Saturday, September 15, 2012

Decluttering, an embarrassing post.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I'm in a decluttering phase of life, a good stage to be in I think.  A couple days ago when this got started, I ordered three books from the library on organization, I got them today and lay down on the couch at quiet time to read one.  So I started reading, got inspired, got my butt up and went to work!  I started with the linen closets, which if you know me at all you know they are an overfull mess of unfolded stuffed in there sheets that fall out when you open the door.
Towel closet

I forgot to take a before pic but here are the after pics, there were two garbage bags full.  At least 30 pillow cases, probably 20+ sheets, a few blankets, and other oddments.

Linen Closet extras

I haven't had a queen size bed in 5 years, I just now got rid of the queen size sheets.  And who needs 40 pillow cases?  To be fair, these were all given me a year or so ago, I just never passed them on to the thrift store like I should have the day after they were given to me.  I ended up keeping like 10, don't know why, I guess it is nice to have extras, the kids do like to play sack races with them sometimes.
Clothes shelves before, I told you it was embarrassing...
Then I moved on to the master closet and the rest of our clothes, I got rid of the chest of drawers years ago and put up a shelf system.  This fixed the problem of me just stacking clothes on top of the chest of drawers, I assumed that I could at least stack them semi-neatly on the shelves more easily.  But no, they'd end up a mess there as well, husband would always need the bottom pair of jeans of the stack and mess up the rest of the stack, and then I'd just throw the clean folded ones on top of the messed up stack and make it worse.  Problem is too much clothes, of course.  

Clothes shelves after, much better!

Not that I can any where near place all the blame on him, but my husband's pretty much only flaw is that he doesn't like to get rid of anything.  He's ridiculously sentimental I guess, or something, personally I think having 25 t-shirts is too many, and that's undershirt quality t-shirts, not nice ones...  Anyways, so since I wanted to get rid of something, I got rid of most all my crappy around the house work t-shirts, I'll wear his instead!  Then I went through and organized everything, put away my "skinny" clothes and summer clothes.  But to keep harping on my husband, not that I should, the bottom shelf and half of the next shelf are his clothes.  I have a tiny stack of shorts, one of pants, and one of jammies.  He's got five of pants and one of shorts.  I do laundry every day, who needs 5 pairs of jeans and 6 pairs of khaki's?  Especially when he has only 4 pairs of work pants and manages with that working 5-6 days a week!  AHHHHHH, okay, I'll stop, I need to stop, I have the best husband in the world, and I have wayyyyyy more flaws than he does, it's just so much easier to harp on someone else than yourself...

I didn't take a "before" shot of the closet, it was pretty stuffed, here's the "after", all the coat hangers on the left were in use before, woohoo!!!

After a partial culling 

Then I got started in the kids room, we built shelves covering three walls quite a while ago to house our massive book collection and Chris's massive junk collection.  Okay, that's not nice, his massive "collectibles" collection.  I hoard books, that's as bad, maybe, no actually, it's not, I refuse to say that, at least I read the books, the stupid junk just collects dust and is ignored.  But then I don't really read the books, most of these are only good enough for a one time read, so "out the window go the books, out the window go the books", I doubt any of you will get the reference, most of you won't have seen Paint Your Wagons, but you should, you definitely should!  My car is again stuffed to the gills, well, just stuffed with stuff to go to the thrift store.  Five black garbage bags full, and 6 boxes of books, so far, I ran out of boxes and energy so the rest will have to wait for another time.  That poor room needs massive organization, to throw three kids and their stuff into a room already full of books and junk... Bad idea, but really we didn't have any other options.  Oh for a larger house!!!  Well, it'll sure seem larger when I get done, I just have to pray my energy and drive holds out until then, I can't stop halfway there!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Banana Walnut Muffins, Grain Free Sandwich Bread, and more Butternut Squash!

We basically eat pancakes or waffles every morning, I love to make a big batch and eat them over the next few days, but sometimes I want something new.  I had several over ripe bananas so I decided to make muffins.  I'm also tired of never having anything to take as a snack in town, then I have to deal with constant whining "I'm hungry" every time we're stuck in town.  So I hit the computer this morning and found a recipe that sounded good, Paleo Banana Walnut Muffins.  The batch made 18 muffins, I'll probably double it next time, my kids can go through that in a day.  They were awesome with a dab of homemade butter, there were only five left after breakfast and snacking before lunch.

