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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Apple butter in the crockpot

Applebutter makes me think of my nana (rest her soul) Ramona and her best friend Irma.  If you're picturing two grandmas who are adorable because they're name Ramona and Irma making applebutter, you've got a great visual of these two.

Irma lived in Southern California, and she would travel up to Washington every few years for a long visit.  They would chat, cook, and can.  And the rest of us would reap the benefits.  Applebutter on toast, sandwiches, ice cream, and yogurt is delicious and comforting.

Flash forward to present day.  I still love applebutter, but I don't have days at a time to spend cooking and canning.  So, per my usual route, I've redone a classic that looks/tastes like it took forever, but it is for the lazy.  Oh, and I made it a healthier.  I mean, a WHOLE lot healthier.

If you've ever seen an applebutter recipe, you'll notice that they call for about 5 billion cups of sugar.  Have you ever had an apple before?  Kinda sweet, eh?  Why the need to add tons of sugar?

Sarah's Crockpot Applebutter that tastes like your Nana's, but didn't require retirement to make
A bunch (5-10+) of apples of your choice.  I like an assortment/whatever is on sale
Honey (or sweetener of your choice)

Apologies in advance for the craptastic photos in this post.

Peel, core, and chop the apples of your choice.   Put them in the crockpot and sprinkle with copious amounts of cinnamon and a light sprinkle of both nutmeg and cloves.  Just when you think "that is probably enough cinnamon", I like to add about one more tablespoon.

I always do a drizzle of honey on top as well - maybe two tablespoons?  Cook on low for at least five hours.
After five hours, give them a stir.  If the apples are soft and mushy, they're ready to go.
I use my immersion blender in the crockpot to blend the apples until smooth.
If you don't want to can these, make sure they're in freezer-proof containers.  When apple butter thaws, you can never tell visually or by taste that it has been previously frozen.  These would make some tasty holiday gifts, and "hands on" time is about 15 minutes

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sugary nuts. AKA how to "candy" walnuts

I'm interested in tracking internet traffic numbers based on the words "sugary nuts".  It is quite interesting what search terms bring people to my blog...

Making candied walnuts is stupidly easy.  You'll kick yourself once you find out how simple it has been this whole time.  And then you'll kick yourself harder if you've ever shelled out (ha ha) money to buy them pre-candied.

So, take a non-stick frying pan, add nuts of choice, and sprinkle some sugar over them.  I use organic evaporated cane juice (Costco) and probably used about 1/4 cup.  I don't like my nuts too sweet...(that's what she said).
Put the frying pan over medium heat, and stir once or twice.  Then wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait some more.

Eventually, you'll see the sugar melting and starting to caramelize.  Check out the middle of this photo to see what I mean.
Then give it another few stirs until all the sugar is melted.  Pour the candied nuts on a piece of waxed paper.  You don't want to use paper towels.  You don't want to ask me how I know that.
Store them in an air tight container, and they'll keep for a few weeks.  I use these in my favorite salad - spinach with pears, gorgonzola, candied nuts, and a lovely dressing.

Commence the kicking of yourself.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How do you make lotion bars? None of your beeswax!

While digging in my bathroom closet the other day, I came across a block of beeswax that I bought last holiday season for making chapstick (recipe coming at some point soon).  It was a "what the hell do I do with a big block of beeswax" kind of moment.  You guys have those moments?  I'm sure you do.  It's probably a common occurrence in your house.

I did some quick searching on the internet and found some lotion bar recipes, but they all contained oils like avocado that I can't find in my little town.  I had an epiphany and, I remembered some almond oil I also had in the tomb of my bathroom closet from another 2010 Christmas gift making bonanza.  So, I bring you Sarah's lotion bars made with ingredients you can find in stores.  Actual stores.  Not the kind of stores that sell avocado oil.

Sarah's Lotion Bars made with semi-normal shit
  • One part Beeswax (you can buy it online, but I found a local source for $9 cheaper per pound.  Look around!)
  • One part Almond Oil (I also saw Almond oil at the grocery store Sunday morning.  Spectrum brand) 
  • One part Coconut Oil (if this is in my podunk town, your stores probably have it too)
In a large saucepan fitted with a double boiler, place the beeswax over medium heat.
Once it is completely melted, add the almond oil to the double boiler.

Allow the white swiggles to melt a bit.  Then, add the coconut oil.  Allow it to melt completely.
Remove the double boiler from the pan and put it on a towel; dry off any water that has accumulated on the bottom.  You don't want to mix oil and water.  Or didn't you get that memo? 

Pour the mixture in to your mold of choice.  I used a $6 silicone mold tray that I bought at JoAnn fabrics to push my balance over the $25 purchase to save $5.  They sure had my number.

