Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Cooking from the Pantry Challenge update...

A friend asked me yesterday how my cooking from the pantry challenge was coming along and I had to be honest with her. NOT SO GOOD! But then later in the day I went back and reviewed. You know it is wasn't as bad as I thought considering what we discovered when we did a thorough clean out of the cabinets, refrigerator, and freezers.... such as there were only 2 lbs of frozen vegetables left.  However there is definitely room for improvement. :)

What exactly have I accomplished?
-1 pork roast (from freezer)=2 meals of BBQ pork, 20 shredded pork taquitos (frozen)
-1 whole chicken=(from freezer) eaten with rice (pantry staple), as an after sports snack, and in sandwiches

-bags of tomatoes, spinach, and pesto + miscellaneous bits of fried hamburger & sausage=5 2c bags of enchilada sauce & pasta sauce (5 last minute meals!)

-leftover granola, miscellaneous instant oatmeal, plus bits of nuts/seeds,fruits=1 sheet pan full of chewy granola bars

-2 1 gallon zip lock bags whole peaches (frozen)=fruit roll-ups

"party mix" from left over cereals (plus what remains of the peach/strawberry fruit leather, and the granola bars.)
in the freezer: 5 containers of apple sauce
                      1 gallon bag of jalapenos
                      1/2 loaf of rye bread
in the cabinets: numerous bulk containers of assorted "jello"

2 days worth of jello for packed lunches and our streusel topping (made from cereal crumbs, butter & spices) (and yes one of the jobs for this weekend is emptying 'fridge in order to wash shelves!)

Did we buy groceries?  Yes because A.) there were exactly 2 lbs of frozen veggies left and 2.) there were days I did not plan ahead and discovered we were out of things like bread or fresh fruit.  I am not even counting the milk as it is a necessary staple in our household.  

Where could I have done better? What changes can I implement?
-planning ahead.  Since we have kids in sports and Chris teaches one night a week we do not always eat together but I can still plan for this by having things prepared and portioned out.
-have some make ahead meals in the freezer for nights I am plum tuckered out and don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.... i.e. the frozen sauces for pasta and taquitos.
-make a comprehensive list of what we have on hand (working on this one)
-take an hour one evening and plan meals for the week... plan those meals according to what we have  on hand!

Its a beginning.... :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

The beauty of a sunrise

No words can truly do justice to the majesty of God's splendor....

Pin It

Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great ; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.  Psalm 104:1

Monday, February 20, 2012

The ULTIMATE chocolate birthday cake!

This time of year is a pretty busy one for our family aside from the normal swimming meets, indoor track practice, and valentine's day we also have birthdays.  40% of our family have February birthdays, within 5 days.... okay so it sounds more impressive when you break it down into percentages, ha ha! :)  In all reality 2 out of our family of 5 have February birthdays. Our eldest and myself, yep 5 days apart.... his, then mine.  But this year was a special year... an 18th birthday!  And what did we do to celebrate?  He spent the night at a friend's after the basketball game and then spent the day after lazing about.  We had DiGiorno pizza (per his request), breadsticks, Vanilla Coke, and the most divinely, decadent chocolate cake.  Remember these vegan cupcakes? Well I made the cake version. and it is simply stunning!

 (it was cloudy and grey the day I baked it... so we waited..... to photograph it.  now it is sunny buy windy!  you should have seen the cloth flying... so this was taken on the run!)

Now about baking this cake... 
-mix just like you would for cupcakes
-pour batter into 2 9" round cake pans that have been well greased & lined with parchment paper
-bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.
-prick center of cake with toothpick to check for doneness.. toothpick should come out clean.
-allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing from pan. (run knife around edge to loosen edges.)
-center filling is a portion of the frosting lightening with real whipping cream.  (I did it to preference)

We topped the cake with raspberries and a drizzle of (canned) "whipped" cream around the edges.  The "whipped" cream ran but made a lovely design.
This cake is rich and delicious (and our 18 year old ate some for breakfast this morning with a glass of milk and a banana! it is that good!!) 

Linky Followers Blog Hop

As we are all more than aware Google Friend Connect is going away.... and it looks like it is going to be much sooner than later.  In fact it will be 1 March 2012 for non-blogger platforms.  So rather than loss so many of my lovely followers I am encouraging you all to change over to the new Linky Follower.

So I decided to join Cheri's blog hop to help get the information out!  In fact even before I joined the Blog hop Cheri was my very first new REAL follower after I joined Linky Follower.  Talk about excited!!

So here are the RULES:

1. you MUST have the LINKY FOLLOWERS tool on your site to participate.

