Monday, November 30, 2009

Menu-Planning Monday

I bet you all thought I had disappeared, huh? I'm finally taking the advice from my friend Suzanne (Hi Suzanne!) and posting something new on here. She told me several days ago that she's tired of looking at pumpkin! post time.

I used to be so very good at planning out my menu every week. At one time I even got motivated enough to plan it out two weeks ahead of time. Here lately, though, meal plans have been made around 3pm every day. Since we now eat in a way that requires some preparation, that makes for some pretty hectic evenings!

I'm proud to announce that I have my meal plan made for the week! I know you're all dying to know what we'll be eating this week, so here it is:

homemade granola cereal and milk
pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins
leftover muffins
oats with maple syrup and milk (two mornings)
leftover pancakes

grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit
cheese quesadillas and fruit

Beef stir fry with rice, pineapple
Fettucine Alfredo with Broccoli and Chicken, spinach salad
Seasoned Rice and Beef, green beans, boiled carrots
Laura's Probeans, spinach salad
Grilled steak, corn, sweet potatoes
Monterey Chicken with Potatoes, guacamole and chips
Beef and Potato casserole, peas, boiled carrots

pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds

It is such a relief to already have this planned out. My day goes so much smoother with a little pre-planning. I know I have everything on hand to make these meals. I already have the necessary meats thawing in the fridge for use later this week. Yay for organization!

And I promise that it won't be another week before I post again. I already know that I'm going to do a post on decorating birthday cakes with natural food colorings. I have the pictures and everything ready to go. So, I promise in the next couple days I'll have that one put up here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making Pumpkin Puree

Well, I tried something else new this week! Some of you may have heard about the devastating pumpkin shortage of 2009. Rumor has it that there will only be enough pumpkin puree to fill the demand for the holiday season and then there won't be any more pumpkin available for the rest of the year. Are you in a panic yet? I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own pumpkin puree!

I used a pumpkin that my mother-in-law (Hi Colette!) purchased for me at a pumpkin farm when she came to visit in October. The owner of the farm assured us that this was a great pumpkin to use for making pumpkin pie..sorry, I don't know the exact variety.

I cut the pumpkin into chunks. Sarah helped me scoop out seeds and stringy stuff. She helped out so much that I had to wash her shirt pumpkin was everywhere. Then I put it into a 350 degree oven for about an hour. This is what it looked like after baking.

Then I scraped out all the flesh.

I placed the chunks into my blender and processed it until smooth. This is all the puree I ended up with from the entire pumpkin.

I placed it in freezer bags in one cup portions. I ended up with about 15 cups of puree. I figured that a typical can of pumpkin contains 1-3/4 cups of puree. So, I had about 8-1/2 cans of pumpkin puree here. Since that pumpkin cost $4 at the pumpkin farm and I ended up with 8-1/2 cans of puree, that works out to about $0.47 per can of pumpkin puree. Now, I don't know what it typically sells for at the store, but I usually pay $0.70 per can at our local "bent and dent" store. So, even at my reduced cost it is still a money savings for our family. Of course, there's more work involved in this method, but that's one of the reasons that I stay home, so I have the time to do little things like this.

And then we had pumpkin muffins for breakfast this morning. The homemade pumpkin puree must've turned out ok since Sam ate about five of the muffins!

So, unless you want to be one of the unfortunate victims of the great pumpkin shortage of 2009, you'd best get to work processing your leftover Halloween pumpkins!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sharing Another Blog With You

I read through a blog post today that I found very enjoyable. I wanted to share it with you too.

This family owns an 180 acre farm in the Pacific Northwest. They raise most of their own food and live a homesteader lifestyle. I really enjoy seeing the beautiful pictures that are posted. I hope you enjoy the blog as well!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Looks Like We'll Be Moving!!!

My good friend and awesome realtor just called to notify us that our offer on our homestead property has been accepted by the sellers!! She said that we should expect to be in our new home around January 4th. Of course, this also means that we have to sell our current home, but that looks promising too. We've had one couple come through to look at the home and they've already written an offer. I'm optimistic that it'll turn out well. I'm amazed that we are actually selling our home without ever even having a sign in our front yard or a listing in the newspaper. It all went so fast!

