So, we are on this thing I’m calling the “new budget.” Which is exactly like the old budget, numerically speaking, but with the new twist of actually following it, even when it’s telling you something you don’t want to hear. It says ugly, mean things, things like, “You have $13 for groceries until the weekend and four mouths around that trendy Parsons table of yours, Lady.” And since I’ve yet to (and will likely never) learn to coupon, I have to put on my granny’s apron and get cozy at the stove.
We used to cook like this all the time– as recently as last summer, even– until we got busy with all of these (okay, TWO) kids and had to go out and earn money and blah blah blah we fell off the wagon and into the loving arms of the pizza place around the corner. And into the habit of just putting whatever our little hearts desire, la-de-dah, into our cart and putting our budget out of our hungry little minds.
But tonight! We took our $13 and Loaved and Fished that shit and came up with something so amazing and delicious it felt like it should have cost a lot more and been ordered from a menu somewhere. Which, funny you might ask, it actually does– the vegetarian joint around the corner serves a fab dish that inspired this one, and I dare say we made it even better for a fraction of the price.
Can I Get a Kale Yeah for Pintos?
- 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 medium-ish onion, sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bag chopped kale*
- olive oil
- lemon juice (just a few drops and totally optional)
- 1 block extra firm tofu
- Brown Rice – 4 servings prepared according to package
- Ranch Dressing
- Frank’s Hot Sauce
To make the tofu (skip this if you don’t like it):
Press the water out of your tofu block (use whatever method you love– I sit it on a cutting board next to the sink, prop one end up and set something heavy on top of it for about 15 minutes while the water drains out) and cut into thin slices. Pat with paper towel, brush with olive oil, add salt/ pepper to taste and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.
To make the rest:
- Cook the onions in olive oil over medium heat until they’re translucent; add the garlic and stir around for about a minute more.
- Add several handfuls of Kale– more than you think you should, because it’s going to cook down quite a bit.
- When the kale looks wilty, hit it with a few dashes of lemon juice if you have it, then a few pinches of salt… maybe 1/2 tsp or so? I don’t know, who measures salt?
- Add the beans and stir around for a couple of minutes.
- Add your baked tofu to the mix.
- In a little bowl, mix Frank’s and Ranch (=Franch) to your own spicy liking.
Plate the pintos over the rice, pour on the Franch, stir it around and pretend you paid $9 a plate.
*Usually I’m all for buying bunches of veggies / greens over the pre-bagged ones, but our Kroger had no kale bunches (the indisputable sign of our neighborhood’s healthy hipster infestation) so I bought the big bag of Glory Greens. I have SEEN THE LIGHT! Cutting and de-stemming kale is a bitch, and no matter how small you try to cut it, you always end up with a few meal-ruining giant chewy mouthfuls of too-big kale– whereas Glory takes away all of the pain and gives you perfectly bite-sized, curly green bits of green good. Worth it. Really. GLORY BE.
The first one, simple/ fresh/ delicious and still yum on day 2– though if you are going to carry over into lunch territory don’t mix the roasted cherry tomato mix in with the soup. Keep ’em separate and mix up bowl by bowl, ya dig?
And the second one, HOLY HELL elastic thread, first my enemy and now my friend. Pics and pattern review to come soon, maybe. The dress turned out nice and light and summery, just the right shape for my getting-bigger belly but also the right shape for my non-baby body. Versatile.
“Mama, ask me what I’m eating.”
“What are you eating?”
Estate sale and yard sale today. Bought about a third of a collection of the Sweet Pickles books for Bird, some “fancy dance” recital-type outfits, a sweater (for me), a small ceramic coyote* a whole mess of other crap, and a round table and 4 chairs. Which are in desperate need of a paint job and a little sanding but which will fit so much more comfortably in my kitchen than the big rectangle obstacle we currently use. I chose the kitchen set over a super awesome rocking chair, which was the same price and which I will probably always think about, dwelling on how freaking awesome it would look in the living room. And if not freaking awesome, at least freaking okay. Freaking better. All it needed was a simple cushion recover. Damn.
And really, the table will be very, very nice for us. I promise pictures.
