Friday, October 31, 2008

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

The other day, my son got an A on a math quiz. For those of you who know my son, you know what a rare and exciting accomplishment this is! We had made a deal with him that if he ever got an A on a math quiz or test, he got to pick dessert that evening. He's 12, so this is quite an incentive! :) Well, he asked me to make him a cheesecake, and he wanted it to have chocolate and cherries. I wanted a smaller size cheesecake and I didn't have a recipe for this one, so I decided to just throw something together and see what we got. The result was VERY well received, and Jordan (my 8 year old) made me write down my recipe so I would make it again and again.

Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake

2 c. crushed chocolate sandwich cookies (we had these leftover from class parties)
1/3 c. melted butter
2 8-oz. packages lite cream cheese, softened (fat free would likely work, too)
1/2 c. sour cream
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 jar maraschino cherries - dry cherries on paper towels and cut into quarters, reserve 2 T. juice
1 c. mini chocolate chips

Combine the melted butter and the crushed cookies. Press into a pie plate to form the crust. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool slightly while you finish making the filling.

For filling, beat the cream cheese and sour cream on medium speed until well blended. Beat in vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Fold in chopped cherries, 2 T. cherry juice, and chocolate chips.

Pour filling into crust and bake at 325 for about an hour, until center is set and no longer appears wet and the edge has turned just slightly golden. Cool, then refrigerate at least 4 hours. It's even better the next day!

For more great recipes, check out Gayle's recipe swap!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Effectively using credit cards - works for me

Not too terribly long ago, we were very deeply in debt, mostly on credit cards. When you look back and realize that you've been paying on a "cheap" dinner out for several years, it's pretty depressing! It took a long time and a lot of work, but we got out from under the debt and now our only debt is our home.

Even though credit cards were a major contributor to our past debt, I still use them today. However, I never carry a balance. What I do is I keep the credit card that I use in my checkbook. Then, whenever I pay for groceries or gas or whatever, I pull out my checkbook, scan the credit card, and proceed to write the transaction in my register just like a check. I put my abbreviation for the credit card where the check number would go, the date of the transaction, the company, and the amount. Then, when my bill comes, I can quickly make sure all amounts are accurate and just write a check for the total, as all amounts have been accounted in the checkbook. (I do a credit for the amount of the charges reflected in the register and then a debit to pay the bill, just to keep my accounting straight.)

Sometimes a charge might be missed, particularly if my DH used the card, but for the most part, I always have everything needed to pay the bill each month. And as a bonus, I earn points that I can redeem for cash, gifts, or gift cards. I figured it up today and for the last 3 years, I've gotten $300 or more in gift cards each year! I use those for Christmas presents, or for shopping for things I want or need. I ordered gift cards today for teacher gifts. Earning $25 a month on average for stuff I'm going to buy anyway is a great deal!

If you're careful and keep track of your spending, this can be a very effective way to use your credit card/s. It probably won't work for everyone, but it certainly works for me!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Supercook is an addiction!

I have become addicted to I used to surf sites like allrecipes and recipezaar looking up certain ingredients and seeing what I could find and did find new things to try now and then. However, recently while reviewing blogs, I saw the supercook site mentioned and thought I would give it a try. I am hooked!!!!

This website keeps track of what you have on hand in the kitchen and it surfs all the recipe sites (well, the main ones, anyway) for things that you can make, presenting them to you in a format that lists the things you can make now, and things you can make with just a few more ingredients, detailing those ingredients. It even has a listing of common ingredients to help you remember everything you have for cooking/baking. It isn't foolproof, and I have found some recipes that it said I could make where key ingredients were not to be located in my house, but overall it's such a helpful site!! I have found a bunch of new recipes to try since I started using the site.

If you haven't been to the site, check it out, and then please come back and tell me what you think. I find it to be a very helpful site, and I love that I can search by a key ingredient (click on something to narrow your search to a particular thing you need to "use up") and it gives me recipes that I know I can make, not just a generic listing of every recipe out there. It's really a great site!!

Stay warm's very cold here in Kansas City!!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - 10/27/08

This is going to be one BUSY week!! I'm hoping I can keep up with all my commitments and family meals. I'm also hoping the electrician actually shows up as scheduled this time, although 5 cancellations would indicate otherwise... I've never worked anywhere that let me call in "sick" for three straight weeks!! Anyway, here's the plan!

Monday - French dip stuffed bread (finally using up the last of that roast!!), potato salad, stuffed celery. That should be easy enough for DH to feed the kids, as I will be helping to set up the teacher's Christmas Wish Tree at my daughters' school from 5:00 till whenever.

Tuesday - Meatless meal: Pumpkin french toast, fried apples. This one's almost a freebie, as DH brought home a loaf of sourdough and 2 HUGE cans of pumpkin pie filling from work, along with the restaurant's recipe for the french toast - yum!!! I'll be volunteering as a teacher's assistant most of the day, HOPEFULLY meeting the electrician in the afternoon (ha!), and then taking the kids Trunk or Treating after dinner.
(Note to self: Cook chicken leg quarters in the crock pot all day to shred for the next few nights!)

Wednesday - Chicken noodle soup and rolls. Today's going to be interesting. Somehow I have to manage to volunteer at the school sorting fund raiser merchandise from 10-1 or so and still have a dessert and 5 dozen homemade rolls at the school for the teacher's dinner by 5:00.

Thursday - Chicken quesadillas and chicken taco salad. I had a change in last week's menu (flexibility is a key of frugality!) and didn't have the quesadillas then, so I moved them to this week with chicken. The YMCA Boo Bash is this evening!

Friday - Chicken alfredo pizza. We've decided to go back to our old Friday night homemade pizza tradition. The kids love it, and it's an easy and inexpensive dinner. Tonight is trick or treating, of course! It's not even going to be overly cold, so it should be a fabulous night!

Saturday - Carlin's request: Homemade macaroni and cheese, corn, applesauce, and biscuits. I'll make enough mac and cheese for another pastitsio, as everyone absolutely LOVED the leftover version last time I tried it - go figure!

Sunday - Pastitsio, green beans, pumpkin cornbread muffins. And maybe the Chiefs will actually win a game today?? Yes, that IS funny!! :-)

Mom's Corny Snack Mix

My kids got several of the "popcorn hands" at their fall parties at school. They had been sitting on the kitchen counter since Friday after school, so today I decided to see if I could make them more interesting. I dumped them in a bowl and came up with a simple snack mix which all three of them declared a "keeper." I have to admit, the combination of flavors was pretty good. It has been deemed "Mom's Corny Snack Mix" and here's what you throw together to make it:

Popped popcorn
Corn chips
Candy corn (I used 2 flavors - regular and caramel apple)

That's it! If I had to guess, I'd say it was 3 parts popcorn to one part of each of the other two items. It was definitely a hit, and no more popcorn hands lingering on my counter!

I know this isn't a very exciting recipe, but it gave me an excuse to pop upstairs and blog! :-)

Friday, October 24, 2008

My son's favorite breakfast

One morning I inadvertently stumbled upon a very easy and pretty healthy breakfast idea using my blender. I had to use up a very over-ripe banana and got experimental. My son fell in love with the creation, and it has now become an almost daily breakfast ritual for him. He even asked for his own blender for Christmas!!! (He's 12.)

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

1 ripe banana
2 T. peanut butter
1 T. honey
1 c. milk

(Measurements are approximate as I never measure - just dump!)

Place all ingredients in blender and blend till smooth - yep, it's that easy!

Be sure and rinse out the blender, as it's a bit tough to clean once that stuff dries on it!! :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Closer to Christmas

I know....not even Halloween yet and yet I'm talking about Christmas. Yep, I'm one of those people who decorates every room in the house and already has 90% (or more) of my shopping done. I love Christmas, but I prepare for it!

