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Monday, March 30, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Fifth Week of Lent

This was still in my drafts file.
Not much to report here on the dinner front, lots to tell about the weekend, but that will have to wait a little. We have been out of town and have a short meal planning week.
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Here are my Fridge and Pantry Clean Out lists. Again, these are only for dinners and will not include anything bought specifically for the meals or within the last week.

Freezer:
Chicken Breasts
Duck Breast
Garlic Sausage
Mozzarella


Fridge:
Lettuce
Celery
Carrots
Butter
Cheddar
Milk
Yogurt
Homemade Mayonnaise


Pantry:
All Dried Herbs
All Spices
Salt
Marrow Beans
Lentils
Rice
Onions
Garlic
Potatoes (from our garden last summer)
Flour
Sugar
Olive Oil
Diced Tomatoes
Chicken Broth
White Wine
Bread Crumbs from our Bread Bin

Fresh Thyme from the Herb Garden

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lasagna of Emilia-Romagna

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was skeptical about this really counting as a baking challenge. It does involve dough and it was baked, but pasta isn't what comes to my mind when I think of baked goods.

I thought this one had me beaten. We were supposed to make, by hand, spinach lasagna noodles and put together a homemade lasagna in the style of Emilia-Romagna with a bechamel sauce and meat sauce. The sauces were no problem. It was the pasta that nearly got me down.

If you have made pasta before, you know about the mountain of flour with the eggy crater in the middle. I cleaned my surface, mounded my flour and prepared to put the eggs and spinach into the crater. Eggs immediately started running down the flour like a golden lava-ed volcano. I didn't get a picture because my hands were already encrusted from trying to stem the tide and Rich hadn't come home yet. I did remember to take off my wedding ring before I began mixing the dough, though. Did I mention that I planned to start this whole process at 2:00 and didn't get on it until 4:30? We ate dinner at 10:00 that night.

So, back to the dough. The instructions told us that it would be a rough mass, but that after vigorous kneading, it would become more elastic. I'm not sure that word means what they think it means. I have never kneaded dough this tough. I gave up after half an hour and beating it up with the rolling pin to vent my frustration. Then I wrapped it and let it rest. While I rested.

Rich got home in the middle of my kneading workout. He started calling out "Five more, four more!" like those awful aerobics instructors that you always wanted to strangle for thinking you didn't know how to count when they snuck in a 10 more after you were already down to four. Eventually, I got so that I was grunting with each stroke as I kneaded the dough. I sounded like those tennis players in Wimbledon. Or a woman in labor, as it triggered memories of delivering our first two children and Rich started telling me to breathe through it. He thought with the c-sections we have to have now, he'd never use that skill again.

When Rich walked in the kitchen, he immediately took stock of the situation and made hot dogs for the children. And asked me what he could do to help. He grated cheese for me and corralled children and got them in bed while I fought with pasta dough. I will never complain about the price of handmade pasta again. I will pay a lot of money not to have to do this again.



I did get it rolled out, and it was easier to work with the longer it rested. It never got elastic, though. We were supposed to roll it so thin that you could see color through it. I could see the pinkiness of my hand, and I decided that was color enough. I did roll each individual noodle out a little more, because I was worried it wasn't thin enough.



Alexander was amazed that I was making pasta from scratch. He exclaimed to Amira that "Mama is making pasta!" To which she replied "So." He said, "No, she's making it from flour!" That made her a little more interested. She didn't seem to think that boiling a pot of salted water was anything to get worked up about.



The children were so excited to eat this dinner, and then they found out they were getting hot dogs. That was a blow. We promised them that they could have it for lunch the next day, and it turned out there was enough left that they had it for dinner the next night as well, with us, and we still had enough to send home with our cleaning lady to her family's restaurant, where she shared with all the kitchen and wait staff, as well as Rich taking some for him and his assistant for lunch the next day. It was a 20 pound lasagna.



So, the things I did to make it larger and more difficult. I made one and a half times the pasta recipe. I doubled the bechamel. I replaced about a third of the flour with semolina. Fortunately for all of us, it tasted good. I did have a back up of scrapping the pasta ordeal and using pasta sheets from the pantry if I completely botched the pasta. We did not have to do that. The first layer of pasta was my thickest set of noodles, but the rest worked out very well and we were all happy with it.

Since this process took me about five and a half hours from start to finish, I cheated a little. I did not boil pasta. I figured it was fresh pasta, and we should use it as such. We liked that. I didn't dry the pasta. Again, I figured, if I was getting my workout for the week, I was going to use it fresh and soft. So there.

