Sunday, March 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday March 31- April 6

I'm trying something new with my menu plans. I love having a routine, I've decided to make every Friday night pizza night and every Thursday leftover night. Pizza is one of my favorite meals and it's cheap to make. It seems the last three weeks we've had pizza and watched a movie on Fridays, I thought why not make it a regular event, we may not always watch a movie, but I'd like to count on pizza, plus it's one less meal to plan.

Monday 3/31 Tuna Casserole

Tuesday 4/01 Hot dogs with coleslaw and baked beans

Wednesday 4/02 Burritos with Mexican rice and refried beans

Thursday 4/03 Leftovers Night

Friday 4/04 Pizza Night

Saturday 4/05 Quiche

Sunday 4/06 Eggplant Pasta This recipe is so good, a real favorite in our house.

For more Menu Plan Monday Ideas go to Organizing Junkie

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Homemade Hamburger Buns

Last week I made hamburger buns and they turned out so good! They were so pretty when they came out of the oven that I had to have one, I made myself a PB and J sandwich with a still warm bun. We had these with Sloppy Joes the next day, the rest were put in the freezer for future meals. I've made buns before but have never been real happy with the results, this is the first time I've been pleased with both the taste and appearance of my hamburger buns. My recipe came from a blog called Maidens of Worth, found after a Google search for homemade hamburger buns, I wanted a new recipe for buns and I wasn't disappointed. I let my dough rise about 90 minutes before shaping into buns, the recipe doesn't have a long rise time but I thought it should rise a bit.

Frugal Shower Caddy

This post was recommended by my husband, who thought that my idea was fantastic, he thought it should be on Works for me Wednesday, but I'm a little late so Frugal Fridays it is. Honestly I think it's ugly and not real classy but it's working for us right now.
We live in a VERY humid climate, mold and mildew is an issue, and it's recommend that we dry out the shower after each use. To make drying the shower easier I didn't want to have shampoo bottles and such stored on the bath tub ledge and I know from past experience the bottoms of shampoo bottles get all mildewy and leave rings behind when left on the tub ledge. I really wanted a fancy shower caddy, but couldn't find one less than $12 and Greg hates buying "unnecessary" things. Of course I whined about it for a long time, thinking that a shower caddy was necessary and he was being unfair because he doesn't clean the shower and I do. Once I got over my bad attitude about not buying stuff I thought we needed, I decided to make do with what we had at home. I took a plastic flower pot left over from an a house plant that was recently replanted, I drilled a hole it in and hung it on a hook. The pot fits three bottles nicely and has built in drainage holes, if it gets mildewy I can just throw it in the dishwasher. If I ever come across some cheap spray paint I would like to paint it, but it's not really needed. My re-purposed plant pot was a good solution for us, I got my shower caddy albeit it ugly and we didn't spend any money (keeping the husband happy).

Head on over to Biblical Womanhood for more Frugal Friday Ideas.

Redesigned Decor.

Our walls are bare and white. I'd love some color but for now they're white. We don't have a lot of things to put on the walls. You can imagine how upset I was when I dropped one of my few picture frames and broke the glass. We have concrete walls, when we moved in we were given little picture hooks designed for concrete walls, the problem is that the hook doesn't really work just right for hanging all things.

Determined to have something on our walls, I made the best of what I had. I glued a button on an ugly white hook that didn't fit the frame's hanger on the back. Taking advantage of my now glassless frame I added some embellishments including a tag that slightly hangs out of the frame. I hung my frame with an old polka dot scarf cut to size and stapled it to the back.
The look is eclectic and a little artsy fartsy, but I kind of like it.

Orange Cupcakes!

We went to a BBQ about two weeks ago, and these orange cupcakes were a big hit. People couldn't believe that the candied oranges were real oranges rind and all. The cupcakes are just a basic white cake recipe with orange zest and orange juice added to the batter.

The candied oranges are super easy to make, just simmer sliced oranges in sugar water until the peels turn translucent, I tossed my orange slices in sugar after they were cooled and dried. My inspiration for candied oranges were taken from a Cooking Light recipe here, Obviously I changed it a bit. I think the candied oranges taste better than the gummy kind you buy at a candy shop. You could also candy lemons and limes.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Sunday

I thought I'd share a picture of my colored eggs. I invited a new friend over a few days ago to dye some eggs, I had fun.

