Monday, October 31, 2011

October is National Vegetarian Month

Since Tony and I have been vegetarian for almost 10 months now I thought I'd share this.  The fine folks at RetailMeNot sent me over this graphic and I think it's punchy and fun.  I'm a bit late on October being National Vegetarian Month but oh well.

I should say that we've been vegetarian at the A household since January ONLY AT HOME.  We have eaten meat outside our home at meals out and friends/families homes.  We don't eat out much, less than once a month probably, and even then we'll often eat vegetarian to save money.

Vegetarian Diet source:

Truthfully though - We're planning on incorporating more meat come the new year in 2012.  We will also likely indulge in the holiday's finest meat dishes when at our families' homes this Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We cannot wait!  No literally we can't wait for lunch meat and chicken dinners!

*RetailMeNot did not sponsor this post. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Video: how to peel a head of garlic in less than 10 seconds

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds from on Vimeo.

Just a quick video share today.  Sorry no YouTube.  I haven't tried this myself but plan to real soon once I get a full head of garlic.  Originally I found it here:  Anyone else tried this or have their own way of peeling garlic?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Our Semi Organic Pantry

I've decided to do a mini series of posts called Our Semi Organic _______.  This first one is called our semi organic pantry.  10 golden stars to whomever can guess the next one.  Hint: you're already close.  Plus mini series sounds fancy like a marathon of Pride and Prejudice, John Adams or Time Warp.  To start off the photo marathon I begin with a photo of the outside of our fabulous pantry.  We are very lucky to have such a nice kitchen, although since that was one of our main priorities when house/apartment hunting when we moved to Richmond I shouldn't be surprised.  Our pantry is awesome.  It is huge, centrally located and easy to store tons of stuff in.  Oh and pretty.

I'm that nosy person that absolutely loves looking into bloggers pantries, closets, fridges, car glove compartments what not.  So this is a thrill for me.  If you've blogged about this yourself - drop me the link in the comments!

Here's the outside of the cabinets.  Yep it's both those cabinets next to the exposed brick (which we think was a fireplace or is a chimney for the upstairs apartment; who knows).  The kitchen is all new with our apartment and we think we're the first to live in it since the remodel.  Lucky us.

As you open both cabinets here ya go!

This is the whole shabang!  I'm not holding anything back.  This is our semi organic pantry.  We've got a nice mix of regular food like cake mixes, canned soup with lots of fun organic stuff like organic canned pumpkin, cereals, broth and grains.  Hope there isn't anything too embarrassing hiding anywhere but overall this is how we've been eating since going vegetarian this January.

For some more close up detail shots:

We always have tons of canned beans on hand - mostly non organic.  I haven't gotten too much into dried beans although I know I should since they're such a great value and much easier to keep around.  Plus you'll be sure there's absolutely no BPA's that could be in your food.  I did buy bulk dried split peas last time we went to whole foods and that was a huge success.  As you can see we also have Trader Joe's organic tomatoes and some pumpkin.  Although I have to say there is some regular people Libby's canned pumpkin in the back. Used those for Fall Fest!

Some more notable things are our always present continuing collection of tomato sauces.  We ran out for a few hours last week and it was the first time since college Tony could remember not having back up tomato sauces in the house!  We use it for everything!  Pasta, pizza, dipping sauce and more!  I got this non organic classico for .99 cents at Target recently with my couponing skills.  Those ripped labels on the salsa & applesauce are compliments of Fresh to Frozen.  The torn labels were the only thing wrong with them and I love that natural applesauce!  I think they were $1.00 each.

No reason to highlight these items other than the fact that they are awesome!  Espresso powder and dark cocoa powder.  I've used them to make brownies that were to die for!  Both King Arthur Flour brand; both gifts.

A few weeks ago we went with a friend on a Cosco run.  I hadn't been to Cosco in years!  We only grabbed a few things since our two person household can't support such ridiculously large portions of stuff.  We did grab a huge thing of olive oil since we go through it like peanut butter water.  We also grabbed a lot of broth since it was organic and low sodium.  You could say this technically doesn't go with our vegetarian at home rule - but whatever.  I would love to start making more of my own broth but that never seems to come up high on my priorities these days.

We're almost out of TVP (which is actually very cheap); it looks crumbly at the bottom of the bag - gross.  Those are unopened packages of organic brown rice and TJ's version of Bisquick.  Reminder - must make cobbler, waffles or biscuits soon.

