Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why My 3 Year Old Makes Me a Better Shopper by Tomato Mama

    Last week I had the joy (or so I thought at the time) of going grocery shopping ALONE! That is very rare for me since I prefer to go to the grocery stores during the morning or early afternoon since they are usually pretty deserted compared to nights and weekends. Also, that is the time that Pickle is rested and in a good mood.  Pickle is my usual sidekick. He is a typically a great shopper, but I was giddy with the thought of being able to take my time and shop by myself.

    Oh, how wrong I was!!! I really missed the little guy! He really does make me a better grocery shopper. I didn't realize it until he was not there, but he does!

    First, he makes me more organized. I have to be. Pickle is wearing "big boy" underwear everywhere now (Woot for no more buying Pullups!) so I really have to think through anywhere I take him now. We always "go" before we leave, and park by the entrance with the bathrooms, but you just never know! I have to have a list broken down by grocery store area and stick to it, or there can be accidents. I have to get the groceries done so quickly that I don't have time to notice all of the yummy things that are not on my list calling to me. I zero in on my targets. Not during the solo trip though. Since I could "take my time" I stopped to look at things that were not on my list. I had time to rationalize them in my head. I did not stick to my list. Ok, I didn't buy tons of extra things, but when you are on a budget every dollar counts! This bottle of popcorn seasoning ( and a few other things ) better be worth it!

    Secondly, he makes me more polite. I can't stand the people who park their carts in the middle of the aisle and then block all the rest of the room so you can't get through. I loathe the people yakking on their cell phones at the top of their lungs all the way through the entire store. I don't understand why some people feel the need to take corners around the ends of aisles at top speed without looking to see if someone is there. I have very little patience when it comes to grocery store disrespect, but when Pickle is with me I focus on him and really don't notice the rude shoppers. Pickle and I have great conversations at the store. He is at the age where he is telling me everything on his mind and starting to read the signs all around so we have lots to talk about. It's really special mommy-son time.

    When Pickle is with me my inspiration for making healthy food and budget choices is sitting right in front of me. And what great inspiration he is!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Stock Up for Spring! by Duck Momma

Stock pot with chicken and veggies
Warm weather is on its way. . . really. . . not that you can tell this week. But it is and when it gets warm, Goose and I will be busy enjoying it! After spending all day outside, finding the energy to fix dinner can be a big challenge. I am a huge fan of having plenty of rich homemade chicken stock in the freezer to make everything easier, from quick week night dinners to nursing early spring colds.

Stock is always a great way to use every bit of the items you buy. You pay for those chicken backs when you buy whole chickens. You pay for leek tops, celery leaves, and mushroom stalks. So use them! They are all still very flavorful, but might not be great served on a plate alone. In my stock pot you will find those chicken backs, leek tops, celery, carrots, red onions, fresh garlic, lemon zest, as well as some tougher chicken that I had in the freezer.

The lovely rainbow of herbs and spices in my stock pot

But it doesn't end there! I take great pride in my herb and spice cabinet and I love using them. Not sure what to use? Smell them. Do they smell like they would pair with a chicken dish? I typically use kosher salt (if you don't have sea salt this is an excellent substitute), black pepper, bay leaves, corriander, thyme, rosemary, lavender, garlic powder, oregano, and saffron. Its a wide array but they compliment eachother well and do a lot to make my large pot of stock even better.

So what can you do with all those odds and ends?Make life easier of course!
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Monday, March 21, 2011

No More Teeth Please... by Duck Momma

This has been a tough couple weeks around the pond. Goose has two new beautiful teeth! She has been so good, I  know its not comfortable! But as most mommies will attest with teeth comes cranky babies, tears, and lots of mommy kisses. My little girl is getting so big!

But the teeth crisis doesn't end there. The following is a story for the mommas. Because I know you will be able to appreciate my pain an any number of levels...

First a bit of background, I have a cat named Gus. He is large, 3 legged, and full of personality. He likes to sleep all day on our bed. It is his place. He is not a fan of dogs, especially Daisy Dragon who always wants to play.

On to the story:
This week my husband and I celebrated our first anniversary. He gave me the most beautiful roses and we had a lovely dinner out together. When we got home Goose was asleep (Grandma must have worn her out). So Daddy Duck and I thought we would go. . . "cuddle". This was important for us, and here I'm sure many moms can appreciate, "Cuddling" frequency  has become a bit more infrequent since Goose came along. 

Anyway, I was giggly and happy and went trotting into the bedroom ahead of Duck Daddy and donned a certain birthday suit and went to jump on the bed. Well I did jump on the bed. In the dark. Blindly. . .
The next few moments can only be described as a flurry of fur, teeth, hysterical hissing,shrill shrieking, and pain. . .

