New Goals Plus Sweet Corn and Tomato soup with Cobb Salad Sandwiches

Good morning all! The sun is shining, the roosters are crowing, the house is clean, the sick kids are almost all better, and school starts tomorrow.  Can I get a holla? :)

There’s always an emotional slump after Christmas is over, and since that slump coincided with illness this year, it felt worse than normal for me.  I’m nothing if not determined, though, so slowly and methodically I’ve been fighting back: the new toys that need new homes in our house, the old toys that need to find new homes with new children, the attitudes that come from days upon days of opening presents and not sleeping or eating well, the chaos of taking down Christmas decorations, and the financial stress (at least for us) that comes from not getting Holiday pay.  All of it has been vanquished into the abyss.

I have a few new goals I’ve set this year.  Some are a continuation of last year that just build on the successes I had, and some are new.  They are:

1. continue to reign-in control over our finances.  It’s no secret on this blog that this family doesn’t make boatloads of money, but we’ve always made do and made a wonderful life living within our means.  The problem I see, though, is saving.  Just because we don’t make a lot doesn’t mean we can’t save money.  And that’s what I’m working on. I’ve always had my own excel spreadsheet I use for budgeting, but this year I’m combining the power of my spreadsheet with the Dave Ramsey philosophy of allocating every dollar every month before you even get paid.  That’s the opposite of what we have been doing (getting paid then allocating the funds, then carrying over excess to boost cash flow for harder weeks).  It may only be $1 so far, but that’s $1 more in my savings account than I had last week.  :)

2. continue my get-healthy journey.  I love to feel healthy and fit, not because it’s all about looks for me (though that does help), but because when I feel healthy and fit, I trust my body more and my brain and heart follow.  In other words, I’m much more adventurous! We do cool things! Over the past two years I have lost nearly 60 pounds just by eating the way I cook on this blog (no processed foods, balanced, with an emphasis on vegetables), doing some yoga, and trying to be active with my kids. I have managed my sciatica pain without any medication by doing this, and have been able to hike, run/walk combo, and even lift heavy things again (hello 50 pound bags of chicken feed!). I have 15-20 more pounds to go before I’m back to the weight I was before I had any kids.

Before. May 2011

After. November 2012

3. organize my home. This is an ongoing project that is always on my list.  As kids get new things and grow, even in the course of just 3 months, their environments need to adjust and grow with them.  With a small home, like we have, it’s imperative that what I bring into my home has a home of its own and serves a purpose.  If it doesn’t, it needs to go.  When I stay on top of this, I love my home.  When I fall behind (like I did before and after Christmas), I feel overwhelmed and like my home isn’t very nice.  Then I have to fight the feelings of being overwhelmed and like it will take hundreds of dollars of redecorating to make my home nice.  Really, all it takes is a strong manager (me) to consistently assess what’s necessary and what’s not, and to stay on top of things.  If a system works beautifully for a few months, then falls short a few months later, it isn’t my fault – it’s just that we’ve outgrown it and I have to re-think. An organized home means happy, well-adjusted children.  A disorganized home leads to misbehavior and bad attitudes.  So, when a home gets disorderly, as I feel mine has the past month or so, it takes an overhaul of all the household’s systems – physical as well as emotional – to get everybody back on track.  Here’s a few items I tackled on New Year’s Day to address the kids’ attitudes. :)

Our family’s new “Philosophy Tree” that is replacing the old rule board in the naughty corner. Each bottom leaf at the start of each branch is a philosophy we use: honesty, respect, niceness, gratitude, and taking care.  Then there are rules that off-shoot, such as….

Chloe’s new magnetic chore chart.  Chores include: sweeping the floor, helping with her laundry, getting dressed, cleaning the sink, etc….

