Tuesday, December 8

Check your reciepts

We're all looking to save a little money these days, especially now that we are in the middle of the holiday season. A good place to save a little money is by checking your receipt. The picture above is the money I found in my pockets Monday after my weekly shopping trip - just over $3!

Upon checking my receipts, two 75 cent coupons were not taken off and I was incorrectly charged for an item. This isn't typical, but almost as often as not, I find something that's not quite right with my transaction.

To claim your savings, take your receipt to Customer Service and the situation is usually remedied without much hassle.

Start checking your receipts and start saving more money!

Monday, November 30

This Week's Menu

After last week's holiday meals, we'll be eating from the leftovers and simple meals from the freezer this week.

Monday: pasta primavera

Tuesday: vegetable beef soup

Wednesday: pork chops & potatoes

Thursday: leftovers

Friday: broccoli calzones

No real recipes this week. However, I'm looking for advice on making the soup using the leftover bone from last Thursday's roast. I think I'll make beef stock with it in the crock-pot, strain, then add the leftover meat and fresh veggies.

Monday, November 16

Back to Menu Planning!

Ok, I have been menu planning but not very well lately. However, I'm feeling especially organized this week so here is the plan.

Monday: pasta with zucchini & chickpeas

Tuesday: shredded pork tacos (with leftover pork from freezer)

Wednesday: chicken enchiladas (with cooked chicken from freezer)

Thursday: leftovers?

Friday: spicy beans & sausage (with beef instead of turkey sausage)

Saturday & Sunday: Leftovers, pizza or spaghetti with sweet sausage & cabbage?

Find more weekly menu inspiration at This Week for Dinner

Wednesday, August 26

Crock-Pot Conundrum

I purchased the 4 qt. Crock-Pot pictured at left this week from Target because I've been looking for a smaller slow cooker and this one is on sale for $17. I like to use my large Crock-Pot, but I think it would be easier to cook smaller portions (since it's just the two of us) in a smaller model.

However, when I brought it home I started having regrets. I decided to look at reviews online, which were mixed, people either loved it or they had an awful experience. Now I'm nervous if mine will be a good egg or a bad egg.

I used it for the first time today to "bake" potatoes for supper. When I checked on them early this afternoon, the potatoes were already done and it should have taken about 8 hours on low. I'll probably make something else in it later this week before I decide, but I'm wondering if I made the right choice by buying an inexpensive slow cooker.

What do you think? What are your experiences with slow cookers? What brand do you have? Should I just use my large (5.5-6 qt) Crock-Pot for everything, like I have in the past? I read that you can put a smaller oven-safe dish in a large slow cooker to cook smaller portions. Has anyone tried this?

Monday, August 24

Menu Week of August 24

Sorry I haven't been consistent with posting my weekly menus this summer. I just haven't been able to get on a good weekly schedule for a while. It's not like summer is that different for me than any other time of the year, but I guess it just feels more laid back so I'm more likely to let things slide.

Anyway, here is my plan for this week. It includes some new recipes, but also some favorites.

pork kebabs & couscous w/ scallion

Tuesday: pasta salad

Wednesday: loaded baked potatoes (will be using leftovers to make Baked Potato Soup for lunch later in the week)

Thursday: chicken stir-fry

Friday: calzones (from the freezer)

Monday, July 27

Menu Week of July 27

I'm back to meal planning this week. My hubby has been super busy with work, so I've just been feeding myself most evenings with whatever I can find in the fridge. However, this week looks like we'll both be home in the evenings so here is my plan.

Monday: soy-marinated flank steak & grilled zucchini

Tuesday: oven-fried chicken breasts & steak fries

Wednesday: stir-fry using leftover steak & brown rice

Thursday: mac & cheese or leftovers

Friday: leftovers or pizza

I also discovered a great resource for meal planning ideas today. I'm sure we'll be trying some of the meals - or variations of them - soon!

Wednesday, July 15

Stocking Up

Tuesday I spent a good part of the morning in the kitchen stocking up on some essentials around here - chicken stock, cooked chicken breast, black beans and cupcakes. None of this really took much of my time - the beans were in the crock pot, while the chicken simmered on the stove over low heat and the cupcakes came from a box (cake mixes are so easy and taste so delicious!)

