A blog about family, food and fun!

Tag: cooking

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

Covid – 10 Months and Counting

We are about 10 months into dealing with Covid and things don’t seem to be letting up any time soon. I was looking back over pictures from the year today and I was struck by how sudden everything was last Feb/March when everything shut down. […]

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

Gardening Update 09.05.2020

As the nights get cooler and the days shorter our summer 2020 garden is winding down for fall. This summer our vegetable garden stepped up a notch and I planted way more than previous years. We also had a huge pest problem with rodents, ants, […]

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

Gardening Update 6.14.2020

This year is the first one in a while I have been excited about my garden. Working from home for the past few months due to the Corona virus has greatly reduced my commute time from 3-4 hours a day to nothing and this means that after work I put on my garden clothes and take the kids outside for some sunshine. My workplace is closed for until the fall and even then they are only allowing a few people in the office and things are up in the air as far as going back to school so I have planned an ambitious vegetable garden this year.

 

Front garden bed.

 

I started out this spring with sprucing up our front garden bed. We share part of it with our neighbors and our side needed a bunch of work. Every fall/winter I am good about cutting our monster hydrangeas back so that was taken care of this year. They grow so much over the summer that if I don’t cut them they will cover most of the garden bed! In late February and early March I pruned back the sword ferns, redid the edging, weeded aggressively, pulled out a bunch of salmon berry and then mulched the whole thing with a thick coat from the stuff that has been hanging out on our driveway for far longer than I would like to admit. The mulch is not super great quality but I needed something to make it look more uniform. The front bed looks fabulous and it was so uniform at first that people were walking in it as if it was empty so our asparagus was slightly trampled this year and we did not get more than a few spears before I decided to let it grow. We have since installed a small fence where the asparagus is and I am hoping that will keep people and dogs out of it in the future.

 

Seed starts from April.

 

I was a little bit late starting my seeds this year. I am not the only one upping their gardening game and many of the seeds I wanted were on backorder or were out at the first couple of places I looked. I ended up ordering from Territorial Seed Company and they took a while to get here but the quality was fabulous and we had a very successful germination rate so l ended up ordering way more seeds later on for my fall gardening. For the spring I planted Napa cabbage, two different green cabbages, a red cabbage, bush peas, pole peas, pole beans, lettuce, spinach, potatoes (from a bag in the pantry), watermelon, cucumber and several varieties of squash.

 

Potatoes in a bag.

 

I may have planted too many potatoes. I planted a bunch early from a bag in our pantry that had started to sprout. A couple of weeks later I noticed squirrel holes all over the bed so I planted more, and some in another part of the garden. Then a couple of weeks after that I replanted more potatoes to fill in even more squirrel dug holes and planted some potatoes into the potato bags I found in the garage and we somehow ended up with about 20 plants which is way more than I wanted. I keep running out of soil so I have not been great about mounding dirt up around the potatoes but if things go ok we should have enough potatoes to last us a little bit. My kids don’t really like potatoes except when they are made a couple of ways so I may end up donating some of them to the local free pantry if we have too many.

 

garden beds
New garden beds.

 

This year I decided to put our plants into garden beds instead of directly into the ground. Our soil is not that great and I wanted to mulch around the beds to create a path and reduce the mud. In the past I planted directly into the ground with squash varieties but since we are doing more than squash this year we got some raised beds off of Amazon. We bought three total and used some landscape fabric underneath to reduce the weeds. Our older beds need a soil refresh and but I discovered that after I had done some planting so one of my plans for next fall is to add a bunch of soil and plant some cover crops for the older beds.

 

potted plants
Fairy gardens and our containers.

 

Over Mother’s Day weekend the family got together and planted some seed starts from the store of tomatoes, pumpkins and cantaloupe as well as the Brussels sprouts and artichokes I started in March. I should have planted the seeds I started earlier but honestly I ran out of space in my main vegetable garden and we had to buy both containers and more soil. We had some issues transplanting two of the pumpkins and the cantaloupe and as of right now our cantaloupe won’t make it and the pumpkins might recover. In order to use up more of the empty space in the tomato planters I also sprinkled some lettuce seeds in there and so far we have a few plants coming up.

