A Month of No Groceries: Week 2 Update

Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Have you ever heard the term "a day late and a dollar short"? Well that is where I am with this post. Actually I am two days late. So does that mean I am two dollars short? Whatever it means, I am glad to finally give you an update on week 2.

This week didn't go as well as I had hoped. The first half of the week went great. No groceries were purchased and everything I cooked was food from our pantry and freezer.  I was really on a roll, and I was already thinking about all the great things I was going to tell you. I was going to say things like, how good it felt to stick to our plan, how easy it was to "shop" from our own pantry and freezer, how fun it was making meals that the whole family loved, and how I was up for mother of the year...

Then Wednesday hit, and two things happened; an impending ice storm was scheduled to hit our area on Friday, and my sister and I had to take our mother to the emergency room. My mom is fine, but we spent the entire day at the hospital. That meant there was no cooking that day. And in the back of my head, all I could think about was what if the ice storm coming our way knocked out power? Do we have food that we can easily cook on a camp stove? How will we get water?

Old-fashioned donut muffins.  A treat I baked on the week-end.

So on the way home from the hospital, my sister and I stopped at Aldi. I love shopping at Aldi! I love the variety and I love the prices. I swear I was only going in to buy some bottled water. I don't normally buy bottled water, but with the threat of the ice storm, there was a chance of losing power. If we lose power, then we have no water (our water comes from our well that uses electricity to pump it). 

Once I walked in the door of Aldi, I was a monster! A grocery shopping, I need one of everything, monster! I did get bottled water, but I also got crackers, and cereal, and milk, and bread, and lettuce, and bananas...lots of bananas. They were only 29¢ a pound! And I know there was more than that, because I ended up spending $45.00. Oh, and I bought one of their pre-made pizzas because by the time I got home I knew it was going to be late, and I knew I wouldn't feel like cooking. Convenience food here I come! 

Homemade tortillas...right next to my favorite coffee mug.

The very next day, I was back on track and back to my regular self. It is amazing how when life get's you off your regular path, all other things can break down. While planning can help, it is planning for the unpredictable that can really keep you on track. 

So my meals this week weren't too bad. Here is what we ate:

Monday: Mexican meal

I really don't know what to call this. I used the hamburger meat that I had cooked extra of when I was fixing our lasagna during week 1. I then added spanish rice, corn, and a can of rotel. I made some homemade tortillas and added in some sour cream and cheese and this was our meal for the evening. 

Our Mexican concoction.

Tuesday: Nachos

I used the leftover meat mixture from the night before and used it to make nachos. Very yummy!

Wednesday: Pizza

Of course this was the night that I didn't cook.  I bought a premade cheese pizza from Aldi and then added pineapple chunks and ham to make a Hawaiian pizza. This is one of my favs!

Thursday: Chicken patties, green beans, and applesauce

This is definitely one of those clean out the freezer meals. I am trying to cut out as much processed foods as possible, but I had chicken patties in the freezer and decided to go ahead and use them. They are at least now out, and we won't have to buy more. :-) The green beans and applesauce were both from the pantry and both home canned.

Friday: Broiled Pineapple Burgers with Aloha Salad

Sometimes I like to get vintage with my cooking and I decided to get out one of my 50's cookbooks to make this meal. We had some premade burger patties in the freezer that needed to be used, however, the last time we used them they tasted horrible. Not because the meat was bad, just the flavor was bad. I thought this recipe was perfect. I was able to use my left-over pineapple from the pizza on Wednesday to top the burgers. Broiling them made them cook up quick and of course I made the "spicy sauce" that went with them. The spicy sauce was comprised of brown sugar, ketchup, and mustard! I'm telling you they really knew how to spice things up back in the 1950's! My aloha salad was a regular tossed salad with the pineapple chunks that were left (the ones I didn't need for the burgers).  

Pineapple burgers with spicy sauce. Watch out! That sauce will getcha'

Saturday: Leftover night!

Or clean out the fridge night as I like to call it.  It is a great way to finish off what is left of meals and then decide if there are other meals that can be made from the leftovers of leftovers.

Sunday: Brown Beans and Ham; Cornbread

I was able to use beans I had in my pantry and ham I had in my freezer to make this meal. I made the cornbread from a mix I already had. Good, old fashioned comfort food!

Comfort food at its finest!

So that was my week in a nutshell.  (A really big nutshell)

How did you do? Be sure and tell me in the comments below. I love to read them!

