Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Frugal Monday Menu on a Wednesday | Lentil Salad

Sorry, I didn't get to post this on Monday, but I do want to share my lentil salad. It's cheap to make and yummy to eat.

I read recently where more people are turning to bean recipes for their low cost, but high protein value. It makes sense. Meat costs are skyrocketing and will probably keep going up, up, up. And then, of course, there the issue of too many hormones and if that's actually "beef" in the package.

Lentils are one of my favorite go-to beans. Unlike most legumes, it's cooks up fast, usually in about 20 to 25-minutes with a pre-soak. They also have a great meaty flavor (love that lentil soup). One of my favorite ways to use them is in a salad, either as a side dish or with the addition of a little cheese to create a main dish.

To start, measure out about a cup to a cup and a half a beans.

I spread them out on a baking pan first and then sort them them, picking out anything that looks bad. I then rinse them and add them to a pot with enough water to cover them by an inch or so.

Boil the lentils for about 20 to 25-minutes or until soft (but no mushy soft, you want a little bite). Also, don't add salt to the water. That toughens the beans. When they're done, rinse in cold water.

Add the lentils to a bowl and then add a variety of diced vegetable you like, such as cucumbers, onion, peppers, tomatoes, parsley or cilantro, olives (black or green).

Make a vinaigrette-style of dressing. I like to use a bit of Penseys' Greek Dressing mix to olive oil, vinegar and lemon juice (we like ours zingy so it's heavy on the vinegar and lemon).

Mix it up well and add a little cheese if you like. I like a salty, dry cheese like French Feta or Mexican Cotija. Serve it on a bed of lettuce and enjoy.

As for cost, I figure I spent about $5 to $6 on this. The lentils and veggies are pretty cheap, but the cheese -- what you buy and how much you use -- will be the difference in price. I usually use about 1/4 lb to 1/3 pound of cheese. Oh, and this actually makes a lot, so Hubby and I ate this for dinner and still had leftovers for a lunches for a couple of days. 

Do you have some favorite lentil recipes to share? I'd love to hear about them.

Till next time!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Where Have All the Spoons Gone?

You know that black hole where socks disappear? I think there's a black hole for spoons, too!

I started with 48 teaspoons 10 years ago (two 60-piece sets). This is what I have left! I still have plenty of knives, forks and tablespoons!

Where did they go? Well, no one is talking.

The cost of replacing them with the same pattern (now discontinued by Oneida) is over $2.50 each. Ouch and ain't gonna happen!

Fortunately I have a set of my MIL's silver for the holidays, so it's everyday flatware that's the problem.

I have a solution, however!

Vintage spoons!

I picked up 12 from a antique mall I like. I love the old mixed matched look and the fact that they were only 50 cents to a dollar each.

No two are the same, but they have a similar feel. I think they're from the 40s and 50s. I like them so much, I think I'm going back for more. And maybe forks... knives and tablespoons.

Uh oh, I fee a new collection coming on.

I hope there are no black holes in your spoon drawers.

Till later,


Linking to these Parties:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Morning Pictures | Coming to Life

It feels like Spring is here and things are beginning to come back to life.

Poppies are... well, popping up.

The roses are starting to show their leaves again.

Peach trees are blooming.

Even one of apple trees is showing blossoms.

It's feeling so Spring-like that Hubby is working on the drip systems.

Life is good. Even Maggie Mae says so.

Hope life is blooming in your neck of the woods.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Hopping Into Spring

I haven't done much holiday decorating lately (not even this past Christmas), but I thought I change my ways... at least a little.

Of course, it probably has more to do with finding this cute little pate at the thrift store yesterday. Isn't he he cute. I just loved him the moment I saw him. And he was less than a buck (which I say that about the waaaay too expensive Jelly Bellies).

I found just the place for him, too, on a side table in the living room with a few fresh picked flowers.

What's everyone else doing for their Easter decorations? Stop in and share.

