Showing posts from 2012

Gifts: Soup in a Jar

A few years ago, I made everyone in my family a gift basket for Christmas. This was the first time I'd ever given my own gifts to extended family, instead of letting my mom put my name on a tag of something she had bought for them. It felt very adult.

I'd originally intended to make my own hot cocoa mix, give it in jars or bags, but I ran out of time to do that myself and bought packets of mix instead. In a basket with paper stuffing (in case of small children or pets), I included baggies of marshmallows, some cookies, and a mug for each person in the house. For the couple people who don't drink cocoa, I gave them tea. I made gifts for 27 people by spending $73, and was very proud of myself.

This year, I wanted to do a reprisal of the hot cocoa baskets, though I was going to skip the mugs this time. I was going to make my own cocoa and perhaps help with the baking of the trays my dad and brother make for everyone in lieu of material gifts. However, looking at all the indul…

Dealing with Overindulgence

Mr. Moon and I have been waffling on whether we would spring for gingerbread houses, which is something I've enjoyed doing in the past but wasn't sure we had time to do this year. Eventually we decided just to embrace it, and invited a friend over to join us in making them. She didn't end up being able to make it, and we ended up getting wrapped up in other things, which is how we found ourselves, two days later than we'd planned, sitting down to start decorating at 10pm.

But this post isn't truly about the gingerbread houses, as much as it is about dealing with the overindulgence of the season. As is to be expected, decorating candy houses includes a bit of sampling, eating the ugly pieces, quality control, eating the oopsies, and guilt-free snacking. On candy. For someone who hasn't eaten that much sugar in YEARS, suffice it to say by the end I wasn't feeling so hot. By the time we finished cleaning up, I was already dreading the sleeplessness and morning…

Menu Plan: December 9-January 6, Monthly for January

Next week I embark on a three week vacation. I feel like we are completely on track for preparing for this, all the laundry is done (or is getting finished tonight) and most is even folded and put away. I'll be packing my suitcase tomorrow so I can't accidentally wear something I want to take with me--and subsequently if it does happen to be currently dirty, we have plenty of time to wash it.

I finished the to-do list for projects Mr. Moon can work on while I'm gone, all prioritized and everything. There's a menu plan for each of the three weeks I'm gone.

We're hoping after I get back to do a monthly menu plan system (at least as far as most of the grocery shopping is concerned), though we will still have to plan which meals are on which days weekly due to the nature of flexible scheduling.

Week of Dec 9-16:
Breakfasts: Cottage cheese & pineapple, smoothies, bagels with cream cheese.
Lunches: Grilled cheese, Bacon Chicken Cheddar Ranch pasta salad.
Sunday Brunc…

Making Our Own Pickles

My sister in law sent me on my move to Seattle with some spicy pickled cucumbers from her own garden. Three weeks before, the day I decided I was moving, I had been pigging out on pickled zucchini at a brewery in my hometown. Over the course of time, Mr. Moon came to learn of my love for all things briny, and one of our favorite snacks is what we call a "pickle plate." Thus dubbed because the only consistent thing is pickles.

Pickle plates usually have, besides pickled cucumbers, cheese and/or meat of some kind. Sometimes it's tinned herring, sometimes it's creamy Greek caviar (from the bargain bin at the discount store, isn't it always there that you find some of your favorite foods you'll never find again?), sometimes it's peppered salami. Sharp cheddar, a good gouda, any kind of cheese spread, you name it. Usually, though not always, it involves crackers of some kind. And recently more often than not, it's also included some other kind of pickled v…

Planning Ahead: How a little prep work before a big event can make it run more smoothly

My mom is a list-maker. She doesn't have any special paper that she uses, although more often than not her lists could be found on the backs of used envelopes. She makes lists for everything from a quick trip to the grocery store, to a 3-week cross-country vacation. Clothing to take, food to prepare, things to do before she leaves... These lists don't have any special place they live, either, we'd just find them lying around randomly and have no idea whether they were being used currently or not. But she always knew.

