Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tomato and Wild Rice Bisque (Dairy Free, Gluten Free)

I know I have been off the radar for a little while and I do have a good excuse. I was without power last week, and had to get a new power cord for my computer. I have also been without a camera for two weeks. I can be thoughtless and true to form, I left it at my parents house the last time we were there. My Mom graciously offered to send it to me through the mail, because she is cool like that. I told her not to worry, and we will just get it next time we are in town. I will be so glad to get it back when we go on Saturday. Because I haven't been taking pictures of my food I feel like I can't post recipes about it. But, as I don't get my camera until Saturday, and I have a great soup recipe to share with you, you will just have to imagine what the soup looks like. Or, even better yet, make it and find out for yourself.

I had some veggies to use up in the crisper, and I wanted something warm. Hmmm... I thought about it and immediately decided to make soup. I love soup. I enjoy curries, chowders, chili, stews, soups, bisques and whatever other kinds of soups out there that I am missing. I love that they are extremely versatile. The best part for me, is the way it warms you up on a cold day.

A day like today.

I feel like I am going to be making a lot of soup in the coming weeks, as I will have a great need for warmth. You see, I have made a deal with myself to see how long I can last before I turn the heat on in our house. We are trying to save as much as we can on our electricity bill, and I am optimistic about my fortitude. Chris calls me a wimp and doesn't think I will make it very long before I give up. But try I must, and today is the start of what will be a long few weeks as I brave the cold. :) Bring on the soup and scarves.

Now, about this soup. It is has some wonderful veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, onions, carrots, and collard greens. I sauteed them for a bit and then I blended them for a thick creamy soup. Adding some leftover wild rice gave it substance and a great texture.

I was very pleased with the end product. The spices are subtle, and the freshness of all the wonderful vegetables really shines through. It has a rich color, with flecks of green from the collards. It is simple, flavorful, warming, filling, and definitely a soup I will make again.

Tomato and Wild Rice Bisque

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lg. carrot, diced
2 small zucchini, sliced
3 med. tomatoes, chopped
2 packed cups of collards greens or kale

2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cups leftover wild rice, brown rice, quinoa

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Toss in onions, garlic, carrots and let soften for a few minutes. Then add zucchini and tomatoes let it cook for another few minutes. Add chicken broth, collard greens, and spices.

Bring to a boil, then let simmer for 30 min.

Pour contents in a blender and blend to your liking. You can pulse it a few times to keep it a little chunky, or blend for a minute or two to make it more creamy. I like mine creamy. Pour it back into pan and add wild rice. Serve immediately or you can make this in advance and keep it on low until you are ready to eat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Practice of Tightwaddery


I was at my Mom's house the other day, and I was telling her how we have been trying to figure out better ways to save money.  She thought these books would be the perfect read, and is letting me borrow them for a while. The title alone intrigued me; The Tightwad Gazette-Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. It started as a newsletter about saving money. They made it into a book by compiling two years worth of newsletters, with articles written by the author aka 'The Frugal Zealot', as well as a wealth of tips and tricks from the readers themselves. It is arranged into four sections divided by seasons. She continued the newsletter and that became the material for two more books; The Tightwad Gazette 2 and 3. I am almost finished reading the second one. 

Now that I have revealed to you how this book came to be at my house, I can tell you that it has changed my life!! I have a whole new perspective on what it means to be thrifty, economical, and how to save money. Let me share with you some of the article titles: How to make a Solar Box Cooker, Creative Deprivation, How to Work Out How Much You're Saving, Dumpster Diving, Gas versus Electric, 10 Ways to Reuse a Milk Gallon Jug, Thrift and the Environment, Tightwad Ethics, The Three Principles of Used Acquisition, and the list goes on. 

What I love about these books is her ability to communicate the reasons behind her way of life. She writes in one of her articles that it is not just about saving money. There are many scrooges out there that save money and are unhappy. It is about saving it for a purpose to give you a better quality of life. She promotes reusing egg cartons, toilet paper rolls, dryer lint, and juice can lids not only to save money, but also to waste less and challenge your resourcefulness. She writes about making food and snacks from scratch not only to save money by avoiding name brand marketing schemes, but also because it wastes less packaging and is more nutritious. She writes about investing money to save money. You can buy a deep freezer to store surplus vegetables, extra casseroles, meat on sale, and bulk grains. This saves you money in the long run because now you can stock up on sales and have a place to put it. She also encourages keeping track of how much something will save you, and how long it will take for the savings to payback the investment to determine it's worth. 

