Thursday, April 23, 2009

Adding Dessert

Last week I spontaneously decided to make brownies for dessert after dinner. It was an easy dinner prep night and I had some extra time so I jumped in and made them from scratch (just as easy as from the box without the weird chemical ingredients). I discovered that once Ella realized there were brownies to be had, she gobbled up her plate. So I gave her a piece of brownie and told her she could have more if she at more dinner. IT WORKED! I sat there dumbfounded. Why in the world had I not thought of this before?

I have not committed to planning dessert for meals, but I've decided to try and make a homemade dessert at least once a week. I can make enough to last us a few days. Once I'm in a kitchen where I can actually function efficiently, baking will be easier. I'm thinking cupcakes would freeze well. Just pop them out to defrost and have everyone frost their own!

This week Ella and I made No Bake Cookies (it was in the mid-90s so no oven baking for us). I found a recipe from an old friend for a Summer Pie that I want to try out soon and I have some Phyllo dough in the freezer that is begging to be made in to Baklava.

I'm looking forward to this unofficial new addition to our menu!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Five Months Later

Our Little Man is 5 months old today! He continues to be a super happy baby. I love waking to him cooing every morning. He loves, loves, loves his big sister and lights up whenever she is around. He has started rolling over -- but only when sleeping, which is making for some long sleepless nights for us! He was 26 inches and 15 lbs, 3 oz at the doctor 2 weeks ago. He continues the Gabel children tradition of being tall for his age!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cheese Soup

I love cheese soup. The best cheese soup I've ever had was made at a small restaurant near my hometown (Pot West for those that know). Sadly, it closed years ago (replaced by an uber-cool organic restaurant I love!). They had the best soup ever and I am on a mission to replicate it. I have not gotten the exact taste right, but it's close. Really, really close.

Cheese Soup
6 Tablespoons butter (or make bacon and use that grease. Add bacon in later)
Diced onions (to taste. I used about 1/4 cup, but up to 1 cup would be good)
Diced carrots (as much or little as you want, but around 1 cup)
Diced celery (I didn't have any so I didn't use it, but will next time)
Diced peppers (optional. I used green ones instead of celery)
1/4 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream or half and half
8 ounces cheddar cheese (or any kind, I suppose)
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Optional seasonings:
Red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper

Optional Mix ins:

Melt butter in at least a 4 quart pot. Sautee veggies (carrots, onions, celery, etc) until soft but not browned, about 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes (you are making a roux). Slowly whisk in the chicken stock, a little at a time being careful not to get any lumps. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes to thicken. I covered mine, but left the cover ajar to vent.

Once the soup is thick you can puree or not. Some recipes call for it, others don't. I don't mind the chunks of veggies in mine so I opted not to (plus I don't have an immersion blender and didn't want the mess of doing batches in the blender).

Stir in cream, cheese and mustard. REDUCE HEAT IMMEDIATELY! DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL OR CHEESE WILL FALL APART! You've been warned. This was my mistake the first time I made it.

Season as you desire. I found that the soup really needed a touch of wine (we didn't have beer). I just dumped a splash (maybe 1/4 cup) in at the end. I thought the Worcestershire would be a necessity, but I don't think it is. I also added chopped ham and broccoli (the frozen variety, warmed in the microwave first).

This was even better the next day as left overs and I am beyond thrilled to have a Cheese Soup recipe at long last!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Make It From Scratch: Colored Sugar

We were at Wal-Mart a few days after Easter so I perused the Easter clearance for some bargains. I came upon a Wilton shaker with 6 or so different "sprinkle" toppings for cookies, cakes, and such. The price, at 50% off, was $2.98. YIKES! That is for approximately 6 oz total of decorations. That shaker was selling for $6 full price. That's over $12/lb!!

I got to thinking -- there has to be a way to make sprinkles on your own. Half of the sprinkles in the in shaker are just colored sugar. Sure, I can't replicate teeny tiny tulips in an array of pastels, but colored sugar has got to be easy. Turns out you can color sugar in your very own kitchen.

Now, if I could only figure out a way to make chocolate sprinkles, we'd be all set.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Easter Menu: Resolved

So what did I end up serving for Easter?

Shrimp wrapped in bacon appetizer $3.00 (shrimp was on clearance)
Tip Sirloin Roast $10.00 (half-off in the meat clearance)
Asparagus $.99 (store sale)
Homemade rolls $.50
Total: $14.50

I didn't really plan a budget, I just wanted to fit the meal in to my normal grocery budget for the week, and I did!

Thanks to the comments, I now have a hankering for eggs benedict so I may be trying that out next weekend!

Hope your Easter was as deliciously frugal as ours!

Happy Easter!

No tears this year! I also didn't give in -- I took my own pictures and left without overpaying for one of the "official" ones. Yea, me!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Just Like Mommy

I wore this dress when I was three years old (can you see the 70's in it?). Ella has been begging me to wear it. I finally gave in. It fits perfectly. Now I just need to find a place with a boring blue background to get her picture taken just like I did. Then we'll pack it away and save it for her daughter.

Friday, April 10, 2009


Well, I gave in today to my littlest Princess and got her ears pierced. For the past few months Ella has been putting anything that looks like an earring in her ear (her attempt to get it on her ear), which just totally freaks me out. This morning I asked if she wanted earrings and she jumped up and down and shrieking "PURPLE ONES!! (they didn't have purple so she settled on pink).

