Friday, March 16, 2012

Cowboy Stew – Since my Mother In Law Has Requested It

I grew up here in Texas. I also grew up eating Cowboy Stew. This is a great easy dish that is great when the weather is cold, and I also enjoy it when it is hot. In other words, there is pretty much never a time that I would turn this down. (Unless I just ate. I mean, I don’t want to make a pig out of myself!)

So, because my mother in law has requested that I write this recipe down for her for ages, here is how you make Cowboy Stew!
The first this that you need to do is brown the ground beef.

While the beef is browning, chop the onion and bell pepper. After draining any fat that you want to remove (by using ground sirloin you can actually skip that step) add the bell pepper and onion.

Now is the time to open the canned items and drain them.
If you have a tabby named Trouble, the can opener will serve as her cue to make a holy racket. (In case you were wondering, she happens to think that anything you open is for her – I’m not sure where she got the idea, but she never misses an opportunity to tell me)

Once everything is drained, add it all to the pot. This is also the point that you may realize that you should have used a bigger pot. You may also debate with yourself the merits of changing pots and adding to the dishes that need to be done.

Now peel, chop and boil the potatoes in another pot. This does two things – it allows you to drain part of the starch off and to not wait forever for the potatoes to cook in the stew.

Once the potatoes are soft, drain them and add them to the stew. Simmer for a bit more for the flavors to meld and enjoy!

Cowboy Stew

2 pounds of ground sirloin
1 bell pepper (diced)
1 onion (chopped)
4 potatoes (peeled, chopped)
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with green chilies) (drained)
2 cans kidney beans (drained)
1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
1 can green beans (drained)
1 can carrots (drained)
2 tablespoons garlic salt

Brown the ground beef and drain off excess fat. Sautee onion and bell pepper in pan with ground beef. Once the onion and bell pepper are saut̩ed, add garlic salt, and all other ingredients Рexcept potatoes. Set stew to simmer. Boil potatoes in separate pot. Once the potatoes are soft, drain the excess water and add to the stew. Simmer an additional 15 minutes with all ingredients and then enjoy!



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Slice a Bell Pepper Without Screaming

Slicing a bell pepper is another of those tasks that can take forever if you don’t know the trick. Luckily, I do know it and so will you!

1: Hold the bell pepper up on its end and slice off the side.

2: Rotate and repeat until all of the yummy green parts are off and the nasty seeds and membrane remain attached to the stem.

3: Toss those and chop or slice to your heart’s content!

When I’m chopping the peppers, I slice the sides into strips first and then chop the strips.

I know that this is a short post, but it really is just that easy to do. It makes my life easier and dinner come together faster for all sorts of dishes. Plus, the clean up is so much easier than if you have membrane and seeds all over the place.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Easiest Way to Peel an Onion Ever In the History of the World

It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I truly feel that this is the easiest way to get into an onion in the world.

It’s super simple:

1: Slice off both end of the onion.

2: Slice through the top layer of the onion and pull back.

3: Pull the outer layer off of the onion.

See – it really is that simple! Now you can slice it any way that you want. My most common next step is to cut it in half from top to bottom (end to end). Then I am free to slice and chop the onion any way that I want to!

Another handy little tip for dealing with onions is to keep a glass of water near by. If the onion starts to make your eyes water, simply take a drink of the water. Having the water up in front of your eyes actually clears up that burning feeling. And you should never have to cry over dinner!

I hope that helps!



Monday, March 12, 2012

She Just Paid How Much?

This Saturday was wet, rainy, and just generally gloomy. The bright side of that was that Hubby was off of work so we were able to spend the time together. Before the rain started, Hubby worked on getting our soon to be garden ready (he has huge plans for growing food – I’ll keep you posted!) and I worked on cleaning the kitchen. The down side of saving lots of money by cooking all the time is that the kitchen always seems to be a mess. Someday soon I will get all caught up on everything and my house will look amazing. Well, a girl can dream, right?

After the rain started, we became kind of useless. You know how it goes – the rain is falling, it’s nice and gray outside, and you hear that pitter patter on the roof. Useless. We were both about to fall asleep in the middle of the afternoon. We finally pried our sleepy selves up off the couch and went into town to run some errands. We had to pick up cat food (Trouble really lets us have it when we get low) and Hubby needed a couple of things from Target. By the way, Target is just about one of my favorite stores ever!!! Every time that I go there I have to take extra time and look through all of the clearance sections. It is a great place to find great gifts for friends and family at a great price.

