Friday, October 30, 2015

Simple Slow-Cooker Chili

Everyone needs an easy, go-to meal for those days when life keeps you running from sunup to sundown and you barely have enough energy left to think about dinner, let alone cook it. For me, that meal is slow-cooker chili.

My mother-in-law gave me a delicious recipe that takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and by the time I'm done loading it with tomatoes and zucchini, it's healthy, too. You're going to love it!

It takes a bit of forethought, as the chili is tastiest when cooked at least three hours, but the prep time is short enough that you can throw all the ingredients together during breakfast or lunch and then return to your busy day.

Nashville Wife's Slow-Cooker Chili

1 lb ground beef
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

1 6-oz can tomato sauce
2 16-oz  cans kidney beans
1 15-oz can tomato juice 
1 small shredded zucchini*
Chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
Diced jalapeno pepper (optional)
Hot sauce (optional)

  • Brown ground beef, and season with chili powder. Drain grease, and add meat to slow-cooker.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, tomato juice, and zucchini to slow-cooker, and stir. 
  • Stir in approximately 2 teaspoons of chili powder and 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • If you like your chili hot, add diced jalapenos and hot sauce. (Those are my husband's favorite ingredients.)
  • Cook on high for at least three hours.
  • Add additional chili powder and salt as needed.
  • Serve with your favorite chili fixins. (We like crackers and shredded cheese.)
*A friend gave us several large, homegrown zucchinis this summer. I shredded and froze them in portions that are the right size for this recipe.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Feeling Festive For Fall?

This week I have been nannying for one of my husband's coworkers, whose regular childcare provider is recovering from surgery. She has twins who are two years old (a boy and a girl), and although they have their moments (like all kids), they are usually quick to obey.

The children's mom is one of those gals who goes all out with fall decorations. I admit that our house hardly has any fall decorations, although I was feeling festive on a recent shopping trip to Trader Joe's and bought several pumpkin flavored snacks. The pumpkin granola bars were delicious, but the pumpkin flavored Cheerios were quite strange.

This sign is one of the fall decorations I came while nannying. I thought you all would get a kick out of it. Do you enjoy decorating for fall?

Monday, October 26, 2015

'Hooked On You'

Coming up with ideas for meaningful gifts can be difficult. In preparation for Christmas this year, I have a running list that I add to whenever I think of something that a certain family member would like.

As a combined Christmas and birthday present last year, I bought Mr. Handsome a new iPhone. We were not engaged yet and lived three hours apart, so I suppose you could say I had ulterior motives for giving him that gift. His old phone was on its last legs and would disconnect without notice, which put a damper on our nightly chats. (Thankfully, he qualified for a two-year upgrade, so it ended up being less than $100.)

In addition to the phone, I wanted to give him something from the heart, so I purchased a wooden picture frame from Walmart and decorated it like so:

The first letter of each word is made of fishing hooks that were extremely difficult to bend. This is the perfect gift for fishing fanatics, although if you glue a few shells on, it can become a beach-themed frame.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Wedding Pictures

A number of readers have asked that I share more photos from our wedding day. Here are a few of my favorites. The first one was taken as Mr. Handsome and I walked out of the church after the ceremony, and the last two are from a photo shoot we did with our photographer at a local park.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Displaying our Wedding Vows

Soon after our March 2015 engagement, we decided to write our own marriage vows. (Click here to read them.) We wrote a rough draft together, and then we each took that draft and made the vows our own.

While decorating our rental house after the wedding, I wanted to display our vows in a place where we would see them every day. What better place than above our bed? (I considered hanging them in the living room, but that seemed too public.)

Instead of paying a pretty penny for professional framing, I purchased two pieces of blue cardstock paper at Jo-Ann for $0.20, printed our vows in a fancy cursive font, and placed them in 8x10 picture frames from the Bed Bath and Beyond clearance rack. What do you think of my arrangement?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

50-Cent Kitchen Decorations

During my college years--which I spent living in a house with three dozen other Christan girls--I decorated my dorm room walls with paper flowers from the Michaels clearance rack. Each flower cost only 50 cents. After graduation, I packed the flowers into a box and forgot about them.

While moving into our rental home after our wedding, I was surprised to find my 50-cent wall decorations. How exciting! Using sticky tack, I carefully placed the flowers throughout our kitchen, which instantly made the room seem brighter and more cheerful.

