About Me

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Cheap and Easy Decorating - Towels

Sometimes I make updates that make a huge difference and I wonder what the heck took me so long to do it. I am challenging myself to try to make the house look less like a single 24 year old man lives here and more like adults with jobs and such. I've even employed (in the free type of employment) my lovely cousin, Jaimi, who has a terrific sense of style but is also frugal to help me out. She was here for 15 minutes before fixing the entry area that Doug and I have been trying to figure out for a year (pictures of that soon.)

Today's post, though, is about towels. I have always been of the opinion that if a towel absorbs water after you bathe, then it is a keeper, regardless of its appearance. I finally decided to upgrade the towels and even coordinate with our new bathroom. We had four nice brown towels that were a gift and four pretty decent white towels that I actually bought here and there, but the brown didn't really match the gray and black bathroom. It did match the kids' upstairs blue, green, and brown shower curtain, so they got the brown and two of the white. I kept two of the white and bought some new green bath towels and even a matching rug and hand towels, like a grown up! I was amazed at what a difference it made. The kicker is that I actually got rid of the crappy towels (turned them into rat bedding) so I am not tempted to use them. Wanna see a picture?

So much better, right? And that, to be perfectly honest, isn't what the towels normally looked like before, they were much more, umm freeform in their placement. What did this big decorating event cost? Millions of dollars, probably since I spend so long putting it off... Or, by shopping at Kohl's 60% off rack, $7.50 each for the big, luxurious bath towels, $6 for all four hand towels, and $10 for the softest rug I've ever felt. $46 total, plus I have a card that gets me 15% off plus they were having a special that gave me $10 in Kohl's cash to use later. So, a grand total of $33 to look like I'm some sort of put together. Crazy.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Basil Avocado Spread/Dip

I have a lot of basil growing right now. A LOT of basil. I love basil, thankfully, but you can only have tomato basil pasta and pesto so many times before you start looking for other avenues. This is a "throw everything that I need to use up today into the bowl" recipe and it turned out wonderfully.

Basil Avocado Spread/Dip

1 cup basil leaves
1 ripe avocado
1 small tomato
1/4 cup onion
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
s/p to taste

Throw it all into the food processor or blender and process until it is a smooth as you like. Tip - change the basil to cilantro, the lemon to a lime, add a jalapeno and you get a great guacamole.

I toasted some crusty bread slices in olive oil and served it as a spread for dinner last night and today ate it with tortilla chips, both ways were delightful!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Flushable Cleaning Wipe?

I am a lousy housekeeper. I keep thinking that at some point I will get it all together, but... So, anyway, I see people using the Clorox Wipe-type products and I see the appeal, but just can't get behind disposable chemical crap. There are some wipes that use essential oils and non-toxic liquid, but that still leaves the wipe itself. I checked every package our Target had and they ALL say, "Do Not Flush." So I came home and did a little research and found that these wipes, paper towels, ultra-plush toilet paper, and even the new "flushable wipes" are causing problems for sewage treatment plants to the tune of millions of dollars in new shredding machines and repairs to fix clogged and damaged pipes.

A study by the Portland Water District in Maine in 2011 analyzed what was causing clogs in their sewer pipes and came up with this analysis:
— 42 percent paper products, including paper towels
— 24 percent baby wipes
— 17 percent hygiene products, including feminine pads and tampons
— 8 percent "flushable" wipes
— Remainder, other items, including household wipes, cosmetic pads and medical materials.

My mission was to create a flushable wipe that didn't have any nasty chemicals on it that would break down in a reasonable amount of time to satisfy hippy-me and conventional-me. Basically, I failed. Any wipe that is sturdy enough to hang out in cleaning solution waiting for you to use it, is too sturdy to go into the septic or sewer system. Makes sense, right?

Here is my 18 hour dissolve test paper towel vs toilet paper:
Definitely not sewer safe.

But, this wasn't a total failure, I did make a wipe that cleans and disinfects naturally, is easy to use, and inexpensive. It would also "probably" be compostable, but only in a healthy, thriving compost system because the tea tree oil could potentially kill the healthy microbes in the pile.

Now, after the longest intro ever:

Wipes (2 packages):

1 roll single-ply paper towels (I used Bounty Basic Select-a-Size)
2 gallon zip top bags
1 t dish soap
2-3 T Borax (there is some confusion about the safety of Borax, rest assured, it is fine, ask Crunchy Betty)
10-20ish drops essential oil/s (see note*)

Use a serrated knife to cut the roll of paper towels in half. Remove the center tube (some will just slide out, some need to be convinced). In each zip top bag, put a few drops of dish soap, 1-2 T Borax, 5-10 drops oils, and about a cup of water  and shake it all up:

Pull up the very center towel a little and then place the whole roll in the bag. Add a little more water if they aren't saturated and dump out if there is a lot of excess (the amount varies based on the type of towels):

To dispense, just pull one at a time out from the center of the roll.

 *Note - I use tea tree in the bathroom and a combination of tea tree and peppermint in the kitchen because we have an ant issue right now and ants hate peppermint. I recommend always using tea tree because it is antimicrobial and will keep your wipes from mildewing and disinfect whatever surface you use them on. Lavender also does this to a slightly lesser degree, so is another option. Some citrus would be nice as well, just customize to your heart's content.

