Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Canning Plums - Sweet Plum Sauce

Is there something special about plums that makes them more runny than other fruit?  For the second year in a row my attempt at plum jam has made plum sauce instead.  It's super yummy and folks loved it last year so I guess it will do this year, too.

First I put 1/3 of the plums in the crockpot with about a cup of water.  I counted them as I put them in so I would be sure to fish out all of the pits.  DD#3 is an awesome little kitchen helper so as I scooped out each plum, she did all the pit picking.  We dumped the next 1/3 of plums into the juice, let it cook about 6 hours and repeated the pitting.  One more round and we were done.

This is the plum pulp.  I always think it looks gross, but whatever.

It sat in my fridge for a week before I was ready to make the jam.  I measure out 6 cups and it looked like I could double the batch.  Sure enough, it was just over 12 cups.

My pot was pretty full as I warmed it up.  I added 2 boxes of pectin.  I didn't like the look of the few skin bits floating around so I got out the immersion blender.

The immersion blender is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets.  See how much more smooth it looks after blending up the bits? 

Uh-oh.  Time to add 8 cups of sugar.  Will it fit in my pot? 

Nope.  I had to get out my next-size-up pot.

Once it was all cooked and boiled hard for a minute I poured it into hot jars, and sealed with boiled lids and rings.  Finally, I ran them through the water bath with a 15 minute boil.  After every jar had sealed with a satisfying pop (best part of canning) I labeled them with the date and "sweet plum sauce" since it was definitely too runny for jam. 
It made a little over a gallon.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Menu Plan

My mom is visiting this week - Hooray! 

Monday - Pizza
Tuesday - Italian sausage & veggie soup
Wednesday - Packed dinner (sausages, carrots, almonds)
Thursday - Skillet
Friday - Roasted beet & potato soup
Saturday - Beef stew
Sunday - Smoothies & Popcorn

Monday - out
Tuesday - scrambled eggs
Wednesday - nachos
Thursday - sandwiches
Friday - French toast
Saturday -Leftovers
Sunday - Tuna Melts


Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Week 43 Groceries - $103.73

This week was pretty average on the grocery shopping front. 

I went to Fred Meyer on Monday.  I wanted to get some certified gluten-free hot cereal for DD#2.  We have standard oatmeal & I think the trace gluten has been having a negative effect.  At least I'm hoping that's what the problem is!  The GF cereal was $3.99 but I consoled myself with knowing it's so very much cheaper than cold cereal.  Other notable items - the 10# bag of potatoes was $2.48.  I only needed a 5# bag, but it was $2.99!  Of course I'll buy the 10# instead.  Altogether I spent $36.29 at Fred Meyer.
 I stopped at Albertsons just to look for clearance deals on Tuesday when I was nearby.  I'd been scoring some great deals on meat lately, but not this Tuesday.  Rats.  We got candy free with 5 cans of sale soup and decided to try a couple new GF snacks.  The lettuce was $.99 on clearance.  I spent $7.99 altogether. 
 I went to QFC Wednesday on my way home from a kid activity.  I scored major clearance produce - hooray!  There were 3 bags of clementine oranges (8-9 each) for $0.99.  I got red band bananas for $0.49/lb.  And I got 9 bags of apples for $0.99 each.  DD#1 and I weighed every bag to be sure it was over 2# so I know at most I spent $0.50/lb.  We also found clearance bagels ($0.99), clearance frosting ($0.99) just in time for Christmas cookies, and clearance Caesar salad (for me).  We also got taffy for $0.50 just to try it (GF).  I spent $25.58 altogether.
Finally, I picked up some carrots and beets as part of my bulk buy group.  I spent $21.00.  It was $7.00 for 5# organic carrots and $7.00 each for organic regular beets and Chioggia beets.    
I still haven't met my friend for eggs.  Sad!
Milk was $12.87
Total for 2014 week 43:  $103.73 
Year-to-date 2014: $3,760.53
Weekly Average: $87.45
Love, Katie

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Huge Batch of Applesauce

I had a mountain of apples to can last week and kept putting it off because it was a huge job.  It was just about 100 pounds altogether.

We started at 5PM and all the girls were helping. 

This was our most common set-up: 2 youngest washed and passed apples to me, I cut apples and filled pots, 2 oldest took turns grinding apples as each pot was soft enough.

The two youngest also filled the dishwasher with jars to be sanitized.  One unloaded the jars from a box and rolled them to her sister to be put into the dishwasher.  They were having a great time.

Even a 4 year old can make applesauce!  She was so excited to be up so late!  This was about 9:30 pm.  They were such good little helpers I let them stay up as long as they kept a good attitude. 

We listened to worship, the Frozen soundtrack, and classical hits while we worked.  One girlie took a round of photos.  Here I am in a rare photo appearance. 

My kitchen is a huge mess after canning this much applesauce.  This is the trivet where the hot pots of cooked apples sit while being loaded into the grinder.

This is one burner on my poor stove.  The apple juices just make a huge mess.  Bleh.

But the finished product is always pretty impressive.  We made 42 quarts! 

Our total for the year is now just over 100 quarts.  We went through that by February last year so I'm hoping to get to make even more - depends on if I get any more apples for free or affordable enough.

