Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Show Me Your Balls Challenge

There is a chart floating around Facebook that shows Ball canning jars logos over the years.  I thought it would be fun to see when some of my jars were from.  Based on that chart, it looks like the jars I have sitting on the counter waiting for me to decide what to do with because they are too chipped for canning were made sometime between 1923 and 1933!  The jars I borrowed from my mom and a few of mine, as demonstrated by the middle rubbing, were probably made in my lifetime, sometime since 1975, as evidenced by the registered trademark symbol.  Most of my jars were from sometime between 1960 and 1975 though!  I guess some canning granny stopped canning or something and that's how I got them off Freecycle, because they've clearly been around the block a few times!

I didn't go through all my jars, since I didn't want to dig them all out, so I might find jars from other eras as we eat up our homecanned goodies.  I'll definitely be comparing them to this chart:
whenever I come across any jars that look different to see when they were from though!  Canning jars certainly are a lot more interesting (and environmental friendly) and thrifty than one time use cans from the store!  Every jar is a little piece of history in a way.

So here's the challenge:  If you have any canning jars around, check them out and see when they are from.  Even if you don't, but know someone else that does can, print the chart out and take it with you to see what part of history they're canning from.  Either do a crayon rubbing like I did and post it somewhere on the internet to share and post a link, or just post the dates you have as a comment, but I really hope to see lots of rubbings so I can be more connected to that piece of history as well.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Meal Plan Monday--January 29-February 5

I've been running on darn near empty lately (please hurry back warm weather and sunlight!), so this week's meal plan reflects that in the mass quantities of comfort food present, especially in the form of potatoes!  I'll also be trying a couple new recipes this week, so hopefully I'll get around to posting those if they work out...along with a bunch of recipes I've been meaning to post and haven't done yet (vegetable lasagna, anyone?).

Monday: cheesy potato soup (new recipe)

Tuesday: venison roast, potatoes, carrots

Wednesday: crispy cheddar chicken (new recipe), mashed potatoes, broccoli

Thursday: Mexican egg rolls
Friday (my 1 year blogiversary!): pasties
Saturday: fettuccine alfredo & sauteed mixed veggies

Sunday: pizza (I think there is some football game on somewhere?)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

What Can You Buy With $20?

This image, originally from My H.E.B Texas Life magazine's January 2012 issue, caught my attention when it was shared in The Dinner Garden's blog and on their Facebook page (an excellent organization, worthy of your support if you have the means to help them) a little over a week ago.  Several people commented that there is no way it would cost that little to buy all that stuff where they live, so I thought it would be an interesting idea to see how much this stuff would cost where I usually shop.  Since this list didn't specify whether the items were on sale or not in the graphic, we went by sale prices when applicable and regular prices when not (I think the only thing on sale was the kidney beans, but since I had my husband and son do this while I was doing the real shopping, I'm not 100% sure).  So here are the prices we found on a random day at a store in Michigan:

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts: $2.99

5 lbs potatoes: $2.99 (we found it interesting to note that organic potatoes were the same prices as conventionally grown potatoes!)

4 piece steamable cob corn: $2.69 (fresh corn was 4/$1.00)

1 lb oranges: we called it $1.00, since they weren't priced per pound, but 1 orange, weighing about 3/4 lb cost $0.79

1 gallon skim milk: $2.99

1 lb ground beef (couldn't find a percentage on the label): $3.99

32 oz tub of light vanilla yogurt: $1.93

18 oz canister of oatmeal: $2.19

1 lb frozen green peas: $1.25

1 lb dried kidney beans: $1.50

For a total of $23.52, so if the grocery budget was $20, we'd have to put something(s) back from this list for the week!  Still, if some of the items were on sale, it is very possible.  How about where you live?  Go ahead and click the print button below, take the list to the store next time you go and price out the items on this list, then report back your findings to see how prices compare elsewhere.

Friday, January 27, 2012

This Sh%# is BANANAS!

Image blatantly from Amazon, where you can buy these seeds
The USDA released a new, updated plant hardiness map this week, for the first time in years.  According to the new map, we are now in zone 6a instead of 5b!  For those in warmer climates, you might not understand how exciting this is in terms of the plants we can grow here (although not exactly thrilling because of the broader implications of climate change!).  I can't even count how many times through my relatively few years of gardening that I've wistfully looked at some plant or another in a seed catalog and wished I could grow it here, but it just wasn't possible, at least not outdoors.  When I saw this change in hardiness status, I had to see what I could add to my possibilities.

