Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A funny thing happened at BJs a few weeks ago...

A few weeks ago, it was time for the monthly change of our air conditioning filter.  I'd run out, so I headed over to BJs.  There were 2 packages left but no price tag up on the rack.  I picked up both packages and headed to the checkout lane.  After checking out all of my other items, the checker called over the supervisor for help.  

It turns out that the 2 pk of filters rang up for 3 cents.  Really.  It rang up for 3 cents!  He thought it was a fluke as did the checkout supervisor, so they called the store manager.  Nope.  3 cents it was.  I went back to see if there were anymore.  There was--1 more package.  It was a little bent, but for 3 cents I was willing to try them. It was only the cardboard frame that was a little bent.  

So, that day I left BJs with 6 air conditioning filters for a 11 cents.  Normally, a 2 pk is $15.  So, instead of being $45 plus tax, it was only 11 cents.  

The lesson I learned that day...  it never hurts to ask how much something is!  You may just find an extra good deal!

Cooking for Special Diets

I think that cooking for someone with a special diet is often difficult.  We are so accustomed to cooking with a lot of dairy, meat, salt, and sugar in America.  I fall into this group wholeheartedly.  I try to be wise about all of these ingredients and eat them in moderation.  Two months ago, I wanted to decrease the sugar in my family's diet.  So, my answer was to look for some new recipes.  That's usually my first impulse when it comes to cooking.  When I have recipes I want to make and that sounds good, I'm much more likely to make them.  

Because I wanted to decrease the amount of sugar, I thought of cookbooks for diabetics, since they have to have diets low in sugar.  I requested two diabetic cookbooks for review.  I really enjoyed America's Best Cookbook for Kids with Diabetes.  I wrote a review here two months ago.  Since then, I've been sporadically cooking recipes from the second diabetes cookbook I have, 250 Essential Diabetes Recipes.

I've made a white sauce for my fish, the broccoli ranch salad, classic greek salad dressing, and an eggplant dip.  The white sauce needed spice.  The Broccoli salad was surprisingly good.  The Greek salad dressing was pretty salty, but good.  The eggplant dip was declined by my husband after a few bites.  He wasn't crazy about the strong celery taste to it.  

What I loved about the Kids cookbook was that the recipes had just enough spice for kids and enough to keep parents happy.  In contrast, the recipes from this cookbook were quite bland except for the broccoli salad.  I'm going to rabbit trail for just a second...

I have noticed that many cookbooks from the 1950s and 60s had recipes in them that were very basic and mild.  Usually the recipes didn't have a lot of spice in them or strong flavors.  Over the years, the number of cookbooks has greatly multiplied!  There are still those cookbooks with pretty mild dishes, but there are also many cookbooks that have plenty of spice in their recipes.  My tastes fall toward the more flavorful side.  So, with those random thoughts...

The recipes from this cookbook reminded me a lot of those blander recipes from days long ago.  They weren't bad recipes, but they simply weren't as packed as flavor as I'd like.  

But, there are many strengths of this cookbook.  1) The formatting, as with all Robert Rose cookbooks, is great.  The recipes are so easy to read and understand.  None of the recipes are very difficult to make.  There's a very helpful introduction at the front of the cookbook.  2) You can modify the recipes in this cookbook.  With special diets, food often needs to be bland so that it will settle with someone's stomach.  If that's what you're looking for, this cookbook will meet that need.  Also, if there's an ingredient (like my husband and celery), adjust the amount you add to the recipe.

If you're looking for a diabetes cookbook to check out of the library, look this one up.  The pictures are appealing and it's easy to use.  You may find that it's a good fit for you and it will give you a place to start.

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook from Robert Rose for review.

Gluten-Free Brownies

Yesterday, I got a new cookbook, Taste of Home Baking, in the mail to try out.

My mom loves Taste of Home magazine so I was curious about this cookbook. I bake a lot so I do have many cookbooks on my shelves.  At one point I had 100 (my husband counted), but I've cut back to only the ones I use which has left me with about 80 or so.  I guess I cook a lot.

When this cookbook arrived, I was immediately pleased. Inside the front cover was an insert offer with a free 1 year subscription to Taste of Home magazine ($10 is the special rate usually) which makes the $18 price on Amazon for this cookbook a great value! When you open up, you'll see that there are two plastic pages protectors that you can use to protect the cookbook pages while you are cooking. I can't tell you how many spots my cookbooks have on them from my cooking! Once you get past those two features, you'll notice that there are many sections including one for cupcakes (the new craze), lighter recipes, and special diets. The formatting of this cookbook makes it very easy to read and use. There are plenty of pictures to give you an idea of what you're making--and make it appealing! The pages are thicker than the ones in America's Test Kitchen's family cookbooks (also binder-style) which makes the pages easier to turn and less likely to rip out.

I chose to make two recipes from this cookbook in the 24 hours that I've had it so far. Yesterday, I made the gluten-free brownies. They have... garbanzo beans in them. The recipe sounded so strange I had to try it. They turned out! Actually, my kids (3, 5, and 7) raved about them. They weren't as heavy as normal brownies since they didn't have any wheat or butter in them. They were really quite good!

