Sunday, December 18, 2011

21 Fast cheap and healthy snacks for you and your kids

I'm going to start off by saying that we've always been horrible when it comes to organizing meals other than dinner. We used to have our morning coffee/tea at 9 or 10, then maybe some cereal around 11 or 12 and then stare blankly at the cupboards and fridge around 2 or 3 when we were really hungry. This usually resulted in grabbing takeout, eating too much and then not having dinner until very late at night when the lunch food coma wore off. Not to mention that you really don't feel like doing much when you're very full so a lot of lazing around was going on.

We've drastically changed our eating habits now that Alice is with us, she's tiny and needs to eat small amounts more often since she's constantly on the go and growing. Everything needs to be healthy as well to fuel her little body and brain when she's playing hard. She also doesn't like to sit in her chair for extended periods of time and gets restless and throws her food when she gets bored.

Snacking also works a lot better for me than sitting down and eating a midday meal, snacks are faster to prepare, you can eat them on the go or while you work on things around the house and they keep my blood sugar even as I'm one of those people that gets dizzy and cranky between meals.

So here's a list of some of the things we have throughout the day between meals or as a small lunch.

  1. Veggies and dip - Celery, carrots, broccoli, cherry tomatoes and cauliflower with salad dressing. Ranch dressing is our favorite, caesar is tasty as well.
  2. Sliced fruit with dip - Apples, oranges, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, mangoes, etc. Try almond butter for apples and yogurt with a bit of honey for the softer fruit.
  3. Dry cereal - Cheerios, Honeycomb, Vector, Captain Crunch, etc. Not the healthiest option but pretty tasty.
  4. Granola - An even healthier alternative to the cereal, but costs a bit more. Eat it dry or microwave some with water or soymilk for a yummy hot cereal.
  5. Yogurt and berry parfait - Vanilla yogurt + fresh berries + sprinkle of granola
  6. Popcorn - Air popped or DIY in the microwave preferably. Go easy on the butter! Give it a shake of cinnamon sugar, parmesan cheese or chili powder for a bit of a kick
  7. Toast - 12 grain bread with peanut butter or almond butter, add sliced banana or strawberries with a drizzle of honey
  8. Pita chips - These easy to make chips are great on their own or with hummus
  9. Crackers & cheese - Not the cheapest option on the list since cheese is a bit pricy but better for you than french fries
  10. Mixed Nuts - Kids love to break things. Food + safe fun is a great combo. Don't feel like cracking them open and dealing with the mess? Buy a big bag of mixed dry roasted nuts or trail mix.
  11. Dry soy beans - Super healthy and fairly inexpensive. We got a big jar from Costco that lasted over a month.
  12. Ants on a log- Celery sticks filled with peanut butter or Cheez Whiz, use raisins or dried cranberries as the "ants"
  13. Edamame and rice-We always have a bag of frozen, peeled edamame in our freezer. Fry some up in olive oil, garlic and onion, scoop them on top of your rice and give them a salt and pepper or sprinkle of parmesan
  14. Smoothies-Make these any way you like! Milk or fruit juice blended with fruit and ice, both kinds are tasty, filling and good for you.
  15. Nachos- Throw the chips topped with cheese into the oven for a couple minutes while you chop up some tomatoes and avocado to go on top. Garnish with sour cream or squeeze half a lime over the entire thing!
  16. Quesadillas- I like to make a quick version using just 1 tortilla and whatever leftover meat, cheese and veggies are in the fridge. Bake or fry.
  17. Grilled cheese with ham. We usually do this when there isn't enough deli meat left to make a sandwich, just 1 slice is enough. Grilled cheese is great with tomato soup.
  18. Mini pizzas on a bagel, tortilla or whatever bread you have handy. Toast the bread, spread with a tablespoon of pasta sauce, add some pepperoni or ham, some cheese and then pop it into the oven just until the cheese melts. "Pizza toast" is still one of my favorite snacks.
  19. Quick mac and cheese. Cook and drain a half package of pasta. Don't rinse it, just dump it back into the pot, add a teaspoon of margarine, a splash of milk and a handful of grated cheese. Put it back on the warm burner and stir until everything is combined, salt and pepper to taste.
  20. PB and jam. A classic for a reason, it's quick, filling and tasty.
  21. Sandwich rollup- Basically a sandwich made from a tortilla. PB+jam, veggie cream cheese+deli turkey, fruit cream cheese+sliced strawberries. Make it any way you like!
If you're at home, most of these should be on hand already. Planning a day out? Bring some snacks, save a LOT of cash. Don't forget to bring your own water or Iced tea.

