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Monday, April 30, 2012

"Holy mother of god" delicious salmon cakes

I made these salmon cakes last week and they were so freaking good!!!  Troy and I ate our dinner in silence so that we could concentrate on eating faster.  The next day at training, Troy said one of the guys tried to trade him his lunch for Troy's salmon cakes.

Per usual, I adjusted them a little bit to our preferences/what we had on hand.
I have wild salmon in the freezer already, so I used that instead of the packaged kind.  I baked it the night before in parchment paper at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Salmon Cakes
1.5 cups cooked salmon
2 cups of panko
2 eggs
3 green onions diced
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup of mayo (I bet greek yogurt would work too)
2 tblsp Old Bay Seasoning
1 tsp seasoning salt
2 tbsp hot sauce
2 tbsp Worchestershire sauce
1/2 yellow onion, grated (I used purple because I had it, and I thought it would be pretty)

1) Lightly beat the egg, and add the salmon, and then the rest of the ingredients.

2) Heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet over medium heat, and melt a few tblsp of butter.

3) Make patties with the salmon mixture, and put in the hot butter.

4) Flip when browned and toasty.
Serve with aioli (I always use a mixture of greek yogurt or mayo, diced green onions (if I have them, dried chives if I don't), dill, lemon pepper, parsley, and tons of garlic.

Let's run the numbers
The salmon from Costco is $3.50 per fillet.  I used 2 - $7.00
Organic green onions - $1.00.  They're usually $.69 at my normal store, but I didn't shop there last week
Old Bay Seasoning - I bought "seafood seasoning" in the bulk spice section for $.99, and used 1/4 of it for this, so $.25
Onion (est) - $.30
Panko (est) - $.25
Tabasco, seasoning salt and Worchestershire (no idea... this is a guess) $.05
Garlic (est) - $.15
Mayo (est) - $.35
Total for recipe (based on est): $9.25
This made 15 patties, so $.62 per patty.  Both Troy and I were full after 2-3 patties, so $1.86 per person per meal.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Meal plan for April 30th - May 6th!

Good morning!  I'm not sure how the weather is where you guys are, but yesterday was just perfect around here!  It wasn't all that sunny, but it was warm enough to be outside without any extra layers.  I ran errands while my old piece o' crap car was once again in the shop, and ended up walking about 4 miles to hit up the post office, fabric store, and Goodwill. Where I picked up this beautiful glass milk bottle, which was the perfect vessel for some kale blossoms.
While I was off doing that, Troy and Jack were using a sawzall (what, toddlers and power tools?  Something wrong with that combo?  It's pretty typical in our house) to the old bushes in our front yard.  We spent the rest of the day mowing the law, weeding, making repairs to the house, and planting new bushes!  They're blueberries!  So not only will they be beautiful to look at, but we can eat them.
Before.  The bushes were overrun and smelled like urinal cakes.  They also attracted flies like a dead body.
After the removal, but before the weeding.
After.  Each of the bushes will only grow about three feet tall.
The evening brought cool weather that was too cool to be outside, but the day had been too fun to be confined to the table.  We ended up having a picnic on the living room floor as we introduced Jack to Star Wars!

So in to the scene that he couldn't even finish his bite!

Before I talk about our dinners, I wanted to briefly talk about our breakfasts, snacks, and lunches since I did get an email from a reader this week.

Breakfasts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is oatmeal that I make at home and then we eat at work.  Tuesdays and Thursdays are smoothies on the way to work/preschool.

Lunches for Troy and myself are leftovers from dinner the night before.  If we're light on leftovers, we grab pints of leftover soup that I store in the freezer and pair with slices of cheese and some crackers.  We also take carrots each day.  Snacks are typically pistachios, almonds, and a/or a piece of fruit.

Monday:: Roast chicken, salad (from the garden), and mac and cheese from the freezer.

Tuesday:: Mostly meatless burgers, kale chips, and home canned fruit.

Wednesday:: garlic cheese pasta (new recipe) with leftover chicken from Monday, salad from the garden, and home canned fruit.

Thursday:: Soup from the freezer, grilled cheese sandwiches, and home canned fruit.

Friday:: School event for Troy.

Saturday:: chicken fried steak, salad from the garden, and maybe some other veggie to combat the heaviness of dinner!

