Monday, January 31, 2011

Smashed Garlic Parmesan Potatoes

I also call these Lazy Garlic Parmesan Potatoes, because I leave the skins on. To be honest, I don't think I have ever peeled a potato.

Smashed Garlic Parmesan Potatoes
  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, cleaned, skins can be left on, cut into quarters
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • ¼ Cup Parmesan
  • 2-4 Tbsp. sour cream
1. Place the potatoes and garlic in a large soup pot and cover with water, at least 1 inch above the potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the salt. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until a fork can pierce easily through potato. About 30 minutes.

2. Carefully strain potatoes from water, but reserve about a cup of the potato water.

3. Place cooked potatoes and garlic in a large bowl, add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream, ¼ cup Parmesan and a couple of tablespoons of potato water and smash using a potato smasher. Add more sour cream and potato water to get to your desired consistency.

Tip - Rinse the potato smasher right away. It is not an easy tool to clean once the potatoes have dried.

I love Smashed Potatoes with pan sauce or gravy. On this night I served the smashed potatoes with Chicken Stuffed with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Spinach and Feta. But the potatoes are just as delicious without gravy and go very well with Turkey and Veggie Loaf. With these smashed potatoes as a side dish, the menu possibilities are endless.

Print this recipe.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:
This post is linked to:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Batch Griddling: Your Mornings Just Got Less Hectic

Our week day mornings just got a little less hectic.

I had 2 cups of pureed roasted butternut squash in the freezer that I wanted to use up. I found a recipe for pumpkin pancakes online and made two batches using the butternut squash in place of the pumpkin.

I flipped 2 dozen pancakes swatting little hands out of the way so they wouldn't get burned. Patience is a learned virtue.

Once the 22 remaining pancakes cooled down, I put them in freezer bags with a small piece of parchment paper in between each cake to prevent sticking.

Now on those hectic mornings, I can just grab the pancakes that we need and put them in the toaster or microwave them for a few seconds and breakfast is served.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

This post is linked to Works for Me Wedneday at We are That Family and Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Do You Track Your Cash Flow?

Do you know how much cash comes in each month? Do you know how much cash leaves every month? Do you know much you spend on groceries, gas for your car or even your mortgage?

I have used Quicken software since the mid-90's when I bought my first computer. Quicken lets me assign every transaction that I enter to a category. Except for the cash allowance that we allot ourselves each month, every dollar that comes in or is spent is assigned to a category. We have around 20 categories.

I work a budget around what comes in, what we spend and what I would like to spend, hopefully leaving some leftover to devote to more debt reduction or savings. It doesn't always work out in my favor.

Recently, I ran a report in Quicken to see what we spent by category for 2010. I then entered these numbers in Excel to get the percent to total for each category. Yes, I am a total nerd!

I wasn't surprised that our mortgage was our number one category at 19% of our spending. But I was surprised that the "Household" category was 9%. Our "Household" category could be anything from light bulbs to major home renovations.

I have a little investigating to do now. Thankfully, I can run a report that will list all of the transactions that I tagged as "Household". I'll be doing that immediately. It's been a long year and I obviously have forgotten about some of the purchases.

The Road to Financial Freedom
Do you want to head down the Road to Financial Freedom? Great, but if you answered NO to my first question in this post, I'm afraid you might end up spinning your wheels.

We have to know how much money is coming in and where it is going. Unfortunately money doesn't just grow on trees for us to use to reduce our debts or increase our savings. We have to either increase our income or reduce our spending. The latter always sounds really painful, but if you track your spending and know where the money is going, there might be some red flags that will make the job a little easier.

How do you track your cash flow? Let us know in the comments.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Menu/Grocery List Clipboard

I am a firm believer that every one's grocery bill can be pared down with just a little bit of organization and time involvement. If you take the time to plan out your weekly menu by looking at what you have on hand and what is on sale for the week at your favorite grocery store, you can bring your grocery bill down to a more manageable level for you and your family.

This simple routine might only take 30 - 60 minutes of your time each week, but it can save you a lot of time and money once you get to the grocery store. It you stick to your list you will keep yourself on task and hopefully avoid any impulse purchases that might sneak into your cart.

Every Sunday afternoon, I grab the newspaper, my recipe binder and my clipboard and plan out our week of meals.

I don't have a fancy print out for my menu and grocery list, I use the tons of notebook paper that I have in my office from the Back-to-School sales. I think I got most of it for free or mere pennies.

My Menu
On the left side, I list options for our breakfasts and lunches and then I list the days of the week with meals for each day. I list the days, because it gives me a good visual, but you can see I switched Monday and Wednesday, because I realized a scheduling conflict. I keep the menu flexible.

My Grocery List
On the right side, I list my shopping list. I refer to the recipes that I'll be making that week to see what is needed versus what I have on hand in the pantry, freezer or fridge.

I take the clipboard with me to the store and cross items off my list as I shop. I am infamous for forgetting things at the store, so this has helped cut down extra trips later in the week.

The clipboard is also handy for holding any coupons that I'll use that day.

I also have a very simple coupon organizer that I found at Walmart years ago. It is perfect for the amount of coupons that I use.

As a side note, I saw clipboards on sale for $1 this week at either Staples or Office Max.

How do you manage your menu and grocery list? Do you agree that with a little organization, you are able to keep your grocery shopping within your budget?

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sausage and Spinach Pasta

This dish only has 5 ingredients and they might even be ones that you keep on hand. This is a fast dish and my go-to meal for those hectic, busy evenings. It also happens to be one of my husband's favorite pasta meals.

Spinach and Sausage Pasta

1. Cook the pasta according to the box instructions.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and add the sausage. Brown the sausage, breaking it into small bite-sized pieces until cooked through.

2. Add the broth and scrape the brown bits off bottom of pan while stirring. The brown bits will stir in some flavor. Bring to a boil.

3. Add the spinach and cover to wilt slightly. Reduce heat and cook for about 2 minutes.

4. Remove spinach from heat and mix in with the pasta. When serving, top with Parmesan.

Print this recipe.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:
This post is linked to:

Friday, January 21, 2011

Odd$ and End$ - The "Seasonal Disorder" Edition

It has been a cold winter, but the forcast for Saturday in PA is a high of about 20 and the low at around 10 DEGREES. Blah,blah,blah

I just purchased 2 gardening books, so I'll spend the weekend snuggled under blankets dreaming of warmer spring between games of Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders.

Interesting Reads from Around the Web:

Food Around the Web:

Have a great weekend!

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Binder System for Organizing My Office and My Life

I am a binder queen. I keep binders for many different areas of my life: recipes, finances, workouts. They keep me organized and sane in the areas of my life where I could easily lose all sense of control.

My recipe binder is a very important part of my kitchen. It is full of recipes from magazines, friends, and online that I have collected over the years. Some people keep their recipes on the computer, but I prefer my binder with its well-used, splattered pages. The first page in the binder is a master list of my family's favorite, quick fix, healthy meals.

My financial binder holds my monthly to-do list, my yearly goals, our Family Balance Sheet, our family budget, and our business budget and statistics.

I keep separate binders for our Business Expenses & Statements, Business Taxes, Health Savings Account, Retirement, my passwords (with alphabet tabs), and Workouts.

PK (pre-kids), I trained and competed in sprint and Olympic distance triathlons. I am as slow as molasses, but I really had a blast and took my training seriously. Remember, it was before kids, so I had loads of time to train and workout. This year, I am contemplating running a half-marathon this year, so I got out my Training binder. I use this binder to store training plans, articles, and my training calendar.

I had to chuckle when I saw my training calendar from 2004, the year before our first daughter was born. I wrote "Loser" on June 24 and the funny thing is I remember doing it. I totally blew off my workout that day.

Aside from the large 4 inch binder for our office expenses, I haven't spent a fortune on these books. They were all bought during the back-to-school promotions at Staples or Office Max for about $1 each. I am a bit obsessive about them being all white. I find it visually calming. But I have seen a variety of binders at yard sales and thrift stores for pocket change.

Do you use binders to stay organized? Let us know in the comments.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Create a Monthly To-Do List To Keep Yourself On Task

Like everyone else, it always seems like I have too many balls in the air at once. I am a wife, mother, home manager, business manager for our small business, and a woman who would also like to read an occasional book or maybe take an occasional yoga class.

Around the time our second daughter was born, I found myself so overwhelmed and distracted that I missed paying the rent for our business office. I also got severely behind on some Quickbooks work for our business. Important tasks were slipping through my sleep deprived mind.

I had to refocus and basically suck-it-up. We are self-employed; no maternity leave for me.

I developed a monthly to-do list. It is broken down by my office jobs: business office, home office, and projects. It is filled with tasks that MUST be accomplished on a regular, timely basis. Tasks might be as simple as 'reconciling' or more complex like 'paying the payroll taxes'. I definitely have 'Pay Rent' on the list.

It is a visual reminder that I keep on my desk so I am able to glance at it daily. At the end of each month, I prepare the following month's list and make any changes for that month, but most of the tasks really don't change much, except for the 'Projects' list.

This simple, yet effective, list has saved me a lot of stress and time. I find great satisfaction in crossing off the tasks when they are complete...especially the 'pay the rent' task.

How do prevent those regular, yet important, tasks from slipping through the cracks?

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Kung Pao Chicken

Very easy to make.

Very yummy to eat.

Enough said.

Kung Pao Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz bag of frozen petite broccoli florets
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into small bite size chunks
  • ½ cup homemade chicken broth, or store bought
  • 2 Tbsp hoisin sauce - found in the Asian food section of your grocery store
  • 2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Tbsp coarsely chopped peanuts or cashews, optional

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add broccoli and 1 tsp ginger to pan. Stir and cook for 1 minute. Add water and cover. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove broccoli from pan and keep warm.

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan. Add 1 tsp ginger, crushed pepper and chicken. Stir and cook until chicken is cooked though and lightly browned.

Combine broth, hoisin, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and garlic in a small bowl and whisk together. Add this mixture to the chicken in the pan and bring to a boil. Stirring constantly. Reduce heat and stir until mixture thickens, a couple of minutes. Return broccoli to pan and mix together until well-blended.

Serve over your favorite rice and sprinkle with peanuts or cashews on top.

Print this recipe.

If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

This post is linked to:

Friday, January 14, 2011

Odd$ and End$ - One Pesky Virus Can Ruin A Snow Day

We had a snow day on Wednesday. And while it was fairly mild compared to last year's Snowpocalypse... daughter's school was still canceled.

    All I could think about was a day at home where I could get some things accomplished. Cookies needed to be baked, house work needed to be done, bills that needed to be paid, blog posts needed to be written and snow balls needed to be formed. Yes, I was looking forward to the day off.

    But this all came to a screeching halt when my youngest started to get sick around 10am and continued to be sick into the evening. My day was spent sitting on the couch with her in my arms and washing loads of puked-on laundry. She needed and wanted her mama and I realized that I needed to get over my anxiety that nothing was going to get done and just be in the moment comforting my daughter.

    As for my oldest daughter, she had the best day EVER, because she got to watch way too much TV as mommy was attending to her little sister.

    I did get a little web reading done and my babe is feeling much better.

    Personal Finance around the web:

    Food Around the Web:

    Deals From Around the Web:

    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

    Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy for more details.

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Planning for Christmas 2011

    Does the sight of a Christmas tree make you want to hurl? Does it make you cringe to even think about Christmas? I can just hear some readers screaming, "it is 347 days away for crying it out loud".

    What makes me cringe is realizing how much we spent on Christmas in 2010. Since we use credit cards for almost all of our purchases, we are paying the bills now for our Christmas presents. And even though we have the money to pay the bills off completely, I am still a bit queasy as I push the send button on my online bill payer.

    As an experiment, I switched to cash in 3 categories: groceries, dining out and clothing on January 1st. I have now decided to add gift giving to the list of cash categories. I added up what we spent on gifts for the entire year in 2010 and reduced that by 20%. I then divided that new number by 12 and that is the dollar amount that I am going to transfer to a savings account every month. I'll use that money through out the year for birthday gifts along with Christmas presents in December.

    I'm hoping that if I plan now, I'll spend less later.

    Have you started to think about your Christmas spending for 2011? It is only 347 days away.

    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

    Image: Paul /

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Six Hearty Soups for Those Blustery Winter Days

    When the weather outside is frightful, it's time to warm up with some hearty soup. Add your favorite bread and salad and your meal is complete.

    Most of these soups call for chicken or turkey stock. I make my own homemade stock, but you could use store bought. Don't let the idea of making your own stock scare you. It is very easy and it really stretches your dollar.

    Chicken Corn Soup

    Red and White Chicken Chili

    Easy Chicken Noodle Soup

    Chunky Potato and Leek Soup

    Turkey, Kale & Orzo Soup - The turkey can be substituted with chicken.

    Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup

    What is your favorite soup to eat on a cold winter day? Let us know in the comments and include a link to your recipe if you have one.

