Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cleaning Out

Purging clutter and junk can be so good for the soul!! If you need any additional reasons, check out Martha's 100-Reasons-To-Get-Rid-Of-It. I can't wait to clean out some more...

I have a confession...

... I love getting a bargain.  Anytime I can save money on something, I'm thrilled.  

But, I also have my staples on which I splurge: I'll literally show up to Marshall's wearing an outfit that could pay the rent just to save an extra 50% on an already reduced post-seasonal item.

My recent conquest to save money has been on groceries... learning how to effectively/efficiently comparison shop and use coupons- it's been a little stressful at times, but totally worth it!!  It's getting a little trickier now that we're moving towards organics.  But, I'm still doing well (and very thankful for store brand organics)... I spent $60 on our groceries today (it should last through the end of next week) when it should have cost around $80.

My favorite way to save money is at CVS.  I have been learning their customer loyalty program (aka: free card) for the past few months, thanks to some blogs that I now read daily (thank you, and Two weeks ago I got $9 worth of items for $0.09- seriously.  And this week, I got a big bottle of Head and Shoulders for $0.79 (it's about $6.75 regularly).

YES- I have boundaries for saving money:
1. It has to fit in the budget;
2. We have to have a place to put it; and
3. It has to be something that we can actually use (or donate to a local non-profit).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Play-Doh Recipe

I know that play-doh isn't a standard kitchen creation. But, working with kids, you come across a lot of make-your-own-play-doh recipes; and, most of them are poor substitutes for the real thing. However, I made one today that is actually really great- it's smooth and soft and really moist. And, the ingredient list is simple and sweet :)

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup water

1. Mix the baking soda and corn starch in a pot.
2. Use hands to make sure all the lumps are broken up.
3. Add water.
4. Heat the pan on the stove over medium heat and stir constantly.
5. As soon as the mixture gathers together (a little over 5 minutes), remove from the heat. When it cools (about 45 minutes), knead it into a smooth play dough.

Note: If you don't stir continually, it will stick and burn (and stink). Also, don't over cook this play dough or it will crumble when used.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Black Bean Soup

I got this recipe from my mom, Ellen.  Most people love it:

3T olive oil
1/2c. yellow onion, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1t ground cumin
3/4c. celery, chopped
3/4c. carrot, chopped
3c. chicken broth
3 - 15.5oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
juice from 1 lime
1T tomato paste

1. In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add onion and garlic, and cook until tender
2. Stir in cumin and cook 1 minute.
3. Add celery, carrot, stock, and beans.  Heat to boiling.
4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes.
5. Stir in the lime juice and tomato paste.
6. Puree soup in the blender (note: when mixing hot soup in blender, only fill the blender about 1/3 full, as hot liquid expands).

This soup is great for freezing.  I serve with sour cream and a warm, crusty bread.  Enjoy!

What-Did-I-Make Wednesday

Side Note: Well, in the past week my "domesticity" has pretty much revolved around unpacking boxes, sorting, organizing, and putting-away. The bad part is that we're going on 2 1/2 months of this, but the good part is that it's almost done (seriously...)

Whenever I go out of town, I like to leave something for Matt. I used to write him a letter for everyday I was gone (awwww....), until I found that he never opened them, much less read them. So, now I leave food- a much more reasonable gesture. I have completely monopolized the kitchen, so Matt has no idea where anything is (you should see him try to unload the dishwasher). I'm sure he would survive without the meals; and I'm sure he would just head to the closest grocery store and buy 10 Budget Gourmets for $10. Economical, yes. Healthy, not so much.

This weekend, I'm heading to Dallas to see Kim, my amazing college roommate. (I haven't seen her since August and I'm going crazy.) We're going to shop, see friends, celebrate her promotion, etc. Matt, on the other hand, is staying home with Hula, so I'm starting his "leave behind" meals today.

This is what he's slated to get:
Sun dried tomato pasta (in fridge for Friday night and Saturday lunch)
Black Bean Soup (freezer meal)
Tomato Soup (freezer meal)
I am freezing a loaf of french bread (sliced in half) for his soups. The boy will freak without something to dip in his soup.
Hummus with freshly sliced carrots and Naan
Homemade chocolate chip cookies
Homemade strawberry lemon muffins

I will also do a shopping trip right before he goes and get things like bananas, chips/salsa, and Pirate's Booty. Does this sound like a lot of food?? Not for Matt. Matt consumes like a beast.

Long story short: tonight I am making the black bean soup and will post the recipe later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What-Did-I-Make Wednesday??

It's that time of year- the Stony Brook student athletes are being reviewed for the academic eligibility. This means long, stressful meetings for Matt and the academic advisors. I decided I would cheer them up with some yummy treats! I delivered these goodies today:

Sun Dried Tomato Dip: I admit it; I am addicted to the Barefoot Contessa (thanks, Lil!). I use light/reduced fat ingredients for this dip and by "good mayo", I use Helman's Light and it still turns out great :) I serve with carrots, celery, tortilla chips, and pretzels.

Apple Muffins: I got to use the apples I froze back in the fall!! I felt so domestic pulling the labeled and dated zip-loc from the freezer and taking the appropriate amount. These muffins are really good. I make them in large muffin pans so it looks like they're from a bakery.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As I mentioned in my last post, we joined a CSA for the upcoming spring, summer, and fall. What is a CSA?? Good question! A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is like having a farm membership. Members (like me) pay a fee and "buy into" the farm. Every week, we receive a variety of fresh, organic produce. Some CSA's require members to work on the farm in addition to paying a membership fee. I made sure to find one that did not require labor :) You can learn more about CSA's at

We decided to join The Golden Earthworm ( Besides having an awesome name, it delivers the food about a mile from our home. I'll go on Wednesday afternoons and pick up our fresh produce (if I miss the pick-up, they simply donate the food to a food bank). We decided to join a CSA because:

1. it's organic, making it healthier for us and for the community. Pesticides ruin soil and compromise the water quality.
2. it's local, meaning healthier for us and healthier for the community. Supporting local farms is a wonderful way to be involved in the community and support our neighbors. Not that our neighbors are farmers...
3. it'll help me think "out of the box" for cooking...

While I'm super excited about this, I'm really nervous, too. There's no guarantee about which produce you'll receive. It's all based on what was harvested that week. So, I could easily end up with 6 types of produce that I a) don't like, and b) have no clue what to do with. I guess I'll be getting creative in the kitchen during the harvest :) People who are super-CSA-ers will freeze much of their produce to help them get through the winter months. We will not be those people :)

To find a CSA near you, visit and type in your zip code! Some CSAs will actually deliver to you door every week- you can't beat that!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Home Making Goals 2009

Do you know what favorite part of New Year's Resolutions? That there's no day when everyone sits down and evaluates their progress (or lack-there-of).

I didn't post these sooner because I'm still working with them... I almost ditched this exercise all-together. Making a list of goals is tough for me. I LOVE planning, sorting, and organizing. But- I also love letting ideas and routines develop organically based on current needs, future desires, and the people around me. Life isn't consistent, so why would my goals remain consistent for an entire year?? Consequently, this list below is a bit uneven: some resolutions are very specific, while others are just grand ideas. In no particular order:

1. Move towards an organic, locally grown. seasonal diet/menu/shopping experience. I already joined a CSA... more on that to come!
2. Purchase more "whole" foods, less pre-packaged foods.
3. Learn how to (and actually practice) canning/freezing techniques.
4. Move towards home-made, chemical free cleaning solvents.
5. Re-think our use of the dry-cleaners. I may look into wet cleaning, instead.
6. Create (and stick to) a functional cleaning schedule.
7. Learn to knit... I hope I can find someone to teach me!
8. Practice cake decorating.
9. Enjoy at least 1 craft project/week.
10. Reduce our grocery bill monthly.
11. Get rid of any toxic products in the house. Replace with healthier options.
12. Purchase "fair-trade" whenever possible.
13. Take a quilting class.
14. Make the bed at least 5 times/week. I am really, really bad about this.

Do you have any good ones??

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve Menu Review

How did I do?? Not too badly! I spent the day leisurely making the meal (in my new apron- thanks, Roomie!!). I baked the cake in the morning and then did the Parmesan croutons around noon. I frosted the cake around 1:30pm and then took a break to clean up the kitchen/house and do my hair :) Then, I blanched the green beans so they'd cook faster and vacuumed the house with our brand-new, special pet-hair vacuum. By this time, Matt came home with a twisted ankle from his run- poor guy! Here is a review of our meal:

Parker's Split Pea Soup: This soup was very, very yummy. The recipe says to skim the foam from the top of the soup, but not much acquired through the cooking. It also reminds you to stir frequently so that the veggies won't stick to the bottom- I found this very true in the last 20 minutes of cooking. I pulled the soup off the burner about 5 minutes early, as it was really thickening up. I'll add more chicken stock when I reheat it today.

Parmesan Croutons: There was way too much salt called for in this recipe and not enough Parmesan cheese! I added more cheese as I went but didn't realize how much salt was on them until it was too late. Next time, I will edit the ingredients :) Matt didn't think there was too much salt on the croutons, but I thought it was worse that a potato chip. My throat actually hurt from the salt... Regardless, they are pretty yummy- we each had about 4 in our soup!

Main Course:
Pan Seared Fillet Mignon with a Cabernet Sauce: This was pretty good and pretty easy to make. HOWEVER, the recipe says to put the cab in a hot pan. I did and it was a big, BIG mistake. The wine popped and spatted all over the kitchen. The floor, my clothes, the counter, the stove top, the cabinets, the ceiling, etc were all covered with wine. Next time, I will let the pan cool a bit before adding the wine... think "warm" pan- NOT "hot" pan.

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes: Matt thought these were good, but I thought they were really good. The mustard flavor was pretty subtle so I might add another tablespoon next time. And, the prep was so easy and so was the cooking, which is always nice! After popping these bad boys in the over (I used a mini turkey roasting pan), all I did was stir every 20 minutes. They cooked the perfect amount and I can't wait to finish them today!

String Beans with Shallots: These were just beans to me... I couldn't really taste anything else. I really like green beans, so I'm ok with that. I guess I just expected more. Both Matt and I prefer this green bean recipe (and no, I do not use all of the butter that it calls for because, well, beans are supposed to be healthy):

Coconut Cake: It was amazing!! Seriously- go make this cake!!!! It does make a lot of icing, so there's plenty to cover every last bit of cake. Make sure you put enough frosting between the layers and keep frosting until you're out! I did have one goof making it... I didn't realize that I had an 8" and a 9" cake pan until after the cakes were baked. Oops. But, it's nothing that some creative cutting with a serrated knife can't fix. It's a BIG cake, so I could only eat half of my small slice. I think I'll try the cupcakes, too :)

Overall, I was really happy with our dinner (and thankful that Matt cleaned the wine off of the ceiling while I kept our meal on track)! I did notice that I don't have a cake leveler, so I may have to pick one up with my 50% off coupon from Michael's tomorrow :)

Happy New Year!!