Wonder Cabbage

As the temps stay low and the grocery budget tightens, I find myself turning to the humble cabbage for a cheap and uber-healthy cooking staple. To me, this is the ultimate in comfort food. The cruciferous family of vegetables may make your kitchen stink, but they're humble heroes in my book. Here's a few of my favorite recipes featuring cabbage.

Simple Middle Eastern Salad

1/2 large head of cabbage, cored and shredded
2 large tomatoes, diced
1 large onion, diced
1 English cucumber, diced (optional)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
1/4 cup EVOO
Salt, pepper, cayenne to taste
2 tbsp crushed dried mint

Basically, put everything in a large bowl and toss. Great paired with rice & lentils, or served next to broiled chicken legs or a good salmon fillet.

Quick Pierogie Dinner

1 pack Mrs. T's pierogies (your choice of flavor)
1 pack Hebrew National franks, sliced on the bias
1/2 head cabbage, cored and shredded
2 tbsp butter, divided

In a large pot of boiling water, cook pierogies according to directions, drain. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a large skillet, add cabbage and cover until wilted. Move to a large platter and keep warm. Melt 1 tbsp butter in skillet, add pierogies and franks. Cook until browned. Serve over cabbage.


1 head cabbage
8 oz. package egg noodles
1 large onion, chopped
4 tbsp butter
Salt & pepper to taste

Shred cabbage and boil in a little water for about 6 minutes. Cook noodles until soft. Drain. Brown onion in 4 tablespoons butter. Mix all ingredients together. Season with salt and pepper.

Cabbage is also a wonderful addition to beef vegetable soup. At $0.50/lb, it's a bargain that can't be beat!

Have you hugged your cabbage today?


A Week of Firsts

No one told me that a child growing up was like pushing a snowball down a hill. It starts slow, then rolls faster and faster, packing on more information and independence as it goes.

No one told me how painful and exhilarating their growing up can be.

I'm so glad I didn't know.

Monday, Andrew tied his shoes for the first time.

Tuesday, he made me a peanut butter sandwich, all by himself. And he didn't make a total mess out of it.

Today, he's decided we need to call him "Drew". Not Andy, because that's a girl's name (i.e. the girl doll in Toy Story 2).

And there's still 4 more days to go. :(

We had a meeting with his teacher at preschool yesterday. The good news? He will not be running under an IEP into kindergarten next year. We expected that, but it was still great to get the official stamp of approval. His social development has come so far since he started into the program last October. Really, the only concern they have for him right now is his impulsiveness. And even that is approaching "normal" for his age. His teacher clearly enjoys dealing with him, and has some wonderful things to say about him - and that's awesome, since his kindergarten principal for next year was in that meeting.

Right now, Drew is handing me yet another home made card that says "Best Mommy, from Andrew", followed by many hearts.

I don't know that I'm the best, but I'm certainly the luckiest!


The TMZ Phenomenon

TMZ may be the final frontier before OldFartsVille. You know when you watch it and go "what the....?", you've officially bid farewell to your vapid youth. I had the misfortune of watching it this morning at 2am. In my defense, there literally was nothing else on.

In a sick way, I found it fascinating.

Harvey Levin, a man I always found amusing on The People's Court, takes on a more creepy persona. He presides over a group of 20-somethings who report on what the paparazzi catches on camera. The commentary is mildly disturbing, Harvey can't stop laughing and chewing on his straw, and he's taking notes on a dry erase board. And the worst part is, he produces this car wreck.

And the paparazzi doesn't just take pictures of the celebrities. They look as if they're actively trying to get a negative reaction from their prey. I guess nothing was learned from the death of Princess Di. Heckling is now socially acceptable.

The kids reporting seem just stupid enough not to be embarrassed by their situation. They're carefully placed to cross social demographic lines, from the long-haired boy in the Metallica t-shirt to the Black guy with the 2-foot dreds. Whoever writes for these poor kids needs some help - the punchlines are pathetic. But they keeo Harvey laughing in between straw-knawing.

Oh, and the commercials. The penis pump. It says a lot about the show. Classy.

Thank God for PBS.


What's Wrong With Having an Opinion?

