Home Goods Store

Today at lunch Mr. Housewife said he wanted to go to a store he had seen called Home Goods, the twinadoes were at kid party so I figured now’s the perfect time.  I had seen commercials for the store, but didn’t even know we had one near us.

When I first walked in I was in shock, the place was packed full of stuff, I mean PACKED.  Christmas was everywhere, and I’m feeling all festive so I figured that was cool…

WP_20151107_15_07_38_ProWP_20151107_15_08_00_Pro Who doesn’t need a 7 ft. mirrored reindeer?

Did I mention how busy it was?  Oh and they offer carts to stuff all the crap in as you go along.  So you have a cram packed store full of people and stuff mixed with narrow aisles and oblivious people pushing their ginormous carts.

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They did have a really nice selection of cake stands that caught my fancy, but I refrained considering I have about ten of these things at home.  Also I should add that even though everything was completely chaotic they had specific departments for things like kitchenware, bedding, furniture, etc…

 

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My other weakness…tiered trays, I love them, can’t get enough so when I saw a four foot silver tiered try I really had to fight bringing it home…. It’s hard to tell from this picture, but it was taller than my cart, however, the $249.99 price tag was more than I was willing to spend.  Not all of the trays were this size, there were some really nice ones, some mirrored, some plain, you name it they had it.

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They had a lot of bakeware at decent prices, but it’s stacked all wonky so you have to dig for stuff and check it all over for scratches.

What I did spy and had to have…….

WP_20151107_14_32_23_ProThis purple chair with blinged out buttons.  I saw this and let out a little squeal and for $129.99 I couldn’t say no.

Have you all ever been to a Home Goods?  Was it a fun experience?  Now I do have to say it’s probably not as busy during the week, so if I went back that’s when I would go.  The amount of stuff they had was really overwhelming, but also enticing, kind of like a really cool garage sale.  Incredibly happy I did not have the twinadoes with me, that would have made this little adventure very painful.

 

 

 

 

My Freezer Meal Party

What in the world possessed me to want to have a freezer meal party I just don’t know.  I really don’t like freezer meals so why in the world would I make them?  Simply, I wanted to have a reason to have some people over and do something I’ve never done at the same time.  The concept of it is pretty basic, find a few people to get together to make some meals you put in your freezer that you can bake at a later date.  Making it all happen is where it gets a little chaotic.

This first attempt was a learning experience, and it seems I had a lot to learn.  We started around 3 o’clock and finished around 8pm.  We made lasagna, chicken pot pie, butternut risotto, spring rolls and chocolate chip cookies.  My initial instinct was to pretty much do it and have it done for when they got here, but then where’s the fun, right?  So I only did a few things before they arrived…. which would have been fine if I had a better delineation of tasks.  Next time I will have tasks thought out ahead of time, making sure each person had their little piece to the puzzle.  Depending on how many people you have will determine that list.  What makes sense to me is have jobs already assigned to individuals.

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Before you begin any of the work I would highly suggest starting with a clean work space, seems like common sense, I know.  I made sure my kitchen was clean as well as the dining room table cleared as well as the kitchen table.  I wasn’t sure just how much room we would need but I wanted to be prepared in case we needed to spread out.

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In an attempt to be somewhat ahead of the game, so to speak, before people arrived I got out most of the ingredients that would be needed as well as soaking the mushrooms for the spring rolls since that takes a little bit of time.  A more thorough prep will be done next time.

First, the dishes I picked had a lot of chopping of vegetables, so I should have had everyone assigned to a few vegetables to cut.

Next, I would give each person (or persons, depending on how many you have participating) a recipe and have them be responsible for that dish.  Since I only have one stove and only a certain amount of burners I would stagger the use of it.  Using the dishes I made, I would have had someone starting the cookies, another doing the crusts for the chicken pot pies and the remaining two using the stove to make the lasagna sauce and the filling for the pot pies.  The risotto could be done after one of those dishes were complete.  Lastly, I had printed out the recipes to what we made but I would also print out a little card with instructions for cooking out of the freezer.

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You also have to factor in the necessary drinking and snacking breaks…it is after all a party and people are supposed to be having fun.  Along with beer and wine we also made lemon drops using fresh squeezed lemons.

