Monday, December 5, 2022

Menu plan for the week of December 5

 It's Christmas cookie season, so I asked my kiddos what kind of Christmas treats* they would like to have.  

The first kid I asked said sugar cookies.

The second kid I asked said sugar cookies.  And then when I told him that his brother had already chosen sugar cookies, he said snickerdoodles.

The third kid I asked said sugar cookies, and then snickerdoodles, and then agreed with my suggestion of white chocolate peppermint candy cane kiss cookies.

At least we know that everyone will be happy with the cookie choices.

I was planning to make at least 4 dozen of each cookie** each weekend beginning this past weekend, leaving one dozen out for the people to eat, and freezing three dozen for future use.  I started with the white chocolate peppermint candy cane kiss cookies on Saturday.  And the dozen cookies kept out to eat were gone by noon on Sunday (they're delicious.  You should try them).  Well, alrighty then.  I made the snickerdoodles on Sunday, and there are still some left Monday morning, plus there's no one here who's going to eat them at least until 4:30 pm, so that feels like an improvement.

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



* because it's ok to have treats at this time of year that are not cookies.

** or treat!  But in this case, they all turned out to be cookies

Monday, September 26, 2022

Menu plan for the week of September 26

 Last week, the same friend who gave me some of her sourdough starter handed me a box that was labeled "banneton proofing basket kit."  Take this, she said, I have an extra.

I think most people, when they hear sourdough, picture those round crusty loaves with intricate patterns carved into their tops.  And one of the tools that the folks who make those types of loaves use is a banneton, which is a fancy name for a basket that holds the dough during the second rise.  And I can not, for the life of me, figure out how those folks get their loaves out of their fancy baskets and into their Dutch ovens for baking without totally deflating the dough.  My friend said she couldn't figure it out either.  Because of that, and because there are so many other ways to use sourdough starter that my family is more likely to actually eat, I honestly had never given serious consideration to making one of those artisan loaves.  

But then, the kit came into my life.  When I opened the box, I was expecting to find a banneton and a banneton liner.  I did find those things, along with a few other tools, but on top of all that laid the gorgeous book, Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa.  I am a sucker for a beautiful cookbook, and this, my friends, is a beautiful cookbook.  And now I need to make all the things, including the things that require a proofing basket.  Up first, a Cinnamon raisin swirl loaf (without the raisins).

And here's what else is on the menu this week:

  • Chicken fettuccini alfredo, green beans
  • Burritos or tacos, taco toppings, carrots
  • Beef stroganoff or fend for yourself
  • Fend for yourself
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hamburgers or hot dogs, buns, chips, raw veggies
  • Grilled pork chops, mashed potatoes, grilled broccoli


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Being kind to my future self

 I've been thinking a lot about being kind to my future self lately.  

As you may have gathered from last week's menu post, mealtimes have been a bit ... scattered ... around here.  Sporadic.  Chaotic.  There has been a breakdown in our usual mealtime routines, which means, among other things that, while I usually wash dirty dishes that don't fit in the dishwasher immediately, or at least within 30 minutes, after supper, I have not, lately.

And so suddenly, it'll be 9:30 or 10 p.m.*, and the dishes will have not yet been washed, and have I mentioned that I am exhausted?  Yes, yes, I have mentioned that.

But lately I've been deciding to be kind to my future self by washing the dishes, even though I'm exhausted.  And my future self is always so appreciative of my past self.

Also, I feel like I need to mention** that the dish fairy hasn't shown up around here for weeks, which makes it that much more difficult to wash dishes.  I mean, without the dish fairy putting them away, the clean and dry dishes from yesterday take up all of the room where I want to put the clean and wet dishes from today to dry.

I feel like it's a really good idea to ask myself, every day, "what can I do to make things easier for future Scarlet?"  And I've been coming up with things each day to set future Scarlet up for success.

I'm still exhausted, though.

How about you?  Do you ever think about how you can make your future self's life a little easier?

* For reference, bedtime is usually 9:01 p.m.

** I feel the need to mention this so you will feel sorry for me.  I mean, no dish fairy, for weeks!  How can I be expected to cope with such drudgery? 

Monday, September 12, 2022

Meal plan for the week of September 12

 Remember how I asked for meal ideas last week?  Well, one of you actually responded!  Isn't that exciting?  Someone actually read a blog post, and was so moved by it that they took action.  

That person suggested chicken burrito bowls, which you may recall we actually had on the menu about a month ago, and we really liked them.  And by we really liked them, I mean I really liked them and no one else complained verbally about them.  So it's on the menu again this week, because who cares how anyone other than the cook feels about the meals?  

I'm strictly using the whole eat it or starve philosophy of meal planning at this point.  Of course, they don't actually starve, because they are all either adults or teens (and one of them happens to be both adult and teen), and they are fully capable of feeding themselves.

Great idea, dear reader!  Thank you.

And, uh, if any of the rest of you would like to be thanked publicly in this space, feel free to send your meal ideas my way, too.

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

Yup, there will be other things.  Just not sure what yet.

What's on the menu at your house this week?