* Bird says “cahita”
I have decided to think of the last week as a small vacation, where I was not productive anywhere in my work or home life, where I ate a lot of bullshit and used the “old shoes” excuse to keep my feet off the pavement. Well, welcome home! And still not getting new shoes! Bought ceramic wildlife and sequined leotards instead! Put down the baguette and run anyway!
Big dog ate 1/2 a can of chickpeas last night, right off the table when nobody was looking. And let me just say that whatever a bean overload can do for you, it can also do for your dog. Loudly.
So, the hummus. Here’s the recipe I used. Like the author, I found it to be over-olivey compared to the Bobbi’s (because you know I went out and got a tub to do a side-by-side taste test). Next time I’ll use a little less water and probably Safflower oil in place of the olive oil. (this time I used 2T olive oil and 4T canola). And I used pre-minced garlic instead of crushing a clove because I didn’t have any intact garlic handy. So that probably would have made a difference. But all in all, damn close. And if I hadn’t gone all perfectionist on this project, I could have fooled myself into believing it’s exactly the same. Considering that making it at home costs about $1.50, it’s close enough.
Something I actually said today walking home from daycare:
“We are not going to go back and put that poop in your bag. And I am done talking about it.”
Something that actually happened today:
Home appraisal for the Great Refinance of 2009. Felt super weird sitting on my couch pretending to read my new Vegetarian Times while the (very kind and fatherly) appraiser took a picture of the World’s Tiniest Bathroom, clunked down the basement steps, peered into the guestroom/ graveyard of bullshit. And after he left I realized the toilet lid was up, prominently displaying a nice big wad of TP (thanks, Bird) floating around in there, with maybe some… is that pee? Cheers! Thanks for checking out the house! Maybe the memory of the toilet paper floater will erase the memory of the plaster cracks and weird wet spot in the basement!
Something I’m wondering about:
How many pounds of chickpeas can one family eat in a year? Because seriously, we are chickpea-heavy for at least 3 meals a week, and one of which is always Mediterranean Night.* Do other veg families lean this hard on the bean?
Something I’m loving:
Veganomicon. OMG. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Even if you are a raging carnivore, this book has the potential to rock your world or at least your side dish reportoire. A. has developed an addiction to the chickpea cutlets, which we now make in double batches and freeze half for quick & easy deliciousness, though they never seem to stick around long. Tonight’s dinner: chickpea cutlet sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, avocado slices, Vegenaise, dijon mustard, red onion on homemade (thank you trusty little breadmaker) french baguette, served with roasted potatoes, onion, and asparagus. And yes, Bird will even eat a chickpea cutlet. This book is magical, I tell you.
Something that did not work:
We were on such a streak with Veganomicon that we branched out to try the Tempeh with broccoli and whole wheat rotini last night, which was under 45 minutes in prep and cook time as promised, but it was an intense 45 mintues. And the verdict? A. started out with, “yeah, I don’t know if we should make this again, it seemed pretty complicated.” and on to, “Maybe it would be better with a little more vinegar” to “I don’t think I’ll eat the leftovers, probably” to scraping the pot out into the garbage and saying, “That was disgusting.” Should have known by the tablespoon of fennel seeds. I hate fennel. And yet still remain a little shocked that I hated this dish. That’s how magic the V-con is. It romances you into thinking you might even like fennel in your tempeh, and you don’t hold a grudge when it’s gross.
*Mediterranean night = one tub of Bobbbi’s Your Favorite Hummus + homemade pita +red peppers, carrots, olives, red onion. One plate, almost no dirty dishes. WIN!
** OMGOMG tried to find a website for the very yummy and insanely garlicky Bobbi’s Hummus and came up emptyhanded. I buy it at Turnip Truck so go find it there. BUT! In my search, I ran across a random discussion board post that claims to be the Bobbi’s Recipe. I. do. not. jest. After tomorrow (when we are scheduled to have Mediterranean Night, so lookout vampires) I might be the most-seven-dollars-savin’-est mama in the ‘hood.
There’s been a lot going on around here. Tons of work, a little accomplishment, not much balance, more family loss, a sense of things totally falling apart (and also– weirdly– coming together), and really, not a minute of time to myself. A lot going on, for sure.
So instead of talking about any of that, I’d like to tell you about a sandwich– on homemade whole wheat with peanut butter, bananas, thin apple slices, a drizzle of honey and cinnamon, toasted–the very one we just ate on this gorgeous 65-degree Saturday in February.
