Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Spending Challenge - Wrap-Up

Today ends Northwest Edible Life's No-Spend Month of October.  I didn't join full-on, but decided to challenge myself to spend zero money in restaurants and as little as possible on food at the grocery store. 

The last five days of the month went well.  We didn't go out to eat, Kat asked for one school lunch, and we spent $25.52 at the grocery store.  That amount was spent on two 1-pound bags of tortilla chips, 3/4 pound wheat berries, 1/2 pound black eyed peas, 3/4 pound red beans, 2 pounds smoked sausages, 1 quart half and half, 4 cans green beans, 4 pounds sugar, and 2 pints sour cream.

Here are the totals for the month:

Restaurant spending:  $9.96
School lunch spending: $10.75 (5 lunches)
Grocery store spending:  $176.06 (includes sales tax)
Pork processing fees:  $209.00 

My friend SonyaAnn brought up that other people stock up especially well the month before they go into a challenge like this.  And in the past, I've known of people to criticize no-spenders or low-spenders by saying that whatever we put off buying this month, we'll certainly buy next month, so that any savings gained is lost in the re-stocking. 

I disagree. I think a this kind of challenge reinforces the importance of having a well-stocked pantry all the time.  I don't consider myself a prepper, but at any given time, there is a lot of food hanging around our home.  That's food we have grown, hunted or bought when it was on sale.  We have meat, fruits and vegetables, butter in the freezers.  We have pasta, flour, sugar, grains such as steel cut oats and popcorn (great for cornmeal), oils, and more fruits and vegetables in the pantry.  Except for some basics, like milk and eggs, we could easily get by for a month without going to the store.  Likely we could go longer than that if necessary.  If Shane gets a deer or two while hunting this month, we'll have meat to last more than a year.

Because I had a well-stocked pantry to begin with, I just didn't need much in the way of groceries.  I didn't stock up in advance, and I didn't "put off" buying things until next month.  I bought a few items to round out our meals, a few items for no reason other than convenience, and a yes, even a few extras.

I also want to reinforce that exercises like this one are valuable if for no other reason than to make a person stop and think before spending money.  Anytime a person is mindful of her spending habits, that's a step in the right direction, I think.  So, while I've done better at similar challenges in the past, I will chalk this one up as a success.


Here's what we ate the past five days, most of which was already in the freezer, fridge and pantry:

Breakfasts and Lunches: 
  • Our breakfasts and lunches were very similar to earlier, consisting mostly of hot cereals, leftovers and/or simple sandwiches.
  • Kat requested one school lunches this week, which was turkey with gravy and brown rice. The meal came with a choice of two of carrot sticks, apple wedges, orange wedges or peas.

Suppers:  (This week's menu centered around chicken, with three meals made from one whole bird.)
  • Grilled pork chops, baked potatoes, home-canned green beans.
  • Grilled pork steaks, pan-fried potatoes, homegrown collard greens, homegrown zucchini and tomato bake, applesauce.
  • Hash brown casserole with onions and peppers, home canned peaches, home-grown collard greens.
  • Homemade flatbread pizzas (leftover grilled pork, homemade sauce, onions and peppers, cheese), veggies were bits and pieces from earlier meals.
  • Mummy dogs (polish sausage instead of hot dogs), "clean out the fridge" soup, salad with homemade dressing.
Drinks and Snacks:
Drinks this week were water, coffee, iced tea, raw milk, beer, apple cider.  Snacks were potato chips, tortilla chips, peanuts, saltines, marshmallow pops, and of course, some Halloween candy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Easy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

This isn't the only recipe for a flavorful coffee creamer with the fall flavor of pumpkin, but the only one I know of that starts with sweetened condensed milk.  While not the best choice, maybe, I'm OK with sweetened condensed milk because it contains no high fructose corn syrup.  I use whole milk, but feel free to use the milk of your choice.  This recipe goes together and is ready to serve in a flash.

Easy Homemade Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1-1/4 cups milk (use the milk can as a measure if you like)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh (use more if you want a more intense flavor)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice blend

Whisk all ingredients together until very well blended.  Add to coffee or tea as desired.  Store covered in the refrigerator, preferably in a glass container.  Shake well to blend before using.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kat's Harley Quinn (or Harlequin Jester) Costume

Until a few weeks ago, I didn't know who Harley Quinn was.  If you don't know, either, she is a super-villian character in the Batman series.  She's who Kat has decided to be at our friends super-hero themed Halloween party.  Because of a scheduling snafu, we weren't able to go, but Kat was able to wear her costume for her school's Trunk or Treat last Friday and will wear it again Halloween night.

