Friday, July 27, 2007

Little Blessings

This afternoon, my husband and I went to look for a new belt for him. The one he is currently wearing is ripping and will not be usable much longer. He wears a hard-to-find size so after much searching at all the "cheaper" stores, our only alternative was to buy a $35 belt at Belks. We were not tickled about that price at all! Especially considering that his current belt is from Belks and has lasted only a year and a half!

Right before we left the house, I had the feeling that we should stop at Goodwill and check to see if they had anything. At first, I felt very foolish about this and thought I was just imagining. Our local Goodwill isn't known to be that great most of the time, so I don't make the trip that often.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that we should at least stop and check so we went over to Goodwill just in case. If they didn't have anything, then at least we would know that we had covered our bases.:-)

We walked in and went directly to the men's section. They had 2 (not one, but 2) belts in his size. One black and one brown. For 99 cents each!

Wow! We saved over $30 by shopping second-hand. I think my husband may finally be becoming a believer in the true savings of thrift store shopping. :-)

This is just another small example of how God cares and provides for us even in the small things. We are so thankful!

Frugal Friday: Lots Of Zucchini

This week, I will share some recipes and ways to use a lot of the zucchini that may be coming your way this summer! We like zucchini a lot, but after a while, we start to grow tired of the old standbys and want to try some new ideas!

For starters, you can freeze shredded zucchini in recipe-sized portions. This can be frozen alone or with the amount of oil needed for your zucchini bread. I freeze mine in 2 cup portions. If using for zucchini bread, leave the liquid when thawing and using-it is part of the zucchini.

Sliced zucchini is great steamed with a bit of olive oil, onion , garlic and salt & pepper. Throwing zucchini into a stir-fry alone or with other veggies is also delicious! My mother-in-law sautees zucchini and then adds a sauce of soy sauce and hoisin sauce(mix to taste). It is really good! We enjoy chunks of zucchini threaded on skewers with chunks of meat, peppers and whatever other veggies that we have on hand. These are good marinated in your favorite dressing or sauce and then cooked on the grill.

Tiny baby zucchinis are really crisp and yummy cut up into sticks and served raw on a fresh veggie platter.

Add a layer or two of shredded zucchini to lasagna. I did this a couple of weeks ago and it was really tasty!

You can google for zucchini recipes. My husband's grandmother gave me a great little zucchini cookbook when we visited her home a couple of weeks ago. There are so many ways to use this plentiful veggie!

Now I will share a few of our family favorites for using zucchini:

Zucchini bread- Here's my recipe. For variety, you can add 1 cup of shredded carrots. Some folks put crushed pineapple in theirs, too. My mom purees an orange with the oil in the blender to add to her zucchini bread.

Zucchini Soup-
1/2 pound sweet or hot sausage, remove casing; crumble as you fry it; drain well.

Add to pot:
1 pound thinly sliced zucchini
1 (14 oz.) can beef broth
1 onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce(I use 2 cans)
1 cup water
2 T. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil

Cook on low heat and simmer until zucchini is tender. Serve with crusty bread. This freezes well, so make up a big pot to freeze and enjoy later!

Zucchini Fritters-

Vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 of 1 oz. package ranch dip mix(I just add my own combination of spices)
2 cups shredded zucchini

Fill a skillet with oil to a 2 inch depth. Heat to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, combine milk and egg in a mixing bowl. Stir together dry ingredients and add to egg mixture; blend well. Fold in zucchini. Drop batter by rounded teaspoonful into hot oil. Fry until deep golden brown, turning once. Drain thoroughly on paper towels.

Makes 1 1/2 to 2 dozen fritters.

Sausage-Stuffed Zucchini-

4 medium zucchini(6 to 7 inches)
1/2 pound bulk mild Italian sausage
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Cut each zucchini in half lengthwise. Place cut side down, in a large skillet; add 1/2 inch of water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until zucchini are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove zucchini and drain water. In the same skillet. cook sausage, onion and garlic until sausage is browned. Drain fat. Add oregano, corn and tomato. Cook and stir until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in 2/3 cup cheese; set aside. Scoop out and discard seeds from zucchini. Divide the sausage mixture among zucchini shells. Place in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until heated through.

Serves 4-5.

Baked Zucchini Casserole-

3 cups sliced zucchini or yellow squash
1 1/2 cups coarse saltine cracker crumbs(about 20 crackers)
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (4 oz.) jar of diced pimento, optional
1 cup milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Mix all ingredients. Pour into greased 2 quart casserole. Bake uncovered at 300 degrees for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. (May need to bake longer until eggs are set.)
Serves 8.
This is really good for any meal-even reheated at breakfast! Yum!

Enjoy your zucchini harvest this year!

For more frugal ideas, please visit Biblical Womanhood.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Scratch Paper

We always end up with lots of papers around here that have only been printed on one side. I use these for coloring papers for my child-care kids, but I end up with way too many for even them to go through!

Yesterday, I cut a pile of paper into quarters and placed them in a small basket with a couple of pens by the phone to use for scratch paper.

While I am making an effort to not print out so many things, not throwing away perfectly good paper(on one-side anyways!) is just one small way that I can reduce the amount of paper waste in my home.

Do you have any other ideas on this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Frozen Green Beans

The fruit of yesterday's labors-7 quarts of green beans for the freezer! I will probably will do some more beans later this week; there were so many still hanging on in the garden. I would like to preserve 20-25 quarts in all.

I followed the easy instructions for blanching and freezing in my Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving. This is an invaluable resource if you are serious about canning and preserving-it tells you everything you would ever need to know!

If you don't have access to this book or any other canning instruction manual or wealth of knowledge(like a mom, aunt or grandma), here are the instructions for freezing your own green beans.

You can freeze any amount of beans-a little or a lot. Snip ends and break beans into halves or thirds or leave whole if you like it that way. Wash beans in cold water.

Meanwhile, put on a big pot of water to boil. Having a strainer or colander that fits in the pot to hold the beans under water while boiling will really help. I used my large metal strainer.

Prepare either one side of the sink or a large dishpan with ice cold water. Using large ice chunks is a better idea than little ice cubes because they don't melt as fast. (Plan ahead and freeze plastic or stainless steel bowls of water the night before.)Keep extra ice cubes and chunks back as you will need to replenish as the ice melts and water gets warm again.

When your water is at a full boil, immerse a small batch of prepared green beans in the water(keep in the strainer or colander for ease in removing quickly). Time for 3 minutes. When time is up, remove from boiling water immediately and dump beans in ice water. (It is very important that the water is icy, icy cold!)When beans are completely cool, remove to another bowl to continue cooling.(You can put ice in this bowl as well.) Drain beans well and pack into freezer bags or containers.

Repeat process with remaining green beans. As you work, you will get your own rhythm. I keep the beans going and package them all at the same time at the end.

Happy freezing!

Edited to add: I've had questions about how I cook these after freezing. I steam them for about 15 minutes or until soft. Remember they are pretty much still raw so they need to be cooked well. We like them this way. Frozen beans have a different texture than canned. We prefer frozen to canned but not everyone does, including some of our family members! Feel free to add your personal preference for cooking frozen beans.

This Week's Menu and Shopping List

I thought I would post this week's menu as well as my shopping list for those interested. I am working off of a very well-stocked pantry and freezer and the menu and short shopping list reflect that! The garden is also in full swing, providing us with piles of yummy fresh veggies. It is such a blessing to my grocery budget.:-)

Breakfasts this week will be granola, oatmeal, whole wheat toast with peanut butter and pancakes. Lunches are mainly leftovers or peanut butter sandwiches. All dinners include either a salad or fresh, steamed or sauteed veggies to round them out.

Here is my dinner menu:

Monday- Chicken Salad in pita pockets, fruit slush

Tuesday-Lentil and Rice Casserole in crockpot (pantry mix)

Wednesday-Stuffed Zucchini

Thursday-Creamy Chicken Burritos, Spanish Rice (both already prepared in freezer)

Friday-dinner with friends; take green salad to share

Saturday-Layered Mexican Dip, Hummus, tortilla chips, fresh veggies


Now on to my grocery list. I am still working on mainly a $100 a month grocery budget in order to save a little extra money and pay a few things off. This translates into $25 a week, but normally I buy enough groceries to last several weeks and just spend more at one time. This month, I'm making an extra effort to shop once a week and stay at $25 a week to stretch out the grocery budget and hopefully have a little money left for good buys toward the end of the month.

This week, I took my list to Aldi's and did all of my shopping there. For what I needed, Aldi's was the best option price-wise. Then I stopped at our garden(at our friend's house) and did the rest of my "shopping" for free! This week,we have fresh zucchini, yellow squash, green beans, cucumbers, peppers and okra.

I was very pleased to get everything that I needed for the week's meals and stayed just under my $25 budget. Yeah!

Here's my list:
-seedless watermelon: $3.49
-celery: $1.29
-can of olives:$.99
-2 pounds carrots:$.99
-bag of fresh spinach:$1.49
-Roma tomatoes:$1.39
-canola oil: $1.89
-bag of onions:$1.69
-yellow mustard: $.59
-freezer quart bags: $1.99
-dozen eggs: $1.19
-refried beans: $.49
-orange juice concentrate: $1.29
-brown sugar: $.99
-white sugar: $1.98
-tortilla chips: $.99

Grand total(with tax included): $24.73

Monday, July 09, 2007

From The Garden

Any guesses as to what I'll be doing this morning?!?