- 1 cup pumpkin butter (I’d be shocked if apple butter doesn’t behave similarly and just as deliciously.)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Monthly Archives: September 2011
My tomato plants grew to only about 18-24 inches this year.
My basil plants are 4 feet tall.
Life is a mystery.
So what to do with all this basil, now that fall is here and it’s pretty much time to get stuff out of the ground? One thing, of course, is pesto. It freezes well and is just one of the more fabulous things in life. But if you don’t feel like making that much (and honestly, right now, I sort of don’t), another alternative is to make “basil cubes” to last all winter:
Frozen Single Use Basil Cubes
- Put as much basil as you can reasonably fit into your food processor bowl, with a little olive oil
- Pulse until well-chopped and sort of pasty
- Put into ice cube trays and freeze; when solid, remove from trays and store all winter
- Remove as needed to toss into soup, make pesto, season pasta sauce, whatever.
Totally easy and worth the small amount of time to do this…last winter I tried mini muffin tins since I don’t actually have any ice cube trays; these are actually a little big for most uses except a Giant Crockpot Full Of Minestrone like I made the other night. This year I’ll try to get an ice cube tray at Goodwill or something and use that instead…
Okay, I hit on something fairly awesome today. (In the category of “how am I going to not resort to processed foods/too much takeout when I don’t have time to cook” category.)
I found a quart of chili in the freezer, in one of those quart containers you get yogurt in, that I’d cooked who knows when and frozen for later use. I discovered that when I took it out of the container, it the quart-sized cylindrical Chilisicle just fits into my smallest crockpot. Which I put the lid on, turned onto “low,” and ignored for about 7 hours.
So easy. That’s the main problem with cook-in-quantity-and-freeze–you have to remember to get something out of the freezer early enough. But now I have a solution to that one. (Okay, I still have to remember in the morning, but it’s not two days before, right?)
Last spring I bought a fourth crockpot. I know, it’s a sickness. But there it was at the yard sale, practically brand-new, and in a much different size than any of my other crockpots–this one was only 1 1/2 or 2 quarts, as opposed to my ginormous 5 and 6 quart ones. I’ve actually used it a lot, when I just want to make a single meal’s worth of something, as opposed to the cooking-in-quantity-to-freeze kinds of meals I make in my other ones.
So this is just a new side benefit to it. Guess one can always use another crockpot.
Okay, this week I posted at the Green Phone Booth on Tuesday instead of Wednesday and forgot to link over here…my “What’s For Dinner?–looking for advice on meal planning” post went up yesterday.
We’ve gone this route in the past couple of years, and it’s honestly been sort of a life-saver. I know a lot of people have “Friday pizza night” or whatever, but we’ve extended it to certain nights of the week always being the same basic foods, with a little flexibility worked into the system, so we know which nights there’s very little time to cook (like Mondays, when my daughter gets home from ballet at 5:45 and has to leave for religious ed at 6:05) and which nights the rotisserie chicken is cheap at Whole Foods (Tuesdays) and which night we’re most likely to be too wiped out to cook anything so we either need leftovers on hand or can occasionally do a premeditated pizza or Chinese delivery night
The list goes on the fridge, which also forestalls a lot of “Mom, what are we having for dinner?” and “Aww, Mom, do we have to have that for dinner?”–they know what’s on the list and how long it will be before it’s something they like better, and that makes it easier and I get less griping.
Worth a try. Any readers use weekly or bi-weekly meal plans? What are your standbys?
Jams and preserves are all very well, and I love making them.
But sometimes you come across other recipes, new ones, different ones, the ones that let you think outside of the jar a little bit.
Like plums preserved in honey. Oh, my GOD these look amazing.
Homemade cola syrup. Seriously? Yes, I think they are serious. This looks very cool. And caffeine free.
Not to mention this really interesting-looking recipe for zucchini marmelade…I’ll have to try this one too with some of those really huge zukes on the counter.
So many recipes…so little time.
For the past few years, my whole focus on green living, whole foods and frugality, reducing waste in my home, and so forth has been a challenge but a manageable one.
I can tell, after one week of classes, that this is where it’s going to get very difficult.
My new life as a full time grad student started last week. Five days a week I leave the house somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00am, depending on what classes I have that day, and I return home maybe 5:45 each day. In the past, I have been able to sort of nuance the slow cooker stuff, the bread baking, the lunches, and so forth, with a little bit of freedom in my schedule. Now–pretty much no freedom at all, or very little. And a few extra challenges I hadn’t planned on:
Challenge #1: coffee. I make my own, and I love my own coffee. But my train connection most days leaves me with about 15 minutes extra…and there’s a Dunkin Donuts right by my train platform…it beckons, it lures, it calls to me…which is bad on all fronts, because then I’m not only spending money and generating more trash, but I’m also drinking too much coffee and experiencing the physical side effects thereof. Not a good thing.
