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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mexican Pizza

Not really Mexican, and perhaps not really pizza, but it tastes good. This is more of a method than a recipe.

Pizza Dough
Refried Beans (I cook up the pot beans in bacon grease or lard with lots of onion and ground pepper)
Salsa
Grated Cheese (I use a mix of cheddar and pepper jack)
Seasoned, Cooked Ground Beef
Sliced Peppers
Roughly Chopped Olives
Scallions
Sliced Tomatoes
Pickled Jalapenos

Roll out your dough, spread the refritos on it, spoon salsa over that. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Sprinkle the ground beef, sliced peppers, olives and sliced scallions (I just snip them over the top with scissors). Bake until crust is cooked and cheese melts to your liking. Serve with tomatoes and pickled jalapeno slices. Eat. The end.

These are guidelines, use what you have and like. It's a good way to use up extra beans, or to stretch only a little meat further. Our children universally like it.

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Flour Tortillas

1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour that I ground up, but any flour would work)
1/4 cup lard or butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup warm water.

Whisk together flour, salt and baking powder, then mix with fat and warm water. Add more flour if necessary.

Cut into pieces and roll into balls about 1 1/2 - 2" in diameter. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

Press in a tortilla press or between two plates. Roll out thinly on a lightly floured surface. I made my first couple too thin, so they were more like crackers.

Cook on a griddle or in a dry frying pan on relatively low heat (medium-low or medium) until the tortilla lightens in color a little on top. Flip and cook a few seconds longer. I also cooked them too long at first.

Makes about 20 8 inch tortillas

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Corn & Chard Stacked Enchiladas

I meant to post this recipe last week, but never got to it. This recipe is based on these. I have tweaked and messed with it in a few ways to suit our tastes and what we usually have.

I usually make these enchiladas in the crock pot, because I can put
it together and let it cook while we are doing other things, but they work equally well in the oven for quicker cooking while we are home.

1 pound corn kernels, frozen and thawed is fine, the roasted corn
from Trader Joe's works quite nicely
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 can black olives, drained and chopped
2 cups chard, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 finely chopped jalapeno (or two, if you like it hotter)
2 cups shredded cheddar
1 cup shredded pepper jack
1 pint sour cream

5 cups green enchilada sauce
2 cups sour cream

24 corn tortillas

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar
1/2 cup shredded pepper jack


(Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees if you are using the oven)

Mix corn, meat, olives, chard, cilantro, jalapeno, cheese and sour
cream in a large bowl until thoroughly blended.

In a medium bowl, mix 4 1/2 cups enchilada sauce with sour cream.

Pour remaining 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of the crock
pot (or in the bottom of a large baking pan, I use one that is 11 X 15
inches). Put tortillas in a single layer over sauce, cover with some of
the filling, another layer of tortillas and more filling ending with a
layer of tortillas. Pour enchilada sauce and sour cream mixture over
the top and sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours
or on high for 2-3 hours (or leave uncovered and bake for 25 - 30
minutes). Put a paper towel or clean kitchen towel under the lid of
the crock pot, without touching the food, to absorb some of the extra
moisture. Let sit 15-20 minutes before serving.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Four Great Giveaways

I entered four really good giveaways this week. I am sharing them with you so you have a chance and so I can have additional entries. These are things we'd really like, but if I win the dehydrator, don't tell Rich, because it will be a St. Nicholas present for him.

The first is for stainless steel food storage. We've been trying to get away from plastics with BPA in them and using more stainless steel and glass anyway.

The second is for handmade jewelry. Yes, I am a sucker for pretty, sparkly things.

The third is for 5 gallons of beef tallow. Can you say french fries? Yummy!

The fourth is the big surprise. Don't tell Rich! It is for an Excalibur dehydrator! Woo hoo! This would make our lives so much nicer!

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Seven Quick Takes



1. When I was in college, I ended up on many catalog mailing lists. In one, this would be about 14 or 15 years ago, there was a gift set of the story book of The Princess and the Pea and an enamel pea pendant. I didn't buy it then, because I had no need, but thought it was cute and kept it in my mind should I ever have a daughter. Now, there is nothing like it that I can find. This pendant is the closest to what I remember, but it is a bit fancier, more expensive and does not include the story. Any ideas?

2. Did I mention I'm knitting again? Well, I am. I am even somewhat close to having something finished. I am more delighted than you can imagine. I have high hopes of knitting on a regular basis again. Maybe even sewing and crocheting, too.

3. Again, I am confused about the seasons in our new home. Since when have below zero temperatures, sleet, freezing rain and snow been fall? This is winter. This was not in the brochure. I was promised four seasons here.

4. I discovered this week that we will not be hurting for toilet paper if we get snowed in. Aside from the two on the roll already, we have at least 97 double rolls of toilet paper in our house.

