April 29, 2016

Spinach Dip Melts

Spinach and Artichoke Dip. Such a favorite for me when I want a naughty appetizer. Slather it up on some bread grilled cheese style and it is pretty much one of the best things ever. My husband doesn't like artichokes all that much (I know...I don't know...) So I make it with just spinach. I never seem to make enough for leftovers if that tells you anything about this gooey, goodness of a sandwich.

This is a staple in my weeknight rotation for a quick and easy meal. I can't believe I haven't shared it yet! Since I do a lower carb style diet, I like to slather this on a burger. So GOOD!



Ingredients:

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup of milk
4 ounce of cream cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 cup of frozen spinach, thawed
slices of bread (I prefer potato, white, or sourdough)
butter or canola spray for bread


Directions:

Melt butter in a skillet and then add garlic and flour until you make a paste. Pour in milk and cook for a couple of minutes. If it gets too thick, add more milk.

Add cream cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan, and pepper. Stir in cheese until melted. Add spinach and stir to combine. This dip will be really thick!

Butter or spray the sides of a bread slice in a big skillet and add thick dip onto bread and sandwich together. Flip to the other side once bread is golden brown.


There usually aren't many leftovers from this. It serves 3-4 depending on how greedy you are with your serving size. I am very much on the greedy end!

Enjoy! 

April 27, 2016

Being Frugal

For some reason, there is a myth that living a frugal life means you are living a boring life. I have even had family get on my case about not buying things. I don't care. My life is frugal, but anything but boring.

I truly believe that being frugal makes me wealthier in other aspects of life. If you want to live a fun, frugal life then read on! I have some reasons you should be...


I was financially free at 21.
Seeking financial freedom is something that many are aiming for by living frugally. Being frugal means you are most likely honest with yourself about how much money you earn, how much you spend, and how much you need in order to survive.

I have no debt.
Except my house, but I also bought a house under my budget. Having a home is very important to me, so I am okay having some debt there. But besides that, no one actually wants debt, right? By choosing to live the frugal life, you may be able to avoid debt much more than the average person. By avoiding debt, you will have less stress due to the fact that you won’t be worried about the next bill you have to pay and the amount of interest that is building up. You will also be more likely to retire earlier, buy the things that you actually do want to buy, and more.

I will have a great retirement.
Like I mentioned above, less debt helps retirement. I am able to put money into retirement. They payout will be worth it in the end by living frugally now. 

I make smarter choices.
By living a frugal life, I make smarter choices with what I have, am buying, and use quality items that will last. 

I have fun,
Anyone who thinks you can’t have fun while being frugal is crazy. You don’t need to spend a ton of money or be rich in order to enjoy life. I go on vacations, I have a beautiful home and one day will buy my dream home, I have a family, I spend time with friends and family, and more. 


Are you interested in frugal living? Why or why not? 
What questions do you have on how to live frugally?

April 25, 2016

Banana Nut Muffins

I like cooking more than I like baking. I like the creativity of cooking. The problem with baking is that you need to use exact measurements. Unlike when I cook, I kind of just pinch a little of this here and toss a lot of that there. But with baking you have to be careful and make sure you’re using the right ratio.

These banana muffins are Kevin’s favorite, so when he asked me to make him some I was ecstatic...happy to do so. Well, I made the muffins and Kevin started it off by eating 5 and oops, I cheated by eating one! The best thing about these muffins is it is just the easiest recipe. Not a lot of measurements, just throw everything in a bowl and go!

They are so good, but not as healthy as Lauren needs, so when I make them, I often make my healthy banana muffins



Ingredients:

1 box of yellow cake mix
1 package of banana creme instant pudding (jello)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of oil
2 ripe, mashed bananas
4 eggs
1 cup of pecans

Directions:


Mix all ingredients together. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. If you want to do a loaf of this as banana bread, bake for 45 minutes.

Do you have a favorite muffin?
Happy Baking, my friends!

April 22, 2016

Cheesy Tortellini Soup

Recently my freezer and I have been having a love hate relationship. I love that it collects things for me to make some damn awesome, easy recipes, but it is entirely too small! Donate here to fund Lauren's new appliances! (I kid, I kid...) I know I say often that a recipe is easy, but this is so easy I would instruct Kevin to make it for me when I was out of commission with my ACL tear. Kevin will make it for me sometimes on days I work too when I just need a little bit of easy, comfort food to end the day. This Cheesy Tortellini Soup is just that!

