Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Easy, Easy, Yogurt

When my kids were little, I used to make yogurt on a regular basis.Back then I had to sterilize all the jars, heat the milk, use the thermometer, strain it because I like mine thicker and on and on.   Some chores I look back upon with fond happy memories, but yogurt making is not one of them. 

My youngest daughter has been making yogurt for her family lately and I decided that I should try my hand again.  I asked her for her recipe since she keeps saying how easy it is.  She uses the crockpot.  I thought sure she was going to tell me to clean jars and measure water.   I couldn’t get it through my head that she just pours the milk into the crockpot.  Wow!

The rest of the process was just as easy.  I took a picture of the ingredients, but forgot to set-out the powdered milk.  She told me to add it since I like a thicker yogurt.  So add it in if you want.   She didn’t really have measurements, she just throws it in, but I measured everything out.   I added the powdered milk and it was really thick and nice.  Wow, my little girl grew up pretty smart!

Crockpot Yogurt

2 quarts milk

½ c. plain yogurt

Optional - add up to 1 cup dry powdered milk to make a thicker yogurt (I used 1 cup.)

1)     Heat milk in slow cooker for 2 ½ hours on low.  Whisk in powdered milk, if desired.

2)     Turn off heat and unplug.  Let sit 3 hours.

3)     Whisk in ½ cup plain yogurt.  Wrap entire slow cooker in a bath towel.  Let sit without disturbing for 8 hours.  (Overnight is great.)

4)      Strain if desired.

Be sure to save ½ cup yogurt for your next batch.

Yogurt with Cherry Pie Filling 

I couldn't wait to try some.  I scooped up some and put on a dollup of cherry pie filling. It was really good!  Saved me from the cherry pie I was planning on.  Yum!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Frugal Friday

After working all week, I do not want to spend a lot of time cooking.  In fact I want to have someone else cook and clean for me.  Well that’s not likely to happen.  Our budget doesn’t allow many meals out and I’m it for the chief cook.  I know that making menus up ahead of time help to budget my food dollars.  A menu also helps save money since I know ahead of time how to answer the “What’s for Dinner question?”   I really dislike planning a menu, coming up with all those meals so I use a trick that helps me.  I assign  each day of the week with a type of meal, then I just fill it in.    I normally have more time on Monday and Tuesday evenings so I can spend more time cooking, Wednesdays are church night so we either have leftovers or crockpot dinners, Thursdays are shopping night.  My third daughter does not drive so she and I get our shopping, errands, and medication filled on that day, so dinner needs to be quick and easy.

Friday is pancake night.  Sometimes we have bacon or sausage and eggs.  Sometimes we just have pancakes.  I make a double batch and then I heat them up in the toaster during the week.  I spread them with peanut butter and roll then up for breakfast on the go.  We have different kinds of pancakes, but pumpkin in the usual since my freezer is full pumpkin puree.    I often make syrup, but since I just recently  made orange marmalade I serve the pancakes with marmalade.  I really like the ginger in the pancakes.

Pumpkin Pancakes
1 1/4 c. flour
2 TB sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnomon
1/2 tsp. gigner
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 pinch cloves
Mix in large bowl.
1 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. pumpkinpuree
2 T. melted butter
1 egg
Mix wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients.  Do not overmix.

I'm adding my Maple Syrup recipe.  I have used this recipe for over 20 years.

1 3/4 c. white sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. water
Bring to boil, cover and cook 1 minute.  Cool sightly.
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. maple flavoring
Cover saucepan for a few minutes as syrup cooks to melt down crystals, helps prevent syrup from crystaizing later in storage. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Here We Are

It has taken me a while to reach this place, my husband has had a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for 5 years and had symptoms for several years prior, of acceptance.   After the diagnosis, the Doctor sent us to a counselor to figure out how to live with the disease.  Looking back, the year we spent, set the ground work for where I am now.  I had a lot of resentment, since everything was from my husband’s perceptive.  Didn’t that therapist know this was my life that was being disrupted, my feelings that were hurting?   During the early days of diagnosis, sweet husband would throw things and say ugly things to be.  Having lived through the pain and torment of those early days and understanding what my sweet husband’s brain is going through, I have compassion and know that even though this impacts me, it really is all about him.    I can change my attitude, my opinion, form memories, but my husband cannot, so my attitude and beliefs are the game changer for us.  I do not want to be embarrassed by what he says or does.  He has a disease.  I don’t want to fuss at him or nag.  Again, he has a disease, I have control of my thoughts and actions.  He clearly does not.

