Sunday, January 28, 2007


We're having friends over for lunch today, which means I get to splurge just a wee bit on the food budget. I'm serving a frugal muffin and soup main course, but the big to-do is the feta walnut pate I'll serve beforehand. I picked up the feta and fresh parsley, then headed for the cracker aisle. I've been trying to avoid buying snacky things, so it's been awhile since I've perused there. I was shocked at how expensive organic crackers were. There were a few conventional brands that were $3-$4 a box, but the organic crackers were $6 and up. With our frugal cooking lately, even $3 seems like a lot to spend on one item. My neighbor gave us some crackers a while back. She had made them while experimenting with different recipes to accomodate her daughters many allergies. I decided to give it a try myself.

I found a simple recipe on This is a nice recipe website because you can read reviews by other users and see what modifications they made to the recipe. It's a very simple starter, and I decided to make them straight up this first time around. The dough is made from:
  • 1 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
It's a very easy dough to work with. Once the dough is formed you roll it to approximately 1/8" thick. For the first batch, I laid a piece of parchment paper over my rolled out dough, and used a pizza cutter to make straight edges and trim the dough to fit the baking sheet. (The recipe instructions call for an ungreased cookie sheet, but I love my parchment paper!) I also used the pizza cutter to mark the lines for the crackers. You score the dough, but don't cut all the way through. Next use a fork to pierce a few vents into each cracker. Bake the crackers at 350 for 15-20 minutes. (About 18 minutes worked for me.) While my first batch was baking, I collected and rolled out the trimmings from my first batch to make a second batch. For this one I left the edges ragged so as not to waste any of the dough. My second batch turned out crispier. I think I may have gotten them a bit thinner with less dough to work with, so next time I'll probably seperate the dough into two before rolling it out. These are a very basic cracker, perfect for highlighting the intense flavor of the pate. They are also a great springboard for making any variety of crackers. You could try adding dried herbs, parmesan, cracked pepper, paprika, or any number of flavors. This box-worth of crackers probably cost less than $1 to make, and was quite simple. I may never buy crackers again!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Groovy Green

I'm pleased to share with my lovely readers that Beo and I have been invited to be Contributors at Groovy Green is a great Environmental site that is both an on-line magazine and a blog, and has great features such as videos and links to other Eco-blogs. Beo has already had two articles on the 'zine side of their site, and we've both had a few posts on the blog side. Check out the homepage,, to see Beo's articles on our side business, "Someday Gardens", as well as his tale of convering from sports car to hybrid, which you may have caught in it's first form on his blog. So far I've stuck to former EcoMama blog posts and new Environmental news, like Pelosi's charge against global warming. I hope you'll check out the site and watch for an upcoming article I've written on how doing one small thing can make a big difference in the world.

Curry Nights

Winter has finally gotten some bluster to it, and it's been cold and snowy. Last night I decided that after weeks of having soup as our staple, it was time for a good curry. Curry in winter is comfort food akin to the Tian that is Beo's favorite-savory, rich, and nourishing. Since it's relatively new to my foodie repetoire, I hadn't thought of this before. I also realized that a curry is a great frugal dish for using up the last of those veggies too. A curry can take in almost anything and meld it through the wonderful array of spices that seep into the tomato "gravy". Last night's curry included cauliflower. I've been buying big heads of cauliflower and using half to make Tian, then blanching and freezing the rest. In addition, I used the last of some fresh spinach, and a can of chick peas. Instead of brown rice, I served it with whole wheat cous cous, of which we had an overstock in the pantry. Beo and I both agreed that the cous cous was probably better than rice, really soaking up all of the wonderful juices and not interfering with the just-right texture of the curry. If you feel like cooking up a curry with what you have on hand tonight, but don't know how see my original post on making a gravy curry. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"Bruin" the Hound

Last week Ruben turned three. It was his first birthday off the tracks and out of the kennels. A lot of people think that greyhounds get spoiled after their retirement, but it's just not true. His life here hasn't been a cake walk at all. For one thing, he's hardly allowed on any furniture.
Okay, maybe the bed but NOT the pillows.
Allright, fine, the pillows, but lets keep the couch nice for company.

