Saturday, March 2, 2024

Freezer Cooking List for January (With links)

I decided it would be a good idea to catch up on back blogging before I moved onto the recent events, so I figured I might as well start off big and share the massive list of things I started out freezer cooking with for January and into February.  This list might seem overwhelming, but trust me, a bunch of stuff on the list is really easy to put together (like the marinated meats) and others are as involved as simmering some hamburger in some seasonings for a bit or putting a bunch of ingredients into a bowl, mixing them up and shaping them (like the hamburgers) to freeze and use later.

One big thing that comes in handy with doing recipes like this is clearing a flat space in your freezer where you can put even a sheet of folded up cardboard on top of things to make a flat surface to freeze things on a cookie sheet or something.  I used my small block freezer in my kitchen and froze things flat on my jelly roll pan for the most part, as it fits perfectly in my freezer from end to end so it gave me a nice, even surface to freeze on AND it didn't take up a ridiculous amount of room.  Experiment and do what you can, but freezing things as flat as you can when it comes to meats and things will save you a bunch of room in your freezer later as you can stack them or turn them up on end and you can store them vertically like file folders in your freezer.  

So, here you go folks.  Some of the recipes are from old cookbooks my husband got me (or new cookbooks with no links available), but I'll work on sharing recipes from the old cookbooks in later posts so you can make them yourself if you want :).

Enjoy!

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Freezer Cooking List for January and February 

