Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pumpkin muffins

I was looking in my freezer the other day, and realized that I'd better use up some of last year's pumpkin crop to make room for this year's!  Every year I plant sugar pumpkins, then stew and puree the flesh and freeze it in two-cup portions for baking.  Nothing says fall like the smell of something pumpkin baking in the oven!  So, tonight I whipped up a batch of these and they're in the oven as I type this.

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (all purpose flour works, too)
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. ground cloves
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground allspice
1 t. salt
2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 small can)
1/3 cup oil
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 24 muffin tins, or line them with paper liners.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, oatmeal, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and spices.  Make a well in the center and add the pumpkin, oil, and eggs.  Stir until smooth.  Scoop into prepared muffin tins.

Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely on a wire rack and wrap airtight for storage.

Excellent spread with cream cheese!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sticking to the Grocery Budget

Hi, my name's Karen, and I'm a compulsive grocery shopper.  Seriously.  The only time I ever stick to my list is when my husband is with me, and that's just because he hates grocery shopping so much it's quick in, quick out.  I, on the other hand, consider grocery shopping a recreational activity.  In fact, it's the only kind of shopping that I enjoy.  So it should come as no surprise that I have a heck of a time staying within the budget. 

We budget $300 a month, which, in writing, I've broken into two amounts - $175 for the first half of the month, and $175 for the second.  That way I don't spend $250 up front and have no money left for milk and bananas at the end of the month.  Not that I haven't spent $250 up front and gone on to spend another $175, don't get me wrong!

Last month my husband and I took a good hard look at our spending, and decided something needed to be done.  So we dropped cable, got a VOIP phone service, and made a commitment to getting our spending back on track.  Not only did I recommit to sticking to my grocery budget, but we also (at that point) completely eliminated our eating out budget.  We've since seen the folly of our ways, and have added a small amount back in for restaurants, but nothing at all like we have been. 

So here I am, trying to stick to my grocery budget.  It seems like no matter what I go into the store to buy, I end up spending $110+.  I will admit that I go to one of the more expensive grocery stores in town, but I buy a lot of organic, natural, and/or local foods, which they have there, and that all costs more.  But really, after visiting a couple of the cheaper grocery stores in town, they aren't really that much cheaper, and the quality is a lot lower.  I also buy local, natural pork and grass-fed beef from a local butcher, which costs a little more (but, again, not that much more considering the difference in quality). 

This weekend, when I went on my regular shopping trip, I had a little over $21 left to spend until the 15th.  Fortunately, all we really needed was milk, fruit, and yogurt (my daughter eats Cheerios, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast almost every day).  I could have made yogurt, but I had a coupon for a free pack of YoBaby and found some organic on manager's special (orange tag) for $1.49.  I also got a gallon of organic whole milk (that's what my daughter drinks) on manager's special for $2.49.  Those combined were less than I was planning to spend on her milk alone, so I was ahead of the game.  I usually buy a gallon of organic milk and a gallon of regular for hubby and me, but got two gallons of regular instead - they're half the price of organic.

Knowing we have plenty of canned fruit in the cupboard, blueberries in the freezer, and apples in the crisper drawer, I skimped a bit on the fruit.  Hubby said he could do without his usual daily orange as long as there are honeycrisp apples in the house (I buy them from a local farmstand for about $1 a pound less than at the grocery store), so I just picked up a few bananas.  That left enough for a pint of heavy cream for a dessert I was making to take to the neighbor's last night, and a carton of ice cream to go with the apple crisp I knew I'd be making today (with the last of our backyard apples, which are only good for cooking!).  We buy the store brand version of premium ice cream - at $2.99 a carton, it's less than half the price and tastes exactly the same. 

At the last minute, I ran back to the produce aisle to pick up a bag of organic grapes - they're from California and SO GOOD right now!  That was my real splurge - two pounds cost $4.20.  My total came to $20.53.  After all that, if I stay out of the store, I have $1.13 left to carry over to the second half of the month! 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Today's safety tip

You know how you can make water explode in the microwave just by bringing it to a boil in a smooth glass cup?  Turns out you can do the same thing on the stovetop by bringing the water to a boil, turning off the heat without uncovering it, and then bringing it back to a boil 15 minutes later.  Ask me how I know.  Now ask me how glad I am that no one was in the kitchen when half the water in the spaghetti pot exploded all over the place! 

Monday, July 05, 2010

Grilled chard

I planted two "experimental" veggies in the garden this year - fennel and chard.  Experimental because I have no experience with them, but I'm interested in trying them and if it turns out that I like them, it's cheaper to grow than to buy at the store! 

I tried out the fennel in a salad a few weeks ago, and tonight it was time to try some chard.  I heard someone on the radio the other day talking about grilling it.  I've never thought of grilling greens, but I'm up for grilling just about anything, so I thought I'd give it a shot. 

Sometimes the simplest preparations can really make a vegetable sing.  Grilled chard is no different.  I accidentally oversalted it, but the pieces that weren't too salty were really wonderful!  I'll definitely be making this again - it was so simple and so good.  I used golden chard, since that's what I have growing this year.

1 bunch chard
olive oil
kosher salt, to taste

Clean chard and chop into large pieces (I just cut it cross-wise with scissors).  Put in a bowl, drizzle olive oil over, and sprinkle with salt.  Place in a grill basket and grill over medium-high heat for 10 minutes, or until wilty and slightly charred.  Serve hot. 

Two thumbs up!

Homemade laundry soap

Just whipped up my first batch of homemade laundry soap since my daughter was born.  She's almost 19 months old.  I have no idea what took me so long - I have all the ingredients and it only takes about 10 minutes from start to finish! 

As I was pouring it into the container, I noticed the label on the side where I started recording the dates I made it so I could see how long a batch would last.  I've been recording dates since January 2005.  I was using it at least six months before that.  Six years, and I still love it! 

