This Ain’t Yo Grandma’s Kitchen

Happy Tuesday everyone!

If you’re like me, you didn’t really get alot of cooking instruction growing up. Heck, my mom cooks (bakes mostly) more now than she ever did when I was a kid. My sister and I ate mostly chicken nuggets and good ol’ mac and cheese and I remember lots of TV dinners. I cringe at the thought now but mannnn was that stuff good when I was 8. 🙂

That being said, I have been trying to navigate the cooking world for the past 3 years since I moved out of mom’s house for good. My first year away from home, my roommate cooked (if we cooked) and we experimented here and there but never enough to claim to “cook.” After that year, I moved into an apartment with just Asia, my pup. I learned pretty fast eating out is a ridiculously expensive habit, even if you’re eating the cheaper stuff. On the cheaper side, $6 a meal x 2 meals a day x 7 days a week (we’ll say I scrounged something for breakfast every day)= $84 a week. $84!

I’m not sure about y’all, but my college self and even post-college self is still not rolling in riches. I have a budget dollar amount set for everything you can possibly imagine (I even include gas as a set bill in my budget) and $84/week was definitely not a way to save money. So, I started trying to learn how to cook.

Two years later, I still wouldn’t call myself a great cook but I can manage for our household. I can also spend $150 (max) at the grocery store and feed me and my bottomless pit man every  meal and go two full weeks without cracking and ordering in or going out to eat. That’s a HUGE accomplishment. If you don’t think so, I dare you to try it.. It’s tougher than it sounds 🙂

Now, I’m not entirely sure how I would’ve managed without the turn that social media has taken in the last year or so. Without Pinterest, I would just have a much tougher time of the whole cooking thing. Grocery planning takes a good amount of time for me, I go through the ads, I make my list, and I search for coupons that correspond to my list. Then I browse Pinterest and look for a few new dinner ideas to keep dinner exciting and add the ingredients not in my cabinet to the list. Part of why people don’t like to cook is that they get bored with their options. I’m always finding something new on Pinterest for every grocery trip though, the options are infinite it seems like.

So, what next? Well, this just ain’t yo grandma’s kitchen anymore. How many cookbooks does your grandma have? I’d say mine has at least 20. How many do I have? 3. Do I use a large percentage of the recipes in there? No. I will say I do have a Fix it and Forget it cookbook and it’s all crock pot recipes and I do flip through there for at least 1-2 crock pot easy meals during the two weeks before the next grocery trip. But mostly, there’s probably 5 recipes in those that I turn to in a book of 200. My solution to that was to make my own recipe book.

my personal cookbook

First Step:

Pick a decent sized binder to house all of your favorite recipes. (I’m a big fan of the Green Studio office supplies and chose a binder from that brand, found at Target.)

Second Step:

Get some tools to organize your recipes.

I used Target Brand dividers and printed some cute and FREE labels.

Lots of free printable labels here, courtesy of BHG: http://tinyurl.com/printablelabels

I chose to cut my labels out and simply glue them to the divider and then hand write the chosen section. You also have the option of printing the labels out onto actual labels and using your computer to type in your categories if you want to be fancy 🙂

Third Step:

Add your favorites! This can include (and does for me) all of the Pinterest recipes that you found online and printed out as well as handwritten recipes that have been in your family or told to you by a friend.

Handwritten recipes

A great feature about making your own cook book is that everything in there is a recipe that you’ve tried and loved, so it’s definitely worth having again. You don’t have to flip randomly through a cookbook looking for that one recipe you tried one time that you think you liked. You are also free to label your sections as you like. Mine include: chicken, baked, soups, desserts, etc. Also, if you like to modify recipes like I do, you can make those notes without the guilt of marking up a book. (Or is that just me?) I always make modifications. This way, I’ll remember for next time that I varied the recipe a bit.

Modify ingredients in your cookbook so you remember for next time

Well, that’s it! Instead of having loose papers laying all over your kitchen (if you’re a Pinterest cooker, or have the habit of going on Kraft and punching in ingredients you have and trying to generate a dinner out of it) corral those recipes into your very own personal cookbook. Give it a month and you’ll be glad you did when you are scratching your head trying to come up with 1 or 2 more dinner ideas for the grocery trip. Tried and true recipes never fail! Happy cooking!

Recipe Rave: Party in Your Mouth Enchiladas

Everyone has a certain food genre that they gravitate towards and are always in the mood for. Me, I could pretty much eat mexican food every day.

A few years ago, my roommate was taking cooking classes here and there through the Publix Apron’s Cooking School. She learned alot of great recipes while attending these classes, but there was one recipe in particular that blew both of our socks off  -enchiladas. These enchiladas are a little different then authentic enchiladas from a mexican restaurant, but they are super easy to make and so amazingly phenomenal that after you’ve tried them, your mouth will water at the mere mention of them. So I wanted to share:

Super Easy Party in Your Mouth Enchiladas 

You need just a few ingredients: burrito size tortillas, shredded cheese (I prefer the fiesta blend), salsa verde (the green salsa), a package of stew meat, cumin & some oil to cook the meat.

