Monday, January 18, 2016

Layer, Layer, Layer

My southern friends and family constantly comment on how they absolutely could not live in a place that get as cold as the Montana prairie.  Especially when I tell them things like, "It was -9 (9 below zero) when I left for church this morning.", like it was yesterday.  I always reply, "It really isn't that bad if you dress properly."
Although it was -9 degrees when we left for church yesterday morning and had warmed up to only 3 degrees by the time we drove home, Songbird and I still wore skirts.  Today's post is specifically for all the southerners who just can't wrap their heads around how anyone could survive, much less keep the cold out, when it is below zero outside.  By the way, -9 translated to -28 by the time the wind chill was factored in.

Brrr.... It's Cold Outside

Yesterday's first layer of clothing included a cotton tee, a polyester/nylon slip and chocolate brown fleece lined tights that matched my skirt . Because my blouse had 3/4 length sleeves, I chose a cotton tee over my cotton lined, polyester/nylon shelled long handles which are long sleeved. The outer polyester/nylon shell of my usual long handles allows women's fabrics to drape well and it doesn't bunch under clothing like cotton can.  Fleece lined tights are incredibly warm.  I think the only thing warmer are wool tights.  But for those who are allergic to wool or can't afford it, fleece is a fabulous substitute.  My slip is a regular polyester/nylon slip that ensures ease of movement, especially under the corduroy fabric my skirt was made of.  Although it is thin, it adds an another layer and every layer insulates against the cold.

It is important to consider fabric choices when dressing for the bitter cold.  The blouse I chose is 100% cotton.  I chose it because it contained both my jacket and skirt colors. The print also added dimension and interest to the outfit.  A cotton blouse vs. a knit sweater worked for yesterday's -9 degree temperatures primarily because the jacket I wore is a thick sued leather with a polyester/nylon lining.   I keep mentioning polyester/nylon for linings and under garments specifically because it prevents clothing layers from bunching, which is not only unattractive, but also, uncomfortable.  Although polyester/nylon is thin it is also an excellent insulator.  The skirt I chose falls just below the knee.  It is made from a thick corduroy and is an excellent insulator from the cold and wind.

On very cold days, like yesterday, one should never choose to wear dainty ballerina flats, or open toed anything.  Loafers or heels are also a poor choice.  They simply do not cover enough of one's foot.  Snow and ice will most certainly get inside any of those pretty or cute shoes, not to mention icy sidewalks and high heels are a recipe for an emergency room visit.  My answer is a pair of women's dress boots that have traction soles and a low stable heel.  If I had chosen to wear my thick denim skirt and a western style jacket or vest, I might have chosen my dress cowboy boots.

Finally, ones outer layer is of utmost importance.  I prefer my coats to be made out of wool.  Wool truly is your best winter time friend if you live on the Montana prairie.  When purchasing a coat I always make sure it is large enough to comfortably fit over a vest, jacket or suit blazer.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than an outer coat that is too tight.  Finally, when stepping out into the bitter cold I always wear my wool gloves and wrap my neck with a scarf.  The scarf keeps any wind from blowing down my blouse or shirt.  Even if I'm only rushing to a warmed up auto and don't want my hair messed, I ALWAYS carry a hat, a comb/brush and small bottle of hairspray with me.  If it is especially windy, I will certainly wear a hat and will most definitely need to touch up my hair when arriving at my destination.

When dressing in layers the goal is to keep one's core body warm.  When your core is warm that heat is transferred to your appendages.  Our bodies emit excess heat through our head and feet.  Properly covering ones head and feet with wool or fleece socks and a hat is like closing a window and door on your body.

After removing my gloves, hat, scarf and coat, our church building was too warm for my outfit so, I also removed my sued leather jacket.  This is another example of why proper layering is so important when going out into bitterly cold temperatures.  One must be able to easily remove various layers when indoors otherwise you could get too hot and perspire which causes damp clothing.  If one's clothing gets damp from perspiration, regardless of how many layers you wear, the cold will literally chill you to the bone.