Facebook is a great way for me to contact people from the past en masse in 30 seconds or less. I love that I can let everyone on my list know what I'm up to whenever I'm online, and I get to see little snapshots of others as well. (for those unfamiliar, when you sign on to FB, there's a little tag at the top that says "Emily is...." and you get to fill in the blank.).

Anyway, yesterday I plugged in that I was disappointed, but not surprised. And that I would be praying for Obama. Yes, I was referring to the stand he takes on gay rights and the fact that he's pushing his pro-abortion agenda. Well, there's an old friend who's on my FB list who's gay, and I had to explain my comment. Basically I said, gays make a decision, and are usually mature enough to handle the repercussions. The unborn have no voice. Today I get an earful about how he'd never wish his lifestyle on another, and he volunteers in the foster care system and sees children who would have been better off aborted. And I'm told I'm small-minded.

This just breaks my heart.

Homosexuals, whether by nature or nuture (a debate I son't care to get into right now), have resources available to them. There are antidiscrimination laws in place to give them equal footing in the world. There are groups to be part of, churches organized specifically to minister to them. Thye have each other to rely on. As for the "lifestyle", I deal with something similar. I'm fat. I face legal discrimination fairly often. Yes, I make a decision not to lose weight (I'm not addicted to food, but it's very VERY hard to lose weight, and I just don't have the strength of character). Unlike gays, I have no "closet" to come out of. My big butt doesn't even FIT in the closet! So I get that being gay isn't all fun and games. But it is a decision.

What kills me is the comment that there are kids out there who would be better off unborn, killed in utero. I never thought I'd be a card-carrying pro-lifer, but the older I get, the more passionate I feel about this. Every baby deserves a chance. Every one of them. Rape, incest cases, every one. God doesn't make mistakes. God makes opportunities. So many out there are hungry for a child to love, and are unable produce life. It seems unfair that someone can squander such a gift while others stand aside and watch, wistfully. And for our tax dollars to be spent paying for what boils down to murder? Heresy!

I'm not sure exactly where I was going with this post. You almost hate to express your opinion, afraid that you will offend someone. And the sad fact is, you probably will offend. But, darn it, I'm entitled to an opinion. And I'm entitled to express it. I hope I didn't make anyone else mad. But if I did, we probably wouldn't be friends anyway.


Great Food for All - Is It Worth It?

Great Food for All. Sounds hopeful, right? I thought so, too. An anonymous tipster commented on my Angel Food post, saying I should give this a try. Hey, I'm game for anything that'll save me some $$$...

We brought our first box home Saturday. Breaded chicken patties, pounds of fish, ham (both steaks and lunchmeat), beef chili, baked beans, onion rings, "angry" creamed corn, and even a "slightly imperfect" cherry pie. I unloaded the box with a big smile on my face. The food looks to be a much higher quality than AFM, Yay!

So far, Andrew's eaten the cherry pie and declared it "scrumptious". While I'm not wild about processed breaded chicken, these patties actually look appetizing. The fish is seasoned, but not breaded (score!). The items that can be frozen in flattened Ziploc-type bags are frozen that way, making it much easier to fit into the freezer (convenient). The only head-scratcher, I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do with 2 lbs of creamed corn, but surely we'll work something out.

I love that GFFA offers different types of food bundles. For example, next month they offer a breakfast box, a kid's box, a grill box, a dessert box, and even a Lent box! Much more of a selection than AFM. However, they don't offer any fresh foods. No produce, no shelf stable milk, no eggs. Which is a good thing, the foods GFFA offers in lieu of AFM's fresh food makes GFFA a better buy (both GFFA and AFM are $30 for budget box).

The only inconvenience with GFFA is that I have to drive about 30 miles into western Dayton to pay/pick up the food. But many times that's not such a problem, we can always combine that stop with a trip to the Middle Eastern store or Sam's Club. I'm also sad that GFFA is only offered in Ohio/western PA/Michigan/Ky/Mo, I can't wait for it to become national.

Oh, and GFFA accepts credit cards. Not that we charge food, but for those that do, it's more convenient than AFM's cash/check policy.

So I'm loving Great Food for All. This is what I wished Angel Food would be! This will be a huge help in keeping our food budget in check. Thanks to my anonymous friend for recommending GFFA!


Day 5, No Relief (What To Do in Yucky Weather on a Budget)

School was closed Wednesday due to snow. Closed Thursday and Friday due to subzero temps. Off the weekend, and closed tomorrow for MLK Day. My son is starting to drive me nuts. Seriously, I can't find his OFF switch. Help?

