Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Partidge Cochin that Wasn't

I know I have mentioned my pet chicken who loves to be petted.  She runs to the door when I feed the chickens and prefers to be petted on her comb or her chin.  She lets me know if I am not doing it just right when a light peck.  She is pictured on the left in the photo below.

You may notice that she does not look exactly similar to the one on the right.  (Their sizes are the same.  They just look different due to the angle.)  After a bit of research, W found out that she is actually a Golden Lace Cochin rather than a Partridge Cochin.  We are guessing that she was the free chicken in our last order of chicks.

I decided to name her Goldie.  She will stay with the Partridges, because she is used to them and they to her.  Of course I cannot get rid of her.  She is too spoiled to live anywhere else!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Baseball Cake

I teach a children's Bible class at my church.  For each child's birthday, they get to choose a giant cookie, cupcakes, or cake.  The most recent birthday boy went back and forth between cupcakes and cake before finally settling on a cake. 

This was very easy to make.  I used a soccer ball pan and my favorite birthday cake icing.  I tinted a bit red and piped on the stitches.  I am not the best at smoothing out the icing, but he was happy with it.  The cake gets shared at snack time, and the birthday boy took home the leftovers. 

I think it is more special than buying a generic gift and certainly more affordable.  They all seem to love homemade treats.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Sorry for the Silence

I apologize for the lack of posts this past week.  I had good intentions but had some things come up.  Nothing to be concerned about but enough to throw a kink in my week.  I have posts lined up for this coming week though so please stop by.  Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekly Grocery Spending

Just so this will not be a picture free post, I am adding in a couple of photos of sunflowers from my garden.

Even after a big shopping trip at Sam's Club, I needed to pick up a few items at the grocery store.  The items purchased at Sam's came out of my saved bulk shopping money.  I had my usual $25 to spend this week.  Here is what I purchased:

7 boxes of cereal - $9.65
coconut - $4.38
buttermilk (clearance) - $1.49
2 half-gallons of milk (clearance ) - $3.58
3 pints light cream (clearance) - $2.22
6 packages of cheese - $10

Total with tax - $32.26

The cereal will last for several weeks.  The coconut will be for use in muffins and macaroons for W's lunch.  The dairy will be for future use also.  Buttermilk goes into English muffins and part of the cream will become ice cream.  The cheese is for use in jalapeno poppers and burritos. I am left with about $18 for next week. 
Supper tonight will be steak fajitas with Spanish rice.  Tomorrow I will serve chicken salad. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Drying Herbs

Sorry for the lack of posts I have been a bit under the weather.  During my spurts of energy, I tried to get some yard work and housework done.  Meals the past two days were sandwiches, leftovers, and soup (for me).  Today I am planning to serve pork and beans (homemade from the freezer) with hot dogs and au gratin potatoes (simple dish of potatoes and cream).  I also need to bake another birthday cake which means W will have cupcakes in his lunch again this weekend. 
Now for the main topic of the post - drying herbs.  I have an abundance of oregano in my herb garden.  I decided it was just plain silly to buy dried oregano when I could make my own.  This picture was taken after I had cut it.  I can foresee the chickens snacking on oregano next week.

I washed it several times and then spun it in the salad spinner.  I spread it out over five trays in the my dehydrator.  I actually had more than would fit the first time.  I ended up doing a second batch that was part oregano and part sage.

It took about an hour in my dehydrator to get it good and dry.  Once dry I crumbled it over a piece of waxed paper to make it easier to transfer to a jar.

Here is the sage in my herb garden.  It is under control.  I did not dry as much of it as I do not use as much in my cooking compared to the oregano.

Next week I plan to dry some catnip for Lucy and Paris.  In the picture you will notice the wire cage we had to put over the plants to protect them.  Otherwise the cats will eat/squish the entire plant.

Yesterday I also planted several more varieties of herbs.  I have plenty of time left in the growing season for those to get big enough to dry.  I am looking forward to drying my own herbs rather than buying them.  It takes a bit of time, but it is a money saver in the long term.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Recent Meals and Bulk Shopping

Weekend meals here were the usual.  Yesterday we took a trip out of town.  I intended to do some clothes shopping but came home empty handed.  We did find a few things at a couple of craft stores.  Our main reason for going was a visit to Sam's Club.  I am afraid to say that we went over our budget a bit.  We stocked up on quite a few items, and the grocery budget will continue to be lower most likely through August. 

We stocked up on basic items - bulk spices, bread flour, yeast, etc.  I had also planned on some snack purchases.  W chose almonds and pistachios.  I suggested granola bars since I have yet to find a good homemade version.  When buying in bulk it does not take long to add up. 

Yesterdays meals were eaten out since we were away from home.  Today's lunch will be pizza  and salads.  Supper will be pork tenderloin, macaroni and cheese, peas, and crescent rolls. 