If you see that your link has been deleted you need to add the LINKY FOLLOWER tool to your site and then come back over and re-enter your link
{You can have both the LINKY FOLLOWERS & GFC on your site but you must have the LINKY FOLLOWERS toolto participate in this party hop.}

2. You MUST follow the person who has the party on their site as a thank you.

3. Just add your blog button to the LINKY PARTY below.

4.Then grab the BLOG HOP code

You will find the code right under the Linky Party where it says CLICK HERE TO ENTER
just under that it says: WHAT IS A BLOG HOP? GET THE CODE HERE
Click on GET THE CODE HERE and enter it into a post on your site.
5. Then you follow other bloggers–(as many as you want)
–leave each one of the blogs that you follow a comment letting them know you are following them and ask them to follow you back.
If you want to add the BLOG HOP to your own site you will get lots of new followers(see rule #2)
Thanks you all!  Stop on by (the posts have been a bit sporatic but that is about to change!  for reals!  I even have a no kidding schedule and everything thanks to so many friends who have been such an encouragement to me... but first I am off to spend the holiday with my family and then celebrate a few days of birthdays!)  Once again thank you for stopping by and joining up!

Monday, February 13, 2012

New recipes in the works.... taking stock and a challenge

 I've been working up a storm in the kitchen recently.  Cleaning, organizing, taking inventory of our "stock", and just doing a little overhauling.  This will give you an general idea of what I've been dealing with.
These are my spice drawers.  The right hand one does contain a single packaged spice mix and our boxed jello (however I also have "bulk" jello in mason jars in the cabinets above as well.)  But the rest is herbs and spices!  There are two thin green boxes stacked on top of each other which contain small quantities of of "potent" spices, things where you only need a pinch or two.
This will give you a better idea of the contents of the left drawer.  The tin box is what I pull out and use on an almost daily basis.

And here is the overflow on the top shelf of the cabinet above my spice drawers and I have one of those plastic lazy susan's in my cabinet next to the stove filled with extracts, small jars of powdered mushrooms and veggies, finishing salts, and "ethnic" salts/flavorings.

I also have various sized jars filled with dried mushrooms, candied citrus peels, various dried peppers, dried veggies,  grains, a minimum of 4 types of vinegars, cooking "spirits",  and numerous oils (some out and some in the fridge.)

What "normal" person has all these ingredients?  (and has NO oregano!  how did that happen??)  Did I mention that I use this stuff?  Not ALL on a daily basis but often enough.  And that I also grow my own herbs?  We only had a couple of "staples" in our garden last year but since it is a work in progress more will be added this year.

Because of all the craziness in the kitchen everything else if being neglected, not that my it matters to the rest of my family.  They are loving the cooking frenzy going on! :)  So today a new recipe in is the works... if it comes out as planned it will be the backbone for many a dish to include but not limited to: green chile, BBQ pork, pork "taquitos", and pork fried rice.

I thought you might get a kick out of this shot!  Yes I have to stand a "stool" in order to take photos from above.  You can say I am a bit "elevationally" challenged!  ha ha!  Don't you love my winter Crocs?  I know I do!  I think I will be heartbroken when the liners wear out in them as I wear them ALL winter long!

Have a great day!  Keep checking back and I'll keep you updated on the cooking "challenge" around here.  Oh did I not mention that?  Sorry!! I have challenged myself to use what we have on hand and use "real" ingredients.  NO purchases except for the following: milk, eggs, cheese, fresh and frozen produce (we are running low on veggies.. AGAIN!)  No meat, no baked goods, no cereal, no pasta, nothing!  Peanut butter is also part of the exception as we go through it.  How long will this "challenge" last?  I have no idea.... until we (I) am in the habit of using what we have and not buying needlessly.  The purpose?  To get back in the habit of using whole foods and to eliminate most processed foods from our diet.  To improve our overall eating habits. Yes I say most as there are some things that my husband has requested I do not make from scratch, peanut butter, Nutella,  and certain crackers.  So I will honor his wishes and will continue to purchase these items.  I will say aside from the peanut butter, the Nutella and crackers are items we do NOT eat on a regular basis.  So if you would like to join me, drop me a line.  If I can figure out how to do it I may even turn this into a Linky party with week or biweekly updates.

Have a wonderful week!

Linky Followers widget addition...

I am sure all of you know by now that Google Friend Connect is being retired as of 1 March 2012.  From what I understand this retirement is now across the board, for blogger and all other platforms.  Google is encouraging everyone to sign up for Google+, something I am just not ready for at this point in time.  So in the interim I have decided to add the Linky Followers widget.   Please do sign up as I would hate to see you go simply due to an operational change by Google (trust me I have lost contact with too many friends due to a computer crash which "ate" all my contact data, etc....)

Its really easy to sign up, follow and read blogs through this new widget.

I know the question of can my Google Friends Connect followers be automatically moved over? NO. Google won’t allow access to those accounts which is a good thing because you ought not allow someone else to sign you up for a new service.   It needs to be voluntary.  You need to ask your Google Friends Connect friends (and all your blog readers) to follow you using Linky Followers but its really easy, quick and free?  I think you'll love the tool.  It appears  to be a good way to organize and follow the blogs you love.

