bedtime, a work schedule that doesn’t allow me to walk in the door earlier than 6pm and a husband’s schedule that usually has him in bed by 7pm, my time to prepare a meal other than grilled cheese is limited, especially when the little Monkey is hungry the minute I walk in the door.

A couple weeks ago I ordered this cookbook. Sunday I sucessfully froze 18 burritos and three servings of chicken broccoli bake. Last night, we ate the chicken broccoli…and I’m glad I liked it because I have two more in the freezer!

The burritos are pretty basic, ground beef with taco seasoning and refried beans (the book tells you how you can make your own refried beans with dry pinto beans for an even cheaper & healthier option). My husband suggested I add some shredded cheese and onion to the next batch and since buying the cookbook, I found a freezer friendly recipe for black bean burritos that I will be trying as well. I’m just not fond of ground beef, never have been.  The bonus of the burrito, no defrosting required. It goes from freezer to oven to plate in 30 minutes. A quick and easy dinner if you haven’t planned ahead…or something comes up.

The burritos in process. All I needed was 6 lbs ground beef, 4 cans refried beans or 1 lbs dried pinto beans cooked, 3 packets taco seasons and 20 tortilla wraps.

The second meal I made was a chicken broccoli bake. Imagine the classic broccoli cheese casserole + chicken. One thing I enjoy about this cookbook is that it encourages cooking from scratch. Instead of buying canned cream of mushroom soup, I made my own with a pound of mushrooms, flour, milk and water. I was not so fond of rinsing, trimming and chopping up six pounds of raw chicken into tiny pieces. Luckily my husband mentioned that he would like it without the chicken and I could leave it out or replace the chicken with some diced  potatoes. So I may tweak this to vegetarian meal in the future (I just don’t like the texture, smell, taste of meat. Never have).

 

Chicken Broccoli Bake- the bread crumbs and shredded cheese are frozen separate from the chicken, broccoli and sauce.

From start to finish with all this prep of two recipes, I spent about 4 hours. Of course I have a toddler, who is happy to help slow me down, so I tried to schedule the tedious tasks of prepping the meat during his nap time. I was also lucky to have Mema swing by to keep Monkey occupied in his room for a while as well. In the future, I will plan to make one meal a week or every other week. The only freezer we have is the one above our fridge so I won’t be making 40 cups of marinara, 100 burritos, and what ever else I want because there just isn’t the room. I also have a small kitchen without a lot of counter space and I had to stop to clean my workspace and wash some of my bowls and measuring cups after I made the burritos so I could prepare the chicken broccoli. I figure after a couple of months of making different items I will have a variety in my freezer and will eventually lead to virtually no cooking during the week!

Vegetarian. Flexitarian. Excusitarian.

I’m a hypocrit.

I *should* be a vegetarian.

I believe meat is murder. I believe we can get all of our vital nutrients from fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds. I believe we are animals just like the creatures we eat & we were meant to share the planet. I know if we used our farmland to grow crops to feed humans instead of corn to feed cows and chickens, we would not have a single hungry person in this country.

I*think* I’m a flexitarian.

I go meatless at breakfast and lunch almost everyday. My lunch is almost always PB&J, an apple,yogurt & carrots for a snack. I almost never eat red meat (the texture of ground beef has always grossed me out).

I *know* I’m a big fat excusitarian.

My excuses for not making the jump to full-time vegetarian or vegan have nothing to do with my craving for meat, cheese, dairy or eggs. I actually prepared 10 pounds of meat today for upcoming meals and the smell, texture, feel of it, cooked & uncooked makes me sick (and not just because I’m pregnant).

My first excuse;
I’m not a great cook.  While I like black bean burritos, pizza (no cheese) with pineapple and camelized onions…I cannot make it every night. My husband would leave me. And while the hubs is patient with my cooking experiments, we have put many failed colanary attempts down the garbage disposal.

Convenience & cost. Eventhough my city has over 100,000 residents, I have to search to find a store that even offers firm tofu, much less soy products that do not contain GMO‘s. I have  toddler, so I refuse to go to multiple stores. Little monkey will not stand for that. I also cannot afford to do all of my shopping at the health market that has the few items I buy there.

My husband. Don’t get me wrong, if I cook it, my husband will eat it. He is supportive of my cooking and my set of morals (which go hand in hand here). One of the things I love about him though, is he’s a mans man. He’s a red-blooded American, meat and potatoes sort of man. While he enjoys lighter dishes I cook and my black bean burritos, he is and wants to be an omnivore…and I’m happy to cater to that. I just don’t want to cook two meals every night, a vegetarian and non-vegetarian dish.

