Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Grandma's No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

These cookies always make me think of my maternal Grandmother. Until she stopped cooking a few years ago, almost every time we went to her house she had these rich, yummy cookies for her grandkids. They are so easy to make, they were one of the first things I learned to cook.

1 stick butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. milk
2 c. sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
1/2 c. peanut butter
3 c. quick cooking oats

Boil butter, cocoa, milk, sugar for 1 minute. Add peanut butter and stir until mixed well. Add vanilla and stir. Add oats and mix well, stirring until mixture begins to thicken slightly. Spoon out onto wax paper. Once they are cool, they will become solid and you can store them in a closed container on the counter. Or you could just eat them all :o)

WFMW: Baking Day?

Lots of people do "baking days" where they spend the day stocking their freezer with baked items. I love the way this sounds. But in real life, that just does not work for me. What does work for me is to bake one item every day, right after dh & I get up, but before the house heats up or the kiddos wake up. If I can't get the baking done that early, then the boys help me with my baking in the early evening, after temps have started to fall. This week, we've made or are planning to make:

Banana Nut Bread (I used coconut oil instead of shortening for the fat - this were gone even before it cooled completely. Next time we'll make a double batch, lol)

My Grandma's No Bake Chocolate/ Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies (we made these Monday and they are already almost gone - we love these so much!)

Granola Bars (This recipe makes tons so I'm putting some of these away in the freezer because they are great to have when we are traveling, which we will be pretty soon, and if I don't put them away now, they will be all eaten up before tomorrow)

Whole Wheat Honey Muffins (we're making these tomorrow - I'm also hoping to put some in the freezer for traveling)

Oatmeal Butterscotch Chocolate Chip Pecan cookies (making these later this week - I'll post the recipe as soon as I find it.)

Check out other WFMW posts at We Are THAT Family.

Kitchen Tip: Outdoor Grilling Safety

It has been such a hot, humid summer not only here in the deep south, but it seems, many other parts of the country as well. And because of this, everyone is doing everything possible to avoid heating up the kitchen. We've been utilizing many different strategies to this end as have many other families.

I've been trying for a few weeks to figure out how to tell this story while maintaining privacy for us and our friends. I think I'm just going to tell it and not worry about the rest. This is too important to leave untold. A few weeks ago, some friends decided to avoid heating up the house and fired up their charcoal grill (our grill of choice as well) around 3:00 pm. They grilled their dinner and then checked on the grill around 9:30 or 10:00 p. m. They felt that the fire was out and had cooled enough so they went to bed. Apparently, during the night, an animal knocked the grill over and things were still hot enough to set their wooden deck on fire (12 hours after the grill was first fired up). Since the deck was attached to their home the fire quickly spread to their home and consumed much of it and most of their belongings. Of course, things can be replaced. Thank God the smoke caused the mom to wake up and the family and their pets got out before anyone was harmed.

I have a few tips regarding home safety and grilling (and I am certain I am leaving out some very important things, so please add your tips in the comments). First, grill on a cement deck, not a wood deck. If you don't have a cement deck, then grill on your cement driveway. Second, avoid grilling near your home and please stay away from overhangs or patio roof areas. Third, please make sure your coals have cooled completely by wetting them before you go to bed. Fourth, make sure there are no accellerants such as lighter fluid or flammable items (wood, paper, leaves, charcoal bags) near your grill, even if you are sure it is no longer hot. Fifth, make sure you have several fire extinguishers in your home. Sixth, make sure you have home owner's or renter's insurance that will cover fire damage.

Okay, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, I am sure I have missed several important safety tips, so please add your thoughts in the comments section.

Tammy's Recipe hosts Kitchen Tip Tuesday. Go check it out.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 6/29/09 - Pantry Challenge Week

This weekend, my in-laws made a surprise visit. We had such a nice time and it was fun showing them around our town for their first visit. As soon as I found out they would visit, I adjusted the menu plan for last week and got things ready for their visit. On of my favorite things to do when we have overnight guests is roast one or two whole chickens because you can do almost anything with them. As it turns out, they took us out to dinner and breakfast a few times and the rest of the meals, they provided for with groceries they bought.

There were LOTS of leftovers. Add the food we had ready for their visit, and the week is just about taken care of already :) I will need to pick up only milk (for making yogurt) and pastured butter (our Kroger carries this). We will also go to the farmer's market mid week to pick up any fresh produce we might need. We will definitely be under $20 this week, maybe lower :o)

The most fun thing about this for me is that it will barely touch our stockpile. Our refrigerator and freezer are so packed with food, that I literally could not fit anything else in them if I wanted to, so I will NOT be doing a big shopping trip this week. In fact, they bought 2 bags of spinach which I am reluctant to eat as is after that e coli outbreak a few years ago, so we are going to make space in the freezer for cooked spinach. Hopefully nothing will go to waste this week.

Here is this weeks, menu (a few things will be eaten twice). I will mark in bold all items that are locally grown.