Till later,


Linking to these parties today:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Snow Day - Take 3

Wow! It snowed again last night. That's the third time this winter, which is unusual for us.

I know a lot of folks around these blogs are "pining" for Spring (sorry!). But not me... yet!

Maybe it's a residual of those 150 mile round-trip days going to my last gig. I'm probably more tired than I realized. 

No, for now, I'm happy to be hunkered down in the kitchen, next to the wood stove, writing on my laptop. 

Spring will be here, soon enough. Even this snow is staying. 

Hope everyone is have a good day... and staying warm if you need to.

Till later...


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

3 Strategies for Staying On Track

Now that I'm working from home again, I have to admit... I don't always feel like working. It's too easy to get caught up on a 101 things or spend all afternoon on Pinterest. But between my previous life as a freelance writer and a whole lot of things I took part in during my corporate days (project management, six sigma and such), I've come away with a few strategies to keep me usually... mostly on track.

1.  Write it Down -- But not all if it mind you. If I added everything I should do, my list would be overwelming, so I make a list with the BIG points. And I make it a viewable list. This small whiteboard does the trick.

I also break my day's schedule down my WORK (things that make me money) and NON-WORK (still work, but of the housework variety).

2.  Stay Focused -- That's hard to do sometimes, but I've found using a timer is a big help and breaking my time down into manageable chucks even better.  Some days that might only be for 20 minutes at a time. But those 20 minutes while my timer is ticking away, I'm focused.

The timer also works when I get too focused (or should I say fixated). For me, that's research. I can spend way too much time. Or it works when I want to limit my playing time (like Pinterest).

What works best for me, it's about an 80/20 split. That's is 80% of my time doing what needs to be done and 20% and no work with a little fun stuff thrown in.

3.  Understand a Crash Can Happen -- I just don't beat myself up. Instead, I get to my feet, dust myself off and go at it again. 

After all Coco Channel once said: "Success is often achieved by those who don't know that failure is inevitable."

 Hmm, I wonder if she ever fell on her head!? 

Have a good evening, everyone!

Till later...



Sunday, March 3, 2013

Tray Day

I love trays! They're great for corralling stuff. Any kind of stuff.

Like the small ceramic tray that holds the salt, pepper and spice shakers on my kitchen counter.

Or the apple tray on my microwave that holds this and that (and usually doesn't look this neat).

Then's theres the fancy silver tray that holds candles (and badly needs polishing, BTW). 

My favorite tray, however, is the one my friend made for me. Yup, she designed and made this for me because she know how much I love trays. But it's in need of a refresh today. After all, Valentine's day is way passed.

And the other reason I love this tray so much... because I can change the look to match the holiday, season or just my mood. The bottom flips open to change out the background. Today, I feel like an orange background, but I'm deciding between an orange and white polka dot foreground or maybe a retro style green leaf pattern. 


Retro leaves it is! And back to work for this little tray that corrals a few things on the coffee station.

 Linking today to...

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Sunday afternoon. 

Till later...


Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cleaning Cast Iron Cookware How-to

I love my cast iron cookware. I'm using it more and more, even my old, old stuff that's considered vintage. I find it so easy to use. So you can image my surprise while writing some product lenses (that's Squidoo speak for articles) that lots of people were intimated by cast iron. Why... because of the cleaning.

Well, we have to fix that because, cleaning cast iron as easy as... well, frying eggs!

Cast iron cookware has been around for centuries. It goes all the way back to the Han Dynasty in 220 AD. In the days of cooking in the fireplace, it's was a must. Even after woodstoves became a household essential back in the mid-1800s, cast iron cookware was still THE cookware to be used.

Times change, of course, and new styles of cookware has replaced the old. Especially "non-stick!" That's what everyone wants. However, it turns out non-stick isn't so non-stick. It can also be expensive and when it flakes... YUCK, what's that going in your body?!

That's why lots of folks are coming back to cast ironed. A well seasoned cast iron pan is really non-stick. It's also heats up slow and retains that heat. You can cook just about anything in a cast iron pan.