Any of my readers who have additional advise, tips or suggestions on dressing for the cold, please feel welcome to add them to the comments section.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frugal Feasting Firday: Elevating the Dogs

Although Mr.B and the littles enjoy hot dogs so much they could eat them daily, I prefer to limit my intake to ballgames, camp outs, and county fairs.  Preparing hot dogs not only brings big smiles around my dinner table, but, let's face it, hot dogs are a cheap eat.   Here are a three tips I employ to "elevate" the flavor of a food I'm not a huge fan of.

Step 1:  I split the wiener lengthwise so it will lay flat and I use my griddle to grill them on each side. I once heard a T.V. chef say, "Browned food is good food."  This is most definitely a true statement when it comes to hot dogs.

Step 2:  I lightly butter and very lightly toast the buns.  Slightly toasting the buns adds another flavor element.

Step 3:  Dress that dog for a party.  My personal favorite condiment combination is spicy mustard, sweet relish, chili and sharp cheddar cheese.

Cost Breakdown:

Wieners bought on sale, $0.12 each
Buns bought on sale, $0.24 each
1/2 oz. shredded cheese, $0.07
2 Tbsp. chili, $0.18
2 tsp. sweet relish, $0.03
1 tsp. spicy mustard $0.01

Total Cost per hot dog:  $0.65 each

Monday, January 4, 2016

Scripture Writing ~ Morning Devotional

Our son, Musician, is not only a musician but also an artist.   Although we have some very artistic people in our family tree, he absolutely did not inherit those talents from me.  Yup, all those artistic genes skipped me.  So when Musician and his Bride blessed me with an 8 1/2 x 5 3/4 inch art journal for Christmas this year, I kind of scratched my head and thought, "What on earth will I do with this?  ... I'm not artistic."  However, only days later, a dear friend from church, who, by the way is exceptionally creative and artistic, shared a list of scriptures for Scripture Writing with me.  When she handed me the list I immediately knew what I'd use the art journal for.

Scripture Writing is a very simple way of helping one mediate upon God's Word.  One basically copies a few verses from the Bible, thus, allowing the Word of God to soak into your mind.  Once I began writing I realized that the black ink on the white pages seemed very dull.  So, after writing the daily scripture, I decided to add some artwork to the page.  I draw whatever fancies me at the moment - no plan, no agenda.   I've continued this and found that my primitive drawings allows me to further meditate upon God's Word and brings me a sense of calm and relaxation.  This has turned out to be a most enjoyable way to begin my day.

Monday's Make Over Madness: Leftover Christmas Dinner

Last week's Frugal Feasting Friday post included my Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins made from leftover pumpkin used to make Christmas pies.  Today's make over madness will include the other  five recipes made from various aspects of our leftover Christmas dinner.  By eating ALL the Christmas dinner leftovers and incorporating some make overs, I fed six people, three meals a day for a week at of cost of less than $25!

In my first recipe I discovered I was out of baking powder, so, I substituted egg whites.  (Living as far from town as we do, being knowledgeable about substitutions is important.)  I also had some fresh milk that had turned so I used soured milk.  Everyone agreed that we preferred the finished product with these substitutions.  Therefore, this method is my new "go to" recipe for these savory breakfast ham & cheese muffins.  (If you don't have any soured milk, just add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to sweet milk and allow to stand at room temperature for a half hour.)

Ham & Cheese Muffins

2 egg whites + 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter, beaten into stiff peeks
3/4 c. sour milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 whole egg, slightly beaten
2 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 c. leftover ham, diced small
1 c. grated cheese, any flavor you prefer

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Grease 12 muffin cups.
Sift together flour, sugar and salt.
In another bowl mix milk, vegetable oil and whole egg until combined well.
Add milk mixture to sifted dry ingredients and stir until almost combined.
Add diced ham and grated cheese, stir until combined but still slightly lumpy.
Gently fold in egg whites, until combined.
Use a scoop to evenly divide batter into 12 greased muffin cups.
Bake at 400 degrees, 18-20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins

Another breakfast favorite made from leftover Christmas dinner was our Sweet Potato Pancakes made from leftover sweet potato casserole.  I was still out of baking powder, so, I again, substituted egg whites. (Be sure to save your egg yolks for other uses - like adding them to scrambled eggs).  I also used up the remaining soured milk in this recipe.  The pancakes taste just as good as ones made with sweet milk.

