Posts Tagged ‘food’

When you have excess zucchini…. zucchini bread!


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This is not a soundbite.

It’s the end of a little vacation at home for me, and I’m feeling a flickering combination of contentment and depression.

I am content with the food in my kitchen (bolstered by a trip to Costco today), and the dinner to come. One of my housemates made homemade guacamole and chips as an appetizer, and I’m about to eat chicken and dirty rice and drink sangria, all made by him. I’m excited about the variety of meals I ate these four days, and all of the lunches I can bring to work for the remainder of this week. I’m hopeful that the bulk-sized container of unsalted mix nuts is enough to sustain me during my snack cravings there for quite a while. I’m looking forward to making a white bean fennel soup for tomorrow’s dinner.

I am feeling a sense of accomplishment about further research and tweaks to my finances – I set up a new ING savings account set up just for the Surly bike (which I got to see and touch in person on Sunday), and also asked Alex to explain compound interest formulas to me so that I could calculate the benefits of paying off my low interest student loans versus investing in retirement.

Part of being sustainable for me is getting my expenses really low through natural means (gardening, cooking, buying used and making my own stuff whenever possible) and ultimately marginalizing my involvement with the full time work treadmill. I need to continue pulling in a full time salary now, but the more of that I save, the better my options get. This may sound like sacrifice, but it’s really more about being satisfied with the little things.

When I go back into work tomorrow, everyone is going to ask me what I did with my vacation, and they’re going to expect stories of events and faraway places visited. My answer won’t fit into a few soundbites. But here it is:

I fed chickens out of my hand, rode my bike, planned a meal budget, put (half) of a border up around the garden, read books, sat in the sunshine, reveled in finding a beautiful old glass butter dish for $2 in a thrift shop, ate delicious food, made granola, researched options for our upcoming conference in Seattle, and basically allowed myself to pretend, for just a few moments, that I had achieved early retirement. I wasn’t bored. I still worked, but I did what I loved. And those fleeting moments were the kick in the pants needed to see life in a whole new way, and to do even more to structure my life so that I achieve that status much, much sooner than I ever believed possible. 

More garden eats!

Lately I’ve been playing a fun game. It’s called, “how many ingredients in this dish can I get from the garden?”

Tonight, I made an amazing Coconut Curry with tofu and garden peas. The scallions, onions, garlic and hot pepper also came from the garden, as did the thyme. The tofu came from the Hodo Soy Beanery, which is fifteen blocks away, so that’s a pretty good local score, as well. The madras curry powder (Penzy’s) and the coconut milk have quite a bit more distance on them, but overall, the dish was predominantly sourced from West Oakland.

I would have included a picture of the finished dish, but we ate it all within twenty minutes. Instead, I’ll pass along the recipe and some shots of the ingredients.

Five fresh scallions about to be sauteed – beautiful!

Just pulled from the ground

Coconut Tofu and Pea Curry

  • 5 scallions (greens and bulbs) or an equivalent amount of onions
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 – 2 pounds of tofu, depending on how much you want in the dish. I used one this time, but would probably throw in two next time.
  • 1 1/2 cups of peas
  • Three medium sized tomatoes, or size equivalent
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 5 – 8 teaspoons of madras curry powder, depending on hotness level desired.
  • 1 hot pepper, whole
  • Olive oil
  • Hot sauce (your favorite kind)

Remove your tofu from its water bath and brown it lightly in a frying pan with no oil or cooking spray. You want to dry fry it – removing as much liquid as possible – so it retains a firm texture and sucks in all of the delicious marinade you’re going to put it in.

Next, marinate your tofu in hot sauce and olive oil. You will leave it in this concoction as you chop and prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Dice your onions/scallions into small pieces. If you have a food processor, this is a great time to utilize it. Set aside. Then chop up your garlic and your tomatoes. Set aside. Strip the thyme leaves off of their sprigs and set aside. Get out a good sized skillet and throw however much olive (or canola) oil you need in there to saute those onions/scallions. Saute them until translucent.

Add the garlic and madras curry to this mix and saute for another two minutes. Then take your tofu out of its fiery marinade and sear it in the pan with the onions, garlic and curry. Once both sides of the tofu pieces are lightly seared, add in the tomatoes and the peas. Stir it all in and saute a bit more. Then, add your coconut milk and thyme. Stir, and then turn the heat down to a simmer, cover loosely, and let the magic happen, for about 45 minutes. About 25 minutes in, remember to make some basmati rice. Mix and enjoy!

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Why Simply Living Sideburns?

I’m going to start with a big, uncomfortable truth. I’ve made some shitty financial decisions in my life.

Most of them happened in my early twenties, when I was somehow convinced that I could move out my parents’ house and live on Starbucks barista pay and finish my last year (which turned into three years) of college all at the same time. This was in New York, a city well known for ridiculous rent. 

By my mid twenties, I was making just enough money to be paying all of it back toward my earlier mistakes.

Now I’m 30, and free of all debt except student loans (which are manageable, but I’d like to get paid off), and looking bright eyed and optimistically toward the future. I’m determined not to live within such a tight margin again. And on May 7th, 2012, the East Bay Bicycle Coalition linked to as part of their Bike to Work Day celebrations. The article was about how much money biking can save you, but I hungrily consumed the rest of the site, going back and reading every article since the beginning. I finished this last night, on 5/27. It’s been quite a journey.

