Monday, February 28, 2011

Money - It's All About Attitude!

Monday is the day I try to talk a little about money and how best to be in control of it. I am always inspired when I hear the stories of people who have carefully budgeted their money and figured out a way to make things work out. We live in a world where the temptation to spend money is all around us. Saving becomes difficult when we have set our expectations beyond what we can truly afford.

Find strength in the stories of those who came before you. I will share a few of the stories I have learned of my grandparents.

My dad recalls going with his father after payday to pay the family bills. They lived in a relatively small town and my father and grandfather would walk from one utility to the next to pay the bills in cash. This helped to teach my father from a young age the importance of paying what you owe on time. We don't walk from place to place today to pay our bills, but we can still involve our children in some way. Have them put the checks in the mailbox or help balance the checkbook when you're done. Talk with them about how much it takes each month to pay these basic necessities. They are learning more than you realize.

My grandmother didn't pick out her first brand new furniture until she was nearly 90 years old! She created a home with what they had been able to afford or with what others had given to her. She has 68 grandchildren and we all love going to Grandma's house. New furniture doesn't make it a great place to be - it's the love we feel when we go and that doesn't cost anything!

The other story I remember from my grandmother is that when she went on her first mission just as she graduated from college she took two dress suits with her. These two suits had been made by using the material from two used men's suits a relative had offered to give her. She was resourceful! We really don't need all we think we do. A little creativity and a heart willing to live on less can help us make huge strides to being financially independent.

I hope you feel inspired by these stories. Ask around to your family members - they probably have some inspiring stories of their own to share.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Being a Provident Provider

From a talk given by Robert D. Hales in the April 2009 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints -

What is a provident provider?

All of us are responsible to provide for ourselves and our families in both temporal and spiritual ways. To provide providently, we must practice the principles of provident living: joyfully living within our means, being content with what we have, avoiding excessive debt, and diligently saving and preparing for rainy-day emergencies. When we live providently, we can provide for ourselves and our families and also follow the Savior’s example to serve and bless others.

I love how he says, "joyfully living withing in our means." Living providently really does bring enormous peace which takes away the difficult factor eventually. It just takes a bit of time to readjust our expectations to fit what we should be dreaming about. Not worrying about job layoffs, natural disasters, food shortages, etc. frees up a lot more time to enjoy life. We feel confident that with the preparations we have made, we will be OK. What a blessing and who needs more motivation than that?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pulled Pork

Pork roast is one of the least expensive meats to purchase. It is so easy to prepare also. I always buy a couple of large picnic roasts when they are on sale for less than $1.00 a pound and cook them in the crockpot. (I actually found these marked down to just over $.50 a pound for quick sale - hooray!) They need to cook on low for 10-12 hours or longer. I usually put them in right as I'm going to bed and then they are ready to shred between 9 am-noon the next morning. 

When you stab a fork in and twist it the meat will shred easily when it is done.

Remove the meat to a baking sheet and pull it apart with two forks, separating out any fat or other undesirable parts. It shreds easiest when it is warm.

Here you see my pile of undesirable parts off in one corner. Allow the rest of the meat to cool and then package in ziplock bags and freeze for later.

You can use pulled pork in tacos or enchilladas. We also love to mix it with BBQ sauce and serve it on hamburger buns. The other delicious way to serve pulled pork is as Mexican Sweet Pork. I'll share my recipe for that in another post. Having some frozen in the freezer already pulled apart means many quick, inexpensive meals over the next few months. Watch for a sale and dust off those crockpots.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sugar Cookies

Sugar cookies are a given for Valentine's Day at our house. They are fun to make other times of year as well. This is my very favorite recipe for making a soft and fluffy sugar cookie - if you can call a cookie fluffy. It is not the crunchy texture of some cookies. You have to use an open cookie cutter for this recipe. You cannot use any of the cute cutters that add details because as this cookie bakes it puffs up and you would not be able to see any of those details anyway. 

