Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Risk, from a Home Management Perspective

Sometimes you just gotta.  But hopefully you think through it first.  Even if just for a few minutes.  I'm talking about taking risks.  In my family, I am the Home Manager.  What does that mean?  Well, under my husbands leadership, I take care of our children and home which includes meals, cleaning, clothing, shopping, schooling, etc.  Which one involves the most risk for me?  Shopping.  Because it deals with making financial decisions.  Not huge decisions -- but small financial decisions add up to big impact on the family budget.  I try to be wise.  I make lists and stick by them.  But sometimes I color outside the lines, so to speak. And I get nervous all the way home, wondering if Hubz will approve or be disappointed I bought something we could do without.  Though I've found several times he "scolds" me for NOT getting something I should have!  Those are nice moments.  :-)

So today I'll tell you a little story about a risk I took.

Have any of you ever purchased an infomercial item?  I never have.  They just seem so gimmicky.  Too good to be true.  Sneaky with hidden costs or bad warranties.  Why would you buy something that seems risky without even seeing/touching it first?  That's just silly!  Right?  Am I right?

I found myself at BJ's in the bread aisle.  A well dressed man, who I thought was a BJ's manager, came up to me and handed me a slip of paper.  There was going to be a knife presentation in just 4 minutes; and if I was there when it began and stayed through, I'd get a free paring knife.  I had no kids with me.  Why would I NOT listen to someone ramble so I could get a free knife?  I love my little knives -- in fact, how does a kitchen that serves little kids run well without them, all that cutting of food into bite-sized pieces??  *ahem*  Quite a group gathered at the little blue booth.  Finally, the salesman bounded up to the podium, energetic and enthusiastic.  Same guy that handed me the slip of paper.  Aha.  So you're really trying to sell me something here by personally inviting me.  Ok, funny man.  I'll listen just to get that paring knife.  He started into his presentation, and I guarantee it was "infomercial" to a T.  It actually made me think all the way back to Logic class with Dr. Morley.  This guy was using logical arguments all over the place to draw us in to his product.  Getting us to participate with hand raising and audible answers to his questions.  And, naturally, he was doing the typical infomercial demos of slicing tomatoes, filleting the skin off, slicing bread without crushing it...sawing on a hammer and then slicing the tomato again like butter.  I politely stood there listening with no intention but to say a sweet "thank you for the paring knife" and be on my way with milk and bread.

But those knives sure looked and sounded like good quality.  What's that you say?  Lifetime warranty?  ::thinks to self::  "I bet Pampered Chef has a lifetime warranty on that knife block I want.  I wonder how long it'll take for me to be able to have another show and get that knife block at half price.  Forever, probably.  That's a lot of money, even at half price..."  ::snaps back to reality::

Then he started talking about what we could purchase from him that day.  Yep.  You guessed it.  Not one, folks, but TWO of these all-purpose knives for $39.99, yours to take home today.  But that's not all!  You'll also get the chef's knife... and the filet knife... and two pairing knives PLUS the free pairing knife... and even a food chopper and two nifty little juicers!  All for just $39.99 because "we're partnering with BJ's for just today as we gear up for the Easter/Passover season, this won't happen again until next year, folks!"

Ok, why do I feel myself faltering?!  I just want the free pairing knife.  I did not come in to BJ's today intending to spend $40 on knives.  And this is just an infomercial.  Doesn't that automatically mean "shouldn't buy" or "steer clear"?  But I do know for a fact that several of my most used knives are getting dull.  One of them, my beloved santoku a previous resident left (which meant free to me!) you can even SEE the divets in the edge of the blade.  And one of my biggest issues in the kitchen is when people have dull blades.  Dangerous and makes cooking less efficient.  (Soap box alert!)  Stop, Dawn.  You're being sucked in!!  Now wait a second, Conscience.  You've been using the same knives for almost 8 years and they have never been sharpened.  Because they can't be sharpened due to the style.  This knife set is only $40 and has a lifetime warranty -- if anything happens or they go dull, they are replaced for free.  These 6 knives will match the current knife block you have which means they will mix fine with the few knives left that are sharp.  And they cost MUCH less than the Pampered Chef knife block you've been eyeing.  Even if this is too good to be true and they are dull in a year and the warranty is not honored (which would mean it's a bad company), you've still come out ahead by not paying hundreds on a Pampered Chef knife block AND not cooking with the dull knives you now have.  But would Hubz approve of an infomercial purchase??

