Chicken Pot Pie Soup and New Job!

Good morning!

So exciting news on the horizon – I have a full time salary job again!  Well, it was a little sooner than I expected… but I have been taking classes to be certified in Gifted Education.  And a full time Gifted Education teaching position opened up in the adjoining school district.  So I took it!  It will be so exciting to be working with students every day and I am so overjoyed to be working with this special population.

Books: I finished “Hatchet” by Gary Paulsen this week.  It is a Newberry winner and quick read if you want to beef up your Young Adult Fiction list.  The reviews on Good Reads range from “I hate this book!” to “A must read for young readers.”  Hmmm.  I’m in the middle of the camp.  I did not hate the book.  I think perhaps there weren’t a whole lot of Newberry nominees that year?  There is obvious symbolism and a great character study.    My theory why people don’t like it is that all of the action and excitement happen in the first few pages of the book and then it moves slowly when Brian is trying to survive in the wild.

Recipe:

On with the show and recipe….  one of my favorite meals is chicken pot pie.  If mom asks what to make on my birthday it’s chicken pot pie.  But this is a soup version – and just as quick, easy and tasty!

Why is this recipe great?

-It is filling.
-You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand.
-You can use chicken leftovers from another meal.
-It is inexpensive to make.
-Without a crust, it is much healthier.  But still tastes like pot pie!
-Freezer friendly!
-Great on a cold winter day with some crusty bread or beer bread


Chicken Pot Pie Soup and New Job!
 
:
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • 4 cups milk (1%, skim or 2% work fine)
  • 2 teaspoons better than bullion or chicken bullion (or use 2 cups chicken stock instead of water)
  • ¼ tsp. ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • 10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (or chopped carrots, frozen corn, peas and green beans)
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour, AP flour or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 pound chicken breast, cooked and cut into ½"
  • kosher or regular salt
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, add olive oil, celery and onion. Saute over medium to medium high for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add 1 and ½ cups water (or chicken broth) and milk. Bring this to a boil. Add bullion, pepper, thyme and frozen vegetables. Turn the heat down to medium low. Cover and simmer cook about 15-20 minutes or vegetables are cooked.
  3. In a measuring cup, mix the remaining ½ cup water (or chicken broth) with flour. Whisk together.
  4. Add flour mixture with the chicken into the pot. Heat through. Salt to taste.
  5. Serve while hot. Crusty bread or beer bread is great with this as well.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste

 

White Chicken Chili | Instant Pot

Hey Everyone!  I’m still alive 🙂  Just took a long pause to continue my photography and teach 4th grade full-time for a few months.  Next month I will be a full-time student at the University of Missouri and possibly part or full-time teacher as well… we’ll see how this goes.  🙂

But hey, we are here for the recipes, not my opinion on the last presidential election that we missed on the blog.  Whew!  Maybe that’s a good thing we missed it….

Book Review: 

Rosalind Wiseman has written a comprehensive guide to helping girls through the teenage years and even the tweens. This is a must read for any parent that has a daughter! The author delivers in a conversational tone a plethora of advice from years of clinical experience. Quotations from teenage girls are scattered throughout the book giving firsthand knowledge of the world of “queen bees.”

The first section is about friendships, groups of friends and the roles friends play. Next, parents and parenting styles are discussed. Then, anger management and what to do about parties. Online communication and boys are included in the chapters as well. The book is lengthy… which is a blessing and a curse. “Queen Bees and Wannabes” has so many scenarios that it will probably have what you are dealing with or what you will be dealing with in years to come. All 412 pages will not apply to everyone. But I can guarantee that some of this book will apply to all parents and help them – and their daughters – through whatever physical or emotional hurdles they may have to face and guide them through facing it together.

I received a sample of this book to read from Blogging for books so i can give my honest and unbiased opinion/review.

Recipe:

My Instant Pot is still my new favorite toy!   Check out this blog post with more things to do with the Instant Pot like:  make yogurt from just milk, make a 10 hour roast in 1 hour, cook chicken without drying it out, make chili in 10 minutes, hard-boiled eggs where the shell comes off in one piece, make perfectly cooked brown or white rice.

Now to the chili… we have tons of deer meat and been eating chili like crazy the past few months.  To shake things up a bit, I made white chicken chili.  I have tried several ways and finally came across some ingredients that help a lot:  Trader Joe’s fire roasted diced green chiles.  YUM!  Try to find them if you can.  If not, that’s okay and find the Mexican food aisle in your store and they will have canned green chilies.

*If you want to use dried beans – that works too!  1/2 cup dried beans = 1 can of beans.  So, I used my Instant Pot the previous day to pressure cook the soaked beans.  They were done in 12 minutes on high pressure using natural release.