The original recipe follows just as it was shared with me by Sister Bithell, a senior sister missionary who served in my mission. She made these cookies for my companion and I at Christmas time when we were serving in Burke, VA. This year I decided to try them using bean puree to make them healthier. Instead of using 1 cup of shortening, I used 1/2 cup of shortening and 1/2 cup of white bean puree. Cream them together with the sugar and then add the remaining ingredients. I used powdered milk also. They turned out delicious and there was no change at all in the texture or flavor from the original recipe. Next time I make this recipe, I think I'll try replacing all the shortening with bean puree. (I decided that since I had to take them to school this time, I better not experiment too much! The other thing I want to try is to see if I can get by without adding eggs like I've found I can do when I put beans in muffins. Oh, there is always something else to experiment with.)

I took them to school for the Valentine's Day parties and the kids devoured them all! They had no idea of my healthy switch.  You'll have to experiment in this way with one of your favorite recipes and let me know how it works out.

These freeze well before frosting. You can also freeze them after the frosting has hardened. Just place waxed paper between the layers in your container.

Sugar Cookies

1 cup shortening
2 eggs
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp baking powder
4 tsp light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup hot water
1 ½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla
¾ tsp salt
Food coloring or sprinkles as desired
About 4 cups flour


Combine cookie ingredients and chill dough.  Roll and cut out.  Bake at 350° for 7 minutes.  Mix icing and drizzle over cookies.  Lay out on waxed paper for icing to harden.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rice Pilaf Mix

Rice Pilaf is one of my favorite mixes to have in the pantry because it is so versatile as a side dish. It goes well with any Mexican dish, but also tastes great with casseroles or meat dishes. 

It takes only a few ingredients and is much less expensive than the rice mixes from the store. Once put together, it will store for well over a year. You can make this mix using brown rice also. You will need to increase the water you add to 2 ½ cups. It will take approx. 40–45 minutes for brown rice to be done. Any leftovers freeze well.

Rice Pilaf Mix

1 cup white rice
2 tsp chicken bouillon
2 cups water
1 tsp dried, minced garlic

1–2 Tbsp dehydrated bell pepper

2–3 Tbsp dried, minced onion

1–2 Tbsp wild rice, optional

Mix dry ingredients together in a ziplock bag. To make: Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer until rice is done and water is absorbed (approx. 20 minutes.)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Yogurt Smoothie

Drinkable yogurt or yogurt smoothies are delicious but they can be spendy. This homemade yogurt version costs me less than 40 cents a quart! (You can make this with store bought plain yogurt but it will cost you a lot more.) My boys come racing into the kitchen when I call out that we are having a smoothie for breakfast.

Pour homemade yogurt in the blender. Add frozen fruit. We used a banana and some raspberries this time.
Sweeten with powdered sugar and a little vanilla to taste.

Blend until smooth. Enjoy with muffins for a quick and tasty breakfast!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Precooked Sausage

When you are cooking meat, it takes just as long to cook one pound as it does to cook three or four pounds.  Precooked meat freezes very well and then can shave 20-30 minutes off dinner prep another night.  I needed some sausage for a soup I was making so I grabbed a few chubs from the freezer and cooked them all up. Now I have plenty of sausage in the freezer for another time. 

We love to add it to scrambled eggs or make biscuits and gravy.  I also add it to spaghetti sauce sometimes and use it in bean soups.  I love having it all cooked and ready to go.

Simple changes in your thinking about how you spend time in the kitchen can help you feel like you can do so many more things.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Meatloaf, meatballs, or hamburger patties

Having a few meals in the freezer is always nice.  I love having a night off every now and then.  This is one of our favorite meals to make ahead.  

I froze the meatloaves in individual size portions this time.  They cook faster and the kids have fun getting their very own.

Squirt a little ketchup on them just before serving.

We served canned green beans and wild rice pilaf along side.  I'll post the easy mix for the rice pilaf here soon.  It was my daughter's requested birthday night meal.  So easy and so delicious!

