Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Three Little Bears

We ran out of bread. I only had one package of yeast left. One package of yeast is enough to make one loaf of bread, but I felt like trying something different. Instead of bread braids, like I usually do when I want something different, I thought I'd try bread bears. Not so useful to make, say, a sandwich, but oh so cute! You could do this with any kind of bread dough, even store bought frozen dough if you're not keen to make it yourself but still want some cute little edible bears. You could do cinnamon-raisin bread with raisin eyes (my oldest doesn't like cinnamon and I don't like raisins, so it wouldn't go over so well here). You could do chocolate chips. Oh I have so many ideas! In fact, you could do any other animal you want. How fun!
Anyway, I just used Betty Crocker's basic crusty white bread recipe again, except I made half the recipe since I had just one package of yeast. This made three bears.

And as I said before, one of my favorite things is punching down the dough. And no, my sweater sleeve is not touching the dough, although it does look like it in the picture. And no, that's not a mole on my's food coloring from an earlier baking project today that I'm hoping to share with you tomorrow.
After punching down the dough, you can shape your bears. Or pigs. Or elephants. Or whatever your little heart desires. Ooh, you could even make hearts!
The bears then have to sit in a warm spot and double in size...about 30 minutes.
I then baked them at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, took them out, drew eyes with a food marker, and voila! Three little bears!
So cute! Be careful when shaping the bears though...all the cracks that show in the dough show ten-fold after it's baked.
Add a honey bear, and you have a cute breakfast for your cubs.

Oh, and by the way, we ate Dinner #3 of our Fifty Dollar Food Week tonight, but it was just leftovers, so no new pictures. I'll have some tomorrow, though; tomorrow is hubby's birthday, so I'm making a good one!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fifty Dollar Food Week - Dinner #2

So, on the menu tonight was Rock Cornish Game Hens, herb garlic potatoes, and farmer's market fresh corn on the cob. If you've never made game hens, they're really very good! You can stuff them like you would a turkey, but I usually don't. I only buy them when they are on sale, though, since they go on sale so often, so I had a few left in my freezer. Two hens feed my family of four.

The first thing I did this afternoon was pull out my basil. I like to buy fresh basil at the farmer's market, or at the grocery store if it's off-season. It's really very inexpensive. The best way to store fresh basil for any length of time is simply in a Ziploc bag in the freezer. When you need some, all you have to do is pull it out, break off a few leaves, and then chop them up.
Next, I took my thawed game hens, ran them under cold water to rinse the leftover juice and whatever else off the outside and the inside, and then patted them dry with a paper towel.

Kind of looks like a little headless chicken baby, doesn't it!?
I mixed my chopped basil with some olive oil and lemon pepper and brushed it on the hens.
Ooh, look!! Twins ;)
I shucked some corn on the cob, peeled some potatoes, and left those to wait until about 20 minutes before the hens were done.
To cook the hens:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put the hens on a rack in a baking or roasting pan and place in the oven breast side up.
Two hens usually take around 1 hr 15 mins. When you have 15 minutes left on the timer, crank the heat up to 400 and the skin will brown and crisp nicely.
I soft boiled the potatoes tonight, melted a little butter over the tops, and then seasoned them with some sea salt, thyme, garlic powder, and basil. They were VERY good! Nothing beats a good Idaho potato.
As I said before, I happen to have a lot of meat in the freezer right now. There's no way I could be making these dishes on $50 a week if I had to purchase all the meat too. I do try to stock up when freeze-able things are on sale, like the game hens, chicken, and sometimes even salmon or other fish. As soon as the meat from our cow runs out, I will be back to buying beef at the grocery store for a little while, and that will drain my budget quickly.


