Monday, August 3, 2020

Menu plan for the week of August 3

Did you notice school supplies going on sale the first week of July?  It happens every year, and most years, I'm ready for it.  It seems awfully early, but school does start in early August for some people, so it's actually not all that early.  

But this year was something else.  I was so not in school supply buying mode at the beginning of July.  It hadn't even occurred to me that we would need supplies for this coming school year, because it felt as if this coming school year wasn't going to happen.  At the beginning of July, it felt like nothing normal was ever going to happen.

Now, at the beginning of August, I still kind of can't believe the school year is going to happen.  I mean, I know the school district is making plans to open, but it just seems so impossible and strange.

I did manage to snap out of my stupor long enough to assess our personal school supply situation and order the things we were lacking (except sanitizing wipes.  Do they really expect us to be able to find sanitizing wipes right now?).  Bubby's supplies are sitting in a box all ready for him, and I feel like we probably have enough other stuff for whatever the high school teachers are going to require.

It still feels surreal.

What does not feel surreal is that people around here continue to want to eat.  So I will continue to feed them.

Here's what's on the menu this week.

Supper:

Other:

Monday, July 27, 2020

Menu plan for the week of July 27

Seems like just a couple of days ago that I was remarking on the end of June feeling like it should be closer to the end of July.  And now it is the end of July.  Huh.  Time seems more warped than usual this year.

We've recently learned more information about how our school district is expecting school to go this fall, as well as high and middle school sports info.  Neither is what I wanted, but it is so good to at least know what the plan is.  Yes, I know the plan could, and probably will, change at some point, but I feel so much better now that I can mentally prepare for the decision makers' best guess scenario.

Uncertainty is hard.  Which is probably why I depend on menu planning so much.  I know the plan could change, but at least there is a plan.

And now, I shall share it with you.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:
  • Meat sauce, spaghetti, garlic bread, broccoli
  • Tacos
  • Cheesy mini burgers, rice, green beans
  • Pasties (from the freezer.  Fake pigs in blankets for the pasty-haters), corn
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, raw veggies
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, jello, grilled veggie
  • Grilled bone-in chicken breast, garlic toast, salad
Other:
I don't know.  I didn't know last week, either, and I spent two and a half days in the kitchen, so...

Monday, July 20, 2020

Menu plan for the week of July 20

It's hot, y'all.  Luckily, we have a pool.  Not so luckily, we discovered in June that our pump doesn't work.  Know what else we discovered?  Pool pumps are not available right now.  At least not for a reasonable price.  So we're making the kids filter and circulate the water.

Apparently, our pool is not fun.  I mean, it was super fun when the people were shorter, but now? Not so much.  In an effort to make it more fun, I went in search of pool floats (because we also discovered that none of the floats would hold air anymore).  Guess what I found?  One float, in the four stores that I visited.  Yup.  Four stores.  One float.

Anyway, now we have a giant inflatable popsicle in our pool.  Just one.  It's almost as tall as me.  I'm not sure if the pool is more fun now, but at least now the kiddos have something to jump on to.  Or attempt to jump on to, at least.

So yeah.  That's how our summer is going.  How about you?

Here's what's on the menu this week.

Supper:

Other:
I don't know.  Probably muffins?  Maybe cookies?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Croutons: a "recipe"

Three things happened.

One. Bubby kept saying we should make croutons (and by we, he meant me).
Two. We ran out of croutons.
Three. No one ever wants to eat the heels of the bread, which means they leave the heels in the bread bag.  Forever.  Until I deal with them.  And by deal with them, I mean throw them away.

So I made croutons out of the bread heels, and now I will never have to feel guilty about throwing them away again.

If you also don't want to have to feel guilty about throwing away bread, whether it's the heels, stale French bread that your fantasy self urged you to buy, or that lone leftover hot dog bun, read on.

