We finally finished up all of the apples we had, except a very few we refrigerated again for fresh eating. This includes the boxes on the porch, and all the random apples stashed in refrigerators all over the place. Whew!!! I feel like it was an accomplishment and a blessing to get those apples processed so they will last longer.
I have lost track of how many we have dried, but there are glass gallon jars full, and other assorted containers full as well. We did one final batch yesterday.
I made and canned more applesauce. In the end, I got 18 more jars of assorted sizes. They were mostly pints, but there were a couple of quarts as well. With what I did the other day, this should give me enough 2023 applesauce without buying boxes in the summer, but I still have that option just in case people suddenly decide to scarf this all up. Of course, we have not worked through all that is in the shop, yet. I’m excited about this because it should make my summer a little bit easier, since there is always plenty of other things to can during that busy season.
I did something fun with some of the apples–gluten-free apple fritters! They were SO good I don’t dare to make them again very soon:)
I made enchilada casserole, using some corn tortillas that had been around quite a while. I used the rest to make some home-made cinnamon-sugar chips, and fried them in the same oil I used for the fritters.
I worked hard this week to use up more odds and ends from the fridge, freezers and cupboards.
Chili-mac was on the menu and used garden onions, some peppers from a party, a can of beans that had been lingering in the pantry and home-canned tomato sauce from ’21.
I used some bread crumbs I made a little while back, home-canned beans, and some cheese that needed using to make what we call “puffy.” It’s from the “More-With-Less” cookbook and is called Puffy Green Bean Bake, I think, but I’ve been making it for years. It is actually not very puffy when I make it, but tastes good.
Although much of what I’m doing this time of year revolves around cooking and cleaning, we also had some greenhouse work accomplished. Rob is still planting seeds every few weeks, according to his plan of when they need to be ready and how long they take to grow. Many things are up and he spoke of doing some first transplanting soon.
I finished tying up the raspberries this week. I have high hopes for them for this year, even though they are still in their dormant state and don’t look like much. I worked on cutting out the old canes and tying up this year’s fruit-bearing wood a week or two ago and was delighted to find a window of opportunity to finish. It’s a deceptive job. It looks like it would take about 10 minutes, but instead took at least 2-3 hours to do. I’m glad to be done. Now for the Marion (black) berries……
I pulled grass up from around their roots, but I can see I’m going to have a problem with that awful quack grass (or whatever its real name is) again this year. 🙁
I will put coffee grounds around the base of their stems, as Rob read that they like them. We pick up grounds for gardeners from Starbucks in Safeway and anywhere else we find some. I will also fertilize a little later on so they can grow vigorously through the spring and hopefully give me lots of raspberries. I don’t want them to grow yet, it’s too cold and they would get nipped. Last year, we only got enough to eat as the summer before was so terribly hot the bushes did not do well. We still have a few packages in the freezer from 2 years ago, and I hope to finish those and fill more this upcoming summer.
Rob worked on the greenhouse for hours this week. I will make another post about what he did. He is getting ready to start seeds very soon.
I filled the remaining space in the yard debris bin with rose clippings I cut and the remaining dead branches from the in-ground fuchsia I had not trimmed yet. I’m finding I never have enough time or dry weather to do big jobs outside lately, and am finding success by breaking the jobs up into more than one session and just feeling content with doing whatever part I can get done at that moment. Then, I get back to it whenever I can on another day. The key for me is to not start too many of these kind of projects, but instead try to keep one or two at the top of my list so they actually get finished. It’s a good theory anyway and works part of the time:)
I continue to work on using up every bit of food I can. These hard-boiled eggs got knocked out of the fridge and rolled around a bit before I could catch them. Rather than toss them, I peeled them, washed them, then smashed them up with some tuna and made tuna-egg salad sandwich filling for dinner last night. They didn’t take much effort to smash. Eggs are not as expensive here as elsewhere, but they are more than double the price they were last spring.
My pantry/garage-cleaning project continues. I have been putting food items that need to be targeted for immediate use in the kitchen on the counter. I have worked through so many odd items, along with some normal ones that add to meals. Tonight, there are only 2 items left there. Yea! Time to clean another area and find some more. Because I’m doing the job over several weeks, I’ve had time to use a lot of items as I find them without being overwhelmed.
