Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lentil and Split Pea Stew



 
Well, Wesley is 3 months old now.  Which means, its about time I thought about losing those final sticky 5 pounds of pregnancy weight I've been holding onto.  OK, I admit it...I've been thinking about those pounds for awhile now. I seem to lose the weight I gain during pregnancy pretty easily until I get down to the final 5 pounds. That's when I hit the inevitable road block. Losing weight at that point becomes really hard because 1. I have all kinds of bad habits I got into during the free-for-all calorie bonanza known as pregnancy (yeah, my BRAIN knows I'm not really eating for two fully grown adults, but my HEART knows I need to give birth to a baby the size of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers) and 2. If I go on a calorie restrictive diet my milk supply suffers and effectively, puts my baby on a diet, which is bad. Babies should not diet.  Plus, I was having some serious issues with sugar cravings that I knew would cause it to be very difficult for me to simply cut back on things like sweets and bread and Caramel Mocha Frappucinos with extra whip.  So, I went to good old Amazon and browsed diet books.  I read reviews.  It was a review for the book The Virgin Diet, by JJ Virgin that won me over.  A woman who did the diet said that she now finds herself eating a meal and then not thinking about food again for 5 or 6 hours until its time to eat again.  That made me jealous.  I was at this point where all I could think about was food.  It took major self-control not to be stuffing food into my face all day long.  I would eat breakfast at work and then start watching the clock for lunch.  I was constantly snacking or going off in search of snacks.  Which gave me the attention span of Dory from Finding Nemo and made me feel like I was giving everything less than 100% effort. 
If the Virgin diet could make me think less about food and more about all the other important things in life than I was ready to give it a try.  I knew if I could just stop eating so much between meals, those final 5 pounds wold probably come off pretty easily.  The long and the short of it is, it worked.  I won't go into the specific details of the diet...it was only about 12 bucks to buy the Kindle version and if you want to get rid of food cravings and lose a few pounds I highly recommend it.  Anyway, this is an original recipe that I developed based on the specific restrictions of the Virgin diet.  Its healthy and delicious.  I had a nice big bowl of it and then I only died a little bit inside when everyone else was eating the warm banana nut chocolate chip bread that I made for dessert and couldn't have any of because it contained flour, sugar, eggs, peanuts AND dairy, all of which are forbidden for the first 3 weeks while on the Virgin diet.    








Ingredients
  •  2 tbs coconut oil or olive oil
  • 1/2 white or yellow cooking onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped 
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced or one carton Pomi tomatoes 
  • 1 tspn salt freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 cup lentils (I used red; they're pretty) 
  • 1 cup split peas 
  • 6 cups water
  • green onion, chopped for garnish 
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the onion, carrot and pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30-60 seconds. Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper. At this point you may also add in any dried herbs you like. I used about a teaspoon of dried basil in mine. When the mixture is simmering, add the lentils, peas and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the lentils and peas are fully cooked. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of sour cream or try my dairy free coconut crema (recipe below) and chopped green onions.
Coconut Crema for garnish
  • 1 cup coconut milk (full fat in the can) 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • 1/4 tspn salt
 Whisk ingredients in a small bowl. Spoon onto bowls of lentil stew or any other kind of soup.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Copycat Starbucks Peppermint Mocha

