Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WHY-Wednesday: Why I prepare all my meat in advance.

As I've mentioned in a previous post, I am terrified of working with raw meat.

So what happens when I get back from Costco with this?

More than 6 lbs of 88%-12% great-quality ground beef, all for $3/lb.

First off, I wrap it up in a plastic bag and stick it in the fridge until I am ready to work with it, 
hopefully within the next 24 hours.

The kids are down for their naps, so I take it out and do two things:

1.  I put 4 lbs worth of the beef in a pan to cook (each patty is about half a pound)--

2.  And the other 2 lbs in separate ziplock bags to make meatloaf--

This is the first and last time I ever have to touch the raw meat!

While the meat is slowly cooking in the pan, I begin to work on the meatloaf--

(Lauren-modified meatloaf recipe from Better Homes and Gardens)
(Four servings)

- 1 egg, beaten 
- 1/4 c. old-fashioned oatmeal
- 1 tbsp. onion powder
- 1.5 tbsp. ketchup
- 1/2 tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
- 1/2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 lb of ground beef

Mix well.
You can shape the mixture into a loaf and place in a 350F oven for about 1 hour.  Another option would be to put it in a slowcooker and let it cook on high for about 3 hour-ishs.
Or you can just do what I do and make hamburger-shaped patties and cook on the stove like you would a regular hamburger.
Top with ketchup.

On a side note, I don't buy fresh garlic anymore.  I just use a giant garlic tub that I have stored in my fridge.  For a little less than $5 (at Costco!), you can get this and never have to mince garlic ever again.  Its only ingredients are garlic, water and citric acid, and will last you forever.

In the two separate ziplock bags, I throw in all of the ingredients.
(I do not use measuring spoons or anything for the spices.  Just roughly eye-ball.  We are not baking here.  There is a lot of grace when it comes to cooking, as long as you season well with salt).

Seal the bag shut and mix all of the ingredients until well-combined.

Now it is ready and you can stick it in the freezer for later, or use for dinner that day.

So now the rest of the meat should be completely cooked by now--

4 lbs of cooked ground beef.

Place half of the cooked beef in a separate bowl and let cool.

The remaining beef that was left in the pan is seasoned with taco seasoning.  Let it cook through until all the flavor is absorbed. 

Then take four sandwich-size ziplock bags and place the cooked meat in them.  
You'll have two 1 lb bags of plain ground beef, and two 1 lb bags of taco seasoned cooked beef (there is only one in the picture since the other 1 lb was being used for dinner that night).

Depending on the number of times you check Facebook and change your Pandora station, this entire process should take you about an hour to complete.

A half a pound of ground beef will feed my family dinner for one night.
Therefore, I just gifted myself with 12 days of simpler dinner-prep by doing all this leg work in advance.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fig picking with friends

Our friends Anna and Aaron have this HUGE fig tree in the back of their hard.  It takes hours for them to just keep up with the fruit (last week alone, they harvested 70 lbs worth of figs).  

In an attempt to help them keep up with the tree before the fruit flies take over their yard for the remainder of the summer, they have opened up their backyard to whoever wants to come pick their fruit, in exchange for a small donation that will be put towards the missionaries our Sunday School supports (if you would like to participate in this, please let me know and I can hook you up with them.  They would be thrilled to have extra helping hands).

Anyway, we decided we would go have fun with them, along with another mutual couple-friend of ours.

Lovely Anna and her baby.

Yes, Julie is pregnant and on the ladder :)

4 lbs worth of figs for us!

Our Little Man having so much fun.
 We then had a picnic dinner with our friends--
Fig pizza, fruit, carrots, and fig cookies :)

Figs, goat cheese, basil, and prosciutto pizza-- very gourmet, and very good.

Emma and her little friends.

I do love these ladies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

WHY-Wednesday: Why I weaned my second-born at 10 months.

(Warning-- if you are weirded out by breastfeeding, I would stay away from this post :p )

I love breastfeeding!
And not only that-- I am a huge advocate of it.

"You must nurse for at least the first 12 months of your child's life" 
-- I say.

I nurse in public, and most of the time don't even cover up.
(I am okay with that-- people need to learn that nursing is natural, and if they are okay with skimpy bikinis at the beach and boobs hanging out of a lady's blouse, then they better be okay with me nursing in public... uncovered).

The health benefits linked to breastfed babies are outstanding.  
Even formula containers say that breastfeeding is a better option than formula-feeding 
(I am sure they are required to say this, but whatever).

I love the cuddles I get with my babies when I nurse them.
I love not having to carry around (or deal with) bottles everywhere.
(I love not having to wash the bottles).
I love that breastfeeding is free.

So why did I wean Baby Byron before his 12-month mark?

I was tired.

I was tired of the weird bras and hot undershirt tank tops.
I was tired of having to stop eating mid-supper to nurse my cranky infant who just wanted to go to bed.
I was tired of having to revolve my schedule around my child's feedings.
I was tired of having to pump if I wasn't going to be around him during one of his feedings, and therefore having to mess around with the milk afterwards.
I was tired of leaking in the mornings.
I was tired of having to adjust my gym workouts so that they would coincide with "right after" a feeding, instead of a "right before."

