DELICIOUS Slow-Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast (& Freezer Friendly!)

First, can I say that anything cooked in 1 stick of butter has to be good.....right?  This pot roast is absolutely delicious.  The original recipe uses the roast, 1 stick of butter, the pepperoncini, 1 packet of au jus and 1 packet of ranch dressing.  I did make it exactly as that but found it way too salty and had just a touch of a chemical flavoring from the packets.  It was really good though.

My second attempt was adding carrots (because the sauce is so darned good), and substituting the packets with homemade versions of the au jus and the ranch dressing.  Yum, but needed a touch more flavor.

My third attempt was the same as the second but adjusting the homemade au jus and ranch dressing ever so slightly.  This time it was a winner.

A few things about this recipe:
  • I was hesitant about even trying this initially because it's such an odd combination and I really dislike ranch dressing.  I can assure you that it tastes nothing like ranch dressing.  
  • I also wondered about the pepperoncini - it does not make it spicy.  I use 4 pepperoncini minced and you just get a bit of the flavor.
  • With the homemade packets I will tell you there's a bit less flavoring, but the salt is controlled and there is absolutely no chemical flavoring.  It is still REALLY good.  Promise.  I separated the au jus and ranch just in case you would prefer to use one of the packets as opposed to the from scratch recipe.  This way you'll know which ingredients to cut.
  • If you don't have carrots, don't worry about it but they do turn out yummy.  Even my "I don't want any carrots" husband (he says this with every pot roast) enjoyed them.  He ate all that I put on his plate!
  • You are reading the recipe correct - there is no liquid added.  It makes it's own.  Because there is not liquid added, I like to flip the roast 1-2 hours before it's finished to make sure that the entire roast is full of flavor.  Not necessary, but recommended.
You can easily convert this to a freezer meal by throwing all of the ingredients (not the carrots) into a large freezer bag and freezing.  When ready to make, unthaw it in the refrigerator for 24 hours, plop in a slow-cooker and bake as noted below.  Easy peasy!

On to the recipe!

Slow-Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast
1 - 2lb boneless beef chuck shoulder roast
2 lbs carrots, cleaned and chopped into roughly 1 1/2" chunks
1 stick of butter (salted or unsalted - your choice), sliced into 5 chunks
4-6 pepperoncini peppers (in the jar of vinegary juice) + 2 teaspoons of the juice

homemade au jus seasoning (or substitute these ingredients with 1 pack of powdered au jus):
4 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

homemade ranch seasoning (or substitute these ingredients with 1 pack of powdered ranch dressing mix):
1 Tablespoon dried parsley flakes
1 Tablespoon dried buttermilk powder (if you have it, otherwise omit)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes (if you have them, otherwise omit)
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the carrots to the slow-cooker and then put the roast on top.   In small bowls, mix together the au jus, then pour on top of the roast along with the pepperoncini and reserved juice.  Mix together the ranch seasoning and sprinkle all over the roast.  Top with butter chunks.  Cover and cook on low for 10 hours, or until roast easily shreds with a fork.  If you can, flip roast after 8 or 9 hours (see note above).  Serve.

**recipe is correct - no liquid is needed!**

Freezer Meal Instructions:
In a large, gallon size, freezer bag, add roast, pepperoncini and reserved juice, au jus and ranch seasoning ingredients.  You can also add butter chunks now, or add instructions to add when cooking.  Remove as much air as possible from the bag, seal. 

Label and add cooking instructions:
  • Slow-Cooker Mississippi Pot Roast
  • Unthaw in refrigerator for 24 hours
  • When ready to cook:
  • add 2 pounds of carrots, cleaned and chopped roughly into 1 1/2" chunks
  • add 1 stick of butter, cut into 5 pieces (unless added to bag, then omit this)
  • add this bag of roast + seasonings
  • cook on low 10 hours, or until shreds easily with fork
  • flip after 8-9 hours if possible

Freezer Cooking 101: Part 3 (Including 30+ Basic Ingredients & Recipes To Freeze For Easy Meals)

This is the second of a 3-part series on Freezer Cooking.  I got hooked on freezer cooking a couple of years ago.  While we don't eat the majority of our meals as freezer meals, I love counting on them at least once or twice a week as well as having a meal or two extra that's handy if I've forgotten to take something out.  See the entire series here.

