Link UP Week: Penny Pinching Party

link up week

Last link up of the day everyone, this one is about saving a little cash and it comes to you from The Thrifty Home. She has so many great ideas {as do her fellow party attendees} on great ways to save cash without limiting yourself. Do yourself a favor and check out her blog if you haven’t already. More specifically, check out the links that have been shared in her weekly Penny Pinching Party.

 http://www.thethriftyhome.com

You may not know that I am currently reading the fantastic and terribly intimidating book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right On The Monday. Basically this rock star family of 7 has found a way to live off of $350/month in groceries. Yes, I’m flabbergasted. And nowhere near their success I might add. BUT, the few chapters I have read have definitely sparked the desire to find ways to be thrifty, one of which I’m super excited about and thought was worth sharing.

Backstory: when Z first went on the 17-day diet I started looking for new ways to get creative in the kitchen without breaking his dietary restrictions. One of our fall-back dinner choices was turkey patties but I didn’t want them to be the same boring patty each time so I started experimenting with ingredients. Adding this, substituting that, you know the drill. It was then that I fell in love with sun-dried tomatoes. I put these little bites of heaven on EVERYTHING now! Homemade pizza, in meatloaf, in my spaghetti sauce, you name it. The funny thing is, I’ve never really been a tomato fan but these are like culinary crack! They are delish and I would eat them with every meal if I could. I would also be eating out of our car because I would have spent all our life’s savings on buying the darn things! Holy mother are they pricey. The good kind at least. So I decided I had to find a way to keep my tastebuds happy without going over the grocery budget. ENTER PINTEREST AND YOUR GLORIOUS GLORY!

I stumbled upon a pin from Better Hens and Gardens for HOMEMADE sun-dried {oven-dried} tomatoes. Hallelujah.

Just grab some cherry tomatoes – cheap-o at any grocery store. Slice them in half and lay them face up on a baking sheet.

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Put them in a 200 degree oven for 6-12 hours. YES, 6-12 hours.
This is how easy this all is… slice em’ and forget em’. The time it takes will depend on how large your tomatoes are. Mine were on the small side so it only took them around 6-7 hours. Leave them alone as long as you can and check on them at around 6 hours to see how they are doing.

Once they are done you can easily pop them in a zip lock back and straight into the freezer… Me on the other hand, I wanted to add some extra good ju ju so I separated the tomatoes into smaller freezer cups. {I used to use these for Keelin’s homemade baby food, great buys at the dollar store}

Then I added a mixture of olive oil and my favorite spices – garlic, salt, pepper, paprika, oregano. THEN I popped them in the freezer.

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You can do these in big batches and store them away in individual portions to use whenever you need them. For most recipes you don’t even need to defrost them, just toss dump them into the saute’ pan with the rest of the veggies and prepare for a party on your tastebuds. Plus, it’s far cheaper than spending $4.00 on a single jar of the good stuff at the grocery store!

Join Jen and share your own Penny Pinching tips!

Until next time…

Link UP Week: Now Bake This

link up week

Happy Monday ya’ll and welcome to Day 2 of link UP week! Hopefully you caught a glimpse of yesterday’s link ups {Sunday Social and Raising Imperfection} but be sure you check them out if you didn’t! Did anyone participate? Let me know!

To kick the week off right I thought I’d join Heart on Homestead and Peachy Plum for a little baking fun in their lovely {semi-new} link up aptly titled Now Bake This.

Now, since the hubs and I have been consciously trying to eat healthier, and considering Lent started last week, I haven’t been doing a whole lot of baking these days. Lucky for you and the sake of this link up, Keelin is NOT counting calories and I’ve been looking forward to sharing this amazing recipe for the perfect toddler snack. I originally found the recipe on Pinterest {duh… follow me yo!} and thought, why not finally make something I’ve pinned?!? And so I did. Allow me to introduce the brilliant, simple, and delicious mini banana pancake muffins, compliments of Once A Month Mom.  Holy yum, these things are the best. I’ve given you the link to her original recipe, but because I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to what my kid puts in her belly, I did a little tweaking. Not to be confused with twerking. Please do not twerk while you bake… things get messy enough as it is.

Moving on…

The first time I gave this recipe a try, I made a few adjustments just to cut back on the sugar. {i.e. I halved the amount of syrup it called for and replaced it with more water} They turned out great, were slightly less sweet, and Keelin loved them. Win.

The second time I tried a few too many adjustments and while they were still good, and Keelin didn’t complain, they were a little mushy for my taste. Kids are messy enough without having to scrape gooey pancake batter out from between their fingers. Lesson learned: while trying to add natural sweetness by using sugar-free applesauce, make sure you compensate with dry ingredients or it’s mush city for your mini muffins. Mostly win.

This third time I totally {not totally} changed things up and just rolled with the punches. It’s the same basic recipe, with a Sara spin. I decided to document my journey to share with you today. BIG win. Enjoy.

*Disclaimer – while I’ve provided measurements, a big part of the final result was just eyeing things and making sure my mix wasn’t too soggy.

Step 1: ingredients

1 to 1-1/2 cup  “just add water” pancake mix.
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup no sugar added applesauce
a dash of cinnamon {totally optional – unless you live in my house in which case the answer is, ALWAYS add cinnamon}
fruit of choice

GASP – yes, I cut out the syrup all together. This was partially an intentional choice because I wanted the fruit and applesauce to be the source of the sweetness. And it was partially happenstance because I was out of syrup and did not feel like going out in 30 degree weather to get more. In the end, it was a great choice.

Step 2: mix it up
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Combine pancake mix, water, applesauce, and cinnamon. Feel free to add more pancake mix {I did} if it looks too watery. The applesauce is deceptive in it’s ability to really juicy things up. Then add the fruit. I used blueberries and peaches in this batch but used variations of banana, strawberry, raspberry, mango, and pineapple in the past. Whatever floats your fruity boat.

Step 3: pour it out
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Pour into greased mini cupcake pan {Or if you are feeling frisky, you can use mini cupcake liners}. Be sure to wipe off the heinous drip marks if you plan on taking pictures for blogging purposes. {guilty}

Step 4: bake it good {preferably while listening to “WHIP it good…}
Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown. I also recommend using the toothpick test to make sure the center is nice and cooked.

Step 5: bask in the glory of your baking excellence
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Totally legitimate step.

Step 6: cool and cooler
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Let cool before removing from muffins and freeze.

Step 7: rock it
Pop out a few mini muffins as a part of breakfast or as a light snack and let your kids’ love for you grow every time. GOSH, what an awesome mom you are.

Let it be known that I realize these things are easy and delicious enough that you can make them for yourself, but since mine are mostly for my little one I’m focusing on the parental perks of the recipe! Have you tried these before or do you have another simple toddler snack recipe worth sharing? Please do. And if it involves baking make sure you link up with Jessica and Maria for Now Bake This, every Monday!

Until next time… 

Think I forgot about a really great link up? Let me know what party I should join in the comments!

Fatty Fatty Tuesday

 

Happy FAT Tuesday everyone!

Since yesterday’s post was long and loaded I figured I’d lighten things up today. As you know, today is FAT TUESDAY and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday which kicks off the celebration of Lent.
Even before I converted to Catholicism I practiced Lent.  Well, more dabbled than practiced, but I liked the idea of sacrificing something in my own life in preparation for Easter Sunday so it generally consisted of giving something up. I remember being really inspired by a friend of mine who gave up chocolate, cheese, AND soda one year in high school. I thought she was bonkers for doing all three at once {I would not survive without cheese} but I decided that since I’m a self-proclaimed chocoholic it would be beneficial to try to give it up. Boost the self-control, cut back on the sugar. Easy enough, right?

Wrong.

While I made sure all of the chocolate was out of the house , there was one thing I forgot about. I had a morning ritual of swinging by the WaWa that was ont he way to school {when I wasn’t running late} and grabbing a cup of coffee. Well, a cup of sugary caramel latte. And so that I didn’t have coffee breath during school I would grab a ‘king size’ Andes mint up at the register.

Andes mint = chocolate.
High school Sara = unable to think clearly before 3rd period.
Lenten chocolate fast = screwed up on day 1.

Yes, I failed my very first Lenten fast by forgetting that Andes mints are not just mints, but CHOCOLATE mints. I’m awesome.

So, since I’d already failed on day 1, I figured I may as well just scrap the whole ‘no chocolate for 40 days’ thing and enjoy the month+ leading up to Easter. Next year I’d try again.

The next year rolled around and I was determined to make my chocolate fast work!
Day 1 of Lent and I’m feeling great about my chocolate-free decision, I’m JUST barely going to make it on time to school so there’s no chance of me “accidentally” eating an Andes Mint from WaWa. So I grab my bag, grab a Slim Fast shake {the breakfast of champion high schoolers who refuse to wake up any earlier than they have to when school starts at 7:25} and am on my way to school. I feel a sense of pride as I come up to the light at the previous year’s point of failure {aka WaWa} and smirk to myself thinking, “I can’t believe I just ‘forgot’ that I was eating chocolate last year – what a bonehead I was”, as I take the last gulp of my Slim Fast shake. My CHOCOLATE Slim Fast Shake. As I choke on that final gulp, realizing that I’d repeated my mistake for the 2nd year in a row, and admitting that I was, in fact, STILL a bonehead, I continued on to school.

You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t just bail on Lent all together that 2nd year, and although there were at least 3 other times in the span of 40 days when I realized I was  accidentally eating chocolate, I did make it to Easter at least TRYING to keep my fast.

Needless to say fasting didn’t really happen for the next few years, and if it did it was interpreted quite loosely.

Now that I’m a confirmed Catholic and far more mature and disciplined than I was in high school, Lent is something I really enjoy participating in, and take pretty seriously. Last year the hubs and I fasted from sweets together. He also fasted from alcohol but since I rarely drink I just stuck with the sugary sweets. It was tough, I was jones-in for sweet tea and Nutella, but we got through it and I went into a full-fledged sugar coma once Easter came around.
This year we’ve decided to cut out the sweets again and as a change of pace I’m going to try to add some things into my daily routine. Prayer is something I could always use more of in my life so that’s one thing I’m really going to highlight over the next 40 days {hopefully forming a pattern that will last far beyond Easter Sunday}. Since I’ve stopped dancing and spend most of my time IN the house with Keelin I’m also going to make a point to increase my physical activity. Thanks to the world of iPhones I’ve added a few yoga and Pilates apps to my phone and plan on setting aside time each day to engage my body. NOT only that, but I’m going to limit the amount of time I have the TV on during the day. When you’re a WAHM it can get kind of boring. No offense to my kid, who is a blast, but 3 hours of playing with tupperware can drain a mama, so it’s not uncommon for me to have something {movie, tv show, etc} playing in the background throughout the day. Keelin has her own Sesame Street time but I’ve been disappointed in myself at how much that background noise has grabbed my main attention over my daughter or my work. No good. Has to change. Commencing change now – well tomorrow.

SO… now it’s your turn to tell me about your Lenten adventures. Are you giving something up? Adding something to your daily routine? Do you have a Lenten FAIL story like mine worth sharing? How do you keep yourself on track for 40 days? TELL ME TELL ME TELL ME!

Until next time…

Don’t forget to join me for the upcoming Link UP Week! A full week of fantastic link ups to help find new blogs, learn about each other, and generally have fun!

link up weekLet me know if you are planning on joining me so I can give you a shout out the week of and check in on your link ups! Here are just a FEW of the link ups you can expect during Link UP week.

It’s Ok Thursday – A Complete Waste of Make Up and Brunch With Amber
Craft-O-Maniac Monday – Craft-O-Maniac
Fill In The Blank Friday – The Little Things We Do
Social Sunday – Ashley’s Carnival Ride and A Complete Waste of Make Up

Do you have a favorite LINK UP that you don’t see on this list? Let me know what it is so I can join in on the fun!

17 Day Diet: POWER COOKIES!

I’ve never been a fan of diets, mostly because of the lack of sugary sweets. If you ask me, dessert isn’t a special addition to a meal, it’s a part of the meal. Z shares my love of sweets, so it’s been tough for him to say BYE BYE BYE to that last part of our meal. Especially when he has to sit next to me while I eat straight from my pint of Ben and Jerry’s. I’m so mean.

BUT, he didn’t give up and went on a search of a diet friendly dessert. Enter Dr. Mike’s POWER cookie! They aren’t the average cookie but they are quite tasty and friendly to your waste line.

Its a lengthy and unique list of ingredients… on the pricier side but you only use small amounts of each so it will last you for a long while!

1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil
10 packets of Truvia
¼ cup agave nectar
1 large egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup vanilla whey powder
2 cups oats
1 cup dried cherries
½ cup sliced almonds

yum!

Mix applesauce, almond paste, flaxseed oil, Truvia and agave nectar.

Add egg and vanilla.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, pepper and whey powder and slowly incorporate into egg mixture.

Stir in oats, almonds and cherries.

Spoon out evenly on non stick pan. its a sticky batter so don’t expect them to flatten to a ‘normal’ cookie shape.

Bake at 350 degrees for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown.

ENJOY!!! These are actually the right amount of sweet to finish off a meal and are even great as a breakfast treat. Me and my sweet tooth approve.

Any ‘healthy’ desserts you feel good about ending your meal with?

Join the Round UP