More of a full lunch person? Combine a few of the items to make a full meal: have a fruit, veggie and cheese plate or a smoothie with your sandwich.

What kind of snacks do you rely on?

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    DIY Laundry Detergent

    I've been eagerly waiting to run out of laundry soap so that I could make my own, I found this recipe quite some time ago and it seemed to be the simplest one to make. I actually halved it though just because I only had the one container to store the soap in and it takes me a good 6 months to go through the contents of it anyway. It only took about 10 minutes total to make so that was a plus for me as well!

    Here's how you do it!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Orange Cleaner- Made From Orange Peels!

    Here's an awesome idea for a non-toxic cleaner that I got from one of my favorite blogs Penniless Parenting, her post on it is here.  check out her site, she has a ton of money saving ideas as well as recipes and other things.

    I started buying Bio-Life products, similar to Method products when I was pregnant with Alice and couldn't stand the smell of most cleaning products. Not to mention that I didn't want to subject myself to any potentially dangerous fumes while Ladybutt was still on the inside. The Method products are fairly expensive though at over $5 a bottle and still had a weird chemical smell. I rinsed out and kept the bottle when it was all gone because I intended to use it for a different cleaner recipe but still hadn't been able to find essential oils near where I live.

    The orange cleaner recipe is simple, just orange peels and vinegar. So you're actually making use of something that would normally go straight into the garbage.

    All you have to do is pack your orange peels into whatever container you would like to use and fill it up to the top with vinegar. Then let it sit for a minimum of 2 weeks, the vinegar will pull all of the orange oil out of the peels, that's the good grease-busting stuff. I just had this small container, if you use something bigger you can keep adding peels and vinegar to it until it's full.

    Here's mine after nearly 2 months of steeping, I could have topped it up with vinegar along the way but I honestly kind of forgot about it. I wasn't really in a rush to get to it anyway since I was still using up the last of my "bad" cleaning products. No use in throwing them out and wasting the money!

    Pour the liquid out into an easy to pour container such as a bowl with a spout or large measuring cup. I let mine sit for a couple minutes so it could all drain out and then squished at the peels with a spoon to try and squeeze out as much as I could.

    I ended up with just under 3/4 of a cup of concentrated cleaner. Not too bad!

    I poured it into then measured out about 1 1/2 cups of water and added that. My cleaner still seemed pretty strong and dark colored so I went ahead and topped the bottle up with more water until it seemed right to me.
    And here's the finished orange cleaner! Nearly a full bottle of it for the price of less than a cup of vinegar! It has a nice orange smell and you can't really smell the vinegar at all which is great for me because I can't stand that smell.

    So far I've only tried it out on a stinky metal diaper pail, the garbage was changed but the smell wouldn't go away. We sprayed it down and wiped it and it got rid of the smell no problem and made the metal nice and shiny. I plan on taking all of the burner plates off of my stove at some point and seeing if this will get rid of the burnt and caked on grease that was left for us by the previous tenant. Hopefully I can get to that within the next week, I'm just always using the stove so I haven't had a chance!

    Monday, November 28, 2011

    An Update

    I thought an update post would be in order since I've only been posting a recipe or DIY post once a week. I also didn't have anything ready to post last night/early this morning.

    So here's what we've been up to:

