Pinto Beans in the Slow Cooker Saturday

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I was able to get some pinto beans cooked up today.  When I unpacked my boxes, I found many, many beans of all sorts.  I buy them in bulk, usually in 25 pound bags.  We enjoy eating beans, and I was eager to get some of them into meals.  I soaked about 1/2 gallon of pinto beans over night in plenty of water.  I used my slow cookers so that they could just cook away while I visited with my good friend who was visiting today.

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I’ve got the food storage unpacked and organized now, and am eager to start using it.  I’ve missed having all these ingredients at my fingertips.  My freezers are still not here, as the plugs-ins are not finished, yet, in the shop.  There are many more containers of dry beans that are not showing up in this photo.  I have a  couple of shelves dedicated to home-canned items and the rest will be stored in the shop and brought in as needed.  Rob has 1 of the 2 shelves needed already built out there and we spent a morning unloading boxes to fill it up, making those jars accessible to me!

I made one slow cooker full of chili.  It turned out great.  I used a jar of tomatoes I unearthed, a pint of beef broth, along with celery, bell peppers from the garden, onion, beans, salt, pepper and chili powder. It turned out great and we scarfed a lot of it down at dinner.

The second one was filled with peppers and beans for refried beans.

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These beans, peppers and onions are waiting to soften a bit more, and then I will blend them with my immersion blender.  I put in several peppers from the garden.  I always use whatever I have on hand, fresh or frozen, along with some onions–red, yellow or white.  This is a mixture of Jalepenos, Holy Mole and Italian frying peppers.  They are pretty mild this year, but once I blend them, the beans have a wonderful flavor.  Obviously, some batches are quite a bit spicier than others, but I anticipate that this batch will be quite mild.  My children love homemade refried beans.  They will eat them several times a week if I let them.  I try to keep some frozen at all times.  The way I make them is a lot runnier than the ones in a can, and they have so much more flavor, in our opinion.  I don’t have much freezer space in the small one over the fridge, so I didn’t make a huge batch.  This will keep everyone happy for a few weeks, though.

The third thing I did was boil up the rest of the soaked beans in water, with salt, on the stove in a pan until they were soft.  We ate some of those in tortillas for lunch, with cheese and taco sauce.  There were 2 bags to freeze for later.  I will use them in recipes that call for beans instead of opening a can.

It was a rewarding, and yummy Saturday.  By using the slow cookers, I had a great visit with my friend, and got economical, yummy meals at the same time.

 

 

Menu Plan–Week of September 19, 2016

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We’ve had a few rainy days this past weekend, and it’s put me in the mood for chili and other comfort food.  With my life settling down into a routine, I’m also in the mood to plan menus.  When I don’t, I feel like I am flying by the seat of my pants every day, and we also tend to spend more money on groceries.   The good news is that we are cooking at home now, as compared to grabbing a bite here and there, as we did during the end of the summer as we fixed up the new house and moved in.  My crock pots are unpacked and have already been put into use and I plan to use them a lot this week.

Monday:  Leftovers (choice of roast beef, lasagna, and some meatballs from my sister) I also made football brownies–a long-time family tradition for Monday night football, which Rob enjoyed for the first time in over 10 years tonight!  We get t.v. now:)

Tuesday:  Beef stew–made from home-canned beef broth and the small amount of leftover roast, veggies.  I will put it into the crock pot early in the day. I work early in the morning for 2 hours, then 4 hours after school, so I need a crock pot meal.

Wednesday:  chicken wings, rice, green beans:  Ja’Ana has some frozen wings she had us pick up, since she likes to make sticky wings on occasion.

Thursday: Home-baked fish sticks (I have some tilapia in the freezer), tater tots, salad

Friday:  Chili

Saturday: Leftovers.  If there are not enough, I’ll pull out a mini tuna casserole I froze when I made it last week.

Sunday:  I’ll organized that with my sister closer to the day as I have a chance to see what we come up with together.

 

 

Saving Money–September 18,2016

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Today, for our family Sunday lunch, my sister asked me to make Caprice salad.  I’ve never made it before, but I get to the house first.  As I was leaving church, she said, “just slice up some tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil and put it on a plate.”  I love how it looks.  I couldn’t help snapping a picture.  I put some salt and pepper on top, but have a suspicion that it should have some Italian dressing or something on top.  Thankfully, she will be home soon and can instruct me!

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We are having soup and salad bar for lunch today.  I made us each a huge pot of chicken-rice soup this week.  At our house, we’ve had it 3-4 times.  I think they did the same.  Today, we are going to finish up both pots.  It is very yummy and economical.  She boiled last Sunday’s chicken to get her broth, and I used some I had previously frozen for mine. Our meals have at last slipped into the pattern I like–the pattern where I cook each day, or we eat leftovers, but where we are not living on a diet of fast food as we were for a time this past summer while we were in transition.  I still don’t have my freezers at my house, just the little one over the fridge, so Rob keeps doing “meat/frozen veggie” runs for me and we keep refilling it.  I am going to make a menu plan for the first time in a long time this week–it will help so much since I am spending several hours per day homeschooling Ja’Ana, helping Patsy with homework, and have started a new part-time job.