Challenge #2: my own lunches. By the time I’m done making the kids’ lunches and getting everyone dressed and out of the house, my own lunch is the last thing on my mind. Even when I remember to bring a travel mug with my own coffee (which is of course gone long before I hit Dunkin Donuts), I still seldom have time to deal with my own lunch. So I buy something–usually something fairly innocuous like a bagel or soup, but there’s always more garbage involved than there would be if I made it myself. And it’s a waste of money.
Challenge #3: Family dinners. Arriving home at 5:45, who has time to prepare anything but pasta or naan pizza or a rotisserie chicken picked up on the way home? Slow cooker food, yes…but who has time to even manage that when you have to leave the house at 6:30am? And most of my slow cooker recipes would be dried out if they cook for the full 8-10 hours the pot allows.
What’s working: I’m still managing the waste-free lunches for the kids. I’m still managing to get something “real” on the table most nights for dinner. I’m remembering to bring my travel mug most days, which means I can have tea at the office once I’m there. I don’t have time or money at this point to indulge in much discretionary spending, and I’m taking the train almost everywhere and putting very few miles on my car. I’m walking at least a couple of miles a day, putting very few miles on my car.
But I’m going to have to work on the other stuff.
For example: I can make soup and/or bread over the weekend, maybe get a thermos or something, and take my own lunch without much muss or fuss. I can make meal plans for each week, and while pasta and our little DIY pizzas can still have their place in it, maybe I can use some combination of freezer and slow cooker on the other days to make something better.
The Dunkin Donuts thing…well, I’m still not sure about that. It’s a work in progress…
I feel a little weird about this. For the past couple of years I have been preaching this doctrine of Green, with my flexible schedule and relative ease of making it happen. And now I’m in the position that a lot of working moms (and dads) are in, leaving the house at the crack of dawn and coming back at dusk exhausted just in time to throw together something for dinner.
So there will be a learning curve, that’s for sure. We’ll see how it all goes.
I love baking in the fall. Suddenly you just want to throw cinnamon and nutmeg and ginger into everything…and there are apples, and pumpkins, and all this lovely stuff to work with…
Last fall I posted a recipe for my “Bundt Cake of Endless Autumnal Substitution,” a long name for a concoction that could as easily be called “Garbage Cake.” (But my original sounds more appetizing, no?) It’s a thus-far fail-safe template for a cake made out of almost any fruit puree and other basic cake ingredients you can think of.
So last evening, wanting of course to ingratiate myself with my new professors and colleagues, I made up a half-recipe and cooked it in a 9×9 square pan. (8×8 would be better; this one was a little thin, but still very nice.) Brought it in this morning; it survived the train ride in my backpack just fine.
This iteration? Ummm….let’s call it Pumpkin Butter Zucchini Raisin Spice Cake
Add (just till mixed):
- 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (or combination of white and wheat in whatever proportions you choose–the wheat is absolutely fine, though!)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Add at the end, till just mixed in:
- 2/3 cup or so of raisins (I used golden raisins, but ordinary ones or currants would be equally good)
- 2/3 cup grated zucchini (patted dry)
Mix well and bake for about 35-40 minutes in an oiled square baking pan. Do not overbake. (Erm…okay, do not underbake either! Don’t you hate it when recipes say this? It’s like, “bake somewhere in this range but we can’t tell you exactly where just don’t screw up.” Sorry about that. Double it if you like for use in a bundt pan (or click over to the original recipe for the full-sized version).
This cake is delicious. Moist and rich and comparatively virtuous. Tastes just like autumn.
Check out my post over at the Green Phone Booth–hopefully my final summation of the public transit experiment and transition…
Okay, it’s actually “day off,” since all I had to do today was register, and I can do that from home.
The train thing is going to work. This morning I started my car for the first time since Monday, to take the kids to school, since I don’t have to go in. (Monday when last I drove it, it was to get a new battery because the old one was really old and really dying. Very good investment now that winter’s approaching and I won’t be driving every day.)
It’s odd–an hour and a half on the train doesn’t seem anywhere near as long as an hour of driving. I can read, I can listen to great music, I can study. I am learning already the quickest ways to get from one train station to the other. I am learning how long exactly it takes to walk from one place to the next. I am learning which boards to check for departing trains and how to do it quickly and on the fly so I can catch something that might be already just on its way out the door. I’m learning.
