Middle-Eastern Rice and Lentils

Middle-Eastern Rice and Lentils Recipe

Another great recipe from my The Occasional Vegetarian book.

1 cup lentils
1 cup canned tomatoes, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or stock of your choice (I use my chicken broth)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole grain rice
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, sliced

  1. Bring the lentils, tomatoes, bay leaf, cumin, stock, & pepper to a simmer over a high heat in a medium sized pot. Stir, cover, and turn the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and have absorbed the liquid, 45 mins to 1 hour. Add 1 tsp of the salt during the last 5 mins of cooking. Remove bay leaf
  2. Cook the rice in another pot during this time.
  3. Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat until golden, about 5 minutes (I like to make extra onion. It’s yummy)
  4. Place the rice on a plate, put the lentils on top of the rice and the onion on top of the lentils. Serve hot or at room temperature.

This recipe is very simple and easy to make. It’s filling and tasty. I double it for my family. Enjoy!

Give a Home Haircut – Frugal Friday


Before you say “NO WAY”, just hear me out.

It’s not THAT hard.

OK, it’s a little hard, but not really. If you’ve never done it before, learn a few tips, and then you learn by practicing. And here’s where little kids come in handy. They don’t really care if it’s not quite right.

I have given all of my boys all of their haircuts since they were babies. I started learning on the first one, and got better with time. Now, I have four whose hair I cut every 2 months or so.

Here’s what I do:

  • Sit child wearing bib or apron on top of table, at corner (so I can stand on the side)
  • Play video in front of child. This helps him sit still and not try to watch what you are doing.
  • Spray hair with warm water. Using a fine tooth comb, hold a section of hair up between your second & third fingers. Cut desired length.
  • Repeat, cutting section adjacent to already cut section. This is how you make sure it’s the same length.
  • On the top of the head, make sure you go front to back, and on the sides and back of the head go up to down. Otherwise you end up with stripes. (ask me how I know).

I’m sure there are some video tutorials on YouTube; at the time of this post I didn’t have time to look for one. But I will add one later on if I find a good one.

I had NO previous experience. Really. And I make a few mistakes now and then, but not too bad. Honestly, it’s not that hard. I think the hardest part is to be willing to do it, to believe that you can, and to not be afraid.

It grows back. 🙂

For more FrugalFriday ideas, visit LifeAsMom.com

The “Musical Fruit”-Frugal Fridays

“Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you…..”

I always found this little rhyme at least moderately amusing. It makes me giggle even now. I haven’t shared it yet with my guys because I just know they will probably not stop saying it & then collapse in hysterics. But, they are boys, after all, It might be time to teach them about armpit “honks”. Crass, yes. But some things are just funny.

But I digress.

Beans are extremely nutritious. See bean nutrition facts here. Beans, when combined with rice, provide a complete protein. Many Latin American countries rely on this combination for most of their dietary needs.

But why do I mention it here, on Frugal Friday? Because beans are CHEAP! Really, really inexpensive. Buy the dried beans in a bag, soak them overnight, and then follow any of thousands of recipes. I have some recipes for beans here on my blog;

Chickpeas and Spinach
Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil
Mexican Taco Casserole
Cuban Black Beans
Amazing Black Bean Burgers

Easy Hummus

Jamaican Rice and Peas

Have a good weekend!

Lentil and Potato Stew with Spiced Oil

This is one of our favorites. Lentils are about as nutritious and inexpensive as you can get, so those are two big pluses in my book. Make a double batch and stick half in the freezer for a ready made meal.

From The Occasional Vegetarian by Karen Lee

6 cups water
1 1/2 cups lentils
1 red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch squares
2 med potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, cubed
2 unpeeled carrots, cut into 1/3 inch rounds
1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 celery stalks, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf

SPICED OIL
2 tbsp olive oil or butter
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin

1. Combine the water, lentils, bellpepper, potatoes, carrots, onion, celery, soy sauce, pepper, and bay leaf in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 45 mins.

