Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving and Money Management

Happy Thanksgiving week!!!!

This will be my first Thanksgiving to ever host and I'm excited!  We're having my brother-in-law, sister-in-law and super cute nephew over on Thursday and I'm cooking us a delicious meal!

But first things first...the only recipe I have to share with you this week is this awesome pasta bake from Mix and Match Mama Blog.


Kevin and I really enjoyed it!  The recipe made a large amount so with just two people to feed, we ended up with a lot of leftovers!  So needless to say, we've been eating leftovers since then.  I prepared it exactly like she says.  The only things I'd do differently next time is maybe add some more cooking liquid and mix mozzarella into the pasta to make it a bit more moist.

I have a few recipes I plan on trying this week so check back later for the results.  For Thanksgiving, I'm going to keep it simple for my first one and make the traditional dishes...turkey, ham, greenbean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes and crescent rolls...oh and a chocolate chip pie from Mix and Match Mama again.  My sister-in-law is bringing the mac n cheese!  I'll be honest, I normally like to cook with fresh ingredients, cut out the unhealthy stuff and put my own twist to it, but I'm not doing that this year.  I know my audience and I know they want the traditional stuff.  And it's once a year, so why not?!  I'll get more healthy at future Thanksgivings!


On a different note, I want to share about something non-food related!  Something I'm passionate about (hold on...don't get too excited) is budgeting money.  I know...make fun of me...I'm an accountant!  But I don't think it matters if you're an accountant or not.  Money is something EVERY person handles and depends on to live in this economy.  It can make or break you.  The love of it can hurt you, the lack of it can stress you out.  It can be used as a blessing, it can be used as a weapon.  Whether you're single, married, white, black, young, old, tall or short, this topic affects YOU!  Financial freedom is so important and in fact, it's Biblical.  We are to be good stewards of our money (1 Peter 5:2-3), be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7), honor the Lord with it (Proverbs 3:9), work hard for it (Proverbs 10:4), but not put our hope in it (1 Timothy 6:17).

For the past 5.5 years, I have volunteered as a budget counselor for New Friends New Life, a non-profit organization that helps women leave the sex industry and lead them to a life of self-sufficiency.

In our budget counseling program, we teach women how to track their expenses, budget their money, and about spending tips that can help them be able to become financial independent.  My main goal in this program has been to teach others how important tracking your expenses is.  Before I did this myself, I never knew where my money went.  I didn't know if I was overspending on food or entertainment.  I believe that you have to know where your money is going or you won't be wise with it.

I used an Excel spreadsheet to do this for years and it worked very well for me.  And then I got married.  I've only been married for 5.5 weeks and I can already see how hard dealing with finances can be.  I have always heard that the majority of marital arguments involve money and I believe it.  My husband and I have been trying to figure out the expense tracking part first...baby steps!  We have both been using Excel as single people, but that doesn't work very well for us together.  So here's what we're trying...

Goodbudget is a smartphone app where we can each enter our daily expenses/bills/income in one place.  I know there are many out there such as YNAB and Mint.  In fact, one of my friend's husbands (computer guy) has created his own app for them to use.  We're not "techies" so we're using one that the Apple Store has to offer.  We're liking this one so far!  We don't like how it allocates income to certain categories so we just leave it uncategorized, but that doesn't matter.  It's just nice to see how much we spend, as a couple, on a monthly basis.  We know when we're getting close to the monthly budgeted amount for a category and can appropriately plan how much to put in savings or pay extra on the mortgage each month.  Our goal is to be debt-free (including the mortgage) in just a few years.  We'll have a better timeline once we get the hang of this...again, it's only been 5.5 weeks.

I encourage you to start tracking your expenses if you don't already.  Download an app or sign up with a website like mint.com.  I'm also happy to send you my Excel spreadsheets if you'd like to try one of those.  If you already do track expenses, I'd love to hear what you are using and how you like it! 

There are so many budget-related topics that I'd love to write about (saving, investing, how it affects your marriage, debt, spending tips, etc), but I'll save those for another post so this one doesn't get too long! 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone!  Be safe, have fun with your friends and family, Sic 'em Bears and most of all, remember...

"Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for those who belong to Christ Jesus."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicken Corn Chowder

Hey folks!  I'm back with a report on the lentil soup!


My husband and I liked the lentil soup, but didn't love it.  I probably liked it more than him.  My only variations: I didn't include the tomatoes (I have bad acid reflux...boo) and I used normal green chard instead of swiss chard.  I had to add a little water since it didn't have the juice from the tomatoes.  I thought it tasted great!  It's pretty hearty...I told my husband it tasted earthy though I'm not really sure what that means.  The chard has a pretty strong flavor.  I'd recommend it if you're looking to cook something vegetarian that's healthy and pretty filling.


OMG!  This is one of my favorite soups I've ever made!  My husband loved it too!  I got it from the Six Sisters Stuff blog.  My variations: since both of us are lactose-intolerant, I used Lactaid milk instead of regular milk and I used leftover chicken breasts from another meal.  I would suggest using actual shredded chicken cooked for this purpose.  The broth is delicious!  I don't know what it is but with all of these flavors coming together, it makes the best chowder I've ever had!

I'm just going simple tonight!  I'm making a shrimp stir-fry with items I already have in my fridge/freezer.  We'll be eating out for most dinners this week so I'm not sure what else I'll be cooking, but these tacos from Mix and Match Mama sure sound good!


If you ever try any of these recipes, let me know!  I'd love to know what you thought!!

Monday, November 4, 2013

What's For Dinner?


I've obviously not been a good blogger.  I recently got married, was SUPER crazy busy and honestly thought "do I really have anything to say that's that interesting??"

Well...I LOVE reading random blogs.  I thought "what do I love to read?" I am not a super domestic woman, however, I love to cook.  I see each meal as a project and hope those that consume the meal are pleased (eek...see previous post about my approval addiction..workin' on it!).  I love finding recipes on random blogs.  I also love DIY projects and learning a little more about fashion...that's definitely not my forte.

So when I'm not blogging about something profound that the Lord has told me, I'm going to share recipes and DIY projects I found on other blogs/pinterest/etc and tried.  I'll say what I did wrong/right and what I'd do differently next time.  Pinterest never gives you that much info ;-)  How do you think your grandma got to be such a good cook?!  Trial and error starting in her 20's/30's!

I'll start out by sharing with you the blogs that I love to read lately (just to name a few):

Here are some recipes that I tried recently and I've included the outcome as well!

Strawberry Green Smoothie

If you know me, you know I love smoothies for breakfast!  I always love a new healthy smoothie recipe.  I got this one from Pinterest and it turned out GREAT!  It tastes just like strawberries.  Don't let the spinach freak you out.  My husband hates (or thinks he hates) anything with greens in it, like this.  But he tasted this one and actually liked it, because he couldn't taste the spinach.  My variations:

1) I added about a tablespoon of agave nectar to make it sweeter.
2) I used a whole banana and didn't freeze it.
3) I added a few cubes of ice.
4) I added about 1/2 cup of water. (Mine wasn't blending well without it)

This recipe had so much potential to be amazing!  BUT wow...it calls for WAY too much lemon.  The green beans and potatoes were so tart that my husband and I couldn't finish them.  I'm going to make it again sometime and either use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and not put the lemons on the bottom OR substitute the lemon juice for white cooking wine, tarragon vinegar, or just plain olive oil.  I think it'll be amazing next time!

This chili pot roast was a success!  My only variation was using a 3 lb roast instead of a 2 lb one, but it turned out the same.  I'd probably add some salt next time, but I tend to like saltier food.  My husband prefers it the way it was and it's probably better for you that way.

Holy moley, this dessert is awesome!  My husband and I loved it!  I love pumpkin recipes, but he doesn't and we BOTH loved it.  I prepared it exactly the way she says to.  I'd like to try spice cake instead of yellow cake next time though.

This lentil soup is in the Crockpot right now!  Assuming it's not destroyed and we eat it for dinner tonight, I'll let you know how it is!