We managed to get a bit of school work done today before I ran out of patience, neither child was cooperating very well, actually all three of them were uncooperative.  So I kicked them outside and went back to decluttering, I spent the entire evening yesterday getting rid of stuff after flipping out over a messy house.  At least flipping out turned into something useful :)   I got one garbage bag full of clothes gone, a box of shoes, a changing table that I've had for 6 years and never used for anything other than to pile stuff on, even our TV and VCR!!!  We would pull that stupid thing, 19" 15 year old thing, out of the closet about once a year to watch a movie, totally not worth the space.  If we want to watch something we have the computer, of course that means my poor husband can't watch any of his VHS's, not that he does that anyway, like I said, maybe once a year.  Anyways, I went back to finding stuff to clear out and get rid of, I'm on a mission to build a school area, I want some sort of a kids desk with lots of shelves.  I've got somewhat of a picture in mind but am not sure where to start, I guess I need to take some measurements and head to Lowes.   I managed to clear out a corner in our back room, this is a super duper multipurpose room, it's got my 4x8' fabric cutting table plus a massive amount of fabric, the crib, probably 100' of loaded bookshelves, and the master closet with all our clothes.  I neglected to mention this is the master bedroom that I moved us out of several years ago into a tiny room so I could put the big room to use...  I need more room, badly!!!  Oh well, I just have to declutter some more, and some more, and some more.  And then organize!  Not my strong points at all, I love throwing stuff away, but then I get in trouble, since my husband likes his stuff, and so do my kids.  I was carrying out a kiddo chair thing to stick it in the car to go to the thrift store and massive amounts of tears erupted, I finally said they could take it to their tree house, where it will get ruined and then eventually I'll burn it, probably when they go off to college...  Oh well, at least it's out of my house.   Then it was time to cook lunch.  Have you ever noticed your life is broken up into "wake up, clean house, cook food, clean house, cook food, clean house, cook food, clean house, go to bed"?
That pretty much seems like my life, I need a slave, one of these days I'm getting a slave...  Okay, technically not a slave, but maid/housekeeper/cook /nanny/masseuse/hairdresser.  Anyone want to apply?  I think my husband needs a 2nd wife, the mail order type that's used to working hard for little to nothing.  Anyways, that was me off on another tangent, happens quite a bit around here if you haven't noticed.  I made some more super delicious Butternut Squash Cakes for lunch, I doubled the batch this time so there will be some leftovers for supper.  Then I made a loaf of Grain Free Sandwich Bread, which didn't turn out as nice as hers but was definitely edible.

I also put my last butternut squash in the oven with the bread so I could make it into a Faux-Pumpkin Pie later, I'm now in love with butternut squash, it's just so versatile, I've got to go get a bunch more and find more yummy recipes.

Then I decided since the kids are in their room for quiet time, I get dessert! Some blueberry ice cream that I made yesterday, and no I'm not going to eat it all, that's just what I scraped all the leftovers out of the ice cream maker into.  Well, I "might" not eat the whole bowl, we'll see.  This froze much better than the previous ice cream, the addition of frozen blueberries gave it that extra chill to freeze somewhat firm.  I did forget to put eggs in it, that's frustrating, I love putting raw eggs in ice cream for that wonderful added boost of nutrition.  It also makes it creamier.

Now after all that cooking my kitchen needs cleaning, you can see all the clutter in the background of my pictures, unless you were too nice to notice.  But heck with that, I'm going to go chill on the couch and read for a bit and maybe take a nap, then I'll clean later.  Procrastination for the win!  Or loss...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grain Free Tortillas, Mint Choc Chip Ice Cream, and Home Schooling

Picture from Nourished and Nurtured
I was perusing the internet, as I do more than I should each day, I've got to put a limit on myself, someday... But I did find a neat blog with some great recipes, Nourished and Nurtured.  I made her tortilla recipe for lunch and made quesadillas with cheese and tomatoes, and guacamole on the side.  They turned out so super yummy!  I loved the addition of cumin, dried onions, and garlic to the batter, that just did the trick, else I'm afraid they wouldn't have been so good, but then who knows, I bet they'd be great with some cream cheese and fruit for a treat.  Frying them in butter also helped, pretty much you can fry anything in butter and it's going to be good.  Of course, as usual, we ate them all before I got around to taking a pic, they were just too dang good!  Even Chris liked them, which is saying something, he's kinda iffy about my weirder grain free baking.  So I guess that means this isn't too weird.

