Sunday, December 21, 2008

Back from Vacation

Bavarian Shops and Restaurants in Leavenworth, Washington

Worldmark by Windham Resort in Leavenworth, Washington

Winter Sunset over the Cascade Mountain Range (the view from our Condo)

Sorry that I haven't blogged in a while. We just returned last night from our Winter vacation. We vacationed in Leavenworth Washington in a Condo at one of our time share destinations. We had a wonderful time and the town and festivities are remarkable. Leavenworth is a Bavarian Inspired Tourist Town. It happens to be the number 10 Christmas town to visit.

The weather in Leavenworth was snow, snow and cold. We had over a foot of snow and the temperature was any where from -4 degrees to 11 degrees. We anticipated a 6 hour drive, It took us eight hours to drive there and took us twelve hours to return home. The snow and ice was treacherous throughout the Colombia Gorge and on into Oregon until we hit Salem. We made it home just in time. We heard that they had closed down the Gorge until maybe Sunday afternoon due to the conditions. I did learn how to put on tire chains and remove them. My husband gave me a lesson (I asked him to) and we each got out and took turns on a tire each time. You never know when you might have to do this on your own.

Leavenworth was a Winter Wonderland. We went sledding everyday, we went on a horse drawn sleigh ride, went skiing, snowmobiling, shopping and dined on German cuisine. We mostly prepared our meals at the Condo, to help cut down on expenses. Yes, you can be frugal on vacation.
If you want to be invited to be able to view The Koch Family Blog and view our family photos, please leave your request on the comments. I do not post my children's photos on my Inspired Living blog as I do not want my sweet cheeks out on the Internet.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holiday Cookie Exchange

Big Plate of Holiday Cookies.

Each Family went home with a box of cookies.

Icing a fresh batch of cookies.

A dozen for you, a dozen for me.

Oh Sweet Treats!

Today I hosted a Holiday Cookie Exchange during our weekly morning coffee. We had a lot of fun. There were six of us who were able to participate. We each baked six dozen cookies. We kept one dozen for ourselves and then each person exchanged a dozen of theirs for others. So we each ended up with a box of six dozen cookies in six varieties.

We had Snicker Doodles, Frosted Christmas Sugar Cookies, Amish Ginger Cookies, Oatmeal Scottchies, Iced Lemon Cookies and Holiday M&M Cookies. One of the ladies even brought some fudge that her Mom made (Thanks Momma Kathy!)

I think that the cookie exchange was a success. If we would of had ten or more women who would have participated we would only have exchanged six cookies each. I didn't want to have everyone bake ten dozen, six dozen cookies was a lot of baking in one day. Our families will be reaping the rewards with the tasty cookies over the holiday season.

Be Inspired to Host or participate in a Cookie Exchange with your friends and family.

Good Job Dad!

These are two gifts that my Dad got me last year, one for my birthday and the other for Christmas. I have to say, that he did a good job picking out these gifts. He usually has some corny ideas or I end up having to return and exchange them. But he really put some thought into these and knows that I love to cook.
I have used both of these cook books and have brought some new recipes into our home. We love a big simmering pot of soup in the Fall and Winter. The Deceptively Delicious book is written by Jerry Seinfeld's Wife, Jessica. It is really cool to sneak healthy veggies into meals, if you have a picky eater.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Glass Re-used

Here is the ginormous glass re-used for Fall Decor.

Aromatic and beautiful in the room.

My mantel with a touch of Fall and all things I love.

This is the ginormous glass that I received the homemade cocoa in for my birthday. I wanted to find a way to reuse it and change it every season. For Fall I decided to put a fragrant vanilla candle in it and added coffee beans around it for a rich color. The two aromas together were wonderful. Vanilla Latte anyone?

I placed it on my fireplace mantel with my fall foliage. I have to say it compliments the mantel very well. I am now in the middle of taking Fall down and putting up Christmas. I will post a mantel picture later in the month and display my decor and you'll have to wait and see what I do with the ginormous glass again.
Be Inspired to Reduce, Re-Use or Recycle.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Day After Thanksgiving Sales

Was it just me or were the sales for the day after Thanksgiving lame? On Thursday night we poured through the ads in hopes that the few things that were on our list were on sale. We were disappointed with the ads and the department stores. We thought that with the economy suffering the way it is, there would be some incredible deals out there to entice the consumer to purchase.

No, we did not get up before dawn and stand in line. We got up when we felt like it and headed out around mid morning to a few stores and the mall to hang out and meander around. We did get a few things on our list, but no great bargains were out there for what we were interested in buying. Our family is being frugal and simple with presents this year. We are also making homemade gifts to give out to family and friends.

I did take my receipt back to Video Only (for our new TV that we got two weeks ago) and got a refund for $151.00 It was cheaper today, than when we got it on sale then. Not bad, there is a little extra cash for some Christmas gifts.

For those of you that braved the crowds, I hope that you found better deals than we did.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Homemade Gifts

Last week I celebrated my 39th birthday. I think I'm handling it well. The only major change is that I cut and colored my hair. We'll see if the big 40 next year will be a mid life crisis for me or not. I did appreciate the phone calls, e-mails, b-day cards and knocks on my door with a little something for me, from my dear friends. I feel truly blessed to be loved and thought of so dearly.

I thought I'd brag about this gift from my dear friend April, because it was homemade and would be simple to make and give to others for the holidays. It is homemade Double Chocolate Cocoa. She put it in this really tall ginormous glass that can hold a gallon size Ziploc bag full of cocoa. There are different types of recipes you could use too.

