Friday, March 24, 2017

Christmas Prep 2017 - 9 Months To Go!

Can you believe I am even doing this post right now?!  Again?!

Well, it wasn't my most productive month, but I did manage to do a lot of planning, especially with regard to my gift list.  I also added a bottle of shower gel to my stocking stuffer stash that I picked up for free at Bath & Body Works with a coupon I received in the mail.  So, so far, no money spent on Christmas prep in the past month.

I did design our Christmas cards for next year and I'm super excited about that.  They turned out soooo cute!  When it gets closer I'll print them out and start putting them together, but for now they'll remain on my computer.  I've got all of the envelopes and card stock I need too so no new purchases for Christmas card supplies will be necessary.

In that same vein I went ahead and updated my Christmas card mailing list and got the labels and return address labels ready to print as well.  I used one of the graphics from the card in the return address labels to tie the card and envelope together.  Fun!  I also have plenty of label stock on hand.

That is pretty much it for me.  What about you?  Did you do anything to get ready for Christmas this year?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Eating For Health - Other Proteins

When you decide to lower your meat consumption it is always good to add other protein sources to your diet.  The average man needs 56 grams of protein per day and the average women needs 46 grams.  Even more if you are physically active.

One of the best proteins to add is the very versatile legume.  My favorite legume is black beans and I eat them quite a bit.  I use them in soups and chili as well as other dishes like stuffed bell peppers, burritos and tacos, salads, rice bowls, etc.  Recently I made black bean burgers and much to my surprise and amazement they were delicious!  One cup of beans equals 14 grams of protein or more.

Eggs are another source of protein we eat quite a bit.  We are very fortunate to have our own supply of healthy and nutritious farm fresh eggs in our own backyard.  And quite honestly there is no comparison to the quality of a farm fresh egg over a commercially produced one.  I use eggs a lot in baked goods, but also omelets and quiches as well as breakfast burritos and fried rice dishes.  Hard boiled eggs make it into sandwiches and salads or get eaten as snacks.  Another very versatile source of protein.  One large egg has 6 grams of protein.

I'm not a tofu or soy eater, but once again another versatile source of protein.  Soy milk has 8 grams of protein in a one cup serving.  A lot of Asian foods, especially soups use tofu which has a whopping 20 grams of protein per cup.

Nuts and seeds are another delicious way to add protein to your diet.  A one ounce serving of nuts or seeds averages about 6 grams of protein.  Not too shabby and they make for a healthy and nutritious snack.  Add some to salads or baked goods to boost the nutrition factor up a notch.

Plant proteins are one source you may have never really thought of but yes, plants do have protein.  Rice for instance packs 6 grams of protein in a one ounce serving.  Lentils have 9 grams!  Oatmeal has 5 grams.  Vegetables such as potatoes, spinach, avocados, broccoli and brussel sprouts are also good sources of protein.

Protein powders.  There are a lot of them out there and I personally don't know enough about them right now to say whether or not they are a good idea.  Right now I choose to get my protein from the foods I consume.  But if anyone knows of any pros or cons about protein powders please share in the comments.

Meat remains the largest source of dietary protein, but if you are looking to cut back on your meat consumption, for whatever reason, you have plenty of other options out there.  Do your homework and check out these options for yourself.  Good foods that are really good for you!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This recipe turned out better than I could've imagined.  Even the girls loved it and they are my toughest critics.  My oldest isn't much on vegetables but she sure likes these.  I hope you do too!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

3 whole bell peppers
1 cup rice
1 cup black beans, cooked
1 stalk celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 Tbs. oil
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella, optional

Lightly oil a 9" X 13" baking pan.  Wash peppers, cut in half from top to bottom and remove seeds.  Lay peppers out in baking pan.

Tomatoes give off just the right amount of liquid

Cook rice until almost done, but not quite.  In a medium pan heat oil and sauté celery, carrot and onion.  Add tomatoes, garlic, basil and oregano.  Continue cooking until just tender.  Remove from heat, stir in rice and beans.  Spoon filling into pepper halves.

Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with mozzarella if desired.  Serves 6.

For vegetarian or vegan you can leave off the cheese or use a vegan cheese.  Low fat, low sodium and delicious.  We love the flavor of red, orange or yellow peppers the most, but green ones are really good too.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

The rain and snow finally quit and the sun came out!  Temperatures have been in the sixties prompting me to turn off the heat and throw open doors and windows to let the fresh air in and the stagnant winter air out.  Hallelujah!

Sunday morning I baked up a lovely batch of lemon blueberry scones for our mid morning brunch.  Thanks to daylight savings time beginning our brunch arrived much earlier.  I also made another vegan chocolate cake which made my girls very happy.

I reused the lemon I had zested and juiced for the scones by sticking it into a half gallon pitcher and filling it up with filtered water - yum!  I refilled the pitcher a few times throughout the week before the lemon ended up in the compost bin.

Warmer weather and loads of sunshine have spurned me further with my spring cleaning.  I gave my sewing area the once over and reorganized the garage a bit to make it a more functional space.  I also moved some completed retirement house projects into bank boxes and put them in the storage space underneath the stairs.  It is turning out to be the perfect place to hold these things.

I "shopped" the chest freezer in the garage for ground beef for tacos, a package of sliced turkey for school lunches and a corned beef for the girls to fix on St Patty's Day.  I had purchased the vacuumed packed corned beef last year when they were on sale.

I finally had the opportunity to burn the huge bag of junk mail and shreddables I've been collecting in the garage all winter.  Once the ashes cool they'll be composted.

After work on Friday I had to make a quick trip to the bank.  As I left I stopped at the fruit stand across the street and picked up some produce.  They just opened up for the season a couple weeks ago and had some pretty good prices advertised.

I picked up a dozen old fashioned donuts for the girls on markdown $1.29

Saturday I did my morning grocery run.  I stopped first at Albertsons to drop off a winters worth of glass in the big recycling bin they have in their parking lot.  Since I was there I went inside and picked up four cans of diced tomatoes on sale for 39¢ each.  Good price!

Cup of noodles was my Friday freebie at Fred Meyer

Then off to Trader Joes for produce and a jar of minced garlic.  Fred Meyer after that for a few other things on my list.  I picked up more mushrooms and green beans on markdown as well as soy milk in vanilla and chocolate for the girls to try, also on markdown for $1.39 each.

A friend of mine gave me a veggie tray she didn't think she could finish up.  It had a full container of Ranch dressing with it, my youngest's favorite.

I trimmed my bangs.

I gave our new strawberry plants some spent coffee grounds.

I made another vegan chocolate cake

I had enough dryer lint saved in a toilet paper tube to make another fire starter.  I actually used one of them of them to start the fire in our chiminea when I burned the bag of shreddables.

We gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens.  All four girls are now laying.  Our Easter Egg chicken has started to lay which is a sure sign that spring is on its way.  I shared a dozen eggs with a friend of mine.

I composted coffee filters, tea bags, crunched up egg shells, onion skins, plus avocado, orange and banana peels.

How was your thrifty week?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Eating For Health - Meat

I admire people who can lead a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and are committed to that way of life and all that it entails.  I, myself, am an omnivore.  I like meat.  I really like red meat.  A nice juicy rib eye steak is my all time favorite cut.  It is also the least healthiest piece of meat I could put in my body.  But, I love it.

Currently I am trying to focus most of my meals on plants and whole grains, but meat is still a part of that, just in much smaller quantities.  According to the Lupus website I follow the best diet is one high in plant and grain based meals with lean sources of fish, poultry and beef in moderation.  To be honest, it is probably the best meal plan for most of us who want to lead a healthy lifestyle.

So while I personally have to steer clear of pork and shellfish (dang it!) as well as soy products and alfalfa sprouts (not a fan of those much anyway) good quality lean meats and fish are still on the menu.

