Can you guess what I'm cooking?
That's pretty much how it went on a recent Saturday morning when Suzanne wheeled into Robin's driveway to pick her up for a morning of yard saling. And once again, the two of us could not be further apart in our feelings about the whole endeavor.
Suzanne comes from a long line of trash-picking bargain hunters, as congenitally suited to haggling as a Persian rug salesman. She loves nothing better than finding some discarded treasure by the roadside and wrangling it into the back of her minivan while her husband and children hunker down in mortification (Suzanne's husband is from Connecticut where citizens feel it is their civic duty to pay retail). Yard sales give her heart palpitations, and her hands are sweaty with anticipation as she drives up with a little baggie of ones and quarters.
Robin gets heart palpitations of her own, mostly because she hates the intimate nature of a yard sale. She feels like rummaging through someone else's stuff is just too much like going through their undie drawer. She also can't shake the feeling that she is profiting from someone else's misfortune (she's the nice one, remember?). Funny how those feelings dissipated as we approached a driveway full of furniture. Robin was out of the car before it was in Park, her eye on a gorgeous green wicker rocker. While Suzanne flipped through a pile of old cookbooks, Robin was busy stuffing the chair into the back of the car, pumped from shaving $5 off the sticker price by asking the sweet, elderly woman hosting the sale if she could "do any better". Out here on a sunny Saturday morning, it is survival of the pushiest.
Even though we don't need any competition, our readers have been so nice and supportive that we felt we should share a few pointers for a successful yard sale excursion. Besides, the season is pretty much over until spring, and we are betting you'll forget these tips long before we are back in our cars next spring, Concord Monitor print-out in hand, hearts racing with excitement – because you just never know what you'll find in the bottom of a 20 year old banana box.
The more furniture, the better the sale. The best sales are the ones being held by older couples who are downsizing from the family home. The sellers are motivated, and the quality of stuff is usually pretty high. Taste, well that may be another story. Try to look past the 4 piece mushroom-shaped canister set in the fetching tones of gold and avocado, and focus on the maple bedside tables and the sturdy lamps. Many of our kids' room have been beautifully furnished at very little cost by shopping these kinds of sales.
Cash is king. No one is going to take your check, so don't even try. And bring some small bills and quarters. Nothing destroys your yard sale cred faster than getting someone to agree to take a dollar for that vintage egg beater and then asking them to break a twenty.
Consider bringing your kids. This, we will admit, is controversial. On the one hand, kids are so excited to paw through happy meal toys and broken games that you'll be able to scan the sale without feeling so intrusive and conspicuous. On the other hand, children have been known to cause a scene when you refuse to spend $3 on a filthy Barbie with visible hair plugs and one dog-chewed shoe.
Yard Sale season is over, it's time for football and tailgates. And when it starts to get chilly, there's no better frugal feast than, well, chili!
We've got two versions this week: Hamburger Chili – a classic recipe that goes together in a flash and is mild enough for the whole family; and Buffalo Chicken Chili—a delicious concoction that features all the flavors of the barroom favorite. It's spicy and perfect for serving to a crowd. For more information on these recipes, a look at our dirty dishes and the occasional giveaway, please check our blog: frugalfeastsblog.com
Brown the meat and the onion in the butter over medium heat, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon as you go. Cook until the meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Add everything else and simmer for one half hour to combine flavors.
Heat the butter and oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Add the onion, garlic and celery and sauté over medium heat until translucent and cooked, but not brown. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 15 minutes to thicken sauce and blend flavors.
To serve, place a small scoop of rice into a soup or chili bowl. Ladle chili over, then top with sour cream, crumbled blue cheese and diced celery. Serve with additional hot sauce, and a sprinkling of celery seed.
I will fill the pages of my photo albums.And when my home is filled with family, we will gather around and and look at our memories together.
Not alone in front of a computer screen..... just like the old days :)
Since I have become a food blogger, the truth of the matter is this:
NO FOOD WILL BE EATEN BEFORE IT IS PHOTOGRAPHED
simple as that..... why make if there will be no proof, right?!!Well, My camera has gone to China (not because it is being repaired) because Ben needed a camera (last minute epiphany of course) to bring on his trip so he could photograph the wonderful sights.
I was a nice mommy, I gave him the camera, bought him some batteries, made sure he was ready.Ben took the camera, packed it away, while I nagged: "Did you forget this? Do you have that?
Of course I'm kidding. I will prepare dinner minus the flash and will not post a meal for Monday... really, I do not want to be like a cookbook without pictures...
The good news is my new camera should be here soon and I will be back in the game.
The bad news it seems Ben did not take any pants with him other than the shorts he was wearing...
I only know this because his younger brother seems to be sporting all of Ben's pants now that he is not around...
Well, Max looks good and I hope Ben can find some pants that are long enough over on the Tibetan Plateau..
The Joys of Motherhood: They are never ending!
Today is Sunday.
As a rule we do not post on Sundays,
I felt a strong desire to share a story with our readers -- readers who along with our Frugal Feasts column fans have on some level gotten to know our families, ok, mostly because I've posted all my childrens' foolishness and have shared some of the more poignant aspects of raising a large family--the link to my son Ben's wonderful blog so that he can share his miraculous journey with you.
Once in a while things happen that remind of us what the heck the point of life is.
And, although this is my child this time,
I know it will be yours, or the child of someone else we know next time,
so as parents let's enjoy this together.
We may be sharing police blotters next week so we better take it when we can get it...
Cook up two boxes of any pasta, because Mix and Match is always an option on Monday.
Combine the veggies, cooked pasta, sauce, a little more butter, and salt and pepper to taste.
Transfer mixture to large casserole dish, cut all sliced cheese into strips and push into casserole.
