Barn Studio of Dance

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wordless Wednesday ~ Icicles are Nature's Bling

It's been a while since I've shared a Wordless Wednesday post.  Grace and I have been spending most of this winter snuggled on the couch with a few cozy blankets in front of a blazing fire.  Bad hair days and pajamas!  I'll spare you the photos!

Since both Grace and I aren't real big on the cold weather, we rarely venture outside when it's too frigid out there!  But when I saw these beautiful snowflakes shimmering from the shingles of our ugly shed, I just had to run out to take a quick picture!


So pretty!  So sparkly!  They almost made me forget that I'm counting the seconds until spring!




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seasonal Depression ~ Seasonal Affective Disorder


While we haven't gotten any snow so far this week, it's cold, cold, COLD in my neck of the woods!  I really try not to complain about the cold or heat during their appropriate seasons, but I have found myself whining a few times, especially when getting out of bed in the mornings!

Truth is, I suffer from depression year round, but find that the winter months (Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder) are the worst for me due to the lack of fresh air and sunshine.  Between the lack of Vitamin D and cabin fever, I get very down and gloomy.

Sometimes a full cooking day in the kitchen helps, just shaking the depression and getting myself motivated isn't always easy.

Earlier this week, I was in the mood to cook a couple of freezer meals.  Two meals didn't result in an all day cooking session, but having a big pot of soup on the stove (helping make the kitchen feel warm and cozy) helped a little.

Today, I found an article listing 10 foods that are high in Vitamin D (well, really 9 foods and sunshine are listed) and I'll admit that there isn't anything on the list that I eat on a regular basis or can even incorporate into our food budget at the moment.  I also found a few articles via Pinterest that I'm going to attempt to use as a guideline to help me out a bit.  A lot of them mention exercise and healthy diets as being natural solutions to beating SAD, both of which are challenging for this junk food loving couch potato.

For now, I'm going to try to remember to take my Vitamin D supplement each day and commit to using the Wii Fit at least once a day.  We'll see if that helps me at all.

Now to go dig that Wii Fit out of the pile of junk I tossed into the guest room over the holidays.  We won't talk about that now, that's for another post...someday.




Crock Pot Potato & Ham Chowder

The past few weeks, I've been spending time looking for some frugal dinner ideas.  Relying on some of our go-to meals has left me bored and uninspired when it comes to meal time.  During the month of December, I was in a real rut when it came to menu plans resulting in too many fend for yourself nights, frozen chicken nuggets and fries, and more take out than I'd like to admit.

January is more than half way gone and we've managed to skip the take out dinners!  Yay!  But that does mean more cooking for me, which for the most part, I do enjoy.  It's just that I need to find new recipes to prepare.  Cheap recipes.  Easy recipes.  One-pot recipes.  Recipes that will provide dinner for at least 2 nights.

This soup recipe fits the criteria that I'm looking for:
          cheap, easy, made in the crock pot, and plenty for 2 nights!



Crock Pot Potato and Ham Chowder 
          adapted from Hillbilly Housewife

Ingredients:  
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 2 celery stalks, diced 
  • 1 cup ham, diced 
  • 4 cups water
  • 4 chicken bouillon cubes
  • pepper, to taste 
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 cup cut green beans
  • 5 Tbs. butter
  • 5 Tbs. flour 
  • 2 cups milk
Directions: 
  • Fill crock pot insert with the potatoes, carrot, onion, celery and ham. 
  • Stir in water and drop in bouillon cubes. 
  • Season with pepper. 
  • Cover and set crock pot on low. 
  • Allow to cook for 6-8 hours (until potatoes are tender).  
  • Add in the corn and green beans.  
  • 45 minutes before serving, melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat.  
  • Add flour and gradually pour in the milk, stirring constantly until thick and bubbly.  
  • Stir flour/butter/milk mixture into the contents in the crock pot. 
  • Cover and allow to cook for another 30 minutes minutes.  

This is a great way to use up some of the leftover ham from the holidays.  When cleaning out the fridge from all the holiday food, I separated our leftover ham into 3 portions.  Although we had a spiral ham from the supermarket, the portions that I froze were from the end and not spiral cut.  Instead they were decent sized chunks that just need be diced up and added to future recipes.  

Diced ham steak, sliced Canadian bacon or cooked bacon would be a good options for this too if you don't happen to have any leftover ham in your freezer.  


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 2013 ~ Week of January 21st


Thanks to an additional night of leftovers and a bowl of beef stew dropped off by my parents, we didn't get to all of the meals that I had planned for last week.  We kept grocery purchases to a minimum last week and stayed away from the drive-thru and pizza delivery.  That in itself makes for a successful week!

