Peanut & Pea Salad

This stuff is delicious, just to let you know.

As my mom would say, One of the gals brought this to bookclub last month. Everyone raved. Seconds were inevitable. Recipe request rippled around the table. It’s super easy, she told us.

She obliged.

Pea & Peanut Salad

1 pkg frozen peas (10 oz)
1 cup dry roasted, salted peanuts
1 cup chopped celery
6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup prepared zesty Italian salad dressing

In a large bowl, combine the peas, peanuts, celery, bacon and onion. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and Italian dressing. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Chill until serving.  About 8 1/2-cup servings.

Note: If you can only find 12 oz bags of peas, then use all 12 oz.  You can make this salad 1 hour before you need to leave, or make ahead. Personal opinion is that it is best soon after making (because the peas are more solid), but you could make a day ahead and nobody would care because it tastes great. I doubled this for a BBQ we went to.

What’s For Dinner – Easy Roast Beef Subs

It’s _____day night and you’ve hardly had a minute to spare, jetting from one place to another…

What’s for dinner?

Easy Roast Beef Subs

Busy night, thank goodness for pre-planning a meal. What could have turned into a$20 plus drive-thru meal, was instead a 15-minute prep and eat meal. And it was good, just as good as if we were to eat out. It is satisfying to save a little bit of money. I realize that there are definitely times where our family needs to stop somewhere, shove some food in the kiddo’s mouths so they can eat and get some shut-eye, but I would much rather those days be lessened, and not feel like they are forced. I really prefer it to be enjoyable to eat out, rather than necessity.

Keeping the Sports Bottles Icy Cold

If you’re like me and you’re short on room, time and the ability to consistently plan ahead, this might be a good tip for you.

I’ve got  a house full of boys in sports, who are always in the need of a jug of cold water to take to practices or games. Depending on the heat outside, they often need MEGA jugs, because  a little bottle of water simply will not do. MEGA jugs are great because they provide enough portable hydration, but they’re not so great because it takes nearly 1/2 bag of store-bought ice to fill it enough to keep it cold for the hours it sits on the sidelines.

Here’s a solution:

Freeze water in similar-sized leftover plastic containers (cottage cheese, yogurt, deli take-out, etc.).

When it comes time to fill the bottle, run the container under a little bit of warm water so the ice block falls right out, plop in your jug and fill. It melts much slower than store-bought ice cubes, and is way more economical. Immediately after using a block of ice, I refill the container and place it in the freezer so it is available for the next practice or game.

My jugs fit a large cottage cheese container perfectly, but depending on the mouth size of your jug, you’ll have to improvise.

Cheap and Easy Decorating – Lightswitch Covers

LIGHTSWITCH RE-DECORATION

(Repost from 2006)

After re-painting the livingroom and entryway, I decided it might be good to also change the light switches and electrical covers. After looking around at Home Depot, Menards and the like, I quickly realized that to replace all of the covers, I would have to spend more money than I had budgeted. So I decided to revamp the prominent light-switches using supplies I already had on hand. The only new supply I picked up was the scrapbook paper. My pictures didn’t turn out so hot, but you get the gist.

Supplies:
scrapbook paper in patter or color to match the room
glue (I used craft glue)
water
scissors
razor blade cutter (man I can’t think of the name right now – exacto knife, maybe?)

I took the scrapbook paper and made an outline of the lightswitch cover, cutting out the holes for the switches to fit through. I did not make holes for the screws; it wasn’t necessary.

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Then I took the glue, mixed it with water (about a 1:3 ratio, glue:water). With a paintbrush and sometimes with my fingertips, I smeared glue on the back of the paper. Then, I placed the paper over the light-switch cover and smeared generous portions of the glue/water solution on the front. I let that dry a bit (10 minutes, maybe), then repeated with 2 more coats.

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After that dried I put a clear protective spray over it that I had on hand (2 coats). I don’t know if it was necessary, but since I had it If figured I might as well use it for extra protection. I also did a little trimming of excess paper at some point during the process.

Voila.

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They look pretty good, but I can see things I may have done different, like trimmed a little more or maybe even did a couple more coats of the glue water to make it even more durable. But oh well.

UPDATE: Three years later these have held up beautifully.

Italian Sausage Soup – AKA “Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Soup”

Tonight I made Lootie’s favorite soup: Italian Sausage Soup. He requests it on his birthday, and on other random days. It is a simple, tasty comfort foot that I don’t mind making at all. I can nearly make it in my sleep. Since I was grocery shopping, I picked up the ingredients, except for the broth, since I had that at home, and a crusty loaf of Italian bread – the perfect compliment.

