February 25, 2012

What's Cookin: Granola

Here is the recipe I came up with, as promised. It is really good. The kids had a cupful for snack yesterday and came in asking for more. I had it for breakfast this morning and I love how it's lightly sweet, but not overly so. And I know exactly what's in it.

Granola - Makes about 10 cups

6 Cups rolled (old fashion) oats
2 Cups chopped nuts
2 Cups shredded coconut
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 Cup butter, melted
1/2 Cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a (really) large bowl mix together oats, nuts, coconut and cinnamon. In a separate bowl mix together butter, honey and vanilla until well combined. Stir into oat mixture and combine until everything is well coated (you might have better luck with your hands).

Spread mixture out onto a large sheet pan (or two, of you have small ones). Bake for 10 minutes. Stir, then bake for another 10 minutes. Stir again, then cook for 5-10 more minutes or until it starts to become a nice golden color.

Let cool completely before storing in jars or a ziplock bag. At this point you could also stir in any extras like dried fruit or chocolate chips if you'd like.

Happy Eating,

February 24, 2012

Friday Favorites

It's Friday! I'm trying to be positive about this and ignore the fact that our family's work week still includes Saturday - so I decided I should share some of my favorite things with you. Because apparently I'm very bloggy this week and have (at least temporarily) gotten over my "Just on Mondays" routine.

The first one is my new toy. A few weeks ago I used some Christmas money and bought myself a stick blender. I have been wanting one for a long time but never got around to getting one (one of those frivolous "I can live without it" things I don't really need). One of the blogs I read was giving away a big stick blender set and I decided that if I didn't win (hey, you never know) I would just go ahead and buy one. Well, needless to say I didn't win but I found this one on Amazon for under $30 so I went ahead and got it.

And I love it. I lurve it. I luffs it.

It's wonderful. I have already used it to make a batch of Chili Verde sauce and a handful of smoothies. It's powerful but quiet and it blends beautifully. I don't have an upright blender and the food processor kind of makes a big giant mess if I try to process anything too liquid (like said smoothies), so this has come in so handy. Definitely worth the purchase and I know I will be using it a TON. It even came with a 2 cup measuring/blending cup which was a bonus, since my 2 cup Pyrex liquid measure broke over a year ago and I have missed it ever since.

As silly as this might seem, this is my second favorite thing today. My great grandmother gave this to me at my bridal shower and I realized the other day that I use this measuring cup more than any of my others. It is a 2 cup dry measure and I use it for everything from flour to cheese to chopped meats to fruit. I think it is especially sweet because it was thrifted and I love used things. I will be very sad if it breaks.

And lastly today is Granola! I've been wanting granola something awful lately so I decided to make up a batch today. After searching for recipes and not finding one I really liked exactly I just decided to throw some stuff together and make my own. This is a really simple version with just walnuts and coconut since I am out of dried fruit and such (and I like my granola kind of simple anyways) but it is really stinkin' good. I've had two bowls already. And the smell coming from the oven while it was toasting was just heavenly. I'll post the recipe later.

Now - back to knitting! ;)

Happy Friday,

February 23, 2012

What's Cookin: Tortilla Crisps

It seems like my kids are always hungry. Always. Especially after nap time. While I try not to let them get too full in the hours before dinner, they do need something to hold them over or I get the Monsters From Hell syndrome out of all of them.

Usually it's a piece of bread and butter, or a piece of cheese and/or fruit, or whatever baked good I have on the counter. Well, I've been lazy about the baking lately so yesterday when snack time came about I didn't have much.

I opened the fridge and there were some tortillas and hey! Here's ya a snack.

Tortilla Crisps - makes as many as you want
Flour Tortillas
Cinnamon & Sugar mixed together
Melted Butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Brush tortillas with melted butter and sprinkle with however much cinnamon and sugar mixture you want. Cut tortillas into eights an lay out on a cookie sheet/baking tray.

Pop into the oven for 5-15 minutes. You're looking for crispy and just starting to brown on the edges. Remove and let cool for a few minutes before eating.

They disappeared really fast. ;)

You could also do the same thing with a number of different spice mixtures like garlic and onion, or chili powder, or whatever.

