We’ve all had that moment were we open the produce drawer only to be confronted by a wilted, accusatory vegetable.
“You wanted me! You drove all the way to the store, wandered the aisles for an hour, and selected me to come home with you. Then you just forgot me?!?!!”
“Look, I’m sorry, Celery. I just got busy-”
“Oh, please. You managed to cook the squash and the broccoli! You cook all the time!”
“I know, you’re right. Look, let me make it up to you.”
“I’ll write a blog post all about how to use up celery in your condition, so that no celery ever gets wasted again.”
“….And, I’ll give you a bunch of dialog, so you can yell at me all you want.”
So here we are. As I said, I bought too much celery, only to find it limp and unappealing. What to do?
If the celery is not too bad, just on the cusp of “Oh crap, I better use this up right now”, cut it up for snacks! I’m very fortunate in that I can hand almost any food item to Hubby, say “I made you a snack!” and he’ll eat it up. Much like Joey on Friends when their fridge broke. You can always count on me for current pop-culture references!
When the celery is just a little wilty, cut some of the bottom off, then place it in a glass of water. It’s still a plant, and it will suck up water like a 3rd grader’s science experiment. If any of the leaves are gross, just throw them away, and clean the celery off. You can use the same trick with green onions.
Chop it up and freeze it. You can either cut it up by itself, or with carrots and onions, as I’ve done here. The next time you’re making soup you can just throw your pre-chopped veggies in there, and pat yourself on the back for your frugalness! Go you!
The only way to save money is not to spend it. One way to do that is to eat the food you already have, rather than buying new.
If you google “overnight oats” or something similar, you’ll turn up tons of recipes, but they seem to be a little too granola for me, and I don’t mean the cereal.
“Go to your neighborhood oat collective and hand harvest 1 cup of organic, steel cut Irish oats, NOT regular oats. Add the milk from your household goat, some homemade, probiotic, kombucha yogurt, periwinkle zest, and foraged acorns. Leave it in the fridge overnight, and you’re done!”
Ok…that sounds great and all, but for those of us who get food at the grocery store, here’s how I made it:
- 1/2 cup yogurt (this will basically be doing all the flavor work. I used vanilla)
- 1/2 cup oats (I used “Old-fashioned oats”, not instant, cause you know, back in the 1500’s they microwaved oatmeal for FIVE minutes, rather than just ONE. Talk about the Dark Ages)
- Dash of milk
- Handful dried cranberries
- Handful pumpkin seeds (can also use walnuts, or whatever you have on hand)
- Applesauce, or canned pumpkin
- Fruit chunks
- Ground flax seed, protein powder, whatever floats your organic, farm-raised, free-roaming goat
As you can see, this is YET ANOTHER of my what-do-I-have-laying-around-I’ll-do-anything-to-avoid-going-to-the-store recipes. Use up what you have laying around. Mix everything together in a small container, preferably a little tupperware you can just eat it straight out of tomorrow morning. You want the consistency to be a little like a runny stew, not soupy. The oats, nuts, and dried fruit will absorb the moisture overnight.
I love this stuff for those bleary mornings where you wake up, inexplicably starving, there’s no coffee ready yet, you were up to late, and you don’t want to think. AKA a typical weekday. It really takes the edge off before second breakfast.
The minute we get the first wisp of cold weather, my brain goes into complete hibernation mode. And I live in Texas, so that means when temperatures hit 70 degrees Fahrenheit I am completely useless. I start craving hot cocoa, soups, biscuits, anything warm and heavy. This fruit and barley recipe falls right into that category. Barley is a great whole grain, with a somewhat chewy texture I really love. Like most of my recipes, this one is extremely easy to customize with what you have on hand.
One cup of barley needs to be cooked with 2 1/2 cups of liquid for 40-50 minutes. You can also check the instructions on your packaging.
This is so much fun! I love to play around with stuff like this!
You can cook it in plain old water, or you can use some juice, tea (Chai would be so tasty in this), or even the leftover juice from canned fruit. I would use at least half water to make sure it doesn’t get too sugary. You can throw in a dash of bourbon or a liquor for fun.
I cooked mine with dried cranberries and walnuts. You could use any dried fruit, nuts, or pumpkin seeds. You can use spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or vanilla extract. After it’s done cooking you can add a few chocolate chips, or some canned pumpkin, if you like that kind of thing.
This is one of those recipes where you can use up little bits of things you have laying around. I seem to gravitate toward any that let me use up things, and use what I have on hand, rather than going to the store. Yay for not going outside!
