Monday, November 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

I am definitely off budget now to the point of not even wanting to talk about it.  Signing up for the school craft fair, Thanksgiving and a family birthday party caused me to lose my mind, so I am pleading temporary insanity. At least I hope it is temporary, but the holidays are here now and I am pretty sure my rehabilitation is going to require more than a stern talk with myself. A written plan is my only hope of getting back on track. Starting with a menu plan seems like a good first step anyway.

The grocery stores are off limits for this week except for bread and milk. I'll have Mr. Rainbow Creek pick those up because he can always be counted on not to deviate from the list. That's just one of those things that men are good at, and somebody has to be! We have plenty of food anyways, so I might even be able to stretch for 10 days without shopping.

Belgian waffles
Toaster Strudel

Monday: Steak and black bean chili, corn muffins
Tuesday: Pork chops, mashed potatoes, corn
Wednesday: Chicken and cheese enchiladas, black beans
Thursday: Pot roast, potatoes and carrots
Friday: Pizza
Saturday: Leftover pot roast or enchiladas
Sunday: Grilled chicken, oven fries, mixed vegetables

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Nesting Time

Well the good news is I didn't miss out on the Concord Grape harvest at Marly's while I was gone to visit my parents. I seriously considered telling my sis that I couldn't go because I was worried they would ripen while we were gone. We got priorities here, and grape jam is right up there at the top when you have as many PB&J eaters in the house as we do.

When I got home I went out to the store and decided to stop by Marly's to check on the grapes, only to find that the gate was locked because she had furbaby visitors last week. I drove to the back and it was locked too. I noticed that the fence was only as high as my hip so figured I could jump over and take a peek. Yeah, well I couldn't jump a fence 25 years ago when I was young, so what the heck was I thinking. Plan B: I pulled a trash can over and gingerly stepped on it. But then,  as I was hoisting myself over, the lid went crashing in, my leg plunged into the can and I landed hard,  astraddling that chain link fence. oooouuchh! As I "sat" on the fence for a few moments contemplating whether this might be a permanent injury I decided there was nothing to do but get over it and carry on with my mission.

And I guess my timing couldn't have been more perfect! Eat our heart out Welch's, those Concord Grapes shall be mine!

Marly had a good laugh when I told her about my fence "hopping" adventure, and she left the gate open for me to come back with a couple helpers to harvest the fragrant little jewels.

Miss Morgy May took the job very seriously as she has a great interest in being sure that Grandpa has an adequate supply of jam to keep the two of them well fed on PB&J for the year. Both of my helpers helped themselves to many samples just to be sure these grapes were at their peak.
Little C-man discovered a cement mixing truck and determined that it was the perfect vehicle for delivering grapes into the collection bin.

Cooperation! They got the job done and were very proud of their work.

I think it was about 30+ lbs of grapes. Morgy was a big help with picking all of the grapes off the stems. What a trooper, she stuck it out for the whole tedious chore. I am sure that jam will taste extra special to her since she had such a big part in the making. I have them all cooked down and strained, about 3 gallons of juicy pulp in the refrig. I really prefer to can when there aren't children running about. Big pots of boiling water and sugar can be dangerous so I'd rather not take any chances. So I will be jammin' all day while the kids are in school. Can't wait to try it!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

It's Jelly Time! Aren't they purty? I just love seeing my jelly's lined up like beautiful jewels. I have 3 batches of strawberry and 2 batches of cherry so far. We picked up some Red Globe Peaches fresh from the orchard yesterday so I  am going to be working on those tomorrow. Mr. Rainbow Creek's favorite is Cherry-Peach and he always get mad when I give it away as gifts and then run out. Guess I will try to make an extra batch or so this year. 

Back to school came way too soon, and now Destructo Boy has football practice 4 nights/week too, so I am going to try to buckle down to some real menu planning. I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot harder than I thought it would be, but maybe I am just making it too hard. We have a ton of food to get used and I would love to make it to after Labor Day with no extra shopping trips except for milk and produce. I always say that, but never seem to make it. derrr!

