July 30, 2009

Gracie, all tired out after her garden chores
Thanks, Heather, for the picture!

Gardening with Grace
Plus, a recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake

Yes, we did name our new puppy Grace Belle, and she IS a huge help in the garden... sort of! But this summer's garden has required a different kind of grace. Here on the coast of Maine, unrelenting rain, fog, mist, drizzle and just plain humidity, plus cool temperatures and little sun, have tested even the most patient and persistent gardeners.

Some thing of course are thriving in this micro-climate, but many things are not, especially those plants that like it hot such as peppers. We've planted - and lost- three batches of corn seed, and can only hope now that farmers farther inland from us will have abundant crops. But it isn't as though they haven't had a cool, damp summer too. So far, many of Maine's early hay cuttings, a crop essential for winter feed, have been devastated.

I've always stressed that one of the best ways to save on your grocery spending is to grow and preserve your own produce. Or, at least buy at your local farmer's market or even pick-your-own to can or freeze. That's a little tougher this year. But it is still going to mean better eating and more savings this coming winter.

One bumper crop for us this year is blueberries. The raspberries are doing well too, but they mold very quickly in the damp and must be picked quickly when it's relatively dry. No such problem with the blueberries. Plus, I'm sure you've read aoubt the fabulous anti-oxidant benefits (among other things) of blueberries.

We have a dozen or so high-bush blues of at least five different varieties. They are also planted near wild berries so the cross-pollination yields really favorful, large fruit. With no preparation needed to freeze them (just put in containers or plastic bags) , frozen blueberries don't lose shape or get mushy, and they can be used to make so, so many wonderful things including juice, plain or blended with lemonade, apple, or cranberry. I make a four-berry juice from straw-, rasp-, black- and blueberries with only minimal honey sweetening needed.

Yesterday I came across a recipe for a blueberry-lemon bread/cake. As this is one of my absolutely favorite flavor combinations, I went right down and picked fresh blueberries to try it. You make the batter, which incorporates finely grated lemon peel, then top with a mixture of 'berries, a little sugar and more lemon peel. The batter rises up over the topping, and the result is delectable!

Blueberry-Lemon Bread/Cake
Beat all together
1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 c shortening
2/3 c milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel

Pour into a greased 8x8" pan and top with this mixture

1 cup fresh blueberries
3 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp grated lemon peel
Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes or until browned and springy. YUM!

I suppose we need to look at back-to-school spending, but it's hard to face classes starting again after so little summer! Ya' know??


July 15, 2009

Save Money by Making your Own Milk from Nuts

by Guest Author Kathryn Vercillo

The price of milk seems to be climbing rapidly. Non-dairy alternatives like soy milk have always been expensive and now cow milk costs are high as well. Most of us use milk daily in everything from coffee and cereal to baked goods and casseroles. You can reduce your grocery expenses by cutting back on your milk intake. Alternatively, you can start making your own milk to save money. The least expensive type of milk to make is nut milk.

Almond Milk

Almost milk is a terrific substitute for cow’s milk. The nutty taste goes especially well in coffee but it can be used to replace milk in cereal or in any recipe that doesn’t require your milk to be too creamy. The really great thing about it is that it’s easy to make. Here’s the recipe that I use:

Soak one cup of raw unsalted almonds overnight.

Combine almonds with four cups of water in a blender. I usually do this in two parts (half a cup almonds with two cups water, blend and repeat).

Place cheesecloth over pitcher and pour through the cheesecloth. This catches the pulpy part of the almonds. (You can use coffee filters instead of cheesecloth to strain the milk). Add a sweetener to taste. I add a little bit of vanilla extract and a few spoons of honey to my almond milk because I think the natural taste is a bit bitter. Other people add maple syrup or blended fruit.

This makes about a half pitcher of milk. From two cups of almonds, I can get a full pitcher at a price that’s a lot lower than buying a gallon of milk from the store!

Making your Milk Thicker

One of the biggest complaints that people have about nut milk is that it’s not as thick and creamy as regular milk is. You can make yours thicker by adding a banana to the blender when you mix your milk. Alternatively, you can add half of a small potato or sweet potato to the blender to create thicker milk.

Using Other Nuts

You can use this same basic recipe to make milk from other nuts as well. Brazil nuts make really good milk although these are pricey in most areas. Walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, pistachios and macadamia nuts can all be used as well. Some people prefer to use a mixture of nuts. When doing so, you can even add seeds (sunflower, flax and pumpkin are good choices). This is a great way to use up some of the leftover snacks in the house!

Guest post by Kathryn Vercillo. Kathryn is a writer for Promotional Codes which gives away saving codes online, and also publishes a money-saving blog.

July 8, 2009

Hello Again...

Well, THAT retirement didn't last long, did it? Now don't laugh, but I had a message from God, and it's always best NOT to ignore those!

Several readers got in touch to say they'd miss the blog, which of course was nice. I have no idea how many folks - if anyone -reads my writings here Then, Jenna Russell from the Boston Globe got in touch and we did a lengthy phone interview earlier this afternoon. She seemed so disappointed that her first reading of my blog was intended to be my last post!

So, now, I'm like, all totally fired up again! Stay tuned!!


July 7, 2009


and Goodbye!

First, let me introduce the newest member of our family, Grace Belle. She's a 10-week-old rescue puppy from Arkansas who came into our lives on Sunday. She is an absolute doll, although our three cats have yet to discover that.

That's the "Hello."

The "Goodbye" is that I have decided to put my blog writing aside for a while, quite possibly for good. Life is just too, too busy, and you know, I just don't feel as though I have anything more to say. There are so, so many folks now on the frugal bandwagon that I know you'll be able to find all the advice you need for thrifty and healthy living, sure savings, and smart spending.

We on the coast of Maine are having a non-summer so far and that is difficult, both for the gardens and for us humans. It's hard to believe it's July when we've had so little sun and even less warmth.
Our first planting of corn rotted and I'm not sure the second planting is doing any better; it certainly hasn't broken ground yet. And while this cool, damp weather does favors some things, it's not a friend to the peppers, tomatoes and other warm-weather crops. So far, the strawberries have produced, although somewhat scantily, while the coming blueberry crop looks to be huge.

This coming weekend is the start of our annual Gram and Gramp Camp which ends the following weekend with the famous Yarmouth Clam Festival. I haven't gotten out hiking at all, and starting the Maine section of the Appalachian Trail was a major goal for this summer and fall. Then there's all the flower work, the reading, the knitting, and most of all, the invaluable time spent with friends. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

And so, I thank you for visiting this blog, for being part of my life and letting me be a part of yours. I'll miss you especially, Alice!

Best, Mary