Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Best $15 investment, as advised by Ebert and Ashlie

I had heard Roger Ebert penned a cookbook for rice cookers. Even more intriguing-he can't eat. After following him on twitter, I realized this must be an ingenious and worthwhile device for such an intelligent and humorous man to devote his talents to it. Ever since, I've been curious.

It's not like rice was hard to cook. But it could be a pain. Too much water, too much time spent standing over the stove. Yes, color me a typical lazy American.

I can't remember where- maybe here- but I vaguely remember hearing that a rice cooker was great for cooking for 1-2 people. Also, you could cook just about anything in it. Since I'm newly cooking for one, I thought I'd look into getting one.

My parents came in for a weekend and we went shopping. I cruised the kitchen appliance isle to be utterly surprised-rice cookers are as cheap as $13.99!  Mom & Dad got me mine: a 6 cup Rival rice cooker. I've relied on it for my lunches (and sometimes dinner) every day since.

Now mine isn't this cute little red color- it's just white, but I love it just the same. I've gone through two big bags of brown rice, making it both economical and very healthy. I also think it's perfect for those of us who don't want to spend a lot of time preparing our lunches each day.

Here's what I do:
-On Sunday, I put in anywhere from two to three cups of rice. In 30 minutes or less, this will double into cooked rice. You just put in the rice and corresponding water and walk away. You can tell the rice is ready when your house starts to smell of cooked rice. Yum!
-I scoop the rice out into sandwich sized reusable containers. Sometimes I do exactly one cup per container, sometimes I don't. Either way, it always makes enough to put in at least four containers.
-Let these cool, then refrigerate.
-Make sure to have lots of frozen vegetables on hand. In the morning when you're preparing for work, toss some frozen vegetables on top of a container of rice. Spritz with Bragg's Liquid Aminos for salt and added protein.

Ta-da! Lunch is ready for the day in less than 3 minutes (unless you include the 30 minutes that the rice cooker cooked).  Plus, the lunch you made is most likely under 300 calories. Nifty!

And like Ebert suggests, you can cook almost anything in your rice cooker. The most daring I've been so far is to try a box of garlic & pine nut long grain & wild rice. It cooked up much quicker than if cooked on the stove, and tasted just as good. Plus, I didn't have to add all that butter as suggested on the box (I actually used a tiny drizzle of olive oil instead), so that's another bit of healthy savings.

Let us know if you have a rice cooker and what all you've cooked in it. They're such great little tools to have to help you cook healthy & cheaply!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Creative cooking adventures

Just wanted to give y'all a head's up that I'm going to be doing a series of posts on the Conway Scrapblog about creatively cooking when your hunger is high and your budget is low. Taking the odds and ends in your pantry and making something exciting and new is a challenge, but can be really fun!

Getting creative

Times have been tough on everyone of late, and I think we've all had to find creative ways to make it by. When Ian was still here with me in South Carolina, he was in charge of our day-to-day cooking. [I fully credit Ian with the weight we've lost due to his strict measurement and calorie counting. I subscribe to my Grandmother's school of measure nothing and add stuff in until it tastes good.] With Ian gone and financial hardships still present, I've had to get really creative in the kitchen.

Soon after Ian left, I did a pseudo-inventory of everything in the kitchen just to know what I was working with. One of my more fun finds in the pantry was a bottle of bacon salt that I'd gotten Ian a while back. This was exciting because if left to my own devices I'd probably never eat meat.

I tried a little of it in various dishes, but I have to say that the biggest success came from using it in grits. Here's what I did:

Ashlie's queso bacon grits
Bacon salt, any flavor
Yellow grits
Cheese, queso, or any similar cheesy substitute

For one serving, put one cup water and one teaspoon of bacon salt in a saucepan. Bring to boil. Stir in 1/4 cup of grits. Cover and turn down to low heat. Once cooked, stir in cheese of choice. (I found a half used jar of queso in the back of the fridge. I dipped my spoon in twice, mixed in with the grits, and it added a great flavor!)

If you've tried bacon salt, or have other great creative pantry ideas, let us know! I'm going to post more of my creative cooking adventures soon!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An update

I had a few minutes to kill so I wanted to write as much of an update as I could.
To start, Ian LOVES his new job, and has already gotten a raise! I'm jealous! Things are looking up for me on the job front, too- sort of. I'm waiting to hear back, hopefully with good news. That's all I'm going to say about that! Things have been really stressful of late at my current job due to various events, but in a way, it's nice because it makes the time go by quickly!

On the house, I hear there is hardwood flooring under the carpet in the master bedroom. This is exciting, but I haven't seen proof of it yet. Also, the drywall to redo that one wall in the bedroom has been purchased. Maybe Dad and Ian will get it up soon and post pictures!

