Don't eat your store-bought fresh spinach!

Since this is largely a cooking blog, I thought I'd mention that fresh spinach is in the news: Don't eat fresh spinach from the store, as it is suspected to have caused an outbreak of E. coli.

I guess I'll save my tasty spinach-stuffed chicken breast recipe for another time! ;)

Fresh From The Garden: Onions!

I love onions! One of my favorite onion "dishes" is grilled vidalia onions, served with some grilled steak or chicken.

Our garden onions usually keep well, stored in a dark, cool, dry location (if possible). However, sometimes they start to go bad and then I have to be creative with using them. 


One thing I love to do with fresh onions (and garlic!) is to use them when I cook ahead. We like lots of chopped onion and minced garlic fried with our ground beef, and when I fry 10+ pounds of burger meat, it uses quite a few! If I have garlic or onions that are starting to wilt or spoil, I fry some meat and then put it in the freezer.

I've found that normally freezing things like green peppers, chopped onions, or garlic will leave a strong smell in your freezer and consequently in the other foods you have frozen. (Most people don't really like green pepper-flavored broccoli. ;D) However, when I use those same things to season meat as it is cooking, I can freeze it without "flavoring" my entire freezer. ;)

I'm going to take a break over the weekend from my "Fresh From The Garden" posts, but we'll continue next week with a week's worth of apple recipes!

Frugal Fridays: How I Conserve Dish Soap (and water!)

My kitchen sink
Use less dish soap!

Here's how I do it:

At my kitchen sink, I keep a small pump bottle of dish soap. When it's time to wash dishes, I squirt one pump of soap into the water. I wash until it looks like I need more soap. Sometimes I need more, sometimes not; it just depends on how greasy the dishes are. If I need more, I add another pump of soap.

It's handy (no reaching inside cupboards with wet hands!), keeps the counter looking tidy (no huge bottles setting out), and quickly and efficiently dispenses enough soap but not too much!

If you notice two little pump bottles in the photo, that's because I have hand soap at the sink, also. I just re-fill the same bottles over and over!

Frugal Fridays at!

Bonus Tip: Cleaner, fresher dish water without wasting any water!

1. When I wash dishes, I start with two clean sinks. I plug one of the drains, and stack dirty dishes in that sink. I add a little soap and just enough all-hot water to wash them (usually about 3 inches in the sink). I pile clean dishes (not yet rinsed) in the other sink as I wash.

2. I wash until my water is cold and dirty, and the other sink is packed full of dishes. Occasionally I get all the dishes washed, but usually I am about half done.

3. I let out the dirty wash water, and rinse out the sink. I plug the drain again, and start rinsing all my clean dishes, and piling them into the drainer. By the time I have 3-4 inches of fresh hot rinse water in the sink, I turn off the water and keep rinsing until all the dishes are rinsed.

4. Then, I add a squirt of soap, and start piling in the rest of the dirty dishes. I continue doing this until all the dishes are washed -- sometimes as often as 3 or 4 times!

5. So, I get fresh hot wash water whenever I need it, and I'm not wasting water! (We live in town and have to pay for our water and sewer)

Fresh From The Orchard: Pears!

  Pears are another fruit that I find to be almost irresistible... when they're fresh and ripe! We recently made a delicious Quick and Easy Autumn Dessert, which can be made with pears or apples. We were impressed with how easy and tasty this dessert is! We don't usually get many fresh pears to have to worry about using them all, but...

Other things we have done with pears, besides just eating them fresh, is canning them to use in mixed fruit. We also like dehydrated pears, which are a sweet snack in the winter!

Joshua loves chopped fresh pears in his morning oatmeal, along with some raisins and cinnamon, vanilla, butter, and brown sugar. ;)

Tomorrow: Using onions!

More On Recycling

First, I am not an "environmentalist" and recycling isn't a huge issue to me, but on the other hand, I do think it's good; first to conserve and reduce what we use, and then to recycle. It's much better to not have tons of stuff to recycle, obviously!

I'll be the first to admit that when we lived in a small apartment (with no garage) and trash pick-up was a required flat rate, I didn't think as much about what I was tossing. It was when we started having to pay money based on the amount of trash we accumulated that I got more serious about reducing our waste.

