Sunday, January 30, 2011

How To Be Cheap, I Mean...Not Wasteful!

When I spend Steve's hard earned dollar on pasture raised chickens (that actually get to see sunlight in their lifetime and eat grass and get to breathe fresh oxygen) you can bet your lunch money that I am not going to let half of it (the non-meat parts) go to waste! Thanks to the wonderful bottomless pit of information called "Google" I have learned how to use every last piece of chicken to my benefit. Here's how to be cheap...I mean...not be wasteful :)
 First, I put the entire, frozen chicken in the crock pot, put the lid on it, turn it to low heat and leave it for 8-10 hours. I don't add any water, but you could if you wanted to.
 All cooked!! Yay, that was hella easy!
 Next, I separate the chicken, which yes, at first was pretty "gross", but you get used to it. Oh and beware because the chicken will be HOT!!! I spent most of the time separating it yelling OW! HOT! OW! Yeah...I'm smart... Anyway, the bones, cartilage and weird unidentified pieces go back in the crock pot with the juices from the chicken. I'm going to make chicken stock with this (you'll see below).
 Set the skin aside if you want to make cracklins (aka fried chicken skin) and render chicken oil. If you don't want to because you AREN'T weird like me, you can put this back in the crock pot too with the bones.
 The chicken meat can be refrigerated or frozen. I can probably get two meals out of this meat, maybe two meals AND enough to make some chicken salad for sandwiches. I used the breast meat to make Chicken Tortilla Soup tonight for dinner...YUM!
So back to the stock... Next, I fill up the crock pot with whatever random vegetable tidbits we have. Usually when we peel carrots or chop up celery or onions, we save the peels and ends specifically for making broth (in a container in the fridge). Then I add some water and seasonings (a bay leaf and parsley in this picture). I put the cover on the crock pot and let this cook for 8-10 hours (on low). All of the nutrients from the veggies and the bones with seep out into the water!
 Here is the chicken skin chopped into 1 inch pieces cooking over low heat for about an hour, or until they are dark brown and stop bubbling.
 Here they are all finished! They are crunchy and delicious. Let me just say that these are a snack to be enjoyed in moderation, just like potato chips. They are high in fat (some good fats though!), salt, but also protein. Also, in the bottom of the pan you can see oil which leads me to...
Chicken oil! We use this to fry eggs and it's SO delicious. It only looks cloudy like this because it was sitting in the fridge and had cooled.
Ok, so fast forward 8-10 hours...
Here is the chicken stock from above (after we strained out the veggies and bones)! It can be used in tons of recipes, it's also nice to drink a hot mug of it if you are feeling sick as it's chock full of nutrients and broth made from bones is good for your teeth! If you make your own chicken stock and find that it looks like jelly after it's been cooled...you should congratulate yourself because that means you did a good job (it gets jelly-like because of the gelatin that comes out of the bones and is really good for you, don't worry it will go back to liquid when it's warmed up!)
The best part about buying whole chickens!! Wishbones!!! We used to only get ONE wishbone a year at Thanksgiving and my sister and I would wait all year to see who would get their wish granted, but now I get one wishbone every week or so! Yay!

And that's how to get your money's worth out of whole chicken. Oh, and the chickens we buy don't come with the organs inside, BUT if they did you know I would find a way to use those as well :)

xoxo,
Michelle

Saturday, January 22, 2011

WARNING: The Baby Is Not A Toy!!

That's right, the baby is not a toy, accessory, or something to use for your own selfish gain!
A baby is a human being. A small, chubby, and cute human being, but still a human being and person!

Ok Michelle, we get it. Baby=Person. Where are you going with this?

Well, I just get very upset when I read about or hear about people who think of babies as accessories, like a purse or pair of shoes! I was watching a video on YouTube made by my favorite blogger/YouTube person about what she did today while waiting for her baby to be born (she is six days overdue!). The video is very cute and she shows some cute outfits and things that she got for the baby. That's all fine and wonderful. However, I was reading some of the comments on her video and one in particular made me mad! One commenter was like, "Those little outfits are so cute, they make me want to have a baby! No, seriously, I want to have a baby now!"

UUGGHH!!!

Now, I'm straight up assuming that this commenter was a teenager because of the way the comment was written (I paraphrased above) and that makes me want to scream, "You should not have a baby just so you can dress it in cute clothes!"!

Having a baby is a massive responsibility. MASSIVE. You are completely responsible for the life and upbringing of that child. If you mess up raising that child, that could have major consequences on society as a whole! You aren't just messing with your own future, you are messing with another human being's future and the futures of everyone around that human being. They don't call it "raising a child" because you watch it grow up! You literally "raise up" or create a human physically, emotionally, socially, etc.

Recently I read a news article about some high school in the south where 90 students were either pregnant or had given birth in the last year. I don't think the high school was very big either. I've also heard stories about girls who enter into "pregnancy pacts" or have babies because they think it's "so cute!". Don't even get me STARTED on the sensationalization of motherhood via Teen Mom and other media outlets.

I know a lot of young girls think that having a baby will just be "omgz s0 cUtE!" and you get to dress the baby in all the newest fashions and give the baby cute little bottles and tickle the baby, listen to it giggle, and then gently rock it to sleep at night where in sleeps in it's crib peacefully until morning.

Sure, you do get to do those things (except for the gently rocking to sleep blah blah blah part) BUT there is so much more involved that I don't think most of these girls (or ANY mother for that matter) are truly ready for. I don't think anyone is ever "ready" to have a baby, but definitely not when you are a teenager or just because you think that a sequin encrusted onesie will match perfectly with your sequin encrusted stilettos.

Now, I love Konnor. He is the light of my life. A lot of things about motherhood surprised me, but at least I didn't live in a fantasy world before he got here! I knew that I was going to have to sacrifice almost everything for him and do whatever was best for him no matter the cost because news flash, it's not about me anymore. AT ALL. If you are going to be a responsible parent, you have to put your child before your own wants and needs.

The girls who live in a fantasy land about what having a baby is like, in their fantasy land, it's still all about THEM. How the baby will make THEM feel. How cute the baby's outfit will look with THEIR outfit. How the baby's father will stay with THEM if they get pregnant (which usually doesn't work).

It's just so.....sad.

Everyone in that scenario suffers. The mother who gets a huge dose of reality and the baby who could be resented and possibly neglected or mistreated. I'm not saying that that's always how the scenario ends up, but even if HALF of the cases end that way, that's too many. I'm also not talking about girls who get pregnant on "accident". I'm talking about girls who PURPOSEFULLY get pregnant because they think it will make them popular/be "so cute"/help them keep their boyfriend.

I just hate it when people use babies for their own selfish gains. Just because a baby is small and isn't a big kid or an adult doesn't mean that their life has any less value and that it's okay to treat them or think of them as toys or things to be used. We as a culture definitely need to stop teaching young girls that being pregnant and having a baby is so glamourous and that babies are just toys.

From where I'm sitting, it's not glamourous. My hair is dirty, I'm still in my pajamas (yupp at 7pm!) and I'm definitely not on the cover of a magazine. Also, my baby is not a toy. He is a person and some day he will be a grown man. And hopefully, if I do my job right, he will be a caring, loving, honest, trustworthy, hard working, and strong man.

Having a baby requires some sense of responsibility and I fear that the girls who want a baby for the WRONG reasons can't even be trusted to have a puppy.

/end rant

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Many Hats I Wear...

I may be "unemployed", but I am not jobless!
I am a:
Weekly Menu Planner
Master Budgeter
Bill Payer Extraordinaire
24/7 Gourmet Chef
Cleaner of the Home
Researcher and Planner of Future Endeavors
Craigslist "Stuff" Seller
Dog Trainer and Caretaker
Part-Time "Nurse" (For random minor ailments)
and Full-Time Baby Wrangler!!

Among other things like Super Laundry Maiden and Love and Support Giver :)

I also used to be a "YouTuber".
Before Konnor was born I was uploading a lot of makeup tutorials and random videos to YouTube and I have been trying to decide if I want to start filming again.
Screen shot from one of my old videos!
Filming can be a lot of fun, but it's also time consuming (especially after all the editing!). Along with that, there are so many cruel people on YouTube who purposefully spend their entire day searching for videos just to leave comments saying how ugly and stupid you are and that you should just kill yourself. So that's pleasant.

I removed a bunch of my old videos because, well...they were just bad! Haha, I was really just beginning and really had no place teaching others how to do anything! I'm not saying that I have any type of authority now even, but it is fun to share what you know, even if it is a small bit of knowledge.

As of right now, I'm lucky if I have time to take a proper shower let alone film an entire tutorial, then edit it, then upload it, but maybe you'll all be seeing links to YouTube videos in the coming months...

xoxo,
Michelle

p.s. it's hella easy to find me on YouTube if you really want to, but it's not something I openly advertise because the videos aren't that great. Most of my videos have been made non-public, but some are still there if you really, really need something to do! Hahaha...don't say I didn't warn you though!

Monday, January 17, 2011

More Peas Please!!


Konnor has officially started on "solid" foods! Yes, he's almost 7 months old, and most people start their babies on solids around 4-6 months of age, but I waited this long...mainly because of laziness. Hahaha. I mean, one of the reasons I breast feed is because it's so dang easy and low maintenance! No formula to measure out, no water to warm up, no bottles to wash and sanitize. Nope, it's just, "Oh, you're hungry? Here's a boob!" The End. Hahaha... but now with starting solids I would have to strap him in his high chair, put a bib on him, get the food out, possibly warm it up in the microwave, feed it to him, clean him up, clean his bowl and spoon, etc. That just seemed like one huge hassle to me! (Ok, ok...it's really not THAT bad.)
 So Konnor's first solid food was mashed up peas! I decided to go with peas because they are Steve's least liked vegetable (after beets).  I'm not going to say if Konnor liked them or not because I've read that it can take a baby a few tries before they decide if they like a taste or not. He ate almost all of them on his first try and he ate ALL of them on his second try!
 He's saying, "I don't know how I feel about this mom".
 He ate ALMOST all of it though!
He was much happier about eating his peas the second time around :)

There hasn't been too much excitement going on around here lately...
 We made some granola bars...YUMMY!
 Braved the snowy mounds to go on an adventure to....
 The doctor's office (we all had a cough (with mucous...EW!) but it's gone now!)
 Konnor and "Awoo" fell asleep on the way home...
 I finally found a hanging fruit (err...verggie) basket (at the Salvation Army)!! Yay! It's kind of hanging crooked, but Steve is going to fix that eventually...
 And we loaded up on fruit...and onions.
Konnor is really starting to get around! I put him down on his play mat (in the background) and he kind shuffled his way over to his books (I had to sit him up once he got there)! I not really prepared for his mobility yet! I'll set him down to play, turn my back for 5 seconds and BAM!...he's across the room getting into something! Hahaha, well maybe not ALL the way across the room (yet!) :) It's kind of nice though because he is learning how to entertain himself for a while so he isn't crying to be held as much!
 Aww...giving daddy kisses...
 Katarra, Konnor, my Dad, and Me...it took us about 5 tries to get this picture to look right! First is was really blurry, then Steve put his finger over the flash, then Konnor was distracted by the ceiling fan...but we finally got it! We spent most of the day yesterday in Hudson visiting Grandpa and Aunt Katarra and had a really great time :)

Now I'm off to make some lasagna for lunch/dinner! 

xoxo,
Michelle

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Opinion Bomb (About Food)!

So you might be asking yourself, "What's with all this "made from scratch" food business I've been seeing so much of on your blog Michelle?" Well, if you REALLY want to know...

We are overhauling the way we eat in this family. Major overhaul. We are going to stop eating processed "food" that is so far from being actual food that it makes more sense to refer to it as "chemicals in a package". We aren't going to eat produce that has been genetically modified or sprayed with gallons of chemical pesticides and herbicides. We aren't going to eat beef from cows that are raised in a factory rather than on a farm. Etc, etc, etc.

Well, we're taking baby steps (and some giant leaps) in that general direction anyway.

"Oh, I'd love to eat better, but it's too expensive." you might be thinking. Trust me, I've said that a million times. And I'm not saying that I think everyone should make this change... I'm just saying that this is how we are doing it.

First of all, nutrition should be one of our top priorities. Food is what keeps our body alive, healthy, and functioning. Why WOULDN'T we put food first?! I see so many people putting clothes, accessories, and electronics way before food. They will spend $400 on a new purse, but not more than $2 on dinner. Please inform me on how that purse is going to keep you alive, healthy, or functioning properly?