And now, off to make: pita bread, a shopping list, a trip to the grocery, sense of everything.
So, after another trip to Urgent Care and many, many hours waiting to see a bona-fide opthamologist and a series of three waiting rooms full of elderly people with cataracts, my husband is fine, his sight has been restored, and the eye patch has been retired until the next ocular tragedy or costumed holiday, whichever comes first.
I’m still looking for the camera cable so I can share a photo or two. Our little catch-all office area is still a shambles but a more, uh, planned shambles, as we now have some actual piles of things that might really go together after we build the shelves we’ve promised ourselves. A. has separated all of “his” stuff from “my” stuff… editing and video and random cables and hard drives and nerds-only equipment over here, teeming piles of shit to be shredded, shit to be reviewed, shit to be paid, and general miscellaneous shit– oh, and the massive collection of daily finger paint masterpieces on thick construction paper–over there. Seeing as “my” computer doesn’t have internet, or electricity at the moment, I’m typing this on some kind of bozo keyboard that has editing symbols and colored keys instead of letters, and I must say I’m faring remarkably well. Mrs. Gibbs (high school typing teacher– we actually used typewriters. And corrective tape) would be proud of my mad blind typing skeels.
Anywho, just thought I’d share that I didn’t make bread this week and didn’t buy any either, and yet we have miraculously survived. I received my political bumper sticker of choice and continue to race home to check for my t-shirt daily, but alas, it does not arrive. I made a delicious thing from the October VT tonight that I didn’t expect to be quite so delicious, but hey, we were pleasantly surprised (served it over cous cous). Birdy has declared a tolerance for cous cous, and the new kid in her class at school seems to cause her mild stress by simply existing to this point without a working knowledge of the rules and culture of her beloved Red Building. I just spent an outrageous amount of money on 2 new dog beds and the big guy still insists on sleeping in his stinky old chair, which I have a desire to un-stink and about which he has a fierce re-stinking agenda. He is more underfoot than usual tonight, like the worst version of a needy, underfoot cat, if that cat weighed seventy pounds.
And another thing: I’m pregnant. You may know that already, because you know me outside of this blog or because I’ve not exactly been NOT hinting about it. We’re excited, we’re terrified, we’re freaking out about the cost of dueling childcare. We’re savoring the tail end of our three-pack days and preparing for a new life– both the literal human one that will keep us up all night and smell like a heavenly human biscuit, and the new life we’ll be navigating and fumbling with as everything changes in all six of the lives that are currently being lived under our little roof. I’m due April 28, almost ten weeks along at present. I’ll keep you posted.
I made this for Sunday Dinner last week. No idea where it came from… wish I could give credit but it’s one of those things I think photocopied from a library cookbook when we still lived in Indiana and waited eight years to try. But it was worth it.
2 frozen pie crusts
Grated swiss cheese (I grated about a pound? Yeah, probably a pound.)
4-ish ripe tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick
about 10 Fresh basil leaves
Spread a thinnish layer of dijon mustard all over the bottom and sides of the pie crusts. I used a basting brush and it worked great. Kept it kind of thick-ish, like you’re spreading it for a dijon mustard commercial.
Put the cheese in the pie crusts.
Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese. You will have to cut some of them into smaller pieces to achieve maximum tomato coverage.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until the crust starts to brown.
top with basil after it comes out of the oven. I just washed the leaves, made a little stack and cut strips with kitchen shears. Sprinkled. Worked fine.
So, our mornings are looking a little different with the new job. I’m out the door an hour earlier, but without the drama you might expect from a family like ours. I’ve been VERY good about getting our shit together the night before, and that has been the glue that holds this rag-tag operation together in the mornings. The key to getting our shit together in the pm before the am is not falling asleep in Bird’s bed at 8:00, which means we are back to the snuggle-then-sit-in-the-chair-combo bedtime routine. It’s going okay. Bird has developed a need to quickly gulp an unreasonable amount of water and then snuggle the cup on her pillow as she falls asleep, but it’s working for her so I’m not interfering.
