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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update on our so-called "extreme" couponing

When we noticed that a grocery store was having a double coupon day, we decided to try out extreme couponing. 

While we do have a grocery store in town, it is more expensive that other ones and I don't generally do the bulk of our shopping there.  For this trip, we drove the 20 miles to the store, and then 20 miles back.  Usually I try to combine trips because, if you are spending more in gas than you would be saving, it's not really a good deal.

This is how our trip went.  At Family Fresh, we used multiple coupons, but since the doubling only occurs if the coupon is less than $1, only one coupon was doubled, from $.40 to $.80.  Otherwise, we did use one $3 off coupon and 3 $1 off coupons, saving $6.80 for a total bill of $52.  With that, I bought 10 lbs of butter (I had to buy 10 items to use the $3 off coupon and didn't like the other products).  Since the butter was on sale for $1.89 a lb, saving $3 (or $.30 per lb) took that down to $1.59 a lb.  We have the freezer space and will most certainly use it up before it would go bad.  Other than the butter, the only thing I thought was a good deal was yeast, because I got the $.80 off a sale price. 

We had coupons for other things, but even with coupons and being on sale, most of the time it was still more expensive than buying it at Aldi.  We bought flour on sale without a coupon, 5 lbs for $1.39, but we had a coupon for $1 off a 10 lb bag (priced at $4.08), so using the coupon would actually be more expensive than buying two 5 lb bags.  If the 5 lb bag weren't on sale, I would have waited and bought it at Aldi, because I know that a 5 lb bag of flour there is $1.49.  We also bought coffee creamer, but at $2.24 even after the $1 off coupon, it was about the same price as it is at Aldi.  We did, however, get a $.05 off per gallon coupon for gas at the local station, and since I used my credit card, we got the points.  Overall, based on the dollar amount, we saved only about 10%, not including sale prices, with coupons.  However, I think that the trip wasn't too bad because of the deal on butter.

We then went to Target.  Just the day before I got an additional 5% off coupon in the mail (that you can stack with your 5% off you get by using your Red Card).  By signing up for their Rx Rewards program, you can sometimes get 5% off coupons with every 5 prescriptions filled, but we didn't have one of those coupons so it was nice to get the unexpected one in the mail.  I have read articles where Target keeps track of what you are buying and then market to you.  Well, they were keeping track because I also got some coupons for things I'd actually get!  They even sent me a coupon where I would get $5 off a $50 purchase.  Of course they believe that you will just keep buying stuff to get up to the $50, but we were going to get there anyway because we needed to buy diapers (my eldest is now potty trained but the younger one grew out of the cloth ones so we gave them away, but they were on sale and we had a coupon even for the Target brand).

I had stackable coupons (store coupon and manufacturer coupon) for some items like make-up and candy, but after looking at it and having the candy in my cart, I put it back because my rule was that I wasn't going to buy something just to save.  Yes, getting two items would have been even cheaper than buying one, but I didn't need the one to start with, and it would still be money spent. 

Our big "deals" were getting dry pasta for $.50 a box based on stacked coupons, and good prices on pasta sauce and a light bulb we needed.  However, buying impulse purchases because of a strategically placed box of Cheez-Its where my daughter could see, and lime flavored tortilla chips for my husband, made for less of a savings.  Plus, my husband, while he says that he likes shopping and wants to look around, does NOT like going through coupons to see what would offer the best price, so he was getting less patient and therefore I didn't take as long as I may have on my own.  I still think we did an acceptable job saving.  Altogether, we saved $16.65 in coupons and then used our Red Card.  I saved over 40%, not including sale prices. 

I still can't figure out how anyone can save like the Extreme Couponers do, unless you are eating crap food.  While I'm glad I found the website for coupons for the store brand, and I use Target's coupons on occasion, I will still do the majority of my shopping at Aldi, because I can get things for less cost and with less hassle of having to hunt down coupons.  

I think my biggest savings comes from buying direct from the grower/farmer.  It's always disappointing with farmer's markets ending for the season, but there are still a few deals to be found.  Just this week I went to a farm and a 50 lb bag of potatoes was priced at $12!  (That's $.24 a lb for organic, local food versus about $1 a lb for the pesticide-laden stuff at the store).  I bought three bags because we can store them in the cold room until next May or so.  Last week, we met someone who was selling off baskets full of squash for only $.75 each, and they were much, much larger than the kind you'd get at the store.  We bought 6, because they also can keep for many months. 

Of course, the best deal is growing your own, so I'll keep planting.  Happy growing and happy shopping!

Menu plan

Over the last two weeks, my body felt as though we have had too much meat.  Even though I know it's not even half of what the average American eats, I still have a low tolerance for it.  So, I will listen to my body over what is typical of someone else.  We ate some meals with leftover meat, but mostly ate very little of it.  It was good to put us back into our norm.  I will be more conscious of putting vegetarian meals into our menu planning. 

So far this week we've had omelets, potato soup, cheese pizza, and BSTs (turkey bacon, spinach instead of lettuce, & yummy garden fresh tomatoes).  For the remainder of the week, here is our plan:

Thursday:  Curried rice with leftover chicken, with roasted parsnips and carrots.

Friday:  Grilled cheese with spinach and avocado It includes pesto, which we have and we also have spinach in the garden (even though it is snowing as I type this).

Saturday:  Leftovers and a potluck later

And for next week:

Sunday:  Cheesy quinoa with baked acorn squash (with butter and brown sugar, of course).

Monday:  Gnocchi with chard and beans

Tuesday:  Dinner at the in-laws'

Wednesday:  Butternut squash and apple soup.  It seems the appropriate Halloween food, followed by trick-or-treating for the girls.

Thursday:  Roasted chicken, cheesy potatoes, and brown sugared carrots.  Because it is the Day of the Dead, we will honor my sister with one of her favorite desserts:  crème brûlée.

Friday: BBQ chicken (with the leftover chicken),  pickles (beets, cukes, beans), and baked potatoes.

Saturday:  potluck

Sunday:  Egg foo young.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our adventure with "extreme" couponing

I do use coupons, but not as frequently as I used to because when you eat Real, there aren't that many coupons to be had.  But, since I'm off of work for a few weeks and can't really lift heavy things (like I would be doing my garden beds this month but I can't haul around the bricks to surround the garden areas), I figured I would work on the girls' scrapbooks (I'm way behind) and coupon.  It only occurred to me to blog about this when I noticed that an area grocery store is having a day (yes, one day, and I've never seen them have it before) where they will double coupons with a value of up to .50.  If a coupon is $.50, then it goes to $1.  If it's over $.50, then it goes to $1.  If it's over $1, then it's face value. It is not like the TV shows where they will double unlimited amounts of coupons up to any amount, and the item can be free but the store will not give more money back than the item is worth.  It's this Saturday so that gives me a few days to plan. 

