Thursday, October 29, 2009

Homemade Bread

I've made lots of bread rolls and biscuits and other yeast items, but have still to conquer the basic sandwich bread. It is a goal of mine. Besides saving lots of money, it's more convient to make it than to drive 40 minutes to the store. Gayle Bryant has written an article for the Daily News Online about baking bread. I want to try out her recipes, so I'm linking the article here in my blog. I'm good at losing things on the web, so it's better if I save the link right here. Plus, you might like to try it too!

Today has been a rainy and sad day around here. My daughter's horse was put down this morning. After the vet left, we spent some time recovering from the loss. I called around all morning trying to find someone to come dig a hole to bury him. I finally found a friend on my mom's who was willing to come out today. Just as he was about finished digging, his fuel pump went out on the backhoe. So, we are going to be doing the rest by shovel as soon as my husband gets home from work. I will be relieved when this is all over.

As you can imagine, our school schedule and dinner plans have been interrupted. Not much is going according to plan these days. But, I'm thankful for supportive neighbors and friends and family. That is what really counts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Powerful Emotions

Today was a long, emotional day. My daughter's horse came down with colic last night and we have been walking and coaxing him all day. I took a flying trip to the vet's office this morning to pick up pain medication. It did seem to help relieve some of the pain and discomfort, but we haven't seen enough improvement to make me happy. The vet is coming early in the morning, but I'm sure it will be a restless night for my daughter and I. My kids and I were out with the horse all morning, but had to start taking shifts after lunch, as it was pretty cold for us since we weren't moving around much. We took the horse for one last walk and forced him to the barn. Whether or not he stays in there all night is up to him. We do not have stalls or doors on the barn. I felt good about the fact that he was up and moving when we went out last and that he was dry and warm. My daughter has been crying off and on this afternoon, wondering if we will have to put him down. He is already 25 years old, so it is going to happen one day in the near future, if not tomorrow. It won't be easy no matter when it happens. It's amazing how attached you become to animals. Although she is twelve, my daughter said she would be sad if she couldn't show her horse her costume she was going to wear this weekend. She thought he would like how funny it was! Oh, to be a kid again. I stood in the barn this afternoon and prayed for the horse and sang to the horse and talked to him. I guess he is just part of the family.

Monday, October 26, 2009

October 26th Monthly Menu

I think I've conquered the menu challenge for this month. Actually, I made it for the next five and a half weeks. I was able to get my food/pet/household goods budget for this menu plan down to $171.00! That will give me the extra $40 to spend on Christmas presents. Not only that, but I pulled the normal budget of $240 per month down to $211 so that I could use the other $29 towards having the horses hooves clipped and for an additional utility bill that we never have enough for. Now, I'm going to try to do this again next month so that I will have another $40 to spend on Christmas presents. I know I can do it if I keep the goal in front of me. Hopefully, by January, I will be so good at this that it will seem easy and I will wonder why I ever thought it a challenge! I have to admit that I have many items in my pantry already and they will have to be replenished eventually.

So here are the 39 days of meals. Tomorrow, I will blog about my grocery list and maybe add a few of the recipes.

Tacos/Refried Beans/Spanish Rice X 5 (my kids love tacos, so they appear often!)
Wisconsin Chicken/ Mashed Potatoes/Baked Squash/Cresent Rolls
Crock-pot Garlic Brown-sugar Chicken/Uncle Ben's wild rice/Biscuits
Beef Stroganoff with Egg Noodles
Pork Carnitas/Refried Beans
Hamburger Soup/Oatmeal Dinner Rolls
Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots
BBQ Ribs/Homemade French Fries
Lentil Soup/Uncle Ben's wild rice X 2
Chicken Pot Pie/Dinner Rolls
Bean & Barley Burritos X 2
Leftovers X 2
Chicken Enchiladas/Refried Beans X 2
Leftovers X 2
Steak/Baked Potatoes/Broccoli & Cabbage salad
Applebee's Oriental Chicken Salad
Haitian Chicken & Rice
BBQ Chicken/Baked Beans/Scalloped Potatoes
Leftovers with Broccoli Salad
Sloppy Joes or Hamburgers with salad
Grilled Teriyaki Chicken/Fried Rice
Sandwiches with leftover rice
Porcupine Meatballs
Thanksgiving Dinner!!
Leftovers, of course, if I can get them from mom!
Go out to Country Kitchen with gift card!

For Breakfast we have the following foods:

Cereal, Pancakes, French Toast, Waffles, Smoothies or Eggs/Toast.

For Lunch we have the following foods:

Frozen Pizza, Frozen Chicken & Tater Tots, Corndog casserole, Sandwiches, Chilimac, Fried Rice or Pasta Sides. My husband and I eat a lot of leftovers for lunch. Sometimes I make homemade pizza or pasties, but I find that cooking three meals a day gets to me after several weeks, so I have compromised and resorted to cheap freezer foods!

