Friday, January 28, 2011

Bartering and a CSA

I love living in an area where bartering is still very much a part of life, and where you do things for acquaintances and neighbors, just because you feel like it's the right thing to do.

This year, I'm blessed to teach a fabulous group of sixth grade students, one of whom has her own flock of thirteen chickens. She is responsible for their care, feeding, and checking the nest boxes daily. And she has started bringing me fresh eggs about every two weeks. I offered to pay her for them, but she sweetly said no, that they give away the eggs they can't eat to friends. So, we've been enjoying wonderfully fresh eggs, with far more nutritional content and likely more environmentally responsible management methods, for several weeks now. They've made fantastic omletes, deviled eggs, and I love adding them to baked goods. The yolks are so bright yellow, and it warms my heart to know that they were given yummy veggie scraps from the kitchen with lots of love from this child, rather than some commercial feed strewn about by machines adults getting underpaid for their work. In return for these fabulous eggs, I share my favorite reads with this student, who gobbles up books the way her chickens do blackberries in the summer. All in all, more than a fair trade.

A few weeks ago, our neighbor took out his snow blower and cleared the entire bottom portion of the drive for us. We called to thank him and offered to bake them some homemade bread. I don't think they really expected us to go through with it, but they were thrilled with the banana coconut bread, and I loved baking it as a thank you gift... and it was much more economical than paying someone to scrape the road.

At our favorite local bakery, we've discovered that if we go in at the end of the day, they'll often cut us a deal on the day old bread, which is already reduced. If they don't sell it by the end of the day, they have to throw it out or donate it, so by having us purchase it for a reduced cost, we're helping them pay for the ingredients and overhead, while still getting a lovely and hearty bread for sandwiches or breakfast. Even though we generally make our bread ourselves, we find that we love patronizing the bakery and that we get ideas for new flavor combinations to add to our own breads. (The apple rosemary bread sourdough we had a few weeks was fabulous both with butter and cream cheese, as well as being prepared as a grilled cheese sandwich. It's definitely something we'll try this fall when apples come around in abundance again.)

We've decided to split a share of a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program through a farm cooperative with another family from church this spring. This means that for about 20 weeks, we'll get farm fresh veggies, with the option of adding eggs, goat cheese, and even meat. For $25 a week, this is a steal for providing ample organic produce for 4 adults and two kids. The cool thing about this CSA is that it has a service expectation with it, so I'll get to spend some hours out at a farm this summer learning just how they do things and helping to maintain some of the veggies. (Or maybe I'll get to help out with the poultry and learn how to care for some chickens... I can't wait!) It's amazing how much further your budget goes when you decide to spent locally, and how much better you feel knowing that more of that money goes to support those farmers directly. Not to mention the benefits of transporting the produce a shorter distance, meaning fewer fossil fuels used and fresher ingredients.

So, how about you? How are you sharing in the abundance that you have, large or small? Are you considering supporting more local farms this year? And how do those decisions impact your budget; are you like us and finding that it's worth it, both for the money and the health of your family and the environment? Or maybe you're not quite there yet, and are still on the fence about the whole local food movement. Whatever your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Updated DIY List and Breakfast Baking

A few weeks ago, I was blog hopping all over the place since we had yet another snow day. I stumbled upon this in my wishful thinking of warmer weather projects and decided I'd begin the hunt for a soda crate of my own to create this living garden art. I found a few on ebay, but with shipping, they ended up being about $20, which was more than I wanted to spend for something I was going to staple to pieces and fill with dirt and plants.

Benny and I were also on the hunt for a pretty and unusual plate to hang in the kitchen to balance out a little vignette we're doing on the wall (I'll post pics when we get that finished), so we took one Saturday afternoon (after I'd had a morning of Saturday school with the kiddos to makeup a snow day)to visit our favorite local art gallery and the antique store down the street. After visiting the main and top floors in the antique store, we were about to call it quits, but decided to investigate the basement level, which is mostly where they keep the furniture. And were we glad we did... we found both things we were hunting for; a silver plated punched decorative plate and a soda crate that had seen better days. So, all told, we spent $25 for both and were pleased with our purchases. Not only did we like what we found, but we were happy that we were able to put our money into a local business, rather than sending it who knows where through ebay. (Not that ebay isn't great for some things...)

