Friday, October 26, 2012

Hurricane store list

Things we need at the store before "Frankenstorm" comes to town.  Can you tell which item is for my husband?!!?

Thursday, October 25, 2012


I canned 8 quarts of applesauce today. Whew.

(Don't tell the kids it's slightly burnt.)

I fed it to them as a test after dinner tonight and nobody complained.  So I went ahead and canned it.

Also, see all the cores and peels?  I made a kind of tea out of them, and I will make it into apple jelly tomorrow. No waste! Love it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Boiling Diapers and Missing You!

Dear Bloggy-blogosphere,

I have been missing you!  But alas, I have had NO TIME to post.  Unless you count the 20 minutes I was asleep on the couch this afternoon.  I don't, because I regard that time as necessary for me to function for the rest of the day.  :-)

ANYway, here are some things I have been up to tonight:

Boiling my cloth diapers!  They have really been smelling strongly of ammonia, so Chris finally did a google search about how to strip diapers of their ammonia smell.  We are boiling ours for 30 minutes.  If you do this, and have PUL in the water, you have to let the water cool before you take the PUL out because it will deform if you take it out when it's hot.

Other things he found to do to reduce the ammonia build-up in the future is add vinegar to the cold rinse cycle before washing them.  Although, this is also said to be bad, because lots of vinegar in your washing machine can wear the plastic parts inside more quickly.  I'll let you wrestle about whether or not to do that on your own.  :-)
Also here are the leftovers from dinner:

Leftover rice with leftover chicken cut up in it, homemade tortillas, grilled peppers and onions, and carrots on the side.

A quick batch of chocolate pudding for dessert.

And finally, there are TWO full bags of apples in my kitchen waiting to be made into applesauce. The guy downstairs has an orchard at his house, and he just leaves them next to our door.  That pretty much rocks.  :-)

Have a great night!  Thanks for reading my update!  :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Green Bean Casserole

We keep getting green beans from our CSA.  Green beans seem easy enough.  My small problem-- my husband doesn't like green beans.  Not steamed up with butter and salt, anyway.  Usually when I get them, I will wash, cut and freeze them for soups in the winter.  Vegetable soup is a favorite at our house, and we eat it almost every week in the winter.

Well, tonight, I had TWO bags of green beans in my fridge (from last week and this week)... my in-laws were coming for a visit, and I (1) needed to use up my green beans and (2) needed to cook more food than usual.

I really like green bean casserole, but I don't use condensed soups OR those crunchy delicious onion thingys any more.  But, I had a hankering for green bean casserole. Oh, and did I mention that it was already 5 o'clock?  The rest of dinner was slated to be done around 5:45, so I needed to come up with something quick.  Luckily, Chris rinsed and de-stemmed the beans earlier in the day, knowing that I was going to use them. :-)

A quick google search brought up "Grandma's Green Bean Casserole."  It was four or five down on the list, but it was the first one that didn't mention Campbell's. Also, it says 'Grandma' in the title, which makes me automatically trust it just a little bit more.

I adapted Grandma's Green Bean Casserole to fit my ingredients and my time frame, and this is what resulted:

Janet's Green Bean Casserole
4 cups fresh green beans
2 TBS olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 TBS flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup yogurt
panko bread crumbs

Wash, de-stem and cut green beans into 1-2 inch pieces.  Steam until desired doneness (about 10 minutes for nice and soft). While beans are cooking, heat a cast iron skillet (or any 8" pan with tall sides) with the olive oil in it. Chop onion. Add onion to the oil. When onions are soft, sprinkle flour in the pan and whisk until smooth. Sprinkle in the salt.  Add the cooked green beans and the yogurt.  Toss to combine evenly.  Sprinkle generously with panko bread crumbs.  Put the top on the pan, turn burner to low, and simmer until dinner is ready.