Happy Eating,

February 22, 2012

How I Plan Menus

Planning ahead is one of my big ways to keep on budget for groceries. I thought I would share how I do it for anyone who is curious or wanting to know how to start.

We shop every two weeks, with one big trip at the beginning of the month for the bulk items and things that last awhile plus fresh stuff for two weeks, and the second one for just the fresh stuff like milk and produce.

I know everyone says to "shop the flyers" and while I do pick up certain things we use if they are on sale, I don't base my menus solely on the flyers themselves.

I start off with my menu sheet. It is a list of meals we like, broken up into categories like "Chicken", "Soup", "Meat Free", etc. Those make up the first column. The second, third and fourth columns are Side Dishes, Breakfasts and Snacks respectively. This master list lets me pick pre-approved meals that I know we like (or mostly like) without having to wrack my brain every week trying to remember things.

At one point I had set lists that included the main dish and all the sides in one chunk, but I don't always want greasy potatoes and salad with my chicken, so I broke it up and now just pick a few sides to go with a main. The lists of breakfasts and snacks are really just to remind me what we need to have on hand such as eggs for breakfast and fresh fruits for snacks.
Master Grocery List

Next, I print out a calendar for the month from my email program and my Master Grocery List. Printing the calendar just insures that major holidays and birthdays are listed out so I can plan around them. You can just use a piece of paper that says "Monday, Tuesday...." on it if you'd like. Once the calendar is printed out I add any upcoming appointments so I know if I need to use the crock pot or something that day if I won't be home until later. I have a copy of my grocery list available to download here if you'd like somewhere to start.

So far we have three pieces of paper:
  • The meal list
  • The calendar (or blank page to write down the week's menu)
  • The grocery shopping list (or blank page to write down what you need)
 Now it's as simple as filling in the menu. Since we shop every two weeks, I make a plan for two weeks. Since I am using what I have this month, I will be choosing Main Dish items that include the meats and ingredients I already have and will be trying not to buy too much.

For example, I have a pack of chicken leg quarters, so on Sunday we will have BBQ Leg Quarters, Crispy Potatoes, Rolls, and probably a salad. Monday I will probably try a recipe for Chicken Enchiladas that uses Chili Verde sauce (since I have chicken, tortillas, and the chili verde sauce already) and serve them with rice.

I try to leave at least one night a week open for eating up leftovers. If we get to that night and don't really have leftovers then I will do something simple like sandwiches since I usually have the makings on hand.

Once I have written down my menus, I go through each day one by one and mark on my grocery list what I don't have. Since I have "salad" on the menu for Sunday, but I am out of lettuce, I need to mark that on the list. I'm pretty sure I have everything I need for the Enchiladas, but I will double check the recipe to make sure. I continue in this fashion for the rest of the week's meals as well. Make sure to double check all the ingredients of your main dish - including spices and condiments - and mark those on the list as well. If your Chicken Pot Pie calls for carrots and mustard, you'll need to make sure you have those on hand or put them on your list to avoid making a last minute trip to the store.

Next I will go through and mark down our regular staples that don't really appear on the menu.  Things like milk, butter, eggs, cheese and flour. Things we use every month. That was actually the reason I made the Master Grocery List, so I could look at it and be reminded to check the amount of yeast (or toilet paper, or oatmeal) I had left and if we needed to get more.

After that I mark/write down any extra or special things we want like chips, or if we want corn dogs, or things like that. Things that aren't necessary, but are a nice treat if there's room for them. What is or isn't a need for your list will depend on your family. Some people can't live without ice cream *cough* while others can.

One extra step I do is to write down the prices next to each thing I have checked on the grocery list. I keep a price book and know what the general prices are, so if I have marked down to get 5 gallons of milk that are usually $3/gallon, then I will put "15.00" next to the milk item. When I am done making my list then I add everything up and see where I am at. If I think it's a little high, or it will just plain put us over budget, then I will take out anything we don't really need (like the chips).

Tada! That's really it. And it really doesn't take much time at all once you get the system down. I can have menus planned and grocery lists made in about 15-20 minutes most times. The hardest part is just picking what to eat.

