Sunday, September 25, 2011


Good morning!  Today I am simplifying a little.  It's something I've been thinking of doing for awhile now and am finally just doing it.  I'll be taking many small steps to simplify my life.  Why small steps?  Because the small things on their own may be just that... small.  But when you add them all up, they are quite large.  So I am going to eliminate some of the smaller things.  And I am starting with the cessation of my weekly meal plans post. 

For awhile now, writing my weekly post has just been an annoyance to me - to feel like I had to post my meal plans once a week.  Even though no one is forcing me to do it.  For awhile, I really liked doing the weekly posts and they helped keep me organized. 

Well, I think I'm going to stay just as organized without the posts.  I'll still meal plan based on what we have on hand and what is in season each week, but I'm not going to post them.  I'd rather spend just a little more time playing with Carson, cuddling with my husband, or chatting on the phone or emailing with friends/family than on typing up a weekly post.  Relationships have always been what is most important to me.  So, why take away time from that for an unnecessary weekly post? 

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy blogging.  I'll still post on my blog when I can.  But it won't be a priority - as it hasn't been for awhile.  I've got a back-log of posts that I need to get online.  I'll get to them as I have time, though.  Again, I will not let blogging take away from my relationships.  But you will still see new posts from me.  Some weeks, you may see several.  Other weeks none.  It will just depend on my life that week.  I already have very limited "extra" or "free" time on any given day at work.  So when I do find myself with a few spare minutes, I'd much rather spend that time catching up with a friend or family member than on a blog post. 

I'm basically taking my blog back to its original intent... to provide myself a way of keeping recipes organized.  Its much easier for me to jump on my blog to find a recipe than it is to sift through a recipe book or recipe cards.  I'm sure I'll still occasionally post about things other than recipes, but like I said... relationships are my priority, not this blog.  :) 

For those that also follow our family blog, I'll still maintain that one, as well.  And it will take priority over this one.  We use our family blog as our digital scrapbook and it is important to me to record fun things and memories for the future. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

We've got lots to do this week.  Lots of things to do and lots of prep work for a trip that is coming up soon.  Today we are working in the yard... mowing, weed whacking, weeding the flower beds, trimming bushes and trees, cleaning out the gutters, and taking the pool down.  Let's hope we can get it all done... we should be able to since we'll all be out there working.  I want to get my fall and Halloween decorations up today, as well.  Tuesday I have to pick up the dry cleaning on my way home.  Friday is my milk pickup day.  Saturday is still up in the air... there is a slight chance we'll go to Grand Rapids, but most likely we'll stay home.  We want to take Carson to see the Lion King in 3D at the movie theater if we do stay home. 

Actually... most of our week is up in the air, now that I think about it.  We're going to have quite a busy week with something to do every night.  I'm just not sure what will happen when yet.  My cousin, Kristin, from Florida is in town with her husband and son, so we'll be seeing them one night this week.  My cousin, Jessica, is coming over one night to pick up a key and go over a few things since she'll be house and animal sitting for us in a couple of weeks.  Another night this week, Carson and I are going to go check out the new apartment of my cousin, Kristin (different Kristin than the one from FL).  And yet another night, we'll be running over to my BFF's mom's house to drop some stuff off.  Once I know when we'll see my cousins from FL, the other stuff will fall into place.

And so onto the menu... lots of easy meals... and since I'm in a rush this morning, I'm just posting the dinners. 

Su - shepherd's pie stuffed potatoes; green beans and summer squash sauted in olive oil

M - paleo chili in the crockpot; cheese crisps

Tu - chicken and veggie soup in the crockpot

W - leftover paleo chili served over spaghetti squash; broccoli

Th - leftover chicken and veggie soup

F - hot dogs (with no buns); sweet potato fries; green beans; applesauce

Sa - if we are home... pesto presto chicken; roasted cauliflower and brussels sprouts; fruit

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

I've been canning quite a few tomatoes this year.  Our heirloom tomato plants have been absolutely loaded with fruit.  I've made salsa, pasta sauce, eaten tons fresh, froze some, and have been canning them.  And I haven't had to buy a single tomato!  I posted about canning tomatoes packed in water back in 2008, but I've since given up using water and just can them in their own juices.  I like the flavor better.  And I actually like canning the tomatoes themselves better than making sauces with them first.  Then I can just open a jar of my home-canned tomatoes in the winter and make up a pizza sauce or pasta sauce.  We like a lot of variation and get tired of the same sauce over and over again, so this works best for us.  Plus, aren't my jars just so pretty with the different colored heirlooms??  I love it! Anyway, since it's a slightly different process than canning in water, I figured it warranted it's own post. 

Canning Tomatoes (packed raw and in their own juices)

Lemon juice - 2 Tablespoons per quart or 1 Tablespoon per pint

Wash tomatoes. 

Core and cut an "x" in the bottom side of the tomato.

Dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split, then dip in cold water.

Slip off skins (some people also prefer to wait till this step to remove the cores... I find it easier to remove them first, but to each her own.).

Leave whole, halve, quarter, or chop (I usually quarter).

