Food Friday: Casserole Sizes

A quick tip for Food Friday this week, courtesy of this month’s Real Simple magazine. Ever have those weird-sized casserole dishes that you don’t know how to translate to 9×13, etc.? Here’s the relationship of ‘typical’ casserole size to volume:

9x13x2 = 3.5 quarts
9x9x2 = 2.5 quarts
8x8x2 = 2 quarts

Simply pour water into your mystery pan until it’s full; pour out the water and measure, and voila!

Sewing PJs

(Sewing-themed PJs, that is, not that I’m sewing actual PJs, sadly.)

A quick note that Target (US) is currently selling women’s pajamas with a sewing-themed print. They’re pink and the fabric has sewing machines, thread, shears, pincushions, snaps, hooks and eyes, buttons, embroidery thread, straight pins and safety pins…you name it, it’s probably on there. I couldn’t resist when I saw them in store, even though I don’t usually wear this style of PJs. I thought some of you fellow sewing nuts might appreciate them too.

Here’s the link to the Target page – the official color of the sewing ones is ‘pouty pink’: Nick & Nora PJ set.

Food Friday: Budget cooking recs

The Bay Area used to be expensive to live in primarily for cost of housing, but most other costs of living were comparable to cheaper parts of the country. Gas was a tad more expensive, but some food was actually cheaper, like vegetables in the winter since a lot of them are grown nearby. Whether it’s due to the drought, the perception of the drought (almond farmers raised their prices before the cost of water irrigation even went up this spring), or alien waves from space, groceries have gotten a lot more expensive recently. There’s even been an outbreak of avian flu, and changes in regulations about conditions for laying eggs, both of which have raised egg prices astronomically.

I’ve tried several strategies to reduce grocery costs, but it’s really hard to do without compromising on nutrition or spending tons of time comparison shopping. I’m not complaining too much, though, because there are a lot of people much worse off than we are. Anyone who’s on SNAP (US food benefits, aka food stamps) is currently given $4 per day per person of benefits. $4/day for groceries. Sit and think about that for a minute – it is not much at all, and I’m impressed that anyone can manage it.

I’ve run into two resources recently that touch on budget cooking and the SNAP limits. Budget Bytes is a recipe website with great, simple recipes. This month she’s also doing a $4/day challenge and sharing her costs along the way. Her site is well worth a gander.

The other resource is a new cookbook by Leanne Brown, called Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day. The recipes are basic and well-written, and it would make a good first cookbook for someone going out on their own, or learning to cook, even if budget isn’t your primary concern. I almost made her ‘Deconstructed Cabbage Rolls’ for dinner the other night, but was vetoed by my spouse, who’s got a family recipe for Cabbage Rolls from the Hungarian side of his family that he’s very particular about.

[Book link is an affiliate link.]

2015 reading challenge: August report

Down to the short rows, as the saying goes.

A book from your childhood:
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. Grade: A
Margaret xkcd

A banned book:
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Grade: B

A book with a color in the title:
Skye Blue by Alexa Land. Grade: B

A book that came out the year you were born:
Roots by Alex Haley. Grade: B

A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t:
My Antonia by Willa Cather. Grade: A

A book set in high school:
Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. Grade: A

Months completed: 8 of 12 (67%)
Challenges completed: 48 of 50 (96%)

2015 reading challenge: July report

I only finished one challenge book this month, but I’m about halfway through Roots, by Alex Haley (man that book is long). I’ve also received my copy of War and Peace.

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. Grade: B

Months completed: 7 of 12 (58%)
Challenges completed: 42 of 50 (84%)

2015 reading challenge: June report

This month was the first time that this project started feeling like a burden. I took a bit of a step back from it, since the whole reason I joined in was to broaden my reading material, not to torture myself or never read anything fun ever again. I ended up completing quite a few categories, but didn’t get through all fifty. I’m pretty close, though!

A book your mom loves:
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson. Grade: B
[My dad actually recommended this. He’s recently started a men’s book club.]

A mystery or thriller:
Cetaganda by Lois McMaster Bujold. Grade: B
[Sci-fi, yes, but this one’s definitely a mystery too.]

A book you started but never finished:
No Limits by Lori Foster. Grade: C

A book written by an author with your same initials:
Hard As It Gets by Laura Kaye. Grade: A

A play:
Three Screenplays by Edward Burns. Grade: C

A book with bad reviews:
Frog Music by Emma Donaghue. Grade: C
[The popularity of Amazon reviews has flattened out the rating of most books to between 3 and 4.5 stars – it’s pretty hard to find a well-known book that goes below or above that range once it’s been out more than a month or two. Frog Music comes in at 3.3 stars, as of this writing, which is closer to the bottom than the top of that range.
(The other approach, probably more intellectually solid, would have been to find a literary critic and choose one of the books they panned.)]

A classic romance:
Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer. Grade: D

A book with magic:
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner Grade: B

Months completed: 6 of 12 (50%)
Challenges completed: 41 of 50 (82%)

I went ahead and used Laura Kaye this month for the “A book written by an author with your same initials” category – which are my first and middle initials, not my first and last – but when I was deciding what to do for this category a while ago, I did a web search and was browsing a list of famous authors with last names starting with T. On there was Leo Tolstoy. I’ve never actually read any Tolstoy, and so I figured I could kill two birds with one stone and complete that category, and the “a book with more than 500 pages” category, by actually tackling War and Peace. I’ve ordered a copy of the recent Vintage Classics translation, which is supposed to be quite accessible. It’s over 1200 pages, so it might take me the rest of the year just to finish it!

Food Friday: The Kitchen Ecosystem

A quick book recommendation for this Friday – Eugenia Bone’s The Kitchen Ecosystem: Integrating Recipes to Create Delicious Meals. It’s a sizable cookbook organized by ingredient, and each section includes ‘regular’ recipes as well as those for canning/preserving, and then recipes that use those preserved items. It’s basically what the subtitle says – a way to think about cooking and your ingredients differently. If you’re interested in seasonal cooking, occasional canning without making it a big project, and generally getting the best bang out of your food purchases, I’d recommend it. Nothing is particularly esoteric but everything’s interesting enough to feel like I hadn’t read it before.

[Link is an affiliate link.]