Friday, September 9, 2022

Italian Sausage Cauliflower Soup: a low carb interpretation of Zuppa Toscana

 I gotta be honest with you.  I'm publishing this recipe mostly because I want to remember what I did this time that made it taste so good.  But if you want to try it too, you should.  It's really yummy.

I first tried Zuppa Toscana on the day our previous slow cooker fell victim to inertia.  So delicious.  On that day, I modified the recipe for stovetop, and the next time I made it, this time in my new crock pot, I discovered that I preferred the stovetop method, although the slow cooker is really convenient.  I think it's because I like a thicker soup than the original recipe provided in the slow cooker.  If you prefer a thinner soup, feel free to add water or additional broth.  Later on, I found a lower carb Zuppa Toscana copycat recipe.  This recipe is inspired by both.

This low carb soup is creamy and thick, with a slight spicy kick from the sausage and crushed red pepper.

Italian Sausage Cauliflower Soup

Makes about 6 servings
Click here to print this recipe

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced (use more or less to your taste)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t crushed red pepper flakes (use less or omit if you don't like a spicy kick; use more if you do)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 16 oz frozen cauliflower florets
  • 12 oz frozen riced cauliflower
  • 4 c chicken broth or stock
  • 1/2-1 c heavy whipping cream
  • 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, or a couple of handfuls of real bacon pieces--measure with your heart
  • 2 c chopped kale or spinach, optional 


  1. In a large pot, sauté 1 lb Italian sausage with 1 diced onion until sausage is cooked through.  
  2. Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook and stir for a few more minutes until fragrant.  
  3. Add crushed red pepper and salt and pepper to taste*, 16 oz frozen cauliflower florets, 12 oz frozen riced cauliflower, and 4 cups chicken broth.  
  4. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.  
  5. Add 1/2 - 1 c of heavy whipping cream, 10 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled, and kale or spinach, if using.  Heat through.  Serve and enjoy!

* I used 1/2 t pepper and 1/2 T salt, but my homemade chicken stock didn't have any salt in it. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Important Information

 At the beginning of August, I got a text message from the school district telling me to check my email for an important message about transportation.

I duly checked my email, and found a message about transportation.  It was a message that I didn't necessarily think was important, but the school district probably thinks every message they send is important.  The important message about transportation from the email was that they would be sending a letter through the US postal service about my student's transportation.

Yup.  That's what it said.  And they did.  They sent a letter via USPS telling me about my student's specific transportation arrangements.  Which is, definitely, for sure, important information.

Now, I am a big benefit-of-the-doubt-er, so I can see why the school district might feel the need to warn me via text message that they'd be sending an email, which in turn warned me that they'd be sending a letter.  I mean, they probably wanted to get the message out through as many channels as possible, so parents wouldn't miss it.  And it worked, in my case.  I was totally on the lookout for that important transportation information for the next couple of weeks, and I did not miss it.  

The school district also probably wanted to avoid having to field 38 bajillion phone calls from parents asking about bus information, although I bet they still got many, many phone calls in the intervening weeks, because no matter how many ways one communicates, and no matter how many times one communicates, there are always those who don't get the message, for whatever reason.

But it just struck me as comical that the school district felt the need to do that.  Why not include the information in each of the communications?  Why build our anticipation so?  I wonder how many more times this school year this same sequence of events will occur regarding important information.

Monday, September 5, 2022

(non) Menu plan for the week of September 5

 I did a thing the other day.  I canned potatoes for the first time.  See, we needed potatoes, and the 10 lb bag was just a couple of pennies more than a 5 lb bag, so I bought the 10 lb bag, even though a week or two prior to that, I had composted three moldy, smelly*, and oddly juicy rotten potatoes.

It was quite the internal debate, in the store.  Should I buy the 5 lb bag, which we are much more likely to use before they go bad?  Or should I get double the potatoes for about the same price, knowing it would be much more challenging to use them up?

Well, in the heat of the moment I chose double the potatoes.  And after I cooled down, I realized that with only one potato-eater currently in the house, there is no way I would use them all.  Of course I berated myself mentally, because that's how I roll.  I mean, by purchasing the 10 lb bag, I was virtually guaranteeing that I was going to be throwing away potatoes in a month or so.

When I told Bubby I didn't think we'd be able to use the potatoes, he told me that sure we could.  He still remembers the week that he and his brother ate mashed potatoes every. single. day. with fondness‡.  He didn't seem too enthusiastic when I told him he was welcome to try†.

So I decided to can the potatoes.  Our most frequent preparation of potatoes is mashed, and by canning potatoes, I'll be able to get mashed potatoes on the table in about 5 minutes.  Based on the instructions in the Ball Blue Book of Canning, I expected to be able to get 2 quarts, that I thought I could probably stretch to 3, which didn't seem worthwhile canning, but I was committed.  I ended up with 5 quarts, which for me is a full (pressure) canner load, plus enough extra for a Bubby** sized serving on Saturday.  So yay!  I'm looking forward five easy-peasy mashed potato preps, and zero rotten potatoes.

Also last week, I canned salsa (it's super hot this year), zucchini "pineapple", green beans***, and pinto beans.  I think I'm done for now, but I do have some tomatoes in the freezer that I will eventually have to do something with.

