Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Try Something New Tuesday- Borscht

When I started my maternity leave in the last month of my pregnancy I tried to do a lot of fun things  that I might not have the chance to do after the baby was born. I hung out with my parents a lot and went shopping and to my favorite restaurants. We were having such fun that we started nick-naming the days. Fun Friday, Magical Monday, Thrilling Thursday and so and so on. Well it's something I got in the habit of and now I always try to come up with descriptive names for each of the days of the week.

Today I felt like trying something new so I dubbed this Tuesday "Try something new Tuesday"! You see I had these beets to use up and was trying to figure out what to do with them and my brother suggested I make Borscht, a traditional Russian stew he had enjoyed back when he studied Russian in his undergrad. Why did I have beets you ask? Well I had been toying with the idea of joining a CSA as a way to support local farms and eat more fresh vegetables  However after looking in to the programs that were available I decided to just hit the farmers market every week and spend my $20 (which is slightly less than I would have spent on a CSA) there. This way I can still support local farms but I get to pick and choose what I want. I still want to challenge myself to try new things though so i picked up some beets this weekend.

Yummy fresh beets
I found a great looking recipe on Natasha's Cooking, a blog specializing in Russian and Ukrainian cooking and away I went.

Such a beautiful color!
 Poor beets, they are up there among the worlds most hated vegetables along with brussel sprouts and lima beans (I like both of those too for the record). I found that the borscht had a wonderful sweet and earthy flavor. Of course I had to throw in a touch of cayenne pepper because I feel that no meal is complete without a little heat. Eric seemed skeptical when I told him I was making borscht so we'll have to see what he thinks but I declare it a success! Maybe I will have to try new things on Tuesdays more often.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Best Job In The World

Echo is going through what's known as a 4 month sleep regression or wakeful period lately. That means that my formerly perfect sleeper is waking up every 2 hours all night long and I am getting no rest. We went to the pediatrician last week and Echo is growing and maturing beautifully. The doctor was very impressed by how well she could stand (with our support) and that she could pass a toy from one hand to the other. Basically this no sleeping thing just has to be ridden out, ugh! Coffee is my best friend these days and an absolute necessity. I'm a zombie a lot of the time and I'm grumpy and snapping at everyone around me, very fun for Eric I'm sure ;-)

The good news?  Just look at that face! I keep telling people that she is sleeping like she did as a newborn but it is infinitely better because she interacts with me. When I lug myself in to her room for the 5th time in the middle of the night, totally exhausted, I can't help but giggle in delight as her perfect little face lights up when she sees me. Getting that all important smile is worth all the sleepless nights in the world.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, being a mom is tough! Am I exhausted? Yes. Is it frustrating? Yes. Does it demand every second of my time? Pretty much. I still have nap time to work my own projects, clean the house and cook dinner but much of my day is devoted to my little one's amusement. Is it worth it? Absolutely, without question yes. I love her like I've never loved anything in my life.

New and expectant moms take heart. Raising a baby is the best experience of your life and the most important thing you'll ever do.

Here's to my darling girl at 4 months. Being your mom is the best job in the whole world and I wouldn't trade a second of it!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making The Most Of Your Apple Peels

Part of the frugal lifestyle we are trying for envolves not wasting things and making the most of our food items. To me this is the fun part, it lets me get creative with my cooking. We were making quite a few apple crisps this Fall and found ourselves wondering what we could do with the peels.

One thing we use the apple peels for is to chop them up small, freeze them and add a few to our oatmeal for breakfast. This is great but we had too many apple peels to use in this way. This week I tried making an apple glaze with them and it turned out great! Here is the recipe I came up with for it.

leftover apple peels and cores
2 tbs brown sugar

Put peels and cores in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil for about 30 minutes and the strain out peels and cores leaving apple infused water. Boil until the mixture has reduced by half or until you get it the consistency you want.  Add brown sugar and stir to dissolve.

Finished apple glaze
This would probably be great on a dessert but we used it to cook pork chops in. Pork and apples just go together and are a natural pairing.