I don't like to spend retail prices.  I admit that I am rather frugal.  In losing weight while breastfeeding and eating Real food, I needed new clothing.  That means the thrift store.  You'd think that I'd just go whenever and buy whatever fit, but I am so "frugal" that I buy on 50% off days, or days where certain color tags are $1.49.  I prefer Banana Republic, or Ann Taylor, but I'm not spending more than a few bucks for an article of clothing.  (Ok, I did spend $20 on a pair of jeans at a consignment shop a few months ago, but they retailed at well over $100 and they are an amazing fit).  I like to consider price per wear (ppw).  Your wedding dress should be the most expensive ppw (one time at how much!?!), but the shoes or shirt you love should have a very reasonable ppw.  If it's something I could wear multiple times that fits well and is comfortable, then it will likely be a good ppw.  If not, then I reconsider the purchase.  Time to get off the tangent and back to groceries. 

For grocery items, I have found that generic items are generally as good as name brand, with a few exceptions.  My mom tended to buy some things name brand growing up and I have found that I like certain things name brand as well.  As far as store-bought ice cream goes, because of the ingredient list and a refusal to spend several dollars on a single serving, I will generally only eat Breyer's (but we also make it at home).  Of course, some flavors have more (fake) ingredients than others, but there is nothing like a natural vanilla ice cream.  Yum.  However, I will buy generic most often because, even with combining a sale and both a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon, the generic brand is often still less expensive (hence my habit of shopping at Aldi).  I really don't see how people are buying stashes of food and merchandise for pennies on the dollar in those extreme instances.    

Previously, I watched "Extreme Couponing" and got a bit miffed rather than inspired.  People stockpiling stuff that they don't use and could never use up before expiring seemed wasteful and greedy.  It's also unrealistic.  There's no way a full-time worker and full-time parent, who also gardens, blogs, works out and often likes to sleep could spend 30-70 (yes, seventy) hours per week clipping, researching, and using coupons.  I decided to set some ground rules for our adventure (my MIL is being supportive of this adventure and has already printed off some coupons for me to use).

1) The food (or merchandise) must be something we would buy without a coupon or would otherwise try. 

2) If it's 50-ingredient, artificial junk, we're not buying it to say we saved money.  The idea that you are "saving" money when you are really SPENDING money is something that marketers love.  Really, if it costs you, you are spending.

3)  What if it's free with coupons or a "money maker?"  Since the store will not give more than the money is worth, at best it is free (not a "money maker," which means that you get money back after "buying" it).  Why pass up free?  Because free can cost in ways other than money.  Bad health with bad food choices, a hoarding mentality, and more that you can probably think of on your own. 

4) Yes, the trip will cost money.  I do not expect to buy $144 in groceries for one penny (as was in the show mentioned above), but if I could do better at Aldi with their generic brand, or with a store brand, I do not feel as though it is really saving money.  So when someone tells you that you saved so much money or such a percentage, really you spent what the bottom dollar was for the stuff in your cart.

5)  I'm not going to spend all day grocery shopping and bringing several friends just to make separate transactions.  If I can't do it with the people in my household, it's not realistic.  Also, I don't find shopping for groceries to be the best way to spend my time.  We will be going to two stores (Family Fresh, which has the double coupons, and Target, because they give me 5% off when I use my Red Card, and because they share a parking lot and, as mentioned before, I don't want to spend my day shopping).   Did I mention that I'm not that big into shopping?  It's why my guy friends didn't mind shopping with me when I was younger, because I could do the entire mall in 30 minutes by just running in to stores that I thought may have something I wanted and didn't browse too much.

Back to the coupons...  So I did some researching on the best ways to save.  I do get the Sunday paper and cut coupons from those.  There were four sections of coupons (Red Plum, Smart Source, P&G, and one from Pepsi product stuff).  My MIL printed some off a coupon site and on Target's site (go to See More, Coupons).  I also checked out a blogger who wrote a post about it in My Frugal Adventures.  From there, I learned that Target also has mobile coupons that you can get on your phone.  And I just found that Our Family brand, which is what Family Fresh carries, has its own coupon site online.  For organic foods, you can try the four sites MFA suggests.

I do have a coupon organizer, not the 3-ring binder kind, but it works for what I need it for. Check out the next post to see how it went.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Preserving apples

Last month we were able to go a local restaurant that is surrounded by an apple orchard.  They allow families to take two free bags of apples.  I asked, and the owner informed me (as we were dining on some delicious food in the restaurant) that he doesn't spray anything on them.

With that many apples, we needed to preserve them, because there was no way we were going to eat that many fresh.  We had enough apple sauce and apple pie filling from last year, so we decided against making more of those.  We made some faux mince pie filling (vegetarian) with apples and green tomatoes, some mini pies, frozen apples, apple butter, and dried apples.  We also made some apple head dolls

When preserving a lot, this peeler/corer saves time

We put our apple butter in the crock pot overnight so it's ready to can in the morning.

These crab apples were for caramel crab apple jelly

Some apple goodies, with the dehydrator also making dried tomatoes

Limoncello in the making

I received a late birthday gift recently - a bottle of Limoncello with a couple of serving glasses.  That same weekend, I went to a flea market with my sister and bought twenty (yes, 20) lemons for only $1.  With that many lemons, we had to make our own limoncello.  I must say, ours turned out even better than the store bought kind.  We used a very simple recipe.

Here's the end product, on the left.  I think I may have found a new fruity favorite.

It's been a month now and we're wondering if it gets better with age, but we are drinking it so often that I doubt that it'll age much!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Menu plan for next week (I can't believe I'm ahead)

The wind and news reports of possible snow are making for a desire for warm & hearty foods. 

Sunday: Chili

Monday:  Apple and butternut squash soup

Tuesday:  Roasted veggies, venison, and potatoes

Wednesday:  Squash, onion & hazelnut pizza (no mushrooms for me, but maybe eggplant). 

Thursday:  Pasta, with pesto from our garden herbs

Friday:  Dried tomato risotto from our own dried tomatoes and chicken stock

Saturday:  Creamy wild rice soup, because I stocked up on heavy cream and we have wild rice. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Holiday treat ideas for Halloween

Harry Potter sorting hat caramels

Witchy fingers

Graveyard brownies

Spooky ghost meringues 

Chesire cat cheese ball  (or you could try it with hummus covered in carrots).

Broom stick snacks made with string cheese, pretzels, & chives

Vampire caramel apples with marshmallows

Skeleton cupcakes 

And there are a lot of other great ideas at Better Homes & Garden Halloween recipes and Dash Recipes. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Menu plan

Last week we didn't have a menu plan.  Well, we did, but the plan was just to eat some of our many meals from the freezer.  But for some pinto beans with turkey leg with corn bread that we brought to a pot luck (so good I've got to get another turkey leg), our home focused on other things rather than meals and meal prep. 

For this week, this is our plan.

Sunday: Salmon patties.  We had these once before when my MIL made them and our daughters loved them.

Monday:  Meatloaf and baked potatoes

Tuesday:  Corned beef and fried cabbage (Jaimie picked some up on sale and really, really wanted it).

Wednesday: Eggplant tart.  We still have several eggplant to use up and I came across this website with a lot of eggplant recipes.

Thursday:  Ravioli with marinara sauce

Friday: Egg fried rice

Saturday: Potato soup with fresh bread

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Menu plan

So it's been a couple of weeks and I think the family is going to rebel if I don't get a menu going.  So, here's the plan for this week.

Sunday:  Squash soup.  We used up a bunch of squash that was leftover and had it with homemade bread. 

