Monday, August 31, 2009

Menu Plan Monday

I see that I have stirred up some inspiration in my family to Menu Plan again!! I do not assign meals to specific days, just because Travis's schedule can change depending on the weather (literally). I also only plan to make three meals a week due to the fact that Elizabeth doesn't eat much and we always have leftovers!

On the Menu this week:
Salisbury Steak, gravy, egg noodles
Sheppard's Pie
Sirloin Steak on the grill, baked potatoes, green beans

I'm not making my crock pot ribs this week, but I've gotten many requests for the recipe, so here it is: (This is my Aunt Monica's recipe. I had these at her house and were so good that I had to make them for ourselves!)

Rack of Baby Back Pork Ribs (Or whatever kind of ribs your family likes) Some racks will be really fatty, I look for the racks that don't have tons of fat on them.

Rub the rack with vegetable oil and season on both sides. There is no right or wrong way to season ribs. Use what your family likes. Travis & I received a Rib and Brisket seasoning blend for our wedding that I use. Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning would work, too. If you don't have something like that here's what I would recommend: seasoning salt (like Lawry's) or , pepper, garlic powder or flakes, and onion powder.

Cut the rack into pieces. I usually cut them between every 2-3 ribs. Put them in the crock pot with a little water. Half of an inch of water will work. Any fat will melt off and add to the liquid. If you're worried you don't have enough water you can add more or, if you're home, you can check it after a couple of hours. Turn your crock pot on and cook on high for 6 hours or high for 8 hours. My crock pot has settings for 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours. 10 hours is way too much! I usually do 6 hours. The meat will fall off the bones and melt in your mouth!

I hope you all enjoy the ribs as much as we do!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bananas & Pecans

I know I haven't mentioned this before, but we have banana trees! They are very frost-sensitive, so in order for them to actually fruit, you need to wrap the stems during the very cold months or when you know a freeze is coming. One of our trees must have been sheltered enough from last year's freeze by our shed/shack. Travis actually found some bananas! Please excuse the mess, most of this was inherited from the last owners. I know this picture isn't the best because the peach tree is in the way, but here are our banana trees. We have a few more close to the house, too.

Here, you can see that we have two "hands" of bananas. There would have been more if we would have watered them, but we didn't even know they were mature enough to set fruit!!

The thing at the bottom of this picture is the male flower. From what Travis has read, each stem flowers once and then won't produce again. So after this year, we should chop this stem down and let the others grow and produce. I just read that even the male flowers are edible and are sometimes used in salads in other countries!

We also have a few pecan trees, 8 to be exact. We have been watering these trees and they are loaded with fruit. Unfortunately, they have not been pruned like, ever, so the structure is horrible and now, because of that, we have a few limbs breaking under the fruit load.

I thought that I would take this time to give you some insight to how pecans form. I never knew this before, and you'll probably never need to know it!

This is the pecan in it's soft outer husk. This husk will dry down and crack open as the shell hardens and the pecan meat matures.

By slicing into the pecan, you can see the inner cavity. The liquid that has seeped out of the cavity is actually more of a gel substance and made of water which will eventually make the meat of the pecan.

The "skin" of the pecan meat has already formed, so I slipped one out to get a better picture.

Our pecans are nearly finished filling with water and will start to mature and dry down. We should be able to harvest our first crop of pecans in the fall.

Since our pecan trees have never been cared for or pruned properly, Travis will do some heavy pruning at the end of winter before the new growth comes on. This will give the trees one leader (or main trunk) and will give the trees much better structure for the future. With proper pruning, maintenance, and care, we should continue to have a nice pecan harvest with fewer limbs breaking each year as the trees grow stronger.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Menu Planning 101: Challenge 2

Challenge 2 for The Happy Housewife's Menu Planning 101 was to come up with five more meals and a list of side dishes. No limit on the number of sides your family likes. I'll also have to start posting recipes for some of the meals just in case you want to try it out for yourselves!