I too have made them as Christmas gifts about five years ago for family and put them in snowman jars. You can put the cocoa in mason jars or in a cute jar or glass like this one that maybe you can find at a thrift store. Add a little ribbon and card with instructions and there you go. Thrifty and delicious. Keep a look out for what I have in store for the ginormous glass my cocoa came in. Can you guess what I'm going to do with it?

Hot Cocoa Recipe
10 cups dry powdered milk
4 3/4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups powdered non-dairy creamer
1 tsp salt
Mix all together and store in an airtight container. Makes about 15 cups of mix or 45 servings. For one serving add 1/3 cup cocoa mix with 3/4 cups of boiling water, stir and enjoy. You may want to add mini marshmallows or a dollop of whip cream on top.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A big bowl of comfort

Ahh!!! Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. I just love making soups, stoups and stews. Whether it is a classic like chicken noodle, tomato or potato soup, or a hearty beef stew or a comforting bowl of navy bean soup over fried potatoes and onions.... or a new recipe like Reuben Soup or Cacciatore Stoup. There is nothing like a steaming bowl of pure comfort to take the chill off and add warmth to your soul.

When I make a soup or stew I make it in the largest pot I have and sometimes I make it in two pots. I ladle the leftovers into two cup containers and freeze them. They are quick and easy meals to thaw and reheat for lunch or dinner. They make great gifts too! I have brought them to a sick friend and have given them to other families in need of a meal. I have even donated a few containers of soup to one of our church bake sales and they were auctioned off. The recipients begged for the recipe.

This is a bowl of my homemade Vegetable Beef soup that has eleven vegetables in it. It is incredibly delicious. I also make a couple dozen Potato Rolls to soak up that wonderful broth. I'll post the recipes soon for you to enjoy. What is your favorite bowl of soup?

Be Inspired to warm your families heart and belly's with a big bowl of comfort.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Jammin Day

Our family just loves freezer jam. The fruit tastes the freshest and the sugar content is far less than the store bought or the home canned type. Freezer jam is so easy to make and you could make it in under ten minutes. These are my Marion berry and Yellow Plum in half pints. They are both delish on toast or a nice big fluffy biscuit. Raspberry is my favorite and Strawberry is my family's favorite. What is your favorite kind of jam or jelly?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Tip of the Week

Tomato Paste in a tube is my fave this week in the kitchen. Have you ever had a recipe calling for tomato paste and you only need a teaspoon or a Tablespoon? You buy it in a small can and end up throwing it away because you don't have another reason to use it right away or it goes funky in the fridge.

Well, I've seen the Celebrity Chefs use this and Rachael Ray uses it all of the time. You can get it at your local gourmet grocer or even at Walmart. It is "Double Concentrated" and so you end up using less. Once open you store it in the fridge and can use it for many uses. I use it in soups, broths, pasta dishes, sauces etc... I like that it is an item that prevents me from wasting food and can serve multi purposes in one little tube.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day & Shopping

Happy Veteran's Day to those who have and are serving our Country. Thank You for our freedom and your dedicated honor and service. My Dear Hubby was a former Army Veteran and I am proud of him dearly. I wish that I had known him when he was serving (we met shortly after he was honorably discharged). I have a thing for a Man in Uniform. But... that is a story for later or maybe not. Hubba! Hubba!

While out and about today doing errands I went to a local thrift store (Value Village) that was having their 50% off on all items for Veteran's Day. I picked up a cute piano/music station ($2.50) for my littlest sweet cheek who is 10 months old. I also picked up some Old Navy snow pants and snow suits (less than $5) for the kids for our vacation in December to Leavenworth Washington. I also found a ton of really cute princess dresses and other clothes for the lil sweet cheeks. For my pre-teen I got him a brand new pair of Old Navy Camo Cargo Shorts with tags on them, he loved them. I found myself a couple of jackets and tops. I also found a cute book called "In a Pickle or a Jam" with tons of canning recipes. For Dear Hubby, nothing. He is picky and he wasn't with me. Daddy was at home playing with our sweet cheeks while I got to go out for a few hours, BY MYSELF! Isn't he just sweet?

I tried to find something for the house to decorate with, but they really didn't have a thing that looked worth buying or I couldn't live without. Ho hum. But I did enjoy my excursion. Bargain shopping can be so much fun.

Easy Breezy

Kitchen Gadgets
This apple peeler, corer, slicer was a good purchase ($19.99 - 5.00 off coupon = $14.99 at Bed, Bath and Beyond). I was peeling, coring and slicing apples and pears on my own with a paring knife and the fruit would turn brown really fast and they would be too thick or uneven. So I purchased this gadget and thought I'd give it a try. WOW!!! It is quick, easy and the slices are even and look awesome. I didn't even get a chance to use it for a while. My pre-teen son loved using it and enjoyed helping in the kitchen.
Also shown in the photos is my semi new Nesco Food Dehydrator. I wanted one of these for a while, but was being frugal and didn't want to buy it for full price at the store or Online. I happened to stumble on this great find at a garage sale and scooped it up for $15.00 which saved me about $40.00. It had only been used once to dry strawberry's and then sat in a garage. It came with four trays but could stack up to twelve. Now I'm on the lookout for more trays. We've dried apples, pears and kiwi so far. They taste wonderful and make great healthy snacks and an added treat for sack lunches. Does anyone else dry foods and what is some of your favorites?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Weekly Menu Plan

Sun - Potluck Sunday at Church (I made Shepherds Pie, *Supreme Pizza Pasta & Pineapple right side up cake)

Mon - Leftovers for us Mac & Cheese for the kiddos

Tue - Chefs Salad and Garlic Toast

Wed - Vegetable Beef Soup (with 10 vegi's)

Thu - Hamburgers and Roasted Fries

Fri - Leftovers

Sat - Baked Chicken and Rice Pilaf

*New Recipe

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Bakers Helper

Holy gadgets batman!