I usually keep the Master Grocery List on the fridge so we can mark things off during the week as we run out of them.

So, to recap, or the short version since I'm not sure my rambling on makes any sense:

  • Start with a Master Menu plan that lists the foods your family likes. This will make planning menus faster and easier.
  • Fill in your menu, using the meal list, on a calendar or piece of paper
  • Go through your menu and mark down any ingredients/items you will need but don't have onto your grocery list (do you have enough chicken for enchiladas? tortillas? cheese?)
  • Next, write down staples on your grocery list that you need that aren't on your menu already (eggs, flour, etc)
  • Finally, write down any extra or special things onto your grocery list (like snacks or treats)
  • Keep a running tally of your prices, if you can, so you know where you stand before you get to the store. This will help avoid the "Oh, that was more than I thought" problem at checkout.
  • Go shopping! And stick to your list! 
A couple of notes:
  • I try to leave a bit of room every month for things that might go on sale, like meats or sodas, or things like that. Stocking up when I can has saved us a bit of money in the long run.
  • I only really plan for dinners, since breakfasts are usually eggs or oatmeal and lunches are leftovers or sandwiches. But if you need to plan for breakfast and lunch each day as well, put them on your menu and add the items needed to your list.
  •  I have tried a few times to change my system and it usually tends to blow up in my face. This is the system that works best for us, so maybe it will work for you too.

But don't be discouraged! If you try this for a few weeks and you're still having trouble try changing it a bit. Maybe you'd work better as a "from the sales flyer" family. Each family is different, so each budget and shopping method will be different.

I can tell you that staying out of the store is the best way to save money, so try to go once a week, once every two weeks, or even once a month if you can stretch it that far. And of course, you will save a ton of money buy getting things in their rawest possible form - like produce and meats - rather than pre-prepped stuff.

I hope that wasn't too confusing!

Happy Menu Planning,

February 21, 2012

Make It From the Freezer March

Ok, so that's not the freezer, but you get the idea.

March is our month to get back into "Pay off debt" mode and start attacking our house with a crazy vengeance.

Because of that, and the fact that I really can NOT fit anything else in my freezers, and that we will have a new baby I am declaring March a "Make it From the Freezer" month.

My plan is to buy as little groceries as possible (we have PLENTY of meat) and use up what we already have in the house. We should really only need to buy fresh stuff like milk and eggs and fresh produce, and a few other regular monthly staples.

I am so excited about this. I love trying to find ways to save money and live frugally. We got a little off track over the holidays (we usually do) and have added a little padding to our monthly budgets. Now we will try to get back into our tighter routine and we realized that it is really nice when we have to be creative.

So, I figured I would share what I have on hand and what some of my ideas are for the month.

Perhaps some of you would like to join me in this challenge this month? To see how little we can spend on groceries and how much we can make from just what we have?

I have two fridge/freezers, one in the kitchen and one in the garage. I took an inventory of the freezers and pantry and this is some of what I have:

  • Bacon
  • Beef Round Steak
  • Breakfast sausage
  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Chicken Leg Quarters
  • Chicken Thighs (bone in and boneless)
  • Whole Chickens
  • Ground Beef
  • Cooked and uncooked Ham
  • Cooked and uncooked Turkey
  • Meatballs
  • Pork Roast

Prepared (or nearly prepared) Meals:
  • Bean, Rice & Cheese Burritos
  • Calzones
  • Chicken Pockets
  • Chili
  • Chimichangas
  • Clam Chowder
  • Tortilla Soup
  • Chili Verde Sauce

  • Canned Apples
  • Cranberries
  • Frozen Grapes
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Strawberries
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Cooked Pinto Beans
  • Peas
  • Pumpkin Puree
  • Shredded Zucchini 
  • Canned Crushed Tomatoes

Breads, Baking Supplies & Other Ingredients:
  • Shredded Coconut
  • Nuts
  • Banana Bread
  • Dinner Rolls
  • English Muffins
  • Sourdough
  • Leftover German Chocolate
  • Cornmeal
  • Beans
  • Rice

The Plan:

I don't know exactly what my menus will be right now, but some of the stuff like the prepped meals are easy to plug into the calendar and I am leaving those for the week that Baby comes. The fruits and baking supplies will probably become things like cobblers, muffins and other snacks, along with smoothies and sauces.