Where we live now, we have a garage, and so I keep the recyclables out there. That's more convenient, since we don't have curb-side recycling pickup, and I store my recyclables for weeks. Even though it's in the garage, I still don't want trash taking up lots of space, so I flatten boxes, smash cans (or stack smaller cans inside larger ones), and things like that so it takes up less space.

Composting: Your lawn or garden will thank you!

Joshua was reading up on compost, since we started our compost pile, and he read that food scraps or organic matter that will turn into compost on a compost pile won't decompose into compost in a landfill, because it's not the right environment. Here's a fascinating article about composting and another article about grass clippings, which are a great boost to your lawn or compost pile, but not-so-great for landfills.  We've dumped lots of garbage on our compost pile, but it keeps sinking and doesn't look like much at all! It would have been several big bags' worth if I were throwing it in the trash. Composting is so much easier than throwing food scraps in the trash, besides being good environmentally, once we started doing it we wondered what had taken us so long!

But how do you make less trash?

The little things add up. It's a slow lifestyle change, and a mindset of constantly thinking of ways to conserve "stuff", which is good for us, the environment, and my bank account.

I guess for example, I try to "conserve" on laundry. We don't wear dirty clothes, but I don't change the childrens' outfits every single day. Joshua's work clothes needs washed after one wear, but his other clothes lasts for a couple days before it needs washed.

So, the less clothes we throw in the wash, the less soap and water we use (and unless it's a very dirty load, I use about 1/2 the recommended soap amount, and never fabric softener). The less soap/fabric softener/etc. we use, the fewer plastic bottles we have to throw away. It sounds like it wouldn't really make a difference, but it's just a lot of little things that add up.

One of the reasons I like home canning (besides the high quality of food :D) is that I have very few glass jars to recycle. Or rather, "recycling" my glass involves washing the canning jar with my dishes and storing it until next year's garden harvest to be re-filled! ;) That's definitely less energy than it takes to recycle glass on a larger scale.

We do have a few things that we simply can't cut out OR recycle. Light bulbs, for example. We are trying to use mostly the energy-efficient light bulbs, which last a long time, but we still have some regular ones and every month or two, there's a dead one to throw away. And spiral notebooks (the metal part), empty pens, etc. So we aren't magical people who wash and re-use everything. ;)

But once you're separating your trash and seeing what is actually accumulating into trash, it's easier to figure out how to reduce. For example, I like to use notebook paper in a 3-ring binder rather than a spiral notebook when possible, because there's less waste. Or, gradually decrease how liberally you use things like shampoo, lotion, laundry detergent, hair gel, etc. and you'll empty fewer containers. It's good to recycle, it's better to re-use (when possible), and it's even better to reduce what you use. :)

And lastly: it's unrealistic to expect to change your lifestyle overnight.

It's a gradual process, and it takes time to learn, like anything new. But once you're accustomed to conserving more, or have made major changes (like switching to cloth napkins, washable cleaning rags/products, or cloth diapers) you'll hardly notice the extra bother.

Fresh From The Garden: Tomatoes!

As usual, we made a lot of Pizza Sauce. Homemade pizza is just so tasty with homemade sauce! We love our recipe, and it's easy to alter, too -- more garlic, more onions, whatever suits your tastes!

Homemade Tomato Soup is a real treat as well, and is so easy to make! It's a high-yield product, since all the watery tomato juice is used (thickening is added) and it's quick and easy to can, too!

Some things are just best with garden fresh tomatoes on top... like Taco Salad and Incredibly Easy Taco Pie!

...And some recipes are created around the fact that we have loads of tomatoes to use up... so let's find some foods they accent! Like Veggie Egg Omelets!

Easy Beef Pepper Steak with Rice only calls for a couple tomatoes but it really adds to the flavor!

And lastly, two of my personal favorites: Tomatoes and Black Beans over Pasta and Beef and Tomato Macaroni. Neither of these last long in our house. ;)

Tomorrow: An Autumn Pear treat!

You know you don't comb your hair often enough...

You know you don't comb your hair often enough when your two year old sees you brushing your hair and says,

"Going bye-bye, Mama?!"