The menu plan is a mess this week.  School started, and I am exhausted.  So we'll probably have breakfast for supper this week, along with fending for ourselves a couple of times, plus pizza, maybe hot dogs, possibly tacos or nachos.  I don't know.  I feel like this is awfully early in the "new year" to stop caring about what I'm going to feed my family.

What's cooking at your house this week?  I could use some ideas.

* * * * *

*I honestly thought I was smelling unshowered teenager whenever I caught a whiff.  Which was so weird, because sometimes there were no teenagers around, showered or otherwise.

‡I do not.  

†Bubby generally does peel and cut the potatoes when we have mashed potatoes, but the last time he did the actual mashing there was an incident with the salt shaker, and he's been reluctant, since then, to mash the potatoes himself.

**A Bubby sized serving is equivalent to 3-4 normal person servings.

***I know.  I said I wasn't going to can green beans anymore.  But they just keep coming, friends.  And I had to do something with them.  And we already have 4 family sized portions in the freezer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

New sheets day

 Monday is new sheets day in our house, and since the kids would not _ever_ change their sheets of their own volition, on Mondays I write "change sheets" on their list of chores on our mud room white board.  And Bubby generally ignores my instruction to change sheets.

I have noticed that my kids' most effective strategy for getting out of doing something is simply not doing it right away.  My brain is generally on top of things enough to tell them to do something once, but they count on me forgetting, and not telling them again, at least not consistently.  And I usually do.  Forget.  And I usually don't. Tell them again.

So several months ago, I started taking Bubby's sheets off his bed on new sheet day.  This way, if he wants to sleep, and does not want to sleep on the floor or in his hammock, he will need to put new sheets on before he goes to bed.  It's been a highly effective technique--Bubby hasn't missed a clean sheet day since I implemented it.

The other day, he happened to catch me taking his sheets off, and he told me, you know mom, taking the sheets off is the easy part.  It's not really all that helpful for you to take them off.

I know, sweet child, I know I'm not being helpful.  I'm not intending to be helpful, although it is darling that you think that.  I am intending to get you to actually change your sheets once in a while.

Oh, he said.

I've got strategies, too.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Menu plan for the week of August 29

 It's football season, friends, which means Bubby needs to get picked up from practice most days right during the time I need to be making supper.  It shouldn't be an issue, because generally there is at least one adult at home who could help with supper, while another adult picks up the kiddo, but it does require planning (and prepping) ahead on my part.  The other days, he has games, which means there generally aren't any adults at home and we get home late (hence the two fends for yourselves this week).  

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



* I accidentally bought maple-flavored sausage patties, so I've been feeding them to my family, since they like maple-flavored things.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

August 2022 garden update

 Hello, friends.  Welcome to the 2nd of the year, maybe final, but most likely penultimate, garden update!  Let's get right to it, shall we?

The green beans keep coming.  We've eaten them fresh several times, and I blanched and froze four family sized portions, and they just keep coming, despite being completely eaten up by Japanese beetles.  The plants look so straggly, and I'm kinda done with green beans, so I'm tempted to tear them out, but that feels like throwing away perfectly good food, which doesn't feel good.  So I'm going to leave them for now.

I have one softball sized watermelon, and the plant seems to have stopped setting flowers, so it's looking like this is our one hope for watermelon this year.

One of my cabbages is actually forming a head, which is exciting.

The zucchini flower issue* is continuing.  All but one of the zucchinis we've harvested this year have been the result of hand pollination.  Here is an open male flower, along with an almost ready zucchini in the background.

I'm so happy the marigolds from last year self-seeded.  It's a bright spot of color in an otherwise not very lush looking garden.

I've harvested about 3.5 pounds of tomatoes, and there are plenty more on the plants.  As you can see, blight has set in, so it's a race to see if the blight, or I, get the tomatoes first.  Something has happened with the tomatoes that I don't remember happening in past years--a lot of the new bloom clusters have died--they look like they've been burned.  It's kind of an ok thing, since the plant doesn't really have time, at this point, to grow a whole tomato from a bloom, but it's weird.  It's happening with the cherry tomatoes, too.

The jalapenos are going strong, with multiple peppers on each of our four plants.  I'm not sure how to tell if they're ripe, so my plan is to wait until I have enough tomatoes for a batch of salsa (about 6 pounds), and then pick as many jalapenos as I need for a batch of salsa (about a pound), picking the biggest ones first.  I may can some jalapeno jelly if there are enough leftover jalapenos.

I harvested a red pepper maybe a week ago, and there are bell peppers of various sizes on each of the four plants.  This is the largest, at about 4 inches long.

This volunteer sunflower is my favorite thing in the garden (at least until that watermelon ripens...if it ripens).  It's way taller than me--maybe 10 feet?--with multiple buds.

I planted three supposedly cold hardy to -40°F lavender plants near the chicken coop.  I'm doing all the research to give these plants the best chance of surviving the winter, because I really enjoy having them there.  Two of them are blooming, and it's so lovely to look at, and smell, them.

