Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday Projects

This day didn't start out so good, I woke up with the same headache I went to bed with last night. Spent the better part of the day laying around and reading a book.  By late afternoon, I finally felt like doing something.  I have several projects that I have wanted to try and decided to start by convincing James to help me with making some refrigerator dough to make cinnamon rolls and various things this coming week. Then decided to make some Cool Ranch Doritos. I came across a recipe for them recently on this blog  I decided not to start with making my own corn tortillas, as my shoulder still doesn't like rolling out things with a rolling pin. I cheated and went to the Mexican grocery and bought a bag of 60 for $1.99.  While I'm sure I could have made them for less, the pain just wasn't worth it.  I also revised the recipe a bit as I didn't want to buy the white cheddar Mac N Cheese.  I considered my options and decided that the white cheddar popcorn topping would work. So here is my revised recipe.  I'd take a picture of the results and post, but unfortunately, they were eaten as fast as I could take them out of the oven and coat them.  I don't think they even had a chance to cool off. So, maybe they should be called warm ranch doritos. 

Here's my recipe:

Cool Ranch Doritos

I took a stack of tortillas not quite a third of the bag and sprayed the top of each with cooking spray and stacked them in a pile. I cut them into 6 pieces. I spread them on a cookie sheet and baked about 13 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Watching for them to turn just slightly golden.  It's a fine line.  If you cook them too long they are overcooked, but if you don't wait until they are getting golden, then they will be a bit chewy in the middles. When they came out of the oven, I put them in a bowl and put more tortillas on the cookies sheet to bake.  That gave them about 5 minutes to cool a bit. I then sprayed the chips just slightly with cooking spray and put into a ziplock bag with about 2 tsp of seasoning mix. 

Seasoning Mix

4 tsp Ranch dressing mix
4 tsp white cheddar popcorn topping
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp onion powder

I shook them in the seasoning and poured back out into the bowl.  I just did one cookie sheet at a time and most of mine didn't even make it to the cool stage. Definitely a hit in our house.  The first batch I didn't spray with cooking spray before I coated them and they only had a very little of the seasoning stick.  Definitely worked better with a little cooking spray to help coat them. I didn't use all the seasoning mix, so I'll just store it for the next batch.

While I'm posting I'll put my mom's refrigerator roll dough here too.  This dough is awesome and it comes from  Better Homes and Gardens cookbook from the 1960s.  I put this together in my Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook.  It makes good rolls, or cinnamon rolls or just a loaf of bread.

Refrigerator Rolls

2 pkg. yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 c. milk scalded

2/3 cup shortening melted

¾ c. sugar

4 tsp salt

2 eggs beaten

10-11 c. flour

 Mix together 1st three ingredients and let set about 10 minutes and rise. Scald milk and add shortening, sugar and salt and eggs. Mix in flour until the dough has an elastic consistency and forms a ball. Let set for 10 minutes.  Punch down and place in refrigerator. Use to make rolls or loaves.  Can store in refrigerator up to a week.  When you use, shape into desired shape and place in pan. Let rise until double and bake at 350 for approximately 23-30 minutes, until golden brown on top.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Freezer Cooking Recipes

Here are the most recent recipes I have put into the freezer complete with a picture. My hubby loves Banquet fried chicken, he will settle for Aldi's brand fried chicken, but since our budget has been so drastically cut, he has to make do with mine. (Which he likes, but he hates for me to have to take the time to make it for him.) Today I put a batch of fried chicken in the freezer.  Here is my recipe.


Fried Chicken

1 cup Drake's breading mix
1 cup Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the leg quarters into thighs and legs. Cut off any excess skin and fat and save for broth making. Mix together flour, Drake's and seasoning. Coat chicken with flour mix and fry in small amount of oil in skillet.  Fry until the skin is a little crispy and just starting to brown.  Place in a baking pan and put into oven. Try not to have edges touching. Bake in 350 oven for about 90 minutes, until chicken is golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.  Carefully remove from pan keeping skin intact and place on a cookie sheet.  Make sure edges are not touching.  Place cookie sheet into freezer and freeze overnight. Remove cookie chicken and put into a freezer ziplock bag. To eat, just place one or two pieces in the microwave and cook on high for 2-3 minutes, or place into  350 oven until warmed through.

