Monday, October 4, 2021

Menu plan for the week of October 4

 Is anyone else kind of excited that it's October?  It has been a long, hot, dry summer, and I am so ready for cooler weather.

Guess what I did the other day!  I made cheese.  Ricotta cheese, to be specific.  It was so easy, y'all.  It took less time than it would have taken for me to drive to the store, buy the ricotta, and drive home, and used ingredients that I always have in the house.  As an extra bonus, I was able to make just the amount I need for my recipe, rather than buying whatever size is available at the store, and then storing a half used carton in the fridge for months.  Will I ever buy ricotta cheese again?  Maybe.  But it's nice having this recipe in my back pocket.

Cottage cheese seems almost as easy, and uses the same ingredients.  So maybe I'll try that next.  

I needed ricotta cheese for one of this week's meals: Pepperoni pizza lasagna rolls.  This is the closest my family has come to lasagna in years because some of these people don't like cheese, but it's a good one for us, because each roll can be customized.  I'm using zucchini strips for mine.

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

Supper:
  • Pepperoni pizza lasagna rolls
  • Fend for yourself
  • Mini corndogs, carrots, fresh fruit
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, carrots, fresh pineapple
  • Peppered steak with portabello mushroom sauce, grilled green veggie, mashed potatoes

Other:

Monday, September 20, 2021

Menu plan for the week of September 20

 I kinda feel like our meal plan must have fallen apart last week, because we've got a couple of repeats this week.  But I don't remember the meal plan falling apart, which is weird.  I probably should remember that.

I also feel like there was something I wanted to tell y'all this week about last week, but I don't remember what it is.  Which is not at all weird, because I often don't remember things I want to tell people.  Or why I walked in to a room.  Or what I was doing 3 seconds earlier.

Also not weird: my family will want to eat food this week.  Here's what's on the menu:

Supper:


Other:

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Last(?) Garden Update for the season

 Hi friends.  It's time for the monthly-ish garden update.

The other day, I cleared out both the pea bed and the melon bed.  When I harvested melons, I left one watermelon hanging on the fence to see what would happen.  See, the thing is, when you're relying on the ground spot to help you decide when your watermelons are ripe, and the watermelons are not actually on the ground, there is no ground spot.  So it's not possible to judge whether the ground spot is creamy yellow.

So I left the biggest one hanging, and it had a hammock to support it, but I guess the hammock was not supportive enough, because a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the final watermelon had disconnected from the vine.

With the final melon harvested, I was able to remove the vines from the garden bed, and while I was at it, I cleaned out the weeds that had grown in the pea bed after the peas capitulated to the weather.

I harvested some compost, which, frankly, surprised me--that there was enough finished compost to harvest--and added it to the top of the empty beds.  I covered one of the beds with cardboard to keep the weeds down while the bed isn't being used.  I neglected to cover the other bed because I didn't have enough cardboard, but I suspect that, given enough time, I will accumulate enough cardboard to cover that one, too.

That leaves the flower/tomato jungle bed, and it is still full and alive and blooming.  It is such a joy to look out at that colorful bounty.

The sunflowers are about 10 feet tall, with multiple heads.  I am hoping to be able to harvest these as a treat for the chickens, but I've seen both squirrels and birds snacking on these, so I'm not sure there will be anything left for the girls.

Oh, these marigolds are glorious.  The plants are just full of blooms, which I continue to deadhead to encourage more blooms.

The zinnias are also glorious.  I've been cutting them throughout the summer, so that I've had a bouquet on the table for the last three months or so.  I marked this particular bloom to save its seeds.  I am so glad that I made the decision to grow flowers, rather than food, in 1/3 of my garden space this season.

And the tomato jungle, aka the one cherry tomato plant, continues to produce.  The harvest has slowed from its peak, but there are still plenty of ripening fruits as well as new blooms.  I would top this plant (cut off the growing top to encourage the plant to put its energy into ripening the fruits it already has, versus putting its energy into setting new fruit), if I could figure out where the top is.  When I say it's a jungle, I'm not kidding.

As usual at this time of year, I'm already dreaming of next year's garden.  This garden thing--it's a joy.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Menu plan for the week of September 13, aka the third week of Shelftember

I finally made the one pot kielbasa pasta last week, and the people liked it.  I think.  They at least ate it.  Without complaining.  I left out the cheese because of my cheese-hating kiddo, but melted some on top of mine.  So good!  Definitely worth a try if your people like kielbasa and noodles.

We're getting a little low on random foods around here, so this might be the last week of Shelftember for us, but that's ok.  For me, the point is to make a concerted effort to use up food that I wouldn't otherwise use, and I've definitely succeeded in that.  I might even have a $25 minimal grocery list this week.  We'll see.  

Have you noticed grocery prices increasing lately?  I haven't noticed individual prices being higher (except milk and eggs, which tend to fluctuate a lot anyway), but somehow my total grocery bill keeps creeping up.  It's kinda weird.

