My Favorite Cookbook

About a year ago we started subscribing to a local farm. As CSA members, we receive a box of veggies and fruit every week. This has been great for our diets. We’ve begun to get a feel for what is in season and how good things taste when they are not shipped from another continent!

At first, though, I was at a loss as to how to cook all these vegetables. (The fruit is easy. The Boy eats fruit with almost every meal.) I shopped around and finally settled on From Asparagus to Zucchini; A Guide To Cooking Farm-Fresh Seasonal Produce. This cookbook is amazing! It is organized by vegetable, with at least 4 recipes for each. Most of the recipes require other ingredients that are also currently in season. In addition to the recipes (we have yet to find one we really don’t like), each section has a brief history of that vegetable and cooking and storage tips.

Really, who knew there were so many delicious ways to prepare beets or how delicious a carrot almond cake could be? Pasta Pie with Fresh Greens anyone? How about Garlic Parsley Pesto or Penne alla Zucca (Roman Pasta with Pumpkin Sauce)?

f you are thinking of trying to cook more with seasonal produce or if you have a plethora of squash and need some ideas of how to use it, this is the book for you. If you want to introduce more vegetables (and not just the mainstream veggies you find at the supermarket) into your diet, this is the book for you. If you like to shop at Farmers’ Markets, but just don’t know how to fix that kohlrabi, this is the book for you. Happy Cooking and Happy Eating!

Waste Not, Want Not. Fruits and Veggies That is.

One big part of living on less is to make sure you use up everything you have. Everything that you buy and don’t use is wasting money. Keeping fruits and veggies in an edible state is always a hard one. Which fruits can go together and which ones make other ones spoil faster? Apple and banana? Grapes and carrots?

Luckily, there is a webpage that can help, imagine that? Here you can learn about how to keep fruits and vegetables fresh and prevent spoilage. It lists a bunch of common fruits and vegetables and where you can store them and for how long. For example, celery can go in the fridge but garlic should always be stored on the counter. A great resource for keeping your food fresh and not having to throw it in the compost pile.

Cereal Shapes

Dry cold cereal is a great tool for teaching kids about shapes. Fill a baggie with several types of cereal and let your toddler sort them out by shape.

Circles: Cheerios
Squares: Chex, Quaker Oat Squares
There are more shapes in some sugary cereals (Lucky Charms comes to mind). If you don’t want to buy an entire box, consider buying the little one-serving packs and letting your kids glue the shapes onto paper. Or just eating a small serving for a special treat.

And of course, there are other foods that come in basic shapes. Some crackers are triangle or rectangle shaped. When you start looking around your kitchen, you may find little teaching opportunities everywhere!

Creamed Eggs on Toast

Here is one of our favorite (fairly cheap) recipes, used for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

1. Hard-boil several eggs.
2. In a medium sauce pan, melt several Tablespoons of butter.
3. Add several Tablespoons of flour and stir to make a paste.
4. Add about a cup of milk and stir.
5. Stir in the hard-boiled eggs (chopped) and any extras (minced onion, garlic salt, salt, pepper).
6. Serve over toast and enjoy!

This recipe is great because it can be varied in so many ways. Throw in some left over chopped ham or ground turkey (in addition to or without the eggs). Stir in some chopped, cooked veggies. We generally have eggs and bread on hand, so this is a tasty, last minute, easy meal to prepare. If your eggs are already hard-boiled, the preparation takes ten minutes or less.

Gift Giving, Revisited

We have written about inexpensive gift-giving before, but this seems like the right time of year to revisit the subject.

This is a great time of year to bake cookies, breads or other treats for gifts. The oven will help to heat your house and you won’t have to run the heater as much! Wrap up a nice loaf of bread or plate of cookies for your workplace, or your spouse’s. Give treats to your neighbors and friends. Wrap a paper plate with saran wrap, tie a festive bow around it and, voila!, you have a lovely homemade, inexpensive gift.

Break out those craft scissors and some tape to create homemade cards or other crafts. Use old magazines or calendars to do collages. Four greeting cards can be made from just 3 or 4 pieces of 8 1/2 by 11 paper. Visit websites or a local craft store for ideas.

Buy an inexpensive photo frame and paint it or embellish it in some way. Glue on beads or shells. This could be a lovely gift for a grandparent, especially if your kids helped with the frame.
Cross-stitch or embroider on fabric to make a bread cloth, table cloth or napkins. Knitted and crocheted gifts are treasured keepsakes in our home. Keep checking garage sales and rummage sales for unused cross-stitching sets.

Offer to babysit or pet-sit as a Christmas gift. Give another Mom a day to do her Christmas shopping by herself. You know I’d love a gift of time like that!

Your kids can help with most of these projects. This is a great time to teach them about creative giving. Maybe they will even have some gift ideas of their own.