I know that the rules for treating people doesn’t change, just because they  have a disease.  I have a degree in working with children with emotional disabilities.  They sometimes get distressed and throw things at me or say ugly things to me.  I always treat them with respect and dignity   Sound familiar.  Something wasn’t working at home.  My husband and I have had a very caring relationship for many years and now things were different.   So now I had to figure out how to take my skill set from school and bring it home.  The thing that wasn't working at home was with me.  My attitudes and behavior was what needed changing, not his.  So I vowed to treat him with respect and dignity, no matter what.

I want him to have the best quality of life that is possible for him at each stage.    It hasn’t been easy.  Our life situation has an impact of what we can financially afford.  In the beginning, he really believed that he could hold down a job.  The fact for 2 years prior he couldn’t hold one did not persuade him so I stopped trying.   Instead, I looked at what he could do at home to improve our condition.  Our money situation was shot, so I examined what could help.  Putting in a garden and hanging our clothes out on the line could help.  So that’s where we started.  Of course, we don’t have a large yard, so we started digging up 4 foot strips.  We added 1 or 2 a year, since he dug them by hand.  Occasionally we were able to afford to rent a rototiller, but mostly he turned the area over by himself.  We have had fresh vegetables for 4 years now and he is very proud of his accomplishments.  He hangs clothes out almost all year long.  We have a place inside if it is too cold or wet.   We compost and he is in charge of dumping the cans.  I am in charge of the rest of it.   I am proud of our accomplishments.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Why

I am very familiar with frugal living.  In the 80’s, I found a cookbook in the bookstore that changed my life and my attitude about using God’ resources.  The book was, More with Less.  I learned to cook without boxes and cans, and eat less animal protein .  

About 8 years ago, we were living far away from family and friends.   We began to notice something happening to my husband.  We took him to doctors, but couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him.  We had a young child, so I knew I couldn’t do this alone.  I knew I had to get home.   We moved back closer to family.  My husband couldn’t stay employed and continued to get worse, until he was diagnosed at age 58 with Alzheimer’s disease.   We had 1 job,  a child at home and medication that was hundreds of dollars a month with insurance paying only half.   
I  researched about living a frugal life.  I read over and over the articles about cutting down and living with-out.  These were things I knew how to do and most of them I was already doing.   I  made a budget, tracked my spending, and knew grocery costs.  I knew that making a menu each week is vital to saving money.   I bake my own bread, use less processed food,  eat at home, eat leftovers and pack a lunch for work.  We grow our own vegetables.  I don’t have a lot of yard space, but we use almost every available spot to grow produce.  I spend less money than I make.  I worked hard to  get rid of debt.  I learned to make laundry soap and cleaning solutions made with vinegar. Our menus had us eating a lot more beans and rice.  We don't use paper towels or paper napkins.  We hang our laundry outside if possible and inside if not.   We buy used when possible and not at all if we don't have money set aside. Our heat is set at 65 degreess during the day and lower at night.   We have a small heater for the bedroom if it gets too cold.   I use coupons when possible.  Being frugal and doing without helped to eliminate the credit card debt and pay the monthly bills.

 My husband went from staying alone to needing full time care.  We have people that come in when I am at work, but I am his care person on the weekends, evenings, and overnight.  I am finding that the better organized and clutter-free my house is, the easier it is to manage with different folk coming in and out.      
 I am now paying off my debt ahead of time and plan on putting that money on each of my remaining payments.  I have also put aside an emergency fund.  My fund came in pretty handy last fall when a truck pulled into my lane and slammed into us.  I had to pay the deductable to get the car fixed.  My husband's door was not useable and it made my him very upset each time he saw it.  When they collected from the other party, I was able put their check back into the bank.

I budget every penny and make the frugal choices for my family.  I am not advocating that the things that work for my family will work for yours.  I am sharing what I have learned about living with less money and also living with Alzheimer's.  I am continuously learning how to make the smart decisions.  At the same time, I am trying to live as fully as I can with my husband, even though I loose him bit by bit.  For me living a frugal life style means being able to make choices and to live as stress free from debt as I possibly can.