Tomorrow night, we are cooking for the entire young adult/college group at church (25ish), rather than the 5-6 gluten-free that we usually do. I’m rejoicing in using so many targeted items making things for them. So far, I made pumpkin bread (with wheat since most can eat it) from a mix I found, some cookie bars with coconut, the last of the toffee bits from a couple of weeks ago, and more, and cookie bars with rolled oats and raspberry jam from 2020 I found. I will make some Western Beans from pintos I cooked today and of course, Rob will bbq chicken drumsticks. How awesome we got so many for such a reasonable price!
I shopped with my daughter, who was also shopping for her sister and items for both babies this week. We went to 4 stores to get what she wanted, her sister wanted and I wanted. It was quite an expedition. I was delighted to use a $20/off $100 coupon, plus a $10 reward coupon at Safeway. Even with items for all of us, I stilI had to run back for 2 more packages of chicken legs at the end, to get the $20 off. (At that point, it would have been like throwing away $20 of free food to me.). I ended up with 6 family packs of chicken legs. I had coupon for 99c/lb legs and can always use more at that price. I got things like powdered sugar, brown sugar, some paper products, produce, dairy products and more. Of course I downloaded digital coupons, as well. In the end, my part of that bill was only about $30 with all the coupons and the things that weren’t for me to pay for.
I found her a $10/off $40 at Fred Meyers (a Kroger) store, and let her use my store card and downloaded coupons right there in the store, as needed. Grocery Outlet was visited, but there are no downloads there. Still, we found some items on the list for good prices. Lastly, we hit Trader Joe’s for things she wanted. I got Rob a couple of treats, a birthday gift of flowers and a card for a friend, and some gluten-free bagels for myself.
At the end of the day, I was very happy with what I’d spent and with all the goodies the girls added to my fridge, freezer and pantry. Most holes are filled in the pantry already. Rob had picked up a few things like mushrooms and sliced olives the other day for a good price. I got a few more replacements Saturday. I’m still in budget and the pantry is already full again, even after all we’ve used up. I’m just not replacing a lot of those things, but instead making sure I have plenty of the things we actually use on a regular basis.
Rob and I went on a mini-date Sunday afternoon. We are easily amused, I know, but we wandered through Wheeler Dealer, a scratch and dent store, for entertainment. We found some amazing deals, although many of the prices are much higher there, as they are everywhere. We got cottage cheese for 50c/carton, fresh mozzarella balls for 50c/carton, jalapeños for 10c each, a head of boc choi for 33c, a can of sweetened condensed milk for 79c, applesauce pouches for the babies for 25c, and more. I was so glad to know exactly what I had in my pantry, and walked away from a lot of things that were cheap, but I absolutely didn’t need. I’ve already used a bunch of what we got in lasagnas, which used some targeted noodles and the rest of the sauce from last week.
Does anyone know if you can freeze those fresh mozzarella balls? The ones packed in water? I still have 2 cartons left, but they have a very short date on them…hence the 50c price tag. Please leave a comment if you have tried freezing them or something similar. Thanks!
During this past week, I continued to make food from what was in the freezers and cupboards. I also was able to use up several little odds and ends that had been frozen sometime in the past and forgotten about….you know we’ve all got those, and I loved using them.
I dealt with the huge bowl of beans I started soaking at the beginning of last week. I made chili, cooked beans to freeze for later and made refried beans. These were some red beans, smaller than kidney beans, and not what I normally use for refried beans, but they taste great. I froze some of the chili and everything else as I finished it. I’ve already pulled the first carton of refried beans out and we had tacos yesterday. I purposefully froze several smaller containers (I used cartons from cream cheese I had saved) because there are times where we don’t use equivalent of a whole can now that Patsy isn’t here. She really loves beans and ate them like crazy when she was here. I also froze a couple of larger containers for those times when I need more.
We finished up the split pea soup, and the chicken-rice soup. I had soup several times. I don’t mind it for breakfast on busy days.
I used my new Instant Pot cookbook to make Jerk Chicken. I’ve never made it before and was surprised at all the spices I used. Now that’s a good “use-it-up” feeling–using lots of bits of spices I rarely use! I did not use a Scotch Bonnet or Habenero pepper, as we don’t like things that spicy. instead, I used a small amount of home frozen Hungarian Wax peppers and the Cajun seasoning called for in the recipe for a milder spicy flavor. The book said it was not “jerk” chicken without the spicy, spicy peppers, instead “nice” chicken. And, it was. We really, really liked it.
