Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy 15th Birthday, Jonathan











Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls for Breakfast...

I have made these cinnamon rolls twice now, and I think they are my favorite. The recipe comes courtesy of Alton Brown of Food Network fame. I use his recipe as written with no alterations. This is what the dough looks like after being mixed. I know the recipe calls for 4 egg yolks. I happened to be making my son a white birthday cake that needed egg whites, and I had 3 yolks leftover which worked out very well.

It really does take about 2.5 to 3 hours for the dough to rise to double. For a long time it really doesn't look like it is doing anything.

Here are the little rolls already to pop into the refrigerator for the overnight rest. I confess that I did this a little differently this time. I started the dough too late on Friday night. So, it was nearly midnight by the time the dough had doubled. So, I tossed the lump of dough in the refrigerator. In the morning I pulled it out first thing and let it come up to room temperature. It was still a little cold when I worked with it. I would not recommend doing it this way, but it did work. Oh, and a little hint about getting the sugar/cinnamon mixture to stick in the dough. After you sprinkle it all over the flat dough before you roll up the dough, press the sugar mixture into the dough a little with a rolling pin. I forgot to do that this time and wondered why my sugar mixture was falling out all over the place when I went to cut the rolls. Anyway, the rolls will look just like this when you take them out of the refrigerator in the morning.

This is what they look like after they have risen in the steamy oven for 30 minutes.

Here they are all baked and ready to frost.

Oh, lookin' good. It's almost time to call the children.

Here is the roll Brianna selected. These do reheat nicely if you happen to have leftovers.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Regaining strength...

I started with a cold on Sunday, March 15th. As the week progressed I never felt horrible, yet I have not had a day when I could say I was starting to feel better. I have been doing my "cold regiment", but I think I just need to ride this one out. Needless to say, I have been using my blogging time to rest. I hope to be back tomorrow to tell you about some yummy cinnamon rolls that we made on Saturday.

Going to rest now...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A new foal...

I just had to post these today. Summer, a mare at the barn where Natalie rides, had her foal today. It is a little filly (girl), and her name is Autumn. She came into the the world at about 8:30 AM. The pictures are a little blurry. It is hard to get creatures to stand still and my camera to work right. Enjoy.

Wordless Wednesday...Bible Study Feline Style

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Grocery Day...

Tuesday is my grocery and errand day. It never was in the past. Actually, I went through a period of time when I didn't have a grocery/errand day. Years ago, when all my kids were under 6, I would go grocery shopping under the cover of darkness after we ate dinner and my husband was home. It was a joy to be alone for a while. Even now I rarely shop with my children.

I have my list partially complete. I generally keep a magnetic pad on the refrigerator, and add to it items we run out of during the week. I do shop weekly. I have tried shopping twice a month, once a month, and in some stores even every three months, and honestly, I did not see any remarkable difference shopping less often. So, now I shop every week. I still shop at more than one store. I am thrilled that they just opened an Aldi store on the opposite corner from the Wegmans that I shop at. This is incredibly convenient. I also shop at Sam's Club about once a month and at a little market in my town. I visit several "merchant ships" as is spoken of in Proverbs 31. I take the list from the refrigerator, and transfer it into a computer program that I found several years ago for free. I don't even know if it exists anymore. This list has prices already entered ( I entered them.) and calculates my total for me as I enter each item to the list. Theoretically, when I leave me house I should know how much my final bill will be.

I have also clipped my coupons. I know some people are very big into couponing (is that a word???). I am not. I do have a few name brand items that I do buy. We just started receiving the Sunday paper again after being a non subscriber for many years. So, I clipped and organized those coupons.

I also am trying to go back to using cash. I am convinced that this is truly the only way I can stay on budget. In order to do this I must take my calculator with me. So, I went over the weekend and took out the money needed for groceries. I am hoping i come home with some leftover because I started this in the middle of the month, and needless to say, I am dangerously close to going over budget. There are still two more shopping days left in the month. Well, one is on the 31st, so I suppose I could count that as April since we will be eating the food and using the products in April. I already spent about $20 of my weekly grocery money on Saturday at the farmer's market. I needed honey, and I also picked up some local apples and brown eggs.

Now all I need are my reusable shopping bags, and I am all set. I guess I will have to go round those up.

Have a blessed day...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A quick Saturday update...

