May 28, 2013

Trying to Move Forward?

It has been a really weird week around, weirder than usual.  Because of the holiday week end I just didn't get around to planning my menu and posting it over at Organizing Junkie's blog for MPM this week.  There are a little over a hundred that did post, so will spend this evening looking them over.

Last week's menu plan was followed about 50%, so not a total failure.  There were a few days that it just didn't work out to fix what was planned, and one night hubby took me out for a date.  Saturday the hubby went and played with some of his buddies so Miss Zebra and I amused our selves.  We stopped by the library so she could pick up a book, she came home with four.  Of course, since I was there, I picked up ten books and bought a stack of old magazines from the Library Friends room.  I was extremely pleased to have found a quilt magazine that had the very quilt I want to work on next in it.  I had tried to find that particular edition of the publication just for that quilt but it was out of print already.  Now I got it for .50 cents, so will have the detailed instructions.  Also grabbed up several Cooking Light magazines.  I was looking through the library shelves at some cookbooks, realized that several of those books are ones that I have been looking at on Amazon to purchase.  You see, cookbooks and quilt books are something that I am never sure of about purchasing because I never know if there are any projects that I would like to do, or recipes that I will make.  Since they were right there in front of me, I could actually read them page by page, I checked them out to bring home and look over.  I have this kind of rule, if I find more recipes that I like than I am willing to copy down, I buy the book.  Huge surprise of the bunch so far, The Red Hat Society Cookbook.  I bet there are at least 200 recipes in that thing I want to try.  I have ordered the cookbook.

Last night I tried the recipe for Squash, Corn Bread, Green Chile Bake.
This is all you need to make it.  Ignore anything behind the milk.  I believe it would be copyright infringement if I were to post the recipe, so I won't, but I will tell you it is one of the best things I have eaten in a long time and there wasn't much left.  The ingredients are: yellow squash, cornbread stuffing mix, diced tomatoes with green chile, onion, milk, egg and cheese.  You need a casserole dish and a sauce pan. I only had a can of stewed tomatoes with green chile so I pulled out my new Pampered Chef cutter that looks like a big pair of scissors but with double blades.  I put it right in the bowl of tomatoes, cut and cut and with in literally minutes, like about 2, I had diced tomatoes.

The results.
So delicious.  Although, I made a mistake and ended up adding too much liquid.  Now, I like a really moist mushy kind of dressing, more so than most around here, but had I made it correctly I think it would have set a little better and had a more defined texture.  I will be making it again, the family really like it, it was easy and quick, so will find out if my mistake made a lot of difference.  Did you notice that the casserole dish is blue instead of clear like the photo above?  You have to prepare the stuffing while the squash cooks. I cooked it in the microwave as I always do.  I am lazy about dirtying dishes so I just mixed it all in that same bowl instead adding it all together in a second dish.

Also, from that same cookbook, I made Kahlua Baked Beans.
There wasn't much of it left over either.  Now I didn't really care for them, but then I don't like coffee flavors or smell at all.  That being said, there was literally like three spoons of the stuff left and this makes a huge amount, and I halved the recipe.

On the menu last night was steak, baked potato, 7 layer salad, the squash casserole and the beans.  I made bread pudding for dessert, sent most of it home with my daughter-in-law.  More about the pudding later.  I also made a crazy good recipe that has been floating around on Facebook.  When I first saw the recipe, I knew that it would be perfect for using my Pampered Chef Brownie Pan.  Gosh, I am starting to sound like a commercial or something.  At any rate, here it is.  Beware, definitely not healthy.
 Take purchased chocolate chip cookie dough, the little squares, press each square into the bottom of each section of the pan. Smooth it out to cover the entire bottom to the edges.  Then place a peanut butter cup upside down in each section.  Cover each of those sections with brownie batter.  Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 18 minutes.
I think my brownie mix was little too thick, but it worked out fine.  The recipe said nothing about greased pan, and I know that you usually don't need to grease a baking pan for cookies, but...since this was a brand new pan, and thinking of the peanut butter cup, and knowing that I always light grease a pan when making brownies, I lightly sprayed the pan with butter flavored cooking oil before I started.  They came out of the pan perfectly.
Naturally, since it was the first time I had ever made this recipe, I braved it...made the sacrifice...bit the big one and tested out the chocochip peanutbutter cup brownie, myself.  Yes...I did! It was a big risk, but I did it for my family.

One more little commercial.  The Pampered Chef has a beautiful glass trifle bowl.  It comes with a nice glass pedestal that it can sit on and a plastic cover.  I love that the pedestal is a separate piece to make it easier to put the tall bowl itself in the fridge.  I know that a lovely trifle or other layered type of dessert will truly look lovely in it, but there are other dishes that be showcased in the glass dish.

