Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Brrrr.... Fridge Temperatures

In an effort to try to save some dough (pun intended) during these dog days of summer, I turned to the fridge. :-). Normal people, like myself, buy a fridge and turn it on and never even think about the temperature that the fridge is set at until, perhaps, you realize that food is spoiling. So I began a search to find out what the best temperature is for the fridge to see if it is set too high or too low.

You would think that just a few degrees difference wouldn't really matter very much, yet it does. Too warm by just a few degrees and your food will begin to spoil, bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and C. botulinum will grow, mold will flourish, and just bad things overall will happen. Yet too cold, you begin to waste energy (think about your home thermostat and how a few degrees will save you 10% of your energy bill),and your food will freeze resulting it going bad quicker because it's not preserving the food.

So from what I have read and researched the temperature for the fridge should be set somewhere between 0oC and 5oC (or 32oF and 41oF), with the best being around 3 or 4 Celcius. The variations really come from who you are asking and probably your lifestyle. For those non-scientific folks, the people at howstuffworks say between 35 and 38 degrees F (1.7 to 3.3 degrees C), but the food and drug administration recommend that your fridge be at or below 40oF or 4oC.

For those of you who are prone to power outages, it's good to know that if your home loses power and your fridge is at 4F or higher for less than 2 hours, the food will still be safe to eat according to the FDA, as long as you don't open the fridge constantly :).

Australian food authority:

Monday, August 20, 2012

Refreshing cucumber yogurt soup - Recipe Monday

Cucumber Yogurt Soup w/ Bread and Einstein
Today's recipe is a favorite in our little home. The husband always gets super excited when he sees me getting the ingredients out. Although this is technically a summer soup we make it whenever we want, you know, Texan winters aren't usually that cold :)

I have made this recipe many, many times, first following the instruction my grandma had given me and then following a recipe I found in a German vegetarian cookbook. By now I don't measure anything and follow my gut.  

Here is what you need for this quick, uncomplicated cold "summer" soup which will leave you wanting more - except of course if you are lactose intolerant.

  • Plain Greek yogurt, about 3 cups
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into rough cubes
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely minced or grated
  • the zest and juice of one lemon
  • salt and cayenne pepper to taste
  • fresh or dried dill to taste (I use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
And this is how it's done:
  1.  In a food processor process the cucumber until smooth. 
  2. Transfer the processed cucumber to a bowl, add in the Greek yogurt, garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and the zest of the lemon. Mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  3. Gradually add in the lemon juice, dill, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. 
  4. If you think that the soup is a little too thick add in a little cold water (about a 1/4 cup at a time) until it reaches the desired consistency.
  5. Garnish with a slice of cucumber and serve with toasted bread. Serve immediately.
This is great as a light dinner or lunch and makes the perfect appetizer soup. But remember this contains a clove of fresh garlic, so don't eat it before going on a date ;-)

If you want to make it a little ahead of time, don't add the water until right before serving and keep the soup in the fridge so that it is nice and cold when you serve it.

On a side note, make sure you taste it while seasoning it. Add about half the lemon juice first and see whether it needs more lemon or not. Your taste is what matters not mine, and that's why I don't give clear measurements for the spices. As I have said before: Make it your own!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Green products: Bac-Out Stain and Odor Eliminator

When we got our first cat we needed to think about how to clean up certain stains, specifically vomit. Feather, our 5 year old furball, tends to eat too fast or too much and so once a week or so we need to clean up cat vomit. At first we were just using dish soap and a bowl with hot water, and it mostly got the job done but sometimes there was still this cat food smell and color residue. We had read that cats to not react well to most cleaning chemicals and we ourselves try to avoid harsh cleaning chemicals (yes - we are a bleach free household!).

One day we went to Wholefoods because we wanted to look for a green cleaning product that would take care of the vomit stains and the odor associated with it. And that's where we found Biokleen's Bac-Out and we fell in love (as much as you can fall in love with a cleaning product). It is said to contain live enzymes, is safe to use around children and pets (even around super sensitive birds), was not tested on animals and does not contain any animal products (yay). You can use it to clean carpet stains or get odor out of laundry by adding it to the wash. We sometimes use it after washing the litter box with dish soap to get rid of any residual odor. And it works wonders. Sometimes a harsh carpet stain needs to be treated twice, but don't forget it's not bleach. On the plus side: It does not harm the fabric and it does not irritate our skin unlike other products we have used.

You can buy Bac-Out at Wholefoods or other health food stores and you can even order it through Amazon. We love it and are very happy we found it :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rover update :)

This is little Rover. He got some of his shots on Wednesday and tested negative for FIV (feline AIDS) ::happy face:: but he also tested positive for ear mites ::boo:: He is a happy little guy and that's all that matters. We decided to wait and see whether his leg heals or not. Right now it seems to be getting a little better every day. We just need to make sure that he does not jump or climb or play too rough with his mouse... So far it's going well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Rover the Rescue Kitten

So, we did not plan this. We have one cat that we love and that loves us (me really). Since yesterday we are cat parents to two cats. The newest addition is named Rover, as in Mars Rover Curiosity or as in Roverandom, a story by Tolkien (I LOVE TOLKIEN). Little Rover (and his sister) showed up at a friend's door with fleas and very, very hungry. The kittens are about 3 months old and they had clearly been exposed to humans before. While I would have liked to take in both kittens, Rover needed us more (and I am sure his sister will find a good home soon, too). Frontline (see an earlier post as to where we buy our supply of Frontline for a much better price than say Petsmart) took care of the fleas within a day and I removed a couple dead ones using a flea comb purchased for $6 at Petsmart. He also has an injured front leg :(. I took him to our vet, who took X-rays revealing a broken humerus (which cannot be adequately immobilized with a cast) and suggested three things:
  • surgery to stabilize the bone with a metal plate
  • amputation of the leg
  • euthanasia
The latter was not an option for me, because lets face it: The reason why I became Rover's mom was so that he wouldn't get euthanized. He is a very happy kitten, very friendly, playful and he will grow up to be a cat with a great personality.
The surgery was estimated to be anywhere between $1,400 to $1,800 without pre-OP bloodwork. Amputation was estimated to be between $700 to $900. I did not know what to do. I had just been entrusted with this little guy and at the time of the vet visit he did not even have a name yet (the husband and I decided late last night on Rover). But I knew I could not be responsible for his death. One of the senior vets brought up another option: Wait and see. There are plenty of cases where the bone heals on its own and the cat does not suffer from any disability. Amputation is always an option later on.
After $218 in fees (X-ray and exam) I took Rover home and waited for the husband to get home to discuss our options and decide on a plan of action. We made a pro and con list and we still could not decide. We saw him play with a stuffed mouse and then he passed out on my husband's belly. He ate well and was perfectly happy. And eventually we decided to wait and hope that his little body will recover on his own. Instead we will focus on getting his shots and getting him tested for parasites. Tomorrow he will get his first round of shots...

Some pictures will be posted soon. Promise.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Vegan/ Vegetarian Chickpea Spread - Recipe Monday

Initially I wanted to post a sweet treat recipe and I really really wanted to bake. But it just too hot in Texas to turn on the oven. :( So instead I thought I share a great chickpea spread (that isn't hummus).
Before I jump into everything, let me give you a little bit of a back story. Our weekday dinners consist of homemade bread and spreads (onion and chive cream cheese (vegan or dairy), peanut butter and jelly, nutella (LOVE), cheese (vegan or dairy), and fake cold cuts) along with the occasional salad. Sometimes we go to Wholefoods and buy their mock chicken salad which is to die for both in taste and in price. The other day I found myself searching the web for a mock tuna salad because I used to love tuna salad. I found a couple of recipes, some more specific than others, most claiming to taste exactly like tuna salad, but all of them were attested superior taste and uber-deliciousness. So not following any one recipe but rather a combination from memory I  made a chickpea spread which was quite tasty. We made it two days in a row and finished it all in one sitting. It was NOM!

This is what you will need:
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tbsp of (vegan) mayo (I used veganese)
  • 1 pickle, finely diced (I used a dill pickle, but you can use whatever pickle you like)
  • some onion, finely diced (to taste, I used about 2tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn OR a celery stalk, diced OR a small handful of sun-dried tomatoes OR all of the above together OR whatever additions you like in your tuna or chicken salad
  • a splash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce (if you are making it vegan, make sure that the Worcestershire Sauce is vegan)
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, process the chickpeas to your preferred consistency. Transfer to a bowl.
Stir in the mayo, diced pickle, onion, soy sauce/Worcestershire sauce and corn/celery/or what ever you choose to add. Stir until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

And you're done. It's that easy. Spread it on bread or crackers or use it for dipping your favorite veggies. I assume you can keep it in the fridge for a couple of days, but I haven't tested that yet, as I said we finished it in one sitting.

Make sure to give this one a try. I am sure to make this again soon :)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Amazing Cell Phone Deal from Amazon

Amazon is currently have a gold box deal for a Pantech Crossover phone that runs Android 2.2 (Froyo)  upgradable to 2.3 Gingerbread. Currently there are only 17 hours left for the deal which is 70% off the retail price of $199, so you'll pay only $60. In addition, it comes with $25 refill cared (but no SIM card).

My phone was a prepaid phone as well and this is a significant upgrade if you are in the market.  Here's a little info about the phone from Amazon:

The Android-powered, 3G-enabled Pantech Crossover for AT&T lets you stay connected to friends, family, and coworkers through messaging and social media wherever you roam. It boasts a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, 3.1-inch touchscreen display, 600 MHz processor, 3-megapixel digital camera/camcorder, Wireless-N Wi-Fi connectivity, and the popular AllSport GPS app.

I'll post a review of the phone and show you some before and after pictures once I get it.  And I haven't forgotten about the laser DIY projects, they are coming very soon! I just need to buy a laser pointer :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Net Debt - Aug 2012

Student loans: -$78,644.83 (+63.08)
Car loan: $0
Revolving Credit card debt: $0.
Mortgage: -$138,817.46 (+210.55)
Total Debt: -$214,462.29 (+273.63)

The past couple of months I've been putting money towards the student loans to try to keep it at bay however, interest is still accruing so while I actually pay $100, it only goes down $63 worth.  ::sad face::

However, I look forward to the months ahead and really hope to put a significant dent into the student loans as they are my highest interest loans now. I know my goal is high with getting it down to 75k, but if some things pan out for us (getting a second job in the house - no pressure though!), it should be feasible. Not to mention my tuition for school has just decreased significantly due to policy changes. So some of the money I put towards tuition can now go towards the student loan.  ::happy face::

On a side note, I now have $107.41 ($77.41 from credit card rewards, $30 from surveys) towards my amazon experiment which will go towards a new garage door opener. About half way to my goal, I'm guessing by the new year, I'll have a new garage door opener! Patience is a virtue of mine. ::happy face::

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cat Cuteness :)

Nothing better than waking up to a cute face like that. Have a great Thursday and look out for Monday I may have a special treat for you.