Sunday, March 31, 2013

Weekly Goals 3/31

This week was Spring break and I had lots of things planned to do and the plans were turned upside down with snow on the first day or Spring Break which was quickly followed by my flat tire.  We missed a lot of fun things on Monday because they were cancelled and then the next day that we spent at the car dealership getting new tires.  We tried to fit in as many things as possible in the week since we were still having a little sadness that there wasn't any school to play with our friends (and give Mommy her break to get other things done).  I hope that you had a great and productive week!!

Last Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family- We had a great week ending with a wonderful three day weekend with trips to oil change for my husbands truck, hair cut for little man, and easter egg hunt.  Lots of quality time :)  Now we all need a vacation (or at least a nap)!!
  • Sea creature storytime and activities at the library- Cancelled because of the snow :(
  • Legos at the library- We got to go even though there was snow because it wasn't cancelled.  My little man spent most of the time playing with cars and still had a blast.
  • Magic Show at the library- Cancelled because of the snow :(
  • Bilingual storytime- We ended up in car dealership instead getting new tires and didn't make it out in time to go there.
  • We got to play at a friends house after spending our morning at the car dealership
  • Frogs and Toads- We learned lots about frogs and toads and even got to see them at this fun event but it was really crowded so there wasn't a lot of room to move or time for each kid.  We went to the playground in the freezing cold afterwards to play for a little bit after picking out our books and movies at the library.
  • Storytime and activities- We got to hear stories about eggs and easter and then we got a take home playdough egg, chick sticker,and bunny lollipop.
  • Learn to read storytime- We really enjoyed this and made a spider and they sent us home with a free book!!
  • Get hair cut for Daddy and little man- We got to add this to the list this week so both of them have new haircuts.  Can't say the same for Mommy but that doesn't happen nearly as often as the other two get their haircut.
  • Take Daddy's car to get an oil change-  This was super funny for everyone because we got doughnuts, there was a play room and Mommy got hot tea.  It was hard to get Dylan to leave.  I asked Bryan if we could go there everyday!!  I want a Toyota just for the waiting room.  It was so much easier to have a little one at the dealership with the area to play, toys, television with Sprout TV, and not to mention doughnuts which my little guy decided he loved the glazed ones!!
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- Down to only three inserts and then I get two more from the newspapers on Friday so my total is back up to 5 but I hope to get some more cutting done on Sunday.  I sorted one set of papers from this weekend but didn't finish cutting before dinner time. 
  • Get coupons at library on Friday- With the holiday and my husband not working, I am still confused that it is Friday but I remembered at the last minute to grab my papers.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I wasn't working on the computer as much at night and forgot to shut it off one night but I made up by shutting it off during the day and giving it a rest.
  • Physical therapy appointment- They cancelled both appointments so I am loosing interest in trying to rearrange my schedule to try to do PT.  I think that I need to try another idea on how to deal with the pain in my jaw since my next appointment isn't until April 10th!!
  • Finish reading Potshot- Read and posted review
  • Start reading Widow's Walk- Read and posted review
  • Read lots of books this week and posted all of the reviews and updated the monthly and yearly listing to cross off the books that were read.
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- I did lots of cooking and cleaning this week.  I had so many things that I had to make so there was a lot of cleaning up to do :)  One day, I was making spaghetti sauce, loaf of bread, and nutella oat cookies.  The next day, I was making applesauce bread, pizza dough and then dessert.  Followed by some easy mini cinnamon rolls for Saturday breakfast.  It seems like there was a lot of things to cook to make enough for the family to eat which was quickly eaten and on to the next.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- I watched the 10 pm tv shows in the kitchen while washing the dishes so that I could have everything cleaned up for the next morning.  I have tried cleaning up while I was cooking on most days but the kitchen seems to have still been mostly messy all week.
Blog Goals

  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- Done
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done and way too much read this week!!!  Oh my goodness!!!
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Posted
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Posted and done
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family for our Easter celebration
  • Brunch at a friends house for Easter
  • On the Farm storytime
  • Preschool storytime
  • Mommy's day at preschool on Saturday
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons on Friday
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Ultrasound of thyroid
  • Finish reading Zero Waste Lifestyle
  • Start reading Bad Business and Back Story
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 (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

