Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Happening at the Minor Homestead...

UPDATE: Two chickens laid eggs yesterday... so while it is just a minor improvement, there may actually be something to this vinegar in water stuff after all ;-) (Read below to find out what the heck I'm rambling about up here).

While we shift from a hot summer to a chilly fall, I find myself wrapping up my canning and freezing season (btw... did you know that you can freeze tomatoes for later use. I have a few left that I was planning to can but after reading this, I think I am going to try freezing them.) and looking forward to baking cookies and pies and all sorts of goodies for the upcoming holidays and of course, CHRISTMAS ;-) The garden is almost completely finished producing, although I do still have some green tomatoes that I am waiting on and brussel sprouts. It will soon be time to let the goats and chickens in to take care of cleaning it up and fertilizing it for next year.
   The cold weather has hit a bit early this year and has caught us a bit off guard. We have been working hard on our home renovation and have had very little time to get a few of our outside tasks done such as putting the new roof on our chicken coop/goat pen (we split the building in half so that we could use it for both... I call it my barn but it is actually more like a shed). The roof is completely shot and has a bunch of holes that allow snow and rain to come in (well, more like pour in). Hopefully we will be able to get that completed here soon, sometime between cold fronts and work schedules. The adventures never end ;-)
   Speaking of chickens, mine have pretty much completely stopped laying, again! I think I broke them! They molted about two months ago and their production went back to normal but now they are back to not laying (with the exception of one faithful chicken that leaves me one single egg daily). I read somewhere yesterday (if I remember where I will leave a link) that you can try adding a tablespoon of vinegar per gallon of water to their drinking water and it is supposed to improve production... so I am trying it to see if it will work. I have also been thawing some of the goats milk we had left in the freezer and giving that to them so they get some extra calcium. And, I am going to buy some sunflower seeds to throw out with their scratch. Other than that, I am just praying they start laying again soon. We have such a dependence on eggs and I have refused to purchase any eggs from another source so far, although I know I will have to buy some soon if they don't start laying. I was also trading eggs for fresh cows milk, which we all are missing very much now. At least we have goats milk ;-)
   Our other "pregnant" goat, whom I think is leading some elaborate scheme and is not really pregnant, has yet to go into labor. Our younger doe, Annabelle, gave birth 4 weeks ago, but "Mama" is still fat and looks somewhat miserable. I have no clue how her due date could be so far off from that of the other goat. Guess we just have to wait and see.
   . We have been working on getting our wood pile nice and high for winter (even though we mostly heat our home with natural gas) and working on stocking supplies in case we lose power for any length of time (we actually lost power this past week during our first "drizzling yet non-stop" snow... was out for 2 1/2 hours). I want so badly to get a wood stove for heating the house so that we could also use it for cooking some, especially if we lose power. I will have to start putting some money aside for one, I guess since it doesn't look like one is going to magically appear in our home... LOL. 
   That's pretty much it for around here. Just getting ready for colder weather and starting to get going with making Christmas presents.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Menu plan- 10/31-11/6/11

I got a great deal on pork tenderloin this past week at safeway, so I am definitely planning on pulled pork sandwiches this week. I am debating whether or not I will use the other tenderloin I purchased to make sausage or if I will make it with ground turkey like a normally do. I will be posting some of these recipes as the week progresses ;-)
Monday: crockpot black bean soup, skillet cornbread, salad
Tuesday: spaghetti, salad, French bread
Wednesday: Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, brussel sprouts
Thursday: crockpot chicken jambalaya
Friday: salmon patties, cooked spinach, sauteed zucchini
Saturday: crockpot pulled pork sandwiches on homemade whole wheat buns, baked sweet potato wedges, sugar snap peas
Sunday: turkey meatloaf, balsamic glazed carrots, brown rice
I am also going to be baking either some cookies or brownies for my bible study group Tuesday and I am going to be making a big batch of granola bars for snacks. My kitchen isn't finished yet but as soon as it is, I will also be making a bunch of salsa verde for the freezer. We love using this when we make enchiladas.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Freezer Cooking

Freezer cooking is something that I have been doing for many years, even though I have never devoted extra time to doing it. The way I do it is that I double up a recipe and freeze half, or I cook extra meat to freeze some for another meal, and so forth. Lately, I have been inspired by Crystal at Money Saving Mom to actually devote about an hour a week to just freezer cooking. I have been keeping tabs on the recipes that I would like to do and have been working on figuring out some good recipe combinations that will coincide with each other enough to make my cooking session easier. Plus, I have been following the Money Saving Mom Blog and reading about her freezer cooking sessions. I had planned to do my first freezer cooking session this week, but, that didn't quite work out. It is for a very good reason it didn't work out.. my hubby is installing new countertops which we have needed since we bought this house 6 years ago. So, I can't (and won't) complain about having to wait on my freezer cooking session. Anyway, I will hopefully be able to begin posts about my freezer cooking next week, so stay tuned ;-) Oh, and I will be sure to post a pic of my finished countertops! I'm so excited!!!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beef and Black Bean Cheeseburgers and Sweet Potato Wedges

These recipes pair perfectly with each other. Add another veggie (asparagus works really well with this, too) and/or a salad and you have a complete meal... YUM ;-)

Beef and Black Bean Cheeseburgers
1 pound ground beef
1 cup cooked black beans (or 1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed)
1 bell pepper, chopped finely
1 Tbsp. Worchestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Toppings: (optional: just put what you like)
Cheese (I usually use cheddar)
Onion (really yummy with grilled onions, too)
Avocado slices (or guacamole is also good)
Tomato slices

Combine all ingredients. Form into 4 patties. Cook on stove or grill until the reach desired doneness. Remove from heat and put cheese on top.

Sweet Potato Wedges
4 large potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into wedges
Olive oil
Garlic Powder
Salt and Pepper

Place potatoes in a deep baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil to coat lightly. Sprinkle herbs over top and toss well (I don't really measure the herbs, I just sprinkle a bit of each). Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes (these sometimes take a little longer but it really depends on how big the potatoes are).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Menu Plan for 10/24- 10/30/11

This week I have some tomatoes to can. I am still waiting on a bunch of green ones to turn as well. The recipe I have been using this year is the easiest tomato recipe I have ever used. I can get a few jars of tomatoes done in no time. I am also going to be making salsa verde for the freezer this week. I am happy that the majority of my tomatillos finally matured enough to pick. I am going to be playing around with some recipes and will post my final recipe sometime this week hopefully. Anyway, as for the rest of the week, here is the plan:
Monday: Spaghetti Squash Marinara
Tuesday: Beef and Black Bean Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries
Wednesday: Kung Pao Chicken
Thursday: Keilbasa Sausage with Macaroni and Cheese
Friday: Homemade Pizza (for real this week... last week we had planned this but instead the hubby and I actually got to go out on a date and the kids stayed with their grandparents).
Saturday: Crockpot Chili (I will post my recipe later in the week)
Sunday: Baked Ravioli

I will probably be posting most of these recipes as the week progresses, but tonight we are getting ready to enjoy some Gumbo and watch a movie ;-)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Menu Changes and Shepard's Pie Recipe

One of the great things about having a fully stocked pantry and a freezer full of food is that when I need to make menu changes, I can do so without having to run to the store for something. So far this week, I have changed our menu plan twice. Tuesday we ended up having fish sticks (one of the only processed foods we allow in our house and that's only because fish is expensive), spinach, and mashed potatoes. Because we had plenty of leftover mashed potatoes, I decided to change tonight's menu to Shepard's Pie. Now, to add to my menu changes, I just came across a recipe for Savory Slow Cooker Chicken and Butternut Squash and since I just happen to have a butternut squash of perfect size out in my garden that's ready to be picked (one of a few things left), I have decided to make that for dinner instead. Plus, it sounds like a nice comfort food meal to serve my hubby since he has been out of town all week for work. And, since it is a slow cooker recipe, I can actually get my cleaning done tomorrow without having to worry about being exhausted while making dinner.