"...and if for any reason you don't like them, you can bring them back to BJ's for a full refund."

Say what?  ::sucked in neck deep::  That takes care of the Hubz issue.  Sharper knives.  Only $40.  Lifetime warranty.  Love the look.  And a chopper -- haven't had one of those in a long time since my Pampered Chef one broke.  It'd be nice to chop onions fast again since I cry rivers doing it with a knife.  Hmm.  Ok, I'll stay behind and wait my turn to hold them and ask questions.

People!  Out of about 30 people standing there, only TWO of us stayed behind to ask questions.  I can't tell you how many hands shot up when the guy asked who wanted to take home the set today.  They blindly took the boxes!  I couldn't believe it.  Here was an infomercial in better than 3D where we could actually try out the product and ask real-time questions -- and no one did?  Ugh.  Anyway, I held one in my hands.  Super light and easy to manipulate, smooth to the touch.  One piece, forged design.  Mmm, lookin' sleek!  I asked if they fit in a standard knife block because I don't want to have new knives and nowhere to store them (or empty spots in my knife block).  Yep, they do fit, mam.

OK.  ALRIGHT ALREADY.....I am defeated.  Give me a set.  I walked away, heart pounding and feeling ridiculous, both because I caved to this presentation and worrying about what Hubz would think.  I took a risk.  And I had no idea how it would turn out on multiple levels.  Did I really just save us money by purchasing this knife set and holding us over for at least several more years in the knife department -- or forever since that's how long the knives claim to last?

I can't tell you the ultimate result of my risk-taking.  What I can tell you is that Hubz was totally fine with the purchase, though he did make sure to playfully chide me for giving in.  And after a few weeks, I love those knives!  They are easy on my wrists and hands and are definitely super sharp.  I cut through raw potatoes like butter!  I even made Hubz come watch me, my own little infomercial to him.  :-)  He was impressed.  There are two draw backs.  1) The chef's knife does not fit in my knife block, but oh well.  The knives are worth it!  2) I've used the chopper once...and hate it.  Pampered Chef's is better quality; but I hated it, too.  I think it's me, not the choppers.  My hands/wrists/thumb joints just aren't cut out for that kind of pounding due to the way God made them.  I guess I need to cave and a get a food processor.....  ;-)

That was a long story, but hopefully you enjoyed the break from your real life.  All I want to get across is that we have to be wise as home managers.  But we also need to know how to quickly process information and make fast decisions when time won't allow us to hash out all the pros and cons, talk about all the options, and consult multiple people (or the internet).  And the best way to be quick at processing and decision making while still being wise -- PRAY for God to give you wisdom throughout your day!  He has given us this important task of managing our homes well, and He promises to provide us with wisdom to do it!  And after you pray, remember that we learn through making decisions.  If a risk we take fails, oh well.  Learn how to do better or differently next time!  If a risk we take succeeds, great!  Learn from it and improve upon it next time!

A note about the picture... one of the risks of having new, super sharp knives is getting sliced.  ;-)  I was putting a glass down on the counter where the chef's knife was laying, waiting to be washed.  I BARELY brushed against the knife, and it sliced my finger EASIER than butter!  Now that's the kind of knife to have in your kitchen, folks!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Mexican Hamburger Casserole

I tried this recipe the other night when we had the Arkansas 3 over for dinner.  They are coming over more often than they used to, and I'm enjoying spending more time with them.  When we took Belle to college, I thought my days of cooking for more than two were sort of over.  I'm glad they are not!  I try to experiment with kid-friendly foods when the grandchildren are here.  So earlier this week I thought I would try Dining on a Dime's Mexican Hamburger Casserole.  It sure sounded good to me and looked quick and easy to boot!  Here is the recipe (p. 187 ):

1/2 lb. ground beef, browned (I used 1 pound)
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup (or use the cream soup base)
1/2 lb. Cheddar cheese (I used more than 1/2 lb.)
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 sm. can green chilies, diced (I used a large can...should have followed the recipe!)
1 (10 count) pkg. corn tortillas (do they even make little packages of corn tortillas?  I got a big one.)