This casserole was simple, flavorful, and quick.  I like that it didn't go in the oven, taking extra time and heating the kitchen more.  Also, the kids liked it-- ate their beans with no complaints, and all the adults had seconds-- except Chris!  :-)

ps. if you noticed, the original recipe calls for shredded cheddar, which would have been pretty good, but I didn't want to do one more step!  And cheese makes a lot of things more delicious, but in my opinion, it wasn't even missed in this recipe.

pps. I recently bought my first bag of panko bread crumbs, and while they are rather processed, they are certainly much better than the crunchy onion thingys I mentioned earlier! I will definitely be using them from time to time in the future to add some extra crunch to our meals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Pumpkin Loaf

I made this pumpkin loaf for breakfast last weekend.  It was so good.  I just love fall and baking with fall ingredients, namely, apples and pumpkin.

I get crookneck squash from our CSA almost every week in the fall.  They are big and meaty, and I use them like I would pumpkin.

Then I was reading Laura's post over at, and this bread caught my eye stomach.  I simply had to make it.

Since I made it in the morning, and as Laura pointed out, this was a bit of an involved recipe, I poured the batter into an 8x8, hoping it would cook faster.  It cooked in about 40 minutes instead of the 55-60 for the loaf. The cake was still nice and thick and delicious.  Moist. Yum.  If you wanted to stretch this recipe into even more pieces, I bet you could put it in a 9x13.  That would cut the cooking time even more!

I made only a few (inconsequential) changes to the recipe-- I used 6 TBS butter instead of butter + apple butter (none on hand).  I also had to make up my own pumpkin pie spice, since I had none.  I just kind of threw in cinnamon and nutmeg with a little allspice and some cloves.

Finally, I just want to mention, the sweetness in this recipe is perfect.  Usually I cut the sugar in every recipe in half, right from the beginning.  This time, I put in the prescribed amount, maybe a little less (sometimes, if it calls for 1/2 cup but I have my 1/3 cup out, I'll do a heaping one and call it a day...) and it was great.

Looking forward to baking another squash and making recipe again soon!

ps. please go look at Laura's photos and excuse my ugly phone pic... :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Hog Maw Cabbage Rolls

Here is the story of I came up with this meal.  One night I was laying in bed thinking about what was going to be for dinner tomorrow.  (This has been my best strategy of late.  Planning dinner in bed the night before. It has really been working for me! I have time to mull over my options, think about what we have available, toy with a few different ideas... I can get out of bed to soak beans if I have to, or plan to soak them right when I get up... I can even make a last minute run to the store the next day if I need/ want to!)

I was listing all the available ingredients on hand in my head: "I really need to use up that cabbage, what could I do with it?  I could saute it, but what would we have with it?  What else do we have?  Oh, I bought a pound of meat the other day at the store.  What can I do with cabbage and meat? Well, I could make cabbage rolls, I guess.  They weren't a big hit last time... hmm, what can I do to make them more interesting?  We have potatoes... potatoes mixed with beef sausage makes yummie hog maw... I wonder if i could stuff cabbage leaves with the same filling?  Ok, let's go for it.  I will try it tomorrow."

The next day as I was planning my approach to this meal, I called my MIL to get her hog maw stuffing recipe (which really comes from her mom...) Basically, it's onions, potatoes and beef sausage all mixed together. Okay.  But I only have ground beef.  Must find beef sausage recipe.

Online I found a page with all kinds of beef sausage recipes.  I didn't really like any of them better than the others, so I used them as a basis and came up with my own seasoning recipe.

On to the sauce.  Will I use a tomato sauce in which to cook the cabbage? Yes.  Basic spaghetti sauce recipe.  