I shared earlier in this series that freezer cooking can be a lifesaver.  I know this sounds dramatic, but when you're in the middle of a busy week and finding it nearly impossible to put nutritious, affordable and delicious meals on the table, having freezer meals or freezer ingredients can truly make it feel like dinner was saved.  Keep the take-out menu's in the drawer and shop the freezer instead!  There's less work on your part to prep it and, therefore, less clean up too.  

In part 1 we discussed the basics of freezer cooking including the basics of starting.  In part 2 we went through all of the supplies you will need as well as the steps you'll take to successfully prep meals or ingredients for freezing.  In this post, the third and last of the series, we'll look at basic ingredients you can prep and keep in your freezer, making mealtime easier.  Even if you determine that complete freezer meals are not for you, most of us can benefit from prepping ingredients (marinated chicken breast, burger, veggie burgers, fruit, etc.) and having them ready to go.

For me, most of my freezer prep is ingredients.  While I do use a handful of actual freezer meals, I always have quite a few ingredients that we use regularly that I prep every single month.  Our recipes change depending on the season.  For instance, in the spring and summer we use the grill a lot.  So, you'll find a lot of meat, portioned for individual meals, frozen in the marinade, allowing me to unthaw them in the refrigerator overnight and plop on the grill at dinnertime.  During fall and winter we are more likely to use the oven or slow-cooker, although I do use a grill pan as well, so you may find more meal packs for the slow-cooker or ingredients to add to pizza or casseroles in our freezer.  Use freezer meals how it makes sense for you.

Ready-To-Go Freezer Ingredients
These are items that you will either just freeze, or cook and then freeze, to have on hand for simple additions to meals.

- Grilled Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts and/or Thighs
     (for use in salads, tacos, burritos, sandwiches, chicken pot pie, quesadillas, soup, casseroles, or pizza)
- Browned Hamburger (drained and cooled)
     (for use in pizza, taco salad, tacos, burritos, chili, lasagna, quesadillas, soup, casseroles, spaghetti sauce, or sloppy joe's)
- Uncooked Burger Patties 
     (making it easier for burger night or patty melt night)
- Cooked Sausage Crumbles
     (Breakfast sausage for use in breakfast burritos or on breakfast pizza; regular sausage for use in spaghetti sauce, lasagna, etc.)
- Tomato Paste (if you're opening a can but not using the whole can, but the remaining in an ice cube tray, freeze, then pop into a freezer bag and label.  Take one out as needed for recipes.)
- Parmesan Cheese (I always buy grated parmesan in bulk and freeze most of it in bags containing 1 1/2 cups)
- Butter (if you buy on sale, freeze for longer term storage)
- Homemade Pesto (freeze in ice cube tray
- Marinated Meat (portioned into serving size portions)  *see a few recipes below to get you started*
- Cooked or Raw but prepared Meatballs (flash freeze so they can be frozen in a large bag but frozen individually)
- Extra Vegetables
- Flash-freeze fruit (berries, mango, chunks, banana chunks, etc.)
     (for use in smoothies, homemade jam, fruit crisps, etc.)
- Flash-freeze peppers (I dice some and cut some into strips)
     (for use in soups, quesadillas, casseroles, stir fry, etc.)
- Flash-freeze onions (I chop them)
     (for use in soups, casseroles, stir fry, etc.)
- Cooked Beans (make a huge batch and freeze in serving size containers)
- Homemade Veggie Burgers

