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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Grocery Budget

WHAT Grocery Budget??

Since Sonny Boy has been gone (wow, a whopping 10 days!) and probably even BEFORE that since I was doing the pantry challenge in July, I've not made a long grocery list, carried an envelope stuffed with coupons or had to make more than 2 trips to the car to unload.

Yeah, we've been to the store.

A gallon of milk, 3pk of lettuce, half and half was the list on the receipt last week.

This past weekend consisted of a trip to Publix ($30 as Hubby HAD to have his olive bar selection) and the produce store.

But last night. Ahhh. Last night, I told Hubby I'd stop and get him something to sleep...he's fighting the battle of sickness now and is just about down for the count. So I had a few things I wanted, carrots, celery, lettuce, and NyQuil.

And silly me, I swung in to the parking lot of .... Whole Foods.

What was I thinking?

$73 later, I walk out with a few carrots, a package of celery, some grapes ($6?? They better be good), some apples, a small container of baby lettuce, 3 small bananas, ginger root, yummy smoked touville cheese, wedge of parmesan to give Sonny Boy and then....because I had a moment of WEAKNESS and it was 7pm already, and I'm still fighting my cold ...

2 veggie egg rolls ($3.99)
medium split pea soup $4.99
medium chix soup $4.99

orange chicken (5 pieces) $2.70
veg lo mein $3.60

potted parsley $4.99
potted cilantro $4.99

and Nighttime cough medicine $13.99 (all natural).

Wow. I love to go in to Whole Foods to BROWSE but certainly NOT to shop. I mean seriously. The prepared foods section is awesome BUT it's $8.99 a lb for the Asian selection, no matter WHAT you buy ... I'm looking forward to the Fresh Market opening soon ... in about another year??

Preparing Ahead of Time - Salads

It's busy around here lately. Getting a kid shipped off to school. Work. Sickness. Life in general.
The life in general thing really takes over my time it seems...and before I know it, the weekend is OVER and it's Monday morning again!
The number one thing I do is make sure I always, always, ALWAYS have something prepped for lunches (Hubby and I take our lunches 99% of the time to work) ...



And we normally eat salads and leftovers if they are appealing for lunches (um, take my advice, skip the leftover broccoli, ok? Just not a good thing to reheat in an office building).

And we take LARGE salads.

So I make it a point to wash the lettuce, slice the cukes, the sweet peppers and a few tomatoes (I don't normally do a whole week of tomatoes as they will get icky rather quickly) ...

And keep them in separate containers. 

Every morning, I grab a handful of lettuce, a handful of spinach (I buy it in large containers, triple washed, don't tell me bad things please!) a handful of cukes, handful of peppers and whatever else (I put nuts, pinenuts, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, whatever I have open in mine) and Hubby always gets cheese of some sort (whatever is on hand and opened!) and if there's not meaty leftovers (protein), I will chop up some ham and/or turkey (Thank you Costco!) and top it.

We both have our salad dressings at the office already so no need to worry about making a separate container for that.

Works for Me!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday, yet again.

At least THIS week I'm feeling so much better, have a little spring in my step AND Sonny Boy will ride the bus home Friday afternoon to spend the long weekend with us ... woohoo!!

Oddly enough, it feels like the weight of the world has temporarily fallen off my shoulders, thankfully. Which allowed me to sit yesterday, in the FRESH, CLEAN Florida Room and make out a menu for the WHOLE month of September (and these last 3 days of August). Of course, if I stick with the whole month, it would be nice, but we all know the reality of that!

So here's what I have for the upcoming week:

Sunday - leftover chicken breast (from Hubbys Saturday night experiment, brining) with salad and fresh grated parmesan cheese

Monday - Steak with onions and shrooms

Tuesday - Asian Chicken Soup

Wednesday - Bangin Shrimp

Thursday - Chicken with philly cream and pasta

Friday - Sonny Boy home! Pizza? With the garlicky crust?

Saturday - Sonny Boy home! I'm sure he's going to want to hang with his friends, and I know the diva will be with him so I'm thinking steaks either way. Have a couple of New York Strips that need to be eaten (Costco size) with double baked taters

So what are you planning on cooking this week? Head over to Menu Plan Monday and link up with 100's of other bloggers who get it!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Parmesan Crust Chicken

Hubby did his first cooking class at the cooking school Friday. Lord please help me. This man has the fire in his belly to start cooking again.

Don't get me wrong, I love his cooking and he was the master chef of the household before his accident years ago. 