The only other plants that survived by the chicken coop were two zinnias from saved seed.  I'm trying to decide if I want to plant daffodils and/or black eyed Susans (perennials) here or if I want to just plant zinnias or other flowers each year.

I've harvested probably 2 dozen small onions whose leaves were dead or damaged to the point that it was obvious they wouldn't be getting any bigger.  I still have about 8 onions in the ground, and I'm looking forward to seeing how big they get.  The ones in the containers did way better than the ones planted in the garden beds.

I planted some radishes at the beginning of the month.  According to the seed package, they should be ready in about a week, but it's not looking good.

And that's it.  I'll probably post a season wrap-up, but I might not, so maybe prepare yourselves emotionally for this to be the last update for this year.

What's happening in your garden?

* We've had lots of male and female zucchini flowers, but hardly ever at the same time, which makes fertilization difficult.

Monday, August 22, 2022

Menu plan for the week of August 22

 I've been doing baking days about once a week for most of the summer.  The idea is, if I'm going to heat up the oven, I want to just do it once, both to save energy (because I won't have to preheat for each baked item), and also to avoid heating up the house more than once.  Last Thursday, I made bread (sourdough, of course, which means I wasn't using the bread machine), two kinds of muffins (also sourdough: coffee cake and zucchini), and cookies.  I also made taco bean soup, which I did not bake, but since I'm out of home canned pinto beans, I had to cook the beans first.  It was almost too much for me.  There were ingredients and dirty dishes and recipes in progress and finished products everywhere.  I ran out of cooling racks.  I set up the bread machine (for the pizza crust for supper that night) on the floor in the dining room because I didn't have counter space for it.

Have you ever watched a YouTube food prep video?  Yeah.  They make even more stuff than I did, every week, and they don't seem overwhelmed in the least.  I wonder how they do it*, while filming, no less.

Regardless of how they do it, I, too, manage to get food on the table most nights.  Here's what's on the menu this week:



* Well, for one thing, I think they make use of more mixes and convenience items than I do.  I mean, I don't see them feeding their sourdough starter or cooking beans or even making muffins from scratch.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Cleaning the cleaning machine and curious?

 Anybody else super annoyed that it's necessary to clean things that clean for us?  I'm talking about the vacuum cleaner, clothes washer, dishwasher--things like that.  Their purpose is to clean things, so why can't they keep themselves clean?

Anyway, I'm on some kind of cleaning kick* and our dishwasher has been particularly gross lately, with rusty films and globs of particulates everywhere, so I decided to go ahead and tackle it today.  It's a lot better now.  Definitely not perfect (because calculus, and life experience, tells me that it can never be perfect), but a lot better.  It was messy, though.  And stuff ended up in a lot of places, including the utility sink, which I cleaned yesterday, and the floor, which I mopped yesterday, and now I have to clean those places again, which means yesterday's effort was wasted.  Ugh.

So, for future reference, if you're going to take on a messy cleaning project, do it before you take on the less messy cleaning projects.

* * * * * 

In other news, you might** be wondering just what miscellaneous items my side of the master bedroom closet is home to, so I'll tell you.

In my side of the master bedroom closet, in addition to clothes, I have:
  • Broken down boxes and other shipping supplies for mystery shopping, plus two not broken down, filled boxes.
  • Garden seeds.
  • Art supplies, including, but not limited to, my hot glue gun, ribbon, cardboard for protecting work surfaces, old t-shirts that I cut up for staining, and the kid paint box, which has kid painting supplies that haven't been used in years and probably aren't good anymore.
  • Two throw pillows that used to be on the bed, that we're not using right now, but I also don't want to get rid of, even though I got them from the thrift store, and likely could find similar shapes and sizes in the future to recover however I would like them to be covered.
  • Two ukulele gig bags, which each contain extra ukulele supplies
  • Overflow cleaning supplies, like bleach, vinegar, toilet bowl cleaner, sanitizing wipes, laundry detergent, and the outdoor window cleaning kit that I am hiding from my husband because he threw the old one away after asking me if he could and me telling him he should not.
  • Coffee
  • A gift for my HS freshman that I have literally been working on since he was in preschool
  • A four pound bag of candy corn that I bought because my people love it and I didn't know if it would still be in stock the next time I went to the warehouse store.
  • Cleaned out candle jars to put the candy corn in for display when it's actually candy corn season.
  • An in-progress crocheting project, as well as an in-progress sewing project.
  • Eleven decorative house flags (one for each month, counting the one that's on display now).
  • Two pairs of slippers.
  • A small wooden tray that I used to use for oils and vinegars, and stopped using a few years ago, but I can't get rid of it because it has two of the kiddos hand and footprints on it.
  • Extra bags and a backpack.
There's more, but I'm guessing you get the idea.  There's a lot of random stuff.

You also might*** be wondering what kinds of clothes are folded on the shelves, so I'll tell you.  On the shelves, I keep bras, shorts, pants, and pajama pants.  And yes, I wore clothes, from the shelves, yesterday, and I am wearing clothes today.  I have temporarily solved the problem of not wanting to mess up my neatly-est stacks of clothing by not putting anything back on the shelves.