The biggest takeaway that I got from these books is an increased passion to reduce, reuse, and recycle. There are limitless ways to save money, use less, be resourceful with what we have, be better to the environment, and have fun!  Also. I believe that the more we enforce this type of attitude, the richer we become as people and as Christians. My character grows as I learn to waste less and I am excited to put all this information to good use. 

Let me give you a few examples of things I am starting to implement. I cut our paper towel roll down the middle to make it last twice as long. I am starting a price book to write down the cost of an item at different stores to get the best deal. I am reusing the mesh onion bag as a wadded up dish scrubber. I walk to the library to check out books instead of buying them new. I am saving the plastic mushroom containers to plant seeds in next spring. I am using a gallon jug with the top cut off as a pooper scooper for when Bowdon doesn't poop in our yard. I am going to put a timer on our water heater so it is only running in the morning and at night to save electricity, and make cookie cutters out of tuna cans. 

I know this is going to be a great adventure and I am excited to see what resourceful things I can come up with. 

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I told you about how I went apple picking with my family. I have been faithfully eating through the apples, but not fast enough, and I decided to make applesauce with the ones that were starting to go bad. I really didn't know how easy it is to make, and I will be making it often from now on. I made a relatively small batch this time, but I will make a bigger batch next time and try my hand at canning. My amazing sister-in-law has just canned a bunch of her own applesauce and says it is super easy.

I started with a pan full of apples.

2 hours later I had a pan full of sliced and cored apples. haha Yes, there are too many in the pan and I had to move them to a bigger one.

I added honey, spices, and a little water and let it cook down until the apples were soft. Then I mashed it all up. After it cooled for an hour or two I put it in jars. I used about 24 apples, some were small and some were medium, and it made 2 small jars and 2 big jars of applesauce. It tastes SO good. I used to think applesauce was gross, but I could eat it all the time now. I can't wait to put it on oatmeal, on my pancakes, in cookies, and enjoying a bowl just by itself. 

You know, all this talk about applesauce, I think I need to go grab a few big spoonfuls and bask in my saucy success :).

Friday, September 17, 2010

A story about love.

I write this post with a full heart. I have so many things to be thankful for, and for the first time in a long time, I feel fulfilled. Today I want to give testament to what God has done in my life. I want to tell you the story of how God redeemed my relationship with Him.

I am one of those people that like to do things for God. It seems I have always been involved in ministry. My parents set a wonderful example of serving in the church, and all of us kids have followed in their footsteps. After I graduated from high school I went and served the Lord as a missionary in Panama for a year and a half and I loved every minute of it. Serving God and helping people brings joy to my life. 

However, I seem to have a tendency to fall into two very dangerous traps.  The first one is my incorrect view, one that God is still fixing, that God loved me for what I did. The second is that I spent so much time serving others that I didn't take time for myself. I knew something was wrong, but I fell into a cycle.  I was either emptying myself to please God so he would love me. Or, because I didn't take time to spend with God, I would crash and burn and feel incredibly guilty for my failure to do what I thought was good and right and what God wanted. This cycle couldn't support itself and I fell apart inside. This was last year right around the time before I got married. 

I don't know if I could explain this to anybody, or even figure it out myself, but looking back I can see clearly what went wrong. I was working two jobs, and serving as a leader in a ministry at my church. I was unhappy, overworked, stressed, and yet I felt that that is how serving God is supposed to feel like. I didn't spend time with God, or ask Him what He wanted me to do. I just thought that doing my job as a Christian means giving until I have nothing left. I wanted God to see my sacrifice and love me. Empty and desperate I quit the ministry I was serving in at the church.

A month later, in November last year, I got married and moved to Fayetteville. Suddenly I had all the time in the world. But that made things worse because now I felt worthless. I wasn't doing anything for God, and I wasn't doing anything for anyone else. I did the best I could to serve my husband, and yet I kept thinking that it wasn't enough. That I didn't deserve anything good because I didn't earn it. 

I started volunteering and I got a part time job to try and fill my time, but I didn't enjoy either. Then I got sick in February and for 2 1/2 months I dealt with severe stomach pains, diarrhea, and fatigue. The simplest things suddenly seemed impossible. Now, I felt that I wasn't even doing a good job of serving my husband and I felt broken, unloved, and unworthy. 

Thankfully the story doesn't stop there. I don't have time to write everything that has happened since that time. But the major points are that the Lord healed me physically. He allowed Chris and I to have a wonderful summer together that strengthened our relationship. He provided a job for Chris just in time for school to start. He also provided a beautiful house for us to live in. 

