Category Archives: Holidays

Recipes specifically for or about any American holiday

Weekly Eating – 3/11/19 thru 3/22/19

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Whoops, missed a week there! Sorry guys. We’ve got a lot and not a lot going on at the same time.

The coop is making steady progress. We got 4 pallets for free, plus some dumpster-diving got me a half sheet of plywood. For about $40 I bought a roll of hardware wire and chicken wire, and all we need is nails, staples, and time.

quail coop in progress

The frame is built and the floor is braced and wired, we just need a run for some hinges and a way to keep the door shut. Then the final pieces are putting on the door and roof, and the babies have somewhere to move to when they are no longer babies (which is like, in 2 weeks!)

coop with wire flooring

They have grown so much bigger, and have upgraded to a larger feeder. They are also on a mix of chick and regular flock food, and I use a bigger mason jar for their waterer. They’ve begun to start jumping and bouncing, and trying out their wings. And we had our first escapee when I opened the screen to feed them the other day!

two week old quail

And we (i.e. just the boy) have started adding back in food groups to see if any spark reactions. We had cut out everything but meat, fruit, vegetables, and nuts & seeds. He added back in grains first, and had oatmeal, my homemade bread, and pasta all in one day. No problem.

homemade bread

Then dairy, so I stocked up on kefir, milk, butter, and plain Greek yogurt. Made a huge pan of the tastiest mac n cheese you ever saw. Again, no problems. He did say that he missed dairy way less than he thought he would, so that’s nice. Corn is back, without issue. I think soy is the only thing left, and we don’t use much added sugar products anyhow so I don’t mind permanently dropping those. He will go back to adding honey to tea, for instance.

amazing mac n cheese

Gardening

The seedlings I started have not come up yet. I am concerned that this week of 30-s overnight will kill them… it gets quite hot inside during the day, but not if there is no sunshine. Come on, actual spring! I need warmth so my fig can finally go in the ground.

greenhouse with fig tree

On the bright side, I found some surprises in the garden. I had planted some brassicas and root veggies last fall, but they are super slow growing due to next to no sunlight… and they overwintered quite nicely, such that I may actually get to harvest some kale, cabbage, carrots, and/or radishes soon!

daikon radish

And, this is the first year I have annual flowers coming up. I bought three packs of bulbs on clearance last fall, and planted them even thought it was a bit late in the season. I figured, why not. And now, all these lovely irises and hyacinths and tulips are coming up! It makes me very very happy.

purple flowers

Food Swap

March’s Food Swap was awesome, it was at Hi Wire Brewery in Durham. I had never been, so I was pleasantly surprised with how huge it was, all the indoor lawn games, crazy wall art, and delicious beers on tap. It was Spring Break for UNC and Duke, so it was blessedly empty of students. AND on Mondays they sell a LITER of their own beer for $7!

I made pickled quail eggs the week prior in expectation, one batch turmeric and one batch beet pickled. It was like Easter come early with the fun egg colors. I also took a few jars of my candied orange peels.

turmeric and beet pickled quail eggs

I ended up going home with a half dozen chicken and a half dozen goose eggs, some jam, garlic pickles, homemade yogurt, Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, enzymatic orange cleaner, beef jerky, and preserved lemons! Quite a bounty.

March 2019 Food Swap

Breakfasts:

Egg sandwiches – since I got oodles of eggs and also my quail keep giving me at least 2 a day, we eat more eggs now than ever before. And what better way than on homemade bread?

sausage egg sandwich

Cinnamon sugar toast – speaking of homemade bread, if you’ve never had cinnamon sugar toast on hot out the oven bread, you need to get you some right away! It’s magical.

cinnamon sugar toast

Breakfast burritos – you can see why grains were the first thing the boy wanted to add back. It brings things like toast, pasta, and wraps

breakfast tacos

Snacks:

Apple with almond butter & raisins –this has definitely become my top favorite snack. It is great for the morning, when it’s ten and I will die if I have to wait one more hour for food, or afternoon when it’s 2 or 3 pm and I need a lil something to tide me over until dinner. Peanut butter works too, but I prefer almond.

sliced apple with almond butter and raisins

Nut bars – I’m glad a friend with a Costco membership let us go with them once and buy a ginormous box of these bars. I have one in every bag, car, coat, and purse, and it has saved me more than once.

Kirkland nut bar

Gummy bears – another Costco purchase. I know these are in no way healthy for me. And we also didn’t realize until we got home and opened it that they are not a huge bag of gummies, but a billion individually wrapped packages of like 5. I was crushed. Wasteful and full of HFCS… no use crying over spilt milk, they’re already bought and opened so now we gotta eat them all.

gummy bears

Lunches:

Greek salad – Been trying to get more salads into my daily diet, and to make it more interesting I opened a jar of kalamata olives, and combined with grape tomatoes and cucumber from my Produce Boxes, made a couple delicious Greek salads.

Greek salad

Stuffed potatoes – I had some cheese sauce left from the mac n cheese, so we did a baked potato and sweet potato bar. Mmmmm.

stuffed sweet potato

Lentil soup – lentil soup is super quick, easy, and good for you. It’s a perfect “kitchen sink” meal, because you can toss in whatever veggies or herbs need to be used up soon. This one had celery, carrots, leftover mashed potato, onion, and kale.

lentil soup

Dinners:

Pesto pasta – pesto is one of my all time favorite ways to get anyone to eat greens, and use up any leafies or herbs that are wilty. Things I’ve successfully mixed into pesto: basil, parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach, collard greens.

pesto pasta with shrimp and sausage

Colcannon – we went all-in on the Irish for St. Patty’s Day. We are not Irish by heritage but you know I love me a good food holiday. I made a corned beef brisket and some colcannon, which is basically mashed potatoes with cabbage in it. I’ve heard you can also use kale. It’s a great way to sneak in veggies.

corned beef and colcannon

Taco bowl – since it’s starting to warm up and finally feel like spring some days, we’ve been eating outside on the weekends. Once rice was allowed back, and tortillas, you better believe burritos are back in full force too. And I keep adding in salads.

burrito bowl and salad

Lentil sloppy joes/janes – one of my alltime favorite vegan meals, these are so easy to prepare and crazy healthy for you. I told my grandma I ate mine with pickles and sauerkraut and evidently that is insane? What do you put on a sloppy joe?

lentil sloppy joes

AYCE Sushi – got a bunch of friends who love sushi as much as I go together and went out to RocknRolls sushi! It’s a conveyor belt style all you can eat place, for $12. I love it so much. We put down 73 plates worth of sushi and sashimi.

towers of plates

Food Total: $206.68

Weekly Produce Box = the Harvest Box 2 weeks in a row. Winter strawberries grown in high tunnels, green beans, blueberries, lettuce, cucumber, zucchini, grape tomatoes, corn, onion, sweet potatoes, and purple cauliflower!

the produce box harvest box the produce box harvest box

I’ve started baking bread again, and we’ve gone through about three loaves in a week 1/2! So when flour was on sale for under a buck, I was not about to let that pass me by. I stocked up on some sugar free sausages and a few roasts, plus some organic cheeses and dairy for adding those back. Most of the produce we got from the boxes.

4.92 lb brisket colby & cheddar brick cheese 3lb flour x3 3lb mandarins
pork sausage patties Greek yogurt dipper chips
Bananas 2 bunch
85/15 ground turkey Fairlife milk & choc milk flax wraps
Simply orange juice
2lb peeled shrimp Plain kefir canned tomatoes
Canned diced pineapple 2
lunch meat Kerrygold org slice cheese
grapeseed oil for mayo
Angus sirloin 3lb Org raisins
2lb brown rice
Dry chickpeas x4 lb
Flour 5lb x2
Sugar 4lb

 

Lessons Learned

Cooking from scratch is always the best. The boy could have bread back because I made it, and without added sugar. I tried to find bread at the store that didn’t have honey, or sugar, or high fructose corn syrup, and it was impossible. But also, convenience foods have a place in life. Sometimes when you’re super busy or just not in the mood to cook, it’s really nice to have something you can just pull out and microwave or otherwise not think too hard.

That’s why I try to make my own “fast food”. I batch cook a huge portion of black beans, or pinto beans, or rice, and have it in the fridge or freezer ready to go. Then you just pull out a tortilla or bowl and pile things in and you have ready to go food! And especially with the boy, he will eat whatever is the absolute fastest and easiest. So the easier I make healthy eating (cutting up fruits and veggies ahead of time, portioning out healthy meals into individual containers) the more likely we will eat healthy.

 

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Resolutions or Goals?

 

Happy New Year everybody! Welcome to 2019.

It always comes so fast, I don’t know why I keep being surprised by it. Happens every year.

Know what else happens every year?

Resolutions

People resolve to:

  • Get more fit
  • Lose weight
  • Sleep more
  • Drink less
  • Eat better
  • Save more
  • and so on

New Year 2019 champagne glasses

And many people are kind of “over” resolutions, because we are so bad at keeping them.

I have for years resisted the resolution bandwagon, for this reason. But I have discovered that there is a big difference between a resolution and a goal.

“If there is a specific achievement it’s a goal, but permanent changes to your life are resolutions since you keep doing them every day and not just until a specific achievement is reached.” (source)

Under this definition, I do actually make resolutions, several times per year.

I have in the past made changes to exercise more often, to eat less meat, to create less waste, to clean more often, to create better sleep habits, and so on, with the intention of doing these things every day. Of course I fell off the wagon on a few of these things, and have tried more than once to instill these habits.

But life is a journey, a work in progress, and I do still believe in incorporating these things into my life.

For the New Year though, I decided a goal is a better practice. One that follows the SMART principles:

  • Specific – no “eat better” allowed here
  • Measurable – what gets measured gets improved (just ask Erik)
  • Attainable – a big dream with small steps to get there
  • Realistic – a thing which can actually be accomplished
  • Timely – set a time limit! You need to feel the urgency

Goals, when written down and as specific as all the above, have a much higher likelihood of being completed or achieved than vague promises or following the social media crowd.

list of goals

I want my goals to improve the things I value the most: relationships, finances, health, and happiness.

Thus, my goals for 2019 include:

Call one family member per week

I usually am pretty good about using the commute time home to chat with my mom. But I need to also make it a priority to talk to the more remote family members like aunts, uncles, and grandmas. They won’t be around forever, and they have plenty of wisdom and stories to share. I want my family to never doubt that they mean the world to me, no matter how far apart we all are. That will equal out to at least 52 phone calls over the course of a year!

Date night at least once per month

My relationship with my boy is the most important one in my life. Not just because we live together and see each other every day, but also because so many things depend on this relationship, like our weight and health habits, happiness, and finances too. Luckily, I think he’s pretty cool, and he thinks I’m pretty cool too. We need regular, focused, one on one time away from typical distractions like video games and cell phones and bills to keep that spark strong.

Savings rate of 50% or better every month

I have slacked on calculating this for far too long. No more. My goal is to, at the end of January, and each month, calculate our actual savings rate. This will be complicated since we both have a work mandated 401k, as well as an HSA and Roths to factor in, before any contributions to our mortgage, taxable investment accounts, and money market. But I want to do it, at a minimum quarterly, to better see where we are. The market is crazy and net worth is not a thing I can control. But savings rate, we can control, and improve.

Max out both Roth IRAs by end of February

I know there are all kinds of arguments for dollar cost averaging and putting a set amount into the market each month no matter what. But there are some potentially big changes coming in 2019 (if they pan out, I’ll tell you all about it!) and we want to put that money to work as soon as we have it and not worry about it for the rest of the year. So the goal is both fully funded Roths by the end of February to the tune of 11k*. Limits increased for 2019 to 6k each, therefore it will be 12k total! Thanks Josh for catching that!

Veganuary (ish) – one month of 99% vegan eating

This will be a way to detox from the insanely overboard consumption over the holidays. (#TMIwarning) I’m a fraction of a pound away from 160 and had a bowel crisis over Christmas, if you must know. (#sorrynotsorry) It will also ease me back into my intended way of 80/20 plant-based life-long eating. Exceptions include animal products that meet my extremely stringent criteria, and I will not make a nuisance of myself if invited to someone else’s house or event, I will eat the food offered.

The Daily Dozen – I will do my best all year to stick to this

The Daily Dozen is based on the book “How Not To Die”, which I loved, own, and highly recommend reading. I also aim to re-read it through by the end of March. It is taped to my refrigerator to make it easy to remember. Basically loads of high antioxidant foods, whole grains, and veggies. Plus water and exercise. By eating all these things every day, you have a lot less room for junk.

Do more of what is good or good for me

OK, this is the closest one to a resolution rather than a goal. This loops into the health goal, in that I want to do more of what is good for me, like eating plants, doing yoga and HIIT, and sleeping. But I also want to do more of anything that makes me happy, within reason. Obviously popcorn and wine makes me happy, but shouldn’t be every day. But reading? That I can, and should, do every day. A nice warm bubble bath? Sure. Gardening and loving my quail? Yup.

Make someone smile every day

That person can be my husband, a stranger I smiled at, someone at work whom I give a genuine compliment, or even myself. There is too much doom and gloom and selfishness in the world, we need to pay more attention to the good all around and within us. Like thanking the stranger on the bus, or Penny from ShePicksUpPennies who celebrates money wins, large and small.

champagne cheers

Cheers to making 2019 all we can dream!

 

 

How about you guys? Any resolutions, or goals, for the new year of 2019?