The highlight was the meat sauce. I used my own recipe, which I did out of my own brain, even. I took the skeleton of the recipe I normally use for lasagna meat sauce, added some elements from a vegetarian lasagna I make and blended it together into the most perfect sauce in the universe. Look on it and marvel:



Meat Sauce


1/4 cup olive oil
2 pounds Italian sausage (I used bulk sweet)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large onion, diced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound sliced, mixed peppers
2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup drained capers
2 28 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon basil

Brown the sausage in the olive oil in a large sauce pot. Add the pepper flakes (I did this because I normally use hot sausage, and we only had sweet), the onion, the garlic and stir it all until the fat starts to render out of the sausage and the onions turn transparent. Toss in the peppers (I used a bag of frozen ones) and cook until the liquid starts to evaporate.

Add the red wine and cook on medium-high until it is reduced by more than half. Add the olives, capers, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and herbs. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat to simmer for two hours.

Thank you again to Mary, Melinda and Enza. This was most certainly a challenge! I don't know that I will brave any more pasta, besides gnocchi, for a long time, though.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Finished Object Friday: Almost

Well, I had something I was hoping would be finished for this week's report, but no luck. Maybe I can show you next week. In the meantime, we are getting ready for a weekend trip to visit some friends and celebrate Elijah's birthday.

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seven Stupendous Seasons


Well, years, really, but the alliteration didn't work. Please ignore his deep need of a haircut.

Elijah is seven years old today. Seven years ago, we had our first c-section, the most complicated, to deliver this little boy:



He has been a miracle from before we even knew him. Had he been conceived even 10 years before, we never would have caught the tumor, because mid-term ultrasounds were not standard care, he would have died during labor, if not earlier, and my life would have been at risk as well. Elijah has faced the most challenges and complications of all of our children. And he is overcoming them. He is the most challenging of our children to us, too, and we are getting through that as well.

As hard as the road has been bearing him, delivering him, raising him, I cannot imagine a world without him and don't want to. I forever lost my figure so I could deliver him and I wouldn't take it back if it meant not having him in our family. He is almost always other people's favorite of our children, which I think is God's way of covering the difficulties he can have. Everyone who meets him loves him.

Rich and I grew and aged through bringing him into this world. He has changed us in ways that we never could have foreseen or chosen, had it been up to us. Going through that difficult pregnancy, during a tough time for our family exposed some things about each of us that didn't exactly thrill us, either. It forced those things to the surface for us to deal with and the ways that has changed our marriage and us as individuals have been some of the most important and valuable growth we have experienced. I do not think we could have loved each other and our children as well had we not gone through this together. That is something for which we are indebted to Elijah.

He has many namesakes around the world, as we published his birth story and it began to be circulated among other families who dealt with this kind of tumor. His success has been inspirational to many of whom he has never even heard. Although he doesn't remember the tumor or the surgery, we have talked about it with him and he deals with the repercussions in his life now. Perhaps because of this, whenever he hears of a child in the womb who is struggling, he is especially faithful in prayer for that person. He will bring to memory people we forget to pray for during our daily prayers. We named him for the Old Testament prophet, who never died, and for St. Joseph, the patron saint of all children, born and unborn, whose prayers, I'm sure, sustained our son in the womb. He is living up to both those great men.

Seven Spectacular Surprises about ElijahHappy birthday Elijah!

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Fourth Week of Lent

I never got a chance to make the lamb this weekend, as the meat was still frozen solid after two days in the fridge. So, we're having it this week, for the Annunciation, which is also Elijah's birthday. Since it is a major feast day in the Church year, the fast is broken (except when it falls during the Triduum, as it has in the past on Good Friday or Holy Saturday).

We have been very busy with starting seeds, preparing the garden plot and the herb beds up near the house. I think we have a plan on how to do the childrens' plants. We will give them each a large planter which they can fill with a gourd or zucchini plant with a trellis, some lettuce, baby carrots (the real thing, not those shaven suppositories), maybe a Thai melon (it was a freebie seed packet from last year's orders) if there is room, also on a trellis. These will be their plots to plant, tend, weed and harvest. We have several really large planters, but I don't know if we have enough for all of them. Jerome will obviously need more help than the older children. I'd like to give them some bean seeds to grow as well, but I don't know if there will be room with all the other things in there. I may just give them a choice between the plants, including the beans and then plant what can fit in their "plot."

There is still lots to do to make our herb beds into raised beds. We don't have a whole lot of time in which to do it, either. Press on we shall, however, because we've had a devil of a time trying to keep the beds weeded, the chickens out of them and the plants getting enough sun. Unfortunately, only one of the two beds gets sun, and we've had terrible luck in the second. We are hoping that by raising it a bit, it will bring everything a little more out of the shadows, keep the grass from overrunning it so we have a chance to grow even lettuce or garlic in it.

We have a very social weekend coming up so I have a short week for meal planning. We will be visiting with some dear friends east of the mountains (we'll finally be giving them their Christmas presents, too!), so our dinners will be taken care of by them. Arthur is a fabulous cook, so I really look forward to our meals there. We won't be running on as tight a schedule as we often are when we visit them, so it should be a nice, relaxing visit. We will also have Elijah's birthday party there, with a huge surprise that he will never believe and be so excited!!! I have another sewing project I'd like to get finished for that party as well, I don't know if it will happen. Even if it doesn't, the surprise will take his breath away and he will not notice if we don't do anything else for his birthday.
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Here are my Fridge and Pantry Clean Out lists. Again, these are only for dinners and will not include anything bought specifically for the meals or within the last week.