There you have it. I hope all goes according to schedule!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dried Apples

My husband received another gift of a bushel of apples this week. He offered to help me out with this load, so we have been peeling and slicing apples everyday and loading up the dehydrator. I'm sure they will disappear as fast as we dry them because they are very yummy! We gave a jar full of them to a neighbor who drives all night on his job. That will give him something to munch on.

The kids and I went next door (that would be a quarter of a mile away) this afternoon to carve pumpkins with their younger kids. I don't really get into carving and I used to drop the kids at my sisters for this activity when we lived in Seattle, but it was fun. Anything is fun with friends! We roasted the pumpkin seeds and chewed (and chewed) on them while we visited.

Tomorrow begins catch-up week for school. This year, I scheduled school with three weeks on and then one week off for catching up and also for history reading. We are pretty far behind on the reading (Sonlight history), so I'm hoping to just hunker down all week and get caught up. Last month, we didn't get behind on any of the other subjects, but due to the flu visiting our house this week, we are a little behind in math and science. It is suppose to rain from Tuesday until Friday, so it should be perfect reading weather! I love the books so far this year. Mara, Daughter of the Nile was excellent and now The Hittite Warrior is really interesting.

I finished my monthly menu and shopping list. My plan is to save $40 for Christmas shopping and according to my list, it is doable. Of course, we all know how easy it is to get suprised by the unexpected. It already happened today when I bought two pumpkins! But I think I can rearrange and make it come out right. I plan to post the details tomorrow.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Grocery Cart Challenge

Here is where I posted my soup recipe in the Grocery Cart recipe swap. Fun blogsite! I hope to post a grocery cart challenge entry soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sheep Cheese and Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yesterday, I got up with a mission to make cookies for my neighbor. She is always sending goodies this way, so I decided I would fill her container with cookies before sending it back. I made up a huge batch of Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip cookies, which makes 9 dozen. (I linked the recipe to the title of this post.) I was trying to read a history reader to my kids while baking them which meant that I would have to stop every ten minutes to reload the oven. It took us quite a while to get through three chapters.

While baking, my other neighbor called to say three of his sheep herding dogs were in my yard and could I kindly send them home. He also said that they had finally started milking their sheep and were making Sheep Cream Cheese and would bring some over. I packed up some cookies for his family also and swapped them out for some very fresh cream cheese made from sheep milk. It tastes a lot like regular cream cheese, just a little more tart. It's also a little bit crumbly because it is dryer. He also brought us a big bag of kale. Tomorrow, I'm going to make a Bean Soup with kale from the Saving Dinner cookbook. As soon as our chickens pick up the pace on their egg laying, we will be in the trading business for cream cheese.

We are blessed with great neighbors!

Monday, October 19, 2009

First Attempt

Yesterday, we made our first attempt at a family picture for Christmas cards. Of course, these were taken with the timer button and tripod method. Michael would set the timer, push the button and run to jump in the picture. Not too bad, but we will probably try again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Family Feasts for $75 a Week

Mary Osten has a wonderful new book out. You can enter to win a copy on her blog by following this link.
I just love reading her blog. With a family of ten kids, there is always something fun to read. Check it out.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Frugal Ramblings

Since this is my first blog, I thought I would ramble about myself a little. I was born and raised as a country girl, but not too far from the big city of Seattle. I spent the first 12 years of married life in Hawaii, but I was always longing for more space and a garden. After a short stop back in Seattle, we bought a farm on forty acres in northern Wisconsin. Not only do I have ample space to garden, I have ample space for everything. Outside, that is. No closet space to be had in this 83 year old house. The barn is roomy though and my daughter has two old horses that she gets to play with. My son has a dog and my husband has two riding lawn mowers.

We are sure learning a lot about the ins and outs of living in the middle of nowhere. Friends don't come by often, unless they live next door. If you forgot to buy milk while in town, you can forget cereal the next morning. It's too far to drive thirty miles for anything less than an emergency. Chocolate is an emergency sometimes! We calculate the distance around here by how much it costs in gas to get there. Well, it's $8 to town and back or $20 to the big city.

We've experimented with different animals and know now what not to do. We kept two of the four horses and gave away the two sheep. When you have to wade through three feet of snow for four or five months in the winter, you must decide whether it's worth it to go out and feed them. I have twelve laying hens and one rooster. More than one rooster is too many. The little banty/silkies were quite terrorizing, so we kept Big Red. Imagine our suprise when we plucked the silkies and found they had black skin! Meat chickens are not normal and after two years of raising them to put in the freezer, I decided it's more cost effective and less annoying to just buy the Amish chicken at IGA. Chicken feed is expensive and they can eat a lot. Although the dog is adorable, he is pretty useless. His name is Buddy, but we call him Hank after "Hank the cow dog". If you haven't listened to the Hank tapes, you should check them out at the library. The cat has been flown from Hawaii to Seattle and then driven to Wisconsin twice. She loves winter because she gets to lay by the fire all day.

