Easter weekend

I started this post on the Saturday before Easter, as in four days ago. I just can’t seem to get myself to take the time to sit by the computer and posting from my iPad is just not so easy or appealing. My age is beginning to show when it comes to technology. I frankly don’t enjoy watching television or movies on a 5×7 screen and I don’t like listening to music from my phone. I am not saying that the quality is bad, but when you grew up in the 70’s where everyone was into giant sized speakers hanging from the wall in perfect balance, and you tried like the dickens to afford a larger television because you were so happy to finally get away from black and white and have color, well…it is just different.

I always talk about being from the generation who touch the generation that survived the Dirty Thirty’s. My children can talk about being from the generation who touch the generation who began life with a black and white television. My has life changed. So below is what I was going to post last Saturday.

“What a weekend! I have been trying to put together a message for Easter Sunday and I can’t get past the second page. This afternoon, I couldn’t get past the first page without falling asleep in my chair. Good grief, you would think I had been up all night and that I was over worked. I admit it has been a long two weeks and there has been some stress, but I have really not been in the direct recipient of  any of it. In some ways, I feel more like one on the fringes, and I feel like it is selfish of me to feel stressed about any of it.”

For those of you who need a short recap, I was in Phoenix for a two short days at the beginning of the month because my uncle died, then we were running here and there after track meets both those we coach and one for our youngest daughter. The night of her meet, we all gathered to celebrate my big 60th birthday (a tish early) at a nephew’s pizza shop, Fire Flour Pizza, in Bismarck. Then we were back to track meet status until our oldest daughter called to say the twins were on the way. It was an unscheduled C-section the day after my actual birthday. The twins are a bit early, but it was a good decision and now they are able to grow and finish off their development with some pretty good eyes watching them.

Raja sitting at my feet today.

James and I spent one over night in Bismarck and then headed back to our home and all the things that entails. Vic and Nate and that set of grandkids was here for the weekend as was Paulina who brought Jessica’s dog, Raja. She had quite a trip too. They had a track and field meet in Aberdeen which from Jamestown to Aberdeen to here is a triangular sort of issue and would have made for lots of driving had she gone on the team bus. So, she opted for the drive herself with the dog in the car version, then she was able to come straight home from the meet. She got to Eureka in time to meet us at The Stop after Maundy Thursday services, which technically is a no-no. The jist of that service is to go home alone in silence and think about your life until Sunday. As you can tell, it is one of my least favorite days of the church year.

So Good Friday was wait for the Dickinson crew and Saturday was dye eggs with Jaxon and hang out with the family. We dug a ham and a bag of frozen potatoes that I picked up hither and yon from the freezer and that was our delicious Easter dinner after a church service that was like no other. We had several visitors as we do each year, but we also had two families that no one knew come in and join us. It was wonderful, and hopefully we didn’t scare them off from never coming back. James said at least one of them seemed to be enjoying the message, so hopefully….! I have resigned myself to the idea that we will not be adding members, so you never know.

Well, in a nut shell that is what we have been doing as of late. Hopefully, I can get to some of my work in the house and a few posts that have been on the back burner. I am not sure how far I will get before June. We have a full schedule of track and field meets as long as the weather cooperates. We have a wonderful set of junior high athletes and I just hope we do right for them. Paulina has some meets we might get to attend and this Saturday, we are planning to make a trip to Bismarck and hope to peek on the new grandchildren. Jessica started a Caring Bridges site, so we are able to keep up with their progress from afar. But, nothing like the first hand version.

Well, enough for now. I really need to get to the church office sometime today. We have a board meeting tonight and I should maybe get a report ready for it…. Yikes!!

So true, so true!!

Sometimes it’s simple things that speak loudly. Just after looking at a recipe, I heard a POP and knew it was something in the fridge. My imagination did not prepare me. The biscuit tube I had thought to use, was overflowing its diagonal lines… How often are your hopes and ideas bursting before you get to […]

via when plans burst — It’s not really about me…

Bread baking disaster!