2. Meanwhile, warm the oil in a small saucepan over low heat, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the ginger, turmeric and cumin. Stir and set aside.

3. When the stew is cooked, add the spiced oil. Season with salt and additional pepper, if needed. Remove the bay leaf. Serve hot.

I like to remove a little and puree it, then return it for a thickened stew.

This stew can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. I recommend doubling it and freezing half. Simple!

Let The Sun Shine In–Frugal Fridays

When I was little, I’d see movies or commercials that showed little girls running through the sheets that were hanging out to dry. It looked like so much fun & I asked my mom why we didn’t do our drying like that. She basically said that only “poor” people dry their clothes that way and that it didn’t look nice to see laundry hanging. And I saw that she was right; in our neighborhood nobody would do such a thing, but driving into other sections of town we could see their laundry hanging. I just accepted it as the way it was and went about my business.

Until I moved to Israel. Here, hanging laundry is the socially accepted norm. For years I couldn’t fathom hanging it every day like my neighbors and didn’t like the way it looks. Then one summer my dryer broke. And I hung all summer long, until the rainy season began (winter here), and we prioritized the dryer repair.

But I’ve been thinking about it again, and a few weeks ago I decided to start utilizing this (free) power we all have-the sun, to save on electricity (translate: $$$). Good for the environment, good for the pocket, I’m happy.

It does take more time to hang the clothes and bring them in than it does to load and empty the dryer, and that has been my main objection. However, I have decided to enjoy those few minutes outside by myself as a little break. All moms need that!

And as for the way it looks, I hang it out on my roof deck where it doesn’t show-not to the neighbors; it’s out of my view as well. But twice a day I have a reason to stand and look at my gorgeous view of the Judean hills. (That’s my laundry and my view) Nice!

I do one large load every day (keeps Mt. Washmore away), plus a load of cloth diapers. My drying rack holds only the one load; for now I’m still using the dryer for the diapers or if I need to do more than one load. Another drying rack or a line would solve that problem. I’ll get there. Babysteps.

For more Frugal Friday ideas visit LifeAsMom.

For more about saving electricity, visit this site.

Cuban Black Beans

I grew up in Miami, eating Cuban food. Fried plantains, guava pastries, cafe’ con leche….not the healthiest things, to say the least. But mmm.

Good black beans and rice, though, is a good thing. Arroz Con Frijoles Negros, Cuban style. Healthful, a complete protein (with whole rice only, of course), and inexpensive, you can feel good about preparing this for your family.

And when you make extra beans, you can make my favorite black bean burgers with them later in the week.

This recipe comes from Three Guys From Miami. Here it is:

2 1/2 cups dried black beans
9 cups water **note: I have always found this to be WAY too much liquid. Try 8 cups or even less.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped green bell pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled, and mashed with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Olive oil for sautéing
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons vinegar
3/4 cup dry Spanish wine (I use Emerald Reisling. Any white wine will do.)
2 teaspoons sugar
Olive oil

Cover dry beans with water and let stand covered overnight. Drain and discard water.
Place the cleaned black beans in a large 6-quart saucepan. Add water and olive oil—this will prevent the beans from foaming. Bring the beans to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
Do not add salt to the beans when they are cooking. Salt at this stage of the game will make your beans very tough.
You may also cook the beans in a pressure cooker. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for exact times, but our pressure cooker takes about 20 to 25 minutes to cook the beans completely.
Whichever method you use, do not drain the water from the cooked beans.
Meanwhile, chop onion and green pepper. Mash the garlic with salt and peppercorns in a mortar and pestle.
Sauté the onions and green pepper in olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add mashed garlic and sauté another minute or so.
Add the cooked beans, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, vinegar, and wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf.
Some cooks—including us—like to thicken the beans by taking about 1 cup of beans and mashing them to make a thick paste. Mix the mashed beans back into the pot.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
Stir in the sugar; then drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over the beans. Immediately cover the pot, remove from heat, and let stand for 10 minutes.
Serve the by now fantastically prepared black beans over white rice.
You may garnish the beans with cilantro and chopped white onions. Not only do they look good presented this way, they taste even better than they look.

