Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tough Beans

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I'm so excited! I was beginning to think that I was the only person who could not cook dried beans. I have tried many recipes "maybe I used the wrong spices", and all the methods I could find "maybe I read it wrong"; they always turn out tough, and dry inside. I just discovered the reason! The calcium in hard water doesn't let the beans cook through. Oh!

Well, at least it's not just me.

AND THEN I also found the cure... a heaping tablespoon of baking soda in the soaking water and in the cooking water!

The first time, I put only a pinch of soda in the bottom of my crockpot and cooked it on low for 11 hours. The bottom beans were sort of done. The top beans were not.

Second time, I put a heaping tablespoon of soda in the soaking water and stirred to distribute the soda evenly. After soaking, I drained the beans and added another heaping tablespoon for the whole crockpot of dried beans. Stirred again and then cooked it 11 hours on low and they were WAY overdone. Yea! Baking soda works!

As a side, a friend told me that she lets her beans soak 24 hours and it has eliminated any gas "after affect" problems. Worth a try!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Menu Monday... Feb 28

This had been a crazy week! Monday, I went shopping and froze 80lbs of chicken. Tuesday I had the flu. Wednesday and Thursday I sat in meetings and ran errands. Friday I stayed home for once! And Saturday I went shopping (there was a big sale on clothing). By Sunday the house was a wreck!! And we wanted to throw an imprompto party! Thankfully, an hour of help from my husband went a long, long ways!

This week I'm going to focus on taking 15 minutes to play with the children every day. I love being a mother, but they won't be small forever. I want to enjoy them while I have them!

Here's a few things I've made in the past two weeks:
Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies
Oh, yum!! An egg free cookie that won't crumble!

Hot and Sweet Drumsticks

White Chicken Chili
I used leftover Hot n Sweet for the chicken and it was good! We aren't huge chicken fans, so we liked this better than eating the whole drumsticks.

Baked Cinnamon Swirl Pancakes
These are good! My husband even said they were, so they really must be. :) I've actually used this ideas to make other pancake recipes also, when I didn't have time to flip pancakes.

Menu planning this past week was sort of a joke; we survived from the freezer! This week I actually made a plan. Here are a few meals on the menu...

M... Meatballs and potato rounds

T... Baked macaroni n cheese

W... Salsa chicken

Th... Mexican chicken

F... Tex mex chicken n rice

S... Biscuits n gravy

I'll be linking up to Menu Plan Monday and Susie QT Pie meal planning .


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chicken marinade day...

I buy my chicken in bulk, so I was thrilled to come across this wonderful post on freezer meals. From it, I gleaned the idea of adding marinade to the chicken before freezing it. Then it will marinade while thawing!

Twice as fast! And, for me, twice as easy! I have to repackage my chicken anyway when I buy it, so why not add a few more ingredients to the ziplock bag, and be another big step ahead??

I put the ziplock bags in old containers, for ease of filling. Can you tell that we eat lots of cottage cheese? And that I'm a pack rat who can't throw anything away? :)

Put the marinade in first, then added the chicken. Mushed it around a bit and it's ready to freeze!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My New Weekly Routine

I have been working my brain for the last 6 weeks trying to make a perfect weekly schedule. This is the first true trial week. I'm not sure if I like it or not; I'm more stressed out then before.

But I think my problem is trying to deal with the future instead of just this week. "How am I ever going to get everything done when it's gardening season? When I start homeschooling?" Panic!

Or maybe I feel like I must finish EVERYTHING on my schedule each day, whereas previously I shrugged and said, "I've done my best; tomorrow's another day."
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Whatever the case, I have GOT to relax in order to keep a shred of sanity!

I'm going to stick with it another 2 weeks, tho, and see how it goes. I think, deep down in, that I really do like my plan. I just need to realize that I'm not super woman and stop cramming too much into one day!!

Here's my schedule:
Everyday Wash dishes. Unload/load dishwasher. Laundry (at least one load).

Monday Cleaning Day. I usually have a lot of Laundry, too. Basically, I pick up clutter, Sweep n vacuum the dirty areas (entry and kitchen/dining room), and Swish n swipe the bathroom.