I had good intentions of posting a picture of the snake wreath over the weekend.  I keep finding plastic snakes in the craft room.  I am going to continue cleaning in there this week and will hopefully have it finished by this weekend.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Low Sugar Peach Jam

While reading a recent issue of one of my favorite country living magazines, Countryside, I was introduced to a natural pectin.  Pomona's Universal Pectin does not need sugar to jell.  You can use less or even no sugar in your homemade jams and jellies.  Pomona's Universal Pectin is basically a citrus pectin that is activated by calcium. 

I ordered some from Amazon.  You might think at first glance that it is quite expensive.  Each one ounce box makes two to four batches of jam.  You are saving additional money by using less sugar.  I also have to rave about the taste.  My peanut butter and peach jam sandwich tasted like I had put a fresh peach on rather than jam.  Yum!  Here is how it works...

Before you start, you mix up the calcium water.  A package of powdered calcium is included.  This stores in the refrigerator for months.  I also needed four cups of peaches (I used ones I had frozen), 1/4 cup lemon juice, Pomona's pectin, and one cup of sugar.  My previous pectin needed four cups of sugar, and I did not dare use less as it would not jell properly.

I put the peaches, lemon juice, and 4 teaspoons of calcium water in a pot and brought that to a boil.  While that was heating I mixed 3 teaspoons of pectin in with my sugar.

Once the peach mixture boils, add in the sugar/pectin mixture and stir for a minute or so until it is dissolved and mixed it well.  Bring the mixture back to a boil and you are ready to can as usual.  There is no need for the multi-minute full, rolling boil.  Easy, right?

My finished jam pictures did not turn out well.  In addition to the peach jam, I also used Pomona's Universal Pectin to make hot pepper jelly.  I used one-third of the amount of sugar my regular hot pepper jelly needed.  I will not go back to the "other pectin".  I have seen the lighter sugar side of jams and jellies.  Both the peach jam and hot pepper jelly set up perfectly. 

I would highly recommend this pectin if you want homemade jams and jellies that are also lower in sugar.  It is sold through Amazon and at some natural food stores. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Grocery Spending, Meals, and Crafts

I have been busy here and realized I had forgotten to post the meals for Wednesday.  Then I almost completely forgot what we had eaten.  Finally it came to me - turkey cheddar ranch burgers with chips.  When I returned from church, W (the husband) had eaten a bowl of cereal.  I heated up a homemade frozen dinner for myself.  Yesterday we had to go out of town for an appointment which took longer than planned.  We had fast food and then just snacked late last night.  That meal came out of money separate from my grocery budget.

That brings me to my grocery spending for this week - a big fat nothing, $0, zip!  I saw no good sales and really needed nothing.  The unspent $24 can go into the bulk purchase money.

I am still working on my craft room.  It is never going to be clean.  I simply have too much stuff!  I did use some of it to make note cards earlier this week.

I have two more days left to clean in there before it is time to move onto another room.  I think I have collected all of the plastic snakes.  I plan to give the wreath one more spritz of paint tonight and will share a photo of it tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day 10 Meals and Some New Arrivals

Yesterday we had a late breakfast of ham and biscuits.  That meant we had a late lunch/early supper.  I made a pizza using dough from the freezer.  The pizza ended up being veggies only.  I had some pepperoni in the fridge, but it had gone bad.  That led my husband to admit he only ate the pepperoni pizza because I liked the pepperoni.  Hmmm...I was only eating because he wanted it on there.  This makes our homemade pizzas much cheaper from here on out.  I will gladly eat a veggie pizza.  I now have another meatless meal.

I know I am supposed to be sharing completed craft projects. I got side tracked yesterday by some new arrivals to our little "farm". Our girl duck is mama to nine babies.  Yesterday she got them out of the enclosed pen into the yard.

The little ones quickly learned how to go in and out of their small pond.  They paddled and floated and climbed in and out (repeatedly). 

I admit to spending way too much time watching them and no time crafting.  Fortunately I had cleaned part of the craft room that morning.  They are just too cute.  I could not resist.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Pantry Challenge - Days 7-9 & Cleaning

Weekend meals are pretty low key around here.  My husband works a weekend shift with longer hours.  It is always hit or miss if he will want a meal when he gets home.  This time of year we often have sandwiches.  This weekend we had a choice of ham, PB&J, or tomato.  Nothing exciting, but meals can be simple and good.

After all of the time I have spent on the garden recently, my house has been neglected.  I normally reserve my deep cleaning for the Holiday Grand Plan which starts around the end of August.  I decided to do an early round of deep cleaning though.  Last week I cleaned the living room.  I love having a nice, organized area.  This week I am cleaning my craft room.  In addition to cleaning out some things, I am working to use up some supplies.  This week I will share some completed craft projects along with what we are eating.

I bought some beads earlier this year for a specific project.  I did not like how they look so they were sitting in a drawer.  I got them out along with some elastic thread.  I do not like the look of one small bracelet, but several piled together look much nicer.  Now I would not wear all of these at once, but I would mix and match a few of them at a time.  I had nine bracelets in all. 

