Monday, May 16, 2016

Prom Corsage & Boutonniere

Our school had prom this past weekend. I stressed each point of the way in helping my son, D, get his suit together down to the corsage and boutonniere. After stopping in at our local greenhouse to price the corsage at $26.99 base price and the boutonniere at $9.99 base price (meaning, prior to adding a central flower or any bling)... I decided that we'd make our own. While I can't claim to have done this as frugally as possible, I did come far under that total, around $20-$25 total (and that was with a coupon at both Michaels and Hobby Lobby). Sadly, we also have still had snow. So it's been cold. No flowers blooming here at home to shave that cost. I also was out of a strong glue so had buy more. So easy to do yourself! I ended up with a second boutonniere so D could have his choice of the two.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Straw Bale Gardening

I read about straw bale gardening some time ago... somewhere. I'm sure I first saw it online. Last summer our library hosted author Joel Karsten where he taught us about this great garden idea of his. Of course, while it was not required, we were encouraged to purchase a copy of his signed book. Which I unfrugal-ly did. It's been a great reference for me, far more clear than the one page of notes that I'd taken while he was speaking - ha ha. For your reference, the book is titled Straw Bale Gardens Complete.

While I didn't keep note of the date that I started my seeds, I believe it was in the first week or two of April. I planted some cabbage and lavender seeds. Sadly, the lavender appears to be duds. However, nearly all the cabbage seeds came up! (You're also seeing oat seeds = cat grass that I more recently sprouted for my furry boys.) It's not much, I know. I'll give the lavender a few more days then I will reuse that soil to start something else.

This is a pic of my small straw bale garden project. Depending on whether or not I experience much success with it, I may enlarge it next spring. Of course, if we can't find a reasonable price on the straw, I won't be doing it in that case. Prices in our area for the small square bales run anywhere from $6-$12 each. We ended up paying about $2 or $3 per bale after finding a farmer nearly two hours away. While we spent money on gas, we felt better putting some cash in that gentleman's pocket than we would have at our local greenhouse or feed store. Principles, people, principles!
There are 5 bales in the garden photo above. I have another 6 off to the right in this pic that you can't see, as well as several that are in use in the traditional dirt garden that my dad keeps in another part of the yard. I took this photo on day 4 of the 14 day cycle where you prep the bales. My intention is to get those cabbage seedlings transplanted after the bales have been completely prepped. I also have plenty of space for other veggies, which I have seeds for spinach, lettuce, carrots, beets... I'll post again as we further complete this project.

Are You Staying Frugal?

Eats lately:
Coconut Curry Chicken over rice w/dark chocolate balsamic glazed veggies, Brussels Sprouts & Quinoa Turkey Salad w/cheddar slices, "fathead" style crusted Margarita Pizza, grilled chicken with bacon/3 Alarm Cheese/fried onions/sriracha mayo, grilled chuck eye steak w/crockpot cooked Brussels Sprouts and salad, coffee beans won from a favorite author (yum, yum).

Frugal Doings Lately:
**After roasting a turkey for supper, I simmered the carcass and scraps in the crockpot overnight to make a broth that I then froze. I love to have a container of broth in the freezer now and then to make a quick soup when I don't feel like cooking or want to go anywhere.
**Picked up several hours of work at the coffee shop which should net us about $45 and I made $20 in tips that went into my crazy-cash-stash. It had gotten pretty low as I haven't worked there for months.
**Attended a 2hr long cooking class through work and earned $50 more on my paycheck for doing so.
**My name was drawn on a facebook contest of a favorite author! I won a signed book and a couple other items related to her book series. LOVE this!
**Cashed in points at a survey site for $12.
**Read two new books, by two of my favorite authors, from the library.
**Made a baked spaghetti with leftover meat sauce and noodles that I'd frozen from the last spaghetti supper we'd had. I just dropped the frozen ball of spaghetti into a casserole pan, dumped in the slightly frozen meat sauce and added some chopped salami and shredded mozzarella. I think everyone liked it better this go round that the first! So glad to free up that space in the freezer and not have to throw out so much wasted food.
**Bought a Sam's Club membership through Groupon again. For $45 we get a year's membership, $20gc for in store, free dinner rolls, free scalloped potatoes, $10 off a $13 cheesecake, $10 off a spiral ham costing up to $20.
**Made turkey and dumplings with a leftover turkey breast and a few peas that I'd socked away in the freezer and we always have the rest of the ingredients on hand.
**Picked up a free jar of salsa that a nearby grocery store had a coupon for.
**Stocked up on cheese at 99cents per 8oz package. Limit of 3 per customer so "J" and I each went through the line and bought a total of 6.
**While digging to the bottom of our chest freezer for chicken I discovered 6, yes, 6 big pork roasts! I see pork carnitas and pork with roasted veggies in our near future, ha ha! I love home freezer shopping!
**Brought more used coffee grounds home from the coffeehouse for the blueberry bushes.
**Picked up a 3pk of microwave popcorn for free from a grocery store coupon.
**Spoke with a friend who mentioned that she will be doing her third annual garage sale in June and she welcomed me to bring some stuff over to sell, too. I've had garage sales before but have gotten too lazy to set up and we aren't in an ideal location. So this will work out perfectly.
**Received a lovely long black and white striped skirt from same friend mentioned above.
**J's mother gave him a large bag of dried cranberries that she couldn't use. He will use these, mixed with some nuts and chocolate bits, as a trail mix for snacking on while on the road for work.
**Received a gallon of 2% milk from one of my bosses leftover from an event we'd hosted. Oh, and a lemon from that same event. I also brought home some roasted garlic cloves, maybe a head's worth, from another work event! Yay - I love garlic!

What I've Seen Lately:
 That is smoke from the fires in Canada that blew through May 6. Oh, and a neighbor's horse.
These crocus came up middle of April.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Oatmeal Raisin & Pecan Scones (Not Low-Carb!)

It's another coffee get-together today and this is the treat that I brought. Yes, not low-carb. (Doesn't mean that I fell off the wagon completely, though - ha ha!) These were actually a second batch as "J" was supposed to pull them from the oven for me and forgot, so the first run got a bit too dark. While I used my microplaner to sand off the darkened bottoms, I didn't want to serve others a not-so-perfect end product. But that fail led me to make a couple of changes, too, which led to this far superior scone. So yummy. Drop them with whatever size scoop that you'd like. I prefer my cookie scooper to make mini ones, which also meant less baking time. My oven heats a bit towards the hotter side, so you may need to make an adjustment there also. I ran out of half & half, so I actually used a combo of h&h, heavy whipping cream and coconut milk. The recipe is flexible. You can use other oatmeal flavors, I would imagine. You can use whatever spice combination you have, rather than the Cake Spice. Change nuts, omit nuts... you get the picture.

Oatmeal Raisin & Pecan Scones
(made 25 mini scones)
1 & 1/2c flour
2 pkts. maple instant oatmeal
1/4c brown sugar
2t baking powder
pinch pink sea salt
2t Penzey's Cake Spice
handful broken pecans
handful raisins
1 stick cold butter cut into cubes
1/2c half & half

About 1/4-1/2c powdered sugar, splash of maple flavoring, few splashes of heavy whipping cream, about 1t Penzey's Cake Spice. Stir it all together, thin as needed with heavy whipping cream.

Heat oven to 325F. Mix flour through Cake Spice together in bowl. Add butter and, using fingers or pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until crumbly. Stir in nuts and raisins. Add half & half and just stir until moistened. Drop onto prepared pans ( I use silpats). Bake for 10-15mns, or until edges are turning golden. Once cool, drizzle or spread icing atop.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Frugal Doings & Eats

What I've Been Eating Lately:
Full fat Greek style yogurt w/stevia sweetened cherries and homemade granola, Caprese plate, chicken thighs w/roasted cabbage, roast beef w/carrots/potato and salad, birthday cake (didn't eat the WHOLE thing).

Frugal Doings Lately:
**Brought home a bunch of emptied dinner roll bags from work. They're a thicker plastic than the storage bags that I use for my freezer, so I've been double-bagging some items into them.
**Made a batch of (not low-carb) Cranberry & Orange Scones that I had all the ingredients already for. It was my contribution towards a coffee gathering on a Sunday afternoon. Did a second coffee gathering where I'd made brownies, offered crackers/cheese/salami/nuts using all items we already had.
**Downloaded a couple of free apps from the apps store pre-loaded on my tablet. One for tv programs and one for movies. They've allowed me to see several things that I'd have to wait quite some time to see either in Redbox or on the waiting list at the library. Sadly it is a bit buggy and doesn't always work.
**Ordered  from Amazon 3lbs of golden flax meal for roughly the same price as one pound at our local grocer. (Later found it not to be frugal as it is at Sam's Club for under half of the Amazon price!)
**Made lower carb peanut butter bars a couple of times now. These have taken care of my candy bar and sweets cravings and I've typically got all the ingredients in my pantry as I use them in other ways.
**"A" didn't want some coffee grounds that she'd bought over a month ago as they were already opened and she didn't feel it was fresh anymore. It makes a perfectly acceptable cup of joe for myself and "J".
**Spent a couple hours with friends making a Chocolate Ganache Tart. Teaching them this recipe helped build support as they are beginning a reduced sugar way of eating. Hanging out with friends = Free entertainment.
**Started adding in exercise time riding my stationary bike now and then and Leslie Sansone walking dvd's more often.
**While not really frugal, I signed up for a bellydancing class with a friend. For $46 we meet an hour each week for the next two and a half months for class. Affordable workout and socializing, though.
**Saved enough Jumbo egg cartons to start some seeds indoors. Also purchased a bag of potting soil.
**Bought some seeds from an Etsy seller that cost far less than ordering from any of the seed catalogs, especially the shipping. Additionally, they are organic seeds and a couple are for heirlooms.
**Used one packet of the seeds as a gift enclosed with a birthday card for my father.
**Used past Valentine and Anniversary cards from "J" to compile a birthday card for him. It was funny to see his face as he recognized the cards.
**I started using the library again and checked out a new book by a favorite author and am making a list of a few other new books coming out by favorites to request, too.
**Printed a day pass for Sam's Club and bought a few items that I use regularly from there. While I paid an extra 10% for not being a member, I still saved over our local grocer. I go there with a friend who has a membership, too, but she was unable to go at the time.
**Printed a coupon for a free sundae for "J" at Culver's for his birthday treat.
**Bought a new battery for our Escape in hopes that it would get it up and running (it died overnight during a cold snap). It didn't. Bought a fuel pump for our Escape. "J" and son, "D", will attempt to do this replacement under the supervision of a mechanic friend. We will likely still give some $$ to this friend, but it'll be less than at the garage. Vehicle maintenance has been killing our paychecks... grr. We will recoup some of the cost when "D" starts working again and sell him the Escape for dirt cheap.
**Made "A" and my dad's birthday cakes from scratch. "A" had a purple cake and Dad's was a pineapple cake with brown butter frosting. Neither of these were low-carb. But both were good.
**Accepted a pair of jeans that got too big for a friend who has cut way back on sugar and recently lost 16 pounds! Yay, for her... and me! She is now a size smaller than me so that will motivate me to try harder, too. Must. Not. Eat. Fries.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Reduced Carb Peanut Butter Bars

The first time I made these bars I used a recipe found at the Southern Plate website. They were phenomenal, so addictive. I've thought of them often since cutting back on sugars but couldn't think of what would work best to bulk up the peanut butter base in place of all that powdered sugar that was in the original recipe. Sure it was no hard task to find a low-carb recipe, just do a quick search yourself and you will find an unlimited number of "Reese's" type of recipes. My trouble was in choosing just one that sounded like it would be "the best". At some point I just had to pick one (well, okay, two) to try and so I combined Low Carb Yum's and one from Linda's Low Carb site. I adapted the recipes to my preferences and to what I had in my pantry and the following recipe is the result.

Reduced Carb Peanut Butter Bars
(adapted from Low Carb Yum and Southern Plate and Linda's Low Carb Menus & Recipes)
1/2c butter, melted
2/3c unsweetened, unflavored whey protein powder
2T ground golden flax
1/4c Stevia In The Raw powder
1/4c powdered xylitol
1/4t pink sea salt
2tsp vanilla extract
1c chunky peanut butter
6oz dark chocolate pieces
1T coconut oil

Melt butter in pan, remove from heat and add vanilla. Let butter cool as you combine protein powder, flax, sweetener and salt in a bowl and mix together. Add peanut butter to melted butter and combine. Then stir in dry ingredients. Spread into a wax paper lined pan (I used an 8x11) and put in refrigerator to chill. Meanwhile, put chocolate pieces into a microwave safe dish (I use my glass Pyrex measuring cup) along with the coconut oil and microwave only until melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Pour over the chilled peanut butter layer and place back into the refrigerator to set up completely. Keep in fridge or freezer.
Couple of notes: The butter is salted as I rarely buy unsalted. The protein powder is Jarrow Formula brand. I'd far prefer Jay Robb's but it wasn't in my budget. Whatever protein powder you do use, keep in mind that you will likely be able to taste it a little in the end product. My peanut butter was a combination of a natural one and a generic, typical shelf-stable one. For chocolate I used part of an 85% dark chocolate bar and some Hershey's dark chocolate chips. So, as you can see, it's a fairly flexible recipe. Also, these cannot be stored out at room temp as they are still too soft even with the addition of the flax. I would describe it as a soft fudge when refrigerated and perfection when frozen. I cut mine into about 50-60 cubes and eat 2-4 at any one time - four seem to make a snack bar size.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Simple Holiday Craft Idea

Here's a couple of holiday ideas that I wanted to make sure I posted prior to Christmas, for any last minute elves...

I made 4 of cellophane wrapped gift baskets for my coworkers. The first pic is of an Epicurean brand cutting board (cost $0 as was given to me), a Linden Sweden cheese spreader (about $2 each), and a cheeseball (bought for $6 each from a church fundraiser) all tucked into a $1 basket and wrapped with a 50cent cellophane bag and tied with ribbon I already had. Each basket cost me $9.50 to make.

I pried off the plastic ring of a jar candle lid prior to recycling the glass. I thought there surely had to be something I could make with it. I found a similar idea online to what I made. Just wrap a bit of tinsel garland around it, tying or gluing to secure, then hot glue on a darling little bow.

After making that one I remembered I still had two other gifts to make for friends. I hit the dollar store for ribbon in their favorite colors and while there came across 2pks of votive glasses which fit perfectly! They can either use them on their Christmas table or hang them from their trees (minus the votive cups, of course).

Making bows has been a bit of a challenge for me in the past. So I found a tutorial online for making small bows on a fork. However, that was a bit smaller than what I was after so I put on my thinking cap for a moment and realized my wide tooth comb would allow me to customize the size well.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Leek, Bacon & Gouda Quiche

Dad planted a few leeks this year and they did well. So I did a quick search for a leek & bacon quiche and found this fantastic recipe at Williams-Sonoma. I altered it very slightly by including more eggs, more leeks, and less h&h. It was heaven. Pure heaven. Their recipe uses gruyere cheese, which I also did the first time. Their crust recipe has a link in the quiche recipe - the crust is fantastic, too.

I loved it so much that I wanted to make it again. This time I exerted a little self-control and skipped the crust and tried a new (to me) cheese. My only experience with gouda cheese has been to hear a cartoon character joke about it by saying something to the effect of, "fear the gouda". (Any other Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy fans out there? Ha ha!)

Anyway. This turned out as fantastic as I'd hoped and will be worth making again and again!

Crustless Leek, Bacon & Gouda Quiche
(altered above Williams-Sonoma recipe)
3 small to medium leeks, cleaned and trimmed to just white and light green parts
1/2lb bacon, chopped 
8oz Gouda cheese, grated
4 jumbo eggs
3/4c h&h
1/4c whole milk
1/2t nutmeg
several grinds black pepper

Grease a 9" or 10" pie plate well. Set aside. Chop and fry bacon pieces, drain on paper towel, keeping grease in pan. Add chopped leeks to pan and saute until just turning tender. When done, scoop from pan with a slotted spoon and spread into your greased pie plate. Then spread bacon over that, then grated cheese. Beat eggs, h&h, milk, nutmeg and pepper together. Pour eggs evenly over top. Put in oven that has been heated to 350F and let cook for about 30mns or until set.