"Homemade" is a bit of a misnomer here.  It's really more like "home mixed".  You're not actually making anything here, you're just grating and combining.  This is wonderful stuff - you only need one tablespoon per load (yes, I said TABLESPOON), it cleans like a champ, and your clothes come out smelling like, well, like clean clothes.  None of those icky artificial fragrances.  I really don't like any of those (except the smell of Bounce, because it reminds me of my grandma, and I do occasionally use that on her old tablecloths).    A tablespoon of this soap and a half cup of vinegar in the rinse and you're good to go.  No other cleaners, fabric softeners, etc. required.  I use it for everything except diapers, because I heard that the fat in the soap can make the diapers repel liquid.  I've never experienced that with my towels, but I'd rather not find out the hard way with the diapers, you know?

The ingredients for this are really easy to find.  I've used two brands of soap - Zote and Fels Naptha.  Fels Naptha can be found at a lot of grocery stores (in the Portland area, both Fred Meyer and Winco carry it).  I prefer the scent of Zote, which can be easily found at Mexican markets.  Zote comes in two sizes - the white bar is larger and the pink bar is smaller.  Either one works. 

You'll also need washing soda, which is made by Arm and Hammer and comes in a yellow box, not to be confused with baking soda in the orange box.  Two totally different products.  The third ingredient is Borax, which can be found with the laundry products in a green box, under the "20-Mule-Team" label. 

If you're using the larger, white Zote bar:

1 bar Zote soap
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax

If using the smaller, pink Zote OR Fels Naptha:

1 bar Zote or Fels Naptha
2 cups washing soda
2 cups borax

This is done most easily with a food processor.  First, cut the soap into chunks and then grate.  Dump the grated soap into a bowl, change out the grating blade for the chopping blade, put the soap back in, and whir until it is finely ground (if you don't have a food processor, just use your grater and then chop it into smaller pieces with a knife).

Dump the soap back into the bowl, add the washing soda and borax, and mix thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container and use one tablespoon per load.  Works in any washing temperature - I wash almost everything on cold and I've never had a problem with it dissolving. 

One batch used to last us six months.  Now that there are three of us, including a messy toddler, we'll see how long it lasts!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harvest Update

I've been trying to be diligent about weighing nearly everything that we've harvested from our yard this year.  I'm curious to know just how productive our efforts are.  I haven't weighed the herbs and a couple of times I've skipped the mesclun, but for the most part, I've gotten it all (except, of course, for the occasional nibble that didn't make it back to the house!).  At first I was weighing an entire day's picking together, but now I'm separating it out by item.

Here's what we've gotten so far since we started picking back in April.  All produce is cleaned before weighing. 

Radish and lettuce thinnings (combined weight) - 3.625 ounces
Radishes - 1.8 pounds
Lettuce - 1.64 pounds
Strawberries - 10.25 pounds
Spinach - 1.25 pounds
Green onions - 1.13 ounces
Peas - 1.7 pounds
Potatoes - 3 pounds

Total harvest to date:  20.3 pounds.

I also harvested some baby fennel but I totally forgot to weigh it.  It wasn't more than half a pound, I'm sure. 

I am absolutely thrilled with the amount of food we're getting this year.  I've just about stopped buying vegetables at the store, though I have been picking up some things at the farmer's market that we don't grow.  Since my daughter wants to be outside all.the.time, I'm spending a lot more time weeding and tending to things, so it's not getting overgrown and out of control like it has in past years.  I'm also putting more of an effort into figuring out ways to creatively use what we have, too.  It's been fun and I'm looking forward to seeing how we land at the end of the season!

This week's menu plan...

Can be found here.  Not very exciting, I'm afraid.  But a menu plan, nonetheless!

Sunday, June 27, 2010


I grew up in a house where the canning kettle came out every summer.  I have fond memories of Mom's canned cherries, peaches, pears and, yes, even prunes, which honestly were my favorite.  I enjoy canning myself, and have put up an assortment of jams, jellies, and fruit over the years.  Just fruits, though - I've never ventured into the wild world of pressure canning (mainly because the price of pressure canners makes me choke a little). 

My husband and I used to can apple pie filling every year, until we found out that, actually, our apple pie filling recipe wasn't safe for canning.  Oops, and thank you God for making sure we didn't get botulism!  It's been a few years since I've stood over the kettle, though, and this year I was itching to get back to it. 

Saturday my daughter and I ventured out to the farmer's market (I'm trying to go at least twice a month this season), and I picked up a half-flat of strawberries while we were there.  I got them home, and the fun began! 

Usually, jam requires a phenomenal amount of sugar.  Something like a 1:1 fruit to sugar ratio - it's truly ridiculous.  So this year I decided to try out a low-sugar recipe.  I picked up some "no sugar needed" pectin (I used the Ball brand, but I know there are others out there) and some fruit juice and decided to give it a whirl.  It calls for apple juice and up to three cups of sugar, but also provides instructions for using artificial sweeteners or honey.  I stuck with the sugar because I can't stand artificial sweeteners, and I thought our honey would have too strong a flavor and overpower the strawberries. 

I had forgotten how simple it is, really to make jam.  Wash and crush the berries, add a cup of juice (I used apple-berry blend), stir in the pectin, and boil it for a while.  Add the sugar (I used two and a half cups, about half of a normal recipe, but I could have gotten away with even less), boil some more, jar and process.  Easy as pie. 

And, from a half-flat of strawberries, we got a dozen half-pints of gorgeous (in color and flavor) jam, plus an extra pint to put in the fridge for now (because I didn't get enough jars out of the attic and didn't want to go get more, LOL!).  It's like summer in a jar.  Delicious!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homemade Croutons

Homemade croutons are AWESOME.  There's really no comparison to the store-bought kind, and they really do a great job of topping off a salad.  They're super simple, too, so no excuses for not making them!

2 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes (I like using whole grain baguettes)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t. Italian seasoning
1/2 t. garlic powder

Put bread cubes in a bowl and drizzle olive oil over.  Stir to coat.  Sprinkle Italian seasoning and garlic powder over, stirring to combine.  Spread on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kool-Aid Dying

I've been reading about playsilks a lot lately.  I'm all about toys that fuel imagination and don't require batteries, so I decided to get some for my daughter.  Then I read a blog post that pointed me here, where I read all about dying them with Kool-Aid.  Perfect!  I thought.  A craft that I might actually have time to accomplish!  So I ordered a bunch of scarves in various shapes and sizes from Dharma Trading Company, where they were uber-cheap (also made in China, unfortunately, but that's a rant for another day). 