  • Freezer Friendly "Korean" Beef. Haven't eaten this yet, but the meat tasted great before I threw it into the freezer, so I'm hopeful the final dish will be delicious.
  • Cuban seasoned, pork or turkey for melts/fancy sloppy Joes I made this with ground pork and simmered it in the sauce for a while.  It came our powerful tasting, but I'm hoping that once I defrost it and simmer it with some added water to reheat it, it will make some yummy sliders for dinner.  Here's hoping!
  • Ground beef sauce (German)/stroganoff base (from German Meals at Omas Cookbook, Affiliate Link).  I couldn't find a good equivalent recipe online, so I linked to the cookbook I used.  
  • Hamburg hamburgers I froze these after shaping them into 6 patties and then when I prepared them I baked them in the oven covered with marinara sauce at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes.  They were SPECTACULAR!  I did not cover them with the breadcrumbs before baking, though :).
  • Meat sauce for Italian dishes (just winged this one with stuff I had around the house)
  • Chili (made and froze the entire recipe.  Works well).
  • Sweet and sour chicken Just mix up marinade ingredients for the pork and pour over chicken chunks instead.  I used boneless, skinless, chicken thighs and used 6 of them to make the marinade.  Put in freezer and then when you go to make it, defrost overnight in fridge.  I then did the rest of the recipe as written but used a can of pineapple, a can of carrots and some green bell peppers I had cut up and put into the freezer for later use...those I eyeballed.  Came out better with the chicken than it had with the pork the recipe called for.  Will DEFINITELY be making this again!
  • Teriyaki chicken (I made the marinade, poured over chicken pieces and froze.  After it was defrosted I fried it in a skillet and made the terriyaki sauce to go over the top as well.  It came out wonderfully...we had it a few nights ago.  Will put this on the freezer rotation as well).
  • Hawaiian chicken.  This has quickly become one of our favorite recipes.  Just mix up the marinade, throw it in with the chicken thighs and freeze.  Once defrosted you can bake it or grill it.  It is great grilled, but it bakes up awesome as well (to bake I just dump it in marinade and all and bake it like that....works great).  I like to serve it with a can of tropical fruit and some rice I've cooked in coconut milk for a really fancy dinner.
  • Schnitzel chicken (pounded chicken thighs flat in gallon sized freezer bags and then just put those freezer bags into another gallon sized freezer bag.  Labeled said bag and froze so I have a really easy way to make schnitzel for dinner...or chicken piccata if I have the urge.  Just did this when I was making schnitzel for dinner one night.
  • Cream/white sauce (this is from a freezer cooking cookbook my husband bought for me at a used store for Christmas that is from the 70's.  I'll share the recipe in a later post if it turns out when defrosted).
  • Baked nine grain cereal (I just looked up a freezer friendly baked oatmeal recipe and I made it with my 9 grain cereal mix instead.  I'll let you know how it turns out when I bake it).
  • Process oranges into orange juice (made some of the oranges into cranberry relish and others I just juiced and froze in ice cube trays.  I then put the cubes into some quart mason jars in the freezer so I have small amounts of orange juice should I need it for glazes or something).
  • Cranberry relish (made a bunch of this out of frozen cranberries I dug out of the depths of my freezers and the oranges in the fridge.  I am going to serve it with roast chicken and things throughout the year).
  • Process picante sauce (had a huge jar of picante sauce I got super cheap on Amazon a while back and it was approaching its expiration date.  I put it into freezer containers and froze it in about 1 1/2 cup to 2 cup portions to serve with chips and things.
  • Oreo cookies/monster cookies. I bought some black cocoa powder to make into oreo cookie applications to try and get Alvah to eat more home made food.  I tried these because they had good reviews, but I have to say I was underwhelmed.  My daughter liked them, Alvah wouldn't even try them, but to me they just didn't have the depth of flavor I was expecting and they did not taste like oreos.  Back to the recipe drawing board.
  • Chocolate chip cookies.  These sourdough chocolate chip cookies are awesome.  I didn't make the recipe as written, though.  I just made the recipe like you would a traditional cookie recipe (cream together butter and sugar, add eggs...and sourdough starter.  Then add your dry ingredients and mix again and then stir in chocolate chips...and I added the typical bag of chocolate chips to the recipe.  I DID refrigerate some dough and froze some dough and both ways turned out great.  Will definitely make these again.
  • Thumbprint cookies. Made some and just kept at the frozen stage.  Baked from frozen after putting the jam in them and they turned out great.  Got a ton of jams and jellies to use up, so am putting this one into rotation.
  • Chocolate ice cream (easy no cook recipe).  This is AWESOME, so easy and scoops so easily!  My family loves it.
  • Strawberry ice cream (easy, no cook and no eggs).  Another awesome recipe I found.  Definitely a keeper.
  • Applesauce bread.  We have found we really like applesauce bread.  I had tried Jessica's Recipe at Three River's Homestead, but wanted to try another recipe.  I actually think I like Jessica's better, but this one wasn't bad.
  • Carrot cake bread. We are eating this right now, actually.  I made a cream cheese frosting to go on top of it and we are eating it for desserts.  I had a bunch of carrots that were going floppy in the fridge so this was a great way to use them.  I didn't want to make a huge cake, so I looked up if there was a sweet bread I could make instead and this popped up.  It is tasty, so I'll keep it in mind if I need to use up carrots again.
  • Sourdough Cranberry scones. I used the basic scone recipe, but added some canned cranberries I had in the pantry to them.  I'm going to make an orange glaze to go on top of them to serve.  
  • Freezer slaw. I had some coleslaw mix in the fridge.  I was planning to make fried chicken and make cole slaw and use the other bag to make egg rolls in a bowl for dinner one night.  And then we all got sick and took forever to get well and I could not figure out what to do with the coleslaw before it went bad.  So, I looked up freezer coleslaw and this popped up.  We have eaten one bag of it.  It IS good!  Don't get me wrong.  It just does not taste like coleslaw and I don't think adding mayo to it would make it taste like coleslaw either.  But, it IS a REALLY good pickled cabbage.  I am putting it onto my "make it again" list because it is tasty.
  • Sausage pancake rolls. My husband found he loved the pancake sausage roll things from the gas stations and it was becoming a bit of a habit.  So, I looked up this recipe and saw how it would be pretty easy to adapt any pancake recipe so long as you made the pancakes a bit flatter/less fluffy by adding more liquid to them.  So, I actually made a batch of my favorite Classic Sourdough Pancakes and then made up a container of breakfast sausage links from the store.  I froze the wraps on my jelly roll pan and then once frozen I wrapped each one in aluminum foil and put them into a freezer bag so he could grab one easily.  His work has an air fryer available in the employee lounge so he'll reheat them in that or take them out of the foil, wrap them in some paper towels and put them in the microwave.  I was able to fit two sausages per pancake and made a total of seven wraps per package of sausages.  My husband LOVES these.  I've already had to make another batch of them.
  • Pancakes. I've since actually used another recipe of these to make waffles as we are pretty much out of breakfast things in the freezer.
  • Breakfast bowls. Once again for my husband.  I actually make these quite often, place individual portions in quart sized freezer bags, make them flat and place them in a gallon sized freezer bag.  This way my husband can grab one, break it up, place it in a bowl and microwave it for breakfast in the morning before the rest of us are up and about for the day.  I made these with homemade frozen hash browns that I make and put in the freezer whenever I need to use up some potatoes.  This hash brown recipe turns out great for me every time.  I put the potatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet to freezer and then put into gallon sized freezer bags.  Works great.
  • Soft pretzels. I made these for a special dinner for my husband one night and it makes a ton so I froze the left overs.  These turned out GREAT and are now my favorite pretzel recipe.  On anything Farmhouse on Boone with sourdough, I end up making a highbred recipe and add some instant yeast to the recipe and skipping the long ferment periods.  I usually add 1 to 2 tsp of yeast to a recipe so I can do a short ferment instead.  It works great, still gives you a wonderful texture to your baked goods from the sourdough and works within the confines of my busy schedule.
  • Breakfast sandwiches.  I make these with some home made Sourdough English Muffins and then just add ham, egg, cheese or sausage patties and cheese and then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.  My husband will take these and microwave them at work to reheat them.  
  • Ham and cheese strata, 2 (leftover ham, getting older eggs and leftover bread bits).  I made two of them since I had a ton of sourdough bits to use up and then I poured the mixture over the ham and bread and froze them.  I'll defrost them in the fridge overnight and then bake per the instructions.
  • Frozen blueberry muffins. I have made these many times before.  It makes a lot, but it is a really great recipe and freezes beautifully.
  • Farmer’s meatloaves.  Another recipe from my 70's freezer cookbook.  I'll definitely be sharing this recipe later.  I made one of the meatloaves (I made two and froze them raw) and we had it for dinner one night.  It was awesome and my daughter LOVES it.  It contains vegetables in the mixture even, so is a great way to sneak more of those in.
  • Chicken pot pie casserole, 1. This is a recipe I ran across on YouTube and is a pour over pie crust recipe for your pot pie.  So, I made one of these to try.
  • Chicken pot pie base, 1.  I made just a chicken pot pie sans the upper crust in case we don't like the pour over pie crust.  I figure I'll make a good old biscuit crust if the other recipe isn't to our liking.
  • Chicken pot pie filling, 1.  This I froze in a freezer bag and will use as a quick chicken and dumplings base, or a chicken pot pie filling, or just as a creamy chicken soup when I defrost it.
  • Baked beans.  I found a ham hock in the freezer and a ham bone, so I cooked those in a slow cooker all day, removed the meat from the bones and then I tasted the stock and Oh My GOSH!  It was SO wonderful!  So, I refrigerated the stock overnight.  The same night I rinsed and sorted and then soaked a bunch of pinto beans, figuring I'd make ham and beans for the freezer.  But, once the beans had cooked in the stock all the next day they were SO, SO good, I had to do something with them.  So, I made them into good old fashioned maple baked beans (a staple of my childhood in Maine :).  I just took the seasonings in the recipe I linked and added them to the beans until they tasted awesome.  I then put the beans into about 2 cup portions to use as side dishes with dinners and put them in the freezer.  We've eaten one container so far and they are SO good!  Sure pinto beans aren't traditional baked bean fair, but you know what...doesn't matter they still taste delicious!
  • Chicken stock, I dug out all of the chicken carcasses I had in the freezer from rotisserie and regular chickens and made a big batch of chicken stock for the freezer.  Glad to have it in there and it turned out really well.
  • Ranch style beans.  I rinsed, sorted and soaked about 6 cups of dry beans overnight in a big bowl.  I then split the beans between my big slow cooker and my electric pressure cooker.  In the pressure cooker I pressure cooked just plain pinto beans and salt and just made regular beans to freeze to add to soups and other dishes.  The rest of the beans I placed in my slow cooker and turned into ranch style beans, which I then put into the freezer in containers to use as side dishes later.  My friend in Texas turned me onto Ranch Style Beans years ago and I managed to find them and try them here and fell in love with them.  So, I decided it would be nice to have them in the meal rotation.
  • Plain pinto beans (see the Ranch Style Bean explanation above).