Tuesday Errand and Desk Day. You know, pay bills and go to town. This isn't new; I started doing this years ago.

Wednesday Mini Clean n Prep Day. Split purpose today: pick up clutter, swish n swipe the spare bathroom, do all I can to prepare for a big day tomorrow.

Thursday Cooking Day. I try to cook 12-20 meals to eat/freeze. Sometimes, when I get ahead, I'll use this day to make breakfasts or to bake instead.

Friday Cleaning Day. Pick up, swish n swipe bathroom, sweep n vacuum each room, wash bedsheets and other extra laundry.

Saturday Catch up Day. I lay out our clothes for tomorrow and then I use this day to do whatever I didn't get done all week. Or if I go away on Wednesday, I can shift all my days and still manage. I also want to work on sewing projects, which desperately need done. Baking, cheese making, etc.

Sunday is church and no housework! But even this day is seldom long enough; maybe child care takes more time than I thought. :)

For the rest of the week, I'm going to attempt to calm my spirit by
(1). getting a nap shutting my eyes for 15 minutes every day and
(2). Remind myself daily that "My schedule is not a to-do list that I must accomplish; it merely tells me where to set my focus for the day."
(3). Whenever I start to feel panicky, I'm going to stop what I'm doing, set the timer for 2 minutes and enjoy my family.

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What do you do to remain calm in spite of your mountain of work?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Menu Plan Monday Feb 13

I have been focusing on one thing each week, which I would like to become a habit. Most of these are not new, but I'm not doing them regularly. So far I've focused on:

1. Singing while I work. Occasionally, I actually catch myself doing this without thinking!

2. Washing dishes every day. I'm doing better at this!! I still miss a day here and there, but there had been improvement!

3. Talking to God thru out my day. Better, but lots of room for improvement here.

4. And, my most recent: putting out my hotspot for 2 minutes every day. According to the Flylady, a hotspot is a place were you pile clutter. And, since clutter attracts more clutter, before long it gets out of hand!

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My hotspot is the island in my kitchen: certainly a collection point for anything and everything at our house!

My husband likes to sit down here, so he definately prefers to see a clear counter top. And I feel so much better when I have room to work. No clutter sounds like a good idea for all of us!

My progress so far? Fair: it isn't stacked to the ceiling, but it's not totally cleared off either.

A few meals from last week:
Pancake Sausage Poppers

Homemade Crunchwrap Supreme

Pizza Snack Cups

Day Before Mashed Potatoes

I've been working on a schedule for freezing meals each week and eating out of the freezer at the same time. Thursday I planned an all day long cooking spree.

First, I refried some cooked beans... That was an adventure! I probably will make my own refried beans again, but definately not on my Cooking Day. It took nearly an hour to make 3 cans worth!

Then, I quadrupled 5 recipes and prepped then. One of each recipe went to the fridge, and the other 15 found themselves in the freezer.

3.5 hours to make 20 meals! In reality, it was 7.5 hours from start to finish, since I made refried beans, we ate dinner, and I did lots of other things that mothers have to do. But I used a stopwatch and kept writing down how long I worked on the meals.

Quite frankly, I was exhausted till I finished. I immediately started to think of things I could do to make it easier... Maybe next time I won't plan to overdo it... Yeah, right. Planning to do too much is the one thing I'm really good at!

However, I'm certainly going to enjoy a week without cooking meals, even though I'll still be baking desserts and making cottage cheese.

My menu plan for this week is somewhat unplanned. There are some unknown meals in the freezer that need to be used up. I threw away lost the paper I'd written on, so who knows what kind of icky things we might be eating. :)

The few meals that I plan to make fresh are Cheesy Pizza and Cajun Delight.

I'll be linking up to Menu Plan Monday.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

An Expensive Grocery Shop

I just got home from a quick run to the grocery store for “just a few things to tide us over.” Whatever. My total was $129! It is time to review the receipt and figure out what I am spending so much money on!

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The definite #1 problem: Dry cereal. Groan. And cereal is so processed that it can’t even be healthy. Double groan. Oh well, at least the solution isn’t that difficult; there are many delicious and (fairly) easy breakfast dishes. Of course, I can’t use eggs or oatmeal because Bunny is allergic to both, so that does limit me. But there are still options! Pancakes, breakfast cakes, breakfast burritos (I go heavy on potatoes or rice, since I can’t use eggs).

