Sunday, November 23, 2014

Our $93 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

So far, we have spent $83. We spent $53 at Walmart and $30 at VG's. I have set aside $10 to buy a turkey and fresh green beans to go with our Thanksgiving meal we will be preparing and enjoying at home. We have not yet purchased these items (but will by end of the day Monday).

Here's what we bought from Walmart:
  • Big box of diapers
  • Grapes
  • Summer sausage
  • White rice
  • Hot dog buns
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Mushrooms
  • Yogurt
  • French fries
  • Cheese hot dogs
  • Green pepper
  • Bananas
  • Gallon of organic whole milk

Here's what we bought from VG's:
  • Three bags of cinnamon-sugar pita chips
  • Big American sub
  • Half peck of honey crisp apples
  • Wavy Lay's potato chips
Here's our menu for the week:

Hot dogs and French fries
Creamy chicken pot pie soup and biscuits
Pasta bake and garlic bread
Thanksgiving feast
Leftovers x3

Throughout the month of November, we have slowly been stocking up on items we want for our Thanksgiving feast. Here is our menu for that:

-Sausage with cheese ball and crackers

The Feast
-Mashed potatoes
-Roasted green beans

-Cheesecake with cherries
-Pumpkin fluff dip with cinnamon-sugar pita chips

We're keeping our feast relatively simple this year (as compared to previous years). My goal is to spend less time in the kitchen and more time playing. We'll see how that goes!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In the Kitchen With Jason (and David): Chicken and Dumplings

This recipe turned out fantastic. There was a little concern on my part with the 'dumplings' as I felt that there were too many, but it turned out that there is no such thing as too many dumplings. Make when you want a nice hearty meal; you will enjoy it.

  • 3 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts, uncooked
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • Unknown quantity of water
  • 1 16.3 oz tube Pillsbury Grands! Flaky Layers (or comparable product)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • Heat EVOO in a stockpot over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, carrots, and celery and cook for 8 minutes.
  • Add chicken, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and chicken broth.
  • Add enough water to cover ingredients (I used very little) and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to low and cook for 90 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken with tongs and allow to cool in a bowl.
  • When chicken is cool enough to handle, chop or tear it into strips.
  • Return the chicken to the stockpot. 
  • Flour both sides of each uncooked biscuit.
  • On a floured work surface, roll out each biscuit into rounds about 1/4 of an inch thick.
  • Cut the biscuits into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick strips.
  • Gently lower the strips into the broth.
    • They will pop back up to the top and if you used a pot like mine, you will feel like you have too many of the strips. Trust me that you do not.
  • Gently separate the dumplings with a spoon.
  • Let them cook for 12 minutes.
And that is all it takes for some very delicious chicken n' dumplings.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Crafty Christmas: Lavender Sachets

Christmas Countdown: Christmas is just 5 weeks away!

No matter where you are in your sewing journey, you can whip up a bunch of these sweeties for gifts this year. This is very much a beginner project because let's face it, I'm definitely still in the beginner phase of sewing. The sachets are absolutely customize-able: choose fabric to match your recipient's personality and choose a scent your recipient will adore.

Here's what you need to make lavender sachets:
  • A quarter yard of fabric (this will make 4 sachets)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Pinking scissors (optional)
  • Rice (tip: don't throw away expired rice; save it for projects!)
  • Essential oils or dried flowers/herbs
Here's how you make lavender sachets:
  1. Wash and dry your fabric; iron as needed.
  2. Use the ruler to be sure all sides are even; most fabrics cut at the store are not.
  3. Measuring in 4.5 x 4.5 squares, cut out 8 pieces of fabric. This will make 4 sachets.
  4. Putting the wrong sides of fabric against each other so the right sides are facing out, sew a straight stitch along the edges for three sides. Leave at least a half inch hem.
  5. Stuff the sachet with rice and dried flowers/herbs. If you opt to use essential oils, you'll want to mix up the rice and oils in a bowl before dumping the rice mixture in the sachet.
  6. Sew up the last side.
  7. For extra fanciness, use pinking scissors to cut along the sides of the sachet to give the sachet a nice finished look.
Happy crafting!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our $85 grocery trip + what's for eats this week!

Typically, we only shop at our local Walmart. But in some instances, we also shop at VG's. This week was one in which an item we needed was only at VG's, and we also picked up a specialty item that cannot be found in a typical grocery store.

