Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Perfect Pantry

The Pioneer Woman had an interesting post the other day that I thought I'd link to about what she keeps on hand in her pantry. It reminded me of how helpful and what a moneysaver it is to have a stockpile of staples on hand so you can throw dinner together if all your previous plans fall through. I keep a stockpile of pasta sauce, salsa, canned tomatoes, soups and pasta that I buy using coupons and store sales.

Here's the link to what PW keeps in her pantry.

I think menu planning along with keeping a well-stocked pantry has changed us from a family that only eats out because we plan to rather than a family that eats out because we can't think of what to make for dinner. Which saves us lots of dough!

Pretty pantry photo from here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.24.2012

Oops. More like Menu Plan Tuesday. Oh well, here's what we're having:

French Bread Pizzas
Sauteed Chicken with Balsamic Green Beans
Beef and Black Bean Taco Bake
Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos
Baked Potato Soup and Salad

And for snacks, we made these, which are SO delicious. I see what all the fuss is about!

No Bake Energy Bites

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Make This: Creamy Chicken with Shallots

I've mentioned this cookbook before, as it's one of my go-to books for menu planning. I thought I'd share one of my favorite recipes from the book. It's not exactly low-calorie, but it's just so delicious.

Creamy Chicken with Shallots from Time for Dinner

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. paprika
salt and pepper
4 chicken cutlets
2 tbsp. vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
1 large shallot, diced
1/2 cup white wine (or chicken broth)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. dijon mustard

Put the flour, paprika and salt and pepper in a flat dish. Coat the chicken with the flour mixture, shaking off the excess. Heat the oil on medium high heat, and saute the chicken turning once, about 2 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to a plate, and then saute the shallots in the same pan around 5 minutes. Add the wine or broth and bring to a boil until it's reduced by half, around 2 minutes. Add the cream and mustard and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium, and add the chicken pieces and their juices back in. Continue to cook until the cream is reduced and coating the chicken, turning over once, around 7 to 9 minutes. (I sometimes have to cook the chicken a little longer depending on its thickness.)

The sauce is so delicious that I find myself scooping it out of the pan and eating it by itself! Hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Project De-brown: Painting a Side Table

In an attempt to "de-brownify" our den, which currently houses a dark brown couch, coffee table, bookshelves, piano, tv console, and wood floors, I decided to paint the side table that sits next to our couch. I'm really pleased with the results: I used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey (this paint is super great because you don't need to primer and you only need one coat.) Now I'm wanting to paint everything else in the room too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kitchen Tip: How to Bake Bacon

I may be the last person on earth to know about this, but I came across this tip yesterday that was just too good not to share. Do you know about baking bacon? I found it less messy than pan frying, and the bacon came out more crisp and bacon-y and less soggy and fatty. I followed the instructions in this post, but here's the rundown:

1. Place aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Make sure the edges of the foil go up the sides of the baking sheet.
2. Spread out your pieces of bacon flat so that none overlap.
3. Set your oven to 400 and put the pan in. You don't need to preheat. According to some of the comments I read, it's better when you don't preheat.
4. Cook for 12-17 minutes. Mine only needed to cook for 12, but that will depend on the thickness of the bacon.
5. Remove and set cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.
6. Eat!

You can even cook a bigger batch and refrigerate the cooked bacon, then use it crumbled on salads or baked potatoes, heat it up for breakfast, or use it on a BLT the next day. Hooray for bacon!

image from here

Monday, January 16, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.16.2012

It's another Monday friends! I have to say that last week's Eggplant Parmesan was delicious, so it will definitely be figuring in to the rotation again. Here's what's up for this week:

Breakfast for Dinner
Chicken with Cream and Shallots
Stuffed Bell Peppers (from this cookbook. I'll post the recipe if it's good!)
Chicken Casserole Biscuits
BBQ Sliders (never made these last week)

Find more delicious menu plans and recipes right here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pretty and Practical: Smith's Rosebud Salve

I thought I'd share some products I use that give great results, but not at the crazy prices you find at some department store counters.

First up is Smith's Rosebud Salve, which I've used for years. I use it mostly as a lip gloss, but it also works on diaper rash, skin blemishes, and I often use it on my cuticles. It smells nice and delicate too. And it's only $6! I get mine at Sephora, but here's a list of retailers that carry it too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three Questions

While I was folding a mountain of laundry yesterday, I had the television on and caught a few reruns of Suze Orman on Oprah talking about people on the brink of financial disaster. Suze said something that really struck me, and I've decided to make it part of my intentions for living through the year. There was a couple expecting a baby who made well over 100K a year, who had student loan debt that  they weren't repaying, three cars, and a huge shopping habit. Suze told them that to save themselves from the black hole they were going further and further into, they should start thinking about these three things before they made any purchase:

Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind?

I started to think about how I view buying things: as a stress reliever sometimes, as a mindless activity other times. But how is that getting me closer to my goals? It isn't. So I'm going to try to do a better job of thinking through every purchase I make this year with those criteria.

Image from here

Monday, January 9, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.9.2012

Hello Friends,
Well, if I thought 2012 might allow me to slow down a little, I was wrong! The first week of the year flew by, and here we are again at another Monday. Here's what we're cooking this week:

Eggplant Parmesan
Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry
Chicken and Cheese Tortilla Soup
Spaghetti with Bolognese
Spicy Whiskey Barbecue Sliders

Find more delicious menu plans right here!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blue Velvet

Last weekend I picked up a chair that I had been eying for quite a while at World Market. I tested it out in the store, and thought it was really comfortable for the price, and I absolutely loved the color. About the same time I found the chair, I read that furniture oftentimes goes on sale in January to make room for the new stock, so I patiently waited a few months, and then checked after the holidays were over! And lo and behold, World Market was having a big sale on their furniture. I also had a 10% off coupon from signing up for their rewards program. It pays to wait!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My 2012 Goals

I know a lot of people scoff at New Year's resolutions, but I love them. I love the start of a fresh year, full of promise and another chance to create the life you dream of. So with that in mind, I resolve this year to work towards our financial and personal goals, and try to make sure every important decision I make somehow gets us further to those goals. I shared our money goals for 2011 in this post, and some of these will carry over to this year.

Money Goals
Complete our 8-month emergency fund
Increase our contribution to retirement by 1%
Continue to stay on budget using my new system
Complete the legacy drawer by March

Pretty Goals
Go on a date once a month
Continue to make my home a comfortable place to be, on a budget
Experiment more with my cooking and menu planning

What about you? Any goals for the year?

Image from here

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Net Worth Update: December 2012

The end of the month that ends the year, and it's time for another update on our net worth!

Savings: +732.20 Just a normal month here. Glad we were able to dump some money into savings because we had some travel for the holidays, and Christmas always seems to cost a little more than we plan for!
Retirement Accounts: +95.24 Our gains in our 401K pretty much covered our losses in our traditional IRA, so we're just about even for the month.


Mortgage: –70.86 So this number isn't complete, because I didn't write down our mortgage balance when our slip came in the mail, and I can't access that info online. This is how much we paid off on our home improvement loan, which I always just keep together with our mortgage for simplicity's sake. So we actually paid off a little more than this, but I don't know how much! Whoops!

Total Change in Net Worth
+898.30 It was great to end the year with a positive gain, especially considering how many swings we saw last year. Here's to a positive 2012!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Menu Plan Monday: 1.2.2012

Happy New Year Friends! We had a very busy holiday, and I'm ready now to tackle this year with a vengeance! One of my resolutions is to be more organized, and continuing to menu plan will be a huge part of that. I got a few new cookbooks for Christmas, so I'll be experimenting with some new recipes the next few weeks. Here's what we're having this week.

Oven Baked Chicken Fingers
Stovetop Mac and Cheese
Pasta alla Vodka
Crockpot Meat Loaf

And you can find more delicious menu plans right here! Have a great week!