And I'm glad that a two hour class brought it back to life for him. He's ready to start experimenting ...

But in the meantime, I will still be cooking at least 50% of the meals in this house.

So today's recipe comes from one of those magazine ads, you know, for mayo. And surprisingly enough, it's tasty ... Here it is, as we made:

Parmesan Crust Chicken

1/2 cup mayo (we used olive oil based)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably not the green can!)
4 chicken breast
4 tsp italian seasoned breadcrumbs (we used Panko, that's what I had on hand)

Combine mayo and Parmesan cheese.

Spray a baking sheet (which we covered with tin foil for easy cleaning) with some cooking spray. Arrange the chicken on pan and spoon the mayo mix over top of each breast, spreading with back of spoon.

Sprinkle with breadcrumbs/panko and bake for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Time and a Place

There is a time and a place for everything in life.

And today, I speak of frozen convenience foods.

No, I'm not necessarily talking about frozen pizzas or bagel bites because {sob} we've sort of moved on from that kind of stuff for now.

I am however, talking about GROWN UP convenience foods. With a little bit better quality and taste than the above mentioned stuff :)

Saturday night, we got home from delivering Sonny Boy to college. I was SICK, getting ready to speed downhill in to a full fledged sinus infection.  I was also being hormonal, and the fact that I just threw my baby boy to the wolves, well, I was a mess.

Hubby took charge. He dug around in the freezers (which, look, they are getting emptier!) and came up with this:



And 45 minutes later, we were eating a fairly decent meal all things considering.

Princess came home and wanted to eat too, as those chicken things are like her all time favorite (and I'm shocked that there were 2 boxes left as she will make these at 3pm for a 'snack' and still be 105 lbs).

Total spent? I know I only buy the chicken when it's buy one get one, $4.99 and I know I always have $1 off coupons, so figure $2.99 for both boxes, the taters were probably $1.50 so figure dinner for 3 with leftovers, under $5. Beats a drive through or takeout!

Linking up with Frugal Fridays, because this is definitely a FRUGAL idea when you are sick ... 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cleaning the Iron

I notice I go in cycles on cleaning tips.

This week, yet again, has a tip utilizing those dryer sheets.

Now I've found 2 useful things to do with them ...

This time around, we will clean the plate of the iron. Have you ever ironed something that wasn't MEANT to have heat applied? You know, an applique. Or a stray piece of leather (why did they do that!) .. and then it just burns right on the iron plate. Uggg.

Well, never fear, here's a tip that will clean that right up ... and it will also polish up the plate so it won't catch the fabric and crease it.

Take a dryer sheet, and 2 pieces of paper towel.

Turn iron on high (but don't turn on the steam option)

Lay one piece of paper towel down on the board, and place dryer sheet on top.

Lay other paper towel sheet down next to them.

Iron the dryer sheet for oh, 30 seconds. Smells good, doesn't it?

Then iron the paper towel for oh, 30 seconds. The point is to remove the fabric softener from the iron.

Do this as many times as needed.

Hmm....look at that paper towel. It definitely took off some grime!

Works for Me!

*I've got pictures to upload but having difficulty today ... so check back later!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Menu Plan Monday (Tuesday?)

Yeah, I know. It's Tuesday. NOT Monday.

I'm well aware of that.

I've been sick. Since last week. A WEEK ago, matter of fact.

Started as a scratchy throat. Then a painful throat. As in, wake up in the middle of the night mewling because it hurt so bad. Not a good thing.

Of course, we were in Orlando, at a hotel, that had magnificent sheets, pillows and a large TV (for Hubby). Me, I just wanted to stay there forever.

But alas, life calls. So we finished getting Sonny Boy settled in. Said our goodbyes. Shed some tears. And drove back home.

Saturday night, dinner was simple: Smashed taters (freezer) and chicken cordon blue (freezer).

Sunday night, Hubby fended for himself as I was sprawled on the coach, a weeping mess. Not sure if it was from the fact that my baby boy was 300 miles away (and what is he eating??) or if it was because I was running a fever and still mewling with the very sore throat. Hubby rustled up some cheese sticks, breaded mushrooms, pigs in a blanket and my turkey meatballs (to go with sauce and noodles, I scolded him the next day for eating them). All from the freezer. Good boy.

Monday night was dinner out. Probably NOT the best thing to do, but Hubby wanted to cut me and Princess some slack since SHE went to the doctor and they put her on antibiotics. It was just a soup and salad place, and I ate more than my fair share of soup, trust me.

