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Archive for March, 2009

Last week was pretty leftover heavy, but that was OK because I ♥ leftovers! I’m excited about this week because my husband and I are going to stretch ourselves a little in the kitchen and attempt to make baked potato soup with bread bowls. I’ll make the soup, he’ll make the bowls (using his favorite book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day). I’m combining various aspects of three different recipes for the soup, so hopefully it turns out!

Onto meal planning…

meal-plan-mondays

Monday 3/30/09

Hamburger Casserole

Tuesday 3/31/09

Leftovers

Wednesday 4/1/09

Baked Potato Soup with bread bowls (NEW)

Thursday 4/2/09

Leftovers

Friday 4/3/09

Leftovers

Saturday 4/4/09

BBQ Pork Ribs (slow cooker) with fried parmesan potatoes, green beans, and cornbread

Sunday 4/5/09

Leftovers

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I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

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I’m taking a break from regular programming today (Mission: Appliances), deal-chasr-logoto announce a great new site, called DEAL Chasr. The reason I’m taking time to announce this new website is because (shameless plug alert) it’s my husband’s! He is not only a lover of deals, but is also an expert computer whiz.  To summarize its function in a sentence, DEAL Chasr was born out of a desire to identify and capitalize on price drops on Amazon.com.

Amazon.com is an Internet shopper’s dream: it sells pretty much everything, boasts low prices, and offers an option for free shipping on most orders. However, if you’ve spent any time on Amazon, it won’t take you very long to notice that prices change constantly. DEAL Chasr chases down significant price drops as soon as they happen, allowing frugal shoppers (like us!) to cash in on some great deals.

deal-chasr-screen

Case in point, last week I was shopping for a birthday present for my brother. Even though DEAL Chasr wasn’t live yet, my husband and I were still monitoring it as we were making some final changes (I helped with design). I noticed that one of my brother’s favorite TV shows, Nip/Tuck, was being identified as an “amazing deal” by DEAL Chasr. The price was now listed at $23.99 and it had previously been listed (for some time) at $48.99.  I capitalized and bought him Season 3.  Brother, if you are reading this, I hope you liked your gift!

To say the least, I’m very excited about this new site! If you’d like to learn more about it, there is a helpful FAQ. Be sure to stop by frequently because deals change constantly. There’s also a handy option to subscribe via feed.

Happy deal searching! 🙂

2010 Update: DEAL Chasr now offers a very cool Ultimate Guide to Buying and Reselling Online if you are interested in not only finding great deals, but making a little extra money on the side!

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Today I have the privilege of guest posting on the awesome Organizing Your Way blog. Mandi asked me to talk about how my Friday series, Mission: Appliances, has been going. The timing is perfect, because I’m exactly half way through the series. In addition to inviting me to discuss how I came up with the idea in the first place, she also asked me to share what I’ve learned so far.

So head on over the Organizing Your Way blog and check out my post!

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The meals I prepared last week were very tasty and it was quite the treat to be able to use $2.99/lb beef tenderloin in my Oaxacan tacos…yum! On Wednesday I sat down and planned my next month of meals and I can safely stay that I’m going to stick to the month (instead of week) plan—it’s much more efficient.

Spring is in the air here in northern Wisconsin. My snowdrops are popping up and soon will bloom. And you what that means? Gardening is right around the corner! In fact this past week I planted basil, bell peppers, and Thai peppers under grow lights in my basement.

This week we’re going to be a little busier than usual, so leftovers will be the name of the game for the most part. I love leftovers! Onto meal planning…

meal-plan-mondays

Monday 3/23/09

Leftovers

Tuesday 3/24/09

Leftovers

Wednesday 3/25/09

Grilled chicken and mozzarella panini’s

Thursday 3/26/09

Peanut Butter Noodles (NEW)

Friday 3/27/09

Leftovers

Saturday 3/28/09

Leftovers

Sunday 3/29/09

Leftovers (freezer)

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I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

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This week for Mission: Appliances, we were finally able to use one of our newest appliances, our deep fat fryer. While not an appliance we think we should use too often (um, ya, not too healthy people), we have always wanted one for special meals. So, without further adieu, let’s get out the deep fat fryer!

mission-appliances2

We own the Presto 05466 ProFry Stainless-Steel Dual-Basket Immersion-Element 12-Cup Deep Fryer (now that’s a mouthful). We asked for it for Christmas and have not had the opportunity to use it yet—that is, until now.

