Monday, January 23, 2012

The Experiment 1.2

Find out what The Experiment is...

I was thinking it might be good do post about this each week, thus the part two.  Last week, I was home a lot.  I had a headache most of the week and actually spent two days in the bed with it.  Thankfully, it is gone now and life is getting back to normal (whatever normal may be).

Since I stayed home most of the week, I didn't' have a lot of opportunity to spend frivolously.  I did go to work at church Thursday and Friday and didn't stop at Starbucks or Chick Fil A so there is $32 in not spending.  We had three of our grandchildren Friday evening through Saturday evening.  Often times I just buy dinner (pizza or other fast food) when they are here.  I did do that Friday night, in part because of the headache. Saturday, I decided we were not going to spend money on dinner... I would actually cook.  :)  So because we didn't spend money on going out we probably saved... hmm...well, Friday we ate at Subway, and I spent $41(those subs add up fast).  So I will say I saved $40 by not eating out on Saturday.  Also, today, I had an appointment first thing this morning then went to Target.  Our Target has a Starbucks inside.... it smelled soooo good, but I didn't get anything.  There's about $4.  I was tempted again to get the two books I didn't get last time -- but I didn't.  Not sure I can or should count those so I'm not adding them in.  So we have $32, $40 and $4.  A total of not spending $76! :)

Desires Not Spent: $76
Needs Met: 4 pairs boys Toughskins jeans, 1 month (or more) Target diapers

Egg Brunch

Dining on a Dime, p. 62

I made this for Sunday School. Our Sunday school class provides food for each week to help ease Sunday morning stress. I think this is a great dish for such occasions. I thought this was quite tasty and easy to make and take to Sunday school since you prepare it the day before then cook it the next morning. It is also nice to take since it is an egg dish as opposed to bread, donuts and such... though I enjoy those a lot too,  :)

2 1/2 cups milk
8 eggs
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
12 slices of bread
1 (16 oz.) pkg. sausage, bacon or ham, cooked
3/4 lb. cheddar cheese, shredded

Whisk eggs and milk together. Add cream of mushroom soup. Layer bread in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. The bread will overlap slightly. Then add meat and top with cheese. Pour egg mixture on top and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serves 18

Notes: I used sausage and drained it pretty well. I thought the dish was a little greasy. Not sure if it was the combination of sausage and the cheddar or what. I only used 8 or 9 slices of bread, maybe if I had used all the bread it would have been less greasy. I like using sausage better than bacon or ham. I also added some pepper. It went over well at church, too, so others must have thought it was good as well!  :)  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mexican Brownies

From my kitchen to yours!  My church had an international foods night a while back during one of our missions emphasis weekends.  I wanted to take something easy.  Something Mexican -- since I like Mexican and my last name fits that bill.  :-)  After looking at several recipes for "Mexican Brownies," I came up with something super simple with great results!

About the cayenne...  While I love Mexican and Tex-Mex foods, I can't really do a lot of spice.  Love me some mild Pace.  And I can do medium, but that is my limit.  Medium is like, "Woo, this is tasty ::sniff:: and kinda fun!"  The only reason I have cayenne is in my spice drawer is for the taco seasoning.  I've never used it in anything else except the brownies.  The first time I made the brownies (for the missions event), I think I used 1/8 tsp.  And they had quite the kick!  Almost too much for me.  (Or maybe just right since it would keep me from eating most of them...).  The second time I made the Mexican Brownies, I used maybe 1/16 of a teaspoon.  Basically a few sprinkles that I thought wouldn't make any difference and would probably be pointless.  I don't know what cayenne is on an atomic level -- but those few sprinkles were amazing!  It gave the brownies a depth of flavor that said "Mexican spice" without being spicy.  You could just add the cinnamon.  It'd still be tasty.  But the cayenne really does take it up a notch and makes it something special!

