Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Leftovers - POTATO CORN CHOWDER

A great way to minimize your grocery budget is to have leftovers. I know, I KNOW... that doesn't sound very appetizing... but it CAN be!

Last night we had "Breakfast For Dinner" which was corn on the cob, bacon, hash browns and an omelet made with eggs, roasted asparagus, spring onions and cheddar cheese. It was great last night and too much for two people to eat in one night. I've been working my way through my Friday CSA box and decided to work the asparagus and spring onions into the meal. Even while I was making this meal, I was thinking, "How can I use leftovers for this meal to make something totally yummy, inexpensive and make it seem like it WASN'T leftovers. You guys have that problem too? "We don't want to eat that AGAIN...!"



Our Friday CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Box From Rutiz Farm

Now it's Tuesday and I'll let you in on what I came up with from last nights dinner. We ate up the omelet and gave the few bits of those leftovers back to our hens. I put the leftover hashbrowns, corn OFF the cob, leftover cooked bacon and the remaining two spring onions chopped up into a container. Potato Corn Chowder! I started the crockpot around 12 PM on low setting with a quart of chicken broth. (Dollar Tree has it for $1!!) In went the dinner leftovers along with a can of corn and two quarts of my home canned russet potatoes. That cooked most of the day on low and towards 5:30, I added in about 3/4 cup of cream, a little garlic powder and dried chives and a little mixture in a bowl to thicken.

This was an AWESOME dinner, making so much I know we will be having it again this week paired with a sandwich for lunch. We topped ours with bacon bits and grated cheddar cheese.
BAM!  







POTATO CORN CHOWDER

Into the crockpot put the leftover hash brown potatoes, corn OFF the 2 cobs, 8 pieces of bacon, crumbled, can of corn, 2 quarts of canned potatoes (of fresh peeled and cubed about 4 to 5) 2 scallions chopped and container of chicken broth. Cook on low for 5 hours. Turn to high and cook for another 1/2 hour. Add heavy whipping cream, herbs and spices and thickening mixture and cook another 1/2 hour on high. 

Ladle into bowls and top with a heaping spoon full of grated cheddar cheese and some bacon bits. ENJOY!

In case you were wondering, this Crockpot is my FAVORITE!


LEFTOVERS

2 Cups hash brown potatoes

2 Cobs corn
8 pcs Bacon (About half of a package)

COMMUNITY GARDEN / FARM CSA / FARMERS MKT.


1- 15.5 oz can Canned Corn (bought at Costco in bulk, could be bought and Canned in season)
2- QTS Potatoes (We bought 50 lbs and canned them in quarts. You could use fresh peeled and cubed and add at beginning of cook time)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Chives, dehydrated, fresh
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Garlic, dehydrated and powdered, or garlic powder

ON THE CHEAP

1 Qt. Chicken Broth (Dollar Tree for $1)
Cheddar Cheese (Bulk, Broken down and vacuum sealed)
Flour (Bought Bulk)

FROM STORE, UNLESS YOU HAVE A COW (wink, wink)

3/4 C. Heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

SUGGESTED HERBS   

1/4 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp dried chives


THICKENER

2 TBSP AP Flour

2 TBSP Unsalted Butter

Mix together in a separate bowl until almost powdery appearance. Add a ladle to a ladle and a half of hot soup and mix until thickened. Add this mixture back into the crockpot.

*COULD ALSO MAKE UP MAGIC MIX AND USE THAT TO THICKEN SOUP*





Sunday, April 2, 2017

Thankful Sunday





What are you thankful for this week? Oh my GOSH, there are so many things to be thankful for I hope you at least can find a hand full!

We are having the BEST weather here on the beach, lots of sunshine and gentle sea breezes. We made it over to our community garden to take out the old and put in the new. Out came the winter kale, collards, turnips, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and spinach. We replaced it with 2 kinds of baby potatoes, tomatoes, shelling peas, scallions, radishes, carrots, strawberries and leeks. We have a few empty spaces that will be planted over the next couple of weeks.


And everything is in bloom! Lilacs, Lavender, Wisteria, our berries, Daylilies, fruit trees and more!








