Friday, August 31, 2012

Inexpensive Pans For Sharing Meals

I find it a joy when I have the opportunity to share a meal with others.

Those opportunities don't come around that often it seems. One reason may be that there are few people having babies within our church and social circles!

But this week, I had two opportunities--one friend just had surgery and another friend's grandfather passed away.

I'm super practical so I try to mostly use disposable pans when gifting a meal. Dollar Tree is my go-to source for inexpensive foil pans. The 9x13's come in a 2-pack for $1 and the smaller pans are a 3-pack for $1. What I love about those small ones is that they come with a lid so they can be stacked and are also the perfect size for 2-3 people.

I like keeping a small stack of these pans on hand so I'm ready to share when the opportunity presents itself!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mailbox Facelift

Anyone who has ever purchased a home knows that with home ownership usually comes repairs and a myriad of projects.

Trying to resist the urge to update and tackle everything all at once, we started making a home project list when we moved in. Now we can look at the list and decide on the next thing we want to do. This is also a great way to intersperse the bigger and more expensive projects between the smaller, low-budget ones.

One of the low-budget projects on our list was to paint the mailbox. It was all rusty. At first we thought we'd just replace it, but in the interest of making do and saving some cash, we went with trying a paint job first.

This was a super easy and quick job. Honestly, the more difficult part was getting the old numbers and name stickers off the mailbox!

To get the stickers off, I tried this method first, which worked somewhat but after about the 3rd application and only about half-way done, I got impatient and pulled out the razor blade. The razor blade was much faster and seemed more effective plus with the old rusty mailbox, I wasn't that worried about damage!

Spray painting went quickly. I used my favorite Krylon Fusion spray paint. I did branch out from my typical black and purchased a red can for this project. There are lots of black mailboxes in our neighborhood so I thought red would be nice and different. Besides, I have painting the front door and shutters red on the project list for the future.... And I just might have some ideas for using some more of that red paint!

There are a few smudges of black on the red which happened when I painted the flag black. So it's not perfect. I may or may not fix them. But overall, I'm super pleased with our low-budget mailbox facelift!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pinned It, Made It: Frozen Banana Bites

I really like Pinterest. I'll admit that I use it mostly as a bookmarking tool rather than browsing the site. But I've found many great ideas through  Pinterest and because I can see what I've pinned, I've been much more likely to remember what I want to do and actually follow through with a lot of them!

One of the more difficult aspects of eating a low-grain and sugar diet is finding snacks that are easy, quick and budget-friendly. Gone are the days of muffins, cookies and homemade granola bars that are easy to make ahead and freeze. We eat  a lot of fruit for snacks, but sometimes it's nice to have a little something else--a treat, if you will!

I pinned these frozen banana bites to my Real Food: Appetizers and Snacks board and could hardly wait to try them! They looked so easy: slice bananas, spread with peanut butter. Slap them together and freeze!

So that's what I did--EXCEPT I didn't follow the original directions. In fact, I had went on the picture alone! I went back later and read the recipe-- which involves mixing mashed bananas with yogurt and peanut butter to spread on the banana slices.

I'm sure that's delicious too, although we really liked my simple method and will probably continue making them that way.

But I'll let you choose which method you want to try!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It!Monday! over at Country Girl At Home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I've been enjoying a couple computer-free days each week. 

It's taken some getting used to, but I love it! 

It started by evaluating how I could make my two longest and busiest days not quite so hectic. I eliminated the computer from those days and suddenly they are more peaceful with  time to do what I need to do. 

Amazing, huh! 

And I haven't missed much at all!

Quiet. It's a wonderful thing.

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we  told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody."
 I Thessalonians 4: 11-12

Saturday, August 18, 2012

100 Things In 100 Days

I've been following The Year Of Less blog with interest as this family chooses one small thing to do to simplify their lives almost every day for a year. I've enjoyed reading Kelly's other blog for some time now and this new one is good too! I learn a lot from her.

I really don't have a need to sweep through and do a major decluttering right now. But as I consider carefully the purchases we're making and what's coming into our home and the time and money taken to buy and maintain these items, I am inspired to consistently evaluate what we have. Setting aside those items that are not adding value to our lives in some way and resisting the urge to replace things once we get rid of them!

So when Kelly posted about her personal challenge to give away 100 items in 100 days, I was inspired to do my own challenge! When I'm purposely getting rid of items on a consistent basis, I'm more objective about what's coming in to my home.  So that was my main reason for doing this challenge--to be intentional about not only my purchases but also what I accept from other people.