While I like to keep battering and frying foods down to a minimum, I do think that occasionally it’s fun to do. And in our case, we really wanted an easier way to prepare certain foods we were already frying, just in a skillet (talk about a mess!). Enter the deep fat fryer.

Deep Fat Fryer Vital Statistics

  • Brand: Presto
  • Average Price: $70
  • Power: 1800 watt immersion element
  • Size: 16 X 15 X 11 inches; 12 pounds
  • Features: Adjustable thermostat; oil-ready indicator light; cover acts as a spatter shield
  • Complexity: Easy to use
  • Versatility: Deep fat fries just about anything
  • Cleaning: A little involved to clean
  • Storage: Unit is pretty large, so needs a bit more room than most appliances in order to store
  • Safety Tips: Heating elements get very hot; oil and steam can both be extremely hot
  • Pre-series Location: On the top shelf of a hall closet
  • Pre-series Use Level: Brand new, never used before

deep-fat-fryer

Project Deep Fat Fryer

When we asked for a deep fat fryer for Christmas, we actually picked a particular model out. It was highly reviewed and seemed like a good choice. After taking it out the box, we prepared it by cleaning it out fully and purchasing a 5 quart jug of canola oil.

deep-fat-fryer-canola-oil

One of the meals we had wanted to cook with a deep fat fryer was egg rolls, or more specifically, Lumpia. Our friends make it all the time and also recently started using a deep fat fryer. We thought it seemed like a good idea since frying the little egg rolls in a skillet was difficult and messy.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

1 lb ground hamburger
3 carrots, minced
8 oz jar of water chestnuts, drained and minced
1 egg
¼ cup soy sauce
Ground pepper and garlic powder to taste
2 TBS lemon juice

1 lb package egg roll wrappers (~20 wrappers)
1 TBS flour + 1 TBS water mixture

Directions:

1. Mix the hamburger, carrots, water chestnuts, egg, soy sauce, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
2. Take 3 small spoonfuls of meat mixture and place them along the long edge of an egg roll wrapper. Gently roll the wrapper until it is almost rolled up. Apply some flour/water mixture to the end and finish rolling (seals the egg roll shut).
3. Cut each long egg roll into 3 sections. Continue to repeat steps 2 and 3 until you’ve used up all the meat mixture.
4. Fry the egg rolls in oil until the meat is fully cooked inside and the egg roll wrappers are crispy.

deep-fat-fryer-egg-rolls

Here’s what we did with step 4, using our deep fat fryer: We pre-heated the oil for 20 minutes to 375 degrees F. Then we placed egg rolls at the bottom of each of the two baskets, submerging the baskets into the hot oil. After 2-3 minutes, the egg rolls were done. We continued to do this until all the egg rolls were fried.

deep-fat-fryer-egg-rolls-cooked

There were a few complications we encountered, but were able to work through by the end. First, we were not sure if we would have been able to place more uncooked egg rolls in the baskets at one time. We were afraid they would stick to one another and cook together as one big glob. So we played it safe and only placed one layer of egg rolls in each basket, making sure there was enough space between each egg roll to prevent touching.

The second issue we had was with the egg rolls sticking to the bottom of the basket. We read in the instruction manual that this could be a problem. We eventually realized that if we coated the baskets with hot oil first before adding the egg rolls and if we shook the baskets a few times while the egg rolls were submerged, the egg rolls did not stick too much.

The Verdict

The lumpia was quite yummy! It was great to be able to fry them so quickly (2-3 minutes) and have them evenly cooked. That was definitely a problem I had with frying them previously in a skillet. They were nice and crispy and tasted great coming out of the deep fat fryer. Clean-up was a little more involved than with most appliances, but it was to be expected. We plan to reuse the oil several times before discarding it. Overall, we love the deep fat fryer!

Reader Reflection

Do you own a deep fat fryer? What is your favorite thing to fry?

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Clutter control is awesome. It reduces stress, stops our stuff from taking over our lives, and helps us live more simply. But are there times when a person can go overboard with decluttering? In my opinion, yes.

