Monday, September 23, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan Week 3 Update

The original plan was to work in the yard again, but I gave W the choice of yard or walk-in closet  He chose the closet which was in desperate need of attention.  We both decluttered piles of clothing.  Some of it was not worth donating, but most is headed to charity later this week.  I considered a yard sale, but in the end I wanted it all out of the house.

For the freezer I made breakfast burritos and chicken pot pie filling.  I do need to pick up four frozen pie crusts while I am out shopping this week.  I decided that would be easier than making pie crusts myself.  It is still very warm here. 

I continue to work on the animal ABC books and up to the letter "P".  I crocheted wash cloths for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.  I also scored some good deals from Oriental Trading and Party City for filler items. 

I feel like I did not get much accomplished, but the closet looks 100 times better.  It is nice to be able to walk in and find everything organized.  With less clothing it is easier to find something I love to wear.  One of my tricks is to turn my hangers around backwards.  When I wear an item I turn the hanger back to correct way.  This time next year any items on hangers that are still turned backwards go straight to donation.  If I have not worn it in a year, I know it is time to let the item go. 

This week I will be cleaning the master bedroom.  Check back next week to see how I did.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Freezer Friendly Recipe - Spaghetti Pie

I waited until the last minute to post this recipe.  I use the word recipe loosely since it not hard to make and there is no definite recipe actually.  I call this a poor man's lasagna.  This is one dish that tastes better after it has been frozen.  W prefers it over spaghetti, and it is easy to make several in advance.
This consists of four layers (only three are shown above) so I will give you the basic and how-to for preparing it. 
Layer one - cook about 8 ounces of spaghetti.  Drain it well.  While it is still hot, stir in a few tablespoons of butter, some grated Parmesan cheese (I do a good handful), and two eggs.  Stir quickly to mix everything in.  This goes in the bottom of a pie pan or casserole dish.  I usually get three to feed just W and myself.  Technically it should make two.
Layer two is super simple.  On top of the spaghetti layer, spread cottage cheese.  I used a 24 oz package on my three pies.  Use as much or as little as you like.
Layer three - cook a pound or so of ground beef (turkey, venison - whatever you like).  To this add your favorite spaghetti sauce (jar or homemade).  Spread this over the cottage cheese layer.
At this point you can bake or freeze the pies.  I always freeze them since they taste much better after a week or two in the freezer.  To cook - thaw overnight in the refrigerator.  Bake at 375 until bubbly (how long depends on how big you made them).  My two person version takes about 25-30 minutes.  Then top them with layer four - shredded cheese.  Bake another 5 minutes or so until the cheese melts.
The spaghetti pie will dish up better if you let it sit 5-10 minutes before trying to cut/spoon.  I usually serve it with breadsticks (from the freezer too) and salad.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 2 Review

Week two was spent working in the living room.  I dusted everything and organized some cabinets.  W helped reorganize our DVDs.  I had neglected that chore for the past few months so it was a mess.  The furniture was vacuumed and the floor scrubbed.  This is one area that I will need to stay on top of with weekly maintenance cleaning. 

Our aquarium had gotten into a mess after the algae eater died.  I purchased a new one and also bought some von rio tetras to add to the tank. 

I worked on the animal ABC albums and am done through the letter "J".  The crocheted wash cloths are coming along well.  My plan is to focus on those more over the next two weeks and hopefully finish them up.

Finally I did some freezer cooking.  I made 3 spaghetti pies which I consider a poor man's lasagna.  The recipe on that will be posted later this week.  I made some more chicken tenders.  I also used the same process to cover some small chicken breast halves.  I will use those to make chicken parmigiana.  I will bake the chicken breasts and then top with a homemade marinara and mozzarella cheese. 

Week two was a success.  I am changing things up a bit for week three.  I would normally be finishing up in the yard.  Instead I am going to work on the walk in closet.  The plan is not a set in stone list of rules.  It is easy to customize to fit each person's needs.  Check back next Monday to find out what I accomplished!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Feathered Friday - Where's Francesca?