I was able to find the recipe for the brownies online HERE.  

The second recipe I made was one for apple muffins. I do want to note that Taste of Home is not typically thought of as a "healthy" cooking magazine so I wouldn't say that most of the recipes in this cookbook are "healthy" type baking recipes. The muffins were quite good (and easy to make) and because there was butter in them, we didn't need to put butter on them when I served them.

This cookbook has significantly improved my opinion of Taste of Home recipes. I had a church supper cookbook by them last year that I finally gave away because the recipes I made didn't turn out that well. This cookbook, on the other hand, has already proven successful in our house! 

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this book for review from the publisher.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

One of our favorite salsas over the past 10 years has been the green salsa verde at Trader Joe's.  But, with the rising cost of groceries, it is also one of the treats that I've cut from my grocery list.

I found a recipe last week that is just as good--if not better--than that salsa.  Green Salsa Verde is either made with peppers or tomatillos.  Trader Joe's salsa is made with tomatillos, so that's what I wanted to use.  The recipe came from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.  But, I found this recipe online Here that is almost exactly the same.  The recipe I made did not have the cumin, though.  So, I'd try it the first time without the cumin and see how you like it.  Add the cumin the next time and see if you like it better or worse!  I will mention that I seeded the jalapenos and Did Not add the seeds back in to spice it up.  I'm a pretty mild salsa eater.  If you like it hot, add the seeds back in to taste when you're blending the salsa.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Funny Story About Clothes...

Last week, my daughters started taking an art class at our homeschool co-op.  They donned two shirts that were the same style but different colors.  I had just bought them the weekend before at a consignment sale and they loved them.

Yesterday was the second class day and they donned the same shirts.  Autumn told me they wanted to wear them every week.  I told her that the other kids might think they only have 1 outfit!  At the suggestion, my daughter just burst out laughing. 

And then she said some magical words, "I don't care, Mommy. I love this shirt."

A big smile spread across my face.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How Many Clothes Do You Need?

I could have asked,
How many blankets do you need?
How many shoes do you need?
How many books do you need?
How much curriculum need?
How many toys do your kids need?

What do you need?
What do you not?

Do you think about this a lot?

I think about it from time to time.  I try to be mindful of it.

When my girls were little, I wanted to make sure they had enough clothes.  (They're still little to me.) Like most adults, I have baggage from my past.  And when I was a kid, there were a lot of kids that made comments about my clothes.  I didn't want my kids to have comments made about them.  So, they had plenty of clothes--brand names from garage sale clothes, but still great clothes.  Then, I had a little boy.  He would be our only little boy, so it made sense that I didn't need a lot of extra clothes for him.  I just needed him to have enough.  It made me step back with my girls.  Now when I'm tempted to buy my girls clothes (even at garage sales), I hold myself to a lower limit.  Do they really need it or do they have enough?  Because even if it's a great price, if they don't need it--well, then they don't need it and I shouldn't get it.

As often happens to my blog posts, a rabbit trail is about to sneak in...

I began this post yesterday and tonight I was reading about "needs" in a book I've meant to finish up.  There was only about a chapter or two left and I'd gotten derailed.  Tonight I read about "needs" in a different way that is challenging me.

"When I forget what my true and essential need really is, I will name things as needs that are not really needs and then invest my life in anxious pursuit of 
them.  Subtly, these things begin to exercise control over the way I think 
about myself and my life...Subtly, desire for these things begins to shape the way I invest my time, energy, and money.  Subtly these things become my 
reason for making the decisions I make.  Subtly, these things become the lens through which I evaluate my life.  Subtly, I begin to look to these things for my happiness and my inner sense of well-being.  Somewhere, somehow, I have 
forgotten who I am.  Somehow, I have let go of God's gift of grace.... You see 
life always involves worship.  Our lives revolve around the thing that has 
captured our attention and desire."  
quoted from pg. 182-184 of Broken-Down House by Paul David Tripp

This quote made me realize that it's okay to think about what my family 
needs, but I need to guard the time and energy that this "thinking" takes from me.  I need to be careful that whatever I think I "need" hasn't captured my 
heart and mind.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Newspaper Subscriptions

I know that everyone thinks newspapers are a dying artifact of our culture.  But, the fact is, I enjoy them!  I look forward to the paper delivery on Saturday and the coupons that come with it.  I look forward to reading the news in print form.

I have been subscribing to the local newspaper wherever I lived since I was in college.  There is a trick I've learned along the way.  Usually, promotional rates are for a year period.  When the year is over, the weekly rate will go up.  I always discover this when the bill takes a big hike for the next period.  

That happened to me today.  In the past, I've opened up the newspaper to compare rates that they are offering and called to sign up for one of the rates listed.  They've stopped publishing these rates, so I called the newspaper.  I asked what promotions they have available.  Usually, the best rate is only open to new subscriptions.  I discovered when I asked that there is a rate available for $1.50 per week (vs. the $4.50/week I had just been charged on the most recent bill).  I told the customer service gal I would like to sign up for that promotion.  She mentioned it starting when this billing cycle ended.  I informed her that I'd like it to start this week.  I knew I could ask for that (since I had done this in the past).  She good naturedly said "Okay."  

