Thursday, April 27, 2023

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

It has been kind of a rough week around here.  Winter refuses to leave, although thank goodness it is getting warmer in the afternoons so the ridiculous amounts of snow we have are finally starting to melt.  Our 10 foot snow drift that was burying our back door is now down to about 4 feet, so I call that progress!  We are finally supposed to start staying above freezing at night here within the next few days, so if that holds for a week or so, I'm just going for it and I'm going to go buy some plants to put out on the deck.  I figure worse comes to worse, I'll go and buy some heavy plastic and build myself some mini greenhouses around my tomatoes and things to help them grow this summer.  I am really jiving for fresh produce fresh from the garden after how long this winter has felt.

I do have plans to get a frugal accomplishments post out this week, although it is probably going to be really late and hit on Saturday while my son is at Special Olympics with my husband, so I have the opportunity to think.  In the meantime, though, I thought I'd actually share some small finds I actually got on E-bay the last week.

Anyone who has been around for a bit knows that I love Tupperware, especially vintage Tupperware.  Unfortunately for me, others have caught on to how great the stuff is and it has been REALLY hard to find it at the used stores for the last year or so, which is par for the course with me.  It seems every time I get into collecting something it eventually becomes trendy and then I can't find it anymore.  I love Tupperware because it is darned near indestructible and super functional (well, okay, some pieces might not be, but I've really gotten into things that I buy have to be functional anymore or I feel like I'm wasting money, so Tupperware pieces I get I use...actually usually quite a bit).  I can safely say as an endorsement for the products that my Tupperware containers survived the seven point earthquake without even popping open.  They hit the floor and bounced.  The ONLY container that actually came open and spilled its contents was my container that was full of popcorn and that was because the microwave flew off of my sideboard and landed on it.  But, it survived and is still used today.  I can't say that about my Pyrex and Corelle pieces I had collected at the time.

This last week, I found out that Tupperware (the company) is more than likely going out of business.  They have hired professionals to try and turn the business around, but it is not looking good.  This made me so sad when I heard about it, as the company has been around since the 40s.  It also made me realize that the second hand market prices, if this happened, were doing nothing but going up, so if I wanted to fill the few gaps I had in pieces that I wanted, I had better figure it out now.

So, I went on E-bay to see what I could find for a couple more countertop containers as I needed some for flours and things I'm now using regularly (like I wanted to get one for unbleached all purpose flour since that is used all the time in my sourdough starter and things).  And, for the first time EVER I found a really great deal on not one, but two blue counter containers.  The blue color seems to be really rare and every time I saw listings for it on E-bay they were always way more money than I wanted, or could, spend on something like that.  This time, though, I found two containers that were 14.00 for BOTH containers and the shipping was cheap!  I am so thrilled with these as I've been wanting this color in my collection for years, and I mean years and they are now filled with flours and are being used every day pretty much, so I call it a definite win :).

The other small thing I managed to get was a lid for this brown container.  My mother-in-law gave me the container as part of a trade a long time ago, but while taking the lid off one day it split and broke on me (turns out, looking into the lid I needed to replace on it, that it was a replacement lid that broke on it to begin with...wonder what happened to the original lid as I'm sure my mother-in-law got it at a used store years ago).  I put the container aside and looked for a replacement lid ever since, but never could find one.  I just happened to be looking on E-bay and found an original container with the lid where the person was nice enough to list the lid part number in the listing, which was a first for me to find.  I went and searched for the lid part number, and while I couldn't find a clear or brown lid to go with the container (as it would have originally had on it), I DID find a golden yellow lid that would fit it and I called it good enough.  It was only 4.00 with free shipping (I know, expensive for a lid, but trust me that isn't bad for Tupperware), so I ordered it and can now finally use my brown container again (it is already full of flour as well and is on my counter top being used *laugh*).

I was even able to use credit card rewards to help pay for the items, which got my costs even lower :).

So, yeah, not screaming deals this week, but things I did need for my kitchen to protect important things from bugs and mice, so I'm definitely not complaining.  And the fact that the blue containers happened to be a color I had been looking for was a major bonus for me :).

Oh in a side note ,thank you to those who have chimed in on the hood paint and making sure it was high temperature rated.  My husband has thought about tractor paint and "other alternatives" but hasn't settled on one yet, but we will definitely make sure the paint is rated for high temperatures.  Thank you for the advice!

Also, I can't remember who asked this question (sorry) but someone asked if I had ever found a recipe for Red Robin seasoning that worked well enough for Alvah.  No, no I haven't.  I looked at the ingredients and the seasoning has malt extract powder, so I'm thinking that adds a depth of flavor I just plain can't replicate.  I'm going to keep trying, though.