This recipe is for people like me who don't have any fancy equipment like espresso machines or milk frothers. What I did invest in was a bottle of peppermint syrup from Starbucks which cost 7 dollars and change or, slightly more than one of these drinks if you were to get it there instead of making your own. The syrup is useful for flavoring water (I squirt not even one pump into my liter water bottle and it gives my water a very refreshing minty aftertaste that helps me to actually drink my water instead of just conveniently "forgetting" it's in my work bag). Additionally, I think the syrup will be useful around the holidays for all manner of white chocolate peppermint flavored baked goods. So now that I've justified my splurge on Starbucks peppermint syrup, let's make a copycat peppermint mocha. (makes 2 servings) Ingredients: 1 cup strong brewed coffee (hot) 1 cup whole, 2%, skim, almond, coconut or soy milk 1 tablespoon Hershey's chocolate syrup 1 squirt (maybe a teaspoon?) peppermint syrup Whipped cream Additional chocolate syrup for garnish (optional) In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the milk with the chocolate and peppermint syrups. Whisk it as it heats to make it frothy. Pour the coffee into 2 separate mugs. Add the milk from the saucepan. Top with whipped cream (you can whip coconut milk from the can for a nondairy version). Garnish as desired. Serve proudly to any and all peppermint mocha lovers and be prepared for smiles. Relish the idea that you can create this many times over in any season for a fraction of the cost of one at Starbucks. I'm thinking of investing in a full line of Starbucks syrups. With the mocha syrup, the caramel syrup and the pumpkin syrup I'm pretty sure I could make passable versions of the salted caramel mocha, the caramel apple cider and the pumpkin spice latte. Think of the savings! Think of the satisfied cravings! Plus, all the drinks can be blended with ice for frappucino versions. Nutrition I figured out the calorie count of my version using whole milk and a real healthy dollop of real sweetened whipped heavy cream and got about 260 calories per serving versus 320 for the regular version (size tall) at Starbucks. The main difference here is that I only use the equivalent of about one pump of chocolate syrup and not even one whole pump of peppermint syrup. I always order one pump versions of my drinks at Starbucks because I find them unbearably sweet the way they're usually made; a tall will almost always give me a stomach ache if I don't ask them to reduce the normal number of pumps by about half. I know a lot of people will get their specialty drinks without the whipped cream But I'd much rather reduce the calories by reducing the sugar content while maintaining the indulgent feeling you get from the whipped cream.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The March Project, part 2

The March Project is swinging on towards a triumphant finish here. I have been working out at least 3 days a week for the entire month of March and I feel great! At least, I did, until today. I was getting a little cocky. After all, I've been attending Nand, Becky and Deanne's classes all month regularly. I should be building some muscle, some endurance, right?

So tonight, I decided to go for the holy grail of YMCA fitness classes...Karlton's Klass. You'll notice that, while all the other instructors have generic, YMCA issued class names, Karlton's is named after him. Plus, he has the whole K theme going on there with the Klass. Karlton's Klass is held just before one of my old lady classes that I religiously attend, so I see them, every week, with the sweat coming through their t-shirts and their extremely flushed faces as they leave Klass, looking as though they are high on mad illegal endorphins. Karlton even winked at me one day, as he left, as though to say, "yeah, keep on coming to your little old lady classes...my Klass would KILL you!". I always thought...One day, I'll be ready for Karlton. he'll never be ready for ME though.

Well, today was that day. And Karlton Killed me in his Klass. I actually thought I was in danger of suffering a cardiac arrest. In fact, I longingly thought, at one point, of how cool it would be (kool) if someone ELSE suffered a cardiac arrest, because then I could perform life-saving resuscitation efforts on them, plus I wouldn't have to do any more mountain climbers. Actually, to be honest with you, Karlton isn't that Kool. He and Mr. Zerrahn from middle school gym class could have been teaching the same stupid Klass. And I didn't like it any more this time than I did back in the 8th grade. I felt like that same geeky un-athletic girl who would surreptitiously drop down to her hands and knees after one push-up while the gym teacher looked disgustedly on. When Karlton finally called an end to his endless drills, and ordered us all to grab 3-5 pound dumbbells and head outside for the "neighborhood mile" I slinked off to child watch to collect my spawn and escape. With my double stroller and two children. Karlton caught me on his way back in, after having run, presumably, a 2 minute mile (with his stinkin' perfectly formed calf muscles). He smiled and...winked. Jerk.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The March Project

