What’s new and what’s coming…

I have been absolutely absentee since going back to work! I’m so sorry! Finding time to write when it isn’t automatically carved out for you is a lot harder than I expected. So here’s what’s coming with that. I finally got my permanent schedule for work and I should always have Thursdays off by myself. So you know what that makes Thursdays right? Blog day!

Last time I mentioned that Blue (our computer) had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. Well, he bit the big one. Given how much I write though we decided a computer was a necessary expenditure. So we got a new laptop! Yay! I’m still getting used to the keyboard bu it’s so nice to have a computer that actually works the way it’s supposed to!

And lastly, we did a thing this weekend! We had been very bummed out about having to cancel our wedding and reception due to Covid-19. Of course that wasn’t going to stop us but it was sad to watch months worth of planning go down the drain with no more finesse than dirty bath water. So this weekend we were able to get the stars to align; my parents were off quarantine and our pastor was available so we decided to just do it and on Sunday we got married!

My parent’s (especially my mom) went above and beyond and created the most amazingly beautiful set up for us to get married. They decorated the house, mom made us a lovely meal and a delicious cheesecake, and even put together a bouquet and boutonnieres. It was the smallest wedding imaginable, with only my parents, the pastor, and of course Manny and I. But you know what? It was extremely special and we’ll never forget it, that’s for sure.

With that, I’ll just say more to come soon and as always, take care and God bless!

Kimchi Fried Rice

1 1/2 C uncooked rice ($0.52)
3 C water (free-ish)
2 boneless skinless chicken thighs or equivalent of meat, cubed ($0.77)
2 small onions ($0.32)
1/2 C frozen peas ($0.16)
1/2 C diced carrots ($0.13)
1/2 C chopped kimchi ($1.34)
1 tbsp brown sugar ($0.02)
sriracha to taste
rice vinegar to taste
soy sauce to taste
1 tbsp chopped fresh ginger ($0.02)
1 tsp chopped fresh garlic ($0.06)
2 eggs ($0.22)
Total: $3.56

Whether in a rice cooker or a separate pot, combine water and rice. Make sure you rinse your rice ahead of time! In a separate skillet cook chicken on medium heat with a little olive oil or butter, your choice. When done add peas, carrots, and kimchi. Cook until heated through. In a bowl combine brown sugar, sriracha, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic. Add meat and vegetables to sauce in bowl. In the skillet you used to cook the chicken and vegetables, cook eggs, stirring often to break up into small pieces. Add rice and vegetable mix. Fold through until thoroughly mixed. Serve with sriracha and enjoy!

This was my first attempted ever at making fried rice which is kind of funny considering how much Asian food I make otherwise and I’m decently pleased with how it turned out. It wasn’t the prettiest dish ever but it tasted AMAZING. There were no left overs and quite honestly I’m impatiently waiting until I can make it again! It was warm and comforting and just plain delicious.

If you know any tips or tricks to making fried rice please let me know in the comments. I’m always interested in learning something new! As always, take care and God bless.

Banana bread without a bread pan

No bread pan? No problem. Use a saute pan! As always, we’ll get straight to the good stuff and jump right into the recipe.

B-nana bread

1/2 C oil ($0.24)
1 1/4 C sugar ($0.34)
2 eggs ($0.22)
1/2 C milk ($0.11)
1 C mashed bananas (roughly 3 bananas) ($0.58)
2 C flour ($0.66)
1 tsp soda (> $0.01)
3/4 tsp salt (< $0.01)
Total: $2.15

Cream sugar, oil, eggs, and milk. Add flour, soda, salt. Mix well. Add bananas, mix very well. Oil pan and add batter. Bake at 350 degrees until done. Because the saute pan cooks the bread thin it will cook much faster than a regular loaf of banana bread. Should be done in 30-45 minutes.

Does anything smell better baking in the oven than banana bread? It’s such a warm and comforting smell. I remember as a kid my mom making banana bread quite frequently and for me the smell conjures up such pleasant memories. Sometimes she’d add nuts but more often she’d add chocolate chips. This basic recipe has neither but as with all of my recipes, feel free to play around and make it your own.