Monday:  Spaghetti with eggplant sauce

Tuesday:  Cherry chipotle chicken (the sauce was from a place in town), baked potatoes, and luscious slices of tomatoes. 

Wednesday:  BBQ chicken sandwiches with the leftover chicken.

Thursday:  Bean, chicken & cheese quesadillas

Friday:  Pad thai (that means I've got to pick some veggies tonight)

Saturday:  We'll be going to a picnic with burgers to be served, and then to a potluck later in the evening.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Menu plan

It was Labor Day weekend this past weekend, and Jaimie will be going back to school this week while the girls go back to day care.  We moved the swing set because a neighbor had their tree cut down, which took away the shade for them to play in.  Jaimie also power-washed it (and the picnic table), while I worked on dehydrating tomatoes & apples, harvesting all sorts of goodies, and cleaning up the house.  We also fit in some time with friends. 

Monday: Burgers.  I was trying to get away from the standard fare, but was outvoted because everyone seemed to want these.  They are good.  We had them with corn on the cob.

Tuesday: Pierogies. We didn't make them last week because we had leftovers more often than planned.  Jaimie said that these were very labor intensive, so we decided that we should get all three adults involved assembly line next time (because they were too good to not have them again).  He filled them with mashed potatoes and served them with caramelized onions and the sauerkraut we made a few weeks ago.  The sauerkraut has got to be the absolute best we have ever tasted. 

Wednesday:  Egg foo young, as my MIL has requested it.  It will include garden vegetables, of course.

Thursday: Honey sesame roasted chicken, (though we'll roast an entire chicken) along with green beans from the garden, and rice with Japanese seasonings.

Friday: Leftovers

 Saturday: We're on the road, as we're going out of town on Friday after work to visit my new nephew (my MIL will fend for herself just fine without me telling her what she'll have to eat for dinner).  

Sunday: Pasta (because it's easy to prepare when we've been on the road all weekend).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Menu plan!

This week, we're trying some new things.  It's good to search for new recipes and try them out. 

Monday: Turkey burgers (not new, but easy)

Tuesday: Roasted beets and carrots, Swiss chard (from my mom's garden) over couscous, and banana mashed potatoes.  I had the banana mashed potatoes awhile back when we went out to eat at a Caribbean restaurant and knew I'd want to try them at home.

Wednesday:  Eggplant and sweet potato stacks with yogurt sauce, minus the pomegranate because we don't have that in the house.

Thursday: Bacon and beer mac 'n cheese.  We'll use fake bacon so that I'll eat it.

Friday: Champagne risotto with peas and poached eggs.  I'll have to buy some peas, but this sounds like it's worth it.

Saturday:  pierogies with sour cream, caramelized onion and lemon juice.  I know there was something else we wanted with it, but can't remember.  (Recipe: You can use leftover mashed potatoes.  Mix 3 cups of flour, 2 eggs, and 1 cup of water, adding flour as needed to roll out the dough. Don't make it too thin or the potatoes will bust through during the boil. Make a single layer on a floured cookie sheet and stick them in the freezer if you're not going to use them right away. Once they are frozen, put them in a zip top freezer bag).

Sunday:  If we're up for a challenge, we'll make stacked enchiladas.  That recipe calls for making your own enchilada sauce.  Otherwise, we'll have chicken pho.

I'm not sure when I'll get to these, but I will have to try the roasted butternut, apple, labneh salad with pomegranate molasses dressing. 
It's more of a winter salad, but it sounds delicious. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Menu plan

This week we're back to the family of 5, sans 3 cousins and one of their friends, sans two nieces - just Jaimie, me, our two girls and Jaimie's mother.  My MIL made bread today, which made me very happy.  We pulled off pieces of it with dinner tonight because it was still too warm to cut. 

For this week we have planned:

Monday: turkey cheese burgers with garden veggies
Tuesday: leftover dried tomato risotto from the freezer, chicken fried zucchini, and fresh bread
Wednesday:  Falafel with garden veggies, tzatziki made with garden cucumbers, with homemade pitas
Thursday: Spaghetti squash.  We must eat this because I just harvested 4 large ones today, along with the two we already had.  Anyone who comes over will likely be gifted a spaghetti squash.
 Friday:  Roasted beets and carrots over quinoa with banana mashed potatoes. 

We went to a flea market and there was a bulk food vendor.  We bought 25 lbs of carrots and 25 lbs of beets for $12 each.  We have stored them in the basement in damp sand so they'll last through the winter but it's always good to taste test the produce.  As for the banana mashed potatoes, we tried this a few weeks ago at a Caribbean restaurant that we love (they also have habanero chocolate cake that I've tried to duplicate but mine is still not as moist).  We'll have to make up a recipe and play with it, but cooking should be an adventure. 

Saturday:  We'll be at a wedding so we'll eat there, and get to see my newest niece that was born today!

Sunday: Back home and having leftovers.

Our adventure with 8 girls (& the menu plan for 11 people)

We have been crazy busy the last couple of weeks because we had 6 extra girls in our household, totaling 8 children including our own two.  We tried to eat all Real food, but it seemed nearly impossible when we went camping one week and had them all at the house for the next week.  Going through 2 loaves of bread a day meant that we were buying most loaves rather than baking our own.  We still did bake but probably not even 1/4 of what we went through.  Still, we were successful in getting all the girls to eat rather healthily, and despite the occasional request for some candy, no one even complained that no Doritos or Pepsi were offered.  When the eldest teen, 14, arrived with a nearly empty bag of Doritos, I informed her that we wouldn't be having anything like that for the two weeks we'd have them with us.

This is what we ate while camping:
Monday: Grilled cheese (with store bought bread) with wild rice soup
Tuesday:  Make your own pizza night
Wednesday: Pasta with homegrown tomatoes and herbs
Thursday: Tacos with several homegrown items
Friday: roasted chicken and vegetables (carrots, beets, potatoes)
Saturday: chicken fried rice with the leftover chicken.

We were able to do this all with our NuWave oven and a griddle, along with a propane stove.  The girls all had chores to do to make our lives easier (usually meal clean-up or prep).

Our campsite

When we returned, we had all 8 girls again for the following week.  This is what we had at home:

Monday:  turkey burgers
Tuesday: alfredo ravioli
Wednesday:  pizza from a pizza place for a beach picnic (this was the first day the girls were allowed soda)
Thursday: I can't even remember!
Friday: Roasted chicken, roasted sweet potatoes and potatoes, and corn on the cob
Saturday: Tacos

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A successful trip to the library

I was borrowing books from the library when the self check-out machine decided not to work.  I returned a book called Put 'em Up and it was on the counter waiting to be checked in.  A woman was at the counter looking at the book while I went up to check out at the counter.  She was asking about whether she could check it out because it looked interesting and I told her that it had a lot of great recipes in it.  She then mentioned how they had been canning cherry pie filling.  The woman behind the counter asked where she got the cherries.  It turns out that the other library patron buys fruit in bulk and sells from her house by the bushel.  I had to get in on that so I got her contact info.  Cherries were already out of season and blueberries were coming in.  We had our fill of blueberries when we went to a u-pick place a few weeks ago, so I waited for the next fruit to come in: peaches.  I bought one bushel (the smallest amount to buy), and planned what we'll do.  Since we didn't end up making peach butter with the peaches from the farmer's market a few weeks ago (they went into the freezer because we were busy doing other things), I wanted to make some this time.  I'll try both the sugar-free kind and this recipe made with honey and ginger.  Jaimie's mother will be making a peach crumble.  We'll also likely try out these spiced pickled peaches

Usually I get overwhelmed with the massive amounts of food we have to put away (we honestly spent more than 10 hours harvesting, cleaning, blanching, freezing, etc. this past weekend), but I am actually impatiently waiting for our peaches to ripen so I can work with them.

