Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Money Saving Tip: For Clean Floors

I have made a discovery in the (almost) 3 months that we have been living in our dream home - hardwood floors are very hard to keep clean!

 The entire first floor of our house has beautiful hardwood floors, and we love them!  But, every single piece of dirt, leaf, crumb, and hair can be seen.  I find myself sweeping the floors just about every day, and then I find more dirt!  It mocks me.

My two favorite floor cleaning tools are my Swiffer Sweeper and Swiffer Wet Jet.  Using these tools along with a good old broom and dust pan seems to keep the dirt under control.  I'll show it who's boss around here!

I love my Swiffer products; they are so convenient to use and clean my floors remarkably well!  The only problem I have is the amount of money I spend buying the cleaning cloths and solutions.  After my last trip to the store to pick up the needed supplies (and almost dying from a heart attack at the price I had to pay), I set out to find a more inexpensive way to clean my floors.

Enter the Money Saving Tip of the day!  I have found a way to refill the Wet Jet cleaning solution bottle with my own solution.  By doing this, I keep from having to buying and throwing out the company's 1 time use bottles.  I can also clean my floors with whatever solution I like now.  A bottle of my own brand of cleaning solution costs less than the Wet Jet solution and will last me a lot longer!

Want to know how do to it too?  It was so easy!

1.  Fill a small saucepan with enough water to submerge the cap of the bottle and boil.
2.  Once the water begins to boil, hold bottle in water - with cap submerged - for approximately 60-90 seconds.
3.  Remove from water.  Using a cloth, twist off cap.  (It only took me one try.  That's a big deal, since I always need Lester to open bottles and cans for me) :P
4.  If you look inside the cap, you will see small prongs that are supposed to make the cap permanently irremovable.  (Little do they know) ;)  Using a razor blade, knife, or fingernail clippers, snip the prongs off.  This will allow you to easily remove the cap next time you need to refill.
5.  Fill bottle with your cleaning solution of choice and mop those floors!  My floors are so happy and clean right now.  It makes me happy, too. :)

Here are the original instructions with step by step pictures, as well.

I have also read that you can make your own sweeper cloths.  I haven't tried it yet, but I will let you know if/when I do!  Happy Cleaning!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eat Your Veggies!

As the thoughtful, responsible wife that I am, I have made it a point over the past month to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our diet.   For the most part, I cook pretty healthy meals, but there is definitely room for improvement, especially in the veggie department.

As part of my "Extra Vegetable Initiative,"  I have instituted what I call "Meatless Meal" day.  Once a week, I aim to prepare a completely vegetarian dinner.  I'm positive we will never become full vegetarians, we love our meat.  (Lester would probably die first!)  But, I can say that I have succeeded in keeping him full and happy without him realizing that I've incorporated "Meatless Meal" days into the weekly menus.  In fact, he just figured it out last night. :)

One of the benefits of our Extra Vegetable Initiative" is the added vitamins and minerals we take in through consuming more vegetables.  We have also added more nuts and beans (another neglected food group) into our diet, which gives us the needed protein we would otherwise get from meat.  Finally, I have found that we save money on our grocery bill by cutting back on the amount of meat we buy.

I am including the links to three of our favorite "Meatless Meals" for you to try with your family!

Roasted Vegetable Couscous with Chickpeas from Cooking Light
Because couscous tends to be drier, next time I would double the onion topping.  (And, I didn't add the raisins - gross!)
By the way, if you have never roasted vegetables, you should!  The roasting process generally creates a sweeter flavor.  I could eat roasted vegetables like candy!

Stacked Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas from Two Peas and Their Pod
This meal was delicious and so filling!  Lester immediately asked me to make it again soon.
Next time I will probably cut the amount of cheese a little just to make it a bit healthier.

Fall's Favorite Curry from Chocolate Covered Katie
I made this for dinner last night and just ate some leftovers for lunch today.  This is definitely good, warm, comfort food!
I didn't include beans this time, but next time I will probably add a can of chickpeas for protein.
Also, this recipe makes a TON of food!  I would say about 5 large servings.  Use your biggest saute pan!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Organizing My Life: Recipe Edition

     Lester and I were talking about our hobbies the other day.  I have come to the conclusion that my new favorite hobby is definitely cooking and baking.  I love trying out new recipes and  making favorites again.  Mostly, I love seeing the enjoyment others (mostly Lester) get from eating a really great dish.  (O.K. I really enjoy eating, too) ;)

     Southern  Living and Taste of Home magazines are two of my favorite recipe sources.  I also love reading food blogs to get inspiration as well.  Every few months I go through my magazines and clip out recipes that I want to try.  The problem is that I then end up with a large pile of recipe clippings with nowhere to put them.

     My sweet mother made a notebook full of my favorite recipes and gave it to me when I got married.  Super awesome gift, huh?  I love it! :)  She even thought ahead and filled it with empty plastic page protectors so that I could eventually add my own recipes.  That worked great, for a while.  The problem with that system was: 1.  I had WAY too many recipes and 2. Most were odd shapes from being cut and torn out of magazines. 

What to do?
     I came to the conclusion that I needed to either write or type all of these recipes out so that they could uniformly be added to my book.  But, then I had an even better idea!  What if I just created folders and kept all my recipes organized on my computer?  The concept of keeping them stored electronically sounded great, but I was daunted by the amount of work I would have to put in to organize my mountain of recipes.

Enter Kitchenmonki. 
     I did some research and found a few free websites to organize recipes.  There were about 5 websites that seemed like they would work well, but Kitchenmonki looked as if it would serve my purposes the best.

Why do I like Kitchenmonki?
1.  It is electronic and free :)
2.  It does most of the organizing work for me.  I can search by ingredient, meal course, cuisine, or even cook time and find just the recipe I am looking for.
3. Using Kitchenmonki, I can search through my personal recipes or 1,000's of other recipes posted by other users.  (When you add a recipe, it asks if you would like to make it private - only you can see it - or public - any Kitchenmonki users can access.  All of my recipes are private so don't try looking for them) ;)
4.  I can easily create meal plans and grocery lists and print them off.  (Which, i think, is way better than writing it all down on a scrap piece of paper and not remembering where you put it.  Not that I would ever do that!) :)  Apparently, there is a way to pull it up on my phone too.  I just haven't figured that part out yet.

     I have only just started using Kitchenmonki, but I don't have anything to complain about yet.  This is just my free little review for anyone who is interested in electronically organizing your recipes.  Now, I must get back to working on that.  The mountain doesn't seem to be getting any smaller yet...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes

Ok, I needed to post this recipe today - right now - before I forget.  Not that I plan on forgetting.  These pancakes are just too good! We had them this morning for breakfast and Lester has already requested that I make them again tomorrow morning.  And, that's a pretty big deal since Sundays are Starbucks days.  Always have been and always will be.  Except for tomorrow, obviously.  :)

These pancakes are fabulous! (By the way, I've noticed that I use that adjective somewhat frequently.  I hereby make a promise to use a Thesaurus and expand my vocabulary.  Thank you.)
The recipe comes from Katie at Chocolate Covered Katie.  Katie is a vegan, dedicated to creating healthy foods that taste phenomenal.  I just discovered her blog this past week on Pinterest.  (We've talked about this already haven't we?  About how much I am addicted to Pinterest?  And how I spend way too much time on there?  But look at the wonderful things that come from my addiction!  Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes!)

Back on topic now - Katie definitely delivers on her promise.  Of course, this is the first recipe I have tried of hers; but, as good as these pancakes were, I am sure she will not disappoint in her other recipes.  Now, obviously, Lester and I are not vegan, so I do not have a problem with using regular milk instead of non-dairy as the recipe calls for.  But, that is really the only thing I changed about the recipe.  It is delicious in its own right!  I will share with you the recipe as I made it, but visit Katie's website to see the original and check out the rest of her yummy looking food!

Strawberry Shortcake Pancakes
makes 2 serving (3 pancakes each)
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 T rolled oats
  • 1 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (Not called for in the original recipe...but I can't leave well enough alone.  I love chocolate chips in my pancakes!) :)
Combine dry ingredients.  Add wet and mix until just combined, but do not over mix.
Grease a skillet or griddle and heat to medium-low.
Pour batter onto greased skillet using a 1/4 measuring cup.  (This will make sure the pancakes are all roughly the same size and that you get six.)
At this point I will just say cook until done, flipping once.  And good luck with that.  I can't flip pancakes.  The first batch always falls apart.  Is there some secret I don't know about??

Why don't you try them for breakfast sometime?  How about this morning?  There is still plenty of time left.  Enjoy!