After we had gone through and gotten out loot (including makeup for me, new sneakers on clearance for me, and a super fun messenger bag for $2.50 on clearance for me too!) we went to wait to get checked out. All of the lines were pretty busy so we ended up in line behind a woman that had a ton of stuff. Finally it was all rung up and we heard her total: $362.74. I nearly fainted. I looked at Hubby and I swear that my eyes had to have been bugged out in disbelief. My total, in case you were wondering, was $19.32.

Hearing that total really got me thinking. She had a bunch of frozen and convenience style foods in her cart, and I didn’t really see the makings of a decorating makeover. That means that this total came mostly from food. I don’t spend that much on food in a month. By buying ingredients and shopping around for the best prices on specific items, you can have great food, great meals, and still have money left to pay everything else that life requires.

So I’m going to keep posting about how I do things to save as much money as possible and afford to have a great life on a reasonable budget. And by that I mean that I’m going to try and be better about posting. Sorry, but there is nothing like getting your brain broken in the checkout line at Target to get you motivated to share your tips and tricks!


Friday, March 2, 2012

From Boneless Ribs to Pork-cicles

One of my favorite things about shopping for groceries is finding good deals – especially on meat. There are plenty of times that we have had new cuts of meat just because I found it on sale. It’s a great way to save money and to try new things.

Sometimes when I find meat on sale, I tend to get little bit more than we can eat at one time. After all, it is just me and Hubby and even though we have healthy appetites we can only eat so much. I mean come on, I want to loose weight, not gain it. (Side note – one way to loose weight and live a healthy life is to cook your own food. You know what all is in it and you save so much money.) When I go a little overboard on the purchasing, I break the meat out of the packages that it came in (because they are useless when freezing things) and freeze them in easy to access portions.

For these boneless pork ribs, I first pulled out all three packages and the bag that I planned to freeze them in. I decided to freeze them all in one gallon sized freezer bag because each package made one row when placed in there flatly. The bag held all three rows and they will still be easy to break apart to thaw and cook. Or I could just thaw them all when we have friends over and make a super big meal. Not that I’m planning anything – THIS IS NOT A PARTY ANNOUNCEMENT! (Whew – had to put that in there!)

So that is how I freeze boneless ribs to take up as little space as possible and still be accessible to thaw and cook. Lining them up allows me to only pull out what I want instead of letting them freeze into a giant block of pork. Delicious, but not practical.

I hope that helps anyone and I’ll be sure to share my tips for freezing other types of meat!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

It’s All Just a Little Bit of Cookery Repeating

We all have leftovers sitting around that we don’t really want to eat. You know the ones – it’s something that you are tired of, or the sides that you ate with it are gone, or even it just plain doesn’t sound good today.

Today I have the story of pulled pork that got some new life as tacos. I know that it sounds like a strange idea, but sometimes you can take parts of a previous meal and re-work them into something completely different. The easiest things to do this with are meats, but plain rice and past can be worked over for new meals too.

The first thing I did was to pull the pulled port apart even more. It was still in some pretty large pieces and needed to be thinned out just a bit. This makes it much easier to get a better coating of sauce on the meat.

Doesn’t that look nice? Now we need to make up the sauce a bit. Just put plain barbeque sauce into a sauce pan (what a handy title for a pan to put sauce in!) and add garlic salt and hot sauce. Hubby LOVES Sriracha. Loves it. He puts it in all sorts of stuff when I’m not looking. Like creamy chicken ramen soup. Weirdo. (I love you Hubby!) Anyway, after you add the garlic salt, add some hot sauce of your choosing until you reach the level of pain…I mean spice that you prefer.

Then add the pulled pork and stir until combined and heated throughout.

Now get out your tortillas, add some pork, grated cheese, and sliced avocado and ta-da! Another dinner from one that you already cooked! Not only do you have a great meal with little effort, but you aren’t wasting something that you already have (and thusly saving money)!

This was such a big hit with Hubby that he is already requesting it again.

Hope that you enjoy it too!


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monday Meal Deal

Yesterday was that most unfortunate day of the week: Monday. It comes after every Sunday and brings with it a return to work and school, traffic, and any of the stress that you were able to dodge during the weekend. Even when you don’t work full time, you can always tell when it is Monday.

