Monday, July 27, 2009

Food for thought...

I have been cooking from scratch a lot recently. I have a lot of reasons why, and my reasons change every day, it seems!

Why:
--Healthier
--I know what's in it
--I enjoy making it
--Cheaper
--Self-sufficiency -- I'm not reliant on stocking a special product to make something.

If you looked at our dining out budget this time last year, you would see an embarrassingly high amount in the dining out category. And not that I budgeted for it - we would just blow it by colossal proportions every month. I know its partially our phase of life - young kids (recently cheap to feed, lol) and lots of big house projects. But then there were the legitamate dining out expenses: a special (rare) date, event or a birthday in addition to the just plain exhaustion and not knowing what to cook drive thru experience. I hated how much was spent on drive thru food. The kids didn't appreciate it at all - they liked the instant gratification of fast food and fought with us about why they couldn't eat it *every* day. By meal planning and cooking double of what we eat (and controlling everyone's portions of the food groups) it has helped our budget, waistlines and mostly our attitude about food. The kids no longer look at the kitchen as a vending machine for food, expecting it NOW. They now see what is involved in cooking it. They see the whole food before it is processed into what they are familiar with and have been willing to give more foods a try. I have to admit - dining out is still a luxury we enjoy but now we tend to have better behaved kids in the restaurant (because its more special) and its money spent more deliberately at times we try to plan on instead of defaulting to a drive thru. (sorry readers, its a rough paragraph, but parenting calls :) )

I've found a few helpful websites that I've been following to get frugal and creative recipes that I've been referring a lot of people to lately. I'd like to give them proper credit and list them here:

Hillbilly Housewife - did you know you can make your own tortillas and bisquick?!
Mommy's Kitchen - lots of yummy stuff here
All Recipes.com - I love how I can adjust the serving size to fit what I have on hand.

There are several more, and I'm a follower of them - you can see many cooking blogs listed in my profile if you want. If you have any website suggestions for me, feel free to leave a comment! Thanks.

Monday, July 20, 2009

50% off Shop N' Save Discount Certificates!


When I go to St. Cloud, MN - which is about an hour away - I LOVE going to Craft's Direct. It's very similar to a Hobby Lobby. I scrapbook, so I go there for crop nights a lot.

Right now, you can get a $25 certificate for Crafts Direct for $12.50.

Wow!

Now imagine if you paired that with a 40% or 50% coupon (they take competitors coupons).

Did I mention they even have a nice fabric department?

I've never used these certificates at Crafts Direct before - so hopefully they would allow purchases with coupons (and credit my purchase to my Passport discount card too!). The only restriction it posted online was that it has to be used all at once - no change will be given. I'm hoping they will also let me use it on my crop night fees :)

Once of my favorite home decor stores, Wooden Hearts is offering $10 certificates for $5. I might have to get those too!

If you live in Central MN, its worth taking a look at what other deals you can find - there are probably over 100 offers! Click the logo above to go to the Shop N' Save website.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

3 GALLONS of fresh blueberries and 2 lbs. bananas for under $24!


At Cash Wise!

Pints of blueberries are on sale for .98 each - so I bought 2 flats (or 24 pints)
The free item after $25 purchase is 2 pounds of bananas.
You can count the value of the free item towards the $25.

SO...

(24) x .98 = $23.52 for blueberries
(2 lbs ban.) $ 1.24
--------------------------
$24. 76

--usually they will let something that close slide, but if you don't have anything else, just make sure you have a little over 2 pounds of bananas.

But the 2 pounds of bananas will be free, so you would get this all for under $24.

If you are wondering why I am buying so many blueberries, its because (1) the freeze well and (2) they are an anti-inflammatory food. For you who don't personally know me, I have Crohn's Disease, which is an autoimmune, or inflammatory disease. I am on more medication than my grandma (most likely, anyway!) because of inflammatory issues. Many times if you are lucky enough to have one, you more than likely have several (like my asthma, eczema, allergies and arthritis). I am even undergoing a round of Entocort, an oral steroid, to give me some relief to my symptoms, and once I'm done with that, I am hoping I will have the courage to change my diet to a more anti-inflammatory diet so I don't need such high levels of daily medication. Prayers are welcome! Thanks for letting me share a little about me. It could be MUCH worse, right? I try to remember that.

Monday, July 6, 2009

YUMMMM! Deep Dish Chicago-Style PIZZA!



I made this for dinner tonight! Yumm!!! It has been YEARS - gosh- can I say - a DECADE since I last had this kind of pizza (at Green Mill, here in MN). Now I feel old. I dont like talking in decades, lol. I have been trying to cook from scratch recently, and this is one of the MANY new recipes my family has been subjected to (though no one complained about this one, lol)

For those who don't know, a Chicago-style pizza has the cheese UNDER the sauce. It came out very light and airy, and I LOVE the tomato chunks in it from the diced tomatoes. I even got to use my own basil from my garden!