freezer chicken quesadillas
A Few Freezer Cooking Recipes & Ideas:
- Delicious Blueberry Pie
- Pie Crust (if you're making a pie crust, why not double the batch and freeze another?)
- Muffins (baked or unbaked
- Cookie Dough (for baking later)
- Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
- Your Favorite Lasagna Recipe (If you're making one, why not make another for the freezer at the same time?)
- Pancakes (leftover or making a second batch for the freezer - reheat in toaster oven or toaster)
- Waffles (same idea as pancakes)
- Many sauces freeze well (freeze in ice cube tray and transfer to freezer bag for smaller amounts, or pour directly into freezer bag for larger amounts)
- Your family's favorite enchiladas
- Breakfast Burritos

Flash-Freezing Instructions:
This is my favorite way of freezing some veggies and fruit.  It enables you to freeze them in a big old freezer bag and to pull out as little or as much as you'd like when you want to use some because they are frozen individually. 

I like to use a cookie sheet lined with freezer paper.  Place cleaned and dried fruit or veggies on the cookie sheet, spaced out so they touch very little to not at all.  Place in the freezer.  Once completely frozen (within an hour or two), transfer to a freezer bag.  Push out as much air as possible (to prevent freezer burn), seal, and store in the freezer.  Continue until all of the fruit or veggie that you are processing is completed.  Make sure you've sliced or chopped, if needed, prior to freezing.  Don't forget to label your bag with the contents and date frozen.

honey soy marinade on chicken
Easy Marinade Recipes:
I use these ALL of the time.  It makes dinner time so very easy.  Make the marinade, portion meat into freezer bags in the amount you'll use for one meal, add the marinade to the bag (careful not to get any on the seal), push all air out and seal.  Freeze.  (In Part 2 I spoke about freezing the bags flat on a cookie sheet until frozen solid in order for the meals to stack nicely.)  When you're ready to use it, let it unthaw in the refrigerator overnight.  Cook on the stovetop (grill pan or sauté pan) or on the grill.

Teriyaki Marinade
*good for chicken or beef*
1/4 cup soy sauce (regular or low sodium, depending on your preference)
1/4 cup runny honey (if it's solid, microwave to loosen it up)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Mix all ingredients together.

Honey Soy Marinade
*good for chicken or pork*
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon oil
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
Mix all ingredients together.

Cilantro Lime Marinade
*good for chicken*
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 1/2 Tablespoons runny honey
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients together.

Cowboy Marinade
*good for beef (flank, kebabs, etc.) - really good on beef that will be grilled!*
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon minced chives
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients together.

Jamaican Jerk Marinade
*good for chicken*
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons lime juice
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Mix all ingredients together.

Freezer Cooking Part 1: The Basics To Getting Started
Freezer Cooking Part 2: Complete list of tips and instructions

Do you have favorite tips or recipes for freezer cooking?

$100.00/Week Real Food Weekly Meal Plan - Week 12

If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Read the entire series here.

You will see the Mississippi Pot Roast on the menu again this week.  I originally made it a few weeks ago but wanted to adjust the seasonings a bit to see if I can make it even better.  It's a really good recipe but the original recipe uses 2 packets - 1 of au jus and 1 of a ranch dressing, making it way too salty with a touch of a chemical flavoring.  So I've adjusted with homemade substitutions.  If it's successful I will post the recipe this week. 

I was $20.00 under budget last week (woo hoo!) so I was able to use that this week to stock up on pork ribs while they were on sale.  I'll cook some this week (oven baked BBQ Ribs are DELICIOUS) and freeze the remainder for use later (they are even better when you can finish them on the grill!).

