He was a bad, bad hound dog… and we loved him so.

Once upon a time, on a cold, winter’s night in Oklahoma, there was a tiny hound dog pup who had been abandoned on the side of the road.  Whoever had left him there didn’t care whether he lived or died, but God knew there was a home for him in Colorado.

Beau (Bo- we never could agree on how to spell his name) the hound dog was the cutest pup you ever did see, he made his way from Oklahoma to our home through some friends of ours who found him there.  We were newlyweds starting our life together and he made the perfect addition to our little family.  Not knowing his exact breed, my dear mountain man was super excited to have a hunting dog.  Visions of coon hunts and treed mountain lions were dancing in his head and in the beginning he really seemed to have what it would take.  We brought home his first coon in a live trap and the dog lost his mind.  Baying like a pro, he definitely proved that he was ready for the chase.  He even showed a lot of potential in tracking a scent but over time it became clear that he would never make a hunting dog.  His legs were just too darn short.  This hound was obviously part basset and was never going to measure up.  But there was no love lost on that account, we was our buddy and our first child.

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We started to research hound breeds to see what we were in for and learned these three basic things.

  1. Hound dogs are stubborn.
  2. Hound dogs’ noses rule them completely.
  3. Hound dogs smell bad.

We found all three of these things to be entirely true.

Beau was exceedingly stubborn and hard to train.  When learning basic commands, we got as far as “sit,” (resulting in him laying down) and for a short time he cooperated with “play dead” (but tired of that game quickly and gave up.)  There was no hope of teaching him to be quiet; his baying and barking were constant unless he was asleep.

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His nose, did, in fact, take over his ability to reason at all.  If we were on a walk, or camping and he caught wind of something interesting… he was gone.  And no amount of calling him or threatening him would bring him back.  He would come back in his own time, when he was done with the chase.

He also couldn’t resist the smell of “people food.”  Every night during supper, our meal was accompanied by the sound of incessant whining.  This whining would continue until we were done when he was given our plates to lick.  (Did you know dogs can count?  There are four of us, and if someone put their plate in the sink instead of giving it to him, he would harass me for the rest of the night because he knew that he only had 3 plates to lick instead of four.)

During the winter, when we had somewhere to go and it was too cold to leave him outside, we had to be sure that we “dog proofed” the kitchen because although he would never dream of dumping the trash or jumping on counters when we were home… once that car pulled out of the driveway, all bets were off.  He would dump trash cans, jump up on the counters (quite the feat for a 50 lb dog that was more than 2 feet long with 8 inch legs) and eat anything within reach, I mean ANYTHING.  At different times over the course of our almost 11 years together, he once ate an entire bunt sized pound cake, another time it was a 2 lb meat loaf, and his most recent transgression was about a 2-3 lb ham.  (It was my own, home raised pork, home cured ham… I really wanted to throttle him after this one but he was so sick from all the salt, I figured that was punishment enough.  The poor dog drank gallons of water over the next few days.)  Oh yes, and another time, he ate a gallon sized bag of homemade deer jerky that probably accounted for an entire shoulder of venison (again ending, with the homicidal temptation for us and gallons of water consumption by Beau.)  What he couldn’t consume while we were away, he would take and bury around the house. I would find, bags of hot dog buns behind the couch, bags of marshmallows under my pillow, and loaves of bread in the laundry basket.

And yes, hound dogs do in fact stink.  No need to go into great detail there, lets just say that long road trips with Beau in the car or truck were sometimes we’re very… very long.  But he loved to “go” so much that we couldn’t bare to leave him behind.  He also loved clean laundry.  If there was a pile of clean laundry, or especially a neat stack of folded, clean laundry, he would be found laying on it; leaving our clothes with just a hint of that lovely ode de’ hound dog scent behind.

