Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Make Yogurt Yourself

I mentioned in my last post that I made the yogurt that I used for Noah's delicious smoothie.
Yogurt making is just another one of those adventures that I've just discovered. I am a total novice.
I've only made 3 batches so far. But I love it! It's easy. It's frugal. And I know what's in there. Plus, I can feel the satisfaction of doing it myself. Really, acquiring new skills like that is very empowering.

If you would like to try your hand at making your own yogurt, you can google 'make your own yogurt,' which is what I did. Or you can use the site I used.  The only equipment that I had to invest in was a candy thermometer...which I found for about 4 bucks at the farmer's market/flea market. You'll need a heating pad or hot plate to keep the yogurt warm. But I have seen recipes for slow cooker yogurt, so look around and find instructions appropriate to you.

I make plain non-fat yogurt and use it in smoothies, parfaits, mix it in biscuit batter, enjoy it as a sauce with falafel, etc. Be aware, homeade yogurt tends to be of a runnier consistency. Yogurt companies add pectin to thicken it. And because my yogurt is a bit runnier than what Noah is used to, he won't eat it! But he will drink it in a smoothie without complaint.
There are also tons of recipes for flavored yogurt out there too. In fact, The Crunchy Chicken has a Coffee Yogurt recipe that I am excited to try...if I can ever find it in the archives of her blog.
Like I said before, I'm a yogurt-making novice. If you have any tips, suggestions, recipes, yogurt tales...
I'd love to hear them!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Meatless Monday: Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

For those not in the loop, Meatless Monday is a movement that encourages
people to give up meat once a week to 'promote personal health and the health of the planet'.
They have great recipes on their website and tons of information there too.

I go meatless pretty often.
For oh so many reasons:
1) My health- I just don't digest meat as well. I get all acid-refluxy and heart-burny. Especially if I eat fried meat. All those years of eating my grandma's southern fried chicken must have caught up with me.
Plus, while meat is high in protein, it is usually high in fat that I can do without (with the exception of seafood).
2) Animal Ethics- I don't like how the critters are treated in order for me to get a mass produced hamburger. It disturbs and saddens me. And I don't know what sort of hormones and crazy chemicals are in that there meat either.
3) Meat is expensive.
4) I enjoy so many other foods!

With that said, you should know that I am not a vegetarian. I do still eat meat ocassionally. But I try to give myself and my family satisfying and healthy alternatives.

I'm not posting a recipe for Meatless Monday today. I saw a delicious looking Cheese Souffle recipe that I'd love to try out. But, for now, I just wanted to show you Noah's lunch.

Well, obviously it was made with love, as you can plainly see by the heart-shaped sandwich.
But I'm particularly happy with this lunch because:
I made the bread myself...I know what he's eating...I know what's in that bread. (I have been so thrilled that I can make my own bread! I want to shout it from the rooftops!) Maybe I'll share my recipe soon...and some close-up bread pictures to make you ohhh and ahhh.
I made the Grape Jelly. You can read about that in my Food Waste post from a few days ago, and get the recipe and instructions from The Frugal Girl's blog.  
The smoothie there on the upper left is made with yogurt that I made and blueberries we picked over the summer (oh, the summer seems like lifetimes ago!). Plus, I snuck in a handful of fresh spinach leaves into that smoothie. They disappear completely, and you can't taste it at all. However, if I use frozen spinach- I do notice a slight spinachy flavor- I recommend fresh spinach if you want to be super sneaky like me.

Of course, I didn't make the peanut butter or grow those baby carrots...but I could have. And I would've loved to have made that yogurt from the milk of my own cow...that I lovingly milked myself. Maybe one day...a girl can dream, can't she?

I Sewed an Apron...all by myself...but with help from many.

I made this apron.
You may want to put on some sunglasses and earmuffs
because the apron is really pretty
(And not the most flattering.)
But I like 'er.
I must give credit where credit is due:
Aunt Beth bestowed upon me an
awesome sewing machine
(which I had no idea how to even thread),
Michael presented to me a Sewing class
(so that I could learn which way was up and not injure myself),
the thrift store so wonderfully had a half off sale
and I purchased a strange and bold large scarf/small sheet for 25 cents,
and my friend, and fellow Sewer Seamstress (that's with a capital "S") 
Patti, loaned me the apron pattern.

Now, when I am fooling around in the kitchen making Apple Crisp (as pictured above) or whatnot,
I won't get the apple or crisp all over myself.

Next sewing project? Maybe some pajama bottoms for Noah and Michael?
Any suggestions? Tips?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Food Waste Saturday

No waste this week! Oh yes, victory is mine...
Noah and I were a reclusive pair this week, didn't venture out much due to the drabnabbit snow. Plus, Noah had a little cough and runny nose. So, we were home playing card games, watching Alvin and the Chipmunks (the show- haven't seen the movie), and apparently eating up all our leftovers.
I almost let a jug of grape juice go to waste, but luckily I saw a post over at The Frugal Girl's blog on how to make Grape Jelly. Hooray! Grape Jelly! I made it today. It was easy peasy.  I just keep my laptop right there on the kitchen counter and follow instructions. I love the internet.