Weekly Eating – 10/29/18

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Last weekend’s Halloween party was a blast! I bet you can’t guess correctly what both of our costumes were.

halloween costumes

It was nice enough that we could all hang out outside and play cornhole and beer pong and enjoy the bonfire. And the trick or treat shots were a hit! We did three rounds, and used almost all of them. Yes, I came up with 50 different liquids. They included everything from juiced celery to tequila to bean cooking water. And people were really good at guessing correctly!

trick or treat shots

I also had time on Sunday to whip up a batch of homemade mayo, and some hemp milk since we ran out of almond. Uhhh sidenote, how did she get all the milks to stay clear?? Am I the only one, every time I make any plant milk (almond, coconut, hemp, cashew, rice, oat…) it separates in like 0.4 seconds. I swear I do filter it… maybe I need cheesecloth. But then the yield is lower.  🙁

Monday:

Breakfast – sad bowl of cocoa puffs… I’ve been less inspired about breakfasts lately. Normally I turn to warm oatmeal when fall rolls around but that isn’t sounding so great. I may need to try intermittent fasting as a double win…

Lunch – big warm bowl of leftover white bean & barley soup

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Some ravioli I defrosted with corn on the cob, microwaved broccoli and cauliflower, and a big salad with toasted pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and homemade apple cider dressing

ravioli and tons of veggies

Tuesday:

Breakfast – it is not possible to take a good picture of oatmeal. It had peaches in it though.

Lunch – Rest of the barley soup & a salad

white bean and barley soup

Dinner – Tuna salad puffs! Throwback Tuesday, to 2014.

tuna salad puffs with guac

Wednesday (Halloween!):

Breakfast – a breakfast boo-rito

egg and potato boo rito

Lunch – potluck at work!

halloween potluck

Dinner – more Booritos! (we didn’t want to stand in line at Chipotle)

halloween boo-rito

Thursday:

Breakfast – coffee and tangerines

coffee and tangerine

Lunch – leftover bowl: potatoes and cauliflower and stuffed mushrooms from the party

bowl of leftovers

Dinner – the rest of the empty the refrigerator Dal

finishing the Dal

Friday:

Breakfast – golden grahams with hemp milk

golden grahams and crockpot of pumpkin chili

Lunch – Pumpkin chili when we get to the cabin!

Dinner – I think we are grilling brats tonight

The Weekend

This weekend we are going up to a friend’s family cabin in the mountains!! I can’t tell you how excited we are. We got to go last year, and it is such a blast. There will be almost a dozen people, which may be cramped, but it will be such a great opportunity for community. It is miles away from civilization, so it is perfectly silent and pitch black at night.

the cabin

Watching the sun rise over the lake, with steam coming off the water, kayaking into the middle and laying back to look up at the stars… I can’t wait to totally relax and refresh. We all take turns cooking, plus people bring crafting projects like knitting, and there are games galore from ping pong and frisbee to board and cards.

I’ll be bringing the crock pot full of pumpkin chili, along with the fixings for tacos and lentil sloppy joes. A build your own taco bar is always filling and fun. And for the lentil sloppy joes, I stuffed all the ingredients into a near empty pasta sauce jar. Just dump into a pan and simmer for 40 minutes!

jar full of lentil tacos

Food Total: $52.50 + 49.58

Weekly Produce Box = Grape Tomatoes, Broccoli Bunch, Potatoes- Yukon Butter Gold , Red Onion (1), Lettuce – Field Grown Romaine (1), Navel Orange (1), Green Beans

Then I also added on quite a few things: kale, pears, persimmons (because there’s a persimmon tree I’ve spotted near me; I want to know if I like them before risking my neck climbing it to pick some), and I also went for it and ordered a pound of ground chicken and some tenders from Joyce Farms in Winston-Salem, NC.

fall produce box

I’m hankering for some white chicken chili, and when we eat meat now, I want it to be sourced very carefully.  The chickens on this farm were not crammed into cages with their beaks cut off, fed a diet of antibiotics and ‘vegetarian’ corn (chickens are not vegetarians, by the way). I know these chickens lived as chickens were meant to live, out in the grass, happily foraging for seeds and bugs.

And I stopped by HT for some sale items, organic potatoes, tons of yogurt since we were out, and more cabin things.

Lessons Learned

Leftovers are the best, worst thing. They are awesome to have, for when you just don’t feel like cooking, or don’t have the time. And I’ve been not feeling like it often lately. Which is great, because we also really needed to finish up all the things from the party and clear out the fridge since we will be gone all weekend.

But sometimes leftovers keep getting left, because you don’t really want to eat them again. Then there’s the “should I throw it out” struggle, because we both hate food waste. So sometimes, leftovers can be quite unfortunate. We both just powered through a few times just so we didn’t toss it. It’s always a lesson, sometimes that lesson is ‘don’t make that again’.

 

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 3/19/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

So, remember how we had five 20-year-olds at our house for St. Patrick’s Day? Turns out they are just as much old people as we are! They got in around 8pm, we played some games, and then everyone headed for bed around ten. They are welcome back anytime! 🙂

st. patricks day preparation

I made a big green breakfast spread for them, and they hit the road early so as to get home, presumably to sleep for 16 or so hours. What is it about sitting in a car for hours that just exhausts you?

st. patricks day green breakfast

Then on Sunday, I realized Monday was the next Bull City Food Swap! I had some pierogi in the freezer so I took those out, but I wanted another item too (you can never have too much to trade), and I had found a recipe for sweet potato biscuits I really wanted to try out. So I whipped up a batch and OH MAH LAWD Y’ALL…

sweet potato biscuits

Biscuits. Are. So. Good.

Fresh and hot out the oven, drizzled with butter and honey… swoon

fresh sweet potato biscuits from the oven with butter and honey

So I packed up a few packages of biscuits to trade too, but kept a good batch for us to nom all week. I also prepped some overnight oats, since the steel cut kind is not my favorite to microwave.

refrigerator full of overnight oats

Monday:

Breakfast – Tried the overnight oats, with golden raisins, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds. I added what I thought was a “pinch” of salt but whoa boy, it was too much for even me, the die-hard salt lover. Good thing my office drawer still had a jar of my favorite breakfast. I split it in half and mixed in some non-salted oats and all was well.

Lunch – I made a much more successful batch of black beans over the weekend, and brought in a big container of beans & rice.

black beans and rice with hot sauce

Snack – I was an unstoppable snacking machine today. I had some grapes and strawberries just before lunch.

strawberries and grapes

Then a handful of pistachios in the afternoon.

handful of pistachios

And finally a granola bar on the drive home so I didn’t gnaw my arm off. What the heck?

granola bar in the car

Dinner – I tossed a bunch of cans into a slow cooker, and came home to Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup. Deeeeeeelish and soooooo easy.

slow cooker tortilla soup

The Bull City Food Swap was fun, even with me showing up almost an hour late! I got my times mixed up, thinking it started at 8 when really it was at 7. So I rush in at 7:45, just as the swapping part is wrapping up…

cutting fresh bacon

But, since I had high-value trades, I still made out like a bandit with 3 types of energy bars, granola, gingersnap cookies, chicken sausage, and homemade carrot cake. People went nuts over the pierogi… maybe 3 hours for a few dozen really is worth it?

bull city food swap trades

Tuesday:

Breakfast – More overnight oats, which does not make for exciting pictures, so I spared you 🙂