After a Monday that is every bit a Monday, sometimes the last thing that you want to do is come home from work and cook dinner. That is where this deal comes in:

Cotton Patch $6.99 Chicken Fried Chick or Chicken Fried Steak

This is only available on Monday nights, and only for dine-in. Hubby and I both got this deal and water to drink and were out for less than $20.00 even after tipping. An additional score is that I always split my chicken fried steak in half when I first get it (gravy on the side so that it won’t get soggy) and then split it again and place each ¼ of the original on a roll. Boom. Sandwiches for lunch the next day! For anyone keeping track, that means that a $6.99 dish makes two meals. A great deal any way you look at it!


Monday, February 20, 2012

My Weekend Deals (and kinda steals)

Hubby never worries when I tell him that I’ve been shopping. In fact, he knows that usually it means that there is more food in the kitchen. What can I say – I’m predictable. This weekend I found a few deals worth sharing that are still going on.

Great Clips $6.99 Haircut Sale

This sale started last weekend but is going until this Friday (02.24.12). If you usually just stop in somewhere for a haircut instead of religiously visiting the same stylist – this is a deal for you! There may be a little bit of a wait because of all of the other people trying to get the same deal, but at this price for a quick trim, it is worth the little bit extra time!


Every Sunday, I love reading the circular from Target. If you don’t get a newspaper (I don’t, but my mom does) you can always view the weekly deals online. Target had a couple of features this week that I took advantage of. And by a couple, I really mean three. The first one was a five pound box of Cuties for $4.99. These are great for a little snack or for part of a bagged lunch. The second was sort of a double deal for me. They have several pet items listed for $10.99 each – with an additional $5.00 gift card if you buy two of the participating products. I bought two 35 pound containers of kitty litter (oh trust me – it will get used) which were $1.00 off of the regular price each and then the $5.00 gift card. Total kitty litter savings: $7.00. Woo hoo! The last deal that I took part is was $5.00 for a Dr. Seuss book. I got Green Eggs and Ham. I know that we don’t have kids (yet) but when our friends bring theirs over it is nice to have a few things to help entertain them!

Pizza Hut $10 Meal Box

I spent Sunday morning hanging out with my mom and younger sister. After little sis left, we realized that the morning was becoming the afternoon and we needed to think about lunch. Cue a very well timed commercial for Pizza Hut’s new $10 Meal box and we had an idea. We called in the order and went in to pick it up (it’s always cheaper to pick up!) The box includes a rectangular one topping pizza, breadsticks with marinara, and cinnamon sticks with icing. In a word – yum. In more words than that – it was a great size for both of us and even left enough for my mom to have for dinner last night or lunch today.

So those are the deals that I took advantage of this weekend. I could have shopped for more groceries, but I stayed in on Saturday and cleaned. I mean really cleaned. As in lots of laundry and a super clean bathroom kind of cleaned. But who wants to hear about my bathroom anyway?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Introduction of Chaos

There are some times in life that go more smoothly than others. And then there are times when chaos is the dominating feature of life. Lately, no matter how hard I have tried, it seems that chaos has taken over my home. I am behind in pretty much all of my housework and it is driving me a little bit of crazy.

This weekend, the plan is to try and catch up on some things while Hubby is at work. I love it when he is home on the weekend and at night, but it is always easier for me to clean while he is out. Since we both work, that can occasionally help introduce that chaos. While I have still been cooking (that means that I’m caught up on cleaning the dishes) I am way behind in laundry. Part of that is from changing out the dryer hose and connection the outside of the house. Nothing is quite like doing laundry and having all of the lint fluff come out of a hole into the laundry room.

So wish me luck, and I promise that I’ll be better about posting once me new camera comes in! I want to take lots of pictures to post here and my iPhone just isn’t cutting it. And just so you know, I ordered the camera with rewards points. So I’m still being accountable for my spending.

Wishing you a happy weekend!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentines Day Dinner: Fast and Impressive for More Time with Hubby

I used to work in a restaurant and remember times that we were still on a wait when we were supposed to be closed. One of the worst nights of the year was Valentines Day. Because of that experience and the desire not to spend the entire night waiting to eat (Hubby gets hungry and then he gets grumpy), I usually opt instead to cook at home.

On that same note, it is one of those nights that you don’t want to spend the entire night cooking. It is always good to have a few meals up your sleeve that are quick to put together but still tasty and impressive. Last night was one of those nights and one of those meals. I made baked Salmon Filets and Cheese Tortellini in Alfredo with Peas and Diced Tomatoes.