We started doing DD service work for my nephew.  Now that he is back to school, and my sister and brother-in-law are back into the swing of things with their jobs, they need Personal Support Workers to help care for him.  We also do a few hours for my niece, but most of the time needed is for our nephew.   This is a part-time job that involves helping him practice some skills, such as hygiene, safety in crossing parking lots, proper social interaction, and other goals.  I am doing the most hours, because Rob is still hunting for a full-time job.  (Last count, he has applied for over 50, has had 6 interviews, and still…..no job!  We’ve been told over and over that the way to get into this school system is to become a substitute, and so he has signed up for that and is waiting for the training day.  He wants to work in a special needs classroom as he has a lot of experience with children with special needs.  People are being very encouraging to him, so that’s good.)

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He is also madly working on any and all projects around our new house, such as building new canning cupboards, since he anticipates his time will become scarce once he gets a job.  We are also spending lots and lots of time with all 3 cousins–might as well get to enjoy them all, instead of only one.  Fun!  I’m happy that we will have a little money coming in.  It will stretch the savings we have a little longer, which is a good thing!  I am still adjusting to the schedule, but this week will be easier since it won’t be new anymore.  I cannot imagine how hard it would be to take on this task for a totally new family–I’m glad we all know and love each other already!

I weeded my little fall garden and we got a good, steady rain.  Those little plants look so much happier.

 

 

Saving Money and House Update–September 12, 2016

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So much left to do!!

 

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Rob built a wall in the shop to divide it.  There was a tarp there when we moved in, but he wanted a wall so our freezers and canning could be placed along it.  He had our electrician friend wire it so it could handle all of the freezers and our extra fridge.  It passed inspection on the first try!  Although we have spent plenty getting this house in order, everything he can do himself saves us a lot.  He bought some of the wood, but was able to get some for free from a scrap pile a company was discarding for some of his projects.

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We were given a few groceries.  There was some tuna in the bag.  I made tuna noodle casserole.  I used gluten-free penne pasta I had on hand, some frozen mixed veggies, gluten-free cream of chicken soup, cheese, tuna, and dried onion.  Very basic, but it was yummy! There were a few potato chips in a bag and I crushed them for the top.   I was also able to purchase a 5-lb bag of white cheddar cheese for less than $7 at Cash and Carry one day.  I put it in the casserole, froze some, and have been using it right and left.  Also, Fred Meyers has Tillamook cheese for $5 for a 2 lb loaf, an incredible price, so we got some of those.

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Patsy and cousin Jake enjoyed a game of croquet in the backyard on Sunday.  It was great that we found the set and they could play it!

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The fall garden is growing.  I love the leaf in the picture, it reminds me that even though it is very warm right now, fall is on the way!  I have high hopes that this lettuce will give me salad before frost comes, though.

 

 

House Update–Sept. 5, 2016

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Now that we have a huge pile of our belongings stacked in the shop, we are attempting to put it away.  We are finding that we have way too much stuff for this tiny house.  So, we are getting creative.  There was an extra space in the garage.  Rob to the rescue!

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Most of my appliances will be stored in the garage–there’s not enough room in the kitchen–so, cookbooks and appliances will go on this new shelf.

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Clearly, we have much left to do, but we’ve made a great start getting a lot put away.

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It’s been amazing to be able to do my laundry at my own home, again!  I have welcomed a lot of old friends back into my life–my pots and pans have shown up, and the plates finally surfaced on Saturday.  This morning, the missing cord to the electric fry pan was found in a very strange box marked misc.–I was helping Rob move boxes around in the shop and thankfully took a peek–Whew!

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There is a partially enclosed patio.  Rob put the picnic table on the deck outside, and got an umbrella for only $15 at Winco.  We’ve already had several meals out there.

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It’s starting to shape up!

I may be a bit spotty with my posts and comment replies, though, as we are not connected to internet, yet.  Soon.  In the meanwhile, I will continue to catch wi-fi where I can.

And, Rob had 4 interviews in the last couple of weeks.  So, we are waiting on pins and needles to hear back from a couple of them that seemed promising–hopefully tomorrow.  If he doesn’t get one of these, he has about 15-20 more applications out right now.  So far, he’s applied for a lot of jobs–like around 40 or more.  One job had 40 applicants.  So, even though competition is fierce, I have a feeling that he will be back to work before long, and I am feeling a strong sense of urgency to get as settled as possible before that happens.  Because, let’s face it.  I’m lousy at building shelves:) He wins hands-down on that one, along with quite a few other things.

Saving Money–Sept. 5, 2016

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We are officially living in our house now:)  It’s been a wild week.  We have been working on the house daily, and having the plumbers and electricians work on it, too.  Finally, on Thursday night, we had enough beds up, and the new electrical panel in so it was safe to sleep there, and so we did!