Since I have such a wide range of meats to choose from thanks to sales and our love of the marked down section in the store, I have lots of choices for meals. I can make lots of casseroles, tacos, salads, soups, and I have been given permission to try enchiladas (yay!) which I think I will do with the Chili Verde I made and froze last week.

My usual monthly budget for the 5 of us is $400. This is just for food - I break out the household items like diapers and toilet paper separately just so I can keep track easier. Because of what I have on hand already I will be dropping my budget this month to $300, but I think I can really spend less than that for our staples. I did want to leave a bit of wiggle room just in case anything goes on a good sale (I am hoping for coffee to do so!). I do need to make a bit of room to buy some corned beef, because I can't go without it once the sales start. ;)

I can't wait to start planning my menus for the month! I think this will be really fun.

So, who would like to join me this month in using what they already have?


February 20, 2012

Busy Weekend

Whew! Have we been busy this last week. First things first!

On Thursday we got a new air conditioning & heating unit! It was our goal after getting the new roof. When we bought the house the unit that was here wasn't much of a unit. It had been stripped out for parts by thieves & squatters, so we have been living without an A/C for the last three years. We borrowed a swamp cooler from my family, so the summers were not bad at all, but the winters have been nippy and cold and only slightly made bearable by room heaters.

But now, we have heat in our whole house and it is so wonderful. We can get up in the morning and not freeze to death. We can get changed for bed at night and not have to make a bee line to get under the covers. And we can bring our little man home once he's born and I won't have to worry about him being too cold. It's a wonderful thing.

The company we used was AWESOME and I am so happy with their service. It means a lot to me to have people not only show up on time, but to do what they said they would do and treat me with respect. I've dealt with so many people that do the "Oh, you're just the stupid little woman" thing, but no one in this company was that way. Every single person I dealt with was wonderful, courteous, quick, and answered my questions thoroughly and respectfully.

Since we paid off our consumer debt in June our first goal was the save up for the roof. Y'all know we did that in December. Then our next goal was to get the A/C. After that we decided we would save up to get some grown up, not-from-family living room furniture of our very own. We figured it would be a few months and we would probably get it some time this summer.

Well, we had saved up a pretty big chunk for the A/C not knowing how much it would be exactly. It wound up being a lot less than we had thought, and the funny thing is what we had left after paying the A/C was exactly what we had planned to save for our living room. Funny how things seem to work out, eh?

So this Saturday we ran around and looked at furniture and finally found some we liked at Ashley. We went home to think about it and make sure (a good idea when you're spending a big chunk) and on Sunday the boys stayed with Gum Gum & Granpa while Ben and I went to go order our furniture. We ordered a sofa, love seat, coffee table and two end tables which should be delivered in 2-3 weeks. We also went and got a new entertainment center and the TV Ben has been wanting since we got married, brought them home and Ben set them up.

It feels really weird to be spending money on "stuff". We have spent the last two years either paying off debt or saving for things that were needed and we haven't spent anything on ourselves aside from Christmas/Birthday gifts. So as nice as it was to finally get our living room going, we've had mixed feelings about it. But it will be good when the furniture gets here and it already feels more cozy with the two new pieces we got.

And now our new goal is to pay off our house as quickly as we can. We realized that we work better when we have serious goals and we aren't just floating around in limbo. Wish us luck! We're shooting for 5 years or sooner.

In knitting news - I finished a sock!

And that's it. Exciting, eh? My brain is going in so many different "I want to cast on X" directions that I can't seem to focus on anything.

As of tomorrow - 2 weeks til baby! Although I'm guessing he will probably be late just like Duder was. Does jumping up and down work? I'm so ready to get this kid out.

Happy Monday y'all!

February 15, 2012

Finished Knit: Baby Outfit

It's done! The little man's little outfit is done.

