Friday, April 30, 2010

Selfish Me = Green Me. How'd that happen?

According to Cocoa, even if you don't buy into "going green", there are perfectly selfish things you can do to fake it.

Last week we had Earth Day and there was a lot of hubub over it. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the planet but I think people end up penny-wise pound foolish and throw out all the stuff they already have and replace it with "green" stuff and that kind of defeats the purpose, no? So, here's green advice from Cocoa Bean - repurpose the stuff you already own and quit filling up the landfills. It'll save you $ and the Earth.

Here are several examples of things I've personally done to save $$$, which in turn save energy, resources and make my green friends proud of me:

Reuse containers that my food comes in from the store

I always opt for glass over plastic and aluminum cans due to the chemicals that leech into the food.  So, once you eat whatever is in the jar (pasta sauce, salsa, pickles) throw it in the dishwasher, lids too!

Sometimes the jars are especially pretty so I use them as drinking glasses or storage containers around the house (pencil holders, candy dishes, crayons, small toys etc). They can be decorated for fun kid's projects too!

I like to drink out of quart sized ones when I'm at home to help me get enough water during the day. They are good to store leftovers, carry cat food and water when traveling. And keep rewashing them!

I get food in plastic sometimes, simply because they are cheaper or don't come in glass.  I tend to wash the plastic containers and reuse them ONCE but never cook in them!  I'm freaked out by the leeching chemicals that come out of plastic, but I also enjoy the anti-breaking properties and convenience.

I have been known to pack leftovers for lunch at work and then toss the container when I'm done. The recycling bins don't accept anything dirty, of course, so by virtue of being originally intended to be disposable, into the trash they go.

Mostly, I use them for feeding my cat in the kitchen or from the table. I always drain tuna or salmon into a plastic dish for my kitty rather than sending it down the drain.  It's a nice treat for her and if it happens to have some fish oil, it really helps her health too! Then, the dish goes in the trash for easy cleanup.
I, personally, do not feed her from the table.  I try to teach her to be polite and if I'm at the table I don't want to share. But, I have guests who like to give her "treats" so I try to throw a plastic lid or dish on the floor so I don't have to clean up saucey sticky stuff off my floor all the time.

These plastic dishes can also be nice for toting treats to work so you don't care if they disappear. It's a little less embarrassing if you can get the labels off and co workers won't wonder if you washed out all the salsa before you put their cupcake in it too.

If you get some little ones or perfectly shaped ones, they can be good for corralling stuff in your bags. I have jars from a mini jelly sampler I got years ago. They are the perfect size to carry a few tums and vitamins - bonus the lids screw on securely.  Luv them!

My main thought is that it saves $ because you don't have to buy special containers to be thrown away, use what you already paid for. Be creative! And remember the glass can be recycled most easily and won't leech chemicals or minerals into your food.

Keep my thermometer set to control utility $

I'm so thrifty when it comes to the temperature of my house.  I have a thermostat that I can schedule different times of the day.  In the winter, I set it to 65 when I'm home, 60 when I'm not (my cat wears fur and sleeps in a blanket all day anyway).  In the summer it is 78 most of the time and 72 overnight (I can't sleep when it's too hot).  I take full advantage of open windows in the summer to not only keep the utilities down but it also airs everything out from winter.
My theory is to wear layers.  Have snuggly slippers and clothes in the winter and go ahead and strip down to your strappiest tanks and shorts in the summer. Especially if I'm at home, who really cares what I'm dressed like?

Shop online for deals, then go purchase them
Almost every store has a website and publishes their ads online.  You can download coupons for almost anything too.
When I'm planning a purchase, I always look on line first. It saves gas from driving from store to store looking for the best price and then back to the store you started with and driving = $ + pollution + time wasted.
When you think about it, you might spend just as much in gas and wear on your car as you are saving on those items, not to mention what your time is worth!

The bonus is when I find it online, cheapest and with free or really cheap shipping. Having it delivered is also green because those companies, like USPS, UPS and FEDEX have designed the most efficient routes possible so you know there's as little transportation waste there as can be.