*Yogurt with maple syrup, fresh fruit
*Eggs (we bought 4 dozen from the farmer last week), ham and fresh fruit
*French toast (local eggs), ham and fruit
*Waffles with peaches and yogurt
*Smoothies (peaches and blueberries)

*Leftovers from dinners, fruit
*pizza from the freezer, fruit
*peanut butter sandwiches, fruit

*no bake peanut butter cookies (these remind me of my grandmother - I'll post the recipe later if I can)
*sliced fresh peaches
*cucumbers and carrots with dip
*Parmesan "crackers"
*banana nut bread (local eggs)
*fig cobbler (local eggs)
*granola bars

*Chicken Noodle Soup in the crock pot (broccoli, squash, carrots and spinach) with a green salad (tomatoes & cukes)
*Salmon "burgers" (local eggs) on homemade buns with caramelized onions, roasted summer squash and a green salad (tom & cukes)
*Turkey club sandwiches and a green salad (tom & cuke)
*Chicken Salad Sandwiches with a green salad (my In-Laws brought 4 bagged salads and I already had a head of romaine - we're eating lots of salad this week, lol) (tom & cuke)

What are you having this week that is locally grown?

Check out Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Cleaned the Dining Area :o)

I wish I had a "before" picture, but I don't. Imagine, though stacks of books and school papers around the "homeschooling" bins and another stack of sewing projects right next to it. Here is the after picture. I am pleased with the results. The dining area is much more inviting this way. Since this house is "temporary" housing while we look for a home to buy, I did not decorate with curtains or anything more "permanent". I am thinking of looking for some inexpensive decorating options like curtains and maybe place mats or something for the table. It would also be nice to have some shelves for the school books and a table for my sewing machine. Might have to hit some garage sales.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Garden Update 6-25-09

I am feeling much better about my poor garden this week. Transplanting things, moving them into partial shade and putting out self watering devices all helped and my plants are starting to recover. The temps here this week are exceeding 100 degrees, so thank God the plants are all safely in the shade during the hottest part of the day. I tried water bottles and milk jugs for self watering but both emptied out very quickly (within an hour's time) and I needed something that would last for the weekend since we were planning to travel for a few days. DH, not wanting me to be disappointed with a dead garden upon our return (is there any wonder why I love this guy), got me 6 of those glass watering globe things (as seen on T.V.) from Walmart before we left. They were empty when we returned and the soil was dry, but the plants were still alive, so I call that a success.

One of the blueberry plants is doing really well but the other has lost all of its leaves - they are dry and crumbly. The stems and stalk are still green, which implies that, at least for now, it is still alive, so I am going to continue to treat it as such and hope for the best.

We are still harvesting cherry tomatoes and yellow pear tomatoes and our first red bell pepper is ready to be picked. I put in a new basil plant as the other was flowering and also mostly brown. The parsley and oregano are back from the brink (mostly) and I'm hoping to use some of both this weekend.

The lemon tree can barely stay upright under the weight of all of the lemons. They are almost full size and I can practically taste them. The figs continue to grow and the peas in the landscaping are growing and starting to flower.

How is your garden growing?

Read about my friends' gardens over at How Does Your Garden Grow hosted by A High And Noble Calling.

Farmer's Market

Our mid week market provided these yummy finds: Watermelon, peaches, nectarines (picked 30 minutes before we bought them) and plums, plus one cucumber. Much of this is already gone - hurry up Saturday :o)


We went to the market on Saturday and ate everything before I thought to get a picture, lol. We bought blueberries (these were gone almost before we got to the car, lol), squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, 8 ears of sweet corn, a jar of plum jam, a few peaches, a cantaloupe and some home baked pita bread. We spent less than $20 and although it was a little more than we would pay at the grocery store, the taste is so superior to what is available at the supermarket that it is worth a few cents more. Plus I love knowing that we are supporting the local farmers in our community. When we buy from the grocery store, mere pennies per dollar spent on food goes to the farmer. When we buy directly from the farmer, the whole dollar goes to the farmer.

Tell Me Thursday

We were visiting family last week when my oldest came running into the house to show me what he found. He is fascinated with creepy crawlies of all kinds and will hold almost anything. This particular snail was unique in that instead of pulling into its shell when picked up, it continued to move around. It moved across N's hand for 15 or 20 minutes before N had his fill of his new friend and set it free again. I love the way the sun gives the snail a translucent look and and the fact that it casts a shadow on N's hand.

Tell Me Thursday

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Building Community: Goats and Chickens and Turkeys!

This morning the boys and I had the chance to visit a working farm a few hours north of our home. This farmer raises goats, chickens and turkeys. We had a nice time. The animals were friendly and the boys were able to interact with them. They were even chased by a tom turkey. This farmer sells his goats, turkeys and chicken eggs. We came home with dozens of eggs, plus a nice friend that we may be able to buy goats from as soon as we have space for them.

Wordless Wednesday

wordless wednesday

5 minutes for mom

WFMW: Reusable Sandwich Bags

A few months ago, our family switched to a reusable lunch box system for both dh's lunches and for the kids and I when we are out and about during lunch or dinner time. You can see some pictures of our Laptop Lunches System here, here and here. We switched over to these for several reasons, but the one most important to me was to stop using disposable products in our lunches. With just my dh's lunches, we were using about 100 plastic sandwich baggies a month (4 per day, 5 days per week). The only holdout after switching was the plastic sandwich baggie for dh's mid morning peanut butter sandwich. I needed it to travel in a soft sided container so that it could fit into the carry bag for the laptop lunches system. I searched online and found several examples of fabric sandwich bags ( here, here and here ). I am not a seamstress, but here is what I was able to make ( I do have a sewing machine and a basic knowledge of sewing).