I'm super excited about my hanging garden and plan to hang it on the exterior basement wall when we finish the patio area underneath the deck this spring. I think it'll add a nice touch to the seating area under there and it should do well with the amount of sun it'll get. But I'll wait to construct it until it's a little closer to spring here, and I'll give you a step by step rundown when I tackle it.

My next project is to make a Valentine's wreath for my classroom door. I'm thinking a yarn wrapped cardboard thing, something like this. I want something that's going to be simple to make (and I can do it while I watch Arrested Development or one of our James Bond movies with Benny), but will be fun and festive for the kids.

This month has also been about using what we have around here in the kitchen as much as possible, so we've worked down the freezer and the pantry a good bit, but still have plenty of staples to spare. One of the things I had an abundance of in the freezer was bananas and berries. (The school occasionally gets donations from the local grocery, and the cafeteria can't use them, so when they sent boxes full of bananas, I stocked up.) You can freeze bananas right in the peels, no kidding, if you're planning to use them for baking. I just thaw them in the fridge overnight or in the microwave and they're ready to go. I discovered this fabulous coffee cake recipe in my Coffee Cakes cookbook by Lou Seibert Pappas that uses bananas and coconut, both of which we had on hand, and the recipe was perfect for dessert when some friends invited us over for dinner a few weeks ago. You'll find that recipe at the bottom of the page. I also plan to work some bananas and berries into these muffins, which will either get made tomorrow (if we have another snow day) or this weekend.

Banana, Macadamia Nut, and Coconut Coffee Cake

2 c all purpose flour (or substitute 1 c whole wheat and 1 c all purpose)
1/2 t salt
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 1/4 c mashed bananas (about 2 1/2 large bananas)
2 large eggs
1/3 c veg or canola oil
2 T amaretto liquor (or just add some extra vanilla)
1/2 c sour cream or plain yogurt
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 c sweetened flake coconut
1/2 c chopped macadamia nuts or pecan halves
1 T granulated sugar mixed w/ 1 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan or springform pan.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and brown sugar. Stir to blend. In a food processor, combine eggs, bananas, oil, liquor, sour cream, and vanilla. Add banana mixture to dry ingredients and stir to combine, until smooth. Stir in coconut. Pour into greased pan. Top with nuts and sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the top.

Bake 30-35 min, or until golden on top and cake tester comes out smooth. Cool on wire rack, and then remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temp, cut into wedges. Serves 8-10 (or breakfast for two all week long).

I'd love to hear what you're up to, or if you try the recipes or project ideas!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Homemade Yogurt, and Living to Tell about It

A few days ago, I took yet another one of our snow days to try my hand at making some homemade yogurt. I had done this several years ago at a microbiology workshop (yes, I'm that much of a nerd that I'd take a week of summer to learn about microbiology), so I knew it wasn't nearly as complicated or scary as many people make it out to be. Basically, you're trying to do the same thing you do with yeast bread... encourage the microbes you want to have to grow and crowd out the bad ones.

My rationale for trying this was twofold. I wanted to try it at home because I knew I'd be able to have more control over the ingredients; I could use organic milk, mix in local honey for sweetner, use jam and frozen fruit for toppings. In essence, I could make sure that it was quality, with no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. I also wanted to try doing it because I knew it would be cheaper than purchasing store bought yogurt of the same quality, unless it was free with a coupon (which happens occasionally).

I primarily used the recipe in The Joy of Cooking, but I found a method for using the CrockPot in The Backyard Homestead, which is a fabulous book for those gardening enthusiasts. Basically, you use a milk of your choosing (I started with whole milk, just because that's what several recipes recommend, but skim will have the same protein content as whole, which is really what matters) -- 2 cups--and warm it to 180 degrees on the stove. I used a candy thermometer to measure the temp. Then, you allow it to cool to 106-110 degrees, add your yogurt culture (about three tablespoons of plain yogurt), stir well, and put into sterile jars. I just used small mason jars, the kind you would for jam. You place the filled, covered jars in the Crock Pot and set it to warm. (Not low, just warm) Cover the Crock Pot and allow it to set up for 5-6 hours, or overnight. Mine took about 7 hours, but I think I had a little less yogurt culture than the called for 3 T. The yogurt will keep in the fridge for about a week, but if you plan to make another batch, you should use your yogurt culture within 5 days.

I've enjoyed it for breakfast this week with blackberries from the freezer and some honey, but it would also be great with granola, sliced banana, or frozen for a dessert treat. You could easily add vanilla or orange extract if you like those flavors.