Buen Provecho!

Amazing Black Bean Burgers

I found this recipe the other day when browsing for something new to make out of beans, and it looked really good. I made it last night, and WOW. It was so delicious, we were amazed. And we are burger people (I mean the kind with meat), so we know of what we speak.

I changed it slightly to suit us, omitting chili paste and adding more oats to thicken them so they would hold their shape better.

We added cilantro mayonnaise, (also delicious), as recommended, as well as the standard lettuce, tomato, red onion, and a slice of melted cheese.

There was one left over, and I snatched it up for lunch today and took this picture. YUM.

Amazing Black Bean Burgers
4 burgers, serves 4

Ingredients
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 cups black beans, cooked (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons veg. oil

Directions
1)Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil over medium heat.
2)Add the red onion and garlic to the pan and saute until softened, about 8 minutes and then set aside to cool for a few minutes.
3)Combine beans, egg, oats, onion, mixture, chili paste, salt, pepper and cilantro and thoroughly mix and mash until pretty homogeneous, leaving a few whole beans.
4)Divide mixture into 4 equal portions and shape into patties.
5)Refrigerate patties for half an hour. (This step is not completely necessary but I find it helps hold the burgers together while cooking.).
6)Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
7)Place burgers carefully into the oil, being careful not to crowd the pan.
8)After 5-6 minutes, flip and cook another 5 minutes. They should feel firm to the touch when finished.

Note: To freeze for later use, after shaping flash freeze and then wrap in plastic wrap. Place wrapped burgers into freezer bag and squeeze out excess air. To cook from frozen, simply heat frozen burgers over medium-high heat on the stove-top, cooking until done.

Cilantro Mayonnaise
Ingredients
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaf
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (I used lemon)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1 garlic clove

Directions
1)Put all ingredients in a blender.
2)Blend until smooth.
3)Store in the refrigerator

The Poop on Cloth Diapers (part 2)

The Poop on Cloth Diapers (part 2)

I used to think that disposable diapers were the only way to go….

In my previous post, I started giving the reasons why we switched to cloth diapers a few years ago. In this post I’ll cover the environmental and money-saving benefits of cloth diapers over disposables, as well as discuss basic cloth diaper care.

Except for very limited uses, we’ll never go back to disposables!

Cost To The Environment
(from an article by the Sustainability Institute; entire article here: http://bit.ly/KIuk2)

…”18 BILLION disposable diapers are used in th US each year. Each one has an outer layer of waterproof polypropylene and an inner layer of fluff made from wood pulp plus super-slurper sodium polyacrylate that can hold a hundred times its weight in water.

Those 18 billion diapers add up to 82,000 tons of plastic a year and 1.3 million tons of wood pulp — 250,000 trees. After a few hours of active service these materials are trucked away, primarily to landfills, where they sit, neatly wrapped packages of excrement, entombed undegraded for several hundred years. “…

Cost To Our Pockets

“Disposable diapers” was absolutely the highest on-going expense we had with our first two babies. Consider this:

Your baby will use about 6500 to 7000 diapers from birth to 30 months.

Most parents seem to spend an average cost of $50-$80/month for Huggies® or Pampers® OUCH!!! That would come to $1500-$2400 over a 30 month period, more if you diaper longer — and there are reports that show cloth diaper babies often potty-train up to a year earlier than those who wear disposables.

Now….I’ve been using Mother-Ease One Size diapers since March of 2006, and (full disclosue) we will soon be offering them for sale here on my blog. The same diapers fit my newborn all the way to my toddler. It only takes 4-6 months to completely recoup our family’s initial costs. After that, we’re essentially diapering for FREE. The laundering costs are minimal in both time and money.