Croutons
To print this recipe, click here.
Ingredients

  • Bread, cut into cubes 
  • Olive oil 
  • Spices and/or seasonings (I used Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and pepper)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper (the parchment paper really isn't necessary, but it sounds fancy, right?)
  2. Place cubed bread (I used 5 bread heels, that weighed 4.5 ounces) in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil (I used about 1.5 T).  Add seasonings (I used 1 t Italian seasoning, 1/2 t garlic powder, 1/4 t salt, and 1/8 t pepper).  Toss to coat.
  3. Pour bread mixture onto prepared pan in a single layer.
  4. Bake, flipping once (honestly, have you ever tried to flip a bunch of little things on a baking sheet?  How to you keep track of which ones have been flipped?  Just give it a good stir.  It'll be fine), until crispy--the amount of time will depend on the size of your cubes (mine took about 12 minutes).
  5. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Menu plan for the week of July 13

Another week; another menu blog post.  I hope you find it inspiring.

Supper:

Other:

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Small Batch Strawberry Freezer Jam (no pectin)

Hubby likes strawberry jam.  He keeps saying that we should make some.  And by we, he means me.  He's the only person in our house who eats it, though, so if I made a regular size batch of strawberry jam, it would literally take years for our family to eat it all.  And by our family, I mean Hubby.

The reason it's hard to make a smaller batch of jam or jelly is because most of the recipes call for pectin.  And pectin is most readily available in premeasured boxes.  And the recipes are written to use a whole box.

So I've been on the hunt for a small batch strawberry jam recipe, and I finally got to try it last week.  This recipe takes advantage of the strawberries' natural pectin to thicken the jam, which means you can make as little or as much as you like.


Small Batch Strawberry Freezer Jam
Inspired by this recipe
Makes about 1 cup of jam--recipe can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled. 
To print this recipe, click here.

1 c. crushed strawberries (measure after crushing)
2 T. bottled lemon juice
3/4 c. sugar

  • In a small saucepan, mix together strawberries, lemon juice and sugar.
  • Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking, for 20 minutes, or until the mixture thickens.  It thicken as it cools, so don't think you have to cook it until it's the consistency of jam.  It should coat the spoon, though.
  • Remove from heat; skim foam if desired. Pour into storage container(s).  If you're freezing the jam, use a jar with straight shoulders, and leave half an inch of headspace to allow for expansion.  Allow to cool; cover and refrigerate or freeze.
Let me know if you try it!

Monday, July 6, 2020

Menu plan for the week of July 6

I made sun tea.

I mean, for some of you, that's kind of a normal thing.  You like tea and you've made sun tea because it's easy and delicious.

For me, it's kind of strange to make sun tea.  I don't like tea.  Not really.  I want to like tea, but I don't.  So why would I made sun tea?

It's...complicated.  Like I said, I want to like tea for a few reasons, and it seems like tea is an acquired taste.  Which means that I can train myself to like it.  And over the past couple of weeks, I have said to myself several times, "self.  You should drink some tea.  You're not getting any closer to your ultimate goal of liking tea by ...not... drinking tea."  But then myself replies (in a whiny voice), "but it's so. Darn. Hot."

Yeah.  It is so. Darn. Hot, with no relief in sight.  So I made sun tea.  Mind you, I haven't actually consumed any of it yet. 

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:



Other:

Friday, July 3, 2020

Garden Update

Time for another garden update?  Yes.  Sure.  Let's do this.

 Flowers on the sugar snap peas.  After I took the picture, I noticed set fruit.  Yay!

 Set fruit on the roma tomatoes.  I haven't staked these yet, but they're still compact and standing strong.
 Coming soon to the zucchini plants: flowers.

 I think these are beets?  Maybe?  We also definitely have at least 3 volunteer tomato plants in this bed.  Who knows if they'll have enough time to produce, but I'm leaving them in the ground to do their thing.

 The corn is definitely knee high.

 A few of the purple basil plants are variegated.  So fun.  And nope, I haven't thinned these yet.  Haven't been able to bring myself to do it.  Soon.  Maybe. Also, who's eating my basil?  Hmph.

 Look at those radish seed pods.  So fun.  I tasted one, but I don't think it was quite ready yet.

Here's our first carrot.  They're supposed to be about 4" long when fully mature, which is why this particular variety is good for growing in containers.