I remember having to watch The Frugal Gourmet as a kid. It was one of the cooking shows I think my mom watched. I dont know. We only had 4 or 5 channels. Maybe this was the best thing on. I still remember his pinstriped apron and thinking "frugal" was such a weird word, lol. So, this recipe is based on The Frugal Gourmet's recipe from 1987, or so, but I made some adaptations since things have changed a bit in 22 years...

I'll post my variation of the recipe, but the original is all over the internet, including HERE.

Dough

  • 1 OR 2 packages rapid rise dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 5 1/2 cups flour
I have a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook, and that is what is recommended to use with this recipe. I don't really know how you would make this without it or a bread machine with a dough setting... The dough is pretty sticky. But it makes two batches of dough, so its easy to split with someone if you make it at their place or something... you only use the mixer for about 15 minutes.

SO here is where I made changes. It tells you to beat the yeast with the liquids but my yeast packet told me otherwise. Since the yeast is so important to making the crust, I felt those instructions trumped the original recipe. I had some extra time this afternoon and some fresh packets of dry yeast, so I thought I'd try it with just one packet. The dough was done rising in two hours, so I think thats a change I will keep. The amount of yeast just affects how long it takes to rise, as I understand it.

SO, in my mixer (with the dough hook, but you could use the whisk) I put the flour (spooned into cup, not scooped out with the cup!), cornmeal and yeast packet and mixed at a low speed for a few minutes while I worked on the liquids.

In a microwaveable bowl, I put the two cups of water and the oils and mixed them together and microwaved it and mixed thoughly before measuring with a candy thermomiter to bring the temp up to 125°.

Then with the DOUGH HOOK in the mixer, add the liquid to the dry ingredients on low speed. Once combined, increase speed slightly, if desired. It will look sticky. But when I stopped the mixer and used a spatula to make sure there was no dry ingredients on the sides, the dough was elasticy and sort-of came away from the bowl side pretty easily, so maybe that is a helpful guide to use on the consistancy. I stirred it for a total of about 5 minutes.

Next is the rise. I plopped it on my clean, lightly floured laminate countertop (my recipe said "plastic" countertop, but mine was fine, lol) and covered it with a big plastic bowl (here, my recipe said METAL bowl) but it didn't matter. It doubled in bulk in a matter of 40 minutes or so. I punched it down and folded it up again, putting a little more flour under it and covered it again. About an hour later I checked it again and it was ready. I don't think I needed to even let it do a second rise, just give it more like 60 minutes and that should be good.

Since we are a family of 4, with small kids, I didn't think I needed to use my big 18" deep dish pan. I used a 9x13 instead. I thought the two cake pans that were suggested would be too small. I put half of the dough flattened out in a floured gallon freezer bag and stuck it in my freezer. Hopefully it will come out ok when I use it in a few weeks.

I oiled my 9x13 pan with a little olive oil and learned the hard way that you should NOT oil the sides. I also sprinkled some cornmeal on the bottom to help the dough not just sit in the oil. I pressed out the dough into a rough rectangle before I put it in the pan and tried my best to keep the though about 1/8 inch thick, as suggested.

Now for the toppings! What makes this pizza so yummy is the cheese UNDER the tomato sauce, so be sure to try it made that way at least once. Here is what you need:

Topping (in order):
  • 1/3 pound shredded mozzarella cheese (or sliced)
  • 2 cups diced canned tomatoes ( I used some "crushed" as well)
  • 1 teaspoon basil (I used my FRESH basil from my garden - yum! -about 1 tablespoon fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • whatever toppings you like
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (I just used more shredded)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil drizzled over top
  • Salt to taste (sprinkle a little salt on the crust edges - they were a little bland)

Put these toppings on in this order on the list. Just try it once this way. Its very yummy.

Bake in a 450° oven for about 35-40 minutes, depending on toppings, until golden brown.

I am so excited to can some tomato sauce again this year! I like how you can customize the texture when you can your own and I LOVE the diced tomatoes in it. Hopefully my tomatoes will grow. My goal is to eventually supply ALL the tomato sauce for our meals, but with us eating out less and me cooking from scratch more, I doubt my little garden could handle that.

Life

After a morning of squabbling with each other, they ask if they can take a nap together. They were reading in DD3's bed while DD6 read to DD3 from her Pony Pals book. So sweet.

I harvested my garlic this week. My biggest one is about the size of a ping pong ball. I have them drying on my front porch because my resource I've been learning about growing from says they need to dry out in a shady place with good air circulation. I have no idea why it underlined so much of that paragraph, but I'll have to leave it because my sleeping beauties just woke up....
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Yesterday, when I was tending my garden, I twisted my ankle again....

I sprained it about 3 weeks ago.

If you want to see a picture of my foot, keep scrolling...

If you don't, I completely understand.

There is nothing more to see on this post besides the picture.

Ok...

Here goes...


I thought the bruising towards the back there was pretty cool, actually. I had trouble getting a good picture by myself, though. Now it hurts all over again *sigh*
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