* * * * *

* Probably because the new year, aka kids going back to school, is coming soon, and I want a fresh start.

** You are probably not actually wondering.  I don't think I've ever met a person as curious as me, out in the wild, which is annoying because the less curious people tend to look at me funny, or just not answer, when I ask my curious questions.  And I also sometimes have difficulty deciding if my curious question is an appropriate one to ask.

*** Again, you're probably not.  Wondering, that is.  But I would be, if it wasn't my closet, and I wasn't sitting in it right now.  You're welcome

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Stuff was made for people

 Yesterday, I purged and straightened and organized my side of the closet.  My side of the closet is home to a lot of miscellaneous items, and stuff had been creeping outward for a while.  The stuff was still contained in the closet, and on my side of the closet, even, but creeping.  I had had enough with the creeping, so I dealt with it.

As part of dealing with it, I folded the clothes that I keep on the shelves.  I folded them neatly.  Extremely neatly.  We're talking Marie Kondo neatly.  This is the neatly-est my clothes have ever been, besides, possibly, when they were not yet mine and still lived at the store.

And today, I don't want to wear any of those clothes, because I know what will happen.  I know that once I remove and wear one of those items of clothing, those neat stacks of clothes will never be the same again.  And it's so pretty.  It makes me feel calm, and proud, and accomplished.

Here's the thing: clothes are meant to be worn.  Our stuff is meant to be used.  Our things are supposed to serve us, not the other way around.  And yes, my clothes are currently serving me by giving me the satisfaction of looking at all that order, but that's not what they're meant to do.  It is not my job, necessarily, to keep my clothes folded in a state of perfection*; it is my clothes' job to, well, clothe my body.

I think sometimes we get caught up in serving our stuff instead of letting it serve us.  We want and research and purchase and store and save and keep pristine and manage and let stuff take up space both in our physical surroundings and in our mental inventory.  We forget that stuff is not worthwhile to own unless it's doing its job for us.  We work so hard getting stuff and maintaining stuff that we don't have time to enjoy the stuff.  

At the risk of sounding irreverent, it reminds me of Jesus' words when his disciples were accused of breaking Sabbath by plucking grain.  He said, "the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.**"  Stuff was made for people, not people for stuff.

* But if that's what you want to do with your clothes, have at it.  More power to you.
** Mark 2:23-28

Monday, August 15, 2022

Menu plan for the week of August 15

 A couple of weeks ago, inspired by this video, and a Sam's Club sized purchase of boneless skinless chicken breasts, I made up four bags of marinated chicken for the freezer.  As I mentioned last week, I often realize, right around the time I want to start cooking, that I haven't marinated the meat.  At least this way, I don't have to think about it for another few weeks.  The idea is that the meat marinates as it thaws.

So far, due to the luck of the draw (aka grabbing the first package that comes to hand), we've tried cilantro lime chicken and southwest chicken, both of which I thought were pretty good.  We have yet to try rosemary mustard chicken and lemon garlic chicken, one of which will make its way to our plates on Sunday.

Do you marinade meats in the freezer?

As for the rest of the week's meals, here they are:



Friday, August 12, 2022


 About a week ago, a friend shared some of her sourdough starter with me.  She had casually mentioned that she was making a sourdough loaf, and I had been wanting to try sourdough for a while, so I asked if she would share some of her starter.  Of course she said yes, and then she actually followed through, and I wasn't quite ready for it, but now I am equal parts obsessed and overwhelmed.

In the intervening week, I've made English muffins, waffles, and cinnamon rolls.  It's kind of magic.  I am amazed every time that the dough actually rises.  Next up I'm planning a honey wheat sandwich bread and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

In case you're not quite sure what sourdough starter is, I'll tell you: it's a culture of captured wild yeast that can be used to make bread doughs rise.  The starter contains the yeast, along with food for the yeast: a mixture of flour and water.  It's kind of a commitment, because sourdough starter is something that needs to be fed and tended to regularly.  This is the way folks used to make bread rise before yeast in a packet became a thing.

Sourdough is also a commitment in that it requires planning ahead.  It takes about 24 hours, sometimes more, to make a loaf, as opposed to around 4 hours using commercial yeast.  Before this past week, I never really understood why the Hebrews were instructed to eat unleavened bread on the night of the very first Passover--the night the Hebrews escaped the tyranny of Pharaoh.  See, I've been baking bread for almost my whole life.  And yes, homemade bread takes time because it needs to rise, but surely the Hebrews would have had time to bake leavened bread.

But y'all.  The enslaved Hebrews didn't have dry yeast laying around.  There was no running to the grocery store to buy a packet of yeast.  They would have had levain--sourdough starter--a culture of wild yeast in a slurry of flour and water.  There simply wasn't time to bake sourdough bread before leaving town.  In fact, I suspect the Hebrews used up their unfed sourdough starter to make their unleavened bread.  It's not like they were going to have access to flour and water to maintain their levain while wandering in the desert. 

