vinegar, water, spray bottle

The Easiest, Cheapest Natural Cleaner You’ll Ever Make

vinegar, water, spray bottle

Have you ever cleaned with vinegar? It’s one of the cheapest yet safest ways to clean that I know of. Not only that, but it’s simple, too.

Vinegar has been used for many years as a cleaning product, and is still widely used today. It is obviously a versatile food product, is a primary ingredient used to preserve food by canning, and can even be used for several health purposes. This page shares many interesting and useful facts about the history and uses of vinegar, while this one nicely summarizes why vinegar’s “acetic quality” makes it an effective, yet safe choice for cleaning.

Today I want to share a super simple “recipe” for a vinegar cleaning solution to use around your home.

You will only need:

  • vinegar (preferably white)
  • water (from the tap is fine), and
  • a spray bottle for storing and application.

vinegar, water spray bottle (up close)

I first heard this simple yet useful tip from my sister. When she came with her family to visit quite a few years ago, she told me how simple and effective (not to mention cheap!), it was to make your own mixture of water and vinegar for cleaning. Then they promptly bought me an empty spray bottle from the dollar store, mixed some up and away we went! I’ve been using it ever since!

Simply fill your spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water. That’s all there is to it!

To use it, just spritz and wipe!

vinegar water cleaner and paper towels

I love it because it’s so safe to use, especially on my kitchen counters. There is no concern about dangerous residue to contaminate our food areas.

There is one small issue that some find annoying, although it doesn’t bother me. Not surprisingly, it smells … like vinegar! My husband used to say that it made him want to eat salt & vinegar chips, although I don’t recall him saying that lately (either because he’s gotten used to it, or because there’s no use commenting, as we usually don’t have salt & vinegar flavored chips in the house). So there’s that.

But to me it smells clean, and the scent goes away quickly as it dries.

I use this solution on my kitchen counters most of all, spray it to spot clean the inside of my refrigerator, and squirt a little on small spills on the floor.

One quality I find very useful is that this vinegar spray cuts the strong odor left from cutting onions. After dicing or chopping onions, I spray a little on my hands (then rinse), sometimes on the cutting board (before I put it in the dishwasher, or let it sit a few minutes before hand-washing), and on the kitchen counter where any stray onions have left their odor.

Last, but not least, I use this vinegar-water mixture on fruits and veggies in place of expensive, store-bought fruit and vegetable wash, in order to clean them and to help safely remove pesticides and chemical residues.

This simple cleaning solution can be used in other areas throughout your home, but here’s a brief word of caution to consider when using vinegar to clean around the home.

 

In summary, these are the reasons I recommend making and using this vinegar-water solution:

  1. It’s really cheap! (A gallon or more of vinegar is well under five dollars; you can use a dollar store spray bottle if you wish.)
  2. It’s extremely easy. (Fill with equal parts vinegar and water and you’re done.)
  3. It is effective. (Vinegar cuts grease, kills many germs, and combats odors.)
  4. It is safe to use. (Vinegar is gentle on humans, pets and the environment.)

 

If you wish to learn more about how effective vinegar is for killing household germs, you can read this article, which suggests that it kills many germs, but will not effect certain viruses or bacteria. It also explains that we often “overuse chemicals”, and that very often that is not necessary. It states:

“Rather than concentrating on disinfecting or killing the bugs, we should focus on cleaning with hot soapy water and good old-fashioned elbow grease to physically scrub away organic material.”

This vinegar solution fits the bill.

If you’d like to try making a more pleasant-scented vinegar spray cleaner, here’s an interesting idea from The Yummy Life. I haven’t tried it yet, as it’s a bit of a process, but it seems like a nice alternative to the plain vinegar smell. Let me know how you like it, if you go that route!

So what have you got to lose (except a few cents worth of vinegar and an empty spray bottle)? Why not give vinegar cleaning a try?

For further interest, here are a some other articles that list these, plus many more uses for vinegar:

I hope this gives you a little useful information about cleaning with vinegar and how you can easily make a versatile household cleaning spray. I know that many of you already enjoy this wonderful cleaning tool!

