Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Brand New Blog!

I had a bit of inspiration tonight and decided to start a second blog. My plan is to make this blog about stretching your food dollar by creatively using up leftover food from other meals. I'm calling the new blog "Not Just Leftovers - Brand New Meals." You can check it out HERE if you're so inclined. Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think of the idea. I am hoping it will be a useful blog over time, but I just started it tonight, so don't expect TOO much! :-)

Thanks for checking out my new blog - and for paying attention to my current one!

New Recipe #1.5 - Poppy Seed Biscuits

Well, today I got so occupied in trying to UNdecorate my house for Christmas (man, what an undertaking!!) that I completely forgot to make the dough for my rolls for dinner. So, I grabbed a Taste of Home cookbook and flipped through their quick breads. My 8-year-old daughter helped me, and we decided that the recipe for Poppy Seed Biscuits sounded very unique, so we tried it. These biscuits call for the strangest ingredients, but they turned out great! Everyone had more than one, and the kids asked me to make them again. Here's the recipe:

2 1/4 c. biscuit/baking mix
1 T. poppy seeds
1/2 c. cream-style cottage cheese
2 T. honey
1/4 c. milk

Combine mix and poppy seeds and set aside.
Combine cottage cheese, honey, and milk in blender. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix just until moistened. Knead gently on lightly floured surface 3-4 times, then pat out to 1/2" thick and cut with biscuit cutter.
Bake at 425° for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown.

So it looks like we'll be trying FOUR new recipes this week. I do love weeks like that! :-)

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Recipe #1 - Kraft Smarter Fettuccini Alfredo

Tonight I tried Kraft's recipe for Smarter Fettuccini Alfredo. As I wanted leftovers (and didn't want to waste cream cheese), I doubled the recipe, cutting the broth to 2 cups and the flour to 2 T. when doing so.

The verdict? Everyone in the family loved it! It was a little different, and I think next time I will add a little garlic and maybe some Italian seasoning, but it was definitely something we will have again. I might even try adding chicken to it sometime when I'm not going for a meatless meal alternative. The nutmeg gave it a similar flavor to the chicken tetrazzini that I make often, but it was a much thicker, stick-to-the-noodles sauce.

I'd recommend giving it a try. I don't think I'll be making the sauce for my alfredo pizzas anytime soon, but it's a good entree, and definitely healthier than standard alfredo sauce. Let me know what you think if you try the recipe!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - week of 12/29/08

Wow...the last menu plan of 2008. Where did the year go? I'm hoping to be organized enough to have a menu plan for every week of 2009, but that's a pretty lofty goal! :-)

I've planned this week's menu around existing plans, which include the purchase of a half price Honey Baked Ham (see prior post for info on the 50% off coupon) for our New Year's family celebration, lots of leftovers from that ham (I'll get a big 'un), and an afternoon spent on Friday at the Harlem Globetrotter's game. I needed a quick and simple dinner idea for that evening, and will combine that with the urge to use my new panini grill I got for Christmas! I'm also trying three new recipes this week. All in all, it's not the most exciting menu plan ever, but I think it will be lots of fun! So without further ado, here's my plan:

Monday - Kraft Smarter Fettuccini Alfredo (the first of the new recipes), crescent rolls, celery and carrots with dip. I know that's a WEIRD combination, but the kids love raw veggies and dip and I have some to use up that are leftover from Christmas Eve, so I threw them into the menu plan.

Tuesday - Chicken breasts cooked in mushroom soup, mashed potatoes, corn, homemade rolls.

Wednesday - Honey Baked Ham (YUMMMM!!!), glazed carrots, rice pilaf (found a recipe in a blog comment HERE showing how to make rice pilaf with whole cardamom pods and I'm dying to try it! This is new recipe #2), homemade rolls. We will also be popping some popcorn to much on till midnight - this is the first year we've let the kids try to stay up to ring in the new year, and I'm looking forward to it!

Thursday - Ham and pineapple pizza on a sourdough crust.

Friday - After the Globetrotter's game, we'll use more leftover ham for some delicious ham and cheese paninis. Along with them, we'll have any leftover sides from the rest of the week, as I anticipate some mashed potatoes, carrots, and rice pilaf will be waiting in the fridge.

