Good Luck with That!

I cooked my traditional dish of Hoppin’ John today, using home-canned peppers, tomatoes, veggie broth and a package of the frozen Sofritos that my Puerto Rican friend Daniel taught me how to make last summer from my garden’s excess. IMG_0104

So today, all I had to do was open the jars, pressure cook the dried peas for 15 minutes, and add 2 cups of last night’s leftover rice, along with some precooked vegan sausage crumbles I had in the freezer. I love this time of year when I’m able to cook most of our meals using the fruits of my summer labor and dried beans and grains bought in bulk! Eating this way also helps me get ‘back in the groove’ of eating healthfully after the excesses of the holidays. I know, I know, “good luck with that!” Property taxes, car insurance and the season’s highest heating bills all have to be paid in January and cooking this way feeds us well for mere dimes. Really. I also took advantage of the warm, sunny day to uncover my raised beds and cut some fresh kale to go with this. Quickly stir fried in red-pepper oil, it was the perfect go-with for the Hoppin’ John. We eat this dish (with a coin hidden in the pot-whoever finds it in their bowl will be blessed with wealth) with greens every year. Don’t you love family traditions?

New Year Resolutions; I have two:

Resolution #1. Get Fit. I want to ride my bike UPHILL  (important skill when  you live in the mountains), run in the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k race again (along with 5,000 close friends), and climb Chimney Top Mountain on January 1st, 2015 (with a much smaller group of friends) that do it every New Year’s Day. We did it with them in 2008 and have always said we’d do it again. One year from today, we’ll be there and I’ll post a picture. I know, I know, “good luck with that!” Here I am after the last time I did that climb:


Resolution #2. Become a better bass player, which is going to require a lot of daily practice on my part. I know, I know, “good luck with that too!”

bass crop (3)

Eating healthy, staying fit, staying out of debt and living ‘well with less’, making home-made music, gardening and canning, hiking, bike riding and spending time with family and friends is really how I want to live my life, this year and always. May YOU be so lucky too! Happy New Year! 

Frugal Friday August 30th

I’m on a writing roll friends, and since I didn’t get around to it last week, today is the day for… FRUGAL FRIDAY. It’s been a difficult week for my husband and consequently, I’ve wanted and needed to be home with him as much as possible. I walk the dog for a half hour each morning, and that’s about it. That said, when you don’t start the car, go out to eat, go into stores or out with friends, YOU DON’T SPEND ANY MONEY! I don’t recommend this forced method of saving however, because it can lead to…writing too many blog posts.

I rescued another stamp this week that had arrived in my mailbox uncanceled and used it to mail a card to a sick friend. I don’t go to many yard sales and thrift stores, but when I do, I always look for cards and stationery. I have a nice assortment of both now, and rarely have to buy an appropriate card at full retail price. Of course, using ‘recycled’ postage stamps to mail them makes the endeavor practically free. I really do enjoy sending cards and letters to folks, but felt it was wasteful of Earth’s resources, since most cards are thrown away within a week of receiving them so this practice of buying second-hand allows me to indulge without being wasteful . Here’s the latest stamp that came to me uncanceled-on my birthday earlier this month- which was like ‘frosting on the cake’ so to speak.  ;D


Speaking of greeting cards… a ‘ritual’ that began quite unexpectedly has turned into an annual reaffirmation for me. Four years ago Michael gave me a beautiful and sentimental anniversary card. I told him it was perfect and that he could just give it to me every year after that. So he does, adding a new inscription to it each August. I still love it, and look forward to its yearly return. Savings: who knows?  but it’s priceless to me!


I answered a posting on Freecycle this week for an offer of 3 vials of the same vet-recommended flea and tick medication (read: EXPENSIVE)  that I was already applying to my dog each month, and was so grateful to be chosen to receive it. Savings: $36.00 hmmm maybe I’ll send that Freecycler a thank you card with my next recycled stamp ;D (Here’s Junie showing off her stash)


I picked up a book that was on hold for me at the library this week. Not only do they call me when it’s ready for pickup, they send me a complimentary email reminder when it’s due too!  Since I walked over to get it, I didn’t even use any gasoline! Public Library Privileges: PRICELESS! And see here how beautiful my library is:


I enjoy making a meal out of essentially ‘nothing’ and put this one together initially because of the four potatoes I’d failed to harvest earlier: I stir fried the chard leaves and diced potatoes with the onions, cooked the green beans with the dill, and threw the beets in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes while the rest of it cooked. I sliced the tomatoes just as they were, had some leftover cornbread and apple mint tea with it, and it was more than enough for two meals. (I added the ‘Appalachian Grown Certified Local’ twist tie to the picture  just because it came on a bunch of kale I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market in early spring and I thought it was kinda novel- and it was appropriate for this local food too. I’m easily amused these days, can you tell?)
Savings: I don’t know…what would that organically grown produce cost me? Three or four dollars I’d say!


