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Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Have a sunny weekend!

{this photo is what my street looks like}

Happy Friday! Anyone have lovely Easter Weekend plans? My weekend consist of cherry blossoms, spring cleaning, afternoon bike rides, reading pages from a novel on the National Mall, attending church service, hunting Easter eggs at a Sunday brunch, and soaking up as much Vitamin D as I can get. It’s my keep-busy plan for not spending Easter with my family.

This week’s spending was pretty standard for the beginning of the month, meaning there was money going in all kinds of directions! I have updated my Kitchen Inventory list. I think I’ll just cross off/add to my original list instead of creating a whole new list each week. But I have yet to spend any money this month on groceries! Scoooore.

Meals this week:
-Monday: rice & chicken
-Tuesday: stirfry & rice
-Wednesday: babysat
-Thursday: out to eat with a friend

Here are some other “Eat Your Entire Kitchen” participants. Anyone else want to participate with us in April?

Have a wonderful weekend!

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Kitchen Inventory

{photo above is not my pantry… but isn’t it pretty?}

As I mentioned in yesterday’s miscellaneous ramble, I’m not going to buy any groceries until I finish off my freezer/refrigerator/pantry. Well, I am giving myself $100 for groceries, but only if I buy something to pair with an item listed below. I spent waaaaaaaay too much on food in March, so this is my attempt to make up for it.

Originally posted 3/30/10
List updated 4/7/10
April Grocery Budget: $87.92 left

Freezer:

  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Chicken
  • Vegetable stir fry mix
  • French fries
  • Bacon
  • Fruit popsicles
  • Italian Ice
  • Turkey

Refrigerator:

  • Cacciatore sauce
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Blue cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Hummus
  • Bread
  • Eggs
  • Egg whites
  • Milk
  • Orange Juice
  • Lettuce

Pantry:

  • Peanut butter
  • Cliff bar
  • 2 cans of chicken soup
  • Can of black beans
  • Can of chili beans
  • Can of corn
  • Pop tart
  • Bag of rice
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Salsa
  • Chips
  • Baking mix
  • Oatmeal packets
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Pizza sauce
  • Wheat thins

There’s a few other little items I didn’t add like mustard, flour, dressings, etc., but that’s standard stuff I try to always have on hand. I’ll update on my meal plans and how this list stands in the weeks to come.

Anyone else want to join me in finishing off their kitchen inventory this April?

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Per request, here is the Easiest Strawberry Cake recipe:

Ingredients:
1 strawberry cake mix
1 tsp. strawberry extract
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 (3oz) box cheesecake pudding mix
16 oz sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

Directions:
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray fluted bundt pan, whisk eggs and pudding mix together. Add remaining ingredients and blend together well. Bake it 50-75 minutes, depending on when it’s finished.

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Not when you are hosting 90 people at your house!

Last week at my mom’s Celebration Party, our home was filled with sunshine, fresh flowers, old friends, and a plethora of delicious cakes. Surprisingly we had very little leftover. My visit home was so refreshing trip after two long, cold months of winter. It made me long for spring and future happy trips.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Monday! Hooray for longer days!

Update: These photos were taken from my lovely little sister, a professional photographer based in my hometown. She gave me permission to use her photos but I don’t want to credit her publicly because I’m anonymous. However, if you live in North Carolina and are interested in using her services, please email me at myprettypennies{at}hotmail.com. Thanks!

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{via Baltimore Sun}

This past Sunday was a gorgeous, so J and I took a spontaneous day trip to Annapolis, MD. We walked around the quaint little downtown and were overjoyed to find that it was Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants offered $15.99 three-course lunch menus. We went to Hell’s Point Seafood, a lovely restaurant by the water. It was there I ate the most delicious entree I’ve ever tasted: fried flounder topped with strips of ham and shrimp, served with potatoes and an artichoke heart covered with a sauce so delicious I cannot even describe it. Seriously, the flavor has been haunting me for days. We also shared yummy appetizers and desserts.

The meal set us back $55 including tip, but when we got home I discovered that our meal would have cost us around $115 had it not been Restaurant Week.

Has anyone else participated in a Restaurant Week? This was my second one I’ve been to (first in DC) and I highly recommend going if you have one in your town.

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Cooking Class!

On January 10th I went to a cooking class, given to me by Forest, the nicest blogger ever. (Read here how he bought me the class spontaneously!) I am horribly late in posting this, but I was hoping I could make a second dish to take pictures of since I forgot to on the first dish I cooked. Oh well!

The cooking class was at the Washington Club, a gorgeous building in the middle of Dupont Circle. Because the class was offered through Groupon, the room was completely full, mostly with young adults. The class was taught by Zan Dial and called “Easy and Cheap in the Kitchen,” perfect for a novice like myself.

We were given seven recipes on cards and the chef prepared three, along with cooking tips such as what pots to use for what kinds of dish, the right way to cut onions, the types of wine to use when cooking, and other helpful tips.

Here are the seven recipes we got:

  1. Pasta Primavera with Chicken
  2. Grilled Flank Steak and Red Peppers
  3. Shrimp Creole
  4. Braised Beef with Root Vegetables
  5. Penne with Vodka Tomato Sauce
  6. Beef or Chicken Kabobs with Cucumber Salad
  7. Baked Ziti

He cooked the Shrimp Creole, Baked Ziti and the Braised Beef and after each we got a little tasting. YUM. My favorite was probably the Shrimp Creole, so this is the recipe I tried to recreate at home.

Shrimp Creole
1 1/2 lbs. medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 green bell pepper, cubed
1 sweet onion, cubed
4 ribs celery, cut into bite size pieces
2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. Old Bay seafood seasoning
2 Tbsp. garlic, chopped
4 c. white rice, cooked
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. cayenne pepper

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Saute onions, peppers, bay leaves, and celery for 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, Old Bay, salt, pepper, hot sauce, and tomatoes. Boil for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Serve over rice. Serves 4-6.

My Version:
I followed the recipe exactly, except I didn’t have any bay leaves and used brown rice instead of white (healthier, but probably not Creole-approved). I also had a bag of pre-cooked frozen shrimp, so I washed the shrimp in cold water to help it defrost, then let them simmer for about a minute instead of  five. The result? Delicious. Sorry I forgot to take pictures of this!

Costs:
Class: $35 Free thanks to Forest!
Ingredients: $14
I had most of the ingredients at home, so I only had to buy the shrimp, a green pepper, cans of diced tomatoes, Old Bay seasoning, and celery. I’m not sure how much this would cost if you didn’t have any of the ingredients, but it can’t be too much.

I am so excited about cooking more of these recipes and becoming a better cook in this next year. Can’t wait to share what I’ve got in store for February… ;)

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Back in October, I came up with two realistic goals to help me meet my savings/debt goals as well as flexibility with unexpected holiday purchases. The goals were: 1) don’t eat out for lunch and 2) don’t buy any clothes until 2010. Well my no-buying clothes goal was sadly broken a few weeks later, but I have done very well with my no-eating-out-for-lunch goal and had my first 2010 meal yesterday.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I paid for my first 2010 meal yesterday. I have eaten out at least once a week this month at Subway, but I don’t count it because I was using a gift card I got from the family I babysit. Yesterday was the first day I actually spent my own money on lunch at the delicioso Chipotle.

It got me thinking though: what if I buy myself gift cards to my favorite restaurants as my “eat-out” budget for the month or the next few months? I rarely eat at fast food places for dinner, but it’s convenient for weekday lunches since we only get a 30-minute break. I could even do this with my clothing budget or buy gift cards for when I go to the movies.

Has anyone bought gift cards for yourself to help keep your budget under control?

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I am pretty sure I am a server’s worst nightmare when I go out to eat. I order water to drink, opt out of an appetizer, order the cheapest thing on the menu (or worse–split it with a friend), and never order dessert or coffee. By the end of the night I’m probably the cheapest customer in the restaurant.

However I always redeem myself for my frugal meal by leaving a generous tip.

I used to be a server and know how it feels to receive a terrible tip. Once I got a $7 tip on a $100+ bill. Another time I had a very high mainteance table on a calm evening (aka: there were no issues with their food, etc.), and they actually wrote “Sorry!” in the blank area where you leave your tip. I couldn’t believe it. Who does that?

So if I am going to a restaurant on a budget, I will make sure to order a small amount of food in order to leave a generous tip. If I cannot afford to tip well, then I cannot afford to eat at that restaurant. And it’s not that I tip unusually large, but I rarely ever tip under 20%, even if it was terrible service. I remember those hard days of waiting tables and couldn’t tell you how great it felt to get a generous tip. It meant the world to me.

One day, just for kicks, I want to leave a $100 tip on some $10 meal. Wouldn’t that be awesome to bless someone in that way? I can’t wait to do fun stuff like that with my money in the future. :)

 

What about you?
What percent do you tip? Any server/tipping stories? What cool ways do you want to bless others with your money?

{photo}

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Watermelon Cookies

Early in the spring I posted a list of things I wanted to do in the summer. One of the items was to make watermelon cookies. These cookies are my family’s beloved summertime treat, and making them reminds me of growing up so much. Lucky for you I’m going to share this recipe (and a few photos of my kitchen) with you! They are so ridiculously easy, tasty, cost-efficient, and quite the crowd-pleaser.

Ingredients:
-sugar cookie dough
-red & green food coloring
-chocolate chips
-white icing
-flour

Directions:
1. Mix sugar cookie dough together, or buy pre-made dough. Dye it red.

2. Sprinkle flour down (to avoid sticking) and roll out the dough.

watermelon cookies

3. Cut circles out and then split the circle into halves. I don’t have a circle cookie-cutter so I used a stemless wine glass.

watermelon cookies

4. Place on a cookie sheet and put three or four chocolate chips in the dough (for seeds, of course!).

5. Bake at 350-degrees for about 10 minutes. Take out to cool.

6. Dye icing green and dip the rounded part of the cookie in the icing then place on plate to harden.

watermelon cookies

7. Eat and enjoy. :)

watermelon cookies

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My Health History

Jessie @ Jessie’s Money asked: How did I get into running? I thought I would write a little post on my history with running and nutrition since I do seem to write about it frequently.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on anything fitness or nutrition-related. The things I did may not work for you or may not even be the best way to lose weight! For expert advice, consult a doctor. :)

I haven’t always been into running, or even being healthy for that matter. In high school I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t skinny either. I had bad eating habits, but was fairly active so that helped balance it out a bit. I went to college and the freedom of a meal card and late binge nights with friends led me to my highest ever: 155 pounds. That may not seem like a lot, but for a 5′ 3″ height it was certainly in the overweight category.

One day I wasn’t feeling well and went to put on my go-to baggy jeans and they were too tight. I mean these used to be saggy around-the-house pants and they wouldn’t even shimmy up my thighs. I realized then how much weight I had gained and that if I continued to live the way I had been, I would only get larger.

I wish I could say after that moment I changed my habits and lost 30 pounds in five weeks, but that’s just not the way this works, is it? Of course I did start making changes, but those first changes were also unhealthy ones like cutting out all carbs, all sweets, and all fats. I’d go on yo-yo diets and lose 10 pounds, then reward myself my overindulging my hungry body and gain that weight almost instantly again. Diets don’t work for me.

The way I lost weight was learning to eat. That sounds silly, but I feel like I’m still learning even today. When I was dieting, I would give myself 1300 calories per day and would use those calories up by eating a piece of cake or filling up with snacks, not balanced foods that sustain me. Slowly I “retaught” myself how to eat. I learned which foods would keep me full, which foods would trigger my hunger for more, and I’d find sweet snacks that were low in calories to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Once I educated myself on how to eat and stopped obsessing about losing weight, that’s when I started losing it. That was my senior year in college–almost two years ago. I was living in an apartment just one mile from campus. In hopes to save money (see, this does have a PF point!), I would walk to and from class every day. This was really my only exercise I was doing and it’s funny how just that little bit helped boost my weight loss so much. I walked everywhere!

But I’m getting off track. Jessie’s question was about running!

About a year ago I was feeling complacent with my weight and wanted a fitness challenge. Now naturally I am not very athletic. I went through all of my options of sports that I could do and decided my uncorrindated self needed something that didn’t require any kind of racket or another teammate so I landed on running. It doesn’t take anything but a pair of shoes and a good set of knees to run.

I signed up for my first 5K for November of last year. I also talked my mom and J to join me. Before training for the 5K, I had only run a very slow two miles. The challenge of a date really put my booty into gear. The day of the race was cold and drizzly and the last thing I wanted to do was go run 3+ miles. Once the race began the sun came out and the energy of running with hundreds of others pushed me harder than I had ever gone before. I finished in less than 30 minutes and had no idea I could even run that fast. It was an awesome feeling.

I’ve always wanted to be about 115-120 pounds. I rarely weigh myself anymore because I’d rather “look and feel skinny” than “weigh skinny”–but I think I’m about 127 right now. It’s not that difficult for me to maintain my weight, but it is very challenging for me to actually lose it. Again I felt like I needed a challenge recently this year to help reach my goal weight and two of my guy friends decided to run the Baltimore Marathon. They tried to convince me to run it with them, but no way was I running that with only a 5K under my belt!! So I decided the Half Marathon was achievable–and seemed pretty effortless compared to what they were about to endure. I’d love to be down to 120 pounds by the time October comes.

I have a confession though: I sort of hate running. I think it’s boring, I find it monotonous, and it is really really hard. And I’m kind of skeptical of people who say they love to run. Anyone who jumps out of bed in the morning excited to push themselves for miles and up hills has to be crazy. I also don’t like to eat very healthy. I’d much rather snack on chips than carrots. However, all of that pain is for the feeling afterwards. I absolutely LOVE the way I feel after running. I love finishing a run, taking a cold shower and slipping into the covers completely exhausted and satisfied that I did it. I love waking up with that skinny-morning feeling. I love being able to wear a size small in dresses and size four in pants. I love feeling comfortable with my body after years of self-pity and complacency.

Wow this post is ridiculously long and anyone who made it this far is incredibly sweet to continue reading. Point is, for all of you who are going through your own fitness/health challenges: I know it’s hard. I know what it’s like to eat a bowl of ice cream and then refill it just five minutes after and feel super guilty (ahem–last night!). I know what it’s like to go out for seven miles and only run four (ahem–last Sunday!). But I also know that it’s possible, achievable and in the end will be worth all of those hardships. If any of you are interested in running but don’t know how to start, I recommend just signing up for a race. It will give you an achievable date to work towards and forking out the registration fee will also help motivate you. I don’t want my $78 wasted!

Good luck my friends! :)

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