Wednesday, April 19, 2023

March Wholy Living Haul

"Wholy Living?"  you may ask, "What the Heck is that?"

Well, if you are in Alaska, this might interest you :).

Wholy Living is a whole foods dealer in Palmer, Alaska.  I honestly didn't have a clue this place really existed until recently.

It all started when I was watching Three Rivers Homstead on YouTube.  She was grinding wheat to use in baking.  No biggie, I thought, I do that.  BUT instead of going to the hand sifting step that I always had to go through to make the flour lighter and fluffier (and it makes a huge mess), she just popped the flour into a contraption that was attached to the top of her Bosch, ran it and the flour came out super light and fluffy.  Without tons of hand sifting needed, which meant a lot less hand aches.  Without all of the mess!  

The device she was using was a sifter that someone had developed for the Bosch, she explained, and she loved it.  I looked over at my Nutrimill Artiste mixer (I bought it after the earthquake as my Viking mixer wasn't working properly, but once my husband fixed the Viking the NutriMill became my back up mixer :), went online and found out that the device would indeed attach to the Artiste mixer.  I called my husband and told him straight that if I could find it, I was taking the money out of savings and buying it as the sifter would quickly pay for itself just in labor hours saved.  Now, mind you, I do not normally look at an item brand new and say, "We are getting this".  I can recall twice that has happened in my life.  One was when I test drove our Equinox (now that was partly my husband's fault as he found the car *laugh*)  and the other was this sifter.

The hard part, for me, was finding somewhere to get one.  I found a few outfits online, but their shipping on a 90.00 item was astronomical to Alaska, so I decided to call around, text my mother-in-law (who knows the Bosch way better than I do as she's had one for years), etc.  My mother-in-law and Allen and Peterson (our local Kitchen appliance and kitchenware outfit), both came out with Wholy Living as my best bet for finding the attachment.  And she did, indeed have it in stock!  I was thrilled.

I then started going through her site and realizing that there was things in her store that I could really use, so I started to compile a list of things to get.  I pooled all of my money for March for bulk foods/pantry restock, and took the 90.00 out of savings to pay for the sifter on top of it.  I managed to kidnap/convince my mother-in-law to help me find the place and we took off up Clark-Wolverine Road to go and get a sifter.

When we got there, I had a list, which I think was the best way to do things as a bulk food store like that, without prices listed in the place...I could have easily gotten out of there spending wayyyyyy more than I planned on.  I had prices written down from the site and had everything added up on top of it.  The only thing I ended up buying that wasn't on my list was she had a bunch of local potatoes for .99 lb and my mother-in-law really wanted to get some, so I ended up with more potatoes when she insisted on splitting the bag with me *laugh*.  Margaret (the owner of Wholy Living) also didn't have the size of Italian seasoning I wanted (she only had 4 oz bags, and only two at that, so instead of a pound of seasoning I ended up with 1/2 lb) so she took off 5.00 from the total to compensate. 

Funny enough, since she runs a co-op type of operation, she carries Azure Standard stuff (I never thought I'd be able to get those types of items), which was awesome as I really wanted to try out some of their products :).  

In total, I spent 266.00 total, minus the sifter attachment the total up top cost me 176.00, which wasn't bad for what I got.  The sifter was 90.00 and it is TOTALLY worth getting if you grind your own grain and have a Bosch or NutriMill Artiste mixer.  I know it is a convenience item, but when you get into doing as much baking as I do anymore, this thing is just wonderful to have.

So, let's break down what I got.

1. 25 lbs, 9 grain cereal.  

My husband and I have been eating the Bob's Red Mill 5 grain hot cereal for breakfast a lot, but the only place I could get it was Amazon and it was getting really spendy to buy as it came in one pound packages and cost like 25.00 for a box of four.  When I saw that I could get 25 lbs of NINE grain cereal for like 33.00, I was thrilled!  It was a MUCH better deal than what I was buying.  

I then took 1 lb out of the bag and put it into my cereal container to eat for breakfasts (it is also really good added to bread to make a nice whole grain bread).   

Then, I separated out the rest into 1 lb increments in freezer bags and put them in the freezer to pull out as needed.  I am thinking this will easily last us a year.

  2.  25 lbs of Alaska grown hulless barley (the white bag above).

I was really happy to see this when I saw it as I have been wanting to get some barley from Alaska flour company, but to ship a bag to myself would have cost significantly more than the amount she was charging (I think it was like 30.00 or something close to that).