We are loving the Belgian Waffle Maker still! I found a great simple recipe (below) and make a batch of 12 waffles at a time to put in the freezer in a zip lock bag, all ready to heat up in the toaster in the morning! I also have been pre-cooking a pound of bacon on the broiler pan in the oven, wrap it up in some paper towels and put in a zip lock to zap a couple strips in the microwave for 15 secs. in the morning for the kids. And I pre-cook sausage patties or links too. I love homemade convenience foods. And saving money too!

 While I was doing the jellies I figured why not make a little blueberry syrup for the waffles? I got 2 pints and it is yummmy. Might have to put a little squirt of whipped cream on there next time I have me some waffles.

Breakfast: Waffles, cereal or PB&J

Monday:  Grilled cheese sandwich, chips and pickles

Tuesday: Grilled tuna steaks, red cabbage slaw, noodles or rice

Wednesday: Roasted Red Pepper and Asparagus Frittata, salad 

Thursday: Spicy Italian Roast Beef sandwiches on homemade rolls, oven roasted fries, salad 

Friday: Grilled pizza

Saturday: Grilled chicken, green beans and boiled baby red potatoes

Sunday: Family BBQ at the lake, BIRTHDAY CAKE for Mr. Rainbow Creek! shhhhh, it's a surprise = 0)

Whole Wheat Belgian Waffles

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup canola oil or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl, set aside.
Beat eggs in medium bowl until well blended, whisk in milk, oil and vanilla.
Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and beat until well mixed.
Ladle into waffle maker, cook until golden brown and crisp, about 2 1/2 - 3 minutes.

If you are going to freeze them lay on cookie sheet and allow to cool completely, place cookie sheet in freezer to individually freeze waffles before bagging them in zip lock bag. Heat in toaster or toaster oven until hot and crisp. 

I am linking up with Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday. Go check it out!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Frugal Finds For the Week

I finally got a chance to get out and do my first payday of the month shopping trip on Friday. My plan was to go to Sam's and then maybe King Soopers to use a few coupons I had that were expiring that day. I skipped getting on I-470 for some reason and decided to take County Line which happens to go past a Goodwill Store and Dollar Tree next door to it. Yay! 

My real purpose at Goodwill was to check and see if they had any decent jeans for the girls since school is starting so soon. We haven't figured out what those kids do on the playground to destroy their clothes so fast. But it seems that it doesn't matter if you pay $19.99 or 1.99 for jeans, the knees will be ripped out in less than a month. So that is a no-brainer isn't it?

I passed on the jeans that were on the rack, nothing too great, and I wandered to the back to look at the furniture and what-nots. Behind the furniture is the wall of small appliances and I noticed that they had a bread making machine sitting there. That is something that has been on my want list for quite a while. I just picture myself in the cold winter days baking up a fresh loaf to fill the house with that smell of fresh baked bread while my stew or pot roast is slowly simmering in my red enamel cast iron dutch oven. When everybody comes home from work and school after braving the bitter cold I will be a hero, filling them with warmth and comfort! Such is my fantasy life. But it could happen!

I noticed that there were actually several bread makers on the shelf and I pulled them all down and lined them up on a coffee table in the furniture department so I could investigate their various features. This Breadman Plus seemed to have the most potential because it makes two small loaves at a time and even has a setting for making a small batch of homemade jam. How cool is that? 
If you have ever shopped at Goodwill you know that the shelves are not meticulously organized and you have to do some digging sometimes to get to what you want. While I was trying to get one of the bread machines out I came upon this little Belgian waffle maker. 
Whenever I travel with the kids we stay at hotels with free breakfast and one of Destructo Boy's favorite things in the world is making his own Belgian waffles at the hotel breakfast. And recently Big K told me that he has been telling people that his grandma was going to buy him a waffle maker so he could make them at home. Now I honestly can't recall this conversation, but here was an opportunity to make good on my promise for a mere $4. How could I go wrong with that?

Now here is the best part. I got my first "senior discount" ever in my life when I went to check out. The cashier was an older woman and she looked at me kind of funny and said, "I hate to ask this, but you don't qualify for a senior discount do you?" I asked her what the age was for seniors and she said 55. So I have been missing out on that for a whole year?? She told me I really should come back on Mondays because the discount is 25% instead of the usual 15% and I promised her I would do that!

