Sunday, November 15, 2009

Drag Queen Bingo

It's official I am a terrible blogger. I go days on end without blogging, don't take pictures as promised, and I have nothing of interest to blog about. But in my defense I have been somewhat busy lately! This weekend Jason and I went to a bingo that supports the gay and lesbian community center in Pittsburgh. One of my co-worker invited me to go with him, as he is gay and very active with the gay and lesbian community center. It was SO fun! Even Jason had an awesome time which surprised him! He thought it was going to be akward or not fun for him but he said he loved it and hopefully we will be going again in January. We also ate at this Chinese dumpling house before the bingo which was SOOO good, I got general tso's tofu which I have never had before and Jason got, what else, sushi. That kid could live off of sushi. I ate a couple of his tuna rolls. I am a vegetarian and I try not to eat fish but sushi is my vice! Its the only time I eat fish. I wish I could not eat it because I feel guilty but it's just so good and I guess I don't have the same level of guilt about it as I do meat like chicken and pork. This weekend was amazing and I can't wait for next week and then Thanksgiving. I am volunteering to deliver thanksgiving meals to the elderly on Thanksgiving through where I work. I am excited to do it and so happy to help out. I have so much and have been so fortunate in my life its the least I can do to help those who don't have family to eat with on Thanksgiving. Well I am off to enjoy the rest of my Sunday. I promise to be a better blogger this week!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Birthdays and Cheesecakes

Tomorrow is Jasons Birthday and I have a ton of very un-frugal things planned. When it comes to myself and things that I buy for our household I am generally pretty cheap and I always looks for the absolute best deal. But when it comes to people I love and celebrating birthdays and Christmas I tend to go all out and buy what I think they will love and make them happy!

So for dinner tomorrow we are going to Jason’s parents so his mom can make him some disgusting liver and rice dish which makes me want to vomit but also happens to be Jason’s favorite food. But to accompany the most disgusting meal ever I will be making several delicious and vegetarian side dishes! The first thing I will be making is Brie stuffed mushrooms from The Pioneer Woman Jason loves Brie and he LOVES stuffed mushrooms. Therefore it is my conclusion that Jason will love brie stuffed mushrooms! I am also making a squash gratin, which is not a favorite of Jason’s but he likes it and it will provide me with something to eat since there is a 100% chance that I will not be eating liver and rice. Last but not least in lieu of birthday cake I am making a cheesecake, from scratch, that needs to be baked!! I’m terrified. I have read no less than 100 cheesecake recipes, all of which call for different techniques, ingredients, and ways of cooking. I haven’t decided which recipe to use so I bought the ingredients for all the recipes, OCD much? If all else fails at least I have Giant Eagle right down the street which will provide me with a delicious cheesecake that will then be put on a fancy plate and be called homemade. Stay tuned for pictures and recipes tomorrow!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The one where I have a mid life crisis

This Saturday Jason and I are going to the second wedding this month. It would be an understatement to say that I am sick of going to weddings. Last week’s was really nice. My younger cousin got married at a small ceremony and your typical eat a bunch of wedding cookies and get drunk as possible reception, except that I didn’t drink and none of the cookies really interested me, but you get the idea. So amidst the cookies and drunkenness of others my various relatives felt the need to question me on when I am getting married and offer unsolicited advice as to why I should/shouldn’t get married. My favorite of the night was my uncle telling Jason, “I was with my wife for 15 years before we got hitched!” At points I just had to laugh, not because it was funny, but to keep from crying. Jason and I have always joked around about it though. We are the nonchalant couple who doesn’t care what people think and who don’t feel the “need” to get married. This has been fine for the last 2 years of living together but now that’s getting kind of old. But me, being the “good” girlfriend I am, of course never brings it up. Instead I just blog about my insecurities amongst recipes for cookies and cream sauce. But seriously have I fallen victim to the old adage “Why buy the cow when you getting the milk for free?” The worst part of the whole thing is that I usually just tell myself that I should feel lucky just to have an awesome boyfriend. Which I am and I know that. I just sometimes feel like I am in a catch 22. I can’t say to Jason “Why don’t you want to marry me?” because then it would be awkward and make Jason feel pressured to propose, which I don’t want, I want him to want to propose. But also I feel stupid. I mean, what am I doing wrong? Why would he not want to marry me? So at the end of the day I’m back to where I started which is not a bad place to be. Maybe just not the place I want to be right now. But you can’t always get what you want… Story of my life.

Stay tuned for regularly scheduled recipes and non ranting posts!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Restocking my Pantry

Spending $5 dollars on groceries for the past 2 weeks was so helpful! I was glad that I was able to save money and use what I had on hand. I made pretty much everything that I listed before and a few additional thing, like cookies and fresh bread. The only bad thing about using things from my pantry is that now I feel like I have nothing left! So my grocery budget this week will probably be more like $40 dollars instead of the typical $20. But the way I see it, everything is evening out in the end since I only spent around $30 dollars on groceries in Oct so far instead of the typical $60 dollars that I would have spent by now.

So this week I will be cooking for myself and Jason (yay!). Im glad that he will be home and not have to travel for work for about another month or so. This week I am going to be cooking a bunch of things in the crock pot and continuing to pack my lunch every day. Here is my menu:

Breakfasts: Granola, zucchini muffins, english muffins with peanut butter, and fruit.

Lunches: leftovers, soup from the freezer (which I made last week), hummus with tortilla and carrots, hard boiled eggs, and fruit.