This stuff takes a while to cook, but if you cook it in some chicken broth and get it tender, it is really good.  And if you add it to rice pilaf or other dishes it lends a wonderful texture and flavor!  I haven't even ground some into flour yet (the majority of it went into a five gallon bucket with some oxy absorbers and got sealed up tight for future use), but am looking forward to grinding some into flour for bread :).

3.  5 lbs of allergy free mini chocolate chips.

This was for Alvah.  He loves the Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, but the bags not only get smaller (so it seems anyway), but they are terribly expensive, so I got these to use for bribes/snacks for him.

4.  1 lb beef gelatin. 

I got this to start making more home made jello and get in some added nutrition into our diets.  I still haven't used it yet (waiting for closer to summer), but I really am looking forward to making it with some of my home canned raspberry juice.  Yum!!!

5.  Almond Extract, 8 oz.

I have been needing almond extract, but haven't had much luck finding it at the store, so I got it here.  It is a big bottle and will last me for quite a while, I think.

6.  Italian Seasoning, 4 oz packages, two total.

I was hoping to get the 1 lb package, but she only had two four oz packages left, so I went with those.  I needed Italian seasoning (I use it all the time), so it was great being able to pick it up while I was there.

7.  Montreal Steak Seasoning, 1 lb.

This was another "I need that" as I was completely out, so I decided to give the Azure Market brand a try instead of going with my usual McCormick.  I have to say it is really good and I'm enjoying it :).

8.  SAF Instant Yeast, 1 lb.

I rarely pass up an opportunity to pick up another block of yeast when I get a chance, so I definitely took advantage and grabbed a pound there.  For 8.00 it was cheaper than what I was finding on Amazon for yeast prices as well.

9.  And, of course, the star of the show...

The sifter!!!  Seen here up top of my NutriMill in all of it's sifting glory!

10.  And, I almost forgot the potatoes...

The potatoes are nice potatoes and a lot of them are really large.  I can't remember if we got Yukon gold or German Butterball, but either way the potatoes are nice potatoes.  I split my mother-in-laws half into a box and kept my half in the burlap sack.  I didn't really NEED potatoes and the potato drawer in my fridge was full up, so I ended up having to use them up quickly as they started to sprout and some were getting green (I'll show what I did with them in another post :).

And there you go folks.  My bulk shopping I did in March.  I know it doesn't do a lot of people any good as they don't have Wholy Living to shop at, but I do encourage you to check in your local area to see what bulk foods outfits are available to you as with current inflation and things going the way they are, honestly buying in bulk might be a good option for a lot of us.  I had no idea Wholy Living existed until others told me about it, so who knows what is hiding in your local area as well.


Monday, April 17, 2023

Frugal Accomplishments For the Last Two Weeks

Since I didn't get to do a "Frugal Friday" post the last few weeks, I decided that I would compile the list together and share some things that I've done the last couple of weeks to save money :).

1.  I took a loaf of bread that wasn't getting eaten fast enough, sliced it and let it stale up a little bit more and turned the entire thing into a bunch of French Toast.  My husband actually ate a ton of it for breakfasts last week and I ate the last two pieces for breakfast one morning.  I was impressed we were able to go through so much of it, as my original plan was to freeze it *laugh*.

2.  Speaking of freezing things, my husband was running low on breakfast bowls in the freezer.  I took a bag of off brand French fries we'd gotten last year when frozen French fries were in short supply.  This particular brand my son didn't like (it was right before we got all of the free French fries that lasted us nearly a year!  I've just started having to buy the son fries again the last few months and WOW have they gone up in price!!!) and decided I needed to do something with them.  So, I took them and just used the fries as hash browns in Lynn's Kitchen Adventures Breakfast Bowl Recipe.  It made a huge bowl of breakfast bowl mix that I was able to split into a bunch of bags and put into the freezer.  It passed the husband quality control test, so I'm calling it a win *laugh*.

3.  I got some pretty good deals for Easter this year.  I already had a spiral sliced ham I got cheap (like .99 lb cheap) after New Years, but I completely spaced when Easter was this year, so forgot to get eggs during our normal "big shopping trip" week (since my husband gets paid every two weeks, I do one big shopping trip per pay period and then the next week just aim to buy milk and whatever essentials we might run low on, to conserve money).  So, I actually checked the store ad for the week.  I then saw they had a 1.00/1 coupon for eggs and also had asparagus on sale for 1.49 lb (it had a limit on it, though) and pork roasts and chops were on sale for 1.49 lb as well.  I needed pork roasts as I was completely out in the freezer and I can always use another package of pork chops, so I put those in my pick up order.  I also got some blocks of cheese as they were on sale decently cheap with a coupon, got my eggs (yay!) and I got a thing of Ready Whip to eat with our strawberry short cake for Easter (it was on sale for 3.00 and was the only one they had in stock, but I still felt ripped off when we got it as shrinkflation has hit that stuff hard.  The bottle is SO much smaller now).  I ended up spending around 60.00 for everything, which I was okay with to stock up on pork.  