Add bottled lemon juice to the jars.

Fill jars with raw tomatoes.  Press tomatoes in the jars until spaces between them fill with juice. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.  Place lids on jars and process pints or quarts for 25 minutes at 10lbs of pressure (or for 85 minutes in a boiling water bath).  Remove jars from canner.  Let cool.  Store after 24 hours. 

This post is linked to: 
Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade
Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Egg in a Basket (with Zucchini)

Have you ever heard of Egg in a Basket, or Hole in the Heads, or One-Eyed Jacks?  It usually refers to the idea of cutting a round hole in a slice of toast, placing it in a frypan, and cracking an egg in the center to cook.  I always called them Hole in the Heads, but I figured Egg in a Basket was a more appropriate reference.  Since we're not eating bread at our house these days, I decided to try them with zucchini and summer squash since we are getting so much of it from our garden.  It's a good use for those zucchini or squash that get ginormous overnight when you don't think they're quite ready to pick the day prior.  We really enjoyed these.  And you really can't have a simpler breakfast, lunch, or dinner. 

Zucchini Eggs in a Basket

1 large zucchini or summer squash
coconut oil or butter for frying
celtic sea salt

Grease your pan with coconut oil or butter.  Let it heat up. 

Slice your zucchini or summer squash into about 1/2"-3/4" slices.  Use a sharp knife to cut the seeds out of the middle, leaving a hole. 

Fry up both sides of the zucchini until tender.  Then crack an egg into the center.  Flip over after the egg has cooked on the first side.  Sprinkle with celtic sea salt, serve, and enjoy! 

This post is linked to:
Traditional Tuesdays @ Delicious Obsessions
Fight Back Friday @ Food Renegade
Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

10 years today... always remember!!!  I am somber as I remember what that day was like.  Please spend some time in prayer today for the families most impacted by the events of 9/11/01.  As well as our armed forces that so bravely defend our country at home and overseas.  May God bless them all!!

Today we are taking things easy, just enjoying time together as a family.  And I'll be packing and prepping some stuff for the week.  I'll be going to Saratoga Springs, New York for work for a few days this week.  Carson starts preschool on Tuesday.  Friday is my flex day - Carson and I are possibly going to meet up with my SIL, niece, and nephew at Impression 5 Science Center.  Saturday we are planning on going to the Detroit Zoo with some friends.  It'll be a busy week, but at least it ends with a couple of days of fun!  :)  I found out on Friday that my cousin and her son just booked a spontaneous trip home from Florida.  They'll be here on Thursday until early next week, so we'll be seeing them at some point, too, just not sure when yet.  I'm very excited for to see them - it's been 2 years since we've seen each other! 

It's not likely that I'll tackle a lot of extras this week.  I'm hoping to get a few things done while I'm in New York, though... things I can do on the computer.  I am creating some learning activities for our trip to the zoo on Saturday, as well as some learning activities for our trip to Tennessee in a couple of weeks.  So I'm hoping I'll have some time to finish up the zoo activities and to get started on the activities for the Tennessee trip.  Maybe I'll have some time to catch up on my recipe posts, too.  That'd be nice to knock out a few posts that have been lingering.  Just depends how late I'm out and how much exploring I do in Saratoga.  Otherwise, I'm taking it easy this week, I think.  Although if we don't end up going to Lansing on Friday, I'm sure I'll do some canning, but that's about it.  I do know that today, I'll be making up some things in advance so Kevin and Carson have things to eat while I'm gone... primal egg casserole, crockpot sausage and veggie medley, a fresh fruit salad, and some snacks.  But that's easy stuff. 

Last week's exercise... not too great... but better than nothing, I guess.  Su - 15min elliptical. M - nada. Tu - 1mi walk, punching bag. W - 1mi walk.  Th - 1mi walk, 10min elliptical.  F - 1mi walk.  Sa - 1mi hike, kettlebell video. 

Anyway, here's what the menu looks like... lots of crockpot use.  :) 

Lunches & Snacks:
  • Leftovers
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Apple slices with almond butter
  • Protein bars

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Canned Pear Slices

Our pear trees are producing a fair amount of decent fruit this year.  I'm still trying to figure out all the varieties that we have.  We definitely have a couple bartlett trees, and I believe we have a green anjou,  a comice tree, and an asian pear tree.  We also have two trees that I believe are bosc.  And I'm trying to figure out if another tree is one of the old school pear varieties with apple-shaped pears.  The bosc trees are loaded with fruit.  The others, which all ripen earlier than the bosc, have produced a fair amount.  I didn't make as many changes in the orchard this year as I had hoped to, especially with the pear trees, so I was quite impressed with the fruit that they have produced.  Some are very pretty fruit - like the bartlett pear on one of my trees pictured at left - and some are not so pretty, but it still tastes great!  That's what's important.  :) 

I've done a small amount of canning with them.  I did a test run last week, with just 3 pints.  And I'll be doing some more this week (probably tonight).  And I'll be doing more once the bosc trees are ready.  This was the first time I've canned pears.  It was fairly simple.  The most time consuming part is peeling and slicing them.  I did some research before I started and discovered that when canning pears, you shouldn't let them ripen to the point of being good to eat.  You want them to be firm.  The best way to tell if they're ready to can is to press on the top of the neck, by the stem.  If it has a slight give, they're ready.  You don't want to wait for them to ripen all the way, or you'll end up with really mushy canned pears.  I also read that you'll get a much better texture/outcome if you raw pack them.  So that's what I did.  I used a very light syrup and just followed the instructions in my Ball canning book. 