We have lived here for a month and a half and I have not gotten a job or found a ministry to serve in yet. The miracle is that now I feel good about it. I know those things will come in time, and I will be thankful and ready when they do. But for now I am enjoying being at home. God has been speaking to me lately about putting Him first and learning to accept His free gift of love. I don't have to work for it anymore. God has set me free from the bondage of performance, and for right now what the Lord asks of me is to spend time with Him every day. I am also blessed with time to pour into myself doing what I love. Like reading lots of books, learning yoga, making homemade chicken stock and applesauce, repainting the house, etc...  Each day as I learn more about living simply and doing things the way God intended, it seems that my life makes more sense. 

I believe He is filling me up in preparation for something amazing that is coming, and I want to be ready.  For the first time in a long time I feel spiritually full. I don't feel giving of myself is a duty anymore, but a joy that comes out of the overflow of my heart. I used to feel that when I served it was like people were taking something away from me that I had to protect. Now I feel it is something I want to give freely. I know the journey is not over, and I have many things yet to learn. But it is good to look back and see how far God has brought me. It gives me courage, faith, and hope to be able to overcome what comes next. 

Thank you for listening to my story. My plan was to write this post about applesauce. But, maybe there is someone that needs to hear about my miracle of redemption. For me, healing began when I started to accept God's free gift of love. It just goes to show that everything always comes back to LOVE.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Garlic Potato Salad (no mayo, gluten free, dairy free)

This came to be quite accidentally, and I thought it was super tasty! So I thought I would share the recipe with you.
I know Chris has been wanting potato salad lately and I had a plan to make it for dinner last night. I am not a big fan of mayo and so my thought was to substitute it with plain yogurt. However, when I was at the store the other day, it had to get cut because I was didn't want to go over budget. I have recently been taking a calculator to the store to help me stick to my budget and it has helped SOO much! Alas, I did not bring any yogurt and I refused to use mayonnaise. I wanted it to have a good flavor because I was going to mix in some sweet potatoes and I don't really like sweet potatoes. Consider this one of many recent attempts to get myself to like them. Yes, I realize that they are super good for me and a lot better than potatoes, but I can't seem to get past that they are sweet and mushy. Hmmm..

So I used some olive oil, garlic, and some dried herbs. I heated it in the pan until the garlic got a bit crispy, I let it cool and then added some dijon mustard. It was flavorful and rich and even made the sweet potatoes taste REALLY good! I mean, what doesn't taste good when it is smothered in two of my favorite things: mustard and garlic. YUM!

I served our garlic potato salad with Oven Roasted Okra and Pulled Barbeque Chicken from Amy at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. It was a great meal and one I will definitely make again soon.
Consider these guidelines as you make this recipe. Taste as you go and feel free to add or take away anything you like. haha I realize not everyone loves garlic as much as I do :).

Garlic Potato Salad

2 Medium white potatoes, diced
2 Medium Sweet potatoes, diced

1/4 cup olive
2 large cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp rosemary

3 T dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place diced potatoes in pot, cover with water, and boil until fork tender. Drain water and set aside to cool.

In a small saucepan over medium high heat add olive oil, minced garlic, and herbs and cook until garlic starts to get aromatic and a little crispy.

Take off heat and pour over the potatoes. Add mustard, and salt and pepper to taste.

Mix it all together and serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Planning for Productivity

I had every intention to post a new recipe today. I baked up a storm this afternoon and I have a picture of the mess here to prove it. Yes, I am a messy cook. I know it is better to clean as you go, but I figure if everything is out and dirty anyway, might as well see how far you can go before you have to wash or put something away :). Perhaps a somewhat flawed, but for me, very effective philosophy. However, I only cook like that when I am by myself. haha Oddly enough, I am usually the one keeping things neat and clean when I am cooking with others. Go figure.

I made banana coconut chocolate chip cookies (or rather the dough as I haven't baked them yet).

Apple Crisp

Buckwheat Apple Date Coffee Cake topped with Coconut and Pumpkin seeds

Unfortunately, though they were all good, they were not post-worthy. The apple crisp was a great concept, but turned out too crumbly and the apples a bit rubbery. I do look forward to eating it the rest of the week for breakfast though :).  
As for the coffee cake, I need to make some alterations on that as well. I only used buckwheat flour and the flavor was a bit too earthy for my taste. I think adding carrots as well as using only half buckwheat and half oat flour would make it superb. I will have to try that soon! 