Monday- Crock pot Zucchini Parmesan- I don't use a recipe for this. I just add a jar of sauce, 2 cups of zucchini, 1 cup of ricotta cheese to the crock pot. Then sprinkle it with mozzarella cheese and bread crumbs and cook on low for 6 hours.
Tuesday- Mushroom stroganoff
Wednesday- Pierogie casserole
Thursday- Bean and rice
Friday- Creamy rice with mushrooms and peas
Saturday- Pasta with tomato cream sauce- I adapted this recipe from one I found in a cook book that I found at goodwill- classy I know. The cookbook was from the 50's and it was all about home freezing, it is quite possibly my favorite cookbook ever. Anyway, the recipe is sooo easy..

Tomato cream sauce

1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
3 tbsp butter
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock)

In a pan saute onion and garlic in butter (Pretty please use butter! I tried olive oil and cooking spray and neither compare to the amazing taste that the butter gives to the sauce) Once the onions and garlic are somewhat soft and translucent add one 8 oz can of tomato sauce and 1/2 cup of dry white wine. cook for about 5 minutes to let alcohol cook off. Next add the heavy cream. Simmer for 5 minutes and voila the best cream sauce ever!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yellow cake mix turned chocolate cookies

On Sunday I had a serious craving for chocolate. I scoured my (almost barren) pantry and all I came up with was a yellow cake mix. That definitely would not help my craving for chocolate. So I scoured the internet for inspiration and came up with the idea to turn my yellow cake mix into a chocolate cake mix, and then turn the cake mix into cookies. Perfectly logical steps right?

I got the recipe from this blog, which I just found. I suggest checking it out. It has some amazing recipes!

To turn my cake mix from yellow to chocolate I added 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. Then I added 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of oil, and about 3 tablespoons of water. The original recipe from the blog above calls for 1/3 cup of oil but I used 1/4 cup and they turned out really good!

The batter kind of looks like ground meat which was gross. Luckily it smelled like chocolate!

I then rolled the batter into calls and placed them onto a cookie sheet (which I lined with foil for easy clean up, because I'm lazy like that)

Next I flattened them out and baked them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

I bet you're all wondering what professional kitchen gadget I used to flatten out all of the balls and keep them looking so uniform. Was it pampered chef? Kitchen Aid? An antique cookie press handed down for generations?

Nope... it was happy harvest tomato sauce. Which it a very useful kitchen gadget! It serves so many functions! It can be used as a rolling pin, cookie press, meat tenderizer, and when combined with white wine, onions, and cream it makes a delicious cream sauce!

These cookies came out so so sooooo good! They are going to be my new default cookie. You can use different cake mixes for different flavors too. I can't wait to try a carrot cake and top the cookies with cream cheese icing. Yum!

my $5 a week grocery budget is working out really well! I didn't originally plan for it to include cookies but thanks to my pantry and the eggs that I bought last week I could get my chocolate fix and stick to the budget!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

$5 a Week on Groceries

So the past few days/week has been pretty crazy. I have a cold and have been feeling really yucky for the past few days, which is never fun. Jason left for a work trip on Monday, which he will be on for 2 weeks. Then today I found out that I over drafted my checking account, which I haven't done in at least 5+ years. On the bright side, thing can only get better from here! Ah the glamourous, under paid, life of a social worker. I remember watching movies or TV shows and seeing social worker and thinking wow that would be an awesome job. And it is, most of the time. But what the TV shows and movies don't portray is that most social workers make next to nothing. I'm not complaining though. I am thankful just to have a job in an economy where so many do not.

I had fully planned on grocery shopping this week and then being sick threw me off schedule. Thankfully I didn't go or I would have over drafted my account even more. So I went shopping today after work and budgeted $10 which I plan to last me until next Friday. Meaning I spent on avergae $5 for this week and $5 for next week. The menu I made is for lunches and dinners. Lukily I have somethings in the freezer and pantry. Unfortunately I didn't go grocery shopping last week, and just picked up a few things. So this is really going to depleat what is in my panrty but I am glad that I am semi prepared and able to make 2 weeks of lunches and dinners for $10.

Here is what I bought...

A bag of potatoes, A can of corn, sour cream, 1 dozen eggs, cheese, a bag of onions, 1 container of cream, a bag of carrots, english muffins, and hummus.

Here is what I'll be eating...

Lunches: PB&J, english muffin pizza's, hummus on tortilla, left over soup, pasta, hard boiled eggs, and left overs from dinner


Thursday- Vegetarian chili using tomato soup and beans from the pantry, peppers and TVP from the freezer, and onions which I just bought

Friday- Ravioli with tomato cream sauce using ravioli from the freezer, sauce from my pantry, and cream which I just bought

Saturday- Corn chowder using a can of corn, potatoes, carrots, onions, and cream that I just bought.

Sunday- Crock pot curry using potatoes onions and carrots that I just bought and tomato paste, peppers, curry powder, and pea which I had already

Monday- Taco's using TVP, peppers, and tomatoes from the freezer, tortilla that I already had, sour cream that I just bought.

Tuesday- Mac and Cheese using noodles from my pantry and cheese and cream that I just bought

Wednesday- Potato soup using potatoes, onions, and cream that I just bought and faux chicken boullion that I had on hand

Thursday- Rice pilaf using rice and pea's that I have on hand and onions and carrots that I just bought

Friday- Spaghetti using noodles I had on hand and left over sauce from the ravioli.

I hope this didn't bore you too much. I just wanted to show that even when money is very tight you can still throw together tasty meals. The other life saver for me was definately shopping at aldi's. If I would have shopped anywhere else I probably would have spent 15-20 dollars for the same things. If you have an Aldi's near you and have never gone try it out!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

How to buy meat for .49 cents a pound

One of the advantages of being a vegetarian is that I never have to pay the ridiculously high prices for meat. A few months into being a vegetarian I found the morning star veggie crumbles. They are in a word, amazing! They taste exactly like ground meat. The only down side to the morning star veggie crumbles is that they are on avergae 3.50 per bag (1 bag = 1 pound of "meat"). At that price I might as well buy meat. Except that I don't eat meat. So I looked at what the crumbles are made of and decided that it couldnt be that hard to recreate them. That when I was introduced to the wonderful world of TVP.

Here are the basics about TVP:

What is TVP?
TVP stands for textured vegetable protein. TVP is a food product made from soybeans. It is produced from soy flour after the soybean oil has been extracted, then cooked under pressure, extruded, and dried.

Benefits of TVP
TVP is very high in protein and fiber and has zero cholesterol.
With TVP you never have to worry about ecoli or other bacteria that is associated with cooking raw meat.
The shelf life of TVP that has been dried and stored in an airtight container is 2 years. I don't know any meat with a shelf life of 2 years!

Generally I can find one pound of dried TVP from the bulk bins for $1.49 per lb. Rehydrated TVP triples itself. So that breaks down to 3 pounds of meat for $1.49 or $.49 a pound! When Making tacos burritos or other mexican dishes I also tend to put 1 part rice to 2 parts TVP which make it stretch even farther.

How to cook with TVP
To rehydrate, add 1 cup boiling water (or stock) to 1 cup TVP and cook 6-10 minutes in the microwave. If making TVP in small batches I will add taco seasoning, powdered BBQ seasoning, garlic powder or other flavoring to the water that I rehydrate the TVP with. Usually I make TVP in large batches and freeze it once its been rehydrated so all I have to do is take a scoop from the freezer and heat it up. If I make TVP this way I cook it plain and add the seasoning as its reheating.

For meat eaters a good way to introduce TVP into your diet (and trick your family) is to mix a bit of TVP into your meat dish and gradually increase the amount until you are cooking with primarily TVP. Your family will not be able to tell the difference between ground meat and TVP, its amazing!

I hope this helped to open some minds to TVP and some people will give it a try! If you have any questions please ask!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Mushroom Stroganoff

Lately I have been in such a cooking rut. I feel like I cook the same meals every week- taco's, pasta, stiry fry, and soup.So last week I decided that I am going to try and make something new every week. Last week the new recipe I tried was Mushroom stroganoff. I never liked beef stronganoff when I ate meat but this recipe was amazing and really easy to make! I found it on recipe zaar. If you have never used recipe zaar go right now and use it!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Soup, Soup, Soup

This week has been cold, rainy, and all around dreary. Yuck! This weather makes me want to put on sweatpants, lay under blankets and eat soup from my crock pot. Well not exactly from my crock pot (I just got a crazy visual of me sitting down with a spoon and my crock pot- not that it would be unheard of to do something like that), but soup that has been made in my crock pot while I sit around and eat bon bons and watch daytime TV. When I first became a vegetarian soup was one of the things that I missed the very most. Sure there are vegetarian soups out there- vegetarian vegetable, potato soup, tomato, etc But the soups I was craving were all chicken stock based soups. A lot of vegetarians just simply substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock. I am not one of those vegetarians. I have a confession to make- I. hate. hate. hate. vegetable stock. With 3 hates. Its just so gross and flavorless or the flavor it does have it that of celery. There is no need for a big pot of celery water. Yuck. Luckily I found an awesome brand of faux chicken stock at my local kosher store and it is amazing! My vegetarian soup possibilities have increased exponentially! So without further ado here are a few of my favorite soups…

Stuffed pepper soup

1 package veggie Crumbles (I use morning star or boca)
2 quarts water
1 (28 ounce) can stewed tomatoes (undrained)
1 (29 ounce) can tomato soup
2 cups cooked long-grain rice
2 cups chopped green bell peppers (about 2 large peppers)
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
Add all ingredients to crock pot and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours. You can substitute ground beef for the veggie crumbles but I would suggest browning it first before adding it to the crock pot.

Loaded baked potato soup

2 cups potatoes peeled and chopped into cubes
1 8oz pack of cream cheese
2 cups chicken stock
½ onion- chopped
Baked potato toppings of your choice such as bacon, chives, sour cream, etc

Combine potatoes, onion, and chicken stock in a pan and bring to a boil. Once potatoes are tender you can either mash potatoes with a potato masher, blend in blender or pulse in your food processor. It just depends on what kind of texture you are looking for. Once blended add cream cheese and stir until melted. Spoon soup into bowls and top with your choice of baked potato toppings.

Tortellini soup

4 cups chicken stock
½ onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 package of frozen spinach
½ cup carrots peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon celery salt
1 package tortellini

In a sauce pan sauté onions and garlic until tender. Add all remaining ingredients except for tortellini and bring to a rolling boil. Let boil for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender. Add tortellini and cook according to package instructions. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dear Rain, go away!

It has been raining non stop since yesterday. Blah! Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the cool crisp weather and getting to wear all of my sweaters. But wearing sweaters in this rain is really cramping my style! Wet wool is not IN this season.

The yucky weather combined by my very limited budget this week has put me in the mood for crock pot meals. So this week's menu has at least 3 days of crock pot meals. I am trying to be consistent and pot my menu every week. However my grocery shopping always varies. So like me my menu posting will be random.

Monday: Crock Pot Eggplant Parmesan with buttered noodles
Tuesday: Mushroom, onion, and green pepper stir fry over rice
Wednesday: Mushroom Stroganoff
Thursday: Crock Pot Curry over rice with homemade apple sauce
Friday: Taco Rice with tortilla chips and salsa

As you can see I never plan for weekend meals. Weekend meals are just basically whatever we have on hand to make or a meal that we eat out. During the winter though I do tend to make a big crock pot of soup on Saturdays and we will eat it throughout the day or for dinner.

I am off to put my rain boots on and head to the store! Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Canning Strawberry Preserves

Today I stopped by Aldi's to pick up some essentials (cream cheese, M and M's, and tortilla chips) and I saw that they had strawberries on clearence- buy one pint get one free. I got 4 pints of strawberries and pnly paid $3.80 On my way home it Dawned on my- What am I going to do with 4 pints of strawberries? I still had leftover mason jars and lids so I decided to make strawberry preserves. I used my crock pot and the tips from Grocery Cart challenge on canning and it turned out great!

Here's the play by play...

First I cut up all of the strawberries and put them in the crock pot along with 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup of sugar. You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet your strawberries are.

I let my strawberries cook down for 2 hours on highs. While they were cooking I put the empty mason jars in the dishwasher to sterilize and get hot.

Once the strawberries are soft you can either mash them with a potato masher or if you would like a smoother texture put them in a blender (but be careful because it will be hot and steam plus blender lid = explosion of strawberry sauce all over your kitchen!)

Once your berries are blended or mashed put them in a mason jar, wipe the rim, and put the lid on. Instead of going through the whole hot water bath ordeal just turn the jars upside down and let them sit over night or until they are cool. As they cool the seals will pop.

I have tried canning using a hot water bath and using this method. When using the water bath I would always have 2 or 3 that didn't seal. Using this method I have never had a can that didn't seal. I LOVE this method. It is so much less hassle and makes canning much more enjoyable!

While my preserves were cooking I also whipped up this cute halloween dishtowel using some old halloween material and a white towel I got at the dollar store.



Today was productive and delicious!


In the summer breakfast usually consists of fruit or some dry cereal and tea. But as the weather gets cooler I tend to crave a hearty and more filling breakfast. Thats where muffins come in to play. They are so easy to make, portable, and very filling! Some of my favorite are pumpkin, zucchini, and this recipe for chocolate banana...

Chocolate Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg

In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients.
In a small bowl, combine bananas, oil and egg.
Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.
Fill greased or paper lined muffin cups three fourths full.
Bake at 350 deg F for 20-25 minutes or until muffins test done.
These muffins are so fast and easy to make. I haven't tried the whole freezing muffins thing yet. I think I just have a misconception that they will come out soggy. Does anybody have any tips on how to defrost the muffins? Do I let them sit out over night in the fridge or on the counter? Can I microwave them to defrost? So many muffin freezing questions!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Starsky and Hutch Minus Starsky

When I moved into my house I had exactly 3 cupboards to store all of my dishes, pots and pans, and food. 3 cupboards. I wanted to cry. Luckily my dad knocked out a wall and made a cupboard for us to store a dishwasher and 4 more shelves. Having the cupboard revolutionized our kitchen! But still I didn't feel like I had enough storage. I had been on the lookout for a buffet or island or some sort of piece that would add storage and drawers and beautify my kitchen. Then I saw this dresser and shelves. It was hideous and screamed 1980's faux wood. Ew. But it was only 50 bucks and had definate potential.
Here is a before picture of the dresser part with Jason anxiously anticipating the paint job it is about to get.
Here is the book case that came with the dresser. (Don't mind my ridiculously messy room behind it. That will be another before and after project coming soon!)
And here is the lovely after.
I'm in love with my hutch! It added SIX drawers, shelves for plates, and storage for my cookbooks and canisters.

We simply primed and painted it with white oil based paint, added a precut piece of beadboard to the back and added new hardware. With hardware, paint, and the piece itself we only spent 75 dollars!
Now I am off to organize my drawers with all the stuff that it strewn about my kitchen!

Weekly Menu

So this week I decided to try and stretch what we had left over from last week's grocery order 1. to save money and 2. because I was feeling lazy and didn't want to grocery shop. I had to think on my feet for some of the dinners and others involve more prep than usual. Over Jason seemed pretty excited about the dinner ideas which is always a good sign!

Monday: Philly cheese "steaks"(homemade rolls with sauteed mushrooms onions and peppers covered with cheese) roasted garlic potato's.

Tuesday: Ravioli's with pesto sauce and homemade garlic bread

Wednesday: Veggie Meatloaf with mashed cauliflower and apple sauce

Thursday: Eggplant enchilada's (from my OAMC freezer stash)

Friday: Stuffed cab age soup in the crock pot

Hope everyone has a great week! I am off to make some homemade rolls!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Zucchini Recipe

Will the zucchini recipe's ever stop? Probably not. Especially since I have 8 gallons of sliced zucchini in my freezer. 8 GALLONS! Thats absurd. So far I have been making zucchini lasagna, zucchini cobbler, zucchini bread, zucchini stir fry... Im starting to feel like Bubba off of Forest gump when he lists all the shrimp recipes. But seriously I have been making alot of zucchini recipes! this recipe is my new favorite zucchini recipe. If you are not a fan of zucchini this recipe would be perfect for you. It doesn't really have a strong zucchini taste. Just a cheesy and gooey taste. Its cheesy and warm and it tastes really great as left overs.

Cheesy Zucchini Casserole

3 lbs zucchini
1 medium onion
5 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Peel and cut up the squash into chunks and dice the onion.
Add zuchini to a pot of water and boil until tender- about 15 mins
Drain the zuchini in a strainer. Allow the zucchini to sit for 10 minutes or so and gently push as much moisture out of the zucchini as possible
Next you can either mash the zucchini and butter together by hand OR take the easy route like I did and add it to your food processor and pulse it 3 or 4 times.
Mix one cup of the cheese and all the remaining ingredients with the mashed zucchini
Pour into greased pan top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until center is set.

Note: I did one to eat for OAMC and it turned out great! The only thing I would suggest if you are going to freeze this recipe is to allow it to COMPLETELY thaw before cooking it. I only thawed it overnight in the fridge and it was half frozen still. Impatient me then put it in the oven and allowed it to cook for an hour and it was still not done. Finally 2 hours after putting it in the over it was done. The moral of this story- let it thaw!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Daiy Dose of Cuteness

I haven't posted in a while because things have been pretty uneventful and crazy at the same time. Does that make sense? I have been working on some projects around the house which I hope to finish this weekend. I have also been thinking about going back to school. I love my job and I love what I do. But lately it just seems like I am becoming burned out. I was told that when I began my job that it is stressful and after a few years I will become burned out. So I am in the midst of researching grad schools and figuring out how I can live without income for 3 semesters! I am thinking about getting my masters in teaching. If I had it all to do again I would have just gotten my under grad in teaching. Hindsight is always 20/20!

I have had time to snap some ridiculously cute pics of Paco and Heidi though so without further ado here are the two cutest dogs ever...

Thursday, September 10, 2009


When I started working at my current job I was so devoted to taking my lunch. Every night I would pack up left overs, sandwiches, fruit, granola, etc. Well a year later and that habit is falling by the wayside more and more. I am a social worker and I have to visit people in their homes. Meaning I am in the office only about 25% of the time. This makes it difficult to pack lunches and plan on being in the office to actually sit down and eat. But starting next week I am going to try and make an effort to be in the office to eat a lunch that I packed.

When I packed my lunch everyday I did several things to pique my interest and make me look forward to lunch.

1. Packing my lunch in a cute bag or container always made it feel more special and appealing than just taking an old brown bag. I also discovered bento boxes and tiffins which are really popular in Japan and are becoming widely available in the US. I bought mine from a store called Ichiban Khan which is sadly no longer selling online but ebay, amazon, and tons of independent online store sells bento's. Here is a cute one from amazon:

Tiffins, which is basically the bento's cousin, are also great for packing lunches. The only downside to most tiffins is that they are made from metal and cannot be heated in the microwave. But if you are packing pasta salad, dip, or anything that doesn't need to be heated they are great. (Note: they also make plastic tiffins, however they are hard to find!) Here is an awesome tiffin from to go ware

I could go on and on about lunch boxes, tiffins, and bento's, and maybe I will in a following post!

2. The second thing that helped me to enjoy my lunches was to pack things I enjoyed! A novel concept right? At first I found myself packing the typical "lunch box" food of yogurt, fruit, sandwich, and crackers. That got old FAST! So I started packing things I liked. In the beginning of the week I would make a big bowl of pasta salad and pack it every day with some fresh bread, fruit, and a homemade cookie. Or I would cook something for dinner with the intention of leftovers. For instance I would make fried rice for dinner but make extra rice for leftovers and combine it with some parm cheese, fake chicken, and vegetables for a different rice dish from the night before. Lunch box food is okay every now and then but if I had to eat it every day packing my lunch would be depressing!

3. The last thing that I do to enjoy packing my lunch is to go out for lunch! I work in downtown Pittsburgh and I am surrounded by amazing places to eat. I also work with people who go out for lunch A LOT! Sitting in your office watching people go out to lunch is not fun. It can also make you resent packing your lunch. When I was really into packing my lunch everyday I would still allow myself to go out once every 2 weeks or so. Sometimes, especially when you are having a hard day, its nice just to get out of the office for an hour and have somebody serve you for a change. It also keeps people from perceiving you as the bump on a log that never does anything with your co-workers!

These are just a few of the things that helped me pack my lunch for about 5 months straight. Like I said though I WILL be packing again! Maybe I will even post some pics and ideas of my favorite lunches!

What Jason and I really seem to be struggling with now though is keeping snacks in the house. Buying processed food and prepackaged snacks is really starting to break the budget! Some of the things we have been making is popcorn (with the air popper), tortilla chips and salsa, and homemade cookies. I am just at a loss though when it comes to thinking of more frugal snacks! If you have any idea's I would love to hear them!!

This post is linked to The Ultimate Recipe Swap at Life as Mom

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Peanut Butter Trifle

Jason's office was having a cook out and since Jason doesn't cook I helped him out and made him a dessert to take in. Aren't I a nice girlfriend? Jason loves chocolate and peanut butter so I decided to make chocolate peanut butter pie. But then I remembered that I was feeding 20 people with this dessert and I would have to make 4 or 5 pies. No thank you! So I adapted a peanut butter pie recipe I have to become a trifle. It came out so good and Jason came home with an empty bowl! Not only did I make this dessert I made this pretty photo tutorial on how to make peanut butter trifle...

Start out by putting about 25 cookies in your food processor. You may have to do it in several batches depending on the capacity of your food processor.

Blend them until smooth and all of the cookie pieces are ground up!

Next find a pretty bowl, preferably clear. In a perfect world everyone would use a beautiful trifle bowl. But in reality I don't have one and couldn't find one at goodwill. But I did find this pretty little clear bowl for only $2.99!

Take about 1/4 of the cookie crumbs and pat them into the bottom of your pretty bowel. Set the bowl and the rest of the crumbs aside.

Next combine the peanut butter and powdered sugar in a bowl and combine until it become little peanut butter pebbles. Like so:

mmm Peanut butter pebbles.

Next add the cream cheese to the peanut butter pebbles.

Then add the whipped cream. You'll notice that my bowl is getting pretty full. That's because I doubled the recipe to feed Jason's entire office and to fill up my big bowl.

mmm light and fluffy peanut butter goodness
Finish it off by layering the peanut butter mixture with layer of the cookie crumbs and voila chocolate peanut butter trifle.


Here is the exact recipe to follow since this is my first photo tutorial and has the potential to be a little shotty.

You will need:

25 oreo's
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 8-ounce package softened cream cheese
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 8-ounce package Cool Whip, thawed

Pulse oreo's in food processor until smooth.
Next combine powdered sugar and peanut butter.
Once combined add cream cheese and combine.
Next add cool whip and combine until there is no white left- just beautiful fluffy peanut butter. Layer cookies and peanut butter in a pretty clear bowl.
This is a difficult step but a very important one... Let the bowl sit in the fridge for at least an hour. Take that hour to lick the beaters, bowl, spatula, and any other object that the peanut butter mixture has come in contact with.
After an hour the peanut butter mixture will set up a little more like cheese cake consistency and voila you will have yourself a peanut butter trifle!

Friday, September 4, 2009


Boo Mama is having a dip tacular today and if there is one thing that I am a fan is a good dip! Actually there is more than 1 thing that I am a fan of, but in the top 5 food section dip is included. A few of my favorites lately have been artichoke and tomato, honey peanut butter, and this dip for "sophisticated queso". I really need to find a better name for this dip because a dip that include an entire pack of velvetta just doesnt scream sophisticated to me. But meh I am a fan none the less.

Disclaimer- This is the only pic of this dip that I have. Its a bad picture because it was hard enough to take a second and photo this dip before eating it. But in real life this dip is a really pretty orange color with flecks of red pepper. Kind of like a monet, that you want to eat with tortilla chips! Yum!

1 large pack of velvetta cheese (Im not sure of the ounce but its the biggest one they make)

3 roasted red peppers, deseeded (If your feeling lazy, as I usually am, you can use the jarred one which are already roasted and delicious!)

1/2 an onion

1 small tomato

2 cloves of garlic

In a blender puree the red pepper, onion, tomato, and garlic. Pour the mixture of the cheese dip in either a crock pot or in a sauce pan. If you use a crock pot just put it on either the warm setting or low until the cheese is melted. If your using a sauce pan just put it over low heat until melted!

I have a ton of projects to complete this weekend including some sewing, finishing my bathroom (as in 100% everything is finished!), and working on converting out spare room into a cute craft/exercise/laundry/ walk in closet. High aspirations right!? Hopefully I will keep you updated with pics as the weekend progresses!

Happy 3 day weekend!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Meal Planning Monday

I've decided to participate in this week's menu planning at Org Junkie. I plan a rough idea of what I will make in a week but lately I have been throwing the plans out the window and making quesadillas every night. Its hard when its just two people for dinner. I like the freedom to not HAVE to plan but I definately benefit from following a stricter plan each week. Hopefully having a plan in writing will hold me more acountable and make me stick to it! Click on the button below to see more menu plans.

Monday: Roasted brussel sprouts, Au Gratin Potatoes, and homemade chunky apple sauce
Tuesday: Taco's using veggie crumbles and spanish rice
Wednesday: Going to my mom's for dinner. I will be taking over some homemade applesauce (which I will be making on Monday)
Thursday: Zucchini Lasagna and possibly some homemade bread if I am feeling ambitious
Friday: Zucchini casserole, which I made a few weeks ago and froze
Saturday: Stir fried broccoli with rice
Sunday: randomness- usually I will make some sort of dip with chips and some vegetables and whatever left overs there are from the past few days.

Hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cute Wedding Gift

I went to my cousins bridal shower this weekend. It was nice seeing everyone and seeing her so excited. I ended up wearing something completely different from what I had planned. I wore this black and white dress...

It ended up only paying $10 for it. I'm excited to wear it in the fall/winter with some black tights and tall black boots and a cardigan. It is a really comfortable dress so I will definately get some use out of it.

At the shower somebody gave my cousin a really cute gift. It was a bottle of wine, a bottle of champagne, and a bottle of sparkling cidar. Tied to the bottles were cute little cards.

The one of the wine said "Your Wedding Night- The night you have dreamed of is finally here. The future surrounds you with hope and yet fear. You’ve wanted so long to find your mate. Sip this wine and toast this date. The night is meant for you to share. Enjoy each other, a perfect pair. "

The Champagne bottle said "Your First Anniversary- Tonight you’ve been married a year one wonders where the time goes. No longer are you newlyweds, soon you’ll be pro’s. I hope the days have found you both in good health and spirit. Keep saying I love you one always needs to hear it. Now toast this date known as the first but certainly not the last. And as you build your future don’t ever forget the past."

and finally the sparkling cidar bottle said "The news that a baby will soon share your life will make you a mother not only a wife. You’ll see it through good times and sometimes bad. Nicole the loving mother, and Benjamin the dearest dad. Now instead of wine you will drink cidar in your glass. Sit back and relax nine months they quickly pass! "

I thought it was a cute and very non traditional gift. I was definately more creative than the vacuum that I bought her from her registry!

Friday, August 21, 2009


Jason and I decided to plant eggplant in our garden this year. Neither of us really love eggplant but it is good every once in awhile. So when we went to buy plants we though that eggplants grew one vegetable per plant. Kind of like cabbage or cauliflower. Looking back I'm not really sure what made us think this. However at the time it sounded right. So we bought three eggplant plants, thinking three eggplants would be the perfect amount. All I can do now is laugh as we have picked at like 10 egg plants already and more are still coming! I have given some away, frozen some, used some in casseroles, you name it and I have done it to an eggplant! I stumbled across this recipe on Recipe Zaar awhile back and it sounded pretty good. Well now that I have a dozen eggplant it sounds great! so without further ado here is the recipe...

Eggplant "Meatballs"

1 large eggplant
2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon mixed Italian herbs
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs

Slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt.
Let sit 10 minutes to draw out water.
Rinse and pat dry.
Saute on stovetop with a splash of olive oil and about 1/4 cup water until eggplant is soft.
Remove and chop finely.
Mix everything but the breadcrumbs when eggplant is cool.
Then add breadcrumbs and mix until you get the consistency you want to form the balls.
Place in a generously olive oiled pan about l inch apart and bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 40 60 minutes.
Turn halfway through baking to ensure even browning.

For more recipe's check out the recipe swap going on over at The Grocery Cart Challenge

Thursday, August 20, 2009

This is why I am not a professional landscaper!

On Mondays and Thursdays I work from home. I looooove it. I do part of the work the night before and then leisurely finish up what I have to do the next day. So today I woke up did a little work and then felt motivated to do something. I started with the 10 loads of laundry that needed done. I got 2 loads in and was bored. Who has time to wait around for 30 minutes between loads? So next on my list was to bake Jason some chocolate chip cookies, Jason LOVES chocolate chip cookies. I always try a new recipe because I am always in search of the perfect chocolate chip cookie. I tried this recipe today from all-recipes. I am not usually a fan of all recipes but the recipe got good reviews. The cookies came out okay. Better than some I've made but not quite as good as others. I had to use half white chocolate and half milk chocolate chips.

Pioneer Woman has a recipe that includes instant coffee in her chocolate chip cookies. I reeeally wanted to try and make her version but I didn't have any instant coffee. Maybe Next Thursday!

So after my domestic extravaganza I decided to cut some of the grass to surprise Jason when he gets home. He hasn't had a chance to cut it since he's gotten back from Ca. Between 98 degree days and crazy thunderstorms there just hasn't been a day to do it. So i went out started up the mower and was just walking back and forth back and forth. Cutting grass is so boring to me! So I get by our sickle pear tree and keep on cutting when all of a sudden I start slipping and slidding all over the place on the pears on the ground. It was probably a hilarious sight for all of my neighbors. Thank goodness I didn't fall of I probably wouldn't be laughing now!

Hopefully Jason is happy when he gets home and finds not only grass that doesn't need cut but chocolate chip cookies too!

Tomorrow I have decided that I am going to try and can my own salsa. We have a bunch of tomatoes from the garden and I have already froze so many that I want to try something different. I found a couple of recipe's off of Recipe Zaar that look good but I am still looking. If anybody has any good salsa recipes that work for canning feel free to send them my way!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wedding Bells, But Not My Own

So my YOUNGER cousin is getting married next month and this weekend is her bridal shower. I'm used to be a big fan of wedding showers. Whats not to love? Getting dressed up, eating cake, and watching somebody open up more household items at one time then they will ever use in their life. That is I used to love wedding showers until I dated a certain guy for 5 years, started living with him, and don't have a ring on MY finger. GASP! A few years ago wedding showers entailed me going and getting the bombardment of "How is college going?" "Getting good grades?" "Having fun?" Etc. Now it is "When are you going to be tying the knot?" or "Maybe you will be next!" and my personal favorite "When is Jason going to make an honest woman of you" Because certainly marriage = honesty. So in order to cope with the barage of questions from nebby old women I have decided that I must look fabulous and chic for the event. That way everybody will be so distracted by my cute outfit that they wouln't be able to form complete sentences or realize that Jason obviously has no intent to propose (at least any time soon).
So the current options for the bridal shower attire are...
This cute dress hails from Newport-News. If only Newport-News had a real life store. But if you can sift through some of the cheesy 80's looking outfits you can find a gold mine of pretty and affordable things on their website. I think this dress would be pretty with some neautral shoes and gold jewelry.
Then there is this little beauty that I've had my eye on for quite some time at Oldnavy. Im afraid it may be a little too casual but could potentially be dressed up with some cute shoes and chunky jewelry.

This dress caught my eye right away. It reminds me of a dress that you would wear to a tea (not that I've ever been to a tea). Its very 1950's! It is from Mod Cloth which I love but have never ordered anything from.

Any idea's, suggestions, warnings? The bridal shower is at a country club and start at around 1. So I don't want to be over dressed, but yet I still want to be appropriatly dressed and not the one everybody says "Oh poor Dawn she is so deperate!"

HELP! I need sound female advice!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Goodbye Vacation, Hello Real World

Jason and I just got back from San Diego on Saturday. All I can say about my trip is WOW! I LOVED San Diego! it was sunny and warm every day! I spent my days going to the beach, napping at the pool, eating sushi, and cooking Jason home cooked dinners (since he hadn't had any in a month!)

I took so many pictures but here are just a few..

This is the Hotel Del Coronado. Its a swanky historic hotel right on the beach. It was BEAUTIFUL!

This is the beach at sunset one day. I told Jason it looks like a picture off of a postcard!

This is Lake Hodges which was just created in 2002. It was neat to see a man made lake. The mountains behind it were awesome!

This is our pelican friend from the first day we went to the beach. We went to the beach in Oceanside which was very crowded but still very nice!

I think that I would move to California in a second. Although I would miss the snow and fall here! I am already excited for Western Pa fall and August isn't even over yet!

Since we've been back I have been pretty busy cleaning and just trying to get back into the groove of things. On Saturday when I got back I found this recipe on RecipeZaar that has the abbreviation OAMC after it. I was curious so I read the recipe and found out it was for the once a month cooking method. The method itself sounded pretty insense! Grocery shopping and cooking 30 meals all in one day! I don't think I would ever be able to do that. Not to mention that there are times when I enjoy cooking. But I did make several of the recipes to freeze and have on hand for time when I don't feel like cooking.

The recipes I made were Eggplant casserole, Mexican rice, and Zucchini Casserole. I'm excited to see how they turn out. I'm always nervous about freezing fod because if it doesn't turn out well then I just wasted all the ingrediants and time making that dish. Does anybody have any tips on freezing? Food that doesn't freeze well or food that does feeze well? Your tips would be greatly appreciated!

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm in Love

After a week of having 3 dogs in my house, who by the way were all very good, my carpets were a little dingy. When moving into our house I made the mistake of picking out cream colored carpet. BIGGEST MISTAKE EVER! Did I stress that enough? NEVER BUY CREAM COLORED CARPET! Its the most beautiful carpet and I abosulutely adore it. But it is SO impractical. Even with an area rug in the most high traffic area it still gets dingy and discolored looking. So I have been in the market for a rug scrubber for quite a while. I wanted something that would be easy to use and not be too bulky. I read reviews for every rug scrubber ever created and came across reviews for the little green machine. I was unimpressed. How could something so small really work? However it got amazing reviews. like 5 out of 5 reviews on every sight I read. So i went to Wal-mart and bought it. The verdict is in. I LOVE LOVE LOVE MY LITTLE GREEN MACHINE!

It cleans SO well and the fact that it is so small works out perfectly. I can easily carry it from room to room, use it on stairs, and reach in around and behind everything without having to move heavy furniture. It is obviously not going to clean the entire floor in any room (although it could if you had enough patience to clean an entire floor with a 4 inch brush!). However it is perfect for high traffic areas and pesky stains. The moment that I knew I loved the green machine was when I used on a SET IN GREASE STAIN which Jason so lovingly tracked in the house 3 months ago. I had all but given up on ever getting this stain out. On the first pass over the stain with the green machine it came out. AMAZING!

Tomorrow I am leaving for San Diego! I could not be more excited. I havent seen Jason in over a month. Luckily I have so much to do today that I will hoefully be distracted and the day will go by quickly. Ever since I moved in to my own house I always clean the entire house really well before we leave. Its a compulsion! I just remember living at home and my mom would rarely clean before we left and then we would return to a house that needed cleaned and which we really didnt want to return to. I love having the peace of mind on my way home from a trip that my house will be clean when I return.

So I am off to clean clean clean, go to the library to get a book for my flight, and possibly go shopping to find something extremely cute, comfortable, and INEXPENSIVE for the flight there. After all I havent seen Jason for a month so I have to look radient when getting off of my 4 hour flight. Ha!

Hope everybody has a great week!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What a week!

Thanks to Pennsylvania's wonderful govenor the state budget has not been passed. This means that all of the state worker have not been paid for over a month. I do not work for the state but rather a state supported agency which provides social services to the elderly population in my county. Up until now we have been paid since some of our funding does come from other sources and not just from the state. Well this week we found out that our "other sources" of income cannot sustain us any longer and they must cut our saleries until the budget is passed. So if I wasn't living as frugal as possible before I SURE will be now! Hopefully this is just for a month or so and then the budget will be passed. Im not too worried about losing my job because the client that I help have services that are mandated by the state, meaning that they have to have a social worker no matter what.

But on a brighter note I just found this great recipe for zucchini cobbler! I haven't tried it yet since its just me here for another week until Jason comes home. But when he comes home I definately intend to make it! I will share the recipe though with you guys and if anybody makes it in the mean time please tell me how it turns out!

Zucchini Cobbler
8 cups zucchini
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 dash salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 (10 ounce) can crushed pineapple
1 box yellow cake mix or white cake mix
1/2-1 cup butter, melted

Peel zucchini and remove seeds. Dice into bite size pieces and boil until zucchini is tender (about 8-10 minutes). Drain and cover with cold water to stop the cooking process. Next in a bowl combine sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, cream of tartar, and lemon juice. Drain zucchini and add to mixture. Next add pineapple and juice and combine. Pour mixture into a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over the top and drizzle with melter butter. Bake at 350 for 60 minutes.

This recipe reminds me of the fruit cobbler recipe that i posted on here before which called for a cake mix to be sprinkled on top and then baked. I was hesitant and didnt think that the cake mix would get moist enough but sure enough it was great!

Hope everyone is having a great week!

Sunday, August 2, 2009


I live just outside of Pittsburgh. Around here we like to think we have our own language. Rubber band is gum band, Vacuum is sweeper, and Soda is pop. This has nothing really to do with this post except to translate why I am writing about this mysterious drink, pop.

About a year and a half ago I started weight watchers with my mom. I was hesistant to have someone weight me every week and wasnt sure if I would see any results. Well low and behold I lost 5 pounds the first week and about 2 pounds every week after. I kept it up for abut 5 months and ended up losing 20lbs. I was so happy and felt like I was ready to tackle the maintaining part on my own. I just have to look back and laugh because WOW was I wrong! I am not going back to weight watchers now because my budget is pretty tight and I just can't justify spending $30 a month for something that I should be able to do myself.

The biggest thing that helped when I did weight watchers was not drinking pop. By switching to diet pop (which I know is just as bad) and water alone I could be losing a few pounds a week. Regular coke is like an addiction to me! I just need to cut myself off before It gets too late but recently with Jason being out of town and work being crazy I have been making excuses to myself as to why I NEED just one coke, which turns into two or three. So starting tomorrow I am going cold turkey. No more regular coke. I am going to drink only water and the occasional diet coke.

I will post on here to let you guys know how it is going! In the mean time does anybody have any tips or drink suggestions?

Friday, July 31, 2009

Zucchini Invasion

Out of all the vegetables in my gardent the one that it doing the best is by far the zucchini plants. From the two plants that we have so far we have gotten 8 huge zucchini's. I hear alot of differing opinions on the subject but personally I like to let my zucchini's get a little bigger. My new favorite thing to do with zucchini (besides making zucchini bread) is to marinate it for a few hours or even over night and then grill it. It's simple and yet oh so good! I have tried a few different marinades but so far my favorite is a sweet and tangy honey mustard marinade.

Honey Mustard Zucchini Marinade
3 tablespoons honey mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon oil
and a handful of any herbs that you have lying around- Fresh basil has been very abundant and has paired really well with this marinade

Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch strips or slices and marinade at least an hour or for maximum flavor marinate overnight. Turn the grill on medium high and cook the zucchini for about 8 minutes on each side. Be sure to turn regularly so that the zucchini doesn't stick!

I like to serve this with some marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, and crusty bread. Hello tapas night! It sounds simple but if you like zucchini you are sure to love it!

For other great recipes check out the recipe swap going on over at The Grocery Cart Challenge.