Meatloaf, Meatballs, or Hamburgers

3 lbs hamburger, thawed
½ cup dehydrated carrots, rehydrated
1 ½–2 cups quick oats
3 eggs
3 Tbsp dried, minced onion, rehydrated
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp dried, minced garlic, rehydrated

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. You can use 2 carrots, grated to replace the dehydrated carrots. You can also use bread crumbs, cracker crumbs, or pretzel crumbs to replace the oatmeal. Choose hamburger with 15% fat for the best tasting option.
For meatloaf: Shape into large loaf and cook in loaf pan at 350° F for 40–50 minutes or until cooked through. Make individual size meatloaves for a quicker dinner. Place side by side in rectangular baking dish and cook at 350° F for 20–25 minutes or until cooked through. In the crockpot, cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 5-6 hours. The meatloaf is done when a thermometer reads 160°. We always top our meatloaf with a thin layer of tomato sauce just before serving. You can freeze before cooking for later use. To use frozen meatloaf, thaw and then bake as above.
For meatballs: Shape into balls and place side by side on baking sheet. Bake at 350° F for 15–20 minutes or until cooked through. Cool, package in ziplock bags and freeze for later use.
For hamburger patties: Shape into patties and freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet. When frozen transfer to a ziplock bag and freeze for later use. When ready to cook, thaw slightly and then grill or cook as usual. You can cook before freezing if you need to be able to heat and eat quickly.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chocolate Cream Pie

Pie crusts freeze so well.  I always keep some on hand for a quick dessert or a pot pie for dinner.

When baking an empty crust, place a piece of foil on the crust and fill it with a handful of dry beans.  I used black beans.  They hold the crust down so it isn't full of air bubbles when you take it out of the oven.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.

Mix a small box of chocolate pudding or any other flavor you would like with 1 1/2 cups of reconstituted powdered milk.  Chill until set.  Fold in 8 oz of frozen whipped topping, thawed. Fill pie crust with pudding mixture. We like to add bananas to our chocolate pie and coconut to vanilla pudding for a coconut cream flavor. Top with additional whipped topping before serving.

The last time I made pie crusts, I did 5X the batch so I ended up with 10 pie crusts. We used some at Thanksgiving and then I have had them ready to go since then.

Pie Crust
This crust recipe freezes very well. Double or triple the batch and freeze in individual crust sizes. It will keep for 6 months or more in the freezer.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shortening
½ tsp salt
Ice water

Cut the shortening into the flour and salt mixture with a fork until the pieces of shortening are between the size of quarters and nickels (no smaller.) Add ice water a tablespoon at a time. Toss the moistened area with a fork until it begins to pull together into a ball. Set it aside and add more ice water to the dry parts, tossing as you go. When all the dough is moistened, but not sticky, separate it into two parts. Shape into disks about 4 inches across and wrap in plastic wrap. (You can freeze the dough at this point to use later. Thaw and roll out when it is still cold.) Refrigerate the dough for at least 10 minutes, but 2–3 hours is best. (The trick to a crispy crust is larger pieces of fat that are cold so they can create pockets of steam in the crust when it bakes.) Roll out between two pieces of plastic wrap to fit the pan. If baking empty, place a piece of foil over the crust and fill with a hand full of dry beans. This will keep bubbles from forming in the crust. Bake at 400° F for 8–10 minutes until lightly browned. If filling crust, use a precooked filling that is already thickened to speed up the baking process. Top with crust, cut a few vent holes, and bake at 400° F for 30–35 minutes or until golden brown. Check after 25 minutes and cover edges with foil if crust is browning too quickly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hearty Whole Grain Pancake Mix

Who can resist a nice hot pancake for breakfast? Mixes make it simple to have a hot breakfast even on busy mornings.  Our family loves the Krusteaz brand mix.  Out of the store bought mixes we have tried it is our favorite, but it lacks the nutrition of whole grains.  We store some of the Krusteaz mix, but we also keep a bag of this recipe in our pantry. This is a from-scratch mix that gives us the whole grains we need and can be done is a flash even on  a day I am racing to get the kids out the door to catch the bus. Drop in a handful of frozen or dehydrated berries to add some fun flavor to these pancakes or just serve with fruit syrup.  My kids love blueberry syrup!