The above is not a great picture (especially since I forgot to take the picture until after I'd started eating it!) but it shows how we incorporated the glaze in to a meal. These are apple glazed pork chops with salt and vinegar broiled potatoes and cabbage and onion sauteed in butter. Yummy! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

Continuing my bread baking kick is a fabulous honey wheat sandwich bread.

It's another o knead bread which I love but it does require more yeast that my other no knead varieties because it has a shorter rise time. This is a nice one if you don't want to wait 12 to 18 hours for your bread. It also has a great, slightly sweet flavor and is cooked in a loaf pan so it's perfect for sandwiches. This recipe makes two loafs.

3 cups warm water
4 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
2 cups white flour
2 tsp salt

Grease loaf pans and set aside. Combine water, yeast and honey and stir until yeast is disolved. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix thoroughly. Divide in to loaf pans and loosely cover, let stand in a warm spot for 20 minutes, dough will rise slightly. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn out of pan and cool on a rack.

This bread is fantastic hot out of the over with lots of butter, yum!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sriracha Hummus

For his Birthday Eric got a Sriracha cookbook and much like many of our cookbooks it has been sorely neglected. Well yesterday I had some chick peas to use up so I decided to whip up some Sriracha hummus.

Check out my awesome food styling skills, it has a touch of parsley and everything ;-)
This is my second attempt at homemade hummus and it turn out a thousand times better than the first. When will I learn that spicy makes everything better? Here is the recipe I used. Me being me I couldn't help but tamper with it a bit so it differs slightly from the original.

2 cups cooked chick peas
1/4 cup tahini
2 tbs olive oil
4 cloves garlic
2 tbs Sriracha plus more for garnish
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbs cumin
1/2 cup water

The recipe couldn't be easier. I just put everything in a bowl and blended with my emersion blender until it was smooth. The original recipe didn't call for water but I felt like it was thicker than I wanted it to be so I kept adding until I got the consistency that I wanted. I ate it on tortilla chips because I was too lazy to make home made pita this time. It was so good! I will never make plain old boring hummus again!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Home Made Stock

It may come as a shock to all my foodie friends that I've never made my own chicken stock before. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it myself but having an aversion to meat with bones in it I have always avoided home made stock in the past. I know, I'm a wimp. I like to pretend that my meat was never alive to begin with.

Well in the name of better health and saving money I finally bit the bullet at made my own chicken stock last weekend. I started by using a whole chicken since that's what I could easily get to Publix and we happened to be there anyway but in the future I may try using different chicken parts and see what happens. The upside of using a whole chicken is that I was able to use the leftover meat to make some yummy chicken salad :-)

My new 5 quart stock pot

whole chicken, yum...

simmering with all the flavorings
After simmering for about 2 hours

Stock divided in to containers and ready to freeze
 I studied a number of different recipes and came to the conclusion that I could pretty much put whatever I wanted in my stock. I used parsley, thyme, bay leaves, lemon peel, carrots, celery, peppercorns, onions, garlic and enough water to cover everything. I also added salt at the end.

I made soup with my homemade stock just yesterday and it was delicious! I can't believe how yummy and cost effective it is. I will definitely make it again and experiment with different chicken parts. This is a project that's well worth the effort, plus it makes the house smell amazing!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Cheese Bannocks

Eric and I recently placed an Amazon order for some specialty food items since certain things are way cheaper to buy in bulk online. One of these items was oat flour because there are some homemade cracker recipes I've been wanting to try that require it. I'm trying to use more whole grains and I'm experimenting with different flours as well so I was excited to try oat flour. When I was unpacking our box of flour I noticed a recipe for cheese bannocks on the back of Arrowhead Mills flour bag and decided to give it a go. For those of you who don't know a bannock is a kind of flat bread very similar to a scone (in Scotland the words bannock and scone are used interchangeably). This recipe was easy and delicious! Plus it is 100% whole grain but it doesn't taste like a health food, yum!