Today we actually slept in a little. There was no early morning hockey game. Brianna, my sweetie, was up at the same time that I was. She was very anxious to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast. I implored her to please wait until mama had her coffee. She obliged me one cup of coffee with cream and sugar. After a quick shower, we had a lovely breakfast of blueberry pancakes. Brianna did all the measuring and mixing. She even flipped them off the gridle. She tried to spoon the batter on the gridle, but after about two she pleaded for a little help. I must say that these pancakes were delicious.

After completing morning chores, Natalie, Carolyn and I headed out for the farmer's market. I needed some honey desperately. I also picked up a peck of Empire apples and a dozen brown eggs. From there we headed to the library. Natalie has been reading the Redwall Series, and I had to request two more books for her. They had come in, and we went to get them. I picked up some cash at the bank, and we headed to the thrift stores. At the third store we hit the jackpot, I got a pair of jeans for Brianna for $1.29 and jeans and denim capris for Natalie for $8.78. Natalie tried on several pairs of jeans and was quite exhausted by noon, so we headed home. I am making a commitment to spend cash on all local purchases. I was happy to get three pairs of pants for $10. It certainly is more work to thrift shop, but it is very rewarding as well.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Preparing for Lean Times: A Lesson From Joseph

This week the Lord opened my eyes afresh to the lessons that can be learned from Joseph as I read Genesis 41 again. This is the account of Pharaoh's dream, Joseph's interpretation, and the plan for Egypt. After interpreting the dream, Joseph tells Pharaoh that there will be 7 years or plenty and 7 years of a very severe famine in the land of Egypt. Joseph tells Pharaoh that he needs to appoint a man who is discerning and wise to to oversee the land of Egypt. He tells Pharaoh to collect 1/5 or 20% of the produce of the land during the plentiful years. (Genesis 41:34) Pharaoh recognized that there is no one who is as discerning or as wise as Joseph is, so he makes Joseph overseer of the land of Egypt.
I sat and thought about how this applies to my life and the lives of all people. First, I think that this portion of Scripture shows that there will be times of plenty and times of leanness or famine. It also showed me that it is good and right to prepare for lean times while times are plentiful. These Egyptians were asked to sacrifice 20% of what the land produced so that it could be stored in preparation of the famine to come. In our own lives we face famine times. Perhaps there is a job loss or a death that greatly reduces our ability to bring in money to buy our basic needs. Or perhaps there are general down turns in the overall economy such as we are facing now.
My monthly grocery budget is $560. Divided out over a 4.5 week month that means that I have about $125 per week for food. If I took 20% of that amount which is $25. I could be using $25 dollars per week to stock up on food and other grocery items. This takes a bit of planning, wisdom and discernment. Sometimes I don't know what I should spend money on, but the Lord does. It is His money, and if I pray as I shop I can find deals on food and other non-food items.
It is good and right to ask the Lord to show us how to prepare for what may come. Only He knows your future. He desires to prosper us for His own purposes. Proverbs 6:6-11 tells us to look at the ant. She has no overseer, yet she provides food in the summer and gathers in food in the harvest.
I pray the Lord would bless you as you seek Him in your planning and preparing. Ask Him how he would have your family prepare.
May you be blessed...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

More bread...

I thought of all of you while I was shaping my bread dough this morning. I have gone through fits and spurts of making my own and then buying from the store. My preference would be to always have homemade bread. Sometimes my schedule gets so busy, and I can't. The recipe I used today is also from the More With Less Cookbook that I mentioned earlier in the week. This is the basic white bread recipe, but I do throw in whole wheat flour. I used to be more of a purist, but I was having trouble getting a good rise out of my whole wheat bread. So, I am experimenting. The last time I made this recipe I got very good sandwich bread. It was soft but not mushy, and it did not get hard over time in the pantry. It looks delicious. I will freeze three of the loaves and leave one out for tomorrow's lunch.

The rest of my day was spent at gym and swim with the children. We have been part of this program for about five years now. The children have a 45 minute gym class and a half hour swim class. My son is taking the life guarding class.

Supper is finished, and the kitchen clean up thank to the hard work of the children and I. Actually, it wasn't that hard. We had pasta bake, French bread and a salad. They were all very simple to make. We had some of that French bread that I made on Monday. It was very tasty. Tomorrow I think we will be baking peanut butter cookies. Brianna has had a passion for baking recently, so she mixed up the dough yesterday. The cookies will be baked after school tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

More cast iron friends...

