Holidays upon us..week 7

Well it is here. The holiday craziness is officially upon us. I know I am a little behind because of illnesses and remodeling. Yes, we decided to remodel in the middle of the holidays. We did the same thing 4 years ago too. We are just crazy like that. But thankfully it is done and now I just have to reorganize my house. I am also writing this while dealing with a very sick little girl and a million things on the to do list. But I always pull it off. Sometimes by the skin of my teeth. But hey that’s life.

So what should you be doing….

Hopefully you already shopped, are ready to shop, going shopping for everything!

Grocery shop for Thanksgiving no later than this Friday. It will save you from dealing with the massive crowds.

Make a plan for your Black Friday shopping. I am not participating because it seems the stores open earlier every year. I like to enjoy my Thanksgiving with my family and friends and shop on the actual Black Friday but I will just be shopping from this very computer I am writing you from.

Christmas shopping should already be happening. We have had boxes coming in at least 2-3 times a week here. I am almost completely done with my family outside of my household and just need to concentrate on my kids now. Hubby already bought his present so that’s one less person for me to worry about.

Hopefully you found my Holiday series helpful. I enjoyed writing it.

Happy Holidays ya’ll!

Holidays Upon us..week 6

We have 2 more weeks of Holidays upon us post and then it is here. All the craziness of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

Thanksgiving: Get your final menu figured out! Hand out assignments of who is to bring what. Figure out your portion of the meal and make a grocery list. Also remember plates, cups and silverware. If you are fancy and use non-paper items, make sure you have enough. I use paper goods, but I like all of my food served in regular dishes. So I will be getting them out this week and washing them up and seeing what I still need.

Black Friday: The ads are slowly starting to roll out. I am still waiting for the 2 bigger ones: Target and Walmart. But there are a lot that have already been posted. Check them out here.

If you haven’t started yet, then start that shopping!!!

You only have 45 days to go!

I know I didn’t say anything about Christmas in this post. That’s because I have a special Christmas post coming on Wednesday.

Eat at Home Challenge

For the last 2 months, we have really struggled with fast food. Our lives have been so busy with at least 3-4 activities on the calendar every week that it was easier to just grab something while we were out. But then there was also moments of how about we go here and there for dinner. Or do you want to get this or that for breakfast. It got out of control.

My proudest moment was when I had to take my daughter for a last-minute, late in the day doctor appointment. After the appointment, I had to make the, normally 30 minute, drive back to our hometown during rush hour traffic and stop at the pharmacy. It would have been easy to get sucked into the let’s just pick something up game. But I refused! I knew I had meat thawed in the fridge that needed to be used up. I knew we had already ate out at lunch time because of a homeschool meeting. I knew we were going over to my mom’s for pizza the next day. And I wasn’t going to do it! I got home and with the help of my middle daughter. I made dinner at home. It was completely from scratch. But it was the best I could do under the circumstances and much better than fast food. We had pork chops, mac and cheese (organic from a box) and broccoli. And I was darn proud. So proud, I turned around and did it again on Saturday. And then again on Monday.  3 busy days that could have been easier to just throw the towel in and hit the drive through. But I didn’t!

So to take it a step further, I am challenging myself to a 2 week eat at home challenge. I am going to start as of this Sunday. That means I am already 2 days into it. I actually signed up for this challenge through Eat at Home Cooks. I really love this blog because it gives some simple tips and makes it easy for all of us to eat at home. Not to mention the recipes are yummy.

And let’s be honest we all need to eat at home to make room in the fridge, freezer and our waistline for all those holiday foods that are coming up.

Why I don’t make my own pumpkin puree

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I am the queen of making things from scratch. I know it’s healthy and I love the taste of homemade better than anything else. I have always been like this. I always like things better when they are homemade.

Last year I decided I was going to try to make homemade pumpkin puree. And let’s just say that is not happening again. I couldn’t find easy instructions anywhere online. So I was really winging it. Then I had problems trying to scoop the pumpkin out of the skin. And more problems trying to get it to that smooth texture that comes from a can.

It really was a hot mess. Like, no seriously, it was HOT! But I tried and really at the end of that project, I stood there and asked myself why did I think this was a good idea? I don’t even like pumpkin!

OY VEY! Sometimes the things I get in my brain, even I can’t explain it!