1 cup quick cook oats
1 cup oat flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp dry mustard
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup warm water

combine dry ingredients and blend thoroughly. Cut in butter with a fork then stir in cheese. add water and mix, kneading when dough gets too thick to stir. divid dough in to 2 parts and shape in to circles about 1/4" thick. Cut in to 4 equal wedges  and bake on lightly greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bannocks hot out of the oven. I also got to use my new silicone baking mat!
I had mine for breakfast with tea and felt very British :-) Enjoy!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

No Knead Bread Variations

Baking is a passion I discovered last year and no knead bread is pretty much my favorit thing to make ever. You can see the original recipe I used here. I wanted to jazz things up a bit so for a holiday dinner party I made a cranberry orange bread. Delicious!

To make this one all you have to do is add about half a cup of dried cranberries and the zest of one large orange. I also threw in about a quarter cup of brown sugar to make it a little sweeter.

I guess I got cocky from my first variation because then I went crazy modifying the recipe. I added half whole wheat flour (which I have done before and it turned out fine), flax seeds, a cup of rolled oats and a few tablespoons of molasses. I was loosely basing this on a recipe for honey wheat bread but I didn't have any honey so I thought molasses could be interesting. I also added some extra water because the consistency seemed wrong. I hoped it would be a rich, dark bread and while the flavor was good I couldn't get the middle to cook and it turned out doughy.

It came out pretty but not that tasty. I may try it again in the future and fiddle with the ingredients a bit, but for now I think I'll stick to recipes that others have tried so I know they'll turn out well.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Easy Baby Leggings

My first sewing project of the new year! See? I'm working hard on those resolutions already! I saw on some other woman's blog a sewing project that was referred to as a "one nap project" meaning that in can be completed while your child is taking a nap. I can't remember the blog or the project now but I thought it was a good way of phrasing those easy projects that can be done quickly. This one is a one nap project and I am so please with how it came out! I got the tutorial from Maybe Matilda and it is super cute and easy. Here are the pictures of the progress.

I started with a shirt I got at the thrift store for $2.50

I really liked this shirt but it had a run in it that was pretty obvious once I put it on, that will teach me not to try things on before I buy them.

I used an existing pair of pants that fit Echo and cut around them, leaving about 1/2 an inch extra for seam allowance. 

I used scraps of another old T shirt to make cuffs for the pants (this was my fancy extra touch, I'm very proud of it)

I folded the cuffs over and sewed the ends together (also pictured is my nice new set of thread that I got for Christmas)

Here are the pants sewn together and inside out. After this step I added an elastic waist and attached the cuffs. I wish I had more pictures of the rest of this but Echo woke up from her nap and I got distracted. 

Finished leggings! They are so cute and comfy, I'm very proud of them!
My next project is a dress and pretty ambitious for my very limited sewing skills. I'm excited to experiment with it though. I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eating Healthy On The Cheap

Photo courtesy of Fresh Market 

So as usual many of my New Years resolutions have to do with food and health and generally eating in a better, more responsible manner.  I also want to stick to our money saving goals which we have continued to do pretty well on in spite of the holidays (although we did see an increase in spending last month as we expected we would). With these goals in mind I signed up for weekly special emails from some of the healthier stores nearby. In particular I want to eat better quality meat and dairy in the coming year but as most of you know this can be really expensive.

So I signed up for newsletters for Harry's Farmers Market, Whole Foods and Fresh Market to get notifications of weekly deals and specials and today I took advantage of some of these savings. I was so excited by this that I wanted to share it on my blog :-) Fresh market in particular has amazing Tuesday deals and that's where I went today. I normally don't shop at Fresh Market because they are SUPER expensive but to my surprise their Tuesday deals were incredible! I got organic, hormone free chicken and ground beef for $2.99 a lb and with the way we have cut back on meat consumption a pound of meat will last us 3 or 4 meals easily. They also had a great deal on milk but I didn't need any at the moment so I passed on that one for now. I can't wait to see what the special is next Tuesday!

I haven't taken advantage of any of the deals at Harry's or Whole foods yet because I'm waiting for the right items to go on sale but I have high hopes for these as well. If you are looking to save money but still eat quality foods I highly recommend keeping track the specials at these places. I have been amazed at the deals you can get. One word of caution though. The stores are trying to lure you in with the specials and then entice you to buy all their other beautiful, expensive items. You must resist and only buy the things that are on sale for crazy cheap. Stick to what you went there for and you'll be good to go.