Monday, December 18, 2006

Spending frenzy

Why is it that when you're running dangerously low on money, you spend more?

What? Just me? Oh.

Paul and I had a rare Sunday afternoon to ourselves, so we decided to go out to lunch (and holy calamari, was it good). This makes perfect sense, because we had just had a long talk the day before about how we need to cut back on the daily nonessentials: the People magazines, the Starbucks venti lattes, and all of the other $4-$5 purchases that we can certainly do without. (Thank God the National Enquirer is less than $4. How else would I be kept abreast of the status of Britney's barn door or the size of J-Lo's badonkadonk?). So, since fancy coffee was out of the question, we opted for lunch and drinks instead. Because that's certainly not $4-$5. It's more like $40-$50. So that's okay. According to our new rule. (You see, when we put our minds to it, we have a great deal of willpower and stick to our resolutions. In fact, for the new year, we're resolving to talk nicely to each other at all times. I'm working on how to say "I hope you choke on your ziti" with a loving smile and goo-goo eyes.)

We weren't hungry yet for lunch, so we decided to pop into a store or two to see if we could pick up a couple of Christmas presents. Closest store: Yankee Candle. Location: directly next door to Starbucks. But we held our breath and walked quickly by. And? Saved $8.56 in the process! See how strong we are?

Let me just say this next part really fast and get it overwith. In the course of fifteen minutes and twelve seconds we spent upwards of $150 and we were only supposed to be browsing in the off chance we saw something that someone might like for Christmas and THANK GOD WE DIDN'T CAVE AND GET THE LATTES! I mean. Whew. Because then we'd really be in trouble.

The good news is, I have presents for my children's teachers for every Christmas right up through graduate school. The bad news is, the Discover bill comes in two weeks. Am I the only person who gets heart palpitations when I see credit card bills in the mailbox? Seriously, I think someday the UPS guy is going to find me sprawled out on the front lawn near the mailbox, Discover bill in one limp, sweaty hand, the other hand outstretched toward him, gasping "HELP...ME!" Followed by a perky, "Hey, is that box from Amazon or LL Bean?"

So, tell me I'm not the only one. Please. I know we're all maxed out on money at this time of the year, no matter what our financial status is, so it would be helpful if we could all reassure each other that we're not alone. And then we can all hold hands and sing "Kumbaya." Or "We Are the World." Or maybe we could all file for bankruptcy at the same time, sort of the way we ladies like to go to the bathroom in groups of three or more. Wouldn't that be nice?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Speaking of recipes

As the scent of pumpkin wafts through my house, I am reminded that a commenter recently requested my pumpkin bread pudding recipe. So, Tisker, I am finally getting around to posting it. I will give two different versions of it.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding: "Whoomp, There It Is!" Version
(because this is what you find yourself exclaiming when you catch a glimpse of your butt in the mirror the next day)

1 1/8 cup half-and-half
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. dark or light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups 1/2-inch bread cubes (French or Italian bread is best)
1/4 cup golden raisins, optional

Pumpkin Bread Pudding: "I Can Still Fit in My Pants" Version

1 1/8 c. fat-free half-and-half
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/2 c. sugar substitute (I use Whey Low*)
1/4 c. egg substitute
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. golden raisins (still optional - I've never tried them)
5 c. cubed whole wheat bread (stale works best)
Small slice of left thumb, for added protein**

Instructions for both versions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the half-and-half, pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla. Fold in the bread cubes, then fold in the raisins, if using. Pour bread pudding into loaf pan. Let the pudding stand for about 15 minutes. Bake until tester comes out clean (about 1 hour or so).

Double recipe: Bake in 9-by-12-inch glass dish - still takes about one hour to be done.

*Whey Low is a sugar substitute that is much healthier than the chemically altered crap that you find in your average store. It actually is sugar: a combination of fructose, sucrose, and lactose, but with only a small percentage of the calories and without the resulting nasty rise in blood sugar that you get from regular sugar. Don't fall for a certain company's "it tastes like sugar because it's made from sugar" business. They start with sugar and then screw with it in 86 different ways so that it's basically become Frankensugar. In twenty years, billions of people will be slowly rotting away, limb by limb, and the Frankensugar will be banned because it has finally been proven not only to keep you svelte, make your limbs rot. And bad stuff like that.

Anyway, although Whey Low is about 35 times the price of regular sugar (okay, slight exaggeration), it is the BEST product I've discovered since, well, fat-free half-and-half. (I literally cannot drink my coffee without fat-free half-and-half. Really. If I discover we're out of it in the morning? I weep.) The downfall is that you have to order it through the mail. But the good news is, it's the same cost for shipping whether you buy one bag or one hundred bags (but then you'd be living on the streets in tattered clothes with just a bunch of Whey Low bags in a rusty grocery cart, and most importantly NO pumpkin bread pudding, and that would just suck to the absolute highest level of suckage).

Oh, and don't get all grossed out about the "whole wheat" factor of this recipe. You'd never know, honestly. Don't knock it until you've tried it! I just pulled a batch out of the oven a few minutes ago, and WHOOOAAAA, MAMA! Put a little fat-free Cool Whip on that stuff, and you've got yourself a lowfat, low-carb, low-cal par-tay!

**Beware the Calphalon bread knife. It's deadly serious. (Or, as was proven a short while ago: seriously deadly.)