Friday, February 19, 2010

Making Life Simpler

Life can be complicated. Schedules are crazy - while I know that neither of my parents ever kept a calendar, I can't function without mine - and I try to limit activities so that we all have some down time. So when I find an action that makes my life easier, I make it a habit!

Here are ten things I've done that simplify my life:
  1. cooking oatmeal overnight in the slow cooker, so that busy school mornings don't also involve cooking. I have to use a timer to turn it on around 3am - all night cooking results in a crusty mess.

  2. using small, ~8"x10" plastic cutting boards that can go in the dishwasher. We eat a lot of produce, and I prefer not to wash dishes every time I cut something. I have multiple cutting boards and several paring knives for this purpose.

  3. minimizing cleaning solutions. I use vinegar and a dish detergent solution for kitchen and bathroom cleaning, baking soda for scouring. Easy, nearly free, and they take up a lot less space than all the stuff that the chemical manufacturers want to convince people are necessities.

  4. handling paper once only - then filing, shredding, or recycling it - and minimizing incoming paper with e-bills and electronic bill payment.

  5. the pantry and freezer. No need to run to the store in advance of a snowstorm or anything else - we can easily eat for two weeks without any grocery runs.

  6. buying gifts ahead - when I see them at good prices. I hate going to the store to look for "a gift for (insert name)." So I don't do it. When I see something that is appropriate, I buy it - even if the occasion is nearly a year away.

  7. masking tape in the kitchen. It's the all-purpose tape: adhesive, label material, etc.

  8. I don't dust on a regular basis. Seriously, what's the point? I sneeze less when I leave it alone, and it doesn't grow to infinite thickness. When it bothers me, I remove it with a damp rag. I think that happens about twice yearly.

  9. reusable cloth bags for all shopping and gifts within our household. I do truly find it easier - not to mention easier on my conscience - to take my bags to the store than to have 20 flimsy plastic bags of heavy groceries to juggle and then recycle.

  10. thinking of the store as a storage facility. I don't need to buy Item X now, because it is always available at the store should I need it - and the store has far more storage space than our house. Ditto for the library: I don't need to have this (book, CD, etc) in my house permanently, because the library will shelve it for me.
What tricks do you have to make your days easier?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Buckwheat Crepes with Various Fillings

Buckwheat flour is readily available at most natural foods stores. These can easily be made gluten- and dairy-free. We eat these for supper, but in smaller quantities, they could also be a snack or an appetizer, or even a dessert.

This is modified from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

For about 14 crepes:
1 c buckwheat flour
1/4 c all-purpose flour or other flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp sugar
2 to 4 eggs
About 1 1/2 c milk + water - at least 1/2 c milk (nondairy subs are fine)
1 tbsp canola oil

Whisk ingredients together to make a thin, pourable batter (adjust consistency as needed). Let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to the lowest temperature and put an oven-proof plate in it to keep the crepes warm.

Heat a 10" skillet over medium heat, then add a small amount of butter or canola oil. Swirl to coat the pan and then immediately ladle in about 1/4 c batter. Swirl the pan to make a thin pancake. When it is dry on top, flip and cook the bottom briefly. Stack on the plate in the oven until all the crepes are cooked.

To eat: spread entire surface with filling and roll up.

Filling options:
1. Spinach with or without cheese. Heat frozen, chopped spinach in a small pot, uncovered to evaporate excess moisture. Season as desired. Spread on crepe and top with grated or crumbled cheese of your choice (pepper Jack, goat, feta, swiss, etc), or sunflower seeds.

2. Spreadable cheese.

3. The pea-and-potato combination that is used in Indian samosas (recipes readily available online).

4. Other vegetables, chopped as needed, and steamed, with or without cheese, cubed, baked tofu, sauteed mushrooms, etc.

5. Cooked beans (with or without cream cheese), lentils, or leftover dahl.

6. Caramelized onions with or without vegetables as above.

7. Spinach with curry spices and cashew cream.

1. Cooked fruit/vegetables such as apples (e.g. homemade applesauce), cranberries and sweet potatoes, gingered sweet potatoes with or without pineapple, etc. Add nuts and/or cinnamon if desired.

2. Jam or cooked dried fruit, with or without nuts or cinnamon.

3. Cream cheese or tofu "cream" with any of the above, or cinnamon/sugar.