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen!

Luke 24: 1-6

I miss my family and I miss Easter Dinner and I miss Easter baskets, I didn't have a new dress for church, we still haven't found a church that fits and today is Easter, I went to church all alone because Greg had to work and and and and..........I've shed more than a few tears this weekend But today, right now I set aside my emotions and I rejoice because I serve the one true living God, Jesus Christ and He is Risen! Praise the Lord my God never fails me!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Frugal Craft Storage

To keep my craft items organized I love to use labels, they are so easy to make and items look organized and cute at the same time. To keep organization frugal I have to be a little creative when it comes to containers. I have containers and bins that I've purchased over the years, but my craft supplies have increased beyond the containers I own. Rather than buy some more craft containers I've taken a milk or juice carton, cut it to size and wrapped it in pretty paper like a present and attached a cute label identifying it's contents. My milk carton container is functional and looks prettier than anything you could buy at a store plus it takes up hardly any space on my craft table.

Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesdays

For Frugal Tips check out Frugal Friday at Biblical Womanhood

Monday, March 17, 2008

Menu Plan Monday March 17-23

My computer is being tinkered with by Greg, it's all torn apart and it makes me sad to use Greg's computer, it's just not the same. While I wait on my computer to be put back together I may be posting less often.

Monday 17 - To the neighbor's house-whom I just met this last week at the school, and found out we live three houses apart, it will be fun to get to know some of our neighbors a little more.
Tuesday 18 - Sloppy Joes and roasted potato wedges
Wednesday 19 - Burritos and Mexican Rice (Chips and homemade salsa too!)
Thursday 20 - Leftovers
Friday 21 - Homemade Pizza - last week's pizza was super good so it's on the menu again
Saturday 22 - Pasta and chicken cutlets
Sunday 23 - Leftovers

I know it's a sparse menu with a dinner out and two leftover nights. If I don't plan for leftovers our fridge is quickly overfilled and produce goes to waste, because I've bought and planned a little too much.

Check out Organizing Junkie for more great menu plans.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Psalms 33:5

The LORD loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of his unfailing love.

A short one this week, easy to memorize.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Take along your calculator

My big fat frugal tip of the day is to take a small calculator with you to the grocery store, even if your are not a coupon queen. In my recently reorganized coupon box I have a little room on the side for a calculator. With it's new home, I never forget to take along my calculator when I go grocery shopping, which means no more stopping and crowding the aisle while I fumble with my cell phone calculator because I left mine at home. The biggest or smallest box isn't always the best deal and with several different sizes, prices and brands, it can be tough to decide which item is the best buy.
Today my calculator came through for me. I am easily distracted with eye-catching pretty packages and convenience products. I have to work hard to avoid marketing ploys and save money. When buying dishwasher detergent I had a great coupon for $1 off. The individual dishwasher soap tabs were almost the same price as a box of powdered soap (same brand). I love those dishwasher tabs and they were on sale and I had a coupon, WOO HOO! I was willing to spend a few cents more for a little convenience and a pretty package but my frugal mind never stops and the price of the tabs were easily calculated in my head at a little over 10 cents each (easy math) as I put them in my cart. 10 cents per load, ummm? how much per load would the box of plain powdered soap cost me? A little bit of calculator action showed me that the price per load was less than 2 cents (this was also on sale and with my coupon was cheap too) WOW! the dishwasher tabs are 5 times more expensive. (this may not always be the case) I gladly put them back on the shelf and picked up the box of powdered soap, telling myself that I didn't like all the packaging produced from individual soap tabs anyways.
Without my calculator I would have never been able to easily figure the price per load, I would have more than likely grabbed my dishwasher soap tabs quite happy with my coupon and went on my merry way.

To put it in perspective how big of savings this was:

20 tabs with my coupon costs $2.39 effectively 20 washes
1 box (75 oz) with coupon $1.99 -this took a little math but, If using the same amount of powdered soap as one soap tab (by weight) the box will yield 106 washes.

