Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Crockpot Lentil Soup

I've mentioned lentil soup before, but I never included a real recipe.  For me, lentil soup was one of those things that I just made up as I went along.  As long as I had enough liquid and water, add a few veggies, it all worked out.  I remember we had an Italian babysitter our first summer in Galveston - she would make this soup and it was like a warm hug.  Even in June we loved it.
I found a recipe to act as a kind of framework for a really good pot of soup, and while I know it isn't exactly soup weather, we could all use a little comfort right now.  Not to mention that it was a thrifty meal that will serve us several times and almost always tastes better the next day or two!
So here is what you do:
Goodbye, crockpot, I have to go to work...

Crockpot Lentil Soup
4 c. broth*
1 can diced tomatoes, juice and all
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 medium celery stalk, chopped (I used the leaves, too!)
1 c. dry lentils (I had Red Crimson)
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. salt
1 T. ketchup
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. each cumin and paprika
{Oh yes - I also added a cup or so of some chopped ham, but feel free to either leave out meat, or add whatever you like.  Link sausage, smoked turkey, etc.  All good!}
Dump everything into the crockpot and cook on low for at least 10 hours.  Fish out the bay leaf and serve soup with some rolls or garlic toast.  Freezes well.
*For the "broth" - I had plenty of juice left from a pork roast I cooked the day before, so I saved it for this soup.  But I also had some chicken stock in the fridge, and those two things combined was 4 cups of liquid.  Use whatever you have!  Crockpot soup can be a little bit different every time you make it.  Maybe you'll have green lentils.  Maybe no celery.  Use purple onion instead of white or yellow.  Try Rotel instead of plain tomatoes. Don't sweat it if you leave the cumin out.  Its going to be delicious either way.
Like a hug in a bowl.


Gina

*shared with 
Miz Helen's Country Cottage

Monday, April 27, 2020

Empty Nest Menu #36

Deep breaths...
Monday - Slow Cooker Lentil Soup, cresent rolls {off today, working on the yards}
Tuesday - Casserole in a Jiffy, chard {cook pork roast in the crock pot for two meals}
Wednesday - Jamaican Rice and Beans*, cabbage and carrots 
Thursday - Slow Cooker Queso Chicken Tacos, lettuce, some leftover pico from last night
Friday - Baked Beans and Hamburger* (might make with ground turkey), zucchini
Saturday - Eat at Highlands - Rotisserie chicken, Copper Pennies {wine club pick-up at 7 Creeks}
Sunday - Freezer meal - I've got an extra Penne Pasta with meat sauce OR Doritos Cheesy Chicken Casserole, and we will have a fresh veggie with it

No grocery shopping this week which thrills me no end!

******
Here are two comfort food recipes I have been making for years!

*Jamaican Rice and Beans - Stir 1 1/2 c. diced leftover pork roast into prepared rice and beans.  Top with your own homemade pico de gallo, or a mixture of mango, cilantro, and red onion.

*Baked Beans and Hamburger - Brown 1 pound of ground beef with 1/4 pound of diced raw bacon.  Drain the fat off.  Add 1 small chopped onion, 2 cans of pork and beans, 1 can of drained diced tomatoes, 1/4 c. each of brown sugar and ketchup.  Simmer on the stove at low heat, covered, for about and hour and serve with garlic bread. (you can use ground turkey in this, too)



Gina

Friday, April 24, 2020

The new normal

The new normal does not feel normal to me.  I am trying hard not to fall into despair, but it is so. very. hard.  I think its that way for a lot of people, not just me.  And I plan on staying strong for my family's sake - as much mentally as physically.  But honestly, this year feels like a tire fire on Garbage Island.  And when will it end?  Who knows.  We may get a two month reprieve before the zombie apocalypse begins all over again.  And I MISS my peeps so much.