Split chicken breasts were on sale this week for $.77/lb. I probably should have stocked up, but I decided to just spend a couple dollars. However, with the addition of a couple carrots, celery & some onion, I ended up with two cups of cooked chicken and 12 cups of stock/broth.

I use this recipe from Everyday Food as a guide:

  • 4 1/2 to 5 pounds (about 6) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on (I only had 2.5lbs, so that's what I used)
  • 1 onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 2 carrots, quartered crosswise
  • 2 celery, quartered crosswise
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 6 sprigs parsley (I forgot to get fresh parsley, so I used dried)
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1. Combine all ingredients in a 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cover with water by 2 inches.
Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cover. Cook chicken until no longer pink in center and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the meat (avoiding bone) registers 160 degrees. about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer chicken to a rimmed baking sheet; arrange in a single layer, and let cool. (I wanted my broth/stock to be a little more flavorful and I had the time so I left the veggies in and added some leftover chicken bones I had in the freezer as well as the bones from the breasts and allowed to simmer for a few hours.) With a slotted spoon, remove and discard vegetables.

3.Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve lined with a damp paper towel. If broth is more than 8 cups (2 quarts), return to pan; reduce over medium-high heat until you have just 8 cups. (I would recommend letting it reduce a little, but as you can see, I ended up with 12 cups rather than 8.) Once cooled, refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

4. When chicken is cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin and bones. Shred with forks (see above) or chop chicken, as desired. Makes 8 cups (2 pounds) poached chicken and 8 cups broth.

We're cooking more with beans these days and I've found it's so much cheaper to buy dried beans and cook them myself. I started with cooking them on the stove, but then discovered they can be cooked in a slow cooker.

Here is how I cook beans:

  • Rinse beans and pick over
  • Put in slow cooker and cover with about 2 inches of water
  • Turn on high for 4-6 hours. (If you will be gone all day you could set it to low for 8-10 hours.)
  • Check after about 4 hours, if beans are starting to get tender, season with salt & allow to cook until desired tenderness. If not yet tender, allow to cook longer before seasoning.
  • Transfer to freezer containers or bags and allow to cool before putting in the freezer.

Monday, July 6

Menu Week of July 6

I apologize for not posting lately. My only excuse is that I've been enjoying summer and trying not to bother too much with household chores.

Here is my menu plan for the week. I wasn't feeling inspired by the grocery ads, so I wasn't sure what we were going to eat. Then I looked to the freezer for some inspiration and found some smoked sausage. I think, with a couple items from the grocery store, I was able to build a menu off what I already have in the fridge and pantry.

Monday: Leftover pizza or sandwiches on fresh bread

Tuesday: Smoked sausage with Spanish rice

Wednesday: Pasta with peppers & sausage (in marinara sauce)

Thursday: Leftovers?

Friday: Calzones

What are you making this week for dinner? For more inspiration visit This Week for Dinner.

Wednesday, June 17


I've been working to organize and compile the recipes I use most often. Since I'm typing most of them with my changes and notes I thought I would post them here as well. Hopefully there will be pictures to go with them one of these days. Enjoy!

Quick Mix Pizza Dough

Tomato Sauce

Black Bean Quesadillas

Potato Vegetable Soup

Monday, June 8

Menu Week of June 8

I'm keeping my meal plan simple this week as we are heading back to Minnesota for a week on Friday. Most of our meals are coming from the freezer. If you aren't freezing leftovers or making meals ahead, I would highly recommend it. It is great to have a freezer full of meals to heat-up and enjoy during busy weeks. Feel free to use the following meals as inspiration to start stocking your freezer.

Monday: baked ziti (Many baked pasta dishes freeze well. Follow the recipe to the point where you would bake it, then freeze instead. If baking from frozen, allow extra time or allow to thaw in the fridge then bake.)

Tuesday: jambalaya (This was leftovers from last month.)

Wednesday: soup (Make a big pot of soup and freeze. If you freeze soup flat in freezer bags, they can be stacked to save space.)