Notice how the label says, "Madona's Pumpkin Butter"? That jar is from when I rescued my Halloween pumpkins from becoming food waste too. And that was some awesome stuff, if I do say so myself.

Have you signed up for Crunchy's Food Waste Reduction Challenge? Have you checked out how Kristen or Angela try to prevent food from being wasted in their homes?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Zoo Animals in the Cold

Noah and I visited the Zoo today.
Even though it was snowing.
Or maybe because it was snowing.
Some animals were smartly hibernating or in a similar sleep state.
But some were much better suited for this weather than Noah and I.

Like these gorgeous little ponies.

A cute little fella here. I so wanted to comb his wooly hair.
But a nearby sign warned of biting dangers.

Below is a La Mancha Goat, which is unusual because of its small a human's ears.
According to wikipedia, "The LaMancha has excellent dairy temperament and is an all-around sturdy animal that can withstand a great deal of hardship and still produce."
This one stared at Noah and I without moving or blinking. Did not appear to be going through much of a hardship, except for a moderate Syracuse winter. 

A Reindeer, or Caribou took a break from snacking to pose for this picture.

And then got back to business.
Swans, Ducks, Geese:
Ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony.

One Lone Wolf
Making trails in the snow.

My little penguin is cold.
Time to retreat back to the human world of flannel blankets, steamy mugs, and central heat. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Food Waste Friday

Kristen at The Frugal Girl photographs and reports what food she has wasted for the week in an effort to be more aware, and therefore reduce her food waste.
Also, Deanna at The Crunchy Chicken has dared her readers to participate in the Food Waste Reduction Challenge this month. And I have accepted the challenge.

I thought I was doing really well last week.
But this week...not so much...

Here is a photo of my food waste for the week:

What you see before you is about 1/4 of a Banana Cream Pie (with fresh blueberries and banana slices on top) and about 1/4 of a cup of Vegetarian Chili. Sigh.
The Banana Cream Pie was delicious. However, I didn't know that my husband didn't care for Banana Cream Pie in general until AFTER I had already made this beautiful pie. I love pie. All pie. Especially Chocolate Cream Pie or Pecan Pie. But I'm only one woman and just couldn't tackle the entire thing by my lonesome. I learned something new about my husband though- Banana Cream Pie- he's not a fan. So, I won't make it again, and therefore, I won't waste it again! And if we ever happen to find ourselves on the Newlywed Gameshow and there happens to be a question like- what pie does your husband hate- well, then we are totally winning that all expenses paid trip to Acapulco.
The Vegie Chili. We enjoyed it, froze some leftovers. But the little bit remaining was pushed far in the back of the fridge and forgotten. Next time, I'll just freeze all the leftovers.
This isn't too too horrible. But I didn't include food that my 3 yr old wasted. For example, I sent a handful of grapes in his lunch yesterday for co-op (preschool, sorta). He usually loves grapes. Yet, yesterday, his class had a little Valentine's Party and he filled up on rice crispy treats, cupcakes, and lolipops. By the time the grapes made it home, they were brown and mushy and Noah wouldn't touch them. They will be composted, but I would have rather they be eaten.
Do you monitor your food waste? Are you participating in the Crunchy Chicken challenge? Have you checked out The Frugal Girl's Food Waste Friday posts? How do you use it all up?
Happy weekend!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thrift Store Loss and Gains

I was in the thrift store on Friday, just poking around for a few minutes, when I spotted a fantastic sweater. It fit perfectly, was my signature color-BLACK, and in great condition.
The only problem was that it was priced $6.99. $6.99? That's pretty cheap, yes. But I'm not really in need of another sweater. How could I justify buying it? Why consume everything that I 'want'? That's when I happened to notice a flyer on the door that said the thrift store was having a Superbowl party on Sat. and Sun., in which everything in the store would be 44% off! Oh my, can you imagine? Sales at a thrift store! I think I heard choirs of angels singing. 
So I hung my near perfect sweater back on the rack with plans to return and claim my treasure the next day.
I told myself that if I let the sweater go and it's still's meant to be, and that I must purchase it.
I finally got around to returning to the store Sun., 15 minutes before the store closed.
Of course, you know how this story ends. I wouldn't be lucky enough for the perfect sweater to STILL be there! I snoozed, I loozed. : (  It wasn't meant to be. I hope that the new owner of that sweater appreciates her beauty and perfect-ness. Sigh. I'm over it already. Really.
On a happier note, I managed to snag:  three colorful sheets (which will be used as fabric for some sewing apron, pajama bottoms), a small mirrored hat or scarf hanger, a cute pair of shoes for Noah, a lovely yellow and blue Sake bottle- or vase, and a reusable bag with Longfellow quotes.
The grand total spent: $3.34.