    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

    This post is linked to:

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Resolve To Lower Your Grocery Bill

    Did you resolve to find ways to reduce your spending for 2011? Your grocery budget might be a good place to start. There are tons of ways to reduce your spending in your kitchen. Here at Family Balance Sheet, we are always trying to find ways to trim the grocery bill without sacrificing quality and nutrition.

    Here are 5 popular posts on this site to help you reduce your grocery bill in 2011:

    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

    This post is linked to:

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    A Cash Experiment

    Apparently, consumers spend more when they use a credit card in place of cash. I have read about this over the years and while I can't find hard evidence online backing this theory up, I have decided to do my own study.

    We use a rewards credit card for almost every purchase we make. Every 12-14 months, we receive a rewards check for about $250 and put it into our vacation fund.

    While $250 is certainly nice, it really isn't a lot of money anymore. Could I save even more money if we stopped using credit cards altogether and started using cash? By using a credit card, has it become too easy to put an extra book, t-shirt or bag of pretzels into my cart? And that pesky Target now offers 5% off when you use their Target Visa card on purchases at their store. The check that I write at the end of every month to pay off the credit card is not so nice.

    How much money could we save if we start using cash? I have identified 3 categories that I am going to use cash for instead of handing over our credit card: groceries, restaurant meals and clothing. When I deposited our paycheck on Monday, I took out cash for these categories for the month.

    These are categories that I feel I can reduce our spending. I let our grocery bill creep up this past fall. We enjoy eating out for dinner once a week, but those bills have also gotten a little high. We actually spent less on clothing in 2010 than 2009, but after looking in our closets, I just can't think of anything that we truly need. They are all pretty full.

    My problem will probably be remembering to take the cash with me when I leave the house. I have used credit cards for so long that I'm not used to having cash in my wallet. I actually don't like carrying around a lot of cash. But I am committed to this experiment and I can't wait to see how well I do at the end of the month.

    How do you pay for your purchases? Cash or credit?

    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

    This post is linked to Frugal Friday at Life as MOM.

    Image: luigi diamanti /

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Keeping Your Eyes on The Financial Freedom

    I can still hear my dad saying to me, "keep your eyes on the road" as he was teaching me to drive when I was 16.

    I'm sure he saw my eyes wander as we drove past the mall or the Dairy Queen or a cute guy walking down the street. "Kris, keep your eyes on the road."

    Fast forward 25 years...the holidays are behind us and a New Year is upon us and I want to re-focus myself to my series and our goal.

    I want to keep my eyes on the Road to Financial Freedom.

    Care to join me?

    The Road to Financial Freedom - the Series
    If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:

      Monday, January 3, 2011

      Turkey and Veggie Loaf

      "More Please" is music to a mom's ears, especially when the dish is loaded with veggies. I found it in the newspaper years ago and it has been a family favorite ever since.

      Turkey and Veggie Loaf
      adapted from Southern Living Magazine
      • 1 medium onion, chopped
      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1 Tbsp olive oil
      • 1 cup shredded carrots
      • 1 cup Roasted Red Plum Tomato Sauce or your favorite tomato sauce, divided
      • 2 lbs ground turkey
      • 10 oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained well
      • 1/2 cup uncooked regular oats
      • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
      • 1 1/4 tsp salt
      • 1 tsp pepper
      • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
      1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for about 3 minutes. Add the carrots to the mixture and cook until the onion and carrots are soft, about 3 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

      2. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup tomato sauce, turkey, spinach, oats, seasonings, egg and the onion mixture. Mix together until well combined. I find it the easiest to use clean hands to combine this loaf mixture, as long as the onion mixture is cool enough to handle.

      3. Shape into a loaf or two. This can be made into one large loaf or I divide into two loafs and freeze one. Place loaf on a baking rack in a boiler tray or a baking pan coated with olive oil spray.

      4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce on top and bake for 10-15 minutes more or until a thermometer inserted at the thickest part registers 155 degrees. After removing from oven, cover loosely with foil and let it sit for 10 minutes.

      5. Serve with Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Potatoes and your favorite green vegetable and Enjoy!

      Great Freezer Meal: Once the loaf mixture is mixed up and before it is baked, I divide in half and wrap one of the halves in foil and then put it in a freezer bag to freeze. I pull the loaf out of the freezer the night before I want to bake it and let it thaw in the refrigerator. Follow the baking instructions above.

      If you would like to receive FREE updates of FBS, there are four ways to do so:
      This post is linked to: