“Processed Food” I Buy on a Regular Basis

It’s true. I buy processed food all the time. Check it out…

groceries feb 172

What you see there is none other than cases of processed Spaghetti Sauce, Salsa, and Canned Black Beans. Processed food, baby. Store-bought, canned, jarred, food right off a shelf.

And you thought you knew me.

But there’s more…

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Are those hotdogs? What is this world coming to? Oh, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet:

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This might come as a surprise, but I do not have a maple tree in my yard to tap in an effort to provide our family with this golden pancake and waffle topper. Also – and it might hurt to hear me say this – I don’t always take time to squeeze limes. Indeed, I have stooped so low that I actually buy jars of lime juice to make my Guacamole. Can we still be friends?

Those baked beans though. They are on my shelf ready to be served with the hotdogs you saw above, but you’ve already seen my Beanie Weanies and you haven’t abandoned me yet. Pizza sauce? In a can? Well, thank goodness that at least it is organic.

I’m not even done. There’s more for you to see:

groceries feb179

That there is a box of spaghetti noodles. There are a couple ingredients in that cream that I would rather not know about, and see that cheese? That’s 10 pounds of Colby jack all wrapped up in a package.

So here’s an idea…

Let’s change our thoughts about processed food

Not all processed food is bad.

When I first started making the switch from “bad food” to “good food” I got an idea in my head that all processed food was evil, that I must make everything from scratch in order to be a “good mom” and canned food would never again enter my home.

Eleven years later I have come to terms with the fact that someone else can juice my limes. Having shelves full of canned pizza sauce and black beans in my pantry makes my life so much easier I smile every time I see them. I open and use jars of salsa like there’s no tomorrow but guess what?

It’s all still real food.

It’s all real food!!!! Do you hear what I’m saying? The “processed” food I buy hasn’t been turned into something horrible. The spaghetti sauce in those jars is made from actual tomatoes and spices (and nothing else because I’m careful about the ingredients in my jarred and canned food purchases). These items started as food and ended as food and they help me put Simple Meals on the table like a boss.

This is what we must consider when choosing food from a shelf, a box, a bag, or a can:

Is this real food and does it nourish?

There are all kinds of processed “foods” that I don’t even call food because they do nothing to nourish and everything to harm. If it started as one thing (corn) and came out completely different (high fructose corn syrup), it isn’t real food and it doesn’t nourish. If it took a detailed process to create in a factory (margarine) instead of starting as one thing (cream) and becoming something good for us naturally (real butter), it isn’t real food and it doesn’t nourish.

Don’t be afraid of a box, jar, or can.

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Read the labels. Do your homework. Consider what’s actually inside the container. Ask: Is it real? Does it nourish?

Sometimes these are the foods that help us get through a day in peace and with a smile.

What are the “processed foods” you keep on hand to help make your real food life easier?

P.S. As many of you requested, I am slowly but surely making a list of items and brands of “processed food” I trust and purchase. Don’t hold your breath, but know that you can look for that list in a few weeks.

With the High Price of Vanilla Beans, Should You Make Homemade Vanilla Right Now?

I’ve been making Homemade Vanilla since 2009. Why?

  • To save money
  • So I can trust my vanilla to be pure and healthy
  • Because Homemade Vanilla is ridiculously delicious

How To Make Vanilla Extract

See, most vanilla extracts on the market have sugar added. I don’t want that, of course. Also, most have been watered down, so they aren’t as strong and flavorful as I’d like. But Homemade Vanilla is completely pure, extremely flavorful, easy to make, and makes awesome gifts! However…

The price of vanilla beans has risen drastically.

In the past three years, the price of vanilla beans has gotten crazy high! Making Homemade Vanilla used to be super cost effective, saving oodles of money compared to buying it. Since there are so many other benefits to making it, it became a no-brainer to me!

But now there’s a major vanilla bean shortage, so the price has risen dramatically. (This stinks for those of us who want to make vanilla, but my research tells me that this is a much worse situation for farmers whose livelihood depends on good crops. We are simply inconvenienced; but these farmers are hurt deeply by this. With this news, suddenly my concern for my homemade vanilla price takes a back seat in the world of “what actually matters.”)

