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Friday, September 13, 2019

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for September

Is everyone ready for some weekend R & R? Can you believe that September is nearly half over? The busier I get, the faster the weeks fly by. Despite the busy-ness, our family tries to gather for dinner every night. Some nights this means all 4 of us assembled around the table, and other nights this means just 2 or 3 of us. My family understands that this is important to me, so they make the effort. (And I appreciate that.)

Here's what we ate this past week:

Friday -- another cook-out
hot dogs
quick and easy sauerkraut
tossed green salad

bean and cheese burritos in these homemade tortillas
carrot sticks
corn tortilla chips

Sunday --a quick dinner after an afternoon out
peanut noodles with cabbage
fresh blackberries

Cabbage Patch soup
fresh French bread and homemade soft butter
green salad
blackberry cobbler (using this easy tip for a baking powder substitute)

leftover soup
garden salad
French bread and butter
leftover cobbler

fried tofu with peanut noodles
sauteed beet greens, onions, and garlic
vanilla-rhubarb sauce

homemade cheese pizza (using the same dough recipe as the french bread)
garden salad
fresh peaches

Family favorites for our time together
You may have noticed that we repeat our favorites often, such as homemade pizza, bean burritos, and the numerous summer cook-outs. I guess that you could say that we've found what works for us. The summer cook-outs, especially, are family favorites. Roasting hot dogs over a fire ring is incredibly inexpensive, yet provides not only a meal but entertainment for us. As a result, we all linger just a little longer when sitting around the fire than when we're just having a normal, kitchen supper. (And mom gets just a little more time with her family.)

The veggie garden
Our garden continues to produce for us. We're currently harvesting tomatoes, lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, summer squash, winter squash, cucumbers, green beans, beets, and herbs. I pulled the last of the beets the other day (have them cleaned and in the fridge right now) to make room for the fall greens. 

Remember I started some spinach and radish seeds in a flat a few weeks ago? Well, most of the spinach plants got devoured by a slug, but the radishes are looking good. I transplanted them into the trough where the beets had been, tightly packed together to promote greens instead of roots. I also transplanted the last of the lettuce and kale seedlings into various spots in the garden. My hope is to have fresh salad and cooking greens through all of October and cooking greens alone till the middle of November. 

Working on preserving what I can
Whenever I can, I freeze excess greens to use next winter. It really isn't a lot, but any amount will keep us eating healthy during the months that the garden is not producing (December through mid-March).

Sometime this next week, I'll harvest the basil, oregano, peppermint, lemon balm, rosemary, dill, cilantro, and sage to either chop and freeze or dry. I prefer to freeze both basil and rosemary, but I will use my dehydrator for the other herbs. Years ago, I bought a basic American Harvest food dehydrator. At the time, I think I envisioned batches of beef jerky, homemade fruit leather, and granola bars. In truth, I think I use this machine most for drying herbs and chopped/diced fruits and vegetables. The other foods just seemed to have too many steps to the process. As I live where the humidity tends to be high year round, the dehydrator has actually been a good appliance to own. Air-dried herbs mold more often than not in my kitchen. 

My parsley didn't grow very well this year (slugs kept eating the newly planted seedlings), so I won't have much parsley to chop and freeze. However, parsley is biennial, so I will have a second crop in early spring to harvest next year, without any planting work on my part.

In addition, my winter squash and pumpkins are still sizing up and ripening, and the potatoes are about ready to dig. Before the end of the month, I'll need to do the hard digging work for those potatoes.

I tried a new-to-me brand of canning jar lids and rings this past week -- Walmart's Mainstays brand. A package of 12 regular-size lids and rings cost $2.32, a much better price for me than the name brands. And, they seemed to work just fine for me when I made jam earlier this week.

So much of my energy is focused on food -- planting, harvesting, preserving, or procuring. It is what it is.

I hope you had a pleasant week and are looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Have a good one!


  1. I love it when you post the photos - I guess I'm more of a visual person.

    This was not a particularly frugal week for me. My father in law passed away so we had out of town family - and the business of handling the funeral, etc. This led to take out dinner - but that's ok. It's just been chaotic, but I'll get back to organization now.

    I'm curious about your vanilla rhubarb sauce. Do you eat it like pudding or does it go on cake? Your meals sound great and the best part is that your family enjoys the time together.

    Have a good weekend!

  2. Ruthie, sorry to hear about your father-in-law's passing. Dealing with funerals and the aftermath of life is exhausting. I hope you can get a little rest in soon.

    Alice, if you're reading, I continue to think of and pray for your husband and you.

    Lili, I think we all know what meals work best for our families. I am very much like you in that it's very important for me to have our family eat dinner together as often as possible Funny story about that this past week--I made cashew chicken for dinner (which I don't do often) and I was trying to use up garden produce. I added what I (and my husband!) thought were sweet banana peppers. Well, they weren't. It was possibly the hottest meal I've ever eaten. My face burned all evening, as did my hands from where I touched the peppers while cutting them up. We still aren't sure what peppers they were--my hubby swears he bought sweet peppers but our experience says otherwise!

  3. Hi Ruthie,
    I am so sorry for the loss of your father-in-law. You and your family have my condolences and prayers for comfort. Take good care of yourself.

    Yes, the vanilla rhubarb sauce is eaten just as is, like applesauce. Rhubarb grows quite well in my garden so we endeavor to find ways to use it all up. Spiking foods and beverages with vanilla helps them disappear faster around here.

  4. Hi Kris,
    Oh no! That must have been quite a surprise with the peppers. I hope that you did not rub your eyes at all. The capsaicin can stay on your hands and especially fingernails for a couple of days, despite a lot of hand-washing. Did you all eat the chicken dish or did you find a way to modify it? Well, this will be something to laugh about in the future. Do you have more of those peppers growing in your garden? If so, they might be great in salsa.

    Have a good weekend.

  5. Ruthie, I'm sorry for your loss and am praying for you and your family.

    I tried a new chicken marinade this week that made the chicken too salty. However, it sounds like it was a lot easier to eat than Kris's chicken. :)

  6. Lili!!! Your new profile picture is gorgeous! I love it. You are beautiful!

    Ruthie, hugs as you go through this process of losing a loved one.

    Kris, I am still reading all the messages. Still in LA and now I'm getting worried. One thing after another.

    I'm drooling reading all of the yummy meals Lili makes and especially the pictures. I want all of that now. Half way through Sept. and I have missed all the fresh produce from my dad's garden. I have not frozen anything obviously since I am out of town. I want to go home so badly. If my husband has to stay, I think I'm going home. Our pet cat of 12 years died this week. We think she died of a broken heart because we left and never came back. My son was home but she loves mom and dad the most. He took really good care of her and was with her when she died (he worked hard to get her to the vet but she died too fast) and then he allowed our other cat the see her before he had to bury her. He was very emotional and crying himself. so sad.


  7. Hi live and learn,
    Oh I hate when that happens. You think you've done a recipe all correctly and it turns out too salty. There are ways to mediate that, like putting a potato into the cooking liquid for a while, to soak up saltiness, but that all sounds like a lot of extra work when I'm tired. I hope you were able to "fix" the saltiness problem with the marinade/chicken.

  8. Hi Alice,
    I am praying for your and your husband. I am so sorry for all that you must be going through right now. And to lose your cat, too. I'm sorry for your son, too. What a difficult thing to deal with on his own. He took care of everything in a very thoughtful manner.

    I will continue to pray for your husband's recovery and strength for you. You can privately email me, whenever, if you just need someone to "talk" to.

    You are in God's hands.

  9. Alice, I'm so sorry. I can't imagine being that far away from home while going through a medical situation with a loved one. And I'm sad for you about your cat. They are so much a part of the family and to lose one is heart-breaking.

    Lili, your new picture showed up today--so pretty! Yes, we ate all the food--my husband enjoys spicy dishes so he happily ate the leftovers (and there were more than usual ....) for lunch. We laughed about it at the time, but boy were my hands sore for the evening! I tried all the online remedies I could find--vinegar, milk .... mostly I kept a cold compress on my hands for the evening.

  10. Kris,
    I feel for you with the burns you got from handling the peppers. Not funny at the time, I'm sure.
    At least your husband was able to enjoy it!

  11. Lili that is a beautiful picture of you. Would you mind posting the recipe for the cabbage soup. It looks like something we could eat. Cheryl

  12. Well I should have looked back Lili. What a nut I am.😂

  13. My bad, Cheryl. I should have linked to it in the first place. I'm glad that you found it anyway!
    I hope you enjoy this. I think it is absolutely delicious.

  14. I'm glad that the WM Mainstay dome lids worked for you. I am a home canner and on a few safe (follow the National center for the home preservation of food guidelines strictly for tested recipes and methods) and many report high failure rates, buckling etc with the WM brand lids

  15. Thanks for adding this, Carol.I'll be watching those specific jars (they're all gold, whereas my Ball and Kerr lids are silver). What made me give the Walmart lids a try was one of my last Kerr lids failed on me this summer, so I figured I may as well try a less expensive brand. Thanks for your warning. I'll update later if I find any of the WM Mainstays fail.

  16. I know what you mean when you say most of your energy is spent procuring food. I feel that way at times, but it is what it is, just like you said. :)

  17. I'm an pretty big food preserver. I've used the Mainstays brand of lids the past couple of years & have had zero problems. (I tried just a box to begin with, in case they failed.) For some reason, they don't carry a wide mouth lid in that brand. Buckling usually occurs when you tighten the ring too much. It's supposed to big "finger-tip" tight, not screwed down hard. I do quite a bit of canning & have had no unsealed jars in long term storage with the Mainstays lids. I've been pleasantly surprised by them, especially since I was completely brand loyal to Ball before.

    I ordered my Ball wide mouth lids directly from the Walmart website this year. I ordered in a lot of 12 boxes for $2.98 for each box, which is the cheapest price I could find anywhere. The price of lids alone makes me rethink canning sometimes, but I love the quality of home canned foods. I have just one box of lids left, so I guess I made good use of them.

    And I agree, Lili, sometimes I think food is my full time job. Melissa

  18. I just noticed your updated profile information. The photo of you and your family is beautiful. And thank you for all the kind condolences. This has been a really hard year - my sister passed away in February - then FIL a couple of weeks ago, intermixed with illness, etc. I love this online community where we can share gracious, frugal living tips and kind words of love and encouragement.

  19. Hi Belinda,
    I guess there's no escaping this situation. It takes what it takes. At least we've been blessed with the skills and attitude to do this.

  20. Hi Melissa,
    Your last line made me laugh -- that food is your main job. This is how it feels. But as I said to Belinda, I do believe that this is an area of our gifts. We've been blessed with the ability, attitude, and desire to work at this.

    Thank you for your input on the Mainstays lids. I'm hoping for the best with these. Your price on the Ball wide mouth is really great. I will keep that in mind for next year. Thank you!

  21. Ruthie, I am just so sorry for your losses. I didn't realize that your sister had previously passed away. I am just so sorry. Sending prayers and hugs.


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