5. We do not really do Halloween (or rather, we do celebrate All Hallow's Eve, but not the secular or pagan version of the day) and as we still don't have a church home here, we can't do our traditional All Saints feast and party, we are commemorating it a little on our own this year. We've dressed as our favorite saints for years, learning a little more about those we choose or choosing those we've learned more about sometimes. We'll be carving our pumpkins in Christian symbols as well as in more iconic images. I have never liked the reactionary anti-Halloween sentiment that can be found in churches, because the Druid celebration of it did not intersect with the Church until long after All Saints was already commemorated and because I didn't think that dressing as Snow White and eating too much candy was all that big a deal to get so worked up about, but the pagan and dark elements of the day seem to be what are emphasized more and more now, so we are backing off a bit. Our children get plenty of time to dress up as they wish, we asked them if they really missed it and it seems to be more a fun and candy thing for them, so we make sure they get loads of candy and celebrate the Church year instead. Since we now have to shield them against pr*stitute costumes as well, we are glad we live too far away from most people to have a big trick or treat issue anyway (as we did for the last seven years as well). How about you?

6. Would that more Protestants thought as this pastor does about Reformation Sunday.

7. I saved this for last, because it is more serious and I just didn't want to go back to something trivial or silly after it. When I read things like this, aside from being heart broken for these people who are persecuted and more determined to pray for the persecuted Church, I am aghast at how little religion reporters are expected to know about religion. By these same standards, I could write about sports or nuclear physics. After all, I can write a bit, I have heard of them, surely there can't be too much to it.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Frugality (Part XIV): Finding Fun Locally

Well, I mentioned this in my last post, but didn't get a chance to go into it very much: Finding events and activities in your area.

Check out local free options for entertainment! In our small town living, we have had art fairs, film festivals, music in the parks, ethnic fairs, free movies in parks, free bowling in the summer, free movies in theaters on certain days during the summer. An Orthodox church had a Greek festival each year. I mentioned the free art classes that were hosted at our library in my previous post. These were all found in little, non-metropolis type towns. Our town had a local town pride type festival each year, with a parade, art show, free breakfast, dances, face painting, science and art activities, all sorts of things for a family to do. While there are plenty of opportunities to spend money at things like this, you don't have to to have a great time. Even if you do spend money, you can often get a very good deal or buy something very special that can be a reminder of that trip.

Besides those things, there are community centers, park and recreation departments that offer classes and activities for free or very little cost. One theater near us offered black and white oldies on Mondays for $2.00.

Something else to look into is whether any museums in your area offer free days. The glass museum near us had a free day each month, as did a local historical museum, a hands on children's museum and a few others. The local symphony orchestra had some free performances throughout the year. There was a local theater group that had some free performances. Get on the e-mail or mailing lists for these organizations.

One other thing our library did where we lived before was they had free passes to certain museums and amusement parks which you could check out for three weeks just like the books, movies and music. You never know what is available for free or very little, right under your nose. Usually your library, newspaper and parks and rec have websites that you can check for upcoming activities. Your city may have a website with links to local events, or the Chamber of Commerce. Perhaps you have a local historical preservation society that has reenactments of what your town was like when it first began. I forgot to mention that there is a local Hutterite colony which opens itself to tours, lessons and sharing a meal with them. We haven't taken advantage of this yet, but I am thinking of taking the children on a field trip there in the spring or summer. Keeping to a budget does not mean staying home and missing out, unless you choose it.

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
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk
Gleaning
Entertainment on the Down Low

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nutritious Chocolate Almond Bars (for Kim)

Okay, I found it much sooner than I thought I would. This will use up some almond meal Kim. I found a recipe for these on a blog a year or two ago, then I messed with it.

4 cups almonds (raw)
1 cup almond meal
1 cup shredded coconut (dried, unsweetened)
1 cup unsalted creamy roasted almond butter
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Place almonds, almond meal, shredded coconut, almond butter and salt in a food processor. Pulse just enough to combine, about 10 seconds.

In a small sauce pan, melt coconut oil over very low heat, remove coconut oil from stove, stir honey and vanilla into oil.

Add coconut oil mixture to food processor and pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste.

Press mixture into an 9 X 11 glass baking dish. Chill in refrigerator for about an hour, until mixture hardens.

In a small saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat, stirring continuously. Spread melted chocolate over bars; return to refrigerator for 30 minutes, until chocolate hardens. Remove from refrigerator, cut into bars and serve

Makes 40 bars

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge: Macarons

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

We've had quite the challenging month here, still dealing with house issues, so I am just barely getting in under the wire on this challenge. I was going to try to do something with hazelnut flour, but ended up going with the traditional almond. However, I added a little espresso powder to the cookie and used vanilla sugar for my granulated sugar. I was going to fill them with a dark chocolate ganache. Basically, I was going to make a mocha almond fudge macaron. Since I wasn't sure if we would like these, I made a half batch.

However, I had a colossal failure from start to finish. Because I didn't have time to redo these if I messed up, I had one shot. I started by overbeating the eggwhites. Which I've never done before. In my defense, I was distracted by a very cute three year old helper, who was sick and in need of amusement, since I didn't want to let him out in the wind and sleet with his older siblings.