It is a simple bag, with two layers of fabric and a velcro closure. We are pleased with the way these turned out and the fact that they are easily washable if needed, by turning inside out then tossing in the washing machine.

I used all new materials because I freecycled all of our fabric scraps when we moved the fall. Still, these were very economical to make. It took about $5.00 worth of fabric to make 4 bags. Add a little velcro and your thread and I estimate about $2.00-2.50 each to make.

If you look closely in the above picture you can clearly see my lack of sewing skill :) Even still, we are very happy with our little bags - they are good enough, if not perfect.

This post is my contribution to Works For Me Wednesday, hosted by We Are THAT Family.

Bento Lunch 6-24-09

I have not posted a picture of hubby's lunch in a while. Here is what he's having today. First is a roast beef pita with feta salad stuffed in there, too. He also has blueberries and mixed nuts. Not pictured are a peanut butter sandwich and some home made granola bars that are in some reusable sandwich bags I sewed up late last week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Kitchen Tip: Random Thoughts on Keeping the Kitchen Cool in Summer

It is hot. The temps are forecast to exceed 100 degrees here today. It is 5:48 am and already it feels like an oven outside. The last thing we need is to heat up the kitchen today. In fact, my menu plan this week centers around keeping the kitchen cool. So here are a few random thoughts and strategies to keep the kitchen cool this summer.

1. Do any cooking/ baking early in the morning or late in the evening. For example, in making yogurt, I need to heat milk on the stove. I try to do that at night (around 9:00 pm, after sunset). It works for us because the yogurt can incubate over night and we have yogurt in the morning, just in time for breakfast.

2. Use your slow cooker. As a general rule, these do not heat up the kitchen as much as an oven or stove top. If it is really hot where you live, and you have a safe outdoor area (like a garage) with a power source, you can always put your slow cooker out there and keep the heat completely outside.

3. Cook once, eat twice. This week, I am cooking a roast in the crock pot (while we sleep) and using it during the day for French Dip Sandwiches, one day and BBQ sandwiches another. You could do the same with a whole chicken cooked in your crock pot, then cooled and used for chicken salad sandwiches or a roasted chicken green salad.

4. Use a solar oven to cook. Now I will admit that I don't have one of these, but I'm tempted to use these plans to make one from a pizza box and try it out. Years ago, my Dad made one and used it a few times before the newness wore off and he forgot about it. They can get temps high enough to cook with if built right. If we can scrounge the needed items, I think we will make one to try out. I'll post pics if we make one and I'll post the results of the cooking experiment as well. I wonder if we could get it to work.

5. Run the dishwasher only after dark and/ or turn off the drying part of the cycle. The same goes for your clothes dryer. Either run it at night or use a clothes line.

How do you keep your kitchen cool during the hotter months?

This is my submission to Kitchen Tip Tuesday hosted by Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 6/22/09 - It's too hot to cook!

It is 5:23 am and it is already hot here. Even though the thermometer only reads 75 deg, when I walked outside a few minutes ago, the heat was like a wall that hit me when I walked out. This week temperatures are forecast to exceed 100 degrees. I do not want to heat up the house, if I can help it. We will have to use the oven and stove top for some things, but I think if I plan it right, we can still avoid heating up the whole house. I would also like to use up a lot of the frozen meals leftovers, and frozen meats that are currently in the freezer. Here is the plan:

*Cooked Oatmeal with milk, honey and butter (will try this in the crock pot, over night)
*Yogurt (I usually make this overnight, which helps to keep the house cooler)

Lunch (always includes one fruit and one veggie):
*leftover pizza from the freezer (at least twice)
*lassagna (from the freezer)
*PB & honey sandwich (at least twice)
*grilled cheese sandwich

*Fresh Peaches (local peaches are now in season here - so yummy!!)
*granola bars (baked in the morning, before the heat kicks in)
*blueberries (blueberries are also in season here)
*watermelon (from the farmer's market)
*banana nut bread (baked in the morning, before the heat really kicks in)
*Cashew butter on graham crackers - so yummy!!

*Crock pot Italian Chicken, squash (local), salad
*Crock pot roast beef (local, grass fed beef) French Dip sandwiches on homemade bread, tomato (local) and cucumber(local) salad, peaches (local)
*BBQ Beef sandwich (local beef, left over from the french dip sandwiches, BBQ sauce and homemade buns, leftover from the previous day), green salad (homegrown/ local), watermelon (local)
*Asian Shrimp Salad (shrimp cooked in the morning, then refrigerated), breadsticks (baked in the morning), steamed broccoli (my oldest loves steamed broccoli, so we try to have it at least once a week for him)
*Shrimp Salad Sandwiches (leftover shrimp from asian salad), tomato and cucumber salad (local)
*Lassagna (from the freezer, reheated in the crock pot), green salad, sweet corn (farmer's market), tomato and cucumber salad (local/ homegrown), peaches (local)

I love the farmer's market bounty of the summer. It is so easy to have fresh, yummy, local meals in the summer. The time is coming to start preserving some of the summer seasonal fruits and veggies. Either mid week or this weekend, if we can find a large number of peaches at the market, I am hoping to crank up the preserves factory here and start canning peach preserves. I would also like to make some salsa, since tomatoes, onions and peppers are everywhere at the market. If you have a favorite salsa recipe, I'd appreciate your sharing it. I have not ever made salsa. Thanks :o)

Check out hundreds of menus and I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden Update 6-18-09

I'm trying not to be discouraged. My poor little garden :( The heat has beens so intense here it seems to have actually baked the soil in the containers. Instead of being spongy and absorbing of water, the soil in the containers has become hard and brittle. I realized this when my poor plants seemed to be dying even with twice a day watering. To help, I took a skewer and poked holes in the soil and deeply watered. Today, a few things are going to be transplanted into larger containers and everything is getting a water bottle for self watering. Also, I need to get my hands on some compost - I think the plants need some additional nutrition and I want to try to avoid fertilizers if I can.

