Creamy Alfredo Sauce

I know what you’re thinking.

Why does the world need ANOTHER Alfredo Sauce recipe?!


Good Question. Perhaps it doesn’t. But I would like to suggest that you try this one before dismissing the idea entirely!

Years ago, I would have laughed at the idea of making Alfredo from scratch. Why make something you can easily buy in a jar? Then I started reading ingredient lists. I would never recommend this course of action unless you are ready to rethink the quality of the food entering your body.

I started to make more from scratch, including rolls, soups, desserts, and sauces. This particular sauce is the result of some trial and error and I am rather excited about it!

Alfredo

CREAMY ALFREDO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  • 3 TBSP Flour
  • 2/3 C Chicken Stock or Water
  • 1/2 C Milk
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
  • Salt & Pepper to Taste

SUPPLIES:

  • Saucepan
  • Metal Whisk

 

  1. Melt Butter in saucepan over medium heat, stir in flour and cook 1-2 minutes
  2. Slowly add stock/water to flour mixture while whisking to combine. Add milk in the same way.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened
  4. Add cream cheese, garlic, and salt & peppers, whisking carefully while the cheese melts.
  5. Whisk vigorously until chunks are combined and sauce is creamy.
  6. Enjoy over your favorite pasta

Last Minute Soup: Delicious Soup with Anything You have on Hand!

Last Minute Soup

Guys. I’m writing a novel! Well, that’s the goal anyway. I’m participating in National Novel Writing Month, commonly referred to as NaNoWriMo (nanowrimo.org). It takes place every November, so this year I jumped on board and started brainstorming in October. Here’s the thing though, brainstorming leads to an intense desire to write! So I started early, and was so into writing I forgot about dinner last week. (OOPS!)

Last-Minute Soup to save the day! This is a recipe that will let you make soup out of whatever you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer. Every batch is different, and every batch is delicious!

The ingredients for soup Fall into 5 basic categories:

Liquid Liquids: Water, Milk, Broth, or Stock

Spice Spices: Any dried or fresh herbs/seasonings you prefer!

Vegetables Vegetables: Whatever combination of fresh, frozen, or canned you have Protein Protein: Feel free to get creative here! Not just chicken, beans or beef, try ham or hard boiled eggs, tofu or even hot dogs! Carb

Carb/Starch: This category is completely optional and would include things like Potatoes, Rice, Pasta, Gnocci, etc…

Soup Collage

Once you compile your ingredients, do any prep such as cooking the protein and chopping ingredients to the desired size and shape! (Healthy Tip: Don’t peel your carrots! In soup, no one can tell and the peel adds extra vitamins! Instead, wash well and chop as usual. Same goes for celery leaves, they are delicious and blend in with the herbs when chopped finely.)

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Now is the fun part – the actual cooking! [If you are using a slow cooker, feel free to scroll to the bottom for those instructions!]

Olive Oil

Add 1 Tbsp Olive Oil to your soup pot and head on medium heat.

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Once Oil is hot, add fresh vegetables (minus any greens like spinach or green onions) to the pot with the seasonings. Cook until the hardest vegetable begins to soften, stirring occasionally.

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Add frozen vegetables and greens, cooking until they are thawed and greens begin to wilt.

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Add Canned vegetables, protein, and liquid. (If using rice, add in this step)

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Stir together and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using a carb, other than rice, add after 15 minutes and let cook with the soup for 15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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If you are using a slow cooker, your steps are easy! Add all ingredients to the pot, give it a stir, and cover. Cook on Low 6-8 hours or High 2-4 hours.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 9.06.05 AM Last Minute Soup <– Printable PDF!

What do you guys think of the photo instructions? Are they helpful? Annoying? Awesome? Please let me know in the comments below! And share your soup combinations so we can all be inspired🙂

Mini Pumpkin Scones

Here in Upstate New York the Fall season has officially begun! I’ve pulled out our sweaters, made the switch from iced coffee to hot tea, and developed a taste for all things pumpkin. The first pumpkin thing on my agenda this year was scones.