Saturday - New recipe #3, Bourbon Chicken, baked potatoes (haven't had these in forever!), fried apples, yogurt cornbread (or regular cornbread if I don't make time to make yogurt this week!) .

Sunday - Meatloaf (already in the freezer, ready to go), steamed rice, corn, biscuits.
For more great menu ideas, recipes, etc., be sure to visit OrgJunkie!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Been awhile....

In reviewing my blog postings, I see that it's been awhile since I actually posted anything to entertain my whopping TEN readers!!! ;-) So, since I'm sitting here wide awake listening to the wind swirling and rain periodically coming down in a torrential downpour, I thought I might as well actually say something!

It was a good Christmas at my house and the kids had a fabulous time! Everyone was giddily happy except the miserable and pathetic sister-in-law, but we will just ignore her as always. :) My mom got me a very nice skillet set and a panini grill, both of which were on my wishlist, and we have several new DVDs to watch. I'm not particularly fond of Ironman, and can only watch Tinkerbell so many times, but the kids are loving the new shows!

I way over-baked as always, and ended up sending a huge box of candy with hubby to work for him to share with the staff. I didn't need all those cookies and fudge and other candies sitting here tempting me! Of course, I froze some for later, and realized yesterday that I forgot to send any peanut butter balls, so I'm still surrounded by temptation! And that doesn't even take into consideration the pumpkin cheesecake and homemade apple pie that still inhabit my refrigerator. I've definitely got to start behaving in the new year, but don't we all?? :)

Oh, and speaking of the new year, I found an AWESOME coupon if you have Honey Baked Ham Company in your area! And I found it legitimately, so I'm certain it isn't a fake! My local news channel (kmbc.com) had a posting with some recipes from Honey Baked Ham. There was a link to their site on that posting, and when I went to the site, I found a button for signing up for email and receiving a coupon. Upon signing up, it gave me a coupon to print for 50% off a half-ham!! HALF PRICE!!! I can't resist that one! I hate paying $60 for a ham, but they are soooooo good! I'll definitely pay $30! :-) Here's a link to the sign-up page for the coupon and HERE is a direct link to the coupon itself. I hope they don't pull it anytime soon - it expires on 1/10/09! What a great dinner to celebrate New Year's!

The rain is really coming down now. Yuck. Did I mention that I HATE storms???? On the other hand, I LIKE sleep. I rather am missing it right now, but I just can't sleep when it's thundering and blowing outside.

So, onto another topic. Anyone have any knowledge of the habits of bettas? My daughter absolutely adores her betta fish, and Santa brought him a new tank for Christmas. Unfortunately, said fish doesn't seem to care for the new tank. That or I put him into shock by accident. I moved him into the new tank on Christmas Day, doing everything I was supposed to do - declorinating the water, floating him for over half an hour, slowly allowing water into his bag, etc. However, he's been sitting on the bottom of the tank ever since, barely swimming. Is it possible he is mad or depressed, or did I injure my daughter's fish?? I've been quite stressed about the situation. I actually thought he was gone yesterday, as he hadn't moved in some time, but then when I went to catch him in the net, he swam a bit, getting away from it. I just don't know what to do about this fish! He isn't eating, isn't active, but doesn't look like he has any of the common betta disorders that I looked up online. It's very depressing! I got him some "Betta Fix" last night and put a bit of aquarium salt in his water, but it isn't helping yet. I'm hoping we have a good day and he starts showing signs of life. My daughter (she's 6) is very deeply concerned, as she just LOVES Panther! :(

Well, I guess that's all the blabbing I should do for now. I'll just sit here and listening to my "popping" window that is making me crazy. I have no idea if it's done that before, as this is our first big thunderstorm living in this house. It just sounds terrible!! Why must replacement windows be so darn expensive?

Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, free of thunderstorms....... :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cold enough to freeze the pipes!

Well, what a night this has been!! I remember being in the kitchen this morning and washing my hands at the sink, realizing I had the cold water on - which was VERY cold, by the way! After that, I can't remember when I used the sink again. I was busy cleaning the living room, kids' rooms, and bathroom. It was so terribly, bitterly cold today that I never even cracked the door. I think 8° was our high - yuck!!!

Late this afternoon, I decided to get the dishes into the dishwasher. I had to rinse several that had been sitting awhile. As I was rinsing, I realized that there was a LOT of steam rising out of the sink. The water seemed to get hotter and hotter. I turned the handle toward the cooler side, but no change. Hmmm. So I turned it completely to cold - not a drop came out! I called my brother, who insisted it couldn't be frozen pipes - must be a clog in the supply line. So he had me disconnect the water supply from the main line under the sink. No luck. I looked at it, and asked him how it was going to bring out cold water turning on the faucet when it wasn't hooked up. Not understanding me, he had me explain what I meant by that. Well, apparently I was supposed to SHUT OFF the cold water before disconnecting the supply line. Whoops. What sucks is that there is NOT a cold water shut off valve on that sink!! Not only that, but the pipes are inside the OUTSIDE wall! Grrrrr....why do many builders not THINK when they build?????

Anyway....I just knew it was frozen, and set about trying to figure out what to do. I called a plumber, who actually told me that my copper pipes were already cracked from freezing, and there was nothing we could do. He told me to call him tomorrow after it broke and I had water everywhere and he would help me then. Hmmmmmph!! Well, I figured I had to TRY and save myself the nightmare of a broken water pipe. So I got under the sink with my little hair dryer, and put a space heater downstairs against the offending wall, moving ceiling tiles to allow warm air to float upwards. I also turned on the hot water at the sink full blast, hoping the hot water was close to the cold water pipe. I used my dryer for over an hour when my husband offered to take over so I could actually fix dinner. He managed to set the dryer so that it was propped up on a dishsoap bottle, aimed straight downward as much as we could get it. He agreed with my theory that copper/metal conducts heat, so maybe we would eventually reach the frozen part. And a different plumber told me that if I got it thawed out, I might have a chance at avoiding a bursting pipe. I HAD to try!!

About an hour later, we got a drip out of the faucet. Then another. And another. I got excited. We kept blowing the dryer and watching the faucet. It dripped faster....and then out came a stream. I ran downstairs to check for leaks and DH yelled out that we had full water pressure. I checked every wall and every ceiling tile - NO LEAKS!! We checked outside - nothing there, either. We did it!!!! We thawed the pipe and it did not break! I can't even explain the degree of my relief when the water started working again. I had been soooooo stressed out, trying to figure out where to move all our stuff, just in case, and where to get the $1,000 insurance deductible, and how we were going to live without water for however long until we could get a plumber out to repair, etc, etc, etc.

So now I have all the sink cabinets open and water running in a small stream from every sink in the house. It's going to be below zero tonight and I do NOT want to go through this again. Frozen pipes are NEVER a good thing, and I am so very thankful that we solved the problem with no major problems or expenses. I firmly believe that God knew I couldn't handle another crisis this week, so He let me avoid this one. I have been thanking Him all night!!!

So, my advice to anyone reading this? When the weather is frigidly cold, open your cabinet doors to let heat under the sink, and run a trickle of water at all times. It could save you a LOT of stress!!!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Okay, one of my favorite singers opened a Twitter account and I followed her link and signed up. So now I have a very vague idea of what Twitter is - it's a site where you type a status and follow people?? So, what does that mean?? What do I actually DO with Twitter? I see so many people blog about Twitter, but I truly don't know how to go about doing anything further than signing up. If you twitter (do I call you a twit?? LOL!), feel free to tell me what the heck I should be doing on that site! :-)

Thanks a bunch!!!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

WFMW - Easy quick breads

It's another Works for Me Wednesday over at Rocks in my Dryer. For this week, I thought I would post recipes for my favorite quick and easy "quick breads." If you've reviewed my menu plans, you've probably noticed that I revisit the same breads regularly. My family doesn't consider it dinner unless we have some type of bread, and so I have come to rely on a few quick and easy recipes that everyone enjoys. Hopefully you will find a recipe or two you can use!

Soft Buttery Breadsticks

1 1/4 c. flour
2 t. sugar
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 - 2/3 c. milk
2 T. margarine

Place the 2 T. margarine in a 13 x 9 baking pan and place pan in oven while preheating to 450°. Check frequently to make sure it melts, but does not burn/brown. Meanwhile, make the dough:

In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients well. Add milk until a soft dough forms. Knead gently in bowl 3-4 times, adding a little flour if needed.

Remove pan from oven and set beside you.

Pinch off pieces of dough and roll between palms to form a breadstick. I usually make them about 3/4" in diameter and about 4" long. Place sticks in pan and roll to coat with butter.

