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Friday, September 30, 2011

This moment Friday

1 picture, no caption, no explanation.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

It's not too late to start this homemade Christmas gift (part I)

Last year I made 2 bottles of homemade vanilla extract, and judging from the responses I received (and judging by the fact that my friend asked me for some more for Hanukkah...), I think it went over well!

They say it needs about 8 weeks to "marinate", but the longer the beans can be in the alcohol, the better it will be.  So, if you want to make this for Christmas gifts this year, post haste!

  • 1+ bottles of vodka or bourbon
  • Vanilla beans
  • Cutesy bottles or labels if you so choose
Click here for the recipe for making the vanilla extract.  Click here for price breakdown on the vanilla.

I've shared this with the people over at Real Food Wednesdays, Simple Lives Thursdays, and Fight Back Fridays.

Monday, September 26, 2011

A man Lunchable

-The man Lunchable
-A grown up's TV dinner

These dishes have been called many things in the last few weeks around my house.  I prefer to call them convenient, simple, and frugal (after initial purchase).

Troy works two 24 hour shifts (1 paid, 1 an unpaid internship) back to back, and has to have two days - six meals worth of food when he leaves the house.  In the past, the morning of his departure, we're scrambling to find enough food to keep him fed without having to go purchase something during a shift.

I had conceptualized a "homemade TV dinner" kind of tray, but couldn't find any that I liked that were a) not plastic b) freezer-proof c) oven and/or microwave-proof.  Enter Pyrex's new 6 cup glass containers
These containers are a) glass b) made in America (I knew there had to be something we still made!) c) freezer-proof and d) airtight.  I got the containers at Target during a sale for $17 for each 3 pack.

I had thought about the Snap Tight package you can get from Costco, but ruled them out because they can't be put in to an oven.

Spending $38 on dishes was not initially my idea of frugal living.  I'm sure if I searched long enough I could find a few things at Goodwill that worked.  But, I bit the bullet and shelled out the money for a few reasons.  For one, in the time it took me to find 6 containers in good condition that fit all my needs, we would have shelled out $38+ in dining out meals for Troy.  And most importantly, I didn't feel like I would be able to find 6 truly airtight glass containers used.

So, now, Troy brings these home from a shift, and we fill them right back up.  Well, we clean them first of course. Two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners.  If he actually gets to be home for a day before going back to work, these get popped in to the freezer.

Behold, a breakfast version of the man Lunchable:

1 homemade breakfast burrito, 1 muffin (made by my awesome aunt and shared with us!), and 1 whole peach split and frozen.  When they thaw out, the skin peels right off and the fruit tastes totally fresh.  It browns a little, but it is still delicious.

I always remind Troy to eat his fruit and not to trade with any of the other EMTs for their Gogurts.

Lunches usually consist of a sandwich with a little container of salad.  Dinner is usually something I made for dinner that week and then froze leftovers.  A veggie goes in there, and of course a little dessert.  The best part of TV dinners were always the desserts!  Troy has really been in the lemon bars I made a few weeks ago, so I like to put a little square of that.

I've shared this over at Monday Mania.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

This moment Friday

Started by Soulemama.  One picture, no caption, no explanation*.
*but I'm breaking the rules because I know people will think this is my way of telling people I'm pregnant.  I'm not.  Nor will I be for a very long time!  I just liked the photo.

Meal plan for September 26-October 2nd

Here is what we're grubbing on this week!  We threw a kind of last minute birthday party for my lovely mother-in-law last Friday, so our menu kind of got mixed up last week.  As a result, you'll see some repeats.  The rain is supposed to make it's comeback this week, so I'm busting out some crockpot recipes this week.

Monday - I'm working late, so I'm not making anything.

Tuesday - Split pea soup, grilled cheese sandwiches, and fruit.

Wednesday - Hot dogs on homemade buns, the last of the corn from the garden, salad from the garden, and fruit.