The lemon tree is still doing well and the lemons continue to grow. The green beans are growing and I think we may start to see it flowering in the next 2-3 weeks. The blueberry plants we bought last week at the farmer's market seem to be having a hard time in the heat. They are getting new, larger containers to day along with water bottles. I think I may put them under one of the larger trees on the property. I think the heat from all day direct sunlight might be too much right now, while they are still in containers.

We have been harvesting cherry tomatoes and now yellow pear tomatoes. There is nothing like yummy home grown tomatoes.

Updated: I transplanted the blueberries into large containers. I think this will help so much. Poor things. When I moved them, I tried to crumble the soil around the roots only to find that it was dry as a bone, even with the deep watering and poking holes into the soil before watering. When I transplanted them, I broke up the dirt around the roots and watered the roots well, then put them into nice potting soil in the container. Then I watered again, really well. I'm hoping to see improvement today. We also moved the poor little watermelon plant that was dying. Its in a pot now with potting soil. Hopefully we can bring it back to life, then plant it in a kiddie pool to see if it will grow and make watermelon.
Head on over to A High And Noble Calling for more How Does Your Garden Grow?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kitchen Tip: Is It Still Fresh?

When opening something that won't be all used up (like a 32oz container of yogurt or a jar of preserves), write the date on the container. This will help you keep track of whether or not something is still fresh enough to use and will also help you use it up before it goes bad.

See the best Kitchen Tips at Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 6/15/09 - Birthday Celebration

This week will give us the chance to rest up from a busy week last week. Mid week, we will be celebrating my Mom's birthday, my parent's anniversary and Father's day (with my dad). We are responsible for bringing lassagna, 3 bean salad and two pies, apple and pecan. Here's this week's menu:

Banana nut bread
Baked oatmeal

PB & J or PB & honey
Cheese Quesadillas

Homemade brownies
Cucumber and carrot sticks with ranch dip
crackers and homemade herb cheese dip

Italian Crockpot Black Eyed Pea Soup with a green salad and more garden tomatoes (this soup is very economical and quite delicious. We are using homemade chicken stock (free), venison sausage we received from a friend (free), dried peas ($1.08/ lb), carrots ($.10), Onion ($.40), celery ($.15), spices ($.25), but even if you had to buy sausage, it is still extremely economical as the finished soup contains 8 generous servings.)

Teriyaki Salmon with squash and broccoli over noodles

Lassagna and farmer's market veggies

Leftover Buffet

Grilled Shrimp and Veggies and Pesto Pasta Salad

Homemade Pizza (using up leftovers)

Check out hundreds of menus at Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Week In Review: June 13, 2009

This was a busy blogging week for me. On Monday, I posted our menu plan which included entertaining overnight guests plus a meal brought to someone else's home. On Monday I also posted my plan for getting it all done. Honestly, without that plan I know I would have missed something important.

On Tuesday, I shared my cautionary tale regarding dull kitchen cutting implements.

On Wednesday, I participated in Works For Me Wednesday and Wordless Wednesday (I just love that picture of my boys).

On Thursday, I participated in Tell Me Thursday, which explains the story from my Wordless Wednesday post and also in How Does Your Garden Grow (probably my favorite blog carnival - I love talking gardens!!). If you love gardening, be sure to read the comments as well. There were so many great gardening tips posted there.

I also posted several recipes including Chicken Enchiladas and Fig Cobbler , my farmer's market finds (here and here) and some inspired cleaning.

Head on over to A High and Noble Calling and post your bloggy Week in Review.

Farmer's Market Finds

We debated even going to the farmer's market this morning since we definitely do not need any produce. We decided to go anyway since we'd never been to the Saturday morning market and were curious about what might be there. Our mid-week market is produce only, but the Saturday market is also home made goods such as food items, preserves and plants. I'm so glad we went. We were able to get our first local peaches (no picture - we ate them already). We also bought some pastries from one of the booths (again, no pictures - we already ate them). I'm most excited about the only other thing we bought at the market. These:

We purchased two blueberry shrubs from a blueberry farmer :o) I was planning to get some anyway, and I am so glad I was able to get them from a farmer instead of from a big box store. One of the plants even has berries on it. We'll try these out in containers and I'll have the first update on Thursday. Yay for blueberries :o)

After we left the market, we walked around a little in the downtown and river front areas. Here is a picture of the boys playing on a caboose that is on display near the train tracks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Food Storage: Homemade Fig Preserves

This morning, while everyone else was still asleep, I decided to make fig preserves out of the figs we bought at the farmer's market. The smell of the figs cooking brought me back 30 years to the summers we spent at my grandparents' house. Its funny how quickly a scent can bring you back to times past. I wonder what scents will bring back special memories to my kids when they are adults.

