Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Paleo Nights

This is the phase in the Whole30 plan when I start getting used to the foods, but get a little pissy when I am making dinner.  TheHub is not doing this plan, because he has no weight to lose and no real health reason to do it. (Ask me one day about the man who would eat and entire box of ice cream sandwiches in one sitting and never gain an ounce. And I am not talking about doing it just once, I am talking about all the time. Life is unfair, huh?)
So as I do this for me I have to consider him in the food equation. The usual filler foods like pastas and rice are totally off plan for me, and quite frankly unless we are having spaghetti (mine over spaghetti squash and his over regular spaghetti noodles) it just tees me off to have to make something that I am not going to be able to eat. Enter the lowly sweet potato! It fills him and me and is plan compliant.  It does not bother me in the least that he has a baked potato swimming in butter, because I made a wonderful mixed spice blend just for  my sweet potato, and I don't share my spices with him. (Cause I am petty that way! Though I would share if he would nix the butter.)

Over the last couple of days several of you have written about making shepherd's pie and I have been craving it.  TheHub called to say he was going to be a couple of hours later than normal so I had a lot of time to make whatever we were going to be eating and I thought why not make the dish paleo compliant and satisfy my craving.

Savory Sweet Potato Mashed Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon powdered garlic
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup almond milk

Toss the sweet potatoes in a pan and cover them with water, cook until soft, drain add the olive oil and mash with a potato masher. (If you prefer s super smooth mashed potato feel free to use a ricer) .
Stir in the seasonings and add the almond milk.  Set aside.

The Filling
3 carrots peeled and chopped into "coins" cooked (save cooking water)
1 lb frozen green beans, cooked
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 carton mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons ketchup (I use paleo cause, well, whole 30 and all)
1 1/4 lb ground beef, browned (I had mine browned and frozen. If yours is raw brown it in a pan then add the onions and the mushrooms when the meat begins to brown)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
salt and papper to taste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch

Cook the carrots and the green beans until tender but not soft. (I am lazy and cook them in the same pan ) Reserve the cooking water.  Add the oil to a non stick sauté pan and wilt the onions, then add the mushrooms.  Add the ketchup and browned ground beef then add the herbs, salt and pepper.  Stir until it is piping hot, add the carrots and beans and let rest for a minute.  Meanwhile take about 1 cup of the cooking water and add the balsamic vinegar to it.  Bring it to a high boil and reduce by about a third. Mix the arrowroot starch with 2 tablespoons of water and add to the reduced liquid.  Cook until it thickens, pour it over the ground beef mixture and stir to combine completely.  Put the mixture into an oven proof baking pan and top with mashed sweet potatoes.  Bake at 350 until hot (About 20 minutes)

I cannot begin to tell you how delicious this was.  I served it with a simple green salad and sliced tomatoes and that was it.  It hit all bases.  It was comforting, warm, filling, and was fantastic tasting.
Son2 ate with us again tonight and all three of us has seconds. I am not pointing finger but someone had thirds. I was especially  thrilled that there are some leftovers. While doing this plan I am less than enamored by making breakfast, so I try to eat a little of whatever was leftover from dinner the night before. A nice bowl of this nuked for breakfast tomorrow will be great.

And this is the truth: TheHub asked me to make this again even if I am not doing Whole30.  Win?  You betcha! Yum plus!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Whole 30 Supper on the Fly

Since I am doing this Whole 30 plan for the next little bit, I have done a ridiculous amount of prepping foods. If I have things ready to grab and go I am much less tempted to eat something that is not plan compliant, but the prep take a huge hunk of time and a lot of storage containers.  Fortunately one of the things I made recently was a couple of pounds of sausage. I had seasoned the ground pork and let it sit for 24 hours before cooking individual patties and freezing them individually.