Freezer:
Chicken
Peppers
Peas
Spinach
Italian Sausage
Lamb
Ricotta


Fridge:
Lettuce
Celery
Parsley
Carrots
Butter
Parmesan
Cheddar
Pepper Jack
Yeast
Lime Juice

Pantry:
All Dried Herbs
All Spices
Salt
Rice
Onions
Garlic
Flour
Sugar
Olive Oil
Plum Tomatoes
Chicken Broth
Soy Sauce
Vinegar
Mustard
Honey
Worcestershire Sauce
Red Wine

Fresh Basil from a Pot
Fresh Thyme from the Herb Garden
Fresh Rosemary from the Herb Garden
Fresh Thyme from the Herb Garden
Fresh Mint from the Herb Garden

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Today is Mother's Day.

Not in the Hallmark way or even the original intent of the holiday in America, but in the Church year. It is Laetare Sunday, which is similar to Gaudete Sunday in Advent. Kind of a break in the fast, a glimmer of what is to come that shines through. Laetare is the first word of the mass in Latin:

Laetare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum laetitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestrae.

Be joyful, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exult, and be filled from the breasts of your consolation.


You can probably already see why this day is also known as Mothering Sunday. The traditional epistle is Galatians 4:22-31.

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

"Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and shout, you who are not in travail; for the children of the desolate one are many more than the children of her that is married."

Now we, brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now. But what does the scripture say? "Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.


The Church has always been seen as Mother to the children of God. It is natural to commemorate motherhood on this day, but natural mothers have traditionally been remembered with flowers and cakes as well.

I didn't get any flowers today, but we worked more in the garden. We have gone a little crazy with the garden. I will post another day about how many plants and how many varieties we are growing. Let me give you a hint: 24 kinds of tomatoes. We really like tomatoes.

The children also surprised me by getting themselves ready for bed after dinner without any prompting, including one (who will remain nameless to protect the guilty) who normally is the last to be ready who was the first tonight! That was a great Mother's Day gift to me.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Finished Object Friday: Amira's Pillow

So, I didn't post last week. I haven't been very good at consistency here. Also, participation is down. Should I keep doing this? You tell me.

Anyway, I did finish something last week! Late Saturday night, I finished this:



I started working on it before I had Yasmina. I did some of the sewing and then got stuck on the piping. Cutting the bias strip was a little scary for me. Rich encouraged me, and I did it and everything went fairly well after that. I gave it to Amira on Sunday, rather than on her birthday, as that was her day for a party and presents. She is in love with it. How could she not be? It is pink with flowers and purple and a bow!

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Frugality (Part X): Grow Your Own

So here is where I lose half my readers. I promise this is only one of two more outlandish things we have done in our efforts to be frugal (though that is only a part of the reason we do these things).

We have always grown some herbs and vegetables. We liked doing it, we could get varieties that weren't available in stores and we knew they were fresh and grown without pesticides and other such things. We could eat them dead ripe, instead of picking them early so they would survive shipping or even trucking into town.

A few years ago, we began trying to grow more than that, though, to try to supply our food needs. We aren't even close to growing all that we want, but our goal is to eventually raise 75-80% of our food (we would also like to end up gleaning 5-10% of our food, but that's my other freakish post). Of course, there are some things like citrus, avocados, coffee, tea, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and CHOCOLATE, that we just can't grow successfully here. If we are able to build a greenhouse, we are willing to try to grow some plants like pineapples in there (if the English could do it, surely we can). Even so, we'd like to get to the point where we grow or raise most of our food.

Some people will tell you that by the time you pay for the seeds and supplies you will have already spent more than you would at the store. They are wrong. Even when you add the cost of extra water (if you, like us, live in a place where it doesn't rain enough in the summer to water your plants), it is really not a lot of money. Each year I order some seeds from a few places and buy others locally when they go on sale, Fred Meyer has seeds 50% off in February and March. We buy heirloom, open pollinated, non-trademarked seeds and plants. We do this partly because we like preserving some of the older varieties which are so full of flavor, partly because we like being able to save seed for the next year and (for the non-trademarked part) partly because we refuse to have our food held hostage by agri-business. Not all of the plants and seeds we use are heirlooms, but they are all open-pollinated or able to be propagated so we can save seed for the next year. Doing so greatly reduces the cost of your garden each year. The most expensive packet of seed I have ever bought cost $4.00 and provided enough food for a year plus seed. Potatoes, sweet potatoes and garlic can seem more costly, but will produce year after year after year, so your initial cost gets spread out right away.