I shopped at Safeway and Natural Grocers and stocked up on basics and produce. I used digital coupons at Safeway and also got my flu shot, which snagged me a 10% off coupon there. I had not been shopping for quite a while, so I needed quite a few things. Some prices were astounding, but I’m grateful that I got everything I needed and stayed within my budget. I got several things I just wanted, (like a couple of avocados), as well, which is always nice! I didn’t buy junk food, though. After all, it is January–time to save money and be healthier, right? Instead, Rob got a fresh cucumber. Lucky Rob:)
I also got eggs wherever I could find them. One day I got 4 doz. for 1.99 each at Nat. Grocers, a few days later they were 2.99 for the same eggs and you could only have 2. I had a $1/carton Ibotta rebate for those eggs, which I redeemed. Rob finally went to Walmart and got 5 doz. for under $10. Although it’s sobering to see so many empty spaces where eggs should be, I do know chickens don’t like to lay eggs in the winter, and expect the situation will resolve in the spring. I sure hope so. From extensive blog reading over the holidays, I realize people are paying much, much more for eggs across the country than I am here. $5.50, $7.99, even upwards of $10 in some places for a dozen seemed quite common in my reading.
We use SO many eggs around here. They are good protein and versatile for so many things. We’ve had hard-boiled eggs, potato salad, egg-tuna salad, eggs salad, scrambled eggs and more this week alone. I’m grateful to get plenty at a reasonable price.
I was amazed to find good produce prices at Natural Grocers, since it’s all organic there, so I got several items, including 5 lbs of carrots for $5.07. At Safeway, they had bagged salads/spinch/coleslaw mix for $1.50 with a digital coupon. I grabbed several of those, as well. I miss the garden this time of year, but just buy produce in the winter, and use what I preserved as much as I can. I love to can, but canned lettuce salad does not appeal to me:).
I am now billing little cups of cooked carrots as “snacks” and Malcolm is buying it:). All silliness aside, he really loves cooked carrots. I used 3 lbs one week. I use my canned ones for soups when I am in a hurry and fresh ones for cooked carrots, with roast beef, in soup and stew when I’m not in a hurry, and more.
Rob made a veggie/egg scramble with frozen garden peppers, some kale, sausage and, of course, eggs.
He made Swiss Steak one night. I peeled and cooked potatoes. One thing I did to save both time and energy (which saves money), is to cook extra potatoes. I mashed enough for dinner with a few leftovers for the next day and saved enough for potato salad a couple of days later. I often cook extra of many things for future meals, or parts of meals.
Oatmeal has also been on the menu a lot. This time, I put some chunks of frozen peaches from my sister’s farm in along with raisins, which I buy in 5-lb bags. I also buy the oatmeal in bulk. The price has risen astronomically, but it’s still a good deal to me. Whole grains are so healthy and they swell up when you cook them! Although I love it, I do not eat a great deal of it, due to what it does to my blood sugars, but others in the family do. I even served it for dinner one night to those who love it so much.
Oatmeal is another thing that I often cook a large pot of and save leftovers for a super quick breakfast for my grandson. He loves it so much. A while back, I got a super, super deal on some of those instant packets, and he loves them, too. I prefer to use real oatmeal most of the time. I can control the sugar content and add real fruit to it. It’s also thicker and easer for him to manage with his little silverware.
My nephew and I made sugar cookies one afternoon. We are always looking for fun activities to do together, and it was fun to focus on some of those cookie cutters I have laying around that are not holiday-related. The dough was saved from some Christmas cookies I had made, and so it was an easy project.
A couple of weeks ago, I sailed through the easiest case of Covid I’ve heard of lately, thank goodness. I never, ever would have even tested had I not found out I had been exposed and had what seemed like a very mild allergy. For me, they symptoms were much, much milder than the last cold I had. Still, I had to quarantine for a while, and take some nasty medicine. It really helped, I think. I did get tired. I took extra naps and rested a lot. I had one day where I actually felt sick. If that was my Covid, I’m more grateful than I can say.