I LOVE SCONES!

Scones can be sweet or savory, breakfast or dessert, biscuity or dense; basically anything you can dream up! For my pumpkin scones I wanted something fluffy, sweet (but not over sweet), and flavorful. I took my favorite scone recipe and with some adjustments, got perfect pumpkin scones.

You have got to taste the addicting little treats! I mean, look at them:

Mini Pumpkin Scones

Check out this texture:

Scone Close Up

It does not get any better than that, folks. It just doesn’t.

MINI PUMPKIN SCONES

Yield: 32 scones  Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ cup butter or coconut oil
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree (heaping, so a little over)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1 tsp cinnamon + ½ tsp nutmeg)
  • Optional: 3 tbsp mini chocolate chips or chopped nuts
  • Topping:
    • 2 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F
  2. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, & baking powder
  3. Cut in butter/coconut oil with a fork until mixture is crumbly
  4. In separate bowl, combine pumpkin, egg, vanilla, & spices
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until combined – dough will be sticky
  6. Fold in chips or nuts, if using
  7. Dump dough onto sheet of wax paper or greased countertop; grease hands and form dough into rectangle (about the size of a 8.5×11 paper)
  8. With greased knife, cut dough into quarters vertically and horizontally, so you have 16 squares. Cut each square diagonally, ending with 32 mini scones
  9. Use spatula to transfer scones to cookie sheets, leaving about ½ inch between scones
  10. Combine cinnamon & sugar for topping and sprinkle generously onto the scones
  11. Bake in oven 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned
  12. Transfer to cooling rack, enjoy warm or cool

I’m going to try something new and give you a PDF so you can easily print the recipe, too! Leave me a note and let me know what you think. Is it helpful? I also would love to hear what you’re adding into these! Please comment so I can try🙂

MINI PUMPKIN SCONES <– Printable PDF!!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars – No Bake!

Sometimes my cupboard does a convincing impression of Mother Hubbard’s.

And I just don’t feel like going to the store.

But the little people still insist on food.

In comes these protein, fiber filled bars! They come together in 20 minutes, no baking needed and are great for breakfast, snacks, or to pack in lunches!

Breakfast Bar 1

Peanut Butter Coconut Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

Base

1 c Peanut Butter, crunchy or creamy

1/3 Honey

3 1/2 c Oats, quick or Old Fashioned

1/2 cup flax seed (can replace with 1/2 cup more oats if you don’t have them!)

Put PB & Honey in Microwave safe bowl, heat in increments of 20 seconds until soft and easy to mix. Add Oats and flax, mixing until coated. Press into a 9-inch square pan.

Icing

1/2 c Cocoa Powder

1c Powdered Sugar

3 Tbsp Milk (Alternately, 1 Tbsp and 2 Tbsp Coconut Coffee Syrup)

Coconut Flakes to sprinkle (optional)

Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl.  Add extra milk in teaspoon increments to reach desired consistency. Pour over base and use rubber scraper to spread evenly. Sprinkle coconut flakes over the top as desired.

Cover and cool in fridge until hardened. Cut into bars and enjoy!

**I store the extra in the fridge to munch while the kiddos aren’t looking ;)

Breakfast Bar 2

The Secret to a Clean Home – 7 Organizing Solutions

If you are anything like me, you have spent countless minutes looking at the mess around you wondering where to begin. And wondering if it’s worth the effort just to be surrounded by mess all over again. Cleaning is a thankless, never ending job. Sometimes just the thought of picking up one more toy makes you want to weep.

Well, no more! My goal this spring was to clean my house and keep it that way. I started by making a deal with one of my best friends. We would take turns at each others house helping them clean areas that were too overwhelming to start alone. I strongly recommend this!  We only helped each other once, but it was enough to kick our butts in gear!

While this was the start, it isn’t the key to keeping it clean. Are you ready for the secret?

“Everything has a place and everything in its place”

I know you have heard that before! But, guess what? It works! The key to cleaning, and staying clean is easily identifiable organization. If everyone can see where things belong, they can clean up when they are done – even this little ones!