Can you spot the chicken in this picture?  Look closely and you can see a beak and tiny head peeking out.  W found a nest of eggs while we were working in the yard last week.  He did not pick them up, which turned out to be a good thing.  Francesca is sitting on them.  She has found a wonderful hiding spot and is well protected under the sago palm.  She also gives me a good excuse not to clean around the deck just yet.  I do not want to expose her hiding spot.  Hopefully in a few week I will be sharing cute little chick pictures.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Pineapple Plants

I mentioned dividing some pineapple plants.  Once a pineapple plant puts on a pineapple, it then forms pups (tiny pineapple plants) which need to be removed.  These form entirely new pineapple plants.  I also have had plants that die back a bit but sprout out two plants from the original root.  As a result of all that I have ended up with this:

This picture does not even include all of the plants I have.  I never intended to start my own pineapple farm.  We have 29(!) plants in all.  W wanted to keep just 6.  I talked him up to at least 10 - maybe 12.  That means I have to find homes for 17 pineapple plants.  I am going to try to sell them at a neighborhood yard sale later this month.  I would love to keep them but simply have no room.  It is going to get cold in a few months, and W is not interested in building a second greenhouse just for pineapple plants.  They are nice to have and nothing beats a homegrown pineapple!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Recipe Request - Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

I really wish that I could remember where this recipe came from so I could give proper credit.  Unfortunately I have no idea.  An internet search came up with no matching recipes.
If I run across the recipe source, I will be updating this post.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

1 envelope yeast
1/4 C warm water
2 T granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/4 C unsalted butter, melted
1 can (15oz) sold pack pumpkin (*I use 2 C of my frozen garden pumpkin)
5 1/2 C bread flour (*a combo of bread flour and whole wheat flour is fine)
3/4 t salt

Filling: (*I never measure but just add enough to cover the dough)
unsalted butter, softened
brown sugar

Glaze:  Confectioner's Sugar & Milk

Combine dough ingredients in bread machine on dough cycle.  (You can also mix the yeast, water, and sugar.  Once it gets bubbly add other ingredients in mixer with dough hook or knead by hand.  Allow to rise until doubled in size.)  Once dough cycle is complete.  Roll out on lightly floured surface to form a rectangle.  Spread with filling ingredients to cover dough.  Roll up jelly roll fashion Cut into pieces and place on baking pan(s) coated with nonstick spray or Crisco.  (I usually get 20-24 slices.)

Option 1 for baking now, cover the pan with a dish towel and let sit until doubled in size. 

Option 2 for baking the next morning/day - cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Allow to come to room temperature while oven preheats.

Option 3 for freezing, wrap pans with foil and freeze.  Thaw in fridge overnight.  Allow to come to room temperature while oven preheats. 

Heat oven to 350 degrees uncover pan(s) and bake until cinnamon rolls are golden brown (25-30 minutes).  Mix confectioner's sugar and milk to form a slightly thick glaze.  Spread over warm cinnamon rolls.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan - Week 1 Review

I love having a big yard, but it takes effort to maintain it.  Honestly when the southern summer hits, it is impossible to muster up much effort at all.  As a result our yard was a mess.  W pitched in this past week and helped me get the items on my list completed.  He cleaned around part of the greenhouse, and I cleaned the inside.  We picked up tree limbs, loaded up stuff that needed trashing or returning to its proper place, and mowed.  We repotted some pineapple plants (more on that later this week). He fixed up two additional birdbaths. 

I pulled up all the poison oak and poison ivy that was growing around the yard.  W is highly allergic to it.  I have no allergy to it at all.  I inherited that lovely trait from my dad.  I just pulled it all up with bare hands and disposed of it. 

W also did some work around the goldfish pond.  He removed the yucky fence and added in river rocks.  We do have an electric fence (not electrified - yet) around the pond to keep Jack the dog out.  He is my parents' big goofy hound dog, and he loved wading in water.  Nevermind that there are still ditches full of water all around the yard.  The pond was calling his name.  We are hoping that the fence alone will be enough to keep him out.  We still need more rocks and will be adding in some succulents in the spring.