Here are a few of my latest bargain finds for my kitchen. I just love Ross, I always seem to find something for my home, kitchen or family. Here I purchased a bronze cookbook holder ($2.99) and a wooden pastry rolling pin ($4.99).

The cookbook holder holds my latest cookbook or my personal family cookbook. It holds the book open and keeps me from touching it or dripping something on it. The pastry rolling pin is awesome for pie crusts, cinnamon rolls, pizza dough etc... With a regular rolling pin the barrel is a lot shorter and you get indentations in your dough or pastry and may cause an uneven thickness in areas. These are great tools and I use them all the time.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kitchen Garbage Bowl

I like this idea from Rachael Ray, to use a plastic bowl to put produce waste, recipe prep trash, crumbs etc... in and then tossing it out all at once. However, I didn't want to spend over $20.00 for her recycled garbage bowl that she sells at the gourmet cooking store in town. I was trying to be frugal. So, I found this bowl at Bi-mart for $2.49 It came in four different sizes and colors to choose from. I chose one that would compliment my kitchen colors and chose the size I would like to use most. It sure saves me from stepping on my garbage can pedal dozens of times.

Homemade Chicken Stock

I buy a roasted chicken or two at Costco each month and realized that I have been tossing out the bones and skin and not making stock out of it. If I don't have time I can toss the carcass in the freezer in a Ziploc bag for later or boil some up right away. This week I made chicken enchilada casserole and roasted chicken noodle soup. The soup was divine and hearty.

Homemade Chicken Stock

Two chicken carcasses with skin
Onion quartered
Handful on Carrots
Head of Garlic cut in half
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Salt

Bring stock to a full boil and then turn down to a low boil and cover for and hour or so. Drain through a sieve or strainer. Skim off fat after cooled. You can use it right away or freeze in containers for later.

Girlfriends Getaway

In Central Oregon

The Sisters Three Mountains in Central Oregon

My frugal floral bargain find at Goodwill $6.99

Artwork statuary's in the Condo at Eagle Crest Resort

Pampered Pedicures by the fire. I'm in the middle.
We had a great time on our girls getaway to Redmond Oregon at Eagle Crest Resort. I blessed my two friends April and Teriann to a 3 night stay. My two littlest sweet cheeks came along too. We didn't take many photos or do much outside of the condo. We have been so busy canning, baking, drying food, getting husbands off to Elk Hunting, getting ready for our Women's Church Retreat, schooling, appointments....... that we decided to relax and quit running around. We wanted to relax, connect and focus on us for a change.
We didn't get much sleep because we stayed up until 2 AM each night chatting and laughing. The statuary artwork happened to be pretty funny to look at after you had a couple of night caps. They seemed to be staring at us and was kind of creepy.
I ventured out on a hike the first morning very early. My two sweet cheeks awoke too early, so I decided to take them out in the double stroller on a hike, so my girlie's could sleep in. One has three children and runs a daycare and the other has eight children and they don't get the luxury to sleep in. What mother has the luxury to sleep in? It doesn't happen. What I thought would be a two mile or so hike ended up being about an eight mile hike on really steep terrain and I got lost. So I really got a workout in.
We went bargain shopping one day at Goodwill. That was pretty funny. We went all the way to Central Oregon to go to Goodwill. Go figure. We all got some frugal finds. I also picked up a couple of cookbooks that you prepare and make ahead recipes/meals and freeze them for later.
We menu planned for the trip and cooked all of our meals at the Condo. We only ate out for brunch in Sisters on the way back home. We also menu planned together for the month and gave each other new ideas for our families.
We did pedicures at the condo in front of the fire. I brought all of the supplies and we enjoyed the conversation and pampering treat while my little sweet cheeks were fast asleep.
We had so much fun. Hope that we can do it again and soon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Proud to be an American

The Election this year was amazing in so many ways. This is the first time that I have been so focused on the election and content. The voter turnout was phenomenal, I believe I heard that we had 14 million more voters than the last election. That is huge and the youth came forward and wanted to make a difference. Hopefully the future generation(s) will continue to be concerned and involved in the voting process. I am however relieved that it is over and we can pursue on in life with out the commercials, advertisements, political phone calls, door to door party canvasing etc... I hope to see Change in the Future.

I will remain private on who I voted for because it is my right, personal choice and I don't care to discuss political differences. My husband and I even had concerns and differences and we were careful not to sway one another. We dropped off our ballots the morning of and on election night we had finished our Election Dinner and watched the TV for the latest information and then the big announcement came. President- Elect Barack Obama!

It was no surprise due to the prior polls, but yet it was surreal. History was made. Whoever your choice to vote for was, it was amazing to see history change right before our eyes. It was emotional for my husband and I and we are proud to be an American with the rights and freedoms we have in this Country. It doesn't matter what color your skin is we are all equal. The Media stated that Barack was judged on his character not his skin color, I believe that to be true.

John McCain's conceding speech was humble, gracious and eloquent. He is a great man and hero and I am proud that he served our Country. We truly felt for him and knew that he fought hard to be our Country's leader and has great passion for diplomacy. His experience and dedication is still of great need to us and I'm sure that he will support President Obama and Staff as he stated.

My point is this, what a significant time in history we are in the midst of. Hopefully we can gather together, unite, restore prosperity and support our new President of the United States in hopes that he can bring greatness and victory to our Country.

God Bless America!
I am Proud to be an American!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Weekly Menu Plan

My Menu is a little late, but oh well.

