a needed change

Back when I started blogging, I wasn't sure how exactly this would evolve. But I'm feeling a little stifled by the name "The Saucy Kitchen." I want to write about "last weekends" and my current crafty project, our attempts at nesting and our kitchen happenings. But I feel like, with this title, they all can't fit in this space. I know I could continue posting them here, but for me, I feel a fresh start is in order. So, I'll be posting over here from now on. You are welcome to stop over and see what's up (and change up your rss feeds ;). I moved over my more personal and favorite entries over to that site, so it's not a perfectly fresh start, but it's close. Right now, it's a work in progress, but if you miss me here, head over there.

last weekend

Last weekend we headed out to Spring's Preserve for a hot date. Let me clarify by saying that any time the hubs and I do anything that varies from our day to day routine, it is referred to as a hot date. Going out to grab a sushi lunch? Hot date. A bagel and a hike? Hot date. Shopping for something other than groceries? Hot date.

It was our first time going to Spring's Preserve and I didn't really know what to expect. It's a pretty interesting place - they offer tons of classes, activities and demos - so you can really learn a lot while you're there. We didn't take any classes this time around, although we saw a few that we really would be interested in if we end up getting our house *fingers crossed.* This weekend, we just went to tour the gardens and check the place out. (PS Vegas dwellers - it's free admission the first weekend of the month, so um, a ridiculously cheap date.)

They had tons of fun plants, including a lot of desert friendly edibles - something we are very interested in. They also have pretty fun sculptures made from scrap materials (aka junk) scattered throughout the gardens and the rest of the preserve, all from artist Dave Thompson. It's only there until this coming fall, so it was fun to see the exhibit.

Later that day, since it was Cinco de Mayo, we stopped off for some Mexican food. It was sort of overwhelming in portion sizes, but delicious none the less. And, because we're early birds, we still made it home in time to watch the Derby.

The rest of the weekend was spent finishing up some projects. I was really itching to start some others, but ran out of supplies, so I think this week may be a trip to the fabric store so I don't run into this terrible problem again.

FWF: Week 10

This week we did pretty poorly. Food waste was not at the foremost of my brain and so we ended up with more waste than I would have liked. It's frustrating for sure, so next week I hope to do better.

1 avocado

egg whites - I meant to use these in meringue cookies, but I wasn't really feeling like anything sweet. Then the hubs went and made killer chocolate cookies and pretty much sealed the fate of these.

pita - The hubs made homemade pita earlier in the week, but the thing about homemade pita is that they have the life expectancy of a fruit fly, and we couldn't eat them all in time.

2 sweet potatoes - oops.

1 zucchini - from last week. We used up one, but the second never got used up.

a bit of omelette veggies - I cut up a bunch to have omelette veggies cut up to use when making the hubs breakfast (my knife skills are limited at 5 am). But he asked for scrambles and grits more than omelettes this week and messed me all up!

too many strawberries - oh the pain...

adventures in paper piecing

So, remember that quilt guild I mentioned? Well, this past month at our meeting, we swapped strips for our orange challenge. I already had an idea in my mind for this orange quilt but, as ideas always do, it just keeps evolving. Maybe a bit of something here, or there...you know how it goes.

orange strips from the swap

I've been working on it trying out new techniques as I go, one of which is paper piecing. If you haven't heard of paper piecing, it's basically taking a design drawn out on a piece of paper and using that design as a guide in stitching your pieces together. It's a pretty interesting technique and one I hope to master get decent at because it really does open up some really crazy possibilities.

oops again. $&#%!

I'm not to the really crazy yet though. I've been working out some simple lettering. It took me a while to understand the directions - where to sew, what to cut and how to fold. But once I figured out one letter (after some serious screw ups), I was good to go on the rest.

So, this coming week, I'll be busy getting letters done for the orange challenge quilt. And maybe taking some pretty photos of my first completed quilt to show you guys.


Club Baked: Baked Cheese Grits

This latest Club Baked pick had me skeptical at first. First, because I've never in my life had grits, and the only grits I've ever seen were sketchy looking puddles of white mush at southern diners. Looked more like something that you would feed someone with no teeth or taste buds than something I would want to consume.