Chicken Nuggets

1/4 cup Drake's breading mix
1/4 cup flour
Ok1/2 cup bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 egg beaten
4 chicken breasts

Cut chicken breast into nugget size pieces. Mix together Drake's, flour breadcrumbs and seasoning.  Put nugget pieces into egg, then coat with breadcrumb mixture. Fry in small amount of oil until chicken is cooked through and nuggets are golden brown.  Place on cookie sheet with edges not touching. Place cookie sheet in freezer and freeze.  Once frozen, put chicken nuggets into freezer ziplock bag. To eat, place number of chicken nuggets desired and microwave on high  or bake in oven on 350 until heated through.

Ok, so my picture taking leaves something to be desired, but these are the recipes of the day.  Hopefully, my photography will improve as I share more.

My Latest Project

I have taken on a new project.  While I have been going to the food pantries during the time I have been off work and trying to make ends meet on very little, I have thought about and/or noticed some things.  First I have noticed the types of people that come to the food pantries.  I have sat and talked with some of them while I waited to pick up food. I've met some people that I have talked to several times at the various pantries.  I have also heard what they have to say about the food stamp system and how the benefits have recently been cut.  I have seen first hand the items that you receive in these places.  While it is definitely helpful to get the additional food, it also is very lacking in the types of food that they give out if you are trying to piece together meals, solely from what you receive at the pantries.  There have been three pantries that we have gone to, and they give out different types of food at each of the three pantries.  There is a little overlap, but mostly, the concentration of food is different at each of the pantries.  I have also watched people use food stamps in the stores over the years. I frequently see these people purchasing mostly prepackaged or prepared foods that are more expensive and less healthy for them.  These observations lead me to believe that some of these people could benefit from classes that show them how to use their resources to make the healthiest and least expensive meals possible with the items they receive. 

Over the last couple of years, even prior to my accident, I have felt a calling to help feed the hungry people in our area.  I have thought about different avenues that could be used to do this and I have come to the conclusion, that offering classes that show people inexpensive ways to cook and/or use the items that are frequently given out at the food pantries is a good idea.  I thought about just doing classes about food, but over the last several months, I have started making most of my own cleaners, and many of the ingredients in those cleaners can be purchased using food stamps, which allows people to not only obtain food, but cleaning supplies as well from their food stamps.  To me this opens up an area that would help to save money for people that have very limited resources.  I am currently developing a plan to help teach people about bargain/coupon shopping, meal planning, inexpensive meals (including freezer cooking and crockpot cooking) and homemade cleaners.  I'm trying to develop a program, where we might provide the ingredients and people would be able to come and take from the class, a meal for their family, or cleaners to use in their home along with ideas about bargain shopping and coupon use.  If this idea takes off, over the next several months, I will be posting the recipes along with the cost breakdown of my recipes and hopefully, pictures of these recipes on my blog.  I will also update and post my meal plans and hopefully, I can give costs for each of the meals that I have on the menu.  While I usually purchase most of my meat through a meat packing company, I will also try and have costs if the meat were purchased in the store.  Of course, sale shopping will help reduce those costs. 

I'm hoping that by doing this, I can help others rather they are in my classes, or just following along online.  I think this is what God has called me to do, and it may be part of the reason that I am currently experiencing this situation.  Hopefully, I can use this to help other people that may be in this same type of situation.  Prior to this accident, I had no idea how or where to find help in our community.  Now I have a much better grasp of the assistance that is out there.  Hopefully, I can use some of this newfound knowledge to help others.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Recipes and Snow

Today is a snow day.  That means that we won't even leave the house.  It snowed yesterday and for once the weather forecasters were right.  We got a fair amount of snow and the temperature plummeted from 30 yesterday to -11 this morning.  As I look out my window I see everything white and the snow igloo Jim and Carolena were working on before the temperature dropped to low to make it stick together.  Hopefully, they will be able to finish it this week. 

I was sure that I had posted the recipes for a couple of my New Year's Eve menu items, but as I looked at that post today I realize I somehow didn't get them posted.  Not sure where they went as I know I typed them out.  So, I'm going to include them here.  I was hoping to take pictures, but they all got eaten, so that didn't happen.  Here are the recipes:

Egg Rolls
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1 lb. sausage
1 small head of cabbage
1 can mushrooms
1 small onion
1 can water chesnuts
3 T soy sauce
3 T corn starch
1/3 cup water

Brown sausage.  While sausage is cooking chop up cabbage like for cole slaw. I used my little Ninja food processor.  I also chopped up the mushrooms, onion and water chestnuts in the Ninja.  When sausage is cooked, add chopped items to skillet.  Allow the cabbage to cook until a little soft.  Combine soy sauce, water and corn starch and pour over mixture stirring to thicken.  Remove from heat and let cool.  When mixture is cool roll up in egg roll wrappers or wonton wrappers.  For our party, I use the wonton wrappers and make small egg rolls, but you could make regular size egg rolls as well.  For the wonton wrappers place about a teaspoon of filling in the center and fold the wrapper up like an envelope sealing sides on three sides, then roll it over the open side again using water to seal the edge.  Fry in hot oil until golden brown. You can serve with sweet and sour, duck sauce or a hot mustard sauce.