The concept of ugly blanket is simple: take all the leftover bits of yarn from other crochet projects, and make them into on glorious, hideous blanket. I started out trying to make it like a quilt, but there were many flaws in this strategy, mainly my lack of skill. The squares were all various sizes, and everything was stitched too tight, so nothing would lay flat. It was too ugly to exist:
I ripped the whole thing out (including all the tiny squares I had made) and started over. I don’t actually have a single crochet project I haven’t ripped out at least once and started over. Maybe I should try to learn some basic skills…. Anyway, here’s the finally finished product:
Complete with muppet-like fringe (which turned into dread locks once washed). I used this opportunity to use up small bits of yarn from my own stash, plus the generous donations of several friends and family members. I even ripped out projects that were complete, but I didn’t want anymore. So basically it’s a cannibal blanket.
And here we have Kornberg (featuring Roscoe) enjoying her gift. This was a housewarming/Christmas/Thank you gift, (basically all the events that went by while I was making it) and she and her pets all love it. I’m currently taking donations for the next one, if you have extra yarn laying around.
Mangos can be a tricky fruit. Generally, when you buy them they are rock-hard, days away from ripe. You leave them on the counter, waiting for a juicy, delicious state to be achieved. You check them constantly, only to be rebuffed by tooth-cracking firmness. Suddenly, *poof* they’re far too soft to eat. Thwarted again!!!!
Or are you??
I’ve got your back, so those tricky mangos can no longer avoid being eaten. There are a couple things we can do with these sneaky fruits. Mangos can also be fickle with flavor, so usually anytime I cut one open, I try a tiny piece to see how it is. If they are too tart, or bland, the same rules apply as to over-ripe. The freezer is going to be our best buddy here, again.
So you have your (for a variety of reasons) “inedible” mango. This is generally only inedible raw; you can still use them in smoothies, pies, or fruit bars. Keep in mind, if it is straight-up rotten, chunk that thing. The freezer cannot un-rot fruit. It’s not a time machine. Don’t climb inside to try and go back to kill Hitler. You’ll just end up with a runny nose and broken dreams.
Peel your mango, cut into chunks, store in freezer. There! You’re done!
It’s important not to let food sit in your freezer too long: it can get that weird “freezer air” flavor after a while. Or, if you’re like my mother, it can thaw and re-freeze repeatedly during several power outages (she lives in a hurricane-prone area), get buried in the back of the deep freeze, and horrify your children when they visit.
You can also avoid going to the grocery store by eating what’s in your freezer. It’s a win-win! Cleaning out the freezer doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make soup (although you definitely can). This time I’m making smoothies. Am I making a paltry one-at-a-time? Of course not! This is smoothie mass production!
As you probably know, I hate getting anything dirty more than once, so I decided to make a ton of smoothies in my food processor all at once. My ingredients were bananas, strawberries, a little chocolate almond milk, a little chocolate syrup to enhance the chocolatiness, and (this may sound weird, but I promise it’s good) avocado. The avocado makes it super smooth and creamy, and you will probably not even taste it.
I am terrible about eating bananas before they get brownish. The solution? Peel them, and chuck them in the freezer. You can use them for baking or smoothies later. My issue is that I had, literally, a plethora of bananas in my freezer. I said I was terrible about eating them! That, plus my hoard of strawberries, was hogging too much space in my freezer. So I threw all that stuff into the food processor (in batches so it wouldn’t ooze everywhere), then ladled it into freezer bags.
I ended up with 4 bags, plus 2 smoothies for me and Hubby to drink (eat?)immediately. You can also store them in tupperware, which would be more eco-friendly (which I also didn’t really think about until later), but that would take a bit longer to thaw out.
Avocados are full of all those good fats that help your brain function, and are used in sweet dishes in lots of Asian countries. Just try it, at least once.
This is a great recipe for this time of year, when avocados are super cheap, and it can be waaaay too hot outside to eat real food.
As you probably know by now, some girlfriends and I are on a trivia team called the Cupcake Bitches. The name comes from and old inside joke. A couple weeks ago, I was crocheting while hanging out with Kornberg, and since she knows that I am fascinated with anything cupcake related, she told me about someone she knows who crocheted a cupcake. I wondered if I could make one, and her response was “She’s really dumb, so you can probably do it if she can”. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
I have a ridiculous stash of yarn I’m attempting to work my way through, and there just so happened to be some pink and tan that were perfect for a cupcake. As regular readers know, the other basic craft supplies you’ll need are scissors, a crochet hook, trashy TV, vodka and Diet Coke. But that’s pretty basic; I don’t want to insult your intelligence.
Mushroom decided he was going to help by sitting on top of the ball of yarn, and trying to eat it when I pulled it out from under his bulk.
First things first, I crocheted the base. I made a flat circle first to be the base, then a long skinny strip to be the sides. I turned that piece on its side and sewed it shut, and sewed the side to the base. I did it this way because the crochet texture looks more the the ripples on the side of a cupcake paper. I used tan yarn, but you could use white, or some other color to look like those paper cup things.
