Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Urban Sandbox

Most sensory play items for kids are messy! They often have things like food coloring, oil or glue that can make a real mess of your house & damage upholstery or carpet.

My little one loves the sandbox at the park - but real sand just isn't an option in our house. And, the weather is often not suitable for outdoor play at the park.

Enter the Urban Sandbox!

I simply fill a plastic box (such as a shoe box) with cornmeal, and add a few toys - that's it! This is dry, powdery "sand" like the sandbox at the park, perfect for pouring through funnels, or driving a bulldozer through.

It's also perfect for working with measuring cups to teach fractions like 1/2 or 1/4 in homeschool.

It usually provides a good, solid half hour of amusement - if not longer.

The upside? Cornmeal is a great natural carpet cleaner - it absorbs oils & odors from carpet - so, even if this is spilled all over the carpet, all I have to do is vacuum it up : )

This is being shared at:
We Made That Wednesdays, Hearts for Home

Friday, August 23, 2013

24 Vegan Recipes for Dorm Living or Travel

These recipes are specially selected to work for the person who has limited cooking equipment, limited space, limited ingredients to cook with, and limited cooking skill - or, who has an abundance of those things, but little time.

Who might fit this description?

1. Young adults starting college life in a dorm that permits minimal cooking.
2. Military adults living in a barracks that permits minimal cooking.
3. Traveling adults of any age who need to cook in an efficiency kitchen or hotel on vacation or on a business trip.
4. Busy families who are short on time.

Last time we were travelling, we had an apartment kitchen with limited equipment. And, I didn't want to stock a kitchen with my normal fifty or so spices for a short stay. I needed ingredients that could be made in a simple pot, and had a short list of ingredients to buy & store.

These recipes are my standbys for when I have one pot to cook in or a simple appliance like a Microwave or Slow Cooker, limited time, and a limited pantry.

Bulgur Pilaf ( Pourgouri )

Confetti Spaghetti


Veggie Fajitas

Simple Black Beans

Greek Style Black-Eyed Peas ( Louvia )

Moujendra ( Mejadra )

Philippine Style Fried Rice (use your leftover Rice from Chinese Takeout! : )

Pasta & Sauce


Baked Potatoes in the Slow Cooker

How to Cook Rice

Green Beans Almondine

Simply Eggplant

Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Super Simple Salad

White Bean Salad

Pita Bread, Stove Top

Eggplant Sandwiches

Hummus Sandwiches (You can use store bought hummus, if need be )

Greek Tahini Sauce or Dip

Popcorn, Microwave - Make Your Own

Crispy Rice Treats

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays, What'd You Do This Weekend, My Meatless Mondays, Clever Chicks, In & Out of the Kitchen, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Modest Mondays, On Display Monday, Wise Woman, Simple Living Wednesday, Life with the Crust Cut Off, Real Food Allergy Free, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Simple Lives Thursday, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Penny Pinching Party

Traffic Jam Weekend

Monday, August 19, 2013

Save your Stemware - and your Cabinet Space!

Our New Stemware Racks.
A couple of years ago, I did an accounting. I discovered that in the previous 5 years, I had managed to kill about 30 wineglasses. Now, I could pretend that they all broke on nights when we were having some exciting party and I had drunk a few too many - but the reality is that we don't really lead that "exciting" a life. I don't think a single one was broken after I had drunk a glass!  . 
The fact is that I'm a klutz, and I'm not very tidy.
My counters are usually a tad cluttered, and my cabinets a little disorganized and over-full. So, a top heavy empty wineglass might just take a dive from a cupboard, or be nudged from a counter with a busy elbow while it is drip drying. Or, it might just be "waiting" to be washed and be broken in the sink (since they aren't supposed to go in the dishwasher).
Well, my Sister came to my rescue. She's one of those nice sort of people who apparently reads my online "Wish Lists" for fun : )
Last year, for our Anniversary she got me these great stemware racks.
(Notice what I am saying here - I got no free product from the company to do this review. There are no affiliate links that I will profit from if you read this. I'm just typing this up because I like this organizing method, and you might too!).
 They're installed above my kitchen sink. When a wineglass becomes empty, I immediately wash it, and then without even having to dry it (and risk all that unpleasant lint & spread of germs from a dishtowel), I can hang the wet glass in the rack. It drips into the sink and dries in the air. My cabinets now have a tiny bit of breathing room. And, my floor has a few less glass shards. And, I think they're kinda pretty up there. Actually, I haven't broken a single wineglass since we installed these!  
This is the brand my Sister bought me - I'm very happy
with it.
These installation instructions were useless. Tape will not hold a fairly heavy
metal rack to the ceiling. I did try. I ended up making a template from a paper shopping bag
 for where I wanted the rack to go. I drilled the pilot holes thru the paper, and went from there.