So when I say I'm a list-maker, you know I come by it honestly. I have gone through two notebooks that were specifically set aside for packing lists, and countless memo pads, blank sheets out of college notebooks, and yes even the backs of used envelopes. I definitely prefer the method I've perfected, using memo pads for grocery lists and a notebook in my planner for prepping for trips, everything from an overnight out of town to the three-week bender …

Chalica celebrations

This is my first year celebrating Chalica. I'd heard about it in 2008 in its second year, and been "meaning to" "get around to" celebrating since. When I first heard of it, I was so excited that my faith now has a holiday we can call our own!
I know a lot of my lackluster commitment has been related to this crisis of faith through which I've been suffering for years. I wasn't even sure if I wanted to include anything about my faith here in this blog, because I don't want to push anyone away. I decided that I'd rather dip into this a little bit occasionally than try to ignore it altogether. My faith is so much a part of why I started down the path of urban homesteading that it feels wrong not to honor that place in the process. But that's a topic for another day. Today I want to celebrate, in all its imperfection, my first year celebrating Chalica. 
I'd intended to ease myself into it. I put on some Celtic music, because it's the clo…

Menu Plan: Dec 2-9

In two weeks I will be leaving for the better part of a month, and only half the preparations have been done but I feel right on schedule. This is the week I expect to start freaking out about making sure to-do lists and menu plans are completely taken care of before I leave. I hate to contribute to the stereotypical sexist trope of the man who can't keep the house clean and himself (or his parents) fed without his woman around... But well, in this case it's at least partially true. In this partnership, he keeps me calm and sane and I organize the to-do lists. 
Breakfasts this week: Peppered eggs, a la Pinterest Home fried potatoes and eggs Smoothies and the last of the zucchini muffins
Lunches: Roast beef sandwiches Quesadillas Veggie snacks
Dinners: Monday: Pork ribs, green beans, and couscous. Testing out making couscous from bulk bins instead of a box with seasoning mix. [meat; freezer; bulk]
Tuesday: Clam Chowder in the crockpot, bumped from last week when the rice & beans…

Recipe: Breakfast Hash Brown crockpot casserole

Here's another "tweaked from Pinterest" recipe, though I haven't made it yet. I'll be making this on Sunday and will report back (with pictures if I'm not too sleepy to remember!) with results. But the idea is such:

Friday/Early saturday: 
Shred potatoes. Soak in salt water until ready to assemble to reduce browning.
Dice onions, maybe some bell peppers and mushrooms, bacon, whatever looks good.
Brown any meat going in.

Saturday, right before bed (ish):
Drain potatoes. Put in crockpot.
Mix in any veggies and meat.
Layer with a can of cream of mushroom soup, and a cup of milk (maybe I should mix this up?).
Top with shredded cheddar cheese.
Turn on crockpot to low, cook for about 8 hours.

Turn off, wrap in towel and/or put in thermal bag, take to Football Brunch. Serve and enjoy.
I suppose we shall see how it goes, eh? Are you using Pinterest for any good dishes lately?

Recipe: "Peppered Egg Nest"

I love Pinterest. And unlike what seems to be the internet trope, I do actually create a good number of the things I see on there. I've used it as inspiration for at least 15 of menu items in the last three months, if nothing else, and discovered some awesome cleaning tricks along the way. Even some natural home remedies for illness, which I'll be discussing at a later point.

One of the most recent things that I got to use from Pinterest was a low-carb egg-in-a-basket/nest recipe, using a bell pepper ring instead of bread. I showed Mr. Moon, he made it for me for breakfast, and presented me with this:

Saying as he did so, "Believe it or not I am NOT the embodiment of Pinterest, and it's not as pretty as the one you showed me."

Well it was delicious. But I'm going to share a recipe with a few tweaks of my own to make it even better (and prettier!) than Mr. Moon's first attempt, which I must say was VERY well done from just a picture with no directions.