Here’s the inside of the base. I left some long yarn ends in there for this:
I sewed a jar lid inside to the bottom to help keep the shape flat. My plan was to stuff this thing, and I knew the stuffing would make the bottom bow out if I didn’t have something rigid in place. I just punched holes in the bottom with a nail and hammer, threaded the yarn through, and tied it in knots.
I crocheted the cupcake top separately until I had a size and shape that I liked. Since I don’t know how to use a pattern, that means I ripped it out several times and started over. This process also requires lots of swearing. If friends and pets leave the room because you’re screaming too many profanities, you’re probably doing it right. At one point the stupid cupcake had what appeared to be a nipple on top, so I put a stop to that. This picture is me testing the cupcake top to make sure it fits properly, which is why there’s a crochet hook sticking out of it.
Once I decided the top was complete, I used some multicolor yarn I had laying around to sew tiny sprinkles on the outside. That multicolor yarn is ubiquitous. I swear it’s the result of the rest of my yarn breeding, because I have no recollection of purchasing it. But I finally found a use for a tiny bit of it! Once the top was sprinkle-fied to my satisfaction, I started sewing it to the base. This also took several attempts before I was happy with the results. And I was almost out of vodka by this point, so things were looking grim.
But you know that I rarely show my mistakes (unless they’re hilarious), so you know already that this post ends well. Here is the finished cupcake! I sewed it about half shut, and then put a bunch of stuffing inside (just basic polyfill). I shaped the polyfill for the top into a little dome so it would fill out the cupcake evenly. I also discovered that if you make the cupcake top a little too long, and then sew it tightly to the base, you get an adorable little ripple along the edge. Hooray for drunken crochet! So now the Cupcake Bitches have a new mascot, and I have proven I am at least the equal of a random dumb girl I don’t even know. Mission accomplished.
I found this recipe for oatmeal apple bars that I wanted to try, but I didn’t have any apples. I did, however, have tons of strawberries, so I used those instead. For one 8×8 pan you will need: 1 cup flour, 1 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 2 1/2 cups fruit, and the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup of butter, but I substituted a mashed banana for 1/4 cup, and they were great. Depending on the type of fruit you use, you can also cut back on the sugar. I was reading that for baked goods with acidic fruits, like strawberries, adding a 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda will help cut the tartness so you can use half as much sugar. I tried that trick with one batch of these, and they were okay. That might work better on pies, or other recipes that have a higher fruit content. I have made these using frozen, thawed strawberries, fresh strawberries, and now I’m trying home-canned pears (thanks, Mom!). Chop up your fruit, and mix everything together.
I can see a lot of variations possible with this basic recipe: mangoes, apples, peaches, raisins or other dried fruit. (With dried fruit, you should chop it up, then soak it in a bowl of water for a little while before mixing it into the batter). You can also add flavorings like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, or even some fancy alcohol like cognac. You could even throw in nuts, or leftover trail mix. Get crazy! You can also make a double batch, but you should probably make a triple batch, so you have plenty to give me.
I’m sure you have all figured out by now that my “recipes” are just, in fact, conglomerations of whatever random crap I have in the house at the time. For this one, I used chicken, but it is very simple to make this vegetarian or vegan; the variations are at the bottom.
Today we’re using one chicken breast, about a half cup of frozen peas, a cup of frozen broccoli, one cup uncooked rice, two scrambled eggs, 1/4 cup chopped onion, and a bunch of teriyaki or soy sauce, whichever you like.
Start by cutting up the chicken really tiny, and sauteeing it in a large sauce pan. Get your rice cooking at the same time, according to the package instructions.
Chop what needs choppin’.
Throw the veggies in to cook with the chicken. You can add some teriyaki or soy sauce, and garlic salt at this point. You can use different vegetables, if you like, such as bell peppers (ew), water chestnuts (EW), or even just a bag of mixed frozen veggies. Once the veggies are almost done, throw in your raw scrambled eggs, and stir them around to cook. I throw teriyaki sauce on top of them while they’re cooking so they get some flavor.
Hey, the rice is done! It’s so fluffy and delicious! You can also use leftover rice for the recipe. If it’s a bit chewy, just throw it into the veggies, once they’re cooked, and add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Let it cook and stir it around to make sure all the rice gets coated in oil and heated up.
Once the rice and veggies are both ready, you can combine them in the pan, and stir everything together. Add your sauce and spices to taste.
To make this recipe vegetarian, leave out the chicken. You substitute tofu if you want, or add extra scrambled eggs. To make it vegan, leave out the chicken and eggs. I consulted my teriyaki sauce bottle, and it appears to be vegan. Everyone can enjoy my cooking; I’m just that amazing.