Allie over at Curves with Attitude is having another Christmas giveaway. Check it out at and tell her you heard about it here!

This week is all about ornaments. I do have a lot of ornaments for my trees, but one stands out in my mind. It's not the prettiest ornament, but it's certainly very special. It's a little stuffed fabric bell, about 4 inches high, and it's made of a 70s Christmas fabric. So why is this special to me? Well, it was given to me by Miss Miller, my first grade teacher. I'm not going to tell you what year that was!!! That little bell has been on my tree every year for many, many years. When I got married and moved out, that was the only ornament to which I laid claim. Miss Miller was my favorite grade school teacher and it's very neat to be able to think of her every year at Christmas. I'd love to know where she is now. Hmm...maybe this year I should try to locate her. It can't hurt to try, right?

So what's your favorite Christmas ornament? Do tell......

Works for me - and my laundry

I'm posting my first Works for me Wednesday post. I thought I'd share my most important laundry tip. I can get almost any stain out of clothing. Sometimes it takes a little work, but I've even gotten out old, dried in stains and used to remove even soy formula from baby clothes!

Here are my three essential pretreaters:

1) Homemade stain remover: One part lemon-scented ammonia, one part Era laundry detergent, one part plain white vinegar, and one part water. Use this for most regular run-of-the-mill stains.

2) Aqua Net hair spray. Use this on ink based stains. Place the item on a paper towel or cleaning towel and saturate with spray. Gently blot. The stain will go away. Note: this also works on permanent marker when a toddler colors on the walls, but that's an entirely different tip!

3) Dawn dishwashing liquid. Yep, dishwashing soap! This one is my salvation in the laundry room!!! Any sort of greasy type stain comes right out when a little Dawn is rubbed into the stain. And things like spaghetti sauce, chocolate, and red Kool Aid will come out with a combination of Dawn to break them down and the homemade stain remover to take out the color.

The only other thing you need is a small brush (cleaning or nail brush). I've used the same one for years - it was less than a dollar.

With these tools, you will have the cleanest laundry on the block!! My husband is a restaurant manager, and he comes home with very unique stains, but I get them out! Let me know if these things work for you!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I'm happy to say that I finally found a website that I could comprehend enough to actually make my blog a little bit interesting! Woohoo!! I shall no longer subject my few visitors to boring backgrounds - I can add color and theme. It's almost sad that this is such a huge highlight for me, isn't it?? ;-)

The weather here is changing. It's blustery and there is a definite chill in the air. The next couple of days are supposed to be cold and rainy - ick! I had plans to try a new grocery store tomorrow, but thought with the weather, I might put it off till next Wednesday (they only double coupons on Wednesdays). However, I had a call from the girls' school today asking for help in sorting the fundraiser merchandise next Wednesday, so that's where I'll be. I don't suppose the grocery store is going anywhere, is it?

I'm thinking the kids are going to come home from school today to the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It just feels like a cookie baking kind of day. Cookies and cocoa should warm them right up, and they will think I'm the coolest! Well, they already do, but it never hurts to add a few brownie points!! :)

If you're reading this, please leave me a comment. I would be interested to see that people actually do occasionally read my ramblings. No doubt, I'll keep rambling, but it would just be fun to see some commentary. And maybe someday I'll actually post something interesting or informative - you never know!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Menu Plan Monday, 10/20/08

Already Monday again?? Wow....where does the time go? It seemed like the weeks absolutely dragged back when I was working (and hating it) and now time just flies by, even if we are broke! :-)

The kids have planned their breakfasts for the week this week, which should be helpful. So, here's the full plan for the week:


Apple oatmeal muffins
Cereal and peanut butter-banana smoothies
Cinnamon raisin bread (baked overnight in the bread machine so it's fresh/warm)
Cinnamon toast and peanut butter-banana smoothies
Pop Tarts
Muffins (not sure what type yet)


Monday - Jack's Ranch Chicken, rice, corn.