My total was $20 for the waffle maker, the bread machine, a stack of paperback chapter books for the kids and a wood jewelry cabinet that is going to get a makeover for a gift.

 On to the Dollar Tree, I picked up a pancake mix with a waffle recipe on the side of the box.
 Lemon juice: Miss Banana loves to make lemonade on a hot day to serve to her grandpa and friends. It is the easiest recipe ever: 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of lemon juice, stir together in a 2 quart pitcher, fill the rest of the way with water and ice. 
I picked up some baking mixes and spaghetti sauce and pickles too. Total $20 at the dollar store 
When I woke up this morning Destructo Boy and Miss Banana had discovered the waffle maker and all on their own they mixed up some batter and were busy making waffles for themselves and Big K. I had to have one too. They got carried away and made a few too many but we are thinking maybe we can make them ahead and bag them up in the frig or freezer to cook in the toaster oven on school days. Goodbye expensive Eggo's!

Sadly, I found out today that the bread machine is missing one of the kneading paddles so I spent the day finding and printing an instruction manual and looking to see if I can order another paddle. I decided to try it out and if it works OK I would order the paddle for $5.95+shipping. 
There is my instruction manual. It was 80 pages but I decided to just print the first 20 pages and then I can print out the recipes that I want to try later. I found a recipe on the King Arthur Flour website for a basic white sandwich bread and decided to try it first. 
And here it is! Cheap, easy, delicious and kid approved. I didn't have any whole wheat flour on hand that I trusted, but I am going to get some fresh and try to make it a little healthier next time. Once I get the other kneading paddle I might just cut out store bought bread altogether. Wouldn't that be nice?

So my frugal Friday was pretty successful and turned into a lot of fun. Next week I think I might try making my own laundry soap. I read about it here at The Family Homestead, and it sounds pretty easy. Mr. Rainbow Creek might think I am going off the deep end when he hears about this, but why not give it a try? It does look kind of gooey and messy scooping this gel concoction out of a bucket, will have to let you know how that goes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Frugal Friday- Iced Coffee

Heading into our 2nd month of serious buckling down on the budget and I have to admit that I have fallen back on the debit card a few times for some off budget items. Oh well, at least I am paying attention and making those decisions, and mostly they were things we need. Like when you happen to find Levi's in the right size at Sam's Club for $22 and you know hubby is down to raggedy work pants then that's a good choice to buy them. Bath and Bodyworks and Victoria's Secret, not so much. But I had coupons!
 Love this stuff!
It doesn't look like that on me! Go figure...

Now back to the frugal Friday tip. I saw this post about a recipe for cold-brewed coffee  from the New York Times and I really love a good iced coffee. 

When I was on the east coast Dunkin' Donuts knew how to do them right, but here in Colorado I have found it is really hit and miss. McD's has great coffee, and their iced coffee would be good if they didn't always screw up the sugar somehow. Starbucks has been less than stellar, not sure why, but iced coffee doesn't seem to be their forte. So I got all excited when I saw this cold-brewed coffee idea and decided to give it a try. Only problem was that I wasn't too excited about the messy process of straining the grinds out of the water after it brewed for 12 hours. The first time I tried it I discovered that I had a few filter bags of coffee like the ones they put in the hotels for the in-room coffee service. Picked those up at the cabin we rented a couple months ago, what can I say ;) So I put them in a mason jar with 1 1/2 cups of water/bag and let them stand overnight and voila! No muss, no fuss and it was really good. 

Now I don't have a regular supply of those bags, but I figured I could make them myself with some coffee filters and string. I actually used button thread because that is what I had on hand, kitchen twine would work too if you have some and can find it, but I couldn't find mine of course.

 Since Big K commutes every day I have been making a pitcher full and keeping it in the frig. I make 1 coffee bag for every 1 1/2 cups of water. 
 Put 1/3 cup of coffee in the filter, then cut a piece of thread or twine long enough to tie around the top a couple of times.
 Carefully gather the top of the filter, tie it into a neat little bundle like this.
 Measure 1 1/2 cups of water for each bag and put the bags in the pitcher. Let it stand for at least 12 hours. Remove bags and refrigerate. 

