Sunday, December 6, 2009

Silly, I know

I know no one reads this anymore, but I can't let Bison Shepherd Pie be the very last post ever. I just can't.


Do I do normal perfectly? Not so sure, but I do try!

Today's 'cupcake gathering' was the perfect example.

I had the boys invite two each friends from school. I then invited my neighbors. What I didn't anticipate?

Well, maybe if anyone reads this blog, and actually wants to find out... I might write it.

At least though, Bison Shepherd Pie isn't the last post!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mmmm Bison Shepherd Pie

I've got a thing for Shepherd's Pie, and I'm always trying to mix it up. Just like Rachel Ray. Only not as perkily.

One of the problems in my house is that for great Shepherd's Pie, you normally need left over roast, lamb, beef, turkey or er, Tofu, if you're a vegetarian.

Please, though, I wouldn't suggest trying to make it with Tofu.

The point is, we never have left over meat. Ever. I've got two hobbits,carnivorous husband who must have red meat or he'll die, and a growing daughter who shares her father's love of red meat.

But, I was inspired today.

Three things happened.

One) Paula Deen made some mouth-watering Shepherd's Pie.
Two) I have Bison
Three) I own a crock pot.

Sooo, we can't have Shepherd's Pie tonight, but tomorrow, it's all good. Here's my take on my recipe, using some of Paula Deen's twists:

Mashed Potatoes (Mash em yourself, and be sure to use Russets)
Frozen Peas
Frozen Carrots
Frozen whatever vegetable you want in place of peas/carrots
Seriously, ANYTHING goes
Cooked Bison Roast
Bisquick mix (thanks, Paula Deen!)

Day One:
So, take your bison roast, dump it in the crock pot. Add a cup of liquid (I used coffee) and a beef broth cube.
Put on low.
Cook on slow for 8-10 hours.
Let cool. Shred. Refrigerate until time to make the pie.

Making the Shepherd's Pie:

1) Mash the potatoes (Potatoes, butter, 1/2 cup of sour cream, you know what to do)
2) Put mashed potatoes in bottom of baking pan.
3) Layer bison roast that has been sitting in the fridge just waiting for the day you didn't want to cook much.
4) Cover with vegetables.
5) Pour Bisquick over the vegetables.
6) Bake until done (everything is heated and bisquick looks like a yummy crust)

This is a yummy idea. Trust me. And to prove it, when it's all done, there will be photos! And if you don't like Bison, well, there's pork, beef, lamb, venison, turkey and sausage!

Saving Money

I have three jobs. Two of them are kind of crappy. I keep them because the main job doesn't pay on time, and I can't exactly buy groceries with "no, really, the check will clear tomorrow."

It's kind of sucking away my energy to blog, but the real mojo-killer is the fact that I'm freaking lucky to have ANY job in this economy, let alone a patchwork quilt of jobs that lets me stay home with the little man. But at the end of the day, I have very little energy for creativity.

All of my creativity is going towards keeping the grocery bill under control. When I started food shopping for me and the mate in 2002, I spent fifty bucks every two weeks. Now less food is over a hundred every two weeks! And in 2002, if it wasn't finished and ready for the microwave, I didn't buy it. I kept dog biscuits in the kitchen canisters, because I sure as hell never bought flour or sugar. Not just any dog biscuits, either, the meat flavored brand name biscuits.

So I am totally cranky about my Mature Adult Virtue costing more money. Stupid economy ruins everything.

Here's what we've done so far:

- Cut the non-grocery items. Man, I did not quite grasp how much non-food stuff I was buying at Safeway until I stopped. Firewood, food storage, greeting cards, kitchen gadgets - all of it marked up to the rafters and unnecessary to boot. These things still occasionally jump into my cart, but I glare at them until they jump back out. I mean, a doodad that will dice a whole onion with two chops would be so awesome. However, it is twelve dollars we do not have, whereas I do have a set of knives.