Thursday - Troy will be home, so I'm having him make pizza.  It will be served with salad.

Friday - Lentil soup in the crockpot, and quesadillas.

Saturday - Chicken Gyros, couscous, and cucumbers.

Sunday - Dinner at my parent's.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wordless Friday

This is a tradition started by Soulemama.  1 photo, no caption, or explanation.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Homemade mayo

Also known as the post that will make my friend Anne hurl.  Girl hates mayo like Tony Ja hates people who steal his deity and/or elephants.  Tony Ja reference anyone?  Come on, Tony Ja is the man!  He'd like my mayo.  Stop judging me for being the weird chick who loves parkour movies.  Forget the Tony Ja reference...shall we get to the mayo?

I actually am not a mayo fan either.  I would never elect to put it on a sandwich, but I will use a little for coleslaw or chicken salad.  Troy however; big mayo lover.  Ever read the ingredients on a mayo container?  Double yuck.

This mayo recipe has probably had more iterations than DW-40 (it took the people who made it 40 tries before finding the current recipe...), but I've finally found one that makes Troy say "this tastes like Best Foods" (Hellman's to my East Coast readers).  I'm still indifferent to it, but the mayo fiend will eat it.

Sarah's Mayo 
1 large egg and 2 egg yolks; room temp
1/2 tsp of dijon mustard
1/4 tsp of sea salt
1.5 tsp of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice (I use ACV)
2/3 cup of melted coconut oil
2/3 cup of walnut oil
1/4 cup of olive oil
2-3 TBSP whey
Now, this is easier to make in a food processor, but I find that using my immersion blender in a wide-mouth canning jar makes for an easier clean up.  I only have to clean the stick blender and I can store the mayo in the jar.  Whatever you make this in, blend the egg yolks and eggs for 45 seconds.
While the food processor/blender is running, add the lemon juice (or ACV), salt, and dijon.  Blend.  Slowly add the oil in a steady stream.  Keep blending until it looks like, um., mayo.
After the mayo is all set, I add the whey (strained from homemade yogurt) and leave the container at room temperature for 7 hours.  Yeah I know, that sounds freaky, but it's not actually that scary.  It's called Lacto fermenting and smarter people than me have found that the whey creates an explosion of good bacteria that is good for you and prevents your food from spoiling.  Mayo without the whey will last about a week in the fridge.  With the whey?  Months!

Because coconut oil is is solid below 76 degrees, this will make a thicker mayo once it's been put in the fridge.  The olive and walnut oil make it spreadable.  The mixture of oils is essential to not making this taste like a pile of crap.  I've tried other recipes with all olive oil, and it turned in to a hot mess.

I've shared this with the peeps over at Simple Lives Thursdays.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cinnamon roll muffins

This must be the week of me throwing nutrition out the window, and just "going for it".  I'm not even PMS'ing, so let's go ahead and blame it on the change in the weather.  Apparently Fall weather screams cinnamon and sugar to me.

My friend Mary recommended these Cinnamon Bun Muffins from Mary Ellen's Cooking Creation (no relation to my friend Mary) to me.

1 cup of buttermilk
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
3-3.5 cups of flour (I used whole wheat)

3 tblsp of butter
1 cup of brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon (I probably put like 3 tblsp in there)

1 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tblsp milk
Splash of vanilla
*I actually really really disliked the icing; it was way too sweet.  Going forward, I will likely make a cream cheese frosting

Put the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and egg into a mixing bowl.  Add the buttermilk, then the flour, stir until thoroughly combined into a dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes.

Roll the dough into a big rectangle and spread with the butter.  Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon.
I screwed it up and mixed the butter, cinnamon, and sugar together.  Worked out ok in the end I think.
Roll the dough into a log beginning with the wide side of the dough.  Cut into two-inch pieces and put these pieces into grease muffin tins or cupcake liners.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown (that was about 2-3 minutes too long in my oven).
Let the muffins cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from the tins.  Drizzle with icing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Make your own enchilada sauce


When all is said and done, this recipe is not any cheaper than just buying the canned stuff, but I like that I could control what was in it.  I found this recipe at I was Born to Cook.  This recipe is great, but a bit spicier than stuff you find in the store.  If you prefer a mild flavor, reduce the chili powder.