By choosing cloth diapers over disposables, you will save thousands of dollars on each child!

Especially in these difficult economic times, who doesn’t want that? Let’s face it, who doesn’t NEED that?!

Caring for Cloth Diapers
Caring for the diapers is quite simple: just rinse poop into toilet (NOTE: we have a sprayer attached to our toilet that makes this easy; in the US where it’s not as simple to connect this, I think most folks dunk&flush) & place diapers in a covered pail with water and some vinegar (neutralizes odors). When ready to wash, empty the soak water into toilet, do a prewash or rinse cycle, and then a full cycle in hot water with detergent. Dry. That’s it! We wash diapers every night before we go to bed. Our older children (even the toddler who still wears one at nighttime) know how to fold them and put them away. It’s as simple as that!

I love knowing that my babies are touching comfy soft cloth and not toxic chemical-filled plasticky-feeling stuff. I love knowing I’m doing our part to keep disposable diapers out of landfills, and I LOVE the amount of money we have and continue to save!

(There’s a lot more to say regarding using cloth diapers vs disposables — including the benefits of natural fibers, tips for making the care of cloth diapers even easier, and the scientific links of disposable diapers to asthma and male infertility. I will cover these issues in future posts.)

The Poop on Cloth Diapers (part 1)

The Poop on Cloth Diapers (part 1)

With a new baby in the house, of course we are changing a lot more diapers — and even with five children under the age of seven, with two in diapers full-time, I’ve been reminded why I love using cloth instead of disposables.

When I was pregnant with my first child, my environmentally-conscious husband approached me to consider using cloth diapers. I didn’t know anyone who used them, and didn’t know that “modern” cloth diapers had been designed. I was too overwhelmed with all that would come with being a first time mom and never looked into it. When my second son was born only 11 months after my first, I was once again too overwhelmed. Not until my third did I dare to enter what I was sure would be a complicated world…only to find that it wasn’t! I wish I’d started using them sooner.

The cloth diapers I use really are simple (ours have built in snaps to accommodate all sizes, so there is no pinning) and don’t take much time at all to rinse and wash. I love that I never need to worry about running out of diapers, like I used to with disposables.

The way I see it, there are 3 main reasons to choose to cloth diapers over disposables:

1. To avoid the toxins (and their negative effects on health) in disposable diapers

2. To reduce environmental waste

3. To save a bunch of money

In doing research for this post, I discovered that the many costs of disposable diapers were more than I realized:

Costs To Our Childrens’ Health
from an article on The Diaper Hyena; entire article here

SODIUM POLYACRYLATE – This is the chemical, added in powder form to the inner pad of a disposable, that makes it super-absorbent. When the powdered form becomes wet, it turns into a gel.

Can absorb up to 100X its weight in water.
Can stick to baby’s genitals, causing allergic reactions.
Reported to cause severe skin irritations, oozing blood from perineum and scrotal tissues, fever, vomiting and staph infections in babies.
When injected into rats it has caused hemorrhage, cardiovascular failure and death.
Banned from tampons in 1985 because of its link to Toxic Shock Syndrome.
Has killed children after ingesting as little as 5 grams of it.
Causes female organ problems, slows healing wounds, fatigue and weight loss to the employees in factories that manufacture it.

DIOXIN – This is the chemical by-product of the paper-bleaching process, using chlorine gas, in the manufacturing of diapers.

Carcinogenic (cancer-causing chemical)
The EPA lists it as the MOST TOXIC of all cancer-linked chemicals.
In small quantities it causes birth defects, skin/liver disease, immune system suppression & genetic damage in lab animals.
Banned in most countries, but not the United States.

If we really care about our babies’ health, isn’t this information alone enough to make natural-fiber cloth diapers the right choice?

(In my next post, I’ll cover the environmental and money-saving benefits of cloth diapers over disposables, as well as discuss basic cloth diaper care.)