  1. Salisbury Steak
  2. Chicken Spaghetti
  3. Meatloaf
  4. Tacos (tortillas or shells)
  5. Taco Salad
  6. Chicken fried hamburger patties
  7. Cowboy Spaghetti
  8. Pork Chops
And a few cool/cold weather meals:
  1. Tortilla Soup
  2. Beef Soup
  3. Chicken Noodle Soup
Ok, so I have a few more than just 5...I couldn't help myself! Once I started thinking of all the things I normally make, they had to go on the list.

Here are my side dishes:
  1. Frozen Corn
  2. Canned Green Beans (with or without cheese)
  3. White Rice
  4. Spanish Rice
  5. Wild Rice
  6. Okra, fried
  7. Carrots, boiled
  8. Garlic Bread
  9. Pinto Beans
  10. Egg Noodles
  11. Pasta
  12. Noodles with crackers
  13. Mashed Potatoes
  14. Boiled Potatoes
  15. Baked Potatoes
  16. Sweet Potato Spears in the oven
  17. Mashed Sweet Potatoes with marshmallows
  18. Broccoli (with cheese!)
  19. Squash, boiled
  20. Squash casserole
  21. Asparagus
Ok, that should give me some very diverse menus!

I Think She's Getting an Attitude Problem

I'll address the attitude in a minute, but first, a couple of cute pictures.

Do you think she's ready for some flip flops? She's finally figured out where the toes go!

"Hang on, Momma, I'm making an important call. Hi, Aunt Kate! It's Elizabeth; we can't wait to see you for the Picnic!"

A sippy cup in a fish bowl vase. Hmm, I did not teach her this!!

Now, I know these are all the same, but watch her face. She's really learning how to control the parts of her face and I think the attitude is growing with it. Anyone have any experience with toddlers with attitudes?

One more swig out of the fish bowl sippy cup.

The whole contraption was a little bulky anyway! Ahh, that was good!

As far as her attitude goes, I'm trying to keep it in check. It's easy to give her her way when she's being a stinker, but that's not happening on my watch!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A New Look for the Front Yard

Yesterday evening, Travis cut down three more trees in the front yard, two pines and the crepe myrtle. It looks so different! Much better. The pine trees were planted way too close to the pecan and oak trees and they are less desirable, so out they came. The crepe myrtle was blocking the view out of the front door and it's not my favorite tree, so we cut it down, too.

Here's the before:

And the after:

Elizabeth was not too enthused. It was still warm outside and she couldn't really run freely since there were falling trees and all.

We are slowly cleaning out this mess that we bought! Without the chain link fence and grapevine in front, and now the trees are gone, it's looking less compoundy and much more like a well groomed property.

Friday, August 21, 2009


As I have been cleaning, sorting, and throwing things out before they come into the house from the garage, Elizabeth has been "helping" with the process. I came to my box of jackets and winter gear and just had to find out what my beanie would look like on her! Turns out, she looks like a thug headed to raid my room!

Ah ha! I caught her! Luckily, those drawers are empty.

One Sunday afternoon, she was trying to figure out how to put Travis's socks on. He helped her out and I snapped a shot.

Playing with Daddy's socks really wore her out. She fell asleep across my legs. It's still ok to "nap while they're napping", right? Hehe.

Her first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.


Ok, Daddy can have a bite...but just one!

This past Saturday, Travis's cousin had a wedding reception. This is the first time Elizabeth has encountered bubbles! I'm not sure if she liked them or not.

Woo, woo, Hollywood! My parents came on Sunday and brought Elizabeth some goodies! A new Sea World shirt, pink clogs, and new bracelets! (She already had the sunglasses.)

