One woman's quest to save money, save the planet and save my sanity

Monday, January 25, 2010

Somebody IS Out There

I received this link today from a old and dear friend. One who knew me pre-Ecocheapo. To say that it made my day would be like saying it's a bit chilly out when your snot is freezing to your face while you're still indoors.
She gets it. People are getting it. This article from The Huffington Post by Stewart Acuff is the high tech version of EcoCheapo. Good for your wallet, good for your world. We are not alone.

Meatless Monday - South for the Winter with Beans & Rice

When birthdays roll around for my children,  two out of three in December which was horrid planning on our part, it is tradition that the B-Day person gets to pick what they want to have for dinner. At this point, I don't even know why we bother asking because the answer is always the same - Mexican! Burritous, tacos, quessadillas and their assorted variations and sides are the all time favorite meal around here. Back in my early culinary days, I used to have only one side dish option in my repetoire which was Mexi Rice. Basically, I would cook rice and then add spaghetti sauce, taco seasoning and cheese. Nasty. It seemed good at the time, but now we know there are so many better options.
As a side or as the main event, beans and rice is staple fare that has nourished people around the world forever. I am sure there are a zillion variations, but this is the one that we use.

Simple Black Beans & Rice

1 cans (15.5 oz.) black beans, undrained
2 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, diced
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 package taco seasoning
1 cup water
2 tbl cider vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste
4 - 5 cups cooked white rice

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil and then add the onion, pepper and garlic. Saute 5-10 min over medium heat until tender. Add all other ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat a simmer about 20 minutes. This will be very saucy and that's how you want it. The juice is the best part! Ladle over the rice in large bowls.
*This recipe opens up endless possibilities for adding on. We like to sprinkle shredded cheese on the top. You can also add some diced tomatoes, corn, broken tortilla chips, etc. This also makes an excellent filling in a tortilla. Experimento!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Will Work For Local Food

Are you the type of shopper who goes to the store on a mission? List in hand, meals planned out, rarely straying from the preappointed items and skipping whole aisles because you don't really need anything in them? Or maybe you're the type who has a few "must gets" and then kind of pokes around and might try something new or get inspired to create a meal around something that happens to be on sale? Or maybe you are like my mom who was notorious for making multiple trips to the store each week because she was forever buying cream cheese and no bagels or stocking up on more canned potatoes than any human should ever have to even look at, but forgetting to buy milk. I can't blame her though, she was married to a man for nearly forty years that ate a very well balanced diet from his own personal four food groups - coffee, Coke, mayo and salt. Seriously.
I would say that I am definitely a list girl, but if I see a sale on something I will definitely jump at the chance to stock up and occasionally that leads me to change my meal plan. The thing about Farmers Markets, is that they can really throw someone like me for a loop because they are very Forest Gumpy Chocolates. You never know whatcha gonna get. Last month's market was a prime example of this. I went in vowing to strike out to get more shopping done than the previous month, but my plan was thwarted by the very evil placement of the Sunflour Baking booth directly across from mine. I was starring at all their insane goodies while thumbing the predesignated spending cash in my pocket. Finally, I could fight it no longer and hopped down from my cozy corner booth and attacked a Cinnamon Beast. Selfish, but oh so worth it.
I was definitely interested in checking out the Fleur de Sel table and perused it with great interest. I am definitely a salt snob. I am also my father's daughter and, therefore, salt goes on and in everything except maybe pudding. Although if it was pistachio....hmmm. I have come to know and love Kosher salt. Oi! So good. But the price was a little steep and if I came home and said I spent the whole lot on a jar of salt I think David would have known that I have finally lost it and revoked my market privileges.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Read For Relief - Show Your Support for Haiti

As much as I do try to avoid the gloom of the news and to focus on the positive, there are times when we can not look away and are called to action from a world away. Such is the case with the growing crisis in Haiti and, as a mother, I am filled with sadness and compassion, particularly for the children caught in the chaos that inevitably results after a disaster of this magnitude. With stories and images of increasing violence, it is easy to become jaded and disillusioned. But in the first few days after the earthquake hit, there were countless stories of the Haitian people coming together to dig with their hands, care for the injured and carry the dead. At nearly a week out, though, desperation has begun to set in as the most basic of needs are not being met. People seem to want to attribute this to cultural differences, but I am forced to ponder what would unfold should a crisis of this magnitude befall us in this part of the world. Even in the often sheltered world of the Northeast, it is not difficult to see that when a breakdown of basic goods and services goes on for any length of time, any "every man for himself" mentality would quickly set in.
I have found and am following the blog of a American missionary couple living in Haiti with their large family. The 24 hour transition from posts detailing their adventures abroad to the quick and frightening updates post-earthquake are a jarring reality check. It is very worth checking out at
And now on to the work that we can do from here. I have done the best thing I could think of and set up an online fundraising event on my Barefoot Books website. My official title with Barefoot Books  is "Ambassador" and I can think of no greater purpose for this role than to support the relief efforts in Haiti. Now through January 31st, you can make a purchase and I will donate 100% of my profits to UNICEF. In an effort to get funds there quickly, I won't wait for my commission to come from Barefoot (that's how it works for online sales). As soon as the 31st is here, I will cut a check to UNICEF. I think sometimes people need to get a little to give a little so this is a chance for folks to get a wonderful book while making a contribution. If you would like to support the role of UNICEF during the crisis in Haiti, please consider purchasing a Barefoot Book by clicking on the button below.

