Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Week 5 Bean Challenge: 1 Dinner a Week

I'm about a week off for posting on the bean challenge our family is having, so now is the time for me to make up for it!

Last week we had nachos for dinner, topped with kidney beans. I thought it might be kind of good, trying to make "mock Frito Pie" but it didn't work out the way I had hoped. I know chips aren't necessarily the ideal meal, but sometimes you only have a few minutes to get dinner on the table!

I put Trader Joe's corn chips and cheddar cheese together and topped it with red kidney beans. Then on the "adult" half I put tomatoes, onions, and red pepper and baked it in the oven. I decided to leave the veggies off of the kid's side and serve veggies raw like they prefer.

I served it with avocado, cucumbers and tomatoes. I thought the nachos were ho-hum. The kids liked them, they were mild enough.

Does anybody have any awesome "nacho tips"?

State Fair

Every year we go to the State Fair. Our experience usually consists of rides, food, walking, food, aimless wandering, food, crop art, food.

I noticed a composting area at the fair this year. It was situated by the roasted corn booth.

My favorite thing to do at the fair is to view the Crop Art. If you aren't sure what Crop Art is, take a look at Lillian Colton - "The Seed Queen"

Yes, it's very geeky. I guess that's part of my charm!

The attention to detail is amazing - all done in seeds and beans. Here's a sample of her work in the background. This is as close to Johnny Carson and Albert Einstein I'll ever get! (Um, especially since they are no longer with us.)

There was also a bean exhibit, so of course I had to take a picture. Pay no mind to the scary baby dolls. Apparently, beans are used in everything, from Friskies to Fancy Cakes. Although I'm guessing the Fancy Cakes have soybean oil in them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Moment of Weakness

I had a moment of weakness at work today: a cup of coffee in a Styrofoam cup.

Let me count the ways of my weakness:
  1. I've recently switch from coffee to green tea. This morning I felt so tired, and craved an artificial pick-me-up.
  2. I put powdered non-dairy creamer in the coffee. I swear this stuff is like ingesting liquid fat. It's got corn syrup and trans-fats. Really bad for you. Why do they make it taste so good in coffee?
  3. The Styrofoam cup is bad for the environment. 'Nuff said.
  4. I keep dishes at work to avoid one-use disposable plates and cups. This morning I was too lazy to wash out my mug.

Does anybody else care to share their non-environmentally friendly moments of weakness? No judgment.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Week 4 Bean Challenge: 1 dinner a week

Last week for our bean challenge we had home-made pesto with pasta and garbanzo beans (my favorite bean of all time, for those who are keeping track).

The pesto sauce was the recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. Thanks Sarah, for the reminder of where this recipe resides! Fresh parsley from the garden, fresh basil, pine nuts and almonds, olive oil, garlic, parmesan, and a good helping of melted butter - all blended together in a food processor. It's delicious and easy to make.

Here's a little tip about pesto. Earlier in the week, I made enough for 2 batches, so I froze one. I then thawed the pesto in the fridge overnight. I reheated the pesto in the frying pan, along with the pasta, and suddenly realized the cheese was melting and sticking to the pan. So, my advice is, don't put pesto in a frying pan, unless you like clumpy cheese!

For myself, I decided to top my pasta dish with some sauteed garden tomatoes and orange bell pepper. That lent the dish a little sweetness.

Also, I made some garlic bread, based on this recipe. Lemon zest is a great "secret ingredient". We didn't have french bread, so I used slices of whole grain bread (healthier, I suppose.)

I cut the crusts off of 2 slices of bread (a pizza cutter works well), then tore them up and put it in a roasting pan with some olive oil and salt (375 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes). This is to top the pasta with a little crunch. The result is about 1 cup of crusty bread crumbs (next to small lemon to show scale).

The final dish - pesto pasta topped with crunchy bread crumbs (by far, the favorite part for the kids), garlic bread, and cucumbers & tomatoes on the side.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One magazine has three lives

We get the New Yorker magazine, third-hand (as opposed to second hand). The first person who has the magazine is a stranger to us. The second person is my mother (the stranger to us is her neighbor), and the third person is us.