I know, it sounds really impressive. This is such a simple meal because it is just assembly. Today I’m not going to go into detail on the Salmon but will tell you how I put together the tortellini.

Tortellini in Alfredo

2 packages refrigerated tortellini
1 jar of Alfredo sauce
1 can of English peas, drained
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained

Set water on to boil for the tortellini per package instructions. In a sauce pan, combine the peas, tomatoes and Alfredo and simmer. Once the tortellini is cooked, drain, return to pot, and combine with sauce mixture.

See, simple right? It is really pretty tasty and super simple. It is a great dish for those nights that you don’t really want to cook and is much better (and cheaper) than takeout.



Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weekend Review: Well, at least Weekend Gloss Over

This weekend was a whole lot of craziness and is the reason that I haven not posted since last Wednesday. You know when you have plans that you want to avoid to the point that you would rather the work week last forever than have the weekend come? Yeah, one of those. Ok, well that was just one of our plans – the other big ones were nice.

Saturday morning was best described as a big bowl of awkward with a side of guilt and ridicule. I’ll just leave it at that and say that I was sorry that it ended up that way and I’m glad that it’s over.

The rest of the day Saturday was really pretty nice and spent running errands with Hubby. I swear, today is that day that I’m going to order a decent small camera so that I can take pictures when we are out and about. Right now my options are to either use my iPhone (which lets be honest – not the very best camera out there) or carry around my good camera and look like a tourist at Target. Neither is a very attractive option.

Sunday was nice. Really. It was. If you don’t believe me then why are you still reading this? Hubby and I went to my mom’s for breakfast with my sister (waffles and berries – so good!) and later in the day we went to Hubby’s parents’ house for Christmas. Yes, Christmas was on February 12 and it snowed here so all we did was wait for winter to finally show up. I made a layered Mexican Dip that I forgot to take a picture of, but I’ll put the recipe below. It went over really well and was almost a meal in and of itself.

So that is my weekend review, or at least the Cliff Notes version of it.

Layered Mexican Dip

2 cans of fat free refried beans
1 can of chili
2 pouches of pre-made guacamole
1 container of sour cream
1 jar of medium salsa
2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
3 diced roma tomatoes
1 large can of sliced black olives
1 bunch of green onions, diced

Get a large casserole dish and layer each ingredient as follows: beans, chili, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, black olives, green onions. Serve at room temperature with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

This is a super simple recipe that is really very good and not entirely bad for you. It was a big hit and I will make it again!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lunch with Hubby: A Rare Treat in the Work-Week

Yesterday was a very rare treat. Hubby was out running errands which included coming to see me at the office and going to lunch together. It hardly ever happens even though Hubby is off every other Monday and Tuesday. I usually bring my lunch and he usually saves the gas. Sometimes saving money isn’t the most fun, but it really pays off in the end (yes, I fully intended to make the pay off pun).

One thing that usually keeps us from meeting up for lunch is the cost. Not only are we out the money for the gas for him to drive to my office, but then the cost of two people eating out on a weekday. Right now though, Subway is revisiting their $5 foot long for any regular sub! Ahh, choices!

For $10.83 (after tax) we were both able to get a foot long sub of our choice and a cup for water. I got a tuna sub on wheat with American cheese, lettuce, bell pepper, lots of pickles, and mayo. I wasn’t able to eat all of mine, but with the price of a six-inch being just $0.25 less than a foot long, it was worth the quarter to have it for later. Hubby got a spicy Italian on Italian bread with pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, black olives, onions, and banana peppers.

We both ate (and I had a little left over) for so little that it made a fun time together even better by knowing that we weren’t breaking the bank.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Hot Dogs

There are many things that hot dogs are not. They are not glamorous, expensive, or time consuming to prepare. What they are is a good thing to keep in the refrigerator for those nights when unexpected things come up and you need a quick and cheap dinner.

The secret to good hot dogs is in how you prepare them. Some people put them on the grill, and that is great if you only have them on for a couple of minutes and you are doing something else on there too. Some people put them in the microwave. We don’t have a working microwave (Hubby doesn’t like them) so that’s out for me. We usually boil them – or I should really say that Hubby usually boils them. By adding a little bit of minced garlic to the water you can add a little bit of flavor to the hot dogs before you ever add any condiments.