I mentioned a few days ago about the cast iron Dutch oven that my parents found in their basement. I also have another great cast iron find to share with you. My 88 year old neighbor, Roger, is an Eagle Scout. Years before when he could he would camp out, and he had a camp Dutch oven. Two years ago when we had our community garage sale, he mentioned it to me. I told him I would take it. He wanted to give it to me, but I paid him $5 dollars for it. He wouldn't take a penny more. I did buy the gloves and the lifter new. Now all I need is a chimney to light my charcoal and I'll be set. I have yet to use this one.

These are the skillets that I cook in all the time. I also have a 12 inch that is not in the picture.

I have completely rid myself of all other types of fry pans. Everyone has learned to cook in these, but I am the only one who seems to know how to clean them.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Planting Celery Seeds...

Friday afternoon I got down to the business of planting celery seeds. I have never grown celery before, but I do use a lot of it. I am planning to plant the celery in my kitchen garden which is right outside my back door. For the third year in a row I am starting my own seeds. I will also be starting pepper seeds, tomato seeds, cabbage seeds, broccoli seeds and probably watermelon seeds. When I started gardening I bought plants from the nursery. I even bought plants from Wal-Mart. I would encourage anyone who is beginning to garden to buy seedlings from a store. I have also purchased seedlings from Seed Savers Exchange, but this is quite spendy. Here is a look at how I like to start seeds.

I assembled all of my supplies: peat pellets, heat mat, tray with dome lid, warm water, seeds and a toothpick. I purchased these peat pellets at Lowe's last year. I am sure all the home and garden stores are now stocking their seed starting paraphernalia.

This heat mat was purchased from Harris Seeds. It really helps raise the temperature which is often needed for germination. My mat does not have a regulator. I just plug it in to turn it on and unplug it to turn it off.

These trays were purchased from Johnny's Select Seeds several years ago. I reuse them every year. They do need to be washed with a 10% bleach solution before they are reused just to be sure that they are not harboring any diseases.

Carolyn lined up 15 peat pellets in the tray. She loves to help me with my projects.

Then we poured a couple cups of warm tap water on them and waited for the pellets to absorb the water.

After all the water is absorbed and each pellet looks saturated, I fluff up the peat soil with a toothpick. Then we planted 3 seeds per pellet. Usually I put in 2 seeds, but I just wanted to be sure. So, we put in 3.

I covered the seeds lightly with soil, plugged in my heat mat, and now they are working on germinating. It can take celery seeds up to 3 weeks to germinate. Tomato and peppers seeds are much quicker.

Monday, March 9, 2009

French Bread...

This morning I wanted to try making some French bread. I have done this before using different recipes with mixed results. These loaves were made using the Easy French Bread recipe in the More With Less Cookbook. This dough was very soft and light. I did use 2 cups of whole wheat flour along with the 4.5 cups of white flour. I rose the dough once in a bowl for about 1 hour. Punched it down and let it rest another 15 minutes before shaping it into these loaves. Instead of greasing my cookie sheets I used parchment paper. It makes clean up so much easier, and I can reuse the sheets of paper.

This was the bread after it was shaped and risen the second time.

I slit the tops and brushed an egg wash on the top. My egg wash was 1 egg and 2 Tbsp. of water. At this point I could have added poppy or seseame seeds, but I generally don't add seeds to my breads. Some of the kids have braces, and my husband can take a lot of seeds with his partial. So, I stay away from added seeds.

I baked these at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. They look great.

We had one of the loaves for lunch along with a leftover pasta bake.

By the way, I did get those celery seeds planted that I mentioned last week. I will get the pictures up tomorrow.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Baked Brown Rice

I bake my brown rice in the oven. I used to cook it on the stovetop, but I had mixed results. By baking it in the oven I have fluffy, tender brown rice each and every time. Obviously, brown rice has a different texture than white rice, so it does take a little getting used to. It should not be hard to chew or crunchy. Some of my children actually prefer it to white rice now that they have been eating it for a while. At first, it was not very popular.

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees. Give yourself about 1 hour and 10 minutes for prep time plus cooking time. I measure out one cup of brown rice.

Pour the rice into a greased casserole dish.

In a pot on the stovetop, bring to a boil: 2 1/2 cups of water, 1 tsp. of salt, and 1 tbsp of butter or oil.

Here is where the batteries on my camera died and we did not have anymore, so you will have to use your imagination for the rest.
Pour the boiling water over the rice. Cover tightly with one sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil or two sheets of regular aluminum foil. Carefully move the dish into the oven. You can see I use a jelly roll pan under my casserole dish to make it easier to move and in case the water boils out which can happen from time to time.
Bake this for one hour. When you remove it from the oven, fluff it with a fork. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.