We had the asparagus with Easter dinner roasted with some bacon pieces I had left over from breakfast (it was so yummy!) and they were thin enough I didn't need to take a peeler to hard parts or anything.  It all got eaten in no time flat.

4.  In the same "shopping" vein, one of the "essentials" on my list was some more Tilamook cheddar block cheese as Alvah will only eat that type of cheese (and since it is one of the whole foods he'll eat, you better believe I keep it in the house).  I was going to buy it at Carrs, but the price on the cheese had gone up crazy, so I stopped off at Three Bears to pick up some blocks of cheese to grate myself.  I got Tilamook there, but while looking at the other cheeses, I was astounded to see a big blocks of Provolone in with the other block cheese.  What blew my mind was that for a nearly six pound loaf of cheese (they were like 5.83 lbs each), supposedly the price on them was only 9.57 each!  I was convinced it was a mistake on the shelf tag and it was the price per lb or I was reading the unit of measure to the price wrong.  I took one cautiously with me and had the cashier do a quick price scan on it before I bought it and was astounded to see that the entire loaf was, indeed, only 9.57!!!  That worked out to be about 1.64 per lb of cheese!  I only took one to save whatever I could for others.  I sliced some and grated some, put it into freezer bags and stuck it into the freezer for the most part.  I did keep some out for sandwiches, but the rest I froze and will use later for all kinds of things.  I am SO thrilled with that purchase/deal as it is hard to find good deals on cheese :).

5.  We dyed eggs with food coloring again this year.  They came out prettier than the picture shows.  This year we only died 8 eggs to save on egg costs, but it was still fun and everyone enjoyed themselves :).  I found that the McCormick food coloring this time around actually had egg dye amounts right on the box to make different colors, so I stuck with those for the most part (I'm not very observant so they could have been there for years and I might not have noticed, unfortunately).  I turned the eggs into egg salad and my husband and I really enjoyed it.

6.  I got some Spring cleaning done.  I got up on top of my cabinets with a putty knife and cleaners in hand and got all of the old grease removed and the cabinets cleaned all nice and tidy.  I took down my pudding molds and cleaned them really well and put them back up, etc.  While cleaning my hood and deep cleaning it, I managed to strip the paint off of the hood without even trying (my husband thinks that it is just so old that the grease from cooking day to day over the past 10+ years we've lived here has just worked its way into the paint and made it peel off)...I mean it just wiped off with the cleaner.  

My husband and I finally realized that the hood is definitely a vent-less style hood by searching the model number and I realized that the filter that was in it previously was the wrong type (it was a reusable filter, but not for that type of hood) and I'd been buying the wrong type of replacement filters all this time because I'd just been buying what the previous owners had in the hood, thinking it was the right type!  So, I ordered the proper type of filter, ordered a new shield for the light bulb in the hood (the old one was so old the plastic was brittle and breaking off pieces whenever you'd so much as touch it) and got everything but the horrible looking paint looking a lot better.  It works as well as a vent-less hood can work now, so I am calling it a win and hopefully we can get it repainted soon.

7.  I used up some onions that were starting to sprout and made Chicken Lyonnaise for dinner one night (great way to use up onions by the way!).

8.  I sat down and planned out the kid's curriculums for next school year and I went and planned out what I needed to buy for the son for next school year (the daughter's stuff can be ordered directly through the homeschool and they'll take it out of our allotment so I don't have to worry about paying everything out of pocket and getting reimbursed for it).  I then went and figured out what I would need to order for the son and how much it would cost me out of pocket, so I can hopefully start budgeting to pay for it all before July 1st rolls around (when you can start ordering for next school year).

And I'm going to call it good there as I have a ton of housework to get caught up on.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

For the last bit, I really haven't found much at the used stores.  My husband has had much better luck finding tools and things while me, who really is just looking for certain things in the kitchen and all, hasn't found a whole lot.  I did, however, find these at Value Village last week and was really thrilled to find them, so I thought I'd share.