Some, like avocados and lemons were decidedly long shots and, as expected, it is still much too cold here (give it 50 years or so) to grow these in Michigan.  I did have one super exciting discovery of something I could grow here: bananas!  That's right: it is possible to grow bananas in Michigan.  Not all varieties, mind you, but there are one or two edible varieties that will put up with the cold temperatures and possibly (with a much increased chance, now that we are considered zone 6!) of actually bearing fruit.  After doing a big of research, I decided I wanted to grow Darjeeling bananas.  From what I've read, it is hardy up to zone 5, but is unlikely to produce fruit in anything lower than a 6 or 7.  Sounds like a worthwhile gamble to me (especially since a reader of this blog was generous enough to fund this project)!
Pretty, too!
Here's a minor hitch though: according to the lease, I can't plant trees, bushes, or shrubs (notice: nothing in the lease says I can't have a garden, like some people who stop by this blog from time to time seem to have trouble wrapping around their brains) without management approval and I don't know that banana trees are part of their vision for the trailer park.   However, containers are allowed.  That's why there isn't an issue with my blueberry and raspberry bushes, because they are in planters.  So, I'll be growing bananas in planters.  Yes, it is possible.  Apparently, a 15-gallon or larger planter is a suitable home for these banana-beasts.  That will also give me more options for winter storage.  I can either mulch the heck out of it (building an insulated box around the base or something to keep the roots warm too) or move it into a warmer location, like inside an out building like a garage or barn.  Plus, when we move, assuming I (or the cold) haven't killed it off, we can take it with us!  How's that for bananas?

I do have one confession though.  I don't like bananas.  I don't see that as a problem with this project though, since A) everyone else in my family loves bananas, B) these are not the same variety as store bought bananas, so I'm sure they would taste different, and C) if you'd only ever had a store-bought tomato, could you actually say that you didn't like tomatoes?

One last thought, further proof I've gone bananas:  I'm also going to grow pineapples this year, but more about that in a future post.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

2012 Garden Plan

Discovering my seeds were moldy when going to plant some lettuce in the house the other day prompted me to finally (by many people's standards) figure out my garden for the year.  I decided, since it is such a depressing topic to think about right now, not consider the driveway as a place to grow anything.  I will instead focus on the rest of the lot, do what I can with it, and maybe if I can scrounge up the resources to do something with it, add the driveway as a container garden area later.

When looking over what I wanted to plant this year, I discovered that the loss of the driveway area as planting ground wasn't as bad as I first thought.  I decided not to do corn this year (unless I can find some free blue jade corn seeds somewhere) since I've never had much luck growing full sized corn in containers.  I also decided not to grow sunflowers, since we haven't been eating very many of the seeds like I thought we would.  I also decided not to grow pumpkins, since I'm unlikely to be able to grow anything as big as my husband and the kids would like to carve and I'm hoping we'll be moving before Halloween anyway (anything that won't be done by the time our lease is up will be grown in containers).  With the ground behind the house already torn up from the tree that was back there and everything else they were doing back there, it would make sense to use that as ground for planting this year as well.  As such, I decided I have room to plant a few potatoes (maybe experiment with sweet potatoes?) in containers, have a watermelon patch behind the house, grow peppers (bell and jalapeno), and grow spinach, carrots, onions, rutabaga, beets, and tomatoes in "official" garden areas, the beds along side the house and my garden box.

In the front yard, I'll be growing spinach, snap peas, more tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, various herbs (I haven't decided what all will be grown for herbs, but I have an area in mind to dedicate toward them!), cucumbers, more watermelon, beets, onions, rutabaga, lettuce, cantaloupe, blueberries, raspberries, and zucchini.
In my patio area, not diagrammed because there is no point (most things will be going where they were last year), I'll be growing my pole beans in containers up the stair rails (both front and back doors), ground cherries, tomatoes, green peppers, and jalapeno peppers.  I decided to put the peppers in a row right in front of where the tomatoes were on the patio last year, since peppers like heat better than tomatoes, so they will absorb more of the radiant heat from the patio and let the tomatoes be happier.

So that brings me to what seeds I need, since like I said, a lot of my seeds went moldy, despite being in a sealed container in the fridge with desiccant packets.  Not all those seeds will need to be replaced, like the corn, and I'll be growing some things I haven't grown before this year, like beets and jalapenos.  That brings me to my seed needs.  I'm looking for heirlooms only of tomatoes (both determinate and indeterminate varieties), peppers, winter squash, cucumbers, and cantaloupe, since I know I'm going to be able to and want to save the seeds on those.  I'm also looking for carrots, beets, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower (another thing I've never grown), onions, since I doubt I'll have an opportunity to save seeds from those this year.  Where I won't be doing a fall garden, I want to get as much food out of the spring planting of the annual veggies there and some things on that list, like carrots don't produce seeds until their second year and I'm not planning on being here next year if possible.

