Posts tagged ‘more with less’


Tomato Sauce Challenge 4 & 5: Sloppy Joe & Chili

by marilynk

Hi guys! Long time, no writing. Let’s just say life got away from me a bit. But I’m back and have a few posts queued up!

I actually thought these two had posted before I took my little break. Sorry about that! I’ve combined them into one post so we can move on to current things more quickly. Enjoy!

Sloppy Joe

For the Sloppy Joe, I combined the rest of my sauce with browned ground beef, some shredded carrot and a can of tomato paste. I ate it on a bun (toasted) from Tree Stone Bakery, topped with shredded cheddar cheese. A simple side salad rounded out the meal.



I am not a traditionalist when it comes to chili. My Texan relatives would never acknowledge what I make as chili. That being said, I like mine better. To me, chili should have lots of veggies and beans in it. Meat in sauce is just…boring.

So. My chili consisted of the Sloppy Joe mix from the night before with the following additions: pre-soaked red kidney beans (1 cup dried) that had been soaked overnight (a can of any kind of bean would work just as well), diced tomatoes (3), and a diced orange pepper. I also added chili powder, garlic powder, and some cumin. I had the chili with Tabasco sauce, shredded cheddar cheese, and a nice thick slice of Prairie Mill sourdough.

Again, I’m sorry for the gap between posts. But as you can see, a jar of pasta sauce can generate a number of different meals and sometimes leftovers don’t have to just be reheated and served. I hope this week’s worth of meal ideas inspires some of you to experiment with your ingredients. If you have another idea for a food challenge, please send it my way!


Recipe Challenge: Five Ways to Use Tomato Sauce

by marilynk

I live on my own and most recipes are designed for families of four, so I end up with a lot of leftovers. This usually isn’t a bad thing, since I like taking leftovers as lunch the next day and you already know how much I like to cook batches and then freeze some of it. But sometimes it’s not leftovers of a full meal, it’s leftover ingredients. I like the challenge of finding different ways to use extra ingredients in different ways so I don’t end up eating the same meal multiple days in a week. So I’ve given myself a little challenge: 5 dinners in 5 days using one 1L jar of homemade tomato sauce.

Everyone uses pasta sauce.  I love pasta and prepared sauces (from the store or homemade) are a great way to get a meal on the table quickly, but a jar of sauce can be jazzed up and used as a base for a lot more than just noodles. Your family also probably uses a litre of sauce at one meal – any of these recipes can be made individually for a larger group.

I hope you’ll follow along this week to see what I come up with. The recipes will run Tuesday-Saturday. My sauce is defrosting in the fridge as you read this!


Update on Beauty Products

by marilynk

Some of you will remember back in August I wrote about giving up commercial shampoos, conditioners, facial cleansers, moisturizers, and exfoliants. I finished up (or gave away to my mom & sister) the commercial products I still had and replaced them with baking soda & water (shampoo), apple cider vinegar & water (conditioner), olive and castor oils & a hot wash cloth (facial cleanser & moisturizer), and ground adzuki beans (exfoliant). Click here for more details on the recipes I use.

I’ve been using these methods consistently now for more than two months, so I thought I’d give you an update – especially now that the weather’s nose-dived and we’re all dealing with Edmonton’s super dry air. Generally, I really like this change and I’m going to stick with it, but I think some things need some fine-tuning.

The baking soda and apple cider vinegar work well for my hair (I have pretty fine hair, but lots of it. My hair used to get fairly oily, but my scalp would be dry and itchy). I’m not getting the greasy-by-mid-afternoon look that I used to get pretty often (yay!) and my scalp is still itchy sometimes, it doesn’t seem as bad as before (also yay!). I’ve used all my usual styling products and everything gets cleaned out nicely when I wash my hair. I am finding I need to be careful to make sure I’ve really washed all of my hair, though – there’s a spot right at the crown of my head that I sometimes have to wash twice. I think it’s that the hair there wasn’t fully wet when I pour the baking soda and water on, so it just rolls off the hair and doesn’t get down to the scalp. The vinegar and water spray definitely smells like vinegar when I first spray it on, but the smell is gone even before I rinse my hair. Once it’s dry, my hair feels soft, looks nice and shiny, and doesn’t smell like anything.

