Thursday, November 24, 2011


I've had a lovely Thanksgiving. An actual harvest dinner, though the 'harvest' was a bit thin.
I took the last 4 carrots out of the garden. One was a surprise as I hadn't even planted carrots there! An immaculate carrot. Well, it was only about 3 inches from the square I planted carrots in so I suppose it's not really a miracle, just a stray seed. Onions that I'd picked and stored earlier. The last of the parsley. Some kale that is still alive and slowly producing. Some of the lime thyme that is still looking pretty hardy. I added garlic and spices and a couple of sunchokes.

I also planted a bit. Some walking onions and most of the sunchokes. Had to tear out some of the mint that came from starts from Sally (Hi Sally!) because it was taking over too much real estate. It will probably like being torn up a bit.

I also made a nice apple crisp with local apples, organic oatmeal and local honey. Very nice.
As a treat (and because I didn't have to work so had plenty of time) I made a bit of vanilla hazelnut milk ice cream. Excellent.

I know it's a bit late to be planting, but everything has been so late I thought I might as well put them in. I did forget to put the garlic out, but it will still be warmish next week so I'll try some then. about 1/2 the square foot garden will be pretty much planted once the garlic is in.

Tomorrow I'm off to visit family.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thrifty Thoughts

So, once AGAIN I am pleased that I saved my money and spent some of it on tires. I went to the casino (11 miles away) for lunch with a friend. She drove. She also has good tires. In those 11 miles, we saw five new looking vehicles in the ditches. It is slick out there today, but we went slow and had good tires so we were fine. Even the most expensive tires are cheap compared to getting the left side of the car repaired after you hit the far side of the ditch (or is that the right side of the car? Whatever).

We, the members of the food coalition, found out this week that we are not alone in our admiration of the mighty (cheap) legume! We hosted a legumes cooking competition with the local community health program and expected 20 entries...there were 56!!! The featured legume was lentils, but we took entries that had any lentil, pea or bean as an ingredient. In a town of 800, 56 entries is amazing. We also had maybe 100 people show up to taste/eat/enjoy the food. Almost 15% of the local population at one event ... an event organized around beans ... is impressive. I think it will be an annual event. We're putting together the recipes in hopes of putting out a little cookbook. Is there any cheaper source of protein than beans, peas and lentils? We also had mostly new attendees who had not been at our previous events so that was also cool.

Amazingly, the black bean brownies were VERY good. The beans replaced the dairy, but not the eggs or sugar or chocolate and the brownies featured chocolate chips. These were devoured in minutes. The chocolate lentil muffins...well, they are good, but using 100% whole wheat flour and cutting down on sugar did change the flavor along with making them healthier.

I entered my Middle Eastern Lentil Soup, but rightly did not win any prize. Oh year. I will be adding the lentil apple spinach berry salad to my repetoire of dishes along with the brownies. I sent the rest of my soup home with a coworker who agreed that it was much better on the 2nd day.

Here is the recipe for my entry. It comes from the "More with Less" Cookbook that Jonny (Hi Jonny!) gave me.

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup

Put in a pot and bring to a boil:
1 cup lentils (I use red or yellow but all taste good)
4 cups water
1/2 tsp cumin
Once it boils, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the lentils are fully cooked. About 30-40 minutes depending on the type of lentil.

Heat in a skillet:
1T olive oil (butter, margarine or another oil works fine)

1 Onion chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
Fry until just yellowed but not browned or carmelized.

1 T flour (white, whole wheat, anything that will thicken the soup will work)
cook just a minute or two.

Add the onion mixture to the soup and stir. Bring just to the boil. Remove from heat.

Just before serving add
2T Lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste (sea salt and fresh cracked pepper are best but anything will do).

Put some lemon juice, salt and pepper on the table for people to season their own bowls too.

It is excellent reheated the 2nd day with new lemon juice added just before you eat it.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thrifty Entertainment

Last night I actually went to a concert...a real one. With musicians and everything. I haven't been to a concert since Sally's performance with the Potlatch Community Band.

This was just as much fun. It was Indigenous (google them). A band founded by a couple of Native American brothers from South Dakota. They do blues-rock or rock-blues. Excellent stuff. It was only 10$ for an entire evening of entertainment. We didn't know it came with dinner so the group of us going shared dinner at one person's house. Very lovely and relaxing.

The drive home however....not so relaxing. I rode with Sally and John (hi) as far as Potlatch, then drove from there. It was just the right/wrong temperature so the little pass at Marsh Hill (which you can see on the Idaho Transportation Dept traffic cams website) was nasty. The rain turned to giant blowing snow flakes which reflected even my low beams right into my eyes. The high beams were hopeless. I started following the yellow lines and the white lines just ahead of the car and eventually slowed to about 15 miles per hour. Then the lines disappeared and there were no visible car tracks. So I followed the rumble strips that were still pretty visible beside the car. Then those disappeared. I could pretty well see where the road became ditch and judged my path from there (an admittedly meandering path at best). Then some car tracks appeared, but soon they clearly crossed the mid-way point between the ditches so I stuck with the ditch as a guide. I didn't stop because there was no where safe to stop. I just kept creeping along. Once off the hill the weather cleared up. If I had known I would have stayed at J&S's. But alas, I didn't know.

BUT I did have the snow tires on. Expensive snow tires. It's worth being thrifty elsewhere to afford those snow tires and the concert and meal with friends was well worth the trip and the 10$.

I also noticed that the last 2 "potluck" type meals I've been too have been much better proportioned than most. Usually there is WAY more food than is consumed but at the last couple there was just the right amount. I think that is thriftier than having too much.

OK, not the most thrilling entry, but I'm trying to do them more often.