Next time I’ll share how with one additional ingredient you can make another useful household product that I no longer have to purchase.

*****

So tell me, have you used vinegar to clean in your home? Do you find it convenient and effective? Does the smell of vinegar cause you to want to break out the salt & vinegar chips?

 

 

 

 

cereal bowl

Don’t Throw Away Those Cereal Box Liners!

cereal bowl

Do you eat as much cereal for breakfast at your house as we do around here?

I wonder.

In fact, if left “unchecked”, my three tall men (a husband and two young adult sons), would probably consume boxed cereal for breakfast about 90% of the time. It also seems to be our go-to Sunday evening meal. It’s fast, easy and a comfort food (to them, at least), so it seems like a “no-brainer”.

While I try to supplement their “cereal habit” with more home-made and other (more) healthy options, we still eat a good amount of cereal.

When the box is empty, what do you do?

 

This could be the waxed paper liners from your empty, small cardboard cereal box, or those from the larger (bulk or family-sized), cereal boxes left after you pour your cereal into a cereal-keeper container.

cereal and cereal container

We all know the importance of recycling in this day and age. Most of you will agree that it saves money and is easier on our environment. And when you can reuse something, it’s a win-win on both counts for you!

So I propose a little tip that I heard several years ago. I don’t quite remember where I first heard this idea, but I’ve been doing it ever since.

Save your cereal box liners!

 

When you empty a box of cereal, go ahead and recycle the box (I know you will!), but save the liner.

But why, you may ask?

pouring cereal into cereal container

Waxed paper liners are great to use in place of store-bought waxed paper! Just shake out the crumbs, fold and store, and you have for yourself a FREE, pre-cut piece of waxed paper!

cereal and waxed paper liner

If this seems gross to you, then go ahead and throw out the liner (we can’t recycle waxed paper here), and have a blast paying for crumb-less waxed paper. To each his own. No hard feelings. 🙂

I personally haven’t bought a roll of waxed paper since I can’t remember when.

Now when you need a piece of waxed paper, simply remove a bag from your storage container, unfold and carefully pull it apart at the seams, forming a good-sized rectangle of perfectly good waxed paper!

It even works wonderfully for covering dishes to heat in the microwave (probably our main use for it), if you just pull it open a little and kind of slide your plate or dish in to reheat; sort of like a little shaped cover.

reheating food in microwave with waxed paper (cereal liner)

You can use a cute or fancy container or bin in which to store your waxed paper, or be like me and just reuse whatever suits your fancy at the time. I have re-purposed empty containers such as tissue boxes, plastic snack jugs, and my current favorite, an empty, square biscotti jar. (Why does my computer constantly tell me that “biscotti” is not a word??? Silly dictionary!)

cereal liners in container

Mine lives right in one of my pull-out shelves in my kitchen pantry cupboard.

kitchen cupboard with waxed paper liners

I hope you find this little tip as helpful and money-saving as we have!

*****

Am I the only one who’s done this? Do you think it’s gross to use waxed paper that may have some tiny cereal crumbs on it? What are you going to buy with all the waxed paper money you’re going to save???

 

lettuce wrapped in paper towel

One Way to Make Your Lettuce Last

lettuce wrapped in paper towel

Stick a paper towel in it. Or two or three.

There.

End of story.

Do it.

Today’s post just may be the shortest, easiest blog post I’ll ever write!

Of course I’ll include some wonderfully exciting photos of myself (or my left hand at least; I had to use my right hand to snap the photo), inserting paper towel into a lettuce container. I’ll bet you can hardly wait!

opening greens

First, open your lettuce or greens.

 

inserting paper towel into lettuce container

Insert one or more clean paper towels.

 

paper towel in lettuce container

Close lid and you’re done.

Where on earth did I get such a weird idea? I don’t rightly know for sure. It may have been from my dear father-in-law (who has been gone for several years already). He would open one of those handy, already-washed salad bags and then close it up with a paper towel inserted. I think he was the first.

But try it, already. It just works! (Do I really need to do the research on this one?)