I could not work at my job while in quarantine, or go anywhere, so I used some of the extra time to read blogs, read books, watch t.v., comb cookbooks, try new recipes, clean, and sew. After all, they SAID I was sick, right? So I took some naps, too. That was all very nice for a few days, but I am so glad to have been back out and about, and doing more things for a few days now. I got so stir-crazy that the minute I had fulfilled my doctor’s quarantine orders, I went over to my sister’s house and told my niece that I was so happy to be out and about and delighted to get to go somewhere. She asked me where I was going, and I said, “here! to your house.” She just looked at me like I was crazy! But, I WAS delighted to be there.
This week, I made a bathrobe for Malcolm. I used Simplicity S9214. There was enough extra for sleeves, the belt and facings for his little brother’s size, so I went back and purchased enough of the same fabric to make the body of the robe again, and am working on one for baby brother. Then, I will have no wasted fabric, or leftovers I don’t know what to do with.
I used a very plush, soft fabric, for the first time, in a garment. I had some struggles with it, but overcame them. Thankfully, bathrobes do not have a lot of intricate sewing–mostly straight lines.
We needed to run an errand one evening, so we drove around a little extra to see Christmas lights. This business was so decorated, and had Christmas music blaring over a loud-speaker, so we got out to look. There were all kinds of characters–everything from life-sized reindeer pulling a life-sized sleigh on the roof, to the Nativity scene with visitors ranging from Mickey Mouse to the shepherds and a 2-story marching toy soldier on the grass nearby. It was quite a bright display, and where I would likely never go quite that far in my decorating, Malcolm was so impressed that I could hardly get him back into the car.
We also saw many houses decorated nicely and we enjoyed our drive very much.
I cooked some brownies with some help. I wanted them festive, as part of them were for the gluten-free college-age kids. Instead of buying an entire package of Christmas M and M’s, I just picked the red and green ones out of a large container I was given. (I did pick the orange and yellow ones off while my helper wasn’t looking.). After baking, they were set to cool. My helper extraordinaire jumped up on his chair and grabbed the pepper shaker, and before I could stop him, he liberally peppered them! I sent the un-peppered part and kept the rest at home. I hope. I haven’t gotten any comments about my spicy brownie recipe, so they are either very polite, or I found it all and cut around it:)
Through the week, we ate quite simply, and mostly from food storage. I thawed 2 kinds of soup that had been made previously and we ate them as well as opening a jar of home-canned soup. I thawed some squash and that’s gone, as well. My aunt gave me some chili, and we enjoyed that, too. I experimented with some Asian lettuce wraps, using the last of the garden cabbage, and they were good. Rob made some fajita-like filling, using beef, home-grown onions and frozen garden peppers. He ate his in tortillas that needed to be used and I ate mine on some rice.
We used quite a few home-canned items. I can always tell how much we are drawing on that resource by how fast the “empty-jar” basket fills and how often I have to empty it and bring in more filled jars from the outside shop. I love being able to use my “fast food” at this time of year. I hope to get some more sewing done, as I haven’t been finding time for that lately.
I filled one yard-debris bin with clippings from the yard. I hope to get some dry days and fill it again this week.
My sister took me to lunch and to see a Christmas concert at a nearby university. I was surprised to find that the concert was free. It was lovely.
We are keeping Christmas gifts very simple this year, so we have more time for experiences. We hope to finish the last of the gift buying this week and check that off our list. Next week will be filled with kid-time, as we will work with our nephew and niece quite a few extra hours. I’m laying my plans for fun activities and games, and think everyone will have fun.
On Saturday, we took Malcolm up the Columbia River Gorge. First we stopped at Lewis and Clark park and let him run around and crunch leaves for quite some time.
We went further to the Bonneville Dam Fish Hatchery. This is the sturgeon viewing center. A gentleman told him to flap his arms and say “sturgie, sturgie, sturgie,” and the fish would come over. He did, and they did. He scrambled down from that little ledge as fast as he could. That fish was MUCH bigger than he expected. After that, though, he watched for a long, long time. It was fun.
There were small fish in there, too, and he liked the itty, bitty, baby fish, as well.
He fed the large trout in that pool. We only had 3 quarters on us, so could only get 3 small handfuls of food, but he seemed to enjoy it while it lasted.
He even saw Bigfoot!
The picnic was fun. We took bubbles and spent quite a bit of time running around trees and blowing bubbles.
