May 27, 2015

A Personal Epiphany

Wow - it's been a long time since I posted on my blog. I can't promise I'll do better, but I can promise I'm thinking about it!

I'm writing this particular post more for myself than for anyone reading it. It's something I think I'm going to need to come back and read now and then.

I've been busy. Every single day. Busy. Busy. Busy. Between grandkids (sick or just wanting to come stay overnight or just come for a visit), the garden, outdoor work, sewing, keeping my house clean (and fairly organized), making all my foods from scratch now - I've been busy. My Daily To Do List usually contains at least a dozen major items, and that doesn't include all the normal daily stuff that I never write down.

A few days ago I finished planting my vegetable garden -- actually created a new garden to extend my growing room, and planted green beans, zucchini and cucumbers. I got up early so I could get it all done before the temps hit the 80s. Hot weather and I don't mix well. I was done by 11:30 or so.


I came into the house, put away my seed box, and checked everything I'd just done off my To Do List. Left on it were to put dishes away and sweep the kitchen. I got those done and it was then still before Noon.

Here comes the Epiphany.

I had nothing left to do.

My house was clean - upstairs and down. The gardens and containers were all planted and attended to. Annual flowers and flower boxes were all planted and in place.

I was done.

And I thought to myself...

I'm NOT lazy.

What?? A lot of people would be surprised to know that I very very frequently think of myself as "Lazy". I don't remember where this came from. I don't remember my parents calling me lazy as a child. But for at least the past 30+ years, I have labelled myself "lazy". If I was sitting down, that meant I was lazy. If I watched TV or played games on the computer? Sleep late?  Lazy lazy lazy.

But I realized in one tiny nano-second, it's not true.

I am not lazy.


I do a LOT. I look at my life as a stay-at-home wife as a job. I work hard to earn my share of the house money. I clean the house, do the gardening, save money at every turn by canning, baking my own breads, shopping sales, hanging out my laundry, shop at thrift stores and yard sales, and generally never, ever spending a penny I don't have to.

You could knock on my door this very second and I could invite you in to sit and have coffee and not be embarassed by what my house looks like. It's fine. It's clean. It's clutter free.

Because I am NOT lazy.

Soooo many of my friends and family right now are saying, "Is she kidding?" But I have to tell you, from my heart, from my brain - I have always, always thought of myself as a lazy person. Always.

But not anymore. I am not lazy.

I AM NOT LAZY!!!

You can't see it, but right now I'm smiling. This silly Epiphany has totally changed the way I look at myself. I got to virtually erase what for years and years I thought of as my biggest character flaw. It's gone. I'm not lazy.

I may, in fact, be a "hard worker". But that's just too much to digest right now.

One Epiphany at a time.

P.S. I feel a need to add something. This is NOT a post about anyone else. This is a post about ME. This is not a judgment on YOU for what you do or don't do. Who knows? You may well do more than me!! You may do less than me and be fine with that. This has nothing to do with you. Just this one time, it's all about ME. So don't read anything into it, OK? Thanks.

Dec 2, 2014

Dealing with Thanksgiving Leftovers

The tradition of "putting up" leftover turkey and all the Thanksgiving trimmings is an annual event here. I like to squeeze every meal I can out of that turkey!

This year I bought a 22 lb. free range, hormone and antibiotic free turkey. This is our third year of having fresh turkey and we will never go back to those chemical-laden Blubberball turkeys again. If you haven't tried a fresh turkey you just won't believe the difference in taste. (My other reason for buying fresh is that for five years in a row I was getting sick right after Thanksgiving. Upset stomach, lethargy, and achy joints -- almost flu-like symptoms. Once I stopped preparing the giant, frozen .99 cent a pound turkeys, the annual Thanksgiving round of illness stopped too.)

A 22 lb turkey for just four adults and two non-turkey-eating children meant a LOT of leftovers. I try and cook enough dinner to have all the side dishes leftover as well.

