Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Freezer Friday! Saving Money on Ham

This will be the first  ever installment of what I’m going to call “Freezer Friday”. It’s going to be a day of the week where we talk about things we put in our freezers in order to save substantial amounts of money or took out of our freezers from our previous adventures and what we cooked.

This week, the sales are a little slow around here, so I think next week, I’m going to do what I call “Eating straight from the freezer” which means unless I stumble across a rock bottom price on markdowns, my meat budget should be zero. I might do this for a few weeks, because grilling season is rapidly approaching and there are going to be a ton of great meat sales I might want to partake in (last year for my birthday in April, I bought two whole, uncut ribeyes for a song and had the butcher slice them for me). Eating from the freezer is also something I do every year around the holidays, not because I want to fill it up, but because it makes my meat budget zero.

I have a 22 Cubic foot, upright freezer that I purchased at the Salvation Army in Conway, Arkansas about 12 years ago. It cost $125. It does not self defrost, so every few months, I unpack everything, check dates, defrost, wipe it down, and repack, putting what needs used first in the front. I’m sure it uses more energy than a new one, but it is labeled Energy Star, so I don’t worry too much.

I really like to eat well. I like to have a lot of variety, as a family, we enjoy lots of different things, and most of my cooking is done from scratch. The thing is, though, that I run a pretty tight budget, so I’m constantly watching for sales and markdowns because I don’t like to pay full price. So I grab items when I find a great sale, and pack them for freezing. Then, regardless of what’s on sale that week, we have plenty of variety in our meals.

Now, I’m going to talk about convenience foods. Do you ever buy these little packs of diced ham?

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Great for casseroles, omelettes, and salads, right? But at $2.79 for 8 ounces, that translates to $5.58 per pound! You can get a whole ham for .99/lb if you just keep an eye on your sales and here’s a thing: The cheaper ones always go on sale around Easter and the holidays for a rock bottom price and you can catch the really expensive ones as markdowns around the first few weeks of February. If you have freezer space, pick up a couple and put them away. Then you have ham when you want it without having to pay full price.

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A few weeks back, I picked up a cute little boneless sandwich ham for  .99/lb. we ate sliced ham and veggies for a couple of meals, ham and eggs for breakfast, then I cubed the remainder in small bits, just like those pricey packs.

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I spread it out on a cookie sheet and stuck it in the freezer. After about half an hour, I took it out, stirred the pieces around with my hands, and put it back in till they were frozen. Then, I bagged them up and now I have about three or four pounds of ham for recipes readily available and it only cost me effort and .99/lb. this is something that is still doable even if your freezer is small. That bag doesn’t take up much space in the door. It’s a gallon sized, by the way.

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Whenever I run out of ham bits, I plan a day where I cook another and do the same thing over again. I should run out of these close to Easter, so already have that plan in place.

Just by doing this simple step yourself, you can save over $4.00 per pound on convenience ham.

What about you guys? What do you do to save money on convenience foods? I love hearing other people’s tips and tricks, because that’s how we learn!

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Sick Day Soup

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I think I have a cold. At first, I thought it was allergies, but now I’m second guessing that.

i have a lot of precooked food in the fridge, because Sunday, I worked up another $25 menu, but even though everything tastes great, I want soup. So, Mr. Incredible is doing the menu test run this week while I lounge about, coughing up my lungs, sipping herbal teas, napping, and eating soup. In fact, I’m writing this entry on my phone, while snuggled down in the only recliner we own, heavily medicated, completely covered in fluffy blankets, with a cat on my lap.

Yesterday, I scrounged about in the fridge and found a quart of nice, thick turkey stock, four turkey tails which were used to make the stock, and half an onion.  If you’re unfamiliar with turkey tails, they are, IMO, the best part of the turkey. I have only found them commercially available in pre-smoked multi-packs, and in the area where the store keeps things like packaged, smoked turkey legs and wings. They have about a 50% fatty, gelatinous goodness to meat ratio and they make a great, really thick, soup stock. If you ever find them, you should give them a try.

The other day, I brought a pack home and tossed them in a soup pot, covered them with water, and simmered them for a while (2hours, maybe) then I ate a couple and refrigerated the rest. I’m glad now, because I didn’t feel like doing any actual cooking yesterday.