Here's what we bought from Walmart:
  • Bananas
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Yellow onions
  • Potatoes
  • Gallon of organic milk
  • Frozen peas
  • Ground beef (5 lbs)
  • Garlic bread
  • Penne noodles (2)
  • Sour cream
  • Monterey Jack cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Mushrooms
  • Ketchup
  • Flour
  • 12 cans of Coke
  • Canned refried beans
  • Mild enchilada sauce
  • Organic food pouches for Bug (4)
  • Dish soap
We spent $69 there. At VG's, we bought a bag of stuffing bread for Thanksgiving. The cost was $3. 

And our last stop was at the Hickory Farms kiosk inside a mall. There, we bought two original cheese balls to use on Thanksgiving and Christmas. The cost was $13.

Here is our menu plan for the week:

Mushroom rigatoni bake
Pasta with garlic bread
Mum's chili with bread
Chicken enchilada rice casserole
Creamy chicken pot pie soup with bread

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the Kitchen with Jason (and David): Beef Stew with Dumplings

Interestingly enough this recipe made more of a beef soup with dumplings than a beef stew with dumplings. This was not a problem for me, as I enjoyed every bite of it.

See the slight resemblance to soup? Doesn't matter though as it was still delicious.

  • 2 Tbsp EVOO
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 lbs beef roast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 15oz can of tomato sauce
  • 5 cups beef stock
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 1/2 cups Bisquick
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Heat the EVOO in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
  • Put the flour in a shallow bowl.
  • Dredge the chopped roast through the flour.
  • Add the meat to the dutch oven and cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
    • If all the meat will not fit in one layer at the bottom of the dutch oven, cook it in multiple batches.
  • With all the meat in the dutch oven, add the onions, potatoes, carrots, tomato sauce, 1 1/2 cups water, beef stock, red wine, salt, and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 2 hours.
  • Stir in the peas.
  • Stir the Bisquick and milk together in a bowl until well combined.
  • Drop heaping tablespoons of the Bisquick mix into the pot.
  • Cook uncovered for 10 minutes, then cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  • Garnish with the parsley when serving.
The biscuits may take longer to cook... just a warning.

Please enjoy!

-Chef Jason

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Gaming Corner: Ticket to Ride

This game may not be as well known to you as many of the other board games that I have covered in The Gaming Corner, and that is because the game is relatively new. It was released only 20 years ago, which probably makes it younger than the majority of people reading this. It is a 2 to 5 player game designed by Alan R. Moon and it has won over a dozen awards since it was released. The goal of the game in a nutshell is to score more points than the other players. And how do you get points you may ask? Well, that is what I am going to tell you.

Set Up: First, you put out the beautiful board. Around the outside is a score tracker to record your current score during the game. The rest of the board is a map of the United States (with a little bit of Southern Canada and Northern Mexico) showing a selection of cities and the train routes connecting them.

Each player then takes 45 train tokens and their scoring piece of the color of their choice. Be careful to only take 45 trains as your box probably came with 2 or 3 extra trains of each color to cover for the eventual loss that is bound to happen if the game is played a lot.

Next we move onto the train cards. The gold cards are wild cards and can be used as any color. Gather the train cards, shuffle them, and deal 4 to each player. Then, 5 train cards are placed face up along side the board with the remaining train cards placed face down next to them. This makes the drawing area.

We then move onto the destination cards. Each destination card has two cities depicted on it as well as a point total in the bottom right corner. The scores range from 4 to 22. Shuffle the destination cards and deal 3 to each player. Each player may choose to discard one of these cards if they so choose. Discarded destination cards are placed on the bottom of the destination card deck which is also placed near the board. But how do you know which cards to keep? During the game, you will be claiming the train routes on the board and if, at the end of the game, you have connected the two cities on the destination cards with a continuous path of trains of your color, then you win the points on the destination card. If you kept the cards but didn't claim the routes, you lose the points.

Game play: After all of that, you are ready to play. On your turn, you can do one of three things: draw destination cards,draw train cards, or claim a route.

Draw Destination Cards: Take the top three cards from the destination deck. You may then return one or two of drawn cards, but do not have to return any if you don't want to.