Sunday - Penne Pasta with garden tomatoes and Kielbasa Sausage
Monday - *Zesty Taco Tater Skins, Chips, Salsa and Sour cream
Tuesday - Election Banquet with Presidential Pot Roast and other delegates
Wednesday - Chicken Enchilada Casserole
Thursday - Roasted Chicken Noodle Soup and Yeast Rolls
Friday - *Firehouse Chili and Cornbread
Saturday - Yummy Leftovers

*New Recipe

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Banquet

Tonight I prepared an Election Banquet Dinner for my family. I thought I'd put some corny twist on dinner while watching the election on TV. The feast included:

Presidential Pot Roast
McCain Mashed Potatoes
Oh Good Gravy
Steamed Barackoli
Ballot Buttered Corn
Candidate Cottage Cheese

Our pre-teen thought it was funny and got a few giggles out of him. Of course the giggles ceased when he had to do the Democratic Dishes. I wanted to invite friends over for the election banquet, but dear hubby wanted to focus on the election (the analytical that he is) with out added distractions. We have two toddlers, what was he thinking? It's a Republican Circus with the two of them, what's a few more. Oh well.. I understood and enjoyed the evening with our family.

Hope that you all voted and watched the election.
God Bless America!

New Do, New Attitude

So.. Guess what I did. I decided I needed a change and thought maybe a haircut would help get me out of the moody blues. My hair was getting really long since my last two pregnancies and was about to the middle of my back. I am constantly putting it up in a pony, a giant claw clip etc... It was getting pretty long and heavy and was probably the culprit to many of my headaches.

So.. I went into the Cuttin Corral in town and picked out a picture and had my friend and stylist Shari whack it all off. Yep I did it! I had about ten inches taken off. I think that I had more hair on the floor than what was left on my head. It is cute and fun and hopefully I will love it tomorrow, if not I'll be crying a river of blues. In a couple of weeks I go in for a color appointment. I'm thinking of going a warm chocolate color called Iced Coffee for Fall and Winter. I'll have to post pics after the color, no way am I going to post pics now with the grey strands a showing.

When I walked in the door tonight after the new do, our dog Maggie came running at the sound of the door opening and barked and growled at me, she didn't recognize me at first. My kids were stunned, my toddler just stared at me in bewilderment. My husband... well he was in the middle of reading directions and setting up our new flat screen TV and was not focused on my hair at the time (it was election night and was trying to get it all hooked up in time to watch), but he did tell me later that he thought that it was cute.

The coolest thing is that the haircut and style was no charge and the color will be too. Isn't that awesome. I had brought in a couple of my latest Mary Kay catalogs to the Salon and my stylist wanted some new items. So we are trading product for hair services. That put me in an excellent mood, she was excited and my husband was too!

I picked up the new Rachel Ray "Everyday Living" magazine (one of my faves) late last night at the grocery store. I took one look at the cover and realized that after searching for haircuts for days and chose one a few moments before the big cut, my new do is just about the same at Rach's. I can flip it up, curl it under or tossle it with a little scrunch spray. Hopefully I can change it up and manage a shorter hair style with two rambunctious toddlers.

Be Inspired to make a change!
Remember it's just hair, it will grow back.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Moody Blues

I apologize to all my followers and readers for not posting in a long while. I have been in a terrible funk (and moody my husband would say). I don't know if it is the weather or what but I feel blah!!! I haven't done my menu planning or kept up on the laundry or house in almost two weeks. I start to get things in order and then don't complete the task or just give up. I did fight a nasty cold that took its toll on me for a week, but haven't been able to get out of the moody blues. I had so much going on in September and October that I just burned myself out, I'm guessing.

Enough of stewing about in my own pity party. I need to get inspired to get motivated. Coffee isn't working so I guess I should take my B-12 vitamins to perk up. Hope to be back to myself soon.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Road Trip!

I'll be gone for four days to Central Oregon, so I won't be a posting a blog for a while. I'll post some pictures when I return. I am blessing a few of my girlfriends with a spontaneous getaway to Eagle Crest Resort in Redmond. We will get to have some girl time and connect with each other. I am looking so forward to relaxing in the pool and spa, pedicures, a day of bargain shopping, hiking, and playing cards etc.... Girl time, Me time, Oh My!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rip off the Bandage

This week I was given a message from God through an episode that took place at home. My pre-teen son had injured his leg at school and one of the office staff gave him this rather large bandage to cover the wound. Later that night he wanted the bandage off. His shin was very sore and to touch it was even worse. He didn't want me to touch it and tried to take the bandage off for about and hour by himself.

He tried to peel the bandage off little by little and then he went and got his dad's tiny pair of scissors from the bathroom drawer. He would cut the hair from his leg that was attached to the sticky bandage. (Yes I said hair, my little guy is growing up). It took forever and he was in pain. I noticed that he was still working at it and I came into help. He said "don't touch it Mom, I know that you will rip it off". He knows me quite well. Not that I wanted to hurt him more, just that I wanted him to stop being in pain over it.

I told him to get a wash cloth and soak it with warm water and place it over the bandage and let it get wet. It will help get the adhesive to loosen up. He did and was still trying to work it off. He was struggling and was in agony over it. When he had his eyes closed in pain I grabbed the bandage and yanked it off. His eyes flew open in disbelief and in anger and then realized that it didn't even really hurt. He wasn't happy with me that I ripped it off, but was happy that it was off none the less.

After the whole ordeal he thanked me and went off into his room to put his leg up and watch a movie. I thought about it and realized that in life we all have wounds (not just physical) that we are covering up or put bandaids on in hopes to heal them or hide them. God wants us to expose our hearts, our wounds, our burdens and our sins to Him, that we are hiding behind the bandage, so He can heal them.