At the grocery store I wrote down how much weight the box of soap tabs was. When I went home I weighed out enough dishwasher powder to equal the weight of one soap tab. I found that it was enough powdered soap to fill my soap dispenser about half way. I know this seems like a lot of work, I normally don't do all this work for the sake of frugality after all time management is just as important as saving a few dollars, but I was wondering if my calculations in the grocery store were accurate and curiosity always gets the better of me. I found that I probably use to much soap in the dishwasher, if filling it halfway will get my dishes clean and I may not get 106 washes out of my one box unless I'm careful to fill the dispenser only halfway each time.

Becuase I was thinking about this post and I was on a math roll, I calculated how much it would cost me in dishwasher soap for one month (30 washes)

the soap tabs at 11.9 cents each times 30 = $3.57
the powdered soap at 1.8 cents (a measurement equal to the weight of one tab) times 30 = $0.56

I effectively saved myself $3 this month just on dishwasher soap.

Keep in mind that my dishwasher soap example is just something that happened to me and I used it here as an example to show the importance of calculating unit price. This was a unique example because both soaps were on a great sale and I had a coupon that could be used for either item.

A few tips on using your calculator when shopping:

First, always check the shelf price tag, at my grocery store a unit price is printed right on the tag and tells me how much the item is per pound or ounce. This is the easiest way to find the best price, one look tells me that brand A is 35 cents an ounce and brand B is 42 cents an ounce. The calculator comes in handy when I have a coupon for brand B and want to find out if brand B is a better buy than brand A with my coupon. A little simple math is all it takes - subtract the coupon from the price, with the new price divide by the total number of ounces giving you the price per ounce which you can than compare to brand A and find the best deal with or without a coupon.
I also use my little calculator when the unit price on the tag isn't shown with the same unit, one tag may say price per ounce and another lists price per pound. To find the price per ounce I take my calculator, punch in the price and divide by the number of ounces listed on the package, the resulting number is how much each ounce costs.
It may seem silly to tinker around with your calculator in the grocery store-in reality it doesn't take much time and more often than not the shelf tag will give you the unit price. Still, keep your calculator handy, it's always nice to quickly find the best price and know that you're getting the best deal.

For more great Frugal Friday tips go to Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Keeping Envelopes Handy with a Cash Budget

Greg and I jumped on the Dave Ramsey band wagon a few months after being married. We quickly paid off all our debts began an emergency fund and have since than been a little fanatical about our finances and keeping a tight budget. Our budget has changed over the years and we seem to always tinker with it. We first started out with an all cash budget using envelopes, we had an envelope for gas, groceries, clothes, entertainment, you name it we had an envelope for it. We've learned to simplify things a bit since those first few months. It's not real convenient to carry envelopes of cash around and we always felt uncomfortable having a month's worth of cash sitting in my purse. Once we tried forgoing using cash, but realized it was harder to stay on budget. After examining things we realized the two categories that seemed to be overspent if left unchecked were groceries and entertainment. Now we only take out cash for those two things, once the cash is gone it's gone. This method has simplified our budget, we stay on track and we don't hassle with too much cash.
I like to keep the two envelopes on the fridge and take out only the cash I need. With the envelopes in a permanent spot I never worry about where I put the money last. I also store the month's receipts in the envelopes. It's the best of both worlds-the restriction of cash where needed and the convenience of a debit card for all else. It works for us.

Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more Works for Me Wednesday Tips

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Keeping a Recipe Binder

Keeping a recipe binder has been one of the best things I could do as a home cook. When I started keeping a binder with recipes it was a place for me to store printed out recipes and my monthly menu plans. It has morphed into something so much better. I no longer print out my menu plans, I didn't reference them anyways and it's all saved on my computer. What's in my Recipe binder is every successful and favorite recipe. No more searching through cook books and no more long internet searches looking for a recipe, it's all in the book. Only tried and true recipes make it in the binder. Most recipes are printed from internet sites, some I've re-typed from a cookbook, and some are torn from the back of food packages. If I try a new recipe and it turns out great the recipe goes in the binder along with the date and any notes about changes I've made. I use tabs to organize the recipes, the tabs have labels such as Chicken, Breads, Salads, Soups, Breakfast, and so forth. This recipe binder is such a great way to keep recipes organized. If get stuck when planning my menus I often browse my recipe binder, I always stumble across a recipe that has not been made in awhile and was a favorite. It's especially helpful to read my notes on the recipe page, some recipes even have a cost per serving calculated, I haven't done that for all of the recipes, but it's nice to see.