Hearty Whole Grain Pancake Mix

9 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
4 cups corn meal
1 ½ cups dry milk powder
1 cup sugar

3 Tbsp baking powder
4 tsp baking soda

Mix all of the dry ingredients together and store in an airtight container. To make: Place the amount of mix you want in a bowl and add enough water to make it the right consistency. Stir until combined. Allow to sit for 5–10 minutes and then cook on a hot griddle.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grocery Costs

Groceries are one area of the budget that can fluctuate greatly. It is the easiest area to find savings when you need to cut back for other needs.  It is also the best place to find money to spend on food storage and other preparedness needs.

It is helpful to consider how your family is doing based on the national average for a family your size and age.  Here is a link that will provide you with the data and formula you need to determine what other families are spending.

Using their formula, here is what our family info looked like last year.  I'm looking at the monthly costs for the Thrifty plan

1-year-old        86.90
3-year-old        93.60
5-year-old        97.20
8-year-old        124.00
9-year-old        141.80
Adult female   149.20
Adult Male      167.60
Total                860.30
Subtract 10% since we are a family of 7 and our total monthly food bill should be around $775.  This is what the thrifty plan suggests.  If we fell under the Liberal plan, it would be about twice that much.  The other plans put us somewhere in the middle. 

I really felt like we were spending more on groceries last year than ever!  We did have a baby on formula most of the year which is a big part of that expense.  We also purchased more freezer meals and other convenience items since we were caring for a premature baby.  Even with these considerations, we still only spent about $650 a month on food which fed us and re-stocked our year-supply.  Even though $650 felt like a lot to me, after figuring out the numbers, I decided maybe we weren't doing badly after all.

How do I keep my costs down?  I really don't do much couponing.  I just have a stock-up price list I have put together over the years.  I've followed the prices on the items we use most often and determined what the best price is for them.  I watch for these prices and stock up when the sale hits.  If I were to coupon, the coupon deal would have to beat these prices.  The other way I save money is by cooking from scratch.  Now that my baby is getting older and I have recovered from my difficult pregnancy, I am cooking more.  The last few months we have spent about $550 on groceries.  Don't let your leftovers go to waste and stock-up when the price is low.  That is my best advice!  Enjoy finding the savings!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Gaining a Testimony

Some of us may have grown up in homes that practiced principles of provident living and were able to gain a testimony from doing. Others of us need to hear the testimony of others.  Here is one such experience that I hope will help motivate you to do a little more.  It was printed in the September 2009 edition of the Ensign magazine which is a publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As a young wife, Kolene Mills struggled with the principle of home storage. Although she wanted to obey the counsel of Church leaders, she was overwhelmed by the task and lacked motivation to learn how to store food.
One day during her scripture study she was reading in 3 Nephi. The Nephite people were being persecuted by the Gadianton robbers, who threatened to wage war against them if they did not surrender themselves and their land to the robbers. Humbled by this threat, the Nephites obeyed specific instructions from their leaders.
“[They] reserved for themselves provisions, and horses and cattle, and flocks of every kind, that they might subsist for the space of seven years, in the which time they did hope to destroy the robbers from off the face of the land …” (3 Nephi 4:4). Kolene was amazed as she realized that the Nephites had been commanded to prepare home storage.

“While reading these verses, the Spirit bore witness to me that it was important for me to prepare my family against whatever challenges might be ahead,” Kolene says. “I felt a bond with the Nephites, who had righteously listened to the counsel of their leaders in preparing themselves, and my desire to follow their example was strengthened.”

Like Kolene, some Church members may think it might be difficult to apply the principle of preparing for adversity by establishing a home storage supply. But as she found, obedience to the commandments can bring great blessings to families and individuals.

The First Presidency has said that our Heavenly Father’s purpose is “to provide for our needs as we walk in faith and obedience. He has lovingly commanded us to ‘prepare every needful thing’ (see D&C 109:8) so that, should adversity come, we may care for ourselves and our neighbors and support bishops as they care for others.”

