Saturday, July 26, 2014

Old Mother Hubbard

Actually, the cupboard isn't totally bare, which was a very good thing this week. We'd have been in much worse shape if it had been.

Frugal living bloggers often will write about their "eat from the pantry" challenges. For a specified period of time, one is only allowed to buy fresh produce and possibly dairy. Everything else must come from what you already have. For those with a good stockpile, the challenge is made much easier. They can use up their excess, make room for more stuff, save the money they would have spent grocery shopping for some goal, and so forth. 

I don't have a great stockpile. I'm not particularly good at that whole stockpiling thing anyway, but we had a power outage a couple of weeks ago that took out a good portion of our fridge. Thankfully, the chicken in the freezer came through unscathed. 

Several major bills came due this week. When all was said and done, I had $25 to spend on groceries for the week. 

Yep, eat from the pantry challenge time. 

So what did we eat this week?

1. Lentil and rice tacos 
2. Curry chicken pot pie
3. Macaroni and cheese (from the box--don't judge. Two boxes are under a dollar, and I had a headache that night anyway, so Nelson was cooking.) 
4. Cincinnati chili (to come--part of the $25 went to buying ground beef, a can of tomato sauce, and a can of kidney beans. I have all the other ingredients on hand.) 

Most of these meals yield leftovers for at least one more meal (well, all of them do for us--your mileage may vary). 

Breakfast most mornings has been pancakes--cheap and easy, and I always have flour and baking powder. For lunch, it's been mostly sandwiches or tortilla wraps. The girls like peanut butter, and another part of the $25 went to sandwich meat and cheese. 

I also made two gallons of chicken stock from the chicken bones, and that is now in the freezer. Some of it may be used to make potato soup later--I still have a few potatoes. And my last batch of potato soup never got eaten because of the power outage killing it. :-p 

Not a gourmet menu, but it keeps us all fed and happy. And I was pleasantly surprised that Nelson was able to get everything we absolutely needed for under $24--plus a bag of potato chips for a fun treat. (Yes, we made the "all that and a bag of chips!" joke. Who could resist?)

In order to keep this post from just being me all pleased with myself, I'll share a couple of recipes. Maybe that will help someone else in the future if they hit a tight week (although I know tastes vary widely, so maybe everyone else will hate all of these recipes!).

However, with my picky crew, Cincinnati chili is one of the few dishes that everyone loves and eats without complaint. I got the recipe I used from one of the few cookbooks I actually like called I'll Have What They're Having. It's all about regional cuisine from around the country. It gives stories behind the food as well as a recipe, and it makes for a fabulous, fun read. I've read through it several times, but it falls open to the Cincinnati chili recipe automatically now. ;)

Cincinnati chili
1 large onion, chopped (I can't eat onions and Nelson won't, so I sub onion powder)
1.5 lbs. ground beef
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cumin (I have been known to add a bit more--I love cumin)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (unfortunately, I have to skip this. I miss it)
1 tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 lb. dried spaghetti

Note: Don't go into it thinking it's going to taste like your normal Southwestern chili. With its spices, it's quite a different flavor. But it's delicious.

Saute onion, garlic, ground beef, and chili powder until meat is no longer pink. Add all other ingredients (except spaghetti), reduce heat to low, and simmer uncovered for 1.5 hours. Remove from heat. Cook spaghetti according to package directions.

Here's where this dish is perfect for my family: it's completely customizable when it comes to serving!

Two-way chili: chili over spaghetti noodles (how Natalie often eats hers)
Three-way chili: chili over spaghetti noodles, topped with shredded cheddar (this is Nelson's)
Four-way chili: chili over noodles, topped with shredded cheese and chopped onions (no one here does this)
Five-way chili: chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, and kidney beans.