What her's looks like 
Lately I've been reading how ice cream has basically the same macronutrient ratios as breast milk, great excuse to make ice cream, not that I need an excuse.  And I still had two gallons of milk in the frig from last Wednesday that needed to be used, so I skimmed the cream for ice cream, and turned the rest into Mozzarella.  Skim milk mozz isn't as good as whole milk, but I figure with pesto it'll still be good.  Other option was to feed it to the chickens, but this way we get cheese and the chickens get the whey, so everyone/thing wins.  The tortilla recipe called for egg whites, so I used just the yolks in the ice cream, which made it so super awesomely rich.  I did about 3 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 6 egg yolks, two tablespoons raw sugar, I should have used honey but there's just a little bit left in the bottom of a one gallon jug and it's a pain to dig out.  Plus a touch of stevia, vanilla, and peppermint flavoring.  Oh holy cow it's good!  Maybe not near as pretty as hers, but it's certainly edible :)

What mine looks like...
I don't know how people get their ice cream to freeze so nicely...  My ice cream maker is awesome, but it pretty much is always ice cream soup.  Maybe because I overfill it every time, the silly thing only holds 1 quart, which isn't near enough!

On the kid/homeschooling side of life, also on Nourished and Nurtured, she has some homeschooling recommendations, one of which is a great, and free, phonics resource Progressive Phonics.  You can print phonics learning material for all different levels, and they are fun and entertaining, not the typical "bore you out of your mind" phonics readers.  I printed off the first intermediate book for Ari and we did the first several pages, Tell sat with us and picked up some as well.  He's really picking reading up fast, better than Ari that's for sure, thankfully, if I had to fight as hard with him as I do with her I think I would give up.  We're working through the same book, Phonics Pathways, with both of them, Tell is doing 2-3 pages a day and I have to fight to get through one with Ari, I'm hoping when he catches up to her maybe she'll start feeling the competition and straighten out.   If anyone has any great home school recommendations I'd love to hear them, right now we're doing The Well Trained Mind and whatever they recommend, I'm liking that style of teaching, at least what I've read so far.  Since we're just in K/1st and preschool right now it's pretty simple, I know it's going to get harder and I'm not looking forwards to it :)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Butternut Squash Cakes, Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork, and Butternut Squash Pie

The garden up the road has bunches of butternut squash, something I've heard is wonderful, but never used before.  I need to figure it out though as I know they store really well and would be awesome to store for use in the winter.  It looks like it can be used for delicious soups, savory dishes, as well as in place of pumpkin for pies.  It pretty much sounds like the best all around vegetable out there!  Sweet as well as savory, can't beat it.  I just wish mine had made it this year, all my winter squash plants decided to die on me early on, and it was too hot to replant, or at least, I didn't... I sure wish I had...  So anyways, I'm going to make a Faux-pumpkin pie out of one or two of them here today or tomorrow, but for now, I'm making Butternut Squash Cakes for lunch!  Cooking is super pleasant right now, the lovely cool front made it actually cold in my kitchen, I can cook without sweating.  Usually it's over 90 in the kitchen, today it's in the 70's.  Plus the Pork Roast is in the crock pot, I started it a couple hours ago, and it smells delicious!   The squash cakes used up 1/2 of a butternut squash, though it only made 8 patties so I'll probably double it next time.  Here's the recipe, I used a potato peeler on the squash and it worked well, and then a hand grater, it worked quite well, though it you're doubling it it might be nice to use a food processor.

They are delicious, I ate three with sour cream on top, I wish I had some sort of a curry to eat with them, but I don't have time or energy to make any, I'll plan better next time.  A lentil curry sounds really good, or my Paneer Masala that I thought I'd posted before but don't see on here so I guess I'll have to post soon, if you desperately want the recipe email me, it's to die for.

Frozen roast with lots of yummy stuff
Finding new pork recipes is now my goal in life, we have so much in the freezer and it's not something I've cooked much in the past, and I certainly love hunting for recipes.  I found this one recently and put it on my to-do list.  I love my crock-pot but have to remember to get cooking early so it's done by supper time.  I did manage that this morning, it's so nice to have yummy smells permeating the house all day long, and to not have to stress about supper come supper time.  I even had all the ingredients, which means it's simple!   I of course didn't remember to get this out of the freezer ahead of time, so I googled "frozen roast in crockpot" and came up with bunches of people saying they did it all the time, and a couple saying that the USDA says "no, you'll die if you do that".  Since I say screw the USDA, they don't know what they're talking about 90% of the time, I put it in frozen.  If I die in the next few days you'll know I was majorly wrong and please pre-thaw your roasts.  I did put it on high until it seemed completely thawed, which took about two hours, then put it on low for another 8.  Though actually, that'll be 9:00 at night so hopefully it's done well before then.  Dang it, I guess I didn't get started early enough...  I'm thinking that maybe I could put everything in the pot the night before and put it in the frig, then just stick the pot on to cook first thing in the morning, though that'd require quite a bit more forethought than I'm usually capable of, I'll let you know if it ever happens.   Oh, I also wanted to add, for those of you who like ginger but never can keep fresh on hand because it goes bad before you need it.  That's what always happened to me, until I had a brilliant thought (make note of it, doesn't happen often), now when I buy a ginger root, I throw the whole thing into the freezer, then pull it out and slice off what I need when I need it.  It only takes a couple minutes out of the freezer to soften enough to cut, and it's super easy to scrape off what you need.  This way one big ginger root will last me 6 months to a year and I always have it when I want to whip up something yummy.

Then I decided to go ahead and make butternut squash pie, why not, I had the other half that was leftover from the cakes so I put that plus another squash, chopped in half and deseeded, in the oven for 45 minutes to cook.  Then I scraped the meat out of the skin into the blender, threw in 5 eggs, 4 ladlefulls of cream (I'm guessing about 2 cups), cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, vanilla, and stevia.  Blended it all up, dumped it in a 13x9 and threw it in the oven, I'm thinking 45 minutes will do it, we'll see.  I think I'll make some whipped cream to go on top, that'd just be so yummy.

Coming back to finish writing this after supper.  The pig turned out delicious and super tender, it took about 3.5 hours on high and 5 hours on low, I had to bump it back up to high at the end as we were hungry and tired of waiting.  Of course, starting out with a thawed roast will definitely shorten the cooking time, but all in all, starting with frozen and only taking about 8.5 hours isn't bad at all for a crock-pot. 

And I never got around to whipping cream for the pie, but it was delicious without it.  Maybe next time.  Hey, I just noticed all of these dishes are or can be easily dairy free!  You can put a can of coconut milk in the pie instead of cream.   Sweet!   Dairy free cooking is something that doesn't happen too often here, though I know it's important for many people.

Butternut Squash Cakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
2 cups grated butternut squash, packed
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup garbanzo flour
3 tablespoons almond flour
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1/4 cup sour cream for garnish (optional)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in onion; cook and stir until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place butternut squash in a large bowl, and season with curry powder, cumin, sea salt, and black pepper. Toss with a fork, then stir in the egg, garbanzo-fava bean flour, and corn flour. Mix in cooled onions.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the butternut squash mixture into the pan. Flatten to a patty about 1/4-inch thick. Pan fry until crisp and browned, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat with remaining squash mixture.
Top with sour cream.

Honey Ginger Apple Shredded Pork
2 lb pork shoulder roast (or any other roast you prefer)
1 yellow onion, sliced
2 apples, cored and sliced
2/3 cup beef or chicken broth OR water
1 tablespoon raw honey
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger (use ground ginger if you don’t have fresh on hand)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 bay leaf

Pull out your crock pot and dust it off.
Add your broth or water, then onions, then pork, then apples then all your spices/garlic clove/and bay leaf.
Cook for 8-10 hours on low or 6-8 hours on high.
Use tongs or a fork to shred your pork.

Butternut Squash Pie
1 large or 2 small cooked butternut squashes (about 3-4 cups)
2 cups cream or 1 can coconut milk
5 or more eggs, more will make it more custardy
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
stevia or honey to taste

Blend all the ingredients until smooth, dump into 9x13 dish and bake on 350 for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Oven fried okra and eggplant no-parmesan

I got around to starting supper rather late, thankfully my husband was also running late at work so it wasn't too bad.  I had tons of veggies in the frig that needed to be used, plus my bag of okra in the freezer was finally full!  So I made Eggplant Parmesan, only to find out that I was out of Parmesan, oh well, no big deal, I can manage.  I dipped the eggplant in olive oil, then in a mix of almond flour, garlic powder, dried onion flakes, Italian seasoning, and salt. I didn't measure anything, who does that anymore anyway?  Then I laid them out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven to cook.  Then I chopped up a ton of okra, threw it in a bag with the rest of the eggplant breading, spread it out on another cookie sheet and threw it in the oven as well.