After a hard life on the tracks, he deserves it. Even the organic dog treats from the local doggie bakery! He's been a great dog. He's learned to be super gentle with the kids, he has the rare quality of being a "watch hound", and he's obviously made the life of Kamey (our older hound) complete. For more information about greyhounds, check out your local chapter of Greyhound Pets of America. Happy Birthday, Ruben, our big bear-"Bruin"!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tough Talk-Shopping Addictions

I've mentioned my love of kids clothes in the past. I probably haven't been real candid about how out of control that "love" has gotten in the past. It's not real fun to talk about, but here goes.
A couple of years ago, I truly became a shopping addict, going way out my comfort zone in terms of what I was buying and how much I was spending. I spent a couple thousand dollars on a big name brand clothing company, buying clothes that didn't fit our lifestyle from a company I didn't want to support. This wasn't "me" at all. I always swore that my kids would wear plain t-shirts, hand tie-dyed of course, and hand-me-down jeans. By the time I realized how bad I'd gotten, Bird had over 30 outfits. Halfway through my "recovery", Beo walked into Bird's closet, saw her nine pairs of shoes, and got more serious about my problem. I know he worried about me, but with me being in control of the finances, and having all sorts of great justifications, I'm sure he felt reluctant to get too wrapped up in it.

What is it that made me so crazy about these clothes? It was so out of control. Sometimes when there was a big sale rumored, I'd drive over 100 miles to hit both store in our area. I would buy something, then end up feeling terrible about it, and sell it in a storm of guilt. For a while, I made myself feel better by looking at how I wasn't as bad as "the others". In one of my online recovery groups there were women hiding huge boxes of clothes in their attics, lying to their husbands, secretly spending savings and maxing out credit cards, and even going into bankrupcy, all for these clothes. We talked about how having our kids so well dressed somehow validated our lives as Stay-at-Home-Moms. There were work-for-pay Moms too though, and I think they thought the same thing-that having well dressed kids meant that they were good Moms even though they couldn't stay-at-home. There may have been some of that "Good Mom" validation for me, but I think a big part of it was that I just plain loved the clothes, and how good the kids looked in them. I loved getting something lovely and new in the mail, washing it, hanging it in the closet. I loved going through the many outfits. At the core though, it wasn't healthy. I think it's okay to have a guilty pleasure, but when it starts making you compromise your values, live outside your means, and make questionable judgements, it's time to step back. A lot of times I'd catch myself shopping when I was going through a depressed period, or stress. Buying something made me feel better. Finally, about this time last year, I got fed up with myself and called it quits. I've only made one purchase from "them" since. That doesn't mean it's been smooth sailing though.

I switched my loyalty to a company I believed in, which was a good start. Hanna Andersson is a wonderful company-dedicated to social responsiblity. They believe in being environmentally conscious, and offer organic clothing options as well as Eco-Tex clothing. It's been tough for me not to let the allure of supporting a company I believe in get me back into my old buying habits. I'm definitely improving, in 2006 spending about 1/3 of what I did the previous year, but I'd like to do even better. I've vowed to get half of this years clothes second-hand, returning to my environmental values. I've set a strict budget for myself, allowing myself $40 a month for kids clothes, plus whatever I can get for resale values on last years clothes. To you, it might sound like plenty. To me, I feel like it's barely enough. Today when I noticed that Sprout had outgrown yet another pair of shoes, I immediately thought to order another pair. I had to stop myself to remind myself that one pair of shoes could be enough. As I go through the kids clothes for Spring, I have to ask Beo for help in decision making at every turn, because I'm so scared of making a wrong turn. So far though, I've done well. We're getting ahead instead of behind on our budget goals, and I've resisted many a siren call.

The whole shebang is so unlike me. Some of our friends laughed when I told them about it, back when I decided to get control of the worst of the habits. It's not just that it seemed ridiculous to them that someone like me would get actually "addicted" to something like this. To people who have never felt the compulsion, or the rush of shopping, it's virtually impossible to understand. It's hard for me to admit to all of this. I feel downright ashamed to have let myself get sucked in to something that is so contrary to my values, that feels so superficial. Ultimately though, I have to face my issues to deal with them, so here I am coming out of the closet. I took this picture of Bird's closet to show my recovery board how far I'd come, and how proud I was of how much I had "purged". A year later, the closet is about half as full. I don't want my kids to grow up thinking that they have to have dozens of outfits to be happy. I don't want them to think that that's normal. I want them to feel blessed that they have enough, but I don't want them to feel entitled to more than they need.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Homemade Veggie Broth

For a year now I've been making my own veggie broth. Not from any recipe, mind you, but in the most frugal way possible. We are composters here at the EcoMama-Beo household, but our veggie trimmings get another life before worm food. It's all quite simple. All of my veggies get a quick rinse before I start peeling, chopping, dicing, or shredding. (Yes, even good organic produce needs washing, folks!) Any good bits that are left over get thrown into a Ziploc bag that I keep in the freezer. Garlic bulb ends, onion trimmings, the outer leaves of cabbage, the ends of mushrooms, carrot peelings, root vegetable greens, celery leaves- it all goes in. Nothing moldy or particularly icky, but I will throw in the occasional handful of spinach that's become a bit too wilted for salad, or a few pieces of limp celery. When the bag gets full, I dump it all into a pot. I use my pasta pot that has a built-in, removable collander. This makes the end stage particularly easy. The veggies get covered with filtered water, and you bring the lot to a healthy simmer. I add in whatever herbs we have in plenty. Today it was a big handful of frostbitten thyme and a few bay leaves. Now I've had some parsnipy or cabbageful batches that didn't smell too pretty, but today I had a great mix. After simmering for about an hour, the house smelled heavenly. I turned off the burner and let it steep a bit longer. Then I pulled out the collander of veggies, and poured the resulting broth through a strainer and into bowls to cool. The remaining veggie trimmings can of course be composted. You can add salt if you wish, but I choose not to since I can add it later in the cooking process if need be.

This gives me 6 quarts of fabulously rich, tasty organic veggie broth. We go through a lot between soup, rice, etc. in our veggie household. The equivalent Whole Foods 365 Organic Vegetable Broth is about $2/quart. With this home method, I rarely have to purchase any broth at all--a big improvement over the 3 quarts I used to buy on each grocery trip. Every little bit counts!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bread and Jam

I'm offering a rare glimpse of my little ones today, just because you all deserve a glimpse of Sprout and Bird's amazing spirit! This was taken while they helped Beo make bread. Today Bird announced that she is changing her career goal from "Train Driver" to "Veterinarian". Maybe she'll be a composer though...

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Frugalfied Fridge

Leftovers for lunch, ravioli for dinner with the last of the roasted squash, roasted root vegetables with the rest of the baby taters and half of the remaining beets. That pretty well cleaned us out. I have some milk, soymilk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, apples, and a bit of leftover stir fry, hummus, and lentil soup. My only veggies are about 2 cups of fresh spinach, 2 onions, and 2 bulbs of garlic. I don't think I've had that few veggies in my fridge since we moved here. Other than that it's just our drawer full of nuts and grains, and some condiments. Tomorrow will be a grocery run, but I'll be much more mindful in my choices after these few days of lessons.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Creative Pantry Cleaning

Well, the Beo-EcoMama household is recovering, slowly but surely. Many thanks to all who sent well-wishes. When we first started getting sick, Beo headed off to Whole Foods to stock up before the plague struck him down as well. I was flabbergasted by how much food he brought home. He doesn't often do such big stock ups on his own. We're talking over 40 pounds of flour, over a dozen huge carrots, three bags of apples--you get the picture. Earlier this week I realized that we hadn't been on a real grocery run in over 10 days. Beo had picked up a few things here and there on his way home from work, but just bare minimum stuff. My knee jerk reaction was to summon up the energy to do a big shop. Realizing that I couldn't possibly summon enough, I decided to get creative with what was left. I turned to the Veggie Board and was thrilled with the ideas they came up with, which ended up inspiring me to do something entirely different. Last night I started with tortillas, rice, tomato sauce, onions, a wilted pepper, frozen corn and some frozen tofu. By the time I was done we had veggie fajitas and spanish rice--a meal we haven't had in ages. I really enjoyed the challenge to break out of the recipe ruts I fall into, and to use up the last bits of what we have around. So, I decided to see how far we could go. Tonight I took a half package of wonton wrappers (left over from ravioli) two carrots that needed to be used up, some ginger, onion, and a package of cream cheese left over from the cream cheese frosting and made "Carrot Rangoon". I used leftover rice, eggs, a bit of onion, and frozen peas to do a veggie fried rice. It made a fabulous meal. None of this was from recipes, it was all improv. A lot of this stuff would have gone to waste because it would have gotten stuck in the back of the fridge until it went bad. It feels good to be creative, frugal, and foodie at the same time. We're getting down to the last of the veggies and fruit, but I think I can make one more meal out of it, making it two full weeks since we did any grocery shopping. Even with the gigantic nature of our last trip, this is still pretty astounding for our family. I'm hoping to stock up only on fruit, veggies, eggs, and milk/soymilk on our next trip, and see just how far I can stretch the pantry next week.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Little Sprout is 5!

My Little Sprout turned Five today. Five years ago, Five seemed so far away, and so big! Thank goodness that somehow time manages to move us right along with them. He really is a big kid though, so polite, so smart, and such a charmer. Everyone who wished Sprout a Happy Birthday today got a "Happy Birthday!" right back! Unfortunately he didn't have many visitors today, due to getting his first ear infection one day shy of his first birthday.
This was a result of 5 days of this terrible, horrible virus we all have this week (with the exception of Beo-stay strong!). Tonight I finally caved and went to urgent care. I have a sinus infection and bronchitis and appear to be fighting off pneumonia. Tonight I completely lost my voice--completely. I have codiene in me now and am looking forward to passing out. Note: Forgive my slow blog, but it's going to be slow for a while yet. At least it's not a video blog. I'd have to hold up cue cards or something!
With what we had to work with, it was a darn good day. We even had a Carrotosaurus Cake. (Yes, I know it kind of looks like DinoMummy, but though I managed to make a cake from scratch, I didn't have the energy to decorate with the five different tips that the Wilton instructions prescribed!) I do not know why, but Sprout, the notoriusly picky eater requests carrot cakes for his birthday. I think it might just be the cream cheese frosting. My Little One turned five and I survived!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Good Food

I've been reflecting on how I came to be a foodie as well as my weight loss success, and I've finally realized that the two are intertwined. The two are not mutually exclusive, and have their own roots, but they ended up working together. I was leaning towards a love of good food before, and my interest in eating more locally and even more whole and organic foods was the foundation for my inner Foodie. My weight loss would have been impossible without my determination and desire to succeed. As I was talking to my Mom tonight I made the connection. When I realized that I had to eat less food, and had to really slow down and enjoy the food that I could eat, I started putting more time and energy into making sure that that food was the best it could be. It needed to be delicious, appealing, and also healthy and nutrient packed so that I could maximize its benefits. I think my love of well prepared good whole foods, and willingness to learn how to and take time to prepare those foods on my own, is actually what helped me achieve the weight loss and maintain it. I think that both my love of good food and my health will continue to support eachother as I continue to move forward. It makes me wonder what America's health could look like if the slow and local food movements could gain more momentum and popularity in the population at large. (No pun intended.) I plan to keep this in mind as I keep exploring the difference I can make.