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The Toothbrush of Destiny

October 26, 2010

Or not.

Many people keep an old used toothbrush under the bathroom sink to scrub the grout and, in our case, the mildew that forms at the sink basin drain. This is a great way of reusing an item that has plenty of life in it when it isn’t fit for its primary purpose any longer.  The toothbrush is also the perfect size for all the nooks and crannies requiring scrubbing in the bathroom.

I make certain that this toothbrush is a different style than the ones we are currently using to prevent its accidental use.  I can hear you screaming, “Oh no!” through the internet connection.  Yes, my friends, it happened.

A very sleep deprived mother I know brushed her teeth with that very toothbrush last night.  Her spouse was not impressed to say the least.  Horrified is a more apt description of his response.  He was very concerned about what diseases and growths she may have acquired.

Needless to say, the toothbrush of destiny is in the rubbish bin.  Large quantities of Listerine and a prolonged period of tooth brushing later, my spouse might consider kissing me – next  week.



The Well Stocked Kitchen

October 21, 2010

If you keep your kitchen stocked with items that you use on a regular basis, you won’t need to run to the store for just one item, or be in the position of deciding whom to call for take out. For all of the meals that I cook on a regular basis, I keep the basic ingredients on hand. I tend to cook fairly simple meals so it works out well for me, and our budget.

If you write down the meals that you cook frequently, or can tick them off in your head, you should be able to come up with a list of your “staples.” Then watch for these to go on sale and stock up. These sales generally occur every six weeks but are often seasonal, such as BBQ items in the summer. This will allow you to build up your pantry such that you may be able to stretch the frequency you shop at into longer periods.

When we do our (weekly or bi-weekly) grocery shopping at the “Farmer’s Market” which is an international grocery store nearby, I mainly purchase fruits and vegetables. I substitute spaghetti squash for pasta, so you won’t see pasta below.  I do purchase some items at Costco that are cheaper there and over time have come out ahead by limiting what I purchase there, knowing which items are better deals.

Once you have identified your staples list, you can keep a price book so that you can watch for the lowest price of your staples in your  grocery store’s sale cycle.  A price book, however you wish to keep it, either in a small notebook or an Excel spreadsheet, simply tracks what the lowest price is that you have found for a particular staple and where you found it.  Now you will have a benchmark price for future purchases and won’t overspend on maintaining your well stocked kitchen.

Items I always have on hand:

Medium cheddar slices
Shredded sharp cheddar
Shredded Parmesan
Milk (fresh)
Plain yogurt
2 dozen eggs
Peanut butter
Semi-sweet chocolate chips

Chicken broth
Brown rice
Brown rice bread crumbs
Saffron rice
Pepperidge Farm Stuffing (for casserole topping)
Cake flour
Palm shortening
Olive oil
Canola oil
Vinegar (balsamic, cider, white)
White, brown, and powdered  sugar
Coffee (and Coffee Mate for the spouse)
Spices (too prolific to list)
Dried fruits: raisins, dates, unsweetened coconut, mango
Milk (dry, evaporated)
Tinned salmon and sardines
Diced tomatoes
Tomato paste
Dried beans: kidney, chickpeas, black, great northern
Tinned refried beans

(seasonal) figs, strawberries, blueberries
Shredded mozzarella
Corn flour and corn grits
Steel cut oats
Thick rolled oats
Whole wheat flour (bread and pastry)
All purpose flour
3-5 loaves of bread (purchased at the Flowers’ Outlet on $1.00 loaf day)
Mixed veggies
Chicken breasts
Ground beef

Reducing food waste in the kitchen.

October 18, 2010

Chefs will tell you to use absolutely everything and to save all scraps (well, most scraps) for use in stocks and broths.  Now, I don’t make my own stocks as I haven’t been buying whole chickens of late and I’m flat-out tired.  The local source is an hour plus round trip and while that would be great, with three kids in tow and minimal freezer storage space it isn’t realistic.  You can use just about any produce you have lying around, even leftover produce, in soups, quiches or other baked savory items.  The texture change isn’t as noticeable as if you were trying to pass it off in a salad – don’t.

The way that I cut food waste in the kitchen, especially leftovers, is to make sure that I either make people eat them for lunch or plan an evening during the week to have a fridge clean out.  A fridge clean out night is when whatever leftovers are in the fridge are served for dinner or used to make that evening’s dinner.  Leftover rice and assorted veggies can become fried rice.  Leftover chicken and some steamed broccoli can become either a quiche or a pasta dish, and so on and so forth.  You get the idea.

If your family hates leftovers, and some do, try to decrease the yield of your recipes  so that there aren’t any.  Certain things at our home won’t get eaten as leftovers; chili comes to mind.  I may get two dinners out of it or perhaps chili with cornbread one night and chili nachos another, but beyond that it’s hopeless.  Frozen defrosted chili doesn’t go over so well either, so I’ve adapted to making a smaller batch.