Taking my own bag to the store & asking for paper

I luv the little produce bags you get at the store, I always use them because they are perfect for cleaning my cat box. I save $$ on never buying box liners or bags. But, I have been known to take a large tote bag to put stuff in instead of the plastic shopping bags they provide. My favorite is a black nylon bag I got free with purchase from Victoria's Secret because it folds up pocket-thin but it's huge and the material is so strong!

Why do I take a bag? Because I hate those plastic bags!  It never fails: the handles break, the bag breaks because a box in it sliced down the side without you noticing and bottom line, I have to throw them away and I hate taking out the trash.  They ALWAYS get holes at the seam, so they aren't good for anything else once you get them home but clutter and trash.

So, if I only have a few things to get I use my VS tote.  If I have a ton of things, I ask for paper bags - they are just more durable and useful.  They make for fantastic bathroom/bedroom trash by folding down the top you don't need a basket to hold them. You can use them to cool cookies on if they aren't dirty. And you can carry super secret stuff in them and no one knows it's not eggs and oranges! If they are ripped you can use them to draw on and make signs or put them by the door for dirty shoes (throw em away when they get too gross though!) and in your trunk to keep the floors clean. Lots of uses for paper bags :)

Use giftcard at Starbuck's to rack up some extra $$
Ok, so you can reload your giftcard online anytime (use your discover and get $ back).  If you register it you always get free soy milk, syrups and extra shots of espresso $$ and you always know how much is on it. Also, you can always decline a receipt and save some paper and trash for you. Online you can review your purchases if you need to.  Saves wear and tear on cash - less printing.

Went paperless with my bills and statements
Selfish reason: I hate filing and shredding and checking my mail every day.  Going paperless lets me save the stuff to my hard drive, back it up on an external drive or online and I never have to touch paper or shred stuff to keep my identity safe. Yeaaay! Plus, by law financial institutions have to maintain records, so you can always request it from them later if you want to.
Green reason: Duh! Less deforestation, fewer chemicals used in the paper process, less garbage to shovel and I'm sure there's more.

Let the house be dark-ish
Goes back to the utility $ but there's the green - using less energy thing here too.
I figure that the only place I need great light is where I read and do my makeup so, I have lots of light in my powder room, I read when the sun is up and let the rest of my house have this wonderfully flattering candlelight feel to it.  A single lamp in the living room, a single lamp in the den and a single lamp in the bedroom - just enough light so you don't run into anything. No one will ever notice the dark circles under my eyes or the giant zit sprouting on my forehead, if that ever might happen. Luckily it has not yet, ahem.

Don't watch TV
Not to say I don't have shows I watch, I just catch most of them on or other websites. Selfish me: less commercial time I have to endure. Green me: laptops use much less energy than a TV and TVs use power even when they are off so unplugging them can add up to significant $$. Laptops do not use power when they are off and how many people want to plug/unplug the TV every time they watch a show?

Anyone else have suggestions for me?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wrong parent, right cake

It was one of my parents' birthday so I made a blueberry cheesecake with a pecan chocolate crust.  Ok, so there were so many things that happened but at the end of the day there was none left so I don't feel bad at all!

First off, this is not one of my cheapie cheapie recipes, but it's cheaper than buying one out of the freezer or at a bakery.

Second off, I meant to use cherries on top so it would be *chocolate cherry cheesecake* and the angels would sing. But, I had a giant brain fart and dumped the bag of blueberries on top instead. So only the Saints sung.

Third, it is the other parent that loves cheesecake and this birthday parent would have rather had Betty Crocker's Yellow cake with strawberries and whipped cream on top. Oops! I haven't been able to tell them apart, maybe as far back as the first day I spoke - before that no one knew so they can't prove a thing! No, they don't look alike. Anyhoo!

Back to the cheesecake!

To prepare -  spray a glass pie pan with non-stick spray and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours, until it's really nice and cold. Leave it there until Step 2!
Buy cheesecake in a tub (Philadelphia brand is gluten free), a bag of frozen cherries or berries, a couple cups of pecans and a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Hopefully you have a pat of butter on hand - if not buy that too.

