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Monday, December 19, 2011

going against the gift giving grain

I read an article recently that listed the 7 things that people shouldn't give as gifts.  Number 1 was kitchen appliances (yep, we've broken that one at this house, we've both given each other kitchen stuff and loved it).  The article listed gift cards, too.  We've both given and received gift cards, and liked them.  The main complaint is that they are impersonal, but really, if the gift card is to a place that you enjoy, then even gifts cards can be a thoughtful gift.

The article also listed food, saying that there's an overabundance of food at this time of year and no one wants it.  Well, no one interviewed me.  I love food, and I love getting and giving it as a gift.

Another article said not to bother with homemade gifts.  At our home, we LOVE home made stuff, stuff we can make home made stuff with/in, and other gifts of that ilk.  Of course, not everything we give is homemade, but we make a conscious effort to give things that are homemade and handcrafted.  This year, the girls will be getting hand made, hand dyed, hand sewed dolls.  The dolls are from a local artist and it's nice to support her by buying her dolls. 

As for home made food, we tend to give that out every year.  Generally, we give out a gift basket of home made stuff, or maybe just a jar or two along with a bottle of mead.  Giving a gift that you put your effort and love into is almost always appreciated.  (I like to mention that my siblings and I loved it when we got the jam from grandma when we turned 18, rather than getting toys.  We always got the comfy knit slippers but getting jam too, that's just yum.)

Even if it's not home made, food can be a great gift.  I mean, everyone eats.  Giving food as a gift is  creative, both for the giver who chooses what to put in the gift, and the receiver, who gets to make whatever she or he wants with new ingredients.  It's consumable, so it won't take up space in your home for any extended period of time.  It's also thoughtful because, generally, people would put in a gift something that they want to share that they like, or something that they think the other person would like.

Forget the rules that say you should skip a whole category of potential gifts.  If the person likes it, it's a good gift.

menu plan for the week (12/19/11)

Monday:  scrambled eggs (we still have a lot of eggs, and with all that's going on we needed something easy).

Tuesday:  potato leek soup - from the freezer.  We're expecting a cow hide weighing 150-175 lbs. and need to make freezer space by next week.   Most of our meals will be whatever we can use up (and we just recently started to stock up the freezers).

Wednesday:  chicken, frozen veggies, rice (our Yule dinner)

Thursday:  beef stew - from the freezer.

Friday:  leftover chicken, more frozen veggies

Saturday:  It's x-mas Eve and we'll be dining with the in-laws

Sunday:  Christmas day and we'll be dining with more in-laws!

That was an easy week of planning!

menu plan for the week (12/13/11)

Sunday:  squash ravioli with balsamic vinegar and shallot dressing.  The ravioli is store bought and not real, but it sure is tasty.

Monday:  cheese omelets - Lily's choice

Tuesday:  leftover beef and potatoes over bread

Wednesday:  take and bake pizza.  It was delicious!

Thursday:  Fish tacos.  We had some mango salsa frozen, avocados were on sale, and we had tortillas and fish in the freezer.

Friday:  Out to eat

Saturday:  potluck

Sunday:  Lamb, roasted root veggies (I could have gorged on that alone), salad, and homemade apple crisp with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

holiday baking

My older sister and I used to have an annual holiday baking party.  We'd have a lot of friends, a lot of ingredients, and a lot of fun.  We'd bake all day and then split it up at the end.  I really miss that.  This year, however, I was able to attend a cookie exchange.  Though there weren't a lot of people, there was variety.  I brought molasses cookies in a candy cane shape.  There were chocolate mint truffles, caramel filled thumbprints with nuts, butterscotch bars, and bacon chocolate chip cookies.

Baked goods are one of my favorite things about the holidays.  I don't think I'm done with the baking.  I have some ideas in my head and we'll see if they materialize.  Plus, I'll take pics.

menu plan for the week (12/6/11)

When you don't feel well, menu planning isn't so easy.  The whole house had a not-so-nice stomach issue, so it was all about making ourselves feel better.  We had some bland food, some easy to make stuff, and some soup, because that's what you eat when you don't feel well (it does help that all the food still tasted good).

Monday: beans and rice.  We'd bought some dry beans rather than canned and they are delicious (I'm sure it's the spices Jaimie put in).  He also put in salsa.

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday:  Grilled cheese

Thursday: beef roast with potatoes in the slow cooker

Friday: slow cooker root veggie soup.  The grocery store has some organic, local root vegetables this time of year and we love them roasted or in soup.  The pack comes with turnips, carrots (3 colors), and parsnips.  We also add celeriac (celery root).