Life With The Crust Cut Off

Friday, August 16, 2013

Simply Zucchini Saute

Simply Zucchini Saute
With Zucchini Season upon us, it's good to have some ways to make Zucchini besides Zucchini Bread, ya' know?

Here's my go-to, basic recipe, found years ago in Women's Day magazine, and modified to my tastes. It's a simple, delectable preparation method, that lets the natural deliciousness of the vegetable shine - rather than covering it up.

Simply Zucchini Saute
Cut in matchsticks (Julienne)
4 Zucchini (medium sized)*
1 teaspoon Oil
1 teaspoon fresh Garlic (I used pre-minced from a jar)
Add veggies, sauté till done
Add & Cook briefly to blend flavors and serve
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp basil
Salt & Pepper

*If you prefer, you can use a mixture of 2 Zucchini cut in matchsticks & 2 Carrots cut in matchsticks. Carrots may be purchased already cut into matchsticks at many grocery stores.

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays, Modest Mondays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Weekend Wonders and 
The Great Zucchini Hop

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pinterest Board

Just wanted to say, I've created a Pinterest Board. It's called "stuffedveggies" (no caps, no spaces) if you want to connect to it.

I've added a "Pin It" button here, too.

Many thanks to all who encouraged me to do this in recent comments!

Please, if you feel so inclined, test this stuff out and let me know how and if it works - it's all new to me.

Thanks, -Anna

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Philippine Style Fried Rice

Philippine Style Fried Rice
When I was the Philippines, I loved to eat the special fried rice made there. It is both an ultimate delicious comfort food, and ultra-frugal - created to use up everyday leftovers and make them even more delicious than they were when first served.

After I returned the the US, I found a recipe in the More with Less Cookbook that I was pretty close, but I was able to tweak it till it was identical. Over the years, I veganized it and made it healthier than it had been before (Although, it is still fried rice, and as such, is one of the highest oil recipes I ever make - but it's still a lot lower oil than the original).

If you have special dietary needs, such as Vegan or Gluten Free or Peanut Free, make sure that all of your ingredients conform to your diet.

Philippine Style Fried Rice
Mix & set aside:
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 cup TVP Granules*
Saute for several minutes, to cook and blend flavours:
2 Tablespoons mild flavoured Oil (or, Peanut Oil, if you have it)
1 to 2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Garlic (I use the jarred kind)
1 Large Onion, Chopped
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper
3 to 4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce (I use Kikkoman - use a GF variety if you're GF)
Reconstituted TVP (Above)
Add and stir-fry for 5 minutes, till rice becomes light golden brown
6 cups leftover cooked rice (preferably long grain)**
Add and cook till hot:
1 pound bag frozen peas***
Serve & Enjoy!

*TVP is optional here. Your favorite burger crumbles would probably substitute well - or even crumbled firm tofu.

A little info on TVP: It gives a unique texture, but is a highly processed refined food. It is available from many distributors, including Bob's Red Mill. It is my understanding that Archer-Daniels-Midland makes all TVP. They did not reply to my email inquiring whether it was GMO free. It keeps exceptionally well, making it a good disaster preparedness food for some, and is extremely high in vegetable protein and fiber. It is commonly used as an ingredient in commercial meat-substitutes, such as veggie burgers.  But, it upsets my digestion if I eat it too often. So, it is your call on whether - or how often - to use it.

**Leftover rice is actually superior to freshly cooked here - the dryness of the rice absorbs the flavor, and it doesn't become too mushy while cooking.

***Any compatible leftover veggie in the back of your fridge may be subbed for the peas - corn, green beans, carrots, you name it. You could also use veggies like Bok Choy if you add them when you add the onion.

Tips for dining with Omnivores:
Chopped leftover meat may be subbed for the TVP (if you're sharing the dish with an Omnivore, add the Omnivore's meat at the end after removing your own portion).
It is traditional to add a couple of raw beaten eggs at the very end, and cook, stirring till bits of egg are cooked through the rice.
Some Omnivores add a dollop of Plain Yogurt on top - even though this is decidedly a non-Philippine touch.

This is being shared on Gluten Free Fridays, Modest Mondays, In & Out of the Kitchen, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Weekend Wonders

Thursday, August 8, 2013

A Month of Gluten Free Vegan Meals

Planning a Repeating Month of Vegan Meals Makes
Meal Planning a Breeze!
A while back I did a well-received post on menu planning for a year - then a bit later, I did a Month of Vegan Menus, which quickly became one of my most popular posts.

Although I am not Gluten free myself, I have many friends who are. And, one day it occurred to me that a huge percentage of my menus are naturally Gluten-Free as well as Vegan, and that many of you might enjoy having a Month of Gluten-Free Vegan Menus.

