QuickTip Tuesday: Getting Cheese Unstuck

Have you ever cooked something with cheese and then let it sit too long before cleaning the pan/spoon/whisk? It seems impossible to get the cheese off! Here’s an easier way: Let pan/spoon/whisk soak in hot soapy water for several hours- maybe even overnight. Add baking soda to the water and scrub with a scouring pad or SOS pad. The cheese should come off much easier now.

Foodie Friday: February Menu 2017

I can’t believe it’s already time to be posting a February menu. Yesterday, I sat down at my computer and started thinking about Foodie Friday and it hit me that it was menu time, but my menu was far from finished! I, for a moment, felt like I had run out of ideas. Pinterest was uninspired. I guess I’m in a menu slump. I have had the same formula for menu planning for about 2 years now, and I think we could all use a change.

I would like to keep “Leftovers and Dessert” on Thursday because it works out well for my schedule, but all the rest is free game for a face lift. What are your ideas? I know I have a handful of readers out there who enjoy the menus. Do any of you have ideas for a menu format? I am currently using this:

  • Big Dinner Sunday- with plans for leftovers to be redone on Wednesday
  • Soup/Salad Monday- Soups in winter months and Salads in Summer
  • Slow-cooker Tuesday
  • Re-do Wednesday- Sunday’s leftovers made into something new
  • Leftovers and dessert Thursday
  • Breakfast for dinner on Friday
  • Something more fun/kid friendly on Saturday

I found a blog called The Coastie Couple that had a post on themed dinner nights, which was interesting. Some of the ideas listed were Mexican Monday, Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Tossed food Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday, This-or-That Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Flat Friday, Festival Friday, Sandwich Saturday, Spaghetti Sunday… You can read about it here.

I want to know your ideas. What do you want? I’m open to any and all suggestions! We need to shake this up!!

Here’s the February menu, which will be the last of the current planning formula. The recipes can be found on my February 2017 Menu Pinterest board. March will be fresh and new!

february-2017-menu

Here’s the pdf: february-2017-menu

Enjoy!

$1000

Recently I read that 56% of Americans do not have at least $1000 in the bank between savings and checking accounts. Dave Ramsey recommends in his “baby steps” program that baby step number on is to have $1000 in the bank for emergencies. That’s step one and 56% of Americans do not have it.

After reading that headline, I did what I always regret and read the comments on the Facebook post. Oh boy! I almost always regret reading the comments, but this time I do not. I am glad I read them because it inspired this blog post. I read quite a few posts about Dave Ramsey, and if you’ve read my blog for very long you know I like Dave. I also saw several posts about minimum wage and inflation. This one in particular struck a chord with me:

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In the co-parenting class that I teach, there is a small section on overcoming challenges and one of the challenges is the feeling that there are no options. We talk about how we always have options, we just might not like what they are. This notion applies to any and every aspect of our lives- especially money! Working 20-40 hours a week at minimum wage may not earn you enough money to live on, let alone save up $1000 BUT no one is holding a gun to your head forcing to you stay in that job. There is no rule that says you can’t get a second job, look for a better paying job or create your own job by starting a small business.

Another thing Dave Ramsey says is this: “Poor and broke are not the same thing. Broke people don’t have any money, poor is an attitude.” I am paraphrasing, but that’s the gist. Don’t have enough money? Find a way to make more. Believe you are poor? You probably are and will likely stay that way for as long as you believe it to be true.

You are not a victim and nobody will save you. Not the government. Not a sugar daddy. Not a $15/hr minimum wage. Nobody but you. You have what it takes. I know you do. You talent. You can increase your earning potential and your income. You might have to get creative and you might have to change your game plan, but you can do this!

Just so I don’t leave you hanging, here are the baby steps laid out by D Ramsey:

  1. Save $1000 for emergencies. Put this in its own little savings account and DO NOT touch it except in a real emergency.
  2. Get out of debt using the debt snowball. Make a list of all your debts and order them smallest to largest. Pay the minimum on all debts except the smallest. Throw every last penny you can scrape together at the smallest debt until it is paid off. Then, take all the money you were paying on the smallest debt and add that to the minimum payment of the next smallest debt. Rinse and repeat until all the debts are paid. It’s not about math. It’s not about interest rates. It’s about behavior and getting a win. As you start to knock off those little debts, you will feel motivated and energized to keep going.
  3. Beef up that $1000 emergency fund to enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses. Keep it in the emergency savings account and DO NOT touch it unless there is a real emergency.
  4. Start putting 15% of your household income away for retirement. Use a 401K if offered by your employer or an IRA (roth if you qualify or traditional)
  5. Save for your children’s college.
  6. Pay off your house.

For more information, you could check out Dave’s book The Total Money Makeover or The Complete Guide to Money.

This is not a paid endorsement. I just really believe in this system. It’s how my husband and I survived when he was laid off from his job in 2015. We had been working through our financial issues based on the above steps and we landed on our feet. Was it fun? No. Of course not. BUT it wasn’t painful. His job loss could have meant financial ruin for us, but it didn’t. We didn’t act like victims. We just made a decision to do better, followed a real plan and we are doing better. You can too!