- Coupons and club cards. I've used these for years, but it's amazing how much awesome you can get if you're diligent, and ONLY buy things you would have bought anyway. My mate and I love hot links and kielbasa. When the club card has a buy one get one free special, well, that's what the freezer is for. And the dogs don't seem to give a damn that their biscuits are generic or purchased only with half off coupons.

- Costco. I still need soap and laundry detergent, and if I'm not buying them from the grocery store, they have to come from somewhere. After surveying the options (Target, Walmart, Costco), Costco won. You need to be strong, and out of three trips, I've only made it out with JUST the items on my list once. A friend called it the Four Hundred Dollar Milk store. You go in for milk, you leave with a TV and a fake fur blanket. I comfort myself knowing that I haven't done too badly - my impulse grabs were tubs of pumpkin bisque soup that ended up serving as eight delicious hot lunches for five bucks, and a pumpkin cheesecake, twelve servings for eight bucks. But random pumpkin purchases aside, the membership fee has already been worth it in terms of the savings on a lot of staples - paper towels, TP, potatoes, detergent, bread, cheese, rice, beans, cereal, cooking spices, and pasta.

- Use less crap. I thought I was pretty good - I use plastic grocery bags as trash can and diaper pail liners, and when I've got a good stock of bags, I use canvas sacks to shop with - and not ones I bought, either, ones I collected over years of being a swag magnet. I use sponges instead of paper towels unless the thing I'm wiping up is totally disgusting, like dog pee. Clothes are not necessarily dirty after being worn. Toilet paper... you know what, there are some things you just use as much as you need to use. Anyway. I thought I was good, but you can REALLY go far without any lifestyle sacrifices. Sandwich bags can be reused. Baby food jars can store a lot of things. Tupperware bowls that leak are good toys. My grandfather used to chant "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." I thought he was nuts. I was wrong.

- Learn to cook. This was the hard one for me, the queen of "microwave for two minutes, stirring after 45 seconds." My husband is a brilliant natural cook, something he didn't know until I gave birth and suddenly it was cook or starve. I had partially stocked the freezer with Let's Dish food, but the baby was two weeks early. But he's got a long commute and I don't, so I feel better if I do the bulk of the food prep. I totalled up the costs of microwave Indian food and realized we simply couldn't keep doing it.

I'd been taking baby steps - baking squash, stir fries, jambalaya, cookouts. Last week I went TOTALLY INSANE and tried making chana masala from scratch. And, um, it was awesome. It was one million times better than the frozen chana masala (nine dollars, two "entrees"). There were six servings. Admittedly, buying the spices and making tamarind puree was a little steep in money and time, but I've got enough stuff on hand now to make this dish several dozen times over. All I'll need to buy now for each new potfull are the dried chickpeas - under two dollars for the size bag I need.

It's funny, but I was feeling really bitchy when I started this post, and now I'm feeling terribly accomplished and fortunate. Who knew it would take a recession and a baby to make me grow up?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

He made PBJ

It's not a big thing, really. He's almost five. He's asked a few times beforehand, and I believe in self-sufficiency.

It wasn't the sandwich, dreadfully mangled, that got to me.
It wasn't sticky grape jelly on a little hand clutching a butter knife.
It wasn't the patience he exhibited moving the jelly from the jar to the bread one small, tiny bit of jelly at a time.

It was the enthusiasm, the excitement, the smile, and the commentary.

Look mom! I'll get the Peanut Butter and Jelly! and off he went to the refrigerator.
Is this the jelly? He asks, holding up a bottle of Masala paste.
But this is the Peanut Butter?
Yes, but the jelly is on the next shelf up.
Oh, this isn't jelly. I'll put this back.

Then it was his getting the stool, so he could help.
And he was talking to me about it. About how he could make his peanut butter and jelly and use the butter knife, and just spread the jelly, but it's not coming out a lot, he explained. So it was taking some time.

Just this one, dull moment did it. One small thing in a day full of small things.
My little boy and his little hands and his big enthusiasm.