Nope, sorry Yehoshua, this is just my once-a-week brushing, whether we're going bye-bye or not! We usually only go out once a week, and this week it's not until Friday. :D

Actually, I do comb my hair, but not every day. I wash it and put it in a bun and usually leave it in for a couple days without touching it, or, at most, simply putting it in a more secure bun.

But I would like to do better at making myself look more... presentable on a regular basis. :P Maybe soon I'll post our new schedule and ask for beautifying tips :D

Fresh From The Garden: Red Raspberries!

There are lots of ripe red raspberries here right now. Yehoshua loves to go out to the patch and walk along it (it's more of a large "row" in my parents' garden) and pick off ripe ones to eat. ;) Last summer he wouldn't eat red raspberries. He loved blackberries (?! the sour ones!) but would spit out red raspberries. We tried sneaking them into his mouth, but nothing would work. Oh well, this year he loves them. :)  

I haven't taken time to pick many red raspberries myself this year, but I did pick enough for us to make our Vanilla Raspberry Cheesecake which Joshua especially loved.

I was talking to my mom on the phone tonight, and she said that Bonnie was making a Raspberry Pie, using her Strawberry Pie recipe. Just substitute raspberries and raspberry gelatain for the strawberry! Yum! I hope she takes a picture for us. ;)

But what I'm most excited about, is a new recipe we tried for Raspberry Crumble Muffins! These are delicious. They are our new favorite way to cook with red raspberries! They're beautiful and taste like a gourmet muffin. Yehoshua and I made some last week and we all immediately fell in love with them. (If it's possible to fall in love with a food!)

Raspberry Crumble Muffins recipe

So, there you have it! By the way, I looked up this recipe online and there are sites wanting to charge for it! Ha! :) Don't worry, I didn't follow the recipe exactly as I got it (I rarely do), so this is my ever-so-slightly-revised Raspberry Crumble Muffin recipe... and of course, I wrote my own instructions for it. ;)

Tomorrow: It's all about tomatoes!

"It's so yummy, Mama!"

Yehoshua is so sweet. I just had to share what he told me this evening. He gave me a compliment!

He said, "It's so yummy, Mama!" :D His little voice melts my heart, and it's just precious to hear him talking. (He's still learning how to talk in first person!)

So, what was so yummy? ;)

We were making a dish of stuffed shells, and I was stuffing the filling into the shells. Yehoshua was standing on a chair beside the counter, helping with the dishes while I worked on the food. He kept begging for a piece of the cooked pasta, so I found a few little broken pieces that were cooked in with the shells. As he ate them, he said, "It's so yummy, Mama."

I laughed and said, "Yehoshua! That is so nice of you to say!" So he said it again. ;)

Fresh From The Garden: Cabbage!

  My mom grew lots of cabbage this year (either that, or else it just did really well!) and has given us some to use. Admittedly, cabbage isn't our most favorite vegetable (we wouldn't want to eat it every day!), but we do enjoy it.

Our simplest way of eating cabbage is making Quick and Easy Fried Cabbage. It's not too greasy, but tastes better than plain old boiled and salted cabbage. Fried cabbage is what my mom usually made with it when I was growing up, and I always looked forward to it!

Recently, I tried a recipe for Easy Cabbage Casserole. I was quite pleased with the results! I made a large dish of it, and Yehoshua and I re-warmed leftovers for two additional meals (without Joshua). It's not something I would want to eat really often, but it was good, and used lots of cabbage :D.

I still have a head of cabbage in the refrigerator, and am trying to decide if I want to go to the bother of making cole slaw (I have a good recipe, but Joshua and I both aren't real big cole slaw eaters) or cabbage rolls, or, creating my own "cabbage roll casserole" which has been "cooking" in my brain for a while now. ;)

A couple years ago, we dehydrated a lot of cabbage, and I love to use it in my Beef Vegetable Soup! Cabbage is one of the key ingredients in that soup, and it's so delicious! Using the dried cabbage makes the soup even quicker and easier to make, since I don't normally buy cabbage.

My parents make sauer kraut, but neither Joshua nor I care much for that, either. Last week, my mom made 60 pounds of cabbage into sauer kraut, and she said she still has more cabbage to use!

Tomorrow: A special red raspberry treat!


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