I had a little mishap with the booties. The pattern I used called for US 5 needles and DK weight yarn. Well, I don't have 5s, and I don't have 4s in DPNs, so I figured I would do them on 6. And this yarn is worsted weight.

That idea right there proves that sanity is not achieved while pregnant.

So I worked the "little" booties on size 6s and, well... they weren't so little.

So I just thought, maybe he will have big feet and it will be OK. A little extra room wouldn't hurt anyways.

And then I looked at the green pair of booties I had made for Brett. I compared them to the pair I had just made.

Not even remotely close.

So, I started a new pair on size 3s using up the rest of the ball I had left and sacrificed a large bootie to make the second small one and...

The big one in the back is even bigger in person
 Much better. Now I have wittle booties for a normal sized baby - not a gargantuan gorilla child.

And now he can come anytime his little heart desires, because his clothes are done.

But preferably soon. Because mama's done being pregnant.

Patterns: Easy Baby Cardigan by Diane Soucy
Seamless Baby Booties by Laura Yarnthrower
Plain ol' baby beanie (no pattern)

Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Worsted (100% Superwash Merino) in "Squirrel Heather" (best name ever) - 200 grams / 440 yards (including big booties)

Needles: Cardigan & Beanie - US 8/5 mm Susan Bates Circulars & DPNs, respectively
Booties: US 3/3.25 Harmony wood DPNs

Knitline: February 7th - February 15th

YTD Mileage: Including the big booties, since I did actually knit them - 1.26 miles!

Happy Wednesday!

February 14, 2012

Finished Knit: Heart Mitts

Happy Valentine's Day everyone! 

Finally finished the Valentine's mittens last week. I got distracted by other knits in between gloves. :) I modified these to be a bit shorter and put in only 3 hearts instead of 4. 

Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in "Cosmopolitan" - 24 grams / 111 yards

Needles: US 2/2.75mm Harmony wood DPNs

Knitline: February 4th - February 9th

YTD Mileage: 1.01. Yay! Broke a mile!

These are up in the shop!

Happy Knitting,

February 13, 2012

Scenes From the Weekend

Ben has started a tradition of buying me live flowers for Valentine's day. I love this idea so much, because they last so much longer and in the case of the tulips and daffodils from last year, they come back! These are my tulips he got me yesterday, in a box my mom-in-love made me. Aren't they just gorgeous? I love how it all looks on my table.

We roasted a turkey last night for dinner, along with potatoes, rolls and stuffing. And now I have a mess of turkey leftovers in the fridge slotted for eating over the next week. Yay!

The pansies, violas, and daffodils that he got me yesterday too. My flower bed is so cheerful now and I can't wait for them to spread and grow. It's so nice to have color in my flower beds.

I'm working on a baby outfit. The little jacket and booties are done and today is baby hat day. I love this yarn, I love this color, and I can't wait to dress up the little man in all of it.

Happy Monday! It's raining today and it's lovely.

How was your weekend?

February 9, 2012

Finished Knit: A Pair of Socks

I finished these last week and completely forgot to post them until I put them on this morning.

Funny how the memory (or brain power in general) is the first thing to go when you're supporting another life form.

I have had this yarn for ages, and ages, not really knowing what to do with it. While I like the colors individually, I never really liked how it knit up well enough to do something large with it. I don't think I would like it in a sweater or something like that, and I don't think I'd like it in a pair of fingerless mittens, although I might try it. But I wanted a small project for the doctor's office last week and thought a pair of socks for myself would work nicely. And I do have to admit, I like this colorway as socks.

Pattern: Generic Socks

Yarn: Araucania Ranco Multi in "Well, I'm not sure I think it's that number on the ball band" -  53 grams/200 yards

Needles: US 1/2.5mm (for ribbing) and US 2/2.75 mm (for foot) Harmony wood DPNs

Knitline: January 24th - February 1st

YTD Mileage: .94 miles! Nearly one mile so far, and just barely into the second month

Happy Knitting,

February 6, 2012

Whatcha Knittin', Kitten?

It's Monday! So that means an update, right? ;)

Life around here goes on in the same way it's been going.

I cook meals.

I try to clean the house as best as I can.

I mostly sit and knit.