The old wisdom, however, is that you don't wash cast iron. And that's a scary thought -- does that mean you cook in crusty old pans?


But water and cast iron don't mix well. The result can be rust. That's why it's it's important to make sure cast iron is always completely dry before putting it away. Also, soaps and detergents can strip away the patina of seasoning that makes a cast iron pan so non-stick.

So how do you clean cast iron? With warm water, a little elbow grease when neccessary a little TLC. The following steps are what I use to clean my cast iron. It's the same way that my mother, my hubby's mother and our grandmothers cleaned their cast iron. And some of those pans are the same ones I'm using today.

Sometimes, a pan is easy to clean, like the skillet I use to fry my morning eggs. Simple warm water and a few minutes on the stove to dry is all that's needed. But then there are the times where I need a little extra effort, like last night's pork chops.

A little crusty! Okay... a lot crusty!

To clean this kind of mess, I blot out any excess grease with a paper towel and then add about an inch of water to the pan. 

I boil the water for a couple of minutes and then the cleaning begins.

I scrap out the chunky parts off the bottom with a spatula (unlike non stick cookware, a stainless steel sputula is fine). The boiling water really helps lift those chunks off the pan.

In the sink I run a little warm water in the pan. Don't add cold water because it is possible to crack the cast iron. You might want to let the hot water cool a little first so you don't burn yourself. I use a scrubby or a stainless steel pad to clean the pan with warm water. Remember, you shouldn't use detergent or soap.

Then I rinse with warm water and dry with a towel or paper towel. To make sure it's completly dry, I put the pan back on the burner for a couple of minutes.

When I remember I will re-season the pan. That's just wiping it down with vegetable oil, but to be honest I don't do that every time. Most of my pans have built up a seasoning patina over the years so it's not as necessary.

It's really just that easy to clean cast iron cookware. The most important thing to remember is to make sure the pan or pot is completely dry.

Do you have another way of cleaning cast iron? Or questions? Let me know.

Till later...


P.S. Oh, those Squidoo lenses... here's some links if you're interested:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Frugal Monday Menu | Mama Mia Minestrone

I had all the right intentions, but life just got in the way yesterday. But that's okay, because any day is the right day for a frugal meal. 

Going meatless is a sure way to keep a meal within budget. In my family a favorite meatless meal is minestrone. I haven't figured it out yet, but my meat-loving guys love it! 

Minestrone is an Italian vegetable soup and is a great way to clean-out-the-fridge and makes an affordable meal. There are tons of recipes that use a variety of ingredients. Martha Stewart alone has a few variations including a Classic Style and her Autumn Minestrone (which seem mixed up to me because her Classic seems more Autumn and her Autumn feels more classic ??).

Most recipes have three constants: a tomato broth, beans and pasta. The differences come with the types of vegetables that are added. 

For me, it's was clean out refrigerator (and freezer) day which is good since Minestrone is also one of the recipes that doesn't need exact measurements. 

I started by sauteing a diced onion in some olive oil. I would have used celery, but that wasn't in the fridge. After the onion was softened I added diced carrot and sliced mushrooms. I cook those until the mushrooms were fairly soft. Then I added two small cans (14.5 oz ea) of diced tomatoes and three cans of water. I also added some dried herbs: basil, oregano, parsley and a couple shakes of hot red pepper flakes. Salt and pepper was also added.

While the soup simmered, I boiled a small pan of water and added a couple handfuls of Orecchiette pasta (those are those cute hat-shaped pasta). I always cook my pasta separate from the soup to keep it from getting gummy (the soup, that is). I also drained and rinsed a small can of cannellini beans (aka white kidney beans).

After the broth and veggies cooked for about 40 minutes, I added green beans and broccoli from the freezer (and I still haven't emptied those partial bags - UGG!) I cooked the soup for another 10 minutes or so and then added the beans and pasta. Five minutes later, it was ready to eat.

With the sprinkle of a little Parmesan cheese and French Bread, we called it dinner.