For more information on how to get started on your home storage, visit  Ensign, Sep 2009, 66–69

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flavored Applesauce

Applesauce is a favorite around here.  The kids really love the flavored varieties you can get in the little cups at the store.  A few years ago I had a good friend share this fun idea with me.  She said they used Kool-aid packets to flavor the applesauce they made during canning season.  I knew we had to try it!  My kids love it. (My three boys opened this quart for an after school snack the other day and gobbled it all up.  They didn't even leave any for the baby and I barely had a chance to get a picture.) I add one packet of Kool-aid for about 9-10 quarts of applesauce and then add sugar to taste.  Process like you do regular applesauce. 

You don't have to be a canner to use this fun tip.  You can flavor store bought applesauce too.  Use Kool-aid or Crystal Light packets to add a little color and fun flavor.  It is much less expensive per ounce to purchase a large container of regular applesauce and flavor it on your own than to pick up the tiny little cups.  We package some in small containers and store it in the fridge so it's ready for kids to throw in their lunches.

Pick a flavor and experiment today!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

In my post last week about leftovers, I mentioned boiling a chicken carcass to make a soup broth.  We did that and I took some pictures.  Whole chickens are an inexpensive way to purchase meat.  I buy a few when they are less than $.79 a pound and store them in the freezer.  They are fast to throw in the crockpot and then I just let them cook all day.

After serving it for dinner, I pick off any remaining chicken and save it in the fridge.  Then I cover the bones with water in a stock pot.  I add some celery and carrots to enhance the flavor.  I always use the leafy part of the celery since it usually gets thrown away anyway.  Bring this pot to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 1-2 hours on low.  When done, strain out the bones and veggies and throw away.  Chill the broth overnight to allow the fat to rise to the top.  Discard the fat before making soup.  You can freeze the broth at this point to use later or just make soup now.  I toss in a handful of dry carrots, celery, and onions.  We also like it with a can of green beans added.  Then I add the chicken I had saved in the fridge and throw in a couple of handfuls of egg noodles.  Let this simmer for about 30 minutes.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Sometimes I add just a little chicken bouillon as well if it needs it.  Dinner is ready.  Serve with rolls, breadsticks, or just a slice of bread and butter.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Stroganoff Sauce

For an easy and delicious storable sauce for pasta, mix together 1 can of cream of mushroom soup,1 cup of homemade plain yogurt, and 1 Tbsp dried chives.  Add a little reconstituted powdered milk if needed to thin the sauce.  Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.  Serve over egg noodles.  

We had some breaded pork chops in the freezer I had cooked before that we served along side these noodles.  You could add meatballs or hamburger to the dish also.

Very easy and delicious - the yogurt is a 100% fat free alternative to sour cream and made from your powdered milk!  The kids gobbled them up!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jello Salad

Food storage can be quite simple. A quick and easy storable side dish is a jello salad.  I made one the other night for dinner using Lime jello and crushed pineapple.  You can choose the combination that your family enjoys.  The trick is thinking ahead enough to allow it time to set up.  Using ice cubes can speed up the setting process.

Making Yogurt with Powdered Milk

Making yogurt with powdered milk is easy to do and very inexpensive.  It costs me less than $.35 to make a quart of plain yogurt and it costs me over $2.00 a quart to buy it at the store.  This is one way that I rotate through our powdered milk storage.  It is completely fat-free and I can use it as a sour cream and cream cheese substitute in my baking.  Many, many people have tried the smoothies I make with it and they can never tell it is 100% powdered milk!

Begin by mixing your powdered milk according to directions in hot tap water. I actually only add 3 cups of water to my blender so I don't make a mess and then I add the final cup of water to my bowl later. I have always used the non-instant powdered milk you can get at the LDS cannery.  (Morning Moo variety of milk will not turn into yogurt.  It is not true milk so will not culture correctly.)

Allow the milk to sit in the blender a few minutes so the foam can rise to the top.  If you look closely, you can see a line where the milk stops and foam begins.

Slowly pour the milk out of the blender into a glass bowl.  The milk will pour out and the foam will stay behind. Add any extra water at this time.

You'll need an instant read thermometer.  Be sure to test your thermometer before using to make sure it registers 212° F in boiling water.  If it is off, you will need to adjust accordingly.

Microwave the milk until it reaches 180° F.  It takes about 7 minutes in my microwave depending on how hot my tap water was. (Note added 3/2014: I have since learned that you only need to heat it to 180° F if you are using fresh milk from the cow. This pasteurizes the milk and makes it ready to turn into yogurt. All powdered milk has been pasteurized already so you only need to heat the milk to 125° F and then you can mix your plain yogurt start in right away.)

Allow to sit on the counter and cool back down to about 125° F.  This takes about 20-25 minutes so I set a timer to help me not forget about it.

Once it reaches 125° F, stir in a little plain yogurt with live cultures to use as a start.  You can use store bought yogurt or some of your own homemade yogurt once you have some.

I used homemade yogurt for my start.

Whisk it in well.

Pour into a thermos and close the lid.  Allow to sit on your counter for 4-12 hours.  The longer it sits, the tangier it is.  We prefer our yogurt not as sour tasting so I open it up in 4-5 hours.  You should have what appears to be thick milk.  Sometimes you see a little clear, yellowish whey on top.  Refrigerate when it is done. If I open my thermos and find my yogurt runnier than I want, I test the temperature. If it has dropped below 100° F, I pour the yogurt into a microwave safe container and heat it for 30 seconds to a minute. It usually instantly thickens when I do this and then I can cover it and put it right into the fridge. 

Here are the instructions one more time.  I list some troubleshooting ideas at the bottom.

Homemade Yogurt

Reconstitute powdered milk to make 1 quart. (Do not use the "Morning Moo" brand. It will not turn into yogurt.) Heat milk to 180° F stirring constantly, if heating on the stove. You can also heat the milk in the microwave. It takes me about 7 minutes in my microwave. (Note added 3/2014: You really only need to heat the reconstituted powdered milk to 120–125° F since it has been pasteurized already. This ends up saving a good amount of time and it works every time for me.) Remove from heat and let cool until milk reaches 120–125° F. Set a timer for about 20 minutes so you don't forget about it. Use an instant read food thermometer to measure the temperature. Mix in ¼–½ cup of plain yogurt with active cultures. Stir with a wire whisk. Pour into a thermos and screw on the lid. Allow to incubate for 2 ½–12 hours on your counter. I've found that when I use plain yogurt from the store it takes 4+ hours to set up. If I use my homemade yogurt as a start, it is often done in 2 ½–3 hours. The longer you incubate the yogurt, the tangier it will be. You know it is done when you open your thermos and you see a small amount of clear, yellowish liquid (whey) on the top and thick white yogurt below. If you still see milk, it needs to incubate longer. Quickly close the thermos so you don't lose much heat and let it sit another hour or more before checking again. Refrigerate after incubating. It will thicken a little more as it cools.

If you have problems having success, it is one of two things. Either your thermometer is off or your thermos does not hold the temperature at 120° F. You can test your thermometer by putting it in boiling water. It should register 212° F. If your thermometer is on, then you can assume it is your thermos and you'll have to try with another one. There are other methods for incubating yogurt. A quick search online will lead you to some articles describing the other methods. The thermos method has always worked for me, it is the least costly, and it requires less steps so it is my method of choice. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I decided I would experiment with one of our favorite chocolate cakes.  I wanted to try using bean puree in place of the oil and the eggs.  The oil and eggs added up to about 1 1/2 cups of liquid in the batter.  I chose to use 1 cup of bean puree and just 1/4 cup of oil.  I also added 1 Tbsp vinegar to help the baking soda leaven.  I knew this made me a little short on actual ingredients, but I decided to wait until I mixed it together to see if I needed to add a little water.  In the past, when I have added more than 1 cup of bean puree, the consistency was too moist and not cake-like.  (It reminded me of banana bread that wasn't cooked all the way.)  I didn't want that so I only wanted to use 1 cup of beans.  It turned out great! 