Anyone have some seeds for me?  I can offer trades of Aunt Molly's ground cherries and Rostov sunflowers, maybe even some stars and moon watermelons (but not too many of those), since those were spared the great mold incident, since they were kept in sealed plastic bags (something I'll be doing for all my seeds in the future!).  I'm generally not too picky about varieties, except where I noted I'm looking for heirlooms, but whatever I get needs to work for zone 5b.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Shopping List for a Year's Supply of Food

We have 93 pints less of home-canned food than when this picture was taken about 2 months ago (not all of the 350+ pints of food show up n the picture).  Yikes! At this rate, we'll be about out by the time new food is available in the garden in the late spring!  I guess that works out, but still!  Guess we need to be eating more out of the freezer (or canning the stuff in the freezer), since, even though we won't go hungry either way, frozen food isn't being counted for food storage purposes.
A couple weeks ago, I posted a list of what it would take for my family to have a year's supply of food.  Today, I went through everything (shelf stable) I had on hand to see how I was sitting with regard to hitting that goal.  Boy, was I disappointed!  We could go maybe a month with what I have here if we couldn't use anything from the fridge or freezer!  Ugh!  On the plus side, I do have a lot of stuff frozen as well, so I probably could can up a bunch of that, either as single ingredients or as soups, rather than buying a lot of stuff.  I also probably could collect more nuts and things this summer rather than buying most of those, although I know I will want to buy some too, since a lot of the nuts I enjoy are not ones that can be randomly found in Michigan (pecans and Brazil nuts come to mind: my two favorites).  I also will be keeping this list in mind as I plan the garden for the year,  In other positives, I discovered that I have a good supply of a few things, like yeast, and have nearly as much as I need for a number of other items.  The remaining numbers are huge though!  Here is my current "shopping list" of what I still need to acquire, although, obviously, unless I won the lottery or something (but first I'd have to play!), I won't be getting this all at once!  Quantities listed are minimums, especially those things involving chocolate.

Wheat, grains, grains flour & beans = 1680 lbs            
            ? barley
22 lbs cornmeal
            60 lbs whole wheat flour
            113 lbs rice
            86 lbs pasta
            118 lbs granola & oatmeal
            60 lbs cold cereal
            193 lbs dried beans

Powdered milk, dairy products, & eggs=512 lbs
            257 lb milk, non-instant powdered
            51 lbs butter, dehydrated
            64 lbs minimum
            16 cans evaporated milk
            Yogurt starter
            Cheese cultures

Sweeteners: honey, sugar, and syrup=240 lbs
            180 lbs honey
            33 lbs maple syrup
            1 lb molasses
            21 lbs white sugar

Cooking catalysts: salt, oil, leavening
            11 lbs salt
            10 lbs baking soda
            26 gal vegetable oil
            13 gallons olive oil

Canned/dried fruits, Veggies, & Soups=6479 servings
            2744 servings canned fruits
500 lbs potatoes
-          65 lbs dried potatoes
-          Canned potatoes, white or sweet
-          247 lbs fresh white potatoes
-          60 lbs sweet potatoes
2505 servings canned veggies
-          Green beans
-          Kidney beans
-          Beets
-          Carrots
-          Corn, cut
-          Corn, creamed
-          Spinach
-          Peas
-          Tomato paste
641 servings soup
257 servings conveniences (Spaghetti-Os, box mac & cheese, etc)

Kitchen stables: condiments & seasonings
            2-5 jars mayonnaise/salad dressing
            11 lb chocolate chips (minimum)
            3 lbs cocoa powder
            1 lb cornstarch
            10 lbs dry gelatin
            33 jars peanut butter
            50 lbs nuts & seeds
            16 boxes saltines
            2 bottles soy sauce
            1 bottle steak sauce
            1 bottle Worchestershire sauce
            3 gallons apple cider vinegar
            10 gallons white vinegar
            Herbs/spices (1 each):
-          Garlic powder, Dry mustard, Onion powder, Parsley, Black pepper, White pepper, Cayenne pepper, Rosemary, Cumin, Nutmeg, Chili powder, Thyme, Bay leaves, Oregano, Cinnamon, Cloves, Majoram, Ginger, Turmeric, Basil, Allspice, Sage,Paprika
Almond extract
Vanilla beans

Meat & seafood=1788 servings
            Canned venison
            Canned poultry
            Luncheon meats(?)
            Canned seafood

Pleasure foods, etc=5084 servings
            Tasty beverages=1877 servings
-          Juice
-          Herbal tea
-          Soft drinks
-          Hot chocolate
-          Coffee
Snackies=1923 servings
-          Candy
-          Tortilla chips
-          Potato chips
-          Pretzels
-          Snack crackers
-          Pudding, shelf stable

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rice Pudding

After yesterday's dark day on the internet, here's a sweet and tasty recipe for you, to wash that nasty taste internet censorship taste out of your mouth.