Haven’t you noticed how after you’ve opened a package (bag or plastic container), of pre-washed salad greens little droplets of water form on the inside of the container, then begin to moisten and eventually rot the nice little leaves???

I bet some of you don’t even purchase the ready-washed lettuce anymore because you’re so tired of throwing away spoiled lettuce!

It even seems to be the case when I wash my own head of lettuce and place the leaves into one of my plastic containers or lettuce-keepers, so I add paper towel there, too.

If it’s a larger container of lettuce, I usually gently wrap a clean paper towel around each side and place another on top.

salad with paper towel

One other important note if you are washing your own lettuce (rather than buying pre-washed), is you must get it as dry as possible! A salad spinner works wonderfully and I don’t know what I’d do without mine!

Sometimes if I’m cleaning very large greens (that would not fit in the lettuce spinner), I just lay them out on clean tea towels and let them air dry. I still put a paper towel into my storage baggie, and squeeze the air out before sealing it.

This is also a great storage tip for many other types of veggies, too. But that may need to be discussed further in another post. 🙂

My completely scientific answer to why the paper towel method works is this: the paper towel absorbs the little droplet-thingies and keeps them from overly-wetting the lettuce leaves, hence helping to prevent them from rotting and getting all gross and slimy. (Don’t quote me on this.)

So that’s it, folks! Grab a container of lettuce and some paper towels and have yourself blast this weekend! Now you can enjoy your salads more as you know your lettuce won’t spoil before you’re done eating it. And don’t forget, your greens will last longer for more delicious smoothies.

That same precious father-in-law I told you about also had a cute habit of writing on and leaving notes on paper plates. So maybe we should try that one, too.

*****

Am I the only one who has found that a paper towel or two totally makes the lettuce last longer??? If you have any other ideas for preserving salad greens or know of any scientific studies to back up my theory, please share!

 

 

 

 

green smoothie in mason jar

How To Make a Simple Green Smoothie (It’s more simple than you think!)

green smoothie in mason jar

Recently, I explained how I freeze bananas to use for baking and smoothies. Well, my wonderful and insightful sister thought that maybe some more detailed information on what to do with frozen bananas would be in order. Perhaps she’s right.

So let’s talk smoothies. I use banana (especially frozen bananas), in almost every smoothie. We usually have them on hand, they add a wonderful smooth texture, and most of all, you can’t beat bananas to sweeten a smoothie (especially one with greens).

I just assumed that any old person could make a smoothie. And maybe you’re one of those who can. (If so, feel free to share your favorite smoothie recipe with me!).

But maybe you’ve never attempted to make one. Perhaps you thought you needed one of those nice, expensive smoothie machines to make one (and you don’t), or maybe you just buy smoothies that other people make (also expensive).

So today I want to tell you how easy it is to make your own green smoothie.

I have made smoothies for years, but only occasionally. Even though I really enjoy smoothies, here are some reasons that kept me from making my own:

  1. I just didn’t realize how easy it is.
  2. I thought it would be too time-consuming (especially for breakfast before a busy work day).
  3. I don’t have a fancy “smoothie maker”.

Hopefully, this post will help you realize how simple and quick it really is to make delicious and nutritious smoothies in your own blender!

Years ago, my first few tries at smoothie-making mainly consisted of frozen fruit (or unfrozen fruit and a few ice cubes), some juice (for liquid), and optional yogurt (which I usually added for taste and protein). These tasted delicious and were somewhat healthy, but contained more sugar and lacked the nutritional boost of greens.

purple smoothie

But now my “go-to” smoothies are made with greens. Once I figured out what flavors tasted good together and got myself and my family used to a slightly less sweet smoothie, I can’t hardly “leave” out the greens. (See what I did there? “Leave” out the leafy greens?)

One reason I began to try to work with greens in my smoothies is because I had access to good, free greens. If you have your own garden, you likely have plenty of fresh greens.

When we started getting more greens from our CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) farm share, I didn’t want them to go to waste. We usually try to cook and eat them (they can be prepared and enjoyed like spinach), but if I have a lot, I put some aside in freezer bags for future smoothies.

Swiss chard

Farm fresh Swiss chard greens (and a little turnip green).

red and golden beet greens

Golden and red beet greens.

This past year I really had it good while I worked at an indoor microgreens farm. Microgreens are highly nutritious. In fact, WebMD states that they contain, “up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.” You can read more about that here.  One of the awesome benefits of my little farm job was being able to help myself to greens from the employee fridge. So this past summer, we had a delicious and nutritious green smoothie for breakfast probably two to three times a week.

kitty in wheatgrass

Our kitties love greens, too. 🙂

Mostly I’ve just been “winging” it with my smoothies. But over time I’m getting pretty good at it, as well as coming up with some favorite ideas.

One thing I have learned (through trial and error), that makes all the difference in good smoothie-making is that you need enough liquid. Even if you like it thick, a blender requires sufficient liquid to operate. Some in my family prefer an even thinner smoothie than I do, which can be accomplished by adding even more liquid and/or not using as much frozen fruit (as the ice makes it thicker).

green smoothie in blender

You can make a wonderful, healthy green smoothie right in your blender!

Simple Green Smoothies is a great site with loads of good information on making green smoothies. They even run a free 30-Day Green Smoothie Challenge. I really like their poster (scroll down on this page), with their basic green smoothie “formula”.

This is roughly what I’ve been doing, but it makes life even easier to simply remember two cups liquid, two cups leafy greens, and three cups of fruit. I love that this recipe is simple, but versatile. Some additional optional ingredients that I would add to their list are as follows:

  1. microgreens (leafy greens category) – the healthiest, if you can get your hands on some
  2. beet greens (greens category) – never throw out the healthy greens from your beets!
  3. 100% fruit juice (liquid category) – Be aware that this option will add natural sugar to your smoothie, but may be desirable, especially if your family is “new” to green smoothies.
  4. fresh or frozen cranberries (fruit category) – full of antioxidants as well as many other health benefits 
  5. PBfit or other peanut butter powder – contains all the goodness of and 85% less fat than regular peanut butter (“boosts” category)
  6. Powdered whey (“boosts”) – excellent source of protein (explore here)

Be sure to note that you need to use at least some frozen fruit in order to thicken and chill your smoothie. Alternatively, you may add a few ice cubes, but I prefer to pack my smoothie full of flavor and nutrition without added water.

blueberry green smoothies

Green smoothies are not always green (with blueberries).

green smoothie

Mango-chard smoothie.

So now that you have all this green smoothie information at your finger-tips (and hopefully a good supply of frozen bananas), what are you waiting for?

*****

Please do share any great smoothie tips with us here! Have you tried making a green smoothie yet? Are you the proud owner of one of those coveted special smoothie makers?

 

 

 

 

 

hanging bananas

Life Cycle of a Banana

bananas and tomatoes on my counter

I’m sure I now have you all on the edge of your seat, breathlessly awaiting an in-depth study about how bananas are grown and harvested, but that is not the topic of this post. (Sorry.) Neither will I discuss what happens after you ingest bananas…..(no further comments necessary!).

Today’s post is just about the life cycle of a banana at my house. Or more specifically, what on earth do I do with bananas that could be interesting enough to write an entire post about them on Simply Flourishing Home???

banana pile

Let me start with the fact that I know this will be a boring post for some of you experienced bakers, smoothie-makers and banana-keepers.

***But one thing I realized before I began blogging is that many times it’s that “obvious” tip to us that someone else just needs to hear. I have lived for almost fifty years, and cooked and baked for over twenty-five married years, and I’m still learning some great hacks and tips for all areas of my life.

***So at the risk of boring you or causing you to feel I’m insulting your intelligence, I have decided to sometimes share a simple tip or idea, for those of you who for whatever reason, find yourselves “out of the loop”. I would, of course, also welcome any tips and tricks for home-making that my readers would be willing to share in the comments. Share the wealth!

So back to bananas.

Bananas are a healthy, convenient, economical, portable fruit. I try to keep them on hand at all times for a quick, easy morning serving of fruit. They are also invaluable for baking and smoothies!

Let’s talk about banana nutrition.

I won’t go into great depth here (as I am not a nutritionist nor a banana expert), but suffice it to say that a bananas possess a whole slew of health benefits. They are naturally fat and cholesterol-free, provide a high dose of potassium (which is beneficial to your heart, muscles, nerves and kidneys, and can help lower blood pressure). They also contain a healthy dose of vitamin C, vitamin B-6, manganese and fiber, and aide in the digestive process.

In case that’s not enough for you, this interesting article discusses 25 Powerful Reasons to Eat Bananas, and claims several additional health benefits, many of which I had never even heard before today.

In our family, bananas are consumed several times per week as is, but we also depend on them for moist, delicious baked goods and to thicken and sweeten our healthy smoothies.

lots of bananas

So what’s the best way to be sure to have bananas on hand at all times in case the urge strikes to bake fresh banana bread or create a delicious smoothie?

Stock up on bananas whenever you have a chance. Thankfully, they are one of the cheaper foods to begin with, but if you happen to catch a sale, find some on the reduced-produce rack at your store, or “adopt” them from someone who for some reason has extras, then go for it! (I used to gratefully receive bunches on occasion from the school cafeteria where I worked, before vacation days when they would be sure to spoil if left.) I often buy an extra bunch on purpose to keep my freezer-stock supplied.

Just a side note here. I have tried (I thought with some success), that trick of wrapping the banana stems in foil to retard the ripening process. Although I had come across some reason to believe it is effective, I now realize through a little research that most people believe it makes no difference if you wrap the stems in foil or plastic wrap, or separate the bananas. I looked at several write-ups and videos, and in the end, I can’t find anything scientific to back up the idea that any of these methods actually makes a difference.

So if you notice any foil on my bunch of bananas in the photo, just ignore it. Until I conduct an actual experiment myself (which I will surely share here), I will refrain from further wasting foil on my banana stems.

So just what do you do when you just have too many bananas, or they are too ripe for your taste to eat?

overripe bananas

Most of you who care anything about baking know that bananas can be stored in the freezer until you need them for baking. For years, though, I threw the entire banana in, peel and all. This works, but when you take it out of the freezer and let it thaw, you now have to remove the blackened peel and are left with a soggy, slimy, mess. It still works and tastes fine in a recipe, but it leaves something to be desired in appearance and texture (in other words, it’s gross!)

One day, my life was forever changed when I made an important discovery; not to the whole world perhaps, but to this avid baker. I don’t even remember where I learned this idea, but it is to simply peel the banana BEFORE you freeze it.

freezing bananas

Yes, that’s it.

Some of you are probably saying, “Duh. Of course you peel them first. This is a waste of my time.”,  (to which I will refer you back to the above starred paragraphs), but I will share it here in case you, like me, need someone to tell you.

Now I simply peel and break each ripe banana into quarters or thirds and throw them into a freezer bag. This way, they can be easily taken out to thaw before baking, or warmed slightly in the microwave to soften if you are in a hurry.

Also, this method works great for thickening and sweetening smoothies! Simply place as many frozen banana chunks as desired into your blender (or fancy smoothie-maker, if you have one), along with your smoothie ingredients and life is good.

So that’s it, folks! The life cycle of a banana in my house.

Stay tuned to find out about two of my favorite related baking tips that I plan to share soon. One has something to do with pumpkins, and the second is about muffin dough. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Now, I think I’ll go and make some banana muffins.

*****

Do you love to bake with bananas or add them to smoothies? Have you ever tried freezing them? Are you willing to admit that you also wrap your banana stems in foil???

 

 

 

community, city

Responsible Reasons for Buying Local

My home (fall)

I am all for bargains.

In fact, I think that most of the time doing everything we can (within reason),to save money is not only smart, but often necessary, in order to stay within our budgets.

But once in awhile there are legitimate reasons for doing what is expedient, such as buying local. And I often have to remind myself of this when it seems I’m just taking the “easy way out” or being lazy.

 

These are some the items we often purchase locally:

  •  milk or other necessities (from a local convenience store)
  • vegetables, eggs or honey (from a farm stand or our CSA share)
  • hardware for home repairs (from the small, downtown hardware store)
  • grocery items (from our local supermarket)
  • prepared foods and homemade crafts (from local church fairs)
  • girl scout cookies or other products from neighbor kids raising money
  • meals and beverages from local restaurants (one in particular which sources ingredients from local farmers)
  • delicious fresh-roasted coffee (by a local roaster)

Razzo Coffee

Now let me clarify that is it not always more expensive to buy food and household items from a local source.

We have found some wonderful local vegetable stands, for instance, who actually offer us a better-than-supermarket price. (When I was growing up, sometimes I was allowed to sell our excess garden produce at a small table on the side of the road, or from a wagon pulled down one of the neighboring streets. We sold a tomato for about ten cents, which even for that time, was a bargain.) And our convenience stores actually offer one of the best prices on 1% milk!

But more often than not, it seems the smaller and sometimes family-run businesses right in my neighborhood are a little more expensive.

Most often when I make a purchase my priority is to get the best bang for my buck. Sometimes I will drive to a certain store, take advantage of a special sale or offer, purchase in bulk, or order online, just to name a few of the ways I try to save my hard-earned money. But that’s a post for another day.

Sometimes it’s a hard decision to “spend more” to buy something locally, when I know that it’s so many dollars or cents cheaper at a store like Walmart.

But in thinking it over, there are plenty of legitimate reasons to buy local.

 

Here are some of the good, responsible reasons that I sometimes stay close to home and buy local:

1. Convenience – This may seem extremely obvious, but buying local is usually very convenient. We don’t have to drive across town (or farther), peruse sales flyers for the best buy, clip coupons, or plan around our schedule to make our purchase. I can simply stop on my way home from work.

truck in town

2. Save money on gas – Any time we can make a purchase close to home, we are saving precious gas dollars. I think sometimes we overlook the obvious, that driving a greater distance to save a dollar or two may not add up.

minivan

2015-06-06 18.21.44

3. Save time – Our time is one of our most valuable assets. Often we can “waste” or expend far more time and energy trying to save money, than it’s actually worth. Whatever time I chose to spend travelling to and from a store and shopping is time taken away from something that could be more important, such as family time, rest, cooking a homemade meal, or working on a hobby. If you work for yourself, it could even be taking away from your actual income.

book on couch with blanket

making apple crisp

late-night snack with cocoa

my desk area

4. Support Your Community – While it’s true that saving money is important, it’s also valuable to invest in the local businesses of your own home town. They are usually run by honest people just trying to make a living, and they both appreciate and depend on our purchases. Also, just think how you would feel if your neighbors all went out of business. There would be no more “convenience” stores to quickly stop in to on your way home from work.

Supporting your neighborhood children’s school and club programs is also a worthwhile investment. When some of the neighborhood children come to the door selling products to raise money for a worthwhile cause, we try to help them out whenever possible. It also helps to foster good relationships and shows Christ-like love to those around us.

groceries

farm produce

community, city

My Home Town

5. Better Quality – Not always, but very often a locally made or grown item is of better quality than the same item purchased from a big store. We often buy ice-cream from our local restaurant and dairy, and let me tell you, it is a treat! It’s also made from more natural ingredients. Our produce “share” (from our CSA – Community Shared Agriculture), is completely fresh and delicious, picked fresh from our local farm.

Bliss Bros. ice-cream & light cream

CSA farm share

6. Connect With Your Neighbors – This may sound like a funny one, but just hear me out. Usually, I like to talk and interact with people, and what better way to do so with those in your own neighborhood than by shopping in a store in your town? I’m not suggesting that you can build deep, intimate relationships by chatting in the grocery isle over the spaghetti sauce. But you may be able to meet someone new, say “hello” to an acquaintance, or just smile or lend a listening ear to someone who needs a little attention. There have been times when I have asked if I could reach an item from a high shelf for someone in the supermarket, and the helping hand seems to make their day.

visiting Grandma Lilian

 

There are likely other reasons for buying local, but these are some of the values that cause me to feel I am making a responsible decision when I decide it’s best to pick something up in town.

*****

Do you make a habit of buying certain items in your home town? Do you consider it important to support your local businesses? What types of purchases do you make locally?

 

 

 

 

 

iced coffee and rose

If You Love Them, Let Them Go…..Eat !!! (Valentine’s Day Edition)

iced coffee and rose

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a wife and mother (especially with three tall men making up my family; my husband, a teenager, and a young adult), it is that one of the best ways to show love is to feed them. You know the old saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Well, it’s usually true!

Now, I’m all for healthy living and eating, and there are times when that trumps such luxuries as Valentine’s Day treats. Sometimes the most loving thing to do is to make something healthy. But I’m also a firm believer in making life enjoyable for my family, so sometimes “fun” food wins!

Going out to eat is nice, but can be especially busy on holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Perhaps you are saving money and don’t wish to go out to an expensive restaurant, have young children at home and it’s not always easy to get (or afford) a sitter, or wish to have a special family day together (and save your special “date night” for the evening or another more practical day).

There are creative ways to enjoy eating at home, whether it’s just you and your special someone, or a family holiday together.

Sometimes it’s special to spend hours in the kitchen, crafting an exquisite meal at home complete with fancy side dishes and dessert, but I live in the real world, where most often something simple is desirable…..and did I mention that I’m dealing with men, here? Even my husband admits that men like simple.

 

So here are some simple food ideas to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home with your family without spending your whole day in the kitchen:

1. Order take-out:  It may seem obvious, but ordering take-out food to eat at home is both fun and can be much cheaper than eating in a restaurant.

pizza and wings

2 Pick up a favorite coffee or surprise treat:  Surprise your loved one(s) by stopping at their favorite coffee drive-through or bringing home donuts or ice-cream.

crazy family with Tim Horton's

3. Make-your-own special hot or cold drink:  We love to make cafe-style hot beverages at home using our battery-operated milk frother, and our favorite iced coffee is now homemade, cold-brewed. (More on drink recipes later!)

milk frother

cold-brewed iced coffee

4. Choose foods that are naturally red or pink:  Desserts or salads with strawberries or other red fruits make festive choices. One of my favorite bloggers recently shared a whole list of 29 Fun treat Recipes for Valentine’s Day!

homemade pound cake with strawberries

salad with berries

5. Make something “usual” in an unusual shape:  Kids of all ages love heart-shaped pancakes (using a heart-shaped pancake mold, “winging it” like I have on my own, or even crafting your own tinfoil molds ; there’s even a link with instructions for making heart-shaped bacon!)

2015-09-12 07.19.00

6. Cook or bake one of their favorites (no matter the color or shape):  I even purchased an entire cream cheese cookbook (years ago when they would allow sales people to leave them for us to browse at work), in order to obtain many different cheesecake recipes since it was one of my husband’s favorites.

french bread pizza

7. Decorate desserts or treats with appropriately colored sprinkles or candies:  Appropriately colored sprinkles (red, pink, white) or cinnamon hearts make regular cookies, brownies or whipped-cream look special.

cupcakes with sprinkles

8. Serve food or drinks in appropriately colored or decorated dishes, mugs or paper-ware:  Pull out your red mugs and dishes or pick up some Valentine-themed paper goods.

WOF loved heart mug

As you can see, with a little effort and imagination, you can make the day feel special (and still find time to relax yourself). These ideas can be switched up for other holidays and special occasions as well. One anniversary (long ago, before kids), when funds were extremely tight, I made pizza at home for just the two of us in the shape of a heart. I’ve made heart-shaped pizzas since then for my family on various occasions! Fun!

Did anyone happen to notice that none of these photos were exactly of Valentine’s Day goodies? I guess I need to start taking more photos of my Valentine’s Day treats! Tomorrow I plan to make either strawberry shortcake or homemade pound cake with strawberries, and I’ll be sure to take a photo!

Have fun with those you love this Valentine’s Day!

*****

What kinds of heart-shaped foods have you cooked or baked? Do you have any other practical but fun Valentine’s Day ideas?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

How To Eat an Egg Part 1 – Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

I’m all for quick, easy meals, especially for supper at the end of a long, busy day (as in, most of the time).

But I also want to serve my family as much real, healthy food as possible, without driving myself insane.

One way I accomplish this is to rely on some easy, quick meals made with ingredients I regularly keep on hand.

Enter, the egg.

Now I won’t try to convince you of what kind of eggs to buy. My favorite, and I think the best option, would be a local, farm-fresh egg, which we indulge in on occasion. There are also many different kinds of “healthy” eggs available for purchase at the supermarket, but do your own research and be careful of misleading labels and information. (For some interesting and informative reading about healthy eggs, read this and this.)

The meal budget for our family of four grown humans (three of which are tall men), does not regularly allow for farm-fresh eggs. After doing a little informational reading, I feel it’s a healthy compromise to purchase regular, store-bought eggs most of the time.

This food staple can be one of the cheapest, money-saving meal options out there, especially if you shop special sales or buy in larger quantities (or best option yet, raise your own chickens like my dear sister). I usually buy a large quantity from my local warehouse-style store (mine is BJ’s Wholesale Club), and try to stock up when they offer a coupon.

If you have stronger convictions about eating “healthier” eggs and a grocery budget to match, feel free to use your special eggs. Also, if high cholesterol or other issues prevent you from indulging in unlimited eggs, use whatever egg substitute you currently purchase. The cost will be increased, but I’m quite sure it will still result in a cheaper protein option than most meat-based meals.

Today I’d like to show you one of my favorite ways to eat an egg (or several).

This is not my very fastest, easiest egg option (more egg ideas to come), but moderately easy and fast, and uses “regular” staples you’ll probably have in your house. I think it’s a nice, supper-friendly option with the addition of potatoes.

The original recipe came from the Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes, a book I’ve owned for years.recipe book

I got it when a salesman left us a sample to browse at work  (before they got all “fussy” about allowing such things at places of business), and liked it so much I later searched for and purchased a similar book in the same series for myself and another family member. Although the cookbook is still available today, I had no luck finding the recipe online by Land O Lakes. I did, however locate essentially the same recipe printed here.

Many friends have complimented my cooking and baking, but in reality I’m not one to invent too many recipes from scratch. One day I figured out that a primary reason people think I’m a good cook is because I’ve learned to recognize a good recipe. Often I tweak it to make it healthier or to use ingredients I have on hand, but I usually start by following the directions.

Since I don’t currently own an oven-proof skillet, for this recipe I use either a large ceramic pie plate, a glass casserole dish, or my deep dish stoneware baker. I usually add more potatoes than the original recipe calls for, since I like them and am often needing to use up extras before they get soft. I also use whatever cheese I have on hand that sounds good (most often shredded mexican or chedder).

So without further ado,  I present Country-Style Potato & Onion Pie.

 

slicing red potatoes

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

(4-6 servings; 50 minutes)

 

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup (3 small) new red potatoes   *(I usually use more, about 4 or 5, and whatever type I currently have.)
  • 1 med. onion, sliced 1/8 “, separated into rings
  • 1 cup (or more, because cheese!), shredded Swiss cheese   *(or whatever type you’d like)
  • 1/3 cup chopped
    fresh parsley (or about 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried)   * (Try other herbs; I like to add some dill.)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 8 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 med. ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 “

 

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In oven-proof cooking dish or skillet melt butter in oven (3 to 4 min.).

3. Add potatoes and onion. Bake, stirring once, for 15 to 20 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

potatoes and onion in stoneware 2

4. Meanwhile, in small bowl stir together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, parsley (and/or other herb of choice), and shredded cheese.

5. Pour over baked potatoes and onion; arrange tomato slices on top.

6. Return to oven and continue baking for 17-22 min. or until eggs are set and lightly browned.   *(I often find it takes longer, especially if I’ve used larger quantities.)

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

 

I like to serve a nice, fresh salad with this meal, or possibly cut-up fresh fruit.

*****

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do, and that it makes for a few easier, more enjoyable evenings for you and your family!

Do you depend on eggs for quick and easy meals, too?