On to the meal plan!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos
Lunch - (me) Veggie & Chickpea Sandwich; (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - (me) Beans & Greens; (J) Mississippi Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - leftovers
Dinner - (me) Veggie Stir Fry; (J) Chicken & Cheese Tortellini in Cream Sauce; Broccoli

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - (me) Veggie & Chickpea Sandwich; (J) Ham Sandwich
Dinner - (J) Meatballs, Pasta with Sauce, Spinach

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - (me) Veggie & Chickpea Sandwich; (J) leftovers
Dinner - Jambalaya; Roasted Carrots

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - (me) Veggie & Chickpea Sandwich; (J) leftovers
Dinner - (me) Teriyaki Veggie Stir Fry; (J) Chicken Teriyaki, Rice

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Raw Nuts
Lunch - (me) Veggie & Chickpea Sandwich; (J) leftovers
Dinner - (me) Veggie Stuffed Baked Potato; (J) Oven-Baked BBQ Baby Back Pork Ribs; Mac & Cheese; Broccoli

Breakfast - Blueberry Pancakes
Lunch - Tomato Soup; (J) Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Dinner - Pizza (me - veg, J - Ground Beef & Mozzarella)

Weekly Food Costs:

Commissary: $28.30
*I am not allowed to share individual costs from the commissary so I've listed what we purchased and the total price*
- Russet Potato, Oranges, Carrots, Pasta, Canned Whole Tomatoes, Canned Tomato Sauce, Hoisin Sauce, Tortilla Shells, Mozzarella Cheese, Lunch Meat, Sliced Cheese, Cream, & Frozen Raw Shrimp

Aldi: $14.34
Potatoes - $1.49
Asparagus - $.98
Broccoli - $1.69
Peppers - $1.99
Grass Fed Angus Pot Roast - $8.19

BJ's: $15.82
Spinach - $3.29
Berries - $5.49
Organic Chicken Thighs - $7.04 (this was a larger pack so we will get 3 meals from this = $2.35 per meal; I put the remaining in the freezer for future use)

Farmer's Market: $7.50
Apples - $2.50
Grass Fed Beef Ground Burger - $5.00

Fresh Market: $47.99 
Bread - $3.99
Pork Baby Back Ribs - $44.00 (the baby back ribs were buy 1 rack, get 1 rack free so I purchased a total of 4 racks at $11.00 each; we will get a total of 8 meals from this = $5.50 per meal; I put the remaining half racks in the freezer for future use)

Grand Total: $113.95 (I had an extra $20.00 left from last week's shopping trip to use toward this weeks total)

Weekly Food Notes:
- You should not see eggs on the grocery list (ever) since we raise chickens for eggs.

- I had on hand: Raw Nuts (I have a stash in the freezer), Organic Chicken Breast (leftover from a shopping trip a couple of weeks ago), Rice, Spaghetti Pasta, Frozen Tortellini, Flour, Spices, Milk & Non-Dairy Creamer.

Super Quick & Easy Chicken Potsticker (Dumpling) Soup

We are huge fans of potstickers, a.k.a. dumplings.  I usually either steam them or lightly sauté them, but now I'm using this recipe for a super quick meal!  Potsticker (dumpling) soup is so quick and easy whether you use frozen store bought or homemade potstickers.  Try to find the mini-size potstickers (and use double the amount in the recipe) because they are the perfect size for soup, but if you can only find the traditional size, they are delicious too!  You can make this vegetarian by substituting the chicken potstickers with vegetable and the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Quick & Easy Chicken Potsticker Soup
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
3 ribs celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, optional
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
10 frozen chicken and vegetable potstickers (frozen - do not thaw)
1 cup Kale, spinach, or napa cabbage, julienned, optional

In a pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Sauté the celery, carrots and onion until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and onion powders and crushed red pepper flakes, if using, stir and sauté 1 minute.  Carefully add stock.  Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes.  Add frozen potstickers, bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes.  If adding greens, add them in and give a quick stir.  Serve.

Freezer Cooking 101: A Beginner's Guide, Part 2 (Supplies Needed + Getting Started Tips)

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This is the second of a 3-part series on Freezer Cooking.  I got hooked on freezer cooking a couple of years ago.  While we don't eat the majority of our meals as freezer meals, I love counting on them at least once or twice a week as well as having a meal or two extra that's handy if I've forgotten to take something out.  See the entire series here.