I thought I could recover from this, but I also could not find the parchment paper, so I had to try to bake them either on a non-stick pan or on a heavily buttered pan. Both failed. I had nice little feet on my macarons, but they are hard to see now that they are completely crumbled from my trying to get them off the pan. The buttered pan batch ended up spread all over the place and with no feet.



So, I made lemonade with my lemons and crumbled them in a bowl and drizzled with the ganache. That, at least, turned out nicely. They tasted good, but they look nothing like they are supposed to look. Nor was I able to make a single sandwich with them. I would have had 14 sandwiches and an extra cookie had I succeeded. I think this is the first Daring Baker's Challenge I have completely and utterly failed on, so that is a little shaming.




I'm not sure I've ever had a traditional macaron, only the American, coconut based version. Honestly, I think I still prefer the coconut based cookie, though these tasted nice, so I don't know that I'll give them another go.



Thank you Amy for what was certainly a challenge for me this month!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

No Way!



I am trying not to get my hopes up about how much knitting I will be able to get done, but I am knitting again.

I'll leave it to you to guess what I'm making. It uses some sock yarn I picked up at Madrona a couple years ago. I started it before we moved, but once we were in the what job are we going for and get ready to move mode, I put it down. I picked it up again on Friday and am hoping to get it finished in the next couple weeks.

I am enjoying the yarn, I like the color, but I wouldn't have named it as they did. It was called Raspberry Creme.



I don't think so. It is Fly-Dyed Monarch sock yarn from Angora Valley Fibers. So far, I am very happy with the yarn, even if it is an ill named color. It is still a pretty color.

Living in a place that gets so much actual winter, I really want to get hats, mittens, gloves, socks and such made for everyone. I don't know that I'll be able to do it all for Christmas, with only nine and a half weeks to Christmas day, but I need to get a move on it if I want to have them ready even for Epiphany, as that only buys me about 11 days more.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Menu Plan: October 25 - October 31 Bean Challenge

This button was probably more appropriate to spring and summer, but it was so pretty and I wanted a change.

This week I am trying to make our dinners primarily out of beans and rice or other accompaniments. We are not trying to live as though we were in poverty this week, but to try to make the bulk of our dinners out of simple foods that are the basis of most cultures' diet, usually because of a limited budget for or access to meats. Aside from this, I am still trying to cook largely out of our freezer and pantry. In addition, my goal was to maintain our normal fasting days, so Wednesdays and Fridays will still be completely meatless, even though the rest of the days of the week will be largely based in non-meat protein. I will be trying to remake meals into other meals as much as possible in an attempt to do this as frugally as possible. I know of at least two people who will be joining me this week in this challenge.

If you are interested in trying this with us as well, please take a look at the guidelines and link to your post on Mr. Linky (found at the bottom of this post) or leave a comment in the comments. Please check back and share a little about your experience, challenges and successes, with this experiment. I will be trying this in various ways over the next few months, one week a month, both as an attempt to save on our budget and to have some solidarity with those who are not able to make as many choices about what they put in their mouths as we are.

I began by cooking up a large quantity of pinto beans. I will be using them for most of our meals this week, with one exception.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. Starred recipes will follow separately.

Here is the list of foods from the freezer, fridge and pantry that I'm using this week. Anything from the freezer, pantry or fridge that was not bought specifically for this meal or this past week will be included in my lists.

Freezer:
Cooked Ground Beef
Chorizo
Bacon Ends
Roasted, Peeled & Sliced Poblanos
Green Beans
Blueberries
Pizza Dough (I made up enough for six pizzas a few weeks ago and froze the extras)

Fridge:
Eggs
Butter
Lard
Milk (& Cream from the Top)
Buttermilk
Yogurt
Feta
Cheddar
Pepper Jack
Queso Cotija
Celery
Carrots
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Jalapenos
Scallions
Chayocote Squash
Chard
Watermelon
Riesling Grape Juice
Corn Tortillas
Maple Syrup

Pantry:
All Herbs & Spices
Salts
Tomatoes
Potatoes
Onions
Garlic
Limes
Olive Oil
Hard White Wheat Berries
Soft White Wheat Berries
Kamut Berries
Rolled Oats
Cracked Wheat
Pastry Flour
Corn Meal
Yeast
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Homemade Tortillas (yes, I made them finally!)
Coffee
Tea
Vanilla Extract
All Sugars
Honey
Raisins
Diced Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce
Pears
Plums

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Seven Quick Takes Friday



1. If you are interested in joining me in the Bean Week Challenge, please remember to check back Sunday night to sign Mr. Linky.

2. I thought this joint statement on the Blessed Virgin Mary from Catholics and Evangelicals together was wonderful.

3. Our children have made a rock museum. They collected the rocks, set it up and built the sign. Please come visit, entrance is only $1.00, though I just learned that it isn't $1.00 per person, but rather $1.00 to each of our children who run it. It's a way better deal for a family or group. $5.00 for a school tour? Come on, you won't find that anywhere else.