Tuesday - fend for yourself, probably sandwiches

Wednesday - (please let me feel better by now!!) Chicken and that philly cooking stuff with noodles and broccoli.

Thursday - Suppose to be a windy-rainy day thanks to Irene passing to the East of us, maybe I'll make some soup ... Princess was wanting some onion soup but I don't think she'll be home.

Friday - I better be feeling better by now! Hubby has a cooking class, so I will probably just have a salad or leftovers ... or a plate of nachos.

Saturday - Hubbys call ...

Yeah, pretty lame week, wouldn't you say? I probably NEED to go to the doctor but I'm holding out. Had to stop taking the anti-inflammatory meds that Rheumatologist gave me so I could take some cold medicine. Definitely noticed when I stopped taking them. Wow. Not so sure if that's good or bad.

Linking up with Menu Plan Monday ... although this is really not worthy of a link ...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Moving Sonny Boy aka Shopping at Home

I apologize well in advance if this post is scattered. See, I am fighting a cold (nerves? stress?), new medication (taken at night and puts me in a haze for a bit in morning) and the fact that today is  ...

Well, today is THE day. Sonny Boy heads off for his next Big Adventure. College.

Whew.

How did I get here?

I can only imagine what he's thinking too!

I'm excited yet so very nervous. I'm trying NOT to be a mother hen. I realize he needs to step up and out and just do it.

Which is not the subject of today's post, by the way!

Today's post is about Decluttering/Dejunking and Frugal Friday! Also known as Shopping At Home. Wow, so many topics fall into one single heading!

Yes. Now that Sonny Boy has moved 90% of his personal belongings to the back of the Tahoe (thankfully he's riding with a friend up because there is no room left for him in the back) I can take inventory of what is left and what is really still needed.

No. I'm not getting rid of his drum set. Or the 6 amps still in the bedroom. Or the guitars. None of that stuff. I will leave his room alone for  now. (I am thankful that he did take 4 guitars, 1 amp and the keyboard with him at least).

But I will be tackling the kitchen. I've given him a large pot, small pot, pizza pan, 8x8 baking dish, 2 cutting boards, a variety of knives, cheese grater, tongs, mixing bowls, water bottles, waffle maker and more. Then we have the food, boxes of pasta, cookie mix, cake mix, frosting, carnation, cereal, pop tarts, granola bars, protein mix, mac and cheese box (he opted out on the rice cooker for now), pancake mix, syrup, salt and pepper, garlic and onion powder, Italian seasoning and even more.

I realized after I started shopping at the Big Box Stores that I had plenty of things I could send off with him already at HOME. This of course, after I spend quite a bit in stocking up for his new apartment.

Then we had issue with unknown needed school stuff. Unlike elementary and middle schools, colleges do NOT give you a printed list of how many pencils, what color pens and how much paper you need. So we sort of winged that and hope he can get a quick bus ride to Walmart if necessary. But again, I had tons of stuff in the guest closet (remember my take 10?) There was a whole shoebox in there of pens, markers, crayons, pencils and colored pencils. I went one by one and tossed the ones that did not pass the scratch test. No write, off with you.  I also put together a small ziploc of the real cool sparkle crayons that have never been used but were NOT in a box. Sonny Boy and I came to the conclusion they must have been from my dumpster diving days. That was a LONG time ago. Those are in the goodwill pile (which has grown substantially).

So next time you need something, shop you own home first. You may be surprised that what you really need is already there!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Recipe to Share - Cobb Salad

Seriously? I've not cooked anything really worthwhile in like, weeks :) So I'm going to pull something out of the hat that was previously posted ...

Just a side note: I really really need to start getting more food pictures taken ...

So today I bring you .... Cobb Salad ... sharing with the Ultimate Recipe Swap!

A Cobb Salad


Pretty easy to do, chop some lettuce (romaine), chop 2 eggs, chop some turkey lunchmeat, grab a handful of bacon bits (the real deal) or cook up a couple slices and chop, and then just put in neat rows on top of lettuce. I used olives (since hubby loves olives) and a little cheddar cheese since I don't have any blue cheese when I made this (now I have a Costco size container in the fridge). NO AVOCADO either because I didn't have that AND Hubby is not a fan of (I'm working on it)


Normally I would offer up the Honey Mustard Dressing but since I haven't made any yet this week, I have this on standby ... thankfully!


You should head on over to Life As Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap .... lots of good bloggers are sharing!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cleaning the Shower Doors (soap buildup)

We've got a LARGE custom built shower in the master bath. I sooooo loved it when we first remodeled. The doors were the CLEAR sparkling glass with the gold trim. Shiny and pretty.