Mix browned ground beef, chicken soup (or the prepared cream soup base...easy peasy, I promise), tomato sauce, and green chilies in a bowl.  Put a layer of tortillas on the bottom of a 9x13 pan, then layer of meat, a layer of tortillas and sprinkle with cheese on top.  Bake 300 degrees 30-45 minutes.  Serves 6-8

Notes: I just put the ground beef, chicken soup, and green chilies in the pan with the browned ground beef instead of dirtying bowl.  Also, maybe I read the recipe wrong but I did the layer of tortillas on the bottom then all of the meat sauce/mixture, then a layer of tortillas on top, then the cheese.  I served it with sour cream.

It was a really quick and easy meal to make.  My Honey and I really liked it.  I thought it tasted like an enchilada casserole.  The kids, on the other hand, didn't think much of it except the Youngest.  He thought it was "okay, not great."  The biggest problem seemed to be the corn tortillas.  I told them they were like tortilla chips, just not fried.  That didn't make any difference to them.  The Oldest really didn't like the green chilies either.  The one thing that ended up encouraging them to eat at least the meat portion was when they realized there would be no dessert without eating dinner.  ;)  It is not bribery -- they have a choice.  The Youngest ate his food lickety split.  The other two managed to eat what they had to so they could get some dessert.  I think this would be a good meal to take to a potluck.  I will make it again but will halve the recipe since My Honey and I would be eating too much if I made a whole portion...  Did I tell you we really liked it?

Dawn's Thought:  As their aunt, I don't blame my dear nephews and niece for the corn tortilla issue.  They are not like tortilla chips at ALL, Mother!  I never really liked corn tortillas anyway... but a week in Guatemala while 6 weeks pregnant made me ill for an entire YEAR whenever I passed the corn tortilla end cap in the grocery store.  ::shiver::  Never underestimate the power of smell!  :-P  And they just taste, well, yucky and grainy.  Ok.  Aunt-ish advocacy accomplished.  :-)

The Experiment 2.2

Not sure what to say about my not spending recently, other than I haven't been spending.  :)  I have been tempted, especially on a dry container for my Vitamix.  It is $144 online or at Williams-Sonoma, so it would have been less expensive ($99) to buy it during the Vitamix demonstration.  I had to stop and consider if I would really use it; not something I would have done if I weren't doing this experiment.  I decided I didn't need it.  If I want to buy whole wheat berries to mill, my parents have a mill I could use.  I already have a coffee grinder and I don't use powdered sugar enough to warrant the expense of the container.  Thus, I saved the $99!

I decided to not buy a subscription to Real Simple Magazine because I'm on Pinterest.  Probably anything in the magazine will be or already is there.  If you haven't read it, you simply must read Dawn's post on Pinterest.  So I saved $24 by not subscribing!

There was a set of recipe ebooks ($25) that I was tempted to buy.  I am a cookbook junkie.  I love to read them and look at the pretty pictures.  I'm getting better all the time about cooking at home, especially now that I'm really trying to eat more healthfully (I'm sure I'm saving money there but I'm not sure how to figure that out).  Anyway, I decided that I have enough cookbooks; and if I need any new recipes, there is always the internet!  I didn't spend the $25 for the ebook set.

I'm not even really thinking about stopping at Starbucks.... much.  ;)  $16 saved.

Because the Lord has quickly helped me with this Experiment, I am not sure how much more I will post.  Once in a while, perhaps.