Lunch – Leftover refrigerator soup

refrigerator soup

Snack – A mixed berry pecan energy bar from the swap. They are sort of Larabar like, made mostly from dried fruit, nuts, and dates. And hot damn are they delicious…

berry pecan energy bar

Dinner – Since it was the first official day of spring, I made my Spring Green Creamy Gnocchi! With cut up chicken sausage added, because seriously, if I could put a scratch-and-sniff on this screen for you, I totally would. IT SMELLS SO GOOD.

spring green creamy gnocchi with chicken sausage

Wednesday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey, & fresh pineapple. I love that pineapples have been on sale a lot lately.

sweet potato biscuits with honey and pineapple

Oh, and we woke up to a dusting of snow… happy Spring?

second day of spring snow

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the rest of the beans and rice. For once I actually felt really full after lunch 🙂

spring green gnocchi beans and rice and salsa

Snack – I didn’t even want to snack until almost 4pm, when I cut up some mini cucumbers and had it with turmeric hummus.

cucumbers and turmeric hummus

Dinner – One pan salmon, asaparagus, and potato wedges. We gettin all fancy up in here. (By fancy, I mean lazy).

one pan salmon, asparagus, and potato wedges

Dessert – We don’t often have dessert, unless popcorn and/or wine counts. But since we had high-quality carrot cake in the house, we split a piece, and totally inhaled it. Addictive, for sure. This is why I don’t keep it around!

homemade carrot cake

Thursday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits and honey, and a protein shake

sweet potato biscuits with honey

Lunch – Last of the tortilla soup

leftover tortilla soup

Snack – Berry/nut energy bar. These things are seriously so good. On my list of things to figure out how to make now.

Dinner – Split pea soup!

split pea soup ingredients

Super easy, nice and warm on a cold day, and totally delicious with some multigrain bread.

split pea soup

Friday:

Breakfast – Sweet potato biscuits with honey. I almost forgot to take a picture I inhaled it so fast! And a bag of honeydew & pineapple.

sweet potato biscuits

Lunch – Leftover gnocchi, and the tiny bit of leftover salmon and potato wedges. Waste not, want not!

gnocchi and leftover salmon

Dinner – I looked at my fridge and realized I had a batch of slow cooker pinto beans that needed used ASAP, and had a half a cabbage. Turns out there aren’t a ton of recipes using those two ingredients, but one with pasta sounded interesting, so I did an experiment.

cabbage pinto bean and carrot pasta dish

It turned out decently too. I steamed the carrots and cabbage for about 20 minutes until soft, then added in the beans, about 1/3 lb of spaghetti noodles and 1 cup water, and simmered for 10 more minutes. Then I sprinkled on some garlic salt and cayenne, and it was actually pretty tasty! And super cheap.

 

The Weekend

This weekend I’ve a baby shower to attend, so I’ll spend a little bit on a gift for that. I think I’ve come up with the best way to contribute to the food at a low cost to me.

baby shower cake pops

I have a white cake left over from my “3/3” party (I made Tres Leches cake, but the mix made enough for 2 so I froze one). I thawed it, and made my own cream cheese icing, to create cake pops! Then I decorated them with sprinkles, and they are totally adorable, and basically free (given I already had all ingredients paid for).

And I also have a girls’ night planned, which will include dinner at a local Thai place (SO EXCITED!) and probably a drink or two afterwards. I think it is so important to have friend groups to just hang out and relax with. Whatever the expenditure ends up being I consider worth it, and an investment in my health and happiness!

 

Food Total: $27.66

WHOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

This week’s food total is something I am quite proud of! I based my meal plan havily around pantry staples, and with making my own bread products plus the trades from the Swap we ate like kings on very little cash. I needed to balance out last week’s spendiness.

Staples $7.49 Fruit/Veg $18.45
Vanilla frozen yogurt quart 3 Asparagus 1 lb 1.09
peppermint extract 4.49 Green grapes 1.5lb 3.04
Bananas 7 1.85
Kiwi 4 1
Cabbage 2.6lb 0.77
Avocado 4 1.94
Russet potato 8lb 2.79
Frozen peas & onion 1.98
Honeydew 3.99

And this is even with factoring in the “splurges” to make Shamrock Shakes (frozen yogurt, peppermint extract) and green breakfast (honeydew, kiwi, grapes) on St. Patty’s Day.

shamrock shakes

Lessons Learned

I really need to incorporate more soups in the meal plans! It is unfortunate the boy is not a big fan, but I’m slowly bringing him around. The split pea soup was something I was nervous about (he HATES peas) but he actually said it was pretty good! Soups made with pantry staples and legumes are soooooooo cheap y’all. I’m going to shoot for a similarly low bill next week too.

It can also never be said enough, but eating leftovers is so important to saving money and being frugal! I ate tons of leftovers this week, which is basically like free meals. You’ve already paid for the ingredients, and cooked the meal, so re-eating it is free. Whereas if you don’t eat leftovers and trash them, you are contributing to food waste and throwing away dollar dollar bills. Just suck it up and eat the leftovers! The world and your wallet will thank you.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Weekly Eating – 2/12/18

 

Hey y’all! Welcome to the series Weekly Eating.

Here is where I’ll talk about the week’s meal plan versus reality, what we ate for the week, and how we did budget-wise. I hope it gives readers a behind-the-scenes look into our life through the lens of food, and it’s also a way to keep us on track with meal planning and grocery budgeting.

Feel free to share your wins and lessons in the comments below!

 

Over the weekend I cooked up a big batch of black beans in the slow cooker, which became some meal prep black beans and rice lunches, my best black bean soup, and a little left over for burritos or whatever is needed later.

black beans and rice lunch meal prep

I also finally got up the ambition to make a butt-load of pierogi! If you have had pierogi, you know how damn delicious these carb-on-carb dumplings are. If you have not, you are missing out on some serious buttery deliciousness.

mashed potato pierogi

Not going to lie, there is almost zero redeeming nutritional qualities to pierogi, but they are amazing, even more so when homemade, and I intend to take them to the next Bull City Food Swap. These will be a very high-ticket trade item, so I’m hoping to get some good swag in return!

mashed potato pierogi ready to freeze

Monday:

Breakfast – Cherry Waffles! The boy’s favorite fruit is cherry, cherry everything and anything. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this week, I picked up a can of cherry pie filling with the intent to make some sort of delicious things with it. And I did.

cherry pie filling waffles

They came out very soft vs. crunchy, but I actually preferred them that way. And I turned more of the cherries into a berry sauce by boiling it down with some cherry juice added.

cherry pie filling waffles

Snack – So there were some muffins left over at work from last week, and we all know I can’t say no. So I had a second breakfast of a banana nut muffin. No regrets.

banana nut muffin

Lunch – there was a grilled cheese & soup potluck today! It was amaaaazing, and so perfect on a chilly, rainy day. I stuffed myself silly on jalapeno popper grilled cheese and southern Pimento grilled cheese, chili, tomato soup, and I brought my best black bean soup.

grilled cheese

Snack 2 – I was feeling a little guilty about the carb-licious day, so I snagged a cupful of fresh raw veggies from the veggie tray someone brought to snack on at my desk all afternoon.

veggie tray

Dinner – I’ve been jonesing to try a spicy Thai carrot and sweet potato soup ever since I traded for some at December’s Food Swap. I roasted some carrots and sweet potatoes, and whizzed it up in a blender with ingredients including cayenne, garlic, ginger and tahini.