Since I have no recipe, I want to share something else that has been percolating lately. Currently I am a stay at home wife :). We moved here in August and I plan to start college classes full-time in January. I have kept from applying to find part-time work in hopes of being able to accomplish more at home. I spent the first several weeks working on the house, unpacking, and organizing. I have most of that done now, and don't want to waste the blessing of having so much time at home. I want to take advantage of this time and learn and grow as much as I can personally before things get crazy and busy again. 

I don't know about you, but the problem that I have is wanting to do too much. I felt pulled in so many directions and couldn't focus on anything long enough to get anywhere. My brain was constantly going a 100 miles an hour, I had a hard time sleeping, and I was exhausted! So, with Chris' help, I came up with a plan to write down everything I wanted to accomplish before January next year. I have them categorized by relationships, money, home improvement, self-improvement, and green living. Each of those has sub-categories where I wrote specific goals. For example I have concrete things like switch to natural house cleaning products, use re-usable containers and towels instead of ziplocs and paper towels, start a worm compost system, adhere to a stricter budget, learn to crochet, and learn how to effectively use coupons. Some of them are more like habits I want to cultivate such as practicing yoga, scripture memorization, read more classic literature and being a better listener. 

Then, I made a schedule to write out what I will do each week. Today was my first day on the schedule and I quite like it. I am curious to see how well I follow it. For now this is an experiment to ascertain what motivates me and the best way to plan. I am not looking to be too strict, I just needed to provide for myself from structure to be more productive and help make my abstract goals a bit more tangible. I will check back and let you know if this endeavor succeeds in helping me get more done. 

How do you organize your day? What motivates you to get things done? 

Friday, September 10, 2010

7-Layer Mexican Dip (Gluten free, dairy free, vegan)

I like sauces. I like dressings. I like condiments. I like dips. Anything that I can scoop into, dip out of, spoon from, or be squeezed out is a friend of mine. 

I was looking for a way to use up some black beans I had cooked up last week. Given my love of anything dip related, this recipe practically jumped out at me. It was a recipe for mexican layer dip from my Clean Food Cookbook. The 'sour cream' was made out of tofu and it was completely gluten and dairy free. I thought I would give it a try and put in my own few twists.

The recipe called for 16 oz of bean dip. What I had were unseasoned black beans. I would give you the recipe for how I made my bean dip but I am not sure the exact amounts. I know I started with two cups of black beans, 1/2 diced onion, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tsp pepper, 1 chili in adobo sauce. I blended and tasted. It was bland but spicy. Eck. So I added 1 tsp chili powder and 1 tsp. salt. I tasted it again and realized I put in WAY too much salt. (This is where I stopped measuring) I proceeded to add some prepared salsa, avocado, tomato, more beans, and olive oil until it tasted right. It turned out really great, but you could probably find an easier and less experimental way to make your bean dip. Or you can just buy some canned refried beans. Those will work just as well. :)

We ate it for dinner last night with tortilla chips. I told Chris we had to eat it right out of the dish because it is more fun that way. The bonus being we didn't have to do any dishes!

It seems like a lot of ingredients, and admittedly it takes a bit of time to dice and chop and blend everything together. I would say, working by myself, it took about 45 minutes. But with a buddy you can cut that time in half. I believe it is truly flavorful dish and definitely worth the effort. I can't wait to make this as an appetizer for a party. I think people will be amazed at what is not in it, and how good it tastes :).

7-Layer Mexican Dip:
Adapted from Clean Food by Terri Walters

3 cups bean dip

Tofu Sour Cream:
14 oz. firm tofu
1 Tbls olive oil
2 Tbls lemon juice
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 Tbls. + 1 tsp taco seasoning

1 4oz can chipped green chiles

2 Avacados
1 clove garlic minced
2 Tbls. lime juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Dash of cayenne (optional)
Dash of cumin (optional)

1 medium tomato diced
1 ear of corn 'decobbed' or 1 cup frozen or canned corn
4 green onions sliced

Spread bean dip out in a 8x11 dish. Place tofu, oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and taco seasoning in blender and blend until creamy. Spread over beans. Open can of green chiles and spread over sour cream.

Scoop out avocados into a separate bowl and mash with a fork. Add garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cumin. Spread over green chiles.

Sprinkle diced tomato, corn, and green onions on top.

Serve immediately or place in refrigerate for later use.

Apples, Waterfalls, and Pumpkins oh my!

I got to go apple picking yesterday!! It has been six years since I last went and that is about 5 years too long if you ask me. I met up with my Mom and five of my siblings yesterday and we had a great time.

This one is about to go into my mouth. I think I ate 4 apples just while I was picking yesterday. YUM!