One bushel (50 lbs) of peaches - waiting to ripen

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Preserving our harvest in pictures

My youngest helping by washing the table when I'm trying to work on some herbs.
When blanching for freezing, you need to cool quickly in an ice bath.  We used popsicles because I could refreeze them (no, they are not real food but it is one thing that is cheap and the girls absolutely love.  We haven't gone Real all the way).

While cutting small tomatoes for dehydrating, we thought this center looked like a frog.

More to dehydrate

Getting herbs ready for tincturing, dehydrating, or tying.  There's lemon balm, mint, thyme, oregano, & parsley. 

One day's harvest! Beets, tomatoes, ground cherries, spinach, turnips, cucumbers, nasturtiums & herbs


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Menu plan

Monday:  Pasta with leftover fried zucchini.  The sauce was made from our homegrown roma tomatoes. 

Tuesday: roasted chicken, baked potatoes, green beans from the garden

Wednesday:  Tacos, because we didn't end up eating that last week.  We'll have it with fresh tomatoes, spinach, homemade salsa, re-fried beans, and whatever else we decide to put on them.

Thursday: Italian polenta with tomatoes and zucchini

Friday:  pumpkin mac and cheese.  I want to use up some of the pumpkin in the freezer.

Saturday:  dried tomato risotto (we didn't get to it last week).

Sunday:  We will have a lot of people over.  We'll likely have pasta because it's quick and simple.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Menu Monday

Monday:  Pasta with tomatoes, onions and garlic from our garden.

Tuesday:  Roasted veggies from the garden (beets, turnips, carrots, onions) over rice

Wednesday:  Fish fry with potato wedges, along with whatever is ripe in the garden

Thursday:  Dried tomato crock pot risotto (we've got to use up the dried tomatoes from last year because we'll be drying up more very soon).

Friday:  Pizza with homemade sauce and homemade mozzarella cheese, with fresh basil from the garden.

Saturday: Egg foo young.

Sunday:  French onion soup, and Jaimie wants a beef roast because he thinks that there isn't enough animal protein in this week's menu.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Crafty times at Main Street Homestead

Now that my MIL has moved in with us, there's much more going on in the area of arts and crafts.  I'm a much more practical person, and with as much as we have going on all the time, we don't get to many crafting sessions with the girls other than coloring in coloring books.  We generally don't ever make anything.  But, that's changing.  Nini, as she is referred to, is very crafty.  She sews, paints, and other crafty things.  She's already made the girls some adorable tulle tutus.

Here's some of the other crafts that are added to Main Street Homestead now that Nini has joined us:

Painted gourd bird houses

Canvas bags sewn and painted with cute animals

We decided to make some fairy doors too, and here's a picture of our 3-year-old helping her Nini paint them.

Menu plan Monday

Yesterday, we made potato leek soup, with a couple of parsnips from last week's farmer's market.  We'll be freezing the rest for some quick meal in the future.  I really enjoy leeks and parsnips, so it was a great meal, along with some homemade bread.  My MIL has been taking over making bread, which is just fine by me because there is a lot to do with the garden and her bread is really good. 

Monday (today):  BLTs.  Except we are subbing spinach for lettuce, and I'm subbing fake bacon for real bacon, so I guess it's a F-BST.  Our tomatoes aren't ripe yet, but for some little pop-in-your mouth ones, so I picked some up at the farmer's market today (along with some carrots). 

Tuesday:  Tacos.  Homemade tortillas, salsa, and my mom's ground beef. 

Wednesday:  I told our 3-year-old that she could choose a dinner option and she suggested that we have tobacco.  I asked her if she knew what it was and she said no.  I told her that is what is in cigarettes and we were not going to have cigarettes for dinner.  So, instead, we'll have mom's choice.  I like eating what's fresh from the garden, so we'll have it over pasta.

Thursday we're leaving for a camping trip, with meals included!, so no menu planning for the rest of the week.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cheesy, but good

A recipe for kindness

The first farmer's market haul of the season

We got these beets, parsnips, and garlic in Milwaukee.  The beets there are huge compared to the ones offered up our way right now.

Though we had enough in the way of food, I always like to see if there's something else to offer when I pass by any farmer's market.  On my way home from work yesterday, I picked up these lovely leeks.  I'm not sure if they'll be eaten grilled or if we'll make potato leek soup.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Menu plan Monday (on Tuesday)

Last week we didn't publish a menu because it was so hectic with getting the produce in and processed (frozen and/or pickled) that we just ate veggies over quinoa/rice/couscous. 

On Friday though, my MIL made salmon patties.  I haven't ever had them before, and was unable to eat seconds because there were none left after the girls devoured them.  I guess we'll be having those again, or the girls may riot.  

Monday:  Jaimie wasn't feeling well and I had to work late, so we had fried chicken (from the store), rice and plums.  We forgot to cook the beet greens so we decided to eat plums.

Tuesday:  Pho (rice noodle soup).  Jaimie used beet greens, green beans, carrots, cilantro, basil, coriander (toasted, then ground), fish sauce, rice vinegar, chicken stock and sesame oil.

Wednesday:  We'll be having a cook out with friends, so we'll have to pick up something grillable.

Thursday:  capellini pomodoro

Friday:  Potato leek soup with fresh bread

Saturday:  BSTs (bacon/fake bacon, spinach & tomato)

Sunday: TBD when we find out what we get at the farmer's market on Saturday, and what we harvest from the garden.  I'm guessing something roasted because that just sounds delicious.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pickling beans and peas

Today I harvested over a gallon of green beans and almost as many pea pods.  We had a hearty dinner of sweet and sour beans and carrots over rice cooked in our broth (which we were very crazily making today, turning on the stove for an extended period of time, despite the heat).

We still had a ton of fresh beans and peas.  Since we froze about a gallon of each just days ago, we decided to work on the dilly beans.  I couldn't find the dilly bean recipe we used last year so I used this one because it had 20 reviews, all very positive.  We didn't have mustard however, so we left it out.  I don't really care for it that much anyway and I generally just tolerate that part. 
After sterilizing our jars and packing the beans, we realized that we had only enough for 4 pints when I'd sterilized 9 jars.  So, I wondered if we could pickle pea pods too, and it turns out that there are recipes for that.  The recipe I used called for some honey and a sprig of mint, which we happened to have.  We used some honey I bought at the farmer's market and the vendor informed me that it was the stuff that comes out when otherwise pouring off the honey - it's still edible and tasty but it's more creamy.  It looked and tasted like honey frosting.  It was a bit odd, though, to come across a dead bee body, so I did feel like I should double check the honey in the jars to make certain there wasn't any dead bodies in the jars.  While discussing with my MIL about how the FDA allowed so many bug parts in peanut butter and such, I determined that the honey in the jars didn't have any bodies in there.
Anyway, so we had enough pea pods to fill the rest of the slightly short dilly bean jar and four more pint jars. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's harvest time already!