I heartily recommend starting your own recipe binder filled with your own tried and true recipes, it will become the most referenced and well used tool in the kitchen.

Visit Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesday Ideas.

Eeeeekkkkkk! A Snake!

Last night there was a snake in our house! That's right in our house. Needless to say I didn't sleep very well last night. Greg was very tired and went to bed around 8, I stayed up and read my bible and cleaned up the kitchen. At 9:45 I throw my used kitchen towel in the laundry room and find a snake draped across the dryer and washing machine. Of course I scream and run through the house wildly, waking up Greg who was sound asleep. He takes a peek in the laundry room and scopes things out, I give him a flashlight, but he's brave and goes into the room and flips on the light. With the broom in hand, handle out he tries to pick up the snake from a distance, while I watch from afar on the verge of tears. The snake falls off the handle and slithers behind the washing machine as I feared. Greg than opens the back door adjacent to the laundry room, pulls out the washing machine, turns the broom to it's right side and manages to sweep the snake outside and quickly shut the door. We than spent the next half hour searching for holes where the snake may have come in. The back door is in need of new weather striping and there's a significant gap on the threshold, It's possible the snake came in that way. We placed duct tape between the door and the floor. The door may be unusable but no little critter will be crawling in from underneath. I'm shaken up, it seems in my distress Greg becomes extra brave, I didn't really think that he would take on a snake. Praise God he has more guts than I.

my picture came from

Monday, March 10, 2008

Homemade Biscotti

I made biscotti today, these are twice baked, crisp Italian cookies, made for dunking in coffee or tea. I love making biscotti, they seem like such a treat to me because I associate them with fancy coffee shops that charge a large sum for their beautiful pastries and treats.
I tried something different with these biscotti and added some chocolate chips and hazelnuts, while not as pretty to look at, they taste great, and will be a really good accompaniment with coffee in the morning. Tonight I'm enjoying them with tea and they are wonderful.

Here's my recipe:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
3/4 cup of pistachios (I often substitute whatever additions I have on hand)

Mix flour, sugar, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the orange zest, vanilla, 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk (reserving the white). Stir just until combined than mix in pistachios. Knead 2-3 minutes on a lightly floured surface. the dough will be very stiff and may be crumbly add a few drops of water if needed to bring it together. Roll dough into a log and place on baking sheet, flatten top slightly. Brush the top using the reserved egg white. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce temperature to 300, allow the log to cool slightly (so you don't burn yourself) using a serrated knife cut into 1/2 inch slices place flat-side down on the baking sheet and bake 8 minutes, flip over and bake an additional 8 minutes or until slightly colored, crisp and dry. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, store in an air tight container.

You can change this recipe up, it's tasty with pistachios but I've made it with dried fruits, pecans, walnuts, almonds, and whatever else I have on hand.
Don't skip the orange zest, it really adds a nice depth of flavor.

My husband's favorite is just plain hazelnut, I hope he enjoys the addition of chocolate chips. We'll find out tomorrow morning.

Menu Plan Monday March 10-16

As usual last week's menu plan didn't fit perfectly, so a few meals are being pushed ahead to this week.

Monday 3/10 Quesadillas- made with leftover Taco Casserole

Tuesday 3/11 Macaroni and Cheese

Wednesday 3/12 Sesame Chicken - a new favorite; I've made this twice before, quick and tasty.

Thursday 3/13 Spaghetti and Meatballs

Friday 3/14 Homemade Pizza

Saturday 3/15 Taco Soup with homemade Corn Bread

Sunday 3/16 Chicken and Vegetable Pasta

Head over to Organizing Junkie for more Menu Plans.