Friday, November 11, 2011


OK, how does it get to be so long between blogs?

First, Subaru owes me a car. Say a newer model used car. One of my relatives (Hi Marcie) bought one and now my mother (Hi Sher) is considering one.
Mine has 267000 miles and is still running well (well, it was 20 minutes ago so I assume it's still running).

Second...I've been busy putting apples in jars and fermenting things on the counter. The first batch of kombucha was acceptable. I'm hoping for an improvement on the second batch which I started last night (along with the third batch). The vinegar that is brewing smells pretty boozy so it might be going through a hard cider phase before it gets to vinegar.

Third, someone asked what my oddest frugal practice is. At first I thought that I didn't have any odd practices. But I spent the morning with a "normal" person. She was trying to show me the fancy face washes and shampoos available at the local spa. They are lovely but I almost said "I don't wash my face or use shampoo" and realized that that is pretty wierd. Then she invited me to a fashion show. I noted that I don't buy my clothes retail. She said I could come for the wine...don't drink much wine. Turns out, I've got many odd habits that are overtly or accidentally frugal. Which is the oddest though? Who knows. Turning the water heater off every other day during warm weather? Shutting things off at the breakerbox when not in use (to avoid the constant "ready" light electrical usage? Changing all bulbs to CFLs? Waiting for thrift store clothes to go on sale because 4.99 is just too much for a shirt? Spending more on my shoes for the year than on all other clothes combined (bad shoes are not frugal)? I can't choose. It all seems logical to me but I suppose that is no defense against "odd."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Apparently I'm Strange...

So the custodian at work, a nice young artist who makes ends meet by cleaning up after us, decided to sit down today for a chat. He said "I want to know more about who 'Jill' is." He concluded that I'm "interesting."
I think he means "odd" but I'm ok with that. He wanted to know if I kept house like I keep my office (messy)...uh, yep.
Why do I drive an old car when I have a good job. Do I have kids, pets? What do I do with my free time?
It was sort of amusing.

He was most interested in the radio show and that I have no debt. We'll see if he comes back for more information.

The other odd interaction...well, one of them...this week was a call out of the blue. On Saturday or Sunday I was at the office while I waited for apple butter to thicken up in the crock pot. I needed to leave the house (trailer) so I didn't chop up any more apples or try to dry anything else. I needed a break. My cell phone rang. A local number so I picked it up. It was a woman who lives in a DIY strawbale home, sells milk that she squeezes out of the cow with her own hands, and basically kicks my butt in all things self-sufficient. She had called the local extension agent for advice on some jam she was trying to finish on the stove. She wanted to add grapes to the plums, but was using sur-jel, which is finicky about amounts of fruit and sugar (according to the package). I advised her to go ahead and try it as long as she can tolerate slightly runny jam if it doesn't jel up fully. I also advised her to try Pomona brand pectin next year since it can be used for any size batch of jam/jelly and it is not dependent on sugar to thicken (sur-jel is sugar dependent and size touchy....just like me).
I was pretty flattered to be a local jam expert. Then I just felt sad for the county that I might be their best bet on this. I've only made jam for a few years, though admittedly I make enough to count for several years' experience each fall.

Back to the apple butter. I called Sher (Hi Sher!), or "Mom", for her recipe since she makes excellent fruit butters. She was with Gram when I called so I thought "great, 2 generations of advice." Here is Sher's recipe:
Peel core and cut up some apples.
Cook then down a bit on the stove and then in a crock pot on low.

How long? Until it's thick enough.
Do you add sugar or honey? Yah.
How much? Enough to make it as sweet as you want it.
Do you add spices? Yah.
Which ones? Cinnamon and cloves.
How much? Quite a bit.
Do you add lemon juice so it is a high acid food for canning? I don't remember.

Then she noted that she uses that hand blender I got her to make it a good consistency.

I asked if, since I'll be blenderizing it anyway, I could leave the skins on. She didn't know and asked Gram. Gram said I could do whatever I want, but the skins won't cook down like the apples will.

So, armed with that incredibly precise recipe I gave it a shot.
I had a box of mixed pie apples from the farmer's market. Johnagolds, Granny Smiths, and some random varieties of small tart apples. For the first batch I peeled them (used the peels to make apple peel vinegar that is still brewing on the counter). I chopped up the apples and cooked them in a stainless steel pan on the stove for a while (until I got bored which is what I thought Sher would do). Then I put it in the crock pot with some honey, cinnamon and nutmeg (I was out of ground cloves or at least I couldn't find them). I put the crock pot on low and got back to it after work the next day.
It is DELICIOUS! I served it at a community breakfast and when I casually asked if anyone would like to take the left over 9/10ths of a pint, one woman nearly knocked me down lunging for the jar.
Good recipe Sher!

For the further 20some halfpint jars of apple butter I've put up, I left the skins on. I just took a whole apple to the big holes on the cheese grater and had at it. I grated down until the seeds started to show. I also went ahead and put it right in the crock pot. Then I put a big scoop of honey on top, put on "a lot" of cinnamon and nutmeg. Then I put the top on the pot, put it on low and came back the next day. It was also excellent and tasted more "caramelly" than the 1st batch.

For the 3rd batch I tried quartering and coring the apples and throwing them in the crock pot with honey and spices. It was the lowest amount of labor, but I couldn't get as many apples in the pot as with grating or chopping. I think it also used the most of the apple.

For all recipes, I stuck in the hand blender (stick blender) and ran it around about an hour or 2 before I put it in jars and into the canner. The blender adds some air so it's good to do it a bit early. I just do it as I turn on the stove because it takes that long to get the canner boiling. It is SO EASY. It's even easier than jam.

Since most of my jam this year is crap (really) the winter is going to be apple butter heavy.