Since I'm already late for Menu Plan Monday, I'm just going to jump right in with this week's menu and skip my normal chit chat.  I really need to begin working on my menus over the weekend rather than counting on getting it ready on Monday morning!


Monday 

Leftover Night 



Tuesday 




Wednesday 




Thursday 




Friday 

Hamburger Soup 
I haven't managed to create a recipe for this yet,
as I never make it the same way twice!  



Saturday 

Leftover Night 



Sunday 

Undecided 



We enjoyed three new recipes last week!  





Crock Pot Potato and Ham Chowder (will go live on Thursday) 




Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable. If you haven't checked out Yvonne's blog before, I suggest you drop everything and head on over to check out her delicious recipes, inviting tablescapes and stunning photographs!  


Super Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Cake

After all of the cooking ahead that I did over the weekend, it was time to find room for it in the freezer.  Most of the time, it's just a matter of moving a few things that hadn't been put away correctly to free up some extra space.  This time, I just couldn't manage to fit everything back in.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining!  It's comforting to know that the freezer is full!

Based on the menu plan for the week, there wasn't really much that I could take out to make room.  I really hated the thought of wasting anything, but mashed bananas seemed to be the best option if I had to toss something.  Still, I didn't want to waste them.

I considered making banana bread, but I didn't like the way it turned out that last few times I made it.  I really have no patience when it comes to baking.

Then I remembered seeing a 3-Ingredient Banana Bread recipe on Pinterest.  When I went back to look for the recipe, the link didn't work.  Sigh.  I hate when that happens.  After some further digging, I found what I was looking for...a recipe using cake mix, eggs and mashed bananas.

I failed to save the link to the recipe that I used, but there are several all over the internet.  I've shared links to a couple below:



Once the bananas thawed, it was so easy to whip this cake together!

I added chocolate chips as suggested as an optional add-in ingredient and also opted to use a bundt pan in place of the loaf pans.



Super Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Cake 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 box yellow cake mix 
  • 3-4 over ripe bananas, mashed 
  • 2 jumbo eggs 
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips*
  • flour/butter 
  • tub chocolate frosting (optional) 
Directions:  
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
  • Grease bundt pan with butter and lightly coat with flour.  
  • Place mashed banana into a mixing bowl, add in cake mix. 
  • With an electric hand mixer, mix until well combined.  
  • Add in the eggs, mix well.  
  • Coat chocolate chips lightly with flour (this will help keep the chips from sinking to the bottom of the cake) then fold into the cake batter.  
  • Pour batter into bundt pan and bake 35-40 minutes, until cake tests done.  
Notes: 

  • I will definitely double the amount of chocolate chips the next time I make this...and yes, there will be a next time! 



The cake turned out both delicious and beautiful!  I frosted the top with some chocolate frosting from a tub as well, since I was in the mood for something really chocolatey!

This cake is a wonderful way to use up all of those mashed bananas that I store in the freezer since I can't seem to use them quick enough during the colder months when it's too cold for frozen smoothies.


I'm linking this recipe up to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:







Thursday, January 17, 2013

Creamy Potato Chicken Chowder

I'm off to a slow start with my resolutions this year.  I'm struggling with the organizing and decluttering that I planned for this month and I don't even want to discuss how the dieting is going.

I have been focusing on one of my resolutions:  Frugality.

Last week, I shared a savings plan that I am challenging myself to stick to for the year and so far (it's only week 3) I'm doing okay with that plan.

In addition to making small deposits to our savings account, I'm trying to get the most of our meals.  I'm back to preparing whole chickens in the crock pot instead of picking up rotisserie chickens from the supermarket. Keeping homemade broth and shredded chicken on-hand for easy and frugal meals.

Earlier this month, I shared an easy soup recipe using a bunch of leftovers from the fridge.  The soup was so tasty and incredibly easy to prepare that I promised myself that I would save leftovers specifically for this meal.  I now have a bowl of assorted leftovers in the freezer for when I need something quick and easy for dinner!  All I have to do is thaw it slightly, add it to some chicken broth, season to taste and serve!  So simple!

This week, I stumbled across another easy clean-out-the-fridge type soup recipe.  I was so excited to try another easy soup recipe that I skipped the meal that was already planned for that night.



