Foodie Friday: February Menu

Although I am tired of cold weather, and dead grass, and gray skies, I am so excited for this February menu!! I wanted to point out a few things that changed in my menu planning formula last month, but I don’t think I really expressed.

  • Sundays I make a very large main dish that can be turned into something else on Tuesday. It’s great! It makes Tuesday dinners much easier. For February, I am serving a whole chicken, then putting the leftovers into gumbo. I am making pot roast and turning those leftovers into “country Italian beef”. I am roasting a pork loin and putting the leftovers into a taco. And lastly, I am doing up a turkey breast to be turned into turkey panini on March 1. It’s simplifying my meal prep and my menu plan!
  • Mondays are now (at least for the duration of winter) soup days. This helps because a nice, comforting bowl of soup is great after a long, cold Monday- but also, many soups are great for the slow cooker and Mondays are also gymnastics night for Amelia.
  • Wednesdays are fish days.
  • Thursdays are still for leftovers and dessert.
  • Fridays are still breakfast for dinner night- one of my faves!
  • Saturdays are something a little more fun and carefree.

I hope you like my February menu as much as I do! Again, I want to encourage you to print the menu for your own use. You can simply white-out the meals you don’t want to try and add in your own ideas- OR you could print out your own calendar and use any of my meals that you like, whether it’s one, two or all of them!

The recipes, as always, can be found on the February Menu Pinterest Board.

february menu

February Menu

Make Good Use of Your Tax Return

If you are expecting to receive a tax refund this year, you want to be making plans on how to use that money wisely. You should be reviewing your debt situation before you decide to buy something new with that money.

Using a tax refund to pay off or pay toward existing debt can return substantial savings on interest payments on a loan or credit-card debt. To calculate how much interest you could save by applying, for example, a $750 tax refund, to existing debt, visit http://www.powerpay.org. This Web site helps consumers determine how long it will take to get out of debt by making minimum payments, making a one-time extra payment, paying more than the minimum or snowballing payments.

When evaluating your debt situation, pay attention to credit card balances. Paying the cards with the highest interest rates down first may save you more money in the long run, but tackling such a large project may be discouraging to some. Some would rather pay the smaller debts first because they feel as if they have accomplished something. If you receive a substantial return, you could eliminate as many balances as possible.

As you pay off credit card balances, consider “snowballing” your payments into other debts. For example, once the debt to the department store is paid off, take that payment and add it to the Visa or MasterCard payment.

You will be amazed how much faster you are able to pay off debt when you snowball payments. The Power Pay Web site can provide an illustration of the difference these strategies will make.

In addition to paying off debt, there are other wise choices for using a tax refund. You could use it for home repairs that have been delayed due to lack of funds. Invest the money in a savings or money-market account for an upcoming payment or possible emergency, or add the refund to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

This will help you become more financially stable in the future. Also, a tax refund could be invested in yourself by taking courses or other job training to improve your skills. This could lead to raises or promotions that would pay back your investment in the learning opportunities. Be sure to look over  your withholding statement to determine if the refund resulted from excess withholding, or was a one-time refund due to an unusual deduction.

If the refund resulted from excess withholding, consider reducing the withholding and put the difference in a savings or money-market account. That extra money every month may be the difference in having to use your credit card and accumulating excess debt. Remember, overusing credit may have placed you in a position of having to use you tax refund to repay now. Better management now could mean using your refund for something fun next year.

Quick Tip Tuesday: Mini Cinnamon Rolls

I love homemade cinnamon rolls, but I don’t always want to take the time to make them. Here’s a really quick and easy way to get homemade cinnamon rolls in just about 20 minutes: FROZEN BREAD DOUGH!!

Buy some frozen bread dough and let it thaw overnight in the fridge. Take it out and let it rise, then roll it into a rectangle and top with softened butter, cinnamon, and sugar (I like a mixture of granulated and brown sugars) Add in whatever else you like and roll it up. Slice into 24 little rolls (the frozen bread dough seems to be a little smaller than my homemade recipe, so the roll is smaller) and plop them into greased mini muffin cups.
Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, then turn them out onto a cookie sheet and enjoy with or without cream cheese frosting.

Foodie Friday: Oven Fried Chicken

Back before Pinterest, I found this awesome recipe on the internet for “Spicy Southern Oven Fried Chicken.” It was delicious! I made it two or three times and it was really good at first, but then it started coming out soggy. Something was wrong. But the original recipe was lost somewhere in the deep, dark recesses of the World Wide Web.

I cannot sing enough praises for Pinterest! Of course, not every recipe is a winner, but at least when you find one you like, you can find it again! I found a NEW recipe for oven fried chicken. I made it exactly as the recipe instructed for this first time, but next time I plan to make it a little spicier by soaking it in a buttermilk and pepper sauce brine. It was delicious though!!

Here’s the recipe I found from Raegun Ramblings.

Chicken and waffles with super easy oven fried chicken recipe. SO so good.

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs
  • 1/2 C baking mix
  • 1/2 C Flour
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp Salt for coating
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 TBS Italian Seasoning
  • Garlic Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

What to Do

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Once to temperature place an oven proof dish large enough for all the chicken to lay down in one layer with 1 TBS of butter.
  2. In a large bag combine baking mix, flour, salt, onion powder, and Italian Seasoning. Shake to mix and set aside.
  3. Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt and pepper to taste on both sides.
  4. Toss chicken in flour mixture to coat fully.
  5. Swirl the melted butter in the dish to evenly distribute and then place coated chicken skin side down in hot dish.
  6. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes. Flip over so skin is up and then cook until finished about 10 more minutes.

