Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Restaurant.com Sale

I don't usually do posts like this, but this is too good of deal not to share heavily!  From now until December 31, you can get $25 Restaurant.com gift certificates for only $2!!!  So you'll be able to get a good meal at a restaurant for the price of eating at home.

Click on the link below and use the promo code "SALE" to take advantage of this fantastic offer:

Restaurant.com Weekly Promo Offer 468 x 60

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meal Plan Monday--December 19-25

Again, because of the holidays, this is a slightly abbreviated meal plan, since I'm not responsible for providing dinner for all of the days.  Here are the meals I have planned for the week though:

Monday: creamy baked penne & chicken with mushrooms
Tuesday: (fried?) chicken, potatoes au gratin, green beans
Wednesday: venison stew
Thursday: tacos
Friday: turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies, cranberries (?), pie
Saturday: not my problem
Sunday:  breakfast feast of omelets, strawberries (frozen in the summer), & either blueberry muffins or maybe cinnamon rolls

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Upcycled candles

I used beeswax for these because I had some available and that way I could be sure there wasn't artificial fragrances in them that may cause me to have an asthma attack, but they just as easily could be made with any freshly bought wax or recycled old candles.  I could have dyed the wax with food coloring or crayon nubs, but I love that creamy beeswax color almost as much as the smell!  I seriously need to see about getting me some bees!

I got the containers I made them in from a thrift store and most of them were on sale, so I paid $1.48 for all four of them.  They're so cute and smell so nice with their natural, unadulterated beesy smell, I'm rethinking the whole giving-them-as-gifts things.

And they are so easy to make!  I just washed the containers, made sure they were thoroughly dry, melted the wax in a fake double boiler (a small casserole dish floating in a larger pan of water), used some melted wax to affix the storebought wick to the bottom, and poured the wax in.  The teacup, I affixed the saucer to the cup with some adhesive putty the day after I made them so I was sure the wax was really hard.  That's it.  Quicky, super cute gifts for about $2.50 each, including the cost of the wax (which I was given, so I didn't even have to pay that!).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Crunchtime--my plan to get it all done without freaking out

I can't believe I now have less than a week to go until the Christmas festivities begin.  We're having a celebration on Friday with my mother-in-law, plus Christmas Eve and Christmas day are both completely dedicated to family time.  Here's my plan for getting it all done without procrastinating and hopefully taking life into account:

Today, I will be doing a preliminary cleaning of the house, making sure everything is put away, dishes are done, laundry is caught up, and so forth.  Basically, prepping for more thorough cleaning later in the week and making sure I'm not more distracted from my holiday tasks than I need to be.  I'm also hoping to make some no-bake cookies to have as snacks on hand for the week and to get me a chocolate fix if I start to feel a minor freak-out coming on.  If time permits, I also would like to get started on presents for the adults on my list, by grating beeswax for candles I'll be making, but I don't know if I'll get around to that.  Tomorrow is supposed to be a family day, but if I am already falling behind on my plans, I may try to catch up some in the evening, or sneak a little work on the kids' presents I still have to make after they go to sleep.

Monday and Tuesday are craft days.  I'm tentatively planning on finishing the kids' presents, felt food for my kids, the treasure jar for my nephew, and painting a couple other little things for my kids on Monday, but I may have to shift things around, depending on how I can do things without little eyes witnessing.  By the end of Tuesday, I definitely should have the candles made and, hopefully, the kids' presents will be done too.  By the end of Tuesday, I'll also have put together the menu for Friday's dinner as well.

Wednesday, I'll have Decembers food stamp money in, so I plan on going grocery shopping to pick up any regular food we need for the week, anything I might need to buy for Friday's dinner (quite likely nothing, actually!), and maybe get some treats for the kids' stockings.  I plan on spending the evening wrapping any presents that still haven't been wrapped, like the ones I'll have made the days prior.

Thursday, I'll make anything I can make ahead for Friday's dinner.  I don't know what all this will include yet, since I haven't figured out the menu, but I'll try to include as much as possible that I can make the day before to free up Friday for other things.  I definitely plan on making pies at least on Thursday.  Apple and pumpkin, maybe?

Friday, earlier in the day will be baking time.  I'm plan on giving my mother-in-law a gift basket of homemade jams and bread (sourdough?) for her birthday, which is on Wednesday, but we won't see her until Friday when she comes up for Christmas stuff, so I'll be baking the bread the same day so it will be as fresh as possible.  After that, I will need to keep the oven available to stick the turkey (and anything else that needs to be in the oven) until after dinner.  After dinner, I'll just stick everything in the fridge to be dealt with later.  Once things wind down for the evening, I'll be making some acorn pound cake to include in my stepmother-in-law and father-in-law's gift basket of tasty things you can't buy in the store.  If I have time, I may also make some green tortilla chips to go with the apple-tomato salsa I'll be including.

Aaaaaaand, Christmas is essentially here with the whirlwind of festivities Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, things will have calmed down and returned to normal, at which time I'll clean up the carnage from Sunday morning's excitement, debone the turkey and freeze the meat, and start the stock, which I will can when it is done.

I'm pretty sure that's everything I have to do yet!  I hope it is, because I'm already getting stressed out just looking at it, even though it doesn't really look like too much.  *deep breaths*  I can do this!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The End of My X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

Those that have been following my X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge for the past few weeks may remember that I said that there was no way I could quit (barring a major financial turn for the better) or cheat on my food stamp challenge.  As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised today to find out that I was wrong.

Today started out on a fairly low note on the food front.  Yesterday was another boring day of cereal for breakfast for my husband and kids, leftovers for some and sandwiches for others for lunch and/or dinner (I just had one meal of leftovers, as did my husband, but the kids helped themselves to the last of the bread for PB & J sandwiches, self-serve style), ended with some of the cookies and chocolate covered pretzels I made last night.

I was half almost-excited and half sad on my trip to the store this morning.  Excited(ish) because it was the beginning of a new month for WIC so I could get milk, juice, and more cereal, pretty important stuff with my 12 year old arriving tomorrow, who is a milk-drinking, cereal-eating fiend.  Sad because I'd decided to spring for another pound of butter, but I had to borrow money from my 2 year old to do it.  How sad is that when you have to borrow money from a 2 year old?  (Since I know at least some people are wondering, their grandma has a tendency to give the kids her coins and/or bottle return money when they go to visit her and he brought back a handful of coins after being babysat there the other day.)  So here are my receipts from that shopping trip, first WIC, then the last little bit of my food stamp money for the month:
The apples were in the reduced for quick sale area, which is why they were so cheap
This food would have been enough to get us by for the month, to be sure, especially when combined with what I already have put up from this summer's efforts of gardening, gleaning, canning, and more.