My food storage is set up.  I found–ummm-probably about 50-75 pounds of various dry beans among other things!  So, I promptly made chili for the crew that was bringing more furniture and boxes down on Saturday.  Rob got some hot dogs and we served chili dogs and fruit to the crew for lunch.

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We are so grateful to the large group of friends and family who showed up to help.  I’m super excited–the piano is in!  Both Ja’Ana and I have spent quite a bit of time playing–it’s been a long summer without it:)  I know piano movers are very expensive, so we were grateful for all the strong arms.

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My little lettuce, onions, spinach, snow peas, beets, carrots and chard all came up.  It took a lot of watering in the heat, but they are starting to grow now. I think since the first is usually around mid-late October, I have a great chance of getting some food.  The Walla Walla onions should winter over, as should some of the other things.  There are a LOT of weeds in the dirt, so I spent some time hoeing yesterday.

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I’ve been able to grab lots of ingredients that were in bins since May and work on using them up.  I will keep most of the canning in the shop, and carry more in when I need to.  I’ve been able to use quite a few jars of home-canned things up this week, which makes me happy since it was in boxes all summer.

Saving Money–August 29, 2016

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I planted a few fall/winter vegetables at our new house.  I focused on varieties I thought would have a chance of making some food before it gets too cold.  I put in some lettuce, spinach, snow peas, boc choi, chard, a few beets and carrots, green onions, and some Walla Walla onion plants.  I dug off a chunk of the parsley plant from the garden, but have serious doubts about its chances of survival.  It was almost 100 degrees for several days, so we watered this 2 times per day so that the seeds will have a chance of germinating.  As of yesterday, there were literally thousands of tiny weeds sprouting, but no veggies yet.  Hopefully, today….

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Patsy worked on her embroidery a bit this week.  So did I.  Things are so chaotic right now, it was good to do something calming.  I like to use the finished towels for gifts or in my own kitchen.  I find the flour sack dish cloths at Walmart in a large bundle, and the last time I bought some they were less than $1 per towel.  Then, I stamp them with Aunt Martha brand iron-on stamps, which are not costly and can be re-used.  They work extremely well to dry dishes with–better than some other towels–and the hand embroidery makes them so pretty and turns them into a nice gift.

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I’ve been working on the flowerbeds in the early mornings before it gets too hot.  There is quite a bit to do.  We got garbage cans delivered and there is a yard debris can.  I filled it 1/2 full already with branches and blackberry bushes and ivy clippings.  Otherwise, I’m making a compost pile with the weeds I pull.  Garbage service is much less per month than it was at our other place, so that was a welcome surprise.  I got the largest garbage can available, plus the recycle and yard debris cans for about the same price as a small can at the other house.  This is great because we haven’t had garbage service all summer and have been putting it in Rob’s Mom’s can as she does not fill it, throwing it away at parks when we are camped, and literally saving it when we have too much.  Also, we have generated quite a bit while painting.  Later, we may downgrade to a smaller can once we get caught up and unpacked and save even more, but I’m grateful for the extra room right now.

We are watering a lot.  There is an old well that is hooked up for irrigation purposes.  It’s hooked to an automatic watering system.  We feel spoiled, and delighted that we don’t have to pay for the water.  Hopefully, we can get the lawn greened up and the flowerbeds watered.  Some of the plants look pretty stressed.

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I’m continuing to harvest from the garden at my sister’s house.  It is getting away from both of us, since she is working a lot right now, and I’m spending every day driving down to Salem, and working at the house.  Still, it is still producing well, and I’m taking the time to snatch veggies when I can, and so is she.

I’ve been able to do a lot of cooking this past week.  I have been able to get quite a few boxes of my food storage put onto shelves, with Lovana’s help.  It’s been nice to be able to pull food from that.  Boy, I have more dried beans than I remember–:)  At the new house, I’ve been working with 1 small frying pan and the microwave, and making lots of sandwiches.  I mean lots.  I’ve also been using my other sister’s house to cook some more substantial meals, like spaghetti from a jar, and hamburgers and tacos with lots of garden veggies.  I’ve cooked a little bit at the camper.  I found my pots and pans while unpacking boxes on Saturday.  I’ve also unearthed my silverware, glasses and tools like turners and scrapers.  No plates so far, but I’ve got paper ones.  It’s like finding old friends after several months!  I’m planning to cook more and more down there.  Such a luxury to have a big refrigerator!  Yesterday, my niece organized it–it just had some food thrown in there from all the coolers I keep dragging back and forth, and lots and lots of drinks for everyone to drink while working.  Now it looks better and I can find things more easily.

We will continue to take loads down from our remaining container.  Rob is rounding up guys to help on the next 2 weekends to get the heavy stuff moved.  Even though it’s a slow process, it is very helpful to us to not have to hire movers.  The shop is stacked with piles of bins and boxes, as is the garage.  I’m unpacking slowly, and have the kitchen and food storage well on it’s way to being organized.  There will be several things that don’t fit, and I’m sorting them out as I go.  Today, we can start setting up the beds and other rooms. I’m not sure when we will be able to sleep there–but I know it’s soon!  I’m very excited.