Our new schedule:  I get up and make coffee.  Hubby sits in the front room and has the Google Lady tell him all the bad news to start his day while I check my email.  I do chores, meal prep, fix lunches for us both.  Then he sits at his desk and starts work while I get ready to go to mine.  Eight hours later  (if I am not sent home early or have my shift cancelled), I come home, remove my shoes at the door, bleach wipe my keys and the doorknobs, shower, heat up my dinner, and try to decompress.  On the way home I likely called my mother or my daughter.  There is virtually no traffic either way.  I am in bed by 10 p.m.  Weekends we pick up beer, head to Highlands, putsey around and do small projects, make up a firepit, eat some take-out and drink said beer, sleep in on Sunday.  Putsey more, eat more, drink wine, drive home, make dinner, go to bed and get ready for Monday.  It could be worse I guess.
  *knocks on wood*  
But I am so over this new normal.


Gina

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Weekend isolating re-cap

 I don't want to make it sound as though I don't miss my peeps - I do.  I don't hear from them near enough and this week I have decided to stop texting them, unless they text me first.  Fair is fair.  And communication works both ways.  I'm sure they are trying to move through life the best they can and they don't need reminders from Mom and Dad so I am not sweating it....
Friday night saw us replacing our kitchen faucet.  I'm lucky that Hubby has a lot of general know-how and can do most home fixits.  But it was stressful, none-the-less. There was a lot of cussing involved.  We ate dinner and crashed.
The next morning I made us a good breakfast and packed up food for two lunches and a dinner, and we were off to Highlands. 
(Every weekend seems rainy or overcast!) There had been a pretty big storm the previous weekend.  We had some things to clear out of the storage unit, including a bunch of leftover supplies from the barn build-out that had managed to grow an impressive amount of mold.  (we will have to build up the gravel floor in the storage unit a bit more!)
red "bonnets"
{Insert dramatic "things going to hell" music}  Turned out that the lightening strike from a couple of weeks prior had shut down the pump.  (We didn't discover it until Hubby took a shower.)  After much googling  we were beyond relieved to discover that it was likely a $150 repair versus thousands for the actual well pump repair.
 A new pumpsaver is on order.  Crisis averted.
 This is some sort of spider web - they are all over the place
The rest of the weekend passed without incident.  We burned some stuff in the burn barrel.  Put the registration tags on Mabel and the trailer.
We enjoyed a firepit with some tasty beer, and a delicious dinner of roast pork from Easter. 
We admired the barn owl house, hoping for future residents (and sunnier days).  And we added some pegboard hooks to the kitchen wall in the barn and organized some schtuff.
 Come Sunday, the sun did make its way out and we got to bask in it a bit.  We stayed well past our usual go time and headed home very late.  And now here we are at Wednesday and here is my list of To-Do's for the day:
*grocery shop  ):
*make a pie with some wrinkly apples
*pick up a burger for lunch
*do some ironing
*work on the photo project 
*vac out the car and truck
*change the sheets
*clean the floors
*use my newly acquired Magic Erasers 
*read my book, maybe do some stitching


Happy Hump Day!


Gina

Monday, April 20, 2020

Empty Nest Menu #35

I wish I could recommend Imperfect Foods - I have enjoyed getting things that make dinners interesting and healthy.  But like so many places out there right now, they are scrambling to keep up with demand and the cracks are showing.  {missing items I am charged for - so not cool}
Since I am loathe to go to HEB more than is absolutely necessary,  I think for this round of menus, we will eat mostly from our pantry and freezer.  I'm just feeding two people and we aren't all that picky.  I can pause our delivery for a week if they are still out of so many things.
******
Monday - Shrimp Burgers with sliced tomato and purple onion, coleslaw {order my produce box}
Tuesday - Gnocci with link sausage and marinara (didn't make this last week), frozen mixed veggies
Wednesday - Pot of Pinto Beans with smoked turkey leg, corn muffins
Thursday - Farro Skillet with tomatoes, corn, bell pepper, ham
Friday - Ranch Chicken Salad in pita pockets, Fritos I found in the pantry!, sliced purple onion, fresh fruit
Saturday - Take-out and I'm going to have to brave the grocery store for next week
Sunday - Pesto Tilapia, seasoned rice, peas and carrots
Dessert this week is Apple Pie



