Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekly Goals 9/30

What a busy week!  I know that I seem to be saying that every week but we did a ton of shopping this week at Harris Teeter and Target, as well as hitting two consignment sales with my parents.  I am beat and don't want to shop again for a long time... which is good which you will know when you see my budget update :)  I hope that I you had a great week and a little less hectic than mine!!

Last Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family- We had a great week and got to spend time with the grandparents too. 
  • Get to Preschool on time- Done all week :)
  • Science Storytime on Tuesday-  We had an okay time at storytime but he wasn't interested in staying the whole time. We had an even better after reading every book in the library.  Sad thing was that I was a bad mom and forgot to return books to the library and we already has 50 books checked out.  Did you know that there is a limit?  I found out the hard way by trying to checkout the 51st book awhile ago so I won't try that again.  Luckily, I had the distraction because our friends called and told us which park to meet them at so he was super excited
  • Lunch date on Tuesday at the park- We had a great time at the park.  Came away with a casualty of a splinter.  You would think with the screams that we got later than night that we were taking out a bullet.  Luckily, a band aid fixed it. 
Personal Goals
  • Girls Brunch- We had so much food but it was all super yummy and we all got to catch up.  Sad thing is that I think that we could talk all day so even after leaving I had to send an e-mail
  • Dentist AppointmentMight have been my worst dental experience ever.  They were working on my back two teeth and my mouth was open for at least two hours so I came away from the experience with weird bubbles all inside my lip from the lip being so dry and having things stick to it.  Luckily, I am recovered from the weird bubbles and trying to get over the ache of all of the dental work :(
  • Cut couponsI got all my coupons cut and organized a little more.
  • Get coupons at libraryWe went on Friday morning and they didn't have any newspapers yet.  We checked Giant too and none.  Didn't make it back until Saturday but at least I got my coupons (actually my mom and husband went and got them for me but they had a tough time because there was a book sale but they got a few papers anyway).
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I shut off the computer all week and saved lots of energy and wear on the laptop.
  • Read new book of choosing- I was trying to give up on the last book but I am still reading it!  Can you believe it?  I think that this might be the longest time to read a pretty short book but I can't give up because I always feel that it should get better... I will let you know if I ever finish it! 
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the weekI cleaned up every day this week and I think that I had to clean the kitchen twice on at least two days this week with my really messy baking style :)
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I did this a few times this week but the week is starting to be a little bit of a blur because it was way too long.  I know that I did it on Thursday night because I got everything in the dishwasher and stayed awake after everyone went to sleep to try to get a start on the new day with company.  We make a lot more dishes when we have company and I have to run the dishwasher every night and the pots and pans seem to pile up faster too.
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday- Done
  • Make a new recipe and post- I have made a large number of new recipes this month and I have written up each one shortly after making them to give my opinions and there were a lot of good ones.
  • Do September recipe update for recipes completed this month- I am going to have a summary list of all of the recipes at the beginning of October to list off all of the recipes that I tried in the month of September.  It is almost like keeping track of the books that I read each month and seeing how each month goes so I guess this will be something more regular to keep me on track for making lots of new things.  I wrote up the post and I am adding links as the posts with the recipes go live and I will have the post up soon.
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family- I had a ton of posts up and then they starting popping off and I wasn't replacing them fast enough.  I worked on a few more posts to hope to get back ahead but I got all 7 up for this week.
  • Review book reviews completed during the week- Book is still not completed but the review is posted.  I am hoping to finish it tonight!!  Cross your fingers.
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- I got a few posts posted and a few others in draft so I am moving in the right direction.
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family
  • Get to Preschool on time
  • Meetup with friends at the park
  • Lunch date with friends after school
  • Storytime at the library
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons at library
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Read new book of choosing
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday
  • Make a new recipe and post
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family
  • Review book reviews completed during the week
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Amish Friendship Bread: Lemon Zest Muffins and Margarita Bread

After reading the Friendship Bread book, I couldn't wait to make the starter and then the bread.  I am really excited to try out all of the different recipes.  I made the starter and waited the 10 long days for it to be ready.  What great timing because I was ready for some baking and some treats!!!

I decided to start with this recipe for Lemon Poppyseed bread (minus the poppy seeds).  I feel like citrus makes you feel like it is more healthy so it is probably just a trick on my mind so that I can eat more!!  I mixed it all up per the directions below (with the "help" of my three year old which is why there are no pictures along the way).  The batter was nice and thick and yellow even though we only had 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract left in the jar... of well!

I made the muffins first per the instructions with greasing and sugaring the muffin pan.  Then I topped them with sugar and lemon zest.  I was going to get out the bigger granular sugar but wasn't sure how they would cook up so I thought it was best to stay with the basics the first time around.  They looked like this:

 Hoping my bread with ignore my yucky muffin pans.  I can't seem to get the burned sections off them no matter what I do.  I used metal pans and they were gross so I switched to silicone but they get a burned look on the top...luckily, the muffin cup comes out totally clean.  Here it is close up so that you can see the zest and sugar yumminess.
My muffins cooked a little faster than the recipe and were done in about 20-21 minutes.  They smelled and looked amazing so I had to start eating right away.  I might have already eaten two (and my mouth is still numb from the dentist this morning so this was challenging and I ate it with a fork but it was well worth it).  Check it out... wouldn't you want to eat it too???


Okay, back to baking.  I ran out of lemon zest on the first batch of muffins so I decided that it would be super interesting to try it with lime zest (since I keep all the zest in the freezer and had lime and orange so it could have gone either way).  I couldn't add lime to the top without adding lime flavor to the batter.  I decided to try a trick that I learned at Let's Dish from a Tilapia dish (of all things...since I don't like fish).  They used sweetened lime juice that you use with mixed drinks instead of lime juice or extract.  I decided that I would try it out and see if it worked in baked goods.


It looked a little strange when I added it to the batter.  I couldn't figure out what measurements to use so I decided on 2 tsp. (just in case you want to try it out).


I mixed it in and made a mini loaf which I sprinkled the remaining lemon zest and some lime zest.  I decided since I was making something that was lemon lime flavor with flavoring from the bar that it was going to be like a Margarita so that is how I decided on the name of the bread.


