Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Looking Forward

Now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas is a few hours in the rearview mirror, TheHub and I have only bowl games and New Year's Eve in front of us and then comes the new year with its blank slate, clean and shiny, and full of possibilities.

Most years I make some vague attempt at resolutions that are generally highly unlikely and never fit in with my life that has become rather unpredictable. Instead, this year, I want more of a roadmap approach rather than resolutions. I plan to face the year with a guide in place, but nothing inflexible or exacting.

So starting week 1 of 2019 I plan to:

Start the 90/52 decluttering plan found here
The plan is to spend 90 minutes each of the 52 weeks of the year decluttering, one area at a time. If I miss a week I will either make it up the next week or just skip it entirely with no regrets. I have one of those all or nothing personalities and I am not setting myself up for failure with self punishment when life goes awry and my plans go with it.

Continue to use our food storage, particularly the freezer foods.
I am making a big dent in our freezer inventory and want to continue. The plan is to have the contents down considerably by spring, then I will change my typical defrosting date from mid summer to early spring to be ready for berry season and summer produce.

Be more diligent about getting the yard and garden areas ready for planting in the spring.
 (This means taking advantage of any pretty days this winter. Small steps now will have a huge payoff later)

Do one project per month.
I know of a few things I need to do and will add more as I think of them, but here are a few for starters.
1. Recover breakfast room chairs
2. Recover auxiliary dining room chairs
3. Recover music room chaise
4. Sand and refinish kitchen table top
5. Scrub and re-stain lower deck
6. Hang curtains in middle bedroom

Continue with a keto way of eating.

Practice patience

Start a Christmas Fund
This year my aim is to stick 10 or 20 bucks a week in my Christmas fund. I will also add whatever odd job money I get this year to it. Except for a completely new spring/summer wardrobe (after the keto way of eating nothing fit and there was no sense keeping it)  there is nothing I really need or want. I plan on doing a capsule wardrobe for the warm weather so that expense should be relatively small.

Do some feel good things:
1. Either go to or rent a movie to watch by myself
2. Read 2 books a week
3. Have one ethnic meal a week (home cooked)
4. Have one day (OK an hour, maybe) dedicated to pampering myself. (Facial, at home manicure/pedicure, or some similarly indulgent thing requiring potions or lotions)
5. Have some sort of outing with TheHub at night. Coffee and conversation/ dinner out/ concert or play/ can be anything as long as we leave the house, so even going to Walmart would count as long as we shop together. (If we are in a hurry and go separate ways in the store to gather and get out as quickly as possible it will not count)

1. Play Christmas music and do one Christmas craft or make a Christmas gift.
2. Eat a meal in the dining room using china, crystal and silver. There is no point saving them for special occasions only, but I have to hand wash it all so once a month is enough.
3. Call a long neglected friend and arrange to take them for coffee and conversation.
4. Learn a new skill
5. Plan a dinner in or out with another couple

1.Find and enjoy some live music.
2. Go to a play or comedy club
3. Have a mini vacation (Going to the lake place does not count)
4. Have a small dinner party

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Wishing everyone a very, very Merry Christmas
                   from our tribe to yours!

The brunch is long past and the naps are out of the way. Now it is time for leftovers. Feel free to stop by!

Friday, December 21, 2018

My New Favorite Soup

My freezer has been pretty good to the grocery budget lately. I'm currently on a mission to use many foods I had frozen during the spring. I don't want to have to pitch foods just because they find their way into the nether regions of the freezer and wind up with freezer burn. Some of the things I knew were in there but I am also finding odd bits and pieces that need to be used. This has required some creative solutions since I am on a mission to find ways to use them.

 For example, I found 1/2 cup globs of frozen canned pumpkinI stuck in the freezer after using just 1/2 cup when I first opened the can On of our local grocers makes their own sausage and every few days they have the unsold sausage marked down to half price. Whenever I see it I purchase it, bring it home, brown it and immediately freeze the browned sausage. I always have a few bags but the type varies. It might be andouille, Italian, Polish or just a basic sage sausage. (Note to self: start labeling the bags with the type of sausage instead of just the generic term "sausage" )

This pumpkin sausage soup was the result of one of those missions. I found the basics on a keto blog and used it as a starting point for soup. The following is what I actually did.

Shhhh! Don't tell this soup it's not pretty. It gets so many kudos for taste it forgot to care about it's appearance.