V__858D DSC_0258(don’t you love the size of the cookie roll?)

It’s interesting to see different people cooking together, each person has their own level and ways, but it all comes together.

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Finishing the evening with assembling the spring roles was really nice.  We all sat around the table chatting, laughing, sharing funny stories and pretty much slowing down.  That part I would not change.

Time to think about my next freezer meal party.

Menudo

It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I actually had menudo, and even when I did try it I wasn’t so sure what to think of it.  But when you are dating a boy who’s family is from Mexico and it’s the holidays, you eat the menudo.  Let me tell you, I’m glad I did.  Since that first bowl I’ve had many others, and much like spaghetti, you get quite a variety from each person.  The woman (I really should say family) that watches the twinadoes is also from Mexico, her husband makes the best menudo so of course I asked him how he does it.  I’ve tweaked it a little here and there, but for the most part it’s they way he showed me.

Depending on my mood and craving, sometimes I add hominy, but I would say that mostly I do not.  I stick to using lots of tripe and beef feet, after cooking in that glorious red broth it just can’t be beat.  Traditionally, it was a meal that was cheap because it uses the parts of the cow (and sometimes pig) that most people would throw away.  These days that cannot be said, the tripe I purchased was a little over five dollars a pound….

Please note, this recipe makes a really large pot of menudo.  I don’t make it often so when I do I like to make enough to be able to freeze some for later.

For the Recipe:

5 lbs. beef feet

5 large onions, chopped

3 tbsp. salt (this will vary according to your taste)

1 tbsp. pepper (this will vary according to your taste)

10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3 lbs. honeycomb tripe, cleaned and cut into bite size pieces

2 1/2 lbs. scalded tripe

12 New Mexico chilies, seeded

5 Guajillo chilies, seeded

2 tbsp. oregano

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In a very large pot (I used a 13 quart pot) add the beef feet, 3 onions, 2 tbsp. salt, pepper, and garlic.  Cover with water and let cook over medium heat for 2 hours (you don’t want the water to be boiling, more like a soft simmer), skimming the scum off the top as it cooks.

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After two hours add all the tripe and 1 tbsp. salt, let cook for two hours.

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While this is cooking you can prepare the chilies.  You don’t have to use both kinds, if you can only find one of them that will work.  In a dry pan roast the peppers, they will soften up and get a deeper color.  This does not take long so don’t walk away or you will burn them, don’t use if that happens.  Remove from the pan, place in the blender, cover with 1 cup boiling water and let sit for 15 or so minutes to soften up.  Add the oregano and the remaining onions, blend until smooth.  Set aside until ready to use.  Once the tripe has been cooking for two hours add the chile mixture.  If you want to add hominy now would be the time, the amount is up to you, if I were going to add it to this recipe I would use a 14 ounce can.

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Let this cook for about 20 minutes so the chile mixture has time to cook a bit, give a taste and adjust with more salt and pepper if needed.  Once you are happy with the salt/pepper let it cook an additional 1-2 hours until the tripe is tender and the liquid has turned a deep red/brick color, it will also thicken up.

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Ladle up a bowl and serve with tortillas and traditional menudo condiments.

Condiments:

cilantro, chopped

onions, chopped

green onions, chopped

oregano

red pepper flakes

limes

Enjoy!

The Final Day….

September has finally come to an end.  The budget, well….I went over about $150 and didn’t quite stick to the calendar of meals, but overall I think it was a success.  Of course I was hoping to not go over the one hundred dollar budget, but there was no way I was going to tell my kids “sorry, no apples and bananas for you”.  However, I did buy a lot less than I normally would have, when Thing 1 only ate half an apple I would save the other half for him to eat later.  Normally I would just toss it in the “chicken” pile.  The chickens definitely went without this month, other than their normal feed it was some slim pickings.

Strangely, I didn’t miss going to the store all the time, I realized it was just some habit I learned and it became normal.  Now, well let’s just say I don’t even want to peruse the aisles looking for stuff, I want to get in and out and be done with it.  Walking past aisles is a big component to keeping to a budget, out of sight out of mind, right?  The list was also key, that and sticking to the list.  Our garbage can was only 3/4 full on garbage days, this went down from us having to shove as much in, stomping on it to get the lid to close and sometimes even having an extra bag next to the normal can.

