Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Gift Saved My Budget

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE COFFEE!!  I love the smell of the beans grinding and the ground coffee brewing.  It transports me to a place I can't quite describe.   I instantly feel calm, centered, and a little bit euphoric.  I anticipate that first sip with a familiar giddiness that soon all will be right with the world.  If you are a coffee lover, you know exactly what I mean!

And isn't it interesting how coffee can be so many things to us, depending on the time of day and what we need/want?  Weekdays it brings me to life and clears the cobwebs as I rush off to work, yet on Saturday and Sunday, it's my welcome companion as I savor the slower pace and putz around my house and yard.  On many an afternoon at the office a cup packs enough punch to keep me going. But the best coffee is the one I enjoy at the end of the day as I'm winding down or chatting with my sister, daughter or friend. As I wrap my hands around my favorite mug and sip, I feel cozy and wherever I happen to be at that moment is perfect and life is good.  Coffee for me isn't just about the substance in the cup.  The mystery is that it's about an aroma and a taste that is transformed into an experience that I look forward to and fills something in me.  Conversation with people you share life with is even sweeter when sharing a cup of good coffee.  A quiet morning in the sunshine becomes a time for reflection and dreaming of good things to come.  Am I crazy? Do you get me?

The past few years I had gotten into the habit of buying coffee on the go. I would hit the same coffee stand everyday on my way to work and chat with the gals that had become like friends.  Often my daughter would be with me and we would stop for our usual drink each day, as sure as the sun would rise.  Even on weekends I would get out of bed and make a beeline for coffee and then continue on with whatever the day had in store. Now, I don't eat out much, I don't get my nails done or shop for sport, so my daily coffee habit was my little splurge in life.  But I began to realize that my "splurge" was actually a big chunk of change every month.  In fact, one day when I added up what I was spending in a year at the coffee stand, I was startled to realize that it would send me on a nice vacation!  

Enter Christmas.  My boyfriend has this knack for giving me gifts that are both utilitarian and something special that I wouldn't buy for myself.  He's observant and pays attention to the things that I enjoy and like.  And boy did he nail it on this one!  Imagine my excitement when I opened this!

It was like the heavens opened and angels were singing! Though I couldn't hear them because I was squealing like a little girl and clapping my hands real quick like!  I'm not overstating it when I say THIS CHANGED MY LIFE! Not only do I get to have the coffee I love everyday, I also can make it whenever I want, as often as I want.  And the bonus?!  It saved my budget!  Of course I have to purchase coffee, milk, the occasional chocolate, syrup and some to-go cups, but it has radically reduced the amount I'm spending on coffee every month.

My "Aha moment" came quickly.  You don't have to spend a huge amount on an overly fancy machine to make a great latte, mocha or whatever your drink of choice is!  I've had really good coffee from an inexpensive machine and I've had really awful coffee from places with expensive machines.  Now, I know that there is skill and technique involved in brewing a quality shot of espresso, and the machine you are working with comes into play as well, but I'm not going to go into all of that here.  Let me just tell you that this machine is inexpensive compared to many on the market, and I learned to make espresso way back in 1986 in a little coffee shop in Friday Harbor, so with these two elements combined, I have a GOOD cup of coffee right from my home every day.  So this is about encouraging you to make a relatively small investment in a machine and supplies, learn to brew a shot of espresso and steam milk, and save yourself some money in the long run.

Let me break it down for you.  I'm very visual so it helps me to see it laid out.

Average coffee drink- $3.50
1 coffee drink every day for a month- $105
1 coffee drink every day for a year-$1260

The price point of espresso machines vary wildly.  Low end machines can be as little as $70 and high end can be $1400 or more. I happen to know how much mine was so I'm going to use that in my comparison.