That's it for now.  What's growing in your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Shepherd's Pie: a Recipe

Shepherd's pie was the first food that AKD ate with us as a family, and it remains one of his favorites.  I like it, too, because it's pretty easy, and a complete meal in and of itself.  While technically, shepherd's pie is made with lamb, and the same recipe made with ground beef is cottage pie, to me and my family this will always be shepherd's pie.

I'm a little surprised that I haven't shared the recipe with you before now, but better late than never, right?  Also, AKD's going to be responsible for feeding himself starting in September, and he wanted the recipe.  In honor of AKD, I've included the ingredient amounts in the instructions.  So. much. easier.

Here it is:

Shepherd's Pie
(makes ...a lot... we like leftovers of this meal, but it's super easy to cut the recipe in half or freeze half)
(to print this recipe, click here)

2 lb ground beef (I use 93% lean)
1/2 c. flour, or proportional amount of another thickening agent
2 c. beef broth (or 2 c. water with 2 beef bullion cubes dissolved in it)
Two 16 oz bags of frozen mixed veggies (or equivalent amount of cooked veggies of choice)
About 4 c. mashed potatoes (I loosely follow this recipe, but instant works, too)

  • In a large skillet, brown 2 lb ground beef.  Do not drain.
  • Add 1/2 c. flour or equivalent amount of another thickening agent.  Stir to distribute, and cook over medium high heat, stirring, for a minute or so.
  • Slowly add 2 c beef broth, stirring constantly until combined.  Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring occasionally until gravy is thick.
  • Add two 16 oz bags of mixed veggies and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.
  • Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan, 2.5 qt dish, or two 8x8" pans.
  • Top with about 4 c. mashed potatoes.  Some folks put the potatoes just around the outside edge, but we spread them over the entire surface.  
  • Bake at 400°F for 40-45 min or until potatoes start to brown.  This almost always bubbles out of the pan, so place a large baking sheet under to catch drips.
  • To freeze, prepare as listed, including baking.  Let cool completely, then wrap well and freeze.  To bake, cover with foil and reheat at 350°F for an hour, or until hot.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Menu plan for the week of June 29

Finally (finally), it's going to be July this week.  Anybody else feel like this summer is lasting for.ev.er?  Like seriously, it feels like it should be nearing the end of July, rather than the end of June.  I'm surprised every time I look at the calendar.  The fact that we're in for a solid two weeks (maybe longer) of decidedly late July/early August weather makes it seem even more so like we should be closer to the end of summer.

Although honestly, this year, the end of summer might just mean cooler weather, rather than the usual kids heading back to school.  I definitely do not envy our school district's decision makers right now (or ever, really).  No matter what they decide, there will be a significant portion of stakeholders not happy about it, and there will definitely be Monday morning quarterbacking on this decision.

Anyway, here's what we're eating this week.

Supper:



Other:



Friday, June 26, 2020

I'm done! 20 for 2020 update

Well hello there, friends.  Guess what?  Yup.  You read that right: I finished my 20 goals for 2020.  Now I can sit around doing nothing for the rest of the year.  

Kidding!  Mostly kidding.  

Here are the two goals I completed in June, bringing my total to 20 for the year:
  1. Remove a popcorn ceiling.  Well, I did it.  It wasn't necessarily difficult...  OK, it actually was difficult.  Most of the removal went well and was easy, but there were lingering bits, and I found it impossible to actually get the ceiling smooth enough to paint.  Let's just say, I understand now why popcorn ceilings are so popular with builders--they cover up all imperfections, meaning the builder doesn't have to put much effort into finishing the ceilings.  I gave it a valiant effort.  There was so much sanding, and so much dust.  I couldn't see, and I was sweating in my dust mask.  But I did it.  And I am never going to do that again.
  2. Make and install towel hooks/shelf in the bathroom.  Oops.  I guess this goal is not fully complete, because the hooks have yet to be installed (pending painting of the bathroom), but I did make the shelf/towel hooks.  Finally.  I think this goal was on my to-be-completed list every month this year.  I was so intimidated for some reason.  Or maybe I wasn't really sure what I wanted.  Or possibly (probably) both.  It seems fitting that this would be the last goal completed for the year.