—————————–

I  believe in raising my child to show empathy or all living creatures and to be healthy. If he starts asking questions about his chicken nuggets, I will be honest with him (in an age appropriate conversation). If he ever tells me he doesn’t want a hamburger because he doesn’t want to hurt the cows, I will support that.

I will never ask someone who invites me into their home to cook a special dish (unless they offer), nor will I not eat food that is offered to me. I think its rude.  I won’t preach at people because I think that is a stereotype of vegetarians that make them unapproachable. I will give you the info I know.

If you want a resource who will give you facts in a compassionate and caring voice, go to this website. Read her blog, cookbooks and archived podcasts.

Its about doing what you can, when you can, and when you are ready. I know I will end up where I am meant to be.

 

The little things add up to big savings.

Since my husband and I have been married for two years, we have stopped our spending and have been cutting our debt. We are not there yet, but before we had lil’ Monkey we managed to cut our debt in half.

Since having the lil’ Monkey, relocating to a town where we have both doubled our daily commutes to work and shoving out $800 per month for day care, our debt snowball has slowed to a snowflake but we are still managing to pay off debts. We are finally down to four debts. The next one on this list is about $2500 and the final one (including the Las Vegas whirlwind wedding and honeymoon) is around $10,000.

I listen to Dave Ramsey daily. I will say I’m more of a fan than my hubby is but he is great sport of listening to me carry on about the “funny thing Dave said on the air today”. I love Debt Free Friday. I love hearing people call in that paid off *the same amount of debt we started with* making *the same amount of money we make*. I have decided that when we are debt free, I’m going to call in to the show.

Now, we are not great about writing out our budget every month. Usually, one of us spends over whats in a certain category without speaking with the other one first,  I forget about my envelope system, and once a month I usually have a good cry about how “I’m going to be 30 soon and I’m going to be broke forever.” In reality though, when I’m being of rational mind, we are doing okay, and we are getting better each day with our money.

These are some of the little things we do each month that help us save a penny:

  • My husband does almost all of the maintenance on our cars. This month we put about $300 in our car when we could have paid over $600 for someone else to do it for us.
  • I’ve cooked from scratch more. The amount of bread I buy in a month, can buy enough ingredients to make bread for 5-6 months. Savings for delicious homemade bread instead of the junk loaded with preservatives $10/ month. More on the cooking later, as I improve on cooking from scratch and cooking/freezing in bulk.
  • Anytime we order takeout online, my husband manages to find a coupon code to increase our savings.
  • As of next week I will be cancelling our land line phone (don’t use it) and our cable (I have too many things I need to do other than watching TV). This will save us around $50 a month.
  • As of next week we are downgrading in cell phones. No. More. iPhone. Ouch. I love my iPhone. I will need to find another way to listen to Dave, but this will save us $44 a month in data plans.
  • I have stopped buying paper towels. I use old receiving blankets, tshirts that are too ratty to donate and some flat cloth diapers. I will have a a post on cutting your trash and Green Living so more on this later. Paper towels are expensive.
  • For my lil’ Monkey, I use cloth wipes. I’ll have a post later about my Green Baby so I won’t elaborate here except for saying I save about $10 a month. For 36 months of a baby in diapers, that is $360.
  • In addition to my cloth wipes, I make all of my own baby food. I buy very few snack foods with the label “Baby” on it. I can get 10x more Cheerios for the cost of Gerber Puffs. This probably saves me $20 month.

That’s it. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I am always finding a way to do more. The point of starting this blog wasn’t to tell anyone that I was perfect in the way I wanted to live my life. The first few posts are really going to be about where I’m starting and where I want to end up. I have room for improvement in all aspects of my life and I hope me and my readers can find a way to improve together.

I am going to start subscribing to the Sunday Paper and I am going to start couponing soon. I’ll let you know if its worth it. Meanwhile, check out Dave Ramsey and his baby steps.

“Live like no one else, so later on you can live like no one else” Dave Ramsey

Baking bread

The last two weekends I made bread. From scratch. I don’t have a bread machine. I don’t have a high powered Kitchenaid mixer. I just have me.

I will say I think the process would have been relaxing, if I didn’t have a 10 month old tugging at my pants while my hands are covered in dough and I have flour in my eyes.

I used the Better Home & Gardens cookbook as my recipe guide and as someone who doesn’t think of herself as a baker I was pleased with the result. Eventhough its little time consuming, I find this much more worth it. It has always disturbed me that I can buy something, like a loaf of bread for $2, stick it in my pantry and a month later it doesn’t even have mold on it.

I love the simplicity of the indgredients:

active dry yeast
flour (I had white flour to use up but I will be switching to whole wheat)
sugar
butter (I prefer Earth Balance vegan spread)
milk
dash of salt

I’m not worried about the shelf life as we go through a loaf a week anyway. Its safe to say I’ll be making more bread in the future :-)


The finished product

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.