I was absolutely shocked and more than a little amused when I discovered you can buy rice pudding in the store...and what people actually pay for it!  O. M. G!  Are you kidding?  It is so easy to make (it was actually the first dessert I ever learned to make) and cheap it boggles my mind that someone would buy it at the store premade!

Rice Pudding

2/3 cup uncooked rice
1 1/3 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
ground cinnamon to taste

Combine rice and water in a covered saucepan.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat; simmer for 20 minutes.  Preheat oven to 325.  Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, 10 minutes.  Stir together egg, rice, sugar, raisins, milk, vanilla, and salt in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake uncovered 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pudding is done when a knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out clean.  Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.  Serve warm or cold; refrigerate any unused portion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Not Thrifty?

Someone left this comment in response to yesterday's post on my Facebook page: "Did you (adventures of a thrifty momma) write this blog? I dont see how its "thrifty" when you purchase it thru WIC." (cut and pasted directly from the Facebook page) Excuse me?  How is only spending $3.50 for dinners for nearly a week, the cost of a gallon of milk (on sale) and a head of lettuce at the grocery store I shop at, for a family of 5 not thrifty?  I'm not including Sunday's vegetable lasagna in there, because I have no idea how much that will cost, since it has been so long since I've made it, but I'm sure it is a hell of a lot cheaper than a Stouffer's vegetable lasagna ($12-13 for Stouffer's as opposed to maybe $5-6 for homemade?)In all fairness though, I am using things acquired at previous times to feed people during the week, so let's look at exactly how thrifty those meals are by looking at how much they cost and how I did it so cheaply.

Monday was a leftover night, so essentially free, since those would have been budgeted into the meals they originally came from and most people probably would have let them go to waste.

Today is corn & potato chowder night.  The corn was bought at the farmers market, in season, and frozen by me, so cost about $0.25.  The potatoes, onions, and stock were free, since the potatoes were from my mom's garden, the onion from my garden right here on the trailer park lot, and I made the stock from scraps most people would throw away.  A single tablespoon of olive oil, a little flour, a little thyme, and some salt and pepper would all be pennies.  If I paid for the milk used, cash out of pocket, it would have been about $.30 for the recipe.  I decided to supplement the soup with some bread and decided to use bread I got from WIC last week for free rather than making some in the interest of time and if I was paying out of pocket for the bread, I would have made it, but for the sake of argument, lets include the full price of the bread used, maybe a quarter of the loaf (if it was homemade, we probably would have eaten the whole loaf), so the full meal for the full family cost less than $2.

Tomorrow, I plan on making venison stew for dinner.  The venison was professionally processed, at about $0.70 a pound, and I usually use a bit less than a pound of meat for a meal for the family, so let's call it $.50.  Throw in some carrots from my garden, some peas I picked and froze out of my mom's garden, potatoes also from my mom's garden, maybe a little onion from mine: all free; venison stock I made, also free.  A little milk, a little flour for thickener, you have a stew for a few pennies more.  I haven't decided if I'll make bread, dumplings, or use some of the store bought bread, but anyway you slice it, it would be $1 or less.  Oh, look: another meal to feed 5 people for under $2.

Thursday is spaghetti night.  To be honest, I don't remember which sauce was made with tomatoes from my garden, which was from someone else's garden given to me, and which I bought from the farmers market when at the season's peak.  At most I would have paid about $.50 for the tomatoes I made the sauce from.  We generally use less than 1/2 pound of meat for the meatballs in a meal, so with the other ingredients in the meatballs, that part of the meal would be about $.50 as well.  I usually don't use quite a whole box of spaghetti, but for the sake of argument (and/or unusually hungry kids) let's say I do, so that's another $1 for the whole grain pasta, bought on sale.  Another $2 meal!

Friday's taco night.  I didn't actually buy the tortillas, since they were gifted to us, along with a whole bunch of other food back in December by a local homeschooling group, but, if I did, they would probably be about $1.  A head of lettuce, as I mentioned before, costs about $1, but we'll only use a small part of it for the tacos, so maybe $.20 worth.  The taco meat is leftover (and frozen) from last time we had taco night, so $.35 or free, depending on how you look at it.  Cheese, I bought in bulk quite a while ago and cost $33.49 for a 10 pound block, so let's say we use 1/2 pound (probably more than we actually will use) for a cost of $1.67 for the meal.  Tomatoes we'll do without, since they are out of season and the crap at the store just aren't the same as local, fresh tomatoes.  We'll only use a few tablespoons of sour cream, so the cost will be minimal there too.  All in all, this will be by far the most expensive meal for this time period at a whopping $3.50 or so (of which I actually paid about $2.50, since I didn't pay for the tortillas), to feed a family of 5.

