Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't send those dried out carrots to the compost before you read this.

My family loves baby carrots with dressing as a snack, so recently I bought two bags that were on sale in a Buy One Get One Free promotion. But before we could eat them all, they dried out and just weren't that appetizing for any of us. The thought of throwing away an unopened bag and a half full bag drove me crazy, so...

I pulled out my handy food processor and zipped the carrots through the small shredder blade. And then I put the shredded carrots...

in a freezer bag and I put them in the freezer for future use. In the fall and winter I make a lot of soups, chilis and casseroles that I will throw a handful of the shredded carrots into. You just break off what you need. The more veggies I can add to our food the better.

I also did the same thing recently with some green and red peppers that we received from our CSA. I didn't think we would use the peppers before they went bad, so I chopped them up and put them in a freezer bag for future use in soups and casseroles.

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This post is linked to Tightwad Tuesday at Being Frugal and Tightwad Tuesday at Canada Girl and Frugal Friday at Life as Mom.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Shoe Fly Cake

...or muffins. I grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country where Shoe-Fly Pie is a specialty. While I like Shoe-Fly pie, I LOVE Shoe-Fly cake. It is another one of those recipes that takes me back to my childhood. My grandmother always made it for me because she knew how much I loved it. She sent it along every time I left for college and she made it recently for me for my birthday. She is such a good Nanny.

The starring ingredient in Shoe-Fly cake or pie is Molasses. The cake reminds me of a coffee cake. Actually I eat it a lot for breakfast or a mid-morning snack with my coffee.

The muffins...they are my experiment. Muffins are good portion control for us and easy to freeze. Portion control...who am I kidding, I ate 3 as soon as the cooled down.

Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, Snack, whenever you choose, just Enjoy!

Shoe Fly Cake

1 C Molasses
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 C. boiling water
4 C. Flour
2 C. light brown sugar
2/3 C. Butter (room temperature)
pinch of salt

Combine the Molasses, baking soda and boiling water. Let it cool while you mix together the remaining four ingredients in a separate bowl. This flour mixture will have a crumb texture. Set aside about 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of crumb mixture. Mix the two main parts together in the largest of the two bowls. Bake at 350 degrees, in a 13 x 9 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray for about 30 minutes. Sprinkle the crumb mixture, that you set aside, on top of cake and bake about 15 minutes more or until toothpick comes out clean.

If you do decide to bake muffins instead of cake, bake for 15 minutes, sprinkle the crumb mixture on top and bake for another 12 - 15 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean.
This recipe makes about 24-30 muffins, depending how you fill the muffin tins. I'd recommend filling the tins 1/2 full. I filled some too much and they baked over the pan.

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This post is linked to Tuesdays at the Table, Tasty Tuesdays at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam and Tempt my Tummy Tuesday and Friday Food at Momtrends and Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum.

photo: FamilyBalanceSheet.org

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Whoa Nellie! Put the brakes on that spending.

Have you ever had a month where you looked at your bank account and you wondered, wait just a minute, there should be more in there? Where did it all go? Well, we are having that month.

I was entering some transactions into Quicken and some $$ went here for that and some $$ went there for this and suddenly we have spent several hundred dollars more than I was projecting. Whether is was eating out too often or buying fall clothes that my oldest daughter needed or my surprise birthday party that I didn't know about, the spending this past month has really added up.

Fortunately, we have a slight cushion in our checking for unexpected spending, but I don't want to take that money for granted. We need to tighten up our belts and rein in the spending.

Did your spending catch up with you recently? Have you had to put the brakes on your spending?

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photo: familybalancesheet: courtesy of my daughter's scary pony collection

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Got Perennials? Fall is a good time to divide and save.

We have a long empty flower bed that would cost me a fortune to fill with store bought plants. I have a lot of echinacea and black eyed susans that need divided and fall is a great time to divide certain perennials. If you divide in the fall, you should do it 6-8 weeks before the first frost or the new plant's might not survive the winter.

The weather has been beautiful and sunny. It is in the mid-70's during the day and it dips to the low 60's at night. Perfect weather to divide over-grown perennials and replant in a new spot.

My new perennial bed. I made sure to leave some room in between the plants. I have a nasty habit of planting too close together.

This over-grown ornamental grass is in desperate need of a thinning haircut. But I just read online that the best time to divide ornamental grass is in the spring, so I will wait. This helpful chart lists the best time to divide many perennial varieties.

I figured I saved at least $30 by dividing my echinacea. If I use an average price of $5.00 for a container of echinacea (and that might be conservative) and I was able to create 6 new plants by dividing 2 plants. I will save even more in the spring when I divide the ornamental grass.

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This post is linked to Tightwad Tuesdays at Being Frugal and Frugal Friday at Life As Mom.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Turkey and Veggie Sloppy Joes

Are there recipes in your file that take you back to your childhood? My mom and nanny made sloppy joes a lot when I was growing up. But we didn't call it sloppy joes, we called it barbecue. I find that the word barbecue means different things to different regions. In my neck of the woods, barbecue and sloppy joes were the same thing.

Anyway...my nanny's recipe is very good, but I changed it a bit, by omitting the ketchup, and adding a can of tomatoes. The recipe also called for two onions, but I used one onion and one red pepper. I added garlic. The biggest change however is the use of ground turkey instead of ground beef. We don't eat beef, so I replace all recipes that call for ground beef with ground turkey. The result was hopefully a little healthier, yet still very tasty. My oldest daughter loved it. This recipe doesn't taste like my nanny's, but hopefully I am creating my own tradition.

Turkey and Veggie Sloppy Joes
adapted from my Nanny's recipe

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1-2 cloves garlic - chopped or crushed
  • 1 medium chopped onion, I used red, because that is what I had in the fridge
  • 1 red pepper - or green, whatever you have
  • 1 - 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes - I only had a can of whole and I pulsed them through my food processor. You could also use diced.
  • 2 T. vinegar - I used white balsamic, again use the type that is in your cupboards. My nanny probably used white or apple cider vinegar.
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard
  • 2 T. worcheshire sauce

    Heat a little olive oil (about 1 T.) in a large skillet and add the garlic. saute for about 30 seconds. Add the turkey, onion and pepper and cook until the turkey is browned. Break up the turkey into tiny pieces as it cooks. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until most of liquid had evaporated. There might still be some though. Stir frequently and make sure to scrap the brown bits that might be stuck to pan. I use a slotted spoon to put the sloppy joes onto the rolls.

    Complete your meal with Fries or Mediteranean Orzo Pilaf.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Women's Health Checklist for Turning 40.

This is the third installment of my Turning 40 Series. I am focusing on my health so that I can hopefully live a long full life with my family. I am an older mom of younger kids. I had my first child at 36 and my second at 38. I was 17 years old and a senior in high school when my parents turned 40. At age 40, I have a 17 month old. I need to take care of myself for my sake and my family's. I want to grow really really old with my husband and be around to watch our kids grow up and their kids grow up.

A Women's Health Checklist for Turning 40:
  • Apparently one of the biggest health risks for women in their 40's is cervical cancer. My mother was diagnosed with it in her early 40's and was treated successfully with a partial hysterectomy. I was 18 at the time and I have gotten an annual pap test every year since then. I will continue to do so and encourage ALL of my female readers to get an annual pap test as well no matter what your age.

  • It is mammogram time! I received a letter from my doctor's office a couple of months ago telling me that "The US Preventative Services Task Force recommends that all women have a baseline screening mammogram at age 40". Women of all ages should perform monthly self breast exams. I have my annual pap appointment next month, so I will ask for my 'script' to get a mammogram. Who knew turning 40 was going to be so much fun!!

  • What does your family medical history look like when your elders hit their 40's? Heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes run in my family. Granted, I am not a smoker and I am not over-weight, but I still need to take care of myself to hopefully prevent these diseases. I have always exercised regularly and I think we eat fairly well, but I could always make improvements.

  • Osteoporosis is another big health risk for women in their 40's. I am a runner and swimmer, but I have never been regular at weight-training. For my bone health I need to start a weight training program. Also, at my annual pap appointment next month, I need to ask the doctor if I should be taking a calcium supplement. I eat lots of green leafy vegetables and dairy, but is it enough? How much do I need?

  • Reduce stress and anxiety. Exercise has always helped me to reduce my stress level. I am just now starting to get back into a regular running routine after a 2 year hiatus. For me a sweaty morning run helps to clear my head.

Reference article: Biggest Health Risks for women in their 40's

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, just a gal who is turning 40...and proud of it. Please consult your medical professional with any of these issues.

Turning 40 - The Series:

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Financial Checklist for Turning 40.

This is the second post of my Turning 40 series. As I stated in my first post, I am turning 40 this fall. I read somewhere online that turning 40 is kinda like half-time in a football game. You have already played the first half and now you have to plan for the second half...of life. Hopefully I live longer than 80, but turning 40 is definitely a time to reflect on my future. But thinking of my financial future includes my husband, so this check list is really for both of us.

When will we retire? What do we want our retirement to look like? Will we stay where we live now? Do we want to become snow-birds and fly south in the winter? Will we travel? Will we work, volunteer, or both? Now is the time to dream a little.

A financial checklist for turning 40.
  1. Get the debt under control. Our mortgage will be paid off in eight years, but we don't have a plan for our next vehicle when the need arises. And my husband's student loan is still out there sucking the wind out of my sail.
  2. How much money will we need in retirement? Are we saving enough? I used this retirement savings calculator and realized that even though we max out our Simple IRAs, we may not be saving enough for when we retire. Be prepared, because the calculator will ask you questions like, "what percentage of current income do you want to replace?", "how much retirement income will you receive from social security and pension?", "how much retirement savings do you have now?" Do you keep the statement you receive a few months before your birthday from the Social Security Administration? That is where you'll find information about what they are projecting you to receive from Social Security.
  3. Are our retirement funds allocated properly? I always thought I could accept some risk, but after watching our funds drop so much in the past year, I am not so sure. I didn't stop investing in our IRAs though, I guess I have been buying the funds on sale. I have always been a sucker for a good sale.
  4. Will we contribute to our girls' college education? How much do we need to save?
  5. When the kids start school full-time, will I go back to work full-time? See #1, #2 and #4...I'm thinking that is a YES.
  6. What career path will I take? My work experience is in retail. I'm not sure I want to go back to that. I guess it is a good thing that I have a few years to ponder this question.
  7. Are we properly insured with life insurance? Should we look into long-term care insurance? I can't be that OLD yet... am I?

