Wednesday, March 25, 2009

About A Mojillion Ways To Use A Cabbage

Cabbages are cheap. This is one of the first steps in becoming frugal. Make friends with things that are cheap and good for you. At the Basilica we are trying to eat more vegetables. I am shoving carrots and cabbage into anything but cookies. Travis McGee could live on vegetables. He also still has what I dimly remember being referred to as metabolism. He's one of those people who announces shortly before dinner that he "forgot" to eat lunch. How does food skip one's mind? I count it as a giant leap forward if I don't awaken from my afternoon break/daydream to find myself in front of the vending machine getting ready to push the button for hot fries.
Anyway. Cabbage. Part of the much-maligned Brassica family, including turnips, kale, brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Cabbage is full of vitamin C, cancer fighting agents and the all-important fiber. And it gives most people gas. Of course so do hot wings and we eat those so it's not a reason to stay away. And cabbages keep forever. You can stick one in the bottom of the fridge and forget about and chances are when you finally remember it you can peel off a couple of leaves and use the rest.
Here are some ideas for incorporating it into your diet:

  • Cole slaw. Obvious, I know. But it doesn't have to be regular old cole slaw. Asian slaw is fantastic. Broccoli cole slaw is wonderful and keeps better than mayo based slaws. I use more cabbage in the recipe and leave out the ramen flavoring because of the high sodium level. A good recipe for a regular old picnic cole slaw can be found here.
  • Rotten cabbage. I am not a fan of fermented cabbage products but I have a friend who could live on kimchi. Blech. If you like them, though, then why not make your own? Here is a site for making sauerkraut. Then go here for enough ways to use it to last you until Christmas. This is a good site for making kimchi that doesn't involve the traditional preparation of burying it in the ground.
  • Wraps. Instead of using lettuce leaves as low-fat wraps use cabbage leaves. These are excellent for substantial foods like carnitas that flop around in lettuce leaves.
  • A nod to the British Empire. Bubble and Squeak and Colcannon are traditional English and Irish dishes respectively. Usually made with potatoes and cabbage, these incorporate milk, butter and at times cold meats. They are useful as hearty foods for cold evenings and to get rid of whatever leftovers you may have.
  • Egg Rolls and Spring Rolls. Recipezaar has a great simple egg roll recipe. You could easily make it with wonton wrappers for spring rolls and also sub in any veggies you might have lying around.
  • The traditionals. Corned beef and cabbage. Cabbage rolls. Most people who like cabbage already have a traditional recipe for at least one of these. The easiest way and the one i grew up with is to boil cabbage with either turnips, parsnips or potatoes and either pork, ham or kielbasa. We always poured about a capful of vinegar into the potliquor (juices from the veg) and then sopped it up with cornbread. Told you I grew up in the country. We always knew funds were low when we had this. It makes use of the toughest cuts of meat and is filling and healthy while being inexpensive and easy. Recently I've been thinking that a fennel bulb chopped up in this would be a winner.
  • Stirfries. If you use a bunch of cabbage and a lot of rice you can stretch a plain old stirfry into several lunches.
  • Soups. Same thing. Add a bunch of cabbage to any vegetable, bean or meat based soup and reap the benefits of stretching the soup and healthying it up.
  • My favorite. Fry it. Either chop roughly or cut in wedges. Melt a little bacon grease in a skillet. Add a bit of garlic and saute the cabbage until it starts to wilt just a bit. You don't want to cook it to death. That's when it starts to smell. Salt and pepper to taste. Believe me, you'll be craving this.
  • As a wedge with blue cheese. This twist on the traditional steakhouse Iceberg Wedge Salad is quite tasty. I am going to try grilling napa cabbage wedges brushed lightly with olive oil and then using a blue cheese, ranch, or feta dressing. Yum!
  • The Apple Salad recipe from the Treehouse Chef that got me started thinking about cabbages. This looks fantastic!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Frugal Maven Knows Cars - Extended Warranties

Most consumer magazines will advise you unequivocally to avoid extended warranties. There are some good reasons for this advice. Many extended warranty companies are fly-by-night and there is no chance you will ever make them pay. They promise things they'll never deliver and will drive you crazy in the process. That doesn't mean, though, that all extended warranties are bad. There are several reasons that a warranty may fit your needs. Here are some tips that may help you navigate the secondary warranty market:

