or, "You're a full time homemaker? What do you do all day long?"

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January Yummies From My Garden

     Summer vegetables! Yes, my sweet and faithful baby bells and green bell peppers keep producing. They are still tasty (especially on pizza) and oh-so-colorful. I also picked these bright yellow cherry tomatoes I planted from seed toward the end of the summer. They were fabulous in a salad I ate today.
Yes, that is sour grass in the left corner. My girls pick it from our yard and delightfully munch on it!
My golden and red beets - fresh picked from the garden
      As for my winter vegetables I finally picked my rainbow swiss chard. It was beautiful. I also picked my tiny red and golden beets.I peeled and sliced my little beets, steamed them and then added them to the green tops from those beets and my swiss chard using this delicious recipe.Beet Greens Recipe | Simply Recipes I then made a cheese bread I adapted from my cinnamon roll recipe. I used a little less sugar in the dough and Leanne helped me rolled the dough with mozzarella and cheddar cheese and a little garlic salt thrown in. Since this is my first year attempting growing my own winter vegetables, these foods were new to my girls. It was a delicious meal and the girls ate our new foods without too much coaxing or, "Eww-gross!!!" faces. Tim raved about it. I've always said that man has good taste.
Leanne - my enthusiastic helper
This cruddy picture doesn't quite capture what a beautiful meal it was
         Last week I was delighted to finally pick this beautiful white head of cauliflower. It was tender and sweet! I added it to a homemade cheese sauce and some broccoli from Trader Joe's. Super tasty. I also cooked mashed butternut squash from my summer pickings (it stores very well in my cupboard) and mixed in some Parmesan cheese, butter, salt and pepper. I crunched up french-fried onions on top and heated it for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. It was quite popular with my dinner crowd, which included my niece and nephew that night. I served these veggie dishes with boneless pork chops baked with a spicy seasoning. A beautiful, healthy and mostly homegrown meal. So fun!

broccoli and caulifolower in a homemade cheese sauce - delicious!
     I'm going to try my hand at growing potatoes, onions, and garlic.(Beef stew anyone?) I've also set my sights on growing raspberries as well as expanding my strawberry planters that produce year round. I will most definitely keep you posted!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Knee-ding New Jeans

     Basic jeans seem to be the easiest choice of clothing for my elementary school girls, Leanne and Chloe. But, oh, how hard they are on the knees! Especially my super-industrious girl, Chloe. A quality pair of jeans in my estimation is a pair that I will pass down to the next sister, without holes in the knees. Hole-y knees might be fashionable, but I don't prefer them for me or my girls. I've tried all brands of jeans from Target, Old Navy, Gap, Levi's, JC Penny's, Crazy 8, The Children's Place, and Wal-Mart. I've had some excellent pants from Gap and surprisingly, Wal-Mart's Faded Glory line.
      So, one afternoon I was very  limited on time and money, but Chloe really needed at least one more pair of jeans. I thought about trying to swing by the thrift store, but only had time to go to Wal-Mart. At Wal-Mart I found a darling pair of sparkley jeans for only $8. I was so reluctant to buy more than one pair, because I've been trying to stick to my budget. As I've been praying regularly about how to save money, an idea popped into my head. I walked over to the sewing section and purchased two denim patch kits in different colors for the ripped up jeans at home. Each package cost $1.28, tax included. In the past, I've tried patch repair for jeans, but iron-on patches peel off after a couple of washings. I reasoned that I would just have to iron and sew the patches on. It would save me money in the long run.
     And did it! I was able to patch 4 pairs of jeans, and add some colorful thread as well, for only $2.56. It only took me about 2 hours to do all the patching. Since I spared the hole-y jeans from becoming summer cut-offs prematurely, I had 4 new pairs of jeans in essence. (They will eventually become summer shorts). I spent $8.78 (tax added)on one  pair of jeans and $2.56 on 2 packages of patches totaling $11.34 for 5 pairs of jeans. Each pair effectively cost me $2.27. I doubt I could have gotten this many pairs of jeans for this price even at the thrift store.
     It was a marvelous savings day. God does provide easy and creative ways to save money!

A little tricky machine sewing the patches, but quick overall

And of course, I had a helper
     I must post this picture of the prize winning, all-time most durable jeans I've ever purchased for my girls. I think I paid a whopping $20 for these Lee size 2T jeans at Sears when Elena was a toddler. That's a lot of money! BUT, they have been worn by every one of my girls - all six of them - when they were toddlers. Only now are they getting a little ragged in one knee and showing a little light through the material. I marvel at these little wonders. I might even frame them as an example of high quality clothing and for sentimental reasons. I love the toddler years! Despite the tantrums, failed toilet training attempts, and runny noses it is a precious and charming season of life.
The prize winner for most durable jeans EVER!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Carrot Cake to Write Home About

     I really, really enjoy carrot cake. I especially like the cream cheese frosting. Growing up, our family's favorite cake was from Shaker's, The Bakery, or Wild Thyme all owned by the same company and located in South Pasadena and southern Pasadena. Their delicious, round, two-layer carrot cakes were always my favorite.
     Until recently. I found a simple, ultra-tasty recipe from my favorite recipe site Recipes - Allrecipes. In fact, at a baby shower two years ago I brought this cake and someone else brought one from The Bakery. Someone tasted both and said, "Yumm....I can't tell which one is better." Score! Mission Accomplished! And then my sweet husband has affirmed in no uncertain terms that my carrot cake IS BETTER than Wild Thyme and The Bakery. Okay. I've always said that man has great taste (and he's smart, too!). This Christmas I took it to a Christmas Eve function where it was savored and showered with compliments. This made me happy. I aim to please.
     The funny thing about this recipe is that it is so easy. I have made some modifications to it, however. Instead of three cups of carrots, I put in two cups. I also add a cup of crushed pineapple, 1/2 cup of golden raisins (I like the way they look better than regular raisins), and 1/2 cup shredded coconut. I also don't add the nuts into the batter. I sprinkle chopped walnuts, not pecans, over the the top. (This is to accommodate my non nut-loving kids.) To the cream cheese frosting I zest fresh lemon peel and squeeze about 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice into it. I attempted a four layer cake a couple of times and it turned out pretty well. Try it yourself and let me know how it turns out!

Frosting! Yum!

I baked the batter on a cookie sheet and then cut four equal pieces. I put those pieces  together with wax paper between them to freeze them for easier assembly and frosting.
I prefer small chopped walnuts with my carrot cake

This was my first attempt. I'm not accomplished at fancy cake assembly, although I would like to develop this skill. Pretty cakes taste better!