This Chili-Mac Stuff was the bomb (cyclone)

I know that the weather event known as the bomb cyclone, or cyclogenesis, was ages (two weeks. Same thing) ago but I’m still dealing with the fallout. That fallout is also why I didn’t blog this recipe when I made it 2 weeks ago instead of now. Bomb cyclone fallout is time consuming.

But I’m not telling you about all that yet. First I’m telling you the cooking stuff. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my one daughter who likes to cook, ALWAYS put your story after the recipe. If you don’t, someone searching the internet for a recipe will end up at your blog and stand in their kitchen  muttering while they scroll through your story, “Ok, I get it. Your kid is smart, your dog is cute. Blah Blah. I don’t care about your life just let me see the damn recipe!”.

I don’t know if what I post here are recipe. I wing it. You should,too. Mostly it’s just instructions for what to do with cheap ingredients particularly those found at food pantries.
Also, I recognize that as I’m compiling these non-recipes into a book ,I need to have better names other than Chili Mac Stuff. I’m working on it.

Ok, on to the thing I made.
These are the ingredients I used minus herbs and spices.
These were 100% picked up from the food pantry.  There’s very rarely name brand or even store brand from the food pantry but usually  there is no notable difference in quality.

The USDA packaged meat can take a bit to get used to,cooking with, all varieties from ground beef to chicken,turkey, and pork. It’s ground finer and therefore …mushier? Smoother? I don’t have an adjective to describe it. It has a different texture.

When cooking with this meat, seasoning is the big thing. I know – it should be anyway but really it makes the most difference with this.
For this meal, I sauteed it in a cast iron pan with a little oil, salt,pepper, onion flakes and garlic powder. I prefer to use fresh onions & garlic but I didn’t have any. The dried will work just as well.

In a pot, I essentially opened cans of tomatoes,sauce,and beans and tossed them in. I rinse the beans first in a colander.  I tossed the meat in and added more herbs and spices. For this pot, I was cooking for non-spicy eaters so I used cumin,oregano,more garlic, and a little bit of a chipotle pepper mix.  I cooked all if this together for 10 minutes then added dry macaroni and enough water to add volume and help the pasta cook without losing thickness from the base. Cook about 7 minutes longer until the macaroni is done.
Spicy lovers added their nonsense to their own bowls and topped with some shredded cheese. No sour cream on hand,unfortunately.

This dish hit the spot as a hearty,warming comfort food while we were enduring the “bomb cyclone” and -25 temps.

[end food bit]
The day before this bomb cyclone thing was supposed to hit us, we managed to find a mobile food pantry we could go to. We never get to go to them because they’re either during inconvenient hours or too far to drive. They usually have a lot more perishable foods and produce then what’s available at our usual food pantry.
It’s always held outside and we froze but it was worth it. That food helped us get through the week until food stamps came through and then some. The security of that helped me deal much better with events that came out of the storm.

The days during the winter storm in our drafty cold house were miserable and not surprisingly, the pipes froze. The pipes have never frozen while we’ve lived here but it was a pretty common problem that weekend. I worked for hours trying to get them thawed before I finally called the property manager. As I expected, they were swamped with similar calls from tenants. They couldn’t send anyone out that day. This was Sunday  (Jan 7th) in the afternoon. Monday morning, the maintenance manager called to see if we were still frozen. Yep. He said someone would be out. That was Monday. No one showed. (Pro tip: Don’t rent from a large property management company. They rarely can meet the needs of all their tenants during a weather event)
I called Monday late afternoon to get an ETA. “Tuesday mid-morning”

If you’re at all experienced with frozen pipes, you know that it’s really important to deal with it proactively. ASAP. You wait and see if they thaw on their own, they will probably burst. And that’s exactly what happened Monday night. 3:30 a.m. I’m running through a maze of water showers in the basement to reach the pump to shut it off. Because where is the water shutoff? No one knows.  Great stuff.
Tuesday mid-morning comes and goes without seeing anyone. I notify them that the pipes had burst  . Tuesday around pm someone shows up. To see what they need to fix it. They’ll be back on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, we’re getting water from the town pump. I’m melting snow in a big pot on the wood stove and then filtering it through a colander to get the pinecones and sticks out for toilet flushing. When the toilet stopped flushing I assumed one of those buggers got past me and clogged it. Oh,no. That wasn’t it. The septic drain line turned out to be frozen solid as well. Most things in this house are set up wrongly and that was no exception. Part of the drain line is exposed outside to the elements, not buried correctly, so of course it would freeze. This is also the drain line for sinks so everything was backed up.

In all this time, the property management never once asked if we needed anything or offered to provide at least drinking water. I called the office at one point to get an update on repairs. They sounded annoyed and I said, “Listen, I just need to know if I need to go get more drinking water and water to wash up with.” The woman acted surprised. “Oh!” Like it was the 1st time she realized that frozen pipes mean the people living there don’t even have water to brush their teeth with. Ugh.

By Wednesday the house was disgusting. I won’t even go into all of that. The plumber fixed some of the pipes, just the ones going to the bathroom. “We’ll be back tomorrow”. Okie dokie.
The roto-rooter guy showed up finally to thaw the drain so we could have a fancy toilet that flushes. He’s the hero of this story, truly. He did have to cut a hole in the line to thaw it. Yes, this means we have potentially open septic line in our backyard. In that dude’s opinion though, there was no other way to handle it and it should have never been exposed like that in the 1st place.
Wednesday night we had a working toilet and could take showers! Hallelujah.

Thursday . No plumber showed up to finish the rest if the pipes. I called to see what’s up. The topic of our one month back rent came up, even though we’ve been in constant  touch with them and they were agreeable to waiting for payment when we got our tax return. I have that in writing.
They made a decision with the landlord to NOT fix the rest of the pipes. The toilet flushes. They made sure there’s running water in the bathroom. All done. Don’t need to do anything else.

One week later I’m washing dishes in the bathtub and my kitchen is in shambles. It’s mostly because after that long stretch without water, the dishes piled up and I’m still not caught up. We’re using paper plates and plastic cups as much as possible.
And I will have to take out a small loan to get laundry done at the laundromat.

Tell me how this decision to not make sure the whole house functions makes any sense? I would think they’d want it properly maintained and such?
We’re at a standoff, I suppose.  All of this is one more thing to document and notify proper people of. Tomorrow is payday and we’re going to attempt to buy needed materials and fix it ourselves with help from plumber-type friends.  Wish us luck.

Taxmas is around the corner. We’ll be looking for a new place to live once funds hit our bank account. I’m just done with these people.

Jan 5: Yays,Boos,and Goals

Here’s what’s happening in our world.

Starting with the bad stuff….


  • We’re late with the rent because we had to pay car insurance
  • We had no water from Friday night until Saturday afternoon. I lived in a house without running water once and forgot how much I love running water and indoor plumbing.
    melting snow on the woodstove for toilet flushing

    Eventually, I figured out that it was a small issue with the pump and fixed the problem myself which was a super good thing since I called the landlord’s rental agency, left a message for the “on call emergency” person ( a person took the message, not a machine) and here it is Tuesday and never have heard a word back. I suppose I should have called them to say I got the water running again but I was honestly curious to see how well they respond to issues. I think they failed that test and now I don’t feel as bad about being late with rent.

  • THIS:   Ok, I LOVE my boys but I did not enjoy winter break at all. Not only was there never (well,hardly ever) peace, it’s so hard to work at home and have kids home from school. It’s not like you can really get a lot of work done, which of course adds to stress and frustration when you really have to be making money.
  • Winter showed up. I was just kinda boasting yesterday morning about how awesome I did at winterizing and how toasty warm it was inside but I didn’t wait for the temperature to drop low enough. Holy Elsa, it’s fuh-reeeezing in here. Wood stove roaring and the temp this morning inside is barely 60. It’s the wind. If the wind isn’t blowing, it’s fine.


  • Well, running water was welcomed back. I will never under appreciate it again  
  • I just complained about winter break but we actually did manage to have some good fambly time. We had some good movie nights ( thank you , library), baked( banana bread,of course), played games, and general fun stuff. We made these birdfeeders from my out of control dishes-to-craft-with stash  that I’ve acquired from free piles and yard sales to use for mosaics and various crafty stuff.

    the chickadees love it
  • Food pantry food. Seriously. What would we be eating without it? I guess a pluckier gal would use some of her thrifted tea cups to start an indoor garden!
  • The boys went back to school. I can get back to work. HALLE-effing-lujah
  • My ex (my twins’ dad) bought us a pallet of Envirobricks. With our wood supply running low, this will help a lot. So far, I think they’re awesome and I’m noticing that the bricks are definitely more efficient than the wood. img_1770


  1. pay rent ,obviously
  2. Figure out how to not have garbage. Not even kidding. We have to pay $18 a month for garbage plus $10 for a sheet of garbage tags that go on each garbage can. We barely have any garbage. We compost and recycle everything we can so all of our actual garbage is packaging and the few things that cant be reused or recycled somehow. I want to cut that $18+ out of my budget entirely (I didn’t even pay that bill last month,actually)
  3. Stay warm. Keep stalking all the drafts with non-expanding spray foam and scraps or rags. Make some more draft dodgers for along the floorboards? I don’t know what else I can do. Doorways are covered with drapes or blankets. Windows sealed with vinyl. Just so much ugh
  4. Figure out what to make with this.img_1944 Garlic Piastra? Even Google didn’t help me much. I asked my oldest son because he knows a ton about food plus works at a food bank in another city and he had no idea either. The best I can figure it it’s a dry seasoning for a rub or marinade?  Yay,flavor! I’m nearly out of every herb and spice in my pantry. My Taxmas shopping list looks ridonkulous. I will buy a year supply of ginger if someone doesn’t stop me.
  5. See if we can do our taxes ,like,now. I need Taxmas to be here.

 The Whiny Cold House Blog

[Content Notes: winter, home energy bills, HEAP, seasonal affective disorder, keeping poor people poor]

via my twitter. I will try my best to not make this happen here.For anyone not familiar with Cold House Journal, check it out here
. Even if you’re not trying to figure out how to cut heating bills, it’s fascinating to read about people living in a cold house on purpose. 

