Category Archives: home
But in our household Thursday nights are beyond insane–I direct a choir that goes till 4:30, then I have to pick up the kids, and my husband has to come home from work, and my daughter has to get into leotard and tights, and somehow by 5:45 we have to be out the door again to take her to dance class, having already eaten dinner.
I get through most of life without resorting to many pre-prepared foods, but given all this and the fact that Thursday nights at Whole Foods the rotisserie chickens are only $5.99, it’s a pretty good deal all around. While I get the kids and the table set and the bread and veggies–usually raw carrots or cucumbers at the moment–on the table, in between yelling at my daughter to get her dance clothes on and yelling at my son to put down the wii and finish his homework, my husband stops at WF and grabs a chicken. He walks in at about 5:20, and we have a leisurely 25 minute dinner. Or something like that.
Not really blog-worthy, I know–so big deal, we pick up a rotisserie bird once a week. I’ve done that occasionally for years. But the cool part–what I discovered recently as we made this a regular thing is that I can take the carcass (which otherwise would stink up my garbage can till Tuesday when we take it out) and freeze it, and then once a month when I’ve collected 4-5 chicken-bodies I can toss them into the crockpot, fill it with water, turn it on low, and promptly forget about it till dawn. And then I have several quarts of beautifully seasoned chicken stock, since the chickens were usually herb-and-garlic, or lemon-roasted, or some combination of treatments. Enough salt that I don’t have to add any, but–well–not so little that I have to add any.
(Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know about this little trick. Save and freeze the chickenbodies, avoid buying bland and tasteless chicken broth in difficult-to-recycle-tetrapaks. News to me.)
Friday is my day off. I can strain the stock and make soup for dinner that night, or freeze it in quart containers, or cook it down to a really strong concentrate and freeze it in ice cubes to reconstitute later, or do any of the dozens of things one can do with good stock. If I had any veggies-on-the-verge in my crisper drawer I’d toss them into the pot too–why not, right?
So, for about $24 (4 chickens, one a week) we have 4 total meals for 4, at least 4 extra lunches worth of what didn’t get eaten at dinner, and some good soup makings.
Not a bad deal for the Chicago burbs. I highly recommend it. Don’t throw out your chickenbodies. Save them and make pasta fazool for dinner tomorrow night.
Okay, to be truthful, since that birthday 8 years ago when I was 3 weeks postpartum, sleep-deprived, and nursing for 45 minutes every two hours, I’ve been fairly content to let the whole thing slide by. And after making my husband SWEAR that he wouldn’t make a big deal out of my turning 40 a couple of years ago (after bringing belly dancers to his 40th the previous year–no, he actually did want a kinda big-deal party), I’ve tried to downplay the whole thing as much as possible. And yet people keep remembering…and honestly, I’m sort of digging it.
But what is so cool, especially on the gift front, is how much the people who care about me “get” what I’m about and what I love and need and want and don’t need/want…My coolest gift from husband and kids, and the one I knew about in advance because I helped pick it out and had been harping on it since summer when my mom got one, is a new SodaStream seltzer-maker. This will get its own blog post later–it’s so cool; I am a huge fizzy-water drinker, and I can’t stand all the seltzer bottles that generates…now I’ll be able to make it at home, which will cut our monthly grocery bills by probably the cost of a babysitter for one evening, and dramatically reduce the amount of recycling I add to the system.
My parents sent me a beautiful glass bead lariat necklace, handmade by an artist on one of the islands near where they live. And a purse/backpack made of repurposed old jeans from OldBagzz.com, with a vintage Wonder Woman cartoon on the side–beautiful craftsmanship, making my feeble efforts at jeans-purses feel really clumsy. I will totally use this, ALL the time. (The outer zipper pocket just fits my oversize Kindle, too.) And some goodies from an organic artisan chocolatier from another island near where they live, Black Dinah Chocolatiers, (Ahem…cough cough…yes, as of 9:00 this morning I had already broken into the semisweet bar with ground lavender flowers. Oh. My. God.), which are to die for. Dinah also has a cafe…and a blog…with recipes.