There are many renderings of Harley Quinn online; here's one to give you an idea what she looks like:

It's a little precocious for a 9-year-old, don't you think?  And this is actually one of the more understated images.  But I was pretty sure with my lack of fine sewing skills, I could come up with a less revealing costume.  This costume would never win any sewing ribbons, but it will work just fine for the two or three times Kat will wear it.

To do this on the cheap, I started with two pairs of stretch pants, one red and one black, and two stretch tops, one black and one red.  While I was there, I just got lucky by finding the tiny little strapless dress in black and red harlequin print.  I grabbed it, too, because I was sure it would come in handy.

After spending some time cutting things apart and sewing them back together, and adding a few embellishments, I came up with this.

 Voila!  Harley Quinn!  

It won't win any awards, but it will do.  Total cost <$15.  Total time (not counting thrift store shopping), 7-8 hours at a leisurely pace. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

October Spending Challenge - Week 4

Today ends Week 4 of Northwest Edible Life's No-Spend Month of October.  To participate, I didn't join full-on, but decided to challenge myself to spend zero money in restaurants and as little as possible on food at the grocery store. 

This week (10/20 to 10/26) was spendy compared to the past three weeks:

Restaurant spending:  $9.96
School lunch spending: $4.30 (2 lunches)
Grocery store spending:  $48.86 (includes sales tax)
Pork processing fees:  $209.00 (already had these funds set aside)

At the stores this week, I bought: 2 packages of hot dog buns, 1 loaf of oat bran bread, 1 bag tortilla chips, 10 pounds of whole wheat flour, 5 pounds of Clear-Jel thickener, 1.25 pounds barley, a few ounces of dried basil leaves and a couple of ounces of ground nutmeg. 

I also (finally) found a source for raw milk and bought two gallons.  With bottle deposits, the total was $12.  Ive also included the cost of two dozen farm eggs that I forgot to include when I bought them last week - $5.

I blew my perfect record in the restaurant category yesterday.  My daughter (Kat's mom) rode with me to pick up our pork from the processor.  While we were out, I felt a migraine coming on, so I decided it was probably not a good idea to skip lunch.  I bought us each sub sandwich and put her in the truck's driver seat for the rest of our trip.

You'll notice I have a fourth category this week, which is the butcher's fee for processing. I had set aside $250 for processing, but I'm happy to say that some of that money will go back into savings.


Here's what we ate this past week, most of which was already in the freezer, fridge and pantry:

Breakfasts and Lunches: 
  • Our breakfasts and lunches were very similar to earlier, consisting mostly of hot cereals, leftovers and/or simple sandwiches.
  • Kat requested two school lunches this week.  The first was meatballs and gravy over rice and the second was sliced ham with French toast sticks.  Each came with a choice of two out of several fruits and vegetables.

Suppers:  (This week's menu centered around chicken, with three meals made from one whole bird.)
  • Leftover chili (from my dad), hot dogs on buns, salad with homemade dressing.
  • Sausage-and-stuffing stuffed acorn squash, salad with homemade dressing.
  • Chicken Oreganato, salad with homemade dressing, green beans.
  • Chicken enchiladas, refried beans, salad with homemade dressing, homemade salsa.
  • Chicken enchiladas leftovers.
  • Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches, pumpkin applesauce, tortilla or potato chips. 
  • Fried catfish TBA.
Drinks and Snacks:
Drinks this week were water, coffee, iced tea, raw milk, lemon-lime soda, and beer.  Snacks were potato chips, tortilla chips, peanuts, peanut butter and jelly on flour tortillas, string cheese.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sausage-and-Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash

Most stuffed squash recipes include rice in the mixture, but I wanted to use a box of stuffing that was in the cabinet, so I came up with this.  If you'd prefer, you can make your own stuffing mix to use.  Just search "homemade stove top stuffing" and you'll find lots of recipes.