The bread took a little longer to bake than the muffins but I made one mini loaf with the lemon and lime zest.



Then another without zest (just in case my son didn't like it with the zest) but I did still put the sugar on it.


There was still some batter left in the bowl so I decided to mix in a little zest and put it in another dish to bake and see how it turned out.  It looks pretty neat and puffed up right out of the dish.


They were all really yummy and a great first recipe to try out my Amish starter!!  I hope that this inspires you to try out some Amish friendship bread soon.  Check out this recipe and over 200 more at the Friendship Bread website.  More recipes to come soon!!

Lemon Poppyseed Amish Friendship Bread Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 24 servings
Yield: 24 muffins

Ingredients
1 cup Amish Friendship Bread Starter
3 eggs
1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1-2 teaspoons lemon extract
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1 small box lemon instant pudding
Zest of one lemon (for topping)
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 325° F (165° C).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add ingredients as listed except grated lemon zest.
  3. Grease muffin tins.
  4. Dust the greased tins with sugar.
  5. Pour the batter evenly into muffin tins. Sprinkle the tops mixture of sugar and grated lemon zest.
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Target Shopping Trip 9/28

I got my pizza coupons together and went back to Target to grab my son's favorite Red Baron Pizza which was on sale for $3 each (a good price for a pizza without any other deals really but even better with the deals through this week's Target ad).  If you bought three, you got a 7UP, A&W, or Sunkist 12 pack free!!  I printed two manufacturers coupons when they were available on coupons.com but it seems that they were super popular and are already gone (or else I just didn't have enough patience to find them on my other computer).  I did look it up on the coupon database and found out that there was a Target coupon for $1/2 though!!!  I was armed with 2 manufacturers coupons and 3 Target coupons to get my 6 pizzas and 2 cases of soda. 

During our standard mid-store potty break, I decided to check out.  While I was waiting in line, the manager who talked to me yesterday came up and welcomed me back and made sure that I got the Goldfish from yesterday's adventure (if you missed it, don't forget to check it out here).  I got a great cashier who bagged everything really nicely, gave me my bag credits, and scanned all my coupons with no questions asked.  I was super excited to see the low total even though I spent my whole gift card yesterday that I was hoping to spend towards pizza :(  I grabbed my super heavy bags and put them into the car while the grandparents took the little man back to the toy section to "shop."  He loves to play with all the toys in the store and check out everything.


Overall, a much calmer trip than yesterday and a lower total which is always good!!  We were totally out of frozen pizzas so I guess we had a few too many busy days in the last few months :)  They are the perfect have on hand dinner when I don't get to the plan!
Total OOP $13.22
Total Savings $16.61

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip 9/28

With our extra free time this morning, I decided to run to Harris Teeter with my parents in tow.  I had two coupons for the Old El Paso Taco Seasoning and Gerber Baby Food that were burning a hole in my pocket.  I was also looking to use my rain check on Eggland's Best Eggs before the coupon expired on 9/30.  I also wanted to stock up on a few more chickens and Cheese Its since the sale is so good!!!


I got everything that was on my list and I was pretty happy to get four chickens this time!!!  I am sure that there were more deals to be had this week but I was already so far over budget so the main thing that I wanted to get was the chicken :)

Total OOP $29.26
Total Savings $36.94

Month End Coupon Printing



It is already that time again- the end of the month and summer is over!!  Can you believe that we are already starting fall and right around the corner is Halloween...  Time to total those receipts and make sure you clean out your coupons to make room for the new ones.

Check the following sites:
Make sure you don't miss a coupon!!  Keep this list for next month too because the new coupons are normally loaded at the beginning of the month so it is a great time to go back and check.  Please let me know if there are any other coupon websites that you like to visit and I will gladly add them to the list.  Hope you all had a wonderful month and I look forward to hearing all about it!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Target Shopping Trip 9/27

I was hoping to have my act together to go to Target this afternoon after our playdate in Burke.  Sadly, it was not in the cards.  I had to get tissues since we had company coming and we were out of tissues in the entire house so I had to get at least that with hopes of making it back to do the Red Baron Pizza deal before Saturday!!  (HAHA, with company in town but I can always hope and try).

My three year old was a little exhausted (and very dirty) from playing on the playground.  I tried to clean him up a little in the car with little success.  We went into Target and my first goal was to use the bathroom.  His first goal was to get the special cart.  Okay, first battle lost.  We got the special cart and headed to the bathroom.  He insisted that he didn't need to go and he should stay in the cart... well, that monster cart is not fitting in the door so I had to drag him kicking and screaming so that I could at least use the bathroom.  No luck with him though and back we went to the special cart. 

Off to the tissues.  I found the Puffs that were on special and I grabbed the two boxes and put them in the cart.  Also using this as a counting experience to have my little guy double check the number of tissue boxes we were getting which helped me distract and get half way through the rest of the store. 

He looked up and promptly requested that if this store had toys, he wanted to see the Thomas and Friends ones.  I quickly distracted with Halloween costumes and we tried on masks for a little bit.  Then, I saw the school clearance section!!!  YEAH!!  I grabbed a few different items and headed to the Thomas toy section (very close to the price checker at this store).  I price checked a few of the notebooks and paper and found a neat 70 page notebook for $0.05!  What a bargain?!  Potty dance has begun because he wouldn't just do it while we were at the front of the store.  Little man declares that it is time for the potty and off we go all the way to the farthest place we could possibly go in the biggest, hardest cart to navigate.  Now he is starting to insist that he doesn't have to go anymore.  We make it to the bathroom and I take off his pants but he is still insisting that he doesn't have to go.  I bribe with Scooby Doo fruit snacks out of my bag which works and he stops fighting with me and goes to the bathroom.  Crisis averted!!  I distract with snacks but he finally decides that he wanted to eat his sandwich.

We are ready to check out but my son decides that he is finally on board with the plan to use the notebooks to put his stickers in and blue is not an acceptable color.  We are headed to the very back of the store once again to get green- his favorite color.  He decided, as you can see from the picture, that he also liked red and purple too!! 