The Holiday Feeling Book Review

That Holiday Feeling: Silver Bells\The Perfect Holiday\Under the Christmas Tree by Sherryl Woods, Debbie Macomber and Robyn Carr is a book with three short stories from three great authors.  It was next in the list of the Robyn Carr books so I picked it to reserve at the library after I finished the last one of her books!
The first story was "Silver Bells" by Debbie Macomber.  It was about Carrie Weston who lived in an apartment complex with a bunch of quirky neighbors.  Her newest neighbors were Phillip with his daughter Mackenzie.  Mackenzie and Carrie quickly became friends since Carrie had gone through a divorce and some of the same things that Mackenzie.  Mackenzie decides that Carrie is the perfect wife for her Dad and decides to try to set them up.  They are both against the idea but end up falling for each other.
The second story was "The Perfect Holiday" by Sherryl Woods.  Savannah and daughter Hannah move to a small Vermont town from their lives in Florida.  Hannah is enjoying her first white Christmas and making snow angels and snowmen while Savannah is having a lot of trouble getting over her divorce and dealing with tight finances.  They have just moved into her late Aunt Mae's inn and have a lot of work to do in order to get it up to being able to rent it out.  During their planning, a unexpected guest shows up, bachelor Trace Franklin who came to the inn to fulfill a promise to Mae.
The third story was ""Under the Christmas Tree" by Robyn Carr.  It was about a box of puppies that was left under the town Christmas tree when they were too young to be away from their mother.  David, three year old son of Jack, the bar owner, finds one.  Annie saves the rest with her quick thinking to bring them inside and warm them up against her body.  Jack calls the local vet, Nate, to come and look at the animals.  Annie expects the local vet who she has know all her life but in walks his son who is handsome and wonderful.  Annie and Nate meet up every night for dinner and taking care of the puppies.  Before long, the puppies get to be too big to stay in the bar so Nate offers to bring them back to his house and Annie makes her nightly stop there to help take care of them.  They quickly become more than just friends!!
All three stories were great.  It gives you a nice snap shot of all of the authors so that you can check out more of the other authors but they are all over too quickly.  I like to have a little longer with the characters and get to know them but each story was a wonderful love story and gave you lots of fun adventures!  I hope that you check it out and see if you like the writing style of any of the authors!!  I know that I have another author to check out soon since I don't think that I have read anything from Sherryl Woods yet.  Hoping to not put them on my list yet since I need to get a few more checked off of my current list first :)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cheesy Garlic Pizza Bites

I saw this recipe awhile ago and saved it because it looked like the perfect last minute dinner!  I love all the recipes at Mommy Hates Cooking so I was sure that I was going to love this one as well!!  I was planning on making some oven fried zucchini, tater tots, sweet potato fries, chicken crescent rolls and some other snack type foods so that we could sit down and watch a movie and eat our neat snacks.  The plan didn't work out that way because we didn't get to start dinner early enough and we were all kind of full from a busy day of snacking but I really hope to do it next time!!

I got out everything that I needed to make the cheesy garlic pizza bites per the recipe.

I started with the biscuit mix because I knew that I didn't have a lot left and I was thinking that I might have to cut the recipe in half but I had just enough to make the recipe so it was fate!!  I love my homemade biscuit mix so much because it makes the biscuits so light and fluffy but it takes powdered milk and that isn't something that I normally keep at home so I am going to have to try another recipe soon to see if it will be as good as my previous recipe.

Then, I started cutting the pepperoni into really small pieces.  I cut them in quarters and then three or four times more to make them really little because I figured that it would spread the flavor out more through the biscuits.

The original recipe called for Colby Jack cheese but we didn't have any so we went with the cheddar cheese because we had lots of that from the previous sale at Harris Teeter where I stocked up.

I added the cheese and pepperoni to the bowl with the baking mix and a stroke of inspiration struck!  I just cooked some sausage that morning which was still in the refrigerator.  I added a 1/4 of pepperoni and 1/4 of sausage to the biscuit mix.  Then, I added the water and mixed it all together.  I love cooking large amounts of sausage and throwing it in the freezer because it perfect for these type of recipes where you wouldn't normally add it because it is too much hassle to cook it first but when you do all the work upfront, you just pull a little bit out of the freezer and you are good to go!!

When it was mixed,  it made a nice dough which wasn't too watery or too thick.  Normally, I need to add a little more biscuit mix or water because it never turns out so perfectly but this was great.  It all came together in a big ball.

I measured the butter into the measuring cup and melted it in the microwave (so happy to have a microwave and not have to do it on the stove).  I know that sounds super lazy but it is really much nicer to throw the container in the dishwasher and not have another pot to wash!!

I measured out the spices to add to the butter mixture.

I spooned the dough into small balls on the greased cookie sheet.  Then I coated the top of the biscuits with a little of the seasoned butter with a small pastry brush.

I baked them for a little over 15 minutes until they were browned.  When I took them out, I brushed the top with some more of the butter mixture.

I put them all on a serving plate and we sat down to dip them in some yummy sausage sauce that was leftover from dinner the other night!!!  Perfect use for the leftover sauce instead of opening a new one :)

Check them out up close!  Doesn't it make you want to taste them??  They were light and fluffy and super flavorful.  I wanted to eat them all so quickly but I tried to take my time and share with everyone else.  They made lots of extra and I was thinking about freezing them so that we could enjoy them at another time as a snack or lunch. 

