How to Make Homemade Almond Butter

So right now there are TONS of fade diets out there. Gluten free, carb free, and those nasty protein cleanses. To all of those people who have Celiac disease, this isn’t towards you. For all of those who think those cleanses work, WRONG. Go buy protein drinks and eat clean, guess what, it’s the same exact thing. But my one sentence of rambling isn’t going to convince you. So who care.

Well I’ve been “crunchy” for quiet some time now. I mean I make my own breads, laundry detergent (well right now I use store bought because we have someone staying with us), I even make my own tortillas. Well this month I told my husband we were going to try to make our own nut butters. This month I only picked up almonds since we will only be here for 1/2 of the month. Between college graduation and vacation we have a very very busy month.

Homemade Almond Butter

Tools:

Blender or a food processor.

I personally have a Ninja, so it went pretty fast. The lower end the appliance is, the longer it takes. SO I’VE READ. I waited three years to get a blender, and I invested in a good one so it wouldn’t break. I don’t judge if you have a lower quality appliance.

Ingredients:

1 pound of Almonds (the more natural the better)

I got  an all natural almond. It was salted. Next time I would choose to get an unsalted almond choice. All natural almonds in Jersey costs about 7.50 a pound. In Texas they cost 7 dollars a pound. Organic almonds are about 11 dollars a pound

Steps:

1. Put almonds in blender and turn it on.

2. This will take 10 – 30 minutes depending how many pounds you put in your blender and how good of quality you have of appliance.

3. Stick in a jar and put in the fridge. From my reading, your almond butter will last any where from 2 weeks to a month in the fridge.

Notes:

– 1 pound of almonds in my blender made about 19 ounces of almond butter. You would think it would make 16 ounces of nut butter, right? I don’t know. There was liquid in my nut butter.

– Your blender will get hot so I would take a break every 5 minutes or so.

For the amount of almond butter that I got it would have cost me over 9 dollars at the store and not all almond butters are made equal. You really need to read the ingredients list to your favorite . I also know what ingredients are in my almond butter. I love the fact that I made this and it is super tasty. It actually doesn’t taste much different from peanut butter. My kids loved eating it straight from the blender.

 

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Skinny Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

I made this in hopes it would reconnect me with my great state of Texas. I miss the warm comfort of my home state. New Jersey just isn’t cutting it on Mexican food. Sorry.

So this recipe without cheese is less than 182 calories per serving! And that includes the chips. I know. This could be my “stuff myself so full and won’t go over calorie” binge meal. If you like sour cream, substitute greek yogurt instead. And if you like cheese, dabble lightly.

I make this 2 or three nights after taco night and use leftover corn tortillas and chicken. So you don’t have to be exact. For a family of 3 adults and 2 kids, 3 chicken breast is more than enough for this recipe. My husband said he would rather the chicken be chopped than shredded. But he doesn’t cook so he’ll deal with what I give him.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
  • 1 (14,5 ounce) can diced petite tomatoes
  • 1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (I used the kind that is in my fridge pre-minced)
  • 2 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth (or 4 bullion cubes with 4 cups of water)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can of corn
  • 6 corn tortillas

1. Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the tortillas and vegetable oil. It should look a little watery. This isn’t a hearty soup, but more of a broth like soup. If you like it spicier add more chili powder and cumin, or hold back a bit if you lean the other way. If you want a heartier soup, only add 1 can of chicken broth. Just make sure you have enough water in there to cover the coked chicken up.

2. Cook on low 6-8 hours, or on high for 4. I have one of those slow cookers with a timer. See here. It was a pretty penny to get, but I really appreciate how easy a slow cooker meal is. No matter how busy I get through the day, I KNOW there is a healthy dinner waiting at the house.

3.  About 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

4. Cut the tortillas into wedges, like a pizza or into strips. I don’t know how fancy you like your soup.

5. Bake for 4-6 minutes per side. When you decide to flip them, add a little salt for flavor. I usually use garlic salt for an extra kick.

6. Ladle your soup and top with chips, greek yogurt instead of sour cream, or even treat yourself to some avocado slices on top and enjoy yourself.

This meal is really simple and something good tasting when you come home from work. This isn’t a staple in my house because the boys like red meat, but when I need to use up leftovers before they go bad, this is my go to.

What I need from whomever is reading this. Do you have a good recipe for mashed cauliflower? 

