Friday, February 27, 2009

On Food

I think this has been a good week dinner wise over here. Some frugal highlights: hashbrowns and french fries for .15/serving, as opposed to .50/serving at the supermarket, and a roast chicken that could turn into 3 meals (roasted, pot pied, and souped) for $3.50. I estimated the cost of each, including in my estimate the cost of each portion of the meal. Even though it's not listed, all the meals included a fruit or veggie, which adds about $1. Hopefully once our garden gets going that cost will be gone! We had the following yummy recipes for dinner:

Mini Quiche and Hashbrowns ($7.00)

Quiche ($5)
crescent rolls
1/2 stick cream cheese
4 eggs
1/2 cup grated cheese
cooked and crumbled sausage or bacon
diced onions
diced peppers

Cook bacon or sausage. Press crescent rolls into greased muffin cups. Mix eggs, cream cheese, and cheddar cheese. Add onions, peppers, and meat. Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes until knife comes out clean.

Commentary: We love these! The nice thing is they are very customizable. I make mine without the peppers and onions. I fill up 1/3 muffin cups with the batter that doesn't have the veggies, then add the veggies and fill the rest of the cups for Matt and Greg. Greg absolutely loves these, and calls them "muffins". The also taste good reheated. I want to experiment with freezing them as well.

Hashbrowns ($1.00)

Dice potatoes. Cook on med-high in a pan where the butter has melted and mixed with the oil. Cover, and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Turn over, and cook for 5-7 more minutes. Remove from pan, and salt to taste.

Commentary: I'm a hashbrown addict. I made these from scratch for the first time, and Matt said they were the best he'd ever had. Now, I'm not sure if that is the best I ever made, or the best he ever had. They were good, though. I also diced triple the amount of potatoes and froze the extra. I'm hoping they will turn out as well. Oh, and since I made these with the mini quiche, I cooked them in the fat from the sausage. I think that made them extra delicious.

Roast Chicken and Gravy ($6.00)

Roast Chicken ($4.00)
Roasting Chicken

Preheat over to 500. Rub butter all over chicken, getting under the skin if possible. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Cook in the oven, breast side down, for 11 minutes/lb. We ate it with mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Commentary: This is such a yummy way to cook chicken. The meat is really tender and flavorful. I've done this with a pricier turkey breast and a cheap-o (.69/lb) chicken. Delicious every time. Probably the best part is how far this meal can go. We'll use the meat for tomorrow night's chicken pot pie. And, I made a yummy stock from the bones. Well, the stock smelled yummy. We'll never actually know how it tasted, as tonight when I was making dinner Greg (Captain Destructo) pulled it out of the fridge and spilled it all over the floor. Thanks bud!

Gravy ($1.00)
chicken fat
chicken stock
Gravy Master

Combine chicken fat (dripping from pan) and flour in equal parts to form a roux. Slowly add chicken broth, whisking after each addition. Add Gravy Master if, like me, you need to have your chicken gravy be a certain color.

Commentary: So easy and so delicious! I didn't even need to add salt to this.

Slow Cooker Kielbasa ($5.50)

brown sugar
brown mustard

Mix equal parts brown sugar and brown mustard. Slice kielbasa. Combine, cook in slow cooker at Low for 3 hours.

Commentary: YMMV on this one. It was good, but I cooked, per the recipe directions, for 6 hours on Low. Our kielbasa was very done. The thing about kielbasa is it only really needs to be heated, so 3 hours on Low should be plenty. I think it would have been even better if it hadn't been quite do done.

Shrimp Scampi and Homemade French Fries ($7.50)

Shrimp Scampi ($6)
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tsp garlic
salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in oven safe dish. Cook at 350 until shrimp are pink and sauce is bubbly.

Commentary: This would be delicious over pasta, but we promised Greg french fries so I made those instead. I also served this with green beans, which tasted really good with the scampi sauce poured over.

Homemade French Fries ($1.50)
potatoes, peeled and sliced into shoestrings

Heat deep fryer to b/t 300 and 350. Place potatoes, about one cup at a time, in deep fryer for 2 minutes. Remove. Let cool for at least 5 minutes. After all batches have come out (they'll be soggy and pale), heat oil to 365 and then cook in batches (again 1 cup) for 3 minutes. Make sure oil has a chance to heat b/t batches.

Commentary: Joy of Cooking, where I got the recipe, claims that these have less fat per serving than a baked potato with butter. I'm not sure if that's good news for the fries, or bad news for the potato.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day

Well, I think I have a plan.

I'm going to come up with a goal in each of the previously mentioned areas. I'm going to work on that goal until it gets done. No time limit. I think this will help because I tend to start a million things and then not finish them. With no time limit, I can direct all my resources on a job/habit until it's done.

Since it's Ash Wednesday, I feel like this is as good a day as any to begin again. Speaking of which, I'm going to include the words to my favorite Lenten song, Ashes:

We rise again from ashes,
from the good we've failed to do.

We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.

If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,

An offering of ashes,
An offering to You.

We offer You our failures,
we offer You attempts;

The gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.

Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,

An offering of ashes,
An offering to You.

Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain;

Though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.

The rain we'll use for growing,
and create the world anew,

From an offering of ashes,
An offering to You.

... Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like Himself.

... Thanks be to His Son,
who saved us by His death.

... Thanks be to the Spirit,
who creates the world anew,

From an offering of ashes,
An offering to You.

So, here are the goals:

1) Spiritual: Giving up Coke for Lent. Ahhhh! Full disclosure: I subscribe to the "you can have your Lenten sacrifice on Sundays" camp. I'm also going to try and pray a rosary daily.

2) Cleaning: Come up with a weekly chore list. As each chore gets accomplished, we can put a little gold star (yes, I'm breaking out the grade school stars) next to it. If by the end of the month, we've starred 80% of the chores, we get a reward.

3) Decorating: Our bedroom. February of the book I referred to in last post and whose name currently escapes me.

4) Frugality: Making a master grocery list/price list. I think I'm pretty saavy about food prices, but I'm working on a 6 month stockpile and want to make sure I'm actually getting the best prices. We had given up on BJs, but I think I'm going to look back there because they have a really cool coupon policy -- you can use 1 manufacturing coupon on each item if it's individually packaged. Easy example: Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls come in a 3 roll package. You can use 3 manufacturer's Qs on each. (Q = coupon, because I am a nerd.)

5.) School: Complete, before the next test: All objectives, all vocabulary words, all reading. Take all appropriate practice tests.

As you can see, this has morphed into 5 goals, but that is just how it worked out in my head.

My goals for today: school vocab words, convincing Melanie to let us out of class early so I can be home in time to watch Lost.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One Year to an Organized Life

So, that's the title of this book I got out from the library. She guides you through step by step on organizing various portions of your home/life.

She recommends beginning with a "dream board". Basically, a board that exemplifies what your vision of your home will be. That might not be a bad idea to do.

The month of February focuses on your bedroom. Now, I'm going to be trying to do a month's worth of recommended work in a week or I'm going to have missed the boat. I imagine that this desire to get everything done at once and my perfectionism are what have actually made me unorganized in the first place. Oh well.

So, here is what I'm supposed to do this week:
-- Diagnose my bedroom's shortcomings.
-- Devise a plan to transform the room.
-- Take a look at my wardrobe. Purge/Add.

(In the interest of avoiding plagiarism as well as to banish the voice of Sr. Elaine whispering "cite your source! site your source!, this all comes from the book One Year to an Organized Life, written by Leeds, Regina and published by Da Capa Press: Cambridge, MA. So take that MLA.)

As I sit in here, looking around, I'm trying to decide what would make this room the have I want it to be. Oh, and remember, I'm doing this frugally. Which means a budget of approximately $.50. I guess I'll start with what I like: the curtains and the duvet cover. I think it would be a lot more peaceful and relaxing if I repainted and hung some pictures on the wall. Also, the curtains need tiebacks. Mostly I think we need to figure out a new furniture situation. We've got three dressers (bureaus? chest of drawers? the various names make it quite a difficult search of Craigslist). We also have two endtables. It's way too much furniture for the room. I think if we got rid of two of the dressers (bureaus? chests of drawers?) and replaced them with one bigger dresser (I won't do it again) that would be a big help. And I think I'd also like to ditch the end tables. They aren't particularly attractive, and one isn't even next to the bed because we have the crib sidecarred to the bed. However, it is useful, so we'd need some sort of replacement for it for practical reasons.

OK, so, here is my plan:

1) Paint
2) Hang up pictures that are currently stacked in Matt's closest
3) Continue to search craigslist for a dresser that more adequately fits our needs
4) Figure out an endtable plan.

Hmm. That feels good.

The First Post

So, here I am. Making this blog that no one will actually read. Except maybe Matt. Nevertheless, I think it's a good idea to start documenting things I want to be held accountable for. I think by putting it on the Interwebz, I'll be more inclined to feel like I need to follow through.

Plus, you know, maybe Matt will read it.

I guess basically I have 4 goals that I am currently working on:

1) Becoming the women God intends me to be. Praying regularly.

2) Continuing our frugal lifestyle. This involves a modified Dame Ramsey type plan.

3) Making our home a place that is both welcoming and soothing. We are not neat, organized people by nature.

4) Balancing home life with nursing school. I want to succeed in nursing school, but not at the expense of my family.

I guess I'll just be expanding on each of these with each entry. I really don't quite have a plan. Which, of course, is why I'm starting the blog in the first place.