Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tips for the Multitude: Taming the Clothing Monster

I have 9 (almost 10) kids.

And they are all REALLY close in age, and therefore size.

When I first married my husband, it was pretty easy to keep track of whose clothes belonged to whom.  I knew my own kids' clothes, and his 4 kids were all different sizes and thus easily sorted.

Then, as kids often do, they grew.

About a year ago I found myself confused about who had passed down which clothes, and I wasn't the only one!  The kids forgot what passed on or they thought that something would always belong to them even though they had grown out of it (mostly the younger set) and get all upset when a sibling was wearing what they thought was theirs.

I was frustrated.  They were frustrated.

So I came up with a system.

The Dot System.  (I can't be creative all the time...)

I thought some of you out there might also benefit from this system, so I'm here to share!

Here's how it works.

The oldest child of each gender gets one dot, adding one dot as you go down the line within the gender.  Generally speaking it's pretty easy to separate boys vs girls clothing.  (If you find there's a problem with a certain thing, say, jeans, you can either add a gender symbol on the tag or embroider a stripe of color to help you remember.)  You put the determined amount of dots on the tag or hem of each garment with a black permanent marker.  Nothing is exempt, though I try to be discreet with the dots.  Shirts, pants, skirts, dresses, even underwear and socks.  Sometimes it even goes to winter clothes and swimsuits depending on how confused we are.  Once everything is properly labeled, it's easy to sort!

Time to pass on the wardrobe to the next "generation"?  Easy peasy! Just add another dot, and you're ready to go.

So here's what it looks like right now in my house: (Stars represent dots)

* Elizabeth
** Julie
*** Katie
**** Mallie
***** Lorelai

* Kael
*** Layton
**** Joseph

This system has stood the test of time and several size changes. Joseph is a recent addition to the system, just because it was pretty easy to determine what was his until his socks needed to be bigger.  I still don't mark anything else.  But it sure saves me with the three older girls, the three older boys, and the two littler girls!  Whose is it? Check the dots! Wrong number?  Add one (or two)!  They can't argue with the dots like they can with size numbers.

Oh, and let me tell you, it saved Christmas!!  The kids ALL received new jammas, socks, and underwear, and a lot of it was VERY similar.  Even the jammies needed it, because I do not have the brainpower at this point to remember who received which ones. Solution? Dot them! Right out of the packages!  It went something like this: "Ooh! New underwear! Cool! Here, Mom."  Dot dot dot dot dot... "All yours!"  And then the socks and underwear were strewn all over the room.  No worries, just check the dots!  4 dots on something pink? Mallie!  3 dots on something navy blue or superhero? Layton! 2 dots on something boyish? Tristan! 1 dot on something frilly? Kael! No, I'm kidding. Elizabeth!  No worry, no stress.

There you have it! The dot system for keeping track of clothes in a large family.  Do you think it will work for you?  Any questions? Suggestions for improvement? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Surviving the Storehouse: Italian Chicken Soup

Soup sounds SO good to my tired, sick, stuffy-runny, coughing body right now!  I started running out of broth and needed to find more flavor options, so I came up with this recipe.  You can make it more Italian by adding the optional ingredients (and make it more nourishing!), but it's good without, too.

May it warm you body and soul!

Italian Chicken Soup

1 onion, diced small or sliced thin (diner's choice)
2-3 Chicken breasts
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 28 oz can tomato juice -or- 3 1/2 cups broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooked rice or pasta or diced potatoes (about 1 cup)
Oregano, basil, dried kale (1-2 Tbsp)
1 head garlic, peeled and pressed

In large soup or stock pot, saute onions in butter until transluscent.  Add chicken, tomatoes, and juice or broth (even water would work).  Also add potatoes if using and not cooked yet.  Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.  Remove chicken and chop or shred.  Return chicken to pot.  Stir in rice or pasta, spices, and seasonings to taste.

A note on the garlic:  Fresh garlic is NOT expensive, and when you're sick, TOTALLY worth the small amount of money.  Garlic has fantastic immune boosting and sickness-fighting powers.  The closer you eat it to raw, the better.  However, I realize that might be too intense for some of my readers, and that's okay.  So if you are really sensitive to flavor, add the garlic with the onion.  Or you can add with chicken and tomatoes for a little more flavor.  Personally, I like to stir it in at the end, though that is not for the faint of heart.  Oh, and make sure your significant other has a little too, or they might not enjoy your company afterward. ;)

Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Surviving the Storehouse: Cream of Vegetable Soup

It's getting colder, or at least it's supposed to be.  Sunlight goes away, kids bring home every virus and bacteria they can find.  Winter is on the way!  And there's nothing more comforting, warming, and nourishing than soup!  This is one of my favorite ways to use the vegetables from the storehouse, because you can use practically anything, which helps for those mysterious in season vegetables you never know you're going to get until you get there (though there are some standards).  You can serve soup with rolls or crackers if you have them, but it's not necessary at all to have a delicious, filling meal.

Here's my number one go-to soup recipe:

Cream of Vegetable Soup

3 cups vegetables of your choice (Good options in any combination: potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, onions, green beans, corn, and sweet potatoes/yams and canned pumpkin for the holiday season specials)
1-2 chicken breasts (optional, but helps with the flavor if you don't have broth)
4-6 cups water or turkey broth (see, it's going to come in handy!)
2 cups milk or evaporated milk (if not using, use more water)
1/4 cup butter (optional, but SO yummy)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, add vegetables, chicken and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat. 