As I cooked the sausage and sliced the potatoes, adding it all the the pot with little bit of salt and red pepper flakes, I had a moment of panic. Is that IT?! Was it really this simple? Am I forgetting something?

I ran into the computer room to search my site for the recipe and found it: Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Soup. It was in the archives from 2004. The recipe (a photo) was missing. Tragedy. This is a VERY yummy soup. I must repost it.

This is a homemade version of the Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana/potato and sausage soup. And honestly, it’s actually better and super-dee-duper easy.

Here’s the exact recipe I have written down, with my subs in parentheses:

Serves 2 [my subs serve 7]

2 3/4 c. Chicken broth [2 large containers of chicken stock]
1/4 c. heavy cream [I don’t use nearly this much — I use 1/4 cup for my increased version and that’s plenty]
1 med. russet potato [3-4 red potatoes]
2 c. chopped kale [no measure, about 5 handfuls, whatever will fit to fill the pot]
1/2# spicy sausage [5 sausages, cooked and cut into medallions]
1/4 tsp. salt [to taste, I don’t measure]

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes [about 1/2-1tsp. depending on your taste]
1c. shredded Parmesan, if desired

Prepare the sausage by placing in skillet with 1/2 cup water. Cook on medium for 10 minutes, then uncover, turn and cook for 10 more minutes. Cut into medallions. If you use bulk sausage, brown it and break it up into chunks.

1.) Heat stock in large pot over medium heat
2.) Slice unpeeled potatoes; add to soup
3.) Add cooked sausage to soup
4.) Add salt, pepper, cream; stir
5.) Add kale; stir

Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Garnish with some shredded Parmesan and serve with a nice hunk of bread. This soup is wonderful the next day and freezes well.

Weekend Wrap-Up (Pancakes)

It is still, technically Monday. Not too late for a weekend wrap-up.

We did a lot this weekend. Friday night we went out with my brother, Frank’s cousin and a couple friends. It was a long night, but a nice time. We covered lots of ground, had plenty of fun, and finished the night off at a favorite Mexican restaurant with a delicious platter of shared food.

Saturday I woke up and made pancakes. Mmm. Later, we bummed around and then stopped at an anniversary celebration (parents of a boy on Dante’s soccer team). Got to catch up a bit with folks we don’t always see. Then it was home to watch some television with the family.

The next day we went to an impromptu soccer tournament, local festival where we played BINGO and the kids played some cheap games to win cheap toys. Oh, and I made waffles Sunday morning (they didn’t turn out so well).

Nice weekend. But back to the pancake-making. My mom’s been making buttermilk pancakes for the boys for lunch the past few weeks on occasion. She’d watch them (actually, she’d entertain them) for a few hours while I went in to work, and they would delight in some of her “famous,”  “best-ever” pancakes. I’ve been requested to make them at home, but keep forgetting to get the recipe. So I had to improvise. A try at it last week left me with some not-so-good ‘cakes. But this recipe for Buttermilk Pancakes was a keeper (not only is it a keeper, but it introduced me to Google’s Knol, which is pretty darn cool).

My favorite eggs.

What happens when you get too cocky…

What happens when you pay attention… (this is Lootie’s batch, he has a syrup-love)

For Franny and Dante, who love chocolate chips.

It was a yummy recipe, with great instructions (read the instructions, if you like making pancakes… I like his way of mixing in 1/2 of the dry to wet, and then mixing in the rest of the dry). I tried using it for waffles and it was a bummer; didn’t work. But that’s OK. It makes delicious pancakes. Will have to make a point of getting my mother’s Famous, Best-Ever Buttermilk Pancakes recipe to compare.

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GIVEAWAY – Good-As-Money

I have 2 coupons to give away, courtesy of Eggland’s Best Eggs (they sent me some for me and some to share).

(1) for a  Free carton of Eggland’s Best Eggs
AND
(2)  50¢ off coupons for Eggland’s Best Eggs

Simply leave a comment here telling me what you’d use the eggs in and I’ll pick a random winner on Friday. Make sure you use an email address I can contact you with. 🙂 Yup, that’s it. You don’t have to follow me, you don’t have to blog about it. Just leave a comment so I have a way to contact you.

Using Scissors to Save Money Around the House

Save money using something you already have — a pair of scissors!!

What?! You say?

Yes. Below are five simple household items you can take a scissors to to help you save money.

1.) Sponges. Take your regular sponge or green scrubbie at the kitchen sink and chop it in half, turning your 3-pack into a 6-pack, doubling your money. Half a sponge lasts and cleans just as well as a whole one. Really.