All of these things add up to a very “bad” dog, and that is what we teasingly called him.  But he was our Beau dog, and we loved him so much.  He went on many adventures with us, backpacking, hiking, camping and picnicking.  His joy in life was getting to GO somewhere.  He knew, the moment I started to pack a bag or haul things out to the camper that it was time to go; and we would all be deaf by the time we left from all of the baying and barking he did while impatiently lunging at the door.  If we ever went anywhere without him, even for a few hours, he would bay and scold us for at least 10 minutes when we returned, for leaving him behind.

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But he loved “to go” a little too much and recently started “going” on adventures without us.  Whether it was sheer orneriness or his nose leading him away, he decided that staying in the yard was no longer a requirement for him and he would let himself out one way or another.  He would unlatch yard gates or push past the flexible siding on the house and adventuring he would go.  One week ago today, he left on an adventure and never made it home alive.  He may have been a bad dog on paper, but he was part of our family and our homestead and now we are one less.  There is no one to lick our plates after supper, no one for the garbage man to throw treats too, and no one to scold us when we come home.

Our homestead is a very quiet place now, but I will always hear his baying in my mind.

We love you, bad hound dog.  We always will.

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Chopped Challenge 2017 – All wrapped up?

Okay folks, I know that I owe you all an apology.  I haven’t ever finished this mini-series of blog posts that I began back in January here.

But things have been busy around here to say the least.

SO, after spending the month of January on a grocery shopping fast, I suppose that I ought to be here and tell you I now have it all figured out, that my cupboards minimalistic and I will never return to my cluttered, grocery hording ways…

Not exactly.

But I did learn a lot about myself, really branched out some days to use up ingredients that would have otherwise gone to waste, and tried some new recipes that my family LOVED.

The truth is, that my one month grocery shopping fast barely made a dent in my over stuffed cupboards.  However, this experiment gave me the motivation to declutter and throw out a lot of stuff that I just wouldn’t use, or combine things that I shamefully had MULTIPLES of.  (Like 3 open jars of molasses, 4 open jars of homemade strawberry jelly and 2 jars of sorghum– all because by cupboards were so cluttered I had no idea what was really in there.)  My cupboards are now cleaner and more organized which is such a huge relief and lets be honest, the savings from not shopping for a month was totally worth it.

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Full, but not crowded or cluttered

 

And after a few months of going back to a normal routine, my husband and I have actually agreed that we should do it again…and again… and again..

You may be thinking to yourself, “You can’t clear your cupboards out!  Shouldn’t you be prepared for disaster?  Aren’t you “preppers”?  All of those groceries could feed your family in case of an emergency!”  (Well, you might not be asking yourself that, but it’s what I was asking myself throughout this journey.)  And  the truth is yes, we are “preppers” to an extent yet here is a fine but dangerous line between being prepared with long term storage foods that could sustain us and hording/cluttering our lives with a surplus of random ingredients that will #1 go to waste if unused and #2 rob you of your sanity if you don’t even know what you have. (because it is so cluttered you cant see it all!)

So yes, I will continue to keep our root cellars stocked with long term storage food.  If properly organized and rotated this is one of the smartest things that you can do to protect your family in case of emergency.  But as far as the jumble of random ingredients cluttering my cupboards?  I am going to work very hard to keep that clutter down by continuing to focus on using up what we have on hand and only buying the minimum of extra ingredients that will act as the glue that binds everything else together.

So now that I’ve shared my take-a-way from it all with you, here is a little more about what the rest of our month looked like and what we were eating.  If you are interested in any of the meals mentioned, let me know and I will TRY to write something up to share with you.  (I use the word “try” here because the truth is that I rarely ever use recipes and it is a challenge sometimes to put on paper the madness under my chef hat.  😉

Here are some of the more fun/adventurous suppers that we made while cleaning out the cupboards.  If you didn’t get to see my previous posts in this series for some of our other meals you can see them here 2017 “Chopped Challenge” and here Chopped Challenge – Week 1.

(Remember, I only allowed myself to purchase fresh fruit and veggies- no meat or packaged ingredients for the entire month of January.)

