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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Night and Day

It is amazing to think about my cooking and eating habits - not to mention the products I use and buy. Big difference from 5 years ago or even 1 year ago. Some of these changes are because of my kids (like making my own sauces and dips without preservatives), some are because I would like us to eat as healthy as possible, and all are because of the internet. If this information had to be researched in a library, who knows if I would take the time to look it up?

It is amazing the resources that are available at our fingertips! Most of my ideas come from other bloggers. I have learned about healthier ingredients that I can substitute out and where to buy them online (can’t get them locally or affordably in most cases). I have also learned how to cook items I usually buy and how to freeze extra items for later to make life a little easier for other meals. I think it is safe to say that my habits have changed from night to day.

Some of the changes I have incorporated:
  • Using Coconut Oil for cooking. Although I am excited to try using it for other topical uses as well!
  • Making all my own breads & baking from scratch
  • Using other flours, like Wheat and Almond
  •  Making my own chicken broth
  • Buying more organic when possible 

On the To-Do list to change next:
  •  Use Arrowroot instead of cornstarch, and using a homemade blend of baking powder using the arrowroot to eliminate unsuspected metal and corn from baking.
  • Buying raw organic honey and agave in bulk. We go through a lot of honey. I want to start using agave nectar when cooking rather than white sugar
  • Incorporating essential oils 
  • The shampoos, soaps, laundry detergent, and “Clorox” wipes that I currently use need to be dechemicaled. I have already collected some great recipes.
  •  I want to start making my own cold medicine. Can’t wait to see how it works because we go through a lot!

Dear Reader, do you have any ideas that I am missing?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Phone Dependent

A Funny thing happened the other day. My husband broke his phone and my daughter lost mine! Thank goodness I had a home phone that I could use – not that I was home much. But that experience really showed me how much we rely on the cell phones. In fact it is even worse since we upgraded to smartphones. I need my calendar at my fingertips. My app to find the cheapest gasoline. I need to be able to email something last minute if I think of something. All my contacts are synced up so I am never without a number to call or email or facebook. Even my grocery lists are readily available and synched with Jeremy’s phone. When my son was at school they had no way of reaching me if I wasn’t at home.

All of these time saving and money saving items on our phones really help us out. But because of our reliance on them it was really difficult to come to terms with the realization that it was gone. Now, I only had three days without a phone. But the experience really made me think about the reliance we have on them – like a drug.

On the other hand, it was refreshing to not have my phone ring while I was driving or out-and-about. I know that my kids will grow up in a communication world. Nothing is a secret. They don’t understand a pay-phone or a calling card. I wonder if I will be able to have a no phone, no tv day… I would like to do this once a week when my kids are a little older since it would be a good learning experience for all involved. Just like having a family game night, I want to keep this in the back of my mind for future use.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pizza Dough

 I have been on a mission to make as much from scratch as possible. But gosh, it sure is convenient to have premade easy meals in the freezer. Like frozen pizza.

So I had a little lazy time at home and decided to make some meals for my freezer. I made a frittata with leftover ham, eggs and cheese, then cut it up into 10 portions wrapped them and stuck them in a labeled freezer bag for a quick breakfast solution. And then I decided to tackle pizza.

While my dough was in the bread machine I cut up a big box that I had. I traced my pizza stone to have the right size. (The actual act of cutting the circles was easier in my head, but it turned out ok). Added a little flour and then I had the perfect place to lay out the dough to freeze. I think it will be a faster dinner fix to roll it out since it will defrost quicker if it isn’t in a ball. When the dough was rolled out I was able to wrap it in plastic and then in foil. It did use a lot of foil, but I think I will be able to reuse the cardboard circles and the foil on another pizza. I could have added the sauce and cheese, but like I said earlier, I was feeling lazy.

I changed the recipe a bit to suite my taste. This dough smelled divine when I opened the lid of my bread maker. Yumm!

Pizza Dough
Makes: 2 crusts   

1 cup water
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons oil
3 1/2 cups bread flour (I used 1 cup wheat, 2 cups of bread flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon wheat germ (optional, I also think I will add flax meal next time I make it)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cloves minced garlic

Place ingredients in pan in order listed or as directed per machine instructions. Select dough cycle. 
When machine is finished, remove and form into crusts.