This is just another example, I guess, of how we miss so much of the nuance in the Bible because we're not aware of the cultural context or significance of what we're reading.  Now, at least in this instance, I have just a little more perspective, and when I'm working with my levain I can feel a little connection to those ancient bread-makers.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Menu plan for the week of August 8

A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to do as much weekend meal prep as possible on Fridays, so that I wouldn't have to, say, peel and cut potatoes at 4:30 p.m. on a Saturday, or realize at 5 p.m. on Sunday that I forgot to marinade the chicken.  

This week, that weekend prep would include making hot dog buns, cutting the potatoes for the French fries, cutting up veggies for salad, and cutting up and seasoning the grilled veggie (the chicken is already marinating in the freezer).  I haven't been doing all that great at remembering each week, but when I have, it's been really nice to be able to be more hands-off for meals on weekends.

Do you prep anything ahead of time to make mealtimes go more smoothly?

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



Monday, August 1, 2022

Menu plan for the week of August 1

 Hey friends, look: it's August.

So last week I made the beef potato casserole using part mashed potatoes and part diced potatoes, and it was yummy, but also soupier than usual, probably because the mashed potatoes already had some butter and milk in them, and I also used the liquid ingredients that the recipe calls for.  I don't think I will use mashed potatoes again, but I'm glad I tried it.

And I feel like there was something else I wanted to tell you, but I can't remember right now, so that will have to wait for another time; it can be something to look forward to.

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

  • Fend for Self or spaghetti
  • Tacos
  • Easy beef stroganoff, corn, applesauce
  • Creamy Tuscan chicken, rice, broccoli
  • Pizza, salad
  • Grilled steak with mushrooms, mashed potatoes and gravy, grilled broccoli
  • Grilled chicken, salad, veggie


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Chicken update

 Let's start with the sad news.  Toasty Crunch died during the night about a month ago.  She had been slowing down over the preceding weeks, so it wasn't really a surprise, but it was still sad, of course.  Average backyard chicken lifespan is 5 to 7 years, and she turned 5 in May, so I guess it was her time to go.

Toasty Crunch

* * * * *

Next, we'll cover the dramatic news.  When I went out to check on the girls yesterday evening, I found Charlotte huddling behind a barrier (more on the barrier later) with blood all over her face and head.  I couldn't tell where the blood was coming from, and it appeared that she was not actively bleeding, but one thing about chickens is they like to peck at red things, like blood, so I wanted to get her out of there.  I set her up in the grow-out/isolation pen overnight.

I assumed that Rocky must have attacked her, since there were no predators present, and no other chickens above Charlotte in the pecking order, but that would have been so out of character for Rocky.  Yes, she's at the top of the pecking order, but she doesn't go out of her way to attack others, and she's never, ever drawn blood.

In the morning, Bubby and I washed Charlotte's head and deployed a wound treatment spray, but we still couldn't find the source of the blood.  Upon further observation, I noticed that Charlotte was favoring one foot, and one of her toenails looked odd, so I'm guessing she broke her toenail, and then scratched her head with the bleeding foot?  Seems implausible, given the amount of blood, but so does Rocky attacking Charlotte.

* * * * *

And now for the eggciting/surprising news.  We have four new chicks: Fluffer-Nutter, a light brahma; Amelia Eggheart, a cream legbar; Socrates, a prairie bluebell egger; and Maple-Hibiscus, a blue laced red wyandotte.  They're 13 weeks old now, and doing great.  They have just the beginnings of combs and wattles forming, and they should start laying within a month or two.

Amelia Eggheart, Fluffer-Nutter, Socrates, Maple-Hibiscus

They spent their first 7 or 8 weeks in a brooder in our bathtub before moving to the grow-out pen outside full time.  Flutter-Nutter and Maple are about Charlotte's size, and as a group, they were getting too big for the the 8 square foot grow-out pen, plus it was becoming increasingly difficult to get the chicks back into the grow out pen after letting them out to move the pen, so we moved them into the big girl coop last week on Friday.

In preparation, I set up a couple of barriers for the littles to hide behind should the bigs chase them, and I set up two additional feeders and two additional waterers to give the littles a better chance of actually getting food and water.

Amelia Eggheart, Maple-Hibiscus, Fluffer-Nutter, Socrates
On this day, they were avoiding going into the hen house to sleep because the mean girls were in there, but they kept knocking each other down because they all wanted to be as close to the hen house as possible.  Bubby and I got them in and situated on the roost, and I think they're figuring out how to go to bed on their own now.

Here's the surprising news: the integration has gone really well.  Three days after the integration, the littles were no longer spending all of their time hiding from the bigs, and the bigs have stopped lunging whenever they catch sight of a little.  I am amazed.

* * * * *

My favorite lap chicken, Esther

In other chicken news, Esther laid an egg yesterday, after an almost 9 week hiatus while she underwent a partial molt.  Rocky is growing feathers after molting about 3 weeks after Esther, so hopefully she'll begin laying again soon, too.  Both Esther and Rocky are 5 years old, the only two left of my original flock.

Charlotte, Toasty Crunch, Rocky, Esther

Charlotte has been laying like a champ all spring and summer, including one in the grow-out pen this morning.  Charlotte is 2 years old, the only chicken left from my third flock.