For those who are wondering, I have not been able to find these flowers for sale online. Perhaps check the clearance rack at your local Michaels. :)

Monday, October 19, 2015

Thrifty Living: Jars as Drinking Glasses

During high school, I babysat at least one night a week. My favorite clients--my youth pastor and his wife--had three toddlers and lived in a tiny, two-bedroom apartment. I always admired the creative ways they saved space and pinched pennies.

For example, I distinctly remember how their entire set of drinking glasses was made up of miscellaneous Mason jars. What a neat idea!

Fast-forward about eight years. While making popcorn last week, I finished off a 14-oz jar of organic coconut oil and thought, "This would make a great drinking glass!"

After removing the label and soaking the jar in hot, soapy water overnight, it was still covered in a sticky film. Instead of purchasing Goo Gone, I used nail polish remover to wipe off the stickiness.

These 14-oz jars of organic coconut oil cost only $4.99 at Aldi, and the lids are interchangeable with regular Mason jar lids. Maybe by this time next year, I'll have an entire set of miscellaneous drinking glasses.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

An Unexpected Gift

Do you remember back in August when I posted about my bookshelf on a budget? At a recent family gathering, one of Mr. Handsome's aunts (I suppose that would be my aunt-in-law) said she had been reading my blog and had seen that post.

"Do you still need a bookshelf?" she asked. "I found an old one in our garage, and you're welcome to it. I brought it along in the backseat of our car, so you can take it home with you."

The shelf was in fabulous condition, so we gladly took it off her hands. It holds all our books with room to spare and fits well in our bedroom. And best of all, it was free!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Save Money by Meal Planning

Several weeks ago, I received a gift from my sister-in-law Anne: a laminated meal planning chart! She has been married for two years and has a one-year-old daughter, and her homemaking tips have been a lifesaver.

After Mr. Handsome and I tied the knot, Anne started sharing her favorite recipes and explaining how she how she plans a full week of meals at a time to save both time and money.

When the schedule is overflowing, it's tempting to throw planning to the wind and start taking life one day at a time. Unfortunately, this causes even more chaos when dinnertime rolls around and the refrigerator is empty.

Meal planning saves time, helps busy wives and mamas establish and stick to a grocery budget, and limits last minute runs through the drive-thru.

How does it work? Set aside a few hours each week to make a list of meals to prepare for the next seven days, figure out what ingredients you need, and hit the grocery store. If you have children, get them involved by teaching them how to search through ads and navigate the aisles of a supermarket.

When you return home, decide which meal will be prepared on which day, and organize your refrigerator and pantry accordingly. Update your meal planning chart so everyone knows what's on the menu.

I have found that it helps to have a few meals on the back-burner (not literally). For example, I always stock the ingredients for spaghetti and meatballs, easy homemade pizza, and garden salad.
That way, if I'm ever in a pinch, I still don't have to run out and grab McDonalds.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Homemade Applesauce

The downside of being married to a dentist is that everyone wants to have their teeth cleaned on Saturday mornings, so my husband works two Saturdays a month.

While cleaning the kitchen this morning, I noticed several apples that were on the verge of rotting (kind of like the teeth my husband works on.) Well, when life gives you apples, why not make applesauce? So that's what I did! Instead of looking up a recipe online, I decided to experiment.

I peeled and chopped all the apples, which took quite some time. Then I loaded the apple slices into a Corningware container, added 1/2 cup of water, and microwaved them for about four minutes to soften the apples.

Then I grabbed my KitchenAid mixer and attached the food grinder attachment. Growing up, we mixed everything by hand, and I always considered stand-up mixers to be a cop out. My aunt bought me a KitchenAid as a wedding gift, and I was instantly hooked. It's like a power tool for the kitchen.

Within three minutes, I had a delicious bowl of applesauce, to which I added 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Bon appetit!

For those who don't have a stand-up mixer, be sure to sufficiently soften your apples in the microwave, and then use a potato masher to reach the desired consistency.

Now I just need some pork chops to go with my applesauce! (Any Brady Bunch fans out there?)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"New" Couches

We had a visit from the in-laws last weekend. Mr. Handsome's parents and four of his six younger siblings stopped by on the way to a conference. Everyone stayed in our two-bedroom rental house, which made for very close quarters, but we enjoyed being together.

On Friday night, Mom and Dad slept in our spare bedroom, while the kids spread out in the living room, where we had a twin air mattress and a three-seater couch. After much disagreement over who had to sleep on the floor, my mother-in-law decided we needed more space for hosting guests and began browsing Craigslist. Before long, she found two gently used couches for $300.