The book says that spaghetti topped with chili, cheese, and kidney beans cannot legitimately be called four-way in Cincinnati itself, but that's how Sarah and I like ours. We're just rebels. Or maybe some Cincinnati natives can tell us that the book is wrong. ;)

Curry chicken pot pie (this recipe started life as an Alton Brown recipe, but I've modified it for my crew)
3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. flour
1.5 cups chicken stock (can use packaged broth if you don't have homemade stock)
1/2 cup whole milk
2 cups cooked chicken (shredded, chopped, whatever)
3-4 cups mixed vegetables (whatever blend your family likes. The recipe calls for 4 cups, but I just use 3, sometimes 2. Can't get away with too many veggies around here)
1 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
onion and garlic powder to taste (I never measure)
1 batch Alton's biscuit recipe (I use coconut oil instead of shortening)

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour to make a roux. Add milk and stock to pan and let cook a couple of minutes to thicken.

Combine chicken, veggies, and spices in a baking dish (recipe recommends 9 x 13, but I've messed with the recipe enough that I've gotten away with slightly smaller sizes. I have these weird rectangular pans that I'm not really sure what size they are, but they're not quite 9 x 13). Pour sauce evenly over over all. Top with spoonfuls of biscuit dough. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes.

Obviously, you have to like curry for this recipe to be a hit with your family. For us, it's a different flavor from most things we eat, and it makes a nice change.

Once I accidentally used just turmeric instead of curry. It made the casserole very pretty. :) And we still liked it.

If you would like the original recipe, you can find it here.

Sorry this post is so long!!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Natalie's story

Natalie asked for the iPad and keyboard and and said she wanted to write a story. I opened a Google Doc for her, and away she went.

Here are the results:

ijsrsfjidlskdjfijurtimfnmvvvv,mdkln    ffnfnfnmnsfm       jwhcfjkwhfkjhfjdh                 bjbfjdsbhrbngfdbcbsfbncdnmnvnhgg  nmfhjgjtrh bdh jdhkfhrehewuguyrwgurguyrhufhuuy8vrtgytgy9fhutytyisjjdijeiouroeruourtyeyriyeyiqyriiujdfkiskzkdjiujtijhrfryfreyuhfhhnfjefrjthrhgjf       uryyduifyrifyyiurytfegfhgfieootk1jcjjhfnnjh23446t87988888890bvcxbvndbnbcjxbvcbvnfcnbhffnbddnbvhjbdfhdvsghvvvvvvsmas,x,x,x,,lmkkkxmx,,,,,nfjghietpppuipdoodmcmmckvkjjfhfjkrhrjumccmjhurirjjgnnvnvmvmvjvvvkhdgjhdjkfhgghdjhgjhnjdkghbxzvchxhfegjhfguhfhjhghhdygwqjwgdhjgyggfgygrgeUGyfyrftftewffdyet6ytdtdyetfhgcfuufgddgffgeutrreyfgdftcerfgfgetyrgerrtfgffdgfgdyfgcuytfrugeryctrfyuutftdtygfdjslskkjjjfwed hjgs jvfgydgcvgvdwghthtjghjdrey6gruyetgfhufgyrtgrhufmchhheudyecgfduyg yjc ghdgdchgdugdgcycgggggjhgjghjyruevGH yeuqrgfyugyuefyestgfytystfgdygydfcgyerry6rgfeyftdgftcftyfdtddgcfvc dtyffffgvgfgfggfgfhfhdhdushsjeuueyuxj vxk diohaelehd;QLOErhq3yt ggfhffh jet87576kvjfihjgbjhvbjfhigghhfhfuhufffuurguigigidhhuegh,ddm                   dhatfghgyu4gtuydufygfuywgryq3gryfev4trftevwfrteyft4reuye           bfhdguuyr4gt54gt  gyrtu45uti6utg5t6u45yfrtggt42yr437ytrhugtjhgufhguhjvhiukfhfuhfjhrtjhgfgrjfduifrfjjoooooooooooooohsdfghwfhegfhdgfgfywr      hgrgfygrweyurgsyrgyetvygrseytytgw     jfbhgjcbfyjhjgytyyfyfyftyfeytfytfytfeyrwhrjegruyeuyrutuyrtgyrgtgurytuetyteuytuytyurytrtuytytryryyyyytrnhgghghhijhgruytrygdsfdhfydfgrsyete6r6t6ututrrt6utru46twyerhfdhfvdvdfbhfhfhdfhfdfgdgtuyyyyygutgrgfgffggfrruuty858888855uygtuyty8lyi5yityiittttterkhehtihhfhuyiuyhyrujhrujhrjhrjhh