Of course, that was 1998-1999. A 'few' years ago.

The gold trim is not quite as shiny.

And try as we may, the clear sparkling glass doors are no longer clear, nor sparkly.

Hubby is the one in charge of shower detail. And he uses some pretty harsh chemicals to do so ... living in South Florida with a humidity level of 100% and then me with the hot showers, well, you get a few issues.

BUT the one thing that is super hard to clean, caustic chemicals or not, are the dang glass doors. That soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream stuff really sticks over time :) And then you get the funky cloudy look which is NOT what we were aiming for.

So when I saw this tip, I was pretty skeptical. Yeah, right. How could something so easy really work that well and not be advertised across the sky?  Guess what? It works!

Used Dryer Sheets (which, in my opinion, have NO other use but this)

Add a few drops of water to a used dryer sheet, and gently rub the layer of buildup off. The sheet will get gummy, so keep finding spots on the sheet that are clean. When done, rinse well with water, dry off with a towel (go ahead, give it a shine), stand back and admire.

Oh yeah. That's more like it! This is definitely working for ME!

NOTE: I tried this FIRST on the standard privacy sliding shower doors, you know, "just in case". Not to mention, this was the NASTIEST shower door to try it on ... Sonny Boy's.  So now that I know it works, I will be cleaning the shower thoroughly once he is relocated to Orlando!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Being a Star in My Teen's Eye

I am Queen for a few days. As much as I'd like to enjoy it, the thought that my baby is leaving still puts a shadow over the Queen status.

See, I don't talk much about the extra things you can do on the web to earn cash, gift cards, points, etc. And of course, you ALL know about Swagbucks by now, right? Of course you do!

So yeah, Swagbucks is great. I've gotten quite a few paypal bucks but more importantly, I've gotten A LOT of Amazon $5 gift cards. Sweet momma.

But back in June, June 6th to be exact, Sonny Boy and G/F were looking over my shoulder as I searched for something online. And I hear "Oh HEY, MAYHEM FEST!" Ummm, yeah, whatever.

Well, it was a swagstakes and we bet 99 swag bucks. Guess what? We won!

So yeah, that was exciting in that hey, we got TWO TICKETS TO MAYHEM FEST! Ummm....they started at $25 each so that was cool in itself.

BUT. We couldn't figure out what kind of tickets they were. 3rd row from the front of main stage. Back stage passes. RockStar Lounge entrance (or something like that).

But to make things the BEST for him and his buddy (lead guitarist and singer for the band they play in, it's his 18th birthday Tuesday) was the fact that TRIVIUM was playing and they invited the boys on the tour bus to have a drink (water and soda folks, they are underage) and invited back stage after their set.

TRIVIUM is Ant's favorite band. The boys have played distant venues with these guys and that pretty much just capped their whole day and night to be remembered.

I'm not sure what I'm more thankful? Swagucks? Or the fact that an upcoming band can remember the little guys that stood in awe the first time they had to play before them! :)

Sonny Boy also stood in the pouring rain to get his poster audographed by another big band that HE likes. He got the fist bump and chest pat hug ... both. Oh my!

So. Do you Swag? Perhaps you should! Only 450 swagbucks gets you a $5 Amazon gift card. Lots of other things out there to redeem for but that's pretty much what I've stuck to....

*full disclosure because I didn't know: if you click on any of these links and sign up under my name as a referral, you WILL also be enabling me to receive bonus points when you use the program*

It Happens

You know what I mean.

Crap.

Stuff.

Shit.

It happens. And seems to never be an opportune time, you know?

1. Truck battery crapped out. We just had it in the shop for a week and over $1000 in repairs (with a good friend working on it). Guess it's because it sat for almost 3 weeks.

2. Hubby ran into a bit of an issue on his trip. Nothing to blog about and everything will be fine in the end, just going to cost a little more cash than I'd like AND a little time. Hopefully this can be turned around to his favor and be a learning experience.

3. Sonny Boy leaves in 4 days. It's been a LONG time since I've shop shopped for household stuff. Dang, stuff is expensive. I've resorted to parting out my own personal kitchen belongings for his new digs.

4. Fortunately there have been some decent sales on laptops and printers for Sonny Boy.  Of course, all sold out on the cheaper ones and the one that I really liked, only have them "geeked" out for another $100. Ended up buying TWO as MINE is at a snails pace. Most likely will take the new one for me back as ....