Draw Train Cards: Take one of the face up train cards or make a blind draw from the deck. If you take a face up card, immediately replace it with another face up card from the deck. Then if you didn't take a face up gold train card (the wild one) from one of the face up cards, you may take one more non-gold train card, either from the face up or the top card of the deck. If you draw a gold train card from the deck, it doesn't prevent you from drawing a second card.

Claim a Route: To claim a route, you need to discard a number of train cards equal to the number of spaces depicted on that route on the board. If the spaces are of a color, the turned in train cards must all be of that color (or wild cards), but if the route is made up of grey spaces the color of the train cards doesn't matter as long as they all match. When you claim your route, place a train token of your color on all the spaces on that route. Some routes are double-routes, with two routes connecting two cities. When claiming these, make sure to put your trains on the correct side of the double-route as another player can use the other one. You are never allowed to use both sides of a double-route and in two and three player games, no one is allowed to use second half of the double routes.

Example time: In the picture above, four pink trains would need to be discarded to claim the route from Denver to Omaha. Being a double route, four black or four orange trains would be needed to claim the route from Denver to Kansas City. Omaha to Kansas City takes only one train card and it can be of any color.

Scoring: The only way to score points during the game is claiming routes. Depending on the length of the route, you gain a number of points. There is a handy dandy chart on the board, in the instructions and on a player guide card so you won't have to memorize this. The points gained are as follows.

A route 1 space long gains 1 point
A route 2 spaces long gains 2 points
A route 3 spaces long gains 4 points
A route 4 spaces long gains 7 points
A route 5 spaces long gains 10 points
A route 6 spaces long gains 15 points

Right after claiming your route, move your score piece along the edge of the board equal to the number of points you gain. If at the end of the game you think your score is off, you can always count up each of your routes again to make sure the points are accurate.

Ending the game: When any player ends his or her turn with 2 or less train pieces not on the board, every player (including the one who started the end game) takes one more turn. The game is then over.

End of the game scoring: At the end of the game, you take each of your destination cards and see if you have trains connecting the two cities. If you do, no matter how direct or out of the way the trail of the trains take you, score the number of points listed on the card. If not, you lose that many points. Also the player with the longest continuous route of trains gains 10 additional points. The player with the most points win.
If you would like to see some celebrities (Amy Dallen, Colin Ferguson, Anne Wheaton, and Wil Wheaton) play Ticket to Ride, you can watch it on the YouTubes here. After watching about 5 minutes of the actual game play, you should be able to play it yourself; the game is just that easy.

There are about a dozen 'other' Ticket to Ride such as Ticket to Ride: Europe or Ticket to Ride: Nordic Countries, and each are basically the same game. The boards are just different.

-Gamer Jason

Monday, November 10, 2014

Our $79 grocery trip + what's for eats this week

Because we used very little gas this week, we had $115 in our grocery envelope when we went to Walmart. I anticipated our trip would be around $92, given we purchased everything on our list. We also returned a few soda bottles that we had collected here and there. We skipped getting two items on the list - we didn't need one of the items after all and Walmart didn't have the exact item I was looking for for the other item.

Not only did we spend just $78.88 after the soda return, but we also spent quite a few dollars on items not on our list that we put in our cart anyway! We also had some items on our list that aren't for meals this week; I am slowly working on gathering everything we will need for a Thanksgiving feast at our home.

Here's what we purchased:
  • Unbleached flour
  • Honey crisp apples (4)
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Bananas
  • Fresh parsley
  • Bag of oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Cool Whip
  • Mozzarella cheese (2 lbs)
  • Jello pudding packages (2)
  • Butter (2)
  • Organic food pouches for Bug (4)
  • Egg noodles (2)
  • Lasagna noodles
  • Canned mandarin oranges
  • Ricotta cheese
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Cream cheese (4)
  • Canned chili beans
  • Tomato paste
  • Vanilla yogurt
  • Gallon of organic whole milk
  • Package of donuts (we ate these on the way to church for breakfast)
You can read what we eat for breakfast, lunch and snacks here.

Dinners for the week will be:
Swedish meatballs with buttered noodles and veggies
Mum's chili with bread
Chicken, mushroom, broccoli and rice casserole
Lasagna with bread
Dinner out as a family (will be using leftover grocery money for this)
Dinner out for date night (will be using extra money from working OT at work for this)
Dinner at our friends' house