I was thrilled when I saw the cornflower blue pattern on the casserole dishes and quickly snagged them as I'm still trying to rebuild a collection of the dishes since the earthquake years ago.  After carrying them for a few minutes, I was kind of surprised at their heft and that they more resembled stone ware types of items instead of the Corelle/Corningware I was used to feeling with that pattern on them.  I flipped them over, wondering if I had actually picked up some weird knock off Corelle and was really surprised when I saw that the casserole dishes were in fact special edition casserole dishes to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the brand.  So, double score!  Especially since, surprisingly, I didn't pay much for them (1.99 for the small one and 3.99 for the large one), a rare thing for Value Village.  

I've actually already used the smaller casserole to make potatoes au gratin, and I loved the pretty presentation it made.  Hopefully these hold up.  Not being made of traditional Corelle material, I do worry that they are going to chip and die on me, but we'll see how it goes.

How about you?  Found anything good at the used stores of late?

Thursday, April 6, 2023

Happenings and What We've Been Eating (With Links to Recipes)

I look at pictures and videos of people growing seeds in preparation of growing season and am looking out the window to snow falling this morning (April 6th...seriously weather, stop it and give us Spring.  Please?!?).

By the way, love my Moomins calendar?  I got it for a birthday gift and I LOVE it!!!!  I'm a huge Moomin fan, so getting a calendar is super exciting for me *laugh*.  We watch the old 90s Moomin cartoons on YouTube (you can even hit the Moomin Official channel on YouTube to watch them, so don't feel guilty watching them there :) and really enjoy them.

It has been a month, again, since I last blogged.  A lot of that has been due to the fact that life has been crazy busy, but some of that is due to other things, like my husband got rear ended while stopped and waiting for someone to turn (so, legally parked basically).  Luckily, the teenager that hit him didn't even try to blame anyone but himself for the accident and even if he had my husband has a dash cam, so the insurance companies have been really nice about everything.  We'll have to wait for parts to replace the back bumper and a few parts like that, but considering how hard the guy hit my husband we were pretty lucky.  So far, my husband has been okay since the accident other than getting a stress headache the day it happened (go figure, right?).  Not sure if this is going to do anything to our insurance premiums considering it was still a claim, even if it wasn't our fault or anything, so we'll see how that goes.  So far, so good, as the saying goes.

I also had all of Alvah's evaluations for his three year check up to get through for school, which was a lot of e-mailing back and forth with his team to get goals and things figured out.  We've been trying to get caught up on homeschool stuff and I've been working on getting the curriculums figured out for the kids for next year as well and both kids are now swimming twice a week (Armina is an intern at the pool where she's working toward her water safety certification, so she's working five hours a week on top of school and her own swimming stuff to become a full time swimming instructor and the son is in Special Olympics as well as regular swimming lessons), so our schedule is really full most days. 

I'll get into more frugal accomplishments on Friday (well, more realistically, Monday as my husband is off on Fridays, so I tend to do stuff with him, but we'll see how it goes), but I did want to bring up something that I'm going to be doing here for a while and see how it works out.  My life is hectic, to say the least, and it can be hard to get blogging done and one of the things that adds more time than you'd think is posting up links to posts on Facebook.  To just save myself a bit of time, I'm going to not post up every single link as I post them to Facebook, but instead I'm going to aim for a weekly recap post with links that I'll post to Facebook on like Fridays or something.  This way if I want to schedule a blog post on something like, say, a recipe, and don't have time to hop to Facebook to link when it goes live, at least those who rely on Facebook for updates can get an update on what is happening on the blog on the recap post.  I know it's not ideal, but honestly guys and gals, I find time to be more and more of a commodity anymore.  With the costs of things and how prices keep going up, I have found myself making everything that I can at home, especially baked goods and bread products.  So, where I did a lot of that in the past, now I'm doing about 99.9% of it at home and eating out is something we've cut out as much as humanly possible as that is getting ridiculously expensive.  I just can't bring myself to shell out the prices they want for bread products at the store that are mostly air when I can make good sourdough products at home that are much easier to digest (I'll get more into the benefits of sourdough in another post, as I'm planning on starting to blog what sourdough recipes I'm making for fun :) and are way more nutritious than the stuff you can get at the the store (not to mention they taste a whole lot better).  

In the meantime, sans sourdough stuff (which will be in separate posts), I thought it would be fun to start sharing what we've been eating around here (been meaning to do this for a while) in a whole "What's for Dinner" type of series (I'll also share any exciting lunch or breakfast items I make, meal preps I do for my husband's work lunches and things like that).  This way I can also start to share how I'm using my food storage/bulk foods from day to day to give you ideas (I hope) on things you might be able to make.  

