Friday, August 22, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

Since returning home, my mind has been full of whirling ideas, new personal and professional goals, and items on a to-do list that was created when I was in a much more relaxed state of mind. Things like food inventory, extensive meal planning (I'm going to try to move beyond planning basic dinner and include breakfast AND lunch AND snacks), scheduled appointments, home and work organization, and necessary fall sports/back to school purchases are the things that have been filling my brain and dancing in my head at night when I sleep.

One thing I had on my goals list was to reduce our food budget this year. I am hoping to take the money I carve off the food budget and use it towards saving for a down payment for a new car. We are not in the market for one at this time, however, now that both of our cars are paid off and we do not have a car payment, it would be nice to start squirreling away some money so that when we actually do have to buy a new car we have a nest egg set aside for it. A big way for me to reduce our food expenditures is to use up the stores of goodies I have in the freezer and in my pantry. I will avoid a lot of grocery shopping, at least in the near future, if I really buckle down and use both of these.

So, keeping this in mind, I grabbed a clean sheet of paper and a clip board and headed downstairs to open up the freezer and see what bounty I had in it.  I discovered that I have quite a bit of beef left over from my shared cow order last fall, as well as some pork chops, country ribs, a pork shoulder and two surprise packages of bacon that were lurking in a dark corner. I took advantage of a strategy I had read about and bagged up the like items in brown bags and put them back into the freezer. Hopefully, this will reduce the chances of things (like the sneaky bacon) from slipping down the sides and spaces in between bigger items to the bottom of the freezer, never to see the light of day. I also discovered that I am painfully low on frozen veggies (one small bag of frozen corn), so that will need to be a priority when I do go to the store.

I further discovered that I had a weak moment somewhere and bought two big containers of popsicles. Huh.

Next on the list is to inventory the pantry. That will be no small feat, especially as it is spread out between three different places. Wish me luck! Once that is done, it's time to start planning how to use everything (read: time on Pinterest finding recipes).

Do you use an inventory system for your freezer and/or pantry?  If so, what kind do you use? Does it help you reduce your food expenditures and food waste?

I'll report in with progress from the front. Have a great day!


Tea in the Afternoon

I do not know if it is my little English mum or some constant need for caffeine, but every afternoon between 2 and 3 I get a hankering for a little quiet, a little time to veg out, and a nice, strong cup of tea.

There is just something about the taste and the feel of the warm cup in my hands. It is soothing to my soul.

It might have something to do with that time of day being the lull between the hectic day activities, be they family or work, and the dinner time rush.

That little cup of serenity.

Do you need to unwind a little each afternoon? How do you choose to find your peaceful place?


Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Very Full Summer

The "Queen Mary"

We have had quite the summer trip.

My husband, J, and I packed up our two kids and headed out to see our great places. We traveled for five and a half weeks, with stops in Canada, Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, and Michigan. We saw amazing things.

Glaciers in Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies.

Beautiful mountains.

Coast lines with water that made rhythmic sounds to sleep by.

Trees bigger than anything my imagination could have predicted.

Delicate flowers that painted the landscape.

And a few new friends along the way.

I am so full of awe and appreciation for all I saw and experienced this summer. White water rafting, hiking, and biking just hits the tip of the iceberg for all we were able to do. I also appreciate all the time I had with my kids and husband uninterrupted by outside influences. We were completely unplugged for the majority of the trip, which allowed us to really absorb both each other and our surroundings. Time like that during the normal school year is fleeting, and so I know that each minute I have is a blessing.

I am also full of inspiration going into a new fall and a new school year. This vacation gave me quiet time to think and reflect on my personal goals and my goals for our family. I am looking forward to sharing my plans and escapades with you all.

For now, I am a very tired individual. Sleep is just what the doctor is ordering. Tomorrow is going to hold a start on the to-do list I have generated to get myself ready for the upcoming back to school experience.

Have a great evening!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Epic Recipe Fail: Overnight French Toast Casserole

Everyone has those stories on their blogs about recipes that they have that they make every single week or that they bring out, with much fanfare, every holiday season much to the delight of their friends and family.

This is NOT one of those stories.

It started with my decision to make breakfast ahead of time, so that a warm meal might be had that did not include the terms "oatmeal" or "Crock Pot".  I got an idea to make a french toast casserole thinking to myself, "How hard can this possibly be?"

Well, let me tell you, apparently it was above my skill set because my attempt at making this wonderful casserole turned out to be a super dud.

Super.  With a capital "S".

It all started out fine.  I made up the egg mixture with the milk and the cinnamon and vanilla.  I was feeling rather smart.  It looked good, it smelled good, and so I happily wrapped it in plastic and stuck it snugly in the fridge to get soaked up and delicious for the oven the next morning.

When I got up the next day, I couldn't decide how long to bake it or how high of a temp to bake it at.  I went online and found a recipe which called for 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  "O.K.", I thought, "in it goes!"

Forty five minutes later, I pulled it out of the oven.  This after I had been talking it up to my family about how delicious it was going to be and how much they would enjoy this fruit of my labor.

Does it look a little dark to you?  It should.  It looked plenty dark when I was standing here looking at it!

What I had, in that pan, amounted to nothing more than a cinnamon flavored crouton.  It. Was. Terrible.  Absolutely terrible.

And what do you do with a terrible meal?  This:

Yup.  Ended up pitching the ENTIRE thing, it was that bad.  ALL THOSE WASTED INGREDIENTS.  It makes me sad just looking at this picture.

I ended up making eggs for my family.  Nothing fancy, but I knew I couldn't completely mess that up.  I have since scratched this up to a learning experience.  But, oh, was I sooooo disappointed when it happened.


Have you ever had an epic recipe fail?  Were you able to salvage any of it, or did yours end up with the same demise mine met?