Step 1: The crust.
Use your Magic Bullet or food processor and chop up some pecans, pretty darn fine! I suggest about 2 cups of whole pecans. My first attempt was 10 seconds too long and I had pecan butter (which was really nummy beeteedub).
Dump in some semi sweet chocolate chips (like 1.5 cups) and a dab of butter.  Then, nuke em until they melt, stirring as needed. Measurements are estimated because it really depends on how thick you want the crust and how big your pan is. As long as it covers the bottom with no see-thru, it's fine.  More to push up the edges is good too!

Step 2:
Take your pie pan out of the fridge and pour in the crust. Use a silicone spatula sprayed lightly with non-stick spray to smooth it on the bottom and up the sides.

Put the pan back in the fridge until the crust is cold and solid.

Step 3: the filling:
Lick off the spatula I mean, rinse off the spatula or use a clean one to scoop out a tub of Philadelphia brand cheesecake filling from the tub and smooth it in the crust.

Then dump a bag of frozen cherries or blueberries, maybe a little of both, on the top. Cover and put it back in the fridge until you're ready to serve.

Step 4: Serving it
Be careful as you cut the crust. It will be easiest if you have a short thin knife as the crust is something like a candy bar and you don't want to crack it or mush up the cake.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The best black beans in the world

I made my quick black bean chili and it was gone before I had a chance to take an after picture.  As I was cutting up the onions into the pan my mom and dad dropped in. As soon as it was getting hot my dad, who claimed to have just eaten before they left, was asking how much longer it was going to be! I had to put him off for 6 minutes while I made some Minute Rice to go with it.

No sooner than I put the bowls on the table and turned around to take the picture, it was half gone.  So, you'll just have to imagine how good it looked on your own!  We also discovered that stirring in the rice makes it very burrito-bowly like you'd get at Chipotle. Whee!

Serves 4 - $2.33, 10 minutes

Here's the recipe:

1 can black beans $.56
1 can diced tomatoes & chiles $.46
1/2 medium onion $.50
2 small cloves of garlic (maybe $.05)
1 stalk celery $.07 - I can tell you this for sure because I bought it @ KS and that's what the receipt says.  I think it was $.69/pound
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Squash or tiny mince the garlic & dice the onion and celery fairly small
*optional* sautee them in a medium saucepan sprayed with non-stick spray or drizzled with olive oil until tender
2. Dump in beans and tomatoes and cook until hot
3. Serve with rice, cornbread or corn tortillas as you like.

I'm forever referring this to the magic bean chili! Enjoy! I know we did :)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Resuscitation please

Something happened that I never thought could – someone took the wind out of my sails and put a halt to my writing and to my passion to help other people.

This weekend, I was accused of going overboard with my “obsession with food” based on the fact that about 25% of my FaceBook and Twitter posts are about gluten free food or celiac topics and my blog is dedicated to my gluten free lifestyle. I was seriously taken aback and actually hesitated to post interesting things I came across and even to post to my blog! (in fairness my computer virus that killed lappie is mostly to blame for the bloglessness)

First, I thought, “Is this true? Am I in a bad place with food? Am I posting all my crazy on the Internet?” So I did my reality check and counted my posts, considered all the other people with gluten free blogs and asked the people I’m closest to, that would give me a brutally honest opinion.  The general poll results were that I actually rant more about work, politics and religion than I do about food.  That’s another story for another blog though!

It also looks like I’m in pretty good company since there are over  300 gluten free blogs that I could find with a quick Google search and I’m sure many more that are not titled “gluten free”.

So I hesitate to write about this, but just needed to put it out to the Universe and ask: Does anyone else get this kind of criticism and how do you cope?

