Not So Crunchy Lately…

not-so-crunchyI have a confession to make.

It’s been difficult for me to even think about being frugal lately. Having been diagnosed with both Stage 3 Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Cowden Syndrome, I don’t seem to be able to care about pinching pennies.

Plus, with just me and my husband here at home now, I haven’t cared much about cooking. He is often gone, and cooking just for me seems a bit silly.

So I’m not so sure about the future of this blog at the moment. I’m wondering if perhaps I’m being called to write about other areas of my life, and if that turns out to be the case, this blog may closed at some point.

Until then, you can find me elsewhere on the internet:

Stories from This Life

Books, Coffee, and a Whole Lotta Faith

PTEN, Cancer, and a Thing Called Hope

Cooking Therapy: Jam-Filled Muffins

Cooking TherapyY’all, do you ever just have one of those days?

Today was one for me. It started out with bad news and got even worse. What with work and the extra stuff going on in my life, I was stressed, frustrated, and beyond annoyed.

I needed something practical, something helpful for my hands and mind. So I got to baking!

Does anyone else use baking as therapy? Sometimes it is the only thing that will calm my mind and improve my mood. There’s just something about deciding on a recipe to make, gathering the ingredients, and then baking it all up.

Oh, and don’t forget surprising your family with something yummy!

Anyway, a few weeks back my husband bought some jam for us as a treat. It was a locally made wild blackberry jam. It has a tart yet sweet taste, just perfect to spread on toast. But what about baked in a muffin? A tiny bit of searching, and I found this recipe.

As I didn’t have much time to get the recipe mixed up before my next shift, I loved the fact that you could mix the batter by hand. And better yet, I had all of the ingredients in my pantry! So very frugal and easy for me.

Just a few (very minor) changes:

  1. I used coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil in the recipe.
  2. I filled each muffin tin about 1/3 with batter, put in the jam, and then topped it with more batter.
  3. Using only about 2 Tbsp of butter for the topping, I melted it in the microwave and poured it over the finished muffins. I then gave each muffin a generous sprinkling of the cinnamon sugar mixture. It was just easier (and quicker) for me to do it this way.

Although nothing in my life had changed by the time the muffins were out of the oven, my viewpoint had shifted a bit toward the positive. I had done something helpful and baked a treat that my husband would appreciate.

Cheap and frugal therapy, right?

 

Getting Back to Basics: Easy Bread

Getting Back to BasicsI must admit something. I’ve been distracted lately with various projects and family issues, and my domestic efforts have gone by the wayside.

Do you ever go through these times? Whether due to work or whatever, cooking and cleaning can occasionally take the back burner.

I’ve been trying to push myself out of this obviously un-frugal way of doing things, but doing my usual cooking seemed overwhelming. Attempting to look for recipes–or even simply cook familiar ones–was just too much. Honestly, it was just easier to order out for dinner.

So I decided to get back to basics, so to speak.

My husband had asked for some yummy baked goodies. And what’s easier than a good homemade bread, right? Well, he’ll be waking up tomorrow morning to coffee and toast with butter. Just good, old-fashioned cooking.

After a tiny bit of searching, I decided to try this recipe. As it’s just the two of us, I made the smaller loaf in my bread machine.

The result? We did have an issue with my bread machine, which caused some frustration, but the bread came out wonderful and was oh-so-easy. We have some tasty bread just waiting for a generous spread of butter.

And even better, I’m getting back to my frugal basics.

We Shall Return!

10406866_973124322763428_5824350206391150250_nHubby is currently working on our kitchen, so it’s off limits at the moment.

While he’s doing some renovations, I probably won’t be posting much on this blog. Until then, feel free to tune in to Stories from This Life or Books, Coffee, and a Whole Lotta Faith.

We shall return! And thanks to his hard work, with a shiny, new-to-us sink!

Very grateful for a hard working husband who is handy, resourceful, and frugal.

Quick Tip: Frugal Hair Rinse

hair rinseI unfortunately don’t remember where I first read about this, but it is the easiest and most effective hair rinse I’ve discovered, especially for those of us with many allergies and sensitive skin.

This rinse seems to help with itchiness in my scalp and makes my hair look shiny. And you can’t beat that, right?

To make it up, I put a couple of drops of rosemary essential oil in a bowl, add about 1/3 to 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar, and then fill up the rest of the bowl with water.

Carefully pour over your scalp and hair, making sure to avoid your eyes. Rinse with regular water, and you’re done!

 

My New Favorite Egg Salad Sandwich

egg salad sandwichGrowing up, I loved it when my grandmother would make warm egg salad sandwiches. Such a simple meal, but so comforting and tasty. Isn’t that the way with so many traditional meals, though?

I hadn’t had egg salad sandwiches in years but recently began making them again. And boy am I glad I did! This humble sandwich is fairly frugal, easy, and fun.

Fun? Well, why not? Do a search on egg salad sandwich recipes, and you’ll find dozens online. One person’s creamy egg and avocado sandwich can be made into something spicy. And that very fun, versatile nature of the sandwich makes it frugal and the perfect way to use up ingredients you may have lying around.

And don’t forget it’s tasty.

So what’s my new favorite? I call it the Southwest Egg Salad Sandwich. It came about one day when I needed a quick meal using only what we had in the refrigerator, which happened to be pretty bare at the time.