This is one of the huge figs I bought at the farmer's market mid week. I really hope the farmer has more tomorrow. We ate a few as a snack and some of them are going to be paired with goat cheese and prosciutto tonight. Three cups of them went into a pot with sugar and a little water . . .
And became fig preserves. Most of these preserves will be used in Fig Cobbler tomorrow. Since I made a small batch and am planning to use most of it in a recipe tomorrow, I did not bother canning them. I guess technically it is not food storage, but its practice for what's coming in the next few weeks. I'm sure I'll post a picture of the finished cobbler, if I remember to take one before we eat the whole thing.
We also tried the preserves with yogurt and discovered a new obsession. Really, I would never have thought to try it, but Bryan suggested it and turns out, its delicious.

Every summer we can as many pints of fig preserves as possible, so hopefully there will be pictures of those jars to post in a few weeks.

Inspired To Clean

My friend Paula over at The Chicken Coop has been posting her deep cleaning updates on her blog and reading them has been such an inspiration. Outside of the cleaning we've done as we packed for moves (4 times in 2 years) I have not done much cleaning in a long time. The cleaning I did yesterday wasn't a lot, but I'm so excited to get started and I'm hoping that the success of yesterday will encourage more cleaning.

First, I did some basic cleaning, including cleaning the toilets, which sadly, were starting to get really yucky. I don't usually let things get that bad. I really think all the moving is starting to get to me. Next I did some decluttering and organizing. I went through several reusable shopping bags full of old papers and homeschooling books and threw out all the papers we no longer needed and organized the rest. Something else I did that I'd been meaning to do for a long time was join paperback swap. I joined and listed more than 10 books, so I was able to get credits for trades right away. I was also pleased that four of the books I listed have already been requested.

Additionally, I organized my coupons which is one chore I hate doing. It is the only thing I don't like about couponing, lol. I organized the cookbooks I didn't list on paperback swap and I culled and organized stacks of magazines laying around in the dining area.

Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the cleaning I did wasn't much, but it still really made a difference in the way the house looks and the way that I feel.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Garden Update -6-11-09

Does anyone know what is wrong with my basil? The leaves are turning a brownish gray. It started at the bottom and is making its way up the entire plant. Very little of the plant is currently discoloration free. Do I scrap it and start over?

Daytime temperatures are in the mid to upper 90's now and my poor container garden is feeling the effects. The plants now need to be watered at least twice per day or they become dry and brittle. I'm going to spend some time next week trying to find an inexpensive self-watering system for my poor containers.

We are starting to harvest more. The Cherry Tomatoes are producing really well. We are harvesting a handful or so each day.

Parsley and oregano continue to grow well. We'll be harvesting a red bell pepper in a few weeks. We'll be harvesting figs in a few weeks, too. They are growing well and are already almost full size. The lemons are almost full size as well, but of course they are still green. The watermelon plant my son planted a month or so ago has not grown. It still looks like a seedling. I think its the soil it is planted in - mostly clay. The beans we planted are growing slowly, as are the Black Krim tomato seedlings.

I will probably add more basil, some blueberries, and more parsley at the beginning of next week. I'm also considering building a 8 or 12 inch tall raised 4X4 bed with a bottom and drainage holes that I can put on saw horses or some other "table" to make a "large" container for gardening. If I do this, I'll need more "soil" but I think it would be a better place to garden than the little containers and would still not dig up the owner's yard.

Our Farmer's Market opened last weekend. We were able to go to the mid-week market. I posted our haul here. I'm glad our market has so many farmer's selling cucumbers, squash, and zucchini, since we did not plant any. Saturday's market is much bigger than the mid week market. I can't wait to go this weekend :o)

Check out other garden updates at "How Does Your Garden Grow" hosted by A High And Noble Calling.

Tell Me Thursday

We had just moved into this little rent house. We had a cot downstairs that we were using as a sofa. One morning, the boys awoke and wandered downstairs, first one, then the other. I was in the kitchen, and the news was on in the living room. As each boy came downstairs, I told them "Good Morning" and he replied the same. It was quiet in the living room, except for the news, so I assumed the boys were quietly playing, but when I went in to check on them, I found them both asleep on the cot.

Tell Me Thursday

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Recipe: Fig Cobbler

1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 Cup Milk
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 pint fig preserves

Preheat oven to 275. Place butter in a 2 quart casserole and place in the warm oven to melt. When melted, remove and set aside. Raise oven temp to 375. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add milk, egg and vanilla and stir until smooth. Pour into baking dish. Spoon preserves over batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Our Farmer's Market Haul

Look what we got at the farmer's market!!

Two cucumbers, 4 ears of sweet corn, 5 pounds of plums and 3 pounds of the biggest figs I've ever seen. Because we at at least 5 pounds of plums last week, some of these will be made into plum jam. The figs are my excuse to splurge a little. I'm going to the grocery store tomorrow for milk, and I plan to pick up prosciutto and some goat cheese to make Proscuitto Wrapped Figs. Its a pretty big splurge, but hubby said he liked the sound of the recipe, so I think we'll treat ourselves. If there are any figs left after we eat some (a lot), and make the Prosciutto Wrapped Figs, then I'll cook them as preserves to make fig cobbler.

What did you get at the market?

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday.

WFMW: Getting Free Gift Cards for reading E-mails

Back in December of last year (during my blogging break), my husband (and 15 other people) was laid-off from the job we had just moved to accept. You learn a lot about yourself and your marriage during times like that. Thankfully, we learned that we handled that difficult time better than either could have expected.