There’s a lot of wind in that area, so they flew quite a ways. When we realized they were blowing right onto another family’s picnic, we stopped. Oops!
We toured Bonneville Dam as well. As you can see, he was getting pretty tired by this time, but he liked the firetruck outside as much as anything there.
And, why, may you ask, did we take a toddler on such a long car trip? It was because his auntie had a hair appointment in NE Portland and we agreed to be her transportation. That is quite a distance from where we live, so we decided to just stay up in the area, and have a good time with Mac. We dropped her off at 9:30 a.m. She was finally finished at 6 p.m. Her hair is now beautifully braided with extensions, as she likes to wear it. And to think she will get to do it all over again in 6-8 weeks. What a patient young lady!
Although we do not usually take her for these hair adventures, it turned out to be a really fun day and Malcolm did great! He’s still talking about those fish! For such a little child, he tolerated the long car ride very well.
Even with all those activities, we had a lot of time to kill, and spent a bunch of it in a traffic jam around Multnomah Falls. We had decided to take the scenic highway and clearly there were more people who wanted to visit the falls than there were parking spaces, so we all sat there for a long, long time. We didn’t actually decide to stop there, as it was so busy, but enjoyed a quick peek out the window. We’ve seen it many times and will have more chances some other time. We drove up to Crown Point, and looked down on the Columbia River. It was extremely windy up there.
I did a little more canning. These jars have layers of carrots, celery, onion, potatoes and hamburger. Then I pressure canned them using the longest processing time, which was for the hamburger. They will be quick dinners and used up some of those potatoes Rob got inexpensively.
I spent several short sessions picking all the tomatoes, green and red. I’ve pulled up almost all the vines and removed the cages from the garden. I also pulled most of the pepper plants. Several other veggies are gone now, too. Because my garden is so large, I cannot seem to find the time to do it all in one day, so I’ve been chipping away at it when I can. I also worked on a couple of raised beds and one flowerbed a time or two. They say the fall rains will begin this weekend, and our beautiful weather is going to be over, so I’ve been trying to get as much done as I can.
The week was full of lots of visitors, which translated into lots of cooking. On Monday, our son Anthony came over with Allison. Patsy, who has decided to move out and is living with friends, decided to come over for the afternoon. She did this twice this week. My mom and I spent a relaxing day on Friday.
I also cooked for the college-age group at church on Tuesday.
I cooked chili mac, a huge pot of chili for the kids, cornbread, brownies, turkey soup, turkey gravy over mashed potatoes, potato soup, enchilada casserole for myself and a friend with a death in the family, and more. I decided not to go shopping, but instead to use my pantry and freezers, and had plenty. I really utilized the turkey bits I had frozen a couple of weeks ago when I roasted one from last Thanksgiving time. The main substitution I had to make was to use powdered milk a couple of times instead of regular, as I ran low on that, but it all worked out. I had Rob pick up a gallon today, so that’s good now.
I wanted to clean out the fridge a little, and it’s finally looking a little more empty. It was just too crammed. I worry I will end up wasting food if I can’t find something, so periodically I refuse to shop until it clears out a bit.
I made a large batch of cupcakes and sent some over to a young family friend who had a birthday today. The rest I froze for future busy weeks.
We also enjoyed a bonfire hot dog roast with our Sunday School class on Friday night. Although we’ve only been working with these kids for a few months, this is a tradition they have done for quite a few years before Covid happened, so the children’s pastor wants to get it going again. A family puts it on at their farm. Other than Rob giving a short devotion and helping out a little here and there, we got to just enjoy ourselves and the kids. It was a beautiful evening and the kids all loved it.
This week, I was able to cook some really delicious meals. For one, I was able to make strawberry spinach salad twice, using the small handful of berries that ripened, along with the garden spinach. I have picked the outer leaves of the spinach 3 times, and we have consumed every single leaf. The bushes look decimated, but there are a few more leaves trying to grow yet again, so I gave them a shot of fertilizer and am hoping for at least one more picking before they go to seed.
Most of the meals this past week were based on one of the 10-lb bags of chicken Rob found last week. It was $2.90 for the entire bag. We had barbecued chicken. The drumsticks were marinated in teriyaki sauce. The thighs were bbq’d with seasoning salt and purposed into various meals, such as salads, sandwiches, pieces of chicken on a plate, etc. We also used a jar of our home-canned tuna in some meals, had lots of salads and veggies, and ate popcorn for several snacks.