4. In the same train of thought, I've been so thrilled to watch how even when our children are at play they are learning and doing in a way that I don't think they would have had we put them in government schools or not been adamant that we don't have television in our house. They are not materialistic, they can play without someone else organizing it for them, they come up with ideas that are not cartoon/movie character driven. They are my great things and I am so glad I am here to help them learn and watch them explore.

5. This bit about the Paranoid Center is spot on, I think.

6. I think I am one of the few people who is not thrilled with the new movie releases of childrens' books. Where the Wild Things Are and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs are short books. In order to make them into full length movies, the people making them have to add a bunch. Since the people making them come from Hollywood, they think this means adding snotty behavior, elevating nasty attitudes in children (not just what gets Max sent to bed, mind you), inserting sexual innuendo and other stupidity. I don't really care how cool the cinematography is, they are taking delightful books and making them into dumb movies that only have a slight relationship to the books from which they came.

7. Finally, this cracked me up. It hit on a few of my own peeves.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Frugality (Part XIII): Entertainment on the Down Low

I started this post about six months ago. It was supposed to come after part XI, but that was before I knew what would be coming down the pike. So, it is now in a different order and a bit later than I originally intended.

I'm writing about something that doesn't have to do with the kitchen. It is a rare moment in my frugal trek. So, how does one enjoy entertainment without busting the budget? There are two major outlets for entertainment that come immediately to mind. The first is the library, the second is the community.

I know that there are people who see no reason to use the library. If a book is worth reading, it is worth owning. I am rather sympathetic to that view myself, but we wouldn't eat if we bought all the books we wanted. One of the ways we use our library is to weed out which books (and CDs and DVDs) are worth buying and which are not. There are often books that look interesting to me, but that I'm not sure I will really enjoy or use, so I check them out from the library first. If it is not worth it, I don't have to read that far into it to figure that out. If it is a nice, light read, but not something that I will go into again, I can enjoy it and put it back, without spending any money. If we find ourselves checking it out again and again, or if the information in it is useful enough that we think we'll need it again, we put it on the list to buy.

For homeschooling, we find the library to be invaluable. We do not wish to own every little story book and picture book out there. There are some we think are good enough or important enough to own, but for the rest, we check them out from the library. With the older children, they read the childrens' version of many stories like the Aeneid or the Odyssey, when we only wish to own a good copy or two of the full translation. There is no way we could or would own every book relevant to their studies or research, but the library has many or most of them. The library is wonderful for out of print books, as well. Especially those which are hard to find, even with the internets, and buy.

We were fortunate to have had an excellent library in our former area. We got new books, old books, CDs, DVDs and videos, even free passes to museums from our library. Unless and until we find ourselves getting and renewing the same book or movie from the library over and over, we do not buy it. Why pay for and store something if you are not sure that you really like it and want it?

Because our library had such great material in it, we used it as our video store as well. There have been only a handful of movies or shows we wanted to get from the library that they didn't have anywhere in their system. Our library let you take a movie out for a week, documentaries, educational films or television programs are checked out for three weeks. That's longer than most movie places will rent and doesn't cost us anything. If we were a day late returning something, it cost us $0.15. Though I try to check things out on the same day each week, which helps minimize overdue fines, as we know that things come due on that day and can renew them.

We are still familiarizing ourselves with our new library system. It has many of the benefits of our former library, but has its own weaknesses. One thing that was a nice surprise is that they will mail materials to you if you wish to do that rather than come in (we choose to go anyway, as it allows the children to pick books for themselves other than those I've picked and we all get to browse in there a little). It was also a huge surprise to find out that they don't charge late fees. I checked with the staff, this is their policy. We haven't found all the books we used to use nor all the movies, but we have found some that we weren't able to get back on the west side.

I still strongly advocate using your library to its fullest. You pay for it in taxes already. At the very least, you can use it to screen books, movies and music you are considering purchasing. That alone will save you money, as you won't waste it on things you won't really want or need. In addition most libraries have reading programs for children which involve visiting authors, projects related to a particular book, story time. Our library had a fun puppet show in the first week or two that we moved here, which was a nice treat for our children while I was busy getting my library card. At our former library, there were art programs for adults that were free, you just had to sign up and come to learn.

One way to use the library to its fullest is to check out its website. Their program schedules can be found there. You can often search for material and put them on hold at home, so if you know specifically what you are seeking, you don't have to scour the stacks for them or you can ensure that it is available for you when you go to the library. We have started using this for our book selection for the children. We can do the research and computer work at home, put most of their selections on hold and have them look for their free choice books when we get there. When you are traveling to the library with six children, two of whom need a nap or two during the day, it is nice not to spend two or three hours looking for books with their siblings and watching them melt down.

The library summer programs have been good to our children. I don't know if it is just because not too many people take advantage of them or what, but all of our children won gift certificates in a drawing at our library one summer. Their summer reading program usually rewarded children with a free lunch at Subway or something else like that, if they finished their reading card and got all the stamps. This is not a hard thing for our children, they can read that much in a week or two.

A side benefit of using the library is that you get to know more people in your community. I have made friends with the librarians, some of whom share my interests in cooking and knitting, they have made great recommendations to me on books or movies. I've also met other mothers there who have children around the same ages as our children, or other homeschooling parents.

In our world, I think there is a greater emphasis on going out and buying, or using the internet to purchase something when there is a new book or what have you. The library has many of these things, will store and maintain them for you, helping you not to spend unnecessary money or clutter up your home with books that aren't really worth keeping in the long run. I encourage you to check out your library.

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
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk
Gleaning

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bean Week Challenge

It looks like there are two people who are on board with my bean week challenge. There is no cool button to post, but if someone who is artistic wants to come up with one, I'd be thrilled, especially since I would like to do this one week a month, just to see how many different ways I can do it. I'll post it right at the top of this page. If we have multiples, I'll post all of them. Just remember to save any images to your own computer instead of linking them from this post.

For those of you who are interested in trying it out each month as well, I will post about it coming up in the previous week's menu plan. Just to make it easier, I will make it the fourth full week of each month, barring any major holidays interfering with it (like Thanksgiving next month and Christmas in December), in those months, I'll do it the third week, which can also help you spend less and do less in the kitchen so you'll have extra time and money to prepare for the holiday.

Here are my few guidelines:Okay, so that was several guidelines, not a few, but I hope they aren't too stringent.

In addition, I'd like to read about your family's and your reactions and experiences, so if you could edit your post to reflect that, or leave a comment here with a link to a different post, I'd appreciate it.

There are many ways to do this. I don't want to limit how people do this, so I will give three different ways to approach it. Just mention which approach you are taking somewhere in the post or comment. This isn't rigid, I'm breaking with one of these, right off the bat, I'm just looking for a general approach.

1. Cook a huge pot of beans and take from it and/or add to it for your meals throughout the week.

2. Use the same kind of beans each day of the week, cooking different batches as you go.

3. Cook and use different beans each day as you wish to use them.

I hope others will try this. Mr. Linky will be up by 8:00 pm Pacific time on Sunday. I think it is a great way to maximize the food budget as well as to look at how other people have to live. We are doing this by choice, but there are many people who eat this way out of necessity. I have been known to tell my children that we are fortunate to have the luxury of getting bored with certain foods or avoiding those we dislike. Most people in the world have to eat whatever is available or go without. I'd like to approach this experiment with that in mind.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Menu Plan: October 18 - October 24

We discovered that 40 pounds of grapes makes about three and a half gallons of very tasty juice. We were able to pick up quite a bit of produce for very little this week, the last of the harvest is making its appearance around here. I am trying not to go grocery shopping this week. I have a ton to do this week, we have lots of food in the house already and I don't feel like making any more trips than absolutely necessary. So, this week we are using the produce we picked up, meat from our freezer and pantry items. If I do this right, all I'll have to buy is milk next week and we'll do the same then.

Our gleaning was quite productive this week. We made friends with a local farmer who sells her produce. She was only willing to sell us the pumpkins, though, since we are at the end of the harvest season. So, we were able to pick 12 pumpkins (eight for carving, four pie pumpkins), four watermelons they saved from the frost, a gigantic bunch of chard (the size of two or three from the store), about two pounds of brussels sprouts, two spaghetti squash, another huge bunch of scallions, a few ears of feed corn (to make the children happy) and a couple handfuls of soy beans (same thing) for $14. Since I still had $20 of tokens for the farmer's market (they sell them there, so you can use your credit or debit card to pay for your purchases), I only spent $6.25 out of this past week's grocery budget to get our produce there: eight pounds of heirloom tomatoes, eight pounds of various plums, six large sweet peppers, two pounds of garlic, a large, new to me Mexican summer squash called (I think) chayocote and a huge bunch of multicolored carrots. Between what we already have here and what I picked up, we have enough for at least two weeks.

I plan to do a beans and rice challenge next week. I'm still not sure how exactly I'm going to arrange it, all based on one big pot of beans or just different beans each night. I may have to do it a few ways for a few weeks to see what works best. If you are interested in joining me, please leave a comment and blog about it or share in comments what your plan is.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. Starred recipes will follow separately.

Here is the list of foods from the freezer, fridge and pantry that I'm using this week. Anything from the freezer, pantry or fridge that was not bought specifically for this meal or this past week will be included in my lists.

Freezer:
Kielbasa
Roasted Corn
Bacon Ends
Ground Pork
Ground Beef
Chorizo
Green Beans
Roasted Corn
Zucchini
Tomatoes
Blackberries
Blueberries
Strawberries
Sprouted Wheat Raisin Bagels

Fridge:
Eggs
Butter
Yogurt
Sour Cream
Milk (& Cream from the Top)
Cream Cheese
Cheddar
Pepper Jack
Feta
Celery
Carrots
Hot Peppers
Eggplant
Scallions
Chard
Watermelon
Riesling Grape Juice
Maple Syrup

Pantry:
All Herbs & Spices
Salts
Potatoes
Shallots
Onions
Garlic
Olive Oil
Hard White Wheat Berries
Soft White Wheat Berries
Rolled Oats
Cracked Wheat
Pastry Flour
Corn Meal
Yeast
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Coffee
Vanilla Extract
All Sugars
Honey
Raisins
Sultanas
Tomato Sauce
Pears
Acorn Squash
Spaghetti Squash

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Frugality (Part XII): Gleaning



This post is coming out a little later than I intended, and a little later than its usefulness perhaps (though there are still plenty of opportunities), but I hope it will cause you to think of different ways about how you can acquire what your family needs or wants.

