Tuesday, March 12, 2013

the wonder oven

I tried out my newly-made wonder oven today for the first time to cook a pot of dried pinto beans. I:
  • picked through and washed the dried beans,
  • soaked them overnight,
  • drained and rinsed them,
  • put them into my cooking pot with fresh water, a little salt and some pepper,
  • brought them to a full, rolling boil and boiled them for 15 minutes with the lid on the pot,
  • transferred the hot pot and hot lid to the wonder oven,
  • immediately put the cover on top of the wonder oven,
  • and waited about 5 hours.
When I took the cover off the oven and the lid off the pot I immediately put my candy thermometer in to see how hot it was after five hours. (You can see in the picture that there was lots of steam coming off the surface of the water/beans.) It registered 170 degrees Fahrenheit, which is safe according to a food safety chart. I tasted the beans and they are completely cooked with a grand total of about 20 minutes worth of cooking fuel, in this case my gas range.

First try is a success! I will divide this batch of beans into quart size freezer bags and freeze them for whenever I feel like having a bean burrito or some chili for lunch.

Monday, March 11, 2013

menu plan for this week

This week's menu includes:
  • pork loin with carrots, potatoes, and parsnips cooked in the crockpot with a can each of cream of mushroom soup* and french onion soup* and a little water, served with gravy made out of the liquid in the crockpot at the end of the cooking time.
  • barbecue pork on homemade buns* with crispy root vegetable cakes.
  • enchilada soup* with cornbread.*
  • ham and beans* with leftover cornbread.
  • bean burritos* with cheese* and homemade pico de gallo
  • dinner out!
  • a no-cook day with whatever is left over in pantry and fridge that needs to be eaten up.
Today I have been sewing wonder ovens. I am trying one out for the first time tomorrow with a batch of pinto beans that I have soaking in anticipation of this historic event. Lately I've been cooking large batches of beans at once and then storing them with their cooking liquid in the freezer in quart size freezer bags and it's been a lot easier to pull some out for a quick thaw to make burritos or whatever else at a moment's notice. If the wonder oven works properly I will never have to hover over a pot of beans again. Which will be awesome. I have a feeling, though, that using the wonder oven will require some trial and error and practice. Like all cooking does.

*These are or contain ingredients that I keep in my long-term food storage.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

clinical depression?

Or just your average run-of-the-mill slovenliness?

That load of clean laundry has been there since the weekend. And that blanket too. The blanket has been wrapped around my teenaged son every night for a couple of months now, and when I told him to strip all the sheets off his bed so we could wash everything it came out into the hall too.

If you know anything about teenaged boys then you know without further explanation that at this point the blankie can only be politely called "ripe". It doesn't have a fabric care tag and it was a gift from my beloved and I don't want to ruin it by washing it but since it's now basically ruined anyway I might as well just wash it and see what happens, right?

So that pile of stuff has been sitting there for going on 4 days now. I have stepped over it multiple times, even while cleaning (I had to get to the trash can there last night to empty it because today is trash day). I look it at, I know I should fold/put away the laundry and make some sort of definitive decision about the blanket, but it just seems so...well...hard. There is also lots of schmutz around the washer and dryer and all over the hallway carpeting because I haven't vacuumed it in weeks. Because that also seems hard. Because in order to vacuum I'd have to go downstairs and get the vacuum and drag its heavy self up the stairs and unwind the cord and use the attachments and first make sure the desk is cleared off and dusted (so that I don't  just make the vacuumed carpet dirty again) and all the papers are taken out to the garage for recycling and all the other stuff that collects on the desk is sorted and delivered to their rightful spots all of which also requires lots of decision-making. Then actually do the vacuuming. And then untangle and rewind the cord and carry the heavy vacuum back down the stairs and put it away in the coat closet. Doesn't that all sound so hard and difficult and like such a huge job?


That's why I wonder if I am clinically depressed. Because to me "tidying up and vacuuming the hall" sounds like the kind of job I ought to get some kind of prize or award or medal or other significant recognition for doing.

An hour later and it's done. And although you can't tell (because it is a photograph) the washer and dryer are churning away drying the clean blanket (so far so good) and washing a load of white towels (because we've been out of clean dishrags and washcloths for days). I dug in and got it all done and now it looks like civilized people live here. I do feel marginally better and somewhat accomplished which is a minor miracle:

Monday, March 4, 2013

The week, sort of.

I couldn't decide if it should be "last week" or "this week". Whatever. A time frame spanning the last five or so and next five or so days.

Last week I went to a gardening seminary showcasing the "Mittleider" method of gardening. It seems like a pretty good and manageable way of doing things and has some different options, and after much waffling I have decided, partially, which options I think would work best for my values, abilities, climate, geography, available space and so forth.

I have been daydreaming quite a bit about the backyard paradise my backyard could become. Honestly it sounds like a lot of back-breaking and sweaty work. But what about this? What if I did a little bit at a time, experimenting and seeing what works for me in my own yard, and what I can truthfully manage, and let the backyard evolve over time (years?) into something useful, beautiful, productive, and awesome?

What if I don't dig up all the grass this week, get totally exhausted and sore and mad and overwhelmed, and then give up on it?

That sounds very much not like me at all. I'm all about jumping right in with both feet and trying to achieve what is impossible for me and then completely giving up because I can't do everything.

But I think I will try. I gave up on gardening a long time ago, but have recently felt an indescribable urge to get back into it. Maybe I'll just dig up a little bit of grass and see what happens this year. Up there in the picture is my oxalis which is a volunteer plant (it just showed up in our yard one spring) and has survived drought, winter freezes, summer scorching, and neglect for years now. I love it. There are two clumps nearby to each other. That other green stuff in the pic is some wild blackberry vines which are covered in thorns that make an angry red rash when you try to pull them out. The roots are deep and long and extremely strong. I worry that it will never be totally gone from our yard. Every spring more of it comes up.

This week's dinner menu includes beef stew leftover from last week, boiled eggs, cheese sandwiches, oatmeal (with homemade/home-bottled preserved apples), and maybe a pancake/bacon dinner one night. Because my good Mr. Dub is out of town learning all about a new way of fracking there is no need for me to actually make any "real" dinner.

Frugal living pays off. I added it up - even with one son in university and one son on a two-year mission for our church - (which are both on a "pay as you go" plan; no new debt is being acquired for either) we've paid off more than $35,500.00 of debt in the last 12 months. This includes:
  • one of my Pretty Girl's student loans, 
  • two cars,
  • and a home equity loan.
These debts have been paid off in all cases years earlier than originally expected. All that is remaining on our debt is:
  • our mortgage (we have quite a bit of equity),
  • one car loan,
  • and one more of Pretty Girl's student loans (even though these two loans are technically her loans, we are co-signed on them which makes them in reality our loans. Lesson learned - never cosign a loan).
That makes me pretty psyched. Whenever I get sick of scrimping and saving - which has happened a few times over the past year - I look back at the progress we have made in the last year, I re-read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason, and I get myself back on board with the program. If I can manage to continue on this path we will be out of debt except for our mortgage before the end of this year, and will have enough saved to pay cash for our trip to Argentina next spring. Which thing we really want to do.

I am still feeling a little bit overwhelmed by my life. But I am also still feeling more optimistic and upbeat than I was even a few weeks ago. I am trying to take it easy on myself and not expect that I will be perfect, even when I expect myself to be.

Which makes sense to me, anyhow.