Posted on Wednesday, December 30th, 2009 at 2:58 pm
Now that I know how to bake, holiday gifts are much easier. You can make a batch of crowd-pleasing cookies very cheaply, and there’s something about a homemade gift that adds a certain impact (as long as it’s good).
So I’d known for a while I was going to make Mexican Chocolate Snickerdoodles for my dad’s Christmas gift. The ingredients are common enough that you might be able to bake some up after dinner tonight, but these seem more sophisticated than your average cookie. In fact, they’re so unique that I prefer not to eat them—I’m scared of the cayenne pepper—but the important thing is that my dad was thrilled.
Gone in 48 hours.
Judging by these here catalogs, a comparable (ok, much fancier, yet less personal) gift would cost at least $20, and since the cost of the ingredients is negligible, I’ll be donating $20 to Free the Slaves. This organization’s goal is to eradicate slavery worldwide with a 25-year plan, and they seem to be working hard on their multi-pronged approach to fight human trafficking. If you’re anti-slavery like I am, you might consider making this your last donation of 2009 as well.
Posted on Monday, December 21st, 2009 at 12:37 am
This weekend I made lasagna for the first time…and second time. I was inspired by a half-decent dish I got at a restaurant last week, and I mistakenly thought my skill level would be up to par, so I took the first recipe I found online and went with it. Well, the proportions were all off, so I just kind of freestyled the whole lasagna, and it turned out all right.
Lasagna #1: A little soupy?
It was all right…but nothing special. I was just relieved to have made an entire pan of lasagna disaster-free–and for less than I paid for one serving at the restaurant. Unfortunately, it tasted less good and only really provided three servings. But I still had half-tubs of spinach and basil left over, and I thought I could do better, so the next day I made another version. It turned out like this:
Lasagna #2: Indistinguishable?
After consulting the Veganomicon, I decided to add some nutritional yeast to the filling, steam the spinach before baking, and leave the lasagna in the oven longer. Wouldn’t you know it, the second lasagna turned out tastier and less liquidy. Amazing what a little practice will do!
Since each pan of lasagna cost about $10 to make, that means I saved probably $25 over buying a week’s worth of meals. And doubling the cooking inspired me to double my donation:
Though charity: water is relatively new, it seems like it’s doing important things, mainly providing safe drinking water to people who don’t have any. So when I found that page saying that Tom’s of Maine will match donations before December 31 (sent via SMS, which sounds sketchy but hopefully is not), I sent in five texts. That’s 1% of a well! Who’s with me?
Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 at 12:28 am
Ah…another stew. This Two-Step Southwestern Stew (there were more than two steps, so I think the name was just for fun) was very, very simple—not much harder than opening a few cans—and turned out surprisingly well. Not the finest meal I’ve ever cooked, but you’ve got to respect a recipe that takes 20 minutes start to finish.
More steps than I was expecting, but still super easy.
The whole pot cost about $9 to make because I splurged and went organic again, except for the hominy. (Hominy is pretty great in stew, even if you don’t know what it is.) But it only made four meals, so if I would’ve spent $7 each on those four meals, I just saved about $19.
Rounding up, I decided to give $20 to Population Services International (PSI). Their mission is to improve the health situation of people living in poverty through communication, family planning, distribution of “health products and services” (like bednets and condoms), and so on. They even have a research team dedicated to measuring the impact of their programs, which proves and hones their effectiveness. I don’t know how many DALYs $20 can buy, but at least it’s something.
Posted on Tuesday, December 1st, 2009 at 10:24 am
This year I decided to spend Thanksgiving by myself (if you consider time spent with family priceless, I saved a LOT of money by doing this!). Rather than whipping up a fancy holiday meal for one, I just ate leftover takeout and tooled around on the internet all day. Then, at last, I was inspired to make The Best Pumpkin Muffins:
The last lone survivor of the long weekend.
I’ll be honest: I’ve never had a pumpkin muffin before, so I don’t know if they truly live up to their name, but these were good. This was also my first time cooking with pumpkin, and afterwards I immediately went out and bought another can. It’s fun to try new things and learn about them!
So if you consider that Whole Foods muffins are $1.89 each, and this recipe cost less than $2 to make a batch of 12 muffins, I just saved around $20 over buying comparable storebought muffins. (Yes, I just compared my baking to Whole Foods.) So how about….
Three generations of my family have supported Best Friends Animal Society, an organization that aims for a better world through kindness to animals. They’ve saved many thousands of animal lives throughout the U.S. and abroad, including some pretty amazing large-scale rescues (after Hurricane Katrina, for example). I’m proud to help out just a little.