Hope your Labor Day Weekend is anything BUT laborious!

Beans, Beans, Good for Your Heart…

…”the more you eat, the more you fart. The more you fart, the better you feel, let’s have beans at every meal!” If that old adage  is true, my heart should be super healthy!  As committed vegetarians, Michael and I eat a lot of beans. You may have noticed the picture of the dried beans I used in the background of this blog’s homepage-they’re a variety I’m crazy about, called Hopi Orange Limas and I grow them because they’re drought resistant, taste fabulous, and they’re beautiful. Here, take a look:

 But, even if we weren’t vegheads, we’d still eat a lot of beans.There’s lots of reasons to include beans in our meals, but the most obvious is that, in terms of nutritional bank for our buck, beans really are a great value. As a matter of fact, we don’t even bother to grow dried beans anymore, unless they are a  hard-to-find variety. Common varieties of dried beans cost only a bit over $1.00 a pound and when cooked, plump up to six cups of fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and are low in fat. If you cook them in the pressure cooker, there’s no need to soak them, and they’re done in about 15 minutes. This post  discusses the ease of pressure cooking, and how I freeze them in 2 cup quantities, which is what many bean-y recipes call for. Now that we’ve gotten to know each other so well, I thought a peek inside my freezer would give you an idea of how much we love beans: peppers, bread, corn and ‘soup stuff’ on the bottom, but the whole top shelf is dedicated to cooked beans!


We use ’em in soups, casseroles, salads, salsa, hummus, burritos, tacos, in crock pot meals, Indian dals, and any other way you can think of. Here’s the thing: with the huge variety of meals and beans, we never get tired of them. All that said, I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite bean-y recipes. No chopping to this recipe, which is a plus for me. Let me know if you try it!

PS Mustard and coriander seeds, dried coconut, sea salt, turmeric and the yellow split peas can be purchased in bulk (read: cheaper, and no packaging waste) at the Mennonite Bulk Food Store in Chuckey. This store will definitely be listed in the soon-to-come ‘Local Resource Guide’.


5 tsp sesame or canola oil

2 T. yellow split peas

1 tsp coriander seeds (let some of your cilantro go to seed and harvest it)

2-4 dried Thai or cayenne chilies (I’ve used all kinds of dried chilies for this recipe)

2 cups water

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds

3 cups chickpeas, drained

2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt

1/4 tsp turmeric (studies show that including turmeric in your daily diet can help prevent Alzheimer’s, a real concern for me personally)

1/2 cup shredded, dried unsweetened coconut, reconstituted in water

2 T finely chopped cilantro

In a medium saucepan over medium high, heat the oil. Add the split peas, coriander seeds and chilies. Cook, stirring constantly, until the split peas and seeds are reddish-brown and the chilies have blackened slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Using a slotted spoon, skim off the spices and transfer them to a plate to cool for about 5 minutes. Do not discard the oil.

Once the spices are cool, put them in a spice grinder and grind until the texture resembles that of finely ground black pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine the water and tamarind paste. Whisk to dissolve the paste.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat. When the oil is warmed, add the mustard seeds. Cover the pan and cook until the seeds have stopped popping (about 30 seconds)

Stir in the chickpeas, salt and turmeric. Stir to coat the peas evenly with the spices. Pour in tamarind water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas absorb the flavors, about 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the ground spices, reconstituted coconut, and cilantro.

Start to finish: 25 minutes!

Makes 8 servings (IF you eat like a bird!)

I serve this over basmati or brown rice, add a salad and a side of greens, with chapatis or naan bread and herbal tea for a complete meal

Digging for buried treasure
March 26, 2012, 9:04 PM
Filed under: pressure cooking | Tags:


I want ya’ll to see what we harvested from the garden today! These were planted last fall and were left in the bed all winter, with only a light protection of leaves, and absolutely no care. None. We forgot about them. The beets are fairly small, and some of the carrots are too, but I’m betting when I cook ’em tomorrow they’ll taste delicious.

I cook beets just covered with water in my pressure cooker for about 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Leave about a one inch tail and top and wash to remove all the dirt first. Try not to pierce the skins, so they don’t bleed and release any of their nutrition into the cooking water. After the appropriate time, remove the cooker from the burner and let pressure drop naturally. Once it has, remove the beets to a shallow bowl and let them cool. Once cooled, slip skins off under cool running water, slice  1/4″ thick, and cover with white vinegar for about 10 minutes before serving, UNLESS you like them pickled, then you can just leave them covered in the vinegar indefinitely. I drain the-now-red-vinegar off, and use it for seasoning several batches of fresh beets before pouring it on the moss that grows up between the bricks in the path. It kills it quickly and nothing is wasted that way. Speaking of no waste: if your beet tops aren’t chewed up too badly, wash them well after removing from the beet, and shred raw into salads, feed to the chickens, or chop and saute them with other greens in a little hot oil seasoned with red pepper flakes. Yum!

%d bloggers like this: