Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are you staying frugal?

What I've been eating lately:

Lemon-Dill Chicken, Citrus & Beet Salad. Grilled Marinated Pork Chop, Roasted Sweet Potato, Lettuce Salad, Caprese Salad. Vanilla Mint Protein Shake.

Yeah, the oranges/beets/tomato/sweet potatoes are not really low-carb. But they are seasonal indulgences and eaten in small amounts (usually, ha ha). The coffee syrup behind the shake is actually J's, not mine.

What I've Seen Lately Snapshot:

Zinnias in the garden - what a brilliant pop of color. I love clipping them and having them on the kitchen table. Bugs seem to get pretty amorous in the raspberries - somewhere on this blog I believe I still have a pic of grasshoppers being... "romantic". Raspberries, lettuce and sugarsnap peas are the goodies going on in the garden. Last - holy cow. That's a giant mosquito.

Frugal Front Lately:

> adding up amounts to get a monthly average of what we're spending on food so that I can figure out a budget
> removed a stain from a silk tie for D for his work uniform (method below - if you're willing to take the risk)
> saved over $13 with coupons at Walmart on a $70 grocery trip
> found I was overcharged $4.64 on a separate trip to Walmart, will bring to customer service next time going there
> continuing to hang the heavy laundry items such as bottoms and shirts, towels, blankets
> framed some prints I have had for over 10 years from when I'd homeschooled A with wooden frames that cost $2 each
> borrowed the book Outlander from the library, as well as season 1 of True Detective on dvd
> sold A's dvd set of the whole series of Charmed, while not frugal for me, A will come out over $50 ahead
> putting leftovers in the freezer or to use by creating a new meal, such as a chicken hotdish made from leftover grilled chicken and leftover diced onion from a taco meal
> applied for and will be starting a second part-time job that I know I will really like at a coffeehouse

The first pic you can see what I believe is grease staining D's work tie. I looked up how to clean a silk tie and it sounded like it was not going to be too likely that I'd even be able to do so. But there were a few ideas. One was to use babypowder or cornstarch on it, let it set for a few hours, then shake or gently brush off. I tried that. It didn't work. Then I read a suggestion to use rubbing alcohol and q-tips to try to gently scrub it away and a blow dryer to quickly dry it so as to avoid a "water outline". No matter how careful I was, it kept leaving a line around the edges of where I'd cleaned, though it did seem to make the grease stain disappear. Finally, I thought, well enough fartin' around already! I dunked a cotton ball in the alcohol and just swiped it across the tie a couple of times (second picture), blow dried it, repeated about two more times... and it is now unnoticeable (pic 3)! Yeah, baby!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Low-carb Zippy Mocha Fudge Pops Recipe

These turned out so much better than I'd expected! I love it when experiments turn into something wonderful.

This recipe is one that I created based on an ice cream pie recipe out of an Eating Well magazine. A while back I'd made their recipe (well, I loosely followed it for the most part) using strawberries and rhubarb, though their recipe was for strawberries and lime. I also made my own nut crust and altered the sweetener, etc. You know how it goes if you're a fellow baker or cook. We all make changes and accommodations along the way, right?

One of their other combinations was for a mocha pie. That was what I was going to make to begin with so that I could use up the last of the Greek yogurt. But then I got lazy. I didn't want to fart around with making the crust first. I didn't want to use so much sweetener. Plus, I really did not want a bunch of slices taking up valuable real estate in my freezer. So I began to think "small scale" and ended up with these popsicles. I've made chocolate popsicles before and I wasn't certain that I'd like the Greek yogurt tang in these. I threw caution to the wind and gave it a whirl and found the yogurt gave it a little extra bite, or, zip! They also turned out creamy, with no icy crystals. Whether it was due to my tightly packed freezer or the high-fat content of the whipping cream, I can't say. All I can say is... Yum.