I feel like we have to share with each other – it helps! When a clueless doctor tells a Celiac to eat Wonder bread instead of whole wheat or tells them they can only eat prepackaged gluten free certified foods that cost more than the mortgage, I’m glad for all the gf blogs and twitters to help them see it's not true! And I hope I’m one of them.
I’ve really spent too much time thinking about this particular criticism and need to get back to work! Help please!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Major disappointment at King Soopers

Bad King Soopers! Bad! I say. This week's sale ad said Amy's Pizzas 40% off.  I did my happy dance and got my butt to the store in a flash. Only to find...the gf ones were not on sale, just the regular poison ones. I could have cried.  Since I was there, I picked up some crack and $.88 shampoo though which soothed my wounds slightly.

Oh King Soopers! You have been good to me but since you gave me stinky meat and tricked me with your ads, the bloom is fading on our relationship.  The 10 cents off per gallon of gas you give me for every $100 I spend is useless to me too. The discount usually equals the regular price at the gas station on my block, and I've driven 4 miles of gas to get it.

I'm fickle, you have known that from the start.  I need gifts and sparkly trinkets to keep me coming back. Not lies and deception about my pizza that I have been craving so long!
Don't worry, I'll keep coming back. I love your lighting and I'm addicted to your background music but next time you trick me I'm going to cheat on you!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Take that Starbuck's! (don't worry I still luv ya)

Today's lesson: Make your own Soy Chai Latte for less than you can get one at Starbuck's and in one tenth of the time it takes to wait in line for it.

Step 1: Go to the store, buy Very Vanilla Silk $2.50 - $3. This is crucial - VERY VANILLA - the other types won't taste right, trust me. Also pick up a carton of Tazo Chai Concentrate liquid. I get organic because it costs the same $3 and I'm afraid of poison (pesticides = bug poison = bad for Cocoa).

Step 2: At home, fill a mug half full with chai, microwave for 1 minute, if you want hotter cook it 1 more minute but watch it so it doesn't boil over.

Step 3: Fill mug to the top with Silk.

Step 4: Drink immediately before it gets too cold.  It should be just the right temperature.

Wasn't that easy?
Yeah, I'll still get one at good ol Star's once in a while and I haven't figured out how to steam a proper latte yet.  But if they don't start stocking my gf cookies consistently, I'm going to take a barista class and invest in some super cute travel coffee mugs that are microwave safe.
That aint an empty threat. Do you hear me Starbuck's? Stock my Lucy's cookies in cinnamon please.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

whew! meat free!

I'm so glad to be done with the half of the cheap meat that I didn't freeze.  Yeah, 4 pounds of meat lasts a long time.  I managed to get my dad to eat about half a pound the first day but that left 3.5 pounds for me to eat - 4 days of leftovers and there's still 2 pounds in the freezer. I figure it will last for months frozen and next time I have company, I'll just whip it out, smother it in salsa and we'll have tacos till we can't walk anymore.  Until then, I'm meat free!
Today's meatfreeness is courtesy of leftover Quinoa pasta and Newman's Marinara with steamed zucchini. I'm just sayin' it was super tasty and I felt light and cheery all day after eating it. $1.50

Friday, April 16, 2010

Divine Spinach Salads

First off, I have to say I luv spinach salads because you can put anything on them or if you get a nice batch of baby spinach you can eat it plain.  Spinach is a magical food, full of almost every nutrient you need except for protein. It is surprisingly full of water, have you ever noticed how it cooks down to less than half of its volume in a matter of seconds? I luv cooked spinach too.  I'll add it to anything: fried eggs, frittattas, quiche, soups, smoothies, sautéed onions and garlic...the list is long.

So this week, in between doses of cheap meat leftovers I tossed in a spinach salad. I mixed in either parmesan or feta cheese, dried cranberries and balsamic vinegar.

Except for the one I drizzled on Catalina dressing. It was really good too.  Just what I needed to keep my taste buds happy.
So, if you're ever feeling dumpy or just hungry, grab a spinach salad and a copy of "Eat like a hot chick" and you'll see what keeps me so perky!

Tally it up: bagged salad $2, makes 3 salads; Ocean Spray cranberries, 6 oz bag $2.50, makes 6 salads; parmesean cheese $3.50 6 ounces, makes 6 salads; balsamic vinegar, negligible. Per salad: $1.66.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Until I get my tax refund...