Let me know if you try it; I'd love to hear from you! Here's to living green, and saving green, in the kitchen.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Incredible Savings

Here's the long-awaited guest post from Mr. Living Green, Saving Green; I hope you enjoy! ~ Allyson

I would have liked to typed this guest blog entry sooner, but with vacation and other blog posts where I was on worker status, I didn’t have it in me to type it out. I know...I is just a short blog post, but I am not the blogging queen like my wonderful wife.

Little backstory to bring you up to speed with my cellular story... February 2010 my mother purchased a Palm Pre Plus and I also got one because of a BOGO special Verizon was running at that time. I have thoroughly enjoyed the convenience of having a smartphone and we have used it for a lot of helpful applications beyond it just being my everyday phone. In the life of the phone, however, I have had to have it replaced under warranty for some technical issues. The second replacement being in the first part of December for battery overheating issues.

The question I faced was do I replace a phone and mobile OS experience that I really enjoy or switch over to another phone. I decided I would start searching if I could make the switch over to another phone at little to no cost to me, because it is the “Saving Green” way to do things. In my searching, I had decided I would stick with a smartphone, but would go with an android based phone. I went to our local Verizon reseller and tried a couple models out to get an idea for size and feel, so that when I could get to a corporate store I would no how to best use my two year upgrade pricing that I found to be an option on our plan for my line.

Enter the middle of December with a great smartphones for the month of December. They chose four smartphones per carrier and made them free with new 2 year contracts or upgrades. So, with my wife totally unaware of my plans, I called and told her we were going to the big city to get me a new phone. She is usually skeptical of my last minute half-baked plans and this time would be no different, but when I used words like "free" and "gratis" (that's Spanish for free, for those of you who weren't in the know)...she went along with the plan.

We called on the way down and asked if they could set one aside for us, so when we arrived walked up and told Shawn my name and he got my phone out of the back to begin setting it up. 25 minutes later, and after not even having to take my wallet out except to double check my license number, I was the proud new owner of a free HTC Droid Incredible.

After having the phone a couple weeks, I have been really pleased with the purchase and the general sense of outdoing myself on the deal. Allyson will be the first to tell I am a master of saving green, but this was such a good way to finish out 2010.

What deals have you found lately that make you just want to put another feather in your cap? Good luck and keep searching for those incredible savings.

Stylish Blogger Award

My fabulous cousin over at Southern Comfort has awarded me the Stylish Blogger Award. She has tons of creative ideas, so I hope you take the time to check her blog out sometime. On top of that, she's an amazing friend and cousin... so thanks, Elizabeth!

In order to receive the award, I have to fill you guys in on seven things about me, which you probably don't already know. So, here goes:

1. This one is a no brainer... I adore my family, and by family, I not only include those immediately related to me, but those friends (and fuzzies) who might as well be family. I firmly believe that I have the best husband in the world and a dog who would do anything in her power to show me her love (including licking my feet when I get out of the shower).

2. I love sweaters and jeans. Winter is a long season here in the High Country, so it's a great time to break out my sweater collection. Cable knit ones are probably my favorite, but I also love cowl neck sweaters and turtle neck ones. Sweaters are great, because the go so well with anything... especially jeans. If I could live in jeans, I would. I'm so glad I teach at a school where we're still allowed to wear jeans on "casual Fridays". On snow days, if I'm not still in my pajamas, I'll be in my jeans and a sweater or sweatshirt.

3. I truly enjoy cooking with my husband... and I know how crazy that might sound to some of you! We make a great team in the kitchen and often find it a relaxing way to spend thirty minutes or so at the end of a long day at work. We love to get creative with the ingredients we use in dishes and generally use a recipe as a guideline, not something set in stone (unless it's one of those family comfort foods, in which case no variations are wanted or needed!).

4. I hate handwashing dishes. I grew up in a house with no dishwasher, other than our two hands, so I've had my fill of doing dishes by hand. I'm incredibly blessed to have a husband who agreed at the start of our marriage that he'd do the dishes if I folded the clothes. I think that's a pretty fair trade!

5. One of my "secret" indulgences is curling up under the covers with a cup of hot tea and a new cookbook. I recently revisited one of my old cookbooks and have decided to go into the daring territory of making my own yogurt (apparently you can do this in the CrockPot... who knew?!). I'll let you know how it turns out.

