Saturday, March 21, 2009

Honey Peanut Granola and Returning After A Long Absence

Hello Internet:
I haven't posted in several months because I had a wonky, glacially slow internet connection that simply could not support posting to the blog. For instance, I could not post. At all. The connection would time out after, oh, 5 minutes. And again and again. I finally gave up until I could afford a faster internet connection. Ah...Road Runner, how I love thee. It also meant that I had to give up cable. Priorities.

I moved during my absence and I fell off of the wagon. It's hard to stick to a $25 weekly budget when you have to clean out the fridge. But now I am all settled into my new abode and I am back on the wagon. In a big way...I have decided to follow David Ramsey's money management system. For those who are unfamiliar with the system, you essentially use cash only to pay for weekly or minor expenditures, such as groceries and gas. I decided to use his "Financial Peace Planner." NAYY. I picked that one over the more popular "Total Money Makeover" as I thought it got to the nuts and bolts of his system much quicker and I liked the worksheets that he had in "FPP" much better. I am not in serious financial trouble but I do want to get rid of debt and build a nest egg. So my grocery shopping method has changed. I still troll the weekly Food Lion ads for the best deals but (right) now....no more stocking up. Once I hit the $25 limit, no more groceries for the week. Right now it does not feel too restrictive as I happen to have a very well stocked pantry. But I can see how it can be tougher when I start running out of my frozen meat/poultry stash.

The $25/weekly budget was tough this week for a slightly different reason. I tweaked "Lemony Asparagus Pasta" a little too much and it came out definitely poorer on the other end. It was edible but I had to make myself finish the bowl. Ugh. The original yield of the recipe was for two...and I doubled it to make four servings. I knew I was not going to finish the rest of the pasta so I just threw the other 3 servings away. I felt bad about wasting the food...only because I had to figure out how to feed myself lunch the next 5-6 days without buying more food. Luckily, I had some frozen lentil-beef soup. Thank goodness for leftovers!

Looking back over the pasta recipe, I don't think that the original would be bad (in fact, it's prolly yummy). The substitutions that I made were not good decisions. The killer was probably the canned asparagus. I hear you all groaning. I admit that I had my reservations about the canned vegetables but I had two cans that needed using up. My excuse for even owning canned vegetables? I bought them as emergency food in case a major hurricane hits or some other natural disaster occurs. Isn't there a Boy Scout motto about being prepared? In this case, being prepared brought disaster to the meal. As I already knew but was unwilling to admit, the asparagus practically disintegrated under the weight of the pasta. Asparagus-mush does not look appetizing. Nor does it taste particularly good. I actually liked canned asparagus when I was a kid...clearly my taste has improved!

The next bad idea was using somen noodles instead of the whole wheat rotini. Yes, it was in the pantry. No, I do not regularly eat somen and the flavor was different enough from regular pasta that I was turned off. I used feta instead of parmesan...which was not a bad substitution but I only had about 1/4 cup, if that. Simply not enough cheese. The last substitution was using vanilla flavored soymilk. I am lactose intolerant. I can actually tolerate a cooked sauce that uses milk but I wasn't going to buy a pint of whole milk just for this recipe. The soymilk was undetectable in the sauce, so it was probably the only substitution that worked.

As I was making myself finish up the bowl of pasta, I re-learned a lesson today...most canned vegetables are really best used for starvation rations. They are nutritionally inferior to frozen and fresh foods anyway. Will I try the recipe again in the future? Perhaps. Asparagus is normally so expensive that I tend not to purchase it. And with my $25 weekly budget...I don't think I'll be buying any in the foreseeable future.

My substitutions worked much better in my next recipe. This was actually a better-than-expected outcome. I made home-made granola for the first time, "Honey Peanut Granola." I actually do not eat granola in any form altogether that often. It's usually too fattening. And the granola cereals are pretty expensive. I picked this recipe out from Allrecipes.com as I had most of the ingredients already. I only had to buy the peanuts and buy a new bottle of oil (I forgot the nearly full bottle of oil at the old homestead! #$%@!). And the recipe's picture looked enticing. The granola was low enough in fat and sodium to fulfill my personal goals for "low fat, low sodium." It did have a lot of calories per serving, at least 400, but I consider that a plus for any breakfast. I go for 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch and I rarely have time for snacks, so I try to eat a hearty breakfast. Otherwise I am starving by 1000 AM and I am ready to gnaw on my desk by the time noon comes around.

This granola was so super easy and fun to make! Mix together the dry ingredients. Mix together the "wet" ingredients in a separate bowl. Then coat the dry in the wet ingredients. Spread in a greased baking sheet and pop into a 250 degree oven. Stir it up every 15 minutes and an hour later, I had a pan full of yummy granola cereal. It's delicious with the vanilla soymilk. Changes I made: 1) I had 2 cups of regular rolled oats, so I used that. To make up some of the volume, I added another 3/4 cup of peanuts and 1/4 cup of wheat germ. 2) I added about 1 cup of raisins to the cereal...you guessed it, I needed to use up some "leftovers." Changes I will probably make in the future: 1) using applesauce instead of oil, to reduce the fat content even further and 2) possibly not greasing the pan. I think if I use applesauce in the granola, I will probably grease the pan. I really do not want stuck on granola in my jelly roll pan! Final conclusion for Honey Peanut Granola...It's got a pleasing crunch once it is completely cooled. I will definitely make this one again, possibly doubling the recipe and freezing the extras for future use.

That's the update for this week. See you in 7 days. Thanks for reading!

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