Thursday, July 29, 2010

$40 Giveaway at Paula's Bread

About a year and a half ago, I took a local class where I learned about grinding my own wheat and making my own bread. It was a fascinating class and I realized how simple it is so that prompted me to begin doing it. Just a few months prior to that class, I was talking with an aunt who grinds her own wheat and upon learning that she did this, I commented "I could never do that!" My ignorance of how easy it is, led me to make my smug comment. So, only a few months later, I would eat my own words! I have really come to love several things about grinding my own wheat, so I will provide a list below:

- the wheat tastes much better and much less bitter
- you can get lighter wheats and make pastry wheats to put into baked goods like cookies and muffins
- because the wheat tastes better and is fresher, my kids (and hubby) eat everything with wheat in it
- my bread is free of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and all the other things store bought bread usually contains
- making my own bread is cheaper than buying high quality bread

Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a $40 giveaway for Paula's Bread. Paula's makes wonderful bread but more importantly she sells great resources on her website for baking, cooking and making your own bread! So, check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop's website, she has a lot of great info to get started with eating healthier!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A new frugal challenge: roasting a whole chicken!

I have never been a big meat consumer and I have always thought it would be fairly easy for me to become a vegetarian but I have never taken that plunge for various reasons. Even though we eat meat, I generally dislike handling it and am often grossed out by raw meat. Over the past few weeks, I have been taking an e-course called The Peasant's Feast by The Nourishing Gourmet. The course has been fascinating and has been challenging me in different food areas and has encouraged me in various ways to save money by preparing most things from scratch. One of the topics of the course is how to make chicken stretch. With that in mind, came the challenge of roasting a whole chicken! I have never in my life handled a whole chicken, I have been a boneless, skinless chicken breast girl all the way! Roasting a whole chicken provides flavorful and moist chicken that can be stretched over several meals and it allows you to make a very healthy and flavorful chicken stock. After considering the benefits, I decided I would give it a try. I gave it a try and it wasn't bad. The chicken came out great and it made a great amount of chicken stock that I will be using tomorrow night for my mom's homemade chicken and noodle soup! I will definitely be doing this much more often if not all of the time. So for all of you ladies that were squeamish like I was, give it a try!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kids snack idea: fruit juice jello

In my quest to feed my family a healthier diet, one of my challenges has been snacks, so I am on the hunt to find some good snack options to feed my kiddo's. The challenge is that I am trying to stay away from processed foods and come up with easy things my kids will eat that are healthy. I made fruit juice jello last week and I wasn't sure if all my little ones would like it and to my surprise, they did. This could be a little afternoon snack or even desert! This is a basic recipe off of the box of Knox unflavored gelatine. The recipe can be tweaked to be thicker and firmer (like jigglers) or thinner. I used an all natural fruit juice that was on sale and I had a coupon for from the grocery store. Here is the recipe off the Knox box:

- 4 envelopes or 1 box (I actually only used 2 envelopes) gelatine
- 1 cup cold fruit juice
- 3 cups fruit juice, heated to boiling
- 2 tablespoons honey, optional

1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in a large bowl; let stand 1 minute. Add hot juice and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in honey if desired. Pour into a pan (I poured into small bowls for individual servings).

2. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blogs after my own money saving tips!

As I have said before, we are on a journey to learn to be more frugal. A big component to saving money in our budget is cutting down our food expenses. I have been utilizing coupons for a little over a year and I have saved a significant amount on groceries but I want to cut my food budget down even more and provide my family with healthier meals. It sounds like a tall order but I have a plan! I have started using cash only which has helped me spend less at the grocery store, I use coupons but only on things that we really need, and I am making more things from scratch. Even though I am going to be spending more on buying better quality meats, I am saving more by making more things from scratch and buying as little pre-processes foods as I can manage. I am also trying to make one meatless meal for dinner each week and then make meals that stretch the meat so that my more expensive quality meat will go farther! All of these changes mean that I have to get a lot better with planning my meals out each week. This could be one of most difficult parts of the whole puzzle fore me because I am not a really organized person. I totally see the value in organization but I really do love spontaneity, so for me it means I need to be more disciplined in order to really make cutting down my food budget a reality. For many people this comes easily but for me its like pulling teeth but I know it will be worth it.

I have found many blogs that have helped motivate me and give me more ideas on how to do this and today there are two great blogs that have articles on this exact topic. Check them out to get some great tips and ideas on how to provide healthy meals on a tight budget. The Thrifty Mama and also The Nester have great guest posts on this topic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Super Cute T-shirt makeover

A few months ago I saw a great tutorial from Tea Rose Home on adding ruffles to a basic T-shirt. I decided that I would love to do it but I didn't have a shirt to use and I was determined I would only do it if I found a great deal on basic T-shirts. About a month later, I was at an Old Navy and found a great green T-shirt in the clearance section for about $2.25. I found another one in a different size so I purchased them both for about $5 with tax. I used old thread that was pretty close to matching and I borrowed my mother-in-law's sewing machine! I watched the tutorial once more and then got to work! About and hour to an hour and a half later, my green ruffled shirt was the end result! It was very and easy and pretty fun to do. The next day, we had a family outing at a local kids museum and no joke, a woman came up to me and asked me where I got my really cute shirt! I was thrilled to tell her the T-shirt was a bargain find and I added the ruffles myself! Check out the great tutorial Tea Rose Home has and the other great projects she has!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Produce Co-op: Saving money and expanding my food horizons!

I have participated in a local produce co-op on and off for the last year or so. Every other week you sign up to pick up a produce basket that is a mix of half fruits and half vegetables. They often offer other things like breads or cases of apples, tomatoes, etc. The quality of the produce is generally very good; often a lot of the produce is local and the price is great! The challenge for me is that we sometimes get things in our produce basket that I are very foreign to what we normally eat. On the one hand, I like being pushed to try new things, but on the other, if I am not purposeful in figuring out what to do with the unfamiliar produce, it can often go to waste (therefore I am not being frugal). This week we got brussels sprouts! Of course I have heard of brussels sprouts but I am a bit embarrassed to say I have never tried one. So I was determined that I would stay the course in being a good steward of our resources and wanted to therefore make sure I used them this week. I found a simple recipe online, courtesy of Ina Garten on, and roasted them with salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil (I added the garlic). The kids were not real big fans, but my hubby and I enjoyed them! I was so glad we tried them and of course, I felt really good that they did not go to waste!

Friday, July 2, 2010

While we are talking about quinoa....

Since we are on the topic of quinoa, here is a mexican quinoa salad recipe from, the nourishing gourmet, that I plan on preparing this weekend as we celebrate the fourth of July weekend. I have had a very similar quinoa salad before (just like the one in the above picture) that was excellent, so I can't wait to give this mexican version a try. Update...I made it over the holiday weekend and we really enjoyed it. It was light with a very nice flavor, we will definitely make again.

I love very flavorful foods and I am often skeptical of "health" foods because people often claim they taste good when I am often left disappointed. I truly have been surprised with quinoa because I have a few fairly picky eaters in my household and the taste of quinoa has not been an issue. The other thing I really appreciate about quinoa is that it is very can go from being mixed into taco meat or spaghetti sauce to being the main component in a refreshing salad. If you have not yet tried it, this salad may be a good start!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quinoa in my taco meat!

I learned about quinoa about a year and a half ago and I have been trying to incorporate it into my cooking ever since. Quinoa is a grain like food that cooks up similar to rice but is a complete protein. Here is a link for the whole foods website that gives you more information on Quinoa.

Quinoa has a very mild nutty flavor and has a consistency similar to rice once it is cooked. Even though it is more expensive than say rice or other grains, it expands to 3 times its original size, making it much cheaper than good meat. I purchase it in bulk; cook it just like rice and then I can add it to many different foods. Today I am talking about adding it to ground turkey or ground beef for tacos. You can very easily play with the portions of quinoa that you add to your meat but I generally use half ground meat and half cooked quinoa. From there I season my taco meat with a homemade taco season blend or you could add an MSG free, store bought taco seasoning. My children and guests alike have not noticed the addition of quinoa and it makes for a healthier and more frugal meal.