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Feelin’ Beany

30 Dec

Thanksgiving and Christmas are over and Scott and I are feeling the bloat that goes along with too much celebrating.  Dinner at home has been a rare occasion of late, what with get-togethers, celebrations, and just plain being too pooped to cook.  I was very crafty this Christmas, and made the bulk of the gifts for the grown-up kids, along with something handmade for each grandchild (except for Liam – I’ll get you soon, little guy!), so we ate out quite a bit, which was not friendly on any of our figures (budget or bodies).

One of our favorite easy meals has always been veggie burgers on a homemade bun.  Paired with sweet potato oven fries, it is quick, tasty and cheap!  Since we are avoiding processed foods, it’s been a goal of mine to create one from scratch (the lentil burgers I made were a definite fail) that would make enough to freeze for future meals, and be good enough to make it into the regular dinner rotation, so it was back to the drawing board.

We picked up a gorgeous bunch of cilantro at the farmers market, and I already had cooked black beans and brown rice in the freezer, so that inspired these Black Bean and Rice Burgers.  Filled with good-for-you ingredients and flavorful spices, these burgers are very low in fat and loaded with good taste.  They are baked in the oven, so clean up is a breeze, and it makes enough to freeze for future meals.  We like things spicy, so feel free to change the spices to suit your taste buds.  We were hungry, and devoured them before I thought about taking pictures, but take my word for it – they were deelish!

I can imagine some variations – using cannellini beans, a little grated Parmesan cheese, Italian style bread crumbs and seasonings for one, or garbanzo beans, coconut oil and curry powder for a middle-Eastern spin.

Black Bean and Rice Burgers – makes 12 large patties

4 cups whole cooked black beans (or 2 cans, drained), mashed

1-1/2 cup cooked brown rice

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ large onion, chopped

½ red bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Spices (add more or less, depending on your taste):

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro

Salt & pepper to taste

2 eggs

½ – ¾ cup bread crumbs (I used panko because I had them on hand)


In large bowl, mash the black beans into a coarse paste (some unmashed beans are okay).  Add brown rice.  In medium skillet, sauté the onion, garlic and pepper until softened and slightly browned.  Scrape into bowl and add the spices, eggs and breadcrumbs and stir well.  Mixture will be quite loose.  Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350°   Cover two large baking sheets with foil, and grease the foil.

Stir the bean mixture; it should be quite moist but not loose.  If it is still very loose, sprinkle 2 or 3 tablespoons of flour over and stir to combine it.  Take out ½ cupfuls and form into patties and place on baking sheets.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until done.  Carefully remove from foil and enjoy on a bun with all the usual burger trappings.

Freeze leftovers by wrapping individually in waxed paper, then place in freezer bag or container.




Turning the Tide

5 Nov

As many of you know, we are embracing a frugal lifestyle in order to live on one income.  It is a constant learning curve, and one that makes you stop and think, “Do I really need/want that?  How long would I have to work to pay for that?  Is that something I can make myself and save money?”

This lifestyle involves cutting the budget where ever possible, from the most obvious (food, entertainment, whooping it up on the town) to the things that don’t readily come to mind (cleaning supplies, personal care items).  The internet is a great source of recipes and how-tos, it just takes a little time and patience to track down the information and the supplies.

I have heard of people choosing to make their own laundry soap, and agreed with the arguments:  you’re buying mostly water anyways, it’s full of chemicals, it’s so cheap to make yourself.  So I wondered, how cheap could it be?  Answer: extremely cheap!

The recipe I found, that I made out of ordinary items, works out to a whopping two cents per load.  That’s right, folks – two cents per load.  For those of you brave enough to try it on your own, here is the recipe.  I use liquid, but this can also be made into a powder (it won’t be quite as thrifty, though).  The hardest part was locating the 20 Mule Team Borax and the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda.  Thanks to the “big box” mentality of stores, which has limited our selection to just the brands they think we want, very few stores actually stock them (I did find 20 Mule Team Borax at Target).  I found them both at Ace Hardware (but at different stores), and just recently at my local IGA market.  A quick search on Google should help you locate them.  The borax and washing soda are roughly $4 a box, and will make many, many batches of soap!  You may never have to buy it again!

Liquid Laundry Detergent (found on A Sonoma Garden’s blog and on – a great site!)

Makes 2 gallons, or about 32 washes per gallon (1/2 cup per load)

1/3 cup grated soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Castile Soap – $2.99 at Trader Joe’s. 1/3 of the bar equaled 1/3 cup grated soap. Fels Naptha is another choice)

1/2 cup Washing Soda

1/2 cup Borax powder

Essential oils, for fragrance, if desired (I didn’t use, and didn’t factor this into the cost)

2 clean gallon jugs (old laundry jugs or milk jugs work fine)

In large pot, heat 4 cups of water to a boil, add grated soap and stir until melted.  In a separate pot, heat another 4 cups of water.  When soap has melted, add the washing soda and borax and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and add the other 4 cups of hot water, stir well.  If you are adding any essential oils for fragrance, add them now (10-20 drops ought to do it).

To each gallon jug, add 11 cups of plain water and half of the soap mixture.  Use a long stick to stir well.  Soap will gradually cool and thicken.  Stir often (every 15-30 minutes) for a couple of hours.  (I didn’t do this and ended up with a soap layer and a water layer.  I just shake the jug before measuring and it mixes up fine.)

Shake before using.  Use 1/2 cup per normal sized load.  Soap will not get the wash water sudsy, but it is working.  Clothes don’t have a fragrance, but they are clean. Plus, for only TWO CENTS per load, it’s a screaming deal!

For even more laundry savings, get some “dryer balls” to use instead of fabric softener sheets.  They work great!