THAT'S RIGHT. . . I jumped on the cat.  And he  rightfully bit me. . . in an area that makes it extremely difficult to be a breastfeeding momma. . . I am not exaggerating when I say you could have gotten full dental records from that bite. I washed it immediately and put ointment on. But as they say,cat bites are as nasty as people bites. . . I wound up going to the doctor (which I CANNOT stand as is) and had to have it checked out. I learned a great deal about the loss of pride. "How did the cat get you there ma'am?"  . . . *sigh*

As I'm writing this I'm sitting with my prescribed warm compress and ointment and antibiotics and peroxide. . . and zero desire to deal with any more teeth for a while. Lesson learned, always ALWAYS look before you leap. . . Also don't leap without clothes or right where your large grumpy cat sleeps. . .
I will always remember this anniversary.

I will humbly return to regular posting as soon as possible. . . Thank you ;-) Duck Momma

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Rueben Quesadillas by Tomato Mama


      Happy St. Patrick's Day! Here is my spin on an "Irish" meal to celebrate the day. Tomato Papa and I are big fans of Reuben sandwiches, but one day I decided to put a twist on the recipe. It's easy, quick and satisfying. Easy, quick and satisfying are good when I'm trying to cook and look after Pickle who is always into something these days!

     I used corned beef lunch meat for this recipe since it's fairly flat. Thicker meat would make for an unwieldy quesadilla in my opinion. I start by slicing up the lunch meat.

    Pile on some sauerkraut and swiss cheese slices (shredded would be fine) on a tortilla. Cover with the other tortilla and bake on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

     Use a pizza cutter to slice them up and use thousand island dressing as a dip. Tomato Papa and I have gone back and forth about putting the thousand island dressing in the quesadilla, but we prefer to dip them. Enjoy with some green beer!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Daddy Notes by Tomato Mama

I'm lucky enough to have a kid that sleeps in pretty well in the mornings. He usually gets up around 8 or 9. Unless we have something scheduled that day I'm not going to mess with this until preschool starts this fall! It's great for me, but it means that Tomato Papa does not get to see us until after work. Pickle and Tomato Papa are so close. Tomato Papa is such a great Dad. It is so wonderful to see how close they are. I could not have asked for a better Daddy for my little boy.

Even though he can't be there in the mornings with us, he leaves Daddy notes. (Pictured above.) It's usually just a quick note to say have a nice day, to remind Pickle to be a good boy, and sometimes contains an inside joke. 

Pickle lights up when he sees the note. I read it with him and he carries it around with him for awhile. Even though Tomato Papa can't be here he helps start Pickle's day off in a positive way. I'm saving them for Pickle to have when he is grown up.

Feel free to brag about your hubby here too! Please leave a comment and tell what great things he does.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Sun Dress Endevours: Comedy of Errors. . . by Duck Momma

Two of the three vintage sewing machines that kicked off our sewing party. 1961 missing a bobbin shuttle. 1968 jammed. 1980 something actually functioning!

Trying to sew in lining that matched the actual material. . . not the best plan
Fussing with the flounce the FIRST  time. . .
Dressed with room to spare

So pretty! And absolutely HUGE. Guess its off with the flounce and back to the cutting board . Time to remeasure and stitch. A seam ripper is a girls best friend (maybe not best. . . how about handy acquaintance?)
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thrifty Tomato Frugal Foodie

The Frugal Foodie Cookbook: Waste-Not Recipes for the Wise Cook

I've been on a mission to add some new frugal recipes to my repertoire. 

Check out the other posts in the series so far...

This time I worked on The Frugal Foodie Cookbook : Waste-Not Recipes for the Wise Cook  by Lara Starr with Lynette Shirk. 

I love that this book is all about the idea that frugal cooking is NOT about just using only dirt-cheap ingredients, but getting the most out of the food you can afford. 

That is exactly what I learned from this book. It is full of wonderful tips and tons of tasty recipes that I was excited to try, but what I took away from this was delicious twists on some recipes I already make or love. 

I tried the Sweet and Sour Glazed meatloaf. I forgot to get a picture, but it got the seal of approval from Tomato-Papa.  Two helpings in he told me, "You can make this again" in between bites. 

I also made Sushi Salad. It was easy and fresh. Like a loose sushi roll.  I had recently gotten rice, cucumber, avacado, and crab meat on sale so it was the perfect storm for this recipe tasting. I made some fried cream cheese wontons to do with it and add some crunch, but I'm pretty sure the un-healthiness of them cancelled out any benefit from the salad. It was a yummy lunch anyway!