For Hubby – more minced garlic and lots of ketchup. For me – American cheese, hamburger dill pickle slices, and yellow mustard.

In one word – yum.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekend Review – The Super Bowl made me not take pictures this weekend

I was a very busy girl this weekend but I have nothing to show you for it. Sorry, but I blame the Super Bowl. So since a picture is worth a thousand words, I had better get busy to at least make up one picture for you!

Hubby works every other weekend, so that means that I can get things done around the house by myself every other weekend. Hubby is a huge help when we work on things together, but I try to keep the small stuff done on my own so that we can either just hang out together or tackle the larger projects as a team. This weekend it was time to reclaim the living room from the chaos that had overtaken it. Part of that was my fault (shoes tend to collect in there) and part of it was Hubby’s fault (hello socks and other discarded clothing!) and the last part rest squarely on the furry shoulders of our cats. The current theory is that cats are agents of chaos.

But I do have a picture of this, so all together now! Ooooo! Ahhhh! I even straightened the pillows on the couch. What can I say – I’m an over achiever (actually glutton for punishment since the cats love to mess them back up!)

I have found that the fastest way to make a room look clean is to cut down on the clutter. Not only does this make the room look clean, but it can make a smaller space look bigger. Hubby had gaming books and metalworking materials on the coffee table and they fit perfectly in the baskets under the table that are there for just this very purpose. I also keep a basket on the tabletop for the remote controls. Not only do we not have to hunt them down, but they look neat and organized just by throwing them in the basket when we aren’t using them! Another great basket that we have in the living room is the one for the cats’ toys. I know that they can’t put them away on their own, but they can get them out when they want to play with them instead of just having them scattered all over the house. Again, a little bit of effort to toss them in the basket and it looks so much neater!

I also recommend cleaning out from under the furniture when you have the time. Things have a way of migrating under there. I found two socks (not matching), the ball from the cat scratcher with the little track around the edge for the ball to roll in. Apparently it is more entertaining for my cats to pull the ball out and hide it.

After the living room was clean, I went and spent the afternoon with my mom. We had Mexican food for lunch and it was amazing.

Sunday was filled with cooking mostly. I had grand plans to clean some more but kept getting distracted by just about anything except for cleaning. That and I truly believe that the cats were actively trying to thwart me. Why else would they get into the top of the closet in the office and knock down the basket full of scarves repeatedly? Once time that I went in there after the big crashing sound, Gambit was sitting in the basket and looking at all of the scarves on the ground. But this is what Gambit looked like as a kitten so I can’t stay too mad at him.

After attempting to clean, I went over to my mom’s and helped her get the ribs ready to go in the smoker. We used a dry rub from Emeril and modified it a little bit. I’ll post that at some point. I also went back home and made Red Hot and Blue style potato salad (recipe to follow later). It was just me, Hubby and my mom for the Super bowl, but we had lots of delicious food and now lots of delicious leftovers! This week I’ll make a few new meals out of leftovers to show you how versatile they can be. There is nothing quite like having a head start on a meal!

So until later…well…later!


Friday, February 3, 2012

Last Ngiht's Dinner: Pizza!

Last night Hubby worked late, so I took the oppertunity to go and spend some time with my mom after stocking up on a few grocery essentials. After helping her hang about 15 new things on her walls (she's so far ahead of me on this it's not even funny), we ordered pizza!

So price wise, pizza for me was free (!) because my mom paid. But here is the scoop on it anyway.

Right now, Pizza Hut sells any large pizza for $10 if it is carry out. The price goes up for the pizza if it is delivery and then you still have the delivery charge plus tip to pay. I'm sorry, but for that amount of money I'll go pick it up myself thankyouverymuch!

So while it's another night of no recipes (I promise, I usually cook!) it is another tip for eating out on the cheap.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Last Night's Dinner: Arby's French Dips

Sometimes it is just worth it to swing through and pick something up. Sorry to disappoint, but there is no recipe today, but just a tip.

I always look for coupons to places that we like to eat and try to take advantage of them when we can. Yesterday was the last day to use a 2 for $4 coupon for french dips at Arby's. The total for 8 sandwiches went from $32 to $17! Simple dinner and money saving! Oh, and I bought 8 of them so that there was dinner and a lunch for me, my mom, and Hubby.

So sorry that there is no recipe, but at least I had a coupon tip!


