Monday, January 27, 2014

Crock pot cinnamon rolls and lemonade

I don't know if you watch the show New Girl, but it's my guilty pleasure. Chris doesn't really get the humor, but I spend nearly the entire episode laughing hysterically. My laughter sounds an awful lot like Woody Woodpecker, so you can understand why Chris usually leaves room when I watch the show on Hulu. Cable free since 2011 y'all! Love me some Hulu, and the money we save.
I digress.. There is an episode where one of the guys in the show named Nick Miller messes something up and he says "Nick Miller, turning lemonade into lemons since 1977". I found it hilarious!! And started using that expression way to often, until Chris finally informed me I needed a new slogan. The Lemonade one was getting old. Oh Chris. Keeping me grounded since 2009. See what I did there?! (Initiate Woody Woodpecker laugh)
Anyway, our oven broke about two wees ago, and unlike Nick Miller, I'm big into making lemons INTO lemonade. It's just my personality. I thrive when given a challenge like a broken oven (and I whine too!).

Since I make our menus out by the month, and had already grocery shopped for most of the big menu items, I had to do some fancy foot work to make sure this whole oven fiasco didn't break the bank. Now I'm not one of those girls who uses her oven as storage for her sweaters. I use our oven several times a day y'all! The first big hurtle was breakfast. I finally found a fantastic recipe for Sweet Rolls that I could make in the crock pot!!!!! We've made these three times and each time I've tinkered with the recipe just a smidge.
Here is the original recipe:

And here is my recipe that I messed with just a bit:

Crockpot Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

The Dough
1 ¼ cups raw milk
¼ cup kerry gold butter
1 tsp salt
¼ cup organic sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
3.5 to 4 cups flour. 2 cups whole wheat bread flour 2ish cups of organic unbleached flour

Heat milk, butter, salt, and sugar to 120 degrees F . It's too hot if you can't stick your finger into the milk without it burning. You laugh, but this trick works! If it's too hot it will kill the yeast. Let is cool down for a few minutes if you get it too hot.
Add 2 cups of the flour and the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the warm milk mixture and egg and beat on low to medium speed for about 3 minutes. Slowly add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft and pliable dough. Continue to kneed until the dough is smooth and elastic, and does not stick to the bowl. Cover and let rest for at least 20 minutes. I let mine rest for about an hour because...something nuts came up the boys. I think Ben cut his foot with a rock in the backyard. Ick!

The Filling
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar
Chopped nuts or raisins

Blend the filling ingredients together. Roll out the dough into a long rectangle. Then spread the filling all over the dough. Starting from a long end, tightly roll up the dough like a jelly roll. Cut evenly into slices about 2 inches thick, and place cut side down in the greased crock. I greased the crock pot with coconut oil. Cover with the lid and put in the fridge over night.

The Next Morning
Put the crock in the "pot" and turn it on low to allow the rolls to rise. Once they rise (about 30 minutes or so) turn the crock pot to high and put a dish towel under the lid to absorb some of the moisture. Cook for about an hour (check periodically).

I did not make any icing for my boys, and instead whipped up a little grass fed butter and honey for them to put on it.

Hope you enjoy these cinnamon rolls as much as we have!! I fry up some bacon, add some dried fruit and peculator coffee and it makes for a wonderful and easy breakfast!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

ALDI. Our budget.... and the screaming Banshee.

I keep meaning to write this blog post, but life has been getting in the way. I'm working on two new products for Merri Babies and it's taking up a lot of time. One requires a lot of research, and the other just requires a lot of new fabrics and a lot of time spent sewing. I am SUPER excited about both of these products however.

Alrighty, onto this blog post! Here is the run down of our grocery budget.

I try and keep groceries and household items, such as toilet paper, dish soap, body wash all to $320 a month.

That's about $160 for two weeks. Now this does NOT include our main meat such ground beef, and chicken breast. Those I buy every few months with money I've saved. I buy Zaycon Food's 40lbs of all natural chicken every season, and then about 25lbs if we can afford it, of ground beef from US Wellness Meats.
This does however, include organic whole chickens I buy from Costco, and uncured bacon I buy from either Aldi or Publix.

I'm hoping to make these post a series because there's SO much material to cover, and let's be honest, The Magic School Bus episodes only last 22 minutes y'all.

I originally would plan out our menu on a two week plan. Because I go BIG grocery shopping at Costco only once a month, but I go smaller grocery shopping every two weeks. I started to realize once a month menus work best for me. Also, I do not plan my meals for every single day. It's too much pressure for this lady. I go a little nutty if things are too organized, i'll be honest. Instead I go through our pantry and fridge, and then make out a list of meals I could make with what is on hand, and then I also make another list of what I'll need to buy if we don't have a few items in a recipe I'm making. Does that make sense? Then I just pick the meals I'd like to do based on what's going on during the week.