1 box brownie mix plus ingredients needed to make them
1 Tbs cinnamon
1/16 - 1/4 tsp cayenne

Combine brownie mix with cinnamon and cayenne.  Add wet ingredients and follow package directions for mixing and baking!  Serve with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cream Soup Base

Dining on a Dime, p. 115

Just as with the Taco Seasoning recipe, I am in love with this recipe.  It's a new Pantry Essential in my kitchen.  The "Cream Soup Base" is actually what caused me to purchase my first box of dry milk and realize what an amazing thing it is!  More on that in a later post.  :-)  The great things about having Cream Soup Base in your pantry are... the same great things as having taco seasoning!  You never get home from the grocery store and find you forgot to get cream of _______ soup.  There are no mystery ingredients from factories.  You can put whatever you want in it to go with the dish you are making: mushrooms for cream of mushroom, celery for cream of celery, or nothing and it becomes a foundation for the dish's flavor to build upon.  And it smells good, too!

2 cups dry milk
1 1/4 cups cornstarch or 2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup chicken bouillon powder
2 Tbs dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme (optional)
1 tsp basil (optional)

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.  If the mix is made with cornstarch, add 1/3 cup mix to 1 1/4 cups water; if made with flour, add 1/2 cup mix to 1 1/4 cups water.  This makes a concentrated casserole consistency.  For soup consistency, double the water.

Note:  I realized after a while that you have to either stove-heat or microwave the mix/water until it thickens before you add it to your recipe.  It still tastes good if you don't, but your dish won't be as thick 'n creamy.  Also, if you only have chicken bouillon cubes, just put enough in a ziploc and crush them to get 1/4 cup.  I bet you could use beef bouillon if you prefer that kind of Cream Soup Base.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Taco Seasoning

Dining on a Dime, p. 305

My favorite ethnic food?  Mexican.  Well, ok, Italian, too.  But I LOVE me some Mexican food.  So taco seasoning is a staple in my food world.  For years I've used the little packets, whether brand name or generic.  Then dear Nonie (my grandmother) gave me Dining on a Dime which contains a homemade taco seasoning recipe.  I tried it.  AND I WILL NEVER GO BACK!!!  Not only does it taste incredibly delicious -- full of flavor and void of fakeness -- but it is also free of anything a factory would add (msg, preservatives, etc.).  The recipe doesn't even call for salt, though you can add some to your taste if you'd like.  This taco seasoning produces meat that is NOT greasy-looking or that weird orange color.  You know what I'm talking about.  And the flavors develop over time, meaning the meat is even better the next day.  It's also very nice to not have to remember to put taco seasoning on my grocery list -- it's made of on-hand spices and in the long run is cheaper than ready-made taco seasoning.  Here's a great post to back me up on this.  :-)

6        tsp chili powder
4 1/2  tsp cumin
5        tsp paprika
1/4     tsp oregano
3        tsp onion powder
2 1/2  tsp garlic powder
1/8 - 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients and store in an airtight container.  One teaspoon of homemade taco seasoning equals 2 teaspoons store-bought.  (If my own math is correct, 2 Tbs of this home-made taco seasoning would equal a store-bought packet.  But obviously you can add more or less to your dish -- that's the beauty of using a non-packet seasoning!)

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Confession and "The Experiment"

This is a bit of a humbling post for me (Kathie). I confess I spend too much money on stuff. Stuff I don't need, just stuff I want and often on impulse. I'm embarrassed and ashamed at my lack of stewardship with the money that the Lord provides through my Sweet Husband's work. The Lord has provided Sweet Husband with a profession that pays enough that we don't have to worry about finances, and I'm grateful. I have taken that gratitude too far (or maybe not far enough), and I have taken the finances for granted. I want to change that. I want to be a good steward of the money the Lord provides as well as other resources He gives, which leads me to The Experiment.

I decided that I would start keeping track of the times I choose to not spend money on something I would normally purchase. I was telling Dawn about what I was discovering in just TWO days, and she thought it would be interesting to compare the amount I'm saving from not impulse-buying with what she could purchase to meet her family's needs. By sharing this with our readers, hopefully it will spur us all on to be thoughtful spenders and therefore good stewards.

