Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Time Out

Just wanted to let everyone know that I am taking a bit of a time out.  I hope to be back in a few weeks.  Thank you for your patience and understanding!

Monday, May 20, 2013

No Menu but a Garden Update

We are eating from the garden now so the menu is up in the air.  I did spend $10 on groceries last week.  Actually it was W who spent it as I sent him by the grocery store to pick up items for his lunch.  He bought grapefruit, bananas, and cheese puffs.  He has enough grapefruit left for this week.  I have $40 to spend on groceries this week.

Now for the garden update.  Everything is growing very well.  This is an overview of the main garden.  It has tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, string beans, squash, zucchini, corn, and cucumbers.

My tomatoes in the raised bed are growing like crazy.  We should be eating yellow pear tomatoes very soon.  We also have cherry tomatoes that will not be far behind.
The peppers are doing well.  I have some early ones that have put on peppers.  The ones on the other side of the greenhouse are later and have not bloomed yet.

The dill in growing well in a container.  I put a piece of fencing over it to keep the chickens from scratching in it.  Fortunately they do not seem interested in snacking on the plants.
I have leaf lettuce growing for the rabbits and head lettuce growing for us.  The bare spots are where I planted more seeds last week.  I will plant more at the end of this week.  I am trying to keep a steady supply of organic lettuce for us and the bunnies.
These garden pea pods are being dried for seed for next year.  While I know that I can buy seeds, I am trying to learn to save seeds myself.  I will pick these soon and allow them to finish drying.
W built me a raised bed for my raspberries.  We have more these poor plants several times.  This will be their permanent home and hopefully they will have a chance to thrive and produce now.
I have one little lemon on my dwarf lemon tree.  It is doing great.  I am excited to have homegrown lemons - well at least one - and more in the future.    I am saving to buy more dwarf citrus trees.
The smallest pineapple bloom has formed into a pineapple.  The large pineapple below was harvested this weekend.  It was super sweet and became pineapple sandwiches for supper one night.

The strawberry plants that we share with my parents are producing well.  This is a bowlful that was picked last week.  I made a batch of strawberry jam, put some in the freezer, and saved some for eating fresh.  I expect we will be picking lots more over the next couple of months.
Gardens are time consuming and work.  When you start to harvest all of the produce, they are totally worth it.  I have even ordered more herb seeds to plant.  Growing your own food is a bit addictive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Homemade Convenience Food - Frozen Pocket Sandwiches

I have tried my best to eliminate highly processed foods from our diet.  We are far from where I want to be, but I am making progress in the right direction.  Those frozen processed foods are convenient though which is the main draw.  I am working on making my own healthier convenience foods.  A couple of weeks ago I made a variety of frozen pocket sandwiches.

To start I mixed up a batch of calzone dough however pizza dough would work just as well.  I divided it into portions.

Each portion was patted into a round disk.

I then rolled out each disk into a circle (more or less - mostly less).

I used a variety of fillings.  I made some taco pocket sandwiches with taco seasoned meat, salsa, and cheese.  I made roast beef and cheese as well as chicken bacon ranch with shredded chicken, ranch dressing, bacon bits, cream cheese, and a bit of cheddar cheese.  The filling is placed slightly off center on the dough.

The dough is then folded over and crimped well to seal the filling inside.

The completed calzones are placed on a greased baking sheet and allowed to rise slightly.

I bake them at 400 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes.  You want them to be golden brown.

Once the baked sandwiches are cooled, I wrap each in waxed paper and place in a freezer bag.  These reheat quickly in the microwave.  You can include any fillings you want.  I plan to try some roasted veggie sandwiches when are garden is in full swing. 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Menu Plan & Grocery Spending

I thought I would start with grocery spending this week.  If you remember for the previous week, I had just $13 to spend.  Last week I spent just under $3 to purchase a gallon of milk on clearance.  I was tempted to purchase some other things, but I resisted as they were not needs.  That means I have $30 to spend on groceries this week.

This week's menu is subject to change.  I am going to be reorganizing the pantry this week.  I want to use up or at least make use of what I have on hand.  Depending on what I find hiding in there, I may adjust what is on the menu this week. 

Big Salads - We can now add some cucumber from the garden to our salad.  I am still waiting for the tomatoes to get ripe.  We have lots of cherry and pear tomatoes hanging on the plants.

Sloppy joes & chips - carried over yet again

Taco pasta & salad - I know I have some canned tomatoes with chilies in the pantry along with elbow macaroni. 

