Thursday, February 24, 2011

Noodle Making

Over the weekend I made homemade egg noodles with Henry. They were really good. I would say that it is worth it for a special meal, since they tasted so good, although I didn't save any money and they are a good bit of work. I used this recipe. We served them with vodka sauce that we adapted quite a lot from a recipe that we found online. Here's our recipe:

4 slices bacon

1 T butter

1 onion

1 clove garlic

1 t. dried basil or 1 T. fresh, minced

1 can petite diced tomatoes

1 can tomato puree

1/2 cup vodka

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt and pepper to taste

Cook the bacon. Crumble and set aside. Reserve 1 T. bacon grease. In olive oil and bacon grease, cook the onion and the garlic clove until soft. Crush the garlic. Add the basil, tomatoes, tomato puree, and vodka. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. Add the cream and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pasta, and garnish with fresh parmesan and/or chopped fresh italian parsley.

We made half of the pasta recipe and it was enough for Craig, Henry and I for one meal. (Luke didn't want to eat homemade pasta since it "looked funny.") The sauce was enough for this meal and two more smallish servings as leftovers.
*Edited to add: This is NOT a very healthy recipe. I'm sure my readers know that. It is definitely going into our "special meals" file.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Henry's Catechism


"Everything is a machine. Humans are machines that God made. They are made out of organs and meat."


"I know what is wrong with Luke," (Luke is in his room screaming.) "God made Luke good, but Luke is choosing to be bad right now."


"I love nature! God made nature! It smells so good."



"God is everywhere! I'm walking through God right now! Isn't that weird?"

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Amazing Henry

He is amazingly cute, if not amazingly magical, but I can't get the darn video to upload.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinners and Such

I won't bore you with a photograph of my grocery haul this week--although, I must admit, I'm totally fascinated with such photos on other blogs--but suffice it to say that I tried really hard to keep my groceries to the bare minimum and the total was $130 and some change. Really, I must admit to myself that it is impossible to spend less than an average of $125 per week. I only have about $80 left for my last week in February (although I suppose if I continue to shop on Wednesdays that will leave me only 5 days) so I will report how that goes. I know that I could spend less, but my goal is to eat well and somewhat ethically on $125 per week.

Speaking of that phrase, somewhat ethically, I'll tell you what that means and how that has changed for me. Grocery shopping used to torment me, because I would question myself and my choices over and over again. Where should I shop? Is is better to buy the local but not organic produce at Kroger, or the organic produce from California? Is it better to use more gas to drive to four stores, or to spend a little more on the fair trade sugar from the regular store, or to just buy conventional sugar? My head would spin in circles, and I would feel guilty, and I would always spend too much money. So here is where I'm at now. The most important thing right now is for us to live within our means. So I only shop once per week at my regular old grocery store, and I buy the local milk and some organic produce. I try to go to Whole Foods or the winter farmers market for eggs and a few other local things as often as I can. And that is that.

Without further ado, here is the meal plan for the week:
Monday: roast chicken, potato gnocchi, broccoli
Tuesday: lentil soup, crusty bread with brie
Wednesday: pasta with homemade marinara, leftover chicken
Thursday: chili, salad
Friday: pizza
Saturday: homemade pasta with vodka sauce
Sunday: leftovers and/or burritos (we often use up leftovers in burritos, too)

Stay tuned, because later today I'll try to post something exciting: Henry performing a magic trick!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

I made roasted chicken, potato gnocchi with marinara, and broccolli for dinner. I bought a bottle of wine. I made a homemade card. And then, in a fit of anger, I crumpled the card and threw it away. I wonder why Luke has problems with his temper? I'm glad Craig is so patient. He might not remember to bring me a valentine every year, but he is always gracious and forgiving. I would say that is a pretty good gift any time of the year.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Groceries/Meals

