Friday, October 28, 2011

31 Days: Day 28 - The beginning of the end

Who am I kidding with all this organizing and home improvement stuff? I'd rather cook all day. And not clean up the mess. That's the truth. And who cares anyway? It's not like I have advertisers to please. I don't even have that many readers to please...uh, what was I saying?

Oh, yeah, this morning I had a break down. An all-out, kicking, screaming, cussing, all alone in my closet break down. I was trying to go through some old t-shirts of Elliott's and asking myself why I have held on to so many of them for so long. There is no way I could trace my thought process on that one. Useful material? A t-shirt quilt in the future? Sentimental reasons? Who knows. Then, I heard my girls in the living room, screaming at each other for the 85th time this week and I lost it. For the most part, they get along, but lately the fighting has driven me to the brink. I had my break down, counted to 10, collected myself and emerged looking like a stepford wife. In an eerily calm voice, I told the girls that we would not be having any more fun today and that as soon as the house was cleaned, we would start school and not stop until we were done. We finished cleaning around lunch time so I decided to make myself a respectable lunch. (Anna made lunch for herself and her sisters) While taking pictures. It's not really interesting enough to post about, but I needed something.

This is the basil plant that sits on my kitchen window sill. It's done pretty well since I've had it, but the cooler temps have made it start to look a little anemic. I think Basil likes it hot, hot, hot. 

So I put him out of his misery and decided to make a batch of pesto. Normally, I'm really chintzy with my basil. I'm afraid to take too many leaves at one time for fear that I'll kill it. So I just take a couple of leaves from different spots now and then to add to dishes. Today, I stripped it down like an ATF agent. I would guess I only got a cup and a half of basil, but I didn't need much to make a small batch of pesto. I threw it into my food processor and started adding the rest of the stuff. 

Did I mention I'm doing the cheap, lazy girl's pesto? Well, I am. I threw in some walnuts because who can afford pine nuts? 

Next comes the freshly grated parmigiano reggiano. What? You don't have that laying around? Just grab a container of non-refrigerated, wal-mart brand grated parmesan cheese. And if you're Italian, or if you know someone who is Italian, or if you just empathize with Italians, I'm sorry if canned parmesan cheese is a sacrilege. It's all I had.

Now we take some garlic. You should be impressed because I have a jar of grated garlic in the fridge that I could've used, but it's a little too juicy and grated too small so I decided to use the fresh stuff.

I ended up only using 2 cloves. That was plenty.

Next, we bind it all together with the finest extra-virgin olive oil picked by virgins in the most breathtakingly beautiful region of Sicily. No, we take our plastic bottle of H-E-B brand olive oil and pour in about 1/4 cup. You can always add more later.

Now would be a good time to set your oven to 425 degrees. 

With all of your ingredients in the food processor, hit pulse until it's got a pesto-like consistency and you're done.

Isn't it pretty. I think even cheap pesto is beautiful.

Now, did you think I was going to just eat this pesto by the spoonful? Well, that's not an unrealistic thought, but I needed to eat some veggies today. And I got some late season squash from the farm store yesterday so the timing was perfect.

I washed and cut up my squash. Threw in an onion leftover from the girl's lunch and sprinkled it with kosher salt and pepper.

Put that in the oven and wait until you can smell it. When it looks good enough to eat, take it out and smother it with your freshly made pesto.

 Bon apetit, ya'll. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

31 Days: Day27 - A fall recipe

Yesterday the forecast called for cooler temps in the evening and since it's been a little warm for the past week or so, I decided that in honor of it getting cold again (hopefully this time for good) I'd make a nice fallish dish. I made a Garlic Root Roast several years ago for Thanksgiving and it was a hit. It's pretty healthy so knowing I could eat as much of it as I wanted helped steer me away from the hominy casserole and crescent rolls.

These are the ingredients (minus the onion, they didn't make it in time for the picture). There's carrots, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, rutabagas, garlic and some rosemary and sage. Except for the herbs, do you notice a theme?

First, start with a large roasting pan. Put it in the oven and set it to 450 degrees. 

Then, prep your veggies. I happen to love this step. When it comes to prepping veggies, I am a machine! Once you peel and chop everything into chunks, mince your herbs. By this time, your oven should be preheated. Take out your roasting pan with oven mitts on (we can't forget we just heated that pan to 450 degrees!)(oh, believe me, it could happen) and coat with half the olive oil called for. Then, dump your veggies and herbs into the pan and stir them around to coat them with the oil.

Next, cover the whole thing with a tight fitting lid or aluminum foil. I would suggest using the heavy duty stuff even though my children left me with the cheap stuff. It came from the dollar store and it's about the thickness of saran wrap. It worked, though, so if you don't have the heavy duty stuff don't sweat it.

Put it in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and roast for another 15 to 20 minutes. And prepare for your house to smell like Thanksgiving. This dish just requires a little salt and pepper to taste and it's ready to eat. 

See all those brown, crusty bits underneath? Those are yummy bits of carmelized veggie goodness!

Doesn't that look scrumptious?!?

Well, let me tell you, it is! Enjoy!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

31 Days: Day 26 - Another crafty project

I'm going a little crazy around here. My time is short, so I've been looking around my house for quick, easy projects I can do in a couple of hours, while photographing the process and then blogging about it. Ugh. I'm tired of it. I have made a switch in my head, though. I feel like after this series is over, I'll want to tackle some of the bigger spaces without feeling the pressure of having to get it done and posted the next day. An organizing house is on it's way!

Today, I thought I'd post about a project I did a few weeks ago that isn't quite done yet, but is on it's way.

I saw this on Pinterest a while back and fell in love. It's from the crafting chicks website, which I also love.

Mine came together pretty much like theirs did except for one little detail. The day I decided to work on it, I went to the hardware store in my small town to get some E6000. They didn't have any and I didn't want to go to trek all the way to Abilene so I settled for some other adhesive that I thought would surely work. Not so. I'll have to see for myself if E6000 lives up to the hype, but so far, the other stuff doesn't cut it. 

I didn't take pictures of the cake tins, but you'll see them in the final pic. They were around 50 cents a piece from Goodwill. The brass candle sticks were around a dollar a piece and I already had the spray paint.

Here's how they turned out after my first go.

And here's how I modified it after the glue I used didn't hold up.

I only ended up using 2 of the 3 tins I had and 1 of the 3 candle sticks so I think I'll work with them and find something that I can live with and that's durable enough to hold up in my house.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days: Day 25 - The island cabinet

When we built our house, we put an island in the middle of the kitchen. I love having that big work space right in the middle of all the cooking action. It really comes in handy. 

Under that work space is a set of deep drawers and a rather large cabinet. I have found plenty of uses for the drawers since I have a little bit of a gadget obsession. The cabinet, however, has stumped me since day one. I started off by putting my trash can in there. Then, the trash can got moved to the outside, up against the side and there it has stayed. And then the space quickly filled up with cleaning supplies and other stuff from last minute cleaning stashes.

Isn't it cavernous? Actually, right now, it looks like a cavernous landfill.

This morning, while getting ready for coffee, I took all that crap out, went through it, and put things where they belong. 

And then it looked like this.

And now, it looks like this. 

 Don't you dare try to move my trash can out of this spot! 

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Monday, October 24, 2011

31 Days: Day 24 - The dryer

I have a problem. And I've had it as long as I can remember. Horizontal surfaces. They kill me. I've always been a stacker (not to be confused with 'slacker') and as long as there are horizontal surfaces around me, I will organize and stack things. They may be neat stacks, but they are still stacks and stacks, generally, are not really that attractive. I love the saying "A place for everything and everything in its place" but my problem is that I've never had a place for everything. If I don't know what to do with something, I'll just stack it up with everything else I don't know what to do with yet and at least I'll have a neat stack until I have something better. The problem with that system is that stacks don't stay neat. They get toppled and scattered and more things added to them until they look like the innards of a file cabinet strewn across a counter, or in this case, a dryer.