It's not even July yet and we have a bounty.  It's too hot today to get a lot canned, but we are blanching and freezing.  We've got the broccoli raab (I also have seen that it is spelled broccoli rabe, but it's still pronounced rahb whichever way you spell it), beets (we had to thin them out), and turnips (thinned those out too).   The pea pods were frozen, but I don't know that we'll do too many more frozen pods, so we'll try out this pea pod soup recipe with the next harvest.
We are using up the lettuce tonight.  I'm having to pull the rest because of the heat.  It's getting leggy and bitter, so most of it was pulled already.  Though not preservable, we'll be using it in the compost.  I question whether I should continue to plant lettuce considering we don't eat much of it, but I've got the seeds and it's nice to have something ready early in the season. 
I've harvested the garlic, and it needs to be brushed off and cured for a few weeks.  Some of the bulbs are a bit tiny, but it will be fun braiding them when they are cured.  We go through a lot of garlic in a year, so this won't be enough for next year, but it was a good experiment.  I'd like to get some more at the farmer's market and make garlic oil, as well as pickle some.  Those will come in handy when there is the inevitable winter cold coming on. After pulling the garlic and lettuce, we also have half of a bed to plant some more things in July and August.
The volunteer plants have been popping up all over.  We have several volunteer tomato plants, ground cherries, pumpkins, a melon plant, and of course, the cilantro.
The herbs are growing like crazy.  We'll be making all sorts of pesto, including broccoli raab, nasturtium leaf (we'll likely eat the flowers raw), mint, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, cilantro, greens (from the turnips and beets), and combinations of them.  Pesto will go great on pasta, but also as a spread on sandwiches. 

We subscribe to Mother Earth News, and this month's issue suggests Ball's website for canning recipes. There's over 200 recipes, so we'll have fun testing out some new ones this year.  There were also some books listed for sale in the issue, and though we don't have the moola to buy all the ones I'm interested in, we're fortunate to have a library that offers inter-library loans.  The library system will even bring it to my local library and send me an e-mail when they have arrived.  I'm excited to try pear butter (we'll have to buy the pears at the farmer's market because our tree is not going to produce for a few more years) and yellow tomato jam.  Those recipes can be found in The Big Book of Preserving The Harvest.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Menu plan Monday

We're home from camping, when meals are pretty specifically planned but then changed as needed to use things up before coming home.  We had two feasts during the camping trip, which means potluck, which means a great variety of foods and only having to prepare one thing.  For the first feast, Jaimie cooked a lamb and I made a pie. 
For the second feast, Jaimie made corn and grease.  In corn and grease, it's basically half a package of bacon cooked, then 5 cans of hominy (he uses two yellow and three white), then add several handfuls of cranberries right before you're done, mixing it up quickly and serving immediately.

Our harvest has started to come in, so we'll be making dinners based on what is growing.  We've already got peas and beans to freeze. 

Monday:  Pasta with (store-bought) tomatoes, peas, olive oil, and onions.  Jaimie also made a second pasta dish with golden raisins, onions, and balsamic vinegar.

Tuesday:  Quesadillas.  We need to use up some cheese, and the beans will be a great form of protein.  Some homemade salsa would be a tasty addition.  This is one of those meals that we need to prepare ahead of time, because the beans need to soak and then cook. 

Wednesday:  Falafel.  We'll need to prep the dried chickpeas ahead of time, so this week we need to be up on knowing what is on the week's menu.  We have some baba ganoush in the freezer still, and some tomatoes to use up that we bought while camping.

Thursday:  Chicken, with roasted corn, and green beans. 

Friday:  Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), made with chicken broth, covered in whatever fresh veggies we have from the garden. 

Saturday:  Potluck at our friends' house.  I'm thinking a strawberry rhubarb pie.  

Sunday:  BBQ chicken sandwiches made with the leftover chicken from Thursday. 

Some good reads

This past week we were camping.  We all had a great time.  Jaimie was able to cook another lamb over the fire for a community feast, and I was able to make an apple pie in the NuWave oven.  I'll post more about it later, possibly, but in the meantime, here is a bunch of stuff I'd love to check out further because it's interesting to me. 

Grafting your own fruit trees (because we have several trees that need pruning but it seems difficult to just cut it off and toss them).

Extreme whiting solution (because our camping laundry gets grungy and I couldn't find our regular camping sheets so I used white sheets because they were the least expensive).

Making soap.  We attended a workshop on making candles, which seemed easy enough, and they said that anyone who can make candles can make soap, and vice versa.  (Lily and I made very cute sand candles).

Seed saving instructions, because it's good to be self-sufficient and store your own.

Getting rid of cat urine smells, because our cat peed on our bed while we were gone.

Making hard cider in 5 minutes.  That's just cool.  (By the way, I got all these links from Homestead Survival, an awesome blog).

Must-have essential oils, because they are must-haves.

Homemade ginger ale, because Jaimie likes ginger ale and it's cool to be able to make your own and know what's in it.

Carrot cake jam, because it's something new and interesting and we have carrots planted.

Blackhead remover, because I got a free sample of Biore pore cleanser in the mail and if you had blackheads, this is a much more natural solution with stuff you likely have in your home already.

Poison ivy remedies, because there was a bunch of poison ivy where we were camping if anyone was foolish enough to wander into the woods off the mowed paths. 

When we made it home, I picked the last of the strawberries, a gallon each of beans and peas, and the first few ground cherries.  The tomato plants, though planted in a raised bed two feet off the ground, are almost as tall as me.  I am really hopeful to post about the garden soon too, though I am likely going to spend more time in the garden the next few months than writing about it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Kitchen gadgets as birthday gifts

Jaimie can post if he wants about his baster, pretzel maker and pizza peel he got as birthday gifts. 

Pizza peel with homemade pitas

Here, however, is our 3-year-old's garden tools in action that she received for her birthday.

Menu plan

We'll be switching the falafel from Sunday to this Wednesday.

Sunday (today):  Pasta with garlic scapes from our garden, probably with an alfredo sauce.

Monday:  Baked tilapia over rice, with turnips and peas from the freezer.

Tuesday:  Chili with ground beef and leftover beans, made with some tomato sauces canned last year.

Wednesday:  Falafel with homemade garbanzo bean hummus and baba ganoush from the freezer.  I think we may even try homemade pita bread too.

Making the falafel

All done and ready to put in the homemade pitas

Thursday:  tacos - either fish or ground meat, or vegetarian

Friday: Pizza - homemade crust with homemade sauce from last year's tomatoes, basil from the garden, and mozzarella.  Just writing this, I want it already.

Saturday:  must-goes

Next Sunday we'll be leaving to go camping for a week.  We'll have a menu plan of stuff that we can make outside, but with a griddle, a NuWave oven, and other kitchen gadgets, we will likely have an ability to make just about anything we want.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Menu plan

With eating the leftover chicken and lamb for most of the week, I am just about unable to handle any more meat.  This week will be very slim on that form of protein.  With all the lettuce we're getting, we'll be having salads most nights.