5. I'm broke. Flat out, no available cash. Holy Crap. Between girls night out, shopping for the next big adventure, fedexes, rents, bills, and just general overall generosity, I've depleted my cash.

6. AND to make matters worse, I've used a credit card (gasp) to pay the $2000 class tuition and still waiting on the book order AND the bus pass. Uh yeah, Sonny Boy, YOU NEED TO GET A JOB.

As to 5 and 6, it's not the END of the world as Hubby has money ... but I'd rather not go to him and say hey, help out with this. We have certain things that we each take responsibility for and somehow I totally underestimated what I needed to budget for AND totally and completely OVERSPENT.

Yikes.

Menu Plan Monday - August 14 to August 20

This is the last week that Sonny Boy will be home, and man, it's really starting to hit me. Ahhhh...how ever will he survive??

Hubby has been gone the past week and finally comes home on Wednesday. A lot of stuff has happened, both HERE at home and THERE where he's at. It will all be sorted out eventually but in the meantime, I'm wishing I hadn't spent so much money and planned a little better.

Going to try and keep the plan simple ... and cost effective.  We will head back to Orlando on Friday afternoon and head back either Saturday night or Sunday afternoon (depends on how things go). 

Need to get a new battery for my truck as I think that's what we will have to drive to transport all this stuff ...

Sunday - leftovers from Friday night out (Il Mulino's, excellent Fusille Naturale)

Monday - Pizza (freezer) and salad

Tuesday - Ravioli and salad

Wednesday - chicken and pasta stirfry (freezer, prepackaged stuff)

Thursday - Tacos (taco salad for ME)

Friday - Orlando - out

Saturday - Orlando (?) - out (IF we are home probably sliders)

Not a whole lot of exciting stuff menu wise, but man the rest of my life is interesting!

Head on over to Organizing Junkie Menu Plan Monday to see what hundreds of other bloggers are planning!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cleaning the Showerhead - a Frugal Cleaning Tip!

This is a repost because I need to make it a point to do this THIS WEEKEND! I should probably try and hit all 3 showers and the kitchen sinks ...


Of course, linking up with Works For Me Wednesday ... hop on over!


Because I don't wash my hair daily, but do insist on showering daily :) I get really irritated at that stray stream of water that shoots out sideways from the showerhead and somehow manages to drench my hair that I've wrapped so carefully to keep dry ...

A Martha tip ...

Fill a sandwich baggie with white vinegar (not full but just enough that the bottom of the head will be in the vinegar). Take a rubberband and fit it around the shower head, securely. Let it sit overnight or all the livelong day.

Before showering, REMEMBER to remove the bag (dump the vinegar down the drain) and use an old toothbrush to scrub a little if desired, just be careful not to get in your face/eyes, ok? Turn on the shower and let the shower run a little before hopping under the water.

And if you are like me, you will be amazed and in awe that a simple little thing like this helps eliminate all that calcium buildup ...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Steals and Deals - Penn Dutch

There's a small grocery store chain here in South Florida called Penn Dutch.

It's small and they have an OLD (aka - grungy) store in Hollywood and a newer store in Margate.

Unfortunately, the one in Hollywood is easiest for me to get to from the office since the office is half way between home and the store. The one in Margate is great IF I'm going to Costco but still further west. As much as I'd prefer the Margate store, it's just not savvy for me to drive all that way just to pick up a few steals and deals.

Steals and deals? Yes, I did say that! (and sorry, only good to tomorrow, Wednesday)

Fresh French Bead 79 cents
18 pk Budweiser $10.99 (unfortunately, all their beer is COLD so you can't really stock up unless you have the room in fridge)
B/S Chicken Breast $1.29 lb
Italian sausage, hot or mild $1.79/lb
Medium white shrimp $4.99/lb
Sweet baby carrots 99 cents per bag. Not normally something I buy but it's a decent price

Definitely buying the bread, beer, chicken and sausage but not so sure about the shrimp. I'm a little picky on shrimp and the last time I bought some I was not at all impressed with it. BUT I will look quickly in the freezers to see what my supply looks like.

The freezers are getting more user friendly in that things don't fall out at you when you open the door and move stuff around.