So, let's get to things we've eaten around here of late.

Well, one thing we've been eating a lot of is chicken as it is one of the few proteins that seems to go on sale relatively cheap of late.  So, let's start there...

Chicken Dishes

Chicken Lyonnaise :  This dish really radiates fancy, but it is really just a braised chicken dish and is is delicious!  I first ran into this when I was studying the Titanic with the kids and I made some dishes that were served on the Titanic.  Of all of the dishes we tried, this one has stuck around in my recipe binder.

I do a few things different, though.  First, chicken breasts are really expensive, so I use bone in chicken thighs.  Due to the cost of eggs, I dropped the egg dip before coating the chicken in flour.  I then floured and browned the chicken in a cast iron 12" skillet (I just made 5 chicken thighs since it was enough for us for dinner and for my husband to take for lunch the next day for work).  I also couldn't find my minced garlic in the fridge and didn't feel like trying to find my bag of garlic cloves in the freezer (how I'm storing fresh garlic now) to mince one, so I just subbed in about 1/2 tsp of garlic powder and I used 1 TBS of dried thyme instead of fresh.  I used chicken bouillon mixed with water for the stock in the recipe and added extra wine and water (I'll explain why in a second).  I browned the chicken like the recipe stated, but cooked the chicken thighs for about four minutes per side.  I then took the half cooked chicken out and put it aside for a few moments, while I caramelized the onions in the pan and added the liquid and stirred it into a sauce.  I added the chicken back to the pan, spooned some of the onions up and over the chicken and added some extra chicken broth to the pan with a few splashes of wine.  I then just stuck the cast iron skillet in the oven at 350 degrees while I was baking something else (I think it was rolls, but don't hold me to that) and just baked it for about 40 minutes.  I turned the chicken once during the baking when I took the rolls/whatever out of the oven and just let it braise in the cooking liquid until my husband got home from work.  

I know browning the meat beforehand seems like a bit of work, but it really is worth the final product and there really isn't a lot of ingredients to the recipe.  If you don't have wine, I'm sure you could use more chicken stock and just make do, but if you have wine, I say use it (I even had to use a bit of sweet red wine in place of white as I was out of white cooking wine and it worked out fine).

Chicken Curry Udon   I actually cut chicken thighs off the bone to make this recipe and it was fabulous!  I used dried Udon that I keep in the pantry for Japanese cooking and used canned carrots instead of fresh.  I also used green onions that I had frozen in the freezer instead of fresh green onions. 

Right side track here, you'll notice in my cooking that I don't keep celery or carrots in the fridge right now.  ANY vegetable that I found myself throwing away at all due to it going bad in the fridge, I plain stopped buying to cut costs.  So, for carrots I'm doing a lot with canned and dehydrated carrots now (they work great) and with celery I have a small jar of freeze dried celery that I use in salad recipes (like say potato salad or chicken salad) and the rest of the time I'm using dehydrated celery.  I've actually been really happy with the new way of doing things.  I'm going to try and plant some carrots this summer in the planter garden I'm doing, but for the time being this is what I'm doing instead.  It has helped to cut grocery costs a bit and I'm happy with the results as nothing is going to waste.  I also threw in some frozen summer squash I had in the freezer, some cut up potatoes (because I LOVE potatoes in Japanese curry dishes), a small bag of frozen peas from the garden last year and a few other small veggie odds and ends. 

Final verdict on the dish?  My husband said, "It tastes like Japanese curry", while I loved it (but, I love Japanese curry too *laugh*) and ate every single bit of leftovers for lunch over the next few days.  It was a fun change of pace, anyway :).  Just a side note, too.  I got nervous about keeping the Japanese curry blocks in the pantry past their use by dates due to the oils in them, so I gambled and put the blocks (boxes and all) in the freezer for long term storage.  They froze beautifully and I didn't notice any change in taste or texture in the final product after using frozen blocks.  So, just wanted to pass that along.

Korean Fried Chicken:  Guys, this is one of the TASTIEST things I've made in a long while!  It was SO good!  I used boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken wings that I cut into bite sized pieces and then I made the soy garlic sauce to dip it in.  It was SOOOOOO good!  The daughter and husband liked it too and it was definitely added to the recipe binder to make again!