It is one of those meals that takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish and it is exactly what you need at the end of a crazy day!


Ingredients:

1 bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup of frozen peas, thawed OR chopped spinach (we alternate)
2 small chicken breasts
1 (14 oz) can of chicken broth
2 (10.5 oz) cans of cream of chicken soup
2 cups of milk
1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
dash of lemon juice

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add frozen peas (or spinach) to boiling water until cooked. Remove and set aside and cook tortellini according to package, drain, and set aside. Slice chicken into chunks, cook in boiling water, drain, and set aside.

Add chicken broth, cream of chicken soup, milk, and thyme into medium stock pot and mix. Season with salt and pepper.

Then add shredded cheese and stir until combined. Cook for 7-10 minutes. Fold in peas/spinach, tortellini, and chicken.

Serve hot!

April 20, 2016

Spinach Ricotta Chicken

I am the first to admit that I am not the ideal blogger for a lot of reasons. I see people attend workshops, grow and gain followers (but only authentic followers), craft the BEST content every single day, etc...

This post isn't a dig at all you incredible bloggers. Please don't misunderstand me. Trust me, I love you, admire you and inspire to be you. This is me releasing my insecurities as a blogger and an adult by putting them into words. This is a challenge to myself. I know if I want to really make it.

I am embracing the fact that I will grow at a different rate than others. Some days, I feel like I'm a very very teeny fish attempting to keep up with all the big-blogger fish in the ocean.

I was talking to my good friend Alli. She will always be honest with me for the best and I love that. She knows that my food and recipes are great. But what is not great? My pictures. I keep going back and forth and overall know they need to change. I mean lets face it, we eat with our eyes first. But to me, not all food we cook at home is perfect presentation and looks pretty. I am an every girls girl. Life is busy and we need simple and yummy recipes. That is what I have. It just isn't always Pinterest worthy in terms of looks.

So all and all, if you have made it to this point in my long-winded discussion, this picture of Spinach Ricotta Chicken isn't the prettiest, but this is such an easy, yummy recipe and you should try it!

This is creamy, low carb, full of lean protein, and nutrient filled with the spinach. And absolutely husband approved!




Ingredients:


4 ounces of frozen spinach
10 ounces of ricotta cheese
2 chicken breasts
cheddar cheese to taste
pepper to taste
chili powder to taste

Directions:


Wilt spinach in a pan then add ricotta till warm and mixed.

Slice two chicken breasts in half and stuff spinach ricotta mixture in between. Top with cheddar cheese, pepper, and chili powder.

Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

April 18, 2016

Hometown

I spent the weekend in my hometown. For all of my life I was fortunate to call the same place home. It was in the middle of no where next to a small town filled with a good number of people. My hometown housed many memories. It was a long time of memories. These memories lasted until I graduated college.

After a while of living in the same town, I wanted so badly to get out and find a new place to create memories .

Growing up in New Mexico, I never had a true appreciation for the state. I thought it was too hot, too boring, and too ugly. But recently I've come to realize that New Mexico is truly an amazing state, and Las Cruces was a nice place to live. You only get that wake up call when you move away.


My hometown then became the past.

I truly believe that being away from our hometown for awhile makes us appreciate it all that much more. We seem to stray away from the negative connotations we've previously given our hometown, and begin to see it in an entirely different light. We find ourselves oddly missing that the bad drivers, the same old restaurants you have always gone to, or even just the sense of warmth and belonging that we always took for granted.

Going back you realize that you have graduated college and are now in the real world, where we can no longer wear sweatpants and oversized shirts or ever use the phrase "Help me, I'm poor" to your parents and friends.

I find myself feeling old when I am back as I see new people on the college campus and around town that seem really young. I can not believe that we were once that young at this same place. No, we couldn't have been.

More then often I find myself in bed by 11 on a Friday night and during high school I would have been ashamed (and probably would have been better rested). 

I never realized how incredibly lucky I was to have my family and all the agriculture until I was far away from all of that.

Our hometown is most likely the same place it has always been, but we appreciate and experience it in an entirely new way.

This past weekend, I visited my hometown and it was great being back. I got to see my youngest sister who was just accepted into the same bachelor of nursing program I went though. I am just a proud sister for her! My middle sister is getting ready to spread her wings and I am happy for her. I also managed to forget my phone charger (and it is the new type C charger that no one has) so I went the whole weekend without my cell phone. Now I am plugged back into the real world!


