Monthly Archives: September 2009

Cook Once… Eat for a Very Long Time

I’ve been intrigued with the idea of once a month cooking for awhile now.  The thought of having meals already made that need little to no preparation sounds lovely.  Once,  a long time ago, I did give it a try but was quite dissatisfied with the types of recipes suggested for once a month cooking.  I suppose I was not putting on my own thinking cap to come up with more creative ideas than what was suggested in the book, but regardless I was not enticed to keep trying.

I have read various ways of getting meals in the freezer such as… Find a family that are the same size as your own with similar ages and who enjoy the same types of food you do.  Make several meals and give to them and they do the same for you.  The benefits are you get to eat someone else’s cooking for a change.  I really like this idea except that there are no other similar size families in our area that have older children (who eat a lot more than little ones) or who use whole grains when cooking. 

Another idea is to make two of whatever you’re preparing.  Eat one and freeze the other.  I think this is a great idea as well and hope to implement it for at least some of my meals.

But this past week, my nieces came to visit and cook.  My boys and Serenity even joined in and had a grand time.  We decided to try bulk cooking or Once a Month Cooking (OAMC).  My thoughts were for us to make 7 meals for each family – breakfast and supper.  We succeeded and then some!  We overestimated how much each family would eat and so when we doubled the recipes or quadrupled it, it made more than we thought!  We had a good laugh when we saw all the food we had made the first day; we said, “Cook once, eat for a year.” 🙂

Here is how we approached it.

Day 1:

1.  Cleaned out my chest freezer to be sure we had room for all the food coming

2.  Wrote a list of ideas for breakfast and supper that we wanted to make.  Then each person went through the list and put a check mark next to 7 suppers that they wanted to make.  The entrees with the most checks were the ones we would make.  We didn’t have to vote on which breakfast items we wanted since we could only think of 7 things.

3.  Printed off every recipe we planned to use

4.  Wrote a grocery list.  For butter and eggs, we used tally marks on our list so that we would know exactly how much we would need to purchase.

5.  Went grocery shopping

Day 2:

1. Started cooking

2.  Brought up 2 extra banquet tables for food preparation.  This worked wonderfully!

I thought we would cook only this one day.  But since we didn’t finish everything we had set out to prepare, everyone wanted to keep going.  So, the next day, we were back in the kitchen again.

This was the cooking crew – minus me. 🙂

  

 

Busyness…

 

Fellowshipping while making lasagna.  We had one lasagna that weighed 17 pounds at its completion!

 

Chicken pot pies awaiting their tops

 

Biscuits…

 

The start of ravioli dough…

 

Calzone dough…

 

Of course, Audrey showed up for the ‘sweet’ stuff!

 

Delectable looking and tasting (we already had a batch 🙂 ) cinnamon rolls

 

The result?  13 different recipes were used (we didn’t get to pizza dough).  There’s enough food here for… well, we’re not sure how long but we know it’s definitely longer than a week.  We were all gratified to see the works of our hands gathered in one place and we’re anticipating our next time when we can cook together.  I’m hoping that everything gets faster as we get more familiar with the various recipes we find that are keepers.  We all love to cook and try new recipes so one challenge will be for us to even have a list of favorites.

 

I’m open to any tips you may have on bulk cooking or once a month cooking.  Please share!  We want to learn all that we can.

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Homeschool Showcase Carnival #32

The Homeschool Showcase  is up with some great links at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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Making Soap

One of the items we offered at our Middle Ages market stand was soap.  I got into soap making several years ago and made my own for a short while but then eventually stopped.  I decided it might be fun to offer soap at our stand, so I got out all my dusty supplies and made a few batches.

This is the book I use when making soap.

 

I usually always make the Basic Soap recipe.

First I assembled all my supplies:  distilled water, lye, kitchen scale (a must), glass jar w/ long wooden spoon, olive oil, palm oil, coconut oil, grapefruit seed extract, essential oils for scent.

 

The next step, after assembling your supplies, is to measure your lye into the glass jar.

 

Add distilled water to the lye… and you get a very interesting reaction.  The mixture heats up to 200°.  It happens instantaneously.   It then takes about an hour and sometimes more  to cool down to the proper temperature for use.

While the lye is cooling, I then melted/heated the oils.  The oils are heated just until the bulk of it has melted.  I added calendula (I think it was) to the oils to try and get a yellow soap.