After dinner, Jeff and I immediately start making "TV Dinners" for the freezer. This year we had enough for 15 dinners. I buy aluminum pie plates, and give each plate a serving of turkey, then divide up the side dishes as evenly as I can. Some may have a roll, some may not. All usually have mashed potatoes and gravy. Each plate will have at least two vegetables, but those vegetables will vary from dinner to dinner. All get stuffing.

These "TV Dinners" are wrapped in aluminum foil and put in the freezer. When we want to use them, I simply put them in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. They are as good (and sometimes better!) than the original Thanksgiving dinner.

Next, of course, I made Turkey Vegetable Soup and pressure canned 12 quarts, plus we had soup for dinner that night. When we're ready to eat the canned soup, I will add either noodles or rice (you can't can soups with noodles or rice).

From there I made and canned 8 pints of Turkey Broth. This is good for making gravy for future meals.

I still had some leftover mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy and stuffing, and made 8 homemade stuffed hand pies. (Recipe to follow)  These were SO good!  We had two for dinner last night with a nice green salad, and 6 of these pies went into the freezer for future meals.

I vac sealed three bags of 2-cup portions of turkey for future use. Probably turkey and gravy over rice, and maybe some pot pies when I have leftover veggies to use up.

That's 45 meals from my 22 lb turkey, NOT COUNTING what we ate on Thanksgiving, or what I gave my daughter to take home.

THANKSGIVING LEFTOVERS BAKED HAND PIES

2 pie crusts, store bought or homemade
2 cups of chopped turkey, white and dark meat
1/2 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup bread stuffing
1/2 cup gravy
Dash of poultry seasoning or sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven at 425.

Roll your pie crusts out to a 12 inch circle. Flour one crust and put the second on top (so they don't stick together). Then use a pizza cutter to cut circle into six portions, like this.


Cut both crusts at once so you get evenly matched pieces to pair together.

In a large bowl, mix your turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy and seasonings together. (You could add some chopped onion, maybe some frozen peas or other leftover veggies you have.)

Pull out one stacked pair of pie crust pieces. Using your finger, wet around the edges of both triangle pieces with water. (This will help them stick together.)

Drop 1 -2 tablespoons of your meat mixture in the middle of the crust and place the second crust on top, then seal TWO edges with your fingers or a fork. Pick up those pieces with the open side up, and use a spoon to gently push the filling down and add another spoonful or two. Then seal third edge.

Place sealed triangles on a baking sheet (you may want to Pam spray or use a silicone baking mat), and bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then turn your oven down to 350 and bake until crust is golden brown.






The homemade cranberry sauce and side salad were just perfect with the hand pie. It really was good!

In fact,
LIFE is good!



Nov 22, 2014

Thanksgiving Preparation


Our Thanksgiving table will be small this year, but full of love, nonetheless. It will be my husband, my daughter, my two grandsons, and myself. It doesn't matter to me if we have 30 people at the table or three - Thanksgiving needs to feel like a holiday!

Which means, of course, we eat in the dining room with the good china. LOL

I made up my To Do List today to get everything done for Thursday's big day. Here's how I've planned it:

Saturday (today)
Clean out refrigerator

Sunday
Wash tablecloth and napkins
Iron if needed
Make grocery list

Monday
Grocery shopping
Run good china and silverware through dishwasher


Tuesday
Clean house, including
Vac dust downstairs
Clean downstairs bathroom
Put tablecloth on, napkins out
Get out serving bowls, platter, serving utensils

Wednesday
Baking day
2 pies - apple and pumpkin
Dinner Rolls
2 loaves bread
Jeff goes to store to pick up fresh turkey

Thursday
Thanksgiving Day!
Menu:
Roast turkey
Stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Gravy
Carrots (home canned)
Boiled onions in cream sauce
Cranberry sauce (home canned)
Green Bean Casserole (daughter)
Macaroni & Cheese (for B)
Rolls
Apple and Pumpkin Pie
(home canned apple pie filling)

 
 

Nov 9, 2014

This week's food money saved

It's been a great week for both stockpiling and saving money on groceries! November seems to be sale time for pork products.