I will say that the larger your garden, the better the deal on your seeds and plants. Part of that is just because your $2.00 seed packet will make much more fruit if you plant all of the seeds than if you plant only a couple. I do know that some people sell their extra starts, and we're thinking of doing that this year as well. It is almost always cheaper to get seeds than plants, because you pay for the pot, dirt, water, time and care that goes into the plant. For instance, a packet of Principe Borghese tomato seeds that I bought was marked $1.79 (we payed $0.89 in that 50% off deal - it goes through this Saturday, coupons are in the stores if you live near a Fred Meyer), one plant start in a two inch pot costs $3.25. Planting only half of the packet, we still end up with lots of plants and tons of tomatoes to eat, can and dry (these are great for sun drying).

For a better understanding of the cost comparison, each seed packet can produce 25 to 50 plants. These produce far more than a pound of tomatoes. We could spend between $0.69 and $1.49 a pound on fairly ordinary tomatoes at the grocery store during the summer, the seed packets cost us between $0.89 and $3.00. Even with a bad summer and the infernal deer, we still got far more than two to four pounds of tomatoes from each seed packet (probably closer to five to 15 pounds, depending on the variety) and they were fresh, dead ripe, heirloom or rare varieties, organically raised.

Obviously, it does take time, that is your major cost. The return is so great, though, both in quantity and quality, that we do not mind the time. We are still eating from our 150 pounds of potatoes, and have enough of it saved to replant this year. It cost us around $20 to get the seed potatoes for last year's planting. That is about $0.13 a pound for specialty potatoes to eat as well as the seed for this year's crop. We picked up a different variety (Ozette) to add to the two we already grow (Caribe and Yukon Gold) for about $25.00 including shipping, which we didn't have to pay last year as we could get the potatoes locally (both the seed potato and shipping went up this year), which should provide us with at least another 75 pounds of potatoes.

We do not pay for fertilizer because we are fortunate to have good soil and plentiful materials for compost. I've talked about our compost bin before. Everything that we cannot eat, that doesn't go into my stock bag or to our chickens goes to the compost, including tea bags, coffee grounds and the ash from our fireplace. The dirty straw from the chicken house also goes into the compost. Our bees pollinate everything so well that we could probably plant fewer plants and have as much produce as we could possibly need. I encourage anyone who is interested in beekeeping to take a class or ask around to find experienced beekeepers to question and get a packet of bees to set up a hive. If you cannot or don't want to get honey bees, I suggest putting out mason bee houses, since they will pollinate without the work of honey gathering or hive maintenance for you.

I mentioned above canning and drying. We also freeze what we can. Our ultimate goal is to not only grow and raise most of what we eat, but to can, freeze, dry and keep in storage enough to last us the entire year. We are not even close, but each year we work a little closer to that point. We haven't gotten to the point of raising grain for our flour, though after reading this, we have seriously considered what it would take to grow white wheat, spelt, oats, durum and, possibly, a little rye and kamut. One step at a time, though.

This may sound extreme to you. It would have to me less than a decade ago. The incredible flavor of fresh food, the reduction in our food bill, the pleasure of working in the ground and sun, the family time we have had together, seeing the reward of our work, changed my mind right around and it has all been worth it.

Gardening is something that children really seem to enjoy also. Our children are loving planting time now. Right now, we have a table full of plant starts and the garden plot tilled. There is some work to be done to turn our herb beds into raised beds. The children are planting corn and zucchini and enjoying watching them grow. We have even incorporated a study on plants and seeds in our homeschooling.

We've found that a side benefit of growing our own is that we eat a lot more vegetables and fruit. When you have at least 10 pounds of produce harvested each day, you tend to find a way to use it up. It has also encouraged our children to be more adventurous with fruit and vegetables, expanding their palates. Even some vegetables certain family members didn't like as well before were found to be quite tasty when we picked a flavorful variety and ate them fresh.

We probably spend about $200 a year on the garden (This year it was around $150 more, because we had to rent a tiller - we normally borrow one from a friend. You can do it by hand and with hand tools). So, about $16.67 a month. We no longer buy tomatoes fresh, and we are working toward not needing to buy any canned. We don't buy zucchini, yellow squash or any winter squash, including our pumpkins, any more. It is rather rare for us to buy herbs (we had to do so for the first time in years last month), we don't buy cabbage or kale (and these store in the garden even with snow on them), we don't buy potatoes or snow peas, only buy about half the peppers we used to and with rare exception don't buy corn anymore. Of the other vegetables we grow, we have greatly reduced the amount we have had to buy at the store. When you consider that the price per pound on most of these vegetables is usually between $0.60 and $3.00, you realize what a savings can be had by growing your own.