 

Once the oils had cooled to the proper temperature, I strained the blossoms out.

 

I then added the lye to the oils.

 

To this mixture was added the grapefruit seed extract and essential oils.  This was stirred until it reached a trace.  (A term used in soap making that stands for just the point when the soap is starting to thicken and you can take a spoon and drizzle some mixture across the top mixture and you are able to see it the trail you make.)

I poured the liquid soap into my molds which were boxes I had on hand.  I lined the boxes with freezer paper using masking tape to hold it in place.

 

I placed the soap under a few sleeping bags to keep it warm and left it overnight.

 

I made a second batch and used liquid chlorophyll for the colorant.  This is the soap after setting overnight.

 

I took the soap out of the mold and using a ruler measured the bars, then cut.

 

I don’t know why I get white spots on the top surface of the soap but it seems to always happen.  So, I scraped it off.

 

All the pieces that are scraped off can be gathered together into a ball and used.  It’s not pretty but no soap goes to waste either.

 

The soap is left to cure for 3-4 weeks.  The odd shaped bars were kept for our own use.

 

I wrapped the soap in saran wrap and printed labels to go on the wrapped bars of soap.  

Did you know there really was a group of knights called Knights of the Bath?  They received this name when going through the ceremony to become a knight.  Part of the ceremony involved taking a bath as a symbol of purification.  Maybe if you have boys that are allergic to baths you could entice them by explaining that even knights had to take baths. 🙂  Scrub away boys!

 

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Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part II

To see part I of our day go to my post on Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Just at the time our event began, the rain completely stopped (after raining for 4 hours) and it was quite beautiful outside.  It was too late to change anything so we continued with having the event in the racquetball court.

The marketplace was so much fun for everyone.

 

We told the kids to haggle and to be loud when offering what was at their table.  “Fresh bread and butter.  2 shillings!”

 

 

We also told our guests beforehand to haggle because once the “coins” in their moneybags was gone, it was gone.  Everyone did great on the haggling.  It was a very lively marketplace.

 

Newspapers were sold.

 

A lord helping his lady down the hillside.

 

Since we are of Scottish descent my Zachary told some of William Wallace’s life story.  Someone at our church had a Scottish kilt, of what clan I do not know, and we were able to borrow a Wallace tam.  The afghan which is almost identical to a Wallace plaid we found at Goodw*ll.  Zachary’s form of speech was a dramatic interpretation and if you do not know what that is ( we learned about it during our speech class) you can look it up on YouT*be.  It’s a very fun and interesting way to give a speech.  Do you see the knife he is holding in his hand?  Zachary and Wesley both made one. (Wesley’s is still the size of a spear.)  They spent hours working on it.  They built a fire that burned all day so that the coals would be extremely hot.  They pounded and pounded their piece of rebar until they had the shape they wanted.  You know how much satisfaction one gets the more effort they put into it, well they are so happy with the end result.

 

Why don’t I just show you a close-up picture of it?

 

This was the first time for all these little ones to give a speech.  Not too many years from now, they’ll be so big.

 

We were taken on a tour of different rooms in the castle.  This was the dungeon.

 

Wesley was an old man telling his grandchildren the story of King Alfred, whom he had fought with in his younger years.  Wesley was breathing heavily the whole time he gave his speech.  At first I thought it was part of it but then I realized that he was having a hard time breathing with that big beard!

 

At intermission, the lads had a melee.  We had about 12 swords.  Eventually, they made up teams.  Sometimes one side would charge the other side and demolish their army.  At other times they would have several people in the “ring” at one time.

 

 

 

“Joan of Arc”

 

Our family, minus one.  Where are you, Seth?

 

This royal family’s servant (daughter)  prepared the food for everyone (about 80 people) as part of her high school requirements.  The meal was perfectly done and served right on time.  A++  Then the royal family served it. 

 

Speeches are all done.  Whew.  Time to eat, talk and relax/play (depending on your age 🙂 )

 

And finally, a group picture of all who spoke.  (The spots are caused by dust in the air.)

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Our Middle Ages Co-op Day – Part I

Here at last I’m getting to the pictures of our co-op day.  How fun it was!

The day started out beautifully and the framework for our marketplace was started.

 

But then it started to rain and it rained off and on for several hours.