And I just wanted to hug him tight, and kiss him, and say oh, my boy, but I didn't, because it was just peanut butter and jelly, and that's not what he wanted anyhow.

So I said 'good job' and ruffled his hair, and watched him as he took off with his sandwich.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Teeth In The Right Wrong Order

There's a little chart that says when teeth come in, and in what order.

Tragically, I cannot read.

I thought it was bottom middle (got them), top middle (got them), bottom lateral incisor, top lateral incisor, canines, molars.

When our son just lost his SHIT in the middle of the night two nights ago, we did the routine we call "running the checklist."

Gas bubble in need of burping?
Anything pinching or poking?
Wants milk?
Wants to be walked?
Any new swollen spots on the gums? (Please note, on this last one, he's been resisting our fingers in his mouth, so we only check the spot where teeth are supposed to be cutting through next.)

Nothing worked. When I offered milk, he bit the holy ever loving crap out of me. He was so exhausted that he was screaming with his eyes closed and his head buried in Daddy's neck. He finally collapsed, utterly worn out, being rocked in my arms.

Last night he slept like an angel, but today he was a fussbudget from the minute he whined himself awake, and who skipped his morning nap. When I went to fetch a mercifully happy baby from his afternoon nap, I took advantage of the giggles to play with him. With his mouth wide open, I saw it.

A big lateral incisor... on top? What? That wasn't next! And from the size of it, it must have cut through... two nights ago. Oh. Some Tylenol or ice might have been nice instead of, oh, letting him suffer.

No wonder people have two kids. You just desperately want to raise a kid without screwing up the way you did with the first one.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tips for an Easier Christmas Morning

The dreaded wire-ties. If you have a child and have bought them a toy from a regular store, you know why I dread wire-ties.

My inlaws like to buy Fisher Price toys for my daughter, particularly the Little People. That's great, and they're fun toys, but it's usually very frustrating for my daughter because she'll open the present in 5 seconds and then have to wait 45 minutes for me to actually remove the product from the twist ties, wires, strings, cardboard, plastic and reinforced steel that toy companies use in their packaging.

Seriously, what is the purpose? Was there such a rash of shoplifting Little People that they have to practically glue them into the box now? On Christmas Eve when I'm frantically wrapping all of the presents I thought I could get ready in under an hour (ha!) I have been taking presents out of their packaging so that the magic of Christmas morning isn't interrupted by needle-nose pliers and a blowtorch.

There are a couple of ways you can avoid having to do all of the unpackaging yourself:

1 - Amazon Frustration-Free Packaging! Yes, there were already so many reasons to love Amazon, and now here's one more. They are on a campaign to reduce packaging for the products they carry. This year they have a very limited number of toys and items that will come with minimal packaging. If any of these things are on your shopping list I hope you'll buy them from Amazon to send a message to manufacturers.

2 - Buy secondhand: someone else already did all of the unwrapping and assembling. I know a lot of people don't feel it's right to give a child a second-hand toy as a gift. Some of my friends have said that it would make them feel like a bad parent, or like the child might think they didn't love them. I think that's so interesting. Because the kids I've known don't care whether something is new or not, so long as it's all there and looks good and works. And if buying second-hand means mom and dad have money to spend on MORE presents, they're even happier.

Not only are these both great ways to save yourself a lot of unhappy Christmas morning (or Eve) unpackaging, they both eliminate some of the holiday waste destined for our landfills.

I'd love to hear any other tips you have for avoiding the wire-tie blues!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Long Live the Retail Season

It starts with Halloween.
It ends with the January sales.

All hail the Retail Season.
Happy Halloween.
Halloween is over.
Long live Halloween.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Merry Christmas.
Christmas is over.
Long live Christmas.
Happy New Year.
New Year is over.
Long live New Year.
Happy January sales bonanza.
January sales bonanza is over.
The retail season is dead.
All hail the retail season.