Because moving around is so stinkin' hard now and I'm usually worn out by 10 am. I'm sooo exciting.

The minion precious baby is trying to rip my pelvis apart and standing is starting to get more and more uncomfortable, so I will of course take any excuse I can get to just knit my little fingers off.

I'm still working on the red shawl design. It's pretty much the same, just a bit bigger.

From the iPod!
I started a pair of hot pink Valentine's Mitts, one of which I just completed moments ago. I'm not usually a pink fan, but I think it turned out adorably. I scrunched it down and worked just 3 hearts instead of 4. I think I'll try to get these up in the shop, but I know I'm running out of time since V Day is next week.

I've also started baby knitting! I've cast on a Babylove Blanket for this little one in a yarn color called "Hydrangea" - which is a nice greyish blueish purplish. I'm going to change out the hearts for circles and I'm working it on a US 3 instead of a 4, because I'm not sure I'll have enough yarn... I guess we'll find out. Thankfully this yarn is still available so if I need to get more I can and I'll work out differences in dye lots if the problem arises.

I used some gift cards I got for Christmas and ordered some yarn in solid browns and blues that I'm thinking will become a sweater, hat and booties. Because his Coming Home outfit will probably be the only time he's ever coordinated, if my other 3 kiddos are any indication.

We are pretty much set and ready for baby. I even packed the hospital bag today, so now we just need to get the car seat out of the shed and installed and I think that's pretty much it.

Tomorrow: 36 weeks! 4 weeks to go and counting.

Have a great week, friends!

P.S. - I realize that I haven't commented on everyone's blogs much lately. This is mostly due to the fact that my brain just can't come up with something to say... But rest assured - I'm creepily lurking and stalking y'all. ;)

February 3, 2012

After Birthday

And this is it's good side!
Yesterday was my birthday! Thank you to everyone who left me such sweet birthday wishes. It was such a nice day.

It started off by my finding a post it note on my computer that started a scavenger hunt from my sneaky husband. The little notes led me through the house and finally to a cabinet that he had hid my present in - a new iPod touch! My little baby hand-me-down iPod shuffle had been going on the fritz for awhile, so he got me a new one saying that I never ask for anything. It was such a nice, sweet surprise and I loved going on the hunt. It was so much fun.

Then I spent the morning making myself a cake! A German Chocolate cake!

It was way more involved than I thought it would be and it turned out ugly as sin, but it is oh so delicious. It's lopsided, because all I had was pie pans rather than cake pans (no point in having them, I never make tiered cakes), and I didn't have quiet enough frosting to go all the way around... But I will never buy coconut-pecan frosting again. It is SO much better from scratch. In fact, the reason I didn't have enough for the cake might have been because I ate a good amount from the pot...

Every year I try to pamper myself a bit on my birthday. I figure it's the one day a year that I can get away with it. So after I put the kids down for a nap I took a long, hot shower, did a facial scrub, made my hair pretty and put on make up. It really does make the day special.

Topped the day off with a trip to craft store (by myself!) to mosey around and get some stuff, and then dinner with Ben at one of my favorite restaurants. When we got home we had the cake, and the kids weren't happy until it had candles and they sung Happy Birthday. It was very sweet and cute, especially Duder's version of "Happy to wooooo!" It was a wonderful day!

And today, my mom is treating me to lunch! I am going to gorge myself on salad!

Also, I (and apparently the real groundhog) have decided that Spring is starting now. I mean heck, it's been warm enough anyways we might as well get to it, right? I need flowers.

Happy Friday!

February 1, 2012

Finished Knit: Valentine Ornaments

Oh my goodness, these turned out so cute. They are all so tiny and adorable and they're so quick to knit. Watching them come to life on my needles was so fun. They will be going on a customer's little holiday themed tree, and I can't wait to see a picture of them!

Pattern: Round ones based on the 7 Colorwork Christmas Ornaments

Yarn: Knit Picks Palette in assorted Valentine's colors - 34 grams / 157 yards total

Needles: US 1/2.25mm Harmony wood DPNs

Knitline: January 17th - January 23rd

YTD Mileage: .83 miles

Happy February Everyone!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...