10/14/14

Load-a-day laundry



I am so impressed with myself that I've kept up with laundry for a whole week. I've never been able to make the load-a-day method work until now. While doing it for a week clearly doesn't make me an expert, I'm going to list what has been working for me, mostly for my own future reference:
  • Lower your standards. It's okay to mix whites and lights, or clothes and linens, to get a full load.
  • If you have half a load, find something else to make a full load: change the towels or sheets, or see if any coats or jackets could use a wash. Last week I washed all the gloves and scarves.
  • It's okay to wash a load that isn't quite full.
  • Start your load of laundry first thing in the morning.
  • Put in a load the night before (I recently discovered the delayed start function on my machine and I love it).
  • Do two loads some days if you must.
  • Make sure the kids are giving you their dirty clothes every day.
  • Put it away right away. No leaving it until tomorrow!
  • Enjoy putting away the laundry. (This is much easier when there's only one load.) Think about how blessed you are to have a family to do laundry for and clothes to wear and comfortable beds with clean sheets.

10/13/14

Goals


Last week I set some goals. The first goal was to enjoy the long weekend off school with the kids. It was a success! We had such a nice time together just enjoying each other, getting work done, and visiting the park as much as possible. I'm so glad I had that last little time with them before the baby comes. I know things will be great with the baby too, but it will be an adjustment. It has been so nice to take my kids to the park lately because they can take care of themselves while I relax on a bench. That will definitely change with a baby around!

My other goal is to keep up with the laundry and dishes until the baby comes—because I think it will make life easier for everyone. I was worried at first, but I am doing much better than I imagined. I have been totally caught up with laundry, and to get my load a day in, I have been changing beds and laundering sheets and towels. I've also kept up with the dishes. The secret is to unload the dishwasher as soon as possible after things are clean. Then there's a place to put the dirty dishes.

I've had more energy this past week: I hope it means the baby will make an appearance soon! But meanwhile, I'm running with it, and I've finished several items on my to-do list, including some Christmas shopping and packing hospital bags. There is still plenty to do though, especially cleaning I've neglected in my fatigue.

10/10/14

Sticky toffee cake

Photo by Tiger Lily

This cake is one of my favorites! It is simple and good, and I love the unique flavor and the sticky sauce. I'm starting to prefer cakes with poured toppings over iced cakes (lemon drizzle cake is another I like). This cake is perfect for fall.

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Sticky toffee cake
Adapted from Baking Day

Cake
1 cup chopped raisins
3/4 cup boiling water
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat is fine)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease an 8" or 9" square pan. Bring water to a boil while you're chopping the raisins. Let raisins sit in boiling water for a few minutes.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Add raisins and water. Stir in remaining ingredients. Turn batter into greased pan and bake 40–45 minutes.

Make sauce by simmering ingredients together for about 2 minutes. Poke cake with fork all over and pour sauce evenly over the top. Let cool at least a little before serving.

10/8/14

Turmeric


Turmeric is my new favorite in the kitchen. I started out just using it in curries, but lately I've added it to all sorts of things, like vegetable soup or cheese-based dishes. I like the yellow color that a bit of it gives, and it doesn't change the flavor much; it just adds a bit of warmth. People say it's supposed to be good for you. I can't lose, right?

Do you use turmeric? In what?

10/7/14

Evening energy



I've noticed that throughout this pregnancy, I've gone through periods of fatigue in which I'm able to do very little during the day, but I finally get some energy after dinner.

I wasn't sure what to do at first, being used to getting the bulk of my work done during the day, but by now I know just to roll with it. It's amazing how much laundry and tidying I can get done in the evening when I've been resting all day.

And sometimes I'm tired in the evening too, and that's okay. This baby can't stay inside me forever! At this point I'm ready to trade one sort of tiredness for another.

10/6/14

Pink cream

Image courtesy of magazineart.org

This week I made a half batch of this pink lotion I found on Pinterest. In the interest of cost, I used shortening instead of coconut oil. The verdict: I like the light texture and it works well. Next time I'll use a different kind of lotion instead of baby lotion, though, so I don't smell like babies (although it will be a pity that it won't be pink).

I'm too lazy to take a photo but mine turned out looking just like the picture in the link.

I'm also envisioning a version with sunscreen instead of lotion for the summer. I haven't been able to find an affordable daily sunscreen/moisturizer I like, but perhaps this will do the job.

9/26/14

No more library


A few weeks ago, I decided to stop checking out library books because I didn't want to worry about returning them when the baby comes.

It's been hard.

Even at $4 apiece for used books on Amazon, my reading habit is getting expensive.
I guess it's time to read all those books I own but haven't read yet!

I have to admit that it has been fun to buy books for a change, only it seems wasteful if the book turns out to be something I'll never read again. Normally I only buy books that I know I'll read over and over again, or books that I know will take me a very long time to read.

Do you buy books or check them out? Which do you prefer?

9/18/14

Recently tried recipes


Apple cinnamon oatmeal bread. We loved this, even without the glaze. I will definitely make it again. Oh, and did I mention it's super easy? I didn't combine the wet/dry ingredients separately first; I just mixed everything together. I subbed whole wheat flour with no problems.

Sesame cucumbers. I used the sauce from this recipe over cucumbers instead of noodles. Yum!

Chocolate chip butter cake. Really good! Bonus: the batter is thick enough that the chocolate chips don't sink.