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Topped with some cashews and golden raisins, it was absolutely perfect! I’m in love. Just in time for V Day. (Even if the boy said it looked and tasted like baby food…)

spicy carrot and sweet potato soup

Tuesday:

Breakfast – I found this recipe at my friend Stephanie’s blog, and for once was excited for a smoothie with turmeric! It has a pretty strong flavor, even for a die-hard exotic spice lover like myself. This turned out great though, the yogurt makes it smooth and the mango was the major flavor that stood out.

mango and turmeric smoothie

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, steamed broccoli, and leftover lentil veggie burgers

beans and rice with veggie burgers

Dinner – Tuna noodle casserole, a childhood classic 🙂

tuna noodle casserole

Tonight was also spa night! The puppers needed a trim badly, I cut off almost a whole dog’s worth of fur. Yes, I did it myself, and yes I used scissors. He is an amazing animal and calmly stood still the whole time. That face though, right?!?

puppies after a fur trim

And mama also got a haircut finally! I’ve been complaining about it for months, but my frugal heart won’t allow me to spend money on going to get it cut at a salon. So usually I ignore it, and go 2-3 years between cuts. But I figured, hey, the dog doesn’t look completely insane, may as well try myself next! (Yes, I used different scissors).

giving myself a hair cut

And you know what? It came out ok! I took off almost 6 inches, and there was still so much left that not a single person commented on it all week. LOL.

Wednesday <3:

Breakfast – For breakfast on Valentine’s Day, not only did hubs get his usual coffee in bed, but I also used the remainder of the cherry pie filling to make cherry heart shaped pancakes! With some cherry sauce and a little melted chocolate, oh my, it was heaven.

cherry pancakes with chocolate sauce

And then proceeded to make Twitter jealous, ha, not my intent…

Lunch – Black beans & rice with salsa, and leftover turmeric mango smoothie

black beans and rice with turmeric smoothie

Snack – our admin gave us cute valentines with a KitKat, and a coworker brought in special white chocolate dipped cookies!

Valentines

Dinner – I cook 364 days per year, but this day is the boy’s day to cook 🙂 He did a fantastic job, with bouquets of flowers inside the door and on the table.

Valentines day bouquet

We opened a bottle of the “good wine” (yeah an actual bottle, not a box!), and he impressed me with a salad to start, followed by fresh baked bread, and mozzarella stuffed shells. He even got a bunch of parsley and diced it to put on top you guys! It was soooo tasty, omg.

Valentines day table set with wine and flowers

Didn’t even get a picture, because a) we scarfed it down too fast and b) no tech allowed tonight. He got a cute handmade card from me, and a chocolate bar that said “you’re one in a billion”  🙂

Thursday:

Breakfast – Mixed berry smoothie

mixed berry smoothie

Lunch – the rest of the carrot-sweet potato soup & blueberries

spicy carrot sweet potato soup and blueberries

Snack – handful of peanut M&Ms on my way back from a meeting

handful of peanut mms

Dinner –I made the split pea soup recipe from Plant Powered For Life, and it was damn delicious. I can’t believe I’d never had split pea soup before now! And I had some green beans that were going to go bad soon, plus a half bag of cranberries, so I simmered them together with a little lemon zest for a tasty tart side dish.

split pea soup and cranberry green beans

Friday:

Breakfast –Loaded baked sweet potato with black beans, sauerkraut, salsa, and avocado. It’s a pretty weird flavor combination, but I’m finding out more and more that that’s what I’m all about! I love the sweet potato sweetness, plus the creamy avocado, and the red cabbage sauerkraut is just the right salty tang.

loaded baked sweet potato

Lunch –black beans & rice & salsa! I may be boring but it is always guaranteed to be delicious. And super cheap.

black beans and rice and salsa

Snack – blender hummus and bell peppers/cauliflower

blender hummus with raw veggies

Dinner –Stir Friday! It has been a while since a stir Friday has happened, so I was excited about this one. Basmati rice in the rice cooker, and I found a stir fry mix on sale $1.69. It was so green and totally vegan, and the boy said “for what it is, it didn’t suck, good job”

green veggie stir fry

The Weekend

This weekend we are taking the leap and finally doing TSA precheck! We have some serious travel coming up between a back-to-CT trip for work, a long overdue vacation, and at least two family weddings this year, so it made sense to finally get it. Hopefully it will make traveling slightly faster and less stressful.

We are also ripping off the band-aid and doing our taxes! Who knows if we will owe or if Uncle Sam will owe us, but I will feel 1000 times better having this particular chore off the to-do list.

Food Total: $80.12

Well, I overshot my $75 stretch goal but I’m under my $100 goal, so I’ll call this week a win! It also included a trip to both Harris Teeter and Kroger, to take advantage of sales and coupons unique to each place. I am lucky that I live about a mile from both stores.

$25.77 coupon $8.56
Dairy $10.99 Staples $0.00 Fruit/Veg $11.15 Extras $3.63
Chobani 4pk x2 7 Stir fry veggies 14oz 1.69 Vday choc bars 2.97
HT brand yogurts 5 2 Stir fry broccoli 12oz 1.69
Sliced provolone 8oz 1.99 Bananas 11 3.14
Asparagus 1lb 1.84 Tax 0.66
5lb Potatoes 2.79
$54.35 coupon $19.10
Dairy $0.00 Staples $17.61 Fruit/Veg $14.11 Extras $22.63
Sargento sliced cheddar 0 Garlic bread loaf x2 3.58 Frozen pep/onion mix 1.5 Foil 200 sqft 6.99
Sesame bread loaf 1.49 Sweet potatoes 99/lb 2.65 Cracklin’ Oat Bran 4.99
Bagels- plain 6 0.89 Avocado 0.99 ZZZquil 5.99
Canned tuna x3 1.5 2lb green beans 2.99 Toothpast 3 4.66
Pasta x5 2.5 Bell peppers 2 1.98
extra wide noodles 1.99 Pint blueberries 2 4
pasta sauce can 0.89
Pancake/waffle mix 1.79
Grits 1.29
Pancake syrup 1.69

I do find it slightly amusing that aluminum foil is more expensive than any grocery item I buy… but 200 sq ft should last quite a while. And it makes me feel pretty great to have no spending at all in the “Meats” column this week.

Lessons Learned

We have been going pretty hard on the carbs lately, and I’m not sure why. Other than they are constantly on sale. I’ve gotten super cheap pasta, rice, bagels, and bread lately. It’s unfortunate that our food system encourages the consumption of pretty nutritionally void foods while making things like “salad mix” cost $6 or more… but also, during the winter and rainy season I really am not feeling salads. Winter is for comfort food. So long as I keep fitting in my jeans, I won’t panic yet. I know spring is right around the corner, and with it the abundance of produce I’m beginning to crave.