On the way to the front to check out, he sees the Goldfish on the end of the aisle and he wants to get the big box.  He looks at all the boxes and picks out the one with the school bus on it.  He likes the flavor blasted ones and won't even finish the color ones that he picked out last time.  I tell him that we have yummy White cheddar Cheese-Its at home so we don't need any Goldfish.  He seems okay and we head forward to check out.

First check out, 2 boxes of Puffs tissues.  I used two coupons and got two bag credits.  Total OOP $15.47, savings $9.40.

Second check out, my son tells the cashier that he would like to buy his three notebooks and trusts them on the belt.  He picks out the green reusable bag to put them in.  We check out with a total of $0.11 after bag credit using the $5 gift card that I earned through the Puffs promotion. 

We pull through and I start putting everything away and getting the cart ready to go when my son declares that we forgot the Goldfish and we need to go back there and get them.  REALLY??  I should have just put them in my cart and saved the extra trip but seeing my exhaustion, the manager at the front of the store says; "You can leave the cart and walk with him back there."  In my head, ummm... If I did that then we would never get out of the store but I said thank you very much but he really loves this cart (still a true statement and he probably would have flipped out if I told him that we were leaving it there).  I asked him if he was going to eat them because I didn't think that he liked them so he proved it by picking the one orange colored Goldfish out of the snack in his lunch bag.

Anyway, we are well into the napping hour and patience on both sides was fading fast.  We go very quickly all the way back to the back of the store and he gets the school bus Goldfish (mind you that nothing is different inside the box.. it is just a picture on the outside of the box but I think that he must have them at school).  We head back for our third check out.  Our cashier was busy so we went to the next one over.  She rang it up and talked to my son about her daughter having the same shirt as him except her's was Minnie and not Mickie.  She bagged the Goldfish and I paid with my Target gift card still leftover and then an additional $2.22.  She asked me if I already paid for everything else piled in the cart.  I told her that we had just check out at register 9 and pointed.  We were finally headed to the car and I was hoping on our way to naptime when my son decided that he was mistreated because we didn't go back to look at all the toys.  I told him that we would come back again soon!!  I didn't mention that Mommy didn't have the coupons that she needed to get his favorite pizza so we really would be back soon but we finally got in the car and were on our way.  He fell asleep on the way home and we got tissues!!  It was an exhausting trip but we got part of what we needed so it was the best that I could have hoped for :)


Total OOP $17.69
Total Savings $9.86

This was sadly the trip that put me over budget but I was planning on getting these next month anyway so going to buy one box at a higher price and stay under budget didn't seem like a good idea.  I am sure that going over this month with a few last minute trips (one more to Harris Teeter and one more to Target) will give me tons of wiggle room for next month :)  I hope that you get to check out the school clearance and see if there is anything that you can't live without like notebooks for coloring and stickers and writing.  I am sure he will get tons of use out of them to justify the $0.11.  The Goldfish, I am not so sure!!!  Well, this is the cost that one pays for shopping with a three year old.  Hope you find the story entertaining because I am sure there are many mothers that can relate and have had similar days :)

Thrifty Thursday: Frugal Deodorant Trick

Okay, so I was feeling really frugal when I decided that I would try this one out and I didn't think that I would admit it to family and friends but here it goes.  Have you ever gotten to the end of the deodorant and it started scraping you so you threw it out (sort of sad because there seemed to be a lot more that you couldn't use)???  I have the answer!!


If you save your old sticks of deodorant that are at the bottom,  you can re-purpose them to a new stick. I had five sticks already at the bottom (four older ones and the one that I was actually using in the morning)  I scraped the top off with a spoon that I don't use (not sure about the touching food after so I thought it was safe to use something that I don't use in food).  The remaining looked like this:


I put it in a container that I thought would keep it all contained because I didn't really know what would happen when you melted deodorant.  See my ice tea spoon :)


Then I filled up the container with all of the containers and I decided to use a toothpick to get the rest out of the container, which gave me a lot of stuff in the container.


And really empty deodorant containers remained.


I took the one remaining container of deodorant to the bottom so that it would be ready to fill.


Then I put the container in the microwave for 20 seconds, and got out a liquid ready for pouring.  It melted really easily and evenly.

Then I poured it in the deodorant container and it filled it almost to the top!  Plus or minus a little spill on the side.  I put it in the fridge because the container was a little hot and I didn't want it to spill.  I chilled it for a few minutes to let it set and left it on the counter while I went about my day.


I came back to look at it and it looks just like a new container of deodorant where you just have to twist the dial and it comes up out and ready to use.


If you don't believe me, check out this post!!

I think that this is more green than frugal but who am I to judge.  It saved money and the environment by not wasting more than we have to.  A new container of deodorant that I use is normally $3.99 but I usually wait until they are on sale for $0.99 and stock up on a few.  Sadly, I only have one spare currently in the cupboard so I am super excited to try out this "new" deodorant and see how it holds up.  It might have saved me until the next time it goes on sale so that I can stock up :)  Worth the few seconds to try if you want to do it once or twice.  I haven't started to put a date on my deodorant so I don't even know how long one container lasts... next on my list :)  Hope this has left you with some good ideas and not questions about my sanity!!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Harris Teeter Shopping Trip 9/26

I was trying to decide to do with all my free time on Wednesday while my son was at school.  I learned that he was going to have a family picnic so we needed to get back to school quicker so I had less time on my hands then I thought. 

I decided to run to Harris Teeter for the first day of the new ad when I saw what was on sale!!!  They had whole chickens on sale for $0.69 per pound.  Last time I stocked up, it was $0.77 per pound and we have been out for awhile.  There was a limit of 4 chickens so I knew that I was going to have to go back to get more since 4 chickens was only going to last us two months if we were lucky.  Of course, now I have to find room in the freezer for this chicken stock up but one issue at a time.  I went to the store and they only had three chickens left.  I went to the meat counter and he said that there were none in the back.  I was sad that I didn't even get to buy my limit of 4 but at least I got a raincheck.

They also have Cheese Its (13.7 oz box) on sale for $1.99!!!!  This is the price that they always used to be when I went to Wegman's but I haven't seen them that low in years.  I grabbed 6 boxes of the reduced fat that my husband likes.  I grabbed 4 boxes of the reduced fat White Cheddar ones that my son LOVES!!!!  Then another 2 of the Scrabble tiles ones (also known as letter Cheese Its at our house).  Yup, if you added that correctly, I got 12 boxes of Cheese-Its.  Sadly, I was also thinking that I should get more!!!

