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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Meal plan for August 1-7th

I haven't posted a meal plan in forever.  Cause, um, I've been lazy.  Hope the following gives you some inspiration if you're figuring out what to make for yourself!

Monday - hot dogs from the local butcher on homemade hot dog buns, homemade coleslaw, and sweet potato fries.


Tuesday - chicken salad on homemade pretzel rolls (recipe coming soon!), green beans from the garden, and caprese salad.

Wednesday - pasta with browned butter and mizrtha cheese, and a side of zucchini fritters.

Thursday - leftovers.

Friday - chicken pot pie, and a side of whatever is ripe in the garden.

Saturday - N/A.  We're at my cousin Kori's wedding!  Can't wait!

Sunday - N/A.  It's my godson's 2nd birthday party, and then off to my parent's for Sunday dinner.

And just because I feel like you NEED to see photos of a Poppy T Rex, and a cowboy stegasaurus blowing bubbles on a rainy day:



Wednesday, July 27, 2011

It's amazing what you can accomplish when your kid is sick (episode III)

Raspberries.  Cream.  Eggs.  Honey.  Only good things can come from that list.  And on Sunday, I turned those things in to happiness in a bowl.  Creme Brulee.  Mmmm...creamy, fresh, and delicious.

Sarah's Lemon Raspberry Creme Brulee
4 egg yolks from pastured, organic eggs
a pinch of salt
1 tsp of homemade vanilla
1 tbslp of fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 cups of heavy cream
1/3 cup of honey
Raspberries
Evaporated cane juice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small saucepan, mix honey and cream until steaming and hot.  In a separate bowl, mix eggs, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt.  Once the cream mixture is hot, slowly pour it in to the egg mixture, whisking thoroughly as you incorporate the hot liquid.

Place 4 ramekins in a deep baking dish.  Then sprinkle fresh raspberries in the bottom of ramekins

Pour the egg and cream mixture in to each ramekin.  Pour very hot water in to the pan, and make sure the water goes midway up the side of the ramekins.
Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard is set.  Place ramekins in to the fridge, and cool thoroughly.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1.5 tsp of evaporated organic cane juice on top, and using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar.  Don't have a kitchen torch?  Place it on the top rack of your oven under the broiler - watch carefully!

YUM!  I would have taken a photo of us eating this, but I couldn't spare my hands to use the camera, least someone try and steal my dessert at the dinner table.  I needed 1 hand for my spoon, and the other hand for my stabbing fork.  Stabbing forks are key in successful home dessert defense strategy.

This has been posted to Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, and Food Renegade.

Do you guys want the bestest tip EVER?

This has nothing to do with being frugal or living "green", but I swear it's the best tip I've ever received regarding work stuff.  Someone in IT gave me this tip back in 2002 when I worked for the House of Representatives, and it's still applicable today.

If you're in a position at work where you respond to many of the same emails throughout the say (signing up for events, sending invoices, etc., etc.,) THIS is the tip for you.  Many people who send the same email day in and day out, keep the template for that email in a separate Word document.  No longer my friends, no longer.

In Outlook, find where "Signatures" are stored.  Typically they're under Tools and Mail Options.  Select "create new" signature and copy and paste your template response in to a new signature.  Leave blanks or "x" if you need to fill in personalized data later (names, time, date, etc.,).

The next time you get an email pertaining to this topic, rather than open a Word document and copy and paste, simply hit "reply" and then select the appropriate signature.  It will populate right in the body of the email.  Voila.

I once attended a global training for my last company in Spain.  There were about 40 of us recruiters there for a 3 day training.  Somehow this tip came up and within minutes, I was leading a training on how to do it.  The feedback the event organizers received was that in the whole 3 days of training, my signature tip was the most useful.  Go me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's amazing what you can accomplish when your kid is sick (episode II)

After spending $2 a jar for pizza sauce that wasn't even that great, nor was it organic, I realized that making my own might be a better way to go...

