Guest Blog Featuring: Midge
As part of my cooking challenge this year, I have decided to pick one or two recipes from Molly Green each month and try them at home. You may already know that I am a bit of a klutz in the kitchen and try really hard to do spectacular things with sometimes rather mixed results. I love to laugh at myself throughout these tough situations and it really helps to be able to share them with you!
Ever try to make a giant pancake? I know as a little girl it was my one big dream to make them after watching cooks at restaurants smoothly flip their pancakes. The first time I ever tried to make one, it ended up doughy in the middle and when I flipped it… let’s just say it was not the beautiful, large pancake that I had imagined! It looked more like a taco pancake!
My first attempt at fruit pizza reminded me of my giant pancake fiasco of yesteryear. I researched a bit online to make the perfect crust for the pizza and decided to make a sugar cookie crust. Since I am training myself this year in baking and cooking 101, I chose to buy a sugar cookie dough instead of trying to make it. My only other attempts at making cookies from scratch had resulted in chocolate chip cookies that tasted like chocolate chip bread… and it was not even good tasting bread!
My sugar cookie crust turned out just like my humongous taco pancake. It was another great big flop. It would not cook thoroughly in the middle. So, I ended up baking it for longer than the package called for and then the edges turned brown. It was part squishy and part tough. Man oh Man!
The fruit was awesome and the spread was wonderful. I used one 8 oz package of cream cheese (softened – which means gooey and slightly melted), one cup of whipped cream and one cup of powdered sugar. The cream cheese was a little lumpy and I think I put too much of the yummy spread on the sugar cookie but other than that it tasted great. I had just gotten loads of fresh fruits so I had a myriad of flavors to choose from to create the fruit design.
We ended up using the fruit pizza as an appetizer for a Memorial Day BBQ at a friend’s house.
During the weekend, we also made Molly’s smoothie recipe at home. I love the fresh fruit available during the summer and would love to hear some of your fruit recipe ideas!
Does anyone know how to get the lumps out of the cream cheese in the spread? How do you make the dough of your fruit pizza? I would like to try something different than sugar cookies but don’t want to have to mix up the ingredients from scratch (I am not that brave yet!) Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe?
You can find Molly Green’s Fruit Smoothie Recipe at http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/Molly-Saves-While-Keeping-Healthy-and-Fit-p/molly-1-12-hlthyfit-eb.htm or if you are a Molly member you can access this issue on your member page – January 2012 Molly Saves While Keeping Healthy and Fit!
Here are a 10 Helpful Gadgets for the Frugal Kitchen from guest poster, Christina Brown. Her mission is to help you take control of your finances with coupons, freebies, and money-saving ideas. Molly
Saving money and time on the food you cook can be a challenge. I have a love of gadgets, but because I don’t have unlimited funds (or cupboard space), I’ve found that I have about 10 gadgets I like to have around. These gadgets consistently make my life easier and cooking more enjoyable. See if you don’t agree.
- Slow Cooker. I cannot live without my slow cooker. The possibilities are endless – from breakfast to desserts and everything in between. Slow cooking tenderizes the toughest (cheapest) cuts of meat, meaning you can really save time and money with this tool.
- Food Processor. The first Christmas I was married, I asked my husband for a food processor. Twelve years later, that gadget has made everything from salsa to homemade baby food. Buy a model that comes with a grating and slicing attachment, and you can shred your own cheeses. People think it’s horrible that my hubby gave me a food processor for Christmas, but it has been an excellent gift that has made my life easier.
- FoodSaver Vaccuum Sealer. The FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer is an indispensable tool for preserving garden harvests, storing freezer meals, and bulk buys of meat. The bags aren’t cheap (unless you find a good coupon), but you can even get an FoodSaver attachment that allows you to vaccuum pack a wide-mouth glass canning jar. The FoodSaver is also handy outside the kitchen. I’ve used it to protect clean baby clothes in a diaper bag (the FoodSaver makes the package of clothing tiny!). You could also use it to keep camping gear dry.
- Food Dehydrator. I have a food dehydrator that I’ve borrowed from my Dad months ago. I use it to dry fruit, make homemade fruit rollups, and jerky. You could also use it to dehydrate garden veggies to use in soups and stews during the winter months.