The runner up “problem” is right on #1’s heels…Shredded cheese. I use shredded cheese in almost every lunch and supper. I think it’s time to learn how to make my own cheese! It is dumb that I have never learned this, because all I need to do is go visit my grandmother, who lives within 5 miles of my house, and watch her go through the motions! My cousin did exactly that and she tells me that making this kind of cheese is super easy.

Problem #3 is breakfast related again. We eat pancakes with cottage cheese. Lots of cottage cheese. Has anyone noticed the price of cottage cheese?? The books that I have read say, “Cottage cheese is the easiest cheese to make.” Really? I have tried to make my own cottage cheese in the past, to no avail. Maybe after I visit my grandmother I’ll be able to get a handle on this cheese, too. Here’s hoping!

Problem #4…Yogurt. Actually, I don’t usually buy yogurt; it is SO easy to make! I’ve just been lazy these past few weeks. I bought one pint of vanilla yogurt today, which I'll use for a culture, so I’ll be “fixing” this problem soon.

And #5 is laziness again. Or ignorance. Pie crusts can’t be THAT hard to make, can they? And yet, I have succeeded time and time again at failing in this area. Actually, my pie crusts are edible; they just aren’t “scoopable” because they fall apart. So what? It is cheaper to make crumbly pie crusts than buy “perfect” ones! Perfectionism, please move to the back seat!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu plan Feb 6

Another week, another chance to see how much God has blessed us.

I saw this picture of a church billboard on Laine's blog this week; it's enough to make you think!

Mini Goal for this past week... I wanted to focus on talking to God thru out each day. I am less frustrated when I remember that He is in ultimate control of my life. Prayer also reminds me to be thankful; I know I am happier when counting my blessings instead of griping.

Truly, I am blessed! I'm living every woman's dream: God loves me, I have a good husband who provides, and two delightful children. I'm healthy, except for this very contiguous cold. And we have enough money that I can take advantage of those wonderful meat sales! What more could I ask for??

Here are a few of our meals from last week:

Tater Tot Tacos
I added salsa. This one quickly became a favorite!

Busy day soup

Mexican Shepherd's Pie
This one is worth bragging about. Just a little dry, but we fixed that by smothering it in sour cream. Yummy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
These are my new favorites! They are good as muffins or bars (9x13). I've left the chocolate chips out at times, and they are still delicious! I'm thrilled to say that this recipe works well with my oil/water egg substitute! Need any more incentive? They even freeze well! You don't have to try them, of course, but it's your loss if you don't. :-)

Here is our menu for this week. There are only two carry overs from last week; I think I'm getting better at remembering to look at the calendar before I plan. :-z

Several of our meals will come from the freezer this week. And on Thursday I plan to mega-cook: I will make 3 meals and times each recipe by four. 3 to eat; 9 to freeze! I love a stocked freezer!

I'll be linking up to Menu Plan Monday.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

5 Dinners in 1 Hour

Have you ever visited the Living, Laughing, and Loving blog? It's one blog I definately enjoy!

I love the way Renee does her 5dinners1hour ! At first I thought, "No way; it can't be done that fast. I cook for hours almost every day." I kept reading; every week she times herself and takes a picture of what she has accomplished. I decided, "Ok, it can be done... if you cook the kind of meals she does. What about my kind of meals?" (as a side note, I have found many wonderful recipes on her blog!)

The only way to find out is to time myself, I guess... Monday, I tried it for the first successful time. I have a terrible time remembering to set the timer. Plus, I rarely can go very long without an interruption from some person or other.

But! I made 6 meals (3 recipes doubled) in 1 hour, 11 minutes! I didn't even make an ingredient list and had to run downstairs to my pantry stock several times to get something I'd forgotten. Pretty good time, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday morning, I made 3 meals (I tripled one recipe),

chopped and froze some onions,

and browned 10 lbs of ground beef. That was enough meat to last us more than 20 meals!

And it took me only 2 1/2 hours! I feel rather proud of myself. :-)

Have a great day and do yourself the favor of stopping by Renee's 5dinners1hour !

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