Weeeeeellllll....
Yeah, that was it for the February Project. It was fun (not) and I'm not so sure I ever want to repeat it, but who knows? Maybe I will be inspired to make it an annual thing, kind of like Lent. Only earlier. And I'm not Catholic.
This month there is a different project entirely afoot. It certainly has nothing to do with abstaining from purchases at the store, as Sheila from White House/Black Market can attest to, cough cough.
I decided to challenge myself this month to do as many of the classes that are offered at the Y (as in, YMCA) as I can. They have tons of fitness classes all week, Monday through Friday, as well as free childcare and it suddenly occurred to me that, what with us paying 50 bucks a month to belong to the gym and the fact that I am available all week with little else to do, that maybe I should take advantage of the classes. See, we've used the gym so little since the children began being born that we have frequently toyed with the notion of just stopping our membership. The only thing that has stopped us on a number of budget crunching occasions is the pool. They have a delightful pool which is less than a mile from our own pool-less residence, so we have always ended up keeping the membership despite our lax attendance.
We used to go all the time. When I was a normal citizen and worked normal hours, me and Hugs would go to the gym together after work a few times a week. We would also use the pool.
When I got pregnant I attended yoga-lates (a combo of yoga and pilates frequented by a large number of citizens more senior than I). All the old ladies would fuss over me and I actually found it to be quite a positive part of my pregnancy. Becky, the instructor, is a former Olympic medalist in synchronized swimming and she would serenely call out modifications for me that didn't involve me laying flat on my face, and stomach, on the floor, AKA child's pose, also NOT known as "with-child pose" since it's impossible for a pregnant woman to do. I found that doing yoga while pregnant helped me enormously with my balance and that breathless "can't take a normal breath cause I have at least a 15 pound baby lodged in my diaphragm" feeling. Also, seeing my reflection in the huge mirrors as I did warrior 2 pose was absolutely frickin' hysterical.
Even yogalates had to go though, after Sofia came along. Child watch is only for infants 6 months and older, so I fell out of my normal Friday routine of yoga and never really picked it back up when she got to the 6 month mark. Possibly because back then I was terrified of leaving my precious bundle with anyone other than her father. Also because I was working nights and weekends and Hugo was working days during the week and for a good year and a half there I was a complete zombie trying to navigate my way through a world rife with perils and insomnia and second pregnancies and, well, you get the idea.
Now I seem to be on a slightly more even keel. I work and sleep on the weekends and then I pretty much switch out of nurse mode and into mom mode and, aside from being a terrible housewife (which I'm pretty sure Hugo has resigned himself to at this point), I seem to function pretty well. Maybe I'm flattering myself. I guess the jury will be out on that one until my kids are grown and can give an objective opinion.
Anyway, I finally decided one day that my kids aren't apt to be very proud of their flabby white mama when she comes to pick them up at school (if I ever decide to send them there; the jury is still out on that one as well). No sense sitting around the house getting fatter when we are paying good money to belong to the gym, right? Come to think of it, maybe this months challenge IS related to the February project. Maybe it's a continuation of my newfound thriftiness and abhorrence of waste.
I first dipped my toe into the waters, timidly, by re-attending my old favorite, yogalates. Becky still teaches it, she still smiles serenely throughout the entire hour with her eyes half closed, and I still love it. I still look ridiculous doing warrior 2 pose. Now it's just because of my gut though, not my cute protuberant pregnant belly. Not nearly as hilarious.
Next, I decided to try the stretching class offered by Deanne. Ok, I know, a whole hour of stretching? Even the senile old ladies who make up 99.9% of the rest of the class looked disgusted by me as I sidled in, attempting to look as old and decrepit, and therefore inconspicuous, as possible. Yeah, I admit it. It's an exercise class that takes place while mostly seated in comfortable chairs. I'm a loser. Deanne kindly approached me after class and suggested that I might enjoy, as did most of the other participants of the stretching class, her hourlong total body fitness class that precedes total body stretch. Ok, now I'm really a loser. I skipped the REAL workout and attended the hourlong cool-down class instead. Freak. The problem is, I'm not an old lady. I have kids. I can't hang out at the Y all day, attending hour warm-up sessions followed by hourlong exercise classes and then hourlong cool downs. There's a strict 90 minute limit to the free childcare offered. So I made a mental note to come to the real work-out class next time.
The next one I tried was step and tone. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a real exercise class. It involves fairly loud music and is attended by people who are not eligible for Medicaid. Or is it Medicare? Dammit I'm a nurse and I still can't keep those two straight. Anyway, you use those stepper thingies and you have to follow the instructors ridiculously complicated instructions for stepping on and off the thing in specific sequences while your heart is racing at 200 BPM's and you have sweat dripping into your eyes and down the crack a yo ass. As it would turn out, Deanne was again the instructor. She approached me, again, after class (am I starting to feel a little conspicuous?) and gently asked me if it was my first step class. Umm, what was your first clue? The horsey laughter coming from my mouth as I attempted to keep up or the part where I almost broke my ankle falling off the stupid stepper? She told me that it takes, like, 4 or 5 classes to "get it". Well, thanks actually. I feel like somewhat less of a loser.
After step and tone I actually felt really sore. The kind of soreness that sort of feels good because you can tell that any minute now a total 6 pack is gonna burst forth from the flab and your going to be, like, the queen of Olympus. I was encouraged by that queen of Olympus feeling. I decided to press on. I attended Deanne's total body class and she kicked my butt. I literally thought I was going to die. I don't know that anyone has ever made me do lunges and squats before. I have no muscles below my waist. I should say, I HAD no muscles below m waist. I have no attended total body class every week for 4 weeks and I'm getting to where I
can hold my head up high around those ubiquitous old ladies. I'm telling you, the Y is filthy with old ladies. It really should be called the OLCA because there really aren't that many young men frequenting it these days.
I attended a real yoga class led by an honest to goodness Indian yogi named Nand. It was a keeper. Total body was a keeper. Yogalates is a keeper. I didn't care for Dance Trance, Zumba or belly flab blaster. Those are all evening classes and I just don't feel like working out as much in the evening. Plus, as pertains to this newfound dance-inspired fitness craze...I just don't get it. If I'm not wearing heels, dressed like a hooker and drinking a dirty martini, I just don't feel that much like dancing. Y'know?
So my March Project has been fun and the girls have become household names in child watch.
I am enjoying the slow reawakening of different muscle groups which is going on, mostly unnoticeable to the visible eye, under the layers of fat formed by too many late-night trips to the vending machines at work. Maybe one day Nand will suggest to me, while I'm in a yoga-induced coma, that I really don't want to seek spiritual enlightenment in 4 slices of delicious homemade thin crust pizza from Annies Eats (my new FAVORITE food blog) anymore and I will shed some pounds and reveal my Queen of Olympus 6 pack. Maybe. Hmmm. Haha. Doubt it....