Our garden plot is the size of a decent sized home's footprint, so we can produce a lot here. Even with the infernal deer. Don't think you can't garden without that kind of space, though. We have gardened in rental homes, in apartments, everywhere we have lived. In fact, in our first, one bedroom apartment, on the second floor, we had planter boxes, pots and Rich built a huge planting area that was a foot by two feet and followed the entire length of our balcony where we grew vegetables, melons, herbs and flowers. Eggplants are gorgeous plants that I would have even if we didn't eat them and they do well in pots. Tomatoes, peppers, herbs of all kinds, cucumbers, potatoes and even squash can do well in pots, so long as they have enough room. Lettuce, scallions, broccoli, cabbage, kale and other greens, carrots, beets and turnips, peas, all of these can do well in pots. So, do not be discouraged.

Here is a great tutorial on making your own newspaper seedling pots and another on making those six-pack pots like they come at the garden center. Making these is free and uses up your newspapers. If you would like to further reduce the price of your garden by saving seed, there are plenty of books out there (that can be found at the library, too) which detail how to do it. If you wish to do that, you must buy open pollinated varieties. Seed companies have to tell you if a plant is a hybrid, don't get those if you want to save seed. Do not buy trademarked plants or seeds if you want to propagate your own. It is against the law to propagate such plants, and most of the trademarks belong to big agri-businesses which mess around with their seeds and have a strangle hold on the market which we do not wish to support in any case. You could get those varieties nine times out of ten at the store anyway. We choose to grow predominantly older varieties, so we look for the dates they were introduced, the words heirloom, antique, or traditional.

I try to get seeds and things like seed potato and sweet potato slips locally. I don't have to pay shipping that way, they tend to focus on plants and varieties that grow well here and the prices are usually lower than catalogs. When I buy them in town, I buy Ed Hume and Territorial seeds, as they are both companies that are relatively local to me and specialize in varieties that do well in our area. However, there are a few companies with whom I like to do business. I would also recommend asking on Freecycle or just watching for seeds, plants and bulbs that are offered. We have given away many extras there and picked up some great things that way.

I hope this was helpful and not too scary an idea for you. If you have questions, please ask, and I will try to answer them in a timely manner.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
Soup
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have
Combining Trips
Storing Bulk Purchases
Turn It Off

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Third Week of Lent

This week's Menu Plan Monday is being hosted elsewhere, so the link won't take you to the normal blog.

We have a few duplicates this week. Our week was just hectic and crazy. I blame daylight savings. So, we're trying again with a few things this time around.

I have some thoughts about Lent floating in my head, and I have a project to show you and a frugal post to finish up. I hope those things happen this week. Wouldn't that be a change?
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Here are my Fridge and Pantry Clean Out lists. Again, these are only for dinners and will not include anything bought specifically for the meals or within the last week.

Freezer:
Corned Beef
Smoked Pork Chops
Asparagus Trimmings for Soup
Peas
Peppers
Mozzarella


Fridge:
Butter
Eggs
Parmesan
Celery
Carrots
Lettuce
Parsley
Yeast
Cauliflower
Leftover Ricotta Filling from Rollantini
Cream
Buttermilk

Pantry:
All Dried Herbs
All Spices
Salt
Dried Small Red Beans
Rice
Rigatoni
Onions
Garlic
Potatoes (from our garden last summer)
Flour
Sugar
Baking Soda
Mustard
Brown Sugar
Sunflower Seed Oil
Olive Oil
Worcestershire sauce
Marinara Sauce
Tomato Puree
Red Wine

Fresh Basil from a Pot
Fresh Rosemary from the Herb Garden
Fresh Thyme from the Herb Garden
Fresh Mint from the Herb Garden

I made it through the week without stopping at the store. This week there are double points at Fred Meyer, if any of you live near one. We have been busy planting and getting ready for our garden. I am hoping to provide most of our vegetation this summer, 60% or more. Part of that depends on our work and part of that depends on the weather. We keep hoping for some global warming, rather than this ice age we are going through now.

I'm even going to try to freeze, dry and can as much as I can to see how far through the year we can go without buying those vegetables and fruit. We were able to get through the fall and winter with potatoes from what we planted last year. It looks like we have enough to get us through the spring at least, and use some for seed in this year's garden.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby!



Today is Amira's fifth birthday! I can't believe that our little girl went from that to this:



She will be getting a birthday milkshake at the restaurant from Miss Cathy, as a special treat. We will have a little party for her on Sunday, which is when we are going to have the presents and everything else. This gives me a little more time to finish her present. She is a beautiful girl, who is full of life and joy, and we are so glad we didn't stop at three children like we foolishly had planned.

5 Fabulous Features of Amira

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: Second Week of Lent

We have learned, over the years, to trust in God's provision. Just in the last few weeks we have seen how God blesses us even in little things. I love good coffee, a fellow who has a business on the airport roasts coffee as a hobby and gave about five pounds of it to Rich. It is very nice coffee. We use lots of onions, and didn't grow enough over the summer to last us the year, but we were able to pick up a 50 pound bag for $4.98. Just yesterday, we were picking up a few things at our local grocer's and I was able to get a little over 10 pounds of nice apples for around $0.19 I just did the math, it was more like $0.15 a pound. God is good, even in the small things.