You'll notice a bunch of beans getting cooked around here.  I got some free food storage from people who were moving a while back and then I got some gifts of beans over the years from friends and things, so I have a lot of beans in my food storage.  I finally decided it was time to start using them and making my grocery budget stretch, so that's why you'll see me using a lot of beans, especially pinto beans :).

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Goals for 2024

 


Hey all, 


Just a quick note before I start our regularly scheduled posting here.  Posting has been delayed, again...it's been a real cruddy start to the year when it comes to stuff breaking around here (I'll get more into that below), so we've been busy rushing here and there and to and fro trying to find parts to fix things and stuff.  My plan, at this point, is to basically start posting regularly come the beginning of March.  I'm going to work on getting posts buttoned up around here for the next couple of weeks and then I'm hoping to release at least one post a week starting in March.  Hopefully that will get me back to, finally, being more consistent with my blog and not worrying people when I go over a month between posts.  I think I got a decent start on that, so here's hoping I can keep it up.  So, yeah, stay tuned and we'll see if I fail at my blogging goals again *laugh*.


And now, onto the post!


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Goals for 2024


So, 2024, so far, has started not in a fun way.  Let me just do q quick recap on that one for you…

My washing machine stopped spinning correctly, so I end up having to spin the laundry at least twice so it is not sopping wet going into the dryer.  My husband is pretty confident that the washer is just plain worn out.  We do a lot more laundry than most folks and so we abuse our washer and dryer pretty hard, but combine that with the fact that the washer is 40 years old and…yeah…it’s tired.  Hopefully my husband can get another machine running before the current one dies.  I’m just limping it along at this point. 


My dryer wasn’t drying well, at all, and it would take me four times putting clothes through to get them tossed in air enough to get them dry.  Turns out, for some reason that baffles us (as it has worked fine for a long while before this problem popped up), the outside dryer vent screen kept getting clogged up with lint and was choking off air to the dryer.  I finally got fed up trying to dance around 6’ snow banks out in the yard to clean it, and just removed it.  I know I’ll have to watch for birds trying to make nests and things in there now, but man…I just don’t have the bandwidth to try and figure out a way around the problem other than that.

Our snow blower started self destructing and was plain out of commission for about a week before my husband could jerry rig it to hopefully last the rest of the winter.  This has been a really snowy and cold winter in South Central Alaska.  We are breaking snowfall records, which everyone is SO thrilled about after last winter…har.  We are all just counting down the days till Spring as the plows are running out of places to put snow at this point in winter and we still have months of winter left.  Not ideal.


My husband’s car broke down.  Hard.  We are now waiting on parts, which has been a pain and the parts weren’t cheap to begin with.  My husband is going to have to do the work himself to save money as he doesn’t want to pay the nearly 3000.00 the garages wanted to do the job.  At least we have home visits for speech therapy so my husband has been taking my truck to work the last three weeks. 


My kitchen faucet has just given up working right.  We’ve replaced the sprayer on the sink, twice, in the last year, and it just does not work right for very long before it will just not turn on and you have to sit there and basically beat on the faucet to get the sprayer cartridge to give you water.   So, we finally broke down and ordered a new faucet, so we’ll have to install that (it came in the mail today).