Also, it seemed like a lot of work. Constant stirring - for 20+ minutes. All I can say is that the thoughts running through my head as I stirred and stirred and stirred some more were "These better be good" and "This better be worth all of this." (I can get a bit cranky if I'm hungry)

Luckily, after all that stirring, and grating and stirring some more I ended up with something that is actually pretty delicious. I get it now, southern peeps, grits are pretty delicious. With all the fat in there though, they better be. Although I'm still skeptical of those white piles of mush at the diner.

I ended up substituting goat's cheddar and another soft goat's cheese for the monterrey jack and sharp cheddar, but I don't think it affected the end result much. I did end up making half a recipe, which I think will still end up being 4 servings for us.

These grits are creamy, cheesy with just a bit of bite from the stone ground grits. I think it's more of a weekend breakfast than a weekday, but I could just as easily see it as a dinner side dish in place of mashed potatoes and the like. I'm pretty glad I sucked up my skepticism for this recipe and gave it a try. Find the recipe over at Lisa's blog and the other baker's results at the Club: Baked blog.

FWF: Week 9

This week:

a bruised and battered pear

1 cup citrus waffle batter - note to self: make batter into waffles before batter goes bad.

1/2 cup tuna salad - from our hiking trip this weekend. jerkey and trail mix just don't cut it for me, so we took fresh strawberries, cut up fuji apples and tuna salad with water crackers as a mid-trail snack.

On a better note, we've eaten up all the dinner leftovers, no precious strawberries have committed suicide by mold and the two zucchini that are on the fence are getting used up in omelettes this morning and stuffed omelettes tonight (with calzones, which will also use up peppers, mushrooms and a half cut onion - they are truly God's gift to leftovers).

Grocery shopping this week - ridiculously light. Only one bag of uncooked jumbo shrimp (for this recipe later in the weekend). 

Last Weekend


We headed out to Ice Box once again. This time, however, it didn't live up to it's namesake. The higher spring sun kept us warm the whole hike so the cooler area near the falls was quite welcome. The beautiful colors we saw on the trees and bushes were signs that spring has definitely hit the desert. I love how the colors just seem to pop so much more when they are surrounded by the stark rock. I particularly love the tree growing sideways from the rock. (also noticed that basically every hike you can do at the desert ends at a water source, coincidence?)

Also, this dog. This fat, lazy princess of a dog. She needed a lift for the last half of the hike. It was hilarious watching the guys switch off carrying her and lifting her over the boulders like a search and rescue team. I think now she needs a puppy pedicure.

*On another note, have you ever noticed how sometimes photos don't seem to do a place justice while at the same time framing or featuring things you couldn't even notice at the time?

my latest fabric purchase

I recently got into quilting. It's endlessly creative in that there are always new fabrics, new designs, new ways of putting things together that it's led to me constantly dream up new things I'd like to do or try. The best part: it satisfies my need for pretty while still staying useful. I love all that creative DIY stuff, but I find it hard to implement most of it in my own home because it doesn't serve a purpose (except looking pretty, which I guess qualifies, but I would prefer form and function - picky, I know). Don't remind me that I live in Vegas and my need for quilts spans about 3 months a year at most and, as my husband likes to point out, we only need one. I conveniently put this in the back of my head where I keep other things I'd like to not be reminded of - like how good cheese really is or that my baby brother will be in high school soon.

All that to say that I joined a quilt guild. And this next month, we are doing a fabric swap for the upcoming challenge. Pantone's color of the year is "Tangerine Tango" - a fiery reddish orange that is awesomely attractive and very bold. So, the guild decided to have an orange quilt challenge and I couldn't be more thrilled. I think I might be one of those weirdos that likes loves orange because it seems many people don't as I found out when searching for orange fabric to contribute to the swap (it is not an easily found color with much variety).

Today, the lovely UPS man arrived at my door fabric in hand. I ran upstairs afterwards and tore open the envelope to see it. It's lovely. I ordered extra because I love it so much and even though I'm not sure what I'll do with the remainder, I am so glad I ordered it. I know I have to cut this down into strips for the swap, but I'll put that off a little longer so I can just stare at it some more.

I also picked up these pretties. For some reason I am loving elephant fabrics recently and can't get enough.

