Friday, November 14, 2008

Cookies and Ramblings

Don't you love those 5-ingredients-or-less foods that can be put together in a jiffy and turn out great?

Here's an easy recipe I tried this week for peanut butter cookies called Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever, and I love flour, no milk, and really delicious. (I think I could even back off the sugar amount some, which I'll be trying for my next batch.) Here's the link... and here's the easy recipe:

2 cups peanut butter
2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets.
In a medium bowl, stir peanut butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets. Press a criss-cross into the top using the back of a fork.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

These were seriously the best peanut butter cookies I've had. You have to remove them carefully with a spatula to cool...careful or they'll fall apart. After they cool, they keep their shape really well. The comments section at their website states that regular peanut butter works better for this than hand-ground, for whatever reason.

On to other things...this is a rambling post and it'll be all over the place. I apologize in advance :)

Continuing to Make It at Home
Right now, since my regular job has not picked back up all the way, I'm at home more (yay!), which I really prefer. I've been trying to contribute to our budget, especially with the reduction of incoming money, by making nearly everything from scratch and really tightening the food budget a lot tighter. I still would like to get the numbers lower, without sacrificing nutrition.

We don't have optimal nutrition at the moment in this scenario.
We're working within our limitations. Yes, I know there are those out there with very good arguments for why it costs less overall and is preferable to buy everything organic. I'm sorry, I just don't have the sources or the income for that, so our answer to this will be to supplement what we can do right now with our OWN garden produce, something over which we have more control.

Our strategy is to slowly and deliberately begin substituting one for the other...our own home-produced foods to replace the store-bought ones.

Prices Still Climb
Has anyone noticed the price of simple things like rice and beans? It actually made me angry...I went to the store prepared to pay the prices for dried beans that I'd seen a year ago. We seldom eat beans, which is now changing, and I seldom had the need to buy dried beans. I'm used to their being the cheapest thing going as far as staple items. The price now compared to then is simply ridiculous....I really had a moment right there in the grocery aisle...I just stoood there and got really, really mad. (not something I usually do...)

So, I'll deal. You can believe beans and cowpeas of different descriptions will be on my garden list for next year.

Anyway, we hope to transition to our own garden produce, supplying our own staples, growing our own meat and dairy animals, and purchasing or bartering for organic supplies, including bulk purchase co-ops in the future...this is part of our Plan.

At the moment, I'm at the base of the learning curve.
I didn't realize how much we relied on processed foods to fill in the gaps, till now. Here at the very bottom of the learning curve, I'm having to learn for the first time how to bypass instant gratification. Yes, I cooked a lot at home. Yes, I used to cut corners. I still will on days I have to work, or if I'm not feeling well...I'm not a purist on this, nor am I critical of other families doing what works best for them. I'm just documenting my growing process here...which, for me, is more of a Growing Up process.

I've been pretty spoiled, even when I thought I wasn't...

While someday I hope to only cook using my own homeground grains, sugars that aren't processed white cane, and etc., at the moment, till I get some of those tools (grain mill, etc) and get set up for it or find better sources, I still do use them. I've experimented with the store-bought whole grain flour, and in comparison with the freshly-ground-at-home ones, there's just no comparison. Same thing for white sugar. There are my goals, and at the moment, my reality is in the early parts of transition. So regular unbleached white flour and white sugar are still here in my kitchen for the time being.

Reminding Ourselves of How Far We've Come
Debt-reduction is our Job One. All other things right now as far as the To Do list come second. It's easy to think we're making no progress whatsoever, as we trudge onward in this process of getting out of debt, locating a piece of land (and all the other stuff that comes with that), selling off a couple vacant residential lots we can't use (nothing is selling in our area right now, as you can imagine), scratching our heads over how (time, resources) to invest in doing for ourselves right where we are...namely, coaxing a garden from hardpan and all that entails...we just can't spend more money without careful planning, and it's difficult to decide when that same money's needed for more than one goal at a time.

For instance there's a real opportunity right now to purchase frozen turkey for $.79/lb. One small turkey could contribute largely to our meals in different ways for about two weeks, maybe more. Normally, the cheapest sale on meat of any sort (besides pork, which we can't have) is $1.99/lb, and the cheapest ground chuck normally runs $3.69 lb. And that's for what Jack and I term "the nasty stuff"...totally processed Big Ag chicken or beef...something we're trying to get AWAY from eventually. Oh, have I mentioned I just about can't take the chicken anymore? It tastes like bleach and chemicals to me, and I am trying so hard not to have to buy it anymore. We're incorporating more vegetarian meals as a result.