This is about 5 minutes after I poured.  You can see how quickly they start "setting up"
I left the bars out at room temperature overnight.  They were super easy to pop out the next day.
I cook a lot.  Didn't you get that memo?  And with cooking mostly from scratch comes approximately 4,398 hours worth of dishes per week.  (I'm not good at math...let's call that an approximate.)  My hands are looking busted of late, and I've actually contemplated getting dishwashing gloves to prevent further knuckle crackage.

This lotion is a godsend.  It totally healed my hands after just a few applications.  I woke up on Saturday feeling like someone had rubbed tiny baby butts all over my mitts.  That didn't come out too well, did it? 

Another wonderful thing about this lotion is that it has pretty much healed a few little patches of eczema that Jack has had near his mouth lately.  I made these bars on Friday, applied a little on Jack before bed that night, and again on Saturday, and it's nearly gonzo.

It smells so clean and natural, it works amazing, and better yet, it didn't require any avocados getting milked.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meal plan for November 28 - December 4th

Happy week after Thanksgiving everyone!  How much turkey is on your menu over the next few days?  Or, are you turkeyed out yet?

I currently have a pot of turkey stock in the crockpot, and another one planned for later in the week.

Here is what were chowing down on this week in our house:

Monday:: turkey and dumplings in the crockpot (the chicken version didn't get made last week), salad, and fruit.

Tuesday:: I'm working late.  I'll eat at work, and Jack will eat at my aunt's.

Wednesday:: white bean and sausage soup (winner of the soup recipe contest), garlic bread, and fruit.  I'm making the soup in the crockpot for ease.  Will add the cream at the end.

Thursday:: working late again.

Friday:: I have a haircut in the evening. I'm about 1/4 inch away from a mullet, so I'm quite excited. My sister-in-law is watching Jack, and then Jack and I are taking her out to dinner as a thank you for all the oodles of free babysitting she provides us.

Saturday:: Holiday tree lighting event.  We'll load up on homemade pizza, salad, and fruit before going downtown.

Sunday:: Skipping family dinner this week to attend another holiday tree lighting event.  We'll probably grub up on breakfast for dinner before heading down.

This week I spent $40.21 on groceries.

Organic (carrots, djion, pineapple, kiwi, avocado, spinach), gorgonzola, 2 blocks of cream cheese, more horseradish cheddar (it's true love), half and half, and mayo (barf).  I don't have the right coconut oil to make my mayo, and the correct coconut oil won't come with the Azure Standard order until later this week.  Troy was pleading for mayo.  Hurl.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving friends!  I hope that you are spending the day surrounded by loved ones and people you care about.

Today (and every day) I am thankful for so many things.  Most days my heart is near bursting with gratitude.  On a day where the intent is to remember what we appreciate - and not to fall in to a tryptophan coma - make sure that you voice your gratitude to people around you.

Things I am thankful for in 2011

1)  This little buggah that I brought in to the world with so much love in my heart.  And a wash cloth in my mouth.  Unmedicated labor ain't no joke.  It makes you do weird things...

2) ^that little buggers dad.  T-Roy, you complete me.  Hey, that's pretty catchy.  That should be in a movie or something!  I wonder if I make him want to be a better man?

3)  Jack's health, Troy's health, and the health of my family overall.  Well they're not all um, running marathons or something, but they're healthy enough to smile and be wonderful.  And my health.  Doy.

4)  The house we're in now.  Never in 1 gagillion years did I imagine last year at this time that we'd be so rodunkously blessed to live here.  Gone are the neighbors that would turn their vacuum on when Jack was going to bed - on purpose - or the other neighbors who were friends with people who had swastika tattoos on their necks.  And the mold on 50% of our walls?  Gonzo.  I feel blessed, safe, and exploding with gratitude for my parents that we're able to rent this amazing place.

5) Good, wonderful, and best friends.  Life is too hard and too short to go through it alone.  You are assigned your family (god smiled on me though), but you choose your friends.  As an extension of that, I am thankful for phones, texting, and email since all of my friends live at least 1 hour away.  Sigh.

6)  You people.  No joke.  For some strange reason, ya'll keep reading this here blog.  While I don't understand why exactly, it does make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  I love this project and I'm so blessed that people keep coming back to read the crazy shit that comes out of my mouth (fingers?).  I would write if no one was reading and/or commenting, but you guys sure make it a hell of a lot more fun.

And if I'm being materialistic, I am thankful for:
1) good bras.  2 years and 3 months of breastfeeding didn't do the girls any favors.
2) Amazon.  The working momma's best friend.
3) My Kitchen Aid mixer, my food processor, and my grain mill.  And the good set of knives we got for our wedding over 7 years ago.
4) Hulu.  Oh Hulu, how I love you.  Thanks to your awesomeness, I get to watch 97% of my favorite TV shows for free.  Thanks to you, I save over $50 a month on cable.

May you find gratitude and thanks to give in your life this year.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

One of the coolest ideas I've ever heard of

During a group conversation about kids books that make you cry, my friend Mary dropped an awesome bomb on me that I haven't been able to get out of my head.