Pork tenderloin, potatoes & milk, salads - I will dig some more potatoes from the garden.  This time of year we tend to eat whatever is growing. The meals may seem repetitive, but we have to eat it while we can.

Barbecue sandwiches - I am definitely cooking the Boston butt that is in the freezer this week. 

Barbecue stuffed potatoes - While I will put most of the leftover barbecue in the freezer for future, easy meals, I will keep some out for this favorite meal.  A baked potato is filled with barbecue and other toppings (cheese, sour cream, green onions) for a hearty but easy meal. 

Spaghetti pie, salad, breadsticks - I have a spaghetti pie in the freezer.  These are better once they are frozen rather than freshly made. 

This is the one week I am not sure I will stick to the menu plan.  I do know that I have lots of other options on hand in the pantry and freezer so there will be no eating out.  I just feel flexible this week.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Furry Friday

About a week ago we added a new furry member to our family.  Meet Leo!


He is a miniature beagle/feist mix and is about 6 weeks old.  Leo is a bundle of energy and wants desperately to be friends with the cats.  They are no so sure just yet.  None of the cats have run away from home which I consider to be a good sign.

We have not introduced him to the chickens.  Leo does not like to go that far from the house just yet.  He has not even been out to the garden.  We got halfway there yesterday.  He got scared and took off running for the house.  Baby steps!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Weekly Menu Plan & Grocery Spending

Last week flew by on me, and I feel like I did not accomplish much.  I did make several batches of "pocket" type sandwiches for the freezer.  I also changed the menu around just a bit.  The weather turned rainy and very cool.  I cannot remember the last time it was so cool in May.  I ended up making tomato soup in the crockpot one night.  We also had the last of the potato cheese soup from the freezer one day.  Some meals are being carried over from last week.

The Usual (Pizza & Salad)

Big Salads - I am hoping we have some cucumbers to add to these this week.  There are lots of little ones in the garden.  I am crossing my fingers that they have a growth spurt this week.

Cube steak, macaroni & cheese, vegetables from freezer - I still have not tried out the meat tenderizer so that is at the top of the list this week.

Baked fish, Parmesan noodles, cole slaw - a carryover from last week. 

Sloppy joes & chips - another carryover

Deer meat with carrots, onions, & potatoes; rolls - This is normally a winter meal, but the cooler weather is hanging around for a day or so.  The last bag of potatoes I bought were not the greatest so I am anxious to use them up.

Turkey burgers & fries - I have premade turkey burgers in the freezer along with homemade buns.

I ended up spending $31 last week.  That means I used $7 of this week's grocery money.  I do have fruit and chips for Warren's lunch this week so that will help.  I also decided to buy avocados to put in the freezer since they were on sale for Cinco de Mayo.  I have $13 to spend this week so I will need to be careful with my shopping.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dog Birthday Cake

This past weekend I needed to make a birthday cake for one of the girls in my church Bible class.  She requested a dog cake.  Originally my plan was to make a dog shaped cake.  My allergies flared up, and I was not feeling well.  Instead I made a dog out of icing using this technique.  I found a simple enough dog coloring page to use as a guide.  I baked and frosted a 9x13 cake and added the icing dog to the top.

It certainly is not fancy, but it is a dog cake.  The birthday girl literally jumped for joy when she saw it.  That was good enough for me.  The cake was shared with classmates, but we did not cut into the dog. 

This treat is a simple and inexpensive birthday gift.  The child gets to choose from cake, cupcakes, or giant cookie.  They also get to choose a design or theme.  I have learned that they are easy to please and just like having a special treat for their special day.  Children do not need super expensive or elaborate gifts.  Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dehydrating Bananas

I love, love, love my Excalibur dehydrator.  On our shopping trip to Sam's Club I picked up several bunches of bananas with the intention of drying them for the rabbits.  Our rabbits are quite spoiled, and they love a fruit treat.  They are picky though and do not like commercially dried fruits.  I think it has something to do with all of the extra additives.

I sliced enough bananas to fill 8 trays.  I tried to slice them evenly and at a thickness of about two quarters (give or take). 

I then turned the dehydrator on and set the timer for 24 hours - yes 24 hours!  I wanted them to be as dry as possible.  They will not be as crisp as the store bought ones.  I also opted not to spray these with lemon juice.  The rabbits do not care if they are a bit brown. 

I vacuum sealed the slices and will give them to the rabbits as a treat.  I am also using them to help tame the two new girls.  They are my best friend if I have a banana slice.