Freezer meals can be a lifesaver for you, particularly during a busy week.  It's a great way to put delicious, nutritious meals on the table with little effort.  All of the effort is put forth once a month when you set a few hours aside to make up your meals for the upcoming month.  It takes a bit to make putting the time aside a habit, but once you get started, it's something that will make it into your regular cooking repertoire.

While Part 1 was an introduction to freezer cooking, part 2 is all about supplies and the basics of getting started.  It's what you'll need to have on hand (or at least consider) and prepping instructions to start freezer cooking.

Supplies You'll Need:
- Freezer Bags (not storage or sandwich bags)
- Disposable aluminum and/or freezer-safe pans/containers
     You could certainly use glass or another pan/container you have on hand.  Remember, however, that you'll be without that container until you make the freezer meal.
     Here are some drawbacks to consider with using glass and/or pyrex:
     - Items could get freezer burnt (you won't be able to wrap the food tightly) because of the airspace.
     - You can't transfer the freezer meal from freezer to oven or the glass/pyrex pan will break.
     - Food will expand in the freezer and the glass could break.
- Freezer Tape (if you'll be using pans wrapped in foil or plastic.  If you'll be using freezer bags only, this isn't necessary).
- Plastic wrap (for wrapping items individually and/or for covering containers).
- Aluminum foil
- Permanent marker

Getting Started:
1. For monthly freezer prep, determine which freezer meals you'll be using for the next month and gather the recipes.

2. Before freezer meal prep day, go through the recipes you'll be making and do one grocery shopping trip.

3. On freezer meal prep day, gather all of your ingredients as well as freezer bags and/or containers.

4. Wash all prep tools between recipes and/or foods.

5. Refrigerate any pre-cooked foods/ingredients before freezing.  Pre-cooked foods need to be completely cooled before freezing.

6.  Label everything (for freezer bags, this is much easier to do before you fill them).
     EVERY package should contain:
     - Name of recipe.
     - How to prepare once thawed.
        i.e. thaw in refrigerator overnight.  Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Remove plastic wrap & bake 40 minutes.  Top with 1 cup shredded cheddar, bake additional 20 minutes until hot & bubbly.
        i.e. Do NOT thaw before baking.  Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Bake 30 minutes.
     - Date placed in freezer + use by date.
     - Any serving instructions (i.e. serve over rice; i.e. serve with minced cilantro)

7. Keep an inventory (including date you made it) of all freezer meals. (*I store this on my refrigerator*)
     - inventory list should include a note of any ingredients you will need to add for cooking and/or serving.  This makes it super easy to create your shopping list that week when meal planning.

8. Portion properly.
     - cut the recipe down, or conversely, double if needed.

9. When placing items in freezer bags, make sure you press out all air to prevent freezer burn.

10. When pouring marinade, sauce, etc. into a freezer bag, be careful to not get it on the seal.  If you find freezer meals helpful, you may consider bag stands.

11.  If sauce will be added after cooking other items (meat, veggies, etc.), place sauce ingredients in a separate bag/container and either add to the main bag/container, or add a note on the outside so you remember the sauce is frozen separately.
     - *pouring sauce into ice cube trays, freezing, then popping into a bag or container is the easiest way to freeze*

12.  To freeze individual veggies (so they don't create a large veggie block), flash freeze dried/drained veggies on parchment or freezer paper lined cookie sheet.  Once frozen solid, they can be added to the freezer bag/container and put back in the freezer.

13. We use all of our freezer meals within 30 days.  For longer storage, you should consider a vacuum sealing machine to prevent freezer burn.  We LOVE our vacuum sealer and use it for everything from meat, marinated meat, to nuts, to cheeses and chocolate.

14. When placing freezer bags in the freezer to freeze the meals, I like to lay them flat on a cookie sheet until frozen.  This way, they freeze flat enough to stack nicely with the other freezer meals.