Why would I go through all this extra steps for something I don’t eat. Because I love my family and they love pumpkin. But in the end, the only ones to benefit from my experiment was my chickens.

So if you’re a lover of pumpkin and have found the detail instructions to make your own pumpkin puree, have a go at it. Me~I’ll stick to the can stuff. And that is probably the only time you will ever hear me say that.

 

This blog post participated in the Simple Homestead Blog Hop

What’s cooking Wednesday~ Fruit Salad

A little side note: Yes I know it is Thursday and this segment is called what’s cooking Wednesday. But yesterday I kept forgetting it was Wednesday. And then when I went to write this post I thought I lost my pictures. I looked through all of the SD cards and convinced myself that I had gone crazy and lost them. Then this morning, I was browsing through my pictures I have saved online and VOILA! They appeared here waiting for me to write this post the whole time! I blame this on the time change and Mommy brain.

Here it is! The long awaited Fruit Salad recipe to go with my quiches. My hubby and kids love this super simple recipe.

 

 

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1 20oz can pineapple; crushed

2 small cans mandarin oranges or 1 large can

1 pkg. strawberry jello

1 tub cool whip or homemade whipped cream

2 cups cottage cheese

Combine the cottage cheese, jello and fruit. Mix together.

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I usually make homemade whipped cream by beating 1 1/2 cups heavy cream with a tbs of sugar and 2 tsp vanilla. This is why my fruit salad takes a little longer.

Add either cool whip or homemade whipped cream to cottage cheese mix and fold in gently. Refrigerate for a couple of hours and then serve chilled.

You can add a little bit of nuts. I used to do this but got away from it when my son started eating it because he hates nuts. But honestly, nobody notices  complains about them not being in there.

There you have it folks, simple, easy and yummy! This would make a great side dish to that ham you are planning on fixing for Easter.

 

What’s Cookin’ Wednesday~ Quiche

Quick! You have a last-minute guest who is coming at a meal time. What do you fix?

This has happened to me. A family member of mine (*cough Aunt Jo, LOL) likes to wait until the last-minute to make plans. A couple years ago, we had talked about getting together on a certain day, but no solid plans were made. Luckily, I had done a massive stock up shopping so I was prepared when I got the text confirming that our get together was on.

Yes, you can always go out and pick something up. Or order pizza or sandwich trays from your local grocer. But nothing says welcome like a simple home cooked meal. My aunt offered to just pick something up, but why waste the money when I have everything here.

That day we were meeting around lunchtime, so I decided to do a brunch theme. I whipped up 2 quiches, a broccoli and cheddar and a bacon and swiss, and my famous (at least to my hubby) 15 minute fruit salad.

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Quiche is one of those dishes that looks complicated but really isn’t. And you can make it using whatever you have around the house. It is so versatile. Pick out your fillings and go.

Start with the crust. Now you can either make your own pie crust or just buy the refrigerated or frozen ones from the store. I actually used the refrigerated Pillsbury Pie crust this time. You just unroll it and place it in the pie pan. But I have been known to go all fancy and make the pie crust from scratch.

Once that is in the dish, move on to the filling. Cook, chop or whatever you need to do to the fillings now. In my case, I fried up some bacon, chopped some broccoli and grated cheddar and swiss cheese. Then I put a nice thick layer on the bottom of the crust.

Some more filling ideas~Caramelized Onion, mushroom and bacon (amazing!), Veggie (any and all kinds), Southwestern ( chicken, peppers and cheddar)

 

Next, mix up 3 eggs, 1 1/2 cups half & half, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. You can just use a fork to do this. No fancy mixers, it’s just a light mixing. Pour into crust.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Then turn down oven to 325 degrees and bake until set. You don’t want jiggle quiches. You want springy, so if you touch the middle it is firm but soft, like a sponge. I will say quiche baking time will vary based on the amount of fillings and how deep of a pie pan you have. I have some that have baked in 25 minutes and others that took 30-40 minutes. Just keep checking on it. And if the edge your crust starts getting too dark, put a little aluminum foil around it. Just make sure not to cover the egg filling.

The basis of this recipe came from Cooks.com and makes 1 9 inch quiche. For 2, like in my picture, double the recipe.