Full of a happy, hometown weekend!
What lessons did you learn moving away from your hometown?

April 15, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I couldn't tell you what the first thing I learned to cook was. I honestly should owe any of my blog recipes to my dad. I learned by watching him. His cooking style was creative and resourceful. No measuring and use what you have. He hunted, fished, and made many yummy dinners for our family. There were never any runs to the grocery store to get something for a recipe (granted, it was 30 minutes from our house). He used what he had. Sure, there were some failed meals, but there were also some of my best meals.

My husband likes recipes. He likes things measured out, he likes to have a recipe. I told him he would make a better baker. Sometimes he gets nervous with my style of cooking that I have learned from my dad. Furthermore, I do not consider myself a baker. During the years in which one young girl would learn to cook, my mom and dad were very busy with my sister's diagnosis of cancer. Very understandable. But have vivid memories of making cookies with my mom and we did that all the way into high school when I was on swim team. I loved every minute of it.



I am not going to pretend I reinvented the chocolate chip wheel. That would be wildly inaccurate and unnecessary.

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter, softened
3/4 granulated sugar
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 (12 ounce) bag of semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Combine butter, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat until creamy. While beating, add one egg at a time to mixture until combined. Add baking soda and salt.

Then gradually flour. Occasionally depending on texture, you may need 1/4 cup more of flour.

Fold in chocolate chips. Then form into balls onto cookie sheets. Bake for 9 minutes and place on wire rack to cool.

Adapted from Nestle Toll House


Who is going to go see her family this weekend? This girl!
And yep! It has been too long. So excited!
Have a great weekend everyone!

What was the first thing you learned to bake/cook?

April 13, 2016

How to Fend Against an Unplanned Cheat Day

You come home from a long day of work. You are tired and hungry. This is any dieters worst nightmare. You don't want to cook and you can't find anything to make anyway, so you just think, well...I'll cheat today. Those are fine, but often lead down a rabbit's hole of more cheating. Here are ways to combat cheating.


Keep something easy in the fridge.
If you have a day off, make a couple of lunches and snacks ahead of time and package them up so you can grab them. Even a salad (with no dressing of course so that it doesn't get soggy) will make you less likely to grab something else.

Look for something within your diet at a fast food restaurant. 
I am doing low carb right now and many places have great options for me to pick up and eat! When you really don't feel like cooking and are hangry...this can be the best option.

Know your weaknesses.
Mine is dessert. I do low carb, but I don't completely restrict myself, so I keep something on hand to help me get my fix, but not enough to go completely crazy.

Do not make a cheat meal a cheat week.
Cause you know it happens. And this is the point. A cheat meal may not be the end of the world but it is easy to fall into the mindset of well I already ruined this day, week, weekend, etc...I'll pick it up when I can. For me I know that if I have a cheat meal, I can generally bounce my body back into ketosis/low carb goodness within a day or two. Therefore I don't want to cheat anymore than once because my body will regret it. A cheat meal is just that, one meal.



What do you do to help stay on a healthy eating track?

April 11, 2016

Bad Airline Passengers

My ski travel season is over! Here is till next year! When I was on my way home from Vail though, my fellow travelers were all pretty interesting. They inspired this post. These are bad airline passengers...

Chatty Cathy
The guy that sat next to us was chatty. Never mind that I was playing Ticket to Ride on my tablet and with headphones in listening to music, but this gentleman told me his life story and just over did it. Sometimes silence...is golden!

Armrest Aaron
Since I am small and often want to sit next to my husband, I sit in the middle. This is fine for me until I sit next to an armrest hog. It can be really awkward to place your arms in good positions for a full flight! I bumped a few times with my chatty guy because of it.

Impolite Issac
Not in front of me, but in front of the chatty guy was a person who put their seat back. There is not usually enough room to do it, so I don't know why people do, but my chatty guy had his table down and a drink there. It is a shock and jumble when someone does that to you. Not cool!

Pansy Parents
For some reason this flight was FULL of kids. I told my husband that I think kids pretty much outnumbered adults on that flight. I had never seen that before. Of course, they kick your seat, but they aren't the bad airline passengers, it is the parents who don't say anything or do anything about it! Come on!

Baggage Billy
I carry on stuff just like the next person, but I don't get people who can't figure how to place their overhead baggage the correct way in the bulkhead without taking a million miles of space. I get not everyone is short like me, but if you are bringing 2 carry-ons and space is tight...put it at your feet.

Sick Sally
I do not put up well at all with sick people on flights. It makes me anxious being in such a small space being someone who needs to stay healthy. Cover your coughs and sneezes and do it correctly...into the crook of your arm!

Pushy Peter
Oh and people that are just so rude and impatient always get me. We are all getting on the plane and we will all get off the plane. Now if someone had an emergency or super close connection due to a delay, that is fine, but don't push in front of people, go with the flow!

Aromatic Ally
Let's talk about eating. I get it, peanuts aren't always enough, but tuna, curry, or something strong doesn't help the already stuffy area we are all in.

Footsie Francine
On my way to Vail I sat next to a girl who did one of my biggest pet peeves...she took off her shoes! My mom had always told me that people seem to take care of their feet last. She would say, look to people's feet to see how they truly take care of themselves. Well my friends, her feet were...

Okay my mom also taught me that if you don't have anything nice to say, do not say anything at all. So I will leave this alone, but even if you have perfect feet, that is a pretty public place to be putting my bare feet down on...especially after your feet have traveled, gone through security, and walked through the airport. Just...no!

Flirty Fred
Now I will leave you one bonus passenger. I have only encountered this passenger once. My sister and I were on our way back from visiting family in Ohio. My sister is 6 1/2 years younger than me. I was about 18 years old when this happened, we were upgraded to first class. We sat next to this gentleman who started a conversation with me by asking what I do and if (my sister) was my daughter. He honestly was hitting on me and would not stop. I was just so shocked...just no dude, no!



Who are some of your least favorite airline passengers?
Has anyone met any of these people?

April 8, 2016

How-to Shellac At Home

So this Christmas I finally did it! I got all my own stuff to do my own Shellac nails at home. I love shellac but don't like paying for it. Shellac finally gives this nurse who washes her hands ALL THE TIME a way to have less chipped nail polish.

Want to do your own shellac at home? Here is what you will need.

LED Light:
So I did go between LED and UV. LED is becoming the way to go. I got this one here.

Shellac Base and Top Coat:
I purchased this one because I like the brush, it has less globbing than other brands and when you apply all coats, you want thin layers!

Shellac Nail Colors:
I buy all sorts of brands based on the colors I like. Oh and you can use non-shellac nail colors and even glitter. (See Below)

Rubbing Alcohol and Typical Mani tools
The usual suspects!

How to Shellac:
1. Shape and prep clean nails as you normally would (ie. file, push back cuticles, etc...)
2. Soak a cotton pad with rubbing alcohol and cleanse each nail.
3. Paint each nail with a thin coat of Shellac Base and let dry under LED light for 1 minute (there are settings on most lamps, one setting is fine)
4. Paint each nail with Shellac color and let dry under LED light for 2 minutes. Side note, make sure you are detailed, if you get any on your skin or cuticles it can hurt and peel off more easily once completed. 
5. If needed repeat step 4. If not, apply Shellac top coat and let it dry under LED light for 2-3 minutes.
6. Use alcohol soaked pad to get off tacky top layer after top coat and ta-da!



How to Use Regular Nail Polish Colors:
Follow steps 1-
Paint each nail with the shellac top coat and let it dry for 2 minutes under LED light. Use alcohol soaked pad to get off tacky top layer.
Paint each nail with non shellac nail color and let it dry completely.
Once fully dried, paint each nail with shellac top coat and let dry under LED light for 2 minutes.
Rub each nail with alcohol soaked pad to get off tacky top layer and there you go!



How to Glitter Nails:
Follow steps 1-
Paint each nail with shellac top coat ad sprinkle fine glitter over (Martha Stewart makes a good, fine glitter) and put in LED light for 2 minutes.
Paint each nail with another top coat and put in LED for 2 minutes.
Rub each nail with alcohol soaked pad to get off tacky top layer and you are done!



Now I am not a nail expert so if anyone is, feel free to chime in with any tips or tricks.
I just know this works for my nails and budget.

What are some of your favorite nail colors?
Do you do your own shellac/gel nails at home?