She's getting to be such a big girl! She now loves shoes and repeatedly brings them to Travis and me to put them on her so she can go outside. She loves the outdoors, too, and will go outside rain or shine. Maybe one day it will rain so she will have a nice yard to play in!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Meal Planning 101

I'm going to try out meal planning. I think it will save us a lot of time, especially during the week. The Happy Housewife is doing a Meal Planning Challenge and I'm going to try my hand at it. Week 1 Challenge was to come up with 15 meals. Here are mine:

  1. Pizza
  2. Chicken Fried Steak
  3. Roast
  4. Baked Chicken
  5. Spaghetti
  6. Hamburgers
  7. Fajitas
  8. Parmesan Chicken
  9. Hamburger Patties in Mushroom Gravy
  10. Steak (grilled)
  11. Stir-fry
  12. Sheppard's Pie
  13. Parmesan Chicken Nuggets
  14. Oatmeal/Ground Meat Meatballs
  15. Ribs in the Crockpot

Shower Demolition

My parents wanted to keep Elizabeth for a couple of days, so while she was gone, Travis & I demoed the master shower. We're in the process of getting a couple of bids for the tile work because even though I can learn, if it's "cheap" enough, I don't want to learn!

We haven't been showering in here because Travis was afraid that the pipes might be leaking in the wall. Well, it was. But the good thing is that the damage is not so bad and he'll be able to fix the rotten boards with few problems (hopefully).


I got to whack out the first few tiles. Yes, that's chicken wire and concrete holding the tile on the wall. There's also a layer of sheet rock behind that nailed to the studs.

Travis did the rest of the demo and I cleaned up all of the debris.

We still have to chip the tile off of the floor and remove some more sheet rock from around the outside of the shower, but we're closer to having new tile in the master bath!

One Palm Down

Palm tree, that is. We have two palm trees in our front yard and we didn't like the small one. (I don't like either tree, but that's not the point.) It has a really hairy trunk and the fronds keep dying because it's so dry here and we just can't keep it watered enough. So, yesterday, Travis chopped it down.

You know that Elizabeth has to look on and make sure he's doing it right!

Yay! No more small palm tree.

Now, if only some grass would grow...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Grape Jelly

I wrapped up my preserving for the season with Champanel Grape Jelly. I am blessed enough to be good acquaintances with the owners of a local vineyard. They are wonderful people who also frequented my Farmers Market stand. I called them up to ask if they would have any grapes for making jelly. A few weeks ago they had been pruning some of the later producing grape vines (a lot of grapes mature around the fourth of July and I had missed that window!) and held a few gallons of grapes for me. (This jelly was made during the last week in July...I picked the grapes up the day after they called me.) The owners love to see Elizabeth, so we had ourselves a nice little visit. Not only were they generous enough to give me the grapes, but I also left with two bottles of her award-winning wine and a jar of their own jelly from a different grape. The wine is fabulous! I'd buy a case!

The grapes.

They were not all ripe, so I sorted them out, choosing the ripest. I needed roughly 3 pounds of grapes to equal the 4 cups of juice for the jelly.

After washing the grapes, I mashed them with a potato masher to release the juice and crack the skins.

Add 1/2 cup of water and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer for 10 minutes.

Then, pour the fruit into 3 layers of cheesecloth, tie closed, and let it drip into a bowl. I'm a little too impatient for this, so I held the bag and squeezed it gently with tongs to get my four cups of juice.

Pour the juice back into a sauce pot and add 7 cups of sugar. Constantly stirring, bring to a rolling boil.

Quickly stir in the pectin and boil for one minute more.

Remove the pot from the heat and ladle into jars. I decided to use half-pint jars for this jelly. They look so cute! (And I was out of pint jars!!) Put lids and rings on the jars, load into a boiling water canner and process for 5 minutes.

Remove the jars from the canner and let them cool. Check the jars after they have cooled to make sure they have sealed. Then store in a cool, dark place until you are ready to try it out!

The photo does not do the jelly justice, because it turns out to have such a pretty deep purple color that is almost transparent. Just gorgeous!