White Chicken Chili (and Instant Pot Option)
 
Prep time
Total time
 
:
Serves: 6-8 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 and ½ cups diced chicken breasts or tenderloin (with tendon removed)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tb. ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
  • 4 cups chicken broth (reduced sodium preferred)
  • 2 cans (3 cups) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounces canned green chiles, diced
  • 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. For regular pot: Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add the diced chicken and onion. Cook until no longer pink - about 8 minutes. Add garlic with the spices and cook 30 seconds.
  2. Once the garlic and spices are fragrant, add the broth, beans, chiles and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer 10-15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. For Instant Pot: Turn on the Instant Pot to "Saute" on Normal/Medium. Add oil and once hot add the chicken and onion. Cook until no longer pink - about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook those another 30 seconds. Turn Instant Pot off.
  4. Add the rest of the ingredients. Turn the Instant Pot back on to Manual mode and set for 10 minutes. Or press "Chili" and reduce the cooking time to 10 minutes. Make sure the vent is sealed of course!
  5. Release the pressure and your chili is finished! If you want it thicker, put the Instant Pot on saute with the lid off to reduce the chili.

 

 

Crockpot Lentil Soup

Detox Lentil Soup

What’s so awesome about lentils?

Lentils are cheap.

Lentils can be stored a long time because they are dried.

Lentils are a great source of potassium, calcium, niacin, zinc and Vitamin K.

Lentils are rich in fiber and lean protein.

Lentils are a super food!  We love our super foods here on Whisk Together!  🙂

Lentils are like chicken… they take on the flavor of whatever ingredients they are cooked with.

Detox Lentil Soup 3

 

This soup is great for those of you trying to lose weight!  Lots of protein, fiber and veggies.  Or trying to maintain weight.  Or just need a nice warm bowl of soup.  It is a nice blank canvas for anything you would like to add to it.  Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, lemon infused grapeseed or olive oil, red wine vinegar, etc. all taste great as a finishing touch.  If you are trying to add a “Meatless Monday” to the dinner menu, this soup would definitely fit the bill!  Simply add a side salad or whole grain bread.

Detox Lentil Soup 2

To keep the week going smoothly, I try to get a few things done on Sunday.  One of those is making a big batch of soup and one large bowl of salad.  That way I always have something to grab for lunch or a back up for dinner.  Especially since these soups and most of my salads don’t contain meat or dairy mixed in, then I don’t feel like it is going to turn bad in 6-7 days.

Crockpot Lentil Soup
 
:
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 cups chopped butternut squash (peeled and cut into ½" cubes)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (peeled and cut into ½" silces)
  • 2 cups chopped potatoes (Yukon Gold works well) or sweet potatoes (peel if you prefer and chop into ½" cubes)
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 5-7 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced (more garlic for more garlic flavor)
  • 1 and ¾ cup dried green lentils
  • 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 handfuls baby spinach or kale chopped into 1" pieces, optional
  • 1 lemon, squeeze the juice into the soup
  • Optional garnishes: fresh parsley, dried parsley, Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Into a large slow cooker, add all of the ingredients from butternut squash through ground pepper.
  2. Cook on high 4-5 hours or low for 6-7 hours.
  3. Add baby spinach and squeeze lemon juice into soup. Allow to wilt about 5 minutes.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste! I added quite a bit of salt and pepper. I also added Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute because it tastes great on everything.
  5. Add 1-2 cups of additional broth for a thinner soup. I like my soups on the thick side.
  6. Serve warm and enjoy.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Grace and Salt
http://graceandsalt.net/lentil-vegetable-crockpot-soup/

 

 

Hearty Ham and Bean Soup (Christmas Ham Leftovers!)

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I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas!

I still haven’t had a chance to read any fantastic books to talk to you about.  I am also trying to push another project out by 2016.  You may have seen a little change on the home page of this website 😉  That’s part of the surprise.

I’ve also been watching “The Flash” on Netflix.  It is one of the nicer sci-fi shows on Netflix compared to the MA rated “Jessica Jones” and others.  If you can wrap your head around the fact that a scientist built a particle accelerator in the middle of a city of hundreds of thousands of people… then you’ll be all set!  Completely ignore basic safety and physics, and you can watch the show.

The kids were pretty happy this Christmas – The oldest finished putting together this bad boy in like 3 hours.  Oy!


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The youngest was VERY happy with her hotel.  The hotel set was pretty nifty and I had fun helping her with it.  There’s a pool, piano lounge, ice cream bar, elevator, your own car, waterfall, chandelier and rotating doors!

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My sister’s friend’s mom made this cake for us for Christmas – it had chocolate cherry cake inside!

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It was too pretty to eat… but we made the sacrifice and ate it anyway.  🙂

Now that we are done with cake…. let’s move over to a hearty, healthy and very filling soup.  There is a lot of protein in here from the ham, beans and lentils.  The lentils, barley and beans provide a nice amount of fiber.  The carrots and celery give this soup nice flavor and vitamins.