2.) Hair. OK. That’s an easy. But, if you have four boys like I do, you can save yourself $75  each time you’d visit the barber by cutting their hair at home by yourself. I did this for years. Now my husband shaves his head, and half the time the boys get a cut once a year, letting it grow out the rest of the time. That’ll save ya money, too.

3.) Old towels. Out with the old, in with the new – well don’tcha dare throw away those old bath towels until you’ve ragged them up. You heard me. Rag’em up!! You can get a good 12 rags out of 1 bath towel. Store these under your sink (or wherever you keep your cleaning supplies).

My biggie is cleaning the toilet. Between cutting up towels or junked clothes, I’m usually stocked with throw-away rags. If I’m out of rags, I use paper towels. I just can’t get down with using something that is not disposable, because toilets are plain grodie – you feel me? It doesn’t seem clean to me unless I throw out whatever I used to clean the stinky critter.

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4.) Dryer sheets. If you really want to save money on those sheets, cut them in half. This is hard for some people, because some of ya’ll actually use TWO sheets per load. So I understand cutting down to a half of one might not be your thing. But if you’re not a dryer sheet lover, then you really CAN go down to half a sheet. Try it.

5.) Your yard. Yuppers. You heard me right – cut your grass with scissors. Better yet, get the kids to do it, if you have them. Believe me, an entire day of hands-and-knees grass cutting will wear your kids OUT. Free, non-polluting and so easy a child can do it. Can’t ask for more.

I’m KIDDING. Pick your jaw up off the floor. OK. Here’s number five for serious.

5.) Houseplants. Yes, houseplants. They’re called “stem cuttings.” You can fill your entire home with houseplants by employing a little patience and a few generous friends (or a mom, in my case) who won’t care if you take a scissors to their plants.

Basically you cut a few 6-inch stems off of the established potted plant, take off the lower leaves and plunk the cuttings into an bottle/jar of water for a while until the roots grow, then plant them in a pot. It isn’t rocket science. For a black thumb like me, it also isn’t a huge comittment. If it works out, great – if not, not a biggie. HGTV has some easy but more expanded instructions on reproducing houseplants from stem cuttings, if you are so inclined.

There you have it. Five super easy ways to save money around the home using a pair of scissors (and I didn’t use “coupons” as one of the examples). Do you have anything you use scissors on to save money? Let me know, I’d love to hear it.

Taco Salad

I’m always up for some easy summertime (or anytime) recipes. Works for Me Wednesday at We Are That Family recently did a “Summer Recipe Edition.” Econobusters posted this recipe for One Bowl Taco Salad. It looked like an easy lunch idea, motivating me to try it, like, NOW.

The picture I took is not that great, but the recipe turned out well and it was very tasty. Not to mention, more economical than picking one up at the drive-thru.

Since I have “issues” with recipes, finding it hard to follow them, I basically poured a bag of salad into a bowl, cut it up some more with scissors, turning the bowl over and over  to get smaller pieces. I threw some cheese on top of that, cut up two small tomatoes, threw them on top. Took a thick slice of onion, diced it up; added it. Crushed about 7 handfuls of taco chips; sprinkled them on top. Squirted an eyeballed amount of Catalina and tossed away.

I loaded up a plate for each of the boys (the 3 younger ones) and myself, added about 1/4 cup of leftover ground turkey taco filling leftover from last nights’ meal, and voila. Lunch.

We added a dollop of sour cream to our salads. The kids thought it was a pretty yummy, fancy lunch. I thought it was easy, tasty and just as good as take-out.

Make Your Own Kid’s Detangling Spray

loreal-kids-conditionerI’ve got five kids and they’ve all got temperamental hair. One’s got a ‘fro, one’s got straight thick hair, another curly lion’s mane… so I’m always needing to wet their hair down before I comb it. When my daughter was young (she’s got the nappiest hair of them all), I would stock spray detangler like it was a main food source for our family. Needless to say, that gets expensive.

So I started mixing my own detaingler for my kid’s hair. Got a squirt bottle and did a 5:1 (5 part water, 1 part conditioner). Works fabulous and is cheaper than buying detangler by the case. I’ve used all kinds of conditioners, but through trial and error, I figured out that the L’Oreal Kid’s Conditioner (or Suave Kid’s Conditioner — basically a kid-specific conditioner) works best, and it smells good.
Now watch them come out with a “concentrated detangling solution” that you mix with water. Don’t act like you didn’t see it here first!! And they best be sending me a case of conditioner, since I’m talking them up like that. And they best not discontinue this conditioner or I’m going to be shaving my kid’s heads.

(c. 2005)