Bake at 450° for 14-16 minutes or until light golden brown.

Yogurt Cornbread

1 c. cornmeal
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 egg
1 c. plain yogurt

Combine all ingredients in bowl. Spread in a greased 9 x 9 pan.

Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes, till tests done with a toothpick.

White Lily Biscuits (White Lily flour)

2 c. White Lily self-rising flour
1/4 c. butter
2/3 to 3/4 c. buttermilk or sour milk

Preheat oven to 500°.

Cut butter into flour in mixing bowl until mixture resembles course crumbs. Blend in enough milk until dough leaves sides of bowl. Knead gently 2-3 times on a lightly floured surface. Roll out 1/2 - 3/4" thick and cut with biscuit cutter (do not twist the cutter!). Place on baking pan or stone with sides touching. Brush tops with melted butter if desired. Bake at 500° for 8 minutes or till golden brown.

Cornmeal Scones (Cooking Light)

1 2/3 c. flour
1/3 c. cornmeal
3 T. sugar
2 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3 1/2 T. cold butter
1/2 c. milk
1 egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Add milk and egg, stirring just until moist.

Knead lightly 4 times in bowl, adding a small amount of flour. Pat dough into a 7" circle on a baking sheet or stone. Cut dough into 8 wedges, cutting into but not completely through the dough.

Bake at 375° for 22 minutes or until golden brown. Cut apart and serve warm.

I also frequently make my kids' favorite Banana Wheat Muffins. You can find the recipe in this posting.

These quick breads are easy to fix and popular with my family. They definitely work for me!!

Chicken Alfredo Pizza with Wheat Crust

Here is one of our favorite pizzas. I make the crust in the bread machine by throwing in all the ingredients on the dough cycle; however, I will post the actual recipe from Weight Watchers in case you don't use a bread machine. :-)


1 1/2 c. warm (105-115°) water
1 t. sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 T. olive oil
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. salt

In a 2 cup measuring jug, combine water and sugar. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand about 5 minutes, till foamy. Stir in the oil.

In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. With machine running, scrape the yeast mixture through the feed tube; pulse until the dough forms a ball, about 1 minute. If necessary, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly until smooth and elastic.

Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray; place dough in bowl. Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until double in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough, then roll out in either one large pizza or two small round pizzas.

(now my notes)

Prick dough several times with a fork, then place in 500° oven for about 10 minutes to par-bake. If you like a thinner crust, eliminate this step.

Spread homemade or jarred (I use Ragu Light Parmesan Alfredo) alfredo sauce over crust. Top with cooked shredded chicken, and mushrooms or other desired toppings. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over entire pizza and return to 500° oven for about 15 minutes till hot and cheese is melted.

Good stuff!!! Let me know if you give it a try! :-) And for more wonderful recipes, check out Gayle's recipe swap!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Freezer Soup

Well, I did it! I finally made freezer soup. It's funny, though. I was worried about it being gross, so I actually took the little bit of meat that was leftover from last night and ended up making a stuffed bread instead of rolls. I figured that way, we could eat the stuffed bread and chips or something if we couldn't tolerate the strange concoction.

The verdict? It was actually good! Two of the three kids liked it - only the very picky one didn't. It kind of tasted like roast, but with lots of rice. :-) The only problem I had was that there was a LOT of rice in the soup, and as it simmered, the rice soaked up most of the broth, even when I added more. It turned out more like a stew or a soft risotto kind of thing, but it tasted really good! When two of the three kids will willingly eat something they don't recognize, you know it can't be too bad!

So, freezer soup/stew is officially part of my menu. Since it's made up of the stuff we would likely dump down the garbage disposal at the end of a meal, it's most definitely a frugal meal! I used a lot of rice because I have to make at least 2 cups to use my rice steamer, and sometimes we don't get it all eaten, even after two meals. Most of the liquid was the juices and gravies left over from cooking a roast, swiss steak, pork chops, etc. It may not sound that good, but it really did have a good flavor!!

One thing I can certainly guarantee.....it's going to be different every time you make it! Try it for a month and see what you think. We all agreed here that it's a keeper! And next time, I might not even make the stuffed bread..... ;-)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday, week of 12/15

It's going to be bitterly cold here all week, so I was looking for winter fare. Combine that with a good deal on chicken leg quarters (.49/lb), and you have my menu for the week! The kids are likely to turn up their noses at Monday's mystery meal, but hopefully it will be good. This is my first attempt at "freezer soup," where I added all the little bits of broth and meat and veggies and rice that was leftover from meals for the past month or so. My bowl is full, so it's time to see what we've got! It can't be TOO bad, right? Anyone else make freezer soup??

Here's this week's menu plan:

Monday - Freezer soup, steak stuffed bread (last night's leftover swiss steak)

Tuesday - Frito-chili pies, cornbread, salad

Wednesday - Meat loaf, mashed potatoes, corn, biscuits

Thursday - Mushroom-broccoli penne with chicken, breadsticks

Friday - Chicken alfredo pizza on a whole wheat crust

Saturday - Dinner at my Godparents' house for Christmas

Sunday - Chicken noodle soup, homemade sourdough bread

For more fantastic menu plans, be sure and visit I'm an Organizing Junkie!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Super Simple Christmas Candy!!

Here is my recipe for Gayle's weekly recipe swap. I really do hesitate to call this a recipe, as it's one of the easiest things I've ever made! But just in case you've never seen it done or thought to do it, I'm posting it. These are a very quick and easy Christmas candy and you can do all sorts of embellishments!

Easy Turtles


Small pretzel twists
Rolos, caramel Hershey's Kisses, or other caramel-filled chocolate candy
Pecan halves
Sprinkles, colored sugar, or melted white chocolate, optional

Lay pretzel twists on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. On top of each, place one of the candies. Put in a 300-325° oven for about 5 minutes, until the chocolate is melty. Remove from oven and sprinkle with candy or sugar if desired, then press a pecan half down on the top. Now you can also drizzle on melted white chocolate if you want, or embellish however you see fit!

These are E-A-S-Y, and very yummy, and they look great on a goodie tray! And my suggestion is to go to Walgreen's this week and get the Caramel Kisses, currently on sale 4/$10, with a $5 rebate. Use the recent $1.50/3 coupon and then get the Walgreen's gift card so you end up paying about $3 for all 4 bags! Enjoy!!!

For more awesome recipes, visit the Grocery Cart Challenge!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

WFMW - Mystery shopping

We've come to another Wednesday, and that means another amazing list of tips and tricks over at RocksinmyDryer!

This week, I thought I would talk a little bit about mystery shopping. For some, I know this is an exhausted topic and you've already mastered it; however, I'm also sure there are folks out there who have wondered about it, but don't know how to get started.

I'm certainly no expert, but I've been mystery shopping off and on for about 12 years. There have been times it's been very much a part-time job, and other times, like now, that it's just a great way to get some new clothes or a nice evening out. Recently, I've done a shop at a nice restaurant in town, gone out for a night of bowling and snacking (and netted a payment, as well as reimbursement), and gone clothes shopping! Some of the reports are quick and simple, with minimal comments required, while others, like the restaurant, require quite a bit of essay writing.

If you have a good memory, are discreet, pay attention to every detail, and love to make your opinion known, mystery shopping might be right up your alley (pun intended). It can be a fairly profitable venture, since you only pay Federal income tax on your earnings after you've made a certain amount (I think it's $600, but not sure), or it can be just a fun thing to do to make a little spending money or pay for a date night with the hubs.

The best advice I can give you is NEVER NEVER NEVER pay for a company to "find" you jobs. You can certainly find all the information you need online and not pay a dime. I have found one of the most informative sites out there to be Volition . This site gives you overall information on mystery shopping and a huge list of companies with whom you can register. I also advise you to sign up with many companies. It might seem time-consuming, but there are many companies, and not all of them likely have jobs in your immediate area.

Another great place to register is with Kern Scheduling. These folks schedule with many companies, and all the shops are found in one central location. Once you sign up, you can visit the job board and search by zip code, state, etc. They also send you emails detailing shops they are needing to fill in your area. They get a wide variety of shops, and I've done several assignments for them.

One key component of being a good mystery shopper is definitely discretion. You can't discuss with anyone what you are doing, or for whom. It is a given that you can't discuss the shop while you are in the location (unless it is a "revealed" or "rewards" shop, in which case you tell them who you are at the conclusion of the shop), but you also can't tell friends, family, or blog visitors which companies shop which businesses. Your identity is a precious secret and once you've lost your discretion, it will get harder to get assignments. I probably don't have to tell anyone this, but it's always good to mention.

It's easy to get started mystery shopping with the aid of the internet, so why not get your "feet wet" and give it a try? You might find that you really enjoy it, and eventually start bringing in a bit of income. Or, you might not find that it's something you want to pursue, but at least you've got a free dinner or new shirt to show for your efforts.

If you're new to mystery shopping and give it a try, please come back and let me know if you liked it. Or if you have any questions, post them in comments and I will do my best to answer them. Mystery shopping is fun, and it has worked for me for years!

Another $5 dinner

Tonight I made another meal for my family of 5 within the goal of $5. This one was a crock pot/bread machine dinner, which made it VERY easy on me! Since it's already been consumed by the aforementioned family, there are no photos, but here is the breakdown:

About 1 lb. London Broil, marked down - $2.50
2 lbs. yukon gold potatoes - $.50
1 lb. baby carrots - $1.00
1 can cream mushroom soup - $.50
1/2 batch bread machine rolls - $.43 (cost is $.85 for a batch)

Total dinner cost: $4.93

There are still a few potatoes and baby carrots left, along with some rich broth/gravy that I will add to my freezer soup container. I also cooked extra meat to use in tomorrow night's dinner of Cheeseburger Soup. I might go over the $5 mark tomorrow, but I always have plenty of leftovers when I make the soup, which is great for lunch the next day. I will try and break that one down tomorrow night!

For dessert, we're having apple pie. I made the pie from apples off my brother's tree (free) and, as always, made the crust from scratch. The pie probably cost me less than $.50 total!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yummy Biscotti

There's a cookie exchange going on over at The Journey and I thought I would play along! I'm also participating for the first time in "Tempt My Tummy Tuesdays!" Be sure and check out both of these great blogs for awesome recipes and just a general good time!

My daughter and I made these yesterday, and everyone love-love-loved them! This recipe was adapted from one that was presented on a Holiday Cookie show on the Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis.

Yummy Biscotti

3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter, softened
Zest of one orange
2 large eggs
2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
12 oz. white chocolate chips, divided
1/2 c. dried cranberries

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in zest and eggs. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl. Gradually blend flour mixture into wet mixture. With spoon or hands, gently mix in the dried cranberries and 3/4 c. of the white chocolate chips.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, shape the dough into a log 3-4" wide and about an inch thick. Bake at 350 degrees until light golden, 30-40 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2" wide slices. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Return to oven until light golden, 15-20 minutes. They will still seem a bit soft, but don't worry! Allow biscotti to cool and they will harden just right.

Meanwhile, place the rest of the chips in a zip-top bag and set bag into a bowl of hot water to melt. Knead bag occasionally and change water if necessary until chips are fully melted. Cut off tip of the bag and drizzle white chocolate over the tops of the biscotti. You can also melt the chocolate and dip the ends of the cookies into it, then sprinkle with colored sugar. Allow chocolate to set before storing.

Enjoy dipped in coffee or cocoa or just munch on them dry - they're GOOD!!!

5 dollar dinner challenge

I've decided to participate in the $5 Dinner Challenge over at 5dollardinners.com. We are a family of 5, and I am always striving to make good dinners for $5 or less for all of us, with leftovers for lunch the next day. Here is what I am making tonight:

Honey Lime Chicken

1 pkg of chicken breasts - $2.49
1/2 c. honey - .50
Juice of 3 limes - .25
1/4 c. soy sauce - .10

Combine marinade ingredients (and I also tossed in the zest of one lime for a little more flavor) in a large zip-top bag. Marinade the chicken breasts for at least an hour. Pour entire contents of bag in 13 x 9 pan and place in oven, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 30-40 min. or until done. I served mine with:

Steamed white rice - .25
Frozen corn - 1/2 lb. - .35

Whole wheat banana muffins

2 c. wheat flour - .20
1 t. baking powder - incidental
1 t. baking soda - incidental
1/2 t. salt - incidental
1/4 c. maple syrup - .12
1 c. water
2 T. oil - .10
1 t. vanilla - .05
1 mashed banana - .20

Combine all in mixing bowl. Fill prepared muffin tins 2/3 full and top with cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Total dinner cost: approximately $4.65!
(Technically, though, it really cost me less than this, because I received a "new neighbor" gift card from a local grocery store that I used to purchase the chicken on sale. The price I used is the price that I WOULD have paid without the discount.)

Please be sure and check out 5dollardinners.com for lots more great budget meal ideas - I can't wait to update my own recipe collection!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Looking a lot like Christmas

I've decided to join the Open House over at A Soft Place to Land; also, if you're visiting from BooMama's Tour of Christmas homes, WELCOME to my blog! I'm thrilled that you all stopped by! I posted this earlier this month, and hope you enjoy my little Christmas corner! Be sure and visit all the other sites at the Open House and on the Christmas tour - you will see some truly amazing decorating!!

I thought I would post some of the photos I took today of my inside Christmas decor. This is our first year in this house, and I have a new tree (9 feet tall!!) and a few other new things. It's funny, because I haven't been feeling well (I have severe anemia right now), so I've really scaled down from what I INTENDED to do. However, when I look around and look at the photos, I can't believe I thought I would do more than this!

Here is a little peek into my home:

When you first walk in the front door, this is the floor in front of you. This was a $5 garage sale find that I LOVE!!!!

Looking up a bit, here's the overall view from the front door:

My nativity set is the focal point on the entryway table. I bought the figurines many years ago from my brother during a school fundraiser. For some reason, this seems a bit amusing.

Here is the monster 9' tree! I got this for only $10 at a garage sale. It is missing one of the smaller branches, but you can't really tell once it's all set up and decorated.

And I really love my fireplace. My son is very into nutcrackers, so we have a few of those. The rest are in his room, and he keeps them on display year-round.

Another of my new acquisitions is my "elf." He's from the Drolleries collection by DEMDACO (which are apparently worth their weight in gold!). We got him at a silent auction because I just couldn't resist - especially when I got him for only $40!

I just love garlands and bows! While I've done the stairwells, I have SO much more garland...so next year, it just might look like the North Pole in my living room! :-)

And just one more.....here is the area over my desk in the entryway. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

We haven't even been into the dining room or the downstairs! Scary, eh?? I really love Christmas. I just wish I had more time, energy, and money to really go all-out! :-)

Hope you enjoy the photos. I'm still learning how to post them properly. If anyone knows how to keep Blogger from putting every photo at the start of the post, I would appreciate the tip!!

Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 12/8

Okay, we're getting back on track with the menu plans! Last week I made mostly very quick and easy dinners, but I'm finally starting to feel more like myself, so this week should be better! So, here's the plan:

Monday - Honey Lime Chicken (I bake in the oven, covered in the marinade), rice, corn, whole wheat banana muffins.

Tuesday - Crock Pot night: Pot roast with potatoes and carrots, sourdough bread.

Wednesday - Cheeseburger soup, using shredded leftover pot roast instead of hamburger, and homemade rolls.

Thursday - Macaroni and cheese, applesauce, rest of the rolls from yesterday.

Friday - Homemade pizza with whole wheat crust.

Saturday - Pastitsio, green beans, biscuits.

Sunday - Pork chops in mushroom soup, mashed potatoes, corn, breadsticks.

For more great menu plans, check out orgjunkie!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Pumpkin-Butterscotch Fudge

Since we're so close to Christmas, I have GOT to get busy making candies and cookies. I thought today I would share my kids' favorite fudge recipe. I made this last year and they couldn't get enough. They've been asking me to make it for Christmas since October! The pumpkin and butterscotch are wonderful together. I have a cake recipe that has the two flavors and it is a definite family favorite, especially after a day when the tastes have had additional time to blend. Yum!!!

Pumpkin-Butterscotch Fudge

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter
2/3 c. evaporated milk (Not sweetened-condensed)
1/2 c. pumpkin (fresh or canned - not pie filling mix)
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
12 oz. package butterscotch chips
1 jar marshmallow Fluff
1 t. vanilla

Line a 13 x 9 pan with foil and spray or grease the foil. Set aside.

Combine first 5 ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the mixture reaches 234 degrees on a candy thermometer. This should take 8-12 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the chips until melted, then stir in the Fluff and vanilla until blended.

Pour immediately into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Allow to cool, cut into squares, and store in refrigerator.

For more wonderful recipes, check out Gayle's recipe swap on Grocery Cart Challenge!