Menu for November 25-December 2; Planning ahead for vacation

In three weeks, I'm headed on vacation for three weeks to see blood- and chosen-family over the holidays. Mr. Moon will at that point be committing to commuting 13 miles each way by bike to work for what will presumably be 3 days a week if the schedule stays roughly the same, and so I'm anticipating he will be low on energy and definitely lower on time than we have right now. So we are spending these next three weeks planning ahead so that the meals while I'm gone are taken care of. Freezer meals that can be re-heated in the crockpot and oven as soups and casseroles, mostly. Things that even on the worst days, anyone can pull out and cook with less effort than picking up take-out. And only a couple that will require prepping sides to go with.

Rather than make it more difficult on ourselves, it means that over the next couple weeks we will also be having some of these items for dinner. But it's a switch in thinking that I'd like to get everyone else used to doing, s…

Sometimes the best progress for which you can hope is simply not moving backward

They say life is all about the little things. The small decisions we make every day that suddenly become a lifestyle. The little looks, kisses, the seemingly meaningless conversations that add up to a relationship. The choices and actions we make every day that define who we are.

But then they say "don't sweat the small stuff." They say that your kids will remember you spending time with them, not how messy the house looked. That your partner remembers the big gestures more than the small ones. That where you live, how you live, what you wear doesn't define who you are.

These theories are not simply incompatible, they're directly contradictory. Sometimes I get stuck thinking I can strike a balance in the middle. That I can somehow maximize the daily small stuff and balance that with the grand life gestures. Then I think I should choose one or the other as a philosophy and stick to it. It's like trying to balance the lessons from the past, hopes for the future…

Menu Plan: Nov 11-18

After a long, busy week leading up to a very important birthday party, we are headed into a much calmer schedule this week. Next week we will be prepping for Thanksgiving, but it looks like Mr. Moon is coming down with a cold so the focus is all on comfort foods and resting for now. Just in time for the 'Rents to go on vacation, so we get some time to ourselves. I'm looking forward to a little break in routine!

Without further ado, the menu plan for the week!

Breakfasts: Smoothies and bagels, maybe some cottage cheese and pineapple.

Lunches: Finishing off the pasta salad from last week and using up the odds and ends of stuff we have around.

Monday: Steak. Of some kind. For date night. I'm thinking fajitas sounds good. [freezer; meat; date night]

Tuesday: Cheddar broccoli soup, bumped from last week. The broccoli has fared well since being prepped for it, and we otherwise have all the ingredients on hand. I suspect Mr. Moon will enjoy a nice comforting soup to ease his chest co…

Recipe: Quiche!

Quiche is a very versatile food. Perfect for small handfuls of leftovers, nicely customizable, and easy. Remove the crust and you have frittata. I've made a couple of them for our Sunday football brunches, and my future brother in law asked for the recipe for the broccoli quiche I made today! It's always a little gratifying when people like my food. 

And in this case a little ironic because despite my best efforts, I just don't like quiche. Or frittatas. Or omelets. Something about mixing overcooked scrambled eggs with other stuff just hits my brain as wrong. I love them next to each other though!

1 average-sized (10 inch?) pie crust 8 eggs 1/2 cup milk or cream seasonings cheese various meats/veggies for stuffing
1.) Pre-heat oven to 350
2.) Chop meats and veggies into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces (small to medium dice). Place loosely into bottom of pie, do not pack tightly. Top with a small amount of shredded or chopped cheese.
3.) In a bowl, whip eggs and milk/cream toge…

De-cluttering: being gentle on myself and others

With Pops' birthday party on Sunday, it got sprung on us last Sunday that we would be having a major event here in... well, now, about two days. I'm struggling with the frustration that with a little more notice, we would have prioritized things like carpet shampooing to be this week instead of the week before Thanksgiving when we will, now ironically, have fewer people here. (Let's just say, clumsy adults + clumsy cat + WHITE carpets + said carpets are past double their life expectancy = Needs regular shampooing.)

We have been here officially for 8 and a half months now, and the garage has not yet been set up into the lounge sanctuary that was intended to be our stress-relief area. Everything Else keeps getting prioritized ahead of the garage, and now it is in a stage that Pops' participation is required to continue at all, which means we are at the whim of his condition. It just so happens that if we can get the current stage of sorting done before Sunday, then some …

Food prep: the logical second step of meal planning

Mr. Moon and I are testing out a new theory, that we can prep foods ahead of time for quicker turn-around on meals. Given how the schedule changes every week, we can't designate a specific day (or two) for it the way we would with a typical 9-5 job or steady set schedule. So it's a floating thing, depending on the schedule.

Since Mr. Moon had the day off, today was that day. Problem was it was such a nice day that it was really important to get as much yard work done as he could. And my knee wasn't cooperating with much, so I was kind of down for the count. I was able to get some laundry washed and dried, though! I went to an appointment while he pruned butterfly bushes and trimmed them down for stakes (totally for vampires, not at all for tying back roses bushes). Once the sun went down, it was time to clean up from that project and get to work on food prep.

Our list for the day:
Chop veggies for soup; zucchini, tomato, onion
Soak beans for soup
Meatballs for soup
Blend pe…

Menu: Nov 4-11; updated white board system again!

After a couple weeks of menu planning but not posting it, I'm back to blogging and excited about the new white board set-up.

The white board has been working great for Mr. Moon and myself, but we were running out of space to get our WHOLE to-do list onto it. The 'Rents still don't really look at it, but having to communicate with other people in the house while they're not there isn't exactly something they've had to do for years. Organizing meal plans and chores, from the look and sounds of it, isn't anything they've ever done. So it's definitely an adjustment for them.

We rotated the board! We had a lot of wasted space in the shopping list section, removed the project list. It's now a piece of paper in a sleeve on the back that we slip out for project planning, but right now the focus is pretty much all yard and garage work anyway. We added a section for things that need to be retrieved from the garage (which was actually ages ago, I just have…

31 days of blogging: Well that was a bust

I made it 14 days which is admittedly the longest I've ever made on these kinds of challenges. I'd love to say there were lame excuses like the ones Nony blogged about all month for why I fell off the face of the planet and didn't post my menu plan or any of my dinners for two to three weeks. Really I was struggling with a major bout of depression, the weather changes plays havoc on my joints, and I had doctor's appointments two to three times a week for the whole month. Whew! For once I'm not beating myself up about having made a goal and failing at it. There were days I COULD have taken a picture of my dinner and posted it, but I decided that I needed to be gentle on myself, give myself some time and space to just be in the moment, to accept the situation. It was oddly clarifying.

Mr. Moon and I took a trip to Seattle for Halloween to see some friends. We'd been squirreling away our date-night money for a few months in anticipation of this trip, and we manage…

Menu: Oct 14-21

It seems like a busy week, but really it's just kind of normal this week. Three shifts for Mr. Moon, who is biking to work every day now to save on gas. Date night on Wednesday, baking cookies and watching Arrow. May or may not be having guests over for dinner on Thursday for the Seahawks game. Hoping to get a few people over on Sunday to put them to work in the garden for an hour since there's no Seahawks game during our normal Sunday brunch time. We had a request for a vegan brunch, so we're going to try it--but if the vegan who requested it isn't coming, you betcha I'm not going to fuss over it.

Breakfasts this week are beans & rice topped with eggs, and yogurt parfaits. I'll have to make yogurt for that tomorrow, or else switch to smoothies to use up the runny yogurt in the freezer.

Lunches are a cobb salad on swiss chard, tortellini pasta salad, and mexican (chippy dippy or quesadillas as the mood strikes). Assuming we have vegan brunch on Sunday, I'…

31 days of Dinner #13: Pot Roast dinner

Squash soup was on the menu, but Mum & Pops had guests over and decided to cook pot roast for them. That worked out pretty well since I woke up late and we hadn't prepped ahead of time for the squash soup, so the squash wasn't ready.