I've had them for a few weeks, but last Thursday I was seriously procrastinating about cleaning the house, so I decided to give it a shot.  I started with grape, and dyed a couple of them purple. 

First, I got them really wet and decided how I wanted to color them.  The one on the left is a square, and I twisted and rubber banded it in tie-dye fashion.  The one on the right is oblong and I just left loose. 

Next, I sprinkled the Kool-Aid powder over the top of both scarves and squished it around until I got the level of color I wanted.  Then I stuck them each in a Ziploc bag and mostly sealed it, leaving a corner open to let the steam out.  I microwaved each one for two minutes, then took them out and left them in the bag to cool.

Once they were cool, I took them out of the bags, removed the rubber band from the square one, and rinsed.  Not a drop of color came out - the heat completely sealed them.  Finally, I hung them up to dry.  The next morning, there they were, just waiting for Caitlyn to play with!

Can't wait to try this again - I think next time I'll do solid color, and mix the Kool-Aid with some water first to make it more like real dye. 

Oh, and one word of warning - if you try this, wear gloves.  Otherwise you, too, may wind up with grape-flavored hands!  :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Garden update

For weeks I've been meaning to post a list of everything I've planted in the garden this year. So far, I'm really happy with the specific selections I've made, so I want to remember for next year!

I buy the majority of my seeds from Territorial Seed. Their shipping is outrageous (this year I ordered with my sister-in-law so we could split the cost), but their seeds are magnificent.

This year, I've planted

From Territorial:

Beans: Jade and Soleil (don't know how these will do, but they sprouted just fine)
Carrots: Napa (I plant these every year - LOVE THEM!!!), and Meridia. Meridia is an overwintering carrot that you plant in the fall and harvest in the spring. Can't wait to try them out and see how they do!
Cucumber: Rocky
Lettuce: Summertime (planted this last year, too - hubby only wants to eat head lettuce and this is really good!)
Fennel: Perfection (never grown fennel before. Never eaten it before. Not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it's growing really well!)
Onions: Candy and Tropeana Lunga
Parsley: Italian
Peas: Super Sugar Snap
Pumpkins: Small sugar (I planted these last year, too, and they are REALLY good in muffins!)
Radishes: French Breakfast (not sure I'll get these again - they're a little too mild for my taste)
Swiss Chard: Golden
Zucchini: Black Beauty
Basil: Aroma 1 (not doing well at all, but I think this is more due to all the rain we've been having than the seeds themselves)
Tomatoes: San Marzano Gigante (can't wait to see how big these will get!)

From other seed brands:


From plants purchased at nurseries:

Blueberries: Sunshine Blue
Raspberries: Fall Gold (and I had an Autumn Bliss but it died so I need to take it back and get another)
Mesclun salad mix
A whole host of herbs - tarragon, oregano, sage, thyme, savory (what the heck am I going to do with savory?), chamomile, curry plant (what the heck am I going to do with that, too???), rosemary, etc., etc., etc. I love my herb garden.

I also started potatoes from some organic French potatoes that I bought at the grocery store. So far they're going great guns and I'm looking forward to harvesting them!

I still need to pick up some pepper plants, hopefully this weekend. I usually grow jalapenos and a couple of sweet peppers. The garden's getting pretty full, though, so we'll see what we end up with!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Blog!

I've started a second blog - My Make Ahead Meals. I wanted a spot where I could keep our weeknight dinner ideas separate from the rest of my blogging stuff (not that I've been blogging that much lately, I know!). My menus will probably be posted over there now. This blog will still have recipes that don't fit my "make ahead" criteria, gardening stuff, and whatever life musings happen to occur to me.

Feel free to check it out if you're interested!

Easy low-fat white sauce

Once upon a time, I had an awesome fat-free white sauce recipe that I found in a Weight Watchers magazine. It involved toasted flour, chicken broth, and skim milk. That recipe disappeared eons ago. Well, actually, it was probably in that HUGE box of magazine clippings that my mom recently found in her basement - I told her to recycle them as quickly as possible because I didn't want to know what was in there!

Since then, I've been making my white sauce the old fashioned way - with tons of butter. Yum. Awesome for the taste buds, not so good for the waistline.

Then, a few weeks ago, I was making my Creamy Chicken Enchiladas for dinner when it suddenly hit me that the sauce, minus the chiles, is actually a super-simple, low fat (or fat free if you choose) white sauce recipe! Duh!

Here you go:

Easy Low-Fat White Sauce

1 cup chicken broth (or 1 cup water and 1 tsp. bouillon)
1/4 cup flour
1 cup evaporated milk

In a small pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk the flour into the milk, eliminating any lumps. Once the chicken broth boils, SLOWLY whisk in the milk and flour mixture, stirring constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbly. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or whatever your recipe requires).

If you're not so worried about calories, you can also use whole milk and it will come out just fine.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Menu plan? What menu plan?

Yes, yes, it's been a couple of weeks since I posted a menu. I know you've all been waiting with bated breath... :-)

Quite frankly, I lost my menu planning mojo. I found myself staring at a freezer and pantry full of food and finding no inspiration. I didn't want to make ANYTHING. That's usually when I pull out the cookbooks and try to re-inspire myself, but, well, we've had nice weather so I went outside to play instead. In spite of that, we did pretty well. I picked dinner up on the way home a couple of times, but, for the most part, we were still eating at home.

This week, I'm striving to get back on track. I was lucky to be able to start out the week with a couple of leftovers meals, which helps!

Monday: leftover pizza with a salad (I've been making a ton of salad lately. It's been great!)

Tuesday: leftover cube steak, with baked potatoes and some kind of veggie. I haven't made cube steak for a while, but Friday I was inspired so I stopped and picked some up. I don't make it very often, because, well, it's not at all healthy (I basically chicken fry it), and it costs way too much for what it is, but it's one of hubby's favorites so I indulge him from time to time.