** For easy clean up, line your baking dish with aluminum foil.

** If you use skinless chicken thighs, you might want to brush butter on the top side and at the end, turn the oven to broil for a few minutes to crisp up the breading.

Quick Tip Tuesday: Staying Warm

It has been too cold for me here in Oklahoma lately. So, it has bounced around from 50 degrees to the teens, but the wind chill is brutal! No snow makes it that much worse because it’s not even pretty, just cold.
To stay warm I love a good, hot beverage. and I LOVE coffee. Here is something you should try:
Mexican Coffee by Marcella Valladolid

2/3 cup ground dark roasted coffee, medium to coarse grind
1 quart water
1 cinnamon stick
1 (3-inch) piece orange peel
1 cup packed dark brown sugar

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the coffee grounds with 1 quart water, the sugar, cinnamon and orange peel. Stir to combine and bring to slow boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from the heat and let steep, covered for 5 minutes. Strain, through a fine mesh strainer and some cheese cloth, into cups and serve.

T-Shirt Memory Quilts

 

I have made many of these quilts for people over the years. They are such a fun keepsake, and make great gifts for people. You could use team shirts from sports teams, high school activities, races, or shirts that had belonged to a loved one. They are a great way to preserve memories and pretty easy to make with basic sewing skills.

** These instructions work best with Adult Medium shirts or larger.

Here’s how I make mine:

  1. Choose approximately 12-20 t-shirts that you want to preserve. Be sure the number of shirts will easily arrange into a quilt that is 3 X 4, 4 X 4, 4 X 5, 5 X 5, or 5 X 6. 30 shirts is the most I have ever done with my little sewing machine. These get really heavy and difficult to maneuver with larger numbers of shirts.
  2. Measure the design area you want to preserve on each shirt.  Choose the largest design area needed and cut all the blocks the same size. I like to do 12.5″ squares because I have a template that size, but you may want to go up if the logos are larger.
  3. Cut off a 7″ strip from the tail of each shirt. Set these aside.
  4. Center the design area in the block size on a rotary cutting mat. Cut around the design area using both the front and back of the shirt, but measuring from the side with the design. If you wish to use designs from the front and back, separate them and cut them separately.
  5.  For the number of shirts you have, cut 2 squares of lightweight fusible interfacing (non-woven works best) that are 1 inch smaller than your shirt squares.
  6. Fuse the interfacing to both the back and front of the shirts, on the insides. So the back of the shirt back and the back of the shirt front will each have interfacing.
  7. Cut one piece of quilt batting for each shirt that is one inch smaller than the shirt square. (*optional as these quilts are quite heavy without the batting)
  8. Make a sandwich of the back of the shirt (right side out with interfacing on the back), quilt batting, and the front of the shirt (right side out with interfacing on the back). Pin several times over the area of the block. ** At this point the design area becomes the front of the block, even if it was originally on the back of the shirt.
  9. Quilt on the machine some aspect of the design area using a long stitch, regular presser foot or walking foot if you have one. The regular foot works, but will have some puckers on the back. If you do not wish to follow the design you could make one large X through the square.
  10. Sew 1/2″ around the outside of each block, connecting all layers of the sandwich.
  11. When all blocks are quilted and sewn 1/2″ around the edges, arrange in a pleasing arrangement. I like to use 20 blocks (4 X 5), but sometimes there aren’t that many shirts, so just go with what you’ve got.
  12. Connect the blocks in rows, using the 1/2′ seam as a guide, bringing ALL raw edges to the front of the quilt. The back of the quilt will be completely smooth. Cute a 1/2″ square out at each corner of each block. This will enable you to sew straight across to complete the rows. After all rows are connected, connect the rows.
  13. Cut 15′ strips out of the 7″ strips. Fuse the iron-interfacing to these in the same manner as the blocks, cutting the interfacing to 14″ X 6′.
  14. Cut the batting for these strips a bit wider then 3.5″ X 14″ to give an extra soft edge. Roll the t-shirt fabric around the batting and sew the 3 raw edges. DO NOT sew the rolled edge. This edge becomes the edge of the quilt. Cut out 1/2″ squares out of the 2 corners of this piece (not the rolled edge).
  15. Sew these strips in a row that fits the top and bottom of the quilt and attach one to the top and one to the bottom, again pulling the raw edges to the front.
  16. In the same manner as step 15, create a border for the two remaining sides, be sure to make it long enough to stretch from bottom border to top border plus 1/2″ on each end. Fold in half lengthwise (wrong side out) and sew ends closed. Turn so that the right sides are out. Attach side borders.
  17. Now your quilt is completely pieced. The raw seam allowances are all to the front of the quilt. Carefully clip the seam allowances to make about 1/4″ strips which will become fringe. Be careful not to clip through your seams creating a hole in your quilt.
  18. This completes the quilt. Enjoy!

Quick Tip Tuesday: Workout Hydration

We’ve all heard that it’s important to hydrate before, during and after a workout. The problem is, when I drink a lot of water directly before or during a workout, I feel it sloshing around in my stomach and it sometimes make me feel sick. It definitely slows me down. My advice is to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Stop drinking for 30 minutes to and hour before a workout, then take a medium-sized swig of water every 5-10 minutes during a gym workout- maybe spaced further apart for running workouts. It keeps me from getting too thirsty without filling my tummy too full of water.