Anyway, not to stray from the point I was trying to make, Shepard's Pie is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and make a quick healthy meal. Here is my basic recipe:

Pam's Shepard's Pie
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 carrots, chopped
2 cups corn or sweet peas ( I use either depending on  my mood)
Leftover mashed potatoes (at least 2 cups)
1 tsp. Oregano (and/ or any other herbs you like)
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Cups Shredded Cheese (whatever kind you like or what you have on hand)

Brown meat with onion, bell pepper, celery, and carrots. Once meat is browned and veggies are softened, add corn (or peas) herbs, and salt and pepper, and heat through. Place in bottom of a casserole dish. Spoon potatoes over the top and spread out. Cover with cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Then, place under broiler for about 2-3 minutes.

Insane Goals for (what's left of) October 2011

Ok, so a while back I started working on completing an Insane Goals List. Well, while I have still been working on this during my "vacation from blogging," I haven't posted any of my goals since then. Before I let you guys in on what my goals are for the few remaining days of October (ok, could someone PLEASE stop turning the calendar pages at warp speed!), I want to share the main goals I have had for the past few weeks and where I am in the process of accomplishing them.

1. Paint our home- We have gotten most of this done, with the exception of the super high parts.
2. Reevaluate my cleaning system to try and spread things out more evenly.
3. Work on organizing recipes for easier meal planning. I have kinda gotten part of this done. I created a spreadsheet and compiled a list of all our favorite meals in one place. And, I have our most commonly used recipes on recipe cards in our "blue menu planning box." But, I have a bunch of recipes that I want to try that need to be organized so that it will be easier to pick one each week (we try to do at least one new recipe a week). And, it would be great to have my recipe cards in a binder separated into categories.... hmmmm, maybe I could use those inserts I just saw at office depot for this purpose... they hold 4- 4x6 photos per page... think I might pick some of those up. (will keep you posted on how that works)
4. Decorate for Halloween/ Fall
5. Store Swamp Cooler for winter (LOL... for those who have no clue what this is, it is what you use in dry climates like Colorado for cooling your home)
6. Spend more time with friends and family (this has been a real blessing and something I have been struggling with for a few months. Not sure why I end up in these weird "nobody likes me" ruts from time to time. )
7. Open my home to others (My daughter's bday party counts so far, but I am actually planning on hosting a bible study here possibly next week... very excited actually!)
8. Reorganize closet- Change configuration- Get rid of monster organizer- Move to Michael's soon to be closet
9. Work on entryway. I have changed this around a lot and have started using a chest we had for storing our shoes and I have a new "table" that we made out of an old drawer we removed from our kitchen. We still need to finish mudding the drywall in here so that I can paint, but I do almost have the color pinned down. I have always wanted the entry to be blue... not a light blue but a carribean blue or what I am leaning towards now, a maritime blue.
10. Take the massive pile of donations that have accumulated in our entryway to Loaves and Fishes

Okay, so now for the other goals that I would like to accomplish before the end of October:
1. Read with my kids more.
2. Bake a loaf of bread each weekday so that I can freeze some.
3. Go through my closet and get rid of the clothes I don't wear (but hold on to just in case the clothes I do wear suddenly vanish... LOL).
4. Do some freezer cooking at least once per week.
5. Finish reading Breathe: A Novel of Colorado
6. Clean the garage so that we can actually walk into it without having to climb over stuff- It;s really not that bad, but we need more shelving for stuff and need to arrange it so things are not right inside the entrance.
7. Get a pressure regulator for my pressure cooker so that I can actually USE it!

So, that's my list for now. Nothing too insane really ;-)

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