Wednesday: Chicken Cacciatore (we have leftover sauce in the freezer from last time, so this will be nice and easy!

Thursday: Tuna casserole

Friday: Crock pot pot roast (last time I made a roast in the crock pot, my daughter must have pushed a button and turned off the program, because I came home to a cold crock pot and a half-cooked roast. Must remember to push it farther back on the counter this time - she's big on button pushing!).

Have a great week, everyone, and remember to go to orgjunkie.com for all your menu planning needs!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Garden 2010

I'm very excited about my garden this year. Actually, I'm very excited about my garden every spring, and then somewhere around July I lose steam and things fall apart. I'm going to do my darndest to not let that happen this year.

We have some new hardware additions this year that I'm especially excited about. Hubby got tired of me whining about having to drag the hose across the yard, and of having to put the hose away every time the mowed the lawn (because I hate dragging the hose across the yard so I never bothered to put it away), so he put an underground water line out to a spigot next to the garden gate. Voila - garden water!

One day I read an article somewhere about the convenience of having a sink in your garden, so that you can just wash the vegetables right there and not have to bring all the dirt and crud into your house. I thought that was a brilliant idea, so he built me one of those, too. He really went the extra mile, though, because he made sure it had a counter top, so I can trim everything up on the spot and toss the trimmings right into the compost pile! It turned out spectacularly, as you can see...

The bucket, which has since been replaced by a watering can, catches the water so we can put it right back into use on the garden and nothing is wasted. We went with a regular garden sprayer instead of a faucet. Now I just need to head to Goodwill and get a colander and cutting board to live on the shelf!

We're planting a bit differently this year. Since the tomatoes take over every year (literally - last year we had a 5-foot square hedge in the middle of the garden!), we're putting them in half-barrels this year. I also bought two potted blueberries that will be going into half barrels, just as soon as we get some soil to fill them. I've been wanting blueberries for a long, long time, but, outside of the garden itself, we have the worst soil in the universe, so this seemed like the best option.

I'm planting potatoes for the first time in about 10 years. Last time, I got a grand total of three potatoes. I hope it goes better this time! I bought a couple of planting bags for them - they're pretty cool, with side flaps that you can use to access the potatoes, allowing them to keep growing even as you harvest them.

Moving the tomatoes out frees up more space for other vegetables in the garden proper. So far, I have planted peas, onions, carrots, fennel, Swiss chard, lettuce, radishes, and spinach. Things are growing nicely so far. Still to come - beans (two kinds - yellow and green), zucchini, cucumbers (also two kinds, if last year's seeds are still viable), and pumpkins.

I also need to update my herb beds this year. Last year, we pulled out a couple of mistakes that were taking over everything - namely lemon balm and peppermint. They're still trying to take over everything, so I need to get some new things planted to help keep them back. I have basil and flat-leaf parsley started on a windowsill, and next month I'll head to the garden center and pick up a few more things. My rosemary is all but dead, so that needs to be replaced as well.

Lastly, I have a 5x3 trough of decent soil in the front yard that I need to fill with something. We pulled the roses out of it last year. I may let it lie this year and put raspberries on a trellis, or something like that, in it next year. That's originally where the blueberries were going to go but we decided it wasn't big enough to satisfy them. Decisions, decisions...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Menu March 28 - April 2

Here's this week's menu:

Sunday: Pad Thai
Monday: Tamale Pie
Tuesday: Sausage and potato casserole (except I used turkey italian sausage instead of pork sausage. It was so good!).
Wednesday: Crockpot pork roast
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Buttermilk Chicken

enjoy your week!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Menu Plan March 21 - 26

Ugh. I hate those weeks when we're gone more than we're home. This is our third week in a row like that. I'm running out of quick and easy menu ideas! I'm afraid this is going to end up being a chicken-heavy week...

Tonight: we had grilled pork chops, zucchini, and onions, and boiled potatoes with butter and chives (love having a plethora of chives right in my front yard!)

Tomorrow: meatloaf

Tuesday: crockpot orange chicken (I haven't found a recipe hubby will eat, so I cheated and bought the sauce at Panda Express!)

Wednesday: apricot chicken

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: potstickers (from a bag)

Have a fantastic week, and get yourself over to orgjunkie.com for hundreds of menu planning ideas every Monday!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Menu Plan March 15 - 19

Another busy week! I much prefer the weeks where we are at home more mornings than we are out - it makes it much easier for me to keep up with things!

Here's my plan for this week:

Today: crock pot beef stroganoff
Tomorrow: pineapple chicken
Wednesday: chili
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: chicken enchiladas

Enjoy your week! And please remember to visit orgjunkie.com for a wealth of menu planning ideas!

Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

I'm making this up as I go along today - hopefully it will turn out well!

1 pound stew beef, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
2 T. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 T. minced garlic
1 cup beef broth (I use Better than Bouillon)
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 cup sour cream
Cooked egg noodles

In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Meanwhile, mix the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and Cajun seasoning. Dredge the meat in the flour and saute in the oil until browned.

Layer the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in the crock pot. Put browned beef on top, then add the Worcestershire sauce over all. While the frying pan is still hot, add the beef broth and stir to loosen up the browned bits on the bottom. Pour into crock pot. Stir to combine all.

Cook on low for six hours. Just before serving, stir in sour cream and heat till warmed through. Serve over noodles.

Edit: I originally wrote this recipe to have two cups of liquid. It was way, way too much - it hadn't even finished reducing on the stove by the time the noodles cooked! So I'm cutting out the water and just using beef broth - and I may even reduce the amount of that next time. But there will definitely be a next time - this was full of beefy goodness!

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Menu Plan March 7 - 12

I didn't do a menu plan last week. We did ok in spite of that. I didn't realize until Wednesday that all we had in the freezer were seven different kinds of sausage and some chicken, though, so I did some weekday shopping! We ended up with:

Monday: Chicken Cacciatore
Tuesday: Turkey tenderloin baked in cranberry sauce
Wednesday: Burger King (I discovered the meat issue too late to do anything about it)
Thursday: BBQ baked chicken (because I didn't think of it on Wednesday, LOL!)
Friday: Potstickers (from a bag - we like the Ling Ling brand)

I've done my shopping and we are now stocked up! This is going to be a VERY busy week - far busier than I like. If we stick to our schedule and do both of our regular extra-curricular activities (story time and swimming), we'll be out four mornings this week. Fortunately, one of those mornings is for my department meeting at work, which means I get to come home early that day, but still... So I've taken some time this evening to do a little prep work in anticipation of the busyness.