I stuffed three acorn squashes for my family (6 halves), and ended up with extra stuffing mixture.  I could have stuffed additional squash, but instead I spread the stuffing into a greased baking dish (use whatever size is appropriate for the amount of stuffing you have left) and baked it alongside the squash.  It would make a good side dish, lunch dish or even breakfast.  Kat and I had some for breakfast this morning.

Sausage-and-Stuffing Stuffed Acorn Squash

3 to 6 acorn squash, depending on the size of the squash and size of your family
1 box stuffing mix (or equivalent homemade stuffing)
1 pound pork breakfast sausage
2 eggs
shredded cheddar cheese

Wash squash and cut in halve from stem end to blossom end.  Remove seeds and guts.  Sprinkle cut side with salt and place in a lightly sprayed microwave safe baking dish, cut side up.  Cover and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Alternately, you could cover with foil and bake at 375°F for 50 minutes.

While squash is cooking, prepare stuffing mix according to package directions, but omitting the butter if it is called for.  Set aside to cool slightly.

Crumble and fry pork sausage, drain.  Break up large pieces so that sausage is a fairly fine crumble.  Stir into prepared stuffing. 

Beat eggs in a separate bowl, then pour into stuffing and sausage mixture.  Stir well.

When squash has cooked, remove from oven or microwave and carefully uncover.  Using a large spoon or scoop, fill cavities with stuffing mix, mounding mixture on top.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 375°F for 30 minutes.

Makes 3 to 6 servings, depending on how many squash are used.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ghoulie Goodies for Halloween

Because of scheduling snafu, I'm not sure if we will be going to our friends' Halloween party this weekend or not, but I think I'll still make some of the treats I had planned to take with us.

Look at these easy, but eye-catching, marshmallow pops.  It will be a great way to use up some of the decorative jimmies and sprinkles I have in the cabinet.

Marshmallow Pops

These boney Witchy Fingers are also a definite on my list.  Dirty fingernails have never tasted so good!

Witchy Fingers

Nothing ghoulish about these pretzel bites.  I just know that most party tables are heavy on the sweets and I'll want something more savory.  Maybe some ranch or honey mustard dipping sauce for these, too?

Pretzel Bites

Finally, I am strongly considering taking THIS GUY along if we go. 

Click for Recipe

He has such a lovely head of ham.  Would you partake if he showed up at your party?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beautiful Weekend for Heritage Days

Shane ended up having to work on Saturday, but Kat and I decided to go to Warsaw Heritage Days without him.  This is the first time in many years (15?...20?) that I've gone, despite it being in my hometown of Warsaw, MO.  The festival, which began in 1981, is a celebration of the pioneering forefathers of the area's Kaysinger Bluff, now the site of the Harry S. Truman Visitor Center at Truman Lake.

The weather was beautiful and we had so much fun, eventually catching up with one of my sisters and her husband before going to visit my dad for a while.

I took lots of pictures of our day.  Here are few -- to see the rest click HERE or on the Heritage Days tab at the top of the page.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October Spending Challenge - Week 3

Today ends Week 3 of Northwest Edible Life's No-Spend Month of October.  To participate, I didn't join full-on, but decided to challenge myself to spend zero money in restaurants and as little as possible on food at the grocery store. 

This week (10/13 to 10/19) was alright, but not as successful as I would have liked:

Restaurant spending:  $0
School lunch spending: $2.15 (1 lunch)
Grocery store spending:  $56.62 (includes sales tax)

I spent quite a bit at the grocery store this week.  I bought: 5 pound block of cheddar, 2 loaves of French bread, 1 pkg. pre-made pie crusts, 2 bags marshmallows (ingredient in a party treat at the end of the month), 2 bottles of lemon-lime soda, 4 bags tortilla chips, 2 bag of potato chips, 2 pound sliced ham, 1 pound dry roasted peanuts 1/2 gallon millk, 3 cartons yogurt, 3 bell peppers, 2 pounds grapes, 2 packages flour tortillas, 1/2 gallon apple cider, 1 quart half & half, 1 package white chocolate chips (for party treats), 1 bag milk chocolate chips (for party treats), 1 can tuna, and 1 loaf oat bran bread.

Talk about jumping off the homemade/frugal wagon and onto the convenience/junk food wagon!  It was just one of those weeks, and they happen.  But I'll give myself credit where credit is due -- we had a busy Saturday away from the house and it would have been so, so tempting to have a late lunch out, but we resisted and came home for a nice veggie and pasta meal at home.