 

We couldn’t put the sheets on the “roof” of the marketplace because of the rain.  What to do?  Our whole event was planned for the outdoors.  A last minute decision was made to move into the racquetball court.  Off to the store some of the men went to buy some plywood and such for a platform and straw for the floor.  A racquetball court is very echoey so you have to do something to absorb sound. 

 

 

Meanwhile, much preparation was also being done inside the house.  Zachary made iced mint tea from his garden to sell at the marketplace. 

 

“Money” was being put into coin bags to give to our guests.  They then used the “money” to buy goods at the marketplace.

 

Beautiful long hair was being braided in medieval hair styles.

 

At last it was time to begin.  To start, we had all our guests go to our front yard.  We then would take 13 at a time and have them enter the time machine.  The time machine that a few of the mom’s worked on turned out to be just great.

All the windows in the dining room were covered with black plastic .  Around the door you can see where the sign reads “Time Portal – Destination”.  Around the edges of the door which you cannot see, it read “Middle Ages”.

 

The light bulbs in the dining room were changed to colored ones.  These were blinked on and off during our journey back in time.  To complete the effect and make it totally dark a black piece of plastic was pulled across the opening once everyone entered the time machine.  Noises were made resembling space ship sounds using a karaoke machine,

All the participants went through first. 

 

A poem from the middle ages was read while “time” rolled backwards on this big time wheel.

 

Then a soft voice spoke saying “You have now reached the middle ages.  You may exit to the right.”  They were now back in time. 

Ready for adventure!

 

Off the participants went to the marketplace to await our guests.

 

Lots more pictures to follow but that’s all for today! 🙂

Updated to add:  Part II is up.  Click here.

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Hunting Fever

About this time of year, hunting fever sets in.  There are elk and deer hunts on the schedule in the upcoming months and just this past Friday antelope season started.  Zachary was drawn for a unit that gave out only 4 tags and there was an average of 70 people who put in their name per tag.  He was one of the lucky ones.  He was fortunate enough to be blessed with an antelope opening day (September 4) which was wonderful since we had our Middle Ages Co-op on Saturday.  This way he wasn’t being pulled in two directions. 

Did you know these facts about antelope?

They have exceptional eyesight – they have been compared to high powered binoculars

Average life span – 6-8 years

Speed – faster than 60mph

Gestation period – longer than any other big-game animal in the U.S.

 

I’ve included several photos of Zachary on his antelope hunt for the sake of Seth (my 18yos) who’s still in Ohio. 

 

Zachary looks pretty happy about the whole thing 

 

Make that quite happy 😀

 

It was a family event.  They think hunting is so fun that they all wanted to go.?? (sorry, can’t relate fellows)  I think Justus, our little fellow, walked 6 miles that day.

 

They even had someone else, who loves hunting more than eating I think, join them.  He’s the one who brought his camera and took pictures.  In case you wonder just how big antelope horns get, this particular one is large enough that it could be listed in the Boone & Crockett Record Book.

The boys were quite happy with the horns, I am happy to have the meat. 

Does your family hunt?

 

 

(An update on our Middle Ages Co-op Day is forthcoming in the coming days.)

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Bread for our Middle Ages Market Stand

I arrived home yesterday to the lovely smell of bread wafting through the house.  The kids had been busy making 40+ loaves of bread for our Middle Ages Market.  We are going to have a market place where our guests that come to hear the children give speeches (see this post if you are wondering what I’m talking about) can shop and bargain for any goods they would like to purchase.  We made coin bags (see this post) several weeks ago and each family will be given one with “money” (flat marbles) inside to buy anything that pleases them in the marketplace.

One of the items we’re offering is bread.

Just look at these beauties.

It would have been nice to have the dark rye bread but since we hadn’t experimented with any recipes we used our tried and true 12-Grain Whole Wheat Bread recipe.

The tired bakers that worked at this for several hours.

 

Wesley had been in on the action the day before…

 

making these beauties… but sometimes things don’t go as planned.  Little brother (we won’t mention any names here 🙂 ) cranked the oven up to 500° and the bread burnt some on the outside and was doughy on the inside.  😦  We get to eat this bread but we had to make some more for our guests.  This was before the bread went into the oven.

 

Thus, Wesley retired from the kitchen and Zachary became Serenity’s assistant baker.

 

Not to leave Wesley out, we let him come back in and do some clean-up!

 

Even though he’s wearing the same shirt this really was the day before.  I think he looks like he was having more fun making bread than… 

 

washing dishes.  What do you think?

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