20 January 2014

Ally Bank

As part of the 52 week Money challenge, I went a step further and opened an account with Ally Bank. I'm only depositing $50 with each paycheck. I know it's not a ton of money but this isn't my primary savings account either. Currently their APY is .87%. My brother uses them for savings and also for IRAs. I'm not that fancy yet. :)

It was incredibly simple to set up an account. I did have some n00b questions but the chat had no waiting and the rep (Jennifer) was smart, friendly and quick to reply. I hope that my experience goes well because I would like to increase my deposit and use this as a way to really squirrel money away for a rainy day. How are your New Year's Resolutions going?

04 January 2014

January 2014 Resolutions

My friend, Tania, and I decided that we were going to work on some projects together to try and have someone to hold us accountable.

One of the things we decided to do was a book challenge. I love books but I've noticed that I keep picking up my iPad to play games instead of reading a book. If you're on Goodreads, you know they have a 2014 challenge you can join, which will make the tracking part very simple.

If you are still searching for some way to change your life in an easy but awesome way, check out this Lifehacker post. It has seven 52 week challenges. I'm going to try two of these ... the Organized Home Challenge and the Money savings one. One of the tips I picked up from the comments for the money one was to try going backwards or alternating between a low money week and a high money week. Another person recommended starting in August so that you aren't strapped for cash during the holidays.

I also found a cool challenge on Pinterest that is basically meal planning your brains out and then spending only $25 at the grocery. Here is the link to the actual site. The idea is good if you are already in decent shape, exercise and have some sense of portion control. I'm not the ideal candidate. I am trying the less meat a week bit so we'll see how that goes.

If you're reading this because you like my crazy and have the perfect life, cheers to you :D

02 January 2014

January Pinterest Challenge 2013


So like some people, I racked my brain for a New Year's Resolution. Most people would go for really obvious things like stop being fat, stop drinking, stop smoking, etc. Meh ... those are a little boring and I don't smoke. I chose to do a Pinterest challenge. Everyone pins shit all the time but how often do you actually make/do what you pin. I whipped out the iPad and went pin crazy the last couple days in December. My challenge was to make something from Pinterest every day, so still crazy. :)

I'm going to do a weekly summary because let's be honest ... I may get bored writing this blog post halfway through week one. I hope not but Guild Wars 2 is already calling to me.

PROTIP: You will see a lot of crockpot recipes on here. I work from home and throwing stuff in a pot and then having to prep a side or stir something in during the last 30 minutes is just amazing. If you don't use Crock Pot liners (Slow Cooker liners), you should really think about doing so. They're the best maid ever.

Week One: Jan 1 through Jan 5
I did go a little easy during week one because it was the start of the challenge and we had already made plans for that week. I did my best to make it up later. I'm going to include links to the pins and the recipes if they are still available.

Quick French Bread and Creamy Tomato Tortellini Soup

Review: The French bread was a little dense but overall super yummy. I think with a little bit more rising time it would be more like what you get at Albertsons. Pairing it with the Tortellini Soup was a no brainer to me. This soup is silly easy to make and has become a bit of a go to in our house. The hubs doesn't like to cook much but this recipe he can handle with ease. If you want it less soupy, then just buy the bigger pack of tortellini and dump the whole thing in.

The Absolute Best Crockpot Beef Stroganoff

Review: I can't really argue with the title. It's pretty good stuff and insanely easy. I chose to serve mine over egg noodles and it just hits the spot. I know other people prefer potatoes and I'm down with that but something about buttery egg noodles worked so well with this recipe.

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuit Copycat

Review: These were excellent, however, it looks like the pin is busted and the site is no more. I know you can buy the official mix now and it's supposed to be super yummy and legit. You can also be cheap and buy the Bisquick Cheese Garlic mix for about $1 and just throw in some extra cheese.
Info: RLCBBC Pin

Week Two: Jan 6 through Jan 12
I surprisingly found this challenge really easy. I'm gonna go with it having a lot to do with my love for food and cooking. The recipes were definitely lazy friendly. The few that required work were generally worth the effort.

Stuffed Cheese Buns

Review: These were definitely a bit of work and holy crap cut down on the garlic unless you're trying to drive Dracula out of some alternate dimension as well. Mine aren't as fancy looking as those on the website but they were soft and yummy. I haven't made them again because the garlic overload is still on my tongue a year later.

Caramel Marshmallow Popcorn

Review: If I could pick one recipe to be able to eat without gaining weight, this one would be in my top 3 for sure. It's so good. Just absolutely yummy and if you can make rice crispy treats, you can make this. Just make a lot so you can share. :D

Crock Pot Cream Cheese Chicken Chili

Review: This is great man food when your man isn't big on chicken. I made this on a cold, crappy day in the Frozen Wasteland and it was perfect. It's great game day food. You can eat as is, over rice or, my favorite, with Scoops (Tortilla chips). This makes a lot so be prepared.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

Review: While my initial thoughts on this recipe were favorable, I haven't made it again because I ultimately feel that there are better zucchini bread recipes waiting for me. I have a lemon cornmeal cake recipe that is great and my go to. This one ended up getting nixed from my Pinterest because it just wasn't doing it for me especially after the first day.

Irish Beef Stew

Review: This has become a house favorite. It's just perfect. One note of wisdom - if you have a crock pot that is on the smaller size, chop and dump the potatoes as you go so you can see how full the crock pot is getting. Don't just chop up 2lbs of each kind and think they will all fit. I made that mistake the first time and had to pull some out before I could add anything else in. If you do goof on the potatoes, just put the cut ones in a container of water and use them within 48 hrs. Make some mashies or fry them up for breakfast.

Lime & Blood Orange Extract

Review: So my sister didn't think this one counted and well maybe it shouldn't have. It was fairly simple to do but, in all honesty, I've kinda forgotten that I had these bad boys in the cupboard. I would go check on them for science but that "science" might gross me out. The site itself explains how to make a variety of extracts. I chose lime and blood orange because I wanted two citrus ones and that is what I had on hand.

Spinach Lasagna Rollups

Review: If you are looking for a meatless dish, this is it. I love spinach and thankfully so does the hubs. I was lazy and just used my favorite spaghetti sauce. I do want to try and find a way to freeze these into portions. It's a cheap meal and even cheaper if you can separate it out for multiple meals.

Week Three: Jan 13 through Jan 19

Barbacoa

Review: So this is another example of one that I tried but ultimately didn't love enough to keep the pin. Around this time, one of the dudes I work with decided he wanted to cook more but was confused by my pinning method. So I redid my boards and now I have a "Food Winners" and "Food to Make" so it's easier for him to know what recipes should be fool proof and tasty.

Cube Steak and Gravy

Review: Calm down! I know what you're thinking. This bitch is trying to pull one over on us. I promise I'm not. There are so many pins that look the same but have way different ingredients. Since I had egg noodles leftover from the stroganoff, I used them again. Ultimately, this recipe got an "it's okay" from the hubs, which means don't make it again, please.

Sugar Donut Muffins

Review: On a cold day, these are like warm snuggles for your belly. Hm, that's about as girly as I get. I like these alot and they didn't last in my house for very long. The hubs is a cookie monster but that didn't stop him from popping into the kitchen to grab a couple until they were gone.

Grapefruit Brulee

Review: Ugh, I can feel someone judging me already. I know that this isn't really "making" anything but it's close and it was delightful. I love grapefruits especially Texas grapefruits. They are incredibly juice and sweet (for a grapefruit). The hubs was weirded out by warm citrus and refused to taste these. Whatever! I ate them all and it was wonderful. I have made these again and don't have the fancy sugar they call for. I just cut them and let them sit cut side down on a paper towel for a but then use normal sugar. Not as "crunchy" as the Epicurious picture but I'm not trying to be douchey either.

Drunken Pork Chops

Review: A very simple recipe makes for an easy dinner. We've made these several times because we tend to have random beer to get rid of ... not a beer drinker myself (I like rum). The recipe calls for using ketchup but we've subbed in Sweet Baby Ray's Original BBQ Sauce and found it to be a wonderful replacement.

Crockpot Chicken Taco Chili

Review: I've kept this one my board because ultimately it tastes good and it's good for you. The Cream Cheese Chicken Chili from earlier is definitely better but not quite the healthiest. This is the next best substitute if you are anti dairy or anti getting more fat.

Lasagna Soup

Review: Initially I hated this and didn't know if I wanted to keep this on my board. I'm not a sausage person ... well not italian sausage like the original recipe calls for. It's too spicy and fennel-ly for me. I'm generally a good little Mexican who will try moderately spicy things but italian sausage (spicy, hot, normal, sweet, etc.) is just not for me. Making it with normal boring ground beef was the change I needed. I like the recipe with this change although with the prep required, I'm usually just more interested in making actual lasagna.

Week Four: Jan 20 through Jan 26

Waffles with Buttermilk Caramel Syrup

Review: Full disclosure for the waffles ... I used a mix. I'm trying to find the Waffle House recipe because that's the only non-mix I'm interested in ... now the syrup is wonderful. If you are running low on Aunt Jemima's Log Cabin, this is a pleasant and warm substitute. It's also hella fancy.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Review: This is like a very fancy version of the Campbell's Vegetable Beef soup. This froze pretty well and made a giant amount. Since making this I've discovered mini saltine crackers and it was life changing.