Please take care of me...

I just had to share with you the sweetness of my daughter, Brianna. Brianna is suffering with a pretty nasty head cold right now. It started off as a sore, scratchy throat earlier in the week, and finally, last night it progressed to a nasty runny nose. As I came into my bedroom at 11:30 PM, I noticed something on my bed. When I turned on the light, I saw "Hippie" sitting there with a note attached to him. The note read: "Please take care of Hippie for me while I am sick. From, Brianna. To Mom and Dad."
I was overwhelmed with her sweetness and concern for her little hippo that she felt she should give him to us for the duration of her illness. I am letting her sleep in a little this morning, and Hippie has been petted and fed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Reading and getting inspired...

I have been rereading some of Laine's Letters today. I am especially inspired by the ones focusing on finances. I really need a lift in this area. I hope you enjoy reading, too.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Cast Iron Kitchen

Can you believe that this lovely cast iron Dutch oven was lurking in my parents basement completely unbeknownst to me? A year or so ago, my parents were cleaning out their basement and had the notion to call me, to ask if I wanted a few cast iron pieces that they found. I jumped at the chance. My dad showed up at my house with this beauty and two other fry pans. I was amazed that I had not known about their existance in the dark recesses of my parent's basement. I don't ever remember my mom cooking with cast iron. My maternal grandmother did. She made me the most delicious scrambled eggs in her cast iron fry pans. My grandmother passed away when I was 11 years old, and after that it was nearly 15 years before I ate scrambled eggs. I did try them here or there, but none could match the flavor and texture of those fantastic eggs made with loving hands by my dear grandma.

I don't know if this Dutch oven was hers or not, I will have to ask my mom. I can tell you that I use this pot all the time in the winter. It cooks just as well as my crockpot in a fraction of the time. So, if I forget to plan ahead, I can have a crockpot recipe cooked for dinner. I did this on Saturday night. I decided to make Spicy Beef and Beans which is a recipe from my dear friend Crystal Miller. I started with my ingredients.

It was easy to quickly brown up the beef in the Dutch oven.

All the ingredients go into the pot all at once and then I simmered it for about an hour while I baked my brown rice in the oven. I served it with a salad and fruit.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Plans for the week...

My seed order came in a week or so ago. I purchased from both Johnny's and Seed Savers. I have had good success with the seeds from both places.

In my pile of seeds are:

Trophy Tomato
October Bean
Charlevoix Dark Beans
Butternut Squash
Detroit Dark Red Beets
Premium Late Flat Cabbage
Snow Fancy's Pickling Cucumbers
Negovia Carrots
Butterhead Lettuce
Yellow Onions
San Marzano Tomato
Provider Bush Beans
Jade Bush Beans

Conquistador Celery. I have never planted celery before, but I sure do use a lot of it. These seeds must be started this week in order to be ready to plant outside at the end of May. This is the earliest I have planted seeds indoors.
In light of our discussion on the economy and surviving a depression, I don't think we can ignore the importance of growing some of your own food. I have been gardening on one level or another for about 15 years. This will be my third year for starting my own seeds. I learn a little bit more about it each year that I do it.
If you have never planted any vegetables before, I always recommend starting with crops that are easy to grow and that you like to eat. I discovered that there is no point in growing zucchini if I am the only one who will eat it no matter how prolific it is. Also, if you are planning on planting peppers or tomatoes, find a local nursery or garden center that has what you want and buy your transplants from them. Your first year is probably not the year to try growing your own transplants. I was not planning to take the time today to get into a lengthy discussion about gardening, but I will be writing about my progress as the season progresses. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about the topic. I am not an expert, but I will try to answer your question to the best of my ability.
We are winding up the hockey seasons. Next week are the championship games. Then I can start sleeping in a little longer on Saturday morning. The 4-H season is just coming into full swing however. Carolyn had a great public presentation yesterday. In two weeks, Natalie has her horse bowl regional competition. We will have a couple more practices between now and then. I will try to remember to take my camera with me to these events. I forgot it yesterday.
Lastly, I am knee deep in planning next year's curriculum. My planning process begins in January and is usually completed by the end of March before the catalog prices increase.
I will keep you posted on how my seed starting activities progress this week. Also look for more discussions on preparedness.