As usual, the best gifts are the intangibles–like my kids and husband making pancakes for me on a school morning, and two handmade cards, one with a picture of my son and me–with HUGE hands–standing together, and another of my daughter and I in a field of flowers at sunset (pictured above). And more Facebook happy wishes than I ever would have hoped for or expected.
It’s a good day.
Okay, so here (greenmama.dreamwidth.org/3862.html ) I talk about how to make your own yogurt in the crockpot. Easy, fun, and if you’re not all Buy Organic Milk like me it’s probably way cheaper than the store-bought stuff, especially if you go through it at your house like we do here.
This is just an easy addendum recipe that I tried last time I made the stuff: the next challenge after making homemade yogurt is of course to flavor it. The easiest way is honestly to just drizzle a little honey and cinnamon, or maple syrup, or hell even chocolate syrup over it. Yummers.
But I really was curious about trying to do the whole fruit yogurt thing. So this is what I did:
Place in a bowl a pound of fresh-frozen fruit. (I used triple berry mix.) Sprinkle maybe 1/4 cup sugar over it and maybe a tbs. lemon juice (opt) and stir. (Different fruits and different tastes will obviously have different ideas here about how much sugar to use, and whether to use the lemon juice!) I also add a sprinkle of cinnamon to it. Just let it sit there at room temperature until the fruit melts and gets all mooshy with the sugar.
That’s it. Easiest thing in the world.
This stuff was amazing–just perfectly sweet, incredibly fruit-y. Very runny, of course, and you could cook it over the stove and mix in a little cornstarch-or-flour-and-water mixture to thicken it, but for my purposes it really didn’t need it. I honestly don’t know if it would work the same with fresh fruit, and I’m inclined to doubt it, because I suspect it’s part of the frozenness that breaks down the fruit enough to behave like this. But honestly, when I get fresh fruit I’m not likely to cook or moosh it up; we eat our fresh berries straight.
Drizzle to taste over your (strained and thickened) yogurt. Or…well, you can also stand over the bowl with a spoon, like I did, but that sort of defeats the purpose.
Alternative: mix to taste with the yogurt and then freeze in an ice cream machine for frozen yogurt. This should be delish. Try it with raspberries, and then drizzle a little chocolate sauce over it when you serve it.
(EDIT: Just to note, I probably won’t actually mix and store the fruit and yogurt together, although once the yogurt is strained well it’s fairly easy to do that. I’d rather just keep plain gurt in the fridge and have an assortment of things to treat it with, way more flexible…)
Man, this weight loss thing stinks…I mean, yes, it’s working, but I just once want to have a Big Pig Out, eat as much as I want of something…anything…
A friend of mine just got a new puppy, and she is floundering in a sea of way too much conflicting advice about how to deal with fleas, ticks, and other bug problems. So, being a good friend, I’ve agreed to give her even more advice, probably even more conflicting than what she’s already heard. (What are friends for?)
(Standard disclaimer: Not only has the FDA not approved any part of what I say, the FDA would laugh until they wet their pants if I even came near them. I’m a muscian with no medical training of any kind, I just read a lot and pay attention. Follow any advice I give with a grain of salt, do your own homework, and please do not hold me responsible for any negative results. I’m a musician.)
Her dilemma: to give monthly “preventative” medication or not? Obviously, me being me, I do not choose to give it to my pets. As I discussed in a previous post , the meds don’t actually prevent fleas, they keep a constant very small level of insecticide in the pet’s system so that the fleas die before they can reproduce. Which is very efficient, but I still do not choose to go that route, because my own belief is that it has a negative effect on the overall health of the animal.