I think in two weeks most of our family will be coming in to have one last go through the house to get stuff, and hopefully if the weather participates, we'll have a yard sale soon after. The following weekend, Mom and Dad (and maybe Ian?) will come pick up the SUPER cool couch we bought. I'm so excited to see it in the house!

Anyway, that's really all I know. Maybe Ian can chime in with more news or some pictures.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Something to cut the grass with on the farm!

So summer is here a little early and with all the heat that is here, so is the grass!  I swear, grass/hay could probably grow in the desert... Oh wait.

Anyways, the reason I am talking about grass is the fact someone has to cut it or it will turn into a huge mess and pretty soon Tarzan will be swinging in it.  I guess for a guy, we are always looking to turn chores into fun times.  So, with cutting grass, I'm going to be restoring a Snapper Comet Rear Engine Rider lawn mower.  It was Ashlie's granddad's and then it was handed over to her dad.  It has been sitting for a while and is a bit rusty, but in overall good shape.  You may remember this model of lawn mower in the film Forrest Gump, where Tom Hanks would use this model Snapper to mow his grass and the football field.

I decided I would video the progress along the way so that I can look back and go, "Man, this has really been fun!" and also to maybe help looking to restore something like this in the future.  Granted, this is my first time doing something like this, so I am by no means a guru!

Here's the first installment of Ian's Snapper Restoration:

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I'm a lemonade factory

Where do I even begin?

A few months back, I hinted (either here or on the Conway Scrapblog) that some major news would be announced by the end of the year. I didn't want to announce anything until things were legal and finalized, but my excitement and my big stupid mouth got in the way. Ian's done some posts about it on the Scrapblog, but I wanted to officially announce it once and for all:
By the end of the year, I will be a homeowner in Tennessee.
 Long story short, we will be inheriting part of my Grandparents' farm, which is amazing because Ian and I want to expand on our organic farming, and also because we'll literally be right across the street from my parents. There are about 100 other really great reasons, but I won't go into them all here.

The property still isn't legally ours, and we have no clue when it will be. We had originally planned to move there at the end of October when our lease is up. However...

Ian lost his job. He's been so unhappy here for so long. It seems like every job here requires a college degree, and every time we get him enrolled in school something drastic or crazy happens with our finances, never allowing him to do more than one consecutive semester. Being the smart thinker he is, he realized that there are many more job opportunities in our area of Tennessee for non-degree holders, so he volunteered to move there and get a job. And he did.

Meanwhile, I find out that my boss has been offered and accepted a job offer from an extremely prestigious institution. She's leaving in the beginning of August. I'm unofficially second in command, so this has major implications for me. I don't expect to be interim head, but I do think I need to do my part to lead us through this transition. The administration have reassured me they'll begin a search to replace her, but it most likely won't be this year.

Now you might ask, gosh Ashlie, that sure is a lot of change! How are you holding up?
Why thank you for asking! I'm holding my own, I guess. I jokingly have started to call myself a lemonade factory...you know, the old saying, "When life gives you lemons, turn them into lemonade!"

Pieces of my life 4Honestly the hardest part has been being without Ian. I don't sleep well. I don't really have anyone here in town without major commitments to hang out with. I've literally had to fight myself to get up and get out of the apartment rather than sit here and mope. Sure, I video skype with Ian, Mom, and Dad every night, but it's just not the same.

 So for now, I'm here and he's there...and that's just how it has to be.

But in the meantime, Ian's done some great photoblogging at the Scrapblog on what he's doing to fix up our house. Once we're both moved in we'll be doing some serious blogging about all the fixing up we'll get to do...so stay tuned!

Oh and before I forget- those of you who found out about all this before this post and left comments, tweeted, facebooked, or voiced your support and friendship- it has been GREATLY appreciated. I love how every day friendship is shown to me when I least expect it. We all need to have a little more of that in our lives.

Until next time, my friends....

Working, working, working...

I figured I would give something of an update being that we skipped the month of June altogether. I have moved to Tennessee to Ashlie's parent's farm and will start my new job on Friday. I've been here for about 2 weeks as there is a ton of work to be done!

Let's start first with the house. The master bedroom had 3 layers of wallpaper to be torn down before we could start painting. After about five gallons of soapy water and a few hours of scraping, we were able to get down to the bare bones. Here are some before and after pictures!

And after...

And here a little sample of the paint!

The wallpaper in the bathroom was insanely stuck to the wall.  This required a ton of soapy water and a lot of time scraping small sections...

Now to the outside.  First we'll make a stop by the tomato plants.  We have tomatoes!

And my project this morning/all of today was to start clearing out by the creek.  I think I made a dent in it...

And looking forward, after I finish clearing the creek, this will be my next project. There is a barn behind there somewhere!

I'll have more pictures of the progress when we get there!