These would be great for a snack or a meal and super easy to pull together.  I wish that I had more biscuit mix because I would make some and freeze them for later.  They would be perfect for a batch of freezer cooking.  I hope that you check out the original recipe and try some yourself!!

Cheesy Garlic Pizza Bites

 Pizza Bites:
·                         4 Cups Regular Baking Mix or Gluten Free Baking Mix (see link in post)
·                         1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
·                         1/2 Cup Pepperoni (cut into small size pieces) and 1/2 cup ground sausage
·                         1 1/3 Cup Water
·                         1/2 Cup Melted Butter
·                         1 Tsp Garlic Powder
·                         1/4 Tsp Salt
·                         1/8 Tsp Onion Powder
·                         1/8 Tsp Dried Parsley
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, combine the baking mix, cheese, pepperoni, and water. Mix this well until the dough has formed.
Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray. Then, drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto the greased pan about 2 inches apart.

Combine all glaze ingredients. Brush with butter topping on the biscuits.

Bake these in the oven for 15-20 minutes (based on size).
Note- If you are doing gluten free, these take about 20 minutes to bake, check to be sure they are done inside by using a toothpick and testing to see if any dough comes out on the toothpick.
As soon as they come out of the oven, top each one with a small amount of butter glaze.
Serve with pizza sauce for dipping.

Hip Girls Guide to Homemaking Book Review

The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking: Decorating, Dining, and the Gratifying Pleasures of Self-Sufficiency--on a... by Kate Payne was sitting in the new book section when I went to the library.  I looked at it once before and passed it over and thought that if it caught my attention again that I should probably grab it.

The book goes over different areas of the home and how you can do things frugally to improve or make a home.  The book is broken down into three parts with chapters under each dividing all of the information.  Here are the parts:

Part 1  Room by Room Guide to a Homey House, Homie
Part 2  Impressive Acts of Domesticity: Do Try This at Home
Part 3  Life After Restaurants

Do you want to learn how to make bookcases or make the back of the bookcase look nice so that you can use it as a room divider?  Do you want to know how to sew or hang a picture?  Do you want to learn how to make bread or can?  This book can and will help.  If you already know how to do these things, this book is still an interesting read to see the different ways to make your life more frugal.

It was a quick read and well worth the time.  I am not sure if there was anything that I learned for my own life because I don't live in an apartment anymore and I have a little more space.  I think that it would be a perfect book for those in a big city who are stuck in a small apartment and have to make the most of it or anyone just starting out.  It gives a lot of basic instruction like how to sew and other household tips and many young people aren't learning anymore in school.  Way back in the day (hahaha) when I was in school, we had to take home ec and learn to sew by hand and with a machine.  We also had to learn to bake a cake and make dinner.  I can't say enough for how important it is that we teach our children the basics of taking care of themselves when they move out and start their own life.  Here is hoping that this helps all those who didn't learn it at home or school :)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Paradise Valley Book Review

Paradise Valley (Virgin River Novels) by Robyn Carr is the seventh book in the series.  These books are so quick to read that I usually finish them in 24 hours but this one was a little longer with a really busy weekend and family in town. 

In this book, there are a lot of the characters that you already know that you get to know more.  Rick, who joined the Marines out of high school, was wounded on the battlefield.  Jack, his friend and father figure, and Liz, his girlfriend, leave as soon as they hear for Germany.  They find that he was badly injured and had his leg amputated but they were just excited that he wasn't dead.  Dan Brady, the former weed grower, moves to Virgin River to start over after being in jail for three months.  He starts working for Paul's construction company and tries to get the people in the town to trust him.  Abby, Vanni's flight attendant friend, comes to town to try to rest and let her friend know that she is pregnant with twins.  However, she quickly learns that it is going to change her life forever because she runs into the father of her children, Dr. Cameron Michaels, who she had a one night stand with.  There are many twists and turns for all of the characters that have you laughing and crying.
I have really enjoyed the Virgin River series and already have the next two books coming in at the library to pick up today.  I limit myself to two books so that I can start other books in between.  I know that I have my plate full for a little while longer with the rest of the series...even if I read one book a day!!!  I hope that you check it out and see what characters are your favorite!!

Simplified Fried Rice

By far the easiest recipe you will ever make!!  It also happens to be one of the tastiest!!

Start by melting butter in the pan and adding rice to the pan.  Stir on a low heat until the rice starts to brown.  It turns white and then brown and very quickly to burnt.  Feel free to brown for awhile but make sure it doesn't burn (at least that much but a little won't hurt it).

Turn to simmer and add the chicken broth (or broth of your choice).  Cook covered for 20 minutes or until broth is absorbed.

It is very flavorful (especially this batch since I used my homemade chicken broth).

I hope that you try it for yourself soon.  You won't be disappointed.  I made this one with a nice sweet and sour stir fry.  Stay tuned for the super easy and frugal stir fry recipe!!

Simplified Fried Rice

2 tbsp butter or margarine
1 c white rice
2 c chicken broth (or any other broth)

Melt butter in skillet.  Add rice and cook until browns, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  Reduce to simmer and add the chicken broth.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Serve alone or with a yummy stir fry.

Shared on Homemade Mondays

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thrifty Thursday: Chinese food?!

Isn't take out Chinese food a little expensive to be listed as something frugal to do on Thrifty Thursday??  Probably but that is not what I am suggesting :)  How about a little homemade Chinese food or stir fry??  Super easy to make and use can use all the things that you already have around the house!!  What do you think of this pan of sweet and sour chicken?

I used cubed chicken that I already had in the freezer which was the end of the chicken that didn't make it into the chicken tender bags.  I defrosted it overnight and it was ready to go.  I started by breading the chicken in corn starch.  If that isn't something you have around the house, you can use flour or a baking mix.  If you don't have any of those things, just use the chicken.  The "breading" just gives a little more surface area for the sauce to stick to.

Heat some oil in a pan and add the breaded chicken.  Lower the heat to cook at medium high heat.  Flip chicken when it is starting to brown or when you see the chicken start to get white around the outside.  Cook until all of the chicken is browned on both sides and cooked through.  Turn the heat down to simmer.

Open a small can of pineapple with juice.  Add the amount of pineapple to the pan that works for your family.  My husband doesn't like the pineapple warm/hot/cooked so I leave a little on the side for him to eat cold.  Obviously, you can add the whole can if you family loves it as much as I do!!  The only thing better is the pineapple on the grill!! YUM!!!!  Sorry, I got off track... back to the recipe.

Are you ready for this next step??  I used the packages of duck sauce from all of the leftover Chinese food that we have sitting in the fridge?  Do you keep all the packets that you have ever had?  Well, I do!  I used all of the soy sauce to make fried rice but I still had a pile of duck sauce and I wasn't sure what to do with it.  I added package after package until the chicken was coated.  The duck sauce started to thicken too quickly so I added pineapple juice whenever that happened.  It makes it sweet and thins out the sauce.

The final dish was super easy and super cheap.  Served with a side of simplified fried rice which I will post the recipe for soon, it was a great and flavorful meal using ingredients around the house for under $5.  I highly recommend trying this dish because of the flavor and not just the cost :) 

Take a look around your house and make a pile of the things that you need to use up in the next month.  Start to get creative!!  Do you have anything around your house that needs to be used up??  I went through the pantry and found a bunch of ingredients to make spaghetti sauce so that is next on my list so that nothing in the house goes to waste.  Take a look at the things that you aren't using and see if you can find a use for them!!  I promise that it will be fun and might be really tasty :)

Shared on Homemade Mondays

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cereal Granola Bars

I was searching around the blog world and saw this recipe for cereal granola bars on In Cindy's Kitchen.  I was determined that I was going to make them and not just save the recipe forever.  I had all the ingredients in the house and we needed a yummy snack.  Since we were running low on eggs, I thought this was the best solution for a snack that was also a treat.  I pulled out all the ingredients and measured everything out before I went to pick my son up from school. 

I thought that it would be a nice cooking activity for us to do together (especially if all the measuring was out of the way).  I put away everything that was already measured so that little hands didn't dig through the boxes.

When we got home, I melted the butter in the pot and my little guy add the marshmallows (after taste testing a few for himself).

After everything melted, my little guy added the honey.  I scrapped out the measuring cup a little for what didn't come out.  I did use non-stick spray on the measuring cup first so most of it did come out.  Can you see my sunglasses on the counter?  We really did just walk in the door and he was straight to the kitchen to start cooking.

I removed the pan from heat and I dumped in the cereal and then the chocolate.

I lined the jelly roll pan lined with parchment paper and greased it with the butter left on the butter wrapper.

Then, I used the butter wrapper to press the bars into the pan.  They didn't have a lot of M & Ms on top and I thought my son would like them if that had a few so I pressed a few on the top.

I cut them into bars and squares.

I put them into the container and reused the parchment paper to separate the layers so that they wouldn't stick together.  Isn't that neat?  I love not wasting the expensive parchment paper.

Final review, I really enjoyed them.  If I was making them just for me, I would not use the M & Ms.  It is a little too much chocolate for me.  I don't like the idea of chocolate and raisins so I would try it with just raisins or dried cranberries next time but I knew that my husband and son would not be interested in those two options.  I think that my son liked the chocolate better than the whole bar and picked out all of the chocolate just like he eats the store bought granola bars.  My husband seemed averse to the coconut but didn't saw why he wasn't a big fan of them.  I like them but it is a huge portion to make for just me, even though this is half of the original recipe.  I hope that your family likes them but matching lots of different tastes is hard unless you mix the toppings in after the fact.  I hope that you do try them and let me know what you think!!!