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Introducing Murray (You May All Begin Adoring Him Now)

Anyone that knows me knows about Murray.

As you might have noticed, he’s a cat – but please don’t tell him that. I’m not quite sure that he thinks that he is but it seems to wobble between a real boy (Pinocchio reference anyone?) to a dog that just so happens to jump really well. Either way, I’m not sure that cat is really in the running.

I have had Murray since the day he was born (almost 7 years ago) in the window box outside of my bedroom at my parents’ house. He’s an orange tabby and was named after Bill Murray before he even played Garfield. If you must know, I named him Murray because he had so many stripes and Bill Murray was in the movie Stripes. So it’s a little bit of a jump on the association, but I think that the name suits him.

Before Hubby and I got together, Murray was my roommate. He had been strictly an outdoor cat for the first several years of his life but one day, after getting home from a mission trip to Guatemala, I went to pet Mur as he sat on top of the refrigerator in the barn and pulled my hand away covered in that sticky plasma stuff that you get when you are really sunburned.

So off to the vet he went! Did you know that cats could sunburn? I sure didn’t, and the vet knew it but had never seen it. The plan to healing was simple – no direct sunlight and medicine day and night. And so the outdoor cat came to live inside. He pitched a fit and yowled and cried until he got moved into my room. And then he was quite and happy.

The big hurdle was the fact that he had never used a litter box. He started out in a large dog’s wire frame kennel with a little litter box and a little bed made out of a towel. Eventually he really had to “go” and went on his towel. As he was folding the towel over his “business”, he reached past it into the littler box and you could all but see the light bulb go on. Thank goodness!

As Murray healed, he became my constant little cuddle bug. He slept with me every night (right next to my pillow) and would hang out with me while I read or watched movies. He even got upset when Uma Thurman was in danger in the movie The Avengers. We can’t watch that one anymore because it upsets him.
And then Hubby and I got together. And got the Duplex. And while Hubby was at work one day Murray moved into the duplex too. And then things got interesting.

You see, Murray wasn’t interested in sharing me and Hubby wasn’t entirely interested in having an animal in the house (more on that – and his cat – later). There were some tense times, but things eventually evened out. Now there were growing pains in the situation – Murray had to adjust to a smaller place on the bed and Hubby had to learn to pick up clothes and towels from the floor because Murray strictly enforces the house rules! A few times of items being “tagged” goes a long way to things making their way into the hamper!

Animals can take a lot of effort and some figuring out, but I for one would say that they are what helps to make a house a home. Hubby might not agree with me on this one though, so take it as just my opinion. But hey, what dog can get this good of a spot for his own little neighborhood watch?


Meg (and the ever watching Murray)

Yesterday was Monday. By that I mean that it was every inch of a Monday and would have been a Monday even if it had fallen on a Tuesday. By the time that I got home from work, Hubby was already there and neither of us was up for doing much of anything for a while. Ah, the soothing presence of Netflix.

The downside to sitting with the cats and watching Netflix is that we were getting hungry. So to fix that, here’s what I made for dinner in about 15 minutes!

No Bake Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 package of Egg Noodles (12 oz)
1 small can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of peas (drained)
1 can of mixed vegetables (drained)
1 can of tuna (drained)
½ cup of milk
½ cup of grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper

Start by putting the water on to boil for the Egg Noodles. While waiting for the water to boil, combine the other ingredients in another pot on medium heat. You want for them to meld but not boil so that they will not continue to cook the noodles when you combine those. When the water begins to boil, put in the Egg Noodles and cook to al dente (still slightly firm). Drain the water from the noodles and mix in the soup/veggie/seasoning mixture. At this point you can either plate the meal like I did and have a creamy, delicious, and fast meal or you can put it all in some bakeware, top with either more cheese (yum!), Panko Bread Crumbs, or cheese and then Corn Flakes tossed in melted butter and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

This was a quick meal that was very good and I will make it again. It’s always nice to have meals that are easy to throw together in a pinch. One note – if you like things spicy, I think that this would be wonderful with about ½ tablespoon of Sriracha mixed in with the soup/veggie/seasoning mixture. It would give it that little extra kick!

So that’s what we had for dinner last night!