Tuesday - Cheeseburger soup in sourdough bread bowls (Jordan has been begging for this!).

Wednesday - Spaghetti red for DH & I, Frito chili pies for the kids, cornbread. DH will make the chili, because for some reason the kids will only eat it if HE makes it! Then off to a Boo Bash with the kids - not sure what it is, but it sure sounds fun! :)

Thursday - Crock Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, homemade sourdough bread. It's supposed to be cold and rainy and that should hit the spot!

Friday - Pizza w/ leftover beef from last night. I'll make a whole wheat crust in the bread machine. This has to be an early dinner as we are supposed to be at a Trunk or Treat event by 5!

Saturday - Taco salad (using any leftover meat from the roast, as we always have a lot of meat left) and quesadillas. I will also make "appledillas" for the kids, which they love! It's tortillas cooked with a little cream cheese and applesauce and cinnamon inside - yum!

Sunday - Campbell's chicken and rice bake, green beans, biscuits.

It feels good to have a plan! Today I have to go to Aldi with a long list of perishables, since I didn't go to Aldi last week! I'm also going to try a new store on Wednesday that someone told me about the other day. It's supposed to be a discount grocery store, and their website says they double coupons on Wednesdays up to .50! I'm so there on Wednesday!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Christmas traditions

One more post for today, and then I'm done - or so I think anyway!

I just came across a contest and it sounds like fun, so I wanted to enter. Hopefully someone will see this soon, because if you want to enter, you only have until midnight (California time) tonight! The link is:

To secure my entry in the contest, I am going to talk about a very important Christmas tradition in our family. Every year, I bake and bake and bake to make up beautiful cookie and candy trays to give to friends and family. Several of my neighbors tell me that they anxiously await my trays to make their holiday complete. :-) But inside this tradition is another that is even more important. One of the goodies that we make is dipped pretzel rods. I buy the large rods, white almond bark, and an assortment of sprinkles. And then we schedule family pretzel night! The kids adore this, as they have a blast dipping the rods into the melted bark and then rolling it in whatever combination of sprinkles strikes their fancies. They come up with some beautiful creations, and these treats are the centerpieces of my goodie trays. The kids are so proud to contribute and feel like they are giving their own gifts to our friends. It wouldn't be Christmas without this family night of fun. I wouldn't give it up for the world!

Wow....10 weeks till Christmas. Isn't that wonderful?? I'm sure I will be posting lots more traditions, ideas, and recipes over the next several weeks. It's the most wonderful time of the year......

A slaw my family will EAT!!!

I have FINALLY created a slaw that everyone in the family actually ate today! Nobody but me will eat cole slaw, so it's just not something I try fixing unless I'm really in the mood for it. However, tonight I was in the fridge and found a bag of cole slaw mix (cabbage and carrots) that I had purchased this week that expired today. I knew I needed to use it, or it was just money wasted. So....I set about experimenting. I took about half the bag of slaw (I'm going to use the other half in a recipe for lunch tomorrow) and mixed in half a large can of crushed pineapple. I diced up a peach, a pear, and an apple, and added them. Then I stirred in around 3/4 of a cup of plain (homemade) yogurt and a handful of mini marshmallows. I let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, and it turned out great! I told the kids it was basically a fruit salad with cabbage. My youngest picked out the cabbage, but ate everything else, so I won't complain.

Even my husband ate it, and he doesn't like pineapple! I'm happy to have finally found a way to get my family to eat at least a little bit of cabbage. I'm constantly trying to get them to try new things, and it's not often easy. Another recent attempt was bulgur. I love the stuff, but only DH would eat it. Maybe someday I'll find a recipe that will work for that, too.....