Saturday: leftovers

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Laundry on the line & detergent recipe

Our dryer died a few weeks ago.  Thankfully, my sister had one just sitting around that we could have for free, but we had to wait for 2 weeks until we were going down for a visit.  In the meantime, I couldn't bear having that much laundry piling up.  I did tell the day care to stop using cloth (she really didn't mind that) because I did not want dirty diapers piling up.  I would have to hang the laundry on the line outside (the basement is too damp).  Since it was late November, it was cold with potential for rain or snow, so I could only do laundry on days that it would be dry.  As much as I didn't mind using the line in the summer, maybe even enjoying having clothes on the line, I didn't want to be required to use it, especially in the cold.  It just so happened that it was late, dark and cold when I noticed that the dryer died but I wanted dry clothes so I was hanging laundry in the dark that evening.  I think it was the highlight of my day the day we got the dryer set up and I had warm, soft clothes.  I know it's not very green, but I do love that dryer.  I like to put laundry on the line when it's an option, but in summer.   

Since I was seeming to spend too much time of laundry already, I figured I'd spend some more time on it.  I'd planned on making our own detergent as an experiment when our detergent ran out.  It happened to run out during this time so I went back to the research I'd already done on making detergent.  I originally planned on making it with water and putting it in a big bucket, but then I figured it'd just be easier to make it dry and I can experiment with a smaller batch.  I grated one bar of Ivory soap, put in one cup of Borax, and added one cup of washing soda.  Put it in a container that has a lid, mix it all together and that's it.  I added a few drops of orange essential oil because I like the smell, but it doesn't transfer to your clothes, which is my preference anyway (if you want the smell to transfer to your clothes, then you wouldn't use essential oil but a fragrance oil).  I use about 2 tbsp per load and it seems to work rather well.  You could use Fels Naptha soap (grated) instead of the Ivory soap, but I use the Fels Naptha just for rubbing directly on soiled spots.

Using up leftovers

I really dislike wasting food.  We'll usually have the previous night's dinner for lunch or make it into something else for dinner.  With Thanksgiving just behind us, many people have leftover food.  We didn't have Thanksgiving at our home, but we still had some Thanksgiving food to use up.  We got "leftover" turkey from my MIL (she made it just so that we'd have extras) and leftover cranberry sauce from my mom.

At first I wanted to make this turkey/cranberry sauce pie

However, we ate up all the turkey as is and we had none left for pie.  We did have cranberry sauce, but I didn't want a cranberry pie.  We also had some leftover apple pie filling from when we made a dutch baby (like a panakuken or German pancake) for breakfast recently.  I search for uses for leftover cranberry sauce and I loosely used this muffin recipe found here.

I doubled it because of the amount of cranberry sauce and pie filling I had, and baked away.  Because our oven doesn't heat as well as we'd like, it took a bit more time than the recipe called for, but I used the recipe as a guide and started checking it every few minutes after.  They turned out great.

At my mom's, we had a ton of leftover rolls.  There were too many just for sandwiches so I made some old-fashioned bread pudding.  I don't really use one recipe, but if you do a search for it, just make certain to SLOWLY put the egg in the heated milk because you don't want them to cook.  Also, most recipes call for taking the crust off.  I don't, because, again, I dislike wasting.  Sometimes I'll add raisins, and sometimes not (Jaimie likes them, but I'm not as fond of them).  Bread pudding makes a great breakfast though.  It reminds me of when my mom would be off of work certain cold school day mornings and she'd make us rice pudding.  It's warm, creamy comfort food.

Menu plan for the week (11/28/11)

The last couple of weeks we haven't had a cord for our computer, so no blogging, because I'm not willing to blog on the iPod.  But, we spent most of the time the last couple of weeks eating out, having holiday dinners with family, and eating yummy leftovers.
The menu for this week is as follows:

Monday: Leftover turkey and gravy.  My MIL actually made a turkey just for us to share for "leftovers," which really aren't leftovers if it was made for that purpose, but it was delicious.  I wanted to make this recipe because the idea of using leftover cranberries and turkey in pie form... mmmmmmm.........

But, Jaimie wanted leftover turkey as is, yes, delicious, but leaving none for the pie.

Tuesday: Grilled cheese.  Why?  Because we bought a bag of beans for making bean quesadillas but hadn't prepared them (versus just being able to open a can).  Also, I didn't have the time to make the tortillas.  We did have fresh homemade bread though, so grilled cheese it was.

Wednesday:  We actually remembered to take out the lamb to defrost.  We had rack of lamb with a Cabernet sauce that Jaimie made up.  He made garlic mashed potatoes with a ton of butter and corn on the cob (frozen fresh in August when we bought it).

Thursday:  Those beans for quesadillas were made, so black bean quesadillas it was.  They were SO much better than the canned kind.  Jaimie added cumin and some other spices to make it more flavorful.

Friday:  We're having beans and rice, with whatever veggie I grab from the freezer.  We have plenty of beans left and they are tasty.

Saturday:  Roasted chicken, rice, and veggies.  I'm thinking I might get some carrots, parsnips, and red potatoes for roasting.  It is surprisingly an easy dinner, because if the awesome kitchen appliances we have. 

This weekend we'll need to make more ice cream.  We went through a batch of chocolate, a batch of strawberry, and almost finished off the rest.  We also had great pies (several from a pie social last Saturday).  I'm finishing off the apple crumble pie that Lily made with her day care provider.  (I just have to praise the delicious pies from the social:  banana cream, lemon with berries, ground cherry with cherries, chocolate cream, pumpkin, and so many more).