 

How about you guys? Did you have a learning week or an awesome week of wins?

Hand-Dipped Chocolate Covered Strawberries

With Valentine’s Day being tomorrow, you may be one of those people who is desperately searching the internet for the perfect “last-minute” ideas. Maybe you are almost ready to run to the store and shell out way too many dollars for over-priced and sub-par drug store candy.

Or perhaps you are celebrating solo, or with your friends, and just want a little treat for yourself or your girls, to make the day extra special. But you don’t have all day to slave over a hot stove.

Here’s your answer!

Chocolate dipped strawberries. They are universally loved, as who could resist a sweet, juicy fruit dipped in chocolate? And they are marvelously easy to make, taking mere minutes plus a little bit of chill time. But, you could make them as fancy as you wish, by mixing dark, regular, and white chocolate, sprinkles, coconut, crushed nuts, or any other whim of your imagination.

coconut oil and chocolate with a strawberry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chocolate chips (whatever kind you like)
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Berries

20170213_195254

Step 1: Put a smaller pan over a large pan of water, and bring the water to a boil. This helps to melt to the chocolate, but keep it from burning or getting scorched on the bottom. The coconut oil also helps to make the melted chocolate smooth and glossy.

very last minute valentines day dessert idea

 

Step 2: Once melted, dip your strawberries in! Hold them by the green parts and the top, and drag through the melted chocolate.

Dipping a strawberry in chocolate

Mmmm look at that melty goodness! You could use any kind of berry or fruit for this honestly, bananas or pineapple would also be great.

20170213_195415

Step 3: Lay your chocolate covered berry on wax paper, on a plate or cookie tray that can fit in your refrigerator or freezer.

Chocolate dipped strawberries

Step 4: Put the berries in the fridge or freezer, to harden, at least 10 minutes. If using the freezer, don’t forget about them! You don’t want strawberry ice cubes. They are best fresh!

20170213_200815

The fun part about making your own chocolate-dipped treats is that sometimes you have extra melted chocolate. And you can go as crazy as you want! I had some almonds and peanuts, so I made nut clusters with mine, and sprinkled it with sea salt. The same idea applies, just let them chill for 10 minutes to an hour in the fridge before enjoying.

 

Do you have any Valentine’s Day plans tomorrow? If you want to avoid the crowds and overpriced “prixe-fixe” food, I’d suggest a simple yet impressive meal at home; everyone loves to be cooked for 😉 <3

Recap: Best of the Budget Epicurean in 2017

 

Since July of 2011 with my very first post, many things have changed. The blog got a new site and hosting, as well as a new name to reflect changes in my life and the direction of my writing. It has evolved from “College Approved Food” with a focus on extreme cheapness and college-budget-and-skill-level recipes, to the Budget Epicurean, which is more expansive, and still combines my main passions of money and food.

While I do create and share many cheap recipes such as my Favorite One Dollar Lunch, Best Black Bean Soup, and The Perfect Breakfast that costs basically fifty cents per serving, I also love to get creative with recipes for Chia Seed Pudding, Tropical Granola, and reviews of fun food places like Cowfish and RocknRolls Sushi.

I also decided to put more emphasis on the “Budget” in Budget Epicurean and began sharing more financially related articles like How to Save on Grocery Bills, Meal Planning, My Frugal Beauty Manifesto, and Why a $1000 Raise Didn’t Change My Life.

This is also the blog’s 600th published post!

At an average of 1200 words per post, and 600 posts, that means I have written 720,000 words on this site y’all!

It also happens to be the last day of 2017. It is the perfect time to look back over the past 12 months and assess what has gone right and what we could do better. I always like to see where this blog has been, and how it has changed over the course of the year.

Top Dozen Posts of All Time

If we go by numbers alone, throughout the year, the top 12 posts skew towards older posts, since they have been published longer. The top 12 posts in the almost-7 year history of this blog are:

12. Frugal Last Minute Gift Ideas
11. Homemade Energy Drink Mix 
10. Bacon Wrapped Asparagus
9. Twice the Wine for Half the Calories!
8. Ginger Peach Slow Cooker Chicken
7. Slow Cooker Red Pozole With Pork
6. Breastfeeding: All About It
5. What Are Vitamins?
4. Grapefruitcello
3. Meal Planning: What it is, why you should, and how to do it
2. Salsa Chicken Soup

And the #1 most viewed post: One Pan Buffalo Chicken Potato Bake

It consistently comes out as the top viewed post almost every day! And why not? It definitely hits all the marks of a classic hallmark recipe of the Budget Epicurean:

  • Cheap total cost & cost per serving
  • Can be made with what you probably already have at home
  • Very filling and delicious
  • Stores well for later eating
  • Easy to multiply up or down to feed one or twelve
  • Customizable to suit all palates/picky eaters
  • One pan, for minimal prep and cleanup

This coming year, I will be trying to focus more on these super simple yet delicious recipes. For y’all of course, but also for selfish reasons! I also hate dishes and love simplicity. So I will be focusing on freezer meals, slow cooker meals, meal planning and meal prep, and one pan meals as much as possible.

Top Dozen Posts of 2017

However, I like to break it down into the current year alone, and rate the top posts month by month. This gives me an idea of what readers are responding to now, and what type of content I should focus on and continue writing about. In that case, we have:

  1. January: Slow Cooker Enchilada Casserole
  2. February: Make Ahead Egg Muffins
  3. March: How to Cook Dried Beans in a Slow Cooker
  4. April: Nuts & Dark Chocolate Sea Salt KIND Bar
  5. May: Turkey & Cheese Rollups
  6. June: Venison Pot Pie
  7. July: Venison Penne Alfredo
  8. August: Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Puppy Chow
  9. September: Salmon & Couscous Salad
  10. October: My Commuting Mistake
  11. November: A Tie! Between Holiday Weight Loss Plan and Why A $1000 Raise Didn’t Change My Life
  12. December: 12 Days of FI Christmas*
    *more about that in a second!

Clearly, I need to get ahold of more venison and create more venison recipes! People seem to really like those, and I get a lot of search traffic from Google. I love “atypical” foods, including meats we don’t all get to try. See my recipes for brined Pheasant and Elk Burgers.

2017 was also a record-breaking year for page views and number of comments. This humble blog has skyrocketed from about 200 average page views per day to nearly 750 views every day! I’ve been choosing to engage more on social media (find me on Twitter and let’s be friends!) and in the blogosphere in general. I’ve found a literal bottomless well of writers and bloggers to read, follow, interact with, and learn from.

I am so thankful, as these bloggers words have challenged and changed many of my perspectives, motivated me, taught me so much, and helped me make positive changes in my life. Reading blogs and interacting through comments and social media have brought me several new blogger friends & relationships that I cherish.

If you need some new folks to read, follow, and inspire you, check out my What I Love page.

2017’s Biggest Blog Accomplishments

And the 2017 coup de triumph? The 12 Days of FI Christmas of course! Thanks so much to I Dream of FIRE for thinking up this awesome music video project and making it all come together. We had such a huge, positive response from the FI community.