The bread was probably the most expensive part of the meal. In all, I have to say this was another less than $5.00 dinner. And my guys ate it up!

Do you have a go-to minestrone recipe or do you just wing it! I'd love to hear what you have to say!

Till later...


Sunday, February 24, 2013

He Answered My Question, Yes He Did!

The conversation after Hubby made coffee this morning (sweet). But first the picture of what I found.

Me: Ah, honey, where did all the coffee grounds come from?

Him: I was meaning to ask you about that. How to you stop the coffee grinder?

Me: Well, I usually only grind what I need. See the switch that says 2-4-6-8-12. But if I want to stop it, I just slide the switch to off!

Him: Oh! (pause) You don't pull the cup out to stop it then.

My poor honey, some times I think he's living in the wrong time period. 

Hope you're all having a great Sunday. I'm writing bunches of product articles today and thinking about dinner!

Happy Sunday,


Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Peek Into History in an Old Cookbook

I love old cookbooks. Like this one below. It's just beautiful with it's embossed cover. You don't find books like that today. But it's more than just a pretty cover, it's what's inside. And I'm not talking about old recipes.

I'm not sure where I came across this book. Maybe an old bookstore, but the embossed cover had me. It was published in 1932, the heart of the Great Depression. 

It's filled with frugal recipes that stretch a little meat a loooong way, like this recipe for Chicken Corn-Meal Soup: 6 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of diced chicken, some onion and diced potato and 1/4 cup of corn meal. Hmm. I guess the corn meal thickens the soup and makes it feel more substantial. 

There are more recipes that sometimes leave me scratching my head. Grape Nut Omelet!

Different. Maybe GrapeNuts add an extra crunch. Or fiber?!? 

While I could browse these old recipes for hours, it's the other little treasures archived inside old cookbooks that I like to discover. 

In this cookbook there were a bunch of treasures. Old handwritten recipes written in the back of the book: Mrs. Schnader's Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake looks worth trying.

Pieces of memorabilia like this 1969 dog sled scene from the Los Angeles Times Travel section. It makes me wonder why it was saved. Was the the lady of house dreaming of travel or was it just something that caught her eye?

The most interesting piece of treasure was a letter  folded inside the book that gives a little insight into the original owner and proof that things never change. Even in 1933, divorce, movie ambitions and family dysfunction prevailed.

I hope there's no dysfunction in your life and all it beautiful on this lovely day. 

Till later, 


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Snow Day Take 2

Yes, it does snow in Southern California.

At least at 3,600 feet. 

And this isn't even last night's snow. It's the last snow, just a week or so ago. While we do get snow here, it's at most once or twice for the whole winter season. Not twice within 10 days! 

And it's not melting off as usual either. So cold! I'm hunkered around the woodstove trying to get some work done.

Hope you're all keeping warm!


Monday, February 18, 2013

Frugal Monday Menu - Poached Eggs in Sauce

Being self-employed again means money is tight (not that it wasn't before). So where to start tightening? Food is a good place to start. I'm searching my recipe box and the Internet for recipes that are frugal and good.

Eggs are my go-to cheap staple. I'm always looking for a new ways to use them. I found this recipe -- poached eggs in sauce -- a few years ago and it's turned out to be a great find. It's hardy, delicious and oh so cheap!

It's also easy. I love that combo.

There's not much to it. I could never master poaching eggs in the sauce, so I did it the easy way. First, I warmed a can of sauce in the microwave (in this case a can of Hunt's) and added some sauce into each bowl (I'm also not much into measuring). I poached six eggs in a pan of water and used a slotted spoon to drain the eggs and add to the bowls. I sprinkled with shredded Parmesan cheese. With the addition of a tube of biscuits (on sale at Walmart) and a green salad, dinner was served.

Everyone was on their own for dessert, which around here is usually fruit or cookies.

In all, I probably spent $5 on dinner. It's served me and my two big guys. Later, the son came back and grabbed the rest of the biscuits and sauce (his dessert). It's the kind of recipe that can be expanded with the addition of a few more eggs.