Saturday's dinner of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, baked sweet potatoes, and sauteed green beans might sound the most expensive, but it is actually the cheapest meal for this time period.  I go the chicken breasts for free as part of my payment for helping harvesting a relative's chickens back in November.  The sweet potatoes were bought around Thanksgiving (yes, they keep that long if kept in a cool, dark place) for $.25/lb.  We probably will have about a pound to a pound and a half, so we'll say $.40 for the sweet potatoes.  I'll top them with a little butter and brown sugar and/or cinnamon, but the cost of that will also be minimal.  The beans were from my garden so they are free.  The butter for them was bought on sale for $2.25 a pound and I'll only be using a few tablespoons total, so maybe $.30 to $.40 for the meal.  That brings the total for that meal up to a insane $.75 or so.  For a family of 5.

Holy cow!  That person was right!  Six dinners for a family of 5, costing a total of $10.25, less than a cost of 2 crappy Little Caesar's pizzas when you include the tax.  Absolutely shameful and not thrifty at all.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Meal Plan Monday--January 16-22

I finally will be able to get some groceries Saturday!  Yay!  I am going to use WIC, which started for the month yesterday, to pick up some lettuce, since, sadly, I have declared my indoor garden dead and need to restart it in order to have homegrown lettuce, but other than that and other WIC items like milk, Monday through Friday is still in "no-grocery-buying" mode (Holy run-on sentence, Batman!).  We're still eating well though, thanks to the power of planning ahead and preservation, so my gardening goodies (and my mom's gardening goodies too), hunting spoils (but not spoiled hunting spoils!), and reward for helping a family member (chicken) still are keeping our bellies happy. Here's the meal plan for the week:

Monday: clean out the fridge night

Tuesday: corn & potato chowder
Wednesday: venison stew

Thursday: spaghetti and meatballs in marinara sauce

Friday: soft tacos

Saturday: chicken breasts, baked sweet potatoes, and sauteed green beans

Sunday: vegetable lasagna

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Getting Naked in Front of You--defining my core values

This week's assignment in the "Simplify Your Life" Challenge was extremely difficult. Participants were asked to pick 5 words or phrases that best defined their core values and rank them in order of importance. She provided a neat little printable full of possible value words to get people started. I printed it out and started off by crossing off words that had no business being anywhere near my values, words like "wealth," "patience," "beauty," and "success." Then, I went through and circled the words that appealed most to me and seemed to fit best with my life and worldview. I ended up with (in order from top to bottom of the printable):
  • Freedom
  • Contentment
  • Learning
  • Perseverance
  • Love
  • Family
  • Self-reliance
  • Resilience
  • Happiness
  • Endurance
  • Laughter
  • Humor
Twelve words in all. Since the guidelines for the exercise suggested collecting 10-15 words to start with, then whittling it down to five, so far, so good. I looked at my list and thought to myself, how do I shave off of that?  They all seemed pretty core to my value system! After staring at my paper for a while, I realized that a lot of these words were very closely related. My loved ones are my family, for example. Contentment is a mild form of happiness in my view; perseverance, resilience, and endurance, at least in the way I was viewing the words, could be no more distantly related than cousins. When I started looking at them like that, it became clear to me that I basically had five families of words in that list. Then it was just a matter of ranking them. Here is that ranked list and how I came to it:
  1. Love/family: It might be cheesy, but love conquered all, at least on my list of values. Without the love of my family and my love for them, nothing else really matters. That made it so it was clear it had to be my number one value. After that, it got kind of tricky...
  2. Happiness: This and the number 3 value are pretty much tied. I don't think I can be happy without being free, but being free and miserable wouldn't do either, which is why I decided to put happiness as number two. If mama ain't happy, well, what's the point?
  3. Freedom: I don't do well in a cage, whether it be a physical one, like I felt I was in when we lived with my mother-in-law, or one made from rules, regulations, or unjust laws. I gotta do what I wanna do or we're going to have a problem. As such, I try to put myself in situations where I should have the most freedoms, whether that be by reading over a lease to make sure I can do what I want to before signing it (which I did here...and then the property manager just tries to change the "rules" on me by the power of her will) or voting in every election for the people I feel best represent my values.
  4. Perseverance: Gotta keep on keepin' on, no matter what happens. With all the crap I've dealt with in my life, there have been quite a few times I've wanted to give up, even landing in the hospital for a semi-forced weekend get away (the police officer gave me a choice: I could go willingly, thereby having more say-so in my treatment and when I got out, or I could go in handcuffs and be at the mercy of the doctors and courts as to what my care would consist of. I chose to go willingly) because I was going to attempt suicide. Since that low point, I've decided that I'm tougher than that. There are people that care about me (see number 1 for just a few of the examples), so I am going to keep on truckin'. No matter what life throws at me, I can take it. (No, Universe, that is not a challenge. Please don't take it that way!)
  5. Self-reliance: I lumped learning in this in my mind, since the learning I see as most valuable is how to do things to be less dependent on others. As sad as it is, life has clearly taught me that depending on others can be an extremely serious mistake, since they, whether it be individuals or the system, can let you down at the worst possible time. This has served me well, such as this past summer and fall when I was canning and freezing all the food I possibly could, since the only money I could reasonably count on to feed my family of 5-6 was the $161 a month we were getting in food stamps and, when my husband lost his job, that became a reality. He officially lost his job on November 6 and we still are only getting $161 a month in food stamps, which is a lot harder to live on when you can't just walk outside and find food (just mud and/or snow) in the garden. If I hadn't canned and froze all that stuff....well, it would have been even worse. Ultimately, I want my whole lifestyle to be self-reliant, living off-grid (wind power for primary electricity, solar as back up) in an Earthship, growing all our own food, including having chickens for eggs and goats for dairy. I don't ever have to worry about the bad things that would happen from not paying bills ever again! Now I just have to get to that point... If I just owned a piece of land an acre or larger, I'd be 90%+ there!
How about you? What are your core values?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