Head's up, I have ZERO clue why some of this post is highlighted in white.  I've tried for 30 minutes to fix it.  Screw it.

For the sauce:
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies (do not drain)
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced

Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. 

Life is short - live on the edge
Pour into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5-7 minutes. 

I made a bunch of enchiladas for the freezer, and then poured the extra sauce in wide-mouth Mason jars and stored them in the freezer. 

I like Pioneer Woman's Enchiladas recipe.   I always use leftover pot roast from the crockpot, so that I'm getting more bang from my cooked meat buck.  There is a wonderful dirty joke in there somewhere...

Now, if you've enjoyed this post, and other's like it, consider coming over and cleaning this up:

Monday, September 19, 2011

Homemade apple pie

Because not EVERYTHING can be super healthy and good for you.  Sometimes, the first fruits of the season need to be paired with sugar.  It's a fact.

Last week I made an apple pie for my boss' birthday.  She loves fruit pies, and the apples at the local fruit stand were calling my name; how could I say no?

The crust recipe is my old standby from allrecipes, which is where I also found the recipe for the filling.  I make this at least once every fall; it's a wonderful way to show off the fruit that put Washington State on the map.

Start out with a batch of crust.  Unlike other crust recipes, I find that this crust is easiest to work with when warm.  I'll even put it in the microwave for 30 seconds before starting the rolling process.  Place part of the crust in the bottom of a pie pan.  Top with 8 apples that have been peeled, cored, and thinly sliced.  I used Granny Smith's.
Top with a lattice crust.  Trim the ends of the dough strips.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  In a small saucepan, melt 1 stick of butter.  Add 3 tblsp of flour to the melted butter; stir to make a roux.  Add 1/2 cup of brown sugar (why not make your own!), and 1/2 cup of white sugar (I use organic evaporated cane juice from Costco; a less processed form of sugar), and 1/4 cup of water.  The recipe doesn't call for cinnamon, but I always put in about 2 tblsp.  Allow the mixture to come to a boil, and remove from heat.
Pour the sauce carefully over the top of the crust.  It's advisable to put the pie on a foil-lined cookie sheet.  I speak from experience on this one...
Bake for 15 minutes at 425, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for another 35-40 minutes.  Serve with vanilla ice cream!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meal plan for September 19-25th

Last Sunday when I wrote my weekly meal plan post, I was sweating my balls off in 90 degree weather.  This morning, I'm bundled up in yoga pants, a hoodie, and socks.  The change of seasons has brought on changes in the garden, and resulted in a kiddo with a cold. 

I'm hoping the tomatoes hold on long enough to ripen, but I'm looking forward to harvesting from my fall garden over the next few months - brussel sprouts, cabbage, garlic, carrots, spinach, lettuce, beets, and kale.

This week, we're eating a mixture of cooler weather comfort food, and let's face it, convenience.  Everything will be homemade.

Monday - chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot, cheese crunchies (new recipe I found and will be testing for you guys), and salad from the garden.

Tuesday - Hot dogs (from the local butcher), corn from the garden, and fruit.

Wednesday - Quesadillas, fruit, and salad from the garden.

Thursday - Homemade ravioli with homemade red sauce, garlic bread, and salad from the garden.

Friday - Poppy (what Jack calls Troy) is making us pizza!  We use the same recipe, but somehow it's always better when Troy makes it.  I'm not sure if it's the actual pizza, or just the fact that it's the 1 day every few weeks I don't have to cook!  Pizza will be paired with salad from the garden.

Saturday - homemade mac and cheese (didn't make it this weekend), salad from the garden, and fruit.