It’s happened to all of us (I presume): you either buy a brand new shampoo, and you hate it, or you get down to the last inch of shampoo that refuses to come out of the bottle. Now, I may be ridiculous when it comes to saving money, but I’m not one of those “Extreme Couponers” or “Hoarders”, so let’s keep this all in perspective. I paid for an entire bottle of shampoo, and, so help me, I am going to use that entire bottle of shampoo.
Everyone at some point thinks “Hey, this new brand looks like it will help solve all my problems!”, or “They’re out of my regular shampoo! I guess I’ll grab this”, or “It’s on clearance!! And there are EIGHT BOTTLES for a DOLLAR!!” (ahem; I’m sure everyone has done this, or else just me and my dad have). Inevtiably, the shampoo will be terrible. It leaves your hair flat, frizzy, or smelling like bacon, but not in a good way.
As I’m typing this, I’m really rationalizing to myself that everyone has these issues, and is concerned about them. Right? It’s not just me???
Anyway, neurosis aside, there are lots of uses for shampoo. If you have a whole bottle, you can use it instead of laundry detergent. 1/4 cup or less per load should work great. This is also helpful if you run out of laundry detergent, but can’t go to the store immediately for whatever reason. I know I can’t be the only one who has started a load of laundry late at night, or when visiting friends or family and put all my clothes into the washer and started it before checking to make sure there was detergent, and I am NOT going out in public in my Batman pajamas, because I will end up on People of Wal-Mart for sure.
You can also use shampoo to wash your pets. I like to that the shampoo bottles that are almost out, add some water, and shake it up. This makes it easier to get the shampoo spread over the wriggling, screeching pet so the bath can end more quickly. I like the way human shampoo smells better than the pet kind anyway.
You can actually use shampoo in the dishwasher also, if you run out of dish soap. Don’t try to use Dawn, because that will cause an epic bubble flood, but that is actually an easy way to mop the floor, if you’re prepared for it. If you’re not in the mood for epic bubble floods, use shampoo instead.
You can use it as body wash, to wash your car, or lots of other stuff. Shampoo is just soap, so if you have a brand you hate for some reason, just use it anywhere you would use liquid soap.
I think my goal when I write posts like this is to spread my fixation with getting my money’s worth out of everything I buy. That way I won’t seem like such a nutcase.
Mi Madre is a constant reader of my blog (one of the two I have), and when she and I were on the phone yesterday she told me something awesome. She said that when my sister and I were teens, she despaired of us ever cleaning a thing voluntarily. After reading the Deep Clean Week posts, she said it should reassure parents everywhere that kids do develop the ability to clean, and in fact I probably clean more thoroughly than she does. She really did say that! In fairness, she lives on a farm, and has greater concerns than sweeping the floor thoroughly. Our conversation ended yesterday when she had to go herd cows out of the vegetable garden. No joke.
Bottom line, I hope all you people enjoy my practicality as much as I do. If not, here’s a kitten for some entertainment value!
When the weather is this freakin’ cold, I want baked goods. Lots of them. Not only are they warm, delicious, and sweet, the oven heats up the whole kitchen, and I have a brief time when I can feel my toes again. Unfortunately, I do most of my baking from box mixes, but this apple crisp is so easy, even I can make it. It helps that I had purchased a bunch of apples that were disappointingly un-crunchy. I sure wasn’t going to eat them, but I hate being wasteful.
There’s all the stuff you need. Apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, white sugar, oatmeal, “butter” spread, and I used vanilla extract, but that’s optional. I used a tablespoon or so of cognac also, to try and use it up. I peeled and chopped the apples, and spread them in a 13×9 baking dish. I sprinkled cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and cognac on them, and tossed it all around a bit.
The topping is made of oatmeal, brown sugar, white sugar, and “butter” spread. I start with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the “butter”, and add a cup of oatmeal, then add sugar a little at a time until I get the consistencey of cookie dough, with enough to cover the top of the apples. You don’t need a thick coating. The way I did it here came out fine. The apples will cook down some, and you want to end up with a good balance of apples to topping when it’s done.
I baked it at 350 for about an hour. The topping gets all golden and carmelized and DELICIOUS!! Typing about my awesome recipes is really rough on me. I don’t have it sitting here in front of me to enjoy, and I can feel my tummy rumbling for some. I hope you all appreciate the lengths I go to to keep you happy!
You can kind of see that the whole thing is bubbly, and the sugar has carmelized.
I think I used jonagold apples for this, but granny smith, or a mixture would be good also. This is a great way to use up apples when they start to get to the point where you don’t just want to straight up eat them, or if, like me, you accidentally buy some that are crunchiness-challenged.