First, I took two pounds of ground beef out of the freezer and cooked it up with onions and garlic. One half I left like that for spaghetti this week and a casserole next week (half a pound each), and the other half I seasoned for tacos. At the moment, I'm waiting for water to boil for pasta for tomorrow night's casserole. I should have done that while the beef cooked, but I forgot!

Here's what's on tap for this week:

Today: pad Thai (recipe from Hungry Monkey)
Tomorrow: Tuna casserole
Tuesday: grilled chicken and potatoes
Wednesday: Tacos
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: spaghetti

Enjoy your week! And don't forget to visit orgjunkie.com for tons of great menu planning ideas!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Buying Local

Over the past couple of years, I have made a gradual effort to incorporate organic foods into our lives. We're not all organic, not by a long shot (and never would be, unless Frito Lay starts making organic Doritos, LOL!). But, when possible, I try to buy organic fruits and veggies, if they look like good quality and there isn't a ginormous price difference. I do find that the organic produce I find in my regular grocery store tends to go bad a lot quicker than the conventional stuff. I'm not sure why that is, but I have to be careful not to buy more than we'll use in a week.

I also will buy organic grain products - cereal, rice, oatmeal, etc. - when I find them. As for meat and dairy, a friend tipped me off a while back that, at our local Fred Meyer, when the organic stuff gets close to its sell by date, the price is slashed dramatically. So when I find those beloved "orange tags", I snag them. We end up getting organic milk about half the time (though I do pay full price every week for my daughter to drink organic whole milk), and the occasional pound of ground beef, that way.

I started buying the organic eggs about six months ago - I was buying the cage free ones, anyway, and the organic ones were only about 70 cents more a dozen, so I figured, what the heck? And now, apparently, I can't go back, because a few weeks ago I was at a different grocery store, and they didn't have organic eggs, and I bought regular ones and they were NASTY.

That said, I have never made much effort to buy local food. I've almost always had a vegetable garden of some sort, and I am the occasional farmer's market shopper (mostly during strawberry season). But I never really thought about it much, or made an effort to seek it out. Over the past year that, too, has changed. Last spring, a CSA opened up down the street from my office. I couldn't convince hubby to sign up, but I did take advantage of their farm store, and bought produce from them nearly every week over the summer. This fall, they also started carrying local honey from a farmer in the next town, and I coughed up the $20 to buy a jug of it. I am so glad I did - the difference between that and the Costco honey I've been buying all these years is like night and day!

For the past eight years, I've been driving by a local butcher/smokehouse about a mile from my house. I've seen them at the farmer's market in the past, but always thought they just did bacon and sausage. Then I did a little research and found out that they also sell beef, pork, and buffalo. On Friday, my daughter and I stopped in to check them out. Turns out all the meat is raised about 20 miles from us, and it's hormone-free, mostly antibiotic-free (they give the cows antibiotics when they are first born), and grass fed beef. I was afraid the price would be completely unreasonable, but it turned out that it is the same or less than the grocery store where I usually buy my meat (depending on the cut)! I was so excited. I bought a roast, some pork chops, and 10 pounds of ground beef to try, plus some pepper bacon (which was divine - we had it for breakfast this morning). They threw in some buffalo sausage for free, since I was a first time customer. Can't wait to try that!

So there I go, expanding my horizons again. Now, I would love to find a local source of dairy products and chicken. I can get local eggs, but they're $6 a dozen so I just keep buying the organic ones at the store...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Menu Plan Feburary 21 - 26

We didn't eat what we were supposed to last week. We still ate at home, except for Friday night, but the menu changed a little. That's fine with me, it didn't mean any extra trips to the store or anything!

Last week, we ended up with sausage and peppers with penne, tacos, and baked chicken and potatoes. On leftover night (Thursday), we didn't have enough leftovers to go around, so I threw a corned beef in the crock pot and ate some of that with some toast, leaving the leftover sausage and peppers with penne for hubby and the girl (since hubby hates corned beef and the girl seems to be anti-meat these days, but will eat anything involving pasta). Friday I had a buy one get one free burger coupon for Red Robin, so we went out. Love those bleu ribbon burgers!

Now, on to this week:

Tonight, we had grilled chicken fajitas.

Monday: baked ziti (with turkey italian sausage in place of ground beef. Yum!)

Tuesday: Corned beef hash (because hubby who hates corned beef won't hesitate to eat it in hash. Weird). I'm going to try cooking all the separate ingredients ahead of time and then just browning it up when I get home. We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday: Ham and potato casserole

Thursday: my birthday. I don't know what we're having yet, I just know I'm not cooking it! I'm hoping we'll go to the beach for the day.

Friday: My daughter and I are having dinner with my parents, so hubby's on his own.

Have a great week! And visit orgjunkie.com for lots of great menu planning ideas!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

January Budget Recap

I tracked our spending very closely last month. It was the first time in a very long time that I've done that and, as always, it was confirmed that if you want to get ahead financially, it's the only way to go.

We went over in several categories. I knew we would, I just wanted to see where we stood with my guesstimates. We overspent on water (oh how I wish our town had an equal pay plan, like we have for electric and gas!), groceries, eating out, miscellaneous, and donations. Still, in the end, I had a tidy sum to put into savings, which I divided among general savings, the car repair/replace fund (which has been practically empty since my car needed several repairs over the summer), and an extra bit toward the mortgage. That was the first extra money I've put into savings in over a year. It felt great!

I tweaked our budget a bit this month to reflect the overages, but I'll still need to watch it like a hawk. Case in point - I hadn't tracked anything, anything at all, for February until today, and I'd spent our entire month's grocery budget by the 10th. And that doesn't even include a few things my mom picked up for me at Costco last week that I still need to pay her for. So we'll be well over our budget by month's end.