My first two summers of gardening have had mixed results. The weather is really unpredictable. The first frost really does come right up until June 10th and the last one can hit during the last week of August. You just never know. I'm working on raised beds with tunnel covers. I didn't have them completely done this year, but I'm hoping I'll be all set next spring. My first year I had tons of tomatoes. I canned salsa and spaghetti sauce and lots of tomatoes. This year, I had a terrible crop and did absolutely no canning. But, this spring we ate tons of salad and peas and broccoli and cabbage. I dug up lots of carrots and onions. Of course, there was zucchini by the bussel and we've eaten some really yummy butternut squash. I tryed experimenting with growing potatoes in trash bags, but it didn't go over very well. I don't know if it was the weird weather this summer or what. I'm putting them in the ground again next summer. We love to eat lots of potatoes, so I was really disappointed with my failed experiment.

Homeschooling has been a way of life to us for eleven years now. It's worked out well for all the moves we've made and I love how it makes our family close. It's a little harder out here in the country. Most of the kids friends live in town and so they only see them a couple times a week. 4H has been a big blessing for us in that regard. My daughter gets to ride horses weekly with 4H friends. She is also helping out with a reading and riding program at a friends stable. My son will be driving next summer. He is excited about that.

My newest endevor in life is couponing. I think I finally have the hang of it. Between my price book, coupons and the fact that I cook a lot from scratch, I been able to stay in my $60 per week food budget. (For those who will ask, yes that includes health, beauty and paper products and pet food.) My goal right now is to get it down to $50 per week. It takes time to get stocked up on bargins when you don't have extra money to throw at it. But once you get the cupboards pack up a little, it really makes a difference in the budget. I'll be blogging about my deals and savings as I find them. I also plan to blog about my frugal menu plans and recipes. It's like a little challenge for me and is what keeps me sane when the money pressure is building.

With Christmas just around the corner, I'll be on the look out for ways to make our season a little brighter with out blowing the bank. Any ideas are always welcome.

Happy Fall!

Souper Hit

Thursday nights are Home Fellowship nights for our church. We have small groups that meet at different homes each week. Last night was our turn and we had about thirteen people here. I made peanut butter cookies and brownies to serve, but I left the pot of soup that we had just eaten for dinner on the stove. By the time everyone had left, the soup was gone. Everyone wanted just a little and then went back for seconds. Guess we are not having leftovers tonight! I just love when people devour whatever I make. It makes me feel like a great cook. Especially when it's teens and picky eaters. My daughter's twelve year old friend asked for the recipe for her mom. I thought I would share it here. This recipe comes from my mom's best friend, Wendy. She also makes a wonderful spicy minestone soup that I might share later.

The name really doesn't do justice to the soup. Lots of flavor and fill.

Hamburger Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 c. diced onion
1 c. cubed, raw potatoes
1 c. carrots, sliced
1 c. shredded cabbage
1/2 c. diced celery
1 (16 oz.) can tomatoes
6 c. water
1/4 c. pearl barley or rice
1 small bay leaf
1/2 tsp. each thyme, rosemary, and basil
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper

Brown beef and onion. Drain. Add vegetables and water.
Bring to a boil. Sprinkle in barley and remaining
ingredients. Stir to blend. Simmer gently for one hour,
stirring occasionally.

Most often, I double the beef, barley and some of the veggies.
I usually add another cup or two of water for extra barley. This
will make a large pot of soup, but obviously not enough for visitors
and leftovers!

Apples Galore

We live in apple country where mysterious bags of apples end up on your doorstep or in your car. Friends, neighbors or mere aquaintances believe they are doing you a favor by giving you of their abundance. Last week, my husband brought home two huge bags full of apples. A customer had stopped by to bless him. I've been avoiding them as long as possible, but today I decided to make apple butter. I thought I would use up a whole bag, but the apples were so big that it only took seven apples to make a huge batch. I'm not a true apple-butter lover, but this was really yummy on toast. I know my husband will eat lots of it and maybe I can get my parents to take a couple of jars. I still have another bag of apples to use up, so there may be a pie or two in the near future. The horses will love me if hand a few over to them.

This very simple recipe is from my great aunt.

Aunt Margie's Apple Butter
16 c. apples, peeled, cored and sliced
8 c. sugar
1 c. vinegar
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. nutmeg
3 tsp. cinnamon

Cook until done. Yes, that is all she says!
I boiled and then simmer, stirring ocassionally,
for a couple of hours, until thick like jelly.
You can freeze or can this.