FWF: Week 8

So, it's taken me two months, but I'm finally getting the hang of this FWF business. (I'm hoping this cockiness doesn't jinx me for next week). Before y'all get too excited, I will say I wasn't totally waste free this week, but after a major and thorough fridge clean out (even scrubbed the crisper drawers - go me!), this is all I had:

little baggies stuffed with various herbs. Technically these have (or had) some value monetarily, but they are all cut from the hubs plants. Sometimes when I say I need 1/4 c. chopped parsley, for instance, he can't help himself but give the plant a little pruning and me a little more than I bargained for. I think in the future I'll just toss in the extras just to use them up, but the good news is that we spent about $0.00 on these so it isn't a real big waste.

Other than that, I did have one itty bitty strawberry. I was cutting up the last ones for a mid-morning snack and this one, stuck in the bottom of the container, was plagued with mold. It was only about 4 days post-purchase, but you all know how strawberries are, especially organic ones. The waste associated is worth in season strawberry goodness, in my opinion, although ideally I would get to eat them all!

So, even though this isn't a completely waste free week, we are getting that much closer. I am claiming this week as a food waste win, because for me, it's the closest I've ever come.

I will say that I love that my fridge is actually making more sense now. I sometimes get carried away at the grocery store, but I'm shopping very moderately this week, just so I can keep that fabulous looking fridge I've got going.

natural egg dyes - success and failures

 This year, I wanted to give natural egg dyes a try. I read tons of recipes online that used a variety of different fruits, vegetables and spices. None of these sites, however, had any actual examples of dyed eggs (except one, which was a super done up mag photo - i question it's authenticity). It seemed people loved posting recipes for natural egg dyes, but no one actually bothered to post the eggs. Did they suck? Did the recipes work? I tried seven this year. Here are the successful attempts (all of these were left in for about 20 minutes, except for the cabbage, which was left in the dye for an hour):

 As for our not so successful attempts: carrots (for orange) did nothing, spinach (for green) - nada, cranberries - nope. Next year I think I will get some dollar store paprika for orange (I thought about it this year, but didn't want to run out and definitely didn't want to use our good Penzey's stuff for egg dyes). I'd also like to try and mix maybe the turmeric and the red cabbage to see if I can get a green egg out of it. And possibly, although only if I can find inexpensive frozen berries, raspberries for a more red-pink.

For now though, I'm happy with our little egg experiment. I think they are cute, pastel, soft colors and don't have any weird ingredients. It was kind of interesting though in that they didn't come out in the same colors they dried:

blueberries: these came out more purple, and as they dried they turned this deeper blue hue.

turmeric: they came out more gold, but once dried ended up as a nice, soft yellow

red cabbage: this surprised me the most. it came out much more purple and dried this lovely robin's egg blue.

beets: came out pink, as i imagined. the eggs i pulled out quickly dried more slight purple pink. the ones i left longer in the dye, assuming i would get a darker, more vibrant pink, ended up drying a reddish-brown.

FWF: Week 7

After almost 2 months of this, you'd think I'd be getting better. But I don't know what to say this week. It was interesting. We didn't spend too much at the grocery store, but we did buy a lot of our bulk items this week, which included 4 chickens. Those four chickens took up any freezer space I thought I might have, so it's been tricky to try and eat some things from the freezer (so I could take the duct tape off the door) and using up our fresh ingredients.

I actually thought, way back at the beginning of the week, that I was doing fairly well. I used up half an old turnip, some partially wilted celery, some on the verge carrots and some older parsley in the stock.  I also used an old baked potato to make some potato cakes for a weekend breakfast and some yellow potatoes for during the week hash browns and a gnocchi dinner. But, despite the saves, we still had some waste.

Here's how we fared:

a bit of salad: didn't look inedible, but had that funky yucky salad smell

a butt of bread: got mold on it before we could finish it, but I would say we did fairly well considering this was the third artisan loaf we made this week on top of 2 loafs of sandwich bread we made.

