Category: Life


What’s Been Cooking

The sabbatical has ended.

What a better way to begin than to share some of the frugal and healthful things we’ve been consuming. That seems to be the number one complaint I hear since I’ve stopped posting. “I miss seeing what you’ve been cooking!”

BBQ Ribs, Coleslaw and Potatoes

BBQ Ribs, Coleslaw and Potatoes

Coleslaw is cheap to make, even if you buy the bag of shredded veg on sale. Make your own low-fat dressing or buy a low-fat version. It gets better as it sits in the frig and is an easy and delicious side dish to serve with many different kinds of meals.

Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes, Loaded potatoes and salad

Buffalo Chicken Sloppy Joes, Loaded potatoes and salad

A more healthful spin on a family favorite, using ground chicken breast and packed full of veg. There has to be more than a serving of veg in this sandwich.

Chili con Carne Meatballs over bulgar wheat

Chili con Carne Meatballs over bulgur wheat

Chock full of fiber with beans and bulgur wheat. Lean ground turkey was used for these spiced up meatballs.

Chicken Marsala, Spaghetti and salad

Chicken Marsala, Spaghetti and salad

Chicken and onions sautéed with Marsala wine. This meal only took minutes to prepare. We used leftover spaghetti and a nice green salad to round out the meal. Use up those leftovers!

Greek Chicken Salad with homemade Tzatziki sauce

Greek Chicken Salad with homemade Tzatziki sauce

This dish was a spin-off of something I saw Jamie Oliver create on his 15 minute meals. If you think you can’t get a nutritious and quick meal on the table you need to watch a couple of his shows about this concept. Couscous only takes minutes. Utilized your food processor to help you with the veg. Homemade Tzatziki is a delicious and refreshing treat.

Pignoli (pine nut) Cookies

Pignoli (pine nut) Cookies

These were a splurge but pine nuts are good for you. If you’re going to eat sweets why not get a little “nut”trition why you’re at it. It’s also a bonus to share traditional ethnic recipes with your children.

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Fresh from the garden stuffed peppers. Stretch your meat of choice by adding whole grains and vegetables to your stuffing. Comfort food at its best.

Enjoy! There’s a lot more to come.

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Have you been out shopping lately? You’ve more than likely seen holiday decor for sale if you’ve visited your local department store. YUK! That was my first impression. After some reflection I decided my attitude needed an adjustment. If you remember the reason for the season the “work” and the “expense” become a joy instead of a burden. If you are still struggling, try melting a peppermint scented tart or lighting a peppermint scented or Christmasy scented candle. It may help get you in the mood or change your attitude for the better.

Love

What is love? Can it be defined? Is it different for everyone? How many kinds are there?

How many of us really think about love, even though it is an emotion that most of us feel each and every day?

The free online dictionary definition of love is…A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness. Hmmm.

The bible speaks of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Good News Bible (1978)

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail.

How many of us have experienced that take on love? Few I think.

There are many different kinds of feelings of love. We love our spouses, but it’s a different kind of love than what we feel for our children, or our parents. We love our siblings, other family members, our friends, even our pets. We love our creator. If we think about it for a minute I bet we’d find each stirs a different feeling within us.

Love is often painful. It’s an intense emotion. Men have killed for it and died for it. It’s a confusing emotion, I think because everyone is different and therefore feels differently.

Even though it’s not mentioned out loud, its presence has certainly been felt around here lately.  My daughter’s high school sweetheart left for college this week. The whole family is feeling their pain. It will be a time of adjustment and growth for both of them. Young love, it differs from mature love.

Love is a complex emotion, both a blessing and a curse.

For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, watch it first before reading. This post contains spoilers.

Every once in a while I find myself wanting to watch this movie. I must want to do this when I feel it’s time to have a good cry because I cry like a baby every time I watch it. It contains many emotional triggers, mostly having to do with the character Jenny. The other triggers are everyday things that just happen to people, sometimes Jenny, that are sad. Being the silly romantic and overly compassionate person that I am, I go through quite a few tissues watching it. This is a rather sensitive and personal thing, but I’ve always wondered if others who have seen the movie react in a similar fashion.

It all starts for me with Forrest’s first bus ride to school. Having been bullied almost every day on the bus to my first half of first grade this starts the emotional roller coaster. I only wish there would have been a Forrest on that bus for me to sit with and befriend. Jenny’s abuse is another trigger, but at least she has Forrest to be there for her, even though he didn’t understand what was going on. Then there is Forrest losing his best friend in Vietnam, Lt. Dan losing his legs, and the thought of all of the men who lost their lives, died horrible deaths, returned injured, and did not return as heroes.

Jenny leaving Forrest repeatedly is what really gets to me the most. Yes, I’m aware it would change the story, there wouldn’t be a movie, etc. if things were different about the movie. I guess that’s what makes it so good. Clearly he is a good man. He’s honest, faithful, respectful and protective. Somehow throughout the scenes she feels he’s not right for her, not exciting enough maybe or not intelligent enough. I’m not sure. It never really tells you what she’s thinking. I suppose she could be thinking that she’s not good enough for him. It’s possible. She gets into worse and worse relationships and situations searching for whatever it is she’s searching for, when all along she has a perfect life right in front of her. It’s heart wrenching and I can’t stand it.

In one scene Jenny is slapped by her so-called boyfriend. Forrest pounds the crap out of him. He’s smart enough to understand the boyfriend shouldn’t be hitting her and even tells her so. Who’s the smart one now Jenny? Forrest tells her she should be going home and not back on the bus with the jerk and gives the so-called boyfriend dirty looks. He even tells Jenny he’s always wanted to be her boyfriend. Stupid, stupid girl.

Another tear-jerker of a scene, at least for me, is when Jenny comes home to stay with Forrest and then leaves abruptly, apparently without saying goodbye. Forrest wanders around the house looking at the places she had been in the house. He stands in the doorway to her room and stares at her empty bed. Why doesn’t someone just tear my heart out and stomp on it.

They save the best for last as Jenny introduces Forrest to his son and then she explains to Forrest how she is ill with some sort of virus. They never come out and say it, but you have to assume it’s HIV the way she explains that it’s something new and that the doctors don’t know what to do for her, and with all of her past drug use and promiscuity. He tells her to come home and stay with him and that he will take care of her, and he marries her. He’s loved her all along, been true to her, thought about her always, and she finally loves him!

It still ends badly because she dies so young.

To all of the Jennys out there, who have an honest, faithful, respectful, and protective man, who may not be perfect in other respects, hold him close and never let go.

We’re heading out to a family reunion this weekend. That means tons of yummy, fattening foods and desserts, so we’re forgoing the decadent Saturday treat. I can’t wait to see what’s at the picnic. I may return with a new favorite recipe. Yes, I will share.

I decided on a pasta salad for the picnic. It’s been so hot I needed a nice hot weather friendly dish. I’ll share that recipe this week.

In the meantime, here’s a little update on what’s going on in the near future.

We missed the black raspberry harvest because of a vacation but will be canning pears in the next couple of weeks and then tomatoes after that.

The garden is starting to produce. We’ve had three zucchini, there are a lot of peppers coming and the tomatoes and beans are looking good as well.

Check back for photos and updates.

 

 

Friendships

Recent events have inspired me to explore friendships.

We make our first friends as children. Do these initial encounters help define us as we grow? I’m not a psychologist but have a feeling this is the case.

My first friends as a child were a household of many siblings, all girls with the youngest at least 6 or 7 years older than me. We lived out in the country and didn’t have many neighbors. On the other side of us there was a boy, right about my age. At the time I remember realizing the boy was different but it didn’t make much difference to either of us. We played and got along. We had fun. We were about 5 or 6 yrs old. We were friends. The other family of all girls had a what I will call a snotty snot, the one closest in age to me. I feel she was a bully and very jealous that I was an only child. I was a little spoiled and she had to share with many siblings. I remember feeling compassion and did share with her, but sometimes she just took without asking. This was the beginning of the world of friendships for me. Sometimes I think it’s still defining how I interact with people today.

Photo

I’ve always felt that I was a little different. I’ve often thought that being an Aries female compounded the problem, if you believe in that sort of thing. I’m not sure I believe it but I know that what I have read makes sense. I always preferred and got along better with male friends. My spouse is aware and accepts this, just in case anyone was wondering. Earlier in life this was not a problem. The problems started in and around my teenage years. Parents of my female friends frowned upon the fact that I had close associations with many male friends. They all had dirty minds. Yes, I had boyfriends, but the majority of my male friends were just that, friends. Had it occurred to anyone that I found dirt bikes and watching someone skillfully or clumsily taking engines apart more appealing than the latest gossip and hair styles? No. I was more comfortable around males. They think more logically, as I do. There is much less drama, which I prefer. They tell you the truth. Well, the friends do. The lovers are most often the ones who lie. It’s complicated but such is life.