Those were the recipes I still have bookmarked in my phone, so those were obviously the ones that made the biggest impression on me.  Other than that we've been eating a lot of basic chicken dishes.  Chicken pot pie (used the last of my frozen pie crusts in the freezer to make it, so now I'm experimenting with home made again), baked chicken with various sides and things like that.  I do have some other recipes book marked and am hoping to maybe do some freezer cooking at some point if I can get my fridge freezer cleaned and organized, but we'll see how it goes.

Breakfast Items:

Fruit Cobbler  This is my new favorite thing to make for breakfast on the weekends, as it is something that my husband can grab when he gets hungry in the early morning hours.  I found, while talking to my mom, that back in her day, fruit cobbler was actually more of a breakfast item than a dessert item, so I gave it a try and I LOVE it.  I tend to make this on Thursday so we have it all weekend long.  I put one can of fruit pie filling in the bottom of a 9x9 pan (small square baking dish) and then split the recipe for the cobbler in half.  

Our favorite flavor to date is blackberry.  You can get an AWESOME deal on blackberry pie filling from Amazon.  This 12 pack of pie filling is only 16.00 and some change most days (NOTE:  Associate link there.  If you order through it, Amazon shoots me a small commission for pushing the sale their way, but it doesn't cost anything extra.  If you order through my associate links, thank you for supporting my family and the blog!)  and is a really nice flavor for a breakfast cobbler (especially since, if like me you love blackberries but don't have any bushes and might not be able to grow them in your region anyway).  I love the flavor and the price of the pie filling, honestly and the simplicity of the recipe really just sells the entire thing.

2 Ingredient Biscuits.  My main reason for buying self rising flour was to make these for my biscuit loving daughter.  She didn't like them because they didn't taste as good as Bisquick (seriously!?!?), so I'm using my self rising flour in other recipes and trying different home made biscuit recipes on her instead.  I'm determined she's going to eat home made biscuits, preferably sourdough ones, before I'm through, but so far, the search continues!

Fluffy Whole Wheat Waffles:  I used home ground flour for this and it came out pretty good!  I put the majority of them into the freezer and we've been eating them along with other breakfast items.  I got the idea from Becky from "Acre Homestead" on YouTube and it was a good recipe, so I'm glad I checked it out.

Applesauce Loaf:  The recipe for the applesauce loaf is in the description of the video.  I even used her recipe for the glaze to go on top.  This was REALLY tasty and my husband and I really enjoyed it for breakfasts.

Baked Goods:

When it comes to baking things, I'm doing that a ton, it seems.  This week has been especially busy as I completely spaced the fact that Easter is THIS WEEKEND!?!  I thought it was more toward the end of the month, so I was lucky that yesterday I decided I was going to make a ton of cookies for quick desserts around the house.  

By the way, I cannot recommend dissolvable canning labels enough.  I use them for tons of stuff anymore.  You can just run the labels under water when you want to put something else in the container and it comes right off and dissolves.  One of the best inventions of our time, I swear!

So, getting back onto the subject at hand, what did I end up making?

Sugar Cookies:  These are my husband's favorite and I really should make them more often as the kids like them too, but I don't (oops on my account).  So, I made a batch of sugar cookies for him.  I have somehow completely misplaced my Easter cookie cutters (I have an egg shaped one, a rabbit shaped one and a basket shaped one, but darned if I can find them), so I made some circular ones (I tried to shape them into an egg shape with little success, but we made them pretty with sprinkles *laugh*) and we found a chicken shaped one and a butterfly shaped one, so we used those as Spring/Easter-ish themed *laugh*.  

Biscoff Butter Cookies:  I got a super good deal on Amazon for Biscoff Cookie butter a while back (like 8.00 for an 8 pack joke).  I've been sitting on it so we don't use it too fast, but it's getting past the best by date and while I'm sure it will stay good for quite a while still, I decided to make cookies...with cookie butter.  Weird?  Sure.  Tasty?  Eh, kind of.  The recipe had great ratings and stuff, so I doubled it and used an entire 14 oz container of cookie butter in it (so it wouldn't get lost in the back of the fridge).  I was kind of hoping it would come out tasting like an almost smore with the graham cracker like taste of Biscoff cookies and the chocolate, but after they baked and I tasted one...well they taste like chocolate chip cookies to me.  I love the texture though.  They come out chewy, which I love, but yeah...they taste like chocolate chip cookies.  We're eating them, though *laugh*).

Nestle Tollhouse Original Chocolate Chip Cookies:  My daughter's favorite cookies.  My dad would be proud as they were his favorite too *laugh*.   I made one recipe of them for her and she's definitely enjoying them.