 

Cabbages April 2020

 

cabbage
Cabbages June 2020

 

One part of our garden that is thriving is the cabbage bed. I totally over planted this one with nine or ten cabbages but they are doing great. These seeds were started around the 14th of April and most of them should be ready to eat around the first week of July. This year I got smart and I wrote the day I planted them and the days to maturity from the package on the popsicle stick labels. I already have another set of seeds planted under these ones so we shall see if those do ok with the larger cabbages in there as well. If not, I plan on starting more seeds indoors with our grow light just in case although I have heard that Napa cabbage will bolt when the weather turns so I may try something else here over the heat of the summer. Cabbages are just starting to form and it is really cool to see. I have not grown cabbages before and honestly I didn’t do any research ahead of time but I view the garden as a gigantic experiment so if these don’t work out I will have a better idea for next year.

 

squash
Squash bed.

 

We have always had good luck with zucchini and yellow squash in our garden. This year is no exception. This bed has three zucchini plants in it as well as some bee attracting flowers. They are probably too close together but that was not a problem for us last year and we fertilized this soil so there is plenty of nutrients. Our male flowers are already blooming but I have not seen any female flowers yet. We have about 8 total squash plants so I am sure we won’t have any issues with pollination. Usually we do three or 4 plants and it has never been an issue for us. We have a really healthy bee population which helps tremendously.

 

strawberry
Strawberry plant.

 

We have been harvesting quite a few strawberries off of the plant I threw into a pot a couple of years ago. For some reason it does really well in the spot that it is in and has strawberries on it weeks ahead of our actual strawberry plot. I think this spot is more sunny than the other and even though the bees have been pollinating away in our main strawberry bed the berries are still super immature and won’t be ripe for another week or two.

 

ladybugs
Releasing lady bugs into the garden

 

One fun thing we tried this year was releasing ladybugs into the garden. I ordered them from Territorial Seeds a couple of weeks ago along with my fall planting seeds and some garlic starts that will ship in September. My kids were a little scared of the lady bugs at first but by the end of it they were picking them up gently and letting them crawl around for a bit before asking for the grownups to remove them. We will definitely be doing this again next year or maybe even later on this summer since we had such a good time. I would have loved to do praying mantises as well but everywhere was out so we haven’t yet. Ladybugs only stick around long enough to lay some eggs and then they move on to the next area. I am hoping in a few weeks we will have lots of little lady bug larva crawling around eating up any aphids on our plants. So far the weather in the PNW has been mostly gloomy and wet and I haven’t seen many aphids but I know that as soon as it warms up a bit we will start to see them more.

 

We are having a great time in the garden this year and hopefully in a few weeks we will be able to start eating most of our vegetables out of the garden instead of buying them at the store. Below are some resources for your garden with no affiliate links, just sites we have used and liked. Happy gardening!

 

Territorial Seed

 

Seed Savers Exchange

 

Ladybug Life Cycle

 

 

 

A Not So Brief Hiatus

A Not So Brief Hiatus

About eight months ago I took a break from blogging. There were many reasons, the most pressing being a complete utter lack of time while trying to maintain balance with both Mr. Oscoey and I working full-time with small kids. To say it was difficult […]

An Overview of Meal Planning

An Overview of Meal Planning

Meal Planning to Save Time and Money   I have heard of the wonderful idea called meal planning many times over the past few years and every time I read a post about it I love the idea of having all of our meals planned […]

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

Uber Frugal Month January 2018 Wrap Up!

We have come to the end of our Uber Frugal Month Challenge and we were pretty successful! We kept to our super low grocery budget, were mindful about our purchases and had some great discussions about where we want our life to head and what we need to do to get us there. Even though we had an expensive month with a hot water heater replacement and unexpected car repairs we were still within budget on the expenses we were focusing on.

 

Homemade meatballs, homemade hummus, crackers and salad.