  • Buying a pre-owned certified vehicle. Certification is an extension of the original warranty. Most manufacturers hew pretty closely to the original warranty coverage with the exception of squeaks and rattles and trim pieces. Dealers are required to be extremely strenuous when certifying a vehicle. Because the manufacturer has to eat the subsequent repairs after the sale, they keep dealers on a close leash. It is virtually impossible to skirt the requirements that a vehicle be in top condition with all safety issues repaired before the sale. This also means that rarely will a vehicle be severely damaged and then certified and sold. It is not worth the effort to try to slip it past the manufacturer, deal with disappointed customers, risk the franchise and lose the long-term business. Most certified cars come without a deductible also which is a really nice feature.
  • Buying an aftermarket extended warranty. Virtually every car sales venue offers some sort of warranty. Some are excellent. Some are really crap. The big established companies like Fidelity/JM&A offer a quality product that can easily pay for itself. That said, stay away from the following:
  1. Any warranty company that calls you claiming that your warranty is about to run out and they can offer to extend it. They will push you to make a decision by cutting the price if you do it right now. They will wear you out for nothing. Stay away!
  2. Any warranty company that sends you a postcard claiming the same thing. These postcards look like something that is coming from your manufacturer. They aren't. Throw them away.
  3. Any warranty that offers repairs at 50/50 reimbursement. You will fight tooth and nail with these companies and end up getting about $200 on a $1000 dollar bill.
  4. Any warranty that doesn't reimburse the repair shop with a credit card. This is strange, I know, but there are many warranties out there that reimburse on a check. This means that your car will have left the shop and the repair facility will being chasing their money around. At our place, we require payment from the customer if the warranty company won't pay at delivery with a credit card.
  5. Any powertrain only warranty unless it's free with the purchase of the car. Most extended warranty claims are for oil leaks, air conditioning failures, suspension issues and window motors and regulators. Engine replacements are pretty rare and powertrain only warranties will send you in circles trying to rebuild a maintenance history that suits them.
  • Make sure that the warranty will transfer to a new owner with a minimal fee. You'll want the warranty as a selling tool if you sell your vehicle. If you trade or sell and have never used your warranty, you may be entitled to a full or prorated reimbursement. Always check. This feels like free money when you get it back.
  • Tell the repair shop up front that you have an extended warranty. Companies are not really all about reimbursement if you've already done the repairs. They require an opportunity to inspect the vehicle whether they exercise it or not.

So there you have it. My exhausting extended warranty guide. I have personally put an extended warranty on all new and nearly new vehicles I've purchased in the last 10 years. Vehicles are so much more complex than they used to be. It only takes one a/c evaporator at $2500 to make you wish you had a warranty. If you are going to be keeping a car outside the warranty period, it may definitely pay to invest on the front end. It's like any other kind of insurance--some you need and some you don't and with the exception of those kinds required by law, only you can decide. I hope this helps you choose well.

Surround Yourself With People Who Are Talented

I love this photograph! It was taken by my friend Stacey, who has never taken a photography class in her life. While I can take a fairly decent picture, I will never be told I should make a living at it. She, however, has natural talent. Her photos are uniformly fantastic. We have more art on the walls at the Basilica than you can count but I am going to find a spot for this photo.
It's a wonderful thing to have talented friends and family. We have friends who are painters, actors, out-of-this-world cooks, gardeners, opera buffs, flag corps coaches, musicians, glassblowers, welders, teachers, psychologists (always handy), salespeople who can sell anything and academics that are dedicated to knowledge. We have friends that chronicle our lives through photos and mementos. That will come in handy when we are too old to remember who or where we are. We have friends that are wine freaks, readers, and travel buffs. Friends who work for NGOs in India and friends that volunteer for tons of causes. We love them all and feel privileged to be a part of their lives. Thanks to everyone who makes our life more interesting. You are all always welcome at the Basilica. And thanks Stacey, for this fabulous photograph.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring Is Finally Here! Maybe? Hopefully!

In theory it is possible that there will be more snow and ice. We have, here in Kentucky, had snow on Derby Day on occasion. We just drink more so it's not a big deal, but normally by the Ides of March (which we know is also Chili Dog Opening Day), we are weeding our gardens and sowing our first lettuce.
The Basilica is located in the oldest intact Victorian neighborhood in the U.S. This is the view coming up the street one over from us this afternoon:

It looks like snow but it's really Bradford Pear trees lining the streets. This happens in one day. You drive up the street and the trees are bare. The next day it looks like this. Amazing.
And these are back out:
These are part of the Flock of Finns. They are fanciful birds created by Marvin Finn, a Louisville folk artist who passed away in 2007. They have been restored and are now residing permanently on the riverfront. And the easiest way to tell spring is here is this: This is Travis McGee doing his favorite thing. We went to the park and chipped a few this afternoon in the 70 degree weather. He was in heaven. I even made some effort to move around a bit. I feel like a bear that's coming out of hibernation! What makes you feel like spring?