Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Grocery Challenge - $25 Per Week Per Person

Several members of an online group and I are taking part in an unofficial grocery challenge based on the All You magazine challenge. The objective is to spend $25 per week per person on food. Since there are two people in my family, I have a budget of $50 per week. I had planned to start my challenge this past Wednesday, June 22. I did not realize that I would end up sick (bronchitis and pharyngitis). My shopping trip was delayed until yesterday. I am counting this spending as for the previous days as well. I planned my menus through next Tuesday though. I have a family reunion coming up this weekend. Part of my spending for the coming week will have to include items to cook for the reunion.

Spending first: $53.19 leaving me $46.81 for next week

I bought:
frozen pizza
chicken ranch wraps (frozen from Schwan's)
potato chips
natural almonds - 3 cans
Mrs. Dash - 2
candy bars - 6
chex mix - 2
cereal - 2
wheat tortillas
tea bags
toaster strudel - 2
ice cream
whipping cream

Meals planned:
pizza and salad
pork tenderloin, au gratin potatoes, okra
tomato sandwiches
spaghetti and meatballs, salad, garlic bread
chicken ranch wraps and French fries
hamburgers and chips
beef stew
bean burritos
tuna pasta salad
breakfast for supper - sausage, grits, eggs, toast
steak, potatoes, squash/peas

Monday, June 27, 2011

June Daring Bakers Challenge

Erica of Erica's Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers' June Challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

I was a bit nervous about my first challenge and was relieved that it was something with which I was familiar. I have made Baklava before with store bought phyllo. Prior to this challenge I never even considered making my own phyllo.

Phyllo Dough
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour and salt. Mix with paddle attachment. Combine water, oil, and vinegar in a small bowl. Add water mixture with mixer on low speed until you get a soft dough. If it appears dry add a little more water. Change to dough hook and let knead for 10 minutes. Remove dough from mixture and knead two more minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and cover with oil. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest two hours.

Rolling out the dough was an adventure. I used a large dowel rod. After watching a video of how to do it properly, I got a bit better. My technique still leaves much to be desired. I managed to get it close to thin enough. I chose to make it in a round pan.

My one complaint about Baklava is that it is super sweet. I know that is basically the definition of Baklava. Still I wanted to try a less sweet creation. I melted Nutella and drizzled over the layers of phyllo. Then I topped it with chopped pecans (already on hand). I only buttered every other layer of phyllo to make it flakier. Here is the pre-baked Baklava.

While the Baklava was baking, I mixed up the syrup. I used less syrup than called for to cut down on the sweetness. I mixed equal parts water and sugar, some honey, and a bit of lemon juice. The lemon juice was a great addition and helped cut the sweetness. Once the Baklava was baked, I poured the cooled syrup over the hot Baklava.

Finally a slice of the finished product. I am happy to say I finished the challenge. I will probably not make phyllo dough on a regular basis. It is nice to know I could if I had to do so. I will definitely make Baklava again but will stick to the store bought phyllo.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Use It Up

Last week was a bit hectic here. I had a sick husband and Vacation Bible School at church. I needed to make yogurt, which I did. I still ended up with a piece of a jar that had to be used up or fed to the chickens. Now I will be honest, my chickens love yogurt. I should really take a picture of them one day with their little beaks covered in yogurt.

Anyway..... I remembered bookmarking a recipe for Strawberry Daiquiri Popsicles at Simply Scratch. I did cheat and use homegrown strawberries that I had frozen. I also used bottled lime juice as I had no fresh limes in the refrigerator. I finally had a chance to eat one this week. They were delicious. I could have used a tad less lime juice, but I will definitely be making these again.

I recently discovered Simply Scratch and love that the recipes use whole foods. I am really trying to get away from using too much processed food in my cooking. The popsicles were a nice healthy treat made for pennies.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Roasted Corn on the Cob

I like corn on the cob, but I never loved it boiled. Cooking it on the grill is not always an option. I saw a recipe in a magazine recently for roasting it in the oven. If it were not so delicious, I would never be tempted to make it as hot as the weather is.

Ears of fresh corn are placed in a buttered dish. They are basted with more butter and then cover with foil. Bake at 400 degree for 30 minutes. Uncover, butter again, and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes. It brings out the sweetness in the corn. This is definitely my favorite way to cook corn on the cob now.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I would like to say all of these lovely tomatoes came from my garden. They actually came from a nearby pick-your-own farm. A five-gallon bucket cost $9. I had a specific purpose in mind when I purchased a bucket of tomatoes.