Ingredients

I am striving to make flavorful meals without breaking the bank in order to feed our family of 2, but one of us is a bottomless pit man. I think most ladies can agree that half of their motivation for learning to cook and live a bit more frugally stems somewhere from living with a man who can eat you out of house and home… 😛 I prefer to buy my stew meat at Winn-Dixie because for whatever reason, it’s so much cheaper there. I usually buy everything at Walmart because it’s SO much cheaper in comparison, but when it comes to stew meat, Walmart is usually about double the price because I can pick up a pack at Winn-Dixie for between $2.50 and $3.00. Go figure. To stretch that $3.00 even further, when I open my pack of stew meat, I get out a cutting board and a knife and slice the meat even more. Rather than cook large chunks, I cook more smaller and thinner pieces that helps it cook faster and gives you more meet to spread a little more evenly throughout the enchiladas.

After you’ve sliced up your meat, if you choose to, toss the meat in cumin. Usually I use a light hand when adding cumin to anything because it’s a pretty heavy spice but for this recipe, I think it’s a good idea to use a fair amount.

I toss 10-15 pieces in the cumin at a time so that I don’t overload my pan on the stove.

Add those pieces to a heated pan with oil (I prefer to use EVOO) on your stove top and brown the meat. While one batch browns, I toss the next several pieces with a little more cumin.

Once you’ve browned all your meat,  take out the tortillas. You’ll want to portion your meat across however many rolled up tortillas will fit in the baking dish that you have on hand. Mine is a 9×12 dish and fits roughly 6 rolled up tortillas but if you rolled them up a little tighter, you may be able to squeeze an extra one or two.

Add the meat and shredded cheese and roll up the tortillas.

After you’ve rolled up all of your tortillas and have them sitting snugly in your baking pan, add the salsa verde. I have seen salsa verde in a couple different sizes but I use a 16 oz jar. Dump the whole jar over top of your rolled up tortillas.

salsa verde covered tortilla rolls

Next, add shredded cheese over top of the salsa verde. How much is up to you and how cheesy you like your enchiladas. Me, I probably use about a cup of shredded cheese.

Cheesy goodness!

After you’ve added the cheese, you’re in the home stretch! Set your oven to 400 degrees and set it for about 15 minutes.

Once your oven is beeping telling you that 15 minutes is up, pull out your pan and let those things cool no matter how enticing they are. Once you’ve let your pan sit for about 5-7 minutes, DIG IN to the goodness and I promise this will become a staple on your menu list!

Finished party in your mouth enchiladas!

Everybody needs a break

It’s that time, finally!

Somehow I set myself up with a schedule of taking a vacation every 6 months for the last two vacations. In 2011, I spent a week in the Florida Keys and then I spent the Christmas vacation time in Europe and rang in the new year in Paris! Since coming back home the first week in January, I’ve had a different focus: professional development.

It’s been a long year of working hard, working 2 jobs, career changes and transitions and we are just around the corner from 9 months into 2012 and I have not had a break!

With the insight that Groupon Getaways provides, we are just over 12 hours away from embarking on a road trip to North Carolina! Mountains, cooler air, white water rafting, antiquing… oh the possibilities!

A change of scene can provide fresh perspective and inspire waves of creativity. I’m so excited for a few days off, no work, just PLAY!

Be back in a few days – and I’ve got a new project I’m working on that I’m excited to share soon!

 

-LRL-

pretty, pretty, pretty!

Latest goings on in our home

Our lives have been a bit of a mess the last couple months. I don’t mean to say that we’re ever overly organized or ahead of the power curve, but lately it’s been extra crazy. You see, I moved into a one bedroom apartment about two years ago. I LOVED that place. It wasn’t super fancy, and it sure wasn’t brand new. But it was the first place that I had ever totally called my own place. Me and Asia (my older pup) made it home sweet home. I painted everything a turquoise color and I loved it. Probably 5 months after we moved in, I felt that Asia needed a buddy to keep company when I was working all day and so I adopted another dog, Brooklyn. I am a huge fan and supporter of adopting pets, and try to keep up with our local shelters in town. If you’re looking to add a forever friend in your life, there is no better way to find the love of your life than adopting a shelter baby. For whatever reason, these animals have been dropped off and they know that they’re being given a second chance at life and it shows in their demeanor towards you. You want to know what unconditional love is? Just visit a shelter and they’ll steal your heart.

So, it’s me and 2 dogs at this point and we were doing pretty well. A little while after that, I met my boyfriend Josh. 6 months after we started dating, he moved in with me as well. In less than a year, we had DOUBLED. But it worked for a while. About a year later, we started truly realizing that we just didn’t have enough space. That fact and our little apartment was old and everything was starting to fall apart.

Our little one bedroom. This is the largest space, our living room.

