Saturday, August 21, 2010

Kung Pao Shrimp

I love spicy food. And even more than that, I love the combination of sweet and spicy. Which has led me to a love affair with Asian food. However, I have found there are only a few places I like to order from...which leaves me making most of my Asian dishes at home. I also like healthy, so making it at home allows me to see what's going in it...

This is a recipe I tore from the pages of a magazine and altered to suit my taste. It was really yummy, and healthy enough to be served on my table...

Kung Pao Shrimp

1 T. Chinese Rice Wine
1 t. cornstarch
1/2 t. salt
1 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp (I like the large shrimp)

1 T. sugar
2 T. water
1 T. balsamic vinegar
1 T. low sodium soy sauce
3/4 t. cornstarch
1/2 t. dark sesame oil

Remaining Ingredients:
2 T. canola oil
1 1/3 C. thinly sliced red bell pepper strips
1 T. minced garlic
1 T. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 t. crushed red pepper (or to taste depending on your heat tolerance)
1/4 C. chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
3 C. hot, cooked brown Jasmine rice

1. To prepare shrimp, combine first 4 ingredients; cover and chill 10 minutes
2. To prepare sauce, combine sugar and next 5 ingredients (through sesame oil).
3. Heat a med to large wok over high heat. Add canola oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add bell pepper, garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper to wok; stir-fry 2-3 minutes. Add shrimp mixture to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Stir sauce; add sauce to wok. Stir-fry 30 seconds or until sauce thickens. Serve over rice. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Mmmm...I'm hungry,

Friday, August 6, 2010

Is That an After? Wait...what? Two Afters?

So, I'm not always great at finishing my projects. I start a lot of them....and then get distracted with new ones. This annoys my Type A husband. But I can't help it.

However, in the last few weeks I have wrapped two of these projects. I won't lie, the extra kick in the pants came from us putting the house on the market...but whatever. They're done.

The first was this kitchen I bought for Heidi Sage for her birthday back in March. There were a number of things that kinds of halted progress....a vacation, a major back surgery for Rodney, and then all of a sudden Clinton was out of school. And then it was hot outside. Ugh.

Anyhow....this is what I started with...

Then I took it apart, sanded it down, and primed it.

Then I repainted and reassembled it.
I still have a few details left to finish out, but that won't happen until the kids start school in the fall. For now, it is what it is....and we love playing with it just as it is.

And I was also able to finish up another laundry room! The builders had finished it out with a cream colored paint and put in a wire shelf for "storage". After years of hating, I finally came up with a plan. I wanted real storage, I wanted a desirable color, and I wanted a curtain that could close it all off. My laundry room is a pass thru to the garage, and sometimes I don't like people coming through to see my now I can close it off.

My neighbor had a left over gallon of paint that was just the color I was looking for....Sparkling Sage. Rodney and I dropped the kids off at his sister's one day while we painted....together. My parents put up the cabinets while we were in Vail...big thanks to them! I recently painted the unfinished cabinets to match the trim. And Mother made the curtains for me out of some table cloths I found on clearance at Target, with a strip of some fabric I found at one of my favorite fabric stores. I love the way it turned out...

Two down, twenty seven to go,

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Breakfast Pizza

I make scrambled eggs almost every morning. Heidi Sage loves eggs and toast, and Clinton has taken a liking to scrambled egg sandwiches. I, on the other hand, needed a fresh take.

This was my take on a Breakfast Pizza.

Preheat the oven to 400. I started with 1 clove of garlic, which I put through a press and let sit in about 2 T. extra light tasting olive oil. While that meddled together, I cut up a few grape tomatoes and about 1/2 of a green onion.

I then took my whole wheat pita and spooned a little of the garlic and oil on, just enough to cover most of the surface minus a 1/2" border, I didn't use all the garlic. I topped it with about 1/4 c. shredded Italian style cheese.

I then got started on my scrambled eggs, while two children screamed at me from their seats that they were hungry. Sorry, I'm trying to hurry!

I put my cheese covered pita in the oven and let it cook until the cheese melted. Once it came out, I topped it with my eggs, tomatoes, green onions, and some crushed red pepper.

It was delish. And a nice little mix up in the breakfast line-up.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Pajama Purchase

We here in the Williams' house are frugal shoppers. I'm a practical person by nature. And Rodney is a SAVER. So our shopping budget is not large...but that doesn't mean we don't do cute.

Pajamas are something I don't like spending a lot of money on. And for the most part I haven't had to...because my mom has kept us pretty well stocked. But recently I noticed Clinton's pj's were getting a bit short and Heidi Sage's pj's were Christmas and Valentine themed.

I started looking around. Seeing as I hadn't bought many pairs of pj's, I hadn't really priced them. Did you know you can spend $48 for 1 pair of kid pajamas....ONE PAIR! But I'm not raising royalty, so my kids don't wear those.

I had it in my head that I shouldn't have to spend more than $10/pair. And overall, I didn't want to spend more than $100.

I found on the Target website, I could get 2 pairs in a set for $12....that's $6/pair. Fit my budget.

If I ordered $50 worth, I got free shipping. Awesome. I ended up getting Clinton 3 sets (or 6 pairs) and Heidi Sage 2 sets (or 4 pairs). With tax and everything I ended up at around $65.

I then headed over to Little Miss Matched. Their toddler girl pajamas were on sale for $6/pair (marked down from $25/pair). The smallest size was a 2/3T. I decided they might be a bit big but would work, so I ordered one of each of the three designs. (They fit nicely, with enough room to last us at least through the fall.)

I also found a pair of pj's for myself for $10 (marked down from $80). These are no longer available, but mine look really cute on me!

I checked out tax free but with a flat rate shipping fee of $5.95. I totaled out at around $35.

So I totaled right at $100, never left my house, and had 14 pairs of pajamas. This averaged $7.14/pair including tax/shipping. Mission accomplished.

The best part was the kids loved their new duds. Clinton loves that HS's pj's from LMM don't match. He thinks it's so funny and likes to tell me all about it.

How cute are these little boxes the Little Miss Matched pj's came in??

Kids sporting their new night wear.

Clinton proud of his new stash.

Heidi Sage not caring much, but still looking cute.

Frugal but provided for,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mmm-Mmm Good In the Morning

This morning I woke up and I was hungry. REALLY hungry. And I wanted muffins. And ONLY muffins.

That's one of the tortures of being pregnant--your stomach is telling you it will only accept foods that, quite frankly, your body doesn't feel like making.

But my stomach won. I got up and went to the pantry only to devastatingly discover I didn't have any muffin mixes on hand. my choices were to create a scene so dramatic that Rodney would volunteer to go to the store to get me a muffin mix, or better yet an already made muffin, OR I could get online and find a recipe.

I'm a considerate, loving wife who already had a long "Honey Do" list for the day, so I opted for the recipe search.

I went to my girl, Martha (Stewart), and she had tons and tons of muffin recipes. I finally came across one that I had all the ingredients for and it seemed as though it would fit the craving that had taken over my body.

It was Coffee Cake Muffins. And if you ever need an indulgent breakfast, or something to take to all your skinny friends at brunch, or you want to impress someone with your baking should try these. Two sticks of butter are what make me want to share these with my skinny friends...."Get some meat on your bones, already!" (Or fat on your ass!) I've been pregnant for the last three years and am tired of looking at all these little bags of bones. :-)

It's important to note it calls for a JUMBO muffin pan. This is why there are no pictures of mine. I didn't notice that small detail and mine went running all over my oven b/c I still used all the batter. So mine were ugly, but they were SOOOOOOO good.

Also, it calls for 1 cup of sour cream. I was about 1/2 way into my recipe when I realized the 8 oz. container of sour cream only had about 2 oz. left in it. So, I found some plain greek yogurt and dumped that in and was still about 1/4 c. short. So, I topped it off with some Vanilla Yo-Baby yogurt. So, my point is...feel free to substitute yogurt for the sour cream. But make sure if it's a vanilla yogurt that it is made with real sugar and not artificial sweeteners...they get bitter when baking.

Let me know if you try them. And know that if I show up with them at your house, then I think you're too skinny!

Fat and full,

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cake Balls - The Road to Insanity

Have you ever agreed to a project that you were very excited about, but found out about halfway through that maybe you would have rather agreed to poke your eyes out with a fork??

Me, too.

About a year or so ago, we ALL started planning a wedding. My sister Chelsea's wedding. During some discussions it was brought up that Brian's favorite kind of cake was not really cake, but cake balls. And somewhere in that discussion it was decided that the groom's cake should be made of cake balls. And somewhere else in that discussion we came up with a figure that would be needed based on how many cake balls Chelsea can eat in one sitting. And from that point we moved forward to see what it would cost to order each guest the number of cake balls that CHELSEA can eat in one sitting. And through that calculation we came up with a cost of approximately $4,000. Gasp.

First mistake--don't ever base anyone else's eating capabilities on what Chelsea can do. She eats like horse and looks like a freakin' bean pole. You see, Chelsea can eat 8 cake balls in one sitting....yes, EIGHT. And when you break it down, that's 1/3 of a cake. No one....and I mean NO ONE eats 1/3 of a cake at a our calculations were a bit off. But it was too late....we had run with them...

So, anyway....somewhere in all those discussions, I agreed to make these 600 cake balls. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

But you see, Bakerella had made it look so easy. You just bake...then shred....then mix....then roll....then freeze....then dip. Easy peasy pumpkin pie, right?

So, for the past year every event I have gone to where I have been asked to bring something, I have taken cake balls. I've made cream cheese cake balls, red velvet cake balls, chocolate-chocolate cake get the picture. But making one batch of cake balls is much different than making 600.

Here's what 616 (plus the dozen or so eaten by bystanders) cake balls look like prior to a careful, artful creation. The amount of ingredients alone should have been a huge red flag....but I was still in that, "I'm so happy to do this for my baby sister and her hubby-to-be" state of mind.

I spent two straight days of baking 16 cake a kitchen that's under construction, no less. Not sure I'll ever bake another cake again...maybe just pies from here on out. :-)

During those two days, I also shredded each of the cakes and mixed them with the appropriate flavor of icing. We had Chocolate-Peanut Butter and German Chocolate...the groom's two favorite flavors. Happy to oblige, I was.

I spent a whole third day doing nothing but dipping and topping my little prizes.

To be honest I only dipped about 550 of them, because we didn't have enough boxes to pack them in...but I still like the ring of 600, so I tell that story.

After carefully packing each of the hand rolled, hand dipped treasures into their boxes, we packed them in coolers so they could stay unmelted during the 400 mile trek from my parents' house to Austin. I was just glad I didn't make those in Nashville and try to board a plane with 600 cake balls and two toddlers...can you imagine the crazy that would have come out of my eyes?

Anyway....I was feeling really good about myself for having finished such a big project and being able to contribute such an important piece to the reception. I realize it wasn't "THE Wedding Cake", but it was the Groom's it was almost as important.

But I'll have to admit I was a bit taken aback when I saw the presentation of the cake balls. Actually, I'll be honest...I lost my breath for a moment. I had been informed that the cake balls would be resting beautifully on a tiered platter. I had imagined 200-300 of those sweet puppies being displayed at once....oh, what a grand presentation that would be.

I walked in looking for this tower of perfection. I looked left. I looked right. I looked around the room about five times and there was not a single grand tower of chocolate anywhere. And then over in the corner, barely peeking up off the table, I saw it. A small tiered platter that held no more than 37-39 cake balls at a time. A sad little tear trickled down my cheek... could this really be? Did I slave for three days hunched over an endless supply of cake balls for such a small display that was so easy to miss?

Indeed, I had. I wiped my tear. Remembered this day was not about me. And headed upstairs to help the bride button 427 buttons down the back of her dress.

I will say, the compliments about the cake balls throughout the night were endless, and greatly appreciated. We, of course, over estimated our audience's cake ball consumption by about 450, but the cake balls were passed on to others and joy was spread beyond the walls of just our celebration....

And isn't that what life is really about? Sharing the love... Indeed it is.

To see more great pictures of this beautiful love affair, check out my other blog or my sister's blog.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wow! I Impressed Myself.

Okay, I promise not to use this as a platform in which I congratulate myself on a job well done at the grocery every week, but today was a huge milestone for me. I saved more than I spent....way more!

Ready for this??

Spent $53.54

...and I saved....

(insert drum roll here)


This, my friends, is a savings of 66%. This is not something I've been able to master on a regular basis (obviously), but I'll take it when I can get it.

I had one HUGE ticket item that contributed to such savings....and can you believe it came in the form of FORMULA?? Here's how it happened...

Regular Price $18.99
Sale Price $16.49
Mfg Check $(7.00)
Coupon on can $(5.00)
Food Lion Coupon $(2.00)
Paid $2.49
(I wasn't sure about stacking a Manufacturers Check with a Manufacturers Coupon AND a store coupon, but they said the check doesn't count as a I stacked away.)

I also got 3 bottles of Aleve (20 ct.) for free. A bottle of Tylenol for $.99. A box of Jolly Time popcorn for free. 2 packs of Stayfree (Reg. $6.39) for $.99 each. And Oral B toothbrushes for $1 each.

I then headed over to my local ALDI to check out their fresh produce. This is a generic grocery which I was unsure about, but the blogs I read always talk about how cheap and good their fresh produce is. And, wow, was it!

1 pint grape tomatoes $.69 (compared to $3.99 at my grocery)
Tri Color pack of Peppers $1.99 (compared to $3.99)
Avocadoes $.69 each (compared to $1.19)
8 oz. Mushrooms $.69 (not even sure what the price is at my grocery)
3 lb. Bag of Braeburn Apples $1.69

I also got milk for $2.19/gal, cheese for $1.69/8 oz., and butter $2.00/4 sticks.

(Note--ALDI can keep prices low, because overhead is low. You must bring your own bags, which I do anyway, and deposit a quarter for your cart. You get your quarter back when you return the cart.)

All in all, I felt quite proud of myself. By the end of the day I had spent less than $75 and I shouldn't have to go back to the store for at least a week. Not quite to my $40/week goal, but I'll get there!

Pinchin' pennies,

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Heart Chili When It's Chilly

Several years ago, Rodney and I discovered our favorite chili recipe. However, it takes about 24 hours to make and it requires ordering a kit from the internet. So, needless to say, we only make it for special occasions.

I'm happy to say I recently discovered/altered a recipe we love. While I have a few original recipe credits to my name, it's not my specialty. My specialty is taking existing recipes and changing things here and there to suit our tastes.

If you're looking for an easy, healthy, delicious chili recipe, you're in luck. I have one...and I'm sharing it. The original recipe came out of a Cooking Light cookbook, so it is quite healthy. But I may have counteracted that with the biscuits I made to go with it and the cheese and sour cream I covered the top with. :-/

Chipotle Red and White Bean Chili
- 2 small yellow onions, chopped
- 1 - 1.5 lbs. lean ground beef
- 2 red bell peppers, chopped
- 1 Taco Seasoning pkg. (1.25 oz.)
- 1 can Mexican style Rotel
- 1 can tomato sauce (8 oz.)
- 1 can light red kidney beans (15 oz.), rinsed and drained
- 1 can cannellini beans (19 oz.), rinsed and drained
- 1 c. frozen sweet corn
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, chopped
- 2 t. adobo sauce from peppers
- fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook onion, beef and peppers in a non-stick pot over medium-high heat until beef is browned and veggies are tender. Drain beef mixture, and return to pot.

Add taco seasoning mix and add next 7 ingredients.

Bring mixture to a boil; cover and simmer 5 minutes. (I also added about 1/2 c. water and 1/2 c. beef broth just because we like ours with a little more juice.)

When serving top with chopped cilantro, grated cheese of choice, and sour cream.


(To control the heat leave out the chipotle peppers. You can also use regular diced tomatoes instead of Rotel. For more heat, add more chipotle peppers.)

I also made mine the day before while Clinton was at school and put it in the fridge until we were ready to eat dinner tonight. All I had to do was throw it on the stove and heat it easy and so good.

I had planned on making cornbread, but discovered my cornmeal was 3 YEARS past it's expiration date!?! I must admit, I'm a Jiffy girl, but since I had none on hand I was going to try to make it from scratch. Instead, I found a recipe for biscuits that I had all the ingredients for and they were delicious.

Drop Biscuits Supreme
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 T. sugar
1 t. salt
3/4 t cream of tartar
3/4 c. butter (or 1/2 c. butter and 1/4 c. shortening)
1 1/4c. milk

Preheat oven to 450.