2 c. chicken stock: after we got the four chickens, i made a bunch of chicken stock. towards the end of cooking, i added a bit more water because usually we end up with something like a jello mold instead of something a little more liquid like. i shouldn't have bothered, because that last two cups wouldn't fit in the freezer and I didn't have recipes calling for stock on the menu.

half a pot pie: this one pains me the most. I couldn't finish the whole thing for dinner so i put some foil around it and was waiting for it to cool (so as not to place a hot thing in the fridge), but silly, tired me went to bed without remembering to actually put it in the fridge and walked in to the kitchen the next morning very sad.

All in all, the bread and stock are very low in terms of cost. The salad, well, not a huge expense. But the pot pie, so sad about that one.

FWF Week 6: Terrible

As part of the Frugal Girl's Food Waste Friday, I am cleaning out my fridge each week to evaluate what has gone bad and then posting it on here in an effort to reduce my grocery waste and hopefully, one day, have a week of no waste! (This week is not that week)

goat's milk - I bought this thinking I would make some ricotta for pasta rustica. But half way through the week the thought of pasta rustica turned my stomach and I wanted something else. Hubs said I need to get my pms under control. I wish he could experience it just once to gain some sympathy.

goat's milk ice cream - Bought this a while back when I didn't feel like making ice cream (truthfully, my freezer was too full for the ice cream bowl). but I have to remember to tell myself at the store how much better mine tastes because in comparison. This had a waxy flavor that I couldn't get past. Figured I would take back my freezer space by ditching it, because let's be real here, I'm not eating it.

one bowl salad - I really wanted to eat this, but after a few bites, I looked down into my bowl and saw a big, black dead fly. No thank you, I'll have a sandwich.

beet greens - no excuse or explanation.

arugula - no excuses, just laziness to incorporate this into salads. shame because i love arugula.

one tablespoon chopped parsley - lost this one to the fridge monster, only to have it reappear with mold. mold! on parsley. seriously? how does this happen?!

I seriously hope you all had much better weeks. What do you do when you just don't want what you have planned? I normally can just switch to another day and eat it later in the week, but this week was not that week.

I will say that although we wasted a lot, it could have been much worse. I used the chicken carcasses after we bought and butchered four chickens to make some stock and mushroom soup. I picked the chicken from the bones and made chicken salad. I made some chili that got quite a bit of odds and ends tossed in (a on the brink sweet potato, some leftover tomatillo salsa, leftover pulled pork, etc.) and used the last of the sheep's yogurt in some pancakes as a buttermilk substitute. 

FWF Week 5: Sheesh

cheese - This is supposed to be a dry cheese, and my hubs was concerned that I was tossing good cheese, but this thing could have killed someone it was so dry and hard. Not salvageable as far as I could tell.
cherry Tomatoes - Shriveled.

store bought hot dog buns - Previously frozen and thawed during a freezer clean out, while not moldy, they just didn't get eaten. It could have been that I made some bread (semolina bread and sandwich buns) earlier in the week and these buns from when we first moved into this apartment were old and I'm sure tasteless. And a little too squishy.

half a can evaporated goat's milk - Not even sure if this is bad, because goat's milk stuff tastes a little off on a good day, but figured I'd go on the safe side here. I used the half a can in some BBQ meatballs, but I didn't freeze the other half right away and then kept wondering "Is it still good?" in my head.

I was a little upset that I wasted the buns and the milk. The milk I really should have saved, but the buns I'm feeling better about now that they are in my trash. I tried all week to use them in various applications, but they just didn't compare to my bread. They were initially bought to tide us over until we settled here, not for nutrition or flavor. And I'm almost certain that any value that they had in either of those categories has been reduced to 0 since being frozen for half a year.

Grocery Spending this week: $30.44. Not too shabby.

Organized: Laundry Room

I hate laundry. It's my total housekeeping nemesis. I can't stand doing it. One of the reasons I hate it so badly is that, until very recently, we had one laundry basket. This was a problem because no matter what I did, I would have to sort through all the laundry just to figure out what loads needed done. This led to our entire laundry "landing'" (our laundry closet is in a closet in our upstairs landing) being covered in piles of dirty clothes, leaving barely enough room to walk, let alone efficiently complete the task at hand. Having one basket also led to some confusion on where dirty clothes went - which meant most of them landed on the floor.