I parked the cart by the check out and grabbed a loaf of bread which was on sale for $0.99.


This might be one of the few times that I go to Harris Teeter and I didn't use even one coupon!!!  I was starting to twitch a little because it is against my nature.  I had to sign the receipt which you have to do whenever it is over $25 which I also haven't had to do in months.  Still overall, a great trip to stock up on a ton of things that we needed.  I think that it will make the family happy to have all those Cheese-Its back in the house :) 

Total OOP $36.95
Total Savings $40.18

Making Peace with the Things in Your Life Book Review

Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It by Cindy Glovinsky was the author's first book.  Since I read the second one already, I reserved the first one at the library determined to read the series.


The best thing that I can say is that I am glad that I read the second book first because I never would have been able to read this book otherwise.  Keep in mind that I was a Psychology and Sociology major in college when you read this post.  It was like reading a text book that I didn't agree with and having no one to discuss it with.  I found it to be the strangest book with very little about cleaning up things.  It was mostly about the psychology behind why you do the things that you do.  I am sure that this is very true that there are reasons for everything that we do but to get all of the knowledge through a book to apply to every person is just impossible.  I couldn't relate to the book and I didn't find it helpful. 

Please let me know if you have read it and feel differently.  Maybe you can help change my mind!!  I wouldn't recommend picking this up at your library or bookstore but more likely to recommend leaving it on the shelf.  I don't think that I have ever said that when reviewing a book because I usually find a redeeming quality but I don't think that there was much in this book except it was good to read before bed because it helped me fall asleep!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Aldi's Shopping Trip

I made the big trip out to Manassas (only about 30 minutes from home for those of you out of towners) on Thursday with my little man in tow.  We went to the resell shop to see if we could take a few things and sell them.  I was partially successful with a grand profit of $6.47 which we quickly spent at a community garage sale this weekend!  I thought the prices at the store were a little high for what I was looking for but overall, a great store. 

Then, we had a quick visit with Aunt Kimmie at work where my son promptly forgot about the sandwich that he promised he was going to eat when Aunt Kimmie offered him cake instead!  He greatly enjoyed more cake then should humanly fit into a little boy including some of mommy's.  When he got to the last bite, he said his tummy was full and he couldn't eat anymore.  Another person that I won't be able to split a dessert with (takes after Grandma).

I decided since we had already used up all our gas for our day of adventures that we would stop at Aldi's and see what deals we couldn't pass up!!  I saw the tortilla chips for $1.19 and thought of my husband's chips and salsa habit with the new Wholly Salsa Roasted Tomato that I got at Harris Teeter.  I figured that the bag wouldn't go to waste.  Then I saw the flour which was cheaper than anywhere else that I had seen it recently (already checked two Wal-marts) so I grabbed two bags and decided to add a third to the pile.  Did I mention that I was carrying this exciting adventure while watching a three year old to make sure that he didn't destroy the store???  Lastly, I saw marshmallows for $0.89 which is lower than the other grocery stores so it went on the top of the pile.


I walked to the check out and of course there was only one check out open and there was a line down the aisle!!  UGH!  I was awkwardly holding over 15 pounds of groceries.  The women behind me were entertained by my little guy being shy and hiding behind my leg while the woman in front of me took pity on me and asked if I wanted to balance my flour on her cart handle.  I declined and worked on building my muscles!  The line moved pretty quickly and I was out the door with my two reusable grocery bags full and only $7.33 OOP.  It seemed like a fortune paid compared to all the groceries that I had been getting at Harris Teeter but Super doubles always messes up my internal calculator on what the groceries are going to cost.  Of course, it was super great prices as always.  I wish I had more arms to look around the store some more but I was glad that I got what I did because we were out of all of them!!!

Salsa Sloppy Joes

Tonight on the menu was Salsa Sloppy Joes with homemade buns.  I have tried so many sloppy joe recipes and my husband likes one and I don't... then I try another which I love and he hates.  I found this one on a blog and I thought that it was probably a loser like the rest but worth the try.  This one did not disappoint!  We both loved them.  There was a lot of flavor and sauce without being overpowering.  The best part is that it was super easy to make.

First, I made the ground beef and used paper towels to get out all the grease. 


Then I got out all the other ingredients- tomato soup, salsa and brown sugar (originally) and then most of the other times I made it with tomato paste mixed with water or tomato sauce.



I poured the salsa in the tomato soup... My family likes the flavor of salsa but not the texture so I blended it in a blender before it was time to make dinner and had it in the fridge.  It is very yummy if you have never tried it to eat with chips and salsa or in salsa sloppy joes!!!



I must admit, I lost a little confidence because it looked a little gross with the tomato soup but I thought it was much better with the tomato paste.  I might have also thought it said one jar of salsa and not one cup so there was a little more salsa in there then called for in the recipe the first time.


Brown sugar came next.  Look, I made a face without even meaning too :)


Stir it all together and you have... SLOPPY JOES!


I wish I had taken a picture of my plate but we had company and it is a little weird to pull out the camera at the table and take pictures of every one's plates... right?  We topped with some sliced mozzarella which got super melty.  We all ate and enjoyed and wish we had room for seconds.  They were great on the homemade buns (pictured below).



I hope that you try this recipe with your family!!  Let me know what you think about it.  Check out the recipe below and the original post from Eat Cake for Dinner (or in this case Sloppy Joes).

Update:  I have made this recipe lots of times since this and not made a special trip to the store to get tomato soup because that is not something we keep in our pantry.  I use tomato paste and add water first and stir.  Then, I add in the blended salsa and stir in water until it is a good consistency.  A lot of the water will cook off but it helps the tomato paste mix out.  After it is combined, I add the brown sugar.  I have also used tomato sauce and that worked out well too.  This is a great recipe to use whatever you have around the house but I highly recommend trying it.  Great to make ahead and freeze!!!