We borderline hoard peanut butter in our house.  I bought a couple extra last time since I heard that peanut butter prices were going up.  Is this true?  This Jif Natural is our favorite.  We keep one next to our toaster on the counter at all times.  Also we've got raisins, crackers & pita chips as you can see.  Yumm.

I love keeping lots of variety of nuts in the pantry since they always seem to creep into reciepes where you didn't plan for them.  I often get them at Trader Joes since they seem to have some of the best prices around.  I do often see nuts at Fresh to Frozen too but not that much of a savings usually; they're usually crushed or pieces, labeled that way or not.

My new favorite snack.  These things are actually good!  I got them at Martins.

Another hoarded item - Trader Joe's chocolate covered espresso beans.  We have one and a half containers currently.  They normally go as a bonus snack/ dessert in our lunches for work/school.  Usually mixed in (secretly) with trail mix.  Random jello mix, (old free) popcorn, chocolate mouse, fig neutons and pound plus of dark chocolate bar in the background. 

That is all!  Our complete semi organic pantry.  What goodies do you keep in your pantry?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fall Fest is coming

Coming up soon we're hosting a little party for our new friends here in Richmond and it's going to be a Fall Fest.  Welcome future CRNA's!  In continuing a tradition of some friends back in North Carolina who've hosted Fall Fest the last few years we're now spreading the party to new friends.  Basically it's just an excuse to get together, eat food, drink, carve pumpkins and be happy.

My only source of guidance (besides Jen's fabulous Fall Fests in the past) for this party has been Pinterest.  It pretty much fulfills all my party needs.  Decor, food, drinks etc.  If you're not aware of Pinterest I highly recommend it and if you get an invite or get accepted to the club be warned it will be too much fun to click away from.  That place is awesome!

I've made a Fall Fest 2011 board here and it pretty much sums up what I want out of hosting this party.  Check out these screen shots for the overall yumminess.

weird how that photo on the middle right looks like chili mac and cheese...
it's not.  It's spiced pumpkin seeds (dramatically).

Yep I have plans to make cider punch (or some alternative), hopefully lots of snacky things, a few pumpkin foods (duh) and maybe even some crafty decorations.
This is a way cool idea that just uses 2 bundt pan cakes to make a pumpkin shaped cake!  How creative but I wonder if it could be too much cake.  I'm not sure how many people we're having but I don't want to be stuck with 3/4 of this cake after the party (or I do?).   Also on the cake theme I'm thinking about doing this Pinterest classic (if you've been on Pinterest for 5 seconds you've seen this).
Yep I plan on making this two ingredient (not counting all the preservatives in the box cake mix) dessert!  I have carrot as well as butter cream cake mixes in my pantry now so we'll see how it turns out.  I got both of these at Fresh to Frozen and were about 50 cents each since the boxes got a little smushed on the corners.  Perfectly fine and will be yum!  I hope.  Wish me luck.

I'm thinking about making a crock pot of chili for the really hungry eaters.  With homemade cornbread!  What about having soup in a carved out pumpkin?  Or put ice and chill drinks in a pumpkin?  Oh the possibilities!

ps. If you need an invite just email me!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm a bread machine

Actually I'm not a bread machine but I feel like it lately using the heck out of one of our wedding gifts - an actual bread machine!  Since the arrival of fall this month we've been a lot into breads, soups and lots o' root veggies.  Despite it being in the 70's and even up into the 80's lately I push the bread maker on.  Here are a few updates of successful and less than perfect breads.

I have to start by saying I've never made bread from real scratch.  I've never done kneading, rising or whatnot.  Just the mention of the word "starter" and I go running to the grocery store for some pre-made bread.  Maybe one day I'll get to that but for now I make bread in our bread maker.  Technically that is from scratch since all raw, basic ingredients go in, bread comes out.  But the machine does all the mixing, rising cycles and the baking ALL IN ONE!  It's like a robot.  It's got buttons, lights and beeps.  Just program it and it will make you bread.

We got it last year and a few hard, black rock breads got turned out but the robot bread maker has sat untouched since then.  Also I should mention that I just use the recipe book that came with our Cuisinart machine.  It has tons of cool sounding recipes including cakes, gluten free, savory, sweet, the classics, jams and more.

