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Showing posts from February, 2013

Breaking out of the box: Menu planning excitement

For the last year or so, we have been attempting to cook vegetarian dinners for Mr. Moon's parents with varying degrees of success. The motivation for this in the beginning has to do with hormones in animal products (both the natural ones and the ones that get pumped into them in our food supply system), and how that affects certain cancers. Whatever the reasoning, that has been dropped from Pops' medical recommendations list, and he says he is now free to eat whatever he wants. Mum still wants to keep the meat to a minimum for her own reasons and because she is proud of the weight they've lost in the last year. The fact that they went from eating restaurant food 7 nights a week (and if not 7 the rest were out of a box) to home cooked meals at least 5 nights a week probably had more to do with the weight loss in my opinion, but if it keeps them from eating out or from a box too much then the "why" probably doesn't matter.

On the one hand, it's been frustr…

Recipe/Prepping: Homemade Lunchables

Since Mr. Moon and I have SUCH a busy schedule this week, and a VERY strict budget, we knew we'd better do something about snacking and meals on the go. We've found ourselves allowing a splurge now and again of fast food (albeit not the worst choices in fast food) because we're out and about, hungry, and need something fast. Having decided to do something about this, we put a list of snack ideas on our menu plan, but haven't been great at using it. 
Enter the busy week. Now it's imperative that we have solid meal plans! And finger foods. And while staring blankly at the whiteboard, I suddenly blurted out, "Lunchables." Not so much exclaimed it, just blurted. And then I looked at Mr. Moon and said, "I don't mean buy them, I mean make our own." I think I could safely describe the look on his face as "ravenous" or perhaps "crazed," and he informed me that he had no idea what I had in mind but he knew it would be delicious. …

The Latest Dirt: Before the 2013 season

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Mr. Moon and I finally got a break, and he had a day off at the same time as we had some decent weather. We got outside under a nice warm sun, got some "before" pictures of this year's garden and yard, and prepped the existing raised beds for spring gardening. 
Before the 2013 season: To the right of the front door/front walk: blue bulby flowers (no idea what they're called, but currently they're the grassy stuff); irises that really needed splitting last fall; a volunteer rose bush that we keep cutting out; two hydrangea plants; and a yellow dahlia. TO DO: Rake out wood chips, chop back dahlias, rip out rosebush, split and spread the little blue flowers, and split the irises; maybe bring some lilies from elsewhere in the yard over here to be in with the irises. To the left of the front door: Our container bed. We've had swiss chard in these all winter, there's some geraniums that lasted, and something that we never got the name of in the back. These are …

Freezer Meals and Batch Cooking tips

A friend on Facebook asked if anyone had ideas for freezer meals. Stuff you can make up and freeze for easy meals later. This is a project I've been working on for the last year, but felt I hadn't gotten as far as I'd have liked with it. Then I started typing... and realized just how much I'd learned!

Well I spent 20 minutes writing up a list for her, and thought it might be a helpful reference for others. If I don't have a recipe for something and I'd like one from me, feel free to comment and I'll write one up.

* Tip: When cooking casseroles from frozen, put them in a cold oven. It decreases the likelihood of your dish shattering. 
Non-Soups:
Broccoli Mac

Sloppy Joes (in this house is usually lentil sloppy joe's because it's one of the vegetarian meals Pops truly LIKES)

Marinara sauce (because I didn't have canning supplies until recently

Sausage gravy! I love making a batch of sausage gravy and then being able to heat it up in the microwave on …

Menu: Feb 25-Mar 3

Five doctor appointments this week, five work shifts at Mr. Moon's new job, and three hours a day of physical therapy... We looked at the schedule for the week on Saturday and realized that this was going to be a DOOZY! Fortunately, I was having a spectacular day on Sunday, and we realized in enough time to do something about it.

We made easy dinner plans, and if we're having soup four days this week, at least they're all drastically different. We made breakfast and lunch plans that are fast, easy, and portable. We even made snack plans! And believe it or not, we even scheduled out the chores so as to not forget them.

Since we got two solid months of having a monthly dinner plan behind us, we were able to evaluate the differences. On the one hand, it was nice to have a short list of options, and a way to focus on rotating through the freezer. On the other hand, we noticed more waste as some days didn't pan out according to the plan, or simply couldn't accommodate …

Recipe: Broccoli Mac

This recipe came about because Mum wanted homemade Mac & Cheese, and I wanted to feed them something vegetarian and that had some vegetables in it. Voila, Broccoli Mac was born. Bonus, this recipe makes three loaf pans, so you can freeze two for easy meals later.

Ingredients:
2 cups (or one 1lb box) whole wheat noodles (rotini or elbow is best)
2 lbs cheddar cheese, shredded
___ Broccoli florets (I don't know how much! A few handfuls? 2 medium heads?)
3 bread loaf pans
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic to taste
Milk (not much, separated)

Directions:
1). Boil the noodles, and strain, saving the water if at all possible--READ THE NEXT STEP before you drain! [This water is great for your plants once it cools, or to poke some life into your compost pile over the winter when the water is still warm.]