Sunday - we're skipping family dinner this week to take Jack to see re-release of The Lion King in the theater.  It will be his first movie and I hope it goes well.  We'll probably go out for something small afterwards.

The massive corn harvest from the garden last Friday
Paired with homemade chicken pot pie, and pears I canned two years ago!
I normally enjoy grocery shopping (I'm weird like that), but this week I was able to stay home and relax because Jack volunteered to go for me. 
What a kind boy.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Basic H Giveaway winner!

Thanks to, the 5 winners of the Basic H Shaklee generously donated by Andrea are:

1) #12 - Mary
2) # 5 - Erika
3) #3 - All About Us ( seems to LOVE YOU)
4) #2 - Lindsey
5) #8 - Judy

Please contact me with your mailing info at beingfrugalbychoiceblog at gmail dot com!

Congrats, and thanks for entering everyone!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Luscious sugar-free lemon bars

This past weekend I decided to make eggs benedict for dinner.  Knowing I needed a tblsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, I naturally bought a 5 lb bag of lemons from Costco.  Because what if the 35th infantry showed up to my house and wanted hollandaise sauce!?

In a panic over having an abundance of lemons to squeeze, I started humming The Lemon Song from Led Zeppelin, and got to googling.

I found plenty of recipes for lemon squares using 2 cups of butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar.  That sounded good, but since I don't have time to develop Type II diabetes, I kept searching.  The Nourishing Gourmet to the rescue (again)!

Lemon Curd Bars from The Nourishing Gourmet (my edits are posted below.  Visit the original link to see her recipe)

3 large eggs
the zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup of honey
1/3 cup of freshly squeeze lemon juice + ~ 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
6 tblsp of coconut oil

1 cup of almonds
1/2 cup of walnuts
1/3 cup of honey
1 tsp of sea salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup of melted coconut oil

For the curd:
I kind of accidentlly ignored the directions on which order to put things in the pan.  It all turned out, so whatever!  Put the eggs, zest, honey, and lemon/lime juice in to a pan and allow it to heat up a bit.
Stirring well with a whisk, add the coconut oil and continue to cook until it's bubbling just a little.  Side note: popping lemon curd is both delicious AND painful.
Place the mixture in a metal sieve over a bowl, and using a spatula, push the mixture through the sieve.
The curd will be the stuff in the bowl, and discard the "extras" in sieve in to the garbage.
Store and allow the curd to cool in the fridge.

For the crust:
Mix the nuts in your food processor until it's kind of a chunky flourly/powder.  Chunks of nuts will remain.  Side note: that last sentence made me giggle like a 12 year old boy.

Add the honey, salt, eggs, and coconut oil to the nuts in the food processor (yes Anne, you'd need to learn how to use yours to make this recipe...).
Process until soupy.
Pour in a very dirty 8x8 pan and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the fridge.
Pour the cooled curd over the cooled crust and refrigerate for another 2 hours.
I served mine with a dollop of last year's homemade blackberry syrup.
Troy and Jack have a tart sensitivity and while pucker faces are hilarious, I actually wanted them to enjoy this.  Both boys liked it with and without the syrup, so I guess it wasn't too tart after all.

I've shared this with the peeps over at Healthy2day Wednesdays, Real Food Wednesdays, and Food Renegade.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The #1 challenge facing American women today

No, it's not lack of free birth control, or earning 73% of what our male counterparts make, or even only 6 weeks of FMLA.  No my friends, it's stinky tank tops from aggressive boob sweat.  I know, it's hard to talk about.  It's a stinkdemic.