In the last month or so I've made the following:

Salsa cheddar bread.  A successful bread I've made.  It's really good, comes out a little pinky/orange colored on the inside but really tasty.  We're not sure what it goes with... Mexican, soup...?  Just eat it by itself.

An in process shot of the mixer doing its' thing on a french bread loaf.  See how the pan is rectangular?  That's where I've found problems arise (haha bread joke).  Sometimes you have to wipe those corners down to get an evenly mixed dough. 

Another issue is that this bread maker leaves a hole in the bottom of the loaf.  There is no way around this.  This hole is from where the mixing paddle gets attached to.  If you also forget you can/will leave the mixing paddle baked right into your bread!  It's a small metal mixing paddle that you're suppose to remove when the mixing cycles are done and its about to rise and then bake.  Not a huge issue but kinda weird. 

Okay my french bread is rising... very good.

Okay now my french bread looks like a brick.  What gives?!?  Yep this was a not super successful bread attempt.  Truthfully it didn't taste all that bad on the inside and went well with split pea soup but overall a little dense.  Still no clue what happened with this one.  Better luck next time.

The next time after that I made pumpkin bread.  It also was somewhat to dense (but mostly edible) but was on a completely different cycle of cake breads.  So it didn't have yeast or the same settings at the french loaf so either there's a different reason for the bricks or this robot/bread machine doesn't get 5 stars.  There's no photo of the pumpkin loaf since after we each ate 1 piece it got attached by ants overnight.  Stupid house.

Lastly the most successful bread - the banana bread.  A huge favorite by Tony and I.  I've now made this twice and this is the only photo - a pieces wrapped up for lunch.  It's really good and here I've added chopped walnuts.  It gets slightly gooey on the top and a good texture all around - no bricks.

There are about 60 more recipes in the cook book for my bread maker plus about 100 more I've found on Pinterest and the blog world I'd like to try so we'll see where I end up in my bread making department.  Robot says hi.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bye Bye Netflix

Bye Bye netflix.  We are officially broken up.  It's been a good 3 years but last month was our last time together and tearfully (not really) we documented this last netflix dvd.  This was our last movie - Australia, Book of Eli or some chick flick.  We felt that even with the instant linked through our roku, down to 1 disk at a time and the increasing prices we just couldn't justify paying anymore.   We'd grown sick of the instant movie selections and knew that with Tony's schedule and our lack of a huge entertainment budget we should say goodbye.  Sayonara.

It really wasn't that hard.  I don't miss it that much.  We're doing a trial run of Hulu Plus for a while to see how that goes.  It seems to have lots of TV (not all though) and practically no movies.  The interface with roku isn't as smooth as netflix used to be so that's a bummer.  Also some things are internet only and won't work on our TV with the roku - no clue why.  Hulu plus is cheaper so that's great but we'll see where we end up.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Annual IKEA trip 2011

Every year for the last 3 or so years we've made an annual trip to our local IKEA.  It's a tradition now.  It used to be the brand new Charlotte, NC IKEA but now it's the Woodbridge, VA one.  We go for fun and we normally buy stuff too.   

Fun note: We actually went on opening weekend when the Charlotte store was new (2008/09?).  It was mayhem to the extreme!  There were satellite parking lots with buses, traffic backed up 2 exits on the highway, cops directing cars, lines inside backed up past the warehouse.  Crazy.  But still fun.  Another fun note: I went to the opening of the Woodbridge IKEA as well when I was a wee toddler Robin; my first ball pit. 

This year we had a few "must buys" that we've been thinking up since moving into our new place.  Also this years' trip had to be a little cheaper than previous ones.  Honestly I seriously could spend way too many paychecks at that store given a big enough house, big enough truck and the means.  Our 'must buys' were curtains for the living room and blinds or window covering for one kitchen window.  Bonus buys were going to be a desk for me (Robin), a living room rug, accessories for office, more curtains for the office, curtain rod for other kitchen window, shelf for office, additional lamp for office and I could go on forever.