Anyway, I've got a full week of mostly shelf cooking coming up this week.  Should be interesting and delicious.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:
  • Nesquik brownies--why do we have Nesquik?  That's not important.  What is important is that I've almost thrown it away at least three times in the past couple of years.  If I use it for brownies, it will be gone and I won't have to be tempted to throw it away anymore.
  • Copycat nutragrain bars (using some strawberry jam from my freezer)--whoops.  Didn't get to these last week.
  • Mexican quinoa with grilled chicken?  Depends on what the leftover situation is looking like for Hubby's lunches.

Monday, September 6, 2021

Menu plan for the week of September 6

 Last week, a friend asked, about using up random food in the kitchen, what do you do when you find a recipe to use something up, but it calls for another ingredient that you don't already have?

In retrospect, she was probably asking what I, personally, do, but I answered as if she had been asking about the general, plural, you.  What does one do in that situation?  I told her I don't think folks that practice shelf cooking on a regular basis actually use recipes.  They just throw things together and somehow it tastes good.  Upon reflection, I don't think that's actually what's happening most of the time.  Most of the time, I think, shelf cookers do have a recipe in mind, but if they don't have an ingredient the recipe calls for, they make it work.

Me, personally?  Sometimes I will buy the thing that will help me use up the other thing, which  sometimes leads to me needing to find a way to use up the other thing.  Sometimes I will find a substitute for the other thing or leave it out.  Sometimes I will find another recipe.  And sometimes I just throw things together and hope for the best.

I didn't buy a single thing last week to make these enchiladas/wet burritos/not sure what to call them.  Everything came from my fridge, freezer, or pantry.

I got inspired, so I ramped up my Shelftember/using-up-random-odds-and-ends meals this week.  The only thing I'm going to buy for these meals is ... carrots.  Yup, we somehow have everything else.  Or at least enough of everything else to make it work.  I think this is gonna be fun.  

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

Supper:
  • Hamburgers (or hot dogs), buns, chips/pretzels, grilled broccoli, jello
  • Beef barley casserole, green beans
  • One pot kielbasa pasta (third time was not the charm, but this is getting made this week), green beans
  • Rotel sausage dip (yeah.  This one is going to be interesting.  But seriously, what's not to like about sausage and cream cheese and some other random stuff?  Even if it's not in the "right" proportions?), pork rinds, tortilla chips
  • Pizza casserole, corn
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, tator tots, carrots
  • Grilled chicken and salad

Other:

Monday, August 30, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 30

 Hello, friends.

September begins this week.  Do you know what that means?  Yup!  It's Shelftember time again.  I'm not feeling it this year, but Jordan is talking about it, so I guess I might feel inspired at some point next month.  Maybe I'll at least make a list of things to use up and see what happens.

But, hey.  If you're going to Shelftember, let me know.  I'd love to hear about it.


Supper:
  • Hamburgers, buns, chips, grilled broccoli, jello
  • Enchiladas, salad
  • One pot kielbasa pasta (third time's the charm?), green beans
  • Rice burgler, applesauce, rolls
  • Pizza, salad
  • Chicken nuggets, carrots
  • Grilled chicken, salad

Other:

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Another not-Tuesday tip: you need a home for homeless things bin

 Hey.  It's not-Tuesday again.  Here's a tip for you.  Or maybe a revelation?  Or a cautionary tale?  Feel free to use this (or not) however you wish.

I was listening to one of my favorite organizers and she said, among other things, that everyone needs a spot to put the things that they don't know what to do with: everyone needs a home for homeless items.  So when you come across something in your space, and you're not sure where it should go, you put it in the home for homeless items.  I know you've all heard the whole a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place mantra.  I have always had a problem with that, because I have always had things that I wanted to hold on to, but that didn't have an actual place.  This solves that issue!  

This is so smart!  The number one cause of clutter for me (and probably for most other people) is indecision.  If I don't know what to do with something, or where to put it, I just put it ... somewhere.  And then people (both me and other people in my household) see the thing there and think to themselves, "this must be the place to put things."  And before you know it, there's a pile, and no one's exactly sure what's in the pile, but it's messy and hard to look at and seems impossible to deal with.

While I was listening, first I thought, "that's brilliant!  We need a home for homeless items in our house!"  And then I thought, "um.  We actually already have a home for homeless items in our house, and it is our lonely socks bin."


This is our lonely socks bin.


In it, is one sock.


And a bunch of other things.

These are things that we don't know what to do with.  So we put them in the lonely socks bin, conveniently located in our laundry/mud room where we most often enter and exit the house.

The lonely socks bin has a purpose.  Its purpose is to be a place to put socks that have temporarily lost their mate.  Its purpose is not to hold thumbtacks a random screw, split ring, Webelos colors, tennis ball, large bells, command hooks, walkie talkies, disposable face masks, or anything that is not a sock.