Last week I was making a salad. My husband handed me the croutons and I took what I wanted. I noticed that there were only four croutons remaining in the box. Several thoughts quickly passed through my mind, like, “I should just eat the rest and be done with it” and “then I can clear a space in the cupboard and recycle the box.” Under some circumstances, thoughts like these would lead to productive decluttering. But didn’t I just waste those 4 croutons?

I’m not perfect. I strive to be organized. Hey, I love to be organized. But I’ve got a ways to go. And when I put those extra four croutons on my salad, I realized that I have to be careful not to go overboard with decluttering. There’s a line and I crossed it. Now, it’s only four little croutons, but attitudes like that could spill over into other areas of my life and I don’t want that!

After contemplating my actions with the croutons, I came up with five signs an organizer should be careful to watch out for to make sure he or she is not going overboard with decluttering. “Clutter control” has the word “control” in it, so let’s stay in control.

obsessed-with-clutter

1. You are obsessed with decluttering

Do you go through your day constantly thinking about things you can get rid of? Does unsightly clutter cause you to feel stressed until you can get it cleaned up? These are signs of an obsession with clutter control. Getting rid of clutter is good. Letting clutter bother you and control you in a negative way is bad.

2. Your decluttering habits annoy people

I know a person who is so fixated on decluttering that he will literally take the soda can out of your hands before you are even finished drinking it so he can crush it and recycle it RIGHT NOW. These types of habits really annoy people, especially people who are not at all sympathetic to the organizing cause in the first place.

3. You judge other people for their clutter problems

As organizing junkies, it is very easy to walk into someone else’s house and think of ways they could organize their belongings more effectively.  For some of us, this is just second nature.  But when constructive observation turns into critical judgment of that person’s lifestyle and character, you’ve crossed the line.  Having an attitude like this is very dangerous, and you should try your best to avoid it.

4. Your decluttering methods result in waste

This is where my crouton example fits in. I didn’t need to eat those four croutons. But even though they were only four little pieces of toasted bread, I truthfully just wasted them. And you know what? They cost money. Be careful not to get so hung up on decluttering that you start to go against your frugal principals.

5. Decluttering costs you money later

Have you ever hesitated throwing something away because you were worried you might have a use for it months or even years down the line? Clutter control gurus would give you a time limit to put in place and tell you to throw that item away if you didn’t use it by that time. Well, I think there is something to be said about the opposite problem—what if you impulsively throw something away in order to declutter, but then you realize later on that you needed it? What if you have to buy it again? That’s money you wouldn’t have had to spend if you had saved the item in the first place. Now I’m not advocating that everyone become a pack rat. All I’m saying is that there is a healthy balance between what useful possessions to save for later and what clutter to get rid of now.

Reader Reflection

It’s clear I’m talking extremes here, but they do exist and we have to be careful not to go too far with decluttering. Do you notice any areas in your life where you sometimes cross the line?

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This past week I took it easy on cooking meals, falling back on some old favorites. It was a nice break and I got to spend my extra time doing other things related to cooking, like defrosting my freezer.  It helped that we had subzero temperatures to work with, although I can say I’m quite ready for spring.

I also was able to take advantage of some grocery store sales and buy lots of red bell peppers ($1.98 / lb) and a whole beef tenderloin ($2.99 / lb). I first chopped up all the peppers, bagged, and froze them (I’m not allowed to buy peppers for a while now…I have a big supply!). Then I prepared the tenderloin into individual steaks, vacuum sealing them in pairs to freeze for later. Did I mention I love steak? Finally, it was time again to replenish my supply of prepared frozen cheese. Overall it was a productive week and we are now well stocked!

I’ve very excited about my meals this week. I’m getting hungry just thinking about them!

meal-plan-mondays

Monday 3/16/09

Oaxacan Tacos (NEW) and fresh pineapple

Tuesday 3/17/09

Leftovers

Wednesday 3/18/09

Lumpia (egg rolls) and fried rice

Thursday 3/19/09

Leftovers

Friday 3/20/09

Leftovers

Saturday 3/21/09

Chicken Parmesan, with pasta, green beans, and garlic bread

Sunday 3/22/09

Leftovers

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I posted my weekly menu to the I’m an Organizing Junkie blog, so be sure to check it out and participate if you’d like!

Read Full Post »

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