Mum makes pot roast by putting in a packet of onion soup mix and a half bottle of beer, roasting however long she feels at 325 until it's done. A few potatoes through the masher and some microwaved frozen broccoli, and it's almost an easy, homecooked meal.

Mr. Moon and I just ate the leftover pot roast, mashed potatoes, and broccoli when he got off work. Sounds like an easy day for me!

Halloween: So not feeling it

Halloween in my favorite holiday. I love the decorations, I love dressing up in costume, I love the fall air and the parties and the traditions. Growing up, my family had a tradition of making a crockpot of chili and hot dogs on Halloween night. I remember spending the month ahead of Halloween hanging out in the living room for frequent fittings while my mom sewed my costumes and watched Tigers baseball or the World Series. I remember the year my mom made my costume in August and then discovered two days before Halloween that I'd had a growth spurt and she had to let it out (oddly I don't remember what the costume was!).

For some reason I'm just not feeling it this year. I don't know why. Part of it could just be the crappy situation we're in. Some of it I'm sure is probably this underlying depression and the funk I've been in. A lot I know is frustration with my body and not being able to wear the costumes I want to wear, or have the energy to do a lot of …

31 days of Dinner #11 & 12: Skipped & Tacos

Thursday night I didn't end up eating or even drinking anything for dinner. Nothing much to say about it, really. It was a delicious home-cooked meal of nothing. Friday, however, was a different story.

The "dinner" menu had pineapple salmon and pasta roni on it. For all intents and purposes, that was lunch, and I didn't even eat it. I had a little pasta roni with green beans, but wasn't much interested in the pineapple salmon even if I'd had an appetite.

Later in the evening, Mr. Moon and I had a friend come over for movie night, and she came bearing tacos! Yum, tacos. There's a delightful tex-mex restaurant in Seattle's University District that is open 24 hours, and Mr. Moon and I would eat there sometimes if he got off work late, since it was on the way home. I have many a fond memory of picking him up from work, stopping by Memo's for take-out, going home, putting the food on plates, and watching an episode of TV to wind down before bed. When w…

31 days of dinner #10: Junky dinner night!

Doctor's orders, I'm on a junk food diet this week. Or at least it seems junky to me. This is when I can't believe I picked this as a topic, because I didn't realize how much I would be misrepresenting myself and my food choices for this week. I guess I'll have to make it up with some delicious, healthy meals later in the month.

I'm still struggling with remembering my pictures, and today there just wasn't any getting around it like I did with the leftover broccoli rice casserole on Monday. 
So dinner tonight was pasta-roni and meatballs. Homemade meatballs with ground beef and seasonings, no fillers (I just don't see the point in diluting the delicious meaty flavor with egg "as a binder" and breadcrumbs "to soak up the egg" when the meat sticks together just fine without them). And a mix of "creamy garlic" and "alfredo" pasta-ronis. It was delicious, but it just illustrated to me how flavorless yet salty refined-…

31 days of Dinner # 9: Baked Potato Soup

This turned out very nicely! Not healthy, but delicious.

In a smallish crockpot:

2 cups mashed potato flakes
2 medium waxy potatoes, diced
enough broth (chicken broth or, in this case, corned beef liquid) to fill to 1 inch below the rim
1 onion, diced & sauteed

Cook for 4 (high) to 8 hours (low). It was probably done at 6 hours, but definitely wonderful at 8.

Top with:
Shredded cheese
sour cream
bacon bits (or homemade ones)

Mr. Moon loved it! Mine didn't have bacon bits, and I'm not a carby person (despite the menu this week) so I had a small bowl and some cottage cheese with pineapple. It was the end of the container so I didn't even bother dirtying another dish. Eating right out of the container, because I'm classy like that.