She bought Oh The Places you Will Go by Dr. Seuss and is planning to have all of her daughter's teachers throughout the years write a note to her in the book.  Then she will present it to her daughter when she graduates from high school.

Can we please pause and absorb how amazeballs this idea is?  I love love love it!


PS, Amy, I already got the book for Parker for Christmas!

I've shared this at Frugally Sustainable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Homemade peppermint extract

I saw this post on making your own peppermint extract on the blog Mexican Wildflower.  I've been smacking my hand on my forehead ever since because I can't believe I didn't think of this myself!  I mean, I've made vanilla extract before, why not peppermint as well?

I have a whole bunch of mint in a large pot near my garden.  Mint is invasive, so it needs to be contained, or you will very quickly become a mint farmer.  I picked a whole bunch (maybe 1/3 cup), washed it, "bruised" it a bit, then shoved it in to the vodka bottle using a chop stick.

Let this sit and marinate for 4-6 weeks.
This is how the world would look if you drank too much peppermint extract
Even though I don't drink, I think I'm going to welcome a small splash of this in my homemade hot cocoa.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Taking Winter by Storm - Part IV (house stuff)

Welcome to the fourth and final installment of "Taking Winter by Storm"!  Missed some of this series?  Get caught up on parts one, two, and three.  Today, we'll focus on how to get your house ready for winter weather.  There will be some ideas that are free, some that require investment, and some that can be homemade/purchased depending on how much time you have on your hands.

For full disclosure, some of the product links are to Amazon, so if you order via them I would get a teeny tiny percentage.  But, I always encourage people to check out freecycle or Goodwill prior to purchasing anything!  Shall we get started?

::Outside of the home::
To prevent pipes from freezing, make sure you have insulation domes over your faucets.  I found them at Lowes for $1.50 each; a small investment that can prevent a whole boatload of damage (burst pipes, flooding, etc.)

Do a thorough walk around the exterior of your home to evaluate for any cracks, holes, or other repairs that should be completed prior to the weather getting awful.  Remember, prevention is much cheaper than repairing things after the shit has hit the fan.

If you have walkways or driveways that get icy and/or snowy, make sure you have a snow shovel.  I can't tell you how hard it is to find a snow shovel in the stores when you actually need one.  I think I bought our current one in April.  Some people use ice melt, but we rarely get weather that is severe enough to resort to that.  When possible, I try to avoid products that are chemically based, but I can appreciate the results that things like ice melt products produce!

Clear leaves and debris away from storm drains and ditches.  Living in the Seattle area, we always get flooding during the winter because of clogged storm drains!

If you have animals, make sure that you're able to care for their needs in various weather conditions.  We don't have animals - my husband's allergies actually qualify him to live in a bubble - so I trust you'll understand what yours need better than I could...

::Inside of the home::
During our Thanksgiving storm last year, a coworker of mine nearly crashed her car multiple times in an urgent attempt to get to the store.  What was so important that she risked life and limb to leave her house despite the fact that all official channels were telling us to stay put?

She ran out of toilet paper

Yes, yes, she could have used other things, but the moral of the story is to be stocked up on items that you need/use on a daily basis.  It was a good lesson for me, and something I now am pretty stringent on.  Whenever Costco has their $2 coupon for Charmin, I purchase the limit and store them in our bathroom closet.  Troy is only home every three days, and yet he uses more toilet paper than anyone I know.  His mom is convinced he eats it.  Part of the issue is that he'll pull off like 20 sheets just to blow his nose when he isn't using paper towels ("babe you don't even know the power of my nose.  Stop making fun of me!").  The joke in his family is that his parents were finally able to retire when he moved out because they didn't have to buy toilet paper anymore.

Charmin you say Sarah?  I thought you hippies only liked recycled paper products, or you know, leaves and stuff.  Shove it.  After birthing a child with a 99th percentile head and no pain meds, my lady parts and I appreciate some pillowy softness.

Anyhoo, handy things to have in-stock around the house are medications that your family takes, formula for little kiddos if you don't breastfeed, food (doy), candles, lanterns, and matches.  Something that took me over a year to realize is that if the power went out, we couldn't wash Jack's cloth diapers (well we could I guess, but um, no).  So, when he was still in diapers, I kept a pack of paper diapers handy.  We did have to use them once, and they were great to have around.  I'm not sure Jack felt the same though, "momma, these diapers are swatching my balls".  Ahem.  Charmed I'm sure.

We have a good supply of candles on hand (hello Goodwill), and we also have a battery operated lantern (gift from my parents), those flameless candy thingies for when Jack is awake (I've seen them recently at Costco), and a hand cranked (or solar powered) weather/emergency radio with flashlight and cell charger.  To date, the flashlight has come in extremely handy only in lighting up Jack's freezer box fort.  We also have oodles of flashlights and batteries that we have collected over the years.

::Staying warm::
We have a few options for heating our place when the power goes out.  None are going to make us super cozy, but all will keep us comfortable enough.  Assuming of course that Troy doesn't feel the need to just walk around in his underwear ("what babe, it's our house.  We should be able to be warm and free.  Stop throwing pants and a sweater at me and turning down the heat!")  Sigh.
Here Jack demonstrates excellent winter gear that is practical outside and inside in a pinch. 
(Anne, recognize all of Aidan and Dylan's old winter gear?  It came in so handy! Thanks!)
We have a kerosene heater that we got for free.  We have this one:pats self on the back for writing a post on how to be prepared in an emergency:

We have lots of blankets, quilts, and comforters as well for bundling up.  Add in gloves, scarves, hats, and socks, and we can keep pretty warm just layered up.

Our house is a very open floor plan with the first floor being wide open save the two bedrooms.  So, the first thing we'd plan to do is get small.  By getting small, I mean reducing the space we're trying to heat.  We have some spare blackout/lined/energy efficient thermal curtains that we will nail up to a support beam in our hallway.  That will leave us 2 bathrooms, and 2 bedrooms to try to heat instead of the living room, dining room, and kitchen (which by the way sits over the uninsulated garage).

We have an ample supply of wood for this season assuming that we stop building fires every Friday for having pizza picnics (I limit it to 2 pieces of wood).  And yet, we didn't pay a penny for the wood.  We got some from Troy's parent's (they have at least 1 tree come down per winter due to wind), a bunch from my sister who cut down some trees on their property and don't have a wood burning fireplace, and some from Troy's cousin and her husband.

Each year for Christmas, the married couples in Troy's family draw names for gifts.  His cousin and her husband drew us.  At some point this summer, her husband lost his job.  When she texted me asking what we wanted for Christmas, I knew that I didn't want them to spend any money on us.  My text back was "if you still have any wood leftover from all the trees you guys cut down last year, we'll take some".  They had boatloads still!  So, more free wood, and they didn't have to spend any precious budget dollars on some material gift.

Our fireplace is pretty big and open and it has the potential to suck out more heat than it is is providing.  If we're ever able to purchase this house, the #1 project on my list is to convert it to a wood stove.

In closing, there is a lot you can do to make sure you house and family are ready for many different winter conditions this year.  Some cost some money, some are free, and some are optional of course.  Keep your food and water supply stocked, keep warm clothes on hand, get some candles, and you should be safe for at least a few days.

Assuming of course you have enough toilet paper on hand.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Meal plan for November 21st-27th & Soup recipe winner

Happy turkey (or tofurkey for my friend Anne) week to everyone!  I hope that this week finds you surrounded by loved ones and family.  Loved ones and family aren't always mutually exclusive, but I'm blessed that in my family, they are.

This week I'm doing only a bit of light cooking because I have a feeling that leftovers will abound!

Monday:: chicken and dumplings in the crockpot, and a side of fruit

Tuesday:: turkey, homemade pesto, and provolone paninis, roasted brussel sprouts, sweet potato fries, and a side of fruit

Wednesday::  pasta with browned butter, mzrythia cheese topped with herbed shrimp, salad, and a side of fruit

Thursday:: turkey day at my aunt's house!  I'm bringing my homemade rolls, dutch oven no knead bread, and flavored butters (honey and herb.  Separate of course).  If I have enough time Thanksgiving eve, I may also make a batch of pretzel rolls.  My brother in law and Troy will both be at dinner, so I need to do appropriate carb prep.

Friday:: I'm guessing leftovers

Saturday:: TDB depending on amount of leftovers.  If we're out of turkey, I'll make something simple like breakfast dinner.

Sunday:: family dinner at my parent's.  I always bring bread or dessert depending on the meal.

And now for the soup challenge recipe winner - Anonymous with the white bean and Italian Sauage soup!  It sounds delicious and I'm going to try to make it next week!

Thanks to all who participated!
Brussel sprouts, Jack's coconut milk, onion, organic (celery, carrots, bananas, spinach, kiwi, eggs), satsumas, avocado, matches, provolone, sliced turkey (natural), and horseradish cheddar (um, YUM), and rosemary from the bulk spices ($.18)
This week I spent $45.55 on groceries.  I also spent $3.50 on raw milk, and $53.81 at my local butcher stocking up on chicken breasts and bacon.  I probably won't need to go back for another month.

I do my grocery budget from the 25th to the 25th of the month, and since I won't be going to the grocery store again until after the 25th, I officially came in $57.39 under budget for the month.

In other news, it snowed yesterday!  We're the part of the county that never gets snow, and yet we're the only ones who got it!  It was probably 1/4 an inch and iced over before we could even get out there, but Jack still had fun!  And my garden looks so much better when you can't see the weeds.

I'm off to go tell a certain toddler to stop singing and just nap already.  And then to pull some no knead bread out of the oven to take to my parent's house for Sunday dinner.  I fancied it up this time, and put minced garlic, diced artichoke hearts in the dough, and will grate some mzrytha cheese over the top when it's done.  Yum.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Winter recipe contest!