Thursday: leftovers/clean-out the fridge

Friday-next Saturday: traveling

Monday, June 1

Menu Week of June 1

I wasn't feeling inspired yesterday while menu planning, but hopefully our meals will be a little more exciting than what you see here.

Monday: something with chicken breast

Tuesday: Campbell's Tasty 2-Step Pork Chops & mashed potatoes

Wednesday: bean burritos (from freezer)

Thursday: Pasta of some sort or leftovers

Friday: Tacos (leftover meat in freezer)

Monday, May 18

This Week's Menu

This week's meals will be pretty simple with most pulled from the freezer. I like having meals put away in the freezer for weeks when I don't really feel like cooking. Must be the Memorial Day weekend coming up that's making me want to take it easy.

Monday: pasta with veggies

Tuesday: leftovers

Wednesday: stuffed chicken (from freezer) with rice

Thursday: broccoli calzones (from freezer)

Friday: orange chicken (from freezer) with leftover rice

Weekend: Vacation!
I'm looking forward to this weekend and visiting some friends in Charleston, SC. It will be nice to get out of town (and the house) for a couple days, catch-up with friends and spend some quality time with Korey.

Tuesday, May 12

Keeping Celery Fresh & Crisp

We don't eat a lot of celery, but it's nice to keep in the house for soups and occasional snacking. However, we could never use an entire bunch before it would go limp - until I learned this trick.

Wash celery & shake off excess water. Then wrap tightly in a double layer of aluminum foil. Make sure it is sealed completely. Store in fridge for up to 6 weeks!

I think this celery has been in our fridge about a month and it is still crisp and fresh!

Another tip for already limp celery: Trim about an inch off the bottom of each stalk. Stand upright in a glass with about an inch of ice water. Refrigerate until crisp.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes.

Monday, May 11

This Week's Menu

Here's the plan for this week's meals.

Monday: leftovers

Tuesday: grilled chicken with zucchini & squash

Wednesday: smoked sausage & potatoes or rice

Thursday: something with leftover chicken from Tues. - quesadillas?

Friday: Spaghetti with meatballs (from the freezer)

Saturday: leftover smoked sausage with mac & cheese?

Wednesday, May 6

Baked Potato Soup

This is our favorite soup recipe.

Baked Potato Soup
Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

Makes 6 servings

2 large baking potatoes, baked

6 T. thinly sliced green onion

C. butter

C. all-purpose flour

¼ t. each salt & pepper

4 C. milk

¾ C. cheddar cheese

4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained & crumbled

Directions: Bake potatoes (see directions below) then scoop out pulp when cool enough to handle.

In a large saucepan cook 3 T. green onion in butter until tender. Stir in flour, salt & pepper. Cook for 1 minute.

Add milk all at once. Cook & stir until thickened & bubbly. Cook & stir 1 minute more.

Add the potato pulp & ½ C. shredded cheese. Stir until cheese melts.

Ladle into bowls. Garnish each serving with cheese, green onion & bacon.

To bake potatoes: Scrub potatoes clean & pat dry. Bake in a 425° oven for 40 to 60 minutes or until tender. Or use leftover baked potatoes.

Potatoes can also be baked in the microwave. Most microwaves have a baked potato function.

Additionally you could make this recipe with leftover mashed potatoes. Use about 2 cups.

Delicious! This is one of our favorite soup recipes! Very filling and great the next day for lunch. I cook the bacon in the saucepan first, drain out most of the drippings, then continue with the recipe. It adds a little extra bacon flavor and I don’t have to dirty another pan!

For more recipes visit Tammy's Recipes

Tuesday, May 5

Tortilla Bowls

We celebrated Cinco de Mayo this evening with taco salads. As a kid, this was one of my favorite meals -- and still is as an adult. My mom always bought a kit from the grocery store to make the tortilla bowls, but it's easy to make these with just aluminum foil and large tortillas.

Preheat the oven to 425. Crumple large sheets of foil to make 3-inch balls; place on baking sheet. Place 1 large (burrito size) tortilla over each ball; spray with cooking spray.