Creamy Potato Chicken Chowder
     adapted from Wheatless Foodie

Ingredients:  

  • 2-3 cups leftover mashed potatoes
  • 3 cups chicken broth, homemade or canned 
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup cut green beans
  • 2 cups corn 
  • 1 cup diced chicken
  • 1 cup shredded cheese
  • ground black pepper, to taste
Directions: 
  • combine mashed potatoes and chicken broth in a soup pot, stirring until heated through. 
  • Add the vegetables, stirring to combine.  Heat through. 
  • Next, add in the diced chicken and season with black pepper, to taste.  
  • Stir in the shredded cheese and heat until thick and bubbly.    

See?  So simple!  I had the mashed potatoes, homemade broth and diced chicken in the fridge.  I used frozen veggies that I thawed for this meal, which was easy enough, but LOVE that it can be made so much quicker using vegetables leftover from another night's meal!  


I've linked this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lima Bean Soup ~ A Low Calorie, Low Budget Recipe

Hello, friends!

I hope you all haven't forgotten about me even though it may seem that I've forgotten about y'all!  I just figured I'd take a week off and then, after that one little week, it seemed more and more difficult to get back into the swing of things here on the blog and at home in the kitchen!  It's seriously been really quiet here in my my kitchen, only cooking out of necessity and not for enjoyment at all.  I'm not sure the reason for such a bleak outlook on food and cooking, but as December started to come to a close, I felt myself wanting to get back into the kitchen to try some new recipes.

The snow we had recently helped a bit, too!  Nothing puts me in the mood to cook like a snow storm!  So, while the snow was coming down, I spent some time in the kitchen throwing together a frugal, no-meat soup.

A month or two ago, I picked up a few different bags of dried beans figuring they'd come in handy this winter and help with keeping the grocery bill low as we recover from the overspending that always happens during the holidays.

While Grace was occupied with her new toys, I spent a lot of time trying to decide how I wanted to prepare those bags of beans in the next few months and chose a very easy Lima Bean Soup first.  While the original recipe is super easy, I did need to make a couple small changes to avoid a trip to the market.

half portion of Lima Bean Soup

Lima Bean Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. bag dry lima beans 
  • 4 cups water
  • 5 carrots, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced 
  • 2 celery stalks, diced 
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced 
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 vegetable bouillon cubes 
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 bayleaf (optional) 

Directions:
  • Rinse and sort through dry beans.  
  • Bring 4 cups water to a boil, add beans and boil for 2-3 minutes.  
  • Cover, remove from heat and allow beans to soak for 2 hours. 
  • Drain and rinse beans.  
  • In a skillet, saute carrots, onion, celery and garlic in hot oil until onions are translucent.  
  • Add beans to the skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring to combine the beans with the vegetables.  
  • Transfer vegetable/bean mixture to a large crock pot.  
  • Dissolve bouillon cubes in 4 cups of boiling water and pour over the veggies in the crock pot, stirring to combine.  
  • Pour another 4 cups of water over the veggies.  
  • Add bay leaf if desired.
  • Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours, until beans and vegetables are tender.  
  • Remove bay leaf and serve.  

Total Calories:  1991* 
8 servings @ 249* calories per serving.  

* calories are approximate and may not always be accurate.  

This soup is really tasty.  Not as flavorful as some of my favorite soups, but great for something a little different.  I wish I was good at keeping track of the cost of ingredients or at scoring great deals on produce, but I'm sure this soup is the cheapest dish I prepared in a long time!



I ate 2 half portions of this soup the first night I made it and froze the rest for some low calorie lunches throughout the rest of the month!


I've linked this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:



Monday, January 14, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 2013 ~ Week of January 14th


Oh my goodness!  I made so many changes to last week's menu plan that I really started to confuse myself!  I had everything written out on my dry erase calendar with notes scribbled in where changes were made.  It had gotten to the point that it was one big scribbled mess and I erased the entire thing!

Last Monday, I was sure it was going to be a good week in the kitchen.  I was up early, showered, dressed and had dinner in the crock pot before Grace even woke up!  Off to such a good start on a Monday morning is unheard of in my house!  At least for me, since I'm not a morning person at all!



The Crock Pot Taco Soup, which was the result of that short-lived bout of productivity was delicious and provided dinner for us for two nights!

After forgetting on several occasions to thaw the ground meat for meatloaf, I finally managed to get meat loaf on the table on Friday night.  This was my first time using a ground beef and pork mixture for meat loaf and I wasn't disappointed.  In fact, I don't think I'll use plain ground beef for meatloaf again!

I prepared a whole chicken in the crock pot last week.  I didn't include it in the menu plan, but I knew I needed to cook some chicken for Grace.  This was a perfect meal for one of the nights I forgot to thaw the ground meat!  I used the leftover chicken to make a pot of Chicken 'n' Dumplings for my brother for his birthday.  We don't exchange gifts, but have started to make and deliver meals for each other for our birthdays.

Over the weekend, I did a lot of cooking ahead:

  • Minestrone Soup (link in menu plan below).  I put all of the ingredients in the crock pot and set it on low for 8 hours before I went to bed on Friday night.  This gave me plenty of time to allow it to cool before dividing into containers and putting into the fridge.  
  • Chicken.  I boiled a whole chicken on Saturday.  I'll use the meat for dinners this week.  
  • Meat Sauce.  There was about 3/4 lb of ground meat left after making the meatloaf on Friday.  I browned it with some carrots, onions, celery.  After draining the fat, I poured in 2 jars of sauce and seasoned with Italian Seasoning and crushed red pepper.  I divided that into 3 containers for future meals.  One for this week, the other 2 will go in the freezer for next week.  

So, this week should be pretty easy as far as dinners are concerned.  I'm glad because I still have about half of the Christmas decorations to take down.  Easy dinners will allow me to focus on the huge task of fitting everything back into the storage containers so Joe can get them up into the attic.  Grace is anxious for us to decorate for Valentine's Day.  

Here's a look at what I'll be serving up for dinner this week:  


Monday 


Grilled Cheese Sandwiches 



Tuesday 


Spaghetti with meat sauce
salad, crusty bread 



Wednesday 


Salad



Thursday 

Biscuits 



Friday 


Leftover Night 



Saturday 


Crock Pot Shredded Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches 
Oven Fries
Salad



Sunday 

Family Dinner 


Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable.




Thursday, January 10, 2013

52 Weeks of Savings

I don't know about you, but I'm not really good at saving money.  Never was.  It's been even more challenging since we became a single-income household 5 years ago.  Since that time, finding a little extra to put into savings has become nearly impossible.  Or so I thought.

Last week, I came across this 52 Week Money Challenge chart posted on facebook and decided to use it as a guideline for saving money throughout the year.



As you can see, it starts off pretty easy for the first half of the year, but shows that even saving a $1 here and $2 there really adds up.

I'm really hoping to be able to stick with this, at least for the first 40 weeks, after that I'll be using any extra cash for Christmas shopping!  But, whichever week I stop, I intend to begin back at week one just to keep it going.

I made my first deposit to savings last week and as silly as it sounds, transferring that single dollar into our savings account really made me feel a sense of accomplishment.  It may just be a dollar, but it's a step in the right direction!



Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wordless Wednesday ~ Princesses on Ice

For Christmas, Grace's grandmom gave us tickets for Disney on Ice.  When she called me a couple of months before Christmas to tell me her plan, I was really excited and tried to point out the commercials on TV to see Grace's reaction (not telling her we would be going).  She didn't have much reaction until I showed her a clip online the day before the show.

I don't usually tell Grace where we are going that much in advance. Typically, I wait until it's time to get dressed and head out the door to tell her of our plans, but after showing her the clip, I just couldn't wait to see what she thought of going to see the ice skating princesses!

She was very excited but I could tell she still didn't grasp the concept, but she was very cooperative when it came to getting dressed and ready to go the following day!

After putting her clothes, Grace wanted me to help her with her accessories.  While I figured she's only want to wear her tiara, she surprised me when she also chose to wear the matching earrings, necklace and bracelet!  She surprised me again when she wore them the entire ride to the arena (over an hour) and during the whole show!

On the drive there, I kept asking her if she was excited  and when we were close enough to see the arena, I pointed it out to her.  Grace's response was, "Let's get this party started!"


I took her Rapunzel gown (also a gift from her grandmom) with us, to put over her clothes once we got there, but she was a tad bit overwhelmed when we got inside.  She remained cheerful, but insisted that Joe carry her almost all the way to our seats!  At the section before ours, I convinced her to help me find the number of our section and she walked a little of the way!


Removing her coat to put her gown on was not an option, she preferred to wear her coat the entire show.  She enjoyed popcorn and cotton candy while watching the show and just seemed in awe of the entire event.
Grace insists that Rapunzel was the best part of the show, but Joe and I agree that watching her enjoy the show was our favorite part!


We'll be making it a point to get tickets for next year's show!
 


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Crock Pot Taco Soup

Taco Soup is one of my favorite soups.  It's such a delicious and flavorful soup, but also it's so simple to make!  What I love the most is how easily you can switch up the ingredients based on what you have in your pantry, something I had to do this morning when I threw this soup together.