I got a wonderful surprise.  One of my friends, a fan of this page and general troublemaker in a good way had mentioned a few days ago that she had some hand-me-downs and "stuff" she wanted to get to me, either when I headed into town, or she could pop out for a visit.  She came by today and I found out what "stuff" meant!  She brought a van full (not up to the top, but enough stuff that all the seats were down) including: some gifts for the family and food!!!  There was a big box of granola, some vegetable oil, salt, raisins (what luxury!  I've been wanting raisins for a while, but couldn't fit them into the budget!), baking powder, 2 pounds of yeast, a big bag of small flour tortillas, another big bag of corn tortillas, 7 pounds of brown sugar, 50 pounds of all-purpose flour, 25 pounds of bread flour, 10 pounds of rice, 9 pounds of oats (if only I'd known about that this morning!), 2 boxes of graham crackers (more luxury I've been wishing for!), a giant bag of chocolate chips, sugar, ketchup, and some Diet Coke!  I had to find some new places in the house to stash all this stuff because it wouldn't all fit in my kitchen!  This is why I feel I can't continue the challenge: my house now strongly resembles one of those "crazy survivalists" (no offense to my crazy survivalist friends) through no effort or money on my part!  If we are still struggling financially in the summer, I might do another one though, so you can see how we eat in less embarrassing times of the year when if someone is hungry, they can go outside and pick some! 

Chocolate Covered Shortbread & Pretzels--Week #12 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

I can't believe we are already to week 12 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies!  How did that happen?  I've been meaning this whole time to do something super cute with shortbread, but hadn't gotten around to it yet, so I made sure it happened this week and here it is:
I used the alphabet cookie cutters from a Farberware set that I got for Christmas a few years ago, but it is no longer available.  You can get lots of other brands of alphabet cookie cutters from Amazon though (including many that are eligible for free Super Shipper Savings on orders of $25 or more and in time for Christmas!).

Shortbread Cookies
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together butter and sugar.  Slowly blend in flour, using hands if necessary to finish.  On a lightly floured cloth, roll out to a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Use small cookie cutters, approximately 1-1 1/2 inches, to cut into shapes.  (Use the open top kind, since the covered ones are hard to get the dough out of without mutilating the cookie.)  Gently place on ungreased cookie sheet or baking stone and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from baking sheet and let cool.

Chocolate Coating for Cookies, Pretzels, and More
1 cup chocolate chips
1/4 to 1 cup butter

Melt together chocolate chips and butter in a double boiler.  The more butter you use, the thinner the coating will be.  Dip cookies, pretzels, or other snacks into chocolate dip and set on waxed paper.  Refrigerate if needed to be set quickly or can be left to set at room temperature overnight.  In the above picture, I used less butter for the cookies (and probably resulted in a lot more broken cookies as a result) and thinned it out to the half butter, half chocolate mixture for the pretzels.  I used a toothpick to remove excess chocolate from the holes and curves of the cookie letters and the holes of the pretzels.
Let's see what everyone else baked up for the final week of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wait? What Happened?--X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

I'm not sure what happened with the food yesterday, but I know it didn't cost much.  The day started great on the food acquisition front: a local lady we know, the wife of my son's baseball coach last summer and a reader of this blog, stopped by and generously gave us a turkey, a couple breakfast Hot Pockets, and a few snacky stuff.  I'll admit that the kids and I attacked the snacky stuff.  It is so rare to have something like that in the house, it is a special treat.  The kids were mostly interested in the pretzels and Goldfish crackers, but I went for the granola bars.  Sadly, this was our breakfast.  My husband had a bit more sense and had some cereal.  The kids had juice to drink, I had Diet Coke, and my husband just had tap water.  At some point during the afternoon, the entire bag of Goldfish was devoured, and the remainder of the cake my mother-in-law had sent home with us vanished as well, but I don't know how much was my husband and how much was the kids being "helpful".  The kids also all had chocolate milk (regular milk mixed with homemade chocolate syrup as an afternoon treat).

For dinner, we had the leftover spaghetti sauce my mother-in-law sent home with us with half a box of whole grain spaghetti I cooked up.  The kids also finished off the salad my husband couldn't finish at the hospital the previous day as a side.  I also turned some of the regular, store bought bread I had into garlic bread to serve as a side as well.  To make garlic bread, I melted 4 tbsp butter and mixed it with garlic powder, Parmesan cheese, and parsley, wrapped it in foil and baked it at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.  The kids and I had milk to drink with dinner.  I told my husband that meals like that are why I can't stand to go to restaurants like the Olive Garden anymore.  That entire feast (minus the drinks) probably cost us less than $1, but if we went out to eat for something like that, it would probably be at least $8-9 per person.  What a rip off!  Even if I'd had to prepare the sauce and salad from stuff we had at home, it would have cost about the same, since the sauce would likely be from homegrown tomatoes and the salad either grown by me or bought with WIC.

After dinner is where it got a little confusing.  I finally gave in to the major headache that had been plaguing me since I woke up and took a little nap.  When I woke up, I discovered that the kids had gotten into the homemade fruit leathers that were in the fridge and my husband had finished off another bag of tortilla chips.  I found out today that he'd taken what was left of the spaghetti sauce from dinner and used it as a chip dip.  To me, that sounded pretty icky, but he said it was kind of like eating mozzarella sticks without the mozzarella.  I snacked a bit after I got up from my nap too, having a bit of tortilla chips and my homemade apple-tomato salsa with a Diet Coke as I worked on making more felt food for the kids' Christmas presents, and finishing off the night's eating with a couple no-bake cookies from the freezer. 

