Jun 3, 2014

Reverse Menu Planning - (or: What We Ate Last Week)

A big trend amongst bloggers is to post their menus for the upcoming week. I've done it myself many times. That said, I've also strayed from the planned menu many times (!) and we end up eating something totally different than what I planned. So what good, really, did it do to post a planned menu if I'm not sticking to it?

So now, here's what we REALLY ate last week! On a side note, I am trying to eliminate as many processed foods from our daily menu as I can. Sometimes it's just not possible and sometimes (hot dog rolls) it's just not convenient. But in my book, "Some is better than none" so I just do the best I can.

If you try nothing else in this list, try the STRAWBERRY PINEAPPLE SALAD WITH PINEAPPLE RANCH DRESSING. Oh my. Quite possibly the best salad I've eaten in many, many years.

Homemade sour dough bread French Toast
Sunny-side up egg
Sunday - Breakfast for dinner!

Grilled Extra Lean Hamburger, topped with
Homemade Guacamole/Salsa (*recipe) and
Homemade sandwich rolls
Roasted Red Pepper Hummas
Garden Fresh Gourmet Salt-free Tortilla Chips




Grilled Chicken Thighs with BBQ sauce
Half a baked potato

Grilled Extra Lean Hamburgers (again!)
Topped with pickled red onions
Leftover Apple Coleslaw
(fermented with garlic and lemon grass)
(ended up mixing them in coleslaw - yum!) 


Hot dogs (Boar's Head - no nitrates, no fillers)
Tomato, lettuce salad topped with leftover guacamole/salsa
Potato Gnocchi with garlic and Parmesan cheese

Saturday - no picture - take out Chinese Food!

*Recipe - Guacamole Salsa

I know there's a million guacamole recipes on the Internet, so you probably don't need one more. But mine is SO easy and tastes SO fresh and bright. It's kind of like guacamole, and kind of like Salsa. We use it on burgers, to dip tortilla chips, or as a salad dressing. Here's what I do:

2 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 large green pepper
1/2 medium yellow onion
2 jalapeno peppers (take out seeds if you don't like heat)
1 tbsp of cilantro paste (or use a 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt to taste (I don't add any)

Chop and mix all these up real quick in a food processor.

Take the pits out of 2 avacados, scoop out the flesh, place in a bowl and mash well. Add the above ingredients from the food processor. Add 1 tbsp of lime (or lemon) juice. Stir well. That's it!


May 25, 2014

Home Sweet Home

We just returned home after putting on another few thousand miles on our car, another series of great visits with friends and family, and another reminder just how much we love to be HOME! Jeff and I have both agreed - that's enough traveling at least until Fall. Summer is going to be time for getting home projects done, spending time with our grandchildren, and generally relaxing and just enjoying life.

I've got a Want To Do List a mile long, mostly to do with gardening and some home decorating. Every room in the house needs to be painted. We have new Anderson windows being installed in the next few weeks. I've got a kitchen table that needs to be refinished. And I have so many sewing ideas swimming around in my head I don't know where to start!

Jeff and I have also agreed to take our TWO grandsons - Mr. B, now age 8, and the newly minted Mr. R, age 3 months - every other Friday throughout the summer. I'm actually excited about it. One of us will do a fun activity with Mr. B - geocaching, metal detecting, fishing, visiting local museums, etc. - and the other will have some major bonding time with Mr. R. I can't wait!

And speaking of Mr. R - I have not posted his pic here on my blog yet!! He is a precious little guy and a seemingly super-happy baby. At 3 months, he is sleeping 6 hours a night already, and lots more nap time during the day. So - Introducing my newest little heart-grabber - Mr. Riley Jay Bolden.

Oh yeah, I can spend some time with that smiley little face!!!

Life is good - and then you get one more precious grandchild added to your family to make it even better.

Apr 29, 2014

Our new way of traveling -- on a budget!

Jeff and I have just returned from a rather long road trip - Cincinnati to Dallas and back. We went out to visit my son, his wife, and our sweet, sweet granddaughter, Aimee. It's an 2200 mile trip both ways, and about 14 hours one way.

In our pre-Retirement/pension days, we normally looked for hotels as we needed them, and found gas stations along the highway as we traveled. Of course, the closer any gas station or hotel is to the highway, the more expensive it is. This time I wanted to cut down the cost of the trip (but not stay in fleabag hotels) so I used two apps on my (Android) phone to help.

Hotels.com app - This is a great app! You can use it ahead of time if you know where you want to stay or, as we did, pull out the app when you find you're getting tired and want to find a hotel. I like this app because it will show all hotels on a map of the area you're in, and it can list hotels by reviews or by cost. My biggest suggestion if you're trying to cut down on costs is to READ THE REVIEWS! Yes, you can find a $35 hotel, but if the reviews say things like "I stayed here for six months and even though it ain't real clean the folks who werk there are just like family to me"...  you know it might not be the right spot for you. It seems to $65 to $80 range is where you can find the best bang for your money, but you still need to read the reviews. Often people who have stayed in the hotels will be brutally honest about cleanliness, staff, and location of the hotel. If you don't feel safe leaving your car in the parking lot overnight, it's not a good choice.

Often Hotels.com will also offer an online discount. If the hotel rate is $90, hotels.com might offer it for $65. And for every 10 nights of reservations you make through the app, you get one night free. FREE is good! We'll be using our free night in an upcoming trip.

The second app I used was GasBuddy. I use this at home all the time to find out which local gas station has the best prices, but it's also very useful on road trips! Make sure your GPS feature is turned on, and GasBuddy will show you either via map or in a list, where the nearest gas stations are and the gas prices for each station. Once you choose which gas station you want, you can click on DIRECTIONS and your GPS will guide you to that station. You don't have to travel far off the highway to save .20 and .30 a gallon from highway gas prices.

We also saved money on food for this trip. First, I packed up a cooler at home. It contained:
  • Bottled Water (all but a few frozen to serve as the ice in the cooler)
  • Iced Tea
  • A loaf of bread
  • A bag of small bagels
  • A container of cream cheese
  • Two resealable containers of lunch meats
  • Six containers of yogurt
  • Mustard
  • Cheese sticks
  • Fresh apples and pears
And in a separate bag, we carried
  • Crackers
  • Banana muffins
  • Peanut Butter
  • Granola Bars
  • A ziploc bag of trail mix (nuts, raisins, dried fruits, M&Ms, Cheerios)
  • Napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery
  • Coffee maker, coffee, sweetener, Cremora
  • Thermos filled with hot coffee (made each morning in the hotel)
When I searched for hotels with the Hotels.com app, I always searched for ones that had free breakfast and free high-speed Internet. So on the trip, breakfast was always taken care of. When we had long driving days (2 days on each end of the trip), we would stop at rest areas that had picnic tables and make sandwiches and have lunch.

If we saw a restaurant we wanted to stop at for lunch, we stopped. Then that evening we would have sandwiches and fruit and crackers for our dinner in the hotel room.

With this bit of pre-planning and packing, we paid for just one meal a  day.

I will write more soon about the actual trip itself -- we had FUN and it was a joy to have time with our family!

Life is good!

Apr 26, 2014

Budget Garden Stakes

I'm not sure why, but I've been saving the Styrofoam trays that veggies come in. And today I'm glad I did! I needed garden markers for spinach, lettuce, kale and radishes.

I simply cut the bottom out of the tray, and then cut it into strips. I eventually cut down the sides and got four strips from each side as well.

I cut one end to a point, and used a black Sharpie marker to write down the name of the vegetable I was planting.

Excuse my dirty hands - I was in the middle of gardening when I realized I needed the labels. Out of the one tray, I got 22 plant labels!

There are some SUPER cute plant labels on Pinterest, but I needed them FAST and I needed them to be EASY, and I needed to make them from materials I had on hand. I'm happy with them because they'll do what they need to do.

Life is Good!