It’s important to note when you start to shift into your middle age years and find yourself with plenty of family but not really a lot of friends to speak of you feel a little lonely. Friends are important. Of course you confide in your spouse, your parents, and other close relatives, but when you are an only child, it’s nice to have a friend who will listen, share a secret, a joy, or a concern as you would with a sister or brother. So what do you do? First you attempt friendships with other women. Office politics and other things I’d rather not mention globally ensue to make coworkers seem as a less than acceptable option. You join a church and enroll in an adult Sunday school class with hopes that the fellowship will bring friendships too. You still feel that you connect more with the men and I can guarantee you this is not the venue to even want to bring up that issue. Then you reach out on social sites, which leads to a lot of “oh we should get togethers”s that really don’t turn into the close “bff” friendship that you are looking for.

Now that you’ve explored the socially acceptable avenues you revert back to what you know. Having a spouse that works in an all male work environment, you become close, and friendly with some of his coworkers. This is fine. It is acceptable. One even belongs to your church. Of course it’s not the relationship you really want because they are friends with your spouse first, and you are second, more of an acquaintance. So your spouse is aware of this quirk and thinks it’s ok with him. You know others with this “problem” and even another female relative with a close male friend. Armed with this knowledge and acceptance you revert back to the social sites and try again.

You do a little research and find both some expected and some interesting things. You find that there are men who are uncomfortable being friends with a woman, even some old childhood friends find it difficult to view you as a friend. Weeding out the perverts is yet another task that is unpleasant but necessary. You do find some males that think that’s just fine and dandy, they even stop by to chit-chat, but their wives would not appreciate it, of course, and that is a situation no one wants to be in. Yuk! You think to yourself that possibly those playing for the same team might be the answer, but you know few, and those you do know are too young with which to have much in common.

The main problem is that you are looking for someone as rare as yourself. It would take a special combination to really fit the bill.  You would need the right amount of respect, trust, and everything else you’d find in a girly relationship with a little extra bit of something so things would be comfortable for all parties involved. It is doable? I would enjoy a lot of common ground including being on the same plane intellectually, being astrologically compatible (which sounds on the romantic side but is not and really helps, again, if you believe in that kind of thing) and surprise, with no perverse vibes present at all. Is it too much to ask? That remains to be seen. Life is a work in progress. We’ll see how this works and then progress.

All this trouble because your best friends as a child were boys and your nemesis was a girl. Maybe it will turn out to be a blessing instead of a curse.

Some celebrity friends without benefits…

Julia Roberts and George Clooney

Gwyneth Paltrow and Mario Batali

Kirstie Alley and John Travolta

 

Our Frugal Beach Vacation

Our family of three and daughter’s friend recently embarked on what most would call a low-budget beach vacation. I shared a recent post about how we save money on vacation here. We had a blast despite our limited funds.

The ocean has a different personality each day it seems. I don’t ever remember it being the same day by day for as long as I’ve been going there, and that’s been since I was a small child. This year it was calm the day we arrived. The water was warm and peaceful with high tide arriving right around lunchtime. We arrived at our hotel around 11 a.m., got the parking pass from the office and walked up on the beach. Our motel is about a block from the beach and boardwalk. We ate our picnic lunch and stayed on the beach until around 4 p.m. After heading back to the hotel, checking in and cleaning up, we made our way up to the boardwalk.

Our first night there we enjoyed a delicious and mostly frugal and healthful meal. It’s my favorite boardwalk treat. Pizza. Well, actually it’s a Maruca’s Tomato Pie.

A perfect masterpiece of just right crisp crust, delicious sauce and yummy cheese that was just enough for the four of us. Even with a couple of drinks it was very affordable. You can watch the pizzas being made right in front of you while you dine in air-conditioned comfort right on the boardwalk. Everyone is always smiling and friendly too. We love it and make a beeline for it every year. It’s all the way down at the end of the boardwalk and worth every step.

Our second day on the beach started out very windy. There was a yellow flag at the beach patrol station which warned us about the moderately rough surf, and they weren’t kidding. The sun came out later in the day and we did end up braving the waves, but not without a few near casualties and near losses of bathing suits. It’s pretty bad when you have to choose between modesty and breathing. I’ve made a note to only wear one-piece bathing suits to the beach from now on. 😉

You can see how the rough surf carved out a chunk of beach.

It was more than a 2 ft drop, but just a little bit fun sliding down to get to the water. Once you made it to the water that was an obstacle in itself.

On our second night we went to a local family Italian restaurant for dinner. We found a coupon in the Beach Comber magazine we found in the hotel lobby. It was the buy one entrée get one free variety. The portions were huge and the food was delicious. I noticed many left with doggie bags. We had a frig and microwave in our room so we were able to do this too. We didn’t realize it when we entered the restaurant, but the cast of the TV show Jersey Shore was dining in the back. Although we are not fans, it was exciting to watch the interested patrons and their anticipation of maybe getting a glimpse of one of the cast.