I've never read the New Yorker until I started getting it third hand. I would never think to subscribe to it. But since I've been reading it I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. The recent 16 page story about Barack Obama's Chicago politics days was enlightening (not to mention sleep took me 2 evenings to get through it), and this recent humorous gem called "Fourteen Passive-Aggresive Appetizers" are articles I would have missed, if it weren't for the magazine hand-me-downs.

Sure, I could read magazine articles on-line, but I usually spend my online time on other duties as assigned (bill paying, looking up driving directions, blogging). Besides, I love the following equation:

lamp light on + overstuffed chair + sipping tea + reading magazine = relaxing

What do you think of magazine hand-me-downs? Do you pass along magazines? Do you receive them from somebody else? Odd - I seem to appreciate magazines that I get second hand more, rather than those I subscribe to.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Junk Mail

I spend about 10 minutes daily going through junk mail.   I made a New Year's resolution long ago to go through our mail every day. A resolution that actually stuck.  

That means every year I waste about 6 hours of my life, per year, going through the mail.  

I'd like those 6 hours back.  And the paper waste makes me cringe.  Even in our bills there are loads of unread flyers and newsletters.  Who cares about the "T-Mobile Scoop" anyway?  Yet the mail keeps coming.

Here's a headline:

I'm looking into the following junk mail reduction services (I'll always choose the free version):

Has anyone tried a junk mail reduction service?  What are your thoughts on your junk mail situation?


Love the 3-ring binder...a real attention getter!

O.P.P....other people's paper.

On sale at Target this week!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Speaking of beans...

Dried beans are very budget friendly. Here's a little break down of what a bag of dried black beans costs:

Black Beans - $1.13 for 16 oz (1 lb. bag)

12 servings per bag (but we get a lot more servings from one bag with 2 young children)

That is .09 a serving!

Week 3 Bean Challenge: 1 dinner a week

We're continuing with our bean challenge. On Thursday, we had home-made black bean burgers. The kids ate them and enjoyed them (always a plus.) Our daughter said they tasted like potatoes. (?) I think they are getting used to our bean-centric dinners! Also, I've had black-bean burger left-overs 2 times this week. They taste good heated up too.

Here is a link to the black-bean burger recipe I used. I modified it a little bit the following ways:

- used dried cooked beans instead of canned
- used fresh corn (not sure if they meant canned, frozen, or fresh)
- used fresh bell pepper (from our garden) instead of roasted red pepper
- used 2 whole eggs instead of 1 egg white. That was because I made 2 batches - with and without onions. And I don't have an egg separator - I'm not skilled enough to do it without one!
- I didn't bake them in the oven, just the frying pan.

Some things I would change about this recipe next time:
  • Add a little fresh garlic and tomato paste for flavoring.
  • Add a little more salt since I used dried-cooked beans instead of canned (which typically have salt).
  • I wasn't really sure what the 1/2 tsp of baking soda was for. Maybe to make them lighter and crisper? I did use it, but wondered what would happen if I left it out.
Here is what it looked like in the food processor with much of the ingredients

I was surprised that it looked gray (!), but concluded it was from the fresh corn and the white insides of the black beans.

And this is what it looked like cooked (looks pretty close to a hamburger!):

Served with garden tomatoes, avocado, and toast (the rice I was planning on serving didn't cook in time for this picture!)

I'm considering making dal next time. If you have any favorite dal recipes, let me know!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Butterflies at the Zoo

This past weekend we went to the local zoo and walked through a butterfly exhibit. The lush plants and colorful butterflies were inspiring. "Wouldn't it be great to have a back yard like this?", I thought. Which got me thinking...I think there is certain vegetation you can plant to attract butterflies. Maybe this is something to research for next year's plantings!

The butterfly exhibit was a real treat to share with our kids. I like the fact that they got a little closer to nature (in the city).

One other thought about plants that attract butterflies. Do these same plants attract bees? In droves? Probably. I saw our neighbor the other morning, wearing what looked like a bee-keeper outfit, tending to her HUGE front yard flower garden. Getting stung is not my thing. I definitely need to do some research.