Below is the recipe that I followed and please check out the original post for how Cindy made them too!!

Cereal Cookie Bars

4 1/2 cups crisp rice cereal
3 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup cornflakes

1/2 cup flaked coconut
1 packages miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup M&M's

In a large bowl, combine the cereal, oats, cornflakes and coconut; set aside.

In a large saucepan, cook and stir the marshmallows and butter over low heat until melted and smooth. Stir in honey. Remove from heat.  Pour cereal mixture into pot; stir until coated. Stir in chocolate chips and M&Ms. If you don't want any melting, cool for 5 minutes prior.

Press into greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. (jelly roll) pan.  (I lined with parchment and greased with butter package)  Press down mixture with butter wrapper or greased plastic bag.

Cool for 30 minutes before cutting. If not patient, refrigerate and then cut!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Temptation Ridge Book Review

Temptation Ridge (Virgin River Novels) by Robyn Carr is the sixth book in the Virgin River series.  I am starting to freak out a little because there are only 20 books in the series and at the rate that I am reading them, I could be done at the end of the month (or maybe next month given how long the library takes to get them in).  I started this book last night and read through most of the night and finished this afternoon.  Have you ever seen someone excited to get somewhere early because they can sit and read?  Well, that was me today.  I was hoping to bake a loaf of English Muffin bread but instead I read my book.  Oh well, can't have everything and I really enjoyed it.
In this book, Luke comes into town to fix up some cabins that he bought years ago and learns a lot along the way.  He takes loads of trash out of the cabins and starts cleaning up the main house for him to stay in while learning a little bit about the town.  He instantly feels at home and a sense of brotherhood with the Marines in town since his is former Army.  He also falls for a girl, Shelby, who he tries to talk out of a relationship with him. 
During the remodel job, he finds a homeless person, Art, staying in the last cabin.  Luke brings him food and finds out that he is a down syndrome man who has run away from his halfway house because the person at his job punched him and gave him a black eye.  Luke cleans him all up and gives him a place to stay and a job.  After a few months of no one looking for Art, Luke decides to do a little research to find out where he came from and what he could do to make sure that Art was taken care of.
There are many of the main characters back again for you to get to know more about including Walt, retired Army widow, who falls for his neighbor and movie star, Muriel.  Dr. Cameron meets a woman, Abby (who says her name is Brandy) in the bar who happens to be friends with Vanni (his former love interest) and they have a one night stand.  Doc Mullins has a serious medical issue that everyone in the town turns out to help.  There is a bus crash and 18 children have to be saved from the bus that was over the edge of the road and the whole town chips in to help.
I enjoyed this book (as I have all of the other Robyn Carr books) which should be obvious since I couldn't put it down.  I highly recommend all of the books in Robyn's series because they are moving stories about people finding love.  I don't know how she works all the characters together so wonderfully but there is always another character popping up that is linked into the town as a whole.  It is a great series and a great book.  If you are looking for a love story with a mix of heart break and happiness, this is the book series to try out.  A great read any time!!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hugger Mugger Book Review

Hugger Mugger (Spenser) by Robert Parker is the next book in the Spenser series.  This was sitting on my shelf because my mother handed it to me when she finished it.  I am really glad that I had the next book ready to go after finishing the last Spenser novel with the added benefit of not waiting at the library.  The great thing is that this is a paper back book too so I can read it at night without it being too heavy and carry it anywhere in my bag to be ready at a moments notice to read!!

This book is about a horse named Hugger Mugger.  Spenser is hired to find out who is killing other horses in the stable and make sure that nothing happens to Hugger Mugger.  The security people are not happy finding out that someone has been hired from outside the operation and Spenser works on trying to find out more information about the family and all those who could be involved.  When the father who hired Spenser was killed, Spenser is fired.  He goes home and works on other cases.  The wife of the man comes back to Boston to hire Spenser to prove her son should get some of the inheritance because he was a legal heir to the Clive family fortune. 

As always, there are many twists and turns in uncovering the truth.  The end was a little strange because it seemed like the book just ended where the other books have a resolution and they talk a little more about the ending but it was still a good book.  I love to read the Robert Parker series and this book was no exception.  The difference was this book was centered only on Spenser and not on the list of other characters that he usually deals with.  I hope that you read this book and other Robert Parker novels because they are great stories and have great characters.