Top with any remaining cheese, (I used American, Swiss Cheddarand Provolone).
Cover with foil and place in preheated 300 oven for 20 minutes.
Remove foil and cook 10 more minutes.
I might serve this with a nice salad
depends what else is in the fridge,
Maybe a crust of bread or two...
I might even spread a little crushed garlic and butter on the hard English muffins I found in the bread drawer and broil for a minute.
What ever works today.
They will be happy and full, once again I made it work...
But I will get to the store soon, like NOW... Tuesday Night's dinner is right around the corner!
The Fru-Gals have come a long way since we first met on August 28, 1996 at Dewey School. We both had kindergarteners, and we hit it off immediately. Those were the days. We were 35, relatively unwrinkled and pretty firmly convinced that most, if not all of our little darlings would be headed to ivy league schools on merit scholarships. Merit scholarships we would decline because, well, Harvard would need the money more than we did, what with our vast fortunes and such. We're just glad no one had a suitcase sized video camera there to record for posterity what idiots we were. Are. Whatever!
We could have predicted that not everything was going to go as planned. Shockingly, we are wider, and grayer, than we might have imagined, but never, ever, could we have foreseen that we'd each have a son sign up for Army ROTC in 2009.
We need to say, right off the bat, that we are incredibly proud of our sons, and every mother's child who puts themselves in harm's way to keep our country safe and strong. And never for a moment have we felt that our children should be exempt from service—that other people's children should be sent off to war but never ours.
But still. This is The Army. Which, we've determined (after a lot of hand wringing and sleepless nights) has a program that isn't too far off from what we've been trying to teach them every day they've been on the earth: be strong, make good choices, pick up after yourself, follow orders from your superiors (without backtalk), eat whatever is put in front of you, wear clothes that are neat, clean and actually match, and um, shoot guns. OK so nothing's perfect. Neither of us allowed guns as toys – too violent! Of course, boys being boys, they turned every piece of toast and every pile of Legos into guns, but we weren't even comfortable with that. We'd like to share our thoughts on weaponry with the commanding officers, if we could just schedule a little parent/officer conference. "Really" we'd like to ask, "are the guns truly necessary? "
The United States Army has taken our sons and agreed to pay for their schooling and in exchange will make them into Army Officers, United States soldiers; able to face their fears and overcome them. This is truly a great and wonderful thing. We couldn't get these boys to bend over and put the dishes in the dishwasher (too hard); now they run 2 miles a day. These boys had no laundry management skills--piling dirty clothes up in the corner of their room until buzzards circle overhead does not count. The Army has also taken care of that, teaching them to place things on hangers, all lined up in the correct order, all facing the same way. And neatly arranged underneath are a row of of nicely polished shoes and boots, and somehow the Army had taught them to take pride in all of it.
All this being said, there are a few things we'd like to change about the Army. We are all for color coordination in outfits, and khaki is a good neutral. But wouldn't a nice blue oxford button-down shirt be better with those pants? Some embroidered polo shirts would offer a casual army look; it would still be neat, and more relaxed, perfect for Fridays when they're not at war. And would it kill them to issue a nice pair of cordovan penny loafers? Also? When they are out of ROTC and are actually in the army, we think there should be parents' weekends. We'd like to meet their friends, and help pick out some fun posters and a nice throw rug for their barracks.
We are trying to let go, and let our sons be all they can be, but it is hard to stop smothering…er mothering these children. We'd like to have the sergeant's cell phone number. Just for emergencies, we swear. Even though the army has sent us enough paperwork to sink the Intrepid, we have yet to see a list of officer contact information. It is really important that we let them know a few things about our sons. The boys might be a little nervous, and maybe even a little shy, so be gentle, they are good boys. Please make sure they get enough of the green leafys. They should eat some protein and not just fill up on pasta and bread, and if they won't drink their milk –a little squirt of chocolate syrup might help.
Speaking of pasta, if you've been on KP duty for as long as we have, you probably have some shortcuts for dealing with your own chow line. This week we offer a divine recipe for Suzanne's meatballs. They are baked not fried, and they can be easily frozen in sealable plastic bags. Just plop them into your sauce of choice—they thaw and heat up in no time.
Once you have several bag of meatballs in the freezer, you can use them to make all kinds of meals. This week Robin has a delicious meatball stew.
Makes about 100 meatballs. Enough to last for weeks!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 cookie sheets, or roasting pans with foil.
3 pounds 85% lean ground beef
3 pounds lean ground pork
Breadcrumbs made from 4 slices whole wheat bread
1 medium sized onion, diced
Handful fresh parsley, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup Worchestershire sauce
In a very large bowl or stock pot, mix everything together gently with your hands. Don't overwork the mixture, but make sure the ingredients are fairly well distributed.
Form meatballs about the size of a golf ball by pinching off pieces of the meat mixture and rolling in your palms. Place on cookie sheets.
Bake for about 20 minutes, just until meatballs feel firm to the touch. Do not overcook as these will cook more as part of whatever meal you are making.
Freeze in Ziploc bags.
Robin's Meatball Soup
Perfect for days when you will be out of the house during the late afternoon –prepare ahead and enjoy!
15-20 homemade meatballs (precooked) or 1 bag of frozen prepackaged meatballs
3 12 ounce cans beef broth
2 cups baby carrots
1 small package presliced mushrooms
1 bunch green onions, roughly chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup teriyaki marinade
¼ cup cider vinegar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated or 1 teaspoon powdered
2 small leeks; washed and sliced thinly into 2 inch lengths
1/2 bag wide egg noodles
Place everything but the meatballs and the noodles in a Crockpot. Cook on low for 3-5 hours.
Turn the pot up to high and add the noodles and the meatballs.
Let cook for an additional 30 minutes until meatballs are warm and noodles are tender.
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