Yesterday, I took a little trip to the Sweet Factory. Mmmm. I picked up some goodies to make some alien popcorn balls ("Martian"-mallows). This morning, we made them. So cute!
I'll share the popcorn ball recipe at the end, with the changes I made so it is not SO sticky. The faster it dries and sets, the easier it is to decorate.
Let's take a closer look. Marshmallow eyes (with pupils drawn on with a food marker), green apple licorice antennae, and gummy grapefruit slices for feet!
The kids, however, couldn't wait for decorating, so they ate all their pieces separately :)
Popcorn balls:
3/4 c light corn syrup
1/4 c margarine
2 tsp cold water (if you are using the typical food coloring liquid, replace water with food coloring. If using gel, still use water also)
2 5/8 c powdered sugar
1/2 c marshmallows
Heat all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat. Once melted and blended, stir in approx. 2 bags of plain, popped popcorn.
Decorate! You can use extra sticky goo scraped off the pan to glue on decorations.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fifty Dollar Food Week - Dinner #1

So yesterday was supposed to be the first Eating Through the Pantry day. And it was. But I have nothing to say about it. We literally ate mac and cheese and whatever else we could grab all day. Today, however, I did my weekly shopping and cooked and it's all working really well so far.

First, the shopping. The girls and I went to Fred Meyer with list in hand, and I came in under budget! I spent $47.90 on food for the week. Wo-hoo!

Today, I had an actual dinner planned. Stir-fry is always easy, and I can almost always find stuff to put in it. Yesterday, I took out about 2 pounds of the little beef we have left from the cow we bought this year and put it in a marinade in a Ziploc bag. I usually use homemade marinades, but this time I had a bottle of Soyaki marinade from Trader Joe's sitting in the pantry that I wanted to try, so I used that. Tonight, I pulled out what I wanted to put in the stir-fry: mini green peppers, sweet peppers, onion, and carrots.
Slice it all up and put it in a bowl, and then pour some of the marinade on it to allow there to be enough sauce when it cooks.
Drain your meat. Don't rinse it, but you don't want to cook it in the marinade it has been sitting in overnight (that's why you put more on the veggies).
Put the meat in a bowl with the veggies.
Get water boiling for rice, or whatever you will serve the stir-fry with. This time I used orzo since I didn't have enough rice left for all of us, and I didn't realize it until after I got home from the store. (Click here to find out more about orzo...I love it.)
Heat some olive oil in your skillet, and once it's hot, pour in the veggies and meat. Cook just until the meat is seared and the veggies start to release their juices (about 6 minutes, give or take depending on how much you are cooking and how big your skillet is).
Serve over rice, orzo, classic noodles, etc. YUM.
After I ate dinner tonight, I realized the Soyaki marinade is very very similar to a pepper steak marinade I make, so if you don't live by a Trader Joe's and want the recipe, let me know!

And just a sneak peak...we're making some fun treats tomorrow that involve these:
I'll be sure to show you when they're done!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Eating Through the Pantry, Day 2

We didn't exactly eat from our pantry today, since it was college football Saturday (which involved pizza for the hubby and his friends), and I took the girls to see Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs in 3D (which involved movie theatre food for us). But, I did make some preparations for the coming week's small food budget and plans to eat from home. So, I'll plan on Sunday-Saturday, $50 food budget. I have some peppers, onions, and corn on the cob in the fridge still, and tonight I baked bread. There's nothing funnier to me than rising bread dough. For some reason it makes me laugh, and the recipe direction to "punch down" the dough always makes me giggle too.
But, there's nothing better than the smell of baking bread and the taste of homemade bread. I didn't do anything fancy or season the bread, since this is going to have to be it bread-wise this week, for sandwiches, etc. I figured a good, classic, crusty white bread would be best. I use a basic recipe for the good ol' Betty Crocker Cookbook and then change it up with whatever I add to the bread. I may make a seasoned bread braid later in the week to go with dinner one night, since I only have one package of yeast left (and it expires next month). Bread is so amazingly simple, yet it takes so long to make because of the rising, and forming loaves, and rising again, and then the baking time.