The fridges are getting very empty. Almost alarmingly so (not really) which means I may clean them this weekend (best time to do it!) ... probably do a shop on Sunday so will have to be on Saturday (or Friday if I don't go out)

The pantry and other storage areas are looking better. I came home last night to Sonny Boy and g/f making pasta, using all pantry stuff (they found a small jar of pesto in pantry) ... I was rather pleased to see them cooking since they both ship out in a few weeks ... I have better feelings now that they can pull this off (FYI - NO they are not living together, matter of fact, 3 miles away from each other without a car between the two!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - August 7th to August 14th

What a week that just ended ... and boy am I thankful it's MONDAY!

Hubby is traveling all week, returning next week.

Princess is traveling to the West Coast Thursday and returning on Sunday.

Sonny Boy and I will be getting his stuff together for his next big adventure .... college. We got the housing and classes all squared away. Need to pay now (yikes!) and his move in date is the 13th BUT he's not going up til the following weekend.

Girls night out possibly on Friday ... but now I don't know ...

Not so sure if I'm going to the gym this week. My hands have been bothering me pretty badly over the weekend and I really don't want to aggravate them much more. If not, I'll just do some heavy duty walking/jogging.

AND ... I've not done a grocery shop yet in almost 2 weeks ... getting low on a few things but it's ok since we've still got plenty of stuff here to eat!

AND, last, but not least, I could almost just send the Boy out to dinner every stinkin night and give myself a break BUT then remember the cost of the classes, books, bus passes, food, apartment and so on and it makes me squeeze the penny all the more!

Sunday - Brats and Sauerkraut cooked in the oven. Hubby used my new cast iron pot and well, cooked a little warmer than he anticipated.

Monday - me and Sonny Boy ... going to be pasta. I may just dig out what I have in the freezer already cooked (meatballs, sauce and pasta in 3 different ziplocs ... Mom on a Mission gave me the idea to do that)

Tuesday - Going to show Sonny Boy yet again how to make pizza bread.

Wednesday - tacos or something along those lines. Could end up just being quesidillas.

Thursday -

Friday - girls night out. Was thinking of making chicken enchiladas for the return since we will be margarita themed but not so sure now.

Saturday - I may take Sonny Boy and g/f out for dinner ... or it's just a snacky, fend for yourself type of evening!

So, what are YOU planning? Hop on over to Organizing Junkie for 100's of other ideas!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Raspberry and Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

I got this recipe eons ago and used to make it like every other weekend for the kids. The would devour it. Probably been about 3 years since I've made and well, I feel the need ... so maybe this weekend!

1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, room temp
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter, room temp
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 large eggs
¼ cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
½ cup raspberry preserves
2 tbs confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 13x9 baking pan
Cream cream cheese, sugar and butter with electric mixture til light and fluffy.

Add ¾ c flour, eggs, milk, powder and baking soda, vanilla and salt. Beat 2 minutes til very well blended. Add remaining flour and mix on low speed til well mixed. Spread batter evenly in pan.

Distribute raspberry preserves evenly in 10 or so dollops. Swirl into batter with knife to create marbled effect.

Bake in center of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or til toothpick comes out clean. Cool 25 to 30 minutes on wire rack, sprinkle lightly with confectioners sugar, cut and serve. *I’ve decided that from now on, I will not sprinkle with sugar til ready to eat. I don’t think I ever let it cool enough and the top gets a little gummy and no sugar is visible.

Princess and Sonny Boy love this.

Original recipe was posted in the Sun Sentinel.

Linking up with Life As Mom Ultimate Recipe Swap ... go check it out ... all about berries!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mac and Cheese - the Easy Way

I have an excellent macaroni and cheese recipe but its time consuming and has a gazillion steps and THEN it goes in the oven.

Not exactly a week night friendly recipe.

And with Sonny Boy leaving in a few weeks, I've been trying to find some easy, boy friendly recipes.

So I made it a point to definitely get the recipe tried and see how it works before handing a rice maker off to him for food purposes.

A HUGE thank you goes out to Lynn for her sharing of the Rice Cooker Macaroni and Cheese.

You can bet I was skeptical. And I had to halve the recipe because I've got a puny rice cooker. But wow! It was good.

Click here for Lynns original recipe. Below is how I made mine...

1 cup chicken broth (although I would say 1 cup of water would be just fine)
1 cup of quick cook noodles (if you've been stocking up on the good sales and coupons to get it almost free noodles, you will LOVE this recipe)
slightly more than 1/3 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheese of choice

Put the chicken broth (or water) in the rice cooker and add the noodles. Put the lid on and turn on the rice maker. Let it do its thing until it kicks off, about 15 minutes or so.