Bake 6 to 8 min. or until tortillas are golden brown. (Tortillas will drape over balls as they bake.)

Fill with lettuce and your favorite taco fixings. Enjoy!

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes

Monday, May 4

Menu Week of May 4

Monday: Red beans & rice (from the freezer)
Tuesday: Chicken taco salads
Wednesday: Pork chops on the grill with baked potatoes
Thursday: Leftovers or eat out
Friday: pizza, pasta or stir fry depending on what's in the fridge

No real recipes this week. I'm just going to wing it with these simple meals. What are you making for dinner this week?

Tuesday, April 21

Happy Earth Day

Here are a couple links to help you live greener from Lighter Footstep.

Ten First Steps Toward Lighter Living

Seven Stones of Simpler Living

I spent the day enjoying the weather and taking pictures with a friend at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden.

Adding Ads

I'm trying out the idea of running ads on my blog. What do you think? Let me know how you feel about looking at advertisements while reading this blog.

Monday, April 20

Kitchen Tip Tuesday - Freezing Bacon

I've found that most recipes which include bacon only call for a few slices. Rather than cook-up the extra for breakfast, I like to freeze the rest of the package. This way I don't have to buy bacon every time I need it for a recipe. It also allows me to stock up if I find it at a good price.

Wrap slices of bacon (two together, since most recipes call for an even number) between layers of wax paper and freeze in a freezer bag. When you need bacon, simply remove the number of slices needed. Chop or leave whole and cook from frozen.

For more kitchen tips visit Tammy's Recipes

Menu Week of April 20

This week's plan is subject to adjustments. Our friend Aleathea is visiting us and I'm not sure what we will be doing each afternoon, so I've tried to choose meals that I've made ahead or are easy to put together.

Monday: Salads

Tuesday: Sloppy Joes (I'm going to try making with ground turkey. I hope it will be just as delicious.)

Wednesday: Vegetable Lasagna (from the freezer)

Thursday: Brats

Friday: Homemade Pizza or Calzones (from the freezer)

Weekend: Camping? Eat out?

Monday, April 6

Supper This Week

Sorry I didn't post my meal plan for last week. I didn't really have much of a plan - or at least I thought - but we ended up eating meals at home all week! I'm still an advocate for having a plan though, so here is mine for this week.

Monday: mac & cheese (from freezer) & steamed broccoli

spinach salads with soup or sandwiches

BBQ chicken sandwiches & broccoli salad

pasta with sausage & spinach

sweet & sour chicken over rice (The recipe calls for meatballs, but I think I can substitute chicken with good results.)

Most of the meal ideas were taken from Kraft Food & Family Magazine Spring 2008. However, I'm using most of the recipes simply as inspiration and adjusting/substituting as I go.

Also, as you can see, I've planned meals with similar ingredients all week. This is a good way to make sure nothing goes to waste - like the baby spinach I need to buy & the fresh broccoli that's on sale.

Thursday, April 2

My Shopping Bag & Coupon Organization

In a previous post, I wrote about the produce bags I made, which made me think I should show you the rest of the items I bring shopping.

In the photo you can see the canvas bag that I try to carry with me when I go out shopping. Inside this canvas bag I keep several cloth bags (from Hornbacher's for you Fargo people), my coupon folder and shopping list, mesh bags for produce and my wallet (not pictured).

Having all this together in a tote really helps me to be prepared when I go shopping. I've noticed that when we just run out to get something, I often don't bring my tote along and I regret it. We end up with more plastic bags at home, I buy something I had a coupon for but didn't bring with, and I don't have a list, so we end up buying extra items and forgetting things we need.

This is a glimpse inside my coupon folder. (I always like to see how other people do things, so I figure other people do as well.) It is important for me to organize my coupons if I intend to use them, because if I can't find it, I can't use it.

I used an old planner that I couldn't bring myself to throw away. Then I punched holes in several large envelopes to match-up with the rings. I have 5 main categories which are represented by the envelopes (Grocery, Cold/Frozen, Health & Beauty, Home Care, & Misc.). Inside the envelopes I've used index cards with sub-categories to further divide the coupons.

Other items in my binder: calculator - handy for calculating unit prices; pen & paper for making notes; and my shopping list.

One other note: I try to "weed" my coupons at the beginning of each month to get rid of any that have expired and to file any strays.

Do you clip coupons? If so, how do you organize them?

Monday, March 23

Menu Week of March 22

I'm a little late on planning my menu for this week. I'm also about out of money in my grocery budget for this month, so I've been looking around to see what we have in the pantry and the freezer. Looks like nothing exciting to eat this week - I'm not feeling inspired.

Monday: cheese ravioli

Tuesday: grilled steak & baked beans (maybe?)

Wednesday: lentil soup (from freezer) & dinner rolls

Thursday: baked potato bar - this has been a back-up plan for the past couple weeks, so I think I'll actually put it on the menu this week.

Friday: pizza? leftovers?

What are you making this week? I would love to see your menus!

Thursday, March 19

Have a Plan

I'm finally getting around to posting about the weekly cleaning plan I mentioned in one of my first posts. I first thought about having a weekly plan when I saw that a friend had a list of household chores to do each day pinned to her fridge.

Prior to this idea, my approach to keeping house had primarily been to clean when things started to look really dirty or if we were having people over. I knew this wasn't a good way to do it, but I wasn't willing to give up every weekend to cleaning either. Then, I realized that if I could just do a little each day it wouldn't pile up and become a huge task to be dreaded. Granted, I still don't enjoy doing housework, but it is much more enjoyable knowing I only have to do a couple things each day.

I've been reading "Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House" by Cheryl Mendelson and I feel that she makes some good points on why it is important to establish a weekly routine.

Having a weekly routine:
  • helps get everything done
  • gives a sense of accomplishment each day
  • allows you to enjoy a clean home
  • encourages you to be proactive rather than reactive

Mendelson also lays out a traditional weekly routine:
Monday: laundry
Tuesday: ironing
Wednesday: sewing
Thursday: shopping/errands
Friday: cleaning
Saturday: baking
Sunday: rest

My weekly routine is quite different from the one above. I've included my plan as an example, but I'm constantly adjusting it depending on what is going on in a particular week. As you will see, I've arranged my plan more by "home area" than specific tasks. Each day focusing on one or two particular areas that I've found need attention each week.

A few things to keep in mind when establishing your own routine. First, establish your priorities and start small. Don't worry if you can't do everything on a particular day, or even that week. Second, think about your home, the people who live there and how you live. The most important thing is to have a plan that meets your needs and is manageable for you/your household.

One other item to note is that the weekly plan doesn't include daily tasks. I'll admit that I'm not particularly doing all the daily things - which makes the weekly plan even more important, because at least I take care of everything once a week - but I always feel better when I do them each day. Your daily plan might include making the bed, putting away clothes (clean & dirty), washing the dishes each evening & putting them away, wiping counters, sweeping the floor, wiping down bathroom surfaces, putting away the mail or anything else you notice needs daily attention.

Monday, March 16

This Week's Menu

Last week I realized that I'd already used 2/3 of my grocery budget and the month is only half over, but the good news is, my freezer is stuffed with food. Therefore, I'll be pulling things out of the freezer to eat this week and maybe putting a few things back in.

Monday: bean burritos & salad (I agree with the comments that these burritos are a little bland. Next time I think I will mix some salsa into the rice or add something else to spice them up a bit.)

Tuesday: broccoli calzones (made pizza bread last week instead, will probably freeze half the calzones)

Wednesday: spinach manicotti & garlic bread (I made a whole package of manicotti a while ago and since we can't eat that much, I froze the individual filled manicotti. To freeze the pasta, I simply put them back in their packaging, wrapped with plastic and put in a freezer bag. You can thaw the manicotti overnight in the refridgerator, but you don't have to, it will just take longer to bake. To serve, I just take out 2-3 for each of us and then bake in pasta sauce & top with cheese - 375°, 30-45 min. or until heated through.)

Thursday: simple roast chicken & potatoes

Friday: chicken noodle soup from leftover chicken (hope to have enough to freeze some)

Saturday/Sunday: baked potato bar/leftovers/eat out?

Monday, March 9

Good, Easy Food in a Hurry

On Sunday evening I did not feel like making supper, but I knew we had plenty of food in the house so I didn't want to succumb to going out to eat.

So what to make for supper? I looked through the fridge, freezer and pantry, then I remembered a list of easy meals I created several weeks ago for just such an occasion.

I thought I would share my list of go-to meals with you in case, like me, you sometimes have a hard time deciding what to make, or just don't feel like cooking or heating up leftovers from the day before.

Good, Easy Food in a Hurry
  • pasta with sauce, veggies or cheese
  • quesadillas (usually canned black beans, salsa & cheese)
  • pizza - it's always nice to have a frozen one on-hand
  • soup (from the freezer or a can)
  • sandwiches
  • fried rice
  • frittata, scrambled eggs, omelet or similar
  • baked potatoes in the microwave
  • cereal

We had leftover rice in the fridge, so I decided to make fried rice by adding an egg, some frozen mixed veggies and a little bit of soy sauce.

What quick and simple meals do you like to make?

This Week's Menu

I share my weekly meal plan almost every week at This Week for Dinner, but I thought I would also post it here to inspire those of you reading my blog. I am also going to try to post recipes on this blog and I figured this would be a good first step.

Monday: Red Beans & Rice (slow cooker) - see below for recipe

Tuesday: Fiesta Salad with Black Beans (something similar to this without the chicken)

Wednesday: Salsa Rice Enchiladas and Salad - a variation on the recipe below with leftovers from Monday & Tuesday.

Thursday: Broccoli-cheese Calzones - see below for recipe

Friday: Leftovers

Saturday & Sunday: I don't usually plan meals for the weekend, because I'm never sure what we'll be doing or if we'll be home around mealtime. I also don't plan meals for the weekend, because I typically have more leftovers than I thought or we didn't eat a certain meal earlier in the week for whatever reason. However, I do try to keep simple meals from the freezer and pantry ready for if we are home and there isn't anything we haven't eaten yet this week. This weekend we might have pasta or a baked potato bar.

Red Beans & Rice
Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1lb dried kidney beans (2 cups), sorted, rinsed
1 large green bell pepper, chopped (1 ½ cups)
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7 cups water
1 ½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 cups uncooked instant rice
Red pepper sauce

In 4 to 5-quart slow cooker, mix all ingredients except rice and red pepper sauce.
Cover, cook on high 4 to 5 hours or low 8 to 10 hours
Stir in rice. Cover; cook on high 15 to 20 minutes or until rice is tender. Serve with pepper sauce.

Makes 8 servings

Notes 3/10/09: We thought this recipe was good, but a little bland. However, it was super cheap and easy. If I make it again, I might add more seasonings to the slow cooker. We had leftover rice in the fridge, so I didn't add it to the crock pot. I also thought it would freeze better without the rice. I ended up freezing three 2 cup portions because we had A LOT of leftovers.

Salsa Rice Enchiladas

Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1 ½ cups chunky salsa
1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 cup uncooked instant rice
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 can (11 oz) whole kernel corn with red and green peppers, undrained
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 flour tortillas (8 inch)
Additional salsa, if desired

In 10-inch skillet, heat 1 ½ cups salsa and the chili powder to boiling. Stir in rice. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in beans, corn and cheese.
Spoon about ½ cup rice mixture onto center of each tortilla. Fold up bottom of each tortilla; fold over sides. Secure with toothpick if necessary. Serve with additional salsa, if desired.

Makes 4 servings (2 enchiladas each)

Broccoli-cheese Calzones
Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian Cookbook

1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
9 oz frozen cut broccoli, thawed (? cups)
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 egg whites (or 1 egg?)
1 teaspoon dried basil or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 loaf (1 lb) frozen white or wheat bread dough, thawed
1 can (8 oz) pizza sauce

Heat oven to 375. Grease 2 cookie sheets. In medium bowl, mix all ingredients except dough and pizza sauce.
Divide bread dough into 6 equal pieces. On lightly floured surface using a floured rolling pin, roll each piece into 7-inch round.
Top half of each dough round with cheese mixture to within 1-inch of edge. Carefully fold dough over filling; pinch edge or press with fork to seal securely. Place calzones on cookie sheets.
Bake about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes.
In small saucepan, heat pizza sauce over medium, stirring occasionally until hot. Serve warm sauce with calzones.