I've mentioned a few times how much I love soup.  I often eat it for multiple meals a week.  I love making a huge crockpot of soup because it gives my family enough delicious and healthy food (at a low price point) for multiple meals, and for the freezer.

I like to freeze soup in pint sized canning jars (use wide-mouth only and always leave about 1 inch of headspace when freezing), and include it as part of Troy's man lunchables when he's on shift.

So, when I sent my friend Elaina text on Friday saying something along the lines of "what the hell should I blog about this week, because I've hit a wall", and she in turn recommended a recipe contest, I pounced on the idea.  May I introduce to you the first ever "Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity Reader Recipe Contest"!  Just a head's up, I have no prizes to offer (anyone want to sponsor?), but the winner will earn my eternal gratitude.

The rules
1) Either post your favorite soup recipe in the comments section, or blog about it and post the link in the comments.
2) Submissions will be accepted through Saturday, November 19th at 5 pm EST.
3) I'll review the submissions and will "select" and post the winning recipe on November 20th.

So, get creative, and have a blast!  Just a head's up if you want to be deemed the winner, the thought of any kind of squash or pumpkin soup makes me puke in my mouth a little bit.  And I hate mushrooms.  Like, HATE mushrooms.  Green peppers and I are not on speaking terms, curry and my intestines do not see eye to eye.  But other than that, go nuts!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sugar-free cranberry sauce

Cranberries have gotten a bad rap over the years.  People either hate them because they're too sour, or are freaked out by the sound they make and the shape they retain coming out of the can.  :shudders::  On the other hand, some people love them, but only because pounds of sugar has been mixed in to sweeten the ever loving snot of them.
So pretty.  So healthy!
Cranberries are a super food, and are so good for you.  They are full of antioxidants and vitamins that keep you healthy during cold and flu season.  And you wish to repay this humble little berry with 1+ cups of sugar?  You're better than that!

Sarah's sweet and sour cranberries
1 bag of cranberries, washed
1 1/4 cup of orange juice (preferably fresh-squeezed if possible)
1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey

In a medium sized saucepan, combine the cranberries, orange juice, and honey over medium high heat.
Bring to a boil until you hear a bunch of little "pops".  That is the cranberries bursting through their skins.
Take a potato masher and gently crush the cranberries until the sauce becomes the consistency you desire.  Simmer for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Put in a container in the fridge to cool.  Serve as a garnish, or a side at Thanksgiving.  Troy inherited this weird trait from his mother in that they think that everything under the sun is tart, so I put a fresh drizzle of honey on his serving right before serving.

Bon Appetit!

I've shared this over at Fat Tuesday,Traditional Tuesdays. What's on Your Plate, Real Food Wednesdays, It's a Keeper Thursdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Fight Back Friday.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Taking Winter by Storm - Part III (Transportation)

Miss the first or second post in this series?  Get caught up, grab some homemade cocoa, and let's talk winter transportation!

The number one thing you need for winter driving is a Subaru Outback.  Don't have one?  Crap...that was pretty much the extent of my post for this week.  ::whistles and backs out of this post::  If you aren't "lucky" enough to have an 11 year old beat to shit Subaru like myself ::touches my pearls and tiara:: there are still things you can do to make sure that you will be safe driving this winter. 

Please DO NOT comment on this post that you grew up in Nebraska and can drive in any kind of weather and that Seattlelites are a bunch of pusses once a hard frost hits.  First, you're right about Seattlelites being pusses in the snow.  BUT, more importantly if you haven't driven in Western Washington snow, by all means, please go ahead and drive in it.  The rest of us will be at the bottom of Seattle's Queen Anne Hill laughing our asses off while the local news channel records your car sliding sideways and backwards before crashing in to the sign with the blinking light that says "road closed due to ice".  Because snow is snow is snow, but ours is heavy/wet snow that freezes over each night and turns the road in to a constantly evolving sheet of ice. 

Many people in this area have snow tires that you can legally have on your car for 6 months out of the year.  I've seen a ton of snow tires on our local freecycle, so if a new pair isn't in your budget, buying them isn't the only option.  Me?  I don't have snow tires, but my car has good quality all-weather tires, and all wheel drive (love.  It's what make a Subaru and Subaru).  So far, I've been ok.

You can also purchase (or find them on Freecycle) chains, but the drawback to chains is that you have to know how to put them on.  Meh.

If you drive a rear-wheel drive or lightweight vehicle, get a few 45 pound sandbags from a hardware store, and throw those in your trunk.  It will help weigh down the car and could get you out of a few potential dicey slippery turns this winter.

Winter is not the time of year to skimp on oil changes and routine maintenance.  Keep your oil "fresh" and your windshield wiper/deicer fluid topped off.  I don't change my own oil, and the place where I get it done tops all of those fluids off for free.  I take advantage of that and make sure that I'm never low on things that can get me out of a jam.