I will admit, sometimes it's easier to accept other people's hand me downs and get rid of them later than to just decline them right away. But at the same time, many of these offered  items are useful so being wise about what is offered and only accepting those things that will be truly useful to us is important here. Because in the long run, constantly moving and getting rid of things that are given to us is tiring too and takes energy I would rather put towards other things that have lasting value.

Kelly is giving away her items to friends. I've been giving away some of what I've accumulated(when I know specifically that a friend can use it). A new bottle of contact solution and a box of plastic bags are two things I offered to friends because I was pretty sure they could use them and I was right! Otherwise, I'm throwing these things in a box to either donate or yard sale later.

Note: Real life friends are welcome to sift through this box and help themselves to anything they would like!

I started the challenge on August 1st and will end on November 8th. So far I've discarded 25 items. So I'm a few days ahead. :-)  I'm keeping a list so I know exactly where I'm at in the challenge and I've already figured out that 100 things is a lot more decluttering than it looks! But doing around one item per day is doable and keeps me going.

Some items included in my decluttering box are shorts that I hated wearing, freebies I got while drugstore shopping and never used, a few toys and children's books that didn't get much use or constantly came apart when being played with (you know the ones!), a few random household items and 3 bottles of Worcestershire Sauce. Yes, three... I had 4 and considering that this is an ingredient used rather sparingly, keeping 4 as backup in the pantry seemed rather excessive so I kept 1 and am giving away the others.

I will update on this challenge as we continue...

Are you interested in joining in? 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hakuna Matata Frittata

 No Worries Frittata!*

My mother-in-law gave me two cast-iron skillets for Christmas and I've enjoyed learning to use them!

I ran across a recipe for a frittata in the latest issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray that was made in an oven proof skillet. The recipe used broccolini but I took the idea and tweaked it to fit what I had in my fridge! Basically, I used the method but not the actual recipe. This was the first time I used my cast-iron from stove top to oven and it worked really well!

Since switching to a low-grain diet, I'm constantly on the search for quick and healthy "busy night" dinners that fit into our new criteria for eating. We often make some kind of eggs and sauteed veggies or omelets when we're crunched for time and this recipe definitely fits well in this category!

Any veggie, cheese and meat combination could be used in this recipe. I made this one with spinach, bacon and cheddar cheese. It's so easy and because it uses one skillet and doesn't require a long baking time, I can see this becoming a regular at our dinner table!

Easy Spinach Frittata
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil

1- 16 ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (Based on personal taste, you may want to reduce this amount. It's very spinach-y, which we liked!)
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 or 2 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (I used very thick slices so they went further than skinny bacon.:-)
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste  
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat oil in ovenproof skillet around medium heat. Add onion, spinach and bacon; cook for 5 minutes. Beat eggs with garlic powder and salt and pepper. Add eggs to skillet; cook until set. Add cheese; broil 5 minutes until done and nicely browned.

Slice and serve!

*I just couldn't help but hum Hakuna Matata while making this dish because it rhymes with frittata! :-)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Rock's DNA

Last spring, we won a free Doggy DNA test from our vet.

Our dog Rock is a mutt or a "mixed breed" as they call them. We always knew he was a Lab mix. And guessed that his other part was Bull Terrier--Pit Bull and/or Staffordshire Terrier.

We as the McFrugals and especially me as Mrs. Super Practical, would never have thought to pay for a test (around $100 value) to find out what exactly his breeds were. I mean, we love him and all... But he is a dog.

But it was a fun win and cool to find out! We finally got around to redeeming our prize a few weeks ago and just got his test results back last week.

What we thought: Labrador Retriever and Bull Terrier (Pit Bull and/ or Staffordshire Terrier) Mix.

What he is: Labrador Retriever and American Staffordshire/ Vizsla Mix.

I'd never heard of the Vizsla breed before this-- a hunting/working dog with Hungarian origin. Very interesting...
Rock with his friend Mason. Rock is the smaller black dog on the left.

We do find it highly amusing that Rock now has "papers" along with Breed Ancestry Certificate with Statement of Authentication!

Friday, August 10, 2012


We inherited a number of flowerbeds and lots of yard work when we bought this house.

This was one of the downsides to this place since we really are not yard work or even really outdoorsy type of people.

However, the pros outweighed the cons and we decided to go for it--yard work and all.

I've been working on the flowerbeds one at a time. I'm beginning in the backyard--a) because I'm back there a lot with the children and see the flowerbeds all the time and b) I can work a little bit while the children are playing. 