Trip to CVS

I had a great CVS trip today! I had an ECB for $11.99 that expired in 2 days, and I didn't want to risk losing it. I also wanted to do the best I could do with it, on items that we actually use, since I'm not one to take advantage of a sale at a store just so I can resell things and make a profit. So here is what I bought:

Listerine Blue Rinse for kids ($5.99) - used $2 coupon - total $3.99
Listerine Whitening Pen ($9.99) - used $3 coupons - total $6.99
Excedrin Back & Body, 24 count ($1.99) - used $2 coupon - free!
Brach's Autumn Mix - $1.29

After coupons and my ECB, I paid .33 out of pocket and received $9.29 in ECBs. That was a great deal for me. :-)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jack's Ranch Chicken

I am finally going to join in on the Recipe Swap over at Gayle's GroceryCartChallenge blog. First, though, I need to apologize for my boring blog site - I haven't yet learned how to do all the neat graphics. I hope to find the time to research all that soon so I can make it look a lot more interesting!

Now, without further ado, one of my kids' favorite recipes, Jack's Ranch Chicken:


4-5 chicken breasts, cut into strips
Non-stick cooking spray
1/2 c. ranch salad dressing
6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1/2 c. shredded cheddar-jack cheese


Spray skillet well with non-stick coating. Saute chicken strips in pan until done.
Place strips in 8x8 baking pan and top with dressing, crumbled bacon, and shredded cheese.
Place pan in oven and broil on low until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

This is my first Menu Plan Monday and I think I even got the logo to work right - woohoo!!! Now, naturally I do realize that it is not quite Monday yet, but I tend to make my meal plans on Sunday so that I can run to the store Monday morning if needed. Menu Plan Sunday just doesn't sound nearly as cool, though, does it?

Anyway, here is my plan for this week, and I pretty much have everything on hand for all these meals, so I'll only be buying basics this week! That's a GOOD thing!!

Monday: Crock Pot beef stew, bread purchased on discount at a day-old store. We'll be at the Zoo that afternoon, so I needed an easy dinner.

Tuesday: Macaroni and Cheese (favorite meal of my youngest), biscuits, corn. Then off to a PTA meeting!

Wednesday: Pastitsio. I'm modifying my usual recipe, however, and using the leftover mac and cheese from yesterday and some jarred alfredo sauce that's in the fridge from a recent spinach alfredo pizza. Also, cornbread and green beans.

Thursday: Applesauce chicken (another crock pot recipe), carrots, rice. We have a 3rd grade musical that evening and will be rushing off right after dinner.

Friday: Chicken packets (a kid favorite), any leftovers from earlier in the week.

Saturday: Lasagna, salad, breadsticks.

Sunday: Apple-stuffed pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

My blog title

This is my first real attempt at starting a blog. Let me tell you, it was tough coming up with a name!! I tried several that were already taken, and then gave themonkeyroom a try. Surprise! It was available! So I thought I would start my blog with a brief explanation of how I arrived at that particular title.

We've recently moved to a much nicer home in a better part of town. It's been a wonderful change, and we're so much happier having three times the space we used to have! But, I digress...

Shortly after we moved, we visited Target and were looking at one of the endcaps in the domestics area. There were a bunch of bathroom items there, all of a monkey theme. The kids said that they wanted to decorate the bathroom with monkeys. In what I believed to be my most sarcastic tone, I stated, "Yeah, that's what I want - a monkey bathroom!" Well, the entire family (hubby included) took me seriously and the kids became extremely excited about having monkeys in the bathroom. So....we ended up buying the monkey shower curtain, floor rug, soap dispenser, etc. I now have monkeys all over my bathroom!! I toned it down just a touch with lovely chocolate brown towels and palm trees on the walls. Although it wasn't what I intended, it really did turn out great, and the kids still love it!

So....I have a monkey room in my house. In essence, it was a family design, and it represents a lot to me. I have called my kids my "monkeys" for a long time. It just suits them, and suits our family. I'm proud to have a monkey room!!! :-)

Stay tuned for hopefully some interesting information....I'm still deciding what direction my blog will take. Check back to find out!!!