Sweet Potato Pancakes

2 egg whites + 1/2 tsp. cream of tarter, beaten into stiff peeks
2 whole eggs
2 1/4 c. sour milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 1/2 c. leftover sweet potato casserole OR mashed sweet potatoes
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

Sift all dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl.
Combine whole eggs, sour milk, vegetable oil and sweet potatoes; add to dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Gently fold in beaten egg whites until just combined.
Spoon out on a hot buttered griddle and cook until bottom side is browned.
Flip and continue to cook until other side is browned.
Serve hot with butter and pancake syrup.

Makes about 12 6 in. pancakes

My Pork Lo Mein is a super fast, one dish meal that not only feeds a crowd but makes evening kitchen clean-up a snap.  Rice noodles are cost prohibitive for our budget, so I substitute spaghetti noodles.  I used leftover broccoli and Christmas ham in this delicious dish.

Pork Lo Mein

3/4 lb. spaghetti noodles, cooked al'dente
2 c. cooked ham, cut into 1 in. cubes
1 - 1 1/2 c. cold leftover broccoli, diced
1 lg. onion, diced large
2 stalks celery, diced large
2 carrots, diced large
1 bell pepper, diced large
1/3 c. teriyaki sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil

In a large cast iron skillet or wok, heat vegetable oil until very hot, being careful not to burn it.  Add onion, celery, carrots, and bell pepper.  Stir fry 3-4 minutes, just until the onion begins to turn translucent.  Add ham, continue to stir fry another 2-3 minutes until heated through.  Add broccoli, soy sauce and brown sugar.  Stir until everything is coated with the sauce.  Add red pepper flakes; stir until combined well.  Add noodles and toss until well combined.  Serve hot.

Makes 6 very generous servings

Instead of the usual ham and mac casserole, this year I made a Creamy Ham and Potato casserole.  It was a huge hit with my family.

Creamy Ham and Potato Casserole

3 c. cream of broccoli soup; made with remaining leftover broccoli and my homemade Cream of Anything Soup Mix
6 small potatoes, thinly sliced
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 c. leftover ham, diced
2 c. shredded cheese, divided

Grease an 11 x 13 casserole and pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Ladle 1/2 cup soup into bottom of casserole.
Spread 1/2 the sliced potatoes over the soup.
Top with 1/2 the sliced onions.
Sprinkle with 1 cup of the diced ham.
Pour 1/2 of the remaining soup over the diced ham.
Top with 1 c. of the shredded cheese.
Repeat layers ending with the last of the soup.
Reserve the remaining 1 c. cheese
Cover and bake casserole at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes until hot bubbly and potatoes are fork tender.
Remove cover, add remaining shredded cheese and return to oven for 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Serves 8

My final Christmas dinner make over meal is a New Year's Day southern tradition.  This recipe is why so many southern families prepare ham for Christmas dinner instead of turkey.  Southerners consume Black Eyed Peas every New Years Day for blessings and Cabbage for prosperity in the up coming year.  These wonderful dishes are, of course, traditionally served with a large slab of cornbread.

New Year's Day Black Eyed Peas

1 meaty ham bone
Reserved broth from baked ham (in the south, we drain and reserve ham broth for tons of flavor when cooking beans, peas or lentils)
1 lb. dried black eyed peas, sorted and rinsed
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, quartered
1 jalapeno, whole
Salt & pepper to taste (added just before serving)

Place all ingredients into a large stock pot.
Cover with cold water.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to simmer and cover with pot lid askew so steam can escape and broth won't boil over.
Simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional hot water if necessary.
Continue to cook another 1 -2 hours until black eyed peas are tender and broth begins to thicken.
Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

Friday, January 1, 2016

A New Year Ushers In a New Arrangement

Everyone who knows me knows that I was exceptionally thrilled the day I found out we were having a little girl.  For 14 years I'd only been a mother to boys.  Now, my boys were, and still are, the pride worn on my shirt sleeve.  But the thoughts of a sweet smelling, soft spoken little girl who would enjoy doing "mom things" with me like learning to cook, sew, and garden brought me into a world of excited expectation.

