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Friday, March 29, 2013

Steamed Pork Buns Recipe

 Here is my recipe for Chinese Pork Buns.  There are many variations out there.  And I can't imagine any of them being anything but yummy!

I start out with bread dough.  Any recipe for bread dough that you have used and been successful at will do.  I did not measure anything this time.  Just dumped bread flour, salt, yeast, oil, and warm water in a bowl.  Stirred it up.  Made sure it felt the right consistency, and put a wet towel over the bowl so it could rise.

Once the dough is risen, you can divide it up into equal parts and start filling the dough.

For the pork, I put 4 small boneless pork chops in a crock pot earlier that morning.  Then added these three ingredients and let it cook all day on low.


Soy Sauce, BBQ Sauce, and Garlic

When the dough was ready, I took a fork and shredded the pork.  I chopped up some scallions and got ready to fill the dough.



After flattening out a piece of dough, I spooned about a tablespoon of the pork into the middle and then sprinkled a few scallions on top.  




 Then I carefully drew the sides together around the pork and pinched them all together  at the top to form a little packet of dough.  I put the dough packets on a greased cookie sheet.  (They have time to rise again while you are finishing the rest of the packets and then boiling water.)



I don't have a special Asian steamer, so I just used my biggest pot with a vegetable steamer basket in the bottom.  I sprayed it with cooking spray to help the dough not stick.  When the water in the bottom was boiling, I carefully placed 4 dough packets down on the basket.  (You want the water level boiling under the steamer basket.  No water should be coming through it.  Only steam.)



 Place the lid on the pan and set the timer for 10 minutes.  Don't peek.  The steam needs to do its job!



When the buns are done, they will have enlarged considerably and though they still look white and doughy--they will be done!  Steamed bread dough---fully cooked---and delicious filling inside!




Take them out carefully with a spatula and let them cool on a rack. Then do another batch.  Remember to check the water level---as you don't want to run out of steam or burn your pan.  I had to refill once and then wait for it to start boiling again before I put a new batch in.

My 4 little pork chops made 16 large pork buns.  And I had pork mixture to spare.   Cooked, these are about the size of a big hamburger bun.

Sadly, I didn't get a picture of one with a bite taken out of it.  That is where the pure joy comes in!  Juicy spicy meat spilling out of a soft chewy bread dough.  I guess when we sat down to eat, we were too full of yummy bliss to think about getting the camera!

Here are some links to other people's recipes:

A more complicated one with oyster and hoisin sauces.

An easier one with the option of using ground pork.

The recipe I have printed off in my cookbook, but use only as a guide---and this time, I hardly followed it at all!


I think the basic idea is to use flavored pork (usually with soy sauce and oyster sauce and a sweetener) and to then add a thickener like corn starch so it won't be too runny once inside the dough.  I just used some BBQ sauce we had on hand, added soy sauce to give it an Asian flair and then didn't thicken it---because it was thick enough coming out of the crock pot. 

Try it!  It's soooooo yummy!

Steamed Pork Buns and Still Going Strong!

It's been 5 weeks and we are still going strong!  $50/week for a family of 3 adults.  Planning menus every week, making a shopping list, and sticking to it!  The only times we've varied from the program were when we went out to eat one night (boy, that's expensive in comparison!) and when we took a camping trip with extended family--where we provided the food.  



One of our favorite meals this last week was Chinese Pork Buns.  A family favorite that lasts for several days!  And is really quite easy to make! 



This is our menu plan and list for 2 weeks ago.  We went a little bit over.  



With tax, the actual total was $53.94.  And that week we ended up having breakfast for dinner and extra leftovers for another dinner.  So we saved Chinese Pork Buns and Potatoes Au Gratin for this week.  



That meant I could save even more money because 2 meals would carry over to this week!  I also decided to go to a different store.  It's a little farther away, but seemed to have better prices!



In the end, I was able to get everything on my grocery list AND a $5.73 tube of face cream my daughter asked me to pick up as I walked out the door.  We still came out well below budget!

What about things other than groceries?  Cleaning supplies.  Toilet Paper.  Paper towels?

Well, we don't use as many "extras" as a lot of families.  People 100 years ago didn't have access to so many extra supplies.  And advertising hadn't led them to believe they couldn't live without "X, Y, or Z."  They still had clean homes and clean babies.

At our house, we use very little in the cleaning supply department.  And what we do use, we buy at Costco in large quantities.  Our goal is to only go to Costco once a quarter.  And only spend $100.  So that is $100 divided by 12 or 13 weeks.  $7.69 added on to our weekly cost if you thought about it that way.



This is our last Costco shopping list.  We bought 2 giant packages of TP--and I think it will last the 3 months.  We bought an enormous bag of dog food.  That should last even longer because our dog is little.  We were down on sugar, so we bought a 25 lb bag.  (Sometimes, you can find sugar cheaper on sale in the regular grocery stores.)  We bought 2 double bottles of our favorite grape juice.  Some yeast. (My last bag has kept us going for 3 years in the freezer!) And some kitchen garbage bags--which will last more than 6 months.

Next time, we might buy dish washing liquid or detergent.  Or Windex.  Or lotion.  Or shampoo.  But right now, we are still okay on those items.  I don't like a lot of chemicals in my house.  My skin simply can't handle the onslaught.  So I keep it simple. 

And if I desperately need something before the 3 months is up, I can buy it in my weekly list.  And choose a cheaper meal that week to cover the extra cost if needed.

Things I'm really liking about this new system:

1.  Dinner is always planned.  And the ingredients are always there. I don't assign a particular meal to a particular day, but I don't have to panic and figure anything out.  I just choose a meal off the weekly list, open up the cookbook, and cook.  It's so very easy!

2.  The most obvious.  I'm saving money and time!  Grocery shopping is fast.  Low stress.  And I feel empowered.  Not led aimlessly around the store by pretty packaging and yummy-looking foods.  No pondering whether I should buy something or not.  I have my list.  I stick to it.  I'm in and out of the store without losing control.  

3.  We are eating less---actually almost NO---junkfood!  Very little pre-prepared food.  Almost all is homemade from scratch.  It is tastier.  Healthier.  Cheaper.  And honestly, easier!  Once a habit is formed, it is easy to maintain.

4.  Variety.  Variety is the spice of life and now that I take the time to plan out a menu and find new recipes to try---our diet is much more varied.  My creative mind is challenged by the new and different and my palate is, too!


Pork Buns steaming in a pot.  They lasted for dinner and 2 more days of lunches.  Gave some to friends, too!


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

I want to be an Artist!

I want to be an artist.  I don't care if I ever obtain fame and glory.  I don't care if anyone ever thinks I make or do interesting things.  I just want to honor my artist's heart.  Regularly.  Always.  As a way of life.

This last week, I listened to a TED Talk about honoring our inner artist.  It wasn't even in English---I had to read the subtitles.  But the message was clear.  We all need to be artists.  Starting right now!  





So last night I went on a walk with my husband.  We always walk out of the neighborhood and try to get at least a little bit of walking in nature.  We are lucky.  We live very close to a natural park.  With a fresh motivation to honor my artist's heart, I decided to just enjoy the walk without any inhibitions.  When I saw a rock that was interesting, I picked it up.  The moss growing next to the trail was begging for me to bend down and touch it.  It was so very soft and plush.  Dead leaves on trees were crumpled and allowed to blow away out of my hands in the wind.  I noticed the color of the sunlight touching the top of the rocky mountains.  The color of lichens growing on the bark of trees.  I touched the soft dead blossoms of last summer.  A velvet purple cone on the tips of one tree's branches.  My husband joined me in stomping across the wooden and metal bridge.  We pretended we were the Three Billy Goat's Gruff.  Only there were only 2 of us.  The ringing sound of the metal tubing that held up the bridge echoed musically like bells.  So of course, we had to stomp again going back across the bridge---this time with a little varied rhythm.  I picked up a worn and gnarled bit of wood I found on the ground.  It was smooth to the touch and smelled like nature.  On the way home, we took a different route than normal.  Finding our way through giant wild bushes with thorns.  It was exciting!