Salsa Sloppy Joes

1 lb ground beef
1 c salsa
Tomato sauce or tomato paste with water (or 1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed tomato soup)
1 1/2- 2 tbsp brown sugar
Hamburger buns

Brown meat in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the salsa, tomato product and brown sugar.  Stir well to combine.  Simmer for 10 minutes (or until it is time for dinner).  Serve on hamburger buns.

***Note: I make these a lot and don't use tomato soup anymore but I use tomato paste and water or tomato sauce (unflavored) depending on what is on hand.  Great to make a double batch and freeze the leftovers.  Also good served over baked potato for something different for lunch the next day!



Monday, September 24, 2012

Menu Plan Monday 9/24



Monday- Rosemary Balsamic Chicken with rice
Tuesday- Chicken Fajita Wraps
Wednesday- Herb and Garlic chicken with herb rice
Thursday- Tacos with corn bread (mexican rice if I have time)
Friday- Olive Oil Pasta with garlic bread or focaccia (if I have enough time to try the new recipe)
Saturday- Leftovers/Pizza Roll
Sunday- BLT sandwiches/Frozen Pizza
This is a super yummy week with a lot of family favorites.  I am hoping to be able to try the new recipe for the herb focaccia  but if not, we are having the old reliable garlic bread.  My parents are heading into town on Thursday so the menu had a little bit of changes but I think that we should be able to accomodate the crazy schedule that always happens when my parents are in town.  I hope that you have a yummy week planned as well!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekly Goals 9/23

I had a busy week but I feel like I really got lots done... of course it was a little too busy.  I did what seemed like a million trips to Harris Teeter Super Doubles (ending on Tuesday).  Then it was time to recover from the fun with cleaning up my freezer and my coupons.  I kept my little guy busy every day which is always super exhusting.  I was planning for a slow week next week but it looks like there is a lot to be done before my parents get here.  Here is hoping for a slow week after this one!!!

This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family- We got spend a quality weekend together doing yard work and cleaning up all of the brush in the back yard.  We took over 20 bags down to the street on Sunday.  We also got to go yard sailing to get some fun toys for my son.  It was lots of fun and entertaining for him at around $9 spent for lots and lots of toys!!
  • Get to Preschool on time- We did a great job making it out of the house on time in the morning and we were at the front of the drop off line all week.
  • Lunch date on Wednesday at the park- We went to the park and had a little confusion because we were at a different playground then our playdate friends but luckily with the help of modern technology (the cell phone), we met up and played for a long time!
  • It might not have been on the list because I thought we were on the wait list but we went to storytime, then to the resale store to sell some of Dylan stuff that we weren't using, and then to see his Aunt at work.  It was a busy day that ended in a nap on the way home :)
Personal Goals
  • Doctor Appointment- I got in and out in under an hour and wasn't rushed to pick up my little man so it was a win-win.
  • Cut coupons- Yeah!  I got the coupons cut and put away by Tuesday which was a little hard because of the busy couponing week.  I tried to stay on top of all of the coupons during super doubles so that things wouldn't get out of hand.  I think that I did okay but I know that there is a little bit of cleanup after super doubles is all over.
  • Get coupons at library- I didn't used to have this on my list but I added it because I forgot last week!!!  UGH!
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- It is almost part of my nightly routine and I have been turning off the computer every night.  It makes sense to do it to save energy and save wear on the computer.  We use laptops and I am not sure what is best for them but I think that it works well to leave them on all day and shut them off when we are sleeping :)
  • I also got my indoor plants repotted, my DVD list updated, took stuff to Salvation Army, checked out two resale stores, and recycled.  I didn't write these on my to do list because I didn't know how much I could fit into my week.  Here is hoping that I know how much that I can fit in next week but I highly doubt.
  • Finish reading Making Peace with the Things in Your Life: Why Your Papers, Books, Clothes, and Other Possessions Keep Overwhelming You and What to Do About It by Cindy Glovinsky- Almost done or given up... not sure which but I will be moving on soon if I don't finish it :)
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I did a great job keeping the kitchen clean which seemed to be a big challenge because it was messy a lot this week!
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I did the dishes on Sunday night so that I would be all set on Monday.  It is a great way to start the morning.  I didn't do the dishes or run the dishwasher on Monday night so Tuesday morning had lots more dishes.  In a small kitchen, the dishes seem to be a much bigger pile so much quicker :)  I finished up the week with getting all the dishes done on Saturday night!!!
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday- Done!  I got lots of posts up ahead of time so I was all set.
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family- Done.  I got lots posted ahead of time and just had a few to work on to get ready for the week.
  • Review book reviews completed during the week- I worked really hard to try to finish the book but it was a busy week with not a lot of reading. Plus the book really wasn't drawing me in but I wrote the post and it should appear next week.
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- I have up posts through the end of the month.  I worked on tons for next week so that I would be ahead!  It is really nice to know that I don't have to worry about the coming week but can work on the next one. I have to get very far ahead because my parents are coming into town for a long weekend which will put me far behind :(
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Posted!!
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with my family
  • Get to Preschool on time
  • Science Storytime on Tuesday
  • Lunch date on Tuesday at the park
Personal Goals
  • Girls Brunch
  • Dentist Appointment
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons at library
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Read new book of choosing
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning
Blog Goals
  • Post one post everyday
  • Make a new recipe and post
  • Do September recipe update for recipes completed this month
  • Schedule at least 7 posts so that can spend more time with family
  • Review book reviews completed during the week
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

    Saturday, September 22, 2012

    Learning to Coupon in 5 Easy Steps!

    I had an old friend (she wasn't old... we have just been friends for 19 years) come to visit the other day and she asked one question about what we were having for dinner which quickly led into how I coupon now (quick trip from anything in my kitchen).  She followed it up with real interest on how it was done.  I showed her two of my under the bed boxes with my stockpile.  I might have forgotten to mention the two on the other side and the small one with the medicine (Sorry Jess).  I didn't show my cereal cupboard, my pantry, my downstairs pantry or the freezer so I was trying my hardest to hold back (especially since she brought her new boyfriend who I hadn't met before and didn't want to make a crazy impression).  I hate to be a coupon pusher but she became my follower that pushed me into double digits so this post is for her (of course, everyone else is welcome to read too)!!  This includes some of my secrets that only my closest couponing friends know.  I learned with lots of bumps along the way with only the help of the internet but now I am here to help :)

    How to Start Couponing in 5 Easy Steps
    (and save lots of money)

    1.  Get the newspaper:  I used to buy the Washington Post (the local paper for this area) at the grocery store in a bag with two.  If you buy one paper, it is $2 but the bag made it $3.  Then I found out it was easier and cheaper for me to work it into CVS transactions and use my CVS ECBs (more on learning the second language of couponing later).  Now, I get the local Fairfax paper from the library which is free and it has coupons in it.  It doesn't have all the coupons that are in the Washington Post but I have two nice friends who keep their papers for me so sometimes I pick up a few extra coupons from them that I don't have otherwise.