- Rice Cooker. Rice seems so simple to make when you look at the instructions on the bag or box. Yet I always had my rice boil over and make a giant mess. The rice cooker changed all that! I no longer have big messes to clean and the rice turns out perfect every time. I got a cheap 3-cup model at Walgreens for less than $5 years ago, but someday I’d love to get a programmable one.
- Blender. Perfect for making homemade smoothies, shakes, and other beverages. It can also be used to make baby food.
- Bread Machine. There is nothing like fresh-baked bread, and having a bread machine makes this task so simple. You can also use the bread machine to make pizza dough, and buns and rolls. And since you control the ingredients, you know exactly what your family is eating.
- Pressure Canner. Confession: I don’t have one yet – but it is on my wish list. My Dad currently has one that he uses to make canned smoked fish. I’d love to make my own pasta sauces and salsas with ingredients from my garden.
- George Foremann Grill. I have the George Foreman Next Grilleration Electric Nonstick Grill which has interchangeable plates that are washable. It’s great to be able to grill up a large batch of chicken breasts or burgers when the weather is too cold to grill outside. And with the different plates that are available, I’ve made everything from omelets to panninis to desserts!
- Computer. Your computer is probably the most important gadget you can use to save money and time in the kitchen. From finding inspiration on Pinterest to searching for recipes, you won’t need to buy a cookbook ever again. Use the internet to find alternatives for missing ingredients, help with dinner details (how long does a turkey need to thaw anyway?) and plan your dinner menus and shopping lists. And don’t forget about printing coupons!
Now I know (as well as you) that the items on this list are not frugal to buy. Some of them are downright spendy, but there are plenty of cheap alternatives to popular kitchen gadgets available. You could borrow some of these gadgets from family and friends. You can also find them for cheap at garage sales, estate sales and thrift stores.
I share this list because I find that these items have added a great deal of value to my experience as a home economist. They’ve made my life easier. They’ve made making meals for my family more convenient.
Consider this to be a list of suggested investments you can make. Every item on this list can help you save money and time in the kitchen. And when you can save money and time in the kitchen, you are less likely to blow your money eating out at restaurants or loading up on preservative-laden convenience meals.
What kitchen gadgets do you have that help you save money or time?
Christina Brown is the founder and editor-in chief at Northern Cheapskate. She writes her blog from the woods of northern Minnesota, where she clips coupons, pinch pennies and chase three boys (a 6-year old and twin 4-year olds) as a stay-at-home mom. In a “past life” she’s been an assistant newspaper editor, a college admissions representative, and a community college instructor and academic adviser.
If you get my weekly newsletter, you most likely read Midge’s situation regarding allergy free alternatives. (if you don’t get my newsletter be sure and subscribe via the sticky note in the upper right corner of the blog). Here are a few thoughts I had regarding her request for an alternate option for graham crackers. Molly
When searching for gluten and/or sugar free alternatives, things can get a little tricky. But, with a little investigating it is possible! When making s’mores you can substitute the graham cracker with things such as gluten-free pretzels, cookies (such as chocolate chip or ginger snaps) or even saltine crackers. Give these combinations a try and see which one makes your taste buds happy! Of course you could always just skip the crackers/cookies all together and just use 2 pieces of chocolate to sandwich that gooey marshmallow. A little messy but isn’t that part of the fun?
I read here about making your own graham crackers, there’s so many recipes available to do this. Making your own gives you the option of changing ingredients to suit your needs. If someone is allergic to a certain sweetener (such as honey) you could choose another option such as agave. Substituting the flours allows you to control which ones have gluten and which ones don’t.
Whatever you choose to use on your s’mores, may they be ooey, gooey and scrumptious!
Love ya, Molly
Gluten-Free Graham Crackers works for me! To see more Works For Me Wednesday tips, be sure to visit We Are That Family.
Do you know the history of Memorial Day? Maybe you have a Veteran in your family (or close to you) that makes this day even more meaningful.
Today is Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) as it was originally known. The holiday’s origins lie in the tradition of honoring ancestors by cleaning cemeteries and decorating graves. After the Civil War, this custom evolved to honor fallen soldiers and ceremonies (centering on the decoration of soldiers’ graves) were held in towns and cities throughout the United States. This practice and the focus on honoring service members continues today.