Menu Plan Monday 3/25

Monday- Chicken and Rice Casserole
Tuesday- Chicken Fajita Wraps
Wednesday- Taco Rice
Thursday- Sausage Pasta
Friday- Homemade Pizza
Saturday- Leftovers/ Grilled Cheese
Sunday- Brunch with friends/????

Here is to another week of the the easy meals.  I am trying to get creative but nothing is popping up.  Luckily, planned meals are better than no meals so we will just go with that and work on my cookbook reading for next month to make some yummy new dishes!  Of course, they will have to be chicken since that is about all I have in the freezer now :)  It is a great thing to be stocked up but kind of limiting when I am trying to come up with new meals.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekly Goals 3/24

Do you know when you get behind and you just decide to put those things away like they don't need to be done?  Well, that is what I did with my coupons.  I just put them off and put them off and now I am so behind and I haven't stopped to take the time to cut them.  After getting the papers on Friday, I had 7 piles of inserts!!  Yup, 7 to try to catch up with and I still didn't put it at the top of my to do list.  I finally cut three inserts on Saturday night to try to pretend that I was getting it done.  I couldn't do any more since three is exhausting enough since I have over 20 copies of the papers.  Here is hope that I get them all cut next week and get my coupons all cleaned up!!!

This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family including grandparents- We had a great weekend with grandma and grandpa and then a busy week with everything else going on. Of course, every week with an over active 4 year old is a long week.
  • Get to preschool on time- It was a busy week and we were on time every day for school.  On Friday, we got there early so that I could drop my little man in a friends car and run to physical therapy.
  • Kidscience at the library- We had a great time cutting up fruits to see the seeds and getting our take home bag to plant our grass seed.  We met up with a friend after and played at the park.
  • Playdate at the house with a friend- We had a friend come over and the guys played great together and my little guy cried when his friend had to leave.
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons- I cut the coupons that I needed to this week but still have more to catch up on which I hope to do on Sunday to start off the week right.
  • Get coupons at library on Friday- I went to my new locaion and got all of my papers.  Super excited to not have to fight with the papers at the library since I found another place to get them.
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy- I had it off a lot this week but the computer fan still ran high a little this week so I guess I need to work on it more.
  • Finish reading Paradise Valley- I finished it and then moved on to three other books not next in line after a quick trip to the library had me walking out with a huge pile of new books.
  • Start reading Potshot (and Widow's Walk)- I started to read Potshot and made a lot of progress on Saturday but I have to finish it next week.  I will be going on to read Widow's Walk next.
  • Go to Doctor to check for sinus and ear infection and check up
  • Go to Physical therapy evaluation and first PT appointment
Home Management Goals
  • Clean dishes, counters and floors at least 5 days of the week- Another week of a super messy kitchen and I don't feel like I have done a lot of cooking and baking but I must have because the counters are constantly dirty and in need of cleaning.
  • Clean dishes one night and not wait until the morning- This week is a little bit of a blur and I am not sure what night had what happening.  I ran the dishwasher a few nights and got the kitchen cleaned up before I went to bed but I can't really remember if I got all the dishes in the sink washed.
Blog Goals

  • Post one post everyday (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)- Done
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)- Done and all book reviews are scheduled
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week- Done but need to work on Thrifty Thursday post for next week so hoping to get some time to sit down and get some ideas.
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip- Done
This Week:

Family Goals
  • Spend time with family
  • Sea creature storytime and activities at the library
  • Legos at the library
  • Magic Show at the library
  • Bilingual storytime
Personal Goals
  • Cut coupons
  • Get coupons at library on Friday
  • Shut off computer 6 nights to save energy
  • Physical therapy appointment
  • Finish reading Potshot
  • Start reading Widow's Walk
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 (schedule 7 posts so that can spend more time with family)
  • Review book reviews completed during the week (if done)
  • Work on a few posts to work ahead for the coming week
  • Post Weekly Goals, Menu Plan Monday, and Thrifty Thursday Tip

A Good Yarn Book Review

A Good Yarn (Blossom Street) by Debbie Macomber is the second in the Blossom Street series.  I read the first and I really wanted to try out the second one.  I was at the library one day and it was on the shelf.  I picked it up and I had to hold off for a little bit since I was in the middle of my previous book.  I finished that and decided that I should read this before it was due back to the library.  I got in one day under the wire so that I can return it tomorrow. 

This book has a different character telling each chapter.  The great thing is that the story goes on and you get a little of each person's perspective of what is happening.  The book starts off with Lydia Hoffman, the owner of the Good Yarn store who starts a knitting class to make socks.  The group of unlikely friends all sign up for the class.  First, Elisa Beaumont is a retired librarian who lost her savings when she invested in a new house and the company went bankrupt.  She is living with her daughter and trying to find purpose for the new chapter in her life.  Second, Bethanne Hamlin is recently divorced and trying to pick up the pieces of her life and support her two children without any income.  The women in the group help her decide what to do with the rest of her life while her husband has gone to live with the woman that he was cheating on her with.  Third, Courtney Pulaniski is a high school senior who moved in with her grandmother over the summer so that her father could take a job in Brazil.  She is dealing with the death of her mother a few years prior and the weight gain that she put on during her grief, all while starting at a new school.  After a rocky start, all three ladies become close friends.

I love the way that Debbie Macomber tells a story and really brings you into all of the characters lives.  It makes me understand and feel like I am in the middle of the friendships of all of their ladies.  I highly recommend this and all the other books in the Blossom Street series (I am sure her other books are good too but I haven't tried them out yet!!)  Let me know if you have any recommendations on what series to work on next :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Homemade Cheese It Crackers

I decided today to make cheese crackers which have been on my list for a long time.  I really wanted to make cookies but I knew that I was destined to eat half of the cookie dough so I decided that crackers were a much safer bet!  I told my mom that I made crackers and she said that I was a little over the top.

I don't know what was holding me back for so long because these were easy to make.  I am not the best at my cheese grating skills (and have been known to grate my nail or finger) but luckily I was able to grate the block of cheese without a problem.

It made a really thick dough which came together really easily.  Mixing the cheese with the butter and shortening.  Then, adding the flour.  Lastly, we added 2 tbsp of water and the dough was quick to form.

I put together all the dough and patted it into two small discs.  Then, I left it in the fridge to cool.  I didn't have plastic wrap so I wrapped the bottom one in non stick aluminum foil and then put the other on top and put them in a sealed container.

Afterwards, I took the dough out and rolled it out with a rolling pin on parchment paper.  I would have done it on the silpat but I was making rolls at the same time and they were on the silpats.  I wasn't sure how thick to roll it but I went until I couldn't roll anymore.

Then, I cut the dough with my new pastry cutter.  I got it just so that I could make crackers (yup, what a horrible thing to admit to).  I know that might be another ones of those kitchen gadget addictions but it was a birthday present and anyone who knows me knows that I love to get kitchen gadgets for any holiday.  So they were happy giving it to me and I was happy to get an excuse to finally make crackers.  If you don't have a neat pastry cutter, you can use a pizza cutter or a knife but it made it so pretty.  Of course, it probably means that you won't want to make them as often because you don't have a new pastry cutter starring out of the drawer at you :)

Then, I separated out the individual crackers and put them on the parchment paper on the cookie sheet.  I used the cake tester to make little holes in the middle or you could use a toothpick.

I added a little salt to the top before they cooked so that they would be just like the store bought cheese crackers.

The final product was about 100 crackers of various sizes since I am new at the pastry cutter.  They were all equally tasty!!  Check out how pretty they are when they are all toasted and brown.

They are really light and flaky with very little work.  It was super hard to get a picture of the layers but hopefully you can see them

I really suggest that you try this recipe sometime soon when you have an extra block of cheese in your refrigerator because you will be amazed at how quickly you can have crackers from one block of cheese and just how tasty they are.  The challenge now is to make sure that you save some for your family and friends to try too!!!

Homemade Cheese It Crackers

·        8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
·        3 Tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature
·        1 Tablespoon vegetable shortening*
·        ½ teaspoon salt
·        1 cup flour
·        2 Tablespoons ice water
·        Coarse salt for sprinkling

* The original recipe calls for 4Tablespoons of butter. I used 1 Tablespoon of shortening to help with the crisping. Whatever method you choose just be sure to monitor those last few minutes of baking as these will burn easily. There is a very fine line between done and crisp and overdone and burnt,


Combine cheese, butter, shortening, and salt in the bowl of your mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. The mixture will be crumbly.

Slowly add flour and then the ice water. You may add a few more drops of water to help it come together but be careful not to add too much. You don’t want a wet dough.

Pat the dough into 2 discs and wrap in plastic wrap (or anything else that will seal) and chill for at least 30 minutes (or longer).

Preheat oven to 375F.

Using parchment paper or a silicone mat roll each disc to 1/8 inch or less and cut into 1 inch squares (a pastry wheel or pizza wheel is easiest). Use a toothpick or cake tester to punch a hole into the center of each square.

Separate and place on baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.  If you have difficulty separating and transferring the crackers onto the baking sheet return the parchment paper/mat to the refrigerator for 10 minutes.  Top each cracker with salt (if desired) before baking.

Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until puffed and browning around the edges. If you pull them out too soon and the crackers don’t have the desired crispiness you want then simply return them to the oven for 2-3 more minutes.

Move crackers to a cooling rack. Makes about 7 dozen crackers. Store in sealed container if they last that long.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hush Money Book Review

Hush Money (Spenser Mysteries) by Robert B. Parker was the next in the Spenser series that I had on my list.  It was the 26th book in the series.  I can't believe that I only have 12 books left after this one!!
In this book, Spenser is working two cases pro bono (how does he make money to live when most of his cases he doesn't get paid??).  The first is a favor for Hawk to help figure out why a college professor didn't get tenure.  This seems to involve the fact that he is black but conservative and possibly gay.  It is a hard road but Spenser reveals the truth.  The second is a favor for Susan to help her friend KC identify and loose a stalker.  During the process, KC hits on Spenser and starts stalking him. 

Spenser worked both cases at the same time resulting in upsetting many people.  His car was blown up and thugs came to his office to threaten him.  He stuck it out through the cases and resolved both of them.  He likes a good fight and likes to see cases until the end. 

I thought that this was good book although not really the best Robert Parker book that I have read.  It added some interesting layers to both Hawk and Susan with them reacting in ways that they have never done in the past books.  I would recommend it especially because I like reading the books in order from start to finish.  It was a great pathway to the next book.

All that being said, I couldn't pass up picking up the next book in the series immediately.  I know that I am going to read through the Spenser series and be really sorry when it is over.  Especially since I have already finished the Sunny Randall series and the Jesse Stone series.  I can't wait to find out what mess Spenser gets himself into next!!!  I hope that you pick up a book and check it out for yourself :)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Harris Teeter Trip

My mother and I went to Harris Teeter and I got a chance to take advantage of the Saturday special of the Cottonelle 12 pack toilet paper for $5.97 each (limit 2 per card).  The crazy part is the regular price is $10.15!!  Can you believe it?? 

I had all my coupons in hand and was super excited that the Cottonelle sale was at the same time at the Cottonelle coupon because that doesn't happen very often.  I was really surprised to see that the store still had stock since it was the end of the day.  Everything was coming together for the fastest trip to Harris Teeter ever :)

I grabbed 6 12 packs from the shelf!!  I bought two on my card.  My mom bought two on her card and we bought the last two on my mother in laws card.  I know that I am stocked for a long time now and super excited that I got such a good price even if it wasn't my lowest possible stock up price.  Obviously by the fact that we were almost out, my stock up price really hasn't been available in awhile.  Most of my months budget went out the door in this trip but I hope it will last for the rest of the year!!
Total OOP $10.28 x 3= $30.84
Total Savings $10.56 x 3= $31.68

Thrifty Thursday: Cheaper to make or buy??

I was trying to figure out if making things homemade was cheaper than buying them at the store.  My husband always makes fun of me because I refuse to buy store bought bread when I can just throw it in the bread machine and 3 hours later- a miracle happens and we have a loaf of hot bread.  He used to really like soft store bought bread but I have worked really hard on my recipe and I think that he is starting to really like the homemade stuff too.  But the question remains, is it really cheaper?

A loaf of store brand white sandwich bread is between $0.99 and $1.87 at most of the stores around here.  I am sure this is one of those things that varies around the country but I hope that most people are getting a similar price.

On the other hand, making a loaf of my sandwich bread uses the following ingredients:

3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 envelope (about 2¼ teaspoons) instant yeast

I have a hard time figuring out the price of these items but I know that I have a range from the shelf price to the sale price with coupons on what I pay for things.  For example, bread flour is usually $3.99 for a 5 lb bag but I got over 10 bags for $1.97.  The other thing is to figure out how many cups are in the 5 pound bag.  I am assuming that I get 17.5 cups of flour from each bag (based on some number from the internet).  I don't usually pay for butter or salt with sales and coupons.  The honey was a gift from my parents so the high price is totally made up because I don't know how much it would cost or how far the big jar would last.

                       Low       High
Bread flour     $0.39     $0.80
Milk               $0.00     $0.25
Water            $0.00     $0.00
Butter            $0.00     $0.06
Honey           $0.00     $0.12
Salt               $0.00     $0.00
Yeast            $0.19     $0.25

Total             $0.58     $1.48

With the low prices, it only costs me $0.58 to make a loaf of bread.  That is a super great price on a healthy loaf of bread.  That is a nice price because just in case I don't have free butter or milk that week, adding in just one more item at cost will still keep the price under $0.99 per loaf.  The bonus is that I am making my family something fresh without preservatives at that price.

On the high side, the cost would be $1.48 which really isn't bad for on demand fresh, healthy bread but maybe higher than I would be able to buy at the store some days.

This was a really valuable exercise for me because I didn't really know which was cheaper.  Of course that doesn't bring into account the cost of a bread machine but I have had mine for years.  Plus, I use it for making pizza dough and other items.

I hope that you take a minute to figure out if what you are doing is saving money for your family.  It helps to figure out where you can save money and what things aren't helping you save.  How much does it cost you to buy bread at the store?  How much does it cost to make it?