So, I started with lettuce, then spinach, hard boiled egg, avocado, bacon bits, tomatoes, green onion, English peas, grated cheese and then the dressing.  So...maybe it is a 9 layer salad technically, but it must of been good because my hubby really liked it, took the time to tell me he liked it and how well I did making it.  There was so much of it, that over half of it is still left over.  I told him that I was glad he liked it...we would be having it again the next day.  Which will be tonight.

Finally, for my bread pudding experience.  This is how it all started.  My aunt, lived on the farm all of her life.  Grew up on a farm, married a farmer, even when he retired from farming they still lived in their little farm house.  When ever my kids were smaller, especially my oldest two, they would ride along with my dad occasionally when he would go check on them.  Aunt Lola would most always make bread pudding for dessert.  And she made the best I have ever tasted.  No raisins or nuts, no gourmet flavorings, she was what you would call a home style country cook.  Old time cooking, most of her dishes were recipes learned from her mother, or what she cooked during the depression.  I have tried so many recipes, and some have been very close, but just not quite it.  So, I started really thinking about it.  Of course I was not in the loop, so to speak, to receive any of her recipes.  I am adopted so to that part of the family I am not really family.  I won't even begin to go in to that whole story.  I am pretty sure that the person that did go through her household things probably threw them in the trash because they weren't worth any money...even though I would have gladly bought them.   Back to the point...I started thinking about the recipe in a little different way.  Knowing what I knew about her, I started working on finding a recipe that was based on ingredients she would have had, probably on hand since they lived out of town a ways and she didn't like to drive.  Taking all that in to consideration I look for recipes that have what I would call "normal country" ingredients.  I am sure she had real butter and heavy cream, she always had thick sliced bread, lots of spices and fresh eggs.  I went to the farmer's market over the week end and found a vendor that was selling guinea eggs, remembered that Aunt Lola always had a lot of guineas.  In fact when I was young I got to go look for their eggs...for some strange reason I always though it was the best of times when I could find those eggs in the old out house.  At any rate, I bought some.  I used them in the bread pudding recipe from last night.  It was recipe I found in a collection online of depression era recipes.    I had TOTALLY forgotten how hard those buggers are to crack open.  I didn't get a photo of the dish, and while everyone said how good it was, I was disappointed in it.  Before I put the sauce on it, it was really dry and crispy.  Then I added the sauce and it became a soggy mess.  It tasted like icing soaked cinnamon rolls actually, which isn't a bad thing, just not the flavor I was after.  I think that bread pudding really needs to have some soak time, for the egg mixture to soak in to all the bread pieces.  Oh well, try again and again.

Finally, we used to have a tan, non-descript house, looked like all the others on the block, and in town actually. 

As you see, kind of ordinary. 

But now, hubby has repainted the whole outside of the house, the trim, and the garage door and front door.

Isn't it just lovely?  I am going to find a big metal Texas star to hang over the garage and a chilerista to hang out front some where.  A chilerista is a string of red chile peppers, hung up to dry as a means of preserving.  Growing up in New Mexico, I developed a fondness for native American or southwest style d├ęcor.  Have never really developed in to anything, but am thinking it is time to change that a bit.  Wait until you see the yard art I am going to make.  Not really in keeping with the southwest theme, but oh so whimsical.

Thanks for stopping by, feel free to leave a comment, and stop back by often.


May 20, 2013

MPM For Week 5/20

Hello all, changes are taking place whether the family wants it or not.  For health reasons, it just has to be, mainly for my sake.  I have been diagnosed as diabetic, my doctor has told me that we can try controlling it by diet for a while.  So, I told hubby that we really have to change some things, and of course most of the changes are mine to make, such as better healthier eating and portion control.  Hubby told me that he wasn't the diabetic one, to that I replied that his cook is.

It has been a long time since I posted to Menu Plan Monday so am trying to get back on track.  Organizing Junkie has a great website and all the other great cooks that post their menu plans for the week are great inspiration.  This has been a really hectic week so I have yet to finalize my menu plan, but it is looking a little like this.

Monday - crock pot chicken - not decided on the recipe yet, veggies will depend on the recipe.
Tuesday - baked burrito casserole, Spanish rice, and Mexican salad
Wednesday - crock pot Tri-tip, cheesy baked corn, green beans
Thursday - Smothered pork chops, English pea salad, rice
Friday - Salmon patties, fried potatoes, coleslaw
Saturday - Something grilled - not sure about our schedule for the week end yet.
Sunday - Will be something from ground beef, depends on what I find at the farmer's market.