This is our lonely socks bin now.


I brought the sock to its brothers*, and distributed the other items to more appropriate locations, including, in two cases, the trash.

I've decided that one, we need a smaller lonely socks bin, so that it's less tempting to throw random stuff in there, and two, we need a home for homeless things bin.

Now.  Where, exactly, I am going to put this home for homeless things bin is the question.  The laundry/mud room is the obvious choice, since that's where our unofficial HFHT bin showed up.  But the shelves in there are pretty full, so I'll have to do some rearranging. 

I'll keep you posted.  Maybe.

How about you?  Do you have a designated home for items that don't have a designated home in your space?


*bonus tip: buy socks that are all the same so you don't necessarily feel compelled to match them, and you don't feel like you need to throw away a perfectly good sock just because its mate developed an unfortunate hole

Monday, August 23, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 23

 You guys!

First of all, y'all need to help me come up with a more gender inclusive phrase for "you guys."  It has to have two punchy syllables.  You friends won't cut it, nor will you people.  You all or y'all sometimes works, but doesn't have quite the punch of you guys.  I dunno.  I'm kinda tired of male pronouns being considered default or neutral.

Anyway.

[Insert "you guys" substitute here]!  I went to my reopened regular grocery store today!  The new layout is a hybrid of the previous store and the store down the road, just familiar enough that it felt comfortable and new.  Yay!  

It felt so strange to leave the house today for the express purpose of running errands.  With Bubby's summer thing on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, all summer I've been dropping him off, then rushing to run the errands before picking him up an hour later.  Today, I left at about the same time that I would have left if I'd been dropping him off, and I returned at about the same time I would have returned had I been picking him up.  But there was no dropping off or picking up, and also no rushing.  I tried to get him to come with me, to help me get over the strangeness, but no dice.

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

Supper:
  • Chicken nuggets, green beans, fresh fruit
  • Nachos with taco toppings (and guacamole if any of the avocados ripen in time)
  • One pot kielbasa pasta, green beans
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, chips, roasted cauliflower, jello
  • Grilled pork chops, tator tots, grilled broccoli

Other:

P.S. It's kind of weird that I'm excited about my regular grocery store being open again, isn't it?  

Thursday, August 19, 2021

A tip (not on Tuesday)

 Yesterday, I was driving along that curvy road when I saw ... 

Toasty Crunch.  

And Charlotte.

... scratching in the tall grass on the shoulder.

Um ... what?  

That was pretty surreal, considering I was 2 or 3 miles away from our house, and when I left home about half an hour previously, Toasty Crunch and Charlotte had been safely ensconced in their secure run. 

When I got home, I walked out to the coop before I did anything else, just to make sure my girls were where they were supposed to be.  They were.  Whew.  Toasty Crunch isn't a terribly popular breed, but there are a lot (really a lot) of similar breeds that look just like her, so it's not that unusual to see a chicken who looks like her, but Charlotte's breed is even less popular, and there are not many (I can't think of any) other breeds that look like her.  Seeing that combination of chickens, doing something I see my girls do every day, without actually being my chickens, seems unlikely.

So TC and Charlotte have doppelgangers out there.  That's fun.

TC and Charlotte (literally) hanging around with me in the hammock
(Charlotte was on my belly--which didn't make for a very good picture, but we take what we can get)

Anyway, you came here for a tip, and here it is.

Use containers to contain.

I know.  I'm so good at tips.  Or maybe you call them hacks?  I'm good at those, too...


I have this area in my bathroom.  Hubby and I are the only ones who see this area, aside from the very occasional overnight guest.


These are things that I use frequently, but not necessarily daily.  At least not all of them every day.  I didn't want to keep them on the vanity--that would make it seem too cluttered, but I also didn't want to keep them in a cabinet or drawer, because I do use them frequently--so I keep them on a shelf of an above/behind the toilet storage cabinet.  And it still looks cluttered, no matter how careful I am to put them back neatly.

So I decided to contain them.  In a container.  This is a cute basket that used to sit on my desk, but it's spent the last 17 months or so in a drawer of the desk, so it was available for a new job.


These items take up about the same amount of shelf space as they did before, but now there's a boundary to their space, and through some mysterious psychological process, this little spot automatically looks less cluttered, just because it's contained.

Isn't that crazy?  Now my brain perceives this as one item, the basket of stuff, versus the six separate items my brain used to perceive.

How about you?  Do you have an area that would benefit from a well-placed container?

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

August garden update

Seems like I've been bringing y'all a garden update about once a month, so here we go for August.  

I planted a single tomato plant this year, and yet somehow I still have grown a tomato jungle.  I'm not a huge fan of entropy in most circumstances, but I love the way the garden devolves into beautiful chaos at this time of year.  It feels so wild.

We've been harvesting cherry tomatoes by the pocketful.  There is nothing like a tomato picked from the vine, warm from the sun.  Delicious and sublime.  A sweet burst of heaven on earth.