One of my friends always replaces all the fat with beans, but she uses the eggs called for.  Eggs do have some fat in them so I chose to use a little oil and no eggs.  You'll have to decide if you want to do an experiment of your own and try using 1/4 water and no oil or eggs. I'll have to try that next time.  I always say that now is the time to experiment when we don't have to be rationing our food storage.  When it comes time to need to ration my food, I want to know it will for sure work out.

It would be delicious for a Valentine's Day dessert if you happen to have zucchini - 

I was out of my mix in the cupboard so I refilled my mix bag while I made another batch in the mixer.  When making a mix, add 1 1/2 Tbsp of dry milk powder to your bag and then just add 1/2 cup of water when mixing the cake instead of the milk.

I keep zucchini in the freezer in 2 cup portions so it's easy to make this year round.

I used a mix of black and white bean puree since that is what I had in the freezer.

When you thaw the zucchini, there is a lot of water in the bag.  Dump it all in the cake.



With the beans and no eggs - they are a great cake texture!

Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Don't hesitate to replace three-quarters of the oil with applesauce or black bean puree for a healthier cake.

1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¾ cup sugar
½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup reconstituted powdered milk
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups shredded zucchini
¼ cup cocoa

Mix all ingredients except zucchini. Fold in zucchini and pour into greased 9x13-inch pan. Bake at 325° F for 45–50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool and frost with your favorite icing. I bake this in a 10 inch Dutch oven using 8–10 coals on the bottom and 14–16 coals on top for 60 minutes. It works out great. I also do it as muffins for breakfast and everyone loves them. Sometimes we add chocolate chips.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Power of pre-paying your Mortgage

Many individuals have not taken the time to understand the power of interest.  Banks earn their living off the interest and fees that we pay.  If we can somehow reverse that and save the interest and fees for ourselves, then we are far better off.

One way to save yourself from paying so much interest in by pre-paying on your mortgage a little each month or each year.  You'd be surprised, a little bit really gives a lot of savings.  Here are a couple of simple examples.

Mortgage Amount:  $100,000.00
Interest rate: 6%
Monthly Payment: $599.55
Total interest paid by end of loan:  $115,838.19
Extra monthly payment: $50
Total interest paid by end of loan:  $91,268.98

By putting an extra $50 a month towards your mortgage you end up saving nearly $25,000!

Maybe you can't do an extra payment every month, but you can do an extra payment each year at say tax return time.

Mortgage Amount:  $100,000.00
Interest rate: 6%
Monthly Payment: $599.55
Total interest paid by end of loan:  $115,838.19
Extra yearly payment: $600
Total interest paid by end of loan:  $90,515.25

This plan also allows you to save about $25,000!  The timing of your yearly payment will make a slight difference in the total amount of interest you will save. Check online for a mortgage calculator and you can plug in your specific situation.  If you can figure out putting even more extra towards your mortgage than you will save even more.

The main point is it is worth trying to find savings in some other areas of your budget so you can put it towards paying down your mortgage faster.  The peace that comes when your house is paid for cannot be found in any other way.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Postings

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) have been counseled for years to prepare for emergencies, gather food storage, and save some money to help weather the storms that may come.  As a member of the Mormon church, I have read and reread many of these talks and quotes over the years.  They help to motivate me to keep working at it a little at a time.  I thought that it would be appropriate to share some of this counsel on Sundays here on this blog.  It will be a little motivation for the soul.

Being self-reliant is so very important.  Here is some great advice for newlyweds or any of us who have not yet started a home storage program.