On days like today out running errand after errand, plus doing a few things for Mom I wound  up back at home after 6 and the thoughts of starting a meal from scratch were so unappealing.  I knew I had sausage cooked and I initially thought of doing a breakfast meal, but that would have meant pancakes for them and sausage and eggs only for me. No way! Instead I punted big time and sautéed an onion, whole head of cabbage and a couple of carrots in matchstick bits in a little olive oil (And yes, I know I should be using just coconut or avocado oil but the coconut oil makes it taste funny and I used all the avocado oil making the mayonnaise.) I cut the sausage patties in quarters and added them to the top f the veggies, added about a cup and a half of chicken broth and let everything wilt and get really steamy hot.  Next I sliced 3 small apples and tossed them on top of the sausage until they were soft, then served it in huge soup bowls and topped it with a healthy topping of freshly ground pepper.  Believe it or not, it was really tasty (or I was really hungry, which I was) TheHub who is not doing Whole 30 really did like it also and even asked if we can have this again this winter. (What am I talking about? It was about 60 degrees today!) So a successful cheap supper with minimum prep and cooking time. And you might ask what the downside is? Well I used 3/4 of my sausage stash and I will have to wait until Friday to buy more ground pork because the butcher only grinds it once a week then, in addition to the regular cleaning, he steam sanitizes his equipment. I guess on Friday I will be making more sausage!

Sorry there is no picture. I was very hungry and
we ate it all.  Oh, Son2 ate with us tonight so we were not total pigs! And instead of the picture of  the bowl filled with stuff, enjoy the picture of a cabbage.  And yes I know this is lame!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Frugal and Whole 30 Do Not Go Hand in Hand

I had decided I would try to stick to a 300 dollar budget for the month, with the exception of a preplanned event that had its own budget.  Things were rocking along pretty well until I decided to do Whole 30 instead of just paleo. I am just not terribly organized in the kitchen right now and started the plan with zero prep.  Zero prep plus shopping while hungry (zero prep rears its' ugly head) equals a lot of things I probably would never have bought.  Did I mention I shopped while I was really hungry? You know how full the cashiers at Trader Joe's stuff those brown paper bags?  I had 3 of those double bagged and spilling over the top. (Who can resist frozen artichoke hearts, and bags of super greens, not to mention salsa verde and chili lime chicken burgers?)

What can I say except super fail. Well, I guess I can say I am well stocked for the next 25 days. Now I have to do some serious meal planning/cooking.  So I am off to make paleo ketchup, date paste, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, and barbecue sauce, and then I get to begin on the real food. I think I will start with egg muffins, then turkey blueberry sausage, and chorizo.  I should never have started this without a little prior planning, and I am definitely old enough to know better. Bad Anne!

                                                            My Nemesis !

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What in the World?

Remember that dinner for 30 I was talking about at the beginning of the year?  Well today was the day, but because of travel plans and life and all that it happened at lunch rather than dinner.  Just as well!

I have met some of the people who came a time or two before and knew none of them well, but had told them whenever they were in Birmingham to let me know and I would have them over for a meal. These are people Son3 knows and interact/plays with on a semi regular basis and this all came about because of him. Now I have many new acquaintances I got to spend an afternoon getting to know.

The Menu
Smoked Pork Butt
Smoked Beef Brisket
Smoked Hen
Pimento Cheese Grits Souffle
Collard Greens
Cole Slaw
Pecan Pie
Rum Brownies
Banana Pudding

And when you make all of this food this is who shows up for lunch!

                                 This is not from tonights show, but is enjoyable anyway!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Serious Cravings!

What do you want when you gotta have something and it's gotta be sweet, and it's gotta be a lot, and you gotta have it now?  Well, if you are doing a paleo diet like I am, not a blooming thing. Instead I am about to eat some *&^%$#@ broccoli, because "nothing satisfies a major food craving like broccoli", she said dryly.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Whoo-hoo! Another Deal

I am jealous and inspired at the same time.  Sluggy at Dont read this, it's boring is the master of Rite-Aid shopping. Oh who am I kidding, she is a shopping guru and I greatly admire her skill set, dedication and shopping abilities. I am a total neophyte at this game plus it does not come naturally to me and involves math. Over the years I have told TheHub one of the reasons I married him (CPA) was so I never had to do more than checkbook math again.  (By checkbook math I mean merely looking at the account balance and going "yep there is enough in there" or "no I need to wait".) Now thanks to Sluggy's keen postings I am finding myself worrying about savings percentages instead of just thinking "Well that was a good deal". I am not sure if I want to thank you or curse you.