When we got back home, we sat on the porch and talked while the sun set beautifully over the distant lake and mountains.  The yellows and oranges lit up the sky like fire.  When it finally got too cold to stay outside, we came in.

I didn't create anything last night.  But I honored my artist's heart.  I let myself be free.  And I felt great joy in doing so.  I felt honest.

I want to live that way everyday.  Even every moment. 

Maybe I can.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

PTSD

Today is supposed to be Tuesday Triumph day.  I planned on having some cool craft or redecorating triumph to share with you.  But instead of talking about those kinds of things, I think I will talk about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.

PTSD is often associated with soldiers coming home from war.  They have been through extreme trauma and they suffer the effects of it for a long time after they are home and safe.  It is a real and scary thing---sometimes leading to suicide and other scary situations for themselves and their families.

But soldiers aren't the only ones who suffer from PTSD.  All of us are vulnerable.  Any time we experience something traumatic, we become vulnerable to this disorder.  Our bodies and minds are pre-programmed to help us live and learn from our experiences.  If we experience something very negative, our brains remember everything about it.  Even when we are not conscious of that memory.  Smells, sights, words, sounds, feelings are all recorded in our brain.  Things that happened before the trauma.  Things that happened during it.  Things that happened after it.  All recorded and kept in our brains for future reference.  It could be something mildly traumatic.  It could be something very serious.

Later, when we are in a perfectly safe environment around perfectly safe-seeming individuals, something may trigger our memories.  Something said.  Something smelled.  Some tone of voice used.  Some particular word.  A sound.  Anything that registers with our brain as being similar to the previous trauma. Our  body suddenly goes on high alert.  The fight or flight chemicals course through our veins.  And we are ready and over-ready to face the new threat.

The problem is, there usually isn't a new threat.  Things are perfectly safe.  But because of our previous experience and because of our body's reaction to the current situation, we are not sure.  We can't tell what is happening.  We don't know what to trust.  This can be a very scary experience in and of itself.  This is when panic attacks happen.  This is when people lash out at others needlessly.  This is when people revert back into their little shells and don't trust the world.

PTSD is more common than anyone thinks.  It is affecting most or all of us on a regular basis.  Whether we are aware of it or not.  It may be mild or it may be severe.  Most of the time, we are unaware of it.  But it would be wise to take a good look at oneself.  Often.  

Why is it that you hate certain things?  Why do you avoid certain situations?  Why do you feel so insecure around certain kinds of people?  Do you feel sick after doing a particular activity---for no reason at all?  The most obvious forms of PTSD are seen in those who've had the most severe experiences.  Those people usually go and get some help.  But all of us may need help.

I remember the best advice I ever heard for dealing with PTSD.  I think I read it somewhere in a book or on the web.  It said, whenever you feel that familiar panicky feeling, ask yourself these questions:

"Am I in immediate danger?  Is someone currently holding a gun to my head?"

"Do I smell smoke?  Is the building I am in on fire?"

"Is there really a current and real danger to my life?"

If none of these things are true, I can assure myself that the feelings I am having and the chemicals coursing through my body are an overreaction.  Like an allergic reaction.  I am sending chemicals out in full force when there really isn't an emergency situation.  I can calm myself down and reassure myself that I will indeed live through whatever is going on.  Later, when the chemical reaction has subsided, I can think about what triggered it.

When I discovered this technique, it was a wonderful revelation to me!  That I could ignore those alarm systems when they were malfunctioning.  And I could fix the system later by investigating where the wiring had gone wrong.

This ability to self-soothe and also self-repair my system proves very efficient.