The other recipe I was going to provide was my recipe for cheese puffs.  This recipe I adapted from a cookbook. I think the original recipe started with feta cheese, but I have adapted it to use other shredded cheese.

Cheese Puffs
1 pkg phyllo dough
1 stick butter
2 cups grated cheese of choice I use mozzarella, Colby jack or cheddar (not mixed)

These amounts are approximate, you may need a little more or less cheese and butter to do the entire roll of phyllo dough.  I open one of the inner pkgs of phyllo dough and be careful to keep the part you aren't working with covered with a dishcloth so it doesn't dry out. Unroll phyllo dough and cut a strip off the short side about 2 inches wide.  Roll remaining dough up and cover.  Take a spoonful of cheese and place on the one end of the strip of phyllo dough. Pick up about 3 sheets and fold the dough into a triangle end over end (like folding a flag) until you reach the end of the strip.  This will close off the edges.  Dip into melted butter and place on baking sheet. (If you want less butter, you can just put them on the baking sheet and then brush them with butter. I just find this easier in the long run) Continue until you finish all the sheets in the stack.  (These are pretty forgiving if you get 4 sheets, no big deal.) When you finish the stack cut another strip and continue until you have used up the entire roll of phyllo dough.  Place baking sheet into 350 oven and bake until golden brown.  The cheese may ooze out of the corners a bit. 

My family loves both these recipes and these are things I generally make only the one time each year.

So, what did I come up with for goals? I know you are asking, but I haven't finalized my goals yet.  I will be doing that this week.  The snow days have altered my plans slightly.  Carolena is out of school today and tomorrow still and I have to finish up the one course I'm taking for my master's program this week. So, hopefully, I will get to finish up my goals this week. I'm not in a rush as I have the entire year to work on these goals.  I don't think there will be any playing in the snow with wind chills at around -40 not really a safe thing to do.  But hopefully, later in the week, we will have weather that allows for snow play.  Today I'm just going to stay inside and stay warm and  work on dishes.  Nothing exciting there.  Maybe make up another batch of cocoa.  I thought I had published this earlier, but realized when I went in today to do the next post that I had failed to publish it. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Year's Eve Party

What do you do for New Year's Eve?  Several years ago, we started a little New Year's Eve party that has blossomed into an annual tradition.  Even last year we had our little party after I worked a 12 hour day. Every year our menu varies just a little bit, but we have some staple items that are requested every year.  Most of these foods are things that we only eat the one time a year.  The standard fare that never changes on New Year's Eve is small eggrolls, and cheese puffs.  The eggrolls are easy to do and the cheese puffs are a recipe I adapted from a cookbook to suit my purpose.  Along with these foods, this year our menu is as follows.

  1. eggrolls
  2. cheese puffs
  3. hot cheese dip
  4. old English cheese dip
  5. buttery swiss cheese ball
  6. pizza rolls
  7. homemade fried mozzarella sticks
  8. fried ravioli
  9. ring bologna and cheese slices with crackers
  10. spinach dip in Hawaiian bread
  11. hot chicken salad on Hawaiian rolls
  12. Crab Rangoon
This party just includes the family.  Over the last several years I've had teenagers in the house, and we worked together on the food.  This year, we just have Carolena in the house, but we are getting her little brother Derrick for our party.  I imagine we'll watch some old movies and the kids will probably play with their dress up clothes they got for Christmas.  It should be a fun night.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Goals for the new year.