  • Barley Soup
  • Salmon Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (we turned the leftover sauce into salad dressing a few nights later)
  • Minestera Soup
  • Grilled Steak Kabobs
  • Bangers & Mash
  • Pancit & Egg Drop Soup (The Pancit was something completely different from our norm and the whole family went CRAZY for.)

Of course on nights that were super busy and I didn’t have time to stretch my brain, there were a lot of our regulars, but always only using ingredients on hand.

  • Posole
  • Hamburgers
  • Spaghetti
  • Jalepeno Popper Soup
  • Tacos
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Pizza
  • Fajitas
  • Elk Roast

I highly recommend trying a grocery fast.  We saved  money, decluttered our cupboards and freezers, stretched our culinary tastes and really shined a light on some bad grocery buying habits.

 

Chopped Challenge – Week 1

Disclaimer: Okay so I think one of the tiny humans around here deleted a bunch of my pictures so this post is going to be hit and miss on the visual aid I do, however, have about 50 of these…

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MOVING ON…a few weeks ago I posted about my self-inflicted “Chopped Challenge.”  If you missed it, you can check it out here.

My first and only rule at the time of posting was NO grocery shopping (aside from a small budget for fresh produce & milk).  However, after some further consideration, I decided to make the challenge of decluttering more effective and more in the spirit of the show “Chopped.”

As I said in my previous post, I love the challenge of using 3 random ingredients that makes the show so entertaining.  But although it would be REALLY fun to pick 3 totally random things from the cupboard to use each night, I think my dear Mountain Man might not find it so entertaining after an entire month of eating random concoctions.  And so, with all that in mind, Rule #2 was born.

Rule #2: 3 items must be chosen for supper each night.  One item from the pantry, one item from the freezer and one from the refrigerator.

Here is how it played out for the first week.  .

Day 1: Thursday 1/5/2017

“Basket” ingredients: shrimp, random selection of canned tomatoes, bell pepper.

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I rummaged the kitchen freezer today knowing that was the most important disaster area in this whole challenge.  I struck gold.  SHRIMP!  We love shrimp, but frugal as we tend to be, it is something reserved for special occasions when we make our favorite jalapeno poppers. Apparently the last TWO times I made poppers we had some shrimp left over and I tucked them away in the freezer for a rainy day… a day that never came.  This is the problem with clutter.  You have gold hidden in there somewhere and you can’t find it because it’s impossible to see the forest through the trees (or the shrimp behind the cheese.)  I remembered a dish that I use to make back in our dual income days when we actually bought shrimp.  I searched the pantry and fridge for the necessary ingredients and… viola!  Shrimp Creole.  mmmm…  I was lacking a few of the typical ingredients but I had enough to get by and it was delicious.

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Day 2:  Friday 1/6/2017

“Basket” ingredients: Tostada Shells. Ground Elk Meat, Lettuce

This meal is one of my more standard quick fixes but I found the half used bag of tostada shells in the pantry and figured we might as well cross that one off my list.  Add some home canned pinto beans & salsa, and some diced onion and… Ta Da!  Tostados(I would typically use diced tomatoes and my homemade taco sauce for these, but I was out of the taco sauce and didn’t really have time to whip up more.  I’ll share how to make homemade taco sauce on another day.)

Day 3: Saturday 1/7/2017

“Basket” ingredients: Frozen (leftover) Kraut Burger filling, Potato salad, basic dough ingredients from the pantry

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So I wasn’t crazy creative on this one either, but when you find Kraut Burger filling in the freezer… Kraut Burgers it is!  It was simple to whip up some basic pizza dough for the crust and pair it with some leftover potato salad from the fridge that I didn’t want to waste.  Some days you just need to keep things simple.

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Day 4:  Sunday 1/8/2017

“Basket” ingredients:  Pork Chops, Caesar Salad Dressing, Bacon Salt

This simple Pork Chop supper was born from the grand invention of the hubby coming home and asking for grilled pork chops.  For my sides I made baked potatoes topped with homemade bacon salt and roasted some Brussel sprouts tossed with the last of a bottle of Caesar salad dressing from the fridge that needed to be used up.  Easy Peasy… Pork Chop Supper!