On the felt food front, I finished up the bread pieces last night and started making a slice of Cheddar for the sandwich set.  As of right now, I've made 4 pieces of bread (2 light, 2 darker to be more toast like), 2 sunnyside up eggs, 4 slices of bacon, and one piece of cheese.  I'm planning on giving 2 of the kids each a "breakfast" set of a piece of toast, 2 strips of bacon, and an egg, and the third child will be getting a "sandwich" of 2 pieces of bread, 2 slices of cheese (one Cheddar and one Swiss), lettuce, tomato, and maybe some bologna.  I figure that will split the food up fairly equally and give them lots of opportunities to mix and match and play together.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

$1.50 for 8 Days: X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

My husband had a doctor's appointment yesterday, which saved us a chunk of money on food, strangely enough.  First, while the kids and I finished off the spinach bagels with some cream cheese (kids drank juice, I had a Diet Coke), he could only have water because of stuff that was happening during his appointment.  Secondly, they had screwed up the scheduling of a prior appointment, so they gave him a couple vouchers for lunch in the hospital cafeteria by way of apology, so my husband and I ate lunch there while the kids ate at their grandma's house since she was babysitting them.  Later, my mother-in-law, the aforementioned grandma, had dinner ready for everyone.  Strangely enough, it was spaghetti, as I had planned for home.  She sent us home with plenty of leftovers, including half a cake and a bunch of sauce, so all I had to worry about feeding people all night were snacks.  For snacks in the evening, the kids had some of that cake and my husband and I had some chips and salsa, and everyone had a few of the cookies I'd put up in the freezer.
While we were someplace that had stores, I picked up a few things we were out of, white whole wheat flour, butter, milk, chocolate chips, and pop (gotta have my caffeine!).  That leaves us with $1.50 to feed 6 people (my oldest arrives for the holidays on Friday!  Yay!) until the 21st.  Kind of.  The new WIC cycle begins on Thursday, which will let me at least get some milk, cheese, juice, fresh produce, cereal, and bread or other whole grains for free.  This sounds really bad, but, really, I could probably keep everyone feed and mostly happy with what's in the house for another month if I had to.

Looking at the sales, it would be really nice if DHS got their stuff together this week and increased our food stamps to what they are supposed to be, since at $2.00 a pound for butter, that would definitely be something worth stocking up on!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Oops, Fudge & a Meal Plan--X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

Yesterday started off fairly decently on the food front.  The kids and I enjoyed homemade spinach bagels with cream cheese for breakfast (and I had a Diet Coke, surprise, surprise).  In fact, the kids liked them so much that my daughter sneaked another one when I wasn't looking and my two year old swiped the last few bites of mine off my plate when I was typing up yesterday's post!

It was shortly after breakfast when I came across an easy, healthy-ish recipe for fudge online that was based on a recipe in a book I own, Nourishing Traditions.  Since the book version was closer to what I wanted and had ingredients I actually had on hand, I grabbed it off the shelf and whipped some up.  Check out how easy this stuff is:  throw 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup cocoa powder (the book said carob powder, but I wanted the good stuff), 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 tsp vanilla, and about 1/8 tsp sea salt in a food processor;  blend it up, then smooth it into a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap (the book said parchment paper, but, again, I'm going with what I had); stick in the fridge to chill for about a half an hour.  Voila!  Almost instant, rich, creamy fudge!

The rest of the afternoon, the kids and I snacked on a little fudge here and there, as well as homemade fruit leathers and dried pears.  At some point, my daughter asked if she could make peanut butter sandwiches for her and her brother and I said that was fine, mentally scratching off "coming up with lunch" off my mental "to-do" list (which is a lot more in-depth than my actual to do list). 

At nearly 8pm, I realized that I must have accidentally scratched my lunch off my mental to-do list as well, since all I'd eaten all day was that bagel, a little fudge, and a fruit leather.  Oops.  Dinner for the kids was the last of the leftover zesty mac and cheese, and a little tomato soup.  I had the rest of the tomato soup, what didn't boil over onto the stove when I was changing a diaper anyway, and one and a half grilled cheese sandwiches (real cheddar.  Yum!).  My daughter helped herself to the other half of one of my sandwiches.  I had a Diet Coke with dinner and the kids had juice.

Shortly after dinner, I started to herd the monkeys to bed, since we had to get up "early" today.  Hey, 9:30 is early for us!  By this time, my mighty hunter husband had returned from his latest hunting attempt and had a little fudge as well.  I had a bit of chips and homemade salsa and went to bed as well.
This week, I'm going to try to get the freezer more stocked with ready to heat and eat meals.  I really liked the half and half deal with that chicken and rice casserole I made last week, where we ate half then and froze the other half for another day, so I tracked down the book that originally inspired the internet recipe I was working off of, The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, from the library and found a few more recipes to mutilate until they are completely unrecognizable from their current form, because that's how I roll.  Here is this week's meal plan, with a heavy emphasis on trying to cook a fair number of meals for during the holiday madness as well: 

Monday: spaghetti & meatballs (in marinara sauce from the book)
Tuesday: pasties
Wednesday: venison stew
Thursday: creamy baked penne & chicken with mushrooms
Friday: chili
Saturday: chicken enchiladas
Sunday: venison pot pie

Sunday, December 11, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--Baking frenzy

Yesterday, I continued my theme of reorganizing, restructuring, and cleaning out the freezers. 

But first: breakfast!  I opened up a jar of potatoes my mom had grown and canned last year, mashed them up, mixed in a chopped up tomato, onion, and green pepper from my garden, seasoned it with some basil (from Freecycle), oregano (from my mom), garlic powder, and a little sea salt.  Then I cooked it all up in a little bit of olive oil, hash brown style, and topped with a little feta cheese when it was nice and light brown on both sides.  Of course, the kids wanted it with ketchup, but I thought it was great as it was, with a Diet Coke to drink.

After breakfast, I started on the day's mission: filling the freezer with ready-to-eat goodies for when my 12 year old of the huge appetite arrives Friday.  I made peanut butter cookies, chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, and spinach bagels (not that I really think the spinach bagels will really last that long, but it was part of my baking frenzy nonetheless). 

No, I'm not going to put up the bagel recipe I used, because it wasn't that great.  I will be perfecting a spinach bagel recipe and probably other flavors as well (I had a really great idea on how to make the perfect strawberry bagel last night, but will have to try it first), then I will post them.
In my search for the baggie of spinach I knew had to be in there somewhere, I entirely reorganized the freezers so I can find things when I need them, get at things easily when I'm making meals or if someone needs a snack, and have enough room for the venison my husband will be bringing back with him when he comes home from his hunting trip today (no, he hasn't gotten another deer.  This is from the beginning of the firearm season last month.  He's just no getting around to bringing it home)

For dinner, I had some shipwreck that had been frozen as an individual meal and the kids had zesty mac-n-cheese.  We snacked throughout the day on the cookies (and milk) and pretzels I made, as well as homemade pear fruit leathers I pulled out of the freezer.  The kids also ate a small jar of homemade applesauce and enough dried pears that I was a tad worried they'd be having some digestive issues.  I had some tortilla chips and apple-tomato salsa.  I found myself giggling with a little glee when cracking open the applesauce, salsa, fruit leathers, and dried pears, because I thought it was really cool that we were enjoying the fruits (haha) of my labor a month or two ago now that snow is on the ground!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--freezer re-do

Noticing how badly I've been eating seems to have prompted me to eat a bit better yesterday.  Yes, I still had homemade (whole wheat) cookies and a Diet Coke for breakfast, but it was our "early" morning when we have to be out of the door no later than 10:45, an earlier time than we are usually even awake in the colder months, so there wasn't time for an actual breakfast.  The kids had dry cereal in a snack cup to-do and sippy cups of juice for a cheap breakfast on the go.

I decided that since half the family isn't here for a few days, this would be a good time to clean out the fridge and freezer of leftovers rather than making new family sized dishes and having lots of leftovers.  For lunch, we cleaned out the fridge by my killing off the chicken and rice casserole from the other day and they finished off the macaroni & cheese and green beans from the night before.  We then killed off the cookies I made on Wednesday.  For dinner, we had leftover chicken teriyaki that had been frozen in individual meal sizes, since who knows how long it will be until individual sized frozen meals are needed again and they are just taking up valuable freezer space in the meantime, and milk to drink. 

I'm hoping to refill some of that emptied freezer space with cookies and other baked goods.  My 12 year old comes up for the holidays on Friday and that boy can eat!  He ate an entire pumpkin pie by himself on Thanksgiving and my mom is fairly certain his dad isn't feeding him enough went he's there (no, she's not one of those people that thinks everyone needs to eat more either.   This is a very oldest-grandchild specific thing), so I'm trying to make sure there is plenty of things for him to eat while he's here, without me spending every minute of his being here trying to feed him!  I already have homemade pickles, applesauce, and salsa as well as frozen blueberries and home-canned peaches and pears he could have, but I still want to get some other things, like maybe pretzels, yogurt, and energy bars, made as well. 

As part of this effort, I made no-bake cookies last night, which the little ones and I enjoyed with some milk as a snack (and later I had a second snack of them with a cup of fruity tea) in the evening.  After the kids went to bed, I decided to up my fruit/veggie total for the day with some homemade apple-tomato salsa and tortilla chips (with a Diet Coke). 

Hopefully, I can get a few more batches of cookies and such made today while the people that would be likely to eat them as fast as I can make them aren't here!

Friday, December 9, 2011

My Husband Left Me to Go on a Killing Spree--X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

Yesterday, the kids and my husband had cereal (some of the stuff we got on clearance the other day) with milk for breakfast.  I was bad and just had a couple cookies I'd made the night before and a Diet Coke.  The kids and my husband also had cookies, but theirs were snacks.  Before dinner, which was baked macaroni & cheese and sauteed green beans that I'd frozen from my garden, my husband left to go to his dad's for a few days to do some more hunting.  Regular deer firearm season is over, but muzzleloading season is still going on, so he left for a few days to see if he can get some more good, healthy, sustainable, environmentally friendly, humane-as-possible-for-meat-to-be meat for the year.  Late last night, I had a snack of tortilla chips and

It occurred to me that some might think it is isn't "fair" that my husband and the occasional child are leaving during this challenge, but if you consider that most people with school aged kids who are on food stamps have their kid(s) fed by the school system for lunch and likely breakfast as well, via the free school lunch program, I still have a much harder deal, not to mention we are still getting waaaaaaaaaaaay less than the average for a family of our size for food stamps.  Heck, I'm pretty sure we are getting less than most families of 2, so even though, at this very moment, it is just me and 2 kids here (the 12 year old is still at his dad's until next Friday, the 6 year old is visiting his grandma again for a few days, and, of course, my husband left me to go on that killing spree), we are still below average on how much we get in food stamps!

Another random realization:  I eat like crap in the winter.  During the warmer months, I get up much earlier, get a decent breakfast in (most days), get to work doing whatever I need to do that day, break for lunch, get back to work doing whatever, stop to make dinner, eat, and then do household tasks.  Winter, it's like I'm semi-hibernating.  I sleep as late as I possibly can, may or may not have anything for breakfast, do a few things, then it's nearly dinner time so I make dinner, we eat dinner, I do a few more things, put the kids to bed, then either do some more useful things or maybe *gasp* relax a little and have a snack. Is that weird or do other people do that too?  Do you alter your eating habits in other ways in the winter?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Red Velvet (or not) Snowcapped Cookies--Week 11 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

The good news: I finally got a chance to test my homemade natural beet-based red food coloring and you can't taste the beetiness.

The bad news:  it isn't strong enough to show through the cocoa powder in a red velvet environment.

So my "red velvet" snowcapped cookies aren't very red.  More of a brown really.  They're still yummy and velvety though!

My followers on Facebook may recognize this concept from a Mr. Food segment I mentioned last week.  I thought his snowcapped red velvet cookies were cute as heck, but I was very disappointed when I saw the "recipe" on his website.  The "ingredients" for the "recipe" were red velvet cake mix, eggs, vegetable oil, water, white chocolate chips, and a container of cream cheese frosting.  Good golly, Miss Molly!  Shouldn't someone whose name is Mr. Food use ingredients that are actual, ya know, food???

So here is my adaptation, using food, not premade mixes and packages of garbage.  I have included how much artificial food coloring you would want to use if you choose to use such things, but if you use a natural version, you may need to use much, much more to get that pretty red color.  Or you could remember that food is about taste, not so much color, and just omit it for a chocolaty cookie without the fancy trappings.

Red Velvet (or not) Snowcapped Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp red food coloring (optional)
2/3 cups cocoa powder
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
6 tbsp butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream together 1 cup butter, sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer.  Blend in egg and 2 tsp vanilla until smooth.  Beat in food coloring, if using.  Stir in cocoa, flour, baking soda and salt, making sure to scrape down sides.  Stir in white chocolate chips.  Place byrounded tablespoons on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until set.  Cool completely.

