Monday, March 31, 2014

Ball And Chain

Its so easy to sign up.
Maybe even needed to get a credit score and credit history established.
It's so easy to swipe the plastic, hit the 'Buy Now' button, and to convince yourself you need something when you don't.

Money can work for you, or if handled thoughtlessly, can work against you!
Careless use has brought many of us to our knees, or up to our necks, in debt--rapidly increasing debt! 

A few suggestions:

--leave the plastic at home
--for large purchases, wait a week or two, unless this is a true emergency
--use those 1-2 weeks to see if you can make other arrangements, borrow from a friend, or forego the object of your desire altogether.
--think about it
--know what's in your bank account 

Can you afford 15-21% interest on the money you just borrowed for your daily energy drink, latte, burger fix? 

--if you can't pay the $3.25 + tax right there, how on earth are you gonna pay 30 days worth of purchases? And if you can't pay that whole amount off  in the grace period...12.99%...17.99%...or 21% interest enters your life

--minimum payment on that $90+ will likely be $0
--they don't care if it sits there @ APR 15-21%, because over the course of the year your $90+ now costs you $104+ with 16% APR
--you say, "so what??" Well, if you don't use the credit card for the next 11 months that might be a valid argument, but you need next months $90+ lattes (and some other items get tacked on) PLUS the new interest amount on $180 worth of lattes you haven't paid off.
--oh man, are they lovin' you
--cha-cha-cha-ching with a capitol 'C'
--the spiral continues

--think about it. 
--be thoughtful
--be debt-free 
--life is definitely better that way


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Stuffed Jumbo Shells

So you wanna make shells...stuffed shells, right? You've been asking for the post now over a year, but as easy as each step is, there's a lot of them.

Essentially, there are four main steps, but potentially five if you decide to make the sauce yourself:
1. Prepping the pasta. 
2. Making the filling.
3. Stuffing the shells. 
4. Putting it all together and baking it!

This is one of Jon's most requested meals--easy, but tedious and like an assembly line! So, if you embark on this journey, make the most of it. Make alot!

--buy 2 boxes of shells
--use ALL of the filling. 
--fill as many Pyrex dishes as possible
--bake them, and freeze them 
--freeze any extra shells precooked seperately in ziplock bags!!

Three-Cheese Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Mixing bowl 
Large saucepan
9" x 13" Pyrex dish (as many as you have)
Wax paper
PAM Spray

1-2 Box(es) of jumbo shells
2 (15 oz) jars marinara sauce (or make Mario Batali's Marinara as posted a few weeks ago)

1 large (32 oz) Ricotta container
4 oz cream cheese 
2-3 cups mozzarella 
1 cup Parmesan 
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 Tbls parsley, chopped
2-3 Tbls of mixed fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, basil), chopped
1 egg
Salt & pepper

1. Wash your hands. 
2. Preheat oven to 375F degrees. 
3. Prep your pasta to 'just undercooked'. 
4. Separate and cool shells on wax paper.

5. While shells cool, prep your garlic and herbs.

6. Combine the filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

7. Adjust more cheese, garlic, salt & pepper to taste.
8. Prep your 9" x 13" baking dish with 1 cup of marinara.

9. Now you are ready to stuff the pasta by one!

10. Place stuffed shells in single layer in prepared dish.

11. Once the dish is filled, drizzle marinara over top of shells.

12. Sprinkle additional mozzarella and Parmesan on top.

13. Spray a sheet of foil with Pam spray and cover dish.

14. Bake for 30' minutes covered. 
15. Bake another 5-10' minutes uncovered until golden brown.

16. Remove and cool at least 10 minutes prior to serving! 

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Show off your skills with this easy dish especially if Mom and Dad come to visit!
Have extra sauce for drizzling!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Raid The Fridge Pasta Salad

What do you do with all those ends of vegetables, herbs, half boxes of pasta, half empty bottles of salad dressing, chicken or cheese? You really hate to waste it or throw everything out, but then again, it's not enough for anything else, right? And if it just sits there, it'll get mushy, stale or turn colors and odors you never knew existed!

Well the easiest thing to do is to check your fridge at the end of every week, and take inventory.  Chop up all the leftovers and combine. Use up whatever you can before heading to the grocery store to restock with fresh items.

(Adapted Southern Living and an article they just featured on using 'leftovers'). 

Large saucepan
Mixing bowl

Ends & pieces of any veggie you like, chopped:

-Cherry tomatoes 
-Red onion or green onion

Other "ends":
-leftover rotisserie chicken or extra chicken breast
-salad dressing

1. Wash your hands.
2. Boil 2-3 cups pasta unless you have leftovers from a separate meal.

3. Prep your veggies and herbs.

4. If you are boiling water, you can drop certain veggies (carrots, broccoli, snowless) in the pasta water for 1-2 minutes to "blanch" them, ie soften them.

4. Combine cooled pasta and veggies in a mixing bowl.

5. Add chopped herbs.

6. Add cheese and chicken.

7. Add your favorite, almost-gone, salad dressing.

8. Have it as a side, snack or meal!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Key Lime Delight

Of all the pies that Jon loves, Key Lime Pie has got to be one of his favorites. No matter how stuffed he is...if Key Lime Pie is on the menu he's getting a slice!  So, I am honoring his request to post his favorite dishes and recipes--and why not, it doesn't get any easier than this!

If you buy the graham cracker crust, this takes 10 minutes max to prep and 15-18 minutes to bake--the hardest part is letting it set up for 2 hours after you've baked it! You thought a college student couldn't make pie? Think again!

I have gone ahead and demo-ed "How-To-Make-Your-Own-Graham-Cracker-Crust", but if time is of essence, buy one instead!

(Adapted from 'The Pioneer Woman's Holiday Cookbook')

--If using a larger (12" diam.) or deeper pie dish, you should make a double batch of the custard filling!
--If you don't have a pie plate, use your 9"x 13" rectangular baking dish and double the filling!
--save the egg whites for breakfast.

Key Lime Pie

Mixing bowls
'Fine' side of regular grater (or zester)
Regular Pie Plate (or buy the pre-made one, usually 8"-10" diameter)

1 Store-bought graham cracker crust (or homemade as below)

or Homemade :
2 Graham Cracker packets, crushed
5-6 Tbls of butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 egg yolks
1 Tbls of lime zest
1/2 cup key lime juice (or use regular lime juice in a pinch)

1. Wash your hands.
2. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees.
3. Prepare the store-bought crust according to the package and set aside.  

Or make your own as below.

4. Crush 2 graham cracker packets (16 full cracker cookies) in a ziplock bag with a rolling pin or can.
5. In a mixing bowl, combine the crumbs with melted butter.
6. Add sugar. It should resemble a coarse meal.
7. Add the crumb mixture to the pie plate and flatten.
8. Bake the crust x 5 minutes. Set aside and cool.
9. Combine and whisk sweetened condensed milk, yolks, zest and lime juice into a smooth custard.
10. Fill the prepared crust and bake for 15-18 minutes or until custard sets.
11. Remove from oven, allow to cool.

12. Place in refrigerator x 2 hours so that pie can "set up".
13. Sit in a room with whipping cream or Redi-Whip…and enjoy a food-coma…or share some!