Sunday:  Dinner at the in-laws' place

Monday:  Cheese tortellini, and since Jaimie found them and couldn't resist, pierogis.

Tuesday:  chicken tacos.  We have to use up the chicken and they can have this dinner while I'm at yoga class.  Then I'll have some other leftovers when I get home.

Wednesday:  Black bean quesadillas with salsa.

Thursday:  quinoa burgers with pickled veggies. 

Friday: rehearsal dinner for a wedding

Saturday:  dinner at a wedding

Sunday:  Falafel with tahini and homemade hummus, and leftover baba ganoush from the freezer.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thrift store finds

This weekend we went thrift store shopping.  With all the weight I've lost (not sure if it's from our Real food diet, breastfeeding, or a combination of both), I needed some work clothes that I wasn't swimming in.  Of course, with 50% off thrift store prices, we bought more than just some dress pants and tops.  Jaimie found a spring form pan for only a couple dollars.  Yes, we have one, but he says that a home with one spring form pan needs another.  I told him that if he spent $2 on something we already owned, we would at least need to welcome the new pan into our home by using it, so he made a cheesecake. 

We also found camping dishes.  Camping dishes you say?  Why a separate set of dishes for camping?  The reason is simple.  We camp - a lot.  It's fun, relatively inexpensive, and we go to the same events every year so that we can visit with the friends we meet there.  The dish set that we bought was a set of 12 bowls, 12 plates, 12 forks/knives/spoons, a serving platter, a serving bowl, a chip & dip tray, and a large bin that it goes in that we'll use for a washing bin.  All of that for a grand total of $12.49.  The camping dishes will fit well in the storage area of our pop-up camper and we won't have to think about packing them.  (This is our first year with our camper so I'll be packing it with what I think we'll need and then we'll reassess from there, though we're seasoned tent campers). 

Jaimie is always bugging me about covering my head.  Despite my pale complexion, with my very thick head of hair, I don't feel that sunburn on my scalp is an issue (except for the one time in the Bahamas when I totally forgot to put sunblock between my many cornrow braids so that my scalp got burned between the braids - ouch).  Of course, I do realize that a hat will also protect the face and neck to some extent, and I do make the kiddos wear them outside most of the time, especially because their hair is so thin.  My MIL was looking at hats and found a bright pink hat that had great personality, so of course Jaimie thought that I should look at the hats as well.  Unlike our fashionable girls, I am not a hat person.  I just don't generally find anything that is appealing to me.  However, I did find a red hat (with the original tag still on it!) that I actually like. 

So, all in all, it was a pretty successful time thrifting.  Though we are purging from our home (and having our own rummage sale in a couple of weeks during our town's annual festival), I still have a few things I'll be keeping my eye out for when we inevitably go thrift store shopping (or rummage sale shopping) again.  

Chocolate cake... mmmmmm.......

We've had a couple of birthdays around here.  Our eldest turned 3, Jaimie's birthday was today (though we had a party on Sunday) and our youngest will be turning 1.  For our 3-year-old's birthday, I made this deliciously moist chocolate cake.  I'm pretty sure that it was one of the best tasting cakes I've ever eaten.  I asked our birthday girl what she wanted for her birthday.  She said she wanted a cake.  I asked if she wanted anything else.  She wanted a present, and I asked what kind of present, and she said "a cake."  What kind of cake?  A castle cake (how convenient that we have a cast iron castle cake pan).  What flavor?  Chicken.  Well, chicken flavored cake is not that appealing to me as a baker, or a cake eater.  So we talked her into chocolate cake.  She was very satisfied with the end results, though she naturally had to grab at it before we frosted and decorated it.  You can see the finger line down the front. 

For the birthday party on Sunday, my MIL did the honors of making the birthday cake.  It was actually made with homemade brownie mix.  The Texas sheet cake recipe follows the brownie mix recipe.  I've gotta tell you, it was a hit with everyone.  I was jokingly telling my MIL that she was going to have to make a new one because I really wanted to eat the one she made before any of the guests came.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Garden report - the end of May

My garden is mostly in 6 raised beds, though there are quite a bit of other gardening areas throughout the yard.  Rather than blogging, I've been spending most of my day light hours out there, getting things planted.  I am almost done.  Here's what we've got so far:

Bed 1:  Beans, beets & more beets, celeriac, nasturtiums.  The beans and most of the beets are starting to look great.  They aren't even halfway grown yet, but it's still early on and a lot of people are just starting to plant.  I don't think the celeriac is going to make it but it's worth a try.  A friend gave us the nasturtium plant so hopefully it will do well.  Nasturtiums and their leaves taste so good in pesto.

Bed 2:  Garlic, radishes, eggplant, 2 types of lettuce, cilantro that reseeded itself, broccoli raab, and spinach.  The garlic was overwintered from last fall, planted in October.  It should be ready this summer.  I planted radishes between the garlic rows just to have something that would grow fast and give us variety for our also-early-season lettuces.  The eggplant probably won't have a lot of productivity until the garlic is ready to go, so I planted the eggplant so that it can take over the garlic's area after that harvest.  The strawberry spinach, bought as a novelty to give it a taste, isn't coming up at all.  I planted just regular spinach there instead so that it's not wasted space.  The broccoli raab is very pretty so far, but was also bought as a novelty so I don't know how it will taste yet.

Bed 3:  Georgia Jet sweet potatoes, soybeans, purple beans, and cauliflower.  The sweet potatoes were mail ordered.  The instructions did say that they would be okay even if wilted, but they don't look all that well.  I'll give them a chance and see how they do.  I would love to have our own home grown sweet potatoes.  As for the soybeans, I love edamame.  It's a great snack.  Just sprinkle some salt on it and scrape out the beans from the pod with your teeth.  The purple beans are fun.  I finally found my stash of seeds from last year so I planted these again because you can easily find them when harvesting.  The beans do turn green when steamed or cooked though.  The cauliflower is a second attempt.  Last year I grew some (if you could call it growing).  It did not do well at all.  It was way too crowded and had very tiny heads, with black spots on them.  I had to pull them all.  This time, I have different seeds, more space, and hopefully better luck.  Since this was all just planted today, but for the sweet potatoes, the bed just looks like a bin of dirt for the moment.

Bed 4:  Peas, parsnips, carrots, turnips, thyme, parsley, and mint.  The peas are doing very well.  I can see little pea pods forming.  I love eating fresh pea pods right off the vine.  That is one of my favorite tastes.  I am trying parsnips again.  They didn't grow for me last year but I like them so much that I had to try again.  The turnips grew in some areas where seeded but not in others, so I replanted some seeds today in hopes that we'll have a good turnip harvest.  I planted three types of carrots because I want to see if last year's tiny crop was because of some fluke.  I also planted lasts year's seeds in compost, which is a no-no.  I knew it then too, but I wanted carrots and had only compost.  I knew that it would make them fork, but even with what little we had last year, they were tasty.  The thyme came back unexpectedly from last year.  I'll likely replant it near some other herbs in the ground by the back of the house, but I'll leave it for now.  I added the parsley there just because that's where I was when I grabbed it.  As for the mint, well, that was not intentionally planted but was there last year and I can't get it to go away, so I end up pulling it out occasionally, but always unsuccessfully.