Blend together butter, cream cheese, and vanilla.  Slowly add powdered sugar and cream until smooth.  Scoop frosting into a plastic baggy, cut a corner of the baggy with kitchen shears and squeeze peaks of frosting onto each cookie.


Let's see what everyone else is baking up this second to last week of Christmas Cookies:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I've Been a Baaaaaaaaaaad Girl--X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

So we just got back from running errands and grocery shopping a little bit ago.  We also did a fair amount of visiting with relatives, so the only food that has been consumed from our house today so far have been a couple of bananas that we just bought at the store, the cereal with milk the kids had for breakfast, and a can of Diet Coke.  Oh, and my husband killed off the bag of chocolate chips he's been pilfering for the past couple days (I might have had a couple, since it was open).  I still need to make my cookies for the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookie entry for tomorrow, so I know we'll eat some of those, most likely with milk, but other than that, I think we are done eating for the day around here.

Here are the receipts from today's trip:
I want to point out again that things like facial tissues (aka Kleenex) aren't covered by food stamps, but bottle deposits are, so when I buy pop and bring the empty cans back to the store, it lets me buy things like that without spending actual money.

Here's where I was bad.  I bought a loooooooot of things that weren't on my list.  Some of this was because I brought my husband with me and he insisted we needed some cereal to get us by until our new WIC cycle starts next Thursday.  I saw a large 2 pound bag of fake Honey Nut Cheerios on clearance for $1.49, so I did okay that, but then he wanted a second kind!  They had the big Frosted Mini-Wheats on clearance for $1.75, so I okayed that purchase as well. 

The rest of the overbuying was my own fault/call/decision.  Refried beans, pasta,  and condensed milk weren't on my list, but they were all on really good sale, so I went ahead and got them for the pantry for future weeks.  I also got more cream cheese and tortilla chips than I would have gotten if they weren't on sale.  All in all, I spent an additional $12.43 because of buying extra staples on sale, but since I apparently (according to the top of my receipt) had non-coupon savings of $20.56 on a total of 28 items, I don't think we did too badly.  Of course, spending as much as I did only leaves us with $16.40 to last us until the 21st, but with WIC starting fresh next week, that should be fine. 

Which brings us to my WIC receipt:
Nothing exciting there, but in the interest of full disclosure, there it is.

Soft Pretzel Recipe, Felt Breakfast & Eating Steak on Food Stamps--X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge

Yesterday for breakfast, we ate the blueberry bread that had been my blueberry bagel fail with cream cheese.  Not super exciting or delicious, definitely not something I'll make again, but edible and at least fairly nutritious.

For an afternoon snack, I made soft pretzels from scratch.  I initially put cinnamon & sugar on them, but everyone except my daughter decided they were better plain with mustard instead.  Either way, they were a lot healthier than anything you could buy at the store and they were a lot lower sodium!  The kids had milk with their pretzels and I had my second Diet Coke of the day.

Soft Pretzels
1 package yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp honey
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
cinnamon & sugar for topping (optional)
pretzel salt for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 425.  Mix yeast, water, sugar, salt, and honey in a large mixing bowl.  Add the flour and stir in completely.  Sprinkle a small amount of flour on a clean surface and knead dough 5-10 minutes, or until smooth.  Divide dough and form into desired pieces (letters or numbers would probably be fun for small children).  Place shapes on greased baking sheet.  Brush with beaten egg and add any additional toppings you desire.  Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Let cool slightly before serving.  They can be frozen and reheated in the microwave.
We couldn't end up having pasties for dinner as I had planned because we were almost completely out of butter, so we ended up having a steak dinner instead.  People always rail against people on food stamps eating steak dinners, but, let me tell you, this was a super cheap thing for us to be eating.  First off, the steak was venison that my husband had killed himself.  We did end up paying to have it professionally processed (because he was still working at the time and didn't have time to do it, or a good place, since around the time he shot it was when they were supposed to be remodeling the garage), but even that works out to be about $0.70 a pound and we only ate a pound of meat for dinner between all of us.  The bulk of the dinner consisted of a deluxe baked potato.  The potatoes were the last couple of a 10# bag I had gotten at a farmers market this fall for $3, which was more like $1.50 for the bag with the Double Up Food Bucks program (or free, depending on how you look at it, since they were grown in Michigan and purchased with the free tokens because of that).  The broccoli was some that I'd gotten free from the Broccoli Lady, a person that offered up a bunch of broccoli on Freecycle that I was happy to receive from her.  The cheese sauce was made with the fat drippings of the steak, a little flour, a little milk, and a couple ounces of cheese (so about $0.40 worth at what I paid for it).  So all in all, with the sour cream and steak sauce thrown in there, we paid probably less than $1.50 for all of us for that dinner!  The kids and I had milk for dinner, which might have put us over that $1.50 mark, but it was covered by WIC.

A bit after dinner, my husband asked if I could bring him some chocolate chips.  I told him I didn't think we had any, but he said we did because he had gotten into some the night before.  Sure enough, I looked and he had found the chocolate chips I'd hidden in case of a chocolate emergency.  *sigh*  So he and the kids had chocolate chips for dessert.

Late at night, to celebrate the completion of my first piece of felt bread, my husband and I had a bit of ice cream with homemade chocolate syrup on top.  That turned out to be a bit of a mistake though, since then I was shivering like crazy as I worked on the second piece of bread.  I got it done though, so now mt felt food totals are 2 eggs, 4 pieces of bacon, and 2 pieces of bread/toast.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole and more

Yesterday, I decided to fake it until I make it and get my butt in gear in order to make me feel like getting my butt in gear.  Of course, I didn't decide this until the afternoon, so my husband and I didn't have our breakfast of blueberry muffins (I had a Diet Coke, he had water, the kids had milk) until about 3 in the afternoon.  The kids had cereal for breakfast several hours before that.

I spent much of the afternoon and early evening rounding up recipes to make groceries from the basic ingredients I either have on hand or can afford, as well as coming up with a recipe for last night's dinner of cheesy chicken and rice casserole.  I was quite pleased with the recipe I came up with, which was loosely based on a recipe that apparently was based on a recipe from the book The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, so it was something that could be frozen as well and had a option of eating some now and freezing some for later:  my kind of deal!  I only used about half of the same ingredients, cut out a lot of the work, and made it a heck of a lot cheaper than the original recipe though, especially since I used leftover Thanksgiving turkey I had frozen instead of chicken, chicken stock I made instead of store bought chicken broth, milk instead of cream, and veggies gleaned from my mom's garden.  Oh, and I used mild cheddar that I bought in bulk instead of the sharp cheddar the recipe I was working from, so I only paid about $2.50 for the entire recipe, which yielded two casseroles to be eaten on different nights, not a bad deal!
Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked chicken or turkey, shredded 
1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
1 1/2 cup carrots, sliced or diced
1 1/2 cup peas
2 cups Cheddar cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
black pepper and salt, to taste
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

Melt the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and salt and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cayenne.  Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the stock, water, and milk.  Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for about 10 minutes.  Stir in rice; cover.  Simmer 20 to 25 minutes, stirring frequently, until rice is just tender.  While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  When the rice is done, remove from heat and stir in chicken, peas, carrots, Cheddar, and lemon juice.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour mixture into 2 casserole dishes.  Mix together bread crumbs and melted butter until it becomes crumbly.  Spread over the 2 casseroles.  Cover one with plastic wrap and foil.  The other, bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Label the covered one with instructions for serving:  "Let thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before baking.  Bake, covered, at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes, until hot and bubbly.  Uncover and bake 15-20 minutes until crumbs are crisp."  The second casserole can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 days or frozen for up to a month.
So now I have a yummy, homecooked meal in the freezer for another night.  Yay!

After dinner (we had milk to drink with dinner, except my husband, who had water), I tried to make blueberry bagels, but apparently there is a reason I couldn't find a recipe for blueberry bagels using frozen blueberries, because it turned into a gooey mess that couldn't hold a bagel shape.  Since bagel dough and bread dough are basically the same thing, just cooked differently, I just plopped that gooey mess into an oiled breadpan, let it rise and baked it like I would a loaf of bread, so it wouldn't got to waste and we could have blueberry bread for breakfast today.  While the bread was rising, I made popcorn on the stovetop for the family to snack on. 

When the bread came out of the oven, I was just starting to work on making some homemade pretzels, when I got a call from a relative who needed me to come over right away and help out with some things, so I grabbed a couple cans of Diet Coke for the road, since it was the middle of the night and I needed to make sure I stayed awake and alert.

Monday, December 5, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--Not my finest moment & meal plan for week of December 5-11

Yesterday was admittedly not my finest moment of feeding the family.  I still felt like crap emotionally when I woke up so I ended up not making breakfast.  Eventually, in a fit of horrible parenting, when the toddler started having a temper tantrum about something and I couldn't figure out what his problem was, I gave him some chocolate chips to calm him down.  Of course, then everyone else wanted some chocolate chips as well.  I had a couple handfuls myself with a couple giant glasses of milk.

Eventually, my husband seemed to realize no real food was forthcoming and made some eggs and cheese for himself and the boys.  He offered me some as well, but I don't like eggs without some sort of bread-like substance, which we were out of, so I declined.

Around dinnertime, I got motivated enough to make dinner.  We had meatball stroganoff on rice with peas.  Actually, I cheated a lot on this and got rid of some leftovers to boot.  My husband doesn't care for rice, so I gave him the last of the potatoes from the roast dinner a few days before instead.  And the sauce wasn't real stroganoff (I don't actually even know what real stroganoff sauce would be, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it).  I took the gravy leftover from the roast dinner, threw it in a skillet with the frozen meatballs to warm up, then toward the end of the cooking time, when the rice was about ready, I stirred in a little sour cream and Worchestershire sauce. Using premade and frozen venison meatballs, we only usually end up using about 1/2 pound of meat to feed the whole family, so this meal for the whole family probably cost less than $1!
Much later, after the little ones had gone to sleep (my mother-in-law came by and switched kids before dinner, so my daughter was back, but my 6yo was gone), my husband and I had some popcorn made on the stovetop, and I finally had my first Diet Coke of the day, as I worked on making felt food for the kids' Christmas presents.

The power outage last week royally screwed with my meal plan for last week, but here is what I'm planning on serving up this week for dinners:

Monday: cheesy turkey rice casserole
Tuesday: pasties
Wednesday: chicken fajitas
Thursday: macaroni & cheese and green beans
Friday: meatball subs
Saturday: roast venison & cheddar hot pockets
Sunday: spaghetti & meatballs

No clean out the fridge night this week, because Monday's, Tuesday's, and Saturday's dinners are ones that can be frozen quite well, Friday's and Sunday's meals are cooked from the freezer stash, and Wednesday's meal is made to order, so there should be negligiable leftovers there.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--a dark secret

I know a lot of times I seem pretty happy and make it sound like it is easy-peasy to do what I do. but I've also not hid the fact that I suffer from depression and anxiety disorder.  Some days, the strict food budgeting and the anxiety come crashing together and I become a drained, sobbing, emotional trainwreck.   This typically happens at least once a month, but this is what set it off this time.

For breakfast, my 6 year old son decided to get himself and the 2 year old bowls of cereal (my daughter is still at her grandma's house for a few days).  He forgot to put the box of cereal away when he was done though, left it on the table and wandered off to play or watch tv or whatever.  Before I noticed this, my 2 year old decided he wanted seconds and that he was a big boy who could get it himself.  Predictable, this resulted in the entire remaining box of cereal, the last cereal we'll have in the house, dumped all over the table.  I salvaged what I could, but it still resulted in a lot of lost cereal, since a fair amount landed in bowls that had a bit of milk in them or areas of the table that had a bit of liquid, either splashes of milk or water, on it.

Eventually, I got around to making breakfast for me and my husband.  We had eggs over easy and toast made from the sandwich loaf of bread I'd made the day before.  The boys wanted some too, so that served as their lunch.

We ended up having a late lunch of leftovers.  My husband got himself some of the roast venison dinner from the other day, but rather than putting gravy on here which would have been essentially free since it was made with the pan drippings and a bit of flour and water, he put ketchup on it.  When he got the ketchup out, I noticed that nearly half of the bottle, which I had thought was still full in the pantry, was actually nearly half gone!  I started to have a panic attack.  I became convinced we were going to run short of food for the month.  I do not deal well with discovering we have far less of something than I thought we had.  Everything is on too tight of a balance for that, especially in my brain.  I eventually calmed down enough to have my lunch of some of the broccoli, cheddar, potato soup from the day before and some of the bread I'd made and get some for the 2 year old as well.  The 6 year old just wanted bread at that time, but he and the 2 year old snacked on some cheese and carrots later as well, to balance it out and turn it into a decent dinner, since that's really what it was.