So...I do my menu planning a little differently than most.  I have decided to do two tried and true meals a week, new recipes the rest of the week.  My biggest challenge is to make sure I don't make the same kind of meat two days in a row.  I am pulling some of my older cookbooks and going to go through them for some good "Home Style" cooking.  My family just doesn't go in for sun dried tomatoes, gourmet mushrooms,  or any other of those types of ingredients.  We are a meat and potatoes family and don't apologize for it.  I am not really and advocate of organic or natural foods, however, that being said, I am slowly attempting to do more scratch cooking and less processed items.  I have a hectic schedule, just as many of you have, so I try to use the crock pots on days I know are going to very busy or short on time.  Today is a great example of that, I have a late doctor's appointment so am using the crock pot for the main dish.

I will also be baking some breads and desserts.  Although I can't have them, my nutrition class told me that having a small helping, like just a taste, doesn't hurt.  I will be trying some recipes that are more diabetic friendly.  I just finished a few weeks of cleaning and purging my pantry and freezers, along with an inventory of items, in an attempt to better utilize what I have on hand.  I have a well stocked kitchen.  As I posted Friday, I am getting tough with our budget.  I am going to be so tight with the wallet that it may just rust shut. Wish me luck as I endeavor to get back in the gym, this depends on what the doctor tells me at my visit.  I would not classify myself as morbidly obese, but probably am.  My goal is to loose a total of 80 pounds.  The first goal is to begin an exercise routine.  My first weight goal is to loose 20 pounds by July 19.  That is two months, or 8 weeks, and the recommended amount of weight to safely loose is 2.5 pounds a week. Which equals 20.  That is the day we leave for our family reunion slash vacation.  I would like to be a little lighter in order to better keep up with the activities.

In future post for MPM I will strive to include recipes or links to recipes.  If you see something you find interesting and I didn't post the recipe, feel free to leave a request in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by, come back and visit soon.

May 17, 2013

Hit The Dirt Running...Fall Flat Fast

Wow!  Did I ever have the greatest of plans when I created this blog.  I hit the dirt running with all the grand plans for an organized simplified better running life and fell horribly bodily face first into four feet of life's dirt and gunk.  In fact, having to admit this a little  okay, a lot red faced at the moment, but I had totally forgotten that I had gotten this blog established and was already planning to create an additional blog for the cooking and the house stuff.  Yes, I know, I have visions of grandeur. Every one has to have their quirks.

So, with that being said, it is on to bringing the blog up to date.

The SAVING PLAN:  I have actually kept up with that fairly well until the last month or so.  I will be catching that up on Monday though.  Plans have changed and my daughter is no longer planning on going on the church trip, however the goal amount is still in place and will be going to the cost of my new sewing machine instead.  I am using some special funds to go ahead and pay for the machine now, but am going to use the saving plan to pay that fund back.  I also helped a friend of mine out with a small loan and am praying that it doesn't end up biting me in the butt.  At any rate, that part is still fairly on track.

On another front, MEALS, I have been doing some serious thinking about that as well. I have one large freezer to empty out and defrost tomorrow, then the freezer section of two fridges.  Once I have it all pulled out and can organize it, I will then know exactly what I have on hand.  The inventory of my freezer will be the last part I need to once again start the process of menu planning.  I recently caught some great buys on meat so they are really stuffed in there.  I know there is some items that really need to be thrown away as well.  I absolutely HATE wasting food, but there is things in there that are either A) Way past their prime, B) Freezer burnt beyond hope of ever having any usefulness, or C) Just will never be eaten by this family.  Brussel sprouts comes to mind.

Thanks to Facebook, I have a stack of printed recipes that is literally inches thick ready to try. Most of them are desserts, so won't end up daily on the menu as realistically I don't plan to bake a cake or such each night.  However, the way the family ate the blackberry cobbler I made recently I might have to plan on it all being gone the night I make it.  Along with the stack of print outs, I have about two months of recipes bookmarked, another few months of recipes copied to Word and saved in a folder as well.  Not to mention the metal file cabinet full of printed recipe pages that are all neatly organized by dish type (vegetable, salad, fruit and such) along with blank menus.  All ready for me to create menu plans.