I’ve been congratulating myself for the things I already do, kicking myself for the things I’ve known I should be doing but haven’t, and learning a hell of a lot. What I love about MMM compared to any other finance blog I’ve read is that his version of the good life is sustainable and good for the environment. It makes sense in a very old fashioned way – live within your means, don’t waste, don’t buy anything unless you really need it, and then, if you must buy something, try to get it used. Don’t fill up landfills with packaging, and don’t eat fast food!

I think that the trap that I fall into is that I work hard and don’t make a lot of money, and then my bitterness about that reinforces that little voice in the back of my head that tells me to indulge myself by buying pricey meals whenever I have extra in my account. But no – if I want to have a good life, I need to save, and get rid of those student loans. I can do that even at my current income, and if I get to the point where I’m pulling in more, I’ve already developed the frugality muscles to put that extra money in helpful places.

Even before learning about Mustachianism, I had gotten rid of my car, gotten into biking, and bought (or found for free) most of my furniture on Craigslist or from yard sales. I had begun to put a healthy chunk of my check toward my 401k. I’m a natural homebody, preferring my homestead to paying for social events. My big expense has been food, because I *love* good food. But if I want to eat well, I need to cook it, or convince someone in my house to. 🙂 And even at Walgreens’ prices (which I will quit paying after I make use of our free Costo membership next week), buying bags of unsalted mixed nuts as snack food is *much* cheaper than buying crappy junk food, and it makes me feel much more even-keeled throughout the day. Bananas are relatively cheap, too, even organic ones, and don’t involve such a sugar crash. 

I’ve got some expenses coming up – a trip to Seattle in August that I’m already committed to (and damn excited about), and at some point, I need to get a multi-geared bike and trailer so that I can do smarter bulk shopping trips. That means it’s even more important that I save my cash and do my homework on how to make these purchases as frugally as possible. 

I chose the name “Simply Living Sideburns” for this blog because at one point, Mr. Money Mustache references such a character. He prefers the mustache. In real life, as in finances, my mustache is patchy and a work in progress. But I maintain Tenth Doctor-esque sideburns year round, and would rather go bald than shave them off. My frugality sideburns are hopefully just as luscious. 


A homemade and homegrown food week

We’re now at two weeks, and only one lunch out at work, mainly because I forgot to throw my lunch into my bag. I am saving so much cash and eating much more balanced food than before!

I haven’t gone out for lunch at work this entire week, but I’ve eaten very well! We’ve been making big batches of food for the house, all with a few ingredients from our garden thrown in, and I’ve been taking the leftovers to work. 

I’ve had funky dal (red lentils, garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and a lemon finish) with rice and steamed chard. Then there was Alex’s potato, pea and spinach curry, with the latter two ingredients coming fresh from the garden. Alex made a superb mushroom risotto on Tuesday, with our own chard. Tonight, I’m making a Caribbean influenced coconut chicken curry – the scallions, chives, thyme and hot pepper all came from the garden on that, as well! I got a late start, but it should be ready soon, and the house smells heavenly. 

I’ve been mostly snacking on bananas and unsalted mixed nuts at work. I’m feeling good, and feeling frugal, too. More on the frugality in a future post.

And of course, every morning has been starting with a mix of homemade yogurt and homemade granola. 

Last night, I also had a My Drunk Kitchen, Oakland edition, and made a batch of brownies from Bob’s Red Mill GF brownie mix that’s been sitting in the kitchen for a few months. It was awesome to pull out my little brownie square as an afternoon indulgence at work today. I made them for the house, so they’re going pretty fast, but I should be able to take another square for dessert tomorrow. 

As long as the tupperware in the fridge is filled with a variety of delicious, sustainable food, I don’t feel sad about cutting back on my meal spending. I feel damn lucky to be able to know so much about the origins of my food, and know that it was lovingly crafted. 

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Store bought gluten free granola looked silly next to our homemade yogurt, so…

Another tasty batch!

Update: Honey makes much better granola, so if you’re not vegan, go that route! We actually got ours on tap from the homebrewing store that Alex gets his beer brewing supplies from. I also found that cashews made a tasty addition to the almonds. My next experiment will be adding ginger and apples to the concoction. Really, the options are limitless. Yum!

I currently have granola baking in the oven. It smells amazing.

There isn’t anything extremely sustainable about this granola – none of the ingredients come from my yard. But it’s certainly cheaper than the gluten free granola I’ve been buying at the store, and I can get most of the ingredients for it from the bulk bin, saving some packaging. And I can tweak it based on what ingredients I have at the house.

I’m using Bob Red Mill’s Oats, agave nectar (the recipe called for honey but we were short, so I substituted), vegetable oil, vanilla extract, brown sugar, almonds, peanuts and dried cranberries. I tossed the oats with cinnamon and salt, then whisked together the wet ingredients. I coated the dry mix with the wet mix, baked it for ten minutes and flipped, added the almonds, baked it for five minutes and flipped, and added the peanuts and baked it for ten more minutes. When it comes out, I will throw it in a container, add the dried cranberries, mix and put away for the morning. After having a bite, of course. 🙂

The hardest part of making this is not eating all of the brown sugar. I think I’ll make it in double or even triple proportions next time, so I don’t have to worry about running out. Getting more honey will be essential, too!

Then I’m on to making dal…

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