Guess what we got?  Check out the before and after photos to I spy them.

living room before
office before
kitchen window before
AANNND now...
office after!
I also spy pinterest!
living room after!
cat not included
kitchen window after
As you can see we got some blinds for the kitchen window - nice wooden ones.  We got cheap 2 panel curtains for the living room (2 pack of panels for $15) plus a super long black curtain rod for that room.  We debated over the color choice of the curtains for a long time but knew we had a small budget and had to go cheapsies and went with one of the white patterns.  Tony's fav was out of stock so we went with simple leafy pattern similar to this one.  The install of both was pretty easy, just some screws (not included, WHAT?!) and a power drill.  We also picked up a $20 rug that is probably too small for the large living room but I love the pattern and who can beat 20 bucks?!  We'll upgrade in 3 years.  Right..
my fabulously dorky measurements
what we should have taken a photo of is me with my own measuring tape in the store!
We also got me a desk!  Yay!  No more ReStore kitchen cart.  That thing was all weird ergonomically and not my jam.  Well technically we got me a table.  It was in the desk area of the showroom but really its a cheap table top that you match with legs.  Those legs are $3.50 each.  Yep.  You can mix and match lots of table tops with different styles of legs and bottom pieces for tons of fun combos.  I chose the very basic in the smallest size.  They now carry it in black/brown and white.  I went with black/brown with silver legs.  I debated going with black legs or red (haha just kidding!) but thought silver would be best.  It also was an easy install with 5 (included) screws per leg into pre-drilled holes. 

In other exciting news we found some organic stuff at IKEA.  IKEA is semi organic too!  Really?  Yep Organic Elk Shaped pasta.  Came in white and whole wheat.  That's IKEA for ya.  I love it.  I should have bought this and saved it for a while elephant party or something. 

We wound up in the hood.

We did a trial run of their kitchen chairs - actually pretty comfy.  I think my parents  had that light in our kitchen growing up; it was even red.  They probably bought it here.

I loved on their built in closet ideas.  Even if their accessories were tied down.

One day we hope to get this Poang.  Is it sad that we both correctly know many of the names of the IKEA products - even the ones we don't own?!

Lastly we of course had to eat their Swedish meatballs.  Delicious!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Semi Organic Lawn Maintenance

Our new place in Richmond has a yard since it's a real house (that we rent part of).  Real houses have real yards that real adults have to mow.  Woah responsibilities.  Since our landlord didn't seem to be planning on having maintenance do yard work we decided to offer to do it ourselves; and she agreed.  She paid for a few simple tools so we could handle it ourselves.  

We are now in charge of keeping the yard in check.  First item we bought - a lawn mower.  Not just any regular lawn mower but a back to basics eco friendly push mower.  Yep, no gas guzzling nasty fumey contraption here, just clean easy exercise with the Task Force 16" Reel Push Mower.  Seen here.  

before grass shot
Here Tony is setting it up which involved a few basic screws to get the handle bars in place.  Very simple just a few minutes (and few glances at the manual) and we were in business.  It practically comes ready out of the box!  Again there is no gas to buy and fill or things to charge, so buy this on a sunny afternoon when your grass is ready to be mowed.

after grass shot
Its pretty small as lawnmowers go so you need very little room to store it.  It's also very light and even I can maneuver it easily and even pick it up to store it.  It's not your regular bulky, heavy, needs quarter of a garage to store type of mower.  The handle bar flips forward for compact storage.  Perfect for us.  

Here is a video we took of it in action.  The website and reviewers say it works best of flat, small lawns.  Check and check.  You can see how not great our lawn is though - part gravel, patchy, part non grass; still works great.  

Overall we love this lawnmower!  It was cheap, it's very easy to use, it actually works and is eco friendly.  It is also a little bit of a workout when you use it so win win (win).  I highly recommend one!

We also picked up a basic battery powered weed-whacker to get those tight spots.  Since we live on a semi big street lots of people drive and walk by so we want our front yard especially to look clean and clipped.  We're still working with the existing landscaping.  There are some bushes that I have no clue what to do with and tons of weeds.  I straight pulled lots of the overgrown vine-y weeds early on but I'm gonna do some research on DIY making some eco friendly homemade weeds killers for the little ones that keep coming back.  Wish me luck.

Task Force (and Lowes) did not sponsor this post or anything to do with it.  The opinions are all mine and not influenced by anyone.  They don't even know my blog exists or that I am writing this. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Potato Galette

A new wonderful addition to our vegetarian menu is this amazing potato galette recipe.  You could use it as a side dish or as a main course when just hungry for potatoes.  I got the original recipe from my friend Megan's blog.  She has all the info on how to make this dish (and in a much funnier format than me) here.    

Basically it involved slicing potatoes (local, organic, off the back of a truck, fresh to frozen etc) and using the stove and the oven to great deliciousness.  I'll warn you now, there may be some danger in making this.  If you have small children or anyone who is careless keep them away from the kitchen.  No seriously.  

Here I am checking out the recipe online.  Again: find potato galette recipe here.  We picked fresh rosemary from our plant in our sunny window and may have skimped a little on the amount of butter.  

Some very cool photos of this pot squishing the pan.  Technical cooking terms.  The idea was to put pressure down so the potatoes all got stuck together when cooking and became pie like when done.  You can slice it into pieces ideally at the end.  

Okay here's when disaster happened.  Brace yourself.  One of the steps involves post-stove top putting the pan in the oven.  Okay, great we used a pan that was oven safe.  After the 45 minutes in the oven you return cooking back on the stove top.  What's one very important thing to remember here?  USE AN OVEN MIT! We carefully pulled the frying pan out of the oven and it had been sitting on the stove for less than 5 minutes when I grabbed the handle open palmed with my bare hand!

The metal was close to 450 degrees and boy did it hurt!  There may have been tears.  My poor scorched hand was badly burnt.  It was my left hand luckily but I burnt my entire pointer and ring fingers, part of my palm and part of my thumb.  I had to sit out the rest of the cooking that night with some ice and pain killers.

Because of the kitchen accident we didn't take any more photos, we didn't get to plop it out the pan nicely and have it slice into clean pie like pieces.  We did eat some later and it tasted great!  I ate it with sour cream since I wasn't into any more hot things that night.  

Next time we'll be more careful and hopefully get to enjoy this amazing dish more.  1. make this, 2. be careful!

A few days later my fingers were healing nicely with only some red spots that have now almost disappeared.  Most parts of my fingerprints are now returning.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Whole Foods Shopping

Our Living Social Whole Foods deal was a coupon burning a whole in our pockets.  Since we live about 20-25 mins away from Whole Foods (closer and I would have applied for a job there) we don't go up to Short Pump usually more than once a month.  That area has the TJ's too so it's always a fun first weekend of the month trip for us.  This time we got to go to Whole Foods and spend our $20.

Typically when I have a gift card/coupon or deal whatnot I try my darndess to get my total to add up to exactly whatever the minimum is (like those World Market birthday coupons).  With most you have to spend x amount pre tax to get the discount.  Here we had $20 to spend (we purchased this for $10 online).  I went to ahead of time to print out all their in store coupons.  Well... not all; just the coupons we'd use.

Just to start the party off check out how expensive these dried morel mushrooms are!  $299.99/lb.  Phew, out of my budget for a while.  Random factoid.  This is something we could not get with our coupon (maybe some crumbs)

they better be worth every penny

This is WF's classic traditional organic pasta sauce.  The part of the shelf label I cut off in this photo says "new lower price"!  Alright.  I had a $1 off coupon which made this $1.29.  ps. this sauce is so amazing Tony said he'd eat it plain as tomato soup!  I also had coupons for string cheese, yogurt, canned tomatoes and soup.  The few other items we got were milk, coffee, cranberries, split peas & apples.

We only bought the coffee at Whole Foods since it was the same price/lb as the cheapest Trader Joes one, and were going to buy that anyway.  T wanted to try something new so in the cart it went.

getting ready to check out
Grand total?  $33.84.  I used 5 $1 coupons as well.  So basically we paid $8.84 for all this in store.  Plus the $10 we spent on the living social deal brings our new total to $18.84.  The 33.84 dollars' worth of food for $18.84.  Not bad.  (hope my math is right here)

our stash all lined up on our counter

So far we've made split pea soup one dinner (still got enough left from our bulk scooping for another batch of soup), eaten the yogurt, apples & string cheese for lunches and hazelnut milk with cereal in the morning.  I made this awesome tomato soup and dumplings with the 1 of the organic canned tomatoes and of course tossed those dried cranberries in a salad 2 nights ago (they should last a while I hope). 

I dream of the day when I could do all my grocery shopping at Whole Foods.  It is like a literal dream for me.  Even when I say "one day when we're rich we'll..." shop entirely at Whole Foods I doubt I actually could.  That store is so much fun and has amazing stuff but I enjoy saving money and getting the best deal on stuff.  Even if it's not all organic.  Hence discount grocery shopping.  It's still fun when you have the coupons and best deals.  At least some semi organic deals.


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