 

 

 

 

3 year Blogiversary

 

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Growing a large family 3 year blogiversary

 

It was 3 years ago today that I decided to start a blog. A place where I can vent and connect with the world. I also did many searches for large family blogs and couldn’t find any. So I decided that that was the direction I wanted to go. Over the years it has morphed into an eclectic collection of moments in our lives from homeschooling to homesteading. I try to keep it real, but classy and positive at the same time. I hope I have provided some humor along with some ideas and tips to help with your lives. All I ask is that you spread the word.

 

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Now let’s take a look back at my top post over the last 3 years.

First Day of School 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

Building our Coop de Ville

 

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My Favorite Post:

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits

This is my favorite post because I always ask myself why can’t I make biscuits. I grew up watching Grandma make them. I have tackled some pretty difficult recipes and have honestly impressed the heck out of myself sometimes. But biscuits are my Achilles heel! UPDATE: I still haven’t found and made a good biscuit yet!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

Selfie! OH wait am I too close!

 

Theses are the post that sum me up as a person. These post show who I am perfectly.

Our Frugal Disney Vacation

City Girl living a Country life

Check in with my flock

Family Dinners

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Let me know your favorite post and what you would like to see more of.

 

 

Challenge update~Harder than I thought, Not giving up

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When I started out on this challenge I thought I had it all planned out and it was going to be fun and exciting to eat new and healthier foods. But, boy, was I wrong. It has been difficult. I have met resistance from my family. Even my kids are saying it is not worth it. Hubby thinks I am crazy. And Grandma doesn’t care one way or the other as long as she is fed 3 times a day. My son has had plenty of meltdowns because Mommy won’t buy him poptarts anymore. At least once a week, I have wanted to just give up, throw the towel in and let the family have back all their favorite junk. Hubby hasn’t helped by wanting to eat out ALL THE TIME.

I am not giving up! I am just rethinking my plan.

First, I am focusing on one thing at a time. I know I said not to overwhelm yourself and it was a case Do as I say, not as I do.

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Step one: Eliminating as much GMO’s from our diet as I can. 

So there are 4 specific items that I have heard could be GMO.

  1. Corn
  2. Wheat
  3. Sugar
  4. Potatoes

Corn is the number 1 thing I keep hearing warnings about being GMO. Which sucks because it’s the only darn vegetable I can get my son to eat. I have tried finding organic frozen corn and haven’t had very good luck. I emailed Publix and asked about their corn. They said they try to stay away from buying GMO corn. But this isn’t a 100% fix. I have also read you can’t even trust the corn from your farmer’s market or fruit stand. I contacted our local farm stand and sure enough they said yeah it probably is. WHAT!?!  So with that being said, I am just limiting our corn intake. Instead of every week, I am doing once in a while. I was able to find a very small bag of organic corn (frozen) at Publix for an insane amount of money. It would take 2-3 bags to feed my family, but worked out great for my corn casserole which only calls for a small amount.

Wheat is the next on my list. I have been going crazy looking for reasonable organic flour. We go through  A LOT of flour because we make most things from scratch. And $5.99 per 5 lb bag was not going to fit in our budget when I am buying 10-20 lbs a month. But after much research, I found that the King Arthur brand is Non-GMO. I pay $4.99 for a 10lb bag of regular flour and King Arthur is $7.99 for the same size bag. I can live with that. Plus I love that it is unbleached and the texture is light and fluffy.

Sugar was the next thing that perked my ears up. Some sugar is not made from sugar cane, but rather sugar beets which is GMO. So I did buy a few small bags of organic sugar that I found at Walmart on sale and added my coupons to it. Wasn’t too bad, but again I go through 10+ pounds of sugar a month. So not feasible. BUT after more research, Domino states on their facebook page that they do not use GMO sugar and it is from Pure sugar cane. Any sugar stating from Pure Sugar cane is good, anything else stay clear of.

Potatoes haven’t gone GMO yet. But the potato big wigs are petitioning to get GMO potatoes approved. Plus it is on the dirty dozen list so I figured let’s be safe and just go organic. I have found the best place is BJ’s for organic potatoes. They had a much bigger bag for the same price of Publix.

So out of my top 4 (and I am sure as I learn; I will add more) 2 items I can keep buying the brands I love, one item I will cut back on and the other I found a good deal. AWESOME!

