Saturday, December 31, 2011

Resolutions Review

New Year's Day is right up there with April Fool's Day for me as far as holidays are concerned.  It's one of the best days ever.  Any holiday that celebrates a fresh start, resolutions to do better, and black eyed peas is definitely my kind of day.  New Year's Eve is almost as good- I spend it preparing for my fresh start (If there's anything I love more than doing something, it's planning to do something).

Today I started the day with waffles (I'm still on a breakfast honeymoon with my new waffle maker) and some serious budget evaluating.  I've been pretty lax with my budget lately, with Christmas presents, a new stove, a trip to Chicago (Jay-Z and Kanye!) and a Groupon-induced eyeglasses purchase.  So it's time to get back on track.  Instead of using Quicken to plot my budget based on what I'd like to spend on each category, I started plotting this year's budget based on what I've actually spent on each category- and then making a few adjustments.  I think this will be much more reasonable and set me up for success, rather than failure. And overall for the year, I didn't do so bad.

Now for a review of last year's resolutions:
1.  Do not put off a task that takes <5 minutes to complete.
   While I didn't stick with this 100% of the time, it really is nice to not have little tasks nagging in the back of my mind.  This means I bring in all the stuff from the car when I get home (instead of saying, "I'll grab that bag of cat litter later") and I bring all the dirty dishes to the sink each night.  I water the plants when I think about it, instead of waiting to do it later (because I won't and I have the dead plants to prove it).

2.  Choose when to watch TV.  Don't make it the default.
    This one is more about being conscious of when I really WANT to watch a program and not just flipping on the TV instead of doing something better.  I've done pretty good with choosing which shows I really want to watch and only watching those.  Granted, with awesome programs like Modern Family, House, CSI, Glee, New Girl and Parks and Rec...I'm still watching TV every night.  But I'm okay with that.  They make me happy!

3.  Go to the library more
    I rocked this resolution until fall.  What happened?!?!  I must return to the library soon, if only to return the book on food in colonial America that is waaaaayyyy overdue.  Reading usually comes in binge form for me- Either I'm living my life, or I'm reading.  If I'm reading, only going to work or finishing the book can get me to stop.

4.  Don't let thriftiness become deprivation
    In 2008-2009 I might have been so into budgeting and DIY mentality that I started to get a little obsessive. Sure- It was fun to not allow myself to buy bread for a year, just to see if I could keep up with baking it weekly. all fun obsessions, it needed to be tempered with moderation.  So I spent money on conveniences this year. Guess what?  I was still just as busy.

5.  Have $_______ saved by next year.
    Well, I'm just a bit short of my goal.  Not much, though!  For this resolution/goal, I largely have my awesome job and Quicken to thank.  Oh, and automatic transfers.

6.  Make the door to our home a forcefield of happiness.
   I have a little problem with transitioning from work to home.  "Business Liz" sometimes gets through the front door, ready to get things done and check things off the list.  Anything/anyone who gets in the way is a frustration. But this year I've been consciously working on using my drive home to breathe deeply and become "family time Liz".  She likes to dance with the cats and wear sweatpants- This is much more conducive to happy family times.

7.  Mid-Year addition: Exercise for mental health, not for physical health.
   I hate New Year's resolutions related to weight/body stuff.  I hate the idea of them and all that goes along with them.  But I have realized that unless I move my body every day, my mental health suffers greatly. I become much more anxious, moody and all-around not who I want to be when I don't exercise frequently.  The trouble is, I've always used body-related motivations to get myself to the gym/yoga/walking the dog.  Those are so easy to dismiss, though, because I can easily rationalize that skipping the gym a few days won't give me wobbly triceps.  Instead, I focus on making my attitude better every day by exercising.  Now I actually WANT to!

So what's in store for this year???  I still have to finalize my 2012 list.  Read up tomorrow if you're into this sort of thing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


I'm giddy with excitement right now because Mike got me a waffle maker for Christmas. And because my first waffle turned out perfectly!

I'm already plotting all the variations I'll make- savory waffles are up next, then I need to get some gluten free waffles for the gift-giver.

Only trouble? We're almost out of syrup. I'm hoping for a Hannukah-esque Christmas miracle where the syrup lasts for days (until the co-op is open again).

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies

These cookies are nothing new- I think everyone has had the classic "no bake chocolate peanut butter oatmeal cookies", right?

But today I got wild and crazy in the kitchen and busted out some almond butter instead of pb. Results? Just as delicious as the original. Surprisingly, not better.