    2.  Find information about your local stores:  I used to do most of my grocery shopping at Giant with a few stops at Safeway and Wegman's if they had deals going.  I considered myself a pretty savvy shopper and only bought things when they were on sale.  The first lesson to couponing is that you might be shopping at different stores after you start because not all the stores stack up the same after couponing!!  I do 90% of my shopping at Harris Teeter now.  Don't discount the dollar stores that are now taking coupons too!!

    Here is a link to the states and the National stores like CVS, Target, Wal-Mart and others.

    Since I live in VA, I click on the link to VA and it brings up all the stores in my area and the different bloggers that do matchups for those stores.  She lives close to West Virginia but there isn't much listed for that area that is different that VA except some stores which probably still aren't close to the border.

    Find a few websites that you like the layout and provide information about a few stores that you are interested in and make sure you get their e-mail or check in on their blogs regularly.

    3.  Learn the language:  Seems like the hardest part but of the foreign languages that I have tried to learn, couponing is the easiest.  It might be so much time spent working with the government but it is mostly initials and I found it easy to remember once I started.

    The coupon inserts found in the newspaper have intials

    P&G = Procter & Gamble
    RP = Red Plum
    SS = SmartSource
    GM = General Mills
    Common Coupon Abbreviations:
    $1/1, $1/2, etc. = One dollar off one item, one dollar off two items
    2/$1, 3/$2, etc. = Two items for one dollar, three items for two dollars
    BOGO or B1G1 = Buy one item get one item free (B1G2 = Buy one get two free)  more options available

    Blinkies = coupon dispensers with blinking lights found on the grocery/drugstore aisle
    Cat or Catalina= Catalina coupon, prints from a separate machine when your receipt prints
    DND=
    Do not double
    ECBs = ExtraCare Bucks (CVS "money" back from buying something at CVS)

    FAR = Free after rebate
    IP = Internet printable coupon
    MFR = Manufacturer (sometimes used instead of MQ for Manufacturer's coupon)
    MQ = Manufacturer’s Coupon
    MIR = Mail-in rebate
    OYNO = On your next order
    OOP = Out of pocket
    Peelie = Peel-off coupon found on product packaging
    PSA = Prices Starting At (estimate based on websites or other information available)
    RRs = Register Rewards (Walgreen's "money" back from buying something at Walgreens)

    SCR = Single Check Rebate (Rite Aid monthly rebates program but not used as often anymore)
    Stacking =  Using a manufacturer’s coupon and store coupon on one item

    WYB = When you buy
    YMMV = You mileage may vary (some stores may allow you to do a deal, some may not or they might not have the deal available)


    4.  Organize your coupons and Organize your life:  It might seem a little extreme right now as you are just jumping into it but anyone who has couponed for awhile will tell you that a coupon organization system gone wrong will ruin a quick trip to the store!!  (I hear my mother in law's voice in my head right now with her pile of upcut coupons and her broken coupon basket).

    I use a coupon basket/envelope system.  Here is what it looks like when it is all cleaned up and everything is in the basket.


     Here is the inside with the envelopes.  If you have a really good monitor or computer, you might be able to see in the left hand corner, I have the date and SS written so all my coupons are cut up and in the envelope from that date of Smart Source.  In my envelope, I have grouped my coupons in paper clips by food, refrigerator, freezer, and non-food. 

    Since I have been doing this for awhile, I usually also put the ones that I know that I won't use in the back without a paper clip.  Really, did she just say that she keeps the coupons that she knows that she won't use???  YUP!!!  Sure do!!  I am often asked for coupons from my friends and family and if they are in there, then I can share.  On a more selfish note, I have used those to buy things at a profit before and who wouldn't buy things if they had the coupon and could make a profit!!!


    In the front of the basket, are my other folders which are actually the bottom of old folders that I had from my old job and I cut the top off and down the middle to make two folders.  They are a little worn after three years of hard use so I think that I am going to have to take the packing tape to them to re-enforce them.  I put all of my internet printables here so that I have them at a moments notice as well as any other coupons that I get at the store or through the mail that need to be filed. 

    In the left side of my coupon basket, I have my calculator in the front and my pens in the back.  On the right side, I have my scissors in case I need to cut anything while I am at the store.  I use all of those items lots so it is great that they all fit in my basket so that I have them on hand.

    There are many other systems including the very popular method of coupon binder where the coupons are sorted into baseball card dividers.  I have never done any other system then what I have now so I can't advise well on them but there are tons of websites out there when you do a search that show the different methods in details (which are really interesting) but I found a system that worked and stick with it.

    5.  Plan a trip to the store:  This used to take me a long time so don't get discouraged but after awhile it is something that I can do in a few minutes or on the fly as I am already at the store (sadly missing a few deals for unprinted coupons).  Pick a store that you want to start with and try to search for the deals that are there.  It is sometimes easiest to start with a store that you already shop at so that you already know where things are so you are only focused on the couponing but it is also easy to go to the one with the deals you need the most.

    If you look on a coupon matchup site like Southern Savers, they list their coupons like this:

    Maruchan Yakisoba, 3.79-4.05 oz, at $1.19 (59¢)Manufacturer Coupon -.50/1 Maruchan Yakisoba, SS 8/26
    Manufacturer Coupon -$1/2 Maruchan Yakisoba, SS 8/26
    (use .50/1, makes it FREE)


    Sadly, I got the $1/2 coupon so I will quickly calculate that I could get these but I would be paying $0.09 each.  You would look and say that you might like to try those but you didn't get papers back in August so you are out on that deal.  That passed quickly because you will have your own stockpile of coupons soon enough.  Stay patient and get the deals that you have coupons for or can print them online.

