Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Oatmeal...oh how I love thee

With my attempt to cook more meals from our home came the decision to also make breakfast. Typically hubby and daughter do cold cereal. I'm more of a toast person (many gluten free cold cereals are the equivalent of chopped up cardboard, I prefer toast which is closer to a sheet of cardboard, cough.) There had to be something better that still didn't take a lot of time.

I started my new little obsession with a little package of Uncle Bob's rolled oats. My first attempt was a bowl of oats made in the microwave. They were ok, but nothing special. I put on my big girl pants and allowed for a bit more time in the morning and made the stovetop version. Now we were getting somewhere. The difference between oatmeal microwaved and oatmeal cooked on the stovetop is like the difference in a baked potato microwaved and one cooked in the oven. No comparison. This was definitely worth the extra time. We loved it so much I was buying lots of those little bags of oatmeal and realized it was time to look for a bulk order. I searched around and purchased 50 pounds of organic oats from More Than Alive (um, no affiliate links, no idea how to even do that). I had to get my husband to help me, but we divided them into 3 5 gallon buckets and installed gamma lids. I did make sure to date them, but I think at the rate we are going through the bucket, it probably won't matter.

It is hard to explain, but after opening this bag of oats we will never go back to Quaker or any other brand at Kroger. They smell completely different, it was a wonderful, I am ready to cook you smell. After quite a bit of practice, and we won't even discuss how many boil overs and burnt oats later, this is my routine. Nothing earth shattering, did I not mention that I am a home cook with training wheels?

Do not use a pot that is too small, you will end up cleaning lots of boiled over messes. My favorite pot to use is my dutch oven. It weighs a ton, but I love this thing and I have yet to have a boil over. It does nothing however to stop the oats from burning, ahem.

I start by adding the water in a 2:1 ratio. Typically I make 3 cups of oats, so I will add 6 cups of water to the pot. You were dazzled by my mad math skills weren't you?

When this comes to a boil, add in your oats. In my case, this was 3 cups. (I do not add salt, but I think some do)

Once I add them to the pot, I give them a stir and then glance at the clock. I cook mine for about 10 minutes. If I remember, I will give them a stir while they are cooking. Once that time is up I add lots of cinnamon, some sucanat and vanilla extract. It smells like an oatmeal cookie, yum!

Give your add-ins a good stir and then put the lid on your pot and leave it for a few minutes. If I were a better blogger I would have a pretty picture of the finished oatmeal in the bowl. But I ate it. Sorry!

Anyone else out there getting their daily oats?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 24

mpm chalkboard

My kitchen and I are starting to become friends. This is a miracle all by itself. I've done a great job cooking this past week and hope to be even more successful in the coming week. This is probably a "duh" thing, but I cannot get over how much money we have saved in the food budget. We have switched over to a cash envelope system and it is nearing the end of the pay period and I have quite a bit left in the food envelope. Woo hoo!

My dinners for the week are:

Whole chicken in the crock pot, sweet potatoes and a vegetable (not such which yet)
Porcupines, this was a regular meal when I was a kid. I use ground turkey as we are not a beef household, a side vegetable
Chicken and rice ranch soup, I cannot wait to try this one. We are gluten free so chicken and rice is our chicken noodle soup. The ranch twist sounds yummy!
Black beans and rice, an attempt at doing one meal a week meatless. My husband is not so enthused about this idea.
Chicken fried rice, I mix and match lots of recipes, sort of a clean out the fridge kind of thing for us
Vegetable "beef" soup in the slow cooker, we will use ground turkey instead. If I get industrious we will have brown rice bread with this.
Ranch chicken, by far my favorite! This is so easy and so yummy! My daughter even eats this up!

Did I mention how easy this is? Using a 9x13 baking dish, put 4 raw chicken breasts in the center. Throw some green beans on one side. Throw some potatoes on the other. Dot it with some butter. Shake some dry ranch mix over the top. Cover with foil. Cook at 350 for about an hour until the chicken is done.

You can easily change this around to your family's tastes. When I originally saw this recipe it called for Italian mix, we prefer ranch so I use ranch. We love green beans here, but I have used other vegetables depending on what I had on hand. I had a bag of mixed potatoes and used those the last time I made this. Another time I used a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes and that was great too. I make my own ranch mix to always have it on hand, we use it for lots of things, oddly, never to make ranch dressing.