None of us is perfect, right?

Here's to making mistakes and trying again!


What I Did When I Was Stuck At Home

The Naughty, Naughty Furnace! Boo!

Today I find myself grounded at home while the furnace is being repaired. Our house has been running about ten degrees warmer than it is supposed to, which is all well and good except for the fact that no one had changed the thermostat settings to make this happen.  Luckily, Mr. Furnace Repair Guy was able to come to the house and take a look to solve our problem.  Hopefully Mr. Oil Delivery Guy will be coming along today or tomorrow to replace the oil our overactive furnace sucked down.

In my spare time I've caught up on Sherlock Season 3 and have scoured my King Arthur Flour catalog for recipes that I can tuck into my recipe box for later.  (Although I do think I am going to give the Soft Bread Sticks a try this afternoon!) I hadn't planned on being home, so I got all my laundry and baking done yesterday.  It's strange to sit down and just relax.  I find that I feel twitchy and almost uncomfortable!  I know I should embrace this moment and I really am trying.

I also spent some time looking for recipes and ideas for the weeks' meals. I have really come to love, love, love my Crock Pots (I have three, all different sizes. Yes, I know, I might have a problem) and have been using them at least three times per week.  I made Hungarian Goulash this weekend and stocked a partial turkey carcass, that was left over from a turkey feast, in preparation for soup this week.  I've gotten into a great rhythm of planning ahead and doing things ahead of time and life has been moving along rather smoothly. Hopefully I haven't just jinxed myself!

In looking at the week ahead, here are my ideas for dinner that we are going to be eating from.

Chicken Noodle Soup
Chili with Breadsticks
Pizza Pasta Bake
BBQ Chicken with SOMETHING (I might need an idea!)
Baked Potato Casserole

I will be utilizing both Pinterest and Mavis with all her ideas to get me through this week.  I wonder how people got ideas before the internet?  Recipe swaps?  Newspapers?  Word of mouth?  Hmmm. Are we better off doing it this way?

Well, here's to another fantastic week ahead.  I hope yours if full of love and adventure.  And that your furnaces work just fine.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Upcoming week 1.20-1.26

This weekend was a much slower weekend.  Between the weather and a small cold that seems to be making its way around the house we laid low for most of it.  I was able to get some chores done that had been nagging at me.  And today, being a day off, Moo, Hubby and I are going to play in the snow while Loola has a social outing.  My nordic skis are all waxed up, thanks to my hubby, and we are going to spend some time in the woods just enjoying creation and getting a little exercise.

Yesterday, I did manage a BJ's trip with Loola and now I'm trying to figure out how to fit all the items I have in the fridge because of how big they are.  It's always interesting to me how packed full the fridge is at the beginning of the week, but by the end it looks like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard.  I do realize that we are truly blessed to be able to have plenty enough to eat, and so I am making a real goal of not eating outside of the home this year.

Having said that, it is a day to day challenge.  Especially when I'm tired or when we have events.  I know I am certainly not the only one who is managing those things, and plenty of other people routinely do not participate in the take out trap.  Even if we reduce our take out consumption by 50%, that will have us doing it twice per month at most and I would be very happy with that.  I would love to eliminate it altogether, but I also understand the reality of that not happening!

So, to get me geared up for this week, I perused the internet in search of easy, quick ideas.  I have my fall back favorite for homemade recipes over at One Hundred Dollars a Month where Mavis has some "from scratch" recipes for a ton of stuff.  The other gem I recently discovered is the Family and Kids section over at the Food Network's website.  They have a ton of family friendly, quick and "from scratch" meal and snack ideas.  I printed out a bunch to use for this upcoming week.

So here are our menu options for this week:

Beef and Cheddar Casserole
Corn Chowder (I know, I know, this again!)
Cheesy Gnocchi with Ham and Peas
Grilled Cheese and Soup
Bacon and Broccoli Rice Bowls

I'll have to share which are the duds and which are the winners.  I have very honest critics, although they do eat whatever I place in front of them!

I hope you all have a great week.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Part Time Vegetarian

"Do you think we could work in some vegetarian meals?"

That is a direct quote from my husband, and I was surprised to hear him ask.  He isn't veggie-phobic, and he isn't overly rigid about what he will and will not eat.  I think the thing that surprised me was that he asked at all.  Usually, I tell him what I'm making for meals and he happily comes to the table at meal time in a very appreciative manner.  Anytime he makes a specific request I try to honor that.  Not only because he rarely does, or rarely complains about anything that I feed him, but because it is the least I can do given all the building, repairing, and recreational management he does for our family without ever being asked.

I'm also very interested in working some regular vegetarian nights into our weekly meal plans.  I think it would be good not only for us, but also for our food budget (which is something I am always keeping an eye on).

Having said all of that, and with the best of intentions, I am coming to realize that I am not at all versed in cooking a vegetarian menu.  I have an arsenal of books to go through, I have the bottomless pit of ideas that can be found on the internet, and I have a brother who is vegetarian and could, if he chose to, have his own restaurant because he is so skilled in the kitchen.  I am willing to try new things and new techniques, but am afraid that some of my attempts are going to leave us all looking for that bowl of cereal before bed to fill the void left by not enough dinner.

I think I am going to start with the recipe my husband seems most excited about, which is for vegetarian chili.  He is reading a book on ultra marathon training, and this recipe is included in it.  I will post it and some photos of my final product later in the week.  Based on the list of ingredients, it sounds like it will be great.  I'm thinking if I make some bread to serve with it that will be a fantastic meal.

Do you regularly have meatless nights?  What types of things do you eat?  I'm partial to root vegetables myself, but am wondering what dishes people like that do not involve roots.

Thanks for your feedback!  Wish me luck!