I’ve been wanting a recipe to try since they are a healthy version of mashed potatoes, but I’m afraid that I will try to make something like this and completely hate it. One, I don’t want to waste my time and money. Secondly, I don’t want to cross something off my list that might be perfect to try. So give me your best “skinny” recipe.

How to make jar spaghetti sauce taste homemade

I have made homemade from scratch all natural and organic spaghetti sauce before and all I get from my husband is “Meh, it’s alright”. Oh I was livid with him. I mean I appreciate honesty, but after I have blanched tomatoes I deserve more then a “meh”.

My husband ADORES Classico Four Cheese Spaghetti sauce. I mean we will cut the budget on everything but that if we have to. He has gotten better about it and at times I can sneak in the seventy-five cent can of Hunt’s, but it’s rare. Well it was rare until about three months ago.

The children were at their mother’s house in California and my husband was in South Carolina for Army crap. I was STARVING. I mean the bottom of my stomach could have eaten a small child. Well we were poor and had enough for spaghetti in our fridge, but I wanted more.

I took out the leftover half of an onion I had in the fridge and chopped it up tiny. I added a bit of olive oil to a pan and let them cook on low for like 15 minutes. They were sweet and aromatic, I was already in love. I then added about a half a teaspoon of minced garlic to it and let it cook for another three minutes. I used the jar stuff in the fridge.

The house was filled with amazing smells. I was in love. I could have eaten the onions and garlic on the spot I was that hungry. I drained out the excess oil and added the beef to it. Yes, I cooked the beef with the onions and garlic. Why had I never thought of this before? It added SO MUCH FLAVOR.

Again, at this point I was eating it out of the pan. But, I needed to add the sauce to it. I only have the cheap Hunt’s can, but it would do for me. I am not a spaghetti sauce snob. Well I wasn’t, but I might be now.

Well I couldn’t stop there. I added a pinch of sugar, oregano, and basil to the sauce. I then covered the sauce mixed with the meat and onions and garlic. I just let it cook on the stove for another 10 minutes. Until the noodles were cooked. I might have stood in the kitchen drooling. Who am I kidding? I did.

It tasted so good. I loved it. Spaghetti was taken to a whole new level. I have cooked spaghetti every week since March 2011, I know what good spaghetti is, and that probably is still the best pot I’ve ever made. It may have something to do with my hunger pains.

I can now whip up that recipe with much better ease and it has brought spaghetti night to a new level in our home. Yes, we still eat spaghetti once a week. Yes, I am sick and tired of spaghetti. But that’s how I turn a .75 cent can into an amazing meal.

Holy Smokes Good Granola

If you know me, which you probably don’t, you’d know that I love to snack. I don’t like to eat meals but I could snack all freaking day. Well that’s probably how I got this big. So I made the decision to do healthy snacking. Less than 100 calorie snacks. I decided that I was missing out on health though. So I thought granola would be a great snack. But it’s so stinkin’ expensive.

So here is a economical way to do granola. If there isn’t a price next to it, it’s because I believe it should be a staple in your pantry and shouldn’t count towards the cost. No offense to you if you don’t have it, it’s that I think sugar is in 85% of the countries cabinets. You can always substitute the sugar with stevia or honey. Just test it out.

That container behind the granola is a sourdough starter, not a science experiment.

Ingredients:

  • 4/12 cups of oatmeal ($.50, I just used half of a BIG thing of oatmeal I already had)
  • 1 cup of nuts (I don’t remember the cost, but they were left over in my freezer)
  • 3 cups of craisins (2.80, it’s about half a HUGE bag that I got at Costco)
  • 1/2 cup of white suger
  • 2 tablespoons of honey (I have a huge thing of it already but you can use the cheap stuff and have leftovers)
  • 1 12 oz. bottle of maple syrup (2.80 I bought the off brand generic)
  • 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla

Total: 6.10

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees
  2. Mix all your ingredients
  3. Put granola mixture into pan
  4. Bake for 25 minutes
  5. Take out and stir
  6. Bake for another 25 minutes
  7. Wait for it to cool and munch away

Oh goodness me oh my, it is so good. Once all of mine is cooled and jarred I will show you how much this makes. If you have to buy the nuts it’ll probably cost you around 9.00 but it is completely worth it and makes a lot! But you don’t have to put nuts in it, it just gives the granola an extra crunch.

My granola: 6.10 for 42 ounces

Bear Naked Granola: 4.80 for 12 ounces

This made a full oatmeal container worth. The container says 42 ounces of oatmeal fits in the container.

Also, when it comes out it will be dark brown, but still soft. Don’t let this fool you. It will become cement when it cools. So either move it to parchment paper, or put it on your cookie sheet before you start cooking.

Chili Dog Casserole

Are you looking for a not healthy, but super easy recipe to make for Sunday football? Or Sunday Slum-day as I call it. This is a spin off of chili cheese hotdogs. I have little ones and they can’t eat hot dogs as they are suppose to be eaten. Their mouths are too small, and their hands make everything too messy. I’ll posts photos of this tonight.

Ingredients:

  • 8 hot dog buns
  • 8 hot dogs
  • 2 cans of chili
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

Instruction:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish. (I skipped this but I was using stoneware, and there was light sticking. DON’T SKIP THIS STEP)
  3. Tear up the hot dog buns in half and arrange the pieces in the bottom of the dish evenly. You could probably put regular bread in this recipe instead if you don’t want to use hot dog buns. Hey be health conscious and buy low calorie bread and use it.
  4.  Slice the hot dogs into bite size pieces and layer the pieces over the buns. I use bun length hot dogs to get more bang for my buck.
  5. Pour the chili over the hot dogs. I started off with one can, but it just wasn’t enough for my family. We LOVE our chili. Also, I mix 1 can spicy and 1 can regular. A little extra kick in there.
  6. Sprinkle with the chopped onion. This is optional.
  7. Top off with the cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

It’s so good, and easy to make. You can say you made a home cooked meal and have spent 5 minutes putting it together.

Corn and Rice Soup

I just made one of THE BEST recipes of my entire life. I mean soup recipes. I’ve made some pretty killer deserts, but let’s be real here, if you add enough sugar to anything, it’ll taste amazing. So like I said before, this month I’m getting creative with my meals. So I found a Creamy Corn soup recipe, which seemed kind of “blah”. I wanted to add more flavor, give it a kick in the butt. You know what I mean; I get tired at times eating boring food. I love to taste food, create a profile of flavors.

Corn and Rice Soup

This is a two part dish, first you will make the rice for it, and then you’ll make the base of the soup. The rice is a rice pilaf which tastes amazing and is a great side to any type of chicken dish. It makes rice about a 10 minute longer chore, but it makes regular rice taste expensive.

Ingredients (for the rice):

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 chopped onion; I just used whatever I had in the fridge

1/4 green pepper, chopped

1 cup rice

2 cups water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

 

Ingredients (for the soup):

2 cans corn, when you drain this save the juice from the corn into a little bowel, you will need it later.

3 cup boiling water

1 tablespoon onion, finely chopped

6 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons flour

6 cups milk

1 pinch garlic salt

 

Directions

1. Start with your rice pilaf. In a pan melt 1 tablespoon of butter.

2. Add onion and green bell pepper and sauté until onion is yellow and smells amazing.

3. Add rice and the rest of your butter; stir together until butter is melted. Stir frequently for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Add water and chicken bouillon cubes. Don’t worry about stirring, I didn’t and it was fine. Bring to a boil.

5. Stir once, and bring down the heat.

6. Stir again, and cover.

7. Do NOT peak, and let it cook covered for 15 minutes. Trust me, you’ll be busy with the soup do not peak.

8. Move onto your soup. Get a big stockpot for your soup. This will be making enough for 2 meals. Or a really hungry family likes mine.

9. Drain your canned corn, but save the liquid in a bowel you will need this later.

10. Add corn, water, and onion into stock pot and let boil for 10 minutes.

11. Strain, and leave corn in the strainer.

12. Add 4 tablespoons of butter to stockpot let it melts down; turn down your heat to about medium.

13. Add 4 tablespoons of flour to your stockpot; this is what I call a roux. It is probably wrong to call it this. Add the rest of your butter if you feel that your roux is too thick. If it looks powdery, add more butter.

14. Add your 6 cups of milk and whisk it in. You want your temperature at a medium, and stir frequently if not, your milk will curdle. Stir for 5 minutes.