Here's what we ate this past week, most of which was already in the freezer, fridge and pantry:

Breakfasts and Lunches: 
  • Our breakfasts and lunches were very similar to last week's, consisting mostly of hot cereals, leftovers and/or simple sandwiches.
  • Kat requested one school lunches this week, which was sliced ham with whole grain pancake, tater tots, and choice of two of carrot sticks, pear halves, apple wedges or orange wedges.

Suppers:  (A friend gave us a large venison roast that his family didn't want to eat; we stretched it into several meals for us, plus the scraps and trimmings were ground into a treat for our outdoor cat.)
  • Whole wheat pasta with tapenade, spinach, zucchini, oven dried tomatoes and feta cheese; garlic toast.
  • Chili (pork) with toppings (sour cream, cheese), tortilla chips, apple pie.
  • Venison stew, sliced French bread with butter, cole slaw, apple pie.
  • Venison fajitas (meat, peppers, onions, mushrooms, cheese, sour cream, HM salsa), homemade refried beans from homegrown pinto beans, lettuce salad with tomatoes and homemade dressings.
  • Venison fajita-egg tortilla wraps (basically leftover fajita ingredients stretched with scrambled eggs), refried beans, lettuce salad.
  • Venison lasagna, garlic toast, green beans, spinach.
  • Miscellanous leftovers from other meals.
Drinks and Snacks:
Drinks this week were water, coffee, iced tea, hot tea,milk, lemon-lime soda, hot chocolate, apple cider, and beer.  Snacks were hummus with tortilla chips, apple pie, grapes, potato chips, and bread with butter.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I'm a Winner!

I just wanted to take time out of my busy day of doing stuff to thank Alea at Premeditated Leftovers for the wonderful cookbook called $5 Dinner Mom One-Dish Dinners Cookbook by Erin Chase.

I was so happy to win this book in a giveaway she hosted earlier this month.  I haven't had a chance to make any of the recipes, but I've had a great time looking through the book and planning what to make soon.

Please take a little time to visit Premeditated Leftovers, and while you're at it, check out $5 Dinners, too!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Can I Be Frank With You?

Let's see if I can "Frankenstein" $10 worth of thrift store clothes into a big freakin' mess Halloween costume for Kat. 

Into the lah-bor-ah-tory I go...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's Alive!

Garden season isn't quite over yet.  This is what we picked from our garden last night.  Two big bowls of green beans (we covered them during our recent frosts), several small acorn squash and a custard cup full of strawberries.

Yes, I did say strawberries.

They're an ever-bearing variety and they've been doing this all summer except for a short while during the hottest, most dry weeks.

We even had 2-3 raspberries last night, but they last long enough to make it into the photo.

Still in the garden are butternut squash, possibly a few more green beans, some Swiss chard and some collard greens.  Everything else has been "put to bed", so to speak.

Are your gardening days over for the season, or do you still have a few plants that are producing?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Simple Decorating for Fall and Winter

I'm not a big fan of holiday-specific decorating.  I'd much rather decorate for the season than for this holiday or that.  For example, here is our kitchen table dressed up for autumn. 

A table runner or scarf, a coordinating napkin and a basket of gourds and squash is colorful, yet simple.  This type of decoration will take us through all of October and November.

For some reason, this particular photo of the hutch in our dining room makes me start thinking ahead to winter.

I'm thinking of tying some red plaid ribbon around those cream-colored canisters and maybe add a holiday-scented jar candle, some old-fashioned cookie cutters tied with red raffia and maybe a few sprigs of greenery in place of the houseplants on top.  It will have a Christmas-y feel to it, but can tastefully stay in place from December until spring rolls around again.

We'll have a tree in our living room, but for this space, I'm envisioning no Santas, no snowmen, no angels, no plastic baubles or twinkly lights.  Just simple and basic decorations that speaks less of holidays and more of winter in general.

Just tossing some ideas out to see where they go.  What do you think?  Does an understated style appeal to you?

Friday, October 12, 2012

How to Ripen Green Tomatoes in Your Basement

Use a Mini Greenhouse Shelf to Ripen Green Tomatoes
Some of last year's tomatoes; taken October 2011.
A couple dozen of these look ready to move to the kitchen.