For years, we picked crabapples and made beautiful jelly out of it. It was one of the favorite preserves that we gave away at Christmas. It was lovely to look at and delightful to taste. It also cost us almost nothing to make. You see, we were at a park that was landscaped with crabapple trees. We asked the park maintenance crews if they were sprayed and if it was okay to pick them. They answered no and yes. So, every summer, we'd go and pick boxes and boxes and bags and bags of them. It was fun for the children, we were able to get lovely fruit and the jelly only cost us the sugar and time. For a few years, Rich would take the boys down the street from our duplex and pick pie cherries from a tree that nobody took care of anymore. He would pit them and I would make pie. Just two houses from our duplex, there was a yellow transparent apple tree which is a very early variety that is sweet and tart and makes great apple sauce. We'd load up on them, as nobody else wanted them.

All over the northwest, blackberries are rampant along roadsides and are pernicious weeds in yards. They are wonderful in desserts, as jellies and jams, syrups, vinegars and frozen for later use. All it takes is a little time and effort to pick them. Precious little effort and time. Likewise, mint grew as a weed all over the place and where I grew up, you could find wild fennel. Before we moved, we lived minutes away from a park that used to be a blueberry farm. It was free to the public to pick as much as they wanted from over 5000 bushes. Again, the major cost was time and effort.

There are abandoned apple and pear trees in almost every town in every state. These are often still good to eat, or at least to be used for apple or pear sauce, jellies and butters. If they are in good condition, they can be used for pies, crumbles, canned in slices or frozen for other use. Sometimes, the orchards aren't abandoned, but the owners cannot put in the effort to harvest and don't want the fruit to go to waste, much like when we picked all those apples last fall.

I know of many people who have gleaned grape leaves from parks or neighbors' gardens, olives from the landscaping trees in Southern California. In our new area, I hear about picking wild asparagus from irrigation ditches. There are opportunities for such windfalls in every area. I'm sure you can think of some local treat that is easily available on roadsides and will over take yards and gardens. If you live in an agricultural area, chances are you can find a field in which to glean potatoes or corn. It is a fun activity to do as a family and the benefit is much greater than the food gathered. You are able to share fun and memories, you are able to exercise together, you get farm fresh produce, often it is organic (even if it hasn't been certified), your children get to learn about the work it takes to bring food from the farm to a home, it teaches lessons about work and perseverance, it gives a greater appreciation for the value of food, farms and God's bounty.

Gleaning is very biblical. When I hear about people wishing to reform our economy to better aid the poor, I think it would be nice if we could encourage this form of gleaning. How much better if that food that cannot be harvested go to the poor rather than being wasted? How much better to encourage the poor to work for their food? How much better to encourage the wealthy not to hold on to every last scrap of what they have?

You do not have to be poor to glean, though. Nor do you have to go to a farm far away from your urban or suburban life. As I mentioned above, there are parks and cities with edible landscaping that might be available to you I (cherries and plum are common). There are neighbors who might have a fruit tree or two or extra vegetables or a nut tree. Most gardeners end up growing far more than they can use or store and are happy to pass it on to others who can use it. Something that is nice to do if you are gleaning from a friend's bounty is to use some of what you gather to make into a bread, cake, preserve, pickle or something similar that you can give them. Or, if you have some other skill like soap making or if you make your own bread (which was what I traded for eggs for almost a year), you can give something of that craft to them instead.

Some churches have a produce exchange during the summer. You don't have to bring something to take something home, though if you have extras from your garden it is a nice way to share with others. I've mentioned Freecycle before. Search on your town or county's name to find a group close to you. People give away their fruit and vegetables from spring to fall. Sometimes people with fruit trees or vegetable plants offer the opportunity to pick. We have gotten apples, pickling cucumbers, dill weed and other herbs, habanero peppers, tomatoes, red onions, scallions, eggplant, squash, zucchini, chard and all sorts of other produce this way. We've gotten seeds and bulbs and plants for our own garden this way as well. I have seen people asking for opportunities to glean as well. I've heard that Craigslist sometimes has listings like this. Recently we found out about Veggie Trader which is a kind of produce swap meet. Perhaps you have a neighbor or family member or friend of a friend who has tons of jalapenos or plums coming out their ears. If you can use them, you will be doing them a service as well as providing for your family for no extra money.