Add some vegetables, 1/2 cup to 1 cup at a time, with enough cooking liquid to help the blender do its job.  Continue to add more vegetables as the blender blends until all vegetables have been added (or your blender gets to full to do the job properly, then transfer to a bowl and start again with the rest of the veggies).  Return puree to pot over medium heat.  Add butter (if using) and enough water, broth, or milk to make it the consistency you desire.  Heat through, but do not boil if you used milk.  Season to taste. Serve hot.

If you happen to have leftovers, or you can tell this will make too much soup for your family to eat all at once, or you just want to store some extra for another rainy (or snowy) day, this freezes will prior to adding the milk.  Freeze it without and add the milk when you reheat it.

More soup recipes to come! (We've had a run of colds this week, thank goodness we have the turkey broth!)

Bon appetit!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Survivng the Storehouse: Thanksgiving Part 3: Leftovers

Sorry this is so late! We were having too much fun giving thanks! Ha ha ha.  If this doesn't help you for this year, I hope it helps for Christmas or whenever you cook a big bird again.

The first thing to do is use that turkey's dead bones to their utmost capacity!  This is your only chance to make broth to have on hand, and it is TOTALLY freezeable, or even can-able! (Not too be confused with cannibal... Hehehe...)

Turkey Broth

1 turkey
Carrot, onion, celery, and/or garlic ends and trimmings and peels

Congratulations, you made it through dinner!  When you've recovered from your food coma, pick that bird clean of all meat.  Save it for later.

Take all those bones (even the ones from the legs and thighs that other people eat off of... You'll boil away the cooties) and put them in either a large stock pot or your handy dandy slow cooker.  Add any vegetables and/or trimmings you have on hand.  Cover with cold water and just a pinch of salt.  You'll flavor it more later, but a little helps pull out all the goodness from the bones.  Cover and bring to a boil in your stockpot, then turn it down to a simmer. If you're using a slow cooker (my favorite way), cover and set on low.  You can speed it up by putting it on high to start, but you must remember to check on it and turn it down! If you can't handle that, just use the low.

Check every hour or so.  When the liquid level starts to get lower, remove from heat and let cool a bit.  If you can fit it in the fridge, that's nice, or set in a cool room or the basement, covered.  When it's cool enough to go in a plastic freezer bag, do it!  Strain through a fine mesh strainer or think flour sack towel.  Use quart size bags for smaller recipes and gallon size for larger recipes and/or families.  Now return those bones and veggies to the pot, cover with more water, and do it again! Yes, you can use the bones more than once!  Sometimes, even TWICE.  You know you're done when the thickest bone falls apart when you squeeze it.

Use this wonderful, wholesome, healthy bone broth in soups, stews, gravies, or even just in a cup, seasoned with salt to taste.  Great for those colds and flus that go around this time of the year.

Turkey Tostadas/Haystacks
This is what we did this year.  Our leftovers only lasted one day.  Don't worry, I'll include other options!

Leftover cooked turkey
Leftover gravy
Hot cooked rice
Tostadas or corn tortillas (optional for haystacks)

cranberry sauce
sour cream

Chop up as much turkey as you need for your family.  Mix with the gravy.  Top each tostada with rice, then turkey mixture, then the other toppings as you desire (probably not all at once, but hey, to each their own).  If you like, you can broil them for a few minutes to heat them up or melt cheese or whatever.

Turkey Salad and Fried Mashed Potato Cakes

Leftover turkey, chopped
Sour cream or mayo
Chopped celery
Chopped onion
Spices on hand

Leftover mashed potatoes, chilled
Fat of choice (I prefer butter or sausage/bacon grease)

Mix it all together and turn yourself around... Oops, wrong directions! Ha ha ha. I like to add curry, but chili powder works well too, or just plain is fine.  I've also added chopped nuts and dried cranberries to this mixture with great success in past years.  Chill.

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium high heat.  Form mashed potatoes into flat circles about the size of your hand/palm/preferred spatula-flipper.  Place on greased, heated skillet.  Let cook about 3-5 minutes or until browned on one side, then flip and do the hokey pokey again.  Just kidding.  Remove when browned, keep warm.  Top with turkey salad. Enjoy!

Leftovers Shepherd's Pie (also good for leftover pot roasts)

Leftover turkey
Leftover mashed potatoes
Leftover gravy
Leftover stuffing and vegetables (optional)

Combine turkey and gravy, and vegetables if you're using them.  Add more liquid if necessary (where's that broth? make more gravy!).  Pour into baking pan, top with stuffing then mashed potatoes, then sprinkle cheese on top.  Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes, covered. 

 Still have some turkey? Try this last recipe:

Turkey Enchiladas

Leftover cooked turkey
Corn tortillas
Tomato sauce (2-3 14 oz cans)
Chili powder (if you have it)
Black olives, chopped (if you have some leftover, I don't!)
Cheese (about 1 cup, more if you REALLY like cheese)

Sides and toppings:
Hot cooked rice
Pinto beans
Chopped lettuce
Sour cream

Chop turkey.  Soften tortillas in micro, a stack of 10 takes about 1 minute.  Put a couple tablespoons turkey into each tortilla, roll and place seam side down in a baking dish.  Mix chili powder with tomato sauce if you're using it.  When dish is full, pour tomato sauce over the top, sprinkle with olives and cheese, cover and bake in a 325 F oven for 30-45 minutes.  Serve hot with rice and beans (topped with more cheese!) and sour cream, salsa, and lettuce on the side.  It's just like the restaurants, I promise!

Hopefully this gives you some ideas of what to do with all that food!  And I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Bon appetit!