The cold, cold weather is back.  With it, comes the need for soup.  Chicken lemon rice soup has long been one of my favorite soups.  When I made it the other day, I actually used some of the leftover Christmas turkey that I never froze instead (I canned it.  It was fine, it just sounds funny to me to mention that I never froze it) of the chicken and turkey broth instead of chicken, but either works fine.  This recipe could also be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and using vegetable stock instead of poultry.

Chicken Lemon Rice Soup

7 cups chicken stock
1-2 cups of cooked chicken pieces
1/2 cup white rice
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tbsp fresh, chopped parsley
salt, to taste
white pepper, to taste
black pepper, to taste

Heat stock to boiling.  Add chicken, rice, and garlic.  Cover and reduce heat to simmering; simmer until rice is tender, about 25 minutes.  Mix together lemon juice and egg and slowly add to soup.  Stir in parsley, salt, and pepper.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Getting Ahead on the Declutter Challenge

Sometimes I get frustrated and overwhelmed.  Sometimes there is no real reason for it; I just expect more from myself than is reasonable.  At times like that, it can be useful to me to refer to an external goal to put things back into perspective.  In this case, that external force is The Single Saver's Declutter Challenge.  The goal of this challenge is to get rid of 366 items over the course of the year.  So what if I didn't go through my husband's stuff in our bedroom or get around to cleaning out anything outside of our bedroom yet (although I did clean out the car and get the Christmas stuff out of the house and back to the garage, but neither of those count toward the challenge since the car just involved throwing things away and the Christmas stuff wasn't getting rid of anything; just moving it around for storage)?  I actually got rid of stuff!  The box I marked as pending last week made it to St. Vincent de Paul's, along with another additional 20 items of clothing from my closet and dresser.  I also took a fitted toddler bed sheet to St. Vinny's, since we no longer have a toddler bed in the house and I finally got around to giving my extreme couponing neighbor a bag of coupons I'd set aside for her., thereby bringing my year-to-date total for getting rid of things to:

It may not seem like much, especially in contrast to the astounding 120 that the host of the challenge has purged, but I am pretty sure I started with much less.  That doesn't mean I didn't still have ill-fitting or inappropriate clothes for my lifestyle (do I really need more than one or two dresses when the only time I ever wear them is when someone gets married or dies, and sometimes not even then?).  Those are gone now though.  Doesn't my closet look nice now?

My dresser drawers shut much better now too, now that I got rid of extraneous things in there as well.  So I may not have purged as many items as I would have liked, but since my official total is 23 and it is only 13th, I'm well on track to hit the average of one item per day for the entire year.