I think the question for anyone would have to be something like, “How much would I freak out if I found living fleas on my animal?” Because once they are there, there’s a pretty lengthy and commitment-required regimen, if you don’t want to go the flea bomb route, for getting rid of them. (Discussed in part II of this post) (And by the way, they do sometimes appear on animals being treated in other ways! That’s another reason given for abandoning chemical flea treatment; many believe that the fleas are getting stronger and developing resistance to those meds anyhow.)
Because the fact is that every animal is different, and while I can say loftily that I’ve had pets for 16 years and experienced only 2 flea outbreaks, I could have been just plain lucky. However, given that that’s all I actually did have in all that time, in hindsight, it’s fairly clear that giving the prevention would have been way more expensive and way harder on the pet than it was worth for those two weeks out of 16 years when fleas actually were a problem.
We just replaced our 25-year-old, previous owners bought with the house, mildewy side by side horrible energy use refrigerator with a brand spankin’ new one. Freezer on the bottom (more energy efficient because the colder air is on the bottom where it wants to be anyway), 22 cubic feet of space, energy star compliant.
Ten Secrets to being a Greenmom on the Fly:
10. Cook in quantity and freeze leftovers. Four (or more) quarts of soup (or cooked black beans or green chili) take exactly the same amount of time to cook as 1 or 2. If it’s something you eat a lot and you have room in the freezer, make LOTS and save yourself time next week. Or next month.
9. If you must use meat, don’t add it to the “in quantity” part unless you’re freezing it right away, and don’t thaw it unless you know you’ll eat it soon—plant-based foods keep in the fridge much longer! If it has meat in it and has been sitting in your fridge for 3 days, you’re taking a chance; it might not taste bad, but it could have lots of live wigglies in there to completely screw up your digestive system or worse. Veggie products are easier: if they look good, feel normal, and smell fine, they generally are. Plus when they are not, they have an obliging way of getting slimy, growing mold, or generating a weird smell which tells us fairly clearly that they are no longer good to eat. And it takes them a lot longer to get there. So much less scary!
8. Avoid generating tons of unnecessary garbage and recycling by making and freezing your own applesauce, pasta sauce, cooked legumes (beans and lentils), etc. (Yogurt too, but you can’t freeze it as well.) (See #10!)
7. Use your crockpot. Use it often. (See #8 and #10! Further posts about how to do this to come!)
6. Know that the difference between “convenience food” and “processed food” has a lot to do with how many ingredients there are in it. Try not to buy anything with more than maybe 6 or 7 ingredients max, and make sure you can pronounce them all.
5. Use yogurt instead of mayonnaise and sour cream, and yogurt cheese instead of cream cheese. (To make yogurt cheese, drain plain yogurt in muslin or cheesecloth for a couple of hours.) Much better for you, and just as versatile and flavorful. Enjoy tuna or pasta salad again without guilt.
4. Use an immersion blender to puree soups or to disguise vegetables in otherwise chunky foods. I used to ignore any recipe that said “puree in batches in your food processor”–too messy, too many things to clean! The immersion stick blender can just go in and whack things up without moving them from their original pot or bowl.
3. Never use white flour or rice products where you can convince your family to eat the whole wheat or brown rice version. This sometimes takes creativity, but every family will be different. Also, beware the term “multigrain” on packaging–that doesn’t mean it’s healthy, it just means that there are at least two different kinds of grain in it. It could be 90% refined white flour and 10% oat flour, or worse, and still be “multigrain.”
2. Grow your own herbs and veggies, preferably near enough to the kitchen that harvesting is a piece of cake. A sunny kitchen window for herbs, if you have one, is awesome.
1. Don’t jump into Greenmom-ness all at once! Start with a couple of small things, and just keep adding. I started this thinking I’d be making sacrifices to be greener, but once my mindset shifted I’ve discovered it’s actually much easier and cheaper in the long run, and my kids are eating good stuff. And it’s fun.
Okay, some days I think I’m being an idiot and wondering what the hell I’m up to with this whole footprint pseudo-green-suburban-mama thing, feeling very self-consciously chi-chi and precious like I’m trying to be something I’m not.
