Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday-Spice Cabinet

See the cabinet above? It has become the abyss for crafts, school papers, markers, crayons, etc. You name it, it got shoved in there. I was tired of it, my attempt at organizing didn't really work either, as the kids would just jam things in there. Even though I clearly labeled the boxes.

I mean, what is up with that? Can they not see the labels made by my favorite label maker?

So the other day I actually had nothing to do and decided to tackle this pantry/cabinet. I know, right? Nothing to do? Well I guess there was nothing I wanted to do and the kids were actually playing nicely with their Christmas gifts.

So I ended up turning it into a spice cabinet. Yes, we have that many spices. Combine a girl who loves to cook and bake with a guy who loves to grill and what you get are a ton of spices and rubs!

This now houses all of my cooking and baking spices and my husbands grilling spices. Not to mention my kitchen towels, dishrags and cloth napkins.

I was very glad I did this, I didn't know that I had three containers of Oregano and 2 containers of both garlic salt and powder!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oh Deer!

I cannot eat beef. For all intents and purposes I have a beef allergy. Really, it is that my stomach cannot process it correctly, among other things. So I have to avoid beef. I will occasionally make it for my family, I simply eat the other items that I make. But I use a lot of chicken and turkey, including ground chicken or turkey to replace ground beef in my recipes.

But you know that on some things you can't swap turkey for beef, the flavor simply isn't  there. Which got me to thinking about alternatives. Deer is something I had never eaten. But I have heard in the blog world how good it is and good for you to boot.

Growing up my dad and brother didn't hunt. My husband has never hunted. And I was even a vegetarian for a while in college. So for my family to hear that we had gotten a deer, well some were in shock.

We have a good friend of ours who enjoys hunting. My husband put the bug in his ear about getting one for us. He was all for it. All we had to pay was the processing fee.

The next week, we got a call that he had gotten one for us. The photos above don't show all of it as we have eaten quite a few roasts and ground deer already. Not to mention I spared you any more boring photos of my freezer.

I was very hesitant at first, not knowing what it would taste like. My oldest was leery, thinking solely of the cute deer she was about to consume. This was a shock to her dad and I, as she is very much a meat lover. In the end, her curiosity won out and I am happy to say that we all love it, including my oldest

I made my roasts just like I would a beef roast, same with the ground meat. I have made chili, barbecue and taco meat with the ground meat. It has all been very good. And honestly I compared what we paid for processing to what I would pay for organic beef and we paid almost half that. I figured this is closer to organic that not.

So far we have been very happy with the deer. And very thankful that our friend was willing to get one for us. And thankful that his wife went without him for a day or so.

Most importantly, my stomach has had no issues with the deer meat. That was a great bonus and for that I am very grateful.

This post is linked to GratiTuesday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Snow Day!

On Friday, our kids were off school for the second day in a row. My  husbands cousin was in a daycare bind, so we ended up watching their daughter for the day.

We had lots of fun and boy were we busy with 5 little ones in the house.

Here they are making tattoos. Which are really just stickers for your skin. But boy are they cute. And made of some super strong glue. I wish other things were this sticky. I am currently sporting a heart with wings on my left shin, it is very classy. And my little man has a shamrock on his bicep. Yep, we are a very cool

We also went out to play in the snow.

Here are the three youngest ready to go have some fun. Little kids crack me up when they are bundled up for snow playing. They can hardly move. And every time one of my kids gets an itch they can't scratch.

The kids played very well and I was even able to make two loaves of  bread and a dozen chocolate chip oatmeal muffins. There is only 1 1/2 loaves left ant 5 muffins. Oh well, good thing I love to bake.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bacon Penne Pasta with Garlic

The ingredients above make one of my kids and my favorite meals.  It is so simple to make and very frugal.

I take about 1/3 of the bacon (bought on sale for $1.99 a pack) Now that bacon has gone up around here to $5 a piece, I only buy it on sale. But that is beside the point. Yes it has gotten expensive but yes my family loves bacon!

Can't you just smell the bacon frying? In a perfect world, I could eat bacon all day every day then have a big chocolate cake for desert. But I don't live in that world. In my world, I gain 10 pounds to my hips just looking at bacon!

Fry the bacon with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 cloves of garlic. Cook until the bacon is crispy. Then add one can of tomato sauce. Mine is organic from Coscto, for 60 cents a can! The olive oil and garlic I buy in bulk from Costco so I have no idea what the cost breakdown is. But not much. Be careful when you add the can of sauce, it can pop. Stir it up and then simply let it simmer while waiting on the pasta.

While this is going, cook the pasta as directed on the box. We use whole wheat pasta, but I have used plain white pasta in the past.

Once the pasta is finished, drain the water and put it back in the pot. Then pour the bacon and sauce mixture over the pasta. Mix. (Sorry forgot to get a photo of this part.)