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $15.39 at the grocery store* (a relief after my $500 shopping bill last week!!!!), $12 on organic eggs (3 dozen), $3.50 on a half gallon of raw milk, and $30 (estimated) at Costco.  We'll hit up Costco later today, and will need organic carrots, avocados, organic olive oil, and vanilla extract.  Yep, we make our own vanilla, but for things that I serve Jack uncooked (smoothies, yogurt, etc.), I don't feel comfortable giving him flavored vodka!

Grocery store purchases: artichokes, bananas, garlic, natural ham lunchmeat from the deli, and a pineapple.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Get off me you suckling little leech

As you may or may not have guessed, this post is about breastfeeding.

When trying to think of a topic for today, I was texting with my friend Mary.  She suggested a post on breastfeeding, and I though "why the hell not?  It's cheap, sustainable, and quality food.  If I can include a joke about poop or farts, it meets all my posting criteria"!

Let me preface this post by saying it will be about my experiences only.  It's not a comprehensive "how to", nor is it intended to be a health resource.  Got those kinds of quesitons?  Contact a lactation consultant or the Le Lache League.  Also, this post will not boob slap you if you didn't/couldn't breastfeed.  I'm not judging your choices.  While the composition of breast milk is best for baby, a crying and depressed mom who feels like a failure each time they nurse their child is not best for mom.  Or baby.  Society places enough pressure on women and moms.  The last thing we need is to feel bad about what you do with our breasts.

I nursed Jack until he was 2 years and 4 months old.  I never intended for it to go that long, but that's how it ended up working out for us.  Our road to extended breastfeeding was long, exhausting, painful, and hard.  The first thing I always tell new moms is that it is ok to hate breastfeeding.  It seems so natural - you have a nipple, and your new little baby has a mouth.  These things should just click and you should just be able to lay around and blissfully watch your child nurse.

Or, if you were in my shoes, it's more like you would cry and want to throw up each and every time you realized that this screaming beast wanted to eat.  And they ALWAYS want to eat.  I birthed a child with a 99th percentile head without so much as a Tylenol, but I would beg for a boob epidural for over a month after Jack was born.

I am fairly convinced that my child was born with a full set of teeth.  It felt like an angry pirahana was tring to drain my will to live; one painful ounce at a time.  I saw multiple lactation consultants, hounded the local Le Lache League and my doula incessantly, and all agreed that the latch was fine.  The problem was that my kid had a suction so powerful that my boob was like a seagull in the path of a jet engine.  A lactation consultant at the hospital put her finger in Jack's mouth to test his latch.  She went to remove it, and ended up dragging him to the other end of the bassinet because he refused to let go.  He bruised her finger.  My kid was a pit bull, and the world was his pork chop.

Each time I nursed in the first two and a half months, I thought "this is it.  I'm done after this one".  I had given it my best shot, but I was sore, tired, and just done.  Maybe I was too delirious to remember that I planned to quit, but that "last nursing" just didn't come.  One magical day around week 9, Jack latched on and I realized I hadn't gritted my teeth, my toes weren't curled, and there was not desire to throw up in my mouth.  "This is it", I thought, "I've got it.  We're golden"!

And then life and god chose to humble me and Jack was diagnosed with a dairy allergy.

Well then.

I had an oversupply issue from the start, and as a result had pumped 300 plus ounces in 13 shorts weeks.  Like the good hoarding momma squirrel that I was, my freezer was stocked to the hilt!  The dairy allergy meant all that milk had to be thrown out.  And I was no longer allowed to eat dairy.

Well then.

I cried.  I yelled.  I cursed.  After a good pity party, and an hour of ugly crying, I found a very deserving new momma through my doula to donate it all to.

The next few months were a blur as all days with a new baby are.  There was a case of mastitis, clogged ducts, and milk blisters that made me think that I would make a great POW.  After all that pain, nothing could break me!  Water boarding?  Bitch, please.  I've pumped at full volume until the blister poppped and blood shot out of my boob.  Put your thumb screws away sir and go home.  You're only getting my name and rank.

Eventually, things improved - they got less painful, and we hit our rhythm.  Around 7 months, my supply tanked, but I fought it ever ounce of the way with Mother's Milk Tea, oatmeal, fenugreek, etc.

Because I worked fulltime, I pumped in cars, closets, bathrooms, dark corners - anywhere I could get a moment of privacy.  Jack had a voracious appetite and needed 20-25 ounces per day while I was at work.  Combine all the early morning and multiple night-time nursing, and I felt like Jack was getting his needs served.

