Friday, April 30, 2010

Foodless Friday: Your Opinions

Today readers, I am asking for your opinions about this blog...

Are there any changes that you would like to see? Is there anything you'd like to see more of or less of on my blog?
More recipes?  More pictures? More complete menus? More or less of my day-to-day life? Tutorials of cooking basics (such as the best way to chop an onion, cut a pineapple, etc.)? Stop posting about my goals? Start a Q&A?

Or anything else, I'm sure you get the idea. I want this blog to be more of a conversation between us. I also want it to be helpful to you - if you can think of anything you'd like to see changed, please let me know through the comments, or by email if you would rather.  The floor is yours.

Have a Happy Friday!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Breakfast Potatoes

I love getting breakfast potatoes when I go out to eat at pancake house. I have tried to replicate these for a while now, and think I finally have the right amount of seasoning. It is pretty easy to make these as you can start them baking and then make other breakfast items. Plus they are baked not fried, so you have to feel better about eating them, right?

Breakfast Potatoes
First, chop up 8 medium potatoes (about 7 cups)
Add 1.5 - 2 Tbsp Seasoning salt and 1 tsp black pepper.
Toss seasoning around salt.
Make sure it is coated.
Dump potatoes into a baking pan.

Randomly place 2 tbsp butter cut into smaller pieces on top of potatoes.
Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Stirring after 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Here's my goals this past week:

Sugar Intake Reduction -  I've done really well this last week. Yesterday I was helping my friend do some work on the house they just bought and we went out for a shake, but I only ate half and indecently left it in her freezer... I've been trying to eat more fruit as sweets lately.

One New recipe per week - Yesterday I made toffee almonds (sorry I'm not posting that recipe as it did not work out as good as it could have - there was too much butter as well as it was starting to burn - but we don't need to discuss that part.)

Exercise 3 times per week - I'm pretty much back into my pattern of 3 exercise videos per week. Now I just need to do better at my afternoon walks (but I am meeting my goal of exercising 3 times per week!)

Read 1 good book per month - Reported about the book I read two weeks ago.

How are your goals coming? If you've posted about your goals you can add them to the Linky thing below!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Menu - April 19-25

This past week I've actually gotten better at taking pictures... and actually cooking ;).  I have decided to start labeling each meal that I have step by step pictures available to post - as some I only have pictures of the final product, but others I take pictures during the process. Partly it depends on how rushed I am to get dinner ready and what else I have going on in my life at the time. Some days I feel it is a accomplishment to just get dinner on the table! Those days I don't have step by step pictures... After I list each days item, I will put either FPO (Final Photos Only) or SBS (Step By Step) to let you know what to expect if that recipe wins the poll. I'll do this for a couple of weeks and then ask you all how you like it to see if I keep doing it in the future.

This week's Menu:

Monday: Spaghetti & Meatballs
Tuesday: Meatball Subs - First time I've hand them - I've been hesitant to try them... I've been cheating myself  - delicious! FPO

Wednesday: Homemade Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese - FPO

Thursday: Strawberry Muffins, Ham Steaks, Breakfast Potatoes - SBS

Friday: Ordered Pizza... It was one of those days ;)

Saturday: Church Women's Group Meeting

Sunday: Salisbury Steak, Steamed Broccoli, and Grapes - FPO

Be sure to vote for which recipe you want to see on Thursday.  I'd also love to hear what you've had for dinners this past week!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Foodless Friday: Sleeping

Have you ever known someone who was a night owl who did not want to be? Or who just could not go to sleep at a normal time at night? I do. I happen to be married to him, that is until about 8 months ago... Eight months ago, my dear husband was diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder/Syndrome. Basically his body wanted him to go to bed at 4 AM instead of when we would normally go to bed. We did not know this because he would be able to go to sleep before that sometimes, but others he would just not be able to go to sleep. I definitely feel that it was made worse by our baby not sleeping between 11PM and 3AM every night for the first few months of his life. Since we were married he would have occasional nights where he couldn't sleep, but it was usually only once per month. After our son was born it became 1-2 times per week - of course we only noticed this after our son started going to sleep at 11 PM instead of 3AM. He would also have a really hard time getting out of bed in the morning. It was rough to deal with both from his side and from mine. While I really tried to be an understanding wife, I could not understand why it took him over 20 minutes to get out of bed.