Rob continues to eat veggies for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so I was delighted to pick more pac choi for him to stir-fry up for his breakfast scramble. I also picked quite a few more snow peas and lots of cilantro. We continue to buy other vegetables for him to eat. His weight is slowly creeping downward again–success!
I made a casserole with ham and broccoli. I got the recipe from a magazine. It’s not a favorite and I’m not sure why. But, there it sits in the fridge! The simple chocolate cornstarch pudding, on the other hand, is almost gone even though I made a double batch. One way we’ve been using part of that is in popsicles. Patsy is really enjoying the home-made fudge pops, as a change from her usual pear/raspberry popsicles that she eats by the handful.
Several of the nieces and nephews have birthdays at this time of year. We generally have one big party for all the cousins at once that have birthdays near one another.
This year is different, so we just celebrated Michaela, her sister, Caitlyn, and Patsy yesterday at a small party, with only the ones attending who have been in close contact the whole pandemic. I made a chocolate bundt cake for Patsy’s cake, Caitlyn got an ice cream cake, and Michaela had a white cake with white frosting and white filling with a picture of the Lion King on top for hers. It was so nice to be able to celebrate with the kids! (Patsy’s birthday is not for another week, but the other 2 girls has theirs this week).
I helped Rob fix a broken sprinkler in our watering system. He provided the know-how, bought the part, started the job and instructed me on how to crawl around down on the lawn and hook it up and set it! I’m so happy to have it fixed, and I love having a system to water for us without moving sprinklers. It cost much less to do it ourselves, but I would not have had the courage to do it without his excellent instructions, since I’m not mechanical.
I continued to weed and hoe in the garden. I’ve harvested what was ready and planted a few more seedlings in any extra space I can find. I put in a 25c packet of spinach seeds. It may be too late to get much from them, but it was worth a quarter to me to try.
We’ve given the front yard some attention, but more is needed to get it whipped into shape. I hope to get to some of that this coming week.
I spent a morning organizing Patsy’s school books from last year, and I listed them on e-bay and sold most of them yesterday. That money, after fees, will go straight into the bank since I’ve already purchased her new schoolwork. I spent some time organizing the new year’s work, and she has done 2 day’s worth of it, so she’s off to a good start. We will not do school every day since there is so much outside work to do, but will do some when there is time.
I was able to spend quite a bit of time cooking this week, and used up several food items that had been lurking around for some time. I made this quinoa salad. I have quite a bit of quinoa in my pantry, because it’s a good gluten-free choice, but truthfully, Lovana was the one who used it the most. Now that she’s in Hawaii, there it sat. I looked up several recipes, and mixed and matched ingredients to make a salad that sounded good to both Rob and I. I plan to put the recipe in my recipe section before long, but basically, it was quinoa, black beans, home-canned corn, green onion, lime, olive oil and cumin dressing, and some home-canned salsa from the cupboard.
I made home-made tomato soup from a jar of tomatoes I canned, 3 scraggly carrots left from last summer’s garden, some garlic, a little home-canned broth, salt, pepper, and 1/3 cup 1/2 and 1/2. Rob likes it, and it’s certainly low calorie, but I, myself, would rather have a little more dairy in there, so plan to put some milk in mine when I warm up a bowlful.
I used some masa flour from the pantry (I got 2 bags when Grocery Outlet had it for super, super cheap, what was I thinking? That is a lot of masa when you don’t make tamales!). I have a recipe for a Mexican pizza with a masa flour crust, which is why I got the masa in the first place. The crust has green onion, cumin and garlic powder in it, along with the masa, eggs, salt and water. You cook that for 10 minutes, then add refried black beans and cheese, and cook for 5 more. It’s really quick and easy. I chopped up a hamburger patty leftover from the birthday party we did not have on Sunday (rescheduled due to a sick child), and added that to use that up as well. The recipe calls for tomato, lettuce and avocado on top. We were in a huge hurry to get Patsy to an event, so we just ate it plain this time.
We ate several jars of home-canned fruit this week. We are finishing up a ham, and cut off pieces frequently for lunches, scrambling with eggs, topping our salads and so forth.