It just so happened that one of Mr. Handsome's brothers was preparing to move into an apartment and needed a couch, so the plan was to give him our three-seater couch and purchase two new ones for us.

Much to our surprise, Mr. Handsome's parents also offered to pay for the couches, using the money they had saved on hotels over the weekend. They also happened to be driving a 15-passenger van and sizable trailer. Something tells me they had been planning this couch swap all along, but I sure won't complain.

By the end of the day on Saturday, we had two comfy, "new to us" couches in our living room.  That night, only one kid had to sleep on the floor.

Couch number one seats two people.

And couch number two seats three people. This one is Mr. Handsome's favorite because it is long enough for him to stretch out.

We shared this saga with our Bible study last night, and another newlywed told us that she and her husband had recently hosted her family in their three-bedroom house. Then she proceeded to tell us that she has 10 younger siblings. Makes our story sound a little less dramatic.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Grand Cayman Honeymoon

After our wedding in late June, we spent a glorious six-day honeymoon on Grand Cayman. While Grand Cayman is the largest of the three Cayman Islands, it is only 76 square miles (196 square km), and much of the land is not built up. But for us, the size was perfect because when we left after six days, we felt like we had seen all the main attractions.

The highlights of our trip were swimming with wild stingrays at Stingray City and holding baby turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm. We rented a car because it was the cheapest way to travel around the island. It took Mr. Handsome less than fifteen minutes to master the art of driving on the left side of the road (or as North Americans call it, the "wrong" side of the road).

To save money, we rented a small condo with a kitchen, which ended up being cheaper than a hotel room and allowed us to cook some of our own food.

Walking along the beach on Grand Cayman Island

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mismatched Socks

We just celebrated our three-month wedding anniversary. The best part of marriage has definitely been having the privilege of spending life with my best friend. The relationship between my husband and I has given me a clearer picture of the relationship that Christ desires to have with His church (see Ephesians 5:21-33).

If you were to ask my husband what his favorite part of marriage is, he would agree. But he would give a close second to having clean, matching socks in his dresser.

When we returned from our honeymoon, I spent a good chunk of time finding matches to Mr. Handsome's many socks. As a single guy, he rarely took the time to do that. While getting dressed every morning, he would root through his dresser to find two socks that looked as similar as possible.

He was usually able to find two that were at least the same color and same general style, but on some days, attempting to find a match was a lost cause. Mr. Handsome says his mornings have been a lot smoother now that he has someone to help him keep his socks in order.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Chipotle Burritos: Part 3

Here's the third and final part of my recipe for homemade Chipotle burritos! On Wednesday I revealed how I make the seasoned ground beef, and yesterday I shared my recipes for cilantro-lime brown rice, pico de gallo, and guacamole. Now, it's time to discuss corn, beans, and queso.

Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Corn Salad
  1. Thaw 2 cups frozen corn in the microwave or on the stove. 
  2. Mix in 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice and 2 Tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro.

Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Black Bean Salad

  1. Open 1 can (approximately 15.5 oz) of black beans, and rinse beans. 
  2. Warm beans in the microwave or on the stove.
  3. Mix in the following: 
  • 1 clove minced garlic (or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice

Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Queso Blanco Dip
Click here to view this recipe in a previous post. 

And that's it! Now you can make your own homemade Chipotle burritos. Don't forget to add shredded cheese, sour cream, and lettuce. Bon appetit. :)

Friday, October 2, 2015

Chipotle Burritos: Part 2

Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for the seasoned ground beef I use to make homemade Chipotle burritos. If you've ever been to Chipotle, you know there are a lot of ingredients that go into one of their burritos.

Today, I'll share my recipes for cilantro-lime brown rice, pico de gallo, and guacamole (my favorite part of a burrito). Tomorrow, I'll finish with the corn, beans, and queso.

Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Cilantro-Lime Brown Rice
  1. Cook 2 cups of brown rice according to instructions on the package. 
  2. Once rice is cooked, cool for a few minutes, and mix in the following:
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Pico de Gallo

Combine the following:
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 onion, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Homemade Chipotle Burritos: Guacamole
  1. Peel, chop, and mash 1 avocado. 
  2. Mix in 2 teaspoons lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

That's farily simple, isn't it? Making homemade Chipotle burritos isn't rocket science, but it takes a fair bit of time and quite a few ingredients.

Click here to view the third and final part of my Chipotle recipe.