I'm so excited that my knees are literally shaking!! We are going to own 30 acres with a stocked fish pond, two springs, an orchard, a garden, a root cellar, a chicken coop, a workshop, and a woodstove...a real, functioning homestead!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Rendering Beef Tallow

Today I tried rendering beef tallow for the very first time, and I think it turned out ok.

We just purchased some great grass-fed beef and the processor threw in the tallow for free. For those that don't know, tallow is the beef version of lard from a pig. It's a natural fat that is commonly used in frying or even in soap-making.

All the explanations that I could find online spoke about first having to take the time to chop up the fat into small pieces. Fortunately, when we received ours from the processor, it was already ground up like you see ground beef in the grocery store. So I breezed on through to the next step. I used two methods to render my tallow. I put two large pots on the stovetop and one large pot in the oven.

For the stovetop method, I placed a significant amount of tallow in the pot, set it on the stovetop on very low heat and walked away. I did occasionally stir the bottom to make sure nothing was sticking, but that's pretty much it. After about two hours, the fat was melted and crumbly meat/fat was floating on top.

For the oven method, I lowered my oven rack to one of the lowest settings and preheated the oven to 250 degrees. Then I placed a significant amount of tallow in a large pot, set it in the oven, and walked away. I did occasionally stir the bottom of this pot as well. After about 1-1/2 hours, this pot was finished.

Then I found some extra glass jars that I had around, placed a metal strainer on top to catch the crumbly meat/fat, and poured the rendered tallow through the strainer. I set the meat/fat aside because I'm going to try feeding it to a stray cat that comes to visit us every once in a while. I thought that our cat friend would really enjoy that treat. Anyhow, this is what I ended up with.

When it was time for bed, I placed the lids on the jars and continued to let them sit on the counter overnight. This is what they looked like this morning.

So, I'm pleased with my first tallow-rendering adventure. If anyone has any advice or suggestions, I would certainly welcome them! Also, if anyone knows a better use for the leftovers (besides kitty food!), then I'd like to know that as well.
Now I can't wait to cook with my great grass-fed beef tallow!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Jealous

I got online today and looked over some of my "regular" blogs. A lot of them have to do with traditional eating. After checking in on those blogs though, I found myself so envious of the writers. You see, several of the bloggers are participating in the Wise Traditions conference this weekend. My understanding is that the Wise Traditions conference is put on by the Weston A. Price foundation and focuses on healthy eating, traditional foods, alternative methods of treating illness, and other things like this that most people see as odd. I would love to attend that conference! I think it would be so much fun to grab a couple of girlfriends and just take off for a weekend of soaking up Weston A. Price knowledge! They also serve traditional, nourishing meals at the conference.

Here are some of the food blogs I follow. The writers are at the conference and posting about the activities this weekend.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

House For Sale

Today we're listing our house for sale. I still have reservations about leaving simply because I love my home and all the memories we have here. This is the only home the kids have ever known. On the other hand, it's possible that we could be living our dream of having a homestead!

The property we're interested in is perfect for homesteading. It has an established orchard with apple, peach, pear, cherry, walnut, pecan, and hazelnut trees. It also has blueberries and blackberries on the property. There's a garden with an asparagus patch, a stocked fish pond, chicken coop, and two springs. There's enough wooded property to hunt deer and turkey and enough pasture to contain cattle and goats one of these days. Plus, the home is nice too. Of course, there are things I'd like to do to it to make it my own, but those can come later as the budget allows. Here's a picture of the home.