With the high cost of Vanilla Beans, does it still make sense to make Homemade Vanilla Extract

Does it still save money to make Homemade Vanilla?

Having said all of this, I wanted to share that I recently crunched some numbers again to see if it even made sense to make a batch of homemade vanilla right now. I was pleasantly surprised, and want to share my findings with you!

The upfront cost still seems high, but read all the way through to discover how to get the most bang for your buck.

It is most cost effective to make a gallon of Homemade Vanilla at once, instead of making a small batch. A gallon will last a very long time, or you can use it for gifts! (Homemade Vanilla is an awesome gift at Christmas for friends, family members, and teachers!!)

Price Break-Down to make a gallon of Homemade Vanilla

50 Vanilla Beans: $200
3.5 liters of 35% alcohol Vodka: $30
Total Cost: $230
Price per ounce: $1.80

This makes an 8-ounce bottle cost $14.40.

Remember, the quality of vanilla is ultra strong, not watered down, with no added sugar.

Cost of High Quality Purchased Vanilla

Imitation Vanilla is made of nothing real, so I recommend avoiding it even though it’s cheap. The best pre-made “pure” Vanilla Extract I could find at Azure Standard costs $2.20/ounce.

This makes an 8-ounce bottle cost $17.60. This is more expensive than homemade, but more importantly —–>

Note the ingredient list of this purchased vanilla (listed in this order):

  • water
  • 35% alcohol vodka
  • vanilla bean extractives

Not only is purchased vanilla extract more expensive, it is watered down, so not nearly as strong.

So Homemade Vanilla Extract wins the prize for being lower in cost and entirely pure.

Which leads me to my best advice and even better news about the cost:

Use Half the Amount and Cut the Cost in Half!

Because the Homemade Vanilla Extract is so very potent, I recommend that you use half the amount called for in a recipe. Doing this will double how long an 8-ounce bottle will last!

Therefore, the $14.40 it costs to make 8-ounces of Homemade Vanilla will last you twice as long, giving you what store-bought 16-ounce bottle gives. In this way, you can think of your 8-ounces of homemade vanilla being broken into TWO 8-ounce bottles which cost only – drum roll please –

$7.20 each.

And with that, I absolutely recommend that we all still make Homemade Vanilla Extract!

vanilla_beans

I forgot we get 20% off!!!

Good grief. I can’t believe I wrote this entire post and forgot to figure in the fact that Olive Nation gives Heavenly Homemakers readers 20% off! Time to crunch new numbers! I’ve been working with them for many years now, and they are happy to give us a discount. (They’ve been keeping me up to date on vanilla bean shortages and prices too. I love working with them.)

Get the best quality vanilla beans at the best price here. Use the code home to get 20% off, a code made exclusively for Heavenly Homemakers readers! Get free shipping when your order is over $50.

Discounted cost for Homemade Vanilla Extract

50 Vanilla Beans $160.00
3.75 ounces Vodka $30.00

Total cost: $190.00 (woot!)

Per ounce breakdown: $1.48/ounce
Price for 8-ounces of Homemade Vanilla: $11.84

vanilla

Make Vanilla For Christmas Gifts

One last note! Most everyone loves receiving Homemade Vanilla Extract as a Christmas gift! Because it takes 4-6 months for vanilla beans to “extract” I recommend you start a batch right away to have it ready to give in December.

I think that about covers it. Any questions? (I’m actually at church camp right now so answers will probably be delayed!) I’m so glad I finally crunched the numbers instead of continuing to cringe over the bean prices!

11 Fun Recipes for the Fourth of July (That Won’t Keep You in the Kitchen All Day)

The thing about making special food for any holiday is that too often the cooking and the clean up take away from our holiday fun. Here’s what I suggest you do this Fourth of July and every special day:

strawberries

  • Choose simple recipes.
  • Make everything you can ahead of time so you can enjoy the day.
  • Stick with basic sides like watermelon and other fresh fruit, corn on the cob, and tossed salad (all easy to prep!).
  • Get your family involved in helping with prep and clean up.
  • Embrace the paper plate. (Do whatever you want with this piece of advice. Most of the time I avoid disposables, but to everything there is a season. So if I really want to enjoy my people and not stand at the sink rinsing a bunch of dishes, I pull out the paper products.)

watermelon

Now let’s talk about the simple recipes. Of course we will choose simple recipes. We love Simple. This is how we survive each day and also how we make holidays special. We keep it simple. We stick with basics. We go with what we know everyone likes. The beauty of all of this is that our food tastes amazing even without extra effort! (Real food is cool like that. It tastes great because it’s real and it can’t help but taste wonderful!)

11 Fun Recipes for the Fourth of July

11 my favorite simple recipes for the Fourth of July!

1. Americana Cheesecake Parfaits

The cheesecake part of this recipe (white) whips together in just a few seconds. Add strawberries (red) and blueberries (blue) and you’ve got a beautiful and super delicious treat for the 4th!

Americana Cheesecake Parfaits

2. Raspberry Sweet or Unsweet Tea

Making fruit teas like this is super simple, and this Raspberry Tea turns a pretty shade of red. I’m thinking we could throw some frozen blueberries into the glass to make it a perfect Fourth of July drink. You might also want to try Peach Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea or Mango Sweet (or Unsweet) Tea so that you can set out a variety of good choices.

How to Make Raspberry Sweet or Unsweet Tea

3. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake

Strawberries and Blueberries appear to be the real food MVP of the Fourth of July. Raspberries too. Make this simple Shortcake Recipe, then set out blue and red berries along with whipped cream.

Strawberry Shortcake with Whole Wheat and Honey

4. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake Waffles

This is the same idea, but you can make your shortcake in the waffle iron for a pretty and fun twist on this favorite dessert. Might as well serve it for breakfast, because why not?

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5. Strawberry-Blueberry Shortcake Muffins

Okay fine. One more Shortcake variation and then I’ll move on. Sometimes it’s fun to make your shortcake batter in muffin tins and serve them as individual cakes with fruit and whipped cream on the side!

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6. Very Berry Brownie Cups

Phew, this recipe has been on my site since before I had an actual camera. But the recipe is as good as ever and fun for people to build their own brownie cup!

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7. Pineapple Cream Dessert

Orange you glad I didn’t say strawberries and blueberries again? This recipe is so refreshing on a hot summer day that it makes its way onto this list even though it’s not red, white, or blue. (But far be it for me to say that you can’t add strawberries and blueberries as a garnish.)

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8. No Flour Monster Bars

This recipe makes the list because everyone loves them. Also, they are easy to make ahead of time and set out for grab-and-go snacking. If you want, you could stir in some red, white, and blue M&M’s, but you never heard that from me. Food coloring is bad. Avoid it at all costs. ;)

Real Food Monster Cookie Bars

9. Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

Here I go again with the red and blue berries. Serve them with this simple dip and it will be a big hit!

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10. Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

See if you can find some 4th of Julyish mini-muffin paper liners. Make these super simple cookies with stars in the middle!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Star Cookies

11. Brownie Sundae Bar

This is super fun if you’re feeding a crowd, so everyone can build their brownie sundae however they like!

Build a Brownie Sundae Bar

Creating this list has made me want to make every single one of these recipes for the 4th! I think I just might.

What are your Fourth of July plans? What are your favorite foods to make for the 4th?

Real Food Recipes That Are Easy AND Save You Money

I used to make everything from scratch. Everything. Ketchup, graham crackers, and even mozzarella cheese. It’s great to have the skills and knowledge to do this. But at a certain point I had to ask:

Am I getting enough bang for my buck, here? As in, is the time I’m taking and the energy I’m extending to make all of this food really saving me money and therefore, is it worth it?

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For the record, homemade mozzarella costs more than store-bought.

Now, sometimes it’s worth putting forth the effort or spending more to make food from scratch because of the health benefit and great flavor. I mean, I don’t even care how much it saves or doesn’t save to make Homemade Ranch Dressing because this recipe tastes thousands of times better than the bottled stuff and it only includes healthy ingredients. I don’t want high fructose corn syrup on my salad.

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But as my schedule has gotten busier and as the quantity of food we plow through every day has increased, I’ve had to be more choosy about what I make, what I buy pre-made, and what I skip altogether.

For instance, I used to make all of our Whole Wheat Tortillas, without fail. These taste amazing and we miss them, but it takes triple the amount of tortillas to get us through a meal now, compared to the days my kids were little. It’s a rare occasion that I “go to the trouble” to make tortillas now, because it takes over an hour to get the job done. (Though when I do, there is much rejoicing.) We either skip tortillas now (often subbing corn chips), or I’ll buy a case from Azure Standard to keep in the freezer.

Having said all of that, today I thought I’d share some recipes I’ve stuck with for all these years, even with a busier schedule and a higher volume of food consumption. These recipes are worth my time, because the time investment is tiny. And they are cheaper than store-bought so they are a win-win! Also, homemade always tastes better, so score one more for that!

Real Food Recipes that are Easy and Save Money

Seasoning Mixes

I make all of our Ranch Dressing Mix, Italian Dressing Mix, Onion Soup Mix, and Taco Seasoning Mix. These cost pennies to make, saving a significant amount. And since I make big batches, the time saved on these is great!

condiments

Vanilla Extract

The price of beans has gone up, but it still saves money to make Homemade Vanilla Extract. It’s ridiculously easy to make, and well worth the effort because homemade vanilla is amazing!

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Stir-and-Pour Whole Wheat Bread

We don’t eat as much bread as we used to at our house. I think it’s wholesome and filling and my family loves it, but I prefer to fill everyone with more nutrient-packed sides like fruits and veggies. So bread has taken a back seat at our house.

I do sometimes buy a loaf of 100% whole wheat sandwich bread for sandwiches when we need to pack them for a road trip. But for bread at home, when as do eat it with a meal, I make this Stir-and-Pour Whole Wheat Bread. It takes hardly any time or effort, and it doesn’t cost very much. And it tastes awesome!

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Homemade Granola

I discovered this 5-Minute Granola Method and haven’t looked back. I add in whatever we have (dried fruit or chocolate chips) and we’ve got ourselves a great cereal for much less than store bought!

Stove-Top Granola

All of these Simple Meal Recipes

Check out this Spanish Rice Bowl and the long list of other Simple Real Food Recipes it includes. I keep coming up with more of these recipes and am amazed at how much time and money they are saving! I’ve cut down my kitchen time with these Simple Recipes so much that I feel like a cheater. Almost. ;)

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Cool Pineapple Cream Dessert

This is ridiculously easy and so super yummy! Throw three ingredients in the blender and you’re set!

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Special Coffee Drinks

It’s a rare thing for us to spend $$ at a coffee shop since we can make fun coffee drinks at home for much less! This Chocolate Frappe is awesome. Sometimes we put this Chocolate Whipped Cream in our coffee. We freeze coffee into ice cubes like this to make easy Iced Coffees. This Coffee Milkshake is awesome in the summertime. Sometimes I make a big batch of Chocolate Iced Coffee to offer several people at once. While all of these take a little time, it doesn’t feel like a lot of effort because it’s FUN to make drinks like this!

What are some of the foods you make from scratch that are easy and save money?

Did you get your Money-Saving Freebies yet?

Remember that anyone who signs up to join our FREE Heavenly Homemaker’s Savings Club gets both of these freebies sent to them. Fun!!

Top 10 Money Saving Recipes

30 Real Food Money Saving Tips

Sign up here, confirm your subscription, and both booklets will be in your inbox very quickly! Then we can keep you informed of any other money saving tips and deals we come across!

Why I Don’t Make Broth in the Crock Pot

I’ll get right to the point.

I think it’s a fabulous idea to make homemade bone broth in the crock pot. But that doesn’t work for me and here’s why:

My crock pot only makes 3 quarts of broth at one time.

(It’s a 6-quart crock pot, but after the bones are strained out, the amount of broth only ends up being about 3 quarts.)

Instead of a crock pot, I make broth in my big stock pot, which makes almost 2 gallons at one time! (The same is true for applesauce. It absolutely doesn’t save me time to make a crock pot full of applesauce when I can make many quarts in my stock pot in much less time.)

broth in stock pot

My food prep mantra: Go big or go home.
Except that the food prep happens when I already am home. So…
Go big or go bigger.

Indeed, my stock pot makes almost three times the amount of broth (or applesauce) at one time compared to my crock pot. Since broth simmers slowly for several hours no matter what I cook it in, efficiency tells me to always use my stock pot.

In addition to this, I typically make two huge batches of broth in one day to make the most of my chicken or beef bones. I make one batch of broth when I’m cooking a couple of chickens. Then I strain the broth to put into jars, pull the chicken off the bones, and throw the bones back into the pot to make a second batch. In both batches, I throw several pounds of onions, carrots, and leeks. I get almost four gallons of broth in a day when I do this! (Read the following links for specifics on  how I make Chicken Broth and Beef Broth.)

This process gives us enough broth for soups and other recipes for about two weeks. It is awesome.

A Side Note: I Make Orange Chicken or Beef Broth

Let’s talk for a moment about all those veggies I cook into the broth. They get ridiculously mushy after cooking for so many hours, so I just blend them up and stir them back into the broth for added nourishment. You know what this means, don’t you? This means that my broth always turns a beautiful orange color.

How to Make Chicken Broth

A word to the wise:

If you follow this example of cooking and blending carrots/onions/leeks/celery/spinach into your broth, turning it a beautiful orange color – I suggest that you inform your family about the contents of the pretty orange liquid you’ve placed in jars in the fridge. Otherwise they might say, “Can I have some orange juice?” and you might absentmindedly say, “Sure” before you realize you don’t actually have any orange juice. And then your kid will take a big swig of chicken broth and almost puke.

Hypothetically.

It could happen I think.

I have no idea why my youngest won’t touch orange juice anymore.

Back to talking about the Stock Pot Broth Making Method

Now in a few years when all these strapping teenage sons of mine have left the nest (sniff) and I no longer need pounds and gallons and cases of food like I do now, might I go back to using my crock pot to make broth again?

I haven’t decided. I like efficiency. Broth freezes just fine, so I may always use the stock pot for broth-making to avoid having to make the mess as frequently.

And the truth is, I’m not even sure I remember how to make less than 16 quarts of something at once. We may enjoy a lot of leftovers (or company) until I can figure that out.

In the meantime,

This is why I don’t make broth in the crock pot.

Why I Don't Make Broth in my Crock Pot

How do you make your broth?

 

How to Make Fun and Easy Sparkling 100% Juice

I’m in it for the bubbles. Easy Sparkling 100% Juice is so very perfect.

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I shared all kinds of thoughts (that didn’t necessarily make sense) about “how much I love drinks” in this post. I guess with warmer weather coming, I’ve been thinking more about fun drinks (not that warm drinks aren’t fun in the colder months too, of course).

One of my boys’ favorite things to splurge on is Martenelli’s (and by boys’ splurge, I should clarify that they prefer it if we parents do the splurging, because it is much easier to enjoy something if someone else has paid for it).

Have you tried Martinelli’s? It’s a very tasty sparkling cider that is 100% juice, made especially fun because it comes in a cool bottle and pours out nice and bubbly. I find it in the juice aisle at Wal-mart.

Martinelli’s is great for a special occasion, like New Year’s Eve, when I might not mind spending close a few extra dollars for each of us to have a sip of sparkly bubbles. But for a random Tuesday, I’m a little more selective about where I put my grocery money.

Soooo, we’ve found a way to have our sparkling juice and drink it too. We call it “Mom-inelle’s” because I invented it and we are all quite proud. The boys are especially happy because this invention means they can enjoy this fizzy drink more often than every December 31.

This has become the drink we enjoy when friends come over, and it always receives rave reviews. Note that you can add any 100% juice that you choose. We’ve discovered that our favorite is 100% Cranberry. Who knew? 100% Grape is a close second.

You may also find it fun to make this with combo-juices like 100% Cran-Raspberry or 100% Cran-Grape or 100% Apple-Raspberry.

It may just be us, but we have also found that this Sparkling 100% Juice tastes best with Mexican food or Pizza. There’s just something about fizzy drinks with food that has a bit of a spice. Try this!

Easy Sparkling 100% Juice

How to Make Fun and Easy Sparkling 100% Juice
 
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 11.5 ounces of frozen juice concentrate (thawed, butnot diluted)
  • 33.8 ounces Seltzer water (carbonated water)
Instructions
  1. Pour the juice concentrate into a ½ gallon jar or pitcher.
  2. Slowly pour in the seltzer water (if you pour it too quickly, it could bubble over).
  3. Stir slightly so as to mix the two liquids but not release too much fizz.

How to make Sparkling Juice

Do you love bubbles like I do? Ever tried making Sparkling Juice like this?

P.S. If you’re having a hard time giving up soda (pop/coke/whatever you call it where you live) – I recommend this fizzy juice as a great alternative. :)

What to do if you love coffee but need to watch the caffeine. (Have you tried Teeccino?)

Sometimes a person says something she means but doesn’t really mean. You know what I mean?

Take, for instance, when I say, “I love to drink. Drinking is so fun! Drinks make me happy.” You might think I have a drinking problem. It’s definitely not a problem, though, because I can stop any time I want to.

Now, what I’m talking about, isn’t drinking. No, no. I’m talking about drinking. Understand now? I actually stay away from drinking because my system can’t handle it, I’ve seen too many dear friends struggle with it, and anyway, I have way more fun when I’m drinking instead.

I drink at home and I drink with my family and it’s great to invite friends over and say, “Do you want to come over for drinks?”

Well now. I think after reading that we can all use a drink. What can I get you?

  • Coffee? (Iced or hot? Decaf or regular? With cream and a spoonful of my homemade chocolate sauce?)
  • Tea? (Hot or cold? Sweet or unsweet? Mango or peach? Raspberry perhaps?)
  • Water? (Ice or no ice? With lemon or lime?)
  • Sparkling Juice? (Cranberry is our favorite. Recipe is coming soon.)

Now that we’re all clear (as mud) on where I’m coming from, allow me to explain further.

I always drink a nice amount of water during the day so I stay hydrated and healthy. I actually like water, even if it is just…water. But I also really like to enjoy another fun drink or two throughout the day.

pumpkin_custard_drink

Desserts? I’m over them. Junk food? I really don’t want it. But a variety of drinks? Yes, please. I think they are a ridiculously fun treat even though I don’t even add sugar or stevia to them.

I realize this puts me over the edge into the complete nerd category, but you guys, sipping an iced coffee in the afternoon is as much a treat to me as brownies used to be back in my “I can eat anything” days. Tossing a slice of lemon in my water makes me feel like I’m indulging in something special when in reality, I’m still in my pajamas and I’m about to embark on a science lesson with my kids.

Having a cup of hot tea mid-morning (let’s call it a “spot of tea,” shall we?) in a special mug really hits the spot while I’m answering emails. Enjoying a flavored sparkling water (lime is my fav) with my lunch makes me feel like I’m splurging at a restaurant. And setting out an assortment of hot drink choices for my family before we begin a game night is way, way more fun than one would think.

Coffee Milkshake

This leads me to share about a fun drink many of you already know about (because several of you have mentioned it through the years). A sample of Teeccino came in my last Azure Standard order.

I made a BIG DEAL of trying it. As in, I made it, put on my pj’s and slippers while it was brewing, added cream, and snuggled under a fuzzy blanket in the living room so I could sip it slowing and savor it. I only had one kid at home with me at the time, so naturally I made him try it with me. He was a good sport, skipped the slippers, and added sugar to his.

We both came back with a thumbs up. So now I have yet another great drink to add to my drinking repertoire. Can life get any more fun than this?! I think not.

teeccino

What is Teeccino?

It’s an herbal tea, completely decaf, which tastes similar to coffee. But don’t expect it to taste exactly like coffee because it doesn’t.  I think it has a unique taste – kind of a mixture of coffee, tea, and chocolate.

It is delicious, though, and I love that it’s decaf so I can enjoy it in the evenings!

All of my family has tried it and enjoys it too. Therefore, I ordered a case which is a variety pack, because of ALL THE FUN this will provide for us.

Now that you’ve heard my drinking confessions, it time for you to share what your favorite drinks are. Also, have you tried Teeccino and do you like it?

What Does Laura Think About the Instant Pot?

I think I might be the only person left on the planet who doesn’t have an Instant Pot. If you didn’t have one before, you surely got one for Christmas. Me though? I didn’t ask for one; didn’t get one. I’m the weirdo who still cooks everything the “old fashioned way” – in my crock pot, on my stove-top, and in my double oven.

instant pot

Am I anti-Instant Pot? Absolutely not. Research tells me they are healthy to use, and according to everyone (on the planet) who has one, they are fantastic.

So what in the world is wrong with me? Why don’t I have or even want an Instant Pot?

I liken my Instant Pot mindset to the way I feel about a Bread Machine. Great as they are, I never wanted one of those either. Why? Because I’m so used to making bread without one that I don’t have to think about how to make bread any more. I just do it. So if I got a Bread Machine, I’d have to actually read a manual and relearn how to make bread and while surely this learning curve would only take about 20 minutes, I just can’t wrap my brain around the endeavor without feeling overwhelmed.

Some things just don’t make sense, but inside my brain, it all makes perfect sense, so do try to understand. Making bread “the hard way” is easier than making bread “the easy way” because the harder way is easier for me. There. That ought to clear things right up.

I believe the same is true with the Instant Pot. I’ve heard I could cook hard boiled eggs in an Instant Pot in a shorter amount of time than it takes to boil them on the stove-top, but I’ve decided that by the time I figured out how to do it the new way, I could already have my eggs boiled and made into Deviled Eggs, amen and amen.

Perhaps I’m being dramatic. Perhaps I should just admit my abhorrence of owner’s manuals. Perhaps I’m set in my ways and I’ll turn into one of those grandmas who can’t handle change and never gives in to the latest and greatest that promises to make my life better.

Oh my goodness. It’s happened. I’ve become my grandma.

Indeed, my grandma hated air conditioning (can you imagine?) because she was so used to going without it that she didn’t know how to use the window unit her kids installed for her comfort. So she either left it off on 102 degree days, or she turned it on but still left all the windows open so the hot air had to compete with the cold air.

Heavens, what would Grandma have done if we gave her an Instant Pot?

There may be hope for me, and maybe one of these days I’ll go ahead and give an Instant Pot a try. (This one looks promising. Any thoughts? Recommendations?)

No doubt, I’ll love it once I’m used to it. I will admit that it really does sound great (owner’s manual notwithstanding). But in the meantime, I declare that the hard way is easier. If you are an Instant Pot owner, now’s your chance to talk some sense into me…

Just Because I Can, Doesn’t Mean I Always Do

I can make mozzarella cheese. I can make Gatorade. I can make bread, pie, bagels, and pizza.

Homemade Gatorade

I share all of these ideas and recipes with people here. It’s so much fun! I talk about ways to save time and ways to save money. I’ve figured out ways to put nutritious meals on the table in less than 20 minutes, letting people know that none of us ever has to rely on take-out.

But just because I know these things, teach these things, and have experienced so much good because of all these things doesn’t mean I always do all these things.

Does this mean I’m a hypocrite? No. This means I’m human.

How about you? Human much?

I bet you know a lot of great tricks for saving money and time. But if you’re like me, sometimes there simply isn’t time to execute the time saving strategies (does this even make sense?). Sometimes the extra few dollars we need to pay for convenience is worth it so that we avoid stress and overthinking.

Check out what I did a few weeks before Christmas:

bagel-basket

I bought four packages of bagels (without reading the ingredient labels, if you can possibly imagine). I bought four bags of different varieties of granola. I bought a box of instant oatmeal pouches. I put them all in a big basket in the kitchen and told my kids, “This is breakfast for the next few days. Make eggs if you want. Always eat fruit. Beyond this, I won’t be making anything for breakfast because I have too much to do before we leave for California and I’m trying very hard not to be a crazy mom.”

I felt no guilt over the extra expense and the extra sugar and white flour. (Okay fine, I did cringe just a little bit, but only for half a second until I remembered my purpose.)

Nothing is worth anxiety and stress – not even the occasional ingredient label I can’t pronounce. Not even the extra few bucks I could have saved making it all myself.

Do I know how to make bagels? Granola? Instant oatmeal packets? Yes, yes, and yes. It’s fantastic to have such great money-saving recipes in my hip pocket. It’s wonderful knowing I’ve done all I can to put the best of the best on the table for my family.

But it’s more important to be able to love my family with a peaceful heart. It’s crucial for my mental and spiritual health that I spend as much time as possible each morning in prayer and reading the Word. And just before Christmas, the priority of enjoying the season with my family meant much more to me than flipping whole wheat pancakes and serving them with homemade blueberry syrup.

Just because I can, doesn’t mean I always do. Just because it sometimes works, doesn’t mean it always works. Just because I could, doesn’t mean I should. Just because change is hard, doesn’t mean change is bad. Just because I’m doing it now, doesn’t mean I always will.

just-because-i-can

Our family is home now after over 57 hours on the road and two weeks away from home. Things are starting to settle back down (sort of, if they ever actually do). I don’t plan to make bagels anytime soon. But I bet I’ll find time to make a batch or two of granola.

No matter what, I’ll seek to make the most important things in life the highest priority, remembering that just because I can do something, doesn’t mean I always should.

How about you? What are some things you (should) give up during times of additional stress and extra full schedules?

simplemeals300

16 Simple Recipes You Can Make in 5 Minutes

Good things come to those who wait. But good things can come to those in a hurry too, so let’s hear it for a few great recipes we can make in about 5 minutes!

Now, making these is all dependent on the fact that you have these ingredients on hand. But the ingredients are all pretty basic, so I’ll bet you do have these ingredients in your kitchen most of the time. (Cream cheese is a staple food, right?)

Let’s say you have last minute company stop by and you need a quick snack to share. Or maybe you have only a few minutes of work time before you have to head to the next thing. Here are some recipes you can quickly throw together for your favorite people to enjoy.

16-recipes-you-can-make-and-serve-in-about-5-minutes

First a quick list of recipes you can make in 5 minutes:

And now a list with all the tempting pictures that will make you want to lick your computer.

Homemade Nesquik

This is a great one because you can use it to make both chocolate milk or hot chocolate!

Homemade Nesquik

Cream Cheese Salsa Dip

supersimplechipdipsm

Caramel Apple Dip

Cream_Cheese_Apple_Dip

5-Minute Stove-Top Granola

Stove-Top Granola

Coconut Fudge Bars

Coconut Fudge Bars

No-Bake Chocolate Fudge Bites

No-Bake Fudge Bites

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

Peanut Butter Cookie Bites - No Bake!

No-Bake Snickerdoodle Bites

snickerdoodle bites2

Pineapple Fluff Salad

Pineapple Fluff

Pineapple Mango Smoothies

pineapple_mango_smoothie

Chocolate Whipped Cream for Coffee or for a Bowl of Fruit

Chocolate Whipped Cream - Perfect For Your Coffee

Chocolate Whipped Cream on Strawberries 2

Strawberry Cheesecake Parfaits

Low Sugar Strawberry Cheesecake Parfait 1

Chocolate Cheesecake Parfaits

chocolate cheesecake parfait

Easy Fruit Dip

strawberry_dip
French Onion Dip

french onion dip

What are some of your go-to recipes to make when you only have a few minutes to throw something together?