I currently also have the following items currently available on Listia, a free online auction site where you bid on other people's stuff using credits instead of real money, so everything is free!  All my current auction giveaways end Sunday, January 15  (the items listed are hyperlinked, so you can click on them to bid on items you may be interested in):
  1. Horizon Cologne (NIB)
  2. A Grimoire of Shadows: Witchcraft, Paganism & Magick
  3. Hey Arnold: The Movie on DVD
  4. Girl's tap shoes, children's size 10
  5. The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism
  6. an unpadded ring sling

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Easy Cheesecake Brownies

I always thought cheesecake brownies would be impossibly difficult to make.  After all, they look kind of hard to make, plus the wouldn't charge so much for them at coffee houses and other such places if they weren't hard right?  *snicker*

Anyway, when going though my personal cookbook the other day, I discovered a recipe for cheesecake brownies that was unbelievably easy.  I had to try them right away!  They were immediately deemed a success, so here you are:

Easy Cheesecake Brownies

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2-1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350degrees.   Melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Remove from heat.  Stir in 2 cups sugar, cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla, 4 eggs, flours, baking powder, and salt.  Pour into a greased 9x13 baking pan and set aside.  Beat cream cheese with an electric mixture until smooth.  Beat in remaining sugar, egg, and vanilla until just blended.  Pour cream cheese mixture over brownie mixture.  Cut through several times with a knife for marble effect if desired and sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Bake about 40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned.  Let cool before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Spinach-Cheese Balls

Here's another goody I made for New Year's that I'm just now getting around to posting.  Even people that don't like spinach found themselves liking these snackable balls of yum. 

Spinach-Cheese Balls

3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp butter
1 10-oz box of frozen spinach (or homegrown equivalent), thawed and squeezed to drain
2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 egg
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried majoram
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 cup tomato sauce, for dipping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease baking sheet.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Cut in butter until it resembles fine crumbs.  Mix in remaining ingredients except tomato sauce, using clean hands if necessary to blend well.  Form into 1-inch balls and place on baking sheet.  Bake about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.  Immediately remove from baking sheet.  Serve with tomato sauce.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Venison Stuffed Mushrooms

I usually don't make this as stuffed mushrooms.  I'm too cheap to buy 2 whole pounds of mushrooms unless they are on really good sale, so I usually get two 12 oz packages of mushrooms and call that good enough, so I end up with smothered mushrooms, but they are still yummy like that! 

I love making these for special occasions or potlucks, but they aren't really pretty in a picture, so when I made them for New Year's, I didn't take a picture.  I'm still posting the recipe (finally) though, as part of my late New Year's resolution to try to post all my favored recipes, regardless of whether I have a decent picture or any picture at all.

Venison Stuffed Mushrooms

1 1/2 to 2 pounds fresh mushrooms, stems removed, chopped, and reserved
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 pound ground venison (or ground meat or meat substitute of choice), browned
2/3 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
1/3 cup soft bread crumbs
2 cups Cheddar cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place mushroom caps upside down in a 9x13 baking pan.  Melt butter in a large skillet.  Add chopped mushroom stems, bell pepper, and garlic powder.  Saute for about 5 minutes; remove from heat.  In a large bowl, mix ground venison, bread crumbs, cheese, and mushroom stem mixture.  Spoon mixture onto mushroom caps.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Meal Plan Monday--January 9-15

Is it spring yet?  That's bad when I'm already in a major winter slump this early in the season.  There are still at least four months until I can go outside and play a lot again.  It isn't even snow covered right now, so that isn't the cause of the slump; it's just the lack of sunlight and cold.  Blah.  I guess I'll just keep taking my Vitamin D and hang out near the plant light as much as possible and plug along as best as I can.

Because of this slump, and because the lack of money for groceries, we ended up having two unscheduled leftover nights last week, to make sure everything is getting eaten up, so a couple of the scheduled meals from last week got bumped into this week.  I picked up beverages for the next week or so and a couple things we had left on WIC (bread, cheese, peanut butter) the other day for our "grocery" trip and now I have a whopping $0.16 left on the food stamp card to last us until the 21st.  Yay.  Fortunately, my freezer and pantry was well stocked by the summer and fall work in the garden and killing sprees (my helping relatives harvest chickens before winter and my husband's hunting), so we'll still eat well.  Here are the dinners I have planned for this week:

Monday: cheese enchiladas
Tuesday: venison stroganoff on rice, green beans, canned peaches

Wednesday: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn

Thursday: steak, potatoes au gratin, broccoli

Friday: chicken, lemon, rice soup with fresh, homemade artisan bread

Saturday: baked chicken, baked sweet potatoes, green beans

Sunday: venison stew

In that whole list, there really aren't a lot of things that came from the store!  Cheese, tortillas, sour cream, flour, lemon juice, rice, milk, yeast, sweet potatoes...that's about it.  Not too shabby!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Feeding My Family Makes me a Terrorist?

According to Senator Rand Paul (and rampant internet rumor), "someone who has more than seven days of food in their house can be considered a potential terrorist."  Because of this, a lot of people have expressed concern that I might be considered a possible terrorist because I am (quite publicly) trying to get a year's supply of food stored for my family's use.  Am I worried?  No.