I am encouraging people to make a selection from the World Cultures category, but it is not necessary. There are many selections for under $10 that are beautiful books with wonderful stories. During this event, I have displayed some of my favorite Barefoot Books about other cultures in the My Favorites section. In "Tales of Wisdom & Wonder", one of the seven amazing stories is a traditional Haitian tale that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Right now, this beautiful hardcover collection is on sale for just $9.99.
If you do choose a book about another culture, please spend time reading to and talking with your children about our part in the global community. I have used this as a way to talk to each of my children about what is happening in Haiti. Even a three year old can understand the sadness and fear that would come with being lost and alone and children truly have a servants heart. They all wanted to know what we can do to help. This is it.
Please consider bringing stories from around the world into your home as you reach out to those in desperate need. If you know of others who would care to be a part of this campaign, you can forward this post or direct them to where they can scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Support This Event".
Right now, UNICEF is deploying clean water and sanitation supplies, therapeutic foods, medical supplies and temporary shelter to Jacmel and Port-au-Prince. UNICEF will also be focusing on children who have become separated from their families to protect them from harm or exploitation. UNICEF was established in 1946 and is "the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. They have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality." To find out more about UNICEF's emergency aid in Haiti please visit

And now, words so wise and powerful they move me to tears:
"Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance." - Robert F. Kennedy

Peace be with you all.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Meaningful Meatless Monday: All Together in One Pot

It would have been easy to forget that today I was due for my second post on meatless meals. Days off from school always throw me off my game a bit. Combine this extended weekend with a very heavy snow falling all around us and it is enough to render me lazy and disoriented. But on this King of Holidays, I find myself reflecting on the vision of MLK and how that relates to my hopes and dreams as an environmentalist. Dr. King saw a better world where people would come together and strive for a deeper understanding of one another. Where we would live in harmony and peace with our fellow man and challenge ourselves to rise above and shed the complacency that plagued our society for so many years.  He dared to dream of a new way of living for future generations. We are honored and humbled by his leadership and we show a formal display of our gratitude on this day.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For the Recycling Birds

If there is one thing I am truly afraid of it's birds. I know, this from a chicken farmer, but chickens are OK because they can't really fly high enough to dive bomb my face. That is what I am actually afraid of. Not that I have some traumatic childhood memory a la Hitchcock or anything. I was, however, pooped on by a seagull when I was in middle school which was particularly cruel. It may have been because I was wearing a hideous polka dotted balloon pants number and the offending avian thought it was the Drop Zone. That outfit probably deserved it.
So mortal fear aside, I do like to watch birds from the safety of my own kitchen window and so does the rest of the fam. Especially in winter, we like to fill our bird feeders and wait for the show to begin. I am no bird watching expert, but I do like chickadees in particular.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Start of Meatless Monday: Tomato Cheese Pasta

I am far too verbose and much too crappy of a photographer to participate in Wordless Wednesday, so I'm goin' rogue and participating in Meatless Monday. I hereby proclaim that on Mondays, I will post a meatless recipe.
You don't have to be a rank and file member of PETA to see the benefits of eating more vegetarian meals. The demand for meat production puts extreme pressure on natural resources and is quite unsustainable. According to an article by USA Today and the Society for Advancement of Education, 56,000,000 acres of U.S. land are utilized for the production of hay for livestock. Only 4,000,000 acres are used to produce vegetables for human consumption. Water, feed and fuel are also disproportionately allocated to sustain meat product. The health and wellness of livestock animals suffers from these burdens and, thus, the risk of disease is passed on to us.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Crock of Hoo Ha

My fruity and frugal friend, Nurse Hoo Ha, received a crock pot for Christmas and put in her request for some recipes to put in it. This fit right in line with my New Years resolution to post more of my favorite recipes. This vow is much easier to keep than some of my others since I am much more likely to be inspired to blog about food than to cut back on how much I'm putting in my mouth.
This recipe is one that I have been making for a very long time. It is adapted from a cookbook called "Sweet Aromas: A Collection of Cherished Family Recipes From the Kitchen of Audrey Brann Hamlin" written by Audreys' daughter, Tracey Hamlin-Landry. I can find no mention of it online and I am doubtful you will find a copy as it was written by a woman that my husband worked with when we first got married. In fact, it was one of my Christmas gifts our first year together. I still use it all the time and it's stained pages let you know how loved the recipes are in my kitchen. David has always been an amazing gift giver. It's kind of nauseating, actually.
The "Crock Pot Chicken" recipe in the book isn't quite the same as mine, but it was definitely my jumping off point and I surely needed it back then as a very "green" (and not in a good, environmental way) cook. This is a simple, hearty meal that will give you a very full belly on a cold winter's night.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Brushetta Outta Here

I miss avocados. I miss bananas. I bought a tomato on New Years Eve and the guilt is eating me up. But, I will say that my bruschetta was worth the cheat. In case you want to try it out...


1 loaf italian bread (I buy it from the Day Old markdown rack for 90 cents a loaf and throw it in my freezer)
1 jar of pesto (in season you can make this fresh and I'll tell you how when we get there)
1 large tomato, diced
fresh grated parmesan cheese (I buy the wedges and grate it myself. SO SO SO much better than what we used to call "sprunkly" cheese out of a can)
1 lemon, sliced into wedges (optional)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Credit History

I often find myself starting posts and then saving them because I feel they need a bit more background. That the true inspiration for many of my thrifty thoughts needs to be told before I proceed. I have known what I wanted to say for some time, but just haven't put it out there yet. So before I discuss one more idea, experience, recipe or tip, I must first give credit where credit is due.