Have you seen Veterans selling red poppies in or around local businesses? Here’s the history of those little red poppy flowers:
“In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it” (Source).
“Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.”
Let us remember the real meaning of Memorial Day today. If you know a Veteran, why not take a moment and thank them for their service? Everyone here at Econobusters would like to thank all of the service men and women who serve (and have served) to protect our freedoms and our safety.
As I sat in the quiet this morning with my first cuppa-Joe and looked out the window, I began thinking about inspiration. What is inspiration exactly? One definition I found said this: “Stimulation of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.” I began thinking about myself and thought about what things inspire me. Good food definitely inspires me, that was on the top of the list for sure. Other things that inspire me are beautiful colors, friends & laughter, my children (when they’re being silly), flowers, yummy smells (coffee for sure, oh and bread too), and the ability to see life as a blank canvas. Those things inspire me. If life is a blank canvas we have the freedom to work with the twists and turns and seek happiness in every direction we turn.
This week has been inspiring for me in may ways. I enjoyed getting outdoors and planting in my flowerbeds. I began a painting project (with the color yellow!), created a few freezer meals for my family and began a sewing project for myself on a breezy, summer dress. I find inspiration in all of these things because they are creating something purposeful and beautiful.
I currently live in the country and I find inspiration in nature almost daily. I enjoy the way the trees sound when the wind blows, the variety of wildflowers that grow in the woods and the way nature seems to live in harmony with itself. When I lived in the city, I found inspiration in architecture and even the way the sun shone through the tall buildings.
What inspires you? Did you create anything inspirational this week? Where do you see beauty?
Guest Blog by: Midge
Projects always seem to come out better in my head, than in real life. For example, take this cupcake project that I accomplished last week. It was my friend’s birthday and while looking at my cute cupcake decorating book, she stated how much she loved the little frog cupcakes.
I have owned this book for over six months now but have done nothing but flip through the pages. Longingly, I have imagined myself baking and decorating several of the cupcake designs but I have never gotten up the courage to try to make any of them. But, this year is the year for a brand new Midge! I am ready to take on Molly’s recipes… why not decorating cupcakes, as well?
However, all my good plans resulted in my cutie cupcake frog looking more like an angry dragon! My friend said she loved it anyway and she even used the word “cute” to describe my little dragon disaster. I am not sure that I will ever make any money making these cupcakes (unless there is a dragon themed birthday party coming up?) but I had a lot of fun that evening laughing with my husband about my baking experiment.
Who knew cupcakes could be so much fun?
What kinds of “un-done” projects or idea books do you have sitting on your shelf? Make the month of June the month to try something new! You might even end up having a giggle and discovering a new hobby!
Hmmm, what kind of cupcake design should I try next?
If you get my weekly newsletter, you most likely read Midge’s situation regarding picnic lunches (if you don’t get my newsletter be sure and subscribe via the sticky note in the upper right corner of the blog). Here are a few thoughts I had regarding her request for picnic lunch ideas. Molly
My first thought is about ants, not food! Be sure to pack a BIG blanket and scope out your designated spot before setting out your lunch. The thought about ants also got me thinking about other pesky critters. Maybe a citronella candle and/or bug spray will help to ward off other unwanted guests during your lunch date as well. Ok, on to the food ideas!
You can plan a special picnic in 4 easy steps:
- Decide on your beverage. Ice tea or lemonade are simple choices. If you choose to bring along something with alcohol (like wine) be sure to check the park rules just in case it is prohibited.
- Make up 1 or 2 side salads such as a seven layer salad or coleslaw. There are many summer salad recipes to choose from in cookbooks or even online. Remember that if you choose something with mayonnaise as an ingredient, that dish needs to be kept cool with an ice pack, etc.
- Include a main dish with meat (such as chicken or even fish). If you wanted to make one of your salads into a main dish you could choose something like chicken salad or tuna salad. Another meat option might be cold, fried chicken. Yum!
- Put together an easy, one dish dessert. Sometimes summer picnic desserts are referred to as salads. Anything sweet will be a great ending to your picnic. Have you ever heard of strawberry pretzel salad? This is one of my summer favorites!
And last but not least, remember to pack things such as utensils, napkins and some kind of wet-wipe to clean your hands after your feast. I hope you have a great time, happy picnic planning!