Well, it's that time again.  Every year I try and write goals for the following year.  Last year, life was so busy that I never really got around to writing my goals. Maybe that's part of why it seemed so chaotic all year.  I can definitely say if you had told me I would be working on my Master's by the end of the year, I would have told you that you were totally out of your mind.  But here I am almost a month into the Master's program.  We just never really know what life has in store for us.  Thank God that he does. I know I could never have survived this past year without that knowledge.  So, I'm ready to start working on my goals for this next year.  I start by breaking down the different areas of my life.  What things would I like to accomplish in each of these areas?  First and foremost, I want to draw closer to God.  I know with the addition of school, my time will be more limited than it has in the past.  But I definitely want to find a way to increase the time I spend communing with my heavenly father.  I have a couple of new apps that give me the Bible in a whole new format.  I may switch to one of these tools away from my hardcopy book.  Even though I prefer reading from an actual book, being able to take my Bible along will make it easier for me to spend time in the Word wherever I may be.  I plan to find a good devotion app that I can use on a daily basis, and while I started reading through the bible this past year, I have not gotten all the way through it, so I will continue with that program throughout this new year.  When I write my goals, I usually try to break them down into steps to help get the habits engrained in my routine.  That way I can accomplish my larger goals.  I build in rewards as I go for making those small steps towards those goals.

Another goal I will be working on this year again, will be weight loss.  I definitely need to work on this as over this past year I was diagnosed with diabetes, so getting more weight off can only help my control of the diabetes.  I don't really have a plan for how this weight will come off as last year, I started the program that has worked better for me than any other, but during this past year, they closed their doors.  While this program worked the best for me, I will have to find another way to accomplish the weight loss.  I would like to say that by the end of the year I will be at goal weight, but that would truly be unrealistic, so I will break it down into manageable chunks to be able to attain my goal.  And along the way I will build in rewards for accomplishing those steps.  So, for my weight loss goal I would like to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year.  In order to do that, I will have to get better at logging my food intake and increasing my exercise.  So, by the end of January, I will be consistently logging my food into a food diary.  Again, I have an app that I can use for that, so I will start logging everything I eat again.  Another step that I need to take there is eating more frequent meals consistently.  Not only will that help with my weight loss, it will make huge gains for my diabetes to be able to do that.  It is a circle because the low blood sugar contributes to the weight gain by allowing my body to think it is in starvation mode.  So, by the end of January, I want to be consistently eating three meals a day with 2 snacks.  If I can accomplish this goal, I will order myself a new stamp set.

My other goals will include financial goals.  One of my biggest goals this year, will include adapting to my reduced budget, as well as trying to save some money for Christmas next year.  I have already started a program there of trying to save money over a 52 week period to have the money for the Christmas presents next year. In addition, I am going to make more gifts this next year, as those I made this last year were definitely a hit.  I would like to start saving for an emergency fund.  I'm not sure I will be able to accomplish that while the budget is so severely limited, but I am going to give it a good effort.

I will include some goals on where I would like to be with the remodeling of the house.  As well as some goals relating to developing better organizational skills and routines that help me keep things less cluttered and increases the comfort level of my home.  This will involve doing some major reorganization and decluttering.  I definitely will have some goals to help me reclaim my craft room over the next few months.  I need to have a place to work on my school away from the family.  In addition, I will have some goals that pertain to how much time I spend working on school work.  In order for these goals to get accomplished, I will actually plan time in my calendar for these things.  I also write up goals for me time. One of the things I have difficulty with is taking time for myself to just relax and do things that I enjoy.  I find it hard to take me time when there seems to be so many other things that need to be done in my house.  So, I actually have to build that into my schedule and set some goals to get me on track.  I feel good about writing my goals this year. I feel like I've been wandering in the dark this last year without any set goals.  I put these goals in several places.  I will put them into my electronic devices where I can look at them from time to time, and I will print them off and put them in my control journal where I keep my routines so that I can look at them there as well. 

Will I accomplish all my goals for the year?  Probably not, but if I am moving in the right general direction, then that is what is important.  These goals are not an all or none proposition.  They are just guidelines where I want to go.  If I don't reach all these goals this year, then I can revisit them and include some of them again next year.  But the biggest things will be developing the habits that move me in the direction of my goals.  I find this activity is better than writing resolutions, that expect me to make changes overnight.  That is never a realistic view.  It takes approximately a month to develop a habit and make it stick, so expecting to make an overnight change sets us up for failure.  I hope this post helps people see how to go about goal setting.  I will put some of my goals up when I finish developing them along with the steps I need to take to get myself to the goal.  But we have to continually reevaluate our goals and see if they are still something important to us and the progress we are making towards them.  I will post a few examples of my goals after the first of the year.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December In the Craft Room