Love, Katie

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dishwasher Bliss

Oh sweet friends, I wanted to share my extreme thankfulness for my amazing dishwasher.  It was given to us by a friend when our old one was having some trouble.  She saw a post on Facebook where I was asking for ideas on what might be wrong with our dishwasher and remembered it several weeks later when she ran across this industrial dishwasher that was being freely given. 

Let me display it's power to you: 

And look at these sparkling dishes!  I never would have put actual bits of food in my old dishwasher.  It was more of a dish sanitizer than I dish washer I now realize.  I am continually grateful for this gift.  Just feeling blessed today.

Love, Katie

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Making the Most of a Whole Chicken

I bought a whole organic chicken a few weeks ago and had big plans to post about how to use it efficiently and waste nothing.  This would have been a great post IMHO if I hadn't totally (but accidently)  wasted a bunch of the chicken!  Here's the story:

First I cut up the whole chicken.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much meat there was on it.  I had heard that organic chickens were smaller and in my head that translated to skinnier.  But there was plenty of meat on these bones.  In fact, it was so big I couldn't even fit one of the breasts in my pan and I cut the second breast into smaller pieces to make it fit.  Here's the chicken in the oven.

You can almost always make a nice broth or stock if you boil bones and bits.  So I put the neck, the  bone from cutting up the breast, and other bits into a pot.  I also had every intention of putting the bones from my family's dinner plates in there.

That second breast I cut into strips to bake.  I had just heard a great MOPS speaker who shared about clean foods and giving your kids a protein, vegetable, and fruit and/or carb for their packed lunches.  I thought some homemade chicken fingers might work for my kids since they used to like chicken nuggets.  Those are long gone due to the GF eating.

Well, I popped those chicken breasts into the still warm oven and set a timer.  I was rushing out of the house when I saw the timer was at 4 minutes and made a mental note to call my husband on my drive and remind him to pull the chicken out.  My mental note failed and the dinging timer failed to notify DH. Two hours later I was proudly telling some girlfriends about my chicken achievement when I gasped and realized a whole, beautiful, expensive breast was probably still in the oven.  One friend said, "It'll be chicken jerky."  The other friend said, "I hope not.  Organic chicken is like gold."  I couldn't agree with both more. 
chicken jerky
While I was very sad about the wasted breast I thought I'd still try and make the most of the rest of the chicken.  DH had helpfully had the kids clear their places, but again he didn't know I'd wanted to save the bones so I had less to flavor the stock.  There was also a lot of leftover chicken so I waited another two days to make stock so I could add the bones from leftovers.  I ending up packing lunches with just meat cut off  the bones and the kids ate it much more easily that way.  I didn't realize I'd been raising a pack of snobs who won't eat meat off a bone.  Time to break that habit!

Eventually, I cooked the bones in a pot with water just covering them.  I let it simmer overnight and in the morning I had some nice, flavorful juices.  Here's the 4 cup container it filled. 

I decided to try and make more broth with the boiled bones.  I left the meat bits and broke open the bones when I put it all in a baking pan.  Again, I filled the pan with water and broiled it on high for about 25 minutes. 

View inside the oven.

I was attempting this second broth on a busy morning and turned off the oven when I thought the liquid looked (and smelled) good.  Then I promptly forgot about it in the oven until the next day!  Darn!  I had to thow it all away. 

So my 'using the whole chicken' post is kind of a failure, but I will try again and hopefully won't have so many chicken calamities!  I went ahead and told my pathetic story so you all would know I am so very human and make all sorts of kitchen mistakes as I go. 

Next time I'll also show you how to cut up a chicken.  I had to remind myself how to do it with this bird as it had been so long since I'd used a whole chicken this way.

Until next time,


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Friends of the Library Sale

I scored some deals over the weekend at the library of all places!  The shelves near the entrance were full of books I was really excited to see several American Girl items.  I was even more delighted when I saw the prices!

$0.50 - Tallchief - true story of Native American ballerina
$0.25 - American Girl Pencil Play - word games, puzzles, mazes
$0.50 - The Royal Diaries - Eleanor
$0.25 - American Girl Meet Josefina
$0.25 - American Girl Josefina Learns a Lesson
$0.25 - A Little Princess (classic)
$0.25 - American Girl Yoga
$0.50 - American Girl Kaya and the River Girl

I'm most excited about the small books that will easily fit in Christmas stockings!  Yay for stocking stuffers at bargain prices! 

Love, Katie

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monday Gluten Free Menu Plan

I'm so tired of our limited meals - I need some recipe rejuvenation. Maybe I'll find time this week for some research.

Monday - turkey, carrot sticks
Tuesday - mac & cheese pie
Wednesday - nachos
Thursday - pizza
Friday - finger food lunch
Saturday - leftovers
Sunday - with family

Monday - beef & broccoli
Tuesday - pork chops
Wednesday - sausages
Thursday - skillet (eggs/sausage/cheese/potatoes/bell peppers)
Friday - dinner out
Saturday - some sort of soup
Sunday - popcorn & smoothies

To buy: potatoes (have been wanting to buy organic, but haven't found them & didn't want to go to Whole Foods)