I started my little experiment on January 12, 2012. I'm a volunteer office worker at our church on Thursdays and Fridays. Usually I will stop at Starbucks because I'm so rushed to get to church on time, and I will pick up a grande latte and a breakfast sandwich at a cost of about $7-$8. Well, I chose to not do that. My Sweet Husband bought me a wonderful blender before Christmas so I used that to make a yummy protein smoothie to take with me. Saved me $7-$8 and who knows how many calories. Not much you might say, and that doesn't seem like much. But if I do that twice a week, that is $14 to $16 a week which works out to $728 - $832 a year. What could be done with that much money a year? Do I have your attention? :) Well, the second day of my experiment, I went to Target. This was a real eye-opener for me. I had a list of three things to get. As I was walking through the store I came upon a box of canisters. Really neat canisters, like Dawn's, which I really love. Well, I thought "I'll just get some....but you have a lot of Tupperware. But, I really like Dawn's canisters. They are so neat and seal so well. But you don't need canisters, do you. No, I don't need canisters." I passed them by, thereby NOT spending $49.99. I continued through the store and came upon the book section..."Oh! I could buy the next two books of The Hunger Game series. Oh, they only have them in hardback, and Hope already has the hardback copies. But she and they are at school, out of state; and you could probably get them at the library. True." So I passed them by and did NOT spend $26. Next was the toy department on my way toward the front of the store. The game Sorry Sliders caught my eye. I purchased that for some of my grandchildren for Christmas, but the pawns weren't in the game. I have contacted the company about getting some pawns. "Oh, I could just buy a new game, and then when I get the parts to the other game I can let the kids take one of the games to have at home and keep one at our house. You do not need to spend that money. Just be patient and wait for the pawns you are waiting for." So I passed them by (it was easier this time) and did NOT spend $20. Are you keeping count?? While in Target, I did NOT spend approximately $96 that, had I not been working on being a good steward, I would have easily spent. What could be done with that? I know some families that are struggling financially that would be happy to have that money. I know there are missionaries who could use that as they minister the gospel to people here and all around the world.

I'm committed to The Experiment for the next month. Dawn and I are going to blog about this experiment periodically. I'm guessing/hoping the not spending will get easier because I will learn to think about my purchases and spend money on real needs rather than just desires. As I think about it, this seems to be a lesson in contentment as well as self-control and good stewardship.

The Experiment 1.0
Desires Not Spent: $110
Needs Met: Dermatologist co-pay, Hubz' new glasses, 24 pack of toilet paper

Hot Fudge Cake

This is a quick and easy cake to make, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. I made it two days in a row for a couple reasons: 1) it is really tasty and 2) I forgot to take a picture before I scooped it the first time. Yes, I did say scoop. When the recipe says there is a delicious fudge sauce in the center, it isn’t kidding! This is not a cake you cut and serve on a plate. I served it in bowls. It is quite sweet, and I think it would go great with a scoop of ice cream or a nice cup of coffee or tea. Since it's one of his favorite food groups, my Sweet Husband had some ice cream with it.  :)

A few notes... The recipe calls for flour, but I did not use all-purpose flour. I keep white whole wheat flour on hand, so that is what I used. "White whole wheat flour?" you ask.... Yes, that sounds like another, probably short, blog post. :) When I made the cake, the batter was very thick, more like the consistency of brownies; and there wasn’t a lot. I wasn’t sure what “deep casserole dish” meant, so I put it in a 1 quart soufflĂ© dish which worked well.

The recipe was unlike any I had ever made before.... pour a cup of hot water over the whole thing then put it in the oven. Strange, but I guess that is how the wonderful fudge ends up in the middle. The recipe says it serves nine. I got eight servings of about a half cup each. You really don't need more than that because it is so rich. So here is the recipe!

1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs. Cocoa
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup milk
2 Tbs. butter or margarine, melted (I used butter)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup nuts (I broke mine up with the side of a meat mallet)

3 Tbs Cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup hot water

Mix all the ingredients for the cake and pour into a buttered deep dish casserole dish. Mix cocoa and sugar for topping and sprinkle on top of batter. Pour hot water over top and bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes. This has a delicious fudge sauce in the center when baked. Serves 9

Batter with topping...
Hot water poured on top...

Oh, a couple more things... Something kind of fun, especially for the grandchildren who were here...when the cake comes out of the oven, the fudge center is boiling so it makes the cake look like it is breathing. Also, this is really a bake and eat recipe. The second time I made it, I let it cool for a few minutes and the middle fell. It still tasted wonderful, and the fudgey center still was nice and fluid... it just looked ugly. I guess you could say it was a time where you didn't want to judge a book by its cover. :) I hope you will try this recipe; and, if you do, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Friday, January 13, 2012

About the Authors: Dawn

I'm Dawn.  My mom mentioned she has a milestone birthday this year -- so do I.  I'll be 30 in a matter of days.  When I look at my life, I feel way too young to have a husband, three children, and our own home.  But at the same time, I feel mature enough mentally and spiritually to be 30.  It's incredible how being married, having children, moving a lot, and just life in general can grow a person up!  And so that I can return the public favor of poking fun, my Hubz will be 30 in May.  ;-)

As mentioned, I have three kids.  A 5 year old son (JG), a 4 year old son (EA), and a 1 year old daughter (EM).  Add to that caring for our new single-family long-term home, meal management, husband care, etc. etc...and my days are quite full!  This is our first official year of homeschooling.   JG is in kindergarten, and EA is in preschool.  And boy was it a wake-up call to see how much that adds to the home management plate!  It's a good lesson in learning to prioritize -- and how to let go of the lower priorities if they don't get done!  I do enjoy being able to stay home and fulfill my God-given calling.  There is so much to do that I honestly have no idea how women who work outside the home manage!  My brain doesn't compute that simply because of how busy I am without spending time at a job elsewhere.  Those women must have an extra measure of grace and strength from the Lord!  :-P

I have a bachelor's degree in Home Economics - Family & Consumer Sciences.  I can't begin to tell you how often a gal gets made fun of for spending four years and so much money to learn how to "bake chocolate chip cookies and sew a dress."  It is SO much more than that!  Food prep (science behind cooking), meal management, home management, childhood development, early childhood education, nutrition, nutrition for children, sewing basics, intermediate sewing and beyond, dynamics of family living (best class ever!), professional and philosophical issues, interior design, entrepreneurship, undergraduate thesis and research...and those are only the classes I remember!  Those four years drastically changed who I am in personality, ability, and spirit.  And no, a home ec degree is not just a "Mrs." degree.  There are a MYRIAD of professions one can go into with such a degree.  Though it is QUITE beneficial if you do end up as a Mrs.  ;-)  Which is precisely what the Lord had for me -- I got married about two months after graduation.  Fine by me!  Those four years and thousands of dollars were far from being a waste.  How many people can say they use their degree 24/7 year in and year out??  Even sleeping is being a good steward of your time (part of home management)!  Not to mention, as my mom reminds me, those years and money were well worth it for me to meet my dear Hubz.  ::swoon::

Disclaimer:  Just because I do have an official degree in Home Economics does NOT mean that I am a perfect home manager.  Who is?  Martha Stewart?  Yeah...she doesn't have a husband or kids in the house (that I'm aware of anyway) or a limited budget.  We are all sinners and battle laziness and pride, both of which hugely affect the state of our homes and lives.  Trust me -- I've come a loooong way in how I manage my home from the first year of marriage with no kids to now -- almost 8 years and three kids.  Each child has forced me to let go of pristine living even more -- which is a good thing for me.  It is both humbling and refreshing to let go of perfectionism.  I'm realizing it's ok for people to see that we LIVE in our home!  That "relaxed" look my mom spoke of is not a bad thing so long as it's not due to laziness.  We must strive to find a healthy balance in the state of our homes -- spiritually first, then practically.  :-)

It's commical how different my mom and I are in our likes/dislikes in home management.  I DO NOT like to do dishes -- I still haven't figured out why exactly other than the standing for forever and getting dry hands.  I HATE cleaning bath tubs and showers that have tile/grout.  Loathe.  Consider it a drudgery.  I love to organize things and would spend a pretty penny on organizational stuff...if I had a pretty penny!  Can one be too organized??  A place for everything, and everything in its place -- that's how picking-up becomes a breeze!  Which means I like to fold clothes and put them away.  I've always dreamed of having a linen closet that looks like the towel section of Bed Bath & Beyond.  And perfect dresser drawers means you wear more of your clothes because you can actually see all of them!  (Obsessed, you ask?  Probably.)  I like to sweep and vacuum because it gives immediate satisfaction and a huge face lift to the home.  Don't do anything else but clean the floors, and things look much better!