I've got a few meals planned for the week, and with a trip to a good grocery store or a farmer's market I'll have vegetables and fruit for around $25. That leaves me $25 for milk, eggs, some snacks, and a few other odds and ends for the meals planned for the week. I'll update how I do, hopefully nightly, with what we ate that day and how much I've spent at the store.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Eating Through the Pantry, Day 1

It's near the end of the month. As any other military families know, we get paid on the 1st and the 15th. Therefore, that paycheck on the 15th sometimes has to stretch close to three weeks before we get paid again. However, a good portion of my monthly food/entertainment/other budget is made up of the check that comes every month from the people renting our house in Spokane. It's due the 1st of the month also. So, these last few days of the month are sometimes tight on money, especially since this month consisted of my oldest daughter's birthday and party, too.

So I decided it's a good time to "eat through the pantry." Use up all the leftover things in the pantry, and the freezer, and the refrigerator. We buy beef from a natural farm near us once a year, but as the kids get bigger, the beef is not lasting as long. In fact, we're almost out. But, it's fun seeing what I can scrounge up and create for meals. Today was fairly easy. We had cereal for breakfast, scrambled eggs and avocado for lunch for me, peanut butter and jelly for the girls, and hamburger gravy over mashed potatoes and corn for dinner. However, I used up the last of the bread and potatoes today. I do make homemade bread quite often, so I think that will have to be a task to tackle tomorrow. I really love creating new bread flavors, so I'll post some pictures and recipes when I get it done (I don't use a bread machine, so it's rather time consuming).

As I look, though, we really have a lot of stuff. I'm going to budget just $50 for food this coming week, and spend that on just fresh produce and milk, and a few extras to make meals out of what we have stored up. I'll let you know how it goes.

Look around...I bet you have more in your pantry and freezer than you thought you did. Comment if you come up with any good new recipes out of leftover odds and ends!

Homemade Raspberry Compote

I had some raspberries laying around and thought they would be excellent on pancakes, so I decided to try out a homemade raspberry "compote". It was so easy, and SO good! I'll share the recipe so you can try it works with any berries. I've done both raspberry and strawberry.
Mash enough berries to make 3/4 - 1 cup.
Mix together in saucepan: 3/4 c sugar and 2 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
Slowly stir in 1/3 - 1/2 c water and mashed berries
Heat on stove over medium, stirring constantly, untilthe mixture boils and thickens. Continue boiling for one minute and remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Addiction. That's such a strong word. A word dripping with emotion, with grief, with pain. Who do you see first? The strung-out junkie surrounded by tournaquets and dirty needles slumped over on a concrete floor? Or the fat, old, bald, redneck man sitting in his worn-out easy chair, yelling, his kids and wife cowering in fear. Or maybe it's the middle-aged housewife relaxing in a hospital bed who had gotten and little too depressed and a little too bored and took to popping pills. I'm no stranger to addiction - well, personally I guess I am; I smoked cigarettes for 5 years and quit the day I got tired of it, never looking back. I was lucky, I guess. I've seen friends and family fight addictions of all kinds, and none of it was pretty.
I'm telling you about this so I can admit to my one true addition (and no, it's not my computer as my husband likes to say). You witnessed me giving up soda a few days ago, and I did that full well knowing I am addicted to caffeine. But I kept my safety net, my coffee I could have every morning and whenever else the urge crept in. However, I decided in order to keep it real, I had to be honest with myself too. Giving up soda was fine, but it wasn't accomplishing my goal...making myself healthier. And being dependent on anything isn't healthy. So I decided that once I ran out off coffee, I would be done with that, too.
Today was that day. Now let me tell you, I've had caffeine headaches before, when I went too long after waking up to make my coffee or I didn't drink my soda before nighttime, and they are excruciating. So I knew what I was in for today. I had hoped, however, that it wouldn't be so bad since I had done it step by step...soda one day, coffee a few days later. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I woke up slightly before 6:00am with my kids (God's little joke on me...two kids that are morning people and a mom who is not...haha). It hit me about 15 minutes later as I looked at my Senseo that today was the day. I thought quickly about loading the kids int he car and going in search of caffeine, but I decided to stick with it. Ugh. Ok, I thought, I could do this. No big deal. I'd just keep us busy and I wouldn't even think about it. By 10:00am I was laying on the couch wondering when the headache was going to let up. By 11:00am I had moved with a bag of frozen shredded zucchini on my head to the cool floor of my dark and quiet bathroom upstairs. By 11:30 the puking began and by 1:30pm I had thrown up everything I had put in my stomach in the last day and then some. Did I mention my husband was out of town and totally unreachable today? So, I crawled (literally) down the stairs to lay on the couch at least in the vicinity of my children, who had managed to find some Ritz crackers and bologna to feed themselves. I lay there alternating between shivering and shaking with cold under a blanket (it's 90 degrees today and we don't have A/C) and kicking the blankets off sweating. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I was really sick, that it wasn't caffeine withdrawal alone that was doing this. But it was. And I have so much respect for people who are brave enough to face withdrawal from real drugs. I can only imagine how much worse it must be.
Finally, I woke up and thought, I can see again! I stood up, and although my head pounded, it was bearable. Oh thank God. The worst was over. It was 3:00pm, and I was finally able to keep down some water and some animal crackers.
And now, we are sitting at McDonalds, my thank you to my girls for being so patient and understanding today. And I'm able to eat (and drink lemonade, not Diet Coke or one of those heavenly Vanilla Iced Coffees). I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.
I tell you allt his mainly to keep myself accountable, to continue to refrain from using caffeine, my "drug" of choice. But also to keep my promise from the beginning of this blog, to choose to be healthier. What can you do to make yourself and your life healthier today?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bless you, Ingvar Kamprad*