 

One of our main focuses this month was our food. I am sure that if you have been following my posts on Instagram and Twitter displaying some of the meals we have eaten that we tend to eat the same thing over and over again.  That is one of the ways we save money. We bought a huge chunk of pork from Costco and my husband broke it down and made several things out of it including breakfast sausage, garlic meatballs, and what we call basic cooked pork which is pork cooked in a pan with salt and pepper. Basic cooked pork is very versatile and you can add it to all sorts of dishes such as salads, burritos, over rice, in sandwiches and anything else you could think of. We also ate much healthier this month with many vegetables and more vegetarian meals which I am proud that our meat-loving family was able to do with very little fuss. Our goal was to spend $500 on groceries for January and we ended up spending $430.36! We did this without creating a large deficit in our pantry either and made sure to stock up on our basics as we ran out of them.  Too many people fall into the trap of cutting way back on groceries one month and then over spending the next because they run out of basics.  We will probably need to buy a few such as rice, flour and more vegetables next month but we are not out of “everything” so we should still be able to keep within our budget.  Yay!

 

Apparently our son needed “face paint” in the form of stamp ink all over his body.

 

One of the things we also did to be Uber Frugal was to cut back on our outings from the house that cost money. This was pretty easy for us since our kids spent most of the first half of January miserable with colds but it did lead to some mischief making due to antsy children. We did purchase a membership to the Pacific Science Center which we will be using regularly and will give us a discount on summer camps but for us the $140.00 over the course of a year was well spent. Sundays there is free parking and we always pack a lunch so the cost per visit if we go only 6 times this year will be less than $25 for our family of four (oldest will have to use free guest passes when she is in town) which comes out to a little over $5 per person which isn’t bad at all. The more we go the better the deal too!

 

Outgrown clothes off to another Buy Nothing member.

 

When we were doing the Uber Frugal Month Challenge we noticed that we spent quite a bit of money on clothes last year so part of our focus this month was to reduce that. We were able to score some brand new thick leggings for our daughter and a bunch of clothes for our son in the next size up from our local Buy Nothing group.  We also passed on some clothes that our kids have outgrown and other household items that we no longer needed.  I am a huge fan of the Buy Nothing Project! We have both given and received some awesome items from the group. Our group has bonded quite a bit and there was even a meetup this month for group members that we missed but I am super excited to make the next one.

 

The view on my weekly walk with a friend.

 

Another frugal activity I participated in was walking this month. I have a friend that I walk with pretty regularly but we had gotten out of the groove with the holidays and sick kids. We made an extra effort this month and were able to meet almost weekly for our 2+ mile walk through a nicer neighborhood with plenty of gorgeous views. Fitness is a huge part of being frugal because when you are unhealthy it will cost you more in health expenses.  Walking is a great free activity and it also gets you out getting to know your neighborhood.

 

Tulips coming up in the garden.

 

My biggest takeaway from this month’s challenge was how creative being Uber Frugal made us.  We ate some interesting meals and had great fun thinking outside our box with taking the kids for a walk in the rain, reducing our clothing spending and figuring out how to reach our financial goals on paper.  We were previously stuck in a spending rut and this month’s challenge was an awesome way for us to get out of it.  I am excited for all of our frugalness next month and to see how it will change our spending over the long term.

 

How did the Uber Frugal Month change your habits?

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 4

We are entering our final days of the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge and it has been a great refresher for us to get back into our frugal habits. I am finally caught up on all of the emails and they really made us think […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and […]

Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the end of the day we have enough snack food for a couple of months.  They are great to store a sandwich bag of in your purse for those days when your kids are starving but you somehow have used up all of the snacks you have stashed in your car. This may happen to me on occasion. My kids are always hungry! I love keeping them in my purse instead of granola bars because dried bananas weigh a lot less and it helps keep my purse from getting too heavy.

 

Gather all of your ingredients. Just two ingredients here!  Try not to look at the sad bunch of bananas on the right missing a few of it’s mates. We may have gotten a little impatient waiting for our bananas to ripen and eaten a few. Make sure your bananas are not overripe. The drying process intensifies the flavor and if you have any sort of blemishes when you are drying the bananas it can cause your dried fruit to go bad faster. I do not dry my bananas all the way to crispy since my son likes them a little chewy. I would not feel comfortable storing our chewy bananas long term so we eat them within three months. For long term storage they will need to be dried until crispy and kept away from moisture, heat and light during storage.  If they go bad and you do end up throwing a few into the compost bin remember, the whole bunch of bananas cost $1.39 so you are not breaking the bank tossing questionable food out.  Always err on the side of caution!