Gina

Friday, April 17, 2020

5 thing Friday - dryer, haircut, candles, pie crust, garden

A couple of weeks ago, (the 10 years old at least) dryer failed.  Long story short:  Since the appliance repair guy didn't want to come to the house, Hubby googled around, figured out what was most likely the case, then fixed it.
Its also handy that, since he used to be an electrician, he was able to diagnose a corresponding problem with the breaker, too.  We estimate it would have cost $180 minimum for the dryer issue alone.  Our cost was around $60.  BOOM.  A dryer is a nice thing to have when the weather is rainy...
I need a haircut so badly.  Maybe because it is getting too long, but it seems thinner to me.  I would love to go back to short hair someday, but for now, pulling it back into a pony tail for work is a must.
I ordered two scented pillar candles from Kohl's and got an amazing deal - $29 worth of candles for $7 with free shipping and Rakuten points.  But when they arrived they were a hot mess.  Literally.
They were sent in an unpadded plastic envelope and had obviously been banged around in a warm delivery truck long enough to warp.  You cannot reach a human at their customer service number and all of their stores are closed.  I feel annoyed with Kohl's.  One of these days, I will find two decent pillar candles to replace these.
I FINALLY found flour and Crisco at HEB and bought it immediately to make a batch of homemade pie crusts.  Quiche was had for Easter morning and there are enough packages of crusts in the freezer to make many pies and quiches in the future.
The Healing Garden at work continues to be a lunchtime respite for me.  The weather is warming but it is still a million times better to sit out there compared to our breakroom at work.  People nerves seem to be getting more frayed by the day.  Its hard not to get into an argument when you are feeling stretched past your breaking point.
I am suggesting a lunchtime garden break to every co-worker I can.


Gina

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Easter 2020

Since the Cannarys are all still staying "socially" distant (is that even really a thing with your family members?), I devised a menu and a plan to take Easter dinner to my peeps that live in Austin.  {Since I couldn't include The Girl, I ordered her a pretty sussie to be delivered to her this week} 
I saw these lidded to-go food containers and thought they would be perfect for packaging up some goodies.  They are re-useable and less pricey than the Rubbermaid containers.
My plan also involved these insulated bags that I get in my Imperfect Foods boxes.
I made a list and headed to the store on Friday, then spent Saturday morning cooking up a storm.
I made enough food for 4 hungry people, with leftovers to spare.  After they cooled on the table, I stored them in the fridge and set about writing the instructions for heating them up. I included this letter: 

******
Happy Easter!

We miss all of you, but want you to be safe and keep “social distancing” for a little while longer – this too shall pass.  When all of this is done, we will plan a family get together with good food and good times.  Until then, please keep taking good care of yourselves!  On the menu today is:  BBQ Pork Chops, Arkansas Green Beans, Honey Carrots, and rolls.  Please enjoy some Strawberry Wine, too!  Heat the containers gently in the microwave, venting the covers.  The containers can be re-used; wash on top rack of dishwasher.  Here are the recipes if you like the dishes:

BBQ Pork Chops (these are stewed in a skillet)
Brown some pork rib chops in a little oil, medium heat, seasoning both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder, etc.  The first time you turn them over, add one onion, chopped to the skillet.  While you wait for the second side to brown, mix up a cup or so of ketchup with worchestershire, mustard, brown sugar, and a little BBQ sauce.  (or you can just use BBQ sauce by itself!)  Pour that over the chops and stew for about 45 minutes on low, covered, until meat is very tender.

Arkansas Green Beans (half the recipe if you don't want a ton of leftovers)
Put 5 cans of drained green beans in a casserole dish.  Mix up 2/3 c. brown sugar, ½ stick of melted butter, 7 t. soy sauce, 1 ½ t garlic powder and pour over the beans.  Cook 7 slices of bacon and chop up; stir into the beans.  Cook on the stovetop, covered, until hot and bubbly, stirring now and then.  (this time I used frozen beans so I cooked them longer.  I cooked the bacon covered in the microwave for about three minutes, then chopped it up)

Honey Carrots
Peel and slice one pound of carrots.  Add to a covered saucepan with a couple tablespoons butter, a couple tablespoons honey, salt, pepper, maybe a little ginger or cinnamon.  Cook on low, stirring every now and then until carrots are tender.