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A way to use leftover sugar cookie dough OR jam-packed sugar cookies

I had a ball of sugar cookie dough left-over from Valentines Day, when I made heart shaped sugar cookies and iced them with royal icing using the tutorial on Annies-Eats.net. When the craving for something fresh baked came on after dinner tonight, it was natural for me to grab the dough but I wanted to do something a little different. I decided to try making jam thumbprints cookies using the sugar cookie dough, even though I know recipes for thumbprints usually call for a shortbread cookie base.

I played around with a few different methods. I used a smallish round cookie cutter with a crinkled edge and cooked some plain and some with little globs of jam in the center (I used seedless raspberry jam). The ones I cooked with jam had to be scrunched up around the edges to make kind of a basket shape since they weren't thick enough for a real thumbprint. When they came out of the oven (I cooked em at 375 for 8 minutes) I allowed them to cool.

Then I used the plain cookies to make little jam sandwiches. I laid them next to the ones cooked with jam and sifted confectioners sugar over all. To my taste, the jam sandwich cookies were tastier than the thumbprint ones. They had more jam, plus a double layer of cookie. What's not to love? Not to mention, they were easier.

It would be really easy to whip up a batch of these jam sandwich cookies from a tube of store-bought sugar cookie dough (no need to roll and cut; you could just slice and bake) but it literally took me less than 10 minutes to make a double batch of sugar cookie dough and throw the extras in a big ziplock bag in the freezer. Annie's recipe uses vanilla extract AND almond extract and I could definitely appreciate an intermingling of the almond and jam flavors in the final cookie. Additionally, the fact that the dough had spent some time in the freezer meant it rolled out and transferred to the pan really easily.

A little trick I invented (I'm sure someone else has already used this idea before, but it came to me organically, so I claim it as my own):
If you want to sift powdered sugar over some sweet treat, or pancakes, or a Monte Christo sandwich (?) but you can't be bothered to get your sifter out and you don't happen to have room for a dedicated shaker in your cupboard...here's what you do. Get one of those little tea balls (it's a tiny little strainer for loose tea leaves that you can use to brew a single cup of tea) stick it in the bag of powdered sugar and fill it up and voila! You have a miniature sugar sifter that holds just enough sugar to dust a single batch of cookies, a cake, or any of the other plethora of things that is made all the more delicious by adding a sprinkling of powdered sugar. It comes out in a perfect fine mist just like if you had one of those enormous strainer/sifter things that Ina and Martha love to use. I'm willing to bet that Ina and Martha don't do their own dishes or they would likely be a little more frugal with their use of kitchen unitaskers.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The February Project Continues

Yes, it continues to suck! Just kidding. We are halfway through the month...a month without the mall, without Target, without a single trip to my beloved Red Onion for dinner. I'm not saying we have obeyed the ground rules perfectly. I made a desperate trip to toys r us to purchase diapers after my homemade laundry detergent idea fell through and I had to manually scrape a few too many BM's out of the cloth diapers and into the toilet. I understand if anyone just threw up in their mouth a little.