Our first frost was last weekend, so we picked all the tomatoes we could find on our vines, whether they were ripe or not.   We didn't have nearly as many greenies as we did last year, but there were still a couple hundred, I guess. 

I don't want that many sitting around on my kitchen table or in my kitchen window waiting to turn red, so I set up the seed starter rack (mini greenhouse) in the basement.  Any cool dark place, like a garage or cellar, will do.  I left off the see-thru plastic cover and put a layer of cardboard on the shelves to keep the really small tomatoes from falling though (paper would work, too).  I placed all the green tomatoes on the shelves and covered the entire rack with plastic.  In our case, we had some very large white plastic bags used to dispose of natural Christmas trees.  You could use large trash bags, tarps or whatever you have on hand.  Cloth sheets will work, but not as well as plastic.  The plastic covering not only blocks out direct sunlight, but also traps in gasses that help the tomatoes get ripe.

Every couple of days, I will go down to the basement and check for tomatoes that are turning red.  Once they have a decent tint (about half-ripe) I'll gather those and bring them upstairs to sit on the table to ripen in the sunlight.  I don't mind a few tomatoes at a time sitting around in my kitchen. 

You're mileage may vary, but we've found that this method works better than any other for us.  They'll  never taste as good as if they had ripened on the vine, but they are still so much better tasting than store-bought tomatoes. 

October Spending Challenge - Week 2

Today ends Week 2 of Northwest Edible Life's No-Spend Month of October.  To participate, I decided to challenge myself to spend zero money going out to eat and as little as possible on food at the grocery store.  Kat requests the school's hot lunch a few times a month, so I'm including that spending as well.  I don't consider it to be groceries or a meal out, so it gets its own category.

This week of 10/6 to 10/12 was somewhat successful:

Restaurant spending:  $0
School lunch spending: $0
Grocery store spending:  $36.51 (includes sales tax)

At the store I spent quite a bit more than last week, but still a good deal less than usual.  I bought: 3 pound bag of yellow onions, 12 cans green beans, 3 bags tortilla chips, 2 loaves whole wheat bread, 2 whole "Just BARE" brand chickens, 1 lb. organic carrots, 2 heads lettuce, 1 pint sour cream, 1 pint ricotta cheese, 8 oz. block mozzarella cheese, 2 cans pumpkin.

Notes:  *Canned green beans are one of just a few veggies that I can rest assured that Kat will eat, so I stock up when they are on saled. *I make a lot of our bread from scratch, but will buy it if I'm especially busy like I was this week.  *I usually buy organic, free-range chicken from Trader Joe's for $2.49/lb, but the nearest TJ's is 15+ miles away.  I decided to try the Just BARE brand at $1.75/lb (and about 1 mile from home).  It's not organic or free-range, but from what I've read, they do follow cleaner, more humane practices than conventional poultry producers.  Anyone have any experience with this brand?

In addition, our neighbors moved away this weekend and gave us 18 eggs and 15 pounds of potatoes that they didn't have room to take with them.


Here's what we ate this past week, most of which was already in the freezer, fridge and pantry:

Breakfasts and Lunches: 
  • On both Saturday and Sunday, we ate steel cut oats and homemade toast with butter. 
  • Otherwise, our breakfasts and lunches were very similar to last week's, consisting mostly of hot cereals, leftovers and/or simple sandwiches.
  • Kat did not request any school lunches this week.

  • Saturday evening we were invited to eat at our friends' house.  We contributed homemade cookies and one of the last watermelons from our garden.
  • Ham and cheese pretzel bites, green beans, lettuce salad with tomatoes and mushrooms, homemade honey mustard or ranch dressings, leftover cole slaw.
  • Homemade pizzas (choice of ham and cheese or Thai chicken), lettuce salad with tomatoes and mushrooms, carrot sticks with homemade salad dressings for dip, homemade zucchini hummus, tortilla chips.
  • Ham and dumplings, green beans w/bits of ham, lettuce salad with tomatoes and mushrooms,  carrot sticks with salad dressing for dip.
  • 4-Cheese ravioli with homemade pasta sauce, garlic toast, salad with tomatoes and mushrooms, leftover green beans.
  • Choice of homemade soup (chicken noodle or tomato bisque), fried egg sandwiches on toast, lettuce salad with tomatoes, watermelon.
  • Sweet and spicy salmon burgers on homemade buns, roasted acorn squash, zucchini-tomato bake, lettuce salad.
  • Pasta with tapenade, oven-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini and feta cheese; garlic toast.
Drinks and Snacks:
Drinks this week were water, coffee, iced tea, hot tea, hot chocolate, beer, and white wine punch (wine and lemonade, basically).  Snacks were dry roasted peanuts, tortilla chips with homemade salsa (both red and green), zucchini hummus, apples, homemade toffee chip cookies, and popcorn.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Canned Roasted Green Tomato Salsa