15. Add your corn, salt, and rice at this point. Let it cook on medium for another 10 minutes.

 

It may come out too thin, just add a bit of corn starch. I did and it made it thick like potato soup, but some people like a thinner soup. My husband ate two bowels of this. I was full after one. I put the leftovers into a gallon bag and have it in the freezer for when there’s a lazy day and I don’t want to cook. This can happen quiet often.

The meal takes about 45 minutes to make the first time. Double checking if you added everything, and hoping it all comes out well. I was also making biscuits while this was going on so I was pulling my hair out a bit. But dinner was fabulous. It tasted so rich and like I slaved over the stove all day. I didn’t of course. I talked to my husband while I worked and listened to him talk about his day. You can do the soup and rice simultaneously obviously. I was just coming up with this off the top of my head and was trying so hard to make sure I did this all correct.

Try and cook one homemade meal a day. I could have used all fresh ingredients if I had fresh corn on hand, but I didn’t because canned corn has a longer shelf life, and we are poor this month and needed things to last longer. This is as close to “clean” eating as we come.

Last year I was making “Taco Soup” which was condensed tomato soup with beef, canned corn, canned tomatoes, and canned beans mixed with a packet of taco seasoning. That soup is amazing also, I’m not bashing it, but I’ve come a long way in a year. I am the girl who had the fire department called because I burnt the pan trying to boil water. If I can make this amazing meal in less than an hour for my family, you can too.

Conserving Food, Conserving Money.

I don’t think I’m the only one who has been hit by the recession, and we definitely have not been hurt harder than other families. This month is especially rough because the Army decided not to pay us about ¼ of our paycheck, and we emptied our savings last month to pay for our deposit and first month’s rent. Our Army BAH (Housing allowance) was $1300 in San Antonio and $2100 here, and our deposit was $3150, so that emptied about $4,000 out of our personal savings. Our housing allowance was supposed to be adjusted, along with some other allowances, by the 1st of September, but it wasn’t. The Army also hasn’t reimbursed us for travel pay. It’s a lot of paper work and words, but short version, we were ripped off.

So this month was about creativity about food. There are 5 easy things you can do to save money.

1. Make your own laundry detergent.

I have an entire blog about this and it is “popular” by my terms. Meaning five people have looked at it. And those people don’t include my parents, so that’s popular in my book. You can find that here:

https://sweettreatsbycatherine.wordpress.com/2012/09/03/homemade-laundry-detergent/

Savings per month: (initially) 13 dollars

But over 3 months: $54

Savings over 1 year: $216

2. Cut the amount of meat you serve.

For the 9 months of being married I was making 1 pound of beef for a family of 4. I also was using three chicken breasts when cooking anything for dinner. We did do well because the kids and I would eat leftovers for lunch, so there was little to no waste.

I’ve cut my chicken and use only two chicken breast, and use ¼ less of beef or turkey per month. Look for turkey deals and try substituting half of your beef for turkey. Here, it is cheaper (at times) to use turkey instead of beef. Turkey is a lean mean 93% lean while the cheapest of beef can be 70% lean. I only purchase beef leaner than 90% because we are watching our waistlines. My husband is the only one shrinking, but mine isn’t growing! J

Beef equals 2.99/lb here and I purchase it in bulk. Let’s do some math here. I have about 38 meals (dinner every night and lunch on the weekends) that I need to figure out a recipe for. Like I said earlier, my kids and I eat leftovers for lunch. 4 of those will be fish, 12 of those will be chicken, 8 of those will be meat free. So 14 of those meals will be beef or turkey.

14 lbs of beef at 2.99/lb = $41.86

OR

10.5 lbs of beef at 2.99/lb = 31.40

Savings per month: $10.46

Savings per year: 125.52

3. Go meatless!

In my home going meatless was BLASPHAMY to my husband. You would have thought I told him I was going to buy generic Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal or something. That’s funny because he’s in love with that cereal. But going meatless is a great alternative to purchasing meat. Eight of our meals now are meatless. There are great and hearty recipes that you can do like:

http://budgetbytes.blogspot.com/2012/02/hearty-black-bean-quesadillas-661.html

http://ourpandemoniumparadise.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/cheesy-corn-potato-chowder-crock-pot/

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/chilaquiles_casserole.html

The first recipe my husband LOVES I mean he asks for it at least once a week. This past week I had 1 left over chicken breast, I shredded it and added it to the food. The recipe is filling and healthy and dirt cheap. Soup is a great meatless option, especially soup made in the crock pot because you don’t have to do anything. Unless you’re like my sister-in-law and don’t like things plugged in while you’re not at the house. She’s strange, but she’s our strange. Lastly, the casserole is a HUGE dish and I didn’t know how much it made. I suggest making this if you’re going to have a house party and you need a vegetarian option. It is very good, and sneaks vegetables into it for kids. My kids personally love it, but my husband knows better. J

Average meat per meal is $2 and I make 8 meatless meals per month.