Lion House rolls. These were perfect. I've wondered in the past why I can make such nice loaves of bread but my rolls never turn out. These rolls turned out beautifully.

Baked spaghetti. We liked this, which is good, because I made extra to freeze. I used cottage cheese instead of ricotta.

Cup of cocoa cake. A nice, dense cake. I found myself wishing it had some sort of glaze or icing.

Broccoli quinoa casserole. We made this without the chicken. Super yummy! Even the kids who didn't want to taste it at first were converted.

9/15/14

Red Chief makes brownies


Yesterday I let Red Chief make brownies. By himself. The brownies turned out great (yay!), but somehow we ended up with a boy covered in cocoa powder, cocoa footprints going across the carpet, and a big cocoa mess on the counter. He took a quick bath while the brownies were in the oven, and I took over clean-up to avoid further disaster.

It was worth it. He was so proud.

9/12/14

Freezer to slow cooker meals with VEGETABLES and LESS or NO MEAT

Slow cooker photo in public domain (source). Broccoli photo copyright David Monnieaux, Creative Commons share alike license (source).

I've tried a lot of freezer to slow cooker recipes over the last few months. Some we liked, and some were just okay. I've learned a lot about crockpot cooking, like that you can shred cooked chicken in the mixer, and that standing your gallon freezer bag in a pitcher is a very good idea.

I've also learned a bit about myself, including the fact that I don't want chicken (or even meat) every night, and that I like more veggies than meat in my dinners.

In any case, here are some of our favorite freezer to crockpot meals. They're all fairly easy to prepare. I like to double them: one to cook today, and one to freeze for another day. I feel more sane if I just make up one or two recipes every day, instead of trying to make them all at once.

Frozen chopped onions work well in all these recipes and save a lot of time and tears.

This page has a printable to help you keep track of what's in your freezer.

A note on side dishes: Brown rice freezes very well. Cook up a batch and freeze, then thaw overnight and reheat in the microwave in just a few minutes. These biscuits freeze beautifully as a side for soups and go straight from freezer to oven.

I will update this page if I find more recipes that we love.

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Creamy cauliflower soup
1/4 cup butter
1 onion, diced
2 1-pound bags frozen cauliflower (fresh is nice too)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon
1 cup dry instant powdered milk
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion in butter, then add 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons chicken bouillon, and milk powder. Freeze. When ready to cook, add frozen mixture to slow cooker with 2 bags frozen cauliflower and 3 cups water. Cook on low 7-8 hours. Purée in blender or food processor, or with stick blender.



Chicken broccoli alfredo
1.5 chicken breasts, cubed or whole
1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli
1–2 bell peppers, chopped
1 16-ounce jar alfredo sauce
12 oz. pasta

Dump all ingredients except pasta into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, then cook on low 4-6 hours. If you left your chicken whole, remove and shred, then add back in. Mix in 12 oz. cooked pasta.


Chicken fajitas
2–3 bell peppers, cut in strips
1 onion, cut in strips
6 chicken thighs, cubed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch seasoning

Dump all ingredients into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, then cook on low 5-6 hours. Serve with tortillas, salsa, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, cilantro, etc.


Sloppy tamale pie
1 pound ground beef
1–2 carrots, shredded
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 14-ounce can corn, drained
1 packet taco seasoning
1 14-ounce can tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce

Brown ground beef with carrots, onion, and pepper. Drain. Dump all ingredients into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, then cook on low 5-6 hours. Serve over cornbread or corn muffins.


Sesame ginger chicken
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 lb. chicken thighs, chopped
1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli or green beans

Combine all ingredients except vegetables into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, then cook on low 8 hours. Dump frozen (unthawed) vegetables on top an hour before serving. Serve over brown rice.


White bean stew
1 cup white beans, uncooked
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
3 tablespoons barley or brown rice
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon (reduce amount if using ham)
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper
diced leftover ham, optional

Combine all ingredients into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, add 6 cups water, and cook on low 8 hours.


Lentil taco salad
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup brown lentils
1/4 cup dry bell peppers (optional)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable bouillon
4 cups water

Layer all ingredients except water in pint jar (will barely fit) or in 1.5-pint jars (will have room to spare). Store on shelf; no need to freeze. Add to slow cooker with water; cook on low about 5 hours. Serve with your choice of lettuce, tomato, sour cream, salsa, crushed chips, cheese, avocado, etc.


Pepper steak
1–1.5 pounds steak or other beef, cut into cubes or strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon beef bouillon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 onion, chopped
2–4 bell peppers, cut into strips
1 14.5-ounce can tomatoes, undrained
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

Brown beef in vegetable oil. Add to gallon freezer bag with all other ingredients; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, then cook on low 6–8 hours. Serve over rice.


Mexican chicken soup
1–2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (or 1 raw chicken breast, or 1–2 cans chicken)
1 15-ounce can tomatoes
1 15-ounce can corn, drained
1 15-ounce can black beans (optional)
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
1 4-ounce can green chiles
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons brown rice (optional)

Combine all ingredients into gallon freezer bag; freeze. Thaw in fridge overnight, add 4 cups water, and cook on low 6-8 hours. Shred chicken if needed. Serve with crushed corn chips, if you like.


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Original recipe sources
Sesame ginger chicken
Chicken broccoli alfredo
Chicken fajitas
Sloppy tamale pie
White bean stew
Lentil taco salad 
Creamy cauliflower soup
Pepper steak 
Mexican chicken soup