I will get my list up of pantry and freezer items that I am using this week, but for now here is the menu. We are still on a Lenten diet, and trying to cultivate our spirits. Our children like to tell everyone they meet what they have given up for Lent as soon as possible, because they are so proud. We are not sure this is exactly the right spirit to cultivate. It is good to see them trying to live as the Church lives, however, and we encourage them to do so in their little ways.

So, this tells you how tired I am. I forgot to mention that the first family birthday of the year has arrived. Amira's fifth birthday is tomorrow! We are not having her birthday party then, we will wait until Sunday, but she will get something special that is certainly not Lenten at the restaurant. We don't completely leave off the fast on their birthdays, but with two birthdays in Lent, we still want them to have a treat. Elijah at least has a chance that his birthday can fall outside of Lent or the Triduum, though one year it was Good Friday, and it is a major feast of the church year, the Annunciation, so we pretty much break the fast on that day (with the exception of the Triduum) anyway, but Amira's birthday always falls in Lent. The latest day of Ash Wednesday possible for a given year is her birthday. I'll have more about our feasting and fasting in another post, but I didn't want to let this pass by without mentioning our little girl celebrating another year.
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

Here are my Fridge and Pantry Clean Out lists. Again, these are only for dinners and will not include anything bought specifically for the meals or within the last week.

Freezer:
Chicken
Smoked Pork Chops
Bay Scallops
Peas
Sliced Peppers
Roasted Corn
Chicken Broth
Ricotta
Spinach
Eggplant Slices
Zucchini Slices

Fridge:
Butter
Parmesan
Poppy Seeds
Sour Cream
Cheddar
Parsley
Scallions
Carrots
Yeast
Cream
Cauliflower

Pantry:
All Dried Herbs
All Spices
Salt
All Dried Beans
Rice
Fettuccine
Orzo
Egg Noodles
Onions
Garlic
Worcestershire Sauce
Hot Sauce
Flour
Sugar
Olive Oil
Red Wine

Fresh Basil from a Pot (we planted what we bought a couple weeks ago)
Fresh Rosemary from the Herb Garden
Fresh Thyme from the Herb Garden
Fresh Mint from the Herb Garden

We are very glad to be eating a hot creamy meal for dinner tonight, which only required my buying the cream cheese, some crackers and salad greens (which we get each week, except in the late spring and through the summer when we can get them from the garden). Other than that, for these meals, we bought a little bacon and celery. Not too bad. My goal is not to shop at Fred Meyer this week, since next week is double points, and anything on my list this week can wait until then (thank goodness for diaper sales when I've picked up extras).

I have a request. Does anyone know if there is a boxed saltine cracker that is made without soy products, high fructose corn syrup and possibly organic (though that is secondary to the first two)? I have a recipe to make them, but if I can find them ready made, for not too much money, I'd like to try that first. Thank you!

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

More to Think on This Weekend

I don't have a lot to share today, but here are things that have made me think recently.

The Problem of Evil -- Whose? This (and the next article) from Anthony Esolen were particularly striking to me.

The Problem is Mine

This was about the problem of social networking sites like Facebook. Now, I have a facebook, and I am trying to moderate its use.

The Beauty of a Store List - This struck me particularly as we are so spoiled in our culture and do not realize how easy we have it, or how good. Something we tell our children is how we are fortunate to be able to have food preferences or dislikes. That we have the luxury of getting bored by certain foods, or having the same foods. Most people in the world eat pretty similar foods every day, and some people even are thrilled to have anything, same or not, at each meal.

A Friend of the Emperor - This is something else from the Conversion Diary, she has a way of clarifying some of the more complicated thoughts in scripture. Pontius Pilate, who wanted to wash his hands of the death of Jesus, is the one figure who is remembered each day, and has been continuously, since the crucifixion, in the creeds of the Church. There is not a day that passes in which a mass or daily office prayer is said that his name is not uttered "crucified for us under Pontius Pilate," this man who wanted to be forgotten for his part. There is probably not an hour that passes without his name being remembered. It is easy to identify him with modern politicians (Well, I personally oppose this, but...), it's not that hard to find him in any politician, but it is easy to forget to find him in ourselves.

Life on Death Row - Basically, you should just read the Conversion Diary is what I'm telling you. This is a great thing to remember as someone who converted.

Jessica's thoughts on Lent really struck a chord with me. The disciplines of the Church are there for our growth. I have a couple things to write about that, as well.

Russell Moore's editorial in the current Touchstone magazine has inspired a lot of thought in our household. He writes about the current political climate as well as the economic turmoil we are entering.

I hope you find something to think about in these.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Wicked Shrimp As Promised

Well, I said I would post this and then couldn't find my recipe until last night. We first had this at El Gaucho about six or seven years ago. The recipe on their website isn't what we ate, though. The head chef gave the recipe to a local business and I've saved it since. It was an appetizer, and I've served it that way, but I have also modified it to be a main dish served with pasta or rice as well. It can also be made with tender cuts of beef or chicken, cut into bite sized pieces.