The top rack of my dishwasher broke due to plastic fatigue and tried to collapse onto the bottom rack of my dishwasher randomly one day.  It was a miracle nothing broke as the dishwasher was full at the time.  Trying to figure out what replacement parts to buy was a nightmare for me, but my husband figured it out and we ordered the parts.   In the meantime my husband did wonders with zip ties and managed to keep the dishwasher together until the upgraded (metal versus plastic) parts came in the mail.  Hopefully he can install the new parts this weekend and the dishwasher will be in working order again as you have to be careful when opening the dishwasher so you don’t break the zip ties.


We walked out of a store to find our rear taillight in our truck had gotten broke while we were in the store.  The person who hit us and broke said tail light did not leave a note.  So, we have to pick up the replacement taillight today so we can install that.  


And to top it off, I walked into my laundry room to over an inch of water on the floor, slowly draining into our floor drain and my daughter and I finally figured out it was coming from the hot water heater, more specifically the supply line pipe that comes out of the hot water heater and feeds into the wall.  It had popped a leak in the top of the pipe coming out of the wall and was spewing water EVERYWHERE.  I need up turning off the hot water completely just to help stop the gallons of water that were dripping into my laundry room super fast (I tied a dishtowel around the leak, so that it would drip instead of spew everywhere).  Thank goodness my husband was able to get that working last weekend, but it sure wasn’t a fun weekend for him for sure.  


Anyway, it’s been a year so far.  And we are a whole two months in.  Not great.  I did decide, when I found out the Lunar New Year was this month (I think it was like the 10th), that I was going to aim for that to get my cleaning and organizing done (since we were sick at the end of December) and just aim to start the new year with the Lunar New Year instead.  I feel pretty good as I did get a bunch of stuff done in the way of cleaning and organizing before the Lunar New Year, so I’ll try and share those projects here in a later post.


But, yeah, let’s get onto the goals I set myself for this year. 


I have been really working on getting more organized and streamlined around here.  The goal is for a few different reasons.  One is a reduction of stress in trying to find room for things that I need.  And two is just to be more organized so that I don’t feel like I need this or that new thing to hopefully make things work better around here and so I can hopefully save money and pay off some debt.  I still have medical bills from last year sitting on credit card, my fridge is slowly wearing out, I need to get new gutters on the house and I NEED to start getting things accomplished for the sake of my sanity if nothing else.  So, that is the basis for my goals this year.  Save money, pay off debt and get stuff done.  Period.


So, here are my goals as they stand at the moment.  The list isn’t super long, but trust me there is a bunch of involvement in the list, so I definitely have some stuff to share on this stuff.



1.  Start Freezer Cooking


I have messed around with freezer cooking in the past.  I’d get enamored with the idea and would really want to try recipes this or that blogger was making (or now a days, bloggers and vloggers) and I’d make a bunch of different recipes that, honestly, most of the time my family wasn’t fond of.  But I loved the idea of simplicity in cooking, so I’d do it for a while and then just give up on it.


This time around, I decided I needed to do freezer cooking, but for real this time and get a good system down.  My daughter has had work pick up again, my son has a speech therapist come twice a week and stuff.  My life has gotten busier and with also making all of our baked goods around here…my days are really busy.  So, I wanted to make meals that I could pull out for busy nights or days where the son hasn’t slept for weeks and I’m exhausted.  So, first, I pulled up the old freezer inventory sheets I wrote up pre-2020 craziness, and went over those to see if there were things I wanted to keep from those Idas.  I then sat down and figured out what things I could prepare in advance that my family would definitely eat and added those to the list of things I wanted to make.  I also made a list of things that we had that needed to be used up (like for January I still had a bunch of pears and oranges in the fridge that my family wasn’t eating and were going to go bad, so I made sure to put those on the “make these into something” list).  And I sat down and figured out what recipes I had bookmarked in cook books or online that I had really wanted to try making and picked out the ones that were made to be frozen or could be frozen and added those to the list too.  


I then organized my freezers to make my life easier.  My fridge freezer is where I am putting things like soups in smaller containers or sauces, as I find putting those in my upright freezer downstairs just leads to them getting shuffled and then they fall out and get broken.  And I found that the freezer containers I ordered from Amazon stack perfectly in my fridge freezer so that was a definite win on my part.  


The small block freezer in my kitchen is for baked goods.  I put sweet breads, waffles, pancakes, bread based snacks (like pretzels) and other things in there.  This keeps the stuff on the top of the freezer from being too heavy and crushing the bread products below them.  With all the sourdough baking I do now a days, this is important to me as I want to make sure those things are rotated, used and also protected from harm.   I also am keeping my nine grain cereal in there that I bought last year (love it, but find myself only eating it in winter, so I go through it slow), so I know what is on the bottom of the freezer and things aren’t getting lost that way. 


The upright freezer downstairs in the laundry room is where the majority of the freezer meals are going.  It has basically become a freezer meal, frozen fruit and vegetable and butter freezer with a few other miscellaneous things in there.  I’m still working through things in the freezer, but am feeling darned good about my progress.  


The den freezer is primarily my meat freezer now a days.  I do keep my husband’s freezer breakfast items I make in there for him to be able to easily grab something on his way out the door to go to work.  I still need to pull everything out of the den freezer and defrost it this Spring as it has gotten some pretty good ice build up on it and I am collecting boxes to use to organize the freezer better when I do that as I am determined to waste NOTHING if I can help it and the best way to rotate through everything is being able to easily find it and see what you have.  