One of our favorite little luxuries before the layoff was going out of coffee. There is a local coffee house chain in Louisiana that we love. We often had a date night consisting of browsing the bookstore then going to the coffee shop.

We were blessed that during the layoff, even when we were not spending on luxuries, no matter how little, that we were still able to enjoy our date night on occasion. Although we had to visit a different coffee shop chain, we had free gift cards that allowed us to enjoy our little treats.

I've been a member of MyPoints for one year (my anniversary was last week) and during that time, I have qualified for several free gift cards (at least 5, but I don't remember exactly) without spending any money at all. You can get cards more quickly if you buy things from the advertisers, but my goal is to get the gift cards for free, so I don't buy anything.

By reading emails, using the MyPoints toolbar for searches, using their printable coupons and filling out surveys, I've been able to get free gift cards for our family from CVS, Walgreens, and Starbucks. There are also gift cards for restaurants, movie theaters, discount stores (target * walmart), specialty stores and more. It adds up really quickly. I get a new gift card about once every 2 months.

Would you like to read emails, take surveys and print and redeem coupons and get free gift cards? If you are interested, leave a comment with your email address. I can refer 5 people per month and would be happy to help you get started (and you will be helping me earn some points for helping you get started) :o)

Check out Works For Me Wednesday at We are THAT Family.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kitchen Tip: Dull Cutting Implements; A Cautionary Tale

Once there was an old lady (maybe not that old) named Lucky Lori who used dull kitchen implements all the time. She had heard that doing this could be dangerous, but she didn't listen because she knew that she was Lucky Lori. She chopped, sliced and diced with dull knives and nothing bad ever happened. She opened cans with dull openers and nothing bad ever happened. She grated with dull graters and nothing bad ever happened. And everyone around her said, "This time you were Lucky, Lori. Next time you might get hurt." But Lori didn't listen. She kept on slicing, dicing and chopping, opening cans and grating and still nothing bad ever happened. Until one day, when Lori's luck ran out and this happened:

I realize that it doesn't look that bad in the photo, but it is. This injury has affected almost everything I do on a daily basis - can't open jars, can't hold a fork with my right hand (and I'm not an even passable lefty), can't cut anything, it hurts to open the car door, and I seem to bump it on everything, which really hurts! Plus, it really scared me because it bled for a really long time. You don't want this to happen to you, I promise!

So, my kitchen tip - don't be a Lucky Lori. Use safely sharpened cutting implements.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Organizing My Week - Getting it All Done

I want to bring some homemade yogurt to my SIL when we visit them later this week. I think I'm hoping to spread the obsession we currently have with our homemade yogurt. Anyway, we are also almost out of yogurt ourselves, which means its yogurt making time. I prepped a batch last night and it was ready this morning. It is straining now in the fridge and a second batch is started on the stove. I also knew we'd need lots of chicken stock this week, so last night, I put some chicken carcasses in the crock pot with onions, celery and carrots and this morning, we have stock.

This week is going to be very busy and will need to be planned in more detail than I am used to. I'm going to put down my plan here so that I can refer to it daily to make sure I don't miss anything.

Sunday night: One batch of yogurt and one batch of chicken stock.

Monday: Morning Strain first batch of yogurt - make another batch of yogurt - strain over night. Cool chicken stock. Freeze it for later in the week, once it is cooled. Shop for items needed for this week's meals. Season chickens and let sit in refrigerator to "marinate" for 4 hours. Slow roast in oven all afternoon. Cut up cantaloupe and refrigerate for tomorrow. Wash and rough chop lettuce. Split croissant rolls. Late afternoon, cook squash. Also, planning to do a little "antiquing/ flea market treasure hunting since I only have one child with me today. Need to take care of something with the car today, too. After dinner, make chicken salad for tomorrow and make more chicken stock in crock pot over night.

Tuesday: Pack up chicken salad, lettuce, cheese, cantaloupe, croissant rolls in cooler. Strain chicken stock from crock pot and then put chicken stock, veggies, and seasoning in crock pot for tonight's dinner. Visit whole foods for Celtic sea salt and coconut oil. Two hours before we eat, make dough for rolls. One half hour before we have dinner, add shredded chicken and dry pasta to soup and put rolls in oven. After supper, make dough for 2 multigrain french bread (for Baked Blueberry French Bread and sandwich on Friday -) and bake them. One will stay out in a bag to get stale for the french toast and the other will go into the freezer for later this week. Make 2 pizza crust doughs - refrigerate for Wednesday.

Wednesday: Morning - make yogurt - strain over night. Make double batch of waffles. Freeze extra for tomorrow. Bake brownies. Bake oatmeal cookies. Bake yummy Italian Focaccia bread for Muffaletto sandwich (I'll try to remember to take pictures. This is the yummiest sandwich!!) Wash a lot of dishes. Cut up fruit for fruit tray and put on a tray in refrigerator. Make cheese spread and store in refrigerator. Make chicken enchiladas. Cover and refrigerate for Thursday. Make lassagna. Cover and refrigerate for Friday. Visit farmer's market. Make Pizzas for supper from farmer's market veggies and dough from yesterday.

Thursday: Toast waffles for breakfast. Build muffaletto sandwiches and toast in oven. Warm chicken enchiladas for supper. Enjoy our guests.