Today my daughters and I took our first journey 25 minutes south to the (extremely large and intimidating) IKEA store. Why, you might ask? Well, aside from being promised excellent Swedish food (and it was excellent. So excellent, in fact, that we had not just one meal there, but both breakfast and lunch), my daughters have a slight problem going on in their bedroom. And by slight I mean extremely, extremely large. Most problems could be solved with a garbage bag. Papers and crayons all over? Throw them away. Broken toys all over? Throw them away. But this? This cannot be thrown away. My first love (and I mean way back, before my parents allowed me to drink caffeinated, sugar-free, diet soda drinks) was books. I love love love books. Or, more correct, I love reading. Anything. Books, magazines, the back of a cereal box, anything. And somehow, my daughters love these things too. They are genius I tell you. Ages 5 and 2 and reading!! Not really, but they do LOVE books. Their love of books, however, has outgrown their bookshelf and the space that they have in their bedroom in the townhouse that we are currently renting for the next 10 months or so. Take a look:
I can't believe I'm even admitting to anything in my house looking like that, but it does. And even when I put all the books nice and neatly on the shelves, there is not nearly enough room. It still leaves piles on the floor, and the girls are unable (or unwilling) to put the books back into the higher up shelves correctly.

So anyway, my trip to IKEA to find a solution. It failed. I found lots of shelves that were too tall, or shelves that weren't tall enough, or shelves that wouldn't hold enough, or shelves that cost more than I budgeted for my impromptu trip today. So, the solution to my book battle will have to wait. At least another week or so until the rent check from the folks renting our house out in Spokane comes in :)

To satisfy my urge to organize that was rearing its ugly head this morning, I decided a few little improvements would have to suffice. IKEA has a lot of great little things, so I managed to pick up a lazy Susan to dress up our dining room table (flowers or some sort of new centerpiece to come soon and then I'll post a pic), and among other things this cute little wine rack to straighten up the bottles:
I can feel another IKEA trip coming on soon, though, since I can't bare to walk into the girls' room and look at the book mess.