Here is the list of previously completed 2020 goals:
  1. Make sauerkraut
  2. Grow an amaryllis
  3. Drink tea.
  4. Make cloth napkins for more seasons.
  5. Track something.
  6. Buy a statement necklace.
  7. Make a box to sit on our toilet tank.  
  8. Make a particular wooden sign for a friend.
  9. Make mayonnaise.
  10. Make maple syrup.  
  11. Watch the Star Wars movies in timeline order.  
  12. Start seeds indoors
  13. Finish or decide to abandon that darn puzzle.  
  14. Make a cast iron skillet handle cover.  
  15. Plant something new
  16. Wash outside windows.  
  17. Log 50 activities on Strava.  

So.  Now what?  Well, I have a handy list of potential goals to choose from for next year and/or a handy list of projects to do if I feel like doing a project.  Conveniently, there are 21 of them, but I suspect some of the rest of these will still be completed this year.

Here is the handy list of remaining possible activities:
  1. Crochet a cowl
  2. Crochet a poncho
  3. Make reusable food wrap
  4. Make a pretty apron (I would have to find a pattern I like first.  Also, a sewing machine)
  5. Make lip balm
  6. Make soap
  7. Make a console table/thing to keep the step stool from dinging our wall.
  8. Make a frame for the B
  9. String art
  10. Install pallet wall
  11. Install gallery wall (we had a gallery wall, but there was just something off about it.  I was never happy with it.  Too symmetrical, maybe.  Or the frames were too close together.  Or maybe too big or too small in scale for the wall.  So I'm afraid to try again, lest I not like it again.  I think a gallery would look better on the wall we're intending to palletisize (absolutely a word), but I don't know if I will want to cover up so much of that wall).
  12. Light an outdoor tree (there is a sledding hill between our house and the tree I want to light, so I'm not sure it'll work.  Either there will be an extension cord that we will have to avoid while sledding, or the lights will have to be solar or battery powered, which, of course, would drive up the cost of this project).
  13. Go to a movie by myself (not sure what's coming in 2020, but there's bound to be at least one movie that I want to see, but no one else in my family wants to see).
  14. Hang the W (MC made a beautiful wooden W sign that needs hanging).
  15. Repair moose pillows
  16. Can apple pie filling
  17. Grow and can pickles
  18. Obtain a working sewing machine
  19. Make and install towel hooks/shelf in the bathroom.  I have the hooks.  I think I probably have the wood (I need to go through the stack of pallet wood to see if I have a combination of sizes that will add up to the size I want).  It needs to happen.  Now it's just a question of how long it'll take for me to actually take action.
  20. New floor.  It's time.  It's past time.
  21. Stencil a welcome mat.  Because our storm door opens outward and is very close to the porch surface, we won't be able to actually use the welcome mat at our own house, but I really want to try the technique.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Menu plan for the week of June 22

Today, as I'm writing this, I am tired.  I find myself longing for "before."  Before I had to wear a mask to leave the house.  Before I carried hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes in my car.  Before I had to wonder and worry about whether my kiddos will be able to meet their new teachers in person in the fall, and whether there will be a football season for my rising senior.  Before everyone was home all the time.  Before I was hearing daily updates of how many are sick, how many are hospitalized, how many have died.

It hasn't been all bad, not by a long shot.  There are definitely positive things that have come from pandemic and staying at home.  But it's not all good, either.

I suppose, with time, the longing for before will fade.  I remember feeling like life would never return to normal after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001, and it hasn't.  But it has, too.  It's a new normal--the post 9/11 normal.  I am longing for before, but will settle for post pandemic normal.  Because I kind of have to.

One thing that remains the same, regardless, is that we have to eat.  So here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:



Other:

Thursday, June 18, 2020

(Not) Empty Garden Tour

Welp.  I was planning on doing an empty garden tour for y'all this year.

That didn't happen.

So, here's how it looks this week.

 I have eight Roma tomato plants in one of the raised beds.  I was wanting Amish paste tomatoes, but couldn't find them.  Romas are determinate tomatoes, which means they will pretty much produce all of their fruits at one time, which makes them perfect for canning.  I'm not pruning these tomatoes this year, hoping for more fruits.

