Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pat(s) on the back!

As the title of my post indicates, I am giving myself a good ol' pat on the back for FINALLY overcoming my fear of my pressure cooker (it's ok to laugh) and using it TWICE today!  Not only did I soak some pinto beans overnight, but I soaked a couple cups of black beans earlier today to be used in this healthy and delicious-looking Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake from (thank you Pinterest for another awesome recipe).  I even snuck in a cup of frozen spinach to take the healthy points up a level.

We shall feast on these leftovers for lunch this week, and I've portioned out my remaining beans for freezer storage.  Whenever I use beans, I like to give myself another pat on the back for discovering how easy and economical it is to buy dried beans, soak, cook, and freeze them instead of buying their canned cousins.  I love saving money, avoiding BPA/sodium from cans, and using dried beans in vintage Ball/Kerr jars as decor in our dining room.

I give myself yet another pat on the back (don't worry, won't make this a habit) for getting SO MUCH DONE today:

  • Got groceries/Christmas gifts from Whole Foods (with discount! Yay!) while dropping hubs off at work
  • Made another batch of baked banana oatmeal cups from previous post
  • Food prep: brown rice, black beans, pinto beans
  • Made above-mentioned Chicken and Rice bake
  • Made another trip to the local grocery for miscellaneous grocery items for the week
  • Made some awesome, cheap homemade Christmas gifts for the ladyfolk in my family, thanks to this tutorial: Peppermint Sugar Scrub (source: Jacolyn Murphy)

Seriously, this gift was so cheap and easy to make.  Of course, I had some help from my Kitchenaid mixer, and I already had these perfectly-sized quilted Ball jars just sitting around from a previous project.  Just need to make a cute label, maybe tie on a nametag, and I'm done.

After I showed my to-do list what's up, I had a little time left over to make a few lunches for the hubs:

Next project: Crochet Knotted Headband from All About Ami.  I am actually psyched to use up some of the yarn stash I've had laying around here for the past few years.

Farewell, productive weekend.  Until we meet again!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

the joys of adulthood

Today was one of those days that made me realize I've truly hit adulthood:
  • totally had the opportunity to sleep in but got up early anyway so that I could review/compare Eric's employee benefits with my own employee benefits to choose which plan I should enroll in
  • major excitement with day's plans of shopping for groceries (bonus: cheaply!) at Aldi's, food prepping, and tidying the house
  • epic anger/frustration over two food items that had gone bad in my fridge, which we all know equals wasted money (bonus adult points here)
On that note, I absolutely hate wasting food.  I honestly wanted to shake my fists at God and ask, "why?!" when I found that the lovely free-range whole chicken I'd given in to purchasing at Whole Foods had spoiled.  So much meat and chicken stock to waste... :(

My pity-party didn't last too long as I wanted to salvage some of the spoiling vegetables in my fridge by making a lovely veggie stock.  I hate buying stock of any variety at the store -- so much easier to make your own.  So, into my soup pot went some celery, onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaves to 'sweat' for a few minutes on the simmer setting.  After I felt the veggies had enjoyed their sauna, I added in some water, brought it to boil, and then down to simmer for about an hour.  Finished product: several cups of veggie stock for upcoming dinner recipes.  Into the freezer they went in ball jars and ice cube trays!

Next item on the food prep agenda was an on-the-go breakfast option.  I love oatmeal for breakfast -- cheap and nutritious -- but I was getting kind of sick of the warm glop.  To change things up (and to use up the spoiling bananas my husband promised he'd eat), I found a baked banana oatmeal cup recipe on that is easy, pretty healthy, and yummy.  I just put the ingredients in the bowl of my trusty Kitchenaid mixer, spooned the batter into my reusable silicone muffin cups, and popped them in the oven.  I'll admit that I will bake them a little longer next time as mine were just a touch too moist for my liking, but nevertheless yummy:

I'm about to make a second batch since I have *so* many bananas going bad...

I've been a fan of food prep/making food from scratch for a long time now, but I could be much better about  meal planning -- too often I come home tired from work and want to throw in the towel with dinner by ordering from one of the many restaurants down the street (a luxury that living in DC affords us).  I don't have to tell you that money spent on eating out adds up quickly, and I've been convicted lately of spending too much  money on 'convenient' food and not being a better steward of time and money.  That said... today I started a free 30-day trial at Plan to Eat, a menu-planning website that allows you to save recipes from the web by clicking a button on your browser (similar to Pinterest!) and adding them to your "planner."  You can even generate a shopping list based on your recipes, which I like.  I was honestly pretty hesitant as it's a paid service ($40/year), but I figured a free trial couldn't hurt.  We'll see how it works with me attempting to clear out our cabinets before leaving for Indy this Friday... :)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Christmas, Soup, and Pinterest

Whoo! After being out of the blogging habit for some time, I have been re-inspired to start back up. After a lot of change in the past 3 years (marriage, new jobs, moving, school, new church, etc.), I finally feel like things have settled into a 'normal' of some sort. I can't believe it took this long! So here we are, the first Sunday of December. I finally got our Christmas decorations out of storage and, considering we only have a small tree and very few small decorations, am excited to get into the holiday spirit with a little decoration crafting. I love the rustic, Scandinavian aesthetic and am hoping to make this:

source: Nap Time Crafts

 I've also been cooking a ridiculous amount of soups from scratch. I am a HUGE fan of Katie Kimball's Kitchen Stewardship blog -- thanks to her, I now make my own chicken stock and yogurt among other things. Lately I'll buy a whole chicken (yay Whole Foods discount!), roast it, pick off the meat and store it in the freezer for future recipes, and save the bones for chicken stock. I had been making it in the crockpot (you really can't get any easier than that), but Eric and I found that the stock occasionally tasted somewhat bitter with this method, so I've been cooking it on the gas stovetop in a large stockpot instead. We re-use all of our glass food jars from spaghetti sauce, salsa, peanut butter, etc., so I just pour the chicken stock in those to freeze and keep plenty on hand. This way, I save money and know exactly what's going into my meals, which I like. Thanks to Pinterest, I have no shortage of new recipes to try. Tonight I made this lemon, chicken, and orzo soup from Tartelette blog -- take that, Panera! I have it cooling on the countertop in jars for grab-and-go lunches for the rest of the week.

 I'm off to fold laundry and find more Christmas crafts to make!