I also had a little indiscretion involving a stop at my local ridiculously priced kitchen tools store for some equipment and supplies to make valentines day cookies. They were adorable. I made them heart shaped and used royal icing to pipe EKG tracings on them, to bring to work.

Other than that though, I've been a model of thriftiness. Buying produce at the local farmers market, where we faithfully go every Wednesday. Using up all the 12 bags of assorted flours in my cupboard to make homemade bread with. Ditto with the 12 assorted bags and boxes of various pastas in my cupboard. Substituting things I don't have for things I do have. Searching for recipes that utilize stuff in the house. It's about to kill me though, because I found a new food blog that I absolutely love, Annies Eats (ohhhhhh, the recipes...) and I'm dying to go to the store and spend a thousand dollars on groceries so I can make every single one of the things she has on her blog. The cookie indiscretion was directly attributable to Annie, in
fact.

But I'm being good. I have made some penny wise/pound foolish discoveries though, along the way. I resolved at the outset of all this to send leftovers to work with Hugo every day, since we wouldn't be going to the store and couldn't, therefore, keep the freezer stocked with his frozen dinners that he normally brings to work to have for lunch. I now realize I would have been better off to go to the store one last time and stock up on 10 or so of the frozen meals. Most days he's been good about taking leftovers, or I've made him a sandwich or something, but let's face it... We don't always have leftovers. It seems like at least once or twice a week, he ends up leaving for work in the morning without a lunch and then has to go downtown at lunch and buy a sandwich. He usually spends 8 or 9 dollars. So it doesn't take too many of those oops moments to add up to much more than we normally spend on his lunches when he does frozen. That's in addition to the fact that he often eats lunch at his desk and can therefore justify staying on the clock, while he has to clock out for his lunch break if he leaves the credit union. So, yeah, the $4 Annie's meals are probably well worth the sticker price ( even though the Smart Ones entrees that I made due with when I worked days are MUCH more economical at $2.50 apiece). Just sayin...

Tomorrow I'm going to the mall to get my hair done. I will probably spend 75 dollars or more. What?!!! Yes, I'm going to the mall to get my hair done. I temporarily thought about delaying my hair appointment till the end of the month in the spirit of the February experiment, but I decided not to. First of all, the idea was to cut out consumer/consumption type spending. Hair care is a service. It supports the local economy by supporting my local hairdresser, creates no waste, and only involves a teeny tiny tube of hair color that, ok, fine, DID have to be shipped here, probably from China. The money for my hair appointments gets automatically saved, a little each pay period, in a separate account which accumulates enough each 6 weeks to pay for my haircut, getting my roots done, purchasing my make-up and getting an extremely occasional ( as in, once or twice a year) pedicure. The money is there waiting to be spent on my hair appointment. Delaying my appointment until the beginning of March would accomplish nothing beyond requiring that I walk around with offensive roots for the next two weeks and then probably have to spend extra at my eventual hair appointment dealing with the consequences. We've already been over and around the hair thing in separate experiments during the course of our 6 year marriage (in January! Yay!) and Hugo has agreed that A. He likes when I get my hair did. B. It is EXTREMELY penny wise and pound foolish for me to pack the kids up and drive all the way over to Daytona Beach for a whole day to have my hair done for free by my sister, in terms of wear and tear on the vehicles and the hassle factor. And C. Being married to a woman means there are going to be certain beauty maintenance costs and those costs have to be factored in to the budget or else fighting will ensue.