The sunflowers are glorious.  And much taller than me.

One of the wonderful things about saving seeds is you never know exactly what you're going to get when you grow them.  I am loving this yellow marigold with just a few darker red stripes.

The zinnias are shades of pink this summer.  I am so glad I made the decision to devote 1/3 of my garden space to flowers this year.  I've been able to cut these pretty much continuously for the past month or so, bring a little bit of the outside beauty inside.

We have several Sakata's sweet melons growing.  I have no idea how to tell when these are ready, and last year, I feel like I waited too long, so I harvested one the other day.  It was good!  As promised, it tasted like honeydew melon in a cute, apple-sized package.  I think it could have benefited from a few more days on the vine, so I've left the others out for now and will try another soon.  

Eleven watermelons, friends.  After trying to grow a watermelon off and on for around 25 years, I have grown 11.  I am so pleased.  I'm sure the hot and dry weather we've been experiencing this summer helped.  I don't even mind that they're tiny.  Because let's face it: if I had 11 full-sized watermelons, that would be a little overwhelming.

The other day, I noticed that one was half rotted.  I removed the rotten melon, and split it open.  It looked like it had been ripe, with fully developed seeds.  That made me think maybe it was time to start paying attention to the signs of ripeness in the watermelon patch.  For one, the white spot on the bottom where the melon rests on the ground should turn a creamy yellow color.  For another, the tendril closest to the stem should wither.  

Looks like I might get some Brussels sprout sized cabbages this year.  Better than nothing?  It's been a fun experiment, to be sure, and there's still a lot of time before frost, so maybe we'll get some bigger- than-Brussels-sprout heads.

I also don't know how to tell when the beets are done, so I think I'm going to pull them up later this week.  The radish plant that I let go to seed hasn't set any fruit, probably because it's been hot and dry, so I'm going to pull that out, too, and probably plant more radishes in both the beet and radish boxes.

And finally...

This is not a drill, ladies and gentlemen.  We have grown, and eaten, a watermelon.

Similar to the Sakata melon, I wasn't sure if this guy was actually ripe yet, but I didn't want to let it go too long.  Its tendril was withered and its ground spot was creamy yellow, so I tried harvested it.  It had salmon-pink flesh, just like it supposed to have.  And it tasted good!  Sweet and juicy.  And so cute!

The garden tends toward chaos at this time of year.  It feels rich and indulgent and impossible and wild.  And I love it.  And even though there's still a lot of life left out there, and a lot of fruit to be eaten, I find my thoughts turning to next year's garden, dreaming of another year of growing goodness.  What a pleasure it is to bear witness to everyday miracles in the garden.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 16

We made doughnuts yesterday.  And by "we" I mean "I".  I made doughnuts yesterday, with a little bit of help from AKD and Hubby.  This was the first time I attempted filled doughnuts, and they turned out pretty well.  There is nothing sadder (OK, there are lots of things sadder, but work with me here) than an underfilled filled doughnut, so I took steps to assure that didn't happen.  We ended up with super happy doughnuts.  It doesn't matter one bit that they were incredibly messy and a little oozy and kind of difficult to eat.  Happy doughnuts mean happy people.

Hubby said the doughnuts were post-worthy, so I had to take a picture.

Here's the recipe I used.  The pastry cream was only enough to fill half the dough (I cut and froze the other half for future enjoyment)--which is not surprising, considering my mission to ensure that our doughnuts were happy--and the glaze didn't work, so AKD ended up making a different chocolate glaze.  Oh, I also used the bread machine to mix, knead, and raise my dough--just a tip, if you decide to go that route, do yourself, and your bread machine, a favor and halve the recipe.

It always catches me by surprise, considering how delicious and sweet doughnuts are, how little sugar is actually in doughnuts--it's the toppings, and in this case fillings, that make them taste so good.  The doughnuts themselves taste like fried bread, which, let's be honest, also tastes pretty good, but isn't necessarily the taste I think of when I think of doughnuts.  

And there are other things that taste good, too, including these things that are on our menu for this week:


Supper:

Other:

Friday, August 13, 2021

Low carb chicken pot pie: a recipe

 Friends, we have another keeper!  This time it's a delicious and creamy chicken pot pie, that just happens to be low carb, at about 10 carbs per serving.  Don't worry about the cream cheese and mozzarella in the filling--you can't taste it, but it does serve to thicken the sauce and make it creamier.  I put mine in a bowl, crumbled up the biscuit, and mixed it all together to eat it.  So good!


Low Carb Chicken Pot Pie ( about 6 servings)
Adapted from here
Click here to print

For the biscuits:
  • 1 1/2 c almond meal/flour
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 c butter or coconut oil
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  1. Cut 1/3 c butter into 1 1/2 c almond flour, until butter is pea sized and evenly distributed throughout the flour.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk 4 egg whites until frothy.
  3. Add frothy egg whites, 1 t. baking powder, and 1/2 t. salt to the almond flour mixture.  Mix until combined.
  4. Cover and refrigerate while preparing the filling.