For breakfasts we will be doing various oatmeal recipes and I'm going to try to make some muffins. I will post recipes if things come out well. I tried a steel cut oatmeal in the slow cooker last night and we can say it was a complete fail. I have oatmeal soup. Yuck!

I'm going to link this to Laura at for Menu Plan Monday.. If you are looking for some menu inspiration you will be able to find lots of fun menus and recipes.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Free Emergency Water Storage

The past three weeks have found us preparing for two different winter storms here in the suburbs of Atlanta. I am very thankful that I did not have to brave the grocery store lines to stock up on food and emergency water (it also helps being gluten and dairy free - no bread and milk runs here!)  When making the first strides into emergency preparedness expenses can really add up quickly. One of the most important items to keep on hand is a good storage of water. We have several commercially prepared bottles of water but still needed to build up our supply without breaking the bank.

The first thing I did was not novel by any means. Someone in this household may be trying to single-handedly keep coca-cola in business, no judging :). Rather than recycling all those 2-liter bottles, I rinse them with bleach and then refill the bottles with tap water. If we need this water for drinking at some point this water will be run through a filter so I am not terribly concerned with adding bleach or doing any additional means of purifying.

When I first started doing this I would remove the labels and try to make things look cuter. Now, they just get washed well and re-filled. Just using my "trash" gave us enough water storage for one day for our family and dogs. The next part is harder: finding homes for all this water!

Another method of "free" water storage I do is using my mason jars. I have a decent collection of jars and keep these filled with water between other uses. Should I need the jars for storing leftovers or hopefully canning one day, I just use the water to water the plants or other needs around the house and dry my jar. This is a little thing, but does give a good amount of extra water storage for absolutely no cost to me.

Hope this helps someone else just getting started in their preparedness. Does anyone else have some fun ideas they want to share?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Everything in its place....linen closets

We moved into our current home a little over a year ago and I was blessed to have TWO linen closets. Our former house had zero, so this was very exciting for me (yes, I probably need to get out a bit more than I do.) I get asked a lot about how I organize things so here is a peek into my closets. The first closet is in my master bathroom. The other linen closet services the hall bathroom and guest bedroom.

This is the best attempt at getting the entire closet. I think it is pretty roomy. Yes, I love the sassy brass shower door. It is on the list, but not yet high on the list!

The top shelf is where I put "extras". The boxes are for toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap, and lotion. I keep the mega bottle of hand sanitizer in here. We use it only if someone has contracted the plague or some other contagion, so it hangs out here with the masks.

This is where we keep our medicine. I separated things out according to types. I am OCD enough to have a checklist that includes expiration dates. This helps to make sure I have things in stock should we need something. I also write the expiration dates on the tops with a sharpie.

The next shelf is self-explanatory. It does appear I need to make a Sam's run for more TP though. You can NEVER have enough toilet paper.

My husband and I share this closet so these are our spare towels. We keep 4 towels, 4 washcloths, and 3 hand towels for our bathroom. I really don't know why there are only 3 hand towels, I'm guessing someone has gotten lost or is now a rag. This lack of symmetry may give me the twitches! The little toile box is a wonderful smelling bar of soap my sweet aunt sent me from Williamsburg.

The box holds all of our first aid supplies and the beach towels. Not really related, but they fit well on the shelf together :)  The floor space contains a scale, our fireproof safe (should any burglars be reading, this safe contains only documents and I don't think my marriage certificate or things like that have particular value to anyone but us should there be a fire!) and a heating pad.

I subscribe to the "you cannot organize clutter" school of thought and keep our linens pretty streamlined. We have one set of sheets and they are on the bed. I just wash them and put them back on the same day.

Sorry this is dark and a terrible shot. I am standing against a wall to get this far away. The door also looks spotty because I am now in about month 7 of painting all of the interior doors of the house. Worst. project. ever. Hate painting doors. The previous owner painted all of the doors black which looks great in houses with lots of natural light. We have lots of trees and it just made it looks like black holes everywhere.