To try and combat this laundry area disaster, I figured what I needed was some serious organization. I could have gotten fancier baskets, but it's laundry. These were cheap, the right size, and would be up to the job. I looked into other baskets, but it seems that all the ones that come pre-divided have three pouches (darks, lights and colors). I don't wash my reds with my blues and since I was trying to avoid the repetitive sorting, I wanted four - one for each load I typically do - reds, lights, darks and other colors (greens, blues and yellows).

I also wanted to make some sort of label so that anyone could easily figure out my laundry sorting that way maybe the clothing would end up in the appropriate bin. Instead of just making some simple labels, I took some fabric scraps and made it visual.

Here's how it works. I have a regular laundry basket in the bedroom. Laundry gets placed in the basket each day since it's always empty. Every morning, I make a sweep of the house and pick up any other clothing (socks, outer shirts, etc.) that may have been placed elsewhere. I then take a peek in the bedroom hamper and grab those clothes as well, sorting all those dirty clothes into the laundry room bins. It's easy to see which bin is fullest and needs attention. Whichever is full gets placed in the washer and the bin sits on top of the washer. When the laundry switches, the bin moves to in front of the dryer, ready to catch the clean clothes. Once the laundry is done, I can easily fold the clothes into the empty bin and hang clothes that typically get hung. The clothes can then be put away quickly and  the (now empty) bin now placed back on the shelf. The load that will need done next moves to atop the washer until the basket gets filled enough to warrant a load.

If you easily keep up with your laundry, this is probably overkill for you. But I dreaded the chore and this organization really helped make it enjoyable less dreadful.

A Quilting Dilemma

Last year, I was looking for a blanket to go in our spare bedroom. Our guest bathroom has this shower curtain, which I just love. I liked the bedspread, but it was a little matchy-matchy and I really wanted a quilt. There's just something about quilts that are warm and comfortable and isn't that what a guest bedroom should feel like?

I looked around for a quilt with no luck. But, I found this fabric collection that would just be the perfect compliment to the bathroom. So, I figured, I guess I'm going to quilt.

click to enlarge

After a few months of cutting and piecing and lots of internet searching, I now have my top and back pieced (this is the fabric I used for the backing) and ready to be sandwiched with my batting (Warm and Natural, a thin batting that only requires it be stitched every 10"). My question at this point is: should I machine quilt or tie it?

Right now, I'm leaning towards tying. First, because it is my first quilt and the thought of machine quilting a queen size quilt seems daunting (maybe try a lap size first?). Also, when I was younger, my mom had this very 1970's patchwork quilt that was, if I remember correctly, tied. And while the color choices were clearly dated (and never really that pretty to begin with, sorry mom), it was a cute little blanket. While I love the puckering that comes from quilting, I really do like the floppy, playful quality you get from tying. My only concern is that I've read that tying isn't really that stable - the ties can come undone, the batting can shift more easily - and so the quilt itself isn't as durable.

But...I did a little sample with some scraps and both quilted and tied it, just to see what each would look like. And now I can't decide. I love the tied look, especially for a scrappy patchwork quilt, but the puckers and poofs and pinches I got from quilting sure do look pretty nice.

click to enlarge
If I went the tying route,  I was planning to use either a red perle cotton thread or a light pink/peach one (shown above). The red would be a nice contrast to the backing fabric I think, but the light one wouldn't really be noticeable. Or I could do a combination of both. If I machine quilt it, I would go with a neutral color (white, shown above, is a little too bright, but an off white would work).

click to enlarge
What do you think, internets, should I take my time and try and machine quilt? This has already taken me quite some time, so I don't want to rush this last step just to get it done and regret it. Or should I tie it, be done with it, and start to enjoy using it?

Because let's be real, it's not a show piece. I want it to be used and loved, but I also don't want it to be falling apart either.

FWF Week 4: Gettin' Better

This week, while I did have some food waste, I didn't have too much.

A bit of beet greens and some egg whites. I made something earlier in the week that used the yolks and had the whites left over. I already have whites in the freezer, so I didn't want to just add more to that pile. I made them into scrambles for the hubs one morning, but they didn't go over well. I almost took one for the team and ate the rest of the eggs, but my husband said that they tasted like farts. So...these farty egg whites are showing up today and getting pitched.

A pear also went bad, but I think this one is on the grocery store and not me. I brought home 4 pears. 3 still have yet to ripen, but one turned to mush about 1.5 days after it's arrival in my kitchen.