Why I Cook with Cast Iron and Why You Should Too

Thursday, January 12, 2017
My husband tends to give me Christmas presents that are practical. That isn't to say that I don't like them. In fact I love them! His gifts are always something that I want, and that I need. He knows my taste and knows what I will be happy with.

This year one of his presents to me was a cast iron pot with a cover that doubles as a pan. I have been eyeing this for sometime, and was ecstatic when I got it! I have slowly been transitioning to cast iron over the past couple of years. The other pans I have been using are a large stainless steel that can go into the oven, and a very small ceramic pan.

A couple of years ago I made the decision to toss out all my non-stick (read: Teflon) pans. I didn't like the fact that my family was ingesting the chemicals from the pans as I cooked the food, but I did love the idea of using little to no oil and having the food not stick to the pan, as well as how easy they were to clean-up. However health won out over ease of use and I decided to try stainless steel after that. The clean-up was easy enough, but the non-stick part was not there unless I used a ton of oil!  I decided I didn't want to add that many calories to the food we ate, so I tried ceramic. It did have non-stick properties at first, but the more I used it, the more the coating started chipping off and I didn't want that in my food either. I am sure some of you would tell me that I didn't use the ceramic pan right, I probably used too high of heat, or used too abrasive of cleaners, but if there is a coating on a pan, no matter what, it will come off at some point.

During this time, I had also started using a 12" cast iron pan. I like the idea of cooking with cast iron, and I like the benefits. It allowed iron to get into our diet in a healthy, non-toxic way. There are no chemicals on the pans, and they can last literally forever.  But there are some tips to using them to get the most benefit out of them.

I thought I would share with you why I am now solely using cast iron and why you should be too. I will also share with you some tips for using cast iron that gets the most benefit out of it.

Yes, you can fry an egg in a cast iron pan and not have it stick!

It Is Naturally Non-Stick
When I first started using cast iron, I would have absolutely disagreed with this statement. Yes, I was told it was non-stick, but my experience proved otherwise. What I didn't realize is that the pan must be well seasoned. Don't expect a brand new pan to be automatically non-stick. You will need to cook with it and build up the seasoning to experience it being non-stick. If the pan was pre-seasoned, then it won't take long for it to get to the non-stick stage.

Tip 1: Be sure and use some type of oil when you first start cooking with a new pan, or even a newly seasoned pan.  You will need to build up the seasoning of the pan and therefore its non-stick quality.

Tip 2: Keeping the temperature at a lower setting on your stove will also help keep food from getting too hot and burning/sticking to the pan.

The lid to the pot, which flipped upside down (as pictures) is now a frying pan!

It Adds Iron to Your Food
As I mentioned earlier, cast iron will naturally add iron to the foods that you cook in the pan. There are many people that are not getting an iron rich diet (think red meat, dark leafy greens, beans).  Not having enough iron in your diet can lead to anemia. While taking a supplement can help, the best way to get nutrients and minerals is through your food. And to think this pan helps with that!  If you are on the anemic side, don't think that you can immediately start cooking with cast iron and stop your supplements, it doesn't quite work that fast. You will need to cook with cast iron on a regular basis to see the benefits of the iron.

Cooks Somewhat Evenly and Retains Heat
I think this is probably my favorite benefit of cast iron. The pans I have used in the past (stainless steel, ceramic, non-stick) have had hot spots and cold spots. I do not have the luxury of having a gas stove and having control over the heat of the burner. With cast iron, I have experienced very few hot and cold spots, once it heats up, it is an even heat. What I have found with my electric stove is that I never want to raise the temperature of the burner more than medium. Once the pan is hot, it stays hot for quite awhile.

Tip 3: Be sure and preheat your pan! This really is a must to have even heating. I always put my pan on the burner and turn the burner to Medium (remember I have an electric stove). Once it is heated up (drop some water in the pan and if it sizzles and dances, it's ready) you can add your food (oil of your choice if you need it.)

My Christmas present this year, and it is fast becoming one of my favorites!

It is Easy to Clean
Ok, you might disagree with me on this, but I have learned the secret to cleaning cast iron. Clean it while it is still hot. Remove the food and add a little water to the pan. Using a soft cloth (I love using the dish cloths that I have crocheted), clean off the food residue. You will not need soap this way, I promise you. Soap can take the seasoning off of the pan. Be sure and dry the pan with a clean soft cloth (lint free) and then I reseason mine. To do this, I add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the still warm pan and rub the oil all over. I then sit it back on the stove  for the oil to absorb into the pan. If you need to season a pan from scratch, this is not the way to do it.