Do you have some interesting ways to use eggs? I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time to Fly!

I'm officially unemployed again! I probably should be upset, but I'm not!

No, instead I'm ready to soar!

It was fun and in another life it would have be a dream job, but my six months at the Mouse Factory was just a job. Now it's time to get back to my real life! Yayyy!!

The little guy in the pic is a symbol of how I feel. Isn't he cute? He a solar-powered flying pig. He doesn't really fly, but his wings do flap when he's put in a lighted location. And the brighter the location, the faster his wings flap!

My oldest son gave him to me at Christmas to join my flying pig collection. He's been sitting on the coffee station for a while and this morning as I was photographing him, I started to wonder.... "where is my flying pig collection?"

Moving, rearranging and working has taken it's toll on my poor little collection, but I did find a few of them.

Some were hanging out in chest in the living room. (Hi guys! Sorry I haven't talked to you in a while!)

And another was tucked in a corner on a craft shelf!

But where are the others? Well, that's anyone's guess.I think it's time to find them all and gather them in one location again.

While I'm doing that, hope you're having a wonderful Sunday and are ready to soar, too!

Till later...

Linking to: 

Sunny Simple Life: Sunny Simple Sunday
Mockingbird Hill Cottage: A Favorite Thing

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Pretty Little Pot

The countdown continues. 10 more working days at the Mouse Factory. Then it's home and unemployed... but I'm looking forward to it.

While the drive is horrendous, I do like that I'm only two exits away from Ikea. I've run over there whenever I can. Last Thursday was one of those days. I like browsing there for the ideas. Once and while I come across something I can't resist... and if it fits my budget, it comes home with me, like this pretty little pot.

It's sort of a shabby chic and appeals to my girl side. It's a metal pot with rose decals inside a metal basket. I do think it needs to be roughed up a bit. Maybe a little sand paper, but that will have to wait for a couple of weeks.

A new pot, of course, calls for a plant flowers, so on the way home Friday, I stopped at Walmart. Not a lot to choose from, but this sweet pink Cyclamen will do just fine. It's green and it's growing.

Now I just have a find a new home for it. The kitchen counter just won't do.

Hope you're all enjoying this lovely Sunday afternoon.

Linking to:

Claudia's A Favorite Thing link party at Mockingbird Hill Cottage
The Sunny Simple Sunday Link Party at.. where else, Sunny Simple Life

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A Dark, But Not So Gloomy Day

While it's not as cold as it has been, it has been wet and a wee bit chilly. Of course, not nearly as cold as our friends back east. I've been hunkered down by the fire and just when the sun comes out and I think I can let the fire die, the sun's gone and it's cold in here again! UGH!

Perfect day for cowboy beans.

I'm not sure why I call it cowboy beans. Maybe because it seems like something a pioneer woman would cook up (sans the crock pot). It's just dry pinto beans, bacon, onions, garlic, red pepper (sweet) and a couple dried chilies. It's starting to smell good, though.

Maggie Mae got me out of the house today for a couple of walks.

I never walk fast enough for her. Everything is dead and dry around here with so little rain. There aren't even any little bits of green spouting. Hubby told me the rain gauge said we got 1.5 inches out of this last rain. That's the most we've gotten at one time this whole season.

It's a dry, dry year, on the heels of several. Fire season is not going to be good this year.

After our second walk, I had to get back to work and finish some Squidoo lenses. I just wrapped up the  seventh one which makes an interesting niche -- alarm clocks. Did you know there are LOTS of types of alarm clocks -- for the elderly, that project on the ceiling, old fashioned Big Ben styles and my favorites, kids clocks. There are enough different styles of clocks that I could add a few more. Maybe I will, but I'm ready to go on to something else.

I'm still on my countdown. 15 more work days and I'm off. I don't know whether to start celebrating or panic!

Oh well, life goes on! And I hope yours is going well.