The mirror/scarf-hat-coat hanger needs to be cleaned up a bit. And I may paint it.
The multi-colored sheet/fabric says "I love you, I love your body." I think I'll make it into a fancy apron. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

February is Food Waste Reduction Month

I've been reading the Crunchy Chicken blog for a few months now, and I think Deanna is great. She challenges her readers to do all kinds of crazy stuff...the craziest being the Golden Showers garden which you use your pee to nourish your plants. I'm not kidding. She's done the research on this. There's also the Freeze Your Buns Off which you turn the thermostat way down. She has a naughty sense of humor, but a serious focus on the environment. Read her blog!
Anyways, I've not summoned the courage to join one of her challenges until now.

February is Food Waste Reduction month, which is pretty self-explanatory-
reduce the amount of food you waste.
I can do that. In fact, I'm cheating a bit here because I've been trying to reduce my food waste already.
I also have to give credit to Kristen at The Frugal Girl blog for first making me think about my food waste as a financial issue. She takes pics of her wasted food and posts it on Fridays. Read her blog too!
Not only do I want to reduce my food waste for thrifty reasons, I also want to reduce food waste for environmental reasons. Here's where Crunchy enlightened me. A bunch of food waste (50% edible!) sits in landfills giving off methane like a motha. Also, when you throw away your food, you waste energy...all the energy that it took to grow, harvest, transport, package that food.
I never really thought of it that way.
With this in mind, here's an example of what I did this week to reduce my food waste:
On Monday, I cooked a delicious (if I do say so myself) Veggie Chili for Meatless Monday. I made much more than needed for me, my husband, and 3 yr old. I put half of the leftover chili in the freezer. On Tuesday, I made Spaghetti Marinara...and acrued more leftovers in the fridge. On Wednesday, I made pizza dough from scratch and we enjoyed homeade pizza. On Thursday, I assembled an awesome Chili Pasta dinner out of the leftover chili (Monday), pasta (Tuesday), and mozzerella (Wednesday). And I will easily find something to do with my leftover marinara sauce...maybe throw in a few meatballs and make meatball subs.
I will tackle fresh produce and other perishibles in another post. Perhaps I'll take some pics of my waste (a la The Frugal Girl) on the way out to the compost pile. 
Anyone care to join me on this challenge? Anyone care to share creative ways that you reduce food waste? I'd love any help I can get!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kreativ Blogger Awards

I am honored that Catherine at The Vegan Good Life, (  has bestowed upon me a Kreativ Blogger Award! This is my first blog award, so it's pretty awesome to me. I don't blog with a particular focus, it's more of an ordinary rambling sort of cyber therapy, and a way to share photos and poems and projects and thoughts. I consider myself fortunate that anyone reads it at all...that means that I'm not alone...that there is some form of connection there. So to be recognized by a blogger I respect, in the company of other blogs that are meaningful, is a small victory to me. 

The way it works, see, is I will now divulge 7 things about myself that you may not already be aware of, and then I'll  pay it forward to 7 other creative bloggers.

7 things, without further ado:

1)  I have trouble making up my mind with certitude on many issues. You may call that 'indecisive.' I consider it a positive trait- I am open to unfolding possibilities and ever-changing viewpoints. I do have some ground beneath my feet, however, but I'm willing to ponder whether that ground is solid or imaginary.

2) I had to look up the word 'certitude' just now, to make sure it exsists and that I spelled it correctly. And I'm not sure if I used it properly in that sentence anyway.

3) I am currently on a personal quest to try to keep my mind and spirit fresh and childlike. I challenge myself to learn new things, pick up skills, take myself out of my comfort zone, have adventures, experiment, and listen. Because I'm taking risks, it can be stressful and scary, and I often fail. But I'm enjoying the ride!

4) My son Noah (3), and I play Monster Games daily. They consist of me hiding behind a door or under the covers, and Noah stomping through the house chanting menacingly, "Fee fi fo fum...I smell the blood of an English mum!" When he finds me, I have to squeal and flee. Then he hides and I pretend that I don't know where he's hiding even though it's usually painfully obvious.

5) I'm very interested in homesteading, farming, becoming a pioneer lady. Yet, I am more drawn to the conveniences of urban life, the complexities of people, the rich diversity and cultural opportunities of the city.

6) I'm a Zumba-holic. Can't get enough of that booty-shaking and those life-affirming rhythms. In my mind, Zumba is gallantly fighting off the doldrums of an enduring winter.

7) I try very hard not to stalk my friends on no avail. I'm just so fascinated by people and this phenomenon of revealing bits and pieces, statuses, and I can't help but read between the lines and psychoanalyze everyone.

Now I pay it forward. Here are 7 blogs that I deem noteworthy.

1) The Crunchy Chicken  at . Deanna puts the mental in environmental, for sure! And that results in irreverent greatness.

2) Jane, at Spain Daily, , inspires me with her photos and wit.

3) The lovely other-worldly-ness over at Isle Dance, .

4) Fantastic recipes by the Chubby Vegetarian, .

5) Ashley at Small Measure is awesome, .

6) The Frugal Girl, Kristen,, has much wisdom.

7) Heather over at Dooce, makes me laugh so hard, I had to include her. .

These blogs have a great number of followers already. That's because they are pretty darn cool, and if you haven't checked them out yet- YOU SHOULD! And tell them Mad on a Gray Sea sent you...and they will not have a clue what you're talking about!

Gray Sea

Gray Sea