I build an automatic cushion into our budget each month. I base our income off of no overtime for hubby (he goes to work a little bit early every day, so there's always some overtime in his checks), and a 40-hour pay period for me. I work 20 hours a week and get paid twice a month, so my checks can range from 40 - 48 hours, depending on the number of days in the pay period. And, our total budget is less than even our base pay. So even when we're over budget, unless we're GROSSLY over budget, we're never actually out of money.

But still, the more I spend the less I can put into savings. And I really like putting money into savings! Oh, if my Grandpa could see me now. Up until I graduated from high school, if I put money in my savings account (which had to stay there till college), he'd match it. I just had to show him my bank statement. I think he matched it twice. Just twice. When I was a kid, money slipped right through my fingers. There was always something I wanted - a toy, a cassette, candy, whatever. If it was expensive, I always tried to get my mom to buy it for me so I could pay her back in monthly installments. That worked up to a point, and then she'd cut me off, telling me that all my money would be tied up in installments forever and I'd never be able to buy anything again. A slight exaggeration, to be sure, but it was a lesson I learned well and I don't fall for those sales ploys today!

So that's where we ended up for January. On to finish February - and on to a better month in March!

Monday, February 15, 2010

sausage and pepper penne

Made this for dinner tonight. Unlike my last attempt at sausage and peppers, where I basically just threw some stuff together that sounded like it might work (it wasn't bad, just not great), this one was goooooooooooood. I got the recipe out of Parents magazine and tweaked it a bit...

1 T. canola oil
4 raw Italian sausage links
1 medium onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 cup water
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1 T. basil
1 t. oregano
1 t. garlic powder
few cranks of black pepper
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lb. mini-penne pasta

Over medium high heat, brown sausages in oil. Add onions and peppers, continue to cook for five minutes or until onions are transluscent. Add water, tomatoes, and spices. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove sausages, slice them, and return them to the pan. Continue to cook over medium heat until the sauce is very, very thick, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the penne according to the package directions. Before draining, stir two ladles-full of pasta cooking water into the sauce. Drain the pasta, stir into sauce, and cook an additional five minutes.

Serve with parmesan cheese.

Menu Plan February 15 - 19

I didn't get my act together to post my menu last week, but we did pretty well in spite of ourselves. I think it was last week that we ended up with burgers one night because hubby forgot to put dinner in the oven (oops!), but overall we did ok. Now, let's see if I can remember what we ate, LOL!

I don't remember which nights, but we had:

tuna casserole
stuffed peppers
pineapple chicken

Plus the night I picked up Burger King.

Here's what's on the menu for this week:

Tonight we're having sausage and peppers with penne
Tuesday: baked ziti
Wednesday: tacos
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: creamed tuna on biscuits (I'll be home from work early so I can make something that doesn't involve being made ahead. Yay!)

And remember, visit orgjunkie.com every week for fabulous menu ideas!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A note about what we eat...

An anonymous poster commented the other day that my menus have a lot of fat and calories. This seems like a good time for me to first point out that I hate anonymous comments! I allow them because I know that not everyone who might read my blog has a blogger or google login, but I think it's common courtesy (or at least it should be) to sign your post, even if you're "logged in" anonymously. But I digress...

I feel like I should address this person, even though I have no idea who they are or if they will ever visit my blog again. Yes, it's true, our dinners are not the healthiest dinners on the planet. And, without seeing the ingredients I buy or the way I prepare my food, one might think that some of these dinners are spectacularly UNhealthy. And yes, some of them are, LOL! Mmmmm...deep fried shrimp...

A year or two ago, we ate fast food four or five times a week. Compared to that, our menus are downright health food! But seriously, I do my best in the parameters I have to work with. A lot of what we eat is dictated by the way I must prepare it. My husband works in the mornings. I work in the afternoons, and get home an hour and a half before he goes to bed. This way we don't have to have day care, which is important to us, but it also complicates menu planning quite a bit. He's willing to put things in the oven, but is not willing to prepare anything. Which is fine, I've always been the cook in this relationship. So, on the weeknights, I am basically limited to things that can be cooked either in a crock pot or a casserole dish. No grilling, no sauteeing, no steaming (except for vegetables, I cook those up when I get home).

I'm also married to a picky eater who is deathly afraid of new recipes (in his defense, I have made a couple of doozies). So I work within the confines of what I know he will eat, with the occasional venture into new territory, and try to "healthify" where I can. When we eat ground beef, it is either 90% or 96% lean (depending on what's on sale when I buy it). When we eat pork, it's almost always loin chops. Chicken is almost always tenderloins. He detests fatty meat and all but refuses to eat it, so I buy the leanest I can find.

I use a lot of olive oil in my cooking. I also don't use a lot of convenience foods, and I typically cook from scratch. Oh sure, there are canned soups in my cooking (I keep meaning to try the homemade "cream of whatever" soup mixes, but haven't done it yet), and on a weekend we'll have the occasional box of Helper. If I'm making meatloaf or meatballs or something like that, I'll make it with half lean ground turkey and half lean ground beef. If a recipe calls for shredded cheddar, I'll use sharp instead of medium, so I can get the same amount of flavor with a little less fat.

I also don't post side dishes in my menus, which may lead a person to believe that we don't eat vegetables. This is not the case, I just usually don't know what I'm going to do about sides until I actually get to that meal. We eat baked potatoes frequently, some rice (both white and brown, depending on our time schedule), and a lot of buttered noodles with parmesan (because that's my 14-month-old's favorite food in the whole world). We also eat a good helping of vegetables with every dinner. Sometimes it's a hot vegetable, sometimes it's a salad. Sometimes it's both. We eat a lot of fruit, too, and almost always get in our five servings for the day.

So yes, some of my menu choices may look like they have a lot of fat and calories. But, where I can, I minimize that by the ingredient choices I make and the sides that I serve with them. Hope that helps clear things up! :-)

Monday, February 01, 2010

Menu Plan February 1 - 5

Another week, another plan. I am feeling completely uninspired this week, and don't actually know what all I'm going to make, but here's what I have so far:

Today: leftover pizza
Tuesday: tuna casserole
Wednesday: teriyaki chicken

Thursday and Friday are still up in the air at this point. Like I said, uninspired. But I'll pull it together...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Birthday Cake

Today there's a Birthday Cake Round-Up at Life as Mom, so I'm entering the contest! My first-born had her first birthday in December, so I got to have the pleasure of decorating her first cake. I knew I wanted it to be a butterfly, and I knew I wanted it to be pastel. I also had a plan to do cupcakes in addition to the big cake. So off I went to the craft store, where I purchased over $30 worth of cake stuff - cardboard bases, food coloring, piping bags (but no tips, because fortunately my mom took a cake decorating class eons ago and has more tips than I could use in a lifetime), colored sugar, little fondant cutters shaped like flowers and butterflies, and I don't remember what else.

I found a pattern online for making it out of a round cake, and away I went. I had visions of a perfect cake with many colors of decorations using various icing tips. The cupcakes were going to have butterfly shaped colored sugar spots in the middle of them. That was the plan, anyway. Then the week of the party happened. In addition to the cake, I had to feed 30 people, so it was a busy week of preparations. By the time I got around to doing the cake itself, well, let's just say I was a little burned out.

And, let's not forget that watching Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss does not make one a cake decorator, LOL!

In the end, I told myself that it was a one-year-old's cake, so it only had to look like a one-year-old made it, LOL! And this was the final result:

Far from perfect, and far from my vision. But I had fun making it, and it sure tasted good!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whole Wheat Apple Spice Muffins

Ok, I haven't actually tasted these yet - they're in the oven now. They sure smell good baking, though!

I started with this recipe for a base and went from there...

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. cloves
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 c. milk
1/2 c. plain yogurt
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 c. chopped cooking apples (such as Granny Smith)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin pans. In a large bowl, combine the first 10 ingredients (pastry flour through cloves). In a smaller bowl, mix oil, milk, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla. Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients, mixing just until combined. Fold in apples.

Put batter in muffin tins, and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Makes 24.

Menu Plan January 23 - 29

Well, once again, we did great with last week's menu! We didn't stick to it entirely, but we didn't eat out, either. We didn't have enough leftovers on Thursday, so I made a pot of white chili instead. And I thought I was out of onion soup mix, so we didn't have apricot chicken on Friday, but we had chili leftovers, so between that and the leftover meatloaf, we had enough for leftovers night. I'm really impressed with my menu-sticking ability so far this month!

Here's what's on tap for this week:

Saturday: we had grilled pork chops, noodles with butter and parmesan, and salad.

Today: we had take-n-bake pizza.

Monday: leftover pizza

Tuesday: Apricot chicken

Wednesday: spaghetti

Thursday: roasted turkey tenderloin

Friday: leftovers

As always, visit orgjunkie.com for hundreds of menu ideas!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Menu Plan January 16 - 22

I'm backdating this to Saturday because we ate out for lunch on Friday, and then ate at home all weekend! Go us! For the most part, we're sticking to our budget really, really well so far this month (our misc. expenses category is going to need a little work, though!).

We stuck to last week's menu almost completely. I found that by the time Thursday rolled around, we didn't have any leftovers, so I pulled a chuck roast out of the freezer and threw it in the slow cooker. I made a really good broth to put over it, too - I mixed up some beef broth (made with Better than Bouillon - love that stuff - and no, they didn't give me any free product to say that!), Worcestershire sauce, garlic, chopped onions, and thyme, and poured it over the top. Normally I just use onion soup mix and water, but I was out, and this turned out even better. It'll definitely be a recipe to add to this site!

Anyway, the nice thing about that was that I made a really good gravy from the drippings, and I've had enough leftovers to have hot beef sandwiches with gravy for lunch a couple of times Other than that, we completely stuck to the menu last week. Woo hoo!

So here's the plan for this week:

Saturday: We had bulgogi (recipe from Hungry Monkey), sesame rice, and steamed broccoli.

Sunday: We had jambalaya (from a box - I still haven't tried that crock pot jambalaya recipe I've had my eye on for months!) with smoked sausage and corn.

Today: Swedish meatballs and spaetzle (the meatballs were made ahead and frozen, but I always make fresh spaetzle).

Tomorrow: tacos

Wednesday: meatloaf, mashed potatoes

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: Apricot chicken, noodles with parmesan

Have a fantastic week! And remember that there are HUNDREDS of fabulous menu ideas every Monday at orgjunkie.com!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Peppermint Ice Cream

We made this over the holidays and, ohmygoodness, BEST ICE CREAM EVER. Of course, it's so fattening you should only eat it once a year, but what the heck - it was the holidays! This makes enough for a 1 gallon ice cream maker - if you have a smaller one, you can make half a batch.

4 cups milk (we used 1%)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
4 eggs, beaten
4 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
12 ounces peppermint candy, divided (we use three of those big peppermint sticks, but the round candies would work too.)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir together milk, sugar, and salt. Heat to 175 degrees.

Temper the eggs by whisking in a few spoonfuls of the hot milk mixture. Stir quickly so they don't curdle! Stir the egg mixture into the pot of milk, and cook and stir until the mixture reaches 160 degrees (this shouldn't take long). Remove from heat.

Let cool by putting the saucepan in a bowl of ice, stirring constantly. After a couple of minutes, stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, finely crush 2/3 of the peppermint (I find this works best by double bagging them in heavy freezer bags and using a rolling pin to mash them). Stir into the milk mixture. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Meanwhile, crush the rest of the peppermint into fairly big chunks (1/2 inch or so is good). Once the ice cream is done, stir in the chunks, put it in the freezer, and let it firm up for a few hours.


crockpot roast chicken - a tip

Today I made roast chicken in the crockpot for dinner. Now, you'd think after seven hours in the crockpot, the darn thing would be done, but it wasn't. We were in a bit of a hurry to eat (I get home just an hour and a half before hubby goes to bed), so I cranked the oven up to 400 degrees, put the chicken in a baking dish, and stuck it in for 15 minutes.