By 7 (ish) months, breastfeeding and pumping were just part of my life.  It was no longer (too) stressful, nor was it painful any more (thank the lord).  It was finally enjoyable.  It took me over half of a year to get why moms did this for so long.

If you made it this far, chances are you're:
a) a fellow momma
b) an anticipatory momma
c) working on being a momma
d) an incredibly supportive husband/dad
e) a pervert who entered the search "boobs and pork chops" in to Google

If b, c, or d motivated you to read all of this, I really hope you walk away with the idea that even if breastfeeding isn't an "instant match" for you, that's ok.  You don't have to love it.  You may not be "good" at it.  You may hate it.  Or you may be a boob rockstar (like my lucky ass sister).  Whatever "role" you find yourself playing, please know that you aren't alone.  You aren't a bad mom becase you can't get your kid to latch.  This shit can be hard work.  If you have any questions about experiences, I'm always willing to help if I can.  Helping others avoid what I went through beings me great joy.

Feel free to shoot me an email anytime with questions about this.  I'm an open book.

Perverts of course need not apply.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Getting the biggest bang for your buck

Is a that's what she said too obvious here?  I don't want to take a cheap shot...

Recently on Facebook, I asked readers what they might like to read more about on ye olde blog.  Two people mentioned "getting the most bang for your buck".  That can be a pretty broad topic, but I'll focus on just one aspect today - how to wring every single penny you can from "expensive" food.

My example today involves an organic pastured whole chicken.  The benefits of buying pastured chicken is that your meal has spent its life living outside, eating bugs, scratching, and generally being a chicken.  It wasn't cramped in a tiny cage with a ton of other chickens.  It wasn't fed cow feedlot "waste".  Picture the two scenarios and then try to imagine which one you'd prefer to put in your body...

I buy my whole chickens from our local butcher for $2.49 a pound which seems quite spendy (and it is), but shelling out $10 for a chicken can still be a frugal choice.  And I'll explain to you why I'm willing to shell that out when other grocery stores are advertising whole chickens for $.89 a pound.

1) Starting with a whole chicken, I'll either roast it in the oven, or in the crockpot.  That chicken will make for the star of our evening meal.  I typically treat meat as an accompaniment to our dinner, and not the focus of our dinner.  So the chicken might be served as "just chicken", or as part of tacos, chicken parmesan, etc.

Total spent for meat for this meal: about $10 depending on the weight of the bird.

2) After dinner, I'll pick all the leftover meat off of the carcass (yummers), and will turn it in to chicken salad.  That will make sandwiches for Troy and I for lunch the next day.

Total spent for meat for this meal:  $0.  It's all "leftovers" at this point.

3) The picked over carcass is combined with veggie scraps from the freezer to become crockpot stock.   I'll get about 2-3 quarts of organic free-range chicken broth from that batch.  That could run you at least $5 at the grocery store.  The stock will get canned, and then be used at a later time for soups, sautees, rice, veggies, etc.

Total spent for this: $0!!  The best part is that it was made with items that would likely be thrown out anyway.

My $10 chicken has now produced three meals for my family to the tune of $3.33 per meal, or $1.11 per serving.  Yes, other ingredients were included in the dishes, but quality meat is usually the most expensive aspect of preparing a meal.

I believe that a $10 chicken making three meals definitely falls in to the "getting the most bang for your buck" category!  And a plus is that I'm eating something that had a great life (and one bad day), and I'm keeping my moola local.

How about you reader?  Any tips you'd like to share?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Freezer jam

We just ran out of freezer jam from last year's strawberries.  It was a sad day in our house.  We mourned for a few hours, and then I headed to Costco to see what their selection was like.  Some times they carry organic strawberry jam, but pickings were slim on my last trip and everything contained high fructose corn syrup.  No thanks!

I ended up buying two three pound bags of frozen organic cherries, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, and raspberries for $20 ($9.99 each).  Those bags ended up netting me 16 4 oz containers of organic freezer jam, which should hold us over until June when local berries are ripe.

I'd like to say that I make freezer jam because it tastes better (it does.  It's fresher!), or that it uses less sugar (it does!).  But, in all honesty, I make freezer jam because it's easier than canning.  It takes about 15 minutes as opposed to hours.  This is the lazy person's jam.

1) Wash your containers.  I use the plastic freezer jam jars because I already have them, but glass canning jars would work great if you already have them!

2) Put your berries in a big bowl, and let them sit out for a few hours to thaw.