    Often, it helps to start at CVS or Rite Aid because they often use more recent coupons but they have a whole other system to use because you get back "money" from their store that you have to use within a certain time- often 2 weeks for Rite Aid and 4 weeks for CVS. 

    So long story short, this is the time to use your phone a friend and call me!!!  I walked my mother in law through the match ups and the trips to the store and with a few under her belt, she was ready to go out and save on her own!!  I am always available to take trips to the store (which as my cousin and sister in law learned), also means that I provide a few coupons that they might not have as long as they give me the date of the insert to look in my envelope :)


    Other Helpful Hints:



    -Start a price book or use one online like below and update as you find deals in your area:


    -         Determine budget going forward by track spending current spending (rule of thumb is to cut back a little the next month and see if it is any more difficult to maintain).
    -         Find areas in your house to start a stockpile (use under bed, linen closets, laundry room and others).
    -         While at the store, pay close attention to everything ringing up to make sure pricing matches what you thought and all coupons are rang up correctly.
    -         Never leave a store without double checking your receipt and go to customer service with an issues that need to be resolved immediately.
    -         Clean out coupons at the end of each month to make room for new ones.
    -         Start Menu planning based on foods on sale and in stockpile.  I use a free calendar to write down something for every day of the month.  It helps so that you use the things you get :) 
    -         Sign up for Upromise, Saving Star and online saving with store cards to save additional money.

    Please feel free to add any additional tips you think would be helpful to a first time couponer!!!!  We wish you all the luck in this new adventure!!!!!

    Amish Bread Starter

    After reading the Friendship Bread book, I have been wanting to make Amish Friendship bread starter to get started in the process.  I found the starter recipe here which was a post from the book!  All of the instructions are found here on how to take care of the starter for the 10 days and how to make a yummy batch of bread.  My mom brought me some yeast when she came to visit and since it wasn't the yeast for the bread maker, I decided that it was fate that I make the starter (and then of course gift some back to my mom... my mom said that she would prefer a baked loaf of bread so that she doesn't have to do the work.  I laughed!!).

    I finally got around to making it!!  I pulled out the flour and sugar and mixed 1 cup of each in the plastic bowl.  Make sure you don't use a metal bowl to mix the ingredients because it interacts with the yeast.


    Then I measured the 1/4 of warm water and checked the level before adding the package of yeast.


    Then I had all the ingredients waiting for the next step.  The purple bowl with the sugar and flour mixed.  The yeast with water on the left.  The 1 cup of milk on the right waiting the 10 minutes for the yeast to activate.


    I mixed all the ingredients together and then covered the bowl with the lid without sealing it. 


    By a few hours later, it was already foamed up to this frothy mixture.  It almost looks like bread already.


    I have to mix it daily to make sure that everything is still working.  Then on the sixth day, I had to add 1 c flour, sugar and milk.  I have to wait until day 10 to make my first loaf of bread.  I will do another post with the bread and the recipe that I finally decide on!!  If you are local, please let me know if you want me to drop off some starter (and if you don't, you might want to pretend you aren't home).

    Amish Friendship Bread

    Ingredients

    1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
    1/4 cup warm water (110° F/45° C)
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup white sugar
    1 cup milk

    Directions
    1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand 10 minutes.
    2. In a 2-quart glass, plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly with a whisk or fork.
    3. Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture.
    4. Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature until bubbly. Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle. For the next 10 days handle starter according to the instructions for Amish Friendship Bread.
    Kitchen Notes
    The starter should be left at room temperature. Drape loosely with dish towel or plastic wrap. Do not use metal utensils or bowls. If using a sealed Ziploc bag, be sure to let the air out if the bag gets too puffy.
    Also, when you make a starter from scratch, you can sometimes end up with a much greater yield than 4 cups depending on the temperature of your kitchen and eagerness of your starter! If this happens, reserve one cup for baking and divide the remaining batter into Ziploc baggies of 1 cup each to freeze or share with friends.

    To Pass on to Friends

    NOTE: Do not refrigerate starter. It is normal for the batter to rise and ferment. If air gets in the bag, let it out.

    Day 1: Do nothing.
    Day 2: Mash the bag.
    Day 3: Mash the bag.
    Day 4: Mash the bag.
    Day 5: Mash the bag.
    Day 6: Add to the bag: 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk. Mash the bag.
    Day 7: Mash the bag.
    Day 8: Mash the bag.
    Day 9: Mash the bag.
    Day 10: Follow the directions below:
    1. Pour the entire bag into a nonmetal bowl.
    2. Add 1 1/2 cup flour, 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 1/2 cup milk.
    3. Measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each into 4 1-gallon Ziploc bags.
    4. Keep one of the bags for yourself, and give the other bags to 3 friends along with the recipe.
    REMEMBER: Should this recipe not be passed onto a friend on the first day, make sure to tell them which day it is when you present it to them.


    Basic Bread Baking Instructions:
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
    2. To the remaining batter in a bowl add the following:
    a. 3 eggs
    b. 1 cup oil
    c. 1/2 cup milk
    d. 1 cup sugar
    e. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    f. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
    g. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    h. 1/2 teaspoon salt
    i. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    j. 2 cups flour
    k. 1-2 boxes instant pudding (any flavor)
    i. Optional: 1 cup nuts and 1 cup raisins
    3. Grease 2 large loaf pans
    a. In a bowl mix an additional 1/2 cup sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.
    b. Dust the greased pans with the cinnamon-sugar mixture.
    4. Pour the batter evenly into the pans and sprinkle the remaining cinnamon-sugar mixture on the top.
    5. Bake for one hour or until the bread loosens evenly from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Baked Oatmeal Granola

    I have had this recipe saved forever and never made the granola for one reason or another.  No honey or no old fashion oats or no coconut oil.  I decided to finally do it when I saw the 42 oz container of oats on sale for $2.57.  What could be better than a good recipe mixed with a sale :)  Maybe someone to make it for you but I have tested it out and swear it is worth the very little effort it takes to make this yummy treat. 