Gleaning and bartering are my favorite ways of getting good produce and other foods. You get to know the people who raise or make the food, you get to work a little in the outdoors and share what you have as well. We have been able to reduce our food bill by quite a bit using methods like this, all while having some of the freshest food available to us. All of the food in the photo, for instance, was gleaned this past weekend. Saturday evening, Rich went to a men's dinner where there were potatoes and butternut squash for the taking that had been offered by a neighbor of ours. So, Rich brought some home. The next afternoon, we went to the home of our neighbor to pick pears, as I mentioned, came home with 25-30 pounds of Christmas pears, almost all the rest of their Riesling grapes, about 40 pounds, which had been touched by the frost, and probably 20 pounds of walnuts ready to dry.

Have you gleaned anywhere this year? Where do you see opportunities to glean in your neighborhood or town? Please share your experiences and ideas.

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
Grow Your Own
Buying in Bulk

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Menu Plan: October 11 - October 17

We have had quite the weekend in terms of produce! Rich went to a men's dinner last night and came home with three home grown butternut squash and about 10-15 pounds of potatoes. We stopped at our neighbors after church to pick some Christmas pears that they offered to us a couple weeks ago. They were already picked and ready to load in our car. Then, they offered us the Riesling grapes off their vines that had been touched with frost. Nearly all of them. We are making juice tonight and eating some fresh over the next few days. They also had a walnut tree that had leaves and nuts blown out last night, so they grabbed a rake and helped us all gather walnuts to take home to dry. We have some of last summer's walnuts already so we can keep cracking them with the children, even though these ones aren't ready to eat yet. Freshly cracked walnuts are some of the best snacks out there. It is fun for the children, too. The goal is always to pull out a whole walnut without breaking it.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. Starred recipes will follow separately.

Here is the list of foods from the freezer, fridge and pantry that I'm using this week. Anything from the freezer, pantry or fridge that was not bought specifically for this meal or this past week will be included in my lists.

Freezer:
Kielbasa
Pork Shoulder
Beef Brisket
Pinto Beans
Pecans

Fridge:
Eggs
Butter
Yogurt
Sour Cream
Milk (& Cream from the Top)
Cheddar
Feta
Blackberry Pancakes
Celery
Carrots
Cucumbers
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Eggplant
Scallions
Watermelon

Pantry:
All Herbs & Spices
Salts
Potatoes
Shallots
Onions
Garlic
Olive Oil
Hard White Wheat Berries
Basmati Rice
Sushi Rice
Rolled Oats
Granola
Pastry Flour
Corn Meal
Yeast
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Coffee
Tea
Vanilla Extract
All Sugars
Honey
Raisins
Sultanas
Canned Tomatoes
Canned Hatch Chiles
Mint
Apples
Acorn Squash

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Another Year



Alexander turned 11 today. He was born to us so long ago, though it seems like it was only a minute since he was crawling around. He is our oldest, our most responsible, our most cautious. It is easy to expect to much of him because he is all of those. He is growing up, though and soon will be a man. He is nearly my height and I expect he'll be shaving in a couple years.

11 Exceptional Things About Alexander

1. He is handsome.

2. He is caring.

3. He is gentle with his siblings.

4. He helps without too much complaint.

5. He is a voracious reader.

6. He has a sense of humor that actually makes sense now.

7. He is growing into a responsible and capable young man.

8. He has a knowledge of birds that is impressive in someone of his age.

9. He is equally able to converse with small children and adults.

10. He is able to behave collectedly even in the face of great distress (I'll share the story of the snake in our house later).

11. He is able to play without video games, televisions or character driven toys.


Happy birthday Alexander!

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Menu Plan: October 4 - October 10

Today is the feast of St. Francis. He brought us the nativity scene and the tradition of the creche at Christmas. He had an affinity for animals and they were comfortable around him, so today is a day for blessing of animals that they would be healthy and fruitful through the year.

This week is also Alexander's birthday. He will be 11 years old on Thursday! He is nearly my height now. I cannot believe it. People get to pick their birthday dinners in our house, so he has picked his. It just goes to show that if you expose children to varied foods of the same sort you eat, they will learn to like all kinds of foods. He picked venison stew, egg noodles and lemon cake. I may add in another vegetable dish or just slice up some fruit to go with it.

We have another change this week. Amira will be moving into the next level of ballet class. Her teacher came to speak to me before class began last week and told me that she thought Amira ought to move up to the next level beginning this week. Amira was so thrilled. We are very excited for her to have the opportunity to advance and continue to learn.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. Starred recipes will follow separately.

Here is the list of foods from the freezer, fridge and pantry that I'm using this week. Anything from the freezer, pantry or fridge that was not bought specifically for this meal or this past week will be included in my lists.