Friday: Morning - bake french toast. Serve with maple syrup. Make sandwich or have leftovers for lunch. Bake lassagna, steam broccoli, bake bread sticks. Enjoy our guests.

Saturday: Make smoothies. Put soup ingredients in crock pot. Enjoy our guests. Come home to a yummy supper.

Sunday: Enjoy our guests until they have to leave.

Recipe: Chicken Enchiladas

Unlike most enchiladas, these are not tomato based. These enchiladas are in a cream sauce and are just delicious. I don't have any pictures yet, but will try to take some as I cook this week.

In a medium Dutch oven, melt butter (about 1/2 stick) over medium heat and sweat a medium onion (chopped) with a little salt. Once the onion is translucent, add about 32 oz chicken stock, a can of cream of mushroom soup (you could make this with sauted mushrooms and a white sauce) and chile peppers (I'm using chipotle peppers) to taste. To this sauce, add about 3 cups of cooked chicken diced or torn into bite sized pieces. Salt and pepper to taste (not usually necessary).

In a 9X13 casserole dish, pour a little of the sauce just to coat the bottom of the pan and prevent sticking. Cover the entire bottom of the pan with a single layer of flour tortillas. Add 1/3 of sauce over the tortillas. Add some shredded cheese (I use a lot of cheese - about 1 cup per layer). Repeat the layers 2 more times.

You can cover with foil and keep in your refrigerator for a day or two before you cook it or even freeze and the defrost before cooking. To cook, place in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until the casserole is heated through and the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Menu Plan Monday 6/8/09 - Entertaining Guests Heathy and Frugal

This week begins with our oldest out of town, in the middle of the week, we are traveling to pick him up and bringing lunch for 10 and the week wraps up with a fun visit from some family. I love summer!! But our pantry is looking pretty bare this week. We've been living off it for a few weeks now with not much restocking. So I need to figure out how to pull off our wild week without blowing the budget. I think I'm going to fall back on the old "rubber chicken". Our Kroger has whole chickens on sale this week for .89 cents per pound. I'm going to get 4 and roast them, two at a time. Those 4 chickens, shrimp from our freezer and 2 pounds of ground turkey will serve as our main protein sources this week. Here is how I plan to get it all done.

Let's take a look at the menu plan:

Breakfast (we should be able to get all of these breakfasts made with things we have in the pantry and refrigerator):

Monday and Tuesday (while our oldest, who won't eat eggs, is out of town) we will have eggs and grits (already have these)
Wednesday (oldest is home) and Thursday (guests arrive) we will have whole grain maple walnut waffles ( will substitute half whole wheat flour, add a Tblsp of ground flax meal and substitute coconut oil for shortning).
Friday we will have Blueberry Baked French Toast (with a loaf of homemade whole grain French Bread, which we will make Wednesday and eggs we already have)
Saturday we will have smoothies with berries (fridge), over-ripe bananas (freezer), and homemade yogurt (fridge)
Sunday we will have homemade maple yogurt


Monday we will have leftovers from Sunday's supper (mini burgers) and yummy locally grown summer squash.
Tuesday we will have chicken salad (.89 cents per lb.) sandwiches on croissants (5.00 for 10) with lettuce ($1.30 and some will be left over for later in the week) and cantalope from the farmer's market.
Wednesday we will have PB and J or PB and honey sandwiches (pantry - the honey is local :o) and cherries (on sale at Kroger right now for $2.99/lb).
Thursday we will have muffaletto sandwiches on homemade bread (pantry) with sliced turkey (fridge) and homemade olive salad (fridge) and what ever fresh berries we find at the farmer's market on Wednesday.
Friday we will either have leftovers from Thursday night or we will have chicken salad sandwiches on homemade whole grain French bread.
Saturday we will probably have lunch out.
Sunday we will probably go out to lunch after church.


Kroger is having an amazing sale on berries plus we got some blueberries at the farmer's market last weekend. So Monday and Tuesday, snacks will consist of lots of berries.

Wednesday, we will do some baking for the weekend visitors (brownies- pantry. Oatmeal Cookies - pantry) so we will snack on those items.

Thursday we will have a fruit tray with strawberries (1.97), pineapple (2.99), watermelon (4.99) and any fruit we find at the farmer's market on Wednesday. There will probably be some of this left after snack time, so we may finish it up at another meal time.

Friday we will have a cheese tray with homemade cheese spread (ingredients on hand) on crackers ($1.30 each for store brand - we'll get two boxes).

Saturday we will have a veggie tray with ranch dip (fridge) and veggies that we find at the farmer's market. We'll round it out with carrot sticks from our refrigerator and it looks like we will have some cherry tomatoes from the garden then, too.

Sunday we will snack on either leftovers from one of the previous days' snacks or maybe we'll have Nutella (pantry) on graham crackers (pantry).


Casseroles are easy and filling, but some people are turned off by the word casserole. We'll be having 2 casseroles with our guests, but they won't be called casseroles, so maybe they won't feel like tightwad food :o)

Monday we'll have roasted chicken with squash and green salad

Tuesday we'll have crock pot chicken noodle soup (stock made with the bones of the roasted chickens, leftover meat, carrots, onions, squash from fridge, noodles from pantry) with homemade rolls.

Wednesday we'll have roasted veggie pizza (crust and sauce from the pantry, veggies from the farmer's market).