When the February experiment is over, I will go back to the grocery store. I will go back to the mall. I will go back to the ridiculously priced kitchen gadget store. However, I will do so with a heightened awareness of my own consumer choices and how they are multiplied by the millions every single day, resulting in potentially negative effects on our communities and our planet. Hugo and I discussed how trade has been going on, globally, for hundreds of years. We don't necessarily think thats a bad thing. The spice of life, literally, is trying new things from different exotic places. However, when I was searching through the fridge at work the other day, I grabbed a little package of Dole orange segments and tore into it for a snack. As I was munching away on the little treats, I saw on the label that they were mandarin orange segments grown and packed in China. I have bought those same packages at the grocery store and I know that they are cheap. Very cheap. You could buy a locally grown orange (yay Florida!) for about the same price as a whole package of those little individually packaged oranges. So, if you do the math backwards and figure that the distributer is making the most money on packaging and shipping that thing halfway around then world, how much do you think the guy who actually grew and picked the orange got paid? When you buy fresh oranges from the farmers market, it's all going to the guy (or girl) who grew and picked it. Someone who lives here, in Florida, and might even return the favor by coming to my hospital for a procedure or to have a baby or something.

So the long and short of it is, we will continue to visit the farmers market and take advantage of whatever local stuff is available. Even if it's a little more expensive. Even if it's a little inconvenient. We will also make the effort to go to Ward's, which is a locally owned grocery store that keeps a lot of local products and also sells bulk stuff like oats and grains and nuts that aren't uber-packaged. It's kind of a pain since their store has super tight aisles and doesn't have shopping carts that accommodate two kids, but we will do it anyway. They also sell dairy from a local farm that has grass fed cows. I've been reading a lot about grass fed and a lot of it makes sense. We still aren't going back to the milk-drinking thing. The kids have been off milk (routine drinking of it, that is) for two weeks now and haven't developed any signs of impending malnourishment. Their pediatrician is going to be very surprised by that...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The February Project

I am an experimenter. I love to try new things, just to see what happens. The ramifications of this is that I'm an ICU nurse, a blogger, a novice home chef and a dabbler in things that I probably shouldn't dabble in.
Anyway, my current experiment is a home-based one. My husband (Hugo, Oogie, Hugs, he goes by many names) and I recently watched a documentary about "No Impact Man", a guy who, along with his extremely cooperative wife and cute little 2 year old daughter, attempted to live in NYC for a whole year without having any impact whatsoever on the environment. They gave up,in phases, toilet paper, meat, electricity, taking any kind of motorized transportation and all buying, except for locally grown food purchased at farmers markets. I had a few nit picky beefs with their thinking ( it wasn't EXACTLY local as most of the produce was brought in from "upstate New York", which fellow New Yorkers know can mean anything from 20 minutes across the bridge to 8 flipping hours to where I grew up in Saranac freaking Lake).
However, the documentary DID get us talking about some things like, why do we spend so much money on stuff when we just end up bringing carloads of "stuff" to the dump? Also, why do we buy food from California at the grocery store when other farmers are growing the same damn stuff a few miles from our house? And finally, why do we watch documentaries anyway when we
could be enjoying a brand new episode of Glee? These are the questions that plague a modern couple in these uncertain times...

So, we decided to undertake a family challenge. For the month of February (not a whole year, ok, what do we look like, maniacs?) we would turn off the television, stop making purchases (specifically, consumption type purchases for THINGS) and buy only that which is locally available to eat at our local farmers market. No eating out. No Sesame Street. No This Old House or Antiques Roadshow (ok, I admit, our normal television patterns are incredibly geeky as it is). We can supplement whatever we get at the farmers market with whatever is in the cupboards and that is it. No thrice weekly trips to Publix for milk and frozen pizzas. No Friday night pizza delivery for dinner.

We just finished day two of the challenge and we have already failed, but haven't given up. A good friend of mine babysat for me today (along with her own three) and I wanted to thank her so I went to Starbucks and got her a Grande white mocha, her favorite. I didn't want her to feel left out so I just got myself a leeetle drip coffee as well. It was great, as we are just about out of coffee and they don't sell that at the farmers market. I checked. Also, I had requested a hold on a potty time DVD at the library for Sofia before all this started and it came in today, so we allowed them to watch it after tubby time tonight as a special treat. Never mind that this particular departure from the rules left me and the Oogster wanting to stab our eardrums with little shards of glass, just so we wouldn't have to listen to the cheesy circa 1984 potty-themed songs. It was still cheating! Other than that though, there has been no television for children or parents in the Ochoa household for two full days. My rationalization on the coffee thing is that if I had paid a babysitter, it would have cost me about 20 bucks, so I was getting off easy by simply sharing 6 bucks worth of delicious coffee
beverages with a good friend in the middle of the day.