I heated up the stock with the tails in it, chopped the half onion and threw it in, then I added stuff that I thought I read somewhere once were good things to have when sick.

To one quart of stock, I added:

1 tsp each of ground ginger and minced garlic

1/2 tsp each of red pepper flakes and garlic powder

1 heaping teaspoon of turmeric (thus the yellow color)

1 tsp of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

i simmered this on the stove till the tails were heated through and the onions were limp and wouldn’t require any real effort to eat. Some people think they’re gross like that, and that’s ok, they could replace the fresh onion with dried, minced onion and maybe a little onion powder.

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I ate on that all day and there is still some broth left. I’m heating it up right now and think I’ll poach some eggs in it and finish it off.

I hope you guys are all doing well! This weather is crazy! Stay safe, stay well, and take good care of yourselves.

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Copycat YooHoo Chocolate Drink Low Carb, Sugar Free

My youngest son LOVES YooHoo. When we take a day trip and I stop to gas up the car, I usually give him my water glass and some money and send him in to top off my ice and get himself a drink. If I don’t specify that he doesn’t get to drink sugar, he gets YooHoo, which is what he did yesterday. I don’t forget to tell him often, but I do forget, and he slips one in every time.

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As we drove along yesterday, I told him to read the ingredients off to me. He struggled with some of the words and as he went down the list, certain things stuck in my mind. When we got home, I took some items out of my pantry and he and I started experimenting. After a few rounds, we hit upon the formula we both felt was worth sharing.

Ok. I’m not gonna lie. We totally knocked it out of the park!
It’s easy to make, stores in the fridge, tastes great hot or cold, and has 3 carbs per 8 ounce serving, using the ingredients I had in my pantry.

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This low carb, sugar free recipe for copycat YooHoo is made with whey protein powder.  I had a big tub in my pantry that I bought at Costco, but you can find it on Amazon or any store that sells those sorts of items. When buying protein powder, pay attention to your labels, some contain sugar (in one of its many names), some are higher in carb than others, and be prepared for some sticker shock. It’s expensive. Before you invest that kind of money on any grocery item, I recommend getting a smaller container to test the recipe. Here is the brand that I already had, there are probably less expensive and there are definitely more expensive. There are also some that have fewer carbs, but I am comfortable with mine.
A rounded scoop of it has 3 carbs, and two rounded scoops fill a one cup measure. The brand is Optimum Nutrition, and you can look at it here:

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard, Double Rich Chocolate, 5 Pound, 80 Ounce

This recipe for make your own YooHoo copycat is easy to double, triple, or even halve the quantities.  If you love YooHoo, or if you just need to find a way to get a little more protein in (my youngest doesn’t love meat or eggs) then this may be a great option for you. It could also be changed to use other flavors of whey powder, rather than chocolate, but we were going for a copycat yoohoo.

Low Carb, Sugar Free YooHoo Chocolate Drink

1 Quart water
1 cup of Chocolate whey protein
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup of cream
Teaspoon of vanilla
Pinch of salt
Sweetener to taste (go easy on this. Add a little, then taste, then add a little more. Remember, you can’t take it out once it’s in there. I used a scant pinch of sweetener from my bag of pure sucralose powder)

In at least a 2 quart stockpot, combine all ingredients over med-low heat and stir with a whisk till the whey powder is dissolved. Once it looks nice and chocolatey, like Yoohoo, either serve it hot, or store it in the fridge and serve cold. I poured mine into a quart mason jar and kept it overnight. We all agreed that it was awesome hot, but way better chilled.

If you love YooHoo, give this a try. It’s  going to become a staple in our fridge, not for me, because I drink water, but for my guys.

Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and Birmingham Scrollworks

For the past two years, the youngest son has been taking percussion classes at Birmingham Scrollworks . I have talked about his Drum Wizard before in this post and watching his progress has been really fun for me. Here they are in a pic I took during class one day. The great thing for me as I’ve watched him learn music, hasn’t just been in monitoring his ability to play, but watching him develop confidence in himself along with an understanding of music and how it works and what he can do to help keep that passion alive as he grows. Observing him as he starts to identify himself as a musician, has really been rewarding.