Before the shit gets real, have your tires rotated and checked over.  My family are die-hard Les Schwab tire store fans (free promo courtesy of me) and they will do all of that jazz for free.  With a smile.  And free popcorn for those who want it.

When the forecast is calling for crappy weather, I make sure my gas tank is full and ready to go.   The last thing you want to happen is to run out of gas in horrible weather. 

Year round, I keep a big picnic blanket and an emergency supply kit in my trunk.  The blanket is water-proof on one side, and warm fleece on the other. The emergency kit contains a fire extinguisher, flashlight, foil blankets, bungee cords, and a handful of other items.
From the left - my bag of grocery bags, water, blanket, and emergency kit
Under the floor of my trunk, I carry an ice scraping mitt (a wonderful gift from my sis a few years ago), baby wipes (great for cleaning up any potential minor scrapes and cuts, and well, for tushies), and non-perishable snacks.  Processed food isn't really my thing, but it keeps well and I don't have to replace it every month in the car. 
Ice scraping mitt
Snacks, baby wipes, first aid kit, ice mitt, and umbrella
You can be totally prepared for anything, but the number one thing you can do to keep your family safe is to not venture out if you have a gut feeling telling you to just stay the heck home.

Drive safely my friends!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Meal plan for November 14th - 20th

I'm working late multiple days this week, so meals are more "eh" then "mmmm".  I'm planning to just make a few casserole thingys and eat from that throughout the week.

Wishing you all a wonderful week of cooking and chowing down.

Monday:: Quiche and a fruit salad.  My favorite pie crust recipe makes enough crust for about 1 billion pies, so I'm planning to make 3-4 quiches for the freezer.  I recently purchased a bunch of Pyrex pie plates from Goodwill for $2 each (SCORE).  I will make the quiches, cover with foil, and then freeze for later.

Tuesday:: Working wicked late

Wednesday:: A new chicken stuffing casserole dish thingy, homemade cranberry sauce, and salad.  Chicken breasts are from the freezer.

Thursday:: Working wicked late

Friday:: Pot roast (have it in the freezer) cooked with potatoes and carrots (already have in the pantry), homemade garlic bread, and fruit.

Saturday:: Homemade pizza, salad, and fruit.

Sunday:: family dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $43.96 on groceries.  About $12 of that was food to replenish the emergency supply in my car.  Tomorrow I'll go in to detail on how to keep your car stocked for winter weather!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yo - new recipe index

A few months ago, a reader sent me an email asking if it would be possible for me to make a recipe index to make searching for recipes easier.  It took me about forever plus a day, but it's done and I hope you guys find it helpful.

Over on the right column of the page, towards the middle-bottom is a word "cloud" that has all the labels/topics of recipes in alphabetical order.  I did a cloud so that it wouldn't take an hour to load a long list, but if this isn't fitting your needs, let me know.  I'll first cry and then figure out something else.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yesterday was waffle. Hopefully today will be butter

^that is what you get when you ask your spouse who's mouth is full of ice cream to "quick, think up a clever title with the word waffle in it".  He's taken ladies.  He's alllllllll mine.

So, ordinarily, little man Jack is not a fan of waffles.  Let's add that to the list of traditional toddler things my weird child won't eat (ketchup, ranch, fries, etc.).  But, on Sunday morning I really wanted waffles and that's that.

I pulled out an old recipe that I found months ago online.  I suck and don't have the source, but I did edit it up enough that I only feel partially guilty about it.

Even MY kid likes these waffles
1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp of vanilla sugar
2 tsp of homemade vanilla
1 egg
1.5 cups of milk (you can use coconut milk for dairy free peeps)
1/3 cup of melted coconut oil

Combine the dry ingredients, and then add in the egg, vanilla extract, egg, milk, and oil.  Mix, but do not over mix.   Instructions like that always kind of annoy me.  You never know you've over mixed until you've already over mixed it.

Add about 1/3-1/2 cup to your waffle iron and cook until it's, um, done.  Serve with real maple syrup, or something special.  We love it with homemade blackberry syrup.
This is the only photo I got.  I gave Jack his waffle quarter and said "hold on, mommy needs to go get her camera".  Came back to this.
The plastic pizza and potato chip are his current scoops of choice for eating applesauce.  Yep.  For reals.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ice T ain't the only one who likes coco

Ice T joke at 5:30 am on a Wednesday?  I'm starting my day out RIGHT people!

Lately, my homeboy J Bone has not been the happiest little monkey in the mornings.  It's cold.  It's dark.  And Poppy isn't home.  J Bone and Troy are besties and they each mourn the absence of the other.

That leaves me alone and trying to haul a 32.5 lb hellcat out of his crib.  Oh yeah, we're still rocking the crib.  I didn't sleep for the first 13 months of this kid's life.  Now he's trapped and sleeps.  He'll be in there until he is 34.  It's hard to hide Playboys in a crib after all.