I'm a big fan of wearing the trusty old "wife beater" tank top to bed and while working out (with a sports bra of course!  Because the barely there massive droopy B cups I rock after nursing a child for over 2 years demands support dammit!).
Here is a picture of me wearing one.  You know, in case you need a visual to see what kind of tank I'm talking about.  I was also desperate to show off my bikini wax and shiny bronze pants.  And yes, my abs totally look like that...
Well, after about five years of wearing the same 6 pack of tanks to bed and to work out in, these tanks got RANK.  I initially thought that maybe my homemade laundry detergent just wasn't cutting through to the funk anymore.  But while living with my in laws for two months, I used their conventional detergent in a "double blind" stank study.  Nope, their stuff didn't turn these in to sweet-smelling tops either.

In a moment of desperation (heck, they're not holey YET...why throw them out?) this past week, I had a light bulb moment.  I took the tanks and soaked them in a little pail with water and a big squirt of Bac Out (you can usually find it cheaper in the hippy section of the grocery store) and let them soak for an hour or so.  After the soak, I threw them in the wash with my sheets, and they came out smelling sweet and like limes (Bac Out is made with lime peel extract).  Success!

Now, I can stretch the life of these tops that I so dearly love.  And while my boobs may live to sweat another day, I now have a new tool in my arsenal to combat the stinkies.  This is a great country we live in my friends.

PS, a special note to my mom and my friend Anne.  My tanks are fine.  I do not need you to "happen upon" a sale of them at Target or Amazon...;-D

Monday, September 12, 2011

A review and a giveaway!

I was contacted a few weeks ago by Andrea, a new stay at home mom (and Army wife to boot!) who is a new distributor of Shaklee products.  Have you all heard of Shaklee?  I think I heard of them for the first time a few years ago when Oprah did a show on "going green".  I'll admit that Oprah drives me batty, but I did tune in for that episode.

But I digress.  Shaklee is an all-natural line of cleaning products that are great for anyone who just wants to "green" their clean.  They're also phenomenal for people with allergies or sensitivities to conventional cleaning products.

Andrea send me a little sample to try out.  When I received it, I thought there was no way this little teeny tiny bottle could make a surface cleaner!  Two little drops of Basic H can make up to 16 oz of cleaning solution.  Pretty cool!  I've been using it for a few days now, and like how it cleans, and like that there are no noxious fumes.  Between Troy's allergies and asthma, and Jack getting in to EVERYTHING, I love the idea that a surface cleaner is non-toxic.

Want to try it out for yourself?  Andrea has generously offered to give away 5 samples of Basic H to FBCCBN (Frugal by get the picture) readers!  To enter, head to Andrea's store and look around at the products and come back and leave a comment saying which product you'd most want to try out.

Using, I'll draw for the 5 winners of the Basic H samples on Friday at 8 pm PT.

Andrea provided me with a document showing the price breakdown of Shaklee products vs. conventional cleaners.  Pretty interesting stuff, but unfortunately I'm a dumb dumb and can't figure out how to post it on blogger.  If you're interested, please email me at beingfrugalbychoiceblog at gmail dot com

Edited to add:  the giveaway is open to US residents only.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Meal plan for September 12th-18th

Happy cooking this week all!  This will be our first week eating salad and corn from the garden.

Monday - Quesadillas, fruit, and salad

Tuesday - I'm working late, so no dinner

Wednesday - Paninis, fruit, and salad

Thursday - Enchiladas, beans, and rice

Friday - Chicken pot pie, fruit, and grilled corn from the garden!

Saturday - Homemade mac and cheese, salad, and fruit

Sunday - Family dinner at my parent's

Summer didn't really get started around these parts until August, but things are really happening in the garden now!  I picked these on Friday:
A mixture of Sungolad (cherry tomato) Flame (medium sized salad tomato), Momitalla (not sure I'm spelling that correctly, but a medium sized salad tomato), and Pruden's Purple (a big heirloom).  Pruden must have been color blind, because this tomato is very very pink.

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's simple! Syrup

In the midst of last week's sugar challenge, my only craving for sugar was my missing nightly sweet drink during dinner.  My "sweet" drink of choice is usually homemade water kefir soda, or a glass of lemonade.  Neither are crawling with sugar, but I tried to be strict during the challenge.