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Scrollworks is a 501c3 non-profit music school. We serve kids who are often unable to get music lessons otherwise, foster kids, low-income, disabled, etc.
We use donated instruments via a type of instrument “library” where a small deposit is paid once for the instrument and given back upon its return. Once the kids have progressed in their skills, they try out for the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and play together as a group, occasionally doing community performances.

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This coming April 2, 2016, we will be having a fundraiser, the first ever Forte Music Festival, at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve. Tickets will be $15 and includes food, drinks, and live music from local musicians. There will be a silent auction, which I’m proud to say I have had a hand in soliciting donations to be included. The funds raised from this will go towards music books, instrument repair, consumables, and basic expenses to keep the school going.

Scrollworks is dedicated to making music instruction and ensemble playing available to all, thereby developing character and sense of community. Young people of diverse racial, social, cultural, and economic backgrounds are encouraged to explore and cultivate their musical talent and contribute to Alabama’s musical culture. Over 200 students participate each year. Many have been denied music education in their neighborhood schools. Since our founding in 2007, the MYOCA has generated two Alabama Symphony Orchestra Rising Stars, as well as placing almost two dozen students in the prestigious Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Art programs are important, and music is important not just for kids but for humanity, especially in a time when schools are cutting these programs in order to focus on kids being able to pass tests.

Some of the donations we have received so far are:

Gift certificates to Cantina, Vecchia, Bottle and Bone, and Yogurt Mountain
Bowling passes, Vulcan Park passes, Barons tickets, Red Mountain Theater tickets, Red Mountain Adventure Park, Santa Fe Day Spa, Splash Adventure, Alabama Ballet, Paper Source, Birmingham Zoo, and Oriental Trading Co

We have received art related items from Virginia Jones Photography, dsart.com, Naked Art, Ashley Homestore, Stampin’ Up, Leon Loard, and Make ME That.

We have a gift certificate to Hanna’s Garden Shop and spring is the perfect time for it.

As time goes by, and more donations roll in, we will be keeping you guys updated. You should consider following Scrollworks on social media for regular updates. You can find them here:
Instagram! https://www.instagram.com/scrollworksmusicbham/
Learn! http://myorch.org/
Like!http://www.facebook.com/Scrollworks
Subscribe! https://www.youtube.com/myorch
Follow! https://twitter.com/scrollworks

If you’re interested in donating, whether it be instruments for our kids, music books or other music related items, cash, or items for our silent auction, you can contact me directly though my contact form and I can put you in touch or you can email from the myorch website. Any shares on this post would be appreciated, as well.

You can also access the Donor Form Here if you would like to get the ball rolling directly without having to email anyone.

If you’re interested in attending the Forte Music Festival, tickets can be purchased through this eventbrite link. .

Remember, please don’t hesitate to contact me if necessary and I can put you in touch with the right people. I’m always happy to help.

Low Carb Ranch Dressing: Tina’s Homemade Ranch

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Several months ago, my friend, Tina, shared this recipe with me for sugar-free ranch dressing. I had been searching for a replacement for commercially bottled ranch, because they generally have sugar, preservatives, and chemicals. My husband loves to drench his salads in ranch, bottled salad dressing has a couple of carbs per tablespoon and he eats half the bottle, so I realized one day that we needed a lower carb version. Salad is one of his favorite foods so of course, I aimed to deliver.

This recipe for low carb, sugar free salad dressing is simple to make, it uses very basic ingredients, and is customizable in many ways. It’s really tasty, makes a great dipper for things like nuggets and veggies, and lasts in the fridge for 2 weeks or so. Tina is a great cook, so I knew when she shared it, that it would be a keeper, and I was right.

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This homemade ranch recipe can be made in just a few minutes. Give it a try and see how you like it.

Tina’s Homemade Ranch

1 cup of Mayo
1/2 cup of Sour Cream
1/2 teaspoon dried chives
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Mix this together

*My notes: This is really thick, which is great! I like to stir in about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out. It’s purely a personal preference. Plus, if it sits in the fridge, it continues to thicken because the dried herbs soak up some of that water. Sometimes, I add a packet of sweetener, too. It depends on my mood and what I’m using it for.