Also, just a disclaimer here for those thinking that I might start doing some like major freezer cooking days like you see online?  Sorry but that isn’t going to happen that I can see around here.  I’m too busy and too tired to try that.  What I did do during January was I worked really hard to get a few things done per day if I could and just mark a few items off of my list (I’ll share my master list with links in my beginning of 2024 freezer cooking post).  Also, any new recipes I try, I'll probably do a quick summary of what we thought of the recipes as we try them, not only for the curious out there on how those recipes taste, but also for me as a reference to look up at a later date :).


Getting into freezer cooking and keeping up on baking with more sourdough are basically my two goals for the kitchen for this year when it comes to cooking.  


Other kitchen goals (okay, goal as there is only one):


Organize and simplify.  


My kitchen was a deconstructed mess, or so it felt and I was getting really frustrated with it.  You had to go basically into the living room to get flatware for dinner, my appliances were all over the place and my counter space is limited, so I felt like I was tripping over everything.  So, I've been working really hard on getting appliances put away and out of the way unless they are in use.  I gutted my hallway closet (again) and am working on getting all of my appliances into it and out of the way to free up space around the kitchen.  Exceptions to this rule are the coffee maker (it has a timer so my husband has hot coffee in the morning to take to work), the electric tea kettle (I use it tons during the day to make myself cups of tea and stuff) and my mixer (weighs a ton for one and I use it nearly every day, for two).  I'll share the final results when everything is done, but at least I'm making progress :).


 I gutted my kitchen drawers and went through things kind of ruthlessly to only keep the things I use.  I have too little space to collect things I don't use.  I did keep a few things that my husband bought for me and stuck those in the back of a few drawers, but between the organizing and the windfall of finding a bigger in-drawer knife block to hold all of my good kitchen knives, I was able to reorganize the drawers in such a way that I was able to put the flatware into the kitchen to make accessing it easier.  It sure does make scrambling an egg easier when you can get a fork just by opening a drawer instead of having to walk around the kitchen table to get one :).


I did a few other things, but will share that when I finally get everything done and will work on doing a quick kitchen tour (I'm waiting on getting the kitchen faucet in right now as the kitchen is a mess because of it as I have to keep things from around the sink in the hope my husband can get the new faucet in soon).


I'm working on all areas of my house this year (I actually started late last year, but am still going strong) to get things just cut down, streamlined and working better.  I'm tired of everything feeling cluttered no matter what I do, so it is time.


Sewing Goals:


These goals are kind of simple, but are going to be a challenge for me to find time to do them.  But, they need to be done, so I'm determined to get them done.


1.  Make tablecloths.


I have looked and looked online and at the used stores for the last year to find more tablecloths without luck.  My table was my husband's grandfather's, so I try really hard to take good care of it and with Alvah...well tablecloths are the way to go until I can redo the finish on the table and put about 20 coats of poly on the top of it to protect it.   Our tablecloths are getting pretty worn, so I want to try and make some more to put into rotation.  I want to use a couple of our old tablecloths that fit both our table when it is at its smallest setting and also when there is a leaf in the table as a guide and make sure I make the tablecloths oval versus rectangular.  The rectangular ones work, but are a pain as I'm always folding corners up and under the tablecloth so the corners aren't dragging on the floor and looking weird, so I'm going to try my hand at making oval ones.


2.  Break down son's crash pad into chairs.


I bought Alvah a crash pad for Christmas years ago without really thinking about how much room it would take up...I just saw it was cheap and would ship to Alaska and I knew that Alvah loved crash pads at occupational therapy, so hey, why not?  It is huge, it is heavy and, most important, Alvah doesn't use it much anymore.  The cover is breaking down from age and the interior pillow case that holds the memory foam panel stuffing is just gone, so I thought a interesting way to repurpose it would be to make kind of like crash chairs/bean bag like chairs out of it to save it.  So, that project is on my list this year as well.




Garden Goals:


This I am actually quite excited about.  The big breakthrough on the garden front this year is that the dump has finally raised their prices enough that getting weekly garbage pick up was basically the same price as doing our own garbage drops, so we signed up for garbage service for the first time in over a decade.  It is great having the garbage get picked up every week now, it saves my poor husband time and physical exertion (doing the garbage was really starting to kill him as he gets older and with the snowfalls this winter...it's been awful) and, the big one for the garden, I got rid of all of the garbage cans that were on my deck taking up space AND it stops my husband from having to dance around the old garden beds to haul the garbage cans.  So, my husband actually brought up the idea to start planting in the old garden beds again and he can now put up fencing to keep the animals out since he doesn't have to worry about the garbage anymore!  


I took about 300.00 out of our tax return and decided to invest it in our deck and garden for more enjoyment during the summers as really, so far, we haven't been able to get much enjoyment out of our deck...I mean it's been over 10 years since we moved here...it's time to use the darned deck.  So, I bought these planters (Affiliate Link!), 2 of them, to put around the deck.  I decided on these to try and stop the planters from leaving wet spots on the deck that don't dry out and can lead to rot on the deck.  Once the deck gets refinished this summer (I hope the weather allows it this summer), I want to protect it from harm, so I'm hoping these beds will help to accomplish that.  This will also, hopefully, be easier on my back and I can wheel them around if I need to, to protect them from falling hail or something. 