Savings per month: $16

Savings per year: $192

4. Stop feeding your children sugary cereal junk for breakfast

This is probably my biggest pet peeve of them all. My first month having my step children here I went crazy and bought TONS of cereal, it lasted us three months. We used it for breakfast, snacks, even dinner when I was too lazy to cook. Don’t judge, breakfast for dinner is perfectly acceptable. Then I started READING the labels. My mind was blown, how could I been feeding this junk to the kids. And I was getting the “healthy” stuff for the most part. Now I feed the kids oatmeal with sugar and cinnamon. I was one of those parents with blinders on. There are so many commercials, and cute kids that tell me that cereal is good for them. The cereal is on their backpacks watching them at school, so they must be healthy. They aren’t.

Here goes my crunchy rant.

Stop feeding your children chocolate covered cereal because they asked for it and think that you have no control over their actions for today. If you feed your children junk food, you are going to get junk behavior. That’s it broken down to the basics. Now don’t get me wrong, we will buy Count Chocula cereal and eat it on Halloween but that is ONE day of the month that they get to splurge. Switch to granola, which can get expensive (unless you make your own which isn’t too expensive) or go like me and do oatmeal. I do cinnamon sugar because I have them prepackaged in the cupboard and my kids haven’t gotten tired of it.

Here’s a link to my breakfast “recipe”:

https://sweettreatsbycatherine.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/morning-breakfasts/

I spend 6 dollars a month on breakfast a month, not including pancake Sundays. Cheerios, which I LOVE, let’s say the large box is about $4 without coupons, sales or whatever. We go through two boxes per month; again we like to use it for snack. We use about ½ a cup of milk per child with their cereal, so we are purchasing 2 gallons of milk per month JUST FOR CEREAL and milk here is over 3 dollars.

Cereal total: 14 dollars per month

Savings per month: $8

Savings per year: $96

But your sanity that you’re saving is a lot more when you see your children’s attitude change with less sugar in their system.

5. Clip coupons or build your food around what’s on sale. Just shop the sales.

Don’t go out and be an extreme couponer. That is NOT what I’m saying. But if there’s a sale for corn that makes it .30 off a can, then buy the corn, and make some recipes with it. Black bean quesadillas need corn, cough. If you need spaghetti noodles, and an off brand is on sale, then just buy the other brand. There are very few things that we are brand specific to. If you see that there is a coupon in the circular for your diaper brand, clip it. It’s going to save you money. Don’t feel bad to use coupons; there is NO SHAME in saving money. The money you save in groceries can go towards clothes, movies, heck even a date night. Every dollar counts. I have saved up to $75 dollars off my bill just by shopping the sales, and not using coupons. When I was extreme couponing, I was saving minimum 70% of my grocery bill, but I felt really limited in what I could make. I have also walked out saving 30 dollars. But shop the sales, clearance, and buy what you need. Always ask “is this a necessity”. Just because it’s a good sale on toothpaste, doesn’t mean you need it. Especially which you still have 9 boxes still at home.

Savings per month: $50 (on average, sometimes it’s MUCH more)

Savings per year: $600

 

With these 5 simple and easy things, you could save over $1,229 a year! I have gotten our grocery bill for a family of 4 living in New Jersey, eating pretty healthy under 250 dollars per month. That includes all my toiletries, dog food, and any cleaning products I need. My entire household goods bill is 250 dollars. I probably only spend 200 dollars on food, the other 50 is tax, dog food, sponges, toilet bowl brushes, spray bottles, Ziploc bags, etc. I feed my family on 50 dollars a week. That’s pretty darn good because while living in Texas (and food is a lot cheaper there) my first month having the kids I was spending close to $600 a month on everything. I’ve cut over $3,000 a year in household goods! This included making my own cleaners, making my own bread and tortillas, but that’s not something this blog with discuss.

It feels good knowing every month that my few hours of food conservations are really money in the bank.