31 days of Dinner # 8: Broccoli Rice & Cheddar Chicken Casserole

This turned out much better than I expected! Not the picture, but the flavor did anyway.

1 cup brown rice
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 cup cream
2 1/2 cups hot water
2 bouillon cubes
seasonings--I'm sure I probably put garlic and pepper in
2 medium heads broccoli, cut into small florets
2 cups? shredded cheddar cheese
chicken for 6 people, in whatever form you desire, seasoned with a little seasoning salt.

Preheat oven to 400.

Put the rice and onion in a baking dish (8x11 ish?). Pour in the cream--no, you cannot use milk, it will curdle in a nasty way, but you could potentially drop it down to 1/2 cup and sub in more water. You can definitely sub in silken tofu for the cream.

Mix the bouillon cubes into the hot water so they dissolve, then stir into the rice with any additional seasonings.

Layer of cheese, to your desired amount--I think I used a cup here, and it could have been cheesier.

Layer of broccoli florets, then a layer of chicken if you're shredding or cubing or otherwis…

Menu: Oct 7-14

It seems like managing all the different dietary needs, food stashes, and schedules is always a chore. We've been getting pretty good at it, but I know adjusting to a healthier way of living hasn't been easy for Mum & Pops. It's been difficult enough for Mr. Moon and myself, coming at it with a conscious decision for ourselves. They're coming to it kicking and screaming.

Due to a medical procedure, I have to go on a low fiber diet for the week. Irony abounds, but it means I can't eat in any way that I consider "healthy" for the week. Rather than fret over it, I made a conscious decision to just let it go and use it as an opportunity to use up some of the less healthy stuff that we've got sitting around. Like Pasta-roni, and more peeled potatoes than you can shake a stick at.

Not even the worst menu plan for a week we could have done. Next week, we'll go back to something a little more well-rounded. In the meantime, it's all about using wh…

31 days of dinner # 7: Chippy Dippy AKA Lazy Nachos

When you're used to having low appetite, tight schedules, and blood sugar imbalances, quick & easy meals become old favorites and comfort foods. Especially when you can make them using a minimum of dishes. Somewhere along the way I learned to make "nachos" using only one spoon and a bowl.

Underneath, put a layer of beans and/or seasoned ground beef (or refried beans with cheese & salsa, warmed up). Then a layer of sour cream, salsa, and salsa con queso, all sitting next to each other so you can get one or two at a time. Top with diced avocado, olives if you like them, onions, maybe some shredded cheese. Dip in some corn chips, trying to get a few flavors at once, switching it up every few bites.

It's a meal that can be made in 5 minutes or less, has built-in variety, and doesn't make too many dishes. The trick is to rinse the spoon between each thing as you dish it out, and to do the queso last (because it doesn't rinse off easily). Make sure you wash…

31 days of Dinner #6: Crap & Cheese

That's what we call those mini elbow noodles with yellow powder cheese in a box. Easy, cheap comfort food, delicious poison.

When the Mister gets called into work early and stays late, when you forgot to thaw the meat for meatballs or make the fresh mozzarella cheese, well, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

31 days of dinner #5: Corned Beef Dinner

Corned beef, cooked not-long-enough in the crockpot. Colcannon, AKA mashed potatoes & sauteed cabbage (or the cabbage can be cooked in with the corned beef). Carrots, cooked with the corned beef until dinner time when they weren't done yet so I used the leftover potato water to finish them off faster.

Pops requested that next time we cooked off the cabbage & potatoes in chunks in with the meat, and Mum prefers it that way as well. I decided I definitely prefer the cabbage that way, myself. But I prefer mashed potatoes with it, and colcannon's the only way to get Mr. Moon to eat cabbage. It's not exactly difficult to scoop out the potatoes for two plates and make the rest into mashers, scoop mine out then mix the cabbage into Mr. Moon's. And I love having simple solutions that make everyone happy!