 I'm not sure what I'm planting yet, except tomatoes are definitely on the list.  I want to plant yet more patio tomatoes this year.  I didn't get many ripe tomatoes last year, but the green tomatoes made really good relish and chutney (green tomato chutney has been awesome in cooking!!!), so red or green tomatoes...I'll take them this year.  I also broke down and got a second set of patio furniture (affiliate link) so we'll have four places to sit out on the deck for all of us.  My son loved sitting in the one set last year, so I'm hoping with four chairs we can all enjoy the deck this year.

I used the rest of the money I had taken from the tax return and bought some random things I needed for the kitchen (pot holders, another ice cream scoop, another pizza cutter, things like that) and do not regret doing it.  Hopefully all of the parts from the planters are in the box or that could get interesting later on since the return window would definitely be closed by that point.  Here's hoping!

My only financial goal this year is to pay down debt and pay off bills, so I don't see the point in doing a different section for that.  Here's hoping I can get things done on that front.

And there you go folks.  My basic goals for this year.  I'm really determined to get these things accomplished this year, so hopefully I can get it all done. 

How about you?  Any goals for 2024?


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

First Grocery Haul of 2024

Happy, belated, Holidays and Happy (late) New Year everyone!

I had plans to blog some more coming up to Christmas and the holiday season, but my husband brought home the flu right before he got off for Christmas vacation and he and I ended up horribly sick (my husband and I did not get flu shots yet, which my husband especially regretted as he got it the worst of all of us) for the entire holiday season, which, to put it bluntly, sucked.  We managed to get the gifts unwrapped on Christmas, I made lasagna and beef roast for Christmas Eve and Christmas and that was about it for holiday celebrations.  The kids got sick, but to a much lesser extent than we did (yay flu vaccines), but they are both still tiring easily still.  I have about one thing in me a day before my energy levels just bottom out right now, but at least I'm finally getting a sense of smell and taste back, which makes eating a lot more enjoyable and I got enough energy out of myself day before yesterday to get the laundry caught up (HUGE project after being sick for so long).  Hopefully I can keep the cough at bay as I'm actively fighting it and trying to stop it from giving me the creeping crud for the remainder of the winter.  Despite being sick, somehow I managed to keep cooking and getting food on the table for everyone (yay me), which saved us a ton of money that we didn't spend eating out or getting delivery.  I just postponed my birthday cake for a later date as I didn't feel like making a cake I couldn't enjoy, so I'm hoping that I can maybe make that this weekend and be able to eat it and actually taste it.  

I managed to go and get grocery shopping done for the next couple of weeks yesterday, so I thought I'd share what my grocery haul looked like (well part of it...I didn't take pictures of Alvah's food, a box of wet cat food and a bag of frozen cod fillets....that stuff was already in the freezer or put away).  I do have blog posts lined up, some even half done (yay for progress!) and I actually figured out a few goals for this year that I'll share here, hopefully soon (I'm not making plans other than getting well and doing what I feel up to at this point), but watch for a hint on one of my goals for this year when I go over the shopping haul (ooooo!!!  Excitement!!!  *Laugh*).

So, without further ado, let's get to it!

So, including what is above there and also Alvah's food and the aforementioned cat food and cod fillets, I spent a total of 233.01 after taxes, fees and the like.  I still have to pick up cheese at Three Bears (local Costco-like bulk store) and milk later on and I had to order a box of Zyrtec for Alvah from Amazon as Carrs was out of the dissolvable tablets (the only ones Alvah can take), so I'll probably be getting close to my usual 300.00 grocery budget for the next couple of weeks when those things are picked up/received.

You'll notice a lack of produce on the table.  Reasons for that are simple.  During sick time we didn't eat much at all, including produce and before the Christmas holiday Carrs had apples, oranges and pears on sale for 1.25 lb, which is UNHEARD of cheap, especially for this time of year, so I ended up buying a lot, so we still have fruit to go through around here.  Also, I still have a bag of salad I bought last grocery trip that is still good and hasn't been used yet.  I also have a few bags of coleslaw mix I bought as well that are still hanging in there in the fridge, so I'm going to work hard to use up the produce that is already in the fridge the next couple of weeks.

There are substitutions that Carrs put into my order as I guess they were out of the things I asked for, so I'll highlight those as I get to them.

Breaking it down by the numbers I got...

1.  Three packages of boneless, skinless, chicken thighs.  One of my goals this year is to do more freezer cooking, so these will be used partially for that.  I got these on sale for 3.49 lb and on top of that I redeemed some fuel rewards (we weren't using them because of the aforementioned sickness, so I wanted to use them before they expired) for 7.00 off meat, so that took off a bit from each package as well.  Also, they had a sale that if you spent 50.00 you got 10.00 off your shopping trip, so that took off some cost as well (on everything, so if you notice weird pricing that would be why).  I paid right around 8.17 for each of them.


2.  Next up is two dozen eggs, which I ordered the regular store brand eggs and they subbed out the Eggland's Best eggs at no additional cost, so that was 4.01 for the two dozen (I had a personalized price on the eggs).  

The Sheba cat food was free with a digital coupon, so hopefully my cats will eat it.  

The ham is my daughter's preferred for sandwiches and we use it as a sub for Canadian bacon on pizzas on pizza night too.  That cost me 4.99 after a sale and personalized price on the item.  

The tortillas were such a disappointment to me.  Tortillas went crazy in price, so I ordered the street taco tortillas as they were on sale and when I got them  could see why they were only 3.82 as they are smaller than corn tortillas.  We'll be having mini-tacos one night in the next couple of weeks and I'll be trying my hand at making tortillas here soon.