Another change is our PBS time slot.* Where Bird used to warm up to the day watching Arthur while we scrambled to find the least dirty of our clothes, this earlier hour puts her on the couch in front of Caillou, my very least favorite PBS show. But the Big Comfy Couch used to make my brain curdle and now I can watch an entire episode without my eyes rolling back in my head, so maybe I can make some progress with that irritating little whining Caillou. He’s such a little shit, though. I can hardly bear to hear that voice even in passing.
I bring this up to talk about the new breakfast routine. As much as I would like to recreate the gather-round-the-table breakfasts my family enjoyed even on school mornings, that’s just not what works for us right now. Bird slurps a smoothie during the Whiny Bald Caillou Program, and A. and I pack the same smoothies to go. It’s a recipe I’ve used forever but I’ve made some recent adjustments to bump up the vitamins for my picky little non-green eater. The best to-go containers for this are tall, wide-mouthed glass salsa jars with lids, washed out and ready to travel. This recipe will make about one large portion– I do this twice each morning and pour a large for me, a large for A., and a smaller version for Bird.
Mama’s Breakfast Smoothie, Keeping You Full until Lunch
1 cup soy milk
1 small banana, or 1/2 of a large banana
1 cup Old Fashioned Oats
2-3 large handfuls frozen fruit
1 handful well- washed fresh spinach (don’t worry about stems, throw it all in)
Splash of OJ if you’ve got some
Blend until smooth. Should be thick but drinkable through a straw– add more liquid as necessary.
It isn’t the most beautiful concoction, and NO, you can’t really taste the spinach. It’s pretty dang delicious if I do say so myself.
My Own Brand of Coping
Today I am organizing my office here at work. It’s what I do when I’m ignoring major issues– I like to take a moment to, say, clean out and organize the bathroom closet when I’ve been informed that the house is on fire. Just hold on a minute! Let me get all of the band-aids in one box, please, and then I will deal with this pesky heat and smoke!
NCETMB Exam Countdown:
7 days! Shit Fire and save the matches, folks! Last night I fell asleep in Bird’s bed at 8:30 ish and did not rise again, thus losing an entire precious night of studying. Oh, my.
I Made Two Delicious Things This Week.
First, simple salad that required no genius (and will include no measurements):
Bag of Dole Classic Romaine Salad (or whatever, organic something something if you so choose, just get some greens together)
Morningstar Chik Patties, baked and cut up
T. Marzetti’s super-fattening but always delicious Honey Dijon dressing.
Note: A. used real chicken breast on his salad, marinated in olive oil and soy sauce and baked. Gross.
Second, I revisited the smoothie I was so keen on making while I was pregnant with Bird:
One cup vanilla soy milk
One cup quick-cook Quaker Oats
Frozen fruit (I chose a frozen strawberry-mango-pineapple mix and added frozen blueberries).
Blend, eat for breakfast, stay full until lunchtime.
I use a super-washed-out tall salsa jar (Kroger’s Private Selection, I assume?) to drink from because it is tall and straight with no neck (easy washing), and it has a lid for transporting to the office in a hurry.
I Also Discovered a New (to me) Budgeting Tool.
I’m trying the 30 days free, and so far so good. I like that it asks you to assign your money to be spent certain ways BEFORE you spend it, rather than the traditional budget program (or homemade spreadsheet in my case) that tells you where you over-did it and hopes you won’t do it again. It’s the old-fashioned envelopes (hello, Mr. Ramsey, you are a pompous butthead but your system works) idea, but online and integrated with your online banking instead of cash-only. I like that it’s not going to let me cheat, that every dime spent needs to come from somewhere, whether it’s the mortgage money set aside for next month or the food budget, whatever. High hopes over here. Try it with me if you want and we can talk about it.
Family Health Crisis Moves from Red to Yellow
Dad doing great after surgery, Grandpa with MRSA infection and other multiple, layered, serious health issues cleared to go home (which, honestly, I did not think was going to happen, but yay). Granddad (other one) still stable, holding on, taking a couple of sips of juice a day. Family and hospice still hovering. Snee family still grocery shopping in three-day blocks, waiting for news and travel plans.
Bird is Still Two, Not Terrible (mostly).
Had a nasty fever over the weekend, but seems all better now.
Tells Thomas “Oh, Thomas! You have such a pretty tail!” Melts heart.
Calls Beardog “sweet boy.” Double melts heart.