Bed 5:  Strawberries.  The entire bed is strawberries, and one hanging basket of strawberries too.  I have been picking off the black spotted leaves and the plants are looking healthy.  We've even got some strawberries almost ready to be picked.

Bed 6:  Lots of tomatoes, two types of basil, and ground cherries.  We diversified our tomatoes so that we have plenty of sauce tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, and pop-in-your-mouth tomatoes.  Basil grows well with them (and is great in pasta dishes and salsa) so the basil always gets planted with the tomatoes.  The ground cherries are doing very well.  This bed is filled with plants from a friend who grew them from seed months before.

In-ground bed & around it:  Onions, zucchini, and potatoes.  We planted 100 onion sets of red, and 100 sets of yellow onions.  That equals a lot of blooming onions in our home.  I only have three zucchini plants growing and that's intentional.  We still have zucchini left in the freezer that we were not able to finish off before this season started.  We have three types of potatoes in bins - blue (saved from last year's), red, and golden.  All of them will taste delicious.  The plants have grown so well that twice already I've had to cover over them. 

We're trying a lot of perennials too.  We planted a second hops, and also put espizote and tobacco nearby, along with more asparagus.  For fruits, we planted honey berries, goji berries, mulberries, currants, Arctic kiwi, 2 paw paw trees, 2 hazelnut trees, a lemon tree and lime tree (to be brought indoors in the winter), and we still need to plant the fig tree.  I think I may have lost two of the four blueberry plants and my Saskatoon blueberry, but I hope they'll come back.    I'm hoping the previous years' plants and trees grow bigger, including the grapes, raspberries, blackberries, apple tree, plum tree, pear tree, peach tree, and cherry trees.  Once these all start producing, we'll have a cornucopia of goods every year.

We did outline a spot for our medicinal garden, but haven't planted anything there yet.  It's an 8x8 area zoned off with wood and we're doing the lasagna gardening style there.  We were unable to get enough compost to start planting there yet.  We hauled two loads on Saturday but then it started raining and they close off the site when it rains, so we'll have to wait for another day.  

Almost forgot - my MIL painted some gourds last year.  Our 3-year-old (yep, she just had a birthday) thought that it would be nice to grow her some more gourds to paint.  We planted those in the hole where Jaimie dug the pit for the Great Plains Style Barbequed lamb.   The birdhouse gourd that she got last year is still hanging outside in the back yard, and the birds yell at me every time I venture near it.

That's our garden report for the end of May.  I'm hoping for more successes to report!

Great Plains Style Barbeque

Jaimie loves cooking, and he loves Rendezvous camping.  One year, when we first met, he was asked to cook a pig at a Rendezvous for someone's graduation.  He decided to dig a pit, build a tripod, hang the pig from the tripod and cover it with canvas (continuously kept wet so that it doesn't burn off).  He dubbed it "Great Plains Style Barbeque."  It was such a hit that he has since cooked many lambs that way as well.  I've also seen his friend cook this way and cook ribs on grill grates hung over the fire this way.  This weekend, he cooked a small lamb Great Plains Style.

Basically, you start a fire and get it burning slow and hot, which is when it's ready to have the meat put in.  It's got to cook almost all day, so hopefully is a comfortable day to be outside.  Keep the hose nearby (when we did this at a Rendezvous, we spent 6 hours hauling water by bucket, but that was for a large pig rather than a small lamb), so that you can keep the canvas constantly wet.  Jaimie likes to toss mesquite chips into a cast iron pot so that it gets a mesquite flavor to the meat.  Check on it occasionally, taste testing as necessary, and then enjoy.   Of course, put out the fire before leaving the area.

Menu plan 5/28/12

Happy Memorial Day.  I hope that you had some time to spend with some loved ones, here and passed.

Memorial weekend Sunday we had a cook out and had a bunch of people over for a family get together.  Jaimie made lamb and chicken over a fire pit, covered by a canvas tarp.  We also had Waldorf salad made by my MIL, Texas sheet cake, also by my MIL, fruit salad, and deviled eggs.  Since I knew we'd have leftover lamb and chicken, this week's menu is based on that.

Monday: Shawarma - made with leftover smoked lamb from our triple birthday party (marinated in yogurt, garlic, ras al hanut powder and lemon juice), put in a pita pocket and topped with tzatziki (Jaimie makes his with plain yogurt and cucumbers, with some onion and garlic), tomatoes, onion, and garlic hummus.

Tuesday:  BBQ chicken sandwiches, onion rings, and pickled veggies

Wednesday:  South west chicken in couscous with tomatoes and cilantro from the garden

Thursday:  A whole chicken (it's already thawed, so it's got to be cooked), potato fries, corn on the cob, and maybe a blooming onion (I found an onion cutting contraption at the thrift store and the menu book includes an Outback style onion and sauce).

Friday:  Oriental style salad (lots of lettuce in the garden) with chicken, mandarin oranges, sunflower seeds and whatever else we toss in there.

Saturday:  Pasta.  Any remaining meat can be tossed into the sauce or used for next week's plan.  Generally, we don't eat meat every day, but I hate to waste.

Have a great week. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Menu plan - week of 5/20/12

Yes, it's actually a plan, rather than a report!  Since it's summer and the girls and hubby are at home, they'll need breakfast, lunch & dinner.  Breakfast will consist of cereal, eggs & whatever Jaimie makes to go with it, leftover pancakes from when we make them on the weekend, or the pastries I make (rhubarb bread, pumpkin muffins, scones, etc.)  Lunches will generally be leftovers or sandwiches, so I'll need to start making bread more often.

Sunday: Salad with fresh lettuce and veggies from the garden.  We'll supplement with some store-bought veggies, adding hard-boiled eggs and sunflower seeds.

Monday:  Quinoa with veggies.

Tuesday:  Egg foo young with rice noodles and veggies

Wednesday:  Black bean and cheese quesadillas.

Thursday:  Tacos (the first and only meat item this week, but for the eggs).

Friday:  Homemade pizza

Saturday:  Falafels

I'm getting hungry just thinking about it all.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Menu plan

Menu (not so much a plan, but a report)

Monday: Salad!  From our garden!  Lots of fresh lettuce, lamb's quarters, and even radishes.  We put in some hard boiled eggs and other nutritious things. 

Tuesday:  fish & rice.  We forgot the veggies, so we had pickled veggies.

Wednesday:  chicken & couscous.  Again, forgot the veggies, so more pickles.

Thursday: chicken noodle salad with carrots in it (yay! we remembered veggies, but only because they were in the salad). 

Friday:  out to eat

Saturday: BBQ chicken pizza and garlic chicken pizza with white sauce.  Once batch of pizza dough makes two thin crust pizzas.  And FRESH salad!

We have been regularly eating fresh veggies from the garden this week.  It's nice that we are now at a point where we can do that.  There's not so much variety yet, but the garden is flourishing and looks promising. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Menu plan

Sunday:  salad with hard boiled eggs.  The salad included lamb's quarters and lettuce from the garden, a radish I accidentally picked too early, and some other (store bought) fresh veggies.

Monday:  loaded baked potatoes.  They included (fake) bacon, sour cream, cheese, and butter.  Delicious.