One time expense
Krups espresso machine-$125
Milk steamer (I got mine from Cash & Carry) and I bought two sizes
20 oz steamer- $16
14 oz steamer- $13

Revolving expenses
Espresso: This can vary quite a bit depending on where you buy it and the brand.  I have tried the bulk beans from Fred Meyer (Kivu) and from Winco just because I like to try new things and compare price, brand, taste, etc.  These were my least favorite just because I don't think they're as smooth as the other ones I've tried.  I think these run about $5.99/lb

Trader Joe's has an espresso blend that I like for about $7 for a pound.

World Market carries an espresso blend that I like and it was about $14 for a 2 lb bag.  Look in the back on the coffee wall.

Lately I have been buying Starbucks espresso and I like it a lot.  It runs anywhere from $9.99 in a Target or Fred Meyer store to a little more in an actual Starbucks location for a pound.  

Obviously the amount of coffee you use each month will vary depending on how many drinks you make.  I tend to spend about $20 a month on beans because I sometimes make multiple shots a day.

Cups: I do buy both hot and cold drink cups from URM and Cash & Carry because I like to take my drinks with me and I make a lot of drinks for family and friends, so disposable cups are helpful for me.  But I would like to find a good cold drink cup that I could use daily so I don't have to use plastic ones. I find I re-stock my cups every couple of months. You can get cups and lids for about $8. I also bought a box of 500 little straws for about $3 and those should last all year.

Syrups:  I don't like syrup in my coffee!  I know I'm in the minority but I like straight up lattes with no syrups in them. However, my daughter likes vanilla lattes so I do have a vanilla syrup on hand.  I do occasionally like a mocha so I get Ghiradelli chocolate for that because it's a middle of the road quality chocolate.  I like bittersweet chocolate and cringe at the thought of Hershey syrup, but use what ever you prefer. Syrups run me about $6 and last a few months and chocolate is about the same.

So with coffee every month and other expenses being every couple of months, I feel like I spend and average of about $30 a month on coffee from home. This includes what I make for myself, my daughter, my sister and friends.

So here's the savings in print:

Daily coffee from home per month-$30
Daily coffee from home per year-$360

Savings per year-$900

So there's something to think about.  The little things really do add up.  If you can afford the initial investment, it's definitely something to consider.  And besides saving money, you have the luxury of having your coffee experience anytime you want it. 

Happy Coffee Drinking friends!



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Birthday Cake

I love to make birthdays special for the ones I love and recently when I asked my boyfriend what kind of dessert he would like for his birthday, he quickly replied, "white cake with white frosting."  What?? Ho Hum!  Of all the yummy desserts in the world, this would not have been on my list, but that's what he wanted so I set out to find a white cake and frosting that would be worthy of the event.  

Thankfully we have Pinterest to guide us through the three hundred variations on white cake! One caught my eye because it was being billed as THE MOTHER OF ALL WHITE CAKES.  And it did not disappoint!  This cake was easy peasy to make and was light, a bit spongy, moist, and delicious-at least as delicious as a white cake can be, in my opinion. Here's the link to the Epicurious Website for the white layer cake.  I didn't take pictures of the actual cake making process, as I was in the zone, but this recipe is easy to follow and simple to make. I did snap a picture when the cakes were done.

They look pretty brown on the tops but they really weren't. I did make two separate batches because I wanted a nice, high cake.

Now, when I was given instructions for the white frosting, I was told not to use the kind that goes on cinnamon rolls-meaning no cream cheese.  But I wanted to add a little pizazz so I began my hunt for white frosting. There is no end to variations on this so I didn't want to spend a lot of time looking at the same thing over and over.  A friend who makes a lot of cupcakes told me about her use of Vanilla Bean Paste in her frosting, and I knew it was just the thing!  So in my search for the perfect frosting,  I came upon this recipe for Vanilla Bean Buttercream Frosting.  The blogger, Rose, has a great post about making her own vanilla, as well as a great recipe and steps to make this easy, creamy, melt in your mouth yummy frosting! I like it because it's not like bakery frosting that smacks of greasy shortening, and it wasn't too sweet.  And here's a side note...if you usually buy those little tubs of pre-made frosting...STOP!  Making frosting from scratch is quick, cheap and SOOOOOO much tastier!  