    • Our debt repayment schedule is still on track and we're looking to be debt free this spring hopefully
    • We're done getting Christmas presents and I have renamed my savings account "The House Fund". It only has $150 at the moment but it's a start. If I go back to work we should be able to have a decent downpayment in a year or so.
    • We've decided that we cannot deal with the renting situation for much longer and would like to buy a house. There is too much noise from neighboring apartments, people are smoking in our building, there was dog poo just outside the elevator for an entire day which is strange considering our lease said we weren't allowed to have a cat or dog, repairs are still not done after nearly a year and a half and our rent will be going up again in June. Why not use that money towards a mortgage payment and have something to show for it? We're just in the beginning plans of this but hope to be out of here in a year, we would have to upgrade by then to a larger space anyway
    • I'm working on updating my resume and will be out looking for a part-time job probably later this week. We need the extra income to save up for a house and I would like some adult interaction. Jon works from home and makes his own hours so he can hang out with Alice while I'm gone for a few hours a couple times a week. Alice is just now starting to eat a lot more solids and use her sippy cups, so she is finally able to go for more than 2 hours without nursing.
    • With the exception of maybe once a week Alice is asleep by 8pm and stays asleep for 3 hours. She still wakes me up a lot at night but it's slowly getting better.
    • I'm nearly consistently getting up around 8am now. Alice gets out of bed and plays until she needs her diaper changed and then she comes to wake me up, usually by putting a diaper on my face and yelling and patting at me. It's super cute. We let Jon sleep in a bit since he stays up late working most nights.
    • I haven't managed to go out jogging since the initial failed attempt from a while ago but I'm still hopeful that I can start again at some point. I would like to try to get up a bit earlier to accomplish this.
    • The basil and tomato plants have finally died off. I now have a renewable source of fresh green onions in my windowsill nearly ready to use. I have a couple of avocado pits that I'm soaking in water just to see if they will sprout. It's a fun project that doesn't cost anything and takes almost no effort.
    • We've done takeout just a couple of times and done a fair bit of shopping but nothing we feel guilty about. We don't spend a lot, we don't buy impulse items anymore, most of what we get is stuff we actually need.
    • Jon did a bunch of studio upgrading since a lot of software was on sale for very good prices, he can write everything off as work expenses on his taxes
    • I picked up a small Ikea high chair from a seller on Craigslist, it takes up about a third of the space the old one did. Now I just have to give the old one a quick cleanup and we should be able to resell it.
    • I'm doing even more decluttering. I've decided that I don't need the 3 pairs of high heels I have. There is very little chance I will wear them. They were all fairly pricey so I should be able to get a decent amount of money for them on Craigslist. I love them but I will sacrifice them for the house fund. Same goes for the couple of nice dresses I own, I only really wear dresses in the summer and then it's the same 2 or 3 sundresses.
    • Alice has a lot of toys and shoes that have been outgrown so those are all being sold as well. All of the toys that will be left are all things that she should be able to play with for the next 2 or 3 years. She also has a few Christmas presents that will replace the things that we are getting rid of. 
    • I have a lot of household projects on the go that I intend to post here on the blog, I'm going to try to post more often. I have to make laundry soap this week so that post will be coming up soon
    • Jon made me a little shelf for over my baking/sewing table. It makes it easier to quickly grab ingredients needed for dinner and baking and makes my kitchen look more organized
    • The meal plan is a bit different now. I no longer plan a month of meals in advance, I found I was constantly going out to the store to pick up more meat or special ingredients. We've been placing a meat order with the butcher, they have set orders for set prices and we've also been picking up anything canned, frozen and bulk that we need early in the month. Now we just pick up fruit, veg and dairy once a week. We still have a ton of meat left and it's nearly the end of the month so we shouldn't need another meat order until halfway through December. We're also not sticking strictly to the $250 food budget. Last week I only had $20 left which was enough for the fruit, veg and dairy for the rest of the month but we were low on cereal and it was on sale for a very good price so I took out an extra $20 and bought 3 boxes as well as tooth paste and some other items.
    I think that's about it for what's been going on around here, we plan on having Christmas at home by ourselves this year so I have to think of a menu for that.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    22 Great Meat-Free Meals (Dinner)

    Meat is expensive so we try to do a meat-free meal for dinner once a week. We do this a lot more often in the summer when it's hot, we want to eat lighter and I don't want to use the oven or even the stove for extended periods of time. We usually go back to big, hearty, meaty meals once the cooler weather rolls around but this year we're trying to stick with a meat free day once or sometimes even twice a week. We're not fond of tofu or any other meat substitute products so we've incorporated a lot more beans into our diet to meet our iron and protein needs.

    So in no particular seasonal order here's our list of  things we've had for dinner so far!