15.  When defrosting meals/items with liquid, defrost in a bowl or pan with a lip just in case you have any leakage.

Have you tried freezer meals? 
I would love to hear your thoughts and tips!!

The third freezer cooking post in this series will provide recipes/instructions for some basic items you can prepare to get your toes wet.  Before you know it, you’ll be hooked!

$100.00/Week Real Food Weekly Meal Plan - Week 11

If you’re just tuning in, this is an ongoing series in which I share our weekly meal plan as I (attempt) to convert us to a Whole/Real Food lifestyle.  Our grocery budget is $100.00/week for 2 adults.  Often I make 2 different meals because I am primarily plant-based and my husband is not.  Most of what we eat is made from scratch and any boxed, canned and/or frozen products follow the Real Food guidelines.  Meal planning is my way of controlling the grocery budget (read as a LOT of dollars saved), ensuring there is no food waste for the week, as well as saving time.  You can read more about meal planning here.

Read the entire series here.

I wrote last week about re-organizing our freezers (we have 3) and updating the inventory lists.  One thing that I knew needed to be done was that updated inventory.  I was pretty sure the counts I had were off and sure enough they were.  I was surprised to find a whole chicken (from the last time we raised chickens for meat) left as well as some of the other meat I thought we'd run out of.  I also didn't remember that we had so many bags of frozen corn & squash from our garden last year.  So, my focus over the next couple of weeks is to begin using up some of our stockpile as well as adding to it, if deals are found.

We took a few hours one day to re-organize.  The freezer in the house (attached to the refrigerator) is food for the dogs, excess butter, frozen raw nuts, recent leftovers, J's ice cream, some veggies and whatever frozen meat, etc. I'll be using that week.  The stand-up freezer is now all of the meat, seafood and fruit.  The chest freezer is now all of the homemade stock, dumplings, dough, prepped freezer meals, and frozen veggies.

Have you ever cooked a whole chicken in milk?  Oh my, it's SOOOOOO tender.  I highly recommend it!

Weekly Meal Plan:
Breakfast - Breakfast Burritos
Lunch - me - Veggie Sandwich; J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Burgers (beef for J; Veg for me), Baked Potato Wedges, & Broccoli Salad

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Nuts
Lunch - Leftover Pizza (from Friday)
Dinner - Slow-Cooker Chicken in Milk; Roasted Carrots & Brussel Sprouts, Rice

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Nuts
Lunch - Me - Salad; J - Ham Sandwich
Dinner - Stuffed Cabbage (me - veg & rice; J - meat & rice), Steamed Spinach

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Nuts
Lunch - Quesadillas
Dinner - Pasta with Vodka Sauce; J- leftover chicken; Roasted Cauliflower

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Nuts
Lunch - Leftover Stuffed Cabbage
Dinner - Me - Beans & Greens; J - Orecchiette with Chicken Sausage & Broccoli

Breakfast - Oatmeal with Berries & Nuts
Lunch - Quesadillas
Dinner - Me - leftover Beans & Greens; J - Chicken with Spinach, Pasta & Cream Sauce

Breakfast - Breakfast Frittata; Hashbrowns
Dinner - Me - Buffalo Cauliflower Fajitas; J - Chicken Fajitas; Avocado Crema; Mexican Rice

Weekly Food Costs:
Aldi: $28.04
Cauliflower - $2.49
Brussel Sprouts - $2.69
Peppers - $1.99
Cabbage - $1.49
Potatoes - $2.69
Broccoli - $1.69 x 2
Kale - $2.99
Blackberries - $1.99 x 2
Kerrygold Butter - $2.85
Organic Milk - $3.49

Trader Joe's: $16.45
Mushrooms - $2.29
Orecchiette Pasta - $2.69
Rolled Oats - $3.99
Organic Chicken Sausage - $5.99
Non-Dairy Creamer - $1.49

