Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Frugal Recipe of the Week

Ron has a love of gnocchi that has remained unfulfilled since moving to Savannah. None of the Italian restaurants have it on the menu and I can't find any frozen in the grocery stores. I have been pretty overwhelmed at the idea of making pasta, but when I saw this recipe it didn't seem to hard.

Now I know that it's not totally from scratch, but it came out really tasty. It was actually pretty easy, although it did leave the kitchen in a huge mess. Since the only ingredient I actally had to purchase was the instant potato flakes, it was incredibly cheap. I did buy some pesto sauce on sale to dress the gnocchi in, so the total grocery bill was about $5. I doubled the recipe so that we had leftovers. If you calculate the approximate price of the flour and salt and pepper and that I have quite a bit of leftover potato flakes, the cost per serving must have been about $1.

Tips if you try this: Give yourself a lot of counter space to roll out the dough, have a lot of flour on hand for the knife and counter, cut the dough into nickel-sized pieces since they plump a bit when cooked. Next time I'm going to try to incorporate other flavors - maybe spinach or basil.

finally...peace in the house

We still have moments when Oliver randomly hisses at Ahab and picks a fight, but Ron caught this photo the other day when they didn't know anyone was looking. Now if we could just get Mabel to join them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mabel loves Eco-forms!

When my pal Andrea came to visit, she brought me a lovely gift from her fiance Jed who owns the Green Garden Store. He sells Eco-form plant pots - sustainable plant pots made from grain husks. He gifted me a pretty little pot along with some organic soil and cat grass seeds. As you can see from the photos, our cat Mabel absolutely loves the grass. She nibbles on it throughout the day, sometimes so voraciously that she knocks it over!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Getaway to Asheville, NC

This is quite belated, but I figured that I should still put up a post about our long weekend in Asheville, NC. At the beginning of April, we took 4 days off to check it out. Driving up from the low country to the mountains wasn't too bad - about 5 hours - and once we got up there we both breathed a sigh of relief to get some heights and views. Spring was in full bloom in Savannah, but up in the mountains it was just starting to get warmer and only a few of the early blossom trees were out. We spent Sunday walking around downtown Asheville, but most of the shops were closed. (Hint if you're traveling there: Sunday-Monday most places are closed.) Still, we found a great cafe that we went back to daily and ate at a really yummy thai restaurant called Doc Cheys. We checked into our studio rental. After checking out the price of hotels in the area, we went with a vacation rental. The price was right and the privacy even better. I definitely would recommend that if you're traveling out that way, you check out the availability of Luna's Retro Den. We were about a 10 minute walk from downtown and it's totally adorable.

Monday we spent the day driving up along the Blue Ridge Parkway and then taking some side roads and getting ourselves lost. It couldn't have been more beautiful and, at certain points, terrifying. Down in the valleys, we passed along some gorgeous farms , passed some wild pheasants, found a secret, family cemetery, and road along some of the steepest dirt roads with 45 degrees turns. Definitely white knuckled it most of the way. We got ourselves completely lost in, what turns out, was likely the Pisgah National Forest, and ended up cresting up over a mountain and back down.

Once back into the city, we figured we'd poke around the Riverside Cemetery until dinner. The gates were posted to close at 8pm and we drove in at just 7:10. Drove around a bit admiring the place (it was rainy so we decided not to walk) and upon arriving back at the gate to exit, found ourselves locked in at 7:30. There was only the one gate and we never saw anyone else while we were there so apparently the signage was incorrect. In any event, we had to call the police to have the park ranger come and unlock the gate. We sat there for a good 40 minutes before somebody came and meanwhile it was getting dark. Sitting hungry, in the dark in a cemetery is a bit odd. Here's photos of Ron examining the gate signage while we waited.

We ended the evening with a totally delicious dinner at the Asheville Noodle Shop.

Tuesday, we headed over to Empire Tattoo where Ron got his neck and forearm tattoos lasered. I sat with him through that session, which went right quick but appeared to be incredibly painful. Then while he got tattooed by Danny Reed, I headed out to do some shopping downtown. I can't say enough about how friendly the folks at the shop were and how kind they were to fit Ron in without having called ahead. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos because I was too busy checking out the variety of vintage clothes stores, antique stores, independent boutiques and record shops. I didn't spend much and still came home with two dresses, a sweater, a new dog toy for Ahab and a few records. We finished up the day with a really amazing dinner at the Tupelo Honey Cafe - where the food is all local and organic and really really delicious. All in all, I can't wait to head back up there during the summer when we can enjoy some of the hiking and waterfalls.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Practicing willpower

I just read this New York Times story about developing willpower . Essentially what it is saying is that the brain can only handle so much focus on willpower at a time and when it focuses really strongly on one area, others may slip. It confirms my own experience. Whenever I've really tried to change habits before in the past - staying on a budget or a diet or a workout plan - I've found that while I'm building the new habit, it almost feels like a part-time job to focus on making the change. I suppose it's somewhat comforting to know that is normal and that it will get easier. It's interesting that increasing your practice of willpower in one area will, over the course of time, make it easier to increase it in other areas. That will be helpful since I'm currently trying to commit to an exercise schedule and work on my finances at the same time. In the meantime though I may need to let go of my housecleaning.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Frugal Recipe of the Week

As part of my money-saving efforts, I am aiming to develop my recipe stash for frugal meals. I developed this one last week after getting an organic, whole chicken on sale for about $8 and couldn't believe how easy it was:

Whole Chicken in a Crockpot
Wash and pat dry one whole chicken (make sure to remove giblets)
Place in crockpot.
Season with preferred herbs. (I used salt, pepper and mixed Italian herbs.)
Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours.
*Do not add liquid as it will create it own during cooking.
**Also do not expect to carve the meat as it is so tender that it literally falls off the bones.

The meat lasted me about 2 full meals for the two of us plus leftovers for the pets. I cooked up the giblets for the pets and they went mad for them. Now I know, I'll forgo spending on canned food. Also, since the meat basically comes out shredded, it's great for using in soups, pies, casseroles, etc. And I've held on to the leftover juices as it will be a good base for broth or gravy. So that ends up being about $2 a meal per person plus the cost of a couple of days of pet food.