One of the most interesting things that happened this week was a "magical" call from my  oral surgeon Dr. Janette in San Luis Obispo that I HIGHLY recommend if you are looking for someone. I had a tooth removed last October and it was going to be replaced with an implant. Only thing was, he didn't want to see me for 6 months after the extraction to allow the gum and bone to heal. That would end up being the middle of April, after our official retirement date of April 1, 2017. We tried to talk him into it sooner telling him our insurance was going to run out but he said we didn't want to rush this and indeed, that is true. For the best outcome we decided to do what he said and come back on our appointment date. Meanwhile, I had another appointment with my regular dentist in February and he said he thought everything was healed fine and I should call the oral surgeon and set something up earlier. Again I decided to do as I were told. With our dental insurance changing April 1, we would be having to pay more of the deductible amounts making this "fix" pretty expensive. Then my oral surgeons office called out of the blue on March 28th asking if I could make a consult appointment on the 29th. Of course! I'm thinking maybe, just maybe he could get this part completed while we are still on our old, and good insurance! So he said my gum was ready and he could squeeze me in on Friday the 31st! HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!! I sat in that chair more thankful than you can ever imagine!  I paid that day for my portion of the work and the implant was completed perfectly on March 31. I can only believe that things happen for a reason in God's perfect timing.


 No, its not a painting, its the view out his patient waiting room!! Gorgeous and relaxing huh?




My Birthday is April 1st. Yes, I could have the implant or I could eat a big dinner out followed by cake and the works. It was worth it to me to just wait on the Birthday part a bit longer. I am thankful he got me in before the new insurance and whether that was really accidental or not, I don't care! Today I'm sporting a pretty good bruise on my cheek and one on my arm from the general anesthesia and I don't care about that either. I am one thankful girl!! I feel like I got the biggest Birthday present EVER by being able to save so much money.

For my Birthday this year I didn't request a bunch of "stuff". I wanted a sweet little bedroom put back together again in my home. This little bedroom has been in storage now for maybe 5 or 6 years. We move the furniture so my daughter and her little family could come home for a while and when they moved, we just took our darn sweet time to get everything back over here. Now that we are retired, we have more time and less money so we're hoping to downsize the storage shed enough to get a smaller one or maybe eventually, none at all. This little bedroom was the start. So bright and early on Saturday morning, my kids and their spouses came over to haul things to and from our storage shed and brought over all the pieces so we could put the room back together once again. I am overjoyed!! That little room made me so happy! I'll be sharing some pictures when I get it just right.

I think I'm even thankful for being able to eat all things cold and soft like yogurt, popsicles, smoothies and fruit. My family is taking good care of me and allowing me to rest and recover and it won't be long before I'm able to eat like normal. Then I'm really going to celebrate!! 

Sunday is a good day to reflect on your week, looking for those times you were blessed. Saying thank you to our Creator for all that is going on in our lives, both good and even the things we think are bad. Be thankful everyday!!






Saturday, March 25, 2017

What's For Dinner This Week... March 17-23

Friday  3/17
Winner, Winner Taco Dinner




This is a good little meal for two. The quantity of taco meat will actually make several meals for us. I had 1 taco and Wes had 3 tonight so 4 tacos total. We like coming up with meals that we will be able to make in the future with our own garden produce. Grow what you eat!! Tonight, 2 tomatoes and 1 head of lettuce was $1.35. And we have enough left over to do a nice salad in the upcoming week. The chicken came from Costco in 2 breast packages which is perfect for the two of us. The taco shells were a pack of 10! Very economical and tasty! 


You will need:


  • 1/2 Cup  Shredded Mild Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Cup      Shredded Lettuce
  • 1             Roma Tomato Cut up
  • 4             Stand & Stuff Taco Shells (Old El Paso)
  • Chicken Taco Filling (recipe follows)
  • Other ideas for toppings: sliced avocado, sour cream, hot sauce or ranch dressing, olives, rice, beans, corn, the sky's the limit!


Chicken Taco Filling


2 chicken breasts

1 jar (15.5 oz) Tostitos Mild Chunky Salsa
1/2 packet of McCormick Original Taco Seasoning
Pour Salsa in to bottom of small crockpot. Add 1/2 packet of Original Taco Seasoning from McCormick and stir together with salsa. Put the raw chicken breasts on top of salsa mixture and use a spoon to spoon a bit of the sauce over the breasts while they are cooking to keep them moist. Cook on High for 3 hours, low for 6. Shred with a couple of forks. We like to have our chicken a little chunky rather than totally shredded.

Saturday 3/18


Using our leftovers in a NEW way.... Chicken Taco Salad





What it includes... our chicken taco meat from yesterday, sliced black olives, cilantro lime rice, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, hominy and shredded cheese and just a few salty chips. YUM! You could also add guacamole, sour cream and salsa if you wanted.