4. no more discount meat. Meat is my family’s final frontier on this food journey.  Everything I buy is usually organic.  I try to get non-GMO as much as possible (some things I had no idea were GMO, such as baking powder.  What? Yes! I know! SHOCKED!).  I don’t tend to buy boxes or cans of pre-made things, save for a box of Cheerios now and then (which is something I’m trying hard to make myself, but have come up short so far).  But the meat…… I have been a vocal supporter of discount meat because it’s how my family could afford to eat it.  No, we don’t have more money now.  In fact we have less than we did at this time last year.  What we do have is the power of planning.  All we have to do is plan to spend the money ahead of time, using goal #1, and we will be able to afford it.  Brian wants to hunt in the fall, we plan to buy turkeys from a farmer friend, another friend can raise us a cow, and I’m searching in earnest for a pig.  We also have the option to raise meat chickens on our own, which is something we’re working out (our space is limited and we have a set number of hens we need for eggs).

So that’s it! Those are my goals and for now I’m feeling totally pumped.  I also have two kids waiting to go to the library, so let’s get to the food!  Which was absolutely delicious and probably one of my new favorite things.  :)

Sweet Corn and Tomato Soup

This soup was a Pinterest find, originally found here. I saw it and was intrigued by the mix of corn and tomato because I had tried a corn and tomato pie over the summer that some people liked, but wasn’t up to snuff for me, and I wondered how the flavors would work in a soup.  I adjusted it to use homemade creamed corn instead of processed can, added a few more tomatoes, added the basil, and adjusted the milk. This soup was sooooo tasty.  I will definitely make it again, and soon.  Bonus, it was super easy!  I am planning to can petite diced tomatoes this summer anyway, but knowing they go into this soup makes me want to can even more.  I just made a few slight adjustments so I will go ahead and list the recipe below.

Sweet Corn and Tomato Soup
Yield: about 6 to 8 servings

2 14.5 ounce cans petite diced tomatoes and their juices
1 sweet onion, diced
2 C creamed corn (recipe below)
1 to 1 1/2 C milk (to desired thickness)
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 T olive oil
5 green onions, chopped
1 t dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a stock pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil, then add the onion and let soften 5 to 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and basil and let cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and mix well, then add the creamed corn, basil, salt, pepper, and milk.  The flour and heavy cream in the creamed corn will thicken the soup, but the amount of milk you use will thin it.  So, 1 C of milk will give you more of a bisque consistency, 1 1/2 C more of a creamy tomato soup, and 2 full cups will make it much lighter, almost brothy.  Let it simmer 15 minutes then add the green onions and let cook 1 more minute prior to serving.

Creamed Corn:
1 T butter
1 C heavy cream
1 T flour
2 T sugar
1/2 C water
1 1/2 C frozen corn kernels
sea salt

Whisk together the sugar, flour, salt, heavy cream, and water in a small soup pot.  Add in the butter and corn and bring to a low boil. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring frequently.  You should get 2 even cups.

Cobb Salad Sandwiches
This is what we served that delicious soup with, but honestly both are meals in and of themselves and we could each only eat half (saved the rest for lunches).  I got the idea for this sandwich from Martha Stewart.  This sandwich isn’t exactly healthy, but it’s splurge-worthy.  :)  

Cobb Sald Sandwich
Yield: 1 sandwich

a slathering of homemade ranch dressing (recipe below)
4 slices deli turkey
2 slices of crispy bacon, broken in half
a few thin slices of red onion
3 slices of ripe avocado
1 slice of good ripe tomato
sea salt and pepper
romaine lettuce
a handful of crumbled gorgonzola or blue cheese
1 fried egg, cooked to  medium

Toast the bread first closed in a 400 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, then open faced for 5 or so minutes.  Then build your sandwich in the order the ingredients are listed.  Squish the lid of the sandwich down onto the egg so that it a) melts the cheese and b) oozes yummy egg goodness out.  Eat.  Enjoy. :)

Homemade Ranch Dressing:
1 C Greek yogurt
2 to 3 T buttermilk
2 to 3 T homemade ranch seasoning (recipe below)

Whisk all ingredients together and let chill prior to use in the fridge.  Keeps up to the date on the yogurt container.

Homemade Ranch Seasoning:
1/3 C dry buttermilk powder
1 T dried parsley flakes
1 t sea salt
1 t dried dill 
1 t dried tarragon
1 t onion powder
1 t dried onion flakes
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

I use a spice grinder, but a small food processor would work well, too.  Combine everything and process for a few seconds until it’s all well mixed and the flakes are ground.  Store in an airtight jar.  

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