Give the noodles a quick stir to break them up (they will stick together a little) and add the milk and the cheese. Give it a quick stir again and put the lid on. Walk away for about 5 to 10 minutes and come back and serve it up!



Yum! This is a keeper! Highly highly highly recommended!

NOTES: First batch was for Sonny Boy and G/F and was made with cheddar cheese. They devoured it. Which is why I made a second batch for Hubby and me. This time around I used pepper jack cheese. Whew. It's warm.



Sonny Boy asked if he was getting the rice cooker when he heads out ... I took that as a compliment ... wouldn't you?

Works for Me (and SonnyBoy) so of course I'm linking up to We Are That Family!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ways to Avoid Card Skimming (theft of credit/debit info)

Hubby and I were sitting in the living room, watching tv (ok, really, I was on the laptop, he was playing with his new phone) at 8pm on Saturday night. We had just been talking about dinner, did we want to make something on the grill (steaks like planned) OR go out?

The house phone rang, which is an odd as NO ONE calls the house phone, you know? Since we don't have caller ID anymore, we always look at each other ... do we wanna answer or not?

I answered. It was the Bank Security Dept.  They wanted Hubby so I knew it was his account. For some reason, I MADE him take the call.

As I hear him saying NO, NO, and NO I close out all my windows and open up the bank website so he can log in as soon as possible.

Sure enough. 10 transactions at those little Presto ATM machines outside the grocery store. $283 in Miami Beach. Another $202 at the same place. and then 8 transactions right in a row at another store in Hollywood for $262, $202 and then 6 $82. FYI - the $2 and $3 odd charges are what the fee is for using the ATM, then there is the bank fee to be added too.

They froze the account and locked the card immediately. Of course, the Fraud dept is closed until Monday at 9am. So we drive to the Hollywood store. The manager is able to pull up the video based on the time given to us by the Bank and sees the criminal clearly. Asked Hubby for the last 4 digits of his card and verifies that the criminal used it 6 times AND that he could clearly see the man pulling cards out of his right pocket, putting them back in the left pocket and pulling another one out of the right pocket. Watched this happen  a few times as he'd walk away and come back.

So then we had to drive to Hollywood Police Dept and file a report. They were kind enough to give us the information for Miami Beach Police Dept to call and file a report instead of having to drive there too.

So. Sunday, I decide to research.  We are quite certain this happened at a 7-11 gas station on Monday. Why? Because, I was behind Hubby (we were taking my truck to the shop).

He went to the furthest pump on the outside corner.

Had to swipe his debit card 3 times to get it to read right. Blocked the sun with his body to put in his pin number.

Come to find out:

1. Card reader's installed sometimes require a swipe of two times or more to get a read to the gas station after the initial swipe to the reader.

2. Pinhole cameras are very common (instead of the old standby shoulder surfing) for obtaining pin number.

3. Alot of it uses very modern technology, wireless access to the information that is download and such. The crooks have been caught sitting in a parking lot across a street. This particular gas station we were at was across the street from a big mall with multistory parking garages ... facing the pumps we used.

We now know that:

1. You should never ever use your debit card as a debit charge at a gas station pump. They recommend either going inside to pay (ugg) or using a credit card as credit cards have more protection.

2. Always always always shield the key pad with hand when inputting you pin number. I've always thought that was so freakin geaky paranoid behavior like.

3.  Never ever let your card out of site. How often, really, does this happen? Restaurants, etc. If the card isnt' being swiped in PLAIN view, they say you should let it be used. That makes life a little difficult and paranoid, yet again.

4.  You really should check you account thoroughly frequently IF you suspect anything.

5.  And of course, like my motto should be anyways, use cash.

6.  IF you suspect something, report it. I used the ATM at the branch one day and freaked a little when I  saw all these scrape marks around the card swipe. Definitely looked like someone pried it off. Sure enough, I called the branch while standing there and was told it was fine, that they had recently upgraded the swiper. Ummm, you'd think a professional would be leaving no evidence behind if crooks can, right?

Now we wait. Hubby was calling the Fraud Department this morning when he got to work (need to find out how that went). Needs to get a new card (soon, hopefully as he travels for 10 days coming up). I'm thinking it's not going to be an issue to get the money back as it's such unusual behaviour (never ever have we gotten cash anywhere but a local bank branch) and also, brings the question of what happened to the max allowable transaction of $500 a day?

On a slightly off topic note: the TV in the living room, the last remaining old timer, died on Saturday night after all this happened. Hubby has been waiting for this day for several years so he could replace it. Ummm. No. Not til we get the money back in our account and the NEW card.