So, back to me trying to get the pissed off toddler out of his crib.  I've scoured the internet for tips.  I've read every parenting book that I can find.  And I've decided on a tactic that mommas have used since cave babies could first grunt back.

I bribe him.


Tuesdays and Thursdays are preschool days, so he knows he gets a smoothie in the car.  Those are easy days.  Mondays he is still groggy enough from the weekend to let me get him up, and Fridays he knows the week is over.  Wednesdays though?  Wednesday are a bitch.  The only thing related to Hump Day is the shape he makes while I'm trying to haul his grumpy ass out of bed.

So now, I tell him that I'll buy him a hot cocoa at the "coffee store" on the way to my aunt's.  I also get my aunt a soy latte (sounds like soy lady when Jack says it).  And because Wednesdays are double punch days and I get $.25 off per drink because I bring my own cups, I'm rolling out of there for about $3.  Pretty good bribe.

Sunday morning this kid of mine wakes up at 5:30 am.  I tell him grumpily to go back to bed.  And he does.  And he talks in there for 40 minutes.  I think to myself "geez, it sure is light out for 6:15 in the morning".  Then it hits me.  It's daylight savings time.  To make up for my grumpiness, I tell Jack I'll make him a special breakfast while he watches cartoons.

I make waffles (recipe tomorrow), fruit, fresh squeezed orange juice (at this point Jack is thinking "damn she can be grumpy EVERY Sunday"), and homemade momma hot cocoa.  Better than the coffee store, and made with guilt love.

Apologetic Hot Cocoa
1 cup of milk (I use raw cause it rocks.  Coconut milk is also a special treat)
another splash of milk
cocoa powder
homemade vanilla sugar or sweetener of choice (honey is fantastic)

In a pan, heat the milk until it reaches your desired temperature.  You'll want to stir it a few times during the heating process.  You can also microwave it.

In your mug, mix equal parts sugar and cocoa powder.  I generally do about 2 tsp of each for me, and just a pinch for Jack.  He doesn't need a lot of sugar and/or extra caffeine.  Trust.
Splash a tiny bit of milk in the mug, and stir with a spoon to make a paste of the cocoa, sugar, and milk.  
Add hot milk and stir to combine.
Just a little milk in this mug.  I am giving an open mug to a toddler after all.
The taste test...
And we have a winner folks...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And yet ANOTHER inexpensive and fast holiday gift idea

I'm full of gift ideas people.  Well...I'm full of something alright.

This one is simple simple simple!  Did I mention it was simple?  Cause it is.  Are you ready?  Are you on the edge of your seat?  Wait for it...vanilla sugar!  Did I blow your mind?  I'm sure I did.

Did you already start your homemade vanilla extract for the holidays (see how nondenominational I'm being?)?  Do you have any vanilla beans left over?  If yes, try your hand at making vanilla sugar.

Super complicated directions
-take 1 jar (I use a quart jar, but you can also use something simple like Tupperware or a Ziploc)
-and as much sugar as you want (I use organic evaporated cane juice from Costco)
-and 2 to 3 vanilla beans split like a wishbone

Put the stuff in the jar.  Shake.  Let sit.  Applaud yourself for how you're totally kicking this holiday season's ass for about $2.

Need a picture?  I don't have one.  Look at the lavender salt I made a few weeks ago, and picture vanilla beans in there instead of lavender.  Got the visual?  Excellent.

Merry Christmanukkah.  And Happy Festivus one and all.  The Feats of Strength will begin soon.  Gather round the Festivus pole people.  I'll bring the vanilla sugar.  You bring the list of grievances.

I've shared this with the peeps over at Frugal Tip Tuesday and Good Cheap Eats.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Taking Winter by Storm - Part II (food)

Last week I talked about why I'm such a fantatic about being prepared for terrible weather.  Snow, hurricanes, ice, and flooding are one thing, but something we didn't address?  Zombies.  Zombies are a real threat people.  BELIEVE.

If the roads are impassable due to ice, fallen tree limbs, or fallen limbs because of the zombie
apolypse, you don't want to have to venture out to a grocery store.  That is why food preservation and preparation are so important going in to the winter months.

The number one thing you can do to make sure your food source is safe is to grow a garden.  It's trickier during the winter months, but it is still possible.  However, since I'd like to survive on more than just small carrots, a few peas, the world's tiniest brussel sprouts, lettuce, and weeds, I keep our house stocked and ready for anything.

After years of not having space to store a lot of excess food, I've gone a wee bit nutty now that we have a garage.  Those of you who follow my blog via Facebook might remember the 300 lbs of wheat berries and 75 pounds of juicing oranges I currently have in my garage...

When we moved in, it was understood that the garage was Troy's territory, excluding my food shelves.  I quickly threw stuff up there and got busy putting the rest of the house together.  Troy's pile remains.  Five months later.  Ahem.