Here is the finished product, plated and ready to eat. It is so good, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Everyone eats more that one helping, even my little man. This is one dinner that we never have leftovers of.

Can you tell his belly is full? He did eat 4 helpings of penne pasta and broccoli!

This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tip of the Week and Frugal

Around here, we wash our hands a lot. Between the dogs, cats, kids, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, etc. Things can get messy around here in a hurry. Because of that we used to go through a lot of soap.

Regular soap is not only very harsh on our sensitive skin that we have around here, but we also tend to go through a lot.

I have found a wonderful solution to this. Homemade foam soap. I have some foam pumps that had run out and I saved them.  I fill them with about 80 percent water and 20 percent soap. And this is what I use:

This has a wonderful peppermint scent and is so calming to the skin. I even use it to freshen up on those days that I don't have time to shower. Not that I ever have those days, because I wake up and shower every morning and do my hair and makeup. Okay, I don't wear makeup and my hair hasn't seen a curling or flat iron in about 10 years, but still, the thought is there. Okay, so I do occasionally not take a shower on my days home.

But most importantly my husband doesn't mind the scent. He hates using girly soap. Basically anything that smells like fruit is girly in his book. I assure him that no one will accuse him of being girly but that doesn't seem to work.

This bottle goes on sale at our local grocery store occasionally but it is still cheaper on Amazon. I just combine this with another purchase so that i don't have to pay shipping. One bottle lasts so long, I honestly couldn't tell you when I bought it last.

This post is linked to Frugal Fridays and Fantastic Frugal Fridays.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tip of the Week!

The tip for this week is very simple, but something that I have done for years.

We occasionally go through the drivethru with our family or even by myself. You never know. It doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.

They always give you way more napkins than you need. Okay not always, sometimes they forget to give you any at all or only one! But this tip comes in handy for when they don't give you any!

I keep them. I don't throw them away, I simply stash them in this little part of my van door. Then when one of the kids spills (not that my kids would ever spill), or needs to spit out their gum, I have something to give them.

I keep a box of tissues in my van as well. But you can't beat free for those other times that you need to do something besides blow your nose.

This post is linked to Frugal Friday.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Every Now and Then

I am not ashamed to say that my kids bicker. A lot. Depending on the day I feel like all I do is break up fights and tell them to stop yelling, stop tattling and stop being mean to each other.

But the other day I had just put the little guy down to nap and went out to water the flowers. When I came back this is where I found my youngest two daughters. They were actually getting along, sitting next to each other.

Looking at a catalog we had gotten in the mail that day. They were looking at all the costumes and toys. I love times like these. It is times like these that made me want to have a big family.

I am thankful that my kids do know how to treat each other nicely, even if only for a little while.

This post is linked to GratiTuesday.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Menu Plan Monday, Week of January 16

This is a short work week for me, as I only work two days. Which means lots of homemade goodies this week.

We have soccer and basketball practice and a Girl Scout and cookie meeting this week. So our evenings will be a little busy, but if I am home during the day, that makes it easy for me to plan meals.

Here is what we have in store for this week.

Breakfasts: frozen waffles from the freezer, whacky spice muffins, homemade oatmeal packets and cold cereal

Lunches: leftovers, tuna, sandwiches, baked potatoes and spicy black bean burgers

Dinners: sloppy joes with homemade curly fries, roasted tilapia lemon packets with baked potatoes, Cincinnati Chili spaghetti, chicken fried rice(never had it last week) with broccoli, penne pasta with bacon, olive oil and garlic (this is delicious) and hopefully leftovers.

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I Heart Organizing!

One of my favorite things to do is to organize things. I am always organizing something, a closet, a pantry or a shelf! We are a family of 6, living in a home that most would find small. Honestly it doesn't feel small to me, until we go into a larger home! However, I do have to get a little creative sometimes with our storage and organizing.

I am going to try and post a weekly article about organizing. What I use to organize, some creative ways to organize and some complete overhauls!

Okay, ignore the hideous carpet, replacing it is on the list, at the very bottom, right in front of the kitchen re-do.

You have seen this shelf before, it was used in the kitchen and looked like this. But I decided to move it to the front room, to make more room in the kitchen around the table.

I love baskets, tubs and hat boxes, anything that you can organize store things in!

The hat box on the top, below the lamp has my tape rolls, stapler and extra staples in it. The navy blue shelf/cabinet houses my small Boyd Bear ceramics collection. And the cloth container covers up a tissue box.

On the next shelf the decorative box houses all our markers and crayons, the clear tub below that has extra paper in it, from colored to plain white. The flexible basket houses all of our cards, from playing cards, to Uno to Old Maid. Next to that is a basket that holds our coloring books.

