2 years ago today…

There must be something about the day after Christmas because 2 years ago today was the last time I posted anything on this blog. Here I am again, the day after Christmas, without an idea as to when the last time I posted was until I logged on. In short, I’M BACK!!!

I’m not going to pretend that I will pick up right where I left off because a LOT has changed in these past 2 years. For one, I’m married now, have a acquired a 3rd dog (I’ll have to tell you that story later), have moved back to Tacoma (which is something that I never thought in a million years that I thought I would do), graduated from USC and am now an MSW, a LICASW actually. I have a kid in high school now, too. Lots of changes.

Now that the holidays are mostly over, I find myself reflecting on what to do now. I am thinking about how I am going to clean up my diet after all of the cookies, pies, and other goodies these past couple of months. I am also thinking about how to clean up my finances because I don’t know about you all by I spent a lot of money on gifts this  year. I am grateful that we’ve been blessed with the ability to give nice gifts to the kids and our family members but still, it was a lot. Man, kids’ gifts get more expensive as they get older don’t they? On top of that, my grace period is ovnew year new me BSer and I have to start paying back my student loans (eek!).

Ok, now, please be advised that this is NOT a “new year, new me” manifesto. Those are annoying, no offense. I am making a promise to myself that I will do more of what I want to do from now on. What are those things? Well, cooking and blogging of course. Grad school kicked my ass and sadly I have not been cooking as much as I used to. No cooking, means no blogging. So there will be more blogging, too. Running. I have had “half marathon” on my list of things to do for about 5 years now. That’s just ridiculous and indicative of the how many excuses I have given for why I have not done it yet. This post is already getting long so I’ll spare you those. Travel. Now that I’m back in the PNW I have to make to Canada this time. I say this time because during the 12 years I lived here before I never went (I know, a shame).

For the first matter of business, I will be coming back with a new project to overhaul our finances like I was saying earlier. We are like most American families and have a ton of debt. Most of it is mine from student loans and I won’t tell you how much because I’m embarrassed to but I will tell you I should have about 6 master’s degrees by now with the amount of student loan debt I have. We also have a bit of credit card debt from our wedding. What does this have to do with food? The grocery bill, duh. I am super meticulous when it comes to tracking our bills but other than bills I am lazy when it comes to our spending and that includes groceries. So, to remedy this, I am considering going to the envelope method where I will budget out our expenses and put cash into the respective envelopes. I’m wondering who else have actually done this and have it work. I see a million Pinterest pins from people who explain what it is and how it worked for them to pay off a trillion dollars in debt in a year but are they for real? That can’t be real, can it? Irregardless (I know that’s not a word leave me alone) I am going to try it and see how it goes.

The budget for groceries for our active family of 4 is going to be – drum roll please – $500. Is that insane? No seriously, I want to know. I did a quick calculation in my head, and I think that’s about how much we spend. I am going to take out $200 every 2 weeks and use the last $100 as a buffer so we don’t go over. Whatever is left over I guess can roll over into the next month, or we can save for a nice dinner out or something.

Ok so that’s about it for now. You will be reading a lot more from me and could really use any suggestions on how to lower costs for food for a busy family. That’s if anyone is reading this… Oh well, if you’re not. See you soon!

Manny’s hash browns

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Like mother like son. My son, Manny, loves to cook. Today he made his famous hash browns for an afternoon snack. He used three large russet potatoes, bell peppers, hatch chile, garlic, green onions,white onions and cilantro. We cooked them first with the top on the skillet and then the last few minutes with the top off to let them crisp up. I enjoyed mine with a Blue Moon and it was awesome.

Success! Cheesy Potatoey Goodness

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Success!  I have conquered scalloped potatoes au gratin and am inspired to make them again – but better! I would  definitely add more cheese on top because I like them to be a little more cheesy and a more substantial “crust” on top. I am thinking about putting in some finely chopped oyster mushrooms between layers of potatoes. Bacon or pancetta would be good, too. The possibilities are endless! All in all they were really easy to make and are perfect for a Sunday night dinner because they do take a while in the oven.

 

I researched several different recipes and ultimately came up with my own recipe. I started out with Ellie Krieger’s recipe but I used 2% milk instead of 1%. I warmed the milk with whole garlic cloves to infuse the milk rather than have actually garlic chunks. I also used this awesome Gruyere Cheddar cheese blend I found at Trader Joe’s. I also decided not to cook the potatoes first and put them in raw instead. My recipe follows.Image

Ingredients:

1 3 lb bag of gold potatoes or some other yellowish waxy potatoes

1 – 2 cups grated cheese – I used this Gruyere-Cheddar blend but any semi-hard cheese would probably do

3 cups 2% milk

two garlic cloves, whole

one sprig of thyme

dash of nutmeg

salt to taste

oil spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

2. slice the potatoes about 1/4 inch thick with a mandolin

3. warm the milk in a saucepan with the garlic cloves, thyme, sprinkle of nutmeg, and salt

4. Grate the cheese and set aside

5. Spray a baking dish with the oil spray and arrange about 1/3 if the potatoes on the bottom of the pan and sprinkle on some cheese. Repeat until all the potatoes are arranged in the dish. Top with the last bit of cheese.

6. Pour warmed milk over the entire thing. It is going to seem like a lot of liquid but, trust me, the potatoes soak it all up. Remember that when you are adding salt to the milk mixture  – you’re going to want to put more than you think.

7. Bake covered in foil for 45 minutes then take out, take off the foil, and put back in for another 25 – 30 minutes. Let cool and (if you can wait) DIG IN!

And that’s what I did! Yum!

Vegan Holiday Kitchen

Vegan Holiday Kitchen.

This is a must have for your cookbook collection – vegan or non-vegan.

The Shepherds Pie is sooooo good! I make it all year and it freezes really well if you wanted to put it in individual ramekins (?sp).

8-Day $20 Challenge

Image I have over spent my budget on food this month and now I have 8 more days in my credit card billing cycle and only $20 left for food. Do you think it will last? I have some food in my pantry and refrigerator but I am going to have to get really creative. I need to  plan on breakfast for one (me), dinner for two, and lunches for just me. On the weekend, though, I’m not sure how that is going pan out.

I’m at work thinking about what I am going to make for dinner and stressing out a little bit. I do have plenty of rice in the pantry, also a half a box of pasta, some canned beans, tortillas, and dried lentils. I have some tomatoes and romaine lettuce that I bought yesterday. I also bought apples, oranges, and bananas yesterday. I have plenty of condiments and spices, too. As I list what I do have, I realize that there are options there.

Today is day one of the 8-day challenge. I know I will not need to go to the store to buy anything today but I don’t know what will happen in three days.

I have been following some really great blogs about cooking on a budget. I am going to explore and search recipes! Also, if you have any tips please feel free to share them. I thank you in advance!

Let the challenge begin!

This is me having fun in the kitchen

This is me having fun in the kitchen

Ahhh the joy of the small kitchen! This small kitchen forces me to be creative with my use of space. I think that’s what I like about it and I’m certain there are even smaller kitchens than mine. I have such a blast cooking, experimenting, and making a mess! I took a moment to take of picture of this moment because I was having so much fun cooking and using my kitchen tools that I didn’t notice the huge mess I made.

I have some ideas to make this kitchen more functional but I am not sure if I am going to be moving in the next month or two, so I am holding off on making any major changes. Who knows? Maybe my next kitchen will be a small one, too.

Deviant behavior and chipotle ice cubes

 

I confess, my progress in weight loss was quickly stunted by my indulgance in some delicious enchiladas espinacas (spinach enchiladas) from our favorite Mexican place here in Tucson, Guadalajara Grill, last night. They came drowning in cream sauce and monterey jack cheese. Needless to say I feel heavy today and a little guilty. Well at least I didn’t order the house margarita like I usually do! Baby steps.

Usually when I over indulge, I do not wake up very easily the next day and today was no different. Instead of starting the day with a nice cup of hot lemon water and fruit to start the detox process, I had some Greek yogurt (pumpkin flavor) and two Trader Joes Joe-Joe cookies (the Jackolantern-faced ones) for breakfast with my coffee. I think my stomach is mad at me now because I hear it yelling at me. I’ll make it up to you, Stomach, I promise!

So my plan for the rest of the day is to show my stomach and body some love and enjoy some tasty fruits, veggies, and brown rice. I have to go out for lunch because I didn’t prepare my lunch since I woke up late. Maybe hit up Whole Foods? For dinner, it is going to be brown rice, steamed veggies, and kale salad. I am going to try to get in for some yoga tonight at 8:00 pm but we’ll see – I’m dragging today big time.

Last night, after I woke up from my food coma, I cleaned out my fridge to be able to fill it with wholesome lovely foods when I found an opened can of chipotle in adobo sauce in the back of my fridge. Oops! I use it for a chili two weeks ago and completely forgot to properly store it in another container. Then in my cheese-induced funk, it dawned on me to freeze what was left in ice-cube trays so I can keep them already divided in the perfect amounts in the freezer. I went ahead and lined the tray with plastic wrap and put one chipotle pepper with some sauce in each slot. It perfectly filled six slots. That’s 6 chili recipes worth! I have no idea if it will work out once it is frozen or if I will even be able to get them out. We will see tonight and I will show you the pictures.

That’s all for now. I feel better now that I confessed my deviance from my diet and feel more motivated to get back on track. Until next time…

I’m back!

It was a long week last week but ended on a high note of my official acceptance letter to an MSW program. I celebrated by having wine and pizza with my friends. I really enjoyed showing my friend Monica how to make pizza dough and bake a pizza from scratch. It was her first time and when she ate her creation said, “I am never buying a ready made pizza again! This is delicious and was so easy to make!” It was the best compliment ever. I think if I had a choice and money was not an issue, cooking and blogging would be what I would do all day every day. I would do cooking classes out of my house and have dinner parties every week. Unfortunately, money is an issue and so I chose the wonderful world of social work for a career. Thank goodness for blogging so I can share my love for food with whoever wants to receive it. 

I am catching up big time on all my food adventures from the last week. I have some really great photos to share and some yummy food to show you. Love, me.