Desires Not Spent: $164
Needs Met: one month's insurance for two vehicles, one month's payment for one vehicle

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Update: Honey Wheat Bread

So, how does my family feel about the homemade honey wheat bread now that we've eaten both loaves over the last several days?  I'll be honest.  It was good bread, but it got more crumbly as time passed.  And the slices really are very different in size/shape than what we're used to.  It made yummy, rustic French toast, though!  Forget about reaching the slices in a toaster.  And we never even tried to make a meat sandwich on them due to their short oval shape.  (I was going to say "ovular shape" but felt like that was a weird word.  And, after googling, it is definitely not something to describe bread.)

That said, I think making honey wheat bread at home will NOT be an every week event.  But it will definitely be alternated somewhat with store-bought bread.  This is not a failure.  We learn from every experience.  And next time we might just devour the bread faster -- it's pretty amazing fresh out of the oven!

THAT said, we are planning to change to a different store-bought bread.  I'm brewing up a post on my recent label-research grocery shopping trip and some things I realized.  One such discovery was how hard it is to find a bread (at a big grocery store chain) that does not contain ingredients like high fructose corn syrup and additives OR tree-hugger ingredients (whole seeds 'n such) not suitable for kids...or normal bread-use for that matter.  Lo and behold, I sent my hubby to the store for bread -- because I burned myself out on a couple homemade recipes in one afternoon and could not see myself making bread, which was desperately needed.  And he found that Safeway has a new brand Safeway Kitchens that provides a honey wheat bread containing no weird or factory-added ingredients.  For only $0.30 more per loaf than our regular cheap-o bread.  I'll take that!  Between that and continuing to experiment with the honey wheat bread recipe, I think we've successfully made a baby-step toward healthier eating in the bread arena!  Praise the Lord!

Happy Valentine's Day!

You COULD make red, heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.  But if you have to get yourself and three kids (and your hubby) out the door by 8:40 with lunches, bags, etc...you might wanna be wise with your time.  If you still want a Valentine breakfast...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Window Cleaner

One way I'm trying to be frugal and careful with our resources is by trying to make my own cleaning products.  The Dining on a Dime book has quite a few recipes for homemade cleaning products.  Today I tried the Window Cleaner, p. 403. Here is the recipe:

1/2 cup ammonia
2 cups rubbing alcohol
1 tsp. dishwashing liquid

In a one-gallon container, mix ammonia and rubbing alcohol.  Fill almost to the top with water.  Add dishwashing liquid and mix. Top off with water. Rated by consumer Reports Magazine to work much better (and much cheaper) than most commercial window and kitchen sprays.  Alcohol is the secret ingredient - it's what commercial window washers use. *safe on most, but not all household surfaces.

My verdict?  It worked wonderfully!!!  I actually wanted to keep cleaning the windows I was working on!  Unfortunately, I was short on time...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Commence my attempt at trying to revamp how my family eats.  Yep -- it's a popular thing to be doing right now, it appears.  But that's ok.  Some fads are good 'n [should be] long lasting!

I want to make us eat more vegetables, a wider variety of fruits, more whole grains, better fats, fewer processed items, and possibly even edge into the whole "grain fed, range-roamin', cage free" yadaness.  We'll see.  Hubz and I know it will cost a bit more than what we currently spend on food.  Yes, some say I might be surprised at how little the cost difference is.  But produce is expensive in our area, and I will be buying more than usual.  And tree-hugger meats and eggs cost more than what I buy now.  And I'll admit -- I would LOVE to get my hands on palm shortening to cut out veggie oil and Crisco!  But, I digress.  So back to wheat bread...