Sunday 3/19


St. Patty's Two Days Late

You will need: 


  • 3-5 lb. corned beef brisket (flat cut if they have it)
  • 1 head cabbage, cut in wedges
  • 2 cups baby carrots
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 (12 oz) bottle dark beer
  • 1 stick butter, cut in slices
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 3 lbs baby red potatoes, BOILED
  • (please visit site below to see how it is made)


We wanted to devote some time to making the corned beef since it is the first time making it on the Traeger Grill. The recipe is HERE, and if you want to see the video, it is HERE and YES, ours turned out just like that!! So good you guys. Remember if you make it this way, the red potatoes need to be boiled BEFORE you put them in with the brisket.





We LOVE making sandwiches with the leftovers and even breakfast hash if there is enough. Yum, Yum!

MONDAY 3/20


We went out for a quick dinner with our daughter tonight. I had the soup of the day, Pasta Fagioli and an iced tea. (I like soup but this one missed the mark quite a bit. Way too much broth and not nearly enough "stuff" in it. It had little bits of Italian sausage, carrots, onion, garlic, macaroni noodles, a LOT of broth and I think that was it. Price? $4.39 for that little bowl! I'm feeling bad now because I could have literally made enough for 6 to 8 people with that money. Live and learn people, live and learn.....






TUESDAY 3/21


Leftover Corned Beef. This will be the last meal of this. Today its being sliced sliver thin for sandwiches for the week. I made a few new carrots and we had leftover boiled potatoes, corned beef and a toasted Dill Rye bread with butter. 


WEDNESDAY 3/22

Wednesday is our "Date Night" for the week, usually involving dinner of some kind and entertainment. But tonight, we are going to our grandsons school choir presentation. After the presentation, he was asked where he wanted to go for dinner. "Red Lobster!" His parents reined him in because Red Lobster is 1/2 away. So we got to eat at his 2nd favorite restaurant.... McDonalds! Oh Gosh, I'm not one to rock the boat especially when he was the start of the evening but wow, it was difficult finding something on the menu that I really wanted. So I just followed my husbands lead and got a #1... Big Mac with fries and a drink. 




Appetizing OUI? NO! I'm not a big fan of McDonalds even though I think they have made more changes to their menu to keep it healthy than most of the fast food chains. I didn't finish my food and we didn't do date night.

THURSDAY

We decided to see Beauty and The Beast for Date Night this week,(So GOOD you guys!!) so on Thursday night, I just whipped up a quickie smoked sausage on a bagel and macaroni and cheese. We had homemade vegetable beef soup for lunch with a TON of veggies so I didn't feel bad leaving out the veggies for dinner. Plus, Popcorn is a veggie right??!! (wink, wink)




That was our week. Thanks for joining us on this first ever, "What We Ate For Dinner This Week." 


We are getting our YouTube channel up and running so you might want to hop over there and subscribe so you won't miss any of our fun ideas. 

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoz-hWPUztXybFxf_PhutkQ

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Something For Nothing






This past weekend, our local Master Gardeners put on a clinic all about propagating plants and how best to grow tomatoes. For us, that's fun!

Propagation sounds like a big word, but I bet most of you have done something along the lines without even knowing it. If you've ever taken a fallen leaf off an African violet and put it in dirt and watched it grow into a brand new plant, that's propagation! It can be done in different ways for different plants and with different words; grafting, cuttings, layerings, plant division and others.



 We have several fruit trees, some grapes, 4 types of berries and lavender on our property and to be able to make more plants FROM them without any added expense is perfect when you are watching your budget.



Yesterday we went over to my daughter's house and took 8 cuttings off her Meyer lemon tree and I'm hoping they take. She is going to be moving soon and the lemons off this tree are DIVINE!! And you know.... it only takes 5 years until the cuttings produce fruit of their own. We are willing to wait!

Growing some or all of the fruit and vegetables you want to eat after you retire is thrifty and healthy. Fresh fruit and vegetables are probably one of the most expensive parts of a grocery trip and it doesn't matter where you live, you can grow something. Whether its in a pot by the front door, your patio, actual raised beds in your backyard, mixed in among your flowers or even on your windowsill indoors, growing food or herbs will save you money. Additionally, you can duplicate house plants, succulents and many bedding flowers FOR FREE!

We decided last year that it was worth it to pay a small fee to have a space in our local Community Garden two blocks away. In California, you can literally grow year round if you choose what you grow by its hardiness. Right now we have shelling peas, garlic, beets, spinach, brussels sprouts, kale, cilantro, carrots, turnips, potatoes, radishes and scallions there. And that is on a space about 15 ft by 30 ft. We lovingly call it our little Produce Stand. We are passionate about eating healthy food and we know how our food is grown.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your spending on groceries, give vegetable and fruit gardening a try. Your local community extension offices probably have Master Gardeners and programs too that can help you with anything from pests, to soil testing to what to grow in your area. And most of what you will learn is completely free.  I made a little VIDEO about our trip so you can see just how many people of all ages came to our propagation clinic.

Here are also some books if you are interested in getting started with propagating your own plants.

   

 



Sunday, March 19, 2017

Copycat Vanilla Soy Chai




One of my favorite drinks at Starbucks is the Grande size, Vanilla Soy Chai. But, wow, has it ever gotten expensive! I want to say when I started drinking this drink about 10 years ago it was $3.75, which was expensive but now it is $4.75! Probably a lot like you, I don't always think about the cost when I go in. I have a Starbucks card, I faithfully reload my card about twice a month and I spend what's on there and reload again. 

Now that we are trying to live on quite a bit less but not give up the "good life", I was determined to make the drink at home and make it taste like my favorite coffeehouse drink. To my surprise, it was very simple and economical! 

HERE'S the Video where I show you how simple it is to make!

I'll give you a little breakdown of the expense. 

  • Soymilk is $2.98 for a half gallon and I use 1/8 of the gallon for the drink, so .37 in milk
  • Vanilla syrup is 12.2 oz for $3.98 and I use a little under 1 oz. for a drink, .33 in syrup
  • Tazo Chai tea mix is $3.28 for 32 oz. and I use 1/4 in my drink,  .90 for Chai mix
That is a whopping $1.60 for a Grande size drink! Compare that to $4.75 for the same thing at Starbucks! A savings of $3.15 for doing it myself and it is a drink you can drink hot or over ice. 

YOU can do this YOURSELF with whatever drink you like. And if you don't get it right the first time, keep trying! Pretty soon you will and you'll be saving money just like us. 

Thanks for visiting today and come back soon!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Preservation Saturday

You'll never guess what we did this week! Went to our local supermarket and bought 50 lbs. of russet potatoes. Yup, the REALLY big bag. I have been getting the canning bug and wanted to make some canned potatoes for my pantry.


Canning is a really good way to save money if your already own your equipment. I've been doing this since 2010 and slowly building up my supplies over the years. Now my canning costs are mainly for jars, rings and lids. I keep the rings and use them over and over but the lids need to be replaced after each use. And the jars I can still pick up on Craigslist pretty cheaply. I also shop the "end of season" sales every year. 

So, I bet you are wondering just how many quart jars of potatoes you can get from 50 lbs of potatoes and the answer would be.... about 18 to 20 quarts. We're halfway through the bag and have done up 14 quarts leading me to believe it will be more like 28 quarts of potatoes in the end. That works out to .35 per jar. Now you are probably saying to yourself, "Why would I go through all that trouble to can potatoes when I could just buy them?" and that may be true for you. But... there are more potatoes in a quart jar than in a can that you buy at the store by double. Those cans are typically 16 oz. cans and a quartt jar is 32 oz. Again, a money savings. In addition, jars are reusable so less trash to put at the curb and landfills. And imagine how wonderful your pantry will look! Having preserved food available makes for meals in minutes. Imagine a stew with home canned meat, potatoes, carrots, celery and onion. All done up in less than half an hour and fork tender! Or maybe a great little chicken vegetable soup ready to come directly out of the jar into the pan. If you grow vegetables or fruits, you can pick the produce at the peak of their ripeness and make a lovely jar of jelly or jam, applesauce, dill pickles and even beans to put into chili. 

The skills are not difficult to learn and most counties have an agricultural extension that offers lessons to the public. As a matter of fact, I went to one at my local county extension office on Introduction to Canning. The demo was on making a very simple applesauce that was water bath canned and was it ever delicious! We have a little apple tree in our backyard and when the apples come this year, I want to try out a BUNCH of apple things in my canner. ( And make some vinegar, but that's for another day!) 

Needless to say, I was so excited I came home and decided to put some corned beef into jars and give it a try. We needed to make room in our freezer for the new corned beef as it goes on sale this upcoming week. I cube up the corned beef, give it a quick little fry in some olive oil mainly so the cubes don't stick to each other in the jar, put them in the jar with some hot water and a little salt and seal them up. Process for 75 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure and voila! We will have something for our lunch and for quick dinners. It ended up making 5 pints from a pretty large brisket round. Cannot wait to eat it! It will be so tender after its little cook up! 

Why not think about getting together some supplies and developing a new skill. You can start with fruit. The tools required are pretty economical and you may even get lucky and find some of the canning items at garage sales or thrift shops. These are some of the items I would recommend a brand new canner to get: 
  1. Water Bath Canner
  2. Ball Utensil Set for Preserving Now this is great because you get all the most common tools, a jar lifter, bubble remover / headspace tool, magnetic lid lifter and a jar funnel
  3. The Ball Preserving Book. Pretty much the "Bible" of how to can complete with recipes, time tables, tips
  4. Big Pots, Canning jars, lids, rings, wooden spoons and a good supply of fruit along with the recipes.
Canning is a great thing to learn and fun! There are many "How-To" videos on YouTube as well. 

My process....

  • Buy the potatoes of course...

  • Wash, peel, cube the potatoes  



  •  The Potato Washing Area
A place to peel the 'taters.... no not into the garbage disposal.... you will regret it. Of course our compost LOVED the addition!

  • Put cubed potatoes in a large roaster of boiling water to boil for 10 min. This helps to reduce the starchy water.


  • Put cubed potatoes into jars using a slotted spoon so you leave the starchy water behind. Here is my stainless canning funnel.



  • I will top the quart jars with 1 tsp of salt now while I can still see it. Take it from me, you don't want to make a mistake here! Add boiling water to prescribed headspace, non-chlorinated is best. We pick up a couple bottles of drinking or spring water from the store. Wipe the rims clean with a towel that has been wetted with white vinegar and place lid and ring.  Pop the completed jar into the canner. When the canner is full, in my case, 7 quarts, we put the lid on and wait for the canner to vent for 10 minutes before putting the weight on the top. Then it processes for 40 minutes under pressure and is allowed to come down to pressure with the lid on. You will more than likely hear the pressure pin drop. Remove the lid and let them sit for another 10 minutes or so to acclimate to to the temperature of the room some. Remove the jars to a towel without tipping them from side to side at all. You will probably see boiling continuing in the jars and that is normal and you will hear the POP of the lids as they cool, proof that the vacuum sealing has occurred. Allow the jars to sit for 24 hours undisturbed. Then you can remove the rings and label and put on the shelf for up to 1 year safely and nutritiously.

Voila!! Beautiful jars of canned potatoes! I hope you will give it a try and let me know how it works for you. Thanks for joining me today in my little preserving venture. 

By the way you guys, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog. I'm hoping to get our YouTube channel up and running soon so the explanations, like today's, don't take so much reading. You can go over there now and subscribe and set up notifications so when we make our video,  you will be the first to know. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

DIY Tuesday - Teacup Bird Feeder







Gifts can be challenging when you retire. You want to give something nice that they would enjoy but things just seem so expensive these days. Well, have I got a fun little project for you today! You can make it with things you have or things you find at a garage sale or thrift shop. And it is ADORABLE!! I want these all over my yard in different colors and sizes! And you can even bring them indoors, put little succulent plants inside and enjoy them on counters, walls and coffee tables. 

I found this little idea on Pinterest so the idea didn't originate with me. BUT... oh my gosh you guys... they turn out so cute! Head on over to Pinterest and take a look at all the different ways this can be done. And while you are there, follow me! Here is what you are going to need to make one like my example. 


  • A teacup and saucer (the fancier the better!)


  • Masking tape

  • Bird seed, succulent plants or whatever you envision inside (candy might be good too!)


Here are a few of the combos I found:

The first is from a little thrift shop around the corner. Paid $1.91 for each item, plate and saucer. Oh, and we got a senior citizen markdown of 10% when we asked for it.







This set was from our local Goodwill and did come as a wrapped set for $2.99 again with another 10% off for being senior citizens. (Don't feel bad about asking if there is a way to discount the already low prices!) 




And last but not least, I found this set at our local Marshall's store for "full price" which was $6.99. It is my favorite by far because I'm really into the fancy little floral things. 


Now the how to's.....

After scanning a bunch of photos on Pinterest, I decided for my first try I would do the simple, "lay the teacup on its side on the saucer" kind. I put some E6000 glue right on the top rim of the cup opposite the handle side and a little more glue at the base where the cup would naturally touch. The tape was applied through the handle and wrapped down around the bottom tight enough to hold things in place until they dried, which I left for 24 hours to be on the safe side. 

Can you imagine a sweet little garden of roses and baby breath with little teacups scattered all about in it? I have a bunny yard for my rabbit, Jack, and I'm on the lookout for Beatrice Potter cups! You can use the small plate holders to hand them on a fence or wall with plants or birdseed in them. Imagine how Mom would feel getting a cute little flower or succulents plant on Mother's Day. They make such cute and inexpensive gifts and can be changed up for each season and setting.

I hope you try it today and if you do, shoot on over to our Facebook page and leave a photo. I'd love to see what you come up with!



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