Here's my advice for anyone else who tries this: most of the recipes out there for these cookies assume you're using salted nut butters, so add a pinch to the mix if you're using pure nut butter! It's absolutely necessary.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meemaw's Potato Soup

It's a rainy night tonight. My Meemaw is in hospice care and is likely to pass away very soon. I can't really think of anything more appropriate to make for dinner tonight than Meemaw's potato soup.

It's the simplest recipe ever, but also the most comforting. I remember eating this soup when I was sick, and when I had my wisdom teeth removed. You'd think those wouldn't be fond memories... But the soup made everything better!

Potato Soup
Peel and cube 4-6 medium potatoes. Place in heavy pan with lid and cover (just barely) with water. Add one stick of margarine (non-hydrogenated, my addition) and 1 tsp salt and cook until tender and mushy. Mash lightly until broth is thick. Add about 3/4 cup milk (I use almond milk) and heat just to boiling point. Black pepper may be added.

I know, I know. Peel the potatoes? What about the missing fiber? A stick of margarine? What about all that fat? Just do it, people. This is comfort food from my Meemaw.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Pan fried black pepper tofu, rice noodles, raw cabbage, carrots, green onions and cilantro. Can't write more because I need to eat this.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

This is Why I'm Cold

Even though it's cold outside, I still like to eat summery foods in the winter sometimes.  For some reason I've craved both cold pasta salad and cold tempeh salad during the coldest days so far this season!

Perhaps it's because my tempeh salad is the best thing ever? (and I'm so modest, too)

I just take a package of tempeh (I prefer the Lightlife garden veggie variety for the colorful flecks of veggies and the celery seeds incorporated), roughly chop it, and steam it for a few minutes.  Maybe five?  Then set aside to cool and chop it more finely once it's cool enough to handle.

Finely mince a few tablespoons of sweet onion and a couple stalks of celery.  Drop those into a bowl with about 1/4 cup of Veganaise or Earth Balance mayo.  Add a hefty pinch of fresh or dried dill and a little splash of white wine vinegar.  Then toast up some sliced almonds.  Combine the mayo/veggie mixture, almonds and cooled tempeh in a bowl.  If you happen to have any pickled onions in the canning pantry, this is the time to bust them out.  Just a couple of minced, pickled pearl onions will really make this special.  I almost always round out the flavors with a splash of tamari- it helps this salad mimic the flavors of a chicken salad, but waaaay better.

I like to serve this with some organic Triscuit-style or Wheat Thin-style crackers from the co-op.  And if you have any leftovers, it gets even better the second day!

Friday, December 9, 2011

This is Why I'm Hot

Now that some snow has fallen and the garden is done for the year (except for a bit of kale I'm still pulling out), it's nice to look back at things that make me warm.  Like chiles. 

I went for variety over bulk quantity in the 2011 garden- I had purple jalapenos, regular jalapenos, cayenne chiles, tabasco chiles, Wisconsin lakes sweet peppers, mini chocolate bells, and a few more that I forgot to write down.  On the day I pulled the last of them out, I tucked them in the fridge to use up in various dishes... But a couple of weeks later I was still left with about a pound of various types and colors of chiles.  

The perfect recipe for this situation?  Tigress in a Pickle's "Hot Damn Chile Pickle".  You can use any chiles and don't have to de-seed them or anything.  Just remove the stems and roughly chop (or food process) them. You should, however, wear gloves!  

I tasted this the night I made it (easily two months ago) and it was so fire-y I couldn't even tolerate a drop of the oil on my tongue.  Now, after some time to mellow, the flavors are spectacular and not nearly as abrasive.  Keep in mind, though, that "mellow" is a relative term here.  It's still crazy, crazy hot.  But edible now.

Last night I busted this stuff out with some brown rice, mustard greens and tempeh.  I didn't season anything at all, except for a dash of Bragg's aminos and a DAB of this chile relish.  And it was spectacular.  I have a feeling this is going to be a popular condiment for me this winter!

***Note: you might be alarmed to see garlic and chiles preserved in oil.  Normally this is a no-no for canning and preserving since garden produce, and garlic in particular, can easily have clostridium botulinum spores on them and sealing them underneath oil can form an air-free (anaerobic) environment where the botulism toxin could grow.  That's why it is SO important that this recipe contains vinegar.  I know the recipe isn't canned and you might not even think to worry about botulism and vinegar ratios since it isn't canned.  But the clostridium botulinum bacteria can grow anywhere that is a pH over 4.6 and has low or no oxygen.  So don't can this recipe and don't skimp on the vinegar.  And keep it refrigerated!