What do we do when there's no school, no money, and the weather keeps us inside?

Games - we've gotten very good at scoping out the local thrift shops for age-appropriate board games for Andrew. Yesterday we picked up Don't Break the Ice for $1.99, and he's dying to open it and play. Memory is also a big hit with him, as is the SNES with all his "new" cool games. He loves Jenga, which his nanny and pop pop bought him new for his birthday (dual purpose, he uses the blocks to build "garages" for his Matchbox cars).

Cooking - as a 5-year-old, he's finally come into this "I want to help" phase. And he's endlessly fascinated with what goes on in the kitchen. He's just entranced with watching the cinnamon rolls go from doughy mess to warm, puffy goodness. Watching the oven window as if it were a TV? Priceless!

Library - yup, the old stand-by. But it just can't be beat. Especially when it's snowing a little, and there are other kids in the Children's Section for Andrew to socialize with. For some reason, he's just wild about the felt boards they have available for the kids. Picking out DVD's and books to bring home, it's one of his favorite things to do. Me, too.

Cleaning - when I was young, my sister, brother, and I would clean the kitchen by playing "I Spy". If you couldn't guess within so many turns, you had to pick up so many items and put them away. Sure, it took all day to clean off the table, but the point is it made it FUN. Andrew and I do something similar, sometimes using colors, letters (starting with), even smells and textures. It's fun, and very time consuming!

Snuggling - with a movie and some popcorn. Sometimes it's just the best thing to do. I hope he never gets too old for that!

That's what we do when it's yucky outside. What're your secrets?


Wildlife at the Dayton Mall

Never, never, never, never will we go there again.

Especially to their bathrooms.

We passed the family bathroom on the way to the Ladies Room. And there, smack in the center of the door, stood one of the biggest cockroaches I've ever seen.

No lie.

So I went to the management office and told a security guard, and she didn't even have the grace to sound surprised.



The Conundrum That Is Barney

Does it disturb anyone else that Barney is obviously a T-Rex? Andrew borrowed a Barney DVD from the library this past week, and we watched it together last night. And it occured to me that Barney is the most terrifying dinosaur ever to walk the earth, singing "I love you, you love me..." Is that a little weird to anyone else?

When I was a kid, my brother and sister loved to watch Land of the Lost. I loved it, too, but was so scared of the beginning, where the t-rex eats the camera at the end of the opening music.

So I just don't get it. Do you?


Husbands + Vacuums = Disaster!

So last night I was delivering pizzas in the snow - my husband wanted to watch the Steelers beat down the Chargers and make their next step towards playing in this year's Super Bowl. Yasar calls me, says Andrew's complaining of stomach pain, what should he do? Being the omniscient mommy that I am, I knew what was coming, and told him that Andrew is going to throw up - be ready. And I wasn't wrong.

Fast forward to today, I was vacuuming with my baby, the Dyson Animal which I love so much. My m.o. is vacuum the carpet, then change attachments and move on to the kitchen. So I'm doing the transformer-thing with the wand and hose, turning my Dyson from an upright to a canister. And I notice something weird about the hose. It's see through, all the better to locate clogs, and it's got sticky stuff in it. Lots of it. You gotta be joking....

So I call the store, where Yasar's working. I beg him to tell me that he didn't vacuum up puke with my $600 vacuum. Silence. Then, "Okay, here's what happened..."

"After Andrew threw up, I wasn't sure how to clean up the couch and carpet. So I threw some flour on it, you know, to absorb it a little. Then I vacuumed it up."

I'm dumbfounded. "You vacuumed up puke and flour with my Dyson?!?!?"

"Well, to be completely honest, I couldn't find the flour. But I figured powdered sugar would work just as well."

Ohmigod. I'm totally quiet and still, not sure whether to cry or laugh hysterically. Thank God it's a Dyson, made to be completely dismantled, just for these types of situations.

Yasar wasn't so tickled, though, when he was breaking it down and cleaning it out tonight.

Slacking, Another Update

Yeah, it's been quiet here. Andrew's been off-and-on sick this weekend, and my husband scheduled an appointment for the realtor to come check out our house on Wednesday, so I've got a TON of cleaning to do. Other than that, not too much exciting. I haven't forgotten you, dear readers. Just don't want to bore you to death with stories of cleaning the bathroom, or gross you out with Andrew's technicolor projectile vomitting.