If you feel led, I would appreciate any prayers. Of course, I would love the sale of our current home and our purchase of this new property to go smoothly. However, ultimately I want to ensure that we're following the path that God has for our family. It's so easy to start focusing on all we want and to lose focus on what God has planned for us. It would be a tremendous help if we had prayers for discernment and open-mindedness throughout this process. Also, if this should not happen, prayers for acceptance would be necessary! I'll keep you all updated.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Good Deals Of The Week

(Sorry, for the long, jumbled post here. I cannot figure out why my spaces between paragraphs aren't showing up.)
Here are my great buys from Walgreens this week:
Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal on sale 2 for $5
Glade Sense & Spray on sale for $4.99 each
Walgreens 6 pack batteries $0.99 each with raincheck
Almay Foundation $9.99
Almay Mascara $6.99, but 1/2 off this week, so $3.49
Glade Soy Candle on sale for $3.99
Johnson & Johnson First Aid Products on sale for $3.99 each
Before coupons, this total comes to: $58.37 plus tax
Then I used the following coupons:
Three of the $4 off 1 Glade Sense & Spray
Three of the $1 off 1 Johnson & Johnson First Aid Product
One $2 off 1 Glade Fragrance Collection Product
Two $1.50 off 1 Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal
Two $3 off 1 Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal
Two $1 off 2 Glade Products coupon from Walgreens November booklet
Register Rewards from previous purchases for $7, $6, and $1
So, my total out of pocket, including tax was $17.52
Then I received the following Register Rewards to use on my next purchase: $10 for buying the Almay foundation, $5 for buying the Almay mascara, $8 for buying the First Aid products, and $1 for buying the Glade soy candle. I will also receive a $5 rebate from SC Johnson for purchasing three Glade products.
So, I've already made money on this transaction.
Then, I'm going to put a lot of this in the yard sale. The Glade Sense & Sprays will be priced at $3. The Glade soy candle will be priced at $2. The Almay foundation will be priced at $4 and the Almay mascara will be priced at $3. So, that will be an additional $18 made from these products at our next yard sale.
Walgreens is great!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Food For Thought

Please take the time to review the article on this site.

There's so much good information there.

Recently, I became very convicted about improving the quality of the food that my family consumes. In our household, I take care of all the food purchasing, meal planning, and preparation of our foods. So, my family's poor eating habits could not be blamed on anyone else but me. I will admit that Shawn was not exactly enthusiastic about removing "badness" and including more "goodness" in our diet. However, he is open-minded enough to know that this is good for us, so he agreed to make changes as well. Our compromise was that we would eat healthy meals together as a family, but Shawn could keep some of his favorite processed foods set aside. So, he has definitely improved his eating habits, but he's still eating more processed foods than the kids and myself.

I do think it's important to note that my opinions on this are somewhat biased because I am a firm believer that eating well causes you to feel better both physically and emotionally. I am totally convinced of this. I believe that the neurological effects of food and food additives are often overlooked. Shawn, however, was a skeptic at first, so I think his opinion is a bit more neutral. With Shawn being a bit skeptical about this change, I was pleased to hear him comment about how two recent meals caused him to feel bad.

Several Sundays ago the kids and I went to visit my parents. Shawn stayed home to work, so he was on his own for supper. He decided to fix a box of Hamburger Helper that was purchased a while back. He had the Cheesy Hashbrown Hamburger Helper, which is his absolute favorite. He likes this type sooooo much that we actually ordered boxes of it online and had it delivered to our house when local stores stopped carrying it. I'm not kidding when I say that it's his favorite! Well, when the kids and I arrived home, Shawn was just finishing up his supper. Later that evening he commented that it just didn't taste as good as he remembered. He said, with a confused look on his face, "It sort of tasted like...plastic."

The other instance occurred earlier this week. Shawn came home from work with a headache. Several hours later he went to teach his night class, came home, and still had the headache. He plopped down on the couch and complained that his head still hurt. I asked him if he had drank enough water that day. He replied that he had and he really thought that his head was hurting from the junk (that's actually the term he used..junk) he'd eaten at work for lunch.

The only way to really understand how your body responds to processed foods and chemicals is to allow your body to be without them for a decent period of time. Then, when you do eat something processed, the difference between it and fresh food will be so obvious to you. The "fake-ness" of the food will be so apparent. The residual effects on both your mood and energy level will be obvious. After ridding yourself of smelly chemicals, a walk down the laundry aisle at a grocery store will be suffocating. So, while it may be easier to go through life accustomed to blue dye in marshmallows and chemicals fragrances in your fabric softener, it is not better for you or your family.