Here are 7 ideas to get you started:

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Picture Labeled Toy Bins

The same friend who was my cleaning buddy suggested this one and it’s genius! I took pictures of each filled bin on my phone and sent them to Walgreens using their app for 1-hour pickup. Then I taped them on. Originally I just put scotch tape on the back, but that didn’t last very long, so I used packing tape to tape over and cover the entire photo. Now the kids can easily see what belongs in each bin and I don’t have to go through and re-organize after they clean!

If you don’t already have bins, you can use any baskets or containers you already have.  Even shoe boxes so they stack would work. You can get shoe box size containers with lids at Dollar Tree.

A Side Note: Before you organize the toys, purge them. This corner was overflowing with toys and I ended up tossing 2 black garbage bags full before I got here.  Don’t keep anything that is missing pieces, too young, or not played with. Donating is a good option if you have toys in good condition. I recommend cleaning this sections when the kids are napping or at school or just out of the house. Mine have asked for very little of what I tossed, but if they saw me tossing I know the tantrums that would have ensued.

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Shoe Tree

I got this one for $20 at BJs. This vertical storage option really frees up my kitchen floor. We had one of those long horizontal ones with the two poles; it was too wide for Little One’s shoes and too thin for Hubby’s. Then it broke, so we used it even less! When I saw this, I knew it was perfect.  It is easy to move to clean around and let me bring the dog dish over to the corner instead of in the hallway to be knocked over when the kids ran around.

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Kitchen Appliance Shelves

That same corner with the shoe tree has a high counter and all this space underneath. The only thing I had under there before was my recycling and step stool (a must-have for us short girls!) As I was trying to brainstorm ways to get appliances off my counter, I realized this space had so much potential! A quick trip to K-Mart later and I had the perfect sized utility shelf for organization. My kitchen is small, so this frees up counter and cabinet space that was overflowing.

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Command Hooks

This was one of the cabinets that had an appliance or two shoved inside. My biggest thing here was the command hooks for my measuring utensils. All of my utensils had the holes on the top, so I found items in the house to use as loops for the ones I had lost and hung them on these handy hooks. {I used a second set next to the door for our keys, we haven’t lost them since!}

I also bought a basket at Dollar General for the Lids (notice the label, even Hubby should be able to put them away neatly). Speaking of baskets, check out my pantry!

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Pantry Baskets

Can you tell I love bins? All of those white ones happen to be left over from under the changing table when my Little One needed diapers, wipes, and all of the other baby things close at hand. I think they came from Big Lots. While doing my bin organization, I got increasingly frustrated with all of the leaking bags of flour, sugars, etc. So I took a trip to Marshalls (or was it TJ Maxx?) for resealable bins. OXO are much cheaper there, and those round ones are an even less expensive off brand that came highly recommended by a fellow shopper – I am glad I took his advice! They work great and are stackable.  Again, I have everything labeled so anyone who is here can find what they need.

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Top of Fridge Storage

When I started organizing, I really tried to look at the places that were being under-utilized. Like under my counter or inside the cabinet door.  This is another one, the top of the fridge.  It sort of became the catch-all for everything I didn’t know what to do with.  After going through and purging the items I really didn’t need, putting seasonal items in the basement with their seasonal bins, and tossing all of the old candy that I kept away from the kids there, I had a nice space! As you can see, I have a bit of a tea obsession, so I organized my teas on a sushi tray that gets little use to easily pull down and find the kind I want. The rest is used for my vases and pitchers, which are useful but not needed often. The dog treats are an added bonus!🙂

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Paper & Mail Folders

This is one of my favorites. Remember that tall counter I told you about? Well, it used to be my junk counter. It was piled high with papers galore, and I had nowhere better to put them. So, I created somewhere better in another under-utilized place – the wall! These file bins came from Target and the folders were already in the house. I labeled them (are you surprised?) and we were good to go. Now its not perfect, my magazine folder is actually filled with instruction manuals and the To Be Filed folder is about stuffed to capacity, so I really need to get it upstairs and get filing.  But, I have my counter back and I can find what I need when I need it (and so can Hubby!)