Much love!

Peace out.


Letter N

Ahhh, (cooking at) 34 Feels Good!

Yesterday I celebrated 33 full years on earth. I love my birthday - we try to keep it low-key, but still special. And Meijer offered the perfect means to a wonderful dinner. They had tiny red potatoes on the produce clearance rack for $0.65/lb. So, rather than eating out, we roasted baby potatoes with rosemary and coarse salt, cooked up some chopped steaks, and made homemade French dressing to go with our broccolini. Also on the clearance rack were some bruised and dented granny smith apples,destined to be tossed with some sugar, apple pie spice, and craisins, put into a pie crust and topped with crumb topping. We had the perfect end to the perfect meal.

Yasar thinks I'm nuts, cooking on the day he really wanted to take me out for lunch, but I truly prefer eating at home. I'm not sure if anyone else experiences this, but when I eat out, I usually end up feeling sick and bloated. I can eat the exact same food, cooked in my kitchen, and feel fine. Psychosomatic? Probably. But frugal? Fer sure!

Also, quality ingredients inspire me. I saw those red potatoes, and all my dreams of eating out disappeared. My brother made potatoes like that this past summer on the grill, and I've wanted to try it since. From there it was, "what accompanies potatoes well?". Duh, steak! I even went as far as to put 2 expensive steaks in my cart. Then I saw the lowly chopped steaks. Half the price. Yasar doesn't do bloody steaks, so filet is really wasted on him.

It's a joy to put together a great meal. It's a gift to cook, knowing the outcome will be healthy and fabulous. To see that admiration in my family's eyes is a present I get to enjoy all year long.

Happy birthday to me!

One more thing. The more I ponder birthdays, the more convinced I am that it's a day to say "thank you". Mommy, thank you for going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Daddy, thank you for parenting, financing, and encouraging. God, thank you for dreaming me up, and making me a reality.

Thank you. :)


I Need a Few New Recipes...Can You Help?

I'm trying to find some different, lowfat, frugal recipes to incorporate into our diets. This week I'm hoping to try Pepper's lentils and cabbage - it looks so tasty! So, if you've got any suggestions, I'd be indebted.

You guys are the greatest!


There's a Reason Why My Man Doesn't Shop!

Oh, the agony! I'm down with the flu, you know, that yucky achy crap, and I needed my husband to run to the store to pick up some photos I'm sending to my dad. Yasar asked if there's any food-type stuff he needs to buy, and I gave him a list of loss leaders from today's paper.

He came home with what I asked him to, plus a few extras. They must have seen him coming.

Meijer is running a $1 special on bags of Dole salad mix - but he must have picked up the wrong kind and ended up spending $2.99/bag.

Andrew suckered him into buying strawberries, a 1 lb box for $2.50 ("it was on special").

And then, the best of all, a teeny, tiny little box of red raspberries, to the tune of $3.49. Ack! He says, "how can you say no to Andrew when he wants something?". Hmph, glad that's a skill I possess, or he'd eat us straight to the poorhouse with his off-season tastes.

Unfortunately, Andrew dove straight into the raspberries...my kid is no fool. Meanwhile I'm pulling a knit cap over my greasy hair and headed back to the store in my pj's to exchange food.

Lesson learned. No hubbys allowed at the grocery store, especially not with kids. There won't be a next time.

What Does 2009 Hold For Your Finances?

All indicators point to 2009 being a record dismal year. Higher prices, layoffs, businesses closing their doors, it ain't gonna be pretty, folks. So what are you doing to prepare?
We've sketched out some rough goals for our family:

1.) Keep grocery spending below $150/month.

How do we plan to accomplish this? Well, thanks to an anonymous tipster on my "Angel Food" post, we're now trying Great Food For All this month. I'm pretty excited about this. It looks to be a more healthy variety than AFM, without all the mystery meats (a long story, but suffice it to say we will no longer order AFM), and the boxes come packaged - no more lugging a laundry basket with you. True, I have to drive further for pickup, but I can easily combine the commute with another errand or two.

We also make good use of bread outlets, clearance racks at Meijer, and dried beans. We should be okay.