So, up till this evening when we made our first weekly trip to the farmers market for produce, I had simply been making due with whatever we still had from my last trip to the grocery store about a week ago. Milk ran out early on and I am determined that, short of my kids showing signs of acute Rickets or Kwashiorker syndrome, I will not break down for the sake of milk alone. I have been reading my time-worn copy of the classic tome on nutrition entitled "Skinny Bitch" (seriously, you should check it out) and was trying to phase out milk anyway. I have decided that there is no good reason why children past the age of weaning require milk from another species, designed to fatten calfs to a stunning 2,000 pounds over the course of
several years, in order to grow and thrive. Are we now vegans? No. Does our day to day diet look a lot like a vegan diet? Yes. The facts are very simple. Anyone who makes a statement about a commitment to being "green" and continues to ingest a significant amount of animal products on a daily basis is really just kidding themselves. And really, green is what got us to this whole idea anyway, right? Also, have you ever gone to a farmers market and taken a look at the crazy vegans milling around? They are skinny, they smell strongly of body odor and they reproduce like f'ing RABBITS! I'm telling you those women are some kind of fertile! If they were severely nutritionally deficient, my common sense indicator light tells me they wouldn't be spawning like the dickens. We did get some locally produced, free range eggs. So everyone just calm down now. Don't send social services over to the house just yet.

One of the things I hadn't stocked up on recently was bread, as I usually buy it when it's buy one get one free and it hasn't been recently. So you know what I did? I got on my trusty iPad, searched breadworld.com and made some of my own. Over the past few days I've baked 4 loaves of bread with my own two hands. They came out pretty good too. I froze 2, just like I would normally do with the extras when I buy one and get one free. I'm pretty short on yeast now though, so we'll have to be thrifty and make this bread last for awhile. I don't know what the pioneers did without iPads and the Internet though. Did you know,if you're making a recipe and you don't have an ingredient, instead of jumping in the car, driving to the store, spending 50 bucks on things (since you're there) and then racing back home to finish your recipe you can just google substitutes? I found a recipe for eggless pancakes and it was great! I found a list of about 15 different things you can use in a recipe instead of eggs. I also made hot breakfast cereal this morning without oats, cream of wheat or milk. I used quinoi (I had it in the cupboard for the past 6 months or so), evaporated milk from a can and
water. My cupboard staples will eventually run out, which will make all of this much more difficult, but it will happen gradually over the course of the month so it shouldn't be a complete shock to the system. And I hope to have bare cupboards by the end of all this.
I will attempt to document our experience here in this blog, for fun and to increase accountability. A few exceptions we've already hammered out involve gas (got to get to work, after all), a weekly "movie night" where Hugs and I will watch a movie from our already-paid for Netflix subscription, and a weekly meal of prepared local foods at the farmers market on Wednesday nights, which is when it is. We went tonight and I got then aforementioned eggs, mushrooms, carrots, lettuce, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, fresh squeezed citrus juice from a farm about an hour south of here, and locally made pickles. We also got some delicious ready to eat samosas and other vegetarian Indian foods from a vendor there for our weekly meal "out". All together, we spent 50 dollars, which is about a quarter of what I generally spend on food per week, just ask Hoogarino, he has charts and pie graphs to prove it. If this works out, we will save a significant amount of money this month on food. Not to mention my regular indiscretions at White House Black Market in the mall...

We will not give up our toilet paper, but we have committed to buying no paper products for the month, so I have had to carefully examine my normal 5-7 sheet bundle...enough about that... The kids are in cloth diapers again and I found a recipe for ridiculously cheap laundry soap that I'm going to try and make to keep them clean. Another purchasing exception, but you can't use regular detergent on them since it has additives that accumulate on the cloth fibers... Everything else will be stretched like the dickens and when we do run out of something important, I will attempt to find a locally made (or make at home with things we already have) replacement or substitute for the real deal. I don't know of any chocolate factories in the greater Gainesville region, so that's going to be tough...

Wish us luck!