When Ron Shiflet’s wedding was about a month away, he received some unexpected advice from his bishop, who encouraged him to begin storing food. The bishop explained that there was a simple and inexpensive way for his small family to succeed in home storage—even as poor college students.
“He told me to watch what was on sale each week. When we went shopping, we were to buy a couple of extra cans of food,” Ron explains. “He said the expense was so small that we would not notice it, … but that over time our food storage would add up.”
Following their wedding, Ron shared the advice he had received with his wife, Lorene, and the couple decided to give it a try. On their first shopping trip together, they purchased their regular groceries and two cans of corn, which they stored in the closet of their one-room apartment. “Those two cans became a good source of humor for us,” Ron says. “Each week the joke continued as we added two more cans.”
They soon discovered that their home storage was not a laughing matter, when six months later, Ron found himself without a job—and without money for food. He and Lorene relied on the supply in the closet to sustain them, and they immediately recognized the blessings of the principle of preparation.
Now, more than 20 years later, Ron says it’s a principle that has blessed his family in numerous ways. “I am thankful for an inspired bishop who counseled us from the beginning to save food—and who showed us how to do it even with little money,” he recalls. “It has protected us many times.”  Ensign, Sep 2009, 66–69

Saturday, February 5, 2011


This kept me fed during the Blizzard of '96 as it came to be known on the East Coast.  I was serving as a missionary in the Washington, D.C. area when we were buried under 6 feet of drifting snow.  We lived in a basement apartment and the stairwell was completely filled with snow.  Conveniently, the snow shovel was kept in the garage outside.  We ended up having to use a cookie sheet and a large bowl to carry snow to the bathtub and melt it down the drain to create a path so we could get out.  What an adventure!

My companion and I had been transferred to the area just a couple of days before the snow came and we hadn't gone grocery shopping yet.  We were just finishing what we had brought from our previous areas.  Thankfully, some good members thought of us and called to check in on us.  I'm sure they acted in response to our own mother's prayers.  Anyway, there was one family in the ward with a 4 wheel drive who was willing to brave the roads.  They stopped by another member's home and picked up a couple of loaves of homemade bread and a can of powdered milk.  They also cooked us a big pot of curry and rice.  They delivered this food to us and we were so very thankful.  (Even missionaries need food storage!)  I had never eaten curry before, but my companion who was from Japan, said it was convenience food over there and something they ate often.  She was thankful for a taste of home.  We ate that pot over the course of the week since it took 6 days for the snow plows to dig us all out.  We loved it!

Now whenever I make this, it gives me a chance to relive this adventure and tell the story to my children.  Food, smells, and tastes can hold so many memories.

Carrots and potatoes store very well in the garage here in Idaho in the winter months.  You can very safely plan them into your 3 month meal plan.  You can also use dehydrated vegetables in this dish.  We like it full of veggies and light on the chicken, but you do it how you want.  Serve it over a bowl of cooked rice.

Chop potatoes, celery, and carrots or use dehydrated veggies.  I added a handful of dry onions.

Check for the packages of Golden Curry in the Asian isle of your local grocery store.

Add precooked chicken or turkey.  I used a mix and just pulled them from the freezer.

The curry packet had two chunks of seasoning.  We like a little more mild flavor so we only use packet.

Cover your vegetables with 6 cups of water and simmer until tender.  Drop the curry in and allow to melt into the stew.  Stir until thickened.  Serve over cooked rice.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

This is one of our family's favorite storable breakfasts.  It is high in fiber and such a cinch to make.  We keep 3-4 of these mixes in the cupboard all winter long.  For those of you on a gluten-free diet, you'll have to search out the gluten free oats so you can add this to your food storage meal  plan options.

I combine the dry ingredients in a mix and store in a quart-size ziplock bag to speed up busy mornings.  Store the apples in a separate ziplock inside the other bag so you can drop them in the water when you first put it on the stove.

The dry apples soften as the water comes to a boil.

Gourmet oatmeal in under 10 minutes!  Our family likes it with a little milk added when serving.

Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal

2 ½ cups water
½ cup chopped, dried apples
cup brown sugar, packed
Raisins or Craisins, if desired
1 tsp cinnamon
Chopped nuts, if desired
¼ tsp salt
2 cups regular oats

Combine the dried apples and any other fruit you may choose with the water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and add the remaining ingredients.  Cook for about 5 minutes until all the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.  You can use 1 peeled and chopped apple in place of the dried apples.  You can also substitute other fruits such as peaches or berries.  It is always delicious!