I have been hiding behind a bandage not wanting to open it up to God (even though He already knows everything about me, duh?). You can't hide anything from him and when we have a burden we need to give it to God. His message to me was to Rip off the bandage and expose your wounds to me and let me heal you. In order for me to heal I needed to expose them to God and allow him to work in my life.

Be Inspired to expose your wounds to God.

1 Peter 2:24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Recipe Ratings

Well, last week I tried two new recipes. The Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza was really good. The homemade pizza crust was really easy too. On half of the pizza I added thinly sliced zucchini, minced red onion and diced tomatoes. I heated up the leftovers on my new pizza stone from pampered chef and served it at my Friday Coffee Gathering for Brunch. It was a big hit and the kids loved it too. My husband and pre-teen said that they would prefer a tomato based sauce rather than the garlic ranch sauce. Too each their own. I loved it as did my girl friends.

The Chicken Spaghetti was wonderful. It made three meals for our family and I froze one of them for later. I mashed it up a bit and it made wonderful baby food. However, even though it sounds light, it was pure comfort food and was probably loaded with tons of calories. Hence the sharp cheddar cheese, Velveeta, cream of chicken soup and pasta, if you get my drift. I would like to find a way to make it lighter, healthier and cheaper.

This weeks new recipes are Quiche Tartlets and Penne Pasta with Italian Sausage Links, peppers, onions and fresh canned tomatoes.

Menu Plan this week

Breakfasts: Cereal, Pancakes, Yogurt, *Quiche Tartlets

Lunches: Sandwiches, Egg Salad, Leftovers, PB and J, Fruit

Sunday - *Penne Pasta w/ Italian Sausage Links, peppers, onions and fresh canned tomatoes
Monday - Cobb Salad
Tuesday - 15 Bean Soup with hamburger and tomatoes
Wednesday - Chicken Parmesan with Spaghetti Marinara
Thursday - Burritos
Friday - Tuna Casserole
Saturday - Leftovers

*New Recipe

Friday, October 10, 2008

Inspiring Decor

I have been dreaming and researching blogs and magazines on restyling and decorating spaces in my home. I found three blogs that have inspired me to add some creative touches and thought I'd share.
What blogs or sites Inspire you to Restyle or Decorate your home?

Take a look and maybe you might be inspired to restyle or add a creative touch to your home.
If you have any sites that are worth bragging about, please do tell!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

How did I determine our grocery budget?

That is the question of the day. How did I determine the dollar amount of our grocery budget? Well... I chose $400.00 for my family of five. How did I choose it? Well... First let me tell you the grocery spending habit I had created in our home and the changes I had to make.

I am a foodie and for me going into a grocery store is like going in hungry, which is sooo wrong. The first rule is never go shopping when you are hungry. The other problem I had was I would start to plan meals going down the grocery isles. Big mistake. I was like Oooh that sounds great!! Aahhh, that sounds delish, in the cart it would go. There was no menu plan (written down) and that was one of my biggest problems. The other big problem was that I was wasting food. It is a shame to throw food away due to spoilage.

So, when I used to get home from my grocery shopping trips I found I'd be missing items to complete the meals. Then I would have to go back to the store for a few items and then came back with more items than I intended to purchase. I would also change meal ideas and then back to the store for other stuff. Then there was eating out too many times. I would guess that my grocery spending was well over $800.00 a month. I have no firm amount, due to DENIAL and was scared to really come to grips with it.

So, I decided that if I didn't change my ways I would end up going to F.A.A. (Food Addictions Anonymous) or S.A.A. (Spending Addiction Anonymous). LOL If these groups are real I apologize in advance. I was only poking fun at myself. I was out of control and in severe denial.

In order to change my ways I had to have a plan. These are the things that I would have to tackle and put to work.

1) Get Organized!
2) Take Inventory of Pantry, Freezer and Fridge.
3) Write a Menu Plan with items on hand.
4) Don't be Wasteful. Find ways to use food to eliminate spoilage.
5) Determine a Weekly Grocery Budget.
6) Grocery shop only once a week.
7) Award my Family/Myself if I stayed on or below budget, by putting leftover grocery cash into our vacation/Christmas fund.

My goal in the next 10 weeks is to live simply on the stockpile I have in my pantry and freezer. I am only to purchase the basics like dairy and produce. I am not purchasing processed foods and mixes and am trying to make homemade if at all possible. I've been canning, drying fruit and stocking up for winter. I will be journaling along the way and will determine what works, what challenges I had to overcome and what changes I will have to make.

Now.. How did I come up with $400.00 a month? Well it was what I thought was about half of what I was spending. I guess I could have tried to lessen the amount too, but I'm taking baby steps. This is an experiment for me, we'll see how I do. I'm not sure if it will be feasible after the 10 weeks once the stockpile is down, it will help me to be creative and coupon clip too. But for now there is a goal in mind and I like a challenge.

Be Inspired to Challenge Yourself!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Weekly New Recipe

Do you ever get in a rut and run into preparing the same old go to recipes/meals. I am sparking a new change and have decided to add a new recipe to my weekly menu planning. This week I have two new recipes that I want to try, because I have the ingredients and am inspired to be creative in the kitchen. These will be recipes that I haven't tried and will rate them for you at the end of the week.

I am also working on launching a recipe co-op exchange with family, old friends and new foodie friends too. I will post the new recipes in the recipe blog that are a hit with my family and guests.

Be Inspired in the Kitchen!