We were welcomed by calmer water on our third and final day on the beach and spent a great deal of time in the water jumping the gentle waves. It was just enough days on the beach. Even with reapplication of sunblock, with all of that sun and sea spray, you start to get a little crispy around the edges. We left the beach with a promise to the ocean to return next year. Our third and final night was spent on the boardwalk taking in all of the sights and sounds, everyone choosing their favorite boardwalk foods to eat and riding go-carts. The boardwalk is a mile long. We more than walked off our supper walking up and down.

Our vacation came to a crescendo on the way home when we stopped at The Cheesecake Factory to spend some of the extra money that we did not need for the trip. It was neither frugal nor healthful, but a welcomed once a year treat. I opted for a more healthful chicken and shrimp dish with brown rice. We ordered the cheesecake to go and packed it away in a cooler to keep it safe on the rest of the trip home.

We had a fantastic time for what most would certainly feel was just a little bit of money as far as vacations are concerned.

How do you vacation?

We must be vigilant in the midst of the $200 a month grocery and eating from the pantry challenges. Planning is crucial, as is creativity and a little nutritional forgiveness.

Sunday – Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, recipe to follow at a later date

A gift of a huge head of cabbage from dad made these possible, and I also made a generous stash for the freezer. You can make these even more frugal and healthful by using…

ground turkey instead of beef,

brown rice instead of white rice,

and/or adding additional chopped vegetables.

Monday – Pork chops with peppers and onions, potatoes and fried cabbage.

Tuesday – Oatmeal pancakes, sausage patties, fruit.

This is a repeat meal from last week. We enjoy the sausage from a local butcher/deli. It is very lean and flavorful. We split a pound between two meals that feed three to four. It’s more of a little taste of sausage with our pancakes. Meat should be an accompaniment to the meal and not the main event for better health anyway. The oatmeal pancakes are very filling, and better for you than just plain old pancakes.

Wednesday – Cheeseburgers, Italian breaded zucchini “fries”, Romaine salad

Thursday – Bean with Bacon soup, Peanut butter crackers

A childhood favorite of mine, not being really fond of other kinds of canned soups, I usually keep a couple of cans in the pantry for emergencies. If you’ve been following along you know it’s time to rotate stock in the pantry. I guess I haven’t had that many emergencies or we’ve turned to freezer meals. I like to float the homemade peanut butter rich round crackers in the soup. It’s an interesting flavor combo that goes well with the smokey flavor of the soup, but then I also like to dip buttered toast or English muffins in orange juice. Thank you Aunt Joan for introducing that to my mom, who then showed me. 🙂

Friday –  Marinated, grilled chicken breasts, grilled potatoes, romaine salad

Saturday – Tatertot casserole, mixed vegetables

What’s on your plate?

Simple recipes and silly stories make up the fabric that we call life.

Once when visiting my aunt, who is sentimentally much more considered my sister, we were looking forward to dinner. She and my uncle were making bar-b-que ribs. Yummy stuff. She said she would make her yukky potatoes to go with the ribs. Yukky potatoes? She said she had a way of making potatoes as a side dish that her son thought was yukky, so the family has forever more dubbed these yukky potatoes, even though the rest of us think they are delicious potatoes.

For this recipe make as much per serving as you would for mashed potatoes.

Peel, cube and put your potatoes in water as you would for mashed potatoes.

Boil, but not for as long as you would mashed potatoes. Poke a potato cube with a fork. They are done when it enters the cube easily but hopefully does not break the cube apart. 🙂 This process takes approximately 10 minutes. It really depends on the size of your cubes.

Drain your potatoes.

Add butter, salt and pepper and seasoning of your choice. We like a little garlic powder. I do recall that she added an entire stick of butter, that smart remarks were traded between she and my uncle, and that life insurance was discussed. Our family gauges love by how much we pick on and tease each other. There was a lot of love that day. 😉

Add a green herb of your choice, fresh or dry. Our favorites are chives or dill.

Let your butter melt and mix it all together.

Enjoy your yukky potatoes.

Check back next week for a new Sweet Saturday recipe.

This week we ran into a few snags with a painting project that we needed to finish before getting ready for a little vacation. Although you may find that posts are sparse over the next couple of weeks, I’ll try to make up for it with some great photos and I’m sure many new life experiences. It’s always good to do something different. It does wonders for shaking up my creative side.

Stayed tuned for maybe joining in on an eating from the pantry challenge and

Challenging myself to feed a family of 3, 2 dogs and 2 cats for $200 a month

Garden updates

Beach and boardwalk photos and experiences

Making black raspberry preserves

Canning tomatoes

Canning pears

and much, much more.

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer season as much as we are here at the Frugal and Healthful house.

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