Freezer:
Ground Pork (for sausage)
Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs
Kielbasa
Venison
Ham Hocks
Bacon Ends
Chicken Broth
Sprouted Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
Green Beans

Fridge:
Eggs
Butter
Buttermilk
Milk (& Cream from the Top)
Cream Cheese
Cheddar
Mayonnaise
Sri Racha
Cabbage
Celery
Carrots
Sweet Peppers
Hot Peppers
Eggplant
Zucchini
Scallions
Parsley
Cilantro
Ginger
Baked Oatmeal
Lemons
Limes
Blackberry Syrup

Pantry:
All Herbs & Spices
Sesame Seeds
Salts
Potatoes
Tomatoes
Cherry & Pear Tomatoes
Shallots
Onions
Garlic
Olive Oil
Sesame Oil
Hard White Wheat Berries
Basmati Rice
Brown Rice
Egg Noodles
Whole Grain Durum Spaghetti
Red Beans
Steel Cut Oats
Pastry Flour
Yeast
Baking Powder
Baking Soda
Cocoa Powder
Coffee
Tea
Vanilla Extract
All Sugars
Honey
Raisins
Tomato Sauce
Bread Crumbs
Almond Butter
Red Wine
Soy Sauce
Mint
Peaches
Apples
Plums
Cantaloupe
Watermelon
Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins

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Friday, October 02, 2009

7 Quick Takes



I keep intending to do this, but evidently cannot get up the gumption to even jot seven things down lately.

1. It is Fall. For real. It was 37 degrees in the morning on Monday. Evidently in our new home, fall is code for winter. I am renewing my plan to sit in a south facing window with layers of clothing and sweaters and gloves, the heat on, a fire going and not leaving our home for four months. They talk of snow on the ground from Halloween until March. I am not built for this. There was a story in the paper of a woman and her children who froze in their car when it ran out of gas (this was 60 years ago) and they were stuck in the snow. I want to hibernate.


2. I hate when bloggers post a portion of something they have written elsewhere and then say click here to read the rest. Either write it on your blog or don't. If you want to direct people to another site, then say "I wrote something really cool for blah blah blah that I'd like to mention. If you want to read it, then go here." Then continue with whatever post you have for the blog. Don't make the ad your blog post. I actually don't click through to those posts on purpose because it annoys me so much. So there. (But I will click through if someone just mentions it while also still blogging or if it is a post on something like facebook.)

In related bloggy opinions, I don't like it when funny people try to get deep. Often they are better at funny. However, this post really struck me. Especially the line "You can fast forward childhood, but you can’t rewind it." That is so true, it is something I wish more parents realized.


3. We had a proud moment in our house this week. I asked Rich to peel and dice up the pears for the serpent filling (or dragon guts, if you will). While I was dealing with dough I directed him on how to make the filling with dried cranberries, sugar and cinnamon. What I didn't tell him was that we wouldn't need all the pears. So, we had quite a lot in the bowl. Dominic came into the kitchen and saw the bowl and asked about the potato salad. What? "The potato salad with the sun dried tomatoes in it." Now, how many other nine year old boys know and think this much about food? It did my heart well.


4. We had a dinner failure this week. The chicken I used for the chicken soup had been in our freezer, but must have degenerated somehow. This wasn't just freezer burn. It had that brown smell to it. I don't know if you know what I'm talking about, but it doesn't smell rotten, just neutral and not food like. That smell. Anyway, the reason I mention it is that even though we don't live on a big income, for us, it just meant that I had to go to a plan B and pulled out the chili from the freezer from last week's dinners, thaw and layer it in a pan with corn tortillas, top with cheese and we had dinner. In most of the world today that isn't the case. Most people still have to choose between eating the bad food and going hungry. We have never had to do that. Please join me in remembering to pray for the poor and destitute.


5. In addition, if you have the means, try to stock up on supplies that you think your neighbors might need if times were tough or the weather prevented them going out. I was reading this post about that and I loved the idea. As someone who tries to stock up so we have what we need on hand, this was something that I thought we could do to bless those around us. Though, of course, I will have to send the children out to deliver anything, since I am not going outside in the cold after this month.


6. I love this. Yes, the USDA does seem to think that Jell-O, Twinkies and other non-foods are safe, but raw milk and home butchered meat is dangerous. Meanwhile, recalls happen and people just keep buying their meat and produce from agribusiness, hoping the government will magically protect them, even as they work to put church bake sales and grandmothers out of business. All while agribusiness repackages recalled food and works toward things like the NAIS which will put small producers and family farms out of business and keep them in charge of the food chain in our country.

Which leads me to this: If you haven't clicked on my NAIS links in my sidebar, please do so now. The small farmer has more to lose if he makes you sick, and therefore, has more to gain by having a good, clean farm. Support them and fight the NAIS. Know your farmer, grow your own and work to help others do the same. We haven't bought meat from unknown animals in a long time. We rarely buy produce from people who didn't grow it themselves or know who did.


7. I have been asked to review a book and post about it on my blog. I agreed to it, somehow not noticing that the author wrote a book I didn't really care for and that this was another book in that series. On top of that, I have now received two copies of it (it came two days in a row) and don't know what to do with the extra advance copy. I am a little nervous about reading it, as I foresee having to grit my teeth and force myself to do it, as well as reviewing it because I don't think I will like it any better than the first one I read, unless her writing and storytelling have improved a whole lot recently. What would you do in these situations? (On the upside, FedEx can find our house east of the mountains.)

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