The budget/recipe posts seem to be popular--just be quiet Peter and Craig--so I'm going to keep these up a few times a week. I'm a bit late here, but I figured I would post my groceries and menus for the week. I won't bore you with listing all of what I bought, but here are a few things to note: I found a box of 56 diapers marked down to $4.99. I had to buy the kids their beloved gummi vitamins. I bought conventional chicken breasts, but I continue to stick with my local, wonderful milk from Snowville Creamery. I still buy breakfast cereal because it is quick and easy and Luke doesn't like any other breakfast foods except toast and blueberry muffins. I make most of our bread but buy tortillas and Arnold bagel thins, again because my picky Luke loves me to make pizza bagels for his lunchbox out of these. We eat a lot of produce. The total was $125.34, which is right what I aim for most weeks.

This week's meals:

Monday: make your own burritos again (we eat this a lot)

Tuesday: seared chicken breasts, homemade mac and cheese, and roasted brussel sprouts

Wednesday: baked potatoes with toppings (leftover mexican stuff plus curried greens and chickpeas)

Thursday: chicken pot pie (with leftover chicken)

Friday: homemade cheese pizza

Saturday: dal, rice, leftover curried greens or whatever else Craig wants to make

Sunday: fritatta, oven roasted potatoes

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Probably


It probably isn't a good idea to try to make homemade valentines with your two oldest children while your baby is awake. If you do, it probably isn't a good idea to give the baby one of the valentine lollipops so that he will quit crying and tugging on your leg. If you do, it probably isn't a good idea to let him run off to entertain himself doing who knows what (which, it turns out, will probably be drooling lollipop goo on your keyboard).

Because if you do all that, you will probably spend much, much more time cleaning the keyboard and bathing the baby than you did working on valentines.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Adventures in Pierogi Making


I'm one quarter polish. My mother's maiden name was Kowalewski. As I was growing up, we never did much to celebrate that heritage, although there are tales of my great grandmother's duck blood soup. I remember eating saurkraut once at my grandparent's house. My grandfather went on a trip to Poland when I was growing up and I heard stories about that.

Luke is a notoriously picky eater, so imagine my surprise when, two years ago, he declared my friend Tracy's homemade pierogis one of his favorite foods ever. Perhaps it was his Polish genes claiming the most stereotypically Polish food. Finally, two years later, I decided to try making pierogi myself. I was scheduled to make potato gnocci for dinner to go along with Craig's scallops over the weekend, but I had a surplus of cauliflower sitting around, and figured I could get away with hiding it inside pierogi. The kids were up at 6 am on Saturday morning, so I needed something to fill the hours, and figured pierogi making would fit the bill. As I began mixing up the dough, I had visions of becoming a piergi maker extraordinaire, honoring my Polish heritage, making pierogi for holidays and, eventually, my grandchildren.

Two hours later I decided I was in over my head and woke Craig up to care for the kids. Let's just say that it was a bit of work, and it wasn't happening with Luke and Henry wrestling on the ground beside me while Silas tugged on my leg and cried. I used this recipe for the dough. I used the vegetable oil in the dough as opposed to melted butter since Silas is allergic to dairy. For the filling I sauteed one chopped onion and two cloves of garlic in a good bit of earth balance (I would use butter if it weren't for Silas) and threw in a couple of cups of cooked cauliflower at the end. I seasoned heavily with salt and pepper, and once it was good and soft I threw it all in the food processor. I microwaved three good sized russet potatoes and, once they were cool, I peeled and chunked them. I threw them into the food processor and pulsed just until it was all smooth. This can get gummy if you overprocess.

I thought they turned out really good, and my family liked them quite a bit. I don't think this will be a weekly recipe or anything, but I might try to make these three or four times a year.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Randomness


An anonymous someone asked for the soft pretzel recipe in the comments. Here is a good one, although I have used several others, too. The key is boiling the pretzels in the baking soda water solution before baking at a high temperature. This time I left some unadorned and after baking I brushed them with melted butter and then rolled them in cinnamon sugar. Those were really good, too. They are all gone now. Some recipes call for only a hot soda water bath before baking. Don't succumb to the temptation to take this easier route. I've done it twice and they are never nearly as good.