And then I realized how easy and cheap it was to make and I want to kick myself for buying those stupid jars for so long.

Now I make a huge batch of this every few months and always have it on hand.

Pizza Sauce
5 cans of organic tomato paste (Costco carries 12 packs for under $5)
1/4 cup of raw honey
A bunch of minced garlic
Dried basil, oregano, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and rosemary to taste
Water


Mix the tomato paste, honey, garlic, and spices.  Slowly add water and stir until it reaches your desired consistency.  Let the bowl sit on the counter for 30-60 minutes until the flavors have had a chance to mellow and meld.

And just so we're "keeping it real", this is what the rest of my dining room table looked like while taking the 1st photo.
 Freeze in 1 cup portions.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's amazing what you can accomplish when your kid is sick (episode I)

TV is not something that Jack is afforded very often.  But when he's feeling sickly and pathetic, I can't really force him to jump around and play outside.  Let's just say that Jack has probably watched more movies/TV this weekend, than in the last year combined.

When you have a kiddo that isn't a snuggler and is acting like a little slug on your couch, what do you do to kill some time?  You bake.  And cook.  A lot.  My freezer runneth over.

One of the things I made this weekend was a huge batch of pita bread and some feta dip.  YUM!

Pita Bread
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.  Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack while the oven is warming up.


Make a batch of my homemade bread dough, and follow the directions through the 1st rise.  On a lightly floured surface, take small balls of the dough and roll them flat.

If you are rolling them out all at once, make sure you are flouring each pita very well!
Place 3-4 pitas on the hot pizza stone and bake on the bottom rack.  Bake for about 4 minutes on 1 side, and then about 2 minutes on the other side.
Man that is 1 dirty oven!  Let's um, just say it was the previous tenant's fault...
Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Then, do yourself a favor and make this dip.

Turn this in to a meal with some cooked and shredded chicken and thinly sliced onions.  Gyros - yum!

Inspiration for the snack came from Soule Momma.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The feel better popsicle

My mother-in-law noticed that Jack was feeling kind of lousy on Thursday.  By Friday it had turned in a 103.5 kind of lousy.  Poor pudding has been Mr. Pathetic ever since.  He was so sad and miserable that when I asked him what would make him feel better and he said "to watch The Incwedibles mommy", I threw my frugalness out of the window.  I found myself running to 2 stores at rush hour and paying full price just for a movie that Jack watched for 30 minutes.  Sigh.

Something you can do to make your kiddo feel better (and let's face it your significant other because men are candy asses when it comes to being sick) that doesn't cost a lot is to whip up a batch of homemade popsicles.

I found these fun popsicle molds at TJ Maxx for $4 a few months ago, and have been anxious to try them out.   I dare say that Jack was quite impressed considering he took one lick, smiled, and said "wow".

Momma's Feel Better Popsicles
-1 ripe organic mango, cut in to chunks.  (a side note, the reason that frozen mango is so expensive is because it is WORTH IT.  Mango is a pain in the ass to cut).
-1 cup of organic raspberries
-A drizzle of honey
-1/2 cup of juice.  (optional.  I had a little bit of cherry juice left in my fridge that I had to use up)
-1/3 cup of refrigerated coconut milk (we use So Delicious).

Place all ingredients in to a food processor or blender, and process until smooth.  Put in popsicle molds and freeze overnight.  Give to the poor little sicky in your life.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Glass half-full Mondays

A former co-worker used to call me Pollyanna for my annoying habit to put a positive spin on nearly anything.  I'll admit that in the last 18+ months, I've had some dark, dark days.  I've had some days where I was more like Pollyanna post falling out of the tree, and just wanted lie around in my bed and mope.

But no longer my friends!  I can't do that to myself, and it accomplished only two things - jack and shit (not Jack as in my son though...).