1 lb sausage (I used Italian hot sausage, because that was what was browned and frozen)
1/2 small red onion, minced (If you are not doing keto use the whole onion. I was just saving carbs)
1 pepper, diced. (I used 1/2 yellow and 1/2 green red bell peppers because I had both partially used peppers in the fridge)
1 clove garlic, minced (again of you are not doing keto try 2 cloves)
1 pinch salt
1 tsp  sage
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp red chili peppers flakes (optional, but because I used the hot sausage I did not add them, but have added it since when making it with a plain breakfast sausage. I like heat but if you don't, then omit it.)
½ cup pumpkin puree
3 cups chicken broth
1 bag frozen spinach
½ cup heavy whipping cream (If not doing keto use half and half to reduce the fat)
2 tbsp salted butter

The soup prep is pretty basic. Brown the sausage in a pan. (Mine was browned then frozen, so I added about 1 teaspoon of oil along with the sausage to wilt the onions and peppers, since I had drained the sausage prior to freezing it.) After the sausage loses it's pink tint  toss in the onion and pepper until it wilts but does not brown. As soon as they have wilted, turn the heat down and add the garlic, sage and thyme.  Give it a quick stir, letting it cook a little under a minute. You don't want  the garlic to brown or burn. Quickly add the pumpkin and the chicken broth and stir well to combine everything. Toss in the frozen spinach. Let it cook at a slow boil for about 5 minutes then lower the heat. Add the heavy cream and butter and bring the temp to serving temp without letting the cream boil (It will break and be grainy). Everyone else here topped theirs with corn chip crumbles, but I used crumbles pork rinds, as seen in the picture. Not as good as the chips would be but keto compliant and crunchy.

This is some seriously delicious soup. Everyone here really did like it and I have made it twice since the first time I tried it. I think this may become our go-to winter soup. Like most soups it is even better the second day. I am going to start making it the day before I intend to serve it, just for the flavor boost.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

What really happened

The nicest thing about using the food from the freezer is finding things I had stuck in it and promptly forgotten. For example: Labor Day we had guests at the lake and I cooked a ridiculous amount of food. Most of it was eaten the week following the long weekend, but I had tossed a few things in freezer bags and stuck them in the freezer. Maybe most of you have more well behaved leftovers than I do, but the package of corn muffins I froze evidently decided they did not like the spot I put them in and hid themselves under other icy items.

Now that I am using the freezer daily the chaos is so much better contained. I am not sure if I should pat myself on the back for taming the beast or should be condemned to the 6th circle of Hell for creating the monster. Actually neither, since it is just the contents of a freezer, but it is amazing how mentally freeing it is to open it and actually know what is in it and where it is. Well, I kind of know what is in it. There are still a few surprises I stuck in bags and forgot to label.  Stewish type things that cannot be defined by merely looking at the packs. One night soon we are going to have a smorgasbord of UFSS (Unidentified frozen single servings) I would say it might be horrifying but it is just food and we will survive an odd and potentially untasty meal.

All lunches this week have been leftover whatever, so no freezer foods were used. Also I may or may not have jumped off the keto wagon for a couple of days this week and may or may not have eaten cookies for lunch. Shhhhhh! The keto police might be watching!

Monday Tuscan chicken, tossed salad
Tuesday  Leftover Taco soup
Wednesday Scallops, green beans, tater tots, tossed salad, rolls
Thursday. Pumpkin sausage soup, cornbread mini muffins
Friday: Leftover chili (nothing from the freezer)
Saturday: We are having pork roast and collard greens
Sunday: Christmas Party

I pack chicken thighs
1 container taco soup
2 packs scallops,
1/3 bag green beans.
1/4 bag tater tots
1 bag frozen spinach
1 small bag cornbread cheese mini muffins
1 bag collard greens

Added to the freezer last week
1 serving leftover chili
3 small packages turkey breast slices (Yep, I bought one and cooked it just to have something available for a quick keto compliant meal)

Probable weekly menu:
Monday: Christmas party
Tuesday bbq chicken, cauliflower mashers, coleslaw
Wednesday steak, hasselback potatoes, tossed salad, broccoli
Thursday: Spaghetti and tossed salad
Friday: something with chicken
Saturday: Pizza and tossed salad
Sunday: Veggie beef soup, cornbread

Monday, December 10, 2018

2 Men Are The Best!

Last year the guys at Two Men and a Little Farm helped me win a yearly contest I have with My Beloved Sister. We compete to give each other a truly regrettable food item and last year they shipped me a can of haggis. I had no idea haggis could even be bought canned, but it is and I won hands down!  Imagine my surprise when a package arrived this weekend with this. ( I can share this with you since my sister never reads this blog.)

Jumbo Squid medallions in a lite marinara sauce if she is in the mood for an Italian feast.
Then she can have squid pieces in ink sauce for whatever you do with ink sauce. Pen missives about me owning the regrettable food contest maybe?

 Thanks so much guys! You are great blog friends!

Frozen Escapades

What really happened with the meal plan and what happened using the freezer excess? Some but less than I had hoped for. Sometimes life just gets in the way of my plans!