The face-cleaning method is awesome. It’s really perfect for me and my love of getting every last second I can in my warm bed on winter mornings. It’s really only 2 steps at night: 1. Rub on the oil mixture & put a hot cloth over your face for a few minutes. 2. Wipe off the excess oil (and makeup, etc.) with the cloth. In the morning, I just splash my face with cold water and pat it dry. My skin feels great too. I have dry cheeks and oily T-zone, so cleansers seemed to over-dry my skin & moisturizers made me feel like my face was greasy. With this method, I don’t feel the greasyness at all, but I might up the olive oil in the mix to combat the drier air we’ve got right now. The other thing I wasn’t sure about was how well this method would clean makeup. I don’t wear tons of makeup, but I consistently wear a mineral foundation (now that I’m not using moisturizer with SPF, it’s even more important), mascara, blush, and lip stuff (usually gloss). The oils do a great job of breaking down the makeup and it comes right off on the cloth – even the mascara. And I’m not worried about getting the stuff in my eyes ’cause it’s non-toxic and it doesn’t burn or do anything harmful.

As I mentioned in the last post, I’d used adzuki bean scrubs before, so I’ll just say I continue to love it. I use the scrub on my face on days that I’m washing my hair (2-3 times a week) and my skin feels nicely polished, but not dried out. Since I found a good container for keeping the scrub in the shower, I’ve also started using it to scrub my body too – anywhere that needs a little exfoliation, like my elbows, back, and feet. It works great.
The thing I like best about making these changes is that I’m saving a ton of money. I filled the container of olive/castor oil mix at the beginning of August and it’s not empty yet. I filled the containers in my shower at the beginning of September and I just filled the baking soda again yesterday, the others won’t need to be filled for a while yet. I kinda wish I had a record of how much I spent on shampoo, conditioner, and face products last year so I could make a real comparison, but I know it’s significant. None of the products I’m using now are costly in an of themselves and they last much longer than commercial products. I’m thinking this was a good move!

I reused an existing cleanser bottle. That's an airline-safe 1.7 fl oz that's lasted more than 3 months.

The sugar containers are from IKEA, as is the cup, the spray bottle is reused from an old hair product.


October is Soup Month

by marilynk

When autumn hits I crave cozy, warm foods and soup is one of my favourites. There’s just something so appealing about a big bowl of goodness on a blustery day. Soup is also a great way to process some of your harvest bounty for the coming cold months. I generally make big batches and freeze the bulk of it – I’m a big fan of cooking once to eat for a bunch of meals. All of the recipes are basically doubled so there’s enough to freeze. Adjust your amounts accordingly!

This month I made 3 different soups: Roasted Corn and Scallop Chowder, Roasted Tomato and Roasted Garlic Soup, and Quick and Easy Borscht. Everything was made with at least some ingredients from EOGG and the tomatoes came from my parents’ garden. There’s a lot of recipe in this post, so I’ll just get to it:

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Putting Up for Winter

by marilynk

My maternal grandmother is from Texas and she uses a host of terms that I identify specifically with her. “Putting up” is one of them – I’m not sure how widely the term is used, but it basically means canning. My grandmother would put up jams, pickles, and tomato sauces in the late summer and autumn so the family would have yummy things through the winter. My mom also canned when I was a kid, but by the time I was in junior high, she was too busy to put up much.

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The Barter System

by marilynk

I wish the whole world could run on the barter system. No, this isn’t going to be a 99% rant, but there is something so very appealing about trading one’s skills or the product of one’s skills for things that you need. Apparently this woman is living it: she hasn’t used money in 15 years! I don’t think that’s a possibility for me, but I think there are little ways that we can introduce bartering into our lives that would help all of us with our bottom line.

As you guys know, I’m a little under-employed at the moment. It’s good for my health, but not so great for my budget. I still want to be able to eat local food and support local producers, but the market is definitely more expensive than the grocery store (and also tastier). Volunteering with EOGG has helped with the budget since I’m able to get a lot of my produce there, but I still need bread and while I’ve made a loaf or two in my life…my bread just isn’t as good as Owen’s.

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Last Night’s Dinner: Zucchini, Tomato, and Potato Bake

by marilynk

This is one of the best local-focused recipes I’ve made recently. I made it up in an effort to use up some of the ingredients in my kitchen that were getting to that “Must Eat Now” stage. It’s super easy and could easily be adapted with other vegetables that need to be used up. It is also somewhat inspired by this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (I seem to be working my way through her blog…I think it’s the pictures. They always make me hungry).

I promised to post this recipe two weeks ago, but better late than never! 🙂

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Thoughts on Food

by marilynk

I think a lot about food. I like food, how it tastes, how it smells, how it looks on a plate. And I love cooking. I cook or bake for people because it is an expression of how I feel about them. I like it when people enjoy something I’ve made for them. I think about what kind of food a person will appreciate: their favourite flavours, the season, decorations that will make them laugh, anything that will make what I’ve made for them memorable and special.

I thought about food before I got sick. I was already trying to shift my food buying to more local sources and I’ve been trying to get back into synch with what is seasonal – not only in Edmonton, but the produce that I need to buy from farther away. Partly seasonality makes a difference to the cost of food – everything is cheaper when purchased in season. Partly it’s about supporting local farms – purchasing from local growers keeps more of my food dollars in my own community and circulating through the local economy. Mostly it’s about taste. Food just tastes so much better when it’s picked in it’s prime (have you ever eaten a freshly-ripe peach? I think that is the best example of what a difference seasonality makes to flavour!).

Since I got sick, I’ve been thinking even more about food. The only dietary triggers I’ve noticed are processed and packaged items, so since June I’ve made probably 80-85% of my meals from scratch and when I’ve eaten out, it’s mostly been at local restaurants that make food from scratch. Eating mostly from scratch takes more thought. I need to have an idea what I’m going to make, I need to make sure I have time to make it, and (I struggle with this one) I need to remember to take things out of the freezer in time to use them.

Needing to control what I eat and my moves to eat a more seasonal diet have led me to a new volunteer opportunity too. In August I joined the Edmonton Organic Grower’s Guild, a group that has about 3 acres at the University of Alberta farm – right in the middle of the city! Everyone I’ve met there has been lovely and although I haven’t volunteered many hours yet, I’ve really enjoyed getting into the garden. I like that I’m contributing to growing the food that I’m consuming. And nothing beats gardening for learning what foods are in season when! Tomorrow is the group’s annual harvest dinner and I’m really looking forward to meeting more of the volunteers and sampling dishes made with the ingredients we’ve all grown. If you’re interested in gardening, I really encourage you to come out to EOGG. It is a really great option, especially for people who live in apartments or aren’t able to garden on their own property.

Edmonton doesn’t have a climate that makes a 100 mile diet possible, but it is possible to choose foods that are in season and choose local over imported when that choice is available. I’ll have some recipes in the next couple days that really illustrate what I’m talking about.


Beauty Products

by marilynk

Have you ever walked down the aisle of shampoo and conditioner and been completely overwhelmed? Do you have fine hair, oily hair, dry scalp? Do you use heat stylers? What about colour? You try and answer all of these questions in order to choose the right product for you! Walk down the facial cleaners aisle and it’s the same thing all over again: oily, dry, or combination skin? acne? wrinkles? We have got the products to save your skin!

But are all those products really all that different from each other and are any of them really good for you, your skin, or your hair? What about your wallet? I find that of all the beauty products I buy, I spend the most on shampoo, conditioner, various face wash products, and moisturizer. Given my current financial situation, I decided to look for ways to reduce those costs while switching to things that are simpler formulas (it’s like with my food – the more ingredients I can’t pronounce, the less I want it on my body).

I am still finishing off the products that I was already using, but I have found my replacement products and have tried them out a few times to see how I like them. So what am I switching to? They look a lot more like cooking ingredients than beauty products, but so far I like how they work. All of the ingredients are available at the grocery store or health-food store.


  • 1 part baking soda
  • 1 part water*

Hair Clarifier:

  • 1 part apple cider vinegar
  • 1 part water*

I put a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into a small glass and bring it into the shower with me. When I’m ready to wash my hair, I hold the glass under the water, then swirl it to mix the baking soda into the water. I pour about a third of the mixture onto the crown of my head, a third along my hair line in the front and by my temples, and for the last third I tip my head forward and pour it along the hairline in back. Put the glass down & then I massage the baking soda mixture into my scalp, then rinse it out.

For the clarifier, I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the apple cider vinegar and water in a spritz bottle I had left over from a hair product I had finished off. In the shower, I give the bottle a shake then spritz my hair, keeping the mix on the ends of my hair, not on my scalp (according to online sources, the vinegar can be hard on the scalp).

*Some online resources suggest using distilled water, but that would be an added expense and Edmonton has some of the best tap water in North America, so I’m sticking with that.

Facial Cleanser:

  • 1 part castor oil (available at health-food stores)
  • 1 part olive oil


  • adzuki beans, ground fine

I’ve made a half-and-half mix of the castor oil and olive oil in a small container that used to hold face wash gel. I only clean my face with the oil in the evenings and just splash my face with cold water in the mornings. To clean my face, I pour out a nickel-size amount of the oil mixture onto my fingers and massage it into my face (the oil also breaks up makeup really well and is safe to use on eyes and eyelashes). Meanwhile, I soak a face cloth in the hottest water that will come out of my tap. Once the oil is worked in, I wring out the cloth and drape it over my face (I lie down for this part – so much easier). I lie with the cloth on my face until it is room temperature again, then wipe off any excess oil (& makeup), and rinse out the cloth.

The cleanser is actually my favourite of the new products – it’s like a mini facial every night! I also like that it forces me to take a few minutes to just lie still and quiet as part of my evening routine. It seems to help me transition from busy day to restful sleeping and that’s always a good thing!

The exfoliant isn’t really a new addition, I’ve been using adzuki beans for about a year now. I use it 1-2 times per week and it’s super simple to make. Just buy dry adzuki beans (I find mine at the local health-food store) and grind them in a spice grinder or food processor. I grind enough to fill a twist-top container and keep the container in my bathroom. When I want to exfoliate, I pour about 1.5 Tbsp of the ground beans into my hand and take it into the shower. I wet my face and drip water into the beans until there’s enough to make a paste, then just massage the paste into my skin. Using this exfoliant, my skin feels polished and smooth, but not dried out – it’s really great!


Weekend Fun & Building Community

by marilynk

I had a really good weekend health-wise and spent as much of it as possible with friends. First was my weekly visit to the City Market, with visits to my bread guy, a few vegetable stalls, and my BC fruit guy (apricots are in season right now, guys…so delicious!). My weekly trip to the market is part entertainment, part shopping, and part ritual. I love seeing everyone, catching up with the vendors that I know, meeting dogs and kids, and seeing all the beautiful piles of food. Saturday mornings between May and October are some of my favourite times.

Another reason the market is important to me is that I’m supporting local businesses and local farmers. It would be virtually impossible to eat a solely local diet in Edmonton, but part of my “More with Less” philosophy is reducing the impact my eating has on the environment and supporting the local economy over huge multi-national corporations. By connecting with these vendors, we are each contributing to our local community and making that community stronger.

That afternoon and evening I was the sober “Course Official” for a friendly game of Pub Golf. It was a hilariously good time and I’m really looking forward to round two! We played 9 holes at bars along Whyte Avenue and while it may not have done much to build the wider community, it was a great way to build our friend-based community.

Sunday was Critical Lass day! My friends Deb and Angel over at Loop Frame Love have been organizing these lovely lady (and sometimes dapper gentlemen!) rides since June 2010 and they have become an excellent addition to my summer activities. Deb did a great post about Sunday’s ride with lots of photos, so head over there to check it out. I’m going to talk more about something that really struck me as we were cycling back downtown from Alberta Avenue.

We approached downtown via 96 Street, then rode along 106 Avenue to 107 Street. This route took us right past the area where the new hockey arena is proposed. I have some serious reservations about the project – mainly about how it will be funded and what effect it will have on the livability of our downtown. My friend Zoe did a wonderful post about the north side of downtown being “the servant’s quarters” and it was definitely top of mind as we approached downtown from the north. What really struck me on Sunday was just how huge the arena complex will be and how critically important the design will be in either connecting the neighbourhoods to the rest of downtown or completely severing them from the rest of downtown.

As this development proposal moves forward (I’m not naive enough to think it will stop at this point), I think I will be most vocal about the design. I will be taking every opportunity available to me to try and ensure the design has a 360 degree perspective. If the design doesn’t include the neighbourhoods to the north, it will only serve as a divider to the community rather than any sort of catalyst for community building.