December has been an interesting month. We celebrated Christmas in a whole different way this year.  We usually have income to buy most of our Christmas presents, but this year, we had to do things a little differently due to decreased funds.  While I've been continuing with my physical therapy, I'm still not able to go back to work. We were approved for some government assistance, we were able to get 154.00 in SNAP assistance.  This makes life interesting to plan our meals.  We received a letter right before Christmas that that amount will decrease to 104.00 as they are somehow not allowing my husband's medical expenses.  I'm planning to appeal that decision, but we'll see where that goes.  Fortunately, we have gotten other assistance besides going to the food pantries.  After the last experience at the mobile food pantry, we were unable to go on there the last time they came to the area.  They are not going to be coming to our area as often as they had been in the new year.  We did go to the other two local food pantries, but I noticed that the amount of meat these pantries are able to give out have decreased significantly.  We will figure out a way to make do.  I'm working on new recipes to use some of the items that we would not normally purchase that have been given to us.  We did get some assistance for Christmas from Community Partners that took me shopping at Aldis on two separate occasions with 100.00 to spend.  That has helped us considerably.  in addition, some secret Santa donated money and our local grocery store delivered approximately 200-250.00 in groceries about 3 weeks ago. The food that they delivered was nice in that they brought a fair amount of meat and even some little extra things that I haven't been purchasing on our severely limited budget.  We also applied for a program for Carolena to have Christmas presents called the Reindear program, and they provided her with a digital Barbie, several outfits, a couple of pairs of pajamas, a pair of shoes and a pair of snow boots.  In addition, the local fund provided us with a large box of canned goods and a 30.00 gift certificate for our local grocery store to purchase meat.  These donations, helped to restock my severely depleted stores of food.

For the items that I gave for Christmas this year, we only gave gifts to our children and grandchildren.  My children received some of my home canned foods, such as apple butter, strawberry preserves, and blueberry butter, along with some canned apple pie filling, turkey broth and canned turkey.  I also made up some spice mixes for them. I worked on cookbooks for the boys, but my printer decided not to work when I was ready to print, so I have to print those cookbook pages out and put together the cookbooks.  For the grandchildren, we shopped at places like Goodwill this year.  We were able to get a walking dragon and some trucks for Derrick.  Carolena got some movies from Goodwill and they both got a suitcase of clothes for dress up play.  After everything was opened, both kids played first with their suitcase of dress up clothes.  Some of these clothes I purchased at Goodwill and out mission outlet thrift store, and others I got at a local clothes closet, that give out clothing.  I had a couple of projects that I wanted to get done for the kids, that didn't get finished up, but I will finish those up here in the next couple of weeks anyway.  I just gave them as they were for the time being.  Carolena will enjoy helping me to remake some of the things to play with. Overall, I spent very little money on Christmas presents.  Although, with the added driving we have had to do, this will be an interesting week as we are down to nearly no money left until Jim's disability check hits the bank on the first of January.  Our activities will be severely limited, but we will manage.  I will post some of the before and after pictures of our projects as we complete them.  This next week I will be writing out goals for the new year.  These goals will be interesting.

I also started working on classes for my Master's program.  I decided that I needed to do that in order to have a chance at getting a job teaching.  So, to add to the busyness of the holiday season, I started classes on December 2nd. This didn't help me with getting everything I needed to do for the holidays done, but I felt it was necessary to help with having an income again. 

This next week, I will be posting information on my next menu plan along with recipes and I will be doing a post on goal setting.  Every year, I set goals in various areas of my life.  I try and look at the different areas of my life and set goals, which I also break down into smaller steps to make them less overwhelming when I'm trying work towards those goals.  I'll post how I go about that process and set up rewards along the way to help me achieve those goals.  I'll post some pictures of our Christmas.  I'll also be posting some pictures of how the house is coming along.  Jim and I spent the day of our anniversary window shopping for colors for our bedroom/bathroom suite.  We are trying to make a small retreat for ourselves so that we have a nice relaxing place to spend time.  The drywall is mostly up in our bedroom, and we are the stage of mudding and taping.  Soon to be followed by painting.  We have also looked at ideas for flooring and think we will be trying a new technique  for flooring, that will be much less expensive than the hardwood flooring we would like in their.  If it works and we like it we will be using it in other areas.  If not, it will at least have the floor mostly prepped for putting the hardwood flooring down at a later time when our finances improve.  We picked out the colors we want and were given a comforter with those colors for Christmas.  So, I'm ready to start painting and move in.  I'll be putting together pictures to post here soon of our space.