Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Tips to Eating On a Budget

I'm not going to give you a bunch of useless common sense tips that you could deduce on your own (like don't eat out every meal). But rather things I have just figured out for myself or have learned from my mother.

Buy whole ingredients. Sure you can get a really cheap box of something-or-other, but are you really getting a good deal? Realistically can you feed your whole family with one package or box? Let's take a seasoned rice for example. For $1 you get 3 servings of rice (6oz package, $2.32/lb). Or you could buy rice in a 10 pound bulk amount for $5.79 (57 cents/pound) and you get 116 servings and you get to make it whatever flavor you stinkin' want!

Don't buy your chicken cut up. When you look at the per pound price of chicken you will see there is a 2-3 dollar jump from a whole chicken to pieces whether boneless/skinless or bone in/skin on. This is because you are paying for labor. Same chicken but cut up buy some big guy in an bloody apron holding a cleaver. Get a good knife, watch a video on how to cut up a chicken and don't look back. Also, learn how to roast a chicken properly. Buying a fully cooked rotisserie chicken may save time but if you plan ahead, making your own roast chicken on the weekend and stashing it in the fridge doesn't take more than 15 minutes of actual working time.

Learn to like what's on sale. So, you like grapefruit. But, it's July. Grapefruit is wicked expensive right now because it's not in season. But, look! There is watermelon on sale! Dirt cheap. You just don't "feel" like watermelon. Get over it.

Bake. No, not get baked. Bake! Put wet stuff in dry stuff and mix up some magic! Like, today, I made two loaves of GF sandwich bread, one loaf GF cinnamon raisin bread and GF english muffins. For a few hours work I saved about $20. Not even kidding. Gluten free has a bit better return on making it yourself because it is a grossly overpriced specialty food, but you can see a pretty good return on the regular stuff too. If not in cost than at least in better quality!

And, shop with a list and a calculator. There are so many times I go in the store with only so much money and I can not go over! So, as I put things in the cart I add them up on my phone calculator. If I go over I pick something I don't 'need' and either don't grab or put it back. Yes, it's annoying to have to deny yourself, but less embarrassing than coming up short at the register (been there).

There are tons of other ways I make our tiny budget work. Feel free to ask me!

Til next time.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Canning in Really Tiny Batches

This is the first year I have ever grown banana peppers. A few years ago I discovered the tangy deliciousness that is pickled banana pepper rings and I wanted to make these stupidly simple things at home. This year I decided to end my fear of pepper growing failure and try bananarama, cayenne, Chinese Giant and jalapenos. They are easier than I thought! Everything is very fruitful even if it did take longer than I though for them to bloom and fruit. But, it's been an odd growing season here in Maine. Yeah, lets say it's the weather *winky wink*.

So, anywho! There were two big banana peppers just hanging screaming "pick me!" from under those glossy dark leaves. I hesitated thinking that only two would barely fill a 1/4 pint jar. But, if I waited to long for a couple more to mature I would be out of luck on the first two. Well, what is wrong with making one small jar? Nothing! So I plucked them off and decided to pickle this afternoon.

I had bookmarked this recipe a few weeks ago. Knowing that I will be making more soon, I made a half batch of brine and the extra will stay in the fridge for the future. The only modification I did make to the recipe is instead of boiling the brine with garlic I put a small clove of garlic in the bottom of the jar with the peppers along with a pinch of red pepper flakes for heat. Banana peppers are not spicy, FYI.

Here are my personal steps:

1. Wash and slice your peppers (2, 50, it don't mattah). And, peel a small garlic clove.

2. Heat jar(s), lid(s) and ring(s) in your canning pot. Mine is a medium pot with a steamer in it for this project, heating my huge canner up seemed superfluous.

3. When your brine and jar(s) are hot, proceed to put the garlic and about 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in the bottom of the jar(s). Then tightly pack in the peppers.

4. Pour in brine with 1/4 inch head room.

5. Wipe rim and lid it up.

6. Gently put in your water bath canner of choice and process for ten (10) minutes.

7. When your beeper goes off, retrieve your screaming hot jars carefully and place on a folded towel to cool. You have just made your own banana rings. You should feel amazing.

Remember that extra brine? Pour it in a spare jar and let it cool (for goodness sake don't stick it boiling hot in your fridge). Lid that up too and store in the fridge forever. Or, until you need it. Whichever comes first.

So what have we learned today? Was it that there is no such thing as too small a canning batch? Was it that I am a crap photographer? Nope, it was that I am completely contradicting because I used the word 'mattah' and then followed it with 'superfluous'. It's hard keeping up the image that I am all Maine-ah all the time. Secretly, I have a bitchn' IQ. Surprise!

Til next time people.

Friday, August 23, 2013

10 Things I Can Live Without But Would Rather Not

Oh, this could be a really long list! But, I decided 10 will do.

1. The dishwasher. I love it! It means I don't have to wash dishes and that is something I hate doing! I have never had my own home with one but my mom has always had one so currently I am enjoying the luxury. And, in the house we will have one by the generosity of a friend that gave us one.

2. Coffee. You saw this coming right? I have two young children... there needn't be anymore explanation.

3. Victoria's Secret bras. It's the one area of my wardrobe that will never ever (ever) let go. And Vikie's has the stuff I need!

4. Mason jars. Not even joking, they are useful for so many things and beautiful in their own way.

5. Burt's Bees lip balm. Right now I am digging the grapefruit one, very summer-y.

6. A bathroom scale. Even though I have a love/hate relationship with the bastard, it is helpful in giving me periodic reality checks and self esteem boosts! This morning it was the later, so it can live.