It was an absolute dream for me to be part of a thing that was featured on RockstarFinance! Nice things were said about it by the outstanding Physician on FIRE, J. Money, RootofGood, and many others featured. If you haven’t seen it yet, please enjoy below!

This video and the corresponding avalanche of response brought the blog its new peak views, and broke 1,000 unique organic pageviews in one day!! I can’t tell you how exciting that is. All these great FI Bloggers who think being in our video means they “made it”, when really I feel like I’ve made it! Just goes to show you the power of a community, creativity, and positivity.

Also, notice that roller-coaster looking graph? The bottom line is individual unique visitors, whereas the top line is pageviews. That means the big spikes are people who visit, and then click around to many different posts in one visit. So that big spike on Sunday 12/17 had 1064 unique visitors, and 1967 page views. Thus, each person who came to the site, on average clicked on one other article.

Whomever is coming to this blog and then staying a while, reading through all of the post archives, Thank You and I Love You!! <3

I’ve also begun branching out into the world of Virtual Reality. The Budget Epicurean has brought you videos of Homemade Kombucha, Freezer Meal Planning, Turkey Mushroom & Spinach Lasagna, how to make Stovetop Popcorn and more. Well, we stepped up our game this year with the Virtual Reality video of Cracker Cookies!

There are a few virtual reality cooking games and simulators, and I’m sure that there will be “famous” chefs flooding the VR spaces soon. Currently, there are no Virtual Reality cooking shows. The Budget Epicurean hopes to change that, for the better.

However, we want to bring you real content, to show that you don’t need to be a highly trained five star chef to feed yourself and your family. Literally anyone can learn how to cook healthy, whole food meals at home. We want to invite you into my kitchen to see in real time, step by step, how to make the delightful, frugal, yet tasty recipes you’ve come to know and love here.

So What’s Next?

I don’t really do “resolutions”, because generally speaking, big amorphous goals with no way to measure, track, or keep yourself accountable do not work. However, I do believe in setting goals for myself and my lil’ corner of the internet.

Looking ahead, some of my goals for 2018 include:

  • Continue posting 2x/week, and no less than 1x/week
  • Read a minimum of 1 book per month and 3 blogs/day
  • Grow my subscribers list to double the current number
  • Write and send quarterly newsletters to my subscribers with custom content found only in these emails
  • Record, edit, and publish 3 new VR cooking videos
  • Write, edit, and hopefully publish my biggest project yet!
  • Release the next few meal plan bundles to Amazon
  • Create meaningful side income to support this blogs’ growth and future projects

Hopefully more to come on all of these things in the next few months. Feel free to engage online, through email, or leave a comment any time! I love nothing more than hearing from and interacting with readers like you.

 

What are your best moments or memories of 2017? What are you looking forward to or aiming to accomplish in 2018?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeyes

 

O – H !

Anyone?

(The correct response is, I – O!)

If you’ve never had a Buckeye candy, boy are you missing out! They are balls of sugar and peanut butter dipped in chocolate, and so rich and creamy it is positively mind blowing. We have started calling them sugar-sugar-peanut butter-butters, because that is an accurate reflection of the ingredients list.

They are named after the state tree of Ohio, the Buckeye tree. A buckeye nut is dark brown with a lighter brown circle, and is a part of the chestnut family. The buckeye nut itself is not edible, but this candy after which it is named most certainly is edible! It is darn near irresistible, in fact.

The Ohio Buckeye nut, photo from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesculus_glabra

I made a big batch of these for a cookie swap with some friends, and they were a total hit! Only one person had had them before, so it was extra fun to watch my friends experience these for the first time. They were described as “peanut butter fudgy wrapped in chocolate” and “like a ball of Reese’s” and “mmmmmmmmmm…”

They are very quick and easy to make, with just a handful of ingredients. And they are no-bake! That’s right, no oven required. All you need is a refrigerator or freezer to get the peanut butter balls to harden before dipping, and a microwave to melt the chocolate. Honestly, the inside peanut butter ball is so tasty and fudge-like, you could probably get away with no coating it and just calling it fudge!

This recipe makes approximately 5 dozen Buckeyes, depending on how large or small you roll them. You will also need at least one toothpick, for dipping the peanut butter balls.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 1 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla flavoring

Coating:

  • 1/2 cup chocolate melting chip, baking chocolate, or chocolate chips
  • 1 – 2 tbsp coconut oil or Crisco

Step 1: In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and peanut butter well. Blend until it becomes soft and thick.

Step 2: Add the vanilla, and then slowly add the powdered sugar. Be careful not to just dump it all in, or the powdered sugar will explode everywhere! Not that I know from experience or anything…

Step 3: Once it is all mixed and has become a soft but firm dough, scoop out by teaspoon-fulls and roll into balls. Put the peanut butter balls on a wax-paper or foil-lined pan, and refrigerate or freeze for an hour or more. You want the balls to be hardened and cold, so that the liquid chocolate solidifies faster once they are dipped.

Step 4: In a microwave safe bowl, add the chocolate and the oil. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring in between, until it is melted. Take your peanut butter balls, and stick a toothpick in one side. Dip the ball into the chocolate and swirl it around a little, leaving only a small section of light brown at the top. Let the melted chocolate drip off, and then place back on your tray.

Put them back in the refrigerator or freezer to let the chocolate harden. They will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks, and they can freeze well for up to 3 months. They are super rich and addictive, and so easy to make! In about an hour, you can create several dozen of these treats to share, sell, or keep all to yourself. Enjoy!

 

Have you ever had or heard of a buckeye? Do you have any family recipes that you make every year?

The 12 Days of FI Christmas!

For a little holiday fun, I Dream of FIRE, My Sons Father, and yours truly, the Budget Epicurean, have put together a fun-filled Financial Independence related take on the 12 Days of Christmas! if you’d like to know the full story of how this creative genius came about, the post is right here on I Dream of Fire’s site.

Featuring financial lyrics and several of the top FI bloggers of all time, we hope you enjoy our music video:

Full lyrics

On the first day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
A paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the second day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the third day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the fourth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
A 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the fifth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the sixth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the seventh day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the eighth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
8 Bogle books, 7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the ninth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
9 dividend stocks, 8 Bogle books, 7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the tenth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
10 rental houses, 9 dividend stocks, 8 Bogle books, 7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the eleventh day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
11-year-old cars, 10 rental houses, 9 dividend stocks, 8 Bogle books, 7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my good friend gave to me
12 months of YNAB, 11-year-old cars, 10 rental houses, 9 dividend stocks, 8 Bogle books, 7 percent markets, 6 tax write-offs, 5 rewards cards, a 4 percent withdrawal rate, 3 Vanguard funds, 2 IRAs and a paid-off mortgage (debt free!)