Luckily we were able to see a wonderful sleep specialist, he was diagnosed with Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder and started light therapy to help his body get back into the swing of things. Also luckily is that he was a college student on summer break and his work was VERY flexible and did not mind him coming in at 2PM.

I felt like writing this because I've been in a few conversations lately about it and this sleep disorder is not widely known. In fact those who have it are sometimes labeled as lazy and irresponsible... It's not fair to them because they also do not understand why they cannot sleep. I wish we could have learned about this sleep disorder 4 years ago, but am glad that we were able to solve my husband's sleep problem when it was at its worse. If you are experiencing any sleep problems I would encourage you to talk to your doctor about them - and if possible to see a sleep specialist. A good night's sleep is worth it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

French Dip Sandwiches

In our family we usually eat French Dip Sandwiches after we have a roast for dinner so we use our left over roast. However, once or twice I have used store bought deli roast beef - hands down the left over roast wins, but the deli meat works in a pinch. Growing up this was a special treat for my father as he loves them! Now I make it as a special treat for my husband because he loves them as well... It is a great way to use left over roast if you do not want the same meal twice in a row.

If using deli meat, make sure you use it by the sell by date on the package. If you are not going to use it by that date, you can freeze it for up to four months. One tip for easy lunches is to separate the meat into individual servings, top with a slice of cheese and freeze so you can just grab it and some bread to take to work. This also works great for college students because the meat will be thawed by lunchtime and you don't have to worry about refrigerating it.

French Dip Sandwiches

In a saucepan or skillet, cook 1 large onion either sliced or cut into segments in 1 tbsp butter (or olive oil.)
Add 2 cups beef broth or stock, 1/4 tsp dried crushed oregano, thyme and marjoram, 1/8 tsp black pepper, and 1/4 tsp garlic powder.Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Add cooked beef - either left over sliced roast or deli roast beef (about 1 lb). Simmer for 8 more minutes.
Place onions and beef on four toasted hoagie rolls. If desired top beef with cheese. Divide remaining sauce into 4 serving dishes. Serve sandwiches with dipping sauce.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Goals and accountability

I have found that since I'm reporting on my goals each week I've actually done pretty well (except for a couple of weeks...)  There is something about having to report each week that makes me actually want to meet my goals.

Sugar Intake Reduction -  I'm pretty much back in my target with sugar intake. It makes me happy! My latest thing I've done is to get a container to put 1 cup of ice cream in that I eat throughout the week and I love that I'm eating less but still enjoying it!

One New recipe per week - Today I'm making a new bread recipe...

Exercise 3 times per week - I've done exercise videos 2 times in the past week and went on 2 or 3 walks (I can't remember for sure...)

Read 1 good book per month - Reported about the book I read last week.

How are your goals coming?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Menu - April 12-18 - Poll is UP now...

About a month ago I posted that I need to start making menus... It worked for a week or two, but now I'm back into a rut. It is probably because some of the meals I wanted to make had ingredients that are not in season and I did not want to pay for not in season items. I need to do better at making my menus again so I have the items on hand. When I make menus, I do not say on Monday I'm having such and such, I plan out about 10 meals that I want to make and have the stuff on hand for each meal, then I decide each day what we're eating out of those meals. That way I can take my daily cravings into consideration. I find it works so much better for me.

Here's the menu we had: 

Monday: French Dip Sandwich

Tuesday: Quinoa Salad

Wednesday: My Grandfather's Awful Waffles (despite the name, they are quite delicious! They are made from uncooked wheat berries.)

Thursday: Grilled Steaks (Made by my Mom)

Friday: BBQ Beef Tortilla Pizza (same as BBQ Chicken Tortilla Pizza, except I used strips cut from a roast)

Saturday: Open Face Beef Sandwich (Made by my Mom)

Sunday: Ham Steaks, Breakfast Potatoes and Pancakes

Be sure to vote for which recipe you want to see on Thursday!
Also I'd love to hear what you all are having for dinners! Post your entire menu or just your favorite from the past week!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


I think I totally spaced posting the Crouton recipe last week... but I am finally getting to it! Sorry if you were anticipating this one, I've just been kind of spacey lately. It happens sometimes, maybe it is springtime. Spring makes me want to be outside and spending time in the warming weather. It's been getting warm enough here that I don't have to wear a jacket on walks, or make my son wear a jacked on our afternoon walks. It is wonderful! It also makes me want to eat salads. There is just something about warm weather that makes fresh produce so much more enticing. What goes better with a salad than croutons?
Croutons are easy to make and delicious made fresh!

In a non stick skillet melt 1/4 cup butter.
While the butter is melting, measure 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp garlic.
Add the cheese and garlic to the butter
Mix until combined.
Toss in bread cubes (I used whole wheat bread - 4 slices cut into 1/2 inch squares.
Toss to coat the butter/cheese/garlic mixture all over the bread.
After 3-5 minutes turn and cook, tossing bread occasionally for 5-8 more minutes.
Use croutons to top your favorite salad.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Foodless Friday: Money

It surprises me how many people are not good with money (okay, I'm not perfect, but have learned a few things I try to implement...)  I was fortunate enough to take a Family Finance class the first semester my husband and I were married. I think that set the stage for the managing of money in our marriage (it also helps that my husband had previously taken the same class.)  I'm going to share some things I've learned.
*Disclaimer: I am not a finance expert by any means, below are just some things I've learned and am trying to/have implement(ed) in our lives.

First, to create a budget, you should spend as you normally do for a few months (or go back for the past few months and chart expenses.) Divide it into categories that work for you (for example, the categories that I track are: Rent (Mortgage), Insurance, Loans, Groceries, Eating out, Gasoline, Baby, Clothing, Charitable Contributions, Entertainment, Irregular (things that don't normally happen such as tires, car repair, etc.), Medical, Household, Phone, Utilities. The first three expenses are usually fixed - you pay the same amount each month. The rest of the expenses vary, whether a little or a lot - which is why it is best to track your expenses for a few months in order to get the best picture of your expenditures.

Of course since we've been married, first we were both in college, then my husband was a grad student and now we're looking for full time employment while he finished his thesis so our finances have been all over the map. If you are in more of a stable situation, you should be able to do this a little better than we have!

One way to reduce spending in a category is the step down principle. Imagine there is a ladder and at the top is the most expensive way to spend money and the bottom is the least expensive. When buying clothes having them made professionally for you is the most expensive, a few steps down - department stores - a few steps down - Target - a few steps down - second hand - at the bottom - freecycle. Now if you were buying tailored clothes you would not go directly to freecycle, you would probably go to a department store or one step in between tailored and a department store. The big thing is that you would be saving money. If you eat out a lot, you can save money by getting water instead of a drink or not ordering an appetizer or dessert. Or you can eat out one to two fewer times per month... You have to do what works for you.

Another principle of finances is to pay yourself first - set money aside in savings first. I find that if I do this I am less likely to spend it than if it is in my checking account. I tend to look at my checking account and think, I have this much $$, so I can spend it all. If I put money in savings then I tend to forget I have it - unless I actually NEED to spend it (such as for medical, or car repairs.)

Weekly/Monthly Finances Sessions:
How I do my finances: every week I enter my income and expenditures in my excel spreadsheet (actually made by my husband) that is like a check book register that does all the math. I usually discuss our financial situation with my husband after I am finished. Every month I break down the expenses into the categories that I listed above. Then I enter those into another spreadsheet that averages how much we spend in each category per year as well as one that is just for that month. It has an area that lets me enter information about that month and list any out of the ordinary circumstances that affected our spending. That way we can see trends in our spending, such as when I was pregnant and had morning sickness we spent a lot more eating out because I couldn't stomach cooking and eating the same food... that is actually when we separated eating out and groceries.

Credit Cards:
Another thing with finances is credit cards... we love them and we hate them. They are convenient and the best way for shopping online securely. They also charge interest... You should NEVER get a credit card that charges a yearly fee to hold it... it is not worth it. Each credit card has a 'grace period' for purchases where they do not charge interest. The best way to use a credit card is to pay it off each month so you do not have to pay interest - be sure to note the grace period for your card, some are as few as 20 days. (Of course this was before the new legislation that passed, so I'm not sure exactly what has changed...)  Hubby and I actually count our credit card purchases against our checking account balance so we have the money to pay off our credit cards each month.

If you do have credit card debt on more than one credit card, pay off the highest interest card first while paying the minimum on every other card. For example: If CC1 has an interest rate of 20%, CC2 has an interest rate of 18% and CC3 has an interest rate of 12%. To make this easy we'll say that each credit card has only 1,000 balance and that the minimum payment for each is $25 and that we have a total of $150 per month to pay on the cards (I'm also not calculating interest, which would make the payments on the cards longer, but more complicated in this example.)
So since CC1 has a higher interest, we're paying $100 on it, and $25 on the other two per month. After 10 payments (months) CC1 is paid off. The other two cards are paid down to $750 when CC1 is paid off. So then we take $125 (the $100 from CC1 and the 25 from CC2) and apply it to CC2 and $25 to CC3. After 6 months CC2 is paid off and then we apply all $150 to CC3 (which has a balance of $600 when CC2 was paid off.) After 5 months CC3 is paid off. So after 21 months all credit cards are paid off... of course with paying interest, it would take longer...(20% interest on 1000 is about $16 per month.)
Here's it looking visually:
        CC1         CC2         CC3
1000 1000 1000  Month 1
900 975 975  Month 2
800 950 950  Month 3
700 925 925  Month 4
600 900 900  Month 5
500 875 875  Month 6
400 850 850  Month 7
300 825 825  Month 8
200 800 800  Month 9
100 775 775  Month 10
0 750 750  Month 11

625 725  Month 12

500 700  Month 13

375 675  Month 14

250 650  Month 15

125 625  Month 16

0 600  Month 17

450  Month 18

300  Month 19

150  Month 20

0  Month 21
Another way to deal with high interest is balance transfers, but you have to be careful with balance transfer fees, as they can make you pay more money than you would just paying it off.

These are just a few of the things I've learned and tried to implement in my financial life... I hope this has helped at least one person out there...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Strawberries & Cream

Last week when I was making the Feta Chicken Pasta, I decided it needed something to go with it... I had bough strawberries for freezer jam and had so left over so I was anxious to eat them! I really LOVE strawberries, strawberries and blueberries. Yum. I decided to whip up some whipping cream to go with the strawberries. Of course plain whipping cream is too boring, so I added some stuff to it, and it was pretty good. The next day I had bought more strawberries and decided to make it again, with a few tweaks and it turned out so delicious. It is really pretty easy to make and wonderful to eat... I think I need to go buy strawberries now.

Strawberries & Cream

In a medium bowl, add 2/3 cup whipping cream (I use heavy whipping cream).
Start whipping the cream.
Whip until the cream starts to get fluffy.
The cream will still be a little runny. Add 2-4 Tbsp sugar (you can add more as you make it to taste.)
1/4 cup strawberry jam (this was the freezer jam I had made the day before...)
Add 1 Tbsp lime juice
And 1 Tbsp lemon juice.
Beat until fluffy. There are two ways that I have served this so far... 
First, I mixed the cream and diced strawberries together and sprinkled with finely grated chocolate and a strawberry fourth on top.
The other way was a layered dish. I started with whipping cream, and then strawberry slices.
Repeating the layers.
Cream mixture, strawberries, cream mixture, strawberries...
Ending with the cream mixture on top and a decorative strawberry flower.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Goal Tracking...

It's Wednesday again, I can't believe how fast the past week has gone. I've been incredibly tired for the past 2 weeks, but I think I'm finally getting over it! I usually get up in the morning and exercise, but have not had the energy in the past week or so. I was able to get up today and felt rested, it was great!

Here are my goals:
-  As far as sugar intake goes, I am doing better than I was before I started... but I need to start regulating it better! Maybe I need to allow myself more than I did before, I'm going to explore it more this week.

- New recipes... I made my own Strawberries and Cream recipe and I must say it was delicious!

- I did exercise videos twice this past week and went on a walk... I should be getting back into my 3 videos per week and a walk 5 times per week. The walking was not in my original goal, but our puppy needs it too.

- I read a book this month by an author that I've read before and liked. I read Heros of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud. He is the author of the The Bartimaeus Trilogy, which I LOVED. Heros of the Valley took a while for the book to actually get interesting... it was not the best book I've read but not the worst either. If you were to read any book by this author - read three - the three in the trilogy... they are really good.

How are your goals coming?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Treats: Goopy Bread (aka Pull Aparts, aka Monkey Bread)

Many years ago (okay really only a decade ago) I went to an all girls camp every summer. It was great fun! We would cook using various methods and make delicious meals and desserts. The last couple of years I went to camp we had Pull Aparts (made in a dutch oven), and we all loved them. Of course there were no guys so we could pig out and not worry about what anyone thought ;). I had nearly forgotten about these treats when I got married. One of my camp leaders came to my wedding reception and in her wedding gift she gave us the recipe for pull aparts (and the pan I use to make them.) If you make this while camping, the recipe will need to be doubled for a dutch oven.

So why in the title do I call it Goopy Bread? Good question, Goopy Bread is the only name my husband can remember to call it when he says that we should make it. I sometimes (like once or twice per year) make this for him as a surprise breakfast. I KNOW that this is not a healthy breakfast, but for a special treat I can spoil the man I love. I think one time he slipped and replaced the G with a P, but we won't talk about that here...

Goopy Bread

You will need 3 cans of biscuits**.
and you will need to open the aforementioned 3 cans of biscuits.
Don't you hate it when you fully remove the wrapper and the biscuits still have not opened? I always jump when I open these, so I'm on edge the whole time... just waiting for the pop to startle me. It is just not fair to have that anxiety for nothing.
Pop! It finally opened after I banged it on the counter. It doesn't scare me as much when I bang it on the counter to open it. Maybe the banging helps me rid myself of the anxiety. I'm not the only one who hates opening those things am I?
Once you get over the trauma of opening the biscuits, cut them into fourths. 
Next get some cinnamon and sugar.
Coat the cut up biscuits with the cinnamon and sugar mix.
I like to place my cinnamon and sugar into a container, place the biscuit in the container, put a lid on it and shake it like nobody's business. It also helps to release the left over stress of opening the biscuits.
Place the coated biscuit into bundt pan - spray with nonstick cooking spray first though.
Repeat until all the cut up biscuits are coated and in the pan. If you want you can sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over the biscuits, but it is not really needed.
If you are a good multitasker you can do the following steps while cutting the biscuits, if not - do the following after getting all the biscuits in the pan.
Place 1 cup vanilla ice cream and 1 cube (1/2 cup) butter in a saucepan. If you would prefer to have a little less sugar in this dish, you can use 1 cup heavy cream instead of ice cream.
Melt the butter and the ice cream.
Add 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.
Mix together.
Bring to a boil.
Pour over biscuits in the pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven when the tops turn golden brown.
Turn upside down on a serving platter.
The sauce oozes down over the sides.
The middle pretty much fills with sauce.
At this point is is pretty much futile to resist eating at least one bite.

** I did make this recipe with biscuits made from scratch (I used the Biscuits Supreme recipe in Better Homes & Gardens.)  It still tasted good*, but there were a few changes: It needed an extra 10 minutes to cook, the sauce was not as runny, and the biscuits were a little more dense. I rolled out the biscuits and cut them into 90 bite size pieces, but only used 60 of them. I also had to spray the biscuits with some oil before coating them in cinnamon and sugar.
The other 30 pieces I used to make a reduced sugar version. Since it was cut in half, I used 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1/2 cube butter, 1 Tbsp regular sugar and 2 Tbsp brown sugar. (I did dip them in cinnamon and sugar.)
*My husband and mother (taste testers) said they liked it better than the biscuits from the can.