Our grocery bill this past week was $195.38. That certainly is a lot, but I'm pretty certain that I won't be needing much in way of groceries for at least another week, possibly two (aside from some fresh veggies and eggs).

How did you do this week? See how the Frugal Girl did (jealous!) and other participating bloggers over at The Frugal Girl's blog.

Club Baked: Mississippi Mud Pie (A) or, How to Salvage a Mess and Improvise

I love chocolate. So, despite the fact that my spring form pan was currently at a friends (because I had recently taken over a gluten free, dairy free cheesecake), I definitely wanted to make this cake. I thought about the possible alternatives: I had two 8" cake pans, one 9" cake pan, a deep pie pan or I could use a square or rectangular baking dish. I was leaning towards the baking dish, then the pie pan, then my husband intervened and said to just use the 9" cake pan.

I was also out of parchment. I figured I could deal with some white dust on the outside of the cake, so I buttered and floured the cake pan instead.

The freezer is full, so instead of freezing the pie crust, I just left it in the fridge for some time while I set out other ingredients to come to room temperature until I thought it felt pretty solid.

I then proceeded to make the filling. It came together easily and without issue. It looked amazing, sort of like a very light, less sweet version of French silk pie. I can get behind anything that even moderately resembles French silk.

The first problem came when I poured the batter into the cake pan. It was bound to overflow, so I fit as much in as I could without actually overflowing and hoped for the best. Once in the oven, the batter started to rise. It then started to spurt like a volcano from one of the sides. Once it started to firm up, it stopped and rose almost beautifully. Once removed from the oven, it fell (as it was supposed to) to almost fit back in the pan. But I knew that there was no chance that pudding was ever going to sit on top of this thing in any way, shape or form resembling the cookbook's photo.

While the cake cooled, I made the pudding (with goat's milk - the only substitute I made in the recipe). I learned my lesson with the Boston Cream Pie Cake, so once it started to thicken, even though with my continuous whisking I hadn't actually seen any bubbles, I pulled it off the heat and poured it into the awaiting bowl where I added the finishing touches. It really is a tasty pudding - very smooth, rich, but not too sweet.

Because I had no way to assemble and finish this cake in the way it was intended, I used the 3 hour chill time to figure out what to do. Should I build a fort around the cake to keep the pudding until it firms? Should I try and pour what I can into the well made by the sunken cake? I ended up settling on the best, and far by easiest, solution: a trifle.

This way no cake would be wasted, and it wouldn't matter if it was a bit sloppy, especially since I don't actually have a trifle dish. The only drawback being that this would be one boring, all brown trifle. I hoped the taste would make up for it, and it did.

It's a light and fluffy cake layered with rich, almost chocolate mousse type pudding in between homemade whipped cream. I took the few remaining sandwich cookies and crushed them up to use as a topping. It's really very good, not too sweet, but very rich.

I feel pretty good about myself and this cake and the progress I've made at baking. When I started baking along with this group, I was adamant about following recipes, I didn't trust my instincts, and never would I consider thinking out of the box. Even cutting a recipe in half gave me stress. I know had this little hiccup happened to me a few months ago, I would not have handled it as well. Now, as I have been doing with savory recipes for years, I'm able to go with the flow. By no means do I feel confident to go willy-nilly baking without a recipe just yet, but at least I have gotten past the point of being overwhelmed and upset when things don't turn out perfect.

Check out the other baker's outcomes here, and then head on over to Alexis' blog for the recipe! Nice pick, Alexis.

Organized: My Freezer

So, with it being spring and all (almost), and my Lenten goal to become more purposeful, I thought about organizing some of the systems in our house. But during some research online, I realized that maybe documenting some of what we do (and some thing I implement that we currently don't do) will help someone else out there in cyber space. Because while none of the home organization solutions I found were perfect for me, they at least gave me a starting point. And with a Frankenstein of those, plus a little creativity, I came up with some solutions that worked for us.

Our freezer has been organized like this for quite some time. The hubs is fabulous at organizing kitchen things and he came up with this system while we were still in Florida. But the label part, that's all me (I have a thing for bins and labels).