Once I figured out all the separate components to the recipe, it was time to actually put it all together.  Here's what happened:

Hog Maw Inspired Cabbage Rolls
1 lb ground beef
2 medium white or red potatoes
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1+ tsp. salt
3/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp mace (if you don't have it, just leave it out, or use 1-2 shakes nutmeg)
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/4 tsp fennel seeds

24-28 oz crushed tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

cabbage leaves

Cube the potatoes (1/2 inch cubes). Dice the onion (small dice). Mix first 10 ingredients together in a bowl and set aside. Heat olive oil. Press or dice garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.  Add tomatoes, basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep tomato sauce warmed on the stove. Assemble cabbage rolls: put about 1/8- 1/4 cup of the meat/potato mixture into the cabbage leaf.  Roll it up and put it in a 9x13 pan.  Repeat until the mix is gone and the pan is full.  Spoon sauce over the top. Cover with foil and bake at 300* for 1 1/2-2 hours.

Cabbage rolls are special because there is no way to get uniform ones!  Some of mine were really tiny and some were huge!  I just tried to fit as many in a row as possible and then when space got cramped in the pan I wedged them wherever I could.

My kids and my husband all gave this recipe rave reviews.  I will DEFINITELY be making this again!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cloth Diapering

This is just a quick pic I took after I folded my diaper laundry. I haven't posted much about cloth diapering, but it's going pretty well!  I even made some for my SIL who is going to pop at any second! :-)  I made one for John, too (had to try it on him first before I could make them to give away!) They turned out really cute-- they are all-in-one diapers.

So I just thought I would tell you about my collection, and then maybe give a few insights I've had... 

I have:

  • 6 covers
  • 18 'prefolds' (but I think they are technically called 'flats' because they don't have to be folded; they are contoured)
  • 4 mother ease all-in-ones
  • 4 kushies 10-22 lb. all-in-ones (technically may be called all-in-two?) -- not great on the cloth diaper lingo
  • 4 extra soakers to add to diapers to make them absorb more liquid
  • 2 homemade small covers
  • 1 homemade super-cute dinosaur all-in-one
  • 6 kushies 6-10 lb. all-in-ones
  • a bunch of cloth wipes of various materials and sizes
What have I spent?
I bought the covers, prefolds, mother ease and newborn kushies at a yard sale for $55.  I figured that would really be all I needed.  And reallly, it was.  My MIL bought the kushies on clearance for a total of $24.  And I would guess the dinosaur one cost about $6- $8 to make. Plus, I took a class at Jo-Ann's to learn how to make covers.  The class was $35 and the materials were $40. 

If I include the price of the class in the total, that's $162.  Without the class, $127.  I would consider the class more of a "learning to sew better" cost. 

I have abandoned the cloth wipes because I was having problems (it was just the one more thing that sent me over the edge) keeping up with making the solution to keep them wet and then having fresh ones on hand.  I do make my own disposable wipes using paper towels. I would say it takes one month to go through an entire paper towel roll in wipes.  You cut the roll in half and then it takes 2 weeks for me to use each half. I'd say the rolls we buy at Sam's Club come out to about $1.50 per roll. That's not too expensive for me!  When I am not making my own disposable wipes, I buy them from amazon at about $18 for a lot-- about 4 months worth of wipes.  That's more than making my own, but still less than five dollars a month.

Why did I choose cloth diapers?
I originally chose to cloth diaper my baby because it was going to be cheaper.  The thought of cloth diapering was confirmed to me when I came across some at a yard sale.  I could not pass up $55 for an entire cloth diaper collection.  After I bought the diapers, we started cutting out as many chemicals from our lives as possible. I already used homemade cleaners and soap nuts for laundry, but we also started to really pay attention to the additives in food that we eat.  Why would I then use diapers that are laden with chemicals and touch my sweet baby's bum all day, everyday for two years? Well, at this point I just wouldn't.

I do, however, use disposable diapers on occasion.  For instance, I used them when we went to Hershey Park for the day.  And, I also use them when I go to my MIL's house. I buy the Huggies Natural diapers or Seventh Generation diapers, but I view these breaks as necessary for me not to get all legalistic and burnt out.  I am not doing this to make my life insane, and I am not going to let it stress me out (I have enough other things in my life to stress me out!  Like my four kids).  See my above comments about using reusable wipes. 