Easy Crockpot Chicken

Review: I'm not sure what happened to this pin. I think I made this a couple times but the hubs was just being polite. It does taste good and I'm sure you can Google it. You do need to mix it up a bit or you will have dry patches of stuffing.

Blueberry Compote

Review: I've never been a huge fan of blueberries but the hubs loves them. I made this breakfast for him and ended up enjoying the compote more than he did. With the exception of apple butter, I had never had warm jam until I made this and it amazing.

Chick-fil-a Copycat

Review: The closest CFA is like 2 hours away and like any normal person you get that craving on a Sunday when they're closed. If you are stuck without one nearby, this is a great recipe.
The Best Pot Roast

Review: Just so we're clear ... I didn't call this the Best Pot Roast, the recipe did. It is really good and quite tasty. I've since made other pinterest pot roasts and have one I prefer more. If you want simple ingredients and easy, this is the one for you to try.

Crockpot Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Review: So I made this for Margie because this soup at Panera is her fave. This isn't a copy cat of the one at Panera but it tastes very similar. The hubs wasn't a big fan but I wasn't concerned about getting someone to eat this ... Margie made sure we didn't have any go to waste.

Pesto Ranch Chicken and Vegetable Tian

Review: This was a two pin making day. Both were delicious and paired well with each other. I'm still searching for a side to go with the chicken. I may try a rice pilaf.

Week Five: Jan 27 through Jan 31

Snickerdoodles

Review: I was so excited to be in the home stretch and I let Margie help me pick something to make. She adores snickerdoodles so I wasn't surprised by her selection. These were really easy to make especially if you have a scoop. I flattened them with the bottom of a small measuring scoop from some random thing and inadvertently ended up with almost perfectly uniform cookies.

Honey Rosemary Chicken

Review: This wasn't a hard recipe to make but ultimately it was boring and kind of tasteless. I deleted the pin after making it and then promised the hubs at least one meat day before we had chicken again.

Carnitas

Review: Pork is the other meat, right? These were delicious. I made some Pico de Gallo and some Guac and we were in carnita heaven. I'm a huge fan of black beans and rice but I've never learned how to make them myself. I usually use the Zatarain's mix or just go super basic and heat up a rinsed can of black beans with some cumin and lime juice.
Info: C Pin C Link

Crockpot BBQ Chicken

Review: How the hubs hasn't divorced me yet for making gross chicken ... I don't even know. This one was so promising and so dry and gross. We choked it down but never again. It was just so blah.

01 January 2014

2012 YIR: December

Looks like we made it ... Yeah, I don't know any other of the lyrics either. I'm glad I pushed myself to finish this YIR even if it took forever.

I love Christmas just not as much as Halloween but that doesn't stop me from enjoying the holiday. Hallmark ornaments are big in our family. Here are some of the sweet Batman ones I own along with some newer additions.

 

Our tree looks pretty fancy for being fake... I'm quite proud of this purchase. It's prelit with berries and pine cones. We got it on super clearance from Lowe's last January (2011). It was a random purchase because I didn't' even realize they sold Christmas stuff until that day. Lame, I know.


We changed it up a bit this year and, instead of freezing our asses off in the Frozen Wasteland, we headed south to Florida. This was my first Christmas home in 8 years and we had a wonderful time. Here I am with my brother, Oscar (drastudio), in my fancy as shit Ravenclaw robe from Harry Potter land. All in all a wonderful visit home and a great way to end the year.


2012 YIR: November

I think for most people November is about holiday prep, football and ultimately turkey day. Since Margie wasn't going home for this holiday, I decided to make our own turkey. After all the googles, I found a recipe from the always fabulous Ina Garten. I choose her "Perfect Roast Turkey" recipe then modified it because I was lazy and I didn't want to do more shopping. You can find the original here.


The biggest change I made was using oranges instead lemons. The orange zest made this way yummiest tasting. I love lemons in all their tart glory but I'm kinda alone in this. Here is the turkey in all it's yummy glory.


Since it's Thanksgiving, it also means having all the sides because tradition. I made a cranberry sage dressing, sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole. Oh and mashed potatoes. All the bellies were happy for many days. The end. (Thank God! Goldilocks & the three bears is a myth.)


So I guess I failed at this ...

Whoops. Kinda fell off the blogging map. I'm the worst. Oh well. I am going to finish up my 2012 YIR because I don't want to be a total jerk. I did switch back to a more basic Blogger template. I'm too lazy to make this hella fancy. I did do some awesome things in 2013 that I want to share but let's get this YIR thing done. :D