While the toddler was napping a bit later, my husband wanted some ice cream.  I'm not a huge fan of plain vanilla (especially artificially flavored vanilla, which is the kind of ice cream we can sort of afford), so I made some chocolate syrup to go on top of it.  What an improvement!

Later yet, my husband got out the tortilla chips, which by this point were mostly large crumbs rather than chips, for another snack.  I asked him if he'd like me to scrounge up some salsa to go with them, since the salsa was virtually free, since I made it, and the chips were expensive (yes, when you are on a budget like $161 a month to feed 5 people, a $3 item is considered expensive).  He declined and he and the boys ate up the rest of the chips.

I lost it.  Between the tortilla chips, the ketchup, and the juice that everyone seems to think we should buy more of because we are out of it, that's about $10 worth of food.  To most people, that would be no big deal, but here, we only have $61 to last us until the 21st, so that is a huge chunk of our budget.  We were going to have to go without something if I couldn't find a better solution.  I had a huge cry over this, to the point that I made myself sick.

Finally, I gave in and took one of the Ativan that the doctor gave me at the hospital a couple weeks ago for when I was just too stressed.  Then, I went to lay down and rest for a bit until the medicine could take effect.  Eventually, I noticed I was still tired (don't know if that was from the medicine or just crying), but I was emotionally numb.  I was calmed down and could start coming up with solutions to the problem.  I started searching for ways I could replace the ketchup by making some with things I have on hand like my homecanned tomatoes rather than buying some.  I discovered that I can't make authentic tortilla chips since I have cornmeal, not masa, and probably can't turn my unground corn into masa at this point because I don't think unslaked lime (the mineral, not the fruit) probably can't be bought on food stamps, even if I can find it in a store.  I probably could make some cornmeal based chips that would still taste good and served to get the homemade salsa into mouths.

I didn't work on any felt food or any other crafty or culinary project yesterday.  I was just too drained and worn out.  Hopefully, today will be better.  Maybe I'll even make some of those chips, so I can have some chips and salsa while making even more felt food tonight.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--makin' my own bread and bacon

The first part of the day's eatings yesterday wasn't exciting at all:  Honey Kix with milk for breakfast, leftovers for lunch, the kids snacked on Cheerios, homemade applesauce, and cheese, with my husband and I having a little cheese as well.  Dinner though....

I made whole wheat bread yesterday, two loaves: a free form artisan loaf for dinner and loaf of sandwich bread for eating today.  The rest of dinner was broccoli, cheddar, and potato soup.  I grated a couple carrots and threw them in there for a little added nutrition and the pretty color.  I love that soup soooooo much.  I admit, I way over ate.  There is still plenty more for lunches for the next day or two too though.  Yay!

Not only is that soup super delicious, but it is soup-er cheap (hahaha!  I crack myself up!) for me to make.  I made the chicken stock I used, the broccoli and carrots were gleaned from other people's gardens, the 1/2 pound of cheese I used was only about $1.60 when I bought the 10 pound block.  The bread was dirt cheap as well, since I got the yeast with a combination of sale and coupon so each yeast packet was about $0.15.  All of dinner probably cost less than $2.50 to feed the family and, like I said, there was lots of leftovers!

After dinner, I was stuffed for quite a while, but my husband and the 2yo had a bit of ice cream.  I snacked on some caramel-y corn much, much later in the day.

For drinks, we still had to use the bottled water because the boil water advisory became official with a notice on our door, but the kids and my husband had a bit of white grape juice with dinner as well, and I had my usual Diet Coke (yes, I know how bad it is for me).

After the kids finally went to sleep, I worked on making more felt food for Christmas presents for my kids.  I made another egg (using the directions here, but hand sewing, rather than using a machine) and made bacon, which was my own design.  I stripped the papery parts off some twisty-ties and stitched them behind the light strips on the bacon to make it crinkly shaped and poseable.
Tonight, I hope to finish up about 3 more strips of bacon and start something else.  Maybe fake bread?

Friday, December 2, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--in which I make food both real and fake

For the second day in a row, yesterday, the kids were too excited to go outside and play in the snow for me to make breakfast before they went.  Instead, they made themselves sandwiches of cheese and ketchup on bread.  Yuck!  It would probably be considered a balanced meal at schools though, since it had all that ketchup on it!  Double yuck!  I'm so glad I don't send my kids to school (except my 12 year old that lives with his dad 2/3 of the year, but that isn't by my choice.  That was a decision made by his dad that he sadly supports).  Instead of sitting in a boring classroom all day, they played outside, built a snowman for their little brother to knock over, (did some actual bookwork,) went on an adventure to the corner store to get ice cream using their money that their grandma gave them, and built a giant fort in the living room, all before their friends got out of school and even though they got to sleep much, much later than their friends ever do!  I digress though....

When they came back in, my husband, the toddler, and I had had our breakfasts of pancakes with strawberries on them, basically strawberry shortcake for breakfast.  Mega-yum!  The other kids had it for lunch when they eventually did come inside to play (prior to building the fort).

Somehow my husband and I forgot to have lunch, as sometimes happens, but we worked on cleaning out the fridge for dinner.  Cooking up that roast instead of sticking it in pasties yesterday gave us a lot of leftovers that I wasn't expecting to have!  There is still a fair amount of that roast left even now, so I'm thinking of making roast beast and cheddar hot pockets next week.  The kids and my husband had ice cream in the evening as well, but with the house at 65 degrees or below at all times, ice cream doesn't much appeal to me this time of year!  I did have a couple Diet Cokes through the day, though.  I didn't see anyone else drink anything other than tap water, but they might have been sneaky and got themselves something else when I wasn't looking.  Oh, and I also polished of the last of the jar of salsa I've been working on eating up the past few says.