For the chicken filling:
  • 3 T butter 
  • 1 small yellow onion, medium diced
  • 1 medium-ish turnip or rutabaga, medium dice
  • 1/2 cup carrots, medium dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 T dried mixed herbs (I used rosemary, thyme, and oregano) OR 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, chopped finely 
  • 1 cups chicken stock 
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 c broccoli (fresh or frozen), chopped in small pieces
  • 2-3 cups cooked, shredded chicken (use a rotisserie chicken, if desired, for convenience)
  1. In a medium pot or Dutch oven, melt 3 T butter over medium heat.  When the butter is melted, add 1 diced onion, 1 diced turnip, and 1/2 c. diced carrots.  Add salt and pepper, and sauté until the veggies are soft, about 8 minutes.  Add 3 cloves minced garlic and sauté for another minute.
  2. Add dry or fresh herbs, 1 c. chicken stock, and 1/2 c heavy cream.  Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until sauce thickens a bit, about 8 minutes.
  3. Add 4 oz cream cheese.  Heat and stir until melted.
  4. Add 1/4 c. shredded mozzarella cheese and stir until melted.
  5. Turn off the heat and add 2 c chopped broccoli and 2-3 c cooked chicken.  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.
  6. Pour into a 2 qt casserole dish, and top with biscuit dough--scoop it out in 6-8 mounds, then pat down to flatten.
  7. Bake at 375° F until biscuits are golden brown, about 30-35 minutes.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Chicken update

 It's been a tough few months to be a chicken around here, so I thought I'd bring you all up to date.

Two of my favorite lap chickens, Esther (on my knee) and Charlotte (on my boot)

In late May, we lost Buttercup to a fox.  Buttercup was the sweetest chicken, and she loved to perch on my shoulder, or anywhere else, for that matter.  I feel so guilty and sad that we lost her, and especially that we lost her to a predator.  It's my job to keep the chickens safe, and once again, I failed.

Buttercup

That same day, Rocky was also taken.  I saw the abduction, but didn't realize at first what had happened.  When I realized, I chased the fox through the woods in my bare feet, until he let Rocky go.  Rocky's wing was damaged, and I think she sustained some nerve damage as well.  Rocky has since recovered enough to be able to fly up to the roost at night, and she resumed laying eggs as well, although her range of motion is a little less in the injured wing.  Based on feather evidence, we think a fox must have gotten close to Koko as well on that day, but she returned to the coop at dusk, and seemed traumatized, but physically OK.

I didn't let the girls out on their own for a couple of weeks.  But foxes are nocturnal, doing most of their hunting at night.  They're active at dawn and dusk too, but generally not in the middle of the day.  Plus, I hadn't seen a fox since the end of May.  So in mid-June, I let the girls out by themselves for about an hour in the middle of the day, figuring they'd be safe.  Koko was taken.  I did see a fox later that afternoon, so I assume she was taken by a fox, but we didn't find any feathers, so it could have been an aerial predator.  Koko was clever, a consistent layer, and friendly. Although I tried, she never did take to being a lap chicken. 

Koko

Yeah, so no more letting chickens out by themselves.  Ever.  I also make a point to listen to podcasts at full volume when I'm out there supervising their ranging--most ground predators will stay away from human sounds.

Last week, Indigo died in her sleep.  She was moving slow, and hadn't been able to hop up to the roost for a while, so her death wasn't really a surprise, but it was still unexpected.  She's buried under a tree.  Indigo was such a gorgeous bird, curious, and sweet.

Indigo

During this time, Charlotte decided to go broody three times.  Going broody means a chicken wants to incubate eggs--she wants to be a mama.  If I had been making a list of chickens I thought would go broody, Charlotte would have been at the very bottom.  We don't have a rooster, so no matter how long a chicken sits on any of our eggs, she will not hatch chicks.  But chickens, their hormones just take over, I guess, and they will continue to sit on eggs until they hatch.  The broody hens only get up for about an hour a day, which means they don't get as much food or water as they should for those three weeks, and since our eggs will never hatch, being broody in our flock is potentially fatal.

Charlotte.  About double her normal size.
Chickens fluff up their feathers when they're broody.

Each time, I ended up putting Charlotte into the chick grow out pen with food and water.  The idea is to put the chicken in a situation where she can't sit on eggs, and eventually she'll lose interest.  Charlotte didn't have a nest and didn't have any eggs, so eventually she decided she didn't want to be a mama anymore.  At least for a couple of weeks...

Rocky, Toasty, Esther, Charlotte 
Dust bathing 

Three of the girls are molting.  Esther is growing feathers, and Charlotte and Rocky are losing feathers.  Toasty has stopped laying eggs, so I think she might be preparing for a molt as well.  It's early for them, but it's so much more sensible, I think, to lose and regrow one's feathers when it's 85 or 90°F rather than <32°F.