I know these are selfish reasons, but the older BB got (and the more he continued to get sick regardless of whether he was being exclusively breastfed or not), the more I became convinced that my son's success in life was not going to directly depend on whether his mama nursed him for a year or not.

Other things would.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A friend's baby shower

Had a great time co-hosting a baby shower for a soon-to-be first-time mama friend last weekend.

When did she grow up?!?!

I put Emma's hair in a pony tail yesterday for the first time to see what she would look like.
Oh my... Did she look so grown up!
I will say that those trademark baby-fat cheeks of hers still gave it away that she is still my little girl.

I wanted her to see what the tail looked like on her, so I took out my little pocket mirror to try to show her in the bathroom.  Of course I was never able to make it work, but next thing I know, Emma is getting out my makeup brush and "putting on" her makeup.

(please disregard the nasty bathroom mirror)

on the cheeks.

on the neck.

on the back of the neck.

under the chin.

and on the shirt.

Cow Appriciation Day 2014

Once again we got to eat free chicken at Chick-fil-a last week for dressing up as cows.  I have slowly accumulated and put together our outfits for us to pull out and use every year for this event.  
I like having family traditions that revolve around food :)

We got up early on Friday morning and enjoyed breakfast with daddy.

Baby Byron's outfit is a size 3-6 mo, so he just wore the top part.

Lovin' his chikin

Barely ate her chicken, but loved her juice.

The kids and I got dressed up again for some free chicken for lunch as well.

It was a satisfying day to say the least!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Beach Bible School

This was the first year of Beach Bible School, led and taught by Memma.
The kids sat around the dinning table each morning for a little lesson, and afterwards a little "hunt" on the beach for their craft activity.
Memma also taught the kids a new song, which I will hear Emma singing at times on her own.
Byron has good memories of his own grandmother doing this when he was growing up, and is very excited about his own children getting to experience this as well.

Walking to the beach for that day's beach hunt--

"We are God's treasure"--

Back at the house to glue the chocolate coins on our booklet--

Thank you Memma for a great Beach Bible School.

Family Beach Vacation 2014

Last week we got to spend the week at the beach with the Morrises.
It was a fun and crazy week, full of memories and pictures to show for it.

Aunt Rebecca with her three babies.

These two little ones.  Forever friends!

With my man.

The daddies with their boys.

The happy surfer.

Ooohhh... to be a little one again.

My favorite people.

Good friends.

More of my favorite people.

The family (minus Rebecca who had already left).

Morris cousins.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

He pulls up

Two weeks ago BB began pulling up.
It's been fun watching him become so much more active since--
Always pulling up on furniture, people (people's legs), wall, etc.

He is still not cruising or standing up on his own, but we know that is just around the corner.

He is also very much a talker!
I like what Memma said--
"Emma better get her talking in now while she can"

Byron's talking (think VERY LOUD and all.the.time)--


Under the bed

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

WHY-Wednesday: Why I make my own chicken stock?

Well, the short answer to this is because it's cheaper...
and because I know exactly what is going into it.

It's also supposed to be very good for you... like a super food or something.

And when it gets down to it, it is super easy, and FREE!

Now, remember how I told you last week how much I love Costco?

Well, something you must know about me is that I *hate* raw meat.  I've gotten sick by working with it far too many times.  So one of the things I've started doing to deal with this intense hate is buying fully-cooked rotisserie chickens from Costco-- 

This entire chicken costs $5, and if planned correctly, I can feed my family dinner for four days off of it.  It's that big (and good!).

So after I finish using the meat, what do I do with the bones?

Now people-- this is probably one of the most common-known things in the world, but for me it was groundbreaking--  You make chicken-stock with it!

(As a side note-- did you know you should not use actual chicken meat to make chicken stock?  By doing so you strip the chicken from all it's good flavor, and should ideally toss it after the stock is finished)

So anyway...
You place the chicken carcass in the crock pot, fill it up with water (or your leftover whey from when you made your last batch of yogurt), throw in all those onion peels and random veggie pieces you've been storing in your freezer for the past couple of weeks, turn the slowcooker on low, and let it sit over night.

(Another side note-- only season with a bay leaf and some pepper kernels.  Do not season with salt since you don't know what you'll be using the stock in, and you don't want your final product to be too salty or insipid).

In the morning, this is what you'll find--

Let it cool down, drain, and store in the freezer.  

I normally get about three-ish quarts of stock from one chicken.  
I like to use these plastic can containers that are made specifically for freezing.  I will also put some in ziplock bags and freeze them that way.

When ready for use, just get it out of the freezer and let it thaw on it's own.  Or just stick it into the microwave and let it melt a little.  Then just throw the "ice-stock" in the soup/rice/bean/etc. dish you are making and let it finish thawing in there.

Enjoy :)