6. I love James Bond movies. We're working toward eventually owning all of them; currently, we have 21 of the 22. They're great for Friday night date nights with homemade pizza and a good glass of wine. We have visions of doing a true marathon at some point, starting with the originals and working our way through the various Bond actors, but it's gonna take a good bit of planning to get that marathon off the ground.

7. I love to paint with watercolors and mixed media, but am still working on finding the space to do that here in our home. We dream of one day finishing out the basement to have a craft room... until then, my paintings are mostly small ones that can be done in a few hours here at the kitchen table.

I'd like to pass the award along to the following bloggers, many of whom I've only recently discovered:

Confessions of a Plate Addict

Modish (especially the guest blogs from Petals and Pedals)

Pretty Handy Girl

Thanks for Today

Simply Step Back

Milk Without Money

The Frugal Find

You Can Thank My Mother

Someday Crafts

Black Copper DIY

Cup and Table

Pure Green

Thanks for the award, Elizabeth! :) I hope you all have a fabulous day, and I'd love to hear from you!

Give Us A Hand(rail)

We've been busy these past few snowy days. We took advantage of the time stuck indoors and addressed the hand rail that was on the before Christmas list, but never quite happened amidst the holiday baking. We took the time to do it right, which meant taping, filling holes with wood filler, sanding, staining, and a coat of poly. (When I say "we", I really mean that I helped tape, and then took on the role of inspector while Benny worked. I took the time to plan out the vegetable garden for spring... who knew there were so many options for salad greens?! ... working in the stairwell is really only a one person job anyway... though Lavender tried her best to "help".)

Here's the before, with some of the lovely blue painter's tape. You can see that it's your builder's grade oak handrail with traditional spindles. (One of which popped out of place during staining... we'll address that with some finish nails before we touch up things.) We opted for a stain that would match the mantle, thinking that it would tie the room together a bit more. Benny custom matched the stain to the mantle, so it's not a stock color, otherwise, I'd let you know the actual color name/number. The stain and poly were both fairly inexpensive, thanks to Benny's store discount at Benjamin Moore, and we only needed a quart of each (really we could have done with even less, but they only sell it in quarts, and I'm sure we'll find other uses for it as we tackle other projects).

And here's the after, in all it's smooth, satiny glory!
I love how the stain brings out the wood grain, and I'm already having visions of how beautiful it will look during the next holiday season all gussied up with garland, lights, and glitzy ornaments. What do you think? Overall, a great use of two snowy days.

But we didn't stop there... we broke out the new ($15!) duvet cover we bought this summer at Ikea, which I finally got around to washing on Thursday,
and wrangled the duvet inside. I love how it lightens up the room, although it definitely needs a few accent pillows to tie the wall color and brown accents throughout the room together. Lavender seems to approve!

I love that these projects didn't cost that much, and they were a great way for us to spend some quality time together. They did a ton to revamp the look of things without breaking the bank.

What projects have you crossed off your list this weekend? What would you do for accent pillows on the bed... or just leave it as is? How have you redone things at home without much stretch to your budget? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Snow Day Kitchen Crafts and Reading

Today is yet another snow day and school's out, so per the 5:15 am phone call to let me know that, I've had a rather productive morning. Outside of the routine cleaning (a load of laundry using some homemade laundry detergent from my fabulous cousin, unloading/reloading the dishwasher and washing up some stuff by hand, and folding some clothes), I've had some time to explore something I've been interested in for a while... spice extracts.

I've been making my own vanilla extract for years now, but I've been curious about other spice extracts. I knew the process had to be similar, so I employed our friend Google to find out what I could about making orange, lemon, almond, and mint extracts. Here's what I found...

Orange and Lemon Extract: Basically, the process is the same as the vanilla extract. Peel the fruit, minus the white pithy stuff, and immerse it in vodka. Allow it to cure for a while, then use as you would any extract. You can leave the peel in, or strain it out, depending on your preferences.

Almond Extract: Again, similar process. Grind the almonds (the recipe notes using blanched, rather than roasted... I suppose roasted nuts might have lost some of the natural flavor oils in the roasting process), and put these in a jar with vodka. Allow to cure, then use. I would probably strain this one, just so you don't get almond bits in your baked goods, if that's not the desired result. Store in a cool dark place, as you would any spice or extract.