If you need to go gluten free this recipe works well with standard mixed all purpose gluten free flour. It also does very well with a 50/50 mix of almond and coconut flours. Stevia is an easy substitute for the sugar as well. Want a more buttery flavor? Use butter instead of oil and substitute butter milk instead of milk. And lastly apple sauce instead of oil will keep it moist but reduce the fat content if that’s a thing you worry about.

Now, taking that fear of fat and throwing it straight out the window! Who loves butter on banana bread? I know I do! One of my favorite ways to eat banana bread when it is no longer fresh from the oven is to melt some butter in a non-stick pan and gently fry the slice of banana bread in it over medium heat. You can flip it. I find doing this gives the bread a delicious crunch and irresistible butter flavor, but uses less butter than if I just slathered it in cold butter. So a win-win!

Prefer banana cake to bread? Simple fix. Double the recipe on everything except the flour. Keep that at 2 C. Top with cream cheese frosting and voila! Delicious! Need a simple but delicious cream cheese frosting recipe? Well bonus, here one is!

Simplest Cream Cheese Frosting

1 package cream cheese (softened)
1 stick butter (softened)
2 tbsp vanilla
3 C powdered sugar

Mix well! I use the food processor attachment on our blender but you could mix using hand beaters or even just by hand. We have the food processor attachment though and I’ve gotten spoiled. Mix until smooth, spread on top of your cooled cake! Bam! Delicious desert!

Whatever you do, whether you make cake or bread; choose frosting, butter, or just pain; enjoy yourself. Play around a little! Add chocolate chips or nuts or something else entirely! If you’ve got a unique add to banana bread let me know in the comments! Let me know if you try the bread or the cake! Comments are love and as always, take care and God bless!

Getting to the Gritty by Cleaning the Privy

I don’t know about you but I’m not always as good about cleaning as I should be. Most cleaning schedule recommendations that I can find online say to clean your bathroom once a week. Which sounds great and even looks doable when staring at the simplification of life laid out in a schedule like that but when you get down to real day to day life how many of us can actually say we clean our bathrooms once a week? Not I.

So what’s the reality here? Once every other week? Once a month? What?

I’m a little ashamed to admit that at times it could be as rare as once every other month. Which is kind of gross. But in our defense, it’s just the two of us, we clean up after ourselves; and unlike homes with small children who struggle to rinse away toothpaste in the sink, excess soap in the shower, and sometimes pee everywhere but in the toilet; we stay decently clean just doing daily maintenance. But there are of course things that daily maintenance can’t clean and that’s why deep cleans need to happen.

While I was working at the shelter I was depressed and exhausted. I know I knew I was struggling because I recognized my need to make a change, but I’m not sure I knew just how bad it was until I was no longer in that situation. Now that it’s over and both my physical and mental health are improving I think I can safely say that I was truly depressed. I’ve struggled off and on over the years with depression and know for a fact that it can drastically effect a person’s ability to participate in daily life. Which is another reason our bathroom didn’t get cleaned as often as it should have been. But as a past therapist liked to tell me, ‘don’t should on yourself, just see what needs to change and do your best to do it, but don’t should or shame yourself to get there.’

Now that the funk of depression is fading around the edges it’s time to aid in it’s dissolution by creating a clean space to live in. I am a firm believer that a clean environment fosters healing and health so I’ve started tackling the apartment, one room at a time. First one to get attacked with my broom and dustpan and myriad of cleaning supplies? The bathroom.

I didn’t want to just do what I’ve always done either. So this time I did a quick search on Pinterest for cleaning hacks and found a multitude of suggestions for using Dawn Dish Soap in areas that are not the kitchen. So armed with nothing more than a bottle each of Windex and Dawn Dish Soap, I headed to the bathroom to do battle!

A lot of what needed doing was clearing clutter. Truth be told, that took the most time of the whole thing. Next I scrubbed out the sink with a foam sponge (dollar store) and a little Dawn. I polished up the mirror using the Windex and then used the same to bring a shine back to the faucet and drain. Next to go was the toilet. As per the suggestions I had found, I dumped a little dish soap in the water and then attacked it with my scrub brush. Never has the ring in my toilet come away so easily! And lastly I scrubbed out the tub much the same as I had the sink, using dish soap for the walls of the tub and shower and Windex to polish up the faucet, drain, and shower head. 10/10 would recommend using Dawn Dish Soap to clean the bathroom. It still required some elbow grease but the dish soap cut through soap scum with relative ease that not even SoftScrub cuts through so easily.

The clutter
toilet before
Tidied up
toilet after

Tub after. Sorry, I didn’t get a before picture of the tub but believe you me, it was pretty gnarly looking.

Now with the trash taken out and all the soap suds rinsed away, that’s one room down. Coming soon, the bedroom, kitchen, living room, and closets. Have a cleaning hack you’d like to see tested? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to give it a shot in the future. And as always, take care and God bless.

One-Pot Wonders are Indeed Wonderful

Spicy Beans and Rice

Nothing’s worse than when a blogger makes you scroll for ten freaking years just to find the recipe hidden in the depths of their post. So let’s get to the good stuff right away, shall we? And if you like what you see, do me a solid and read the rest after.

2 C rice ($0.70)
4 C water (free-ish)
1 can diced tomatoes w/habeneros ($0.99)
1 can pinto or black beans ($0.66)
1 C corn ($0.33)
1/4-1/2 C lime juice ($0.06)
1 tsp cumin ($0.14)
salt and pepper to taste ($0.05)
1 ring spicy smoked sausage ($2.98)
pinch dried or chopped cilantro ($0.09)
1/4 C salsa verde ($0.62)
Total: ($6.62)

Prepare sausage by cutting on a bias, cubing, dicing, whatever you want to do! In a large pot crisp up your sausage on medium-high heat. When browned add rice, water, and the can of diced tomatoes. I used Ro-tel brand for the tomatoes and habeneros and since I do not like chunks of tomato I pureed the whole thing before adding it but you could do either way. Reduce heat to medium-low. Next strain your beans, you can use pinto or black beans, and add these to the pot. Make sure you stir periodically. Add corn and lime juice. How much lime you use is up to you, I prefer a more limey taste so I did more. Next add cumin, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Cook until rice is done. Serve in a bowl with salsa verde as a garnish. Enjoy!

I don’t care for the chunks in salsa either but love the flavor so I also pureed this. Please be aware if you do the same it will make your salsa more spicy if it has pepper seeds in it as the seeds hold a lot of spice and when broken up they can get VERY spicy.

Pro-tip for rice preparation! Get a fine mesh strainer, we got ours from the dollar store, and strain your rice in cold water before cooking to get the excess starch off. This will make your rice not as mushy as it cooks and makes the overall texture of the dish more enjoyable.

So now that we have the recipe done, I’d just like to do the disclaimer that the prices are an estimate based off the current running price for that item in my area… which may not be your area… so don’t quote me on the prices. Also, I broke down what the full packages would cost if you split it up for what the recipe calls for. There are ways to make this cheaper. If you leave off the sausage the whole cost goes down to $3.29. A delicious one-pot meal that can easily be made vegan.

We had this meal last night for dinner and it really did hit the spot. Cold weather with a dreary drizzle and a beastly wind made the warm spice of this exactly what the doctor ordered. It was a little bit of a learning experience because I hadn’t realized how blending the salsa would affect it until too late and had added too much to my own bowl. Thank goodness my fiance was happy to help me out cleaning up the remainder that I couldn’t finish!

So give it a try, let me know in the comments what you think of it! And as always, take care and God bless.

Enter the Kitchen

The best place to begin is… well… the beginning. So let’s start there. This morning I woke up to the ping of an email, an email that would send my heart straight through my stomach and down so low it sat in my butt for a few good hours until I could work up the courage to move on and face the world again. Maybe that’s being a little dramatic but for real, it was an oddly earth shattering if very politely worded email informing me that the latest job I had lined up had fallen through much like all of its predecessors.

See last week I quit my job. I was an advocate at a very well respected domestic violence shelter but I was working overnights and quite frankly it was doing it’s best to kill me. I had been sick for the better part of two months, permanently exhausted, experiencing migraines that would last anywhere from one to six days (that’s right, DAYS, not hours) and my mental health was deteriorating at a rate that frightened myself and my fiance. So the decision was made. I needed to quit my job. Not wanting to be completely impulsive, I reached out to a former job and asked if they would hire me back and they assured me yes, they would. So I put in my notice and exhausted but hopeful, waited for my last day.

You know the saying “out of the frying pan and into the fire?” Well that’s kind of what happened here. I was no sooner done with my job than the new one I had lined up fell through. Never one to dwell for long, I cried for a couple hours, questioned my life choices, and then started applying for jobs. I had decent luck too. Twelve years of food service experience and roughly sixteen of customer service and I was pretty marketable. Within a couple days I had two job offers and although not life alteringly awesome, they were workable. Then Covid-19 became truly worrisome and the world stopped turning.

Again, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but that’s kind of what it feels like right now. On Friday I drove to a neighboring town to do some grocery shopping and while I was driving I was hit by the complete and all encompassing awareness that we are in fact living through history now. Whatever camp you’re in as far as Covid-19 is concerned, you would be hard pressed to deny that what we are currently experiencing will change the world and make history. Years from now they’ll teach our grandchildren about this pandemic in the same way that we were taught about Spanish Influenza and dare I say it? the Plague. A person should always be hopeful but as someone with a degree in history, I can’t help but feel I am reading the writing on the wall when I say hard economic times are ahead of us. If pressed to make a prediction, I would say that Covid-19 will affect the economy for years and that the recession in the early 2000’s was nothing compared to what lies before us.

Which brings us back to that email from this morning. Due to Covid-19 the country has ground to a stop. One could argue that the world has ground to a stop but I will stick to what I know and that is my own country. There’s something very heavy about being able to watch not only your president but also your governor, and your mayor declare a state of emergency. Piece by piece normal day-to-day life has slowed to a grinding halt, closing restaurants, bars, theaters, schools, daycare, and literally anything non-essential. And like a puff of smoke those two job offers I had disappeared.

Here I must insert another bout of crying and questioning life choices but I am very lucky in that I have been blessed to have the sweetest, most supportive partner to go through life with. My fiance has listened to me cry and freak out and wonder where on earth we’re going to get money to take care of things; then, when I’ve cried myself out he holds me close and tells me how we’ll make it. The number one and most crucial part of how we’re going to make it, is that we are going to get through this together. Second, he has a job that pays decently and there is generally no shortage of potential overtime. Cash will be tight but we should be able to meet our bills and make ends meet. Thirdly, given the fact that I have pretty bad asthma and the common cold can at times cause distressing airway problems, maybe this is for the best. So, based on a joint decision, I stopped looking and put the frantic search for work on the back burner until the pandemic clears up. My top priority now, is to keep our house, manage our finances, and ensure we have good food on the table every night.

Right here I would like to just say that I have never in my life looked down on stay-at-home moms or house-spouses but that has never before been an option for myself. I didn’t meet my fiance until I was thirty and by then I had long since come to terms with the fact that whatever I wanted in life I would provide, at least financially that is. Not working for financial gain was an utterly foreign and ultimately impossible concept. Because life costs money. Unless you live in the woods on land that is fertile and dotted with productive farm animals, life costs money. Rent, groceries, cars, gas, medicine, insurance, phones, internet, water, electric, etc. The list goes on and on. But we’re now in a place to have me stay home for a few weeks and I refuse to not be productive during this time. I love to cook and bake and keep house and I also love to write. So I thought, why not combine those passions and keep a blog of my adventures in frugal housekeeping. Here we go!

My name is B. I am currently unemployed and waiting out the pandemic in one of hundreds of cities affected across the United States. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade… or lemon bars… or lemon meringue pie… or lemon rice… or lemon chicken… you get the point. Click follow to get the latest in my frugal adventures. New posts daily. Comments are love. And as always, take care and God bless.