Menu Plan this week

Breakfasts: Cereal, Oatmeal, Eggs and Bacon, French Toast

Lunches: Sandwiches, Leftovers, Salads,

Sunday - Leftovers
Monday - Shredded Beef Enchiladas, chips and homemade Salsa
Tuesday - Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches, baked homemade Fries
Wednesday - Meatloaf, Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
Thursday - *Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza and Garden Salad
Friday - Leftovers
Saturday - *Chicken Spaghetti, Corn

* New Recipe

Menu Plan Results

Well my last weeks was my first time at Menu planning and I found that it was well organized and kept me on track each day. It was also a big savings to my normal out of control grocery budget. What budget? I didn't have a budget.

Menu planning made me look into my fridge, freezer and pantry and choose meals that could be made with what I had on hand. No running to the store for a couple of items and then coming back with 15 more unintended items. No purchasing food because it sounded good that day or at the moment.

The only grocery items that I purchased this week were:

Milk - 4 gallons
Farm Fresh Eggs - 2 dozen
Sour Cream - 3 lb container
Corn Tortillas
Salad Greens
Soda Pop - 4 two-liters (for our weekend guests)
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream - (Dan's birthday)

My budget was $100.00 for groceries for my family of five. I spent about $25.00 this week. Soda and Ice Cream were party items and are not normal purchases or items we have on hand. I was more frugal knowing that the money saved will be vacation and Christmas spending money.

It also helps buying in bulk on some items, to be able to make more meals and recipes from them and helps save money. I am coupon clipping and that will benefit our family and grocery budget too.

My husband brought home four bags of whole grain sub sandwich buns (FREE), also known as sample bread, from his work. Sample breads are new recipes for loaves of bread, rolls, buns etc.. that are being baked to perfect their recipes before going out into the markets and restaurants. I plan on using some of them this next week for lunches and for Philly cheese steaks for one of our dinners. When he brings home an abundance of sample bread we also try and bless other families too. Free is a very good price and helps cut costs down too.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Last Day of Farmer's Market

Well our local Farmer's Market has ended its season. Whaaa!!! This is my last Farmer's market find until next Summer. I am gonna miss the fresh fruit and veggies. Here are some baby lettuces that make wonderful salads. Some organic spinach that went into chunky baby food. Spinach Apple sauce is a hit around our home (Dr. Seuss would be proud). Some more heirloom tomatoes that are just tasty and a loaf of "Stars and Spice" bread from Julie the Bread girl. She named this type of bread after a friend of hers whose last name is Star. It had wonderful Fall spices and currants in it. Yummo!

Good Bye Farmer's Market! Until next year we will meet again or shall I say eat again.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Farm Fresh Eggs

Here is my hen Henrietta sitting near a basket full of Farm Fresh eggs out in my front yard. There are brown eggs and green eggs. They are really cool looking and taste just wonderful. F.Y.I. Henrietta didn't lay all those eggs. Matter of fact she didn't lay even one of them. You see... Henrietta is my ceramic (fake) hen. She lives up above on top of my kitchen cabinetry. I have a Rooster too, his name is Rocky, maybe you'll meet him someday too. I live in a subdivision where I can not own any type of fowl within the city limits. Boo hoo!!! So I purchase my farm fresh eggs from my dear friend Teriann who lives on a farm. Lucky her!

Here is a close up of some of the eggs. The pale green and brown eggs are just about the same size. They are so large that sometimes the egg cartons can't shut close. Then there are the teeny tiny eggs from Teriann's Banty hens. They are just too cute.

Hope that you didn't mind my spoof. The funny part is that my neighbors were watching me put Henrietta out on the front lawn with the basket of eggs and taking photos. I must have looked like I had lost my marbles. Oh well, it was all in good humor and laughter is contagious, even if it is at yourself.

Thank you Teriann for such wonderful eggs and delivering them to me on Friday mornings when we get together for coffee.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Welcome Fall

Oh... how I love the Fall season and the colors. I purchased these vibrant mums for my front porch. Normally I buy and decorate my front porch with mums, assorted gourds, a few types of potted kale/cabbages, a few bales of straw and go all out. This year I am being frugal with our money, so I only purchased six of these mums to put on my wicker table on my front porch. I put up our fall wreath on the door and added silk mums to the old bucket that I have had for a few years.

I spent a little over eight dollars and felt that was all I was going to do this year. It is real easy to spend lots of money each season for decorations and flowers and I just decided that this year I want to spend less and save more.

Be Inspired to be frugal!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just the beginning of Canning Season

Here is the view of my kitchen during canning season. I had awoke in the early morning dawn to can tomatoes and to get a jump start before my sweet cheeks awoke from their slumber. Before starting my second batch, I took a moment and looked around my kitchen and saw my first batch of tomatoes cooling and the empty jars lined up waiting to be filled with more nourishing food. When... pure joy and happiness warmed my heart. I grabbed my camera and snapped a couple photos, so I can look back on the moment that gave me such joy for my hard work I had been enduring for the love of my family. I can't wait to taste those tomatoes this Winter and savor the flavor of love and joy.
My kitchen is the heart of my home.

Menu Plan This week

Breakfasts: Cereal, Oatmeal, Pancakes, French Toast, Bagels

Lunches: Sandwiches, Salads, Soup, Leftovers,

Sunday - French Bread Pepperoni Pizza
Monday - Vegetable Beef Soup and Sandwiches
Tuesday - Steak, Potatoes, Green Beans and Cottage Cheese
Wednesday - Cacciatore Stoup with Meatballs (Rachael Ray Recipe)
Thursday - Pork Chops, Stuffing, Cream of Corn, Apple Sauce
Friday - Potato Soup and Crusty Bread
Saturday - Dan's Spanish Rice

Grocery Budget and Menu Planning

This week I officially started my Menu Planning. I want to restrict myself on my grocery budget since, we spend way too much. I am scared to really know the dollar amount. In my budget I am allowing $100 a week for my family of five. My goal is to spend as little of that $100 a week as I can and whatever I don't spend on groceries I get to put that money into our vacation fund for December. We plan to go to Leavenworth, Washington for their Christmas Festival, German style.