To wrap this book up I tried the Coffee Mug Cakes. They are basically Warm Delights ( Betty Crocker) with stuff that you have on hand in your kitchen. I have gotten W. D.'s a few times free with coupons, but they were just ok. I wasn't a big fan, but I keep getting them everytime they are free! I thought this would probably taste about the same, but this recipe is so much better! It really is an easy, quick chocolate cake recipe baked right in a coffee mug. Don't tell Tomato-Papa ( who is the chocolate lover in this house ) that I split the recipe in half between the two mugs so that I could just try a little. Next time, I will make him the full recipe in one mug. Topped with some vanilla ice cream it was a really great and frugal dessert! 

Up next...

$3 Meals: Feed Your Family Delicious, Healthy Meals for Less than the Cost of a Gallon of Milk

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Glazed Over by Duck Momma

Chicken is such a versatile thing. A meaty blank canvas. . . That can quickly become routine and boring if you aren't careful. It is one of my favorite things to experiment with and I believe I stumbled upon a tasty version. Now given that my experimenting isn't exactly scientifically exact, what I share with you is approximate, always go with your taste and intuition!

I love glazed carrots so I took my inspiration from there. In a sauce pan I combined:
  • about half a stick of butter
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar (dark brown would be great too)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic smashed but left whole
  • Salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • yellow curry powder
I simmered everything together and then poured it all over a lovely whole chicken, being  very sure to get the inside cavity as well. (It really makes a huge difference if you season the inside chicken cavity.) I put the cloves of garlic in as well so they could keep giving. I baked the chicken covered at 400 degrees (basting about halfway through) and uncovered for about 20. (Just until juices run clear) It was so tasty and very moist! It went very well with savory salty sides.
This particular version lent itself very well to leftover chicken salad the next day. So pop that baby in the fridge over night and pick off all the meaty leftovers. The slightly sweet meat went well with a tangy mix of:
  • mayo
  • sour cream
  • spicy brown mustard (just a touch)
  • very thinly sliced celery
  • shredded carrots
The quantities depend on how much is leftover and your taste. I served mine on honey whole wheat bread (see the blog post Stuck on Honey for my recipe!) Two delicious meals out of one bird, sounds good to me!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So you Sew? The Sun Dress Endevours by Duck Momma

As I'm writing this I am working on the first of six little dresses for Goose. Making her little dresses for this summer seemed like a brilliant plan, I used to sew with my mom. They are just little dresses, how hard could it be?

What a silly question?!

I'm here to report, it is not easy! Somewhere between muttering as I rip out yet another seam and poke my finger with a needle I began to wonder what made this seem like such a good plan. I know the patterns are cute and the fabric is adorable. . . but there are made dresses out there. All sewed up and everything! ( I was shocked at how much it was to make a dress, you really don't save anything. And we got all the supplies at 40% off)

But yesterday as I put the gathers of the skirt in oh so slowly and looked down at the little dress that my little girl would wear, I remebered exactly why I wanted to do this. This little dress will be adorable for this summer (and maybe next judging from the size) but I'm making it for her. Just for her and maybe someday years and years from now when we sort through her memorable  things, I will be able to tell her those dresses where made by her momma (with grandma's help) just for her.

So with renewed passion, I press (yay puns) on one stitch at a time. And lucky you will just get to sit back and watch! Or maybe start your own little project? I promise, it will be sew worth it. . .

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kitchen Adventures: Serving up Carrots. . . by Duck Momma

I had some wonderful luck at the Farmers Market yesterday. These beautiful carrots were just begging to come home with me. I thought they would be perfect for Goose. They were bright and beautiful and full of all sorts of good things for growing babies. . . Turns out however I had some important lessons to learn.

First, pace yourself. I got so excited with my find I decided to cook a bunch all at once. I cannot tell you why, it seemed reasonable then. Second, have a plan if you make to much and baby doesn't go for it. Evidently this making your own baby food thing is slightly more difficult than I thought. I think its the texture I need to work on. Maybe then she won't look at me with that offended look and actually consume some. They certainly were very pretty but the flavors just weren't quite right. I added a touch of orange juice to brighten the heavier taste and smooth it out a bit, but that wasn't quite enough.
Lovely Heirloom Carrots from the Farmers Market

A less than impressed Goose. . .
Another lesson learned! Since we have a few servings I think I will try adding some new flavors and try for a silkier texture. Maybe a mix with apples or pears,  I have some fresh sweet potatoes that might be nice too. We are both trying new things, albeit one way more wiling and excited than the other. . . on to the next adventure!