Canned Pears

Very light syrup:
1/2 cup sugar or sucanat
4 cups water

Heat sugar and water until boiling. Let simmer while you prep your pears.
Meanwhile, wash, pare, core and slice pears. Pack fruit in hot jars. Pour hot syrup over pears, leaving about an inch of head space. Process pints in boiling water bath for 25 minutes.

This post is shared via:
Real Food Wednesday @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop
Simple Lives Thursday @ GNOWFGLINS

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Meal plans and the week ahead

It's September already - yikes!  And we're in the midst of Labor Day weekend.  Where did summer go, for real??  It makes me sad.  I'm not ready for it to end.  I'm not ready for the cooler temperatures.  I'm not ready for Carson to start preschool.  I just don't want summer to end.  Sadly, I can't stop it from ending, though, and can only get over it and start looking forward to fall activities.  :)  I do love fall, as well. 

Anyway, so what's going on this week?  Lots of fun stuff!!  Today we're headed to church in Grand Blanc and maybe to the farmers' market.  Monday, we're headed west to Hudsonville (near Grand Rapids) to celebrate Kevin's Grandpa's birthday at the farm.  Tuesday, I'm taking the day off from work and Carson and I are heading west again - to Saranac and to Grand Rapids - to visit my friend, Sara, who is home from Colorado with her almost 6-month old son, Aiden... whom I cannot wait to meet!!!  We're thinking of taking the kids to Robinette's orchard for a few hours.  Kevin may go biking on Tuesday night, also.  We have nothing going on Wednesday, that I'm aware of.  Thursday, I'll be taking the morning off of work so that I can take Carson to his preschool orientation.  He'll get to meet his teachers (I met them last week at parent orientation), see his classroom, and meet some classmates.  Friday, I'm working (boo!) and it's my week for milk pick-up.  Saturday, I think we are headed to Detroit for a Tigers game with my mom's family.  We've been talking about it for a couple months, but we still don't have our tickets bought yet (there are still plenty available)... so I'm not entirely sure we're all still going, but as of two weeks ago that was still the plan.  I'll know more tomorrow. 

Here's what the exercise last week looked like... Su: 15min elliptical.  M: 2-mile walk, 1hr zumba.  Tu: 2-mile walk.  W: 1-mile walk, kettlebell video.  Th: 2-mile walk, yoga.  F: 2-mile walk, 15min elliptical, swimming. Sa: kettlebell video, swimming.

I canned tomatoes, salsa, pears, and peaches last week. I still need to update my tally in the sidebar.  I also froze zucchini, squash, beans, broccoli, peppers, and basil pesto.  I butchered 8 chickens and froze the cuts.  I made 15 quarts of chicken stock with the chicken carcasses/feet/necks and froze it... I won't need to make it for awhile again now.  I made crispy pecans, cashews, and pine nuts.  As well as peach fruit leather, a peach cobbler, and some dried peaches.  That's not too shabby considering we had lots going on last week and Kevin was gone for work... although we did have yesterday free when we hadn't planned on it, so that helped a little, but I'd actually already done most everything prior to yesterday.  I did can a second batch of peaches, make fruit leather, dried peaches, and peach cobbler yesterday, though.

This week, I want to make beef jerky, crispy walnuts and almonds, and at least one batch of protein bars.  I'll also be freezing more produce, I'm sure.  And I might can some more tomatoes or pasta sauce.  I'm also going to do some more dehydrating... dried tomatoes, dried peaches, dried nectarines, and dried pineapple.  I also need to make some things for the party tomorrow... I'm thinking some fruit gelatin (with real gelatin, not jello) and maybe frijole mole dip with cucumbers... but I still need to make some mayo if I'm going to make that. 

  • Scrambled eggs, sausage
  • Smoothies and hard boiled eggs
  • Salmon frittata muffins
  • Yogurt with fruit
Lunches & Snacks:
  • Leftovers
  • Salads with homemade dressing
  • Frijole mole dip with cucumbers and carrots
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Dried fruit and crispy nuts
  • Apples and peanut butter
  • Su: feta stuffed meatballs; tzatziki; steamed broccoli and cauliflower
  • M: most likely on the road home, or if we're home in time... zucchini hole-in-the-heads with veggies
  • Tu: misc. leftovers or zucchini hole-in-the-heads with veggies
  • W: grilled zucchini pizzas; salads
  • Th: crockpot beef roast with carrots, kohlrabi, and celeraic
  • F: philly cheesesteaks in a bowl
  • Sa: at Comerica Park?