I'm realizing now that I didn't take a photo of the frosting when I made it. I have to get better about remembering to do that! But you can see it on Rose's blog at the link above.  You'll just have to trust me when I say it was fluffy, pillowy goodness!  I did double the recipe so I would have plenty.

Here's the Vanilla Bean Paste that I bought from a local cake decorating supply shop:
It's about $8 but totally worth it.

I did take a few photos while I was building the cake. I decided that four layers was a bit much and If I only used three, I would have a little taste tester and wouldn't have to wait all day until we cut into the birthday cake! Like my strategy there?!!  So here's the building of the cake:

I did a thin crumb coat all over and put the whole thing in the freezer for about 20 minutes, and then frosted it all over.  This step is really essential! When you take your cake out of the freezer you can then frost it without crumbs getting all up in your business and making everything look like a terrible mess.

I wanted to make this cake festive but simple so I made a little bunting to go around the sides and found a topper and candles at Hobby Lobby for about $6 total.

To make the bunting I punched out circles and then used this ruler to evenly fold them.  I then attached them to bakers twine by using a tiny piece of double sided tape.

It really didn't take a lot of time to put it all together! I used scrapbook paper and other supplies that I had on hand and I enjoy doing this kind of thing.  For those of you who find this to be tedious and the last thing you want to spend your time on, you can buy them already made I think on Etsy or other craft stores.

Here's my finished product!

I put a small band of sprinkles at the bottom edge of the cake, and soon after I took this photo, I wished that I had done another thin band of sprinkles around the top edge of the cake, but by then the frosting was not soft enough for the sprinkles to hold to.  And of course, the birthday boy asked, "Where are the sprinkles?" 

Over all, I was pleased with how it turned out and it tasted as good as it looked! 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

New Life

Aahhhh Spring!  It hasn't been such a long winter-for Spokane anyway.  But nonetheless, I am ecstatic to have more daylight, sunshine, and glimpses of warm weather.  There is conflict in me in regard to climates where it's moderate and relatively warm year round versus living in a region where there are four distinct seasons.  The older I get, the more I long for a consistently warm place, especially when the gray, foggy days of February seem never ending!  By this time of year I'm feeling house bound, weary of rain and cold, and ready to rotate sweaters and boots to the back of my closet in favor of flip flops!

Yesterday we had one of those teaser days when the sun was shining, shorts were the dress of the day, and BBQ smells were wafting through the neighborhood as the sun was setting.  I puttered around the yard, scheming about flower pots on my patio, string lights across the length of my back lawn, and how to make a garden possible with my existing sprinkler system.

As all these thoughts and plans were swirling around my head, I realized that like anything else in life that we wait for, the sweet days of spring and summer are so sweet because they are enjoyed only for a time, and then suddenly, they are a memory, lost to the crisp days of fall and then snow and days of more darkness than light.  Surely this time of year is appreciated more because we've come through the winter!

Isn't life cyclical as well?  I was reflecting on this past winter and realized that I have been in a "winter" season as well.  Maybe that's why I was so hopeful and rejuvenated as I pulled out the dead leaves and stalks on my plants to reveal the new growth.  I know it's not a new, original idea, but I'm a reflective person, so I tend to see lessons in the mundane.  In life we have seasons that are long, cold, harsh, dark. Relationships end, circumstances make us feel hard pressed, our expectations aren't met, hopes are dashed.  But then, when we feel like hope is lost-a glimpse of spring! Circumstances change for the better, something we didn't expect comes to pass, we have hope, a lightness of heart.  

I'm also a very visual person! If I can see it, I can understand it.  So as I was gardening, I was seeing the contrast of the old, dead plants giving way to new growth and I was inspired and grateful to be reminded of this phenomenon in my own life as well.  Here's what I was seeing:

 Remnants of the old plant from last year.  Some stalks were ready to be completely removed, but some were holding on tight enough that I would have damaged the new growth by yanking them out.  So I removed what I could easily and...below is the new, all spruced up.

 I was feeling invigorated by this point! So I moved on to the side of my house.

By now I was excited to see how things were progressing with a pot on my back patio. Last year I had Basil, Rosemary, and Chives in this pot and I knew (or I thought I knew) that the Basil and Chives were annuals and would have to be taken out and re-planted but the Rosemary is a perennial and it would grow back!  I had already taken out the Basil plant last fall and left this pot next to the house. But I when I saw the pot, I was stunned! If you know me, it will come as no surprise to hear that what I thought was "WHAT THE WHAT???"

My previously beautiful Rosemary plant was D-E-A-D!! Not like dormant dead.  Like completely dead to the root, nothing-short-of-a-miracle-is-bringing-this-guy-back-to-life dead! I was crushed.  But I was giddy to see that my chives were alive and well! Yes, it's the little things that do it for me.

Isn't that how it goes?  Pretty much sums up life.  My life anyway. What I'm sure of sometimes isn't so sure, and what I didn't expect is there in front of me.  Life is grand that way.  I hope your winter is giving way to new life and you see growth and beauty in the every day. This is what I saw this morning:


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Breakfast on the Go

Happy Friday!

Today I want to share a delicious way to have a healthy breakfast or snack...and it's mobile!  I love a hearty breakfast.  I'm not one of those people who can go all morning with nothing to eat, and most mornings I'm racing to get out of the door by 7 am so these little guys are perfect to take with me and heat up mid morning.  I've made a similar recipe in the past, but this one is courtesy of my sister.  My sister and I share a love of cooking yummy, healthy food and we bounce a lot of ideas and recipes between us.  She is passionate about nutrition and fitness and is a great resource if you want some ideas on how to take care of your body and feel good! 

Here's a pic of her, with her three crazy Bostons, as we were heading out for a hike. Get to know her at Foodieluvsfitness! So on to these yummy little egg cups.

This is one of those recipes where I didn't really measure the seasonings, so now as I'm sitting here trying to write it out, I'm thinking "OH NO!" But these are so easy, that I know you can add seasonings to your taste and these will turn out great! So bear with me.  This is a learning experience for me...from now on I will write down what I'm doing while I'm cooking.. 

The beauty of these is that you can use whatever you have on hand. Want veggies? Spinach, zucchini, kale, peppers, onions, mushrooms are perfect.  Do you have meat lovers in your house? Try diced ham or sausage. And then any kind of cheese you have on hand...jack, cheddar, havarti, feta...the possibilities are endless.  You really can't go wrong, and that's what I love about them. I'm going to share a basic recipe and then you can improvise however you choose.

I started with:
6 eggs
1/2 c. milk
*you can use any kind of milk, including almond, rice, or omit it altogether
Next I added a bunch of seasonings, which I didn't measure.  I just poured little piles in my hand and threw them in.  You can't go wrong, really.

Here's what I added:


Smoked Paprika
Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
Trader Joe's South African Smoke
Black Pepper

Let me just say that if you haven't browsed the Trader Joe's spice section, you are missing out! They have lots of different blends of spices that I love!  The South African Smoke is simply Paprika flakes,sea salt, garlic and basil and I put it in almost everything! Eggs, potatoes, marinades, on steamed and sauteed veggies, soups, gravies, etc.  I love it!  The 21 Seasoning Salute is the newest one I tried and its good in soups, stews, meat dishes, gravy, eggs, etc.  Beat feet to TJ's and try out some spices!

Meanwhile, I chopped some onion, garlic, kale and flat leaf parsley. 

Kale is such a power house food and is getting so much press right now.  If you haven't tried it, do it! It's seemingly tough and thick, much heavier in weight than spinach, but that's what makes it hold up well in dishes like this.  Don't be intimidated by it.

I like to cut out the woodier stems like this and am left with the leafy part, but you can use the whole thing if you like. I sauteed the onion and kale in some olive oil for just a few minutes, and added some garlic toward the end:
I put the flat leaf parsley in with the egg, just to keep it fresh.  It's all going in the same place, so you can add it to the saute, but in my mind, it went with the eggs.  Go figure.  So when this was done, I spooned it into some cupcake papers.  I was skeptical about this at first, but my sister assured me that it worked, so i did it.  Once when I made these without the papers, I felt like the egg had a metal taste, but it may have been from using really old muffin pans. Just go with your gut and what you think will work best.

I had some frozen spinach as well, so I decided to make two different varieties of eggs.  In one kind of paper went the kale and onion, and in the other went the spinach.  I realized once I got into this little project that I didn't have the abundance of veggies and cheese that I would have liked, but you may be a little more prepared than I was, so add as much yummy stuff as you like!  

Here's how they looked:
Don't you love my photography skills?! Oh boy.  Anyway, you get the idea.  I had swiss cheese slices, but obviously shredded cheese would be ideal.  But again, you just use what you have on hand, and don't over think it! So I added the swiss cheese that I had cut into little pieces and put them on top of the veggies in the muffin cups.  The kale and onion is on the left and the spinach on the right.  

Pour the egg mixture over the top, and here's what they look like:
Bake about 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they are just set.

And here's what they looked like when they were done:

Don't they look yummy?!  Healthy, filling and ready to take with you!  They are all puffed up when you first take them out of the oven, like the one in the center, and they fall just a bit as they cool, like the ones to the left.  Put them in the fridge or freezer and then pop them in the microwave for a quick protein pick me up whenever you need them!  Thanks, Foodieluvsfitness for this recipe!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shelf Makeover

Have you ever seen the ecard on pinterest that reads, "whenever I start feeling spontaneous, my bank account quietly reminds me to calm down?" (Actually it reads a little differently, as you know, if you've ever seen it, but I didn't want to offend anyone.) Well, I can SO relate!  So recently, when I was dreaming of some little bookshelves, I knew I would need to overhaul one I already had for literally just a few dollars. I have a weird love affair with paint. It's a sickness, really.  Whenever I paint something, my mind begins to race with the endless possibilities of painting everything!  It can be a relatively inexpensive way to change and spruce up what you already have.  So, one day as I was leaving Trader Joe's (which is another love affair altogether) I zipped into JoAnn Fabrics to see if I could find some paint to add some life to a drab, particle board book shelf that I have had for decades.  I have read about the wonders of chalk paint, as it will cover surfaces without you having to sand or prep, and I wanted to give it a try.  But I was not able to splurge on the name brand chalk paint I see all over Pinterest.  But I found this:

It was only about $7.00 but I wondered if they had a coupon, so I got on my phone and quickly found this:
So my total was under $4.00!

I was so excited and raced home to begin my project.  Here's my bookshelf when I started.
I'm sure you'll agree that it needed a make over! It housed my youngest son's books when he was young, but now I'm using it in my living room so time for a different look.  I took the back off, which was flimsy cardboard and decided not to re-attach it when I was done.
After I had it apart, I used a damp rag to clean it well and that was it for the prep.  I put the paint in a plastic lid and used a small foam roller instead of a brush, because I didn't want brush strokes. And I just started painting.
Even though it was beautiful outside, I did most of the painting inside because I've learned the hard way that the wind can whip up and lots of little dust particles and bugs attach themselves to the drying paint.  NO GOOD!  I used this light grey color so it did need two coats but they dry quickly.  Here's another view as it was drying.

I'm really happy with how it turned out!  What a difference!  Here's the finished product in my entry way.

What's not to love about a $4.00 makeover?  
I would love to hear from you about your inexpensive makeover in the comments below!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Waiting Game

Have you ever had to wait for something? 

We've all had to wait in line for coffee, tapping our toe, impatiently waiting for the Barista to hand us the hot, delicious drink we ordered a whopping three minutes ago, but seems like sooo much longer.  

What about the grocery store? I have a few things in my basket and I size up the shortest line and put my things on the belt.  But I quickly surmise this was the wrong line to choose! You know the one...the lady in front of me who has no where else to be and is in conversation with the slow motion checker... I sigh and inwardly berate these people who have brought my quick trip to a screeching halt. 

We all know what it's like to wait.  And we're terrible at it because we're Americans who buy into the lie that we deserve to have what we want when we want it, and we shouldn't have to wait for it.  There are drive thru windows and express lines, the internet and smart phones, all working around the clock to make sure we don't have to wait for much of anything.  We chuckle to ourselves because we know we're guilty of being so impatient and in the grand scheme of things, a line at the latte stand matters little.

But have you endured real waiting in your life? More than a superficial few minutes in a line or at a stop light. More than a few days for the book to arrive that you ordered online. I'm talking about a real, extended time of pause or delay, in which you are expectant that something will come to pass...but it doesn't...yet. I mean a wait that takes on a life of it's own; a soul shaping, day-in day-out, is this ever going to pass, character shaping wait.  What? You know exactly what I mean? You're in this same place? It's hard isn't it? I mean, really hard. If you're in a season of waiting, I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you to keep the faith and when you want to give up-don't. 

I'm not going to give you a one liner that you can post on your refrigerator, like, "when you reach the end of your rope, make a knot and hang on."  I don't want to share a tidy little acronym that will spur you on, like this one: FEAR-False Evidence Appearing Real. I don't have a spunky little cheer or a four point sermon, or a team building exercise. Why not? Because my experience and my conversation with others confirms that THEY AREN'T HELPFUL! Not really.  When I'm going through a hard time and I need encouragement, don't give me a cliche or a one liner. Give me an ear that will listen, a shoulder to cry on if I need it, a helping hand if you choose, but most importantly, just walk beside me and let me know it will be alright in the end.

So here's my take on the waiting game...

1. Waiting reminds me that it's not all about me.  WHA??? I honestly don't think I'm a self absorbed lady, who thinks life is all about me, but we all have our days when we feel like we're a big deal. When I am waiting on something I really need, I have a tendency to think and say things like, "You know this is affecting me on a daily basis, right?" "I can't finish ______ until I get what I'm waiting on."  As true as those statements may be, it's not all about me.  Sometimes we just need to be reminded of our place in this big universe.

2. Waiting strips me of pride.  This is a bit of a continuation of the first point. I had to buy a new-to-me car a few months ago after mine was stolen, and only a couple days after I bought it, there was an electrical issue so it went to the shop. Bear in mind this purchase would be a meager financial investment for many, but for me was every bit of savings and then some that I had. Twelve weeks later, my car is not only still at the shop, there seems to be no clear date when it will be repaired and ready for me to drive again.  By anyone's standards  I have been waiting A LONG TIME! While many people close to me have been willing to help me with transportation, there have been moments when I was stranded. Now, I know many who have ridden the bus plenty and love it for convenience, etc., but I have always had a car to jump into at my whim and zip off to wherever I wanted or needed to go. But one day recently, I was out of options and, you guessed it, the bus it was.  I waited for just a couple minutes, right by my office, but you know what? It felt a little uncomfortable as cars drove by, to be standing there, waiting. Why? I guess because I felt small and unimportant.  Like the big, important people were getting into their own cars and zooming on their own terms to wherever they were headed. In the end, my bus riding experience was fairly pleasant, though it took quite a bit longer to get home (more because of the walk to my house when I got off the bus, than the bus ride itself).  But, I realized it stripped me of a pride I didn't want to admit to.

3. Waiting highlights what's really important. You could be waiting for more than a car.  It may sound trivial to you, in fact. Are you waiting for employment? For a diagnosis? For a soldier to come home? I don't know what you may be waiting for, but I do know this.  In the bigger picture, me being without a car for months is trivial compared to my health, or my kids being safe, or my relationships being whole. Not having a car for me has been more than inconvenient.  It's tapped my financial resources, put me in a bind on more than one occasion, been the cause of canceled trips and missed social gatherings. But my wait continues to remind me of all the things I do have to be grateful for and gives me perspective.  If your wait is much bigger-much harder-you may be rolling your eyes.  But I get it!  I've been in the high stakes waiting game as well. And no matter what you may be waiting for, you will be reminded of something wonderful in your life that will give you pause for gratitude.

4. Waiting reveals your real character.  This is the kicker. I'd like to think I have integrity, gratitude, patience, maturity, and a whole host of other qualities.  But waiting, at times, has brought out the ugly things that I don't want to see.  Whining, complaining, sighing, comparing my misfortune with the fortune of others...these have reared their ugly heads on more than one occasion. And then I have to take a step back and remind myself of all the reasons I have to be grateful and content.  Are we promised an easy life? Do we deserve what we think we deserve? Do I have what I need today? Yes! Is it always what I want? No. This I know: the men and women I admire, those that have a deep gratitude for life's blessings, and have real depth of character, have not walked an easy road and have not been dealt an easy hand, so to speak.  It's struggle and desert places that often produce the sweetest character in us, if we will be stretched and yield to the One who is faithful to provide our every need. If you are waiting, and are a person of faith--hold on.  You have not been left in the desert alone and without purpose.  Learn what it is that God is teaching you about yourself, and about Him.

So there it is.  These are just a few of the many lessons that I have reflected on the last three months. Waiting is hard! It's inconvenient, frustrating, and sometimes unfair.  But it hasn't killed me. And it's stretched me and given me some perspective I wouldn't have had otherwise.

If you're waiting, hang on. You made it one more day. One foot in front of the other. Grow and learn in what ever ways you are meant to. Let the people in your life help you.  See the good. Breathe.

Blessings to you!


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Fresh is Always Better

Happy Fall Everyone! 

 Fall is my FAVORITE time of year! Crisp mornings, beautiful colors, jeans again!, sweaters, pumpkin everything, and lots of yummy things cooking in the kitchen...these are a few of my favorite fall things.  Some of the most loved fall flavors are pumpkin and apples in breads, muffins, crisps, pies and of course, coffee.   In tribute to fall flavors, today, I'm sharing a little secret with you!

 I have my grandma, aunts and mama to thank for my love of whole, fresh ingredients and most everything we cooked, baked and ate when I was growing up was from the garden or made from scratch.  We never bought pancake or muffin mix, because it was easy and more tasty to make them!  I know...measuring flour and soda and whipping butter, etc. takes time but I challenge you to try it! It really is worth the extra time it takes to use fresh ingredients, found in nature, that you can pronounce. Which leads me to my little secret today...

Know what this little gem is??
Fresh Nutmeg Seeds!

Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg....these are some of the classic flavors in fall dishes. Of course you can buy the pumpkin spice blend and it makes life really simple.  But fresh nutmeg is one of those things that is SOOOO easy and makes all the difference!    Nutmeg comes from the seed of the Myristica fragrans tree and you can buy them in the bulk section.  I get mine from Fred Meyer and they are super inexpensive!  Like pennies compared to the $3.99 you pay for a small jar of ground nutmeg, and they have a wonderful aroma and flavor.  

Simply store them in a little spice jar and grab one out when you need it.  Use a microplane to grate up just the amount you need for what you're making.  Now I'm really terrible at measuring things, so I usually just eyeball it and throw in what I think is the right amount, but you can measure it if you're the kind of person that needs to be exact!

Here's what it looks like grated..

I promise once you try this, you will never go back to the jars of bland, ground nutmeg!  I would love to hear your comments on easy, little secrets that you use in the kitchen that make your dishes delicious and easy.

Bon  appetit!