Dinner Menu Planning to Reduce Stress in Busy Households

  Dinnertime can be a stressful time of day in an active household. To try to run this busy time more smoothly, I have found that a planned menu is very helpful. I first tried a similar system a few years ago, and failed, but the adjustments I have made since then have been very helpful for our family. The way I tackled it the first time did not work, and here’s why: I created a large menu plan that would repeat once we reached the end of it. We would then start over from the beginning instead of going through the effort of making a new menu. I created a menu that extended over 7 weeks, to give us variety. It turned out that 7 weeks was not enough time between certain dishes, and we got really tired of dishes that we used to enjoy. We have found that we can eat some meals quite often without ever going tired of them, while others are only enjoyed if served infrequently. Another problem was that over the course of several months, our daily schedule changed too much to work with the current menu. I also found that the amount of leftovers changed as our young kids grew and ate larger portions. All in all, too many adjustments needed to be made, and it became too complicated to continue. The new menu plan that works for me! What does work for […] Read more »

Candied Vanilla & Cinnamon Roasted Almonds, Recipe

    Walking through the mall, smelling those freshly roasted candied almonds, a hint of cinnamon in the air mixed with vanilla sweetness…. Why are those little delectable things so expensive??? The senses are wide awake, there is longing, but the pocketbook tells you to walk on by. Ignore, ignore. If you can. It just doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well, long no more! Here it is, the recipe that allows you to enjoy the scent AND the flavor, without breaking your piggy-bank! Better yet, it is so easy to do at home you’ll never want to waste your money at the mall ever again! This particular recipe is especially aroma filled, and adding a little extra salt to these gently sweetened almonds helps to bring out various flavors. They contain more vanilla than almonds from many other recipes, as well as extra cinnamon as well, though tastefully so and not over-the-top. Just more of the good stuff, more of what makes roasted, candied almonds so special. Addicting, that they are; be warned! If you do try this recipe, I would really appreciate a quick comment with a star rating (option found immediately under each recipe). It helps me out tremendously! Thanks in advance!   Here are the steps to take you through it; not that you’ll need it, as the recipe itself is quite self explanatory. But, being a visual person myself, I always appreciate pictures whether I need […] Read more »

Saving Money on Quality, Inexpensive Discount Herbs & Spices

    Herbs and spices are essential in cooking and baking. However, they can be quite costly, especially if you need a lot of them, such as when you make rubs and marinades. I have found that you can save a lot of money by purchasing in bulk, at discount stores, or even store brands. Some people are reluctant to purchasing discount or store brands, even if they will save money by doing so, because they believe they get a tastier and healthier product by purchasing brand name foods. If you are one of them, you may want to CLICK HERE to read this very interesting article by Consumer Reports, which includes taste-test results of store brands vs. name brands; you may be surprised, and find yourself going for store brands soon! Here’s a quote from the article, though please read the article itself if you have a chance, as it is quite interesting: “Don’t be reluctant to give any private-label product a try. In fact, our results may knock some of those iconic brands off their pedestals.” Here are a few examples of price differences, though you may be able to do even better than I did if you have bulk stores near you. I probably do as well, but I haven’t been able to locate any, so far. I did go to our local supermarket to compare prices of brand name spices (McCormick), to store brands and other […] Read more »

Herbs & Flowers to Naturally Control & Deter Pests

Lavender   This upcoming summer season of 2012, I will be experimenting with planting certain herbs and flowers that are known to repel garden pests, such as tomato hornworms, flies, beetles, and more. This natural form of pest control, adding beauty to our gardens or nutrition to our bodies, sounds so much better than the spraying of chemicals, don’t you think? If it works, that is.  Here’s an update, written in August 2012: Link to my post Link to Herbs & Flowers for Natural Pest Protection – Update After reading a variety of articles on the internet and becoming especially interested in a few such plants, I studied each one individually; not extensively, but enough to get a good feel for each plant and its benefits and drawbacks. I found some information that surprised me and helped me make a decision on whether I should plant them or not. In this post I will go through which ones I will or will not plant, and the reasons behind it, though the information below is only meant to give you an idea of what to expect. I am by no means an expert in the field, I don’t even have the personal experience as of yet. It is simply information that I have come across while reading, much of it double and triple checked to try to avoid giving you false information. Even so, it is a good idea to do […] Read more »

Leg of Lamb for Easter Holidays, a How-To Recipe w/ Pictures

    A leg of lamb; just how do you prepare it? As I started reading about it on the internet, I found a lot of conflicting information. Some methods say to slow cook on low heat, others suggest higher heat. I cooked three boneless legs, around 4-5 Lb each, over a period of time using slightly different approaches, with only small differences in the results. All three ended up with tough connective tissues in them, which I later found out is just the nature of the leg portion of lamb. I also found out that leg of lamb is considered a lean and tender cut of meat, and dry, moderate heat is recommended to preserve that tenderness and moisture. This is confusing, since other sources say that with the tough connective tissues in leg of lamb, it needs to be cooked low and slow to help tenderize these tissues. I didn’t know any of that when I cooked up these three pieces of meats, so I cooked at medium heat once, and low heat twice, but all three methods were moist heat. The results? All three ways resulted in nicely moist  meat, though I thought the medium-well legs were a little less tender than the leg I cooked to well-done. This may have been a carving problem, as you are supposed to cut against the grain, and I’m not sure I did a very good job at ensuring that […] Read more »

Homemade Tear-Free Eye Makeup remover; Easy, Save Big Money

I have tried several brands of eye make-up removers. Some brands were cheap, and some expensive. They all had one thing in common: if I got some of it in my eye, which is inevitable when removing make-up from eyes, it wasn’t pleasant. Some of them down-right stung, which seems odd when you consider what they were made for; the eyes! Using plain water doesn’t work, of course, and soap stings as well. There is a solution to the problem, however, and the solution is not to go to the department store to purchase the most expensive bottle you can find. It is simply to make it yourself, using a product readily available at any grocery store, or may already be in your bathroom if you have a young child: Baby shampoo, or baby wash! (Amazon carries them as well, such as the one in this link.) Baby shampoo is made to be tear-free, and though not 100% neutral when in the eyes, at least it’s more gentle on eyes than anything else I’ve ever tried. It also works great for removing sticky mascara or other eye make-up. I have made my own for years now, and saved a lot of money. When I first heard about it, I jumped to the idea! It was brilliant! And I simply re-use my old Mary Kay eye make-up remover bottle, though any bottle will be fine. Air plane cosmetic bottles can often […] Read more »

Save Money on Easy Homemade Baby Wipes! Versatile Recipe

    Babies are cute and cuddly, so very sweet! They do, however, need a good clean-up now and again, and baby wipes can come in very handy. Purchasing ready-made baby wipes can really add to the price of having a baby, so when had my first baby and heard about making homemade baby wipes, I jumped right to the idea. I tried them, and never looked back. I was sold! It is now several years ago since the youngest of my three kids was in diapers, but I decided to make a batch again to show you how, then donated them to a friend who has a little one. Baby wipes can be used by the whole family, whether you have a child in diapers or not, for freshening up or keep in the car for a quick clean-up when out and about. Some benefits to making your own, is of course the money you save, for starters; your highest cost will be the paper towel roll, which will (depending on the size and brand) give you 200-300 wipes per big roll. The ingredients you add cost very little. I will explain in a little bit. First, I would like to point out that with this recipe, you can pick and choose which ingredients you want to use, so that you can adapt the recipe to fit your individual baby’s needs. Some infants are very sensitive to fragrances, and […] Read more »