With all the bad luck we've had since April of 2010, we've also been incredibly blessed at the same time.  This past week, I was doing some serious yard work in the sun, wind, and rain.  After dumping the 4,287th load of weeds, I walked back towards the garden all of the sudden, I felt my throat catch a bit.  The garden looked so beautiful, and I was beyond proud of how all my hard work took it from 5 foot high weeds, to a thing to be admired.  I realized then that there are lovely blessings in my life, and it is time I gave thanks where thanks is due for them. 

This week:  Troy got word from the ambulance company, that after only 1 week of working there, they wanted to offer him a full-time position!  The pay and the schedule isn't great, but my positive spin on this is that Troy is able to be employed in the field where he wants to be.  And for the first time in ages, our family's income will be 100% free of unemployment benefits!!!!

So, I would invite you to join me in "Glass Half-full Mondays".  Feel free to post a comment on what you are thankful for this week.  If you need a little help, post something wonky in your life, and I'll put on my rose colored glasses and help you find the positive in it.  I'm pretty good at it!  Ask my friend who sleep training her daughter and is probably ready to beat me for my cheery attitude.  xoxo Elaina!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Healthified Southern Sweet tea (said in my best drawl)

It's healthified.  And bonafied (O'Brother Where Art Thou anyone...?), and :gasp: made by a yankee?

Ohhhh if looks could kill!*
My wonderful brother-in-law Scott, is from Huntington, West Virgina.  Huntingon was made infamous by Jamie Oliver in his first season of the Food Revolution.  Huntington, WV is statistically known as the fattest town in America.  Considering my brother-in-law is a fit and trim member of the US Navy, there are some people from Huntington who don't follow statistics.

Well, one thing that all southern boys love is sweet tea.  And southern boys from the "fattest town in America" demand it SWEET.  Scott has been vocal that sweet tea in the Seattle area is neither sweet enough, or "tea-y" enough.  I set out to prove that not only can a crunchy granola yankee chick make sweet tea, she can make it healthier and still taste great!

I consulted the internet.  2 cups of sugar per pitcher was pretty standard.  No thanks.

I asked a good friend from Louisiana who has always raved about her Mississippi granny's sweet tea.  Apparently them southern grannies don't write down recipes, nor do they care to share them!  The only tip I received from my friend was "you want it sweet enough for your lips to stick together" and "you have to add the sugar while the water is boiling".  I chose to only follow the second piece of advice...

About 2 weeks ago, we had a belated father's day BBQ for my father-in-law.  Knowing my brother-in-law would be present, I chose to debut my customized recipe at the feast.  Brother-in-law's reaction after taking a drink?  "Yep.  That's it".  SCORE!

I've now made about 10 batches of this because Troy will drink it instead of soda (a MAJOR win in this house).  It's fast, it's easy, and it's cheap!  And it is a hell of a lot healthier than granny's recipe.

Southern Style Sweet Tea, with a Dirty-Hippy Twist
Ingredients
1 large family size tea bag.  I've been using Mighty Leaf organic because they sent me that wonderful giftbox.  (Any tea will do, but a black or green tea seems to work best.  Don't have family style bags?  Use 7 small tea bags).
1/3 cup of raw honey
4 cups of water - boiling
4 cups of water - cold (or use ice)

And the secret ingredient is...

1/8 tsp baking soda!!!! 

Directions
In a saucepan, boil 4 cups of water.  While bringing the water up to a rolling boil, add 1/3 cup of honey and 1/8 tsp of baking soda.  Stir well.

Once the water has reached it's boiling point, add the tea bags.  Remove pan from heat, and cover.  Let steep 15 minutes.

Remove tea bags from pot without squeezing them, and pour contents in to a glass pitcher.  Add 4 cups of cold water and place in fridge until properly "iced".  If you'd like to serve immediately, fill up the pitcher with ice cubes.

Steeping the tea bags for 15 minutes will give you the desired "tea-y" flavor.  The baking soda cuts out the bitterness from letting it steep for so long.

