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 it...no 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 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 budget...holiday 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 :)
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 areas...so 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 all...in 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 post...so 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 honey...it'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.
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 :)
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!