 We love you very much,


Mom and Slap Daddy Mac (aka Dad- his signature, no kidding)
******
On Sunday morning I packaged up the meal containers, a bottle of Strawberry wine, some Easter candy, and a pretty cross ornament.  Then we headed over to their respective apartments for the drop off - "Meals on Wheels" remarked Firstborn.  We chatted a little out in the parking lot at each one's place, then headed home to Bubbie home for the day.  (how you gonna say no to a 21 year old with no where to go but home on Easter?)
The three of us enjoyed a delicious meal of pork roast, loaded mashed potatoes, honey carrots, rolls, and honey butter.  We capped it off with a small white wine port.  It was a very different Easter.  There hasn't been just three of us since Easter of  1991.  
And since I was also on call for the day, and we couldn't go anywhere, it made me feel a little blue.  But better times are coming.  And I'm hoping next Easter will be different.


Gina

Monday, April 13, 2020

Empty Nest Menu #34

Back to our veggie-centric meals!
Monday - Gnocchi and Sausage with homemade marinara, brussel sprouts {order produce box, Austin's shelter in place order ends?}
Tuesday - Doritos Cheesy Chicken Casserole, steamed broccoli
Wednesday - Pita Sammies, avocado and orange salad
Thursday - Weinie Beanie with bell peppers and onions, garlic toast (Hubby's request!) {my last day of on-call}
Friday - Take-out (maybe some fried chicken with a side of squash cooked at home, and some coleslaw)
Saturday - Beef Goulash with fresh tomatoes and onions, Honey Carrots
Sunday - Quiche Lorraine, skillet potatoes, steamed kale



Gina

Friday, April 10, 2020

5 thing Friday - painting, cooking, lifting, snacking, work

Life goes on.
I finally did get all of the paint touch-ups done and both of the green accent walls repainted last weekend.  I still need a piece of art for this green wall and I need to figure out what to do with these candlesticks.  I scrounged around and found two white pillars that do not match and after that I let it drop.  Other fish to fry.
 Once a week or so I make a breakfast that involves a fried egg on top and it is delightful.  But I am still doing well on eating oatmeal and trying to make healthy choices with food overall.  I think that sticking to our healthy routines at home are key to how well we cope with adversity outside of home.
 Dinners have still had lots of fresh veggies, and in the case of my stir fry, lean ground turkey.  I have tried to cook things that appeal to all three of us and still be somewhat healthful.  Plus easy.  And cheap.
Wednesday are for wine!  But a side of kale and some chickpea salad still count as "on track".  As of this writing, Bubbie is back to San Marcos, and my grocery bill should go back to normal, although I think Hubby and I will still eat take-out once or twice a week to give me a break from cooking, mainly.
 I found a sweet printable at Do It on a Dime and added it to one of my now-empty frames in the guest bathroom.  Its was a crappy "Spring Break" for Bubbie, stuck at home with his parents, socially distancing himself.  I imagine its hard on all of the 20 somethings, but a good lesson for them in many ways.
The motherlode of the greatest pretzel ever.  And about 3 bucks cheaper than you can get them at Ace Hardware!  I bought a bag for my kid to take back to his apartment and I think I may have to go back and get some for us!  Or maybe take a bag to my co-workers.
We didn't sign up to be "heroes" - we're like anyone else who goes to work daily to earn a living for our families.  We're all trying to be safe and do things the right way - we wanted to work in healthcare because it felt right.  And we are staying because we still think it does, even when it doesn't.  Does that make sense?