My Mom's Yummy Taco Casserole

Last night I made taco casserole, it's so easy and yummy. It's a recipe dear to me because it was given to me from my mom. I haven't made it in at least 3 years. When my husband asked about it, I had to shoot my mom an e-mail for the recipe as I had misplaced mine. This meal is especially nice for leftovers, I spoon the casserole mixture onto tortillas the next day and make quesadillas, super easy. The recipe uses instant rice, which I confess is something I had to go to the store for, lucky for me it was on sale and I had a coupon. I changed it up a bit and added a can of diced tomatoes since I had them on hand. Here's the recipe:

1 lb of ground beef cooked
1 can of whole corn drained
1 can small sliced olives
1 can diced green chilies
1 package of taco season.
1 1/2 cup of instant rice-make sure it is instant you can use brown instant if you want
2 cups of water
1 cup of cheddar cheese save some to top

Cook ground beef and drain the fat, mix in taco seasoning according to package directions. Mix everything a large bowl place in a casserole dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes at 375. Top with some cheese and bake uncovered for an additional 15 minutes.

As a bonus this recipe freezes very well.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sunday's Memory Verse - March 9

I wrote earlier about praying for and wanting a desire for God's word. I'm trying to read the bible through cover to cover this year. I was pushed a little further and inspired after reading this post from Purposeful Pursuit. I'm adding bible memorization to my daily devotional and I thought why not post my memory verse to help me be more accountable. Every Sunday I'm going to post my chosen Scripture for the week. It will be a great way to start the week.

This week's memory verse- Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Organize Your Coupons

I recently reorganized my coupons, using an envelope system. I decorated a small cardboard box to keep them in, the envelopes added bulk and would not fit nicely in my old accordion style coupon holder. This has been the best system for me so far. Before my coupons were organized with broad categories such as Bathroom Items. This worked fine for a while until my coupon collection grew large and I spent a long time in the store sorting through piles of coupons. Now I have very specific categories such as shampoo. When I have shampoo on my list of things to buy and I'm on the shampoo aisle, I pull out the shampoo envelope and flip through only shampoo coupons, to find the best deal. This new system works for me. (Hey! maybe this should be a Works for Me Wednesday post). Of course there are several ways to keep your coupons organized, you can read more about coupon organization and using coupons here.

Here are a two more tips for saving money and using coupons:

1. Use a list and stick to it, don't buy anything extra unless it's free or nearly free. It helps to plan ahead and pull out the coupons you plan to use during your shopping trip. Make sure you take all of your coupons with you because you never know when you'll find a great deal or unadvertised special.

2. Don't buy something just because you have a coupon for it, remember that coupons are marketing tools to get you to spend more money and try out new products. Make sure you spend your money on the best deal and something you would have bought anyways coupon or not, sometimes the best deal doesn't come with a coupon.

For more Frugal Friday Tips go to Crystal's site at Biblical Womanhood.

Homemade Labels-Too Cute!

Our household goods have finally arrived! I've spent most of yesterday and today unpacking, it feels like Christmas, I haven't seen our stuff since December. With all my craft stuff here, I was dying to do something crafty, and the opportunity arrived to make some labels. A new home means new organizing challenges. Our last house had a large hall closet next to the bathroom which housed all of our linens and bathroom items, we lost the closet but we did gain under the sink storage, I didn't want to shove toiletries in the cabinet to be tossed around and just look plain messy, so I rounded up two small bins one for each of us and printed off some labels. A little ribbon and some paper and I think they turned out lovely; I especially like our picture. Too Cute!
One of the best things about our new house is the huge pantry, so wonderful! It's really big, I'm afraid without a little organization things will get lost, I've re-purposed some baskets to hold items. Right now I have a basket for baking ingredients and a basket for spices. My homemade labels really make them look great.
I tell you I wanted to go out and buy a bunch of bins and baskets and all sorts of fun things to help me organize our stuff. It's better that I wait and save our money, once we are fully unpacked and everything has a place, I probably won't need a bunch of bins. Besides secondhand baskets have a nice charm to them (Can you tell I'm trying to convince myself)
Honestly, I love my homemade labels, they really add a little homeyness to ordinary areas, too bad most people won't even see them, being tucked away in a closet.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gifts from afar

My Husband came home yesterday, so happy! While in Singapore he bought me some gifts. I expected nothing, yet my man brought me home two very lovely gifts. He gave me the necklace you see pictured-it's a supposed to be a Singapore Orchid. He also gave me a beautiful silk scarf. It's sheer with lavender, cream, and grey colors, it has a paisley design with a bit of an Asian look. I can't wait to wear it, perhaps this Sunday at church. Greg also brought back some Singapore currency; foreign money is always fun to see.
I was delighted just to have him home again and he surprises me with gifts, what a nice guy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday - Backwards Edition

This week instead of a tip we are asking questions. Sounds like fun, I can't wait to read what others are asking. Me? I have all sorts of questions but I'll keep it to just one. Here we go:

How do you take care of tile flooring?