How do I start?
Well, I started by just buying some and going from there.  I got lucky, though, with the yard sale.

Most normal people would want to do a lot of research about what kind of diaper might work best for them, and tackle all the crazy cloth diaper lingo before they just dove head first into owning them.  For all you normal people out there, I will direct you to Katie over at  She has done lots and lots of research and comparing brands in everything from how much each diaper holds, to how they do on leaking, what to do about poop, etc.

Here are her posts:
Cloth Diaper Rookie post with vocabulary
Cloth Diaper Myths Revealed
Cloth Diapers Absorb-- How Fast?
Cloth Diapers Absorb-- How Much?
Pocket Diaper Review
Wet Bags
Fitted Cloth Diapers

Katie has a bunch more posts about cloth diapering, so if you're interested, there is a wealth of knowledge to be read over there.  I could spend hours reading it myself. :-)

Final Thoughts
So far I am loving cloth diapering.  I just entered the world of 'grown-up' poop, because we started feeding John table food recently. We'll see how everything holds with that.  :-) But other than that, I guess that's it.  I am hoping for a sunny day soon, as my diapers haven't been hung out to dry in awhile, and that is SO IMPORTANT in keeping them nice and white.  Until next time, .... :-)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Family Bike Ride

This weekend, we went on our first family bike ride!  I am so excited that it finally worked out!

We have been trying to get everything together that we need to take our sweet kiddies on the Chester Valley Trail, which is near our house. Ben rode his mountain bike.

Sam rode a trail behind bike attached to my bike.

John and Ellie hitched a ride in our new bike trailer behind Chris. Let's have a closer look.

There they are! John, after wailing for awhile-- he's never worn a helmet before and the straps are kind of awkward in there-- finally fell asleep on Ellie's shoulder. Ellie was pretty happy, though-- sucking her thumb, hugging her baby and checking out the sights as they went by.

We had a really fun ride today, and it turned out to be easier than Chris and I thought. The trail goes about 4.2 miles and ends at a local Wegman's.  One day, we plan to bike to Wegman's for lunch and then come home!  Today, we went about half way to Wegman's before we turned around.  That's still about a 4 or 5 mile round trip.

Ben has been to the trail with Chris before, and Chris and I have made the trek to Wegman's for his birthday, but it was Sam, Ellie and John's first time. 

Sam has been SO excited to go on the trail.  He was singing almost the entire trip.  Not any song you know, just whatever popped into his head.  He can be a real cutie.

When we got back to the car, we had a snack and packed up.  We will definitely be biking the Chester Valley Trail again soon!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Hummus Sandwich

I have been trying to replace peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in my house.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE peanut butter and jelly, but we have really been trying to reduce the amount of sugar we eat, and one place I know we have a lot is in sandwiches. 

Also, there is a new problem which my MIL stumbled upon and had to share with me.  I don't know what I am going to do about it yet.  This video is all about wheat and how bad it is for you and how if you eat two pieces of bread it affects your blood sugar as much as 6 TEASPOONS of sugar and how if you go off wheat it will cure all your problems. Still thinking on it, and it will have to be another post, another day when I have come to a decision as to what in the world to do about it.

ANYway, back to the sandwiches.  I want to come up with new ideas. 

One day in June, my mom and I stopped at this cafe in Baltimore for a quick snack for the kids.  We didn't want to get them a cookie or a brownie, but what else? We asked the guy behind the counter what they had that was kid friendly, and he started listing off PB&J, cookies, blah, blah, hummus on toast... My mom and I looked at each other and we nearly shouted at him, YES! Hummus on toast.  I didn't get much of that sandwich (it was supposed to be for the kids), but I have been dreaming about it ever since. Until this week. :-)

I give you my newest sandwich obsession:
Homemade hummus on toast with cucumber and tomato slices. Delish.