Makes 6 servings

If you're wondering why all the recipes are from the same cookbook this week, it's because I just checked it out from the library. Everything looked so good and EASY that I just had to get started trying them!

Saturday, March 7

Produce Bags Project

I've been trying to reduce the amount of waste I bring home from the grocery store each week, primarily all the plastic shopping bags, but also plastic produce bags.

At first, I starting reusing the produce bags when I went shopping. Then, I realized I could make my own reusable bags out of mesh packaging materials I might otherwise throw away.

How I did it: First, I cut off any tags and made sure the material was clean. Next, I sealed one end by crocheting it shut. If you don't know how to crochet, you could sew or even just tie knots to keep one end closed. Basically, you just need to secure it well, so nothing falls through. I also ran I string through the top, so my produce will stay inside.

I might look silly to some people at the store, but it makes me feel good to know I am making an effort to reduce the amount of waste I produce.

Tip: Sometimes mesh bags don't come apart in one piece. Don't throw these away, they can be used to help safely scrub food off your dishes without scratching. Just wrap a piece over your dishcloth.

Wednesday, March 4

Put on an apron

If you ever have difficulty motivating yourself to cook or clean, try putting on an apron!

I know it sounds simple, but it really helps! Wearing an apron is like putting on a uniform. It will transform your appearance and help you feel more like a cook or homemaker. (Of course an apron also protects your clothes and serves as a handy place to wipe your hands.)

To really complete your "uniform" wear a skirt or dress under your apron.

Pull out your apron this week if you need a little motivation. Let me know how it goes!

The apron my mom gave me for Christmas.

Friday, February 27

Saving cookies...

for another day!

I don't know about you, but when I bake cookies, it's tempting for Korey and I to eat the whole batch in a couple days. To avoid over-eating and to save some cookies for another day, I freeze them!

You can freeze the dough or the baked cookies. I like to freeze the dough from drop cookies and bake up a hot batch for after supper or to share with friends. I also have leftover already baked cookies in my freezer from Christmas that are still quite tasty.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies ready to be frozen

Cookie dough can be frozen in one piece (and thawed before using) or for ease of use, pre-shape the cookies. Freeze shaped cookies on a cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to an air-tight container or freezer bag and return to freezer. You can bake the cookies straight from the freezer, just add a couple minutes to the baking time! It is helpful to put a note on the container with the baking temp and time so you don't have to pull out the cookbook again.

Cookies aren't the only dessert you can freeze. I also put unfrosted cupcakes in the freezer for a quick treat (and again, so we don't eat them all!) Just be sure they are completely cooled before freezing or the center will get soggy when thawed. You can also freeze sugar-based frosting.

What dessert items do you like to freeze? How do you avoid eating a whole batch of cookies or cupcakes?

Wednesday, February 25

Freezing Foods

Wednesdays are typically the day I try to make something that can be frozen for another meal. I made minestrone soup on Sunday and froze half, so I won't be making anything extra today, but I wanted to offer some of my tips for freezing foods.

Soups: Most soups freeze well and many recipes can easily be doubled. Cream-based soups should not be frozen as they tend to separate. To save freezer space when freezing soups, put a gallon size freezer bag in a 4-cup measuring cup or bowl and fill (about 4 cups). Seal the bag, extracting most of the air, lay flat on a cookie sheet and place in freezer. When frozen, the bags can easily be stacked and take up less space than plastic containers.

Casseroles: When feeding just the two of us, a full-sized casserole (or similar meal baked in a 9x13 pan) gets boring as leftovers and goes bad before we can eat it all. To solve this problem, I invested in some smaller size Pyrex pans (8x8, 6x9, 3x6). When putting together a meal, I divide the food between two baking dishes, then bake one and freeze the other. This works well for pasta dishes, such as mac & cheese or lasagna, and casseroles, including enchiladas.