Gina

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

I made my own bleach wipes

One of my favorite You Tubers had a short piece about making your own bleach wipes for wiping down surfaces.  It looked simple and I had all of the stuff, but it didn't quite work out for us.  The paper towels I had on hand were very cheap so they pretty much fell apart when you used them.  I wanted to have something in the kitchen that Hubby and Bubby could use to wipe things down now and again - countertops, knobs, etc.  Then I thought:  why not just use my regular cleaning rags with some bleach??
 I've been buying white towels for years - its so much easier to disinfect them by adding bleach to the wash.  When the towels are worn out, I cut them into squares and zig zag the edges on my sewing machine.  They last a loooong time and I use a couple of them per day just cleaning around the house.  Once a week or so I wash them all in hot water and bleach.  They never stink and they clean far better than paper towels!
I folded up about 10 of them and placed them in this vintage Tupperware tub.  Made a 10% (or so) bleach solution and poured it slowly in over the towels.  Then put the lid back on and set them out on the counter.  I grab one each night after I clean the kitchen and I wipe everything down, which is helpful since we have white laminate counters.  Pretty frugal as I have plenty of bleach and white rags!


Gina

Monday, April 6, 2020

Less Empty Nest Menu #33

Seriously...freaking out will do you harm, too...

Monday - Ranch Pork Chops, broccoli, small baked sweet potato {order my veggie box}
Tuesday - Pot of Beans in Crockpot, cornbread
Wednesday - Lemon Garlic Chicken, skinny mashed potatoes, kale
Thursday - Parmesan Tilapia, sauteed snap peas
Friday - Red Beans and Rice with Ham, salad {I'm on call for the next 7 days}
Saturday - Take-out {stay busy around the house...}
Sunday - Easter for two {not sure yet what}
Dessert this week is Strawberry Skillet Cake with Redi-Whip



Gina

Friday, April 3, 2020

5 thing Friday - beans, signs, tote bag, spam, weekends

The last time I went grocery shopping I thought I would pick up a few extra bags of dried beans.  {We love them in the crockpot}  No beans to be had.  Until I came to the end of an aisle and saw this:
Bless HEB's heart.  They don't even have time or space to stack things where they go - they just make a display where they can, and it looks like giant bags o beans will be the norm now.  Oh, and a crap ton of sugary cereal to balance it all out... 
We have a doctor at work that is AFRAID.  All of us need to be diligent, yes, but do we also have to post signs on our doors and hide?  Why would you go into the medical field if you are so afraid of germs?  Shoulda studied something else.  My guess is that after this, we will continue to avoid her.
The strap on the Vera Bradley tote I was using for work finally gave out.  I have others to use, but this one was a gift from a friend.  My work tote is doing heavy duty nowadays and I probably overloaded it.
Speaking of said friend, she informed me she refuses to eat Spam*.  I find it amusing that HEB is also stocking truckloads of the stuff, randomly around the store.  I had loads of potatoes and a few carrots to use up, so I made scalloped potatoes and added in some Spam and some cheddar.  It made a delish dinner and a fine lunch al fresco at work.
I ordered the letters for the sign at the entrance to our POA from a favorite Etsy shop and received it within a couple of days.  So we made a trip up there last Saturday to put them up, sit and admire bluebonnets, and drink beer.  It was a welcome break!
Since I am typing this on Monday, I can't know how the week will progress, but I am just going to hunker down and make it through.  I have some good meals planned, all of my scrubs are clean and smell pretty, and the house is clean.  And I am looking forward to another weekend, even more now than ever!
Hooray for making it through March!


Gina


*I mean, if you like hot dogs or baloney, its basically the same thing...

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Weekend re-cap: Fresh air and wildflowers

Saturday arrived - thought it never would...
We finished up some chores at home, then left for Marble Falls to stop at a favorite brewery:
Loaded up our growler.  Brought along a charcuterie.  Headed to Highlands for some bluebonnet therapy:













Was it overcast?  Yes.  Did we care? No.  The hill smelled amazing every time a breeze blew through. Inhale, exhale, relax.  The world will still turn and Spring is still happening.
No foolin'.


Gina

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