No- Spend Christmas Challenge

Yeah, I know, old meme. We’re over it. I don’t even watch that show.

Why am I so excited for Christmas this year? Because I have a plan.

I’m planning on spending zero money on gifts this year. (Not counting the money I had previously spent on craft supplies.

I know, I know, I can practically hear your responses.

“WHAT? Your POOR children will be SO DEPRIVED!” etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Nope. Because I am going to make all their presents. I’m planning on having my husband help out a little, but… yeah.

Why, you ask? Because I think I can. I’m reasonably crafty. I only have 2 kids. And goodness knows that Christmas could be horrifically expensive. Or, practically free. We already have all the decorations from last year, but I’ll be making a bunch of amazing Christmas crafts pretty much weekly counting down to Christmas, and hopefully I’ll be able to bring some holiday magic this year.

This picture of Robbie and our pet bunny from last Christmas seemed to fit.

A no-spend Christmas?!?!
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Waldorf Style Blocks

Or, mulberry log slices.

This is our block city.

The kids love playing with seashells.

They’re not perfect, and we’ll be making more, but here they are!

The real trick to making “branch blocks” or “natural log blocks” or whatever these are, is curing the wood. “Curing” the wood really means heating and drying it out to kill bugs/bug eggs, as well as to prevent warping and mildew.

To cure the wood, you can either bake your wood in the oven at 175˚F – 200˚F for a few hours. I hear you can also microwave the wood for 1 minute. I preferred the oven, because that meant I didn’t have to cut the blocks while the wood was still moist and green, so I just put a couple logs in the oven to cure before they became blocks.

Sometimes simplicity is easy to find.

More to come.

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Lentil Joes (Vegan Sloppy Joes)

This post is written by Samuel, Bonnie’s husband

For dinner a little while ago my wife and I made Lentil Joes with homemade BBQ sauce. This is a delicious meal that is fairly easy to cook, cheap, and makes getting some vegetables into dinner easy. It will take around an hour if you make the lentils. I don’t know if I’ve seen canned lentils, but you could use other beans and it would probably still work well. For meat eaters, using half ground beef and half lentils is a great way to save money and add some nutritional variety.

The pictures unfortunately are from more recently. We tried it again and added quinoa. Bonnie really liked it; I could take it or leave it.

I expect this is enough to feed 5-8 adults.  Other commentary is below the recipe.

Recipe

Ingredients:
Sauté oil
2 onions
1 cup other vegetable*
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 ½ cups dry (about 5? Cups cooked) lentils**
1 heaping Tablespoon vegetable broth (I estimate we used about 4 teaspoons)
1/3 to ½ cup BBQ sauce, or just to taste (we used this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and it was wonderful)
¼ cup tomato sauce***
3 Tablespoons ketchup (one big squirt from a big bottle)

Note: If too thin, you can add a little bit of cornstarch dissolved in cold water. Our lentils were ended up with extra water and we needed to thicken it a little bit, so we did.

 

Instructions:

Sauté the onions and vegetables in the oil, and add the salt and garlic as they are sautéing. When they are sautéed to taste, add the lentils, veggie broth, and sauces. We added the tomato sauce because it was left over (and we did not measure). We don’t think it really mattered, and would be comfortable omitting it.

Mix well and simmer for at least a minute. Serve on toast

*I did not measure, but I polished off a nearly gone bag of peas and added around ½ cup or more of frozen spinach. The vegetables did not seem to affect the taste. I wanted to add grated carrots, but we were out of carrots. The amount of 1 cup is arbitrary and reflects somewhere close to what I did, but I would have done more if we had carrots.

**I cooked about 2 ½ cups, but I saved what was supposed to be about 1 cup dry for another meal. I think I used the equivalent of 2 ½ to 3 cans of beans. Instructions to cook lentils should be on the lentil bag, and they’re easier and much faster than most beans.

***We had a small amount of tomato sauce left from making barbecue sauce. I don’t think it is actually necessary.

Ours came out wetter than we would have liked, so we simmered for a while and it got better. I still expect the consistency will be a little more sandwichable as leftovers.

It’s enough like Sloppy Joes to satisfy me, and definitely delicious. Just like in this recipe, I don’t usually do meat imitations, and although I’m new to vegan eating, I found I hardly thought about the fact that it didn’t have meat. We made a very large batch, so if needed, cut it in half. We weren’t close to throwing any away between my wife and I and our two-year-old boy.

I alluded to this above, but if you don’t want to or don’t have time to cook beans, you can try canned beans, but I haven’t seen canned lentils or tried other beans. Lentils are much faster than larger beans to cook from a dry bag of beans, taking only about 45 minutes. If you try with canned beans, be sure to leave a comment and let us know how it went. I expect it will work well if you use a smaller bean such as a black bean.

I will consider doubling the garlic when I make it again. With Bonnie’s homemade BBQ sauce (recipe here) it was flavorful, but more garlic might have kicked it up a notch. Bonnie made the BBQ sauce by taste more than by exact measuring, and it came out great.

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