Monday, January 30, 2012

It's Going to Get Worse Before It Get's Better

Do you have any parts of your house that you don’t even like to look in, let alone think that anyone else might take a peek? You know, the junk drawer, the closet, the cabinet that you always just shove junk in to make it go away. Then the whole “out of sight, out of mind” phenomenon takes over (I’m going to pause here and tell you how impressed with myself I am for typing that word correctly on my first try – go me and insert happy dance here) and then you forget what you even have in there. I have vowed to banish these spaces from my home because I am tired of not wanting to look at them and actually I need the space for other more important things that you very much.

Now we all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day and that since all of the extra clutter that makes it way into our lives didn’t all get there in one day, it is going to take quite a bit more time to fully banish it. And then you will have the eternal battle to wage against it returning when you aren’t looking. Things like that have a way of sneaking their way back in.

This weekend Hubby and I started our epic battle against the clutter in the kitchen and laundry room. Ok, we started in the laundry room but since some of the stacked boxes (most of the stacked boxes) in the corner of the laundry room were “new” dishes, we had to spill out into the kitchen as well. Just to clarify “new” – these are dishes that I got for Christmas before Hubby and I started dating because they said that they were going to discontinue the pattern. These are the same dishes that my mom has, my uncle has, my grandmother has, my grandmother’s sister has (my great-aunt)…are you getting the picture yet? My family uses these dishes. They were still new in the box even though I had them for years – hence the “new”.

The dishes are a pattern called Blue Danube and are white with a blue pattern on them. If I had though ahead I would have taken a picture of them, but I didn’t so now you will just have to wait. Ooh – suspenseful. In stark contrast to my lovely dishes with place setting for 12 (even though there is no room in our house for a dinner party for 12) we had been using the dishes that were left behind by Hubby’s roommate from before we started dating. I know, really mature of us, right? I have a weird mental block against allowing myself to use my own good things – like my good pots and pans, knives, plates; the list could go on and on. And before you say anything, yes, I’m sure that I would benefit from therapy.

So in order to move the antique buffet in the laundry room from the short wall to the long wall next to the washer and dryer we had to unpack the dishes. In order to be able to put them away, we had to get rid of the old ones. Are you with me so far?

We boxed up the old dishes in the boxes that the new ones had been in and have set them aside to donate to the Salvation Army. We shop there a lot for all sorts of things because you truly never know what you are going to find there and wanted to take this opportunity to donate to this great organization. Another two bonuses of donation is the tax write off and that it is not going to a landfill.

So once the dishes were sorted our cabinet looked something like this:

Isn’t it great? Such pretty little stacks of dishes! I was seriously excited to see them there and kept grinning and exclaiming “our pretty plates!” How grown up of me. I know, I know, I should have done a before shot and I promise to get better at doing that.

While Hubby got cracking on our kitchen cabinet that housed the explosion of food storage containers, I tackled the cabinets in the laundry room and the newly aligned buffet. I pulled out things that we had apparently moved from the duplex to our new house in the buffet, along with things that had been shoved into the cabinets for lack of any other place to put them. And now, the after pictures of the laundry room: So much better, right? Now the goal is to keep things that are already in there this nice and add more storage and organization solutions as well to continue to improve it. Oh, and to decorate it. I’m pretty slow to pull the trigger on new decorating but there is a method to my madness.

Until next time!


Last Night’s Dinner: Potato Soup

So everyone is always asking me or Hubby what it is that we are eating and how they can make it themselves. I can’t quite understand why – I never think that it is anything complicated. So for those people that keep asking me for recipes that I never have, I am starting a new “feature” here on my blog – what we had for dinner and how I made it.

You’re welcome in advance (but really, I don’t know why anyone wants to know.)

Last night, I made Potato Soup. By last night, I mean we ate it last night but it took all day to make in the crock pot. We were cleaning (really cleaning – as in the house is more of a mess than when we started but it is getting better in all of those places that no one ever looks and out in the open too). Hubby likes thick soups and this was a velvety smooth type of thick by the time it was all said and done and I loved it. It made enough for dinner last night, lunch today, another dinner in the refrigerator, and one more for the freezer. Wow – that’s a lot of soup for such little effort!