Since I have not seen my tax refund yet,  I had a week full of leftover cheap meat and spinach salads.  Starting with pasta, I hoped that the sauce would hide the taste.  It didn't work, but it looked nice:
Then, I made tacos by dumping salsa in with the meat. 3 days in a row. Because the salsa worked at drowning out most of the taste of the meat and then covering it in cheese took care of the rest :)

I lost the pictures, but they looked a lot like this:

I also had a bag of popcorn one night for dinner because I can only eat so much leftover stew meat.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

So much closer to vegetarian!

I made this lovely beef stew and I'm so much closer to vegetarian because of it!

When I opened the packages of meat it was really odd to see the outsides of the pieces be red and the insides brown, shouldn't it be the other way?  Also it was so slimy, I used multiple paper towels to wipe the pieces off before I put them in the pot and half way though the smell started to gag me, literally! I was holding my breath and gagging, alternately.

I washed my hands half a dozen times, sanitized the kitchen with Lysol and still my fingers smelled like that meat. Cooking it to 180 degrees killed anything bad that was growing on it but the smell lingered in my nose for days.

Why do I bring up vegetarian though? Partly, because the only meat I prepare anymore is beef and apparently, if I don't get the $19/pound Angus, I'm going to end up with something that smells like rotting corpse (yes, I see the big duh there! go with me on it) and partly because vegetables never gag me.

Surprise, surprise! Raw meat gives me the heebies.  I'm not one of those people that can handle raw meat and continue cooking and figure they'll clean up everything afterwards.  No, I prepare everything else first, then handle the meat, wash my hands twice and then continue cooking.  Once it's all prepared, I sanitize the kitchen and say a little prayer.
There is a special shelf in the fridge for the raw meat and eggs - nothing else ever goes there.  It gets sanitized regularly too. P.S. I don't let anyone witness this OCD behaviour, further proving my guilt.

Being the logical person I am, I'm 90% of the way to being vegetarian anyway, so I think why not just jump all-in?  I'll tell you why, there's a little voice in the back of my head that thinks I won't get all the nutrients and amino acids I need if I don't eat meat.

4 pounds of meat $12, but not worth it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The chili I'll never eat again

Here is a picture of the chili I'll never have again and the quesadillas I made to go with it.

I don't know what it is about this chili, but it hates me or rather, my tummy hates it.  It's delicious.  This is actually one of the recipes from the F$ experiment that I really liked. I made a lot and froze some for later even though I wondered at the time if it might not have settled well.  During the F$ I had several days of not feeling well and could only chalk it up to trying several new things.  You might recall that as a result of the F$ I found out that I'm allergic to chicken (one of the culprits of my unwellness).

Well, leftover chili time came this week - twice.  And twice it upset my tummy, the second time so much that I was in pain and could barely move.  This is a perfect example of what I go through every couple weeks.  There is nothing in this chili that should make me ill.  No gluten, no chicken, nothing I can think of. Nonetheless, I cannot ever eat it again.

If you can though, I'd highly recommend it :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bob's Gluten Free Oats

I've been waiting a long time to try these oats and decided it would be best to when I didn't have anything planned that required leaving the house.  This week I was on vacation to accomplish a bunch of home projects, so it seemed like a good chance.

I miss lumpy oatmeal.  The slightly salty taste and the thick, warm chewy goodness with a sprinkling of brown sugar and a dab of butter.  Just thinking about it makes me happy. So, when I saw these oats in the store I got a little glowy.  They are grown in dedicated fields to avoid the cross contamination that happens with most oats which are grown in fields that are rotated with wheat.  They are also tested to make sure they are not contaminated. It sounds wonderful, no?

So, on Tuesday I cooked up a bunch of oats, tried some pumpkin seeds and a chili recipe.  For 2 days, I had tummy issues.  I was in so much pain it was all I could do to sit up.  So what was the culprit? The last time I had chili, it didn't settle well.  The pumpkin seeds have been questionable in the past. And of course, the oats were new and some celiacs can't tolerate them. These are the trials I go through all the time.