While I LOVE having a meal plan, I really DON'T enjoy the pressure of having to whip up a plan every Saturday - or every Monday - or whenever people do these things. I like to have it taken care of and handy - not hanging over my head every week.

Which is why I make a plan for four weeks that can be repeated over and over. It can be used four ways: 1) strictly go through the schedule, using the days in order 2) if you don't like so much structure, but still want to enjoy the benefits, shop for a week's menu, and use it to glance at on those nights when you don't know what to cook, knowing that you have what you need on hand, or 3) use it for planning bulk cooking menus, and simply grab the meal you want out of the freezer or fridge whenever you want it OR (my most recently discovered use) 4) Sit down with your family and let them choose the meals from your chart that they'd like to eat in the coming week! This is especially helpful when deciding what to serve to house guests : )

I find it pretty easy to keep groceries on hand to make most of these recipes without a special shopping trip. I keep most of the pantry ingredients on hand all of the time, then I simply need to shop for produce. Since none of the recipes use meat and dairy which must always be served fresh, many of these recipes can be prepared without running out to the grocery for those basics.

I find this menu format the easiest to use- it is a simple word processing document, so I can cut and paste things where I need them. If we eat out, or I want to try a different recipe one of the nights, no problem! I've seen all sorts of fancy, artistic menu planners, with color coding and "pieces" to move about to different nights, but to me nothing beats the simplicity and ease-of-use of a basic computer document.

I have a print-out of this menu hanging inside one of my kitchen cupboards - just open the door for a menu at a glance.

I typically serve a variety of things with meals that are not listed here - maybe salad, slaw, fruit, bread, a pickle & olive tray, and dips or spreads, but I don't list these things on my menu in addition to the entrée. I think of them as accessories!

I'm a huge fan of Rice - I really PREFER it as a bed under beans or stews. But, if you prefer Quinoa or another Gluten-Free Grain or even Potatoes - of course swaps are good wherever I say "Over Rice" : )

In addition to being Gluten Free & Vegan, all of these dishes are ultra-Frugal! : )

When making these recipes, be sure to use the Vegan & Gluten Free varieties of the ingredients mentioned. One commenter reminded me that not all Soy Sauces are Gluten Free - you have to buy one that is (Thanks, Katie @ Gift of Curiosity) .  Similarly, such ingredients as Worcestershire Sauce, Earth Balance or Margarine, and many other things might have a variety that fits your diet, and one that does not. Be sure that all ingredients conform to your way of eating.

Notice that the menu is full of links to take you to the recipes!

Life With The Crust Cut OffThis is being shared on Gluten Free Fridays, Thrive at Home, Fun Fridays, Healthy Vegan Fridays, Free to Talk Fridays, Weekend Wonders, Bible Love Notes, Gluten Free and Allergy Free Wednesdays, Feeding Big, Making Your Home Sing Mondays, Clever Chicks, Modest Monday, What'd You Do This Weekend?, Menu Plan Monday, In and Out of the Kitchen, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Teaching What is Good, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays, Teach Me Tuesdays, We Made That, Encourage One Another, Wildcrafting Wednesdays, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Penny Pinching Party, Wise Woman, Simple Lives Thursday, Hearts for Home, Bible Love Notes TGIF , Mums Make Lists 
Food on Friday 

Traffic Jam Weekend

 Eggplant Stew over Rice

 Fill Your Own Tortilla Night
Vat O' Salsa
Corn Chips
Corn Chips
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Fattoush (without the bread)
 Szechuan Green Beans over Rice
Hummus with Capers and your choice of dippers
 Moujendra ( Mejadra ) with Raw Veggies

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tabouli ( Oil Free or Traditional )

This is a refreshing & substantial entree salad that is especially enjoyable on a hot summer day. With your homemade dressing already in the fridge, and your Bulgur ready to go, it can be made as quickly as a sandwich.

Making your own Tabouli (also known as Tabbouleh ) will save you lots of money as compared to the deli counter. It's even a lot cheaper this way than buying it as a boxed instant meal (and really no harder to make than the meal-in-a-box version).

This dish travels well, and is the perfect thing for a summer picnic or potluck.

Several hours or a day in Advance:
Combine 1 pound of Bulgur (about 2 1/2 cups) & 3 Cups Cold water in a lidded container. Put in the fridge. (You can estimate amounts for this task. If you end up with too much water, simply drain it well in a strainer, and firmly press out any excess water). If you're in a hurry, you can use hot water to speed absorption time.

Prepare Simply Greek Dressing (Regular or Oil Free)

2 to 4 Diced Tomatoes***
1 to 2 Cucumbers, Chopped***
2 to 4 Tablespoons Dry Parsley*
1/4 Cup Dry Mint*
1/2 Cup Chopped Scallions
Soaked Bulgur (Above)
1/2 Cup Simply Greek Dressing (Regular or Oil Free)
Salt (or Garlic Salt, if you prefer) & Pepper to Taste.