Here is what a basic monthly menu looks like for the Merrifield Family:

Meals for January:
Bacon and eggs
Granola and scrambled eggs
Nutella toast with raisins
Eggs over spinach with toast
Pumpkin muffins with bacon and eggs
Cinnamon Rolls
Potato and cheese skillet with eggs
Home made Graham crackers with peanut butter and dried fruit
Baked oatmeal with scrambled eggs
Mexican baked eggs

Hot dogs and chips and dried fruit
Granola and bacon with organic string cheese
Peanut butter and honey sandwiches with fried potatoes
Annie's Bunnies and cheese
Left overs
Bean and cheese burritos
Dried fruit with organic beef jerky and raw milk
Grilled chicken in rice with green veggies

Baked chicken and spinach flautas Loaded twice baked potatoes
Veggie fried rice Meatballs and potatoes
Oven baked chimichangas Korean Beef over rice
Black bean burgers Burrito rice bowls
Overnight chicken Home made Chicken nuggets
Garlic Chicken over Fried rice and egg drop soup
BBQ and chicken and avocado quesadillas
Ground beef crescents
Grilled chicken with rice and veggies

Now that is a lot of info! Most of the stuff is pretty simple, and I'm telling you now it's not all healthy! but for whatever I need recipes for I make a pinterest board for recipes for each months menus. Here is my January board:

I made a big trip to Costco earlier in the month to by in bulk my basics. I thought I had saved my receipt but now I can't find it. Darn it :( But I'm going to try and give you a list of what I bought, just not the exact prices like I'll be doing with my Aldi trip. I do know that my total at Costco was $120 however.

Costco Trip:
Hebrew national hot dogs
organic peanut butter (smoothies, sandwiches)
Organic sugar
Organic Maple Syrup
Organic frozen blueberries and strawberries (these are for smoothies)
Annie's bunny and cheese (healthier version of kraft mac n cheese)
4 dozen organic cage free eggs (We go through about 2-3 dozen, a week)
Kerrygold Cheese (I think it's about 2-3 lbs of cheese. It's a lot!)
Organic spinach, for smoothies, cooking etc
10lbs sack of potatoes
4 pack of their all natural pizza crust
1 large bag of organic corn chips
1 big bag of kirklands all natural fair trade chocolate chips (cookies for the boys, add to baked oatmeal)
Large tub or organic coconut oil

I ended up spending another $20 at ALDI that following week on some staples I needed to stock up on such as rice, butter, organic fruit, and tortillas for tacos.

So far the only thing I've gotten low on from my Costco trip is eggs, cheese, and spinach. I'll be picking those up at Sam's sometime next week since Sam's is a smidge closer and offers the same options.

I was thrown a curve ball over the past week in that our oven is broken. Which means, no pizza, No oven baked chimichangas, no home made bread for sandwiches and toast, no home made graham crackers, no chicken nuggets, no baked chicken and spinach flautas..Well I could go on and on but you get the picture! So I re-arranged some of of meals and then added some creative options as well, such as crockpot cinnamon rolls. Holy cinnamon y'all. Those little guys are a DELIGHT in the crock pot. Yummy in my tummy.

Since the oven went out, I was desperate to make an Aldi trip today with the little men today. So desperate I totally forgot Christopher Robin acts like a screaming banshee the moment you sit him in the cart. Yippee. I got lots of fun looks while throwing packages of bacon into my cart while Tiny Dancer yelled his lungs out and Ben kept asking "Momma. can we go home?! And play blocks? Baby is hollarin!" . What is it about Aldi and older people giving me judgey looks? I'm sure they think I should take that screaming curly headed child out to the wood shed. But we don't have a wood shed. So....There's that.