The last shelf holds two baskets, one with notebooks, clip-boards and a box of stencils. The other holds kids books. I like to swap out the books by season.

I plan on painting this shelf once it warms up some, I bought a really nice Heirloom White spray to paint it.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Finer Thing Friday

This year for Christmas one of the things my mom gave to me will be something that I cherish for as long as I live. See the little note she tucked inside above?

She took a photo album and hand copied, yes I said hand copied all of her go-to recipes. These are the recipes that I make as well, but need to call her and say "hey mom, what else to I add to your stew?" Now, I know exactly how she made them and what she uses in her homemade spaghetti and meatballs.

She said that she spent many an afternoon copying these recipes. I love that they are in her handwriting.

Another extra special treat in here is that she did photocopy some recipes. These are the recipes that were handwritten by my grandpa. My dad's mom to be exact, she was Italian! So her recipes use pinches and whole bags of flour. But my grandma passed away when I was little, so the only memories that I have are of visiting her in her apartment and eating candy out of her glass candy dish that she always had on her table.

Oh and I also remember when my grandma got a new clock. Only she couldn't figure out exactly how it told time, it only played music. You guessed it, she had bought one of those "new" clock radios and didn't realize that she had sent it down on the part that told the time, the clock part!

So you can see why having some recipes in both my mom and my paternal grandma's handwriting. Someday I will have to add to it and pass it down to my kids.

Thanks mom for the wonderful gift, you know how much I love to cook and bake. Oh and she also got me a lovely roasting pan and a very cute wallet! Love you mom. What thoughtful and useful gift, which incidentally are my favorite types of gifts to receive!

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Photo of the Week

I am starting something new, a photo of the week. No text really, unless a short explanation is necessary. So, with that being said, here we go! Enjoy.

Okay, so a brief explanation is needed. That man on the right with the funny face is my little man, that is his camera smile. The one on the left is our best friends youngest son, our "cousin". They came down the weekend before Christmas and we had a wonderful visit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tip of the Week!

For those of you that have cats, this tip is for you.

We have 2 cats. One we have had since right before we were married, so she is about 15 years old. The other one my husband decided to get for my oldest when she was about 3 or so. So she is about 7 years old.

Sadly, when these cats kick the bucket, we will retire our litter box for ever. While I adore kittens and cats, I do not like their bathroom arrangement. We of the four cats we have ever had, only one made the litter box every time.

Our cats are strictly indoor animals, so that mean they use a littler box. We have tried everything from multiple litter boxes, to brand new boxes, to all kinds of litter. But have yet to find out why occasionally they will pee on dirty laundry.

We have a laundry chute in our house that goes from the top floor to the basement. Occasionally (like on the day the girls have to clean their bedrooms) there is a large quantity of laundry that is sent down before I get to it and it will spill out of the tub onto the floor. Then, you guessed it, one of the cats will pee on it! Yuck. And we have yet to figure out who is the culprit.

I used to just pitch the item. When it was the occasional towel that was okay. But when it was my second daughters new jeans, I knew their had to be a better way to take care of it. And I happened to find it!

We have a front loader washer and dryer system and ours' has a "sanitize" setting. Which runs for about 2 hours, using super hot water and steam to clean the laundry. Yes, I know running the machine for two hours isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than throwing out laundry ever month or so.

 I put the stinky item in with like items (towels with towels, jeans with jeans, you get the idea) and put in my detergent like normal. I add about a 1/4 of a cub of Borax to the detergent. Then run it on the Sanitize setting.

For those of my friends that don't know, Borax is super cheap and is carried in most stores in the laundry aisle. I use it to make all sorts of homemade cleaners. It is much easier on my asthma than store bought cleaners. And nicer on the wallet as well. I have been making my own cleaners for years.

Voila! Out of the dryer comes clothes smelling fresh and clean and no hint at all that they had the horrible urine smell on them. And they are actually clean. Even better.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe of the Week--Hambuger Lo Mein and buns

This week we tried something that I got out of Mary Ostyns's book.

I love this book. It is filled with great recipes. This recipe we tried was for Hamburger Lo Mein. I changed it around just a tad based on what I had on hand in my pantry. But we loved it. It was very good.
You use Mary's homemade Terriaki sauce and it is to die for.
I would love to share the recipe with you but can't, as it isn't mine to share. But check out her book, you will find it plus much more in there. It is totally worth the price.
I made mine with homemade biscuits/buns though and I will share that recipe.
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp water
1/3 cup water
4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 c water
1/3 cup oil
1/2 tsp vinegar
4 1/2 cups flour
Mix the first three ingredients and let sit for a few minutes. Then add the rest mix. Then kneed until soft and doesn't stick. Cover and let rise for 45 minutes. Punch down. Let rise for 30 more minutes. Shape into buns/biscuits and let rise another 2 hours, or the amount of time that you have on hand. Obviously if you let them rise completely they will be bigger. However I have been in a hurry and only let them rise for 30 minutes and they have been fine.