Monday: 2 Salmon burgers sans bread, coleslaw
Tuesday: Spaghetti sauce over cauli rice (Yep not great but it was just lunch)
Wednesday: Forgot to eat, but did have coffee and 2 keto cookies in the late afternoon
Thursday: leftovers so no freezer usage
Friday: Leftover pumpkin soup
Saturday: Not exactly sure, but something leftover
Sunday: Stopped on the way home from church and picked up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store

Monday:Taco salad
Tuesday: Pork tenderloin, squash casserole, coleslaw
Wednesday: Chicken in a broccoli and green bean cream sauce, coleslaw
Thursday: Pumpkin, sausage soup (OMG this was delicious and I am not a pumpkin fan.)
Friday: Take out Thai food. Oops!
Saturday: Chili
Sunday: Fend for yourself (Copying Sluggy) Son2 and DIL2 were here. Everyone ate something different from the available leftovers.

What actually disappeared from the freezer:
2 salmon burgers (If you have never tried these from Trader Joe's I highly recommend them for taste and convenience but they are a tad pricey)
1 frozen single serving spaghetti sauce
3/4 bag cauliflower rice
3 packs ground chuck
1 pork tenderloin
1 bag squash
the remaining bag of green beans
1 pack cooked and diced chicken
1 pack browned frozen sausage
1 pack frozen pumpkin puree
1 pack turkey broth
3/4 bag frozen spinach
1 bag frozen tomatoes
1 partially eaten quart of low carb ice cream, thanks to TheHub 

And, am it an idiot who actually added food to the freezer this week?  Yes, I added! I went to Trader Joe's and came out with 3 bags of cauliflower rice, a big bag of green beans (just as I finished the other TJ green beans) and a bag of broccoli.

I am going to continue my using the freezer for the week. My goal is at least 5 meals using previously frozen items, with minimal shopping for fresh produce.

Monday: Tuscan chicken, pasta for TheHub, cooked spaghetti squash for me, green beans
Tuesday: Pumpkin, sausage soup (It was so good I made another pot of it last night), keto cornbread
Wednesday: Pan seared scallops, salad, cauli "mashed" potatoes, asparagus
Thursday: Greek chicken, tossed salad. rice (TheHub) cauli rice (me), broccoli
Friday: Open faced keto sloppy Joe's, toast (TheHub) fake keto roll (me), tater tots (TheHub), coleslaw
Saturday: Keto spinach dip with keto rolls
Sunday: Christmas Party

Freezer stuff I should use
2 packs of chicken
1 pack frozen tomatoes
2 servings green beans from the bag I bought this week at Trader Joe's
1 pack ground beef
1 pound scallops
1 bag grilled asparagus
1 bag frozen broccoli
1 block mozzarella cheese

Again I reserve the right to change my mind. I am fickle and can't guarantee anything. Try is my operative word here.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Let It Go!, Let It Go!

If any of you are in the Disney movie loop you will recognize the lyrics to Elsa's song "Let It Go". For those of you who are not in said loop, Elsa is the heroine (?) of the movie Frozen. I am using it as my personal theme song for the week as I make our menu to use as much of our frozen foods as possible. The freezer contents have almost reached epic proportions and I am either going to have to buy another freezer (not happening) or create meals from things I have on hand.

I stood in front of the open freezer door eyeballing the possibilities. It looks like we can have just about anything imaginable, shopping only for fresh produce this week.

This is my weekly menu idea, subject to last minute changes because I am fickle and something that sounds really good today might not be anything I actually want to eat this week. Because I am the only primary cook at the house, all eaters are subject to my whims. Sometimes it is good to be the queen, even if it is only the queen of the kitchen.

Thanks so much to The Hawaii Plan for inspiring me to do this!

1. Pan seared scallops, green salad, asparagus, tater tots for the non-keto, cauliflower mash for me
2. Sesame Chicken with broccoli and green beans, brown rice for the non keto, cauliflower rice (keto)
3. Fathead pizza, tossed salad (TheHub eats this keto pizza and really likes is)
4. Taco salad, with tortilla chips for the non-keto
5. Chili, coleslaw, cornbread for the non-keto, keto cornbread for me
6. Pork tenderloin, squash casserole, green beans
7. Grilled tuna, broccoli, with tomato, cuke and onion salad, brown rice for the non-keto

This menu should reduce the freezer using:
1 lb. scallops
remaining tater tots from one bag (Yep I have 2 other unopened bags. Why? No clue)
1 pack boneless chicken thighs
1 cup frozen green beans
1/2 bag cauliflower rice
1 8 oz package mozzarella cheese
1 bag cooked sausage
1/2 cup pizza sauce
2 packs ground beef
1 pork tenderloin
package of yellow squash
remaining frozen green beans
2 tuna steaks
rest of the broccoli pack