QuickTip Tuesday:Packing a Lunch

Today my college classes start back up. This is my LAST semester taking actual classes for my master’s! I’m excited to be seeing the light at the end of this tunnel, but it means that my Tuesdays just got really long. This morning for example, I woke up to get in my workout at 5 am. I went to the office and will leave straight from work to go to class. I will likely not be home until 8:30 tonight and I do not want to have to grab fast food today. I have packed my lunch and a snack for later and will have dinner when I get home.

Here’s my tip for packing an awesome lunch: Have good quality tools and use good quality foods. I bought myself a nice, big insulated lunch bag and some nice plastic food containers. It is better for the environment and feels a little better than cheapo plastic baggies. Also- be sure to pack veggies. Americans have a hard time getting in their recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. That’s in part because take out lunches don’t typically include those food groups. Pack your own lunch and you can include a hearty salad full of fruits and vegetables. Today I used pre-washed, bagged lettuce, banana peppers, olives and ham. I put my dressing in a separate little tub to be poured on later and I also brought some tomato soup to go with it. I threw in a container of grapes and a cheese stick.

Foodie Friday: Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

I hear from a lot of people that finding time to prepare dinner is difficult, and having it already done when they arrive home from work is a wonderful thing. My husband made this dish for us earlier this week. It was so easy and delicious. My kids even liked it! It’s a sweet and savory beef that you can serve over rice or noodles- we had noodles. Zach used a round steak instead of flank because we already had it in our freezer. You could also use stew meat if you don’t want to do your own cutting. If you cut your own steak, be sure to cut against the grain- even on the bias. Look at the texture of the meat. You should see striations (or lines) running through it all the same direction. Cut across those lines somewhere between a 90 and 45 degree angle. This will help the meat be nice and tender when it is all done.

Slow Cooker Mongolian Beef

Makes approximately 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ pounds Flank Steak
  • ¼ cups cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • ½ teaspoons mince Garlic, Cloves
  • ¾ cups Soy Sauce
  • ¾ cups Water
  • ¾ cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup grated Carrots
  • green onions, for garnish
Instructions
  1. Cut flank steak into thin strips. In a ziplock bag add flank steak pieces and cornstarch. Shake to coat.
  2. Add olive oil, minced garlic, soy sauce, water, brown sugar and carrots to slow cooker. Stir ingredients. Add coated flank steak and stir again until coated in the sauce.
  3. Cook for high 2-3 hours or on low 4-5 hours until cooked throughout and tender. Can serve over rice and garnish with green onions.

I found the recipe here: http://therecipecritic.com/2015/08/slow-cooker-mongolian-beef/

Calories Are Calories, Right?

With it being January, many people are thinking about and working toward losing weight. I have heard so many times that calories are calories are calories. People like to believe that it doesn’t really matter what we eat as long as our calories in equal calories out for weight maintenance or just eat fewer calories than you expend and you’ll lose weight.

One quote that comes to mind is this “It doesn’t matter if you overeat on ice cream or on lettuce. Too many calories means you’ll gain weight!” While the main concept of this is true, overeating leads to weight gain, we have a bad habit of oversimplifying these things.

The truth is there is nothing simple about it. We are all different, and we all have different calorie and nutrient needs. AND eating 1000 calories of ice cream is not the same as eating 1000 calories of a more nutrient dense, balanced diet like lean protein, whole grains and fruits/vegetables. It’s just not so stop saying it is. There are other components involved than just calories. Eating a well balanced diet can help us to manage our weight, and also prevents nutrition related diseases that have absolutely nothing to do with weight- like osteomalacia or anemia.

There are three macronutrients, and that’s where we get our calories. They are fat, protein and carbohydrates. It’s important to properly balance these macronutrients. Like I said before, we are all different, so your needs won’t match my needs. But a good place to start is to aim for 50% of calories from carbohydrate, 20% of calories from protein and no more than 30% of calories from fat. In addition to balancing these macronutrients, it is important to try not to exceed your own calorie requirement. How do you find your own calorie requirement? It is not easy to get exact, but you can use an app like Supertracker or MyFitnessPal to help you not only choose a calorie goal, but also to track and analyze your intake.

Another important way to balance your diet is to make sure you are eating some lean protein each day from fish, chicken, eggs, wild game, lean beef or a beans and rice combination along with plenty of fruits and vegetables and some whole grains thrown in. Add in low-fat or fat free dairy and you’re balanced. Again, how much of each of these food groups you need will be individual to you. A good jumping off point is to aim for approximately 5.5 oz of lean protein, 2.5 cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, 6 oz of grains (like cereal, bread or rice) making at least 3 oz whole grains, and 3 servings of dairy or soy milk each day.

I want to say again that your own individual needs are unique to you and the guidelines listed above are just a place to start. Once you know what you are eating, you can gauge whether you are losing or gaining weight and tweak it to fit your own needs.

Bottom line: don’t oversimplify. Pay attention.

 

QuickTip Tuesday: Keeping Green Onions Fresh

I really like green onions, but I never use the whole package at once. Then I am ultimately left with half a bag of slimy, unusable green onions that I sadly throw away. BUT I found out that washing and slicing the green onions, then storing in a plastic storage container keeps them fresh much longer. I can keep my onions for a little over a week like this!