2). Chop your broccoli into small florets. You want these to be able to fit in your mouth with noodles too, so don't go too big! If you can save the water easily, cook these florets se…

Menu: Feb 18-24

We had a lovely fire pit party tonight. A few friends over, some nice woodsmoke action, enough chill in the air to appreciate the fire heat, and delicious stir fry that cleaned out the fridge of some random and leftover and over-purchased produce. Winning all around!

Fortunately, we took 10 minutes before people were invited to show up and made our meal plan for the week. We are still working on burning through some of the older products in the pantry and freezer, while accommodating cravings and requests that aren't on our monthly menu plan. It's a work in progress.

I'd really like to take the time to carve out some room in the freezer, plan ahead, and do a power-prepping session to put some food in the freezer. Things that we can dump into a casserole dish, the dutch oven or a crockpot and make really easily. But for now, I'll make do with focusing on eating what we've got.
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What's on the menu?

Breakfasts: Hash of some kind with gravy and e…

Down the Rabbit Hole: Pressure Cooking

Last week, the local natural foods store had organic canned beans on sale for a good price. I made a list of what needed stocking up, and realized we were about to spend $100 or more on them. It seems to me like we could make our own for less than 88 cents per can, if only we had the equipment. For starters, we already have the beans in dried form; they're just a pain to cook-to-order, and I like having canned beans around for "Oh Shit!" meals, lunches/snacks like quesadillas and lazy nachos. So having them cooked and not frozen is sort of imperative in my world.

So instead of spending the money to stock up on canned beans, we instead spent the money on a pressure cooker. It was a bit of a whim, especially since I'm normally one to research these purchases to death. But I have been keeping an eye on pressure cookers and canning equipment for a bit now, and had a vague idea what I was looking for price-wise (mostly the question of what we can afford). So when I stumb…

Getting Active: The Junk Food Paradox

Mr. Moon and I acquired a membership to the local community center. Besides pool tables, ping pong tables, and a cafe, it also has a climbing wall, a pool, a walking track, and the usual exercise equipment. Of course, they also have a full schedule of classes.

As a swimmer all through elementary, middle and high school, that's of course what I was most excited to do. The fact that it's the only thing I'm cleared to do thanks to many years of damage on my joints doesn't dampen the excitement factor. Mr. Moon is most excited for Pickle ball, Volleyball, and the water slide. I foresee many hours at the rec center for a while!

Of course, with all this extra activity from the past week, our bodies are crying out for calories. Fast calories, easy to digest, and high on the "quick energy" meter. That means that combined with my raging PMS this week, much potato chips, peanut M&M's, and ice cream have been consumed. Can you say,

Junk Food Binge!?

I'm letti…

Menu: Feb 11-17; monthly menu planning, and accommodating religious restrictions

Our monthly menu ideas project is working, in the sense that we're sticking to it about 80% of the time. The issue we seem to be running into as of this week is that, because of the way the dates fell at the beginning of the month, we've already used all the "meat" ideas and we're only halfway through the month. Fortunately this month that means that by the end of the week, that leaves us only 10 days to fill, and we can have a little extra fish and chicken.

The only other issue is that for a while we were going grocery shopping earlier in the day, around 10 or 11 am. Recently we had to do it in the evening due to morning appointments, and discovered that it is MUCH easier to go shopping during the late afternoon and evening. That's the time I'm used to the stores being PACKED with people, but apparently not here. Of course, the fact that it's quieter because people are already at home cooking their dinners also means WE should be at home cooking our …

Better late than never: Master Wish List of Projects 2013

Between my vacation and the subsequent recovery, somehow it is February. I never got new "before" pictures of the house and yard, and I never made a new To Do list that I just realized hasn't even been updated since SEPTEMBER!

This is the perfect opportunity for me to make excuses or beat myself up about not meeting my goals. But I'm in a really good place today, so I'm just going to acknowledge both the fact that this is the situation as well as my feelings of surprise at this being where we are now, and move onto accomplishing the goals I set out to begin with.

So without further ado, a fun little list of ideas of what we want to accomplish in the coming year, sorted by area of the homestead.

Everywhere, first step:
Get before pictures!Front Yard:
Replant container bed by front door.Remove the rose bush that is creeping into the walkway.Re-edge the existing beds, and refill with wood chips as needed--not buying more though!Prune roses. All the roses. Possibly use …

Menu: Feb 4-10

The monthly menu planning is going really well. A couple times in the last two weeks I've reigned us in from other weekly menu items that weren't on the monthly menu plan, just trying to see if the monthly menu list idea is working. So far, it is, and the effort has saved us from picking menu items that sound good (probably because we're hungry) but require a lot of ingredients we don't already have. Doing this in a two-step process is great, because each step can have a different focus:

Monthly menu planning is all about ideas to use up what we have already (since we have an overabundance). Weekly menu planning is all about how each menu item relates to the others, our goals, the schedule, and to a lesser degree what perishables we have.  That being said, if we have a bunch of perishables to be used I am willing to sub in other menu items, but it also helps with lunch ideas to use those up, so now the breakfast and lunch menus have become more varied and actually easie…