These are some of my siblings. :) 

I didn't think you could fit 20 lbs. of apples in that bag. But by golly, you can. She is strong!

My Mom and I. Isn't she hot! hehe Love you Mom!

Amicalola State Park Waterfalls. Definitely worth walking up all those steps.         

The breathtaking view at the top.

Then we drove over and visited a pumpkin patch.

Dried corn

LOTS of squash

Lots and lots of pumpkins.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the colors of fall! 

It was a wonderful day and I happily came home with 25 lbs. of apples. I wonder how long it will take me eat that many apples. Hopefully enough to keep the doctor away :). So, I didn't waste any time and I ate a fresh apple for breakfast. It was delicious! 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

Last week at the grocery store there was a sale on organic canned tomato products. I jumped on that deal and decided to make my mom's famous spaghetti sauce.

My Mom is a wonderful cook. From a young age she has instilled in me a love of cooking and being creative with food. She enjoys making people happy with food and has a way of remembering what people's likes and dislikes are. She remembers that I like to eat healthy and brought brown rice chips for me to eat on vacation. She also knows I don't eat pork and while everyone else was eating ham on easter she got me sushi :). Yeah, she is great! She will ask us what are favorite foods are so she can make them specially for us on our birthday. I have so many wonderful memories cooking and working with Mom in the kitchen, that is something I have missed greatly since moving away from home. Even at our church people will come to an event if they know my mom is cooking. You know that there is love in the food she makes and I hope that one day I can make people happy like that too :).

Now, onto the spaghetti sauce.

I normally make this on the stove, but this time I made it in a crockpot and it was so much easier! It literally only took me 15 min. to put together. The good thing about making so much is that you can use it for several meals. The only things I changed from my Mom's recipe are adding more onion and garlic, omitting the ground beef, and substituting honey for the sugar.

Mom's Spaghetti Sauce

1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
olive oil

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
1 14oz can tomato sauce (I used no salt added)
2 6oz cans tomato paste
2 14oz can italian style petite diced tomatoes
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp thyme
1 tsp red pepper flakes (I love spicy sauce so I put in 2 tsp)
1/2 tsp marjoram
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbls honey

Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add onion and garlic and cook until browned. Turn off heat and put onion and garlic into the crock pot. Add all additional ingredients and cook in crock pot on high 3-4 hours, low 6-8 hours. Or simmer at low heat on stove for 2 hours. Use immediately or store in refrigerator or freezer for later use.

I used that spaghetti sauce for many dinners last week. First off, I made gluten free pizza with a buckwheat crust. Then I made...

Meatball Sandwiches
Vegetarian Spinach Lasagna
Spaghetti sauce over buckwheat noodles

In total we used the contents of that crockpot in 13 meals (including leftovers). Pretty good if you ask me.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Broccoli Miso Stir-Fry

Most of the time I eat until I am full, more often than I would like I continue to keep eating even after I am full. But the point is I eat to feed myself. End of story. But there are other times, when I eat something I know is good for me and looks attractive, I feel not only fed but nourished. It goes beyond just eating to knowing I am doing something good and powerful for myself. I truly felt nourished after eating this dish. It is loaded with broccoli, carrots, onions, zucchini, and ginger providing a fabulous dose of calcium, vitamins, antioxidants, and beta carotene. Served over brown rice it makes a wonderful vegetarian dinner.

I based this off of a recipe I found in Clean Food by Terri Walters. She focuses her cookbook on eating a diet of wholesome natural foods. It is strictly vegetarian and there are also many recipes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, and if not she writes out suggestions for substitutions. I find her recipes inspiring and delicious. The book has four sections categorized by seasons. I would definitely recommend this cookbook.

Broccoli Miso Stir-Fry
Adapted from Clean Food by Terri Walters

1 T olive oil
1 onion quartered and sliced
1 head broccoli cut into bite sized pieces
2 zuchinni cut in half and sliced
3 carrots cut into matchsticks
2 T Bragg's Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
water as needed

2 teaspoons of arrowroot or other starch dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
1 Tablespoon mellow brown or white miso
1 T honey or agave
1 T fresh grated ginger

1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I used a mixture of black and white sesame seeds)
Cooked brown rice or noodles

Heat olive oil over medium high heat and saute onion until translucent. Add broccoli, zucchini, carrot and aminos. Continue to stir fry until vegetables are brighter in color. Add water as needed to prevent sticking.

In a small bowl combine dissolved arrowroot, miso, honey, and ginger. Add to stir fry and cook for a few more minutes until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat top with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.