This is one of my go-to recipes on busy nights. I call it "Cheater Dumplings" because it is so much faster than making the soup from scratch but you still get the homemade dumplings (which are the best part of the soup anyway, right?!) You can use any type of canned soup, but at our house we buy el cheapo brand of chicken noodle soup. This is also a great meal to stretch a budget. The dumpling recipe is from my grandma, so you know it's got to be good!
2 cans soup
2 cans water
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons oil
Pour soup and water into a large pot. Bring to a boil. Mix all the dumpling ingredients together until just moistened. Drop by teaspoon atop bubbling soup. Cover tightly. Reduce heat. Don't lift the cover. Simmer for 12-15 minutes.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Saturday, October 25, 2008
Lately I've been thinking about two of the creative women in my life--my mom and my grandmother.
My mom is an amazing woman. She taught me to sew. Any time I get stuck on a project, I call her and she tells me some brilliant solution. She made us the most amazing dress up clothes as kids...I had an authentic Cinderella dress including the black choker, headband and blonde wig, and my sister and I had matching mermaid suits. In high school, she made my prom dresses. I showed her a picture from a magazine and said, "Make this, but pink." and she did! Not only does she make amazing things, but she's taught me how to do it on a shoestring. She is the queen of bargain projects. Right now she's got curtains in the works made of the most gorgeous sheer fabric from the dollar bin. Yeah, mom! You rock! Here is a picture of my wedding dress, which she made. Or should I say SLAVED OVER. The bodice is made of beaded lace that frayed every time she cut it. She basically had to hand sew each bead back in place as she went. If that ain't true love, I don't know what is!
Grandma is the Queen of Crochet. Seriously, she is so talented. Look at this cute cow she made for me as a Christmas present one year. I think my sister got a cat that is equally as cute. Aren't we the luckiest grandkids ever?!
She made this gorgeous afghan when my son was born. If you could reach out and touch it, you would know why I love it. It is made from soft, shiny, beautiful yarn. When I wrap this blanket around me, it's as good as a hug from Grandma.
I always dreamed of Grandma crocheting my wedding dress (but that didn't end up happening because I lived too far away to have it fitted to me. Plus a crocheted wedding dress might just weight 100 pounds). Instead, she crocheted my daughter's blessing dress. Isn't it beautiful?! It has sparkly threads and pearls all over. I treasure this dress.
Why do I craft? Well, for a lot of reasons. But I guess you could say that it just runs in my blood.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Aside from saving you money, dried beans can actually be tasty. Nothing beats home-cooked refried beans on a warm tortilla. Yum! Here are some of my favorite bean recipes. Please feel free to share any good bean recipes you have! And just for good measure, I included a picture of lentils for those who've never cooked with them before.
1 1/2 cups lentils, sorted and rinsed
water to cover
1/2 lb. hamburger or turkey burger
1 chopped onion
1 quart tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2-3 tsp. granulated beef bouillon
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. chili powder
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. basil
Cook lentils in water 45 minutes or until tender. Brown meat with onion. Drain. Add to lentils along with remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer about 15 minutes. Add a little water if chili is too thick.
Savory Black Beans and Rice
2 cups dry black beans
6 cups water
1/4 lb. bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes
3 cups hot cooked rice
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Place beans in large saucepan with 6 cups water; bring to a boil; boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat; allow to stand covered for 1 hour. Drain; set aside.
In large pot, cook bacon until golden brown. Remove bacon and all but 2 TBSP drippings. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender. Add 2 cups water, oregano, rosemary, thyme and pepper. Add drained beans and bacon.
Bring to a boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours. When beans are tender, add salt and tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Serve over rice and sprinkle with grated cheese.
A few notes about cooking dry beans:
Dried beans cook faster if they are soaked. Cover beans with 2 inches of water, soak them overnight, drain, and then cook according to your recipe. Or try the quick soak method: Cover beans with plenty of water, bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover tightly and let them sit for 1 hour. Then drain and cook as usual. If you have hard water, try adding 1/4 tsp. baking soda to the cooking water to help beans soften. Also, do not add salt or acidic food, like tomatoes, before the beans are cooked---it interferes with the softening process.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
My sister called me today and said, "I have a few questions for you since you are the thriftiest person I know. What do you do to save money on groceries?" She then told me that she checked my blog and there were no tips. Well, Sis...this one's for you. Here's how groceries work at our house.
1. Plan a weekly menu. The night before shopping day, I choose 7 dinners for the following week. I go through my cupboards and inventory what I already have and write down what I need to buy to make the meals. I try to have one meatless meal each week to keep costs down, since meat is the most expensive part of the meal. If one meal is more expensive, I try to compensate by planning a cheaper meal for another night. If I know I will need to buy an expensive item (like a bag of flour or stock up on meat), I try to plan all cheap meals so I stay below the weekly budget. I also make sure to think about breakfasts, lunches and snacks when making my shopping list.
2. Cut out cold cereal. Seriously, it's so expensive and you're hungry five minutes after you eat it anyway. I am NOT a morning person, so a hot, home-cooked breakfast just ain't gonna happen at our house. So we eat oatmeal. I buy it in 25 pound bags. It's so cheap, nutritious, and filling. If oatmeal isn't for you, try making muffins, quick breads like banana or zucchini bread, or a huge batch of waffles to freeze. They heat up perfectly in the toaster. Homemade Eggos!
3. Make things from scratch. To me, the biggest rip off at the grocery store is Rhodes rolls. Homemade rolls are easy to make (especially with a bread machine or stand mixer), taste better than store-bought and cost next to nothing. You can save so much money by making your own cinnamon rolls, breadsticks, muffins, etc. I've even made my own french bread, bagels, and English muffins. Since I've got more time than money, I stay far away from convenience foods.
4. Cut back on meat and cheese. If a recipe calls for 1 lb. of hamburger, try using 1/2 or 3/4 lb. instead and add more "filler." Fillers include potatoes, rice, pasta, beans, etc. Cheese can be really expensive too...so use it sparingly. Add just enough to give the flavor.
5. Eat more beans. They are nutritious, filling and super cheap. Beans will also help reduce the amount of meat needed in a recipe to make it satisfying. Dry beans are the least expensive, but they do require planning ahead. I make my beans in the crock pot, and they take all day. But I always make a HUGE batch and freeze meal-sized portions. I'll post some of my bean recipes later.
6. Don't buy junk food. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you! Chips, snacky foods, juice, soda, and candy can add SO much to the monthly grocery budget. I just don't buy that kind of stuff. Some day when we are done with school, I probably will buy some, but limiting junk food is a very quick way to see smaller grocery bills.
There are plenty of other ideas on how to save money on groceries. I know women who have a years supply of toilet paper, cake mix, and deodorant that they got for free using coupons. Growing a vegetable garden and learning to preserve the food is also a great money saver. If you have any great ideas, please post them here! I'm always up for new ways to save a little mu-lah!
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
I love Halloween. To me, it's a holiday that is just about having fun. I love dressing up, going Trick-or-Treating, having parties, and most of all eating candy! I'm sewing costumes for our family this year (which I haven't started yet...yikes!) so stay tuned for those. But in the mean time, here are some cute little monster cupcakes I made today. Thank you, Creative Kismet for the fun idea! Happy Halloween everyone!
Friday, October 10, 2008
It's been way too long since I scrapbooked. I made an 8x8 album for my sister's baby shower this summer (which I totally forgot to photograph), and that's the last time I've done anything. That may be a personal record for me! I guess I just lost my mojo. But it's back! I pulled out a pile of half-finished projects today and finished most of them! I'll be posting more pictures later, but here's one for now.