The yeast is working

The yeast is working

Bread baking 101: Epic fail! Yesterday I tried to make bread from scratch. I used to make wonderful loaves of bread–from dough that I had done up inside my bread machine. Every now and then for whatever reason the dough would over rise and plop, fall into the cellar just before or as I transferred the pans from the top of the oven inside the oven. Yesterday was such a day with the dough from scratch took a nose dive. At first I was going to blame the yeast. Well as you look at the picture to the left, I don’t believe it had anything to do with the yeast.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

So, let’s back up a bit. I took my recipe from the bread machine booklet and converted it to a regular scratch recipe. Paulina does it all the time and it works for her…. I started by putting the water into the bowl for the big mixer and adding the yeast. Now Paulina warned me that she thinks the last time her water was too hot. I pulled out the candy thermometer and tested it. I even dug around until I found the original recipe with the optimal temperature listed on it. Something between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I boiled water then needed a few ice cubes to get it right, but it was spot on. The yeast bubbled and fizzed for a bit. I covered the container with a dishcloth until I thought it had worked its magic.

Dough hook at work

Dough hook at work

In the meantime I mixed together all of the dry ingredients including the powered milk that is called for in this particular recipe.  The picture in the paragraph above and to the right is of some of the containers on the counter. The short one is where I store the powdered milk. I love those older unusual containers for things and  when they are all full and waiting to be used, it makes the baking or cooking go so much faster. Anyway, after adding the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture, I let the mixer with the dough hook do its magic. It was great and I love how that dough hook works!!

Covered dough

Covered dough

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

When that was all finished, I dropped the dough into another container and set it on the stove covered by a clean dishcloth. The trick that I used when the dough came out of the bread machine was to put it on the stove under cover with the oven warming at 150 to 200 degrees. This would keep the dough warm and help it rise. OK, duh in the past it warmed in the bread machine then I took it out and put it straight in the pans not into another container. After a little bit, I divided it and put it into two pans. The problem is that I didn’t get it into the oven at the right time. Instead I turned the oven to 350 and put in a double batch of banana bread, which if you have made that, you know it takes forever. So, now the dough was in the pans in an area to hot to gently warm for too long. By the time I got the actual bread dough into the oven, it had fallen flat. This will learn me! Next time only bake one item at a time and put the dough straight into the bread pans. Yikes!

Vegetable soup made last night.

Vegetable soup

On the other hand, I was able to pull together a kettle of vegetable soup and a “killer” kettle of Knepfla soup. The vegetable in our house yesterday was made with: 1 quart of whole tomatoes, 1 quart of tomato juice (the really runny kind made when skimming the excess liquid off spaghetti sauce or salsa before adding the seasoning) a couple of cups of cubed frozen beets and carrots and cubed pre-boiled potatoes. I also add a cup or two of slightly boiled rice. The flavor comes from adding some beef base. I prefer Orrington Farms because of the no MSG.

Because I can never boil just a cup of rice, I ended up with enough left over from that to make a bread loaf pan of baked rice. This amounts to the rice, about 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 to 1 cup of whipping cream, about 1/4 cup of sugar and a handful of raisins all sprinkled with cinnamon then covered with aluminum foil and popped in the already warm oven.

Paulina begged for Knepfla soup. She thought it would make her feel better. She did eat, finally.

A pot of Knepfla soup.

The Knepfla soup took a little more work. The picture to the left is an old one from way back, but it is the same soup. It involves an egg or two, a bit of oil and about a 1/2 cup or more of milk. Then add flour until you have a thick dough. This time I made it in the large mixer and it was much easier, but I had it a bit too thick for the mixer. There is a good explanation for how to make it on a post on Feb. 2, 2013. After the dough is made, I cut it up and drop it into boiling water for a bit. The boiled dough balls are technically noodles. The broth is cream of celery with milk, half and half and some water. I add cubed potatoes and carrots partially boiled. Celery is also good, but this time I didn’t have any. I have also made it without cream of celery if I have almost a full stock of celery to cube and boil into oblivion to get a broth. I also use chicken base, again, Orrington Farms. I love this soup, but I am developing an intolerance for milk products and this really gave me a sore stomach today. I don’t know how I survived teen years and adult life as I was quite intolerant as a child to whole milk. Perhaps the 2 percent and the skim were ok then, but sure not now. We have tried the lactose free and that is good, just didn’t have any in the house, and it seems rather sweet so might not work in this soup.

Buttermilk pancakes reblogged!!

Good morning! We had a leftover partly used quart of buttermilk lurking in the back of the fridge when the family was in for Christmas. Google brought up this recipe from the NY Times–and hooray– we used up that buttermilk! And got a few stacks of really fluffy pancakes in the process. They were yummy- light and […]

via NY Times Buttermilk Pancakes — The Thankful Heart

Making lasagna with Jessica!!

So, a bit more on that making things for yourself. This time the concentration is food. I am sure many of you have made a pan of lasagna or two, but in case this is something new for you, here is an idea of how we make it as much from scratch as possible for now. I have a pasta maker and really should be using that to a degree, but just didn’t get into that the way I thought that I would.

Pan of lasagna!

Pan of lasagna made by Jessica at her place!

Jessica loves lasagna and since she is carrying twins, we have been nagging her to eat more protein, consume more dairy and on and on. As if she wouldn’t have a clue how to take care of herself. This is the daughter who as a freshman in college having never flown before gets on a plane on her own and travels to the national college newspaper convention connecting through Chicago O’Hare Airport. I nearly freaked out when I found out, but of course by that time she was safely back in her dorm room. The following year she went to the convention, it was in Kansas City the same year that they won the World Series. Thankfully she wasn’t yet 21 so there was no worry about her trying to party with everyone there celebrating the win. And at age 26, she won a seat in the state house of representatives, thankfully she is out of that dumpster fire for this session and next, but I am getting off track. This is a post about how we in our non-Italian family make lasagna. Let’s call this the German version.

Layering the cottage cheese.

Layering the cottage cheese.

Putting on the shredded cheese

Putting on the shredded cheese

Start by placing uncooked (no boil) lasagna noodles along the bottom of a cake pan or lasagna pan. Cover the noodles with a layer of cottage cheese. Add a layer of ground hamburger then pour on half a jar of homemade spaghetti sauce and sprinkle generously with shredded cheese. We used mozzarella. Oh yes, throw on some basil and oregano, or a mix of Italian seasoning after the sauce. Repeat the whole process but before you put on the final layer of cheese add one more layer of noodles. At this point I press the noodles firmly down until the juice of the sauce covers the last layer of noodles then sprinkle with one more layer of cheese and cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake 35-45 minutes on 350. I usually check on it at about the 30 minute mark and if it seems to be absorbing the liquid and the noodles are softening, pull off the foil and let the cheese brown a bit. Take out, let set up a bit (5 min.) then cut and enjoy. This is good served with toasted garlic bread or whatever you desire.

Yummy!!

Yummy!!

So how does this fit with my frugal philosophy? For me this is a great way to use up cottage cheese that isn’t quite as fresh as the type I would serve with a salad or eat as a side dish. I also find that one quart of spaghetti sauce is not always enough and this is also a way to use that last cup of tomato juice or even a partial jar of salsa (if you enjoy a little spice in your food—doesn’t make it in our house!!) Perhaps that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but when you are trying to get ahead of expiration dates and are not sure what to cook up, this is a great way to use those particular foods.

Hope this has made sense to you. Is there any special dish that you throw together when you are trying to clean out the fridge or the pantry??? Please share. No judging here.

Philosophy for more frugal living

I have been kicking around the idea of doing periodic posts about my ideas on how to live more frugally, and even how to live with less clutter. That last part is really going to be a test of my skills since I am so tied into things because of what they represent. During 2017, I will be sharing some of my ideas and practices and life style not to mention the whole experiment of trying to live with less, live on less and how I plan to make at least my corner of the world just a little bit better. I am not a published or awarded expert on any of this, but I feel that living on this earth for just about 60 years and having spent much of that time in the presence of people far older than me, I have learned from many on how to get by when you need to, and how to enjoy what you have. Besides I am sick of reading posts and pins that tell me to toss out everything to have a less cluttered life, and some of the plans on frugal living go a little beyond what I see as good for the economy as a whole. So here goes.

Today I will share 5 areas that I feel we can all start to make our lives better financially and in terms of the space we occupy.

1) Let’s begin with Appreciation for what you have. You could start with a list of 10 items that you have or people/or pets that are around you that you appreciate. Yesterday the new Gov. of North Dakota started his first State of the State speech with a segment about gratitude. Maybe that is a good place to start. Put together a list of 10, 20 or more things for which you are grateful or things you appreciate. Just doing that might prevent you from chasing after something new and better and more elaborate. It might make you think less about getting your happiness from spending.

2) Shop at home first! I don’t mean in your hometown, though that is a good idea. I mean in your house or garage or yard. When it is time to make supper, check the panty, the fridge and the freezer before you go out to eat, call for take out or head to the grocery store. Before you run out to buy another bottle of shampoo or lotion or house hold cleaners check the back of the supply cabinet. Before you go shopping for a new night stand or plant holder or any small furniture, look in the garage a storage shed, your basement and see what you might have in another area that will work for what you want. I learned this lesson so well when we were living in another town for a short two year stint. I went back to our house (we didn’t sell it, we just didn’t live there full time for a bit) and shopped there before I spent any money. I was amazed at how many items I had stored in various cupboards. I think we went a whole year without needing to buy some items.

3) When you are shopping ask those questions: Do I really need this? Do I have one like it? How will I use it. I need to do a better job of this with my clothes. I am forever finding the “cutest” tops and when I get them home, I have only one item to pair with them on sometimes nothing at all. I will do more on clothes when I get a better handle of them. This is also a question I need to ask myself when I am shopping for kitchen items. I have many things there that I never use, but most of them came from purchasing a $1 or $2 box at an auction sale. Seems to me this is more of a clutter issue than a frugal issue.

Garden produce

Garden produce

4) Learn to do certain things for yourself. The number one thing that I am thankful to have learned as a teenager is how to operate a sewing machine. I have been able to sew things for myself and my family over the years even to the point of sewing the baptismal gown and hat and booties set that was used for my own daughters. Over the years I have sewed some clothing, but mostly I have been able to mend things when needed. I realize that I don’t do enough of this in big terms, but it has helped somewhat. Growing your own food and preserving it is also a good thing to learn. I am not sure how much this is a savings except when you are able to eat fresh from your garden rather than purchase it. I plan this summer to keep very close records to find out the truth on this one. For me the preserving is about knowing what is in your food more than having it be cheaper. (On the other hand, sometimes hiring someone to do things for you is a way to keep the economy in your area rolling, but that is a topic for another segment.)

5) Finally, I am an advocate of using cash or a cash mentality when spending. Of course I will never do totally cash because I love the idea of cash back cards. The thing with using a credit card that is a problem and a reason that many “exerts” advise against it is that too many people just run up the balance without regard to the bottom line. My husband and I started our first credit cards when we were married in 1982 under the idea that nothing could be charged that couldn’t be paid off with the next pay check. Of course in those days credit cards were charging 18 to 21 percent interest and there was no way you could afford to over charge on them. The other issue with the first card we looked at they were not really credit cards, but it was a plastic savings account. You didn’t get the card until you put $500 into the savings account with their bank. In other words you could only use as much as you had in the account, so you were in essence borrowing from yourself. I haven’t heard of cards like this lately, but you could still use the concept. Our current issue is to only use the card that issues a yearly cash back. We have stopped using the cards that offer a points reward because where we live most of the places that accept the points don’t exist. Because we purchased a television this year that we had saved up for, we earned lots of extra points and are expecting a nice bonus check in February.

Good grief, I never planned to ramble on quite this long on just a little philosophy type of started post. At any rate, even if no one sees a value in this, I will at least be reminding myself of some of my expectations for this year. I really seriously want to live with less and feel free to use the space that is in our home rather than tripping over all this extra junk that is everywhere. I know that I could just toss and scrap a few things, but I always consider what all the tossing does to the environment. The best way to recycle is not to buy it in the first place, so that is where I will start for now with my plans to be a little more frugal.

Advent: Dec. 19 Baking stories

Stew with dumplings on top

Stew with dumplings on top

Today I wish to tell you about the baking that I did on Saturday. Since I didn’t have to prepare a message for Sunday, I was free to do what I pleased in the afternoon, that is after I finally finished on the phone speaking with the funeral director and the son of the lady from our church who passed away on Friday. I must have been using up nervous energy because I went a bit overboard on what was accomplished.

It started earlier in the day when I decided to make some beef stew with carrots in it, dumplings on top and mashed potatoes on the side. It was really good because I browned the beef chunks then put them in the crock pot for the entire day. My crock pot is oval and has a small side part, so in order to fill that, I dug out a bag of frozen beans and let them heat up in that area. I was a little late in adding the carrots, so I couldn’t put the dumplings in when I wanted to, which left me with a little down time. I picked up the recipe for these baking powder dumplings in the Taste of Home Cookbook. Dilly Dumplings: Mix 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. This recipe also called for 1 tablespoon of minced fresh parsley, 1/4 teaspoon dill week and 1/4 teaspoon of dried thyme, but I left those flavorings out. Combine: 1 beaten egg, 2/3 cup fat-free milk and 1 tablespoon canola oil. Stir together until all moistened, drop by spoon onto simmering stew. Keep cover closed until dumplings appears fully cooked. I loved having a clear lid to check on these dumplings, but would not use a crock pot to make them again, though really I just needed to cook them a bit longer.

Apple dumplings in the oven

Apple dumplings in the oven

Well as long as I had the extra time and wanted to empty a drawer of the fridge, I cored and peeled the apples from the crisper (the last of the apples from the tree on the south of the house.) We had picked up some heavy whipping cream on our last shopping trip, so why not whip up a batch of apple dumplings. I dug out the Taste of Home cookbook and got right on it. Mostly I needed the recipe for the pastry to wrap around the apples.

Completed

Completed! James took the corner one and all the extra carmel. Grrr!!

Pastry:  2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 1 of salt, 1 cup of shortening, mix until crumbly. Add the following after combined: 1 egg, 1/4 cup water and 2 teaspoons white vinegar. When it is all combined divide into (Recipe says 7 portions–I did six.) It also says to put an entire peeled and cored apple into the rolled out pastry. I cut up the apples and rolled out the pastry adding enough apple pieces to fit. With a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar over the apples before pinching the dough shut, it was all good. The issue is that 6 of them fit better into my pan than 7. I suppose you could do any number between 6 and 8 with this amount of pastry. Next I boiled 1 pint of heavy cream and added 1 cup of brown sugar to make the carmel topping. In the future I will make less of that since it ran all over the top and I have to replace the aluminum foil in the bottom of my oven. It also says to take another egg and beat it then do a wash over each of the dumplings before you stick it in the oven for 15 minutes. While this was going on, I did the carmel in the sauce pan then poured it over the apples and cooked them for another 30-35 minuets or until the apples were tender.

Burnt apple bars

Burnt apple bars

Later because I had more apples to use up, I made a batch of Arlene’s apple bars. I posted the recipe (Oct. 16, 2013) for them a while back. They should have a nice powdered sugar cream cheese glaze on them, but we decided that we would be happy to do without those extra calories. It would be good on this particular batch because they ended up a bit burned on top. I don’t remember what we were working on, maybe trying to clean up the kitchen and since I forgot to turn on the timer, I forgot the bars were in the oven. Never forget to put on a timer….

New drawer of pans.

Newly organized drawer of pans. To the left is my entire stack of bread pans.

Oh yes, I remember what we were doing. We were looking for the bread pans to fill with the zucchini bread batter that I mixed up. This will teach me to rearrange and forget that I did it. I was so upset, I even began to wonder if someone had come to borrow my pans without telling me, as if anyone would even think to do that let alone dare, or want to borrow my old stuff. We did eventually find them in the large drawer beside the refrigerator. It is all good and everything was baked, and the best part is that the kitchen was pleasantly warm on a very cold day outside.

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