Monday, July 9, 2007

hmm. for some reason I'm not able to enter a title into the title bar box today. oh well. life in the blogosphere must go on. here's the title i wanted to enter:

I'm a Chick Magnet

Our household now has the pitterpatter of little feet. And little wings. We bought two baby chicks on Saturday. They are about 3 weeks old, make cute little birdtwittery noices, and look very cute. If all goes well, we'll be eating home-grown eggs in a few months. I'm not sure if raising chickens for eggs is economical, but its been a lot of fun, just in the past few days.

A sharp-eyed poultry husbander can come across some great deals, even in semi-urban Oakland. Today I scored a free bag of chicken feed and a bale of straw. (Both came from a family who lost three chickens to racoons.) Even with free feed, by the time I build a coop (with small-mesh wire that can foil masked furry bandits) and whatever else we need, its probably less expensive to buy eggs at the store. However, the title of this blog is Living Well, and not just getting by, and I'm enjoying our latest agricultural experiment.

We've been thinking about chickens for a few months now, and they keep popping up. We've been randomly meeting people who have chickens, and reading about them in the NY Times and the East Bay Express. Chicken is the new pug, or something.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Cucumber on $6.60/hour

If I were on Food Stamps, would I have time to compose a blog? In 1993, when I was living in South Dakota and surviving on Food Stamps, I had time to write a small zine. I had time to check email. I had time to bake my own bread.

Currently, an idividual can earn up to $817, and a family of two can earn up to $1100 to get the maximum allotment of Food Stamps. (Those numbers are the "poverty line" as determined by the US Government.) That means one person earning $6.60/hour (40 hour week) for the family of two. Well, that leaves the other person not working, and one person -me!- at home with time to cook and grow the garden.

I'm not assuming anything here - I just wanted to run the numbers and see if it could be possible. (I would not be able to afford to pay my mortgage though, so I wouldn't be living here.)

Today we harvested our first cucumber - yay! I'm half way through the Square Foot Gardener and the seedlings in the new bed are popping up. More food on the way.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

What, no numbers? (and no comment)

First, if anybody wanted to comment on this, I'm sorry, but I'm still trying to figure out how to enable the "comment" function with Blogger. sigh. I would love to read some comments, if only I could figure it out. (added: I just looked and now the Comments option is appearing at the bottom, so I guess I figured it out!)
No, I'm not tracking each week's $. My boyfriend isn't really participating in the experiment (he brought home a box of donuts the other day that was definately NOT in my imaginary budget). But, even if only one of is playing the game, I figure we're saving money.
Also, as I said at the beginning, I have lived on Food Stamps. I know it can be done. Rebecca Blood's blog proves it too. (I applaud her efforts at accounting for each teaspoon of salt and each 1/8 ouce of cumin, but I just don't care enough to do that.) My focus is just my own awareness, and sharing some recipes and cooking/budget tips.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Rice and Lentil Tacos!

Last night I tried a recipe from Rebecca Blood's blog: Rice and Lentils. Her version was pretty simple, and easy to add things too (like the four carrots). I used this a a filling for tacos (warmed corn tortillas) along with a bit of parmesean cheese and some Cholula brand hot sauce. I used a rice cooker to make it, so I was able to read "Square Foot Gardening" while the food was cooking.

Her blog is so much more detailed, that I almost gave up on mine. I'm keeping at it anyway. Its good practice for me.

I had the tacos with a salad. Our home grown lettuce is doing great, and we had our first yellow crookneck squash. I added a tomato from our weekly box. Its going to be a while until we get our own tomatos. I spent an hour yesterday wrestling our tomato plants into cages/frames. You're supposed to do this when the plants are small, not when they are sprawling all over and 3' tall. Better late than never. The first sprouts are coming up in the new garden bed. It seems too soon - maybe they're weeds? Its fun eating "free" food. Oh, and we harvested 3 plums from our ignored tree. The one I ate yesterday was possibly the best plum I've ever had. Maybe we need to move the trees to a sunnier place where they could thrive.

Rice and Lentils
You can use this for any bits of vegetable you have on hand. It may seem like a lot of ingredients, but I just tossed in what I felt like.
1/2 C lentils (red and yellow lentils cook faster than brown or green ones), 1/2 C brown rice (or white), 2 C water, 1/4 onion, 4 carrots, 2 T butter or olive oil, 1/4 t cumin, 1/4 t chili powder, 1 T soy sauce, 2 cloves garlic
Grate the carrots and the onion and toss everything into the rice cooker (or a pot) except the soy sauce. If you're using a rice cooker, then turn it on and let it do its thing for 30 minutes or until it clicks off. If you're using a pot, bring it all to a boil, then down to a simmer, and cover, leaving it cook on the lowest heat for 20 minutes. Add the soy sauce when its all done.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Just some odds and ends here. I've been eating up leftovers, so I don't have any recipes for today. I did manage to fact-check (ie, I was in Safeway) some things from before. Capers work out to about 18¢ for a teaspoon, so I guess a rounded teaspoon of the little guys for my salade nicoise would be about 25¢. Olives cost more - maybe 50¢ needed for a salad.

I found a blog very similar to mine (she even gets her produce from Terra Firma Farm, too!):
...and she has a recipe for pickled carrots, so maybe I'll try that out and see how it works.

I managed to finish building, filling, and seeding my third raised vegetable bed yesterday. Basil, green beans, eggplant, raddishes and sunflowers are on their way (I hope). This bed is following the advice from the popular "Square Foot Gardening" book.

We all have our guilty pleasures for food. One of mine are the 10-pack bags of frozen burritos. $3.50 for ten of them means I have a quick and ready snack for work. In a few days I'm going to make up a batch of my own, and see how they compare for price, easy, and freezability. Either way, a 35¢ burrito is hard to beat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Nice Salad

Green beans and small "new" potatoes are in season. They are plentiful at the farmers' markets, in our weekly produce box, and in our own garden. (I continued to be amazed that I'm able to eat food that we grew ourselves, which is probably a sad commentary on urban living.)

What do you make when you have green beans, potatoes, a tomato, one egg and some left over olives? It is Salade Nicoise. The great cuisines of the world take leftovers and odds and ends and give it a fancy name. Nice.

The five or six olives I found last week hiding in the back of the fridge went in with a spoonful of capers. I suppose these things are luxuries, but I didn't buy them recently so I cant tell what they cost. A jar of capers lasts a long time (ours must be at least a year old, maybe more), and you only use a spoonful at a time, so I'm guessing the spoonful might have cost 25¢, and maybe the olives were another quarter. A can of tuna is $1.89, and makes two servings, so I think my salad came in at or near the $1.57 target, even with the boiled egg.

I made another version of the salad today, but with carrots and no tuna. We get a lot of carrots in our weekly box but I find it difficult to use them all up, so I'm getting "creative" (or desperate). The carrots added some nice color to the salad, and you can boil everything together.

Nice Salad
1 lb new potatoes (small potatoes), 1 lb green beans, 1 tomato, a handful of olives, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, 2 T olive oil, 1t capers, 3-4 carrots, 4 eggs, a bit of onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 can of tuna.
Bring 2 Qt salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil for 5 minutes, add the carrots for another 3 minutes, and then add the egg and the green beans for the last 5 minutes and everything will be done at the same time. Drain it all in a colander, and while its cooling down, crush a clove of garlic in a salad bowl, add olive oil, salt and pepper, capers and perhaps a slice or two of onion chopped small. Toss everything with chopped tomato and olives. Let it cool to room temperature, and top with tuna and the boiled egg.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Pie for Breakfast

Yup, today I finished the last slice of peach pie, along with some plain yogurt. Since the pie is $1.25 or so, and a serving of Pavel's Russian yogurt (made here in Oakland) is about 50¢, I'm a bit over budget. Oh well, it sure taste's good!!
The pizza from last night survived long enough for lunch, and I had it with some fresh garden salad -- as in, from MY garden. Lettuce, carrot, green beans (purple ones, too), radish and fresh herbs make a tasty summer salad. Tomorrow I might add some potatoes and half a can of tuna for a salad nicoise (about 75¢ for half a can of tuna).
A lot of people don't know that fruit and vegetable seeds (and strawberry plants) can be purchased with Food Stamps. A $2 pack of lettuce or radish seeds will yield a lot more than that in fresh produce. I've got three heads of lettuce waiting for the axe, er, table, and I've still got plenty of seeds left.
One doesn't need a huge yard to raise edible veggies; my friend I. grows lettuce, herbs and tomatoes on his downtown Oakland balcony.
We've got tomatoes, crookneck squash, pickling cucumbers, pumpkin, green and purple beans, potatoes, carrots, radish, watermelon, sweet peppers, and fresh herbs. A few of the tomatoes were purchased as plants; everything else was from seed. Some of the seeds we received for free in seed swaps with other gardeners.