April 6, 2016

Balsamic Honey Chicken Skewers

This recipe is flexible because you can use this as a skewer like I did, you could shred it and put it over a crostini, over a salad, or just plain! You can call it an appetizer or a main course. The opportunities are there! This is a great recipe for me to make on weeknights because I can marinate it and leave it for my husband to grill for me.

There are a few simple things in life that give me great great joy. Getting an extra 5 minute massage while getting a pedicure, freshly washed sheets, having someone else clean up the kitchen after I make a giant mess, watching Harry Potter over and over and over again, and flexible, yummy, easy recipes. Oh and having my man grill for me! love it. It is the little things in life that really make the world a better place and thankfully this chicken does just that.



Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon of honey
1 teaspoon of rosemary
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
pinch of course salt
2 tablespoons of honey (for glazing)

Directions:

Chop chicken into cubes. In a bowl, mix together balsamic vinegar, honey, rosemary, garlic powder, and salt. Place chicken into bowl, cover and let marinate in the fridge for an hour or two.

A half hour before you take out the chicken, soak skewers in water.

Fire up the grill and cook for 3-5 minutes on each side. Glaze with honey and continue turning until chicken is cooked through.

Serve and enjoy! Drizzle a bit more honey on your skewer if you would like!

April 4, 2016

I am Busy Doing Everything and Nothing

Do you ever feel like you are doing everything and nothing, all at the same time? I feel like I have done a lot, but when I try to remember what it all was, I draw a blank. I mean sure, there were a couple of vacations and road trips. But other than that I guess it has just been lots of little things. 
So what has been happening?

Already missing ski season!

I started watching Recipe for Deception on Bravo and that really has cut into my productive time. Since I don't have cable I have ventured into Roku, Tablo, and Plex for my TV needs and boy are they awesome! It has also had me venture into Fixer Upper and YouTube videos of James Corden (that dude is funny!)

I unfortunately had to work Easter. I had really wished to go see my family and do church and dinner, but you know...life! I hope to see them soon!

I got a much needed hair cut. My hair started shedding more than any long haired dog I know and started becoming more and more dry. Ugh it was gross. So now I am using more conditioner and washing my hair in colder water. At least it looks and feels better!

I am reading lots of blogs and writing more on mine. All this time I spend doing it though I should probably look into ways to at least make a little moola. :-/ Any tips?!

Myself and my co-workers went out to our annual Heart Walk yesterday and we all had a great time!


I finally sanded and painted my trim in my living room after we installed the hardwood floor. So what I really only waited 4 years...no big.

I also did the annual cleaning of the front yard. Glad that is done and over with!

Then I did a yard sale of all the stuff I had planned to take to donate/sell on CraigsList. Ended up making $16...better than nothing and a nice day to sit outside and blog!


I have been working out on a pretty decent schedule but am getting a little lazy when it comes to my cardio. Gotta get it!

I can't believe it is already April. In Arizona we are exactly the opposite and never want Summer to come and always wanna keep our "winter". Guess I better finish up any to-do lists outside before it is too hot and too late!


So I guess a lot of something and nothing has been going on!
What is going on with you?



April 1, 2016

Grandma's Citrus Salad

Living in Arizona, a lot of people come and "snowbird" here. This means that they come from their snowy homes and live their winter out here. My husband's grandparents snowbird here for 2 months and it is a really great having them out here.

Grandma makes a really great salad. I figure if you want a great repartee of foods you learn from family!

This is a perfect spring/summer salad. Or really anytime...especially in Southern Arizona when it never gets that cold.

Lauren's augmentation of this salad includes cutting out some of the carbs. Therefore, in your dressing and in your almonds, replace your 1/4 cup of sugar with 4 1/2 teaspoons of stevia.




Ingredients:

Salad:
Romaine lettuce
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 mandarins, chopped

Candied walnuts:
1/2 cup of sliced almonds
1/4 cup of sugar

Sweet dressing:
1/4 cup of white vinegar
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
2 teaspoons of fresh parsley
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pinch of black pepper

Directions:

In a jar (I like using a mason jar) mix together vinegar, sugar, vegetable oil, parsley, salt, and pepper. Shake well and place in the fridge until ready to serve.

In a sauce pan, cook and stir almonds and sugar until sugar is melted and the almonds are coated. Remove from heat and cool. Break apart and store at room temperature until ready to serve salad.

In a large bowl, toss together lettuce, celery and mandarins. Coat and toss in dressing and toss in almonds. Enjoy and serve!



What are some of your favorite family foods?

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