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Archive for March, 2012

Slow cooker is a gal's best friend...

March 31st, 2012 at 09:59 pm

OK, didn't mean to be sexist, but if I added "and guy's" it would make the title kind of cumbersome. Not trying to hurt any one's feelings.

I use mine quite often. Last night I put a whole chicken with some herbs and vegetables and water...woke up to a house smelling wonderful. It wasn't a huge chicken, but there is enough meat for two casseroles and chicken salad, and I froze some of the extra broth.

I've made vegetable soup in the past two weeks, and I tried a new pork chop and potato recipe last week.

I have 4 different ones, all different sizes. I just find myself blessed to have this wonderful piece of kitchen appliance world.

I believe by using a slow cooker, I've saved money. I use a lot of casseroles and by cooking chicken ahead instead of buying a rotissere chicken I've saved money. Plus, I control what goes on and in the cooker. I keep broth frozen and that's handy for many meals tool. Healthier and cheaper than buying stuff from the store.

I get excited when I see recipes for the slow cooker that I think I'd like to try.

Don't tell anyone, but I gave a little hug to the cooker when I put it away today after washing it.

Potayto, potahto...

March 25th, 2012 at 07:31 pm

My husband hasn't met a potato he doesn't like!

For years he said he didn't like sweet potatoes, but a couple of years ago he asked me for a bite of mine and decided they were A-OK. So, I try to fix sweet potatoes frequently because I like them, but also because they are nutritious.

I am usually on the look out for potato recipes. I checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library while I was on spring break and perused them and I found a recipe that I could hardly wait to try. I didn't say anything to DH, just served it last night and he tried a bite, asked me if it was a new recipe, and said if it was, it was a keeper. It has both sweet potatoes and white potatoes in it. So, it was a hit with hubby.

I think when I fix it again, I will add some milk because it was a little dry near the bottom, but it had a good flavor.

Two Potato Gratin

1 large red onion, cut into wedges
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 lbs baking potatoes (about 3 medium)
12 oz sweet potato (about 1 medium)
5 oz Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 c half and half
2 t cornstarch
1 T butter
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400

In oil, cook onion wedges until tender. Peel potatoes and cut in 1/8 inch rounds. Arrange half potatoes and onions in shallow 2 quart baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Potatoes should be in a single layer overlappying slices. Sprinkle with half of cheese. Arrange remaining potatoes and onions, creating pattern if desired.

In 2 quart sauce pan whisk half and half into cornstarch to dissolve. Add butter. Heat on medium high until bubbles begint o form. Pour over potato mixture. Cover with foil, and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle reaming Gruyere and bake 25 minutes until golden and bubbly.

I would think this could be changed up by using different onions (Vidalia or green onions) and cheeses. I wasn't sure how it would taste with the sweet potato, but it was more savory in this recipe and quite scrumptious.

Hubby has yet another way to enjoy the potato.

Blew the budget!

March 23rd, 2012 at 02:13 pm

Last night's supper totally blew the budget!

Actually, it wasn't totally unplanned. We were at the meat market and the steaks looked so good. So, we bought two so I could grill them. I realize if we had gone out to eat, the cost would have probably been triple. Yet, I sort of felt naughty.

I have been on spring break and we have had th opportunity to get put and about. We went antiquing on Monday. I put beef and barley vegetable soup on the slow cooker so we would have supper waiting for us when we got home. On Wednesday we drove to Iowa to see the American Pickers' Antique Archeology as well as look at antique shops and when we got home, I heated up the leftover soup and used the last of the meatloaf we had Saturday for sandwiches.

I usually try to figure out what a meal costs to see if we saved money. The steaks weren't exactly cheap. But, they were good and a treat.

Tonight it is back to common food..sloppy Toms -- like sloppy joes made with ground turkey breast. One pound with onion, bell pepper, mushrooms makes two meals. Guess that will help the budget!

Some are givers and some are takers...

March 20th, 2012 at 11:35 pm

Givers and takers...we seem to fit one category or another, don't we? Sometimes both, but usually one is a better fit.

One gal I know lets me be both. I save our plastic containers such as cottage cheese and wash them and save them for her. She runs a small restaurant and uses them to take home leftovers for herself, her mom, and her daughter-in-law since they cannot service the stuff the next day. She said she loves having all these different sizes and she doesn't have to worry about remembering to bring back the good ones they used to use as she dashes out of the house early each morning. She said she's now using them at home to plant seeds for plants. She, in turn, has been saving me the box top things that schools use to send in for funds. I donate them to my schools and help them. So, we are both givers and takers.

Another person I know is a better taker. I save things like coupons and newspapers and give them to this person. I think they are appreciated. I usually don't mind saving these items.

I'm not a good taker. I guess I think I need to always be a giver and it is difficult to be on the receiving end. I guess we are what we are.

Otherwise, it was a nice day to be off. Our school district has designated this week as spring break. DH and I visited a friend and dropped off a birthday cake and a present and then voted, ran an errand and came home. He cleaned the siding outside and I worked on cleaning a room.

Supper was spaghetti with meat sauce made from ground chicken. I've been trying to figure out what we spent on suppers. I think tonight's was less than $7 for the spaghetti and sauce, homemade bread, salad, cottage cheese, and fruit. Last night we had beef and barley vegetable soup made in the slow cooker. It was about $7 and we have enough leftover for another meal. Sunday night I made a bruschetta with the homemade bread for a light Sunday supper. I think that meal cost less than $3. Not too bad for 3 suppers...guess I'll take that!

So Very Tired

March 17th, 2012 at 01:59 pm

I haven't blogged this week due to being very tired. We started state testing last week and I spent three days of this week doing make up tests. It seems that at one of my schools, we had something that went around because there were many, many students who missed two or more of the tests.

In Illinois, it behooves a school to get all these tests made up. So, Monday I spent the day between two schools, and Tuesday and Wednesday I was at just one school because of so many make ups. One student had 8 tests to do, and of course, one cannot do all those in a day. He came Wednesday and we got a few of them completed, but the principal was going to have to finish on Thursday and Friday.

I was allowed to attend the Illinois Reading Conference in Springfield Thursday and Friday. It reaffirmed my love affair with reading and writing.

Many of the sessions are on Common Core Standards since Illinois has adopted them and they take effect 2014.

I attended sessions on writing and the Common Core and ideas on how to make writing more interesting.

Jack Gantos is an author who shared his outline on writing picture books. His first step was to have kids read lots of picture books to see how they are created and then come up with a character, setting, problem, resolution, and emotion. If you are familiar with Rotten Ralph, he's the author.

I look forward to sharing these ideas and hopefully getting students a little more interested in writing.

I can say I was very tired when we got home last night. I was glad to be able to relax. And I'm glad I get to write about my experiences.

What a fun day!

March 11th, 2012 at 12:38 am

This week has been stressful as we do state testing in our schools. We have had a lot of students absent so it is imperative to do make up tests. And that isn't easy when you realize one has to read the directions verbatim as well as allow the time allotted for each child on each test.

I slept in this morning and that was nice. We went to brunch and then to the library. I walked out with a large pile of books and 5 magazines. We then drove to a small community for a home and garden show. The community is well known for the Amish who live there.

The furniture and cabinetry displayed by these craftsman was gorgeous. It was exciting to see their beautiful works of art. We admired their wares and looked at many of the other things they had.

A mile or so out in the country is a bulk store run by the Amish. We stopped and bought some cheese, brown rice, grits, and some hard wheat flour. I spent less than $20 altogether on these items.

We drove back into town and parked and went through a couple of the shops. One is an antique shop. It was fun looking through all the items. This one seems to have the largest display of kerosene lamps (new and used) that I have ever seen. One had the base that looked like a vase with handles on both sides and grapes that were in 3D relief. Neither DH or I have ever seen one like that. After poking through we bought nothing, but had a nice time. We walked down another block and saw a drugstore with an old fashioned soda fountain.

The soda fountain is made of marble. We each had an ice cream cone and sat at one of the tables and admired the pop bottle collection along the walls above the shelves. These were mostly older bottles and some were unique.

We arrived home and I baked a loaf of bread that I had mixed together and made chicken parmigiana. I can say I'm tired and dreading moving the clocks forward for daylight savings time, but I had a wonderful day with my wonderful hubby.

I never realized I was poor until...

March 9th, 2012 at 12:46 am

Sometimes I think I grew up pretty naive.

I certainly didn't have the "Leave It to Beaver" family. I was fortunate to attend a parochial elementary school only because at that time, there was no tuition charged.

In my mind, I just thought everyone grew up like me.

I remember in 8th grade we had an art and talent show. Anyone could exhibit anything.

I liked to draw and paint and I thought I would use a hymn verse and illustrate it.

I worked hours on it. And in my innocent way, I was very proud of it. I took it to school to have it on display that evening.

We went to the show after school. As we walked around and looked at all the other items on exhibit, I realized then I was really different.

Most of the craft items were made from kits and looked very, well shall we say, professional. At least as professional as a grade school item can look. They all looked very, very nice. The raw materials were new when they started, store bought, and everything looked very "perfect."

Over to the side, almost hidden, was my painting with the hand printed hymn verse. You see, when I wanted to do the painting, I didn't know what to paint on so my dad suggested I paint on a piece of cardboard. He cut out a piece of cardboard and that is what I painted on. We didn't have a frame or anything for it. If you looked on the back, you could see what product the box came from.

It looked pretty sad compared to all these other exhibits.

It was then I realized we were poor. We used what we had because there simply wasn't the money to go buy extra things like canvas or special drawing and painting supplies. I thought everyone but the very rich did the same. And I didn't think I knew rich people before this.

I had used the paints we had at home and they were left over from when my folks had painted used bicycles that my dad had fixed from old parts and sold. The painting was glossy. And then I saw it as gaudy and ugly.

I started looking at what others were wearing and then seeing the faded clothes I had on. It never bothered me before, but then I realized I didn't look like others or live like others. And I could then tell by where my project was and how it was treated, it was shameful to be poor.

I hope I never have or never will treat another person or their creations like that because I remember my heart aching at that moment and my face flushing with shame.

Of course nothing was said to me, but I knew then I was different.

A few years back, a friend of mine and I talked about when we realized we were poor. I remember she said it was when she was in high school. And she remembers how it made her feel.

Although our blogs and this site are about saving money, I hope we never think it is shameful to be poor or treat someone less because of it. Somehow, after reading many of the blogs and posts, I don't think that is the case. I just hope fewer children have to feel as badly as I did that spring in eighth grade.

Sharing Recipes and Dishes

March 6th, 2012 at 01:31 am

It's been an interesting month or so. Each weekend after the grocery shopping and menu planning, I spend a few hours cooking things that I can reheat or bake or whatever so there is something waiting in the fridge when I get home. Therefore, I have no excuse to not cook and eat out.

I try to hit sales and either stock up on stuff or buy what is on special many times so our meals are reasonable.

Some of the folks I work with ask me what I've fixed or what I'm planning. A few times previously this year I've shared some of the stuff I've made with my coworker. She and her hubby seemed to appreciate it.

Well, she started looking at the grocery ads, planning her list, and cooking on the weekend. She told me today that she thinks they have really saved money by planning their menu as well as cooking things ahead of time.

A personal benefit is we have been exchanging casseroles the past few weeks. So, we not only are getting to try different recipes, we have a bigger assortment of foods available.

I think that is saving money for both of us besides letting us try new things.

This place is lethal!

March 4th, 2012 at 01:43 am

There's an antique mall around us we happened upon about a year ago. A local guy decided to start it and has his own things besides some consignment items.

A few years ago I decided to get rid of the plastic in my kitchen and started replacing it with Pyrex, Corningware, Fire King, etc.

I bought a few items here and there, but I really hit the jackpot with this place.

DH loves going in and poking around too. I found a Paula Deen cast iron Dutch oven for $10 a couple months back. I bought 4 Christmas glasses (Anchor Hocking) for $3. I love enameled cast iron so the Dutch oven was a find. I have a huge one and a small one so this one was a jewel. It isn't my favorite color, but I'm cooking with it, not decorating with it. The glasses were cute and we've used them a lot.

Well today we went and I found some cloth napkins. I have been using cloth napkins for about 4 or 5 years. I read this was a way to cut back on costs and trash. We had a good time looking at stuff. The guy who runs this place must not only have the Pyrex and Corningware market cornered, but also costume jewelry. I had a good time trying on some of the big honking diamond rings and when I say "big", I'm talking golf ball size.

We spent $5 on the 8 napkins. I think we got more than $5 worth of pleasure just poking around. But, I pointed out to DH, this place is lethal because if I weren't so cheap, I could overspend very easily there.

News story on gas prices and the economy

March 2nd, 2012 at 12:40 am

Before heading off to work, I try to peruse the paper for a few local stories and glance at some headlines.

However, one story caught my eye that claimed that the recovering economy can withstand the rising gas prices.

I'm wondering where they got that information. Maybe some cities won't have a problem, but locally, we have had two businesses with major layoffs, and many of our folks who are employed are underemployed. I'm sure having to choose between gas in the tank and food on the table and medicine for health, many will not buy fuel and try to find alternatives or stay at home.

I'm sure our tourism will be hurt this summer too.

I remember when news stories were supposed to be factual and based on true stuff. It seems that news is often skewed by sensationalism to tell the story or the personal views of the editor. I'm a realist. If it is a news story, I want the facts, good or bad. If I want to read an opinion, I'll look on the editorial page. I really wonder where the reporter got those facts on the economy and gas prices. A generalized story on the wire doesn't mean everyone has the same situation. So, I am thinking we might have a situation where the economy might not be able to weather these gas least near me.

Just call me a skeptic!