In conclusion, we have 7 chickens, four of whom are new, two of whom are laying eggs, and everyone seems to be doing ok.

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Menu plan for the week of July 25

 Last week I harvested the first zucchini from this year's garden.  Apparently my friend who lives about a mile and a half away has zucchini coming out of her ears (not literally.  It's actually coming out of the garden, but it is prolific.  She's out of town this week, so maybe I should offer to go over and harvest for her), but not me.  I do not have zucchini coming out of my ears or my garden prolifically.  We've been having a flower problem, in that it's rare that we'll have both male and female flowers open at the same time, which kind of hinders fertilization.  

Anyway, I harvested the first zucchini, and I asked the kiddos what I should do with it.  I mean, I knew when I asked that question that they were not going to suggest eating it as a veggie.  I knew they were going to suggest eating it as part of a sweet treat.  And I was right; they wanted me to make muffins with it.  So I did.  I used this recipe for chocolate zucchini bread, but made muffins* instead of a loaf. 

They were really good!  Not too sweet, and kinda messy to eat (because they were so moist), and moist, and delicious.  I'll definitely be making these again. 

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

  • Fend for self or spaghetti
  • Nachos with guacamole and other yummy fixings
  • Chicken drumsticks, potato salad (gonna add pickles this time), raw veggies
  • Beef and potato casserole (I've often thought this would be good/better with mashed potatoes instead of diced potatoes.  I've got some leftover mashed potatoes, so we're going to find out), green beans
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs, buns, carrots, jello
  • Grilled chicken, salad, grilled veggie (zucchini if we have one ready from the garden; broccoli if not)


* I'm not sure why I prefer muffins to loaves in the quick bread space, but I do.  It's kinda weird because I'm not a crust or edge fan, and muffins have more crust than loaves, but there we go.  

Monday, July 18, 2022

Menu plan for the week of July 18

 Hi friends.  This week we're on to week three of avoiding the grocery store.  Of course, we're extremely low on fresh fruits and veggies, and low on frozen and canned veggies and fruits, so it's more like avoid purchasing anything for the main dish at the grocery store and only buy veggies, fruits, milk, eggs, and orange juice.  And oh yeah, there's a birthday this week.

It doesn't have quite the same ring, does it?

Anyway, here's what's on the menu this week:



Thursday, July 14, 2022

First garden tour 2022

 It's time for a garden update!

This year, I planted a salsa garden, which is fun.  It's kind of a bummer that the salsa ingredients won't necessarily all be ready at the same time, but I'm ok with that.  I'm growing most of the components, but I'm willing to supplement from the grocery store as needed.

I have roma tomatoes,

jalapeno peppers,

bell peppers--this little guy is almost bigger than its plant,

and onions.  I'm so glad I decided to grow these in containers--they're doing great.  

I also planted cilantro, but unfortunately, it bolted, so now I'm growing coriander.  This is why the garden people say to succession sow cilantro.  Maybe I'll have seeds in time to plant another crop--we'll see.  I did not plant garlic in my salsa garden because it takes too long/doesn't grow well in my area.  

Also in the garden this year, I have cherry tomatoes--one that I purchased as a start, two volunteers from last year's plant, and one sucker that I pruned and stuck in the dirt.  It seems kind of miraculous that it's that easy to propagate tomatoes.  There is purple basil planted in the pot around one of the cherry tomatoes.

Of course, I'm growing my favorite, sugar snap peas.  I just started harvesting a couple of days ago.  I also threw some pole beans in, and they're trying to overtake the peas.

I planted a total of four watermelons from seed I saved from last year.  This one is the furthest along.  I've seen male flowers, but no females yet.

I planted some zucchini, and it looks like this one is fertilized and growing.  We'll use these for fresh eating, plus I'm hoping to freeze some zoodles and can some pineapple zucchini and sweet relish.

I also started a couple of cabbages from seed, hoping that growing them in the garden, versus in a container, will enable them to become more cabbagey than last year's cabbages were.

I'll leave you with this beauty--a volunteer sunflower growing outside one of the raised beds.  I regretted not planting any sunflowers this year, so I'm grateful that this one planted itself.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Menu plan for the week of July 11

A week ago Friday, I brought home some groceries, and suddenly our fridge, freezer, and chest freezer were full†.  Like, very full.  So full that it felt like I couldn't fit anything more in them.  So full that I regretted buying some of the bulk items that I bought.  Which is good, right?  That means that we have plenty to eat*.  Here's the thing, though.  I like to have space.  Breathing room.  Margin.  And the fullness of our food storage appliances made me a little anxious.  I know.  I'm so weird.  

So I decided to brainstorm some meal ideas that I could make without going shopping first.  I've talked about shelf cooking before, but I've always spoken about shelf cooking from the standpoint of using up random bits and bobs of things, and never from the standpoint of avoiding the grocery store.

Friends, I came up with three weeks' worth of meals that I could make without going to the grocery store.  Three weeks!  Last week, I added to my Bullseye pick-up the few items that people around here get real cranky about not having around**, but aside from that, we didn't buy any groceries.  I felt pretty good about that, and the fridge and chest freezers are feeling much more spacious today.