 

Once you start organizing, you really can’t stop! I have a list of places I am brainstorming better organization. Does anyone know how to control a linen closet? Or keep a large amount of fruit without spilling all over your counter?

The key things I have learned in keeping organized are:

-Use what you already have. Even with the shoe tree and shelf, I have spent less than $100 on my whole house of organizing.
-Use every space, keep your eyes peeled for under-utilized areas
-Label so anyone who uses it can find it and put it back away easily (pictures are great for kids!)
-Bins & Baskets are awesome!
-You can get supplies pretty much anywhere you shop – I mentioned 7 places in this post alone
-Be Flexible, I really wanted to store my pan lids in vertical slots, but couldn’t find anything that would work. I got a bin instead and it works just fine.

 

Don’t give up! If something doesn’t work the first time, redo it until it does. And remember the key to a clean house:

Everything has a place and everything in its place🙂

Organizing your Budget

When money is tight (and even when it isn’t), the most important step is tracking where your money is going. You must be diligent that all bills are being paid and you aren’t spending money on wants that has to be used for needs.  Money tracking looks different for everyone. Here are three techniques that can be utilized to help you manage your budget.

 

1. Basic Cash Flow Chart

Cash Flow Template

This is my go-to view for my budget. I can pull it up on my computer and see everything that I need to pay, when I need to pay it, and everything that is coming in.  I can make adjustments easily if an amount changes or I need a new line. The goal is to make the two totals even. Let me explain.

We live on a very tight budget, so you will see only the basics (with the exception of the YMCA) on our expenses. If we had more wiggle room, you would see a line for savings and possibly one for weekly fun money or date night. You can add lines for anything – Daily Coffee, Weekly Lunch Ordering Out, or Kid’s Allowance. If you plan where every penny goes before you earn it, you know that it has a place.  When you decide you want to do something that isn’t in the budget, it makes you look and see where you can take that money from.

For example, suppose I decided I want an Iced Coffee when I am out with a friend. If I get it, I subtract that amount from my grocery budget for the week. That way, my expenses still match my income. Now let’s look at another way you can organize your budget.

 

2. Calender/Monthly Planner

personal_budget_calendar_template

A calendar can be a great visual to know when money is going out and when it is coming in. This can help you plan grocery shopping and know what weeks may be a little tighter because they have more expenses.  If you Google “Calendar Budget Template” you will get a number of free templates that can help you organize.  This one is from EPrint Calendar.

Prefer something tangible? Get a monthly planner and you have a budget map that can go anywhere with you and is readily available even if your computer is turned off. Organizing this way can encourage sitting down and planning once a month so you are prepared for the next month. [BONUS: If you share your finances with someone else, this helps keep you on the same financial page.]

 

3. Cash System

When my husband and I first started budgeting, we took Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University.” One of the biggest things we walked away with was using cash for all in-person purchases. It really helps makes the budget tangible. You take the cash out of your account and organize it based on where it fits in the budget; Gas, Food, Fun Money, Clothes, etc. When you purchase something that is not in the budget, it is used from another area. This provides an immediate cause & effect.

Going back to the iced coffee example from above, I would spend the money directly from my food budget and it would be immediately gone.  That way I don’t forget when buying food and spend more than I have left in the budget. Mr Ramsey sells a fancy envelope system. We went with a 6-pocket expandable coupon folder from Dollar Tree.

<– Only $1!!!! Talk about staying in budget.🙂

 

 

No matter how you organize, it is important that you do some organization. Budgeting on the fly results in miscalculations and stress. Money doesn’t have to stress you out.  You can be in control. There is no shame in saying “I’m sorry, that just isn’t in the budget this month.”

Do you have any budget organizing techniques? Please share them in the comments!

I am an Egg Donor, and Proud of It

This post is different then what I usually write. I decided to write a post about my experience donating eggs because there isn’t very much information out there from a donor point of view, nor is it something you hear about very often. I am proud of my role as an egg donor and would encourage all the women reading this to consider it if you are able.