Mint Extract: Use 12-14 Tbs of fresh mint or 6 of dried with 3 cups of vodka. Store in an airtight glass container in a cool, dark place. I would chop or crush the mint for maximum extraction. I think this would be great with chocolate mint or peppermint, so I plan to try it in the spring when my mint comes back up. (This was compiled from several different sources, so there's no link here.)

I think any of these extracts would make a great gift, and a collection of all of them in small, pretty bottles would be so special for a friend who loves to bake. I especially love the homemade extracts, because you can control the quality of ingredients that goes into them. I recently learned that many commercial vanilla extracts contain corn syrup, especially the "imitation" ones, so that's even more of a reason for me to make my own, besides the fact that it's so much more cost effective than purchasing those tiny grocery store bottles.

** Note that I haven't personally tried any of these yet, so don't take this as gospel. Let me know if you do try it and how it works out!

Today, I'm also rereading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It was one of my favorite summer reads and has been fun to reread on this snowy morning. It's got me itching to order some seeds and get some veggies started now so they'll have a jumpstart in the spring. I loved my heirloom tomatoes last summer (before the deer found them), so I'm wanting to try some heirloom beans, squash, and root veggies this year. Maybe I'll get a garden plan sketched out before the end of the day...

I'd love to hear from you! Have you tried any of these extracts, or others? Are you finding yourself already hoping for spring after all this cold and snow (especially in the High Country)? Or are you just loving sitting curled up with a book, a blanket, and a cup of your favorite hot tea with your wonderful fuzzy at your feet?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

After Christmas Holiday Decor Deals

I'm sure you all found your share of after-Christmas deals. This year, I was on the hunt for some pre-lit faux garland, silver ornaments to decorate the garland with, clear glass ornaments to decorate for gifts for next year, and holiday mugs to use as gifts with homemade hot cocoa for next year.

I managed to find my garland for $5 for a 9-foot section at Target, after seeing it at Michael's for more than double that. I scooped up two sections, as well as some silver ornaments for 50 cents a tube (I think there were 8 in each tube). They were a mix of sparkly glitter, matte finish, and standard shiny silver ones. I got a variety of sizes, and we'll use them to decorate the garland on the banister and the mantle next year. I also plan to use the polished silver candle sticks from my grandmother's house in the mantle decor next year, as well as some magnolia leaves spray painted silver, and some pine cones from the family tree farm.

We also had a hayday in my in-law's attic and at Goodwill finding all sorts of holiday decor that could be updated with a little spray paint. My mother-in-law had tons of 80's brassy ornamental instruments, including french horns and trumpets, which will get updated with a coat of silver or white spray paint. I'll wire them onto the banister or work them into the mantle decor. The larger ones will find a place hanging inside a wreath on the door. She also had several decorative nut crackers, of which I took one (there were four... notice the restraint on my part ;)), with plans to strip the faux fur beard and hair and spray paint him silver or white to add do the mantle, in the style of this humble blog. I'm loving that I'll be giving these things a new life with just a little paint, that they're being saved from a landfill, and that they're FREE! There were also some clear glass ornaments at Goodwill that were perfect for our DIY ornament project, though we snagged a few more at Michael's also after Christmas.

I found some of the holiday mugs I was hunting for at Goodwill, and they're super cute for $1 each... neat little snowmen. They'll be perfect for some homemade cocoa and a candy cane or two tucked in for a sweet little holiday gift for coworkers or friends. While at Goodwill, we also found two pairs of pants for Benny, one of which will be made into shorts, as well as a nice Old Navy sweater for me that's this season's style, without the big price tag. I'm still on the hunt for some skinny jeans to wear with my boots, but I'm not willing to pay retail prices, so I keep scouring the Raleigh Goodwill in hopes that I'll find some. (Goodwill, and thrift stores in general, are great places to go after the holidays, since people who didn't like their gifts and couldn't exchange/return them often donate them. It's also a great time to go since many people are doing the last minute clean-out to get the tax credit for their donations before the end of the calendar year.)
So, how about you? Any deals on holiday decor or amazing thrift store finds? I'd love to hear from you!

January Menu Plan and Recipes

The stretch between Christmas and the end of January is always a little long for a teacher, at least in NC. We get paid before school lets out for the holidays, which is nice for last minute shopping, but that check has to last until the end of January, meaning that sometimes it's more like 5-6 weeks between checks, rather than just four. Thankfully, this is usually not a problem for us, as we always have a well stocked freezer and pantry, and usually have some leftover Christmas food bounty to get us through. So, this post is all about making the most of the holiday leftovers and our pantry/freezer so that grocery trips are minimal, but the menu is varied and enjoyable. I'm also including a few recipes to share with you so that you have some new ways to use up those holiday leftovers, without getting bored.