We had our first frosty nights last weekend, but knew about it ahead of time and picked all of our tomatoes, both red and green.

Many of the larger green ones are being ripened in the basement (more on that later), but there were still many small green tomatoes to deal with.  I decided to make green tomato salsa with them.

I scoured the internet for green tomato and/or tomatillo recipes suitable for canning, then true to my style, I tweaked a couple of them to come up with my own.  Because I only tweaked spices a bit, and used fewer bell peppers and onions instead of more, but left the vinegar and lemon or lime juice amounts the same (and added some citric acid for good measure) I'm confident this recipe is still safe for water bath canning.  But here's my disclaimer.  If you are uncomfortable with this recipe for any reason, don't make it.  Use one from the Ball Blue Book or your local university extension office.

Anyway, back to the recipe.  This stuff's good.  It's tart, tangy, fresh-tasting and not very hot.  Hot can be good, but sometimes I just want the flavor without the heat.  If you want more heat, you can add more jalapenos or some cayenne pepper to the mix.

Annie's Roasted Green Tomato Salsa

6 to 8 pounds of green tomatoes, stemmed and cut into large chunks
drizzle of olive oil
sea salt and pepper
1 cup chopped bell pepper (any color)
2 large onions, diced
1 4-ounce can diced mild green chiles (or the equivalent fresh)
8 slices of pickled jalapeno (or use fresh - to your own taste)
1 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
1 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons chicken base or chicken bouillon (optional, but it does add to the flavor)
2 Tablespoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon citric acid (to increase acidity)

Heat oven to 325°F.  Prepare jars for canning following the directions in the Ball Blue Book or from your local university extension office.

Brush a large baking pan with sides (like a steam table pan or a roaster) with a drizzle of olive oil.  Place tomato chunks in pan.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.  Place pan in oven and roast for 60-90 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare water bath canner for use per manufacturer's directions.

Remove tomatoes from oven and spoon tomatoes and any liquid into a large stock pot.  Add all remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Mixture will probably still be chunky, so blend to desired consistency using a handheld immersion blender or by blending in batches in a blender or food processor.  Continue to simmer while assembling jars, lids and rings for canning.

Fill hot pint jars with hot salsa mixture, leaving 1/2-inch head space.  Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth, adjust two piece lids and rings, and place in canner of rapidly boiling water.  Once water returns to a full boil, process for 20 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and place on a folded kitchen towel in a draft-free area of your kitchen.  Listen for jars to seal.  Store any jars that fail to seal in the refrigerator for immediate use.

Makes 7 to 8 pints. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Apple and Ground Cherry Gallette

This is another dish I made last week.  It may not be a traditional galette, since I used a basic pie crust instead of puff pastry or a crepe, but it's close enough for me.  We like galettes because they suit the smaller size of our family, and also because we enjoy the higher crust to fruit ratio than we'd get with a fully-filled double-crust pie. 

Do all of you know what ground cherries are?  I didn't until last spring, when we decided to grow some.  Also known as cape gooseberries and husk tomatoes, they are members of the nightshade family (as are potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.)  The plants bear small yellow fruits that grow in paper husks similar to those on tomatillos.  The flavor is unique.  They are sweet, and have been described as tasting a little like pineapple and a little like Froot Loops.  Believe me, they taste better than Froot Loops.  The are commonly used to make jelly, jam, sauces and pie fillings, but there are many other ways to serve them.

Note: I combined them with some of the spiced apple slices I canned earlier this fall.  The spices and sugar in the apples' syrup was just right to season and sweeten the ground cherries.  If you don't have canned apples, try using two apples, peeled and sliced, a bit of ground cinnamon and ground cloves, a half cup of water and sugar to taste.  Cook the apples with the ground cherries until thick, then proceed from there.