I went to Winco and purchased a few more salad ingredients, and a few items that I needed to make these recipes and to round out meals. I’m delighted, because I’m doing great staying within my lowered budget, and we are eating better than ever, and better yet, several items are getting used! I have been looking through old magazines for inspiration, and will do that again this coming week.
We will all be cooking a great deal this upcoming weekend, as my sister is heading up a formal dinner for the high school group at church. I am making a couple of items ahead, and got the final ingredients I needed for those. Rob will be pulling the big barbecue over there and doing appetizers, green beans, chicken and salmon on it. She has the bulk of the food at her house and we will cook most of it on Saturday, over there, where the event is being held. They already set up tables all over her living area, and the couches are all pushed back for that purpose. It’s going to be fun!
There were 2 occasions in the past week that we fed crowds. I’m sharing the menus in hopes of giving good ideas to those who need or want to feed large groups on a budget.
The first occasion was over at my sister’s house. She was hosting a high school gathering. There was no way to know if there would be 5 kids or 40. It was a bit of a challenge. She decided to serve salad bar, baked potato bar, fruit salad and ham. Her reasoning for these choices was to provide many, many options for the kids who needed to eat gluten-free, dairy free, or chose to be vegetarians. There are some of each in the youth group.
She got the hams and asked Rob to BBQ them the day before. She asked me to bring desserts. She cut and chopped, cooked and simmered the rest. It was all delicious.
In the end, there were about 20 people at the gathering, so there was too much food. (Better too much than too little–that’s our motto!) We were able to send the rest of the berry-apple crisp to an evening youth activity and they ate a bunch more of it there. We all ate salad for a couple of days afterwards, along with potatoes. She made a twice-baked potato casserole with some of them, using the cheese as well. She plans to freeze some of that, as an experiment to see how it freezes, for another day. We were both pleased. There was lots of food. The kids loved it. Everyone, no matter what their dietary needs, had plenty to eat. There was plenty of opportunity for them to visit with one another, then have their discussion/lesson. (By that time, I was long gone, with Jake in tow, so they could focus on the youth)
The second occasion this week was feeding the college-aged kids at church. There are several teams who rotate through with this project, so we have a turn about once a month. My niece, Alissa, is really enjoying being a part of this project. We are not only practicing her cooking skills, but are using it as part of her homeschool math. She has been figuring out budget, cost, helping shop and cook, and figuring out how much food is needed for “x” amount of people, etc.
We pulled out the big roaster oven this month. It was about 1/2 full of chili. I made the chili Sunday night, using soaked pinto beans from the huge 50 pound bag Rob got for such a low price a while back. There is a budget from the church for this project, so they bought hamburger and the rest of the ingredients. The chili was refrigerated and was very easy to put into the roaster yesterday, warmed and transported with no fuss.
Alissa wanted to make potato soup. We used 10 lbs of potatoes, celery, onion, milk and a tiny bit of sweet rice flour and filled 2 crock pots each 1/2 full. That way, neither pot, or the roasted sloshed over on the trip to the church. Rob put the crock pots in a box, wedged in with dish towels, and that helped, too.
Rob made cornbread from mixes. A large pan of regular, and a small pan of gluten-free were plenty for the job. We put out honey and butter. He shredded a brick of cheese and cut onions, to put in the chili, or the potato soup, as desired. It was desired. The entire 2-lb brick was consumed.
Alissa made 2 boxes of brownie mix, and added crushed peppermint to one of them. I made some pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins for the gluten-free people. I had previously made them, and froze them to make yesterday easier.
In the end, there was hearty chili with toppings, potato soup with cheese if desired, cornbread, muffins, brownies, and a veggie plate. Water is always the drink they put out for that group, and they always set up the tables and put out paper goods. When they move on to their singing/Bible study, we clean up and parcel out the leftovers, as is their practice for that group. We leave them in rows on the table, in little take-home cartons, baggies and bowls and the kids take them home for the next day’s lunch. It’s a really good system, I think. The attendance seems to pretty consistent, around 25–more or less, so it’s getting easier to plan for how much to cook each time.
This was a very low-cost meal. I shopped around, and got the best prices on the food items that were purchased, but did not need many expensive ingredients. Potato soup was very simple, and inexpensive, and they LOVED it! The chili was a hit, too, and the cornbread was almost gone. I bought very few veggies, and most of them were still there:). We are still getting a feel for what this group likes, as we have not been doing this for long, and I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s FOOD that they like:). They are so appreciative, say thank-you many times, and generally let us know over and over how much they like it—who wouldn’t want to cook for them? 🙂 They are a joy to feed.