We originally went to Lowe's in search of paint.  I really wanted to repaint the front door.  The front door is fine, but I had seen a design in a magazine and wanted a change.  After pricing paint I was forced to choose between paint and river rocks.  The paint was a definite want while we needed the river rocks to keep the grass from growing into the pond.  It was nice to dream but reality set it.  I do love the river rocks around the pond and in the long run will be much happier with them than a different colored door.

Week two has me headed into the living room.  I will also be doing some freezer cooking.  Check back next Monday to see how I did. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Feathered Friday

Just a few random shots of the feathered pets this week. 

The ducks are getting darker feathers in anticipation of the coming autumn season 

Showing off for the camera!

This is Bubbles.  She is a princess and is not a big fan of sitting on the dirt.

One of the bantam hens

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Homemade Fruit and Nut Bars

I love Kind bars.  They are delicious.  I am not so in love with the price though.  I searched online for a homemade version and was not disappointed.  I used this recipe from Love U Madly.  I made mine with almonds, pecans, and cranberries.  I live in a small town where brown rice syrup is impossible to find.  Thank goodness for Amazon. 

I am definitely going to be making these again and experimenting with different flavor combinations.  I opted to store mine in the refrigerator since the humidity made them a bit sticky. They were a hit with W and one of his co-workers who ended up eating the entire bar that I put in W's lunch.  I remembered to include two the following day.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In the Garden

The spring garden is long gone, but I have a few things growing in my fall garden.  First I have some tomato plants.  These are the heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes which were by far the yummiest tomatoes I grew this past year.  In my area with normal-ish weather, I can harvest tomatoes through the end of December.  These will have time to grow and produce before the cold weather hits.

I also decided to try growing ginger after seeing it on several other blogs.  I just bought a piece of ginger at the grocery store.  I divided it into piece and planted them.  I have had good luck with them sprouting and have a couple of nice starter plants.

Working in the garden always means that I have helpers.  I discovered this permanent garden resident.

I have no fear of spiders and am quite happy that this one is guarding the few spring tomato plants that are working on a comeback.

JoJo the cow was hoping that I would toss some pears over the fence.  She is nothing but a big baby.

Lucy was inspecting the work I had done in one of the raised beds.  She was too busy to stop and pose for a photo.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Freezer Cooking

I enjoy cooking from scratch, but it is time consuming.  I find it easier to prep several meals at once and freeze them so future meals are easier to prepare.  A couple of weeks ago I made pumpkin cinnamon rolls.   They are delicious, but we do not need to eat 24 cinnamon rolls in a couple of days.  Plus cinnamon rolls are best right after they come out of the oven.  My solution was to divide the unbaked cinnamon rolls among several foil pie pans.  I them wrapped the pans with foil and put them into the freezer.  The night before I plan to cook the cinnamon rolls, I remove them from the freezer and put them in the refrigerator.  The next morning I set the oven to preheat and remove the cinnamon rolls from the refrigerator.  Once they are baked they look and taste just as good as freshly made cinnamon rolls without the hours of prep time.

I like the convenience of frozen chicken tenders but hate all of the preservatives.  My solution is to make my own.  I purchased a 2 pound package of chicken breasts for $4.50 and cut them into chicken tenders.  I have three bowls containing seasoned flour, beaten eggs, and homemade bread crumbs.  (*The bread crumbs are a bit darker than usual because W made them.  I was not going to complain about that since he volunteered to help.)

The chicken tenders get dipped into the flour, then the eggs, and finally the bread crumbs.  I place them in a pan to freeze before putting them into a freezer bag.

I cook these (from frozen)  for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  We eat these with baked fries or chopped as part of a salad.  It is a quick meal thanks to the work I did in advance. 

As part of the Holiday Grand Plan I make at least one freezer meal each week.  You do not even need to make an entire dish for this to make your life easier.  Even pre-cooking ground beef can save you time in the kitchen. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Holiday Grand Plan Kicks Off

Happy Labor Day!  This week is also the kick off of the Holiday Grand Plan.  Check it out here.  I am spending today working on my holiday notebook and making lists.  I love lists.  I am determined to get all the way through the plan this year.  Remember that even a few small things can make the holidays easier.  Anyone else following the Holiday Grand Plan?