Zippy Mocha Fudge Pops
(makes 4 small pops)
3T xylitol
10 drops liquid vanilla stevia
1/4c heavy whipping cream
1/3c Greek yogurt
1T water
3/4T instant coffee granules, strong/dark variety
1T cocoa powder

In a mixing bowl, combine xylitol, stevia, whipping cream and yogurt. (You may want to add only the xylitol and taste before adding stevia, then adjust accordingly. I'm a sweet-head.) Set aside. In a small dish place the water, instant coffee granules and cocoa powder. (A sample size tube of instant coffee is what I used, which measured at about 3/4T.) Stir until smooth. Then stir into the yogurt mixture and blend well. Pour into molds and freeze. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Awesome Sam's Club deal!

All right, all right. First off, I will admit that I've had a Sam's Club membership in the past. I let it go when it dawned on me that we just weren't shopping there enough to justify the cost of the membership. That was years ago. Since then I have gone when they have open houses, where they don't charge the 10% upcharge, and I've gone with friends or family that have a membership. It has suited me perfectly fine. But this deal is so great that even I went ahead with it!

This is my referral link, which I surely do appreciate it if you'd be so kind to use: Sam's Club deal at Groupon

For $45 you get a one year membership AND a $20 gift card AND vouchers for deli turkey, ciabatta rolls, bean dip and an apple pie! Food items have a value of $26.23. As a reminder, make sure you read the fine print for an applicable details, such as activation information or expiration dates.

I have read that some people either received a different value gift card or they didn't receive all the food item vouchers. Please do call your local or nearest location to be sure that you are able to redeem this offer in full as it may vary slightly. Some locations do not have an onsite deli or an onsite bakery, for instance, and may offer a little more on the gift card (per the gal at our guest services counter).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Reduced Sugar Honeyberry Jam Recipe

What I've Been Eating Snapshot:
Lots of eggs, of course. This was diced Spam and dehydrated spinach, two eggs, soft mozzarella and a splash of hot sauce. Yummo. Over three years later and I still love eggs in the morning, thank goodness.
The second pic is of a slice of herb-y pork roast on romaine with a little onion, bbq and pickles. I was a cheater pants and used regular bbq. I did eat another slice of plain meat and had thrown out my coleslaw as it had gotten too spicy from sitting in the fridge for two days.

What I've Seen This Week:
Below is a photo of my lemon drop evening primrose that bloomed this past week, started maybe a week and a half ago. Peonies also bloomed nearly two weeks ago and no longer appear as beautiful as the second pic below. Mostly they are just small heaps of delicate petals upon the ground surrounding the bushes.

The photo below and left is of the honeyberry (or haskap berries) bushes that Dad planted at least several years ago - there are for sure two varieties, possibly a third, planted in there. The photo to the right is a zoomed in pic so you can see the berries. They are pretty tart, though once in a while I'm surprised with a sweeter one. I'd say they are very comparable to blueberries, when considering the size and texture. I made a batch of mixed berry low-sugar jam using them. It actually came out sweeter tasting than I'd like, so I will give it another go and reduce the sweetener/sugar even more. My recipe includes sugar as it was a compromise so that other family members can enjoy it as well. I intend for the next batch to be sugarless.

Mixed Berry Jam
(reduced sugar, my own recipe, made 2 & 1/2pints)
1c honeyberries
1.5c chopped strawberries
1.5c wild blueberries (I used frozen)
1/2c blueberries (mine were frozen)
1/2c sugar
1/2c xylitol
1/3c water
4tsp lemon juice
2 & 1/2T powdered pectin

While you can make according to the directions on your pectin packaging, I merely placed all but the lemon juice and pectin into a heavy bottomed saucepan and heated so the sweeteners would dissolve. As it heated I buzzed a stick blender through it to help break down the fruits. Then I let it come to a gentle boil and added the lemon juice, stirred, added the pectin slowly, and stirred. I let it boil for about a minute, maybe two. 