My hammock buddy, Esther

So that's the update.  It's been a tough couple of months to be a chicken mama around here, too.  

Monday, August 9, 2021

Menu plan for the week of August 9

 Remember when I said my regular grocery store was closed for remodeling?  And that I was kind of rotating through four other close-ish locations for my grocery shopping trips?  Well, now one of the kiddos has something for an hour every Monday, and I'm going to the same grocery store location every week while he's doing that.  It doesn't make sense for me to go home in between, so I drive another few miles down the road to the grocery store.

Someone left this painted chicken rock for me at the grocery store weeks ago. 
I thought about taking it, because they obviously left it for me
I didn't. 
It's gone now.

I'm getting to know that store's layout pretty well.

The thing is, it takes about 15 minutes, depending on traffic and traffic lights, to get from where I'm dropping off the kiddo to the grocery store.  And then, of course, it takes another 15 minutes, depending on traffic, to get back.  So I've got a maximum of 30 minutes to park, obtain a cart, grab the groceries, pay for them, pack them up, put them in my vehicle, return my cart, and return to my vehicle.  Which is fine.  It's a small store, so I can totally do it.

It just feels like every week, it's getting closer and closer.  The first week, I got back with about 15 minutes to spare; today it was about two.  I'm not sure I'm liking this trend.

Way back in April, I asked one of the team members at my store when they'd be reopening, and they told me August, so it should be open, and I should be back learning the new store layout, soon.

In the meantime, we continue to eat.  Here's what's on the menu this week:

Supper:

Other:

Friday, August 6, 2021

Beef Barley Casserole: a Recipe

 I made this hearty casserole the other day, and it is definitely a keeper!  I'm on another** use-up-the-half-used-stuff kick, and I had an open box of pearled barley in the cupboard.  You guys.  In 2019, I used up the last of a box of barley that expired in 2011.  And then I bought more barley!  And actually used some.  But not all, of course.  Which is how I ended up with another open box of barley in the cupboard.

When I think of barley, I inevitably think of soup, but I just ... didn't want ... soup.  But barley is a grain, just like rice, and where does rice show up, about half the time?  In casserole recipes.  So I went on the lookout for a barley casserole recipe.  And I found one***.  The problem was, it was more of a side-dish than a main dish.  So I tweaked it a bit to create to this deliciousness that will probably lead to me buying more barley.

This is a filling main dish casserole, with a lovely beef flavor, complemented by the slightly nutty flavor from the toasted barley.  I made mine in a 12" cast iron skillet because my main goal in life is to use as few dishes as possible, but if you don't have an oven-safe stove-top pan, you can transfer it to a greased baking dish before putting it in the oven.  Try it--I think you'll love it.


Beef Barley Casserole  
Adapted from here
Click here to print

1 lb lean ground beef
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick)
1 cup quick cooking barley
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 (2 oz. pkg) onion soup mix
2 cups chicken broth, plus more for baking
  1. In a large oven safe skillet or Dutch oven, cook 1 lb ground beef until no pink remains.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Drain excess fat.
  2. In the same pan, melt 1/2 c butter over medium heat. Add 1 c barley and 1 medium chopped onion and sauté until toasted and golden. 
  3. Stir in 1/2 c sliced almonds, 1 packet dry onion soup and 2 c chicken broth. 
  4. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes, and adding more liquid* (chicken broth or water) if needed (I used about another 1.5 c of turkey stock).  

* The original recipe says to bake the casserole covered, which would reduce the need for additional liquid, but I really liked my uncovered version.

** I feel like I am almost always on a use-up-the-half-used-stuff kick...

*** I actually found another barley casserole recipe.  It was a tex-mex casserole, and while it sounded good, it just wasn't what I wanted.  

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Menu plan for the week of July 19

 I was feeling chaotic this week.  When I wrote it all down, all the things I had to do, it seemed like Not Very Much.  But when it was swirling around in my head, it felt like So Much.  It felt Huge.

I had So Many things to do.  And I think the biggest issue was that some of the things had firm dates and times when they needed to happen but other of the things had to happen but could happen at any time.  And how do you work with that?  How do you make a plan?  It was like this huge puzzle that had any number of possible solutions.  How to choose the best, most efficient solution?

I don't know if you know this about me, but I am not very good at switching course.  I plan.  And when things don't go according to plan, I don't like it.  I try to be ok with change.  Change is inevitable, after all.  I try to be flexible.  I try to go with the flow.  But I am not good at it.

And not feeling able to make a plan at all?  That is the worst.

That's, um, kind of why I plan meals.  

I'm feeling better now, because those few busy days are behind me.  All of the things, the things that had a specific day and time, the things that had a specific day but not time, and the things that had neither a day nor a time, all of those things happened.  And it turned out ok.  So I'm better.  But not 100% better because I don't sleep well under certain conditions that are now in effect.