Does the word “remodeling” send shivers down your spine and immediately bring dollar signs to mind? That’s exactly what happens to me! I like to change the wording around some and call any remodeling project a “facelift.” To me, it still sounds nice and the play-on-words tricks my brain into thinking I can still create a nice space without breaking the bank. I thought I might talk about kitchens today because that seems to be where I spend a good amount of my time. Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m not talking about something like this:
I’m talking about giving your kitchen a facelift, something along the lines of using paint and coming up with something like:
This is where creativity and imagination come into play. Home improvement stores are just full of DIY project instructions and supplies. Have you ever watched one of those DIY channels on TV or visited a site online? For a project-enthusiast like me, I can dream the day away. But then I quickly come back to reality when I happen to glance at my pocketbook.
Money Crashers has some great tips on getting started to give your kitchen a (frugal) makeover. You’ll read about the use of paint, cost effective counter top choices, custom backsplash ideas, tips on saving money when choosing new appliances and updating light fixtures.
Do you have any frugal ideas on updating a kitchen? Do you use paint to spruce things up or faux finishes on cabinets or walls? How do you update light fixtures, flooring and fixtures and stay within your budget?
Fabulous Friday is a way to recap the week and give you some frugal tips for the weekend. Please share what you’re up to this weekend! Molly
This week I’ve been thinking about flower beds, the ones I have and the ones I’m dreaming of. As I drive down the road I catch myself checking out other people’s yards. I’m curious on their decorating style, what type of flowers they have and how they’ve arranged them. On the country roads especially, I’ve been known to slow down quite a bit to get a good look as I drive by. Surely that’s a compliment to the owners, right?
Recently a friend of mine started an online garage sale group. Because we live in such a rural area, this is the next best thing to Craigslist for us! It works basically the same way, a person lists and item and the price and people comment on it, ask questions or purchase it and then make arrangements to pick it up. What does all this have to do with flower beds, you ask? I’m getting there…
Someone was in search of summer clothes for her little girl but instead of offering to purchase whatever became available, she offered a trade. Perennials for clothes. Brilliant idea! Let’s use the things we have and bargain for the things we need! I immediately went digging in my stash of seasonal clothes to see if I could help her out. I was able to offer 7 outfits and in return she offered 8 different perennials. I was looking for ground cover (I received 2 different kinds), ornamental grasses, day lilies, violets, bee balm, hostas and a large peony. She also shared a fun little treasure out of her vegetable garden from last year, purple potatoes. She explained that they are purple all the way through. I have seen them in pictures before but never grown them. I’m excited to grow them and serve them to my kiddos!
Also on the online garage sale group, I was able to connect with a lady who was selling perennials for a discounted price. I’ve always loved the bleeding heart plants. I was able to work out a deal with her for 3 large pots. My week was successful in the perennial department! Now I have to figure out where I want to put it all. Let the flower bed dreaming continue!
Do you enjoy gardening? What kinds of flower beds do you have and what is your favorite plant? Have you come across any good deals so far this spring for your gardens?
Guest Blog Featuring: Midge
On Mother’s Day, my little girl had one of her worst days ever. Every little thing that could possibly trouble her seemed to be bothering her. It started with her diaper rash, followed by a runny nose from teething, she also did not want to share her toys with her cousins and then decided that she wanted to play “throw the food from the highchair” for dinner. Was this the dream I had in my mind for my first Mother’s Day? Not likely!
But, by the end of Sunday evening, as I soothed my daughter in our rocking chair, I re-evaluated my day. I realized there was no other place I would rather be than with my daughter as she struggled with a yucky day. Being her momma, I wanted to kiss away her boo boos and wipe the little tears from her eyes.
I was tired on Sunday evening but really happy that I have the privilege of being able to hold my girl as she calmed down and went to sleep. I knew all of the brunches and flowers in the world would not be able to compare to being in that moment with her. So, in reality, while my Mother’s Day was not perfect… it was exactly the right kind of day for me! Hugs and cuddles are the best kinds of frugal gifts that a mom can receive!!
Did anyone else have a “not so perfect” Mother’s Day this year? What are you grateful for even when trials and struggles threaten to overwhelm you?
By the way, my father read my recent newsletter blurb and was just dying to give me a jar of pickles for Mother’s Day! Love it!