    1. Macaroni and cheese (make your own cheese sauce)
    2. Pasta with Tomato Cream Sauce (or any sauce, Red Pepper, Alfredo, etc)
    3. Veggie Stirfry
    4. Bean and Cheese Burritos
    5. Minestrone Soup and biscuits
    6. Homemade pizza (try basil, tomatoes and mozzarella)
    7. Risotto
    8. Cheese, cracker and veggie and dip platter
    9. A big salad and breadsticks
    10. Pasta or potato salad
    11. Nachos
    12. Loaded baked potato
    13. Layered bean dip and tortilla chips
    14. Bruschetta or olive cheese bread with butter parmesan linguine
    15. Mexican rice (black beans, corn, tomatoes,cheese)
    16. Bean chili
    17. Grilled cheese and tomato soup
    18. Spring rolls and a side of steamed veggies and rice
    19. Lasagna
    20. Cauliflower cheese soup
    21. Bean, corn, green onion and tomato quesadillas
    22. Pierogies fried with green onions and served with sour cream
    That's all that I could think of for now, feel free to suggest other veggie meals for us to add to our rotation!

    Monday, November 14, 2011

    Make Your Own Makeup Remover

    So the day has come that I've finally run out of makeup remover. My Walmart brand bottle has lasted me over a year especially since I don't even wear makeup every day anymore. I've already used up the cash I set aside every month for fun/other spending so buying a bottle would have to come out of the grocery money and I didn't really want to do that. So I checked out the DIY section on Pinterest and found a link to  this "recipe" that uses things I already have at home.

    Here's what you need:

    • 1 cup water (I used the cold Brita water)
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons baby shampoo
    • 1/8 teaspoon olive oil
    That's it! Just mix everything together and you're done. This made enough to fill my entire bottle as well as a baby cube, I didn't have any tiny jars around to store the rest.

    This worked really well, it got all of my mascara off pretty easily. And I wear A LOT of eye makeup!

    I realize that not everyone has baby shampoo around but you can get a teeny sample bottle from most pharmacies for just $1 or from the dollar store and each bottle has enough to make probably 2 or 3 batches. Sure beat the $5+ that it costs to get a small bottle of store-brand makeup remover.

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Freebies arrived!!!

    We got all of this stuff in the mail late last week.

    The P+G Brandsaver sample pack mentioned previously and a Kashi bar sample which came with a coupon for a free box of bars!

    Jon, Alice and I shared the bar. Jon didn't like it but I thought it was pretty good, comparable to Nutrigrain bars. I'll probably use the coupon to get the same flavor (blackberry). It will be a good snack to keep in the stroller that Alice and I can share after baby time at the library when we get home a bit late for lunch or when we're out getting groceries.

    I also had enough Swagbucks to get a $25 PayPal giftcard which I used to order one of Jon's Christmas presents from Etsy. My points are nearly high enough to order another card soon. I'll probably use it on Etsy as well.

    I also cashed in my Huggies points to order a $15 Starbucks gift card. I rarely ever buy Huggies anymore since they never send out coupons, have very little points per package, I find the diapers stiff feeling and leaky and they rarely go on sale for a decent price. So I definitely wasn't going to be adding any more points to my account and was just waiting for a reward to be posted that would use up my meager 375 points.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Pizza Dough Breadsticks

    So a while ago we somehow ended up with absolutely nothing that we could have for lunch. We were busy working and cleaning and hadn't planned on doing groceries until the next day. We did have food but it consisted of mostly frozen meat, cereal and a couple of apples. There was no cheese, bread, deli meat or pasta. No potatoes for a quick batch of fries. What we did have was baking supplies, a bit of butter, garlic, a teeny bit of Italian seasoning and about a tablespoon of Parmesan stuck to the bottom of the tub.

    We were pretty hungry (and also busy) so I didn't take any photos of the process and as you can see we already ate a bunch of what was there on the pan! These were easy to make, not much work at all, just a bit of waiting so we had some apples with almond butter while we waited and cleaned.
    Just start by mixing up a batch of pizza dough. No need to let it sit and rise before you work with it this time though. I did mine 2 different ways. Jon wanted breadsticks and I wanted garlic bread so I cut the dough into 2 pieces, I half I flattened into a pie plate, the other half I rolled into sticks. Then I covered them with a clean tea towel and let them sit to rise for about 45 minutes or so.
    When the time was up I turned my oven on to 400 and made my garlic butter. I just finely chopped a large garlic clove and microwaved it in about 2 tablespoons of butter. I brushed a bit over the breadsticks and then cut some grooves into the loaf of garlic bread and poured the rest over the top. Then everything got a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, Parmesan and sea salt. I popped them into the oven for about 20 minutes, the garlic bread needed an additional 5 due to the thickness.