Here are the basic ingredients for this egg salad:

  • A couple of boiled eggs, mashed
  • Handful of crumbled bacon
  • Chipotle ranch dressing
  • Ghost pepper infused salt

That’s it! Just mix it all up, put it on some bread, and you’re ready to eat! You can adjust the ingredients depending on your own tastes or what you have on hand.

Do you have a favorite version of the humble egg salad sandwich? Please share!

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Easy DIY Lip Scrub

Easy DIY Lip ScrubThis winter has been tough on my skin. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit older now, or perhaps possible peri-menopause. No matter the cause, my typical beauty routine isn’t working.

While I have a body scrub and lotion, I was lacking something for my lips. And boy, did I need something! No matter the amount of lip balm I applied, my lips were rough and bleeding. So I decided to try something new.

I didn’t want to spend money on an expensive lip scrub, so I did a bit of searching and found this recipe. With all ingredients from my pantry, how could I go wrong?

Mixing up the recipe was quick and easy. The only change I made was to use coconut oil instead of olive oil.

I massaged the scrub on my lips for about 20-30 seconds. And the result? It worked! I admit that I will most likely have to repeat it within a few days, but I think it will make a huge difference over time.

And with at least a few more months of winter ahead, I will definitely need it. Here’s to frugal beauty care!

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Merry Christmas! (And a Quick Recipe)

Christmas KatnissI know that many of you are rushing to finish your last minute holiday preparations, but I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas this year.

And if you’re needing a quick homemade gift or just a dessert for the family, here it is:

Quick Pecan and Marshmallow Holiday Bark

If you have mini-marshmallows, then you’re ahead of the game! Otherwise, cut a bunch into pieces. Mix the cut marshmallows in with chopped pecans (or any other type of nut you have on hand) to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other. Then melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil just to make the chocolate last a bit longer. Combine that chocolate-y goodness in with the marshmallows and pecans and spread into a greased pan. Cut when firm and eat!

I will be having a quiet day at home this year, but I hope that you enjoy your holiday.

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Chocolate Caramel Popcorn, or Salvaging a Failed Kitchen Experiment

Chocolate Caramel PopcornDuring one of my daily Facebook-ing sessions, I happened to see a recipe for caramel chocolate bark posted on a company’s website. It looked so easy that I thought I must try it for the holidays. Easy, sweet, and awesome! What could go wrong?

Well, it was ok, but it wasn’t great. And it certainly wasn’t worth serving to others. My husband gladly ate the result, but what to do with the remaining caramel?

Google search to the rescue!

We have plenty of popcorn kernels in our pantry, and so I decided to give this recipe a try.

I used the basis of the recipe and made a few changes based on what I had on hand.

I popped the popcorn and mixed it with two handfuls of chopped pecans as well as a small handful of small chocolate morsels. The caramel was poured over this mixture and put in the oven as specified in the recipe. From here, the only change I made was stirring the mixture every 5 minutes while it was in the oven.

The result? Honestly good! Very gooey and delicious, with the right amount of crunch from the nuts. My only possible change for making it in the future would be to sprinkle a bit of salt over it at the end. Sweet and easy, perfect for the holidays!

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Graham Cracker Toffee Crunch, or Overcoming Fears in the Kitchen

Graham Cracker Toffee CrunchDoes anyone else have those dishes that you just avoid making…

Mine would be anything related to homemade caramel or toffee. Yes, I have my own kitchen fears, those dishes that seem to loom larger than life, just taunting me with my own past mistakes.

Back when I was a teenager and fresh out of home-ec class, I decided to take upon myself the task of making dessert for a special dinner when my father’s boss would be visiting. Yes, indeed-y, I was determined and courageous.

I found this delectable recipe in a magazine that involved making homemade caramel, which was absolutely necessary for the recipe. My mother encouraged me to do a simpler dessert, but I wouldn’t listen. No sir, I was confident in my ability. So we gathered the ingredients, and I set to work about an hour before dinner was to begin.

You can probably guess how this turned out, right?

I burned everything. It was awful…I mean, awful. And living in a rural community, we couldn’t just run out to a grocery store or a bakery. My mother hurried to prepare something else while I stood dejected.

I suppose I learned several valuable lessons that day, but I also developed a fear of those sorts of dishes that would last quite awhile. I never wanted to smell that awful burnt smell again, so I just avoided making those dishes. A good plan, for awhile.

But lately, with the onset of middle age and just a ton of shake-ups in my personal life, I decided to give it a try again. I’d been seeing a recipe for Graham Cracker Toffee Crunch floating around the internet. As we had an unused box of graham crackers in our kitchen, I thought this would be a good time to face my fears.

To the kitchen! Honestly, it was pretty much all bravado. I felt more like the following quote from The Princess Bride:

Miracle Max: Have fun stormin’ da castle.

Valerie: Think it’ll work?

Miracle Max: It would take a miracle.

I was careful, very careful. And you know what? It turned out just fine. No awful burnt smell, no dejection. It was a quick and easy cooking experience, and it used up some old graham crackers, so frugal too.

Would I make it again? Yes, I sure would. I think it would make a quick and easy treat for the holidays. And we all need easy and yummy treats for the coming months, right?

Plus I can say that I made it, despite my fears. I stormed the castle of toffee and came out alive.

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