I then removed the pan from the heat and ladled into my prepared canning jars and processed in a hot water bath for approximately 15mns. Your canner instructions should tell you how long to process. Mine actually stated 10mns. My canner is huge, though, and just wouldn't come to a nice boil. Hence the longer processing time and the fact that I am storing mine in the fridge - just to be on the safe side. Please do follow your canner and canning book directions to ensure a proper seal if you intend to store without refrigeration.

Frugal Front This Past & Current Week Snapshot:
>trying to do some deeper cleaning as this occupies time slots that may have me "window shopping", which inevitably leads to real shopping
>digging down deep into the freezers to find things to make meals with to cut back on grocery shopping and less wasting
>purchased a prepaid gas card for the work Jeep so that we can pay at the pump and avoid going into the gas station where we may be tempted to buy junk food and drinks
>continuing to work on homemade Christmas gifts, finishing two (photo below)
>had a paperbackswap credit to use (still have one more, I think) and received that book yesterday
>browsed our library's book sale for free entertainment, as well as checked out a Johnny Carson dvd
>picked up a printout of our auto and home insurance declaration pages so I can do a little comparison shopping
>called our dentist to see if we can get a discount if we pay cash and in full on a nearly $500 dental bill for the kids, they will take off 10%
>entered codes on Driscoll's berries site to receive printable coupons which allowed me to pick up a couple more containers of strawberries for just over a dollar a pound
>had picked up and spread grounds for gardeners from Starbucks
>corralled D and A's various face washes that have been hanging around in the bathroom and started to use them myself as they apparently get bored with using the same product over and over - ha ha
>worked on getting health insurance straightened out more and found a dentist that will take D and A as the previous dentist no longer accepts the insurance we have, hence the $500 we owe because they were wishy-washy about whether or not they took our insurance - grrr...
>found some Sevin insect dust that I'd purchased a couple years ago and used on the cabbages as I've noticed something's been nibbling on them

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cherry Almond Dark Chocolate Bark Recipe

Cherry & Almond Dark Chocolate Bark
1 - 3.5oz 85% dark chocolate bar (I like Lindt.)
1/4-1/2c dark chocolate or semi-sweet chips*
1/8-1/4tsp cherry flavoring* (I used LorAnn.)
1/4tsp almond flavoring
1/4-1/2c toasted blanched almond slivers*

Line an 8" square pan with parchment. Melt chocolates and flavorings in a double-boiler, stirring often until smooth. Remove from heat, wipe bottom of pan dry with towel so it doesn't drip, then pour into pan and spread out with spatula or back of spoon. Sprinkle almonds over top. Refrigerate until hardened, then chop or break into chunks.

*I gave a range of amounts for several ingredients because I began with the lesser amount and then adjusted to taste by either measuring out more (in the case of the cherry flavoring) or "eyeballing" it (in the case of the chocolate chips and the almond slivers).

My almonds were toasted a day prior as they were used in another recipe. I just spread them out onto a pan and kept a close eye on them as they toasted in the toaster oven. Also, this is my first time trying LorAnn Oil, the cherry flavoring that I used. I don't know how other brands compare, but this flavoring is very... intense, in my opinion. So, please, please, please taste before adding a larger amount. I paid $1 for the pictured bottle that is .125 fl oz. You can barely tell that I used any and it appears I will get years more of use from this little bottle. This was purchased from a local clinic's pharmacy check-out counter. As for the chocolate chips, you certainly could try the sugar-free ones, though I have not and do not know if it'd turn out. I imagine you could also just skip them altogether and add a little more 85% chocolate bar. However, I have a hard time enjoying it that dark.