    These were sooo good even though we didn't have anything to use for a dipping sauce. We ate all of the garlic bread right away since it was so moist and garlicky, the breadsticks went with chili that we had for dinner.

    I can't wait to try making these again, I'll probably just use a half batch of dough to do the garlic bread and add some cheddar on top to make garlic cheese bread.

    Free Coffee at McDonald's in Canada Oct.31-Nov.6

    Free small coffee all this week from McDonalds! 

    No purchase or coupon necessary,  just go up and ask for a small coffee however you happen to take it.

    We'll probably go every day this week since we have a McD's just a block away instead of making coffee at home in the afternoon, it will also be a nice treat when we go to pick up groceries tomorrow. Their coffee is surprisingly decent and you can't beat free!

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

    Lady LaLa (Alice) just turned a year old. Of course I made her a cake, I wasn't about to go out and buy her something from the store. I find that store bought cakes tend to have a way too sweet, greasy feeling frosting that seems like it's made with lard instead of real butter and usually only come in 2 flavors: white or brown. Not to mention the preservatives and whatnot they may contain, not something I want to give to a one year old. I could have made her a cake from a box but I wanted something with real veggies in it.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    Baked Mac and Cheese

    Baked mac and cheese is something we have for dinner fairly often, it's quick, easy, filling and an ultimate comfort food. It's also a pretty cheap meal. You can add leftover ham, bacon or veggies to it and it makes enough for leftovers for lunch the next day.

    Here's what you need:

    • 2 cups of milk
    • 1 cup of grated cheese (whatever kind you like, I usually use cheddar)
    • 1 bag of pasta (my bag is 500g)
    • about a quarter of a regular sized onion (or half of a small onion)
    • 1 large clove of garlic
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • a handful of crackers, whatever kind you like ( I stole some of Alice's Goldfish crackers), you can also use breadcrumbs 
    • salt and pepper 
    • 1 tablespoon oil
    Start by getting the pasta on to cook, the sauce part won't take very long at all and it's easier if everything is ready at the same time.  You want the pasta a bit firm because it's going into the oven covered in sauce and it will finish cooking in there.


    Finely dice the garlic and onion and fry in the oil until golden. Just a minute on medium heat should do it.

    Onion and garlic frying up
    Pour in the milk and continue cooking on medium.  I go ahead and give it a generous salt and peppering at this point, not sure why. Most people would wait until the sauce was done but I would probably forget if I waited I guess.

    Add zee malk
    When the milk is hot and starting to bubble mix the flour with about a quarter cup of water and stir it really well. This is used to thicken the sauce and you don't want chunks of flour. Blech. I realize that most people prefer to mix flour right into butter to make a roux but I find this way easier. Plus I don't want to fry the onion and garlic in a separate pan, the less dishes the better.  I've tried adding the flour first but it sticks to the onions and makes them weird and clumpy.
    Flour and water
    Dump the flour mix into the hot milk and get stirring! You will need to whisk constantly because this stuff thickens up super fast! When it seems like it's as thick as it's going to get turn the burner off and add all but a handful of cheese.
    Creamy cheese sauce
    So at this point my camera battery dies and needs to be charged.

    Pretend you see me stirring the sauce into the drained mostly cooked pasta, pouring it into a baking dish, crumbling some crackers over the top and sprinkling the last of the cheese on. Also pretend you see the dish going into the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.

    This was the aftermath of dinner when the battery was just charged enough to get a photo. It's supposed to be 6 servings but we were pretty hungry.

    Mostly eated

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Freebies: P&G Brand Sampler Oct 2011

    A new P&G Brand Sampler promotion was launched today. Usually you can get some good stuff for filling out a short survey.

    Today we ordered Pantene shampoo, Dawn dish soap, Gain laundry detergent, Crest mouthwash, and Gilette Proglide Razor. All free!
    A sample size shampoo is like hotel-size, you can get 3-4 uses out of them usually. The razor lasts me about 4 months, I've got 2 of them in the past year already and just threw the last one out on Monday.