*the founder of IKEA

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mini Pies and a New Twist on an Old Favorite

A couple weeks ago I bought a 1/2 flat of raspberries at a local farmer's market, and when I got home I realized that the ones on the bottom didn't look quite as good as the ones on the top, and I needed to use them quickly! So, I took my recipe for a strawberry glace pie and made it with raspberries instead. It was SO good!
So today we're going to a friend's house for dinner, and I thought I'd make a raspberry pie again, but this time mini pies. It was super easy to make, and they turned out really cute! I always make homemade pie dough too, but the frozen phyllo cups

looked so perfect for this I couldn't pass them up.
The "glace" for the pie is just smooshed raspberries, sugar, cornstarch, and water heated in a saucepan until it boils and thickens. That then has to cool while you put the pies together. A phyllo cup, a little cream cheese on the bottom, a raspberry, and then the cooled "glace" and whipped cream on top! So simple and cute!

My next project today comes from my friend Mandy over at Gourmet Mom On-The-Go. I am not a fan of sushi and neither are my kids, but we are fans of peanut butter and jelly, and these were too cute to pass up! Cut the crusts off bread, and then roll the slices out flat with a rolling pin...the flatter they are the better they seem to work. Spread peanut butter and jelly on about 3/4 of the bread then roll it up. As you roll, the pb&j squishes out on the part of the bread that was left empty. Then, cut the rolls (I got four sushi rolls to a slice of bread).

And, voila! PB&J Sushi! Thanks Mandy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dear John Letter

Dear John (AKA Diet Mt. Dew),
We have had a beautiful relationship. I loved you with all of my heart. In fact, I still do. Or at least as much of my heart as is reserved for caffeinated, sugar-free diet soda drinks. However, the relationship has run its course and it is time for us to part. I’m not saying we will never see each other again, but it can’t be on a regular basis. You can’t live in my house anymore.

You have helped me in so many ways. You’ve given me a burst of energy when the day drags on. You’ve quenched my thirst like no other. You’ve made me smile. But it hasn’t been all good times. You’ve damaged my teeth with your biting acidity. You’ve worsened my already bad reflux disease. You’ve caused my energy to crash when you’re not around when I need you. Not to mention the amount of money I’ve thrown away on you; you’ve never been a cheap date!

And so, today, I bid you adieu and I wish you well. Be kind to the next woman you’re with. Perhaps I will see you at Quiznos, and perhaps we will be destined for a one-night stand in the future.

And with that, I say goodbye to my constant companion, Diet Mt. Dew. I spent my last $1.49 on a 20 ounce today, and nursed it slowly to savor the taste one last time. I can't say I will give up caffeine, because I have no intention of quitting my two cups of Senseo coffee every morning upon waking, but I am shaking it up tonight, making my first choice to create goodness for myself by making myself healthier. No more soda! Oh, it pains me to say that, but it really is for the best. I'll let you know how it goes!

I'm also going to buy a scale soon. I don't care so much about the number as I do about how I feel, how my clothes fit, and if I'm healthy, but I'm curious. I'm also curious as to how my lack of diet soda (I was drinking probably equal to 2-6 cans a day) will affect my weight.

This blog is about many things, and making myself healthier (and hopefully inspiring someone else to do the same) is just one of them...will you join me on my quest to be healthy, happy, and have fun?

The Beginning

So here it is, finally up and running, Creating Goodness. I have so many thoughts and plans and goals for this website, but mostly I hope it helps people, in one way or another. I plan to tell you all about two of my favorite things (and one of my not-so-favorite things)...baking, making, and shaking.

Baking speaks for itself, but will also encompass cooking, grilling, and anything else done with food in the kitchen. I absolutely love creating new things to eat, from decorated desserts to three course meals.

Making deals with anything not covered in the other two categories, such as making things cleaner, making things organized, making things cheaper, making things happier, and then of course actually making things (crafts, etc).

Shaking (my least favorite of the three) involves exercise and healthy choices and shaking things up to make life better. I don't diet, nor could I if I ever tried (no willpower maybe, but more likely just a love of food), so exercise is REALLY important for me, and I haven't been doing it as often as I should. So you'll hear about all the ways I plan on shaking things up.

Hope you'll join me here, comment a lot, suggest anything, spread the word, and enjoy! I've got lots of fun stuff in store, some related to the Seattle area and some just good for everyone!