Potato Soup

5 pounds of potatoes – diced with skins still on
1 onion – diced
4 stalks of celery – split and diced
5 teaspoons of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of Seasoned Salt
8 cups of chicken broth or stock
2 bricks of cream cheese (for right before serving)

Wash and dice the potatoes, onion, and celery and place them in the crock pot. Add the garlic and Seasoned Salt. Cover with the chicken stock (I used stock left over from a whole chicken that I also cooked in the crock pot – it was almost a jelly, so I put in 4 cups of chicken jelly and 4 cups of water – perfection) and place on low for 8-10 hours. Go on with your day and when you are ready to eat, chunk up the cream cheese, put it in the crock pot and break out the immersion blender. Blend the entire pot (or reserve some to add back if you like chunks in your soup) and top with anything that you like – grated cheese, green onions, bacon…just go wild with it!

So that’s what was for dinner!



Friday, January 27, 2012

Life is What Happens When You Make Plans

Last night Hubby worked late, so I had planned to go home, do some cleaning and laundry, and time everything with dinner to be hot and ready when he walked in the door. Sounds good right? Responsible even. What an awesome wife I am.

So I got off of work, stopped in to his work to see him, got him something to drink (I’m nice like that, what can I say?) and then headed on home to get started. Everything is going according to plan so far. I walk in the door and…due to the rain that we totally need but not quite all at once the plumbing in our 1981 vintage home was making that lovely “gurgle” noise that means that the only water getting used is what is necessary – so there went a load of dishes and laundry. So I can still straighten up the living areas! That will go so much nicer with something playing on the TV in the background, don’t you agree? But then a movie looked interesting on Netflix that I have never seen before. And then my orange cat, Murray (named after the great Bill Murray in case you were wondering), decided that he was going to hold me down.

So between Murray and Netflix, cleaning slowly made its way off of the agenda for the evening. But that was still ok, because dinner was totally going to make up for it. Just as I was about to get started on dinner, Hubby’s phone rang.

Now before anyone has anything to say about me looking at his phone while he’s gone – it’s totally fine. It is at his request so I’m not being nosy. So there. I looked at the caller ID – Mom. I answered and my mother-in-law was having well timed car troubles. I say well timed because I didn’t have dinner in the works yet so I was able to mobilize, Hubby was about to get off of work, and her hubby (my father-in-law) was also off work and on his way. It is also well timed because the new part had already come in and was scheduled for Hubby’s Auto Repair today

To make a long (and cold) story a little bit shorter, we all converged on the side of the road and eventually got her car towed to their house. I will also mention that Hubby and I are absolute beasts at towing cars. We rock, and I am being modest when I say that. The fact that we have enough practice to be this good is a whole other issue, but think of all the money that we have saved people and ourselves by towing cars instead of calling a tow truck! It is enough to make you run out and buy your own tow line.

By the time we got all of this done, it was after 11:00 p.m. and Hubby was understandably starving. Going home and waiting for me to cook was out so we made a different type of economic decision and headed through the drive-though of Del Taco. This type of economics figures in more than just the money we were spending. It includes the time, effort, and discomfort of waiting to cook versus the cost of the meal. Totally worth it no matter how you look at it.

So that is how my great plan to make a delicious dinner ended up in the Del Taco drive-through in almost the middle of the night. Oh well – that’s life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Mission (or What the Heck am I Doing Here?)

There are many reasons that people start blogs. Some people have a pathological need to over share. Some people just want a place to vent. Some people just want something to do to kill some time. But I’m not “some people” – I’m just me and I’m starting this blog after thinking long and hard about a comment that my Nana made when I first got married.

Nana said that I should start a journal for myself to look back on later of the things I have done since being married and all of the good times that I have had with my new husband, home, and life. Coming from a woman that has been married for over 50 years, that is pretty powerful advice. My grandmother was 17 years old and my grandfather was 19 years old when they got married on Christmas Day and she had just found a menu plan for a week that she had written for her home economics class. How cute is it that she still has it?

When Hubby and I first got married, we lived in one side of a tiny duplex. We had one bathroom, no dishwasher, no counter space in the kitchen, and more places to sit than walk inside. It was not perfect, but it had both of our names on the lease, so we were pretty happy. I was also really happy to look for houses that I thought were in our price range (more on that later – there really is an art to it). And after looking at some real rotten apples, we finally found our new home.

Now just a preface: we are not rich. We both work hard for the money that we have and since I am the one that is better at finances, I work just as hard to spend it wisely. And that is the real mission of this blog – for me to share how I stretch what we have into what we want and a little bit of what we dream of. The best way to do that is to make what you can yourself, save on supplies, and know when you are out of your league and save up to hire a pro.

So that’s my introduction. Let the home making (literally) begin!