Day 5: Monday 1/9/2017

“Basket” Ingredients:  Ground Pork, Shredded Cabbage, Liquid Aminos

We spent the day in town buying supplies for our current renovation and it turned into a long, stressful, rainy day.  It was 7:30 PM by the time I started cooking and I needed something easy.  I cooked up some ground pork, shredded cabbage & carrots and thinly sliced onions.  Added some liquid aminos and we had some excellent… Egg Roll in a bowl (Adapted from the THM cookbook, a really great resource for healthy cooking.)

Day 6: Tuesday 1/10/2017

“Basket” Ingredients: Canned Mexican Corn, Frozen (leftover) Mexican Rice, Diced Bell Peppers and Onions

I found some leftover Mexican rice that I had previously frozen, mixed with browned elk meat, pinto beans, more diced peppers and onions and a few other things thrown into a skillet.  Almost like Taco Soup, but with the added brown rice and a skillet meal rather than soup.  Again, similar to a recipe found in the THM cookbook, but basically good ole fashioned fill your belly food.

Day 7: Wednesday 1/11/2017

“Basket” Ingredients:  Frozen Turkey, Letter shaped Pasta , Carrots

This meal was our lunch meal and therefore quick and simple, but it was super fun for the girls.  I found some letter shaped pasta in the cupboard, cooked it in some homemade bone broth, added Frozen turkey, carrots and celery and abbra-cadabra… Alphabet soup!

So as you can see it was a busy week for us and most meals were simple “go-to” meals that I make frequently but what a relief to just use what I have on hand and not have the big weekly grocery shopping trip.

The biggest accomplishment this past week that I am SUPER STOKED about was my kitchen freezer.  I spent an afternoon emptying the entire freezer and got rid of everything that had been in there too long and had become freezer burnt.  It was a bummer and very embarrassing to see the 5 gallon bucket of food that I tossed out.  90% of it was little bits of leftovers that I thought I would use up but because the freezer was so crammed full, I never knew what was  in there.  I was annoyed with myself for allowing all that food to go to waste over the last year. but the result?  Organization and  minimalism at it’s finest.  I now know everything I have in there and am using it all up efficiently and easily.

 

I would encourage any of you who are considering a similar endeavor to start by cleaning out your freezer!  Only toss out what is freezer burnt and cannot be used.  Organize your shelves by category and start using up all that food that you still have.  It is SO worth it!

Click here to see my next (and last) post in this mini-series to see how it all turned out.

2017 “Chopped Challenge”

 

Well, the new year is here and although it may be cliché, I can’t help but look forward to the opportunity for a fresh start.  There is something about a brand new, clean calendar and day planner to make me want to change my ways.  And after failing, once again, to avoid the excess sugar of the holiday season my body starts to crave that fresh start as well.  So call it cliché if you want but I LOVE resolution season.

One thing that I am really looking forward to making a focus in 2017 is MINIMIZING!  I plan to go through my whole house, our property… our life really…and declutter!

I am NOT a type A personality.  But I really want to be.  I was born with the misfortune of longing for the organization and cleanliness of my mother and maternal grandmother, but alas, I was not born with that gene.  I love organization, really I do, but it fails to come naturally for me.

Whether it comes naturally to us or not, organization IS possible, some of us just have to have a little help, a lot of determination and a LOT LESS STUFF.

So I have made my plan on how to start off my new year of minimizing and combining it with my need to get back on the frugality train as well.  I am going to make a bit of a game out of it and I’d love for you to follow along in my fun!

I am designating January 2017 as my “Chopped Challenge.” 

Being a total foodie, I am a Food Network junkie and one of my favorite shows to watch is Chopped.  The idea of being faced with 3 REALLY random ingredients and having to make something enjoyable to eat (using the pantry stocked with basic staples) is really entertaining and stretches my own imagination wondering just what I would do with fruit loops, champagne vinegar and Nori.