Anyway, turkey at $.79/lb is a real find for us, but we don't have freezer space. We can pick up a small freezer right now at a reasonable price, but of course that money doesn't come from a void, and is earmarked for other things. However, the impact it would have right now in SAVING us money on our meat and grocery budget is a real consideration.

Buying, to Save?
We seldom make snap decisions, and this is no exception. We've deliberated now for two weeks, "sleeping on it." We did decide to go ahead and get the freezer and to stock up with holiday turkeys on sale, and other items reduced for the holidays.

And here's what got cut from the gifts. All of them.

Happy holidays to us...we'll have something to put affordable food into and cut my grocery budget down down down, and pay those remaining debts off off off :)

What Gives
I'll write more another time about how our gift-giving and holiday celebrations have changed dramatically in the last few years...that's been our choice, frankly. This year, everyone in our household is working, and all of us have been very up-front about our financial goals. We have discussions and updates regularly, and encourage each other in these let's just say none of us is unaware of the big steps we're all taking in many areas. That takes the ouch out of adjusting to other changes such as reducing our holiday budget, and the pressure off of the rut we'd gotten into with gift-giving. A rut of gift-giving?? Is that a bah humbug sentiment? :) No...I'm not on a high horse here and not critical of others' gift-giving fun at fact, I quite enjoy seeing the happiness others have with the fun of it all. And I do anticipate future years in which we'll have the extra to embellish family times with some extra indulgence in that area. We'll really be able to enjoy it then, without feeling stressed!

I am saying this:
1. We have no TV (we have a set for watching movies, but we have no TV reception or cable...none.) We see no ads. We don't know what we're missing! :)
2. We're giving ourselves the gift of being debt free. We're not willing to halt that, even momentarily, because we want to be FREE more than any other want.
3. We have what we need, and a whole lot of what we want.
4. We have more than what we need, and are still having to get rid of Stuff. We don't want to replace Stuff with More Stuff.
5. There are some tools we need to live the lifestyle we want, better. We try not to get caught up into thinking we can't live this life without those tools. As we Reduce, we only Replace with things that are Essential.
6. Holidays can be celebrated without gifts. If we don't think so, we've lost out on something very fundamental. BEING WITH our loved ones is the point...THAT is the gift. It's taken me a lot of years to "get" that.
7. Gifts don't have to be confined to holidays. We think most things are better when shared. Jack and I tend to be "giving" people anyway, and simple things such as homemade food, canned goods, handmade items are best when shared. Time spent together is still the greatest gift. A favorite meal together, singing songs, favorite music/movie/home movies/photograph albums/games...these are gratifying and fun. Making foods together...popcorn, caramel corn balls, taffy, cookies, a family recipe, grilling, a fish fry, a potluck buffet, a bonfire with roasted marshmallows or hotdogs...that's shared "giving" time that can't be replaced. My grandparents always had a wooden bowl of whole nuts, with nutcracker, and I remember lots of times the grownups would sit around and talk and crack nuts as they went. And don't forget snuggling with the kids or sweetheart, hugs, and reading aloud, or storytelling. I just don't know anyone who doesnt love a good story!

OK, I never know where things are going when I begin typing. This was quite a departure from Peanut Butter Cookies, ack!

I hope you've had a wonderful week, and will have a relaxing weekend.

As soon as I'm off the computer here, I'll be cooking up a storm and straightening some around the house for tonight and tomorrow. At sundown will come our weekly time of thanks, feasting, and simple comforts. It's not always an easy week, and it doesn't always end with a big meal or everything finished around the house. But it's always welcome, and a reminder that there's a new week for new starts just around the corner :) I do have some emails to catch up with over the weekend (says the procrastinator, lol) I'll especially enjoy re-reading all the wonderful replies to the Chicken Question grateful for so many detailed answers... you have no idea how much this helps us get a more realistic idea for planning our own future! Thank you so much!

Quick Meal Recap
Some of our meals this week were Cabbage Rolls with Rice, Leftover Lasagne from last weekend, all sorts of things served with homemade bread, Tuna Noodle Bake, Cabbage and more cabbage with nearly everything, homemade cookies, red beans and rice with cornbread (and cabbage, what else, ha!). I'll get another batch of beans and rice going to slow cook in the crock pot for tomorrow's meals, make up some squash/spinach/noodle bake (sounds gross but it's delicious), and some beef enchiladas if my tortillas are still good to go. We have potatoes, so potato dishes will figure in largely for the upcoming week. I need to get a couple batches of breads going, too...some will be plain, and I'll probably try to use the calabaza I have in another batch and make it sweet, probably rolling it up with brown sugar and cinnamon for sweet loaves, mmmm :)
Jack treated me out yesterday at lunch to our favorite hole-in-the-wall Mom and Pop restaurant, where they serve homecooked food. I got my fish 'n chips fix there, and he had some corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. I laughed when he was eating and he pointed to the cabbage and said "hey look's MORE CABBAGE!" heehee Obviously the man can eat it seven days a week ;-)

As always, we're loving the Kombucha. Love, love, loving it! I don't even miss other drinks. It's kombucha, water, or sometimes milk. I'm noticing a difference in my health that I attribute to it, not the least of is more energy and a better sleep cycle.