So, I began the search for another place to live. I’m slightly type a personality and started scouting out places 4 months before it was time to move. People laughed at me for starting the search so soon and everyone told me it was too early to be looking. Probably a month into looking, I lucked into a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom garden style apartment that has a townhouse feel, only one level newly renovated with updates for only $50 more than we were paying for our one bedroom! To everyone who said I was jumping the gun, TAKE THAT! 🙂 It was a good thing that I had found it so early, I had alot of work to do at the old place. See those turquoise walls? I loved them, (my boyfriend, not so much) but MAN were they a bear to repaint back to white!

It was a slow, painstaking process but I got all the walls painted back to that glaring white (I hate white), we got everything packed up (you’d be surprised how much this little one bedroom held) and MOVED! It’s been about a month now and we are mostly settled but now it’s time to start putting the home touches on things. I am between jobs, so to speak, meaning that I am seeking a full time position related to what I have a degree for. But I have a serving job that I work in the evenings and I freelance on the side. So I have the time available to put some love into the new place, but not necessarily an overabundance of funds so it’s one thing at a time. The first thing- the office.

I know you can’t see it in that photo of our living room, but what I was standing in front of what I snapped that picture, was our desk. I tried everything I could think of to pretty up the desk. I painted it, I added pretty hardware, I added curtains to hide the ugly cords underneath it. But still, it was a desk in my living room. So one of our first decisions in the new house was make the second bedroom an office. The boyfriend is pursuing a criminology degree and desperately needs a place to sit down and be able to focus without distractions. Me, I am determined to increase my online presence (via this blog, for example) and work on my own personal brand and make more connections to pursue my own career and would benefit from an efficient office space as well.

Unfortunately, this is what I’m working with right now:

Why this desk is in so many pieces is a long story.. but basically boils down to the way the male mind functions differently than the female mind. I don’t know any woman who would say let’s demo the desk in order to get it through the narrow hallway and around the 90 degree sharp turn corner and then glue it back together.. but that’s his desk, so go for it babe.

That’s his project. It’s taking alot of prodding and reminding that you can’t walk through that room..and slowly, piece by piece it’s getting put back together. But we’ll see if it stays together. Anyway, behind this nonsense is my desk.

My desk area

I started looking for inspiration about a week ago. I’m not really into that whole typical office-type furniture and organization pieces. I would much rather find more interesting pieces and put them into places where they can be functional. Those great little baskets hanging on the wall are my latest find. I was browsing Home Goods and found these little blue, rustic metal baskets. For $12 apiece, I feel like I couldn’t have gotten anything to serve that purpose from an office store anyway. I hung them on either side of the desk as a his and hers way to keep our notebooks and papers OFF the desk so that we can work ON the desk. But then we decided we needed a second desk and the mess that ensued. I’m okay with keeping both baskets for my use. 🙂

Notice how there is a space in between the baskets? I had an idea for that as well. It would be too easy and too boring to hang a plain jane bulletin board up there. I did happen to have one of those that had made it through the move in one piece just stashed in one of the closets though. So with a couple trips to Joanns Fabric and Michaels craft stores, I have been putting life into a new bulletin board to orchestrate organization.

I took a plain bulletin board and painted the edges a slate gray to begin.

I found a great light seafoam colored pattern fabric at Joann’s Fabric (for $9/yard – didn’t quite realize til I got to the counter but oh well.) I also found some fabric gluesticks for the hot glue gun. Hindsight thoughts, much more difficult than one would have originally thought. But the gluesticks DID do the trick. It was just a little messier than I had anticipated.

A Pinterest inspired touch for the bulletin board was to include a piece of sheet metal on the board. This would allow dual functionality and give the option to pin reminders as well as use magnets to hang items without adding holes. I just happened to have a piece of punched tin that I had ordered from Ebay several months before (that I hung with two-sided tape on the inside of one of my cabinets to hold reminders, menu ideas, etc.). Of course, I needed magnets as well in order to utilize the sheet of metal. An easy quick way to get custom magnets, is to go to your local craft store and pick brads or embellished items and buy magnets and glue them together.

I opted for a sleek look and picked small heart metal stickers. I added surprisingly strong magnets (for how small they are) to the backs and voila!

The finished product

I added a bit of ribbon around the edges of my board and maybe to hide some uneven edges that I hadn’t cut quite clean enough and all that’s left is to hang it in that open space above my desk!

That’s it for today, but don’t you worry – I’ve got a new challenge for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading! -LRL-

New beginning

Hello! My name is Lauren. I’m a college grad with a PR degree, spending time with the love of my life and our 2 pups every spare moment we can find. I’ve had quite a few epiphanies here lately.. One of them has led me to create this blog, in order to hopefully explore different hobbies and interests and create something out of this in-between time of life after college then share those explorations and create connections. What’s on the list, you may ask?

Photography

Natural/home remedies

My pups

Blogging

Social media

DIY

Cooking (freezer meals, crock pot, you name it!)

Frugal living/couponing

I welcome you for the ride of my whirlwind life!