We have plastic bins of varying sizes (it's dependent upon your freezer size and shape, obvs) that we place like items in and then label (with chalk). When we take one out, we re-write the number. This way, nothing gets buried in the freezer and becomes a "What is that?" It also cuts down on the amount of rummaging we do for "I thought we had.." The key here is that once you bring food home or have leftovers you want to package, to do it in portions that are realistic for your family. We usually do half pounds and sometimes even quarter pound packages of ground meat because we're only two people. Steaks and other meat cuts are wrapped individually. A family of 6 would obviously portion differently. You can also use one large freezer bag with smaller portions just wrapped in plastic wrap to cut down on bags (and space in the containers).

I tuck ice pack for the hubs lunch bag in between the containers. And since we took out our ice maker, we have a few ice trays in the top left corner there.

We also portion everything, and shape it for the containers before we freeze it. Trying to fit already frozen items into bins can work, but it's less space efficient. To maximize freezer space, shaping fresh items allows you to "mold" things into the bins so that there is little wasted space.

Behind all these bins, we have our prepared meals (soups, pot pie fillings, chilis, etc.) in 2 c. Ziploc containers. The 2 cup size works well for a serving size of two portions - exactly what we need). They sell larger cup sizes that we use on occasion, but we mostly use the 2 c. size. The nice thing is, though, is that the 4 c. size fits in the location of two 2 cup containers, so you can use a mix of both if you need some larger portions and some smaller. To keep tabs on the back of the freezer, we keep a running list of what gets put back there so that we know without having to unearth what's in front of it. Take it out, cross it off.

On the door, we keep go-to items again in the Ziploc containers (for easy rearranging if necessary). Things like chicken stock and fruit for smoothies goes here, along with odd items like old bananas, popsicles, etc. that would clutter up the freezer bins or won't fit into them efficiently.

How do you keep your freezer organized? Anyone have tips for the fridge?

If life gives you (giant) lemons...

When we were in California, we picked lots of citrus and avocados from the hub's aunt's farm, so recently we've been making all sorts of citrus-y things: Blood Orange Tarts, Citrus Cupcakes, Lemon & Shrimp Pasta, Orange and Beet Salads, Citrus Pancakes, Avocado and Grapefruit Salads, Orange Juice, Margaritas (you knew it was coming), and who knows what else - oh yeah, Limoncello.

But I just had to show you guys this monster lemon that my hubs picked while we were there. To fully illustrate how ginormous this is, I thought it would be good to show some comparisons.

A regular lemon.

My hand. (Don't look at the spot on my counter.)

We jokingly have been shouting "Go long!" with the accompanying tossing and catching motions for a couple weeks now, as we've been saving this football lemon for last.

FWF: Week 3

Slowly but surely I'm getting a bit better at this. Total food waste this week was not as bad as previous, but I still have a long way to go until there is no waste.

So, what went bad?

1/2 c. chicken stock. I made a creamy gravy for raviolis and didn't know what to do with the remaining half. I was using it for the gravy because it was already getting to the point where it would need to go, and I didn't have anything that needed stock coming up to eat. It's homemade, so the cost to us is negligible. Old chicken bones don't really cost a thing, and makes about 20 cups. So, this half cup, while I'm sad to see it go, isn't a tragedy.

a bit of lettuce. Just a few bites really. I'd say less than half a serving.

1 c. coleslaw. I made a whole cabbage worth of coleslaw last week, and I have to say that while I do feel bad about wasting this, it's not a huge cost and it's more of the coleslaw than usually gets finished.

2 scones. I made scones last week as part of a Club Baked recipe pick. All was going well, except that I didn't realize how quickly they would develop what appeared to be mold. The hubs and I were both unsure if it was really mold or just butter and flour, but we didn't want to risk it. Sadly, two scones bit the dust. Note to self: make half recipes when baking.

Still a ways to go, but feeling better about getting the hang of this. Grocery bill this week: $1.67. I ran out and bought bread because I wanted french toast but was feeling a bit lazy and didn't want to wait for bread to get made at home. I feel like next week will be a doozy.

FWF: Week 2.

