Thursday, March 31, 2011

April Fools!


This Friday is April Fool's Day. I don't know about you, but it is so much fun coming up with something to try and fool my family. My favorite by far was the meatloaf cake I made, frosted with mashed potatoes and topped with cherry tomatoes.

Another year I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast complete with frosting--but they were really tuna pinwheels with sour cream. I've also made a pot pie, but instead of a meat filling, inside it had macaroni and cheese.

There is also the mashed potato sundae, topped with nuts, a cherry tomato and gravy for caramel sauce. Another fun thing is to mix up when you serve things, like having dinner for breakfast, breakfast for lunch and lunch for dinner.

The Friend has some great ideas. You can find them here: http://lds.org/friend/1997/04/kitchen-krafts-april-fools-day-celebration?lang=eng&query=april+fools

I would love to read your comments on fun things you have done to "fool" your families!

Happy Fooling!
~Homemaker

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March Madness, A Novel

March Madness is almost over, but the madness at our house will continue on with cutting back on groceries. The New Year pay check came with a slight inflation raise and a cut on Social Security/Medicaid taxes, giving us another little chunk of money each month. The hopes of spending more on groceries was the plan, but so were other financial goals--one being the kids' college funds. The goals won.

We opened up our eldest son's college fund just two weeks ago.  Cutting back in groceries has freed up money to help us reach this goal.  We have four more kids to open funds for, but at least the oldest has somewhat of a start.  In 2009 our budgeted money for groceries was about $350 per month and at times I would spend upwards of $400.  (To this day I am still working on staying in budget!) But now that we're spending less money on groceries (which I DO want to increase someday), about $200 to $225, that frees up about $100 to $150 extra a month to put towards goals....like a college fund!

I recently finished this book by Zac Bissonnette.  This is my first book I've read about kids and college.  My oldest boy is only 7, but after hearing about this book on the Dave Ramsey show I wanted to read it.  I am glad I did.  I could probably fit all I liked about this book into one, short chapter.  But, I would recommend reading the whole thing. 
                                      Image from Amazon.com
My husband and I were really blessed and our parents were able to help some financially with our schooling.  They didn't pay everything--we definitely had to work--but we were both blessed by their help. We'd like to do the same for our children.  Possibly a we'll-pay-tuition-and-books-and-you-pay-housing-and-food type of deal. The old adage Time is Money applies to me right now.  I have time on my side and should put it to use and have interest as a partner--not enemy.There were a couple of things I learned in this book that I had never thought of (not too hard for me though!). My favorite was this:

Anyone...who says the current levels of student loan debt won't have a material impact on people's ability to build wealth is full of it...

...How would student loan debt have impacted your financial life? The average graduate will spend about $200 per month on student loan debt for twenty years before she's finally free. Were you rolling in dough to the extent that you could have done that when you were in your twenties and thirties?  Given that more than half of Americans don't have enough in savings for retirement, the answer is most likely no. Let's add some numbers to the mix to make this more (or less) fun.  Student 1 graduates with the national average in student loan debt.  He spends the next twenty years dutifully sending in $200 per month.  He does no saving.  Student 2 graduates with no student loan debt and spends the next twenty years dutifully saving $200 per month and investing it at 11 percent per year.  He does no other saving.

After twenty years Student 1 will have achieved a net worth of zero. Congratulations! After twenty years, Student 2 will have $173,126.61.  At this point, let's say that both graduates are forty-one years old, and have another twenty-four years until they reach retirement.  Student 2 lets his savings ride and contributes nothing more. By the time he reaches retirement, he will have $2,397,069.89.  All because he didn't have to make a couple hundred bucks a month in student loan payments. That's the average. If your child's monthly payments are $400 a month, double all those numbers.  And, of course, life can intervene with the ability to make payments.  If your child misses a payment or two for whatever reason, fees and charges can turn it into a real mess. 

A woman recently e-mailed me to say that she and her husband have a combined $60,000 in student loan debt and refer to it as the little ski lodge in Wisconsin that they'll never actually have.  

 Wow.  I had never though of student loans like that--as being able to reduce my ability to build wealth.  If Lee and I had come out of school with no loans, how awesome would it have been to have invested $38,000 right out of school?! We were extremely blessed though, and paid off our loans in one year.  And truthfully, I don't know how we would have done school otherwise.  

Now we are working hard to have future funds available to our kids when they go to college. This way once kids start college we won't have to use any (or hopefully hardly any) of our income at that future time. And when college rolls around my husband and I can buy a BMW instead of paying college tuition. 





So next time I am eating ramen, I just need to remind myself of the future good we're accomplishing.










                                 Image from ednewscolorado.org


~Ramen Queen

Monday, March 28, 2011

Egg Rolls

Last Thursday I couldn't resist making Ramen Queen's yummy Chinese Chicken Salad.  This salad makes so much that there are always leftovers at our house.  A great way to use up the salad is to use it as a filling in egg rolls!  I know ramen noodles are not typically in egg rolls, but if you think about the other ingredients--cabbage, carrots, green onions, chicken or pork, seasoning--I already had all of those ingredients in the salad.  In the past I have stir fried the salad before using it in my egg rolls, but this time I opted to use it as is.  It worked great. 

You can pick up egg roll wrappers in the produce section of your grocery store.  It's by the tofu/organic stuff.  You can get a package of 20 for less than $2.50.  Or you can make the wrappers yourself.  It's not hard, but it does take a lot more time.  I'll cover that another day. 

Step 1: Open the package of egg roll wrappers, turn them on point, so that they resemble (somewhat) a diamond shape.  Turn your oven on to 400 degrees to bake them, or heat your oil to fry them. 

Step 2: Have a little bowl or cup of water handy next to you on the counter.  This is to dip your fingers in to brush water on to the edge of your wrappers to create a seal on the egg roll.

Step 3:  Put 2 tablespoons of filling (the chinese chicken salad) into the center of the wrapper.

Step 4:  Fold up the bottom point of the diamond (the one closest to you) up over the filling.

Step 5:  Fold in the two middle points to the center of the egg roll.

Step 6:  Moisten the edge of the top point (the one away from you) with water (you don't need very much water) and roll the egg roll up. 

Step 7:  Place on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, seam side down. 

Repeat steps 3 through 7 until the wrappers or the salad is all used up.  You can refrigerate any leftovers to use another time. 

Brush the tops of the egg rolls with olive oil or spray them quick with your cooking spray (skip this step if you opt to fry them).  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.   Or you can fry them in hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side.  

The back of the package should have these instructions, plus pictures so you know what you are doing!

Round out your meal with plain rice or fried rice.  

I like to serve them with Teriyaki sauce.  It's really quick and easy to make your own sauce.

Teriyaki Sauce--a variation of Betty Crocker's recipe

1/4 cup water--the original recipe calls for oil, but I think it's great without it.
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Whisk everything together.  Serve with egg rolls, tempura meats or veggies, or over rice.  Yum!

Homemaker's Menu for a Week in March

Here is my menu for a week in March

Pigs In a Blanket--wrap hot dogs in strips of bread, and then bake until the dough is golden brown. We also make these at Halloween and make them into mummy hot dogs with ketchup eyes.
Carrot Sticks

Here is a picture of when we made the "Pigs in a Blanket" into "Mummy Pigs"

French Onion Soup--I made homemade onion soup, and topped the soup with homemade french bread and Swiss cheese, then put it in the oven to brown under the broiler, for about a minute. It was super yummy!

Chili Relleno Casserole

Fish Cakes--I took 4 cans of tuna fish (this is to feed my family of 6), 3 eggs, a couple of handfuls of oats, lemon juice (about 1 1/2 tsp.), 1/2 tsp. dill weed and 2 tsp. onion powder. Mix together, form into patties, and cook like you would a hamburger. I can't remember how many patties it made, but my husband and teenager were full, and we had one left over. I also make a tartar sauce from mayo, mustard and homemade relish to serve with the buns. This is like a fish sandwich, but since it has no breading and isn't deep fried it is much healthier--if you don't use too much tartar sauce!
Corn
Homemade Hamburger Buns

White Chicken Chili
Frozen Veggies
Homemade Rolls

Beef Stroganoff
Green Beans

Spanish Rice Fritatta

Slumgullion--layer sliced potatoes, cooked hamburger and onions and diced tomatoes in your crockpot and cook on low for several hours. Very yummy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Great Cakes

I don't know about you, but when it comes to frosting a cake, I usually do a horrible job.  The frosting sticks to the the cake, but then pulls away a bit and the frosting gets all full of crumbs.  Freezing the cake first helps some, but I still end up with crumbs all over.  Real cake decorators do another layer of frosting on top of the first I think, but I'm still kind of sloppy when it comes to using icing bags and tips.  A few years ago, I looked into using fondant to decorate my daughter's birthday cake. 
 
Buying fondant at the store can be expensive.  I looked into making it at home and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make an inexpensive variation of fondant, called Marshmallow Fondant.  Click on the link for an easy tutorial on how to make it step by step.

It requires only 4 ingredients to make.

Marshmallow Fondant
1 bag Mini Marshmallows
1 bag Powdered Sugar
1/2 cup shortening
water

Add a couple tablespoons of water to your marshmallows in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the marshmallows are just melted.  The next part gets messy, but is fun and clean up isn't too bad.  Grease a good-sized area of your counter with the shortening.  You won't use it all at once.  Make sure your hands are covered with shortening because the next part it sticky.  Dump your powdered sugar on top of the greased countertop and dump the marshmallows on top of that.  Then start folding and kneading the sugar and marshmallows together.  As your hands and/or counter get sticky, just rub on some more shortening.  If the mixture seems a little dry, add a tablespoon of water.  Gradually the mixture will come together and the final product will be a nice smooth ball of fondant, similar to play dough.  You can color it using gel food coloring.  The liquid stuff doesn't work very well because it makes the fondant too sticky.  You will want to use rubber gloves on your hands when coloring the fondant.  Have tooth picks handy to dip into the coloring and rub onto the fondant.  Then knead it in.  If you knead it a little, you will create a marble effect.  The more you knead it, the better the color will be distributed.

To make fun cakes, figure out the shape you want, and then decide what kind of pan will give you the closest shape to what you want to make.  


Mr. Pumpkinhead was an obvious shape to make.


Raggedy Ann was too.


The Sun Monkey required multiple circles.  A couple of cupcakes in ramekins and a mini cake pan did the trick.


Mario was done using circles as well.


The butterfly was made from a circle cake too.  The body was cut out of the center of the circle and the wings were made by cutting the rest of the circle into fourths and flipping them around.

A lot of shapes can be made from a 9x13 pan too.  Once you know your desired shape, you can draw out how you want to get the different parts of the cake.  These cakes were made from 9x13 cakes.










Sometimes you need a shape that takes a little more creativity.  I've used ceramic bowls and tortilla bowl pans, to get cakes that look more three dimensional.


 

Cupcakes and mini cupcakes are also great when you need small round shapes for eyes, ears, noses or even small faces.



Loaf pans also work great for cars and trains.



 Ramen Queen made this super cute train for her son.
  One thing that she and I both love is that you can create a super cool birthday with fun memories for cheap.  The most expensive thing you will buy will be the colors for your cake, and even that is cost effective because it lasts for several birthdays/years.  I'm still using the same box of colors I got 4 years ago. 

After you finish baking your cake in a pan that is greased and floured really well, let it cool completely.  Make a batch of buttercream frosting.  I know I just knocked frosting at the top, but it is necessary to frost the cake first before you decorate it with the fondant.

Buttercream Frosting
2/3 cup butter (or margarine)
4 cups powdered sugar
2-4 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla/almond/maple/whatever extract

Beat butter and sugar together, add vanilla and just enough milk so it becomes a spreadable consistency.  If you add too much milk, then add a little more sugar, until it becomes easy to spread.

Cut the cake into the shape that you want and frost it with the frosting.

To work with the fondant, dust your clean work surface and rolling pin with Corn Starch.  This is used like flour is used with cookie dough or bread dough.  Roll to the thickness that you want and lift it gently to place over your cake.  Smooth it out on the cake.  The frosting underneath creates a cushiony layer that helps with getting everything all nice and smooth.  Trim away any excess with a knife.  Use the corn starch as needed to prevent stickiness.

To store your fondant, grease it with shortening and wrap in plastic wrap and seal it in a plastic bag.  It will keep for 3 months in the fridge.

To use, let sit at room temperature for a few hours, or just start kneading it with your hands.  It will be quite stiff at first, but the warmth of your hands will make it pliable again as you work it.  Keep the fondant you aren't using covered in plastic, or it will dry out.  A few drops of water can be kneaded into the fondant to make it pliable again.

For me, it helps to have a picture of what I want to make handy so I can refer to it as I'm decorating.     

Happy Decorating! ~Baker 

Ramen for Dinner

Last week I was at The Finisher's home.  With promises of spoiling her, I pulled out all stops and served Ramen one night for dinner.
Mar 17 2011 Lois Heit Ruth

Don't worry, I did jazz it up a bit. My friend Brooke made this salad a couple of years ago for a get-together at her home, and she gave me the recipe.  It's delicious!  A great spring/summer salad too.  I will be posting my menu for the last week of March in a few days.  Stay tuned!

Mar 18 2011 Chinese Chicken Salad 
Here is the recipe.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Leah Arnold & Ashley Muller

Salad
1 large head of cabbage (I just used a bag of shredded coleslaw)
4 chicken breasts (I used about 2 1/2)
1 large bunch green onions
4 packages Oriental ramen noodles
1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds

Cut chicken into bite size pieces.  Fry until well done.  Cool.  Slice cabbage into thin strips or use [a food processor] to make like coleslaw. Slice entire bunch of green onions and mix with cabbage. Crunch ramen noodles and place on cookie sheet along with almonds.  Roast in oven, stirring occasionally, at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Add to cabbage mixture.  Add chicken to mixture.

Dressing
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup sugar
3 TBLS soy sauce
2 TBLS white vinegar
1 tsp pepper
2 packages Oriental seasoning (from ramen noodles)

Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well.  Pour over cabbage mixture and coat all the chicken. Serve chilled. (I served it right away--not chilled--and it was great!!!)

You'll need a BIG bowl to hold this salad--the biggest one you have, or bigger!.  If serving no more than two people, I would half the recipe. Ramen does have some uses, right?

~Ramen Queen

Friday, March 18, 2011

Granola

For a yummy, filling breakfast, nothing beats homemade granola.  It's quick and easy to make and fun to eat.  So, for the basic recipe:


12 cups of Old-fashioned Rolled Oats (you can also use quick oats, but I like the texture better of the rolled oats)
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Powdered Milk 
2 cups Oil


Mix together in a LARGE bowl.  Place in a LARGE cake pan and bake at 300 degrees.  If your pan isn't large enough, just do it in 2 batches or just make 1/2 the recipe.  After 15 minutes remove from oven and stir. Place back in the oven. Next, bake for 10 minutes and take out and stir.  Place back in the oven.  After this, take out every 5 minutes, stir and then place back in oven.  Do this until the granola is a golden brown all the way through.  Take out of oven, cool and store in a covered container--this keeps well for several weeks.

Extras
Now, above is the basic recipe.  Some fun things to add in are unsalted sunflower seeds, coconut, raisins, dried cranberries, etc.  The possibilities are endless.  If they taste better toasted, like the sunflower seeds, add these before baking.  If the baking would make them tough, like the raisins, add these after the mixture has cooled.
 
We like to eat ours with milk, but on top of yogurt would be yummy to!  Don't take very big servings--granola fills kids up faster than a boxed cereal does.

Enjoy!

~Homemaker

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

St. Pat's is Comin'

It's time to pull out a bit 'o green to wear. Or you just might get pinched.

Little leprechauns try to pull off shenanigans in our kitchen each year. Our milk always seems to turn green on March 17, and last year even the eggs were green.

Breakfast Burrito with Green Eggs and Ham, and green milk.

A couple years ago we made some traps to catch the little blighters, but they've always managed to escape. We loved the ideas in Family Fun on how to make Leprechaun Traps. The kids liked it so much they made traps again last year, all on their own. As good as the traps were, the kids failed once again to catch those tricksters.


The leprechaun left little notes on the traps

and gold-wrapped candy on their pillows.


He also left some clues around our house and yard to help us find a yummy treasure!




With all the fun headed your way, you might want to pull out your crock pot and throw together cozy Irish Stew that can cook all day and be ready when you are. A crusty loaf of Irish Soda Bread goes well with this stew. Soda breads are simple to make and don't require bread pans to bake! Just form a round loaf with your dough on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven and bake according to the recipe.

End your meal with light and airy Shamrock Cookies.

Shamrock Cookies
3 egg whites (have eggs at room temperature for better peaks when mixing)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Pinch salt
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Green food coloring (optional)

Directions:
1. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Sprinkle with cream of tartar and salt; beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and vanilla, beating until stiff peaks form, about 5-8 minutes. If desired, fold in green food coloring.
2. Spoon mixture into a plastic zip-top bag. Twist the bag to push the mixture to one side and snip off a corner of the bag. Pipe shamrock shapes onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 275 degrees F for 20 minutes or until firm to the touch. Immediately remove to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Favorite Pizza and Sauce Recipes

A couple of years ago I was given the best thin-crust pizza dough recipe ever, by my friend Cambria, and I want to share it with you.  I know that 500 degrees (F) sounds like a lot, but it really does make a nice, just right, crisp crust--especially when you bake it on a wire mesh pan (It works well on a cookie sheet too).  You can get these from restaurant supply stores.  I have a  couple of big ones, and also 4 small individual ones as well.  I do omit the garlic salt, since I have plenty of salt and garlic in my sauce.  Make sure if you do use the mesh wire pizza pans not to press anything too hard on it after you place the rolled dough onto your  pan.  The first time I made it, I did that and it was awful trying to get the dough scrubbed out of the holes.  When I have time, I will also roll out a bunch of pizza dough to the right size on tinfoil, wrap it up, freeze it, and then pull it out right before I want to use it.  It makes it a super fast way to make homemade pizza in a hurry.

Cambria's Pizza Dough Recipe
1 cup Warm Water
1 Tbsp. Quick Rise Yeast
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix together first 3 ingredients until yeast is dissolved.  Add remaining ingredients--mix.  Roll out dough.  Assemble pizza (see below) Bake at 500 deg. for 7 min. or until cheese is slightly brown.

Pizza Assembly
Roll out dough and place on pizza pan, preferably mesh wire for crispy crust on bottom.  Drizzle and spread around olive oil, about 2 Tbsp.  Can use hand, pastry brush or paper towel to evenly coat until shiny.  Lightly sprinkle garlic salt making a thin, even coat--a heavier sprinkle may make it too garlicky.  Add sauce.  Add bottom toppings--Onions, mushrooms, and any other toppings that may slide off the top easily or may need the extra heat to cook.  Add cheese.  Add top toppings--Green pepper, olives, pepperoni, sausage, ham, pineapple, etc.


Now, for my sauce recipe.  I have been making this for years, and I can make a pizza or marinara sauce for about fifty-cents.  I like to use tomato paste.  A 1 to 2 ratio works well.  I can of paste and 2 cans of water.   I will also add the olive oil directly to the sauce instead of spreading it on top--this is one of the things that gives pizza such a yummy flavor.  I had tried for years to find the perfect recipe that would taste like I wanted it to in my head--and I am convinced that it was the olive oil.  Also, adding the sugar takes away the metallic after taste you can get with tomato sauces you make.


Deborah's Marinara Sauce
1 can of Tomato paste -8 oz.
2 cans of Water
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3/4 tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Parsley
1 tsp. Oregano
1 1/2 tsp. Powdered Garlic
1 Tbsp. Diced Garlic
1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese 
1 1/2 tsp. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Fresh Ground Pepper

Mix together until smooth.  Spread on top of dough or use with pasta.

 I hope that your family enjoys this Fun Friday Meal!


~Homemaker
 

Healthy 30 Minute Recipe



One of my favorite places to get recipes is the Mayo Clinic Healthy Recipe website. I love the recipe below, it has some of my favorite ingredients like mushrooms, red peppers, garlic, butter, and of course olive oil :) It also only takes about 30 minutes to make. I do have a couple of changes to the recipe: I saute
the garlic and onion in the olive oil first then add all of the raw vegetables to that pan and let them steam for a couple of minutes. Also, when I am making the sauce I will add between 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour so it will thicken, if I don't do that my sauce always turns out runny.

-Olive Oil

Pasta primavera




Dietitian's tip:Traditional pasta primavera includes pasta topped with sauteed vegetables in a heavy cream sauce with butter. This lighter version is much lower in calories, fat and sodium, and is fresher tasting. It isn't intended to be saucy like its traditional counterpart.

By Mayo Clinic staff
Serves 6

Ingredients

    • 2 cups broccoli florets
    • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
    • 1 cup sliced zucchini or yellow squash
    • 2 cups sliced red or green peppers
    • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1/2 cup chopped onion
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 teaspoon butter
    • 1 cup evaporated fat-free milk
    • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • 12 ounces whole-wheat pasta (angel hair or spaghetti)
    • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

Directions

In a large pot fitted with a steamer basket, bring about 1 inch of water to boil. Add the broccoli, mushrooms, zucchini and peppers. Cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the pot. In large saucepan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat. Add the steamed vegetables and stir or shake to coat the vegetables with the onion and garlic mixture. Remove from heat but keep warm. In another large saucepan, heat the butter, evaporated milk and Parmesan cheese. Stir over moderate heat until somewhat thickened and heated through. Stir continuously and don't scald. Remove from heat but keep warm. In the meantime, fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), about 10 to 12 minutes, or according to package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly. Divide the pasta evenly among individual plates. Top with vegetables and pour the sauce over the vegetables and pasta. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Nutritional Analysis

(per serving)
Calories350Cholesterol12 mg
Protein17 gSodium224 mg
Carbohydrate55 gFiber7 g
Total fat7 gPotassium522 mg
Saturated fat3 gCalcium280 mg
Monounsaturated fat3 g

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Box Re-do

Hello again! I took some pictures of my projects finally. :) So today I'm going to show you a box re-do.

I had gotten several of these Ikea boxes. I love how cheap they are, but while they don't look bad - they don't look very good either. So I decided to glam them up a bit.
I had read several times about how you could use heat n bond (or fusible interfacing) to iron fabric decals on walls, without leaving any sort of mark. I figured if it works on walls, why not cardboard.

So I took my Heat n Bond (I got a 5 yard roll at Michael's for like $5 with a 40% off coupon) and some Ikea fabric....
(Sorry for the lack of pictures here...) Then I unscrewed the box and laid it flat. I cut out a piece of fabric that just a bit bigger than the box. Next I ironed the Heat n Bond onto the fabric and then ironed the fabric/Heat n Bond combo onto the box. Finally I put the box back together. And this is the end result...


I thought they turned out really nice! They only took about a half an hour a box. The hardest part was getting the screws to screw back in - I had to get my husband to help me with that.

As you can tell - I didn't cover the lids with fabric. It seemed like it would be a big pain and I didn't even want to try. So I just ended up throwing the lids away.
I did three of them and put them in our entrainment center to store DVDs, remotes, Wii games and controllers, and even our little DVD player. (Don't you love our "flat" screen tv?) :)
Let me know if you have any questions - it really was super easy and I loved how it turned out!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

For next year...or another holiday

I've seen this idea online and decided to use it for my girls' preschool Valentines.

I cut pieces of card stock and traced my design
DSCN0086

The back of the pink paper is blue...
DSCN0087

Stitch the heart together using the outline of the heart as a guide
DSCN0091

A pile of hearts for all! You could also cut out clovers or Easter egg shapes to use for the upcoming holidays! 
DSCN0095

~Ramen Queen

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Easy Chocolate Coconut Candy

I enjoy making easy candy, and you can't go wrong with coconut and chocolate!  My mother-in-law gave me this recipe.  Here's what you'll need:

3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 bag flaked coconut, 14 ounce
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips, 12 ounce
2 tablespoons shortening

Bring the corn syrup to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in the coconut.  Let cool till you can handle the candy.  I put the whole pan in the fridge for an hour or so. (I am sure it would be fine after a half hour too).
Feb 28, 2011

Form into balls (or whatever shape you desire!)
Feb 28, 2011 (2)

After balls are formed, melt the chocolate and shortening together in a bowl.  You can melt the chocolate over a double boiler, but I just melt it in the microwave, stirring and checking it often.  I put it in for about 30 seconds, stir, then put it in for about 20 seconds then stir.  Microwaves are different, so if you aren't sure, just check the mixture about every 10 seconds. If you do use a double boiler make sure you don't get water into the chocolate.

Dip the balls into the chocolate.  I use a fork to assist in the dipping process.  Here is the lone survivor.  I had some leftover chocolate, so I added an extra dollop on top. I love this recipe and need to make it more often!
Feb 28, 2011 (4)

I made these the other day for a thank-you to a friend who showed me how to make no-knead artisan bread. And just a little side note...the above dish came in a laundry box way back when.  When my grandma Ruth was growing up you could buy products that had dishes in them---like a cute little bowl in a box of detergent.  Same idea as getting toys in cereal boxes.

~Ramen Queen

Friday, March 4, 2011

Thirty Minute Meal

I love to make quick recipes. So here is a quick post on one of my favorite 30 min recipes.


Mama's Best Broiled Tomato Sandwich
INGREDIENTS:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 ripe tomatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese,
divided
4 slices bread, lightly toasted
DIRECTIONS:
1.Preheat oven to broil.
2.In a shallow bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar. Marinate the tomatoes in the mixture, stirring occasionally.
3.Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, parsley, oregano, black pepper and 4 teaspoons Parmesan cheese. Spread mixture on each slice of toasted bread. Place marinated tomatoes on 2 slices and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese.
4.Place on a baking sheet and broil for 5 minutes, or until cheese turns golden brown. Serve immediately, open faced or closed.

The recipe is from allrecipes.com

-Olive Oil

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Budget Extreme

Way to go Ramen Queen on your February food budget! February was a crazy month for us as far as groceries were concerned. I didn't make it to the grocery store except for a couple of quick trips. Part of the reason was I was out of town a couple of times, and super busy the rest of the time. By the time I did get to the store at the end of the month, I had most of my food money to spend and realized I could stock up on food, or I could buy seeds, plants and trees for my garden/yard. I ended up getting the latter. I admit, I'm a sucker for getting out in the yard and planting stuff in the garden when the weather becomes warmer. Plus I love buying seeds and plants. So I spent, (drum roll please), $102.07 on groceries, and the rest I spent or set aside for my garden. When I told my husband he said, "Why does that not surprise me?" But hey, I consider it an investment in food for the future.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Molten Lava Cakes

I realized I need to take some pictures of my projects... So today instead of a project - you get a dessert because desserts are good anytime! :)

This dessert is one of my favorites lately. They are super fast to make, only take about 20 minutes from start to finish, and use ingredients that are readily available. The only thing I don't like about them - they are gone too fast!

Presenting the.....

MOLTEN LAVA CAKE

MMMMmmmm - so good!!

They are like a little piece of heaven on a plate! You must try these TONIGHT!


Molten Lava Cakes
(makes 2)
Ingredients:

4 Tbsp butter (plus more for ramekins)
1 Tbsp flour (plus more for ramekins)
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips*
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
Powered sugar (for dusting)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Butter two 6 oz ramekins and dust the inside with flour.

Place the butter and chocolate in a glass bowl and microwave on high in 20 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg, egg yolk, and sugar in a medium bowl until thick and lighter in color, about 1 minute. Add the melted chocolate mixture and flour and beat until fully incorporated and smooth.

Divide the batter between the prepared ramekins. Bake until edges are set and center still jiggles slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Let stand for 15 seconds. Run a knife around edge, then invert each cake onto a plate. Dust with powered sugar. Serve immediately.

Making ahead tip - Refrigerate the batter in the ramekins for up to 1 day. Before baking, bring to room temperature.
Recipe from Woman's Day Feb 2011

*We've also used semisweet and milk chocolate chips. Just increase the baking time - 1 minute for semisweet and 2 minutes for milk chocolate.

Oh and fyi - they taste even better if your husband makes them for you! ;) (Jeff - you are the greatest!!)

The Results Are In

February is now gone and beautiful March is here.  I love the beginning of every month because it means a fresh new budget and PAY DAY!
Money

Last month I spent $201.43 for the grocery budget (not including any household supplies or personal items). I had a few things stored in the freezer to help keep the budget low, like cheese that I got on sale last year--November--and some beef Lee bought.

Some key things that help me stay in budget:

*Writing a menu before I go shopping
*Buying only what I need (sometimes I buy other things but I try not to stray)
*If I am not quite sure about how much everything is going to cost, I hold back items and see what the total is before I buy them. That way I don't have to ask to have the item voided--I just don't buy it.
*I look for coupons around the store...One luxury I have shopping on base is there are coupons all over.  I rarely get coupons on the internet and I don't subscribe to a paper to get them either (which those are GREAT sources!) 
*Lee eats lunch at home--we have either sandwiches or leftovers
*We don't go out to eat--we do go out to eat maybe 3 or 4 times a year and when we travel we like to stop at Little Caesars.  $10 for dinner for a family of 7, not bad while on the road.
*We don't buy extras, hardly.  I do buy apple sauce, animal crackers and pretzels at Aldi ($1 per box/bag) or cheese crackers at the commissary when they're a $1. Things like juice, lunch meat, cheese and yogurt are luxuries here. We have treats for Family Home Evening, Sunday night Conference talks and game/movie nights, but those are mainly things I bake from scratch; cookies, cinnamon rolls, brownies, etc. 
*I have a little food storage money set aside each month.  For March it's $30.  Someday it will be higher.  BUT, when fabulous deals come along, like cereal for $0.50 a box, I can buy a bunch and not worry about breaking the food budget!
Feb 23, 2011

The key though to all of this IS to have a budget and stick with the pre-determined spending plan.  Budget, budget, budget.

~Ramen Queen