Normally, when following a recipe like this 8 Can Taco Soup, I'd sneak in some fresh vegetables.  But on this Monday morning, I appreciated the simplicity of this no chopping, just open some cans recipe!  Although, I did make a few changes based on what was in my pantry.  No running to the grocery store to prepare this meal!  I used what was on-hand!  Also, instead of cooking on the stove, I threw it all in the crock pot and let it cook while I was doing chores and running errands!


Crock Pot Taco Soup 

Ingredients: 
  • 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes 
  • 14.5 oz. can fat free chicken broth 
  • 10 oz. can enchilada sauce (I used red) 
  • can condensed cream of chicken soup 
  • 1/4 cup taco seasoning 
  • 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed/drained 
  • 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed/drained 
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed slightly
  • 2 cups pre-cooked chicken, frozen. 
  • shredded cheese, sour cream, diced chilies for topping, optional  
Directions: 
  • Pour tomatoes, chicken broth, enchilada sauce and cream of chicken soup to crock pot insert and stir to combine.  
  • Add in taco season, stir.  
  • Mix in the beans, corn and chicken. 
  • Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours.  

This soup was delicious!  I'll tell you, I was a little worried about the addition of the cream of chicken soup to this recipe.  But in the end, I liked the creamy texture it brought to the soup.  Also, I loved how quickly this soup cooked, only 2 1/2 hours in the crock pot!  Cook on low for 4-5 hours if you have more time.

Instead of the Corn Quesadillas that I originally planned to serve with this soup, we enjoyed some leftover biscuits.  I also crumbled some tortilla chips into my bowl of soup, while Joe stirred in some sour cream into his soup and topped with cheese.  Mmm!  So good!

Also, I think it's time for me to find a homemade taco seasoning recipe to replace my usual bulk jar of seasoning that I keep in the pantry, as this seemed a little bit too salty for me (even before adding in the crumbled tortilla chips).


I've linked this recipe to the following blog carnivals and linky parties:



Monday, January 7, 2013

Menu Plan Monday 2013 ~ Week of January 7th


Last week's menu plan didn't go very well.  I probably should have seen that coming considering that we started off with a last minute change on the very first day!  Instead of the leftover Chipotle Turkey Chili that we planned for New Year's Eve, we ended up giving into temptation and ordered Chinese take out instead.  Figuring it was our last chance at take out for a while.  We enjoyed the leftovers later in the week, too!  Along with a bunch of other changes, including a Clean Out the Fridge (Chicken Noodle) Soup, the only thing we managed to follow through on was the Pork and Sauerkraut that I cooked in the crock pot on New Year's Day!

Although, I went way off course last week, I'm not letting it discourage me.  I'm going to go ahead and make a new menu plan for this week and hope we do better sticking to it this time!

Monday


Taco Soup, Corn Quesadillas
I love taco soup!  
With so many different recipes posted all over the internet, 
I never make it the same way twice!  


Tuesday


A while ago we picked up a package of "meat loaf" mix from the grocery store 
when it was on Manager's Special.  I put it in the freezer and never got around to using it.  
Since I have 10 lbs of potatoes to use, meat loaf will be the perfect thing to serve with some mashed potatoes and cauliflower!  


Wednesday


This makes a lot of soup!  
I'll freeze half of it for meals later this winter!  


Thursday 



I can't think of a better way to use up leftover mashed potatoes!  
If we're feeling a little tired of soup by this night, 
maybe I'll make Loaded Mashed Potato Pie instead!  


Friday 


Pizza Night
Normally, pizza night would be the result of a phone call
to our local pizza place.  But since we're trying to cut back on take out, 
I'll be using a loaf of frozen bread dough to make a quick pizza crust.  

Saturday 
I can't believe that as many times I've made this recipe, 
I haven't taken a photo of it yet! 
Probably because it smells soooo good while cooking
that I just want to dig in once it's in my plate!  

Sunday 
Leftover Night


Like last week, using what we have will be the theme for this week's menu plan.  Sure, we'll probably have to pick up an item or two.  We never seem to be able to avoid the grocery store, no matter how hard I try to stay away!



Now that you know what we're eating this week, let us know in the comments what's for dinner at your house this week! Or, if you need more menu planning inspiration? Follow me over to Menu Plan Monday hosted by I'm an Organizing Junkie! Or, if you like what you see here, you can check out my past menu plans.

You can also find this week's menu plan linked to On the Menu Monday hosted by Yvonne at Stone Gable.


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