2.) Limit restaurant outings to once a month, and then only with BOGO coupon.

This one's going to be a little harder on us. We've slacked off a bit at the end of this year, spending far more money eating out than previously. It was hard enough arranging Christmas dinner (it took days of prep), and cooking a dinner on top of that was just too much to ask. Hopefully we've gotten it out of our systems for awhile!

3.) Trying sourdough.

Yup, I'm thinking of introducing a new pet to our home, as S. John puts it. Wonder if I can teach Yasar to eat sourdough instead of pita. Either way, little sourdough loaves are great little serving bowls for...

4.) Lots of soups.

Yasar's somewhere rolling his eyes right now. A soup fan, he's not. For me, it's the ultimate comfort food. Nothing beats a steaming bowl of chicken corn noodle soup from the local fire companies back home. It's one of the few soups I've not tried to replicate here. But anything else is fair game: soups, stews, Ray Ray's infamous "stoups", goulashes, chilis, gazpachos, vichy-whatevers, name it - nothing would be ashamed to be seen in a petite sourdough bowl. It might even dress up whatever so Yasar will eat without complaint. :)

5.) Smarter gardening.

We're infamous for seeding our bounty for the next year, only to plant the seeds too late. My goal this year is to start the seedlings in egg cartons earlier in the year, so we're not stuck running to the local garden center when our seeds don't germinate.

6.) Sell the house.

(sniff, sniff). Yeah, not too happy about that one. Too choked up to talk about it.

What about you? Are you taking any precautions against an unsure future? Do you think my fears are groundless?


Meet William!

Andrew has his first pet, a betta named William. Tiger also has some new entertainment.


Saving $$$ Eating Out with Andrew

Instead of buying a "kid's meal" for Andrew when we go out to eat, we've been road-testing sharing our meals with him. We just ask for another plate, and divy up the choicest goodies from our plates for him.

The upside to this is threefold - we're saving money, introducing him to different tastes, and providing healthier fare for his (rapidly) growing body. Think about this - you go out to your local diner. Under kid's meals, they have what? Hot dog/hamburger/the ubiquitous chicken nugget/spaghetti or tacos if you're in an ethnic restaurant. And you're likely paying $3 to $4 a pop for something that's overprocessed and probably fried (because they all come with fries, right?).

When we split our meal with Andrew, he's being exposed to different types of food. While visiting PA this past week, my parents, Andrew, and I went to a small diner. My mom, ever the maverick of the group, ordered liver and onions. She asked Andrew if he'd like a bite. He tried it, even swallowed it, before refusing seconds. I held my tongue through this whole minidrama so he wouldn't be swayed by my gagging noises. Gotta say I was pretty proud of him!

The downside? Andrew's five now. The age of independence. He's getting harder to compromise with when it comes to menu selection. While at another restaurant this past week, he was adamant that he wanted a hot dog. We asked the price of *just a hot dog*, and the answer was $3.50. Gulp! He was most unhappy about it, but was required to share my turkey and gravy. He also got the pick of everyone else's plates. I know I looked like the mean mommy to my family and friends, but his healthy eating is very important to me. And our financial future is, too.

Oh, and we're teaching him about drinking water at restaurants. I half-jokingly told my sister I was going to start carrying those individual drink mix packets for just this situation, especially after seeing the bill and realizing that we paid almost $2 for each kid's drink!

What do you do to tame the bill while eating out with kids? And, do you think carrying those drink mixes is ethical?


Turning Over a New Leaf....

I love New Year's Day. It's a time of reflection of the past year, successes and failures, what could be improved on and what can be completely deleted. It's a chance to look forward and anticipate what good things are to come. A chance to start over.

Resolution time. What do I hope to accomplish this year?

I want to lose weight. Just like probably 90% of Americans, I want a slimmer waistline, a smaller trunk with a little less junk, maybe definable collarbones. I'm committing myself to exercise and clean eating this year.

I also want to strengthen my relationship with God. How? By reading the whole Bible, front to back, this year. Something I've never done before. Ever since attending parochial school, I've had difficulty reading and absorbing the Word. This year it's time to overcome that.

We also need to get into a better place financially. That's going to become a priority for us this year.

What does 2009 hold in store for us? God only knows right now. But we will continue to pray, and work towards our goals with zeal.

What are your goals?