Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

We didn't do anything "special" per se. Both of us were too tired for flowers and chocolates and dates....
But the beautiful, Spring like day we were gifted with lifted spirits-for me, there's something magical, about being pregnant, and the excitement and expectant feeling brought by fresh spring air...
Leroy wanted me to come see the calves his cows had produced at the farm. One calf looked gaunt, like it hadn't nursed, and his dam's udder was tight and shiny on all four quarters, taut teats sticking straight out. Leroy caught the cow, an older, but good looking, and fairly quiet Hereford, and haltered her-no easy task on the slippery footing the drastic weather changes we've been experiencing, had produced. He then tied her up and offered her some grain. I helped milk her a bit, to ease the pressure. The calf was resistant at first, to the idea (I think maybe the cow's udder was so tender she'd pushed him away a few times), but soon, we were able to convince him, the smell of milk on my hands probably helped entice him, and I would let him suck on my fingers, then place them on the cow's udder, where he would transfer his attentions. When it looked like he was well on his way to being able to return to the udder on his own, we left the sweet pair, to go check if there were any other new babies. My fingers were still coated with calf slobber (that stuff is bionic! LOL!!), and as we walked, Leroy reached for my hand. He quickly pulled it away though, at the slimy feel of my hand!! I giggled, and then he helped me dry my hands on his jeans, and we continued on, checking for new bovine babies together...
Probably not what most people would describe as all that romantic! But it just felt so right, and was so enjoyable, working together as a team, just having time to be together on a beautiful day, while our busy children played in the snow just outside the corrals!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Mini Pantry Challenge

I've been doing a "mini" or "semi" pantry challenge since before Christmas. I say "mini" b/c I'm not being perfectionistic, and not buying ANYTHING-but I've very much limited what I buy. I probably should be living like this more, seeing as (duh!) I always have a freezer full of beef, usually pork and chicken too... But I find it hard sometimes to really focus on using EVERYTHING in the freezers, so often times things like short ribs get overlooked, til that's all that's left... And of course all the stuff in the pantry-I don't like to run out, so sometimes I end up with doubles and triples....
Anyways, my "rules" are to make meals using as much stuff on hand as possible, even to the point of making my own if need be (like homemade brown sugar) but if I'm out of something (like worcestershire sauce) I won't drive myself crazy, and will buy it....
By doing this, I've cut our grocery spending from about $400.00/month for our family of 6, soon to be 7! :) to around $60.00/month (I HAVE to have fresh fruits and veggies though! LOL!)
(the cut in spending is a good thing too, 'cause money has been crazy tight lately-between utilities, and taxes, UGH!!)

I've also been doing a lot of my own "specialty" breads-I've always made bread, but my attempts at specialty breads have tended to be abject failures up til now, when I've found a few good sites that have walked me thru the steps better, and it is SUCH a good feeling to make these yummy delights for so much less than you can buy them in the store!! For example-flour tortillas from
And English Muffins out of my "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day" book-the recipe for the dough is in the book, the instructions are here:
and I refined my technique a little, using the instructions from here:

I've also pulled out my neglected, almost forgotten cast iron frying pan, which had been relegated to the camper for? I dunno, weight? 'Cause I certainly didn't use it, after I had a spat with it, when I tried frying eggs in it without properly seasoning it first!! I found some info that suggested lard is excellent for seasoning cast iron, and, as I always have a bunch of that around, (I render hog fat myself, in my crockpot), I used that and found how terrific it worked! Absolutely lovely, for both the tortillas and the english muffins!! And I'm actually enjoying using my cast iron frying pan, and longing for a few more items from Lodge Cast Iron cookware.... I have a completely new perspective now on why Don and Mom always seemed so doggone paranoid about their cast iron pans, as, I, as a teenager would "helpfully" scrub it down with soap.... LOL!!

Here's a list of some of the meals we've enjoyed during this challenge:

Beef Short Ribs, Pioneer Woman style:

Greek Chicken over Orzo, from "Cheap, Fast, Good" (one of my favourite cookbooks of all times!)

Sausage and Pepper Pasta, again from "Cheap, Fast, Good"

Cheryl's Tortellini and Spinach Soup, "Cheap, Fast, Good"

Enchanting Enchiladas "Cheap, Fast, Good"

Best Ever Roasted Chicken, with Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Old Fashioned Gingerbread, all from "Cheap, Fast, Good". Served with Quick Rolls from my beloved Momy's cookbook, and Lemon Sauce for the Gingerbread made from my beloved Grandma Bailey's recipe.

Eggs Benedict, from

Chicken strips (from the freezer) served with homemade fries-I make my fries by slicing potatoes, parboiling them in water with a dash of sugar added (a trick I got from a book called "Miserly Moms"-it makes them taste similar to McDonald's fries!, and then frying them in my deepfryer

Honey Fried Walleye (Recipe from one of my Taste of Home books, walleye that we caught this summer on vacation!) served with coleslaw and again, homemade french fries.

Greek pork loin, from "Fix, Freeze, Feast" (it was already prepared, and waiting in my freezer!)
Served with Crash Hot potatoes, from , roasted garlic, and a greek salad, as well as french bread made from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a day, served with bruschetta and a lovely bread dip from Healing Pixie, enhanced with Balsamic vinegar.

Biscuits and hamburger gravy (I basically used this recipe:
I made the seasoning for the hamburger gravy from a recipe in my Momy's cookbook-a bit spicy, but soo good and addicting!)

Honey Garlic Meatballs from "Life's on Fire, Cooking for the Rushed"

Honey Garlic broiled sausages (from "Life's on Fire, Cooking for the Rushed" (she uses a different sauce in her book, I think dry garlic? But we were just as happy with the honey garlic!) )

Stuffed peppers with Kielbasa, from "Cheap, Fast, Good"

Not all our suppers have been gourmet, of course. Some nights, I've been too doggone tired, so we've just had pancakes, or waffles, or whatever.

I've also been busy doing things like fruit leather, beef jerky, dehdrated dog treats, including making my own dessicated liver with my lovely Excalibur dehydrator! as well as doing smoothies, fruit pies, and crisps, oatmeal raisin cookies, etc, in order to get the stuff out of our freezers-did I mention we had 1.5 full sized chest freezers full, an apartment size freezer, full, a big upright freezer full, plus two refrigerator/freezer compartments, all stuffed full! LOL!!

I don't know that I've ever been more grateful to have a milk cow than now!! While I haven't done a lot of hard cheeses lately, lots of yogurt, and some soft cheeses have been helping us out greatly!!

My DH thinks we're eating better this way than ever before-I think it's cause I'm HAVING to plan and think more about meals! The downside is, it takes a LOT of energy, and time, and thinking...

Anyone else out there doing a pantry challenge? How is it going?? :)