I'm excited to be co-authoring this blog mainly because I LOVE gathering/using ideas and therefore love contributing to the big 'ole Idea Pool.  (There's a post on why you should be on Pinterest coming in the near future...)  Take what works for you from this blog, and use it!  Use the ideas and tailor them to your life.  The goal is to help you all become more efficient home managers to free up your time and money so it can be spent on the most important things in life -- God's kingdom and your own little kingdom!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

About the Authors: Kathie

I'm Kathie. I have lived, by God's grace, for 49 years.   Lord willing, in nine months I will be 50!  I don't feel that old, but how old is 50 supposed to feel?   I am married to a wonderful man who loves the Lord, me, our three girls, and our six grandchildren.  Our two older girls are both grown and out of the house; they split the six grandchildren between them.  Each daughter has two sons and one daughter.  It is a joy to be their mom and the grandchildren’s Nini (pronounced "nee-nee").  Our third and youngest daughter was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school and is now a college freshman.  So we are sort of empty nesters.  My husband, R, and I have been married 23 years.   We have lived in the same house all those years.  It is an older home, built in 1933 or 1936 (I can never remember).   I love this house, and I love being a homemaker.  Don't read "I'm a great homemaker" or "I'm a have-it-all-together homemaker" because nothing is further from the truth.   I had a friend once tell me my home was "relaxed."  I think she meant you could tell people lived here!  :)

I enjoy all the different areas of homemaking.  I enjoy cooking, though I'm not a foodie.  I like simple, home-cooking, and I do like watching cooking/foodie type shows.   I enjoy sewing.   I like things being organized, and that's an area I need to work on.  Nothing makes me smile like an organized closet... if they would only stay that way!  :D   I actually enjoy dusting and vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom.  I like washing the dishes by hand.   I like the solitariness of it.  What do I not like (so you know I'm just like anyone else)?  I do NOT like to pick up.  I don't like folding and putting away the laundry either.

I'm excited about this new adventure with Dawn for several reasons.  I want to be a better blogger.  I want to have a good motivation to try the recipes and frugal hints in the Dining on a Dime cookbook.  I want to be a better steward of the resources the Lord has given us.  And lastly, if I can be of help to any other mother or grandmother, that is just icing on the cake (pun sort of intended).  ;)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Proverbs 31:27 says, "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness."

So begins a new journey!  Though we each have our own blogs as personal writing outlets, we have decided to venture forth together as co-authors of a new blog that deals with a topic near and dear to our lives - home management.

Why is home management near and dear to us?  Because it is our calling!  God has allowed us both to be wives and mothers who work in the home.  We are domestic engineers!  Home management is both a necessity and a joy to each of us because we realize that it is a gift -- a challenging gift -- to be the hands and feet of God in our homes.  We strive to be a blessing to our husbands and children (as they are to us) by being the tool God uses to help them live comfortable, efficient, and enjoyable lives.

What we think is fun is not that we're just good friends and sisters in Christ, we are also mother and daughter!  Note the two flowers on our background.  :-)  Titus 2:3-5 says, "Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.  Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God."  Praise the Lord that, by His grace, we are a good example of Paul's command.  What is precious to us is that we have reached the ages and stages in life where the counsel and encouragement as well as practical ideas and advice can flow both ways.  Kathie has more years and life experience that have given her much wisdom to share, and Dawn has had formal training in home economics that has given her a practical edge.  One without the other would be lacking.  Just as it's easier to get along in life with "street smarts" AND "book smarts," the same holds true for home management.  It also greatly helps that the Lord has created us with specific personalities and mentalities that are drawn to the many topics involved in home management.

To refine our overall topic even more, we strive to be good stewards as we manage our homes.  God has graciously provided all that we have.  In addition to being in different life stages, we are also in different places financially and geographically.  But we have the same goal -- look for ways to be efficient and financially savvy.  The information we share will be geared towards helping our readers discover ways of managing their homes that will bring efficiency, creativity, practicality, and beauty all while being budget-friendly.

How did this idea come about?  Kathie sparked the idea by wanting to cook her way through Dining on a Dime, a cookbook that each of us have and love.  Dawn had a desire to also share some of the recipes because they're cheap 'n easy.  So after talking more about it, we decided it would be fun to cook through and blog together.  But when choosing a name for our blog, it occurred to us that we shouldn't lock ourselves into cooking.  So we expanded the idea to home management which can include cooking, cleaning, sewing, organization, home decorating, child rearing, husband name it!  If it's in the home, it's fair game.

In the next two posts, we will give a little background to each of us so that our readers can get to know us a little better!