Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Freezer Challenge

With the freezer cooking I did earlier this month and the freezer cooking I have planned, I need to make some room in my freezer.   The easiest way to do this is to eat from the freezer.  My goal for the month of October is to use something out of the freezer every day.  I have an abundance of frozen fruits and vegetables and am going to make an effort to use some of these. 

Join me this coming month as I take some things out of the freezer so I have room to put more in. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Freezer Cooking

First I should apologize for the long time between posts.  Life got in the way.  A second apology is due for the lack of pictures in this post.  At the time I was trying to squeeze in all of the cooking and keep the kitchen clean.  I guess this post is more about making the best use of ingredients by cooking multiple dishes rather than the dishes themselves.

My latest freezer cooking all started with the purchase of four chicken breasts for $2.89.  I knew I wanted to make chicken pot pie filling.  I boiled the chicken breasts which also netted me a pot of chicken broth.  My first dish was the chicken pot pie.  I shredded three of the chicken breasts and used two cups of the chicken broth.  I also used part of a can of evaporated milk and pack of frozen mixed vegetables.  Both were bought on sale with coupons.  I finished up with onions and celery which I had on hand.  I ended up with enough filling for two pot pies.

Since I knew I would have chicken broth I also purchased fresh broccoli for $4.38 to make broccoli cheese soup.  I chopped up some onions and carrots to go along with the broccoli (I kept out one crown for another use) and added in about four cups of the chicken broth.  I also added in some half and half from the freezer.  I had bought it on clearance a while back.  I used cheese purchased on sale.

I used the final chicken breast and remainder of the broccoli in a broccoli chicken rice casserole.  I used most of a bag of brown rice again bought on sale with a coupon for about 20 cents.  I used the remainder of the chicken broth in homemade cream of chicken soup.  That gave me the equivalent of two cans of soup to go in the casserole.  It was much cheaper than buying the healthy, low-sodium canned soup. 

From the first two dishes I had some leftover evaporated milk and half & half.  I added in a bit of water to make enough for a double batch of whole wheat waffles.  Since I had cooked an entire bag of rice, there was enough left to freeze for a future meal in addition to what went in the casserole. 

I did not waste anything by planning out meals to make good use of all the ingredients. The chicken broth could have easily been frozen too.  Find ways to use up what you have rather than tossing it out.  Little things add up in the long run!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Garden Check In

I have started on my fall garden.  I am fortunate to be able to grow vegetables outside almost year around where I live.  (The other few months I can grow lettuce in the greenhouse so gardening is all year long here.)  First I planted cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprout seeds.  The seedlings were so spindly that they ended up dying.  I tried again and am having better luck this time.

I planted some other seeds in an older raised bed.  Most are not doing too well, but I do have a nice bunch of radish seedlings.


You will notice I have wire over the top of them.  This is what happens when you combine unprotected radish plants and free range chickens.  Obviously chickens love radish tops.

I have a new tomato plant that sprouted in the compost pile.  I dug it up and put it in a large pot.  If the super cold winter weather holds off, I should be eating fresh tomatoes at Christmas.

Last week I worked really hard on refreshing one of my raised beds.  I added some organic peat hummus we bought at an auction, horse manure (from a neighbor's farm), compost from all the kitchen scraps, and peat moss (purchased).  I planted zucchini, cucumber, yellow squash, and sunflower seeds.  W said that if they did not grow then I was doing something really wrong as the soil is super rich.  The packet said that the seeds would sprout in 10-14 days.  It took them only four days to sprout.  We should be eating fresh vegetables by Halloween. 

I still have room in the raised bed and am considering planting some lettuce and spinach along the edges since the soil in this one is so much better than the other.  I also need to do some maintenance work on my spring planted tomatoes.  With a little coaxing they will produce more tomatoes too. 

Do you grow a fall garden in your area?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Front Porch Plants

I had mentioned working on the front porch last week and thought I would share a few photos of the plants.  First up is the ferns.  If you will remember back in May I purchased a fern on clearance for $4 and divided it into three plants.  Here is the original picture when I divided it.


Here is one of the ferns now just over three months later.  It is now full and lush.  Not bad for less than $1.50 each.

Next up is a banana plant, which is a succulent and not a plant that will actually produce a banana.  I bought a cutting off eBay for a couple of dollars last year.  The cold got to it a bit, but it has since fully recovered.  I saw a plant about half the size of this one at a garden center for $12.  I have another decent sized one growing from a cutting I took.  Before winter I will take several cuttings off this one for more new plants - free with my original $2 investment.

I had two containers like this one with plants in them. 

The base of one of the planters had broken on one side.  When I repotted the plants, that side of the base crumbled completely.  I was going to toss it.  W offered a solution.  He turned it on its side, and the planter balanced perfectly.  I added some soil and planted some cuttings from another succulent.  Can you tell I love succulents?

Given a bit of time these cuttings will fill in the pot and begin to drap over the sides.  What might have been trash is now a nice addition to the porch.  Again a freebie since I already had the pot and took cuttings from my own plant. 

Those large plants sold at the garden centers look great and often have a price to match the size.  Consider buying a smaller version and adding a little patience.  You might also want to choose plants that can be divided or that you can take cuttings from.  That large fern will be divided again in the spring and will give me another plant at least.  Perhaps you have friends you can trade cuttings or extra plants with once or twice a year.  You can each get some new plants for free!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Make It Yourself

Last week I was pre-chopping rabbit vegetables.  It is easier to feed them each evening if I can grab a container of vegetables and go.  While I was chopping those, I realized that I should be chopping up some people vegetables.  I know everyone has seen the pre-chopped/prepared vegetables in the grocery store.  The price per weight is much higher than buying whole vegetables.  It did not take me too long to cut a bunch of celery into sticks, wash grapes, make carrot chips, and slice up a package of cheese.

I put everything in clear containers so it is easy to see.  (These are my new Lock and Lock containers. )  We have been snacking on them over the weekend.  It is much easier to grab a healthy snack now.  Plus I saved some money by making it myself.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 2

Week two of the Holiday Grand Plan is Living Room/Question Week.  This is a good time to take a look Christmases past.  Decide what worked, what you want to do again, and what you can let go.  Ask your family what they like best about the holidays and which things they would be happier without this year. 

Here is my week two list:

~Make and freeze one extra meal - I'm making macaroni & cheese
~Print Christmas card labels
~Clean living room
~Wash outside trash can
~Work on homemade gifts
~Work on Christmas cards
~Make and freeze one batch of crescent rolls for church dinner next month

I am happy to report that I got a good start on my Christmas cards on Saturday.  I chose a simpler design this year and embossed the front with a Cuttlebug embossing folder.  I should be able to finish these up this week.

Cleaning the living room will be an easy task since I did a bunch of work in that room several weeks ago.  Yesterday I organized the television cabinet and removed the cover from the couch.  It looks like a brand new couch.  It is amazing what a change in pattern will do.  The main thing left is to give the living room a good vacuuming.

For homemade gifts I will be knitting scarves this week (and probably for a few weeks).  Most of those will need to be mailed so I need to finish them first.  I found the yarn for them on discount so it will be a nice but inexpensive gift.

I will be back with an update over the weekend!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

My Week and HGP Check-In

I have been busy working in the yard this week.  The front porch is looking much better.  I got rid of the dead flowers and repotted some others.  Without spending any money the plants look refreshed. 

I also started on the fall garden.  That is a simple way of saying I spent three days hauling organic hummus, peat moss, horse manure and compost to revive a raised bed.  I planted yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini, and sunflowers in it yesterday.  Those should sprout in a week or two.  I am looking forward to some fresh veggies by Halloween.  I also replanted the cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprout, and cabbage seeds.  The new sprouts look much better than the first ones.

I found time to bake some breads.   I made hamburger buns and also two loaves of French bread.  The French bread was for French dip sandwiches. 

I am at the end of week one of the Holiday Grand Plan.  I did quite well.  The lists are started.  The porch is clean, and I have already received the Operation Christmas Child materials.  A couple of things are left undone right now.  I still have not started on my Christmas cards in spite of putting it at the top of my list every day.  We also did not take our Christmas card photo.  We got rain almost every afternoon this week.  It did not rain yesterday, but we had company.  Plus I was just too tired.  Hopefully the first of next week will be better.