WARNING! DO NOT attempt to squeeze the liquid out of the bags when removing them. They will burst open and you will have a huge mess of grinds in your coffee concentrate. Yuck! You don't want that. Then you will have to strain it, which is what you were trying to avoid by making these nice little filter bundles.
 Now if you are commuting you can get yourself a nice reusable cup like this at WalMart and fill it with ice, fill about 2/3 full with coffee, fill the rest with milk and add sugar or Splenda to taste. Now get yourself a "tip jar" and deposit $2 that you saved by doing it yourself! Hey, that is $10/week that you didn't even plan to save!
.And since she discovered the coffee Big K got the idea to buy this little pitcher and make her own iced tea to take to the office instead of going to 7-11 or Subway and paying $2/day for it. She fills it with water every night, drops in 2 tea bags and sets it in the 'frig. In the morning she fills it the rest of the way with ice. That's another $2/day in the "tip jar."  I always see these articles about how to save money, and beverages like coffee, tea and bottled water seem to top the list of money wasters. But you don't have to give them up, just DIY and save yourself a lot of money too!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Kitchen is Open

The Rainbow Creek Kitchen is re-opening. I was initially planning to integrate all my posts on food and budgeting over at Up the Rainbow Creek. But then I thought it might be nice to have a place to chronicle my journey separately from my crafty space. And here I am again.

One of the reasons I quit this blog is that I was facing too many challenges in trying to accomplish what I wanted here. The first one being my horrific kitchen is just not conducive to food blogging. Another issue was our blended family and the fact that we have food issues here. But I am working through those issues and more and more I find myself wanting to share these experiences and blogging in my head about the little tidbits that I think others might find useful or interesting.

So I made some decisions today and I am going to move ahead and face my challenges and do what I can.

If you want to take a chance on following along or stopping by for an occasional visit at The Rainbow Creek Kitchen here is what you can expect to find:

  1. Some good recipes that I know you will love to try. But I don't guarantee that I will have perfect measurements. You have to be willing to "wing it" a bit to follow my recipes. That is because I am a little loosey oosey when it comes to cooking. I tend to throw things together and if they turn out good I try to remember how I did it so I can share it or do it again. But I am always around and willing to answer questions if you want to ask, or just call me up while you are cooking dinner and I will talk you through it. Really. I am used to that because that is how my daughter's all learned to cook.
  2. A look at how we are learning to budget and live more frugally. This is the end of Month 1 of my plan to live a simpler more stress free life. And even though we are still light years away from our goal I can tell you that I am already feeling calmer and more focused.
  3. A focus on living and eating healthy and fresh foods that are affordable and kid friendly.
  4. An occasional rant.
  5. Horrible pictures from the ugliest kitchen on the planet, which will most likely be the subject of the occasional rant.

See, that is actually a delicious Warm Steak and Spinach Salad w/balsamic vinagrette and Gogonzola, on a turquoise Fiestaware plate on a white cutting board. But something went horribly wrong and I am pretty sure that I would never convince anyone to want to eat this if they saw this picture. 

Then I dropped my camera in my drink at the beach a few days ago. I guess my camera is a lightweight and can't handle her vodka tonics because she has been in an unresponsive state ever since. So that's actually the good news. I am definitely going to be investing in a new camera :)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Flavors: Home Made Chunky Applesauce

Maybe you have never thought of applesauce as a "side dish" for a savory meal. But to me apples are one of those fall flavors that just pairs beautifully with heartier cool weather dinners, like pork chops or chicken and stuffing. I am not talking about the pureed kind you get in a jar, but a sweet spicy chunky homemade applesauce that you can eat with a fork.

Happening to have a neighbor who gifted me with a big bag full of sweet golden apples inspired me to cook some up last week.

It was a big hit with our rather ordinary baked chicken breast with stuffing and green beans. It is super simple to make if you want to give it a try!

Homemade Spiced Applesauce

3 lbs (about 6 medium) apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks

1/2 cup water

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons sugar

Put into heavy pot and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer stirring occasionally until apples are tender. Lightly mash with potato masher. Taste for sweetness, add a little more white sugar if needed. Add a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon to taste before serving. Serve warm.