Our preferred way of enjoying this is 3/4 tea, and 1/4 lemonade.  'Palmer style bitches!

Regardless of the tea and honey you use, you're looking at about $1 per pitcher.  Compare that to about $4 for a 12 pack of pop, and you're banking some savings!

*Fun fact - Vivianne Leigh who played the most famous southern woman in the world was actually British!  Scandalous at the time.  Well, we sure got those Brits back by letting skinny little Renee Zellweger play the most famously plump British women in the world.

This has been posted on Monday Mania, Traditional Tuesdays, Frugal Tip Tuesdays, Real Food WednesdaysSimple Lives Thursdays, and Pennywise Platter Thursdays.

Friday, July 15, 2011

So, what's next?

I took this entire previous week off of work to recharge, get caught up on 1,349 projects around the house, and to try and get some snuggles from Jack.  That toddler of mine is a selective snuggle bunny.

I've thought a lot about the blog this week, but just had so much on my plate (literally.  I did A LOT of cooking!) that I didn't have a chance to post until now.  Part of what I've been thinking about is what is my "identity" of this blog?  Should I talk about my family, or being frugal, or healthy and frugal cooking?  After trying to fit myself in to many niches, I've decided to just talk about all 3!  I don't fit in to a category in real life, so why should I in my virtual life?

So, what's next?  Who knows...it's up to you!  I'd like to pose this question to you: what would you like to read more of?  Do you want more recipes?  More cheap/free things to do with kids?  More tips on how to feed a family real quality food on a budget while working full time?  I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment if you'd like to make a suggestion on future posts!

Just to get your creative juices flowing, here are a few ideas I've thought of that I'll be posting on in the next few weeks:
-batch/freezer cooking.  I've now done it.  I love it.  You will too.
-my garden: before and after photos.
-"our" new house: before and after photos.
-water kefir soda
-a healthier recipe for "sweet tea"
-a fun craft that I did with Jack yesterday that cost $0.
-a series of my top 10 favorite EASY, frugal, healthy, and fast recipes

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chocolate banana freezer pie

I spent 10 minutes licking my computer screen after seeing this recipe on the Nourishing Gourmet.

Crust:
1 cup of almonds
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil

Pie Filling:
5 bananas
1 cup of full fat coconut milk
½ cup of cocoa powder
1 teaspoons vanilla (trying making your own!)

1)    Toast the almonds in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until browned and fragrant. Place in a food processor with the butter and honey. Blend until finely ground. Push evenly into the bottom of a greased 8 inch springform pan, or pie pan.  I've made this twice.  One time I toasted the almonds, and the other time I got lazy and didn't.  I couldn't tell a huge difference in the overall taste, so I vote go the lazy route and don't toast them!

2)    Rinse out the food processor and add the pie filling ingredients to it. Blend until quite smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour over pie crust and freeze until well set (at least 4 hours).

3)    Use a very sharp knife to cut into pieces. Can let sit for about 20 minutes to soften it up a bit. For presentation and added flavor, top with sliced bananas, sliced almonds, or chocolate shavings.
Mine isn't as pretty as the original recipe, but it tasted like something that convince Ghandi to give up fasting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tea winner!

Lucky # 16 - Lindsey.

Lindsey please contact me at beingfrugalbychoiceblog@gmail.com to give me your full name and address.  Mighty Leaf will send you the tea extravaganza directly!

Congrats!!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A day in the life

Wake up, got out of bed, ran a comb across my head...nothing like a Beatles reference to start a post, eh?

When Troy and I lived in Los Angeles, we loved to ride our bikes around the neighborhood and go to open houses.  We lived in a teeny tiny apartment in a really nice neighborhood, so it was fun to see how the "other half" lived.  We'd stash our bikes out of sight of the house, I'd fluff my helmet hair, and we'd walk around the open house proclaiming things like "ONLY 6 bathrooms...we'd really prefer 7.5 at the least".  We weren't fooling anyone in our Old Navy, Target, and Goodwill outfits, but oh it was a blast!

So, what does insight does it give you, the reader of this blog?  It's that I'm nosey.  I like to see how other people live.  If you're in the same boat, I welcome you to take a peak at what a typical day in my life looks like.  I've chosen a day where Troy isn't home in the evening because he is at his (unpaid) internship, because that is indeed a typical day for us!

4:45 am:  awake!  Getting up at a time when only fishermen, bakers, and meth addicts are awake isn't so bad in the summer when it is light.  During the late fall and winter, it blows.  Send a good morning text to a friend who is on Eastern time.

4:45 - 5:10 am: shower, hair, make up, etc.  Side note: I can get ready faster than most men in the morning!

5:10  - 5:30 am: stumble in to the kitchen to pour Jack's coconut milk in to a sippy, see what needs to be thrown in to the crockpot, taken out of the freezer, etc., etc., for dinner tonight.  I make sure my work bag and Jack's diaper bag are squared away, and get stuff out for my smoothies.

5:30 am:  I wake up Troy and then we wake up Jack.  After a quick trip to the potty for Jack, Troy and my boy head down to the basement to play with toys and get in to all kinds of fun mischief.  I finish tidying up the house, get dressed, load the car, etc.,

6 - 6:35 am:  commute to my aunt's house.

6:35 - 6:45 am:  drop Jack off, visit with aunt and uncle.

6:45 - 7 am: commute to work.

7 am - 5 pm: work, work, snack, meetings, work, work, internet, eat, work, committee meetings, work, snack. 

5 - 6:05 pm:  Return to my aunt's, visit, haul Jack and his crap in to the car, and commute home.

6:05 - 7:15 (ish) pm:  cook dinner, feed Jack, bath, naked time (for Jack!!!!) snuggles, books, stories, and bed.

7:15 - 8:00 (ish) pm: clean up from dinner (pack leftovers for lunches tomorrow), prep for dinner tomorrow, and work on special food projects (make yogurt, granola, soak beans, water kefir (that is another post for another day!), etc., etc.).  Now that we have internet, I'll watch some TV via hulu playing on the laptop on the kitchen counter.
You know why food bloggers always take gorgeous up-close photos of their food?  Cause they don't want to show you what the rest of their kitchen looks like. 
 8-8:15 (ish): (occasionally) write blog post, and schedule it to post for the next morning.

8:15 - ???: work in the garden - spread mulch, pull some of the 76,209 weeds that are awaiting my attention, stake tomatoes, plant new stuff, tear old stuff out, etc.

9 ish: depending on how dirty I got in the garden, I'll take a shower.  If no shower is needed, then I'll typically watch a little TV, work on a knitting project, surf the web, etc.

9:30-10 pm: depending on the day I've had, I get, fall, or crawl to bed.

Variations: if Troy is home, I will typically work out for 40 minutes after the kitchen is cleaned up and dinner for the next day is prepped.  If I get nice and sweaty and need a shower, I'll probably then head out to the garden to get even dirtier!

Weekends: I sleep in until about 5:30 am ish, and then get my butt in gear.  Jack's nap time always finds me batch cooking, bread baking, or cleaning.  Now that Jack is older and we let him watch a bit of TV, a 45 min Dinosaur Train DVD is a lovely distraction to let me get some other crap done!

If Troy actually happens to be home on the weekend, he and Jack typically spend the afternoon playing, going to the library, getting in to trouble, etc., while I work on kitchen projects.

So, how about you dear reader?  What is a day in the life like for you?

Also, check out the awesome tea giveaway I have going on.

This is posted at Traditional Tuesdays, Simple Lives Thursdays, and Pennywise Platter Thursday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

An independence holiday greeting the way only a rambunctious 2 year old can do it!

Considering I only taught him this on Thursday, I think he has it down pretty good! Please note, the version I taught him did not include head-butting, or a French accent for "under god".
video
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