Before we begin, know that I am posting with great difficulty this morning due to the fat band-aid on my right index finger, meant to cover and heal the spot on my top knuckle where I grated my finger like a hunk of cheese last night. Ouch.
(BTW, I was making this, which was absolutely delish. Don’t skip the pine nuts if you make this one. Just learn from my example and be careful grating the parm.)
(and BTW again, finally, I found an eggplant- heavy dish that I like. Success!)
And Now Down to Business:
So, my house. She is a good house, not too big, not too small for our little pack. She is a bungalow within two years of her eightieth birthday, full of charm and bricks and wavy glass and arches, high ceilings and glass doorknobs. She was a bargain in an “emerging” neighborhood for A. and I as newlyweds, and has hosted us for 5 + years now. We love her dearly.
Her windows are so charming, in fact, that you’ll need to put on an extra sweater in the winter to handle all of the drafty character. Her one full bathroom is so cozy it fits exactly ONE adult who, if they so choose, could sit on the commode with one foot in the hallway while turning on the shower with the opposite hand. (and that one adult must use the hair dryer in the kitchen, because the bathroom is also too charming to have an electrical outlet. But it also has a truly charming floor of teensy, octagonal tiles.) Her kitchen is so charming that if you cook, say, a curry dish, you will be reminded of that dish for a week straight with no exhaust fan to suck out food smells. And you will be charmed to prep the whole thing on a countertop the size of a postage stamp.
These are the things about her that we just live with, because we love her, and because she sure overlooks a lot of bullshit we throw her way, like two dogs and a cat that shed 7 pounds of hair daily, a toddler with crayons, overflowing laundry, slacker maintenance skills, etc.
And then there are the upstairs bedrooms. Two small, afterthought divisions in an attic “finished” sometime in the sixties, I’m guessing. But still with the 1930 windows and very, very limited insulation.
Sleeping up there (which A. and I do) is like camping. Hot as shit in the summer and freezing cold in the winter, with a few weeks of just-right temperature between seasons. Right now? It is bum-freezing cold. And the toilet seat in the half-bath? MADE OF PURE ICE.
There are things we need to do. Like blow in more insulation and replace windows. But we have about $30 to fix this problem, so…
Enter the space heater.
Enter also my maddening, all-day anxiety about whether or not the space heater is still on, even though I vividly remember turning it off before I left the house.
Here is the list of constantly cycling OCD questions* that flavor my days, including but not limited to:
- Did I turn the oven off?
- Did I lock that back door?
- Did I turn off the coffee pot?
- Is the baby monitor on? (a bedtime obsession)
- Is the garage going to catch on fire since you guys were smoking back there?
- Is the alarm set for a.m. and not p.m.?
- Is the curling iron off? (I literally have not used a curling iron since my freshman year of high school, by the way, but here I am at thirty-one, with fleeting thoughts of a gnarly, hairspray-caked Conair curling iron sitting on my parents’ bathroom counter.)
- Are there candles burning?
- Did I remember deodorant?**
- Are my keys still in the door? (answer is often yes)
- Where is my phone? (leads to constant checking)
- Did I flush the toilet?
and now my new addition to the OCD family of thoughts:
- Is the em-effing space heater still on upstairs, possibly with a sock draped over it because it really is sitting way too close to the laundry, possibly catching our sweet old house and everything in it on fire at this very minute? How will the dogs get out if the house is on fire? WE MUST THINK OF THE PETS!
*Please understand a bit of history: that I grew up in a small town where my father handled much of the insurance business in the area, and was frequently awakened in the middle of the night for a house fire, tornado damage, a car accident, etc. My dad is a good guy, and he takes insurance seriously, and he was often standing in the snow with a family in the middle of the night, watching the volunteer fire department try to save what was left of their burning home. But his familiarity with tragic incidents and the causes of said incidents has made him a cautious, boy-scout-prepared type of a man who has a sharper focus on prevention than most. He is a man-scout, I guess. And I, having grown up in the shadow of his preparedness and caution, have some signs of OCD as an adult.
** I do recognize that doubting my own ability to address personal hygiene and sanitation have little to do with my dad. But that curling iron thing? That was hammered home to me with a brainwashing-strength intensity from the time I laid eyes on that Conair with the skinny barrel and put it on my Christmas list.