This is how my dryer has looked for at least a year. Actually, let's say 2 years so I won't feel dishonest.  It's just a hodgepodge of things that I haven't known what to do with and this morning, while doing laundry, I decided to fix it. Most of it went straight to the trash, the rest of it I will file. In a real filing cabinet. A few things were drawings that needed to go into my kid's individual 'stuff to keep' boxes and one thing, that I almost threw away, was something my husband's been looking for, for a while. All this time, I thought it was something else, so it was the first thing I started to pitch.

 It's the stuff we needed the night that Elliott got an award for "I Loved Her First". The parking pass, table assignment, wrist bands, etc. Elliott's been asking where it is so he can put it in his music scrap book, and I've been telling him, "It's around here somewhere." For a couple of years after this particular awards night, we've gotten invitations to the same event and for some reason, I've held onto them. I know that sounds crazy, we had no intention of going so why would I keep them? Well, they weren't just your everyday invitations. One of them was an actual vinyl record with some country song on it and the invitation specifics were printed on the label. I just couldn't throw it away. Anyway, I thought this packet was that invitation. I almost threw it in the trash without even opening it. And this would have been totally unlike me. So I will give my husband this packet when he gets home from work today and he will again remind me that I need to get started on that music scrapbook he's been wanting me to start.

Here's how disgusting it looked when I cleared off all the junk.

And here's how beautiful it looks now.

And as a reward for that little project, I think I'll just stare at this picture for a while and be thankful for my handsome and talented husband. ;)

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

31 Days: Day 22 - Let's do some easy cooking

I don't know about you, but I need a break from all this purging and organizing. Let's do some cooking, shall we? Actually, it's pizza so there's not really any cooking involved. Just baking, and if you want to get technical, it's really just warming.

I have been on an on-again-off-again diet of sorts since August of 2010. I don't like to call it a diet because the very word seems temporary and what I set out to do was something I wanted to be permanent. In a nutshell, I cut way back on carbs, sugar, and processed foods. For the most part, it's been pretty easy, but sometimes, when my family asks for pizza, I get weak in the knees. I've always loved pizza. And I never considered it to be bad for me because I love it loaded with every kind of veggie you can imagine. I think my downfall may have been eating too many pieces and volunteering to eat all the crusts no one wanted. I feel bloated just thinking about it.

One day, while grocery shopping, I noticed a product I'd never seen before in the bakery section. It's a bread product called Flat Out Flatbread. What got my attention was the claim at the bottom of the package that it makes "Amazing Pizza!" So I picked it up and turned it over to find the carb count. This bread is 100% whole wheat and it also has flax in it. I can't remember now what the carb count was, but because it has so much fiber in it, it only has 8 net carbs. Sitting next to the Flat Out on the shelf were Joseph's Flax Oat Bran and Whole Wheat Pita Bread. Also low in net carbs.

I threw a couple of packages in my cart and proceeded to find the rest of the ingredients I needed. "I'm havin' pizza tonight!" (Said like Bruce in Finding Nemo) 

I gathered up my ingredients, laid them all out and told everyone to make their own pizza. I gave the kids the pitas and Elliott and I took the flatbread. I assume everyone here knows how to make pizza. Usually, the most complicated part is the dough. Since we already have that part covered, the rest is pretty easy. 

Here's the ones I made for Elliott and me.

And the one's the kids made.

Normally I wouldn't buy any kind of low carb bread or tortilla product because they tend to taste gummy, but I gotta tell ya, once they were baked in the oven, they got crispy and made for a pretty good stand-in pizza base.

The great thing my husband and I noticed was that we couldn't eat as much as we normally can. There's so much fiber, you fill up quicker. And even when I did eat until I was full, I didn't have that heavy feeling and I wasn't unquenchably thirsty the rest of the evening.

The kids just thought they were eating pizza. Now that's saying something! 


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Friday, October 21, 2011

31 Days: Day 21 - The freezer continued

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I think the same can be said of the freezer. 