For laughs, I had her dictate her story into Dragon. This is what it transcribed:

Hello red's with polilla Ignat Haystak Banky Pinhey with he went to find you I have Eric Horning give or do I have a play day with a growing friendship Ritlin Roing just signed up Oparei Kweli Kabia Fanck Lichenstein Banditz Bonz Undergaro Omori Neengalum Seph time do I have a recording. Or do I have a Rocklanding growing up Nick and Ifeel Eurobeat to redyube Reow Tilbe Dhiri Hafte to Bolillo almost be the same age as me.

It has very little to do with what she actually said (it's a crap dictation program, really). Her actual words had to do with Baby E growing up to be a scientist. 

But you know what I think? Even in gibberish, her stories are better than 50 Shades of Grey. So there. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

baby talk


I thought I'd already posted this, but here sits in my drafts folder. Oops. Posting now!

We love our baby-sitting charge, Baby E (although it isn't going to be long before I need a different online nickname for the little guy--he's not really a baby anymore). He adds a great deal of fun, laughter, and delight to our days.

Some amusing highlights from this week:

It's Fun Fest, one of the girls' favorite weeks of the year. On Monday, we headed to the Kids Central activities. We met up with a friend. While Natalie and Baby E were playing in a tent filled with toys, Sarah was trying to master the monkey bars on the playground next to us.
 
When it was time to go, I called out, "Sarah!"

Baby E spent the rest of the time bellowing, "Eh-wa!" every time he thought she got too far away. Even here at home now, he'll call, "Eh-wa!" in that same sing-song voice to summon her.

He's learning to say a few other words, and Sarah is quite determined that he will learn to say "Da-da."

He thwarts her at every turn. She says over and over: "Say Da-da! Say Da-da!" And every single time he responds with, "Ma-ma! Ma-ma!"

You can't tell me he doesn't know exactly what he's doing. Cheeky kid. :)

Wednesday found us back at Kids Central. It was the day of the Splash Dance. They close off street and bring in a fire truck and spray the hoses. Sarah loved it. Natalie...not so much. Baby E...not even remotely.

I didn't go out into the street with him. I knew fire hoses would be way too intense for our little man. But even off to the side on the grass, we got misted. And being misted was enough to make poor Baby E one miserable little dude. He burrowed into my chest, wailing. (He doesn't like the local splash pad either. Apparently he loved the ocean when on vacation, but sprinklers and hoses don't do it for him. At all.) 

Maybe next year he'll have a better time. And maybe by then, he'll be saying "Da-da" for Sarah. ;)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

so many books, so little time

I love books. My favorite genre is mystery (sometimes with a little romance thrown in). I don't like graphic violence or hard-core gore; I prefer just the old-fashioned "whodunnit" type of detective story. I like trying to put together all the clues.

But I also read other things--fiction and nonfiction. I got to thinking about my reading habits today as I was organing books on the Kindle. 

I love my Kindle. I love being able to carry around hundreds of books at a time in one lightweight little device. I love the daily freebies. (Nelson would love not having to buy yet another bookshelf, but that hasn't actually born out in reality--I still love real books too. And some things I strongly prefer in the "real book" format. So, yeah--sorry, dear!) 

So here is a breakdown of what it currently on my Kindle, so that you can all psychoanalyze my reading habits. ;)

Fiction: 533 books
Christian: 252 books 
Health, beauty, and fitness: 202 books 
Food and recipes: 180 books 
Business, money, and finance: 151 books
Home and family: 141 books 
Writing and blogging: 128 books 
Time management and organization: 107 books 
Books for Sarah and Natalie: 91 (I have more on the iPad; some children's books won't work on the actual Kindle because of the graphics and whatnot)
Homeschooling and other education: 74 books 

Whew! I'm glad I don't have to store or tote around all those!

Now, some books may show up in more than one category. Some fiction books are also Christian. Some businnes books also cover time management. And so on.