And then today, when I had 2 or 3 minutes to make lunch before running in for a noon staff meeting (which doesn’t actually start until 12:30, I now discover, which is why I have time to blog), I am able with incredible ease and efficiency to do the following:
1. get a piece of whole wheat naan, the stuff from Trader Joe’s we subsist on instead of regular bread, since it takes much longer to mold and is palatable to our kids,
2. place on half of it a few slices of lunchmeat (okay, it was roast beef, which is the most EVIL un-green meat one can consume, requiring immense resources to produce, but that’s a rant for another day and we haven’t eliminated beef entirely from our diets yet because my husband is of the Beef It’s What’s For Dinner mindset despite the fact that we’ve had beef for dinner maybe a total of, oh, a dozen times in the past 7 years of marriage, not counting when he stops at Scatchell’s and buys Italian Beef sandwiches on the way home from his folks…)
3. on the other half, spread some of the yogurt cheese I made a couple of weeks ago, still perfectly good and fresh. (I don’t do mayo; too fatty and the jarred stuff is too processed. Yogurt or yogurt cheese gives the creaminess and tang without the fat content.)
4. grab the kitchen shears and head out to the patio, where I snip off 4 small lettuce leaves and a sprig of fresh tarragon, all of which I give a quick rinse and dry-pat to
5. put the lettuce on the meat side, quickly use the shears to chop-trim the tarragon over the yogurt cheese.
6. put the halves together and start munching
And realized it was quicker to cut and rinse the herb and lettuce than it would have been to open the tarragon jar and/or get a thing of lettuce out of the fridge. And this is just May, less than 2 weeks after everything’s planted–it’ll grow and grow, and there’ll be more all spring and summer. And if I can keep the tarragon from flowering, it’ll just keep bushing out and I can dry the herb for the winter, since I use it all the time…
This was an AMAZING sandwich. Truly yummy. Could only have been better if I’d cut the tarragon into the yogurt cheese several days ago and let it sit and steep (which I might to tonight with some of it; need to eat that yogurt cheese before it goes off!). And if I had veggies, I’d've skipped the meat all together and just done tomato and zuke slices, maybe the yogurt cheese on one side and hummus on the other or something. But it was GOOD.
Good fresh food, quick and easy, cheap (aside from initial startup costs, which admittedly this first year in a new home are considerable), gourmet-ish even, that I made/grew myself, and from which I didn’t generate any more stupid plastic containers.
A good day.
Oh by the way, remember that crockpot green chili?
It makes a very yummy taco or burrito filling.
That crockpot chili recipe I made a few days ago made a really good taco filling tonight. It would probably do well in burritos too, with some brown rice and more beans, and maybe some fresh veggies.
Tonight’s dinner: we grilled up some corn tortillas, put some rice, leftover chicken chili, and salsa on it (I meant to put a dollop of yogurt in mine, since I don’t do sour cream but love the taste of it–yogurt is an acceptable substitute), and ate it in taco form. A burrito would probably be even better. The chili in general needed about twice as many beans, to my taste–too chickeny
On the other end of the spectrum….
Last night’s dinner was–shudder–Popeye’s chicken and biscuits, eaten in the family room while watching Despereaux, my daughter’s favorite (for the moment) birthday present. Ugh–something like that kills any sense of healthy greenness probably for the week, But it tasted so good…
I need to detox or something now, though…I feel like a lump, AND I’m craving bad foods in a way I wasn’t before last night.
We do Popeyes maybe MAYBE 2 or 3 times a year. I think we may need to reduce even that.
It’s been a really crappy week, though. Not that that should be an excuse to put highly caloric chemical crap into my body and think that’ll make anything better. Chocolate…now that’s different. But Popeye’s chicken has really nothing redeeming about it. Except that lovely salty crunch…
But I’m not going to think about that any more.