Some people have a tendency towards buying anything that looks good at the grocery store or is priced low that particular week, unfortunately this can eat a hole in your budget if the food ends up wilting and being thrown away.  Either plan your menus around what you buy, or plan your menus before you buy!  I plan ahead, but I do my menus in pencil so I can adjust as needed and don’t have lots of chicken scratch all over my monthly planner.

If you have leftover fruit, look into either putting it into smoothies or crumbles/brown betties/cobblers.  You can also make some great breads out of leftover produce, such as zuccini, banana or various nut breads.

Fall Vegetables – Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes

October 17, 2010

Butternut Squash Pie – Two Variations

Last year there was a canned pumpkin shortage, which prompted some new pie recipes.  Locally, I have always found sugar pie pumpkins substantially more expensive and more difficult to find, even in season, than butternut or delicata squash.  I usually don’t buy the canned stuff and instead substitute butternut squash.  I have detailed below the two recipes that I have developed that mimic pumpkin pie in taste and consistency.  Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Pie With Coconut Pecan Topping

1 pie crust*

1 medium butternut squash (cooked, flesh separated)**

3 eggs

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/3 cup honey or maple syrup

1.5 teaspoons  fresh grated ginger

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1/2 cup pecans

3/4 cup unsweetened finely shredded coconut

1/3 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place pie crust in pie plate.  In a food processor, chop up pecans.  Add remaining topping ingredients to mix briefly; set aside.  In a KitchenAid mixer with the whisk attachment, mash the butternut squash (discard the seeds and shell prior!!).  Add the remaining filling ingredients and pour into your pie plate.  Evenly spread topping over filling and bake.  Pie is done when filling puffs a bit and is firm not readily jiggling – 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cool on a wire rack.  Place in refrigerator and serve cold.

*I usually use Martha Stewart’s pate brise made with whole wheat pastry flour.

**Lazy way to cook squash.  Pierce skin10 times, cook on high 5 minutes.  Flip.  Cook on high 5 minutes.  Cool so you can handle, then slice in half and separate the flesh from the seeds/shell.

Butternut and Sweet Potato Pie With Graham Crust


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a food processor, combine 1 sleeve graham crackers, 1/3 cup pecans, 6 tablespoons melted butter, and 1/4 honey (or sugar).  Press mixture into a 9 inch pie plate and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned.  Watch carefully as browning may take as little as 5 to as long as 10 minutes, depending on your oven.


3 medium baked sweet potatoes (skins removed, pulp only)

1 small or 1/2 medium butternut squash OR 2 small delicata squash, (cooked, flesh separated)

1/4 cup honey

2 eggs

1.5 teaspoons  fresh grated ginger

1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine sweet potatoes and squash in KitchenAid mixer with whisk attachment.  Add remaining filling ingredients and thoroughly combine.  Pour into crust and and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes until the center is set.  Cool on wire rack then refrigerate.  Serve cold.

Desperation breeds ingenuity.

October 12, 2010

The short version.

In the weeks leading up to the birth of our third child, our eldest child became inconsolable at night with frequent night waking and restrooms breaks to the tune of every three to five minutes. Yes, it was a long few weeks. We finally broke down. Two nights ago after we had tried everything I had a brainstorm. I’ve posted before that we have a very small miniature dachshund. His name is Skippy and he is partially blind and suffers from disc disease. My idea was to pay my eldest five cents (Go big spender!) for the job of  keeping the dog tucked under the covers with her so that he didn’t get lost, fall down the stairs in the dark, or wander the house.  None of these things is likely, aside from perhaps the dog walking into a wall.  However, it’s been working.

The lead up.
We had discussed with her why she was doing this. We had redone the evening routine. We had actively spent more time with her during the day. We had given her extra bedtime tuck-ins. We had eliminated television, much to a small Dinosaur Train fan’s dismay. In response to concerns about her younger brother, we had revamped our diet, again, to 98% whole foods based. Nothing. What we had was a screaming, body flinging, throwing things, beating the walls, crazy child. It reminded me of the stories of Fairie where a fairy who has lusted after a real child as children are not common in Fairie trade one of the Fairie creatures magically endowed to look human. Of course, these creatures, also known as changelings, aren’t human and they are holy terrors.  Now I don’t believe in magical creatures, but people, I was on the brink in dealing with this problem.

The resolution.