Here's a napkin.  I see a little drool on your lip.
About 18 slices.  Smaller slices than a store-bought loaf --
but I'm ok to cut down a bit on the amount of bread we consume
in order to focus more on good meats, veggies, and fruits.
Or I'll just have to make more bread than I originally thought.  ;-)

I baked my own bread today, people!  :-D  First time for everything, eh?  I've made pie crusts and pizza doughs, muffins, breakfast breads, biscuits galore, but never just bread.  Like the sandwich variety.  One of the blogs I've been doing mass amounts of reading on lately is Heavenly Homemakers because she specifically addresses things like small steps to eating healthier, how to eat healthier on a budget, homemade recipes, etc.  Her Honey Whole Wheat Bread recipe looked easy enough, so I thought that would be a good place to start.  I read her article on whole wheat flour, and actually found some white whole wheat flour at Target last night (it was either buy flour and make bread or buy bread -- since Snickers became a mouse again and ate the LAST piece of bread out of the pantry...).  I read the label to make sure it was made from white wheat and not red wheat.  It totally worked!  The white whole wheat flour keeps the bread from having that dense, heavy texture and flavor of whole wheat baked items.  And my favorite part -- other than the satisfaction of having made my own bread and it's lovely taste -- is that I know EXACTLY what went into it.  No refined sugar, just honey.  No factory added ingredients.  And the cost comparison?  If I bought 4 loaves of our regular cheapest-at-Safeway bread, that would cost more than the bag of white whole wheat flour I bought (which will make 4 loaves with a little leftover).  Add in the miniscule cost of the other ingredients, and I'd say it's about even.  More work to make your own, but the satisfaction of work well done and healthier eating is a GREAT pay off!

Caught!  She even threw away the bread wrapper by herself.
The only thing I did differently than the recipe was to put the loaves in a gallon ziploc before they were completely cool.  I read a comment that gave that tip, and it makes sense.  If you let it cool completely in the air, all the moisture will escape the bread.  The bag will condensate a little, but the bread will soak the moisture back in.  I'll let you know if it gets moldy.  But I bet we'll eat it all before that can happen!

Pray with me that we can all get on this healthier eating bandwagon and learn to put foods in our bodies that are best for them...and to LIKE those foods!  And that our hubbies and kids will get on the bandwagon with us!  Hoo-rah!

Jump on the Pinterest Bandwagon!

Proverbs 31:27 talks about how a godly woman does not eat the bread of idleness -- in other words, she is not lazy nor does she spend bulk amounts of time on meaningless things.  I would not go so far as to say we should never watch TV or catch up on Facebook -- there is a time and a place for relaxation and interaction with others.  I'm talking about spending too much time on things like these.  Have I prefaced this post sufficiently?  :-)  Ok then.  Let's go!

If you are a home manager and you're not on Pinterest -- get with it, girlfriend!

I am not one to usually shamelessly advertise such things; but when I find a gold mine, I get behind it!  For those of you who may not have gotten the memo on what it is, I like to describe Pinterest as an online cork board.  Once you have an account, you can create different "boards" for whatever interests you.  Download the "Pin It" button for your browser's toolbar.  Then, you can "follow" your friends and they can follow you.  Or you can look at the entire Pinterest community for whatever suits your fancy.  You can "pin" anything from other Pinners or from anywhere online: encouraging posts, recipes, humorous photos, Christmas gift ideas, party decor, fashion, crafts, front doors, sewing, cool nature pics, silly sayings, hair style how-to's, pantry organization ... *brain explodes thinking of all one can pin*

Whew.  Ok.  So why is Pinterest so amazing?  Because if you remember you saw that really cool tip somewhere...somewhere...oh, where was it??  Just go to your Pinterest boards, click on that pin, and viola! It takes you right to the page you found it.  Can we say TIME & SANITY SAVER?

Danger, danger!  If you are an idea-holic like I am, Pinterest can easily suck vast amounts of time away from your day.  It can certainly become a too-much-of-a-good-thing situation.  So be careful and controlled.  Use Pinterest as a tool.  Don't let it use you.  And in my opinion, the only way it is your tool and not a time-waster is this... USE WHAT YOU PIN.  Sure, I have a few boards to store quotes, verses, and pictures I like.  That's fine.  But if that's all your Pinterest account is made up of, then it's probably a time waster (unless you spend even more time going back through all those quotes and pictures...which means you're probably wasting more time.)  Pin things that will help you be a better home manager.  Try out some of those resourceful ideas and recipes.  Go back to the gifts lists when birthdays and Christmas come around.  Get crafty and beautify your home with cheap but cool art ideas. Organize those tough places.