The second part of my freezer clean-out involves the upper drawer. If the bottom part is hell, then the upper drawer is purgatory. It's shallow, so I can see everything that's in there so I'm pretty good about rotating it, but still, you never know. In fact, I found a ziploc bag of leftover chicken thighs that were unappetizingly monochromatic. Not sure when they first entered. In fact, it took a second for me to figure out what I was even looking at.

Here's a rundown of the poor, wasted-away souls I found.

Sorry it's so small. Click to see.

Here's the finished product. I threw so much stuff out, that I could fit everything in purgatory the top drawer. I'll probably start keeping things I use more often like bread, lunch meat and frozen juice in there. Before, I had to keep those kinds of things in the big freezer in the laundry room. And believe me, that's a job for another day.Sometimes my depression era ideas get put in the purgatory drawer because they have a slim chance of actually being used, but I don't know anyone who actually froze and then later reheated and served leftover pancakes. Oh, well, it's the thought that counts, right?

The bottom drawer

The top drawer

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days: Day 20 - The freezer

The seasonal clothing exchange is still going on. I'll give you an update as soon as I have one. ;)

Today, though, we're moving on to something a little easier because yesterday was a teensy bit overwhelming. Today I'm starting to clean out my freezer. I say 'starting' because I have to work in little blocks of time. My girls are at a friend's house helping with a project and I've got just enough time to work on part of my freezer. The part I'm working on today is the actual belly of the beast. The inner sanctuary or the depths of hell, whichever way you want to look at it. 

This is where food goes to die. Actually, this is where I put food that I have no intention of ever touching again. Don't worry, it's not intentional, just something I'm not willing to candy-coat anymore. It's what I do. I keep things so I can continue to call myself thrifty, resourceful and frugal, but the truth is, I stick stuff in there because I can't bear to throw it out...just yet.

Some examples of my madness:

Leftover crusts and heels of bread that could be turned into yummy croutons. Really?!? Am I currently living in the depression? I don't even eat bread anymore.

Frozen corn. Another thing I don't eat anymore.

The great banana stock-up of October 2008. Maybe I was planning on having a giant smoothie party.

And apparently, at some point, I didn't even bother to prep the bananas, I just threw them in whole. Banana mummies, anyone?

Coconut shrimp. Was it so delicious, I had to give my family a future night of it? No, I was the only one who liked it, thus the large amount leftover. Why couldn't I just call it a fail and throw it out? Also, not eating spaghetti anymore.

Tomato juice leftover from canning tomatoes. It's basically tomato-flavored water. What could I possibly do with it? Obviously, I haven't come up with the answer to that, either.

There was a time when my dad was getting medication in the mail that needed to be refrigerated. My mom gave me all these cold packs because, evidently, she had a hard time with the thought of throwing them away, also. Why am I keeping them? To pack in my children's lunches, of course. My now home-schooled children? I think it's time for them to go. I may keep one.

This next one is not for the faint of heart. I don't mean to startle you, but I literally found 3 different bags like this. And I'm not collecting dead birds, I'm being a good mom by telling my son I'd be happy to prepare the dove he just shot in the backyard. Only problem is, who cooks 3 or 4 dove at a time? They're like chicken wings, in my book. They just aren't worth it. And he is onto bigger game, now. I think I'm safe to get rid of these.

Here are a couple of things I found as evidence that I've passed this madness on to my children.

A cut up apple and an ice cream sandwich with one bite out of it. I guess they just didn't feel like eating it at the moment. And this is where mom puts things to suspend them in time so that's what we'll do.

Glow sticks. This one is kind of endearing because I did this as a child and I don't remember who told me to do it. I remember getting home from a trip to Six Flags and putting my glow stick in the freezer so it would keep forever. It did keep forever, it just never glowed again. The funny thing is, I don't remember telling my kids to put these in the freezer. Maybe it's instinct.

And here's the drawer empty and ready to be scrubbed. Haven't started that yet, but since I threw out almost everything in there, it can wait until this afternoon.

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