Now we're on to week two, and here's what's on the menu:

  • Fend for yourself or spaghetti and green beans
  • Tacos with all the fixings, tortillas
  • Chicken sandwiches, fresh veggies, including sugar snap peas from the garden, and fresh fruit, including black raspberries from our yard
  • Creamy crock pot chicken and rice, broccoli
  • Pizza, salad
  • Hot dogs or brats, buns, jello, carrots
  • Grilled pork chops, corn?, mashed potatoes?***

† The fullness was caused by a confluence of events.  Hubby and Bubby came home from Scout camp with extra food, plus because they had been at Scout camp, MC and I had lots of leftovers in the fridge, and AKD visited that weekend, so I felt like I needed to stock up for that.  Plus I made soup, which I freeze in meal size portions.

* A big portion, probably a third, of what was in the freezers was bread: hamburger and hot dog buns, muffins, mini waffles, pizza dough, loaves of bread.  I like to make most of these things from scratch because they taste better and are cheaper than store-bought, but I make them in bulk because one mess is better than three, and bread sure does take up a lot of room.

** For Hubby: milk and OJ; for me: eggs

*** We have exactly one potato, so not sure how that's going to work.  We're also pretty low on veggies, so that's a bummer.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

I found some things

 I found some things today, some not very pleasant things, and I'm going to tell you about them.  

But first, you should know that a family of foxes has taken up residence under one of our decks.  There's a mama, a daddy, and at least 5 babies.  They're right outside our bedroom window*, and the foxes have been providing for Hubby a pleasant distraction from work during the past couple of weeks. 

You should also know** that I have mixed feelings about a fox family living under our deck.  The fox family will have absolutely no qualms about killing and eating my chickens, if they get the chance.  In fact, it is likely that these foxes are the ones who injured Rocky and took Buttercup and probably Koko last year.  That was not very nice of them.

On the other hand, if they're living under our deck, we know where they are, and can use that information to protect our girls.  If they were living somewhere else, I might not even know they were around until something bad happened.  Plus those pups are so dang cute.  I watched three of them pouncing on leaves and each other for about 20 minutes the other day, and I was charmed.

So, now that you know that, here's what I found, in order of discovery:

1. Fox poop.  On our deck.  It's like dog poop, but more fibrous: all that fur they eat passes right through.  That wasn't pleasant.

2. A dead chicken (not one of ours), with its head missing.  Very unpleasant.  None of the neighbors that are immediately adjacent to our property have chickens, so whatever killed it took it from at least 1/4 mile away and transported it here.  Having gone to that much trouble, I don't understand why the predator (probably one of our fox parents, since it was in the general vicinity of their den) didn't bother to eat it.  

3. A granola bar, still half in its wrapper, in our garbage disposal.  Also not pleasant.  It was soggy because we'd been using the sink all day.  How did it get there?  I don't even know what to say about that one.

Thankfully, that was it for the day.  I can think of some things I could have found that are even less pleasant than these, so I guess I'm glad those were all the things I found.

How about you?  Have you found anything, pleasant or not-so-much-pleasant, lately?


* Which is also Hubby's "office" window during business hours.  

** You should also also know that foxes are not dangerous to humans unless the foxes are sick.  And these foxes are acting like typical foxes, that is, afraid of humans, so they don't pose a danger to us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Menu plan for the week of April 18

 When I went to the grocery store last week, there were zero hot dog buns.  Zero.  What a random thing to be out of stock, right?  All of the other regularly stocked breads were there.  There were no hot dog buns, so I decided to make my own.

I've attempted hot dog buns in the past, but haven't really had much success.  I mean, I've succeeded in making something that kinda looks like buns, and it does the job, but the family hasn't been impressed with my efforts.

So I found a new recipe, with a new shaping method, and made the buns*.  They look good--like hot dog buns.  I'm pretty sure they taste good, too**.  But I'm also pretty sure my family will prefer the el-cheapo hot dog buns from the grocery store that they're used to.  It's good, though, to be able to make my own versions of items that I'm not able to find in the grocery store.  I feel like it doesn't even occur to most people to even try.

I also didn't find panko bread crumbs at the grocery store last week.  I am so glad I didn't, because the recipe called for 4 T of crumbs, and I would have purchased probably 12 ounces of crumbs, which is significantly more than 4 T.  And then the extra crumbs would have sat in my cupboard for months, or possibly years, getting stale, while I looked at them every couple of weeks and told myself I should figure out how to use them up.  It would have never, ever occurred to me that I could make my own if they'd been in stock at my store***.

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



* * * * *

* I made 10, instead of the 9 called for in the recipe, because the math**** was easier.

** The reason I don't know whether or not they taste good is because we haven't tried them yet.  We need 6 or 7 buns when we have hot dogs and brats for supper, and we already had 6 in the freezer.  I wanted to buy more just in case we needed a 7th, so when I couldn't buy any, I made some.  We did not, in fact, need a 7th this time.

*** So easy!  And easy to make just the amount I needed.

**** Yup, I weighed the dough to help me divide it evenly.  I rarely do that, but it seemed important in this instance.

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