We are left with more questions than answers, but a place to start. Why is financial planning a constant process??

To my 40+ year old readers out there, do you have any additional items for my financial checklist that I might be missing?

Turning 40 - The Series

Disclaimer: I am not a financial professional. Please contact a professional if you need help planning your future financial needs.

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photo: familybalancesheet.org

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Preparing for my BIG 4-0.

This fall is a big season for me. I will celebrate 9 years of marriage and 18 years together with my husband, my oldest turns 4 and I turn 4-0...yikes...I can hardly say it or even type it.

A big milestone and a time everyone wants to remind me that I am getting old. OLD, I don't feel OLD. I don't think I look OLD. So why do people insist on turning 40 as being turning OLD.

Anyway, my 30's were awesome. I got married in my 30's and had both my kids in my 30's. But it is time to say good-bye to that decade and I am genuinely excited about where my 40's will take me. It is also time to evaluate where I am in my life and where I want to go.

Turning 40 Series:

I hope you enjoy.

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photos: familybalancesheet.org

Monday, September 14, 2009

Mediteranean Orzo Pilaf

I had never even eaten Rice-a-Roni until college when my roommate made it for me. I thought she was a gourmet cook when she added chicken to the rice while it cooked and voila...chicken and rice dinner. Wow, I was so impressed. I didn't know a thing about cooking back then and I didn't really have an interest to cook. But I made that chicken and rice dinner many times after that thinking I was really cooking.

Anyway, fast forward many many years and I love to cook and do so mostly from scratch. I haven't eaten Rice-a-Roni in awhile, but I made this Mediterranean Orzo Pilaf and it reminded me of the Rice-a-Roni, except this dish is made with fresh tomatoes and spinach, feta and Kalamata olives. I love anything that has Kalamata olives. They are a treat for me. I won't buy canned olives anymore. I can't do it. They just don't compare to the real thing.

Mediterranean Orzo Pilaf
adapted from San Giorgio

2 tablespoons olive oil

8 oz. uncooked orzo - (my box was 16 oz, so one box will make two batches)

2-1/4 cups chicken stock

1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup chopped fresh tomato

1 cup fresh spinach, cut into thin strips

2 tablespoons finely chopped Kalamata olives

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat, add orzo. Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 3 minutes.

Stir in stock and seasonings; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered 10 minutes. Stir in tomato and spinach; cover. Cook 5 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed, STIRRING OCCASIONALLY to prevent sticking. Stir in olives and feta cheese.


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This post is linked to Tasty Tuesday and Tempt my Tummy Tuesday and Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and MomTrends and the Festival of Super Foods Broth/Stock Recipes at Kitchen Stewardship.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Goodbye Summer, Hello Routine.

My family had a wonderful summer filled with trips to the pool, picnics, playdates, the beach, bubbles, ice cream, fresh garden food and for me and my husband - an occasional Corona light with lime on our back patio once the kids were in bed. My kids stayed up late and slept in. They were filthy by bedtime so the only routine to our day was a bubble bath at the end of it.

I completely abandoned any type of routine this summer. I had built one during the last school year because my daughter was in preschool 2 times a week. Those two precious mornings kept me somewhat sane. I would drop her off and rush home to get my baby down for her morning nap. I took that time to do chores, computer work, office work, etc. I felt productive.

Then summer hit and the sun was calling us outdoors. I tried to establish a routine, but usually I let the summer weather plan out our day. If it was sunny, I was hanging laundry, brewing sun tea and greasing the kids up with sunscreen. The kids headed out the door to ride bikes, swing or splash in the sprinkler.

It really was a great summer, but now my oldest starts preschool 3 times a week after Labor day and to be honest I am looking forward to a little more structure. Our Family Balance Sheet was probably a little lonely this summer. Our bills were paid on time, but I got away from my usual analysis and planning. My house will hopefully look more organized and clean. It's not that I was lazy this summer, but my priorities shifted. I wanted my kids to have a really fun summer and by the end of the day I was spent. After the kids were in bed and my Corona was gone, I was exhausted. To tired and uninterested to face any type of computer or household project.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall.
Fall is a big season for my family: 3 birthdays and our wedding anniversary. We love to go to apple festivals, orchards, and pumpkin patches. My oldest daughter is very excited about starting preschool again. I am very excited to have a routine again.

How was your summer? Did your routine go by the wayside? Are you looking forward to Fall?

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