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!