Since I have been stocking up my pantry, my freezer and my stockpile in the garage, I probably will only need to purchase perishables like milk, eggs, fresh produce and some bread, etc. I have been canning, drying sliced fruits, and preparing quick fix freezer meals. It has been a lot of work in the kitchen and little sleep some nights but it sure will pay off this Winter. With the economy the way it has been heading I feel that this Winter and possibly Spring will be quite tight on the budget. I have been preparing for this for some time and hope that I have acquired enough of the necessities as we will need. I may sound like a squirrel stockpiling for Winter, but I would rather be prepared for any hurdle that may head our way.

I plan on getting back to homemade food from scratch and not store bought/commercially made if at all possible. I will start baking some of our bread, making my own pie crusts, pizza dough, granola bars etc.. I intend on being more frugal in other areas in our home and budget too. Menu planning will help keep me on track and help simplify my budget, meals and inspire me to think before I purchase.

I hope that you are inspired too, to think ahead for Winter and Spring and get your home, pantry and freezer stocked.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Under the Weather

Sorry for not posting in a week. I have not been feeling up to par and have been taking care of one of my little sweet cheeks, who has been under the weather too. I am starting to feel better. New posts coming soon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Frugal Recipes

My dear friend Jen called me today to ask me and my other dear friends to bring a few frugal recipes to our Friday morning coffee gathering to exchange. She wants to menu plan for two weeks and needs some new recipes that are cheap to make on the budget and tastes good.

Can any of you inspire her with some of your frugal recipes for her family? Much appreciated.

Homemade Baby Food

Homemade baby food is so easy to make and less expensive for your budget. This happens to be pears that I did one day a few months ago. Now, since my little sweet cheek is 9 months old, I am combining veggies with protein like chicken and turkey and adding brown rice. I love these trays with lids so I can stack them in the freezer. You can use a hand held immersion blender, the magic bullet or a baby food mill to puree to the consistency that you need for your sweet cheeks.

When the baby food is frozen solid I just pop them out of the trays and put them in Ziploc bags and label them. It is really simple to do and I know how fresh and nutritious the food is. I have to confess, I do have organic baby food in jars on hand when we are traveling for convenience.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Heirloom Tomato and Bocconcini Mozzarella Salad

This is one of the recipes that I made with those wonderful heirloom tomatoes that I found at my local farmer's market. Each bite was bursting with fresh flavors.

Heirloom Tomato and Bocconcini Mozzarella Salad

Variety of fresh heirloom tomatoes or any tangy tomato variety (sliced in quarters)
3 balls of fresh baby bocconcini mozzarella (sliced)
1/4 cup of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
the juice of one tomato
a drizzle of basalmic vinegar
2 garlic cloves (minced)
salt and pepper to taste

Toss together to coat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Calling all cooks

All good cooks need the proper tools in the kitchen to make cooking and baking simple, fun and easy. Even if you are an amateur chef, good tools make cooking an ease. Over the last twelve years I have purchased Pampered Chef products and my kitchen and motor home are filled with them.

The new Fall products and catalog are now available. I am hosting a Kitchen Show and would like to invite you to shop online from the comfort of your home or kitchen. Go here to do your shopping for yourself or for Christmas gifts and stocking stuffer's. Yes, Christmas is just around the corner.... If you spend over $60 you get a free gift. This months gift is the meat chopper tool.

All shopping must be done by Friday, September 19th as I am closing my show on the 20th. If you want to view the catalog and/or shop online, click on Order Products it will ask you for a host name. The correct spelling of my name is Angela Koch.

Happy Shopping and Cooking!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Cooking with Friends

The last two days my friend Misty and I have been in my kitchen canning and freezing fruit. I showed her how to make no sugar added apple sauce sweetened with 100% apple juice. She was busy slicing her peaches and putting them on giant trays and freezing them and making zucchini chocolate chip bread. It was really good.

I made marinara sauce, a few more apple pie fillings, five quart bags of diced apples for apple cake, two loaves of apple walnut bread and canned quarts of fresh tomatoes. I still have to make more peach pie fillings tonight after my sweet cheeks go to bed. It has been a busy few days but it will be so worth it this winter. My freezer is filled with colorful fruits and veggies, pies, sauces, bread etc...

Today I treated her for lunch. I made us an heirloom tomato and bocconcini mozzarella salad on baby lettuces drizzled with a homemade tomato, balsamic vinaigrette and garlic dressing. It was just delicious. She had brought over her grandma's vintage aprons and recipes to show me. It makes me wonder how many fabulous dishes her grandma made wearing those handmade aprons. We had such a good time in the kitchen together. It is fun cooking with friends.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

This weeks Farmers Market Find

Today my friend Misty and I took our kids for a nice sunny stroll down to our local Farmer's Market in Creswell. Todays finds were a loaf of Honey Oat Bread, a loaf of Whole Wheat Bread, Heirloom tomatoes, plums, a large bag of mixed salad greens and a carmelized onion tart. The Farmers Market will be closed for the season at the end of this month. It will be sad. I enjoy my weekly adventure and the fresh produce and recipes that I create from them.

However I will still be able to purchase my delicious baked goods this Winter. If anyone else is interested please e-mail Julie Furrer with your orders at Julie's Baked Goods. She can be reached at her e-mail Thanks Julie! The honey oat bread smeared with honey butter was so good and the carmelized onion tart was delish.

Pie Baking Day for Frozen Pie Filling

Step by step instructions for pie baking day for your frozen pie filling.