First off, I don't think someone that was amassing a supply of food for nefarious purposes would be so open and public about it.  Secondly, all one has to do is look at my background to see why I might be doing a little stockplin'.  And, no, I'm not talking about my white, middle-class, good girl, nice college educated background, although that probably wouldn't hurt.  I'm talking about my adult life where things haven't gone so well, despite that quality, yet strangely worthless, college education.  The adult life where there have been times that I've had $5 or less to feed my family for a month and relied heavily on foraging, since I didn't know how to garden yet and didn't have a good place to do it in our apartment.  Or the aspect of the adult life where we had to live with my husband's mom for seven years before we could get a place of our own.  The adult life where my husband was injured on the job and couldn't work for nearly a year, then let go from that job about a year and a half later.  In other words, we've struggled.  A lot.  Money is constantly uncertain and, for many of these times, food was very uncertain as well.  These are the reasons I learned to forage, to garden, and to cook so darn well.  No, I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for me or my family, I'm just explaining why, other than terrorism, someone might gather an extensive supply of food while they have the means to do so.

While stories like that of my family may not be that uncommon (or maybe it is, since I think a lot of people would have just given up by now instead of keep getting back up for more), there are bunches of other reasons I can think of that someone may amass enough food to last months or even years:
  • Gardeners: while many may see us as a sick bunch with our dedication to making green things grow, we like our homegrown goodies and try to make them last, so we preserve them, if we can, to last through the off season
  • Canners: also a twisted group of souls (which of course, I wouldn't say unless I was part of this group), we love the sound of the pop when a jar seals and the corresponding pop when it is opened.  Because of this goofy obsession (if you don't think it is goofy, just look at the expression on a canner's face when either pop sounds), we want to make the fun last throughout the year.
  • Hunters: without this group, there would be a lot more starving beasties and more car/deer collisions throughout the year, but I don't know of any family that can eat an entire deer in a week or less.
  • Extreme couponers:   a group considered by many to be at least slightly crazy, but not dangerous (unless maybe you get in their way of a deal), they get stuff when the stars, or at least the sales and coupons, align right.  Since that doesn't happen for every item every week, they get the mass quantities when they can.
  • Mormons: it's a religious imperative to have a year's supply of food.  I'm not sure why, because I've never really looked into their beliefs, just the great lists of what one should have for such a supply, but I'm fairly certain Mormons are not known for terrorist activities.
  • Elderly people: anyone that lived through the Great Depression or WWII is likely to have tendencies to get the goods when they can (I remember seeing my grandma's pantry after she moved on, with its approximate bagillion cans, especially kidney beans.  She had about a googolplex cans of kidney beans for some reason).  Even as this generation dies off, their influence continues on with younger people that learned from them.
  • People who live in the country: Gas is expensive.  When the nearest store is in a neighborhood far, far away, it doesn't make sense to get groceries every few days or even every week.  Limiting the trips to the store can save a lot of money.
  • People who only get paid every couple weeks or even less often:  if you get paid less often than once a week, but are living paycheck to paycheck, sometimes that money can seem to evaporate pretty quickly!  Many, many people will buy their groceries for the entire payperiod, at least the bulk of them, in one trip, so they don't end up short on food at the same time as they are short on funds.
  • People who live in disaster prone areas: I don't know how many stories I've heard in my life, usually from people in hurricane prone areas, of the stores being closed for at least a week, sometimes as long as a month, after a storm.  If you only have a week of food at a time, you'd have to wait until the last minute before the storm hits in order to have enough food to possibly be okay until the supply chain reopens.
  • Anyone that listens to the CDC: the CDC recommends a minimum two week supply of food be maintained in the home.  From their website: "Even though it is unlikely that an emergency would cut off your food supplies for two weeks, consider maintaining a supply that will last that long."  FEMA and the American Red Cross concur, strangely enough using the exact same language in this document on emergency preparedness.  While I'm sure there are some people that would disagree, I'm pretty sure the US government wouldn't consider the CDC, FEMA, or the Red Cross to be organizations engaged in or encouraging terrorist activity.
So whether your reasons be religious like the Mormons, following the government's own recommendations, practical like the people who buy groceries when they get paid, or common-sensical, like elderly people or people in hurricane or winter weather zones,  or other one of the other crazy reasons I listed, I really think, if the only "suspicious" activity one is engaged in is having a larger than average supply of food on hand, you probably don't have anything to worry about.  Come to think of it, I bet when you consider all these different groups, having more than a week of food in your house is probably downright normal!

How long could you go without buying food, if you needed to?  Do you fall into one or more of the categories I mentioned if you do have more than a week's worth, or do you have reasons I may not have thought of?

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #10.