The downside to just throwing stuff on the shelf without much thought is a) poor organization leaving little room for more stuff later and b) being a moron and putting all the glass stuff at the TOP of the unsecured shelves.  In earthquake country. 
I spent a recent happenin' Friday night (cause I'm cool like that) reorganizing the shelves to make it safer in case the "big" one hit.  Ahhh, much better.  Well not much better.  Troy's crap still remains.  Le sigh.
On thing you'll notice under the paper towels (I hate buying them, but Troy uses them to blow his nose.  Yeah, I'm serious) is gallons of water.  I usually buy 1 gallon every few weeks when grocery shopping.  It spreads the cost out and ensures that we always have a rotating supply of fresh drinking water in case our water supply is cut off.   I have three gallons of water per person which if we're smart will last three days.

If the power is out for an extended amount of time, keeping the fridge and freezer closed allows for your food to stay cold (deep thoughts courtesy of Sarah).  After the second 24 hour period though, I would start eating things from the fridge to make sure you're not wasting food that is going to be spoiled very soon.  As extra precaution, we have a freezer alarm to let us know when temperatures are reaching a dangerous range in our deep freeze.

Do you have an extra freezer in your basement or garage?  It's more expensive to keep a partially-full freezer at the proper temp, so fill old clean milk jugs with water and stick them in there to prevent the freezer from having to work overtime.  If the power goes out, the jugs will help keep your stash colder.  If things start to melt before power is restored, you also have an additional source of drinking water.  

Thanks to my love/hate relationship with canning, we have plenty of fruit, tomato products, and chicken broth to eat (see bottom 2 shelves above.  The jars are 5 deep) if we lose electricity and can't use the oven.  Cold chicken broth doesn't sound like the best thing ever, but I know it's full of protein if we're in a pinch.  We can also prepare foods on our BBQ, but who knows how long the propane tank will last if our power is down for a very extended amount of time.   ALWAYS keep your BBQ outside when preparing food.  Ever time there is an extended power outage, people in Washington state die from trying to heat their homes with their BBQ.

If you have a wood stove (color me jealous if you do), you can also use the top of that for cooking your meals.  It will be a slow process, but hey, pretend you're Ma and Laura Ingalls for the afternoon.  Don't invite that snooty Nelly Olson over though.  Townspeople will just have to fend for themselves.

I order bulk foods from Azure Standard (will do a separate post on them at some point), and most dried goods come in 25 to 50 pound bags.  To prevent any water or insect damage, I store the food (wheat, oatmeal, beans, rice, etc.) in 5 gallon buckets and use gamma lids to turn the buckets in to air-tight storage containers.  Gamma lids are a pain to get on the first time, but once you do it, you're guaranteed a fresh seal.

When Troy found me putting gamma lids on buckets last week, he asked why I was going to so much trouble to store the food.  My reply was that I was spending money on this stuff and didn't want it to go to waste.  He then said "but if zombies attack, and we don't have electricity, how are you going to grind all this wheat in to flour".  I explained that we would use zombies to pedal an exercise bike that generated electricity to run the flour mill.  When he ask what would I feed the zombies, I think we were both surprised and disturbed how quickly I said "neighbors".  What followed was a 5 minute conversation that quickly grew uncomfortable as we discussed which neighbors would be the first to go.  But I digress...the point is - store your food properly and protect your investment and family's food supply in case the shit hits the fan.

Our food storage didn't happen overnight.  I purchased items very slowly to make it economical and not stress my monthly food budget.  If there is something that keeps well and is on deep discount, why not pick up a few bottles/cans/packages the next time you're at the store?  Processed food is not something we eat, but there is no denying that it keeps for a long period of time and is a low-cost "insurance" policy against going hungry during bad weather.

I was blessed with a garden that produced enough tomatoes to keep us in tomato products in an emergency.  But I also worked my ASS off preserving them, so I'm not going to discount that time I spent on that.

If you read my meal plan and grocery bill from yesterday, you'll notice I spent $10 on paper plates (I got a $4 rebate though bringing to total to $6).  That is because if the power is out and we can't heat water, washing dishes will be challenging.  I keep paper plates and bowls and some plastic utensils on hand for such an occasion.  I splurge and get the ones made from sugarcane because they're a) a renewable resource and can be composted or b) used as tinder to start fires to keep us warm after we've eaten off of them!

I'll leave you with three pieces of wisdom:
1) start slowly so that it's not overwhelming.  But not too's already freaking November already people!
2) water is the most important thing to have on hand.  You can go without food for weeks - it won't be a happy few weeks - but only a few days without water.
3) if the shit hits the fan, make your way to my house.  I have loads of flour, fruit, meat, and butter to share.  But be prepared to be put to work juicing oranges and grinding wheat.  Don't complain about it's better than being zombie bait.

I've shared this over at Monday Mania, Frugal Tip Tuesday, Fat Tuesday,Traditional Tuesdays,Real Food Wednesdays, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Simple Lives Thursdays.
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