Make your homemade pie crust and roll out or cheat and use the store bought kind.
Roll pie crust onto your rolling pin and place over and into your pie pan.
Place your frozen pie filling that you made earlier. DO NOT THAW (I happened to use one of my blackberry pie fillings I made) If you are using cooking cutters to vent now is the time to do them.
Roll second pie crust onto rolling pin and place on top of pie filling.
Crimp edges of pie crust and place cut outs on top crust, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar.
Bake and let cool on cooling rack. Slice into pie when completely cool (4-6 hours) and serve with vanilla ice cream. Yummo!

Frozen Apple Pie Filling

Frozen Apple Pie Filling

6-7 baking apples sliced or 6 cups ( I use Gravenstein)
2 T Minute Tapioca granules
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Put fruit, tapioca, sugars and both spices in large bowl. Mix together, let stand 15 minutes.
Line pie plate or disposable aluminum cake pan (that will drop into pie plate perfectly after frozen) with wax paper.
Pour pie filling mixture into lined pan.
Let freeze several hours or overnight until frozen solid.
Remove from wax paper.
Wrap in saran wrap and place in Ziploc bag and label or place in food saver and vacuum seal and place back in freezer.
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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Coffee Gathering - Part 2

So let me tell you about the frenzy that took place on Friday at our first Coffee Gathering this Fall. Well... while we were all talking about recipes and freezing food for winter. I opened my freezer and showed the girls my frozen pie filling that I had made the night before. A Gravenstein Apple and a Fresh Peach. When they saw them they were amazed. All you have to do is set it into a pie crust and bake. I told them what inspired me to do it (I had watched it on the Food Network Channel with Alton Brown on Good Eats). Searching online I found another recipe for Fresh Peach by Paula Deen, who is another one of my favorite cooking chefs on the F.N. Then I looked at the back of my box of Instant Tapioca pudding mix and found similar recipes for more types of fruit pies. So far I have 6 apple, 3 peach and 5 blackberry in the freezer.

Well by that afternoon I had three of the women run to a local farms fruit stand in Creswell and purchase fruit. One of them even had apple trees and blackberries on her property so she made them dirt cheap. A few of them even mentioned it to more women in our church and what we all had been up to. My pastor's wife told me this morning when I arrived at church that she had heard all the hubbub about my pie filling and homemaking inspirations that I had started. It has been a lot of fun spreading inspirations and seeing how much fun we all are having.

The Recipe, how to steps and rating will follow after I make my first homemade pie crust and bake a pie tonight.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Morning Coffee Gathering - Part I

On Friday Mornings several mothers from Church gather at my home for coffee and breakfast. With their little sweet cheeks in tote. We have anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen infants to preschoolers playing sweetly. We don't meet on Fridays during the Summer months, only during the school year. However many of the same families do go group camping together, take the kids to the park during the week and have BBQ's over the Summer. So we do stay connected in other types of activities.

Today was our first Coffee Gathering since Summer has ended. Boy were we excited to get together and visit. I think that we all were looking forward to it. We have a very strong bond with one another and we keep each other spiritually connected and focused.

Today we discussed our prayer chain and the healing that is needed in the lives of those who are struggling health wise, physically and mentally with their extreme situations. Our hearts go out to those in need of healing and prayer. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need. Luke 12:31

We also caught up on some of the things that are going on in our lives, how our children were doing since school has started, homeschooling, etc..... We also took turns looking at catalogs from Pampered Chef, Tupperware and Lia Sophia Jewelery (there is always a party going on).

The subject of food, recipes and freezing food for winter came up (when doesn't food come up?) Then the simplest thing was said... then an inspiration took off into a frenzy...

**Stay tuned for Part II

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Domestic Diva

I purchased these two sets of "Glovelys" for the domestic diva, the other day at Ross for $2.99 a pair. Aren't they just too cute. The packaging says Glamorous gloves for everday chores. I intend to use the pink pair for sanitizing and scouring the bathroom etc... The blue pair I plan on using in my garden. They are nice and long so soap, water, and dirt doesn't drip or get on your wrists and forearm. They came in other patterns and colors too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Granny Annie's Cream of Corn Recipe

Granny Annie's Cream of Corn Recipe

40 ears of corn
1 1/2 pounds of butter, melted
2 pints of half and half

Husk and clean corn.
Preheat Oven to 200 degrees.
Remove/Cut corn from the cobb and place in dutch oven or roaster pan.
Scrape each ear for juice (Very important step do not skip).
Add butter and half & half to corn.

Place in oven for about two hours. Let Cool-in ice bath.
Ladle in freezer containers and freeze.

Thaw, reheat and warm slowly.
Salt and pepper to taste just before serving.

I enjoy my Grammy's Cream of Corn Recipe. It is really delicious and it tastes nothing like the tin can cream of corn that you get at the grocery store. Now is the time to go out and pick some fresh, sweet corn before it is gone for the season. I picked 65 ears of corn at a local farm. J&M Farms on Seavey Loop charged only $2.50 a dozen (U-Pick). This year I froze them in three cup containers and it made 13 containers, so that's about 39 cups yielded. Yummo!
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Tip of the Day

I bought one of those corn cutter fandangle things from my local Bi-mart and I tried to cut the first ear of corn and I just about threw it across the room. It didn't work and it was a bit dangerous to use. So I researched online how to cut corn off of the cob (the easiest way) and this is what I found and tried it. I got out my bundt pan and the sharpest knife I had and placed the ear of corn in the flute and started cutting. It worked wonderfully and the majority of the corn fell inside the pan. However my corn was very juicy and it squirted all over my wall, tile and kitchen aid mixer. Note to self... put up flour sack towels over kitchen gear before cutting next time.