 

How does one get into Egg Donation?

 

It all started because I lost my job last summer. I was freaking out – we were going to Disney in two months and didn’t even know how we would pay our basic bills on Hubby’s inconsistent retail income. A friend suggested I apply to be an egg donor. Fairly easy money, and always needed.

 

Egg Donation? Me?

 

I hate shots. I cried, in fact, about every one until well into middle school. Could I handle who-knows-how-many injections…by my own hand?

 

I decided for my family, I could do anything. So I researched clinics that work with egg donors and chose CNY Fertility. They were not the highest paying, but the most respected and, I felt, most experienced. I applied at the end of June 2013 and passed all of the requirements. I was officially accepted as a donor. Unemployment came through, the summer flew by, Disney was a success, and I got a new job. (So did Hubby, Praise the Lord!)

 

In November 2013, I got an email; someone chose my profile as her donor. Was I still interested?

 

Well….was I? I mean, was I in it for more than money?

 

In the end, my heart won. This woman had looked at a number of profiles and chose me as part of her (potential) future child. How could I say no and put her back into the process? I said yes.

 

It started with blood tests to be sure I didn’t have any risky genes (I didn’t) and the pill to coordinate my cycle with that of my recipient. Two days after Christmas, the part I had been dreading began. First up, Lupron to suppress ovulation.

 

I mentally reviewed every step –

  1. Cleanse the vial and injection site, somewhere across my waist below my belly button.
  2. Open a new, sterile needle and insert into vial
  3. Turn upside down and draw liquid to specified volume
  4. Insert needle into skin at a 90 degree angle, dispensing medicine once in

 

For the first time, I was grateful for my Christmas cookie layer. You know, that extra jolly jiggle in your middle that inspires New Years Resolutions? I barely felt the needle. Success!

 

After 10 days, the Lupron was reduced and a second medicine was added -Gonal to stimulate the ovaries and increase follicle production. My body didn’t react as easily to the Gonal, so the dose was doubled, then tripled. While it added 4 days to the original timeline, it put it on a Saturday so I didn’t have to worry about a ride or who would care for the kids. Amazing how God turns obstacles into blessings!

 

Thursday I had one last injection; a super dose of Lupron to trigger ovulation (I have no idea how the same medicine suppresses and triggers the same process). Finally the day of my donation arrived.

 

The honest truth? I remember little of the donation. I met the head doctor and anesthesiologist, then the next thing I knew it was over. My husband picked me up and I proceeded to sleep most of the day. I do remember the nurse telling me they retrieved 13 eggs, and I felt proud. Donors can release as few as 3, and up to 15 in a cycle.

 

Now I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it was a piece of cake. Not all the injections went as smoothly and there were a few side effects. I experienced occasional headaches from the Lupron and was painfully bloated for about a week after the donation. The extended time on the Gonal increased my estrogen levels too high and I had to inject blood thinners to prevent issues as my ovaries returned to normal. Those injections felt like a bee sting every time and bruised.

 

Was it worth it?

 

A million times yes. I was able to truly help someone. My husband and I are done having kids, we are blessed with two beautiful ones and I couldn’t imagine my life without them. How could I not give my perfectly good eggs to help someone find the same joy?

 

Will I donate again?

 

Again, yes. In fact, I am at the end of a second cycle already. I was contacted a week after the first donation to say I had been chosen again. This time the Gonal was correct from the start and I am following the timeline perfectly. I donate in two days.

 

I don’t know if I will be chosen again, but I know I will say yes. I may never meet the children who share my genes, never know their names, but I will rejoice at every live birth and know God used me for a miracle.

 

4/18/14 Update: Round two went smoothly, other than my runaway veins leading to 3 separate nurses attempting to insert the IV. I went in at 8:30am this morning, was prepped and given anesthesia by 9:10, and was woken up at 9:45. This time I was able to donate 19 eggs!🙂

The rest of my day will be spent snuggling in bed rotating between sleeping, reading, and drinking lots of water.

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