I've had a tile floor before, (tiled it myself in fact) that was one little room, this time around We've moved into a house with all tile floor, not one foot of carpeting anywhere. Carpet's easy-you vacuum and you're done. Tile on the other hand, hmmm. I hate to have to mop the whole house, and what to mop with? how about a dust mop? what about all the stuff the get's stuck in between the grout lines. Ukkk! help!
I want to know the best procedure for keeping my tile floors clean, and I want to know the easiest, quickest, and most frugal way to do so.

suggestions anyone?

Check out Rocks in my Dryer for more of Works for Me Wednesday - Backwards Edition

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Oatmeal Fruit Bars - So Easy and Oh So Good!

I have just made some treats to take to a function tomorrow. Being stuck in my frugal ways I'm not about to go out and buy a treat to take nor am I willing to buy ingredients for something. Call me funny but without advance notice or planning, I'm likely to use what I have on hand and be creative. I have six boxes, that's right six boxes of white cake mix. Greg doesn't like cake and I don't need to eat cake so every time I look in the pantry I wonder why I bought them. Then I remember that I got them for free with a great sale and perfectly matching coupons (it pays to stock up on the same coupon). When it came time to make treats I decided I should use up some of that cake mix. Thanks to a variation on Raspberry Oatmeal Bars from I am down two boxes of cake mix (only four to go) and I have a fantastic super tasty treat, with more than enough servings to go around.

Here's how I made my Oatmeal Fruit Bars:

1. Mixed two boxes of white cake mix, one cup of melted butter, 1/2 cup oil, and 5 cups oatmeal. The mixture should be crumbly and moist
2.Pressed 2/3 of the mixture into a greased large rimmed baking sheet (11x15 I think)
3. Mixed one 10 oz jar of cherry jam and about 1/2 jar (5oz?) blackberry jam with 2 Tablespoons of water and spread evenly over pressed crust
4.Sprinkled the remaining cake mix mixture over the jam layer
5. Baked in a preheated oven (375 degrees) for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

These turned out so good and are so yummy. I have regrettably already eaten 3 bars, (small ones) They are not "cakey" more like a cookie bar. I can't wait to share them tomorrow, I'm sure they'll be a big hit, I really like them.

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Freezing Homemade Chicken Stock

Today's tip is not my own original tip, it comes from Martha Stewart. This tip is wonderful! it has helped me out a ton in the kitchen. When I make homemade chicken stock, I get about 4-5 quarts and of course I can't use all that stock at once, it only stays good in the fridge a few days, so I freeze it for future use. Well that's all fine and dandy until I need a measured amount of stock and find myself with a ginormous hunk of frozen stock. The tip:
Freeze your stock in muffin tins, once frozen you'll have little pre-measured disks of stock, you can pop them out of the muffin pan and throw them in a large Ziploc baggie then take out what you need when you need it. I use a silicone muffin pan, I place it on a baking sheet so it lays level and doesn't spill, the silicone pan works nicely too because the frozen stock just pops out of the cups. I measure out 1/4 cup increments, I like this size because my chicken pot pie recipe calls for 1 3/4 cups of chicken stock, so I grab out 7 frozen stock pieces and I'm good to go; no measuring needed. If you don't have the space or a large quantity of muffin tins you'll have to do freeze in batches; what I do is freeze two muffin tins full and the rest of the stock I freeze in 1 or 2 cup increments in separate containers, you can also freeze the stock in Ziploc baggies, they will lay flat in the freezer and take up hardly in room, plus it's easier to label a bag than a plastic container. When I want to make soup or need a larger amount of stock I take out a container or bag to thaw, it requires labeling if you freeze more than one size. I tell you once you make your own chicken stock you'll rarely buy it in the store. Homemade stock is easy, has more flavor, is far more healthier (read the labels you'll see) and definitely more cost effective.