It’s a huge pressure on my husband, and I feel kind of bad about that. One day a week I won’t get home at all, because I have a rehearsal in the city I’ll just take the el downtown for. Two days he can pick me up at the train station at a reasonable hour, but the other two I probably won’t get in till 7pm or so. Which means he’s on for dinner and then coming back out to get me.
He’s a hero. Seriously. In one fell swoop with this school thing he’s shuffled into the position of sole breadwinner and chief schlepper, two positions which till now in our family have been largely mutually exclusive.
My body is also very sore from all the walking. And running. And, when running wasn’t enough, sprinting. And stair-climbing when there are no escalators. With a heavy pack on my back. I hadn’t fully realized just how sedentary my existence was before this. I mean, it’s walking. Maybe a total of a mile or two a day, fast and hard, but not that far, and I’m wiped out. (Okay, this week, it’s been more like 3 or 4 because of the ground I have to cover milling around the school getting what I need. But still…) I assume my body will acclimate to this and I’ll be in shape fairly soon, hopefully a little less squishy and more muscular and–dare I say it?–a few inches less all around. Over time. I can be patient.
I still haven’t done the thing where I accidentally get onto a train that’s not going where I’m going, but I’m sure that’ll happen soon enough. But I’ll try to be careful…
This is a recipe I’m absolutely going to have to try.
It’s over on the Smashed Peas and Carrots blog, which I found thanks to $5 Dinners post about after school snacks, her running theme for the week.
The recipe involves peanut butter, and my kids go to peanut-free schools, but we’ve switched mostly over to sunflower seed butter in our house anyway (which I find to be amazing, because it tastes exactly like roasted sunflower seeds. I don’t know why that surprised me, but…oh well), and I expect it would work just fine.
And since the kids, after all, seem to have more energy than they know what to do with…maybe Mom should just eat them all herself? I think that’s fair, don’t you?
The other day I blogged about my step into the world of taking public transit daily to my new school. This morning, on a low-stress day when all I would have done was go to the library to finish up a writing project I need to, well, finish up, I decided to give the trip a dry run, and do that writing in the university library instead of my public one.
One thing I have to say from the start is that this isn’t just shifting my life into a different mode of operation, it also will have huge impact on my family. We had to set the alarm about an hour earlier than before (in the future, I would guess that 45 minutes will be sufficient) to get everyone up and moving on time. We all got into the car and schlepped me to the station, and then my husband took the kids to day care, and then he went on to work. We were running early enough that I actually got an earlier train than I’d anticipated, which is nice and something I wouldn’t mind making a habit of.
I went from the west burbs all the way to Union Station in the city. Thanks to the verbal directions of a good friend of mine (if you ever need to know the easiest way to go anywhere, ask a gigging musician; they know the tricks), I knew after getting off the train to not take the same escalators everyone else was taking, but that I should take the glass doors under the escalator and take the next one up, which would put me on the correct corner of the entire block that is Union Station. She nailed it, her directions were easy to follow, and next thing I know I’m heading north on Canal Street, exactly where I need to be going.
So then I have to go into the other train station, which is much smaller but a little more confusing since it’s also a mall and a food court. I found the Dunkin Donuts, which was a good thing. I discovered that since I was about the only person deliberately getting on a train leaving the city at that time of day, all the escalators were against me and I had to take the stairs. It’s not a big deal. I so need the exercise…
I dawdled a little, getting a map and checking the boards to see what my options were, but if I hadn’t done that I would totally have made an earlier train out of Ogilvie; as it was, I just missed it, which meant I had time for a cup of coffee before the next one 20 minutes later. But a non-rushed pre-dawdle version of the walk from one station to the next took me 13 minutes. If I hurried, and if I made a point of being one of the first people off the train and hurried through the throngs on the platform, I could easily cut that.
Arriving in Evanston I had a moment of disorientation as I tried to figure out which of the bizarre diagonal streets would take me where I needed to go, but I figured it out and began that little half mile hike. Piece of cake.
This will probably be one of my most boring posts ever–because it was easy. Inconvenient, I guess–I am not just sort of free to come and go as I please; I have to match someone else’s schedule. And while on this gorgeous day in September, it’s a delightful little stroll, I’m not sure I’ll feel the same way come February. But even so–it’s a new kind of life for me, and I think I’ll be able to manage just fine.
I like this feeling. I think it’s called Happy.