I purchased two boneless pork roasts, on sale for $1.99 lb. (If I can find meat for under $2 a pound these days, I'm REAL happy!). I kept one roast whole to have in the freezer for a "company" meal. Pork roasts are definitely my "go to" company dinner.

The second roast I had the butcher (in this case, just the guy who happens to work in the meat department - I doubt he's a true butcher) slice it in 3/4 inch slices. The end result is 14 beautiful boneless pork chops at $1.99 a pound instead of $4.19. I used my FoodSaver vacuum sealer to seal up two chops per bag - that's 7 meals in the freezer at a $2.19 lb. savings.

Bone-in ham was also on sale for $1.49 a pound. Again, I had the butcher slice it in 1 inch slices for me. This gave me 7 very large ham "steaks" - each ham steak is two meals for us. I had him leave the end 5-6 inches in one piece, and I'll use this to make ham and bean or ham and lentil soup this winter. I'll add carrots, diced potatoes, onions beans or lentils and hope to get about 16 quarts of soup. Ham steaks currently go for $3.99 lb. and a simple ham hock goes for even more! Those are huge savings for me.

This week I made two loaves of honey wheat bread, and a chocolate sourdough cake - both from scratch, of course. Mr. B took home one loaf of the bread (oh my, he does love my homemade bread!), with a jar of my strawberry jam to go with it. The chocolate sourdough cake - ehhh... I didn't care for it too much, though Jeff loved it. I used a peanut butter frosting with it - thinking chocolate and peanut butter go well -- but the frosting over-powered the cake. The cake on it's own has a rather "flat" taste - perhaps if I make it again I might add a little coffee to it to give it a jolt of flavor.

I went to the grocery store once this week. I bought butter. TWENTY POUNDS of butter! It was on sale for $2.59 a pound, down from $4.19. I've been patiently waiting for butter to go on sale for several weeks. I simply toss the boxes of butter into the freezer - no wrapping, no vac seal bags. They stay just fine. Hopefully this much butter will last until the next sale. Boxes of pasta were also on sale for .49 a box. I picked up 5 boxes of elbow macaroni, 5 boxes of spaghetti, and 5 boxes of miscellaneous other pasta. I had a coupon for $1.00 off, so two of those boxes were free!

Potatoes are always on sale in November and December, so I bought two 8 pound bags of russet potatoes, and canned one bag, resulting in 8 jars of potatoes I can pull out a jar to make mashed potatoes, fried potatoes, or use in soup. I left the other bag as-is and stored them in the dark part of the basement so they will be available for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

We had sausage and lentil soup for dinner last night. I canned it in December of 2013, so it needed to get eaten (I try and keep to a one year shelf life on all my canned items). Oh my - it was so good! Made with kielbasa sausage, lentils, carrots, potatoes and green beans. I made corn bread to go with it - from my Make Your Own Jiffy Cornbread mix - and they went with the soup perfectly. That was the last of my mix, so today I had to make up more. I haven't found a recipe to make this in "bulk", so came up with my own.


Make Your Own Jiffy Corn Bread Mix

2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups yellow corn meal
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt

Mix these well and store in an air tight container or jar.

To make cornbread or corn muffins:
1 1/2 cup mix
1/3 cup milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
(I also add: 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 tsp sugar, plus I use 2 eggs instead of 1. We like ours a little "cakier" than standard cornbread.)

Mix ingredients, put in greased muffin tin or square or round cake pan. Bake at 400 for about 15 minutes. (I take them out, brush with butter, and put back in the oven for another 2 mins.)  Let cool a few minutes before serving.

So now I have plenty of pork chops, ham, chicken and ground beef in my freezer, along with bacon and pork sausage. I even have about 10 lbs of cod fish frozen from a sale a few weeks ago. I believe I have everything I need to make Thanksgiving dinner except for the turkey, which I'll order fresh. My freezer is quite literally full, and my canning and dehydrating shelves are full as well.

I think it's time for a new grocery challenge - with the exception of coffee, milk, eggs and cheese, I'm challenging myself to NO grocery shopping for the months of November AND December! Oh my! Can I do it!?

Canning pantry

Dehydrated vegetables and fruits