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How I did my research.
I realized instead of reading a million books and each one saying something different; I would go straight to the source of all info, the internet.  I would search the name of my favorite brand or food item and add GMO at the end. It was literally that simple and in moments I would have my answer. This all started with my stress over oats. I heard all Quaker and Kelloggs were GMO. I assumed my oats were crap and I was looking for an alternative. I was stressed over the price compared to how much we eat, plus I give them to my chickens. Then I did a simple search; which said several times; there are no GMO oats. Which is why Cheerios can say they are GMO free! From here, I started thinking so what else have I been spending extra money on unnecessarily. Thus, my research began. Another tidbit I just learned is Popcorn is safe. No such thing as GMO popcorn!
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I am never going back
There were a few items that I found I loved and will be keeping in our regular diet. Coconut oil is my new favorite oil. I love the smell and it taste so clean. I did realize that I need to buy the bigger size at Costco compared to the one at BJ’s because we use it for everything. Frying, baking, seasoning my cast iron and most importantly making popcorn. Grass fed hamburger is the other item. For months, I kept complaining that the meat had a raunchy smell to it. And when I would make burgers, my hands had so much grease that I had to use dish soap to get them clean. It was gross. Well grass-fed meat has none of that. Plus I made an amazing steak the other day from grass-fed beef and my hubby loved it so much he ate the leftovers 2 days later and said it tasted even better.  And that is enough to make me a believer. Butter from Grass fed milk is another one. Yes I have to remember to sit it out so it softens but totally worth it. I have never tasted such wonderful butter. And let me tell ya, we love our butter. But now I am in Heaven.
Now the things I can’t make a commitment and change to a healthier item. Mayonnaise~ I bought this non-Gmo, organic, expensive brand and I hate it. The texture is funny and the taste is blah! We don’t use mayo a lot so I am willing to compromise and buy Duke’s olive oil mayo.
Organic dirty dozen fruits and vegetables are a must; along with any other great deal I find on organic produce. I sealed the deal on the decision the day I was driving down my back roads with my family. We drove past a strawberry field being prepped for planting season and we got hit with this awful smell. At first, I thought it was a skunk dead in the area, but then Hubby said that’s the stuff they spray on the fields. Needless to say, I was grossed out! So we are trying to grow a lot of own, but if we can’t then organic is the way we are going as much as possible.

 

Getting challenge ready

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Creating a Master Menu

In my household, it is very easy to jump into the day and get caught up in all the things that need to be done. Homeschooling, laundry, cleaning, chickens and then there is meal time, by the time I get a chance to breathe it is 4:00 and I have no idea what’s for dinner. I need a plan. It’s one of many ways I keep my life organized and our budget on track.

This summer I took my meal planning to a whole new level. I went through my cookbooks (believe me there is a lot!) and made monthly menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner of all of my families favorites. I have enough menus for 5 months worth of dinners. We only have 1 or 2 months for breakfast and lunch, but are trying to expand on those also. We will begin using these menus in September. I love trying new recipes so the weekends are left opened for those. I also only use these during the school year. Summer is all about finding new favorites.

 

Creating a Monthly Grocery List

Another thing I am starting to do is a beginning of the month huge shopping. I make a grocery listing everything I need and then go through and cross off what I already have. From there, I go through and add things that I am getting low on that I know are necessities and we will need before the month runs out.

Now I break down the produce items by the week. Obviously, buying fresh produce for a whole month and expecting it to stay fresh until the end of the month is unrealistic. So I do a quick produce and milk shopping every week.

Why I do a monthly shopping
I live out in a rural area and it is not economical for me to be driving to the store multiple times. Not only that but I have a big family. So I choose to take one weekend to do my huge shopping. One day I drive North to BJ’s and stop at a Publix. And then a few days later, when I go to my mother in laws, I stop at Costco, Fresh Market and a Meat market if need be. These are all close to her house. I am technically not making an extra trip because I have to go pick up which ever kids are at her house anyways. Plus this just works for me. If I lived in the city or closer to these places, I probably wouldn’t shop monthly.