Apple and Ground Cherry Galette

1 pint canned spiced apple slices with syrup (see note above for substitution)
1 cup fresh or frozen ground cherries, husks removed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 homemade or prepared crust for a 9-inch pie

Heat oven to 375°F.

Combine apples with syrup and ground cherries in a medium saucepan.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until mixture is thick and no longer watery.  Remove from heat, then stir in vanilla.  Set mixture aside.

Roll pie crust to a 12-inch diameter.  Place on a pizza stone or large baking sheet.

Spoon apple-ground cherry filling in center of crust, spreading to within 2 inches of outer edges.  Fold edges of dough up and over filling, overlapping as shown and leaving a circle of filling uncovered.

Lightly brush crust with water and sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired (I did not do so this time).  Bake at 375°F for about 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  Cut into wedges to serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ham and Potato Casserole

Last week I baked a half-ham and with some of the leftovers, I made this tasty casserole.  It's basically a gratin or scallop, with ham, potatoes, onions and the very flavorful broth from cooking the ham.

Ham and Potato Casserole

2 Tablespoons fat of choice (I used the fat from baking the ham)
1/4 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1 cup ham broth (could use just water or chicken broth)
1 cup half-and-half (could use evaporated milk)
1/2 cup water
pepper to taste
6 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups diced cooked ham
1 cup shredded cheese of choice (I used mozzarella)

Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with pan spray and set aside.

Melt fat in a large saucepan or Dutch oven.  Stir in flour and cook until bubbly and thick, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in ham broth and half-and-half.  Consistency should be that of heavy cream; add small amount of water to thin if necessary.  Stir in black pepper to taste.

Stir in sliced potatoes, sliced onions and diced ham.  Stir to coat all, then pour into prepared baking dish.  Top with shredded cheese.

Cover baking dish with foil and bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Remove foil and continue to bake another 10-15 minutes or until top of casserole is golden brown.

Makes 6-8 servings.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Measure of a Marriage

Her measuring cups and spoons. This makes perfect sense to me.  I cook a lot.  It's good to always have a clean, dry measuring utensil within reach.

His tape measures.  Seven in this picture.  I could put my hands on at least two more within seconds, and I'm sure he has at least one in his truck.  These belong to a man who can routinely hang something on a wall just by eyeballing it and be within a quarter-inch of dead center.  I know he's a construction worker, but I still don't get it.

I guess there are just some things I'm not meant to understand.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October Spending Challenge - Week 1

I mentioned Monday that I was joining Erica at Northwest Edible Life in her No-Spend Month of October by challenging myself to spend zero money going out to eat and as little as possible on food at the grocery store.  Kat requests the school's hot lunch a few times a month, so I'm including that spending as well.  I don't consider it to be groceries or a meal out, so it gets its own category.

This week of 10/1 to 10/5 was a success:

Restaurant spending:  $0
School lunch spending: $2.15 (1 lunch)
Grocery store spending:  $8.55 (includes sales tax)

At the store I bought:  10 pounds russet potatoes, 1 large head of lettuce, 1 small head of cabbage, and a 1-pound bag of tortilla chips.


Just for fun, here's what we ate this past week from what was already in the freezer, fridge and pantry:

  • Shane doesn't eat breakfast during the week. 
  • If I do, it's usually just toast and coffee. 
  • Kat ate a scrambled egg with toast (2 days), a waffle with butter - she doesn't like syrup (1 day), toast with almond butter (1 day), and oatmeal (1 day).

  • Shane takes supper leftovers or other pantry items for his lunch nearly every day. 
  • I ate enchiladas left over from camping (3 days), miscellaneous leftovers (1 day), and stuffed cheeseburger buns (1 day). 
  • Kat ate stuffed cheeseburger buns (2 days), leftover ham and potato casserole (2 days) with yogurt, string cheese, peaches, tortilla chips and/or peanuts as side items all week.  She requested the school lunch for today:  turkey and gravy, whole grain roll, and two or more of applesauce, apple wedges, banana, corn or celery sticks.