Tip 4: Do not over oil your pan to season it. If you put too much oil on your pan, you will end up with a sticky gooey mess. Don't worry if this has already happened, you can always scrap it off and reason your pan.

You CAN Use a Metal Spatula (and you should!)
On one of my YouTube videos I show how we cook cowboy stew over an open fire in our dutch oven. One of the things that I used was a metal spatula to first cook the hamburger. I immediately received a comment that I shouldn't be using metal. Guess what? You DO want to use metal with cast iron. When you first purchase cast iron pans, they can be bumpy or have an uneven surface. The use of metal on them hones down the cast iron over time and makes it smooth, which helps with the non-stick process and cleaning process.

Tip 5: You do NOT want to use metal on an enamel clad iron pan. That will definitely scratch the surface.

My cheeseburger soup in my enamel clad dutch oven. That spoon in the pot is a ladle and was not used to cook with.

You Can Cook on Any Cook Surface
These pans can be used anywhere! Electric stove, gas stove, wood stove, camp stove, open fire, you name it! So if the zombie apocalypse ever happens? Well you can bet you can still cook a fantastic meal! ;-) I have used mine on my electric stove, a camp stove, and an open fire. Nothing beats chili cooked in a dutch oven over an open fire. It is one of our favorite things to cook.

This is our dutch oven that we use when camping. We use it over an open fire, in coals, and have also used it on a camp stove.

They Last Forever
This is the best part about these pans...they last forever! What I wouldn't give to have a pan that one of my grandmothers had. I have heard from other cast iron lovers that the older the cast iron, the better. There are pans out there that are over 100 years old and are still in service today. The more use they get, the better they become. Of course that is if you take care of them. And I have found that care of these pans can be easier than some of the other pans I have had in the past.

Tip 6: Take well care of your pan by using it as often as possible, keeping it in a dry place so it doesn't rust, seasoning it as needed, and you will have a pan that you can pass on through the generations.

Let me know in the comments below what your experience is with cast iron, and what your favorite cast iron pan is.

A Month of No Groceries!

Monday, January 9, 2017
Yes, you read that title right. We are currently in a month of buying no groceries. We did this in November of 2015 and you can read about it here. This time, there are a couple of reasons why we are doing this. The first of course is to try and save some money in an overly tight January budget. The second reason however is more exciting. Our steers are going to be butchered in a week and we need all the freezer space we can get!

A Month of No Groceries www.HensleeFarmAdventures.com

When we did this in the past, we had done it on a whim, and during November. I really didn't think it through, knowing that we would end up having to buy somethings for Thanksgiving, but we plunged forward and made it through.  Yes, we still bought a few groceries, but not nearly as many as we would have during a regular month.

This time around is going to be a little different. We really are under than gun to clean out some freezer space for the beef that we will soon have. Also January is always a tight month for us. There is Christmas that we just spent money on, taxes that we just paid, plus this year our Christmas present to ourselves was a little pricey...a fireplace. A gas log fireplace. It is something that we built ourselves and are so proud of. It is not quite finished yet, but when it does, I will post pictures and how we built it. We are hoping that since it is gas, it will save us money on our electric bill. So in the end, it will end up paying for itself!

So back to the month of no groceries, I really do mean what I say. We are not going to be spending money on groceries during the month of January. Each week on Monday, I will update you all on how we did with the groceries and what I cooked using food out of our pantry and freezer.

So for week one's update: yes we bought a few grocery items. We bought two cartons of almond milk (as soon as I get a decent blender, I will be making it myself!) and some cheese.  We spent all of around $7 for the three items, but it should get us through the rest of the month.

So what did I cook? Well our meals looked a little like this:

A Month of No Groceries 2017 www.HensleeFarmAdventures.com
Homemade lasagna...take that Stouffer's!

Monday: Salad and Chicken Wings (left over from New Years Eve)
Tuesday: Vegetable Soup and Stuffing Muffins (left over from Thanksgiving that I had frozen)
Wednesday: Smothered Pork Chops (slow cooked with potatoes and onions)
Thursday: French Dip Sandwiches (used left-over pork chops and the juice to make these)
Friday: Pizza (this was at my mom and dad's house and was not planned)
Saturday: Lasagna and Beer Bread (I didn't have ricotta or cottage cheese, so instead I used cream cheese which I did have, and it was amazing!)
Sunday: Left-Over Night (Or clean out the fridge, as I like to call it)

A Month of No Groceries 2017 www.HensleeFarmAdventures.com
My yummy beer bread! A quick and easy way to make bread.