Anyway, enough dawdling: Here is my Aldi spread that will continue me onto my January Menu:
Organic animal crackers (we usually don't buy snacks, but since the oven is out...) 2.49
2 packs of small tortillas 1.99 each (for tacos, burritos and quesadillas)
Asparagus 2.29 (for the chicken and rice bowls I'm making up for Chris's lunches for work)
Frozen peas 1.09 (for fried rice)
Broccoli 1.09 (For fried rice)
2 packages of crescents 1.39 each(my splurge! We love ground beef crescents)
Two packages of blue organic GMO free corn chips 1.69 Each (snacks, nachos with taco meat, etc)
Dried berries 2.49 (CR is obsessed with dried fruit. Will not eat fresh fruit. He's an odd one!)
2 packages Organic String Cheese 2.99 each (snacks, lunches, etc)
3 lbs of bananas 1.33 (bananas bread, smoothies, snacks)
Organic apples 4.39 (Home made apple juice, snacks)
2 packages Organic carrots 1.49 each(snacks, lunches, juicing)
Pinto beans dried 1.79 (I NEVER buy canned beans. Too expensive. I soak them in my crockpot on low over night covered in at least 2 inches of water. Use them for burritos, soups, tacos, etc)
Black beans 2.39 (Same as above)
Frozen organic blueberries 2.99 (These will either be for smoothies or the filling for my next batch of sweet rolls)
4 packages (10 slices each) of all natural uncured bacon 3.89 each (breakfast, added to salad, lunches)
2 Pineapples 1.19 each (for juicing)
Winking Owl Merlot 2.89!!!!! Tried it tonight. Love it! I'm picky about my red wine, but this one I love.
1 red and 1 orange red pepper 2.29 (sliced for a snack or to add to stir fry)
Frozen raspberries and strawberries 2.29 (for smoothies)
Onion powder .99 (Chris hates onions! And I love them. Compromise is onion powder. Welcome to marriage :)
2 packages of butter (sadly they were out of organic) 2.39 each (baking, cooking eggs, veggies, etc)

And my grand total was: 72.66


Also, you may be wondering why I din't buy everything that is in these recipes on my board. That's because I buy a little extra of staples in the pantry or fridge every time Aldi has stuff I used often, on sale. Also, I make a lot of basics from scratch. I make my own chicken broth. I make my own bread and hamburger buns. I don't usually buy snacks for the boys. I make them, or pop them pop corn on the stove with coconut oil and 1/2 cup of my 50lb bag of popcorn :) I'm so cool.

After Aldi I made a quick trip to Whole Foods. Yikes! If you were looking for someone today, they were probably at Whole Foods. Everybody and their Mama was there today.
I picked up two half gallons of grass milk at 4.99 each, one container of whole milk organic yogurt 3.50 (This will be my starter for yogurt in my crockpot) and some organic black strap molasses for cookies and for the boys. I add it to their raw milk (When we're not out!) for a little extra iron. My total was around $20.

Here is my grand-ish total for the month of January:

$120 Costco
$20 Aldi
$72.66 Aldi again
$20 Whole Foods
Total: 232.66

Stay tuned :) I'll keep you updated on my next wildly exciting shopping excursion with Pete and Re-Pete Merrifield!

Friday, January 10, 2014


A few weeks ago when Chris and I were running errands, someone said something to me that hurt my feelings. REEEEEALLY bad.
So bad, that I cried the whole drive home, and poor C didn't even bother asking if I was okay. Boy isn't stupid! I was so incredibly not okay.
And let's be honest, I haven't been OKAY since October. I'm getting there, but it's been an interesting road. This poor girl, in all honesty, had no idea what she said would make me feel like I'd been sucker punched. I seriously doubt she had any idea how my heart aches. Did I feel (in that moment) like throwing a coffee pot at this girl? You betcha. But it was not her fault, at all.
As I pondered my heartache, this girls poorly chosen words, and my stage in life, I realized I had to be honest with myself.
Honest in where I was. Honest with myself about my journey, and where I find myself lately, as a wife and mama.

So here is life lately: Life lately is crumbled corn chips in the living room. It's castile soap covering Christopher Robin's entire body-because let's face it-kid gets creative when he's bored! It's train tracks covering the circumference of the house. It's a small house..Don't get too excited. It's dirty dishes in my sink, too many toys thrown in the pool, asking myself how many days I can go without a shower before my hair looks ridiculous, it's being asked 76 1/2 times if the boys can watch Curious George, it's crayons on the wall, deep conditioning Christopher Robin's curls so they continue to look A-dorable, but most of all it's navigating real life. Big brother little brother relationships, understanding my husband's needs, standing in the parking lot of Publix with Ben, asking him if eating Christopher Robin's sprinkle cookie was very loving. It's watching some of my dearest friends continue to be pregnant, and I'm just... not. It's taking the time to tell Ben I love him, no matter many how many times he thinks it's a good idea to tee tee off the side of his bunk bed..You'd be surprised...He thinks it's a good idea every other day....I love that kid.

My parents had a cross stitch of tulips framed in Ana Eason's and my room growing up. Under the tulips were the words "bloom where you are planted".

Well, I'm planted here. This is where the Lord wants me, Among the dirty clothes and legos and heartache. And I intend to bloom. In this stage. On this journey. I'm thankful. And blessed. Even in the midst of crayon drawings on the walls.