*Traditionally, this salad is made with Fresh Herbs. If you have them, definitely use them : ) You'll want to approximately double the measurements given for dry when using fresh.

** Bulgur is sold in several textures. The bag often has a number: 1 for very fine, 2 for fine, 3 for medium, 4 for coarse. Choose your favorite! I like coarse & chewy, but a lot of other people enjoy fine- refined & delicate. They're all healthful and delicious. Just avoid using "Cracked Wheat" instead of Bulgur - Bulgur is precooked, which means you can just soak it, whereas Cracked Wheat is not pre-cooked. Because it doesn't need to be cooked, Bulgur is a perfect whole grain to have on hand for natural disasters & other emergency preparedness situations.

***Some people like lots of veggies and herbs with a little grain (when I have eaten this dish actually made by Lebanese cooks, it has been heavy on veggies & very light on grain). Others like lots of grain with a little veggies. The amounts are according to personal preference, as well as what you have on hand.

Make Ahead Tip: This recipe does NOT freeze well because of several things - the tomatoes & cucumbers don't freeze, and the grain absorbs the dressing too much. It is best to serve it as soon as it is made. BUT, you CAN prepare the bulgur and keep it in the freezer - that way you can just thaw it & use it when you want. I sometimes prepare twice the bulgur I need, and freeze some for a second use.

This is being shared on Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad

Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad
This is a particularly refreshing summer Entrée Salad. Perfect for your potluck, picnic, or lunchbox, and easy to throw together. It was adapted from a recipe I found in Woman's Day magazine a few years ago.

Fruited Black-Eyed Pea Salad
2 cans (15 oz ea) rinsed and drained Black-eyed Peas (or 3 cups home prepared)
1 cup frozen Corn, thawed (rinse in sieve under warm water)
1 cup diced Celery
3 Scallions, minced
2 Apples, chopped
1 can (11 oz) Mandarin Oranges, drained

toss with dressing:
1/2 cup Fat Free or Regular Simply Greek Dressing (from June 3)
1 teaspoon sugar

Chill, Toss & Serve

This is being shared on Simple Lives Thursday

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Accessorizing the Vegan, Simple, or Lenten Table

Veggie & Olive Tray
Dip Tray with Veggies & Chips
Pickled Lemons
Quite frequently, healthy Vegan meals are made up of frugal, whole foods, simply prepared - what I sometimes call "peasant food." That's wonderful for your health, your wallet, your time, and can be great for your soul.

But, for company? Sometimes it doesn't seem fancy enough. In fact, when I have been a guest in the homes of others, sometimes they even object, "We can't feed you just beans and rice!"

For Orthodox Christian families, the first two weeks of August are a "Lenten" time, when our food is simpler, but we may still want to entertain guests, or have special family meals.

Sometimes Vegan cooks try to make meals fancier by using exotic or expensive ingredients, but that really isn't my style. I LIKE simple, frugal food! Some complain of proverbial "Champagne taste on a Beer budget," but, I have Beer taste on a Beer budget. But, I still want meals to be a special occasion for fellowship and hospitality.
Fresh Homemade Bread

Pickle & Olive Tray
So, what to do when you're having friends over, or just want to make a meal more special for your own family? I like to accessorize. And, this isn't just my own custom, it is the common way in many Greek Orthodox households. As a Church cookbook explained (and I paraphrase) These staples are always on the Lenten Table: Fresh Bread, Dips, Fresh Vegetables, Olives, Pickled Vegetables . . . .

And, this custom isn't limited to the Greek Culture. My Pennsylvania Dutch family members also had "Seven Sweets and Seven Sours" as normal accessories on their tables. And of course, the Italians have the Antipasto Tray. And, Koreans serve several small dishes with meals. I'm guessing that there are few cultures that have not traditionally accessorized the table. But, in our very busy modern American culture, we have forgotten these customs.

Hospitality, or even a family meal, can show diners that you think they're special without breaking your health or breaking the bank, if the table includes a wide variety of tastes & textures to supplement simple fare.

And, an extra bonus? All of these things can be prepared well in advance : )

This is being shared on Healthy Vegan Fridays, Simple Lives Thursday, Modest Monday, Making Your Home Sing Monday. In & Out of the Kitchen, Teach Me Tuesdays, Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays, Simple Living Wednesday, We Made That, Encourage One Another, Wise Woman, The Thrifty Home, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Hearts for Home, Simple Lives Thursday

Fresh Veggies we use to top dishes
like Moujendra or Bulgur Pilaf.
Homemade Vegan Muffins can add a
Special touch to Breakfast or your Fresh
Fruit Dessert