So you can see that everything that I made was something that I had in my freezer or pantry, but mainly freezer. While I was cooking the hamburger for the lasagna I decided to cook some extra and I will be using that for a Mexican meal this evening.

I love that I was able to take my left-overs from Wednesday and turn them into a whole new meal for Thursday. Doing this challenge really helps me plan out what I am going to cook, and how I can use the left-overs for other meals. The best part is that I am using food that I already have, I am not wasting anything, and I am saving money that we need for other things this month.

Have you ever done this challenge?  Want to join me? Let me know in the comments below!

A New Year, and a New Recipe!

Friday, January 6, 2017
Happy New Year! I can't believe how long it has been since my last post! Time and life got away from me for awhile, but I am back and here to stay. There is a lot to catch you up on, and while I would love to do it all in this post, it would make it a very long post!

To start things off again I thought I would share a recipe. To be honest, this is not my recipe, I'll point you all in the direction of where I got it, but I will share how I like to "dress it up" and make it my own.

A cold snowy morning on the farm.

 The recipe that I want to share is porridge! Specifically millet porridge. Is there anything better on a cold winter's morning than porridge? Just the sound of it warms me inside. It is so Dicken's, so Oliver-ish (please sir, may I have some more?).  Usually our family eats oatmeal. We all like oatmeal except for my husband... he loves it. In fact my husband has an attraction for oatmeal that borders on the insane. Growing up he had to have it every morning for breakfast. As for me, I couldn't stand oatmeal when I was little. It was a texture thing. However, as I have gotten older (and cooked it myself) I began to like it, but I am pretty picky on the consistency of oatmeal. I like it creamy and more like mush (soft), while my husband likes his chewy. Nevertheless, we have been able to push past this disagreement and somehow make our marriage work.

Millet Porridge

Until recently I had never had millet. We were at our friend's house for a New Year's eve party and we started discussing ancient grains. I know what you are thinking, and yes, it was quite the wild party! ;-) My daughter Carly has bowel issues. We thought it was just dairy and now it may be wheat as well. Our friends (who are amazing I might add) gave us several different grains to try that are all gluten free. We ended up bringing home millet, sorghum, amaranth, and teff. (Check-out my instagram @hollihen to see a picture of the sorghum we popped that night).

The ancient grains we got from our friends.

Of course I started looking up recipes right away, plus looking at the recipes on the packages to see how I could cook these. These grains can be used in just about anyway you can possibly imagine. I decided to go easy the first time and make some porridge out of the millet. What a great way to start! I am completely in love and now I have a better understanding of the relationship that my husband has with oatmeal. I might just end up having the same relationship with millet porridge.

The recipe that I used for basic porridge I found over at the site  Delicious as it Looks. The ingredients are very simple: millet, water, milk, and salt.  For our family I used almond milk. Our poor girl can't even digest the lactose free milk, so almond it is.  For the salt, I use pink Himalayan salt.

Millet toasting in the pan, so pretty!

Here is what I did a little differently.  First I toasted the millet in the pan.  It helps give it a nutty flavor. I then added the liquid and brought to a boil.

Water and milk added, and I promise the millet is in there too.

Then I turned down the heat and let it cook covered for 25 minutes as directed.

I love my cast iron pans!

You can see what it looked like after I took the cover off.  It was a little too liquidy for my tastes, so I continued to cook for an additional 5 minutes with the cover off.

After cooking for 25 minutes, this is before I let it thicken up a little.
  It really does thicken up quite quick and when you let it stand, it will continue to thicken.

I first put a pat of butter in the porridge and let it melt.  I had to sample this and it was the most creamy, yummy, thing I have ever eaten. BUT while it was good just like that, I had to put in my own add-ins.

Walnuts, banana, and pure maple syrup... yum, yum!

I added in sliced banana, chopped walnuts, and then drizzled maple syrup over the top.  It was to die for! I can't even begin to tell you how yummy this was! I am so glad I made a huge pot of this.  I put the left-overs in the fridge and I plan to eat some more for breakfast the rest of the week.

The finished product. So good!!

Another good add-in idea would be chopped apples, cinnamon, pecans, and honey.

I am so glad that our dear friends gave us this grain, and I am so glad to find the recipe and my new found love affair with millet porridge!

Tell me...have you ever tried millet porridge?  If so what do you add to it?

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