Today, I rarely have panic attacks.  I am able to handle most situations.  I go forward with a kindness towards myself and others that gives me much greater freedom.

And that really is a triumph!  One I wanted to write about today.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Death and Beyond


A friend of mine asked me to help put some flower arrangements together over the weekend for a funeral that was taking place today.  I was happy to help.  Others were setting tables up and getting things ready for a luncheon that would be served to the grieving family after the funeral was over.



  This is something common in our church.  Loving acts given freely to help comfort those who have lost a loved one.




It got me thinking back to the very first death I had experienced of a family member.  My grandmother, Maud Issaccson Pace.  A woman who braided my hair and made me practice my times tables and eat purple cabbage.  She was a lovely woman.  Always dressed in nice clothing.  Always wore a hat when she went outside to protect her face from the sun.  She used Oil of Olay on her skin and always had her nails perfectly clipped.   She wasn't always crippled.  At one time she walked without the use of crutches.  But I don't remember then.  I only remember her using a wheel chair and crutches.  They were awesome crutches.  Sometimes she would let my brother and me play with them.  We would pretend to be crippled, too, and fly high across the room in great big strides on those amazing crutches!  When we got too wild, she would ask for them back. 

Grandma had a tricycle.  A tricycle for big people.  And every day she would ride laps around the block of their neighborhood.  Wide brimmed hat on her head, she could go for lap after lap.  It helped her have the strength she needed.  She was good at it.

Grandma always put wheat germ on my cereal.  I didn't like the texture of it, but she said it was healthier for me.  When I was in college, she wrote me lovely long letters in her pretty handwriting.  She told me to always make my family healthy meals.  She told me to feed them carrots.  And I wasn't even married yet.

Carrots.  I remember she always had cold steamed carrots in the refrigerator.  I loved them!  I called them my "energy pills!"  Probably because she told me they were so healthy.

I miss my grandmother.  And I remember when she died.  I went to help dress her at the funeral home. (Mormons dress their dead in special sacred clothing.)  I had never been that close to a dead body before.  Much less ever handled one.  I was very scared to go.  But had felt very strongly that I should.  At first, it was scary.  But then I felt her presence there.  She wasn't in her body anymore.  But she did still live!  I felt her there in the room.  Carefully dressing her body and making sure that everything was just so filled me with a wonderful feeling.  I was doing one small act of service for a woman who had done so very much for me!  She had had Alzheimer's for years before she passed away.  She hadn't recognized anyone or been able to communicate.  But that day, in the funeral home, she was Grandma again.  She knew who I was and she was grateful for my last act of service to her.  I felt her gratitude.  I felt her wholeness.  I felt her love.  

There is life after death.  Funerals are a sad time.  But they are also a time when we realize more fully the spiritual nature of our beings.  I am grateful for life.  And I am grateful that it continues on in an unseen way after death.  



I miss you Grandma!  Thanks for being such a beautiful part of my life!

Friday, March 22, 2013

HOW much am I supposed to be spending?!!?

It's Frugal Food Friday again.  And I'm thinking hard about people's food budgets.  Several articles came out this week talking about food stamps.  (It's actually called SNAP now--"Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) 



This article says that the average American spends $151/week on one person.  That's $21.57/day.  And that it is such a drop down to the measly $4/day that is given on food stamps.  A self-sufficient family is trying it out to see how the "working poor" can possibly survive on the $4/day.  They find it very hard.  

This article talks about Republican Senator Jeff Sessions and how he is pressing the USDA for more information on how SNAP is being run.  How there is a partnership with the Mexican government.  How people are being pushed to accept food assistance.  

"Sessions cited as examples a promotional guide provided to USDA recruiters to “overcome the word ‘no,’” and another that claims SNAP helps the economy. He also pointed to an award the USDA gave a recruitment worker for solutions to overcoming “mountain pride,” or the desire by some who are eligible for assistance to remain self-reliant."