Thursday we'll have chicken enchiladas (chicken .89/ lb, homemade stock free by simmering the bones from the chickens; tortillas $2.00; cheese $3.00 - I use a lot of cheese; cream of mushroom soup .75 cents; chipotle peppers in the freezer) . We'll have this with a salad ($1.29) and a veggie from the market ($$???). We will probably also have chips and salsa from the grocery store, unless someone at the market sells salsa ($5.00)

Friday we'll have lassagna (noodles - pantry; ground turkey $1.25/ lb - 2lbs; pasta sauce $2.00; ricotta - $2.00; eggs (fridge); mozzarella ($2.00); Parmigiano-Regiano cheese (fridge) ). We'll have this with steamed broccoli, breadsticks and a green salad.

Saturday we will have Shrimp and Corn Soup (shrimp in freezer, potatoes in pantry, chicken stock in freezer, cheese - $2.00; cream of mushroom soup - .75 cents; creamed corn - .75 cents; onion - pantry; bacon - freezer).

Sunday we will have leftovers.

After making my shopping list, I estimated our costs and came up with a guess of $93 before tax. This includes a few non-food items like a baking pans and laundry detergent. Without those additional items, I estimate our cost for food will be about $66 plus tax. I'll update once shopping is done, to see how close I was able to get.

Head on over to I'm an Organizing Junkie for hundreds of menus.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Food Storage

One thing I am trying to learn more about is traditional food storage. I have some experience with canning, freezing and drying, but I know that if our lives depended upon my skills, we'd be in serious trouble. Therefore, I want to learn all that I can about food storage. This week, I've been drying our Greek Oregano. We don't use a lot of oregano, and our plant is very prolific with its growth, so we have lots extra. Here is some of the oregano drying inside. Once it is completely dry, it will be stored in a half-pint mason jar. Do you do any food preservation and storage? I'd love to hear about what you do. Please share links if you've posted about your efforts at food preservation. In addition to a weekly garden update, I will try to post a weekly food storage update. That might keep me accountable. If I think someone is expecting an update, maybe I won't put off preserving our garden produce. :o) It might work.

Growing Garlic

There are five garlic plants in this container.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that some of the garlic in my pantry had started sprouting and that I had just pushed them into the dirt to see what would happen. There were a few comments to that post asking for more information on growing garlic. After a google search, this helpful site turned up: Garlic Smith's. The previous link is to their planting page which I found filled with useful information.

Here is one of the last garlic cloves planted. You can just see the sprout above the soil.

It seems that I did, in fact plant at the wrong time and it is very likely that I will not see much for my (minimal) effort. I'm okay with that. I'll consider it a homeschooling project using the scientific method :o) That should make me feel better.

Garden Update 6-4-09

When it comes to gardening, I'm like a junkie. I'm always wanting more. The unexpected success of my little container garden has encouraged me to continue adding new plants. As you'll see in the update, we've put some of the garden into the decorative landscaping and I'm considering trying my hand at blueberries in a container (just for this season - as soon as we buy, blueberries would go into the ground). Okay . . . on to the update:

We're harvesting cherry tomatoes this week! They are so cute and they are so delicious.

The red bell pepper plant has one large pepper on it and several small peppers. I'm still amazed that things are growing and bearing fruit in containers. This has become such a fun gardening experience.
These sweet Black Krim tomato babies are getting stronger every day. Some of them are starting to get true leaves which means I'd better get more containers because I want to transplant them as soon as they are strong enough to handle the move. I am so looking forward to these tomatoes. I hope they survive and I hope we get tomatoes from them.
The dwarf lemon tree has so many lemons growing that it needed support not to fall over. So I moved it and several of the flowers to the front of the house and tied the poor dear to the railing.
Here is a close-up of a lemon. They are getting bigger. Yay! In the background of this picture, you can see a landscaping bed. There were a few weeds in that bed, but not much else, so last week, the boys and I put some bean seeds into the ground, just to see what would happen. To our delight, they sprouted. We planted two varieties, one purple and one yellow. I'm thinking of adding some green in another week. If these work out we can have fresh green (and purple and yellow) beans to snack on and cook with and maybe enough to can some dilly beans, too.

If you are interested, I also posted an update on my garlic experiment. I've included a really helpful like for those interested in growing your own garlic.

Put your garden update on your blog and link up over at How Does Your Garden Grow hosted by a High And Noble Calling. Us garden junkies can't wait to read your update!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Homemade Corn Tortillas

Here are a few pictures of our first attempt at homemade corn tortillas. It was a bit messy to make, but the boys and I had a lot of fun doing it and the tortillas, though not as perfect as store bought, were absolutely delicious. We ate many of them with butter as they came off the grill, and the few that were left after our snack were used for enchiladas.

This is our dough ball resting in a glass bowl.

As you can see, the dough was still a bit crumbly after resting, but it still made a nice finished product. The recipe suggested making 12 tortillas, so we cut the dough into 4 pieces, then each of those into 3 (cooking usually results in a nice math lesson). :o)

We don't have a tortilla press (yet - after our success, I definitely want one). We pressed the dough between two plates and though it took a bit of strength (see how hard he's working), it produced a nice round tortilla.

Here is one of the tortillas while it cooked.

I think next week, we'll make a double batch and that way we may have some extra to freeze, though I'm not going to count on it.