I am a winter hater. As I mentioned on my last post, I have a hard time with winter . Part of this has to do with seasonal affective disorder. The other part is just that I hate being cold . HATE. Loathe .Despise.

I’ve spent the last month trying to make our 1825 rented homestead as winterproof as possible. Just when I think I have all the cracks and holes stuffed or plasticked over or covered with an old blanket,   a strong wind will blow outside and I’ll feel another area that needs attending to.  There are drafty spots where I clearly feel air blowing at interior walls even. Maybe a freemason built this house and behind the walls are hidden chambers for masonic rituals.  Not cool, imaginary freemason dude. It’s hella cold in this house.

BUT only when the wind blows. Otherwise, the woodstove keeps the house pretty toasty.

Back in September, we found out that we would have to heat only with the woodstove and it has literally taken us this long to get organized enough to get a supply of wood. Remember how we were told we could not get HEAP for wood? That was not technically true. If there is no other source of heat in the house, you can use HEAP for wood. But that doesn’t mean it was easy to use HEAP for wood either. (disclaimer: this is my experience here. Elsewhere it might be different)

First we were given a list of wood vendors who accept HEAP. It is fairly easy for someone who sells wood to accept HEAP but not everyone does it.  Calling through the list was frustrating. I’d either hear that they didn’t have wood, they have wood but not seasoned, they have wood but they won’t deliver… or if they would deliver, we were out of their delivery range and wanted to charge quite a bit. Then I found, “Yes, we have wood and we’ll deliver but it’ll be a bazillion dollars for less than a cord of wood.

FYI: Less than a cord of wood isn’t going to get us far in NY winter. Also, less than a cord of wood should not cost a bazillion dollars. Interestingly, if I checked this company’s wood prices for non-HEAP customers, they were way less than a bazillion dollars. Clear price gouging to low income folks. Nice job,guys.

(No, it wasn’t really a bazillion dollars but might as well have been)

Basically,there’s a certain amount we’re granted for HEAP and if we had gone with one of these wood vendors, they would have taken our entire HEAP benefit and given us very little wood.

So, we decided to have our HEAP applied to our electric bill (we have one bedroom in the house that is kind of separated from everything else and stays cold, so we’re using an electric space heater in there and also in the dining room because it’s actually an enclosed porch )  and found a local guy on craigslist who just sells wood as a hobby. $150 for 2 face cord. Delivered. It will last for a bit before we need to hunt down someone else with wood.

Yay, we got wood.
Yay, we got wood. It’s all stacked nice and neat now.  It’s a little weird how much I LIKE to stack wood. 
I’ll also be really honest here and tell you that I have an inner 12 year old who could not help but find it hilarious every time I had to ask a guy over the phone if he had wood and if yes, could he deliver. Ok,maybe not hilarious but amusing. I was amused. It’s the little things that help me through.


Also, an acquaintance who lives in the area has been trying to clear trees from his property to make an actual yard and do landscaping. He offered it to us for free as long as we could haul it away. Some of it’s still green and needs to season but it’ll be a good source.


Our cute little 2 door car wishes it were a rough and tough pick-up truck so we do everything we can to make it’s dreams come true. We can cram quite a few logs in there with the back seat down.

The good news is that I’m not AS nervous about winter as I was back in September.We aren’t going to freeze. High five to the man with wood who could deliver.






Our Free Organic Apples


There are five old,gnarly,unkempt apple trees on our rented homestead property that have been providing a steady stream of apples since early September. The apples are as gnarly looking as the trees sometimes.DSC_0482 As a matter of fact, they look about the same as the expensive organic apples I’ve seen at the grocery store. They’re not certified organic but close enough for me and the price is right.
Technically, they aren’t free since we pay rent to have the privilege of using the apples. My goal is to maximize the potential of the property while we are here and to reap the benefits of everything here…”weeds”,trees,dirt….if it can give me food or save me money in some way, I’m going to utilize it to get the most bang for our rental bucks.

So, the apples trees are a pretty obvious boon here.

I swear, he’s happier eating this apple than he looks. My littlest guy was the only one who had no reservations about just eating the apples straight up.

This school year, my kids have to take a snack every single day. There is zero room in our food budget for snacks. The apples are filling that gap quite nicely. Apple bread/muffins,apple flautas,apple pie roll-ups (SO easy and just use plain white bread), applesauce,apple this,apple that. Everything apples. I cant wait to try apple-peanut butter cookies.

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that there have been so many apples that have fallen and weren’t picked up in time (WASTED FOOD! ACK!)that our backyard smells like hard cider. I half expect to see drunken deer stumbling around one of these mornings. They definitely have been partaking of the bounty,too.

Using every last bit is kind of my thing so with the apples, I use the peels & cores to make apple cider vinegar. I know ACV isn’t all that expensive but making it myself is just one more thing I don’t have to buy. I do seem to use a lot of it,too. Every little bit helps.

Fullscreen capture 1142015 90740 AM

via my IG