So I am going to let y'all in on how this game works for me.  Today I had to stop by CVS to pick up a couple of supplies for Mom. While I was there I noticed everything Christmas had been reduced by 90 percent.  Whoo hoo, I was getting things for 10 cents on the dollar and was thinking how happy I was for this huge savings.

I purchased 2 little card  stock weight gift bags that look like little purses (.19 each), a train gingerbread set including all the gingerbread (prebaked) and everything needed to decorate it (1.48)
, and 3 boxes of Hallmark Christmas cards (.49, .69 and, .99) My total was $3.88 but when I was ready to check out I found both a 1 and a 3 dollar CVS extra buck coupon. I was 22 cents under and I applied it to Mom's items ( She will pay me back when I take them to her) but the super bonus was a 5 dollar extra buck I received for one of the purchases I made for her.  I actually earned money for being a decent daughter and picking up her stuff.  Yay me. I also got a coupon for 10 dollars off any 50 dollar purchase but it has to be used by the weekend, so I am unsure if I will use it or not.

Now there is nothing to do but go scour the CVS weekly ad and see if I need 50 dollars worth of anything. It is time to feed my new obsession.

p.s I am sticking the gingerbread train set in the freezer.  If just the gingerbread cookie pieces are all intact I am calling it a good deal.  I can buy gumdrops and candy canes next year if it does not survive freezing and I can whip us royal icing in a heartbeat. I am not looking at this as an edible but as a decoration Pip and I can make if they come at either Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

And The Christmas Clock Resets

I absolutely refuse to take part in the day after Christmas sales.  I might miss out on some terrific bargains but I have a price I put on my sanity as well, and it includes no Dec 26th shopping.  So finally I decided to jump in the shallow end of the post Christmas shopping pool and get my feet wet at Kohl's.  I had 40 Kohl's bucks and could not bear the thought of wasting that perfectly good free money
The biggest shopping problem with this is our changing weather.  This year we had to have the a/c running just to bear eating in the house, yet the really good deals are on winter stuff. Last year was just marginally cooler and I am unsure if this is a continuing trend or aberration.  Then out of nowhere came a wonderful arctic blast, and off I went to spend my free dough. I knew without a doubt I needed zero Christmas doo dads, and even though I was hopeful I would use the majority of my wrapping paper (It is ugly or boring and I am tired of using it) I think I only finished 2 rolls out of a dozen. So I will have to use the ugly stuff at least one more year with no need to buy any more. (Craptastic!)

Anyhow I went to the store to try and use my bucks and this is what happened. Whoo hoo! I bought 3 Christmas gifts for  Holiday 2017  (2 thermal henley shirts, 12 bucks each  and a fleece pullover $14)  for a whopping 38 dollars and finished off my remaining 2 bucks with some 60 percent off Godiva chocolates.  Then I walked out like a champ paying only the sales tax!  Win and score! I have never done anything like that and it felt really good. So thank you to each of you who have shown me the way.  I  would share my discounted chocolate with each of you, but uh, I ate it.

Next stop Rite Aid to register for plenti points! I feel a change a comin!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Well This is for the Birds!

I have decided to continue my handmade Christmas gift post on a semi regular basis.  You might wonder what the inspiration for today's post is and I will let you in on a little secret.  I made this as an add-on gift for my BIL, but wanted to start dinner, so I put them on a cooling rack and moved it from the kitchen counter to the laundry room then completely forgot about it until I was cleaning up in there yesterday.
Oops, sorry D.  It really is ok because we also ordered him some Omaha Steaks and will have them delivered next week (I did not have the freezer space to hold them until Christmas, so I just wrapped up a box with a picture of a steak in it with a promise to take them to him as soon as they came)  Fortunately they only live a couple of miles from me so I can run both gifts over as soon as the steaks are delivered.

Deiter (not his real name but it is what My Beloved Sister calls him about half of the time) feeds birds in their yard regularly.  I saw this little craft at the creative savv blog and thought it worked for my time and skill level.