Slow Mend
Jack is on Week Two of tendonitis in his right leg. Not much is getting done outside as far as the heavy stuff. So we're utilizing time together indoors, and there's been some fun in getting back to the drawing board (literally) in trying to finalize house plans/drawings. It's something we don't seem to get tired of, and we scout around online, too, for plan ideas. It's all budget-directed, so it's not the "dream house" of unlimited resources, but it's a lot of fun sharing in the formation of something that will hopefully serve us well, if we ever get to that point. That'll be the fun part of being out of debt :)

Bucketville/the Garden
We'll be getting into a bit lower temps here over the weekend. We'll be closely monitoring our buckets of semi-tropicals to see what we can do if they start looking puny. We have old sheets at the ready. The guava has fruits on it...hope it does fine. The soapberry tree babies look like they're going dormant. Hope they're not dying.

Ok, duty calls, gotta scoot. If I don't stop typing now, there won't be time for everything.

Have a great weekend, and shabbat shalom!


Joanna said...

I gotta try the peanut butter cookies. Thanks so much for the overall post, meant a lot to me, I'm right there with ya!

MeadowLark said...

Actually, sometimes it's nice to just ramble and share with friends. Even friends who only exist as electons. Thanks for sharing and I'll give the pbutter cookies a try, since I have a large jar of pbutter than husband won't eat plain. :)

Carla said...

Thank you for that list, Robbyn (the 1-7 of things you're doing/not doing)- reading it helped me to 're-center' my brain after a week of puzzling/head-scratching/guessing what to get my grandsons for Christmas.
Bless you!

Mrs. K's Lemonade Stand said...

Isn’t that interesting that the recipe has no flour! They certainly look delicious!

I think the more any family can supply or make their own for food is a wise choice. Taking it one step at time works for me and I enjoyed your post!

Nola @ the Alamo said...

My mom made those peanut butter cookies; they were favorites of our! We scaled down gift giving, too, giving only to the children, and even that is scaled back. It takes the pressure off and give you back the most precious gift - time! Holidays (Holy days) are about the love and spiritual reflection (to us, anyway), not the commercial gifting!

tracylynne said...

I stumbled on your blog and enjoyed your comments very much. X-mas will be tough for alot of people including us-we can't give gifts this year either, but you seem grounded in the fact that you are not going to stress over it. I bought a freezer this summer and started stocking it with sale stuff a long time ago. My husband thought I was crazy planning for winter and the $$ of food. It has turned out to be a great investment.Like my Granny says when it is on sale don't buy one buy two-I now have lots of refined sugar, flour and coffee but I think that should get us through what may be a really tough winter.
I've added your blof to my favs

Irma said...

I am "new" to your blog, in that I only found it about10 days ago and have since read every word. Whew!

I almost posted a comment before I read the entire post; when you said you were thinking about buying a freezer, I wanted to send you an immediate message saying "DO IT". Not only will this allow you to purchase that amazing turkey (the lowest price I have ever seen in my Canadian neighbourhood is $1.59!!) it will be so useful when you are putting up your own produce. You're getting there, and I am learning much that will help me on my own journey. No, I don't plan to homestead, but I do want to expand my garden next year,for two reasons: I want to know exactly whatI am feeing my family, and I want to save money. So thanks for inspiring me.

fullfreezer said...

Thanks for posting the recipe. I have made these before but when I went looking recently, I couldn't find where I had put it- not that I'm disorganized or anything ;)

Thanks also for the rest of the ramble. It's nice to hear someone else reason through the priorities in their life.

Hope your weekend is restful.

Lilla said...

Love your posts, and your ramblings! I do admire your determination and your self discipline to set goals and take the steps needed to accomplish those goals. Your lists put me to shame! As for the grocery shopping, do you have any ethnic markets in your area? We recently discovered an Hispanic grocery store in our town and the prices are incredibly low! They have an amazing produce section, a huge meat market, a bakery and bulk items such as spices. There is also an Asian market nearby that we plan to check out next. Good luck!

Shelby said...

My son makes these! My sister taught him how about 3 years ago.. love them.. and they're so easy!

Brenda@View From The Pines said...

I hadn't realized till now that I haven't eaten a peanut butter cookie in ages! Sounds so good after my two heated up slices of pizza. We're far from debt-free. But we have a roof over our heads. Prices have become outlandish.

edifice rex said...