A bit of cheese?  Well, it didn't look like so much before hand...
After about 15-20 minutes, the eggplant looked done so I took it out, put a bit of tomato sauce in the bottom of a 13x9 baking dish, layered the slices in the dish, slopped some more tomato sauce on top, and sprinkled a bit of cheese to top it off.  This could easily be made dairy free, just skip the cheese, but we like cheese and haven't any dairy allergies, thankfully!  I also got out some pork chops to thaw, but I don't know if I'm going to get around to making them, probably put them in a marinade and use them tomorrow.

The okra turned out good, I got tired of waiting and it wasn't crunchy, but certainly edible!  The kids love this and eat the heck out of it.  A good thing since they are picky about the eggplant.

Picnic time!  Did we forget something.... Oh, ya, clothes!  Oh well, we don't believe in clothes here, didn't you know?  Actually, they had decided to splash in the pool and stripped for that, then of course they didn't get around to redressing, who needs clothes anyway.  God didn't make us with clothes on!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Empty the Frig and Garden Egg Frittata (Dairy Free!)

Well, today was another busy day, I have too many of those it seems, we found a piece of property that sounded too good to be true, and of course it was.  But we got to spend two hours hiking and driving around 160 acres and trying to figure out how to make it work, so that was fun at least, I got my exercise and the kids had a blast exploring.  Then I came home and weed-eated until I ran out of gas, then of course when I refilled it I couldn't get it started again, so I said  "screw it, I'm hot, tired, and covered in bits of grass, I want a shower!"  Then I sat my lazy ass down at the computer to try to come up with some new recipes, and actually found quite a few that sound great.  I've been using as it syncs with my iPhone, which is super convenient, that is, until they update it and I can't use it anymore...  Apple sucks, since it's a 3g I guess it's obsolete and 1/2 of the apps now won't work on it.  Very disappointing, especially since I got it for $10 off a moron and doubt I'll be able to get such a good deal on a newer one, and sure as heck won't be paying full price for one as I'm not a moron.  Ha, I bet I offended half my meager audience, sorry guys, but a $200+ phone that continues to cost you $80+ a month is ridiculous.  My free phone that costs me less than $10 a month works just peachy keen!  Anyways, off the soapbox, now to food, nothing offensive there, just super yummy goodness.

I still have several squash in my frig purchased from the garden up the road a couple weeks ago that really needed to be used, plus some absolutely adorable tiny eggplants that I had no idea what to do with.  Plus of course I wanted to use some of the massive amount of pig that's in the freezer, so a frittata sounded great! So I shredded a yellow squash and a zucchini and squeezed them dry and sliced up my cute little eggplants.

Then I ran out to the garden and picked what I could find, which was some bell peppers, chives, green onions, oregano, jalapeno's, and a few sad little tomatoes.  I'm short two children today which meant I could use the jalapeno's without worrying they'd complain about it being too hot.

I chopped and diced and shredded everything, threw the onions and peppers in a skillet with some coconut oil and cooked until tender.  Then dumped that all into my baking dish and cooked up the sausage real fast.  Then mixed it all together and there was barely room for the eggs, ah, I bet it'll fit.  So I put 14 eggs into the blender with 1 cup coconut milk, I also dumped in some garlic powder as I forgot to chop fresh garlic, and some Italian seasoning just for the heck of it. It did fit, though rather full, and I put it into a 350 oven for 35 minutes.  It turned out amazing, super flavorful and delicious, Chris had three bowlfuls, though he did say "not enough cheese".  Ha, there was no cheese and it didn't even need it!  Dairy free dish for the win!  And yes, I was too busy eating to take a finished picture, it's not super pretty so you're not missing much, the taste makes up for the looks :)

Umm, the recipe, umm, well, there's really not one, you can pretty much just figure it out from the above.  Oh heck, I'll try, here goes.

Veggie/Sausage Quiche
2 zucchini or yellow squash, shredded and squeezed dry
some eggplant sliced thin
2 bell peppers
1 large onion
3 jalapeno's (red ones make it pretty and aren't as hot)
1 or two tomatoes, diced
chives or green onions, chopped
1 or two pounds sausage, Italian or regular, I used 1/2 hot and 1/2 medium regular sausage
2 tbs coconut oil
14 eggs ( or whatever seems like a good amount to you)
1 cup coconut milk
garlic powder
Italian seasoning

Saute the peppers and onions and eggplant in a skillet with 1 Tbs coconut oil until tender.  Dump out into baking dish, add the other Tbs oil and cook the sausage, breaking it apart and crumbling it as you cook it, I like to take a potato masher to it.  Mix it all together in the baking dish.  Crack the eggs into a bowl or the blender, mix in coconut milk and spices.  Mix it all together and bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes.