Friday, January 10, 2014

Pizza Stir-Fry

I came up with this recipe a few months ago, and it has quickly become a staple meal in our household.  It's low carb and grain free.  I make it at least every other week.  It is my husband's favorite meal, and he asks for it frequently.  Even our picky daughter eats it happily with no complaints.  And I must admit, it's to die for. 
I saw a recipe on another blog for pizza stir fry sometime last year.  I tried it, and frankly I did not like it.  Then months later, the thought crossed my mind again and I realized how I could make it better.  When I say it's unbelievably good, I'm not just saying it.  I literally could not believe how good it was.  Here is my recipe. 
 
Pizza Stir-Fry
2 6 oz boxes breakfast sausage links, cut up into small pieces
1/2 package pepperoni, cut up into small pieces
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup organic pizza sauce
1 cup mozzarella cheese
Coconut oil
 
Start by melting a healthy amount of coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the peppers and onions and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add the sausage and pepperoni and stir-fry until heated through.  Add pizza sauce and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Dish up and sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.
 
(If you don't have one of these I highly recommend getting one.  Not just for this recipe, but if you ever chop vegetables for stir fries, casseroles, crock pot freezer meals, or anything, this is a HUGE time saver.  It also can chop meat, cheese, etc.  But I don't need to go on and on about it, these babies sell themselves.)
 
Oh, and the good thing about this recipe is that you don't have to follow it exactly.  You can use a little more or a little less of any of the ingredients, and you can add or subtract things to your liking.  If you like mushrooms on pizza, you can add mushrooms, and so on, and so on.  I promise you won't even miss the bread.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Marshmallows for Sore Throat Relief

I recently discovered this little gem... Not long ago I woke up with a sore throat, which was the first sign of my 3rd cold of the season (2nd cold within 6 weeks)... ugh!  I happened to remember seeing something online awhile back about eating marshmallows to relieve a sore throat.  I just happened to have some on hand.  I didn't really expect much, but to my surprise, they made my sore throat completely disappear!  I'm not sure what it is that makes them work, but they certainly do.

Eat a couple handfuls and your throat will feel so much better!  It feels like soft, tiny, fluffy little pillows cushioning your throat as you swallow them.  Don't believe me?  Just give it a try next time you or your child has a sore throat!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

How to Save Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons


I used to do the whole couponing thing.  I definitely wouldn't call what I did Extreme Couponing, but I was pretty into it.  I would go out on Sundays and buy X newspapers, and then go through them and cut out any and all coupons that I had any small chance of using.  I would spend hours cutting out and organizing the coupons.  Then I would scour through weekly grocery store ads and coupon match sites just to find the best deals.  That was only the beginning.  There was so much planning, organizing, and time involved.  And you know what I ended up with?  A huge stockpile of items that I didn't need.  Not to mention 90% of the items that have coupons are pre-packaged, processed foods that no one really should be eating.  Now, two years later, I find myself going through that stockpile and throwing out almost everything.  OK, so I did use some of the stuff I bought.  But it wasn't nearly worth all of the time and effort I put into it.  I am a full time working mom, and frankly, while I do want to save money, I have much better things to do.  So, over the past year or so, I have come up with a hassle-free method of saving money while grocery shopping.  It takes very little time and planning, and I feel so great after coming home with a trunkful of groceries for around $60 knowing I didn't waste any time.  Wanna know how I do it?
 
1.) BUDGET
I know it's easier said than done, but trust me, setting a budget and sticking to it will save you a LOT of money.  I highly recommend using CASH ONLY for groceries.  Decide how much you will spend each month, and take the cash out of the bank at the beginning of the month.  Put it in an envelope and don't use any more than what is in that envelope.  I had been doing this for several months when I realized that I was left with very little money for my last grocery trip of the month.  So I started dividing my grocery budget by 4, and making that my weekly grocery budget.  That way you can balance out your money for the month much better.  You're a lot more likely to be more careful with your money when you know you only have $X to spend on that particular grocery trip.
 
2.) USE A GROCERY LIST APP
If you have a Smart Phone, get a grocery list app!!!!  This is by far the best app I have downloaded since I have had my phone.  I use Out of Milk for Android.  Not only does it help with organizing your lists, it also allows you to enter the price and quantity of the items you are buying.  I always make sure to enter the prices and quantities of everything I buy, that way I know almost exactly what my total will be when I get to the checkout.  Otherwise, I could go over my budget, and I would have to choose whether to put some things back and be embarrassed, or just go ahead and buy the extra items just to save face. 
 
3.) SHOP AT A DISCOUNT STORE
This is a big change that has saved us a lot of money.  Once we changed grocery stores, we started paying 30-40% less every week.  And this is without the use of any coupons.  Around here, we have Aldi, which has been a total lifesaver.  I really wish I would have started shopping there sooner.  When I was younger, someone told me that Aldi was a store that sold the garbage that other grocery stores threw away.  I guess I didn't have any reason not to believe it at the time.  I found out when I was much older that this is not true at all.  Aldi carries mostly their own store brand, and then they have a few items that are overstock from other stores.  Their store brand is high quality, and most items taste the same or better than the name brand.  (The only thing we didn't really like from Aldi was their cereal, but we don't eat that kind of stuff anymore anyway.)  When I first started shopping there, I only went once every couple of months to stock up on non-perishables.  But when I realized how much money it was saving us, I started shopping there every week for our full grocery list.  Shopping at a store like Aldi does take a very small amount of extra work and planning ahead, but all you have to do is remember three things: (1) Bring a quarter. (2) Bring cash and (3) Bring your own bags.  Not hard to do at all!  Especially if you are using cash only for groceries anyway.  Oh, and you do have to bag your own groceries.  But that isn't a big deal to me.  They have a counter set up for people to bag groceries, and since you are using your own, durable, reusable grocery bags, you can fit a lot more into each bag.  It sure beats tracking down and cutting out coupons every week!
 
4.)  PLAN MEALS
This is probably a given, but there are still a lot of people that don't do it.  I use my own weekly menu planner which has helped a lot over the past year.  It makes it really easy to see what our meal options are at a glance, and put together our weekly meal plan quickly.  Go through each meal/recipe and add the ingredients to your grocery list.  Then remember to think about what you will need for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks, and add those items too.  At one point, I found that I was forgetting about things like snacks and lunches, and then I had to run out to the grocery store mid-week, causing me to spend extra money.  Also think ahead about what you have planned for the week.  Do you have to make cookies for a bake sale?  A picnic or potluck dinner?  Do as much planning ahead as possible.  It will make your life easier.
 
5.) DOUBLE CHECK YOUR LIST
This is another small and simple task that takes very little time, but can save you a lot of money.  After you have finished making your list, go through and see what you can delete.  There are probably a few things that you notice right off the bat that you don't really need.  Then take it a step further.  Take your list to your pantry and freezer and check to see if you already have some of the items on hand.  I always find at least 2 things I can cross off the list by doing this.  This saves at least a few dollars, and maybe more depending on the cost of the items.  And by doing it every week, it will save you a few hundred dollars per year.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Closet Organization: Easy Wrapping Paper Storage

I mentioned in my last post that I am on a spring cleaning/organizing/nesting kick right now.  It's amazing how much unneeded junk you find in your house once you start going through closets, drawers and cabinets.  I can't believe how much space we have been wasting just from storing old papers, empty boxes, broken stuff, and stuff we haven't used since we got married (nearly 8 years ago!) Anyway, once you sort out what you actually need from the junk, it can be fun to get everything organized and put away neatly.  One thing I still needed to keep in my hallway closet was wrapping paper.  But my wrapping paper collection looked a little something like this:
 
The rolls kept falling on the floor and getting tangled up and/or smashed by other things in the closet (usually the vacuum cleaner).  I did have a large plastic wrapping paper organizer, but the wrapping paper never fit in it very well, plus it took up a LOT of space.  So I came up with this genius (if I do say so myself) idea to keep my wrapping paper neatly organized in the same place, and it takes up only inches of space:

I just measured the side of my closet and bought 2 inexpensive tension rods which are easily installed with no nails or screws.  Now all of my wrapping paper is in one place.  It will stay neatly on one side of the closet and won't get in the way of anything else.  And there is room for plenty more, so I can stock up the next time there's an end-of-season sale.  I was pretty proud of myself for thinking of it!  You could also store wrapping paper the same way on the closet ceiling.  Anyway, I am making some good progress on my hallway closet.  It's not completely finished yet, but it's close.  I forgot to take "before" pictures to show how far it's come, but I will still share the "after" pictures when I'm done. ;)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Organizing the Never Ending Mail Pile

Wow... has it really been 2 months since I've posted?  Sorry about that... I guess I'll chalk it up to the winter blahs, some unexpected events, and the fact that I was in my first trimester of pregnancy.  Yep, we are expecting #2 this August!  Now that I'm safely in my second trimester, the nesting instincts are starting to set in, and I have been doing a lot of organizing and cleaning.  I have been trying to clear out our spare bedroom, which will of course be the baby's bedroom.  What I have found out about clearing out one room is that you end up having to clean out and reorganize the entire house, just to make room for the extra stuff from that one room.  So, one thing leads to another, and the entire house gets cleaned and reorganized.
This organizing project is not directly related to clearing out the baby's room, but it's something I think most of us struggle with: the never ending mail/paper pile.  I have tried to get this under control for years and I always fail.
 
(This is not all of it)
 
First I tried the file cabinet method.  I bought a file cabinet with the intent of filing away each piece of mail/paper immediately.  Well, that never happened.  Then I got this smaller, desktop sized file box thinking I could just keep the important paperwork in there.

This worked slightly better, but I found that if I put something important in there that needed to be dealt with (like a bill) I would forget about it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  So I accepted that the mail pile was something that I definitely needed.  But then, I found that even within the mail pile, things were getting lost and forgotten.  And I knew that there had to be a better way of organizing it so that it didn't look so messy.  So, I implemented two things:
 
 
One, I started using binder clips so that I could put like things together.  For example, I clipped all of my bills together.  If I get another one, I can just add it to the rest.  That way, none of them get lost and I will have all of them together where I can see them and not forget about them.  I also clipped all of our tax paperwork together, all of my daughter's preschool papers together, etc.  You get the idea.
 
Two, I put what was left of the pile in this basket that I already had.  It is just the right size to hold the mail pile, and it also holds it upright so I can easily go through it and see what is there.
 
So I am hoping that this method will work well for me and that I can keep up with it.  It certainly seems easier and more doable.  How do you control your mail pile?  I would love to hear in the comments below...


Saturday, December 8, 2012

2 Minute DIY Infinity Scarf

This project is so fast, easy and inexpensive, you will feel bad for not making it sooner!  I know I did!  I am actually being pretty generous by saying it takes 2 minutes to make.  It will only take that long if you take your time making it.  All you need is an old, seamless t shirt (preferably size L or larger) and a good pair of scissors.  Make sure the t shirt does not have any seams.  This would not work well if you use a shirt with seams.  If you want a specific color scarf, check out your local thrift store.  They should have every shade of every color of t shirt.  Also keep an eye out for cool patters like this purple tie-dyed one I found at Goodwill.
 
Step One:
Cut the bottom hem off of the t shirt, then cut across underneath the sleeves, making sure to also cut underneath any wording or designs.
 
Step Two:
Find a partner and play tug-of-war with the scarf until it is stretched out to the max.  If you don't have a partner, you can loop the bottom of the scarf around your foot and then stretch it over your head with your arms.
 
DONE!
That had to be one of the easiest projects I have done yet!

I plan to look for more cool t shirt patterns the next time I go out thrift store shopping.  These scarfs are too cool and too easy not to make!

 


Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole

This is a wonderful, healthy alternative to a potato casserole.  I grew up eating this as a hash brown casserole, but since I ditched the high-carb diet, I replaced the potatoes with cauliflower, making it a delicious vegetable side dish.

You will need:
2 10 oz packages of frozen cauliflower
2 cups sour cream
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick of melted butter (real butter only!)
1 can cream of chicken soup (I make my own)
1/2 cup chopped onions
Salt and pepper
 
 
Let the cauliflower thaw just a little.  Cut it into small, hash brown-sized pieces.  Spray a 9x13 pan (or two 8x8 pans) with cooking spray.  Pour the cauliflower into the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, mix all of the other ingredients together in a bowl.  Pour them over the cauliflower.  Place the pan in a 350 degree oven and bake for one hour.
 
Let cool, then serve!

This is a hearty, delicious, cheesy side dish that goes great with fish, steak, or pork chops.