Returning our eldest to our bed simply wasn’t an option.  She needs her sleep, and honestly I’m loathe to have anyone else in my bed at this point.  After bed sharing for five years and after two years having four people in my bed, and a small dachshund, I have come to appreciate the vast wonderful acres of my king size bed.  The newborn bounces between our bed and the crib, depending on the time of day.  I’m up nursing repeatedly during the night and the new baby has a two-hour “awake” period that isn’t conducive to anyone else’s sleep.  In our frazzled state, we had tried everything and nothing was working.  I was beginning to think we were going to go insane between the newborn’s sleep schedule and our eldest’s complete lack thereof.  I’m not sure how I came up with this plan, but it’s been working.  I went to the bank yesterday and picked up a roll of nickels for payment.  The middle child also has a “job”.  His job is to stay in his bed.  He already does this, so it’s easy money for him but he desperately wanted a job too.  I can afford a nickel, and he’s sleeping through the night.  Enough said!  While we were at the bank, the branch manager gave the children free piggy banks (score!) to store their earnings.  I had contemplated how we were going to make attractive banks from pint jars; problem solved.

Now, if only our youngest would realize that being awake during the day was worthwhile.  He is a very sleepy little bear and we’ve done all the tricks such as lots of daylight and keeping him nearby in our activities.  Two down, one to go.

A joyous new arrival.

October 10, 2010

It has been a very busy seven days in the DQ household.

I had our third child at home last Saturday morning after a somewhat unusual labor pattern (but it’s apparently my very own strange pattern so I will claim it).  Unlike most ladies, I am blessed with a tendency towards having contractions that are six minutes apart or longer and never actually get any closer and then I’m pushing!  Of course, said pattern would deem me failure to progress in a hospital setting so I’m glad that I have the support and access to midwives to be able to birth my children at home.

Aside, our third is a wonderful and cute little boy whom his brother and sister adore.  Our dachshund alerts us if anything is amiss, which is amusing given that the dog is blind and has back trouble but he tries desperately to alert us anyways.  Cute enough to make me contemplate a fourth – even the midwife laughed at that with the memory of labor pains so fresh.  No rainbows and unicorns there, or “orgasmic birth” either, just pain.  Ah well, God warned us clearly about that didn’t he!

I have been successfully continuing to cook since the little one’s arrival.  I have never been happier or more grateful for my freezer stash, which is slowly being whittled down.  Fortunately everyone has enjoyed the meals from the stash.  I will be trying a new recipe this morning care of Earthbound Farms titled Oatmeal, Carrot, and Apple Breakfast Squares.  In addition, Earthbound Farms is currently running a contest for their new cookbook, The Earthbound Cook.  Enter here.   *The squares were very tasty (and sweet!) but are more of a spice cake.  I omitted the flax, added an egg, increased the cinnamon, and increased the cook time by 15 minutes.  These would benefit from replacement of refined sugar in the actual “cake” with a combination of honey and maple syrup although I would leave the sugar in the topping.

Here’s what we’ve been eating so far this month (if I can remember breakfast it’s typed out first):

1        Italian breaded baked chicken (marinate overnight in Italian dressing, drain, bread, bake), with brown rice, peas, corn, and cranberry sauce

2        Domino’s

3        Mother-in-law provided roasted shredded turkey, steamed potatoes and veggies and cupcakes/ice cream cake

4        Chicken pot pie

5        Kale with white beans, brown rice

6        Swedish meatballs, brown rice, peas

7        Spaghetti squash with red sauce (leftover turkey, broccoli florets)

8        Oatmeal; Leftover squash and sauce

9        Cheese eggs on toast (by spouse); Pizza

10    French toast; Broccoli chicken casserole

11    Oatmeal, Carrot and Apple Breakfast squares

I finally made it to the market yesterday and bought an inordinate amount of produce so we will be happily gorging on some wonderful things the rest of the week, including my favorite sweet potato and butternut squash pie (my recipe – will try to post).  I also hit the bakery outlet and saved a solid $20 on eight loaves of bread as it was $1 afternoon; they are closed on Sundays.

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

September 26, 2010

Chicken Broccoli Casserole

  • 1.5 pounds cooked chicken, chopped
  • 2 medium sized heads of broccoli (chopped and steamed) or 1 large bag of broccoli frozen, thawed
  • 1 can broccoli cheese soup
  • 1/3 cup milk or heavy cream
  • 6 drops hot sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • Pepperidge Farm stuffing for top (1/2 – 3/4 cup)

Place chicken and broccoli in an oven safe casserole dish.  Top with cheese.  In a mixing cup, combine soup, milk, garlic and hot sauce.  Pour into casserole dish.  Top with bread crumbs.  Bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbly 35-45 minutes.

If freezing, add crumb topping later.  When ready to bake, thaw in fridge overnight and place in cold oven.  Add 10-15 extra minutes to allow oven to thoroughly preheat.  If you place  a cold casserole dish into a hot oven, it can crack.