I can't wait to try a couple other combinations. I think this would make an awesome gift for co-workers next Christmas!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yummy Shrimp & A New Baby

What I'm Eating: Today's Snapshot:
B> 1slice toasted Ezekiel w/egg salad, 2 coffee with h&h and sweetener
L> 2slices toasted Ezekiel w/egg salad, water
S> 1/2med roasted sweet potato, grilled shrimp skewers, sf iced coffee
Snacks> 1sf choc & caramel bar, 1 strawberry, 2 chunks cherry almond dark chocolate bar, handful pecans

Let me make my excuses right away. I have been PMS'ing for a few days now. I don't know about y'all, but my brain tells me, "FEED ME", and more specifically, "FEED ME CHOCOLATE". Also, we are in need of a little shopping to pick up some veggies and such, hence the overdose of egg salad. The sweet potato on my plate was merely scrubbed, diced and seasoned liberally with olive oil, s&p, dried rosemary and fresh minced parsley. Popped the pan into the toaster oven and in about 45mns time of about 350 degrees... perfection. The shrimp was made by mostly following Melissa Joulwan's recipe from her Well Fed cookbook. Oh my, oh my... divine. Her recipe calls for cilantro. I'm not a fan of that so I used parsley instead. I used precooked/frozen shrimp instead of fresh. (Can you tell I don't follow directions very well?) I also thought half a lime provided plenty of juice, rather than the whole one as called for. Purely divine. I was in such a food-blissed-out state after eating this meal! Just between you and I? J and I polished off the entire pound of shrimp.

What I've Seen This Week:
Yay! Gerbera Daisy still making blooms!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Chocolate Ganache Pie

Chocolate Ganache Pie
(adapted from Driscoll's berries site)
1 & 1/2c pecans
1/2c walnuts
1/3c Splenda Brown Sugar Blend*
1tsp cinnamon
4T butter, cut into several chunks
6oz favorite 70% dark chocolate bar
1c heavy whipping cream
whipped cream

For the crust: Heat oven to 350. Pulse pecans through butter in a food processor until resembling graham cracker crumbs. Press into lightly sprayed 8" pie pan, covering the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Bake 15mns. Take out to cool while preparing ganache filling.

For filling: Break chocolate bar into small chunks. Add to saucepan. Pour heavy whipping cream over and turn heat to medium-low. Whisk and heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth and just starts to bubble along edges of the pan. Remove from heat and pour into prepared pie crust. Place in refrigerator to cool and firm up for at least three hours (should firm up like a stiff cheesecake). Serve with whipped cream and a fresh berry on top.

*I have had this recipe bookmarked for quite some time with the idea to make it more carb friendly. While I didn't make it as low-carb as I could, it met my needs, as well as supplies. If you'd like to make it lower in carbs you can easily swap out the Splenda Brown Sugar Blend for your choice of sweetener, such as Xylitol. You could use an  85-90% dark chocolate bar. (But I will warn you that the original recipe calls for 60-72% and my version, with 70%, tastes very dark chocolatey.) Switch out the nut crust for your favorite recipe, though this version is great, especially with the increased cinnamon. Use whipped coconut cream and blackberries for your toppings, if you prefer. The flexibility in this recipe has earned it a place on my blog so I can refer back to it and make again and again. So decadent! 

I'm recommitting to doing a more stringent job of eating low-carb. While it is true that I have not gained weight by adding more fruits and treats, I haven't lost either. I still would like to lose 20-30lbs more. Fortunately a coworker informed me that she began eating lower-carb this past week. It's helpful to have others around you that support your way of eating. So I'm delighted that we can share this. She's pooed-pooed me in the past for eating this way. But her sister recently lost 20lbs doing it and that motivated her. Whatever it takes - yay! I am so proud of her for losing 3lbs in only her first four days!

Gardening Notes

6/7 - Our growing season is short here. So my first box was planted in May, shortly after the ground had thawed enough to move the first box from the garden and into the back yard. I have garlic, lettuces, spinach, a couple acorn squash and mixed perennial flowers planted. At the end of May we put together a second box. Just last night I put in 7 cabbage plants and 4 marigolds in there.
6/9 - I put in some gladiola bulbs that I'd dug up and saved from last year. You can see them sticking out in the back row of the second box. I gave my trumpet vine (growing on both sides of the metal arbor) a good look and it is greening nicely, though I think there is a lot that I can trim from near top that didn't transition well. That may spur it to grow more strongly. Because I am unsure of this I have been removing just tiny vines/stems at a time.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tangy Lemon Cake and a little of this & that...

Tangy Lemon Cake with Glaze
(adapted from Honeyville's recipe)
1 & 1/2c fine almond flour
1tsp baking powder
1/8tsp pink salt
lemon zest of 1 lemon
2tsp lemon juice
1/2c butter, softened
4oz cream cheese
1c xylitol
5 eggs
1tsp homemade vanilla extract
4T butter, softened
juice of 1 lemon
1 & 1/2c powdered xylitol

1tsp cornstarch

Heat oven to 350. Mix almond flour and baking soda and salt in a bowl, set aside. Zest (I did this onto a small plate), then juice lemon (squeezed into a bowl and hand picked out the seeds) and set them aside. In another bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with xylitol. Once mixed, add eggs and extract and beat until blended. Then add in the almond flour mixture, beat, add in zest and 2tsp of juice, beat. Pour into a greased 9"pan (I used a springform pan). Bake 35mns, test for doneness, adding more time as needed. 

According to their site you should be able to make a soft frosting with the remaining lemon juice, butter and powdered xylitol. Mine did not come together. Maybe because it was xylitol rather than sugar? I don't know. But whatever the reason, I ended up adding 1tsp of cornstarch and heating this to a simmer on the stovetop until the xylitol was dissolved and it thickened slightly, maybe five minutes total. I think you could easily use a little xanthan if avoiding cornstarch. But this is an acceptable amount to me and gave a result that I expected. I set it aside to cool, alongside the cake that was cooling. Once the glaze was just barely warm, I spread it onto the cake, making sure to let plenty slide and soak along the edge - and still had about a 1/4c leftover which I refrigerated for later use. You could halve the glaze recipe and still end up with plenty enough to give an extra bit of zip and gooey-ness. 

What have you been eating recently? The first pic is of a Strawberry Pretzel Salad (no, I don't think it's really a salad, either) that I made-over by switching out strawberries with raspberries, using sugar-free jello and replacing the sugar in the cream cheese layer with xylitol and stevia. I know I should have gone further by making a nut crust. But the whole reason I made this was to use up the few pretzels left hanging around from Christmas. Do a quick internet search for Strawberry Pretzel Salad and you can create it however you would like.

The second pic is a recipe from Better Homes & Gardens. I tried to find a link on their site, but it wasn't being very user friendly for me. It's called Soy-Ginger Pot Roast and is from the March 2014 issue. It was great, though I would add more ginger next time, or go with a smaller roast than what I did - mine was huge.

Cleaning tip - Frugal recipe:
I'd come across someone's comment on another blog about how she made up a batch of homemade stain-remover. While she did not include a recipe in her post, a quick internet search yielded a simple recipe. It is simply 1 part original, blue Dawn dish soap to 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. I made up a small dish using 2T Dawn and 4T hydrogen peroxide, giving it a gentle stir to mix. I then used a small spoon to ladle it onto large stains and dribble it onto small ones. I also used an old toothbrush to give a quick scrub... to my scrub tops. (I tried it on an old one first that was going to be thrown out anyhow due to a torn snap to make sure no fading or "bleaching" would occur.) Let me tell you, it was getting downright embarrassing to wear my grease splattered scrubs to work. I've tried store-bought stain removers and I've tried various soakings already - to no avail. Unbelievably, as simple a recipe as this was, it worked. I was able to save a couple of my sweatjackets from the rag heap, too. Sadly, it did not work on the little blop of hair dye on the sweatjacket.

Pics above show the grease stain in the first pic and the "after" photo. I apparently forgot the flash for the second photo, but the grease stain was completely gone. Yay!

 These two, above, show various grease spatters. Pics below show them gone. Woot, woot!