Hello dear friends! Hope you all are having a jolly time. Today we awoke to a heavy frost and yesterday we had a freezing fog, but no snow yet. The weather forecast, which is about as reliable as a dime store barometer, isn't predicting any for the foreseeable future, either. Bah humbug! I just wish it wasn't so green out. Looks more like spring than winter. Green can become tiresome after a while. Oh! But we did spy several flocks of swans flying overhead and spotted a flock of about thirty grazing in a farmer's field. That always gives me a thrill. I'm so happy to live where swans stop by for a visit from time to time. Rejoice in the little things!
ADVENTURES IN SHOPPING
Another little thing I'm rejoicing in this week is that I found some great bargains at the grocery store. At our bulk food store they had a bag of ends from the deli meats for $1.49/lb. I took them home and sliced them with my handy-dandy extra-sharp paring knife and we had enough for a dozen sandwiches from a two dollar purchase. It was a mixture of different flavors, so we had fun with the different varieties. Soup and half a sandwich is a grand meal.
The point being, be adventurous in your grocery shopping. Don't just stick to the normal big name stores, whose names begin with a W. and a C., if you catch my drift. I find the best bargains at independently owned grocers, the big stores never have anything that is reduced-for-quick-sale except for bakery items, I've found. Don't know what they do with the deli ends but they sure don't offer them for sale for $1.49/lb. I always look at grocery shopping as a fun game. It's exciting to see how much I can buy for the least amount of money. It's time consuming, for sure, but since it has to be done anyhow, might as well make it fun!
Try different places, too. The Middle Eastern grocer has the best price on rice, chickpeas and lentils. The little Mexican grocer has wonderful prices on pinto beans and corn meal. Big Lots has bargains on pasta, canned vegetables and coffee. Nobody beats Aldi's for cheese. There's also the bakery outlets for inexpensive bread. We practically lived off of that bargain bread when we were first married and budgeted $17.50 a week for groceries. We'd buy those cheap meat pies (back then they were 4/$1 when on sale) and sop up every last bit of the gravy with outlet store bread. We survived! And didn't have any weight problems back then either!
Be adventurous! Make a day of grocery shopping. Take only a certain amount of money with you and see how far you can make it stretch. Plan your menus on the fly, by what bargains you find. You'd be surprised at how much fun it can be! Thriftiness can be a fun adventure or drudgery, it's all in your attitude!
ADVENTURES IN DINING
Today we had one of those make-do meals, using up a lot of things in the fridge. I commented to my husband that it tasted and looked like one of those meals that you see in vintage war-time rationing cookbooks. Was it a gastronomical wonder? No, but it filled us up and was nutritious with its brown rice and vegetables. And isn't that what food is supposed to be after all? Something to keep you from being hungry and supply you with fuel to keep you going? With all the TV shows and magazine emphasizing how grand food is, we sometimes forget the purpose of food. No wonder we have such obesity problems in this country. Food has become our entertainment, companion and medication. I shudder to think of what would happen if something catastrophic happened here and we had to start eating like many people in third world countries do. I fear some people wouldn't be able to cope with a diet of rice, beans and vegetables from the garden. I know one thing, I'd be a lot skinnier! Ha! Sometimes, good enough is good enough!
ADVENTURES IN COOKING
Soup is one of the most economical meals you can make; one large pot can last for several meals and it can be as soupy or as thick as you want. My pastor used to tell me all the time, "you can always add more water to the soup.". Plus it's a great way to get the kiddies to eat their vegetables. We try to make at least one potful a week.
I saw a recipe for Lasagna soup, but couldn't locate it when I needed it, so I came up with my own recipe. Oh! That's another thing about soup, it's very adaptable to whatever you have on hand. So I just guessed at the ingredients, judging them to be whatever goes into a nice vegetable lasagna. I started by reconstituting some of our dried peppers and mushrooms (whenever I find a good buy on mushrooms, we buy as many as we can and dry them), which I sauteed with some onions and garlic. I threw that in a pot of home-canned vegetable broth along with some diced carrots. I had a can of spinach that was reaching its expiration date and some cannellini beans, so I tossed them in too. Then I added a jar of my own spaghetti sauce and tomatoes. Added some homegrown oregano, rosemary and basil for flavor. By this time it was looking like a lovely soup, but then we decided to kick it up a notch by adding some stealth health by the name of dried kale. Well! That made for some ugly brown soup! It tasted great but wasn't the prettiest, so I didn't take a picture. We served it sprinkled with some Parmesan cheese on top and garlic toast made from stale bread. You can leave off the cheese, if you prefer to make it fully vegan. BTW, I never was much of a cheese eater until I became a vegan for several years. It was the only thing I really missed and now I love the stuff! Guess my Swiss and Dutch genes kicked in!
CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM THE PANTRY
Can you believe it? We're already one week into December! I'm finishing up making goodies for Christmas packages, as they need to be sent off this week. Candy has always been part of our celebration because when my father was a youngster, during the Depression, the only treat he got was candy in his Christmas stocking. To him, Christmas wasn't Christmas without a big box of chocolates. Fudge is part of our traditions too. My sisters and I would make it by the ton to give to everyone; teacher, pastors, neighbors and boyfriends. It was our "go-to" present. There were only two things my oldest sister learned to make in home economics class; Spanish rice and fudge.
Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge
3 C. sugar
1 1/2 C. buttermilk
1/3 C. cocoa
dash of salt
1/4 C. butter
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C. chopped nuts (optional)
1. Combine the sugar, buttermilk, cocoa and salt in a pot that is twice the size of the ingredients.
(The boiling mixture will expand)
2. Stir over med.-high heat until mixture comes to a full rolling boil.
3. Stop stirring (important or your fudge will turn out grainy) and lower heat to low-medium, maintaining a full boil.
4. Cook until temperature on candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees or soft ball.You can test by dropping a bit into a cup of cold water. If the mixture forms a soft ball by rolling between your fingers without falling apart, it's done. Start testing around 235 degrees. I like mine to be just slightly under the 240 degrees on the thermometer, hence the 238 degrees.
5. Put butter and vanilla into mixture. Do not stir.
6. Place pot in a pan of cold water to cool.
7. Once the bottom of the pot has cooled enough to touch the bottom but is still very warm, begin beating the mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. (No metal spoons)
8. Stir in the nuts.
9. Beat until the mixture loses some of its glossiness and becomes thick like frosting. If you pinch some together, it should hold together. (This is a long and labor intensive procedure.It's good to have help.)
10. Pour into a well-buttered 8 inch pan. Cool before cutting.
Getting my gift knitting finished up. Hopefully these mittens will be the last red thing I have to knit for a while. This mittens knit up quickly, using bulky yarn and only two needles. So if you have to make a quick last minute gift, these are for you. It only took me a couple of hours to run them up. Here's the pattern:
1 skein bulk weight yarn
1 pair size 8 knitting needles
Gauge: 4 stitches= 1 inch
Cast on 28 sts.
1st row: P14, K2, P8,K2, P2
2nd row: K2, P2, slip next 2 stitches to an extra needle and hold in front, knit next 2 stitches,
Knit the 2 stitches from the extra needle, slip the next 2 stitches to an extra needle and hold in back, knit next 2 stitches, knit 2 stitches from extra needle, P2, K 14
Row 3: Repeat row 1
Row 4: K2, P2, K8,P2, K14
Repeat row 3 and 4 once more than repeat row 2
Continue to work this way until 3 cables have been made, ending with 3rd row.
Increase for thumb: Work across 15 stitches, increase 1 stitch, K1, increase 1 stitch, K to end
Work stitches on back as they come
2nd increase: Work across 15 stitches, increase 1 stitch, K3, increase 1 stitch, K to end
Work stitches on back as they come
Continue to increase this way on every K row having 2 more stitches between increases until there are 9 stitches on thumb gore.
Work across 15 stitches and place them on holder
Knit across the 9 thumb stitches, increase 1 stitch on last stitch
Place remaining stitches on holder.
Work the 10 stitches in stockinette stitch for 10 rows, ending with a purl row.
K2 together across next row. Break yarn
Thread a tapestry needle and and run through the remaining stitches twice.
Sew up thumb on wrong side
Back to mitten:
Place first 15 stitches from holder on needle, pick up and knit 4 stitches across thumb base. Place remaining stitches on needle and work across.
Continue in pattern until 8 cables are made, ending with 3rd row.
K2, P2 together, K8, P2 together, K2, K2 together, K8, K2 together, K2
Work back as they show
K2, K2 together, K6, K2 together, K2, K2 together, K6, K2 together, K2
K2 together across
Break yarn and finish as thumb.
Sew mitten on wrong side
P2, K2, P8, K2, P14
Finish left mitten to correspond to right mitten.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly Merry Christmas.
THRIFTY THING WE DID THIS WEEK
Knitted mittens for a gift from my yarn stash. Been knitting for almost half a century, I have an awesome yarn stash!
Made fudge for Christmas packages from pantry staples.
Bought deli ends for $1.49/lb. For $2 I had enough for 10 sandwiches.
Made a casserole from things that had to be used up in the fridge.
Attended some Christmas doings in town for free entertainment.
Bought some woodworking supplies that we needed at an estate sale for $3.
Made a big pot of soup that lasted for several meals.
Ran made a cute Christmas sign for the house from some free pallet wood and paints we already had. Got the idea from one we saw one in a store for $18.
Only used the furnace for heating the house during the night.
Decorated our window box from clippings from trimming our evergreens.
Bought a beautiful sweater ($3.50) from the thrift store that came from the Sundance catalog. Expensive stuff in that catalog!
So that's it for this week. Hope you have a jolly and bright week! A happy Hanukkah to my Jewish and Torah observant friends! Get out there and enjoy yourselves!
Hugs to all!