To keep my pan available for use, I line the dish with plastic wrap or foil. When the food is frozen, simply lift it out, place in a freezer bag and store until ready to use. To heat frozen meals, remove plastic and return to pan to bake. Most foods can be baked from frozen, just add on to the baking time. You can also defrost it overnight in the refrigerator before baking.

Other foods/leftovers to freeze: I have successfully frozen taco meat, sloppy joe meat, pasta sauce, meatballs, cooked rice, burritos, bean dishes and stuffed pastas.

What foods do you like to freeze? Do you have any other tips for freezing meals or leftovers to share with me?

Monday, February 23

A New Week

Happy Monday! It's the start of a new week and this new blog so I thought I would write about a couple things I do at the beginning of each new week.

An important part of each week is the time I spend meal planning. This usually happens on Sunday afternoon or Monday morning. Meal planning is valuable to me for two reasons. First, it helps me take a look at the week and plan what's going on as well as what we are going to eat each day; when I have a plan I don't have to worry about it every afternoon. Meal planning also helps me plan my grocery list for Monday (more on grocery shopping to come) so I don't shop haphazardly and waste money.

A typical week of meals looks like this:

Monday - Crock pot meal or something from the freezer. (I don't get home from step class on Mondays until about 6 p.m. and I usually don't feel like cooking.)

Tuesday - I like to try new recipes, so I usually schedule at least one into each week.

Wednesday - One day a week I like to be sure I have enough leftovers to freeze for another day like Mondays. This might be soup, or a casserole type dish that serves six (more on freezing to come.)

Thursdays - I need a break from cooking by this time of the week and the leftovers have starting piling up in the fridge. Sometimes I try to do something a little different with them so it doesn't feel like the same thing. Salad is also good about this time of week.

Friday - Comfort food day. After a long week it's nice to have something simple and easy like pizza or pasta.

Saturday - Leftovers, food that is quick & easy, or eat out to celebrate saving money on meals at home all week.

Sunday - Often leftovers so we can start the week fresh on Monday or I'll cook something if I feel up to working in the kitchen.

  • Towards the end of the week I take a look in the fridge and see what kinds of fresh food I still have left and try to figure out meals that will use them up.
  • A blog I enjoy reading for weekly dinner inspiration is This Week for Dinner. The author posts her menu for the week on Sunday and encourages others to do the same in the comments.
  • Figure out your typical weekly schedule and use that to form a general meal plan.
  • UPDATE: I forgot some of the most important tips for meal planning! "Shop" at home first. Look in your pantry, fridge & freezer to see what you already have on hand and base your meals off those ingredients first. Then, look at your grocery ad (most are now online if you don't get a paper) to see what's on sale to help round out your menus. This will save you money and space in your home!
What are your meal planning tips?

The other thing I do as part of my weekly chores (more on a weekly cleaning plan later) is change the sheets and clean up the bedroom. You can choose any day you like for this activity, but I find that Monday is easy to remember and it helps get the week off to a fresh start. This is also a great time to dust and vacuum in order to maintain healthy conditions for sleeping.

What chores do you do at the start of each week?

Sunday, February 22

A New Notebook

Since Korey and I moved to the Carolinas I've been a stay-at-home-wife. During this time I have learned a lot about cooking, cleaning and otherwise caring for our home and family. I've kept all of my notes, ideas and revelations in a notebook. Now I would like to share the contents of that notebook with you.

Watch for this blog to evolve over the next several weeks/months as I'm constantly evolving in my understanding of the subjects to be discussed. Here is a tentative list of topics that I plan to write about:
  • cooking
  • baking (bread, sweets, etc.)
  • budgeting & saving money
  • meal planning
  • caring for the home
  • sewing & needlework
  • fitness
The decision to stay at home has sometimes been difficult for monetary reasons as well as my own internal struggles. Through studying God's Word and praying over the situation, I'm slowly discovering His plan for my life as well as enjoying this season that He has given me to grow and share what I am learning.

To all who are reading this blog, I hope you enjoy it and that it will be a blessing in your life. Please feel free to contribute what you are learning or ask about topics you would like to know more about.