I apologize for the poor picture quality.  It was had to find good light after I finished these late yesterday.  I may not finish the craft room this week, but I am sure I will have a good start.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pantry Challenge - Day 6

I feel like we are eating quite well, but I am only a week into the challenge.  Lunch today was bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches.  The bacon was turkey bacon.  I cook an entire package at a time and freeze it.  I can easily grab a few slices for sandwiches.  The homemade bread toasted nicely.  BLTs are a summer treat so we enjoy them while we can.

Supper was a feast.  While digging in the freezer for meat for the fajitas, I found a package of steaks.  Those went on the grill tonight.  We had baked potatoes and salads to round out the meal.  Dessert was homemade vanilla ice cream. 

The ice cream was a breeze to make with only three ingredients.  I have a 1 1/2 quart GE ice cream maker.  The canister went into the freezer yesterday.  After lunch I mixed 3 cups half and half, one cup sugar, and 2 1/2 teaspoons homemade vanilla.  Once it finished churning I put it in the freezer to finish hardening.  The flavor was perfect.  I will be dividing the remainder of the half and half (which put me slightly over budget) into 3 cup portions.  No more store bought ice cream for us!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thursday's Meals and Grocery Shopping

First up what we ate on Thursday....
Lunch was frozen pizza, which we picked up while shopping.  I was very hungry and wanted something quick.

Supper was steak fajitas with Spanish rice.  I dug out some less than great cuts of meat and put them in the crockpot this morning.  It also helped me use up some yellow and red peppers.  The Spanish rice was a last minute addition.  I had salsa and chicken broth in the pantry.  I also found a bit of white rice hiding in the freezer. 

Shopping...I ended up spending $26.  Not terrible, but I am glad that there were no great sales or I would have been in major trouble.  Here is what I bought

Deli meat
Sweet onions
Frozen pizza
Sour cream
Whipping cream
Half & Half - 2 (on clearance and what put me over the top)

The oranges will be for my husband's lunches for a couple of weeks.  The half and half will be for ice cream and coffee.  The containers were half gallon for $2.50 each so a decent deal.  I will have a strict $24 budget for next week. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pantry Challenge - Day 4

Last night we ended up eating leftovers.  I love that my husband will happily eat leftovers.  Today for lunch we had the spaghetti with fresh pasta sauce, salad, and breadsticks.  I put two packs of breadsticks in the freezer for future meals.  Thanks to the large lunch and the heat of the evening neither of us is very hungry. 

The peaches from yesterday are safely in the freezer.  I put some in bags of four cups for jam and others in bags of two cups for ice cream.  A few are tucked in the refrigerator for eating fresh. 

I have an idea for tomorrow's meals.  I need to dig around in the freezer for some meat to put in the crockpot.  I also need to bake two loaves of bread for sandwiches.  I will be sharing my grocery shopping totals.  I saw no great sales so I should not be tempted to go over my $25 budget.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bulk Purchase and Grocery Challenge Menu

I made a bulk purchase yesterday - the box of peaches shown here.  A few will be for eating fresh.  Most will be put in the freezer for making jam.  These peaches were purchased directly from a peach farm and are wonderful quality.  I paid $14 for the box, and the money came from my extra grocery savings.

I thought I would share a more accurate menu of what we are eating while on the $25/week grocery challenge.  With the low amount of spending, I am focusing on using what we have in the pantry.  Lunch today will be crab egg salad sandwiches and chips.  The meal consists of canned crab from the pantry, eggs from our chickens, and homemade bread.  The chips were leftovers from a church event.  Supper will be spaghetti, salad and breadsticks.  I need to use up some very ripe tomatoes and will make a fresh pasta sauce of tomatoes, garlic, onion, mushrooms (from freezer), and peppers.  We have lettuce in the refrigerator, and I will make the breadsticks.

Monday, July 2, 2012


The bulk of my garden is done for now.  I will do some later planting in a couple of months.  Right now I have plenty of peppers.  I have many more than I can quickly use up.  I am freezing them for later.  First are the bell peppers.  I can always use these to add to dishes especially in the winter.  I chopped these into pieces and had a quart bag of pepper to use later when I have no fresh peppers.

 I also have an over abundance of jalapeno peppers this year.  It was sort of planned since I did double the number of plants from last year.  I took advantage of all the extras to make jalapeno poppers to freeze.  I love these, but they are usually breaded and deep fried - good but far from healthy. 
To make my freezer friendly poppers, I slice the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds and membrane. Next I mix together 8 ounces of softened cream cheese, about half a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, and a good pinch of salt. (I can do about 16 whole or 32 half jalapenos with this amount.) That mixture gets squished into each jalapeno half. Then I dip them in my homemade bread crumbs (these were made from leftover homemade hot dog buns). I really press to get a good coating of the bread crumbs. I put them in a foil container and stick them in the freezer until they are frozen solid. Then they go into a freezer bag. To serve, take out as many as you need and put them in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or so until the cheese is bubbly. The bread crumbs help hold it in the pepper so it does not ooze everywhere.