    I pulled out all the ingredients.  I decided that I would use a canola oil blend instead of coconut oil (even though I am sure it would taste fabulous, it isn't something I keep in my kitchen).  I also decided that I would use half old fashion oats and half quick oats.

    I measured the oats in my super big 4 cup measuring cup.  The quick oats were much more compacted in the container because of the smaller size of the oats.  In case you don't know, basically the quick oats look like the old fashion oats through a blender.


    I mixed the oats in a bowl and set it aside.  Can you see the big old fashion oats in that bowl??


    Then I mixed the canola oil, margarine, honey, and brown sugar on the stove in a small sauce pan.  I stirred and stirred and stirring and it was looking really good but the directions said wait for a low boil which I didn't have yet so I ran upstairs because my husband had fallen asleep with my son again and when I got back downstairs, the whole sauce pan was boiling over!!!  All over the clean stove was the stickiest cooking glue.  I was trying to scrape it off the hot burner with a spatula.  Then my half asleep husband walks into the kitchen after hearing me mumbling and smelling the wonderful smell of burning brown sugar.  He opens the window and squints his eyes at me...probably wishing that I just left him sleeping.  So without the step of boiling over and burning, your sauce should look like this (I highly recommend skipping that step because clean up is a little more involved):


    Take off the heat and add 4 tsp vanilla and two heaping tsp cinnamon (or even more to taste).  Mix the sauce together.  Then, pour the liquid from the saucepan over the oats and stir until combined.  I didn't leave all the oats in the bowl because I didn't want to stir and have them go flying so I mixed and then added some more oats and continued mixing which was really helpful.


    Spread the mixture in three jelly roll pans.  Quick side note:  Do you know the difference between a cookie sheet and a jelly roll pan?  In my house growing up, we only had jelly roll pans and we always called them cookie sheets.  A cookie sheet is flat and doesn't have any sides and the jelly roll pan has four sides and can hold in all the oats so that they don't fall over the sides.  I now have two of both in the house which I actually do use for different things but since this recipe needed three, I used two jelly roll pans and then put my silpat on my cookie sheet and spread out the remaining mixture that I added some raisins to!!!


    Bake at 375 for 10 minutes and then shut off the oven.  Take out the oats and stir them around.  They pretty much look the same and when you put them in which had me a little confused but I was trusting the process.  Put the pans back in the oven and it will cook while the oven is cooling off.

    The next morning, you wake up to find pans of oatmeal in the oven which are perfectly browned.  Doesn't it look yummy???


    The one with the raisins from the cookie sheet with the silpat cooks up a little differently then the rest and I can't figure out what was the changing force- the silpat, the raisins, or being more moist because it was the last at the bottom of the bowl.  I liked it the best of all three pans!!! The pieces came out more solid and you could almost eat it like a granola bar instead of the more cereal texture of the other two pans. A note about the raisins, they were extra chewy so if you want them to still taste like raisins, you might want to follow the recipe suggestions and add them after baking.  I just remember my mom making granola when I was a kid and my favorite part was the hot raisins out of the oven so I had to try it!!


    I couldn't keep my hands out of it.  I ate it for breakfast, snack and lunch.  Then again later for a late night snack.  It is the best thing to have around because it is so much healthier then anything else that I would pick up.  I am going to stock up on oats and make some again soon.  This time I will be less cautious and use more old fashion oats with only a little bit of quick oats to make it a little easier to pick up and eat (I actually had to stop writing and go grab a container of it... thanks for making me talk about it again).

    My biggest recipe note is to make sure that you figure out what you are going to store all of the granola in when you get it all cooked.  I hadn't really thought that far ahead but I ended up storing then in a variety of different Tupperware bowls.  Next time I hope to have worked out the recipe so that the pans taste a little more a like so I am going to be able to put them in one container.  I am hoping the added liquid  from not boiling over will also add to the yummy goodness :)  I highly recommend giving this recipe a try and seeing what your family thinks!!!

    I was going to try the peanut butter one but after making the peanut butter baked oatmeal, my husband informed me that he doesn't really like peanut butter.  This was news to me but I figured better safe than sorry so I made the basic recipe first to test it out.  Plus, I don't know if I could eat all the peanut butter all by myself... of who am I kidding, I could but I don't know it would be that healthy :)

    Test out my recipe and check out the original recipe!  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did :)

    Basic Granola

    1/2 cup canola oil
    1/2 c butter or margarine (can use 1 c coconut oil instead of oil and butter)
    1 cup honey
    3/4 cup brown sugar (feel free to adjust this based on the strength of your sweet tooth)
    4 teaspoons vanilla
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    15 cups (one 42 ounce box) old fashioned oats (can mix with quick oats)

    Mix brown sugar, oil, and honey in a small saucepan.  Bring to a low boil.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cinnamon and vanilla.

    Pour over oats in a large bowl.  Stir until well coated.

    Spread oats in three jelly roll or cookie sheet pans.  Bake at 375° for 10 minutes.  Take out and stir.

    Return pans to oven.  Turn oven off.

    Go to bed and breakfast will be ready for you when you wake up.  (If you prefer to start your granola earlier in the day, it will be ready when your oven cools.)
     
    Notes from original recipe:
    Store granola in an airtight container.  Stick it in the freezer for long-term storage.  (I wouldn’t know anything about that; we eat it too fast.)

    Add ins before baking:
    • chopped walnuts, almonds, pecans
    • shredded coconut
    • sunflower seeds
    Add ins after baking/before serving:
    • raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit
    • dark chocolate or mini chocolate chips (white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips…)
    Granola Variations
    • Pumpkin Pie Granola ~ sub some pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon and add pumpkin puree to the saucepan; toss some pumpkin seeds in with the oats
    • Chocolate Granola  ~ add cocoa powder and chocolate chips; I’d vote for some dried cranberries on top of all that
    • Peanut Butter Granola ~ add a cup of peanut butter (crunchy for me!) and reduce the oil by 1/2; make it a treat with chocolate chips before serving
    • Apple Cinnamon Granola ~ a less sweet version for the sensitive sweet tooth
    • Tropical Granola ~ add coconut before baking, and some dried tropical fruit (pineapple, bananas, mangoes) before serving