Hanging Bird Cakes

2 envelopes  unflavored gelatin (Try a latin market store brand. They cost about 3 times less than Knox at Public
1/2 cup really hot water (I boiled mine)
birdseed (the  cheapest you can find)

big glass bowl
large cookie cutters (use the kind that are totally open on both sides)
pam to spray the insides of the cookie cutters
twine, ribbon,string, cord, shoelaces?
waxed paper

Mix the water and gelatin in a large glass bowl and mix until the gelatin is totally dissolved. Stir in birdseed (I did not measure how much I used 2 cups maybe?) until it is well coated and kind of mushes together when you press it in your hand (but it will  fall apart after you release it).

Set the cookie cutters on waxed paper on a solid surface that you will not need to use for a couple of hours. (I am very technical so I used the kitchen counter)  I plopped the birdseed mix into 5 cookie cutters and pressed it to make it somewhat level and somewhat smooth.  (You have to press it hard and compact or it will not form a cake. I let it sit for about 30 minutes and them I used the fat end of a chopstick to make a hole for hanging later (My chopsticks have a round fat end, a ball point pen cap would work just as well).  Walk away and let them sit for a couple of hours. Then very gently and carefully start pushing the cakes out of the cutters. (Less of  a design is more here. This is not the time to get all fancy) Once they are out just let them sit until you can pick them up without them crumbling. Mine worked right away but after reading other people's complications it might take a bit longer.  After releasing them from the cookie cutters I put a sheet of parchment paper on 2 cake cooling racks and set them out of the way to dry

When you finally remember you made them it is time to finish them (providing they are totally dry when you remember) Thread ribbon, cord, twine, shoestrings, whatever you wish,  through the hole but make sure you double the length you want them to be. Tie 2 simple knots to hold the ribbon in place and you have a pretty cool gift for next to nothing.  Mom flipped over them so I will make her some for her birthday in March.  It will be great because I can use the remaining birdseed. (I no longer feed the birds because the neighbor on the other side of my back fence lets her cat stay outside all the time and he used my bird feeder as a bait station and the fences and trees as a launch apparatus.)

These can be tied to branches in trees or wherever a really good hitching place is, but you need to tie them somewhere birds will have a place to settle while gorging on them. Even birds don't want to do fly by eating. Oh yes, and you have to take them down if it is going to rain or all the birdseed will scatter and fall on the ground.  Which could also be ok since the birds could still peck away.

Easy peasy__Cost, 2 bucks total (including the ones I will make for Mom)__Dry time, 2 days maybe__Skill level, less than 1.

p.s. Be careful when tying these. If you drop them they break. Really break!  Deiter is only getting 4 now!

Thursday, January 5, 2017


Because our local food ads run Wednesday through Tuesday,   I generally go to the grocery store either on Wednesday or Thursday so I can take advantage of the cherry picking before everything is picked over. Which means I traditionally buy my produce once a week and fill in only on an as needed basis.  So today I sashayed my tail to 2 of the stores I hit weekly, Sprouts and Aldi. I did not have my list because I left it on the breakfast room table, but I had just written it so I pretty much remembered what I was going for.  As it turns out, it didn't matter because there was no blooming produce at either store

I live in Alabama, home of bat size mosquitos and very little snow.  By very little snow I mean flurries a couple of times a year, freezing rain about every 5 years and snow that sticks maybe every 7 or so years.  Well yesterday our local weather people started rumbling about snow and snow frenzy hit the stores.  In fact, before I went grocery shopping I was at Kohl's using my 40 dollar Kohl's bucks right before I went to the grocery stores and I only saw 3 other customers.  You know why? Because all those other shoppers were at the grocery store!

I headed across the road from Kohl's to Sprouts. I am one of those weird people who always take a buggy (southernism for cart) from the corral before heading into the store. Dang good thing I did! There were none left in the front of the store because everyone in town was buying like the world was ending tomorrow.  I literally was in there to cherry pick the produce so I mentally recalled my list and went straight to the back to snag celery. UH, none!  OK then I would just go grab some brussels sprouts, uh none of those either! No problem I would pick up a bag of cuties. OK plenty of those along with some types of potatoes, yellow squash and cukes, but there were no heads or bunches of lettuce left__just a few bags of bagged salad.  No carrots, kale, scallions, winter squashes, red onions, beets, turnips. What the hell are all these people doing?  Are they afraid our 1 inch or rain/snow mix is going to disable their life?

After my unlucky visit to Sprouts I headed to Aldi.  They did have a couple of avocados, celery, mixed greens but no heads of lettuce, zero fruit with the exception of red grapes and a couple of bags of apples. (They also had onions and potatoes but I didn't need those) What can I say?

Now I am not totally pooh-poohing people's reactions.  I have lived here forever and I understand if we get freezing rain or heavy wet snow our abundant tree population will have limbs snap causing power outages all over.  I have lived through snows where the power was off 6 or 7 days before we got it back (Yep, I live at the tail end of a grid).  But I also know you don't bring new food into the house because when that happens you might as well fire up the grill and cook for the entire neighborhood, or commit to throwing pounds and pounds of meats (that are no longer frozen and at best are questionable and at worst rancid) out in the garbage. 

I also am shocked at the veggie disappearance.  Usually it is bread, milk, peanut butter and cold cuts that fly out of the store.  I guess since it is just the 4th and everyone is still on their new diets, or juice phase, or cleansing diets people aren't considering that if they do lose power their blender/juicer/vitamix is not going to work, and those of us who renew our produce regularly on Wed. or Thur. are stuck now buying frozen broccoli and spinach.  Thanks a bunch! 

So now we get to sit and wait for the storm that will be just to the north of us and we will get nothing, and I will be eating frozen stuff instead of fresh because all you hoarders grabbed, well, everything! 

And I will let you in on a little secret.  About 3 years ago I bought a generator large enough to keep my freezer and the extra fridge in the laundry room running. We lose power more ofter due to tornados or the after winds of hurricanes than we ever do because of snow, and after a really bad tornado/hurricane season I had to toss the contents of my freezer 3 times. Since I bought the generator we have not been without power longer than twelve hours, so yes, Birmingham, you can thank me and my red gas powered talisman for keeping The 'Ham powered.   You're Welcome!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Little Things

Now that 2017 is fully here I am slowly but surely getting into my full-on after the holidays reset.(I actually count today as the first day since TheHub was off through Monday and nothing got done because he is a clock eater and was either wanting to eat, worrying about what he was going to eat for the next meal, eating, talking about dishes that sound good for the near future, or going on his recreational run to Publix to buy crap we didn't need.)  It seems to take me several days to get Christmas completely put away.  There is always some random Christmas item I find that needs to be taken upstairs and put away.  In addition to putting things away, this is the time each year when I clean and reorganize my seasonal decorations closet. So today is also the beginning of the closet clean out, purging anything I no longer need of want and repacking things I truly want to keep.

I have been reviewing my household budget, looking for ways to trim the proverbial fat from it and have decided to stick to 75 dollars a week for groceries. If I did all the shopping this would be a snap, but, as I have said before,  TheHub likes to stop at Publix on his way home and never will buy just that one needed item.  Already this week he has brought home 20 dollars worth of snack foods.  I will make up for it, but I can't do it if he does his usual stopping for things we don't need. As a result of the food inventory I took yesterday, we are going to be doing a boatload of pantry/freezer/refrigerator
clearing before I do any major shopping.

The only exception I am planning on making to this budget is 2 rather large events we are hosting. In mid January I am having 30 or so  people over for either lunch or an early dinner.  The time is a little uncertain, but they are coming and I have budgeted accordingly.  Since this is officially entertainment, I am putting this in the T and E budget, rather than our food budget. The other hit to the food bill will be during the summer when Son3 is supposedly coming to town with several of his friends.  Again I am putting this in the T and E budget, because it is entertainment (for them at least) and I will get some impromptu music/dance/drama from the visit. (Plus a boatload of laundry and clean-up)

So as soon as I finish posting this, I am off to ThePig where pork butts are 99 cents a pound, to buy enough for 30 people. (That's why I have a freezer right?)

Wishing us all a successful and lovely 2017