So...why menu plan you ask?  There are several benefits of menu planning.  It makes meal time more organized because you know ahead of time what you are going to be cooking so the mystery is gone and you can work the meals around the family plans. Such as sports events, scouts, school events, meetings and such.  In my case, this means planning meals around the days I have the grand son, Mr. M.  Now, also in my personal circumstances, I don't really plan for each day as much as plan meals to make for a set amount of days.  Our schedule is so varied and subject to change at the drop of hat that it works better for us that way and plan meals that can easily be moved from day to day.  For instance, hubby some times forgets (most of the time) that he has a meeting or that we are going to a company dinner.  Then, there are the days when my medical issues kick in and make it totally impossible for me get a darn thing done, much less cook an extensive meal. I will join back up with Meal Plan Monday, but it will work best for me to post a menu of what we had the previous week as opposed to the majority of the group that post menu for the week to come.  On a side note, that is why I am planning on doing a small freezer session, once I can get the room in the freezer for it.  For me though, the biggest reason for menu planning is that it SAVES A TON OF MONEY.  Yes, you have heard it before, but it really is true.  I can cut 30 - 40 percent of my spending by planning out the meals.  Why you ask? Because I know what I will be cooking which cuts down on impulse buying.  Fewer trips to the store as well.  Also, with planning out the recipes for the meals, a person can easily take advantage of weekly sales and loss leaders.  For instance, your local grocery has put ground beef on huge mark down, and also have a buy one get one free or 10 for $10 of soups,  pasta sauces, pasta and rice.  There you have some cheap fixings.  In my case, I have now stockpiled enough inventory in my pantry and freezer that I will be able to use my budgeted grocery money for stocking up when I need to again and find a good sale.  Actually, I am pretty well set to just put the bulk of my budget in to savings for a couple of months.

The small kink, very small, to the whole plan is that my oldest grand son, Mr. T who is 10 years old, is coming to visit for a few weeks (about 6 actually) and we will be taking him with us to hubby's family's reunion.  We are taking our RV for this, and will then do a few days in Yellowstone as we head to Texas to take him home and then I get to my other grand son (and brother to Mr. T) Mr. W who is 3 years old.  I AM SO EXCITED about this.  That will be two full weeks away from the house so not sure how I will handle the menu planning for that yet.  Also, we will be on baby watch for our first grand DAUGHTER to arrive as well.  They live here in town, I get the big brother Mr. M during the day already while they work. Mr. M will be two in July and Miss C is expected in July as well. LOVING that since the other two grand sons live in Texas and I only get to see them about once a year.

Speaking of budget, I am making a few changes to ours.  For one, accountability is non existent at the moment.  I have gotten to the point now where I can actually start tracking not only our purchases but also the cash spending as well.  I can honestly admit, since I am in the mood to make some changes, that we spend a huge amount of money on eating out.  That has to stop and I am the guilty one that wants it most.  My hubby eats out every day at lunch with his job.  I can document what he spends on his own, but it will be up to him to change that.  We have done all we can to cut down our other living expenses so that is done as well. In fact, I used some inheritance I received to pay off our second mortgage in order to end that payment.  Of course, we are still putting that money out there in the form of improvements on the house.  New paint job to outside of house, new cable lines, pool equipment (which replaced what was original to the house when built in 1985), some new carpet in two rooms so far.  In the planning stages are two bathroom make-overs (gutting and new fixtures) and moving the current small laundry room (which will be turned in to a large pantry/storage room) out to a larger space in the garage and a total kitchen make-over.  The kitchen will be out of commission for close to four months.  I will still be able to use the stove and fridge, but not sure where I will put all my pantry and cookware stuff.  I am so looking forward to getting the kitchen done.

Guess that pretty much winds things up for the moment. Now hopefully I will be getting myself back on track over the week end.  Although, Sunday will be spent in a class to learn how to use my new sewing machine.  I have never had a machine that I had to learn how to use before.  I just looked over the quick start manual and starting sewing.  This machine however is a different matter.  It has built in quilting options, does regular sewing, built in embroidery stitches and comes with and embroidery unit.  Pretty sure I am going to be investing an additional $200 for a proper case for it as well.  At this point, not really planning on hauling this caliber of machine back in forth for sew-in sessions or quilt classes, but I will need some type of protection for the embroidery unit as I won't be using it on a regular basis.  However, once I learn how to use it, that may change.

So...the plan is to get the menu planned for at least two months, schedule or chart made to organize house hold chores, schedule made for doctor appointments, meetings and gym time, scheduling time for sewing as well.  With every thing going on over part of the summer, I will however have about a month with daughter Miss Zebra out of school and my daughter in law will be on maternity leave for a few weeks and I will be taking advantage of that time to hopefully jump start my two new business ventures.  One is Pampered Chef, the other is opening up an Etsy store for selling some vintage items as well as some hand made items (quilts, pillow cases, crochet and such).  I make a lot of items I donate to charity and with the change in the babysitting coming I hope to get some items stocked up until I see how the my time is going to work out this fall.

That is it, once again big plans, check back and see how I'm doing with it all.