And most importantly I want to thank you all for faithfully following along!  I really doubt this blog will turn into one of those HUGE blogs followed by the multitudes and do you know what?  I am completely and totally fine with that!  Do you know why?  Because in all honesty this blog is a journey for me taking me places I've never been,  a window that the Lord has used to open my eyes to many things, causing me to examine myself inwardly and outwardly and to consider the possibilities.  A tool to teach me  " whatsoever state I am , therewith tobe content." Philippians 4:11  So I would like to say thank you and hope you will continue to follow along! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Searching for the perfect chocolate cake.... success!

  These past couple of weeks have been filled with the search for the perfect chocolate cake and chocolate frosting with the approach of birthdays.  You see my "baby", my first born will be turning 18 and I want to make an extra special cake.  Lo and behold but what should appear in my e-mail one day but this article... Deep, Dark Chocolate Cookies, Cakes, & Favorite Recipes Recipe Roundup from The Kitchn.  The rootbeer chocolate bundt cake was a big hit (sorry no pictures as they devoured it before I even got the camera out) but it just wasn't what I wanted.  In fact what I really want is a slice of the most divine chocolate truffle cake from The French Street Bakery and Cafe, but alas they have gone out of business.  Oh be still my breaking heart, as I never could get them to part with the recipe... even when I explained we were living in Alaska.  (the poor girl was so confused when I called and asked about the recipe.  she even told me all i had to do was call in a day before i came in so that they would have one made for me... she never did truly understand that we lived 4000 miles away at the time... hmm i wonder if that may have had something to do with it...) 

Well the Vegan Chocolate Ginger Orange Cupcakes by Sarah Rae sounded delicious (and they are! and you should them with lime zest/juice...)  but if you know me at all you know I just can't leave things alone.  So here is my adaptation inspired by Sarah Rae's Vegan Chocolate Ginger Orange Cupcakes as I know my family does NOT like orange or ginger in their chocolate. 

(the batter is even delicious!)
Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 standard cupcakes
3 cups all purpose flour (organic unbleached preferably) (I substitute out 1/2 c for whole wheat flour)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (the darker the better!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups natural cane sugar
1 2/3 cups cold freshly brewed coffee (or water)
1 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon orange juice (I eliminated & added an additional tbsp of coffee)
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 375 F. Mix all dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add water, oil, vanilla, and orange juice. Stir to combine. Add vinegar and stir quickly to combine. It will be slightly foamy and lighter in color. Once the mix turns slightly darker again you know all the vinegar has been mixed in. Now pour it into muffin tins (or even two cake pans.) Bake for 15 minutes for standard sized cupcakes. Allow to sit in pan for 5 minutes, remove and place on wire rack until completely cool.
Frosting (non-vegan)
1 cup butter, softened (use vegan margarine for a vegan frosting)
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange juice (can substitute with coffee)
4 tablespoon milk (or cold freshly brewed coffee) (use almond milk for a vegan frosting)
1/2 cup cocoa powder + 2 heaping tablespoons Ghirardelli chocolate mocha powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
Blend butter in a mixer until creamy, add in powdered sugar and mix to combine. Add remaining ingredients and mix until creamy consistency. You're ready to eat! Refrigerate any unused frosting for up to a week.
 (one of the few remaining... its been dark all day and the lighting is horrible but I knew I had to hurry before all the cupcakes were gone!)

And the highest praise came from my son to be 18 year old... "Mom, whatever you do, DO NOT change anything about this frosting or these cupcakes!"  So for his birthday it will be this cake with with a bit of the  frosting lightened with whipping cream between the two layers of cake with fresh berries and chocolate leaves as a garnish.

linking to:  

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special     

Friday, February 03, 2012

Oil rubbed bronze hardware-a makeover

The sweet "Tuscan" kitchen has new hardware!!!  Yes you read correctly Oil rubbed bronze!!  I know, I know that is so last year but you know what I love it.  When we first moved in I was not crazy about the cabinet handles so we changed them out... brass to nickel/chrome.  Now don't get me wrong because I still ADORE chrome... always have, always will.  Something about that shiny, silvery finish just leaves me all a twitter but hey a girl can broaden her horizons.  Enter cast iron, wrought iron, and oil rubbed bronze.  I don't something about them just scream old world and as we all know that is me... a touch of the "old world", a bit of "modern" and just a smidgeon of country, hmm make that "old world country."  So this week on a whim I decided to drop into Hobby Lobby on a day when I had a splitting headache and could hardly see straight (yes it was mainly because I was in desperate need of a soda but hey it is just across the street so why not stop in, right?)  Then what to my wandering eyes should appear... a sign for 50% off all drawer pulls and knobs.  Were my eyes deceiving me?  Were those really "wrought iron" cup drawer pulls?

So a few minutes later I walked out of the store with these beauties.

And these!

A few days later the chrome was transformed to this!