Anyway....This closet holds extra blankets and the guest bed sheets on the top shelf. We keep 4 sets of towels for our daughter and guests. A bit more TP hiding up there. Pillows for the guest room. Our guest room is used as a playroom so has a pullout sofa which is why none of the pillows are on the bed!

That's it! I keep our rags in the laundry room and a container in the pantry. Table linens and cloth napkins are kept in the dining room. I used to have labels on all the shelves (my husband is impatiently waiting for me to return all the labels :) ) but I had been reorganizing things too often. This seems to be the final locations as they have remained for about 6 months.

Hope this helps someone trying to organize their closets. Anyone have some good tips?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Menu Monday

mpm chalkboard

The past week was a fail in the cooking department. My poor kitchen was left pretty lonely and my wallet is asking for a vacation. In my defense, I live in the suburbs of Atlanta and we did make it through an ice storm!

Does anyone else have grocery store panic? During menu planning I go through all the thoughts of whole foods, organic, coupons, frugal, ahhhh, how do you figure out how to balance all this without losing your mind! Am I the only one?

My menu plan for the next two weeks is complete, but now for the hard part: actually following it! Putting together a list of meals, the grocery list, and then shopping are not the difficult part for me. Many times I am not in the mood for the dinner that is slotted for that day. Since changing to a system of just writing down 14 dinners, 14 lunches, 14 breakfasts that are not given specific days we are doing much better at following our menu plan. If anyone has advice on following the menu plans I would love to hear them!

This is our menu plan for the next two weeks. I'm sorry that these are not linked to recipes, I have not yet learned how to do that. Many of them can be found in either the "this week's recipes" or "cooking" boards on my pinterest boards.


Oatmeal with fruit
Apple pie oatmeal in the slowcooker
Steel cut oats in the slowcooker

(do I need to mention that I buy oats in bulk?)


I do not make any plans for these. Typically we will just eat leftovers or heat up soup and sandwiches. When school is in session my daughter eats the same thing every. single. day. I get to vary the fruit for her, but that is the only variable.


Pork fried rice
Crockpot chicken, rice, veggies (this is a whole chicken that just cooks in slowcooker, I do whatever veggies I have on hand that need to be eaten)
Black beans and rice, salad
Ranch chicken (my favorite and easy, which is probably why it is my favorite! pictured above, I do not have "after" pictures as this is always eaten quickly!)
Turkey burgers, sweet potatoes, veggies
Chicken noodle soup, brown rice bread
Chicken "teriyaki" & veggies
Pasta with meat sauce, salad
Chef's salad
Repeat: crockpot chicken, potatoes, veggies
Chicken fried rice
Repeat: ranch chicken
Repeat: chicken noodle soup, brown rice bread

My menus are typically gluten and dairy free and absolutely no tree nuts. Pork will make occasional appearances. Beef will not be making appearances. Chickens and turkeys fear us!

Hope everyone is doing great with their menu plans and has a fantastic week. I am linking this to Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie's website If you are looking for some inspiration in your menu planning be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Storm Warning

For the second time in two weeks we are battening down the hatches. A bit concerned that they are using words like "catastrophic", "crippling", and "historic." I hope to be back tomorrow, today is full of cleaning and prepping for possible power outages. Be safe Atlanta!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Doesn't Smell Bad, Just Different and an Update

One of the products that I use, but don't love, is shampoo, so it was high on my list to try to make myself. After searching through recipes I attempted the first one this morning. I will admit that while I was in the shower I hated the feel of using the shampoo. My hair felt yucky and I was not impressed with the smell. I went ahead and blow dried it only to realize that it looked similar to my hair pre-wash.  I went in search of a second opinion. My husband had a look of fright when I asked him to sniff my hair. After a few minutes of quiet he said it didn't smell bad, just different. This is the equivalent of telling someone it "looks interesting".  He also mentioned that it looked like I needed to wash my hair. Complete pinfail. Yuck! No pictures, you are welcome!

Hubby will be helping me this afternoon give my little blog a facelift. Should the web grid go down, it wasn't us. Ahem. Hope to be back next week with a prettier blog, clean, sweet-smelling hair, and a little bit of organized closets and emergency preparedness stories.