3.  Next up is a box of sandwich bags as I needed them.  3.82 for those.

I also got two bags of unbleached all purpose flour as I go through about a bag a week between baking bread and other baking projects.  6.19 for the two of those after a personalized price on flour for the week.

The Provolone cheese was for sandwiches I wanted to make.  2.64 on sale.


4.  The deodorant was for me as I am nearly out, 5.26 for that (and that was a cheap deodorant!!!  My brain seized a bit when I saw those prices).

The vitamins my daughter needed and were on sale Buy 1 Get 1 Free, so 18.17 for the both of them.

The Parmesan cheese is something I buy every shopping trip.  My son eats that on pasta, as a topping for bread sticks and such, so we go through quite a bit.  9.56 for that.

2 things of heavy cream.  My husband uses cream in his coffee every day for work and I am also hoping to use some of it to make some ice cream in the next bit.  10.43 for both of those (I had a personalized price on these as well as the money off basket sale).

2, 1/2 gallons of 2% milk (they were out of whole milk, so subbed out the 2% instead).  These were on sale for CHEAP so ended up spending 3.54 for both of them.   These are something else I bought for freezer cooking as I prefer to use our nice, expensive, local milk for drinking as much as possible.


5.  4 cans of sliced olives.  These were substitutes for the Carrs brand olives.  I had ordered three of one type of olive (ended up being 7.16 for those three) and I had ordered some chopped olives to try as they came with more in them, but they didn't have those so they gave me one more can of the sliced olives for 2.39 instead.  We use these on pizza for pizza night and the daughter likes to have sliced olives on her ham sandwiches as well.

All Free and Clear laundry pods were 16.22 after a sale and a 1.00/1 digital coupon.  These I got just to have one container ahead as I just opened my last container.

Cascade powder, 7.73.  I had a personalized price on Cascade for the week, so I got it for cheaper than normal price.

And there you go folks.  The prices I spent this week for groceries (well some of them anyway :).  Stay tuned to see what I do with some of the stuff for a freezer cooking day (hoping to do it this weekend) and getting some stuff into my freezer to make my life easier when it comes to cooking when I'm busy :).

Hope you all had a great holiday season.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Christmas 2023, Gift 4: Sourdough Bread

Today's gift is the bulk of the gifts I am giving this year.  Immediate family is getting a loaf of sourdough bread per household this year as I want to spread the sourdough love :).  Sourdough starter, to me, has become as precious as any precious metal people can name.  Sourdough really is the best bread.  I've tried so many recipes over the years, but once I started baking with sourdough I'm not going back to other methods of baking bread if I can help it.  

I use King Arthur Flour's Rustic Sourdough Bread Recipe, but a while ago I made a change to the method because the original recipe has you bake it in the oven on sheet pans, which works, don't get me wrong, but I prefer the dutch oven method of baking sourdough as it gives a superior product.  After the bread has gone through it's first initial rise, I get two bowls and place parchment paper in them and then form the dough into two circular loaves and place in the bowls (I use my kitchen scale, I will readily admit, to make sure the loaves are pretty much the same size) and then set a timer for 1/2 an hour for the bread to rise in the bowls (cover bowls with plastic wrap or a damp towel).  

While the bread is rising, I place two 3 quart cast iron dutch ovens in the oven to heat up while the oven preheats to 425 F.  After the 1/2 an hour is up and the bread has risen, I score the top of the loaves with a knife (I like to just do a good old "x" on the top).  Remove the dutch ovens from the oven and place on the stovetop, carefully removing the lids (be careful to remember that those suckers are now 425 degrees so you don't get burned...I've heard horror stories).  Then I lift the bread, parchment paper and all (lift by the parchment paper) and CAREFULLY place the loaves of bread into the dutch ovens.  Place the lids back on the dutch ovens and put back into the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the lids.  Bake for an additional 10 minutes.  Remove dutch ovens from oven and then remove the bread carefully from the dutch ovens (I lift them by the parchment paper) and place on cooling racks to cool (remove the parchment paper after you get them onto the cooling rack).  Wait for the bread to cool for at least an hour before you cut into it for the best results (confession:  A lot of times we make it about 20 minutes and then start slicing into it).  

I don't do large scale sourdough starter, so baking sourdough loaves for everyone has actually taken a decent amount of time this year.  I'd use a cup of sourdough starter, feed my starter, wait for it to get happy and then put back into the fridge until the next day, put the starter out on the counter to get warm and happy and start the whole process over again.  After the loaves cooled I placed them in heavy duty bread bags, I use these (affiliate link!) as they are the best bags I have found that help to keep the bread safe and fresh and used the ties that came with the bags to seal them.  I then just stuck all of the loaves, as I made them, into the freezer for Christmas Day (so they don't have time to mold before than or get stale).  I hope the family likes them as sourdough really is a labor of love :).

So, yeah, pics are of a couple of rounds of sourdough I'd done right before I went to put them into the freezer.  I only have one more round of sourdough products to make and I'm done with Christmas gifts (woohoo!).

Enjoy all!

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Christmas 2023, Gift 3: Crocheted Christmas Tree Ornament

I can't take credit for this gift idea.  I saw an ornament like this on Pinterest and thought it looked cute, easy and quick.  And I was right on all accounts!

If you can knit a long row of stitches and bind off or you can crochet a single chain of stitches with any type of yarn you like, you can make these.