This article in the Washington Post describes how a whole town in Rhode Island depends on the SNAP program and that the town's economy revolves around the 1st of the month when the SNAP money becomes available.


This article talks about the above Washington Post article and says that the SNAP program is ruining whole economies.  It suggests that:


"No matter how well-meaning programs like food stamps are, they can end up draining the dignity and self-respect of those who rely on them.
And despite what liberals claim, they don't stimulate the economy, but distort it in ways that make real growth and prosperity all the more difficult."



I have no desire to take food away from starving children.  I believe families in need need to be helped!  But I do wonder what is going on here!  The statistics say that 1 in 6 Americans is currently receiving food stamps.

Has the food stamp program become a sort of "golden handcuffs?"  Is the government offering so much assistance and painting such a pretended reality of "average American food costs" that no one can see the truth?

It reminds me of a time Scott and I got suckered into listening to a pushy salesman try to get us to buy his cleaning products.  We could receive a "free computer" if we would only sign up to buy the cleaning products for a whole year.  They started out asking us how much we spent on cleaning products each week.  Then they talked about how much the "average American" spends on cleaning products.  It was WAY MORE than I spent and I was made to feel like I certainly must not be keeping a clean house if I didn't spend more.  Then they showed the superiority of their products and wanted me to spend only "slightly more" for them than the average American.  And then I could have their better products in my home and get a new free computer!  What a deal!

Has the food stamps program become something else?  Something other than a way to keep poor Americans from starving?  

Perhaps.

Whether you vote Republican or Democrat or something else, this issue is worth reviewing.    

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wool Blankets!

It's Thrifty Thursday and today's thrift-store find is 2 matching vintage wool blankets!  Bought just today!




I love wool!  And finding real wool anything anymore is kind of hard.  Wool will keep you warm no matter what!  If you are out in the rain?  No problem!  Wet wool keeps you as warm as dry wool!  And it doesn't make you too hot---as wool is very breathable!



These blankets were a mere $5 a piece!  Compare that to these blankets from Overstock.com.  They start at $107.99!  And don't even get me started on those regularly priced stores!



The vintage yellow ones are woven tightly and are bound with yellow velvet. They are soft to the touch.  


 There are no holes in them and they look to be full or queen size!




Wool blankets are good anywhere!  On your bed.  In the car for emergencies.  (It's very cold here in Utah in the winter!)  In the living room as a throw.

These two are going in the motor home!  No chance of being cold while camping now!!!



Monday, March 18, 2013

Wild Weekends: Trip to Arches and Moab!

This weekend, we took most of our family and went to Moab, UT!  That is the area where Arches National Park is.  



It was a long road ahead of us when we started.  With snowy mountains all around.



We recently traded our small motor home for an bigger, older one---so more people could fit.  There was so much room, everyone was in a great mood!  



The world changed dramatically as we drove along.  










It was a geologist's dream!  How the earth formed and the amazing ways in which it formed were a constant question as we drove along!





Then we finally arrived at Arches!  It was tricky getting up the hill with the motor home on hairpin turns.



But there is nothing in this world like Arches! (We've been there before!  See here.)


As my mother (who had never been there) kept saying, "Pictures just don't do it justice!"  


You really can't imagine how big these red rocks are until you are there!


Towering formations!



You may not be able to see the tiny person standing at the base of this arch---but it is HUGE!  Simply Amazing!


And there were so many beautiful formations!  Everywhere!



 After seeing Arches, we camped along the Colorado river with tall red rock canyons on all sides of us!  This same river made the Grand Canyon!



The river was slow and meandering.  But the sound of the water was soothing and peaceful.



As the sun went down, the colors were AMAZING!  






Even the smallest campers were having a good time!




Lots of rocks for collecting!



This little one wasn't convinced camping was so great....


Until his mommy came back to reassure him!



It was so beautiful there, we felt like we belonged on the cover of RV Life Magazine!



And I was one HAPPY CAMPER!