Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Delicious 30 Minute Chili

I took these pictures a few weeks ago, but never got around to sharing the recipe.  The other day I heard Hubby mention that the Super Bowl is coming up (shows how much I follow football, I didn't have a clue, lol!) and I figured now would be the perfect time to share this incredibly easy, but incredibly yummy recipe for chili for any of you game day buffs that might be having a party.

I used to be the only one in my family that even liked chili so I never even attempted to make it.  If I was hungry for it I'd just run through Wendy's and get me some of theirs.  But then I decided I wanted a recipe of my own so I set out to come up with something simple but delicious.  I saw no need in cooking it "from scratch" so to speak, or simmering it all day, or any other such complicated way of making it since it was only me who would eat it and I didn't want to waste the effort.  : )

After a few attempts I came up with this easy peasy recipe.

You'll need:
- 2 cans of Bush's Chili Beans, however spicy you like them, I use medium
(I tried other brands and didn't care for them as much as the Bush's)
- 2 cans of chili ready tomatoes
- 1/2 can of Rotel (again, however spicy you like it: mild, original, or hot)
- Chili sauce
- water (not pictured)
- minced garlic
- celery flakes
 - minced onion
- chili powder
-salt and pepper
- 1lb ground beef
- 2 packets of Wendy's Chili Sauce (the secret ingredient!)
(there are 3 pictured, but I only ended up using two of them)

1. Brown your ground beef.  
2.  While it's cooking, be sure to season it good with salt, pepper, and minced onion.
(Draining it is optional, I usually don't bother.)

3.  Dump the rest of the ingredients in the pot, and give it another sprinkle of salt.
(If you like a thinner chili you can add 1-2 cups of water, for a thicker chili add less water or even no water.)

4.  Give it a good stir.

5. Cover it and let it simmer on low for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.  
(I always check mine halfway through and adjust the seasonings as needed.)

6.  Top with some shredded cheese and eat up!
(It's also really good on a baked potato, or with some tortilla chips for chili cheese nachos.  I haven't tried it yet, but I've also thought it would be good blended up a bit and used to top off a hot dog for Chili Dogs.)

Mmmmm!!  Full of chunky deliciousness!

I have nice deep bowls and this recipe fills up 4 of them.

30 Minute Chili
Serves 4
                     - 2 cans of Bush's chili beans                    - 2 cans of chili ready tomatoes
                            - 1/2 can of Rotel                                       - 1/3 cup of Chili Sauce
                            - 1-2 cups of water                                     - 1 tsp. minced garlic
                            - 1 Tbls celery flakes                                  - 1/8 tsp chili powder
                            - salt & pepper to taste                                - 1 tsp. minced onion
                            - 1 lb ground beef                                       - 2 packets of Wendy's Chili Sauce

1. Brown your ground beef in a skillet or a Dutch oven until no longer pink.  

2.  While it's cooking, be sure to season it good with salt, pepper, and the minced onion.  (Draining it is optional, I usually don't bother.)

3.  Dump the rest of the ingredients in the pot, and give it a sprinkle of salt.  (If you like a thinner chili add 1-2 cups of water, for a thicker chili add less water or even no water.)

4.  Give it a good stir.

5. Cover and let simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  (Taste it halfway through and adjust the seasonings as needed.)

6.  Top with shredded cheese or other toppings of your choice and eat up.

Hope you enjoy!


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A New Farmhouse Bed

Hey everyone!  I just wanted to pop in real quick to share a picture of our new bed for the master bedroom.

We have lots of family that live a few hours from us and so we have weekend visitors about once a month usually.  Our rental house was so small they had to stay in a hotel when they were in town.  This new house, on the other hand, has plenty of room, but we didn't have a bed for them to sleep in.  They were resigned to an air mattress.  Since we don't have a 4th bedroom to commit solely to a guest room we decided the best plan would be to put a double bed in our daughter's room and let that be a guest room when needed.  

Hubby has been complaining for quite some time that our bed was too small for his long frame.  Because of the way the footboard was situated he could never fully stretch out.  So, we decided to do a full out bed switcheroo.  We would find a queen sized bed for us (thus giving his tall self a few extra comfy inches), then we would pass our double bed onto our daughter (the antique style of it will fit perfectly in her room decor once we get it going), and our 3.5 year old son would receive our daughter's twin sized bed so that he could finally move out of his crib-converted-to-a-toddler-bed.

I had been scouring Craigslist, thrift stores, and used furniture stores for months to no avail.  I came across a few that I felt like maybe we could have made work, but they just didn't strike me as really being what I wanted and they weren't worth the hassle.  Never mind the fact that I didn't even really know what I wanted, I just felt like I'd know it when I saw it.  

And I did.

(Please excuse the room, this picture is not staged at all.  The room has yet to be painted, there's a hodge podge of sheets on the bed,  boxes are still everywhere, and bifold shutters are the only window treatments, lol!)

Finally, one night I found this bed on Craigslist and I just knew, this was it.  It had a big chunky farmhouse feel to it and the size of it would fit our large master bedroom much better.  It also came with a practically brand new memory foam mattress set.  This one was definitely worth the hassle of driving an hour away to the "big city" to pick it up.

It was already late that night so we couldn't call until the next morning.  In the meantime I started to feel anxious about it.  "Would someone else buy it before we could get a hold of them?  What if I get my hopes up and it's already gone?"  That sort of thing.  But I stopped myself, and I just prayed about it.  Because if there's one thing I've learned about God it's that, even though He created the entire universe and still keeps it all in motion, and even though He's everywhere at once and answering prayers the entire world over....He still cares about lil' ol' me and the little piddly things in my life.  So I told Him, "Lord, if this is supposed to be the right bed for us then I know that it will still be there for us."  And I went to sleep.

The next morning we called and they said they already had someone coming to look at it at 11:00am.  That anxious feeling started to come back, but I just prayed again.  I told God, "I know You're in control.  If it's meant to be then I know the other people will decide they don't like it after all.  Or maybe they'll be a no-show."

11:40 rolled around and I texted them asking if the other people had bought the bed.  They texted back, "They were a no-show, it's still available."  Woohoo!  That's my God for ya!  :D

So, we rushed out the door to make the hour drive.  Thankfully my in-laws were here visiting for the weekend and had their pickup truck with them, because the bed also came with a TV armoire that the people wouldn't separate.  We looked a bit like the Beverly Hillbillies coming home, but we made it.

I don't know yet what exactly my vision is for the master bedroom other than a farmhouse feel, of course, but this bed is versatile and will be a perfect fit for whatever I come up with.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Meal Planning 3 Months at a Time

A week or so ago I posted this photo over on the Facebook page.

I shared that it was meal planning day here at the farmhouse and that I had come up with a system for planning 3 months at a time.  I asked if there would be any interest in me sharing my system, expecting a few likes and a comment or two maybe, but the response was a surprising and overwhelming cry of YES, PLEASE!!  I could not believe how quickly the comments came flying in of people dying for me to share it immediately. goes, I'm going to attempt this.  This is a system I came up with about two years ago, and I love it, it has worked so awesome for me.  BUT...I've never tried to explain it to anyone else.  Since I love my readers, though, I'll do my best.  : )

First a little background info.  Whenever you read any article or blog about saving money on groceries they always tell you to plan your meals around the sales for that week.  So for instance, chicken thighs are buy one get one free so you plan BBQ chicken for that week, etc.  That's all well and good, and it works, I tried to do it that way for a good long while.  But I found myself getting frustrated because I'd come down to the night before grocery day and I'd be trying to make my list at the same time I was planning meals and I couldn't remember from week to week what I had made the previous week.  I found myself getting into a rut of making the same stuff over and over again simply because I was in a hurry to get my shopping list finished.  I finally got fed up enough that I sat down and thought it through and decided that I needed more than just a week at a time planned out.  That's when the Lord prompted me to really think about my family's needs and analyze our schedule and come up with a month's worth of meals based on what we had going on that month.  Well, if you're going to sit down and spend the time to come up with a month's worth, it doesn't take much longer to go ahead and make it three month's.  It takes me an hour, tops, and boom....I don't have to think about it again for 3 months!  That's a huge sigh of relief.

First thing you're going to want to do is to start yourself a list.  This list is going to be of every meal you can think of that you make on a regular basis, any and every meal your family likes, and all the meals your family sort of likes.  Keep it handy somewhere and as you think of things throughout the day and the week add them to the list.  You'd be surprised at how many you don't remember when you're sitting there trying to think about it.  Here's my list I came up with a couple of years ago.

You can see it's been well used.  You can also see that over time I've added things and crossed things off.  I haven't been very good at getting any new dishes added to it here lately, but this gives you a general idea of what I'm talking about.  Get yourself a list so you have some ideas to work with when it comes time to plan.

Once you've got your list ready, use a search engine and type in, "free printable calendar 2014."  Find a very basic, simple layout, where the numbers are in the corner and the rest of the squares are left open.  (I used the ones found {here}.  You'll see links in the upper right corner for all the months of the year.  After you click on a month select the one at the top left that says "sometimes simple is best" underneath it.)  Then go ahead and print them off for the entire year.  It's frustrating to come down to the end of your three months and then not be able to find that original link again to print more months.  It's easier to just print them all at the same time.  Once you have your calendar's printed find a nice sharp pencil and a good eraser.  Please don't attempt this in pen.  You'll just get spittin' mad when you realize you need to make several changes as you go along.

Ok, at this point you'll have to do a whole lot of thinkin' and analyzing about your family's schedule and what your needs are.  This comes into play a lot.  For example, in our family my husband absolutely hates taking sandwiches and chips and that sort of thing for his lunches.  He much prefers leftovers.  So I plan that into my meals.  I always make sure to prepare an extra portion for him.  But, he doesn't need any leftovers on Saturday, so on Friday nights I can plan meals that I know don't make enough for leftovers, or meals that aren't as tasty the next day.  

Sundays are always a big after church dinner day.  My husband likes to have basically the same sides every Sunday (mashed potatoes, noodles, green beans, and dinner rolls) so I just vary the meat from Sunday to Sunday.  One week it's roast chicken with those sides, the next week a pork loin with those sides, then it'll be chuck roast with carrots and potatoes cooked with it, then the next week a pork picnic roast with the above sides.  It probably sounds pretty boring to you, but it has to do with the way he grew up and that's what works for our family.  

Wednesday nights are a church night so I try to plan meals that are fairly simple and quick to prepare and easy to clean up so that we can get out the door on time.  So in other words, no fried chicken on Wednesdays!  : )  When my daughter was playing soccer this past fall I made sure to plan easy slow cooker meals on the days of her games or practices.

We don't go out to eat very often so I usually end up cooking 7 days a week.  By the time Saturday rolls around I'm ready for something super simple or something that Hubby can easily help me with.  So it's generally something like hamburgers, spaghetti, homemade corn dogs, or Hubby throws something on the grill.

I say all of that to help you see how I've analyzed my family's routine and what our needs are so that I can work it into the meal schedule.  You'll have to figure out what works for you and your family.  Do you have a tradition of pizza every Friday night?  Do you do go out to eat every other Saturday?  Do you need a simple "throw-together-in-the-morning" Crockpot meal on Tuesdays and Thursdays because the kids have sports practice after school?  Whatever your schedule and lifestyle may be, think it over and make notes about any factors that you know for certain.

Ok, so at this point I spread my 3 months worth of calendars in front of me and I start by filling in any days that I know for sure I don't need to cook (i.e. we'll be out of town, inlaws are coming and taking us out to eat, etc.)  If you have pizza every Friday night then start by filling out every single Friday with "pizza."  There, you've already got one day a week down pat.  : )  After filling those days out I start with Sundays because those are the most definite meals for us.  I go ahead and fill in every single Sunday rotating the meals I normally make on a 5 week schedule.  So my Sundays will look like this: Roast Chicken, then the next Sunday will be Pork Loin, then Chuck Roast, Chicken and Rice, Pork Picnic Roast.  Then I start over again, Roast Chicken, Pork Loin, Chuck Roast, etc. until all the Sundays are filled in.

  Then I look at each Sunday's meal and I fill in another day that week that I can use up the leftovers from Sunday.  So for example, if we had roast chicken on Sunday, then I know that later in the week I can boil the carcass and use the broth and pickin's to make chicken noodle soup, or chicken and dumplings.  If I make a chuck roast then I use the leftovers to make a beef barley veggie soup or a Shepherd's pie on another day.  So I go ahead and get all of those "leftover" type meals planned in according to what we had that Sunday.  

Then I move on to Wednesdays and start filling those in with the easy and quick meals.  Again, I'm basically just rotating the meals so that we end up having the same meal once every 4-6 weeks.  For example, let's say on the 5th I planned to make pork chops.  Then I would go down my calendars and 5 weeks later I'd write in pork chops again on the 12th (also a Wednesday) of the next month.  Meatloaf planned for the 6th would then get written in again on a Wednesday 5-6 weeks later.

(I apologize that these pictures aren't that great.  It was a rainy, overcast day so the lighting was not ideal.  Plus, it's hard to get lightly colored pencil to show up.)

Then I move on to Fridays.  I go down through and fill in every single Friday with meals that fit the bill of not needing leftovers - homemade pizza, veggie soup, BBQ pork made with leftover roast from earlier in the week, etc. etc.  Some things, like the homemade pizza and BBQ pork, I repeat every 4 weeks instead of every 5 or 6 weeks because those are meals we really enjoy.  Other meals get spaced out farther in the rotation. 

Then I fill in Saturdays with my easy peasy meals, again, doing the 4-6 week rotation.  That leaves me with Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays to plan the more time consuming meals (like fried chicken), and meals that are easy to make plenty of leftovers from.  I also make sure to pencil in "New" every two weeks or so.

Then after all my meals are planned for all the other days, I go searching through my "Recipes to Try" board on Pinterest or through my stash of recipes that I've torn from magazines and I plan some new meals that we've never tried before.  (I go back and erase "new" and write in what the new meal will be.)  This keeps things interesting for all of us.  For me as the cook so I'm not fixing the same ol' same ol' week after week, month after month, as well as for my family.  It helps them to branch out and be brave and try new things. 

 If I got the recipe from Pinterest then I make a small note on that day to remind myself of that.  If it's an actual paper recipe I go ahead and paper clip it right to that month's calendar so that I don't have to spend time frantically searching for it 3 months down the road.  (If the new meal is a hit, I start to work it into the rotation for the following 3 months of meals.  If it was a fail, we pretend it never happened and don't mention it again.)
I usually end up making the same sides with certain meals, like mashed potatoes and corn with fried chicken, and seasoned rice and green beans with fish, but if I found a new side dish recipe that I want to try I pencil it in for that meal so that I don't forget and make the same things out of habit.  So instead of just simply writing "Grill steaks" and knowing that I always make oven fried potatoes with it, I'll pencil in "baked herb and parmesan potato slices (Pinterest)" under the main course of "grill steaks."  Because let's face it, 2 months into this and I'm probably not going to remember that I wanted to try a new side dish.

And there ya go, that's how you do 3 months of meal planning.  It may seem daunting at first, but once you really take the time to analyze your life and your schedule I'm sure you'll find you have certain needs on certain days and it will begin to make sense and fall into place.  Now when that 3 months is over and you're ready to plan the next 3 months, you take the previous months' calendars and lay them out next to your empty set of calendars and you can basically just repeat the last 3 months.  Trust me, your family will not even realize you just "hit repeat" so to speak.  Keeping the meals in a 4-6 week rotation makes sure there is a long enough time period in between so that you're family isn't saying, "We're having hot dogs and mac-n-cheese again?!?  But we just had that last week!"  By the time 5 weeks rolls around they might actually be hungry for hot dogs again.  Scheduling in days to try new recipes also helps to keep things from getting too repetitious.

If I get to the end of my 3 months of planning and I still have some meals that I somehow didn't incorporate into the schedule, I make a note of them in the bottom corner of the 3rd month's calendar.

So in this case I made this little list on March's calendar.  That way when I'm ready to do the next 3 months of planning I can see which meals we haven't had in the previous months, and also so I don't forget about them and they end up lost out of the rotation.

* Now, some things to keep in mind. *

I highly recommend doing your meal planning when you have a good block of quiet time to sit uninterrupted and are able to think and focus.  It's incredibly hard to do this when your kids are constantly needing your attention.  So give those wild hoodlums a dose of Benadryl and wait 30 minutes, then get to work.  Haha!  I kid.  But seriously, wait until they're asleep at night, or totally engrossed in a movie, or even better, have Hubs take them out for a morning at the park.  You just need to be able to concentrate without being pulled away every 2 minutes.  It will most likely take you more than an hour the first time or two that you do it, but once you get the hang of it I promise you'll only spend an hour every three months planning meals!

Another thing to keep in mind with this is that just because you have a meal penciled in for a certain day doesn't mean it's written in stone.  If Monday rolls around and you just aren't feeling that Beef Stroganoff then look ahead in the week and see what else sounds good and make the fried chicken you had planned for Thursday.  Then you'll do the Stroganoff on Thursday instead of Monday.  Or whatever the case may be.  It's very flexible.  Hubby says he's hungry for Chinese takeout tonight?  Fine, just save tonight's meal for another night.  

You can still take advantage of the weekly sales so that you're saving money for your family.  Chicken breast on sale this week?  Go ahead and buy it and put it in the freezer for that chicken tenders meal you have planned for next week.  Chuck roast on sale?  Go ahead and stock up, after all, you've got French Dip Sandwiches planned in three weeks.  Just pop it in the freezer for now.

Another advantages to this system, is that not only do you not have to do any more meal planning for 3 months, but it also allows you to extend the time in between shopping trips if you so choose.  I got sick and tired of going grocery shopping every.single.week.  It's a long and tedious process to make the several stops I need to make to get all the best deals when I'm toting my youngin's along.  So I started going every 2 weeks instead.  You could even go only once a month if you were so inclined.  

I'm a stay at home mom and we homeschool so I don't have to plan breakfasts and lunches for my kids  (we usually just wing it) so my calendars only include supper planning, but this system could easily be adapted to include breakfast and lunch planning as well.

Whew!  I've done my best to explain my system and give as many examples as I could, but if you have questions feel free to ask away and I'll answer them the best I can.

 I hope you'll take the time to try it out, it works, it really really does.


Sharing over at:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New House Update #3

Hi everyone!  I'm so sorry that I left those of you who don't have Facebook just hanging these past couple of weeks.  Things around here exploded into busy-ness all of a sudden and I didn't have time to post more than a quick picture here and there over on the FB page.  

On the last update I shared that Hubby had just finished scraping all the popcorn off the ceilings, I was trying to decide on a paint color, we had just taken the island out of the kitchen, and I had finally made a decision on the laminate flooring.  Wellllll, my dad came up one weekend and the three of us laid the new floors.  It took us 18 hours over the course of 3 days to get it done.  We moved in the very next weekend and 3 days later we hosted our first company and had back to back company of family and friends for the next 5 days over Christmas.  Then it was time to go back and clean the rental house and get it ready to turn back over.  So...things have been a mite busy.

BUT....the floors look AH-mazing!!!  They are SO ridiculously gorgeous and I am absolutely in love with them!!  These cell phone pictures don't do them justice, lemme tell ya.

This little alcove leads to the other 2 bedrooms and the 2nd bathroom.

Once I got the construction zone cleaned away and finally found the kitchen again I was giddy with happiness!  (I found that light above the sink at a thrift store for $11!)

I shared this picture of the moving in mess on Facebook.  Organizing kitchen cabinets is weirdly one of my favorite parts of moving into a new house. 

And did you notice that little table in the middle there?

I found it on Craigslist and used my birthday money to buy it.  It's gorgeous and chock full of nicks and scratches and nail holes.  I didn't know when I bought it what I would use it for, I just knew it was beautiful and it had my name all over it.  Most likely it will be used as a desk in our home office area.

A couple of days later it was all cleaned up and signs of life had started to appear.

On the other side of the kitchen is a big blank wall.  Eventually I'd like to get a big old cupboard of some sort to put there.  A primitive farmhouse hutch, a Hoosier cabinet, an antique pie safe...something.  But for now we had this little cheap bookshelf that we put there for some extra pantry storage.  I didn't like how cluttered and messy it looked so I came up with a temporary solution.

Much better.  : )

I put together a little collage of all the phases of the kitchen so far.  Top left is what it looked like when we bought it with it's dingy walls and dark trim, ending with the bottom right being how it looks now.

The next project on the to-do list is to trim off the blue underlay around the edges of the new floor and get the baseboards up in the dining room and kitchen.  I had two of the cutest little helpers helping me paint them.  : )

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I wish you and yours a very happy new year!!

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