I bought a package of 8 rolls (on sale for $7 for 103 sheet rolls) because we have a business where the health department requires us to use paper towels, so I could but the extras there; otherwise it would have made more sense to buy a single pack even if it costs a bit more per roll just to avoid storing all those paper towels. This recipe costs around $0.50 per package, but no matter what towels you choose, this is waaaaay cheaper than buying wipes.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Recipe of the Day-ish 9 Enchiladas

Don't be a chicken! I think the biggest reason why I know how to cook is so simple. I'm not afraid to fail. I try things and sometimes they aren't great. I have cooked often enough to be able to salvage most meals even if they aren't exactly what I envisioned.

Today, I tried something new and it turned out pretty darn good. :-) I have made enchiladas a lot of times but I always buy the canned enchilada sauce. Thanks to the lovely internet, I found this recipe: Ten Minute Enchilada Sauce and found that I had enough of the ingredients to try (also, I know that self-rising flour is just flour with baking powder and salt, so could substitute). I also did it in the microwave because I was hungry and ten minutes seemed like a lot of minutes.

I had some rice and beans and also some refried bean dip in the fridge so I mixed those together, warmed them in the microwave and wrapped them in a tortilla, covered them in the sauce and threw it in the oven for about ten minutes. Delish!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Recipe of the Day-ish 8 - Stretching Chicken

When I recommend to people that they eat chicken thighs and leg quarters (because they are juicy and delicious!) I realized that I forget to tell them *how* to eat them.

First, why should you stretch the chicken?
Meat Consumption
"Let's start here: Average Americans eat WAY too much meat, in my opinion, and I am in pretty good company in that opinion. Nearly every organization that deals with health and nutrition agrees that a serving of meat should be between two and four ounces and some groups think even less! I wrote a whole post about it :-)"

So how do we meet those recommendations most days? Taking what appear to be single serving size pieces and turning them into family servings:
Look, two thighs= two servings, right?

Yum, two delicious servings...

But wait! When you take the meat off the bone, it magically turns into enough for a family!

Bonus, you get bones and skin to make a small pot of crock pot stock!

Look! 2 cups of rice, 16 ounces of frozen vegetables, and about 1 1/2 pounds of cooked chicken (about 2 cups). Six - eight very hearty servings!

So good!

So, go forth and stretch your chicken!

Meat Consumption - Seriously Americans?

 Let's start here: Average Americans eat WAY too much meat, in my opinion, and I am in pretty good company in that opinion. Nearly every organization that deals with health and nutrition agrees that a serving of meat should be between two and four ounces and some groups think even less!

Go to most American restaurants (including ones I love!) and you will not find ANY meat options that fall within the recommended guidelines. Even the kids' menu items usually have more meat than is recommended for an adult portion! No one can possibly feel good after eating a 16 ounce steak? Right? A pound of meat in one sitting! Even the "dainty" portion of a half pound is so much. Do I do it sometimes? Yup. Do I feel sluggish and a little icky after? Yup.

American Health Association
Meat, Poultry, Fish, Dry Beans and Nuts: 2 to 3 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry or fish; 1/2 cup cooked dry beans; or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter.

San Francisco Chronicle
Consuming around 46 grams of protein per day if you're female and 56 grams per day if you're male will meet your protein needs, whether you get your protein from meat or from plant sources. A 3-ounce portion of meat contains 21 to 24 grams of protein. Three 3-ounce meat servings per day would supply all your protein needs, but this much meat could include a large amount of saturated fat, which could increase your risk of heart disease.


There is a ton of awesome info here, including a nifty calculator for how much you should eat a day (mine is below), but their total protein recommendation is between 4 and 6.5 ounces PER DAY!

Daily Food Plan

Eat these amounts from each food group daily. This plan is a 1800 calorie food pattern. It is based on average needs for someone like you. (A 39 year old female5 feet 3 inches tall, 135 pounds, physically active less than 30 minutes a day.) Your calorie needs may be more or less than the average, so check your weight regularly. If you see unwanted weight gain or loss, adjust the amount you are eating.
6 ounces
2.5 cups
1.5 cups
3 cups
Protein Foods
5 ounces

Harvard School of Public Health

I like these even more than the government guidelines and the website is super.


Because I talk so much about food cost, it is easy to assume that I eat less meat to save money. The truth is that it is a happy accident that eating healthier is also cheaper. Plus, I can spend more money on beautiful vegetables if I'm spending less on gooky meat. :-) Most of the recipes I make have either beans as the protein or about 3 ounces of meat, usually chicken. Even Paige, who is definitely my biggest meat fan is satisfied with those portions.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Recipe of the Day-ish 7 Pam's Tuna Dip

My step-mom, Pam, made this (with assistance from her sous chef, my dad) for us last year. Since then, if I need something delicious or something to remind me of Florida, this fits the bill. It is nice and fresh tasting and can be spicy if you dip down into the wasabi, or be mild if you take it just from the top.

1/2 lb raw ahi tuna (I buy it frozen, because, Missouri, ya know...), diced
1 shallot, small diced
1 roma tomato, small diced
2 T capers, rough chopped
2 T fresh parsley (I had basil on hand, so that's what I used in the picture)
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 avocado, small dice
1/2 cup mayonnaise

3-4T wasabi

Line the platter with the wasabi. Mix all the other ingredients except the fresh parsley. Place on top of the wasabi and top with the parsley. Serve with ridged potato chips like Ruffles.