If you have no one to invite you to Pinterest, let me know and I'll hook you up!

My favorite pins:  a quick and easy way to hem pants (oh my WORD... I'm a pants hemming fool now!), an entire board called "Virtual What Not to Wear" in which several women have helped me find my personal style now that I am through with havin' babies and nursing, future quilt ideas (yeah, whenever I have time for that again!), organization tips in all areas of the home.....  Ok.  This is not a good list to continue.  Because I'll end up wasting time by telling you about all my boards!  :-P

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Learning to Let Go

Sometimes, as the managers of your home, the Lord throws you a curve ball.  Sometimes you see it coming, and sometimes you don't.  Sometimes you think you know how certain things are going to work out..... then they don't.  For me, this started on November 1, 2011.

We had taken my Belle (my youngest daughter) to college in August and had gotten into a good routine.  The house stayed nice and neat.  Life was good.  Then I had surgery on my ankle, November 1.  It went well with no problems, no complications.  I knew I would be on crutches and knew I would be non-weight bearing for a while.  That is what I knew in my head, but I sometimes wonder if I truly comprehended it.  After surgery, I was on crutches and non-weight bearing for three weeks.  Then I was put in a walking cast for three and a half weeks.  After that, a walking boot/air cast for a couple weeks. Let me tell you -- not much gets done or can be done in those conditions.  The first week wasn't bad.  I had my mom here to help.  From the second week on, the Lord had some lessons for me to learn.

Learning to Let Go, Lesson 1:  Let go of your pride, and let your husband and others serve you.  Sounds kind of funny to say it out loud (or type, as the case may be). This was so hard for me.  In our culture we so often hear women bad mouth men because they don't meet the needs of women.  Women long for men to serve them and meet their every need.  Well, here I was with My Honey wanting to serve me and take care of my needs.... real needs, like food for the day since I was home alone all day.  Like helping me bathe, dress, and making sure I had clothes to wear. He would make sure I had all the medicine I needed for the day before he left for work. I was so prideful in my heart.  I hope I came across as grateful to him; but in my heart, it was hard to have him serve me.  It was hard to ask him to get me this or that or to do this or that for me.  It was hard to have him doing "my jobs."  Which leads to learning to...

Learning to Let Go, Lesson 2:  I do my home responsibilities in a particular way.  Guess what!  My dear, sweet husband did not do "my" home responsibilities my way.  He cleaned the kitchen, but a clean kitchen to him wasn't what I do or prefer.  He did the laundry, but he didn't do it my way.... no clothes hung to dry?  Are you kidding me??  The house wasn't nice and neat the way it was before surgery. Nothing dusted, nothing vacuumed.  It was driving me crazy.  Then God.  :)  By His grace, He began to show me that even though My Honey didn't do things the way I would do (or even do the things I do period), the things that needed to be done were getting done.  God also showed me that my way isn't the only way.  He helped me see the depths of the pride in my heart to think my way was the only or the best way.  Slowly, I began to see the pride and repent of it.  I began to really be grateful for My Honey's sweet service to me.  As I have gotten further away from surgery and am becoming more mobile, I have learned that it is his joy to serve me.  I was able to tell him last night how treasured I feel because he still holds tightly to my arm or hand as I walk down a set of stairs or an incline wherever we may be walking (those are the hardest spots for me right now).  I am not perfect in this yet.  I still struggle with letting My Honey do things; but I am learning, by God's grace, to stop and remind myself it is his joy to serve me.  Just as Christ served His Bride.

The Experiment 2.1

Explanation of The Experiment and if you're curious about how we name each Experiment Post... it's just the month number and Experiment post number for that month.  :)

In the last two weeks, I have saved $22.50 because I didn't go to Starbucks three times. I did choose to go one day on the way to church -- I started a new way of eating and sort of had a last "hurrah" on Jan. 26 while on my way to church. (I am feeling great on this new eating plan, btw!).  I went to Sam's last weekend and saved at least $15 on not looking at the little girl clothes.  I actually probably saved more because Sam's carries really cute clothes and good brands!  I haven't eaten any fast food so that is about another $30.00.