This week I still had some serious food waste.

a potato. I could salvage quite a few potatoes nearing their end, but this one just didn't make it. Luckily it was a little guy, so I feel a bit less bad. 

lettuce. I knew this one would be a challenge. Usually we eat up salads for lunch, but my husband's work schedule changed and he didn't end up taking his lunch to work, which meant I had too much lettuce. Should have eaten more dinner salads.

a mango. No excuses. Should have cut it up and put it on the above lettuce and called it a salad.

leftover tart dough. I made a half recipe of dough, but it didn't come out quite right. I re-made it for my Blood Orange Tart, put the funky dough in the fridge thinking, maybe I can fix it, but I didn't...

snow peas. Made these for the hubs lunch. He ate most of them, but had some leftovers, which never got eaten.

a clove of garlic. You know the one. The odd ball one in an otherwise beautiful bulb that just is bad from the moment you bring it home. I call not my fault.

And, I still have a fridge full of food. I've been using up the veggies and fruit we were gifted on our recent California trip, and supplementing with some things from the market.

A no-so-surprising bonus of participating in FWF is that I have become more responsible with not only using everything up (which stretches everything further), but also in buying less to begin with. Our grocery bill this week totaled 39.70. Over $5.00 of that was for a jar of martini olives (we all have our vices, no?). I know many people who spend less on groceries, for bigger families, but for us, this was a decent week. And I imagine next week will be even lighter, in waste and in spending.

Check out The Frugal Girl to see how other people did this week. 

Club Baked: Nutella Scones

My mom has always tried to instill healthy eating habits in me. We had rules in our house. One sweet thing a day, no cereal with more than 11g of sugar per serving. I was the only kid who read nutrition labels in the second grade. Grocery shopping included a lot of veggies and fresh foods. I got excited when I was able to pick out a new fruit to try because I knew I wouldn't get away with sneaking Bubbalicious into the cart. Eyes in the back of her head, she said. She cooked our meals, which I never thought was abnormal until I went away to school.

Fast forward to college: Shopping with my roommate senior year, she mentioned that she wanted meatballs. So, I steered our cart towards the meat section. She looked at me like I was crazy and asked, "Where are you going?" I told her to the meat section, so she could get meat for meatballs. She then introduced me to the frozen foods section, two whole aisles of food that is already made. And then pointed out the meatballs. In a bag. Ready to be eaten. (Did you also know they made french toast like that? Sheesh, the education I got that day.)

So, I immediately text my mother (who I think might still have this text message): "You did not prepare me properly for the world. Did you know that they have meatballs already made in the freezer section? They make lots of things already made. How could you not tell me this?" I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that was the gist of it.

Her response of course, was that I could make my own meatballs, freeze them individually on parchment paper and then bag them up to have my own ready made meatballs in the freezer. Totally missing the point that you could buy them that way.

Anyways, that whole meatball intro was to help you understand my culinary background and it's lack of processed foods. And the fact that I've never in my life had Nutella. 

Deprived. I know.

Anyhow, now that I am all old and grown, I have this pesky milk allergy and I can't have Nutella. (Thanks Mom, seriously, all those years that I missed out.) So, for the Club Baked Nutella Scones recipe, I made the "Hazelnut Spread" recipe that was found in the cookbook. And my loving husband said that it does not taste like Nutella. Great...

Despite that fact, I continued on and made the scones. I actually love scones. They are easy to put together, quick to make, and can have almost any flavor, sweet or savory. These are no exception in ease of preparation and the flavor is nice. A chocolate scone with a layer of Nutella (or, in my case, hazelnut spread) running through, topped with another drizzle of Nutella and crushed, toasted hazelnuts.

My only complaint: These are dry. I get that scones are dry. But I guess I got spoiled with the scones recipe from the Sweet Melissa Baking Book, my preferred scone recipe that makes a lovely, as moist as a scone can be, scone.

All in all, these weren't bad. And I'm glad I got to try sort of, almost, but not quite Nutella.

This recipe was hosted by Lorraine, so go over and check out her blog for the recipe.  Check out the Baked site for the other baker's takes on this one!

**We were recently at a party with the hub's co-workers and their families. One of the other girls said something about wanting almond butter, and did I know anywhere to get it, to which I replied "Just make it." Not realizing that this was weird until the hubs called me out on it. Outcast for life. Thanks, Mom.