Tuesday, October 25, 2011

a couple of pictures

On Saturday, we ate at Olive Garden with my parents and grandmother then followed up with a visit to the mall.  It was a lovely day; Olive Garden is a very rare treat for us.  Natalie chattered happily with our server (she even told him he was a "good boy" for bringing her spaghetti).  Olive Garden's pumpkin cheesecake is heaven on a plate; I have GOT to learn how to make that.  Wow.  Sarah loved bungee jumping at the mall.

My dad also visited a photo booth with the girls.  It was the kind that "sketches" your picture.  This will let some of you who have been asking for pictures see the gap in Sarah's mouth where she has lost two teeth.  Enjoy.

P.S. I'm really irritated that spell check is griping about the word "Sarah's".  What the heck is up with that?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

culinary success

I have a waffle recipe that I love.  It started out as a recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but I tweaked it and made it even more amazing.  :)  I have a pumpkin waffle recipe that is also very good.  However, I don't make it nearly as often.  For one thing, I don't always have pumpkin on hand.  The main reason, however, is that the first recipe is an overnight yeast recipe.  I mix up the batter the night before and cook the waffles in the morning.  The pumpkin waffle recipe is a normal, quick bread-type batter.  Frankly, I am not a morning person.  I do not have any desire first thing in the morning to be mixing waffle batter.  So we usually only have the pumpkin waffles when I am doing breakfast-for-supper.

In an email conversation with my sister-in-law, I got the idea for combing the two recipes.  But then a wonderful friend gifted me with a bagful of sweet potatoes.  I remembered that Alton Brown (my Food Network hero) did a sweet potato waffle recipe.  It too was a quick bread type recipe, but I decided to do my experiment in recipe combining.

It worked!  We had sweet potato waffles this morning, and they were GOOD.  I am so pleased.

Alton Brown peels and steams his sweet potatoes to get the mash he needs.  I simply baked them at 425 until they were soft and the skin came off SO easily; I just pulled and off it came.  I really think this is way easier than Brown's method.  Plus I love when sweet potatoes bake long enough to caramelize.  I cooked up a bunch at once and stowed the orange mash in the fridge; I have plenty left for other recipes. 

So here is my sweet potato waffle recipe.  I hope you enjoy!

2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar (I may have used a little more; I didn't measure very well)
1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
A heavy shake of cinnamon (yeah, I'm terrible at measuring; sorry)
A tiny sprinkle of clove and ground ginger
A slightly heavier shake of allspice (more than the clove and ginger, less than the cinnamon)
I meant to add freshly grated nutmeg, but I forgot.  I will do it next time.
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk (this adds such a depth of flavor; it is fabulous)
2 eggs
1 cup mashed sweet potato

Combine your dry ingredients in one bowl.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then mix the two thoroughly.  I did it by hand, but I really recommend an electric mixer.  Cover and refrigerate batter overnight.  In the morning, remove from the fridge and give it a stir.  Cook according to your waffle iron's directions.  I got about 10 waffles; your mileage may vary. 

This post is linked to The Nourishing Gourmet and The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

a messy dog

We were browsing a bookstore last night when Natalie came across a calendar.  This particular calendar was full of dog photos.  The cover showed a picture of a boxer. 

In case you need a reminder, this is what a boxer looks like:

Upon seeing the boxer, Natalie laughingly proclaimed, "That doggie's been eating chocolate!" 

I suppose it was a logical mistake.  After all, this is what Natalie looks like after eating chocolate:

I see the resemblance, don't you?  :) 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

the results are in...

I confessed that over the last several months I had not been putting a whole lot of effort into the whole grocery shopping thing.  I wasn't really planning or thinking or anything.  I totaled up our spending in August and vowed to attempt to start improving in September. 

My "grocery budget" is pretty much everything.  It includes diapers, toiletries, food, any eating out, etc.  I admit that Amazon gift cards that I accumulate from both Swagbucks and surveys are helpful to my grocery budget; in September I was able to get 702 Pamper baby wipes for free from Amazon and two bottles of Natalie's Burt's Bees baby soap for only $2.82 out of pocket.  Mostly, though, the improvement from August to September happened just because I started thinking and trying again. 

I didn't use any "guerrilla" shopping techniques during September.  I stuck mostly with Food City and Wal-Mart rather than stalking sales and matching coupons at various places around town.  I may try to start adding those more advanced systems to my repertoire in the next few months.  I can't promise that I will ever drop our budget to the point of "internet fame" like my frugal-living blogger heroes.  I just want to make the best use possible of the resources we have available. 

Anyway, our total spending for everything food-and-grocery-related in August was $566.83.  This averages to about $142 per week for our family of four.  You can tell I wasn't making too much of an effort this month!  :-p 

September's total spending was $432.21, an average of approximately $108 per week.  I dropped the total grocery bill $134.62 from August to September.  Since all I really did was return to thinking and planning, I don't think that's too bad of a start.  In October, I intend to use My Grocery Deals to start utilizing the sales at various stores.  I will use what coupons I can/have.  Eventually I'm going to start figuring how serious frugalistas do the whole CVS game.  I'm not there yet.  My eventual goal is to lower our spending to $60-80 per week.  I would like to go lower, but I'm not sure that I can pull that off.  We'll see how meeting the first goal goes.  Baby steps, right?  ;) 

If you want to share your favorite tips for shaving money off of your grocery bills, I'm all ears!