For more great tips and ideas check out Kitchen Tip Tuesdays at Tammy's Recipes

Inspired to take a little action

God answers prayers and not always how we expect; I'm trying to read the bible cover to cover. I found that I needed help, some sections were just boring, and I didn't want that, this is God's Word, God's Word! It's not supposed to be boring. I prayed that I would develop a love for reading the bible and that I would have a deep desire to read the bible. Call me silly but I had an attitude in thinking my prayers were like magic, that all I had to do was ask and I was going to suddenly have God's word in my heart. God is faithful in answering my prayer but not in a quick and easy WHAM! BAM! It is finished kind of way. No, no, no, nothing like that. God is requiring me to take a little action, He's requiring me to do a little work. This all makes sense, true desire will be shown with actions. This last week I've stepped up my reading, instead of 3 chapters a day I've read several more chapters upwards of 15 a day (this is mostly because I was behind in reading and I want to finish before the end of the year)
Inspired by this post at Purposeful Pursuit I am taking a little more action to develop my desire for God's Word. I'm going to memorize scripture weekly, something I haven't done since I was a child. I'm really excited about this, to help me out I wrote out the weekly scripture Psalms 103:1-4 (also inspired by Purposeful Pursuit) My picture is awful and you can't really see my scripture; I taped it above my oven so I would see it daily and be reminded. This new challenge of mine won't be easy but I know that God has placed the desire in my heart for His word and God is so faithful. I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me - Philippians 4:13

Monday, March 3, 2008

Making Chicken Stock

I briefly mentioned making Chicken Stock in my menu, it is truly one of the best perks of roasting a chicken. Making your own Chicken Stock is by far tastier, healthier, and cheaper than buying it from the store. Basically I take the chicken carcass and simmer it in water for several hours along with whatever veggies and seasonings I have, once the stock cools a layer of fat forms on the top, which you can easily remove. Alton Brown has a really nice recipe and description for making your own stock. I highly recommend making stock, there are so many recipes with chicken stock, making your own is quite frugal. Tomorrow for Kitchen Tip Tuesday I'll post a great tip about homemade stock.

A Labor of Love

Today I made big soft pretzels, a real favorite with my Husband. It's been so long since I've made them I forgot how much time and effort it takes. The recipe makes 16 pretzels and they really taste best the day they're made, these will hit the freezer so that they last longer. We enjoy a hearty, grainy and spicy brown mustard, BUT with soft pretzels it has to be the classic yellow mustard.

My Mom is to good to me!

My mom knows how to make my day! I'm always thrilled to receive special notes and packages from her, especially since we live on opposites ends of the globe. In the mail today I received an envelope full of coupons, always a delight. Thanks Mom, You're the best!

Menu Plan Monday March 3-9

This is my second Menu Plan Monday Post, and I love it, it's just too much fun sharing what we'll be eating, it's also fun to see what everyone else is planning.

Monday 3/3 –.Roasted Chicken and Citrus Rice, I’ll save some of the chicken for Wednesday’s meal. I love roasting a chicken it is so easy and economical, I often get 2-3 meals out of a chicken and homemade stock to boot. When I roast my chicken it’s a little different each time, I generously season the bird all over and under the skin too, then I rub it with a little olive oil or butter whatever I have and I loosely stuff the cavity with whatever veggies I have usually garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Sometimes I like be really creative once, I seasoned my chicken with an unwanted bottle salad dressing (not creamy) with good results. Roasted Chicken always turns out so good and makes the house smell heavenly, my suggestions when roasting a chicken: use a meat thermometer, don’t over cook your bird and do not carve it right away let it sit out at least 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute, ensuring juicy results, tent it with foil to keep it warm if you want.

Tuesday 3/4 – Homemade Mac and cheese a new recipe to try from Martha Stewart Everyday Food. I have a fantastic never-fail Mac and cheese recipe handed to me from my Great-great Auntie, but it never hurts to try new things, besides this one is no-bake so it comes to the table a bit faster. We’ll see how it turns out.