So in the spirit of Chopped, and in an effort to declutter my kitchen cupboards and fin

d along with it some much needed grocery budget savings, this is what I came up with.

(My food hording skills are unmatched… and embarrassing.)

This challenge will also help me refocus on the true homesteading mentality.  The past year came with some extra business/craziness and to be honest I have fallen off of the wagon and very much back into reliance on the grocery store.  GASP!

I am a bad, bad homesteader and should be stoned for my wicked ways.

(Only kidding, the truth is we all have busy crazy times in our lives where we are going to lose track of what is important to us or when we are truly unable to keep up.  It’s really no big deal.  We just need to jump back on the wagon.)

So here are the rules… or the rule I guess as it pretty much comes down to one thing.

NO grocery shopping in January except for a small budget for fresh produce and the fresh raw milk we buy from the farmer down the road (having fallen off of the wagon a bit this year I did not stock the cellar with winter vegetables as well as I should have and aside from a LOT of pumpkin, I have no other homegrown goodness left.)

  • NO buying meat (because our freezers are well stocked with pork, elk, deer and salmon from last years self sufficiency efforts and a small amount of chicken that I already have on hand from my last trip to Sam’s Club)
  • NO buying of processed/packaged food.  I have some on hand already that I will use up in order to not be wasteful, but once we are out, that’s it.

I would love it if you would follow me along on my silly challenge this month, and keep me accountable.  I don’t think there will be any adventures using fruit loops and Nori, but it should be rather entertaining.

To see how it all turned out, you can follow these links.

Chopped Challenge – Week 1

Chopped Challenge 2017 – All wrapped up?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Redeeming Comfort Food

I love food.

There, I said it.  I have a passion for food that goes beyond all reason.

Honestly, who couldn’t with a background like mine?  I come from a line of good cooks.  REALLY good cooks.

I was blessed to grow up with two Grandmothers who were fantastic cooks with dramatically differing styles.

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My hilarious Grandma Jeanne

My Grandma Jeanne would put Martha Stewart to shame in a time when Pinterest wasn’t around.  She could lay the most elegant holiday table, complete with linen table cloths, goldware and stand out recipes that were to die for.

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My sweet Grandma Hilda

My Grandma Hilda was also a most accomplished home cook.  Her food was “down home” comfort food that would stick to your ribs and make everything right in the world.  She was the Macgyver of the food world.  She could create a feast with what seemed like nothing in the cupboards.  Her methods were miraculous and genius.

And then there’s my amazing mom.

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My incredible mom took her mother’s classy cooking and melded it with her mother-in-law’s down home country cooking with perfect balance.  It made for a heart-warming childhood.  🙂

So ya see, it’s not my fault… I am just a product of my environment.

I fell in love with cooking at the age of 15 with my first attempt to create my own “from scratch” version of BBQ sauce.  I picked up a bottle of store bought BBQ sauce, read the ingredients in an attempt to recreate it and made some BBQ grilled chicken that wasn’t too shabby (if I do say so myself.)  It was my first attempt to cook without a recipe and the rest is History.  Years of working in restaurants only drove my passion further; I couldn’t help my constant need to improve on the recipes, and after my introduction to Food Network, well, I became a lost cause.

Over time, I have become what I call a “real food” foodie.  In an attempt to use my food obsession for good rather than evil, I have adopted a “clean eating” mind set.  Now, for the sake of transparency I will admit that I do not (nor do I intend) to eat 100% clean 100% of the time; but I strive to reduce our reliance on processed food as much as possible.

One of my favorite “real food” foodie past times is what I call “redeeming comfort food.”  Taking recipes and ingredients that I have (or really should have by now) forsaken, and find a way to enjoy them once again–guilt free, by rewriting the script with real food ingredients.

And when most of those ingredients come from forest or farm?

Sigh…

pure nirvana.