17 years later I have a sweet smelling, highly intelligent, head strong, goal achieving, independent, not so soft spoken, exceptionally beautiful, 1/3 tom boy, 1/3 all American girl, 1/3 beauty queen who literally runs away from the stove, only views the sewing closet as a dumping ground for her unwanted belongings, and attempts to use gardening chores as bargaining chips.

Needless to say, when Songbird signed up for a quilting project in 4-H this year, I was shocked.  My shocked quickly turned to exhilarated joy and excitement!  Maybe a little seed was planted during those short little sewing lessons we attempted when she was much younger.  The opportunity to teach my daughter any of the homemaking arts, thrills me.  I'm so excited about it, I spent a day and half doing this:


Our "school room".  It is really the very large landing at the top of the second floor.  In here we have a large cupboard, with a broken door, flanked by two overloaded bookshelves.  A drafting table used for our spare computer & independent study and our "craft supply" cabinet.  By the way, Songbird and Farmer Boy rarely sit at this table for any school work.  They prefer the kitchen table, the floor, the living room coffee table, my office desk ... basically any place other than the one "designated" for school work.

I purged the book shelves, getting rid of 6 shelves of curriculum materials Songbird and Farmer Boy have outgrown.  I moved the farther bookshelf to the sewing closet for additional supply and craft storage.

Mr.B finally repaired the cupboard door for me.  I brought my sewing table out of the sewing closet and placed it in the corner where the other bookshelf used to be. I removed the extra computer.  The drafting table will now be used as a cutting table for quilt pieces and other sewing projects.  The remaining bookshelf has been purged and re-organized.  The craft supply cabinet has also been purged and re-organized.



I un-stacked the cubicle storage shelves and moved them to where my sewing table used to be.  The book shelf from the "school room" now occupies the old cubicle storage shelf area and has a hook that perfectly holds my yarn storage bag.  This larger shelving unit has added significantly more storage to this closet.

The horses and their beef projects are the only 4-H livestock Songbird and Farmer Boy have during the winter months.  Therefore, winter is the perfect time to work on their 4-H workbooks and other non-animal projects, like cooking, sewing, robotics, electricity, shooting sports, archery, etc.  Songbird will use these winter months to work on her quilting project and hopefully get most of it finished prior to spring when she will add lamb, goat, and swine projects to all her 4-H activities.

I look forward to letting you all know how the quilting project goes!

Frugal Feasting Friday: Christmas Dinner Make Over Madness

One of the BEST aspects of holiday meals is all the leftovers.  One of the worst aspects of holiday meals is ALL those leftovers.  One can only eat so many turkey and ham sandwiches before they become boring.  But in our home nothing goes to waste and that is why I like to "make over" our leftovers into other dishes.  This year our Christmas dinner provided us with plenty of ham sandwiches and 6 other dishes enjoyed by all.  First up,

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

1 1/2 c. leftover over pumpkin from making pumpkin pies
1 c. buttermilk or soured milk
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. white vinegar

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves

cinnamon sugar, if desired

Cream Cheese Filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk, reserve the egg white for upcoming recipes
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease 12 muffin cups.
In a small bowl beat all cream cheese filling ingredients together until smooth.  Set aside.
In a medium bowl mix pumpkin, buttermilk, oil, egg and vinegar until combined well.
In a third bowl sift together dry ingredients; flour, baking soda, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Add liquid ingredients to dry and stir until combined, being careful not to over mix.  Batter will be thick.
Use a scoop to place 1/2 the muffin batter in the bottom of each greased muffin cup.  Top with a dollop of cream cheese mixture.  Top with remaining half of muffin batter.
Sprinkle tops of muffins with cinnamon sugar mixture, if desired.
Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes.  Immediately remove from pan to cool.

Makes 1 dozen muffins