 

 

First things first, squeeze your lemon into a strainer that has been placed over your large bowl. This will catch any seeds or large chunks of pulp.  I used a hand held juicer to get every last bit of lemon juice out of the lemons since they are a little on the older side.

 

 

Next add your cold water. I filled the bowl most of the way and left room for my bananas.

 

 

Lay out your trays and bowl in a way that optimizes speed.  I like to have my bowl right next to the tray that I am working on so that I can quickly place my banana slices onto the tray. Not pictured here is my compost bag which I forgot to get out until after I had sliced my first banana.

 

 

I put a towel under my tray so that the extra liquid doesn’t spill everywhere. Lemon juice can stain towels so it is best to use an older one. I rinsed my towel in some water as soon as I was done to minimize any acid spots.

 

 

Slicing in progress! I put my banana peels directly into the compost bag for easy cleanup.  My banana slices were a little thick this time but if that happens it is ok. They will just need to be dried for longer.

 

 

Place your bananas on the tray after swishing them around in your lemon bath. The banana slices should not be touching but they do not need a lot of room in between since they will shrink down quite a bit. Always rinse your hands thoroughly after placing your bananas so that you do not have lemon juice sitting on your hands. The lemon juice can be an irritant plus you do not want to spread it all over your knife and work space.

 

 

Once you have slices all of your bananas place them into the dehydrator. My almost two bunches of bananas made two and a half trays but I didn’t really place them optimally since I knew it wouldn’t fill the dehydrator.  Make sure you leave empty slots between your trays if you don’t fill the dehydrator so that the air will circulate better.

 

 

Easy clean up! I make sure and scrub the counter really well after making anything with lemon juice so it won’t stain our awesome laminate counter top…

 

 

I usually check my dehydrator after a few hours and rotate the banana chips as needed.  We got about a half of a gallon sized Ziploc bag out of our bananas.  We eat them almost every day so they should last 2-3 months. I store them in the dark pantry away from moisture. Every time I open the bag I give it a little sniff and check to see if I smell anything funky. I also look over the bananas pretty frequently to make sure they are not changing color or growing anything obvious but you should be able to smell if they have gone bad pretty quickly.  We haven’t had any problems with our bananas but I make sure not to make more than what we can eat in a few months.

 

If you are going to store your bananas for more than a few months you should dry them until they are crispy and store them in a vacuumed sealed container in a cool, dry place. It is important to get as much moisture out as possible and keep the oxygen out if you are planning on using them for long term storage.

 

Here are some websites with great tips for using your dehydrator for every day items and long term storage:

 

Modern Survival Blog

Learning and Yearning

National Center for Home Food Preserving

Trayor Wilderness

Pioneering Today

Back to Our Roots

 

What healthy snacks are you making at home?

 

Dried Banana Chips

October 26, 2017
: 15 min
: 12 hr
: Easy

Make these super easy banana chips for a healthy snack!

By:

Ingredients
  • 2 or more bunches of bananas
  • The juice of 1 lemon
Directions
  • Step 1 Juice your lemon into a strainer held over a large bowl. You can use cheesecloth as well.
  • Step 2 Add enough cold water to the bowl to fill it most of the way but leave enough room for your sliced bananas.
  • Step 3 Slice 3 or 4 bananas into the bowl and stir. It doesn’t matter how thick you slice them but the thicker they are the longer they will take to dry. It is more important that they are uniform in shape.
  • Step 4 Stir your sliced bananas a bit then lay them out on your dehydrator trays. I place a towel under the trays to absorb any extra juice.
  • Step 5 Repeat slicing and placing your bananas until you have either filled your trays or used all of your bananas.
  • Step 6 Place bananas into the dehydrator at 135 degrees for about 8-12 hours.
  • Step 7 Rotate and check the dryness of your bananas every few hours.
  • Step 8 Place into a Ziploc bag and enjoy!

 

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we […]