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Friday, March 4, 2011

End of Winter Farmer's Market by Tomato Duck

Here are a few more pics from the trip Duck Mama and I took to our Farmer's Market yesterday. We are lucky enough to have a year round, indoor farmer's market. Pickle and I go often in the warmer months, but I'm sorry to say this was one of our first trips during this cold weather.

My first stop was to get a cup of coffee. Then the cute kitty cookies were calling our name ( pictured above) that Pickle was almost to proud of to eat. Almost.

Here is a sneaky pic I took of Duck Momma and Goose that I snapped at the spice stall.


We also picked up some yummy cheese and some apples. I am looking forward to going back soon and often and I loved getting to spend the day with Duck Momma! 

Our Farmers Market by Duck Momma

Duck Momma's favorite stop at the market, Sweet Street Spices
Goose taking the trip seriously. . . to be fair, she just woke up
Tomato Momma and Pickle stopping for cheese! Mmm
Yesterday was Farmers Market day. We love our Farmers Market, it is really great to support local business, farmers, and artisans. Plus its just a lot of fun. This time of year is sort of the limbo point, its not really any season so the produce is a little more sparse but spring is coming and everything will start popping up!
I love finding fresh local produce, it almost always tastes better and can sometimes save you a bit.

We had some lovely finds though. I visited one of my favorite places on earth, Sweet Street Spices. They have such variety and make it so affordable, which is good thing because I have trouble controlling myself there. This time garlic, majoram, onion powder, cayanne pepper, corriander, and caraway seeds came home with me. I also found some beautiful heriloom carrots (which turned into goodies for Goose and glazed carrots for Momma and Daddy) and leeks!
Tomato Momma found crisp apples and tasty cheeses. Yum!

Even though it was a little empty this time, the sights and smells were delicious and we can't wait for next time!
One of my purchases, Heirloom Carrots. . . More on these to come.  . .
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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Squish Squash : Munchkin Food Grinder Review by Duck Momma

When I registered for baby stuff, I imagine I had an experience like many new moms. I registered just about everything. I wanted to make sure we were more than set and I was also subject to "New Mommy Clouded Head Syndrome". The Munchkin Food Grinder is one of the things I fell for. Don't do it! I wanted to make sure I fed my new little one the best and freshest. I still do, (see Kitchen Adventures: Rainbow Series of our blog) But this 'tool' is not the great idea it seems. It is so tempting, it is bright and cute and I am a sucker for that. The whole process of trying to put food into grind is an absolute mess, the design just doesn't work.You are suppose to turn it upside down and then plunge. . . Not good.  The grinding teeth themselves are also not effective, quite dull.  I started with a nice ripe banana. . . should have been super super easy. . . should have been. Just that was a disaster. The little handle crank pops off if its too loose and if its too tight won't turn. And the little mesh fresh food sucker thing. . . soooo messy and really hard to clean. Trust me parents, pass on this one.
Once I started to function on my 'New Mommy High' I realized I had all I needed to make food. Any food processor, blender, or Immersion blender (I love my immersion blender, all the attachments make it super multifunctional by the way)will work. *Sigh* That lesson is learned, so on to the next!

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Picture Perfect by Duck Momma

Being able to combine personal interests and my family is something I have been able to take a lot of pride in. I have always loved and played with photography. My dad was always amazing at it, and my grandpa got me started by giving me his Cannon A100 SLR camera. That was it, I was hooked like a hungry fish in at a bait buffet. . . ok not the best line but I was hooked.
I will skip the part where I go on and on about my fasination with film and the development process, the length of time it took to convince me to go digital, and we will move right up to the current moment, my little Goose.
Every momma wants to catch every moment, I have four different cameras about that I use. Minor shutterbug issues aside, I have been able to put my love of photography to great use. I have a lovely frame for month by month portraits. But those can get so expensive: sitting fees, shots taken, and what parent can walk away from great shots of their beautiful baby so the packages sky rocket. . .
I have the answer! Now this may not work for all, but if you have a camera you love ( mine is a Nikkon D60 that we got for a steal second hand) and a little bit of pretty fabric like faux crushed velvet (think holiday wear), you can do your own!
Using an online photo service like Shutterfly or Snapfish to print, diaper rewards points for photo packages, and my own house for a studio, we get sets of pictures every month and we can keep the grandparents up on their baby fix for under $10.00. Yep $10.00!
So if you ever thought of trying, Go for it! Besides whocan get your baby to smile better than you? Start snapping!

Goose 2 months

Goose 4 months

Goose 5 months

Goose 6 months

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