Hannaford: $15.40
Avocado - $.98
Mesclun Mix - $2.99
Oranges - $2.59
Buffalo Sauce - $2.69
Whole Wheat Pasta - $.99
Whole Wheat Tortilla Shells - $1.79
Refried Beans - $2.38
Cream - $.99

Farmer's Market: 19.50
Grass-fed Beef Burger - $5.00
Apples - $2.50
Certified Organic Spinach - $8.00
Certified Organic Carrots - $4.00

Grand Total: $79.39

Weekly Food Notes:
- I had on hand: whole chicken, rice, cheese, vodka, homemade chicken dumplings (potstickers), celery, homemade chicken stock, raw almonds, raw cashews, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, sunflower seeds, mayonnaise.

- the whole chicken will be used up for meals throughout the week.

- chicken dumpling soup is SUPER simple and you can use homemade potstickers or store bought fresh or frozen.  I sauté minced carrots, onions and celery, then add 1/2 teaspoon garlic and onion powders.  Add chicken stock and boil for a few minutes.  Add dumplings and boil until dumplings are done.  That's it!  I also add julienned kale to mine once it's finished cooking.

This Month On The Farm: February 2018 - BIG Changes To Our Life, Wake Up Calls & Thoughts of Gardening

super easy chicken dumpling soup - perfect for cold winter days

If you’re just tuning in, this is a brand new ongoing series in which I document each month of our lives in our transition to a simple, homemade life on a modern homestead. We ditched town and moved to the country in 2008 and we blog about both our successful and not-so-successful ventures in homesteading, switching to natural products, and embracing a whole foods lifestyle.  Check out the entire series here.

February 2018
It's been a loooonnnnnggggg winter this year.  Perhaps it feels this way every year and I just forget.  The snow just keeps coming, in fact, we've got another snowstorm coming tonight.  It's absolutely beautiful, but my goodness we are tired of shoveling and snow blowing.  It warmed up at one point this month and we had nothing but mud all around us.  Oliver thought for sure we were trying to punish him by making him go to the bathroom outside. 
In the mud. 
Five times a day. 
Poor guy.

Hey, I have some GREAT news - I am now working on the farm full-time with J.  Yup, we made the jump!  We've gone back and forth (and back and forth, and back again) for the last two years wondering if it's time.  Well, it finally was.  I guess you never really know for sure, and I realized that you're never really "ready" - something always comes up.  We had thought about getting a couple of big projects on the farm completed this year before making the dive, but have put those on hold.  We have worked on reducing our spending over the past year and a half in order to save 10-12 months worth of total living expenses (just in case), and have no debt other than our mortgage, so, we just did it. 

I truly enjoyed my career with this last company that I worked for.  Yes, there were some jerks (there always are).  Yes, there was a lot of stress and a whole lot of hours spent working.  But I made a conscious effort to learn.  Learn from others, learn from my own mistakes, learn whatever I could about people, business, and myself.  The majority of people at that company were awesome and I made some great friends.  I will definitely miss them, but I am thrilled to start a new chapter.

I realized, within the first 3 days of working from home, how very much exhausted I really was.  We were a bit out of sorts for that first half of a week.  We had a home show the entire weekend so we prepped for that.  But because we hadn't worked out exactly what this would look like, well, we weren't sure what each of us should be working on and how to best make it all work.  Over the weekend, in between helping customers, we created a schedule to go out through May.  We both do best working by a schedule so this was the perfect solution.  In fact, we scheduled our first full week to not "work" at all, but instead, spring cleaning our home including purging and re-organizing.  We thought this would be the PERFECT way to transition and it truly seems to have been spot on.

It's scary, for sure, but we are incredibly happy and grateful to be able to put all of our time and effort, together, into the business.  I will be able to spend more time on the blog and website which I love, and we hope to have time to do fun things once in a while.  Something we've had no time to do for years.....