So, hey.  Here's the meal plan for the week.

Supper:
  • Fend for yourself
  • Tacos
  • Pizza
  • Nachos or leftovers
  • Spaghetti with sauce, garlic bread, carrots
  • Out to eat
  • Hot dogs and brats?, miscellaneous veggies from the fridge?

Other:

Friday, July 16, 2021

Caramel Banana Muffins

 It started when I watched a Budget Eats video from Delish in which Delish Senior Food Editor June lived off of her leftovers and pantry for a week.  Y'all know that from time to time I like to use up random food odds and ends that I've collected, and that's exactly what June did during this extremely hot week of filming.   She's so good at it.  Seriously.

On the 6th(?) day June decided to make Banana Caramel Teff Cakes.  And I said to myself, "self, we have leftover caramel sauce in our fridge."  And myself replied, "yes, and we also have overripe bananas in the freezer."  

"We should make caramel banana muffins!" we exclaimed in unison.

It happened exactly like that.

And so I found myself googling banana caramel muffins, and I came across this recipe from Midwest Living.  Now, the disadvantage of this recipe is that it uses only a couple of tablespoons of caramel sauce, and we have ... well, we have more than that, but the advantage of this recipe is that it uses a little bit of cream cheese, which I and myself happened to have in our freezer, because of buying 8 ounces and then only using 6 and then letting it sit in the fridge until it was almost not good anymore and then sticking it in the freezer because maybe I/we would use it someday.

Y'all.  These muffins are so good.  Unlike traditional banana bread, these muffins are light and fluffy, more like a cake than a muffin, but also super moist, with just the right amount of banana flavor.  You can skip the topping if you like, but do not skip putting part of the topping mix into the batter.  Mmmm. So good.

Here, without further ado, is the recipe.

Caramel Banana Muffins

Adapted from here
Click here to print this recipe

For the topping (cut in half if you're not going to use the topping as a topping):
  • 1/2 c. chopped pecans
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
For the muffins:
  • 2-3 oz cream cheese, softened (I used 2 oz, because it's what I had, and it turned out great)
  • 1/4 c (half a stick) of butter, softened
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ripe banana, peeled and mashed (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 T caramel flavored ice cream topping, plus more for serving if desired
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line 12 muffin cups (I use silicone muffin liners).  You could grease the cups instead, but be aware that you might decide you hate your life when you try to remove the muffins, and then later, when you attempt to wash the pan.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 c. chopped pecans, 2 T sugar, and 1 t cinnamon.  Set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together 2-3 oz cream cheese, 1/4 c butter, and 2/3 c sugar until combined.  Add 1 egg and mix well.  Add 1 mashed banana and 1 t vanilla extract, and mix until well combined.
  4. Add 1 1/4 c flour, 3/4 t baking powder, 1/4 t baking soda, and 1/4 t salt and stir just until combined.  Stir in 1/4 c of the pecan mixture.
  5. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared muffins cups, about 1 rounded tablespoon per cup.  Drizzle with about 1/2 t of caramel sauce (use your heart on this one, friends), then top with the remainder of the batter, distributing evenly among the cups.  Use a spoon or spatula (or your finger--I won't judge) to smooth the tops, taking care to cover all of the caramel sauce.  Sprinkle with remaining pecan topping if using.
  6. Bake in a 375° oven for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve warm drizzled with more caramel topping, if you like.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

21 for 2021 June/July update

Welp.  Yeah.  I told you I didn't want to do this.  But I've kind of been doing it anyway, so I thought I'd let you know how much progress I've made on my 2021 goals.  

Truthfully, I haven't even looked at these since February, but I think I might be surprised at how much I've actually done.