The high point of the day for me was when we checked the mail and found a surprise check from a lady at the church with the subject line of "kids Xmas" (there was also a used book I had ordered from PaperbackSwap for my niece's Christmas presents that looked brand new, so that is awesome too!).  I finally had some money to get the kids some Christmas presents!  In the interest of making it go as far as possible, I headed to the craft store and picked up some felt, poly-fill, muslin, and a couple little wooden things to paint.  I plan on making some felt food, a rag doll, a fairy wand (one of the paintables), and a little train engine (also one of the paintables).  Basically, everything I need for my littlest ones.  I told the cashier that was the bulk of my Christmas shopping for two of my kids and she was shocked.  Like more shocked than the cashier at Meijer was the other day when I just bought the baking stuff and told her that was my groceries for the week.  Her jaw literally dropped.  I explained what everything was going to be and she was suitably impressed and somewhat appeased that I wasn't cheating my kids out of a good Christmas.  Like every kid needs a gajillion crappy plastic toys to have a good Christmas.  Pu-leeeeease!

Anyhoo, after the kids settled down for the night, I broke out the craft goodies and my sewing box and set to work stitching.  I don't know how to use a sewing machine (sad, I know), so all my gifts will be sewn by hand.  I figure it would take as long to learn to use the sewing machine as it would just to do it the easy way...and probably less stressful!  My first project was a felt egg.  I plan on making some bread and bacon to go with it, for sort of a breakfast felt food set, then also making some tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese to go with the bread as a sandwich set.  If I have time, I'll probably make even more.  I'm hoping to do at least one project a night until Christmas.  Here was the result of last night's effort:
Isn't it cute?  I'm starting to think maybe I don't completely suck at stitchy crafts!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge--When the lights go out

No it wasn't because we didn't pay the bill.  It was probably due to the snow and ice storm we'd had the night before, but yesterday, right as we were finishing eating breakfast, the power went out. 

For breakfast, we had whole wheat blueberry muffins, made with blueberries I got at the farmers market in-season and froze (as a bonus, the farmer said that, while they weren't certified organic, they were grown without chemicals), and with real butter and cheese omelets.  I had a Diet Coke to drink, as is my morning custom.  The kids were so excited about the freshly fallen snow that they didn't want to wait for breakfast to go outside and had some frozen blueberries and a couple slices of cheese as a pre-breakfast snack. 

I was just taking the last couple bites of my food, when the power flickered a few times and went out.  I hadn't even put away the remaining eggs and butter from when I was making breakfast, but with the power out for who-knows-how-long, I wasn't going to open the fridge and risk the rest of the food in there just to put away a couple things!  Instead, I got a bucketful of snow from outside to use to keep the food cold until the power came back on.

I didn't want lunch, and my husband was out trying to contact DHS in person in an effort to get our benefits raised now that neither of us are working, but the younger children had peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. 

With the power still being off by the time I needed to get dinner started, I wasn't able to make pasties as my meal plan for the week told me I should.  However, since I had a chunk of venison in the sink thawing when the power went out, I was able to roast that up for dinner along with potatoes.  I decided to serve up applesauce and pickled beets (applesauce canned by me and the pickled beets were ones my mom had grown and canned) with the roast and potatoes (and of course I was going to have gravy!), but then the power came back on!  I grabbed some carrots my mom had grown and I had packaged and frozen out of the freezer and tossed them in the pan to complete my roast dinner.  The kids wanted the pickled beets anyway though!  The kids and I also got to have milk with dinner, since we could get back into the fridge.

After dinner, I had planned on making popcorn balls for my 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies entry and was going to even if the power was still off, which would have been possible since we have a gas stove and that butter I mentioned before was still chilling in snow.  Silly me guessed how much popcorn I should pop for the project, since it is bulk popcorn from the farmers market and there was no label to say how much yielded how much popped and I didn't feel like looking it up somewhere and, boy, did I guess wrong!  I ended up with about twice as much popcorn as I needed, but everyone was happy to help me *ahem* dispose of the evidence (that means we ate it).  The popcorn "balls" ended up not being sticky enough to be balls, so I left it as loose pieces and most of it was pretty quickly eaten up (except the container of it I hid behind the kale chips, so no one will find them but me.  Muhahaha!).  For some reason, the kids were still hungry later in the evening, shortly before bedtime, so they had some cheese to snack on.  I also had a ate night snack, more of those tortilla chips and apple-tomato salsa (I've actually been working on the jar pictured in the post for the recipe all week!).

For most of the day, we were drinking water, since we weren't going to be getting in the refrigerator for anything!  However, today, we weren't drinking tap water, since the electricity being off invariably means that the water would be under a boiling water advisory, because the water system in the trailer park is on the same electrical system as our house.  We've lost power and/or water (due to main breaks, etc) enough times though that we keep a small supply of bottled water around for such a contingency, so we were drinking that.  After the power came back on, I did have a couple cans of Diet Coke and the toddler had some juice, in addition to the milk we had for dinner.

Caramel-y Popcorn--Week #10 of the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies

Good grief!  Are we seriously already to week 10?  How did this happen?  I gotta get started on making the kids' Christmas presents, I guess!!!!

Anyway, this week's recipe is another tasty fail.  (Like how I fail tastily, so I can still use the recipe, just change what it is a recipe for?)  I was hoping to make popcorn balls without corn syrup, since A) I don't use the stuff often enough that it fits in my X-Treme Food Stamp Challenge lifestyle and B) I question how healthy the stuff is.  I found that my alternate sugary substances didn't give it enough sticky cohesion at the end to hold a ball shape.  It did make for a darn tasty caramel corn though!  You probably could even substitute turbinado or Sucanat for the sugars in this recipe if you try to avoid processed sugar, if those kind of fancy-schmancy sugars fit in your budget.

One more thing to note: when making the coating, if you taste it right after you put everything in, it will taste really molasses-y, but the taste will fade and transform into more of a caramel flavor as it cooks.  I was scared when I was making it, so I figure I should warn you!

Caramely Popcorn

6 tbsp sugar
6 3/4 tsp water
pinch of cream of tartar
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp salt
 8 cups plain popped popcorn

Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a large pan or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce to simmer; cover for 3 minutes.  Uncover and simmer, stirring often until mixture reaches a temperature of 235-245 degrees.  Add molasses, brown sugar, butter, and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in popcorn until well coated.  Spread out coated popcorn onto waxed paper and let cool.

Let's see what tasty treats are popping on the other blogs in the 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies this week!