As for the calendar of meals, well, in theory it’s a great idea, however, the meal I plan for two weeks from now isn’t always what I want, so you have to allow for some changing of days.  Weekly meal planning would work much better for me, and in fact, the only reason I did then whole month was because I was trying to use up what we had on hand and make sure I had enough to last the whole month.  We didn’t buy any meat, none, but we were gifted some meat from two people.  Even without those generous gifts we would have made it.  I still have the meat that was going to be used on those days, and it will get used.

My pantry is not as empty as I thought it would be, in fact, it’s still really quite full.  The freezer was getting down there, and I liked it.  Then Mr. Housewife went to Costco…. he did good though, Bought mostly stuff for the twinadoes and non food items, but there were a few.

One goal was to not go out for meals at all, I failed.  I believe I went out twice and then Mr. Housewife and I went out once, so really, it wasn’t a complete fail.  Our normal month consists of going out more like three times a week rather than month.  I missed eating out, but I plan on that getting scaled back as well, it’s just not necessary.

Next month I will be purchasing foods that are on sale, I’ll ease up on the budget, but there will be no free for all grocery trips.  This is all a work in progress, Rome wasn’t built in a day…

To end the month we are having leftovers from last night, I thought that was fitting.

Butternut Squash Soup

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The other day I made butternut squash soup, even though I got the eye roll from Mr. Housewife.  He did not seem to think it was going to be something he would like, his idea of it was like eating pumpkin pie in soup form.  Wrongo!!  For one, I do not use ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon in this soup, I like it to be savory with only the sweetness from the butternut.  To top it off I added some spice roasted chickpeas.  They are super addictive when you pop a few in your mouth so be sure to make extra.

There are so many videos, tutorials, etc on how to peel a butternut squash.  I used a sharp peeler, but you could also just pop the thing in the oven until it was soft and use in the soup, then you don’t have to worry about peeling.  I’m telling you, keep it simple for yourself.

For the Recipe:

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 onions, chopped

2 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (reduce if you don’t want that little zip in the soup)

2 tsp. cumin

2 tsp. paprika

4 c. butternut squash, cubed (this does not have to be exact, just grab a squash that looks like all the rest and call it good)

1 tbsp. garlic powder (or you could use a few cloves of garlic)

8 c. chicken stock, homemade preferred, but if you don’t have it use the Better Than Bouillon (love this stuff)

Roasted chickpeas (recipe at the bottom)

In a heavy pot heat the olive oil and add the onions.  Get them good and happy for a few minutes, then add all the salt, pepper and spices.  Let these hang out and get nice and caramel in color, don’t rush this, just let it happen.  Once the onions have a nice caramel color add the butternut squash.  Give it a good stir, add the garlic powder and let cook for 5-7 minutes.  You just want to let the squash bet coated in all the flavorful goodness and let the garlic powder get warm and mingle with the rest of the party.  Now add the chicken stock.  The squash will be nice and tender in about 15-20 minutes of cooking over medium heat.  After about 10 minutes give the liquid a taste to adjust seasoning to fit your taste, I always end up adding more of pretty much everything, however, I would rather have to add since you cannot take away.  Then continue to cook until squash is soft.  Blending time!!  Because I’m lazy I use the emulsion blender for this, taking the soup out to put in a blender then putting it all back in just means more work, no thank you.  However, if you don’t have an emulsion blender, well, looks like the normal blender will have to do.  Most people like to add some kind of cream coconut milk to this, however, I’m just not a fan.  I think this stuff tastes fantastic as is, but you are most welcome to add some if you feel the need.  Lastly, get yourself a big bowl, ladle a few scoops and top with the roasted chickpeas.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Chickpeas:

1 can garbanzo beans (I’ve actually started cooking dried and putting then in the freezer in place of canned)

generous drizzle of olive oil

1 tsp. paprika

1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. cumin

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Rinse and dry your chickpeas well, if they are wet they won’t crisp up.  Place on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Drizzle olive oil over all the chickpeas, then sprinkle all the seasonings.  Mix well so they are evenly coated.  Pop in the oven, let cook for 20 minutes.  Then give them a good shake and cook for 15 minutes.  After this 15 minutes give then yet another shake.  If your oven is like mine and heats hotter in the back than the front be sure to rotate the pan when you give them a good shake.  Test one of the chickpeas to see if they are nice and crisp, if they aren’t quite there, give them another ten minutes.  These keep well in an airtight container, but I’m telling you, they are so stinking good they won’t last long.