 Here are some sugar snap peas.  Only about half of them came up, so I replanted, and I don't think any of the replanted peas came up.  Hmph.  We love sugar snap peas around here, so I'm kind of sad about that.  No blooms yet.


I planted some Sakata's Sweet Melon (above) and Otome Watermelon (below) near the trellis on which the peas are growing.  The peas will probably be done by the time these melons begin climbing.

 I've got four strong zucchini plants growing.  I'm planning on eating some fresh, of course, and also freezing spirals.

 I've got about 10 sweet corn plants, and I planted an asparagus bean in each of the six corn squares in my raised bed.

I think I probably have beets growing in one of the raised beds.  Having never grown beets before, I'm not sure what they're supposed to look like, and only one of three squares in which I planted beet seeds actually has anything in it.  I also planted a dozen beet seeds in an egg carton inside, partly so that I could have more beets, and partly so I would know what they looked like, and none of them have germinated.  Hmph.  Well, hopefully we'll get at least one beet to show for my efforts.

The strawberries continue, and the little green worms are back.  I've been hand-picking them and feeding the worms to the chickens, and I think I must have started earlier in the infestation this year, because now I'm only finding about 5-10 worms per day on the strawberries.  Unfortunately, most of the strawberry leaves are damaged, and I think that's why the strawberries we're getting are small.  I've eaten a few strawberries, but most of them are going to the chickens this year.

 The carrot jungle is doing really well.  I really should do some more thinning, but it's really difficult, emotionally, to pull perfectly good food plants out of the ground.

 We have two cherry tomato plants this year.  Well, maybe three.  This one is a grape tomato.  It's flowering (obviously), and there are even a few tiny fruits.  Because cherry tomatoes are indeterminate, I am pruning these plants to encourage strong fruits on the main stem.  The other cherry tomato we're growing is a yellow cherry called Sun Sugar.  This is where the maybe three plants comes in.  I was pruning the sun sugar and came across a bigger sucker, so I cut it off and stuck it in the dirt.  While it's by no means fail-proof, I've had success propagating tomatoes this way in the past.

 One of the fun things about ordering seeds from Baker Creek is that they include a free surprise seed in each order.  This year, I received a packet of purple basil seeds.  So fun!  I definitely need to thin these as well, and will be adding the thinned seedlings to a salad.

And finally, here's what the radishes are looking like.  Whoops.  They bolted, so I guess we're letting them go to seed.  In my research, I discovered that the seed pods are edible, in the same way that pea or bean seed pods are edible, so my plan is to add a few to salads, and possibly save some seeds as well.

That's it for now.  Are you growing a garden?  How's it going?

Monday, June 15, 2020

Menu plan for the week of June 15

This never happens, y'all.  Our bananas almost never get to the point of becoming more ripe than the ripeness at which people want to eat them.  In fact, I buy bananas every Tuesday, and they're usually gone by Saturday.  But the little person, who is the most prolific banana eater, got braces, and decided it was too hard to eat bananas.

I don't know.  I feel like bananas are pretty easy to eat, even with braces.

Regardless, we have four bananas that are almost too ripe for anything other than baking or smoothies.  Whatever shall we do?

In other banana news, the big person bought a bread machine, because he's an adult and adults do things like buy bread machines.  And one of the suggested recipes in the owner's manual (which may or may not be the correct manual* for his particular machine, because he never got around to comparing model numbers) is banana bread.  But it's not banana bread as I have always made it, as a quick bread.  It is banana bread with yeast.  It's a yeast banana bread.  Have you ever heard of a banana bread recipe that uses yeast?  So strange, but also, why not?  People use mashed bananas to substitute for fat in baking sometimes, so...

Anyway, AKD decided that was the recipe he wanted to make to test the machine and it turned out really good.  It looked good.  It smelled good.  It tasted good.  He was so tickled, and has proceeded to eat it for just about every meal since.

Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

  • Grilled chicken with Caesar salad
  • Tacos, taco toppings
  • Pasties (from the freezer), beef gravy
  • Leftovers
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, corn or carrots
  • Grilled pizza, salad
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled green veggie


Other:

  • Something with bananas

* He bought the bread machine used, and found the manual online.
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