Wednesday 3/5 – Chicken Pot Pie Celebration – We’re celebrating Greg’s Birthday. It’s a little late due to unforeseen circumstances but hey we’re flexible. What better way to celebrate a birthday than with a favorite meal. My man loves my chicken pot pie. Sometimes I think he’s’ going to eat the whole pie but he always saves a little for his lunch the next day. I love Chicken pot pie because it’s a one dish meal, it usually satisfies all on its own, I rarely serve a side dish alongside.

The recipe is from my old Betty Crocker Red Cookbook, I could not find the exact recipe online but this one from All-Recipes is very similar except for the celery and celery seed.

Thursday 3/6 – Homemade pizza, I never did get around to making pizza last week (I guess that’s why this is called a menu PLAN)

Friday 3/7 - Leftovers

Saturday 3/8 - Chicken and Veggie Pasta - This is a family favorite, the first time I made this dish it was so good and very rich, because I didn't read the recipe right and I used a whole stick of butter not a half stick, I now only use a half stick and it's still very tasty

Sunday 3/9 – Mom’s Taco Casserole – This is so easy and healthy, it’s been a while since I made it. I’ll post the recipe and results later

Sunday, March 2, 2008

My New Favorite Breakfast

Yogurt and Granola has been my favorite breakfast/snack for the longest time and I still love it. Now, I have a new favorite. During our time visiting with family last month, I got a taste for grapefruits in the morning, while staying at my In-laws. I love it! and it's Crazy! I never ate grapefruit as a kid, I tried it once when I was dating Greg and all I remember is I had to pour on the sugar to make it palatable. I don't know maybe my taste buds have changed or matured who knows. Now I think they are the best thing ever, a little sweet a whole lotta tart and altogether delicious! I still eat 'em with sugar but not to much. Here's what I do, cut the grapefruit in half, cut around the perimeter and in between the segments, sprinkle just a little brown sugar over the top and then broil the halves for just a few minutes, this seems to make them extra juicy and all the brown sugar melts and seeps into the fruit. it's so yummy. I like to squeeze out the last bit of juice into a cup once I've eaten the fruit, its like an extra treat.

I won a prize!

Last night I received a last minute invite to go to dinner with a few other Navy wives, and I'm glad I went. I met several new people, and had a real good time. Plus I took home a door prize. OK it's not that big of a deal because everyone who went to dinner walked away with something, but hey that doesn't diminish the thrill any. When my name was drawn I picked out the candles because I could see what I was getting, it was wrapped in clear cellophane. I really wanted the grand prize a big basket filled with pampered chef tools and goodies, but who am I to be greedy, I'm still pretty pleased with my candles. I opened and set up the diffuser as soon as I got home, it's too cute and releases a lot of scent. I might tuck away the candles in my gift box and repurpose them as a gift, I'm not sure yet sometimes it's nice just to enjoy something and not stash it away for a future gift.
There was also a few raffle baskets, I spent $3 on 3 tickets for one of the baskets because it had the cutest copper cookie cutters in the shape of an anchor and submarine, I never buy raffle tickets but I wanted them so badly. I may just try and hunt them down and order online, I hope their not to pricey, I'm already imagining the cutest anchor and submarine sugar cookies. I tell you what it's easy for me to toss aside my frugal ways when it comes to cute kitchen things and making cute cookies. It's a good thing Greg can reign me in and it's a good thing I suffer from sticker shock after all most of my stuff is bought second-hand. We'll see about those cookies cutters, for now I'm pretty pleased with a nice evening out and a prize to boot.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Birthday Banner

We're celebrating Greg's birthday late this year. Because it's late I want it to be extra special. What better way to make a celebration more festive than by adding decorations. Greg would never permit me to go out and buy decorations especially for his birthday, so using the few supplies I could muster up I made a birthday banner, The idea for a banner was tucked away in the back of my mind inspired by Tracy's window decor at Notes from a Cottage Industry. This little guy is ultra simple made only with paper, double stick tape, a sharpie marker, and some dental floss. With the scrap papers I made some paper flowers to cover up the ugly tape I used to hang it, I'll have to come up with a better solution later, I'm not sure the tape will hold up for long. When our shipment of household goods arrive I'll spoof it up with some pretty ribbon. My banner should fold up nicely for other birthdays to come. We won't be celebrating til next week, but I can't wait that long, once his birthday presents arrive (ordered online) I'll wrap them up and place them under the banner. I think the area will look really great.