There are still a lot of improvements that my family needs to make for our health, but I feel that we are headed in the right direction. It's necessary for me to take baby steps or else I get overwhelmed. I hope that, after reading the above link, you will also be convinced to take a baby step that will improve your family's health.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Productive Day: Take 2

Ok, so yesterday was very NOT-productive. I am determined to rectify that today.

So far today, I have a pot of chicken broth simmering on the stove and smelling very yummy. I also have a load of towels in the dryer. We're all fed and dressed.

Since I need to play catch-up from yesterday, my to-do list is rather lengthy..

Water plants
Plan weekly menu
Fold and put away towels
Sweep and mop floors
Clip coupons
Library with kids
Walgreens/Kroger/Dollar General/drop off recycling
Organize coupons after kids are put to bed tonight

Since I have so much to do, I guess I ought to get off here and start getting things done! I'll leave you with my recipe for homemade chicken broth:

carcass from one roasted chicken (bones, skin, everything)
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 stalks of celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
1-2 onions, quartered
salt and pepper to taste
1 T. vinegar

Take your roasted chicken carcass and, using a meat cleaver, chop up some of the bones. This will make your broth more nutritious by accessing the good marrow inside the bones. Dump the chopped up carcass in a large stock pot. Wash carrots, chop and dump in the pot. It is not necessary to peel the carrots, but you can if you prefer. Wash celery, chop and dump in the pot, leaves and all. Quarter onion and dump in the pot, skin and all. (The addition of the skin will give your broth a pretty golden color.) Add salt and pepper. (I used my new Celtic Sea Salt!) Then add 1 T. vinegar. This helps in drawing the nutrients from the bones of the chicken. Add enough water to cover all contents of stock pot. Place on stove and bring slowly to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 24 hours. Yes, you read that right, 24 hours! About 10 minutes before broth is finished simmering, add a palm-full of parsley. I use fresh parsley from my kitchen windowsill, but if you're using dried, just add to taste. Strain into a large bowl and set in refrigerator until fat congeals at top. Skim off fat and package broth for storage in freezer. You now have yummy, nutritious broth that doesn't include MSG or any other badness!

Ok, now to tackle that to-do list...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Collecting My Thoughts

Over the weekend I had several ideas on what I wanted to write about, but couldn't come to a decision, so today is just going to be a hodge-podge of all things on my mind...

Yesterday's lesson at church was about how being different than everyone else is not a bad thing. We are called to not love the world or the things in the world, so not quite fitting in with the rest of the world is good. I'm thankful that Vernon chose to preach on this topic because it was something that I really needed to hear.

I'm so thankful for the new goodies I received this weekend. My first purchase of unrefined coconut oil, some cod liver oil, a natural deodorant crystal, and some essential oils for homemade cleaning mixtures. I'm excited to learn about using these products instead of those I was used to using before.

I have so much to do today...First of all, I need to write out my to-do list for the week and make out our menu-plan for the week. Then I also need to wash all our sheets, go through Sunday's papers and clip out coupons, make homemade chicken broth , study the Kroger and Walgreens sales for the week, and homeschool the kids today. Sometime this week I'd like to look up how to process sunflower seeds so I can use the few that we harvested from our garden this year. I meant to do that last week, but never got around to it. We also need to clean up the deck and yard sometime this week so we can add the leaves to our compost pile. If I get to work on this, hopefully I can come back on here this evening and update on my progress.

Oh, and I'm really looking forward to possibly having friends over this evening for a last minute get-together. One of my friends is getting really close to having her baby, so hopefully we can all visit with one another before her life gets really busy.

Now I'm smiling as I listen to Sam sit in the living room singing, "Pretty little surry with the fringe on the top..." from the musical "Oklahoma!". Sarah's trying to tell him that if he puts together the train tracks then momma will be so happy. Having children that are only 20 months apart is very hard, but also very, very rewarding. They play so well together.

I hope everyone (including myself!) has an enjoyable, productive Monday!