I wanted to can some tomatoes. I did keep a few of the tomatoes to eat fresh. The rest ended up here. I had 17 pints of diced tomatoes. They all sealed and look lovely stacked in my pantry.

Now this was not a great savings over purchased diced tomatoes. I do like knowing that these are low-sodium and are a local product. To me it was worth the time and effort involved.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Baby Chicks

We have ten baby chicks which were hatched by two of our hens. They are growing quickly. Hopefully we will have more hens than roosters. We need to wait several more weeks before we can tell.

The two chicks on the left are ours. (The other two belong to my parents.) Our two are white cochins which were hatched by Daphne. She turned out to be not such a good mother and we took the chicks from her shortly after they were born. These are in their ugly phase.

The eight chicks in this picture were hatched by our Mille Fleur hen, Hannah. She was a fantastic mother. We left them with her (in a pen separate from the other chickens) for three weeks. They were not happy to be taken from her but are doing great.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Furry Friends and Flowers

Whenever I get the camera out, the animals all seem to appear. They love to have their pictures taken. Lucy was keeping a close eye on JJ when I took this shot hence the laid back ears.

Bear loves to pose anytime she sees the camera. She prefers this "on alert" pose. It can be hard to get a good face shot at times. She thinks the profile shots are much better.

This is Casper who does not belong to me but enjoys visiting the herb garden for the catnip.

JJ hiding under a chair. He is a bit of a stalker although he only stalks the other cats.

I got several surprise zinnias after tossing out a packet of old seeds. This one was especially pretty.

This is a candy cane zinnia. They are not doing quite as well this year due to the extremely dry condition.

I honestly have no idea exactly what type of flower this is. I do know that it tolerates heat and drought very well which makes it a favorite of mine.

This is one of the sunflowers I planted in the garden. The idea was to use them to attract bees and increase pollination of the vegetables. My husband decided we needed something other than plain sunflowers.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pineapple Plants

Part of the fun of a fresh pineapple is sprouting the top and ended up with a plant. I enjoy that as much or more than eating the pineapple. I lost one of my plants to the cold last year, but two survived and are thriving in this hot, humid weather.

This is the oldest of my pineapple plants. I repotted it earlier this spring, and it has really taken off. I also like that they do well with very little water.

This plant has actually sprouted out into three plants. The main one is the smaller in the middle. The two new ones off to the sides are growing better.

This is the third plant left from last year.

These are the three new plants that I sprouted this year. I planted two of them in larger pots only because that is what I had left. They will probably not need to be repotted for a couple of years.

I have yet to get a pineapple sprouting off one of my plants but hopefully will soon. They are a nice addition to the deck as they are. With this very dry weather they are the few plants I have that are still pretty and green.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Garden Update

I decided it would be easier for now to post my garden pictures in my regular blog. Maybe next year I will be more on track to keep up with the gardening blog. For now one is enough. Here are some new garden pictures. Everything is really growing!

Rattlesnake Watermelon

(So far thankfully I have seen no actual rattlesnakes)



(for fall decorating)

(a regular orange pie pumpkin)

Lumina Pumpkin

(For decorating because I think white pumpkins are neat)

Celebrity Tomatoes

Yellow Pear Cherry Tomatoes

Jalapeno Pepper

Banana Pepper


(I love that they look like paper lanterns!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Birds!!

Does anyone remember that Alfred Hitchcock movie? I still think it is one of the scariest movies ever. When was the last time you ran into a zombie or mutant alien? Now when was the last time you saw a few birds?

These are my mom's blackberry bushes which are loaded with fresh, juicy, ripe berries. All of the leaves and thorns are concealing a nest full of baby birds.

Here is what is guarding the nest and therefore the blackberry bushes.

Let me just say this mama bird could win a starring role in Hitchcock's movie. I cannot convince her that my interest is in the berries and not her babies. She swoops down at me squawking all the time. I picture all of her bird friends joining in the attack. That casts me as Tippi Hedren's character Melanie Daniels. My only rescuer was a dog who quickly tired of my cries for help and left me fend for myself. In the end I walked away with only mental scars and a gallon of berries