On Wednesday, it hit me like a ton of bricks - a simple syrup made with honey!  I bounded in to the kitchen giddy with excitement over a return of my precious dinner companion.  It couldn't have been more simple (hint: that's probably why it is called a simple syrup...), and was delicious!

Healthified Simple Syrup
-3 parts water
-1 part raw honey

Put in a pan and stir with a whisk until boiling.
Gratuitous photo in case you're not certain what water and honey in a pan look like...
Pour in to containers and refrigerate until cold.

Mix 1 part simple syrup, to 1 part freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, to 1 part water.  Delish!

I've shared this with the peeps over at Healthy2day Wednesdays and Real Food Wednesdays.

Sugar challenge results

I went by the original post for people signing up, because I personally know more than just 2 people did it.  Ha!

Using, #4 from that post was selected.  Congrats to All About Us!  Please contact me at beingfrugalbychoiceblog at gmail dot com to claim your prize.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whoops - sugar challenge wrap up!

Did you do the sugar challenge last week (even if you cheated a little)?  Leave a comment and I'll do the drawing on Friday morning.

A dessert that would make Fabio switch to real butter

Usually when people find out that my sister and I were roommates in college, they inevitable ask questions like "jeez, how could you guys stand to live with each other"?  To which I respond "um, we had 18 years of practice...".  Rooming with a sibling makes sense.  You KNOW this other person and how they operate.  There are no surprises of finding out that your roommate doesn't clean or say, steals your food.  Additionally, siblings are the ONLY roommates you can tell to fuck off please leave you alone, and then you guys are "ok" 10 minutes later.

Anyhoo, two of my sister's friends lived in the same apartment complex as we did in college.  We used to take turns cooking dinner and ate at each other's apartments almost every night.  One of the girls used to make this dessert that we called "the cherry thing".  It was a can of cherry pie filling, topped with one-third of boxed yellow cake mix.  On top of the cake mix, she'd put pats of I Can't Believe it's Not Butter (cause we were healthy ya'll!), and then bake everything until the topping became crispy.  It was delicious...

I had forgotten about the "cherry thing" until I needed to make a dessert a few weeks ago and didn't have time to run to the store.  After careful inspection of my freezer, I found cherries I had pitted and frozen earlier this spring.  Bingo.  A quick search of the interwebs found homemade yellow cake mix at Chickens In the Road.  As luck would have it, I had all the ingredients on hand.

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
2 cups of flour (I used whole-wheat)
1 1/2 cups of sugar (I used 3/4 cup of organic evaporated cane juice - a less processed form of sugar I get at Costco)
1/2 cup of dry milk (I use Organic Valley, but it's super $$$.  I often find it at Grocery Outlet!)

Sarah's healthified "Cherry Thing"
1/3 of the above dry yellow cake mix recipe
1 tblsp of vanilla
1 stick of butter
Fruit of your choice

1) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2) Place your favorite fruit in the bottom of an oven-proof baking dish.  I have 60 pounds of peaches, and we picked blackberries today, so the fruit of choice was a no-brainer.
3) In a mixer, place 1/3 of the yellow cake mix, 1 tblsp of vanilla, and 1 stick of butter in slices.
4) Process until it looks like this:
5) Sprinkle the crumbly topping on top of the fruit.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the topping is browned.
6) Eat, eat, eat!  Top with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Or none of the above if you're a loser and don't have any.
If you're thinking of using this for an actual yellow cake, you'll need to also add:

3/4 cup of water
1 tsp of vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs

Place cake mix in a bowl.  Add water, vanilla, butter, and eggs.  Combine with an electric mixer, then beat 2 more minutes.  Pour into a grease and floured cake plan.  Bake at 350 degrees.
8' or 9' cake rounds - 20-25 min
13x9 pan - 35-40 min
cupcakes - 12-15 min
tube/bundt pan - 45-50 min
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