The weather is beautiful today--30 degrees and sunny--but it is so darn icy out that I don't know if I can take the kids outdoors. Luke has been home all week with a fever--sick enough to miss school but not too sick to harass me endlessly for television and video games and cool beverages--and I'm really feeling cooped up right now. That might or might not be why all the cinnamon sugar pretzels that I baked two days ago are now gone. Ahem.

I've been thinking about the fact that some items are cheaper to make and some are cheaper to buy. That won't always be how I determine whether or not to make something from scratch, but sometimes I want to figure out the cheapest alternative. For example, I've been avoiding buying vanilla lately because it is so expensive. My friend Tracy told me that I could make it from vanilla beans and vodka, but I'm wondering how cost effective that will be. I know I can order cheap vanilla beans online, but does it turn out good if I use cheap vodka? I've been trying to figure it out with almond butter, too. I can buy almond butter for $5 per jar at Trader Joe's, but I have been thinking about making it, as I've done from time to time. After looking at almonds, I think that it is probably more cost effective (and less work) to buy it. Making bread might not be much cheaper, but it tastes really good so it is worth it. It is definitely the way to go with bagels and soft pretzels in terms of cost. What do you think? What are the things you make at home that you used to buy? Do you make them for taste, quality, savings?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

This Week's Menus

Okay, I know there are a few of you who are interested in this, so I'm posting my menus for this week. Sorry for the boring posts and lack of pictures so far this week. I'll get on that as soon as SOMEONE around here goes to school--anyone!--because between Luke being sick and the midwestern weather event happening, I've got a lot of little boys around here. At least we still have power, which is more than a lot of people around here.

Monday: Cornbread (that Luke made) and tomato florentine soup
Tuesday: Roast chicken and winter vegetables
Wednesday: Bean soup and homemade soft pretzels
Thursday: Make your own burritos with beans, rice, leftover chicken, and the fixin's
Friday: Pizza night (every Friday, but we rotate homemade, frozen and takeout)
Saturday: Scallops with bacon, potato gnocchi (Craig's menu)
Sunday: Leftovers or nachos

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Cash Budget Update

So I spent about $100 extra beyond what we had budgeted with the cash last month, but overall, we saved--and I'm rather mortified to admit this--$1000. Yes, you read that right. Our average credit card bill has generally been $1000 more than what we spent in cash during the month of January. We'll see if we can continue this trend. I don't believe that we were living extravagantly at all, but we were going out to eat and buying "stuff" and doing a lot more activities that cost money than we are doing now. Here are some observations and anecdotes about my experience with a limited cash budget for one month:

We have done much better eating up leftovers. Although we have always been good about this, I have been more likely to use every last bit of everything.

I really think a lot more about my purchases. Do I really need ice cream? Does Luke really need to eat strawberries--his favorite--when they are out of season? (It was hard to lecture him about "eating locally and seasonally" but it is easy to say, "I don't have $5 extra dollars in my wallet.) I have been wanting skinny jeans that I can tuck into my winter boots easily, and I didn't buy them until I found some for $3 at a local thrift store.

I've always been a meal planner, but continuing this habit more strictly has been so helpful. I now plan six to seven meals a week (as opposed to five) and only go to the store once per week. No more little runs to the store, as these always add up.

On the second to last day of January I went to Target for diapers, vacuum bags, a couple of snacky-type items (some of these are cheaper at Target) and wine. I had just barely enough money, and I was adding things up in my head as I shopped. At the register, I was 99 cents short and had to ask Luke, in front of the cashier, if I could borrow the ten dimes I knew he had in his pocket. Now, I could have just charged it and saved myself the shame, but I didn't. I'm sure the woman was thinking, "Just put the wine back, lady!"

Onward into February! I'm glad it is a short month. Maybe I can afford more wine.