My first stop was at the bed of roses in the backyard and I must admit that it felt really worthwhile to clean this bed up and see it look a little better. Maybe I'll grow to like working in the yard after all! (Ok, so it's not perfect looking but a huge improvement from where it was!)

My mom was excited to hear that I had a couple of rose beds and gave me some tips to promote healthy growth.

  • Don't let dead leaves and debris lie on the ground around your roses.
  • Remove faded roses--if they're in a cluster, clip out the bad ones. One to a stem--go down to the first 5-sectioned leaf. Clip right above it.
  • Prune roses back sometime from December to February. Cut out all dead canes. She recommends cutting back to about 6 inches.
  • Use a good fertilizer for roses if needed.
She also gave me a recipe for a homemade spray for roses:

"Mix 2 tablespoons baking soda with 1 gallon warm water, then add 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil. Spray under the leaves and on top of the leaves after watering or a rain at least once a  week."

I haven't tried the spray yet but plan to make it as soon as I get a sprayer for it.

My mom is very good at gardening so I'm excited to follow her instructions and see how the roses do!

Do you have any gardening tips for roses to share with me? 

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Cake Mix Cookie Bars

Use these 4 ingredients...

To make these yummy cookie bars!

Alright, so these Cake Mix Cookie Bars are not at all healthy or real food (except for the butter and egg). But sometimes, a quick dessert is needed. I've found since we've moved to a more low grain diet, we just don't have a good stock of baking ingredients on hand since I hardly ever bake anymore! So when I want to whip up some cookies or something, what used to be a quick thing is now a big deal. 

My sister-in-law made these yummy bars while we all were at the beach and since they are super yummy and only take 4 ingredients, I wrote down the recipe. I've been keeping these ingredients on hand for when I want to make something sweet to share. Perfect for hospitality!

Easy Cake Mix Cookie Bars

1 cake mix**
1 stick butter, melted
1 egg
1 bag chocolate chips (This amount could be reduced but which is worse-- extra chocolatey cookies or an open bag of chocolate chips in the house? It's quite the predicament, I tell you!)

Mix ingredients together. Spread and press into greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.

**Pretty much any combination of cake mix and chips could be used: chocolate cake mix with peanut butter chips, red velvet cake mix with white chips, yellow cake mix with chocolate chips, chocolate cake mix with mint chips, chocolate with chocolate... can you tell I love chocolate?!!


Monday, August 06, 2012

Our Weekly Menu

In an attempt to make it a few more days before grocery shopping, I dug through the fridge, pantry and freezer to come up with this week's meal plan.  I don't really have time this week to do a big grocery trip until the weekend. So the plan may be a bit funny sounding and not extravagant or anything but we should be eating pretty well. Thank God for food in the house!

I pray a lot when making my meal plans, asking for wisdom and ideas. The Holy Spirit never fails to give direction, reminding me of ingredients, recipes and things to make!

B- Scrambled eggs
L-Leftover chicken and rice bake, raw veggies
Snack- Bits and bobs: canteloupe, figs, yogurt
D- Salmon,millet and broccoli bake, creamy cucumber salad

B- Scrambled eggs
L- Muffin tin soup (freezer), hard boiled eggs, cottage cheese, rest of salad greens
Snack- Pineapple
D- Unstuffed pepper bake, tomatoes marinated in balsamic vinegar

B- Scrambled eggs, sausage
L- Leftovers
Snack- Applesauce
D- Southwestern lentils (crockpot)

B- Scrambled eggs
L- Egg drop soup with chicken, tuna salad on celery sticks
Snack- Smoothies
D- Salmon patties, green beans, rice

B-Scrambled eggs
L- Leftovers
Snack- Banana ice cream
D- Grill: pork chops, butternut squash

B- Egg and sausage muffins
L- Jerky, hard-boiled eggs, veggies
Snack- Pineapple
D- Hot dogs, sides to be decided later

What are you eating this week?

This post is part of Menu Plan Monday!

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Choosing Chicken (And Hobby Lobby)

As Christians, we appreciate businesses that share our values. Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are two such businesses that were founded upon and operate by God's principles.  We love to support them with our business when the opportunities arise.

We joined hundreds of thousands of Americans today to show our support and appreciation for Chick-fil-A's public stand on Biblical values. It was a long wait to get our food but totally worth the time!

Since we were supporting a Christian business anyways, I thought "Why not support two today?" so on the way home I made a quick stop at Hobby Lobby for something on my list. :-)

Do you vote with your dollars by choosing carefully where you spend your money? Which businesses are your favorite to support?