Holiday leftovers on hand: sliced ham, ham bone, turkey carcass, smoked turkey breast (since we didn't do most of our holiday eating here, there is no stuffing/mashed potatoes or gravy for a turkey casserole--but we did manage to scavenge the ham bone and turkey carcass, as well as sweet-talking my grill master uncle into smoking a turkey breast for us)

Pantry/freezer staples on hand: tortillas, cheese, pasta, rice, dried beans/split peas, canned tomatoes, canned potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, newly stocked spices/herbs (thanks so Santa), frozen veggies, frozen meat (ground beef and sausage) sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, basic baking supplies, home canned veggies gifted by a coworker, eggs, canned salmon

Breads to bake (with aid of bread machine): whole wheat burger buns, pumpernickel bread, breakfast bread suitable for jam/peanut butter

Week 1: ham/turkey melts on pumpernickel bread, chickpea burgers with lemon aiole sauce (using dried chickpeas prepared in crock pot), split pea soup (using ham bone and pantry staples), supper club swap
items to purchase for week 1: whole wheat flour, 2 green peppers (chop all and freeze half for week 3)

Week 2: barbecue turkey burritos with beans and sour cream (shred the turkey and saute with cumin and onion, then mix in homemade or prepared barbecue sauce and the black beans to create the filling for the burritos), wild rice and mushroom pilaf, breakfast casserole with sun dried tomatoes, ham, and mushrooms
items to purchase for week 2: sour cream, can of black beans, organic milk

Week 3: ship wreck (everyone calls this something different--it's that casserole with potatoes, canned tomatoes, ground beef, onion, and pepper), salmon patties on a spinach salad with mandarin oranges, pecans, and homemade croutons, fill in w/ canned soup if needed, supper club swap
items to purchase for week 3: organic baby spinach

Week 4: vegetable soup using 1/2 lb. ground beef, freezer/canned veggies, and onion/garlic on hand, jambalaya, bread for sopping up soup broth
items to purchase for week 4: organic milk

Breakfasts will consist of cereal and milk, toast with jam/peanut butter, or yogurt with frozen berries. Snacks will be nuts from the pantry, Ches mix (gifted by Benny's mom), or trail mix from dried fruit and cereal. We are really trying to cut down on sweets, so we will limit desserts to a piece of chocolate from the stocking loot, or our small group gatherings. Lunches will be the usual leftovers from dinners during the week.

As you can see, there's not much to purchase this month, and if we stick to the plan, we shouldn't spend more than about $30 on groceries for this month, which will help us to stretch that paycheck as far as it can go. This will also hopefully help us to save a bit more this month, which will be a good boost for our emergency fund.

Below, you'll find my loose variation on my grandmother's split pea soup. It's not at all what you think of as that army green mush, so give it a shot if you've got a ham bone leftover from the holiday festivities.

Split Pea Soup (in the crock pot)

6 c homemade or store-bought veggie/chicken stock
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
3-4 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 large bell pepper, chopped
1 package split peas, sorted and rinsed
1 ham bone, with some bits left on for flavor and added meat, add additional chopped ham if desired

Seasonings: salt, pepper, bay leaf, oregano (all to taste)

Combine all ingredients and cook on low in the crock pot for 6-8 hours, until peas are done and tender, but not mushy. Serve with quality bread or a sandwich (we like a ham melt with pumpernickel and brown mustard).

Let me know if you like the recipes, or if you have any other favorites to use up holiday leftovers! I'd love to hear from you!

Holiday Blog Slacker

So, I totally slacked on the blog during the holidays. It's not that I didn't have stuff to post about, I was just so busy doing, traveling, and visiting, that the blog just went to the bottom of the priority list. That, and I generally avoid the internet during holidays, mostly to dedicate time to family and friends. So, I hope you understand (and I'm sure you do, because visiting with family is hopefully as important to you as it is to me).

I'm catching up on posts today, including Benny's long awaited guest post, so check things out. There will be some upcycling/decor related ideas, menu planning, and holiday gift ideas for you to save for next year.

Happy New Year, all!