Sounds like ya'll are really on the right path Robbyn. you'll get there with your hard work. More people should realize that they don't need More Stuff and it's other people that matter. Good luck to you.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Hey Robbyn, you can break down those turkeys (practice for when you have your own birds) and cram even more in your freezer. By the time ours are ready, I barely have room. A thigh and drumstick make a great dinner without too many leftovers and actually let us have turkey with stuffing more often as kind of a treat.

I'm going to go try your cookie recipe and post a recipe for homemade grape-nut cereal, inspired by Tansy's post on homemade corn flakes.

Love the rambling, that is just real life you know. Great list!

Anonymous said...

Those cookies look oh so so good....I can't stop thinking about them, I really can't!

Carolyn said...

Those cokkies look Yummy!

Great Post!

P. S. I'm having a Giveaway!!

To enter:
Visit my Cafe Press Store:

Then come back to my blog and tell me what product you would like to win.

Write a blog post about my giveaway and I will give you a second entry. Just be sure to add a comment with the link to your post.

Those without a blog can enter too. Just be sure to leave a way for me to contact you in your comment.

You can enter to win from November 12 thru November 26

I will announce the Winner on Saturday November 29

Notes From The Frugal Trenches said...

Them cookies still look mighty fine...mighty fine!!!


Gina said...

The pb cookies sound really yummy!

I know your pain over the price of beans. I've been doing that Independence days challenge and routinely buy beans for the stash. the price hike has literally been in the past 6 weeks! I noticed it a few weeks ago when I bent down to pick up my usual extra bag and noticed they had doubled in price. I also have beans on the list for next year's garden!

I am slowly working towards debt-reduction (wish I could say I was speeding towards it!) I anticipate a loss of job by this time next year (my boss unexpectedly quit this week adn I sense she knows something the rest of us aren't privy too). Good tips and reminders!

I really think you would like having a freezer for stocking up and I personally think it saves us quite a bit of money (it has paid for itself already, IMO). However, also consider buying those turkeys, cooking them up and canning it.

Robbyn said...

Joanna, I can't believe I've never made these before. I didn't make many cookies over the years till the past couple.

Meadowlark, hope you like them :) So glad to have you to ramble on to (lol, tell me to stop stop!)

Carla, your grandsons will really enjoy their time with you!

Mrs. K, I loved that it had no flour, and the texture once they cool is amazing :)

Nola, wish your mom had passed it along to my mom a lot earlier :)

Tracylynne, thank you for adding me! I hope you guys have a wonderful holiday...we have so many gifts, those "ordinary wonders" if we stop to count them, eh? :) congratulations on your freezer!

Irma, so glad you're here :) Thank you for the kind words. I don't think we're remotely in the homesteader category yet, but that's our desire, whatever you call it. I have a lot to learn from you, as we're so new to gardening and the whole shebang

Fullfreezer, I'm a recipe-a-holic, but I don't have a very fine-tuned organization system yet. I spent a lot of my time trying to find some recipe I think I remember, somewhere, lol

Lilla, that's a great suggestion about searching out local ethnic markets. There's one I know of an hour from here, but I have yet to check out the little storefronts, beyond just a few. Good idea, thanks!

Shelby, what a great thing for a son to cook (how dangerous to the waistline is that?? lol!)I wish my daughter had more of an interest in cooking, but I didn't really at her age, either

Brenda, I hadn't had them in possibly years, either. But pizza? Mmmm :)

Thanks, Annie! Can't wait till we're into more of the hands-on part and I can drive you nuts asking you for your advice, especially when it comes to the construction and art ends of things

Nita, thanks! I have to try that grape nuts recipe...I'll wait on the cornflakes one to see how everyone's turns out, ha! Do you think I should thaw the turkeys and then cut them up and refreeze them? They come prefrozen. Makes a lot of sense to cut them into portions in advance, just not sure if thawing and refreezing is safe...let me know :)

Frugal Trenches...they ARE good! You have to try 'em!

Carolyn, they are yummy! Your logo turned out great on your items for sale :)

Gina, good idea with the canning...a pressure canner (well, heck, even a hot water canning setup) is on our List. Just can't afford to get everything at once, so till then the freezer will have to pinch hit. Whew, I hate that feeling of not knowing what's up with a job...I hope you have your job a long time. You're really making huge strides with debt, you have my admiration!

Granny Sue said...

That's my recipe too, Robbyn. A neighbor gave it to me back in the late 1970's I think, and my sons love those cookies.

Great posts lately. I missed the chicken question because my computer was broken for a week or so. You got some good responses.

Country Girl said...

Great post as always...need I say more?
Oh yeah, those cookies sound real good and easy, 2 things I like!