  1. Set up a spreadsheet to keep track of mystery shopping assignments, payment, and reimbursement.  DONE
  2. Set up an electronic list of future projects. DONE
  3. Complete 10 of the projects from my electronic project list.  One?  I haven't been doing many projects this year, nor have I been keeping track.
  4. Declutter and reorganize Pinterest boards.  I'm currently sitting at 20 boards and 889 pins, and I'm calling it DONE
  5. Declutter electronic mystery shopping receipts, photos, and screen shots.  DONE, but this is a never ending project, because I keep doing shops.  
  6. Unsubscribe from 21 email lists in the first 21 days of 2021.  DONE
  7. Improve my scores on all 2019 and 2020 Just Dance Extreme versions to Superstar or better.  Only one more to go!
  8. Complete 12 new (to me) hikes.  Four.
  9. Complete streaks of 20 and 21 days.  I completed the 21 day streak.  I attempted the 20 day streak (walking 3 miles a day, 5 days a week, for 4 weeks), and made it to day 16 before it got hot and we went out of town.  I think if just one of those conditions had occurred I would have completed the streak.  I'll definitely try again.  When it's cooler.
  10. Send birthday cards to 12 people I don't usually send birthday cards to.  Nope.  And I don't think I actually know 12 people who have birthdays in the last half of the year, and whose addresses I have.  So this one isn't happening.
  11. Walk at least 202.1 miles.  Through June, I had walked 186 miles.
  12. Plant a pine cone. Not yet.
  13. Go to at least one in-person flower show at the conservatory.  None so far.  Christmas is my favorite, but it's risky to wait that long to complete the goal, because December is hard.
  14. Obtain a non-plastic countertop compost bin.  I'm working on it, friends.  Most countertop compost bins are metal (which is susceptible to rust) or plastic (which holds odors).
  15. Make marshmallows from scratch.  Nope, but I've thought about it often in the past few weeks, and it might be not-humid enough this weekend, so maybe.
  16. Make a list of 21 go-to meals that (mostly) everyone in my family likes. I'm up to seven.  This one is a lot more difficult than it looks.
  17. Oil wooden spoons, bowls, and cutting board regularly.  I have oiled the spoons, bowls, and cutting board twice.
  18. Attempt to donate blood 6 times.  I'm up to four.  First time, my appointment was canceled because of a problem with the equipment.  Second time, I donated successfully.  Third time, I wasn't feeling well.  Fourth time, well, we won't talk about that time except to say that Dan needs to improve his bedside manner and I am really disappointed that I was able to start, but unable to complete that donation.  I'm feeling discouraged, but I do have another appointment scheduled for August.
  19. Volunteer not-at-home at least 12 times this year.  Six so far.
  20. Grow paperwhites. Waiting until November.  Again, this is risky, because November is also hard.
  21. Create a new goal.  Eh.  Not really?  I don't think?  Maybe?

So hey.  Not too shabby, eh?  Especially for not intentionally working on any of my 2021 goals.

I will continue to not work on them, and maybe I'll update you again sometime.  Or maybe I won't. 

How are you doing on your 2021 goals? 

Friday, July 9, 2021

It's time for a garden update

 It's been about a month since I talked about what's happening in the garden, so I thought I should bring y'all an update. 

The watermelons and Sakata's sweet melon have really taken off, and they're filling the garden bed.  There are also lots of flowers on the plants, but I don't think there are any actual melons yet, or even female flowers.  Of course, I didn't really look closely, so maybe they're there.  It's been so hot this summer, which is perfect for melons, so I'm hopeful that we'll actually get a harvest this year.

The grape tomato plant is huge.  I started the season pruning off the suckers, but then I decided to just let it go.  The cage fell over repeatedly, so I added a heavy pole to counteract the plant's weight.  So far, it's holding.  There are lots of fruits on the plant, and even more flowers.  Hopefully we'll be eating these right off the plant in a few weeks.  Fresh cherry tomatoes right off the vine are a sublime experience.

The sunflowers are huge compared to a month ago.  I think they were maybe an inch tall in my last garden post, and now they're a solid 4 feet.  I am so looking forward to seeing their sunny faces.

The zinnias are also a lot taller--around 2 feet, and I think all of them have buds.  They have some Asian beetle damage--every time I see them, I pick the beetles off and feed them to the chickens.  The marigolds are also doing well, but I haven't seen any buds yet.

The sugar snap peas have been a disappointment.  I mentioned last time that I had reseeded due to poor germination, and one of those came up.  One.  Ugh.  Plus, since these are a bush type instead of a vining type, they will produce fewer per plant.  The plants I do have are flowering, and this one even has some set fruit.  I was hoping for more, though.  I still have plenty of seed, so I think I will plant this variety again next year, but I will start them indoors so the squirrels or birds or whoever stole my seeds won't get a chance to do so again.

I've thinned the cabbage plants down to three per pot, which is still too many per pot.  But y'all!  It gets harder and harder to bring myself to thin plants as they get bigger.  This is definitely something good to know--next year all the plants need to be thinned by the time they half an inch tall.  An inch max.  I thought I would wait to thin them down to 1-2 per pot until they were bigger and leave the strongest ones, but I have not been able to pull out anymore since the last thinning.  Fortunately, there's plenty of room in the pea bed if I want to transplant the extras instead of just feeding them to the chickens.  I was noticing quite a few cabbage moth larvae a few weeks ago, but after about a week of diligent picking, I haven't seen any since.

Yes, that is a radish flower--your eyes are not deceiving you.  I decided to let this one plant bolt to try to see if I can catch the seed pods when they're delicious and tender, rather than tender and bland or delicious and tough.  This one was from the first planting, and it never bulbed, so we weren't going to eat it anyway.

And here's one of my beets.  I'm pretty sure it's not supposed to be sticking out of the ground and I'm also pretty sure that it's supposed to be round rather than long and skinny, but this is the farthest I've ever gotten with beets (in all the two years that I've attempted beets), so I'm still hoping for the best for these.

That's all I got for ya.  There are some disappointments and some encouraging signs.  I'll just keep doing what I'm doing.


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