When it comes to the rest of the Easter treats around here, I'm completely skipping store bought candy this year as the kids get plenty of treats around here and will be fine without them.  I am going to make an angel food cake (from a mix to save my eggs) and make strawberry short cake with it for dessert on Easter.  I already got a great price on a spiral sliced ham (of all fancy things) at the beginning of the year, so we'll have that for dinner and I'm hoping the store will have eggs tomorrow so we can color a bunch, but we'll see how it goes (if they don't have eggs, we'll just color a few of the ones we have here, just not as many).  Not smart forgetting a major holiday until it is right on top of you.  Oops.

Quick and Easy Hot Dog Buns:  I made these one night as the daughter wanted hot dogs and I didn't have a lot of time to make sourdough anything.  So, I made these.  The shaping and egg wash phase on these failed horribly.  They ended up looking like misshapen mini loaves of bread and putting on the egg wash before the final rise seemed like a bad idea to me and I should have waited until they had risen (spray your plastic wrap with non-stick spray before placing over the rolls to rise as they are a soft and sticky dough) as the plastic wrap stuck terribly to the egg when they were done rising.  But, the flavor was good and we were able to split them and put hot dogs in them without issue, so it turned out okay.  Next time I think I'll use the same recipe, but pull out my New England hot dog pan and try making them in that to shape them better.  We'll see how that goes.

French Toast Casserole:  This is one of those recipes that I regretted making and just wished I had made French Toast instead.  I split the recipe in half, but still it used a bunch of milk products and eggs, but I had a bunch of home made bread that had gone stale and needed to be used up, so I made it.  And well, it was okay, I guess, but the biggest problem I had was that it was BLAND tasting, which was sad with the nutmeg it had in it and stuff (I love nutmeg, so it was VERY sad to me).  We ate it all, but I have to say it was not a favorite of mine.  I included it in this section, because really it came out tasting like a bland bread pudding.

Next time I'll make croutons or French toast.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake:  This was for my daughter's birthday as she loves chocolate cake and really wanted some for her birthday.  So, I figured you couldn't go wrong with Hershey's.  It was easy, it came out nice and chocolatey and the daughter was happy.  I'm not a huge fan of chocolate cake (too rich for my blood) and neither is my husband, but we tried our best to eat it all before it went stale on us and my daughter loved it.

Honorable Mentions/Miscellaneous:

Sausage Alfredo:  I got this idea from That 1870's Homestead on YouTube, in their "What's for Dinner" series last year sometime where Todd was trying something different for dinner.  Darned if I can find the exact video, which I spent way too much time working on finding.  The idea is simple.  Make alfredo but instead of chicken used ground Italian sausage, add some minced garlic while you are cooking it to get that flavor in there, add cream and some Italian seasoning, or other seasonings of choice, cook down until thickened a bit and then add some fresh Parmesan cheese to thicken the sauce up to the texture you want.  

Guys, the concept is simple, but it is SOOOOOOO good!  I actually make this every couple of months and it is now a meal I put into rotation.  It comes together super fast too.  In the time it takes you to make your fettucine pasta, the sauce is ready to go and you are ready to eat.  The leftovers even heat up pretty darned well overall and the nice thing about the sausage, versus chicken, is the sausage doesn't get dried out :).

No Knead Bread:  This is the best, and tastiest, quick sourdough bread to make (since it sits overnight before baking it, I call it a sourdough).  It calls for few ingredients and really your biggest investment is a cast iron Dutch oven to bake it in.  I find that a 3 qt one works great.  I got this one (affiliate link) for a lot less money (I only spent 21.00 on mine) and use it all the time to make a loaf of this bread (if I don't have time to make two loaves of sourdough during the day with the rise times involved).  The best deal I could find when I looked today for a Dutch oven was this one in red, but I've found them for less than 30.00 from time to time if you just search for a 3 qt cast iron Dutch oven and wait a bit (and I don't guarantee how long prices will last, as the one I linked to is 32.00 right now, but could change at a moment's notice).  I also use my big Lodge Dutch oven that my mother-in-law gave me years ago to bake bread in too, but I've found the 3 qt gives me a better rise (since it's smaller) and fits the loaf perfectly.   If you don't have the money to buy a Dutch oven (I get it, trust me) there are recipes that don't call for a Dutch oven to bake sourdough bread (I'll share one in another post), but if you have the money a Dutch oven really is a worthwhile investment.

I could go on, but I need to get off the computer and concentrate on house cleaning and getting a load of laundry done, so I'm going to end it here.  I hope you all are doing well and yes, this time I'm hoping to finally get back to regular blogging here!  Here's hoping :).