Not only did the chicken finish cooking, but the skin turned a BEAUTIFUL golden brown! Normally roast chickens come out of the crockpot looking, well, like my legs around February. Pasty white. This doesn't really matter to us, because we don't eat the skin, but if I was to ever make one in the crockpot for company, this is exactly what I would do! It was gorgeous!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Menu Plan January 11 - 15

Well, I'm happy to report that we did really well with last week's menu plan! Other than the corned beef hash, we stuck to it 100%. I don't remember the last time that happened! We ended up having the hash today because we were short on potatoes by Friday, having had baked potatoes with our pork chops on Monday. When I realized on Friday morning that we didn't have enough, I stood in the middle of the kitchen, completely dumbfounded, looked at my 13-month-old and said "what ARE we going to have for dinner???" I have a pantry and two freezers full of food and I couldn't think of a single thing to make. Hence the need for menu planning! Fortunately I remembered that we had some leftover beef stew in the freezer and pulled it out. Once again, cook it once, eat it twice saves the day!

I'm also very proud of us because we only ate one meal out over the weekend. Usually we grab burgers or Taco Bell for lunch and go out for at least one dinner, but we're really trying to stick to our budget this month and that means limited eating out! At lunchtime we had two of our old standby's - grilled cheese and tomato soup on Saturday, and boxed mac and cheese with cut up Polish sausages in it on Sunday. If we're going to limit eating out, I'm definitely going to have to come up with more creative quick and easy lunches - this will get old fast!

At any rate, here's the menu for this week:

Monday: crock pot roast chicken (I got whole chickens for 69 cents a pound yesterday!)

Tuesday: calzones (I started with this recipe and then embellished (mine will have sausage in it, too, for instance). I made double filling last time so I just have to pull it out of the freezer this time!).

Wednesday: Chicken cordon bleu casserole

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: hamburger casserole

That should get us through the week! And remember, for more great menu ideas, visit Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com!

P.S. I originally messed up the links and posted this link to how to make frozen hashbrowns instead of the calzone recipe! Oops! I'm also going to try making the frozen hashbrowns this week - I just bought a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $1 and I know we won't eat them all before they go bad!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Menu Plan January 4 - 8

A new year, a new week, back on track. Now, to figure out what to eat... We were supposed to have one meal of leftover lasagna from dinner with my family tonight, but of course silly me went and left it at my brother's house! Aargh!

Monday: Cranberry pork chops
Tuesday: leftovers (we have some chicken and noodles, and some chili, left from last week)
Wednesday: Tuna casserole
Thursday: chicken and stuffing
Friday: Corned beef hash

Don't forget to go to orgjunkie.com for more great menu ideas!

Just a random thought - one of my big challenges every day is that, because of our work schedules (hubby works 5:00 - 1:30, I work 2:00 - 6:00), dinner has to be made in the morning before I go to work, and then either cooked in the crock pot. This means that I don't have the opportunity to use a lot of convenience foods (there are some boxes of Helper that have been in my pantry over a year now!). But I was thinking the other day, that it's actually a good thing - we're probably getting a lot less salt and preservatives than we would if I was still cooking with things from boxes. Now, don't get me wrong, I still use my fair share of canned soups and beans and such, but overall we use so much less than we did when I worked full time and was getting home at 5:30 and rushing to get dinner on the table.

One of my resolutions is to stay within my grocery budget (well, my budget overall, but groceries are my biggest downfall), so this year I'll be exploring ways that I can make my own "convenience foods", like stuffing mix, cream of whatever soup, etc. I have had recipes for all that stuff for years, I've just never experimented with it. Can't think of a better time than now!


For the first time in a very long time, the hubby and I both took the week between Christmas and New Year's off. It was wonderful! We spent some good quality time together as a family, started a new home improvement project (putting down a new attic floor and adding an attic ladder so I can actually go up there once in a while), and ate a lot of really great breakfasts.

Normally I'm more of a dinner cook. Now, I love breakfast, don't get me wrong, but I'm so far from a morning person it's not even funny, and just the thought of cooking a full breakfast usually sends me back to bed! But this week, I was inspired.

It started off Christmas morning with buttermilk biscuits and Sawmill Gravy. Biscuits are a regular occurrence at our house, but I'd never made sausage gravy before. It was awesome!

Then, hubby gave me a new waffle iron for Christmas, so of course the next morning we had to have waffles. I was going to try out the recipe that came with the iron, till I saw it had 20 grams of fat per serving, and instead made our regular old recipe. To jazz them up a bit, I topped them with sliced strawberries (from the freezer) and whipped cream.

We also had cheese omelets with bacon and fruit salad one day.

Another day, I made buttermilk pancakes. Best pancake recipe EVER. But they also take forever to cook (low and slow, to get the centers done), so I don't make them very often.

And, then we had waffles with strawberries again. Another day we had French toast.

We only had cereal twice, all week. Usually we have it every weekday! Fantastic!

Friday, January 01, 2010


I haven't made any New Year's Resolutions for a while, but I decided that this would be the year to pick some back up. My life is feeling way too chaotic lately, and I'm not feeling very grounded. So, my first resolution is to read the Bible every day. I signed up with this site to have a reading sent to me each day by email. This means that I can read it on my iPod while my daughter naps. She will only nap in my lap, so I have some quiet time for about 45 minutes each morning.

Second, I need to get back on my budget. I'm starting small with this one - just doing it for the month of January, to make sure our budget is still workable. Then we'll adjust as needed and take it from there. This means REALLY reigning in my grocery shopping habits, but I know I can do it if I plan and prepare!

Third, I'm going to do a menu plan every single week. I may not always stick to it, but just having a plan really helps bring my days into focus.

Fourth, I'm going to try to cut our food waste in half and really start using our compost pile, which will help enrich our garden. We've been doing well for the past year by having "leftover night" every Thursday, the night the garbage goes out. Any leftovers that don't get eaten on Thursdays go in the garbage. But I could do even better by incorporating leftovers into my breakfasts and lunches. Usually I just eat cold cereal for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, but I'm home so why not just heat up some leftovers? Caitlyn would probably enjoy a little more variety, too...

That's a start. Seems like a lot. But if I take it in chunks, it should all be very achievable!