3) Then using an immersion blender, blend the thawed berries until pretty smooth.
Speaking of pretty smooth...

Just because
4) Measure 3.5 cups of berry blend and pour in to a separate bowl.  I do that until the whole batch has been transferred to another bowl so that I know how many "total batches" I'm making.  My 6 pounds of frozen berries made four total batches of jam.

5) Add 1 cup of sugar - evaporated cane juice from Costco in this case (the directions say 1.5 cups per 3.5 cups of berries, but it works great with only 1 cup), per 3.5 cups of berry blend.  Then add one package of freezer jam pectin per batch.  Mix for about three minutes.

6) Pour in to your containers of choice, put the lids on, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Then freeze!

It's good in the fridge for about two weeks.  I've heard it lasts up to one year in the freezer, but we've never made it that long.

This is what happens when you try to take a nice picture of jam on a homemade graham cracker.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hardening-off seedlings

So, you planted your seedlings, then up-potted them already, right?  Now it's time to harden them off and get them ready for planting!

I already put the lettuce seedlings (the ones I up-potted in the last post) in the ground last week and they're doing pretty good!  The tomato seedlings however were limping along (they're the things that look like sticks in the back of this picture):

I added a heat mat to the mix, and then boom, those suckers took off!  I up-potted them recently and they were doing well.   One of the huge perks of our rental house is that there is a sun porch on the northeast side of the house.  It doesn't get sun all day, but it warms up and acts like a hot house.  Troy installed some ropes in there so that I use it to line dry our laundry during the warmer months.
So thankful to finally have space to line dry sheets!
But it's also been a great way to get the seedlings out of my dining room, and in to a place where they stay toasty and have room to grow.

Sunday was a very nice day in our neck of the woods, and I put the seedlings outside to get some fresh air and to catch some natural breezes.  I've had a fan blowing on the seedlings for the last month or so, but getting them outside in to the elements ensures that they don't become little bitches once you plant them in the ground.  I also use a very diluted fertilizer every 2-3 weeks, and fertilize using the water reservoir (watering from the bottom).
Sack up guys.  The real world doesn't have heat mats or grow lights.

Once they put on some more "girth", I'll likely up-pot these suckers one more time and keep transferring them back and forth from the sun porch to the outside until some time in June when conditions are better in our zone for sun slut plants like tomatoes to be outside and in the ground.

And next year I'm totally planting my tomato seedlings about a month earlier.  I feel like I'm kind of behind!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Homemade gnocchi

Just so that I can gross you out right at the start, my mother-in-law calls gnocchi "grub larvae".  But she still loves to eat them.

So about six months ago, an Amazon box arrived on my front porch with a ricer in it and a note from my friend Anne that said "I don't know what the hell this is, but enjoy it".  It had been on my Amazon wishlist for a few months, and she randomly sent it to me.  Cause she is awesome.

Anne came up last weekend for Jack's birthday party, and as she loves gnocchi, I decided to make them for her.  It was the least I could do.  But I also spit in her serving.  For no reason.  She probably deserved it.
This is Anne.  And her sweet ninja bubble popping moves.  Jack is wearing Batman pajamas.  Just cause'
The gnocchi recipe comes from here.

You'll need
1.5 lbs of potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup of flour (I used freshly ground soft white)

1) Generally you don't need to peel potatoes with the ricer, but I wanted to make extra sure that no peels got in the pasta, so I pre-peeled them.  Then boiled them until soft.

2) Pass the potatoes through the ricer, and allow the "rice" to cool on cookie sheets for 15-20 minutes.  It is very important that you use the world's dirtiest looking cookie sheets.

3) Add your beaten egg, flour, and salt and pepper to the potatoes.  I found mixing it with my hands to be the easiest.

4) Make a ball and then cut in to 4 pieces.

5) Take each piece, and make a "rope" with well-floured hands on a well-floured surface.

6) Use a pastry cutter, or a knife (make sure you're dipping whatever you use in flour), and cut the gnocchi.

7) If you want, roll the pieces on the tines of a fork.  I laid the "completed" version on my dirty ass baking sheets to dry out for a few hours.

8) Bring a pot of water with kosher salt and olive oil to a boil.  Add your gnocchi.  When they float to the top, they're done!  Drain and serve with toppings of your choice.

These were VERY easy to make, and I'll definitely make them again.  Next time I'll triple the batch and let them freeze on the (dirty) baking sheets in the freezer, and then will store them in Ziplocs for future meals!
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