    Go here:

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Red Velvet Brownies with Buttercream Frosting

    I've been spending an obscene amount of time on Pinterest lately, mostly just drooling over food and bookmarking recipes. I noticed that a lot of people are apparently obsessed with red velvet things and these brownies kept popping up over and over again. I figured I would give it a try, something a bit different than the usual brownies and blondies and whatnot. It was originally with white chocolate buttercream but I substituted it with the buttercream recipe that I've always used. I don't like white chocolate so I don't have any around.

    Pardon the lack of pictures of the process, we had an early start to the day, I already had them out of the oven before I realized I should have taken pictures of what I was doing

    Here's what you need:

    For the brownies
    • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/4 cups flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    For the buttercream
    • 1/2 cup soft unsalted butter
    • 1 small bag of powdered sugar ( about 2 cups)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 tablespoons cream ( I used the 18% that we have for coffee)
    I started by making the frosting first so that I didn't have to clean my mixing bowl (and so that I could eat some while the brownies were mixing!) The frosting is the easiest part anyway. Just put everything in the mixing bowl and whisk until it's fluffy! That's it, it's done. I put mine in the fridge because I wasn't sure when I would get around to frosting the brownies.

    Preheat your oven to 350 and grease and flour a pan, a smallish one, 8x8, 6x10, whatever you have. I used my springform pan because it's easier to get stuff out of.

    Start the brownies off by mixing together the butter, sugar and vanilla until it's creamy. Then add the cocoa powder and food coloring, when that is combined beat in the egg and salt. Now you can add the flour, you're going to have to stop and scrape the sides of the bowl a couple times to make sure everything is red. Pour into your pan, my batter was pretty thick and I had to use a spatula to spread it around.

    Bake for 30-40 minutes, a toothpick or knife should come out clean when you stab the brownies. I think mine went for about 45 minutes due to baby shenanigans and were too dry and a bit too dark on the bottom. 35 minutes probably would have been perfect.

    Let the brownies cool completely before attempting to remove them from the pan, about an hour should do it. If you put the frosting in the fridge then take it out and let it sit for the hour as well and it should be ready to use. Frost, slice and serve!

    *I only used about half the frosting, the rest went into the fridge for a carrot cake that I'm making soon.

    The verdict on these brownies? Eh. Not great, I don't really see what the fuss is, is it just because they are red? I know I overcooked mine but the flavor really wasn't anything special, just very mildly chocolatey. Maybe I'm just used to more chocolate in my desserts?

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies!

    It's true, these really are the best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had. I was pretty sick of the recipe I had for chocolate chip cookies, they never turned out the same and most of the time they were all thin and spread out and weird. I Googled and this recipe kept popping up over and over again. So I made it and it was awesome and made really soft, chewy cookies.  I will use this one forever. I've even cheated and made it with margarine when butter wasn't a decent price and it was still pretty good. I recommend using real butter though, they just taste better!

    Start by preheating the oven to 325 and gathering your ingredients:

    Stuff you need

    • 2 cups flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 3/4 cup melted unsalted butter (if all you have is salted butter or margarine skip the salt in the recipe!)
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla 
    • 1 egg
    • 1egg yolk
    • an entire bag of chocolate chips (I used this bag of Caramilk thingies I had in the freezer)
    Butter, sugar, vanilla and egg
    Start by melting the butter and mixing it with the sugar and vanilla for a few minutes until it's nice and fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to the mixer. Mix until just combined ( it should look pebbley) and then add the chocolate chips and give it another quick mix. You don't want to overmix it, the dough will be tough and the cookies will be hard.

    Dry ingredients added and just barely mixed
    Your finished dough
    Chopped Frozen Tiny Caramilks

    Grab a good sized handful of dough and lightly flatten it into a "cookie patty", no need to roll it into a ball or anything.  Bake at 325 for 16-20 minutes.  Make as many as you want and freeze the rest of the patties for whenever you get a cookie craving.

    Handful of dough


    4 cookies for us to nom right away about to go in the oven

    The rest can go in the fridge or freezer

    Hot cookies!



      Monday, October 3, 2011

      Vanilla Soy Mocha

      Bleh. It's dreary and rainy and chilly and I want a mocha. Starbucks is too far away especially since it's pouring out and spending the $4+ for a tall mocha with soy and added vanilla syrup isn't really within the budget right now. I'm reserving my Starbucks treat for when they have Gingerbread again closer to Christmas.