UPDATE: I come home Monday night and walk down the hall. Sonny Boy is sitting on the couch playing the acoustic (and writing music), saysHi, smiles at me and asked if I notice anything different. I look around, perplexed, and say WHAT? The TV was on and he was wathing it. BUT the lovely forced upon us digital cable mini converter in the Florida Room DOES NOT work. I hate Comcast. Seriously. They forced you to switch to the digital stuff, forced you to PAY for the extra equipment required and THEN the stuff doesn't work, no kidding, 30% of the time. Am considering trying to find out how to file an official complaint to whoever regulates them.

Menu Plan Monday - July 31 to August 6

Saying goodbye to July and the Summertime Pantry Challenge, even though I am going to continue in through August, I think, as it seems we use a lot of fridge and freezer stuff, but pantry stuff, no so much ... so I will try to clear the shelves a little more. I have no need to go to the store for anything EXCEPT more lettuce ... wish it wasn't so darn hot, I'd try to grow some myself.

I have to say, sending Sonny Boy to get milk has really saved my butt in shopping. I know that I'm more than likely to browse a wee bit and pick up a few things BESIDES the milk. It's just the way it is. Imagine my surprise though when he came home and the receipt for 2% store brand milk was $3.95.  WOW.



This week has a few things ... gym 2 or 3 nights hopefully. We head up to Orlando Thursday night for Sonny Boy's orientation on Friday morning (8:45am, just easier to head up and stay overnight) so I think dinner will be out on Thursday ... And then Princess has a meeting/orientation for a mini marathon she wants me to go with her to. Ummm, sweet pea? I don't run. But sure, I'll come along. What have I done?

And then again, there's this storm out there ... that brings it awfully close to home ...

On with the food for the week ... which of course, as I type this on Sunday at 7pm, I've still not eaten but MOST is prepped and ready to be cooked:

Sunday - pork chops with black beans and rice

Monday - portebella shroom sandwiches Forget that, everyone ate them Sunday. Chicken Cesar salad (as always)

Tuesday - shepards pie

Wednesday - coconut chicken with sweet chili sauce

Thursday - OUT

Friday - Parmesan chicken (need to use the bag of breaded chicken nuggets up in fridge)

Saturday - steaks and taters (this past Saturday was spent visiting a Publix 25 miles away and then the Hollywood Police station to file report ... someone had skimmed Hubby's debit card and managed to obtain $1000 from the atm machine before the bank caught it as suspicious behavior ... will let you know how long it takes to get the money back in our account and IF they catch the guy (video apparently shows his face and the fact that he was using 5 cards, one right after another) .... they used the bogus card 2 times in Miami Beach earlier in the day for a total of $480 and then 6 more time for $80 each time...

It was a rough past week. But I discovered Pinterest recently (what a huge time consuming animal!!) and found a new saying:  "Don't let yesterday take over today". Oh. Yes. Of course, there was another that said "Know when to give up and have a margarita" Well. I'm torn!

So what are you eating this week? Hop on over to Menu Plan Monday and see what 100's of others are having for inspiration!

Cinnamon Bun Pancakes

I discovered Pinterest. Oh my. I've lost a lot of hours this weekend and believe I may have gobbled up any available memory with all the NEW links I've bookmarked. Whew.

And I even tried a new recipe within 24 hours of discovering it ... that in itself is amazing. And that we ALL liked it? Even more so!

Got the recipe from Baked Bree ... and pretty much made it as she has it but I wanted to give credit where credit is due! Not to mention, her  pictures are way better!

1 1/2 c white flour (although, you could use wheat I suppose)
3 tbs sugar
1/2 tbs salt
4 tsp baking powder (um, mine has the date of April 2011 ... its on my list)
1 tbs cinnamon

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 tbs maple syrup (used the last of the real stuff)
1/4 c melted butter
1 tbs vanilla

Whisk the dry ingredients in large bowl. Add liquid ingredients and whisk til well combined

Heat griddle til water bounces around when a drop is tested.

Cook til both sides are brown



Frosting:

1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs milk

Whisk all together til well combined and smooth, pourable mix. If too thick, add a bit more milk, too thin, add a bit more sugar.



Drizzle pancakes with a generous amount of frosting and serve.



*Note. I OVERCOOKED my first batch. They are brown and well, that's how I tell when the pancakes are ready to be flipped. Just keep an eye on them :)

I may never ever make the time consuming cinnamon buns again. Well, for the holidays as I'm sure the neighbors would revolt!