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Plan, Week of January 9

Let me start off by saying I cannot believe that it is January 9th already. Seriously? Where does the time go?

I am trying to get in the saddle again with my menu planning. I used to menu plan two weeks worth at a time and it was such a money and time saver. Plus, I didn't have a lot of food waste because I worked my leftovers into my meal plan.

Working with a meal plan helps me a great deal since I work outside the home 2-3 days a week. I am able to know ahead of time what I need to thaw, cut up, prep or throw in the crock pot.

It is also nice to not have to hear "what's for dinner" 10 times a day since they just  have look at the menu plan to see what is scheduled for that day.

Here is what I have planned for this week.

Breakfasts: Belgium waffles(from the freezer), vegan sausage(me), homemade oatmeal packets, mint chocolate muffins and cold cereal thrown in there as well.

Lunches: leftovers, Raman noodles(my younger two love these, I however do not!), spicy black bean burgers with rice(me--a staple lunch for me), taco crescent rolls

Sunday--Shepherds pie made with leftover mashed potatoes
Monday--Spaghetti with meat sauce(freezer) and french bread(freezer)
Wednesday--Fried Chicken(they requested this one again, the family loved it)
Thursday--Fried rice with chicken(leftover from night before, made extra for this purpose) and broccoli
Friday--homemade pizza pockets
Saturday--taco soup(basketball and soccer today right around dinner, so we will be eating in shifts)

The week is slow, we only have soccer and basketball practice for one child this week. Other than that we are home. Makes for nice warm evenings of homework and hanging out.

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tummy Saver

For those of you that don't know, I have a very sensitive stomach. I have whole food groups that I have to avoid. However, one thing that I do that makes my tummy feel better is to drink this tea. Peppermint Tea to be exact.

I will admit that it is an aquired taste. As someone who adds cream and sugar to her black tea, I thought this straight peppermint tea tasted like dirt at first. Then I got used to it and now not only do I love, I drink it all the time, hot or cold, inside or out, up or down. Okay, I got carried away, but you get the picture.

I have tried many brands along the way, but my absolute favorite is the Celestial Seasonings brand. Not only does it taste good, it is very reasonable. My local stores sell a small box of 20 for about $3-4, I don't mind paying that much because it is such a livesaver for me.

However the cheapest price I have found is on Amazon. They sell 6 boxes with 20 in each box for below $12. I cannot beat that price locally.

I keep a box at work, a box at home and even carry a few in my purse. When I am out and about or at a rare restaurant meal, I ask for hot water and make my own. It just makes my belly happy.
Peppermint is so soothing to your stomach and I have grown to not only love it, but incorporate it into my daily life.
If you too have stomach issues, I would suggest you give it a try, it works for me.
This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Homemade Fried Chicken

My oldest daughter has been asking for fried chicken. I didn't have any chicken that was on the bone, so I decided to cut up some boneless, skinless chicken that I had in the freezer.

I cut it into chicken plank sizes. Dipped them into a mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Made sure it was nicely coated. Then I dropped it into my cast iron skillet that had about an inch of canola oil boiling in it.

I cooked it on one side then flipped, as the chicken wasn't entirely submerged in the oil. It took about 10 minutes total to cook the chicken.

See the golden color? Oh my goodness but it was good! There was not a speck left, even the 21 month old loved it! He ate 4 helpings!

With this I also made homemade hash browns. Wish I took a photo, but as soon as they were finished the kids were starving, so I plated the food and we then ate! I had 3 leftover baked potatoes. For those that don't know when you make hash browns from scratch, don't use raw potatoes, they do not work. Using leftover baked potatoes tastes wonderful, is super easy and reduces waste!

I simply shredded my leftover baked potatoes, skin and all. Then I took a skillet and heated up a little bacon grease that I had leftover, a teaspoon of vegan butter(food allergies) and a tablespoon of olive oil. Funny thing about bacon grease, I used to just throw it away. But honestly if you are trying to eat a healthy, from scratch, whole diet, it is definitely something to try. And man, does it add some wonderful flavor. I used about 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

I had the skillet on high and after all the fats melted together, I added the shredded potatoes. You want to let them cook for a while without turning them, you are wanting a nice crispy bottom before you turn it. I flipped my potatoes a few times and broke them up a little with my spatula each time I flipped.

There were not leftovers of any kind. We had fried chicken, hash brown potatoes, broccoli and a salad. There was nothing left. This is definitely one to add to my list of dinners my family likes.

There is nothing that makes me happier than cooking for my family and have them enjoy it.

This post is linked to Finer Things Friday and Tasty Tuesday.