One Week To Go….

One hundred dollars for the month just didn’t happen for us.  As I had stated in the beginning I was not going to have the twinadoes go without items like fruits and vegetables.  Well we ran out of both by mid month so I had to buy those items, and that quickly took me over my budget.  That was a little sad, that buying food items that everyone should be eating was so expensive, I even shopped the fruits/vegetables that were on sale.  The entire time I was tossing apples, bananas, celery etc. in my cart I kept thinking to myself, what if I really didn’t have the money to pay for this, that I had spent all that I had for the month and we were going to have to wait a few weeks.

One big thing even Mr. Housewife noticed so far, our garbage has decreased by half, at least.  Seriously.  Today is garbage day and our can isn’t even filled, normally we are stomping on it trying to get it all in.  The hens didn’t have as many scraps (I use that word loosely since I would buy them extra fruits and vegetables that were meant for them) from our meal preparations because I was using everything I possibly could.  They sure became very appreciative of the scraps they did receive.

At first I sort of missed going to the store every other day, it had become routine.  Now, I’m loving it that part will become permanent.  The waste that was happening in this house was out of control, we won’t be going back to that either.  Some items I will buy a little extra to save in the freezer just to have on hand, but for the most part, no more of that.  The new idea will be to purchase what we are going to use within that week, that has cut down our waste incredibly.

Thing 1 came with me to the store one time this month, and boy was it ridiculous.  After shopping so frugally, seeing his wild hands going at full speed tossing items he “needed” into the cart was frustrating.  I found myself telling him no, and sticking to it.  Did I say no to everything, no.  They do need to learn limits at the store, that not every want is going to be satiated.  They will learn, in time.

So far I’ve gone over about $50, which in truth isn’t bad in my mind.  I still have a week to go and I do need more fruits for the twinaodes, and us now that I’m not really limiting, so it will probably be more like a two hundred dollar month.  That total wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it sure is a lot less than the $2200 of last month so I’ll take it.

And Then I Went Over…

I can’t believe I went over my one hundred dollar budget.  Uuuggghh!!!  Part was buying treats for my sick Thing 1 (and Thing 2 since you can’t buy for one and not the other) and then more treats again today when Thing 2, my step-daughter and I went to the Farmhouse Market to pick up some fruit and vegetables.  If I subtract the added treats I would be over about $8.50 with eleven days to go.

How am I consoling this defeat?  Going out to dinner with a friend…. However, I did inform Mr. Housewife that we are still sticking to the rest of the planned meals for the month, and they are still having spaghetti and meatballs with homemade baguettes.

How does one stick to a strict budget?  The only meat I purchased was landjaeger for my little Thing 2, but that was almost ten dollars (so if I count that as a treat then I still have $1.50), the rest was fruit, vegetables, milk and bread.  This was a real eye opener for me.  My mind keeps thinking about what if this was truly my reality and I had one hundred dollars to feed my two kids for the month.  With time I have no doubt I would figure it out, but we would go without a lot, A LOT.

We would be kissing organic food goodbye.  So long honeycrisp apples, hello fujis.  The Kit Kats my twinadoes love to sneak into the cart while we are waiting in line, farewell.  It would be bare bones, hell who am I kidding, we wouldn’t be able to afford bones (checked those today and they were marked $3.99/lb).

My hat goes off to all that truly do make these budgets work, you are amazing.  The rest of the month will be interesting, but with a little more determination we can do it.  We will never go back to $2200 a month, ever, that was just ridiculous and shameful.  Instead, we will be on a reasonable budget for our family with an allotted amount we set aside to help those that are not as fortunate as we are.