Hearty Ham and Bean Soup-6110 copy

Recipe:  For Christmas dinner, we had ham among other dishes.  I used my trusty baked ham recipe and had about 2 pounds of leftovers.  Woo hoo!  Also, what to do with that end that doesn’t slice very well….???  Make soup!  I love soup!   It is pretty hard to mess up broth and ham really.  Plus, you can throw in whatever ingredients you want to use up in the fridge or pantry.  For me, I had some leftover quick cooking barley from Trader Joe’s and green lentils.  Feel free to substitute the lentils for barley and vice versa.  Or just omit them.  The soup just won’t be as thick and it is a pretty thick soup anyway.  I figure I would rather give you recipes for a thick soup than thin.  It is sooooo much easier to thin a soup with some added broth or water than to try and make a soup thicker.  Sometimes boiling it too long overcooks the rest of the food.

Remember our new food trick:  add canned beans at the end!  They are already cooked anyway and just need heated.

Feel free to switch and use whatever herbs you have on hand and like.  I used oregano, rosemary and 21 seasoning salute (Trader Joe’s).  But any combination of thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, Italian seasoning, or the like will work.

I served this soup with a side of beer bread.

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Hearty Ham and Bean Soup (Christmas Ham Leftovers!)
 
:
Ingredients
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery ribs, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • ½ cup dry green lentils, rinsed
  • ½ tsp each of dried oregano, basil and rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. white or black pepper
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or water)
  • 2 cup cooked chopped ham
  • 2 cans (15 oz) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup quick cooking barley
Instructions
  1. In a Dutch oven or large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook about 5-7 minutes or until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add garlic and cook another 30 seconds.
  3. Into the pot, add the lentils, dried herbs, pepper, and broth. Turn the heat up to medium high to get the soup the boil. Once at a boil, cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Keep the soup at a simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the ham, beans and quick cooking barley. Bring the soup up to a boil again. Cover again and simmer over medium low for 10 minutes.
  5. Feel free to add more herbs, salt or pepper to taste. The soup is quite thick and hearty. Thin it out with more chicken broth or water.

 

Sweet Potato Carrot Soup & Thanksgiving Menu

Sweet Potato Carrot Soup on Whisk Together-5457

 

Thanksgiving is here! Here is the Menu:

Slow Cooker Turkey Breast and Gravy-4501 on Whisk Together

One, We will be making this turkey again.  It is the best and we just can’t change it.  I have started roasting it in an oven bag, too.  It doesn’t get the skin as crispy, but no one here eats the skin that much anyway.  Make this turkey!  Need help with the gravy?  Here’s a great recipe that will ease your mind.  You can even make it and store it in the fridge the night before!  Just use the gravy portion of the recipe on the stovetop and do not use as much broth.

Two, we will have mashed potatoes.  A bag of russets, milk, butter, salt and pepper… there really is no recipe.

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Three, my favorite side dish of all time:  Sweet Potato Casserole with Apple Cinnamon Topping.

Honey Wheat Rolls

Four, Honey Wheat Rolls.  You can substitute all purpose flour for bread flour.  Yes, you can bake them, cool them and freeze them for Thanksgiving.  Just set them out the night before to thaw on the counter.  Easier than going to the store!  (And tastier… and fewer ingredients…)

Apple Butter_2 on Whisk Together

Five:  To go on the rolls — Whole Apple Butter.  This is a new one I have not posted.  It is my Slow Cooker Apple Butter.  Instead of chopping the apples and discarding the core, I kept most of the core in the slow cooker for the apple butter.  Then, everything was pureed in the vitamix blender and turned into apple butter.  (I took some seeds out first because we don’t want to give anyone cyanide poisoning, do we?)

Dutch Apple Pie_1

Six:  Pie!!  Spicy Pumpkin, Dutch Apple and Cherry Blueberry Pie are our favorites.  Because you have to have pie.  Or pi.  Don’t want pie?  Make Caramel Apple Pie Bars instead!

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Seven:  Cranberry Orange Bread – a quick yummy sweet bread that can also be frozen.

Bacon Wrapped Crackers_2 on Whisk Together

Eight:  BEST APPETIZER EVER: Bacon Wrapper Crackers.  We make these every holiday.  They take little prep time.  Taste amazing.  And you can keep them hot in the oven for quite a while as the guests arrive.  Just pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes or so.  Turn down the heat to 250 degrees to keep warm.  We kept them warm for about 20-30 minutes or so.
I know apps are served first, however I always make these last and always if I am the host.  I don’t want to use up someone else’s oven.  They can’t be prepped much ahead of time.  That’s okay.  They are sooo worth it.
Also, I have noticed a lot of Aldi’s crackers are not anything like the name brand.  The club crackers that I purchased don’t look, taste or snap like the Keebler brand.  I would recommend spending the extra 50 cents on the Keebler ones for this recipe because they won’t crumble in your hands when you wrap the bacon around them.  I never had this problem until I used the Aldi brand.  The same thing happened with the Aldi “Triscuits” too.

Apple Raisin Dressing_3 on Whisk Together

Nine, Apple Raisin Dressing.  Everyday ingredients.  And I use up whatever bread ends from loaves or loaves of bread that are accidentally squished in the deep freeze.  My favorite I have found so far that didn’t the chemicals from the box.

Sweet Potato Carrot Soup on Whisk Together-5460

 

Recipe:  But until that Thanksgiving Thursday comes, I still have to feed my family!  So here is a super simple and easy recipe that required little to prep and clean up.  The soup is ready in 10 minutes if made in the Vitamex blender.  It will take about 20-30 minutes in the pot on the stovetop.

Have too little time?  Have everything prepped in the fridge ready to go!  Or make and freeze for later.

I liked this soup because it was easy and delicious.  Everything is wholesome and fresh.

Sweet Potato Carrot Soup on Whisk Together-5464

Sweet Potato Carrot Soup & Thanksgiving Menu
 
:
Serves: 2 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ onion, peeled
  • ½ Tb. olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, baked
  • ½ apple, seeds or no seeds
  • 1 carrot, cut into four pieces (or 5 baby carrots)
  • 1 and ½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. For a Blender: In the microwave, cook the onion and oil together for about five minutes. Stir once or twice.
  2. Put the rest of the ingredients into the blender.
  3. Turn the machine on 1. Work the blender up to maximum 10 and blend for 5-6 minutes. The soup will steam when finished. Salt and pepper to taste
  4. For No Blender: in a medium pot or Dutch oven, cook the onion and oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add a diced apple and carrots. Saute another 8-10 minutes.
  6. Add the baked sweet potato (or add one raw with the apple and carrots finely diced). Add the broth. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes. Blend in a blender or use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
  7. Salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Vitamix

 

 

White Chicken Chili & Book Review

White Chicken Chili on Whisk Together-5475

 

This Fall I received a super awesome book that you may want to add to your cookbook collection:  The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh.

Chili Book on Whisk Together-5514

 

If you want to learn about making chili, this is THE book for you.  Mr. Walsh has included every single chili recipe category in the book along with a narrative of where chili originated.  The stories behind how chili has evolved and the Chili Queens are fun to read.  Chili Queens were businesswomen back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s who made and served chili.

Being from St. Louis, I do not have a lot of experience with chilis.  This book goes through each one step by step.  The grocery stores near me – even Walmart – are including dried chili sections that are included in the book.  For example, a homemade chili powder recipe is included using 2 ounces of dried ancho chiles, cumin, oregano and garlic powder.

Every single chili recipe category you can imagine is in this book from lobster chili to goulash, from Cincinnati chili to four-alarm chili, from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson’s Championship Chili to short rib chili, from chili queen chili to chipotle chili, from tofu chili to pork vindaloo.  The St. Louis Slinger recipe is also included!  So for those of us natives who want a copycat recipe or never had one – the South King’s Highway Diner recipe is included in here.  There is a photograph with most of the recipes, so the cook will know what the result should look like.  Side item recipes are also included like fresh corn tortillas, cornbread and chili con queso.

Want to throw a chili party?  The author included a few steps to throw one of those which sounds awfully delicious right now since it is 49 degrees outside.

*I received a complimentary copy of The Chili Cookbook from Blogging For Books for my honest review*

White Chicken Chili on Whisk Together-5472

 

The #1 thing I learned from The Chili Cookbook is never add your canned beans in the beginning.  Many recipe call for the dump and walk away method – adding cans of beans to the slow cooker or large pot of chili.  But…. they are already cooked.  And cooking already cooked items usually doesn’t end well.

Therefore, even if you do not use this recipe – think about when you add your canned goods and if you are cooking something already cooked.  When do you add them?  About 10 minutes prior to serving the food.  This way the beans stay plump and not mushy.

White Chicken Chili on Whisk Together-5468

 

White Chicken Chili
 
:
Ingredients
  • 1 Tb. olive oil or butter
  • 1 - 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, ½-1" pieces (or more if want meatier chili)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
  • 1-2 jalapeno chili, chopped (optional; I did not use because of the kids)
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground paprika (I like smoked)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • ¾ tsp. ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (or omit if need mild)
  • 30 ounces (2 - 14.5 oz cans or about 4 cups) chicken broth (low sodium preferred)
  • 2 - 15 oz. cans white kidney beans, drained and rinsed (cannellini beans, Great Northern, etc.)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz. Neufchatel cheese (cream cheese) or substitute plain Greek Yogurt (optional, but tasty)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn (optional)
  • 1 lime, halved
  • Toppings: cilantro, Monterey or Pepper Jack cheese, tortilla chips, chopped scallions
Instructions
  1. On the stovetop, heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat in a Dutch Oven. Once melted, add chicken and onion to the pot. Continue to saute until cooked through. Remove the chicken mixture and set aside.
  2. Add garlic, chilies and spices. Cook for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the chicken broth and beans. Increase the heat to medium high and bring chili to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.
  5. Add the neufchatel cheese in sections and allow to melt. If using Greek yogurt, temper it first by adding a little bit of the hot liquid to the yogurt. Mix and then add to the chili.
  6. Using an immersion blender or blender, take half or all of the chili in the pot and blend until creamy. This step is optional and simply makes the chili smoother and more creamy.
  7. Once you have processed the chili, add the chicken and onion back to the pot. Heat through about 15 minutes.
  8. Squeeze lime juice on top. Sprinkle with salt and white pepper (or black pepper).
  9. Serve with chips, cilantro, cheese and/or scallions.
Notes
Recipe adapted from The Chili Cookbook and Cooking Classy

 

Roasted Tomato Soup and Saving $3,800 Per Year

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Hi ya’ll!  I’ve been taking and editing about 75-100 photos per night for Vacation Bible School this week!  Not a lot of new recipes going on, but here is….

What I did learn this week in the kitchen:

1.  You can double the Whole Grain Chia Waffle recipe.  It does great!  I add an extra 1/4 cup of milk because the batter is a little on the thick side.

2.  You can use a whole pound of Italian Sausage or Italian Turkey Sausage instead of 1/2 beef and 1/2 sausage in the Tortellini with Italian Sausage.

3.  Making a Taco Braid is fun.  But using Whole Wheat Pizza Crust instead of the regular Pizza Dough is not as tasty. I love Whole Wheat Pizza Dough… but not with taco meat.

How to Save $3800 per year on Whisk Together

In addition, I wanted to include how we save $3800 per year.  I know there are a LOT of lists out there.  I tried to keep this practical and thought-provoking and hopefully something new.

Where did I come up with the $3,800 figure?  Here is my breakdown:

1.  Haircuts at Home ($240)

I purchased a Wahl Hair Cutting kit back in 2004.  The new one they have looks really cool!  Mine’s all black and boring.  This kit that I bought in the past did come with a DVD to help learn how to cut hair.  Back to our regularly scheduled program…
I help cut my husband’s hair about once every 4-6 weeks.  At $15 per cut (and that’s not including a tip) and 8 cuts per year = $120 (or $1200 over 10 years!)
I use the same Wahl clippers to cut my son’s hair once every 6 weeks or so.  Let’s say he is cheaper at the hair salon and we don’t tip (which would be bad… but I don’t want a tipping debate on how much to tip and how I skewed my numbers) = 8 cuts at $10 each = $80
Now my daughter’s hair needs cut only every 12 weeks or so.  That’s $40.

For guys, it is relatively easy to cut hair.  Use the right clipper guide for his hair (we like 1/2″ guide for overall and 1 and 1/2″ for the front).  The instructional video is now on Youtube as well.

For girls, it isn’t so easy.  But wait!  There’s YouTube!  In this 6 minute video, my daughter and I figured out how to cut her hair.  Nothing fancy, but it’s what she wanted.

I can’t cut my own hair.  If you need a cheap place to get a haircut, locate a salon school nearby.  Our salon school charges $6 for a haircut.

2.  No cable/satellite and no landline ($900)

Charter would LOVE to sell us cable and a telephone line.  We played that game before – hook us in with a great intro rate and then after 12-18 months we are way in over our heads!  Our family watches a handful of shows which are almost all on Netflix or Hulu.

I signed up for their free trials.  I put the “Cut off” date for the trial on my calendar to alert me that my trial would end.  But, instead we let it go and kept them both and cut off cable.  I do miss watching “Elementary” and the “Food Network”….  Sometimes.  But we DO get to watch: all the seasons of “Merlin” (I can’t believe it ended!), “The Good Wife”, “Castle”, “Once Upon a Time”, “Agent Carter”, “Marvel: Agents of Shield”, “Frasier”, “Third Rock from the Sun” and many others.

Amazon Prime has movies and TV shows as well.  But it doesn’t work with Chromecast since they have their own “Amazon Firestick”.  It might work for you though.  Or we could just get the stupid stick.  OR Amazon could change it so I can Chromecast without buying their stick!  Ha!

3.  Saving my money at Vanguard instead of a brick and mortar bank ($63)

Back when I had a full time job at Citibank, I was one of those weird people who listed to the afternoon radio talk shows.  Here in St. Louis it was always about how to save money.  Or in other words – the best way to use the money you have.

US Bank and many others have a savings account and/or money market account rate set for .05%.  It used to be higher before the recession.  But for now, it is .05%.  You could get a tiny bit higher if you lock your money in a CD or deposit over $1,000,000 into a savings account that would earn .05% more and that would be silly.

At this rate, $1000 in a money market account would earn you 50 cents…..for the ENTIRE year.  Putting that same amount into a mutual fund at Vanguard could earn $63 per year.  (Assuming that the rates are going to be about the same… the past year earnings have been as high as 9%, but the lowest I have seen is 6.3% so I’m using that number).

Now #1:  this is money invested.  No future guarantees of course.  But since the stock market will more than likely be higher in 10 or 20 years (we hope) then it is a better return.  Actually with inflation, money sitting in a 0 or .05% account is losing money because of inflation.  The best way to save is not to spend your money.  True.  But letting it sit also causes you to lose money through inflation depreciation.

#2: This is only money that you have AFTER  you have an emergency fund in a liquid account like those savings and money market accounts that don’t make any money.  In case something were to happen, an emergency fund is necessary and Dave Ramsey gives a great “baby steps” outline on how to get there and why.

#3 This is also money AFTER you have paid the debts off or refinanced the house.  Say you have a mortgage for $100,000.  Over 15 years, the interest is $24,305.  Over 30 years, the interest is $56,567.  That’s $27,000!  (Based on 3% 15 year and 3.5% 30 year.  30 year mortgages are always higher because the bank is at a greater risk.)

Vanguard is one of the least expensive management firm out there and never changed or sold my accounts like other companies do.  I did a search and some other people have done the same as I have: tried different places to invest and moved EVERYthing to Vanguard.  Just a .5% change in the management fee can mean tens of thousands of dollars lost at retirement age.  (I’m 35 years old, so gives you an idea as to why that would matter to me.)

Fees can destroy your return.

Why do I have a Vanguard account?  I taught public school for two years and therefore had money in a 403B retirement account.  It’s like a 401K in the private sector.  When I quit teaching, I wanted the money to earn a better interest rate somewhere with low overheard fees.  So hence why I did all this research.  No, we don’t have tons of money.  I wish!

4.  Investing in a toaster oven (my pizza oven) in order to eat out less ($1780)

I think I might spend more than average at the grocery store, but we started eating out a LOT less.  Gas money saved, time saved, healthier eating and just better food over all.  For our family of 4, eating at a fast food restaurant costs about $25 per meal.  Do that once a week and you have $1300 per year.  Eating at a sit down restaurant costs about $40 per meal – Do this once a month- at about $480 per year.

A few years ago, I purchased a toaster convection oven.  What prompted me?  It was 115 degree heat index here in St. Louis for almost 2 months and over 90 degrees for 3 months.  Too hot to grill and too hot to turn on the oven.

I use the toaster oven every single day to toast bread, broil 4 grilled cheese sandwiches at once, bake pizza, roast vegetables, bake oatmeal, keep meals warm, bake appetizers, extra oven space during the holidays, and reheat leftovers so they are crispy and not soggy.  Eating leftovers is super frugal.  But sometimes they are not very good out of a microwave and 2 extra minutes in the toaster oven turns a cold, soggy pizza into a crisp, fresh slice of pie.

I know it was a little money to buy it in the first place, but avoiding eating out several times a year over the past five years as saved us ten times what it cost.

Where do we shop for food?
1. Aldi:  produce, butter, cheese, cream cheese, raisins, peanut butter, canned tomatoes, canned pumpkin.
2.  Trader Joe’s:  dried fruit, nuts, tea, seasonings, chips, cage free eggs, milk, mascarpone cheese, baking powder, cookies, chocolate, frozen fruit and vegetables, lasagna, turkey corn dogs, white whole wheat flour, and the kids get a treat for finding the stuffed animal in the store.
3.  Costco:  fruit and nut bars, yogurt, meat, fish, frozen wild blueberries, fresh spinach, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, lemon juice, olive oil, strawberries in season.

None of these places take coupons I know.  But after kid #1 got sick and almost ended up at the doctor’s office because of a “freebie” I found while clipping coupons, I stopped clipping them and started shopping at other stores.

5.  Exercising at home instead of the gym ($840)

Our local YMCA charges $70 per month for a family membership ($70 x 12 months).  This does include childcare and all kinds of cool things.  People have different goals.  People need the motivation of a gym membership and I get that.  Being a healthy weight will save time and money in the long run as well.

One of the commenters on my blog mentioned “Fitness Blender” workout videos, and I have been hooked ever since.

1.  I like their upbeat personalities
2.  I like that there is no music.
3.  They have a variety of low impact and high impact/challenging workouts.
4.  They have a great website where you can put in your desired time, workout level, target area, etc.
5.  These workouts really work!  I gained 5 pounds this past year, but my clothing size stayed the same.
6.  They wear normal workout clothes.  (Sorry… watching bikinis every week 5 times a week?  Doesn’t motivate me.)
7.  Every video 100% quality and is 100% FREE.

I’m not saying Jillian Michaels does not work.  I still love those workouts.  But after 3 years of the same one, it is nice to pull from a different variety.

Link: FitnessBlender and Youtube Channel Fitness Blender

The past 3 years I have been at 135 pounds.  This year recently I am up to 140 pounds.  Truthfully though I tried on my jeans and they fit just fine.  I think it is the heavier weight lifting on Fitness Blender that caused the weight gain.  That or the Twizzler Bites cherry flavored 🙂

**Note:  I am not paid to promote or post about any of these blogs, videos, websites or products.  They are just items I use on a daily basis that help save us money and make every day go a little smoother.**

Roasted Tomato Soup-3851-on Whisk Together

 

This soup is PERFECT for this time of year!  Tons of tomatoes and basil are at hand and ready for picking right now.  Not in the mood for hot soup in the summer?  No problem!  Cool to room temperature and freeze until winter.

 

3.5 from 2 reviews
Roasted Tomato Soup
 
:
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • 3 pounds ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 -28 ounce can plum tomatoes, whole tomatoes or diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme or ¼ tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 cups water or chicken broth
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Spray with olive oil cooking spray. Lay the tomatoes cut side up on the sheet. Spray with more olive oil cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40-45 minutes.
  2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the butter over medium heat. Add chopped onions. Cook until translucent and turning brown - about 10 minutes. Add garlic. and cook 30 seconds.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients: canned tomatoes, basil, thyme and chicken broth or water. Add the roasted tomatoes with their juices as well.
  4. Turn heat to medium high and get the soup up to a boil. Turn heat down to medium or medium low and simmer for 40 minutes.
  5. At this point, you can use a blender to puree the soup in batches, or an immersion blender, or a food processor, or a food mill with a coarse blade.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. I like to sprinkle shaved Parmesan cheese on top.
Notes
Recipe adapted from The Barefoot Contessa

Recipe will easily cut in half

 

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup-2352 on Whisk Together

 

Book:  My new favorite cookbook right now is “Healthy Slow Cooker” by America’s Test Kitchen.  This book takes many of the awesome slow cooker recipes from their other two books and puts them into the this one.  You can learn to make side dishes, soups, desserts and main dishes with their nifty tricks and techniques – all in the slow cooker.  Like to make mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, they recommend spraying the top of the potatoes with cooking spray, then putting parchment on top to keep the steam in, and then adding the lid onto the slow cooker!  So easy and yields much better results.

I like my slow cooker in the summer.  When I don’t feel like grilling, the slow cooker doesn’t heat up the house like the oven does and still cooks quite a large meal.

Now, if you need a book for your kids.  My 8 and 4 year old LOVED this book I ordered from Amazon called Paper Flying Dragons.  We worked on the Best Ever Paper Airplanes book last year and he is having a blast making Paper Flying Dragons out of this book.

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup-2354 on Whisk Together

Recipe:  Since it has been 39 degrees some mornings here in St. Louis (I read that it is actually warmer in Alaska right now…), I made chili this week and this slow cooker chicken noodle soup.  My husband and I cannot stand chicken noodle soup out of a can and this is the easiest way I have found to make chicken.  Well, pretty much because the shredding is the worst part I think and the slow cooker does the work for you.

Leave out the noodles and you have a total freezer meal ready to go.  Just add noodles!

Make a big batch and share with a friend in need 🙂

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup-2347 on Whisk Together

Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup
 
:
Ingredients
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped (1 and ¾ cup)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped (1 and ¼ cup)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 6 cups (3 - 15 oz. cans) low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 and ½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast (3-4 chicken breasts)
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups uncooked wide egg noodles
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tb. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Into a 5-7 quart slow cooker: add carrots, onion, celery and garlic. Spread that on the bottom. Pour in the chicken broth and water. Nestle the chicken into the liquid. Sprinkle thyme and rosemary on top. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. (If you want to use chicken thighs, the cooking time is 4-6 hours on low).
  2. About 30 minutes before serving, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Boil the noodles per the directions on the package. Drain.
  3. Test chicken to make sure it is no longer pink and temperature is at least 165 degrees. Shred it inside the slow cooker with two forks.
  4. Add noodles to slow cooker. Stir in parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with crackers, Parmesan cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, etc.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

 

Orange Carrot Soup

Orange Carrot Soup: Whisk Together

Exercise/Diet Update:  How I lost 5 pounds this week.

I know many readers here have subscribed or came from my “How I lost 33 Pounds…”  blog post that went live on Money Saving Mom last year in July..

It’s been a strange year to say the least.   I gained 5 pounds – which I know I know isn’t TERRIBLE.  But when it is enough weight that you can’t put your pants on, then might as well lose the weigh.  Lose 5 pounds or pay $100 for all new pants.  We’ll just lose the stinking 5 pounds.  Here’s how I did it this week:

1.  I started the Total 10 Diet by Dr. Oz.  I printed out the plan which gives you 3 smoothies to choose from, vegetable broth is unlimited, un-starchy vegetables are unlimited, 12 oz. of protein (poultry, eggs and fish), 1/2 cup quinoa and snack options.  I used the snack options on exercise days.  I really liked how he told you WHAT to eat.  It’s much simpler rather than a list of things not to eat.  Once you get into diet and exercise, it seems to me that limits and rules are actually much less stressful than “what am I going to have for dinner??”

2.  So, the vegetable broth is kinda gross.  It’s something to consume I guess.  But after all the hassle, I gave up on it after day 2.  Personally, I think it is included because after drinking it… you pretty much lose your appetite.  If I had to lose more than 5 pounds, I would have stuck to this part more I think.

3.  The “no wheat” rule went out the window on day 3.  I ate my 35 calories piece of toast, and I liked it!  And still lost weight.  Call me Wheat Belly.

4.  I followed the no eating rule between 8am-8pm.  Brush your teeth after dinner – it makes it easier.

5.  I lost weight fast because I did this diet in conjunction with several workouts including a 1000 calorie workout, 45 minutes on the elliptical, walking more and continuing to workout 5 days per week.  Eating 1300-1500 calories per day and burning 200-500 calories per day created a large deficit.

6.  If you can’t workout for an hour and 20 minutes, then don’t. Just workout for 20-30 minutes.  The weight will come off slower, but that’s okay.

7.  Breakfast:  I used ground flaxseeds instead of flaxseed oil in the recipes.  I loved them all and surprised how good the pumpkin one tasted.

8.  Lunch:  This was a lean protein and some salad of spinach and tomatoes.  Or Greek Yogurt.  The diet plan says to eat it plain Greek yogurt, but that’s just gross too.  So, I ate the Chobani all natural Greek yogurts with fruit.  And more tomatoes.  I hard boiled a bunch of eggs for lunches as well.

9.  Dinner:  Pretty much what we normally eat:  protein and veggies.  I made BBQ Turkey Chili in the slow cooker which is heavy on the tomato and light on everything else.  I had salmon, chicken, pork tenderloin and more eggs.  For sides, I had more salad or broccoli with some quinoa.  We ate out once at Ruby Tuesday – that is a great place to find lower calorie options with chicken, fish or steak and lots of tasty vegetables.  You can definitely taste that they do not heavily butter their vegetables or at least not the green beans and broccoli.  They taste steamed and the squash looks roasted.

Lots of green tea, coffee and lemon water!

I weigh myself after I wake up.  It’s fun to weigh yourself before and after a good workout, too (before drinking water).  Why?  Because after a good workout, I weigh less!  Why?  Because fat does NOT exit the body as fat.  Fat exits the body through about 80% carbon dioxide (breathing) and 20% water (peeing or sweat).  Which is why you can weigh less after a workout.  The 80%/20% comes from using stoichiometry – which hurts my head remembering high school Chemistry.

Orange Carrot Soup-2480 on Whisk Together

Recipe:  Well… this recipe is not on the Total 10 diet because of the carrots and oranges… But…. this soup was velvety, flavorful low calorie and zippy.   I have never had oranges in my soup!  Packed with Vitamin C and fiber from the oranges and Vitamin A from the carrots, this soup would be perfect for a summer day or good for the immune system if you are feeling like you might be getting sick.

Using 8 serving sizes as a guide, this soup has 99 calories, 452 mg of potassium, 2.2 grams of fat, 70% Vitamin C, and 193% Vitamin A.

We made this soup on the stovetop for the most part.  But, we also made a tomato basil soup cooked in the Vitamix blender that was delicious and will post that as well.  Crazy how hot it gets on the soup!

Orange Carrot Soup-2475 on Whisk Together

If you ever have questioned whether you want to invest in a Vitamix machine, do it.  I wish I had years ago.  Green smoothies here at our local coffee shop are $5.99 each.  I can make them for about 50 cents of leftover fruits and vegetables.  After a month, it’s paid for itself!  **Vitamix didn’t pay or endorse me to say this.  Though that would be nice 🙂 **

Note:  When I ate this the next day, the soup gelatinizes (is that a word?) and becomes much thicker.   Thin with broth and reheat, or eat as is.

 

Orange Carrot Soup
 
:
Ingredients
  • 1 Tb. butter
  • 1 pound carrots, finely chopped (shred in food processor or use knife)
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons ground ginger or 1" cube ginger root in ¼" pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 3 oranges, peel and halve (blender) or juice (1/2 cup juice for stovetop)
  • ¼" square of orange peel (blender) or 2 tsp. orange zest (stovetop)
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. For both methods: Heat up a large skillet with butter over medium heat. Add the carrots, onion and ginger. Cook until soft - about 6-8 minutes.
  2. For Vitamix blender: Add 2 cups broth and simmer until tender - about 10-20 minutes. (Depends on how small the carrots are.) For Stovetop method: Add 4 cups of broth and orange zest and simmer until tender - about 10-20 minutes.
  3. For Vitamix blender method: Add the hot vegetable mixture, oranges and orange peel to the blender. Turn it to Variable 1. Then, to maximum 10/high and blend for 45 seconds. Add 2 cups of more broth until it is as thick or thin as you like. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. For Stovetop Method: Puree in a blender, food processor or use an immersion blender. Stir in the ½ cup orange juice. Heat through over medium heat - about 2-3 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
Recipe adapted by Vitamix

 

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