Featuring (lego) appearances by:

Just click the links to go to their blogs, and find out more! Thanks for watching and reading, have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Think this is awesome? Tell all your friends! And share it on Twitter:

[bctt tweet=”Check out the 12 Days of FI Christmas music video! https://youtu.be/9rOS6ZENyX4 via @I_dream_of_FIRE, @My_Sons_Father, & @budgetepicurean” via=”no”]

Cracker Cookies: An Heirloom Family Recipe

 

There are certain things about your childhood that you will never forget, and experiencing or thinking of these things just takes you back. Maybe you had a particular place you always vacationed (oh hey, Conneaut Lake Park), or a song that every time you hear it you are transported to a certain place and time, or a specific smell or meal that always reminds you of happiness.

For me, it is cracker cookies.

They are called many things, from wafer cookies to sandwich cookies, but I have always known them as Cracker Cookies. Cracker cookies have always been my favorite Christmas cookie. Those light, buttery, sugar bombs were so dang addictive, I couldn’t trust myself around them.

We used to spend hours in the kitchen together, my mom and I, and usually my sister or grandmother. Mom would be rolling the dough, lovingly trying to get it to just the right thickness to be crispy and wafer thin but not crack in half under minimal pressure. I’d have a bowl full of sugar and a fork, and mom would toss the little rounds of dough at me as they came off the shot glass.

I’d wriggle the dough around until nicely covered in grains of sugar, and line them up in neat rows on the baking pan. Then I’d stab-stab-stab-stab, exactly 4 times, to make holes with the fork. I never did know why… maybe to bake evenly, maybe it just made them look pretty, maybe mom just needed to keep me busy until the first batch was done and could come out of the oven.

Regardless, we would then have dozens of little dough circles, piled on the cooling racks and waiting to be filled with yet more butter and sugar, to create a cavity causing sandwich of happiness.

The dough recipe is the original recipe my family has been using for decades, whereas I tried a new filling recipe this year. You can find infinite icing recipes online using regular sugar, powdered sugar, cream cheese, and all sorts of what-have-you. The beauty is that you can change your filling at any time, you could even go super crazy and try something fruit-focused like jam.

Another fun fact of these is that they are not just Christmas cookies.

Oh no. These little minxes can be changed up with the drop of a dye, to become wedding colors, or graduation centered, or a pastel array for a baby shower. The dough can be dyed as well as the frosting, for infinite variations. If you are super ballsy, you could even dip the finished sandwiches in chocolate! Whoa, nelly, make sure you have an appointment with your dentist lined up soon 😉

Recipe makes approximately 36 cookies, or 18 sandwiches. Can easily be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled for your cookie swap. If you’d rather watch me make these in Virtual Reality, simply Click Here or scroll to the bottom of the post!

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick room temperature butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup plain white sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp half and half or milk
  • Extra sugar for coating
  • Plastic wrap
  • Rolling pin
  • Baking sheets
  • Stand or hand mixer

Directions:

  1. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream your butter well for about 5 minutes. You want it to be very soft and light, almost liquid.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, and vanilla. Let it mix for 7-9 minutes; it will become quite dry and crumbly. At this point you may lose faith, but trust me, this will become dough very soon.
  3. Add 2 tbsp of milk or half and half. You can also use heavy whipping cream for richer flavor, or almond or coconut milk. The dough should begin coming together and smoothing out. If it remains a little too crumbly, you can add one more tbsp slowly.
  4. Once the dough has become smooth and sticky, scrape it out onto some plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to a week. You could also freeze it for up to 6 months at this point.
  5. After 2 hours or 2 days, take the dough back out and flour a large surface. You can use your counter, tabletop, or a large cutting board or silicone baking mat.
  6. Place the dough on the flour with the plastic wrap on top. Begin rolling out the dough, pressing down firmly and evenly. Flip the dough, replace plastic wrap, and roll some more on the other side. You want to roll until it becomes about 1/4-1/8 inch thick.
  7. Once the dough is rolled out, cut circles with a 1-2 inch cutter, or use a plain shot glass. This is the easiest method I’ve found.
  8. Put the circles into the sugar, and mix it around to coat well on both sides. Place on an unsprayed cookie sheet.
  9. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes, turning once. You want them to be just barely beginning to brown on the bottoms.
  10. Take them out and let sit for 3-5 minutes on the pan. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Once cool enough to handle, you can begin filling them!

 

Filling ingredients:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tbsp milk (if needed)
  • 2-3 drops food coloring

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream the butter for about 5-7 minutes, until softened.
  2. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and mix well. Add in the vanilla as well.
  3. As it comes together it will thicken and become smooth. If not, you can slowly add a tiny splash of milk.
  4. Color it however you like, and spread a teaspoon onto one cooled cookie. Gently press another on top to complete your sandwich.

 

Cracker Cookies: An Heirloom Family Recipe

Yield: 18

Cracker Cookies: An Heirloom Family Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 stick room temperature butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup plain white sugar
  • 2 tbsp vanilla
  • 2-3 tbsp half and half or milk
  • Extra sugar for coating
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tbsp milk (if needed)
  • 2-3 drops food coloring

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer or with a handheld mixer, cream your butter well for about 5 minutes. You want it to be very soft and light, almost liquid.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, and vanilla. Let it mix for 7-9 minutes; it will become quite dry and crumbly. At this point you may lose faith, but trust me, this will become dough very soon.
  3. Add 2 tbsp of milk or half and half. You can also use heavy whipping cream for richer flavor, or almond or coconut milk. The dough should begin coming together and smoothing out. If it remains a little too crumbly, you can add one more tbsp slowly.
  4. Once the dough has become smooth and sticky, scrape it out onto some plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to a week. You could also freeze it for up to 6 months at this point.
  5. After 2 hours or 2 days, take the dough back out and flour a large surface. You can use your counter, tabletop, or a large cutting board or silicone baking mat.
  6. Place the dough on the flour with the plastic wrap on top. Begin rolling out the dough, pressing down firmly and evenly. Flip the dough, replace plastic wrap, and roll some more on the other side. You want to roll until it becomes about 1/4-1/8 inch thick.
  7. Once the dough is rolled out, cut circles with a 1-2 inch cutter, or use a plain shot glass. This is the easiest method I've found.
  8. Put the circles into the sugar, and mix it around to coat well on both sides. Place on an unsprayed cookie sheet.
  9. Bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes, turning once. You want them to be just barely beginning to brown on the bottoms.
  10. Take them out and let sit for 3-5 minutes on the pan. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Once cool enough to handle, you can begin filling them!
  11. In a large bowl, cream the butter for about 5-7 minutes, until softened.
  12. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, and mix well. Add in the vanilla as well.
  13. As it comes together it will thicken and become smooth. If not, you can slowly add a tiny splash of milk.
  14. Color it however you like, and spread a teaspoon onto one cooled cookie. Gently press another on top to complete your sandwich.
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http://www.budgetepicurean.com/comfort-food/cracker-cookies/

 

 

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Want to watch me make these cookies start to finish, real time, in Virtual Reality?! You know you do. While watching, simply click and drag the screen to get a full 180 degree experience. Or if you have a VR head set, you can watch it in VR and feel like you’re right there in my kitchen with me.

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