In January I was fortunate enough to purchase on sale a large quantity (40 pounds) of all natural boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk as well as lean ground beef.  I've also acquired several packages of lean sirloin steaks.  Plus, I purchased frozen wild salmon and cod fillets (wild fish is preferred over farm raised) and shrimp (my oldest will be eating that).

All meats contain saturated fats and that is what you have to watch the most when it comes to heart health so the leaner the better.  Even still there are things you can do to remove even more of those fats before consuming.  Here are a few things I do:

Trim away any excess fat you can see before cooking steaks, fish or poultry

Cook ground meats, then place in a sieve and rinse with hot water
Rinse out the pan you cooked it in too before you return
the meat and continue cooking your recipe

Grind your own meat
Lean chicken or turkey breast, lean beef roasts are easy to put
through a grinder and you have better control over the fat content
You also avoid any fillers or preservatives added to those meats, water too

Buy the best quality you can afford
All natural grass fed beef, organic chicken, wild caught fish

Additionally, I eat smaller portions, less often and modify my cooking methods to make meat a healthier part of my meals.  A little extra care when selecting and preparing meats will go a long way in my journey for better and sustained health.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Orange Cranberry Scones

These scones turned out great and I was so pleased.  It is so exciting for me to come up with a recipe and have it turn out reasonably well, but with this I knocked it right out of the park.  The girls absolutely loved them and you would never know they are healthy and full of good stuff that is good for you!  😋

Orange Cranberry Scones

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Zest of one orange
1/4 cup all vegetable shortening
Juice of one orange, plus water to make 1 cup
1 tsp. vanilla

Whisk first six ingredients together really well, then thoroughly work in the shortening.  Juice the orange and add enough water to equal one cup of liquid.  Stir in vanilla and add to dry ingredients.  Mix to combine.  Dough will be fairly wet.

On a well floured surface work in enough flour to easily pat out the dough into a circle approximate 3/4" thick.  Cut out biscuits with a cutter and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet making sure they don't touch.  Bake in a preheated 400° oven for 15 to 18 mins.


3 Tbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp. water, orange or lemon juice

Mix up glaze.  Remove baked scones from oven and drizzle across the top of each one.

Makes 12 scones

The glaze is completely optional and you could leave it off, but it is really good.  I was going for full on flavor and since I was making a fruit salad and using a can of pineapple chunks I used the pineapple juice to top off the orange juice instead of water.

What I really like about these scones is that they are moist and fluffy so no need to add a smear of butter or jam.  If you are looking to cut some fat and calories from your diet without sacrificing flavor this scone recipe is a good one for that.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Sundays At Our House

Those that know us well, know that we are pretty much off limits on a Sunday.  It is the one day of the week where we come together as a family and stay home.  Sundays are pretty sacred to us.

The girls sleep in and I only recently discovered that once they wake up they have developed a routine of hanging out together in one or the other's bedroom and visiting.  I had no idea they had been doing this ever since we moved back into the house and I think it is the neatest thing that they do together.  Here I thought they were really sleeping in late.  It truly touches my heart.

While they sleep in I get up and begin my day making by a fresh pot of coffee and starting a big load of laundry.  I like to bake on Sunday mornings too.  It has become one of my favorite routines.  The smell of whatever I'm baking is usually what finally brings my girls downstairs.

From that point on we have a handful of chores to do, beds to be made up with clean sheets, laundry to fold and animals to feed.  We try to keep the chore list to a minimum.  Then we end up doing stuff together, like watching a movie, going for a walk, playing games or just reading.  I like to sew or work on a project and the girls will usually hang out with me while I do that.  It is just a time for us to be together as a family.

I make special, fancier meals on Sundays and we eat earlier in the day too.  I usually make a dessert as well.  We work together to get dinner on the table and to clean up afterward.  Then it is back to whatever it was we were doing.

Quite often we won't even get dressed and Sunday becomes a pajama day.  Another reason it is good not to have people coming over, ha, ha. 😆 

All too quickly, however, the day flies by and before we know it, it is already time to start getting our showers done and to climb into clean pajamas and clean beds for a good night's rest.

I love Sunday.  I wish there could be more of them each week.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

While I heated up a cup of coffee in the microwave Sunday morning I purged the junk drawer and tossed a couple handfuls of garbage into the trash.  I was saving that why exactly.... ???  Yeah, anyway, then I straightened up everything and relocated two items that didn't even belong there in the first place.

I made the best ever Orange Cranberry Scones for Sunday breakfast and a beautiful fruit salad to go along with.  I'll be posting the scone recipe on Wednesday so be sure to watch for that.

I had a Christmas candle that burned off center leaving a good sized gob of wax left after it had burned down.  I put the glass candle jar into a pan of simmering water and allowed all of the wax to melt down and then poured it into a pair of glass votives I had saved.  For wicks I used some spent birthday candles from my daughter's birthday cake.  They look a little funny initially, but once that part sticking up burns down it will look like a normal candle.  So now rather than throwing a way the wax I now have two very usable candles to enjoy.

We spring cleaned our upstairs bathroom.  I used a little bleach water to wash down the ceiling and walls (we had a little mold starting in a couple spots) and then I super scrubbed the toilet.  My oldest took on the job off the tiles and the bathtub.  We cleaned the sink and mirror and washed the decorative towels.  Nice and sparkling clean!

I also spring cleaned the silverware drawer in the kitchen.  I took everything out, washed the silverware tray, sprayed down and wiped out the inside of the drawer and put everything back in order.  Slowly but surely I am making my way through the kitchen.

I mixed up 3 tablespoons of cheap grapefruit scented dish soap from the dollar store with a cup of warm water to make foaming soap solution and refilled my kitchen dispenser.

Tuesday the youngest and I went to the library to drop off books and select new ones.  We waited there until the oldest was ready to be picked up from her robotics workshop at BSU so we saved a little gas.

On the way home we stopped at Home Depot to pick up some home improvement supplies I ordered online and had sent to the store.  It saved me time shopping and shipping costs by having it sent to the store.

I joined the Sizzler Real Deal E-Club and they sent me a coupon for a hamburger meal.  Nice!

The girls finished up a jar of grated parmesan so I removed the lid and washed it up.  Once it was dry I put it on one of my favorite jelly jars and set it aside with some other things I've collected for the new house.  I plan to use it to keep yeast in for when I bake bread.

Friday evening I bartered a home cooked steak and potatoes dinner for some electrical work with a friend of mine who just happens to be an electrician.  Turns out it is going to be a bigger job than he was expecting so it is still a work in process.  I hope he really liked dinner.  Yikes!  I'll update you on how it all turns out.

Saturday morning was my youngest's Orchestra Festival.  She played in two different quartets and boy oh boy was I a proud mama!  I literally almost cried, but that would have embarrassed the heck out of her so I held it in.  It was hard!

To celebrate she and I had a mommy daughter day just like her sister and I had the week before...  and I had coupons!  First stop was the mall and See's Candies.  Had to have a truffle after all of that superb violin playing.

Then we went to JC Penney to use the two $10 OFF $10 coupons they gave me the week before when I was there with the oldest.  I wasn't about to not use them.  We got her another pair of school uniform pants.  They were still on sale for $14.99 (regularly $30.00) so I got those for $4.99!  I used the other coupon to get her a black sweater also on sale for $14.99, so after the coupon it was only $4.99, and a darling long sleeved top off the clearance rack for $4.97.  For $15 we literally left the store with a brand new outfit and she was tickled pink.

We put our purchases in the car and walked across the parking lot to Sizzler, her favorite restaurant.  We both had the 6 oz. sirloin steak and salad bar special for $9.99, since neither one of us are eating hamburgers right now.  We pretty much filled up on salad bar, ate a few bites of our steak and brought the rest of our meal home in a box to enjoy the next day.  Pretty good deal.

After lunch we stopped at Trader Joes and I picked up the produce I needed for the week ahead.  On the way home we stopped into Gordman's and she picked out a new pair of sneakers for only $12.99.  Solid black and gray plaid - Super cute!

That sums it up for us.  How was your thrifty week?

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