      So I'm going to try this DIY style and hopefully it's good. I have vanilla soy, I have chocolate syrup and I have coffee concentrate normally used for iced coffee. Sadly I do not have whipped cream or chocolate shavings. Boo.

      So I'm starting by microwaving 1/3 cup coffee concentrate and 2/3 cup vanilla soy milk until it's nice and hot. I left just a bit of room for the chocolate sauce and a dab of cream. I also had to add a bit of simple syrup because I like my stuff super sweet.

      Holy crap, I just remembered we have these! Mmmmm, sprinkles!

      The verdict: Not quite Starbucks quality, maybe because I'm not normal and always get a ton of whipped cream on my drink, even if it's made with soy. That may be the problem, it just doesn't taste creamy or vanilla-ey enough, it's still quite enjoyable and better than a lot of other coffee shop drinks I've had.

      Sunday, October 2, 2011

      Jon's Goals For October

      In October, I'm going to experiment with adding 2x20min naps and getting up a little earlier, instead of fighting Alice's natural wake up time. I re-read the section on sleep in The 4-Hour Body a couple days ago and the concept of polyphasic sleep appeals to me. I often want to work on projects at night but I'm too fatigued or lose attention too quickly to use my time effectively.

      I plan to finish a few of the books I have started by committing an hour or more to reading each day, likely first thing in the morning or when I'm bored during the day instead of watching videos.

      I plan to reduce non-work related, non-research related video watching to just 2 hours each day. This means I won't be taking full advantage to my Netflix trial I have going now but I'm not going to miss anything.

      I'm going to track my wasteful internet time using RescueTimer for Firefox. I'm going to track it for a couple weeks, which will likely result in an immediate behavior change, then I may even go as far as blocking certain sites during the day, or after X visits each day. If I only check Facebook and Twitter twice a day my life isn't going to get worse, but I'm sure to gain at least an extra hour of free time each day.

      I'm going to record and complete another sample pack to sell. For the product I have in mind it will take 5 hours to complete. I just have to get started.

      Saturday, October 1, 2011

      30DC2 - the end

      The end of the second round of our 30 day challenge ended.
      It wasn't really successful in terms of accomplishing the goals and following the rules but we did reduce our spending on groceries. Compared to a few months ago, we're eating better, spending less, earning and saving more and paying off debt.
      Overall it's good that we did this, but it wasn't as successful as the first round.

      Grocery budget = $240. Actual = $284.02 (we did have an extra adult to feed for 7 days)
      Daily exercise = hell no haha
      No takeout = pizza and several shwarmas. Only about $30, less than usual and we walked to get it.
      Indulgent purchases = 27" iMac. (it was refurbished at least!)

      We both feel like we didn't get much accomplished, even if we did. Our energy levels have been low from crappy sleep for the last two weeks. During the day we can't focus on any chore or project without constant harassment from Alice and when she actually sleeps we can't do anything because we have to be quiet.
      That tiny jerk.

      Thursday, September 29, 2011

      Chocolate Syrup

       Chocolate syrup isn't something that we usually buy since it runs upwards of $4 a bottle even when on sale. We bought a bottle of Carriage Trade (knock-off brand, their tea tastes just like Tetley) syrup for $3.49 at the beginning of the summer and just recently finished it off. I fully intended to buy another but wasn't able to find it again, either the store was out or they don't carry it anymore. I really like to have iced mochas in the afternoon when I start to run out of energy and I found this super easy recipe online so I decided to give it a try while I was waiting for some bread to bake.

      The recipe I found called it Almost Hershey's Syrup and used Hershey's cocoa powder but it's far more expensive than the Trophy brand cocoa powder that I have always bought, about $6.99 versus the $4ish I normally get mine for.

      Here's what you need:
      • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
      • 1 cup white sugar
      • 1 cup water
      • dash of salt
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla
      Whisk everything together in a pot over medium heat, let it get to a boil for just a minute to make sure all of the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into whatever container you want to use (I reused the chocolate syrup bottle and it ended up filling it more than halfway) and store in the fridge. Use however you like!

      This ended up being quite a bit thinner than syrup you would buy but that just made it way easier to mix into milk!