Wicked Shrimp
serves six

Spice Mixture (enough for two batches of shrimp):
1 3/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1 3/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1/4 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano

Grind together in spice grinder or food processor. Use 1 1/2 tablespoons of spice mixture per pound of peeled shrimp (or other meat).

Remaining Ingredients:
1 pound shrimp (no smaller than 21-25 per pound)
1/2 cup softened butter
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beer (ale)
1/4 cup dry white wine

Melt half the butter in saute pan. Add garlic and shrimp. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons spice mixture and brown lightly. Add beer, white wine and worcestershire sauce. Simmer until shrimp are cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Swirl in remaining butter.

This can be served in a hot plate with grilled bread or can be served tossed with pasta or over rice. If you are serving this as a main dish, you will want to make some vegetables to go with it. Grilled mixed vegetables are wonderful, as are sauteed mixed vegetables.

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Frugality (Part IX): Turn it Off

I have a longer post that I've been working on for some time, but since it has been taking me so long to finish, I will offer some short, basic advice here: Turn it off and unplug it.

I'm not someone who unplugs all the appliances, and things like our VCR and DVD player still stay plugged in, but I try to keep it to a minimum. These things suck energy from your outlets, even when you aren't using them, and that means you are paying for them. We are big on turning lights off here, turning off radios if people aren't really listening and I'm even trying to turn off the computer each night. We usually have the classical radio station playing when Yasmina is in her crib, as it seems to help her sleep. My obvious hint is that we turn it off when we get her out of bed. Doing this has cut our electric bill by a decent amount, which we can definitely use what with the laundry running all the time and such.

We don't pay for water here (we have a well, but we pay to heat it), if we did, the same principle would apply, don't keep the water running all the time, turn it off when you can. Turn it off completely (this is more because of children who don't get the faucet all the way turned off). It is a waste of electricity and water to use them when nobody is really using them and it is certainly a waste of your money to do so.

Just a quickie post this time, but I will have more later.

Previous Posts:
Make it at Home
Grocery Shopping
Waste Not, Want Not
Soup
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Use What You Have
Combining Trips
Storing Bulk Purchases

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Finished Object Friday: Still Here

I may have some knitting news for you all soon. However, for now, I'm still at a big fat zero on finished objects. Could someone share what they have finished so I can live vicariously through you?

If you have one or more finished items this week, please sign Mr. Linky below and share all you have made. Your Finished Object(s) can be knit, crocheted, sewn, quilted, tatted, beaded, papercraft, woodwork or any other kind of craft. Show off what you have made! Please make sure you link to the exact post that shows your finished item(s) rather than just to your blog.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Potty Problem?

When we drill for Latin, I have the boys say the word in Latin for pronunciation, give the definition, the part of speech and any English derivatives they know. Today Dominic was drilling Alexander in preparation for their exam. Alexander got to the word et. Fairly simple, right?

He says: Et. And. Then he pauses. So, Dominic tried to give him a hint. It didn't work. Then, Dominic says: Et, and, constipation.

It's conjunction.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Jerome's Angry Eyebrows



That smiling face I snapped in late January which we know and love is not what we have been looking at today. Jerome is in a bad mood at the moment. The last week has been an emotional roller coaster at our house. Between teething, lack of sleep and other things going on with our schedules, everyone has been out of sorts.

Last night, Amira came downstairs crying and declared to us that her brothers didn't care about her. Rich put his arms around her and asked about the details, assured her that although they may not be playing with her and that he knew how that would hurt her feelings, he was positive that they cared about her. I think having a daughter is one of the best things that has happened in our marriage. Men learn a lot about women and how we think and feel by being sensitive to their daughters. Anyway, it turned out that her brothers were preparing a surprise for her and that was why they didn't want her with them at that point.

So, today Jerome got in trouble for playing with his brother's very loud birthday card from last year during school. After being told to put it away a few times. I removed it from him, and put it in the toy brig we have here (toys are freed on the Jubilee day which is Sunday, unless they end up there too often, then they just go away).

I head to the kitchen to get the dough ready for the rolls tonight and I hear Jerome say:

"I am mad at mommy!"

Amira, practicing her mothering technique, says to him "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." Clearly, we need to teach her that parenting is more about trusting your own instincts than books.

Jerome responds to her, "I do get upset!"

She tells him to watch out or he'll get in trouble or some other such advice, to which he replies:

"I want to be angry!"

Dominic and I, who were the furthest away, were trying to suppress our laughter. And, yes, I did talk to him about that attitude.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Menu Plan Monday: First Week of Lent

We were able to get about 12 pounds of wild caught seafood this past week at our grocery store for amazing prices, so we changed a few of our meals last week. On Saturday, we grilled salmon and served that with the roasted asparagus and salad. We picked up the salmon, some halibut, bay scallops and razor clams, shucked and cleaned. Since I was already picking up so much fish, I was going to leave the clams if the price was going to be around the same the next week, but the lady said basically that not only was the price too good to last, but the supply was so limited that really if you saw it, you should pick it up. Which I did. This sale was conveniently timed for Lent and came in handy for this week's menu planning, since it is the first full week of Lent. For those of you who are keeping track, this week also has three ember days, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, which are fasting and abstention days for specific intentions such as vocations.