Suppers: (I baked a half ham that has stretched all week and will make some future meals as well.) 
  • Baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauteed cabbage, fermented cherry tomatoes, whole wheat rolls with butter.
  • Ham-potato-onion casserole, peas, home-canned peaches, cottage cheese, fermented cherry tomatoes, whole wheat rolls with butter.
  • Fried ham slices, eggs (fried or scrambled as desired), whole wheat toast with butter, cottage cheese, sliced tomato, apple-ground cherry galette.
  • Potato soup with ham, cheese and broccoli (per Shane's request); fried egg sandwiches
  • Tonight we will have a homemade version of a Primanti Bros. Sandwich that we saw TV once time.  Ours will have ham, cooked chicken, cheddar, French fries, slaw and tomatoes on homemade bread.  No side dishes will be needed with this sandwich!
Drinks and Snacks:
Drinks this week were water, coffee, iced tea, hot tea, hot chocolate, half of a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale left from camping, and beer.  Snacks were dry roasted peanuts, toast with apple butter, tortilla chips, string cheese, and apples.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Easy Cheese Stick "Eggrolls"

It's getting to be that time of year when lots of parties and gatherings are planned, whether for holidays, ball games, or just for fun.  Here is a quick appetizer to make when you're hosting, or when you are going somewhere where you'll have the use of an oven to crisp these back up just before serving.

The appetizers can be deep-fried as I did these, or they can be baked.  For larger appetizers, use full sticks of string cheese and egg roll wrappers.  For smaller bites, you can use wonton wrappers and cut the string cheese sticks into thirds.  That's what I did with these.  They are good served plain (my favorite), or with ranch dressing and/or sweet and sour sauce for dipping.

Easy Cheese Stick "Eggrolls"
1 package string cheese (16 oz. = 16 pieces, usually)
1 package wonton or egg roll wrappers
Peanut oil or other oil for deep frying

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375°F.

While oil is heating, remove wrapper from string cheese pieces.  If using egg roll wrappers, you will need one wrapper per piece of cheese.  If using wonton wrappers, you will need to cut each cheese stick into thirds crosswise and use three wrappers.

Wrap each piece of cheese "burrito-style" by placing a single wrapper in front of you with a point toward you.  Place piece of cheese across the wrapper near the center.  Fold the point nearest you up and over the cheese, but a 1/2-inch or so below the top point.  Brush exposed edges of wrapper with water.  Fold in side points, then roll cheese toward top point, pressing to seal all edges.  Set aside and cover with a barely-damp paper towel while rolling remaining cheese sticks.

Deep fry appetizers in batches in hot oil until wrappers are golden brown and bubbly.  Drain on paper towels and cool slightly before serving.

Alternately, place rolled appetizers on a lined baking sheet and bake 375°F degrees until golden brown, turning once to brown on all sides.  Let cool slightly before serving.

(BTW, I think I first saw this recipe somewhere on Pinterest, but I don't see it on my boards now, so I don't know who should get credit.)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Changing Seasons

The 2012 camping season is over for us.  You can read a couple of new posts about our last camping weekend of the year at Haphazard Homestead on the Road.


With camping season over, summer is "officially" over for us, too.  As we move into fall and look ahead toward holidays and cooler weather, I've decided to take on two challenges for October.

The first is that I'm going to join in with Erica at Northwest Edible Life in an October No-Spend Month.  I think Erica is attempting an across-the-board reduction, but I've decided that I want to limit my challenge to grocery and restaurant spending.  Those of you who were readers of my old blog know that I can get a little carried away with numbers, but I promise not to do that this time.  My goal is to spend as little as possible at the grocery store and for us to not go out to eat at all in October.  I'll post my updates on Fridays and keep them simple. 
One exemptions right off the bat:  We will be paying the meat processor for pork already butchered and waiting for us to pick up as soon as the cured cuts are ready. 

If you'd like to join in, please do.  It's my understanding that this challenge is less about austerity and more about being mindful of and deliberate in your spending habits, whatever they may be.


The second challenge I'm going to join is "All Done by December 1" at Happy Simple Living.  According to the Happy Simple Living blog, "The idea is to do some advance planning about the aspects of Christmas that are most important to you and your family, followed by some easy tasks and organization. The goal? To have every do-ahead task done by December 1, leaving you three glorious weeks to have the best celebration ever."

If you'd like to join in, click over and sign up for the e-mail updates.
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