This week, I was able to get enough tomatoes for both pasta/pizza sauce and taco/enchilada sauce. I’m super happy with the flavor of both. I was surprised with more cucumbers when I looked under the bushes that really look as if they are dying. So, I made more spicy pickles because I also found a couple more jalapeños and Serranos on those bushes.
One night I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes, white potatoes and acorn squash. They all turned out great. The Carnival acorn squash plant has been prolific and I just keep taking the biggest ones that look the most mature, and using them. This is the 3rd one we’ve eaten so far. There are quite a few left out there. Some probably won’t mature, but several will.
We have had chicken with plum sauce twice. Since I made a new batch, and there are enough prunes to do it again if I get around to it, I am glad that we are finding a way to use it in such a tasty fashion.
We are still eating zucchini, although I’m happy to report it has slowed down to a manageable level. It is nice to saute some zucchini with onion until just crisp-tender. This is an old picture, so it doesn’t show the yellow crookneck squash, or the scallopini squash or the round ball squash that came up from the few seeds I planted from a summer squash mixture in early August. The old plants are about done, and will probably die before long, so it will be nice to still have a fresh veggie when that happens for a few more weeks.
I had Eritrean food with Harnet one day. Danait was proud as can be of her bike-riding skills. The bike and helmet were birthday gifts back in June, and she has improved a lot. Since the only place she can ride is the parking lot of their apartment complex, there is a little routine they do, so I had to do it, too. It consists of her riding off quickly, with the grown-up chasing her, all the while looking for stray cars and cats (there might be one, you never know!). She was telling me they do it 3 times some days. I was done at one trip around their course:) It was a good workout. Lunch was great. I took a salad to add to the food Harnet cooked. Of course, she sent some home. This time it was the red lentils she likes to make and some rice with mixed vegetables in it. The girls here at home have been eating it as taco filling.
I got some pork cutlets on mark-down last week, so we used them this week. Rob grilled them after marinading them for a while in one of his concoctions. They were delicious. We ate lots of salad, piles of tomatoes, some canned and fresh fruit, a few potatoes, and some other side dishes. It’s going to be harder to plan dinner when the garden dies, but it’s still limping along for now. I’m glad. It’s an awesome time of year when I have so much fresh produce.
We had a wonderful get-away camping at the beach. Other than one sandwich Patsy and I grabbed at Subway, we cooked all our meals in the camper. We tried to keep things easy, except for a few special meals.
One morning, Patsy and I went down to the bay and we were able to get these Cockle clams. I turned them into the clam chowder pictured above. We have enough frozen for one more batch in the near future. It was our first time hunting for these kind of clams, and I got some extremely helpful advice from a man down on the beach, who showed us how to get them. You are supposed to rake them, but we did not have a rake, so we scraped our shovel along the sand, and Patsy was even raking through the wet sand with her fingers, and we found over 20 between the two of us. They seem to be found more frequently in places where the seaweed has been deposited by the tide.
We went crabbing off the docks in Newport twice. Thankfully, we found great parking spots that were very near the dock, and didn’t have to carry our gear very far. The first day, we got these two and the second time we got one Dungeness and kept a couple of Red Rock Crabs just to give us a little more meat. I had crab salad and just plain crab, and froze 2 small packages for the near future. Rob fished off the docks while we waited for him to pull up the traps, but caught nothing.
We did foil dinners in the fire one night. The meat, carrots and potatoes turned out great. The zucchini turned into mush. I threw it away. There were no takers for that one. I had picked every single tiny one before we left, hoping that they would not take over while we were gone.
The acorn squash turned out great!
The rest of the meals were salads, lunchmeat and cheese, corn from our garden, lots and lots of tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, and hamburgers one night for dinner. Breakfasts were eggs, sausage one day, cereal, and fruit. Most days, we threw some food into our little cooler and just ate out of that wherever we were when lunchtime came–dock, jetty, etc.
We had a great time, and ended up the week by purchasing tuna off the docks to can, It was an unusual menu compared to what we more commonly have at this time of year, but I love seafood and will remember for other times when we can’t catch anything. .