In large bowl combine all but the milk. Blend together with a pastry blender or your hands until butter mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (The key is just to incorporate the butter/shortening into the flour mixture as best as possible.)

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add milk all at once. Stir with a fork until mixture is moistened.

Using a large spoon, drop dough into 12 mounds onto a greased baking sheet. Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden.

Keepin' it hot even when it's not,

Monday, January 18, 2010

Looking for Bargain Blogs?

As I mentioned in my last post, there are coupon/bargain sites based on geographical areas. Here's a website that will help you find some in your area. This is just a starting point, though, because I know there are tons more. Check it out here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

My New Way to Shop

It started out slowly, but as I've gotten the hang of things my receipts have began to show some enormous benefit.

Take a look.

Spent $84.08 Saved $38.07 (31% Savings)

Spent $111.55 Saved $53.12 (32% Savings)

Spent $132.18 Saved $60.77 (32% Savings)

Spent $97.24 Saved $60.88 (39% Savings)

Spent $103.53 Saved $76.53 (43% Savings)

Spent $94.90 Saved $91.92 (49% Savings!!!!)

Spent $148.77 Saved $116.92 (44% Savings)

It should also be noted that the savings would probably be greater, but I'm still purchasing big ticket items like diapers and formula.

So how did I save so much? Well, first I studied up on the art of couponing. I did this by checking out these two particular websites-- Southern Savers and Faithful Provisions. These are both targeted to the Southeastern part of the country, but both have tons of links to other websites and you're sure to be able to find a site or two that is for your geographical area.

Then I studied up on my store's coupon policies. I found out they double ALL manufacturers coupons $.50 and under. They accept ALL competitor store coupons. And you can stack a store/competitor coupon with a manufacturers coupon. Wow.

Then I started collecting and printing coupons. My MIL and my dad both get Sunday papers. So they pull their coupons for me. I also occasionally pick up my own Sunday paper. I also pull coupons as I see them in the in-store dispensers. (I save them until that item goes on sale then take them back!) I sign up for any coupon booklet mentioned on one of my go-to sites. And I scan the rack at the front of the store for any in-store flyers that contain coupons.

I also started scanning the weekly flyer and comparing my coupons to the current sales and specials. This is how you get the best price. I love my store's BOGO section. Check out some of the awesome deals I scored this week.

Aveen0 Baby Wash
Regular Price $4.99
Sales Price $3.79
Mfg Coupon $2.00 off
Target Coupon $1.00 off
Total Price $0.79 (84% Savings)

Al Freco All Natural Chicken Sausage
Regular Price $5.49
BOGO Deal $2.75
Mfg Coupon $1.50 off
Total Price $1.25 (77% Savings)

Regular Price $1.09
Store Coupon $.75 off of 2
Mfg Coupon $.55 off of 2
Total Price $.88/$.44 each (40% Savings)

Emerald Trail Mix
Regular Price $1.99
BOGO Deal $1.99/2
Mfg Coupon $1.00 off of 2
Total Price $.99/$.49 each (75% Savings)

I'm also being more aware of what type of produce is in season because it's both cheaper and tastier. (Why have I been so stupid about his before???)

Let me just say, this definitely takes some time. I spend a couple of hours/week getting my list and coupons organized. But as a SAHM, I'm finding it's worth it to do so. It's almost like getting paid for that time. And I'm always looking for ways to contribute to our household. Ever since quitting my job to take care of my kiddos I have felt somewhat guilty of the things we can no longer do because we lack the extra income. However, things like this are allowing me to free up some money to do some extra things here and there.

I'm pretty competitive by nature, so this has given me an outlet for that. Every week I try to do better than the week before while still only purchasing things we would use. (However, if I can get things we don't use for very cheap/free, then I purchase them and put them in my "Food Bank Donation" stash.

Of course, shopping like this limits your ability to walk into the store and buy whatever you want for whatever meals you feel like preparing. It requires menu planning based on what you have and what you can get. I'm still working on this, but definitely enjoying the challenge. Faithful Provisions blogs weekly about her menu and how she is able to feed a family of 4 on $40/week + formula. While I'm still not able to do this at $40/week, I've made it a goal and striving for it.

I challenge anyone looking for a way to cut back on the budget to try this out. Once you get going it's a bit addictive. If you have any questions about what I'm doing, you know where to find me!