We are going to start making food a top priority by spending money on nourishing whole foods rather than junk food and processed food. There's some savings. Also, Steve and I don't have cell phones.
"GASP! What!? How do you LIVE!?"
It's actually really, really nice to not have a cell phone. I mean, why do I need to check Facebook while I'm at a restaurant? For some people, the thought of not having a cell phone is ridiculous, but just having a home phone is a. cheaper and b. a lot less annoying in my opinion.
So instead of spending $120 a month on an annoying cell phone that isn't necessary, I can spend $120 on healthy food which IS necessary. Wow, what a concept.

ANYWAY... we also save money by not having cable (we don't even have one of those HD converter box thingies, but that's just because we never got around to getting one!)...
A lot of people aren't willing to give up those luxuries, and that's fine, but that's how we free up money for good food (and bills too!).

Also, Steve and I recently joined a Farming Co-op (short for cooperative). Basically, you become a member of the Co-op by buying a "share" of the farm, (aka you own part of the farm) and then you can buy beef, pork, poultry, eggs, dairy products, honey, maple syrup, etc. directly from the farm. I am really excited that Konnor will know that hamburger meat comes from a farm down the road, not from a Kroger, lol. So many kids today don't understand that their chicken nuggets come from a chicken! Or that vegetables come from the ground!

Speaking of vegetables, we also plan to join a vegetable CSA. CSA stands for "community supported agriculture". It pretty much works the same way as a co-op. You buy a share of the farm, and every week the farmer brings you a big box of organic vegetables. YAY!

We are making a lot of other little changes here and there that will eventually build up over time. I'm pretty much over letting multi-million dollar corporations sell me junk, chemicals, toxins, and lies just so they can continue to get richer. I really don't care for the "mainstream" way of doing things anymore (and this has been a LONG time coming...)

Alright, this entry is getting long, and there aren't even any pictures in it (EW!). I'm not saying that everyone should eat like we are planning to eat blah blah blah. I'm just saying that I know it's what's best for me, Steve, and most importantly, Konnor. He is what motivated me to make this change anyway. I don't want him to be another obese child with Type 2 Diabetes and on 6 different prescription medications (that's a whole 'nother post).

So, that's why you will be seeing more homemade food posts from me in the future :)

Oh, and if you were slightly intrigued at all about what I wrote (or you are bored, whichever) might I suggest you watch the documentary Food, Inc. It's very informative. I just got the chance to watch it today (long AFTER we started making changes) and it just made me feel even stronger about my decisions. You can find the movie online for free if you do a simple Google search!

'til next time,
Michelle

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hey Good Lookin', Whatcha Got Cookin'?!

Come away with me and relive some of my most recent food adventures! Wow, sounds exciting right? Well... don't get too awful excited because we aren't going any farther than my small kitchen. (Aww, shucks) However, I do consider the following creations to be quite adventurous it can be scary to make food from scratch! Ok, so remember that spaghetti sauce I made a while back? (here) Well, we ended up making ravioli to go with it! 

 Here's the filling...I don't remember exactly what's in it. I know it's beef, some stock, and portobello mushrooms, but that's all I really remember. We made this paste using the food processor.
 Rolling out the dough! It was hard work with that cheap-o plastic rolling pin! (I have since bought a heavy wooden rolling pin at Salvation Army).
 Cutting the dough into cute little squares...
 Next, you fill the dough with the meat paste and cook the raviolis in boiling water for 3-5 minutes!
 Add sauce and TA-DA!
Next up on our list of adventures is homemade tortillas. At first, I was scared because I don't really know anything about bread dough and making tortillas just seemed like something you needed lots of talent to do (which I seem to lack in most departments).
 Making the dough...simple enough...(ignore my sleeve that would NOT stay up!) I think this dough had 4 ingredients, one of which was the butter we made (here).
 Umm..I forgot to photograph some steps, so here's the finished product! I can't believe how frickin' easy this was.
 Mmm...burritos. Homemade tortillas are DELICIOUS compared to store-bought ones and they don't tear or break near as easily...and get this...I'm pretty sure they are cheaper to make than to buy!
 Here's some dinner rolls I made...nothing special...
Ok, this meal has a story behind it...kind of. So Steve and I were recently noticing how our very well loved pots and pans collection is kind of starting to degrade in the non-stick Teflon department. Apparently you are supposed to replace your Teflon cookware every year and we've had ours for over two (little Teflon flakes are starting to come off, oops!) So we decided that we are going to make the switch to non-non-stick cookware (that looks weird, but that's the only way I can write it, haha). So we went to a few thrift/second hand stores and found this wonderful cast iron pot/dutch oven! It's awesome (except it didn't come with a lid...)! So anyway, here's a very colorful meal I made in it. It has: onions, mushrooms, carrots, celery, peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans. (I later added pasta and some "beef stock/BBQ stuff" left over from when I made BBQ ribs in the crock pot a few days ago.

Final product! (Let me just say that it's very difficult to type a blog with a small person constantly smacking the keyboard \and chewing on the computer itself.)

Well, that's all I've got for food, but here's some more pans that we bought! Yay for pans! (I get excited over weird stuff nowadays)...
We bought these stainless steel/copper bottom pans at Salvation Army (their cookware was 25% off!)
 The copper is pretty ugly here...
 I used vinegar, salt, and ketchup to bring it back to it's former glory....
Kind of. Well, they look better than before! I think I'm going to set the copper part in some Diet Coke over night so the acid can eat away at the nasty stuff more. I want that copper to sparkle dang it! lol.
And here is aforementioned small person, complete with TWO front (bottom) teeth! He loves smiling for the camera now :) When he's not bawling his eyes out from teething :(
You can't see them too well, but they are there and they are SHARP!
And speaking of teeth, someone is trying to EAT my laptop charger cord....

'til next time,

Michelle

p.s. If you are feeling adventurous and want any of the recipes I used, just comment below and I'll be happy to share them with you :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Very Special Christmas Blog

It's 2:13am and I definitely should be sleeping. Konnor and Steve are sleeping, all snuggled up, warm in their beds, but here I am, still awake, typing this blog! Ever since we returned home from our trip to Kansas, I have been meaning to write this special Christmas edition blog, and I keep nagging myself to do it, but I haven't had the chance (nor the motivation), until just now...at 2:13am.

For starters, we had three Christmases this year. One for our little family (On 12/23), one at Steve's parents' house (On 12/25), and one in Kansas and my mom and Jim's house (On 12/26). WHEW. There was a lot of gift giving going on (mostly to Konnor lol), but it was an amazing time (even though ALL of our Delta flights were majorly delayed and they lost my luggage TWICE)...anyway...
 Our stockings (Steve's, mine, and Konnor's). I absolutely love my stocking. My grandma made one for me and one for my sister Katarra (they are matching, except hers is wearing a dark blue dress and has light blue eyes). I have had it forever and might have to name a future daughter "Michelle" just so I can pass it down! (kidding, kidding...or maybe one of my family members will name a daughter after me? ;))
 Our cute little fiber-optic tree. We had the opportunity to get a big sized tree this year, but we decided against it because we weren't going to be home for much of the holiday break anyway.
 My happy little baby waiting to open presents! He is getting more and more adorable by the second.
 This is his "I'm a little stinker" face. lol.
Konnor with grandma, in his little gift opening outfit, complete with elf booties!
 This picture is significant because of the box of Life Saver candies and the Tootsie Roll Bank. My mom has bought me sisters and I a Life Saver box and a Tootsie Roll Bank for our stockings every year of our lives! This year Konnor got his first pair. I can't wait to carry out this tradition for him in the coming years :)
 My mom, Konnor, and me at my Auntie Kim's house in Kansas.
 This picture marks the beginning of a new tradition. From now on, every year (we started at 6 months) we are going to take a picture of Konnor wearing this exact sweater of Steve's. In about 18 years, he will actually fit into it, and I think it's going to be wonderful to watch him grow into it a little bit more every year.

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
p.s. Steve and I spent our New Year's Eve in his parents' car traveling down 23. We were supposed to get to his parents' house around 11:00pm and have plenty of time to watch the ball drop, BUT because our flights were delayed and my luggage was lost, we didn't get to their house until long after midnight. This was the first year I didn't get to watch the ball drop AND I didn't get my New Year's kiss.
(boo hoo hoo)

xoxo,
Michelle