Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How to Make a Stove Top Latte or Cappacino--Use Skim Milk

On a previous post, I extolled the virtues of the MOKA pot or some call it the Bialetti (from one of its Italian manufacturers). A couple of points--use a finely ground coffee but not too fine. I only fill my basket half full but still use the full amount of water and it comes out very strong. I use cool filtered water -- some advocate heating the water first to speed the process and save their gasket--but on the gas stove, the process only takes about 3 - 4 minutes.

Now to make the "foam" or steamed milk, if you use skim or reduced fat milk as opposed to whole milk, the milk will froth up very easily in 2-3 minutes over medium gas heat. Just pour in a pan and beat with a wisk or frother over medium heat. Originally I thought the frothing was due to using DHA Omega-3 Organic milk, but a chef friend told me that it was because the milk was reduced fat and indeed if you compare whole milk with reduced fat, the reduced fat milk foams up more easily.

Friday, December 12, 2008


Yard sales have long been a microcosm of free trade. Over the past two years, prices at yard sales have been in a steady decline. Three years ago, hardcover books went for $3.00; button-down shirts were $3.00; jeans were $5.00 and board games were $2.00: or Yard Sale Index (YSI) of 13. The Yard Sale Index is calculated by adding the average prices for the four sentinel yard sale items (hard-cover books, button down shirts, jeans and board games). As of 12/2008, hardcover books are 50 cents; button down shirts are $1.00; jeans are $2.00 and board games are 50 cents; or a Yard Sale Index (YSI) of 4.

Also of note, there are fewer early-bird customers at yard sales. More customers are arriving at the 9-10 o'clock time frame when bargaining may be more successful and sellers are worried about being stuck lugging their left-over items to Goodwill or back to their garage or storage.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Some people turn their noses up at garage sale shopping, but in Florida, this is a year round sport. On Saturdays, armed with $5.00 in ones in one pocket and $5.oo in dimes and quarters in another, I venture forth within a 3 mile radius. The less money you bring, the better the opportunities you will find...I also advise avoiding sales that smell like cigarettes or damp storage buildings (you'll usually get a whiff if you just roll down the car window...keep on driving).

Below I have listed today's haul which I have laid out on my dining room table. All of the items will be Xmas gifts, except the throw rug. Total spent $10.

1. Seven Tins, most made in England: Total $1.00 Plan to use for packaging homemade fudge or pralines for gifts.

2. Ten items of clothing in nearly new or new condition:(Aeropostale Ladies Zipped Hoodie, BC Ethic Cool Looking Rayon Shirt, GAP Man's XL Long Sleeve Oxford Shirt, Peace Frogs Sweat Pants, South Pole Boy's Jeans, Izod Long Sleeve Ladies Oxford Shirt, GAP ladies striped button down long sleeve shirt, Aeropostale Ladies Striped Long Sleeve Button Down Shirt, Aeropostal Velour Hoodie, Two Piece Army cold weather undergarments (brand new): Total $7.00

3. "The Ultimate Joke Book", silly fluffy flip flops (never worn), friction submarine toy in box, throw rug with tag (never used): Total $1.00

4. Sport Craft Horse Shoe Set: $1.00


Carefully washed, starched and ironed all the clothes. Downloaded and printed horseshoe playing instructions. Now if I could find a good price on some pecans for my pralines....
You will be surprised what you can find with a pocket full of quarters and a creative attitude.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My husband has this thing about shoes. More specifically, he hates those shoes that developers wear without socks. He almost walked out of a mediation when the developer walked in wearing those shoes. How all those developers can afford those Sesto Meucci Woven Top Loafers when they can't pay their property taxes or their mortgages is a closely guarded secret. I guess that is why they don't wear socks. My husband says they get those shoes when they go to "Developer School". Maybe so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


This post might also be entitled "An Acquired Taste" , so termed by my Yankee mom who knows nothing about good eating. Everybody else loves it, my 10 year old son will even eat the left-overs. This is different than the chicken and dumplings eaten by Yankees and served by my mother. The Northern dumplings are more like soggy biscuits on top of chicken soup. Southern dumplings are wide glutinous noodles in a thick sauce with chicken and hard boiled eggs. Both are thrifty and the ultimate in comfort food.

Here is the recipe for the Southern Chicken and Dumplings:


3 Chicken Breasts
3-4 Hard Boiled Eggs
6-8 Cups Water
Salt,Pepper to taste
1 Cup Cold Milk
2 Cups Flour


  1. Boil Chicken over medium high in the water in a large pot for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove chicken and leave broth in pot. Cut cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.
  3. Mix 1 cup cold milk and 2 cups flour and 1/4 tsp salt until blended. Turn out onto heavily floured surface and knead briefly with well floured hands. Flatten with hands or rolling pin flipping over the dough to keep surface well floured. Roll out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut into noodles about 1" wide and 2" long using a floured knife.
  4. Bring reserved chicken broth to a boil and add salt to taste. Drop noodles into boiling broth. Boil noodle for 5-7 minutes. Add cooked chicken and chopped hard-boiled eggs. If sauce is too thin, you may thicken with cornstarch. Adjust seasonings.

Lots of flour needed on surfaces

My son's noodles

This is a popular meal. For a little more flavor, you can add some rosemary and thyme and a bay leaf to the broth while the chicken is cooking. You can substitute chicken thighs or whatever part of the chicken you have to make the dish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Don's Son In the Penalty Box

Okay, just a brief rant. I like to negotiate. But some folks just give the word a bad rep. I was watching CNBC and noted the Donald's Son being interviewed on how it is to survive in such difficult financial times. He was asked if he was cutting back on his spending and he allowed that he was saving for the great opportunities created by lowered asset prices (I agree with him here). Then he proceeded to say he liked to practice his negotiating skills by bargaining for a better price at whatever store he was shopping at. Now that is just too much!! You and I go into a store and try that, we might get 10-15% off...don't you think those stores are just falling all over themselves already when the Donald's Son strolls in. Somebody needs to tell the guy that this is like, well, easier than stealing candy from a baby! Get your negotiating practice at your own expense, not the little guy's expense!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Frugal Latte: The Moka Pot Answer

Wasting money on lattes? Ever so righteous financial pundits say this is bad. Very bad. Do the math--I found I was frothing away a full month's mortgage payment every year ($4/day = $1460/year). Pay attention here, Mr. Bernanke.

I crave the taste of a nice espresso based drink but I started to feel guilty when I was caught red handed with a retail latte in my car. I started hiding the evidence of my fiscal irresponsibility. But I couldn't give up my trips to see the barista. SO what to do???

As luck would have it, I found a Moka Pot left behind in a house we bought. I am way too cheap to buy an espresso machine and didn't want to have one cluttering up my counters or have to deal with the cleaning and complex operation of an $1000+ appliance. Well, you can imagine my glee at finding a stove-top espresso maker.

The Moka Pot is easy to use, requires little storage space and cleans easily. Mine was FREE!!! You can probably find one at an estate sale for a few bucks and they sell for about $18 online for a one cup pot. Now the coffee afficianado will inform you that a "Moka" is not a true Espresso. But I can't tell the difference.

The Moka Pot unscrews into three pieces. Fill the base with water to just below the pressure relief valve, fill the basket with your preferred amount of fine grind coffee (I fill a little less than half full), screw back together and place over medium high heat. A nice steam sound will ensue when done.

I also froth some milk to top it off. This I do in a small enamel pain over medium using whole milk and a hand frother -- I found this too--I think it belongs with bartending utensils. I beat the milk vigorously as it heats and, voila, foam. Spoon on top of your espresso.

So far I have not fallen off the wagon...