I just took a chunky yarn I had, crocheted a straight line and as I went I kept folding the chain I'd done over itself in a wavy type of line to make the Christmas tree.  When I had it the length I wanted (and the tree was big enough for my tastes), I finished the chain, tied off, and then went to work with the line I made.  I took another type of yarn I had in my stores in brown and then I made the Christmas tree on a flat surface so it was all lined up right.  I then took my crochet hook and went down through the tree in the middle so the hook came out of the middle of the bottom "branch" of the tree.  I then cut a length of my brown yarn so it was a decently long amount (better safe than sorry, I say) and knotted one end well so it wouldn't slip through the crocheted stitches that made up the tree.  I then just started slowly pulling the crochet hook back through the tree with the brown yarn in tow.  I'd stop between every layer and carefully put my crochet hook down (with the rest of the tree still on it) while I knotted the brown yarn in between the layers to create a "trunk" for the tree.  From what I saw on Pinterest you could also use beads for this, but I couldn't find my beads, so I just went with good old knots instead.  Once all the layers were done, the tree was essentially knotted together and done, but the ends of the tree looked weird just kind of hanging out in space, so I took a bit more green yarn and tied the hanging ends onto the branch above or below to make it look better.  I then crocheted a little trunk for the tree (not necessary if you aren't experienced enough to do that) and then tied a hanging piece of yarn to it and voila!  Tree ornament!

The time this took was nothing, honestly, as I'm decently fast at crochet now a days.  The biggest thing I had problems with was the green yarn LOVED to fray and separate on me, so I was having to be slow and careful to pull the yarn through the center of the tree.  Overall, though, I think it turned out cute and didn't take up a lot of time.  This went into a gift box with some of the cinnamon applesauce ornaments and another gift done!  Yay!

I am sure there are more in depth patterns for these online if you do a quick search.  I just eyeballed mine.

Enjoy!

Friday, December 15, 2023

Christmas 2023, Gift Two: Roasted Candied Nuts

This is a recipe that I made up years ago when I ran a recipe blog to help me cope with my kids various food intolerances and allergies at the time (I am truly thankful that today we only have to deal with the peanut allergy when it comes to food instead of the garlic, corn, oat and other things I had to deal with back then).  I made this around the holidays after thinking back on my time working in the college program at Walt Disney World (short version of that story:  I did not have an enjoyable experience) and the roasted candied nut cart they used to have at Epcot Center where I fell in love with roasted candied nuts.

I have made these a few times throughout the years and decided to make some to give away in small baggies as kind of a snacky type of gift for a few people with a few other gifts.  This was also a way to use up some nuts that had gotten buried in my freezer and I wanted to use up without me eating them all *ahem*.  

A few things I learned this year with this recipe.  One:  This recipe had always turned out well for me in the past with the previous ovens I had, but I think I over browned the sugar mixture on the stovetop the first time I made it and so when I went to roast them in the oven the outer edge nuts ended up burning on me (which will make a nut lover like me want to cry) and I hadn't even roasted them the full time yet.  So, do watch these when they are in the oven as nuts love to burn (which sometimes we just have to remember those lessons).  I made a second batch and was way more careful watching them and they turned out well, (however I still had to pull them after the first initial roasting) so, once again be sure to watch them as oven temperatures vary.  The last bit of roasting with the 300 degrees is basically to help candy the mixture, but if the mixture when you stir it after the first initial roasting, is sticking to a spoon and getting hard quickly like candy, feel free to pull the nuts as the candy mixture is set up and ready to go at that point.

So, here you go folks.  This recipe does not call for sugar, instead it calls for maple syrup and honey (when this was written was the start of people avoiding refined sugar), which lends it a wonderful flavor.  I also have started, when making this, to coat the final nuts in powdered sugar for added "snow like" effect.


Roasted Candied Nuts
  • 2 Cups pecans or other nuts
  •  1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 TBS honey
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch to 1/4 tsp (depending on heat preference) Cheyenne pepper
Procedure: 
1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2.  Combine maple syrup, honey, vanilla and salt in a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until mixture reaches a near boil.  Add cinnamon and Cheyenne pepper, stir well and then add nuts to mixture.  Stir well till all nuts are coated with the mixture. 

3.  Bring mixture back to a simmer.  Pour nuts onto a well greased parchment lined baking sheet that has a rimmed edge (grease pan, place parchment on pan and then grease parchment...trust me this stuff is sticky).  Be sure to spread nuts into an even layer on baking sheet.  Place in 400 degree oven for about 7 minutes or until nuts start to smell nutty.  Stir nuts.

4.  Lower heat to 300 degrees. 
5.  Keep roasting and stirring nuts every few minutes until sugar mixture turns deep brown and clings to the nuts.  Remove pan from oven and let nuts cool on pan.  Mix nuts a couple of times as they cool (it'll stop them from sticking together as they cool).  You can also sprinkle a little more salt on the nuts before they cool (if you like a bit of a salty flavor), but be gentle with it as you don't want the salty taste overpowering your sweet.  Once cool, break nuts into individual nuts (or cluster sizes you like) and toss with powdered sugar (optional).
6.  Place in a bowl and store at room temperature and serve or place in an airtight container for up to a week or place in decorative containers of choice (small cellophane bags are really cute with this) and give away as gifts at the holidays.

Enjoy!!!