Tuesday:  chili with the leftover burgers from Saturday's grill out.  We didn't have it Sunday because we had to prepare the beans overnight. 

Wednesday:  BLT wraps.

Thursday:  manicotti with a wonderful alfredo sauce

Friday:  lamb, carrots & couscous

Saturday:  Lily's birthday.  She's requesting cake (chicken flavor).  Then we'll be out at a friend's place - potluck!

Sunday:  Mother's Day and we're going to the May Day parade.  With that much activity, we'll get a take and bake pizza from Papa Murphy's.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Failures are learning experiences

I hadn't been posting on what things we've tried and haven't worked out but a friend suggested that I post the attempts as well, because those can be just as interesting, and certainly educational.  So, here are a couple of our big fails.

Tapping the maple trees -
We tapped two of our neighbor's trees.  Yes, they are maples.  Yes, they were tapped right (slightly angled so that the syrup runs down into the bag).  Yes, we asked permission from the neighbors.  No, we didn't tap too close together or too many taps in one tree.  Despite all those good things, we didn't get any syrup.  That's because we were about 2 weeks late.  Last year in mid March was the time to start tapping.  This year, the syrup season was already over by mid March.  Because it was so warm so early, there wasn't much a syrup season for anyone, but you'll miss the entire season if you don't get out there.  I knew we should have gotten out earlier, but we let our daily life activities get in the way.  We still wanted syrup, so we bought some from a local maple farm when we attended Maple Fest at the end of March (their season was done by that time too, but the fest was planned well before anyone would know when the season would end).  My mom, who was able to tap her trees and get some, said that she and her friend usually get 20-25 quarts each when they are done.  This year, they only got 5 quarts.  We'll try again next year.

Jaimie and our neighbor Jess 

The bathroom project -
This is a BIG fail.  We were so good as demolition.  It's the putting back together part that is the hold up.  I realize that some of this is my fault.  I believed, with Jaimie's ambition, that we could have this finished over his spring break.  Alas, it is now his week of finals over a month later and we still have no shower.  We tore out the rotted wall.  We scraped off the ugly chipped teal plastic tiles.  We hired a plumber to make sure it could get the tub hooked up, and hired an electrician to run some wires and install the fan.  Then we were left with putting up walls, painting, and putting in the tiles, toilet, and sink.

I painted the walls.  The colors were fine, thanks to my MIL.  How it looked on the very roughly sanded and chipped walls did not look so great.  We changed our minds on what we wanted for the tiles (white subway tiles measuring 3 inches by 6 inches to 12 inch by 12 inch ceramic tiles).  With Jaimie's spring break over by this time so he's busy with school, I realize that this project is not going the way we planned.  I also realize that I have some generalizations and preconceived notions about my husband that are really not fair.

It was my belief that men, as a sex, are good with tools.  I also believed that men, just by their virtue of being male, knew about construction and what it entails.  I also had this generalization about men when it came to car repair, but I am learning that it may be better to hire a professional.  Now I'm certain that we'd be able to figure it out, but the task seemed insurmountable with the every day activities taking priority.  (You can't really take off a week of school or work any time you want, and it's difficult to find the extra time with two babes in the house).  So, being overwhelmed we requested some assistance.

It took some calling around and figuring things out, but we hired someone to install the tile.  Fortunately, he was someone we trusted to be in our home while we were out of the house.  Over the course of a week, he put up the walls around the tub, put up the waterproof membrane, and put up the tiles.  He also tiled the floor (hey, if we've got a tile guy, might as well make use of his services).  He left the remaining work to be done for us, but we still weren't quite prepared to deal with it.  The walls were not connected on the sides of the tub, the tiles were too thick and/or not cut to fit the shower hardware, and the grout had cracked around the base of the tub both on the floor and around the tub (meaning it wouldn't be waterproof after sealing it, meaning that we wouldn't be able to shower).

A few more weeks pass and we haven't dealt with the bathroom still.  Yes, we do have another toilet and sink, so that's helpful.  We were thinking of finishing it off ourselves but still seemed too busy, especially now that planting season came early.  We realized that, if we don't get someone to do it, it's just not going to get done.  Jaimie decided that he is not confident in finishing up the project so we will be having someone do it for us. 

I am getting used to washing my hair in a tub.  It's not the easiest with bum-length hair but it's also not convenient to shower elsewhere, and I only wash my hair about twice a week anyway.  The girls think that it's fun to bathe in the kitchen sink (I don't want them splashing and getting the grout wet so only Jaimie and I are allowed to bathe in the tub).  I am looking forward to eventually having a shower in my own home again.

So there you have it.  We made many more fails than just these two, but these are the more interesting ones.  Even with these fails, I still get to relax tonight in a nice warm bath.

Menu plan 4/30/12

The past week we've gone out to eat a lot, which really makes the menu plan not work terribly well.  So, this week was quite a bit of repeats from last week that we didn't get to.

Sunday:  leftover chicken, carrots in brown sugar sauce, couscous

Monday: fish tacos with mango pineapple salsa and avocados
Tuesday: BBQ chicken pizza

Wednesday: falafel (with leftover mango pineapple salsa and baba ganoush)

Thursday:  out to eat when we used up some coupons for free rides at Nickolodeon Universe in the MOA.  Unfortunately, we then ate food court food.  Expensive and not very tasty or satisfying.

Friday:  Cheese quesadillas with choice of leftover dips/salsas (cherry salsa, baba ganoush, corn salsa from our day care provider, and a little mango pineapple salsa).

Saturday:  burgers on the grill with pickled veggies (beets, peppers, cukes)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Menu plan

I know that it's Tuesday already and haven't posted this week's menu, but that's because we're still working on eating leftovers from last week (I really don't like wasting food).  But, we've been enjoying our thyme polenta, our couscous and broccoli, and our pumpkin and Parmesan pasta.  We've got enough for lunches tomorrow, so we'll start this week's menu with Wednesday's dinner.

Wednesday: pad thai with mung bean noodles and various yummy veggies (and using up the pea pods and adding carrots)

Thursday: falafel with our homemade baba ganoush from last summer (like hummus made from eggplant instead of chick peas).

Friday:  If it's sunny, we'll grill out and have chicken, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes.  If it's rainy, then we'll have grilled cheese and creamy wild rice soup.

Saturday:  homemade BBQ chicken pizza.  It's very easy.  Just make your dough (we've got some in the freezer still), and top with BBQ sauce, tiny bits of chicken, chopped red onions, and mozzarella cheese. 

Sunday:  leftovers.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Pumpkin recipes - clearing out the freezer

I know that it's not the season, but after spending only $25 a week in groceries for 13 weeks, and refusing to buy a lot of foods when I know I'll be getting some from my own garden soon, we have a plethora of pumpkin left in the freezer (and rhubarb, and zucchini).

A few weeks ago I saw one of my FB friends post a recipe for a pumpkin and cream cheese roll.  I couldn't find it again but I found this recipe.  With much pumpkin left even with just the one quart bag we thawed, I found this site and followed a link to this delicious looking recipe for pumpkin rotini.  I think our toddler will be helping me make this, but we'll be making the pumpkin rotini with butter rather than margarine, and chives instead of shallots.  I'm looking forward to trying out some new recipes.