This is why my loving husband should NEVER attempt to buy me a purse

This is the actual text of my side of a conversation with a friend, who had just bought a new purse.  I started browsing around, thinking that maybe I’d like a new one, too, but almost every example that I saw had SOMEthing that made it impractical, unattractive (to me), or otherwise weirded me out.  I had NO idea that I had made so very many rules to govern something as “simple” as an item to carry around and stuff receipts and loose change into, lol.

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I don’t like them to be too square
but not too rectangular
and I don’t like a flap
and I don’t like them too bright
or shiny
or have dangly crap on them
or a bunch of chain
or whimsical
any pattern at all would have to be very, very subtle
and I don’t like bows
or pastels
or crocodile-y
or ostrich-y
or fuzzy
I don’t like them to look too “hard”
like stiff
but I don’t want it all mooshy and just falls into a puddle if you set it down either
and I don’t like them to put on a bunch of zippers just for decoration
and I don’t like contrasting trim
and I don’t really like color blocking at all
and it must have at least one outside pocket
and a couple inside
but NOT too many
I don’t want it to be nylon-y
or basket-weave-y
and probably not canvas-y, either
oh, and not suede
and it needs to be flat on the bottom, so a half-moon shape would NEVER work
but it shouldn’t taper way down, so the bottom is small, but the top is really wide
and I don’t want it to look like a bolster pillow
and a clutch is out
and it shouldn’t be too big
and the strap can’t fall off my shoulder all of the time
and I don’t really like 2 handles
and I am never going to pay a big fat pile of money just for a designer label

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I wonder what else I have a million rules about!

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My Countertop Inspiration

For years, I have had a mishmash of spice jars gathering in my kitchen.  Once, I bought a bunch of jars from Ikea (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40064702/), added spices, labeled them all, and thought I was done.  I never liked the rack that they had available, though.  Since I am renting, I didn’t want to screw anything into the wall, and these jars have their downsides as well (they take up a lot more space than a vertical jar, and there is no shaker lid).  I also had to keep them in a drawer, which meant I was looking down at the unlabeled lid, requiring me to pull out a bunch of jars one at a time to get the one I wanted.

My next thought was to get a bunch of round canisters, which would affix magnetically to the refrigerator.  Ikea even sells those, too (LOVE Ikea, btw) (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/80102919/).  These didn’t seem like they would hold that much spice, though, and again I couldn’t use them as a shaker.  I also read some online reviews that said that after awhile, the canisters containing very finely ground spices (like cinnamon or ground sage) could become stuck.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I have spent HOURS over the last few years researching different “spice containment units”.  I just wanted to love whatever I used, and to have it be super functional and simultaneously something that I would be proud to have on my countertop.

And… <drumroll> here it is!  

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I LOVE my spices now.  I am using them so much more now that I can see (nearly) all of them.  I feel so much more creative when I can scan them, easily remove a couple, add a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, and then put them right back so I can find them AGAIN (revolutionary concept, I know).

On a cute note, my ds8 has started to play a little game where he takes out several spices, pulls the lid off of each, and then holds them up together to smell them, to see how they “blend” together.  I love how his mind is starting to open to new flavors and foods!

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Spinach Pie

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Due to a husband who brought home TWO 2lb bags of greens (collard and turnip) I was looking for a different way to use up some fresh spinach. This turned out pretty well, and the nutritional information isn’t too shabby, either.

Spinach Pie

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp salt, divided
2 tsp minced garlic
10 oz fresh spinach, roughly chopped
3 slices of center cut bacon, cooked, drained, and chopped
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp dried dill
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
3 Tbsp finely shredded Asiago cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
black pepper
6 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup 2% milk

In large pan, sautee chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, spinach 1/2 tsp salt, and bacon, and cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until spinach is very wilted. Drain on paper towel.

Meanwhile, sift flour and baking soda together. Add dill and parsley, a few grinds of black pepper, 1/2 t salt, and cheeses. Stir in beaten eggs and milk, just until combined. Fold in spinach mixture. Pour into greased pie pan (I used a glass deep-dish pie plate). Bake for 25-30 minutes at 400 degrees, until center is set. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before cutting.

Nutritional information: (per 1/8 of pie)
157 calories, 8g carbs, 10g fat, 10g protein, 2g fiber

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Muffins

I have tested out a number of “healthy” muffin recipes over the years, and the vast majority have turned out to be either tasteless, gummy in texture, or reminiscent of hockey pucks.  BLAH!  This is a recipe that I cobbled together from several other recipes, and I’m honestly not sure where I even saw them (so sorry not to give credit).  They rose just fine, and had a good (but not overly sweet) flavor, and a decent crumb.  I plan to make several batches of the dry ingredients, so I can just grab the wet stuff and mix it in.  Variations could include apple cranberry, apricot ginger, or date nut.  Nutritional info is for the recipe as written.

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Whole Wheat Blueberry Banana Muffins, serves 12

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (I use TJ’s brand)

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk (I keep Saco-brand buttermilk powder in the fridge for things like this, pancakes, or coleslaw)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 Tbsp vanilla

1 1/2 large or 2 medium bananas, mashed

1 cup blueberries (I used frozen)

 

Mix together all dry ingredients.  In separate bowl, beat together egg, oil, and vanilla.  Add buttermilk and mashed banana, and mix well.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and stir just until combined.  Gently fold in blueberries.  Fill lightly greased muffin tins and bake 18-20 minutes at 350 degrees.

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My best meatloaf ever!