Compromise time.  :)  Remember The Hunger Games books I wanted to buy?  Well, on the recommendation of my wonderful son-in-law, Dawn's Hubz, I downloaded the Kindle App to my laptop and my phone.  Then I purchased the two books and downloaded them to the app.  One book was $9.99 and the other was $5.99 -- which is about $11 less than if I had bought hard copies.  Could I have gotten them from the library?  Yes...but there is a long waiting list.  One of the perks I have to reading them now is I can discuss them with the people in my life who are also reading them.  :)

So, there you have what I've saved by not spending.  Interestingly, I sort of automatically started not spending.  I think there are two reasons.  The first is that life has gotten pretty busy.  I'm out the door nearly every morning by 8:30, smoothie in hand, partly due to wanting to save money and partly due to the new eating plan.  And second, I know I want to be more careful with our resources, so I don't think too much about buying extra stuff.  If it isn't on the list, I don't think about it.  :)  That is a good thing!  [Dawn says, "Something I've struggle with lately -- just stick to what's on the list!"]

Desires Not Spent: $78.50
Needs Met: Super Undies for grandson and an entire tank of gas -OR- an entire month's cell phone bill

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ye Ole Cornbread Recipe

Some basic recipes have variation upon variation, so many that it can be hard to find just the basic recipe!  Pancakes?  Biscuits?  Cornbread?  From scratch rather than using a "baking mix"?  Well, if you don't happen to have a basic cornbread recipe in your collection, let's remedy that right now.  Sometimes the best recipes come from the back of the ingredient package!  This one came from a Kroger cornmeal package years ago.


3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Butter, honey (optional)

Preheat oven to 400*.  Grease either a round or square pan or 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, blend all dry ingredients together.  In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, and vegetable oil.  Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until moistened.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.  You can also tell it's done when the edges are browned and the top has cracked a bit.  Serve with butter and honey!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Honey-Soy Chicken

Sorry for the hiatus...sickness has a way of making "free" time turn into "sleep" time...

This is one of my absolute favorite new recipes for chicken!  Every person in my family likes it which means it is a total success in my book.  We've grilled it and seared it on the stove, and both ways work very well.  It fits the cheap, easy, and tasty bill.  I even like the leftovers -- and I do NOT like reheated chicken.  (Something happens to the flavor in re-heated chicken, and it just makes me yak.)  Please try this recipe and tantalize your tastebuds!

Serve with Veggie Stir-Fry and White Rice

6 chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2/3 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black pepper
Skewers (optional, soak in water for 20 minutes if wooden)

If skewering chicken, cut chicken into 1' cubes.  If leaving whole, pound thin or fillet.  In a large bowl or ziploc bag, whisk together oil, honey, soy sauce, garlic, and pepper.  If grilling, divide marinade in half and save one half for basting.  Place chicken in remaining marinade and refrigerate two or more hours, stirring occasionally to distribute flavor well.

Heat grill or pan to medium.  Skewer chicken cubes if you're doing kebabs.  Grill or sear on each side until chicken is no longer pink in the center, approx. 5 minutes each side (baste occasionally with reserved marinade if grilling).  Meanwhile, stir-fry or grill veggies and prepare white rice.

Note: The sugar and soy in the marinade blackens the chicken (so good!), but be careful not to burn it.  Flipping several times will help prevent burning.


1 onion
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 red bell pepper
Vegetable oil
Skewers (optional, soak in water 20 minutes if wooden)

Chop vegetables to preferred size.  Skewer if grilling, otherwise heat a small amount of vegetable oil in large pan or wok.  Add veggies and cook/stir until crisp-tender.  Season with salt and pepper if desired.  Enjoy the fresh flavor AND the colors!