Emerson & Oliver

bratty pants Jack

The Dogs + Jack
My goodness the dogs are so happy about me being home.  If I could get Oliver to understand that I don't need to get up at 5 a.m. anymore, that would be helpful.  He is such a good boy, barking non-stop at the bottom of the stairs, letting me know that I'm late.  Except I'm not.  Not anymore.  It took a bit to get him into the 5 a.m. schedule so I guess it will take a bit to get him to understand he can sleep just a wee bit longer.

They split their time between supervising me and supervising J since we are typically working out of different parts of the house.  It certainly wears them out, but they are enjoying the extra attention.

Jack attacked Oliver mid-month.  "Attacked" may be a bit harsh, although if you saw Oliver afterward (he is a tad bit dramatic....) you would use that word.  It happened one morning before I had made my way down the stairs.  I could hear Oliver barking (it was 5:15 a.m. and, of course, he was concerned that I was late).  Then I could hear him barking from one of the rooms, not from the bottom of the stairs.  When I stumbled downstairs he was trapped in the living room.  Jack was pacing back and forth, looking like the badass he believes he is.  Oliver was afraid to cross Jack's imaginary line.  I pushed Jack out of the way and called for Oliver.  He stood there, shaking, left eye closed.  I called him again.  And again.  After about the fourth time he came running at full speed.  His eye was goopy and red.  I believe Jack got him right in the eye because every time Jack was even in the vicinity, Ollie would jump and look petrified.  This made Jack very happy.  Because he's a brat who permanently wears naughty pants.  (Oliver's eye was better within 24 hours so all was well in the household.)

The Coop Girls
They are doing great!  Laying eggs like they should, they are not, however, happy about the ongoing snow.  We will not be adding new girls this year.  We've got a nice group and don't want to disrupt it by introducing more to the flock, so we will work with what we've got.

The netting on their uncovered outdoor coop has been ruined by the snow so we'll need to replace that in another month or two.  We net it to keep the wild birds out - no need in spreading diseases.

We were also considering raising chickens for meat this year (I can't believe it's been 2 years since we last raised them!), but I think with everything else we've got going on, including figuring out what the "new us" looks like, we'll hold until next year.  If you are considering doing this on your own homestead, I can tell you that the hardest thing in all of this is finding someone to process.  Someone that you trust (so you get your birds back and not random ones - this happened to us the last time we raised them).

The Business
This is our slow season (February - April) so we are working toward getting some products made in order to build a small backstock.  We are hoping to participate in 2 farmer's markets this year plus craft shows, so we will definitely need product!  We've been planning on adding essential oils to our product line, that should be coming soon.  I'm trying to catch up on everything else before we move forward with putting them on the online store. 

We are also working on potentially adding a few new products.  That should be determined in the next few weeks!

We participated in a home show two weekends ago which is always a great show for us.  This year was no exception and we are incredibly grateful for that.  We get to see folks we don't necessarily get to see at our market, even though they are in the same town, so it was great exposure for us.

dreaming of vine-ripened tomatoes....

The Garden
Nope, it's not time to plant the garden yet.  I honestly couldn't even tell you where it is right now, but it is time to start planning it.  This year we've decided to join a certified organic CSA for our veggies and instead grow more herbs that we use in our products as well as for personal use.   We'll plant a few veggies, but not even close to what we've planted in the past.  We've finally had to realize that there just isn't enough time in a day to do it all.

Odds and Ends
If you've been following the "change your life in 2018" series, I am really finding this helpful.  I started this to challenge myself - chunking down a large goal of making some personal changes, into 12 bite-sized bits allowing me to focus on one at a time as well as time to make each a habit.  The first month's challenge of "let it go" is one I continue to work on as things come up and feel like it's becoming easier and easier as time goes by.  February's challenge of figuring out what you want to do helped me outline what the next chapter looks like and this month's challenge of setting and chunking down goals is what I'm using to plan this year and the next few years.