My paid up date extended by 2 months with that phone call.  Yay!

So, that's my newspaper renewal story :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

To See God Provide

One of the things that brings me such sweet joy is to see how God works things out.  My younger daughter's tennis shoes started coming apart yesterday.  They needed to be replaced ASAP.

At the beginning of the summer, I had bought there the cheapest--yes, literally the cheapest tennis shoes Target had for $10/pr for each of the girls.  It was summer and I knew that their sandals would be what they'd wear most of the time and that they'd probably grow some more over the summer.  I anticipated buying new tennis shoes in the fall.  The girls were happy with them because they liked the colors of the shoes (pink and white) and I was thankful that they didn't mind the cheap construction of them (the price was justified).

Well, fall is here.

The girls are getting to an age where they need better athletic shoes.  I want them to have some support for their feet.  So, we've been going to the Stride Rite outlet when we can for tennis shoes.  But, that takes planning and time.  Neither of which I have in the immediate future.  So, I went by the Stride Rite store in the mall.  The tennis shoes were all very flashy except for some Saucony's that were $49/pr.  They did have a buy one get one half off sale, but that would have made two pairs of shoes $75 plus tax.  It felt a bit steep to me and the shoe colors were flashier than I'd like.  So, we left without any new shoes.  

We traveled onward.   

I thought we'd stop by Dick's Sporting Goods on the way home just to check to see if they had any.  They only had 1 style.  It happened to be on sale!  They were $30/pr but they only had 1 pair of 12s and my girls both wear size 12.  So, the sales associate checked the online store and found the same price online.  I learned that if you order them from the store, you won't pay shipping.  Yahoo!  So, Sami left the store wearing new shoes (I had the cashier throw the old ones away) and Autumn has a package on its way in the mail with her new shoes.  Both girls are happy, though Autumn is already pining for her package to arrive.  I can't blame her.  She was a great sport about it.

It was interesting at the Stride Rite when Sami told me she liked the flashy shoes and I explained that I didn't. I shared with her that I would choose what I thought might be some good choices and ask them if they like them.  After this summer's experience with Sami, I know this is important.  I bought her some sandals that she only thought were so-so and wouldn't wear them until her old ones were literally falling apart.  Thankfully, this one pair came in white/teal/light yellow and the girls both loved the colors!  

The total came to $60 plus tax for the two pairs.  

I was very thankful to save some money on the shoes and see God provide a pair of shoes that Sami, Autumn, and I all like.  It was a little blessing that made me smile.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Sugar Problem and Our Kids

There's been a huge increase in obesity in children in the last decade.  It is a growing concern among doctors, educators, and parents.  I think it has an awful lot to do with the food we're feeding our children.  One of the culprits is sugar.

I was thinking about this and wondering how I could find some good kid-friendly recipes with less sugar when I realized that diabetics must eat less sugar.  I found a cookbook for kids with diabetes and was excited to see what was inside it!

The cookbook is America's Best Cookbook for Kids with Diabetes by Colleen Bartley.  It's published by Robert Rose Publishing.  Honestly, I really like how they format their cookbooks.  The fonts are very readable.  The spacing is great so that it's easy to follow a recipe and come back to the step you're on as you're cooking.  You don't lose track of what you're adding or what you're doing!

In this cookbook, there's a great introduction and discussion about sugars and artificial sweeteners.  The discussion about artificial sweeteners isn't very indepth, but it's a good introduction to the topic and gives some food for thought.

As I flipped through the cookbook, I immediately thought "What a great cookbook!"  The recipes are all what I what I'd say are "kid-friendly".  I have often noticed that well intentioned cookbooks for kids throw in a lot of healthy ingredients that kids are reticent to eat.  If you have amiable eaters, that's great.  If you don't, you may often find yourself in a pickle like I do.  

Over the past few weeks, I've made several recipes from this cookbook.  One night we had the fish sticks and the tartar sauce.  I was surprised at how well the coating stuck to the fish. I've had a lot of problems with that over the years!  Then, a few days ago I made the Baked Apple-Raisin Oatmeal.  Of course, my picky eaters won't eat raisins, so I subbed in mini-chocolate chips.  I know this adds in sugar, but for an afternoon snack, this was still a lower sugar alternative than cookies.  A friend of mine was over and ate some.  She commented how much she enjoyed them because it wasn't quite so sweet.  Another recipe I made was using the teriyaki sauce from the pork chop recipe.  I used it when we barbecued chicken.  It good and mild.  Each of the recipes were simple and quick to make.  

If you a) have picky eater and are looking for simple, healthy recipes or b) have a child with diabetes, then you might really like this cookbook.  I did.

Please note note that I received a complimentary copy of this cookbook for review from Robert Rose Publishing.