So, today I cooked up more oats to see if they are ok, since I have a couple short days left of my vacation. For some reason, I'm not able to make them lumpy, which makes me sad.  How do you make oatmeal lumps?

Verdict? The oats are all good.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Taxes and Hash Browns

Today is my tax day.  To prepare, I made a huge skillet of eggs and hash browns to fuel my brain.
There is something so good about scrambled eggs and hash browns ( ~$1) on a chilly day like today.  We continue to get snow in my neighborhood, which is a little unusual for April in Colorado!

Surprisingly, the taxes weren't so bad.  I used the free filing option on Turbotax and then filed CO online as well, for free. I was trying to figure out if I could take the deduction for gluten free foods related to Celiac disease.  Unfortunately, unless your dental and medical expenses add up to 7.5% of your income, you cannot deduct them.  Well, my entire food budget isn't 7% of my income so that made it a lot quicker.  In order to deduct your gf expenses you need to figure out the difference between the gf food prices and what you might have spent on non-gf versions.  That is a difficult task when you eat mostly vegetables, rice and meat - there's no difference. I suppose a person on minimum wage, eating all gf prepared foods might be eligible.

As a treat afterwards, I had a big mug of Silk Almond Milk.  It has a different, rich taste to it that takes a little getting used to. I would definitely recommend it to someone allergic to soy and dairy.  It was $2.50 at King Soopers.

Ahh, there's something so satisfying about getting everything done!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easter Dinner - I love you Mom!

My mom made the best Easter dinner. I can't believe I forgot to post it!
There was a ham (which tasted so good even though I shouldn't have eaten it), with pineapple rings, sugar snap peas and carrots, ice cream and deviled eggs!
I love deviled eggs, even though I don't like boiled eggs.  I guess if you put some mayo and mustard on them they magically transform into something delicious.

I also got a little basket with a bunny.  Her name is Hippity. Happy Easter everyone!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

I survived DEFCON 1 at work

Every 3 months at work we have what is so lovingly referred to as "end of quarter" and me, my boss and any other lucky member of the team that is in town, sit together in a conference room that is now known as the "war room".  These 2-3 weeks are at best fun, mostly dysfunctional and always running on DEFCON 1 stress levels.
As you can imagine, having 2 - 8 hyped up people in a room can lead to heated debates and low-brow humor fests. Yes, this is what I've been doing for the last 2 weeks.  Laughing at someone who was excited to join Facebook but in 3 months had only been friended once, by his sister (in fairness he was not engaging in FB). Arguing over whether we should enact trade embargoes on other countries and how the healthcare bill will affect each of us. And of course, cursing under our breath about the continuing salary freeze at our company and how the last week of the quarter was not the best time for the CEO to announce that, unless his goal is to have more people quit to lower expenses.

Well, that is all over now and I am taking the next week off to recuperate, recharge and overall just take some time to do things that have been piling up on my to-do list for 6 months. Ahh!

Beginning with  my very neglected blog.

During the past week, my dining has become very uninteresting, but I'll share anyway!

I started by putting some meat and a ton of veggies in the Crock Pot for soup.  And yes, I ate it every day at lunch for 6 days.

Breakfast has been whatever I could grab quick since I ran out of bananas and yogurt, there was no time to go to the store.  I discovered that lowfat cottage cheese and canned peaches make for a nice balanced breakfast.  I had the big tub of cottage cheese - so that got me through the week too.

Dinners were a little more creative, but still dull since I felt dull every night.  I had lovely spinach salads with hummus...
and fried potatoes with eggs.

I also discovered some dried fruit to snack on and I'm in luv with it. the mango is dipped in lime juice and satisfies both my sweet and the sour tooth!

So that was my culinary goodness last week.

This week, since I'm on vacation I'll be trying out a few more adventurous meals and sampling a few new things.  Mostly, I'll be remodeling my bathroom and adding ~ing to my life.