7. Cast iron skillets. Can you blame me? I mean, have you cooked in one? They are amazing and can do everything from bake corn bread to fry perfect bacon. All while being nearly indestructible and a handy impromptu weapon should an intruder interrupt you while frying said bacon.

8. Girly rain boots. I just recently got a pair after years of wanting some (I'm cheap remember?) and I love them. They make mud feminine! And, they were $12... score.

9. Pandora Radio. I love music and I got my Pandora Mumford & Sons station just how I like it!

10. My Ergo baby carrier. Without it I would be lost! I makes it possible for me to go places with Mini Me that a stroller wouldn't dream of all while keeping Mini out of trouble. I'm gonna bring back wearing babies on your back Sacagawea style!

Certainly not an 'Oprah' list but then again I don't make billions of dollars! In my world these are my favorite things.

Next post hopefully will be more house progress! Pray it is so!

Til next time!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Day We Waited For

I want to tell you something big about this awesome kid right here. He was born on December 9th, 2007. And, I wan't there. I didn't even know he and his dad existed yet. But, when I went off to college I met his daddy and we fell in love and next thing I knew this precious little man was being brought to meet me late one snowy night. I saw him and I fell in love with him too. Instinctively I knew he was mine and he looked at me with those big blue eyes like he had known me always... He made me a mom at 19 before I did it myself. I am so glad he did.

Me and little man after one of his naps in Montana. He is 19 months.

Today, I adopted him. He's really truly my child now! It had been a long process with our amazing lawyer, but now it is finished and I can be totally relieved that my son will be with me no matter what. Stepparent adoptions are, I think, often underrated. It's still adoption! There are still court dates, documents and waiting. It's stressful, but on the day it's final it is a huge cause for celebration!

Someday, we will explain it all to him but right now he is five and all he knows is that today was an outing and he has a mommy and daddy that love him to death. That's all he needs. Love.

House Progress: The Hole

That above shot is soon to be my view from my front door. Beautiful, no? This post really is more to share pictures and let them speak for themselves. Call me lazy, but it's late and I just want to share without writing a ton!Please enjoy the digging of our foundation hole...

The guy in the hat is Montana Man (aka the hubs, he has a nice butt huh?) and the man in the black shirt is my dad (aka our excavator). Dad has had his own excavating business for 27 years and he is the best at what he does. He is such a blessing to this project. Thanks Dad!

Til next time!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Great-Grandmother's Canning Jars

Yesterday I got a wild hair and I thought, I want to can today! My mom had gone up to my great-grandmother's house (she passed away April 2011) to take pictures of the remaining contents before it's sold last week. Of course, there were canning jars in the basement. Instead of turning home after errands I just headed west toward Bridgton in a very unlike me spur of the moment way. There are a couple farm stands along the way so I planned to go get the jars and stop for cucumbers on my way back. While I was there I was a little over come with nostalgia. And I couldn't help taking pictures of this house my great-grandfather built for his family on land from his parents, much like we are. It also held many of the holidays of my childhood, occasional sleepovers and the much more precious last few years of my great-grandmother's life. It's nothing impressive at first glance but it shows it's craftsmanship if you spend some time with it. And, funny enough, I noticed things about it before that I never had. Like there was a small stream running by and through the rock wall. I was also surprised to see the crab apple tree still producing such good fruit.

After my trip down memory lane I headed back and stopped at the farm stand. I bought cucumbers and some very nice green beans. Then I stopped to get new rings and lids as well as vinegar to make pickles. Later my mom got a 5 pound bag of 'reject' cucumbers for $2.50. They were all a little funny looking but perfect for slicing up for pickles. All in all I got two pints of dilly beans, 2 pints of dill spears, 2 quarts of dill spears and 4 quarts of dill slices. I love pickling!

As for the jars? Well, there were about 60, all in good condition although the rings and lids were in throw away condition. So for the minor investment of new rings and lids I have quite a few 'new' jars.

I can't wait to be canning tomatoes. Grow plants grow! On an interesting note, after all my canning was done, water turned of and jars safely cooling... I went to put my dinner (chicken breast) in the frying pan and screaming hot oil splashed onto the palm of my hand. Yup, I got a nasty second degree burn. Between the pain, the frustration of my stupidity and my now tired disposition, I cried a little as I held it under cold water for 20 minutes. Then I was hungry and wanted to just sit and eat. So my mom helped me wrap it up lightly and cut my chicken for me. And I took Tylonol, a pain med and drank 2 beers. Finally it felt well enough by 11:30 that I went to bed. It felt fine this morning as long as I didn't touch it or jerk my hand. And, it looked like this:

May not look that bad in the picture but oh man did that hurt! I have kept in lightly covered with gauze and hope it heals quickly.

'Til next time!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Greenhouse Chronicles: Trussing Up Tomato Plants

I just posted on these darn tomatoes last week and already there was a noticeable difference in their growth from last weeks pictures. And, also they were becoming a crazy tangled mess. I remembered seeing once on a gardening show (something like that?) that people who grow tomatoes in a greenhouse often truss them up to the framing above. Well, it works a treat. I decided on soft yarn and the pictures will show the rest! i will note that I did tie them quite taught in order to straighten as best I could the wonky ones. Some don't need the trussing yet but all the back ones did.


Amish Paste

Red October


This was all pre-watering if you can't tell. I deep water them every other day. They are getting a little 'weepy' be the next watering but this prevents them from getting super water dependent. I also fed them some MG today. I feed about every two weeks.

After I trussed them up I pruned suckers and needless lower branches. Honestly this is the most 'control' over tomatoes I have ever had. I would like to grow many more varieties next year and definitely give another 6 to 12 inches of space between plants.
I have also entertained the idea of selling seedlings if anyone was interested. Have greenhouse will grow!

'Til next time!