Thursday, December 30, 2010

One Dish Meal: Baked Pasta E. Fagioli

Here is a great recipe for Baked Pasta E. Fagioli.  I love a recipe that can be a complete meal.  There are veggies, carbs, protein and dairy.  This meal is not only delicious but very hearty.  We love this recipe and it is one of only a few ways I can get my family to eat spinach. (myself included)

Here are the ingredients you will need.
* 8 ounces penne (small) or elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
* 1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes in puree (whole or pre-chopped)
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 celery, chopped
* 2 garlic cloves, crushed
* 2 (15 ounce) cans navy beans or white beans
* 1 cup vegetable broth
* black pepper, ground
* 1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
* 1/2 cup romano cheese, freshly grated

We used macaroni noodles and the only other change was using fresh grated Parmesan cheese instead of Romano. You can get the complete instructions here.

Linked to: Funky Junk Interiors, Keeping it Simple, Hope Studios

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hearty Breakfast: Baked Pear and Walnut Oatmeal

I found this great recipe at Beauty and Bedlam and tweaked it just a bit to fit what we had on hand.
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 TB butter
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of salt
  • 2 cups Scottish Oatmeal
  • 2 Pears diced
  • 1 cup chopped Walnuts
Preheat oven to 350°. Bring milk, sugar, butter, salt and cinnamon to boil in a heavy pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes in buttered casserole dish.

This was plenty sweet enough for my husband and I however the girls both thought it needed to be sweeter.  They scooped their serving into a bowl and then sprinkled some sugar and drizzled some milk over top and they loved it.
This is a great hearty breakfast and something a little different than norm.

Linked to: A Vision to Remember, Mad Skills Monday, My Back Yard Eden

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yummy Kielbasa and Potatoes

This makes for a very easy dinner.  The amounts in my recipe are just enough for our family of 4, with no left overs.

5 medium potatoes
1 Kielbasa link
2 TBS Canola or Extra Virgin Olive oil
Cooking Spray

I spray a 9X13 pan down with the cooking spray.  I then wash and cube the 5 potatoes and layer them on the bottom of the pan.  I take the Kielbasa link (these are about a foot long) and slice it up on top of the potatoes.  I drizzle the 2 TBS of oil over the top and then sprinkle on some Garlic and Pepper.  Sometimes I dice up an onion in the pan also.

I cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Then I remove the foil and stir the potatoes and kielbasa.  I put it back in the oven for 20 more minutes or until the potatoes and kielbasa are starting to brown.

This is super easy and everyone in this house loves it.  Serve with your favorite veggie and maybe some bread and you have a hearty meal.

Linked to: C.R.A.F.T., Nikki's Nifty Knacks, The Thrifty Home

Friday, December 24, 2010

Frugal Tip #5: Cutting Back on Cleaning Supplies

First off I'd like to say that I am not recommending that you don't clean or never use any cleaning supplies.  :)  I am just suggesting that you consider what supplies are most important and see if there are any changes you can make.

About 2 1/2 years ago, when I had my very first blog, I made some real changes about what I used to clean. I quit buying every single product known to man and began to simplify.

Now I mainly use Vinegar, Baking Soda, Bleach and Dawn.  On an occasion I pick up another ingredient if I am wanting to make a specific cleaner.  There really isn't much that I can't get done with one or some of the above items.

TipNut has recipes for just about every cleaner imagineable!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whole Crockpot Chicken

One of my families favorite meals starts with a Whole Crockpot Chicken.

When I can find whole chickens for 99cent/lb or less I try to grab a couple that are around 4 or 5 lbs.  I like to keep several of these on hand in the deep freezer.

Sometimes I do cook one and then shred all the meat so that it can be used for sandwiches, burritos, pasta, soup or some other recipe.  However the favorite in this house is to serve the chicken meat as the main dish along with a couple side dishes.  If I make a 5lb chicken my girls will devour all the meat before the night is over.

So how do I make my crockpot chicken?

I take a 4-5lb bird that has been thawed and lay it in my oblong shaped crockpot.  I take out some salad dressing we have on hand and drizzle it over the top of the chicken.  Dressings that I have used include Italian, Vinagrette, and variations of Italian and Vinagrette (ie.  Italian with Parmasean, Balsamic Vinagrette, etc.).  I imagine there are other dressings that would taste good these are just the dressings we tend to use.

For my crockpot I cook on low for 7 to 7 1/2 hrs.  My older crockpot I had to cook 8+ hrs so I suggest that you check on your chicken around the 7+ hr mark.

After we enjoy our delicious chicken I make some homemade chicken broth to stock up in the freezer.

Linked to: Blue Cricket Design, Nikkis Nifty Knacks, Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I am the Parent of a 15 Year Old!

Thursday was Emeri's 15th Birthday! I am still wondering how it is possible that I have a 15 year old child.  How did this little sweetie grow up so fast?
It almost dosen't seem real.

On Tuesday Emeri missed school to go out for the day with my Mom, sisters and I.  At 13 we stopped doing the family birthday's and instead they get to miss school and go out to lunch.

Emeri got money from us and from my Mom and sisters and she spent it all to get an iPod touch. 

On Thursday, her actual birthday, school was out for an ice day.  I made dessert pizza for breakfast and Nachos for supper.  Not healthy but birthday wishes were granted.  :)

Then last night she had 3 friends stay over night.  This was so much better than Jonah's quite crazy slumber party back in August.   I made it a point to make sure we had plenty of food/snacks and I even gave in and bought paper plates and solo cups....something I haven't had in my house in a looooong time. 
Last night's party went soooo much smoother.  It was actually fun and I got a good night sleep.  The girls had a blast and we ended up with left over food.   I would rather have left over than not enough.

Today we will head out to get Emeri's hair cut and let her spend the money her friends got her.  Then all the birthday festivites will be over.

Having a 15 year old is  scary however next year will be 16 and that scares me more!  :)

Linked to: A Silly Little Sparrow

Friday, December 17, 2010

Enter to Win a $500 Target Gift Card and More Wicked Fresh Prizes

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Toms of Maine. All opinions are 100% mine.


If you have not had the opportunity to try any Tom's Of Maine products they offer toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, dental floss and soap that are naturally made.  You can actually look at a list of all their ingredients on their website and it tells you exactly what they are and what the ingredient does. 

We  have tried a few of their products and the favorite in our house is the Wicked Fresh mouthwash.  My girls have gotten to the age where they no longer want fruity or bubble gum flavored mouthwash but most of the minty ones really burn their mouths and they don't like that at all.  The Wicked Fresh mouthwash does not burn and that is a plus in our house.  Dental Care is very important to us,  we just got one child out of braces and are waiting to see if the other one will need them.  After spending that kind of money for nice teeth we do what we can to keep them that way.

Right now Tom's of Maine is running an awesome contest! They are giving away a $500 Target gift card and other Wicked Fresh Prizes. To enter just visit  the That's Wicked Fresh contest page and tweet your favorite #WickedFresh experience.  You will also need to follow @TomsofMaine on twitter to be entered.  For a Bonus entry you can "Like" Tom's of Maine on Facebook.

click here

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Christmas Decor at Pier 1

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pier 1 Imports. All opinions are 100% mine.

This year our Christmas decorations are quite modest.  Our tall Christmas tree died on us so we were left using an old 4ft which has since decided to only light up on the top and bottom, not in the middle.  It's obvious that next Christmas we will need a new tree and at this point I can't decide if we will buy a new fake one or if we will get a real one.  Growing up we always went out and cut down a real tree but I have never had a real one since I have been married.  My sister has had a real one the past few years and they have been gorgeous.

Besides a new tree I am looking to just get a lot more decorations in here. Pier 1  has some things that I really love!  This Angel Stocking holder would look amazing on the top of our entertainment center, of course we would need two, one for each of the girls' stockings.


I also love this terracotta version of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus.  It would make a great centerpiece on either the coffee table of top of our short bookcase.  I love representing the meaning of Christmas through decor in our home.

I am pretty sure I could complete most of my Christmas shopping at Pier 1, not only for the decorations but they also have tons of holiday gifts to choose from.  And if you haven't had a chance to donate to Toys for Tots this season and would like to you can drop off your unwrapped toy at Pier 1 or even make a cash donation at the register.  If you don't have a Pier 1 close by or life is just too busy right now you can "Like" Pier 1 Imports on Facebook and for every new fan they will donate $1 to Toys for Tots.

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Our Favorite Easy Meatloaf

Meatloaf is not something we eat very often but every once in a while I get the craving to make Meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

Growing up my Grandma and Mom used a recipe for meatloaf that included adding in a can of vegetable soup.  I always loved that recipe however the recipe I use is quite different.

When we first got married I received one of the big red  Betty Crocker cookbooks for our wedding shower.  One night I decided I wanted to make meatloaf and came across a recipe that was almost exactly just like this one.

• 1 1/2 pounds ground beef - I used ground round
• 1 cup skim milk
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 teaspoon dried sage
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
• 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
• 1/2 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients except ketchup in a large bowl, and mix well. Place mixture into an ungreased loaf pan or shape into a loaf in an ungreased baking pan. Spread ketchup over the top of the meatloaf. Bake uncovered for 1 to 1 1/4 hours until no pink remains at the center of the meatloaf.

I only made a couple minor changes to the recipe. It was yummy with homemade mashed potatoes and green beans.

Linked to: Someday Crafts , Saturday Mornings

Visit Branson this Holiday Season

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hilton Branson. All opinions are 100% mine.

Traveling around Christmas time can truly be so magical.  For the first time this year we are taking  a Christmas vacation leaving the afternoon of the 25th.  We pondered for the longest time trying to decide what our destination would be.  Since it will be winter we did decide to go for mountains rather than heading to a beach somewhere. 

A lot of places have special events during the holiday season and the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel is on the top of that list.  If you are planning a weekender with the family you still have time to spend this weekend with Santa and Mrs. Claus.  Old Saint Nick is visiting Branson and will be at the hotel in the Level 2 Steakhouse to visit with the children and take pictures on December 18th and 19th from 9-11am.  He will also be available in the lobby for family pictures from 4:30 to 6:30p.m.  If Mrs. Claus is who you want to see she will be having story time from 5-7pm by the Christmas tree in the lobby through the 18th. 

Not only does the Hilton offer so many fun and exciting events but they often offer special rates.  Now through December 30th you can get special room rates up to 50% off in-season room rates both at the Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel and the Hilton Promenade at Branson Landing.

If I was able to run off to Branson this weekend I would be doing some last minute Christmas shopping for myself.  Places to shop and eat are in abundance and they would most definitely keep me busy for the entire weekend.

Have you been to Branson?  What was your favorite thing about it?

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Frugal Tip #4: Adding Homemade Soup to Your Menu

This one only works for us for part of the year.  As the long as the temperature outside is 50 or below I can add a soup/stew/gumbo to our weekly menu plan.

Right now cold weather is in full swing so we will have some type of soup, stew, gumbo or chili once a week.  Homemade soups can be so easy and very inexpenisive.  Sometimes I use a recipe and other times I just toss in things that we have left over.  Like meat, veggies, beans or rice.

Soup is one of the ways we are able to cut back on meat.

The particular soup above I made a couple weeks ago.  It was just one of those "toss some things together" kind of soups.

2 Cups of Homemade Chicken Stock (free)
2 Cans black beans rinsed and drained ($1.20)
1 can of diced tomatoes (49cents)
1 bag frozen corn (50cents)
1 pkg Old El Paso Beans and rice mix (50cents)
garlic powder, onion powder, pepper
Water to cover

I simply put this all on the stove and simmered for about an hour and a half.  Served with a sprinkle of cheese on top.

The entire pot cost only $2.69,  we used about 1/2 a package of shredded cheese which cost me $1.50 for the entire package.   I served it with corn bread that cost me 50cents for the package.

Dinner for 4 came to a grand total of $3.94 plus there was enough left over that I ate this for lunch the next two days.

Here are a few soups/stews that we enjoy:
Leak and Potato Soup
Potato and Broccoli Soup
Healthier Cheeseburger Soup
Hearty Chicken and Rice Stew
Mexican Soup

What is your favorite homemade soup/stew/gumbo?  Leave a comment and a link if you have one.  :)

Linked to: A Thrifty Home , We are That Family, Trendy Treehouse

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Day: December 2010

Usually it seems that we get the majority of our snow after Christmas. However today we have our first snow day of this winter.  The actual amount of snow hasn't been really bad but the wind has been horrendous and the snow keeps getting blown all around.  So the road crews get the roads (main roads) cleared and then the snow is blown back on them.  The picture above was taken about 3 hrs ago and we have had continuous snow since then, however by no means a blizzard.  :)

Since we live in a rural area and there are lots of kids to be bussed that live on back roads they have called off school for tomorrow.  My girls are thrilled to miss school.  I am thrilled that I get to sleep in tomorrow.

For now I am going to stay cuddled up in my warm house.  I am thinking of making some homemade waffles and bacon for dinner then curling up and watching some t.v.

Have you had snow yet this winter?  Do your schools call off for a snow day very easily or does it need to be a blizzard outside?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Emeri's Madrigal Dress for 2010

This is Emeri's freshman year and it is her first time being in a Madrigal Choir.  Some of the parents were renting costumes but the rentals were $70+ and you had to drive almost an hour one way to the rental place.  So I looked at some of the previous years pictures of the event and then went on a search online.

I found this dress and really liked it and definitely liked the price:

It was only $40 shipped!  I ordered a medium instead of a small not knowing if the sizes would run small or not. 

When the dress arrived I did have to take both sides in an inch then I had to bring the hem up about 3 inches.

I decided I did not like the ric-rac that was outlining the design on the chest and the waist line.  So I went to Walmart and got some shear black ribbon that was 1  inch wide and some shear gold ribbon that was 1/2 inch wide.  I changed the embellishment on the front of the dress as well as on the headpiece by handsewing on the ribbon (and using the glue gun a bit).

For a total of $50 the dress came out great!  Plus she will wear it in next years Madrigal as well, then we can get a new one for her Jr year.  That price really beats the rental price.

Linked to: Fireflies and Jellybeans, Today's Creative Blog

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cherry Coconut Bars

Besides the Corn Casserole I also brought a couple bottles of soda and some Cherry Cocunut Bars to Thanksgiving dinner.

Despite the fact that these don't look so great in the picture they tasted so good and I didn't come home with any.

I actually got the recipe on the side of a box of Krusteaz Snickerdoodle Cookies that I had gotten at Kroger for 99cents.


1 Pouch Krusteaz Snickerdoodle cookie mix
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter softened
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
1/4 cup shreddd coconut
1 pouch cinnamon-sugar topping (in the Krusteaz box)

Preheat the oven to 350.  In medium bowl, stir together cookie mix, butter, egg and cherries until dough forms.  Press into a lightly greased 8X8 pan. Sprinkle coconut and cinnamon-sugar over top of dough.  Bake 24 - 26 minutes.  Allow to cool before cutting.  Makes 16 bars.

Linked to: Somewhat Simple, Life as Lori