I didn't get my ears pierced until I was 13, but I remember wanting them pierced so badly! I tend to think that little girls should wait until they are old enough to take care of their ears on their own to get them pierced, but apparently you should do as I say and not as I do because my 2 year old now has pierced ears.

Waiting patiently to get her ears pierced.

I told her over and over it would hurt, but she did a great job. Nothing a purple lollipop couldn't fix.


I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about this blog. It all started when I read a post at Copyblogger. The author of the post discussed how to grow your blog readership and he (or she, I can't remember) made the point that you can't enter a market where many "big gun" blogs already exist. This was an Ah HA! moment for me because it totally made sense, yet I'd been trying to maybe play along with the Big Guns of Frugal Blogging for a while.

This lead to thinking about why I was blogging, what I am blogging, and who reads my blog. Let's face it: there are about a gazillion "money saving", "frugal", and "mommy" blogs out there. I can't compete and I'm not sure I want to.

Then I started thinking about the blogs I really like to read. I subscribe to many blogs, and lots of them are simply "money saving" blogs with coupon and sales match ups. They serve their purpose of helping me saving money, but they aren't my favorite blogs to read. My favorite blogs are CFO: Chief Family Office; Joy of Frugal Living; Like Mother, Like Daughter ; and Like Merchant Ships . What I like most about these blogs is that they are "non-commercialized" -- they are just women living life and sharing about it on-line. I appreciate the fact that when they are making money from a link I click or a service or product that I purchase, they tell me (Cathy at CFO is fabulous about this. I've never seen anything "commercial" on the other blogs, in fact Like Merchant Ships is a "no-PR blog").

I started blogging just to blog about "us" -- my family. I discovered along the way that I also enjoy sharing how I do life because I'm fairly certain we're not "normal" in that category. I am also passionate about leading a cleaner, greener, more organic life. I love to help anyone and everyone figure out the confusing mess our society has created with chemicals and nonsense in about everything we own. I like to share good deals that I find, because I puffy heart LOVE getting a good deal and love to help others score them as well! But as of today I am re-focusing my writing on us: a blended family doing our best to bloom in the desert.

Hopefully you'll find something in the mass of posting that helps you bloom, too!

The Easter Menu

In today's Everday Cheapskate, Mary Hunt provided two of her favorite brunch recipes "[o]n the off chance you have not made any plans at all...." I laughed out loud because yesterday I had lunch with about 6 female friends and all of their children (it was LOUD and chaotic and FUN!!)and not one of us had made menu plans yet for Easter.

I have no idea what to cook for Easter. Growing up, my family didn't have the same thing for Easter every year so I don't feel a nostalgic pull to any particular food. My husband grew up celebrating Passover and he remembers lots of brisket and matza (and apparently he doesn't care to continue that tradition). We made a really nice lamb dinner the first year we were married and I really enjoyed that, but lamb is expensive and I'm not sure I want to spend that kind of money.

I am thinking about skipping the large lunch/dinner idea and cooking a nice breakfast instead. I just bought a new waffle maker so I could do a waffle bar. We love quiches and that would be delicious. I love homemade cinnamon rolls. But since I've been cooking nice breakfasts for us every morning, the brunch idea has lost its luster a tad.

Today is Friday, however, which is my day to plan the menu for the next week. Sometime today I have to come up with something.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Big Red

I've always wanted a red Kitchen Aid stand mixer neatly displayed on the counter top of my red kitchen. For some reason when I got married I let my hubby talk me in to a gray one. As a housewarming gift for our new home, my parents upgraded my 5 quart, gray Kitchen Aid to a 6 quart, red one. Now all I have to do is paint the kitchen!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Filling the Easter Baskets

Easter is another holiday like Christmas that has, in my opinion, become over commercialized. There is just something about all those pastel colors, bunnies, chicks, and chocolate that tempts me to lose focus on what we are truly celebrating. Last year I really overdid it. The girls both got baskets brimming with candy. I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I am determined this year NOT to create sugar comas before 8 AM.

In order to cut down on the sugar intake, I decided to find a nice gift for Ella's basket (Sarah is spending Easter with her mom this year and Miles is too little for one so I only have one basket to plan this year). Target has Disney Princess bath dolls on sale this week so I got one for Ella's basket. My sister bought a fun bubble machine for Ella so I added in some extra bubble solution (yes, I could make it at home, but this is something I just buy). Because there has to be SOME chocolate, I also got a small chocolate bunny and a plastic egg filled with M&Ms (her favorite candy). I picked up some small gumball machines on clearance after Christmas that I will also throw in. I am quite pleased with this small, fairly inexpensive basket perfect for a two year old.

While at Target I noticed they had Easter candy molds for sale, which gave me the idea to make my own candy next year. I am planning to go back and get them on clearance after Easter and make my own chocolate bunnies. I love this recipe for truffles, which would be pretty with some pastel sprinkles. A nice batch of sugar cookie eggs and a small knitted toy would round out a very nice basket of homemade goodies. I'm not sure why I never though to make Easter treats myself, but I am looking forward to doing it next year!

I bought the girls the Easter baskets in the picture from Pottery Barn Kids three years ago. Last year, when I was pregnant but didn't know if we were having a boy or girl yet, PBK still had the baskets available. Now I need a boy one for Miles. After 5 years in the PBK Easter selection, this year they are not available. Figures.

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