When you are ready to cook, and thaw. Preheat the oven at 400 degrees F. You will want to cook just the dough for about 10 minutes. Then when you take the pizza out of the oven it should be nearly cooked. Add toppings and cook together for 18-20 minutes or until crust is light brown. Then eat up while it's good and hot!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Organization Etc.

I have been keeping my mind busy researching sewing projects (what do I want to do first?!), acquiring the necessary stuff for my soon-to-be garden, trying to find time to read a book I said I would read, researching beds since my daughter is going to need one soon (more on that later!), and getting distracted from all the things I want to do by Pinterest and my messy house. Phew!

Ok, so for my garden I bought the seeds and peat pots. I picked up some dirt that a neighbor on craigslist was trying to get rid of. Saturday I am taking the kids to the ranch where they can get good and dirty… and I can pick up some horse um stuff. I am really hopeful that I will be successful this time around and acquire some greenness on my thumb. I am so excited about having fresh vegetables from a garden! And I know my son would love to “help,” possibly might even grow a desire to eat vegis… well, that would be nice.

So as I was saying, I got in a strange mood yesterday and HAD to organize my “new” freezer and cabinet. My freezer is like a new toy. I wanted to get some bins to organize it a bit. Let’s call it prevention. I would hate for it to ever look like my little freezer did.  My cabinet is really a garage storage thing that I use in my kitchen to hold my microwave. It is great to have the space because I truthfully have nowhere to put anything that is housing in the cabinet and it conveniently works with a child lock so the kids don’t get hurt or into trouble.
For my baking goods, I have been collecting the Rubbermaid containers for a couple months and I like them more than the Tupperware I had. They take up a lot less space and are clear. So I have decided to sell the Tupperware set on craigslist, they are still sitting there for practically free compared to what they would cost to buy from a consultant. I bought a plate organizer for my cookie sheets – this is what really prompted an entire reorg session. I found the organize wrack for $3 and I couldn’t pass it up. The results were amazing! I didn’t take a before picture because you couldn’t really see anything anyway. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Good Thing

I am so excited to get extra freezer space! I have wanted a separate freezer since our family started growing, and so I told Jeremy that I wanted a freezer from Santa Clause. We have not used credit cards in over two years and so I put together a plan.

Before we went to the store to look at our choices, we disagreed on whether an upright or chest would best suite our needs and space. I won ;) Then, I figured out the perfect solution to getting the freezer for a reasonable amount of money

Here is how I was able to get it sooner rather than later:
            First I would purchase gift cards at for Home Depot since they seemed to have the largest selection and I could get free shipping. I was going to purchase these over a couple months to stretch out our budget. The freezer I chose retailed $549 but I saw it go on sale for $420, so I wanted to accumulate enough to cover the tax and wait for the sale price. Through Plastic Jungle, I could purchase the gift cards for 9% less than the card value.
            Once I had accumulated enough gift card money, I would go through Ebates to Home Depot to purchase the freezer. Shipping would be free. AND with ebates I could get another 3% cash back!

            So the breakdown:                   $ 549
- sale    $ 129 = 420                       
- 9%     $ 37.80 = 382.20      
- 3%     $ 12.60 =             
                                                            $ 369.60 Not Bad

Well… It was a good plan. But I continued to check craigslist just-in-case a reasonable price came up (I don’t mind buying used as long as it wasn’t ancient). Before I continue, you must know that I looked online for about 3 months before I was about to buy a gift card to start this process. The night I was going to buy the first gift card, my husband told me to “wait until tomorrow” (this is because he wanted me to focus on the movie we were watching instead of interrupt with questions). But the next day a good deal came up!

I found a freezer that was 5 years old, not used in a couple years but working, that was the same size as the one I was looking to buy. Fate. I negotiated it down from $195 to $150! Yahooo

I am so happy with it! Not only did we get a freezer so I can see what we have now, buy more sale items and freezer cook to my hearts content (I started last night with a box of potatoes my mom gave me); but it also prompted us to clean out our attached garage/office space. Purge and put away… too much of a good thing is a GOOD thing ;D

<--- By the way, I have to add that 98% of the stuff in there was squished in my tiny kitchen freezer and there is still stuff in that freezer. Crazy