Our dinner on Saturday included pan fried razor clams (I did half flour and half cornstarch), which we all enjoyed. The prices on wild caught seafood this week were astounding, the salmon and bay scallops were $3.99 a pound, for instance, and there were wild caught Oregon bay shrimp for the same price, so we picked up as much as we could and froze all we could. It's a little too early in the season to get fresh from the grocery store (though there is a fish shack near where we pick up our milk that brings in fresh crab, mussels, clams, oysters and all kinds of fish for reasonable prices), but this worked in our favor at this point, since most of it was still frozen and we could just put it in our freezer. This good fish will be tasty and a great source of protein, good fats and all those omega 3s and 6s that people talk about. All without flax seed and its false estrogens.

Between our high in omega fats eggs, grass fed beef and milk, we are doing pretty well with the good fats, I think. We also bought into half a pastured hog, a duroc and berkshire cross, that will be butchered in a little over a month and fill our freezer nicely. I'm planning on leaving the rear leg fresh, rather than curing and smoking it for a ham, so we can have a fresh roast leg of pork. We will definitely be curing and smoking some bacon, though. We're going to have them give us all the extra parts and fat and I will render the fat into fresh lard. I'm trying to decide how we'll have the butcher do the rest of the cuts, but I will be bringing our spices and herbs to grind sausage on their machinery, which will save us a lot of time. Eating out of our freezer is not only saving us money, but making room for all this meat (and maybe the steer we've been talking about getting for a couple years).

My sweet Rich made dinner two nights in a row, as I was just bone weary from school and sleepless nights (Yasmina finally cut her first tooth on Thursday - the latest of all our children - and her second came in Sunday night). If you count grilling the salmon, it was three nights in a row, though one of them he represented leftovers for the children. He was able to spend almost all of Saturday turning over the soil in our garden, as we are getting ready for a bigger vegetable and fruit planting this year, then came up to the house and cooked up our dinner. This week, we'll be using some of our fish haul, and extending the ham we ate on Sunday into two other meals.
If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can.
What is on your menu this week?

I'm also participating in the Fridge and Pantry Cleanout So, I will list the things that I am using in this week's menu that were not bought for the week. Anything that was bought in the last month, especially if they were bought for a particular meal, will not count in my reckoning. This accounting is just from our dinners, it would include more if I counted lunch and breakfast.

Things from our freezer:
Pineapple
Peas
Green Beans
Spinach
Shrimp
Peppers
Peas
Chicken

Things from the fridge:
Feta
Cheddar
Butter (originally from the freezer)
Yeast
Eggs
Lemons
Ham (leftover and originally from our freezer)
Scallions

Pantry:
All Dried Herbs & Spices
Salt
All Purpose Flour
Whole Wheat Flour
Yellow Eye Beans
Rice
Cous Cous
Elbow Macaroni
Penne
Fettuccine
Canned Tomatoes
Onions
Garlic
Olive Oil
Coconut Oil
Sesame Oil
Oyster Sauce
Soy Sauce
Honey
Sugar
Water Chestnuts
Sesame Seeds
Beer
White Wine

Which means that for the dinners this week, we bought the halibut, the olives and artichoke hearts, milk, cashews, some fresh herbs that we didn't have still growing, the frozen eggplant and zucchini and fresh vegetables and fruit. I am still trying to use mostly what we have at home, both to move through what we already have stored and to cut down on our food budget.

Pineapple Fried Rice
Inspired by the dish served at either Kuraya's or Mekala's. The one not in 5th Street Market.

4 tablespoons oil (I use coconut oil)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
sliced peppers
meat of choice, in small bites (optional)
1 can water chestnuts, drained & sliced
4-5 cups cooked rice
scallions
peas
2 cups pineapple tidbits, drained if you have canned, thawed if you have a bag, or just cut up fresh
4 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons sesame oil
sesame seeds
chopped cashews
1/2 cup fresh basil, chiffonaded

Heat pan on medium-high to high, put oil in and add onion & garlic. Saute a few minutes, until transparent, add peppers. Toss in the meat (however much you have), the water chestnuts and cook a minute or two (you may need to add more oil at this point).

Add rice and stir fry a few minutes more. Toss in chopped scallions, peas, if you have them (frozen works fine) and the pineapple. Toss to heat a bit.

Scoot everything to the side and fry up the scrambled egg, mix it in with the rest. Drizzle the top of the rice with the soy sauce, oyster sauce, curry and mix up over the heat. Take off heat and toss in the sesame seeds, basil and cashews. Serve hot with Sri Racha on the side if you like that.

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