 

Where I Shop

I usually shop at BJ Wholesale, Publix and Walmart. In doing my research of the variety of products, I have decided to drop Walmart stores. The stores are very limited on in store organic or natural products, but online they have an amazing selection with some items cheaper than Amazon. Plus by shopping online and using the mypoints.com website you will earn points towards gift cards for Amazon, Walmart or Visa. I honestly cannot tell you how much I love this site. But that is another post.

 I also just recently purchased a Costco membership after reading many blog post about the amount of organic items and doing a walk-through of the store. I also did this through an email deal from MyPoints and earned extra points. So September will be my first month shopping there.
Near Costco, there is a meat market that sells grass-fed beef for the same price as regular beef at Publix. I am driving by so of course I am going to stop there and get my beef and anything else that looks good. Again I haven’t been there yet. This is based off of my research.
But I have been to the new Fresh Market by my Mother in Law’s house. AMAZING! It was a real food culinary dream. I will definitely be stopping there when I need fresh seafood. Very little meat is prepackaged, it all gets wrapped by the butcher when you order it. Plus they have an amazing bulk section.
I will post updates on my Facebook, instagram and of course here as to how this worked for me.
Throwing out all the junk
Now is the time to begin. Go through the house and throw out all the junk and buy all organic and natural items. NO!
The frugal side of me cannot suggest or even fathom doing this. I hate waste! It drives me crazy! Use what you got until it gone and then switch to the healthier version. This summer, we had already made the switch to organic milk because I was buying a half gallon for me, but realized it would be cheaper to just switch out our gallons for organic. My eggs are 90% farm fresh because my neighbors have been letting me buy their extras for next to nothing. Once in a while I buy eggs at the store and get the vegetarian eggs.
I am finally getting low on some items and I will be switching them over in September. I knew how awful vegetable oil is but I didn’t toss out what I had, I used it up and now can switch to coconut oil. My sugar is almost gone so I am switching to organic. And I am finishing up the meat in the freezer, but am hoping to buy 90% all natural, grass fed or wild for what I need to buy.
If you have some stuff that is unopened and really want to make the switch, then maybe donating to a local food bank is a great option for you. Remember no waste!
Don’t be too hard on yourself
Remember, nobody is perfect 100% of the time. There will be times when the kids are starving or your out running errands and you just NEED to have that Pumpkin Spice Latte to get you through. I know for a fact that this coming month is going to be hard for us because our Disney passes are back and we will be going almost every weekend. But we are going to try our hardest and not fret over the times we can’t. My goal is 80/20. If I am at home, I want to make a meal instead of loading everyone up and going out and then feeling yucky afterwards. I want to feel better not be strict. I want to know I am feeding healthy options to my family, instead of crap that does nothing to for the mind and body. But am I overly crazy about it? NO, just doing the best I can do. One day, week, month and food choice at a time.

I’m Southern and I can’t bake biscuits!?

I was born and raised Southern. But no matter what I do, I can’t bake biscuits! I have tried! And I can’t!

Every Southern Gal or Guy should be able to whip up a batch of homemade biscuits. It is a staple at meals in every southern home. But I can’t! And it’s frustrating!

I don’t know if I knead the dough to much. Or roll it out too much. I don’t know if I am suppose to use a rolling pin or if I am suppose to pat it out with my hands.

WHY? you ask. Because my mom, grandma or grandmom should have taught me right. Because that is what all good Southerners do. WELL…..they ain’t southern. I am only second generation born and raised southerner. And I am only half at that because my Dad was born….somewhere not in the south….because I don’t remember right now. But I know it was not in the south.

Anyways. My grandparents on my Dad’s side is from Illinois and my grandparents on my Mom’s side is from Jersey. And before anyone ask no I can’t make pasta from scratch either (though I might be able to but never tried).

Back to biscuits, it is embarrassing to buy a bag of frozen premade biscuits when you want some because you can’t make them.

Look here is the list to qualify as Southern:

Sweet Tea~ check

Cornbread~ check

Grits~ check

Chicken and Dumplings~ check

Biscuits~ NO!!!

So if anyone can help me out with some tips or a recipe. I am determined to learn how to make biscuits this summer. Though after all my attempts, my family may never want to see a biscuit again. BUT BY GOLLY, I am going to do it!

Here is my last sad attempt.

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It was a Bobby Deen recipe.

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Decent Flavor. But not light and fluffy at all.

Help!!!

Desperately Seeking good biscuit making tips.