I try to switch it up and read from all the various categories, but I'll admit that I haven't even opened the food and recipes folder in ages. The business and money one is pretty neglected as well. 

Fiction, health, and writing probably see the most action. Go figure.

So...how about you? What are your favorite types of books? How might your folders break down? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

you say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to

After the trials of fixing supper last night, I was at least able to offer eggs and hash browns. Natalie was excited about the idea of hash browns while I was cooking. However, once the hash browns were actually on her plate, she had a different reaction. "You said hash browns! These are potatoes!" she said, sounding quite affronted by the whole thing.

Poor kid, with her horrible deceptive mother.

Today, she offered to help me with my "dirty work" (her term for house cleaning chores). I'm going to give her that one. ;)

On the subject of "dirty work," I really should have taken before and after pictures of my pantry today. It's all organized! Alas, a camera never actually occurs to me. So just imagine that it was a kind of a jumbled mess before and it's all neat and tidy now, okay? ;)


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

when Plan A fails, go to Plan B...I mean, Plan C...I mean...oh, never mind

Some days trying to cook supper really isn't worth the effort.

Today was one of those days.

I had a plan. Spaghetti and salad. I had lots of good salad ingredients. Something for everyone (and in this house, that's no mean feat!).

But I took the meat for the spaghetti sauce out of the fridge and knew immediately that Plan B was in order. The package had leaked, the meat didn't look right, and it smelled even worse. Gross.

Okay. Toss the meat; regroup. I had bacon, eggs, and some frozen hash browns. Breakfast for supper would save the day!

I hadn't actually bought the bacon. It had been given to us. But I pulled it from the fridge and looked at the date. November 19, 2013.

Um. That's really not any better than the meat. Yeesh.

Sighing, grumbling, and generally being put out with life, I tossed the bacon too.

Okay, eggs are protein, I have cheese, I have hash browns. We're still going to make this breakfast/supper hybrid thing work.

And it did, sort of. Not to brag or anything, but I make really good scrambled eggs. I don't always like eating anyone else's, truth be known. And this batch came out really pretty and perfect.

Only...Nelson had been feeling rotten all day and finally succumbed. (Whatever Natalie had at the beginning of the week hit him, and he's in bed with a fever.) He wasn't interested in supper at all. Sarah ate happily, but Natalie didn't eat much either. My beautiful eggs went largely unappreciated.

I like hash browns an awful lot though, so I probably ate more than my fair share. In that sense, I guess it's good that I didn't have to share, right? (Trying to find the silver lining here.)

If someone wants to take over supper preparations at my house, you are welcome to it. I think I'm done.

Monday, June 30, 2014

book review: behind the mask

I love the daily Kindle freebies. But the books are something of a gamble. Some of the books you snag for free are downright awful. Some are fabulous gems. Most fall somewhere in the middle.

I had been on a streak of mediocre to terrible as far as Kindle reading went. And then I started reading Behind the Mask by Elizabeth D. Michaels.

I knew from the start that it was going to be good. It began like a historical mystery, with a little bit of romance thrown in. That happens to be my favorite genre, so I was excited to find a new author who was actually good.

I guess I should have paid a bit more attention to the book description. The mystery only lasted through the first part of the book. Once it wrapped up, I thought the book over. It wasn't. Not even close.

Turns out the book was a saga. Seven hundred and ninety-two pages worth of saga. With a sequel to come. Wowza.

That's okay, though--it was a good saga. I'll probably get the sequel and read it too.

I'll admit that the twists didn't actually surprise me (I've read too many mysteries over the years--not many surprises left).  But since it was a saga rather than a straight-up mystery, it's more about the characters' journey anyway, so I'm not too bothered by that. I liked the characters enough to stay engaged throughout the whole thing.

It's available in paperback as well as Kindle (although the e-edition is certainly easier to tote around!).

If you're a fan of historical fiction, give it a try. (Amazon does offer the Kindle version in segments, although it ends up being more expensive overall to purchase it that way. However, it will let you try a part of it first to see if you like it before you commit to the whole thing. It's a nice option. Or you can just request a free sample--not sure how big of a sample they'll send, but it is free and at least gives you a preview.)

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