That’s it!

Versions:
Spicy ranch: Add cayenne pepper to taste. I’d start with 1/4 teaspoon, plus it depends on how old your cayenne is.

Buttermilk ranch: Stir in about a tablespoon of powdered buttermilk

This is a great salad dressing to keep in your fridge, or to quickly mix up. I store it in a mason jar so I can make a quick grab when I need it.

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Cooking from scratch is the most budget friendly,  Over time, it saves not just money, but your health. and you really can’t put a price on that.

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Low Carb on the Road: Fast Food at Hardee’s and Captain D’s

Thursday morning, I left out early with my youngest on a short day trip. Ok, maybe it wasn’t so short. I don’t have a strong concept of time, so my day trips usually turn into “all day” trips. Anyway, we hopped in the van and headed east, towards the Land of Lotto.

See, Mr. Incredible has taken to giving me scratch tickets for Christmas (which I LOVE), so every now and then, we go exchange the winners for more tickets. It’s a fun drive, it gets us out of the house, there are some cool thrift stores between here and there, and we stop at a Kroger. There is no Kroger in Birmingham, and they have a really nice selection of LC dairy products. The whole trip is a win.

When we are on these trips, sometimes we stop for food. I usually get him something, because he’s in that phase where he is constantly starving, but I wanted something this time. So, I stopped at Hardee’s.

Hardees will make you a burger and low carb it. Really, “Low Carb” is on the menu. Where most places will make you a burger and leave the bun off and hand you a fork, Hardee’s goes the extra mile with theirs. They wrap it in a bunch of extra lettuce leaves, then they wrap paper that doesn’t dissolve onto your food around it, so you can actually pick it up and eat it without a bun and without making a mess of your fingers.

This is a pic of mine:

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I love a good double cheeseburger. This is the monster burger. It’s got 3 slices of cheese, 2 layers of bacon, mayo, and two patties. It’s so big, I couldn’t even fit my mouth around it. It costs around 7 bucks but I wasn’t hungry all day after that. I do eat slowly, and I ate on it all the way to Carrolton.

On on our way home, he was kind of hungry (again)  so we popped into Captain D’s and grabbed two shrimp skewers. Captain D’s has steamed broccoli on their menu and also green beans (steer clear of fast food coleslaw, most have sugar) but their grilled menu is where they really shine. They have a couple of types of grilled fish, but they also have shrimp skewers. For 2.29, you get six seasoned shrimp on a stick and they usually do a great job of not overcooking the shrimp till they are rubbery. This day was no exception. The shrimp were great! I snagged one. These make a good snack and decent enough road food.

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Eating on the go is sometimes necessary for some of us. Just remember that most places have options, you just have to study the menu. These two are some of my very favorites, and maybe they will be yours, too.

 

Let’s Talk About: Baby Corn!

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Occasionally, a certain ingredient shows itself in the LC world and there are often people who have no idea about it. Today, that ingredient is baby corn. That delicious, saucy little bite from stir fries of your carby days is actually very low in carbohydrate and high in fiber and deserving of your recognition, provided you aren’t trying to live a grain free lifestyle. You know, because corn is a grain.

Baby corn is exactly that. It is the immature ear of corn. It is picked before the kernels mature, and before they develop their sugars, so it’s carb content is really low and it shouldn’t affect blood sugars. It is also mostly cob, thus the high fiber content. Here is a pic I took of the cans in the $1 section of one of my local grocery stores. This is one of those items I keep in my pantry.

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As you can see, it’s $1 per can and each 1/2 cup serving has 4 carbs and 2 fiber. There are more expensive brands out there and always check your labels. The pickled stuff that comes in the jar often has added sugar. Always check your labels on everything, actually.

Anyway, back to the baby corn. Regular, canned or frozen corn (or corn on the cob, sorry, folks!)  is not low carb, but baby corn is different. Over time, I’ve come to include it in soups, stews, stir fries, salads, and casseroles. It is a great way to add some variety to your recipes without adding a lot of carb. So, try some out for yourself, and remember, if you have diabetes, eat to your meter.