Don’t you just love it when you try something new, and it turns out GREAT? I sure do! Even better? When it’s the healthiest version that I’ve ever made at the same time!

So, like many people, I have been focusing on better eating/more activity since the 1st of the year (more on that later). One of my big focuses is to find recipes that are healthy and so yummy that we wouldn’t dare feel deprived while eating them. I want to fill our table with food that we would be happy to eat forever, not that we are willing to eat as a temporary sacrifice. HUGELY different mindset. It’s definitely going to take a lot of work and experimentation though, but I’ll share my successes (and some of my failures) with you, so you don’t have to start from scratch yourselves. :) Yeah, I’m a giver. ;)

My family LOVES meatloaf. Every single time I ask my husband’s input on what to make for upcoming dinners, he will answer meatloaf as his first choice. It can be REALLY high in fat and calories though, so I wanted to find a recipe which we could work into our lives, and still feel good about it. I have tried turkey meatloaf before, and was really disappointed. It was bland, and had a weird texture. Definitely not the one for us. I ran across a recipe on http://www.eatingwell.com where they used beer to caramelize onions in their meatloaf in order to add flavor and moisture. Genius! This meatloaf makes 8 hearty servings (I see some cut into 12 pieces, but I think that’s too skimpy.) Here’s my take:

My Best Meatloaf
6 oz. light beer
6 oz. fat free beef broth
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, divided
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (can substitute regular crumbs, as well)
1/2 cup dry quick-cook oats
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 lb 93/7 ground beef
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
3/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground mustard

1-In sautee pan, add beer, broth, 1 Tbsp of Worcestershire, and onions. Cook over medium-high heat until the liquid is almost completely cooked down. The onions will be a deep brown color. Watch them carefully when the liquid is almost gone, and stir regularly at that point, or they may burn.

2-In small bowl, stir together all dried ingredients. In separate bowl, beat egg, egg white, and remaining 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce.

3-In large bowl, break ground beef up a bit with your hands (I always mix meatloaf with my hands. It feels gross, but I think you get a much better distribution of ingredients without overworking the meat.) In batches, add some each of onion, dried ingredients, and egg mixture, and gently work through meat until everything is combined and well-distributed (I did this in about 3 stages, so I didn’t end up with big clumps of dried ingredients that were hard to work through). Transfer to loaf pan, and cover with foil.

4-In preheated 375-degree oven, cook meatloaf for approximately 1 hour (or until thermometer reads 160 when inserted into center), uncovering after 40 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, and then pour off any liquid (I didn’t have much, and very little of it was fat). Slice into 8 servings.

Nutritional information (based on http://www.myfitnesspal.com’s recipe calculator):
242 calories, 13 g carb, 9 g fat, 26 g protein, 1 g fiber, and 347 mg sodium

P.S. Sorry no pic, but I wasn’t actually planning about blogging about it till this morning, hehe. (As you can tell, this blog has been sorely neglected for many months, lol) Next time I make one, I will edit this to add a pic!

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Nuke me up a bowl of yum, wouldya?

Why, yes. Yes, I will! :)

So, I walked into a local discount store, and they had short-dated milk for .99/gallon. GALLON! Somehow, 3 of these suckers followed me home. As I was starting to play Fridge Tetris (TM), I remembered that dh had bought a gallon already last night! So… I thought about what uses up a lot of milk. PUDDING! Sweet, smooth, creamy, and CHOCOLATEY! I hopped onto my favorite recipe sit,e , and pulled up the following bit of magic. You will get the best results from a high quality cocoa, and you might even consider throwing a pat of butter in when you add the vanilla. I didn’t, and the results were pretty darn awesome, and we didn’t even wait till it was fully cooled!

Hasty Chocolate Pudding
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions
1. In a microwave-safe bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa and cornstarch. Whisk in milk a little at a time so the mixture does not have any dry lumps.
2. Place in the microwave, and cook for 3 minutes on high. Stir, then cook at 1 minute intervals, stirring between cooking times for 2 to 4 minutes, or until shiny and thick. Stir in vanilla.
3. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming, and chill in the refrigerator. Serve cold.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/hasty-chocolate-pudding/detail.aspx

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Mmmmmmm… Spiced Pumpkin Lattes

Ok, so these aren’t TRULY truly lattes, for the uber legalistic baristas among us. They are, however, WAY cheaper than you will find if you run to a coffee shop, and not particularly difficult, either.

Spiced Pumpkin Lattes (makes about 10 cups, but you can easily halve or quarter)

4 cups milk
2 cups brewed coffee
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp powdered creamer (if you don’t want chemicals, use a couple splashes of cream)
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice

Throw it all together on stove or in microwave. If you heat on stove, stir every so often, and heat on medium-low. Don’t let it boil. If you nuke it, stop every 90 sec or so to stir and tell how long you need to heat it. You DON’T want it to boil, though.

VERY important step: After this is heated, you must strain it. Otherwise, you will NOT be impressed with the grit at the bottom of your cup, lol.

This is not as icky-sweet as a coffee shop version, but if you want it that way, add some more sugar. Tweak as you like. Add more spices, top with whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg, whatevah.

I can’t wait to make this on a truly frigid morning, after I’ve dropped kids off at school, and sitting down to do Bible study or before I start laundry or whatever. It just sounds so warm and cozy. Oh, I also think this would be really good even if you put the ingredients together and froze them so it’d be ready when you are, OR you could thaw it just a bit and throw it in the blender. Yummy!

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